Megan Connor stood at attention in front of the American
captain, aware of Jim and Blair sitting on the table to her side. Simon looked
her up and down, shaking his head.
"Connor, I should be chewing you out right now for disobeying my orders. But I have no doubt that given a choice Bruenell would've taken that hit into the hotel and that," he stopped and took a deep breath, "...that would've been ugly. Considering that there were no injuries on the street, you got lucky. You all did."
This wasn't what Megan had expected. Given Banks' attitude earlier, she'd thought she'd be on the next plane out of Cascade. But still... "I have an explanation for my actions, Captain."
Simon held up a hand. "Save it, Connor. My point is that Bruenell thinks you're such a serious threat to his operations, well, that could only be good for our side."
Her eyes widened. He couldn't mean... "Then I may continue to work on the case?"
He nodded. "I've discussed it with the Cascade brass and your boss - who has some very exemplary words for you, by the way. I understand you've received medals and a few citations."
False modesty had never been one of Megan's faults. So her response to this was a calm agreement. Banks might have expected more, but he didn't show it as he settled into his desk chair and looked up at her.
"Well, under the circumstances," he said, "we've decided that your policing skills and knowledge of the Bruenell case will be invaluable. As a result, you've been issued full credentials with the Major Crimes unit of the Cascade Police Department. Here's your badge and your department cell phone."
Taking them, she smiled. "Thank you, sir."
He grunted, then pointed a finger at her. "But you listen to this. You disobey my orders one more time and we're going to have a very sticky wicket."
Sticky wicket? What has the man been watching on the telly? She just nodded, then turned her head as a knock sounded from the door.
"Enter!" Simon ordered brusquely. The dark-haired young detective - Rafe, she thought, kind of cute, actually - came in carrying a thick stack of files.
"Captain, this just came for you."
He handed them to Simon, then nodded an acknowledgement of his boss's thanks as he left. Simon handed her the top file, then looked at Jim and Blair. "Gentlemen?"
They got up and came over to the desk, accepting the files he held out. Blair leafed through his, then looked up. "What's all this?"
"This is information from New South Wales, FBI, Interpol, concerning any case ever connected with Bruenell or one of his crew."
Blair whistled. "So, uh, what are we supposed to do with it?"
The captain chuckled. "You're supposed to get used to the bread and butter of police work, Sandburg. You know the drill, people. Look through every scrap of this information. See if you can find any pattern, any clue at all as to what Bruenell might be up to."
"This is quite a wad here, sir," the anthropology student protested. Simon glared at him.
"Yeah? Well, it's not going to get any thinner in here. Take this to the operations room. I have work to do."
The American detective touched his observer's shoulder, then looked at Simon. "Thank you, sir," he said quietly. Megan bit back a snort at Blair's disgruntled look as it faded to a grudging acceptance.
Simon was already engrossed in his own stack of folders. "Yup," he replied without looking up. The three left, Megan pulling the door closed behind her.
Blair absently rubbed the back of his neck, continuing to peer
at the paper in front of him as he did. He felt like he was studying for exams
again, actually. They'd been at this for hours. Beside him, Jim huffed a sigh.
"The only constant factor here seems to be big, difficult targets, intricate plans, and massive payoffs." The sentinel tossed the page he'd been looking at onto the table.
Blair nodded agreement as he looked up. "Yeah. It's pretty amazing. I mean, you put all these jobs together, it's like the world series of crime. I mean, take Kellerman here. He blew up, what, half a city block just to get at a diamond exchange in Baltimore and Ramos -- he out-drove 14 police officers in New Orleans."
Jim leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms over his head. "Yeah. What I want to know is how Bruenell managed to hold up a planeload full of Arab sheiks in flight and then disappear into thin air."
Megan laughed bitterly. "He has a way of doing that."
There was a brief silence, then Blair felt his stomach gurgle. They needed to get away from this for a while - and he was starving. "What do you say we take a break and get some food, huh?"
"All right, but it's my shout."
Both men stared at the Aussie. Blair suspected that the confused look on Jim's face was matched by his own, because Megan sighed and shook her head.
"It's on me," she clarified.
Jim blinked. "Oh, really? Is there a catch?"
"There's two," she replied. "First: we don't talk about work."
"Ah, good." Blair was fine with that, and from the look on Jim's face, so was the sentinel. "No problem there."
She smiled. "And while I truly found Mr. Tube Steak to be a unique dining experience... I choose the restaurant."
Blair laughed as Jim grumbled. The detective appreciated fine food as much as anyone - he just hid it well.
Jim looked around as they were shown to their table, his eyes
going rapidly to the huge floor to ceiling windows. The city was stretched out
below them, lights glittering in an array of patterns and colors that, if he
weren't careful, could easily suck him in. Blair's hand touched his arm briefly
as his guide brushed past him to take a chair, and he smiled at the other man,
shaking his head slightly at the questioning look in Blair's eyes. Blair nodded,
then turned to Megan as she spoke. Jim sat down, savoring the aromas filling the
"I can't get over this view." Megan smiled at them. "But I suppose you two have been up here before."
Blair shook his head. "It's the first time for me."
Jim had been here before - Carolyn had liked the place, actually. But that was long past. He looked at his guide and smiled. "Yeah. Well, that happens. You know, live in a city your whole life and you never get to go where the tourists have been."
"Right," Blair agreed. "It's like New Yorkers have never been to the top of the Empire State Building." He turned to Megan. "But actually on our first case we worked at the Cascade Panorama Tower."
Jim grimaced at the reminder. That case still bothered him. If he'd just been there for Ronny, maybe... He pushed the thought aside. "Didn't do much sightseeing, though."
Blair laughed. "Yeah, right. We were chasing a serial bomber," he explained to Megan.
"I don't think you'd find that in your tour guide," Jim said, referring to the little book Megan had picked the restaurant from. She laughed, shaking her head. He suddenly felt more relaxed than he had all day. "This was a great idea, Megan. Thank you very much. It's very nice."
She stared at him in disbelief. He looked at Blair, who was smiling slyly. "Did I say something wrong?"
Megan closed her mouth, which had been hanging open slightly, then smiled. "Um, no. No. It is very nice."
Blair laughed. "Wow, that was...that was really special. You two are getting along."
Jim glared at him, then smiled sheepishly. They were, after all.
Fortunately, the waiter arrived to take their order before anything more could be said.
Across town, Scott Bruenell surveyed his chosen crew. They were
ready. Smiling slightly, he nodded to the driver. "Two minutes. Let's go."
The van pulled smoothly away from its parking spot. Bruenell leaned back against the seat, his smile firmly fixed.
Jim speared another piece of his steak, savoring the tender meat
as he chewed. Megan, across the table, was answering a question from Blair.
"Our dad always said we should do what we wanted with our lives. So, when my time came, I took him at his word." She shrugged.
Jim sipped at his iced tea. "He ever try to get you into his line of work?"
She laughed, shaking her head. "He's a professional bookie."
Jim felt an eyebrow go up as he looked at Blair. The grad student's face echoed his own thoughts. Megan frowned at their reactions, then her face cleared.
"Uh, it's legal back home."
Jim relaxed. "Oh."
She smiled wryly. "Lots of colorful characters about the place growing up. Taught me to keep my wits sharp."
"How does he feel about you being a police officer?" Blair asked.
"He smiles when I tell him stories about work, but I know he worries. I just can't imagine not being a cop anymore." She looked across the table at Jim. "Can you?"
He shook his head. He couldn't think of anything else he wanted to do, either. A phone rang and he reached into his pocket as Megan did the same. "It's me," he told her, then spoke into the phone. "Ellison."
Blair and Megan were talking quietly as he listened to Simon. "All right, sir," he said. "We'll be there momentarily." Flipping the phone closed, he signaled to the waiter for the check.
"What's going on?"
His eyes flickered to Blair, then he went back to watching for the waiter. "Homicide. A security guard at the power company substation."
He caught sight of the approaching man just as the lights went out. Gasps of surprise filled the restaurant. Jim turned, then rose and approached the window, Blair and Megan right behind him. A wide swathe of darkness marred the sparkling beauty of earlier.
"It's not just us," he said, half to himself. "Half the city is out."
"It's Bruenell," Megan's soft voice came, and he realized that she was right. "Whatever he was planning, it's happening now."
Staring at the dark spot, Jim estimated it's boundaries. "It's about ten blocks long by 18 wide -- Chelsea to Grand, Waverly to First."
"Bruenell's target's somewhere in that grid." Megan sounded utterly confident, and he agreed with her. He tried to think of what was in that area that might pose a big enough target.
"There's a couple of banks in there, there's one or two jewelry stores," Blair offered.
Megan shook her head, the motion making a rustling noise as her hair moved over her clothing. "Bruenell wouldn't waste his time on a bank. This is too big."
"Maybe he'll hit all of them."
Jim grunted. "I doubt he has the manpower, but it's got to be something big enough to black out half the city." He stopped, appalled realization hitting. Why - why hadn't they thought of it earlier? "The Mint."
Blair's soft 'oh' of agreement hung in the air as they all moved as one toward the door. Bruenell was way ahead of them, and they were stuck at the top of a building without power. The faster they started down those stairs, the better.