by Kelly W.
Beta read by: Mary Shukes Brown and Gina Jones
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter

Rated PG
internal thought in italics
 


Prologue


Cascade First National Bank

Simon Banks shifted uncomfortably, his eyes fixed on the face of the bank loan officer. The man, with his beady eyes and pointed nose, looked like a weasel. He was definitely nervous, his eyes darting up to Simon's face, then back to the paperwork on his desk.

"Er, I'll be right back, Mr. Banks," he said, picking up the pile of papers and tucking them into a folder.

"That's Captain Banks," Simon growled. He closed his eyes and remembered that his loan depended on the good will of this man. He stretched his mouth into a smile. "That's quite all right, Mr. Thompson," he amended, trying to sound jovial. "Just…hurry back." He glanced at his watch, knowing that he was late for his meeting with the commissioner.

Drumming his fingers on the desk, he looked around the bank. Being that it was the downtown branch, it was fairly busy for early morning, with several tellers waiting on customers. Thompson was consulting with an attractive woman in a glassed-in office. Simon wondered why he couldn't have gotten her as his loan officer…she certainly would be easier to look at than the man he had ended up seeing.

Simon sighed. Surely this was a no-brainer--he was a successful police captain, with a healthy salary and no large debts. Well, there were the payments on the fishing cabin, but they hardly counted. Yes, alimony to Joan took up a portion of his salary, but with Daryl going to college next year, that bill would soon be reduced. Yes, there would be college expenses, but Daryl had earned a partial scholarship.

He looked around the bank again, noticing two young men walking into the lobby. He frowned, realizing that they were overdressed for such a warm day.

His eyes moved to Thompson as he exited the office, nodding at the woman. He walked back towards Simon, crossing in front of the row of tellers. The bank officer slipped into his chair with a nervous smile. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Captain Banks. I wanted the branch manager to go over this."

"Of course," Simon said, trying not to sound impatient. "So, do I get the mortgage?"

Thompson fiddled with his pen, looking everywhere but at the tall man sitting in front of him. He swallowed hard and licked his thin lips. "Well, that depends."

"On what?"

"Er…your co-signer," Thompson said, wincing.

Simon scowled. "Mr. Thompson, I have been a city employee for the past fifteen years. What do you mean a co-signer? I mean, you've seen my portfolio. Are you telling me that a captain's salary isn't enough?"

Thompson wouldn't meet his eyes. "Well, with your outstanding debts and child support, we feel that you might have a…hard time," his hands went up in the air, making imaginary quotation marks around the words, "making the mortgage payments."

Simon's eyebrows went up as he looked down at the man sitting in front of him. "Outstanding debts?" he said slowly, his voice full of disbelief.

The bank officer nodded. "Outstanding debts," he repeated nervously. At Simon's glare, he cleared his throat. "Uh, if you get a co-signer to agree to indemnify the bank in the event that you were to…default…" Simon scowl grew deeper as the quotation marks were drawn in the air again. "...we would reconsider." Thompson straightened, looking indignant. "I mean, you must understand the bank's position on this. We can't be responsible for your debts. But we still want your business, and we will endeavor to do anything possible…"

With a sigh, Simon tuned out the little man, turning away from him and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Surely they couldn't…but they could, couldn't they? Maybe it was time to visit another bank. This office was convenient, being so close to police headquarters, but obviously they weren't very flexible. His eyes roamed over the crowded lobby as he considered his options. He stopped, narrowing his eyes as he saw that both the young men he had noticed earlier were talking to tellers. Tellers who were wide-eyed with terror and shaking. The first young woman seemed to be nervous as she handed something to the man in front of her; the second was repeating something over and over, her hands shaking badly. The blond man in front of her was shifting nervously from side to side, his gaze darting around at the other customers. Simon knew he was watching a robbery in progress.

Why couldn't a trip to the bank be just another day?

Turning to Thompson, Simon kept his voice low. It wouldn't do to panic the nervous little man. "Do you have a silent alarm here at your desk?"

Thompson looked confused. "What?"

Cursing under his breath, Simon repeated "A silent alarm. Do you have one here?"

"Yes." The bank officer's eyes were wide; he bit his mustache and looked like he thought the police captain in front of him was going to attack.

"Use it," Simon advised. "Your bank is being robbed."

Looking like he was going to choke, Thompson reached under his desk. Simon ignored him, fixing his attention on the two young men. The man in the baseball cap was all packed up, waiting for his cohort. Even from across the room, Simon could tell that the young teller was crying, her whole body shaking now. The nervous second robber was getting impatient; finally, he pulled the gun out of his pocket, brandishing it for the young woman.

"Oh my God!" the teller screamed. "He's got a gun! He's got a gun!" she repeated her words hysterically.

Simon stayed in his seat, his eyes darting around the lobby. His heart sank as he noticed the elderly bank guard looking up from his newspaper. If only…but the bank guard jumped to his feet, pulling out his own weapon. Simon watched tensely as the robber with the cap grabbed an older woman and held his gun to her neck, using her as a shield.

"Put it down, now!" the first man shouted, "Now!"

Beside him, Thompson hissed, "Do something!"

Simon stayed in position. "I can't," he answered, knowing that if he stood up now, the young robbers would overreact and people would die. "It's too dangerous."

Across the room, the first robber stared at the bank guard. "I said, put it down." His voice was low and deadly. The bank guard looked at the woman being used as a shield and placed his gun on the floor.

"Kick it over here."

The guard followed orders, kicking the gun towards the younger man.

"Please do something," Thompson begged, clearly expecting Simon to jump up and do the impossible.

"Will you just stay calm?" Simon hissed, wishing the man would keep his voice down. If he could get the men out of the bank, everything would work out. "Try not to tell them I’m a cop."

The first robber started moving towards the bank doors. He stopped as he saw the red light flashing at the guard's station. "Let's get out of here, man!" he called to his companion, still by the teller's counter. Pushing his human shield away, he ran out the front door. The second robber was about to follow when everyone in the bank heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt. Simon tensed as the tires were followed by gunshots.

The blond robber still inside the bank flinched, then raised his gun and pointed at the ceiling. He fired two shots, then turned it on the crowd. "Everybody get down on the floor!" he shouted. "Let's go! DO it!"

There were screams and cries from the crowd as everyone fell to the floor, most covering their heads with their hands. The woman who had been used as a shield was crying. Simon joined the crowd, lowering himself to the floor, watching for an opportunity.

"Nobody move!" the young man shouted. He surveyed the crowd, making sure he was in control. Moving swiftly, he picked his way through the crowd to the door. If he went out, everyone inside would be safe. Simon watched, feeling guardedly optimistic. He had confidence in the Cascade PD to do the right thing once the man wasn't an immediate danger to civilians. He frowned as he noticed the guard moving. The older man's creeping fingers were reaching toward his ankle.

"No, no, no," Simon muttered, tensing again. "Don't do it."

He watched with dismay as the blond robber noticed as well, and pointed his gun at the guard. "I said nobody move!" His finger tensed on the trigger.

"No!" Simon shouted. He had to move now. Crossing the floor in two quick steps, he pivoted and swept one long leg under the young man, knocking him to the floor. The robber's gun went off, but it didn't hit the guard. Simon hit the floor hard beside the young man, his breath leaving him at the impact. He watched as the robber grabbed the gun and scrambled to his feet, running out of the bank without a backwards glance.

As Simon inhaled, trying to get air back into his lungs, an impersonal voice came through a police bullhorn. <Put your gun down. You're surrounded. Face down on the sidewalk.>

Simon thought he recognized the voice. Knowing the situation outside was under control, the captain pushed himself to his feet. He now had air, but…something…didn't…feel right. He looked down, seeing something red, wet and sticky seeping through his shirt. "Oh, shit." He placed one hand on the wound. Too much blood….it was bad. "This...is really... not my day," he gasped.

The first two uniformed officers into the bank came in just in time to see Major Crime's captain fall backwards, unconscious, clutching his side.
 


Act I


Cascade Hospital

"Jim!" Blair Sandburg stood in front of his partner, one hand resting on his friend's arm, trying to catch his attention. "Jim!"

Jim Ellison blinked, and turned his attention back to Blair. "He's in ICU."

Blair followed his partner's gaze to the medical charts on the wall behind the nursing station. His normal eyesight couldn't even identify the names of the patients, but with his sentinel sight, Jim could read the entire chart. "So he's okay?"

Narrowing his eyes, Jim squinted at the chart, trying to decipher the doctor's handwriting. "He'll have to spend a few days in the hospital to make sure they took care of all the infection. Looks like the bullet just nicked his liver, but missed everything else," Jim translated. Blair took it all in, wide-eyed. The tall man smiled with sudden relief. "He's going to be fine."

Blair grinned. "Great. I knew Simon was just too ornery to let anything as small as a bullet take him down. So…when can we see him?"

"ICU, Chief," Ellison reminded him. "Immediate family only."

"Don't you want to see him though? Just to check?" Blair asked encouragingly. He rocked back on his heels and looked up at his friend with pleading eyes.

Not that the detective needed to be pushed too hard. Jim sighed. "Well, yeah."

"Daryl wouldn't mind. Simon would want us there. So, what's stopping us?"

With a shrug, Jim led the way through bustling corridors toward the ICU. Several nurses and an intern gave them sidelong glances, but no one questioned their right to be there. Jim's hand was actually on the handle, when a voice stopped him.

"Exactly what do you think you're doing?" The two men turned to see a stout woman in a starched white lab coat glaring at them. Grey hair escaped a braid to curl in tendrils around her face. Her nametag identified her as 'Lily Jansen, RPN'. "No one is allowed in ICU but immediate family and medical personnel."

"We're Simon's….uh, brothers," Jim replied.

Blair rolled his eyes at the very bad lie. "Half-brothers," he amended, trying to salvage the situation, "Same father, different mothers." Blair smiled at the woman, blue eyes sparkling. "We have to be at work in fifteen minutes, so we won't stay long. We'll just go in and check on him."

"Immediate family," the nurse repeated, pointing to a sign reading 'Authorized personnel only.' "You don't look like Captain Banks, and I don't have any brothers listed on my visitors' sheet. Do I have to call the police?"

"Ma'am, we are the police," Jim said, recovering. He pulled his badge out and flashed it in her direction. "I'm Detective Jim Ellison; this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. Simon is our captain." He smiled too; his obfuscation abilities might not be as good as Sandburg's, but he could turn on the charm too. "We'll just be a minute."

"No, Detective, you won't," Nurse Jansen said firmly. "I don't care if you're the police, I wouldn't care if you were the president. Immediate family means immediate family. Your friend will be in a regular room in a couple hours. Visiting hours are from eight to ten. You can come back then." She motioned to two interns standing over near the desk. "Will you escort these gentlemen to the nearest exit?"

"That won't be necessary," Jim said stiffly. Pulling Blair after him, they turned their backs on the nurse and walked away.

Blair grabbed his sleeve as they walked down the corridor. "We're not giving up that easily, are we?" he whispered.

"We're sort of out of options, Sandburg," Jim growled.

"No, man," Blair disagreed. "I've done this before. Come on, I have a plan."

Ten minutes later, two men dressed in slightly soiled white lab coats left the laundry and walked down the ICU hallway. Lily Jansen, RPN, had her back turned, bent over some forms at the desk. The taller man held open the door of room 09 as the shorter one slipped under his arm.

Inside, Simon lay on the bed, looking pale. He murmured something as they approached him, his head moving restlessly from side to side. Jim couldn't quite make it out, but he caught Daryl's name and something about money.

"Simon?" Blair asked softly, staring down at the man. He turned to Jim. "He's really looking out of it."

Jim nodded in agreement, reaching out to touch his captain's shoulder, reassuring himself he was alive. "Hey, Simon. We came to check on you."

Behind them, the door opened.

Simon's eyes opened slightly, but passed over them, focusing on the figure in the open doorway. "Daryl?" he asked, his speech slurred. "That you?"

"Daryl will be here soon," Nurse Jensen said soothingly. "You'll see him in just a minute." She turned to the two men standing sheepishly near the bed. In the same tone, but with her eyes snapping fire, she told them "If you're not out of here in five minutes, I will have you arrested…And I don't care who you are!"


Major Crimes

The elevator doors opened, revealing Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg as they exited the elevator. Blair's hands were weaving through the air; Jim was trying to keep a straight face as they headed for the doors of Major Crimes.

"Just don't say anything, Chief," Jim warned.

"It wasn't my fault!" Blair protested immediately. "I don't know what you're complaining about; we saw him, didn't we?" He frowned as Jim shook his head.

Joel and Rafe joined the two men as they reached the bullpen door. "Hey guys," Joel greeted them, as Rafe held the door open. "How's Simon?"

Jim sighed. "Still totally out of it. They've got him all doped up. We didn't see him for very long."

Blair nodded eagerly. "Yeah, they're only letting immediate family in, so we had to sneak in to actually see him."

Poking his partner in the ribs, Jim shook his head warningly. "We didn't really sneak in. We just didn't tell anybody we were there."

Blair chuckled. "Oh, we so snuck in." He added with relish, "and that's why we almost got arrested."

Joel's eyebrows went up. "Arrested?"

"Nah," Jim denied.

"Yeah," Blair said at the same time.

Rafe shook his head. "Hospital security's a joke. But I bet if our new fearless leader was in charge that would be fixed too."

"What?" Jim asked, not sure he had heard correctly. Major Crimes was one of the most self-sufficient departments in the PD. As far as he was concerned, they were perfectly capable of handling Simon's time away by themselves.

Joel shrugged. "Since Simon's out of commission for at least three weeks, they assigned us a substitute." He pointed with his chin towards Simon's office. The blinds that were usually lowered were open wide; inside, a slender woman with wavy dark hair was rearranging the leaves of a large potted plant on a filing cabinet. She smiled as she moved around the room attending to the plants and cut flower arrangements surrounding her. The men watched for a moment in silence. Jim frowned.

"She's already laid on all kinds of new rules and regulations," Rafe mourned.

"Yeah, get this," Joel announced. "Starting this afternoon, all detectives must wear a tie and jacket on duty."

Rafe, who was rarely seen out of a tie and jacket, scowled. "Yeah. And if you don't, you get sent home to change. H is threatening to call in sick until the captain is back."

"Right," Jim drawled, staring at the woman. He turned to Joel. "Why weren't you assigned as substitute? You're a captain, and you know this department."

Joel shrugged again, helplessly. "Bureaucracy? Bad timing? I have no idea, Jim. Maybe it has something to do with just getting my transfer approved to Major Crimes." The woman looked out her window at the four men standing talking in the middle of the bullpen. She frowned. "Time to get back to work," Joel said, moving away from the group. "Be careful, Jim." He and Rafe sat at their desks and pulled out some paperwork.

Jim headed over to his desk and sat. Blair followed, raising his eyebrows as he watched his friend open a drawer and pull out a small ball. "I wonder if she's going to be giving out spankings?" The detective put his feet up on the desk and started bouncing the ball against the wall.

Blair looked from the recalcitrant detective to the office, where the substitute captain was standing, studying Jim. He followed her gaze back to his partner and chuckled as he recognized the attitude. "Ooh, yeah. This is going to be fun." He wondered if he should duck now.

"Look, she's just a sub, right?" Jim pulled out a baseball cap and put it firmly on his head.

Blair, who'd been a substitute enough times to identify the warning signs of someone with no intention of recognizing authority, nodded. "Yeah. So, what do you want to do? Start throwing spitballs and paper airplanes at her?"

Jim nodded thoughtfully. "Not a bad idea." He tossed the ball against the wall a couple more times, obviously plotting. The phone rang and he picked it up. "Ellison." He listened for a moment, his eyes going to Simon's office, where the new captain sat, also on the phone. "We'll be right in, Captain." Hanging up, he stood. "Come on Chief, let's go."

Blair made a face. "Here we go." He trailed after Jim, wondering if the new captain knew what she was letting herself in for.

Jim rapped once on the door. "Come in," a voice called out immediately. Jim opened the door and led his partner in. They stood just inside the doorway.

"You wanted to see me?" Jim asked. Blair rolled his eyes at the challenge implicit in the detectives' tone. "Uh…uh...a-choo!" An explosive sneeze burst out of the detective. Blair flinched and stepped away.

One of the new captain's perfectly curved eyebrows went up. "God bless you."

Jim wiped at his nose. "Excuse me." He sniffed, the heavy scent of flowers filling his over-taxed lungs. "I think it's the flowers."

"He's allergic," Blair added quickly.

The woman looked at him, then back at Ellison. Her eyes were guarded as she responded. "I'm sorry. I just thought I'd brighten the place up a bit. I'm Captain Finkelman."

Feeling ridiculous, since the woman obviously knew who they were, Jim nevertheless introduced himself. "I'm Jim Ellison." He gestured toward his partner. "This is Blair Sandburg."

"Hey, how you doing?" Blair asked his usual buoyancy repressed.

Finkelman inclined her head graciously. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Sandburg. I've heard a lot of good things about you."

Blair brightened. "Really? Thanks!"

Finkelman nodded, then turned to Jim, ignoring the observer as if he wasn't even present. "I'm pulling his ride-along authorization," she said briskly. "Effective immediately."

"What?" Blair protested, his panicked gaze going from the new captain to Jim. "You can't!"

Jim chuckled. "Relax, Chief. It's not gonna happen."

Ignoring the attitude, Finkelman breezed back to her desk, picking up a folder on the way. "As you know, Captain Taggart has recently transferred back to the detective squad. He'll need someone to reacquaint him with proper procedure."

"That's terrific. He can ride along with the both of us."

"Yeah!" Blair chimed in. He glanced over, worrying slightly at the challenge in his friend's voice. Surely they needed to be diplomatic rather than confrontational? After all, Simon would be able to reverse anything this woman did, wouldn't he?

Finkelman's voice became cold. "Mr. Sandburg…wait outside, please."

Blair glanced at Jim again for reassurance, not taking any from the set jaw and stony glare. "No, no, no…you don't understand," he said, earnestly willing the woman to get it. "See, Jim and I have this partnership and I haven't even finished my thesis yet."

"Mr. Sandburg," the new captain said, her voice overly patient, "Normally, a ride-along authorization is good for 90 days. Yours has been renewed five times. If you haven't accomplished your goal by now, I seriously doubt that you are going to. Please, wait outside."

Blair hesitated, torn between trying to convince the woman without explaining Jim's special needs, and the desire to prevent incurring further wrath. Jim's hand dropped to his shoulder and he turned the smaller man toward the door. "It's okay, Chief. I'll handle it. I'll catch up with you later on." His hand still on his guide's shoulder, he gave him a gentle push out the door.

Jim closed the door before turning back to the new captain. His voice became as cold as hers. "You talk to Captain Banks and any detective in the department here. Sandburg is an asset. Besides, he's got the full cooperation of the division here."

"And he's had it for the past two years," Finkelman observed coolly. "Right now, I need you to ride with Taggart."

"And if I say no?"

"I'll have no problem suspending you."

"I'm sure you won't."

"You're correct."

They glared at each other in silence for several seconds, an unspoken challenge building.

"Is that it?" Jim finally grated out, common sense overruling his desire to send the woman threatening his friend to the bottom of Cascade harbor.

"That's it," Finkelman replied, turning her attention to the paperwork on her desk, effectively dismissing the detective.

"It's been a pleasure," Jim answered, his tone reflecting that it was anything but. He barely restrained himself from slamming the door behind him.

Act II