Beta read by Lady Shelley and Dotty
Written for PetFly by:
Teleplay by Lydia Look
Story by J. Rae Fox
internal thought in italics
Jim Ellison held open the door of the Golden Pavilion so his friend,
roommate, and unofficial partner, Blair Sandburg, could exit onto the sunlit sidewalk.
Following him out, Jim let the door shut and took up a comfortable position walking at his
side. They opened their fortune cookies and pulled out the slips of paper.
"Huh," Blair said. "'You will love and be loved by many.'" He looked at Jim with a smirk. "Well, mine's right. What's yours say?" He took a bite of the cookie.
Jim read his silently. 'Your charm and intelligence contribute to your success.' Yeah, like Sandburg wouldn't tease me about that all day. Keeping a straight face, Jim answered Blair. "'Your partner puts the 'dim' in 'dim sum.'"
Laughing, Blair said, "Did you think of that all on your own?"
Jim just grinned. He tucked the cookie and the paper with the fortune into one of his jacket pockets.
Blair launched into one of his many stories. "I had this friend. Every time he had to make a major decision in his life, he'd go to the same Chinese restaurant and get a fortune cookie. So one day, he gets offered this big job in New York and he goes to the restaurant and the place is closed. You'll never guess what he did."
While his partner was talking, Jim was scanning the stores, cars, and people around them. As always, the streets of Cascade's Chinatown were bustling. Jim glanced down at Blair as they walked; without warning, his shoulder bumped into someone. Turning immediately, he said, "Sorry. Oh, my God." He did a double take as he took in the features of the woman. "Lila!" He helped return the strap of her handbag to her shoulder from where it had slipped off.
The woman looked at him blankly. "I'm sorry," she said in a flat voice, shaking her head slightly. "I think you've got me confused with someone else." Her voice had a slight accent. She moved away from him, towards the street. "Excuse me." Turning towards the oncoming traffic, she waved down a cab. "Taxi! Taxi!"
Jim stared after her. I know that's Lila, and I know she recognized me. Why is she pretending not to know me? He felt confused and betrayed? He was broken from his thoughts by Blair's voice.
"You know her?" Blair was staring after her.
"I thought I did," Jim said. He could hear the confusion in his own voice.
The woman got into the taxi. Jim focused his sentinel vision in on the cab's license plate, fixing the plate number in his memory. As the cab pull away, two blue and yellow squad cars approached, sirens screaming. Jim and Blair watched as they maneuvered around the corner right in front of them.
"What's going on?" Blair asked.
"I don't know," Jim answered. "Let's find out."
They jogged down the street toward the knot of cars, people, and flashing lights. Jim took in the myriad details with the speed and skill of long experience: a limo with a man's body in the back seat, slumped over, blood dribbling from a puncture wound under the left ear; a uniform standing nearby keeping the crowd away; dozens of people rubbernecking, hoping to see something they could share over dinner; the usual heavy traffic winding its way slowly through the crowded streets, parting reluctantly for the emergency vehicles that were descending on the scene.
With Blair close behind him, Jim approached the uniformed cop and identified himself, then moved to examine the body. The dead man had a clean-shaven head and was dressed in the garb of a Buddhist monk. Jim knelt next to the open door and, after putting on a pair of latex gloves, he double-checked for a pulse, even though his hearing had already told him the man was dead; he had to make it look good to those watching. Jim was inspecting the unusual, triangular puncture wound in the corpse's neck when he heard his partner swallow hard. He glanced over his shoulder. "You okay, Chief?"
"Yeah," Blair said, purposely scanning the crowd rather than examining the man with the hole in his neck. "I'm fine. How you doing? Senses okay?" The last words were spoken so softly that no one else could hear them.
"I'm good. If you want to wait by one of the squad cars, that's fine, Chief." Jim was back to inspecting the wound. He sniffed carefully. There was a faint odor that reminded him of the curare the Chopec in Peru had sometimes used on their arrowheads when hunting.
"No, I'm okay. I just won't look, if that's all right."
Jim glanced at him and smiled. "No problem."
Another uniform emerged from the crowd and started talking to the cop who had been standing guard over the scene when Jim and Blair had first arrived. Jim stood and moved over to the newcomer, glancing at his nametag. "I'm Detective Ellison, Major Crime. What's up, Morelli?"
"Two Buddhist monks were spotted fleeing the scene. I chased them, but lost them due to the denseness of the crowd. I last saw them heading west on Mitchell."
"Did you call it in?"
"Yes, sir. Dispatch has a couple squads looking for them."
"Okay, good. Can you identify them?"
The man took a deep breath and considered the question for a moment. "I don't know. I only saw them from the back, and at a distance. I'll do my best, though."
"Okay. I'll talk to you more later." Jim nodded at him.
"Yes, sir." Morelli seemed relieved to be released. Jim tried not to smile as the man joined his partner in keeping the now-dwindling crowd back. It's okay, Morelli. I don't bite. No matter what you've heard.
Behind him, Blair announced, "Hey, Jim, Simon's here."
The detective turned around as the captain stepped out of his car and approached them. "Break it down for me, Jim."
Jim followed Simon as he moved toward the limo. "Asian male, forties, no ID, sir."
Blair piped up. "He was a Buddhist monk"
Jim continued. "If you look below the left ear, there's a triangular puncture wound. I don't think that's what killed him, though."
Leaning close to the car and squatting down, Simon peered at the body. "Take a look at his color. Looks like he was asphyxiated." Simon tilted his head, examining the dead man carefully. "I don't see any bruises around the neck, though." He stood and looked at Jim.
"It's my guess that there was some sort of poison on the instrument that killed him," Jim said, "something that would cause a temporary muscular paralysis to constrict breathing. I detected a faint odor of curare from the wound. Also, there were two monks spotted fleeing from the scene."
Puzzled, Blair said, "This doesn't make sense to me. I mean, the whole core of the Buddhist belief system is nonviolence."
"Then why did they run?" Simon asked.
Blair shrugged. "I don't know."
An hour later, they were back in the bullpen. The usual bustle and noise
eddied around Blair as he sat in the chair next to Jim's desk. His partner was on the
phone. Blair's attention was suddenly grabbed when Jim said, "That's right. She was
picked up this afternoon by one of your taxis, license plate 0-7-8-F-G-E."
Whoa, Jim, is something serious going on here, man? He tilted his head and unabashedly continued to listen in.
"Uh, about 1 pm, in front of the Rice King Dim Sum House. Yeah. I'll hold." Jim covered the mouthpiece of the phone and looked at his partner. "What do you need, Chief?" The message couldn't have been clearer: This is none of your business.
Blair just grinned at him. "Nothing. I'm not saying anything."
"You don't need to say anything." Jim glowered at him.
"I'm good," Blair said, smiling.
Sighing, Jim said, "Her name is Lila Hobson. I met her when I was in Bali seven years ago, right after they pulled me out of Peru. I was on R&R. We stayed at the same hotel, got involved, end of story."
"How involved?" Blair asked with a grin. "Not end of story."
"We had one week together. One morning she just left. I tried to track her down, but I couldn't." Jim abruptly turned his attention back to the phone. "Yeah? Yeah, I know the Summit. Thanks." He hung up. "Got to go." He stood.
"You need some moral support?" Blair asked.
Jim shot him a smug look as he grabbed his jacket, then turned and left the bullpen.
Blair raised his eyebrows. "I guess that's a no." He took a sip of coffee.
The Summit Hotel was located in downtown Cascade. Jim found a parking spot a block away and walked to the hotel. There were a lot of people in and around the lavish building. He absently noted the signs advertising a convention, which explained some of the activity.
Entering the building, Jim scanned the lobby, hoping to see Lila. There was no sign of her anywhere, so he headed toward the line at the registration desk, slipping his badge out of his pocket. Trying to assuage his conscience, he thought, It's not exactly a legitimate use of my police powers, but sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do .
Just then he caught a scent he remembered from earlier that day: Lila's scent. He felt hope rising. Maybe this time he could make things work with her. Looking in the direction from which it came, he saw Lila's reflection in a mirror that adorned one of the walls of the elaborately decorated lobby. She was just disappearing around a corner. Slipping from his place in line, he followed her.
He turned the corner and hurried down the corridor. Lila had just reached the corridor where the elevators were located. She stopped and pushed the "Up" button.
Jim spoke. "Lila?"
She turned around and looked at him. After a long moment, she smiled and said, "Hello, Jim." There was no surprise in her manner or voice.
Relaxing slightly, Jim smiled. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"Sure." Lila smiled back and moved toward him.
They made their way toward the nearby hotel lounge. Jim held her chair for her. Lila smiled up at him as she sat down. A server came up and took their orders, then moved away toward the bar. Jim slipped out of his jacket and settled in the chair opposite Lila. He dropped a twenty for the drinks on the low table that squatted between them.
Jim sat back and allowed himself to drink in the sight of the beautiful woman across the table from him. She had the pale skin and long, dark red hair he remembered so well, and her wide-set eyes, which gave her an exotic air, still held promises and secrets that made him want to gather her in his arms, to hold and protect her forever. When she smiled, his heart beat faster and his body remembered the time they had spent together those many years before.
His attention must have made Lila self-conscious. After a couple minutes, she lowered her eyes to her hands, which were holding her bag in her lap. She glanced back up at him, and Jim came out of his dreamlike state, shaking himself slightly.
"I'm sorry. It's just been so long. And you're so beautiful." He smiled and was rewarded with a tinge of color that rose in her cheeks.
"Yes, it has been a long time, Jim."
"So, why did you act like you didn't know me?"
Stiffening slightly, Lila answered, "Well, I just wasn't prepared to see you. So, how've you been?"
The server returned with their drinks. She set them down on napkins, took the twenty, and drifted away.
"You still in the military?"
"No. I'm a cop here in Cascade." Jim took a sip of his drink and set it down.
"Well, it seems to fit you well." Lila leaned forward, picking up her glass of wine and resting her elbow on her crossed knees.
"Yeah, most of the time." He watched as she took a drink of wine. "How about you? You still living in Amsterdam?"
"Yes. I sell textiles for a design firm. I'm here on business." Then she looked at him, regret written on her face. "Jim, I'm sorry I disappeared like that in Bali...without saying good-bye."
He looked at her sadly. "Yeah, I always thought it was something I did."
"Huh-uh." She shook her head. "It wasn't you."
It wasnt me. Maybe we can get back together, make it work. The hope that had begun to grow earlier expanded, making Jim feel lighter and happier than he had in a long time. The good feeling was cut short, however, when a bright flash of light suddenly flared off Lila's face, burning into Jim's eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head away, pain showing on his face.
"You okay?" Jim could hear the concern in Lila's voice.
Trying to sound in control, he replied, "Yeah. How long you here for?" He tried to will away the sensory spike. Damn! What the hell caused that?!
"'Til Friday." Her voice was hesitant.
Probably not convinced that I'm all right. And for good reason, Jim thought. "Maybe I could show you around a little bit... take you to some of the sights that tourists don't get to see." He sat back, blinking, as the sensory spike eased up. Finally.
"Well, actually, Jim, there is another reason I'm in Cascade. I'm here to meet my fiancÚ. He's down in San Francisco on business and he'll be up here the day after tomorrow." Lila's weak smile was almost apologetic.
FiancÚ? No . Jim felt his heart fall to his feet. But he forced himself to smile and said, "Congratulations. When's the big day?"
"Well, I haven't actually set a date yet. We were thinking maybe the end of summer."
Another flash of light burst in Jim's eyes, followed by a sudden explosion of the sounds around him. Squinting, he rubbed his temple. He heard something being poured from one container into another, ice cubes rattling, a glass falling and liquid being spilled, all magnified a thousand times. The flare from a match being struck burst in his eyes like a miniature sun. He struggled desperately to control the painful spikes of light and sound.
Lila leaned toward him. "Jim? What's wrong? Are you ok?"
"Yeah. Yeah, um, sometimes I get migraines." Or sensory spikes. Why now?
"Is there anything I can do?" Lila asked.
"No. No. It'll be all right. I'm sorry. I'll see you later." He stood up, grabbed his jacket and made his way out of the lounge without looking back.
Blair listened to Jim carefully as they walked into the bullpen. Jim had
called him half an hour before, when his meeting with Lila had come to an abrupt and
unsettling end. Blair was not used to hearing his sentinel sound so unnerved.
"It's like my senses went into overdrive. It lasted for about five minutes," Jim said, confusion and frustration in his voice.
"And then everything went back to normal?" Blair looked at Jim with concern.
"Yeah, pretty much." They had reached Jim's desk. Jim sat down and leaned over toward Henri, who was seated at his own desk. "Brown, you got the number of your florist?"
Henri looked over at Jim. He had an expression of sympathy on his face. "Oh, I'm sorry, man. Did somebody die?"
With a look of irritation, Jim said, "No, nobody died."
Laughing, Henri asked Blair, "Well, you mean he has a date?"
Blair smiled perfunctorily. He was more concerned about Jim's senses and safety than what the woman might think about Jim leaving suddenly.
"It's an apology thing," Jim said. Looking at Blair with a slight shrug, he said under his breath, "The way I stumbled out of that place, the girl must've thought I was nuts."
After scribbling the number on a piece of paper, Henri handed it to Jim. "Here you go."
"Thanks very much. You've been very kind," Jim said with only a trace of sarcasm.
The other detective turned back to his work with a wave of his hand and a grin.
Blair asked Jim in a quiet voice, "You sure that's all that happened?"
His eyes focused off in the distance, Jim asked, "You ever have one of those times where, with a woman, you know, if things had turned out differently she could've been the one?"
"Not really, but it sounds special," Blair said. He kept his tone light and mercilessly shoved thoughts of Maya, for whom he had indeed had special feelings, to the recesses of his mind and heart. They didn't hurt as much there.
"Why did I even bother asking you?" Jim asked with exasperation. He reached for the telephone and dialed the florist's number.
Blair openly listened as Jim placed an order for flowers to be delivered to Lila at her hotel. He grinned and waggled his eyebrows when he heard Jim request orchids. Jim saw Blair listening and made a face as he dictated the message for the card. "'Sorry I left so suddenly. Can we have dinner? Jim. 555-4167.'" After giving his credit card number and its expiration date, Jim hung up the phone.
Blair could sense a lecture coming on not listening in on private conversations--from his sentinel, of all people, who listened in on him all the time!--when Simon appeared at Jim's desk. Saved by the captain, he thought with an inward grin. "Ellison, a couple of patrol guys spotted those monks we're looking for down in Chinatown," Simon said. "They took off before we got a chance to question them. Why don't you two head down there, see if you can track this guy down?"
"Very good, sir," Jim said.
Blair stood and followed his partner out of the bullpen.
Blair stared at the streets of Chinatown as they slid past the windows of
the truck. While they had been searching for the monks, he had been searching for an
answer to Jim's sensory spikes. He glanced at his partner as Jim finished his update to
"We just cruised Chelsea all the way to 98th. No sign of our suspect. We're going to be heading west on Mitchell. Over."
Blair said, "You know, that sensory spike...something had to cause it, right? Maybe it was something in the food. Maybe something in the air."
Jim glanced at him. "Well, it could be an allergic reaction. I've had them before."
"I hope for your sake that it is only a one-time thing. For me, I'd like to study it. I wouldn't mind it happening again."
"All for the sake of science," Jim said lightly, but with a touch of sarcasm. He suddenly slowed and then stopped the truck and looked past Blair. "Whoa, what do we have here? There he is."
Turning, Blair could see they had stopped next to Chiang Kai-Shek Park. One of the monks they had been searching for was slumped over on a park bench, apparently unconscious or dead.
Blair followed Jim as he got out of the truck. They hurried along the sidewalk and up several steps, and then over to the park bench where the monk sat, his head tipped to the left. Blair saw blood had run down from a wound under the monk's right ear. He moved behind the bench, and Jim moved to the front.
Jim slipped a latex glove over his right hand and checked the monk's pulse while he looked at the wound. "Same triangular puncture mark as the other ones. Yeah, this guy's gone. What is this?" Jim pulled something out of the man's right hand. He held it up and Blair could see it was a key. "1714."
"Locker number?" Blair suggested.
"Or a hotel room," Jim countered. He pulled a second glove on his left hand.
Blair noticed what appeared to be a beaded necklace lying on the ground near the monk's feet. "What's that?" He pointed toward the object.
Leaning down, Jim picked it up. He held it so Blair could see it, too.
Touching the necklace, Blair realized what it meant. "It's sandalwood beads." He looked at the dead man. "This guy's a Tibetan lama."
He watched as Jim took note of a black bead on the necklace. Jim touched it and rubbed his fingers together, asking, "What is this?" He sniffed at whatever was on his fingers then pulled his head back, as if alarmed. "Chief, you know what this is?"
Blair noticed that the lines of concentration on Jim's face were smoothing out. Jim started to sway. "Jim, are you all right?" Blair's voice rose in concern. He reached toward Jim, but wasn't close enough to catch him.
"Yeah, that's, um... " Jim fell against the bench and then slumped to the ground. He lay, unconscious, on the sidewalk.
Blair quickly moved around the end of the park bench and knelt next to him. "Jim.... Oh, my God. Jim... Jim!" He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. He laid the hand that wasn't holding the phone on Jim's arm to reassure both his partner and himself. As soon as the operator answered, he said, "Hello. I need an ambulance and backup at the northwest end of Chiang Kai-Shek Park, please. Theres an officer down. Yes. I think he was exposed to some kind of substance. Theres also a DB here, so well need someone to take care of the scene. Uh-huh. Blair Sandburg. Im an observer with Major Crimes." He looked down at Jim. "Oh, man, Jim, be okay!" he murmured, moving his hand until it lay gently along the side of Jim's face. As soon as the operator confirmed that an ambulance and squad cars had been dispatched, Blair shut off his phone and set it down.
Slipping out of his brown leather jacket, Blair folded it and carefully placed it under Jim's head. He checked to be sure Jim was breathing all right. Yes--evenly, but too slow. It must be some kind of drug with a depressant effect, he thought. Where is that ambulance! Blair raised his head and looked around quickly, then turned his attention back to Jim. His fingers sought out Jim's carotid artery. A slow but steady pulse reassured him.
"Come on, Jim, hang in there. I don't know what's on that bead, but you'll be okay. Just hang on," he pleaded. "The ambulance is on its way."
He again looked up, hoping to hear or see the rescue vehicle. I should call Simon, Blair thought. He grabbed his cell phone and hit the speed dial for the captain.
"Banks," came the familiar voice, moments later.
"Simon? It's Blair."
"Sandburg? Did you find the monks?"
"One of them. He's dead." He winced at the tenseness in his voice. "Then Jim smelled something on a bead from the guy's necklace and passed out--" The words all rushed out in one breath.
"What! Slow down, Sandburg. Is Jim okay?" Blair heard Simon's concern and pictured the tall captain rising to his feet behind his desk, frowning in response to his detective's--and friend's--unconscious state.
"I don't know." Blair knew he was starting to choke up. He heard the sound of approaching sirens. "Gotta go, Simon, the ambulance is coming."
"Sandburg! Where are you?" Simon demanded.
"Chiang Kai-Shek Park, northwest end. Hurry, Simon." Blair shut off his phone.
A squad car pulled up a moment later, followed by an ambulance. Two uniforms hurried up, taking in the scene in an instant. Blair quickly explained the situation. Then the EMTs ran up with their equipment and Blair was busy explaining to them what had happened. The uniforms set about securing the scene while Blair and the EMTs saw to Jim.