Originally posted to SA June, 2004.

This is my offering for Carol's June themefic request. I'm not sure this went the way I wanted it to. But it is what it is. In this story, Blair is a cop. And not only do I split up the team of Ellison and Sandburg, but I practically dismantle Major Crime in the process. But there's a reunion of sorts at the end.

RATING: PG (some bad words)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine and I'm not sure I'd want the guys in this depiction.

SUMMARY: A prank is never a good thing (a lesson learned the hard way)

All mistakes are mine

EMAIL: Debbie

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A Bad Joke

by: Debbie Tripp

I've done it. I've blown it again. I've gone and lost my one true friend. We all just thought it would be a harmless prank to pull on him. A little payback for when he made those fake doughnuts. You don't try to give cops fake doughnuts. You'd think now that Sandburg was one of us, he'd know that. But I never thought he'd take what we done so seriously and do something like turn himself in. I tried to explain. Joel tried to explain. Brian tried to explain. Henri tried to explain.

It had started when Simon wanted us all available for the Madison stakeout. Blair was with me, and Henri, Brian and Joel were together at the other end of the street, waiting for Madison to make his move. Henri, Brian and Joel had already set up the "dead body" in the alley. It was an hour into the stakeout. And I knew Madison wasn't going to make a move. I turned to Blair. "Hey, Chief? Why don't you go get us some fresh coffee and some pastry from that bakery a few blocks down? I'm sure the guys would want something too."

"Sure, Jim. This is getting boring."

Blair gets on the radio and gets everyone's order. He goes to get out of the truck. I stop him.

"You have enough money?"

"I'm good. I'll be back shortly."

I watch as Blair leaves and as he approaches the alley. The noises start, remote-controlled by me in the truck. I see Blair jump a little, but he keeps going. He gets a few feet past the alley and stops. He turns around and goes back to the alley. He walks cautiously into the alley and then I can clearly hear his gasp as he sees the dead body. He's on his cell phone within minutes, calling me.

"Ellison."

"Jim? You've got to come here. There's a dead body in the alley!! Quick. Tell the others."

"Okay, Sandburg. Just calm down. I'll be there in a few minutes."

"I also heard some noises. I'm going to investigate further."

"Okay, Chief. But don't go too far."

He cuts off the connection and I slowly get out of the truck to walk to the alley. I call Henri to tell him that our payback is in motion. But about two minutes later, I hear the shots -- three distinct shots. I break into a run and the sight that greets me is surreal. Blair stumbles from the alley, his gun in his hand. I see two bodies in the alley. I go towards Blair, but he pulls away from me and gets on his cell phone again. He calls into the station and asks for a uniform car. He keeps his distance from me after the call. Henri, Joel and Brian join us.

"What are you doing, Chief?"

"I've got to turn myself in. I shot an innocent person."

"Oh, God!!"

"No."

"How could it be?"

I listen to the reactions of my fellow detectives. I don't know what to say.

The squad car arrives about five minutes later. Blair turns himself over to the officers with little fanfare. He has given me his gun.

The officers read Blair his rights and handcuff his hands behind his back. I talk to the officers and tell them to take Blair up to Major Crime before booking, that there are extenuating circumstances in this case. They tell me they will do that. They lead Blair over to the squad car and help him into the back seat. He doesn't look at any of us. As they drive away, I turn to my fellow detectives."Get Homicide out here to handle this. I want the three of you back at the station by the time Blair is brought up to Major Crime. We've got to explain this to him. And hope to hell that whoever he shot is a criminal of some sort."

"That still doesn't make any of this right, Jim."

"I know, Joel. But make sure that Homicide understands that this is Sandburg we're talking about."

I leave the scene to get to the station by the time Blair gets there. I place Sandburg's gun on the passenger seat. Why did he give me his weapon? And I know I shouldn't be walking around with it. I get an evidence bag out of the glove compartment and carefully put the gun inside.

I can't imagine how Blair will ever believe what happened. I'm able to arrive the same time as the patrol unit. And I go up in the same elevator with Blair. Blair in between the two officers. Blair's head is down. He doesn't even acknowledge me. And I still have nothing to say. The elevator doors open and I follow the uniformed officers as they lead Blair through the doors of Major Crime.

Head hung low; he shuffles into the Major Crime bullpen sandwiched between two uniformed officers. A murmur spreads through the room, growing in volume as Simon Banks appears from his office. I can make out most of what is being said. Speculation abounds. Simon isn't happy at all. And he's shocked when he sees Blair standing in the middle of the bullpen in handcuffs.

"What's going on here? Why is a member of my team in handcuffs?"

The prisoner looks up, a wan smile gracing his grey, tired face. Blair looks utterly defeated. And I wonder if any of us will survive?"It's all right, Simon. I did it. I'm guilty."

I move forward, thinking now is a good time to speak up. Simon shoots a questioning glare my way.

"It was a misunderstanding, Simon. We were just pulling a prank..."

Simon cuts off my explanation.

"WHAT did you say, detective?"

I have never heard Simon explode so quickly on anything I've ever said. I actually shrink back a little. Blair stands his ground. But he has little choice. Simon turns his attention to the uniformed officers.

"Take those handcuffs off him."

"He called us himself, Captain. He told us to arrest him."

"Just do it. I'll be responsible for him. I'm sure he won't run off. Will you, Sandburg?"

"No, sir." It is said so soft, I can barely hear him. His head is down again.

One of the officers removes the handcuffs and I note they aren't on real tight. Blair could have pulled his hands out of them. Consideration for my partner. Well, he might not be my partner for much longer. I notice Simon is still aiming daggers at me with his eyes.

"I want both of you in my office right now."

It is said with that cool in control voice that Simon uses when he's really pissed off. And I'm sure he's more pissed off at me than he is Blair. Blair is immediately behind Simon as we walk towards his office. As soon as I walk through the entrance, I see Blair unhook his badge and place it on Simon's desk.

"I resign, captain. Jim has my weapon. I shot an innocent person without provocation."

"I want a full explanation before I accept anyone's resignation,

Sandburg." God, Simon's looking straight at me again. Where are those other guys? They are in this as deep as me. Suddenly, I see them out of the corner of my eye. I go to open the door.

"Where do you think you're going, Ellison?"

"Ah, Simon, sir. Joel, Henri and Brian are involved also."

"So? I'm to understand that the four of you ganged up on your fellow detective, and your partner, to pull a prank? Is that it, Ellison?"

"Yes, sir." I can't look Simon in the eye.

"Both of you sit down."

Blair chooses the chair nearest to the windows. I choose the one nearest the door. Simon looks from Blair to me.

"Stay here. I'm going to talk to Taggart, Brown and Rafe."

Simon leaves the office and I look over at Blair.

"Blair, I..."

"Don't, Jim. I don't want to hear any sorry excuses." I see and hear Blair's anger.

I can hear Simon interrogating Taggart, Brown and Rafe. Soon, he comes back to his office, poking his head inside.

"Would you two like to join us in Interrogation Room 2?"

Oh shit. Now we're all in trouble. Why didn't I think about this whole thing before we put it in motion? I leave the office first. Blair follows a few minutes later. Blair's the last one to walk into the interrogation room. He doesn't look at any of us as he sits down at the table.

"Okay. Jim? I want you to explain what exactly happened out there.

How did a stakeout turn into one of my detectives shooting a person and having himself arrested?"

"It all started, Captain, when SANDBURG decided to make those barely edible fake doughnuts about a month ago. You don't do that to cops. Not something as sacred as doughnuts. He duped all of us in the bullpen, including me. Sure, he said it was all just a harmless prank and that it wouldn't hurt anyone. But it was a low blow, even for Sandburg. It was a JOINT effort to exact payback, sir. We set up the dummy to look like a dead body in the alleyway between where we were set up. At a predetermined time, I would send Sandburg for coffee and pastry and he would discover the body when he passed with a few audible sounds for effect. He did discover the body and called me to report it. I told him I would be there in a few minutes and he said something about investigating further. When I was about at the alley, I heard three distinct gunshots. Blair came out of the alley and immediately called for the squad car. The he told me that he shot an innocent person. How can he know it's an innocent person?"

I can't gauge Blair's reaction because his head is still lowered. He can't face any of us. And I really can't blame him.

"Why did Sandburg give you his gun?"

"I'm not sure. Why don't you ask him?"

"Sandburg?"

"I couldn't keep it, sir. I had shot a person. It needed to be turned over."

"Yeah. And all of you should have waited for Homicide to show up. Where's the gun now, Ellison?"

"It's on my desk. I put it there when I came up to Major Crime with Blair."

"Just a minute."

Simon leaves the interrogation room for a few minutes. During that time, we all explain to Blair that it was just payback. He basically ignores us. But he does say one thing.

"I know I shot the real body in that alley. It was no prank or joke."

"But you don't know that it was an innocent person."

Simon comes back into the interrogation room a few minutes later. He looks at all of us.

"For highly trained detectives, you all sure forgot everything you've ever learned. Unfortunately, I can't suspend all of you since you're most of my detective squad. But what we're going to do is this. All of you will be put on the night shift indefinitely and the night shift detectives will take your positions. At least I'll have detectives I know will do the work they are assigned. While you are on the night shift, you will each have a different partner, one from another department to watch over you. We'll have to rotate departments. It will be my decision whether any or all of you come back to my direct command. That is, all of you except Sandburg. Sandburg, you are on paid leave until you can talk to the shooting board and IA and Forensics get back the results of your gun. How many shots did you take?"

"I only shot once, sir. I don't know where Jim was coming up with three shots. Maybe it was part of their sound effects?"

"Ellison?"

"No, sir. There were no gun sound effects that we used."

"Well, then, let's wait for the report from Homicide. I want you to talk to them too, Sandburg. And I want each of your reports on what went on out there. Get out of here, all of you. Ellison, Taggart, Brown and Rafe, you start your night shifts tomorrow. As soon as possible, there will be an investigation with IA into your childish actions."

We all get up to leave. Blair stays behind. Unintentionally, I listen into him talking to Simon.

"I don't know where to go, Simon. I can't stay with Jim. And this is the first time I've had to shoot to kill someone."

"That's why you'll be telling your actions to the shooting board and to IA. Why didn't you remember that the other person shot?"

"I think it was the adrenaline of finding that 'planted' dead body. I thought Madison had gotten past Jim's radar and eliminated someone. And then it turns out to be all just a joke. All those guys have disappointed me." I can hear disgust and hurt in Blair's voice.

"Where will you go, Blair?"

"I'll get a motel room somewhere. I'll have to find a permanent place somewhere."

"Are you sure that it's that bad, Blair?"

"It was a childish prank, Simon. And it scared the crap out of me. I didn't think they would do something like this. And I might have to find another line of work anyway. Or my address may be the federal pen."

"I don't think it will be that bad, Blair. Let's just wait for the report from Homicide. What about being Jim's partner?"

"I don't know if I can stay with Major Crime."

"I'll understand if you can't stay, Blair. But it might be easier to forgive and forget."

"I can't do either at the moment, Simon."

Blair comes out of the interrogation room with Simon. I want to approach Blair, but I can see the hurt in his demeanor, as he gets ready to leave. How humiliating was it for him to be paraded into the bullpen in handcuffs? I shouldn't have done that either. It's been a totally screwed up couple of hours. And I've done the most damage.

Blair was cleared of the shooting. It turned out the guy, Julio Fernandez was a low-level drug dealer. He had a gun on him and had fired two shots at Blair. Blair was acting in self-defense. If I had only investigated the scene at the time, or the evidence, I could have determined that. Some detective I am.

Joel, Henri, Brian and I all got four weeks disciplinary action without pay. We are staggering our time off so that Simon isn't short handed. He's accepted us all back under his direct command, but we're on probation. He's still pissed off at us. As is Blair. At least, Blair is talking to all of us again. But it's mostly business and we don't see him away from the station. He's the resident authority in Major Crime since the rest of us is there sporadically. He gets to team up with whoever comes in from another department. His clear rate is as high as ours used to be.

He moved out of the loft the day after the shooting went down. I didn't even try to stop him. But he's told me once we get through all the time off, he'll be back as my partner. I should be grateful, and I am. It will never be the same again. I'll have my partner, but the friend is gone forever. All because of a bad joke.

END