New Arrivals
Author-Vision
Titles

The Interrogation
by Vision

Summary: A case resulting in the death of a child returns to haunt the Sentinel. Will he be able to overcome the emotional and physical trauma before another "victim" is added to the list?

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, and Simon do not belong to me. They are the property of Pet Fly and Paramount. I don't make any money etc. etc. Vision sends Becky a big thank you for all of her work.

Blair dropped his knapsack on the floor and moved in beside Simon. "How long have they been in there?"

Simon crossed his arms and turned his attention away from the two way mirror. "A couple of hours."

Shaking his head, Blair watched Jim pace anxiously in front of the perp. Blair pushed his finger against the mirror. "You got to get him out of there, Simon. You should never have put him in there in the first place. This is ridiculous. He can't handle this. Look at him. I can't believe you let him interrogate this guy."

Simon chuckled. "Like I had a choice. You know better than anyone what it's like to try to talk Jim out of anything. He said he could handle it. I believe him."

*********

Jim felt the anger swelling inside of him. A boiling, bubbling vat of fury. He stopped pacing and gripped the edge of the table with both hands. Closing his eyes, he tried without success to steady his shaking voice. "I'm going to ask you this one more time. Where is she?"

A broad grin appeared on the perp's face as he lightly touched Jim's hand. "I don't know what you're talking about."

SNAP! The thin thread of self control broke in two.

Jim launched towards the perp, knocking him off the chair. Hauling the man to his feet, he plastered his back against the wall. White knuckles gripping the man's shirt. Adrenaline spat words hissing from Jim's mouth. "So help me, Trent. I'll kill you myself. You tell me where that girl is. No more games."

Oblivious to the sound of the door opening, Jim slammed his fist against the wall. Laughing, Trent patted Jim's face. "Now. Now. You seem a little stressed, detective. What's the matter? Problems with a case?"

Two sets of arms gripped Jim's body tearing him away from the suspect. A uniformed officer entered the room and escorted Trent out the door. Holding on for dear life, Blair strained his arms to the breaking point. "Jim! That's enough! Calm down!"

Forcing Jim into a chair, Simon wiped the sweat from his brow. "What the hell was that! That's it, Jim. You're off the case."

Beads of sweat rolled from Jim's face. Clenching his jaw, Jim sprang from the chair and headed towards the door. Stopping just shy of the entrance, Jim grabbed his stomach and doubled over in pain. Simon and Blair eased him to the ground.

"Jim! Oh my god. What's wrong?"

*********

Blair handed Jim the cup of foaming water and leaned against the desk. "Drink this. It will make you feel better."

Jim tentatively sniffed the contents of the glass and placed the cup on the desk in front of him. "I think I'd rather be sick. What the hell is that? Forget it. Don't tell me." Exhaling deeply, Jim leaned back further into the chair.

Blair cleared his throat. "So?"

Shifting in his chair, Jim reached for a file. Blair snatched it from his hands.

"What's with you, Sandburg? I'm trying to get some work done here."

Waving the file in his hands, Blair leaned closer to Jim. "I'm just supposed to forget that little ‘episode' in there. Is that it?"

Jim grabbed the end of the file. A tug of war ensued. "Let go, Chief"

Blair tightened his grip. "Not until you tell me what's going on. What happened in there?"

Letting go of the file, Jim sank back into the chair. "You were there. You figure it out."

Throwing the file on the desk. Blair dropped his voice to a whisper. "Look. The guy's a jerk. We know that. Why'd you let him get to you? I've never seen you like that before. I thought you were gonna kill him. And what's with this stomach bit. When did this start?"

Rising from the chair, Jim retrieved his jacket and proceeded to put it on. "Look, Chief. I lost my cool. I blew it. End of story. As for the stomach pains... No big deal. Let's just drop it, okay?"

Grabbing Jim's arm, Blair stopped him in his tracks. "You're not even gonna fight this? After all the work you've done? You're just gonna let some other guy take over the case? This isn't like you, Jim. What's going on?"

Pulling away from Blair's hold, Jim pushed him to the ground. "Don't touch me! Just leave me alone!"

The bullpen went silent. All eyes fixed on Jim's angry form. His mouth gaping, Blair slowly stood up. Without a word, Jim stormed out of the room.

*********

He lined the empty beer bottles up neatly in a row. Five, six, seven...What came after "seven"? No matter. Leaning back into the couch, Jim closed his eyes and tried to stop the merry-go-round swirling in his head. The door slammed and a familiar voice penetrated his thoughts.

"Where the hell have you been? I've been worried about you, man. I've been halfway to China looking for you. Why didn't you answer the phone? I was five minutes away from putting out an APB on you." Dropping down beside Jim on the couch, Blair glanced at the empty bottles on the coffee table and shook his head. "Great. This is just great. What the hell is the matter with you? Tell me you didn't drink all this yourself."

Smiling, Jim opened his eyes and chuckled. "Thought I'd give you a new chapter for your book, ‘Alcohol and Sentinels', the truth behind the myth."

Rolling his eyes, Blair turned to face Jim. "That is so not funny, Jim. Why won't you talk to me?"

Pointing his finger in Blair's face, Jim mumbled. "Talk. Talk. Talk. That's all you ever want to do, Chief. I'm done talking. No more ‘talking'. I say we take action."

Pushing the finger away from his face, Blair nodded. "Right, Jim. Right after you throw up a few hundred times."

Gripping the side of the couch, Jim tried to stand up. "Whoa, Chief. That's some merry-go-round we're on. What color horse do you want?"

Moving in beside Jim, Blair placed an arm around his waist. "Come on, cowboy. Let's see if we can't slow the ride down a bit."

Slapping Blair's back, Jim laughed. "Party pooper."

Smiling, Blair helped him to the stairs. "We'll see who the "party pooper" is in the morning, Jim."

*********

Dragging his eyes open, Jim squinted against the light. What happened? Oh, man! Beer. Lots and lots of beer. A herd of elephants bounded up the stairs.

"Morning, Sunshine. How are we feeling this morning?"

Turning his head towards Blair's amplified voice, Jim winced in pain. "Keep it down, Sandburg. Oh, man."

Blair smiled and laid the breakfast tray on the dresser. "Black coffee, water, dry toast and a little something extra."

Rolling on his side, Jim closed his eyes. "No food."

Sighing, Blair seated himself on the bed next to him. "Jim. We need to talk."

Pitching the covers aside, Jim wrestled himself out of the bed. "You want to talk? Fine. We'll talk. I need you to back off!"

Blair jumped off the bed and moved to stand in front of him. "No! I won't back off. Don't shut me out." Grabbing Jim's shoulders, Blair forced Jim to meet his gaze. "You want to hit me, Jim? Go ahead."

Bowing his head, Jim softened his voice. "I could smell her. The kid. I could smell her shampoo on his jacket."

Releasing Jim's shoulders, Blair took a step backwards. "On the perp? Oh my god."

Sniffling, Jim shook his head. "I can't do it. I can't do this anymore. What if she's dead? We have nothing, Chief. Not one solid shred of evidence."

Crossing the gap between them, Blair reached for Jim's hand. "We've got you. Let me help you, Jim. We'll find a way to use this to our advantage. Trust me. You 've got him on the run. All we gotta do is set the trap."

Smiling, Jim squeezed Blair's hand. "As long as we don't end up falling into it."

*********

Simon approached Jim's desk and cleared his throat. Absorbed in the mound of paperwork that littered his desk, Jim continued to scrawl his name on the notes.

"Jim! Jim! Ellison!"

Jerking back to reality, Jim dropped the pen. "Sorry, sir. I guess my mind was somewhere else".

Sitting on the edge of the desk, Simon bit down hard on his cigar. "My guess? Your mind was on a blonde-haired eight-year-old that's been missing for over twenty-four hours."

Rubbing his temples, Jim sighed. "There's something weird about this case, Simon. Something just doesn't fit."

Removing the cigar from his mouth, Simon smiled. "And you'd like me to let you back on the case. Is that it, Jim?"

His voice faltering, Jim shuffled the papers around on his desk. "Yes...maybe...I don't know."

Pinning his eyebrows together, Simon leaned closer towards him. "Still punishing yourself for Amy Sanders' death, aren't you? It wasn't your fault, Jim. She was dead before the ransom call even came in. There's no way you could have saved her. It was a set up. You know that. How long you gonna keep this up? I can't let you back on this case unless I know you can keep an open mind. Can you do that? Can you keep an open mind? Five years is a long time to carry ‘guilt' around, Jim. Let it go."

Brushing a hand over his face, Jim momentarily glanced at Simon. "Trent's lying. He's got the kid somewhere. But there's one thing I don't understand. The voice on the tape. The kid's voice. She didn't even sound scared It was like she was reading a book or something."

Shrugging his shoulders, Simon shook his head. "Maybe he had her read off a piece of paper. Cue cards. Something like that."

Pushing his chair away from the desk, Jim tapped Simon's leg. "No. I think there's more to this case than meets the eye. I think I'm gonna pay Mommy and Daddy a little visit. I have a feeling one of them is involved somehow. All I got to do is prove it."

Chuckling, Simon took a long puff on his cigar. "I take it we're back in business. Glad to have you back, Detective."

Reaching for his coat, Jim smiled. "Glad to be back. Thanks, Simon. I'm sorry about the other day."

Nodding his head, Simon stood up. "You're welcome. Now get out of here and find that kid."

Saluting, Jim headed for the elevator.

*********

Flashing his badge at the uniformed officer, Jim entered the living room. A maze of people and equipment met his eyes. A lovely young woman sat alone on the couch. Jim gave her a quick smile and sat down beside her. "Mrs. Lane? Can I speak with you a moment?"

Dabbing at her teary eyes, she turned her attention to Jim. "It's been over twenty four hours. Only one call. Am I ever going to see Melody again? Tell me the truth, Detective. I need to know."

Shaking his head, Jim reached for the picture of Melody on the table in front of him. "I don't know. I've got every available officer out looking for her. We'll know more when the kidnapper calls back with his or her list of demands. Your daughter has beautiful hair. It must take forever to brush it."

Taking the picture from his hands, she ran her finger along the outline of her daughter's hair. "She's always been very picky about her hair. We even use a special shampoo on it."

Smiling, Jim raised his eyebrows. "Really? That's interesting. I guess you have to go to one of those specially shops to get it."

Sighing, Mrs. Lane placed the picture back on the table. "Melody just loves that shop. It's over on Maxwell. She'd spend hours in there if I let her. It's called ‘Heaven Scent'. You should go there sometime. They've got some wonderful men's products as well."

Rising from the couch, Jim tapped the side of his face. "Maybe I will. Could always use an update on the aftershave. Mind if I use your washroom?"

*********

Unscrewing the top from the shampoo, Jim emptied the contents into the bathtub. Draining the bottle, he replaced the cap and set it in its original spot. Smiling, he washed the suds down the drain.

*********

The smile faded from Jim's face almost as fast as it had appeared. The smell of the shampoo etched itself in his memory like some horrible gargoyle perched above his head. He pulled the truck over to the side of the road and staggered to a nearby field. His stomach heaved as the images replayed in his head.

Amy Sanders, five years old, blue eyes, brown hair. Last seen wearing pink nightgown and bunny slippers. Abducted from her home. Investigating Officer, James Ellison. Body discovered at 11pm by Detective Ellison. No arrests made.

Jim sat down heavily in the grass and brushed a hand over his pale face. Two children, two totally different children, and yet a common bond. Closing his eyes, he drank in the warm autumn air. The poignant smell of the shampoo still filtered its way into his nostrils. The ringing of his cell phone jolted him back to reality. With shaking hands, he fumbled for the phone.

"Ellison."

"Hey Jim, it's Blair. Where are you?"

Steadying his voice, Jim sighed. "I just left Lane's house. I'm on my way to a store on Maxwell Street called ‘Heaven Scent'. Seems that shampoo I smelled is hard to come by. I'm gonna check it out. Where are you?"

"By the sounds of it, I should be with you. You okay?"

Wiping a tear from his eye, Jim turned his head skyward. "I need you to back me up. I need help, Blair. Meet me at the store, okay? Come alone. I don't want anyone getting suspicious."

Blair's anxious voice resounded in his ears. "Something's wrong. What is it Jim? Tell me what's going on."

Crying, Jim tightened his grip on the phone. "He killed her Blair. Trent killed Amy Sanders and he's gonna kill Melody too. The shampoo. I knew I smelled it somewhere. I smelled it on Amy's body the night I found her. Oh, god, Blair. I don't think I can do this."

Dropping the phone, Jim buried his head in his hands. Blair's frantic voice was stifled by Jim's sobs.

*********

Jim closed his eyes as the rush of footsteps came towards him. Breathing heavily, Blair sank down in the grass beside him. "Jim. You okay? Look at me."

Opening his eyes, Jim turned his head towards Blair. "Blair?"

Sighing deeply, Blair shook his head. "Don't ever do that to me again. You hear me? Why didn't you tell me about this other girl? God, Jim. No wonder you feel sick. Come on. Let's get you checked out."

Staring blindly ahead of him, Jim whispered. "Can't. Got to end this now."

Shrugging out of his jacket. Blair draped it around Jim's shaking form. "You're in shock, Jim. Rafe and Brown are staking out the store. If Lane or Trent come anywhere near it they'll let us know. Trust me, okay?"

A weak smile appeared on Jim's face. "Trust you? I trust you. I've always trusted you. Help me finish this, Chief. Please."

Moving in beside Jim, Blair placed an arm around his partner and helped him to stand. "First we get you checked out, then we play hero. Come on."

Jim shook his head. "They're gone, Blair. My senses, they're gone."

Gazing into Jim's bloodshot eyes, Blair nodded his head. "I know, Jim. It's okay. Everything's gonna be okay."

*********

Blair parked the truck and turned in his seat to face Jim. "I can't believe you talked me into this. You're supposed to be at home resting, not out here playing ‘super cop'. I don't like it Jim. You're tired. You haven't eaten in god knows how long. You look like crap. Do I have to spell this out for you?"

Opening the door to the truck, Jim stepped out onto the sidewalk. "I'm fine. The sooner this is over, the sooner I'll feel better."

Exiting the vehicle, Blair fell into step beside Jim. Pausing in front of the entrance to the store, Jim felt his stomach tighten.

"Give me a minute, Sandburg."

Patting his shoulder, Blair opened the door to the store. "Why don't you wait out here. I'll go check things out."

Smiling, Jim took a deep breath and entered the store ahead of Blair. Shaking his head in dismay, Blair chuckled. "I guess the ‘wait in the truck, Ellison' is out of the question."

Approaching the counter, Jim flashed his badge at the cashier. "I'm Detective Ellison; this is Blair Sandburg. Have you seen either of these two people in the last twenty-four hours?" Handing the girl the pictures, Jim stuffed his shaking hands in his pockets.

The girl smiled as she looked at the pictures. "Mrs. Lane. She's a regular customer. Brings her daughter in almost every second day. This man works for me. Trent, his name is Trent Rice. Is there something I should know about? Mrs. Lane just called, she should be here any minute to pick up an order. Trent called in sick this morning."

The ringing of Jim's cell phone interrupted the conversation. Fumbling for the phone, Jim leaned heavily against the counter. "Ellison...Great...Where? ...When?...I'll be there in an hour...I'm fine, Simon...I will." Hanging up the phone, Jim coughed. The woman behind the counter gave him a puzzled glance.

"Do the fragrances bother you detective?"

Clearing his throat Jim shook his head. "I'm just a little sensitive to certain smells that's all. I'm afraid ‘vanilla' is about my speed."

Handing back the pictures the woman laughed. "I see. Maybe we could broaden your horizons sometime. You seem like a ‘mountain frost' man to me."

Passing the woman his card, Jim stuttered. "Right...Sure...Um...If you could let me know if Trent contacts you, I'd appreciate it. I'm sorry I can't give you any more information right now. If you could just keep this under your hat..."

Tucking the card in the front of her shirt, the woman winked. "I can do better than that."

Giving Jim a playful shove, Blair shook the woman's hand. "Thanks for all your help, miss."

Eyes fixed on Jim, the woman grinned. "The name's Brenda, Brenda James."

Steering Jim towards the door, Blair rolled his eyes. "Let's go ‘vanilla boy'."

*********

"So what's the plan, Jim?"

Leaning his head on the back of the seat. Jim closed his eyes. "The ransom call came in just over an hour ago. One hundred thousand cash, unmarked bills. I'm supposed to drop the money in a garbage can at the edge of the park. Karen Lane just got picked up twenty minutes ago. Simon's questioning her right now. Hopefully she'll tell him where Melody is and we can clear this thing up before then."

Drumming his hands on the steering wheel, Blair shifted nervously in his seat. "Man. How could she get mixed up with a slime ball like that?"

Shrugging, Jim sat up straight in the seat. "They were lovers. I guess she thought they were gonna take the money and run away together. Little did she know, the guy's a lunatic. I hope for her sake, he hasn't killed Melody yet."

Glancing at Jim, Blair sighed. "You mean for all of our sakes. I know what this means to you Jim. When this is over we've got some *major* talking to do"

Resting his head on his hand, Jim nodded. "I know. I just wish I had my senses back, Chief. If I could just ‘turn off' this other stuff."

Coming to an abrupt halt, Blair pulled the truck over to the side of the road. "That's it, Jim. We gotta turn it off. It's so simple. I can't believe I didn't think of it before. It's the ‘trauma' of the situation guiding you. We remove the trauma, and presto we're back on line."

"Remove the trauma? And how do I do that?"

Smiling, Blair waggled his eyebrows. "Ahhhh. Wait and see, Jim. Just you wait and see."

*********

"What are we doing here, Chief?" Jim grunted as he plopped down on the couch.

Smiling, Blair headed towards his bedroom. "Just relax. I'll be right back."

Sighing, Jim closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of the couch. "I really wish you'd let me in on what you're up to. I'm really not up to any of your 'experiments' right now."

Fumbling through some boxes in his room, Blair yelled, "Be right with you, Jim."

Quickly gathering up a box, Blair made his way back to the living room and positioned himself on the coffee table in front of Jim.

Cracking one eye open, Jim gave Blair a questioning glare. "What's all this stuff for?"

Rearranging the items in the box, Blair gave Jim a quick smile. "I've been saving this for a 'rainy day' but I think we might be able to put it to good use right now. It's like an 'association game'. You smell the contents of each container, and you tell me what it reminds you of."

Straightening himself up on the couch, Jim shook his head. "I don't have time for 'games', Sandburg. I've got to meet this guy in less than two hours."

Pinning Jim with his eyes, Blair patted the side of the box. "And what if he gets away? Are you ready to take that chance? We can do this. Your senses are not 'gone', your subconscious is 'blocking' them out. We just have to find a way to help you 'distance' yourself from the images that the scent of that shampoo invokes in you. Maybe we can 're-define' what you think about when you smell it. Come on, Jim. I know you're tired and this is probably the last thing you need, but I really think this is gonna help."

Rubbing his temples, Jim nodded. "Okay. Let's do this."

With expert skill, Blair guided Jim into a relaxed state. The mixture of Blair's soothing voice, and the deep breathing exercises lulled him into a peaceful haven.

Waving a small container close to Jim's nose, Blair allowed Jim to inhale the calming vapors. "Good, Jim. That's it. Can you tell me what this is? What does it remind you of?"

A tiny smile appeared on Jim's face. "Vanilla. It's vanilla."

"And how does it make you feel?"

Sighing deeply, Jim grinned. "Safe. Peaceful."

Laying the container aside, Blair opened another smaller bottle. "You're doing great. Tell me what you think this is? It's stronger now. Just take it real slow."

Taking a more tentative inhalation of the contents, Jim raised his eyebrows. "Cinnamon. It's cinnamon."

"What does it make you think about?"

Shifting in his seat, Jim's voice softened, "Sally. It makes me think about Sally."

"Your housekeeper? Why Jim? Tell me why?"

Allowing his head to sink deeper into the cushions, Jim frowned, "She used to make apple pies for Steven and I every Saturday. She said if our 'mom' were here, she'd have baked them herself."

Moving with utmost care and patience, Blair made his way through a number of other scents, working his way towards "fruit blends." After taking a much needed break and a "palate neutralizing" cup of black coffee, Blair slowly removed a sample bottle from his back pocket. Keeping both eyes fixed on his partner, Blair unscrewed the cap.

Jim's eyes bolted open immediately. Heart racing, Jim doubled over in pain. "Get rid of it!"

Jamming the cap back on the bottle, Blair tossed it into the box and moved to lay a hand on Jim's shoulders. "It's okay. You're safe, Jim. Nothing can hurt you."

Gasping for air, Jim brushed Blair's hand off of his shoulder. "On your...hand. Smell it...on your hand....Burns."

Forcing Jim to lay back on the couch, Blair headed for the sink. After washing his hands thoroughly, Blair returned to the couch and sat beside his partner. "I'm sorry, Jim. Oh, man. I am so sorry. I had no idea. We'll think of something else. I had no right to put you through something like that."

Catching his breath, Jim panted, "S'okay. It's working. Give me a minute."

Mouth hanging open, Blair shook his head, "Working? Jim you can hardly breathe. That's it. It's over. I'm calling Simon."

A shaking, yet somehow strong hand reached out to grab Blair's arm. "We can do this. You said it yourself. Help me, Blair. Help me catch this guy."

*********

Glancing at his watch, a frown appeared on Blair's face. Jim lay sound asleep on the couch, his head drooping defeatedly to one side. Sighing, Blair closed the book on his lap and shook his head. Rising from his chair, he reached for the afghan on the back of the couch and draped it over Jim's sleeping form. If only he could "cover" Jim's mind, as easily as he could "cover" his body. Stirring at the contact of the blanket, Jim muttered in his sleep. "Melody." A flash of an idea sparked Blair's mind. Removing the sample bottle from the box, Blair carried the bottle to the furthest part of his own bedroom and unscrewed the cap. Hastily returning to the couch, Blair knelt beside Jim. Within seconds Blair felt Jim's body tensing.

Placing a reassuring hand on Jim's face, Blair softened his voice, "It's okay, Jim. I'm with you. Listen to my voice. There's nothing else but my voice. Just relax. I want you to follow my voice with your mind. That's it."

Very slowly Blair took a number of steps away from the couch.

"Good. We're gonna move towards the hallway now. Stay with me. Where am I now?"

A soft almost inaudible answer passed from Jim's lips. "Going to your room."

Smiling, Blair entered his room and cautiously moved towards the opened bottle.

Whispering, Blair picked up the container and took a tentative step forward. "You with me, Jim? There's only my voice. Find the dial for scent, Jim. Turn it down. One notch at a time. Real slow."

Inching towards the door, Blair listened intently for any signs of distress. A soft groan filtered towards him as he moved down the hallway.

"I'm right here, Jim. I need you to concentrate. Everything's gonna be okay."

Holding his breath, Blair approached the coffee table. Easing himself down to sit on the table, he carefully placed the bottle beside him. Dabbing a small amount on his index finger, Blair swallowed hard. The lines on Jim's forehead deepened, his breathing quickening.

"It's okay."

Rubbing the shampoo on his throat, Blair reached for Jim's hand and laid it against his neck. "Feel my heartbeat Jim. I'm alive. Melody's alive. Can you feel it?"

Struggling against Blair's tightening grip, Jim winced in pain. "No heartbeat. She's dead. Too late."

Pressing Jim's hand harder into his throat, he chanted softly, "Heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat..."

Slowly the hand began to relax. Eyelids fluttering, Jim opened his eyes. "Blair?"

Releasing his hand, Blair exhaled deeply. "How you feeling?"

Brushing his hand across his face, Jim cleared his throat, "Okay. Tired, but okay."

A quick watch check brought Jim to his feet almost instantly. "Oh my god. I've got to get going. Did you grab that bag from the truck?"

Smiling, Blair shifted his legs to one side to let Jim pass. "It's upstairs in your room. Jim, do you remember anything?"

Sprinting towards the stairs, Jim took the stairs two at a time. "I remember I've got half an hour to make that drop. Speed it up, Chief."

*********

Crouching behind a maze of bushes, Blair stared through the binoculars as Jim crossed the park. Simon fidgeted beside him. "You see anything?"

Shaking his head, Blair spoke into the radio. "Looks clear, Jim. You see anything?"

Adjusting the ear piece, Jim clutched the duffle bag closer to his side. Nothing yet, Chief." Stifling a cough, Jim continued to scan the park. He tried unsuccessfully to use his enhanced vision. A kaleidoscope of distorted images flooded his mind. Shaking his head, he stopped just shy of the garbage can.

Simon's voice echoed in his mind. "All units keep alert. Nobody move in until I give the signal. Jim. Drop it in the can. Jim! Put it in now! Ellison!"

Ripping the ear piece from his head. Jim closed his eyes for a split second and sniffed the air. Fighting the impending nausea, Jim turned his head towards an abandoned gazebo. Raising his voice, he yelled, "Trent, I know you're there. You want the money? Come and get it!"

Turning the duffle bag upside down, Jim dumped the contents on the grass. Picking up a wad of bills, Jim unwrapped them and scattered them to the wind. "What's a matter, Trent? Come on! You and me!"

Tossing his gun on the grass, Jim removed his Kevlar vest and moved to an open area of the field. Hands outstretched, Jim walked towards the gazebo. "Take your best shot! An eye for an eye I say. You drop me and my guys drop you. Sounds fair to me."

A tense voice stabbed the air. "You'll never find her. You need me, Ellison."

Appearing from behind a large oak tree, Trent fixed his gun on Jim's chest. "How do you know I haven't killed her yet? Can you live with that 'Jimmy Boy'. Another dead kid on that record of yours. Amy was such a sad case. Brings tears to my eyes."

Gripping his stomach, Jim stole a glance towards Blair. A faint whisper tickled his ears. "Heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat..."

Straightening his body, Jim smiled. "Not this time. Sorry. You see, we picked up Karen Lane a few hours ago, and guess what? She led us right to her."

Laughing, Trent cocked the gun. "You're lying. I moved her."

Shrugging, Jim motioned towards a set of trees just beyond them. "See for yourself."

Karen Lane and Melody, escorted by a number of officers, appeared in the distance. Head bowed, the child clutched her mother's dress.

Muttering to himself, Blair clenched his fists. "Come on. I hope you know what you're doing, Jim. Come on, take the bait. Reel him in."

Stepping a foot closer to the perp, Jim reached for the gun. "It's over, Trent. Give me the gun."

Hesitantly, Trent handed over the gun. A rush of officers filled the area and within seconds had him face down on the grass.

Walking away, Jim headed towards Karen Lane. Stopping in front of her, he clenched his jaw. "You better hope he fell for that."

Rubbing his temples, Jim headed for the truck.

*********

Blair slid the plate of food across the table, and Jim casually pushed it aside.

"Jim. You've got to eat something. This is ridiculous. They're bringing him in any minute. I can't even remember the last time you ate. Pretty soon we're gonna be sharing clothes. Come on."

Turning his back to Blair, Jim stared at the bleak walls of the interrogation room. "What if this doesn't work? I mean...that kid looked like Melody, but who's to say he's not 'toying' with us. The guy's crazy. Who knows what he's capable of."

Laying a hand on Jim's shoulder, Blair lowered his voice. "He wouldn't have given up the gun if she were dead. I believe that, and you've got to believe that too."

Jim turned at the sound of the door opening. Patting Jim's shoulder, Blair gathered up the food and exited the room. Trent seated himself in a chair and placed his cuffed hands behind his head. "What can I do for you, Detective?"

Smiling, Jim leaned against the table. "Not a thing. Just wanted to let you know I'm pulling a few more unsolved murders out of the archives."

Straightening in his chair, Trent laughed nervously. "What murders? What are you talking about?"

Drumming his fingers on the edge of the table, Jim frowned. "I can pin every child abduction in this state on you if I want. A computer error here, a date change there. Quite simple really. I wonder how long you'll last in jail with a record like that."

Wiping a sheen of sweat from his brow, Trent stammered, "What do you want?"

Fighting off a wave of nausea, Jim leaned closer to the perp. "Just one thing. Why didn't you kill her?"

Staring at the table, Trent whispered, "Things got complicated. Karen disappeared. I knew you were on to me. I figured she was better use to me alive than dead. How did you find her anyway? There must be twenty old trains in that yard."

Knocking on the door, Jim smiled. "I didn't."

*********

Weaving in and out of the abandoned freight cars, Jim shook his head. "We're never gonna find her. Look at this place."

Moving in beside him, Blair produced the sample bottle of shampoo from his pocket. "We may have a little advantage here. I want you to take just a small smell of this stuff and then focus in on her voice."

Shaking his head, Jim shrugged his shoulders. "I told you before. I can't do this. Everything's still a blur. What makes you think now will be any different?"

Shoving the bottle into his hands, Blair smiled. "Trust me. Focus on her voice and her heartbeat. You can do it, Jim."

Unscrewing the lid, Jim took a tentative whiff of the shampoo. Within moments a child's voice filtered into his ears. "Help. Help. Please help me..."

Doubling over in pain, Jim reached for Blair's arm. Steadying him, Blair forced Jim's hand into his throat. "Listen to the heartbeat, Jim. Follow her voice."

"Hurts...Can't..."

Blair's emphatic voice balanced his soul. "Yes, you can, Jim. I know you can. She's alive, and she needs you."

Following the child's pleas, Jim guided Blair towards the back of a rundown caboose. Hesitating at the entrance to the train, Jim moved aside for Blair to enter first. "I can't do it."

Squeezing Jim's arm, Blair entered the train. Leaning against the metal frame, Jim listened to the child's accelerated heart rate. Blair appeared in the doorway, a shaking bundle cradled in his jacket. "Simon, over here! We've got her! She's okay!"

Without a word, Jim walked away.

*********

Exiting the elevator, Blair shook his head. "I've never seen you eat like that!"

Smiling, Jim patted his stomach. "I was hungry."

Jim sauntered over to his desk only to have a thunderous voice stop him in his tracks. "Ellison! My office! NOW! You, too, 'Hairboy'!"

Silence descended on the bullpen as the pair walked towards the open door. Instinctively hiding behind Jim, Blair muttered, "We're dead. I told you you shouldn't have thrown that money in the air. Oh, man."

They stepped into their early graves as Simon closed the door to the tomb. A well-dressed man and a young child with beautiful hair stood off to one side.

"Detective Ellison. This is my daughter, Melody. She wanted to come and say 'thank you' herself."

Leaning over, a broad grin on his face, Jim gestured the little girl towards him. "Hi, Melody."

Approaching Jim, Melody smiled and launched herself into his arms. "Thank you, Mr. Jim."

Holding her closely, Jim inhaled the calming aroma of her hair. A single tear rolled down his cheek. Pulling away from him, Melody gently wiped the tear from his face. "Daddy says tears are angel mist. They help make people's hearts grow. Is that true, Mr. Jim?"

Grinning, Jim whispered, "It's true."

Straightening himself, Jim patted her head. Melody's father extended his hand and Jim gripped it firmly. "I don't know how to thank you, Detective. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Releasing the man's hand, Jim smiled. "Just doing my job, sir."

Ushering Melody towards the door, he nodded his head. "Thank you all. We'll be in touch."

Pointing a finger at Melody, Jim smiled. "You do that."

Waving, the pair left the room. Moving to sit at his desk, Simon clasped his hands together. "Now that the 'niceties' are over with, we have a little matter of one thousand dollars floating somewhere around Cascade Park."

Shrugging his shoulders, Jim laughed nervously. "You don't really expect us to pay that back, do you sir?"

Smiling, Simon chuckled. "Of course not, Jim. I'd say a few extra shifts, maybe some time doing 'traffic detail'. I figure that should cover it."

Snickering, Blair covered his mouth with his hand.

Pinning Sandburg with a glare, Simon raised his voice. "Don't get too comfy, Sandburg. There's a pile of paperwork out there with 'your' name on it. Now both of you, get out of here and get back to work. And Jim...Good job."

"Thank you, sir."

Opening the door, Jim shoved Blair towards the entrance. "Come on, Chief. Let's get out of here before he has us scrubbing the toilets."

Closing the door behind him, Jim inhaled deeply. "What's that smell?"

At Jim's desk, Blair held up a gaily wrapped box. "What's this?" Reading the card, Blair giggled. "Let's 'field test' this together. Love, Brenda."

Grabbing the box from Sandburg, Jim tore at the paper and produced a bottle of 'mountain frost' aftershave. Grinning, Jim opened the bottle and waved it under Blair's nose.

"Hey, Jim. That stuff smells great. Can I borrow some?"

Clutching the bottle in his hand, Jim retrieved his jacket and headed for the elevator. "I don't think so, Sandburg."

Extending his arms, Blair yelled, "What happened to 'vanilla boy'?"

Smirking, Jim raised the bottle. "Meet 'mountain frost' man."

The End