Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers

Dash of Conspiracy, Enemies on the Side by Becky (graphic by Robyn)

Burton Awards 2000 NomineeSummary: A dangerous and lethal new drug has found its way into Cascade. Major Crimes' best team (aka Jim, Blair, and Megan) is on the case. Along the way, they get some unexpected assistance from Mack and Holli who come to Cascade for Holli to speak at a conference. Meanwhile, Jim is having some disturbing dreams and Blair hopes to figure out what they mean with some help from a dream interpretation course. (In eight parts)

Spoilers: Cypher, Blind Man's Bluff (what can I say -- I love this episode), Sentinel Too, parts 1 & 2.
Rated: PG for a few intense moments.

Well, by popular demand, here is the sequel to my TS/OWW crossover, Dose of Confusion, Murder on the Side. If you haven't read it already, or don't remember what happened, the basic idea was that Jim, Blair, and Simon went to Hawaii and ended up bumping into Mack and Holli. Confusion ensued, plus some case work. It is not needed to read the first although I may refer to a few things in it here and there which I will undoubtedly explain. Other than that, this story may be read without having read Dose... first.

A repeat of my comments from the first story -- 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.

And again, I owe the title to Marsha, who suggested it a long, long time ago when the idea of a sequel first came up. And again, our guest characters don't show up right away......

Beta'ed by the wonderful Hephaistos who graciously agreed to step in to help when it appeared my main beta would be extremely busy with her residency duties; and by that busy resident, Dr. Robyn, my dear friend and roommate, who did some beta'ing anyway and without whom I never would have started writing and posting TS fanfic in the first place. Thank you both very much! Any mistakes left are my own. Also thanks to Shelly who helped me out with a bit of "Aussie-speak."

Notes: (1) Takes place sometime in fourth season after S2 part 2, but before TSbyBS, which accounts for the lovely weather during this particular in this story as well as the timing. (2) As I'm mentioned before, most of my (and Robyn's) stories happen in the same universe, so other stories that are referenced (usually very, very briefly) are Waking Memories (my second BMB missing scene, in which Megan was told about what happened during BMB), My Guide Has Fleas (which refers to Dose...), and Mad Bluebird. (3) Anything pertaining to dreams or what they mean is pretty much from my own head, so don't put too much stock in it. (4) The brand name "Weelan" (found over halfway through story) is made up. (5) "The Brew Moon" is a real place in Hawaii.

Dash of Conspiracy, Enemies on All Sides
Part One
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
by Becky
March 2000

.... darkness .... "no...no...no" .... clouds of opaque mist .... glints of light on a sliver of metal .... flames .... "no...no...no" .... running .... glimmering haze of an orange-yellow glow .... darkness .... a lost or maybe injured animal crying in the night .... panting .... reaching .... "don't!" .... jungle green and blues .... running .... "where?" .... panther howling plaintively on a high hill .... scent of death .... a quarter moon half-visible through tall trees .... tiny droplets of liquid splashing and sizzling on a hot surface .... running .... "no!" .... approaching darkness .... wolf fading from sight .... one last mournful call as darkness again falls complete ....

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

A hand held the small bag up to the desk lamp lighting the darkened room, shaking it a bit, settling the grainy contents. "Good quality, I presume?" The other hand held a phone receiver to his ear as the man swiveled in his chair to look out the tall window of the room that overlooked the city.

Another voice, low and quiet, replied across the phone line. "Of course."

"The pick-up?"

"On schedule. No problems."

"Good. Good." The hand lowered the bag and tossed it on the surface. It skidded across the slickness to rest against the lamp base. Fingers rubbed themselves against each other lightly as the man went on. "Continue as planned. What about the girl?"

"Dealt with."

"And our new distributor?"

"Not saying anything. He wants his money while he's still alive." Amused laughter.

"Hmm." The man leaned forward, dark hair reflecting the light as he took the tiny bag in his fingers again, running his thumb over the contents inside through the thin plastic. "If that changes, deal with him as well."

"Yes, sir."

The connection clicked silent on the other end of the line as the caller hung up. The man lowered the receiver into the cradle quietly, then returned his focus to the small bag. Standing, he tucked the bag into an inner coat pocket, then dusted off the surface of his desk. He leaned forward, snapping off the desk lamp, throwing the room into near darkness. A few moments later, a door opened, then closed as the man left, shoe heels tapping quietly as he disappeared down the hallway.

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

"...Now, come on, Petey, my man, stop trying to hedge on me. Just tell me what you know." Jim Ellison leaned back in his chair, one hand holding the phone to his ear, the other flipping a pencil around between his fingers. He stared up at the ceiling, then closed his eyes for a moment, listening to grumbled words on the other end of the line. His Waterman Street snitch was being particularly uncooperative that afternoon, denying he knew anything. He wished Blair, who had to be at the University that afternoon for classes, was there. He always had more luck with getting Petey to talk than Jim did. Finally, Petey stopped muttering and spilled what he knew; it wasn't too much, but more than Jim had found anywhere else recently. The detective moved forward, bringing the pencil down on a sheet of paper. "Uh-huh....Yeah....You don't say. Hmm...."

A few desks away, Megan Conner took another sip of coffee, grimacing at the cold liquid. Setting the cup aside, she folded her hands in front of her and stared at the piles of paper and manila folders spread across her desk. All incident reports that related to the drug case she and Jim had been spending most of their time on lately. Among them sat two reports of confiscated drug shipments -- both small and inconsequential compared to the stream flowing into Cascade and out again. What had begun a few months ago as a small trickle that she, Jim, and Blair had thought they'd put an immediate stop to, had turned into a flood with no known source. After being filled in just after that by Simon about Blair's accidental -- or perhaps deliberate by the drug producers was a better way of saying it -- overdose of Golden, Megan had understood the ferocity with which Jim had tracked down the pusher. But now...this...she sighed, eyes flitting past report after report on her desk -- everything but those two confiscation busts were all autopsy reports for the OD'ed victims of this new concoction. Too many victims, most of whom were teenagers and young people.

And again, neither of her partners were taking the case very lightly.

Megan glanced up from the files, watching Jim alone at his desk as he copied down what his snitch was telling him. Ellison had been working with a single-minded determination ever since the first dead kid had been found three weeks ago. Cascade was his city, his...protectorate, as Blair had jokingly told her once some time ago, after the whole mess with Alex had blown over. And so, when something happened to threaten Cascade or its inhabitants, Jim could get a little...hard-headed and not stop until he'd caught whoever was responsible. Which was why Blair had talked Simon into giving Jim -- and her -- the next day off, reasoning that without some rest, neither detective would be working at full potential. It hadn't taken too much convincing, especially after she, Simon, and Blair had watched Jim pound the dashboard of his beloved truck two evenings earlier in the parking garage when the engine stalled out on him.

Shaking her head, Megan returned her attention to the files laid out before her, trying once again to match up the seemingly unconnectable puzzle pieces and look for a hint of where the drugs were coming from. Once they could find out how the drugs were getting into Cascade, maybe they could figure out who was bringing them in. So far, nothing. The kids who died were from all over Cascade, all walks of life. At one extreme was a homeless 16-year-old girl, living off the street that they'd found 3 days earlier. At the other extreme was a very rich, very spoiled 17-year-old boy whose parents had just bought him a new red Ferrari after he got his learner's permit; they'd found his body that morning. The other dozen or so kids were scattered in between, up and down the scale. Nothing in common -- except death by the drug.

"Inspector?"

Morose thoughts scattered by the inquiring voice, Megan looked up to see the forensics chief, Cassie Welles, standing in front of her desk, a report in her hands. From what Megan had been told, Cassie had caused a stir when she first arrived at the Cascade PD. But after a few cases and some false starts, she had settled into her place in the last few months due to a number of factors, but mostly because she'd found her niche in the department and realized that the forensics lab was where she could be the most help and for the most part leaving the actual detective work to the detectives.

"Yes?"

Cassie handed her the file. "Autopsy on the latest victim. Morgan asked me to bring it up."

Megan flipped open the file, scanning the first few pages quickly. "Did Morgan get Dan to go home finally?"

Chuckling, Cassie nodded. "Sort of. You know Dan. A simple broken leg doesn't keep him from doing his job. So Morgan called Dan's wife, then he and Hunt more or less hauled him down there and stuffed him in the car. Dan wasn't too happy since he was in the middle of this, but Morgan was rather...insistent."

Megan laughed with her. Jake Morgan was one of the assistant ME's under Dan Wolfe and had been telling their head ME for the past several days to take a break and rest up while his leg healed. Dan, on the other hand, had felt himself quite able to continue working, even with one crutch under his arm. "Well, tell Morgan thanks for finishing up the autopsy so fast and getting the report up here. Anything in particular we need to look at?"

"Actually....yes." Cassie came around the side of the desk and pointed to the middle of the page Megan was looking at. "Dan had sent up some residue he found in the clothes. It was the drug...mostly. From what we know about this drug, to me it looks like there are actually two drugs at work, not just one, at least in this case."

Pursing her lips, Megan read the analysis of the drug. "You could be right about that. Not exactly what we needed to hear, of course..."

Cassie sighed. "I know. You would think one drug would be enough. Other than that, it looked fairly normal, just like all the others. The clothes are still in my office if you or Jim need to look at them. The contents and what we found are all listed in the report."

"Thanks, Cassie." Megan smiled and touched her arm.

Returning the smile, Cassie nodded in reply. "Just doing my part. We all want you to catch these creeps before anyone else dies. Let me know if you need anything more." She left the bullpen quietly, heading back to her office.

Megan watched her go, then laid the report down, folding her hands in front of her on the desk as she read it more carefully from the beginning. As Cassie had said, pretty standard. Standard and sad. She rubbed her forehead, glancing over at Jim as he hung up the phone and stared at the notes he'd made. Hopefully his snitch had something helpful to say. Standing, she picked up the report to bring it over to him. She stepped around her desk, still reading it, scanning through the contents listing of the clothes.

"Wallet, keys, comb, some loose change, sand..." She paused, halfway to Jim's desk, moving absently out of the way as an officer passed her. "Sand?" Megan made a face. Something about it clicked. Turning back to her desk, she sat on the corner and pulled a few files around to face her, scanning through their contents quickly.

"You got something, Conner?" Jim's voice came over her shoulder as he approached her.

"I'm not sure. I think so. Maybe." She handed him the report from Cassie. "This is the autopsy and forensics report on the latest victim. Two things." Pausing a moment in her search, she looked up at him as he took the file. "According to an analysis of a residue in the kid's pocket, it looks like there are actually two drugs at work, at least for him, rather than one."

Jim rubbed his eyes. "Great. And the second thing?"

"Check out the contents of the pockets. Anything strike you as odd?" She went back to looking through files, finally finding the two she wanted.

Mumbles answered her as Jim read the listing. "...Sand? The kid had sand in his pockets?" He flipped the pages down again to read about the kid himself. "What's a high-society kid in a suit doing with sand in his pocket?"

Megan shook her head. "Don't know. But here's something else. I've been trying to find a commonality between the victims and so far, nothing seems to be connecting. But...look at this." She showed him one of the files. "At the second confiscation, one of the officers mentioned seeing sand grains mixed in with some of the remnants of spilled drugs. Since this was in the basement of the Fifth Street BeachWear shop, no one really took note of it." She opened the other file. "This is the report on the homeless girl. Forensics reported finding grains of sand in her shoes."

Jim looked from the file in his hands to the ones Megan held. "Petey just told me that he'd heard fifth-hand rumors that someone near Cascade Beach is making a lot of money with a new night business." He shoved the file at Megan, then strode to Simon's office. Megan dropped the lot of them on the desk and followed him. Jim took a moment to knock, then entered at Simon's "Come."

"Sir, I think we might have a lead."

"What?" Simon swiveled away from his computer screen and motioned them to sit down. Megan leaned against the table while Jim sat on the edge of Simon's desk.

Jim began. "I got a call from Petey. He told me about some rumor he'd heard about someone making money down near Cascade Beach. Now, I know by itself that doesn't sound incriminating. However, when you add in what Conner put together..."

Simon looked over to Megan who picked up the tale. "I've been comparing the reports on the victims, Captain. Nothing seemed to connect until I got the most recent one. Two of the victims had sand in their clothes. And at one of the raids, sand was reported in the drugs themselves."

"I realize it's a bit thin, Simon," Jim lifted a hand in the air, "but it's all we've got."

"Good enough for me. You and Conner get down there and take a look around."

Jim stood. "Very good, sir."

Simon stood as well, coming around the side of his desk. "Cascade Beach, huh? Does this mean the beach trip tomorrow is gonna be postponed?"

Jim exchanged a glance with Megan. "Uh, no, sir. Conner challenged me to a surfing contest that I don't intend on forfeiting -- or losing."

Megan grinned smugly. "That's what you think, Ellison."

Ignoring her for the most part, Jim went on, "And Sandburg's been looking forward to this for days. Something about getting his beach sun quotient. Before he left for the University this morning, he made me promise on the threat of tests that I wouldn't find a way to get out of the day off at the beach."

Chuckling, Simon shook his head. "Beach sun? Isn't sun sun?"

Jim shrugged. "Not according to Sandburg. Personally I don't think he's going for the sun. We'll be lucky if he even notices the sun."

Laughing again, Simon shooed them towards the door. "Go. See what you can find out down there, then call it a day. I don't want to see either of you back here until the day after tomorrow. Got it?"

"Yes, sir." Jim saluted and headed out the door.

Megan followed, nodding at Simon as she passed him. "Thank you, Captain."

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

"Thanks again, Mr. Sandburg."

"No problem, Flora." Blair closed the office door as he exited with the student. "Glad I could help."

Flora swung her backpack up over her shoulder, then looked down at her watch. "Oh, I gotta get to class."

Blair chuckled, glancing at the hall clock which read 3:57 p.m. "You and me both. I'll see you next week in class, okay?"

She smiled and hurried off; Blair waited a moment, then jogged down the hallway in the opposite direction, his own backpack hanging over one shoulder as he headed for the lecture hall. Fortunately for him, most students were already in their own classes, or they would have had to wonder at Blair's muttered monologue to himself.

"Not only are you teaching two anthro classes, you had to take two of your own. And if that wasn't enough, you're attending this lecture series as well. What were you thinking? No wonder Jim looked at you like you'd suddenly gone mad."

He shook his head, grinning at the dry comments Jim would have made in response to that particular gem. Blair had gone into the Registration Office, thinking he'd take one required course in addition to the two classes he was teaching. He'd come out with two additional courses: an advanced psychology class he thought might be helpful to him, and a lecture series that included several talks about dream interpretation. Neither had been topics he could resist. Now, he wished he had. Not that he could have predicted the nasty case that he, Jim, and Megan had been working on almost day and night in recent weeks. If it hadn't been for that, life would've been more or less normal and workable.

The class bell rang just as he skidded to a stop outside the door, sneakers squeaking on the floor and echoing in the mostly empty hallway. He yanked open the door and slipped inside, waving an apologetic hand at the moderator, then sat down in a front row seat. Dr. Terese Zavala, head of the Psychology Department, just smiled at him and shook her head a little, then turned to the rest of the class as she stepped up to the podium microphone. "Good afternoon. And welcome to the third in our series of lectures by Dr. David Malloy on dream interpretation. I am glad to see so many of you could make it." She gestured a hand to a man standing just a few feet away. "Dr. Malloy?"

Dr. Zavala stepped away from the podium and a man in his mid- to late-40's took her place. Blair dug his notebook and a pen from his backpack, then settled in to listen. Ever since Alex and his brief and undesirable foray on the other side of the veil, dreams and what they meant had weighed heavily on his mind. If he could get Jim to talk to him about his dreams when he had them instead of after the fact, after they'd already come true, then maybe he would be able to help. And while he wasn't sure that the lecture series would have all the answers he wanted, hopefully what Dr. Malloy had to say could at least point him in the right direction.

"Last time, I talked to you about the general symbolism of our dreams. Today, I want to begin discussing just what our dreams represent and how our conscious life is drawn into these dreams...."

As Dr. Malloy began his lecture, Blair wondered how Jim and Megan were doing on the case and hoped nothing came up to preclude the day at the beach tomorrow. They all needed the break, especially Jim. He frowned to himself, tilting his head down to let his loose hair hide the expression from the speaker. His roommate had been up at the break of dawn or earlier for the past week, going out for a "morning run" as he called it. Blair called it "exercising his demons" -- and the leftover residuals of the unpleasant dreams that Blair suspected Jim was having as a result of the case -- the dreams Jim didn't mention and Blair didn't bring up.

Forcing himself to concentrate on the speaker, Blair set aside his worry for his partner and started taking notes. Hopefully, between whatever he could pull from the dream talks, the day off at the beach and the relaxation it would bring, and sheer determination on his part, he could discover what was bugging his friend and help him.

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

"So, Jim, what are these tests you mentioned to Simon?"

Jim negotiated a turn as they drove down the street, then threw a quick look at Megan across the truck cab. "Tests?"

Megan nodded. "Yes. Tests. You said something about Sandy threatening you with them."

"Oh. Those." Jim paused a moment, then sighed. "Sandburg...Sandburg does these tests occasionally on my...on my senses. Says they're necessary. He has a habit of using them as either bribes or threats to get me to do things sometimes."

"Ah. I see." She looked out the window. "I take it you don't like these tests."

Jim shrugged. "Actually, most of them are okay. I just like to grumble about them to, uh..."

Megan interrupted quietly, "To keep in practice?" She grinned at Jim's snort of laughter.

"Something like that." Shaking his head, he negotiated another turn and parked in the lot just above the beach. "Just don't tell Sandburg. He might decide to get creative on me with those tests."

Megan raised a hand. "He won't hear it from me. What would you say...Scout's honor?"

Jim nodded, smiling. They got out, meeting in front of the truck as they decided where to go first. Squinting a bit in the late afternoon sun, Jim pulled out his sunglasses and slid them on, then took a big breath, enjoying the ocean scent. "One other thing I think we should not tell Sandburg. At least not until after tomorrow's over. There's no reason to ruin his day communing with the 'beach sun' by telling him that we came here on a lead for the drug case."

"Sounds good to me," Megan agreed. "Which means no discussion of the case at all tomorrow. Deal?" She held out her hand.

Jim took her hand, shaking it once firmly. "Deal. Let's get this done so I can get home and wax my board for its day in the 'beach sun'."

Together they strolled down the walkway that led to the stores scattered along the area just above the beach sand. Surfboard rental stands, T-shirt shops, a few touristy places with cameras and postcards, food vendors, and a few other miscellaneous shops lined themselves up for business along the strip of sidewalk. Not wanting to cause a panic among the shop owners by telling them they were looking for potential drug runners, they had brought along a head shot picture of the dead homeless girl, still unnamed, to show around, asking if anyone knew her. They'd run her fingerprints through every database available and had come up empty. As Megan asked the questions about the girl, Jim cautiously scanned the interior of the shops with his senses. Without his guide with him, he wasn't willing to do a complete scan, especially if he did pick up the scent of any drugs, but he could make note of which places he could revisit with Blair at a later date.

Twelve shops and nearly an hour later, they were no closer to either any hints as to who the girl was or where the unknown night moneymaker might be located. Pausing outside the next store, Jim checked his watch. "It's almost 5. Looks like we've got time for this one and that's it. Everything else is closing up."

Megan glanced in the windows of the store, seeing the bottles of sunscreen and suntan lotions. "Right. You ready for this, Jimbo? Looks like coconut overload in there."

Jim made a face. "Yeah. Can't be any worse than sage." He opened the door and stepped inside, sneezing not two feet from the door.

Megan followed a moment later, questioning, "Sage?"

He waved a hand at her, eyes squinting as he pulled off his sunglasses, getting himself under control. "Never mind. Go on, talk to the owner. I'll, uh, stay by the door."

With a murmur for Jim to be careful, Megan headed further in, past the little wire shelves of sunscreen and displays of sunglasses to the front counter where a man in shorts and a bright orange T-shirt stood. Behind him a rainbow-colored curtain separated the main store from the back storage areas. The man smiled at her approach. "Hello. What can I do for you, sweet thing?"

Megan cleared her throat and pulled out the picture of the girl and her badge. "I'm Inspector Conner with Cascade PD. Who might you be?" She bit down on the laugh that wanted to appear both as a result from the man's eyes bugging out and from the restrained chortle from Jim at the doorway.

"I'm...Harry. Harry Pratt."

"Well, Harry, I wanted to know if you recognize this girl." She held up the picture.

Harry dragged his eyes away from her badge to look at the girl. "Her?" He took the picture and looked at it, swallowing after a moment. "Oh, man, this girl's dead, isn't she?" The picture fluttered back to the counter, released from his fingers.

Megan nodded. "Yes, she is. We're trying to find out who she is so we can find her family. Do you recognize her?"

"I..." He hesitated, then shook his head swiftly. "No. No, I don't. I'm sorry."

Frowning at his odd response, Megan pressed. "Are you sure?" Glancing behind her for some support from Jim, she saw that the sentinel was absorbed in looking at various suntan lotion bottles, holding up one by the cap, apparently reading the back. She turned back to Harry and picked the picture up and held it in front of the man's face. "Take a good look, Harry. I want you to be absolutely sure."

He held up a hand, blocking the view of the girl's face. "I'm sure. Never seen her before. Can't help you, Inspector. Now if you don't mind, I need to close up for the day."

"I'd like to buy this first, if you don't mind." Jim appeared beside Megan, holding up a bottle of expensive tanning lotion. Megan raised an eyebrow. Harry stared at Jim, then reached for the bottle. Jim, who still held the bottle by the cap, tilted it away, but showed him the price tag. "8 bucks. See?" With his other hand, Jim held out a 10-dollar bill. "Here. Keep the change."

Harry took the bill after a moment, then nodded. "Okay. Thanks. Sorry I couldn't help you."

Jim smiled at him. "You do what you can, don't you?" He tapped Megan on the arm with his free hand. "Come on, Conner, let's go."

In short order, both cops were back on the strip of sidewalk outside the shop. Megan pocketed the small picture, then turned to Jim. "Okay, Ellison, spill it. What do you know that I don't? It was obvious he must have known her or seen her at least."

Jim nodded. "Agreed." He held up the bottle. "And this could be our proof."

"A bottle of tanning lotion?" She gestured at the bottle. "You're not gonna try to use that psychic mumbo-jumbo on me, are you?"

"Nope." He tilted the bottle slightly, the evening sun reflecting off the plastic. "This has fingerprints on it. And since I've stared at the girl's fingerprints often enough in the last few days..."

Megan took the bottle from his hands carefully and held it up in the light. "You can really see fingerprints on this?"

Jim nodded absently. "Yeah. And I think the prints on here belong to her."

Lowering the bottle, Megan's lips tightened into a line. "And if they are, then maybe we can get some leverage to question our friend Harry again."

"Exactly. Come on. Let's get this back to the station. Give Welles something to do tomorrow."

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

Simon reached around the back of the computer and hit the off-switch. For once, he was going home early. Well, early as compared to his normal going-home time of 7 or 8 in the evening. To be leaving at just after 5 was a rare thing. Daryl would be coming over to his place in about an hour and the two of them were going out for some quality father-son time at the pizza parlor, then on to whatever Daryl wanted to do. Simon had thought maybe miniature golf or something tame, but he had a feeling Daryl would want something more...adventurous. So he had Plan B as well -- one-on-one basketball at the local gym. He also had a feeling his son would wipe the floor with him.

Chuckling to himself, Simon stood and stepped away from his desk, heading around the side to get his coat. Just as he pulled the long tan overcoat from the rack, he glanced through the windows and saw Jim and Megan heading across the bullpen to his office. He sighed and shook his head, then draped the coat over one arm and opened the door before Jim could knock.

"I thought I said I didn't want to see either of you back here until the day after tomorrow."

Jim and Megan looked at each other, then Megan answered. "Well, you did, Captain, but..."

"But what?"

"But we found something," Jim held up a large evidence bag, "and thought maybe you'd like to hear about it before we all left and let the night shift take over."

Sighing, Simon gestured them to go into his office. He followed behind them, pushing the door closed before stepping further into the room to drape his coat across the table. Jim leaned against the edge of the table and handed the bag over to Simon. Megan stood next to them.

"What is it?" Simon took the bag and held it up, then looked at Jim, disbelieving laughter in his voice. "A bottle of rather expensive sunscreen, Jim? What?"

Jim raised both hands in gentle defense. "There are fingerprints on that bottle, Simon. Fingerprints that I..." He glanced behind him beyond the windows to the half-full, but still noisy, bullpen, then lowered his voice. "That I think could belong to that girl."

Simon rubbed the fingers of his free hand across his forehead. "Fingerprints on one sunscreen bottle out of who knows how many. I don't even want to think how I'm gonna explain this one..."

Jim just sort of shrugged, an apologetic smile on his face. Megan spoke up again, filling in the rest. "We talked to a Cascade Beach shop owner named Harry Pratt. He denied knowing the girl when I showed him her picture, but something...something didn't feel right. He was too sure. And he was nervous. Like perhaps he did know her, but didn't want to or wasn't supposed to. If we can prove the girl was there, then..."

"Then maybe we can get him to be a little more cooperative." Simon nodded affirmatively. "Good work. Both of you. Get this to Welles. See what she can do with it." He held out the bagged bottle.

Megan glanced at Jim, who nodded at her. She took the bag from Simon, inclining her head at him. "Thank you, sir." She looked back at Jim, a slight smile on her face. "See you tomorrow, Detective?"

Jim returned the smile. "Bright and early, Conner. 8 o'clock sharp. But don't get your hopes up on beating me."

"We'll see." Her smile melted into a smirk and she turned, exiting Simon's office, leaving the door partially open.

Simon laughed and shook his head, amused as always at the constant one-upmanship between Ellison and Conner. But he figured it was better than the constant and rather argumentative debating he'd put up with months earlier when she'd first arrived. At least now the two of them got along without his 'principal-ish' mediation.

"You know, Jim, I'm beginning to think Conner knows something you don't. At least when it comes to her surfing abilities. I might have to stop by tomorrow sometime just to watch you get beaten."

Jim gave him an "oh please" look and Simon chuckled harder. The detective opened his mouth to say something in response when they heard Megan's distinctive voice call out a "Hi Sandy" from the hallway outside the bullpen doors. Both turned to look into the bullpen to see Blair just entering, walking backwards as he exchanged quick greetings with Megan. As he spun around to walk forward again, the backpack over one shoulder following just inches behind, he had to dance out of the way of Brown as the bigger man walked by him. More greetings exchanged as well as exuberant claps of shoulders, then Blair continued on his way towards Simon's open office door, grinning widely and waving a hand at them.

Simon folded his arms and just shook his head at the department observer/consultant, wondering where the man got his energy from and wondering if he could get a share of it to use against Daryl in that one-on-one basketball game. Blair jogged the last few feet, joining them inside the door.

"Hey, Simon, Jim. Had a feeling you two would still be here." He folded his arms across his chest, mimicking Simon's pose. "You better not have taken away Jim's day off, sir. I might have to, uh, hurt you or something."

The captain snorted in laughter and Jim, still seated on the edge of the table, shook his head. Simon asked, "And just what would you do to me, Sandburg? I'm bigger than you are."

"Yeah, but, uh, I'm faster." He sat down next to Jim, sliding backwards a little to partially get behind him. "And Jim here makes an excellent shield."

Simon rolled his eyes, laughing at the look Jim gave Blair who just grinned back at him unperturbed. Chuckles fading away, the captain continued. "Yeah, right. To answer your unasked question, no, I did not take away Jim's day off. For one thing, he wouldn't let me. Something about not wanting to forfeit this contest with Conner and you not wanting to miss your 'beach sun', the latter of which I'm still not sure is even valid."

Blair waved a hand around in the air. "Of course it is, Simon. Beach sun is always better. It's been proven."

Jim looked at him, a smile pulling at the corners of his lips. "Proven? What, you know of some paper somewhere in some journal?"

"Well, actually, no...but I'm sure I could find one if I needed to."

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

After leaving the bagged sunscreen bottle with Cassie -- and sidestepping her curious questions about how Jim knew which bottle to pick, calling it one of those "Ellison hunches" -- Megan headed back to the bullpen to get her things before going home for the night. A quiet evening at home with just her, a pleasant meal, and her cat for company. Well, maybe not the cat part since she didn't actually own one... Any other time, she might have made some plans for a date or an evening out, but tonight...tonight she just wanted to relax, maybe go to bed early. The drug case was draining and she could definitely feel the drag.

She lifted one hand to rub the back of her neck, then tucked loose hair behind one ear as she approached the front entrance to the Major Crimes bullpen. Just as she reached it, she heard the elevator ding its arrival behind her and the doors slide open. Reflexively, she glanced back towards the occupants as they exited even as she turned to enter the bullpen.

Then she stopped, a frown forming on her face. Across the bullpen, she could just see into the windows of the captain's office where the three men still stood, talking with each other. Slowly, she turned back around to look at the man and woman as they paused in the hallway. The woman, blonde, a little shorter than she was, wearing a tailored pant suit, was smiling at the taller man with her as he rattled on about something, waving a half-eaten licorice stick for emphasis. He laughed at something and the woman rolled her eyes, reaching over to snap the man's bright yellow suspenders.

Megan cleared her throat and stepped towards the couple. "Um...excuse me." She paused as they looked up from their conversation. Megan shook her head and started to smile. "It is you. Mack! What on earth are you doing in Cascade?"

The man worried at the licorice in his mouth a moment, squinting at her. Then his face brightened and he laughed out loud, yanking the licorice away. "Megs! What in-- It's been, oh, man, years!" They met halfway, both trying to decide whether to shake hands or hug. Finally Mack just chuckled again and pulled her into a huge hug, then bussed her on the cheek as he released her. "What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!" He shook her slightly with the one hand that remained on her shoulder.

"I'm here on an officer exchange program from New South Wales. I work in the Major Crimes department." She gestured behind her to the bullpen. "I thought you still lived in Waikiki."

Mack nodded. "I do. I'm here...well, it's kinda hard to explain--"

The other woman came up next to Mack, interrupting quietly. "He's here on 'vacation' or so he says."

Hitting himself on the forehead, Mack hurriedly made introductions. "Sorry, Doc. Megan, this is Doctor Dawn Holliday. She's the Chief ME at HPD. Holli, this is, uh, what are you by now, a captain or something...?"

Megan spoke up quickly, smothering a small smile at the thought of being a captain. "Inspector."

"Inspector Megan Conner." He stuffed the licorice back in his mouth, talking around it. "We, uh, knew each other a long time ago, way before I met you, Doc, back when I was still a mere rookie."

Holli and Megan shook hands and murmured pleasantries to each other, then Holli looked at Mack. "Mere? I didn't know you ever used that word for yourself."

Mack waved a hand in the air. "Eh, you know, mere as in I had not come into my full greatness yet." He patted himself on the chest, smiling smugly.

The two women exchanged looks, but decided not to say anything in response to that. Holli looked past Megan into the bullpen. "We're actually in town because I'm speaking at a series of lectures starting tomorrow evening. We just got in earlier this afternoon and decided to stop by here in hopes of catching a few friends of ours. If your police department is anything like ours, then I'm betting they're still here."

Megan started to chuckle. "I have the strangest feeling that I know just who these friends of yours are. Ellison and Sandburg, right?"

Mack nodded, grinning. "Yeah. How'd you know?"

She started to reply, then shook her head. "Never mind. Just a feeling. You're in luck. They are still here, even though the captain had told us to leave a bit ago. C'mon. They're in his office."

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

Continued in Part Two...