Major Crimes break room
Blair had ridden to the station with Finkelman, ostensibly to protect her, in actuality because Jim didn't trust her. Finkelman had greeted the arrangement with the contempt that Blair, in all honesty, thought it deserved.
The cold silence had lasted until they reached the break room, where Blair served some of the horrible liquid that passed for coffee after midnight. After sitting for several minutes in sullen silence, Finkelman sighed. "I met Joe and his brother by accident. I was waiting for a friend and I heard them talking about smuggling Freon gas."
Jim's eyebrows shot up, but Blair beat him to it. "Freon gas?" he repeated. "What do you mean? Like, the stuff that goes into refrigerators?"
Finkelman nodded. "Yeah, that is what's in the canister." She took another sip and stared into the dark liquid. "They still manufacture it offshore, but it's now illegal to sell in this country. The profit margin is actually higher than drugs." She shook her head, disbelief still ringing in her voice. "The Brocks own a meat-packing plant; their equipment is over thirty years old. A total retrofit for a new ammonia-based system would bankrupt them." She glanced over at her rapt audience and sighed. "Anyway Joe was giving me the eye, so I let him pick me up. He's not too bright," she added wryly. "Anyway, I convinced him I could act as a go-between with their Freon connection. Keep their company's hands clean " She trailed off, staring absently into space.
"So, you'd do the deal for them, and have the means to nail Sabin for selling contraband," Jim said thoughtfully. He nodded. "It could work."
"So, who's Sabin?" Blair asked, still unclear on why Jim had picked up on the name.
Finkelman shrugged. "He's the local distributor for the Montecruz cartel. They run two-thirds of the drugs out of Mexico. I nail him, and we can start to break the Montecruz operation."
"So, why is a drug smuggler running Freon?"
"Why not?" Jim answered his partner. "It makes a profit, and it's probably just as easy to get as drugs."
"Easier," Finkelman put in. That drew Jim's attention back to her.
"But why would you go in without backup, huh?" he demanded. "Why put yourself at that kind of risk?"
Finkelman sighed. "I met Joe the day before I was told I would be substituting for Captain Banks. Would you believe bad timing?" Jim crossed his arms and stared at her wordlessly. She shrugged. "It was worth a try." Putting down the coffee mug, she stared at her hands. "Because I wanted to prove that I'm worthy of being more than just a substitute captain." She paused, rubbing a hand over weary eyes. "Maybe that sounds drastic, but " She looked up at the two men regarding her. Her voice took on an edge. "You try being a woman who has to take charge of a totally macho-ed out department for a couple weeks. I needed to come in and take charge; not come in and immediately ask for help."
Jim remained motionless. Blair got to his feet. "Well, that explains a lot to me," he said with a sympathetic smile. "Come into a new social structure, trying to gain control. It's an uphill battle. You don't gain that control right away, odds are, you probably are never going to."
Looking relieved, Finkelman appealed to him. "So, you understand separating you two was nothing personal? It's just awfully dangerous for a civilian who's untrained "
Blair backed up a couple steps. "I think I've proven myself," he said, his voice flat.
Jim stood up, his arm resting against Sandburg's, making it clear that they were a team. "I'll help you collar Sabin," he said, his voice deceptively mild. His eyes narrowed. "But Sandburg continues to ride along. He may be a civilian, but he's a damn fine detective, and he is my partner."
Finkelman opened her mouth, closed it again, and looked steadily at the two men. They stared back, united. "All right," she finally conceded.
"Good." Blair smiled with satisfaction, slapping Jim on the back. The detective rolled his eyes, but let the shorter man get away with it. Moving over to the table, Blair picked up the mugs and moved to put them into the sink.
Finkelman reached the door before turning back, a puzzled expression on her face. "Uh, by the way, how did you know about Brock and that I was calling myself Trudy?"
Jim froze, shooting a nervous glance over at Blair. "Oh. Well, I "
"Listening device," Blair supplied smoothly. "Latest technology. It's brand new." He laughed, somewhat unconvincingly. "One of the benefits of being at the university "
"Oh." Finkelman left while sentinel and guide exchanged an eloquent glance.
Finkelman was on the phone as Jim and Blair entered Simon's redecorated office. Immediately, Jim had to put a finger under his nose to try to stop the sneeze threatening to come out at the heavy scent of cut flowers. Blair placed a hand on his back, willing him to suppress it.
Their temporary captain nodded towards the chairs, but her attention was focused on her phone conversation. Both men listened avidly. "Right, yeah. Good, Joe, I'll be there." She paused and rolled her eyes. "I'm wearing clothes," she stated dryly. She listened for a moment, then shook her head. "Well, I am offended. Dinner? Maybe. Yeah, okay, I'll see you in a bit." Hanging up the receiver, she smiled at her spectators.
"I take it that was Joe?" Jim said, raising his eyebrows.
"Yes. Im going to Brock's office to wait for Sabin's call." She grabbed her coat, pulling it on. "I'll be in touch as soon as I have instructions for the buy."
"Captain " Jim started, intending to talk the woman into some safety measures. He was interrupted by Joel's sudden appearance. The older man looked as worried as Jim had ever seen him. He knocked on the doorjamb, but didn't wait for an invitation from Finkelman.
"I just got a call from the hospital. Simon is missing."
"Missing?" Jim asked, incredulous. "How does a hospital patient with a gunshot wound go missing?"
Joel's dark eyes were filled with worry. "I don't know. They moved him last night and lost his paperwork. Now they can't find him."
Jim stood up. "Let's go, Chief."
Finkelman's operation was forgotten in the rush to find their friend.
Amy had known that someone would show up after she notified the police of their missing patient, but she didn't expect the mismatched trio. One tall military-looking guy, one well-dressed black man, and a longhaired short kid. She recognized the look in their eyes as they showed their badges. Family and friends then, rather than just coworkers.
Amy told them everything she could remember.
"Things are just a little bit odd around here, huh?" Detective Ellison asked. His voice roughened as he demanded, "How do you lose a six foot four, two hundred and twenty-five pound man?"
The young nurse looked around her station, trying to see it through a stranger's eyes and sighed. They were a bit unorganized right now, but "It's the new managed care system. Everything is computerized. Sometimes people just...slip through the cracks." She swallowed. Sometimes it happened, but never before on her watch. Where was Simon Banks?
"Well, when was the last time you actually saw Captain Banks?" the one with the hair--Blair--asked.
"Last night around midnight, before I went off shift. He was resting comfortably after " she paled, suddenly wondering if the two events were connected.
"He was fine." Lily said firmly.
"After what?" Ellison asked, jumping in. His suspicious gaze went from Amy to Lily and back again.
"There was a mix-up in his medication," Amy explained slowly, "But we caught it in time. He was okay when I left!"
The detective didn't look impressed. "Who is responsible for this, um mix-up?"
Amy looked down at the floor. "I don't know," she whispered.
"What do you know?" Blair asked angrily.
Amy met his eyes, her own tearing up. She wanted them to know that she was just as worried as they were. "Look, I am so sorry."
Lily put a protective arm around her. "Security has been alerted. Your captain will turn up eventually." Amy knew that wasn't the way to deal with these men, but she had a lump in her throat and couldn't say anything.
"Well, that's very comforting," Ellison drawled sarcastically. "Thank you very much." Dismissively, he turned away from them, facing the older detective. "Look, Taggart, why don't you and Sandburg scour the lower floors? I'll check around up here."
"Okay." Amy caught a significant, though unspoken, exchange between Ellison and the youngest man, before Blair put one hand on Taggart's arm and steered him towards the elevator.
She sank down into one of the desk chairs and put her face in her hands, one question running through her mind. Where was Simon Banks?
Finkelman knew that, without backup, she should have telephoned Joe and called off the operation. She'd committed though, and if she pulled out now, she might never get another chance. Knowing that Ellison and Sandburg were occupied with finding Banks, she did what she did best--carried on by herself.
Joe and Rick were pleased to see her. She had timed it so that she wouldn't have to make much small talk before Sabin's call. The more she saw of the Brock brothers, the more she wondered how they had managed to keep their business running this long. She was working on ignoring Joe's leering looks when the phone rang. She picked it up.
"Joe Brock's office."
The arrogant voice on the other end was the one she expected. "Yeah, hello Trudy," Sabin said.
Finkelman got down to business. "When and where?" she asked briskly. No point in wasting time with his attitude.
Sabin evidently felt the same way. "There's a car ferry leaving for Bear Island at noon. You tell Brock to bring the cash and meet me inside at the snack bar on the top deck. Then we'll do our thing. I'll get off the boat before it leaves the dock. Now, the truck is a rental, he'll transfer the Freon to another one, then turn it in on the other side. You make the arrangements for that. Everything nice and clean. Okay?" Sabin paused, and his voice grew cold. "But Brock delivers the stuff personally or there's no deal. You got it?"
Grateful that Joe didn't have a speaker phone, Finkelman snapped, "Yeah, I got it." She slammed the phone down into the cradle then looked up to see the brothers staring at her.
"Is everything okay?" Joe asked cautiously.
"Yeah. You got the rest of the cash?" She watched as Rick crossed the room and pulled a briefcase out from under the bar. Opening it to show stacks of bills, he proudly presented it to her.
She took it from his hands with a brisk nod. "I'll have the stuff this afternoon."
"That's my girl!" Joe observed, patting her possessively on the back. Finkelman moved before the hand roamed to where she might have to hurt him. She left the plant wondering again how they had lasted so long.
Jim Ellison roamed the corridors of Cascade Hospital, reaching out with his senses. Touch and taste were out. He had ruled out scent; everything that didn't smell of illness and death smelled like harsh chemicals and cleaning solvents. Even the distinctive scent of Simon's cigars would have dissipated after two days in this atmosphere. He couldn't do much with sight, since there wasn't anything but the corridors to see. That left hearing.
He opened his hearing up cautiously, knowing that the sounds would be numerous and varied. He was right. Intercoms, beeping machine monitors, water dripping, forced oxygen running through tubes, a baby crying. Jim concentrated, trying to focus and find one particular voice.
"Daryl Daryl we gotta talk son " The mumbled words were barely discernable, but Jim picked up on them. He followed the voice to a door marked Exit 7. Pushing the door open, Jim discovered a set of stairs. Simon's voice was coming from somewhere beneath him, so he started downward; two flights down, Simon's voice was louder. Jim ignored the "Authorized Personnel Only" sign on the landing and stepped through the doorway.
The hallway was empty; there were no other signs of life around. Jim cocked his head and tuned into his friend's voice. Simon was sounding slightly more coherent, but also angrier. "Damnit Joan, give me a break. We're going down to Peru some fishing what could go wrong?"
Jim knew what could go wrong. Simon sounded okay, but what was he doing on an unmarked floor? His pace became faster as he realized he passed an operating room and realized that he had entered the surgery wing through a back entrance.
Skidding to a halt in front of a large window, Jim's mouth dropped open as he took in the sight of several figures in medical scrubs prepping a man for surgery. Jim couldn't see the face, but he zoomed in on the medical bracelet on the man's wrist--BANKS, SIMON J.; Dr Jeffers, 11/20/59, 01/05/98.
"All right," one of the doctors said, picking up a sharp-bladed knife, "Yeah, I see it."
Desperately, Jim pulled on the door handle, only to find it locked. He pulled out his badge, holding it up to the window and rapping on the glass with his fist.
"Let me see your graph " Most of the medical personnel ignored him, but one young woman looked up. Her eyes widening, she crossed the room and opened the door and stepped outside.
Jim, without taking his eyes off Simon and the sharp knife, spoke. "I'm Detective James Ellison with the Cascade Police Department. I think you have the wrong patient on that table in there."
The young doctor, whose nametag read 'Dr. Quint.' shook her head. "That's impossible."
Jim tried to push past her. "This man just had major surgery for a gunshot wound!"
"I think you've made a mistake," Dr Quint said firmly. "This is an emergency surgery. The patient has a malignant brain tumor." When Jim looked at her, she nodded. "I did the pathology myself."
"A malignant brain tumor?" Ellison sputtered, "That's impossible! This man is a captain in the Cascade PD. He's in the hospital for a gunshot wound on his left side. I tell you, you've got the wrong patient on that table!" Jim reached for the door again, and Quint stopped him. "If you don't believe me, check his side!"
The young doctor hesitated. "Wait here," she said finally and went back in the room. Inside, she grabbed Simon's wrist and looked at the data imprinted on it. Jim could see the color drain from her face as she read it.
"What are you doing?" one of the other doctors demanded as Quint frantically pulled back the sheets covering Simon, revealing bandages over the gunshot wound.
"Is there a problem?" one of the nurses asked. They all looked down at the bandages and someone gasped. "What the hell ?"
Quint looked at Jim through the glass, the sheets falling to the floor. Jim sighed with relief as the other doctor put down the knife and people started stripping off their sterile gear.
Cascade Hospital, Room 09
Simon felt like he was wrapped in a fog. He blinked, seeing faces hovering over him. "Who What ?" He yawned and struggled to keep his eyes open. The faces backed up a bit, but stayed within range, fuzzy.
Ellison's voice was soothing. "You're okay, Simon."
"You're in the hospital. You were shot."
Simon blinked. Hospital? Hadn't he been at the bank? He hesitated and tried to stretch; a sudden pain caught his side and he sucked in a surprised breath. Oh, yeah. Shot. Bank robbers. "How long?" he forced out of his dry throat.
"Three days," a young woman said, approaching the bed.
"Three days?" Simon repeated, turning to look at the woman. "That's oh I remember you. Amy, right?" He tried to smile. She was even prettier than he had thought; he blushed as he remembered he had thought she was Joan.
Amy patted his hand and injected something into his IV. "This will help you rest, Mr. Banks."
She smiled and nodded. "Okay, Simon."
Jim broke into their moment. "They'll be here to pick you up in a couple hours, Simon."
Whipping his head around, and promising himself not to do that again soon, Simon looked at Ellison. "Pick me up? Why?"
"Well, we're moving you to a different hospital." That was Blair. Simon smiled at him too, happy to see that he was visiting with Jim.
Yawning as a pleasant sense of lethargy took over his body he asked "What's wrong with this hospital?"
Jim's voice sounded cautious. "You'll get better treatment there, sir. Why don't you just try to relax?"
Relax? If he got any more relaxed, he was going to fall asleep. "Yeah, good idea..." his voice trailed off, and he pulled himself back with an effort. Wasn't there something he wanted to tell Ellison? Something important Oh. Murder. "Jim? Jim I have to tell you what I heard. There was this this woman. She " His voice was drowned out by a ringing phone.
Amy reached out and picked it up. "Hello? This is Simon Bank's room." She listened for a minute, then held out the phone to Jim. "Detective Ellison, it's for you."
Jim took the phone. "Thank you."
"Ellison." He turned his back away from the eyes watching him. "I can't use my cell phone, Im in the hospital here. I was just about to call you " His eyes found Blair's. "All right, all right. We'll meet you over there." He hung up, looking over at Joel. "That was Finkelman. We've got to go. Will you stay with him, Joel?"
"Of course." Joel frowned with concern. "Do you really think something's going on here besides incompetence?"
Jim snorted. "First, they give him the wrong medication, then they almost give him a lobotomy. This is a little too much of a coincidence, even for a bad hospital. And this is supposed to be one of the good ones." Joel's frown increased, and they both looked down at the quiet captain. "I'll send some uniforms to back you up."
Joel and Amy watched the two other men leave the room, then they turned back to the now-sleeping Simon. "He's really doing okay?" Joel asked anxiously. "He's a good man, you know."
Amy smiled. "I can tell. He has good friends. Really, he's going to be fine."
Brock's Meat Packing Plant
Joe Brock sat at the desk, staring at his brother. "We can't do it any other way."
Rick nodded. "I know. It would cost us at least three hundred and fifty grand to retrofit. We do this, live with it a couple years, and we sell. Let the next guy worry about it." He leaned back in his chair and crowed. "You're a genius, man!"
They grinned at each other. The phone rang, and Rick picked it up. "Rick Brock. What?" Confusion crossed his face as he listened to the person on the other end. "Well, he's right here. I'll put him on." He hesitated, listening intently. "Uh, okay "
"Give me the phone!" Joe demanded.
Rick held him off, a scowl coming over his normally vacant features. "No problemo. He'll be there." Rick turned his back as Joe tried to get the phone again. "Relax, man," he said impatiently, "I said he'd be there." Dropping the phone, Rick turned to his brother. "That was Arthur Sabin," he said slowly. "He said it was nice meeting you last night."
Joe froze, knowing quite well where he'd been the previous evening and it hadn't involved Sabin. "What? That's nuts!"
Rick nodded in agreement. "He also said to remind Trudy that he wouldn't deliver the Freon unless you were there in person. He wanted to make sure you got that message."
His face filled with fury, Joe ground out "Where the hell are they?"
"Noon ferry to Bear Island," Rick told him smugly.
"I think Trudy has some questions to answer. Let's go."
The brothers grabbed their coats and raced out the door.