New Arrivals
Author-Alicia
Titles

Vendetta
by Alicia

Summary: Someone's out to destroy Rafe's life and the evidence points to Jim. Major spoilers but to say more would give it away!

Disclaimer: I do not own the charcters of TS. If I did I'd take much better care of them!!! They are owned by Pet Fly and Paramount.

PRESENT

After just witnessing a near physical altercation between two of his detectives, Simon Banks, Captain of Major Crimes, decided it was time to take charge and make it an official investigation.

Each detective was being restrained by their respective partners, as two men glared coldly at the other. Joel was standing in between the two men, adding additional interference, "Rafe. Ellison. Sandburg. My office, now," came the familiar bellow.

When his detectives and his observer were seated in his office, he jumped right in. "It's obvious something is going on here and we need to find out what it is before you two go crazy or kill each other."

"Its appears some one is out to drive Rafe crazy, Captain; and put all the blame on Jim. The question is why? Is this person after Rafe or Jim or both," Sandburg started the conversation, when the two detectives seemed reluctant to begin.

"And is this a new psycho or an old one," Simon questioned.

"Well, these 'pranks' possibly indicate revenge so maybe we should concentrate on 'old psycho's' first," Blair mused aloud.

" 'Pranks'. You call what I've been going through 'pranks'," Rafe burst out in anger, jumping from his chair to pace the confines of the office. "It's got to stop. I go home and don't know what I'm gonna find waiting for me there, or whether my car is going to start or explode or just plain not be there."

"Detective." Simon's voice said sharply, stopping Rafe's agitated pacing.

"I'm sorry, captain. With the hang up calls, I'm not getting any sleep, either," Rafe said with a heavy sigh, glaring at the senior detective, before slumping back down into the seat he previously occupied.

Jim frowned. "When did those start?"

"As if you didn't know," Rafe shot back icily.

"No, I don't know," Jim returned angrily.

"Night before last. I'm keeping a log and the answering machine tape of all the hang ups, but the caller ID pretty much cinches it," Rafe reported, pointedly looking at the senior detective. "Not a smart move leaving such a trail of evidence behind."

"What about caller ID," Blair questioned.

"You're not going to like the answer," Rafe said reluctantly. "It was traced to a cell phone, your cell phone, Jim."

"Mine?"

"Let's go over this again. Just what exactly has been going on here," Simon asked.

----------------------------

SIX DAYS EARLIER

Rafe saw the lights flashing in his rearview mirror. "Maybe I've got a busted light or something," he thought aloud as he pulled over into an empty parking lot.

As the black and white pulled in behind him he opened his door to get out when a shout stopped him. "Hold it right there. Get out of the car slowly and keep your hands where we can see them."

The detective exited his car as he was ordered, confused by the officer's actions. "What seems to be the problem here?"

One officer left the car and came cautiously towards him while the other stayed in place, gun aimed with deadly accuracy at his heart. "Turn around. Hands on your head."

"What? I don't know what you think you're doing. I'm a cop fellows, a detective in Major Crimes." Rafe protested, standing his ground.

"Yea, right. Driving a cop's stolen car with the little flashing light don't make you a cop," the officer growled.

"Stolen? My car was reported stolen? By who?"

"I said turn around. Assume the position," the officer ordered.

"Look. No sudden moves here," Rafe said, slowly lowering his arms to reach in his jacket pocket. "Let me get out my ID, my badge—prove who I am."

The officer nearest him raised his gun and nodded his consent to Rafe's request. When he had pulled out his ID he slowly reached it out to the officer.

The officer looked closely at the ID and badge, then lowered his gun. Motioning for his partner to do the same. "Sorry Detective Rafe. We got a report that this car was stolen about three hours ago."

"Who filed the report," Rafe asked taking back his wallet.

"Whose name is on that stolen car report?" The officer called back to his partner.

Looking at the clipboard the second cop answered. "Name on the report is an Ellison…"

"Ellison. Detective Jim Ellison. That can't be right." Rafe shook his head in disbelief.

"That's what it says detective," the officer at the car said with a shrug. "We'll cancel the APB on the car. Again, sorry about all this."

"No harm done guys," he said, waving as the officers pulled away.

---------------------------------

PRESENT

"And that was the first incident," Simon asked. "Why don't I remember hearing about it before now?"

"I honestly thought it was a mistake," Rafe said, than added quietly, "or a joke."

"A joke! You think I'd do something like that," Jim raged. "You could have been killed."

Rafe frowned. "Look, I'm new to this department. I thought maybe it was an initiation of sorts or something; or maybe the guys from patrol yanking my chain. I didn't want to cause any problems."

With a deep sigh Simon leaned back in his chair. "So, what else is there to this?"

Taking a deep breath, Rafe continued his tale of harassment. "Two days after the car incident; four days ago. I went home to a cold, dark apartment. My utilities had been shut off, that's why I was on the phone so much of that day and was gone so long at lunch. I didn't think I'd ever get it sorted out. None of the companies had my last 3 payments on record, lucky thing I keep receipts and cancelled checks."

"And the incident today," Simon prodded.

Seeing how draining this ordeal was for his friend Blair took up the tale. "His bank account was closed out and emptied and the money re-deposited in Jim's account."

"We will have that particular problem worked out after work. We have an appointment with the bank manager this afternoon to find out why they allowed this kind of transaction with no authorization, it was done via web banking. Anyone with access to a computer and our bank numbers could have done it," Jim explained.

Leaning forward Simon summarized. "So we've got a false police report on a stolen car. We've got two days of hang up calls, shut off utilities and an emptied bank account."

"Sums it up sir," Rafe said dully. "Why is someone trying to drive me totally insane?"

"Rafe, three out of four of these incidents can be tied, though somewhat circumstantially, to Detective Ellison here.. Do you believe he is guilty," Simon asked the young detective. "Tell the truth son."

"I don't see what he'd have to gain from anything like this," Rafe said. Turning to look at Jim,. "You don't really strike me as the 'hazing' type either."

"I'm not. And I swear to you Rafe that I am not doing these things to you." Jim said earnestly.

"Theories then," Simon put on the table.

"You've been quiet there chief. I can tell by the look on your face that you're rolling an idea around in that head of yours, so what is it?"

"Can the stolen car reports be done by computer?" Blair asked distractedly.

"It's all typed up in the system and the reports are run off from that," Simon answered.

"I think we need to focus on cases that Jim and Rafe have both worked on that had anything to do with computers, computer crime, maybe fraud," Blair said.

"It sounds like a good place to start, but what if our psycho hired someone to do these things? If that's the case we may never pin this down." Rafe's voice held defeat.

"Let's get over one obstacle at a time here Rafe," Jim said. "We will get to the bottom of this and get both our lives back."

Rafe looked over at the senior detective and gave a wry grin. "Thanks Jim. And I'm really sorry I came on so strong before."

"No apology needed. I'd be just as angry and confused as your are," Jim said, reaching over to grasp his friend's shoulder.

"We should approach this from the other side, too. Besides trying to prove who's responsible, shouldn't we also be trying to prove Jim isn't. Why can't we prove the calls didn't come from Jim's cell phone; numbers are stolen and cloned all the time. Can we also find out when the stolen car report was filed, and where Jim was at the time. See if the bank can trace backwards through the account transactions to its source," Blair explained in one long breath.

"I'll get Serena on it immediately. If anyone can figure it out her team can." Simon said reaching for his phone. "Jim, drop your phone down in forensics."

Simon quickly filled in his forensics chief and hung up the phone, before directing his men, "Okay gentlemen, let's get to it. Pull in Henri and Joel to help you go over those old case files. We need to get a hang on this before this psycho decides to up the ante,"

For the rest of the day the five men poured over old case files, looking for anything connecting Jim and Rafe to an old perp. Reporting to Simon at the end of the day, Jim handed his Captain the list they had compiled.

"We've found perp's in six cases, so far, that have the direct skill or access to the skills to have pulled this off."

Simon scanned down the list. "What about Rachins', he's not on your list."

"According to his file he's still locked up. And besides, Rafe wasn't in on that case," Jim reported.

"It's getting late," Brown said, pointedly looking at his partner, "so tomorrow we're gonna start running down these names."

"We can't stop now," Rafe complained bitterly. "This is the first solid thing we've had to work with."

"Detective. Brian. You're not going to do yourself or anybody else any good running yourself into the ground. You're all ready exhausted," Simon said gently to his youngest detective. "And since you're not getting any rest at your place I think it would be best if you stayed someplace else, at least for tonight."

"Good idea cap," Brown said, cutting off Brian's attempt at protest. "He'll stay with me tonight."

"It's settled then," said Simon rising from his seat and grabbing his jacket. "I want all of you to go home, get some rest. I want everyone ready to tackle this first thing in the morning."

The men exchanged good nights and made their way to their cars. "What's that you got there chief," Jim asked sliding into the truck beside Blair.

"There were about 20 files we hadn't got to yet. Thought I'd finish going over them tonight so we could have a complete list of names to run down tomorrow."

"What part of go home and rest did the captain not make clear, Sandburg. I know it's rough but this case is not going to be solved over night. This person is probably good at covering his tracks and his computer skills just make it that much tougher."

"Computer skills." Blair furrowed his brow in concentration, suddenly he began flipping through the remaining files. "Who do we know, besides Rachin's, with the kind of computer skills it would take to hack into the DMV or the utility companies or bank records. Who do we know that really had it out for you."

Jim glanced over at his excited partner who was waving a file around the cab of the truck. "Freeman." Blair said triumphantly.

"Chief, that nut case is in Conover—indefinitely. And he's going straight to jail when his visit to the funny farm is over," Jim reminded his guide.

Opening the file in his hand Blair said, "Not according to his file. Listen to this…'after 9 months of in house therapy this patient is exhibiting strong progress in his anger management and interpersonal skills. He has made some progress in controlling his need to project blame for his failures onto other people. I think with his continual therapy and willingness to admit to his problems he is a good candidate for a half way house facility and further rehabilitation efforts. I've set a hearing for two weeks hence to finalize the change over, in the meantime the patient will be given limited access to the outside to evaluate the effectiveness of his therapy.' "

"Damb," Jim cursed. "They let that nut case out, after everything he did."

They were both silent for several moments, mulling over this new bit of information.

"Why in the world would he go after Rafe," Jim questioned aloud. "Rafe had nothing to do with Freeman and wasn't really in on the high rise robbery case until the very end, at the bust."

"I think you might just have answered your own question," Blair mused, crinkling his forehead in concentration and chewing on his lip. "We know Freeman's wound kinda tight, and his doctors states he has problems accepting responsibility for his failures; instead projecting them onto other people…."

Jim interrupted. "That still doesn't explain him going after Rafe."

"I think it does. Think about this…Freeman was a loose cannon, his run in with you pushed him over the edge, thus making you the focus of all his problems, all that was wrong in his life at the time. He tried several times to eliminate 'his' problem…"

"That being me," Jim interjected.

"He goes for broke, actually calling the thieves and ratting you out to them, then being nearby to see you 'taken out'. Only that doesn't happen…."

Picking up on Blair's train of thought Jim finishes the theory. "It doesn't happen cause we managed to take down the crooks anyway. I'm still lost here chief. Why Rafe?"

"While you were busy taking down ( ), Rafe came up and kept Melanie from putting a few bullets in you, man." Blair was nearly vibrating in his seat,. "Not a scene I ever want to repeat, man."

"So now you're saying that Freeman is transferring this 'problem'; that I wasn't taken down at that bust, and he's blaming Rafe for it?" Jim said with a shake of his head, "That's way out there Blair, even for Freeman."

"It's just a theory, man." Blair said sinking back in the cab seat suddenly feeling very defeated.

Jim eyed his guide for a moment. "Chief. Blair. It's a good, solid theory; and we will check into it. Just like we're going to check into any and every lead we get on this."

Blair cast tired eyes at his sentinel and gave a grin.

---------------------------------

The next morning in Simon's office, "We finished compiling a list of suspects. But we may not have to look any farther than the name at the top of the list." Jim handed Simon the revised list.

"Dan Freeman? The nut case that was stalking you some months back?" Simon questioned as he looked over the list Jim handed him. "Thought he was committed to Conover—indefinitely?"

"Well, apparently his doctors don't think he's a menace to society anymore…" Jim said wryly.

"According to his file his doctor recommended a half way house about two weeks ago for our stalker." Blair filled in the group.

"And we weren't informed of this—not only are you the victim but you were also the cop on the case,' Simon commented angrily. "Did they really think they could hold a competency hearing without witness testimony, and someone out there seems to have forgotten the criminal charges pending?"

"According to the doctor's report he was hoping to get his patient a suspended sentence and probation," Blair said.

Rafe held out his hand for the report and asked, "Why is your stalker after me?"

"My theory is that all the anger he was directing at Jim he transferred to you when you kept Melanie from killing him at the high rise bust," Blair explained.

"Okay, I can buy that if he's as nutty as you say. But what is he trying to do here. When he went after Jim he didn't try to pin it on anybody else," Brown questioned.

"He sees both Jim and Brian as problems in his life, possibly representing his failures. So now he's antagonizing both of them, trying to turn them on each other. Even at his bravest he didn't actually try to kill Jim himself. My guess—he's trying to take out both of them…" Blair explained his theory.

"What? You mean he's trying to get us to kill each other?" Jim was startled by this new theory. "How could he even think two cops would kill each other?"

"Well Jim, Freeman did experience your temper up close and personal like," Blair commented. "Even if you didn't uh, kill Rafe, assault of a fellow officer would get you a suspension. And, there is only so much a person can take before they snap," His eyes going back and forth between Jim and Brian.

"Ah, like yesterday when I was ready to do some assaulting of my own," Brian said sheepishly, looking over at Jim.

"Yea, something like that. He might not necessarily be after your blood—maybe he's after your jobs or your reputations," Blair pointed out. "That's what he lost."

"Let's talk to his doctor's and the personnel at the halfway house. I want some solid evidence before we pick this guy up—this is going strictly by the book gentlemen," Simon said sternly, pointedly giving Jim and Brian his best look. "If it is Freeman, I do not want this guy slipping through the cracks on this one."

"Very good sir," Jim said rising form his seat. "Let's go chief."

Once out in the bullpen Jim asked Rafe, "You want the hospital or the halfway house?"

"Should either of you guys be showing up at the halfway house? If Freeman is there hard to tell what he might do," Joel questioned.

"Maybe it's time we go on the offensive. He's covering his tracks this time, all this computer stuff is hard to track and to prove….right Sandburg." Jim said, rubbing his jaw in concentration.

"If you're good enough it could be impossible to track his computer movements," Blair agreed. "Where are you going with this?"

"We can't get a search warrant without evidence, evidence that is going to be hard to get. So let's force Freeman to show his hand."

"And your plan to accomplish this would be?" Rafe said with no small amount of curiosity.

"By having you and I show up at the half way house…" Jim answered. "Put him on the defensive. If he freaks on us we have our warrant for probable cause, if he's innocent then he should have nothing to hide."

"Jim, whether he's guilty or not just your presence could set him off," Blair pointed out.

"Then we have the proof we need to keep him locked up. Either way we win and get him off the streets," Jim said with a shrug.

"Sounds like a plan to me," Rafe agreed, slipping into his jacket.

"I don't know about this man. Listen to yourselves. You sound more like vigilantes than cops. Seems you're setting him up, he's dambed if he does and dambed if he doesn't…"

"Why are you defending this guy chief?" Jim railed at Blair.

"I'm not, Jim. I just want to make sure we're after the right thing here—justice."

Joel decided it was a good time to break into the 'discussion' before it escalated onto a full blown argument and got them all thrown off the case. "We'll save the half way house for last. We'll check into all of our suspects and talk to Freeman's doctor at Conover. I'll talk to Simon about putting a tail on Freeman, see if it can get some evidence for a warrant."

The next several minutes were spent in a rather tense 'discussion' as to who would follow what lead. Again the voice of reason (and rank) prevailed as Captain Taggert firmly laid out the assignments for the day. Himself and Blair would visit Conover and make discreet inquiries at the half way house while Jim, Rafe, Dils and Brown would check out the other names on the suspect list.

"We meet back here this evening. We'll see what everyone has then," Joel ordered. "By the book gentlemen, by the book."

-------------------------------

"Thank you for taking the time to see us, Dr. Tyler," Captain Taggert said as he and Blair took seats in front of the doctor's desk.

"Well, we house some very violent and some criminal cases here. Always want to know what the police have," Dr. Tyler answered taking his seat behind his desk. "So, Captain, what is it I can do for you today?"

"It's about one of your patients, a Dan Freeman." Joel started.

"You realize I can't give specifics on any of our patients here," the doctor interrupted.

"We really just need to know how he got authorization for placement in a halfway house, when his records clearly indicated otherwise," Joel asked.

"I don't see how a patient's treatment regime would be of concern to the police?"

"It does when it is directly related to an ongoing case," Joel replied.

"A police case?" Dr. Tyler raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Dr. Tyler do you know why Dan Freeman was committed to this institution," Blair asked.

"Besides the emotional problems that got him here, no. I try not to prejudice myself against my patients."

"Perhaps you should start reading your patients reports a little more closely, doctor," Joel said sternly. "If Freeman is well enough for a half way house he's well enough to stand trial."

"Stand trial!" Dr. Tyler exclaimed. "For what?"

"Freeman stalked and harassed a cop. He interfered in a police investigation and very nearly got that cop killed," Blair said. "Where is your sense of responsibility, Doctor? How can you possibly treat the whole patient without knowing their full case history."

"Excuse me, but we give the highest standard of care at this facility. We focus on the here and now, we try to give our patients the care they need to function back out in society." Dr. Tyler said defensively, leaning forward in his chair. "We cannot hold past actions against them indefinitely so I personally don't even dwell on them. He was showing progress in his treatment, as his doctor it was, is, my responsibility to give my patient every chance at rehabilitation."

"But to put him back out in society, with what amounts to little or no supervision, how does that help you patient? How can you even monitor the success of his treatment? And what about your responsibility for the damage they might do when you let these people out without being sure their therapy is going to hold," Blair questioned the doctor with growing agitation. "I'm all for patients rights and all, doc, but you gotta look at the whole picture here."

"Those people? So you're saying that because there is a chance, no matter how remote, that a patient may become a repeat offender we should just hold them indefinitely?" Dr. Tyler shot back snidely. "It doesn't work that way. We can't hold them on a maybe."

"It might interest you to know, Dr. Tyler that shortly after Freeman's released to the half way house, the harassment—matching your patients M.O., I will also point out—began again," Joel said sternly. "And this time there are two officers involved."

"Mr. Freeman has had a rough time in the past, I'll admit. But he has been cooperative and willing in his treatments and he is a very intelligent and capable man, who, I believe, deserves a chance." Dr. Tyler countered harshly. "Do you have proof that this harassment came from my patient?"

"Not directly; only his profile, which makes him the most likely suspect at this time. His extensive computer skills and his past with the said detectives." Joel sighed.

"I'm sure as police officers you have made many enemies in the course of your work. Until you bring me direct proof that my patient is an actual threat to your detectives or to the community in general my decision concerning my patient's care stands. Good day, gentlemen." With that the doctor pulled a file from his basket and began working.

Rising from their seats, Joel and Blair prepared to leave, "We will be at his hearing, and whether or not he's guilty of this latest round of harassment he is still looking at jail time for his other crimes," Blair said.

"I guess we'll just have to wait for the judges ruling on that won't we." Doctor Tyler said, looking up from the file on his desk. " Be warned gentlemen; I won't allow your prejudicial and unsubstantiated claims interfere with my patients recovery."

------------------------------

"So what have we got," Simon asked his team as they assembled around the conference table.

"The six names we had all check out so far. Two of them are out with sentence served and have left town. One's back in the joint all ready for theft and the other three have solid alibis and witnesses," Brown reported.

"So that leaves this Freeman character then," Rafe said impatiently. "Let's go pick him up."

"And charge him using what evidence detective? Have you forgotten where all of our evidence points thus far," Simon said eyeing the young man sternly. "I meant it when I said by the book. This case can easily get turned around, on the both of you. We'll stake out his place for a day or two and see what we come up with. If he's spending all this time on a computer someone has to notice. We need something concrete to get a search warrant."

-----------------------------

"God, I hate this. Waiting around for the other shoe to drop," Rafe complained, squirming in the passenger seat of Brown's car. "No wonder Jim lost his cool with this guy before."

"We'll catch him. He's got to slip up sometime. When he does we'll be there." Brown tried to comfort his partner.

"Yea, but will Jim and I be sane enough to enjoy it," Rafe sighed.

"I think you can count on your partners to keep you sane 'til this is over," Brown said with a chuckle. "And on that note this partner recommends a hot shower and a late night snack before crashing head first into bed."

"Guess that means I'm playing house guest again tonight. I'm gonna need some things from my place, and I need to get the caller ID for Serena's team."

-------------------------------

"You're thinking again," Jim teased, glancing over at Blair. "Spit it out."

"Well, I've been going over the incidents, the pattern seems to be every two days. And it's been two days—if we go with the theory that it is Freeman, and knowing the man doesn't give up…" Blair said tensely, looking at Jim.

"He's due to strike again tonight," Jim finished the thought, pounding the steering wheel.

"Since he's not sure if he's getting the results he wants, namely you and Rafe dead or on suspension, he is likely to up the ante," Blair warned. "I'm getting kinda nervous here Jim. Freeman did, albeit indirectly, try to kill you…."

"..and now he's trying to frame me,' Jim said with a frown. "Hand me your phone chief. I'm going to have Simon check something out for me."

"Simon. Jim." The detective said. " Listen, I need you to check something for me real quick. Check my desk, bottom drawer, make sure my back up .38 is there. Yea…"

Jim waited a few moments for Simon to check for his gun, "Yea, Simon. It is, okay. No, just a theory we're mulling over. Yea, see you tomorrow. Wait a minute Simon." Jim looked over at his friend who was waving frantically, "What?"

"If it's there have Simon take it home with him or lock it up. That way we can be certain where it is should any question arise," Blair suggested.

"Simon, can you lock the gun up in your office for tonight. Yea, one less thing to worry about in this mess." Jim said then disconnected the phone. "Call Brown and Rafe, let them know to watch themselves tonight."

---------------------------

"Rafe," the detective said answering his cell. "Sandburg, what is it? And tonight makes it another two days…well, we're going by my place to pick up some things then heading over to Brown's place. What! He's serious isn't he. No, no we'll do it. Fine. I'll call you in an hour, bye."

"What was that about?" Brown asked glancing at his partner.

"Blair thinks since he's not getting what he wants that Freeman might up the ante and actually try to kill me and frame Ellison for it. He's got his gun with him and Simon has his back up locked up but there's still has a gun at the loft, they're going to check it out first thing," Brian explained to his partner.

"Well what else did 'daddy' Ellison want?" Brown asked quirking an eyebrow at his partner.

"He wants us to call and check in every hour or we have the other 'choice' of staying at the loft. Can you believe him!" Rafe just shook his head.

"Yes, I believe it." Brown said as he pulled into the parking lot of Brian's building. "Quick trip upstairs, I hear a sandwich calling my name."

"Geesh, my hero. I'm being stalked by some nut case and all you can think of is your stomach," Rafe teased.

"Hey, it takes a lot of energy to protect you two," Brown defended.

-------------------------------------

Jim raced up the stairs to the loft and took the stairs to his bedroom two at a time. "Damb, it's not here," he cursed coming back down the stairs.

"Can we be certain it is Freeman…what can we…," Blair was pacing, brow furrowed in thought, "that's it—scent, the cologne he wore. Do you smell the cologne, Jim?"

Jim opened up his sense of smell warily, grimacing against the memory of the overpowering scent. He filtered out the scents of his guide and the usual loft smells. "I do smell a scent I don't recognize but it's not that damb cologne. You gotta remember chief he's been in Conover for the last nine months, I don't think he got that expensive stuff there."

"Worth a try. Let's try sight then. Check you night stand for fingerprints," Blair directed his Sentinel. After a few moments of careful scrutiny the Sentinel shook his head.

Suddenly Jim jerked up his head and cocked his head to listen for a moment. "Damb," he cursed, racing down the stairs and to the balcony where he flung open the doors to look out. He saw the familiar tail -lights of his truck disappearing down the street. "Someone. Freeman. He's stealing my truck!"

"Why would he do that? Rafe! Jim. He's gonna really do it. He's going after Rafe," Blair exclaimed excitedly. "He's got you tied to the harassment. Now he's got your gun and your truck."

Jim went to the phone and dialed the precinct, "Chief, get a hold of Rafe on his cell. Warn him and Brown. Yea, Simon. Jim again. We got to the loft, my gun is gone and someone just stole my truck. It's a sure bet that it's Freeman, and that he's going for Rafe. Okay, yea, they should be en route to Brown's by now. Blair's trying now to get a hold of them …" Jim said as he looked over to Blair, who nodded and pointed to his own phone.

"Jim, we've got a problem. I can't get through on the cell, I tried twice," Blair reported.

"Then try Brian's apartment," Jim ordered watching as Blair dialed again.

When Blair shook his head a moment later Jim said into the phone, "Simon the cells are down and they've all ready left Brian's. See if they can be reached by radio. Yea, we're going to head out towards Brown's place. Good idea. See you there."

"Let's go chief. Simon's gonna raise them on the radio and put out an APB on the truck," Jim said heading towards the door.

-------------------------------

"Unit 67, respond." The radio crackled to life.

"What! What now, man, we're off duty here," Brown complained reaching for the mic.

"This is unit 67 responding."

"Brown, this is Simon. What's your 20." The captain's voice was tense.

"Simon? What's wrong…why are you calling over the radio?"

"The cells are down. Jim got home, his spare gun is missing and someone stole his truck. We think Freeman's heading your way," Simon responded. "I'm putting an APB out on the truck and Jim is heading your way, too."

"We'll keep an eye out. We're about 4 miles from my place…"Brown said.

"Keep heading in that direction. This might just be our chance to catch this psycho. Out"

"So, one way or another it ends tonight," Rafe said tightly.

"It's gonna end with Freeman back behind bars where he belongs partner,' Brown said grimly as he replaced the mic on its cradle. "Just focus on that."

The rest of the drive was made in strained silence. Fifteen minutes later Brown pulled into the driveway of his home. Both detectives scanned the area while still in the car.

"So far I don't see anything, no sign of Freeman or Jim's truck," Rafe said.

Brown reached for the mic. "This is unit 67. We've just pulled into the driveway and so far it's clear. No sign of our suspect or the truck."

"Brown, this is Jim. It only takes twenty-five minutes to get from my house to yours and it's been about twenty since the truck was taken," Jim's voice said over the speaker. "We're still about fifteen minutes away."

"Copy that. We're going to stay in contact via radio since the cells are down," Brown said. "We've got a better larger view of the streets from here than inside the house."

Two minutes later Brown and Rafe heard the screeching of tires at the north end of the street followed immediately by a visual. "It's him," Brown said tersely into the mic," we have visual on the suspect."

"I've got units on the way…ETA 3 minutes," Simon's voice came over the radio.

"I think we've got about three seconds," Brown shot back, then threw the mic on the seat and rolled from the car. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Rafe doing the same thing.

The partners took cover at the front of the car and watched as the blue and white truck came to a screeching halt across the street from Brown's house. The truck was pulled in between street lamps, making the cab of the truck dark and shadowy, impossible to get a clear view of the driver. They continued to watch as the window was lowered and Jim's voice floated out to them, "…when I get done with you it'll be you that can't prove anything."

"What! How?" Rafe's confused mutterings were cut off by gunfire coming from the truck.

"What the hell. Sounds like Jim," Rafe said lowering himself further behind the front of the car. "But he said the truck was stolen…" Further conversation was cut off as more gunfire erupted from the truck.

"That can't be Jim," Brown whispered. "Face it, if Jim wanted someone dead there are a lot less public ways to do it…." He then popped his head up and returned fire, quickly ducking back behind the car.

"I hear sirens," Rafe reported. "We've got to keep this son of a bitch here 'til back up gets here. This ends tonight!" Rafe went around to the passenger side of the car that was facing away from the truck and popped up in time to see the brake lights come on as the driver prepared to put the car into gear and flee. The sound of the sirens were grower louder, backup was just around the corner.

"It ends now Freeman, get out of the truck," Rafe yelled suddenly stepping out from behind the car, his weapon at the ready. Brown was, meanwhile, coming up around the driver's side of the car.

The car jerked forward several feet before stopping suddenly as squad cars appeared from either direction on the street.

Brown and Rafe were cautiously making there way to the truck. They again heard Jim's voice issue from the cab. "Give it up, we know who you are and why you're doing this. Get out of the truck, now." Rafe's called out loudly.

The partners stopped in the road when the door to the truck slowly swung open. "Nice and slow," Brown warned the suspect. Suddenly, everyone's attention became momentarily focused on a green Volvo squealing around the corner. Brown turned back to the suspect in time to see a weapon being raised.

"Brian, look out," Brown shouted the warning to his partner just as the gun suspect's gun fired, and was horrified to see his partner jerk backwards and fall to the pavement, he and the rest of the officers immediately returned fire as the Volvo came to a halt and Jim jumped from the vehicle.

"Freeman," Jim raged, racing towards his truck, followed by a few uniforms. Freeman was slumped against the truck, and although bleeding from several wounds, he was still conscious.

Freeman looked up balefully at the detective, gasping out, "How? It was flawless…why, what does it take to bring you down?"

"You god dambed son of a bitch," Jim raged reaching down to pull Freeman to his feet. "You got a problem with me you face me, not my friends, you got that punk."

"No, Jim. He's not worth it. We won." Both Jim and Freeman turned to see Brown supporting the wounded detective as they made their way to the truck. "One variable he couldn't control with all those computers—trust and friendship."

"Rafe! You're all right!" Jim exclaimed, then turned to the nearest uniform and handed off his prisoner.

"At this moment, all right is a relative term," the detective said with a pained chuckle, slumping into his partner. "I think I need to sit down here, guys."

Brown and Jim lowered the injured detective to the ground, as Blair made his way over to the group. "How is he?"

Brown cradled his partner's head in his lap while Jim assessed his injuries. "Looks like a clean shot, upper shoulder," Jim reported before calling over to the uniforms, "Get us an ambulance over here."

"On its way…ETA 6 minutes," An officer called.

Rafe smiled up at Jim, "It's over." He then grimaced in pain and added ruefully, "Next time how 'bout I be the one that gets framed."

His friends laughed lightly. "Is there some psycho in your closet I should be aware of there, GQ," Brown asked.

Jim's face became hard as he looked over at Freeman slumped in the back of a squad car. "I'm really sorry Rafe."

Rafe held up his good hand. "It's over. We won. Let's see it as a test of trust…and friendship. '

"You and Hairboy spend to much time together, you're startin' to sound like him," Brown commented.

"I think he sounds rather intelligent…"Blair said. "As the saying goes…'what doesn't kill us only serves to make us stronger…' "

"Here comes the ambulance," Jim said. "We'll get this tied up and see you at the hospital."

"Maybe I can pull a Sandburg or an Ellison and get discharged with a band-aid and an aspirin," Rafe joked.

""Fraid not their partner. You don't quite have that killer Ellison 'glare' or the 'puppy dog eyes."

"Well, they better have some cute nurses," Rafe shot back.

Brown just laughed and climbed into the back of the ambulance with his partner.

THE END