Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers
Dash of Conspiracy, Enemies on All Sides
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
Blair sat back on his heels, peering at the sand castle with a critical eye. With the six kids to help, it hadn't taken long to build a fairly good-sized fortress, complete with a moat. "This is looking pretty great, guys. I think we need another tower over here, hmm?"
The kids all scrambled over to see the left side where Blair was pointing. Nikki grabbed his arm and nodded rapidly, her dark brown eyes alive with excitement. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Her brother and cousins all jumped in with their giddy agreement.
Chuckling, Blair picked up the small sand bucket and handed it to one of the boys. "Timmy? Why don't you and your sister run down and get some more of that wet sand, okay? Get the good stuff. But be careful. I'll be watching you."
"Okay, Blair." Timmy took the bucket in one hand and his younger sister's hand with the other, leading little Claudia down towards the water.
To keep the kids occupied, Blair pulled Nikki into his lap and asked her and the other children who they thought lived in the castle. As they chattered and giggled, he listened but kept his eyes on Timmy and Claudia as they squatted just at the outside edge of the muddy sand, where a mostly-demolished pile of sand marked the spot of a previously-built sand castle. Nearby a young couple played with a baby, a trio of teenage girls giggled over the lifeguard in the tower, one of the ubiquitous 'guys with metal detectors' he'd mentioned to Holli earlier ambled along the sand near the water, and older kids frolicked in the crashing waves. Claudia tried to wander closer to the water once, but Timmy held her back, keeping a firm grip on her hand, distracting her with a piece of seaweed. Listening to the little girl squeal in half laughter, half get-that-away-from-me, Blair smiled, glad to see that Timmy was already so protective of his younger sister.
A few young women in bikinis jogged by the children and Blair found his eyes following them for several seconds. Then he gave himself a mental shake and moved his eyes back to the children. Timmy and Claudia were on their way back, the bucket swinging between them. The guy with the metal detector had taken their place, sweeping over the washed-away castle with his detector.
Timmy plopped the bucket by Blair's leg, then sat down, pulling his sister down next to him. He pointed behind him to the guy with the detector. "Is he looking for buried treasure?"
Blair chuckled and moved Nikki out of his lap. "Something like that." He picked up the bucket and started to pack the sand down tighter. "Ooh, wow, you got the really good stuff, Timmy. Did you help him pick it out, Claudia?" He grinned and winked at the little girl.
Claudia giggled and hid behind her muddy hand.
"I found buried treasure," Timmy said secretly.
"You did? What did you find?" Blair looked over at Timmy, expecting the boy to pull out a bottle cap or a quarter.
Timmy bounced up to his feet and dug a hand in his shorts pocket, then plopped down again. He opened his fist to reveal a small crumpled-up twine bag. A few small black beads decorated the outside, one beginning to come off where the bag was torn. Inside the bag lay three tiny sealed plastic bags filled with whitish crystalline powder.
His experience with the police instantly made Blair's heart jump. He reached towards the bag. "Can I look at that, Timmy?"
Timmy hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah. Okay."
Blair took the twine bag, exchanging it for the sand bucket. "Here, I think you guys can do this one. I'll just watch, okay?"
The kids nodded and immediately dived into making the tower. Timmy watched him a moment longer, then started to help as Claudia pulled on his arm. Blair gave him an encouraging smile and waited until Timmy's attention was focused on the castle-building before looking into his hand where the twine bag waited for him.
Moving back a little from the kids, Blair touched the twine with his other hand, slipping one of the tiny bags out from the hole. He rubbed the white substance within the plastic. Lips tightened and a part of him started to shake as he guessed what it was -- drugs. It had to be. Blair's hand clenched in the twine, gripping the bag more tightly. The loose bead rolled off, hitting his leg and rolling into the sand, landing with a quiet plop. He picked it up with his other hand, instantly frowning as he rolled it around between his thumb and forefinger --heavy for its size. Setting the twine bag on one knee, he flicked at the little black bead with a fingernail. It was metal.
Blair froze, then slowly looked upward, his eyes going immediately to the spot where he'd seen the guy with the metal detector. The man's back was to them as he crouched next to the demolished sand castle, hunching protectively over it as one hand dug through the sand, occasionally pausing to put something in the bag at his waist. No one paid him the slightest attention. Dressed in baggy, cut-off jeans, an obnoxiously loud tie-dyed shirt, fraying straw hat, thongs, and cheap sunglasses, who would?
He watched as the man paused a moment, then dug a little harder through the sand, his movements becoming more methodical and less 'beach bum' like. Mind scrambling for what he could do, Blair glanced over his shoulder, seeing Holli absorbed in her book and Megan laying on the towel on her stomach, face turned towards him, but her eyes closed. No help there. And Jim and Mack were still out in the waves somewhere. He looked back at the kids, knowing instinctively he couldn't leave them. His eyes rose above them to see the man standing up, looking around as he turned in a slow circle.
Making a split second and hopefully correct decision, Blair shoved the one tiny drug bag into his pocket along with the bead -- also where he had the metal keys to the truck and the loft just in case the metal detector picked anything up. With a quick look at both the man and Timmy to make sure the attention of both was elsewhere, Blair tossed the torn twine bag onto a pile of seaweed bits and assorted junk that he and the kids had dug out of the sand as they were building. Rubbing trembling hands on his legs, he scooted forward again, taking his place with the kids. The beeping of the detector started coming in their direction just as he bent his head down next to Nikki's.
He resisted looking up to follow the man's progress towards them. The man paused momentarily, standing behind Timmy. Blair glanced upward, throwing the man a wide grin, hoping it passed as 'I don't know anything and I didn't do anything.' The man stared at him from behind the cheap shades, then turned away, moving his detector over the sand. Blair tensed as he heard the man stop again near the seaweed bits pile. He heard him crouch down, pause a moment, then stand again, walking away, detector still beeping as it drifted out of hearing distance.
Casually moving to itch his shoulder, Blair glanced back at the pile -- the twine bag was gone. As was the man who had reached the sidewalk and quickly disappeared in the direction of the parking lot.
Two voices spoke at once, startling him.
"Blair, can I have my treasure back?"
"Sandy, is something wrong?"
Twisting back around, he found Megan standing next to and above him. Timmy stood in front of him, both hands out, cupped and ready to receive his 'treasure'. Blair chose to answer Timmy first. Uncurling his legs, he rose to his knees in front of the boy. "You know what, Timmy? That wasn't a very good treasure. In fact, it was a bad treasure." He glanced over at Megan briefly, catching her eyes, then turned back to Timmy. "I think if you asked your daddy, he could take you looking for shells and you can find something better. Okay?"
Timmy pouted at him and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't want no stupid shell. I want my treasure. I found it."
"I'm sorry, Timmy. I don't have it anymore. I still think you can find a better treasure."
The boy only pouted harder, stomping his foot on the ground. Just as he took a breath, Nikki's mom joined them. "Hey, guys. Wow! What a cool castle."
Standing up, Blair wiped the sand away from his knees. "Hey, Monica. Yeah, it is pretty cool, isn't it. They make really good castle builders. Next time I need a castle built, I'll know who to ask."
Monica laughed and hugged Blair briefly. "Thanks, Blair. You're great."
Blair laughed with her, then shrugged. "It was fun. I certainly can't get Jim to make castles. He'd rather surf all day than play in the wet sand." Next to him, Megan chuckled. "Oh, I'm sorry. Monica, this is Megan Conner. She's an inspector with Major Crimes. Megan, this is Monica Richey. She's a fellow anthropology grad student."
The women nodded at each other. Megan smiled. "Nice to meet you." The moment she spoke, six pairs of children's eyes fastened onto her, fascinated with her accent. Megan added with another smile, "I'm from Australia."
Nikki spoke up. "They have kangaroos there."
Megan nodded. "Yes, they do."
Nikki looked from Megan to Blair and back again. "Are you Blair's girlfriend?"
Blair blushed and choked on a laugh. "Uh..."
Megan hid a chuckle behind her hand and answered the innocent question. "No, I'm not Blair's girlfriend."
Clearing his throat and moving the conversation along, Blair looked down at Timmy, then up at Monica. "I'm afraid I owe your nephew Timmy, the budding archeologist, something due to my talent for losing things. He discovered a bit of treasure and I, uh, misplaced it." He paused, then shifted to face the boy. "So Timmy, I'll tell you what." Gently grasping Timmy's chin, he turned the boy's face up to him. "You get your aunt to bring you by my office at the University and I'll give you a piece of real buried treasure, okay?"
Timmy's dark eyes widened. "Real? For honest?"
"For honest." Blair made a cross over his heart. "Deal?" He held out his hand.
Grinning, Timmy shook Blair's hand. "Deal, Blair."
Monica took Nikki's hand. "Okay, guys. We have to get going now if you're gonna get to the pizza place in time."
"Pizza!" All six kids crowed in unison, then raced ahead of Monica towards where their parents were waiting. Monica waved a hand at Blair, then let Nikki drag her away.
Blair waved once, laughing. "Bye! See you later, Monica." After they were out of sight, Blair's grin slowly melted away. "Oh, man, Megan, you are not gonna believe what Timmy found." He dug in his pocket and carefully pulled out the tiny bag, cupping his hand to keep it hidden from anyone else.
Megan's eyes widened as she stared at it. "That looks like a drug packet."
"Where did he find it?"
"Come on, I'll show--"
A loud screeching scream interrupted them. Everyone on the beach jumped and shifted their focus to the sidewalk along the beach stores. A woman ran out of one store, flailing her arms in the air, yelling hysterically. "He's dead! He's dead! Somebody call the cops. He's dead!" She ran into two people, knocking them over, still screaming and pointing behind her to store.
Blair and Megan exchanged a look, then as one took off, running through the half-panicking, half-rubbernecker crowd towards the strip of stores. Halfway there, Holli joined them, holding out a leather billfold. "Need this?"
"Thanks." Megan took it, flipping it open to display her badge, then calling out as they hit the sidewalk. "Cascade PD! Move! Cascade PD!"
Blair muttered as they pushed their way to the store. "You have your badge with you?"
Megan shoved past two muscle-bound guys, sticking her badge in their faces when they tried to push her away. Blair and Holli quickly moved past the two guys, following Megan to the door of the store. The inspector paused a moment, saying absently, "Sandy, when I'm with you and Jim, I always have my badge." She frowned, stepping past the open door of the store where fortunately no one else had dared venture in. "This is Harry Pratt's store."
Blair stepped in behind her. "Who? Who's Harry Pratt?"
Moving quickly into the store, Megan made her way past the shelves of sunscreen, listening cautiously to any sounds of trouble. "He's...someone Jim and I questioned...earlier." She stopped at the counter, calling out, "Mr. Pratt?" Not receiving an answer, Megan exchanged a look with Holli and Blair, then she edged past the counter to peek in the half-open curtain separating off the back room. Immediately her eyes shifted upward. "Oh... Well, he's definitely dead."
Holli joined her at the opening, holding back the curtain to look. She pursed her lips. "No doubt about that."
Megan took a step back, bumping into Blair who had come up behind her. "Sandy..."
Blair took one look at the body hanging from the ceiling fan and swallowed hard, turning away. "I, uh, think I'll go wait outside." He took a step away, but Megan caught his arm.
"I need to call this in. Can you get Jim?"
"Uh, yeah. Yeah, I can do that." A few moments later, he was gone, pushing through the doorway.
Megan looked back at Pratt's body and sighed. "So much for the day of fun in the sun."
Jim let the gentle roll of the water bump underneath him where he sat on the surfboard facing outward towards the sea. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, then exhaled in a rush. "Sandburg was right. I needed this."
"You gonna tell him that?" Mack's amused voice floated over to him.
Glancing at the other detective, Jim chuckled. "Don't know. Might have to let him sweat for a while over that bit about Conner and not telling me what he knew."
Mack laughed softly as the waves started to pick up. "Ready to go again, Ellison?"
Jim nodded, slapping his hands on the board before shifting his weight to paddle towards the incoming wave. As he turned, his eyes took in the distant beach. He paused and frowned. "Something's up."
Stopping and following Jim's gaze, Mack squinted against the sunlight. "You're right. Wonder what's so important. Some movie star make an appearance or something?"
The sentinel started to answer, but cut himself off when he saw a very familiar figure detach himself from the crowd and rush down to the water, waving his arms in the air. Opening up his hearing, he could just catch Blair's voice calling his name over the roar of the ocean. Changing course, Jim started paddling towards the shore. Behind him, Mack muttered a surprised "huh?" then took off after him.
Several minutes later, Jim and Mack jogged ashore, dragging their boards with them through the receding waves. Blair waited where the wet sand met the water. "Hey, guys, sorry I had to pull you away from the waves, but this is pretty important. Really important."
Mack jammed his board into the sand and ran a hand over his face. "What's going on up there?"
Jim placed a hand on Blair's shoulder, squeezing. "What is it, Chief? You're upset." He gestured towards the crowd. "What's happening?"
Instead of answering, Blair asked his own question. "Who's Harry Pratt?"
The question startled Jim and he blinked. "Harry Pratt? I...well, he's a guy Conner and I questioned about the, uh, the case. Why?"
"Because he's dead."
"What?!" Jim straightened and focused his eyes on the crowd milling about the sidewalk. He jammed his board into the sand next to Mack's, then headed towards the stores. Mack and Blair scrambled to catch up with him, jogging a couple steps until they reached his side. As they did, Mack looked around, frowning.
"Where are Megan and Holli?"
Blair gestured in the air with one hand, waving towards the stores. "They're at the scene. Some woman came running out, screaming about someone being dead. Everyone, of course, had to see what was going on. Megan forced her way through -- lucky for her she had her badge -- Holli and I followed. Pratt's in the back room. Looks like he, uh, hung himself."
They reached the edge of the crowd and Jim started pushing through, saying loudly, "Cascade PD! I want everybody cleared out now! Move it, folks!"
The three of them tumbled onto the sidewalk. Megan stepped outside the door just as they arrived, and Jim turned to her. "You call it in?"
"Yes. Captain Banks is on his way."
Jim took a breath, then entered the store. Blair's eyes widened. "Simon? I thought he was taking the day off." He, Megan, and Mack followed Jim inside.
Megan nodded. "He is. Or rather, he was. Rafe had taken the call and was getting the information down when the captain walked into the bullpen. He'd stopped by the office to pick up an address. Needless to say, the call got his attention and he said he'd be right down to check in with us before taking Daryl to the, what did he say, oh, the batting cages."
Ahead of them, Jim sneezed a few times.
Blair chuckled a little, shaking his head. "The batting cages. Man, I bet that's something to see. Simon hits a pretty mean ball." He swung out, acting like he held a bat.
Mack interjected as they reached the counter, "Where's Holli?"
Motioning towards the half-open curtain, Megan answered, "Back there. Keeping an eye on Mr. Pratt."
Jim sneezed again, shook his head, then stepped through the curtain, disappearing into the back room. Blair bounced up on his toes on the other side of the counter. "I, uh, think I'm just gonna stay out here, Jim."
"Sure thing, Chief." A moment passed as he and Holli exchanged greetings, then Jim's voice floated out. "Guess Harry just didn't want to talk to us."
Mack decided to enter the back room as well, standing just past the curtain. "Man!"
Sirens echoed outside, announcing their presence with wails and the squeal of tires on pavement. Blair gestured behind them. "I'll go lead them in. Not that they're gonna have any trouble finding us or anything, but, you know..."
Smiling sympathetically, Megan touched his shoulder. "Go on, Sandy." She glanced briefly at Mack who still stood in the curtained doorway, then lowered her voice. "I'll keep an eye on Jim."
Blair flashed her a quick smile. "Thanks, Megan." He turned and jogged out the door, heading into the crowd of curious beach-goers.
"Stay here, Daryl." Simon slammed the door shut on the car and pointed over the top at his son.
"But Dad..." Daryl stood just outside of the car, framed by the open passenger side door and the car itself.
The forensics crew and a few uniformed officers ran past them, heading down the sidewalk to the store and the people crowded outside the door.
Simon flattened his hand outward and shook his head. "Uh-uh. No buts. Don't argue with me on this, Daryl. I want you out of the way. I need to know you're safe. Okay? I'll only be a few minutes and then we can go. I promise. All right?"
Daryl made a face and looked pointedly away from Simon, not answering.
"Daryl..." Simon took a breath and carefully gentled his voice, working on sounding calm and not angry at his sometimes hard-to-understand son. "All right?"
Quick footsteps and a familiar voice dragged Simon's attention away from Daryl.
"Hey, guys." Blair came to a halt in front of the car and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Jim and everybody else are back in the store with, uh, the body. Holli's taking a look at it as well, but nobody's touched anything yet."
Simon nodded, then reflexively straightened his light windbreaker. "Good." He looked again at Daryl. "Stay here, son. I'll be right back." Daryl continued to stare morosely at the water and refused to answer. Simon sighed and looked at Blair.
Blair waved him towards the door silently, then said, "I think I'm just gonna stay out here. Go do your thing, Simon, uh, Captain."
After throwing a mock glare at Blair, Simon headed down the sidewalk, edging past a uniformed officer as he strung up the crime scene tape. Blair watched him a moment, then edged around the car to stand next to Daryl. "So, you two are off to the batting cages, I hear."
Daryl snorted. "Yeah, right. If we ever get there. Dad's always so busy with cop stuff, I don't know why he even plans these things."
Turning slightly, Blair leaned his side against the car to face Daryl. "He plans them because he loves you and wants to spend time with you, Daryl."
"Yeah, well..." The teenager crossed his arms over his chest and kicked at a rock on the parking lot pavement. "I just wish he wouldn't treat me like I'm a kid. I'm not!"
Blair remained silent for a few seconds and pursed his lips in thought. Slowly, he spoke up again. "Well, you know what, Daryl? I heard someone say once that no matter how old you are, how grown up you are, you'll always be your parent's child, that your father or mother will always see you as that little baby they brought home from the hospital. Your dad just wants to protect you. Trust me, you do not want to see what's inside that place. I certainly didn't. It's not a pretty sight, believe me." He shuddered once and took a deep breath.
Daryl didn't say anything, then finally shrugged and let his arms drop to his side, rubbing the hem of his shirt between his fingers. "I guess." He straightened and looked over at Blair. "Thanks, Blair."
Smiling, Blair clapped his hand on Daryl's shoulder. "No problem." He looked past Daryl towards the crime scene but didn't see Simon yet. Returning his attention to the teenager, he asked, "So...you up for the challenge of beating your dad in the batting cages?"
The captain's son grinned and nodded, then rubbed his hands together. "Oh, yeah. I've been practicing. No way he's gonna be better than me this time."
"All right." Blair held out his hand, and they exchanged high-fives.
The junior detective snapped to attention at Simon's voice and turned to see the captain striding through the doorway of the store. Dressed in jeans, a polo shirt, and tennis shoes, he was still an imposing sight and Rodriguez was new enough in Major Crimes to be just a bit intimidated by that bark.
"Yes, sir!" He shifted slightly, feeling the counter behind him as the captain stopped next to him.
"Is Detective Ellison back there?"
"Yes, Captain, along with Inspector Conner, Detective Wolfe, and Dr. Holliday. Forensics has just taken down the body, sir."
Simon nodded briefly and stepped past the curtain, taking in the smallish back room in one quick glance. Jim, Megan, Mack, and Holli were all crouched around Pratt's body which had been lowered to the ground and laid inside an open body bag. The captain blinked once at the mirror images of Jim and Mack, both in Bodyglove suits, resting on opposite sides of the body, each nodding at something Holli was saying as she pointed to Pratt's neck. Two forensics officers stood off to the side, waiting to take the body away. Simon cleared his throat. "Jim."
All four looked up, but only Jim and Megan stood and joined Simon at the entrance to the room. Jim spoke up first. "Captain. Sorry to have disturbed you on your day off."
Simon waved it off. "It's all right. If this has to do with the drug case, I want to keep up to date. What have you got?"
Megan spoke up first. "Sandy and I were talking out on the beach when we heard this woman screaming about someone being dead. The two of us and Dr. Holliday ran up here and found Harry Pratt hanging from the ceiling fan."
Jim stripped the gloves from his hands as he took up the tale. "Mack and I were still out surfing. Sandburg got my attention from shore and we came in." He sniffled, fighting back a sneeze, then relaxed as his sinuses settled again.
"You okay, Jim?" The captain laid a hand on his shoulder.
He nodded. "Yeah. Just too much suntan lotion. Did the same thing yesterday when Conner and I questioned Pratt." Glancing back at the body, he sighed. "So much for our one lead."
Simon walked closer to the body and looked down. "So this was a suicide?"
Neither of his officers answered for a moment, then Jim said, "Uh, well, actually, sir...Holli thinks not."
"She does." The captain frowned, then turned his gaze on Holli who was still crouched next to the body, carefully looking at Pratt's neck with glove-covered hands. Mack, frowning slightly, was across from her, staring at Pratt's face. Simon lowered himself to rest next to Holli. "What do you think?"
Holli looked over at him. "I don't mean to be presumptuous. I'm not in my jurisdiction, I know. But it's just...what I do. Hard to overcome that."
Simon chuckled quietly and gestured towards the body with his chin. "Tell me."
Holli pointed out the ring left by the rope on Pratt's neck, then upwards at the ceiling fan and the knocked-over chair just a few feet away. "Obviously, this is set up to look like a suicide. Except for the lack of a note, everything matches up. However..." She turned Pratt's head away from Simon and pointed to a spot among the rope burns on his neck. "Jim brought my attention to this."
Leaning closer, Simon squinted at the area Holli indicated. "What? Sorry. I can't see anything."
"I know. Neither could I at first. When I looked closer though, I saw a very tiny needle prick point. Someone gave this man something before he was hanged." She paused. "From what I can tell without an autopsy, the hanging was what killed him. Whether he was conscious or not when it happened is a different matter."
Simon rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Great." He and Holli stood up. "Okay, Jim, see what you can dig up about Pratt. And have Dan...oh, wait, he's still recuperating, isn't he?"
Megan answered quickly. "Yes, sir. Morgan's in charge for the moment."
"All right. Have Morgan put a rush on this. Find out if there're any drugs in Pratt's system."
Jim nodded sharply. "Understood, sir." He turned to the other officers in the room. "Bag him, guys."
Mack, still crouched on the floor, spoke up suddenly. He pointed a finger at Pratt. "I think I know him." He paused, then nodded slowly to himself. "Yeah, I think I do." Standing, he moved out of the other officers' way as they zipped up the body bag.
Holli touched his arm. "Mack?"
Another few moments passed as they all watched the officers lift the bag and put it on a wheeled gurney, then disappear through the curtained doorway. Mack snapped his fingers and turned to face Holli and the others. "I do know him. He was a small-time hood in a case I was working on before you came, Doc. The case stalled out and we finally had to give up." He pulled off the protective gloves. "Only this guy's name wasn't Harry Pratt. It was Harold Prather." He nodded again. "Yeah. Harold Prather. Also known as Harry the Rat. We never did find out just who he was working for."
A loud disturbance from the main store area got their attention and they quickly exited, Simon and Jim leading the way. Rodriguez rushed to join a second officer at the front doorway just as Blair and Daryl ran inside, passing the gurney as it was wheeled out. Behind Blair and Daryl followed several reporters, microphones and tape recorders held out. Jim and Mack hurried forward to the door and helped the officers close it, shutting out the nosy media.
Blair pulled the band from his disheveled ponytail and shook out his hair. "Sorry, guys. The vultures arrived and descended on us as soon as they recognized Simon's car. Didn't help that a few of them knew me as well."
Simon straightened and glared towards the reporters just outside the door. "Did they hassle you two?"
Daryl laughed. "They tried. Blair hustled us down here so fast I think we left a sandstorm behind us." He glanced behind them, eyes wide as he took in Jim and Mack.
Clapping a hand on Daryl's shoulder, Blair chuckled. "One thing you learn when being Jim's partner is how to run. And run fast. Gotta keep up with the man."
Jim came up behind him and tapped him on the back of the head, a teasing grin on his face. "Well, come on Running Boy, I'll catch you up with what we know so far. Conner, you with us?" He directed Blair back towards the counter, leaving Simon to make introductions between Mack, Holli, and Daryl. Megan trailed after Jim and Blair.
They reached the counter and Jim leaned against it, sniffling again, fighting a sneeze. Blair touched his arm. "You okay, Jim?"
Jim nodded. "Yeah, just too much coconut. I keep thinking I've got it under control, but...it keeps coming back."
Blair rubbed his thumb on Jim's arm, then quietly talked him through canceling out the coconut scent and any other smell that belonged to suntan lotions. Megan watched quietly, observing and also shielding the two from any prying or curious eyes. Finally, Jim relaxed and breathed much easier. He straightened again, nodding slowly. "Much better. Thanks, Chief."
Jim turned towards the curtained doorway, then stopped. He turned back to Blair, head down a little, sniffing the air. "I smell something. Something..." He frowned, his brow furrowing. Then his eyes snagged Blair and he hissed out in a low tone, "Sandburg, why am I smelling drugs on you?"
Blair blinked, then his mouth formed an "oh" as he dug in one pocket. "Oh, man, I almost forgot." He pulled out the small packet and bead, holding them both out to Jim. "You're not gonna believe how I got these..."
Taking the small packet, Jim examined it as he listened to Blair's tale of the kids, the sand castles, and buried treasure. Megan added bits of information here and there as well, from what little she saw. Blair started talking about a man with a metal detector as Jim held the bag up to the light, getting a better look at it. White powder glittered back at him; among the crystalline specs he saw tiny yellow sparkles. Bringing the packet closer, he sniffed at it, not letting the bag touch his face. He stiffened and clamped his teeth down on several sharp words that clamored to be said.
Mixed within the white powder was something that reminded him very unpleasantly of Golden.
Jim stood at attention in front of the inner window of Simon's office, staring into the bullpen, more specifically, at his desk where Blair sat with the police sketch artist. Although his partner hadn't been able to see much of the guy who'd picked up the drugs from the beach, he had seen more than anyone else. Even knowing that the drop point and routine of the drug dealers would most likely change after that morning's incident didn't do anything to lessen Jim's mutual relief and excitement that they finally had some kind of lead.
"Jim," Simon spoke up behind him, "coffee?"
Turning away from the window, Jim stepped back over to Simon's desk and took the mug the captain held out to him. "Thank you, sir." He sipped it slowly, savoring the rich taste. "New blend?"
Simon took a swallow of his own coffee as he leaned back in his chair. "Hm-mmm. You like it?"
Jim nodded. "Yeah. Not as strong as the last stuff you had." He settled into the chair in front of the desk, stretching out his legs and enjoying the momentary quiet of the early afternoon.
They took a minute or so to appreciate the coffee and the silence, each pondering the events of the day. Simon had spent the morning with Daryl, leaving the case in the capable hands of his detectives. He'd only just come into the office minutes earlier after dropping his son off at baseball practice, promising to return in two hours. Jim and Blair had gathered their stuff, then returned to the loft to change clothes (jeans and T-shirts for both) before heading into the station, meeting up with Megan in the bullpen. Blair had wanted to get the physical description of the guy down while it was still fresh. Mack and Holli had left as well; Holli had to get to her conference. Mack, however, met them at the station, filling them in on just how he knew the victim.
Simon spoke up, breaking the silence. "So, how's Sandburg?"
Jim glanced over his mug at Simon, then lowered it to rest on one leg. "He's fine. A bit unnerved from the sight of the body, and maybe a little irritated at the way the day off at the beach turned out. Mostly he's upset at what could've happened if Timmy hadn't given him the 'treasure' he'd found. The kid might've thought it was powdered sugar."
The captain shuddered. "Not a pleasant thought." He leaned forward in his chair, placing the mug on his desk. "So...fill me in. What did Detective Wolfe have to say about Pratt?"
Jim straightened, then placed his mug on the desk as well and picked up the folder next to it. "Mack had a great deal to say about Mr. Pratt, aka Harold Prather, aka Harry the Rat. Like he said, Pratt was strictly small-time. Petty offenses mostly. Usually got a few months in the pen, then out again, never involved in anything heavy. However, in the case that Mack talked about, Pratt was suspected of being a 'gofer' and message carrier between two of Hawaii's more dangerous crooks. During a stint in Waikiki, Wolfe was tracking one of them and stumbled across Pratt's connection. Everyone knew this guy was involved, but no one could find any evidence to prove it; the head guys were too good. So was Pratt for the most part. But then one day, Pratt up and disappeared. Mack and the HPD figured he'd done something stupid and been paid accordingly. The two head guys vanished as well and that was that. End of case."
Simon picked up his cigar case, fiddling with it. "Until now."
Pulling one cigar out from the case, Simon slowly peeled away the plastic. "Where's Wolfe now? I didn't see him when I came in."
Jim's lips quirked up in a smile. "He put a call in to his captain to fax over the old case files -- most of which Conner is reviewing now and comparing with our files -- then he said something about seeing the sights and visiting a few 'old' friends. Since it sounded like his 'old' friends might be somewhat less than legal, I didn't press."
Simon chuckled and drew the cigar under his nose, inhaling the scent. "Okay. That's Pratt. What about the drug packet? You said there was something different about it."
"Yes, sir." He leaned further forward as he raised his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. "It looked different. Smelled different. And something about it... I gave the packet to Welles for analysis, but something about it reminded me of Golden."
Simon's head jerked upwards and he bit off a near-yell in surprise. "What?!?" He paused a moment and laid the cigar down on his desk, then continued in a calmer tone of voice. "Golden? Are you sure, Jim?"
Jim nodded solemnly. "Yes, sir, very sure. I can't mistake the smell of that stuff."
The captain rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Hell. Just what we need." He eyed Jim, then glanced toward the bullpen for a moment. "Does Sandburg know this?"
"Uh..." Jim looked away, then back. "No, not yet, sir."
"Hmph." Simon grunted and picked up his cigar again. "Just make sure that you do tell him. Last thing he's gonna want is to be surprised by it later."
Simon concentrated a moment on clipping the end of the cigar with his small cigar scissors. Quietly, he said, "You know, with the drugs being found on the beach, and with Pratt's involvement, opening up the possibility that this might cross state lines, the Feds will want in."
Jim made a face. "I'd thought of that, too, Simon. I'm hoping they'll keep their grubby fingers to themselves, but considering the media's coverage at the murder scene..." He sighed and shook his head.
A knock thunked on the door, interrupting their conversation. Before Simon could say anything, Blair opened the door and stepped inside, a few papers in his hands. "Dale finished the sketch of the guy on the beach." He closed the door and handed one page to Jim, the other to Simon.
Jim studied the drawing of the man, pursing his lips. "So this is our guy, huh."
Blair rocked forward onto his toes, then down again. "Yeah. That's him. Not much to go on, but..."
Simon finished the statement. "But it's a whole lot more than what we've gotten so far. Good job, Sandburg."
"Thanks." He paused a moment, jaw muscles tightening, then let his words roll out. "How could they, whoever 'they' are, hide drugs like that on a beach, man? On a beach! Where kids could find them!" He gestured with one hand, papers crinkling with his movement. "I mean, if Timmy hadn't told me he'd found something, I never would've known. He could've taken that packet home and eaten it. He's just a kid!"
Jim rose to his feet and laid a hand on Blair's shoulder, squeezing it. "Easy, Chief, we're the good guys, remember? And neither one of us is gonna argue with you on this one. We're gonna get these creeps. Okay?"
Blair took a deep breath, then let it out again. "Yeah. Okay. Sorry."
The captain held up a hand. "No apologies necessary, Sandburg. A little righteous anger is understandable." He motioned towards the papers Blair still held. "What else have you got for us?"
Again one page went to Jim, the other to Simon. "When Mr. Metal Detector stopped by me and the kids, I looked at him, you know. He was only there for a second, but I noticed a couple things. One, he was wearing an earring in his left ear, and it wasn't a regular gold stud. Sorta odd-shaped, maybe an animal or something. And two, he was wearing one of those Weelan tie-dyed shirts."
Simon snorted. "Sandburg, do you know how many people wear tie-dyed shirts? Do you know how many places sell them?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "You aren't listening, Simon. It wasn't just any tie-dyed shirt; it was a Weelan shirt."
Jim and Simon exchanged blank looks and both said, "So?"
"Why do I bother?" He waved a hand in the air. "Never mind. Just believe me when I tell you that Weelan shirts are not sold just anywhere. I only know of two, maybe three places in Cascade where you can get them. They're made locally by special order, not churned out by some nameless overseas company."
Jim squinted at the paper again. "And just how do you know that these swirls here," he pointed at the quick pencil strokes he recognized as Blair's, "belong to these Weelan shirts? I always thought all tie-dyed shirts looked pretty much alike."
"So did I," echoed the captain, looking up from the paper to Blair.
Blair chuckled and shrugged slightly. "Well, uh, you see, several years ago, before she married Josh, I took Jasmine out on a few dates before we decided we were better off as friends."
"And Jasmine would be...?" Jim asked.
"Jasmine would be Jasmine Weelan of Weelan Creations. I watched her come up with the design for these shirts." He traced the swirls on his paper with one finger. "A design, I might add, that is very unique, even if she does go for the really loud colors a lot of the time."
Simon straightened and turned to Jim. "Talk to Sandburg's friend and check out those stores."
"On it, Simon. Come on, Chief. You can tell me about Ms. Weelan on the way."
Blair hurriedly followed Jim through the door of Simon's office, pulling it closed behind him. "Oh, man, Jim, Jasmine is...oh, man. You'll be sorry she's already taken!"
The television screen flickered in the partially lit room, reflecting off the vertical blinds drawn across the tall windows. Watching the set from his chair, the man idly played with a long silver letter opener as the reporter talked over the crowds on the sidewalk outside the beach store crime scene. Her voice echoed across the room.
"All we've been told so far is that the owner of this store, a Mr. Harry Pratt, was found dead earlier this morning. The woman who found him said he was hanging from the ceiling fan in the back room. Police were quick to arrive, due to the fact that several were actually on location taking a day off."
Images from earlier flashed onto the screen; a tall black man was talking to the press, identified as Captain Simon Banks by a pop-up text bar at the bottom of the screen. Reporters clamored around him, asking for confirmation of a suicide, asking if there was a note, or if any foul play was suspected. He held up a hand, shaking his head.
"No comment. You know I can't answer any of those questions. And right now, you know as much as we know. An official statement will be provided when we have more information. That's all."
The original reporter came back on screen. "This is Noreen Adkins reporting live from Cascade Beach. Back to you, Phil."
The man picked up a remote control and hit the off button, sending the screen into darkness. He set the remote down and lifted the phone receiver, dialing in a number. The call was answered by the second ring.
Leaning back in his chair, one hand holding the receiver, the other still idly playing with the letter opener, the man said, "Do you have a replacement chosen yet?"
"I'm looking at a few candidates."
"Good. And the pick-up?"
A small hesitation, then, "Flawed. Ellison and several others were at the beach. There is a possibility I may have been made."
Leather creaked sharply as the man sat up and smacked the letter opener to the desk. "By whom?"
"Ellison's partner, Sandburg."
The man's now empty hand clenched into a fist. "Very well. Change the routines and pick-ups immediately. Can you deal with Sandburg?"
Continued in Part Four...