New Arrivals
Author-Sue Kelley
Titles

Some Enchanted Evening
Part Three
by Sue Kelley

See notes and disclaimer in part one.

Hospital staff moved Blair upstairs about an hour later. By that time the ER was getting a lot more activity. Almost all the cubicles were filled and Jim had to struggle to keep his senses from being overwhelmed by the stimuli. As he followed the nurse and orderly pushing Blair's bed, another nurse slipped from behind a curtain leaving it ajar. A woman was bent awkwardly over the bed, cradling the occupant and blocking Jim's view. He recognized her as the woman from the waiting room--Dana Adams. A man was in the cubicle with her, talking to her. Jim frowned. Something bothered him about the man, like he should recognize him or something... but then he realized he'd lagged behind and the two with Blair's stretcher were already at the big elevators, waiting for him.

They vacuumed up to the sixth floor and pushed Blair down to a room on the East side, overlooking Swan Lake Park across the street. Working crisply, efficiently, the nurse and the orderly transferred Blair into the bed already in the room, hung the IV from a pole in the corner, slipped a tube into his nose and adjusted oxygen from the wall spigot. Another nurse came in and introduced herself as Paula Gray, the head nurse for the floor. She gently but firmly told Jim to leave while they got Blair settled, suggesting he go down to the cafeteria for something to eat. Jim negated that idea, preferring to haunt the hallway until they allowed him back to his partner's side.

*** *** ***

Jim roused at a slight knock on the door. Rubbing a hand tiredly over his face--his eyes felt like they had thousands of grains of sand in them--he called, "Come in."

Simon Banks entered the room, glancing at Blair with concern and then at Ellison. "I'm not sure which one of you looks worse," he commented, sinking down onto the loveseat in the corner. Jim knew it converted to a bed. A nurse had already been in to ask him if he would be spending the night and had volunteered to bring him sheets and a blanket for it when he said he would be. At the moment, though, he sat close by Blair's side in the straight-backed chair. Simon nodded toward the still figure in the bed. "How is he?"

"He woke up for a few minutes down in the ER. He knew me," Jim answered. "And he figured out pretty quickly where he was. There don't seem to be any broken bones, which is something pretty close to a miracle, but everything's really bruised and he's going to be damned uncomfortable for awhile." Jim sighed. "The head injury is the worst of it. It's a pretty bad concussion. There's no way of knowing now just how much damage was done. The doctor wants to do another scan in the morning sometime." Jim glanced at his watch, stunned to realize it was almost midnight. "Shit," he sighed, the rare obscenity leaving his mouth before he was even aware of it. "I forgot all about Rafe. He's not still sitting down in ER, is he?"

Simon shook his head. "No. After you went in with Sandburg, he came on back to the house. He and I and Brown have been there almost the whole time, taking statements." The captain rolled his eyes. "I've never seen a place like that! A house full of witnesses and no one ever sees anything! By their own stories, someone was in the kitchen or in the dining room with a view of the basement door almost constantly from the time Sandburg went to his room until... until he was found. But either no one saw him or a bunch of people are in it together, because they all alibi each other."

Jim stared at him. "They may be providing alibis for each other, but we can knock holes in that. I mean, the person who was in the kitchen the most was Cynthia Elliot, I assume. And who alibis her? Bish? Her sister? Either one of whom would lie for her if they had to."

Banks shook his head again. "I don't agree with you there. At least about Bish. I talked to him quite a while today... he seems very upset about Sandburg being hurt and I'd stake my reputation that he's sincere."

"He's retarded, Simon!"

"So? That doesn't mean he doesn't have feelings, or principles. Actually, he strikes me as having a pretty strict moral code. Anyway, why would Cynthia Elliott want to kill Blair? Because I'm assuming this was an attempt on his life. The second one, if we believe Cassie that there was enough chloral hydrate in that souffl to kill."

"Well, Cynthia is the most likely to poison the souffl, too," Jim pointed out. "She made it. I'm not saying she did it, Simon, I'm just saying she could have."

"Maybe. The chloral hydrate, yes.... but Jim, I don't see any way that woman could have dragged Blair, unconscious, into the basement. And if she'd tried to shove him down the stairs there's a good chance she'd have tumbled right on top of him."

Jim stared at him. "What are you talking about? Sandburg doesn't weigh that much, you know."

Simon sighed again. "He doesn't weigh that much to you or to me, maybe, but to Cynthia Elliott? My God, Jim, didn't you even look at the woman?"

Jim had the feeling he was missing something. "She looks robust enough."

"Jim! The woman may be a little plump, but she has toothpicks for bones. Besides, although she was in the kitchen most of the day, someone else was always there too. Tammy Cooper." He frowned at his notes. "Tommy... maybe? No, Tony. Tony Giacomo. He was there most of the morning too, helping Cynthia get ready for this wedding or whatever she was catering for. Then Ty Nelson went in several times for something to settle his stomach, somebody else went in and made lemonade.... helped with lunch..." Simon slammed his notebook shut in disgust. "Sounds like the kitchen was Grand Central Station all day! Whether Blair went down there on his own--and that's not impossible, he has some boxes stored down there--or whether someone put him down there, I don't know when it could have happened."

Jim clenched his jaw at the mention of boxes in storage. 'Not for much longer, he promised himself. He is not going back to that place, I won't let him. He's coming back to the loft where he belongs, to hell with undercover assignments..'. A though occurred to him and he spoke quickly. "That's an old house. Maybe there's another entrance to the cellar."

"If there is, it's a hidden one. We didn't find any sign of it. The cellar isn't that big, it's only under the kitchen." Simon noted Jim's sudden abstraction. "What's wrong?"

Jim swung back to the bed to look at Blair. His heartrate and pulse had increased slightly and for a moment Jim hoped he was waking up again. Then he noted the tiny twitches of Blair's eyelids, the infinitesimal movements that indicated his eyeballs were moving rapidly back and forth, and he relaxed. "I thought he was waking up, but I guess he's just dreaming."

~~~Blair stumbled in blackness, cold and alone.

No, *he* wasn't the one stumbling. He wasn't even walking, was he? He tried to force his eyelids open and realized he was hanging head- down over someone's shoulder. The labored breathing he could hear wasn't his own.

The crushing pain in his skull almost overwhelmed him and he felt sick, closing his eyes again. The jerky movements forward stopped and he heard a scrabbling, then a squealing sound. A rush of displaced air hit him in the face and he inhaled, almost gagging on the musty odor.

He was swinging down now, being propped up on his feet, turned roughly. A voice--a man's voice--someone he knew-- said, "Sorry, Blair, but this is the way it has to be."

Then a hard shove against his back. He was suspended for one frozen second, his mind shrieking that he was in terrible danger, that he had to get away. Then he felt nothingness in front of him and behind him and he started to fall.

Pain blasted through his ribs, his arm, his shoulder as he contacted something hard. Then he was rolling, tumbling head over heels downward, coming to rest on a hard, cold surface. Waves of black and red and yellow rose up before him, swallowing him.

Someone was dragging him, leaning over him. He could feel fingers pressing into the side of his neck, hear an angry grunt. "Still alive, huh? Guess that fall didn't bread your neck. You're tougher than you look, but by the time anyone finds you..."

Blair forced his eyes open again. There was just a little light, enough that he could see the figure standing over him and pair it up with the voice in his mind.~~~~~

His eyes snapped open.

"Chief?" Jim leaned over him, lines of tension marking his forehead. "Easy, Sandburg, you're okay."

Blair ran his tongue around his dry mouth. He had to force out words. He had to! Jim seemed to read his mind and he reached out, his hand returning with a yellow plastic cup. There was a straw in it and he angled it to his roommate's lips. Blair drank eagerly. The water was tepid but it was wet. Fixing his eyes on his roommate's face, willing him to understand, he whispered the name of his attacker.

Then the blackness rose up again and swirled around him and he surrendered to it, letting it pull him away from the pain.

*** **** ***

Jim straightened up. Simon saw the confusion on his face quickly changing to anger--no, deeper than anger--blood rage. "Jim? What is it? What did he say?"

Jim stared at his commanding officer. "He knows who hurt him. He said, 'Scott. Scott did it.'"

"Scott Wheeler!"

**** *** ***

Traffic was light once they'd cleared the business district surrounding the hospital and they made good time, taking the Loop northwest to the exclusive suburb where Judith Elliott resided. Jim drove, at his insistence, with Simon silent in the seat next to him.

As they neared the house, Simon finally broke the oppressive silence. "Jim, we do this by the book."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Jim flared.

"You know what I'm talking about. This case got personal for you when Blair went undercover, and right now-- with him hurt-- we're talking *real* personal. If you can't put that aside during the interrogation of this witness--that's *witness*, Jim, not suspect yet-- then drop me off and pick me up in an hour."

"If Sandburg says he's the one that did it, he is," Jim said flatly.

Simon sighed. "Jim, Blair has a severe concussion and was only half-conscious. You know what a good defense attorney could do with that?"

Jim wasn't listening, his attention focused up the street, where a white pickup had just pulled out of Judith Elliott's driveway. "Simon!" he exclaimed. "That's him!"

"Are you sure?" Simon demanded, gripping the armrest as Jim slapped the bubble onto the dashboard and accelerated after the pickup.

Jim didn't answer, being grimly concerned with getting as close to the white truck as he could. "Damn! A white pickup!" he exclaimed.

"Huh?" Simon said, closing his eyes as Jim turned a corner on two wheels.

"The other night when Sandburg came over, he said he'd been followed by a white pickup! Damn, I blew him off, didn't think anything about it!" Jim clenched his jaw a little tighter and floored the gas pedal just as the pickup in front braked and then swung into a wide turn, bearing directly upon Jim's truck.

"What does that idiot think he's doing?" Simon yelled as Jim braked, shooting over the curb and into someone's pansies. With a horrible screech of metal and clods of dirt and dismembered pansies flying through the air, they were back in hot pursuit.

"He's heading toward the waterfront," Jim recognized grimly.

Simon grabbed the radio, broadcasting their position and ordering roadblocks to be set up. Wheeler's pickup, with Jim's right behind, raced up Hill street, turned right sharply, then barreled full tilt toward the beach.

"Damn, he's not going to make the turn," Simon breathed.

At the last possible second, the driver of the pickup smashed on his brakes, yanking the wheel all the way to the left. Jim yanked his truck as far to the other side as he could, watching in horror as the white pickup fishtailed, hit an embankment and rolled over onto it's top, smashing into a fire plug. A column of water geysered fifty feet into the air.

Nightmarish memories of the chase that had killed Marc McBerry danced in front of Jim's eyes, superimposed upon the scene he was actually seeing as he bolted from the truck and over to the smashed pickup. He leaned into the driver's window. Scott Wheeler, bleeding from his nose and a cut over one eyelid, whimpered as Jim hauled him from the vehicle.

With grim satisfaction, Jim dragged the man several feet away from the wreck, then forced him to his knees, pulling his arms behind his back. "Scott Wheeler, I'm placing you under arrest," he said, hearing the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. "You have the right to remain silent..."

*** *** ****

"But I don't understand," Blair said softly, his eyes closed. "Why would Scott want to kill Angela McBerry? Or Marc? Or me, for that matter?"

It was early afternoon. After having spent a large chunk of the night before chasing, booking, questioning and processing paperwork on Scott Wheeler, Jim had headed home for a few hours of badly-needed sleep. Waking later than he'd intended, he'd quickly showered, grabbed an apple and returned to the hospital.

Jim stretched his long legs out and leaned back, trying to make himself as comfortable as possible in the straight-backed chair. "I'm not sure he *did* kill either one of the McBerry's," he yawned. "But as far as you're concerned, I imagine he thought you might know something about him and Jasmine Ronaya. We found notes from her in his room. Seems clear that they'd been involved--she was crazy about him. Since he's not talking, except to demand pain meds and his lawyer, we don't know how he felt about her but I'd be willing to bet my next pay check that he was just stringing her along, using her to get money from Judith Elliott."

"Was he badly hurt in the crash?" Blair asked, his eyes still closed.

Jim looked at his partner sharply, noticing the sudden spike of his heartbeat. Then the cause dawned on him and he patted Blair's arm reassuringly. "He's not here in the hospital, Chief, if that's worrying you. He was treated in the ER last night but two officers were with him at all times. He's safely cooling his heels in the downtown jail now." He changed the subject. "So, how are you feeling?"

"I'm okay," Blair answered, too quickly. He still hadn't opened his eyes and Jim frowned.

"I'm not convinced," he said dryly. "Come on, Chief, tell the truth here."

Silence.

Jim frowned in earnest now, although it couldn't make much of an impression on his roommate when his eyes were closed. "Sandburg," he growled warningly.

The door opened and Simon Banks stepped in. Seeing the grim expression on his face, Jim momentarily disregarded his partner's medical condition and demanded, "What's wrong?"

Simon glanced over the bed, then met Jim's gaze reluctantly. "Scott Wheeler is dead."

"Dead!" Jim exclaimed, half noticing as Blair opened his eyes, grimaced, then hastily shut them again. "What happened? He's supposed to be in jail!"

"We don't know what happened. He was alive when the lunch trays were delivered; twenty minutes later he was dead. No marks, nobody heard him yell or ask for help. The trustee that took him his lunch tray said Wheeler kind of pushed it away, like he didn't have an appetite, but didn't say anything about not feeling well."

Jim frowned. "You think he was poisoned?"

Simon shrugged. "I don't know. Forensics didn't have any ideas right off the bat. His lunch tray was untouched, the cover hadn't even been removed, so if it was poison, it had to be administered some other way."

Exhaustion swept over Jim, so suddenly and completely he had to sit down heavily in the chair. He had thought this case was over, and now, suddenly, with the death of Scott Wheeler it was alive again.

Simon noticed his exhaustion. "Jim, why don't you let me take you home? You probably haven't eaten today, and you need some rest."

"Good idea," seconded Blair from the bed. His forehead was furrowed by lines, but Jim couldn't tell if they were put there by pain or concern over the news Simon had just brought or both.

Jim shifted his attention back to his captain. "Who's on the investigation of Wheeler murder?" he asked briskly.

"Well, at the moment we don't even know if it *was* murder," Simon pointed out. At Jim's disbelieving stare, he added, "As far fetched as it sounds, until we get the preliminary report back from the ME, we *could* be looking at a death by natural causes."

"With highly unnatural timing," Jim said sarcastically.

*** *** ***

The sound of his friend's voices wavered in and out. Blair kept as still as he could, eyes tightly closed, trying to ignore the feeling that the room was spinning and whirling around him. 'You're okay', he told himself firmly. 'You aren't going to fall off the bed...'.

He risked opening his eyes a bit and them shut them tightly again as the room looped again. He could hear Jim and Simon, but distantly, like angry bees buzzing around a fruit tree.

Bile rose in his throat and he forced himself to swallow. Unthinkingly, he sent his hand--the one that wasn't immobilized by IVs--searching for something to hold on to.

Something warm and firm grasped it.

"Sandburg?" Jim's voice, closer again and sounding very worried. "Chief, what's wrong? Come on, buddy, open your eyes."

Blair risked shaking his head a bit. "Can't," he croaked out through the waves of nausea.

"Why not?"

Blair's fingers curled tightly around the secure hold they'd found. Jim's hand, he realized belatedly. "Jim," he whispered. "I think maybe you'd... better call the nurse. I'm feeling...really strange here. Like maybe I'm going to.... pass out."

There was a brief silence, then the rush of feet on polished linoleum and a rush of displaced air as the door was thrown open. Jim's hand still gripped his tightly; Jim's voice was in his ear, low and intent. "Chief, does your head hurt?"

Blair managed to shake it again. "No, I mean, yes, but not too bad. Jim... the room, it won't hold still..." he gasped as the roaring in his ears rose again, blocking out the sound of his own voice, of Jim's. Nausea twisted his stomach again but the blackness enveloped him, swirled around and drew him away....

*** *** ****

Jim Ellison paced from one end of the waiting room to the other, pausing at one of the long, tinted-glass windows that looked over the Sound, shimmering in the late-afternoon sunlight.

He swung back around and surveyed the large room, almost empty right now. Large, shapeless sofas and chairs in bright yellow, orange and green. The carpet was a busy pattern of green vines twirling around a yellowish background; the motif mirrored in the murals on two walls and the framed posters on the others. Three television, mounted near the ceiling, were tuned to three competing stations: a local station showing "Jerry Springer"; the House and Garden channel with a show about weird collections; and, on the center TV, tuned to CNN, a famous commentator droned endlessly about the latest political scandal. Not that anyone was watching any of the programs; two small children played some game in the corner, watched by an older relative. A middle-aged woman knitted feverishly and something in brown and red. A young couple comforted an older man.

The scent of his cigars and his familiar step preceded Simon Banks as he entered the room. Looking around for a second, he spotted Jim and headed toward him. "Any word?" the Captain of Major Crimes asked anxiously.

Jim shook his head, once, abruptly. "They're still running tests. A MRI, CT scan.... God knows what else." He stared unseeingly at Jerry Springer. "This is my fault, Simon."

His captain obviously restrained a sigh. "It is not, Jim," he said patiently. "Blair was doing a job--"

"He was doing *my* job!" Jim snarled. "Not his. He is not a cop, Simon! Aren't you the one that is always saying that? He should never have been undercover there in the first place."

"Granted," Simon agreed quietly. "But Jim, that was his call, you know. He'd made that decision and set things up before you or I knew what was going on. He was trying to prove something, Jim."

"Prove what? To whom? He doesn't *have* to prove anything to me--"

"Doesn't he? Jim, that kid tries to prove to you every day that you didn't make a mistake when you decided to let him tag along--"

"Tag along!" Jim exploded, leaping to his feet. The two children playing in the corner looked up, eyes large and frightened, and he forced himself calm down, to sit down again. "Simon, he saved my life. More than once. And he sure saved my sanity! If anybody's obligated, it's me to him, not the other way around."

"I know that," Simon said quietly. "You know that.... but neither one of us ever tells *him*. Besides, it wasn't you I was talking about. The kid was trying to prove something to that student, the one that was murdered.... Cami. Trying to make sure her death meant something."

Jim snorted. "Maybe so," he agreed reluctantly. "But I have to wonder if death ever means anything." After a long silence, when the two children finally stopped staring at him and returned to their play, he asked, "Anything new in the Wheeler investigation?"

"Preliminary autopsy is back. He was drugged, Jim, or poisoned, actually. Some long, chemical name like polydemodene. That's not it," Simon frowned, "But it's something like that."

"Where would he have got hold of that?"

"I have no idea. The effects can be delayed up to twenty- four hours, according to Cassie; so he could have got it before the crash, or here at the hospital, or even once he got to the jail. The ER discharged him with a packet of pain pills but Cassie checked them out and they were exactly what they were supposed to be, just a mild pain killer. Anaprox, I think she said."

Just then a cheerful looking young man in a white lab coat entered the room. He looked around for a few seconds, then walked unerringly over to Jim. "Detective Ellison? I'm Dr. Rudy, the neurologist on call. I've been treating Mr. Sandburg."

Jim shot to his feet. "How is he? Is he okay?" he demanded anxiously.

"Well, he's not exactly okay, but I can almost guarantee he's better than you think he is," the doctor said dryly as he sat opposite Simon on a backless orange chair. He eyed the other man and Jim introduced them, sitting back down and rubbing his palms on his khaki slacks.

"Mr. Sandburg--Blair-- has some intercranial swelling," the doctor started. "It's not than unusual, in this type of injury. It is localized in one particular area, is why he has the overwhelming dizziness and vertigo."

"Does this mean surgery?" Jim asked, feeling his face drain at the mere thought.

"I doubt it. As I said, swelling isn't that uncommon in this type of injury. Blair is uncomfortable, but there's nothing life-threatening going on. He's going to have to remain very quiet and still until the swelling goes down, but there is not reason to suspect he won't make a full recovery. As a matter of fact, he's regained consciousness and seems quite coherent."

Simon snorted with relief of tension. "Sandburg coherent? There *must* be something wrong with him.

Jim managed a smile, then asked, "How do you treat this swelling?"

"We've started him on some steroids and other medications to reduce it," Rudy answered promptly. "Also, as I said he needs to remain very quiet and still, with his head flat, level to his heart. I've ordered some pretty heavy-sedation for the next few days--he'll be drifting in and out." He paused, studying the distraught detective in front of him. "He sent you a message, Detective, and seemed most insistent that I give it to you. He wants you to go home, have a good dinner and a full night's sleep before you come back in the morning."

Jim was shaking his head before the doctor had even finished speaking. "I want to see him. I need to see him!"

He sighed. "He said you'd probably be difficult about this." The momentary amusement vanished. "Now, look, Detective Ellison. I understand you are worried about your friend. But you hovering here isn't going to help him and it might make things worse. He must remain still and quiet. From what I can tell of the young man, that's going to be hard enough for him without worrying about you being in the room all night."

In spite of himself, in spite of the gut-need he had to be near his Guide, Jim had to admit the doctor made sense. He nodded grudgingly. "But I could sleep out here--"

"Yes, you could. And if you choose to do that I won't try to stop you. But why, Detective? You need rest, too. And these sofas aren't *that* comfortable."

Jim hesitated, then agreed. "Can I see him before I leave?"

"Not for a little while, we're getting him settled back in his room... why don't you go downstairs for something to eat? Jokes about hospital food aside, our cafeteria is really quite good. Have some dinner, then you can see Mr. Sandburg for a few minutes."

*** *** ***

"He's right, you know," Simon commented as they hefted their well-filled trays and looked around the crowded cafeteria for somewhere to sit.

Jim just grunted wordlessly as he weaved among tables crowded with anxious family members and harried medical staffers. He finally stopped at a small table hidden behind a planter of foliage. After he'd sat down, he said, "I know he's right, I just don't like leaving Sandburg unguarded. We don't know who killed Wheeler. What if that person comes after Sandburg?"

"Why should they?" Simon countered. "Anyway, I've arranged for there to be a guard on Blair's door."

Jim took a bite of his beef tips, pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted. "I just--" then he dropped his fork and looked up sharply, his features narrowing with concentration.

"Jim, what is it?" Simon reached across the table and jostled Jim's elbow. "Jim!"

"Simon, I smell it!"

"Smell what?"

"That scent, the scent at the crime scenes... it's here!"

"What?" Simon exclaimed, looking wildly around, like he expected a knife-wielding maniac to appear from nowhere.

Jim ignored him, trying to piggyback sight to smell. It had always been difficult for him to link those two particular senses together; it was easier to link sound and sight, but he could usually manage it if Sandburg was around. Blair wasn't though, and he had to struggle to keep from zoning. Apparently sensing the difficulty he was having, Simon put a supportive hand on his arm but that didn't really help much; Jim's sense of touch rebelled at the pressure.

It took several minutes, but finally Jim could identify where the scent was coming from. A man and a woman, sitting at a table at the far end of the cafeteria. The woman looked faintly familiar and after a minute's thought, Jim recognized her as the woman who's daughter had been admitted to ER the same night Blair had been. Donna... no, Dana Adams.

He tried to piggyback his hearing, as well, and to his frustration couldn't manage it. He surged up from his seat, barely aware of Simon's hissed "Ellison, what the hell are you doing?" behind him as he strode through the crowded room until he reached the table. "Ms. Adams? Dana?" he asked politely,

He'd expected anything but the reaction he got. "Well, hello!" The woman's drawn face brightened in a pleased smile; she extended her hand to him. "It's so good of you to come over."

"My pleasure," Jim responded, sitting down in the seat she indicated and studying the man she was with. He was as tall as Jim and heavier, almost portly, with a very broad chest. A full head of silvering black hair over smallish green eyes. Jim noted that the navy blue suit he was wearing was beautifully and expensively tailored.

There was an awkward silence. Dana Adams made no move to introduce her companion. After a few seconds the man stood up. "Dana, I'll speak with you later. Mind you get some rest now." He had a very upper-crust British accent. "I'll just check on Michelle and then be heading home."

"Thank you, Dr. Davis," she murmured.

Nodding his head at Jim in place of a greeting, the man strode away. Jim tracked him with his eyes, noticing Simon inconspicuously sliding from his seat to follow. Jim took one last deep sniff--'maybe some kind of after shave'--he decided. 'Or cologne--' then he turned back to the woman.

She was blushing. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to get rid of him. Thanks for playing along." She glanced up at Jim through thick lashes. "How do you know my name? Have we met?"

"No, not really," Jim said easily. "Your daughter was in ER the same time my partner was admitted. I just wanted to ask how she was doing."

"Oh. How... kind of you. Michelle is... better. She's still not out of the woods, but her breathing is much easier." Dana Adams glanced at her watch. "I should be getting back to her, but I--" she stopped and looked down, blushing even more.

Jim recalled what the man had said about checking on Michelle and surmised Dana Adams was trying to avoid running into him again. He jumped at the chance to get some information. "Who was that guy, anyway?'

She looked surprised. "You didn't know? That's Dr. Carey Davis. I'm sure you've seen him, he's always on the news talking about air quality and he's the spokesman for the Asthmatic Children's Foundation. He's Michelle's doctor."

Jim studied her. "You don't like him," he surmised shrewdly.

"No... it's not that I don't like him. He's a wonderful doctor, he's saved Michelle time and time again. She has COPD, you know--chronic obstructive pulmonary disease--in addition to her other problems. He's fantastic with her."

"But--" Jim prompted.

"Well, he has this idea. He wants to build a hospital here in Cascade, specifically for children with respiratory problems. He went to the City Planners last year."

Jim frowned, remembering. "They denied him funding."

She nodded. "Yes. The said that Cascade desperately needs another hospital, that all funds need to go toward that, not another *specialty* hospital. So since then he's trying to raise the funds privately. He really wants me to invest... he's become very insistent about it." She rubbed tired eyes. "Only-- the money he wants me to invest is really Michelle's. My grandfather placed it in trust for her. And her medical bills alone were over one hundred thousand dollars last year. Insurance pays a lot--but then there're salaries for her nurses at home, and therapy, medical supplies.... and she's only twelve. I just don't feel as if I can risk that money."

"Did you say his name was Davis?" Jim asked suddenly, something snapping together in his brain. "I think I've met his ex-wife."

Dana Adams looked surprised. "You mean Claire? But they're not divorced."

"Are you sure?" Jim asked sharply.

"Well, of course. Oh, I heard some rumor that they were separating, but I don't believe it. I wouldn't put it past him to let that story circulate so he could get more money out of people. He was really stringing along that poor Angela McBerry. You know, the one that was murdered a few months ago? She and my grandfather were old friends, but he always said she was a fool for a good-looking man." Dana added acidly, reaching for her water glass. "As a matter of fact, I saw Dr. Davis and Claire having dinner together just a few nights ago. And they looked awfully cozy for two people who were considering divorce."

And everything finally started to become clear to Jim Ellison.

EPILOGUE:

The case unravelled swiftly after that.

A reveiw of Angela McBerry's bank statements revealed several very large donations to Hughe's SeaBreeze Foundation, including several dated before her death but deposited afterwards. At the same time, hospital records indicated that Davis was in ER when Scott Wheeler was admitted and actually signed some medication out of the Dangerous Drug cabinet. Missing from the same cabinet were four pills of a highly unstable compound used (diluted 1:100) to slow an erratic heartbeat--the same drug, that, full-strength, had killed Wheeler.

It wasn't enough for an arrest warrant, but it was more than enough to invite Dr. Davis into the precinct for a little chat. He answered the first few questions easily enough, and then Jim looked him directly in the eyes and said, "We know you killed Angela McBerry to cover up the money you were siphoning from her estate to your SeaBreeze foundation."

The big man collapsed like a pricked balloon. He simply caved in. He started talking and didn't stop even when his attorney belatedly arrived. And, seven hours later when he finally shut up, the Cascade Major Crimes unit had more than enough evidence to arrest him, as well as his wife, for the murders of Angela and Marc McBerry, Cami Hughes, Jasmine Ronaya and Scott Wheeler. Five people who, no matter what else they had been or done, had died because Carey Davis dreamed of his own private hospital for children.

*** *** ***

"But I don't get it?" Blair asked. "Why did Claire go to work for Enchanted Evening Escorts? Were they trying to frame them?"

It was over a week since Blair's fall. Kept flat, still, and sedated for much of that time, he had missed most of the denouement and was trying to make up for lost time.

"Actually, Claire and Davis didn't even know that Angela McBerry occasionally used Enchanted Evening," Jim replied, leaning back in the chair next to the bed. Simon Banks and his son Darryl stood near the window, which was still shrouded in deference to Blair's headaches and recurring dizzy spells. Cynthia and Judith Elliott were there, too, having dropped in for a visit with a basket of culinary delights. Already, Simon and Darryl were munching their way through fudge with sun-dried cherries, tiny little pastries, and an assortment of cheeses.

"How do you feel, Chief?" It was Blair's first day off all the sedatives.

The graduate student waved his hand easily, although he was careful not to move his head, Jim noted. "Confused. I mean, I know you told me some of this before, but those drugs had me so messed up--start at the beginning!"

Jim obliged. "It was actually a double-barreled attack, and, I think, there was some revenge in there too. See, after the City Planners turned Davis down, he went to BSAF in Seattle and--"

Darryl interrupted, "What's BSAF?"

"It stands for Bolt-Stemple Allied Foundations," Blair answered him. "There are like a hundred charitable foundations that are somehow linked to the Bolt family or the Bolt-Stemple Corporation... BASF kind of coordinates what they all do. They give a lot of money to Rainier."

"Yes, but they turned down Davis. For much the same reasons the City Planners did. Which infuriated him. So he sent his wife in, for the purpose of finding out something he could use as leverage with BASF. After all, Judith Elliott is a Bolt by marriage, and he figured that the family was not too thrilled with her business anyway, and if they could find out something unsavory, the family might re-think about donating to SeaBreeze, to avoid a scandal."

Judith Elliott laughed, for the first time since Jim had met her, an honestly amused laugh. "Dr. Davis doesn't know my in-laws very well! I don't think there's been a Bolt or a Stemple blackmailed since Aaron Stemple and Jason Bolt stopped fighting over who owned what and started working together."

"No, but he's such a snob himself it never occurred to him that the family wouldn't be ashamed of you," Jim said. "Besides, it gave verisimilitude to the idea that Carey and Claire Davis were separated, maybe divorcing. That helped him a lot when soliciting donations.... Angela McBerry isn't the only one he conned, although she does seem to be the only one he ever killed. Originally he planned to finagle himself in as her heir, but she was pretty stubborn about not disinheriting Marc, so Davis settled for conning her out of a lot and stealing a lot more. But she found out, checks coming in that had extra digits where she hadn't put them. Davis thought he could talk her out of bringing charges, but all he managed to do was to obtain her promise that she wouldn't go to the police for twenty-four hours. That afternoon, when she left for her normal walk around the river, he followed her and--" Jim let his voice trail off.

"Marc McBerry may have suspected Davis, but he was more suspicious of the escort agency. Plus, Davis knew--probably because Angela McBerry had told him--that several years ago Marc got caught passing bad checks. Sooner or later the police would find out about that. I bet Davis even worked him up with stories about how the police would convict him on his record. Then Claire Davis sabotaged Marc's car, and that was the end of him.

"Meanwhile, Claire had discovered Scott Wheeler's blackmail scheme and had cut herself into it. Jasmine was a front, she loved Scott so she cashed the checks he gave her though her account, which he had full access to."

"Scott?" Judith explained. "But how did Scott find out--?"

"Scott Wheeler said he wanted to be a writer, but actually, he already was: under a dozen different pen names he wrote for two or three of those supermarket tabloids. He probably meant to publish the story about Bish, but then, realizing how much you cared about him, decided on a spot of blackmail instead. Claire flattered him, telling him with her society connections and his information gathering skills, they could have a great partnership. In actuality, of course, she was using him. But then, one day Cami Hughes came to the house and Claire panicked. She knew that if Cami created too much of a scene, the police might start looking a little more closely at other people who could have killed Angela McBerry. So Cami had to be silenced." Jim gripped Blair's shoulder reassuringly.

"But why kill Jasmine?" Cynthia asked. "If she was in on it with them--"

"She really wasn't. Jasmine just loved Scott and did whatever he told her. But she didn't like Claire and she was getting jealous, too, of the hold Claire had over Scott." Jim paused. "Claire Davis is a cold-hearted bitch," he added quietly. "As far as she was concerned, both Jasmine and Scott were expendable. She's not talking, but from what her husband says, Claire pretended to leave for her assignment that night. In reality, she sneaked back up to the third floor and waited for Jasmine to come up. Then she knocked her out and locked her in the closet, drugged Sandburg's dessert and her own, too; and sneaked back out of the house, made an appearance at the reception, then met her husband in a nearby restaurant. The two of them had a very public reunion, then checked into a suite at the Palace Hotel, ordering champagne and leaving orders not to be disturbed. Then, of course, they sneaked back to the house, killed Jasmine, and sneaked back to the hotel, all ready to be in bed together when they called for room service early in the morning.

"But when Scott realized Jasmine had been murdered, he got scared. He had been putting the lion's share of the blackmail money in Jasmine's account; he decided to grab the money and leave town. Unfortunately, Chief, you walked in as he was grabbing the bank records. So he had to get rid of you, and in such a way that you probably wouldn't be found for awhile and that it conceivably be considered an accident. By the way, Ms. Elliott, you might want to get a builder in to look at your house; the place is honeycombed with secret passages and boarded-up doors."

Judith smiled. "I'll make sure the new owners know to do that."

"You're selling?" Blair asked.

"More than that... I'm closing down the escort service. Cyn and Bish and I are going back to Seattle. Corinna Bolt has offered me a position in Bolt-Stemple--in Public Relations, and I've accepted." She paused. "I told Bish the truth, you know. It's funny, all these years I've been so afraid he wouldn't understand, and he understood better than I ever did. He's known all along I was his mother. So I told Corinna, told her there was no way I was going to deny him again, and it doesn't bother her! On the contrary, she says she's thrilled to have another 'grandchild'."

"But what about Cynthia?" Blair asked.

Judith threw a fond glance at her sister. "Well, that's part of the deal. One of my husband's nieces--Debrah--got her degree in Food Service and Hotel Management from Cornell. She just finished a year with one of the top catering firms in New York, and she wants to come home and start her own company. She remembered Cynthia from when she used to visit me when she was younger; her parents think Cyn would be just the person for a partner, so--" she shrugged.

"Well, if nothing else I figure we'll have a built-in clientele," Cynthia said dryly. "I mean, if you add up all the Bolts and Stemples, and their weddings and parties and their businesses, we should have enough to keep us busy three hundred days of the year." In spite of her tone, her face glowed with happiness

** *** ***

All the visitors left shortly afterwards. Jim turned from seeing the last one out and went directly to the bed. "Okay, Chief, you've sat up long enough--time to lay back now. You don't want another headache."

"Yes, Mother." Blair sighed as his friend helped him ease down with his head on the pillow. "This sucks, man, I want to go home!"

"I know you do," Jim soothed. "Another day or two, Chief. You'll be back in fighting trim in plenty of time to get ready for school."

Blair snorted, closing his eyes against a wave of dizziness and fatigue. Jim tucked the sheet around him, then sat back in the chair where he'd spent so much of the last few days. "Sandburg?"

"Hmm?" Blair murmured sleepily.

"Now that it's all over... do you feel better? About Cami Hughes, I mean? I know the only reason you got involved in this mess in the first place was because of her death."

Blair opened his eyes and studied his friend for a long time. "That wasn't the only reason," he said finally. "I don't know... Cami is still dead, and so is Marc McBerry... but at least the Davis's can't kill anyone else." He shifted restlessly. "It's ironic, you know? All those people dead, for a *hospital!* Something that was supposed to help people."

Jim shook his head. "It wasn't about a hospital, Chief, that was just an excuse. It was about ego. Carey Davis' ego. And all his wife could see was him. No one else mattered to her."

"Did you ever figure out what the scent was?" Blair asked, abruptly changing the subject.

"Oh, yes. Carey Davis had his cologne specially made up for him by a perfumery in Paris. That was why I couldn't ever match it to anything else," Jim explained.

"Oh." After a long silence, Blair sighed. "All's well that ends well, I guess."

"You don't really believe that, do you, Chief?" Jim prodded softly.

Blair lifted a hand to brush suspicious wetness from his eyes. "No," he said faintly. "Five people are still dead, Jim, and there's no bringing them back."

Jim nodded. "I know, Chief. We do our jobs... but we can never bring the dead back." He smiled, leaning back in his chair. "All we can do is make things safer for the living." Then, without changing his tone, he went on. Oh, and by the way, Sandburg... the next time you decide to go undercover without telling *me* about it first, I may have your hide!"

Blair managed a smile. "That reminds me, I need to get my stuff out of Judith's house."

"It's all back in the loft, where it belongs," Jim assured him.

Blair lifted his head to study his partner's face. "Where it belongs?" he repeated softly.

Jim gave a firm nod. "Don't you ever doubt it, kid."

The End