By Melinda Holley
Beta Read by: Danae and Yvonne
Written for PetFly by: Joseph Johnson & Tom Fudge

Rated PG
internal thought in italics

 


Act I


Highway to Cascade International Airport (5:20 pm)

Steven Ellison looked around the interior of the 1969 Ford Truck with barely concealed amusement. “Thanks for taking me to the airport, Jim.”

Jim Ellison easily shrugged. “No problem.” He waited for Steven’s curiosity to get the best of him.

“Okay, what happened to the Expedition?” Steven finally asked, less than a minute later.

“Had a small accident,” Jim admitted with a smile. He fondly patted the steering wheel. “Got this baby for a song.”

“I bet,” Steven muttered. He again looked around the truck interior. “You’re making some sort of statement, right? Some sort of anti-establishment thing?”

Jim shrugged although he tossed his brother a grin.

“Speaking of anti-establishment how’s Sandburg?” Steven chuckled.

Jim laughed in response. “Burning the candles at both ends and the middle…as usual. But he’s okay.”

“Seriously, I do appreciate you getting me to the airport,” Steven replied. “What a time for the battery to drop dead.”

“Yeah, those new cars…” Jim shook his head in sympathy. “Just can’t trust ‘em.”

“Everybody’s entitled to one clunker of a battery,” Steven protested with a laugh. “And by the time I could have gotten a company car to take me to the airport, I’d have missed the flight.” He eyed his brother, still uncertain how Jim would react to certain statements. “I really hate that I’m going to be gone for a month. I’m starting to enjoy our ‘planned at the last minute’ dinners.”

“Yeah, me, too,” Jim admitted with a smile. He recalled the difficulty they’d had in trying to schedule specific days and times to have dinner only to have one or the other call to reschedule due to a sudden conflict. Finally, they’d decided to go with the spur of the minute plan.

Steven stared out the window then took a deep breath. “You talked to Dad lately?” He winced, almost feeling the temperature in the truck drop by at least twenty degrees.

“Why would I have talked to him?” Jim snapped.

“Hey, easy, Jim.” Steven automatically held up his hands in defense. “I just asked a question.”

Jim took a deep breath and slowly exhaled it. “No, I haven’t talked to him.” He glanced at his younger brother, realizing how unsettled Steven was becoming. “I take it you have.”

“I’m not choosing him over you,” Steven defensively replied. “To be honest, I like you better. But…” Irritated at having to carefully choose his words, he shook his head. “Look, we’ve gotten a bit closer, haven’t we?” He waited for Jim’s slow nod. “And I admit…I realized I’ve missed a lot when we weren’t talking or even acknowledging that the other existed.”

“Yeah…same here,” Jim softly interrupted.

Steven relaxed. “I’d see Dad every so often at business luncheons or dinners. He still keeps his hand in.” He shrugged. “I started having dinner with him about once a month. I guess I wanted to know why he did it when he set us against each other.” He took another deep breath. “And I guess I’m wondering if I could have with him what I’m developing with you.”

“Did you ask him?” Jim glanced at his brother.

Steven shook his head. “We haven’t gotten much past the ‘how has business been’ stage.” He glanced out the window again. “Maybe I won’t ask. It doesn’t seem so important to me anymore. So much of that is water under the bridge, you know?”

Maybe for you. Jim glanced in the rear view mirror as he maneuvered across the highway towards the airport exit. “He say anything about me?”

Steven glanced at his brother then stared out the front windshield. “Last time we had dinner he asked if I’d seen you since the mess at the track. I guess he’d seen both our names in the paper when all that was going on. I told him I had. He didn’t say anything else…just nodded.”

The two brothers exchanged wary glances then Jim shrugged. “Go for it, if you want. But I don’t have anything to say to him.” As he turned the truck towards the parking structure, he glanced at his brother’s face. “It won’t get between us if you mend fences with him.”

Steven nodded but wondered who his brother thought he was kidding. “Jim, we were kids when he played us against each other,” Steven pointed out. “We’re adults now. We’ll see it if he tries it again.” He smiled in relief when Jim’s cell phone began ringing.

“Ellison,” Jim snapped. He frowned then glanced at Steven. “Understood. I’m on my way.” As he put the cell phone back in his jacket pocket, he got in the lane to head towards the terminal. “Sorry, but I’ve got to get to work.”

“No problem.” Steven nodded. “Just let me out in front. We wouldn’t have much time to kill anyway before I’d have to go through security.” He reached for his small suitcase sitting on the floor next to his feet.

Jim glanced at the small case and shook his head. “And I thought I traveled light,” he laughed.

“I’m staying at the corporate apartment in Tokyo,” Steven chuckled. “And they have stores in Japan, you know.” He opened the truck door as the vehicle came to a stop.

“You’re flying high, Stevie,” Jim teased as his brother got out of the truck.

Steven laughed in response. “Thanks again for the ride, Jimmy.” He sat his suitcase on the curb and leaned back inside the truck. “You be careful, okay? We’ll have a couple of dinners to catch up on when I get back, and I don’t want to have them in a hospital room. Understand?”

“Got it.” Jim grinned. “Travel safe.” He idled long enough to make sure Steven entered the terminal without trouble. As he pulled away, he reached for his cell phone and dialed. “Sandburg? Yeah, I just dropped him at the airport. I got a call from Simon. A body’s been found at the football practice field at Rainier. Meet me downstairs. I should be there in about twenty minutes. Yeah. I know, buddy.”

Irritably, Jim tossed the cell phone on the seat beside him. Thoughts of hoping Blair didn’t know the deceased mixed with questions about why his father would have asked Steven about him. Finally deciding he'd find out soon enough about the first and telling himself that he didn’t care about the second, he reached out and turned on the radio.

One of the local stations had changed format. Much to Sandburg’s disgust, it had become a “golden oldies” station. Jim liked it because they played a lot of Santana. What he got now was Genesis.

//Well, the key to my survival was never much in doubt. The question was how I could keep sane trying to find a way out.//


Football Practice Field – Rainier University (6:08 pm)

“Gosh, they sure got here quick.” Blair Sandburg eyed the waiting reporters with a wary eye. Because of the setting sun, some of the technical crews were setting up spotlights.

Jim grunted as he parked the truck to one side.

As soon as they made their way towards the yellow barrier, the reporters began shouting questions. One man held up a camera and took their picture, his flash catching them by surprise.

“Not now, thank you,” Jim snapped as he blinked to clear his vision.

“You okay?” Blair gently squeezed Jim’s arm.

“Yeah.” Jim glanced over his shoulder, but the photographer had disappeared into the crowd. “Idiot.” Turning, he ducked under the yellow tape.

“This shouldn’t be happening at a school,” Blair muttered as he followed Jim across the practice field. He shivered in the crisp damp air.

“Shouldn’t happen anywhere, Chief,” Jim replied. “But it does and that’s why we’re…” He stopped and slowly turned in a circle. His eyes narrowed as he sniffed the air.

“Jim? What is it?” Blair asked, stepping closer to his partner.

Jim shook his head. “Thought I smelled something.” He sniffed again. “Never mind. It’s gone.” He used his hand to nudge his partner forward. Glancing back towards the crowd of reporters, he saw a couple of cameras flashing as university officials arrived. Sighing, he followed Blair towards the group of people standing in the middle of the field.

“Captain.” Jim nodded at Simon Banks, who stood to one side talking with the coroner, Dan Wolfe. “Do we have an ID yet?”

Simon shook his head. “Technically a Joe Doe. We found a wallet next to the body…empty except for a picture. The students who found him thought he taught here.”

“He does…did. He’s Robert McCain,” Blair quietly spoke. “He’s…was professor in the Psychology Dept.”

Jim shot the younger man a quick, sympathetic glance then knelt next to the body.

“Did you know him well?” Simon asked.

Blair shook his head. “We’re in different departments, you know. He’d asked me about my work with the police department a few times. He was doing some research about serial killers and asked if I’d help with some questions about police procedure.”

“Did he have a private practice?” Simon questioned.

Blair slowly shook his head. “I don’t think so. But I know he volunteered for the university hotline. You know, for kids that are stressed and stuff.”

“Any witnesses to the assault?” Jim studied the dead man, noticing the grimace on the face of the corpse. The man hadn't died easily.

“Nobody saw or heard anything,” Simon answered. “The students who found him were taking a short cut.”

“The victim was strangled with something like a piano wire,” Dan added, slowly wiping the dirt from his hands. “But the stab wound is postmortem.” He waved his hand, motioning his people to bring the gurney.

Jim shook his head as he got to his feet. “Something’s wrong. Why empty the wallet instead of taking the whole thing?”

“Maybe it’s part of some sort of ritual,” Blair doubtfully suggested.

“More likely, the picture was deliberately left here,” Jim mused.

“It’s got to mean something,” Simon growled. “Do you know if McCain had a son?” He handed the picture, encased in an evidence bag, to Blair. Grumbling under his breath, he turned to meet the approaching university officials.

“I don’t know if he had a son or not,” Blair admitted. “But this is an old picture of somebody…years old maybe.”

Jim looked at the picture, then reached out to bring it closer. “This isn’t McCain’s son, Chief. It’s me.”

“You?” Blair stared at the snapshot once again. “Jim…this is freaky, man.”

Jim turned away as Dan’s people started their work. He glanced up at the sky to see a plane heading west. Travel safe, little brother.

Simon walked back to them after a few minutes. He glared at Blair. “Your university associates want this handled expeditiously.”

“Hey, they’re not my associates.” Blair held up both hands in front of him. “They occupy a far more rarefied atmosphere.” He looked past Simon at the university officials who were speaking with the reporters. “And they have actual offices,” he muttered under his breath before looking at the picture once again.

“That picture isn’t McCain’s son, if he has one,” Jim quietly spoke. “It’s a picture of me when I was a child.”

Simon glanced down at the dead man who was being carefully put into a black body bag. “How, not to mention why, did he get a picture of you as a child?”

“I don’t know, sir.” Jim shrugged.

“You know, this doesn’t even look like a real picture,” Blair commented. “More like something that was maybe downloaded from a computer onto some sort of good quality photo-type paper.”

“Still doesn’t answer the question,” Simon grunted, taking the evidence bag from Blair’s hand. “Check out the man’s office, Jim.”


Robert McCain’s Office – Rainier University (6:30 pm)

“Now, this, Sandburg, is what an office should look like.” Jim eyed the McCain’s small office with approval.

Blair snorted. “Neatness and rigid organization are highly overrated.”

“At least he could find things without moving everything in the room,” Jim teased.

Blair made ‘shooing’ motions as he sat behind McCain’s desk. “Want to bet he’s just as anal about his files?” he muttered, turning on the desktop computer.

Jim chose not to respond. Instead, he began a careful search of the small filing cabinet.

After a moment, Blair looked up. “Jim, he has you cross-indexed with a serial killer.” When Jim looked up in surprise, he continued, “The Country Club Strangler.”

Jim turned back to the filing cabinet, then removed a thick file labeled ‘Country Club Strangler’.

Blair turned back to the computer monitor. “He killed seven men in the early 70’s during a three-year killing spree. All were middle-aged, wealthy businessmen. All were strangled then stabbed after death.” He took a deep breath. “Oh, man, their empty wallets were found next to their bodies.”

Jim sat in a chair across from the desk and read from the file. “Wayne Hollow. He claimed he was innocent from the time he was arrested. But there were no murders after he was arrested.”

“Was he convicted?” Blair asked.

“He killed himself while awaiting trial.” Jim slowly closed the file. “He hung himself in his cell.”

“So everybody figured he was guilty since the murders stopped,” Blair mused. He moved the computer mouse and clicked open more files. “He’s got data on each of the victims plus copies of the police reports and newspaper stories. William Franklin. Adam Reynolds. Timothy Kingman. Charles Taylor. Emmanuel Rothstein. Nicholas Damron. Karl Heydash.”

Jim’s eyes narrowed. “Who?”

Blair clicked open the file marked ‘Heydash.’ “Umm…Karl Heydash.”

Jim closed his eyes. Suddenly the air around him was cold…ice cold. Hearing his heart thumping, he saw trees around him in the twilight. Running…he was running. Looking…he was looking for something. He had to hurry…he couldn’t be late. Dad hates it when we’re late. He’ll blame Stevie…my fault we’re late. Ball…where’s the ball? Bud? Bud…something’s wrong…why is he laying there? Blood…there’s blood. Ohgodohgod…nononono…HE KILLED BUD!

“JIM! SNAP OUT OF IT! NOW!”

Jim’s eyes snapped open as Blair roughly shook him. “Wha…” He looked at Blair who was kneeling on the floor in front of him. Blair’s hands were tightly squeezing his upper arms. He cleared his throat and looked around in confusion. “Did I zone?”

“No, you didn’t zone!” Blair took a deep breath. “God, you scared me, Jim! I don’t think you were breathing!”

Jim let the file in his hand slide to the floor. He used both hands to gently pat either side of Blair’s waist. “I’m okay, Sandburg. But if I didn’t zone, what happened?”

“Hell if I know.” Blair released Jim’s arms. “You just seemed to…” He waved both hands in obvious agitation. “…to go somewhere else.” He saw Jim was as unnerved as he was. “I thought I was gonna have to slug you or something.” He moved back as Jim leaned forward to pick up the file. “Jim, McCain’s file says you found Karl Heydash’s body.”

Jim stared at the file then slowly looked at Blair. “I didn’t remember…not until you said his name,” he whispered. He got to his feet and helped Blair stand. “He told me to call him Bud.” He rubbed his forehead.

Blair went to the computer and busily typed. “I’m gonna send these files to my laptop. I can download them at home after we take care of you.”

“I’m fine!” Jim snapped.

“Jim, c’mon, man, we can’t do much else now, right?” Blair watched as the files were transmitted.

“Right,” Jim wearily leaned against the desk.

Blair turned off the computer. Walking around the desk, he gently took the file from Jim’s hand and put it into his backpack. “Come on, let’s get you home, okay?”

Outside, Jim silently handed Blair the keys. “Until we…you figure out what happened, you better drive.”

Blair got his partner into the truck then got behind the wheel. Glancing at Jim, who sat slumped against the door, Blair reached out and turned on the radio. He never thought he’d be happy to hear Santana, but it would calm Jim’s nerves. Instead, he got Genesis.

//They say time is a healer and my wounds are not the same.//


The Loft – 7:17 pm

“Damn it, Sandburg! Why don’t I remember any of this?”

Blair glanced at Jim, who was pacing by the couch. He’d barely gotten the front door closed and locked before his friend exploded. Cautiously, he stood by the couch.
“My guess is that you repressed the whole incident.”

“Your guess?!”

Blair locked eyes with Jim. “Yes, Jim! My guess until we investigate further. How old were you, anyway?”

“Ten,” Jim mumbled. He sat on the couch and buried his face in his hands. “I was ten.”

“A ten year old kid…finding a body like that…especially somebody you really cared for…” Blair began.

Jim looked up in astonishment. “How did you know that?”

Blair shrugged, sitting on the couch next to his partner. “The way you reacted. I don’t think you would have repressed the memory if Heydash had been a stranger.”

“No, he wasn’t a stranger,” Jim admitted. “He…I guess he was sort of a father figure…a mentor, maybe.” He got to his feet and walked to stare out the clear glass of the balcony doors. “He was a neighbor. A businessman like my father.”

Blair licked his lips. “You know…there could be more that you’re not remembering.”

“I found his body, Sandburg. That’s all,” Jim crisply answered. “The story was in the newspaper. McCain must have found it. End of story.”

“But…”

Jim turned around and coldly stared at Blair. “End of story.”

Act II