Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers

Summary: While attending a drug conference in Hawaii, Jim, Blair, and Simon meet up with Mack and Holli and become embroiled in a homicide case. (In three parts)

Although it is not necessary to have seen One West Waikiki, or OWW as most call it, to understand and enjoy this fanfic, here is some basic information anyway. Richard Burgi plays Lt. Mack Wolfe, a loner homicide detective who is more than a little quirky and has a propensity for munching on red licorice sticks and a penchant for wearing suspenders. As Marsha calls him, Mack is the flip-side of Jim. Dawn Holliday is played by Cheryl Ladd, who most everyone knows from Charlie's Angels fame. Dr. Holliday, Holli to her friends, is the ME who tends to investigate a lot on her own, usually without telling Mack where she is going. The two of them together are a blast to watch, at least I think so.

You might think from the crossover pairing that this fic is going to be a fluff humor piece. Originally, that was what I had in mind. But the muse demanded more drama and that is what I wrote. There is humor, never fear. In any case, with promptings and suggestions from Robyn and Marsha, here's my lone crossover offering. Oh, and have a little patience, our, uh, guest characters don't show up right away......

Dose of Confusion, Murder on the Side
Part One
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
by Becky
January 1998

Face unnaturally calm, the silver-haired man in a suit watched almost dispassionately through a window as the medical team scrambled around the hospital bed. In the bed itself was a young man, thin, wasted, brown hair lank against his pillow, skin waxy and pale. His body jerked again as the paddles were applied. But there was no change. Just like the previous four times. The head doctor finally sighed and shook his head sadly, giving a few instructions to a nurse, then left the room, going to stand next to the man outside.

"I'm sorry. It was just too much for his heart. We tried the best we could."

The man nodded silently, eyes fixed on the body on the bed.

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

The man didn't answer for a moment, then whispered, "I'd like a minute with him, alone."

The doctor agreed and called out the remaining members of the team. They dispersed down the hallway, pushing the crash cart before them. The man watched them go, then entered the room, pushing the door closed behind him. He stood for a long time at the end of the bed, just staring at the too-thin face in the bed. Then he took a deep breath, inhaling shakily.

"Why couldn't you have listened to me? Why did you have to do this? Why?" A tear slid down his cheek, dropping to land on the blanket in front of him. "Oh, my son, my dear son, why? I was so close to the truth, to stopping this madness."

Another tear joined the first, then another and another. Then he straightened and walked to the head of the bed. He reached out his hand and placed it on his son's forehead, stroking back the lank hair. For long moments, there was only the silence and the sound of his breathing as he regained his composure. Then he began to whisper and his words echoed in the still of that room.

"In a week, I'll know where they are. And this will never happen again. That I promise." He bent down and bestowed a soft kiss on his son's forehead, then stood and turned away. He left the room and walked down the hallway toward the elevator without looking back.

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

Simon looked up from the shiny black folder when he heard Blair Sandburg's distinctive laughter in the bullpen. Blair he saw first, then Jim, who was shaking his head and grinning. Simon had to grin as well. The grad student's exuberance for life was hard to ignore, even on cold, drizzly days like today. He glanced to his outside window where the rain pelted down the glass in streaks. Absently he smoothed his fingers over the folder cover again before standing.

He walked over to the partially open door and leaned against the doorjamb, watching with amusement as Blair struggled to get out of his wet coat without dripping too much on Jim's desk or on his own clothes. Jim finally had to help him, laughing and playfully yanking on Blair's damp ponytail. Blair rolled his eyes and smacked Jim's arm, then glanced around, realizing that the rest of the officers in the bullpen were watching them, Simon included.

Simon only chuckled at the half-embarrassed, half-amused twinkle in Blair's eyes, then said, "If you two are done playing for the moment, I'd liked to see you in my office. I've even got fresh coffee, if you'd like."

Jim turned from hanging up their coats. "Sure, sir." He and Blair grabbed their mugs and followed Simon into his office. Once each had a full cup of coffee and were settled down into their respective seats, or table edge in Blair's case, Simon began.

"Sandburg, how much do you have to be at the University for the next several days?"

Blair paused, coffee mug halfway to his mouth. He exchanged a look with Jim, then replied, "Actually, not much. I was just planning to do some tutoring here and there."

"Can this tutoring be done by someone else for a little bit?"

"Yeah, sure, I think so."

"Good."

Jim set his coffee mug on the table and leaned forward. "Simon, what's going on?"

Simon stood walked around the desk, leaning against the front of it as he picked up and handed Jim a black folder. "You're going to Hawaii."

Jim blinked. "I am?"

Blair hastily swallowed his mouthful of coffee. "He is?"

Simon nodded. "Actually, now that I know Sandburg is free, we all are."

Grinning and swinging his legs back and forth, Blair sipped at his coffee again. "Cool."

Simon switched his gaze to the younger man. "Not as cool as you might think, Sandburg."

Still flipping through the folder, Jim tensed slightly, hearing an edge of concern in Simon's voice. "This is a law enforcement drug conference, sir. Why does Blair need to go?"

"Because Chief Warren specifically requested that Sandburg attend one of the meetings. If it wasn't for that meeting, I would probably have taken a different team with me. But I had a feeling you wouldn't let him go by himself for this."

Blair frowned, then leaned over to look at the folder in Jim's hands, scanning the itinerary. Jim asked quietly, "Which meeting?"

Simon started to reply, but Blair spoke first as his eyes widened, reading off one of the meeting titles. "Designer Drugs."

Jim heard Blair's heart skip a beat and his eyes went up to Blair's momentarily. Then he looked back up at Simon. "What does Warren want him to do?"

Sighing and rubbing his forehead, Simon explained. "Those running the conference are trying to get as much information as possible about the various designer drugs, Golden being one of them. True, it's gone for now. But it, or something similar, could pop up again later. Who knows? In any case, they would like Blair to talk about his experiences."

"No."

Simon stood, his eyes narrowing. "Jim --"

Jim stood as well, shaking his head. "No, sir, you can't let Warren trade in on what happened to Blair. Warren can't order Blair to do anything. He's an observer, not a cop."

"That may be true, Jim, but Chief Warren does have a say about the whole observer thing."

"That's blackmail!"

"Don't you think I know that?!?"

Blair finally interrupted, sliding off the table. "Guys, guys! You think maybe I could have a say in this? I am an adult, you know."

Jim snapped his mouth shut on what he had been planning to say, but he and Simon continued to glare at each other in silence for another moment. Then the two taller men turned to look at Blair, who had to suppress a smile at Jim's flexing jaw muscles and Simon's crossed arms. Both signs of anger, annoyance, and concern. Simon raised an eyebrow at Blair. "Well?"

Blair cleared his throat, turning toward Jim. "Look, Jim, I know you only want to protect me, and I appreciate that. Really. But it's okay. I can do this. They just want me to tell them what happened, what I can remember, which I grant, is pretty fuzzy. And, hey, if I can get a free trip to Hawaii out of it, so much the better." He waved a hand in the direction of the outside window. "Anything's better than this weather."

Jim stepped forward, laying a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Are you sure?"

Blair smiled up at Jim, hearing the concern in Jim's voice. "Yeah, I'm sure. You'll be there, right?"

Jim nodded. "I'll be there."

"Then I've got nothing to worry about."

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

Two days later, Waikiki, Hawaii

Blair flopped down on the bed on his back, arms outstretched, sighing heavily. "Man, I really hate those long flights. Five hours in a plane. Yech!"

Jim, sitting the opposite bed, chuckled. "Oh, I don't know, I thought you were enjoying yourself. At least the flight attendants you were flirting with seemed to indicate that. You get any phone numbers?"

"If I did, I'm not telling. And I'm not sharing. You can find your own flight attendant to flirt with."

Jim just laughed again and stretched. Five hours on that plane hadn't been a whole lot of fun for him either. The seats were too small and he hadn't had anyone to really talk to for the five-hour flight -- the three of them hadn't been able to get a block of three seats together on the plane because of the sudden timing of their flight. In addition, there had been some annoying kid seated behind him kicking the back of his seat nearly the whole time.

After landing and collecting their luggage, they'd found their rental car and drove to their hotel, which, providentially, overlooked the ocean, Jim noted as he glanced past Blair and out over the balcony. It was a lovely view and not a streak of rain in sight. For the moment.

There was a knock on their door. From a careful extension of his senses, Jim determined it was Simon and got up to let him in. Simon had wanted to stay somewhere he could smoke his cigars and Jim knew he would never last in the smoking section of a hotel. So Simon was a few floors above the room that Jim and Blair would share.

Without looking as he pulled open the door, he said, "All settled, sir?"

Simon stepped inside, glaring good-naturedly. "You know, I really hate it when you do that."

Jim shrugged innocently, smiling a little. "Habit, sir."

Simon grunted and walked into the room. He gestured to Blair, still flat on the bed. "What's with him?"

Jim grinned. "I think the flight wore the poor kid out."

"Ah, too bad. Maybe we can find the numbers of the flight attendants in his backpack then."

Blair sat up quickly. "Hey! No messing with my stuff. Find your own numbers."

Simon laughed. "Well, if you're up and not too tired, maybe you'd like to join us for a late lunch. Unless, of course, you're full from the wonderful airline cuisine."

Blair made a face and shivered. "Airline cuisine. I don't think so. Lunch sounds great. Who's paying?"

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

Next day, 10 a.m.

Blair fidgeted in his chair, looking around at all the people in the auditorium. He assumed most in the room were cops or other law enforcement types. Maybe some doctors and forensic specialists sprinkled in for good measure. He rubbed his hands on his pants again, wishing he wasn't so nervous about this whole thing. Sure, he went up in front of rooms full of people every day at the University. But this ... this was different. They wanted him to talk about something he'd just rather forget altogether. He'd told Jim he'd be okay. He only hoped now that he hadn't said something he shouldn't have.

Another hand came down his, forcing it stop moving. He turned his head and looked up into Jim's eyes. Jim's voice was soft, just loud enough to be heard above the dull roar of the others talking around them. "You okay, Blair?"

"I . . . yeah, I think so. Just nervous, I guess."

"You don't have to do this, you know."

"Yes, I do. We've already talked to the coordinators, Jim. They're expecting me to go up there. I can't back out on them."

Jim just stared at him for several long moments, then he sighed. "All right. But don't forget that I'm here, okay? You're not alone, Chief. If it gets to be too much, we leave. Got it?"

Blair smiled, his eyes twinkling. "What, you gonna stomp up to the stage, pull me off, and march me out?"

"If I have to." Jim smiled back at him.

Rolling his eyes, Blair laughed softly. "My Blessed Protector, always on duty."

"You betcha." Jim squeezed Blair's hand, then released it, settling back into his chair again.

A few moments later, Simon appeared and sat down in the aisle seat on Jim's other side. He held out two water bottles. "Here you go, gentlemen, courtesy of your captain."

Blair immediately uncapped his and took a long drink. "Thanks, Simon."

Simon raised an eyebrow at Jim, saying quietly, watching as Blair chugged down the water and stared at the front platform area. "Nervous?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Well, I don't blame him. Hell, I'd be nervous."

Jim smiled slightly. "You, nervous? Now that would be something to see."

Twenty minutes later, the conference was in full swing. First came the welcomes and the introductions, then the first round of speakers. An hour later, Blair was asked to come up to the platform and tell them about his experiences on his involuntary overdose of Golden.

Exchanging one final look with Jim, Blair rose to his feet and made his way to the aisle. Jim had selected a row close to the front so Blair wouldn't have to walk far. He could hear Blair's heart rate, which had calmed down in the last hour, spike again as he walked to the front of the room. Simon glanced at him, whispering, "He gonna be okay?"

"I hope so."

After Blair was on the platform and settled in a chair, the moderator, a professionally-dressed woman in her mid-forties named Linda Cummings, said in a soft, kindly voice, "Thank you for agreeing to come here and talk to us, Mr. Sandburg. Not many would want to do this."

Blair chuckled nervously. "I'm still not sure I want to be, actually."

She smiled. "I can understand that. Which makes your presence here all the more fortunate for us. Now, first tell us who you are and then explain briefly what happened during the case."

He nodded and began, keeping his eyes on the panel of speakers, and not on the room full of watchers. "Okay, I guess I should start by telling you that I'm not actually a police officer, but an observer at the Cascade Police Department, working with a detective in the Major Crimes division. Briefly, my partner and I had been assigned to find out who was producing and distributing the designer drug Golden. We tracked them down and set up a, well, I guess it would be a sting operation, technically speaking. Something happened, we lost them, and then they must have figured out who we were. A stack of pizzas were delivered to the department late one night when I was the only one in the bullpen. And naturally, believing they had been ordered by the police chief, I ate a piece."

He paused, swallowing hard, his eyes flickering out to the audience, where they settled on Jim momentarily, taking strength from those eyes and that small encouraging nod. He looked back at the panel. "After that I don't remember too much that made a whole lot of sense. Within a few minutes, everything started turning gold, one of the main effects of the drug. I started to hallucinate, seeing these golden shapes coming at me. I was scared, I panicked, I found Jim's -- my partner's -- backup gun in his desk and ran, going to the garage seven floors down. I, um, shot at the officers who were down there, thinking I was hitting the nightmarish images that I was seeing. Jim was able to talk me down, then I passed out. The next day or so, I was in the hospital, pretty much out of it. But I luckily recovered with no physical sequelae. And that's basically it."

Some of the panel members asked him questions, getting more details about his experiences, which he answered the best he could, settling down, thinking of this as more of an academic exercise than anything else. He even fielded a few questions from the listening audience.

After he answered the final few questions, Ms. Cummings stood. "Well, thank you again, Mr. Sandburg, for being so willing to come here and talk with us. I'm sure that what you've told us will help us in . . ."

Then one of the panel members, an older man, broke into her words in an abrupt tone of voice. "Tell me, Mr. Sandburg, how did this experience compare to other drugs?"

Blair blinked. "Excuse me?" In the audience, Jim and Simon exchanged questioning glances.

The older man waved a pencil. "Surely you've had other drug ... incidents you can relate to." The other panel members and Ms. Cummings looked shocked and unsure of what to do or say. All eyes went to Blair, who shifted once in his seat before answering.

"I don't take drugs. I never have." His eyes flashed once to where Jim was sitting. He saw Simon forcibly holding Jim in his seat. His eyes went back to the panel member, reading the nameplate on the table in front of him -- Dr. Hiram Kirk.

Dr. Kirk spoke again. "Never have. Really." His voice didn't sound too believing.

Blair shook his head. "Never."

Dr. Kirk gestured, his voice rising, gaining an edge of hysteria. "Come now, this is all for the benefit of medical science, we won't hold it against you. Of course, you could always talk hypothetically --"

Blair gritted his teeth. "I do not take drugs. I have never taken drugs. Of any kind. Hypothetically or otherwise."

Ms. Cummings jumped in again, finally having recovered from the shock of the interruption. "Well, um, I think this is a good time for a 20-minute break." She signaled to the audio booth in the back and all the microphones went dead. Immediately the commotion of people talking and getting up spread throughout the room. Blair stayed where he was, still a little stunned at the implication that he had willingly taken drugs sometime in the past. He stood as Ms. Cummings came over to join him. She took his hand and clasped it warmly in hers. "I am so sorry, Mr. Sandburg. That never should have happened. Dr. Kirk is an excellent drug researcher and specialist, and normally very polite. I can't imagine why ..." She looked toward the panel table, where Dr. Kirk and others were still seated. Shaking her head slightly, she turned her eyes back to Blair. "No one was expecting that. Please accept my apologies."

He moved his other hand to hold her hand in both of his. He smiled at her. "It's okay. A little shocking, but okay. And it wasn't your fault."

She smiled back at him. "Thank you. And thank you so much for agreeing to come to this. I know that what happened to you must have been horrible and reliving those memories couldn't have been pleasant."

He was about to respond when a hand descended on his shoulder. He looked up slightly to meet Jim's eyes. "You okay, Chief?"

"Oh, hey, Jim, yes, I'm fine." Jim's eyes didn't waver from Blair's. "Really."

Jim nodded and his eyes shifted to find Hiram Kirk at the panel table, deep in discussion with a few other members. "Good. Now I think I'll have a little discussion with the good Dr. Kirk."

"Jim ..." Blair tried to stop him, but Jim strode off before Blair could get a hold of his arm. Blair gave Ms. Cummings an apologetic glance, then went after Jim, hoping he could keep the obviously upset detective from doing any permanent damage to Dr. Kirk. Jim had only begun talking when Blair reached him.

"Dr. Kirk, may I have a word with you?"

Pausing in the act of putting his papers into a leather satchel, Dr. Kirk looked up, meeting Jim's eyes briefly. "And who would you be?"

"Mr. Sandburg's partner, Detective Jim Ellison."

Something flashed across Dr. Kirk's face, but too quick and too elusive for Jim to identify. A distant coldness settled into the older man's eyes. "And what do you want, Detective Ellison?"

Jim's jaw clenched. "What I want is to know what the hell you thought you were doing with those questions. How dare you imply that my partner has taken drugs. No, you weren't implying, you were stating he has."

Spotting Blair standing behind Jim, Dr. Kirk continued to fill his satchel, stating, "It has been my experience, Detective, that the younger generation tend to experiment rather freely with drugs and such. I simply asked my questions based on that belief."

"Not Blair. And you had no right to make such an assumption. You had no right to --"

Straightening abruptly, Dr. Kirk interrupted as he snapped shut his satchel. "I am an honored drug researcher and a well-respected physician, Detective. I have every right to ask any question I want and make any assumption that I see fit to make. Now, if you will excuse me, I have things I need to be doing."

Before Dr. Kirk could withdraw, Jim reached out and grabbed the doctor's suit jacket lapels, dragging him forward across the table, knocking a few table microphones and several books to the floor of the platform with a loud crash. The other panel members stepped back, gasping in startlement, and those near the front of the auditorium all turned to look, trying to see what was happening amidst the crowd of bodies up front.

"What do you think you're doing?!"

Jim shook him once. "Listen, you son-of-a- --"

Remembering that the room was full of cops, all very excellent witnesses in court he was sure, Blair lunged forward, grabbing one of Jim's arms, and tried to pull him way. "Jim! Come on, this isn't helping. Let him go. Jim!" Jim refused to move and, in desperation, Blair turned to find Simon, only to see that he was already next to Jim, taking the angry detective's other arm.

Simon's voice was firm. "C'mon, Ellison, this isn't the way to go about this. Let the man go." Jim spared a glance at Simon, then finally released the older man's jacket. He shoved back from the table, feeling Blair's hand on his back.

Face red and eyes flashing in anger, Dr. Kirk snapped, "I could have you up on charges for that, Detective."

Jim growled out, "Yeah, and I could have you sued for slander against my partner." He turned to Blair, putting a hand on his shoulder and directing him toward the nearest exit. "Come on, Chief, let's get out of here. It's a little too stuffy in here for my taste." Simon gave a hard glare to Dr. Kirk, then turned away to follow Jim and Blair off the platform.

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

In the middle of the auditorium, a professionally-dressed woman with shoulder-length blonde hair frowned to herself as she turned back to the exit, continuing on her way out. She wondered what exactly had happened up there. It had obviously involved Dr. Kirk. They had all been stunned at his outburst. Even knowing where it was coming from and why he lashed out in anger at the young man answering questions about that designer drug didn't help her understand what had been going through Dr. Kirk's head when he'd made such horrible accusations. Granted the confrontation was over now and none of her business. Still....

She glanced back once more, but saw no more of the young man who had told his story, or of his companions, whoever they were. She had only seen the tall black man and the younger man through the crowd. The other, the one she supposed had caused the commotion, had been hidden. Making a mental note to talk to Dr. Kirk as soon as she could, she continued purposely on her way out, pulling out her cellphone, dialing quickly. She had just enough time to check in before the next round of meetings started.

The other end rang and was picked up quickly. "Medical Examiner's Office."

"Nui, this is Holli. How are things going?"

"Good morning, Dr. Holliday. Everything's great. Slow, but that's good. How's the conference?"

"So far? Interesting. Very interesting."

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

Simon exited the auditorium and started looking around for Jim and Blair, not seeing them at first. Finally he caught sight of them at the other end of the hallway, away from most of the other conference attendees. Neither was looking in his direction as they seemed to be caught up in some discussion, Blair's hands and mouth moving and Jim replying infrequently, if at all. He strode down the hallway, planning what he wanted to say, what he needed to say, to Jim for pulling that little stunt.

The detective turned toward him just as he reached them, probably knowing he was coming the whole time. Simon restrained himself from rolling his eyes and just said, "And just what were you trying to do in there, Ellison, get yourself arrested for harassment?"

Jim sighed and looked away. "I just ... reacted, sir. The things he said about Sandburg --"

"Were things that were slanderous and not true. I know that, Jim, but hauling the man across a table and threatening him with bodily harm wasn't the answer."

"I know that."

"Good, then you'll apologize to the man before he decides to press charges against you."

"Simon --"

"Jim, he's got a roomful of witnesses. You'll apologize and then we'll talk about what he said about Sandburg. Got it?"

Jim glowered at him a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, I got it, sir."

Blair spoke up softly. "Look, guys, you can just, you know, forget about what he said. It's no big deal, I mean, well, it is sorta, but not that big of a deal, not here anyway. And I don't think anyone believed him. Just let it drop. Okay? I don't want to cause any more trouble."

The two men just looked at him for a long moment in silence, expressions inscrutable. Blair looked from one to the other, waiting for a response. Any response. Jim finally asked in quiet voice, laying a hand on Blair's shoulder. "You sure, Chief? I don't want your reputation hurt by this."

Blair smiled. "Yeah, I'm sure. As for my reputation, well, let me take care of that." He paused, then went on, "About the rest of the meetings...."

Simon laughed, holding up a hand. "As for the rest of the meetings, no, you don't need to attend them. It was just this morning's session that Chief Warren wanted you at. The rest of the time today and tomorrow during the meetings is yours to do with as you want."

Blair grinned, bouncing slightly on his heels. "Cool."

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

A few hours later, Blair moved forward with the line toward the betting window, mumbling under his breath as he marked the score sheet. He glanced up briefly to see how many people were in front of him, then concentrated back on his papers. Finally, he reached the front of the line and placed his bets. He turned, planning to head for the stands to find a seat ...

... and promptly bumped into someone. Backing up a step, he looked up slightly, saying, "Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry, I didn't see --" Amused, unoffended, and very familiar light blue eyes met his and he blinked. "Jim? What are you doing here?"

The man's smile didn't move, but he shook his head. "Jim? Nope, my name isn't Jim. You must have me confused with someone else."

Blair made a face. "Jim, come on, this is ridiculous. What --?" His cellphone rang and he absently pulled it out of his coat pocket, flipping it open. "Blair Sandburg."

"Hey, Chief, it's me."

He yanked the phone away from his ear and stared at it, then at the man now placing his bets at the window. Slowly he brought the phone back. "Jim?"

"Yeah?"

"Jim?"

There was a pause, then Jim spoke again. "Is there something wrong, Sandburg?"

"Wrong? No." He gave himself a mental shake, beginning to smile at the oddity of the whole situation. "No, no, nothing's wrong. Never mind, I was just distracted. What's up?"

Jim didn't sound convinced. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. It's just really noisy. Hard to hear."

"Where are you?"

"The horse track."

Jim sighed. "Why am I not surprised? Look, I just wanted to let you know that we're still at the conference and can't meet you for that late lunch like we thought. It's supposed to break at 2, but only for a half-hour. And then it might continue late, maybe until 6. Think you can handle dinner on your own if need be?"

"Jim, please, I can take care of myself, you know."

"Hmm. Just checking. Oh, and Simon says to try to stay out of trouble. Same goes for me."

Blair laughed once, shaking his head. "I'm touched by your vote of confidence. Thanks ever so much."

Jim laughed with him. "Experience, Chief. Tell you what. You stay out of trouble and dinner tomorrow evening is on me."

"You're on."

"Oops, gotta go. See you later, Chief."

"Yeah, okay, bye Jim." He flipped the phone shut and watched as the Jim-lookalike came away from the betting window. Blair stopped him with a few words. "Oh, hey, I'm really sorry about this whole confusion thing. You just look an awful lot like a friend of mine."

The other man, now with a stick of red licorice in his mouth, paused in front of him. He shrugged and waved it off. "No problem."

Blair stuck out his hand. "My name's Blair Sandburg."

The man took his hand and gave it a hearty shake. "Mack Wolfe. Nice to meet you." The next race was announced and Mack gestured toward the stadium entrance. "We'd better find ourselves some seats before they're all gone."

"Uh, yeah, I guess we should." Blair fell into step next to Mack, a little surprised at the man's immediate willingness to talk to him.

"I haven't seen you around here before. New in town?"

"Actually, I'm visiting from Washington State...."

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

A bit later, as they again stood in line, this time to collect their winnings, Mack pulled out a licorice stick (his third, Blair noted, in the past half-hour) and popped it in his mouth. After a few moments, he took it out and gestured with it. "So, tell me more about this Jim friend of yours. Do we act alike as well?"

Blair chuckled. "No, not at all. You two are like total opposites." He paused a moment, then went on. "I'm not even sure the two of you would get along. Of course, Jim can be a little hard to get along with period."

"What's he do?"

"Do? He's a cop, well, a detective in the Major Crimes division. He's attending the Law Enforcement Drug Conference being held on the islands. I came along to keep him company."

"Ah, yes, the drug conference. I heard about that." Mack stuck the licorice stick back into his mouth, nodding to himself. He opened his mouth to say more when a voice yelled out over the noise surrounding them.

"Hey, Wolfe!"

Tensing, Mack turned, muttering under his breath. Blair followed his gaze to three very large, very angry-looking guys that were stalking toward them.

"Who are they?"

"Trouble. You'd better keep out of this, kid." Mack stepped out of line and met the three guys several feet away from Blair, still within hearing range.

The largest of the three shoved a finger into Mack's chest. "You lied to me, Wolfe."

"Lie? Me? When did I lie to you?"

"You told me that the cops would leave my brother alone if he talked. Now he's in jail."

"I never said he wouldn't go to jail. I just said it would be better if he told us what he knew about Buchanan." He paused, smiling widely. "And besides, he's not exactly in jail. Think of it as protective custody."

"I call it jail." He pushed Mack hard, sending him stumbling back into Blair who caught him.

"Whoa! Are you all right, Mack?"

Mack pulled himself up, straightening his shirt. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."

The big man stalked over to them, glaring down at Blair. "Do you know Wolfe?"

Blair swallowed hard, looking up at the huge man towering over him. "Well, yeah, I guess so."

"Are you a cop too?"

Blair's eyes widened. "Too?" He looked at Mack. "You're a cop?" Mack nodded. Blair went on. "Well, why didn't you tell me?"

Mack shrugged. "Didn't seem important at the time."

Blair rolled his eyes, then felt himself jerked forward and held by his shirt. As his feet left the ground, he looked up into the face of the hulk in front of him who growled out slowly, "So you are a cop."

"No, I'm not, not exactly, I mean --"

Mack intervened, pulling Blair away. "Hey, leave the kid out of this. He's not involved. He doesn't have any idea what's going on. Okay?"

The big man glared at Mack for a moment, then grunted, half-turning away. Blair started to breathe out in relief, then the man whirled back around and sent a fist at Mack's face. It connected, shoving him back into Blair again, sending them both sprawling to the ground, knocking a few other people over in the process.

Later, that was how witnesses would state the brawl began.

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

Continued in Part Two...