Disclaimer: Usual Disclaimers!!!
Summary: A cat and mouse game with a serial killer puts members of the MC team in danger.
Author's Note 1: This is an AU, part 3 of the Blood and Friendship Universe, in which Rafe and Sandburg are brothers. Although there are references to scenes from Blood and Friendship, parts 1 and 2, this is strictly a case story and isn't full of the "angst" of Parts 1 and 2. This story can be read (and understood) as a stand-alone story (I hope!). Takes place about two months after part 2.
Author's Note 2: I'm lazy and abbreviate: GSW=gun shot wound, TOD=time of death, and CSI=crime scene investigator. Just as an aside, the dates I used are actual dates, from a 2003 calendar!
Author's Note 3: I keep forgetting to thank my beta reader, Elli McGrath, for giving my stories a good once over to make sure they make sense; and to catch my "many" grammatical errors. All remaining mistakes are mine.
The problem with a serial killer is that they are not recognized as such until you have a "series" of bodies turn up. When murder after murder bare striking similarities of Motis Operandi. When a pattern of time or place, method or something intrinsic to the victims themselves becomes apparent in the overall senselessness of a violent death.
Evidence is gathered, compared. Clues to an incomplete jigsaw puzzle are pieced together and a pattern emerges. A serial killer is loose.
It is estimated that at any given time in the United States alone there are approximately thirty-five serial killers engaged in their reigns' of terror and destruction.
And so it went that Officer Jerry Dobson, an eight-year veteran to the force was first, disappearing without a trace on his way to work. One month later, Corporal Patrick Simms didn't report for weekend drill at the National Guard. And now the file of Navy Lt. Charles Franks was added to the list, reported missing three days ago, his body found just that morning.
So, now, one of those alleged thirty-five is loose in your city; and amid a media circus feeding the fires of an all ready panicked populace you are charged to figure out why this individual is so disturbed, why they would chose to take it out on absolute strangers in such a violent way and then find this individual in a city of thousands.
Monday, 10:50 a.m.
CPD Major Crimes
'It was one hell of a way to start a Monday morning.' thought Simon Banks, Captain of Major Crimes, as he looked at the tense faces of his gathered detectives. Any case that could be would be reassigned to other departments; the captain knew he would need the experience of all his men to catch this killer.
"Up until a third body was discovered this morning, homicide didn't put the killings together. Now that we have three with similar MO's, its starting to look like we have a serial killer on our hands gentlemen, so the chief kicked the case to us," explained the captain as he sat with his four best detectives and one observer, around the conference table in his office. "Let's open those files and see what we've got."
"All of our victims were male, between the ages of twenty-three and thirty-five. According to the coroner they were all killed by one shot through the heart. From the size of the wounds, probably came from a high caliber rifle," Joel reported. "Ballistics has matched up all three bullets as coming from the same rifle."
"Forensics is certain that they were killed elsewhere and dumped where they were found due to the lack of blood evidence you'd expect from those kind of wounds; all were found within a half a mile radius of each other, at the far end of Cascade National Forest; just inside our jurisdiction," Henri said, reading from another report. "They did find several tire tracks and made castings, we just don't have anything to compare it to yet. CSI speculates by the tire size that it came from an SUV or van."
"Besides the GSW that killed them the coroner also reports that all three victims were suffering from exposure and mild dehydration; covered with cuts, bruises and abrasions that are not consistent with beating," Joel continued.
"What do we have on the victims themselves?" Simon asked.
"Victim one... Jerry Dobson, age twenty-seven, originally from Seattle. Joined the force straight out of high school. On the force for eight years, clean record, from all accounts a good cop. Unmarried, no family in the area. Killed with a single gunshot to the chest. He was reported missing on July 25, two months ago, by his watch commander. His body was found four days later, on the following Monday morning. Coroner estimates Dobson had been dead for eighteen to twenty-four hours," Jim reported, scanning the file.
Continuing the recitation, Rafe opened file two and began to read the dry facts of the second victim. "Corporal Patrick Simms, twenty-three, a military science major at Rainer University and a member of the local National Guard. According to his instructors at Rainer and his commander he was a good student, good soldier. No girlfriend. Didn't belong to any fraternity. He was reported missing last month, on October 29, when he didn't show up for weekend drills. His body was found the following Monday, TOD was estimated to be twenty-four to thirty hours before he was found."
"And the body this morning... do we have the report from forensics and the coroner?" Simon asked.
"Serena and Dan put a rush on them when they found out the cases were related," Joel said, picking up the third victims file. "Navy Lt. Charles Frank, thirty-two. Just stationed here three months ago after a stint in the mid east. Unmarried, family lives in the Midwest. He was reported missing this past Friday when he didn't show up for a self-defense class he taught on base. Coroner estimates TOD to be about twelve to fifteen hours before the body was discovered."
"So, we've got three young men killed the same way, with the same weapon." Simon stood up and took the crime scene photos and tacked them to the task forces information board.
"One other pattern I see is that the victims all disappeared, one a month, and by those dates it looks to be the last Friday of every month," Rafe reported, flipping through the calendar on Simon's desk.
After Simon had tacked up the photo's he began writing relevant data under the pictures: name, age, rank and branch of service, family status, and lastly the date of their disappearances. "So what do we have on the victims themselves that might tie them together?"
Jim frowned when he noticed Blair intently studying the crime scene photos.
"Exposure, cuts and abrasions. All that suggests that they were probably outside for a lot of their captivity," Blair mused aloud. "And, just look at the way the killer left the bodies -- hanging by their feet from a tree."
"Outside seems a likely guess. You have a theory all ready Sandburg?" Simon asked.
"I'm not sure yet... just thinking," Blair commented. "What did they find when they examined the victims clothes?"
"Their clothes?" Joel queried.
Jim cocked an eyebrow at his partner, wondering what was going through his mind, as he opened a file and began scanning the information. "Dobson's pant legs were ripped and torn, covered in dusty dirt. His legs were scraped, like from a sliding fall over rocks. They found twigs and brambles stuck to his clothes."
"Corporal Simms was covered in cuts and scrapes, forensics found a thorns in his shirt," Rafe reported. "Same twigs and brambles were found."
Scanning the third victims report Brown said. "Lt. Frank had similar cuts and bruising, also a case of poison ivy. It's also reported that his clothes were damp."
"So, where are you going with this Sandburg?" the captain asked.
"All these men were taken at what seems to be a set time, the last Friday of each month... all show signs of exposure to the outdoors; and all show signs of suffering from rough treatment that the coroner reports was not caused by torture or a beating... all were killed the same way, yet the times of death are all different. There is over a twelve hour time difference..."
"So, they are killed at different times?" Joel interjected. "How is that relevant?"
"There is no sign that these men were drugged or restrained, as a matter of fact they look more like they've been on maneuvers in the woods all weekend. Could someone be in that kind of shape after a weekend of army maneuvers?"
"That and worse," Jim chuckled dryly.
"Is there a theory in this somewhere?" Simon questioned.
"Maybe, I don't know... it just seems odd," Blair said sheepishly.
"Sandburg," Simon growled impatiently, "if you've got any kind of a theory on this let's hear it. We need any and all ideas out on the table. We need somewhere to start."
"All right! We're working on the assumption that we are dealing with a serial killer, right?" Blair reiterated.
"Yes," Simon intoned with forced patience.
"Okay, from what I know of serial killers they tend to have a specific pattern, or certain rituals they follow," Blair continued.
"And?" Simon prodded, trying to get the 'Sandburg' gears grinding a little faster.
"Now, let's look at the victims themselves, by there very choice of career, were all trained to deal with, well... hostile situations, right?"
"So?" Simon prodded, noticing that the other detectives in the room were hanging on Sandburg's every word; as curious as himself as to the theory the sharp young man was formulating all ready.
"Everything has been the same, exhibited signs of a pattern, except the time of death," Blair intoned, brow furrowed in concentration. "So, speculating from the condition of the bodies and the major differences in the times of death... maybe, chasing down the victims is part of the killer's ritual."
"Running? Are you suggesting they were all running away from the killer?" Henri asked incredulous. "That would mean they all escaped... I can see one of them escaping, but all three?"
"Or they were let loose," Blair suggested.
"Why would a killer go through all the effort to kidnap someone just to let them escape?" Brian asked.
"That's what I'm saying. What if that was the whole point... to let the victims escape!"
"Are you saying you think our killer lets his victims loose to track them down! That's a little out their Sandburg," Simon exclaimed.
"When are psychopaths rational," Blair shot back, jumping up to pace the room. "It explains the condition of the bodies, the dehydration, the exposure, the fact that they were not tortured in any significant way; and the big difference in the times of death for the victims. And look at the photo's -- look at how the killer left the victims. They are hanging upside down in a tree for gods sake... like a trophy kill or something."
Simon traded looks with Jim, who shrugged. "Its as good a theory as any... anyone else got anything to add?"
"Maybe it's just someone with a beef against authority figures or the military in general," Joel put forth.
Now it was Jim's turn. "I could buy into that one if it was just cops or one branch of the military being targeted. Then we could go with a killer who had been rejected for service or for some sort of revenge."
"I gotta say Blair that theory is really out there... someone kidnapping people to hunt them," Brian said with a shake of his head.
"Just think about it for a minute. Why do people hunt?"
"Some people actually call it a sport," Brian said sarcastically, "to hunt down innocent creatures for fun."
"I'm down with the sentiment, bro... but a lot of people hunt, not necessarily for the kill at the end, but for the thrill of the chase," Blair explained.
"So, what, you think this killer is some kind of hunter tired of four legged critters and now goes after people? Sandburg, this theory just gets weirder and weirder," Henri said, shaking his head.
"Look through those files again... are the victims missing anything?" Jim asked as he picked up the nearest file and began scanning it.
"Says here that Officer Dobson was missing his shield and his cap, but his gun was still buckled in his holster," Joel reported.
"Corporal Simms was missing his stripes from his shirt, his insignia and his cap," Brian said.
"Frank's was missing the same as Simms, plus his bars," Jim finished.
"Trophies?" Brown said. "But most serial killers take trophies. Still doesn't prove this nut is a 'hunter'."
"Like Sandburg says, 'when are serial killers rational'? We've got a lot of pieces to a puzzle and no frame to work with gentlemen; so until we come up with another angle to investigate it's a good place to start. Let's get these men's personnel files, go over the reports from homicide, and start digging... the sooner we can find something that ties them together the sooner we can put together a profile of our killer," Simon announced. "Jim, I want you to go out to the sights the bodies were discovered and go over the area again. Joel, get Dobson's file and start digging. Henri. Brian. Lt. Frank's was stationed at the Navy base in Seattle, drive up there, get his personnel file and ask around, see if anyone saw or heard anything. I'm going to call the Guard HQ and ask around over there. I want full reports in the morning."
As Brian slid carefully into the passenger seat of his partner's car he couldn't help but give a little grimace. He had forgotten his prescription that morning and the pain in his hips and chest were making themselves known.
"You up for this partner? Maybe I ought to have Joel drive to Seattle with me," Henri said. "You've only been back two weeks, don't need to overdo it."
"I'm fine H., just a little sore. I'll live," Brian said, resting his cane on the seat between them. "We're just going to ask questions, not chase down the killer."
"H., drive," Brian ordered.
"Okay, but if you end up getting sick or end up back in the hospital 'cause you overdid it I'm putting you between me and the kid..." Henri grumbled.
Brian looked over at his partner in amusement. "What, is my baby brother pickin' on my big ol' partner."
"Hey, you get sick, hairboy gets freaked and Ellison gets all 'blessed protector' on everybody, man; and it ain't a pretty sight." Henri continued to pout.
"I'll keep that in mind. 'No getting sick on my partner's watch'," Brian teased.
"Laugh it up, GQ," Henri growled, pulling the car out of the garage. "Keep it up and I'll put you in traction myself."
Tuesday, 9:15 a.m.
CPD Major Crimes
"What have we got gentlemen?" Simon said, taking a seat at the conference table.
"We didn't pick up anything new at the crime scenes," Jim reported with a knowing look at his boss.
Simon nodded his understanding to his resident sentinel before turning to his other detectives. "Joel?"
"I went through Dobson's records... had a search run on his old cases. Since his whole career was in uniform, most of the cases were for minor drug offenses, a few domestics, one vehicular homicide. Of those, eighteen people that he had a hand in arresting are out."
"Good call. Until we know what ties these men together we can't overlook anything," Simon said. "Anything else?"
"Actually, Dobson was military, of a sort. He spent three years in Junior ROTC in high school, but opted for the academy over the corps when he graduated. His academy records show his scores were in the top twenty percent of his graduating class. He was somewhat of a survivalist... tried to get the academy to include survival training as a requirement," Joel reported.
''What, urban warfare not enough for this guy?" Brown commented.
"Hey, might not be such a bad idea. Dobson's the one who found that little girl that was lost in the National forest those twelve hours last summer. Got a citation from the mayor," Joel said.
"What about Lt. Franks?" Simon asked.
"He was a Navy Seal, newly stationed to the base. Served overseas at in a few hot spots over the last two years. He was reported MIA for three days when his team lost contact with him during a mission... two months later he was stateside," Rafe reported
"Did he receive any kind of award or citation?" Blair asked.
"Yeah. Says he received a medal for bravery and the obligatory purple-heart," Henri answered.
"I see those gears grinding, Chief. What have you got going through that mind of yours?" Jim asked.
"Just thinking. How about Corporal Simms, Simon. What do we know about him?"
Flipping open the file, the captain related what he'd found out about the second victim. "The corporal's career is much shorter than the other victims... but he did participate in a supply drop to the mid east last year; the plane was shot down. Simms managed to make it through four miles of hostile territory to the waiting troops and lead them back to the downed plane before it was discovered."
"And he got an award or citation or something?" Blair asked.
"Medal of Bravery," Simon answered.
"So all of our victims survived a hostile situation and received citations and medals," Blair stated.
"Another similarity," Brian remarked.
CPD, Week 1
Task Force Meeting
For the next week the team backtracked through Homicides notes, re-interviewed witnesses, co-workers and friends, dug deeper into the victim's backgrounds and service records, and even walked a mile perimeter around where each body was discovered: finding nothing new to further the investigation. Simon even managed to get Blair the warrant he needed in order to obtain client lists from U.S. Safari parks he was investigating that offered staged hunts as well as from agencies that offered overseas hunts.
"You know, one thing we have missed in this investigation, and if we are basing this investigation on Blair's theory that the killer hunts his victims," Brain mused aloud. "Where does this killer 'hunt'? I mean, we're fairly certain it didn't happen in the state park, so where could this killer be hunting people and not get caught?"
"It would have to be someplace rather secluded so there wouldn't be a fear of being discovered," Jim said. "Probably have to cover quite a bit of area too."
"So, we go to the courthouse, do title searches for owners of large tracts of land... I'd say at least five hundred acres or more," Blair said.
"There is plenty of un-owned land in the state," Joel reminded the group.
"But the killer would want to make sure he wouldn't be disturbed... so it seems a good bet that he owns the land or know the owner," Jim commented.
"It's a lead worth investigating," Simon concluded, adding with a smile. "I'm sure our resident computer whiz should have no problems with doing a title search."
CPD, Week 2
Task Force Meeting
"You want what?" Simon exclaimed at an early morning meeting the following week.
"Maybe we should run a list of people with hunting license in the state, compare it to the names I got doing the land title search?" Blair suggested again.
"You don't exactly get a hunting license to hunt people, Hair boy!" Henri said.
"Duh, but I bet this killer started out hunting four legged prey," Blair shot back.
"Chief, do you have any idea how many people that would entail... hundreds, or more likely thousands... and just what would we have to compare this list too once we got it?" Jim asked. "Just because they have a hunting license and own property doesn't mean they're our killer. It would take us years to investigate that many people. I mean, this sick bastard hunts people, who's to say he would do anything legal like register to hunt or even hunt on his own property."
"And we're not even sure if that is the killer's MO," Joel interjected.
"We could cross reference the list of large tract property owners who also have hunting license against SUV and van owners," Blair said. "CSI said it was probably an SUV that made those tracks."
"Cross reference with SUV owners! Blair, bro, don't you think your getting carried away with your theory here," Brian exclaimed. "That could take days, even weeks, and we would still get hundreds of names; with no guarantee that the killer would be among them. Hell, this nut could be crossing state lines for all we know."
"But once we have that I can cross reference that list with client lists I'm getting from Safari parks. Actually, you're probably right, this hunter might not hunt legally anywhere, so maybe we need a list of passport holders that visited South America or Africa in the last two years," Blair said absently, deep in thought.
Looking into the skeptical faces of his friends a moment later he added sarcastically. "I didn't realize we had a whole lot of leads right now... it can't hurt to have the search started, at least."
It only took two days for the list that cross referenced property owners and holders of hunting license to be completed, but the list of several thousand names was not looked upon kindly by the DMV when they were asked to cross reference those names to Washington state SUV owners.
For the next several days, as the investigation came to a virtual stand still; Simon's repeated requests were being met with a solid brick wall of bureaucracy, until a few well-placed calls to the chief of police and the mayor got the ball rolling. After all, the Mayor reminded the supervisor, the DMV, who is no citizens friend on a good day, didn't want the bad press of letting a serial killer escape because they wouldn't run a 'few' simple names for the police: wouldn't they rather have the paper read, 'Crucial Key to Solving Serial Killer Case comes from DMV.' And so the 'list' was promised within the week.
Deciding to skip the grief he got from the DMV, Simon chose to bypass the bureaucracy of the state department, instead putting his request for a list of passports holders through the Mayor who forwarded the request to the governor, who in turn promised results within the week: after all, who would want to appear soft on crime, especially during an election year.
CPD, Week 3
Task Force Meeting
"Anything on those Safari park client lists, Sandburg?" Simon asked at the beginning of the third week.
"I've been sent nine client lists of twelve so far," Blair reported. "Just about got them all typed into the computer to start cross referencing. What about the list from the DMV and the state department?"
"Do you have any idea how long it takes to weed through that much bureaucracy? Hell, they're probably still trying to decide whose job it is to turn on the damn computers to run the checks!" Simon snapped impatiently, adding with an apologetic sigh. "Actually, they should be here anytime in the next few days."
Despite daily complaints to the Mayor's office about the tediousness of the task and the amount of overtime it was costing him the DMV supervisor delivered the list at the end of the third week, the state department following suit the next day with the list of passport holders.
Dropping the bundle of computer runoffs in front of Blair, Simon grumbled. "We better get some use out of this list Sandburg. It sure as hell cost me enough grief! I had to go clear to the governor to get this information, in anything resembling a timely fashion."
"So how are we going to cross reference thousands of names before the end of the century?" Grumbled Henri looking at the hundreds of sheets of paper.
"Welcome to the twenty-first century gentlemen," Blair said, pulling out a small rectangular machine from his pack. "A scanner! All I do is scan the information into the computer and the program will do all the work."
Blair continued to explain the process as he hooked up the scanner to Simon's computer. "It should only take a few of hours to scan these sheets, and the program will probably take three or four hours to run. By Monday we will have a list of individuals who own SUV's or vans, are property owners of five hundred acres or more and have been issued hunting license, and or passports."
"Oh, is that all!" Henri groaned. "Any idea how many names we're looking at here?"
"If we're lucky no more than fifty or a hundred, and I can probably narrow it down even more by cross referencing to the client lists I got from the Safari parks," Blair explained. "I still believe this psychopath started with animals."
CPD, Week 4
Task Force Meeting
The beginning of the fourth week had Blair passing out a list of sixty-four names to the assembled detectives. "Okay, guys. After weeks of cross referencing these are the names of people who own SUV's or vans, and also own property of at least five hundred acres or more, who have been issued a hunting license, passport, or both. The four names at the bottom, besides matching that criteria also appear on at least one of the Safari park or hunt lists."
"These names are from all over the state!" Henri exclaimed, running down the list. "How are we supposed to investigate this?"
"I say we cover the counties that directly border the state forest where the victims were found," Joel suggested.
"But the bases where the victims were from don't all border the forest?" Jim noticed.
"Okay, how about this... are there any names on the list who don't fall within a county bordering the park or contain a military base?" Simon asked.
"Six of them," Blair answered.
"Okay then, that leaves us with fifty-eight names and less than a week until this killer strikes again," Simon said grimly.
Despite the teams fifteen hour days the end of the month was upon them and they were no closer to finding the killer than they were last month.
"We've ruled out thirty-two of the fifty-eight so far. That's something at least," Simon commented to the dejected detectives sitting around his conference table that Saturday morning.
"That won't help the victim. Yesterday was the last Friday of the month," Jim growled. "If the killer holds to his pattern..."
"And that's providing were even on the right track with the investigation to begin with," groused Henri.
"We haven't had anything else to go on the past month," Brian defended.
"We've tried and we'll continue to try, no one here is superman," Simon commented, looking pointedly at a certain sentinel/guide pair. "No one is giving up, but there is only so much we can do. We've tripled the patrols through the park for the weekend, we might just catch a break."
Cascade National Forest
As feared, a fourth victim, an Air Force captain, was discovered mid morning with the killer's MO; but this time, he was careless. One of the units patrolling the park that weekend reported seeing a dark colored van, a little after dawn, leaving the vicinity where the victim was later discovered.
Although to far away to make out the license plate number, the subsequent investigation of the area revealed two more tire tracks. The castings taken at the earlier crime scene were compared and a match was verified.
With matching tire tracks from two of the crime scenes and a visual ID of the suspects vehicle the task force felt confident they finally got a lead they could use and renewed there investigation of the list of names they had been investigating the previous week. Upon reviewing the entire list they found twenty-four names of owners of black, navy or forest green vans.
"Captain Walter Talbert, thirty-three," Simon reported to his detectives as he scanned the file. "Same MO as before. The victim was suffering from the same exposure, cuts and abrasions as the others. Same type of wound, just waiting for forensics to verify it came from the same weapon that killed the other three men."
"What'd he get his medal for?" Blair asked.
"He was on a carrier that patrolled the no fly zones..." Joel started to report.
"He get shot down too?"
"No, some accident on the flight deck. He saved about twenty of his crewmates," Joel finished.
"Time of death?" Jim asked.
"Coroner estimated TOD to be about thirty-six hours before the body was discovered," Simon answered, flipping through the report. "Four months, four victims. We've got four weeks and I don't want a number five... let's start tracking down the people on that list, and pray to god the killer is one of them."
Henri came off the elevator and gave a quick heads up to Jim and Blair in the bullpen before heading down the hall to the break room. He came back several minutes later giving the bullpen an exaggerated look.
"Loose something H?" Jim asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Yeah, my breakfast! Where's that partner of mine anyway? It's his turn to bring the donuts," he groused. "Wouldn't you know he'd be late on his day to bring breakfast."
"We'll get an APB right out on that," Blair teased. "Chocolate covered with sprinkles, right?"
"Laugh it up hair boy, I know where you live," Brown shot back.
"Ooo... I'm shakin' here, man," Blair said holding up his hands in surrender.
"You will be if we don't get this latest bit of information in order for the briefing this morning, Chief," Jim said.
The men set to work, as they had for the entire week, going through the gathered clues and information of the case; not looking up until Captain Banks called them to his office, nearly forty minutes later, for the morning briefing.
As Jim, Blair and Joel made their way to Simon's office Henri leaned back in his chair, his frown deepening, as he looked first at the clock then over to his partner's empty desk, calling out worriedly, "Guys, I'm getting' a little worried here. Brian is never late, and now it's almost nine o'clock."
Simon's brow raised in surprise. "Rafe's not in? Rhonda, has Rafe called in this morning?"
"I haven't heard from him. I don't have any messages... wait, here's something."? Rhonda answered. "Note just says, 'need day off', with his name at the bottom."
"Who took the message?" Simon asked.
"Well, what time did the call come in?" he pressed.
"Doesn't say that either," she said with a shrug.
"Is that it? No reason? That's not like Brian," Henri said uneasily, making his way to the group. "Blair, did Brian say anything to you?"
"No, man, things have been cool," Blair answered, knowing the underlying question Henri was asking. Since an argument with Blair three months ago had ended with Brian nearly being killed in a plane crash, Henri had become as overprotective of his partner as Jim was of Blair.
"Maybe he was just having car trouble," Joel offered.
"Then why not just drop it off and take a cab to work," Henri countered. "Or call one of us."
"Well, maybe he's sick or something," Blair said with a worried frown, further reporting. "He won't admit it, but he is still not up to par after the crash and I found out, because of all the extra hours being put in on this case, he stopped going to PT; and I think he stopped taking his pain pills, too. He was complaining he couldn't think straight because they were making his head fuzzy."
"I really don't like the sound of this," Brown said, remembering back to Brian's obvious pain on the drive to Seattle.
"Now, just hold up... I'm sure he has a good reason, no sense in borrowing trouble," Simon told his worried detective. "Give him a call right now and tell him unless he's on his deathbed his captain is waiting."
Henri gave a nod and picked up the phone on Rhonda's desk. After six rings at his apartment he tried his cell... again getting no answer. "Captain?"
"Go. Find your partner," Simon said, making shooing motions.
After several moments Simon looked at the other three men. "Well, we can't stand around all day. Go. Get some work done until our wayward detective shows up... with a good excuse," Simon growled, thinking silently as he went back into his office, 'for worrying us to death.' He decided that when said detective was finally corralled he would see to it personally that the young man scaled back on the hours he was putting in on the task force. None of his men were going to jeopardize their health in such a way just for the sake of a case.
For the next thirty minutes four men pretended to work. The phone ringing in Simon's office got the detective's attention and the Sentinel extended his hearing, after catching a pleading look from his guide, to pick up on Henri's worried voice.
"Cap, something is definitely going on here. His car is still in the lot and the keys were hanging in the lock. There is no sign of him anywhere outside. I'm on my way up to his apartment now," Henri reported to his captain.
"Do you have a key?" Simon asked adding, "If not break down the door."
Sentinel hearing picked up the click of a key turning a lock.
"Well?" Simon asked impatiently, after a few moments.
"He's not here. And everything seems to be in order... his suitcases are still in the closet."
"That's it, I'm sending a team over now. Start canvassing his building, see if anyone saw him or anything suspicious this morning."
"We're on it, Captain," Jim said when Simon stepped out of his office.
When the door closed on the elevator Joel put voice to everyone's fear. "You... don't think, I mean... with this case and all... Rafe couldn't be..."
"Don't even go there," Simon said tightly.
CPD, Major Crimes
Monday, 8:20 a.m.
CSI dusted his car and apartment for prints, uniforms canvassed his building and the surrounding block, the MC team pored over his old case files looking for any newly released felons while Blair went back over the files and notes on the serial killer case. Three frustrating, sleepless days the men and women of CPD did everything they could to find their friend and fellow officer.
"We've had patrols through the area, where the four victims were discovered, for the entire weekend and so far, thank god, nothing," Simon reported to his exhausted detectives sitting around the conference table.
"What we do have are several witness statements that claim a black van was seen in the parking lot that morning about the time Brian leaves for work," Jim reported. "No one got a license number but did notice it had Washington plates."
"Something just isn't adding up here," Blair said.
"What doesn't add up, Chief?"
"Brian disappearing... or rather, him being taken by the killer. First, our killer, so far, seems to take his victims on the last Friday of each month -- this is only the first Friday. Secondly, the killer has all ready taken a cop."
"So? Brian is a detective. The killer is moving through the ranks," Joel speculated. "And witnesses saw a black van."
"But if that's the case, why would the killer start with a uniform cop then move on to the military then come back to the police force. You would think that a detective would come after a patrolman," Blair explained. "This killer does seem to be moving through the ranks. If our killer were to take another cop he probably would take someone who had military experience. Brain doesn't."
"I hope to god your right about that," Henri said tightly.
"Does anything a serial killer do ever truly make sense?" Simon said tiredly. "We've been over his of files, no one has been released."
"Ya' know, people do have lives outside their jobs. Maybe it's not related to police work," Blair interjected. "Maybe we need to focus the investigation in anther direction. It hasn't been that long ago that we had the problems with the will..."
"Blair, that was over four months ago..." Jim interjected.
"Yeah, and, Todd and Harriet are in jail, and with your father alive it really doesn't matter what's in the will at this point," Henri said.
Blair snorted. "Just because someone is in jail doesn't mean they don't have contact with the outside world. Todd has all ready tried to have Brian killed twice."
"Blair, the case against Todd and Harriet is strong enough without Brian's testimony," Simon pointed out.
"There is always revenge," Blair said. "Todd is not the type to forgive and forget."
Simon gave a slight nod of agreement. "I'll make a couple calls, see if either of them have had any visitor's or phone calls."
"In the meantime, maybe we should go over his apartment, the area one more time," Blair said pointedly, looking at his sentinel.
"Chief, we've been over his car, his apartment and the neighborhood three times. There is nothing there to find," Jim reminded.
"Well, people don't just disappear," Blair snapped.
A sudden disturbance in the bullpen caught the group's attention as Rhonda burst through Simon's door. "Captain, you need to come out here."
The bullpen was now quiet as Simon and the detectives filed from his office, stopping short in surprise.
"Rafe? Rafe! Rafe, are you all right? Where in the hell have you been?" Henri was the first to find his voice as he rushed to face his partner, grabbing his shoulders and looking the other man up and down. "Are you hurt?"
Brian just stared at his partner in confusion as he shook out of his grasp. "A man is a little late for work and you act like it's the end of the world. Couldn't find my car keys so I had to hunt up the spares."
"A little late?" Blair exclaimed. "A little late! Do you have any idea how worried we've all been..."
Looking around at the still staring crowd in the bullpen, Brain said in exasperation, "What in the hell is going on... clue me in to the joke."
Simon found his voice and asked, "Detective, do you know what day it is?"
"Can you tell us where you've been all weekend?" Simon asked.
"Where I've been? Home," Brian said slowly. "Was I supposed to be somewhere else?"
"Brian do you realize you never showed up for work Friday; that you've been missing all weekend!" Henri asked his partner slowly.
"Missing? What have you been smoking Brown, I've been home all weekend," Rafe said exasperated.
"Detective. Brian. As of this morning you have been missing for over seventy-two hours. I think we need to continue this in my office," Simon said, looking around the bullpen he continued, "Meanwhile, I think the rest of you have work to do. Someone notify patrol and take off the APB."
As soon as everyone was seated Rafe looked around at the concerned faces of he friends. "Take off the APB? You had an APB out on me? What is going on here?"
"Do you remember calling in sick on Friday?" Simon asked.
"Call in? I never... I, called in?" he said slowly, confusion evident on his face. "Called in, yeah. I... called... in."
"Brian, you didn't show up for work Friday. All we got was some ambiguous note that claimed you needed the day off. I went to your apartment. All I found were your keys hanging in the lock of your car, but I didn't find you," Henri exclaimed, looking at his partner expectantly. "What in the hell happened?"
"You didn't, maybe, fall or something... hit your head?" Blair questioned animatedly. "Maybe you re-injured yourself over the weekend?"
"What? No, I'm fine," Brain snapped, shooing Blair away when the younger man came and stood behind him, trying to examine his head for injuries. "I don't understand any of this. I remember! I do remember... I got up this morning, got dressed, and came straight to work. Now you're telling me I'm missing all most four days of my life!"
"Are you sure that's what you did?" Jim asked. "What about the last seventy-two hours, what exactly did you do this weekend, Brian? Why did you call in on Friday?"
"Well... I was... I was ill." Brian's answer sounded more a question than an answer.
"You were ill?" Jim questioned, his tone low and quick as he continued to push the man for answers. "If you were ill why didn't you say that when you called? Why did you worry everyone... Blair was worried and your partner; and where were you, you weren't at your place, we know because it was checked several times over the weekend. So tell me, detective, where were you all weekend?"
"Jim," Blair hissed. "What is your problem?"
"I... uh... I remember I... uhm, I was ill. I needed to rest. I called in... yeah, I called in?" Brian wrinkled his brow in concentration. "Now this weekend I uhm... I... called in, right? And then I went... I was ill, and I... I stayed home and I... Yeah, I remember, the Jags game... on TV, they won 84 to 65."
"Uh, Brian that was last weeks game. They didn't play this weekend," Blair said quietly.
"They didn't?" Brian answered.
"So exactly where were you this weekend?" Jim continued to press. "You don't know, do you? You don't have a clear recollection of your weekend, do you?"
"I do know, just give me a minute to think," Brian snapped back. "I just need a minute... to think..."
"What is there to think about? You either know or you don't... which is it, detective?" Jim pushed.
Suddenly Brain's face relaxed, his voice mechanical as he replied. "I had a very restful weekend."
The other men exchanged glances.
"Whatever it was that happened, I am just glad we were wrong," Blair said letting out the deep breath he had been holding.
"What! Wrong about what?"
"We checked on all your old collars, all of them are still locked up; and since the first victim was a cop..." Henri said.
"The first victim? What? You were expecting me to, what, turn up as the next victim of the serial killer?! You guys have been on this all weekend haven't you?" Rafe said in surprise as he looked at the exhausted faces of his friends, his eyes settling on his brother. "I'm sorry you went through that but I'm damn glad you were wrong."
"So are we. But that still leaves us with a very unsettling question... if it wasn't revenge motivated and it wasn't our killer then who was it?" Simon queried with a frown.
"Maybe it has something to do with... well, all the trouble we had with the will and all?" Blair put forth hesitantly.
"I doubt that, Blair. If someone was involved that we haven't found before this, and we've all ready officially closed the investigation, I don't see what anyone would have to gain by doing something like this and getting it reopened," Brain explained tiredly.
"Maybe it was for revenge," Blair pressed.
"If it was for revenge I don't think I'd be breathin'. Third times the charm you know," Brain said with a smirk.
"Don't even joke about that," Blair snapped.
"I wasn't joking," Brain answered seriously. "He missed twice -- I don't think he'd miss a third time."
"So, we agree it most likely wasn't for revenge, and it wasn't for ransom, and if it wasn't our killer... what's left?" Simon queried.
"Information?" Jim said suddenly. Getting up, he went to stand in front of his guide's brother. "Take off your jacket and roll up your sleeves."
"Uh... okay," Brain said. Jim helped him stand to comply with the request. "Uh... Jim, what are you looking for?"
"Information about what?" Simon asked. "Jim, what are you looking for?"
The sentinel took the detectives wrists in his hand and began to scan up and down his arms, turning them over to look at his hands also. "It's circumstantial, but we can't ignore the fact that a black van was seen in the area."
"So you're saying it was our killer?" Brown asked. "Not that I'm complainin', but if it was the killer why is Brian still alive?"
"Gee, thanks their partn... hey... stop!" Rife suddenly exclaimed, pulling from Jim's grasp and shaking his right hand.
"Your hands... give me back your hands," the sentinel commanded. "There underneath these two fingernails, needle marks. Simon we need to get Rafe to a hospital and find out what's in his system."
"What? How... how did... wait..." Rafe snapped pulling his hands away. "Hospital, are you nuts, there's nothing wrong with me."
"Detective, you have been missing for three full days, days of which you cannot account for. And now there is a possibility you have also been drugged. I think the hospital is the next logical step," Simon said.
"I don't need a hospital," Brian objected vehemently, rolling down his sleeves quickly.
Simon eyed the young man for a moment. "Keep it up detective and I'll order a safe house too. Take a change of clothes and have the hospital bag the clothes your wearing for evidence."
Brain looked like he was going to argue again but the stern look from his captain stopped him and he grumbled quietly. "Fine sir."
"Much better. Henri, take your partner to the hospital. Joel, give them some backup on this okay. From this moment on Brain is not to be left alone and this is now an official investigation," Simon ordered.
"Simon, I want to go," Blair said.
"Blair, I know you want to be with Brian right now, but you really need to back Jim up on this one. I want the both of you to go back over his car and his apartment," Simon said with a knowing look.
Blair looked to the captain, then to his Sentinel before giving a sigh. "Fine, Captain. I'll go with Jim."
When the three detectives left, Simon leaned heavily into his chair. "So, what do you make of all this? If he was kidnapped and drugged for information what kind of information would someone want from him? None of his open cases come up to trial for at least two months, and if it was Todd or Harriett out for revenge... well, we know how that would have turned out. So, the only other thing is this case."
"I don't know, maybe the killer found out he was on the task force, got nervous that we might be getting to close... I just don't know, but until we do he could still be in danger," Jim said.
"Uh, Jim, what did your senses pick up... anything you don't normally associate with sense memories of Rafe?" Blair asked. "Maybe we can at least figure out where he was held..."
Jim closed his eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Opening his eyes a moment later he said with a frown. "Nothing. His scents are the same... just like they are everyday when he comes to work. Nothing is different."
"Nothing? Nothing at all? Doesn't that strike you as odd?" Blair mused, furrowing his brow in thought.
"Everything about this whole case is odd," Simon interrupted. "Go. Check out his car and apartment again, see what you come up with this time."
Two hours later the search of the car and apartment again came with more questions than answers. Sentinel and guide were just getting off the elevator when Simon called them into his office.
"Brian was in his apartment this morning; there was a damp towel in the shower, fresh brewed coffee in the coffee maker and the morning paper on his bar. But the scents in his bedroom are old -- it doesn't appear that he slept in his bed last night," Jim reported taking a seat. "So whoever it was dropped him off at his apartment this morning, before he came into work. And before you ask, Simon, the answer is no. I didn't pick up anything that shouldn't be there... no out of place scents. We can have forensics dust his place but I'm betting the only prints they find are Brian's."
"So why would our kidnapper risk it? They could have had him cleaned up, dropped him at his car and sent him on his way? But instead the kidnapper risks dropping Brian off at his apartment in broad daylight, making sure he showered and changed in his own apartment? Blair mused aloud.
"Cutting down on the amount of trace evidence we could find?" Simon speculated.
"I could buy that if it were just trace evidence... hair fibers and such that a lab might find. But this goes beyond trace evidence. The kidnappers risked dropping him off at his apartment... went through a lot of effort to mimic Brain's routine down to details a lab couldn't pick up; like his scent, his clothes, his coffee; or more importantly, the scent of who and where it was he was being held. Doesn't that amount of detail strike you as odd?"
"What are you getting at, Chief?" Jim asked. "These kidnappers went through a lot of effort for us not to find out he was missing... called him in sick -- apparently drugged him and tried to plant false memories of his weekend..."
"But let's suppose for a moment that Brian hadn't been missed this weekend, that we accepted the note; the kidnappers went through a lot of extra effort to make sure no one would have any reason at all to be suspicious come Monday morning. It's almost like they knew, planted memories or not, that those kind of details, subtle as they are, would be noticed," Blair prodded the other two detectives.
"What? You think his disappearance has something to do with the Sentinel thing?" Simon asked skeptically. "Don't you think that's a bit of a stretch Sandburg?"
"Not after Brackett I don't," Blair shot back. "We can never be to careful... we have no idea who Brackett might have told."
"Point taken, but why not you? If this person is the least bit familiar with Jim then they have to know that you play some part in it?" Simon asked. "After all, Brackett is the one who first called you a guide."
"To close, maybe? Since I am the guide maybe they didn't want to take the chance of there being some connection that would get them discovered. Maybe, they assumed that the people Jim works with, or because Brian's my brother, that he knew. I don't know!" Blair guessed, giving Jim a sideways look, added. "Besides, between big brother Brian and blessed protector Jim, I'm lucky to go to the library without an APB being posted."
"Yeah, but remember it didn't work. He was missed within an hour," Simon reasoned, "And he showed up with memory loss."
"Since Brian lives alone it was a calculated risk on the part of the kidnapper's. They knew they couldn't risk getting to rough or taking Brian to deep. They only had time to plant some surface memories that could account for his absence on Friday. Providing we hadn't got immediately suspicious it could have worked," Jim theorized.
"So that still leaves us back to square one. Does this have to do with the case, Jim's senses or a different psychopath all together?" Simon said with a tired sigh.
"It took a bit of looking but the hospital lab discovered trace amounts of several hallucinogens in Brian's system," Brown reported later that afternoon as he handed his captain the file. "So he was definitely drugged."
"That's quite a combination. These drugs free up peoples inhibitions, makes them susceptible to suggestion..." Simon began to scan the report aloud only to be interrupted by an agitated Rafe.
"But why? I don't understand any of this! What did someone want with me?" Brain said in exasperation, his pacing in the small office made awkward by his continued need for a cane. "And why can't I remember anything? The harder I try the hazier it gets."
"It could be the after affects of the drug, or it could be a post hypnotic suggestion..." Blair suggested.
"Oh, so not only has 'someone' been picking at my brain for god knows what reason they screwed around with it too?" Brain said angrily, stopping in front of his brother. "So now what? I'm I going to start baying at the moon, or hey, maybe steal something from evidence... or maybe, maybe I've just been programmed to kill someone. Damn, this is to much!"
"Come on man, I know it's tough. But we'll figure it out, we'll get through it," Brown said, laying his hands on Rafe's shoulders.
Brian shrugged violently out of Henri's comforting hold. "What the hell is this 'we' stuff... partner? It wasn't you it was me... it was me... you weren't there!"
Henri took a shocked step backwards, hurt clearly evident on his face.
"Rafe!" Jim exclaimed, grabbing the young detectives shoulder and giving him a shake to get his attention. "What in the hell was that about?"
Brian's knees buckled and Jim carefully levered him into a chair. "God, Henri, I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that."
"It's okay partner. I'm here, man."
Not pacified by his partner's attempts at comfort, Brian looked frantically around the room. "I'm sorry! I am. Why... why did I do that? I didn't mean to do that."
"Someone cannot be 'programmed' to do something that is totally foreign to their nature, but it can make them hazy... confuse them enough not to know what's real and what's not," Jim interjected.
"What's wrong with me?" Brian intoned quietly as he lowered his head into his hands.
Going to his brother, Blair lowered himself in front of the distraught man. "Brian, we know that wasn't you. We want to help you find out what happened... get our Brian back."
"How?" Rafe asked suspiciously, meeting Blair's gaze.
"I could put you in a light hypnotic trance..."
"No, not again!" Brian said frantically, growing agitated. "You want to screw with my head a little more. Maybe I can become a total basket case," Brian said frantically. "No thank you."
"Brain calm down. No one is going to hurt you," Blair soothed. "Can I ask you something?"
"Yes," Rafe said with a tired sigh.
"Do you want to find out what happened to you those missing days?"
"Yes, of course I do," he snapped.
"Do you... trust your 'little' brother?" Blair said with a crooked grin.
"You know I do," Rafe answered, meeting Blair's gaze with a tired smile.
"And, do you think me, or Henri, or anyone in this room would do anything to hurt you?"
"No, of course not. It's just..."
"It's just... you're afraid. Believe me, I more than anyone know what you're going through, how out of control you feel. You've lost something, you feel like you can't trust you own judgment anymore and you're afraid of losing more control. But we're here for you man, and we are going to get you through this. You do understand; you are not alone in this -- right?"
"I thought I knew... but now, I feel so... lost... I don't know what to believe. What if I did something... illegal, this weekend? What if I hurt someone and don't even remember doing it," Brain said putting his head in his hands. "I'm just so damn confused right now, I can't think straight."
"That's enough for today," Simon ordered. "We can discuss it in the morning after we've all had some rest. Brian, until we get this figured out I don't want you to be alone."
"My partner will be coming home with me," Brown said in a tone that brooked no argument, softening his stance when he met the hurt expression in Blair's eyes. "You and Ellison get out there and do whatever voodoo it is you two do and get us some answers. I'll keep Brian safe until then."
Blair nodded. "Yeah, sounds good H. Thanks. We'll stop by later, okay?"
Rafe sighed heavily, and without looking up, nodded his head.
"Okay. Go ahead and get out of here for today. Get some rest. I don't want to see either of you in here until at least nine o'clock tomorrow," Simon ordered.
Henri placed a gentle hand on Brian's shoulder. "Come on partner. Let's get you out of here."
Brian looked up slowly, a lost look in his eyes, as he allowed his partner to gently pull him up from the couch and lead him out of the office and out of the bullpen.
Simon watched them go with a frown. "Maybe we should have kept him at the hospital?"
"I don't think that would have been a good idea. He's extremely confused right now and is easily agitated; he really needs surroundings that seem familiar and safe to him. Being with H is probably the best thing for him," Jim commented.
"Why do I get the feeling you know more about these drugs than is normal," Simon said, eyeing his detective.
Blair frowned when Jim didn't answer.
Jim and Blair stopped by Henri's house that same evening on their way home.
Henri's wife, Shelia, answered the door. "Hey guys, come on in. Henri's in the kitchen."
"Why is that not a surprise?" Blain snickered.
Shelia smiled at the joke. "I make that man earn his keep around here."
Just then the Brown's two-year old daughter came toddling into the living room, giving a squeal of delight as she ran up to her two favorite 'uncles'. "'im... 'mar... 'im... 'mar."
Blair scooped up the little girl who immediately wrapped her chubby little finger in Blair's hair and began rubbing noses with him. "'mar p'ay me."
"Honey, Uncle Blair came to see Uncle Brian," Shelia said reaching out her arms to take her daughter.
Marissa hung on tighter. "No. 'Mar p'ay me! Bi'in seep!"
"It's all right, Shelia," Blair said with a smile, looking down at the little girl. "How about a story? You go get me a story and we'll read one in kitchen."
"O'tay... o'tay... o'tay," the little girl said, squirming out of Blair's arms and scampering to her room.
"You sure you don't mind?"
"It'll be fine," he assured her.
"Well, it'll give me a chance to pick up her room a little and get her bath ready. Send her into the bathroom when you finish the story," Shelia said walking down the hall, barely avoiding the charging toddler coming from the opposite direction.
The toddler waved the book at Blair. He took the book in one hand and the little girl's hand in the other and, followed by a very amused sentinel, made there way back into the kitchen, where they found Henri washing dishes.
He looked up and smiled seeing his daughter hop into the kitchen with his two friends in tow. "Got you did she. There's some leftovers on the stove, help yourself."
"Oh, to have a camera," Blair teased.
"Laugh it up hairboy... and I'll be soaping my dishes with that mop on your head," Henri growled back.
While Jim went to peer into the pans on the stove Blair plopped down in a chair, Marissa immediately crawling into his lap. "Oohh, Marissa, your daddy's being mean to your uncle Blair."
"Da'ee' no be 'ean to 'mar," the child said indignantly.
"Hey, whose side you on pipsqueak," Henri said lightly to his daughter.
Blair just laughed as he opened up the board book the toddler had picked out. He finished a few minutes later and sent the little girl to her mother with a promise he would come in and tuck her in before he left.
"So, how's Brian?" Blair asked once the child was out of the room.
"Those drugs really knocked him for a loop... he slept on and off for most of the day. Damn, between the accident and the stress he's been under all these months with this case and with, well, everything else... the doctor thinks whatever he was given this weekend might have reacted with his prescriptions," Brown reported grimly.
"You don't think he needs to go back to the hospital do you?" Blair asked worriedly.
"No. There's really nothing they can do for him. He's really not in any danger from the drugs, they just need to work through his system," Brown reported. "What did you find out about Todd and Harriett?"
"Nothing. Except for there lawyers, no one has been in to see them and all their mail and calls are screened," Jim said.
"So, we're going on the assumption that it has something to do with the case?"
"That's the most logical choice right now," Jim said. "We have absolutely no evidence that it could be anything else."
"And how many suspects do we still have?"
"We managed to investigate a few of them, but we still have over twenty that we haven't investigated," Blair answered.
"Damn, could take us another week to track down and investigate all of those names..." Brown whistled.
"Maybe we wont have to. Has Brian mentioned anything about the hypnosis?" Blair asked.
Henri shook his head. "Hasn't said a word. Like I said, he's been asleep for most of the afternoon."
"If his disappearance is related to the case he could possibly..." Jim started to say.
"Help identify the killer without having to spend all that time investigating twenty some suspects." A tired voice interrupted from the kitchen door.
"Brian, how are you feeling?" Blair said, jumping up from his seat.
"Like I'm hanging in limbo... wondering what's real and what's not, what I can trust..." He trailed off as he came into the kitchen and sat down in the chair Blair has vacated.
"We'll find out what happened, Brian," Blair assured his brother. "You will get your life back."
The brother's eyes met, and Brian said quietly. "I'll do it."
"Do it? You mean the hypnotism? Are you absolutely sure?" Blair asked.
"Yes, I'll do it. I need to know... I need to know what happened. Why, if it was our killer... why he broke his pattern, why I'm still alive?"
"God, don't sound so disappointed," Blair chastised.
"No, Chief, he's right," Jim interrupted. "Our killer broke his pattern... that in itself is significant... if we can figure out why we might just catch this psycho."
"So let's do it," Brain said.
"What? Now?" Henri exclaimed. "Are you sure your up for it?"
"Why not now? We need answers and I would just as soon get it over with as soon as possible," Brian explained. "But not here."
"What do you mean -- 'not here'?" Henri asked.
"With what happened today... and the baby... Shelia being here. I don't want to hurt anyone," Brian explained hesitantly.
"Brian, we told you, that wasn't you. We know you would never hurt anyone..." Blair said.
"But I don't know that, damn it," Brian snapped. "I don't know anything any more."
"Okay, okay, just calm down," Blair said, asking. "Where then? Where will you feel safe?"
"Home. I... I want to go home," he answered quietly.
Blair exchanged looks with Jim and Henri. "Okay, home it is."
As it turned out Brian could give them little else to go on, his images of what was real and what was planted too much of a blur in his mind. The only thing that he did seem sure of was that the kidnapper was definitely a man, middle aged or older.
Looking over the list of names that still needed investigated Jim said. "If Brian is remembering correctly then we can rule out six of the names on the list, four women and two men under the age of forty."
"So that leaves us with what, fifteen?" Henri said with a sigh.
Ellison scooped up the ringing telephone. "Ellison. Hey, Rafe, what's up? Now... okay, we'll see you there are soon as we can."
"What's up?" Blair asked.
"That was Rafe. Wants us to meet him out at Cascade National, said we may have a break in the case," Jim reported, grabbing their jackets.
"Did he say what it was?"
"No. Just to meet out where the bodies were recovered."
As they entered Cascade National Forest, some twenty-five minutes later, and began driving to the far end of the park Jim frowned. "Something isn't right here. If this is supposed to be a break in the case where is everyone? I don't see Simon or the forensics team. We haven't even passed a squad car."
"Does look kind of quiet," Blair commented as he caught the cell phone Jim suddenly tossed his way.
"Give Simon a quick call, maybe Brian gave us the wrong place."
"Yeah, Simon, Blair. Where were we supposed to meet?"
"Meet? What are you talking about, Sandburg? Meet for what?"
Blair gave Jim a worried look. "Uh, Simon. Rafe gave us a call about forty minutes ago and said there had been a break in the case and told us to meet up at Cascade National; we're here now and it's deserted."
"Sandburg, I haven't heard from Rafe or about any break in the case."
"Up there, I see Brian's car. Damn, I also see a black van, half a mile further up the road, pulled off into the tree line," Jim interrupted, swatting Blair on the arm. "Give me the phone."
"Simon. Jim. This has signs of a set up written all over it," Jim reported to his captain as he peered out into the darkness. "I see a black van about half a mile up ahead, past Rafe's car, it's pulled off the road... damn, no tags to get an ID either."
"Pull back, wait for some backup. I can have squads there in twenty minutes," Simon ordered.
"Simon, we need to follow this through. This might just be our chance to crack this case," Jim replied.
"It might also be a chance to get your fool self killed, too, Ellison," Simon shot back.
"Listen, I'll leave this line open as long as I can... they don't know yet that we're suspicious of anything, or that we can see the van. If we pull back now we could get Brian killed," Jim said.
Simon sighed wearily. "Fine. But at the first sign of trouble you get yourselves out of there and wait for back up."
"Yes sir," Jim said, pocketing the still open phone. "Let's go, Chief. Play it cool, okay."
Peering out into the darkness, Blair asked worriedly. "Do you think Brian's all right?"
"I hope so, Chief. I hope so."
Jim and Blair exited the truck and began slowly walking towards Brain's car; when they got within several feet Brian stepped out from the shadows of the tree line.
"Blair. Jim. Did you guys come alone?" Brian said in a voice that sounded distant and hollow.
"Ah, hey, Brian. Yeah, man, we came alone," Blair said. "So what's with all the dramatics here man... where's this 'break' in the case you said you found?"
Noticing the dazed look in his friend's eyes, Jim asked. "You feeling all right Brian. You're looking kind of pale there."
Jim watched as Brian shook his head in moment of confusion, appearing lucid for several seconds, before a veil seemed to slip over his eyes once again.
"I have something to show you," Brian said mechanically. "Follow me."
Blair and Jim exchanged glances, neither moving from where they stood.
"What is it detective? What exactly do you need to show us? Where's Captain Bank's, where's your partner, where is Henri?" Jim said using his most commanding tone, hoping to get through whatever haze was clouding the detectives mind. "How about we just go back to town right now and you show us tomorrow. You're not looking quite yourself right now."
Brian shook his head again. "Yeah, I don't feel... no, you need to come with me now."
Blair gasped in surprise, falling back several steps when Brian pulled out his gun and pointed it at them. "Brian, man, what's going on here? Come on, it's me, Blair, let me help you."
"You don't want to do this buddy. You don't want to hurt anyone," Jim said quietly, his thoughts suddenly taking him back to another terrifying time when he had to talk another friend down from the demons of a drug overdose.
"Jim," Blair hissed in concern.
Jim shook off those horrible thoughts as he focused his attentions on the man in front of him. He took a few small steps toward his friend, his voice low and, he hoped, non-threatening. "Come on Brian, give me the gun. Let's get out of here and get you some help."
Brain looked back and forth between the two men, and then down at his the gun in his hand, growing agitated in his confused state. "Jim? Blair? I... what's happening... why..."
"That's it Brian, fight it. Jim and I, we're right here, man. We really need to get out of here," Blair said, taking a few steps towards his brother. "We're all in a little bit of trouble here."
Brian again looked down at the gun in his hand, a horrified expression crossing his face as he threw the gun aside. "What's happening? Guys, why do I have a..."
Brian's confused words were cut off suddenly as the horn of the black van blared loudly, sending both Brian and Jim to the ground in pain, hands clamped tightly over their ears. As the van slowly made its way to where the men were the headlights flipped on, blinding them in the glare.
Blair shielded his eyes with his hand as he made his way to his sentinel, unaware of the shadows approaching from the now stopped van. "Dial it back Jim. Dial it back to at least a three. Simon, I hope you're listening to all this... we need backup, now," he added.
"I'm trying, Chief, hurts," Jim hissed, hands still on his ears. "Caught me by surprise is all."
"Get him up," a deep voice ordered, getting Blair's attention.
He looked up and saw two men reach down to pull Rafe up off the ground. "Leave him alone."
The men ignored him, and Blair watched helplessly, as they hoisted the semi-conscious man up to half drag, half carry him back to the van.
A shape stepped into the illumination of the headlights, cutting off the glare. "Mr. Sandburg I presume. And this writhing mass must be Jim Ellison."
The large man nudged Jim with the toe of his boot. "Not a very impressive display."
Angrily, Blair jumped up to block the man's access to his partner. "What in the hell do you want? Who are you? What's wrong with Brian?"
"Questions, questions. But one would expect no less from such a fine and curious academic as yourself," the man said, looking down at Jim, who had finally managed some control and was slowly sitting up. "Can he walk?"
"I can walk," Jim growled, his eyes moving to meet the other man's gaze. "Just what in the hell do you want?"
"All your questions will be answered in due time. It so spoils everything to have to rush," the man replied, stepping aside and making a sweeping motion with his hands towards the van. "Shall we?"
When Jim made no move to comply, Blair reached down to help Jim up, whispering in near panic. "Jim, they took Brian. He's in the van... he's unconscious."
Jim glowered at his captor as Blair helped him stand, their captor fell into step behind them as they made their way to the van.
Blair immediately scooted himself to his brother's side trying to assess his condition. "What's wrong with him? What did you do to him?"
"He's fine really. The combination of drugs just has a tendency to make one very... sensitive, to certain stimuli," the man stared to explain.
"And very pliable," Jim shot out. "You're the one responsible for his disappearance before, why?"
"So you discovered him missing did you," the hunter said. "Can I ask what gave it away... I was so very careful.
When neither man answered he just shrugged his shoulders. "Well, no matter now anyway."
"Why did you do it?" Blair asked again.
"Why, to find out about the two of you, of course," the man said, making tisking noises he continued. "Not a very brotherly relationship you have there professor... wasn't it a surprise to find out he hardly knew a thing about your work, about your studies... of your -- sentinel; and to have worked with one for all these many years, too. Boy must not be much of a detective."
The man saw the look pass between Jim and Blair. "Don't even consider denying it, gentlemen. One can only be presented with so much circumstantial evidence before the pieces start to solidify and fall into place."
Jim looked out the front window of the van, noting that they were heading for the nearby on ramp to the interstate. He stuck his hands in his pockets sullenly, glancing down to see the light still showing his cell phone was active. "We're getting on the interstate... where exactly are we heading?"
"To my estate," he answered succinctly.
"That's informative," Jim said dryly.
"I own a thousand acres in the northeast part of the state, near the Canadian border. It's nice and secluded. Let's me indulge in my hobby without interruption."
"And that hobby would be?" Jim asked, giving a look to Blair.
"Hunting, of course." The man's eyes took on a faraway look as he continued. "I've hunted all over the world, you know. The charging of a bull elephant in the plains of Africa, matched stealth for stealth with the great cats in the jungles of South America, put my cunning against that of man's closest link -- the gorilla's of the rain forest."
He turned to Blair and Jim. "But none of that matches the feel, the thrill, of matching my skills against a truly worthy adversary."
Blair blanched at the implications of the hunter's confession, looking over at Jim worriedly.
"You hunted down those men, the ones we found in the park," Jim stated evenly.
"Got it in one. Guess that's what makes you the detective," he said sarcastically.
"You hunted down those men like animals," Blair exclaimed angrily, sickened by what he was hearing. "Don't you realize what you're doing... your murdering people, and calling it a sport!"
"We're all animals Mr. Sandburg. Those men had the advantage of their higher brain functions and their training to aid them... I didn't just take anyone for my hunt, only those equipped for such a challenge," the man said as if that explained everything.
Jim scowled angrily and Blair's blood ran cold as the hunter turned and smiled at them. "And what an ultimate challenge... to hunt such a highly trained man who possess such extraordinary skills."
"And you think we're just going to play your little game?" Jim shot back. "It's the chase you love, matching your cunning and stealth against that of your victims. Suppose we just refuse?"
"Now that could put me in a quandary, but, every creature, man or beast, has the instinct for self preservation Mr. Ellison. I'm sure a sentinel and guide are no different. Why, I bet even now, not only are you trying to figure out your best options for staying alive, but also wondering how you can turn the tables -- put me on the defensive... arrest me even," the man explained. "You're right, the kill really means nothing without the chase, and I do so much want this opportunity"
With that the hunter nodded his head and one of the other men in the van pulled a gun and cocked it, waiting for further instructions. "Now I've read enough to know that a sentinel and guide must work together to be effective so threatening either one of you would be pointless; but your friend here is just a loose end..." The gun was then pointed at Brian.
"Stop!" Blair cried, pushing the gun barrel away from his brother.
"I'm sure we understand each other now." The hunter smiled and nodded to his accomplice, who lowered the gun.
"And if we win," Jim ground out.
"Win?" the hunter said in genuine surprise. "You think you can win?"
"What's to keep your 'boys' here from taking us out if we win this little game of yours?" Jim pushed, sensing the man never considered that he might actually lose a hunt.
"If you win you walk away..." The hunter shrugged.
"Just like that? You just let us walk away?" Jim questioned sarcastically. "What about Brian?"
"I find that a little hard to believe," Jim pressed.
"What's not to believe... if you can manage to elude me for the entire forty-eight hour period then you're free to go... by the time you can get to help I can be out of the country," the hunter explained. "But, you have to elude me for the entire time... if I suspect you are trying to head towards the road or back track to the house I will have no problems with ordering the death of your guides brother... and still, I can be out of the country before you can summon help."
Jim and Blair exchanged grim looks before Jim meet the killer's gaze. "Agreed."
Although Brian had begun to regain consciousness on the trip to the estate but was still very disoriented when the van came to a halt in front of the estate. Jim and Blair took up positions on either side of Brian and helped him out of the van; flanked by the Hunter's thugs, as they followed the man into the mansion and up to a second story bedroom.
"The game begins at sun up. The rules are simple, you avoid me for the next forty-eight hours and you live... I find you, you're dead."
"Charming," Blair groused quietly. He was sitting on the edge of the bed where he and Jim had laid Brian down. "What about Brian? Where will he be?"
"Right here, in the house. He will stay in this upstairs bedroom for the duration of our game," the hunter explained. "I have no need of him except to insure your cooperation. You live, he lives. You die, he dies... really quite simple," their captor explained. "I will have dinner brought to you, as well as a pack of supplies you will be permitted for the game. Until morning then."
With that, the hunter and his three hired thugs left the room: the click of the key in the lock deafening in the proceeding silence.
Jim immediately went to the door and listened. No heartbeat or breathing outside the door or in the nearby hallway told him that no guard had been posted. Pulling out his cell phone he growled angrily at the 'out of service' message being displayed.
"The cell... its out of range of anywhere and everywhere. Hopefully we stayed in range long enough for Simon to get a trace," Jim explained. "I still can't believe they didn't search us -- they never even took my gun."
"He's a stark raving lunatic, Jim; and he honestly believes he can't lose," Blair exclaimed, jumping up to pace. Stopping at the foot of the bed he looked at his brother. "Besides he knows we won't do anything to risk Brian's life."
Looking over at his friend he said. "No, Chief, we won't. They won't hurt him again."
"Jim, do you really think we can avoid this nutcase for a whole forty-eight hours?" Blair was pacing, his voice tight with worry. "I mean, I know you probably could with your training and all, but me... I just don't know..."
"We do it together or not at all, Chief," Jim said with a smile. "Don't sell yourself short... you've faced down and beat worse than this."
"Bl...'ar? Ji...m?" Brian's groggy voice called out in quiet confusion. "Wha' hap'n'ed... where, where are we? W' ats going on?"
"Brian!" Blair exclaimed, going to sit next to Brian on the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Like crap. My head... feels, feels like it's full of cotton, and the room... it seems to be rolling," Brain said raising one hand to his head while the other hand was grasping the comforter tightly as though to balance himself. "Are we on a boat?"
"No boat, man. Just a big old mansion in the middle of nowhere," Blair said glumly.
"Big mansion? Why? Whose mansion?" he asked in confusion, adding excitedly. "Were we in an accident? Are you guys all right?"
"We're fine," Jim assured him. "We are, however, about to wrap up the case."
"Wrap up the case? What, you mean the serial killer case? How?"
"The killer is downstairs..."
"Downstairs!" Brian exclaimed trying to rise up suddenly only to fall back on the bed with a groan. "Damn!"
"If the killer is downstairs and we're upstairs... and I take it from the crappy way I feel and the looks on your faces that this isn't a stake out?" Brain attempted to pull the puzzle together in his muddled brain. "Damn, we're on the menu, aren't we?"
"Something like that," Blair said.
"But why us? I mean I can see why it would be you Jim... since the theory was that the killer probably only takes military... but why are Blair and I here?" Brain asked Jim.
"Blair's theory was on the mark. This killer wants to hunt Blair and I and... and you're here as a guarantee of our cooperation," Jim answered grimly.
"Damn!" Brain cursed again. "Well you can't go through with it. You've got to do whatever it takes to get away when this... 'hunt' starts. This has got to end here and now."
"No!" Blair exclaimed. "We're not leaving you behind. He'll kill you without a second thought..."
"Blair..." Brian started to protest.
"No one is leaving anyone behind," Jim said firmly. "We may not have to do anything. I activated my cell and slipped it in my pocket. The line was open to Simon, so hopefully he had a chance to get a trace. With any luck the cavalry will be here in no time."
"And if it's not?" Brain asked Jim pointedly. "You said you and Blair?"
"Then we deal with it until Simon does show up," Jim answered in a tone that suggested he wasn't willing to negotiate the plan.
"That's not good enough," Brian said evenly. "I want Blair out of here. Why is he even being included in this sick game; he's not military. Hell, he's not even a cop."
"Gee, thanks for that overwhelming vote of confidence there, Brian," Blair shot out. "I think I've proved I can hold my own against the psychopath of the month."
"That's not what I meant and you know it," Brian snapped back, pressing for an answer to his previous question. "You don't fit the killer's profile. None of this, the kidnapping, fits with the previous killings. Why are you here... hell, why am I here, I'm not military either."
Jim and Blair exchanged knowing glances that didn't go unnoticed by Brian. "Well?"
"The killer knows about Jim's covert ops training and his time in the jungle... and because he and I are partner's... and he knows you're my brother..." Blair fumbled for an explanation.
"So, he uses me... to get to you... to get to Jim," Brian interrupted, unconvinced of Blair's explanation. "That's not his MO, and he could have saved a lot of time and trouble just grabbing you. Jim would've torn this forest apart to find you Blair... the killer didn't need a middle man."
Brian's gaze never left the two men, his expression clearly indicating he was still expecting an explanation.
Blair looked to Jim for permission that was given with a barely perceptible nod. "Okay, without going into a lot of detail... Jim has... well, possesses some extraordinary skills..."
"Like, say, pulling clues out of thin air," Brian interrupted again.
"Yeah, something like that," Blair agreed. "Anyway, Jim possesses these extraordinary senses. He can see farther, hear better, has a sense of smell that could rival the best bloodhound, distinguish minute variations in textures, and even taste more, than that of the average person."
Brain nodded. "And that is somehow where you come into all of this?"
"I've made a study of people with these extraordinary senses... they were prevalent in the lore of many primitive tribes..." Blair's explanation was again interrupted.
"As in the tribe, in Peru... where Jim was all those months?" Brain questioned knowingly.
"Yeah, like with the Chopec."
"And he got these... senses, there?"
"No. Jim has had them all his life. They just kind of come on an off line," Blair answered. "For lack of a better description, Jim came back on line during the Switchman case..."
"When you suddenly show up spouting that 'Thin Blue Line' crap for your thesis."
"What did no one buy that story?" Blair whined.
"Told you, Chief... should have let me do the talking that day," Jim chuckled.
"Anyway, I had been trying to find someone like that in the modern day world. Over the years I've come across people that possess as many as three hyperactive senses..."
"And Jim, he possesses all... five," Brian finished, looking over at Jim. "Must be a bitch."
Jim snorted and shook his head. "Yeah, it can be. But Blair has helped me a lot. Helped me understand that I wasn't going absolutely nuts. Helped me get a handle on them and even put them to good use," Jim paused and looked pointedly at Brian. "I'd be in a psych ward, or worse, without him."
"And so, our killer wants to hunt... superman..."
Blair saw Jim wince at the off hand comment and interrupted Brian hastily, "Ah, the tribes called these people with these extraordinary skills watchmen or Sentinels."
"Okay... so this killer wants an ex-army, cover-ops, ranger... with heightened senses. How exactly does a researcher fit into all of this?" Brain asked Blair.
"According to the legends a Sentinel cannot function without back up... a guide of sorts; someone to keep them from focusing to deep or becoming trapped in the stimuli of one of their senses," Blair explained.
"And your Jim's... guide?" Brian questioned slowly.
"Yeah, I am."
"Well that explains a lot... makes everything a little clearer," Brian mused, his brow furrowing in confusion. "Not that I don't enjoy the company, but if our killer wants to hunt a... sentinel, and your are the guide, how do I fit into all of this? Why am I here?"
"Well, since you're my brother, and this sentinel-guide thing doesn't work separately the killer thought you could confirm his suspicions and draw Jim and I out."
"Confirm his suspicions?" Brain asked in confusion. "I don't understand. One minute I'm home and the next I'm waking up here."
Blair and Jim again exchanged uneasy glances. "I really wish you two would stop doing that!"
"Brian, when you disappeared last weekend... it, uhm, it was the killer. That's why we didn't find any forensic evidence, the killer mimicked your routine down to the level that Jim's sentinel senses couldn't even pick up anything out of the ordinary."
Brain paled at Blair's words. "But... but, I didn't know anything. I couldn't have told him anything."
"Not consciously, no. But subconsciously and subliminally you were aware of something that probably didn't seem to add up," Jim said. "Besides the killer all ready knew, he just wanted some kind of confirmation and knew he couldn't get to Blair without raising an overmuch of suspicion."
"Yeah, like I can even make a trip to the bathroom without one of you two putting out an APB!" Blair snorted.
Despite the situation Brian couldn't help but chuckle. "So the killer found out Blair and I were brother's, not to hard to do with all the press the last few months; thought I must know something."
"That's the theory. And since you lived alone you were an easier mark than Blair," Jim said. "The killer didn't anticipate that you'd be missed quite so soon"
"Fooled him. Henri was up in arms less than an hour after you didn't show up at the station," Blair said somewhat shame-faced.
"And there's something wrong with that?" Brain prodded.
"No. It's just that... it's just that it was Henri who sounded the alarm..." Blair trailed off.
"And not you," Brian finished. "Don't beat yourself up over it Blair. We've been brother's all of four months... Henri and I have been partners for over two years."
"But nothing. Drop it, it's over," Brian insisted before changing the subject. "So the killer wants the challenge of hunting a sentinel... and the sentinel needs a guide, that's why Blair is involved. That doesn't explain how I ended up getting invited back to the party?"
"What do you remember after you got off shift this evening?" Jim asked.
"Driving home... getting out of the car... I was... I... wait, I remember seeing a black van then everything is real fuzzy until I woke up here with you guys."
"They went after you again," Jim said grimly. "Probably pumped you full of the same drugs as before..."
"And then?" Brian prodded when Jim seemed reluctant to continue.
"Do you remember calling us, telling us to meet you at the park?" Blair asked.
"No? I called you, why?" Brain shook his head.
"You called, told us there was a break in the case, asked us to meet you at the site the bodies had been dumped," Jim said. "It was to quiet, so we called Simon..."
"That's when Jim saw the black van about half a mile up the road and we figured it was some kind of setup," Blair interrupted. "Jim was able to slip his cell phone in his pocket with the line still open."
"The killer probably didn't want to take a chance of us calling in back up if it came in as an anonymous tip... so they grabbed you again, knowing it wouldn't arouse our suspicion hearing from you, until it was to late, and the trap was sprung," Jim further speculated. "Even though the killer is apparently aware of my abilities he is not aware of there extent... didn't count on me seeing a black van hidden in the tree line after dark, from a half a mile away."
Brian pressed his head back into the pillow he was laying on as he brought his hands to his face. His tone was bitter. "Do I have a tattoo on my forehead that says 'Use Me'?
"Brian, don't even try to take the blame for this. Nothing is your fault. If anything it ought to be Jim and I apologizing to you for getting you into this mess to begin with," Blair chastised his brother gently. "This isn't the first time we've had... problems, because of this sentinel thing."
Brian looked up and met Jim's eyes. "No matter what... somehow... you've got to make sure it all ends here."
Jim nodded. "Don't worry, detective, this killer is going down."
"So what now?" Blair asked.
"We have 'til sun up. Then this little game begins," Jim said grimly. "I'm really hoping Simon shows up with the cavalry before that."
"So, basically we're on our own," Brian said.
"Hope for back up... but don't count on it. Prepare yourself for anything and everything," Jim instructed: his days in covert ops, prepping for a mission, coming back to him.
"So what do you want me to do... if you end up having to go through with this charade?"
"Stay alive," Blair piped in. "Don't be doing anything stupid and getting yourself killed."
"Oh, so I'm just supposed to sit here while some psychopath hunts my little brother and a fellow detective," Brian snapped. "Doesn't work that way."
"I have only seen three others besides the killer since we've arrived and we don't know if any of them will accompany him or stay here," Jim said feeling more confident now that they were starting to pull a plan together. "I can rig the door so the lock won't catch... there has to be a working phone or radio in this place somewhere."
"And you think you can avoid this nut long enough for help to get here?" Brian asked.
"I've got a few tricks up my sleeve besides whacked out senses... so yeah, I think we can hold our own for awhile," Jim answered.
"Damn, this plan sucks," Brian complained.
"Work with what you've got," Jim shrugged.
Less than an hour later Jim heard two people coming up the hall, he moved to the window while ordering his fellow captives, "Brian, get back into bed, appear to be unconscious still... Blair go sit with him. Anything to make them less on their guard is to our advantage."
Brian and Blair had just complied with Jim's order when they heard the key turn in the lock and two of the 'thugs' pushed in a serving cart. None of the three captives said a word and the only words from the 'help' were blunt and to the point.
"There's your dinner. The pack is there at the bottom."
No one moved until the door was again locked and they were alone.
"Such a hospitable psychopath," Brian said sarcastically, pushing himself back up into a sitting position.
"He wants a good chase... can't get that if your prey is hungry," Blair said with a snort.
Blair went to see what they were being served for dinner while Jim scooped up the pack of supplies for their hunt.
"Jim, check this stuff out, okay," Blair said lifting the lids off the plates to reveal a hearty dinner of steak, potatoes and vegetables, plus a bowl of assorted fruit.
Brian watched with quiet curiosity as the 'sentinel' did as he was instructed by his 'guide' and gingerly sniffed at the food on the plates to announce a moment later that it was safe.
Blair carried a plate to Brian. "Safe as in...?"
"Safe, as in, no drugs or anything," Blair answered.
Blair then took a plate to Jim, who had retreated to the small table by the window and was looking through the contents of the pack. "So, what do we have?"
"Binoculars, a compass, a canteen, hunting knife..."
"This nut actually gave you a knife?" Brian interjected.
"Not only that, I still have my gun," Jim said.
Brian shook his head. "I don't know if that should inspire me to confidence that he's that damn dumb or scare the hell out of me that he's that damn over confident?"
"I'd go with the latter," Blair said. "This guy is certifiable."
"It was a rhetorical question there, bro," Brian shot back. "I really didn't want an answer."
Blair just shrugged and turned back to Jim. "What else we got in the pack?"
"Matches, a small flashlight, even a length of narrow rope -- looks to be about fifteen feet worth," Jim said, emptying out the pack. "There's also two sets of fatigues on the cart."
"No food?" Brian asked.
"As long as we have water, we can find what we need in the forest. We can also pack some of the fruit," Jim answered as he returned the items to the pack and set it aside to start on his dinner.
They ate in silence for several moments before Jim noticed both Brian and Blair were picking at the food on their plates more than eating it. "As hard as it might be, you both need to eat to keep up your strength, and we need to get some rest before morning... being over tired or hungry only serves to hurt us and give this psycho an edge."
"I wonder if this is what the condemned feel like when they eat their last meal?" Blair intoned quietly, stabbing at the vegetables on his plate.
"Better not be, because I don't plan on losing," Jim said. "We have a chance, a very good chance of getting out of this..."
Blair was a little surprised that Jim was able to finish his meal, but then, he thought ruefully, maybe he shouldn't be; after all, this kind of situation had been Jim's way of life for those many years he had been in the military and serving in covert ops.
He took a few more bites of his food before giving up. Putting the plate back on the cart, he turned his attention to Brian. "You ate even less... you need to keep your strength up just as much as we do."
"I'm not the one who will shortly be running for his life, now will I... I'll be fine," Brian answered bitterly, throwing the fork on the plate. "I feel so useless."
"No, not useless. While we keep this psychopath on the run you'll be the one looking for a way to communicate with the outside world," Jim stated, his military training coming to the forefront on his mind. "Everyone on a team has a job and all are equally important."
Tired, sore, and terrified for their safety Brian shot back petulantly. "Don't patronize me."
"I'm not. You utilize any skill and advantage you have or can get to fulfill the mission and get yourself and your team out of the situation alive..."
"Don't talk to me about missions like this is some kind of damn war game," Brian interrupted angrily. "This isn't some covert operation and we aren't soldiers..."
"No, it's not a game, and no you're not soldiers, but you are a cop, damn it! So start acting like one," Jim said evenly. "We need to contact the outside world to have a chance to nail this psycho... and you're the only one in the position to do that."
The two men locked eyes for a tense moment before Jim continued. "No one and nothing on a team is useless, unless they make it that way."
Brian looked away, a tired sigh escaping him. "Sorry, just feeling a little sorry for myself. I'm back now... you can count on me to do what I can."
"I knew I could," Jim said. "Now, about tomorrow. Give us at least thirty minutes before you try to leave the room..."
"Why should I wait?" Brian asked.
"Because, if he leaves any one behind as a guard you have to give them a chance to let their guard down and settle in for what they think will be an uneventful wait," Jim explained, adding. "If they bring you anything to eat tomorrow, don't; don't want to take any chance that they might make sure there guard duty is incident free by slipping you any more drugs. We'll leave some of the fruit."
"You really think they'd drug him again?" Blair questioned.
"I'm just saying we cover all bases... don't assume anything. This nut is so overconfident he may very well leave all three of his thugs behind."
"Brian can't take on all three of them..." Blair exclaimed.
"Hey, I may still be walking with a limp, but I'm still a cop there, little bro... I think I know how to avoid the bad guys when the need arises," he said with fake indignation. "Just exactly who was it that wears the 'blessed protector' pants in this family?"
Jim snorted. "Just wait 'til he starts going through your cupboards and monitoring your diet.
Blair just rolled his eyes. "You two will be the death of me yet. Somewhere in your vocabulary better be the words -- 'be careful'."
"Aye, aye, sir," Brian said giving a mock salute.
The rest of the night was spent in restless sleep.
Blair awoke with a start when he felt a hand rest heavily on his shoulder. "Huh, what... oh, it's you."
"Time to get up, Chief," Jim instructed.
Blair peered over at the dark window. "Hey, the psycho said sun up Jim. It's still o-dark thirty out there."
"We need to be ready."
"If I just let him shoot me here can I at least sleep another five minutes," Blair groaned.
"Funny, Chief. Now, get up," Jim said, throwing a set of fatigues across his face before moving to the other side of the bed and rousting Brian.
"Huh... morning all ready," Brain yawned, cracking open one eye to stare dazedly at Jim.
He just shook his head and gave a snort. "Well, that's one thing you two have in common. You are not early risers."
"Well, we don't exactly have the best incentive to get up now do we," Blair grumbled, throwing the clothes aside and sitting up. "How long?"
"An hour tops... it's five thirty now. I'm going to need a diversion to rig the door..." and with that Jim outlined his plan to the two brothers.
At six twenty Jim nodded to them and waved them into place. As the door slowly opened Blair jumped off the bed, angling himself so that whoever entered the room would have their back to the door. Brain meanwhile was thrashing in the bed, mumbling incoherently.
"What did you do to him? Look at him, he's been like this all night... don't you realize he was badly injured just a few months ago..." Blair exclaimed, waving an arm towards the bed.
The Hunter stared impassively at the restless man on the bed. "Must be a reaction to the drugs... nothing to worry about, he won't suffer much longer."
"He won't suffer if he gets a doctor," Blair pressed. "He needs a doctor now."
"I'm afraid that just won't be possible... for at least another forty-eight hours... if you win that is."
"Oh, we'll win all right, but forty-eight hours may be to long," Blair shot back.
"Such bravado! This should turn out to be a truly worthwhile hunt," the hunter crowed excitedly.
"Damn you. So you'd just leave him like this?" Blair said angrily. "Are you human at all?"
"I can be compassionate. You want that his suffering should end, I can arrange that," the hunter conceded, pulling a large caliber pistol from his holster.
"That's enough," Jim commanded, stepping between the gun and the bed. "You do anything to further injure Brian and this twisted game of yours will end right here."
"So glad we've come to an understanding," the hunter said, re-holstering the weapon.
"Let's just do this," Jim ground out.
"So everything will work out?" Blair asked, looking at Jim expectantly.
"Everything will work itself out," Jim said with a knowing look.
"Okay." Blair went to the bed and pulled the blankets up over Brian's shoulders, bending down to whisper. "It will be all right, you're all set. We'll be back soon."
"So touching," the hunter mocked. "Let's go."
Brain waited a whole sixty-second count before he cracked open an eye and scanned the room... it was empty and he was alone. He slowly pushed himself up, throwing the blankets aside. Quickly he made his way to the window to see Jim and Blair getting into the back of a jeep, the Hunter and one of his thugs climbed into the front.
"Okay, that leaves two for me, then," he muttered to himself as he turned from the window.
He noticed a piece of paper in the fruit bowl that wasn't there earlier and went to retrieve it. In Jim's crisp print he read: EAT. FIND PHONE. He just shook his head and picked up an apple, discovering Jim's 9mm at the bottom of the bowl.
"Great! You're out there with a psychopath and I'm the one with the gun," Brian muttered angrily, looking towards the window. "You better live through this Ellison, so I can kick your ass when it's over."
The jeep came to a rolling stop after only twenty minutes and the hunter climbed out of the vehicle, motioning for Jim and Blair to do the same.
"The rules are simple -- you are the prey and I the predator. You will have a one hour head start."
"That's it?" Blair asked.
"There should be more?" the Hunter asked. "And remember, I expect a good hunt, it's not just your lives you're playing with."
With his last statement the Hunter made a sweeping motion with his hand back towards the house.
Blair was about to say something when Jim stepped forward. "Come on, Chief, let's go."
Barely winded, Jim slowed down his jog to a quick trot after about ten minutes, allowing a slower Blair to catch up.
"Ah... man. How, how... are we... going to pull... this off, Jim?" Blair complained, doubled over against a rock trying to get his breathing under control.
Scanning the area Jim answered. "We pace ourselves, make our friend do all the work."
"I'm down with that, man," Blair said, straightening. "So what are we going to do?"
"You're going to stay put -- I'm going to go lay out some false trails, then we're going to find a place to lay low for awhile and buy ourselves some time."
"Uh, Jim, I know I'm not much of a hunter, but won't this nut expect that... the false trails?"
"Probably. But he won't know which is which until he takes the time to check them out, and I don't plan on making it easy. He wants to hunt, he can damn well chase his own tail for awhile."
"Good luck man," Blair said as he slid in between some large rocks and underbrush Jim had indicated.
It wasn't one second past the thirty minutes that Jim instructed him to wait that Brian wasn't slowly opening the door to the bedroom and carefully peering into the hallway. He counted four doors besides the one that lead to his 'room'.
He stood quietly for quiet some time trying to determine the location of his two 'guards'. Hearing nothing on his floor he crept to the door directly across from his, the door proved to be unlocked and opened easily to reveal another, smaller bedroom. His quick search of the other rooms revealed two more bedrooms and a bathroom... none having a phone.
"Damn," he cursed quietly, looking at the stairs. He knew between the light-headedness he was feeling due to the drugs his kidnappers had given him and his not quite healed injuries the stairs would be difficult to maneuver, especially without the support of his cane. "Well, no time like the present."
Once at the banister he carefully peered over to the floor below, trying to again determine where his guards were stationed. He heard faint murmurings below him but couldn't pinpoint the location. Slowly, holding the railing with two hands and two footing each step he began his descent of the staircase; giving a quiet sigh of relief when he made it to the bottom without incident.
The murmurings were louder now and more constant, like a TV or radio, and coming from behind a closed door near the front of the house. "Okay, bad guys in the front of the house, so I'll go to the back of the house," he muttered.
Brain limped to the room nearest him, another small bedroom, and again no phone. He then found a bathroom, continuing on he walked through the large formal dining room and into the kitchen, giving an angry growl when he again came up empty.
"Does this bastard not talk to anyone!" Brian muttered angrily to himself.
He stiffened in surprise when a sneering voice cut off his muttering. "Looking for something... cop?"
Turning slowly, Brian found himself facing a very large man with a very large gun. Knowing he wasn't in a position to take the man on directly he opted for a bit of his little brother's BS. "Thought I'd have a snack while I wait."
"Snack, huh," the man said with a wave of his gun. "Weren't you just on your deathbed?"
"Quick recovery," Brian shot back evenly.
"Such a shame to waste all that effort since I'll be putting a bullet in you anyway."
"The game just started, don't sell Blair and Jim short. It's your boss who's going to come out the loser this time. You give it up now and maybe you wont get charged with four counts of felony murder..."
"Oh, yeah, right... I'm just going to march right into the police station and take the fifty to life I'd get for what, four counts of conspiracy to murder and kidnapping a cop -- twice," the felon mocked. "I think I'll stick with a sure thing. Once he's done with the cop and the hippie we're out of here."
"Life is only if you're lucky, and Ellison and Sandburg live... you're looking at the chair for this, man. Four counts of premeditated murder and kidnapping and that's before we add killing two cops and a police observer," Brian pressed.
"Let's go," the man ordered, waving the gun.
Brian slowly walked towards the man, who stepped back to allow him to pass out of the kitchen and into the hallway. After only several steps Brain appeared to stumble. With and impatient growl the felon reached down to pull the detective off the floor only to come face to barrel with the 9mm Brian had retrieved from his waist band.
"Back it up slowly and drop you weapon or I'll put a bullet in you right now," Brain ordered quietly, pulling himself off the floor with the help of a nearby table.
"You shot me and you'll have Craig on your ass," the felon sneered, nodding up the hallway to the closed door.
"I can drop him before he gets out the door," Brian replied. "Now move."
The felon laid his gun on the floor and took a few steps backwards, raising his hands in the process. "So what now, cop? You plan on holding that gun on me for the next two days?"
"No. I plan on getting back up here and hauling your sorry ass off to jail," Brian shot back. "Where's the phone."
"Like I'm gonna tell you anything. Find it yourself," the man sneered.
Brain cocked the gun. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Your choice."
"You wouldn't... I'm not armed," the man shot back.
"Try me. That's my brother out there your boss is 'hunting'... no one would question a kidnapped cop trying to free himself and rescue another officer and a civilian," Brain said evenly, pointing the gun at the other man's head. "So, I'll ask one more time... where's the phone?"
The felon glared at him for a moment before grudgingly answering. "The den. The phone is in the den."
Waving the gun to indicate the other man should walk ahead of him he ordered. "Move. And don't try anything stupid."
The man led Brain to a large set of double doors near the front of the house. "Open them," he ordered.
Brain could barely contain his relief at seeing a telephone sitting on the desk. He waved the man to the couch. "Sit... in the middle. Keep your hands where I can see them."
Without lowering the gun or taking his eyes off his prisoner Brian picked up the receiver, giving a quick sigh of relief when he heard the dial tone. He put the receiver on the desk and dialed dispatch, who then immediately put him through to Simon.
"Rafe! Are you all right detective? Where the hell are you... and where is Ellison and Sandburg?" the captain yelled out his questions over an engine like roar in the background.
"I'm fine captain. But what's that noise," Brain asked.
"I'm currently on a helicopter... looking for you, Blair and Jim. We only got a partial fix on your location last night and had to go back over the records. I hope to hell we're heading in the right direction."
"I should be able to keep this line open long enough for you to get a positive fix on this location... I know we're close to the Canadian border and that this nut owns a thousand acre tract."
"Sounds about right. Hold up a minute," Simon said.
Brain could barely make out his captain talking to someone else. "Captain?"
"Just getting the trace started... we need forty-five seconds. So what the hell happened? Where's Ellison and Sandburg?"
"The sick bastard used me to lure them to the park... he wants, hell, he is out there right now... hunting them!" Brain exploded grimly.
"Damn!" Simon cursed.
"Any idea your ETA? Blair and Jim have been gone close to an hour and I've got two more at the house to contend with," Brain asked.
"Wait, we've got the trace. We are heading in the right direction, ETA about twelve minutes... can you hold out that long?"
"Don't worry about me. Find Blair and Jim, they're the ones out there with that lunatic."
"Keep this line open detective... out."
Brian laid the receiver on the desk, looking pointedly at his prisoner. "You lose."
"It ain't over yet, cop," the man shot back.
The two men looked towards the closed door when they heard movement in the hallway and a voice call out. "Hey, Pratt, where the hell are you, man? Where the hell's that beer? You better not be in there drinking all of it."
"Sandburg," a voice hissed. "Sandburg, where the hell are you?"
"I'm right here, Jim. Trying to become one with this boulder here, man," Blair said, wiggling out of his hiding place. "What took you so long, man? I was starting to get worried."
"Wanted to make sure our friend was kept busy chasing his tail for awhile, and I was looking for a good place to lay low for awhile," Jim explained, adding. "Just over the next hill, there's a small waterfall and some deep crevices."
"Lead the way, man," Blair said.
After only a moment Jim held up his hand to halt Blair, his eyes going to the sky and his head cocked in that familiar sentinel stance. "What Jim? Do you hear something?"
"A helicopter. I hear a helicopter," Jim stated. "Maybe six minutes away. Change of plans, Chief, we head for the top of the waterfall and hope to hell it's the cavalry."
"Jim, wait, maybe we should head back towards the house. When this nut hears that chopper he might decide to cut his loses and run. Brain will be way outnumbered," Blair reasoned. "Try your cell, see if you can raise Simon."
Pulling it out of his pocket Jim growled. "Still out of service. We're to far into the hills for it to get any tower reception. We go the waterfall, there is no way we can get back to the house on foot before this nut can drive back in the jeep."
Two minutes later the sound of the helicopter filled the valley. The hunter looked towards the sky absently, intending to ignore the noisy interruption to his game, but quickly gave a second look when he noticed the choppers continued presence over his property as it began a low flying search pattern.
"I'll be damned. They might just have found my playground after all," he mused aloud. "And I was so looking forward to this hunt. No matter, one must preserver so that we may live to fight another day. Lets get back to the house. I have to keep my promise."
The two men quickly backtracked to the jeep and headed for the house.
The sound of the chopper distracted the men in the house, giving the felon the chance he had been waiting for. In an instant he was rolling from the couch, grabbing and throwing a heavy and well-aimed ashtray at the distracted detective, at the same time yelling for his partner. The heavy ashtray hit Brian hard, knocking him off balance, the gun falling from his hand.
Although the situation was again reversed, Brian was determined not to give up. "You hear that. That chopper is backup. Give it up, this is the end of the line."
"Not from where I stand. I'm the one with the gun, and your back up ain't here yet," Pratt said, giving a quick glance to the door when it opened and Craig walked in, giving the scene a surprised look."
"What the hell... what's going on out there and why is he down here?"
"Seems he wasn't as sick as we thought. That chopper might be more cops," Pratt said.
"Hell, let's get out of here man."
"Not without my money I ain't. We wait for the boss, then we split."
"But if that's the cops coming..." Craig began.
"We got one of there own here, between us and them."
Jim and Blair crouched down against the wind of the rotors as the 'copter set down in the clearing next to them. They ran to the open door and crawled into the chopper to be meet by the relieved faces of Simon and Henri.
"You guys all right?" Simon asked, looking them both over.
"We're fine Simon," Jim answered over the roar of the engine. "We need to get to the house now, Simon, this bastard is going to try to cut his loses and run..."
"Brian?" Simon asked with a raised eyebrow. Jim just nodded grimly.
Simon tapped the pilot on the shoulder and indicated they were ready to go up and pointed in the direction they needed to go.
Five minutes later they all spotted the jeep, less than two hundred yards from the house.
"Simon, we've got to stop them. If he gets to the house before us he'll kill Brian," Blair yelled.
They watched grimly as the jeep skidded to a halt near the front of the house, and the front door swung open. Pratt began running towards the jeep, pushing Brian in front of him, Craig followed close behind.
The men in the jeep, as well as Pratt, began to fire on the chopper. The pilot pulled up out of range, giving the felons a chance to climb into the jeep, taking Brian with them.
"It's over. Give it up," Brian demanded as he watched the chopper come back down to hover in front of the idling jeep, its side doors sliding open to reveal Simon, Henri and Jim taking aim at the felons.
"Give up? Why in the world would I give up? As long as I have you I can still salvage something out of my game," the hunter said, a crazed gleam coming to his eyes as he undid the latches of the cloth topper of the jeep.
Inside the chopper the detectives watched as the cloth top flipped back and the hunter grabbed the front window and hoisted himself to a semi standing position. "I know you can hear me sentinel, not very sporting of you to spoil my game. Now you will have to pay the price."
Jim grimaced and they all watched in horror as the hunter turned and rested the end of the rifle barrel against Brain's chest.
A primal fury rose up in the Sentinel, and in less time than it takes to blink he aimed and pulled the trigger... the bullet finding its target in the middle of the hunter's chest.
Momentary surprise registered on the hunter's face as he looked down and saw the growing patch of crimson spreading across his shirt, before slumping dead across the windshield of the jeep.
Brain closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the seat, shaking from his near miss; while the other three men, shook up by the clean hit on there boss, threw there guns to the ground and were piling out of the jeep in surrender.
The chopper had barely set down before Jim, Simon and Henri were on the suspects, while Blair ran to the jeep, concerned that his brother had not made any attempt to move. "Brian! Brian, are you all right? Answer me damn it!"
Brian let out a breath and looked up into the worried face of his little brother. "I'm fine... I think. God, that was too close."
Jim had cuffed his suspect and was now at the jeep also, his senses scanning his guide's brother for injuries. Besides an accelerated heart beat, he seemed free from injury. "Brian?"
"I'm fine Jim, thanks. That was one hell of a shot," Brian said with a weak grin.
"Well, it was one hell of a target," Jim smiled back. "Come on, let's get you out of here."
Jim and Blair helped Brian out of the van... and escorted him towards a waiting ambulance that had pulled in behind the squad cars called in for back up to the aerial chase.
"Whoa, guys, what's this about?" Brian said, seeing the ambulance.
"You need to get checked out..." Blair said.
"I'm fine guys, really," Brian pleaded.
"Don't worry detective, you won't be alone," Simon said, coming up to the three men.
"He won't?" Blair questioned.
"You and Ellison will be going with him," Simon said with a smile.
"But we're fine..." Jim started to protest.
"Up, now detective. All three of you are going to get checked out," Simon ordered, pointing into the back of the ambulance.
"But..." Jim again protested.
"Ah, now," Simon said again, holding up a staying hand. "I want a professional opinion that my detectives are all right... and my observer," Simon added when he saw Blair try to backpedal away.
Grumbling loudly all three men climbed into the back of the ambulance and plopped down on the gurney, turning in unison to give their captain a petulant glare.
For his part Simon just shook his head with a quiet chuckle. "Welcome back gentleman. Welcome back."
If anything is not procedurally correct, and I know my numbers in the middle of the story are probably way off, give it over to creative license and move on!!!! Don't email and nitpick!!!!
This fact presented in the story is taken from one of those forensic file type TV shows. It was either from TLC or A&E