Act V

Jim's up to something. He's standing at the bars of the cell, watching Nichols intently. When he raps on the metal, Nichols turns around and glares at Jim, then goes back to his CD and his magazine. Jim waits a bit, then coughs. The deputy doesn't even flinch. Jim's testing him I know, but why?

He walks over to where I'm sitting on the cot and holds out his hand. "Give me your glasses, quick."

I'm still confused, but I dig them out of my pocket and hand them over. I follow him over to the cell door, and watch in horror as he twists the arm off one side. "What are you doing?" I yelp.

"Shh, shh!'

I lower my voice to an angry hiss. "They cost 150 bucks!"

"Quiet!" Jim hands my 150 dollar piece of junk back to me and slips his arm through the bars of the door. Easing the broken arm of my glasses into the keyhole in the lock, he manipulates it until the door opens. Handing me the makeshift lock pick, he crosses the room and punches Nichols in the face just as he turns around.

I'm impressed. Then I get my ass in gear, trotting out of the cell and heading for the door. "What are you waiting for, man? We gotta find Cassie before they do!"

I'm ushered into the building at gun point. A quick search reveals my weapon, and I'm swiftly relieved of it. The big guy, Leland, gets a roll of duct tape from a workbench and gives it to his partner, who binds my wrists together.

Morrow enters the work area from the surgery room and walks over to Leland. "Once we're gone, I don't want anything left for the police to find."

Leland nods. "Don't worry. That fuel burns at 3,000 degrees. There won't be anything left but slag."

Wonderful. I'm so looking forward to becoming slag. I hope they shoot me first.

"Good." Morrow turns toward me as Leland leaves the building.

I figure if I'm gonna die, I'm taking some answers with me. "You're quite the entrepreneur there, Doc. A witness protection program for wanted criminals--plastic surgery, new identities. Very nice."

He smiles evilly. "Smart girl."

"You know, the only part I don't understand is the Interpol agent." Morrow starts to walk away. "Oh, come on," I wheedle, "I mean, you said you're going to turn me into slag. Don't let me die confused."

The doctor shrugs. "Actually, we took him on as a client. You can imagine our surprise when we discovered he wasn't who he appeared to be. I mean, after all, that's our franchise."

"Clever. So you threw him out of the plane?"

"I had planned to have him disappear over the ocean. Near Cascade, he tried to grab Dietz's gun and there was an accident."

"So what happens now?" In other words, how long do I have to figure a way out of this?

He heads toward the surgery room. "First, I finish up with Monsieur Resnais here, and then, thanks to you and your friend, we pack up and move to a new location, and you disappear." He looks at the man who tied me up. "Call Toliver and Nichols. Tell them we've got the girl."

While Jim drags Nichols into the jail cell, I'm on the cell phone with Simon. "Yeah, sure, Simon. We'll be standing by." I address Jim, "Simon said he was going to call the state police for backup. He said Cassie called in and left a message that she was going to the airfield to get a sample. He hasn't heard from her since."

The phone on Nichols desk rings. I look from it to Jim. He shuts the cell door on Nichols, walks over to the desk and picks it up. "Hold on, Simon," I say.

"Sheriff's office." Jim does a passable imitation of Nichols. "Yeah…all right." He hangs up the phone and takes the cell from my hand. "Simon, they've got Cassie. They took her to Bob Leland's airfield, which is two miles north of Pinecrest. It would help to get us some back up from the state police. A chopper would be nice. We'll check in with you in a while." Ending the call, he looks at me. "Let's go."

Exiting the sheriff's station, we run down the street to the clinic, where Jim's truck is still parked. Jumping inside, Jim guns the engine, and we take off toward the airport with a squeal of tires. Five minutes later Jim's parking the truck behind Cassie's van on a side road. Walking over to it, Jim looks in the window, then shakes his head. He takes off through the brush for Leland's, with me practically running to keep up with his long strides.

He crouches behind a fence at the edge of the airstrip, and I join him a few seconds later. There's now a second plane on the ground, a multi-passenger, four-engine prop plane. "Can you hear what's going on?" I ask.

Jim nods, his head turned slightly toward the building, his eyes closed. "Yeah, I think there's five or six of them, all inside at the moment. Sounds like Morrow's performing some kind of surgery."

"What about Cassie? Can you hear her?"

He shakes his head. "If she's there, she's not talking." Half rising from his crouch, Jim studies the area intently. "We need a diversion, Chief, something to draw them out of the building one by one."

Looking around, my gaze lands on the biplane. "I've got an idea…"

Two minutes later, I'm crawling into the cockpit, and studying the multitude of switches and dials. Finding the one I want, I flip it. The engine turns over slowly at first, then roars to life. Peering over the side of the plane, I see two men I don't recognize running toward the biplane from the direction of the other airplane. Jim is racing up behind them, gun drawn. Ducking down again, I spot a button marked "Spray". Turning it on sends pesticide shooting out of the hoses in a fine mist.

I can hear the two men coughing and choking, then Jim's yelling, "All right. Drop your weapons!" Once I see he has the situation under control, I turn off the chemical spray. I don't need Jim having a reaction to it. Jim moves the men to the side of the plane, and handcuffs them to one of the struts. Just as I climb out of the cockpit, I hear the sharp crack of a gunshot.

Looking toward the building, I can see Leland rounding the corner, firing as he goes. Jim dives under the biplane, and I follow suit. "Shit! Where did he come from?"

"Must have been on the other side of the building," Jim says as he begins to return fire.

I'm trying to sever my bonds by rubbing the chair I'm tied to against the edge of the workbench, when I hear shots from outside. What the hell? A few seconds later I can hear the rotors of a helicopter coming in fast, and then faintly, a mechanical voice announcing "This is the State Police. Throw down your weapons."

Hurray! The cavalry's here! My relief is short-lived, though, as Leland comes barreling through the door, a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. He's headed straight for me! I try to stand, to get away, but only succeed in knocking the chair over. In that position, I can't see him any longer. I lie on the floor, shaking, thinking the cold cement is the last thing I'm ever going to feel, other than the knife going into my ribs, when the rope holding me to the chair falls away. Grabbing me by the arm, Leland drags me into the surgery room.

Morrow and his nurse are packing up their things, while Luc Resnais lies unconscious in the surgery chair. "The cops are here," Leland states.

Not even looking up, Morrow orders, "Start the plane."

"What about the patient?" his nurse asks.

"Forget about him. Grab the money. Let's go!"

She picks up the case containing the cash and follows Morrow out of the room. Leland drags me along with him. We exit the door closest to the plane. A helicopter buzzes us, a state trooper leaning out the side, yelling, "Throw down your weapons now!"

Morrow produces a gun from somewhere and fires at the chopper.


The doctor grabs me and pulls me in front of him as he whirls around to face Jim Ellison. He's at the corner of the building, his gun aimed at Morrow--at us. Morrow presses his weapon against my cheek. "Back off, or I'll kill her!" He fires at Jim and drags me toward the plane. The others are already inside. Shoving me through the door, Morrow shuts it as Leland begins to taxi down the runway.

I watch helplessly as Morrow yanks Cassie with him, and onto the plane. "Great! What are we going to do now?"

Jim's expression is determined. "Stay put."

"Jim, what are you….?" But he's gone before I can finish my question, sprinting toward the police helicopter, which is slowly descending. He leans in and says something to the pilot, then stands on the runner holding onto the door frame as it takes off.

Oh, God. What in the hell is he thinking? What is it about Jim and hanging off of helicopters? The pilot heads toward the taxiing plane, coming at him head on in a deadly game of chicken. I clench my fists, my nails biting into my palms as the chopper hovers over the moving plane. Jim crouches on the runner, then leaps.

He lands on top of the plane, falling to his stomach then sliding toward the wing and the whirling propellers. He manages to catch himself, then gets slowly to his feet and walks toward the tail of the plane. He leans against it, hanging on with one hand as he reaches out with the other to grab the rudder. Pulling it toward him, Jim shoves his gun in the hinge, keeping it from moving. The plane lurches, and begins to turn in a large circle.

Great, Jim, just great. They can't take off, and now you're stuck.

Through the cockpit window of the plane I can see the helicopter coming straight at us, and then it's gone. No sooner do I register that, then there's a loud thump on the roof that shakes the whole plane.

"What in the hell is going on?" Morrow yells at Leland.

"He's on the roof." Leland is trying to pick up enough speed to take off, but suddenly the plane lurches to the right. Morrow and Leland continue to yell at each other as he struggles to regain control of the plane.

Morrow's gun slips from where he'd been holding it against my side. Seeing my chance, I work the jar of sample dirt out of my pocket. Unscrewing the cap, I fling the contents into Morrow's eyes.

"Aaaahhh!" As his hands automatically go to his face, I grab for his gun and wrestle it away from him. Jamming it into Leland's neck, I scream, "Shut this thing down!"

He cuts the engine and the plane slowly comes to a halt. Before the propellers have even stopped turning, Ellison's opening the door, pointing his gun inside.

Climbing over Morrow, I get out first, still holding the gun on him. "Get out here, Doc. Come on! Hands up! Hands up!" I look over at Jim. "So, do we get frequent flier miles for this?"

He just grins at me, shaking his head in disbelief. "All right, let's get them out of here!"

Blair comes up to me as Morrow and his gang are led away. "Need some help?" he asks, gesturing at my still-bound hands.

"Yeah, thanks."

Producing a Swiss Army knife from his pocket, Blair carefully slices through the tape. Once it's gone, I rub my wrists, giving him a smile. "So, are all your cases this exciting?"

Blair laughs. "Funny you should say that. Let me tell you about the second case Jim and I worked. Ever hear of the Sunrise Patriots?"

Relief settles over me as we walk toward our vehicles. I think I'm going to fit right in here.

I'm stirring chili on the stovetop when the phone rings. I pick up the receiver and tuck it between my ear and my shoulder as I add more hot sauce to the pot. "Hello."

<"Hey, Bulldozer. Just calling to get the scoop on the big arrest you made. It's all over the news here." >

I feel a smile cross my face. "Hey, Carolyn, how are you doing?"

<"I'm fine, now spill it. Have you killed him yet?">

Laughing, I answer, "No, not yet. We were even sort of kinda getting along there at the end of it. Of course, tomorrow's another day."

<"So what happened with the case? They aren't saying much on the news, just that the guy had a sweet little identity swap service going.">

"Oh, he did, right under the nose of the local sheriff." I sigh. Poor Kelli. I hadn't known her very long, but I know she didn't deserve to die because she stuck to her principles. "We managed to close down their entire operation, and found computer files that listed the names and locations of all of their former clients--fourteen wanted criminals, including a mafia don and some junk bond king who embezzled millions. A nice, neat wrap up to what started out as a very muddled and confusing case."

<"Ah, yes, I know how you like to have all your ducks in a row when a case is over, unlike your personal life. Have you even unpacked all those boxes, or are they still sitting in the middle of the living room, like they did for six months after you moved before?">

"Well…they're not in the living room," I answer, thinking of the second bedroom I can barely walk through. There's a knock on the door. "Hey, Carolyn, I hate to cut this short, but there's someone at the door. Call you this weekend?"

<"Sure. Bye.">

Hanging up the phone, I open the door. Jim and Blair are standing there, both bearing wrapped boxes. "Guys, I told you you didn't need to bring anything."

Grinning, Blair shrugs. "It wouldn't be a house-warming party without gifts."

"Sandburg's right," Captain Banks' voice booms from the hallway. "You invited us to dinner, it's only appropriate we bring gifts." He waves a six pack of beer at me, and I smile.

"Come on in. Just stick that in the fridge, Captain." No soon have I closed the door than I'm opening it again to the people from my staff--Serena, Sam, Howard and Sharon.

As my apartment fills up with people from the station, food and drink are consumed, and it looks like everyone's having a good time. I find myself standing in the corner of my kitchen, a beer in hand, thinking that maybe things will be okay here. Maybe I've finally found my place. Blair catches my eye, and he gives me a thumbs-up and a wink. And I know if it's not where I belong, it's damn close, and tonight, that's good enough.

~~~~~The End ~~~~~

Act IV