Act V

Jim whirled and glared down at the bleeding man. "Where's Bruenell?" His voice echoed in the vault room and he noted the criminal's flinch with satisfaction.

The man shook his head. "I don't know anything about any plates. If Bruenell has them, that means he screwed us, too."

Jim stared at him for a moment, then nodded. He looked at the guard, noting that the man seemed steadier on his feet. "Keep an eye on these jokers," he said. The guard nodded and he led Blair and Megan out into the hall.

"You think he's still here?"

Megan shook her head, her face filled with bitter disappointment. "No."

Jim agreed with her, unfortunately. But that meant... He frowned. "Well, if Bruenell intended to bait and switch his own men, he'd have to have planned a backup contingency escape, right?"

Blair nodded. "And pull off a getaway all by himself in the middle of a city blackout."

They reached the elevator and Jim reached out to push the button. His hearing kicked in suddenly and he heard a scrabbling noise. It took a moment to place it, then he realized what it had to be. Megan said something about avoiding the traffic jams and he looked at her.

"What about flying?"

Megan shrugged. "From where?"

"The roof," Jim replied as the elevator arrived. "He's up on the roof."

Megan stared at him as he waited in the elevator, then looked at Blair. "He says that like he actually knows."

Blair grinned at her as he gestured her to go into the car. "He gets really good hunches."

"Let's go!" Jim stabbed the door close button as the two joined him in the elevator, then sent the car to the roof.

It was pitch black as the doors opened onto a flat roof, even with the power restored to most of the city. From below, Jim heard the blares and shouts that indicated the gridlock was still in place. He stepped out of the car, his gun ready and Megan right behind him. Scanning the roof, he spotted the silhouette of a man with a hang glider. "Bruenell!" he called.

The man jerked, then pulled a weapon and shot at them. Jim pushed Megan back into the car, firing in return. He cried the man's name again, swearing as he just turned and leaped off the side of the building. He vanished from sight, black on black as he disappeared into the night sky. Jim stood on the edge of the roof, Megan beside him. The two cops scanned the area, but even Jim's eyes couldn't pick up the glider or the man it carried.

Blair came up behind them. "Hey, guys, come on. We still got their van."

Frustrated and angry, Jim turned and headed back to the elevator. They'd gotten three of them, but not Bruenell. And it looked like he was getting away with the plates.

He was beginning to understand Megan's need to track this guy down, whatever the cost.

Megan uncuffed the man she'd kneed and dragged him over to the railing. Securing him there to wait for the squad cars, she rejoined Jim and Blair by the van. The American detective was scanning the sky, Blair's hand on his back. Suddenly he pulled out his phone and tossed it to Blair.

"All right, Chief, have those squad cars rerouted to Chandler's Point. That's where Bruenell's headed."

Blair nodded and began dialing the phone. Megan narrowed her eyes. "Another hunch?" she asked.

Jim stood by the van, his hand on the door and stared at her, then shrugged. "I thought you wanted this guy, Connor. Let's go. Come on."

Tabling the issue - for now - she crossed in front of the van, climbing into the passenger seat as Jim revved the engine. As soon as her door was closed he took off. She pulled the belt across and fastened it, then braced herself. The van slewed around corners, Jim taking back roads and alleys in order to avoid the jammed traffic. Blair had remained behind, still talking on the cell phone, a wary eye on the prisoner behind him.

Finally they reached the point, parking the van and getting out. They moved forward cautiously, Jim gesturing to the crumpled hang glider, abandoned about twenty feet ahead of where they had parked.

"We missed him."

She could hear the defeat in her voice, hating it. The American just looked around.

"No, maybe not," he said. "Come on."

They moved closer to the beach, then the hum of an engine came across the water.

Jim cocked his head. "There's a boat coming."

"Then Bruenell's still here."

She grinned over at her companion, catching the glint of the return smile through the darkness. Of one mind, they walked toward the beach, crouching behind a pile of rocks near the sand as the boat drew nearer to the shore. Megan glanced around, stiffening as she spotted Bruenell making his way toward the boat. Standing up, she aimed her gun at him.

"Bruenell! Freeze!"

Never one to do as told, Bruenell began to shoot at her. Jim pulled her down behind the rocks, then both of them returned fire, pinning the criminal down behind his own rock. The boat kept coming, the men inside leaping onto the beach as soon as it came into shallow water, already aiming their weapons at the cops. Megan reloaded as Jim kept them busy, then stuck her head up over the rocks, swearing as she spotted Bruenell leaving the beach.

Nudging Jim, she pointed toward the retreating man. Jim nodded, turning his attention on the men from the boat as she went after Bruenell. She moved carefully. He might be out of ammo, but then again, he might not. In the distance she could hear the wail of sirens. Backup, she thought. But they'll be too late to catch Bruenell. It's up to me.

He had to be heading for the van - it was the only way left for him to leave the point. Moving rapidly, she circled around behind the vehicle, coming up to it just as Bruenell pulled the door open. She stepped on a stick, the sound loud in the stillness, and he froze.

"Is that you, Inspector?"

His voice was calm, a familiar hated unctuousness filling it and making her teeth ache. She took another step. "By air, by sea -- the only thing left was land. Now, step away from the vehicle. Move." He hesitated and she stepped closer. "I said move!"

He spun, a hand reaching out and knocking her gun out of her hand. She danced away from his punch, sizing up her opponent with glee. Hand to hand was just the way she liked it. He glared at her, then pulled out a knife, its blade glinting in the dark. He knew how to use it, striking with savagery and skill. But she was better.

She took a calming breath, then spun, her legs flying as she kicked him, driving him backward toward the van, then knocking the knife away. The calm lost, she grabbed him, knocking his skull against the metal. He groaned, then slumped down, unconscious. Trained instinct taking over, she grabbed for her gun, then stood over him, her eyes focused on the hated face, her finger twitching on the trigger.

It would be so easy. So final. It still wouldn't make up for all the man had done, but it would make bloody sure he'd never hurt anyone again. She wanted to do it.

Dimly, she was aware of Jim coming nearer, his voice seeming far away. His words took a moment to penetrate, then a hand waved in front of her face.

"He's out, he's out. Are you with us?"

She drew a long breath, the air moving raggedly, then nodded, her hands beginning to shake at what she had almost done. "Yeah."

She holstered her gun slowly, looking up as several squad cars pulled in behind the van. The officers within got out, approaching them slowly, then relaxing as Jim raised a hand to greet them.

He looked back at her. "Nice moves." He chuckled. "-- what I saw before the KO."

His tone was warm, accepting, and Megan let herself begin to relax. "Well, you've never been the only woman in an outback pub."

He laughed again. "Come on," he said, wrapping a hand around her arm. As the uniformed officers drew nearer, he gestured at Bruenell. "Clean this up, would you, guys?"

They nodded and he pulled her away from the van. She looked back once, needing to see that it was real - that Bruenell truly had been caught - then was caught by Jim's bland question.

"You a Jackie Chan fan?"

She looked at him in startled amazement, then let herself laugh, feeling a terrible knot loosen as she did. She'd almost shot Bruenell in cold blood, yes. But the key word there was almost.

And - she had the feeling that Jim Ellison understood. Both the desire to do it, and the relief that she hadn't. She'd have to thank him. Later. Maybe.

Jim grinned as he and Blair approached the exercise bike Megan was on, having no difficulty seeing the powerhouse from the night before in the woman pedaling rapidly. His hand went out to prevent Blair from getting too close. "Stand back, Chief," he warned. "If she loses control, this thing might just plow through that wall and take out a couple innocent bystanders."

She grimaced at him, her eyes dancing, then smiled at Blair. "Why are you here early? My plane doesn't leave till 5:00."

Jim kept his face blank. "We're not taking you to the airport, Connor."

"Oh." Her disappointment was obvious. "Well, I'll take a taxi, then."

He shrugged. "Good luck. I think every cabdriver in town has your picture firmly planted on the dashboard."

Blair elbowed him in the ribs and Jim winced. The grad student's elbows were sharp! So was his glare, actually.

"Come on, Jim," Blair ordered, then smiled at Megan. "Uh, you're not going, either." He handed her the envelope he's been carrying.

Megan slit it open, pulling out a folded piece of paper and looking at it with surprise. "Given the capture of Scott Bruenell," she read aloud, "our two departments have jointly decided there is mutual benefit in extending the officer exchange program and, therefore..." She looked up at them with a wide smile. "I've been invited to stay."

Jim smiled in return. "That's right. If my partner read your letter correctly when he held it up against the light."

"Which I did, I'm sure," Blair said with equanimity. "Banks sent us with the news. He would have come himself but he had a little trouble with his car."

She sent Jim an arch glance, which he returned with a blank expression. "Oh, the one Jim wrecked. I thought that was repaired."

Blair shrugged. "Well, it was. But they got the color wrong. You see, Simon really doesn't look too good in radioactive..."

Jim chimed in with Blair. "...Lime."

Megan made a face and Blair laughed. "Oh, it's horrible," the anthropologist agreed. "Well, we're supposed to take you back to the precinct, get you a desk, get you a locker."

"Some therapy," Jim teased. She glared at him.

"I haven't accepted the invitation. I do have a choice in the matter."

"Not really."

Jim had to agree with Blair. "It's pretty much a lock what you're going to choose, right? What are you going to do?"

She laughed, then threw up her hands. "Give me ten minutes to finish my workout." She handed Jim the letter and stood up from the bike. "Oh, and Jimbo, you should do 20 a day on this... Help head off that middle-age spread."

Jim blinked at her in amazement. What middle-age spread? Blair laughed and patted his stomach, the laugh disappearing as Megan spoke again.

"And it wouldn't hurt you to keep him company, Sandbag."

Jim let his own laughter escape and returned Blair's gesture. His guide ignored him, staring after Megan in disgruntlement. She walked away from them, taking a posture in front of a mirrored wall and starting to do kicks and spins.

"Here's what we do, Chief," Jim said conspiratorially, "-- we scour the zoos to find a demented kangaroo..."

The grad student nodded, his eyes fixed on Megan. "Good."

"Teach him to box..."


"Toss the two in a ring together."

Blair smiled. "Nice."

"Shazam!" Jim declaimed.

"I dig it," Blair agreed. "A little Aussie grudge match."


"Isn't that cruelty to animals, though?"

Having seen Megan in action, Jim had to agree. "Mmm... yeah."

Blair chuckled. "Which one?"

The comment drew a surprised laugh out of Jim. The two men laughed together for a minute, then sobered as Megan finished up and came over to them. One thing's for sure, Jim thought. Working around her will never be dull.

~The End~

Act IV