"I still can't believe Megan thinks you're a psychic. I mean she's
not been here that long. The other guys have been around you longer
I wonder if they
also think you're a psychic and just don't say anything."
After leaving the station, Blair had managed to convince Jim the Italian restaurant was a better choice, and it had the added advantage of being on the way to the Downing Street address he had found.
"I hope they don't think that, it's bad enough with just Connor believing it," Jim replied as he pulled the truck to a stop in front of a two-story single-family house in one of the newer, nicer residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of Cascade. Downing Street turned out to be a cul-de-sac that contained about six houses. It had clouded over while they had eaten and so even though it was early evening, it was still as dark as night. "Well, you know, the beauty of it is, it's her idea."
"I know. It's beautiful. It's perfect. She'll be more inclined to believe it since it was her conclusion. But, we still got to be careful. We can't use the psychic thing to explain away everything you do, so we got to stay on our toes, you know."
Jim nodded as they got out of the truck. Blair came around to Jim's side noticing the sentinel had his head tilted in a characteristic listening pose.
"What is it?" Blair laid a hand on Jim's arm.
"Something electronic. I think it's coming from upstairs." Jim led the way to the front path.
"Hey, isn't this illegal, you know, breaking and entering?" asked Blair, a bit nervously.
"No, we got the key." Jim used the key Megan had found to unlock the front door.
Both men looked around the ground floor of the house. The living room, dining room and kitchen were ready for a family to move in, complete with nice, but inexpensive furniture and appliances, but most of the furniture was shrouded in dust covers. The thin layer of dust on the exposed furniture reinforced the idea that the rooms had not been occupied for several months.
After they finished checking the ground floor, Jim started up the stairs, motioning Blair to stay low and behind him. He didn't pull his gun as he could detect no heartbeats other than their own. The upper floor contained three bedrooms, a bathroom, and an extra room that was apparently meant to be a den or office. This room looked out on the front lawn and had a good view of the other houses in the cul-de-sac. It was also the only room to show any signs of occupancy. The moon filtering through the window and the glow from a static filled television monitor showed the outline of several items in the room.
Blair stopped near a makeshift desk. "Watch out, man, I'm gonna turn on a light," he warned his partner, snapping on the small desk lamp. The light revealed a room with a zoom-lens camera mounted on a tripod, a video camera also mounted on a tripod, a parabolic microphone hooked to a pair of headphones and a tape recorder, and a comfortable looking armchair. Leaning against the back wall was a yard sign for a popular local real estate agency.
"Man. Looks like this guy was cooped up here for a while." Blair looked around in amazement.
"Check this out." Jim drew Blair's attention to a column of pictures attached to the wall. "Carson knew a witness had been exposed and that the witness had been relocated to this neighborhood."
"He just didn't know who or which house," Blair interjected, examining the pictures, "so he just decided to stake out the whole cul-de-sac."
"Yeah... and waits for the killer to show up."
Blair switched off the television monitor. "Is this what was making the noise?"
"I think it was ." Jim trailed off, tilting his head, listening to a sound from downstairs. "Someone's trying the doors, they're trying to get in. Come on."
Blair switched off the desk lamp and felt for Jim's jacket. The detective escorted his partner down the stairs and out the back kitchen door. Once outside Jim pulled his gun and, with Blair in tow, they crept along the side of the house stopping at the corner.
"Wait here," Jim admonished.
Jim moved around the corner of the house and saw a figure in black trying to open a downstairs window.
"Move away from the window," Jim ordered, his gun in plain view of the figure. The figure turned, and Jim lowered his arms in exasperation.
"Connor, what the hell are you doing here?"
Megan took a step towards Jim, when he suddenly pushed her against the side of the house. Almost at the same instant, gunshots hit the wall just above them.
"Chief, stay back! Shots fired!" Jim yelled, but Blair joined him anyway.
"I'm not staying over there. Megan, what are you doing here?"
"What the hell am I going to do with you two?" Jim nodded toward a house across the street. "The shots came from that window over there. Megan, I want you to cover the front of the house." Jim indicated to the front entryway. He glared at Sandburg. "You stay behind me."
"You got it."
Jim and Blair moved quietly to the house the shots came had come from. Jim led the way down the side of the house headed to the back when suddenly several bright lights snapped on and a loud siren went off. Blair gripped Jim's arm as the sentinel winced sharply and tried to turn away from the light. Blair looked around, trying to protect his partner, and watched helplessly as a rifle-toting man stepped out in front of the floodlight.
"Freeze or I'll drop you where you stand."
Jim moved slightly in front of the observer and, with one hand raised, slowly reached for his badge and showed it to the gunman.
"You can buy a badge at any pawnshop. Oh, yeah, I guess your little hippie friend here is your partner, right?"
"One of them," came the sarcastic reply as Megan came up behind the gunman.
"Whoa." The startled man raised his gun in the air, suddenly very nervous looking.
"Get down on your knees, Rambo." Jim confiscated the rifle.
"Careful," whined the Rambo wannbe. "I've got a bad back."
Several hours later, the nervous gunman was sitting with Blair at Jim's
desk in the Major Crimes bullpen watching with undisguised interest as Jim and Connor
'discussed' their 'partnership.'
"Connor, how can I put this to you gently? Um, we are not partners now nor do I foresee us being partners."
"It was a figure of speech."
"Maybe we should get a book of translations, huh?" Jim smirked and grinned as Megan walked off.
The gunman looked at the observer. "What's with these two? They haven't stopped for an hour."
"If I were you," Blair snapped,he was not happy with the man who had held the gun on them, "I'd be more concerned about raising bail than what they're up to, all right?" Blair looked up as Jim and Simon approached the desk. "Jim, I'm going to go get some coffee."
Simon stood imposingly over the man who had taken shots at his detectives. "So, you're our vigilante," he commented, sounding like someone who had found something particularly slimy on the bottom of his shoe.
"His name is Bud Flint," Jim supplied, enjoying the sight of Simon doing his intimidating routine.
"What the hell do you think you were doing, Mr. Flint?" Simon snapped.
"The neighborhood's been plagued by burglaries. We even had a home invasion and you guys haven't done anything about it. It's like a war zone. When I saw someone sneaking around, I decided to take action."
"By taking a potshot at a cop through your window?!" Simon shouted.
"I thought she was a burglar," Bud defended himself.
"Let's let this 'concerned citizen' see what it's like to be booked, shall we?" Simon smiled evilly and headed towards Inspector Connor's desk.
"Connor. Help me out here. Do I not express myself clearly?"
"I remember telling you to stay out of this investigation."
"I remember you telling me to work on some case files, which I did. Has there been some misunderstanding?"
Simon couldn't help but laugh. He recognized that he had been skillfully outmaneuvered. "No, not at all. As long as you remember that you're here as a guest and your credentials can be pulled at any time."
"I understand, sir." Megan did not have to work hard to keep the smirk off her face; she understood the subtle warning in the captain's words.
"Make sure that you do." Simon returned to his office satisfied that his message had been understood and acknowledged.
The night had not been a total loss. Bud had found out the hard way what
playing Rambo could cost. Blair had worked his computer magic but hadn't been able to
uncover anymore information on the residents of Downing Street. After Bud had been booked,
Jim and Blair returned to Simon's office.
"Damn it Jim, I don't like withholding evidence from the feds. I wouldn't want them doing it to me," said Simon.
"But, sir, if we do talk to the FBI, aren't they going to be filling in the Marshals?" questioned Blair.
"Not necessarily," Jim informed him. "I think we can safely rule out Bud Flint as a potential exposed witness. I mean, the feds would be all over us by now, right?"
"Yeah, you're right." Simon looked at the file on his desk. "All right, so the Downing development is brand new. Any family that moved in there would have had to have been there in the last three months."
Blair began sorting through the pictures that he and Jim had found in the den at Downing Street. "Right. That leaves four families, sir." He picked up each family picture as he named them. Carson had been able to get a picture of each family together and then had written the family name on each one. "We have the Colemans, the Tanners, the Warners, and the Johnsons." Most of the pictures were of a husband and wife. The last picture that caught and held Blair's attention was of a young mother and her daughter.
"For the time being, let's assume no one knew about Carson and his surveillance." Simon picked up the conversation again. "Jim, You have any luck with the real estate company that has the house?"
"Yeah, luckily the agent was still in her office. She remembered it without even looking it up. He had it rented on a month-by-month basis."
"Mmmm, so, that leaves us about two weeks. I got an idea." Simon walked over to his office door and bellowed, "Connor! My office."
Megan looked up from her desk, startled, but straightened her shoulders and headed over to the captain's office.
Simon ignored Jim's muttered sarcastic, "Oh, this ought to be good."
"You still want in on this case, Connor?"
"You've got it. Here's how we'll do this. Jim, you and Megan will move into that house on Downing Street. Get to know your new neighbors. See if you can ID the witness -- maybe prevent a hit. Your cover will be you're a couple."
"A couple of what, Captain." asked Jim, shooting a nervous glance at his partner.
Simon's smile was evil. "Newlyweds."
"You have a problem with intimacy, Detective?" Megan asked with a sarcastic grin.
"I'm familiar with the concept, just selective."
"See what I mean? The way you two go at it, nobody will doubt it. Besides, it'll give you a chance to work out your differences. By the time you come back, I want everything peaches and cream," Simon ordered.
"Simon...I don't think ."
Simon continued as though Jim had not spoken, "Sandburg, you're in, too."
"Uh? What do you think I should be, their son?"
"You expect me to think of everything? Come up with a cover."
"You could be my nephew, Chief."
"I think I'm a little old for that," Blair said wryly and started to pace. Hands waving, he started to work out a plausible explanation out loud. "How about if... I'm your cousin. I'm staying with you while attending Rainier because it's cheaper. And to make it more believable, you and Megan have been married at least 3 years. No newly married couple would allow relatives to live with them. Trust me on that."
Jim punched Blair's shoulder. " How about you be Megan's husband, and I'll be the Rainier student?"
Megan and Simon ignored the byplay going on beside them. "What about our friend Flint, Captain? He knows we're cops."
"I'll talk to the DA, work everything out. If Flint behaves himself, we'll get the charges dropped. Besides, if he thinks we're going in there to protect the neighborhood, you should have no trouble with him at all. It's too late tonight to 'move in' but I expect you there early tomorrow. Now get out of here." Simon dismissed the detectives and the observer with a wave of his hand.
The next day, Jim and Blair picked Megan up at her apartment and all three
drove out to the Downing Street address. Jim had suggested Megan bring her own car, but
Blair pointed out if they were to look like a family, then they had to act like a family.
Stopping in front of the house, all three began to unload their bags when Jim groaned.
"What's wrong, Jim?" Blair came around to the driver's side.
Jim nodded at Bud Flint and a man Blair recognized as Tom Coleman. "Maybe we should have kept him locked up."
"Hey, Jimbo." Bud waved, then turned to Coleman. "Here's the new kids on the block: my buddy, Jim...his lovely wife, Megan, and Jim's cousin, Blair."
"Tom Coleman. Hello."
Jim shook the offered hand. "Hi, Tom, nice to meet you."
"Perfect timing, Jimbo, I got some of the guys coming over. Going to throw some dogs on the grill, maybe break open some beers." Bud all but swaggered.
Jim gritted his teeth and tried to avoid the invitation. "Well, uh, it sounds like a nice invitation, but we've got unpacking to do. Maybe we could take a rain check."
"Oh, hell, you got lots of time for that," Bud tried to persuade Jim. "Look, all the guys are coming over. It's kind of a stag. I hope you don't mind." Bud smiled at Megan.
"Not a bit. Have fun, guys." Megan moved over to Jim and kissed him on the cheek. She smiled inwardly as she felt Jim's teeth grind together. "I'm going inside to do some woman things."
Blair watched Megan head into the house, looked at Jim's barely restrained glare, looked back at Megan, then gave Jim a little wave, a shrug, and a sentinel soft, "He's all yours, man," and followed Megan. Just as Blair left, a beeper sounded.
Tom looked down at his belt. "Oh. That's the wife. I'd better go see what's up. Nice to meet you, Jim."
"His wife has him on beeper?" Jim watched incredulously.
Bud snorted. "She crooks her finger, and he does a jig. It's pathetic. Anyway, I'll get everyone together to get to know you and help you fit in."
Jim smiled thinly. "I'll tell you, Bud, with the surveillance, we really got our hands full, you know. We got to keep a low profile here. Who's that?" He pointed at the two people who came out of another house nearby. Both people were dressed in loud, flamboyant clothes, guaranteed to attract attention.
"Oh, uh, Susan and Phil Tanner. Every neighborhood should have one of those, huh? Rumor is they're, uh, swingers."
"I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that bedroom, huh?" Bud dug an elbow in Jim's side.
Jim grunted and took a step away from Bud. "I bet you would."
Later that day, Jim, Megan and Blair were in the upstairs den checking the equipment Carson had left, as well as setting up some of their own. Blair was looking out the window, several cameras at the ready beside him. Megan worked on setting up a surveillance camera and monitor. Jim was looking out over the neighboring houses in the cul-de-sac.
"So, my darling husband, just so we keep our stories straight, how long have we been married?" Megan asked with an air of deliberate disinterest.
Jim recognized the tone, and walked over to Megan with the same deliberate nonchalance. "Long enough for me to get the seven-year itch, dear."
"I was a child bride. When I kissed you before, you didn't seem to like it much. We don't want the neighbors to think our marriage is in trouble."
"No, it was...it was good for me. Uh... I heard the symphony play. The earth moved for me." Jim glared at Blair's nearly inaudible snort.
"Uh, Jimbo, it's a job."
"Connor, how far are we willing to take this job here? Are we going to, uh, share a bed?"
"Whatever it takes... honey."
"We won't even be sharing a room."
"What will people think?" Megan pretended to be shocked.
"People won't be peeking in on us."
"Why not? We'll be peeking in on them."
"Good point," Jim conceded.
"Hey, Jim, come here," Blair called, gesturing out the window. "Check this out."
Looking out, both men watched as Bud, Tom, and another man gathered in Bud's open garage -- with their guns.
"Looks like the neighborhood watch is coming to work," Blair commented, and then laid an unobtrusive hand on Jim's arm as the sentinel dialed up his hearing.
<Hey, you guys, check this out.>
<Tom, look at this, a .38 special. Very nice.>
Dialing back his hearing, Jim looked down at his partner. "I guess we're going to be attending old Bud Flint's little stag party after all. Come on, Chief."
As Jim and Blair crossed the street, they saw Bud cock the shotgun he was holding and aim it into the air, which would have been more effective if he had not been aiming at his garage door. A van pulled into the driveway of the house next to Bud's as the pseudo-neighborhood watch group played with their 'toys.' A young woman glared at the gun-toting group, turned to the young girl in the back of the van, then turned her attention on to Jim and Blair.
"Hey! Tell your friends if they start waving their guns around again, I'm calling the cops."
Blair held out his hands. "Uh, we're not with them."
"We just moved in across the way. I'm Jim Ellison. This is my cousin, Blair Sandburg. We were kind of getting acquainted with the folks."
"Katie... Johnson," the woman introduced herself. "I'm sorry. It's just...they come here and they start playing with their guns. I'm afraid to let my daughter go outside."
"I'll, uh, try and talk to them," Jim offered.
"Yeah, Jim, you know how I feel about guns," Blair called as Jim headed over to Bud's house.
"Thanks. You're his cousin?"
"Uh...yeah. I'm a student at Rainier, living with my cousin is a lot cheaper than student housing or an apartment."
"Mom," the young girl stuck her head out of the van, "Can I get out now?"
"I'll be right there, Rachel."
"Hi, Rachel. That's a very pretty name. How you doing? I'm Blair."
"I'm really sorry I lost my temper. Do you want to come in for an iced tea or a soda or something?" Katie asked.
"Yeah. That'd be great. You need help with the groceries?"
"Thanks. Rachel, can you grab that bag?"
As Jim came up the drive of Bud's house, he watched as Bud tried to show Tom how to load and cock the shotgun.
"Well, if it isn't the wild bunch. Bud, can I talk to you for a second? I just want to ask you something about the house." Jim moved Bud down the drive to give them a bit of privacy.
"What's up? Hey, uh, when can I get my rifle back?" Bud asked.
Jim ignored the question and asked one of his own. "What's with the firearms?"
"It's a neighborhood protection squad I'm putting together."
"I like the idea, but, Bud, do me a favor. Put away the guns, get some flashlights, and register with the neighborhood watch, okay?"
"Come on, you think a home-invasion robber is frightened by a couple of flashlights?"
"This is not the way to go about it. You're terrifying your neighbors."
"You should be happy for the extra backup."
Jim shook his head at the attitude and lack of intelligence. "All right, here's the bottom line. You or any of these other bozos go goose-stepping around the neighborhood with loaded guns, I'm gonna have to haul in the lot of you. Is that understood?"
"There's no law against carrying on our own property," Bud answered indignantly.
"No. But there are several regarding the illegal discharge of firearms and interference with a police investigation. Both of which you have violated. Now, one word to the DA and you're going to go away for good this time. Do I paint a good picture?"
"Do I look stupid?" Bud snapped at the detectives retreating form.
Jim didn't even look back.
The guard at the outer gate of Emery Grove Penitentiary waved the
non-descript car through the gate and shook his head. Who were they kidding? The car
screamed government. The US Marshal ID the passenger produced confirmed the guard's
"Walter Beckman, US Marshal. I'm here to see Lonnie Stevens."
The interior guard opened the door, after examining the contains of the folder the marshal carried, and allowed him into a large room that already had several inmates sitting at tables. Since Emery Grove Penitentiary was considered a medium security facility, inmates were allowed face to face contact with visitors.
"He's in there." The guard pointed at a nearly bald man sitting several feet away.
Beckman nodded his thanks to the guard and joined Stevens at the table. "Stevens, I want you to call off the hit."
"No way. Forget about calling it off," The inmate growled.
Beckman leaned forward over the table. "The killing's over. You hear me?"
Stevens heard the fear Beckman tried to hide and knew he had the US Marshal by the short hairs. "Yeah, I hear you, Beckman. You shouldn't even be here. You could blow everything."
"It's blown already. I was at Downing earlier. Look at this." The Marshal opened the folder, inside were pictures of Jim, Blair, and Megan in front of the house Carson had used. "The Cascade police already know about Carson's surveillance. It's just a matter of time before they figure out -- like he did -- who the witness is and that I'm the one who sold them out."
"I'll have my people at the scene keep an eye on them." Stevens replied evenly.
"Your people...!" Beckman nearly shouted, then remembered where he was and lowered his voice. "Your people have been in place for months. Why did you keep them so long?"
"I've already given up eight years. A few weeks means nothing to me. Anyway, as you know, this situation presents us with a special problem."
Beckman shook his head and closed the folder. "I don't understand you. Your time here is almost done. In a few days you could walk out of here and never look back."
"Never look back?"
"Right, never look back."
"I had everything, Beckman real power, money. Somebody wanted to make a big trade, float a few junk bonds, arrange a merger -- they came to me first because I was the best and everybody knew it. But then one day the person I trusted most in this world decided to betray me because...because it was the right thing to do. Imagine that. Some ridiculous law was more important than I was. Eight years. Now's the time for payback. So don't lose your cool."
"You still have several more weeks before your release. The cops can't afford that much time on a possibility. They'll be gone before you get out and most likely none the wiser." said Beckman, souding as if he was looking for a way to give himself extra time.
"I'll be out of here long before the 'official' day. Just be ready when I call you."