The Brothers Ellison
Summary: Stephen is plunged into the world of his brothers: both the dangerous world of the CPD and the world of Sentinel and Guide, when he becomes the target of a killer. Part Four of the Reconciliations Series.
Spoilers: His Brother's Keeper, Reunion and my stories Camping and Model's INC. You don't have to have read any of them to understand this story.
Notes: This is an AU in which Blair is William Ellison's son (Naomi is still his mother!). This story is long and big on dialogue and short on action; dealing with character interaction and the more tedious side of police work that more often than not is what really solves a case. So if you like a lot of action this is not the story for you!
Disclaimer: I do not own the charcters of TS. If I did I'd take much better care of them! They are owned by Pet Fly and Paramount.
Also, a thanks to Lauren Freeman who took on the challenge to beta the story -- all remaining mistakes are all mine!
"Get it together, chief. Stephen is expecting us at eight sharp." Jim called out to Blair.
"Yeah…yeah…I'm coming, man." Blair grumbled as he stumbled sleepily from his room. "What is it with you two and early mornings…the forest will still be there at noon."
Jim chuckled and tossed a blanket to his brother. "Here sleeping beauty, you can curl up in the truck."
Giving Jim a smirk he griped, "And I may just snore all the way too!"
An hour later saw the three brothers ensconced in the rented SUV, heading towards the state park for a weekend of camping.
"I haven't been camping since we were kids," Stephen commented. "You guys get out here much?"
"Hardly ever. Only been out this way two or three times; can't seem to get enough days off in a row." Jim replied.
They rode for a while in companionable silence, each man lost in his own thoughts. Finally Blair couldn't stand the silence, "Is it gonna be this quiet all the way to the campsite. Don't tell me you're as tight-lipped as Jim here, he seems to think a conversation is the same as an inquisition!"
"Hey, you're killin' me here, chief. I figure you had enough chatter for all of us." Jim said with a laugh, throwing Stephen an amused grin.
"Oh, so funny man…" Blair smirked.
"Hey, after all, Stephen here hasn't been regaled with all you're *mis*adventures in the world of anthropology." Jim commented.
Blair noticed Stephen's frown, which quickly turned into a very weak smile when he noticed Blair watching him in the rear view mirror. "You okay?"
"Yea, fine." Stephen said, unconvincingly.
"You don't sound all right." Jim said, stealing a look at his brother sitting in the passenger seat.
"No, it's nothing really…" Stephen protested.
Blair sat up to the edge of his seat, resting his hands on both front seats. "I don't think it's nothing if it has you suddenly so upset," Blair prodded.
"Really guys, I'm not ups…" Stephen started to protest again until he saw the raised eyebrow look he was getting from both Jim and Blair.
"Out with it." Jim commanded gently.
"All right," Stephen sighed. "I guess I'm a little…I mean, I see you two joking around, so at ease with each other. I don't even remember you being like this as a kid. I guess I'm just feeling like the fifth wheel, here."
Blair placed a hand on Stephen's shoulder. "That is not how we meant to make you feel. We really wanted this to be our time together…all of us; to get to know each other."
"I really don't mean to put a damper on this weekend. But you two have worked together, lived together for over two years now. It's easy to see that you have a pretty good relationship all ready, even without the whole family issue. I just don't know if I fit into any of this." Stephen explained.
Jim glanced into the rear view mirror, giving Blair a questioning look. Blair indicated with a slight nod of his head and a raised eyebrow that he was the one that needed to say something to Stephen.
Jim found a place to pull off the side of the road and turned to his brother. "Stephen, you are my brother. We have a whole childhood worth of memories we share that Blair doesn't, and he understands and accepts that."
"That was then, Jim, *this* is now. You and I, *we* now have a fifteen year rift of nothing but bad memories and what ifs. I'm just wondering if there is anything to salvage? And Blair and I, we have nothing to base a relationship on at all."
Again exchanging worried glances with Blair, Jim reached out to Stephen. "It *is* there if you want it to be. I want it; Blair wants it. That's why we planned this weekend. It's for all of us."
"A lifetime in a weekend." Stephen sighed in defeat.
"No, not a weekend." Blair commented. "We have the rest of our lives. And thank the gods for that, because it will probably take me that long to get used to having two *big* brothers. Jim is like way sooo bossy!"
Stephen chuckled. "Overbearing, huh? I seem to remember a bit of that too."
"Hey, someone has got to watch out for the wayward youth these days…" Jim said dramatically.
"See, man," Blair whined. "One lousy warehouse explodes around me and I am doomed for life. I cannot get away from it…cop, mother hen, blessed protector and now big brother…I'm smothering here!"
"A warehouse exploded…while you were in it?" Stephen asked skeptically.
"Sort of…" Blair hedged.
"Sort of! Damn near took out the whole block, chief." Jim exclaimed.
"Gas leak?" Stephen asked.
"Drug lab." Blair said.
Stephen looked back and forth between his older and younger brother, waiting to be clued in to the joke. "Your serious? Well, I take it, it wasn't yours?"
Jim snorted. "Kid won't even take an aspirin. Some dealers set up a lab on the other side of the warehouse he was living in…add to that a little double cross and gang war…"
"…And instant urban renewal." Blair finished.
"Ookaayy, then. Maybe I'll just reevaluate those feelings of jealousy…" Stephen mused.
Blair frowned and said with quiet earnestness. "Stephen, I don't won't to be seen as some kind of *obstacle* in you and Jim having a relationship."
Stephen turned in his seat to face his younger brother riding in the back. "I believe that. No matter how much I might want to have pretended otherwise." He then grinned and tossed a sideways glance at Jim. "Besides, there is one thing you and I both know, Blair. Jim *does not* do anything he doesn't want to do!"
"I hear that, man." Blair laughed.
Jim gave both of them a glare. "Would you two like to walk the rest of the way? I think it should actually be me who feels put upon…"
"You! Why?" Blair sputtered.
"Because it seems that every time you two get together I get picked on." Jim said with a pout, pulling the truck back out onto the road.
The mood lightened Stephen mused to Blair. "You know, it might be the other way around…Jim always was possessive, never liked to share…"
"Ha! Fine, you want him you can have him." Jim snorted. "You ever try to keep up with the energizer bunny!"
"Hey…" Blair started to protest.
"That much fun is it? I guess I can spell you on occasion." Stephen said with a grin. "I'll take my turn at playing big brother, has to be better than being the little brother!"
"Man, what is this sudden conspiracy," Blair protested. "I have spent the last twenty-eight years taking care of myself…now I've got two big brothers trying to protect me! I think we are so past that."
"Actually, Stephen, it is a full time job; are you sure you are up for the challenge?" Jim intoned with mock seriousness. "Trouble follows this boy around like a magnet."
"I think I can take on the challenge…" Stephen grinned back.
Jim exchanged an amused glance with Stephen, chuckling. "Soon you to will have the unenviable privilege of entering the Sandburg Zone."
"Is that anything like the Twilight Zone?"
Jim shook his head and lowered his voice melodramatically. "Much, much more bizarre."
"You two are so *not* funny." Blair growled back.
Blair had been bouncing around the campsite for the last half hour, putting together the fire pit: and all the while regaling them with the various ways jungle tribes made fire with nature instead of matches (when it was discovered that all of them had forgotten to pack the matches).
Coming back with a small armload of kindling, Stephen dropped the wood near the fire pit and listened to Blair in quiet amusement for a moment before going over to help Jim with the tent.
"Has he taken a breath since he started talking?"
Jim looked at Stephen then over at Blair, chuckling. "I doubt it. You just get used to it."
"Then he's like this all the time?" Stephen ventured.
"Energizer bunny!" Jim reminded.
Sensing the stares, Blair looked up at his two grinning brothers. "What?"
"Nothing chief. Just introducing Stephen to the Sandburg Zone." Jim teased.
"Jim, one more crack about the 'Sandburg zone' and I'm gonna put you in your own zone." Blair threatened.
"You wouldn't!" Jim exclaimed.
With an evil smile Blair shot back, "Just try me."
"Do I want to know what that was all about?" Stephen asked.
"No." Jim and Blair said together.
Holding up his hands in a placating manner Stephen said. "All right, I give."
"I'm hungry, is that fire going yet chief?" Jim groused.
"Yes, ol' grumpy one…thought we'd just have burgers tonight. Give the mighty fisherman a chance to catch dinner for tomorrow."
"Burger…as in hamburger? Not that vegetarian crap you're all the time trying to trick me with." Jim asked suspiciously.
"Yes, dear brother, all the artery clogging beef your cave man instincts desire." Blair said with a very put upon sigh.
Stephen watched this particular by-play between his brothers with great amusement, seeing the look of child like delight that passed over Jim's face at the thought of 'real' hamburgers was just to much, he laughed aloud. "You tell him what to eat? He listens to you? I have got to hear the story behind this one…I think Sally will want to know that secret."
Jim and Blair exchanged knowing glances and once again the silent questions passed between Sentinel and Guide about how much to tell Stephen.
Finally Jim said. "It's a long story, and don't think you can get away from Mr. health food nut any easier than I can!"
Stephen was still laughing. "Ah, but he doesn't live with me!"
Jim smiled evilly. "No. But he does know where you live."
Stephen abruptly stopped laughing and looked back and forth between Jim and a now grinning Blair. "You're serious."
Jim just nodded and cocked his head towards Blair. "Chief, did I ever tell you about Stephen's weakness for candy…those little Pez candies in particular…"
With mock exasperation Blair scolded, "Now Stephen, don't you know that is nothing but nasty processed sugar…now if you're going to indulge in a sweet tooth at least get some that offers some protein…"
"Protein!" Stephen squeaked. "In candy?"
Exchanging a grin with Jim, Blair continued. "I can pick you up some chocolate covered ants…or maybe grasshoppers…at the specialty store where I shop."
Jim and Blair laughed as a horrified look crossed Stephen's face and he began making gagging noises. Jim continued the teasing. "Chief that might be too much to start with. Maybe he could just start out with a nice, green algae shake for breakfast."
Stephen grimaced and growled at both of them. "Stay away from me the both of you!"
Still laughing they each set about their tasks of preparing dinner, Stephen paying extra attention anytime Blair pulled something out of the cooler. "What? Now look what you've done Jim, I think Stephen's afraid of me now."
"Good. Now I'm not alone in my fear at the dinner table." Jim smirked. "See, I *can* share."
"I am definitely developing middle child syndrome here." Stephen complained.
Soon dinner was served. Blair and Jim dove into their food with the gusto born of the appetite that comes with fresh mountain air. Stephen, however, refused to eat anything that Jim had not tried first, then still, he gave it a good sniff, questioning the ingredients; afraid of becoming the butt of another joke.
Blair finally shook his head. "Stephen, come on, man…it is not poison, I promise."
"I don't trust you two as far as I can throw you." He groused, finally taking a bite of his hamburger.
Dinner over and the campsite secured for the evening, Jim said. "Still got an hour or so of daylight left…think I'll go drop a pole in for a bit."
"Tonight!" Blair exclaimed, adding a moment later, "Yea, guess you better get a head start there so you can compete with us real fishermen."
"Real fisherman…yea, riighht," Jim shot back sarcastically. "And I suppose that means you've brought your pointy stick again?"
"It's not a pointy stick. It's a Cree fishing spear." Blair said in exasperation. "And may I remind the *great* fisherman just who it was that caught the most fish last time?"
"No you may not," Jim snapped back with a pout. "Besides it was Henri, not you!"
With an evil smirk, "Yea, but I caught more than you!"
"I didn't get the chance to catch up…we had to get Rafe to the hospital." Jim defended.
"Excuses, excuses." Blair said, shaking his head. "As I recall, even Rafe managed to catch a fish."
Jim turned a pleading eye Stephen's way, who, in turn just held up his hands in surrender. "Oh no you don't. I am not getting in the middle of this little debate. Besides, I don't like to fish."
Jim gave a growl, "Fine, I'm going by myself." He picked up his gear and headed to the river without another word. Blair and Stephen watched him go in amused silence.
"I see he hasn't lost his competitive edge." Stephen commented.
"What was that about getting someone to the hospital?" Stephen asked.
"We were camping with two other detectives from the unit…Rafe is a real city boy; anyway, he was attacked by some felons fleeing from a bank robbery…they really did a number on him." Blair explained grimly.
"In the middle of the woods and you guys find bad guys…do you guys ever get away from work?" Stephen exclaimed.
"Don't think we don't try." Blair said with a sigh.
They were both silent for several moments. Stephen was staring into the fire while Blair went to rummage through his ever-present backpack looking for a book.
Blair settled into a blanket on the other side of the fire, looking over at Stephen. "You're frowning again."
"Just thinking." Stephen mused.
"Seems to be as painful for you as it is for Jim," Blair teased.
Stephen didn't seem to hear him. "Just listening to yet another Jim and Blair misadventure and I'm wondering again where I can fit into all of this. Not that I would like to go to the hospital mind you! You're a professor; Jim's a cop…you work with him…" he trailed off.
"We start with the basics, like with any friendship…find common ground." Blair explained, adding with a grin, "We can always talk about Jim!"
"That we could," Stephen said quirking an eyebrow. "Like why he is working with a college professor?"
"I don't really work there, I'm just an observer; and, I'm not really a professor, just a grad student working on a doctorial thesis on closed societies. I chose the police force as my target group and Jim got stuck with me."
Stephen seemed to accept the *standard* lie that Sentinel and Guide used to explain their association.
"Jim says you help out at the station; that you have actually helped with cases."
"Yea, I've been known to put my two cents in occasionally—I kind of act like a consultant sometimes." Blair answered with a shrug.
"Ever think of going into consulting as a profession?" Stephen asked.
"Really haven't given much thought past just getting the doctorate."
"You ought to give it some serious thought. In this new global market economy the skills of the social scientist are becoming a necessity in the business world." Stephen explained. "Take the company I work for as an example. We bought out Cyclops Oils Peruvian assets several months back, sent an initial team down and was met with a whole lot of open hostility and fear."
"It's no wonder your people weren't killed, man. Cyclops Oil really did a number on the tribes down there—killing, stealing, polluting the land." Blair commented.
"That is why it was recently decided that we need a social scientist on the team, someone who knows local cultures and customs. Someone who could act as a cultural-liaison and help our teams not make the same mistakes as Cyclops." Stephen said, staring at Blair intently.
"And you had someone in mind all ready?" Blair asked knowingly.
"It will be a paid consulting job, the position request is going through channels as we speak and is due to be advertised in less than two weeks…unless someone takes the job." Stephen said quickly.
"You really want my help?"
"Yes I would. And why shouldn't I? You're an anthropologist, studied the cultures of South America…you have a bachelors, a masters and damn near a doctorate. Can't think of anyone more qualified." Stephen pointed out.
"Except that I have *no* experience in the business world at all *and* I would tend to side with what was best for the native tribes." Blair said emphatically.
"Oh, I didn't realize you had a lot of experience chasing down criminals before you started working with Jim," Stephen snapped out. A look of hurt crossed Blair's face and Stephen sighed, knowing he had spoken out of turn. "Look, I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have said that; shouldn't have said anything. I don't want you to think I'm trying to take advantage of the *situation*."
"No, Stephen it's not that. I'm flattered that you even considered me and it does sound like an interesting opportunity but I am swamped at school and I really can't leave to travel to Peru…" Blair said quickly.
"No travel is required. We need someone to prep out teams here in the states before they go to Peru…we want to work with the native townships as much as possible." Stephen clarified. "So think about it. Even if you couldn't accept the job, maybe you could recommend someone?"
Blair nodded his head, his head cocked in thought for a moment. "It would be great…to actually be paid for working in my field." He fixed Stephen with a stare before continuing, "And I can't think of a better way for us to get to know each other. It would be nice to be listened to and not be constantly told to 'stay in the truck' or 'you're not a cop, Sandburg!'"
"I take it you hear that a lot?" Stephen chuckled, adding, "So you'll consider the job?"
"I can't promise anything but I will certainly think about it."
"Thanks." Stephen said turning to pull some large manila files from his own backpack. "Well I'll let you get back to your book…I need to give these a quick look over before Monday."
"What's all that?"
"Files," Stephen answered innocently, not looking up at Blair.
"That looks suspiciously like work to me." Blair accused lightly, arching an eyebrow. "And I don't recall this being a working vacation."
"Some things just can't wait…" Stephen tried to explain.
"And who was it that was saying something about Jim and I leaving our work in the office? Jim'll have a fit if he sees you with work" Blair prodded, adding with a pout, "He wouldn't let me bring any of mine! I just got to bring a few books!"
"Geesh, it's not like I brought the whole office with me Blair…and why would you need to lug a laptop all the way out here on a camping trip?" Stephen asked trying to steer the conversation away from his work.
"Ah, you're not weaseling out of it that easily" Blair countered.
"Look, it is just a few files that I have to go over so I can give a preliminary report to the chairman on Monday…they didn't come in until late Friday afternoon and I didn't want this to keep me from the trip this weekend." Stephen explained.
Blair pretended to think about it for a moment before answering. "Fine I'll let it slide this time."
They both immersed themselves in their various reading material, after several moments Blair asked, "Those wouldn't happen to be files from your Peru team…maybe I could help you with it now, get it done before Jim gets back from the river."
"Are you sure?" Stephen asked.
"Yes I'm sure." Blair assured his brother, holding out a hand for a file.
Blair and Stephen were deep in discussion, both with open files on their laps and Stephen taking notes, when Jim came back from the river.
He had been listening to them for the last twenty or thirty minutes, pleased that they were finding common ground and taking those first tentative steps towards a relationship. He, however, decided to have a little fun to pay them back for the earlier ribbing about his fishing skills.
He came into camp noisily and pierced them both with his patent Ellison stare. "What are you two up to?"
"Uh, nothing." Blair said guiltily, quickly closing a file and plopping it on Stephen's lap. "Just regaling Stephen with some of my anthropology stories like you suggested."
"Uh huh." Jim said moving into camp and depositing his gear next to the tent. "Looks a lot like files…like one would find in, say, an office? Now we wouldn't happen to have brought work with us on this little campout would we?"
Stephen and Blair squirmed uncomfortably under their big brothers relentless scrutiny, until finally Stephen snapped under the pressure. "All right, the files are mine. I had to go over some reports from the office for Monday, satisfied!"
"I will be when you put them away…this is a vacation." Jim said. "You're as bad as Sandburg here…dragging work with him everywhere he goes."
"All right, all ready. We were about done anyway." Stephen grumbled as he put the files back into his knapsack. "There, satisfied?"
"So, did the mighty fisherman catch our dinner yet?" Blair asked, redirecting everyone's attention.
"Shut up, Sandburg." Jim pouted.
They spent the rest of the evening sitting around the campfire, sharing stories and memories…finding that common ground.
"Well, the trout wait for no man. I'm turning in." Jim said with a stretch and a yawn.
"Yea, you need all the time you can get their big guy…give it long enough and you ought to catch something tomorrow." Blair teased.
Pinning Blair with the famous Ellison scowl Jim growled. "Loser cleans the fish."
"You're on." Blair took up the bet. "What about you Stephen, you gonna come fishing with us tomorrow?"
"I might give it a try sometime tomorrow, never was that patient though." Stephen said. "Besides I want to get a look at the view…hike up that small ridge on the other side of the stream. That way I can keep an eye on both of you and make sure no one cheats."
"Hey…" Blair and Jim both started to protest.
Jim had bought a large eight man tent so all three of them could be together. They gave the camp one last circuit, before turning in for the night.
"Rise and shine, there, sleeping beauty. The fish wait for no man." Jim called out, pounding on the outside of the tent.
Looking up from his place near the fire, Stephen shook his head. "That's evil, bro."
"Just watch." Jim said coming over and pouring a cup of coffee.
In just a moment a fuzzy head popped out of the tent flap revealing a very sleepy face. "Cold. Coffee," came a grumpy command.
Jim smiled and took the cup of coffee over to Blair, who in turn sat down in the tent opening, hands wrapped tightly around the steaming mug; his one open eye glaring at his big brother. "It better be at least eight o'clock Ellison or you'll be swimming with those fish."
Stephen just shook his head again. "Not a morning person I take it?"
Blair turned his glare on Stephen. "Hey, don't glare at me. I'm not the one who woke you up!"
"Guilt by association." Blair growled back.
Blair crawled back into the tent to get dressed while Jim and Stephen set about making breakfast. A moment later he reappeared; book in hand, "Hey Jim I'll meet you at the river later…got this book from professor Drake, I want to look for these wild herbs and mushrooms to go with dinner."
"Hey, you don't mind cleaning the fish…" Jim reminded.
"Who said anything about cleaning fish…not like *I* need all day to catch any fish." Blair smirked. Jim just glared at him.
"So, you want some company on your hike today?" Blair asked Stephen. "There probably aren't any herbs up on the ridge but we can start up that way and circle around into the woods."
"Sounds good to me. If you're sure you don't need the fishing time for you two's little contest." Stephen answered.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Not like anything will be caught before I get there."
"Okay, but if you end up cleaning fish I am not helping!" Stephen warned.
An hour later they were all ready to set out. Jim would take his and Blair's gear to the river. Stephen and Blair would join up with him in a few hours, Stephen even agreed to drop in a line but refused to be part of the contest. "I am not cleaning any fish!"
"We need to work on that self confidence there Stephen…why are you so sure you'll lose?" Blair asked.
"Because I was never good at fishing…never had the patience to just stand there all day." He replied.
"Yeah, that and the fact the only thing he usually catches is his thumb on the hook," Jim commented. "Wait, I remember now, that trip we took when you were nine…you actually cut your hand on the fish scales…needed a few stitches, too."
"Ah hah," Blair exclaimed loudly. "That bad luck is not a Sandburg trait at all…it's an Ellison one. Probably explains why *you're* always losing your gun!"
"Speaking of losing…try not to get lost out there…I don't want to play search and rescue this weekend." Jim said bringing a hand up to his ear, then raking it through his hair, "Stay close."
"I assure you Jim there are no exploding warehouses out here." Stephen put in.
"No, I'm talking about Blair with a map…"
"Uh, Jim, we aren't using a map." Blair said.
"You're doomed." Jim groaned
"Jim we were not lost, just slightly misdirected," Blair whined.
"Yea, chief, we were *misdirected* forty miles in the wrong direction."
"Go. Fish." Blair directed his older brother with shooing motions. "We *will* see you later."
"Do I need bread crumbs?" Stephen asked.
The brothers walked together as far as the river, Blair and Stephen crossed a shallow, rocky area of the stream and headed up onto the ridge. The walked in silence for a while; each concentrating on getting up the steep incline, until finally they reached a level area where they could turn and look back down over the river.
Looking down, they saw Jim, who looked up a waved at them. "Can't believe he can see us from there."
"He probably just watched the trial we took…remember he was an army ranger." Blair commented, knowing that his Sentinel had no doubt been tracking them with his hearing the whole time. "We don't need a babysitter," he muttered, waving back at Jim.
"God, this view is really beautiful," Stephen said taking in a deep lungful of the fresh mountain air. They rested for several more moments before continuing on their hike, soon falling from even Sentinel sight.
Determined to enjoy his day of fishing, and win his bet with Blair, Jim monitored his brothers for another ten minutes or so, then pulled back his hearing to normal.
Unbeknownst to the three brothers' someone else shared the woods with them. A hunter who enjoyed his sport; he not only enjoyed the kill, he enjoyed the thrill of hunting his prey. Maybe he would throw in a bonus to his employer and take out all three of the men for the price of one. He enjoyed his job; always looking for ways to sharpen and improve his skills and out here in the forest without the fear of witnesses seemed the perfect opportunity.
With those thoughts he set out at a leisurely pace to track his quarry. There was no hurry; after all, his prey was totally unsuspecting of any trouble…of his kind.
Stephen was resting up against a tree watching as Blair compared a few plants with the pictures in his field guide.
"Finding what you need?"
"I think so…last time I got some real good mushrooms, but they aren't really in season right now." Blair said holding up some plants. "But these herbs should be good on the fish *I'm* going to catch today."
"You have got a death wish there little brother if you are constantly going to try to compete with Jim…he hates to lose you know." Stephen said with a laugh, but stopped when he saw a strange look cross Blair's face. "Something wrong?"
"No. It's just…you, you just called me little brother."
"Oh, sorry." Stephen said sheepishly. "Guess it just slipped out."
"I liked it. Not the *little* part mind you…but I like the word 'brother' *and* I do like having two." Blair countered his brothers' unease.
With a slow smile Stephen said. "I do too."
Hoisting his pack, Blair said, "Well we better get going. It's been over two hours and if we don't make our appearance soon you will be introduced to 'blessed protector' hell."
"That's the second time I've heard you use that term…"
"In some cultures when you save a persons life you become responsible for that life…" Blair started to explain.
"And Jim has saved yours?" Stephen interrupted.
"Yes he did…I swear I thought I was going to die that night…" Blair said with a shaky voice, his mind unable to quell the old feelings of terror at being Lash's prisoner.
"Whoa, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories." Stephen said worriedly, taking hold of Blair's arm.
Pulled from his fearful memories, Blair shook himself. "Bad, yes, very bad. But I lived and I got past it…"
"Was it a case?"
"It was the serial killer case…David Lash." Blair said slowly.
"Dear god, I remember reading about that in the paper…that the police rescued his last victim…" Stephen's voice trailed off as the realization struck him, "It was you? You were that last victim?"
Blair just nodded. A shudder passed over Stephen at the fear that his mind conjured at the thought of facing down a psychotic killer, even the thoughts of the killer that nearly tricked Jim into almost killing him did not bring out such a fear. The thought of losing his brother before he had a chance to meet him left him with a cold feeling and just a twinge of anger.
"After all of that and Jim still drags you around with him…it's dangerous."
"Whoa there Stephen, Jim does not drag me anywhere, I go freely. I'm working on my dissertation, remember." Blair reminded.
"Is it worth your life?" Stephen snapped back. "Pick something else."
"What?" Pick something else?" Blair said in surprise. "Can't do that man, Jim needs me."
"Why would a trained cop need a professor…why are you risking your life like that?" Stephen railed angrily. "And why in the hell is Jim letting you?"
"Uh, Stephen, you're my brother not my mother. I make my own decisions." Blair warned.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Stephen realized he had stepped over the line, again, with his demands. "I'm sorry Blair…it's just, the thought that you could have been killed…before we had a chance to meet, it's a scary thought. I just don't
understand, why? I just don't believe it's just a dissertation that keeps you working with the police…risking your life like that when you're not a cop. There has to be something more to it."
Blair placed a hand on Stephen's shoulder. "There is a reason, a very good reason. And I think it's time you did know, but it is not just my decision to make. Let's go find Jim."
With that Blair started off down the trial, Stephen followed a few moments later.
The hunter leaned against a tree and listened, his quarry was close…sounds like he was arguing with someone. He smiled evilly, *nothing like a crisis to bring a family closer together*, he thought.
He decided to wait where he was and let the prey come to him; this place offered a good vantage point and cover. His wait was rewarded when a curly headed man came into view, followed momentarily by a second man.
"Like shootin' fish in a barrel." The killer murmured to himself, taking aim on his target.
Both Stephen and Blair, each lost to their own thoughts; had walked in silence in the trek back to camp.
"Blair, wait up." Stephen finally called, quickening his pace.
Blair stopped and turned in time to see Stephen stumble, letting out a pained and startled gasp, at the same instant a rifle shot echoed out through the forest. Blair tried to look to see which direction the shot came from as he crouched low and made his way back to Stephen.
"Stephen. Stephen, answer me, are you all right." Blair said urgently as he made his way to Stephen's still form. "Come on man you're scaring me here."
Rolling his brother over, Blair was dismayed to see blood streaming down the side of Stephen's head.
"Ohmanohmanohman…oh, gods…Stephen man…" Blair murmured in a near panic. "Come on Stephen, wake up, man…some hunter isn't paying attention to what he's shooting at…"
Relief flooded through him when Stephen let out a pained groan and feebly lifted a hand to his injured head. "Come on, let me see…doesn't look to bad, hopefully just a crease." Blair said trying to keep both him and his brother calm as he tried to wipe the blood from the wound to get a better look at it.
Stephen was fighting to stay conscious, but the pain in his skull was akin to an exploding firecracker and the light really hurt his eyes. He feebly tried to bat away the hands that were touching him. "Whoa, Stephen, come on man, stay with me here."
"Jim, man, I know you heard that shot. I could really use your help here, Stephen's been shot…." A guide said to his Sentinel.
Indeed one did not need Sentinel senses to hear the rifle discharge, and even before the echo had completely died away the Sentinel was all ready extending his senses searching for his guide and bother.
"...Could really use your help here, Stephen's been shot…" The Sentinel heard his guide's terrified plea, smelled the coppery tang of blood and of fear.
As Jim hunted for his brother's he kept alert to the danger that still lurked in the trees:
His cop instincts telling him this wasn't an ordinary hunter…maybe a poacher, but not someone hunting legally he was sure.
Another rifle shot echoed through the forest, spurring the Sentinel to push his senses to not only pinpoint the location of Blair and Stephen but also the shooter.
"Dam nit," Blair cursed, yanking his hand back behind the log he and Stephen were hiding behind. He had tried to get to his backpack he had dropped several feet from where he and Stephen were hiding when a bullet whizzed past his exposed limb and embedded itself in a nearby tree.
"Jim, man, be careful…I don't think this is just a hunter. Someone is still out there taking pot shots at us…" Blair warned his Sentinel. "We were on our way back to camp and the shots are coming from further down the trial…in the direction we were heading."
Another moan from Stephen got Blair's attention. "Blair. Jim. You guys all right?"
"I'm fine. You, however, are going to have one hell of a headache."
"What happened, where's Jim…heard talking…"? Stephen gasped, dazedly looking around.
"Jim's coming…we just need to hold on…" Blair said.
"Coming? But, but…heard you talking…god, why does my head feel like its about to explode?" Stephen gasped, bringing his hands to his head, grimacing against the pain.
"Stephen…you were shot. It doesn't look to bad but we need to get you to a hospital."
"Shot?" He said in confusion. "Again!"
Despite the direness of the situation Blair couldn't help a wry chuckle. "Remind me again who it is that has the dangerous job?"
Trying to stay conscious Stephen asked. "Hunters?"
"I thought so at first but they haven't moved away and now who ever it is, is taking pot shots at us." Blair explained.
The next several moments rushed past Blair in a blur of action and noise. Another rifle shot sounded as a huge form came rolling out of the tree line behind him. Terrified that there might be a second assailant, Blair whirled around looking desperately for anything he might use as a weapon.
"Whoa, chief, it's just me. Calm down." Jim assured his frightened Guide.
"God, Jim, don't scare me like that. I thought it was another shooter." Blair scolded.
Jim looked over at Stephen, who appeared to be unconscious again. "How is he?"
"Looks like it just creased his right temple…I almost have the bleeding under control, but he's really out of it. I think he might have a concussion." Blair filled in the details of Stephen's injuries before asking, "Can you pinpoint where he is?"
Jim held up a quieting hand. "Sash, I only hear one heartbeat, about 100 yards, at two o'clock."
"What is it with this guy, man? Why is he still shooting at us?" Blair asked breathlessly.
"Don't think this is a normal hunter."
"I think this one hunts two legged victims."
Blair whistled quietly. "If that's the case then whoever it is must to be after Stephen. We were far enough apart that they had a clear shot at either of us. Why would anyone want to shoot him?"
"Don't know chief but I intend to find out." Jim said as he reached down and withdrew his back up pistol from his leg holster. "Take this, I need you to draw his attention away while I go around and flank this bastard."
Blair took the offered gun with a grimace. "What was that about Stephen and I not leaving our work at home…"
Jim shrugged. "Old habits."
"Thank god for that." Blair said as another bullet whizzed over their heads.
"Ready?" Jim asked.
"Let's get this over with."
With a nod, Jim got in a crouching position so he could move out quickly, then turned to Blair and mouthed, "Now."
Blair let off three shots in the opposite direction Jim took and then sat back to wait, wishing he had his sentinel's hearing so he could track Jim's progress as he moved in on the shooter. So intent on helping his Sentinel catch the 'hunter' he was unaware of the puzzled look he was getting from Stephen.
"Damn." Grumbled the assassin. This was supposed to be an easy hit. He could not believe his mark stumbled over a log just as he squeezed off the killing shot.
He knew he needed to move in and around to regain a good vantage point to finish the job, he let off with a couple more shots to keep his quarry pinned down in case they got any ideas about running while he moved into his new position.
In his confidence he never considered the third member of Stephen Ellison's group, until he heard the sound of gunfire from the direction of his target.
'Okay, this might make things a little tricky.' The assassin thought. 'Always liked a challenge.'
So intent on revising his plans to account for the weapon he now knew his quarry possessed the assassin was taken completely by surprise when a hand came down hard on his shoulder. He turned in time to see the fist that connected soundly with his face, causing him to tumble over and lose the grip on his rifle.
Jim reached down and snatched up the rifle, looking up in time to see the assassin recovering enough of his equilibrium to control his roll and come up into a crouching position.
"Just give me an excuse to put a hole in you." Jim said evenly, pointing the rifle at the would be killer.
The man slowly pulled his hands away from his leg, where he was going for his leg holster, raising his hands in surrender.
Jim walked a few steps closer. "I bet you all ready know the drill, but in case you don't let me refresh your memory. Get on your stomach, spread eagle…so help me you try to go for a weapon I will gladly put a bullet in you."
Sure, that for the moment, his prisoner was cooperating Jim called out loudly. "Blair, the situation is secure…bring me some rope or something."
Jim read his prisoner his right's, finishing with the question, "Why were you trying to kill my brother?" as Blair burst through the brush with a small rope.
The prisoner made no comment to the question or to Jim's 'rough ' handling as his hands were secured behind his back with the rope and he was hauled him to his feet.
"Now what?" Blair asked.
"We get Stephen help and we get this piece of trash booked for assault and attempted murder and what ever else I can come up with."
After making Stephen as comfortable as possible in the back seat and securing the prisoner in the front Jim climbed into the drivers seat. "Just as soon as we get a signal I want you to call Simon and have some cars meet us at the hospital, then call the hospital and tell them to stand by for a gun shot victim."
Except for Blair's phone calls the ride was made in strained silence.
Thirty minutes later Jim brought the SUV to screeching halt in front of the ER. Two squad cars and the car of one Captain Simon Banks' were on hand to meet them.
Jim bolted out of the truck coming to the back door of the truck. "We need a gurney out here, now." He commanded to no one in particular.
Simon moved in to help. "Blair. Jim you both okay?"
With a wry smile Jim answered. " We're fine, Simon. It's just Stephen. Shooters in the front seat."
Simon stepped back as the hospital staff moved in on the truck and helped Jim put his brother on the gurney. Blair slid out of the back seat and nodded at Simon before following the gurney into the ER.
The captain motioned for some officers to retrieve the suspect from the front seat of the SUV and put him in a squad car, before turning to his detective. "So what's the story? A hunter?"
"If he's just a hunter, I'll eat my hat. He was aiming for Stephen…kept shooting, never tried to move away or come forward to help." Jim explained.
"What's he got to say for himself?"
"Hasn't said a word."
"For now I'll have him booked for reckless endangerment, run his prints and see what we come up with." Simon said.
"Soon as I know Stephen is going to be all right I'll head down to the station."
Simon nodded and got back into his car and pulled away. Jim turned and went inside the hospital, honing in on not one but two heartbeats.
Jim found Blair standing at the charge desk, trying to fill out the multitude of paper work that accompanies a hospital visit. "You know Jim, I can't answer half these questions. If Stephen's going to be hanging around us more often…"
"Let me have a look. Have you heard anything yet?" Jim asked holding out his hand for the clipboard.
Handing the paperwork over Blair answered. "Not yet, he's only been in there a few minutes…it didn't seem that bad, though…he's gonna be all right? Right?"
"I hope so chief. I hope so."
INTERROGATION ROOM 3
CASCADE POLICE DEPT
"So that's the dude that shot Jim's brother?" Brown asked, looking through the one-way glass into the interrogation room. "Said anything yet?"
"Not a word. Hasn't even asked for a lawyer. Simon wants this one by the book, no mistakes…waiting for his prints to come back before he gets questioned." Rafe said.
"We have a match." Said Captain Banks, stepping into the observation room with his two detectives. "Our shooter is one Charles Vogel, age 37, with a rap sheet as long as my arm. Dozens of arrests, served numerous small time sentences in state facilities…"
"Sounds like a real charmer." Rafe commented.
"Seems our Mr. Vogel will do just about anything from petty theft…"
"…To murder," said Brown.
"If the price is right," finished Simon. "Seems he even advertises his services in one of those Soldier of Fortune magazines."
"Was he military?" Asked Rafe.
"Not according to his records…never stayed out of trouble or prison long enough." Simon answered, perusing through the suspects file.
"So we got ourselves a career criminal here." Brown said.
" Most of his arrests were for knee breaking and theft, a few assaults…with most charges dropped." Simon continued to explain as he scanned the file. "Seems over the last ten years he's been moving up in the world…a bar fight put a man in a coma—DA tried for murder one because witnesses testified that Vogel went in and seemed to single the guy out for a fight, but it was reduced to involuntary—that netted him six years. He was also convicted of killing a man by running him down with his car…conviction was overturned two years later due to a technicality…when it went back to trial the witness had mysteriously disappeared."
Handing the file to Brown, Simon instructed his men, "See what you can get out of him before Jim gets here…I don't need a dead prep or a detective in holding."
"You got it, Cap." Brown said taking the file and turning to his partner. "How do you want to play it? Good cop, bad cop?"
"Don't think that will work with him…this guy knows the system, knows the games." Rafe said. "How about bad cop, worse cop and if that fails we'll send in his worst nightmare…"
"Nothing like an angry Ellison to ruin your day." Brown said with a smile, opening the door and ushering in his partner. "After you."
The prisoner just sighed heavily and rolled his eyes when the detectives entered the room. "So the games begin…it's about time." He smirked, leaning back in his chair.
Brown tossed the file on the table and grabbed a chair, turning it backwards, and sitting down to face the suspect. "No, Mr. Vogel, we ain't playing any games here, man. You see you shot a man—tried to kill him, and the men he was with. But see, you made a big mistake this time..."
"Who me?" Vogel interrupted with exaggerated innocence. "Why officer, I was out hunting, guess I got a little carried away, didn't get a clear look at what I was shootin' at."
"You're not real smart their Vogel. Been caught twice all ready, you're really not very good at this are you?" Rafe commented dryly.
"You really should have researched your target a little better there Vogel…see, we don't take kindly to someone taking pot shots at one of our own.' Brown said, leaning forward into the prisoner's personal space.
"Hey man I was just out huntin' deer, you can't prove nothing else." Vogel shot back.
"So what's the going rate for trying to kill a cop partner?" Brown asked casually, looking over at his partner.
"Don't know, maybe twenty to life providing, that is, they even make it to trial." Rafe answered back.
"Hey, you threatenin' me, man, you can't get away with that…he wasn't no cop!" Vogel growled out.
"Wasn't a cop? Did we say anything about the injured man being a cop?" Brown asked his partner.
"Nope. Didn't hear a word about that."
"But you said…"
"What we said, Mr. Vogel was that we don't take to kindly to someone shooting at one of our own. Stephen Ellison was camping with his brothers: one Professor Sandburg, police consultant, and one Jim Ellison. *Detective* Jim Ellison, of our very own Major Crimes division." Brown informed the suspect. "Small world isn't it, Mr. Vogel?"
"You might have even heard of him. He's been Cop of the Year for two years running now…of course, we couldn't expect anything less from some one who used to be an army ranger, all that specialized training and all." Rafe mused aloud.
"So you might be starting to understand the implications of all this," Brown pressed the prisoner. "You can talk to us or you can talk to Detective Ellison when he gets here…from the hospital…where his brother is being treated for the gunshot wound you inflicted."
"You can't scare me…you guys, Ellison; you guys can't touch me." Vogel sneered.
"Hey, babe, we ain't trying to scare you. We are just statin' the facts of life as it is known in the world of Major Crimes." Brown said matter-of-factly, staring straight into the suspects eyes he added darkly, "Believe me buddy, what Jim Ellison goes after Jim Ellison gets, and not me, my partner, or even my captain can stop him…you dig."
Brown straightened back up and looked over at Rafe, who was leaning casually against the wall, then back to the suspect. "You're call babe, but you better make it quick…no tellin' when Ellison is due in."
Vogel looked back and forth between the two detectives, uncertainty playing across his face. Finally he said, "I want a lawyer."
"Your call." Brown said, standing up and putting the chair back under the table and picking up the file. "Just remember the clock is ticking."
Without another word the two detectives left the interrogation room.
Closing the door behind them, two grim faced detectives faced their captain.
"He's tough…knows the games…" Brown said. "Sorry we couldn't get any more out of him."
"I think we have enough for a warrant to search his place. Most hunters don't hunt with high powered sniper rifles…and he all but admitted he knew who Stephen Ellison was." Simon said. "Be ready to roll when I get the warrant cleared."
"Captain, have you heard anything yet, from the hospital?" Rafe asked.
"Not yet." Simon answered grimly.
SATURDAY: 4 pm
CASCADE GENERAL HOSPITAL
After pulling Jim out of three zones in two hours Blair had had enough.
"That is it Jim…three strikes and your out. Stop trying so hard to listen…you're to tired and stressed and keyed up to concentrate properly." Blair fretted to his Sentinel.
Chaffing at the inaction and the long wait Jim snapped. "It's been over two hours, chief, they haven't told us anything…"
"The nurse said they were going to do a CAT scan after they stitched him up to check for any hairline fractures. They can't tell us anything until they find out something."
As if on cue the outer ER doors opened and a doctor came to the waiting room. "I'm looking for anyone here for Stephen Ellison."
"That would be us." Jim said, jumping up from his seat. "How is he? When can we see him?"
"Slow down. Come and sit down and I will fill you in on his condition." The doctor said, directing them to sit back down. "First, I'm Dr. Cabot, and your are?"
"I'm Detective Jim Ellison, this is Blair Sandburg. Stephen's our brother."
The doctor looked back and forth between the two men before continuing, "I operated on Mr. Ellison to clean and close the wound on his head, needed twelve stitches. The CAT scan did not reveal any fractures to the skull, but he does have a moderate concussion."
"So he's going to be all right, then?" Blair asked.
"He should be fine. We will keep him a day or so to watch the concussion and make sure no infection sets in then do a repeat CAT scan before we discharge him. He will probably suffer some severe headaches and some dizziness for awhile…is there someone who can stay with him for a few days after his discharge?"
"He'll be staying with us." Jim said. "I've had medic training, I know what to look for."
"Good. As soon as he's settled in his room I'll have the nurse come and get you." Doctor Cabot said. He stood and held out a hand, "If you have any more questions feel free to contact me."
"Thank you, doctor." Jim said returning the handshake.
Blair also thanked the doctor. "I think we should call William now. This is not the kind of thing you want to hear about on the six o'clock news."
"Yea, need to call Simon, too." Jim said. "I want to find out what they got on the shooter."
"Subtle hint there, Jim?" Blair said with a chuckle. "I'll call William, you call Simon."
Blair could see the relief in Jim's eyes. "Thanks, chief."
"Thanks, Simon…I'll probably be in, in a couple more hours. Stephen's being settled into his room now…okay, I will." Jim closed his cell phone and went over to where Blair was using the pay phone.
"Yes, he's going to be fine. They're moving him to his room now…no, they haven't given us the room number yet. No, we don't have any information about that yet…okay. See you in a little while. Bye." Blair finished his phone call with his father and turned to Jim. "He's on his way."
"So what have the guys come up with on the shooter?" Blair asked.
A nurse approached the two men and asked, "Are you waiting for Stephen Ellison?"
"Yes, we are."
"He's settled in his room now, if you will follow me. He is extremely groggy from the surgery and the pain killers so please try to make your visit short so he can rest." The nurse instructed as she led them down the hall.
They entered the room quietly. Stephen appeared to be asleep; various machines beeped and hummed as they monitored his vitals.
"This is so weird, man." Blair whispered.
"Being here, at the hospital…and it not being one of us in that bed. What is it about Ellison's and psycho's with guns?"
"Hey, who said it was an Ellison thing!" Jim shot back quietly. "He was with you chief."
"Yes, but as I see it, we had two and a half Ellison's to half a Sandburg out there…so therefore it has to be an Ellison thing!" Blair whispered triumphantly.
"No, I think it was a Stephen thing," said a whispered voice from the bed. "After all, it was my head that ran into that bullet…or was it a bomb? Man, my head is killing me."
"Stephen, you're awake!" Blair said. "I'd ask how you were feeling, but you all ready answered that."
"Yea, like crap. Thanks for asking." He groaned. " Now can someone tell me why my camping trip was cut short by a bullet?"
"Was hoping you could tell us that?" Jim said. "It wasn't an accident. Does the name Charles Vogel mean anything to you?"
"Vogel? No, don't know anyone by that name." Stephen answered. "I take it that means you caught the person who did this?"
"He's down at the station now and apparently not being very forthcoming with why." Jim said. "I'll be having a word with him…"
"Like Simon will let you near the guy." Blair snorted.
Just then a nurse came in to check Stephen's vitals and administer medication through his IV lines, after scribbling a few notes in the chart she slipped from the room, promising Stephen a late dinner in a little while.
"Oh man," Blair groaned. "The operation was a success only to have the patient die when they fed him the food from the cafeteria."
"So don't let them kill me…spring me from this house of horrors," Stephen pleaded.
Smiling, Jim said. "Hopefully tomorrow. Doc wants to keep an eye on that concussion tonight and make sure there aren't going to be any complications."
Stephen sighed heavily. "I hate hospitals."
"I hear that." Blair chuckled. "If we're not careful the hospital is going to name a wing after us."
"Is there anything you need before we head to the station?" Jim asked.
"Nope. I think whatever joy juice they put in this IV is starting to kick in." Stephen answered with a lopsided grin.
Blair patted Stephen on the shoulder and said with a chuckle, "Feeling no pain are we?"
"Well, we better get out of here before the nurses chase us off. We'll be back tomorrow to pick you up if the doctor releases you." Jim said.
Stephen just nodded slightly and sunk down into his bed, the medication all ready putting him in a light doze. Jim stepped up to the bed and pulled up another blanket from the foot of the bed to cover his sleeping brother. "Let's go chief."
They met William Ellison at the main entrance to the hospital.
"Jim. Blair. How is Stephen?" William asked worriedly. "What happened? How did he get hurt?"
"Slow down." Jim said, directing his father inside to the ER waiting area. "Stephen is going to be all right, the bullet just creased his scalp…"
"Bullet! He was shot? By who…how?" William interrupted. Jim gave Blair a sideways glare that plainly said, 'you didn't tell him?' Blair just shrugged.
"We don't know why yet, but the shooter is in custody…a two bit hood with a rap sheet a mile long, so it's a good bet that this was a hired hit of some kind." Jim explained quickly.
"Hired, to kill him? But who?" William said sinking into a nearby chair, muttering quietly, "It has to be related."
"Related? What has to be related?" Jim asked, pinning his father with a stare. "Do you know something about this?"
Pulling his thoughts together, William answered slowly. "I'm not sure, and now after this…"
"What, dad? Has something been going on?" Jim pressed his father.
"Stephen made a comment several weeks ago that he was having some real difficulty with someone from work, didn't give it much thought at the time, but about two weeks ago he had a car wreck on his way home from work…"
"A car wreck! How come we are just now hearing about it?" Jim cut in.
"He was only banged up…wrenched his knee a bit. The mechanic said there was no brake fluid in the line…said he found several small holes throughout the line."
"And you didn't think to call me or report this little incident?" Jim questioned angrily.
"Oh, so I can be accused of meddling in my son's lives. Besides, if Stephen felt it needed reported I'm sure he would have done so…the mechanic said there was no actual evidence that the line had been cut."
"Which repair shop did he take his car too."
"Joey's. The one on Fourth Street." William answered.
Jim just shook his head. "Look, Blair and I have to go the station, question the shooter and follow up on a few things. I don't think Stephen should be left alone, there are just to many unanswered questions here…"
"I was planning on sitting with him." William said.
"Good. He's in room six-oh-two. I'm also going to see about getting a guard posted at his door."
"You think whoever this is will really try again?" Blair asked.
"It's a strong possibility."
"Go. Do what you need to do. I'll stay with Stephen." William said.
"Call if you need anything or you remember anything else." Jim directed his father. "Come on Chief, let's go."
Climbing into the truck Blair asked, "Where to first?"
"Joey's garage. I want to talk to the mechanic that fixed Stephen's car."
Without any preamble Jim flashed his badge and requested to speak to the mechanic on duty the day Stephen Ellison's car was brought in.
"It ain't any mystery what caused that car to crack up. Put 'er up on the rack and found the brake line all busted up. No brake fluid, no brakes." The mechanic explained.
"Did you find anything else wrong with the car that could have caused the accident?" Jim questioned.
"Nope. Replaced the brake line, filled 'er up then had her towed over to the body shop on Seventh…we contract some of our work out to them. Mr. Ellison picked up the car about four days ago." The mechanic answered.
"You wouldn't happen to keep the old parts you pull off the cars you fix?"
"Matter-a-fact, we do. Occasionally someone needs the part for insurance reasons or for court sometime, you know. Also, we got a contract with a local recycler for some of the old parts 'n metals…some of the rubber stuff, too. Since Mr. Ellison ain't come for the part its probably in the blue dumpster out back now." The mechanic stepped out of the garage office and pointed to the side of the building where the dumpster was located. "Listen, if that's all, I gotta' get back ta' work. Help yourself to the dumpster."
"Thanks for the help." Jim said.
Blair gave a disgusted groan as he peered into the dumpster of old parts. "There's hundreds of parts in here…how we going to find the right one?"
Jim gave a quick grin at Blair's disgust. "Most of the pieces are metal…we just sort out the rubber hose pieces, then find the ones that have brake fluid residue. Hopefully the mechanic can narrow it down after that."
"Man, I am glad you're the Sentinel and not me." Blair mumbled, still grimacing at the greasy mess in the bin.
For the next forty-five minutes Sentinel and Guide dug through the bin of old parts—finally narrowing their search to five old brake lines, which they took into the shop.
"I'm pretty sure its this one…I remember how busted up it looked, like it was scraped over the asphalt or something. Must have been one hell of a pot hole." The mechanic commented, picking up one of the brake hoses and showing it to the other two men.
Jim thanked the man and retrieved the hose. "Let's go chief."
Inside the truck, Jim examined the hose more closely. "The edges is jagged but yet it's uniform…like the serrated edge of a knife. I want the lab to take a closer look."
SATURDAY, 6:30 pm
CASCADE POLICE DEPARTMENT
"Jim. How's your bother?" Simon asked as Jim and Blair came into the bullpen.
"No serious damage. Some stitches and a concussion. Doc wants him to stay overnight so dad is with him now." Jim reported.
"So what have we got so far?" Jim asked as the three men went into the Captains office.
"We got some out of Vogel…got Judge Thompson to issue a warrant to search his apartment. Hell, the rifle alone breaks his parole; so we'll hold him on that charge and reckless endangerment until we get something more substantial to charge him with. Brown and Rafe are executing the warrant now." Simon informed the two men. "Find out anything on your end?"
"Found out Stephen had a car accident two weeks ago, supposedly because of a faulty brake line…the hose is in the lab now, but it is my guess it was cut. The gash in the hose had a definite pattern, like a serration. Also, dad said Stephen mentioned something about difficulties with a co-worker. We'll need to question his staff on Monday."
"Sounds good. So that's it then. Why don't you two get out of here for tonight—you've had one hell of a day."
"I want a crack at Vogel." Jim said.
"Jim." That one word held a stern warning.
"Simon, I just want to talk to him." Jim said.
"And you can assure me my suspect will still be in one piece when you're finished?" Simon asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Just talk." Jim tried to assure his captain.
Simon considered the request for a moment. "I'll let you question him, but not tonight…you've been through enough today. Wait until we hear back on what they come up with in the search of his apartment and what the lab has to say."
"Simon." Jim cajoled.
"Out. Now. Go home." Simon ordered the men with a wave of his hand.
"Fine, we're going. We'll be in tomorrow after we check on Stephen and find out about the accident and his troubles at work." Jim said.
"Good. By then we'll have something on the search and the brake hose from the car." Simon answered the smiled. "Now, goodbye and good night, gentlemen."
On the way home Blair called the hospital to check on Stephen. William informed them that Stephen had had a light dinner and seemed to be doing well and that there had been no sign of trouble all evening.
"We'll come by in the morning. Goodnight." Blair pocketed his cell. "William is going to spend the night at the hospital, he said he'd go pack Stephen a bag in the morning and meet us at the hospital when he gets discharged."
Jim and Blair were up and out of the loft by eight that morning heading to the hospital.
They found Stephen propped up on his pillows, poking glumly at the 'food' on his breakfast tray. "Hey, guys, when am I getting sprung from this house of horrors so I can get a decent meal?"
Blair smiled. "Guess that means your feeling better."
"I'm sore all over, and my head hurts like hell. I might live…if…I get some real food soon!" He hinted.
Jim couldn't help but chuckle. "Doc says if everything checks out okay he'll release you this afternoon. They need a few more pictures of that hard head of yours."
"Good. Real food and a real bed."
Blair and Jim exchanged knowing glances. Stephen was as yet unaware of where he was going upon his discharge from the hospital. Jim was well aware that Stephen would probably put up a fight, so they chose not to 'upset' him with that bit of news.
"Anyway, right now we have some questions for you…if you feel up to it?" Although it was put forth as a question the tone brooked no argument.
Stephen's eyes narrowed. "The last time you used that tone you were accusing me of murder."
"Whoa there, its nothing like that, man." Blair interjected. "This time we are trying to prevent a murder…yours!"
"Mine! So you're certain what happened in the woods wasn't an accident?" As he spoke one hand came up to ghost over his bandaged head.
"We think Vogel was paid to kill you." Jim said.
"What! Someone paid to have me killed? Why? This is to unbelievable!" Stephen exclaimed.
"We also don't think your car accident wasn't an *accident*." Jim pressed.
"Car acc…how did you find out about that?"
"I *am* a detective."
"Dad told you, didn't he?" Stephen accused.
"He also mentioned you having trouble at work…" Jim probed.
"Look, we're not kids anymore and this isn't about some bully on the play ground that big brother can rush in and beat up…these are my co-workers and it's nothing I can't handle." Stephen said angrily.
"Oh, like you handled Pat last year at the track…look Stephen these companies, these deals are worth millions of dollars…I've seen people kill for a whole lot less." Jim tried to explain. "Whether it is tied into work or not those people will be questioned."
"Always the bully." Stephen glared back.
"Stephen, what is it going to take to convince you here. We are talking about your life."
Stephen eyed his older brother for a moment, noting the look of genuine concern on his face. Sighed heavily and sinking back into his pillows he said, "Damn, I'm getting shot at more than you are!"
"Not quite, but you are getting up there." Blair commented. "Welcome to the Ellison zone, often confused for the much safer Sandburg zone."
Stephen groaned as Jim whapped Blair on the side of the head.
Turning serious again, Jim pulled up a chair and sat down at Stephen's bedside. "Now about your problems at work?"
SUNDAY, 10:30 am
Jim and Blair headed straight to Simon's office upon arriving in the bullpen. They found Rafe and Brown all ready there, report of the previous nights search in hand.
"How's Stephen this morning?" Simon asked.
"Cranky." Blair replied.
"He should be getting discharged this afternoon. We'll pick him up and take him to the loft…probably the closest we'll get him to agree to for any kind of police protection until we catch who's behind this." Jim explained.
"I'll arrange for a few uniforms out front for a day or so." Simon put in.
"Thanks Simon." Jim said. "So what do we have so far?"
"The lab confirmed your suspicions about the brake line. They clearly identified several serrated punctures in the hose, found a few flecks of metal in the gashes." Simon reported as he looked over the lab report.
"We never found any serrated knives at Vogel's, not even a hunting knife. But our man did have several more, 'unregistered', weapons in the apartment, and plenty of ammo to go with them. Plus we found subscriptions to four different Soldier of Fortune magazines scattered throughout the apartment, each one with an ad in it for his 'services'." Brown stated.
"He could have tossed the knife after he slashed the line. Stephen's wreck was on his way home from work, so it's a good guess whoever did it, did it while his car was parked at the office. We should search the area around the parking lot." Jim commented. "If we're lucky, maybe they have surveillance tapes of the lot."
Rafe took up the report, holding up an evidence bag with a small booklet. "We might have hit pay dirt here, though; it's a newly opened passbook savings account with a single deposit of twenty-five thousand dollars, dated five days ago."
"We also put in a request for his phone records for the last six weeks; see who has inquired after his advertised services." Brown added. "We should hear something back on the request sometime tomorrow."
"Good. Stephen gave me a list of his co-workers on his latest company project and also some other employees he's had contact with over the last month. We can check the names against Vogel's phone records." Jim said, pulling a list from his pocket and handing it to Henri.
"So you're going with the theory that all this is tied in with his job somehow?" Simon asked.
"So far it's the only thing that makes sense. We're talking about a project worth millions of dollars here." Jim said. "Stephen is heading up the project that is overseeing a buyout and restructuring of Cyclops Oils Peruvian assets."
"Maybe it's someone from Cyclops. Not all buyouts are friendly ones." Rafe pointed out.
"That's a possibility, but even if that was the case what would they have to gain. The deal is a done thing. If it wasn't Stephen heading up the team it would still fall to someone else within the company." Jim countered.
"We'll run a check on Cyclops employees, especially ones that had anything to do with the buyout or Peru, just to have all our bases covered." Simon directed, he then asked his lead detective, "What's your next step from here?"
"Questioning the people at Stephen's office. Have a look around the parking lot." Jim answered. "While we are waiting for the phone log comparisons I'll also want to run a basic background on all the people on Stephen's list."
"We might want to get a list of company cell phones and their users, too." Blair commented. "If it is someone from his office they were probably smart enough not to call from home or the office, but maybe not smart enough not to use their cell phones."
"Good idea, chief." Jim said.
Looking around the room at his detectives, Simon said. "Sounds like we have all our bases covered on this one. Jim, you concentrate on the employees at Stephen's company. Rafe. Brown. You guys get a list from Cyclops and run them."
Brown and Rafe headed out of the office, with Blair jumping up to follow them; only Jim stayed seated. "Uh, Simon, there is one more thing."
Simon raised an eyebrow, knowing what was coming and trying to think of a way out of it.
"I want a crack at Vogel."
This was one argument he knew he wouldn't win. He knew Jim would most likely go against any order he gave to the detective to stay away from the suspect. Frowning, he finally said, "By the book Ellison, every 'I' dotted and 'T' crossed, you got me. You want to talk to him you take Brown with you. You are not to be alone with the suspect, you got me?"
"Loud and clear, sir. Loud and clear." Jim answered somewhat petulantly.
"Detective." Simon warned with a single word and a raised eyebrow.
"Yes sir." Jim said, following Blair from the Captain's office.
Blair stood in the observation room, looking into the interrogation room, as Jim and Henri entered the inner room. Vogel all ready sat at the table, eyeing them as defiantly as he had the day before.
"Hey, man, I ain't got nothing to say to you." Vogel sneered, showing more outward bravado than he felt, recognizing Jim as the man who had subdued him in the woods. It wasn't difficult, even for him, to put two and two together and realize the man standing over him was Jim Ellison.
Jim knew Vogel recognized him. The suspect's heart rate and respiration shot off the scale when he spied Jim, so the attempt at bravado fell flat. "Lawyer can't help you now. The weapons confiscated from your apartment are enough to send you up for good, this time. Plus the attempted murder charge…"
"Hey man I was just huntin' and you can't prove otherwise."
"This can." Jim said, tossing out the evidence bag containing the passbook. "Now where would a two bit hood like you suddenly come up the twenty-five thousand dollars?"
"Yeah, well maybe it was an inheritance." Vogel threw out.
"Sure it was." Brown commented. "Then again maybe it was a payoff for services rendered."
"Just what kind of services do you advertise?" Jim asked, pulling a magazine from a file and tossing it on the table.
"Little bit of this, little bit of that. Guys got to make a living." Vogel answered evenly.
"You help people take care of 'problems'." Jim stated. "And just whose problem is Stephen Ellison?"
Vogel didn't answer, just stared defiantly at the table, not looking at either detective.
"Listen, tough guy. We're going to trace this money back to its source *and* check your phone records to see who has inquired after your special services lately; and when we do some while collar suit is going to deal his way into a cushy minimum security ride and leave you holding the whole bag. You won't see the light of day in this life time." Jim warned the suspect, leaning over the table and into Vogel's personal space.
The Sentinel sensed both fear and anger rolling off Vogel, who met his stern look with a measure of defiance. "I ain't got nothin' to say to you."
Jim straightened up and collected the items from the table. "Have it your way punk. But hear this, you will go down for this."
Jim and Blair spent the rest of the afternoon running the names of Stephen's co-workers.
"Not so much as a parking ticket in the lot." Blair commented tiredly.
"Every criminal has to start somewhere." Jim said, scooping up his ringing telephone. "Ellison. Dad! He what? Okay, we're on our way…I don't know, take his clothes I guess."
"Something wrong?" Blair asked with concern.
"Stephen's CAT scan came back negative and he is very ready to leave the hospital—with or without dad's help, which dad isn't giving." Jim explained as he grabbed for their jackets and headed towards the elevator. "Let's get moving. I don't want him going anywhere by himself."
SUNDAY, 3 pm
They found Stephen still in his hospital gown, sitting on the edge of his bed, glaring at his father.
"Dad." Jim acknowledged his father as he and Blair came into the room.
"What kind of conspiracy is this? The scan came back normal. I am ready to get out of here. What's the problem?" Stephen grumbled.
"No real mystery, we told dad to call us when you got discharged so we could take you home." Jim said innocently, taking the overnight bag from his father and handing it to Stephen.
"About time." Stephen said, reaching for the bag as he slid off the bed. The sudden movement brought on a wave of dizziness, causing him to stumble forward.
"Whoa there, not so fast. I think you need to sit down for a minute." Jim cautioned as he reached out to steady Stephen.
"I'm fine, just got up to fast." Stephen said, trying to pull from his brother's grasp.
"I think you need some help." Jim said reaching down to pick up the bag and leading Stephen to the bathroom.
"Uh, Jim, I can dress myself." Stephen said.
Blair had been watching with open amusement the by play between his Sentinel and one that, unbeknownst to the fact, was in the inner circle of a certain Sentinel's protectorate. "Remember when I mentioned the concept of the blessed protector… well, welcome to 'blessed protector' hell."
"What, he's always like this?" Stephen exclaimed as he finally pried his duffel bag out of Jim's hand.
"Oh, feel lucky, man. You are just getting blessed protector lite right now. You would be doomed if it were serious surgery or a broken bone." Blair said.
Stephen turned to Jim and put a hand to his chest. "Look, Jim. I'm fine, okay. I am not dieing here. Now, I'm just going to take my duffel here and go into that little room…alone, and get dressed—okay? I just want to get dressed and get out of the hospital."
Jim let Stephen get inside the bathroom and close the door before he said nonchalantly. "Oh, by the way, you'll be coming back to the loft with us."
The door to the bathroom swung open. "What? You've got to be kidding!"
"As of this moment Mr. Stephen Ellison you are under police protection until said perpetrator is in custody." Jim said in an official tone.
"You can't be serious. You all ready have the shooter in custody…"
"That's just the shooter…he is not the person behind the two attempts on your life, thus far." Jim reminded.
Stephen leaned heavily against the door. "You think whoever it is will try again?"
"Yes, I do. So your choices are to come back with Blair and I to the loft or stay in a safe house."
Stephen looked at Jim incredulous. "A safe house!"
Jim nodded slowly in answer.
Stephen looked to his father and brother for help.
"Don't look at me man. You've now officially entered what we at the station call full blessed protector mode." Blair said with a shrug of his shoulders. "There's no hope now."
"Is that the voice of experience talking?" Stephen asked glumly.
"More than I care to remember." Blair answered.
Looking at Jim, Stephen said. "Okay, I'll stay a day or so—all right? Will that ease this blessed protector thing you've got going here?"
"I don't know there Stephen, once he has you in his clutches, there is usually not escaping." Blair said with a chuckle.
"Real funny chief." Jim shot out, glaring at Blair. "You are not making this any easier."
"Was I supposed to be?" Blair asked innocently.
Jim glared at Blair, before turning to Stephen. "This is not a negotiation here Stephen. I know you wretched your knee in the car accident and now you have stitches and a concussion…oh, and let's not forget the fact that we still have some unknown party still out there that wants you dead."
"I am well aware of all of that, thank you very much." Stephen snapped back.
Jim raked his hand through his hair and sighed tiredly. "Can we argue about all this later. For now, go, get dressed; so we can get out of here." Jim turned to the elder Ellison. "Dad can you swing by Stephen's again and pick him up more clothes?"
William nodded, asking Stephen, "Is there any work you need from the office or home?"
"Why?" Stephen said, eyeing Jim suspiciously. "I've got enough packed for a day or so."
"Stephen it may take more than a day or so to clear this case up…until then, you *are* under police protection." Jim said, starting to lose patience with both his brother's.
"Jim…" Stephen started to protest, but was stopped by Blair's chuckling. "What?"
"Give it up Stephen or he'll have you in cuffs and in a squad car."
Jim shrugged his shoulders. "There is always the safe house…" he reminded.
"Damn you two play dirty. Give me a minute to get dressed." Stephen said closing the bathroom door.
"That went well." Blair said sarcastically.
"You sure as hell didn't help matters." Jim groused.
"Gee, maybe because I know how it feels to be cooped up and hidden away like that. It sucks to put your life on hold like that." Blair defended.
"Fine. He could be dead, then we wouldn't have to worry about it at all." Jim snapped. "Why are you always trying to make this so difficult?"
Blair held up his hands. "Hey, man, ease up, you won. He is coming to the loft with us."
A few moments later Stephen came out of the bathroom. Jim grabbed the duffel from his hand and handed it to his father, before grabbing Stephen's arm with one hand and reaching out to snag Blair in a headlock with the other.
"What…" Stephen started to protest, drowned out by Blair's yelp of protest.
"Hey, what gives?" Blair protested. "I don't need the blessed protector routine…"
"You, chief, always need a blessed protector, cuffs, a squad car, a police escort…a babysitter…." Jim said, throwing a smile at his father.
William returned the mischievous smile as he opened the door and let Jim lead his brother's down the hall. Jim let go when they got to the elevator.
Straightening himself out and smoothing down his rumpled clothes Blair pouted. "That was like so not funny man."
This time it was Jim's turn to just shrug his shoulders, the grin never leaving his face.
"Yeah, well let's see if we can get home without a high speed chase, shall we." Blair shot back with a smirk. "I'm sure Stephen doesn't want to be involved in another car wreck."
"A what? Chasing? Do you have someone you need to be chasing?" Stephen said, eyes wide.
"Now look who's scaring him." Jim said.
"Middle child syndrome. I am definitely a candidate for middle child syndrome." Stephen groaned.
Much to Stephen Ellison's relief, they all made it to the loft in one piece. No crooks, no guns and no high-speed chases.
He was amused at how much Blair and Jim fussed over him as they settled him on the couch. "Yes, I'm fine," he answered for the third time as Blair tried to offer him something to drink.
"Well I for one am starving…what are we having for dinner, and dad probably hasn't eaten either." Jim asked, looking at Blair.
"I can warm up some of the lasagna in the freezer…there should be enough vegetables for a salad, but we don't have any good bread to go with it." Blair said, going to the kitchen.
"Check and see if we need anything else before I run to the store, I'm not making two trips this time." Jim said, going for his jacket.
"I can't think of anything. Stephen is there anything you need or want?" Blair asked.
"Not that I can think of at the moment, thanks." He replied.
Jim made it back from the store the same time his father arrived carrying Stephen's suitcase and several suit jackets.
"What's all this?" Jim asked.
"Clothes…for work." Stephen pointed out. "You know…that place people go to earn their livelihood."
"Stephen, what part of police protection do you not understand?" Jim said with exasperation.
"Hey, you said I had to stay here, that I couldn't be alone. So, fine, I'm here. I can't just stop going to work…I've got responsibilities." Stephen defended.
"God, Stephen, we are talking about your life here…why are you being so stubborn about this." Jim protested angrily. "Just hand the project over to someone else for awhile."
"Excuse me! Where do you get off thinking that your job is so much more important than mine?" He snapped out angrily.
"Hell, I might just think it's more important right now because I'm investigating who's trying to kill my brother." Jim interrupted angrily.
"Listen Jim I know you're doing all this for me, and I do appreciate it, I do; but I can't just 'turn over' a project anymore than you can just turn over a case in the middle of an investigation. It just doesn't work that way. I'm sorry." Stephen said earnestly, trying to placate his angry brother. "Besides, I won't run from trouble any more than you would."
"I'm a cop. I'm not supposed to run from trouble, it's my job."
"Yea, well, I have a job too. And I am not going to be stopped from doing it by you or anyone else."
Both men stared at each other, only breaking eye contact when Blair's quiet voice broke in. "Jim, he's right. If it is someone at the office the best way to catch him is to let Stephen continue with his normal activities, let the killer know he has failed again. We can't hide Stephen forever, man, whoever this is will just wait until we let our guard down and try again. This way we can draw the person out. When Stephen shows up for work right on schedule the killer is going to get nervous, wonder what happened to the hit man he hired."
Jim frowned as he mulled over what Blair said. 'Damn, if the kid wasn't right…been around cops to long, starting to think like them,' he thought sullenly.
"Fine. You can go to work…with an escort." Jim shot out.
"Oh, that will really draw out our killer. One look at your scowling face and he's likely to jump the first ship out of the country." Blair said with a snort.
"And I suppose you have a better idea?" Jim asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Me! I'll go with him to work."
"You! And how will that be any less suspicious than me?"
"Because, Stephen has all ready offered me a job!" Blair declared.
"A job? Whoa, back up and start again here, chief." Jim said holding up his hands.
Blair exchanged a glance with Stephen before telling Jim of the job opening at Stephen's company, and the fact that Stephen offered it to him.
Jim's face held a mixture of surprise and hurt. "A job offer, huh. And just when were you planning on telling me?"
"Jim, it was just an offer. I am not running out on you man." The guide placated his sentinel. "But now with all this going on it seems a good time to take him up on the offer, and it would be an excellent cover."
"So I can have both of you to worry about instead of only one. Thanks for trying to make my job that much easier there, Darwin." Jim said in exasperation.
"Jim, don't push it. Stephen and I discussed this *before* the shooting, not after." Blair's tone held a tone of warning. "Might I remind you that Stephen and I are both civilians; so unless you plan on arresting us…"
"All right, damnit. Just don't expect me to like the idea." Jim muttered. "You still have to get it past Simon."
Blair was growing steadily angrier at Jim's attitude. "And what exactly would that be, detective? Need I remind you we had this conversation once before during the case with the modeling company. I am free to take any legitimate job as I see fit."
Sentinel and Guide locked angry eyes for a moment, the rest of the argument playing out in a silent battle of wills. Finally the sentinel relented to his guide and looked away, knowing it was ultimately an argument he would not win. "No heroics, chief."
"No heroics. Just a few cultural seminars and a good look around, nothing more." Blair said quietly, trying to placate his brother.
Jim sighed heavily and shook his head, turning and stalking to the refrigerator and grabbing a beer. He stayed in the kitchen, sullenly drinking his beer.
"Did we win?" Stephen asked quietly, wondering at the uneasy truce his brother's seemed to have at the moment.
"We compromised." Blair stated.
"If that was a compromise I really don't want to be around when either of you actually lose an argument." Stephen said.
"I think it's time for dinner…who's hungry." Blair said, pulling everyone's attention away from the argument and the still angry sentinel standing in the kitchen.
Jim did not stop scowling until dinner was on the table and everyone else was seated and ready to eat. Blair, determined not to let Jim spoil the whole evening with his sullen attitude, kept the conversation going with talk of school, the weather, and the Jags: anything that did not have to do with work or the case.
William offered to help with the dishes after dinner. He and Jim cleaned up the kitchen while Blair settled Stephen on the couch and started a fire.
"Well, there isn't a Jags game on tonight and I somehow doubt we could all four agree on a television program or a movie…" Blair started only to have Stephen interrupt.
"That's quite all right. I had something else in mind anyway."
"I'm all ears." Blair said, closing the grate on the fireplace and coming to sit next to Stephen on the couch.
"We started a conversation yesterday…before we were so rudely interrupted. I'd like to finish it." Stephen said pointedly.
Blair was dubious. "I don't know Stephen, we have so much to deal with all ready. I don't know if we should be adding to it."
"Why is that? What is so horrible that you two think I can't handle knowing?"
Blair knew Jim easily heard the conversation he and Stephen were having, so he turned to meet the gaze of his Sentinel, the silent question passing between them. After a moment Jim nodded and came slowly into the living room, followed by his father.
Jim looked to Blair to begin. "Tell me about your childhood?" Blair asked Stephen.
"What? What does my childhood have to do with why you and Jim work together?"
"Just think back for a moment…was there anything peculiar or odd about anything?" Blair pressed.
"No. I don't know." Stephen said with annoyance. "Was there?"
"Tell me about Jim. Think about things Jim did, could do, when he was a child."
Stephen sighed, brow furrowed in concentration. "I don't know…he always had this annoying habit of telling me what was for dinner when we were two blocks away. He always seemed to know when someone was picking on me on the playground, even when he wasn't anywhere near." He shrugged his shoulders, "Things like that?"
"You're on the right track."
"What, you work with him because he's annoying." Stephen quipped.
"More like in spite of." Blair smiled.
"You know, I am sitting here." Jim said.
"Feel free to jump in anytime here, Jim." Blair shot back with a grin.
"Okay, so it's not because he is annoying…" Stephen asked.
"Jim has what can only be called 'enhanced senses'…he can see, hear, smell, taste and feel beyond what is normal for the average human..." Blair began.
"Enhanced senses?" Stephen raised a dubious eyebrow.
"Yea. Now most people that I've ever worked with only have one or two extraordinary senses…like the people who work for perfume companies and the like…but Jim has all five. An anthropologist named Richard Burton documented such people in the native tribes of Peru, these people became the tribes protectors or watchmen." Blair explained further.
"And he got this, how?"
"It's probably genetic."
"Watch out Stephen, he wants to get a grant and ship you off to Peru to see if you develop any 'senses'." Jim quipped.
"Genetic? But you said the tribes in Peru had people like this, with these 'enhanced senses'. This happened in Peru…with the crash, spending all that time with the tribes down there?" Stephen asked, seeming to not hear Jim.
"No, he's had them all his life." Blair said.
Realization struck Stephen. "Is that how you knew the grandstand was about to collapse?"
"I heard the pillar cracking." Jim explained. "I saw the hairline fracture webbing through the pillar."
"And when you were chasing Pat…" Stephen began to ask.
"We traced the residual smell of the gun power." Blair said.
"You say 'we'. How exactly do you fit into all of this?" Stephen asked Blair.
"A nurse friend of mine faxed me his medical records and I got him to come to campus…"
"Ah, tricked me into coming to campus." Jim corrected.
"Is that when you tried to arrest him on the drug charges?" William asked.
"You were going to arrest him? Why?" Stephen asked.
"He was rambling on about this pre-civilization cave man stuff…" Jim defended.
"He called you a cave man?" Stephen said with a laugh. "Yea, I can see how that might be a stretch."
"Do you want to hear this or not?" Jim groused.
"Let's not forget the name calling there, son." William prodded.
"Ah…that would be the…neohippiewitchdoctorpunk…"Jim said with a cough.
"What was that, bro?" Stephen inquired. "Didn't quite catch all of that!"
Scowling, Jim said. "All right. I called him a neo hippie witch doctor punk and threatened to run him in on drug charges and harassing a cop…then I left…"
"And you stuck around after all that Ellison charm?" Stephen asked Blair.
"Not only stuck around but saved my sorry ass when I zoned on the pretty colors and stepped out in front of a garbage truck." Jim grimaced, remembering the feel of the truck rushing over top of him, feeling Blair's fear. "Next thing I remember I'm kissing the pavement."
"The truck hit you?" Stephen asked, horrified.
"No, the professor here tackled me in the street."
"That was so way not cool man." Blair said with a shiver. "Anyway, after that little incident he was willing to listen to me…let me help him get control of his senses."
"I thought you said he's had them all his life?"
"He has, but they have kinda come on and off line though out his life."
"So he came back on line, so to speak, a few years ago…and you do what exactly?"
"Every Sentinel, that's what Burton called these tribal watchmen, needed a guide to back them up; keep them from becoming so focused on one sense that they kind of lose touch with reality…"
"So you're his guide?"
"Yes. I am also helping him learn to use his senses, and gain better control. And to keep track of his general health and upkeep." Blair added with a smirk.
"So that's why Jim was letting you tell him what to eat." Stephen grinned.
"You would be surprised what would mess him up that wouldn't have any effect on us. Cold medicine knocks him for a total loop." Blair explained. "He also has some very adverse reactions to a lot of drugs and some foods and spices."
Stephen sat back, mulling over everything he had just heard; oddities from his childhood suddenly making sense, falling into place. He suddenly had a disconcerting thought, "You said this was genetic…"
"It's a very recessive gene. You might carry it and having it does not necessarily mean you will come on line." Blair quickly assured his brother.
"As sure as I can be with what information I have to work with."
After a moment Stephen said with a chuckle. "I don't suppose you have a manual on the care and feeding of a…what did you call it…a sentinel? I don't think I can keep track of all of this."
"I can always help him write that grant. Peru is real nice this time of year." Jim growled.
"Oh, just wait. We haven't got into the best part yet. The part Jim really hates…"
"There is a spiritual side to all this," Blair said mischievously. "Hope you're not allergic to cats."
"Cats?" Both William and Stephen said.
"Chief, I think they've both had enough for one night." Jim warned. Uncomfortable enough being the center of this conversation, now Blair wanted to get into the hocus pocus stuff that Jim himself could barely comprehend after experiencing it: no telling how his father or Stephen would react.
"Oh, no, we started this conversation I want to see it through while I'm brave enough to hear it." Stephen said. "Tell me about the cats!"
So for the next few hours Blair and Jim answered Stephen and their father's questions about the legend of the Sentinel, of Guides, zones, allergies, spirit animals and Jim's time in Peru with the Chopec and Incacha; and also how Blair tries to help Jim, why Blair works at the station and the cover story that keeps him there.
"So that's why you said Jim needs you…so he won't zone."
"It started out that way…he was nothing more than the subject of my dissertation, but somewhere I crossed the line and he became my friend."
"That and something about getting off the roller coaster and back onto the merry-go-round." Jim reminded.
They sat in silence for a while…each to his own thoughts, until finally Jim said. "Now have we had enough for one night? It's way past time for your medication Stephen. And we have a busy day tomorrow." And I'm tired of being dissected, he thought.
The boys bid their father goodnight and prepared to turn in for the night.
Long after everyone was settled in for the night, Stephen still lay awake with his racing thoughts. 'So, his big brother was some kind of super hero sentinel; his younger brother a spiritual guide to said sentinel. Okay, where did that leave him? That left him the odd man out' he though glumly.
Jim and Blair decided to let Stephen sleep until the very last minute before getting him up for work.
"He didn't sleep well at all last night. I woke up at four this morning and heard him still awake." Jim commented worriedly. "Maybe we shouldn't have tried to tell him so much last night."
"He wanted to hear it. I think after all these years he deserved to hear it, to know." Blair countered. "It will take him awhile…and besides he has everything else to worry about too. It's not exactly easy to sleep when your worried about who out there is trying to kill you, you know."
"We need to leave in forty-five minutes we better get him up." Jim said going to the French doors and knocking lightly. "Stephen, are you ready to get up?"
"No." came the petulant reply.
Jim came into the room to stand near the bed. "Are you feeling bad this morning? Blair can stay with you while I…"
"I don't need a babysitter. I'm just a little slow and sore this morning is all. I've got a ten thirty meeting I've got to make today." Stephen interrupted wearily.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Jim, I'm sure." Stephen answered as he slowly sat up in bed. "Just point me in the direction of coffee and the shower."
"Here's the coffee." Blair said coming into the bedroom and handing Stephen the steaming mug.
"Thanks." He said, taking a sip of the hot brew.
"All your stuff is laid out all ready in the bathroom. If you start feeling dizzy give a yell, we don't need another trip to the ER if you slip in the shower." Jim said.
Stephen looked back and forth between Jim and Blair when neither made a move to leave the bedroom. "Ah, guys, you plan on taking a shower with me?"
"Oh, hey, I'll go get breakfast started." Jim said sheepishly.
"Yea, and I gotta finish getting dressed." Blair commented.
Both men quickly left the room, leaving Stephen shaking his head in amusement. He had never seen this side of Jim before…he was well aware of his brother's control issues from childhood, but this hovering was something else all together. Taking another sip of his coffee he slowly got up and made his way to the bathroom.
MONDAY, 9:45 am
"Mr. Stan Jorden, this is my brother, Professor Sandburg; the one I was telling you about. He has agreed to help out with the Peruvian issues until a permanent sociologist can be hired." Stephen introduced Blair.
"Nice to meet you young man. Stephen here tells me you all ready have a masters and are working on your Ph.D." Jorden commented, shaking Blair's hand.
"Yes, sir. His offer is very intriguing…"
Jorden turned to the other man standing in the room. "And this is?"
"This is my other brother, Jim Ellison. Detective Jim Ellison." Stephen emphasized the last.
"Detective?" Jorden questioned.
Jim decided it was time to take control of the situation. "Mr. Jorden, I'm here in an official capacity…"
"Official capacity? I don't quite follow…" Jorden interrupted.
"I'm investigating an attempted murder…"
"Murder!" Jorden interrupted again. "Who was murdered?"
"No one was murdered, Mr. Jorden. However, there was an attempt on Stephen's life over the weekend." Jim started to explain.
"Stephen. Are you all right? What happened?" Is that why you have that bandage on your head?" Jorden exclaimed.
"Someone shot at us…it's just a graze. I'll be fine." Stephen assured his boss.
Regaining his composure, Jorden asked curiously, "Why exactly are you here, detective?"
"We caught the shooter, and the subsequent interrogations and search of his apartment have led us to the conclusion that his services were hired. Possibly by someone involved with the business dealings your company is currently engaged in, in Peru."
"You think someone on the project tried to have Stephen killed!" Jorden said incredulously, adding with a bit of indignation, "I find that very difficult to believe."
"We are also investigating Cyclops employees." Jim placated. "Right now all we want to do is have a look around the office, and the employee parking lot."
"The parking lot?"
"The brakes on Stephen's car were also tampered with…when he had his accident. We suspect the brake line was cut while his car was parked on the lot, since the accident occurred on his way home from the office." Jim explained. "Do you have a security guard or tapes?"
"No we don't." Jorden answered.
"I would also like to briefly question some off the employees Stephen has been working the most closely with, maybe one of them knows or has heard something. We would also like to have a copy of company issued cell phones and their users." Jim asked in a tone that brooked no argument.
"Don't you need a warrant for that kind of thing?" Jorden asked.
"Mr. Jorden!" Stephen exclaimed.
Jim never wavered, holding Jorden in his gaze. "Do I really need one?"
Jorden held the detectives gaze for a moment before he turned to Stephen. "And you really think it might have something to do with your project?"
"I honestly don't know what to believe right now, Mr. Jorden. But Jim is only doing his job." Stephen answered. "At least give him the cell phone list…if none of the numbers match up with the suspects phone records then he can turn the investigation in another direction."
Jorden considered the request for a moment before answering. "All right, Stephen. I'll have my secretary get you the list of company issued cell phones and Detective Ellison I give permission for you to look around the parking lot…but, I am not comfortable with you questioning the employees without something a little more substantial to go on."
Jim nodded. "That will be sufficient, for now." He then turned to Blair, "I'm going to look around Stephen's office then go out to the parking lot…I'll meet you both in his office."
"Okay, Jim." Blair said.
Jim excused himself and left the office to begin his investigation.
"Are you up for our meeting this morning Stephen? We can postpone it for a day or so." Jorden offered solicitously.
"No, I'm fine. I've all ready had this argument once with Jim, I hope I don't have to have it with you too." Stephen said. "I invited Blair to sit in with us, he had some very useful comments about the situation so far."
"Welcome aboard, Mr. Sandburg." Jorden said, directing them to the conference table.
"Okay, gentlemen, what have we got?" Jorden asked as he took a seat.
Jim found Stephen's office without difficulty and gave it a cursory scan with his senses, picking up nothing out of the ordinary for an office. Next he went through the drawers, still nothing. After fifteen minutes of searching he was satisfied his brother's office held no hidden dangers, so he moved to the parking lot.
The three-story building was part of a larger industrial complex off the main road and its parking lot was about half the size of a football field and had access to the road from two points…a service drive surrounded the building, also. Following the service road, Jim came around to the back of the building where he found a small loading dock and several large trash bins.
"Let's hope they don't have weekly service." Jim muttered to himself, climbing up to look inside the first dumpster.
He had searched two of the bins that were mostly paper refuse, and was just climbing into the third one when a glint of light caught his eye. He reached down and pushed away the trash to reveal a small, wooden-handled serrated steak knife.
"Bingo." He said, reaching into his pocket to pull out his handkerchief before picking up the knife. He went back to his truck for an evidence bag before heading back into the building, on his way calling Simon on his cell.
"Simon. Jim. We're at Farber Enterprises. We are going to get the phone list of company cells and I also found a serrated steak knife caught in one of the trash bins that's in the back of the building…"
"We'll have the lab check it for prints. Looks like your theory might be right about a co-worker." Simon said, and then asked, "When are you coming in?"
"I'm hoping with this little piece of evidence I can convince Stephen's boss to let me question the other employees…he's getting a little antsy about having a warrant."
"By the book Ellison. You don't want this one to slip by us because of a technicality. I'll talk to Judge Thompson…I can probably have you a warrant in a couple of hours." Simon directed the detective. "In the meantime, Vogel's phone records were just sent over."
"Okay. We'll be in soon. Bye." He said, hanging up his phone.
Jim headed for Jorden's office to see if Blair and Stephen were finished with their meeting and was met by the secretary. "Are you Detective Ellison?" when he nodded in the affirmative she continued, "Mr. Jorden said you wanted this list."
"Thank you, yes." He said taking the offered file. "Could you please tell Stephen and Blair I'm waiting for them in his office."
Jim went back to Stephen's office to wait; thirty minutes later the two men came in.
"How was the meeting?" Jim said, looking up from the file.
"Great. Stan was really impressed with Blair's knowledge. Really pressed him to take the consulting job." Stephen bragged. "So how did you do?"
"Pretty sure I found the knife that was used to cut your brake line. I need to get it to the lab for comparison. The secretary also gave me the phone list, so we can run it against Vogel's records." Jim explained. "So you ready to go?"
"Go?" Stephen asked in confusion. "I thought we settled this last night. I need to stay and work and Blair was going to stay with me."
"The evidence is mounting that it is someone right here in the office that is behind this…I don't think you should be here alone…"
"'Scuse me, he won't be alone…I'll be here." Blair said. "Working!"
Jim opened his mouth to protest when Blair cut him off. "Jim, we have all ready been through this. Stephen and I are going to stay right here in his office and work on a presentation for his staff on Peruvian cultures and customs and dealing with the Chopec. You go back to the station and run those names…see what you come up with. I doubt that the killer will try anything overt with an office full of people."
Jim glowered at the other two men for a moment before relenting. "Fine. It should only take a few hours at most for me to cross check the phone numbers, and get some answers back from the lab…you are to stay in the office, do not leave for any reason unless coming to the station…"
"Jim, man, I know the drill." Blair said. "I'll even leave my cell out and within reach to call if we have a problem…okay?"
Jim's scowl never left his face, clearly showing that he didn't like the idea. "All right. I'll see you both in a few hours."
After Jim left Stephen let out a slow whistle. "Are all cops that intense?"
"Only Jim." Blair answered. " 'Course we got the cop instincts on alert, the big brother instincts on overdrive and the blessed protector running at def-con five."
"I'm surprised we're not chained up in a box and sealed in a cave somewhere." Stephen mused.
"Hey, man, if he thought for a minute he could get away with it we would be."
Stephen just shook his head. "Well we better get some work done before our babysitter gets back and drags me home."
With that they sat down and began mapping out Blair's seminars for Stephen's team in Peru.
Back at the precinct, Jim dropped the knife off at the lab, personally finding Serena to ask for a rush on the comparison.
"This from your brother's case?" she asked, taking the evidence bag with the knife.
"Yea. If I can get a positive match with the cuts in his brake line I can secure the warrant and get this wrapped up before he gets himself killed." Jim ground out.
Serena raised an eyebrow at the detective.
"Sorry. But he is not being very reasonable. There is a good chance this is all tied to someone in his office…so where is he…at his office working." Jim explained.
"Ah, I see stubbornness is an Ellison trait." She said with a chuckle, adding with some concern, " He's not alone is he?"
"Blair is with him. They're working on some seminar for his employees."
"All right, Jim. I'll get on it right now. Give me a couple hours, okay."
On the seventh floor, Rafe caught up with Jim and reported that thus far the Cyclops employees were checking out clean…no one standing out as an obvious threat.
"We have home numbers and cell numbers of most of Cyclops employees; we'll cross check them with Vogel's list." Rafe reported. "So how are things going?"
"Just wonderful…our intended victim is sitting in the suspected lion's den right now working as if nothing is going on." Jim groused, seeing the grin on Rafe's face he warned, "Don't even say it!"
"Say? Who me? I wasn't going to say anything!" Rafe held up a hand, the grin never leaving his face.
Each detective went to their respective desks and began the tedious task of cross checking the phone logs.
Two hours later Jim called out triumphantly, "Got it!" as he waved the list in the air. "Franklin Collins. His company cell matches to three calls on Vogel's list."
Just then his phone rang. "Ellison."
"Jim. Serena. We didn't get any prints off the knife, but it is a match for the serration marks in the brake line." The forensics chief reported.
"Great. Thanks Serena." Jim said, pressing the cradle button to get a new dial tone. After a moment he slammed down the phone with a curse.
"What is it?" Henri asked.
"Sandburg isn't answering his cell." Jim said, picking up the phone again, only to slam it down again in anger a moment later.
"Damnit, Stephen isn't answering either. If they're not all right, I'll pound them both when I find them." Jim ground out, as he went to Simon's office.
"Simon. I need to get back over to Farber; I think we found our killer…a Franklin Collins. Found his cell number three times on Vogel's list. He's also the one that has been giving Stephen a rough time on this buyout. Serena also matched the knife I found to the slashes in Stephen's brake line…no prints though." Jim reported quickly. "Neither Blair nor Stephen are answering their phones."
"Go. Take Rafe and Brown with you, and bring him in. I'll get on the horn with Judge Thompson and get the warrant for Franklin's home and office." Simon directed his detective, reaching for his phone simultaneously.
Jim nodded and immediately called to the other two detectives and headed quickly from the bullpen.
Blair and Stephen were heading down the hall towards Stephen's office when Jim, Henri and Brian came barreling out of the elevator, gun's drawn; startling the two men from their intense discussion.
"Chief. Stephen. God, you're all right." Jim rushed up to them.
"Whoa, Jim, guys, slow down," Blair said, holding up his hands, "What is going on?"
Angrily, Jim hustled the two men down the hall and into Stephen's office, followed closely by Rafe and Brown. "Where the hell have you two been? You were supposed to stay near your phone and in this office, dam nit." He yelled at his brother's.
"Whoa, Jim. We had a brief meeting with the Peru team right down the hall in the conference room man...no big deal." Blair tried to placate the angry man.
"It is when the killer is walking the same halls." Jim shot back. "Where is Collin's office? Have you seen him today?"
"Collins? You mean Franklin Collins?" Stephen asked incredulous. "You can't be telling me…"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you. Now where is his office?" Jim ground out angrily, pinning Stephen with an angry stare.
"It's right down the hall…office 312…and no we haven't seen him today. He never showed for the meeting." Stephen supplied.
"Check the office and the rest of the floor…then start working your way down." Jim directed the other two detectives. They nodded and cautiously left the room.
Jim scrubbed his hand over his face, trying to reign in his racing emotions, as he also turned his full attention to his brother's, double-checking to convince himself that they were indeed all right; missing the heartbeat that sounded on the other side of the door that lead to a connecting office.
"What exactly did you find out?" Stephen asked.
"Collin's cell number was on Vogel's phone list three times. Shouldn't be too hard to get Vogel to roll over on Collin's when we share that bit of news with him. I bet when they search his place they'll find a few soldier of fortune magazines and the kitchen one steak knife short, found one in the dumpster behind the building." Jim explained, asking "Why exactly does this man have it in for you?"
Stephen sighed heavily, slumping into his seat. "He put in to lead the team when the buyout came through, he was on the original team that negotiated with Cyclops; guess he thought he deserved it."
"Why wouldn't he? I mean, if he was on the negotiating team?" Blair asked.
"He's good in the board room, one of the best at hardball…knows how to go for the jugular, get the best deal…"
"I hear a but in there?" Jim queried.
"He is not a people person…if you're not in the board room you don't exist, just a cog in the wheel so to speak."
"So his management skills leave much to be desired."
"You could say that. He had no respect for the any of the workers in the company's he helped take over…caused a strike in one that stopped work and cost us over three million, and in another the other company pulled out of it's merger agreement on the eve of signing when they found out Collin's proposed cutting the job force by half." Stephen explained.
"I imagine having to work with the native tribes in Peru is not sitting well with him." Blair commented.
"I'd threatened to pull him from the team…have him re-assigned." Stephen said, adding, "When he didn't show for the briefing I had pretty much made up my mind to do so."
Sentinel senses on full alert, Jim latched on to the accelerated heartbeat mere seconds before the door to the connecting office burst open. He whirled around, assuming a defensive posture, when he spied the gun.
'Collin's." Stephen gasped out. "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"
"You. You took everything from me… do you know they're forcing me into early retirement. I gave this company everything…heart and soul, made them billions, and this is how they repay me." Collin's said harshly, eyeing Stephen balefully. "All because of a few primitives…"
"Excuse me…your ignorance does not make their culture somehow less legitimate." Blair exclaimed.
"Shut up." Collin's yelled, turning to Blair. "And you…some snot nose little academic coming in here trying to tell me how to do my job. A bastard to boot, if the rumor mill is anything close to correct…thought you'd add a little nepotism to your resume…Mr. Ellison." Collin's added snidely, turning back to Stephen.
"Give me the gun Collin's…you won't make it three steps outside this building. Your place is all ready being searched, and back up is on its way." Jim demanded, taking a step forward.
Laughing harshly, Collin's waved the gun menacingly. "You must be *big brother…what, the cop I believe…come to fight his battles. Damn family affair here."
"No. I came to arrest an attempted murderer. Give it up Collin's, it's over." Jim ground out, taking another step forward.
"You're right about that. It's over. My career, my life…I've got nothing left to lose." He said almost sadly. "But I was never one to suffer in silence or quietly…you took everything from me Stephen Ellison so I plan on taking everything from you."
Straightening his stance, Collin's readjusted his grip on the pistol, waving it back and forth between Jim and Blair. "So, which one first…baby brother or big brother?"
"What? What are you saying…you want to shoot them?" He exclaimed. "You can't possibly think you can get away with this. You want to kill three people, one of them a cop. It's me you hate, me you want…why them?"
"Because there are some things worse than death. Killing you would be to easy, the satisfaction over to fast. My life is over, no matter how you look at it…I 'm through here, and I'm to old to start over…and I refuse to be taken off to rot in jail with the scum of society; so I don't see myself leaving here in anything but a body bag, and neither will they." Collin's explained casually.
Familiar heartbeats in the outer hall caused Jim to suddenly tense. He knew the next thirty seconds could make or break this situation. The opening of the outer office door accompanied by Rafe's voice reporting a negative to their search for the suspect momentarily distracted everyone else in the office, allowing Jim to move in on the suspect.
Rafe and Brown moved into the office, taking in the situation in a matter of seconds and moving in around the struggling detective and suspect, weapons drawn and waiting to see the outcome of the fight for control of the weapon. Their wait was punctuated by the discharge of the weapon and a pained gasp and startled voice from Stephen. "Blair!"
Jim subdued the suspect with a right hook and immediately got up to move towards his brother's, leaving the suspect to the care of the other two detectives; who moved in quickly to cuff the suspect and haul him to his feet.
"Stephen. Blair." Jim said moving to where Stephen was crouched over Blair. "God, is he hit?"
"It's his shoulder, Jim." Stephen said tightly.
Jim quickly took off his shirt and pressed it against the wound, causing a groan of pain from Blair, who was slowly regaining consciousness. "It's okay, chief, its over. You're going to be all right. Stephen, call an ambulance."
"Easy for you to say," the injured man gasped out, "you're not the one with the hole in his body."
Collin's scowled at the three men, as he was lead past them. "Better luck next time."
"You sorry son of a bitch…" Stephen said angrily, jumping at Collins, only to be held back by Jim's strong grip.
"It's over Stephen, let it go." Jim hissed.
Brown yanked the suspect roughly out of the room, reciting his Miranda rights as they went down the hall.
"How is he?" Rafe asked.
"We need that ambulance."
"I'll go wait for it…keep the crowds back." Rafe said. "I give Simon a call too."
"Thanks, Rafe. See if Simon can meet us at the hospital." Jim said.
Jim answered the loft door as Simon raised his hand to knock. "I hate it when you do that." Simon groused.
Jim smirked. "I know."
Simon came into the loft, calling to the two men on the couch. "How are you two feeling?"
Both Stephen and Blair turned; both wore scowls on their faces.
"How do you think? We're smothering in blessed protector hell here Simon…make Jim go back to work." Blair whined. "Isn't there some new psycho out there Jim needs to be chasing?"
Chewing on his unlit cigar, Simon smiled. "All's quiet… for a change."
"I hate you." Blair muttered.
Simon turned to Jim with a chuckle. "I take it the patients aren't being very patient on their road to recovery?"
"Captain, could you kindly inform your detective that the case is over and that I should be allowed to return home." Stephen said.
"The doctor said rest and that is exactly what you both are going to do. Right here, where I can keep an eye on you both." Jim said with exasperation. "I could have always left you both in the hospital."
"Like hell." Blair shot back.
Simon just shook his head, coming to sit in the living room. "Just thought you all would like to know this case is wrapped up pretty tight. We found exactly what we expected at Collin's house…the magazines, a missing steak knife…and his bank has a withdrawal that matched right up with the deposit in Vogel's account. Vogel decided to roll over on Collin's in exchange to some leniency in sentencing."
"Just how I like them." Jim said. "Nice to win for a change."
"Score one for the good guys." Simon added.