By Lyn and Annie
Blair stared down morosely at the blank sheet of paper on his desk. He couldn't decide if he felt sicker about almost blowing their cover in the nightclub or about leaving Billy at Williams' mercy. He'd heaved a sigh of relief when Williams had left the club alone but the profiler in him had known that Billy's rejection would have pushed the killer closer to the edge. All he could do, he decided, was work up the best profile he could and then use it to catch the bastard before he got a chance to act again.
He started writing, backing up every point with explanations and detail. Even though he and Jim were positive Williams was their man, having an accurate profile to match him against when the case went to court, could only help.
A half-hour later he felt a warm hand on the back of his neck, massaging gently and turned around to find Jim standing behind him. "Hey, I didn't hear you come back," he said, stretching to get the kinks out of his muscles.
"You looked pretty involved in what you were doing," Jim replied as he hooked his chair over with his foot and sat down. "So… what are you doing?"
"Profile on this fucker," Blair said succinctly. He looked down at the crabbed handwriting that covered three-quarters of the page. "I've tried to write this as if I don't have any idea who the killer is, but, man, Jim, every single point fits Williams to a T."
Jim nodded. "That makes sense considering I'm pretty sure he's the perp. Can I read it?"
"Sure." Blair handed the paper to his partner and stood up. "I'm gonna go to the bathroom and grab something to eat from the machine. Want something?"
Jim grinned at him. "The usual," he said.
"Butterfinger's are not a food group, Jim," Blair replied.
"Hey, they've got carbs, right? Carbs is a food group."
"I give up," Blair muttered. "Okay, Butterfingers it is. I'll be back in a few."
Leaving the bullpen didn't have the effect Blair had hoped for. Instead of clearing his head, he simply found himself standing in front of the restroom mirror, going over and over the words he'd just written. He was missing something, he knew, but he just couldn't put his finger on what it was. It was there, tantalizingly out of reach and every time he thought he'd grasped it, it faded away and he was back at the beginning of his circuitous thoughts instead.
He sluiced his face with cold water and dried it off then headed back to the bullpen, detouring to the break room on the way to get snacks. Fortunately, there were still several Butterfinger bars hanging from the hooks of the machine and Blair pumped in enough change to get two for Jim, then chose a packet of dried fruit and nuts for himself. It wasn't much of a meal but his stomach had been churning on and off since the night before anyway so he figured it would do to boost his energy a little for now.
He tossed the bars to Jim as he walked through the doorway, smiling as Jim, eagle-eyed as ever, snatched them out of mid-air.
"Thanks," his partner mumbled around a hastily bitten-off mouthful of candy.
"You're welcome." Blair sat down in his own chair and opened his own snack. He picked at it desultorily while Jim wolfed his chocolate down while reading the profile.
"So, what do you think?" Blair asked finally. "Is it impersonal enough? I don't want the court thinking I wrote this with Williams in mind but the man's a classic homicidal pedophile. It's hard not to make him fit every point."
Jim nodded, wadding up his wrappers and dropping them neatly in the trash basket next to his desk. "It's good," he said. "Concise, clear explanations. You know you're good at this stuff, Chief."
"But? I hear a but in there, Jim."
Jim sighed loudly and turned so he was facing Blair. "This profile fits Williams perfectly, right up to the time he kidnapped Troy Cotton. What you're missing is why he changed his M.O. A good defence lawyer's going to say you have him pegged for the earlier murders but not for Troy's and unfortunately, we don't have any physical evidence for the earlier ones. There's a chance we might find something to tie him into Troy's if we can get a search warrant for his house. But I need something more than this." Jim held up the profile. "Think. Why did he change his M.O.?"
Blair shook his head. "I don't know. I've been going over it in my head till I can barely think straight. There had to be a reason-"
"Blair, listen, what if Williams didn't kill Troy-" Jim held up his hand as Blair began to interrupt. "Hear me out, okay? Troy's murder could have been done by a copycat, someone who knew what Williams had done in the past and decided to take it a step further. Pick up a kid from a good home, not a street kid nobody would miss-"
Blair shook his head. "I don't believe that, Jim. Williams escalated. He wanted something more-" Blair stopped. "It can't be that simple," he said. He paused a moment, thinking.
"What can't be?" Jim asked.
"It is that simple. I can't believe I didn't see it before. Don't you see, man? Killing street kids was too easy. Who cared if a couple of them went missing and turned up dead? Sure, the cops sniffed around a bit but it died down in the media pretty fast. But if you take a kid from a good home, who has parents who care about him, and who keep on the cops' backs to find out what happened to their son, what does the killer get?" He sighed impatiently as Jim shrugged. "Attention. The one thing people like Williams need."
"How does that help us?"
"Maybe it'll slow him down enough to give us time to find the evidence. Hopefully he'll want to take the time to savor his notoriety before he moves onto a new target."
"Evidence? What evidence?" Jim asked skeptically.
Blair looked at him hopefully. "Any chance of finding a sympathetic judge to give us a warrant to search Williams' house based on what we've already got?"
Jim clicked his fingers. "I know just the guy. Judge Martin owes me a favor. I'll get it typed up now and take it over to him."
Blair grinned. "Good. While you're doing that, I'll go out and get us some real lunch."
Jim poked him in the chest teasingly. "Okay, but make sure you get real meat on mine. Save the tofu for yourself."
Judge Daniel Martin looked up from the paperwork on his desk as Jim was ushered into his office. "Jim, it's good to see you. It's been a long time." He stood and held out his hand, grasping Jim's firmly then nodding him towards the chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat." He sat back down and gave Jim an inquiring look. "What can I do for you?"
"Am I that transparent?" Jim asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Hey, you don't call, you don't write… Sam asked about you just the other day as a matter of fact. Wondered if I'd seen you recently."
"How is Sam? Man, he's gotta be eighteen now, right?" Jim shook his head. "Sorry, Dan, I've been busy. Time gets away-"
"You're preaching to the choir, Jim." Martin leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "I heard about what happened with you and your friend, Sandburg, of course. I'm glad to see you've managed to put it behind you and get on with your career. Sandburg's a cop now, too, isn't he?"
"Yeah, he's my official partner now." Jim smiled. "He's a damned good cop actually."
"Well, that'd be a given considering he's been unofficially partnering Cascade's Police Officer of the Year for a few years now. I'd say you've probably taught him plenty."
"He's taught me at least as much," Jim replied. "Blair was a natural from day one. He's a born investigator and with his background in anthropology, he can read people better than I can. He's a profiler now," he finished, unable to keep the pride from his voice.
Martin nodded. "I've heard good things about him. I have wondered about the senses thing, though. Is it true?"
Jim shook his head. "I have better than average eyesight and hearing but there are a lot of people in the world like me," he replied, deflecting the question casually. "Look, Dan, I need a favor."
"Ask and if I can do it, I will. You know that, Jim."
"I need a search warrant for the house of a guy called Michael Williams. We suspect he's behind the murder of three young boys-"
Martin held up a hand to stop him. "I'm very aware of the case. God, when I heard about the first two boys, it was shocking enough. But then for a kid like Troy Cotton to end up the same way-"
"You knew Troy?" Jim asked.
Martin shook his head. "Only from what I've read in the papers. He seemed to come from a decent home with parents who cared about him. I couldn't help thinking it could have been Sam..."
"Yeah. So… Will you give me the warrant?" Jim asked.
"What evidence have you got on the guy?"
Jim shrugged. "Not a lot. He's got a history of pedophilia and he was a suspect in the murder of a young boy ten years ago."
"That's it? Jim, that's not enough for a search warrant and you know it." Martin stood and paced across to stand in front of the huge windows that looked out on the Cascade skyline.
"I know it's him," Jim replied firmly. "If I can get into his house, I know I can find the evidence we need to at least bring him in." He stood as well and walked over to stand in front of Martin. "Dan, you know my instincts are good. It was my instincts that helped me find Sam in time, remember?"
"No fair bringing my son into this, Ellison," Martin said flatly.
"When I found Sam before the kidnappers killed him, you told me you owed me a favor, anything I wanted," Jim said, his tone matching Martin's. "I haven't asked you for anything since then, Dan, but now I'm calling in the marker."
Martin sighed. " Give me the warrant."
Jim grinned and handed it over.
Martin read it through then signed it. "I hope like hell you're right about this, Jim," he said. "I don't want this coming back to bite either one of us on the ass somewhere down the line."
Jim took the proffered paper and pocketed it. He shook Martin's hand firmly. "It won't," he said. "Tell Sam I said hi and I'll call by and take him out to a game as soon as this slime's behind bars."
"Damn straight you will," Martin replied, waving him off. "You can take me too."
Blair sauntered along the sidewalk, casually swinging the paper sacks containing his and Jim's sandwiches from one hand. He couldn't help smiling as he thought about managing to finally get one over on Jim 'Junkfood is my middle name' Ellison after all. He'd gotten his partner a sandwich with real meat. There was no reason Jim had to know the meat was extra-lean ham though Blair wondered if the wholemeal bread would give the game away. He shrugged mentally. If Jim complained, he'd remind him that he was only keeping him in good fighting trim for all those late night lovemaking sessions they were both so fond of.
Blair turned and groaned as he saw Don Haas bearing down on him, a cameraman and soundman at his back. He turned back toward the PD and sped up his steps, hoping he could beat them inside the doors.
Blair stopped as he felt his elbow grasped, and turned to face the reporter. "Mr. Haas. What can I do for you?"
"Do you have any leads on who killed Troy Cotton?" Haas asked, shoving his microphone in front of Blair's mouth.
Blair shook his head. "There's been more than one victim," he said tersely.
Haas shrugged. "The other two were throwaways, street kids. Nobody even knew them."
"Somebody knew them," Blair replied hotly. "Their names were Jake Edwards and Tom Murray. My partner and I knew them after we saw what the sick bastard who killed them left for us to find. It's a tragedy that Troy Cotton died but the deaths of Jake and Tom were just as horrendous and deserve just as much justice." He turned and looked into the camera, letting his anger build to a peak. "You can't hide forever. We know who you are and we're going to find you and stop you. We won't let you hurt anyone else. Keep looking over your shoulder, you sick bastard, because one day soon you're gonna turn around and find me breathing down your neck."
"Hey, Jim, get in here, man."
Jim detoured from his way to his desk and followed Henri Brown into the break room. "What's up, H?"
Henri shook his head and grinned. "Sandburg's on TV again. Hairboy's turning into a genuine media star."
"What!" Jim hastened his footsteps and then pulled to a stop in front of the portable television set atop the bench.
Jim watched as Blair looked into the camera, his blue eyes flashing fire.
"You can't hide forever. We know who you are and we're going to find you and stop you. We won't let you hurt anyone else. Keep looking over your shoulder, you sick bastard, because one day soon you're gonna turn around and find me breathing down your neck."
Jim turned away from the screen as the reporter closed out the report. He scrubbed a hand through his hair. "Shit!" he said feelingly.
Henri patted his shoulder. "Kid's got guts, Jim."
"Yeah." Jim nodded. 'And when he gets back here, I'm gonna tear him a new one for this.'
"Hey, Jim, got your sandwich."
Jim spun around at the sound of Blair's voice. "Would you mind giving us some privacy, H?" he asked, his voice even. "I need to talk to Blair alone."
H nodded agreeably, patting Blair on the shoulder as he left the room. "You need to get yourself one of those agents, Hairboy. Get yourself on Oprah."
"Maybe one day, H. Hey, Jim, what's up?" he asked as Henri closed the break room door shut.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Jim asked angrily.
"What?" Blair put the sacks down on the table and began pulling the sandwiches out. He held Jim's up. "Real meat, man."
Jim snatched the sandwich from his hand and tossed it down on the table. "What the hell were you doing getting in Williams' face like that? Baiting him."
"Look, Haas cornered me on my way back here and pissed me off by saying Jake and Tom were nobodies." Blair shook his head and held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I was giving Williams what he wants," he said evenly.
Jim blew out a breath. "You should have asked me first," he said.
"Asked you? I thought we were equal partners."
"We are, but I've got more experience dealing with stuff like this. You should have discussed it with me first."
"I didn't have a chance. Haas ambushed me and I reacted," Blair replied tersely. "Overreacted," he amended. "You're right. I'm sorry."
Jim patted him on the head gently, ruffling his hair. "It's okay, Chief. Sometimes you just still think like a civilian, instead of a cop." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the search warrant, waggling it victoriously in the air. "I got it," he said as he turned and headed for the door.
"Great! I'm right behind you, man." Blair picked up Jim's sandwich and stuffed it back into the sack. "We can eat in the truck on the way."
Jim shook his head as he turned around. "You stay here."
"No way. You might need me," Blair said quickly, shaking his head.
"What we don't need is Williams' lawyer slapping you with a suit for harassment after doing your little '60 Minutes' thing with Haas just now," Jim replied firmly.
Blair dropped his head. "Yeah, okay. I'm really sorry, man."
"It's okay. Stay here. Finish up the profile. It'll help in court when we finally put this bastard where he belongs."
Blair flopped down dejectedly into his chair when Jim left. He'd screwed up big time, he knew, even if Jim had tried to put the best spin on it. He picked up Troy Cotton's file and opened it, shuffling through it. A list of Troy's classmates from the year before caught his eye and he pulled it out, skimming down the page. Any one of these kids could have ended up dead instead of Troy, if his theory about Williams was correct.
Blair stopped and read the name again. Billy Connors. He thumbed back through the folder until he found Troy's class photo and scanned the youthful faces until he found the one he was looking for.
Jesus! Billy Connors was Williams' target from the nightclub.
Blair hauled the phone over and dialed the high school's number. "Hi, this is Detective Blair Sandburg of the Cascade PD," he said when someone answered. "I realize you can't give out any personal information over the phone but can you tell me if you have a student named Billy Connors registered?"
"Just a moment, Detective. I'll check. I think he was in Troy Cotton's class."
Blair waited, his hand gripping the phone tightly.
"Billy was in Troy's class but he dropped out of school at the end of last semester," the woman told him.
"Thanks. You've been a great help." Blair hung the phone up and lowered his head to the desk. After a moment or two, he sat up and picked up the profile on Williams he'd begun and read it over.
Damn it! What if he’d been wrong about why Williams had changed his target? What if Williams was still fixated on street kids and had seen Troy with Billy and thought he was homeless.
Blair scrubbed a hand through his hair. If he had been wrong, the kids on the street were still at risk from the killer, more so now because the cops had shifted their focus to the schools and sportsfields that kids like Troy frequented. There wasn’t enough manpower for them to watch the streets as well… He reached over, snagged a post it note and scrawled a quick note to Jim.
Found a connection between Billy and Troy. Gone to talk to Billy.
P.S. Yes, mom, I’ll be careful.
He pulled a mugshot of Williams from the file and put it in his pocket. He could at least show Williams' photo around while he was at it, warn the kids to steer clear of him. He sighed as he headed down in the elevator. That wasn’t very cop-like behavior either. After all, Williams was technically innocent but Blair had no intention of letting the creep hurt anyone else, if there was any way at all he could prevent it.
"Hey, you know where Billy Connors is?" Blair called to a boy who was sitting slumped on the steps of an apartment building he passed.
The boy stood and shrugged. "Why do you want to know? You a cop?"
"Well, yeah, I am," Blair replied, wondering what gave him away, "but Billy’s not in trouble. I just need to talk to him."
"How much is it worth?" the kid asked, moving across to stand in front of Blair.
"Here." He pulled a twenty dollar bill from his wallet and watched the kid’s eyes go wide.
"Billy’s up on Murchison, panhandling." The boy crumpled the money in his fist and turned and ran, as if afraid Blair would snatch the money back.
Blair shook his head as he watched him, then he turned back and headed towards Murchison Street. He was under no real illusion that the money would be used for food but he could hope.
He spotted Billy lounging against the wall of an alley and called his name as he stepped onto the crosswalk. He had to step back quickly as a dark car careened around the corner and skidded to a tire-screeching halt in front of him.
Blair swallowed dryly as the passenger door swung open and he saw Michael Williams, leaning across the seat, a gun aimed unwaveringly at Blair’s chest.
"Get in the car, Mr. Sandburg," the killer said, a mirthless smile stretching his mouth.
Blair shook his head and tried to reach cautiously for his own weapon. He groaned inwardly as he caught sight of Billy, heading towards them at a run.
Williams saw the boy too and moved the gun so it was now pointing at the kid. "Get in please, or I’ll have to shoot young Billy there. You know I’ll do it."
Blair held his hands up. "All right," he said in what he hoped was a calm tone. "Leave the boy alone."
He climbed into the car and closed the door behind him.