By Chrys
Beta Read by: Lady Shelley
Written for PetFly by:
Teleplay by: Gail Morgan Hickman & David H. Balkan
Story by: Harold Apter & Laurence Frank

Rated PG
internal thought in italics

Act I

Blair grinned to himself as he came out of the airport's doors into the pick-up circle. Jim and Simon were engrossed in admiring Simon's new car. The silver vehicle gleamed in the artificial lighting almost as brightly as Simon's face had when he'd taken them into the police garage on their way to the airport. He was proud of it, that was for sure. And Blair would bet anything that Jim was ragging him about it.

He walked closer quietly, his grin widening as he overheard their conversation.

"Nothing like the smell of a new car, huh?" Jim shook his head admiringly. "Check out this paint job." He leaned over, peering intently at the hood. "Nice. Very nice, except for this ding right here."

"What ding?" Simon exclaimed, pushing Jim slightly to the side as he bent over to look at the hood. "Where? Where?"

Jim began to laugh, and Simon growled at him. "You're very funny. Did I tell you you're a funny man?" He aimed a half-hearted blow at Jim's arm, which the detective didn't bother to evade. "Get your hands off the paint job!"

Blair snickered to himself as the two men stood straight. They turned around, obviously hearing him. He smiled at them innocently, catching Jim's amused eyes with his own.

"Her plane's in," he reported, "but she's not at the gate. She's not at the baggage carousel, so I guess she's probably stuck in customs or something."

Simon nodded. "You use the courtesy telephone, page her?"

Blair grinned. "I told them to tell her that there were three handsome guys waiting by a silver car."

"Huh," Simon said. "I see two." He laughed, the sound echoed by Jim.

"Yeah," the detective agreed. "That's my count." He shrugged. "Why doesn't she just take a cab?"

"Well, she's a visiting officer, Jim," Simon explained again. "It's not proper protocol."

Blair sighed at the sentinel's mutinous expression, but kept his mouth shut as Jim spoke again. They'd been through this.

"So when can we expect the marching band?" Jim asked. Simon scowled at him.

"The officer exchange program is vital to the department for upgrading its training."

Blair turned away from the two cops, studying the surrounding area. He caught the doors opening out of the corner of his eye and focused his attention on them. A tall red haired woman came out, carrying a couple of suitcases. He wondered who in the world had told her that the pink lining to her coat was attractive. He could hear Jim talking to Simon, still complaining about the exchange program, and turned his attention back to the other men.

"I got the memo, Captain." Jim shrugged. "The last thing I need are tips from some female Crocodile Dundee out to bust beer-soaked kangaroos."

Blair's eyes widened as he saw the woman walking up behind Jim. Her face was a mixture between amusement and annoyance, and he winced as she opened her mouth.

A polite, accented voice emerged, and Jim started, his face turning slightly red as he turned around.

"The only crocs I've seen are at the Sydney Zoo and the roos I know prefer vodka."

Jim fumbled for words, then just turned away. The woman smiled and looked at Simon. "Inspector Megan Connor, New South Wales Police Services."

Simon smiled widely. "Inspector Connor, I'm Captain Simon Banks, Major Crimes Cascade Police Department."

"Pleasure," she said, then looked at Blair.

"Hi." He offered his hand. "I'm Blair Sandburg."

"You must work Narcotics."

He dropped the hand again. " Actually, I'm a consultant to the department."

Megan's eyebrows rose. "On what?" There was no answer to her question and she shrugged. "I suppose I'll find out." Her voice sharpened. "And the comedian is?"

Jim turned back to the other three. Blair had to admire his composure, actually, as he introduced himself and apologized for the comment he'd made. Megan smiled at him.

"I like a man who says what he feels even if his statements are wrong."

Simon laughed, the sound cutting to chuckles as Jim glared at him. "I'll help you with your bags," he said, still chuckling.

"Thank you," Megan smiled. "I've a couple more over here. I wasn't sure what gear I'd need for your lovely attempt at spring." As she moved toward the trunk, a sky hop followed with a laden cart. Blair laughed, making Simon growl at him.

"Sandburg, give me a hand." He pushed Blair lightly toward the cart. "Get, get."

Blair kept laughing as he complied, helping Simon load the baggage into the car. He looked up briefly as he heard Jim mutter something to himself, then shrugged and returned to what he was doing. The sentinel was in a snit, and he'd be no good company until he worked his way out of it. He doesn't like the idea that he needs someone else to help him protect his city, the anthropologist thought. Even if it's true.

Jim curled his upper lip as he looked away from the car. Simon and Blair were busily dealing with the Australian's bags, and even if Jim had wanted to help them, there was no room for three at the cart. Not that he wanted to, though. Something about the woman was rubbing him the wrong way, and he didn't think it was embarrassment over his comment, either. He felt his lips curve slightly upward. "She looks like Cruella de Vil," he muttered to himself.

It was an unfair comment, and he knew it even as he made it. But Megan Connor set his teeth on edge the same way the movie character had done when he was a child.

Shaking off the feeling, he ran his eyes idly over the nearby area, stiffening as he spotted the familiar shape of a gun. Almost automatically, he opened up his vision, focusing on two men in a dark van. They were both looking in the same direction, intent on something, and he followed their gaze, stiffening as a security guard emerged from the currency exchange office they were focused on.

One of the gunmen jumped out of the van, pointing a gun at the surprised guard. "Don't move!" he yelled. A third armed man appeared from behind the guard, pushing him against the wall and spraying him in the face. Jim's nostrils twitched and even from this distance, he could smell the pepper in the spray. He cleared his throat, moving toward the back of the car as he watched the robbery continue.

"Kick it over," the man holding the gun said. The guard, gagging from the spray, dropped his gun onto the pavement and kicked it toward the gunman, who stepped over it. "Now, lie on your stomach," he ordered. "Move! Come on. Let's go!"

The robbers piled into the van as Jim rounded the back of Simon's car, grabbing the trunk and slamming it closed. Simon stared at him in surprise. Jim ignored him as he pushed past, sliding into the driver's seat. As he started the car, Simon climbed into the passenger's seat.

"What are you doing? Jim?"

Jim glanced over at him briefly. "Armored car heist in progress, sir."

"So what are you doing, taking my car?" Simon growled. "Let me drive!"

Jim just shook his head as he gunned the engine, sending the car screeching in pursuit of the stolen vehicle. There was no time to waste in switching drivers. Besides, he was better at pursuit than Simon was.

Blair stared open-mouthed at the retreating back end of the silver car his sentinel had just left in. He had heard the low voiced words 'armored car heist'. Shaking his head, he wondered if there would ever be a day when something bizarre didn't happen to them.

"We've got to back them up."

The Australian cop's voice rang in his ears and he transferred his stare to her. "What are you talking about? With what? They took the car."

She just shrugged and stepped into the pick-up lane, pulling her badge out and flashing it in front of a surprised taxi driver. Blair winced at the sound of screeching wheels as the cab came to an abrupt stop.

"Halt!" Megan demanded. "Police emergency. I need your vehicle."

She ran to the side of the car, pulling the startled driver out. "Thanks," she said briefly as she settled behind the wheel. "Come on, Sandy!"

Blair blinked, but climbed into the car. "Sandy?" he asked. Megan ignored him, the car squealing as she accelerated. He grabbed for his seatbelt, fumbling it as they went around a corner hard. Behind them, the cab driver's outraged yells faded rapidly.

Still trying to fasten his seatbelt, Blair gasped as they went around another corner. They were heading into the parking garage above the pick-up area. The Australian detective was putting on her own belt almost absently, her eyes scanning the road ahead of them.

"Where the hell are they?" she growled in frustration, rounding another corner. A van was headed right at them, and she honked the horn. "Out of the way! Get off the road!" she yelled.

Proud of himself for keeping his voice at all even, Blair told her to turn, just as they swerved out of the way of the approaching vehicle. He took a deep breath, then spoke again.

"I think I should point out we drive on the right side of the road."

Megan glanced over at him briefly. "I knew that," she said. Her voice was nonchalant, but Blair noticed in relief that she stayed toward the right as they accelerated again.

Catching a glimpse of Simon's car, Blair pointed. Megan nodded, spinning the cab's steering wheel and heading down the ramp he'd gestured to. As they neared the bottom, another car started up. "Move it, jocko!" Megan yelled as she hit the horn again. The confused motorist backed up, and Megan took off again, following Simon's car.

Vaguely aware of the cab following them, Jim careened down the ramps of the parking garage, his attention focused on the van fleeing them. Having called in the situation, Simon clutched at the dash, alternating between searching for the perps and moaning as Jim gunned his new car's engine. Jim had assured him that things would work out just fine, then ignored the captain as he drove in pursuit of the criminals. The car wasn't even scratched, after all. Some near misses, but nothing had happened.

The van turned to go down an aisle in the third level. Jim turned to drive parallel to them, hoping to cut them off before the next down ramp. He winced as they fired at the car, hearing the impacts peel the pristine surface backward. Beside him, Simon moaned in despair.

Shaking off the sound, Jim swerved, heading toward the aisle the van was in. Cutting a corner a bit close, he felt the brief impact as a concrete pillar tore off the passenger side mirror. Knowing it would get him in trouble later, he couldn't resist. "We're fine, sir," he said. "We only needed one mirror."

In the far end of the garage, he spotted the taxi cab, its yellow paint vivid in the dimly lit garage. Curious, he focused on it for a second, smiling as he heard Blair's voice. Apparently the Aussie wanted him to shoot at the van. Good luck with that, Connor. The cab headed down the aisle toward the van, apparently aiming for a head on collision. Grimly, Jim kept to his own pursuit, refusing to think about what would happen if the two vehicles collided.

At the last moment, the van's tires squealing, the armored vehicle turned to go down an exit ramp. Jim spun the wheel, sending Simon's car after it, the taxi following them. Simon put his arm out the window, aiming his gun at the van.

"I'll try and get off a shot," the captain said. Jim grunted, then swore under his breath as another car headed up the ramp. There wasn't enough room for two vehicles - what was the idiot thinking? "Pull your arm in," he said. Simon ignored him. Jim reached out and pulled the captain back into the car. He'd rather damage the car than Simon's arm. The passing vehicle scraped off the remaining side mirror as it squeezed by. I am in such trouble.

Continuing down the ramp, Jim felt the car shudder under more bullet impacts. Simon swore and shot back at the fleeing criminals.

"I'm sorry, sir," Jim offered, knowing it wasn't enough. Simon glared at him.

"Just get after them while we still have wheels!" the captain ordered.

Jim nodded, glancing in the rear view long enough to see Megan and Blair back up the ramp and take another one down. Oh, crap. I was going down an up ramp. He shrugged, then took off after the van. It wasn't like he'd had any choice, after all.

Simon shot repeatedly after the van, his bullets seeming to have no effect. The silver car flew after it, then Jim noticed the cab pulling down a ramp ahead of the van. It slewed around, ending up angled across the aisle way. He could hear Blair's panicked voice, then the impact of metal on metal drowned it out.

Oh, God. Blair's in that car.

Pushing down the worry for his guide, Jim pulled Simon's car to a halt behind the crumpled vehicles. Simon jumped out, his gun at full extension as he approached the criminals. Jim followed suit, catching a glimpse of Blair standing to the side of the wreck. Relieved, he put his full attention on the perps.

"Out of the car! Now!" Simon growled.

The robbers obeyed their movements slow and careful.

"Hands where I can see them! Weapons down! Move! Let's go!"

Jim walked to his captain's side. "Put your hands on the hood over here," he added to Simon's commands, pushing the van's driver toward the taxi. "Face down! Face down!"

Megan came up alongside them, grabbing one of the perps and expertly placing cuffs even as Jim did the same with the driver. He looked at her for a moment, meeting eyes full of challenge, then nodded slowly. "All right. Cover them, Connor."

He looked around for Simon, wincing as he spotted the captain, who stood mournfully in front of his battered car. Taking a deep breath, he walked over to join the other man.

"Now, Captain," he said, "I do not want you to worry about this. A little bondo, a paint job, she'll be as good as new. I guarantee it."

He reached out and slapped the silver hood. The car shuddered and the driver's door fell off, the impact sending a ringing sound through the garage. Jim looked at Simon, meeting accusing eyes for a moment, then looked away. He expected the captain to explode. When he didn't, Jim knew it was going to be bad. Really bad. He blew out a long breath, then turned and walked toward the taxi, where Connor still had the perps lying face down over the hood.

It would be safer there.

The other detectives' heads were down, Jim noticed as they entered the bullpen a couple of hours after the car chase at the airport, he and Blair trailing after Simon, and the detectives themselves were studiously working. He didn't blame them. When Simon was in this kind of mood, it wasn't wise to attract his attention. He'd mellowed a bit since the computer database had popped up the names of the captured gunmen - wanted for armed robbery in three states and murder in one - but still wasn't over the car.

Jim really didn't think he'd be over the car any time soon.

As they neared the door to Simon's office, the captain turned and glared at Jim again.

"Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for the department to authorize a new car?" he demanded. "And how many days of pleasure do I get? Three!"

Jim sighed. "Captain, what was I supposed to do, let the guys go?"

Simon growled under his breath, then shook his head. "No, you weren't supposed to let them go." He turned back toward the door, tossing a comment over his shoulder. "But what is it with you and cars anyway? Somebody whack you with a toy car when you were a baby?"

Jim really didn't think this was the time to share the 'Stevie whacked me with his Christmas present' story, so he kept his mouth shut, following the captain into his office. Blair, wisely staying out of the discussion, came in right behind him. Jim nodded to the Australian detective, who had been sitting as they entered the office, but rose and stood at attention as Simon glared at her.

"Inspector Connor," the captain said. "I believe we need to get a few things straight. While I appreciate your assistance this afternoon..."

Megan's head tilted slightly. "Assistance, sir? I believe Sandy and I actually stopped the suspects."

Jim grinned to himself and looked over at Blair. "Sandy?" he questioned in a low voice. Blair glared at him.

Simon settled behind his desk, his attention still on Megan. "Granted. But you are out of your jurisdiction. You haven't been issued the proper credentials."

"And when might I have those credentials?"

"I'll let you know." Jim winced at the coldness to Simon's voice. "For now, you remain on observer status. You may carry your firearm for protection since you are weapons-trained."

The Aussie bowed her head briefly. "I understand and - I apologize, Captain. My...enthusiasm got the best of me."

Blair laughed quietly. "I seem to have heard that in this office before, huh?" It was Jim's turn to glare.

"Well, luckily, the armored car company will pay for damages to the taxi which are estimated to be $12,346. That's US." Simon grimaced at Megan, then rose, moving to his coffee pot. He pointedly did not offer any one else a cup as he poured his own. "Now, during your stay here you are going to need someone to supervise you. And based on this afternoon's adventure, I've decided that will be you, Detective Ellison."

Jim groaned. "How did I know that was coming? Captain, I think..."

Simon raised a hand, cutting him off. "That will be all, Detectives. Oh, Jim, on your way out, would you make sure that door stays on its hinge?"

Wincing at the cutting remark, Jim nodded, heading out of Simon's office with Blair on his heels. Behind him he could hear Megan start to talk, whatever she was about to say cut off by the still angry captain. The sentinel grinned at the imitation Aussie accent Simon used, then sobered as he approached his desk. There were piles of folders, each one an unsolved case, resting on it. He wanted to deal with them. And now he had to baby-sit?

Behind him sharp clicks on the floor announced Megan's arrival at his desk. She came around in front of them, her eyes flashing.

"Is your captain always so quick to spit the dummy?"

Jim stared at her. "I beg your pardon?"

Blair laughed. "Uh, she means get angry." He turned to Megan. "Captain Banks is a really nice guy once you get to know him."

"I'm not sure I want to."

Jim had had it. "That's a nice attitude, Connor. Considering he gave you a second chance when you could be on your way back down under for that stunt you pulled."

"Stunt?" she growled. "What was I supposed to do? Just stand by and..."

"Time out, guys, all right?" Blair moved in between them, his eyes pleading as he looked at Jim. Jim glared at him, then backed off. Blair flashed him a smile, then turned to Megan. "Um... look, I'm sure that you're really tired from your long flight, Inspector. So why don't Jim and I just drive you over to your hotel and we can start all this over in the morning."

Megan shook her head. "Thanks, but I'll take a cab."

"Great." Jim tried, but he couldn't resist. "Why don't you see if you can stay in the passenger seat this time?"

She stiffened, then turned, sweeping out of the bullpen. Jim glared after her, then turned to look at Blair, expecting censure for that last smart remark. Instead his guide grinned at him. "What do you make of that coat?"

Jim relaxed. "What is that?" he asked. "Pink dingo?"

Blair laughed. "I like that."

Balance restored, the sentinel picked up a file and began working. Maybe the day wasn't a complete write-off after all.

Megan stared at herself in the mirror, then nodded with satisfaction. It was the image she wanted to project tonight. Her eyes darkened as she thought of the man she was searching for, and her lips tightened, the taut expression in sharp contrast to the lush outfit she wore and the carefully applied make-up. She would find him, she vowed to herself. She would.

After all, she might have only this one chance. After the car chase earlier, she had no idea how long she'd be allowed to stay in Cascade. She had to make every day count.

Pulling out the hand written directions to the place recommended as "the best Indian food in the city", she studied them, then shoved them into her purse. Grabbing her keys, she left the hotel room.

Locating the restaurant with ease, she parked and got out of the car, taking a deep breath as she walked to the door. Entering the building, she altered her stride from the long, ground covering pace natural to her to a hip swinging, sultry sashay. She smiled coyly as she noticed the bartender's eyes on her. Pulling out a picture of her goal, she leaned across the bar, almost laughing as he forced his eyes to focus on the picture.

"I'm looking for someone who may have come in here," she purred, altering her accent to a drawl.

The man shrugged. "I might have seen him but not at night. Lunch, maybe."

She smiled flirtatiously. "If he comes again, call me." She reached into a pocket for her phone number, making sure the motion accentuated her outfit, then smiled again. "Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention that I asked about him."

The bartender's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Are you a cop?"

She shook her head. "Uh-uh. Ex-wife. He owes me three years' back alimony."

The man's face warmed again and he looked her over appreciatively. "If he left you, he is an idiot."

Megan shrugged, rolling her shoulders, then turned and strolled away, moving slowly to give the man a good view. Finally out of the restaurant, she shook her head, her mouth twisting at the part she'd played. Still - if he wanted to see her again, he'd be more likely to call if her target showed up. And she wanted him to call - she wanted that very badly indeed.

If this went down right - if she got Bruenell - it would be worth all the reprimands in the world. It would even be worth working with the arrogant detective named Ellison.

Late morning sun slanted across the small park near the PD where they were waiting for the exchange officer. Blair closed his eyes and tilted his face into the warmth, trying to store it up for the future. He just knew at some time he'd be wet and cold again.

"Not only am I stuck playing tour guide, I also got to wait around for her forever? What, did she forget to reset her clock?"

Blair debated ignoring the sentinel's complaints then sighed. "Relax, she'll be here." He cocked his head slightly. "You know, I was thinking if we're working closely with her, we're gonna have to really be conscious of keeping your sentinel abilities quiet."

"I agree." Jim grinned at him, clapping him on the shoulder. "I'll leave that upon you, Sandy."

Blair growled. "All right. That's about enough of the Sandy stuff. I'm serious here."

Jim just grinned wider, then turned his head as a car squealed around the corner on the wrong side of the road. "This must be her, now."

Blair agreed silently as honking rose from the cars swerving to avoid Megan. The Aussie pulled her car and parked in front of Jim's truck. "Look out," he said. "Hope she got extra collision with that rental."

He heard the hotdog vendor behind them snort in agreement as Megan got out of the car and walked over to them.

"G'day," she said cheerily. "Sorry I'm late. The way you Yanks drive, not to mention the bad language. Whew!"

Jim's voice was deadpan. "I can't image why anybody would be upset." Blair bit back a choke of laughter as Jim waved a hand expansively as he continued to speak. "Join us. We wanted to initiate you into one of the northwest's venerable dining institutions."

Megan frowned at the cart, staring at the brightly painted sign. "Tube Steak."

"Ah," Blair corrected, shaking his head, "that's Mr. Tube Steak. It's classic American food."

Jim nodded to the grinning vendor. "Three smokeys, Frank."

"Sure, Jimmy," the man said, setting up three platters.

Jim sniffed appreciatively as Frank opened the vat of steaming dogs, then frowned. "Running a little low on the sauerkraut, huh?"

Blair sighed with relief. "Thank God. I can't eat that stuff."

Jim stared at him in disbelief. "You've gotta be kidding me. I've seen you eat stuff I'd scrape off the bottom of my shoes. One time, I opened up the refrigerator and found a jar of freeze-dried grasshoppers and we weren't going fishing that day."

Blair shrugged. "Those were locusts. I like to experiment in pan-culture cuisine, all right? I draw the line at fermented cabbage." He made a face.

Megan laughed. "Ever tried barbecued witchety grubs? Considered a delicacy."

Blair grinned at her, ignoring Jim's disgusted look. "Yeah. With or without the heads?"

"With, of course."

Blair chimed in with Megan, agreeing with her. The other two men just looked at each other and shook their heads. Jim leaned over toward Frank, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "Maybe some pickled termites for these two, huh?"

The vendor grinned. "Specialty of the house, coming up. Would you like those chocolate-covered? They're on special today."

Blair determinedly ignored the laughing pair, then frowned as Jim scanned the street and stiffened. "What is it?" he asked quietly.

"That guy down there," the sentinel muttered. "He's an alarm systems expert. I busted him a couple of years ago in this jewelry exchange heist. I couldn't make the case though."

"Excuse me," Megan interrupted. "Who are you talking about?"

Blair felt his heart sink as he realized he could barely see the focus of Jim's attention. Jim was answering Megan, oblivious to the fact that he was the only one who could see that far.

"The fellow down there in the tan car. His name is Lane Cassidy. You don't see him?"

Jim's voice was incredulous and Blair sighed, trying to catch the sentinel's attention and failing. Megan looked down the street, then shook her head.

"How can you recognize him from here?"

Jim ignored her question, frowning. "Last time I heard, he had skipped to Arizona."

Giving up on trying to distract Jim, Blair decided to go with the flow. "What's he doing here?"

"I don't know," Jim answered. "Let's go find out." He looked over at Frank. "We'll come back for those."

"They'll be waiting," the hotdog vendor said, setting things back.

Blair smiled at him apologetically as Jim headed to the truck. "Sorry," he said. Frank just waved a hand at him. "Come on," he said to Megan, urging her after him as he ran for the truck. Jim would wait for them, but only for so long.

"What do we have here?" Simon's voice filled his office as he leafed through the file that Jim had just handed him. Jim smiled tightly, waiting for the captain to finish looking through the material. "Lane Cassidy," Simon mused. "Burglary, breaking and entering, burglary, burglary, burglary. This guy certainly found his niche in life, huh?"

Jim nodded, glad he'd spotted the guy, even if it had been difficult trying to evade Megan Connor's question as to how he had. Their impromptu stake-out had been rewarding. "On a hunch, we followed him to a hotel down in Chelsea," he told Simon. "About ten minutes after he arrived he received a couple visitors."

He handed the captain the second file. Simon flipped it open, his eyes going wide as he spotted the photos inside.

"Ooh, who took these?" he asked.

Blair bounced slightly beside Jim. The sentinel could see his grin out of the corner of his eye and suppressed one of his own. "I did," the grad student announced proudly, "- with a disposable camera from the motel shop. They're pretty good, huh?"

Jim let his smile out as Simon rolled his eyes at him, then sobered as the captain looked back at the pictures. He pointed at the top one. "That's Ben Ramos. He's a gang banger from LA. He spent several years running a car theft ring. He's recently been freelancing as a wheelman."

Simon nodded, then slipped the first picture out of the file to look at the other one.

"This is Jerry Kellerman," Jim continued. "He's from Houston. Marine vet. Expert with munitions and explosives. He also did time for extortion and bank robbery."

"Munitions expert... Alarm specialist... Getaway driver... All from out of town." He looked up at Jim, his eyes hard. "Is it just me, or does it sound like a crew getting ready for a job?"

"No," Jim drawled, knowing his captain would appreciate the sarcasm in his voice. He was right, Simon laughed, then snapped the files shut.

"Put these guys under 24-hour surveillance," he ordered. "Find out what these clowns are up to."

Jim smiled. "Very good, sir."

He turned to leave the office, his mind already working on the problem - what were these men after? And what would be the easiest way to find out?

Act II