Act II


Simon’s Office – 9:22 am

“You’re kidding!” Simon looked across his desk, fully expecting to see Sandburg grinning with a ‘gotcha’ expression on his face.

“I’m afraid not, sir,” Jim admitted.

“How could you forget something like that?” Simon frowned.

“I was ten years old, sir. It was a long time ago.” Jim’s spine stiffened.

“Not forget, Simon.” Blair waved his hands. “Repressed. Like any other trauma.” He glanced at Jim. “Last night, hearing Karl Heydash’s name…just brought it all back at once.” He threw Simon a warning look.

“So now we have a copycat?” Simon mused.

“I don’t think so,” Jim slowly replied. He knew Simon wasn’t going to like it. “When I found Bud…Karl Heydash’s body, there was this…scent. Faint but distinct. I smelled it again last night near McCain’s body.”

“And smell is closely linked to memory,” Blair excitedly interrupted. “Jim, if you’re right, you smelled something as a kid beyond what a normal person could smell. That means you had your sentinel abilities as a kid!”

“With all due respect, Sandburg, that’s in the past,” Simon scowled. “I’m more concerned with the present. Right now, we have a killer running around. And a series of murders that were never solved!” He leaned forward. “Any ideas why McCain had your picture?”

Jim shrugged. “Theory only, sir. He was probably going to contact me to see if I remembered anything about finding the…Karl Heydash’s body. McCain seemed to be coming to the conclusion that Wayne Hollow might have been innocent. We stopped at all the local newspaper offices and confirmed that McCain had been trying to track down the original reporters who covered the story.”

Simon grunted. “That means McCain may have found something the killer didn’t want found.” He reached for his phone. “I’ll have all the old files brought up on the Country Club Stranglings.”


The Morgue – 9:47 am

“Man, this place gives me the creeps,” Blair muttered.

“You should see it at Halloween,” Jim replied. “Dan’s got a wicked sense of humor.” He enjoyed seeing Blair’s blue eyes widen in astonishment. Nudging open the partially closed door, he found Dan at his desk, dictating notes into a tape recorder.

“Gunshot wound number one to left anterior wall is 1.3 centimeters diameter. Absence of tattooing indicates weapon was fired from at least...” He looked up and turned off the recorder.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Jim apologized.

Dan waved his hand. “No problem. None of my patients are going anywhere.” He briefly smiled at Blair’s pained expression. “What’s up?”

“Did you finish McCain’s autopsy?” Jim asked.

Dan nodded and leaned back in his chair. Stretching his arms over his head, he smiled when he heard joints popping. “A couple of hours ago. You should have the paperwork before the end of the day.”

“Anything special about the stab wound?” Jim inquired. He saw Blair curiously look through the open door behind Dan’s desk.

Dan exchanged a quick grin with Jim when Blair realized he was looking into the morgue itself and quickly turned away. “Just like I thought. Postmortem wound, straight to the heart. The angle was left to right, indicating the killer is most likely left-handed.”

Jim frowned. “You still have McCain’s clothing?”

Dan nodded. He reached behind him on the credenza and handed Jim a wrapped package. “I was getting ready to send them up to Forensics. There were blood residue and skin fragments all over them. Unfortunately, all were from the victim.” He grinned as his pager buzzed. “Do me a favor and take them up to Forensics for me, okay?”

“Sure, Dan.” Jim nodded. “C’mon, Chief.” They left as Dan reached for his phone to return a call.

Closing the door behind him, Blair watched as Jim opened the package. “You think there’s something that…” He frowned when Jim winced. “Jim?”

Jim vaguely heard Blair’s voice as he felt the air around him go cold again. Desperately trying to hear his friend’s voice, he closed his eyes…Ball…where’s the ball? It’s gotta be here somewhere…oww!…Bud? Bud! BUD!!!!

“JIM!”

Jim’s eyes snapped open to see Blair literally in his face. He dazedly wondered when Blair had grown several inches as he stepped back from Blair’s grasp.

“Jim, you talk to me right now!” Blair demanded, following Jim.

“I’m…I’m here.” Jim shook his head. “It’s that damn scent!” He looked down, expecting to see the bag with McCain’s clothes in his hand. “Where’s…”

“Over there.” Blair pointed to the other side of the hallway. “I grabbed it out of your hands and tossed it.” He walked over and grabbed the bag. “And you’re not getting it back, either.”

“Whatever that scent is, it’s playing havoc with my senses,” Jim grumbled.

Blair’s blue eyes narrowed. “Maybe.”

“What do you mean ‘maybe’?” Jim angrily demanded.

“I mean, you don’t go into a zone-out,” Blair calmly explained. “Let me think on this, okay?”

“Can you get that up to Forensics?” Jim asked. “I’ll call and let them know you’re on your way with it and to put a rush on it.”

“What are you going to do?” Blair eyed his partner with concern.

“I’m gonna go through those old case files on the Country Club Strangler,” Jim sighed. “See if I can make sense of ‘em. That’s gonna take most of the day, so why don’t I take you home so you can get your car and go to the university. You’re probably behind in stuff, huh?”

Blair shrugged. “Story of my life, man.” They waited in silence for the elevator. When the doors opened, Blair nudged the sentinel's arm. “Just promise me you’ll call if you go out, okay? Until we get a handle on this, I really worry about you being out there by yourself.”

Jim started to argue, then saw the stubborn look in Blair’s eyes. “Fine. Whatever.”


The Loft (5:11 pm)

Blair opened the door to the loft, thankful he’d gotten inside the building just as the storm broke. Outside, it was now raining the proverbial cats and dogs. The dismal autumn day's weather had turned worse, drenching the city with cold rain.

As he hung up his jacket, he saw the flickering fire in the fireplace and Jim standing by the balcony doors. As he walked closer, he saw Jim was idly tossing a football between his hands. The flashes of lightning illuminated the somber expression on the older man’s face.

“Jim?” Blair waited until the other man turned around. “Want me to go long?” He grinned and mimicked catching a football. His smile faded when Jim turned back to look out at the cascading rain. “What’s wrong?” he softly asked.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Jim denied. “Why?”

Quickly deciding to stay with the humorous approach, Blair joked, “I just feel like I’m interrupting a romantic interlude here between you and your football.”

“Don’t quit your day job, Shecky,” Jim grunted.

Blair rolled his eyes. So much for humor. He walked closer and put his hands on his hips. “I called just before I left the university. Rhonda said you’d left about an hour ago complaining of a headache.”

“You try reading all those old files for hours, Sandburg. You'd have a headache, too,” Jim complained, rolling the football between his hands. “I can handle it.” He walked past Blair to sit on the couch

“Yeah, you can handle it,” Blair nodded. “But friends help each other, right?” He sat on the coffee table in front of Jim, ignoring the scowl on the sentinel’s face.

“I’ve been trying to figure this out,” Jim admitted. “It’s like some cruel joke, and I’m the punch line. I’m a cop…working on a case that involved me when I was a kid…and I can’t remember one damn thing!” He resisted the urge to angrily throw the football at the wall.

“Jim, you were a kid,” Blair patiently explained. “You were part of something horrible. And that trauma shut down your senses. Sorta like what happened when you came back from Peru.”

Jim sighed. “I just keep going around in circles…trying to remember.”

Blair hesitated then took a deep breath. “I think you are remembering.” When Jim shot him a disbelieving look, he continued. “Look, every time you smell that scent, you…it’s like you’re reliving something! I think that scent is the trigger. You barely caught the scent at the crime scene. But it was enough to trigger your memory when you heard Heydash’s name. The memory is there. You repressed it, but it’s still there. It’s called a sense memory. You just need to focus on that smell and see where it leads you.”

“It leads me into some sort of…”

“Only because it’s caught us by surprise so far,” Blair briskly interrupted. “Now we know what we’re doing. We’re in control.” He ignored Jim’s snort. “Come on. It’s just like we did when you needed to remember that phone call from Jack, remember?”

Jim frowned, but slowly nodded.

“Okay,” Blair smiled. “Lean back. Close your eyes. Relax.” He relaxed himself as Jim obeyed. “Now…all the memories are there. Remember the last time you and Heydash talked. Remember…and tell me…”


"Look, Jimmy, right here. Put some action on it."

Jimmy Ellison easily caught the football and smiled. “I hope I can throw this well on Sunday.”

“You will.” Bud Heydash grinned at the young boy. “Remind your dad to save me a spot in the bleachers.”

“I don’t think he’s going to be there.” Jimmy stared down at the football he was idly turning in his hands.

“It’s the championship.” Bud frowned. “He’ll be there.”

“He’s got an important business meeting.” The young boy squinted as he stared at the setting sun.

Bud put a hand on the boy's shoulder. “Things happen, Jimmy. I’m sure it couldn’t be helped.”

“Do you ever think about what it’d be like if things were different?” Jimmy curiously asked. Catching himself from drifting into a nice fantasy of Bud being his father, he quickly continued. “I mean…if you hadn’t wrecked your knee? If you’d played pro ball?”

Bud shrugged. “I used to think about it a lot. But not so much anymore.” He reached out to tousle Jimmy’s hair. “Got other things to think about now.” He smiled at the boy’s sudden grin. “Anyway, there was no guarantee I’d have been good enough to make the pros.”

“Think I could be that good?” Jimmy shyly asked.

Bud put a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “You can be anything you want to be. But you’ve got to stop holding back. It’s as though you’re afraid to trust yourself.”

Puzzled, the boy looked up at the man he admired most in the world. Then he turned his head, hearing the slam of a door from a house three blocks. <Stevie! Your jacket!> <I’m gonna find Jimmy!> Sighing, Jimmy looked down at the football. “Stevie’s coming.”

“How do you know that?” Bud chuckled.

Jimmy shrugged. “I just do.” He hesitantly looked up, surprised to see the humor on Bud’s face.

“And I suppose you know what you’re having for dinner, right?” the older man teased.

Jimmy smiled and sniffed the autumn air. “Smells like…roast beef.”

Bud threw back his head and laughed. “You better get going then. You wouldn’t want to be late for that.” He touched the boy’s shoulder. “And Jimmy? Remember what I told you. Learn to trust your instincts.”

“I will, Bud,” Jimmy earnestly promised. “See you on Sunday.”

“Ok, Chief. I’ll be there,” Bud promised in return.


Blair was startled when Jim suddenly opened his eyes and sat upright. “Jim! You okay?”

Jim shivered, feeling cold despite the warmth of the room. “Yeah.”

“Jim, you were saying that Bud…”

“I didn’t remember anything about the murder, Sandburg,” Jim curtly interrupted, getting to his feet.

“That’s because we didn’t get that far,” Blair pointed out. He watched as Jim began pacing, tossing the football between his hands. “But you remember Bud Heydash, don’t you?”

Jim nodded, his jaw clenching. “Enough, Sandburg.”

“But…”

Jim spun around, throwing the football at Blair, who caught it just before it hit his chest. “I said, enough!” Taking a deep breath, he headed for the stairs. “I’m heading for bed. Maybe I can shake this headache. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Recognizing the dismissal, Blair gently put the football on the coffee table. Glancing upstairs, he figured he’d better grab a sandwich before Jim turned in for the night. This would be one night the older man wouldn't tolerate any noise.


The Loft – 10:22 pm

Drifting halfway between sleep and wakening, Jim turned over. Barely opening his eyes, he saw the time on the digital clock by his bed then closed his eyes. He was vaguely aware of Blair downstairs in the living room. Whatever he was doing, he was being silent about it. Normally that would have worried him, but now his thoughts were elsewhere…stuck at a point in time he desperately never wanted to remember….


“Jimmy! Dinner!”

Jimmy smiled at his little brother. “Yeah, I know. I’m coming.” He tossed the football to his younger brother. “Is Dad eating with us tonight?”

Stevie shrugged. “He’s talking to Mom on the phone.”

The two boys stopped at the intersection half a block from their house. Jimmy looked at his house and through the window into his father’s study.

<Grace! That’s not my problem! I can’t pay you alimony if I don’t work. This conference is not optional, and I have to attend. All I need is for you to take care of the boys for two weeks.>

“Jimmy, what are you looking at?” Stevie stood on his tiptoes.

“Nothing.” Jimmy carefully looked both ways, then nudged his brother across the street. “Hey, who do you think would win in a fight? Spiderman or The Hulk?”

“No contest!” Stevie laughed. “Spidey would kick Hulk’s butt!”

“No way!” Jimmy teased. “The Hulk would tie him up in his own web!”

“That’s what you think!” Laughing, Stevie threw the football at his older brother and ran towards the house.

Laughing just as hard, Jimmy followed.


Jim’s blue eyes flew open as he tried to control his breathing. Shivering, he burrowed under the blankets and closed his eyes.

Downstairs, curled on the couch, Blair worriedly stared up at his partner’s bedroom and bit his lower lip.


Simon’s Office – 8:31 am

“Well, this just makes things so much easier,” Simon snarled.

Jim nodded as he studied the front page of The Cascade Tribune. The lurid headlines read “Country Club Strangler Returns.” Just under the headlines were pictures of Jim both as a boy and as a man. “So much for buying time,” he sighed.

“When I get my hands on whoever leaked this…” Simon glared at the ringing telephone on his desk. “Banks!” he answered. Looking up at Jim, he continued. “Yeah, he’s here.” Covering the mouthpiece, he held the receiver out. “For you.”

Puzzled, Jim took the receiver. “Ellison.”

“I saw you in the paper, Jimmy,” a man’s voice murmured.

“Who is this?” Jim frowned. He looked at Simon and mouthed ‘trace it.’

“You mean you don’t know? Take a trip to the Cascade Dump and don’t forget to check the pockets.” There was a chuckle before the call was terminated.

Jim turned to Simon who had barely reached his office door. “He’s gone. We need to get to the dump.” He stared into Simon’s dark eyes. “I think we’ve got another body, sir.”

Simon angrily muttered under his breath as he walked back to get his coat.

Jim quickly walked to the coat rack behind his desk. “Let’s go, Chief,” he told Blair who was sitting behind his desk. “Looks like we may have another one.”

As the younger man scrambled to his feet, stuffing a thick book into his backpack and reaching for his jacket, Jim suddenly blinked. Bud called me ‘Chief.’ I've called Sandburg that almost from the beginning.

“Jim?” Blair quietly asked a hand on his arm.

“Yeah, fine, let’s go.” Shaking thoughts from his head, Jim turned away.


Cascade Dump – 9:57 am

Dan Wolfe got to his feet and absently brushed his gloved hands on his jeans. “The rain last night destroyed a lot of the evidence, but it’s the Strangler’s MO.”

Jim frowned as he studied the wallet taken from the dead man’s jacket. “This time he left an ID. Brian Smith, born 1941. That would make him…what…57?” He looked through different cards. “Apparently, he’s an investment banker.”

“And we found this in his inside jacket pocket.” Dan held out a bagged newspaper clipping.

Simon frowned and read, “Country Club Strangler Returns.” He looked at Jim. “That was in this morning’s paper.”

“But I thought he was killed last night,” Blair said, from behind Jim.

“He was,” Dan confidently nodded.

“The killer returned after he saw the morning paper.” Jim decided.

“That doesn’t make sense. Why would the killer risk capture just to leave a note?” Simon frowned.

“He’s making it personal, Simon,” Jim explained. “This has to do with that body I found as a kid.” Jim irritably pulled off the latex gloves. “This nut’s trying to mess with my head.” He turned and stomped away.

Simon and Blair exchanged a quick, concerned look before Blair trotted after his friend.

“Jim, what about the scent?” Blair quickly asked. “Can you smell anything?”

“This is a dump, Sandburg,” Jim grumbled. “I can smell everything.” He stopped and cautiously inhaled. “Yeah, it’s here. Faint. Probably a lot of it was washed away in the rain.” He irritably ran a hand over his jaw. “At least it’s not turning me into a freak this time.”

“What? Where did that come from?” Blair hissed. “You’re not a freak, man!” Jim’s shrug only irritated him further. “Look, we need to go back to where this started. And that’s your old neighborhood. Maybe your dad can remember something.”

“Oh, no.” Jim shook his head. “Absolutely not!”

“Look, this isn’t just about this case anymore!” Blair grabbed Jim’s arm. “It’s also about you and whatever baggage you’re dragging around that’s messing with your senses. You’ve got to deal with it before it hurts you any more than it’s already done.”

“I’m all warm and tingly, Chief,” Jim sarcastically answered.

“Oh, that’s a real mature response,” Blair muttered.

“I’ll deal with, understand?” Angered, Jim pulled his arm away from Blair’s grasp. “I will deal with it.”

Blair swallowed his response as he followed Jim back to the truck. Unfortunately, they had to walk through a crowd of reporters.

“Detective Ellison! Is this the work of the Country Club Strangler?” Don Haas shouted.

“I have no comment.” Jim began to work his way through the crowd.

A bearded man with a tape recorder and microphone got in Jim’s way. “You were the one who found the Strangler’s last victim. Your testimony was sealed because you were a minor. What did you tell the police? Did Wayne Hollow commit suicide because of you?”

Furious, Jim whirled and shoved the reporter backwards. “Get the hell out of my face!” he shouted.

“Jim! Hey! Easy!” Blair dove through the crowd and latched onto Jim’s arm.

Seconds later, the police forced the reporters back; and Simon stood between them.

“I’m Captain Banks!” He glared at the reporters. “This is an on-going investigation! If you have any questions, you will address them to me.”

“Come on, man,” Blair whispered as he pulled on Jim’s arm. “Come on, let’s go.”

They walked away, leaving Simon to deal with the reporters’ shouted questions.

“Jim, you’ve got…” Blair began.

“Don’t start on me right now, okay?” Jim angrily interrupted. “Why don’t you catch a ride back with Simon?” He walked to the driver’s side of the truck.

“You can’t keep running, Jim.” Blair caught the truck door as it swung open. “Okay, if you don’t want me around, fine, but…”

“It’s not that.” Jim took a deep breath and sat behind the wheel of the truck. “It’s not you. This is all…”

“Messin’ with you,” Blair half-smiled. “It’s starting to catch up with you, man, but you…”

“I’m going to see my father!” Jim snapped. “Are you satisfied?”

Blair studied his friend closely. “Yes.” He released the door and stepped back.

Jim took another deep breath and slowly released it. Calm down…calm down…you have to calm down. Resting his hands on the steering wheel of the truck, he glanced at Blair. "Sorry."

Blair shrugged. "It's okay."

Jim shook his head. "Yeah…well…" He shrugged again. As Blair stepped back from the truck, Jim reached in his pocket for the keys. "Hey, Sandburg."

Blair hesitated, then stepped forward as Jim started the truck's engine.

Jim glanced out the open window at his partner. "Bud used to call me 'Chief' a lot of the time. It made me feel...good." Before Blair could answer, he put the truck in gear and drove away.

Blair grinned at the retreating truck, hoping Jim was listening. "Makes me feel good, too, Jim."

Act I

Act III