New Arrivals
Author-Sheila Paulson
Titles

Catalyst
Part One
by Sheila Paulson

Summary: While Jim is involved in court testimony on a vicious killer who is bent on revenge, Blair encounters Jonathan Quale Higgins from the TV series Magnum, P.I. Rated PG for violence.

Author's Notes: I don't know if the magazine Blair and Higgins discuss really exists, but I give credit to the name to Aaron Elkins in his book Curses. What a perfect magazine for Blair. This story was originally published in Sentry Post 3.

Disclaimer: Alas, Blair, Jim, Simon and The Sentinel don't belong to me, but to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount, and no copyright infringement is intended here. Jonathan Higgins and Magnum, P.I. were created by Donald P. Bellisario. It belongs to Universal and Bellisarius Productions.

Blair Sandburg stretched comfortably and closed the last folder. There! Finals were all graded. Three weeks free until the spring session began, three whole weeks of Christmas vacation with nothing to do but run tests on Jim--well, after first convincing Jim more tests were needed. Blair's Sentinel had proven extremely recalcitrant of late. He had never liked tests, and in the last month or so, he'd acted more stubborn than usual about allowing them. Blair had decided to take it as a challenge, to make them more interesting, to make them more concrete, to tie their purpose into Jim's police work. If he could recruit Simon, make him see the sense of them.... Captain Banks might be wary of Blair, not quite approving, but if Blair could do a little fast talking, make Simon see specific end results, maybe he'd even order the tests. Blair was really eager to discover if Jim's visible spectrum could be expanded with practice and training. If he could push Jim toward the infrared level, get him to see radiation.... It would be so cool, and the practical uses would be really great. Blair grinned. Even Simon would see the use of that.

"I say, are you Blair Sandburg?"

The voice was British, not to mention rather skeptical, as if Blair himself did not match the speaker's mental perception of 'Blair Sandburg'. So deep in his contemplation of infrared and ultraviolet studies that he hadn't heard the door opening, Blair jumped, then he whirled around, pulling off his reading glasses.

The man who stood in the doorway was short, probably an inch shorter than Blair himself, and he was older, with grey speckling the temples of his raven hair. He was pear-shaped and rather portly, but Blair's first impression was that this was a very intelligent man. Accustomed to the academic community, Blair usually noticed the look in men's eyes, the look of academic curiosity. The man's three-piece suit was well cut and might be expensive, but that wasn't as interested as the knowing gaze that moved around Blair's office, identifying artifacts that rested on shelves of the converted storeroom. A small, well-used, leather briefcase was tucked under one arm. Maybe a new professor, although Blair hadn't heard anything about anyone new in the Anthro department.

"Yes, I'm Blair Sandburg," he said with a friendly grin. "Come on in. Were you looking for me?"

"Yes, I've come from Hawaii specifically to track you down."

"Hawaii? Not England?" The accent was slightly muted as if the stranger had lived out of Britain for some time, but he was definitely British. He confirmed it with his next words.

"From Britain originally, of course, but I have spent a number of years in Hawaii, managing the estate of the writer, Robin Masters, a position which has allowed me considerable time for my researches. My name is Jonathan Quale Higgins III." He stuck out his hand and Blair shook it. "And I have come to talk to you about Sentinels."

Blair's mouth dropped open and for a moment he went on pumping the newcomer's hand automatically before he collected himself and let go. The last person he expected to walk into his office was an expatriate Brit who knew of the Sentinel concept. "Sentinels?" he echoed in astonishment. Did he know about Jim? Blair would have to watch what he said. Higgins might know too much, and if he'd tracked Blair down, he was resourceful enough to learn more.

"I read your most recent paper in The Journal of Holistic Anthropology and Shamanistic Enlightenment" Higgins said surprisingly.

Blair went on staring. While he found that particular publication fascinating and contributed to it from time to time, it was far from mainstream, and he had to balance his submissions there with others to more academically acceptable journals and publications in order to maintain credibility at the university. The 'publish or perish' concept didn't extend to such publications as Holy Anthro, although Blair loved it, especially since he had become the 'Shaman of the great city' a few months earlier. He'd done a lot of research on shamanism before the Chopek invasion of Cascade, but since then he'd done a great deal more, and Holy Anthro was one publication that assisted him, not only with appropriate articles but with the bibliographies which accompanied them that suggested further research. Blair's free hours were few and far between, but he filled them with as much research as possible. He had to, in order to keep up with Jim's developing abilities, the teacher only half a step ahead of the student.

"You read Holy Anthro?" he asked with a wary grin. "You'd better come in."

"I've contributed to it occasionally," Higgins replied, allowing Blair to show him into a chair.

Blair dropped into his own chair, pulling his hair back from his face and securing it in a tail at the nape of his neck. "Are you an anthropologist?"

"No, my doctorate is in mathematics," Higgins replied. "Oxford. But I've always had a fascination for anthropology, especially with primitive tribes, and since I've had frequent opportunity to encounter primitive peoples in their own habitats, I couldn't help observing. On no less than seven occasions, I've spent a period of months living with a local tribe, becoming accepted by them."

"Wow, that must have been great!" Blair cried enthusiastically. "I love stuff like that. I've done it myself a few times. It's not that easy to get accepted either."

"It was completely fascinating," Higgins agreed. "And I've been fortunate enough to have full access to Robin Masters' considerable reference library. It was useful whilst writing my memoirs, but now that work is completed, I've been exploring anthropological pursuits and have considered writing studies of some of the tribes I've visited, in New Guinea or South America. It was whilst I was pondering this possibility that I happened upon an article of yours written some three years ago."

"The Burton article," Blair said. "The one where I'd traced Burton's activities for a period of a year, and quoted some of his papers."

"That one, indeed, young man. I must say you added a note of scholarly respectability that is sometimes lacking in Holy Anthro. The New Age tone in recent years suggests a certain gullibility, yet there is still worthy material to be found there. When I was with the Hovitos in Peru...."

"The Hovitos!" Blair burst out, jumping to his feet. "But they're cannibals! Well, at least, they were. Nobody's done any serious work on them since Jones's monograph in the Thirties, and since he was an archaeologist, his slant on the subject was the ruins and how the Hovitos had adapted their culture to fit the remnants of the Inca culture and based their worship upon what the Incans left behind. Great stuff, if dated."

"Jones was nearly captured by the Hovitos. He never lived among them," Higgins replied. "When I was with Jones in Zimbabwe in '56--actually it was still South Rhodesia then--he told me a considerable amount about the Hovitos." "You actually met Indiana Jones?" Blair knew his eyes were as wide as a kid's on Christmas morning. This guy must have the greatest stories ever. "Oh, man, that is so incredible."

"I still stay in touch with him. He'll be a hundred years old next year," Higgins pointed out. "He doesn't teach any longer, but he still has his mind. We correspond via e-mail. I'll give you his e-mail address, if you like. He enjoys talking to students. He'll tell you enough stories to bend your ear. The man's an inveterate talker--even more so than I am."

"Wow!" He pulled himself together. "So you were with the Hovitos?"

"Actually, most of the Hovitos have been absorbed into modern Peruvian culture in the past twenty years," Higgins replied. "At the time I was there, shortly after the Second World War, they were still tribal. But it was my experiences in Peru that made me interested in your article. I had little contact with another tribe, the Chopek, but I did spend a week in one of their villages. They had an understanding of the Sentinel concept, more than any tribe I've encountered. I'd read a lot of Burton's work; actually I'm distantly connected through my father, although not close enough to claim more than distant kinship. However, my grandfather, Jonathan the First, had some correspondence with him when he was a boy."

"Oh, gosh," Blair gasped. "I don't suppose you still have any of his letters." Finding unpublished source material was the dream of any scholar.

"I have two, but they do little to serve the purpose. I brought them with me, knowing you might find them of interest."

"That's great. What got you interested in Sentinels?" Blair had to discuss the subject; it was too fascinating. And Higgins would think it strange if he downplayed it. He be careful not to give Jim away, but he had to know more.

"I've seen approximations even among the Bushmen of the Kalahari, although their dangers are of a different sort, and their needs quite different from a tribe who might be at war with a rival tribe. I learned to speak a little Bushman, but it was so long ago I've forgotten most of it. Every time I was in a primitive location, I would hear stories from the elders about tribal guardians who would protect the tribe. Always interested in Burton, I put a few things together, but never had time to do major research on the subject."

"I've spent some time with the Chopek myself," Blair replied, a thread of wariness creeping in. Higgins seemed the type to put together solutions from the slenderest of clues. Even if he wasn't an anthropologist, he must be well-read on the subject. Blair needed to be cautious.

"Your article didn't mention that, but perhaps it's a natural extension of your research," Higgins agreed. "I understand you're working on your own doctorate, and since your article in Holy Anthro, and one or two others I've seen since display a proper use of the scientific method, not to mention a genuine enthusiasm, I thought I might be able to share information with you. The modern world won't have much call for full Sentinels, but I met one, once."

"You're kidding! When? Where?" Blair was fascinated. "I've found a lot of people with one heightened sense, sometimes even two, but someone with all five...."

"I think I may, as a younger man, have had heightened vision," Higgins replied. "It's faded in later years, unfortunately, and I do use reading glasses, but I am still quite farsighted. It served me well in the war, when I was stationed in North Africa with His Majesty's Own West Yorkshire Regiment. I was Sergeant-Major Higgins in those days. Out on the desert at night, under more stars than one can imagine in this light-polluted day and age, a good eye was essential. I once observed what could have been a deadly ambush by a German half-track and a squadron of men. They meant to take out one of the long-range desert groups, but I was able to spot them and we got a warning through in time. One of the group was an archaeologist in civilian life and he was able to tell me about a buried lost city in the area. It had once been part of a caravan trail stopover until the oasis dried up."

"That's great!" Blair could listen to the old guy all day. "Do you think being out there in the desert heightened your vision?"

"It may have done," Higgins agreed. "I was keen-eyed as a lad, but after the desert, my vision was sharper than ever. It stood me in good stead over the years, when I found myself in peril in remote locations."

"I bet. Hey, tell you what, I'm supposed to meet my friend for dinner tonight. He's had to listen to me talk Sentinels for a long time and he's used to it. Join us, and you can tell me about the Sentinel you met and where it was." If he could get a chance to warn Jim ahead of time, he'd do it, but Ellison was quick on the draw. He'd figure it out.


"Who's your friend, Chief?" Jim Ellison asked when Blair led Higgins into one of their favorite restaurants.

"Dr. Higgins," Blair introduced. "Or should it be Sergeant-Major Higgins?"

Just plain Higgins will do nicely," the newcomer said.

"And this is Jim Ellison of the Cascade police department," Blair completed the introductions.

As he shook hands Jim eyed the stranger with interest because, in his stuffy, three-piece suit, he didn't seem the type of person to excite Blair. He must be someone from the university. He had the look.

"I'm retired from the Army, and I'm not teaching these days. Blair says you've been in the service yourself?"

"Yes, for a while, but I've left the service, too. I work with the Cascade Police Department these days, like Blair said."

"I invited Higgins to eat with us," Blair explained. "Jim, he came here all the way from Hawaii to look me up. He's met a full Sentinel and he might have Sentinel vision. Isn't that great?" He was shooting warnings with his eyes, and Ellison had come to understand Sandburg well enough over their time together to know what he meant. Blair hadn't told Higgins he was a Sentinel and was being careful. But he wanted Jim to admit to knowledge of Blair's work.

"Sounds like a bonus for you, Chief," he said. "Actually, I've got good vision myself. It's how Blair and I met. He's run a few tests on me, and he'll probably run them on you."

"That would be fascinating," Higgins replied. That proved it. He was definitely the scholarly type. Jim hated the tests. He wanted to be out doing things, and didn't mind Blair coaching him in the field because he could see practical applications of the things he could do. But electrodes attached to his body rated right up there in the list of fun things to do with the horror of baring his soul to women on dates. It wasn't the way he was made.

"Wow, Jim. Anything I can find out will be so great. And you know what?" He was practically bouncing up and down on his toes, the way he did when he was terminally excited. "He's actually related to Sir Richard Burton."

Jim frowned. Was this Higgins for real? Here he was, showing up out of the blue, pushing all Blair's buttons. Maybe it was a scam, a set-up by someone who had a hint of Jim's abilities and wanted to learn more. Blair wasn't the most trusting of individuals, but someone with his love of learning and a special knowledge in Blair's chosen field might just bypass the usual suspicions.

"Is that a fact?" he asked dryly.

"A very distant connection," Higgins admitted. "Actually he and my grandfather were second-cousins once removed. One can hardly claim genuine kinship. But my grandfather corresponded with him in the 1880's."

"He died in 1890, Jim," Blair threw in as if that proved it. He restrained himself with an effort as the maître d' led them to a table and distributed menus. When the man retreated, Blair added, "And he's got two letters from Burton with him. I saw them. They're genuine, I'd swear it. He didn't talk about Sentinels in them, and that's too bad, but I saw them."

"I think you've made Blair's day," Jim said with a half-smile.

Blair cut in quickly. "You said you'd met an actual Sentinel?"

"Yes, and you'll enjoy this, Blair. It's a truly fascinating story. It happened that I had to spend some time in the Philippines shortly after the end of World War II. It was in early 1948. I had been sent there as a courier by His Majesty's Secret Service to deliver a message. It took me into central Luzon, where I encountered native tribes. I have a good understanding of Tagalog, and it wasn't long before I heard the legend of the Multo."

"Wow," breathed Blair, eyes wide with excitement. "Doesn't that mean something like 'ghost'?"

"Very good," Higgins approved. "Yes, it does, actually. It turned out that was the name the natives had given the downed Japanese pilot, who would appear and disappear as if he were a ghost, glimpsed dimly through the trees then gone. I did a little investigation and managed to encounter him on a jungle path. He had been watching me for six hours before he finally showed himself. He'd been hiding out in the bush, failing to realize the war was over. I knew enough Japanese to make myself understood and managed to explain to him that the war had ended in '45. He doubted me, of course. He demanded information. I had an article in my wallet about the end of the war. He told me to hold it up. I did, and he read it easily from a considerable distance. He knew a little English."

"Wow, and he was stranded alone in the jungle for a couple of years. Any latent Sentinel abilities would be sure to develop if he was alone like that," said Blair. He started to glance at Jim and caught himself. He was trying hard not to give anything away. But Jim knew his guide well and realized Blair could get so caught up in the excitement of the conversation he might inadvertently let the secret slip. And the old guy, Higgins, wasn't exactly the most interesting talker Jim had ever heard. Sure the pilot down in the jungle was intriguing. Someone else had gone through the same experience Jim had. But when the waitress came to take their orders, Jim was glad of it.

Blair started up again right away when she had retreated. "So you talked to the guy? How did you find out he had become a Sentinel?"

"The distance vision was the first clue, of course," Higgins replied. "Also, he could hear sounds in the jungle that were beyond my range. I asked him questions, and determined his other senses were enhanced as well. I talked to him off and on for perhaps four days."

Jim had no trouble imagining that. Higgins was definitely the type who could talk uninterrupted for hours at a stretch.

"What happened to him after that?" Blair asked. "All my studies indicate that primitive sentinels each had someone to stand guard with him, to deal with the zone-out factor, a shaman or guide."

"Acute concentration when focusing senses, getting out of hand?" Higgins was definitely quick. "Backup would be a decided advantage. Unfortunately, I was not able to study the man. He was repatriated to Japan. There was some publicity at the time, but he requested I say nothing about heightened senses, and I complied. Until now, there has been no one I could discuss it with."

"But what if he's still alive?" Blair demanded. "I could call him, question him."

"I did keep in touch with him," Higgins replied. "His senses returned to nearly normal once he returned to his own environment. Perhaps he had no need of them there. He was a shoemaker. He was not required to protect himself or his community. He died in 1983. However, I did bring my notes on the subject, which I would allow you to use for your dissertation, should they prove useful."

"Useful? Wow." Blair's eyes gleamed with excitement. "I can't wait. Jim, isn't this great?"

"Yeah, definitely great, Chief."

If Blair noticed the lack of appreciation in Jim's voice he was too caught up in his exhilaration to react to it. A slight surprise filtered into the blue of his eyes, but then Higgins made another comment and Blair turned back with an eager question and the moment passed.

Talk became a little more general over the food, and Jim asked a couple of quick questions. This Higgins character had been living the high life tending a wealthy man's estate for well over fifteen years. He came from a military background and had written his memoirs. Jim cringed at the idea of trying to read them but Blair asked eagerly if he could get a copy. Higgins had enjoyed many adventures working, although unofficially, with a local private investigator who happened to live on the rich man's estate. The private eye had been former naval intelligence and had returned to the navy. Good. That gave Jim a lead to pursue in checking out this Higgins clown. He made a mental note of the name Thomas Magnum, and vowed to ring his contact at the CIA to see if he could learn anything more about Higgins. He'd have to be very careful there; the last thing Jim wanted was for the government to take an interest in Sentinels.

When the meal was over, Higgins passed over his briefcase to Blair, who received it as if he'd just been given the crown jewels, and the two men arranged to meet the following morning.

"I thought you were coming in with me tomorrow, Chief," Jim said involuntarily.

Blair's face fell. "Is it really urgent, Jim? Something like this doesn't come along very often. I have to follow it up. Higgins is only in town for a week. I'll still have a couple of weeks off to work with you."

It was a fair question. Jim's day would probably be spent in court, testifying on the Jack Ragan case, and Blair hadn't been involved with that one. Jim had just grown so used to having Blair with him at Major Crimes when he wasn't involved with classes and teaching that the idea he'd pass up coming in and spending time with Jim to talk to a man Jim rated a colossal bore bugged him a little.

But the eager look Blair threw at him made Jim say, "No, it's just that Ragan thing. Go ahead, Chief."

"I do consultant work with the police department," Blair explained to Higgins.

"Interesting. All grist for the mill?"

Careful, Sandburg, Jim thought.

"Studies on the presence of an outsider in a closed society," Blair said quickly. "Just like the tribes I've lived with."

"Except that we're not primitive," Jim retorted.

"Oh, I don't know, Jim," Blair teased with a quick grin. "All that macho testosterone? It's a lot different from academia."

"So we do a lot of grunting and sweating?" Ellison cocked an eyebrow at the younger man.

"Well, now that you mention it, Jim...." Blair ducked out of range, laughing.

Higgins watched the byplay with a rather wistful look in his eyes. Then he excused himself to return to his hotel, and Blair quickly set up a meeting with him for the morning. The last glimpse Jim had of the former sergeant-major was his pear-shaped figure climbing into a cab outside the restaurant.

"I like him," Blair said when they were in the pickup heading back to the loft. "He's a real character. Hearing about that Sentinel he met was great! His abilities flared up just like yours did when he was alone in the jungle. I wish there was a way to get lists of people who have been stranded in primitive, isolated places in the last five years. I could contact them. I'd like to find out if it always happens, or if it's genetic and most people who go through a shipwreck or isolation like that come back unchanged. You didn't retain the abilities until you were in an isolated setting again, but you've maintained them since then because of your line of work. Wow, Jim, this is great!"

"Why do I get the feeling there are more tests in this, Chief?" Jim asked without enthusiasm.

Blair turned and stared at him. Even though he had to watch the street, Jim could feel those eyes on him, wide with an edge of disappointment. "I'd think you'd want to know your full potential, Jim. If I had heightened senses, I'd think it was incredible, a great big gift! I know there are problems; it'd be hard to sleep with all those noises, and sometimes lights being too bright and things like that, but, god, Jim, you've saved so many people and done so much." Awe filled his voice. "I know it's not just a gift, it's a huge responsibility, but you accepted responsibility when you went into the police department and again when the Chopek were here in Cascade. I try to make all the tests practical, something that will have useful applications on your job. I know some of them must be boring, but if it makes you able to use them better--"

"I know, Chief. It's just that sometimes I feel like my whole life is out of control," he felt inclined to defend himself. He wasn't good at baring his soul, had never been, but suddenly he wanted to explain. "Every test takes me further away from being 'normal', if that makes any sense. I know I've accepted the responsibility to be a Sentinel, and I'm not trying to back out of it, even if it gets to be a heavy load. I guess I just want...control."

"Jim, this is normal, for you. I can understand you want to take charge and be in control of your life. We all want that. But I'm trying to make sure your senses don't take over and put you in a bad spot. Someday I might be the one who needs your abilities." He grinned. Jim glanced over and saw it. "After all, ever since I got into this police stuff, I feel like I'm a magnet for trouble."

"I'll buy that." Jim chuckled, then grew serious. "You really like all this research stuff with Higgins? I thought you'd told me you'd gotten into the excitement of police work and couldn't go back to your old life."

Blair moved abruptly. "That doesn't mean I don't still love it, Jim. I get a charge out of intellectual puzzles. I like that part of police work, too. Figuring things out. I've always been into that, even when I was a kid. But this--god, Jim, it's right in the middle of what I love doing. I have to go with it. You don't mind, do you?" he asked hopefully.

Jim couldn't help it. He grinned wryly. "No, go ahead. You might even figure out things about this Sentinel business without running tests on me. I'm all for that. Just be careful. You don't know anything about this Higgins guy. He might be a plausible crook, out to get to me through you. Maybe somebody out there has figured out I'm a Sentinel and that we're keeping it under wraps."

Blair's eyes widened. "I never thought of that, Jim. I don't think he is, though. I've heard so many things from him; and he's consistent. He hasn't made mistakes and forgotten. I think he'd have told us a whole lot less about himself, things that could be checked, if he wasn't on the up and up. Don't you trust my judgment?" Blair asked, an unhappy thread weaving through his voice.

"It's not that, Chief. But you said it yourself. You're a magnet for trouble."

Blair laughed. "Okay, you got me there."


Jim didn't. When he showed up at the station in the morning without Sandburg, he started his checks immediately. He didn't find a criminal record. There was too much time difference to contact Hawaii yet, but he did send an e-mail post to Five-0. They'd get back to him eventually. A call to a buddy in Naval Intelligence put him onto one Commander Thomas Magnum, who finally came on the phone. "Higgins?" he said, his voice rising in astonishment after Jim identified himself and explained the purpose of his call. "He's in trouble?" The concern in his voice was genuine. He sounded like he'd take immediate leave and rush to help if Jim replied in the affirmative.

"No, he's not in trouble," Jim told the Navy man quickly. "I just need to know if he's on the up and up. If he's honest."

Magnum was silent a moment, then he said seriously, "Jonathan Higgins is the most ethical man I have ever met in my life. He's someone I would go to without hesitation in a crisis--and have. He never once let me down when I needed him. I would trust him with my life, with my greatest secrets." He chuckled. "We had a rocky start and it took years to get on terms with each other. But if it was my place to do it, I'd grant him any kind of a security clearance going."

"High marks," Jim said, a little sourly.

"That little man is one of the closest friends I've ever had," Magnum replied. "It took me awhile to recognize it, because on the surface we're as different as day and night. But he's a good man. I hope he's not in trouble. If he is, I can get leave and be there by tonight."

It sounded like Higgins had a friend he could trust in return. "No, he's not in trouble," Jim replied. "He showed up here with some strange stories for my buddy who's a teaching fellow at Rainier university. My buddy's impressionable. I didn't want him to get in trouble."

"I didn't say Higgins wouldn't get him in trouble," Magnum said in amusement. "But he won't get him into anything dishonest. Higgins has got more interests than any man I ever met. He's been everywhere and done everything. He's even been a teacher for awhile. He and your friend should have a good time. I wish I could be there to watch. It might be maddening for you, but it will probably be fun."

Jim thanked him for his information and hung up absently, frowning. He wasn't sure why, but a part of him would have been more comfortable if he hadn't gotten such a glowing report and from such a reliable source. The guy was clean, he was honorable, he had a lot of interests in common with Blair. And Sandburg hadn't been able to stop talking about him last night. He'd waved the papers Higgins had loaned him around, practically dancing around the loft, thrilled to death to see the Burton letters, reading out bits of Higgins' report on the Japanese Sentinel. He made comparisons to Jim's experiences in Peru, asked questions prompted by material from Higgins' journal. Jim, who would have preferred to watch the Jags-Lakers game without interruption had listened to all of it. Sandburg loved the Jags as much as Jim did, but he'd been on a tear, full of bounce and eagerness, and hadn't even noticed the game on television. Ellison couldn't help remembering how Blair had told him about the rush he got from working with Jim, and how he didn't think he could return to simply being a professor and anthropologist. From the way he'd talked last night, he'd recaptured all that enthusiasm all over again.

What if he wanted to return to it?

Simon Banks came out of his office as Jim sat brooding at the telephone, and beckoned him in. "Where's Sandburg today?" he asked as he shut the door behind them.

"He met up with some guy from Hawaii who encountered a Sentinel once just after World War II. The two of them are brainstorming or something."

"You don't look very happy about it, Jim."

"I'm not. I've got a bad feeling about it. I checked the guy out. He's clean and he has a friend in Naval Intelligence who vouched for him, made him sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread." Jim scowled. "You wouldn't believe this guy, Simon. He never shuts up. He's boring. All that weird stuff he talks about, and there's Sandburg just lapping it up."

"Sandburg's into a lot of weird stuff on his own," Simon pointed out. "Probably a change of pace for him." He shrugged and moved on. "What about Ragan. You're testifying this morning?"

Jim nodded. "I think it's open and shut, Captain. We've got six witnesses that saw him snatch his brother-in-law and drag him into his garage. Two of them heard the victim screaming. Three of them testified yesterday. We're clean on everything, no procedure problems, nothing to get it thrown out of court."

"Ragan makes me nervous," Simon admitted. "He's cold all through. When we had him in here in interrogation, nothing fazed him. Anybody who could cold-bloodedly torture someone to death can't have a nerve in his body. He's got a few ties to some of the local criminal and a lot of friends inside, not to mention that crazy brother of his. And he threatened you." "That kind of guy likes to make threats," Jim said. "Makes him feel like a big man. I've been keeping alert in case he decided to put out a contract on me, though I think he's the type who'd rather do his own dirty work. If I've been followed, it's been by a total professional. I think that's why I went to the trouble to check out this Higgins character. He's the last person you'd take for a hit man--and that's exactly the kind of person to have good luck at it. I'm having his picture and prints faxed here from Hawaii, and I'll check to make sure we've got the right man here, that he's who he claimed to be."

"You printed him?"

"I brought one of the papers he loaned Blair. I saw him handle it last night."

"Sounds like you've got it in for this guy, Jim."

"I don't have it in for him," Jim argued, but he knew there was something to what Banks said. He didn't like Higgins and he resented him.

"Well, you've got a wild hair about him, for whatever reason," Simon replied. "Put him out of your mind for now and concentrate on your testimony. I'll watch for the picture and fingerprints and make sure the prints match. Check back at lunchtime if you haven't been called in yet and maybe we can meet at that burger place over on Ellsworth. That's not far from the courthouse."

Jim nodded and went out again. He made himself go over all his reports on the Ragan arrest, check his dates, his information. Then, tugging uncomfortably at his collar and wishing he could undo his tie, he headed over to the courtroom.

Continued in Part Two...