by Kim Jackson
Summary: Sequel to First Meeting. It's the day after Halloween, and Jim hears about several children being hospitalized after eating chocolate with razor blades in them. Jim is reminded of a similar incident that happened to his partner almost thirty years before and, believing that it may be the same person, becomes determined to find the guy and bring him to justice.
Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters don’t belong to me, unfortunately. I’m just borrowing them.
Jim Ellison sat down on the couch in front of the TV with a sandwich and a bottle of beer. He knew he was breaking one of his rules by eating in front of the TV, but they were his rules to break. It was his day off, and he was going to enjoy it. Besides, Blair wasn’t there to complain.
It was the day after Halloween, and Jim still thought of last night fondly. He hadn’t had that much fun on Halloween since he was a kid. He and Blair had gone to the Halloween party at the precinct, and Jim was glad they did. They hung out with the guys and ate a whole lot of food. They even had a costume contest. Jim didn’t participate of course. He may have been willing to go to the Halloween party, but he still refused to wear a costume despite Blair’s insistence that he wear one. He never did like costumes. They were always so uncomfortable.
He did, however, like laughing at all the different costumes people were willing to wear. There had been a lot of different ones. There was an old man, Darth Vader, and the Joker from Batman. There was even someone who came dressed as the peanut character from the Planters peanuts commercial. That one was funny because it looked homemade and really ridiculous.
Jim flipped through the channels until he came to the news. He put the remote on the coffee table and took a bite of his sandwich as he listened to the anchorman talk.
“And in other news, ten children were hospitalized last night after eating candy bars with razor blades in them.”
Jim paused mid-bite and looked up at the screen. His sandwich forgotten, he focused his attention on the TV as the anchorman continued.
“The children were taken to Cascade General Hospital where they were treated for relatively minor injuries. Police is cautioning all parents to check their kids Halloween candy thoroughly as this is said to have been deliberate. No word yet if the police have any leads as to the identity of the perpetrator of this Halloween fiasco, but we will keep you updated as the story unfolds.”
Jim switched off the TV and leaned back. Not again. It couldn’t be happening again, he thought. Could it be the same guy? He knew that the guy had never been caught. But why wait almost thirty years to do it again? Then again, why do it at all? He had to find out more. If it was the same guy, maybe he could catch him this time. He had always felt guilty that the culprit hadn’t been caught, believing that he should have been able to help out more.
Jim got up from the couch and put his sandwich and beer in the fridge. Then he grabbed his keys and jacket and was heading out the door when Blair came in.
“Oh, hey Jim,” Blair said, stopping short to avoid running into the other man. “Where are you going?”
“I’ll explain on the way. Come on,” Jim said, walking past Blair into the hallway.
“Ok,” Blair said, puzzled. He closed and locked the door and followed his partner down the hall.
They arrived at the hospital about a half hour later. Jim parked the truck and hurried toward the emergency room doors. Blair practically had to run to keep up with the sentinel’s longer strides.
After having been briefed on the situation on the way to the hospital, Blair couldn’t believe something like this could happen. Again. He didn’t remember much about the last time. He had only been two at the time, but it had obviously affected Jim greatly. He was like a man possessed as he charged across the parking lot.
“Come on, Jim. You don’t even know if it’s the same guy. I mean that was almost thirty years ago,” Blair said.
“You’re right. I don’t know. But it doesn’t hurt to find out.”
“But it’s not your case.”
“I don’t care!” Jim snapped, turning around so suddenly Blair nearly ran into him again. “Look, this guy got away before, and I’m not letting him get away again. Not this time.”
Jim continued walking, and Blair stared after him. What did he mean he wasn’t going to let him get away again? Blair thought. He made it sound like he had let him go the first time. Did Jim really believe that? He was going to have to have a talk with his partner soon, Blair decided as he hurried to catch up.
They walked into the busy ER, and Jim went straight to the front desk.
“Excuse me,” Jim said to the nurse behind the desk. He took out his badge and showed it to her. “I’m Detective Ellison. Can you tell me who treated the kids that came in here last night?”
The nurse looked at the badge and sat up straight. “Oh sure. That would be Dr. Kagan.”
“Can you get him for me please?”
“Sure, Detective.” The nurse walked away.
Jim leaned against the desk, and Blair stared at him. He looked tense, like a coiled spring ready to pop. Blair had seen him tense before while on a case, but this was different. This was personal. Jim seemed more determined than ever to solve this case, and it wasn’t even his case to solve. And if Simon found out, he would most likely be a little peeved, but Blair wasn’t about to try and stop the detective. He knew better than that. It would just be a losing battle.
A doctor dressed in blue scrubs approached them. He was in his early thirties with brown hair. He looked like he hadn’t slept in quite sometime.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Kagan. I’m the resident pediatrician here in the ER,” the doctor said, holding out his hand.
“Hi, I’m Detective Jim Ellison. This is my associate Blair Sandburg,” Jim said, shaking the man’s hand. “I understand you were the one who treated all the kids last night.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”
Kagan sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Look, I already talked to the police last night.”
“It won’t take long. Please?”
The doctor took a deep breath and nodded. “Alright. Um, we can go in here.” He led them to the doctor’s lounge nearby and had them sit down at the table. “So what do you want to know?”
“I understand you had ten kids admitted after eating razor blade chocolate,” Jim began.
“Yes, that’s right. They all had numerous lacerations on the inside of their mouth.”
“Any of them serious?” Blair inquired.
“No. Most were superficial. Just required a few stitches. They were all released late last night or early this morning,” Dr. Kagan answered.
“Did you happen to get a look at this candy bar?” Jim asked.
“Yeah, actually, a couple of the parents brought it in with them.”
“Did they look the same?”
“Oh yeah,” the doctor answered nodding. “They looked homemade with this clear plastic wrapper. There’s no way those came from a store.”
Jim’s jaw muscle twitched, which didn’t escape Blair’s notice. It was a moment before Jim spoke again.
“Did any of the kids or parents recall which house the candy bar came from?”
Dr. Kagan shook his head sadly. “No, none. It’s sad really. I mean who would do something like this? I was actually talking to an old colleague of mine. He was telling me that this happened about thirty years ago, the same exact thing, and the guy was never caught. You don’t think it’s the same guy, do you?”
“At this time, we don’t know,” Jim replied. “I’m going to need a list of all the names and addresses of all those kids.”
“Yeah, sure. Let me get it for you,” the doctor said willingly, getting up from the table.
After the door swung shut behind the doctor, Blair looked at Jim. “It’s the same candy bar, isn’t it?” he asked.
It took a few minutes for Jim to register that Blair had spoken. He looked Blair quizzically. “Huh?”
Rolling his eyes, Blair repeated, “It’s the same candy bar, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know,” Jim replied. “It sounds like it, but without actually seeing it, I can’t be sure.”
Dr. Kagan returned a moment later with the list. He handed it to Jim. “Here it is. That’s all of them.”
“Thank you very much, Doctor. You’ve been very helpful.”
“Do you need anything else,” Dr. Kagan asked.
“No, that’s it for now. Thank you for your cooperation,” Jim said as he stood.
“No problem. I just hope you catch this guy. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I just got off a very long night shift, and I was off hours ago so I’m going home to get some much needed rest.” With that the doctor turned on his heel and left the room.
Jim and Blair headed back out to the truck. Getting into the driver’s seat, Jim didn’t start the truck. He instead took a look at the list he had just been given. Blair watched Jim from the passenger seat as the older man studied the piece of paper in his hands. He knew the minute Jim saw something as his brows knitted together in a frown.
“What is it?” Blair asked.
“Chief, take a look at this. What do you see?” Jim asked, handing the paper to Blair.
Blair looked at the paper. It wasn’t just a list of names and addresses. It also listed ages, when they were admitted and released, and what their injuries were. Blair felt sorry for all these kids. They were all so young, the youngest being a three-year-old girl. He could sympathize with every one of them. He didn’t remember much, but he did remember the crying and the pain. And he remembered the comfort he received from Jim. He shook the memories from his mind and looked at the list again, trying to see what Jim saw. It took a moment for him see a pattern.
“Wait,” he said finally. “All these addresses are in the vicinity of each other.”
“That’s right. They’re all in the same neighborhood, and do you know which neighborhood that is?”
“No,” Blair answered, shaking his head.
“My old neighborhood. That’s where I grew up.”
Blair raised his eyebrows. “Coincidence?”
“Doubt it,” Jim said as he started up the truck.
Jim parked the truck on the street in front of his father’s house. He figured that was as good a place as any to start. Both men got out of the truck and met on the sidewalk.
“So what now?” Blair asked.
Jim stared down the street. It was kind of a quiet neighborhood, and most of the houses still had their Halloween decorations up. Jim remembered walking down that street dressed in his costume with Steven and Blair at his side. Blair had been so excited as they walked up to the first house, and Jim had to admit, the kid had looked cute in that wolf costume.
“Jim? Hello Jim,” Blair’s voice intruded in on Jim’s thoughts.
Jim looked at the younger man beside him. “What?”
“What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to find this guy,” Jim replied.
“And how are we going to do that? Knock on every door in the neighborhood?”
“If we have to,” Jim said as he started walking down the sidewalk.
Blair jumped in front of him blocking his path. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not go off half-cocked. One, that would take all night, and two, what are you going to say to people when they answer the door? You can’t just go knocking on people’s doors and ask them if they gave out razor blade chocolate to the trick-or-treaters last night. That would just freak people out, and I doubt the guy that actually did it is going to admit to it. Now I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours, but this is not the way to go about this.”
“You got any better suggestions?” Jim snapped.
Blair stared at him, noticing the tension in Jim’s body. “Jim, what’s going on with you?”
“Nothing,” Jim answered, trying to push past Blair, but Blair held firm.
“No, don’t give me that. You’ve been acting like a madman ever since you found out about those kids. Now what is up?”
Jim sighed and rubbed his face with both hands. He looked Blair in the eye and felt that guilt creeping up on him again. “It’s all my fault, Chief,” he whispered.
“What are you talking about?” Blair asked, puzzled.
“What happened to you, it was my fault. I should have been watching you. I should have been paying closer attention.”
“That’s what this is about?” Blair said.
Blair sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Jim could do guilt like the best of them. He had to stop this guilt trip now.
“Jim, this wasn’t your fault,” he said. “You couldn’t have known that was going to happen.”
“But I turned my back on you. I shouldn’t have turned my back on you. I should have known better than to turn my back on a two-year-old,” Jim argued.
“Jim, you gotta let this guilt thing go because it’s making you reckless. You were a kid yourself back then, and you did the best you could. I mean you got me help right away. You got me to the hospital. You stayed with me and made feel more comfortable. I think you did a pretty good job. Besides, it was partly my fault anyway.”
Jim looked at him incredulously. “What? What are you talking about? You were only two years old.”
“Yeah,” Blair said, lowering his head a bit. “But I knew what I was doing. I knew that I shouldn’t eat the candy until it was checked out, but I figured one little candy bar wouldn’t hurt. Boy, was I wrong. Why do you think I waited until you had your back to me?”
Jim continued to stare at him for a few minutes and then shook his head trying to hold back a grin. “Some things never change.”
“I guess not,” Blair said with a smile.
There was silence for a few moments before Jim spoke again. “I don’t know. I mean I guess your right, Sandburg, but…”
“But what?” Blair asked.
“I didn’t tell the police everything, and the guy got away.”
“What didn’t you tell them?”
Jim went around to the back of the truck and sat down on the rear bumper, and Blair sat next to him looking at the detective expectantly.
“I didn’t remember which house it came from,” Jim began, “or what the guy actually looked like. But I did remember this smell that wafted from inside the house when the candy bars were dropped into our bags.”
“Smell? What smell?” Blair asked intrigued.
“I don’t know what it was. Some kind of chemical odor I think. But I didn’t tell the police that. I just said that I didn’t remember anything.” He paused. “I was afraid.”
“What were you afraid of?”
Jim gathered his thoughts. “I don’t know when exactly this was, but I remember I was outside for recess one day. I was clear across the playground, and I saw this kid knock over a display case through the window of one of the classrooms from across the playground.”
Blair’s mouth formed a silent “O” as he began to understand what might have happened.
“Anyway, I told the principal and the teacher, and of course they didn’t believe me. And the kid never came forward and told the truth. The school called my dad, and he got pissed and started yelling at me. That’s when I swore that I wouldn’t tell anyone about the things I sensed.”
“So that’s why you didn’t tell the police about what you smelled,” Blair said.
Jim nodded. “It’s funny. Because after that I felt so guilty that I swore that the next time I would tell the police everything, which is how I got in trouble after I found Bud’s body.”
“Oh man,” Blair sighed. “You must have been very confused.”
“Yeah, I was, so I decided to just stop using them altogether. They were making my life way too complicated. Eventually, they just went away, and I just forgot about them.”
Blair placed his hand on Jim’s shoulder. “Man, I’m sorry, Jim.”
Jim waved away the apology. “It’s ok.”
“But you know, Jim, even if you told the police, I doubt they could have found the guy based on something you smelled. They didn’t exactly have sentinels on the force back then.”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, I know, but I was kid and I didn’t really know any better.”
“But you do now,” Blair pointed out.
Jim looked at him and tried to hold back a smile. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
“So, none of this was your fault, right?”
Jim finally let the smile shine through. “Right.”
“Do you feel better?” Blair asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“Good!” Blair said, hopping off the bumper and turning to face Jim, excitement on his face. “Because I just figured out how we can find this guy.”
Jim looked at him in surprise, his eyebrows raised. “What? How?”
“The smell. If it’s the same guy, maybe you can track that odor you smelled all those years ago. You do remember what it smelled like, right?”
“Well, yeah,” Jim replied, standing up.
“Then let’s get going.”
As they were walking back up to the curb, a car pulled into the driveway of William Ellison’s house. Steven got out and looked at them in first surprise and then delight.
“Jim. Blair,” he greeted with a smile. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Working a case,” Jim replied. “You?”
“Oh, I left something at Dad’s. I just came over to pick it up. So what case are you guys working on?”
“Did you hear about those kids that were hospitalized last night?” Jim asked.
“Oh yeah. Razor blade chocolate,” Steven said grimly. “You’re working that case?”
“Well, unofficially,” Blair replied. “You see, Jim heard about the kids on the news and took upon himself to try to find this guy.”
“Why? I mean it’s horrible and all, but you don’t usually go out on a case on your own, do you?”
Jim looked at Blair, who glanced back at him, and then he looked at Steven. He wondered how much his little brother remembered about that night and how much he should tell him. He supposed he should tell Steven something. After all, it was a part of Steven’s past too.
Jim remembered that Steven had been pretty upset after that night especially since they didn’t get to see Blair again afterwards. He had been so traumatized after everything that had happened and Blair’s sudden departure that he had never gone trick-or-treating again. Jim had hated seeing Steven go through that. So he decided he should give his little brother some closure.
“Steven, I don’t know if you remember this, but the same thing happened almost thirty years ago.”
Steven’s brow furrowed, but he said nothing so Jim continued.
“We took a little kid with us trick-or-treating that night. His name was BJ.”
Recognition shone on Steven’s face. “Oh yeah. I remember him. He was two, wasn’t he? Yeah, and he had on this little wolf costume, and he looked incredibly cute.”
“Yeah, he did, didn’t he?” Jim said, trying to hold back a laugh as he glanced sideways at Blair who was blushing a little bit.
Steven quickly sobered. “He ate the razor blade chocolate. I remember him crying and the blood.” He lowered his eyes. “I always wondered what happened to him.”
Jim stepped forward and put his arm around his brother’s shoulders. “Well, Steven, you want to know what happened to him? I’ll tell ya. He became a great teacher, an outstanding anthropologist, and one of the best friends I’ve ever had,” he said, looking at Blair who smiled back.
Steven followed Jim’s gaze and his mouth dropped open. “You?” he said incredulously. “You’re BJ?”
“I used to be called that, yeah.” Blair shrugged. He vaguely remembered Steven being there trying to comfort him when he was in the hospital.
“I can’t believe it.” He looked at Jim. “Did you know when you guys first met?”
“No,” Jim replied, shaking his head.
“We just found out actually. Yesterday,” Blair said.
“Wow. Talk about a small world,” Steven muttered.
“Tell me about it,” Blair muttered back.
Steven smiled and then ruffled Blair’s hair. “It’s great to see you, kid.”
“Hey, watch the hair,” Blair complained, ducking out Steven’s reach.
“What? Are you afraid I’ll mess it up?”
“Of course,” Blair answered, straightening his hair. “Gotta look good for the ladies.” He grinned, moving his eyebrows up and down.
“Oh boy. There goes the table leg again. Let’s focus here, huh. We still have to find this guy,” Jim said.
Steven looked at his brother seriously. “Do you think it’s same guy?”
“We don’t know,” Blair replied.
“But we’re about to find out,” Jim said.
He walked down the sidewalk sniffing the air. There were so many different scents in the air. There was the smell of freshly cut grass and someone somewhere was having a barbeque as the scent of burgers cooking on the grill wafted into his nostrils, which was making him hungry as he hadn’t been able to finish his lunch. He shook his head. Food would have to wait. He felt Blair at his shoulder and heard him whisper.
“Concentrate. Focus. Filter out all the scents until you find the one you want.”
Steven followed the two at a distance, watching his brother carefully. Jim was sniffing the air constantly like some kind of bloodhound on the trail of a scent. He always wondered how his brother did the things he did. He remembered Jim’s spectacular senses when they were little. Jim used to tell him about all of the things he saw and heard, and Steven had been fascinated by it. But as time went on, those stories became few and far between until they just stopped altogether. He had never seen Jim use his senses again until now. He wondered why he would start using them again now.
Jim took a deep breath in through his nose as he walked down the sidewalk, his sensitive nose filtering through all the different scents in the air. Blair walked beside him studiously making sure that he didn’t zone or run into anything or anybody.
It took about a half hour of them walking up and down the street multiple times, but Jim finally caught that elusive scent. He stopped in front of a two story brick house with a rusty iron fence out in front. There was dilapidated tree in the front yard that looked like it had seen better days and the lawn was overgrown. There were no lights on in the house, and it looked like no one was home, but Jim knew that someone was home. He could hear someone moving inside.
Blair looked up at the house and then at Jim. “This is the house?”
Blair looked at the house again. “Uh, this place is kind of creepy. Are you sure we came here as kids?”
“I think I remember coming to this house,” Steven said.
“Yeah, me too,” Jim said. “Let’s go.” He gave the iron gate a push, and it slowly creaked open.
“Oh man. This place is getting creepier by the minute,” Blair mumbled.
“You don’t have to come, Chief,” Jim said. “In fact, I want you two to stay here.”
“No. If this is our guy, he could be dangerous, and I don’t want to have to worry about you. Stay put.”
With a sigh, Blair nodded and Steven did the same. Jim walked down the cracked walkway to the porch and knocked on the door. He was remembering more and more of this place the more time he spent here. The door opened a crack and one brown, bloodshot eye peered out.
“Yeah, what do you want?” a gravelly voice asked.
“Good evening, sir. I’m Detective Jim Ellison,” Jim said politely as he held up his badge. “I’d like to ask you a few questions if I may.”
“Well, I’m sure you heard about it already, but it seems that someone around here was handing out razor blade chocolate to the trick-or-treaters last night and many kids were hospitalized because of it. We’re just going around the neighborhood asking people if they might have seen something.”
“I don’t know nothing about that, and I don’t have to talk to you.”
The man tried to slam the door shut, but Jim put his foot in the door.
“That’s fine,” Jim said casually. “If you won’t cooperate with me, I can always take you to the station and ask you questions there. It’s your choice.” He was bluffing of course, but this guy didn’t need to know that.
The guy seemed to think it over a moment and then opened the door all the way. “Fine. Come in.”
Jim stepped into the house and the scent hit him like a punch in the face. It was definitely the same scent he had smelled as a kid and this was definitely the same house, but looking at the man shifting in front of him with his greasy black hair and pale skin, Jim realized that this man was too young to have done this thirty years ago. Perhaps his father?
“So, Mr...?” Jim prompted.
“Kriticos,” the man answered. “Daniel Kriticos.”
“Mr. Kriticos, were you home last night?”
“Did you hand out any candy?”
“No,” Kriticos huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t do that.”
Jim heard the man’s heartbeat pick up speed and knew he was lying. “So you didn’t see anything suspicious last night?”
“No, I told you. I don’t know anything.”
Jim nodded casually. He looked around the house and spotted a picture hanging on the wall. It was of a man with graying hair and a beard, and Jim remembered now that that was the guy who handed out the candy last time. It had to be this guy’s father. The resemblance was too coincidental.
“So how long have you lived here?” Jim asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
Jim looked at him. “Well, you see something like this happened about thirty years ago. So, answer the question, will you please?”
“I’ve lived here all my life. But I wouldn’t know anything about that. I was just a kid then.”
“So this is your parents’ house,” Jim stated.
“Where are your parents?”
“They’re dead. Anymore questions?”
Jim could tell the guy was getting angry, but Jim wasn’t going to back down. He knew Kriticos was guilty. He just had to find the proof.
“Mind if I look around?” Jim asked.
“You got a warrant?”
“Do I need one?”
Kriticos narrowed his eyes and then gave him a half smile. “Nah. Go ahead. Snoop around.”
Jim walked through the house following that strange elusive scent. He still didn’t know what it was, but he was going to find out. He walked down a hall toward the back of the house, turned toward the left wall, and stopped. The smell was coming from behind that wall. He knocked on the wall. It sounded hollow on the other side like there was another room there, but there were no doors on that side of the hallway. He felt all along the wall and found a small button that was almost impossible to see. He pushed it and a secret panel opened up in front of him. He looked back down the hall but didn’t see Kriticos anywhere so he ducked inside.
The smell was definitely stronger there. It was like a mixture of chemicals, death, decay, and chocolate, and it nearly made Jim puke. He put his hand under his nose and continued walking down a short hallway that opened up to a veritable torture chamber. There were two tables in the room. One was a wooden table with four leather buckles attached to it. The other table was littered with all kinds of toxins and poisons. And at one end of the table there was a pile of chocolate bars each individually wrapped in clear plastic and next to that was a pile of razor blades.
Jim picked up one of the chocolate bars, ripped off the wrapper, and broke it in half. There were razor blades inside. These must have been leftover from last night. This was definitely their guy, but looking around the room, Jim was quickly beginning to realize that this guy was in to far more that just razor blade chocolate. There were pools of blood everywhere, some dried, some fresh, and there were bloody instruments strewn all over the table. This guy is seriously twisted, Jim thought.
There was a soft glow in the corner of the room, and at first glance, Jim thought it was just a candle sitting on a small end table. But looking at it again, he realized that the candle was sitting in something, and it wasn’t a jack-o-lantern. It was actually a human head, and the face was carved up to look like a jack-o-lantern with the candle sitting in the mouth. Jim put his hand over his mouth. He had seen a lot of things, but never had he seen anything like that.
“You really shouldn’t have come here.”
Jim spun around and was hit in the side of the head by a large club, and everything went dark.
Blair was leaning against the iron fence outside still waiting for Jim while Steven stood next to him, tapping his foot. Blair could tell the younger Ellison was getting real antsy. Blair was a little worried himself. Jim had been in there a while.
“Does it usually take this long?” Steven asked.
Blair pushed away from the fence and turned to face the house. “Depends.”
“Well, maybe we should do something. He could be in trouble.”
Blair rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t like waiting out here any more than Steven did, but just because it was taking a little longer, didn’t mean Jim was in trouble. There could be any number of reasons for it to be taking this long. Then again, what if Steven was right? What if Jim was in trouble and they just stood out here like a couple of dopes?
Blair debated calling Simon but decided to call Jim’s cell first. He had to make sure they weren’t just overreacting. He pulled out his cell phone.
“Who are you calling?” Steven asked.
“I’m calling Jim.” He dialed Jim’s number and listen as it ringed. It rang for a few minutes before it was cut off. “That’s odd.”
“The call just suddenly cut off.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Me neither. I’m calling Simon.” He quickly dialed Simon’s number.
“Hey Simon. This is Blair. Um, Jim and I are at 1205 Freeman Street, and I think Jim is in trouble.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. Slow down, Sandburg. What do you mean? What kind of trouble?” Simon asked.
“Well, you heard about those kids that were hospitalized last night from eating razor blade chocolate, right?”
“Well, Jim sort of took it upon himself to investigate, and we think we found the guy. We’re at his house, and Jim went inside but he hasn’t come back out, and that was like twenty minutes ago. And when I called his cell phone, the call was cut off. I think something’s up.” Blair knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t help it. He was really worried now.
“Alright. Alright. Just calm down. Back up is on the way. I want you to just stay put until I get there.”
“Well?” Steven asked when Blair closed his cell phone.
“Back up is coming. He said to just stay here.”
“We’re not going to do that, are we?”
Blair stared at the house, chewing on his bottom lip. He shook his head. No, he wasn’t going to do that. They’d been doing enough of that already for the last twenty minutes.
“No way. Let’s go,” Blair said.
They walked through the gate up to the house. They tried the front door and were surprised to find it unlocked. Blair opened the door a crack and peered inside. Not seeing anyone, he motioned for Steven to follow him.
“So where are they?” Steven asked, trying to keep his voice down.
“I don’t know,” Blair replied. He was really wishing he had Jim’s sentinel abilities right about now.
Looking around, Blair walked into the living room toward the fireplace and grabbed the poker. Hefting it in both hands, he nodded, satisfied, and went back to where Steven still stood staring at him.
“Just in case,” Blair said, gripping the poker in both hands like a baseball bat.
Steven nodded and started looking around for a weapon of his own. He wondered into the kitchen and grabbed a large knife from one of the drawers.
“Ok,” he said as he rejoined Blair. “I guess I’ll look around upstairs while you check down here.”
Blair nodded. “Sounds good. Be careful.”
Steven walked cautiously up the stairs, holding his knife tightly in his sweaty hand. He didn’t know how his brother did this kind of stuff every day. He couldn’t stand the tension and the danger. He was so shaky he could practically hear his knees knocking together.
He reached the top of the stairs and started peering into rooms. The place didn’t look like it had been well taken care of. There was dust and cobwebs everywhere, and every room seemed to be cluttered with junk.
He stopped when he saw a little girl about twelve years old sitting on the floor in one of the rooms. Her blonde hair was matted and dirty, and her clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in weeks. Steven lowered his knife and slowly walked into the room.
“Hey, little girl, are you ok?” he asked.
As he approached her, he could hear her reciting something.
“Simple Simon met a pie man playing with a knife. Said Simple Simon to the pie man, ‘Will you take my life?’ Said the pie man to Simple Simon, ‘When the time is right.’ Said Simple Simon to the pie man, ‘Then I will die tonight.’”
Steven raised his eyebrows. That was a messed up version of the Simple Simon rhyme. A little unnerved, he took another step toward the girl.
“Hey,” he said again and the girl whirled around to face him. Her face was covered in dirt. “It’s alright,” he said quickly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
She stood up and smiled maniacally. “I know.” She suddenly charged him, brandishing a small knife.
Surprised, Steven dropped his own knife as the girl tackled him, swinging the knife at him. But she was no match for Steven’s strength. He grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm until she let go of the knife. Then he threw her in the closet and locked the door.
He could hear her yelling and screaming and pounding on the door as he leaned against the wall. Oh man. This was the last time he got involved in one of his brother’s cases.
Jim awoke with a pounding headache. As he waited for his vision to clear, he realized that he was lying down staring at the ceiling. He tried to sit up but found that his wrists and ankles were strapped down. Then he remembered the wooden table with the leather straps on it. Oh man, he was in trouble.
“Ah, awake I see.”
Jim lifted his head and saw Daniel Kriticos enter the room. He had a sadistic smile on his face.
“You know it’s funny,” Kriticos said as he approached Jim. “I’ve been doing this a long time and my dad a long time before that. And we’ve never had a problem with the police. And then you show up asking about something as trivial as razor blade chocolate.”
“Trivial!” Jim said in disbelief. “You put kids in the hospital.”
“That’s nothing compared to what I’ve done. I’ve killed. I’ve maimed. I’ve tortured. I’m sure you saw my little jack-o-lantern in the corner. That’s not the first one I’ve made, and it won’t be the last. That’s my especially favorite thing to do for Halloween. Now, what I’m wondering is either I’m losing my touch, or you’re that damn good. So tell me, what brought you to me? I know I didn’t leave any evidence. My dad taught me well. So what gave me away?”
“I remembered this house,” Jim replied. “Thirty years ago.”
“Ah, that was the last time my dad made that razor blade chocolate. Gave me the recipe. Let me guess. You were one of the little brats that ate it.”
“No,” Jim said through gritted teeth. “My friend was. I had to watch.”
Kriticos laughed. “Well, what do you know. And I thought waiting this long, no one would notice. Oh well.” He shrugged and turned toward the table. He picked up a carving knife and examined it. Then he shook his head, put it down, and picked up another one. “You know I’ve never killed a cop before. Should be fun.”
“You’re sick,” Jim said.
Kriticos turned and approached Jim, apparently having chosen a blade that was to his liking. “Sick? Nah. I’m a sociopath. I have a need for blood. Now, I know Halloween is over and all, but since you’re my first cop I can hardly pass up the opportunity to get a trophy. You can never have too many jack-o-lanterns.” He smiled.
Jim swallowed nervously. If he didn’t get out of here quick, his head was going to end up on display in this guy’s house. He struggled to get free of the leather straps as the guy came closer with the knife, but they were solid. He watched the knife coming closer to his left eye. He closed his eyes and felt the knife carve into his cheek right under his eye. He held in the scream that wanted to escape his lips and quickly turned down the pain. If he was going to be carved like a pumpkin, he certainly wasn’t going to feel it if he could help it.
Through the haze of pain, Jim heard footsteps coming closer. He opened his right eye and saw Blair enter the room with a poker in his hands. He looked appalled at first and then he looked angry.
“Hey! Asshole!” Blair yelled.
Kriticos turned and Blair hit him in the side of the head with the poker. The guy fell to the ground like a ton of bricks and didn’t move. Blair stood over him breathing heavily for a minute or two.
“That’s for what happened to me when I was a kid, you sick fuck,” Blair said. Then he hurried to Jim’s side. “Jim, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Get me off this thing.”
Blair quickly undid the straps. Once he was free, Jim sat up and swung his legs off the table. Blair took a quick look at Jim’s face. The cut was pretty deep and there was blood streaming down Jim’s cheek.
“Oh man. That looks bad.”
Jim gingerly put his fingers to his face. “Yeah, it’s probably going to need stitches.”
“What the hell was he trying to do?”
“Turn me into a jack-o-lantern.”
Jim pointed to the head in the corner. Blair looked in the direction he was pointing and gasped.
“Oh! Oh man, that’s gross. This guy is a freak.”
“Yeah, you’re telling me,” Jim agreed as he knelt down to put the cuffs on the unconscious man.
Not wanting to look at the grisly sight of the severed head, Blair turned toward the table. “Oh man. Look at all this stuff. You could kill a whole army with just one of these poisons. I shudder to think how many people he’s killed.”
“Among other things,” Jim muttered. After making sure the guy wasn’t going anywhere, he stood up. “Where’s Steven?”
“Oh, he went to look around upstairs,” Blair said distractedly. He walked down to the end of the table and saw the pile of chocolate bars. He picked up the one Jim had broken in half. “Jim, are these it?”
“Yeah. His father was the one that made them thirty years ago, and he passed the ‘recipe’ on to his son.”
“Jesus. What is wrong with people?”
“I don’t know.” Jim put his hand on Blair’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go find Steven. There’s no telling what else is in this house.”
Blair nodded quickly. He was all for that. He really didn’t like this room. They walked toward the secret panel and ran into Steven as he was walking down the hallway.
“There you guys are,” Steven said. Noticing the blood on his brother’s face, he became concerned. “Jim, are you ok?”
“Yeah. It’s not too bad.”
“Good. So where’s the other guy?”
“Unconscious,” Jim replied. “Blair hit him with a poker.”
“Oh,” Steven said, looking at Blair who shrugged. “Well, that’s good. By the way, I ran into a little girl upstairs reciting some warped version of Simple Simon before she tried to stab me.”
“What?” Blair asked in disbelief.
“Are you ok?” Jim asked.
“Yeah, it just took me by surprise. I had to lock her in the closet. She went totally nuts.”
“Must be the guy’s daughter,” Jim said.
“Man, what’s with this family?” Blair exclaimed. “You see this is why we have so many psychos in the world. Some people just shouldn’t have kids.”
“Amen to that, but what are you going to do? You can’t stop people from having kids,” Jim said.
“Yeah, I know,” Blair said with a sigh.
Jim tilted his head. He heard sirens in the distance. “Back up is coming,” he said as he walked toward the front door.
They met Simon and some uniformed officers on the front porch.
“Jim, are you ok?” Simon asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Nothing a few stitches won’t fix. The guy you want is just down the hall on the left. There’s a secret panel in the wall there.”
Simon motioned for the officers to go check it out. Then he turned his attention back to his detective. “So Jim, tell me what happened. And why did you take it upon yourself to investigate? This wasn’t your case.”
“Yeah, I know that, Simon. But something like this happened when I was a kid, and I always felt responsible that the guy got away. I just needed to catch this guy.”
“So you’re saying this is the same guy,” Simon said.
“No, actually, that was his father, who is dead by the way,” Jim replied.
“Yeah, but Simon, this guy is into way more than just razor blade chocolate. Wait till you see that secret room, man,” Blair said with a shudder.
“Alright. I’ll take a look. I want your report on this first thing tomorrow morning,” Simon said to Jim.
“Will do, sir.”
“And get your face looked at,” Simon added as he walked into the house.
“Right. Oh, and Simon,” Jim called. “You might want to call Child Protective Services. There’s a little girl upstairs locked in one of the closets. She tried to stab my brother.”
Simon nodded. “Right. I’ll get that taken care of.”
Jim nodded and walked over to his truck. He leaned against the front bumper. Blair followed and leaned against the truck next to him.
“You know we really should get your face stitched,” Blair said.
“Yeah, in a minute.”
“Yeah. I told you. It’s not that bad.”
“I don’t mean that.”
Jim looked at his partner and smiled. “Yeah, I’m ok. I really am.”
“No more guilt?”
“No, no more guilt. We got the guy, even though it wasn’t the guy responsible for what happened to you. At least it won’t happen again. Everything’s good.”
Steven stepped up in front of them a moment later and stood with his hands in his pocket. “Well,” he said, “guess I should be going.”
“You sure you don’t want to stay?” Jim asked with a smile.
“Uh, no. I think I’ve had enough of this place.”
Jim chuckled. “Yeah, me too. How about we have lunch tomorrow?”
Steven nodded. “Yeah, alright. And Blair, you’re welcome to come.”
Blair looked at him in surprise. “Me? No, I don’t want to intrude.”
“Don’t be silly,” Steven said, putting an arm around the young man’s shoulders. “After all, we’re old childhood friends.”
“Uh, we are?” Blair was confused. They still didn’t really know each other. Even though they had met as kids, they hadn’t really been together for very long. He been with Jim a lot longer than with Steven, but he did remember Steven being at the hospital trying to comfort him. Maybe that was enough.
“Sure. If you want,” Steven said.
Blair smiled. “Yeah, sure.”
“Well, alright. I’ll see you two tomorrow,” he said as he started walking away.
Blair looked up at Jim with a big smile on his face. Jim smiled back. It was good that his best friend and his brother were getting along.
“Oh, and Jim,” Steven called. “Nice job on sniffing out the bad guy.” He smiled and continued walking.
Jim and Blair looked at each other with wide eyes.
“You don’t think?” Blair asked.
“Nah, he couldn’t.”