Blair had been called back to the bullpen before he could check downstairs for his thesis. He'd asked Charlie, the sergeant on the Front Desk but it appeared it hadn't been handed in and the anthropologist was becoming frantic with worry.

Jim sat at his desk going over reports and did not look up when Blair approached. "Jim, have you seen my dissertation?"

The detective took a moment to finish reading the sheet of paper in front of him before scooting back in his chair and opening his desk drawer. Blair gave an audible sigh of relief as Jim put the precious notebook in his hands. "Yes!" He managed to restrain himself from kissing Jim. "Oh, where was it? Was it down in the truck?"

Jim's attention however was fixed on the entrance to the bullpen and Blair looked over to see a portly well-dressed man enter. He recognized him as the lawyer, Charles Kaplan. Blair grinned as a horde of homeless people descended on the hapless attorney who waved them away derisively.

"What do I look like? A bank? Go away! Shoo!" Kaplan pushed his way through the crowd and walked over to meet Simon. Blair seated himself on a corner of the desk to watch the show as Jim stood and went to join them.

Simon nodded at the attorney. "Good evening, counselor. Oh, if you're here about your car, I'm afraid you came to the wrong place. It's down in the garage."

"Was it damaged badly?"

Jim grinned and Blair could see he was enjoying breaking the news to Kaplan. "Can you say 'flatbed'? Hmm? You'll probably have to get some heinous criminals off on technicalities to pay for the paint job."

Kaplan glared at Ellison. "What? You still pissed about the Mantini case? Jeez, Detective, get over it. You can't win 'em all."

"You sure seem to be able to," Simon put in.

Shaking the comment off with a wave of his hand, Kaplan held out a sheet of paper. "So I'm king of the world. Sue me. This is for you. A writ to produce. I want to see my client. His name's Johnny Macado."

Simon perused the writ quickly then stared at Kaplan in astonishment. "Is this some sort of joke? The kid steals your car, and now you're defending him?"

"I couldn't possibly buy this publicity and believe you me, this is beautiful publicity and it has Night Line written all over it."

Taking the paper from his captain, Jim looked at it and snorted. "Who wrote this? Geraldo?"

Kaplan pulled himself up to his full 5-feet 8-inch stature. "Look, Mr. Macado made his phone call. Now, I would like to see my client. Pretty please?"

Jim looked at Simon who shrugged. "Take him down to the interrogation rooms, Jim."

Kaplan grinned widely and adjusted the collar of his obviously expensive shirt. He looked Blair up and down as he followed Jim out the door then pulled a ten-dollar bill from his pocket and tossed it at the young man. Taken by surprise, Blair caught it instinctively, then smiled as he pocketed it. It would buy some extra soup and sandwiches for the people now bunking down in the hallway outside.

Standing, Blair watched a group of people walk out of the elevator, their arms loaded with soup pots and trays of sandwiches. Deciding Jim did not need him at the moment, Blair stuffed his precious dissertation into his backpack and hurried over to help.

"Johnny, Johnny, Johnny."

Johnny looked up as Charles Kaplan entered the interrogation room. Fixing him with a glare, he pointedly ignored the older man's outstretched hand.

Kaplan shrugged and slid into a chair on the opposite side of the table. He smiled widely. "Can I call you Johnny? As your attorney everything we say is privileged. Now that means nobody can be secretly listening in so you've got nothing to worry about."

"I'm not worried. You should be worried."

"And why should I be worried, Johnny?"

Johnny shifted forward slightly and lowered his voice. "Because of what you did and what I saw. You capped that dude. You and the big guy, the one who shot at me."

"Are you sure it was me?" Kaplan frowned at Johnny's nod.

"Absolutely positive?"

"I recognize you from the times you've been on TV. There's a cop right outside the door. Do you want me to tell him how positive I am?"

"What do you want?" Kaplan finally said, the jocularity gone from his voice.

Shifting back in his chair, Johnny linked his hands behind his head, feigning nonchalance though his heart was pounding. "I want out of here...and money. I want 50.... No, I want $75,000. I can't keep boosting cars anymore, you know?"

To his surprise, Kaplan chuckled. "You're a smart guy, Johnny." He nodded slowly. "Okay. I guess we have a deal. See how easy that was, huh? Now you just let me work a little legal voodoo and this whole thing will disappear, okay? Huh? Huh? Come on." This time when he held out his hand, Johnny shook it. Kaplan beamed and patted the young man's shoulder. "All right."

Johnny watched as Kaplan stood and walked to the door, giving him a jaunty wave over his shoulder before the door was shut and locked behind him.

Jim grimaced as Kaplan settled himself into a chair at Simon's desk and began to list off his intentions regarding Johnny Macado.

"Intention to represent, warrant for full disclosure, writ of habeas, yada, yada, yada. Ground rules, gentleman. No one talks to Johnny unless I'm present."

"What else do you want, Kaplan?" Simon asked.

"You can't put a 15-year-old kid in with general lockup."

"All right, he'll stay in the interrogation room until morning. How's that sound?"

"That's lovely. We're done."

Stepping closer to the attorney, Jim held up a hand. "Not quite. Counselor, where exactly did you say your car was stolen from?"

"My office lot. I was working late."

"And you can prove that?" Jim crossed his arms over his chest and regarded Kaplan doubtfully.

"I don't need to." Kaplan heaved himself to his feet and walked to the door. "Now, if you have any further questions for me, I highly advise you put them in writing." He gave Jim a disdainful glance. "You can write, I assume."

Jim stared after the repugnant man until he disappeared into the corridor. "He's lying."

Simon sighed. "If he's breathing, he's lying. I'm going to make some phone calls, see if I can find out what this weasel's up to." He reached for the phone, pausing when Jim headed out the door. "Where are you going?"

"Down to evidence. Whatever's going on, it starts with the car."

Smallwood looked up from his beer as Kaplan perched himself on the stool beside him. "Is it all set?"

"All set. Yeah. He's being kept in the interrogation room, center hallway, sixth floor."

"I knew it." Smallwood nodded in satisfaction. "He's going to be there all night, alone?"

"Yeah. I mean, that's what you wanted, right?" Kaplan looked nervous as he lowered his voice and leaned toward Smallwood. "All I...all I want to know is how the hell do you intend on whacking this kid in the middle of a cop shop."

"Hey, do I quiz you about your professional secrets, huh? Your hand is shaking. You don't want me to start having doubts about you."

Kaplan stood, shaking his head and left but Smallwood didn't heed him. His eyes were fixed on the action on the television set behind the bar. He waved to the barmaid. "Hey, sweetheart, turn up the box, will you?"

//This is Carrie Kingston coming to you live from Cascade police headquarters where only a few moments ago, we witnessed one of the modern world's most persistent conflicts.//

In the operations room of the Cascade PD, Megan turned excitedly to Rafe and waved her hands about. "This is it! Turn it up."

//The battle between nature and machine. Nitro, the bomb squad robot, is a quarter of a million dollars of mechanical menace. His target tonight? One of nature's true survivors -- an alligator -- lost, hungry, afraid...//

Megan's mouth dropped open in surprise. "That's not what she said. Can she do that?"

Rafe's attention was still on Carrie Kingston as she continued her spiel.

// to how the rare, endangered alligator ended up in the building's ventilation system but the creature was smart enough to stay far away from its human pursuers. Unfortunately, we didn't return the favor. The terrified reptile responded instinctively and fought back.//

Smallwood drained his glass and rose from his stool, smiling. Pausing a moment, he listened to the final words from Carrie Kingston.

//But a happy ending may still await our scaly fugitive. The city worker's walkout has been settled at the negotiating table and having viewed our footage, Mayor Prescott informs us that he'll leave the reptile in the more gentle hands of animal control. Sorry, Captain Banks. Guess you'll have to do without that pair of alligator shoes.//

Smallwood chuckled and threw a bank note onto the bar. He winked at the barmaid. "Sweetheart, keep the change."

Running his hands admiringly over the bodywork of Kaplan's car, Blair watched idly as Jim took a paint scraping from the far side of the vehicle. "You ever see yourself driving something like this, Jim? You know, a big ol' Caddy?"

Blair nodded at the silence. "Yeah, me neither. Something bugging you, huh?"

"Should something be bugging me, Chief?" Jim didn't look up from his close examination of the car.

"I don't know. That's why I asked. It's just you haven't said a word while we've been down here."

"I think this matches the paint from the Dumpster," Jim muttered as though to himself.

"This car was at the crime scene? Whoa. What are the odds on that?"

Jim straightened finally and waved over the Forensics officer who had accompanied them to the Evidence lock-up. "Vince? Do me a favor, Run this up to ballistics for a test on that slug and also have the lab give me a breakdown of this paint sample, would you, please." He handed the small plastic bag over to the other man. "Appreciate it."

Turning abruptly, Jim bumped straight into Blair who'd stepped up behind him as he spoke to Vince. The contact was hard enough for Blair to stagger back before regaining his balance. Before Sandburg could apologize, Jim exploded.

"Come on, Chief! Can I get a little space here?"

Blair gaped at the detective. "Jim, what's the matter with you?"

Jim shrugged then stepped around Blair. "I don't know. Maybe I'm feeling a little, uh, how did you say it -- 'territorially threatened to the point of paranoia'? I mean, what the hell is that?"

Anger and disappointment warred in Blair's brain. "You read my dissertation. Jim, I don't believe you. I asked you not to do that!" But Jim was still ranting, pacing up and down beside the car, turning occasionally to punctuate a point with a finger aimed at Blair.

"After I let you stay at my place. I get you a job at the department. I mean you don't have enough data, you've got to go digging into my ex-wife's life?"

Shaking his head vehemently, Blair struggled to get a word in past Jim's angry tirade. "That's not how it happened," he protested. "The only reason that I talked to Carolyn is because she's the only one who knows you better that I do."

Jim's eyes narrowed. "What has my sex life got to do with your project?"

Blair was sure his jaw hit the floor. "Sex life? What are you...? She said you had a fear of intimacy, Jim. Intimacy and sex are two different issues."

"Maybe to you they are, Chief, but my personal life and those involved in it are intimate to me."

Blair squared his jaw. "Look, we have three years of our lives invested in this thing and I'm not going to start shading any of it because you're starting to feel a little threatened."

"Threatened by you? I don't think so, Chief," Jim scoffed.

"What else do you call it?"

Jim took a deep breath. "I call it a violation of friendship and trust." He pushed past the stunned Sandburg and strode rapidly to the elevator.

By the time, Blair regained his composure and trotted after the detective, desperate to sort through the problem, Jim was pushing the button and the door clanged shut in Blair's face. Gritting his teeth and practicing his deep breathing, Blair turned toward the fire exit and began the long climb to the seventh floor.

Smallwood made it into the underground parking garage of the precinct and walked quickly over to the van with Animal Control printed on the side. He held his hand out to the man standing by the open back doors of the van. "Detective Keller, Major Crimes. So you're the guy they brought in to wrestle the gator?"

The man nodded as he began to gather up his gear. "Yeah, Ben Stout. Saw you guys on TV. Let's make this quick and easy. Grab that bag and I'll get the gas mask."

Smallwood grasped Stout by the neck the minute he turned away and smashed his head forcefully into the side of the van. Stout collapsed without a sound and, after looking around quickly to ensure they had not been noticed, Smallwood lifted the unconscious man and bundled him into the back of the van. He stripped Stout's company jacket off him then collected several items that would lend credence to his cover.

Blair made it to the seventh floor just as the elevator doors opened. Trying not to pant heavily, he fell into step beside Ellison as he emerged from the car. When he spoke, his tone was casual enough but he was barely holding onto his anger. "Hey, you also got a fear of courtesy."

Jim didn't reply and Blair finally stopped and watched him stride down the corridor without a backward glance. He felt his chest tighten as he realized that perhaps this time their friendship really was gone. He looked up as Simon stepped up to him, brandishing a sheet of paper.

"Hey, Sandburg, got a positive ID on your 'angel.'" Handing the file to Blair, Simon filled him in while Blair perused the information. "According to records, his name is Harold Blake. He taught semester of ancient history at Fordham."

Blair nodded in understanding. "Ah, guess that would explain him knowing Aramaic."

"Unmarried, no family. His employers reported him missing two years ago. Never heard from again."

The two made their way into the bullpen. "That is, of course, until now," Blair said. "Are you sure this thing's right?"

Simon nodded. "Fingerprints don't lie. I do wonder how he ended up in an alley living out of a cardboard box." Shaking his head sadly, Simon disappeared into his office. Blair sat down at Jim's desk and read through Blake's file. If nothing else, it took his mind off his argument with Jim.

Jim observed Johnny Macado through the window of the interrogation room. The teenager was dozing, his head resting on the table. The detective felt a pang of pity at the sight. The kid seemed too young to be wrapped up in something as bad as murder.

Jim was pretty sure that Johnny was holding back information and he hardened his heart. Time to play some hardball with the kid. Opening the door, he crossed to the table in a couple of long strides and dragged a chair out, its legs screeching loudly against the floor. Johnny jumped, his head shooting up quickly at the sound as Jim dropped into the seat.

Johnny glared at him then rubbed at his eyes. "Hey, what's up with that?"

Jim shrugged. "You might as well get used to it. State pen's a noisy place." He leaned forward, clasping his hands together on the table. "You know, I can place you in a car and I can place the car at the scene which is all the DA's going to need to place a gun in your hand."

"I didn't shoot nobody."

"All right, so you were the driver. It doesn't matter to me. You're an accessory. I'll put you away either way. It doesn't matter."

Johnny lifted his chin defiantly. "I don't have to listen to you, man. You don't scare me."

"I hope I don't scare you. Do I look like I could scare you?" Standing, Jim rounded the table and leaned in close to Johnny, talking into his ear. "I tell you what I would think would scare a very nice-looking kid like you. Being the new, fresh meat on the cell block."

"Hey, man, I don't have..."

Jim grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and shoved him facedown onto the table. As Johnny struggled against the hold, Jim tightened his grip. "Now listen to me. You're in over your head, kid. Why don't you call your mom..."

Johnny managed to lift his head slightly. "You leave my mom out of this, all right?" he spat. "You just leave her alone."

Jim shook his head. "Your mother's going to miss you. You know that? She's going to be on her own for a while. There's not going to be any kissing Mommy good-bye."

Giving the kid a final shake, Jim released his hold and strode quickly from the room. His stomach rumbled reminding him he'd missed dinner and he made his way back up to Major Crimes. He'd have something to eat and let Johnny stew for a little before talking to him again. In the meantime, he wanted to find Sandburg and make sure he understood that Jim's private life was off-limits. If he couldn't write his dissertation without broadcasting personal details, then he could find himself another subject.

Act II

Act IV