Act IV

Jim brought Corinne and Blair back to the loft, and arranged to have a car outside watching them. He didn’t want to take a chance with either of their lives, and he was glad that, for once, Blair didn’t fight it. It was time to return to Major Crimes and check in with Simon.

Simon sat behind his desk. “Where’s your other half, Jim?”

“I left him at the loft with Corinne. A couple of uniforms are guarding them there.”

Simon acknowledged the information, “That takes care of protecting her, but we still don't know why Donoghue was killed.”

Jim sat down on the corner of Simon’s desk. “Let's say Mendola's claim of police corruption is true. Donoghue and Murphy were the arresting officers, and later Mendola was found dead in an alley. I think Donoghue was involved in the murder. Something went wrong, a change of heart, so he was murdered.”

“That's a lot of supposition, Jim. Can you back that up with any proof?”

“You think these were all coincidences?” Jim asked, rising from the desk. “The whole community is afraid of and hates cops. If the police were at all worth their reputation, we would have some support there. You told us earlier that IA was investigating Donoghue. If he were dirty, how far would he go? Also, most off duty cops aren’t pushed through skylights for no reason. He doesn’t even live in that section of town. ”

Simon took a sip from his coffee and thought about what Jim said. “All right, so now we come to the big question. Who killed him?”

“I don't know, Simon. Who could lure him up to that roof? It would have to be someone he trusted." Jim looked Simon in the eye, “His partner, perhaps? If I was in that situation, you know Blair would have to be the one to get me there. I wouldn’t trust anyone else.”

Simon was tired. Not only did they have to deal with the death of a cop, but there was the possibility another cop did the deed. “It does seem to be the only thing that fits.” Simon removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “God, Jim, I hope you're wrong.”

Jim walked to the office door and stopped before leaving. “Yeah. Me, too.”

At the loft, Blair prepared some tea for Corinne and himself. He felt safe with the cops outside, but he wished Jim were there; Jim would be able to hear anything coming at them. Right now though, he had to concentrate on getting Corinne to open up. "How long have you been in America?”

Corinne took a sip of her tea and set the cup down on the table. “I was ten when I left Cuba, and already a priestess. When I came to America, it was Iya who took me under her wing.”

Blair moved close to the couch. “That’s pretty young to have that kind of responsibility. Its good that you had someone to watch over you.”

“Cuba was a rough place, Blair. Kids grow up real fast because they have to. My grandmother taught me what she knew.”

Blair sat next to Corinne. “My mom and I moved around a lot until I was sixteen. Between always being in a new place and my mom meeting new people, I had to learn to depend on myself. That’s all I had.”

“Growing up is always difficult. When one is gifted, their ability tends to stay erratic until they meet their anchor.” Corinne took another drink. She peered over the cup’s rim and asked, “Is Detective Ellison yours?”

Blair jumped slightly in surprise. He had always felt safe with Jim. But why would she think that they were connected? "Jim? My anchor?”

Corinne set her cup back down and took Blair’s right hand in hers. “I can see the connection you two have. You’re a strong person by yourself, but I noticed tonight after you helped the people in the restaurant, that Detective Ellison made you stronger. You make a good team.”

Blair’s hand was warm from the contact of Corinne’s touch. “Recently I experienced an encounter with a shaman. I’ve felt more connected to Jim since then. Are your trances easy to achieve?”

Corrine leaned back into the couch cushions. “Under the right conditions, yes. It’s something that has to be prepared for. The gods demand certain rituals when you invite their presence.”

Blair decided that it was time to tell her the plan he had come up with. “If you went back into a trance, would Oshun tell us who the killer is?”

Corinne looked up in surprise. She hadn’t thought of doing such a thing. Something like that would expose her place in the religion, and wouldn’t help anyone. It wouldn’t be admissible in court. “No, I couldn't do that.”

Blair pressed on. “Why not? I would think that she’d want to help with this.”

Corrine rose from the couch and went to the balcony doors. She watched as dawn slowly lit up the sky. “This isn't some kind of illusion you do on demand, Blair. Oshun's got a mind of her own, and her own methods of punishment.”

Blair joined Corinne. “I'm sure that she does, and I view your beliefs with great respect. Oshun speaks through you, and I’m asking you to share your voice. I'm asking Oshun for help.”

Corinne ran her fingers down the glass of the balcony doors. “I understand what you want, Blair. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m not ready, and I don’t have Iya to help me anymore.”

Blair stepped forward. “Iya is one of the reasons we need you to help us. She died because of something Oshun saw. I can help you get ready. You just tell me what to do.”

Holding back her tears, Corinne whispered, “I’ll try for Iya. Oshun would help one of her children find justice.”

Blair smiled sadly. “I’ll call Jim and let him know what we plan. And Corinne?” Blair waited until Corinne looked at him. “We will protect you in this. We’ll find a way to use anything you give us, so that it doesn’t expose your place in Santeria.”

Corinne smiled and believed that they would do what they could. They had already helped her out, even though she had hidden the vital facts from them.

Blair went to the phone and called Jim.

Jim was working on his computer when his phone rang. It was Blair.

<Hey, Jim, Corrine and I are ready to go to the shop. Corinne has decided to call Oshun to help identify the killer.>

“That’s good, Blair," Jim answered, putting his hand over the mouthpiece. Simon walked up behind Jim. Jim turned to the Captain. “I have Blair on the line now, sir.”

Simon asked, “Is there a way you two can jog Ms. Santiago’s memory?”

Jim smiled and gave the thumbs up sign. “The wheels are in motion, Captain.”

“Good, “ Simon put on his sport coat and then headed home for the night.

<You still there, Jim?>

Jim returned his attention back to Blair. “Yeah, I’m still here. I want you to be careful going to the shop, Chief. We don't have surveillance on Cortez yet, so keep the uniforms with you until I can meet up with you.”

Jim hung up with his partner and read the email sent to him by a friend in Immigration. It seemed that Cortez had been practicing torture techniques before leaving Cuba. Now, he was gunning for Corinne, and Blair would be right in the middle of it.

Dennis waited across the street from the Botanica for the witness to appear. Ellison and his partner were protecting her at their place, and he wouldn’t attack them there; it would be a death sentence. He had found out the woman spent a lot of time at the shop, and he was relying on her return.

It was still early morning when his prayers were answered. His object of pursuit had arrived. Ellison’s buddy was with her, but Ellison was nowhere to be seen. There were two officers, but Murphy could handle them. Murphy retrieved his cell phone and made a call. “The woman has just shown up, Cortez.”

<You’re lucky you were right. Wait there for me.>

The last thing Dennis needed was for Cortez to second-guess him. It was enough that he had to work for him; Cortez held too many cards that could disrupt his life and freedom. “I can take care of this, Cortez. Why do you need to waste your time coming down?”

<Because you’ve already screwed up twice. This time, there will be no mistakes.>

Murphy swallowed when he heard the click of the phone line. His time was short. He just hadn’t been able to function since Donoghue died. He missed the time they spent together going over cases. He longed for those boring stakeouts where they discussed everything and anything. He promised himself that if he survived this day, he would get out of Cascade. He had burned all his bridges the day Patrick died.

Blair and Corrine were unaware of the danger lying in wait for them at the botanica. Between the two of them, they lit candles in the four-corners of the room. Corrine spread incense to recreate the smell of the Bembe. Blair started a tape that consisted of drumming, which had been recorded at a previous Bembe. Corinne covered her head with a scarf and began to dance.

Jim left the precinct to question Cortez again. It would keep Jim away from Blair longer, but he hoped he could end this before it started.

Jim pulled the truck up to a space in the next block and stopped to survey the restaurant. Rico going to the back of the building and Jim followed him. It was time for a question and answer session with Cortez’s muscle man.

When Rico opened the back door, Jim rushed forward and shoved him through. To keep the conversation private, Jim sought a quiet place. Spying a restroom, he propelled him towards the door. Jim growled in Rico’s ear, “You know, I think it’s time you and I had an understanding, huh?”

Rico fell forward when he was hit from behind. He struggled against Ellison’s weight but couldn’t shake him off. “Get off me!” Rico shouted.

Jim pressed the man harder into the restroom wall. “You might want to think about that, Slick. “Do you think that Cortez cares about you? He’s going to save his own ass first. And he is going down. Do you want to join him?”

Rico was off center and couldn’t regain his balance. How had the cop he had clashed with earlier gotten the best of him? He would pay though. No one messed with Rico, and no would mess with Cortez’s plans. “There’s nothing you can do to me, cop. You can’t scare me, and you won’t kill me.” Rico reached back to flip the detective down.

Jim felt the attempt to grab him and forced Rico’s arm behind his back. Jim tightened his hold and brought his opponent to his knees. The man cried out in pain. “This is little Havana. Cops off people here every day. Now, there’s one way out of here. You’re going to give me all the dirt on your boss that I need before I have to do anything drastic.”

Rico grunted as his arm was pulled back further. He arched his back to relieve the pressure, but the cop had him pinned. As much as he feared Cortez, he was more afraid of the detective. He was jerked from this thought by a harsh voice.

“Come on. Spill it.” Jim felt his patience slipping.

Rico ground out against the pain, “Murphy killed Donoghue. When they killed Mendola, Donoghue couldn’t take it and was trying to pull out.”

Jim twisted the man’s arm further. “How does Cortez figure into it?”

“Murphy told Cortez what happened after Donoghue was killed. Cortez sanctioned the hit. He praised Murphy for taking the initiative.”

A chill went up Jim’s spine at the confirmation that one partner had killed another. Betraying your partner to save your own skin was heinous. He would betray himself before he would betray Blair. He knew Cortez was behind it. Jim ground his teeth together. Cops were supposed to support their partners, not kill them. “Where is he now? Where’s Cortez?”

Rico gasped again from the pain. “They know about the girl. They went to the Botanica to kill her.”

Visions of the kind of trouble Blair attracted chilled Jim to the very bone. Shit! Jim quickly cuffed Rico a pipe and raced back to his truck. He called Blair’s cell phone, but received voice mail instead. He called Simon next.

“We’ve got trouble, Simon. Murphy was responsible for Donoghue’s death. They know Corinne is their witness, and they are headed to the Botanica. I tried to call Sandburg, but he must have turned off his cell phone.”

<I copy that, Jim. I just got word that Murphy's alibi doesn't wash. He never went fishing like he said. I’ll raise the uniforms from this end.>

“Understood,” Jim responded. “Also, you might want to send a cruiser over to Cortez's club. There's someone in the men's room who wants to talk to you. He'll fill you in on the details.” Jim slammed his phone shut. He stuffed a handkerchief in Rico's mouth to keep him from calling for help. Stealthily sticking his head out the door, he checked for enemies. No one was around. He exited and locked the bathroom behind him.

Cortez made it to the rendezvous with Murphy across from the Botanica, unaware that there was a furious predator on his tail. He motioned his two bruisers forward, and they boxed Murphy in against a wall. Glaring at his employee, Cortez spoke, “This time it’s done the right way.” He pointed to his two bodyguards. “These men are here to make sure this operation runs smoothly. Remember that.”

The iciness in the Cuban’s voice washed over Murphy. A trail of sweat rolled down his back, and he was terrified. Cortez didn’t allow mistakes, and he had already made several. He would be eliminated at any sign of reluctance.

Cortez motioned them to precede him, and, sandwiched in by the other two, Murphy didn't have a choice in the matter. They approached from the side of the shop, and Murphy peeked around the corner. The two officers were talking, but they were also paying attention to the street around them.

Turning around to see what Cortez wanted to do, Dennis watched the two gunmen raise their guns and fire on the officers. Dennis jumped at the reports. He was tired of the killing. All he wanted to do was rest. If Cortez had his way, he would be on a permanent vacation. The crackling of a walkie-talkie split the air.

<Base to Unit 29, please respond.>

Cortez was at Murphy’s back, and he moved forward at his prodding. Things were spiraling out of his control, and Murphy wondered if he really would make it out alive. If he did, there would be no turning back, no way of redeeming himself.


Act V