New Arrivals
Author-Alicia
Titles

Model's INC
by Alicia

Summary: There's more to being partners than having a Sentinel/Guide connection: and it's put to the test when the Feds 'pose' Rafe with a 'striking' undercover assignment.

Notes: Not beta'ed past spelling errors.

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.

"This organization is tied to drugs, prostitution, money laundering, pornography and the latest seems to be white slavery…the twist is that only young men are turning up missing," Federal Agent Martin reported as he laid out several photos of the 'alleged' preps. "We've had this organization tagged and under surveillance for nine months—now, they're setting up shop here in Cascade…"

"As what?" Captain Simon Banks questioned as he perused the file.

" 'Model's, Inc.', it's their 'legit' front company. They put out casting calls for modeling assignments and, it appears, pick their marks from what shows up. Going back over the records for the last three years, 8 men have 'disappeared' or gotten overseas assignments,

never to be heard from again; all after taking assignments with the agency. Since the agency spans the country it was only recently that this came to light."

"We've all ready got agents in place to deal with the drugs and money laundering, we were hoping for some interagency coop here…put one of your men on the inside. None of the agents we have on this case quite fit the profile. We've tried in the last three cities to get an agent on the inside, no dice," answered the other agent, Mark Stone.

"Interagency cooperation," Simon mused, arching an eyebrow at the two agents. "We've had a taste of your agencies idea of 'cooperation'."

"Listen, we'll turn over that part of the case to a team of your choosing…we'll focus on the drugs, your group can focus on the disappearances. Eight men in three years is a lot of missing persons to be tied to one agency, And now they're in your city, Captain," Agent Martin prodded. "I'm not looking for glory hounds here…I want to take this organization down; all of it! Now do we have your cooperation or not?"

"Which detective did you have in mind?" Simon sighed and frowned as he chewed on his unlit cigar.

"These are photos of the missing men, you tell me if you've got a man that fits the profile," Martin said, laying out more pictures on the conference table. Simon got up and came around his desk to peer at the photos… all were young men between 18 and 32, short hair, and charming features that would remind you of the boy next door.

"Do you have a detective that fits the profile?" Agent Stone said as more of a statement than a question.

Simon looked at Stone with a condescending smile, "I'll see what I can do." Then he went to his door and called out, " Rafe. Brown. My office."

Brown and Rafe looked at each other and slowly rose from their desks. "Wonder if that was a good growl or a bad growl," Brown commented as the partners made their way to the captain's office.

Passing Detective Ellison's desk, Blair responded to Brown's comment. "Have you ever known his growl to be 'good'?"

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

"He's not long in this department. He's a good cop, but he's had very little undercover experience…" Simon warned the two agents as he waited for his detectives.

"Yea, cap. Got something for us?" Brown said coming through the door, followed closely by his partner.

Simon indicated for them to take a seat. "These are agent's Stone and Martin. They're here working on a big case…drugs, money laundering, prostitution and white slavery."

Brown gave a whistle. "Sounds like these dudes got a little piece of everything."

"They want one of our guys to go in undercover, try to pin down the slavery angle—eight men have disappeared in three years." Simon explained, watching his detectives carefully.

"And our assignment would be what exactly?" Rafe directed his question to the agents, growing uneasy as his eyes came to rest on the photos spread out across the table.

"We need you, Detective Rafe, to go undercover as a model," Agent Martin said.

Brown burst out laughing as Rafe sputtered. "A model!"

"Oh, such 'rough' assignments you draw their partner," Brown said, getting a handle on his amusement.

Rafe glared at his partner, then asked. "Just how can you be so certain I could get hired on as a…model?"

"Because you fit the profile, detective." Martin said, pushing several 'victim' photos closer to Rafe. "We've tried three times and failed three times to get one of our agents on the inside."

Brown, too, looked at the photos. Each photo held a smiling face not to dissimilar to his partner. Suddenly serious he said, "So you want my partner to smile for the camera, how do you intend to get me in. We're a team. Right, cap?"

"He's right. I won't put any of my men in without backup."

"From what we gather, they put together security details for each shoot; from local talent that is, shall we say 'less than reputable'," Stone said. "We should be able to work you up a record for a little knee breaking, put the word out you'll do anything for money."

"Sounds good to me. How 'bout you partner, think you can handle this 'tough' assignment?"

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

"This is gonna be way cool, man," Blair said, stepping into the huge auditorium that held the open call for Model's Inc.

"Look at all these people here," Rafe said with a sigh. "How in the hell does Stone and Martin think I'm going to pull this off, without some inside edge. I am a cop, not a ken doll."

"Relax man. You are GQ all the way, exactly what they're lookin' for. Just flash them that toothy grin and you'll be a shoe in." Blair moved towards the registration desk and picked up a clipboard and handed it to Rafe, "Just don't forget all us 'ugly' people back at the station."

Rafe glared at Blair and snatched the clipboard from his friend's hand, then looked around for a place to sit down. "Tell me again why I let you come with me?"

"Moral support," Blair chuckled, dropping down in the seat beside Rafe.

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

After about two and a half hours Rafe heard his name called. Grabbing his 'portfolio' he got up and headed towards the registration desk.

"Break a leg, man," Blair called after him.

"That's theatre Sandburg," Rafe said, rolling his eyes.

"Whatever." Blair watched Brian disappear behind one of the many curtains set up throughout the auditorium before turning his attention back to the crowd. It had been fascinating to the anthropologist, watching the interactions of the so-called 'beautiful people', yet another culture within a culture. Noting, that even in this world, there was a definite hierarchy: not based on skill, power or even money, but on something as totally superficial as appearance.

Blair was watching the crowd; musing to himself about the possibility of getting a paper out of this particular subculture, maybe compare it to other cultures views on beauty when a distinctly effeminate, male voice broke into his thoughts. He looked up to see a slight 'man?' with spiked white hair and a pale complexion approach him hurriedly.

"Perfect….perfect," the man said coming to a stop in front of Blair and reaching out to touch his hair. "Grunge is really so 80's but the client wants the shot to be retro…"

"Hold up, man." Blair protested, reaching up to disentangle the stranger's hand from his hair. "You've got this so wrong man. I am so not here to audition; I just came with a friend to offer moral support. I am not a model!"

The man's face fell and he stuck out his lip in a pout. "But simply must be, you're absolutely perfect…I'll never find the look I need with this Vanity Faire lot," the man whined, stomping his foot and causing all the various baubles he wore to jingle and clatter.

"Listen man I'm not a mo…wait. How much pull you got around here," Blair asked

"Enough. Why?

"You make sure my friend gets this gig and I'm all yours man," Blair said, smiling up at the man.

"Consider it done. Just fill out a registration form and pick up a contract; leave me your friends name," the man said excitedly, clapping his hands. " Report to the Hotel Grande at 8 am day after tomorrow."

Blair watched the strange man retreat back behind a curtain. He shook his head and grinned ruefully, one thought going through his head. 'Jim is sooo gonna kill me!'

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

Simon's office, the next morning

"You what!?" Jim exploded, "Absolutely not chief!"

The fallout was as spectacular as he had anticipated.

Blair had decided to wait and tell his 'blessed protector' about the modeling job in the presence of the other detectives in the bullpen, hopefully staving off his own murder at the hands of his over-protective blessed protector.

"Whoa there Jim," Blair said raising his hands. "I wasn't asking for your permission, besides, they came to me. Another pair of eyes and ears can't hurt this case…and it helped get Rafe in."

"No chief. It's too dangerous. It's great that you got Rafe in but that's enough."

Blair turned to Agent Martin and asked, "Is any part of the business legit?"

"Actually the modeling agency does shoots all over the country, has ads in nearly all the major magazines. Hell, they even paid taxes last year. We're pretty sure it's the front business for all the other stuff, but the agency itself seems clean," Stone, reported.

"See, it's a legitimate job opportunity. It's only for four days, for some small magazine that caters to college students. It's not like its gonna turn into months of undercover or anything," Blair said pointedly.

Jim sighed heavily, and glared sternly at his guide. "Chief. Blair. You are not a cop."

Blair became angry. "That didn't seem to matter to you when you needed my help to take down that ring of car thieves. Hell, you even got my mom involved in that one. So, detective, do not give me that, 'you're not a cop crap'."

"As much as I hate to admit it the kid's right. The agency did ask him he didn't go there with the intent to secure a job. He certainly won't arouse suspicion, and he doesn't fit the profile that would attract the attention of the slavers," Martin interjected into the conversation.

"You've got to be kidding. Are you guys so hard up to crack this case you'd willingly send in an untrained civilian…" Jim raged.

"Well, thanks so very much for that vote of over whelming confidence their, partner," Blair's tone clearly indicated the hurt his partner's statement caused. "I think I've proved myself often enough around here…you want to play this game, fine. I am a civilian and as such can come and go as I please; and I went to an open modeling call and got a legitimate job that got your detective put in place."

Blair turned and started to leave the office when a hand on his shoulder stopped him. "I'm sorry chief. I know you can handle it; I'm just worried is all. I won't be there."

"Jim, trust me man. I'm not out to play hero here. I just want to help." Blair's anger softened at the fear he saw in his sentinel's eyes, and he gave him a crooked grin "Besides, it's a paying job, man."

Quietly Jim replied, giving Blair's shoulder a squeeze. "I do trust you chief."

"Then it's settled," Martin began tentively, not taking his eyes off the fuming detective, "Sandburg stays in?" A curt nod from Jim answered his question.

"I don't know what you're so uptight about. The kid's been with this department for two years and from the sounds of it not a stranger to this sort of thing," Stone said impatiently. "All he has to do is keep his eyes and ears open, not play Rambo."

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

The next morning Brian and Blair showed up at the hotel together, there were all ready quite a few 'models' milling around the lobby.

"You really got out of the loft by yourself this morning?" Brain said with amazement.

"Oh pleeaasse!" Blair rolled his eyes. "Jim's been following us since we left the loft."

Just then the effeminate man that had approached Blair two days before came 'flowing' through the lobby, clapping his hands. "People. People. If you're here for the modeling shoots we need to get started. If you're here for the GQ shoot report to suite 211, if you're here for the Campus Underground shoot report to suite 215. Those of you here for the security details report to Mr. Jagger for your assignments."

"Here we go," Blair said heading towards the elevator.

"Why is it that you don't seem nervous and I feel like a rookie on his first day out of the academy," Brian asked, letting out a breath.

"One, I'm not a target, and I'll be outa here in four days, as opposed to your eighteen,"

Blair said, then adding for Sentinel ears. "Besides, Jim's scarier than most of the crooks."

Brian gave Blair a wave as they parted company on the second floor. "See you after work."

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

"So how was the first day of 'grueling' undercover their, GQ, " Brown teased as he entered the bullpen.

"How was yours?" Rafe shot back, leaning back on his desk chair. " Seems the security detail didn't do much today but stand around and eat all the doughnuts."

"Now, GQ, someone had to rescue all those models from the temptation of all that 'fattening' food," Brown quipped dropping down behind his own desk. "Our work comes after all you 'pretty people' leave, apparently part of security means hefting, help move props for the next days shoot."

"Ah, my poor partner. He actually had to work today." Rafe said with a triumphant look,

"Anyway, now that you're here, Stone and Martin want a preliminary report."

"We've been on this case all of one day…" Brown complained rising from his chair.

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

The next three days of shoots went smoothly, with neither Blair nor Brian being approached or given undo attention. At the end of the fourth day Blair collected his pay and walked the two blocks to where Jim was waiting for him.

"I could handle more undercover like this," Blair said waving his check in the air.

"Is it your life's goal to give me an ulcer," Jim grumbled as he pulled the truck away from the curb.

"Chill man. My part is over. I am in one piece. I didn't require one trip to the ER, and I didn't run into any bad guys." Blair smiled, trying to placate his partner, "How 'bout dinner tonight, my treat, and I'll even let you pick the place."

"So you picked up a good payday from this, huh," Jim said glancing over and trying to get a peak at the numbers on the check.

Blair hid the check behind his back. "Good enough their Jim. Good enough."

"Anywhere?" Jim asked innocently, a grin spreading across his face.

"You're gonna make me go to Wonder Burger aren't you," Blair groaned.

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

Everyday, for the next thirteen days, Rafe and Brown, went to the shoot and each day they came back with nothing to report.

"Maybe they just aren't planning to snatch anyone from this shoot," Brown said with a frustrated sigh.

"I can't believe you guys have been on this almost two weeks and haven't come up with anything," Stone said with equal frustration.

"Maybe they are just waiting for the last day of the shoot," Rafe suggested, sympathizing with the agents frustration.

"What about files, haven't you managed to get a look at anything," Martin questioned.

"If they got anything it has to be on the computer back in one of the suites they're using as office space," Brown informed them. "And if this operation is as big as you say it is then what is there is probably encoded."

With nothing more to be gained the meeting was adjourned for the night.

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

In the darkened suite, number 211, a man sat staring expectantly at the pictures uploading to his computer screen. He quirked an eyebrow as he viewed the dollar amounts posted below each photo. He then reached out and clicked the mouse to indicate he accepted the bids. A single word flashed across the bottom of the screen, 'WHEN'.

The man leaned forward and typed in, 'FOR ALL THREE GIVE ME FIVE DAYS.'

'PAYMENT AT TIME OF DELIVERY AS USUAL.' Appeared across the screen.

'UNDERSTOOD.' He typed, before slumping back into his seat. This would require some thought and no small amount of ingenuity. It was a risk each time even one person 'disappeared' after being associated with the agency; even spread out across the county as they were. Now, reports we're getting back to him that missing persons reports were filed on at least five of the missing models, soon someone might make the connection. Yes, he would definitely have to be very careful this time, more creative. He didn't need any more reports to come back to haunt him.

He called up the personnel files on each of the three models in question and began reading, plans starting to form in his mind.

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

"I think we might have a bite," Rafe said quietly to his partner, as he came up to look over the food table. "I just overheard one of the models, Jason Ward, say that he had been offered an overseas assignment."

"Which one is he," Brown asked, his eyes roaming over the table selections. "I'll have Simon put a tail on the guy."

Rafe nodded in the direction of the model in question. "Listen, I think the shot we just did is my last one..." Rafe was cut off by an angry shout from across the set.

"You're what!? I don't think so, I've got a contract remember." Came an angry yell from across the studio. Everyone looked up to see the campaigns feature model, Parker Boyles, towering over the head photographer.

"It's not my call Parker, man. Don't kill the messenger." The photographer said, "I just shoot the pictures."

"I cannot believe they're doing this to me, this was supposed to be my spread, I've been on this campaign since day one. I was promised the feature spread on this one and now you want to replace me with a nobody." Parker yelled angrily as he turned to storm off the set, "If I'm not good enough to be in the feature layout then I'm not doing it period!"

"Now, Parker. It's not that the camera doesn't love you babe, it does, but the word upstairs is that the client wants some new faces. The majority of the campaign has been yours, but the company wants some new faces when it changes over the direction of its ads next fall…. come on Parker, man, don't run out on this. It's not the end of the world, you'll have other gigs."

"I want this one!" Parker railed, turning to stake the man with an icy stare before continuing angrily across the set, ignored the continuing pleas of the photographer. When the man was parallel to the table where Rafe was standing he pulled up short and changed direction, getting right up in Rafe's face, "Enjoy it while you can pretty boy…but this isn't over by a long shot. I've got everything invested in this and its mine…"

Brown and several other security men move up to intervene when the young man held up his hand. "Don't even think of touching me," he snapped then turned to the photographer, "Mr. Loren's knows where I am when he's reading to screw his head on straight…until then I'm out of here."

"What was that all about?" Brian said letting out a breath he didn't know he was holding.

Paul Jacobs watched as his star model stormed off the set, kicking over several pieces of equipment as he went, with a shake of his head and a sigh; this really wasn't what he needed on the last day of a shoot. He had argued for over an hour with, Mr. Loren, the executive in charge of this shoot that very morning over the sudden and abrupt changes in the roll call, but to no avail…Parker was out and Rafe was in, and it was his job to shoot the pictures the client and his bosses wanted.

"Shows over folks, get back to work. We've still got four shots to finish today before we wrap…and there are some changes in the line up. Rafe you've got Parker's spot, Tory you'll be taking over Rafe's spot." Jacobs called out. "I want everyone ready in 5."

"What? Wait…you want me to do Parker's shoot, all of them?" Rafe said coming up to the photographer. "I'm not here to step on anybody's toes here."

Jacob's eyed Rafe suspiciously for a moment before commenting, "Listen I'm just following orders from upstairs. You want this layout or not?"

"I mean, yea, sure I do. Who wouldn't, right." Rafe back pedaled a bit, "Guess it was just a shock you know; shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, huh. I'll be ready in 5."

It took the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening to finish the last four shoots, finally at 10 o'clock that evening they were ready to call it a wrap.

"That is a wrap folks," Jacob's said seating down his camera and turning towards the crew. "It's late so lets all call it a night, crew included. Lets get out of here and let security do their nightly sweep and lock the place up. Crew needs to report by 9 am for tear down, and for everyone else your pay for this shoot will be available by noon. Night all."

Rafe left the building with several other models and lingered at his car to see that they all got off without any difficulty. He was about to unlock his own door when a hand rested heavily on his shoulder causing him to whirl about, suddenly on the defensive. The detective relaxed somewhat at seeing the head of security. "Damb, Jarret, you scared the crap out'a me. Don't go sneaking up on a guy."

"Mr. Loren wants a word with you," Jarret said evenly.

"Now? Tonight?" Rafe gave a tired sigh but acquiesced, "lead the way."

Rafe followed the security chief around to the back of the building, growing suddenly suspicious when they made no effort to enter the building. "Does Mr. Loren usually conduct business in dark back alley's?"

Jarret nodded at the darkness and two large men Rafe recognized from the security detail stepped out from the shadows. "Hey, Jarret, man, what's going on here?" Rafe said, his eyes darting between the three men.

"These gentlemen will take you to Mr. Loren. I need your keys." Jarret ordered impassively, staring at the Rafe, his hand held out expectantly.

"My keys?" Rafe questioned in confusion, looking at Jarret. That was all the two other men needed. They jumped the detective; one gripping his arms tightly while the other emptied a syringe of clear liquid in his arm. "What the hell was…"

Rafe didn't get any farther in his inquiry. His vision became blurred and his head heavy as his body succumbed to the anesthetic pumped into his arm and soon he was slumped between the two men.

Jarret nodded and the two men quickly put the unconscious detective in the nearby waiting car. Jarret watched a moment as the car dove off then tossed the keys a few times in his hands before turning to make his way to his 'new' car.

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

The security team had just finished their sweep of the building: and were coming out the front door, when an earth-shaking explosion knocked them all off their feet. "What the hell," Brown said shaking his head and staring at the huge fireball and he debris raining down in the parking lot. As his eyes took in the devastation it was apparent one car was totally destroyed and several more damaged beyond repair.

"Damb, what happened?" another man from the detail gasped out, standing shakily.

"It was a car, man," said another. "It exploded!"

"Who's?" was the next questioned issued from the group.

That's when it hit him, where the car was parked. It was Rafe's car being consumed by the fire. "Nooooo," he yelled, rushing towards the burning wreck.

After a moment of surprise two of the men raced after him and stopped the big detective before he raced into the flames. "You don't understand, there's someone in there," Brown yelled, struggling against the hands that held him.

"Anyone in that when it blew is gone, man, gone." One of the men said, holding Brown tightly.

Brown's eyes settled on the burning car and he slumped to the ground defeated, shock and sadness overwhelming him.

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

Dawn's first light was breaking through the clouds as Serena's team began to work up the dismal scene; having to wait until the fire dept then Taggart's team had secured the area.

"I want you and Sandburg to go over every inch of this place," Simon said, his voice rough with emotion. "Between the bomb squad, forensics and you two I don't want one piece of evidence to slip by on this one."

"As soon as the place clears out a bit we'll get on it, Simon," Jim said tightly, taking in the scene with detective eyes. "What's the story, any indication why this went down; do you think someone suspected he was a plant?"

Simon tore his eyes away from the burnt out wreckage that was his detective's car and sighed heavily. "I don't know; but from what the witnesses say thus far, it seems Rafe had a run in with one of the other models yesterday, a Parker Boyles. Appears, the powers that be decided at the last minute to replace Boyles with Rafe. That seems to indicate that no one suspected him."

"So, what? You think this all happened because of some sort of professional jealousy," Jim exclaimed in surprise. "I can't imagine any of these types knowing their way around explosives."

"Its amazing the things you can get off the net these days," Simon answered. "Let's see what forensics finds out about the kind of explosion that did this. Anyway, I'm leaving units here all day. The crew is due in at 9 to tear down the sets; that's also when the photographer's are also due in. The rest of the models are due in throughout the day to pick up their checks…I want everyone questioned, twice!"

"Boyles?" Jim questioned

"Sent a team to pick him up an hour ago. He should be stewing' in an interrogation room by now."

Jim again cast his eyes out over the scene, watching Serena and her team going about their grim tasks. "Serena's team is going to be at this for awhile Simon. Let me have a crack at Boyles."

Simon rested his tired eyes on his detective, weighing the benefits of Jim's skills, both Sentinel and otherwise, against the chance of coming up with one very dead suspect. "Let me try first, you can listen at the window. If that doesn't cut it then we'll let you have a crack at him." Jim frowned, but nodded his head.

The Sentinel began scanning the crowd for his guide and found him over near a rescue squad. Blair was on his haunches in front of Henri, his hands resting on the detective's knees, a litany of quiet words coming from him. Jim saw Brown shake his head and push Sandburg away and get up to head in their direction.

"I hear that you're bringing Boyles in Captain," Brown said tightly. "I want him."

"Brown, you know I can't let you near…" Simon started, only to be cut off by the enraged detective,

"I'll be dambed if you, the feds or anyone else is keeping me off this case. My partner's dead and I will get the s.o.b. responsible." Brown was up in his captain's face, sorrow and anger pouring off of him.

"Brown. Henri." Jim said grabbing the detective and pulling him back a few steps, "Buddy, you gotta' trust us here. We are not letting this go. Whoever did this will pay for it I guarantee you."

For his part, Simon kept his cool, standing passively as his detective worked through his grief and rage. He saw the look of shock cloud Henri's features. "God, cap, I'm sorry. I…"

Simon cut him off stepping up and grasping Henri's shoulders. "We will get the bastards responsible…we will keep you informed Henri, but you gotta step back from this one and let us handle it."

Henri nodded. "Good. Now, I would tell you to go home but I know you wont so you're coming back to the station with me right now to give a statement and file your report."

*********************

Blair stayed with Brown while Simon and Jim made their way to the interrogation room that housed Parker Boyles. The two officers stood outside the 2-way mirror for a moment and watched the suspect. The man was incredibly nervous, wiping his hands over his pants then combing them through his short hair, staring at the walls then the mirror. They watched; as the man would jump up a pace for a moment them sit back down to repeat the same motions.

"Guess we've let him stew enough," Simon said looking over at Jim. "Let's find out what this bastard knows." Simon then stepped into the interrogation room and closed the door.

When the door opened, Boyles jumped out of his seat and whirled to face the person entering the room. "Why am I here? What's going on? I want a lawyer." Boyles demanded.

For his part, Simon slowly came into the room and sat in the chair opposite of where Boyles' was seated. "You done something you need a lawyer for?"

"'Course not, but I've been here over an hour and nobody's told me anything. Put me in this 'room' like I'm some sort of criminal…" Boyles' sputtered angrily, waving his arms. "Do you know who I am? I am the top model for Model's Inc and have quite a few conn…"

Simon cut him off with a dry chuckle. "Really. From what I hear Mr. Boyles you were on you way out—yesterdays news, they were replacing you with some new blood."

"What. That upstart Brian Rafe. I don't think so," Boyles huffed out sarcastically. "He will never replace me, I'm what put Model's Inc on the map. Besides, I've got a contract."

"Contracts are broken all the time." Simon said casually.

"Is this what this is about. Loren thinks he can get at me before I can get at him. Did he really have me brought in for a few lousy pieces of cameral equipment."? Boyles ranted, rolling his eyes. "He's got a lot more than that to lose if he thinks he can wiggle out of our contract."

"Camera equipment? I don't know anything about camera equipment, Mr. Boyles," Simon said innocently then caught the man's eyes with an intense stare. "I'm investigating a murder."

"Murder!!" Boyles surprise was genuine. "Dear god, who was murdered! Surely not someone involved with the shoot? "

"Where did you go yesterday after you 'left' the shoot, Mr. Boyles?" Simon stared at the man intently, but his voice was light.

"What? Why? Just who exactly was…murdered?"

"There was an explosion last night. One of the models went to his car and it blew up." Simon explained, still eying the young man intently.

"One of the models, dear gods. Why would anyone want to kill…wait, the questions; where I was last night. The contract dispute; it was Brian that was killed wasn't it, and you think it was me because of what happened yesterday!!" Boyles exclaimed excitedly, pacing the room. "Damb, of course I was angry…but to 'kill' someone…"

Simon watched impassively as the young man paced the interrogation room. "Do I need a lawyer?"

"Do you have anything to hide?" Simon asked quirking an eyebrow. "Is there any reason we need to do a tap dance with a lawyer?"

Boyles pulled himself up and returned Simons intense look. "No. I do not have anything to hide because I didn't do anything wrong."

Before Simon could question Boyles further there was a tap on the window. "Excuse me."

Outside in the hall Simon faced Jim. "We'll go ahead and check him out but look at him. He seemed genuinely surprised and upset that someone was murdered. What did forensics find in his apartment?"

"They found some bomb making materials in a bag, but no books on the subject and the guy doesn't even have a computer…."

"There's always the library," Simon commented.

"Another interesting thing…no fingerprints were found on the bag and the one partial they did manage to lift doesn't match Boyles."

"So he's being set up, then." Simon mused.

"Looks that way. From what I can sense, he's telling the truth." Jim concurred. "Which puts us back to square on—why Rafe? It has to be tied to this slavery angle somehow…are they after Boyles? Maybe have him running scared, so he'll take up 'someone's' offer to get him out of the country maybe?"

"I don't know but we're sure as hell going to find out." Simon said with a heavy sigh, then he frowned, "Maybe we should put him in protective custody, along with the other name we got—Ward, I think."

"I don't know Simon? If we yank Boyles and Ward and stash them out of sight the slavers might cut and run. They killed a cop in my city, I want these guys." Jim said tightly. "Let's put a tail on the two, see who shows up for them."

*********************

Serena's team had departed by the time Jim and Blair returned to the crime scene and they were free to go over it with Sentinel senses. After forty minutes Jim sighed and threw his hands in the air, "Nothing. I can't find anything."

"It's okay man, there just isn't much here to find," Blair said, resting a hand on his Sentinel's shoulder.

Jim turned to the building that housed the shoot. "Let's go inside, chief. I want to talk to everyone…we're going to get answers."

********************

Paul Jacobs directed Jim and Blair to the table where Mr. Loren was sitting, going over paperwork.

"Mr. Loren, Detective Ellison would like to speak with you." Jacobs said.

"Of course, of course. Have a seat detective, how can…" he started to motion Jim to a chair when he noticed Blair several steps behind him. "How can I help you Mr…uh, Sandburg wasn't it?"

"Who me? Why would you ask that…how'd you know my name?" Blair stuttered, taken back by the recognition.

"You did work the underground shoot about a week and a half ago didn't you?" the man questioned, "Is there a problem with your check?"

"No sir it was fine; great in fact. I, uhm…I'm a college student and this modeling job was a way to pick up a little extra money, see…I'm working on a dissertation about the police department. I ride with Ji…Detective Ellison." Blair explained in his usual tumble of words.

"So, Mr. Loren, can you think of any reason some one would want to kill one of your 'model's?" Jim asked, trying to distract Loren from his partner, as he took a seat opposite the shoot manager.

"Can't see that it would have anything to do with the company…he was relatively new to the modeling world…unless of course this tragedy is a result of Parker Boyles angry outburst yesterday… I heard it got rather tense between Parker and Brian yesterday." Loren trailed off expectantly.

"Mr. Boyles will be questioned," Jim assured the man.

"A shame really, he could have had a real career…he was considering an overseas offer from our company…and now the whole last days shots will have to be redone…the model we use has to be able to continue in the spring crossover campaign. I suppose Parker is out of the running as well…."

"Why would you say that, Mr. Loren. I thought he was the original model selected for the shoot?" Jim asked lightly.

"I just figured with the investigation and the evidence…."

"Everybody will be questioned and this will be thoroughly investigated." Jim said innocently, eying Mr. Loren expectantly. "We'll, of course, need to see all your records; personnel lists, vendors you work with, photographers, a list of models you've hired in say, the last six months."

"Oh…I all that really necessary? How could all that possibly aid you in the investigation of a car bombing?" Loren asked. "Surely you don't think it has anything to do with the company…we can hardly be held responsible for the actions of one of the models we hire…we work with hundreds each year…"

"As I said Mr. Loren, everybody associated with the shoot Mr. Rafe was involved in will be questioned…I'm sure your company wants this matter quickly dealt with before any negative publicity gets out." Jim said in an innocent yet somehow condescending tone. "So how soon can we expect those files?"

"Uhm…well, it could be awhile. That's quite a bit of information you are requesting."

Loren said somewhat nervously. "Could take me days to gather it for you."

"That's not necessary to put yourself through all that trouble Mr. Loren. We can have several detectives at your suites in an hour, you wouldn't have to remove anything to the station," Jim said. "Is there a problem?"

"Uh…no problem at all, detective. If you'll just give me an hour or so to finish up here then I can take you there personally. We have some sensitive company documents you understand…"

"Of course, Mr. Loren. Here's my cell number, call when you're ready for us." Jim said amicably, hand the man his card.

Loren watched the two men leave and was on the phone immediately after the door closed behind them. "Be ready to roll in two hours, we can't wait…go pick up Wade, tell him the plans have changed and he has to leave sooner. No, we can't wait for the third one…we'll have to cut our loses on this one."

*****************

"What was that about…who are you and where's the real James Ellison. I've never seen you so sickly sweet," Blair said, practically bouncing after his partner.

"Just playing a hunch, chief." Jim said sliding into the truck.

"Did you sense something…do you think he's involved?" Blair questioned excitedly.

"Did you notice anything odd in what Mr. Loren said?" Jim asked, looking at his guide.

"Sorry, not that I can remember. I was a little tripped up over him recognizing me," Blair answered with a shrug.

"Think, chief. What in particular did he say about Rafe…" Jim prodded.

"Okay…he said Rafe got into a fight with Boyles and that it was a shame…" Suddenly understanding, "it was a shame he died because he had been offered an overseas assignment!!! Rafe nor Brown said anything about an offer."

"Bingo!" Jim said, putting the truck in drive and heading out of the parking lot.

"So where are we going?"

"Just giving Loren a little rope to hang himself." Jim said parking the truck two blocks away giving them a clear view of the warehouses' parking lot.

"Ah…so we're going to wait and follow Loren and see where he leads us." Blair gave a knowing nod and settled back to watch the lot, while Jim pulled out his cell phone.

"Simon. Jim. I think we've got a lead. I need you to get a warrant for the Models Inc suites at the hotel, and ask Brown if Rafe said anything about an overseas offer," Jim asked. "I didn't think so…Loren also pressed real hard to blame this on Boyles and even mentioned something about 'the evidence'…yea, we're a couple of blocks from the warehouse, we're going to follow him…okay, call me when you get the warrant."

Jim hung up the phone, still gazing intently at the parking lot.

"What 'evidence'?" Blair asked.

"We found bomb materials in Boyles apartment but his fingerprints weren't on any of it. Forensics just found and bagged it less than three hours ago…"

Further conversation was halted when Sentinel and Guide saw their quarry come out to the building and head for his car.

**********************

Flipping open his phone, Jim once again called his captain. "Simon how you coming with that warrant…Loren's at the hotel now; wait, two guys just showed up with Jason Wade, the kid doesn't look happy about it either. Hold up a minute…" Jim cocked his head to listen to the men across the street.

"What's the rush, Mr. Loren, thought you said I'd have more time to get things in order…I'm really not ready to leave yet," Jason Wade said.

"Sorry Jason but it's now or never. The shoot time has been moved up, we need to leave today," Loren interrupted impatiently.

"I'm not done packing and we haven't even discussed the contract…hell, you haven't even told me where the shoot is except to say it's overseas. I need to tell my folks where I'll be." Jason complained.

"Everything is all ready taken care of, Jason. You can call your folks from the plane."

Loren said.

"I don't know, Mr. Loren, this is all kind of sudden. To be honest I'm getting a little uncomfortable with all of this secrecy and rushing around…" Jason said nervously. "Maybe you should find yourself another model, I don't think I'm ready for this."

"I don't think we have time to that warrant, Simon." Jim said as he watched Loren nod to the two goons that had brought Jason to the hotel, come up on either side of the young man and grab his arms roughly.

"Sorry, Mr. Ward but you see you've all ready been bought and paid for and I've all ready had to cut my loses on this one." Loren said menacingly as he got up in the struggling young man's face. "The cops are getting to close, so I'll have to settle for the two I've got."

"Simon, they've got Ward and they're planning on making a run for it…I need back up here now…" Jim pocketed his cell and slid from the truck as the four men across the street entered the hotel.

Blair followed Jim into the hotel lobby stopping to catch the Sentinel's gaze rest on the doors closing on the far elevator. Jim frowned, his jaw tight, as he looked intently around the lobby. 'To many civilians to chance an armed confrontation,' he thought. Either they had to take them down within the suites or follow them to a less populated area.

"Jim. Jim," Blair hissed in his ears, afraid his sentinel was zoning. "Snap out of it man. What are we going to do?"

"Follow then upstairs and wait…can't risk the civilians or the hostage. Let's go chief."

Guide and Sentinel took the stairs to the second floor. Gun drawn, Jim peered out of the stairwell cautiously. "All clear."

"Jim, how long we gonna wait…what if Loren's in there right now destroying evidence." Blair whispered hoarsely from behind his friend. "We can't let them leave here with Wade, man."

Jim straightened, pocketed his gun and headed down the hall to the suites. "Let's see if Mr. Loren is ready to show us his records."

"I hope backup get here soon," Blair sighed and followed Jim down the hall.

*********************

"Uhm…detective. What brings you here all ready? I'm just now starting to get the files in order for you…" Loren said nervously opening the suite door.

Jim smiled. "We don't want to inconvenience you or your company any more than necessary so we thought the sooner we went through the records the better. If there's a problem we can wait, our captain should be here any time with the warrant."

Jim stood at the door to the suite, smiling and waiting patiently. After a moment Loren moved aside and aloud the detective and observer to enter the suite. "Uh… let's see, here are some of the personnel records for the models, you can start with them. If you'll excuse me I've got to check on a few things. I'll be right back."

The Sentinel extended his hearing to follow Loren. "Whatever he has to do he isn't going far…sound like he's only a few doors down." Jim reported to Blair.

"Are they ready to move?" Loren's voice asked. "You didn't use to much of the drug did you? Go the back way, don't need to be seen leading them around in their state."

"They're fine. Used just enough to make 'em docile, but not put 'em out. I sure as hell don't want to be carrying them all over the place," One of the hired muscle replied.

"Damb." Jim cursed. "They've snagged another model, Loren's got two down there; and they're keeping them drugged up. Get on the horn and find out where that back up is, tell Simon they'll be taking them down the back stairs." Jim said, tossing his cell to Blair.

"What are you gonna be doing?" Blair asked, while he dialed.

"I'm going to go to the garage…keep out two 'friends' from taking an unwanted trip," Jim said and was out the door.

As Blair was hanging up the phone Loren returned to the suite, looking around nervously. "Where's the detective?"

"Uh, he had to leave. Check up on some other leads…left me here to wait on the warrant and go through files," Blair lied.

*******************

Jim was standing in the lobby, beside the stairwell doors, listening as Loren's goons led the two, drugged, men down to the underground parking garage when Simon, Brown and several other officers came into the lobby.

"I just got off the phone with Sandburg. I've got roadblocks set up on roads leading to the airport and I've got units covering all exits." Simon reported to Jim, and then asked, "What have we got?"

"Sandburg is upstairs with Loren. I'm going after the two hired goons, they've got Wade and another model drugged up, taking them to a rendezvous point," Jim reported, opening the door and slipping into the stairwell.

"Brown. Ricardo. You two go with Jim. The rest of you upstairs with me." Simon ordered, heading for the elevator.

*********************

In the long hallway leading from the stairwell to the underground garage Jim caught sight of the retreating figures. Raising his gun he yelled, "Police. Stop right there and turn around slowly."

Loren's two henchmen stiffened at the command and turned slowly, pulling the two bleary eyed models in front of them to use as shields, as they faced down three armed police officers.

"Rafe!" gasped out Henri and Jim, surprise and relief flooding through them to find their friend alive.

"But how…" Brown questioned, his eyes never leaving his partner, fearing he might vanish again.

With a lopsided grin Rafe answered sluggishly. "Hi ya' guys. Guess my modeling days are over."

Still trying to wrap his mind around what his eyes were seeing Brown called out, "Damb straight about that partner, modeling is to damb dangerous!"

"Partner? Damb, he's a cop." Said the security man holding Rafe.

"Give it up." Jim ground out angrily, taking aim with his weapon as he took a step towards the group. "You've got no place to go…"

"Like hell we don't…" spat out the other man, pulling a dazed Jason back several steps to the door leading to the garage. "Got a jet all fueled and ready…and as long as these two are between you and us I think we'll be going anywhere we want."

"I don't think so." Brown said taking a step forward.

The man holding onto Rafe cocked his gun and put it to Rafe's head. "Ah, but I do. Unless you want your next reunion to be in the morgue…"

"Hey, how 'bout someone asking the guy with the gun to his head what he wants to do?" Rafe said with exaggerated indignity. "Ah, say, partner…what's going on?"

Brown gave a weak grin. "Seems these gentlemen want you to take a trip…"

Rafe pursed his lips and frowned, trying to capture a whole thought in his drug fogged mind. "Ah…do I wanna go on a trip?"

"No, partner you don't." Brown shot back with a snort.

"Okay then," Rafe turned his head to look at the man holding him, "I don't wanna go with you I gotta stay here…"

"This aint no democracy here…what the…" the man holding Rafe was suddenly pulled off balance when Rafe went limp, plopping down to sit on the floor.

"I said I don't want to go with you." Rafe snapped, looking up at the man. "Now go away. I'm tired and I'm really starting to not feel well here…"

"Don't even try it." Jim said icily, when the man tried to reach down to grab Rafe. "You touch him again and you're a dead man."

The man straightened and held up his hands loosely, the gun dangling from his fingers, and took several steps back away from Rafe. The sound of another gun cocking drew everyone's attention.

The other man held the cocked gun to Wade's head, "Fine, don't need the whole force doggin' us for your buddy; so we'll just keep this one." He turned to his accomplice and ordered, " Jerry, get on out to the car and bring it to the door so we can get out of here."

Jerry backed up, never taking his eyes off the angry detectives, reaching behind him to open the door he slipped out into the garage.

"Now gentlemen, you will throw your weapons down and let Jerry and me, and ol' Wade here leave here in peace and if we make it to where we need to be without spottin' any cops we'll let the boy live." Said the kidnapper, backing towards the door with his hostage.

Henri gave a quick glance to Jim, who returned his grim look with a slight nod. "Okay, man, the guns will hit the floor, let's keep everyone breathin' here."

The detectives slowly bent down and put their guns on the floor in front of them, rising with their hands up in front of them. "No one has to get hurt here."

"Good. But what's to keep you from following me, you need something to keep you distracted." The man was saying thoughtfully as he opened the door, pausing in the doorway he said, "Consider this a parting gift…"

In a lightning fast motion the man aimed and shot at the still sitting detective. The force of the impact knocked Rafe hard against the wall and sent the man spiraling into unconsciousness.

'Nooo," Brown yelled leaping forward to his partner as the door slammed shut.

Knowing Brown would see to the wounded officer, Jim grabbed up his gun and ran passed his friends racing out into the garage. Taking aim, sentinel senses found their target in the tires. The blown tire sending the car into an uncontrollable spin, crashing against a concrete pillar.

As Jim was cautiously making his way to the car when the garage began filling with uniformed officers. The detective filled in the lead officer then retreated back to the hall to check on Rafe. Simon and Blair had made it down and were standing in the hall.

"Ambulance is one the way." Simon reported, pocketing his cell phone.

'How is he?" Jim asked, kneeling on the other side of the injured man.

"He's bleeding bad here Jim. He took it in the right side of his chest." Brown said tightly, trying to stem the flow of blood.

"Just keep the pressure up…"

******************

Henri looked up from his newspaper, when the door to Brian's room opened, and smiled. "Come on in guys. You might even get a coherent moment out of him the next time he wakes up. Between being drugged and kidnapped and the anesthesia from surgery he's been really out of it."

"So he's going be all right then," Blair asked.

"Yea. He's gonna be just fine." Brown smiled and reached over to gently pat his partner on his good shoulder. Brian stirred and mumbled but didn't wake. "Doc says he should be waking up anytime now."

The sentinel checked out his 'warrior' himself; his senses registering the increases in Brain's heart rate and respiration as the man began to regain consciousness. Jim smiled when he saw two hazel eyes crack open and stare up at them dazedly.

"Wha… hap'n'd? I fe'l ter'bl…" Rife whispered hoarsely.

" 'Bout time you woke up their sleeping beauty." Brown said happily, pouring his partner a cup of water. "Take a sip or two…real slow, now."

"God. My head feels like it's stuffed with cotton. Ah…and my shoulder hurts like hell." Rife complained tiredly. "What happened?"

"What's the last thing you remember?" Jim asked.

Brian furrowed his brow, trying to remember. "Leaving the shoot; Jaggert said Mr. Loren wanted to talk to me—thought it might be the break we were waiting for. Ended up getting jumped by a couple of 'security goons' from the shoot. For some reason I'm remembering you saying something about a trip?"

"You were going to take a trip all right. Loren was behind the 'slavery ring', his client decided on three from this shoot…" Brown started to explain.

"Three! Three people disappearing from one shoot would surely draw suspicion." Brian interrupted. "He really thought he could get away with that?"

"He…kinda got creative." Blair interjected sheepishly.

"Why do I get the feeling you guys aren't telling me everything?" Brian eyed his three friends expectantly.

"You were right about Jason Wade; they offered him the overseas job as a cover to get him out of the country…"

"We all ready knew that MO partner. You said Loren got creative…?"

"Loren hatched a scheme to fake your death and pin it on another model—Parker Boyles, the one that you replaced, it was apparently an intentional move on Loren's part to replace Boyles like that, knowing he'd go off in front of so many people." Jim took up the explanation.

"That's creative. Fake your 'marks' death so no one will question a disappearance," Brain finished with a nod of his head. "How did he convince you I was dead?"

Now the three men began to squirm slightly, exchanging sheepish looks. "Come on guys. How in the world did he convince you I was dead?"

"He's your partner," Jim said.

"Brown?" Rife said expectantly.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Brown grasped his partners hand in his, saying softly and quickly, "Heblewupyourcar."

"One more time, there, a little slower this time." Rafe chastised.

Another sigh. "He blew up your car."

Brain looked from one man to the next, waiting to see the tell tale smirk or sideways glance that clued him in to the joke, none was forthcoming. "He…blew…up…my…car!"

The three men just stood quietly while the magnitude of the revelation sunk in. Brian was just shaking his head back and forth, quietly whispering, "My car, my car is all gone…a body, you found a body in the car?"

"The security chief, Jaggert, as near as we can ascertain; he's the only one we haven't been able to account for. There really wasn't enough for Dan to perform an autopsy."

Brian's eyes met his partner's pain filled eyes. "Not enough for an…god, and all that time you thought it was me in that car…"

Brown grasped Rafe's shoulder and gave it a squeeze; the smile on his face not quite covering the haunted look in his eyes. "It's all right now. We found you and your alive, we got you back…"

Brain rested his hand on Henri's, looking up to give his partner a weak smile. "I'm here. I assume I'm going to be fine since I hurt like hell. I'm not going anywhere—so why do you still have the look like your dog just died?"

Brown jerked his hand away and began to pace the small confines of the room. "Why? Damb, I don't know; maybe because my partner was alive and well, kidnapped and about to be spirited out of the country and I didn't know…."

"Brown, man, give yourself a break here," Blair said, stepping in front of Henri to halt his pacing. "What were you supposed to think, gods Henri, you had to see it happen!"

Brian gasped, sending Henri to his side, asking worriedly, "What is it Brian. Are you in pain man, do I need to get the nurse?"

"You saw it…you saw my car blow up." Brian gasped out, reaching for Brown's hand. "I am so sorry you had to go through all that Henri…"

Brown took Rafe's extended hand and sat on the side of the bed. "It wasn't your fault Brian."

After a moment Brown began to chuckle softly; the fear and the tension of the last few days falling away from him. "I think we need to get you in a safer line of work…ever consider being a cop there pretty boy."

Brian quirked an eyebrow, "You think you can get me in. I hear the competition is tough."

"I think I can put in a good word for you." Brown said with a smile that reached his eyes and filled his soul.

THE END