Act II

Dennis Murphy paced the firing range. He had finished target practice and was waiting for Ellison to show up. He had agreed to an interview, but he was having second thoughts. He was terrified that they would find out about his part in Patrick's death. He loved his friend. Ellison would ask questions about Patrick, and he had no idea how he could answer them. He was just realizing the courage it had taken Patrick to talk to him. He didn’t think he had that kind of courage. He didn’t know how he was going to handle the meeting

Jim regretted having to speak to Murphy so soon after losing his partner. He approached the agitated man, noting the rapid heartbeat and the acrid stench of sweat. Jim had his owns fears about losing Blair. He had come too close to it in the past. Jim shook himself out of those thoughts; he had the present to think of. "I'm Jim Ellison." He pointed to Blair who had moved up beside him. "This is Blair Sandburg, a consultant to Major Crimes."

Murphy noticed how close the two men stood together. He rubbed arm absentmindedly. He and Patrick had the same closeness. They had bumped shoulders frequently while working, and now he had to learn to live without it. He didn‘t know if he would ever get through this. "I've been expecting you." Murphy took a deep breath to clear his mind. "Anything that you want to know, Ellison, I'll do my best to tell you. Patrick was my partner for several years, and I want to find the bastard that did this to him."

Blair shifted towards Jim and the answering nudge calmed him. Death was hard to deal with, but Blair knew it could happen anytime, especially in Jim’s line of work Blair met Jim's eyes and offered a grim smile. Together, they would help out Murphy.

Jim nodded as he answered Murphy, "Do you know why he was in Little Havana last night on that building? Were you working on any cases that would put him there?"

"We had no open cases that were even close to that location. The strange thing this is that he never told me he was going there. That's something you always tell your partner. They are your back-up after all."

Dennis had heard stories about the pair before him, and knew they were a well-oiled machine. He and Pat had been like that after being partnered. Dennis felt his eyes water; he didn't want to be reminded of what he had lost.

Jim felt Blair's body heat, and knew exactly what Murphy was talking about. Blair was always there to count on. No matter what. "How about someone who might have held a grudge against him? An ex-con? Anything going on in his life?"

Murphy knew that if this continued much longer he wouldn't be able to hold himself together. He needed to throw Ellison off the track. "Come on, Ellison. We both know what this is about, right? Everybody does. This is payback for Mendola."

Jim had read the case files earlier, so he was familiar with the details. "You and Donoghue were his arresting officers on the case two months before Mendola was shot."

Murphy warmed up to his charade. "Why do you think Patrick was killed? That collar was legitimate. Mendola had a nickel bag on him. So, what happens next? He gets off on bail, somebody whacks him, and everybody in Little Havana thinks that we did it. Personally, I would look more closely at the community…."

Blair heard Naomi's voice in his head lecturing him about ‘The Establishment.’ "You don't know that. Everything about the case suggests that it was…"

Murphy glared at the young man. The last thing he needed was to have the kid put ideas in Ellison's head. "You have no idea what the hell you're talking about! You're what, a ‘consultant?’ Walk in our shoes for a while,” he sneered. He watched Blair cringe but noticed that he stood his ground. This boy could cause him trouble later on.

Jim clenched his hands into fists. Murphy had no right to yell at his partner. The guy was grieving, but Blair deserved better. "That's enough, Murphy," Jim stepped between the two men. "We know what it's like, and we know that you just lost your partner."

Murphy was close to tears, and he knew it. He missed Patrick so much. "I'm sorry. It's just that he was a good man. He didn't deserve this." Especially from his partner, thought Murphy to himself.

Jim heard Murphy‘s voice crack with emotion and cut him some slack. He would ignore it this time. Partners were special, and they both knew it. "We are going to catch the scumbag who did this. Donoghue was one of us." Jim settled his hand on Blair's shoulder to include him in on the sentiment, and Blair smiled in return. “Let us know if you think of anything else,” said Jim as he guided Blair from the room.

Murphy watched the by-play between the two men as they left and felt the phantom pain from where Patrick had been cut away. The way he was feeling, he could almost welcome being found out.

Cortez watched his hired cop shaking and sweating in front of him. The sight amused him. He had known that Donoghue was ready to leave the organization. It was ironic that the man who brought Donoghue in helped him exit. "You did what you had to do, Murphy. Your partner was going to leave our happy family. You saw a problem and dealt with it. You should be happy."

Murphy heard Cortez stress 'partner' and the blood rushed into his face. Cortez didn't know what it was like to have a partner. How could he understand what this had done to him? "It's so easy for you, isn't it? I killed a cop. Do you have any idea what that means? This isn't Mendola that we're talking about. The department is going to turn this town upside down until they make an arrest."

Cortez leaned back in his seat and took a drink from his glass. He wasn't worried about retribution. He had the community under wraps, and they wouldn't dare expose him. "Don't worry so much about what the community will say. They know when to keep their mouths shut. Besides, what do I have to worry about? I haven’t shot anybody lately.”

Murphy blurted out before he could stop himself, "God will always know. You can't fool God. God sees everything." When his gun had jammed earlier, it proved that to him. Guns didn’t fire for no reason. God was watching.

Cortez sat forward in his seat. He had wondered if this would happen. Now he knew. The man was losing his nerve, and he would have to use Murphy as quickly as he could before putting him down. Reining in his temper, he replied, "You've got too much to lose, Murphy. You got your kids in private school. You got all your girlfriends. You like the good life. Just focus on your job and nothing else."

Dennis’ saw his mortality in the Cuban’s cold eyes. He had sacrificed his morals and his livelihood for money. He needed to remember who held his life in his hands. "There was a woman there when Patrick died. A witness." Murphy looked down and prayed for forgiveness for damning another person.

Cortez perked up at the news. "Do you know who she was?"

Dennis finished off his drink in one large swallow. "I think she saw everything, but I'm not sure who she was."

Cortez took another sip from his glass. Murphy could take care of the woman before he was eliminated. Cortez would not allow the cop become a liability. "If she's in the area, she won't be hard to find. I want you to track her down. I don't want her to become a problem."

With nothing left to give, Murphy responded. "Why don't we just leave it alone? If she was going to come forward, she would have done it by now."

"We can't take that chance. You've got to take care of your unfinished business. We don't want another liability, do we?" Cortez saw the fear in the cop's eyes and knew that at least this much would be done.

Jim and Blair had finished reporting in to Simon when they headed out to talk to Cortez. They arrived at the Cuban club and left the truck to go in. A Cubano stopped the two men at the entrance.

Jim eyed the large man facing him and felt Blair at his back. "Aren't you going to let us in? I thought the purpose of a club was to have customers?" The bouncer kept his eyes forward and didn't respond. Jim sighed, "We are going to have some co-operation, are we?"

Rico crossed his arms and turned his attention to the pair before him. “This is a private club. Members only.” He smiled, daring the white man to contest his decision.

Jim smiled back and flashed his badge. “I have a ‘get in free’ card. I’m here to see Mr. Cortez. Why don’t you let me in like a good little boy?” If this idiot wanted to play intimidation games, Jim was more than happy to oblige.

Rico glared at the cop who dared ignore him. Puffing up his chest, he took a step into the cop's personal space, "He doesn’t have time for you. Senor Cortez is a very busy man.” The bodyguard knew he had to make this count. Cortez was a hard man and only allowed one mistake. He would be watching.

Jim ignored the silent threat, “That’s exactly why we’re here. He’s been such a busy man.”

Blair watched the two men verbally fighting it out. He swallowed against a dry throat and wondered if this was becoming another example of a ‘Mexican standoff.’ “Hey, Jim, why don’t we come back some other time, huh?”

Jim ignored Blair's advice and replied, “I’m double parked, Chief.” Glaring at the mountain in front of him, Jim growled out, “Do I need a tow truck to get you out of here?”

Rico was beginning to get angry. This guy had no clue what he was getting himself into. “You really want me to take you down, don’t you?”

Cortez had been sitting at his usual table in the back corner of the restaurant when the cop had entered. Cortez didn’t want more problems cropping up if he was seen refuse to answer questions. He hadn’t gotten where he was through stupidity. “Let him through, Rico. I’ll take care of this.”

Jim stalked forward to face the snake in its hole. That slithering bastard would pay for what he did; Jim would just have to make him talk. Jim noted how confident the Cuban crime boss was, and it made him angrier. Cortez shirt was half unbuttoned, and he was leaning back in his chair. He was a good-looking man, but that was the nature of the beast, hiding behind their beauty to catch people unaware.

When the cop moved forward, a smaller man came into Cortez’s view Not wanting to perform for an audience of two, he called out, “I’ll only speak to you, Detective.” The pair paused. “Your partner can sit down at the bar. My cook is very good at what he does, and can keep him company.”

Jim motioned for Blair to comply. Knowing Cortez’s reputation, he wanted Blair far away from the man. Blair nodded his head and headed to the bar.

“I…I could eat.” Blair said as the two men went to a quiet corner. There were moments he wished he had sentinel hearing.

Jim followed Cortez into the back of the room and sat down after Cortez did. Wanting to get the encounter over as quickly as possible, he started in. “I’m here investigating the murder of a vice squad cop named Patrick Donoghue. He worked in this vicinity. Did you know him?”

“Not personally. I've seen him around the neighborhood. I do offer my condolences though.”

Jim suppressed the urge to beat Cortez into telling the truth. “I’ll be sure to pass that along to his widow.”

Cortez remained calm and sighed, “I don’t know what you want from me, Detective.”

Jim leaned forward in his seat. “Anything you know about the incident." Jim leaned back in his seat and smiled. "I doubt anything goes on in this neighborhood without you knowing about it.”

Cortez laughed to himself over the cop's technique. The cop would just have to keep trying to break him. “Oh, come on. You’re giving me way too much credit.”

Hoping to throw Cortez by changing topics, Jim asked, “What about Jorge Mendola? You know who killed him?”

Cortez smiled. He was having no trouble handling this detective. “I heard it was a cop.” Cortez shrugged. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Jim knew when he was beating a dead horse and stood up to leave. “Why don’t you think about that for a while, all right?”

“You know, Detective,” Cortez replied, “In Cuba, I was tortured by Castro’s revolutionaries. Intimidation has very little effect on me.”

Jim turned back to the table and was stone-faced. “I’ve learned by my experience in Covert Ops that any man that’s got to tell you that," Jim shrugged, "well, he’s usually scared to death. If I were you, I’d keep Rico sharp, because the next time I come back here, it’s not going to be a social visit.” Jim turned back towards the door and tapped Blair’s shoulder on the way out. “Let’s go, Chief.”

Blair grabbed the bag containing his food and followed Jim. From the stiff posture and straight face, Jim was not in a good mood. Blair sighed; his speech on community etiquette was being ignored. The pair left the restaurant, and Blair decided to let Jim make the first move.

Jim was fuming. Cortez was too calm and secure in his position. He would sooner admit to being a woman than he would to being involved in murder. Taking his anger out on the only available source, he pointed to the bag in Blair’s hand. “What’s that? A Cuban happy meal?”

Blair knew that Jim could be a hard ass, but this was above and beyond. “I had to take it. If I didn’t, it would have been an insult.”

“We wouldn’t want you to offend Cortez, now, would we?” Jim said sarcastically.

Blair glared at Jim. Jim might be frustrated he couldn‘t get anything from Cortez, but Blair was not going to be his whipping boy. “Cut the attitude, Jim. It would have insulted the cook. You know me better than that. What were you able to tell from Cortez?”

Jim suppressed his rage. He had no right taking his anger out on Blair. “Sorry, Sandburg. I can smell his satisfaction at withholding information. He knows, but he isn’t going to incriminate himself. This is just such a.…” Jim trailed off as his nose picked up a familiar scent.

“What is it, Jim?” Blair asked, recognizing Jim had entered Sentinel mode.

“That fragrance from the scarf -- I’m smelling it again.”

“The verbena?” Blair placed his free hand on Jim's arm to center him. "Can you track it?"

“Yeah.” Jim scanned the street around them. The scent was already fading by the time he reached the roadside. “Sorry, Chief. It has already dissipated.” Jim’s cell phone rang. He answered it and listened to the speaker. “Okay, Simon. We’re coming in.” He turned to Blair. “That was Simon. He has an update on the case. Let’s go.”

Jim and Blair arrived at the station and went directly to Simon’s office. “We have some new information about the case. It’s being kept quiet, so I don’t want this spread around.”

Simon sat on the edge of his desk and faced the two men who stood in front of him. “I got a call from IA this morning. They're investigating vice cops who may be in Cortez’s pocket. Donoghue’s name was on the list. Now, if cops are on the take, it could be why Mendola was killed.”

Things started clicking together in Blair’s head. “That would tie Donoghue up into this, why he was killed. Maybe this was just too much for him. He had two little girls and a baby on the way. Maybe Cortez was expecting too much from him.”

“That’s why I want this top priority. I want to find out who killed Donoghue. I want to know if this is connected in with Mendola.” Simon rose and went to his seat. “Now go out and find me some results gentlemen.”

Jim motioned for Blair to follow him from the room. “Yes, sir. Let’s go, Chief.”

Simon was ready to sit down when he remembered something and stopped the two from leaving. “By the way, I got a call from your friend, Cortez. It appears that he’s filed charges for police harassment.”

Blair was amazed. Jim hadn’t even touch the guy. “What? Oh, come on. I was there Simon. We both know Jim can be aggressive, but he was on his best behavior.”

“Save it, Sandburg.” Simon was interrupted when Rhonda’s voice came over the intercom

“Captain Banks? Ms. Santiago is here to see you.”

“All right, I'll be right out.” To Jim and Blair he said, “Just sit down while I get our visitor. It appears that things are escalating in Little Havana, and the mayor has asked us to work with a community affairs liaison -- her name is Corinne Santiago.” Simon moved around the duo to the door.

Jim jumped forward. “Simon, we can handle….”

Simon stopped him by quickly raising his palm. “As Daryl would say, talk to the hand.” Simon opened his office door and stepped into the outer office.

Jim smelled a familiar scent enter the room. Simon’s voice then distracted him. “Ms. Santiago, I'm Captain Banks. Would you like to step in, please?” Jim watched as a beautiful Cuban woman walked in, her perfume drifting through the air, nearly overpowering the sentinel.

It was verbena.

Act I