Act IV

Blair glanced up, distracted from his thoughts as a large, beefy man dressed in overalls that proclaimed he was from Animal Control stepped from the elevator and caught his arm.

"Excuse me. You work here?" the man asked.

"Uh... sort of."

The man nodded. "Well, I'm Ben Stout. I'm with animal control. I'm here about a little pest problem."

Standing in Simon's office with Megan, Jim handed over a bagged bullet to the captain. "It's a nine millimeter bullet. We found it embedded in Kaplan's headlight."

"Same as those recovered from the body," Megan added. "The victim's name was Walter Miller. Your DMV came up with a match. He worked on a loading dock -- when he worked."

"Why would Kaplan go after a part-time teamster like Miller?" Simon mused.

"There's a major investigation going on for jury tampering but no one will confirm or deny Kaplan's a target," Jim answered.

Megan looked thoughtful. "Can we search through the DA's database for any connection between Kaplan and Miller?"

"Yeah...yeah, we can," Simon agreed. "All right, let's do it. Bring Kaplan in."

Blair had finally found Gabe seated in the hallway outside the break room. Balancing his bowl of food carefully, he sat down beside the homeless man. "Hey."

Gabe smiled widely at him and indicated his own food. "The Lord said, 'Look and I will send down food from heaven for you. Gather what you need.'"

"You ever heard the name Harold Blake?"

Gabe continued on as though he hadn't heard him though the words were familiar to the anthropologist. "Those who gathered much had none left over but those who gathered little did not want for more."

Blair nodded slowly. "'Did not want for more.' It's from Exodus, right? Harold Blake would know that quote. He taught Biblical studies."

"He was gathered up," Gabe replied, looking earnestly at Blair. "I use his body to walk amongst men. 'For he made his angels spirits and his ministers were as flaming fire.'" He leaned in closer to Blair and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone. "I'm here to work a miracle."

Blair nodded and rubbed at his forehead, trying to will away the headache building there. It was turning out to be a long, unproductive night.

Simon nodded his thanks to the officer who led a cuffed Kaplan into his office. "Wait outside, Ricardo."

As Ricardo walked out closing the door behind him, Simon leaned back in his chair and gave Kaplan a feral grin. "Good evening, Counselor." He crooked a finger. "Why don't you approach the bench?"

Kaplan threw himself angrily into a chair and glared at Simon. "Laugh it up, Chuckles. You're going to need that sense of humor when I slap you with a $10 million harassment suit." Leaning back, he plopped his feet onto Simon's desk, tensing when Jim stepped quickly up and pushed his feet aside.

"Get your feet off of my desk!" Simon ordered.

Jim dangled the bagged bullet in front of Kaplan's nose before he could reply. "This was recovered from your car which places you at the scene of the murder of Walter Miller."

Kaplan held up his cuffed hands. "Cool your jets there, Colombo. It places my car there, not me. My car was stolen."

Simon nodded. "By your client, Johnny Macado."

"Now was your car stolen before or after the murder?" Jim put in.

Simon smiled as Kaplan began to backpedal rapidly. "This doesn't have to be adversarial. Look, I'd never advise a client to admit it, but...I might make certain discussions I've had with Johnny available to the DA. Confidentially, he doesn't stand a chance anyway."

Jim turned to Simon and shook his head. "Whew. You hit the jackpot, Captain." Turning back to Kaplan, he gave him a disgusted look. "You've sunk to a new low."

Kaplan smirked. "You're taking this personally, Detective. Just what exactly is your relationship with my client?" He looked at Simon. "I hope you haven't been letting them spend too much time alone together."

Simon grimaced at the smutty innuendo. "Ricardo!"

Jim pulled Kaplan roughly to his feet as the uniformed officer entered the office. "Come on."

"Hey! Watch the suit."

Jim pushed Kaplan into Ricardo's grip and watched as the attorney was hustled out the door, still protesting.

"Man, that guy is a real piece of work," Simon said. He sat forward in his seat and tapped on the folder in front of him. "Look, I had Social Services send over Johnny Macado's file. Maybe there's something here you can use. If we don't get the kid to roll over on Kaplan, we don't have a case."

Jim nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah. Maybe the kid's hungry."

Exiting the bullpen, Jim stood aside as the man from Animal Control passed him. "Hey, did you take care of that little problem of ours?"

The man nodded. "I'm on it. Won't be long now."

Jim nodded and then let his gaze wander over to the break room where he could see Blair handing out food. He hesitated a moment, then when the room was empty, walked in. Picking up a tray, he grabbed some sandwiches to take down to Johnny. He kept his eyes down, not wanting to get back into the discussion with Blair over his dissertation right now, despite the guilt he felt at chewing his partner out. He looked up when Blair touched his hand.

"Uh, I'd probably stick to the tuna if I were you."

Jim nodded and swapped the sandwich on his tray for another one. Finally deciding there was no time like the present, he took a breath and spoke again. "All right. Look, Chief, know, uh, I...maybe I...maybe I overreacted."

Blair quirked an eyebrow but his lips tipped up into a faint smile. "Maybe?"

Jim shrugged an acknowledgement of the exaggeration and pushed on. "I know I shouldn't have read your dissertation, and I'm sorry for any transgressions but I' know, I thought we were friends."

Blair nodded, looking confused. "Right."

"It doesn't read that way to me."

"Jim, I said that most of your life choices are fear-based. It's not as bad as it sounds."

Jim felt his anger rising once more. "Are you kidding me? It makes me sound like a coward."

"Well, that's the way you read it. Come here." Reaching out, Blair grasped his arm and pulled him over to a corner of the break room. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet. "You chose to be a sentinel. And the way that you deal with your fears, all of them, is based on that choice. Fear can be one of your greatest allies. Now, you can choose to bottle it up inside or we can work on it."

Jim wasn't ready to capitulate just yet. Couldn't Sandburg see that he had breached a private place? "After this?"

Blair looked dumb-founded. "So, what do you want to do? Just want to call it quits?"

They were not the words that Jim wanted to say but right now he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do. He looked away and heard Blair sigh.

"Ah, maybe you're right. Maybe I've lost my objectivity. I'll tell you what. I'd rather just be friends. So why don't I go destroy my notes? How about that?"

Jim watched him silently as he spun on his heel and strode from the room. A presence behind made Jim jump and he looked over his shoulder to see Gabe standing there. He hadn't even heard him come in and he wondered how much the man had heard.

"You didn't answer him," Gabe said. "What good does it do for a man to have ears that will hear a thousand miles if he cannot listen to the whispers of his own heart?"

Jim felt his gut tighten at Gabe's words. "What?"

Gabe smiled gently at him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You should begin by listening to the hearts of others."

Before Jim could think of a suitable reply, Gabe was caught up in something else, chanting softly in Aramaic. Jim watched him for a moment, then picked up the tray of food and headed to the interrogation rooms. A further conversation with Sandburg would have to wait.

Making his way back into the bullpen, which was by some miracle, mercifully deserted, Blair lowered his weary body into Jim's chair. Picking up his introductory chapter, he leafed desultorily through it, mulling over his words to Jim.

Tossing the notebook onto the desk, Blair leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes, his mind drifting back to his unplanned meeting with Jim's ex-wife and her comments regarding Jim.

Blair had actually been more relieved that Carolyn had focused on Jim's fear of intimacy instead of her obvious doubts over the veracity of his dissertation subject and her comment had seemed innocuous enough at the time.

It had proved though, to be an eerie prescience of Jim's traits as a sentinel over the following three years. Blair was still trying to fit together all the jigsaw puzzle that was Jim Ellison, Sentinel and this was one of the most challenging pieces.

Did Jim push away people who got too close as a self-protection mechanism? If indeed it was that, did he do it to avoid anyone discovering his heightened senses or to protect himself against the sensory onslaught, especially in the early days, before Blair, when he had so little control?

On a more personal note, perhaps Jim's issues with intimacy were nothing at all to do with being a sentinel and everything to do with just being a guy who needed a large personal space. There was the time he'd asked Simon for a week off, saying he needed space because people were always in his face but they'd sorted through that and gotten back on track.

Blair sighed and scrubbed his hands tiredly over his face. Maybe he really did need to think about making a choice between his dissertation and his friendship with Jim. Was he losing the plot here? Losing sight of the big picture and what was really important? Incacha had thought his commitment to Jim was secure enough or he surely wouldn't have handed the role of Shaman onto him on his deathbed.

The problem was it was all inter-linked --his thesis, Jim's police work, the Sentinel stuff, their partnership and friendship. It seemed to Blair it was a case of destroy the dissertation, destroy everything the past three years had meant to them both and would mean to them in the future.

Strengthened somewhat by this understanding and with new resolve, Blair got to his feet and made his way back out to find Jim.

Jim collected the tray of food and drink from the break room and carried it down to the interrogation room. Johnny was seated with his head down, resting on his crossed arms and didn't look up as he entered and set the tray on the table.

Jim sat and pushed the food over to the teenager. "I thought maybe you could use a snack." When Johnny didn't acknowledge him, he continued. "I know you were lying about your mother, Johnny. She doesn't work at the hospital. She's a patient in the AIDS wing."

Johnny's head snapped up at the comment and he suddenly looked very vulnerable. "Look. She's not what you think, all right? All kinds of people get it now."

"I know. Is she on medication?"

"When I can afford it." Johnny shook his head, his face becoming sad. "You won't understand, though. If I make one score, she's covered."

Jim leaned forward and rested his hands on the table. "If you think money is all your mother needs, you're selling her short. You're selling yourself short. She needs you, and not in the joint doing time for something that you didn't do. Just tell me. Right here, right now, between you and me. Did you kill Walter Miller?" He dialed up his sight and hearing as he waited for Johnny to answer.

"I'm not a killer. I don't even hang with killers, man." The boy's tone was mournful, pleading.

Jim nodded, satisfied with what his senses told him. Johnny was telling the truth at last and with the truth he'd shaken off his mantle of bravado. Jim gave him a small smile. "All right, I'll see what I can do, then." He indicated the tray. "Eat your sandwich."

Charles Kaplan shifted uncomfortably in his chair but still managed to give Simon an icy glare. "What's this all about, Captain?" He looked up and his stoic features gave way to shock as Jim walked through the door, accompanied by Johnny Macado. They stopped a few feet away and Johnny stared at the attorney unwaveringly.

"That's...that's him," Johnny said, indicating Kaplan with his cuffed hands. "He's one of the men I saw do the killing."

Kaplan's mouth dropped open. "This will never fly without a proper lineup," he huffed indignantly.

Johnny turned to Simon. "He was going to pay me to keep quiet. We talked about it."

Simon gave Kaplan a predatory grin. "Looks like we've been cleared for takeoff, Counselor."

Kaplan apparently knew when to quit and he wasn't planning to go down alone. "Okay, look...I wasn't the shooter. But I can give him to you. Name, whereabouts, testimony, shoe size, you name it. Whatever you want. Okay? Come on. Do we have a deal?"

Simon waved his words away, a disgusted look on his face. "Motion denied."

Jim smiled as he stepped up to Kaplan and hauled him from the chair. "You do that well, sir. Come on, let's go, Counselor. We have a room all prepared for you. Complete with hot and cold running felons."

Simon nodded at Johnny and waved him into the seat vacated by Kaplan. "You did good, kid."

Martin Smallwood carefully scanned the basement of the Cascade PD. Satisfied that the immediate area was deserted, he pocketed his weapon and picked up the explosive device he'd just carried in. Arming the bomb, he placed it in the bottom of the elevator shaft then got laboriously to his feet and headed for the stairs.


Act V