By: Carla and Jewelle Sprite
Beta read by Gemini
Written by: Harold Apter
Rated PG
internal thought in italics

Note: We know nothing of the internal working of the U.S. Marshal's Office or of the judical system regarding prisoner release. Any mistakes are unintentional and not meant to insult either group, but they did sound good in the story. This is fiction after all.
Words in < > are heard using sentinel hearing. Words in // // are heard using a parabolic microphone.

Act I

The traffic had stopped yet again. Impatient, Jim glared out the windshield of his old Ford, but couldn't see around the delivery truck in front of him. With a quick glance in his driver's side mirror, he extended his hearing slightly, then winced at the sudden high-pitched squeal that came from several teenagers on the school bus stopped in front of the delivery truck. Great, just what we need, a school bus to hold up traffic. Jim looked over at his passenger who hadn’t even noticed that they had stopped.

"So how is your mom, Chief? She still running around India with that swampi or swami, whatever it is? "

"Holy man, Jim. He's a holy man." With amused exasperation, Blair looked up from the letter he was reading and noticed that they were no longer moving. "Why have we stopped?"

"There's a school bus in front of the van." Jim glanced at the outside mirror again and frowned.

"Oh, yeah, it's that time, isn't it? Anyway, the guy's a holy man. Baba Tenaka is one of the greats. Listen to this. 'Baba has been instructing me in the art of yogic flying. Yesterday, I actually levitated. It was only for an instant, but I did...' And she underlined 'did' '…feel my body leave the ground.'"

"She get frequent flier miles for that?" Jim smirked, then sighed as the traffic started moving again. Taking the next left turn, Jim hoped to avoid the rest of the afternoon bus route.

"It's about spiritual enlightenment, Jim. Being a sentinel, I would hope you'd be more open to that."

"I'll tell you what enlightenment is. It's when they can fly to Paris without a plane."

Blair smirked back at Jim then noticed the sentinel was spending a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror. "What do you keep looking in the mirrors for?"

"Somebody's been following us ever since we left the station."

"Which car? You think maybe he's just going in the same direction?"

"It's the white sedan, three cars back. Let's find out which direction he's going." Jim grinned and quickly made an unsignaled right-hand turn.

Blair glanced in the rearview mirror. He'd learned a few things riding with Jim all this time. He knew enough not to turn around and look. "He's still back there."

"Let's see what he wants. Hang on." Spying a large open door on a nearby warehouse, Jim turned into the warehouse entrance and continued on to the other side. The question of being followed was answered as the car Jim had been keeping track of followed the same path as the blue and white truck. The truck rounded another corner and picked up speed trying to outdistance the car. Jim put his foot to the floor, losing sight of the car for a few critical moments in which he pulled the truck into another empty warehouse entrance. Jim and Blair watched as the car raced past their hiding place. Jim pulled out of the warehouse and the hunter became the hunted. They followed the car as it rounded a corner that turned out to be a dead end. Jim stopped several yards behind the car, glanced a warning at Blair and got out of the truck, his gun pointed at the driver of the car.

"Get out of the car! Get your hands where I can see them," he ordered.

The driver of the car sat with his hands in sight on the steering wheel. At Jim's shouted command, he slowly opened the door, raising both hands in the air as he stood.

Jim looked closely at the dark haired, rather nondescript man. "Carson? Roger Carson?"

"Jim, this was not the way I'd planned this, but I need your help." said Carson as Blair, noticing the recognition on Jim's face, joined the detective.

"Why all the cloak and dagger? Why didn't you just call me?" Jim asked.

"I couldn't take that risk, Jim, and I didn't know who else to trust," Carson replied staring at Blair, suspiciously.

"Roger Carson, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. Chief, this is U.S. Marshal Roger Carson. Now what's the problem, Roger?"

"One of our deputies is dirty. Somebody in witness protection program may have been compromised."

Jim frowned, "You have any evidence to back that up?"

"Yeah, in my car. Just a sec." Carson headed back to his car.

"You trust this guy, Jim?" Blair hissed.

"Yeah, Chief, a while back when we were in covert ops together, he helped me out of a scrape. I could've bought the farm that night." Jim's voice slowed as he became lost in the memory of a brash, young Lt. Ellison. It was supposed to be a simple in and out info gathering operation, but it nearly ended for Jim when the undetected sentry pushed the barrel of a gun in Jim's back. Only Carson's "uhuh, I wouldn't if I were you." and a sudden snapping sound, obviously the sentry's neck, kept it from being Jim's last night.

"What? Do you mean, he saved your life?"

"Yeah." Jim was pulled abruptly from his memories as he heard Carson open the trunk of his car. Almost involuntarily, Jim zoomed in on the space just underneath the trunk of Carson's car. A blinking red light was like a beacon to him.

"Roger!" Jim yelled and grabbed his partner, instantly recognizing what the light meant.

Carson just had time to look toward Jim before the bomb under the trunk exploded in a huge ball of flame and debris. Jim pulled Blair onto the hood of the truck, covering his guide with his own body. Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw Carson flying through the air. Risking a major headache, Jim listened for a heartbeat. He heard Blair's beating in a fast rhythm, but nothing from Carson.

Jim was on the brink of a zone when Blair started to squirm out from under his protector. "Jim, you okay?"

"Yeah, Chief, you?"

"I'm fine. Ohh man, Carson!!" Blair started toward where the Marshall lay, but Jim held him back.

"No, Chief, It's too late; he never had a chance."

Several hours later Jim and Blair watched as several men, wearing black jackets with FBI printed on them, swarmed around the burned out shell of Marshal Carson's car. Earlier they had watched while the coroner's assistants had placed Carson's body in a black bag.

Jim smelled a very familiar scent drift in on the breeze and looked up to see Captain Simon Banks and the new Australian exchange officer, Inspector Megan Connor, maneuver through the group of onlookers to join them.

"What the hell happened here, Jim?" Simon asked in amazement, those two couldn't even go have a late lunch without something happening

"I …ran into an old friend of mine, Captain. His name was Roger Carson. He worked for the US Marshal's office." Jim started to explain.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook. What's this all about?" Simon interrupted him, irritably.

"I don't know, sir. Carson said he had some information about a coworker he suspected of being dirty, and that they were somehow involved with the Witness Protection Program."

"Carson said he had the evidence in his car, he had just opened the trunk when..." Blair put in.

"What kind of evidence?" Simon looked at the burned out car and could anticipate his detective's answer.

"He never got that far."

Megan noticed Blair shudder slightly at Jim's words. "You're okay, Sandy?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Blair felt Jim set a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Six feet closer, you know, uh, you never know."

"Well, I'm glad you're both okay."

"Thanks." Jim nodded.

Megan looked over at Simon. "Do you mind if I take a look around, Captain?"

"Yeah, Connor, go ahead. Just, uh, stay out of the way of the suits."

"No worries," drifted back to the three men as Connor headed toward the taped off area

"Your new partner, huh?" Jim smirked

Simon glared. "Somebody's got to show her the ropes since I couldn't trust you."

"Have fun, Captain."

"Were you able to find out anything before the feds arrived?"

Jim shook his head. "The bomb was underneath the car. Our guys responded, but the FBI just waltzed in and took over."

"Can they do that?" asked Blair.

"A deputy Marshal was just murdered, Sandburg. That makes it a federal case."

"That sucks."

While Jim, Blair and Simon watched the feds and discussed the case, Megan had been stopped by the agent who was keeping the onlookers back. Even showing her Cascade badge did not get her access to the inside of the taped off area. Looking around the outside the taped area, she was just about to give up and return to where the others were when she spotted a shiny object on the ground. Pulling out an evidence bag, she picked up the object she had found.

"Captain, we've been down this road before. Carson said someone in his office was dirty, right? Now we know with the feds running the case, it's like the chicken coop being guarded by the fox." Jim was not in the best mood. The FBI had not so politely told the Cascade PD that their services were not needed. Simon had told Jim and Blair to return to Major Crimes in order to file their report.

Simon sighed. "They can't all be dirty, Jim. The real problem is whatever evidence Carson had disappeared with his car."

"And whatever might have been left, the FBI's got," put in Blair as he, Jim, Simon, and Megan headed towards Simon's office.

"Maybe not," Megan smirked and held up the object she had picked up at the crime scene.

"What are those?" Simon glared, and stopped near Jim's desk.

"Keys, I found them at the scene. You said I could look around." Megan smugly displayed the evidence bag that contained two keys on a partially melted key chain. The chain had a metal tag attached that had been warped by the heat of the explosion.

"I didn't say you could take anything!" the captain yelled

"They were outside the taped-off area. In my book, that's anyone's game." Megan defended herself.

Simon looked over at Blair. "What kind of book is she writing?" Blair shrugged.

Jim held out a hand towards Megan. "May I?" Megan dropped the bag into Jim's hand. "Thank you." Jim opened the bag and sniffed. "There's definitely evidence of C-4 here, Captain."

Blair gasped slightly at Jim's blatant use of his senses in the presence of an outsider. He tried to unobtrusively wave Jim down.

Megan looked astonished at the surety in Jim's voice. "How does he do that?"

"Uh...demolitions expert in the Army, " Blair said quickly.

"There is also some sort of tag here, sir. Maybe I can lift an address." Jim continued, ignoring the byplay between Megan and Blair.

"And do what?" asked Simon.

"I don't know, Captain. Just give me some time to check it out."

"I don't have any time. Even if it was found outside the official area, it was found at the scene of a murder. We have to give it back to the feds, you know that, Jim"

"Simon, come on, we're only talking about a couple of hours. There's somebody's life at stake," said Blair.

"And we should get those keys straight to the lab, before they go to the federal authorities," Megan added.

"We?" Jim chuckled.

"I found the keys." Megan bristled. "That makes me part of this case, right?"

"Connor, you've already violated the rules of conduct at a crime scene. Now, I have my own methods.." Jim began.

"Look, I know by your standards my methods are somewhat unorthodox..."

"...I'm sure you're very good at what you do..."

"....but if you gave me half a chance to prove myself..."

"...and I appreciate your enthusiasm... "

"...and stop..."

Blair watched the conversation, his head bouncing back and forth as if he were watching a tennis match.

Simon rubbed his forehead, trying to stop a headache the two bickering detectives were aggervating, then glared at Blair's big grin. "Detectives. Could we continue this in my office? Thank you." He glared at Jim and Megan as they filed into his office. "Care to join us?" he asked Blair, holding opened the office door.

Blair held up his hands and backed away. "No. I'll hear about it later."

Simon shook his head and entered his office separating his squabbling detectives. "All right, look, Jim, I don't like this withholding evidence from the feds."

"Captain, Carson was a friend of mine and I respected his integrity. He wouldn't be wasting his time on this. It's got to be important. Now, I've got to believe what he told me."

"All right, here's what we'll do. Jim, you find the lock that fits those keys and we'll take it from there." He looked at Megan. "In the meantime, Connor, I pulled some case files for you to look at to bring you up to speed at what's going on around here." Simon handed Megan a stack of files. "Jim can handle the legwork from here."


"In the meantime, I want you two to clean up your act. Let's not have any more public displays in the bullpen. Am I clear?" He scowled at both detectives.

"Yes, sir." Megan nodded.

"Yes, sir," said Jim.

"Now get out of here and get to work," the captain commanded as the detectives left.

Jim had taken the keys down to forensics, but they had been unable to tell him anything other than the keys were the type commonly used in residential settings. The metal tag had been cleaned and there had been something engraved on it, but the heat had distorted it too badly to read. Disgruntled, Jim returned to the Major Crimess bullpen.

"Well, that was a waste of time." He tossed the evidence bag on his desk. "All they could tell me was that the keys are used in houses."

Blair picked up the bag and examined the keys more closely. "What about the tag, could they read anything off it?"

"No, they said it was too badly damaged."

"I bet you could read the engraving, just like you did with the note pad at Angie's."

"This is not a piece of paper, Sandburg, it's metal."

"There is no difference. This might even be easier because it is metal. The impressions should be easier to read because the surface was actually penetrated not just indented. Go on, try it, what have you got to lose?" Blair pulled the keys from the bag and laid them in the palm of his hand. "Now take a deep breath, relax, and concentrate." Blair reached down and carefully put the tag in Jim's hand. "Ok, now feel along the top. You can feel where the metal has been scratched. Concentrate on those that feel the same. Random scratches will all feel different, because they were made by different things. The engravings will have all been made by the same instrument."

Jim gently ran his finger over the metal tag and smiled. "Yeah, I can only feel 3-2-5-0 down...d-o-w-n, I mean. There might be an 'i' D-o-w-n-i... ."

"Yes," Blair whispered, then asked, "Maybe Downing?"

"Yeah, Downing. That might be it."

"All right." Blair smiled proudly at his sentinel.

"Let's give that a try. Check the street locator program, see how many Downing's there are. You do realize there may be more than one in a city the size of Cascade."

Blair sat down at the computer. "I know, but at least it's a start…. Downing."

Blair's computer work revealed that there were two locations designated 3250 Downing. One was an avenue in the middle of the historic district.

"I know that area, man, there is nothing but shops and businesses there," Blair commented. The other address appeared more promising as it was in a residential area of the city.

"Great work, Chief. Now, it's late, how about we head out and get something to eat. I'm starved."

"What did you have in mind? I know this great little Italian place near the university."

"I was thinking, Wonderburger and a little unofficial, drive by stakeout of our address." Jim picked up the phone to tell the captain what they had discovered and what they planned to do.

Simon's only reply was, "Keep me informed, and stay out of trouble."

Jim was just hanging up the phone, when Megan approached his desk.


"Yes, Connor?"

"I just wanted to apologize. I'm new here, and I should be more circumspect and not force my way into your investigation."

"Your apology is accepted. Thank you."

"Don't you think we should at least try to work together?"

"Uh, Connor, I'm sure we might get the chance in the future but, uh, right now the captain has given us instructions and it seems like you have quite a lot of work to do."

"You might at least tell me how you do that thing you do."

Jim looked at Megan suspiciously. "What thing is that?"

"Deciphering burnt letters with your fingertips, identifying C-4 residue without the benefit of chemical analysis. What are you? Some kind of psychic?"

Jim glanced at Blair, somewhat panicked. This was normally his area of expertise. Blair just shrugged and gestured at Jim to continue.

"Cat's out of the bag, Chief." Jim stood up to lean conspiratorially towards Megan. "Just do me a favor. Try not to broadcast it, okay?" he said and looked at Sandburg. "Meet me at the truck, Chief." He said and headed toward the hall.

"He really is psychic?" Megan looked at Blair.

"Yeah." Blair decided to go along with the story Jim started.

"Why didn't he just tell me? I've worked with psychics back at home on cases before. Sometimes we've found them to be quite useful but I've never met a cop who had the gift," Megan said sounding hurt that she had not been taken into their confidence.

"Well, you know how it is. If everyone knew, they might think he was a …freak or something. Please keep this under wraps. He doesn't want to be considered a freak, right? I gotta go." Blair left Megan standing at Jim's desk. He didn't want to be rude, but he almost couldn't contain his laughter.

Act II