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(Title Picture designed by Lyn)

Written for Debbie Tripp for the Moonridge Auction 2005. Thanks for bidding and supplying the idea for your story, Debbie. I hope you enjoy it.

EMAIL: Annie

Jim Ellison pushed himself up in bed to rest on his elbows and listened to the faint sounds of movement downstairs. Blair was obviously taking pains to be as quiet as possible but unfortunately, Ellison had discovered on more than one occasion, that when you were a Sentinel and had five heightened senses, even the quietest sounds could keep you awake at night. He rolled to his side and opened the drawer of his bedside table, pulling out the sleep mask and the small earplugs Blair had given him a year or so before. The plugs were miniature white noise generators and therefore blocked all but the loudest sounds effectively. Inserting them and pulling his mask over his eyes, Jim settled down against his pillows once more and tried to relax into sleep.

It was useless. Just because Jim couldn't hear Blair wearing a trench in the hardwood floor of the living room below, didn't mean he didn't know he was doing it. And knowing that his Guide was so anxious tended to make the Sentinel antsy too.

Sighing with heartfelt exasperation, Jim finally gave up sleep as a lost cause, at least for now. He pulled off the mask, climbed out of bed, pulled on his robe and went downstairs.

Blair had just completed a trek across to the glass doors that led out to the balcony. He stopped there for a moment and a faint murmuring reached Jim's ears. Belatedly, he pulled out the earplugs and watched silently as Blair banged a fist gently against the glass then turned and began to walk toward him, his eyes focused down at his feet. Without the earplugs in, Jim could now hear what Blair was muttering under his breath.

"Just calm down," his Guide lectured himself firmly but softly. "You can do this. It's not like you haven't - Jim!" Blair's head shot up as his eyes obviously caught sight of Jim's feet on the bottom step. "Geez, man! Give a guy a heart attack, why don't you? You about frightened ten years growth out of me."

"Can't have that, Junior," Jim said with a grin, moving over to the kitchen and filling the kettle with water, placing it on the stove and turning on the burner. "You don't have ten years growth to spare," he added jokingly as he pulled out teacups and herbal tea from the cupboard next to the stove.

"Funny, Shecky," Blair rejoined. "Sorry, man, I didn't mean to wake you up. I was trying to be quiet."

Jim shrugged. "Couldn't sleep myself," he replied easily. He turned and rested his back against the counter, watching as Blair slumped down onto the couch. "What have you done before?" he asked, cocking an inquiring eyebrow.

"Spoken in front of people," Blair replied. He sounded uncomfortable, as if embarrassed that Jim had heard his rambling.

"Ah," Jim said, realization dawning. "You're worrying about testifying against Richard Crane." He picked the kettle up off the stove and turned off the flame, then made the tea and took the cups into the living room. He handed one to Blair and sat down in the armchair, cradling the other in his hand.

Blair sniffed the brew. "Chamomile?" he asked, looking up at Jim, a pleased and grateful look replacing the worry that had been there before.

"You always say it helps you relax. Figured it might work on me too."

"Thanks." Blair blew on the hot liquid and sipped a little then put the cup down on a coaster on the coffee table. He looked up at Jim again. "Yeah, I am worried about it. I know it goes with the job. If you're a cop, you have to be prepared to get up in court and testify as to why you think the son of a bitch in the dock should go to jail for the rest of his life."

"But… There's a but in there, Chief," Jim said, sipping his own tea, wrinkling his nose a little at the herbal taste. He put the cup down next to Blair's. There were some things Sentinel tastebuds could never adapt to, he decided.

"Well, you know, after the diss thing, I know that's going to get brought up. I can see the defence attorney now. 'Mr. Sandburg… oh sorry, *Detective* Sandburg, can you tell the jurors why they should believe anything a self-confessed fraud like yourself has to say?' Blair's voice was sarcastic and Jim leaned forward, placing a hand on his partner's knee.

"Blair, you've more than proven yourself in the last six months since you graduated from the academy. You have two citations for bravery already. You aced every exam at the academy and graduated top of your class. The Mayor, himself, gave a press conference saying he welcomed you into the department because of your previous work as an observer and consultant. I think you'll find the dissertation is old news now. I doubt anybody even remembers it anymore. Too many bigger news headlines have eclipsed it. It's over, buddy. Let it go."

Blair nodded, picked up his tea again and gulped it down. "I have, man. Well… most of the time I have, anyway. It'll be okay. After all, I know what I saw in that bank, right?"

Jim nodded agreement then added, "You know, if you'd let me hold my own press conference like I wanted -"

"Don't even go there, Jim!" Blair stood up suddenly, tea slurping over the side of the cup at his abrupt action. "That would have negated everything I was trying to do. You were right about that all along, man. If the whole world knows you’re a Sentinel, you wouldn't be able to operate effectively and…" Blair's voice dropped to a whisper. "You'd be at risk. From people like Brackett and Alex." He shook his head firmly as he went to the kitchen and returned with a cloth, mopping up his spilled drink. "No way that can happen, Jim." His voice was strong again. "I'll be fine, Jim. The DA's not going to let Crane's lawyer do too much damage. He'll stop him if he goes too far."

"Yeah, he will, Chief. Think you can sleep now?" Jim stood and took both cups and the cloth out to the kitchen. He turned back to Blair. "You okay? Need to talk some more?" he asked.

Blair shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine. Get some sleep, okay? I promise not to keep you awake by pacing or anything." He headed for his bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Oh, Chief, Jim thought as he climbed the stairs back to his own bed. If only you knew, you don't need to make a noise for me to know you're upset.

~oOo~

Despite having had only four hours sleep, Blair felt almost refreshed when he woke just as dawn was beginning to light the loft. He'd lived on little sleep most of his student life and even once he'd become a cop, having a decent night's sleep tended to be a welcomed rarity rather than the norm. His body was fairly accustomed to getting 5 hours sleep a night on a regular basis. The nights he got seven or eight were sheer unadulterated luxury.

He climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom to shower and get dressed, casting a quick peek up at the loft sleeping space as he left his room. He could just see the top of Jim's head through the gap in the railings. It looked as though the big guy was still out for the count.

That made Blair feel better. He hated the thought that he'd woken Jim the night before; hated more the fact that he'd sounded so nervous and needy. Jim had seemed to understand though. Blair smiled a little at that thought as he stepped into the shower and soaked up the heat of the spray. These days, Jim always seemed to understand what Blair was thinking or feeling. Their friendship and the bond between them as Sentinel and Guide seemed to have strengthened over the past few months since the debacle with his dissertation being leaked. They made a pretty formidable team on the streets and within the PD itself and their solve rate was second to none.

Blair began shampooing his hair and let his mind wander back to the day Richard Crane, a career criminal and serial bank robber, had crossed his path. He'd gone into the bank a couple of blocks from the loft to withdraw cash as the ATM was on the fritz yet again. As he'd entered the almost empty bank, a man had accosted him with a gun. Blair had reached automatically for his own weapon and received a stunning blow across the back of his head for his trouble. By the time his vision had cleared and his head had stopped swimming, he'd been dragged to the front of the bank and dumped on the floor in front of the counter.

The clerk was a young woman and Blair could see the terror in her eyes as his assailant's accomplice ground a gun into her neck and ordered her to empty the cash drawers. The security guard was already dead on the floor, Blair saw as he looked around cautiously, the man's eyes open and staring, a huge stain of blood beneath his head. Two other customers were facedown on the floor near the body, their shaking hands covering their heads. While the teller was putting handfuls of money in the bags the robbers had given her, a third man had come out of the manager's office, pushing the wide-eyed manager in front of him with his gun. The man had babbled that the safe was set with time locks and he couldn't open it and the gunman had whacked him hard, knocking him to his knees. Then he'd pulled him up and demanded again that he open the safe. By then the man was babbling with fear and Blair saw red. He'd pushed himself up from the floor and demanded they leave the frightened man alone. Both men had turned toward him as he stood up and the manager had taken the opportunity to lunge for the door.

Both the robbers turned but only one man fired his weapon. Richard Crane, the man who'd assaulted Blair. The bullet caught Steve Matthews in the back and killed him instantly. Then Crane had spun around and trained his weapon on Blair but by then a passing squad car had heard the shots and sirens wailed a warning as the cop car did a U-turn and headed back to the scene of the crime. Crane and his accomplices, David Martin and Michael Jones, had taken off out the door.

They escaped for a short time but Martin and Crane were apprehended a week later, holding up another bank. They'd ditched the guns they'd used in the other robbery and the weapons hadn't been found. Crane was claiming Martin had shot the manager and Martin was blaming Crane. Without the guns to match the bullet in Matthews' body against, there was no way to prove who had actually done the shooting. Jones had gone to ground along with the proceeds from the three other hold-ups the gang was suspected of committing. But Martin was willing to roll over on Crane for a lesser sentence served in a different prison than his erstwhile accomplice. The problem had been that the DA didn't think a jury would necessarily buy Martin's story. They'd probably see it as just another falling out among thieves. But the DA did have one ace up his sleeve - an eyewitness who had seen Richard Crane shoot Steve Matthews in the back - Blair Sandburg. Blair could corroborate Martin's testimony. Martin and Crane would both do time but the real killer - Crane - though Blair considered both men equally guilty, would do the longer sentence.

Blair finished his shower and dried himself off then dressed, checked his weapon and holstered it. He picked up the small micro-recorder he'd gotten into the habit of carrying with him when he was still studying Jim's abilities and put it in his jacket pocket. He'd soon learned Jim wasn't happy about having a video camera shoved in his face and he'd gotten impatient with Blair on more than one occasion when his Guide had pulled out a notebook and pen to make his observations about Jim's senses. After a while, Blair had found the tiny recording device was an acceptable halfway measure and when he'd graduated from the Academy, he'd continued to use it to make observations about the crime scenes he attended with his partner.

Heading down the stairs he wondered what to do with himself for the next few hours. He considered going into the PD but tossed that idea aside as soon it was born. There'd be too many other people around and they'd all want to know if he was doing okay. Not that he didn't appreciate their concern but right now he needed space and tranquility to calm himself for what he was sure was going to be an unpleasant experience.

Suddenly making up his mind, he ran down the rest of the steps, his feet flying beneath him. He'd go to the park near the station for a while, meditate a little, watch nature at its best and center himself before going to the courthouse. He knew Jim and probably Simon, too, would be there for him today but knowing that didn't settle the butterflies dancing in his belly any. Maybe communing with Mother Nature a while would help.

~oOo~

"Call your first witness, Mr. Andrews," the judge said, nodding toward the DA.

Dan Andrews stood up behind the prosecution table and turned to the court clerk. "Call Detective Blair Sandburg," he said, his voice booming from his barrel chest.

Jim watched as the clerk made his way down the aisle between the seats and out to the hallway, where he stopped at the open door and called Blair's name. Glancing across at the defence table, Jim frowned as Richard Crane smirked at him, raising his cuffed hands, one finger extended in an obscene salute. His lawyer pulled his hands down, and whispered in his ear.

Crane laughed, the sound of it grating on Jim's already sensitive nerve endings.

The clerk hurried back up the aisle and through the small gate that separated the well of the courtroom from the spectators in the gallery. "Detective Sandburg isn't here," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

Jim shot to his feet at that. "What do you mean he's not here? He's probably just in the men's room."

"Take your seat, Detective Ellison," the judge said firmly, raising the gavel in his hand warningly. "Did you check the men's room?" he asked the clerk.

"I didn't but the officer on duty did. He said nobody was in there," the clerk replied.

The DA spoke up. "Detective Sandburg may have been delayed by traffic. If Mr Hamilton doesn't object, I'd be glad to call my next witness now in order to give Detective Sandburg time to arrive."

Jonathan Hamilton, Crane's attorney stood and faced the judge. "I have no objection," he said. "However, as I know Mr. Andrews intends to call no more than four witnesses, I would like it placed in the record that if Mr… I'm sorry, *Detective* Sandburg, hasn't turned up by the time those witnesses are heard, I intend to ask for all charges to be dismissed or at the very least for a mistrial."

Jim felt Simon's large hand pat his shoulder soothingly as the Sentinel bristled at Hamilton's implied insult of Blair's rank. "Take it easy, Jim. Blair'll be here soon."

Jim nodded distractedly, continuing to glower at the defence attorney as the judge spoke again.

"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, Mr. Hamilton. Very well, Mr. Andrews, call your next witness."

Jim stood. "I'm going to look for Blair," he murmured to Simon. "There's no way he'd be late for this. It meant too much to him to be here."

Simon nodded understandingly. "I'll keep an eye on things here. Don't be gone too long, Jim."

The judge glared at them and Jim bowed his head deferentially then turned and left the courtroom. He was going to find his partner no matter how long it took.

He was barely in the truck when his cell rang. He picked it up one-handed as he jabbed the key into the ignition. "Sandburg? Where the hell are you?"

"Um, hi, my name is Diana Cary. I found this cellphone in the park on Donaldson Street and your number was the first one in the phone book memory," an unfamiliar female voice said hesitantly.

Jim's heart lurched. "Are you still at the park?" he asked, already setting the car into motion and steering out onto the roadway.

"Yes, my kids are playing here. I only found it a few minutes ago. I looked around to see who might have dropped it but there's nobody else here."

"Okay," Jim replied. "I'm Detective Jim Ellison. I'm with the Cascade PD. I'm on my way there now. I should be there in ten minutes. Do you mind waiting for me?"

"Of course not, Detective."

Jim spotted the woman waiting for him as soon as he pulled into the carpark. Throwing the gearshift into park, he hurled himself from his seat and ran across to her, his badge in his hand. "Can you show me where you found this?" he asked urgently.

"Just over here, on the ground near the bench," the woman replied.

She followed Jim as he walked over to the bench and then stood by, still holding the phone as he dropped to a crouch and peered intently at the earth beneath the wooden seat.

"Um, Detective, I really need to get my kids home…" She held the phone out to him.

"You're sure no one else was in the park when you arrived?" he asked as he took the cell from her.

"I'm positive. The kids were thrilled because it meant they had the swings to themselves." The woman smiled at him.

"Okay, thank you. Oh, wait, what about cars? Did you see any vehicles around when you arrived?" Jim asked.

"Well, there was this blue van that was leaving the carpark so fast it almost sideswiped me," she replied.

"Did you get a licence plate number?" Jim asked. "What model van was it?" He tapped his fingers impatiently on the cellphone as he awaited the woman's response.

"I only caught sight of it for a moment before it was gone," the woman said, her forehead crinkling. "It was dark blue. I'm not sure of the make." She smiled apologetically. "I don't know much about cars, I'm afraid but the letters on the plate were DSC. I didn't see the numbers or if I did I can't remember them. I only remember the letters because they're my initials - Diana Sarah Cary. Is it important? Did something happen?" She looked worried now, turning to call her two children over to her.

Jim patted her shoulder soothingly. "It might not be anything. The phone belongs to my partner and he may have just lost it. Would you mind giving me your address and phone number, in case I need to speak to you again?"

The woman complied and then gathered her children and left, leaving Jim standing alone, worry gnawing at his mind.

He pulled out his own cell and dialed Banks' number.

While he waited for his captain to arrive, Jim prowled the grassed area in front of the lake, his eyes alert for any sign of what had happened to Blair. He found nothing really, a small patch of flattened-down grass next to the bench and what may have been a drag mark leading to the carpark. But even Jim's Sentinel-sight couldn't discern enough detail for him to be sure and he was wary of focusing too intently.

Despite all the training he had undertaken with Blair's guidance, he was still prone to zone if he concentrated too hard on one sense. It was something Blair had tried desperately to find a remedy for. Eventually, he'd told Jim that he didn't think there was an absolute cure for the problem. It was just one of the downsides to being a Sentinel and avoidance was probably the best remedy.

He stood up from where he'd been kneeling next to the scuffed-up area as he heard Banks' car pull up.

The captain climbed hurriedly out of his car and ran across to Jim. "What have you got?" he called as he ran.

Jim held up Blair's cellphone. "I got a call from a woman who said she'd found Blair's phone here next to this bench," Jim replied. "There was no sign of Blair or anyone else when she got here but there was a blue van leaving the parking lot in a hurry as she pulled in. It almost hit her car. She got a partial plate but that's all."

"Shit!" Simon swore vehemently. "You pick up anything else?"

Jim shook his head. "Not much. This grass here looks like someone might have been dragged across it but I can't tell for sure. It could just be from kids playing here."

He cocked his head to one side, sending his hearing out, seeking the faint buzzing that had been teasing the edges of his consciousness for the past ten minutes or so. At first he'd thought he was picking up the low hum he associated with power lines but now, looking up, he realized there were none in the vicinity. Keeping his hearing dialed up and his hand clenched down firmly on Blair's phone, he haltingly walked toward the scrubby bushes abutting the small play area. Then he stopped and waited, holding up one hand to stop his superior from speaking. Suddenly, feeling absolutely sure of where his hearing was leading him, he took two paces to the right and bent down, his hand going out to scrabble beneath a shrub. Then he stood up, turning to show Simon the mini tape recorder in his hand. "This is Blair's," he said surely.

He looked down at the small machine. The tape had run out but the tiny wheels were still turning. He clicked it off quickly, worried the tape might break then pulled a plastic evidence bag from his jacket pocket and put the machine inside.

"It was recording," he said. "Lets get it to Forensics."

"I'm right behind you," Banks said. "I'm just gonna call out a CSI unit to secure the scene and do a more thorough search."

Jim nodded, heading for his truck at a run. "I'll see you back at the PD."

~oOo~

Jim slumped down at his desk, head in his hands and tried to concentrate his thoughts through the cacophony surrounding him.

News of Blair's disappearance was already swirling through the PD and he could hear snatches of conversations as people debated what had happened. There were the ones who believed "the hippie had done a runner" and on the other side of the fence, those who were convinced something had happened to him.

He looked up as someone touched his shoulder. "Hey Rafe," he said quietly, rubbing at his temples as if that would dull the pain there.

Rafe held a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol out to him. "Here," he said, "You look like you could use these."

"Thanks, man." Jim took the bottle and uncapped it, shaking out a couple of pills then gulping them down with a sip of water from the bottle on his desk.

Rafe sat down in Blair's chair and Jim tried not to cringe at seeing him there.

"Is it true? That Blair's gone?" the younger detective asked.

"Looks that way," Jim replied somewhat tersely.

"Blair wouldn't have taken off," Rafe said forcefully, leaning forward in the chair. "This case was too important to him and to Major Crime."

Jim smiled gratefully at him. "Yeah, I know that," he replied, more softly this time. "The only problem we have is finding out who grabbed him."

"It's gotta be connected with this case," Rafe said. "Crane has to be behind it somehow. Have you questioned him?"

"Not yet. I found Blair's tape recorder at the scene and dropped it off to Forensics. Hopefully, we'll get something off that."

Jim grabbed for his desk phone as soon as it rang. "Ellison," he barked out. Hanging up after a few moments, he looked across at Rafe. "They've found something on the tape."

He shot to his feet and ran, looking around at the sound of footsteps, to find Rafe right behind him.

"Mind if I tag along?" Rafe asked.

"Be my guest," Jim said as he led the way into the elevator.

Serena Baxter, the Forensic Unit team leader, pressed the play button on her computerized machine as soon as Jim and Rafe sat down in the lab.

Jim found himself holding his breath as Blair's voice came over the speakers.

"What the hell is going on?" Blair asked, the tone demanding an answer.

A woman's voice replied, the language unrecognizable to Jim. He looked across at Rafe, who seemed to be almost vibrating in his seat with impatience.

"I'm a cop. Just leave me alone and I'll forget I ever saw you," Blair was yelling on the tape now. "Okay, okay," his voice continued. "Just taking it easy. You don't have to be so-"

Jim looked up in horror at Serena as a thump was heard, coinciding with a yelp of pain from his partner.

The woman spoke again and then only the sounds of car doors slamming and an engine starting could be heard. The next voices were those of a woman and children, obviously Mrs. Cary and her kids, Jim realized.

Serena reached out and switched the machine off. "I'm sorry, Jim," she said, her dark eyes filled with sadness, "That's all that's worth hearing. The rest is just the kids playing in the background and then you talking to the witness."

"Jim," Rafe said, his voice tense. "I recognize the language that woman on the tape was speaking. It's Afrikaans."

Jim's head jerked up as he looked at the other detective intently. "You sure?" he asked. "Did you understand what she was saying?"

Rafe nodded. "Of course I'm sure. I grew up speaking that language in South Africa. She was saying, 'Keep him quiet and get him in the van. We need to hurry before someone comes.' I'm sure of it, Jim."

Jim shot up out of his chair. "That's good enough for me, Rafe," he said. He smiled at the Forensic chief. "Thanks, Serena. Good work."

"Just make sure you get Blair back in one piece," Serena replied softly.

"I intend to do just that. Come on, Rafe. I need to check into Crane's files. What you said about the language the woman was speaking just rang a bell for me."

~oOo~

"I knew it!" Jim slammed his forefinger down on the page in front of him.

"Knew what? You got a lead on what happened to Sandburg?"

Jim looked up as his Captain came into the bullpen and over to his desk. "Yeah. Well, a clue anyway. Rafe led me to it," Jim replied.

Rafe smiled at him. "Anything to find Blair," he said. "I just hope it helps."

"Well, don't keep us in suspense, man," Rafe's partner, Henri Brown chimed in. He'd followed Banks into the bullpen and now stood next to Rafe's chair, looking expectantly at the Sentinel.

"Serena was able to clean up the tape from Blair's microcassette recorder enough for Rafe to hear that there's a woman on there speaking Afrikaans," Jim said. He held up a hand to stop the expected influx of questions. "That triggered a memory so I went through Crane's file. When he was arrested, he was living with a woman called Johanna Van Berg. She's South African. And she drives a blue Toyota van, registration number 569 DSC."

Rafe winced as Henri's big hand came down and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Did you hear anything that would tell us where they're holding Blair… that is, if he's still alive…" Brown shot an embarrassed glance at the Sentinel. "Sorry, Jim," he muttered.

Jim shook his head as he stood up and stretched the kinks out of his aching back. "It's okay, H. Blair's still alive."

"How can you be sure, man?" H asked.

Jim shrugged. "I know I'd know if he wasn't," he replied simply.

"Sentinel thing?" Banks asked.

"Yeah, guess so," Jim said. "The thing is he might not stay that way for long unless we find out where they're holding him. Simon, we need to see if we can find Johanna Van Berg. Bring her in for questioning."

Banks was already picking up Jim's desk phone and making the call. "I'll send some uniforms to her apartment," he said as he turned Crane's file around so he could read the address. "You know, Jim, chances are she won't be there. I'll put an APB out on her and the van as well. You got a description of her?"

Rafe pulled another file out from under Crane's, flipping it open to the first page. "She's got a jacket too, sir. Prostitution and drug possession."

"Good. That might make it easier to track her down," Banks replied.

Jim waited till Banks hung up the phone. "I want to talk to Martin," he said.

"No way, Jim. You're way too close to this. You get all over Martin and his lawyer will pull him out so fast, his ass won't touch the ground again this century. We can't afford to turn him into a hostile witness," Simon said firmly.

Jim nodded resignedly. He knew Banks was right. If Martin refused to talk to him, Jim knew, he'd be likely to put the punk up against the wall and beat Blair's whereabouts out of him. "We need to question him, though," he said. "He's gotta know something."

"Jim, any news on Sandy?"

"Nothing concrete yet, Connor," Jim replied as the Australian detective walked over to join the group clustered around his desk.

"You know, Jim," Banks began as he speculatively eyed Megan up and down, "Martin's supposed to be quite a ladies' man."

Jim smiled faintly as all four men looked at Connor.

"What?" she asked. She sighed resignedly. "Is whatever you're thinking of asking me to do going to help find Sandy?"

"It's a chance," Banks replied.

Megan nodded and squared her shoulders. "Okay, I'm in."

~oOo~

David Martin eyed, with obvious appreciation, the leggy brunette who'd just entered the interrogation room. He barely glanced at the large, bald African-American detective who followed her in.

Connor sat down in the chair next to Martin, turning so she could cross her legs, surreptitiously hitching her skirt up an inch or so as she did. She deliberately bumped a knee against Martin's thigh then apologized in a soft, coquettish voice.

She indicated the tape recorder sitting on the table. "I don't think we need to turn that on just yet, Mr. Martin," she said. "We'll just deal with the preliminary questions first but if you'd prefer to have it on, then by all means…" She shot him a smile full of blazing Aussie sunshine.

Martin swallowed hard and shook his head. "That's fine," he husked out. "Whatever you think. What's this about? I'm due to testify in court tomorrow."

Megan leaned over and patted the man on the knee fleetingly. "Oh, it's not about *that * exactly," she said. "Perhaps we should introduce ourselves first. I'm Inspector Megan Connor and this is Detective Henri Brown."

Brown grunted a response as Martin looked up at him. Then he walked away from the table and leaned casually against the wall.

"We want to ask you some questions regarding the current whereabouts of Detective Blair Sandburg," Connor began.

"I don't know anything about that," Martin said immediately.

"Well, I'm sure you've heard Detective Sandburg was abducted this morning before he could give evidence against Richard Crane."

"Yeah, so? It's got nothing to do with me. Look, I told you people I don't mind turning Crane in for killing that bank manager in return for you keeping me alive but I'm not gonna dog him for anything else." Martin sat back in his chair and brushed his hair back from his face nervously.

Megan nodded. "And I have to say, Mr. Martin, the Cascade Police Department recognizes the fact that you've been willing to do your civic duty and keep Crane off the streets for good. But Blair Sandburg is my friend and all I want is to find out where he's being held." She allowed a small sad smile to creep across her face. "Please help us find him. It's not as if *you* kidnapped him, after all."

Martin shook his head emphatically. "Sorry. I'd like to help you. You seem like a nice lady, for a cop, but I don't know anything about it."

"Bullshit!"

Martin almost levitated off the chair as Brown exploded into action. The big detective picked up the chair opposite the perp and swung it in a wild circle, sending it crashing against the wall. In the next moment, he had Martin by the throat and was in his face.

"Don't you fucking lie about this, you low-life bottom-feeder," he snarled. "You tell us what you know and help us find Blair Sandburg or I'll make your life so miserable while you're in the joint, you'll be begging to be put in a cell with Crane."

Martin shook his head feebly, his breath wheezing out in frightened puffs of air. "I can't. I mean, I don't know anything," he croaked.

Brown released him and shoved him back, the chair almost toppling over with the force. "You asshole," he grunted. "You're dead meat, man."

Megan was on her feet and she grabbed Brown's arm, towing him with all her strength over to the door. "You need to calm down, Henri." She flashed a reassuring smile over her shoulder at Martin. "Can't you see you're scaring the poor bloke? I'm sure Mr. Martin will want to help us when he's had time to think things through." She patted Brown's muscular shoulder gently. "Why don't you step outside and get a candy bar from the machine and take a few minutes to settle yourself down?'

"Yeah, okay," Brown agreed grudgingly. He pulled open the door then turned and glared back at Martin. "I'll be back, man, so you better listen to what Connor here has to say while I'm gone. For some reason she seems to want to keep your slimy ass in one piece. Beats the hell outta me why." He walked through the door, slamming it as hard as he could on his way out.

"I want to make a complaint about what that cop did," Martin said as soon as Connor sat back down next to him. "He almost strangled me. That's police brutality."

Megan reached out and touched the faint marks on Martin's throat with one red-enamelled finger. "Sorry," she murmured as he winced. "Do you think you need a doctor?" She smiled disarmingly. "I know. You're a tough guy. A little scratch like that isn't going to have you running to a doctor."

Martin shook his head. "Nah, it's not that bad. Just a flesh wound. But I am gonna put in a complaint."

Megan leaned in closer to him. "I don't blame you," she said conspiratorially. "I mean, back in Australia, the cops there were gentlemen compared to these yobbos."

Martin gaped at her uncomprehendingly.

"Drongos," she suggested.

Martin shook his head.

Connor sighed softly. "Losers," she translated.

"Yeah." Martin nodded his agreement fervently. "They're losers. All of 'em. Well, except for you."

Connor nodded in acceptance of the compliment. "But that's the problem, David. I know what Brown is like. How easy it is for him to lose his temper. The Department's been covering for him for months." She leaned in closer to Martin, making sure he got a good whiff of the expensive perfume she'd sprayed on before coming into the room. "See, what will happen is that he'll walk back in here all apologetic and act as though he's completely cooled off. Then he'll ask you where Blair is again. When you can't tell him because you don't know," she raised wide innocent eyes to Martin's face, "he'll say that's fine. If you don't know, you don't know. Then he'll ask me to go get coffee."

"Coffee?" Martin almost squeaked.

"Mmm-hmm. He'll say the machine outside isn't working and ask me to go get coffee from the break room for all of us."

"That's okay," Martin replied. "I could use a coffee."

"The break room that's three floors away from here," Megan went on, her voice dropping to doom-ridden tones.

"He wouldn't dare do anything to me in here," Martin said.

Megan's finger traced the red mark at Martin's neck. "He just did," she said. "And Blair's very popular here. He's got a lot of friends. If Brown overstepped the mark, there wouldn't be too many witnesses to say he'd done anything wrong. Brown would just cart you out of here and then set it up so it looked like you'd been trying to escape on your way back to the prison. I'm sure there'd be plenty of people here who'd back Brown's story."

"He wouldn't do it," Martin sneered. "You're just playing 'good cop - bad cop', aren't you?"

Megan shrugged and stood up. "Believe what you want. But I'll tell you this and you'd better believe it. Henri Brown is a good friend of Blair Sandburg's and I don't think he'd stop at anything to save his life."

"You're bluffing," Martin said.

The door swung open and hit the wall behind as Henri Brown re-entered the room. He walked over and pulled out the chair Connor had vacated, straddling it, his arms resting along the back. He smiled at David Martin, his eyes cold.

"Mr. Martin," he said, "I'd like to apologize for my behavior towards you earlier. It was unforgivable. I mean, you've been an upstanding citizen – well, apart from pulling those armed robberies - and tried to put Richard Crane behind bars. You are doing the right thing by the law and I shouldn't have come down on you that way." Brown smiled. "How about you just come clean with me and tell me where Blair Sandburg is?"

Martin shot a frantic glance over at Connor who nodded back at him. "I already told you I don't know," he said fervently.

Brown smiled dangerously. He leaned in and patted Martin's shoulder companionably. "Well, I sure appreciate you coming in here to talk to us, Mr. Martin. If you don't know, you don't know. Hey," he lifted his hands in an expansive gesture, "it's not your fault if Crane didn't keep you up to scratch on all his plans, right?"

"That's right," Martin said shakily. "I'd tell you if I knew anything."

"Of course you would," Brown said agreeably. He slapped Martin on the back heartily then turned to Connor. "Megs, my man Dave here looks a little parched. How about you go get us all a cup of hot coffee?"

"Sure," Megan replied, her voice wobbly, "I'll just get some from the machine in the hallway."

Brown shook his head, still smiling toothily at Martin. "Machine's broke," he said. He pulled a ten-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to Connor, never taking his eyes off Martin's face. "Why don't you go down to the break room and get us all a decent cup of coffee? Hey, while you're at it, why not go grab us a donut or something from the diner across the street?"

Connor smiled apologetically at Martin. "All right, H, but you sure you want to wait that long? I mean, it'll probably take me fifteen minutes to get back here. You know the diner's always busy this time of day."

Brown slammed his hand down thunderingly on the table. "I'm sure!" he yelled, his eyes still fixed unwaveringly on Martin's face.

"Okay." Megan moved toward the door of the interrogation room.

"Wait!" Martin shouted. "Don't leave me here with him. Sandburg's being held in a warehouse at 12th and Vine. Crane's girlfriend set it up. They figured with Sandburg not around to give evidence, Crane would get off and when he got out, he'd split the money from the other robberies with them. Crane's the only one who knows where it is."

"How do you know about it if you had nothing to do with it?" Connor asked, leaning forward over the table.

"Crane was bragging about it in the cells one night just after we got pulled in. He said I didn't have anything to worry because he was gonna make sure Sandburg wasn't around to testify against either of us. But I figured the minute we got out, he'd waste me anyway, so I thought my only chance of staying alive was keeping Crane behind bars and me in a different prison."

"Did they plan on killing Sandburg?" Henri asked, wincing inwardly, knowing Jim would be monitoring the conversation.

Martin shook his head. "Crane didn't want the extra heat that killing a cop would bring. He figured if he kept Sandburg incommunicado, everyone would think the guy had taken off because he hadn't really seen Crane shoot the bank manager and that he was lying about it. The guy's already got a rep as a liar, right?" Martin's grin froze on his face as Henri Brown glared into his eyes. "Anyway," he went on nervously, "Crane thought he'd get off because of insufficient evidence. Then, if Sandburg turned up later, double jeopardy would attach and he wouldn't be able to be tried again."

Henri flung open the door of the interrogation room and called a deputy over. "Get this scum out of here before the stench kills me," he growled.

"You wanna be careful when you go out there," Martin warned, glaring at Brown. "Jones has weapons and enough men to keep you out."

"We'll cope," Brown replied, pushing the perp into the arms of the waiting guard.

"Bye," Megan called cheerily. "Thanks for the help, mate. You're a prince."

~oOo~

Banks looked at the people seated in his office. "The way I see it," he told them, "we need to do this fast and we need to do it quietly. We've got 24 hours to get Blair onto that witness stand before the judge is forced to let Crane walk. We need to do it on silent running because as much as Martin said Jones has no intention of killing Blair, I don't trust that little sleaze as far as I can throw him. If they get wind that we're moving in, I wouldn't put it past them to put a bullet in Sandburg's head."

He looked over at Jim, apology in his eyes as he saw the Sentinel wince at the harsh truth of his words.

"So," he went on, "we're not calling SWAT in on this. Those guys are way too conspicuous. That means it's up to us." He looked at each person steadily in turn and saw the answering nods. Ellison, Taggart, Connor, Brown and Rafe. Hell, he had the best team right here.

"Okay, let's do it, people. Oh and one more thing, everyone wears vests." He smiled at Rafe's theatrical groan. "You too, Rafe. I don't give a shit about what Kevlar does to the line of your suits, GQ. You're an accident waiting to happen as it is. Vest up. That's an order."

 

~oOo~

Jim peered around the corner of the van. Dialing up his sight, he spotted one man on the roof of the warehouse armed with a sniper rifle and another patrolling the exterior of the warehouse itself. He pointed them out to Banks then moved back behind the vehicle, hunkering on his knees.

"We need to take out the guard on the ground first," he said quietly. "But whoever it is will have to get past the guy on the roof first."

"What about a diversion of some sort?" Joel asked.

"Like what?" Jim whispered back.

"What about a lover's quarrel?" Megan asked.

Jim quirked an eyebrow at her.

"A woman crying and running away from her boyfriend ought not to garner any suspicion from the man on the roof," she replied.

"I don't know, Connor. It's risky," Jim warned.

"This whole thing is risky but we've got to get inside that warehouse somehow without alerting Jones or Van Berg we're here," Connor answered, logically enough.

"Let's go with it," Banks said firmly. "Connor, we're gonna have to cover up the vests."

"We, sir?" she queried.

"You need a boyfriend, don't you?" he asked.

Connor nodded then leaned into the open door of the van and pulled out her coat. "Just as well it's cold enough that I brought this," she said.

Banks buttoned up his own coat. "Let's do this." He glanced down at Jim. "You're gonna have to be ready to get inside that place the minute we take the guy out, while the guard on the roof is distracted. Taggart, you and Brown stay out here. If that guy on the roof starts shooting, try to keep him busy for us."

"You got it, sir." Brown hefted the rifle in his hands and sighted down the scope, arrowing in on the man on the roof. "I could take him right now," he said.

"Yeah, and when they hear that shot inside, they're likely to blow Blair away. We don't know where he is in there or who's with him," Joel said.

"Yeah, you're right. Sorry. Guess I'm a little antsy."

"Rafe, you're with Jim. Make it quick, gents," Banks said tensely.

Connor stood up and walked cautiously to the front of the van, glancing over her shoulder to see Banks a foot or so behind her. As Jim nodded at her, she pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of her coat and broke into a run towards the warehouse, loud sobs issuing from her mouth.

"The woman should've been an actress," Simon muttered as he took off after her. "Honey, come back," he called at her retreating back. "I didn't mean it, sweetheart. Wait. I just want to talk to you."

Megan kept her eyes on the man standing open-mouthed ahead of her as she called back to Banks. "You stay away from me, you low-life. How could you do that with my own sister?"

She stumbled quickly the last few feet to the astonished guard and grabbed him by the arm, studiously pretending not to notice the gun gripped in his right hand. "Please, help me," she said tearfully. "Make him stay away from me. Can you call a cab for me?" She shot a watery smile at the man as Banks reached them and extended his arm as if to grab for her.

Jim saw the man on the roof peering over the low railing; his attention apparently riveted on the scene below. He signaled to Rafe and they took off running, bent low, for the back of the warehouse where Jim hoped fervently there would be another door.

Thankfully, there was, and best of all, it was flimsy and took only a solid push of the combined weight of the two detectives to push it open.

Jim led the way inside, his gun held in front of him, his eyesight and hearing dialed to the max. There was no one to be seen in the immediate vicinity of the cavernous place but Jim's hearing had already picked up his Guide's distinctive heartbeat and he set off, following it like a bloodhound on a scent, Rafe trailing cautiously behind him.

Jim stopped at a door and inclined his head toward it. Sandburg was behind it. So were at least two other people.

He stood and motioned Rafe to the other side of the doorway then when his temporary partner was in place, he held up three fingers.

Rafe nodded his understanding and readied his weapon as Jim knocked quickly on the door then moved aside.

The door was wrenched open suddenly and Jim watched as a tall, beefy man stepped through and looked around. The man's mouth dropped open in shock as he turned his head to the left and spotted Rafe. Jim took a step forward, tapped on the man's right shoulder and as he turned around, said quietly and with satisfaction, "Gotcha." Then he swung a piledriver of a punch into the man's jaw and sent him crashing back into the room beyond.

~oOo~

"I don't care if you and your boyfriend are fighting, you have to leave," the man said, fixing Simon and Megan with a jaundiced eye.

"At least call the police for me," Connor said pleadingly as Banks took up a stance just out of the man's line of sight.

"Sorry, sweetheart, no can do." The man suddenly seemed to remember the gun in his hand and he brought it up, aiming it first at Connor and then bringing it around to bear on Banks.

The move put him slightly onto his back foot and as soon as it did, Simon struck. He lifted his right leg and caught the man's gun-hand, sending the weapon spiralling from his grip to tumble metallically across the sidewalk. A left-hand jab caught the guard in the neck and he dropped to his knees, hands clutching at his injured throat as he gasped for air. Banks stepped back and almost casually raised his left leg and kicked the side of the man's head, putting him down for the count.

Connor stood as if stunned, her mouth slightly agape as Banks knelt and secured the guard's hands behind him with cuffs he pulled from his coat pocket. Finishing, he stood and closed Megan's mouth softly with his forefinger.

"I didn't know you were a kickboxer," Connor said.

"There's a lot you don't know about me, Connor," Banks replied, giving her a crooked grin.

Suddenly a bullet clipped the wall next to Connor's head and Banks grabbed her and took them both to the ground, his body covering hers. "Shit," he muttered, "the guy on the roof made us. Let's hope Brown and Taggart can take him out."

~oOo~

There was a flurry of foreign sounding curses in a feminine tone as the man Ellison had punched out flew back through the door and landed on the floor.

Jim and Rafe were seconds behind the flying body.

A woman crouched against the wall, a gun held in her hand, pointing at the head of a very alive though bound Blair Sandburg.

"Drop it," Jim snarled, leveling his own weapon at the woman.

Rafe brought up his own gun and spoke to the woman in Afrikaans. "Two against one," he said firmly. 'You lose."

The woman muttered something under her breath then dropped the gun and slid it across to them.

"What did she say?" Jim asked as he motioned her away from Sandburg.

Rafe waited till he had her handcuffed and on the floor. He looked up to see Jim undoing Blair's bindings and removing the gag from his mouth. "Something about all our chickens turning into ostriches and kicking down our outhouses," he said, grinning.

"Hey, Chief, you okay?" Jim asked as he rubbed the circulation back into Blair's dead-looking hands.

"Ow, ow, ow!" Blair muttered, pulling his hands free of Ellison's and flopping them up and down to try to get the circulation moving again. He looked up into the Sentinel's face and gave a wan smile. "Yeah, I'm okay. I'd really like to get out of here now, though."

Jim gave his shoulder a squeeze and ran a gentle finger over the dark bruise on Blair’s cheek. "Well, we'd better do that then." He paused, listening to the gun battle still raging outside. "I was sure there was only one guy on that roof," he said, "but it sounds like whoever it is still has Joel and Brown pinned down. I need to get back out there."

Rafe nudged the woman with his foot. "How many men are on the roof?" he asked.

She turned her head and sneered up at him. "Three and they've got enough ammunition to outwait you."

"Don't bet on it," Ellison growled at her. "Chief," he said, turning to Blair. "I want you to stay here with Rafe."

"No way, man," Blair replied insistently. "I'm going with you." He cast a look at the woman and lowered his voice. "If you're gonna be using your sight almost exclusively, you'll need me with you to make sure you don't zone, Jim. You know that." He looked pleadingly into the Sentinel's eyes.

Jim sighed loudly. "Yeah, okay. Can the Bambi eyes, Chief. You think you can move okay?"

Blair nodded surely. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, man. Whatever they gave me wore off hours ago."

Jim pulled his vest off and began to put it on his partner.

"Oh no, man," Blair said, pushing fruitlessly at the fingers that were already buckling it up. "You need this as much as I do."

"Listen," Jim said, his tone brooking no argument, "you've been tied up and confined, not to mention drugged. You're gonna be slower on your feet than you normally would be. I can take those bastards on the roof out." He patted his eyelid with the tip of his finger and smiled at Blair. "Now unless you want to slow us up by me having to carry you out of here, you're wearing the goddamned vest, Sandburg."

Blair shrugged in defeat. "Yeah, okay, but promise you'll stay down, Jim."

Jim nodded and pulled Blair to his feet. "You got it, Chief."

He nodded over to Rafe. "Keep an eye on Princess Pottymouth and her boyfriend for us, will you? We'll let you know when it's safe to bring them out."

Rafe smiled. "You boys be careful out there, okay?" he said as Jim led Sandburg from the room.

Rafe slid down the wall and hoped like hell his friends would make it through the metal rain outside.

Jim glanced back at his partner as they made it to the outside wall of the warehouse and gave him an encouraging grin. "You ready, buddy?"

Blair nodded. "Let’s just do it," he replied.

Jim clicked the safety off his gun and moved out warily into the open. Twisting as he ran, he fired the weapon up and over his shoulder, not really trying for accuracy yet, hoping only to provide covering fire that would keep the men on the roof away from the edge long enough for him and Blair to get to the relative shelter of the van.

He could hear Blair running behind him, giving a small grunt as he stumbled and almost fell.

"Chief?" Jim called.

"I’m all right," Blair panted in response.

They covered the last few steps at a full out run and threw themselves behind the open door of the van.

"Good to see you’re in one piece, Blair," Taggart said, grinning over at them.

"Shit, Jim, there’s three guys on that roof and I haven’t been able to get a bead on ‘em," Brown grunted. He pointed to where Megan and Banks were huddled together in the front doorway of the warehouse. "The captain and Connor are stuck over there all cuddled up. They can’t get off a clear shot either."

Jim lifted his Sig Sauer up and steadied it with both hands. He could sense Blair close behind him, a warm, slightly shaky hand resting on his back.

"Easy breaths, Jim," Sandburg said, his voice trembling slightly. "You can do this. Just don’t push it too hard, man. The last thing you want is to zone right now."

"You got it, Chief," Jim replied. He waited, letting his breath seep slowly between tense lips as he saw the head of one of the perps appear from behind the edge of the wall surrounding the roof. Dialing his sight up till his target loomed in his vision, he gently eased back on the trigger. The recoil from the gun jerked him backward and he heard Blair let out a surprised breath.

The man he’d shot fell back out of sight.

"One down, two to go," Taggart muttered beside him, bringing his own gun up and firing off two quick shots.

Suddenly there was a clatter of metal on concrete as the remaining perps threw their weapons over the side to the ground below. They stood up, hands held in the air.

Jim focused his sight again, checking there was nobody else up there with them. He stood and nodded to Brown and Taggart. "Go round ‘em up, guys. And while you’re at it, tell Simon and Connor their little canoodling session’s over and they can come home now."

Brown grinned as he took off running, Taggart right behind him.

Jim turned and smiled down at Blair, who was sitting on the ground, propped against the side of the van. "Now that’s what I call good teamwork," he said. "Blair? You all right?’ he asked when Blair lifted stunned eyes to his. He crouched next to him.

Blair’s hand was resting inside the top opening of the vest and as Jim watched, he pulled it free then looked dazedly at the blood coating his fingers. "Jesus, James," he whispered. "I think I got shot."

Jim crouched next to him then reached out and unfastened the vest. A small wound high in Blair’s shoulder bled profusely, the cloth around the wound torn and singed. "Shit," Jim cursed.

He pulled his sweater and t-shirt off, hastily put his sweater back on then wadded the t-shirt, pressing it against the wound firmly as Blair groaned and tried to jerk away from him. "Ssh, take it easy. Lie still, Blair."

He turned his head at the sound of approaching footsteps.

"Oh bugger," Connor murmured. "Sandy…"

"Connor, get those medics to move in now," Jim snapped. He looked down to see Blair’s eyes were at half-mast, his skin pale. "You’ll be okay, Chief," he murmured.

"How the hell did he get hit?" Banks asked from Sandburg’s other side. He had one hand on Blair’s uninjured shoulder, patting it absently and softly.

Jim lifted his free hand and poked it through the hole in the vest. "Damned vest malfunctioned," he said angrily. He looked up as he heard sirens approaching.

"Blair? You with me?"

Blair nodded slowly. "Hurts like hell," he whispered. Then he smiled.

"What’s so funny, Sandburg?" Banks asked, his hand keeping up its rhythmic soothing.

"Only me," Blair said. "I’m the only person I know who could get shot after the rescue’s over." He closed his eyes, his head falling to the side to rest against Simon’s fingers.

Jim brushed his hand over Blair’s short curls. "Yeah, only you, Chief."

He stood up and moved back to let the medics in, watching intently as they inserted an IV and put an oxygen mask on Blair’s face. As soon as they moved him onto the gurney and steered it towards the ambulance, Jim was beside it. He looked up to see Banks, Connor, Rafe, Brown and Taggart lined up next to the doors like some sort of MC honor guard. "Thanks for helping me get my partner back," he said as he climbed inside.

"Hopefully there won’t be a next time, Jim," Taggart replied, "but if there is, anytime for Blair. We’ll see you at the hospital. He’ll be okay, man."

Jim nodded as he sat on the jumpseat and took Blair’s hand in his own, squeezing it softly, relieved to feel the strong pulse beneath his fingertips. "I know," he said.

~oOo~

"I just knew this was coming," said a deep voice that Blair recognized. It came from somewhere above and to the side of him.

"I’m just saying, sir-" replied an even more recognizable voice from his other side.

"What you’re saying," the first voice interrupted, "is that if you’d been wearing the vest when it failed and gotten hit, Sandburg wouldn’t have any right to feel guilty but because he was wearing it then you do –"

"No. Well, yeah."

Blair was beginning to feel like he was in some auditory version of a tennis match and it was beginning to make him feel dizzy. He opened his eyes cautiously and looked around through blurry eyes. Yep, white ceiling, white walls and two large, protective-looking guys standing on either side of his oh-so-white bed. "I’m trying to get some shut-eye here," he said huskily.

"Hey, Chief, you’re awake. Here." Jim adjusted the bed so Blair was propped up a little then grabbed the cup of ice chips off the bedside table and spooned some into Blair’s mouth.

"Thanks, man. My mouth feels like the bottom of a cocky’s cage," Blair said, gratefully letting the slick ice cool and moisten his throat.

"A what?" Banks asked. Then he shrugged and patted Blair’s uninjured shoulder. "Never mind. It’s a Connorism, right? How you feeling, kid?"

"Bit sore, not too bad."

"Good, look I gotta go round up the gang, tell them you’re okay. Brown’s already planning your welcome back party and I wanna make sure it doesn’t get too wild. You get well soon and talk some sense into your partner, here. I swear his guilt complex has its own zip code."

"Thanks, Simon, for everything. Tell the others thanks for me too," Blair replied, fixing Jim with a stern look.

Jim sat down on the edge of the bed. "I’m sor-"

"Give me a break, man. You’re really gonna sit there and apologize for saving my life?" Blair raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"I shouldn’t have made you wear the vest," Jim replied.

"Oh, that’s right, you’re an all-seeing Sentinel, aren’t you? I mean, you knew that vest was faulty and that’s why you made me wear it."

Jim grinned. "Sounds pretty stupid, huh?"

"Yeah, it does. I keep saying this, Jim. Nobody protects me better than you, man. There’s no one else I’d rather have watching my back. Hey, what about Crane and Martin?"

"The judge has ordered a retrial so Crane and his pals won’t just get tried for the murder of the bank manager and the security guard but for kidnapping and attempted murder of you as well. Oh yeah, the Department lawyers are pretty antsy over the vest thing too. They want to talk to you about suing the makers."

Blair shrugged, wincing as his injured shoulder protested the small movement. He yawned. "I don’t really want to think about that, right now, Jim. Right now, I just want to get some sleep. Wanna be wide-awake for Brown’s party," he slurred.

Jim watched as Blair’s eyes closed. "Only you, Chief," he said as he moved over and slumped down in the chair next to Blair’s bed. He echoed Blair’s yawn and leaned forward, resting his head on his arms on top of the mattress. He could use some serious shut-eye himself.

The End