How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around?

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A dog.

Somehow you should have known it would all come down to a scruffy, flea-bitten, back-alley-sniffing mongrel with huge Disney eyes that rivaled Sandburg's at his dampest. In spite of the house rules (#37 - Nothing with fur allowed in the loft and that includes Mrs. Vineman downstairs and her mangy fox collar, the damn thing looks like it's perpetually chasing its tail around her neck.) In spite of serious eye-watering (from you and not the dog). In spite of it all, Blair insists. ("Just for the night Jim, it's pouring.") And if you haven't noticed you're not really good at resisting one pair of big, damp eyes, never mind a stereo dose.

Just for the night? Right. Immediately you think, "Where have I heard that before? Don't tell me the dog's apartment blew up too, Sandburg." But no, you don't say it. You just do the only thing you can. You go out in the rain, buy two cans of Alpo and, while cold Cascade precipitation drips down your collar, formulate House Rule #122 (You have them numbered. Sandburg thinks he's teasing, but he's not. They truly are numbered.) - Nothing with fur on the couch.

House Rule #122 lasts two days.

Not that Sandburg doesn't do all the right things. There are neon-colored flyers and an ad in the paper for a week. The "dog needs home" index card on the PD community board.

He does all the right things all right, but you know him too well. You know he hopes no one answers them. Because Sandburg and this dog ... well, it's like love at first sight. If you believe in that kind of spine-tingling rightness setting in before you know anything, like what the hell the animal's been rolling in.

Not a bad guard dog, you'll give the mutt that. If you really wanted Sandburg guarded twenty-four/seven and, frankly, you've felt that would be a good idea for quite a while now.

He names it Zahreh which he says is Armenian for "protector" and you shortly come to the conclusion you are being replaced by a mop of allergen-producing fur that does nothing but sit on the couch when he isn't (and most of the time when he is) watching Blair. You find out quickly that Claritin -- when given to a Sentinel -- causes extreme tinnitus and that a nasty bout of impotency does not improve your dating life.

Just when the three of you settle into a routine -- Sandburg and Zahreh asleep downstairs and you tossing and turning above with bronchitis - the first of the e-mails come. Not threatening. Not exactly. Not at first. A couple a day in Blair's PD account, a few more in his mail at Rainier. Something along the lines of "you could be the one I'm searching for." No identifiable name, no real return address.

Just more than enough to raise the hackles on your local Sentinel. Zahreh becomes particularly possessive as well. It is here that you learn in any contest between a Major Crimes detective and a member of one of the lesser species, the winner should be apparent. In other words, you take your licks like a good loser and, against your better judgment, trust your partner's back to one pugnacious, four-footed Sentinel-in-disguise. At least when you are out of visual range and you do your best to make sure that isn't often.

Sandburg seems surprised when you encourage him to take Zahreh along to Rainier. ("Gee Jim, I wouldn't have taken you for the bring your pet to work type.") To have an IQ of 100-something-you-don't-want-to-guess-at, your partner can be astoundingly na´ve.

For you've quickly become aware this isn't a dog to trust anyone. Not even you. You might be the first human example of quality cloning as far as he's concerned. A replicant from some world in Canis Major. You will not be allowed within three feet of your partner until you have been scrutinized by a nose 50 to 100 times more sensitive than your average human's. (Though you, yourself, once out-tracked a bloodhound in the Cascade woods all the while ignoring your partner's amazed jibes.) While this is occurring, 42 teeth will be prominently displayed for your viewing pleasure.

You appreciate this tenacity as the e-mails have become, at least in your view, marginally more sinister. A mention of this only serves to put you on the receiving end of a Sandburg lecture in which you learn that besides the obligatory Latin, the Old English word for "left" was winestra, meaning "friendlier" and its application was purposefully ironic given that historically the left-hand side of the body was superstitiously regarded as of ill omen. And to call it friendly (a usage which your partner claims survives as vanster in Swedish and venstre in Dutch while your brain boggles once again at where he stores this stuff) was an attempt to placate inherent evil forces.

Still, no attempt is made by anyone to fold, spindle, mutilate or otherwise lay hands on your partner and the general consensus of the bullpen is that after having gone on a month, the admirer (you hate that euphemism) is not the type to actually initiate contact.

So why are you so suspicious of one Holden McAuley, a sociology TA who Blair says struck up a conversation while in line at the Rainer cafeteria? Not that you've seen that much of the guy. After you would not allow him within three feet of your partner until he has undergone intense Sentinel scrutiny Sandburg seems a little reluctant to invite his new acquaintance back for dinner. (While this was occurring, your 32 teeth were prominently displayed for his viewing pleasure.)

It wasn't like the dog was doing his job.

That's it actually. The dog. The damn, worse-than-a-customs-officer-at-SeaTac dog who just sat there (*sat* there) and thumped his mangy tail at the guy like he was the inventor of doggie biscuits. The words to a song on the CD Sandburg listened to incessantly the week of Mardi Gras plays suddenly in your mind.

/That dog is dangerous. I try to set people straight. Even bought a "bad dog" sign and hung it on the gate. Here you come trippin' about a quarter to nine. Full of that Night Train wine. Trying to slide past my sign. And that dog ain't paying you no mind. That's my dog and when I come home he don't sleep that sound. I want to know what's going down. How come my dog don't bark when you come around?/

You know that since the Cascade PD linked to the national offenders database you can check a suspect's name in all fifty states. You take advantage of this convenience. Holden McAuley has an unpaid parking ticket in the town of Moose Head, Washington. Simon (rather irrationally in your opinion) does not feel this is ample justification for picking him up for questioning.

You suspect that your recent behavior is not helping your cause to have Sandburg's secret admirer taken seriously. If you can't have Blair himself on your side, you at least should be able to count on your brothers and sisters in law enforcement to take your concerns to heart

~oOo~

The tally is at fifty-two e-mails and counting.

Number fifty-three hits Sandburg's PD computer on a Wednesday afternoon while he sits, one leg curled up beneath him and Zahreh snoring audibly on his other foot. You hear his heart spike and immediately leave an in-process interrogation to one of Robbery's newest rookies. After filtering out the second spiking heartbeat of the 22-year-old you've just left in with a six-foot-four Hell's Angel look alike, you realize your partner is on the phone - with your main dog-hypnotizing suspect.

Future claims of invasion of privacy do not even occur to you.

They undoubtedly do not occur to Blair either as he stands there calmly, a hand cradling your desk phone to his ear saying, "It's there again. I swear it. There's something familiar about the word usage."

Future claims of invasion of privacy are actually unimportant as you take the offending communication device from your partner's hand and slam it down on the cradle before you have a chance to overhear the reply.

"Uh, Jim, what do you think you're doing?"

You know Sandburg has put up with a lot of things. You know he (and he alone) understands your compulsion to protect the only other human being who even marginally gets what it's like to constantly filter/dial/piggyback/integrate (hell, even generally tolerate) slews of sensory data no one else can access. You know the worried tone of his voice is more than you deserve for your rudeness and that he will pick up the pieces, make penances in your place, later, out of earshot.

You mutter something like an apology that isn't an apology at all. Understanding blue eyes sweep over you.

"This one," he admits, "is a little, uh, stranger."

Zahreh, you notice, is holding Rafe and Henri at bay and is watching you with ill-concealed suspicions. You look at the e-mail still displayed on the screen. As you tense, Zahreh, the ever-vigilant, growls. Blair quickly steps between you and his second protector to explain.

"It looks like a retelling of Mexica omen-beliefs. 'An owl hoots' would signify sickness or death approaching. 'A rabbit enters your home' means the house will suffer calamity. The 'chafer' is a beetle that brings shame into the home. The weasel brings misfortune. Not at all your happy, upbeat type e-mail."

Leave it to Sandburg.

"Why," you ask, "would someone send you Mexican omens?"

Curls shake. "Not 'Mexican,' Jim. Mexica. Aztecs."

"All right, people, what's ..." Simon lunges backwards as a furry missile launches itself, teeth snapping a little too close to his zipper. "Shit! Sandburg, what have I told you about bringing Cujo to work?"

Blair calms the dog with the dulcet tone of voice he uses on you. Zahreh reacts with the same obedient expression that has at times led you, too, to sit, shut up and heel. Simon just glowers.

After a moment you join him.

"Why were you talking to McAuley?"

Blue eyes round incredulously and that's before the memory of you forcibly separating him from the handset sinks in. When it does, you realize you've just made mistake # 231. (Yes, you've numbered them as well. From #1 - slamming Blair up against his office wall while using the words "neo-hippie witch-doctor punk" to #230 - making an obvious Sentinel scan of one suspicious sociologist.)

"Just what is it with you and Holden?" Sandburg's voice lowers to a pitch irretrievable to the gathered audience over Zahreh's low growls. "And you better tell me it's a Sentinel thing, Jim, and a damn good one because I have no idea what is causing you to act like this."

You mutter something about no-good watchdogs but by that time Simon has captured the attention of your partner. The word "suspension" comes up but being unable to connect it to the words "without pay" the captain's threat rings hollow.

"Out. Now!"

Simon is pointing to the door and you're not sure if he means you, the mutt or Sandburg. You go with it being all three until a strong hand latches on your bicep pointing you in the direction of the interrogation room while the remaining arm encourages Sandburg and a chastised Zahreh to the elevator.

Glancing through the one-way glass into the soundproofed room you notice the robbery rookie, pale and wedged into the furthest corner away from the table where Hank "Chainsaw" Gibson tries to take off a table leg using what appears to be a standard-issue PD ballpoint.

~oOo~

The building that houses your home is reassuringly dark and quiet by the time you slide the truck to a stop. Light spills welcomingly from the glass doors to your balcony. It is natural that you extend your hearing, finding first one heartbeat, then another (you smile, content and satisfied of the safety of one stubborn anthropologist and one no-good mutt, they are, after all, your tribe) ... then another.

The stairs can be taken three at a time if necessary. And yes, it is now necessary. You focus on the other sounds greeting your ears, a low, serious conversation punctuated by the occasional contented snort of a dog clearly in a zone of canine pleasure that should be only rarely achieved by any self-designated blessed protector and only when you are present.

It will later be remarked that of all the criminals who have knocked down the door to the loft, you alone used sufficient force to require a completely new wall.

Staggering, bones aching, sensitive ears ringing from the sound of wood and metal tearing, you sway under the shocked gaze of the pair of TAs and the low growling coming from an unamused Zahreh.

You barely notice Sandburg moving to stand protectively in front of his houseguest.

"Uh, Jim, I don't know what's wrong with you but we'll find out. I swear. Everything will be all right." He tries to circle around you and reach the now splintered doorframe, keeping McAuley in his shadow. "Just let me let Holden out. Uh, and call the emergency carpenter, the number's right there on the fridge ... and then we'll get you some help. I promise Jim. Just hang on, man."

Caught by the worried gaze, some still-rational part of you may be able to view the scene. You growling at the shaking TA. Zahreh growling at you. Sandburg creeping ever steadily toward the open exit, sweeping McAuley with him.

Words are exchanged but you are past hearing them. There is sweat on McAuley's brow and his pulse flutters nervously in the arteries of his throat pounding out his guilt. You know this because the thought it was caused by anything else, say the front door being suddenly and violently knocked down by someone who hadn't even tried the key, never occurs to you.

As Sandburg pushes the man out the now-widened exit Zahreh takes an indecisive step after him. For the first time in your life you want to kick a dog but then the mutt turns, placing himself between you and Blair who is muttering to himself as he makes his way over to the refrigerator.

"Emotive-sensory overload? Maybe that cleaner the PD janitors switched to last month? I changed brands of chili powder, surely that couldn't be it. Uh, let's see: electrician ... stone mason ... glass repair ... smoke damage ... ah, carpentry."

~oOo~

"Okay. You're going to tell me what's going on."

Blair is serious as he sits on the couch, one hand idly stroking Zahreh's head and the other clasping your wrist like you're about to bolt through the door the Cascade Woodworks Company is now replacing at the cost of double-time-and-a-half.

"You think I'm in danger?" You can tell he's working to make it a question. "From Holden."

"He hypnotized the dog."

You find that for some reason, if you want actual cognition to occur in your partner tonight all unexpected statements must be repeated.

Blair's brow furrows. "What?"

"He hypnotized the dog. He's under his spell. That dog hates everyone who comes near you but he *likes* McAuley."

The furrowing is now joined by a quick denying shake of his head. "Ah, Jim."

"Don't defend him. I lost. He won. Now he's falling down on his duty."

Worried blue eyes study your face.

"Uh huh, Jim have we got any children's Benadryl? Because I'm thinking some kind of allergic reaction here."

Children's Benadryl puts you out like a light. For at least eight hours.

~oOo~

Whoever said things look better in the morning never was faced with a $1300 carpentry bill. Or a partner trying to be understanding.

"I trust you. I truly do. And because I trust you I'm going to listen to why you think Holden McAuley, a sociology graduate student from Topeka, is a danger to me."

You suppose, looking at the unpainted door and fresh plaster in the light of day, that this is the best Blair can do. You accept that. It is, once again, more than you deserve.

Still, it is not enough to shake your resolve. "How do you know he isn't the one sending the e-mails?"

"You can't answer a question with a question here, man." Sandburg is small but he's very much a presence. All five-foot-eight-at-a-stretch of him towers over you, enunciating painfully clearly as you slump on the sofa. "Why. Do. You. Think. Holden McAuley. Is. Trying. To. Harm. Me?"

Mumbling will not save you.

"Could you repeat that Jim?"

You look down at your palms and mumble a little louder. "I don't know."

It is, unfortunately, the truth. Five heightened senses and the truth is you really don't know what makes Holden McAuley more suspicious than say, a serial killer masquerading as an FBI profiler, who you didn't see as anyone out of the ordinary.

The deep felt pain of not being able to provide the protection you should and the lingering lethargy from the dose of children's (*children's* for God's sake) medicine makes you defensive. "You tell me why you're so sure he's not."

"Oh no. You can't prove a negative. And you're the one with the hypothesis."

Gesturing feebly at the furry lump currently putting the evil eye on the last of the carpenters you try to explain. "Look, there's something about him ... and the dog ..."

"Ignore the dog. Do you have any good reason to share?"

Rolling of dark blue eyes heavenward follows your shrug.

"Okay. Fine. I know you take this 'Blessed Protector' thing rather seriously. I know," Blair's voice lowers to a softness for your hearing alone, "it's a Sentinel thing. But this time Jim, you're out of line. Holden isn't trying to hurt me. Hell, the person sending weirdo e-mails isn't trying to hurt me either. And nobody hypnotized the dog. The dog is fine. I am fine. I'm going to the office and I'm going to stay fine on the trip over and back. *You* are not going to follow me. The *dog* is not going to follow me. Do you both understand?"

As Sandburg grabs his backpack and escapes out the newly hinged door, Zahreh whimpers a little.

Mentally you do too.

~oOo~

You have an innate Sandburg-specific time sense. Something that tells you when it's taken longer than it should have for Blair to get to the office, realize he left something vital in the car, return to the car, shortcut back through the pool of department assistants, flirt with whoever has the keys to the supply cabinet, get to his office, crash the computer, recover the data, raid the communal faculty coffee pot, reread a few blue books just to be sure he hasn't missed anything, pack up, cross the now-deserted parking lot, find the Volvo won't start, wave down the passing security guy to jump the battery and putter his way home.

It is now 2 hours and 43 minutes beyond that.

At 3 hours past Blair-time you will call Simon.

You share a long look with the dog.

~oOo~

The Volvo still sits in the "D" Faculty lot at Rainer. The coffee mug on Blair's paper-strewn desk is half full and hours cold. Blair's key ring is on the floor, but given the normal state of the rest of the office it's impossible to determine if there's been a struggle or merely midterms.

Your sensitive nose twitches through the scents layering the air. Dusty artifacts that share Sandburg's allotted space. Crisp, new paper. The ozone scent of open highlighters. Greasy creamer in the cold mug. Underlying it all, the unique odor of cotton clothes, organic shampoo, and the warm, slightly spicy smell pervading both that you've never quite identified but that remains quintessentially Blair. The scent grounds you, as comforting and steadying as Sandburg's words or his palm on your back, enabling you to reach further. To find something else. Something that suddenly brings to mind Holden McAuley. Something acrid and metallic that clings to the edges of the room. Something like blood, like death.

~oOo~

McAuley answers his door with the alacrity of a man expecting pizza only to find himself face-to-face with a golden badge held menacingly by a very pissed Major Crimes detective. One, admittedly, without a warrant. Not that he would dare refuse your request to enter said domicile and look for your partner.

Who is not there.

The disturbing odor lingers, faint and malodorous, but there is no trace of Sandburg's comforting mix of scents. Only the overlay of McAuley's own musk, the trace of commercial insecticide, the musty smell of old furniture.

"Where is he?"

"Who, man?"

The TA looks convincingly bewildered and frightened that his new friend's psychotic cop of a roommate should be stalking his efficiency and sniffing in the corners.

"Blair!"

"Wait." Hands come up, waving frantically as you approach. "Wait, man. Wait! Blair's not here."

As if there was some way you didn't know that? As if you can't hear there's only one heartbeat in the confines of the cardboard box of an apartment that passes for student housing?

"Where did you take him?" you grind out while the hands still do their protective dance around the rapidly paling face.

"Take him? I didn't take him anywhere. I haven't seen him since yesterday."

There are many drawbacks to being a Sentinel. There are also many benefits if you can remember to take advantage of them - like having your own personal lie detector between your ears. You hear Blair's voice reminding you that it would, however, have best been used before frightening the subject of your investigation into arrhythmia.

"Honest man!"

You suddenly realize you're terrorizing what, despite your doubts, may be an innocent Rainer graduate student. Your return to a semblance of sanity must show on your face because there is suddenly a hand under your elbow, steadying you and a concerned voice in your overly sensitive ears.

"Has something happened to Blair?"

*If it had* ... you clamp down firmly on your traitorous thoughts.

"He's missing."

It comes as a surprise to find this news has nearly the same effect on McAuley as it did on you.

"Shit! Idiot!" The student stomps a circle around you. "I told him to take those e-mails seriously."

"You?" The room wavers and hands gently guide you to a threadbare relic from the 70s passing for a couch. "He wouldn't listen to you either?"

"Blair Sandburg? Listen? We are talking about the same guy here? Curly hair, flannel shirts, Nikes?"

"That would be him," you agree numbly.

"No, he doesn't listen. I told him those guys were not kidding. But, no, he figures all this August 13th stuff is just like playing on a Ouji board."

It is all you can do not to get back up and grab the skinny shoulders for a good shake. "What happens on the 13th? Tomorrow? What happens tomorrow?"

"Well, nothing, if you ask me. If you ask the so-called 'Sons of Nahuatl,' it's some kind of pivotal point in the Aztec Sun Calendar."

"The e-mail," you remember, "Blair said it had some kind of Aztec omens."

McAuley nods in what he seems to hope is a calming fashion. "He'd been suspecting it was one of his old students because the writing seemed familiar."

"And that's why he called you."

If Blair were here he could recognize the guilt in your voice immediately. You'll just call this mistake #231a.

"Yeah, but somebody cut us off."

~oOo~

Zahreh, as obviously deep in canine worry as he is, is sickeningly ecstatic to see McAuley. You may no longer believe wholeheartedly the TA is to blame for Sandburg's disappearance, but you're not ready to see him greeted like the great last hope either. Later, you promise yourself, you'll get down to exactly what the dog's problem is ... once Sandburg is back to help.

The problem is, Blair is exactly who you need to figure out something like this. (No, not the dog problem, the where-is-Sandburg problem, although no doubt he'd have the dog situation well in hand as well.)

The trick now is to think like Blair.

"If this is some major cosmological event then there'll be some kind of rules." Rules are something you can understand. "A ritual, right? All we have to do is figure out what these neo-Aztecs will need and where they could find it."

These things sound somewhat less ridiculous when your partner says them but Sandburg-trained as he must be by now, McAuley only nods thoughtfully and flicks on Blair's laptop.

Turns out what you need is a step pyramid and an ability to pronounce words like 'Tonatiuh.' The only step pyramid in the upper Northwest is the Lost World Hotel and Casino on the Umatilla Reservation. The closest thing to a South American linguist you've got is currently being enthusiastically head butted by one two-timing mutt.

It takes seven of the 114 minutes you've allotted yourself to get both of them into the truck. One-hundred-and-two minutes of the remaining time are required to skirt the Cascades up onto one of the lower rises where the Lost World perches, a miniature Tenochtitlan in a mix of Northern deciduous and pine.

Slamming out of the truck you first pick up the panicked beating of your partner's heart and only later realize the bastards are ... they ... he's ... damn them ... he's ...

He's giggling.

Hysteria? Some ancient, evil potion that robs sacrificial victims of their ability to appreciate the gravity of the situation?

That's all right, you've got enough gravity for you both. And ample adrenaline to make the climb to the top in under five minutes. If Zahreh had had a rope and a harness he undoubtedly would have followed.

Crouched behind the HVAC that isn't currently serving as a sacrificial altar you peer over the pebbled amalgam of the rooftop to the one that is. The one on which Blair is tied. His curls blow freely in the breeze that brings the faint scent of his blood wafting toward you. They have cut him, but not badly. Not yet. Although that is what the skinny pseudo-shaman is no doubt planning to do with the buck knife he slowly raises.

The strong, medicinal odor of the pulque that has spilled out over Blair's flannel shirt tangs the air as you move closer. Besides the one wielding the stainless blade, four others surround the makeshift altar. You have to filter their rising heartbeats to find the rhythm you seek. Blair's heart beats fast and slightly erratically. The irrational laughter has stopped but drug-clouded blue eyes look remarkably unconcerned as the knife begins a sweeping downward arc.

You don't think. You only move, your lunge carrying you into the one holding the weapon. As the knife clatters to the rooftop the others scatter only to discover the stairway down blocked by 40 pounds of advancing pure canine protector. The four rapidly determine the wiser decision is to submit to you and the indignities of plastic handcuffs (of which you've brought plenty).

You have them cuffed before McAuley manages to undo the straps binding Blair. Desperate, impatient, you gather your partner to you as best you can, lifting him partially into your arms as the hotel's security guards finally stumble from the stairwell. Blair shivers, his mouth moving but little sound emerging from chilled lips. Someone hands you a blanket, helps you drape it around bare shoulders.

A voice you barely recognize as your own, one untouched by the tremors you can feel shaking you, begins a soothing mantra.

"I've got you, buddy. I've got you."

Whispered over and over as you press your lips against the windblown curls.

~oOo~

Blair looks up at you, bright eyes taking in your discomfort at Holden McAuley's gracious acceptance of the apology you have just offered. Full lips threatening to curve into a smile as the TA takes the leash from your hand and leaves with Zahreh bouncing in excitement beside him.

"You still don't trust him," he observes.

You should have learned the first time that mumbling will not work.

"What was that, Jim?"

Words. With Blair it's always words. He wants in words things you have no words for, things even he has no words for, if only he realized it. That it isn't merely you're a big, dumb, monosyllabic cop. There simply is no Sentinel vocabulary. How the hell do you describe that without opening your eyes you can hear the 3D map of the city when it rains? Or that you have to work to ignore that every damn snowflake *is* different? How are you supposed to say that despite Holden McAuley's sincerity, despite the fact you've managed to entrust him, if not with Blair's life, then that of his erstwhile canine protector -- in spite of all that, he reminds you of death? And therefore must be kept from Blair at all costs. (You feel that managing to talk Sandburg into giving the dog to him so he'd no longer be tempted to come visit it to be a coup on your part.)

There probably are some long words that do translate into "Sentinel hallucination." And Sandburg undoubtedly knows them.

"Okay, Chief. I know it's crazy -- and I do not use that word lightly considering the past few days -- but he smells like ..."

Blair frowns, but it's a struggling-to-understand-some-Sentinel-thing frown, not the clear irritation he showed before when you tried to explain. Only with Sandburg could you find a look of complete puzzlement comforting.

"Like blood, decay. Like death."

Blair's frown lessens. "He does?"

"Okay," you concede, "I know. He's a nice guy. It doesn't make any sense."

There's a certain look Blair gets when he's found some new mental beachball to roll around in his mind. He has that look now.

"Oh no, it makes perfect sense. You. The dog. He smells it. You smell it. Only the reactions are completely different. You're repulsed and he's compelled."

"I'm confused," you differ.

"No you're not." He looks you over critically and changes his mind. "Uh, okay, I guess you are. But you're not."

When your partner grins like that some small part of you begins to worry.

"It would make perfect sense that Holden smells like something out of a slaughterhouse because that's what he's studying, Jim -- the coping mechanisms of workers in slaughterhouses. To Zahreh he's a probably the best hope for a banquet. But going from mammal to meat is not a neat process. You get dirty and bloody and there's probably other things you can pick out, hormones, adrenaline released by frightened animals. You try to clean up but it never really goes away. So, to you he's the scent-equivalent of a potential mass murderer." He claps a palm to his forehead. "God! I should have thought of that before. It all makes sense."

You wince a little, seeing that Blair has once again found the words you couldn't. But that's good. That's okay. You're glad it makes sense to someone.

And, as always, you're most pleased that someone is one trouble-magnet anthropologist who currently sits on your couch, a smile on his face, happy in his new discovery.

Plus, the dog's gone.

-end-