Jim Ellison woke up early as the first rays of sun came through his windows. He rolled out of bed and hurried through his morning ablutions. He made a quick call to the station that confirmed Michaels' identification of Albert Falco as the driver of the car that had killed Edgar Hawkings.
Then Jim darted down the spiral staircase to wake up his partner. He found him already fixing breakfast in his kitchen.
"Hey, Chief, let's hurry and get outta here before the terrible twosome come around."
"It's not nice to talk about people behind their back, Ellison," came a cool, hated voice.
Stiffening, Jim sent a glare to his partner.
"Sorry, Jim." Blair shrugged, nodding at Brackett who joined them from the direction of Blair's bathroom. "He came back around 2:00 a.m. saying his senses were all over the map." The anthropologist shrugged. "He slept on the couch."
"So don't think you're getting out of here without me, Detective. A deal's a deal."
"I don't consider blackmail a 'deal,' Brackett," Jim said through clenched teeth.
"To each his own." Lee shrugged. The ex-CIA agent looked between the two friends, smirking. "So when do we leave?"
Blair opened his mouth to answer when he was interrupted by a knock on the door. He shot a look to his sentinel, who shrugged in defeat. "You might as well let her in, Chief. Let Brackett enjoy his day, too." He grinned at the hapless pseudo-sentinel. Jim had smelled Digby when she was coming down the hallway.
Lee groaned in realization. "Not her again." He once again wished he had heightened hearing, this time so he could turn it all the way down and tune her out.
Grinning, Jim said, "Hey, Brackett, a deal's a deal, like you said."
Lee glared at him.
Digby entered, barely sparing a glance at Blair, and honed in on Brackett. "Lee," she squealed. "You beat me here." And Digby marched right over to him, locking her arm around his. Today she was dressed from head to toe in skin-tight white leather accented with rhinestones.
Brackett tried to shrug out of her grasp, to no avail.
"Well." Blair looked around at his partner, the rogue agent, and the potential guide. "Looks like the gang's all here. Why don't we take my car so there's room for everyone?" he asked, a bit too brightly. And for the first time, he was glad not to be a sentinel, for otherwise he might hear what his partner was muttering under his breath.
Once outside, Brackett tried to maneuver into the front "shotgun" seat, but was grabbed by the scruff of his neck by the ex-Ranger and tossed in the backseat with Digby Essex.
I am in hell, Lee thought, as the blonde immediately attached herself to his side.
Blair slid into the passenger seat and Jim took the driver's seat.
Jim started the car with a flourish and peeled out of the parking lot. He turned the car toward Cascade PD headquarters, and was interrupted from his quiet contemplation of driving the vehicle straight into a tree by his partner's incessant throat clearing.
"You getting a cold, Chief?"
"No, uh, I was just wondering where you were headed?"
"I don't think that would be the greatest plan at this point in time."
"What are you talking about?" the detective snapped.
"I'm talking about the fact that you're chauffeuring around a rogue agent who's attached at the hip to your politically sensitive ride-along. You know Simon'll go ballistic."
"I need to sign in, Sandburg. And get Megan, who's been helping me."
"Come on. Just call in and tell them you're on the case. They're used to your 'lone wolf' style."
Jim glanced in the rearview mirror. Brackett was smirking and Digby was staring with wide-eyed blankness. The sentinel sighed deeply. "Okay, I'll call Megan and tell her I'm checking out the lead. You know she'll be pissed about getting cut out; it'll be up to you to smooth those feathers of hers."
"No sweat. I'll just offer to delouse her dingo coat or something." Blair paused and looked out the window at the scenery going by. He could hear Digby's drawl in back and Lee's disgusted tone of voice. "Hey, Jim," he whispered. "Should we tell Digby we think she may be a guide?"
"Think she'd understand?"
"What are you two talking about up there?" the object of their discussion asked.
"We were talking about people who have heightened senses," Blair said cautiously.
"Ooh, like a sentinel?"
Jim barely kept his friend's car on the road.
Blair turned around and stared at the young heiress in shock. "What do you know about sentinels?" the anthropologist croaked.
"My daddy has some old book all about them by some actor. I read it a while ago, but it was pretty musty," she added, wrinkling her nose in remembrance.
"Sir Richard Burton?" Blair whispered in awe. Jim could almost hear the unsaid words: the explorer, not the actor.
"Yeah, Elizabeth's hubby. Although I was a bit disappointed that he didn't talk about her at all. Can you believe it?" She shrugged.
Even Lee seemed impressed by her disclosure. Jim had pulled over to the side of the road, and now all three men's attention was focused on the blonde. Digby preened under the attention, even though she didn't know why it was focused upon her.
"So," said Sandburg, still trying to maintain a sense of calm, "you happen to have a book by Sir Richard Burton?"
"Yes," she replied in exasperation. "What is it with you guys; can't you understand the simplest things?"
Jim could see Blair was starting to vibrate in the seat next to him. "Do you remember the exact title of the book?"
"I don't know, I read it a while ago. It did have 'sentinel' in the title, though."
"'The Sentinels of Paraguay'?" the anthropologist whispered.
"Yes!" she screeched. "That's the one!"
Blair looked over to see his partner holding his hands over his ears, trying to block out her shriek. "Do you realize what this means, Jim? It could be fate. I happened to get hold of a copy of the book and so did she. Maybe it seeks us out. Maybe--"
"Pull back on the reins there, Chief."
"So why did you want to know about my book?" the voice from the backseat questioned.
"Well. . . . " Blair began. "You see. . . . Lee here has three heightened senses: smell, sight, and touch. And we think you may be the person he needs to control them."
"What do you mean 'control them'?" she asked suspiciously.
"No! No way, Sandburg!" Lee shouted.
Jim snickered at the outbursts from his two passengers.
"Listen, Brackett. You can't stick around Blair forever; you need your own guide."
"I don't need her."
"Will someone please tell me what you are talking about?" Digby demanded, interrupting the argument.
Blair put up his hand to shush Brackett before he made any more protests and directed his words at Digby. "I believe you may somehow be linked to Lee, and you may be able to help him so his senses don't get out of control."
Digby smiled triumphantly at Lee. "I knew we were soul mates!"
"Soul mates?!" Lee gave her a look of horror in return--and vowed to ditch her as soon as humanly possible.
There was silence in the car for several minutes as everyone stared at everyone else. Finally, Digby decided that whatever they were talking about wasn't important and cuddled next to her soul mate. Lee tried to ignore her, and started planning ways to escape from her. Jim turned his attention toward finding Albert Falco, and Blair considered the new development on the Digby-as-guide front and prepared to support his own sentinel as they continued their original mission of locating Falco.
Jim started the car moving again. They drove in continued silence until they reached a section of Cascade populated by office buildings. The sidewalks bustled with business people hustling to meetings, some with their papers, others carrying their espresso. A number sat at small tables nestled under the umbrellas and awnings of the sidewalk gourmet coffee cafes. Jim parked near one of these cafes.
"I need to question someone here, so I want everyone," he pointedly looked at each of his passengers in turn, "to remain in the car." He exited, shooting a final warning glance at the occupants to stay put.
Jim knew Albert Falco made a point of being at this cafe in the mornings. He was here to establish his presence, to make deals and pass messages, and to generally keep an eye on Frank Lugosi's business contacts. Sure enough, it only took the detective a couple minutes to locate the tall, lanky man in the brown leather jacket lounging in a chair under a blue and white awning.
Falco saw Jim approaching and gently eased his companion away before turning to look at the detective with a grin. "Well, good morning, Detective Ellison."
"Can it, Falco. What do you know about a man by the name of Edgar Hawkings?"
"That's a very unusual name, Detective. I'm not sure if I've heard it before."
"How 'bout you think back to last week. He was walking down a suburban road and was hit by a car. Rumor has it the car was driven by you."
The felon's face fell a bit, making the scar on his jaw stand out more starkly, but his smile remained intact. "Now, now, Detective, calm down. Don't go believin' everything you hear. I'm sure whoever reported that was mistaken. I haven't run over anyone in a long time." Albert chuckled at his own joke. He reached up with one hand and smoothed back his shiny black hair. His eyes were focused intently on Jim as he talked.
"It's no joke." Jim looked around casually, then turned back to stare directly at Falco. "Matter of fact, we have an eyewitness." Jim watched the smile disappear from Falco's face as the man obviously tried to remember who could have seen him. "Why don't you come with me to the station and we'll talk about it?"
Blair watched the conversation from the car. Immediately after Jim's departure, Lee had moved into the front seat to get away from Digby. "So how long do you think this'll take?" asked the rogue.
"I have no idea. It'll take as long as it takes."
"I'm bored," complained the lone backseat occupant. She shifted, uncrossing and re-crossing her legs; sighing for effect.
"Tough," snapped Lee. "Deal with it."
"That's it! I'm tired of you being nasty," Digby whined. "I've been nothing but nice to you. And seeing as we're soul mates, I'd think you'd be a little nicer to me."
Lee whipped his head around. "We are not soul mates!" he yelled. "You are a dingbat who isn't smart enough to see that she isn't wanted!"
"Hey, you two, take it easy--" Blair tried to calm the two down, but their argument was already raging out of control.
"You're calling me stupid?" Digby chuckled harshly. "That's a laugh coming from someone who can't even control his own senses. Why don't you try limiting your input on your own for a while!" She quickly got out of the car and slammed the door behind her. Clicking down the sidewalk on her three-inch heels, leather-clad hips swaying impressively, she moved toward Ellison, who was bringing out his handcuffs from behind his back. Lee and Blair jumped out of the car to follow her when all hell broke loose.
The man who'd been talking to Falco at Jim's arrival had returned, heavily armed. He let loose his weapon, strafing the car next to Ellison and Falco. Falco ducked behind the car, while Jim dodged behind a truck. Digby, caught out in the open, squealed and ran for the nearest car, her heels making a staccato beat on the sidewalk as she scampered for cover, but she was too late. The man with the gun grabbed her and put his weapon to her temple. "C'mon, Falco, let's go!" he shouted, ignoring the cries that Digby was letting loose.
"What the hell are you doing?" screamed Falco as he rose up from his hiding place.
"Making sure you get back to Lugosi," the armed man called back, clearly confused.
Falco moved a bit closer to his 'rescuer.' "And it never occurred to you I didn't want your help?"
"This cop was gonna take you in," the rescuer stated as if that explained everything.
"Jay, you are such an idiot!" Falco looked around in disgust. Everyone had cleared the street at the first shots, so all that remained were the cop and this woman. He hadn't seen Sandburg and Brackett duck behind Blair's car. "I coulda been out in twenty minutes, he had no proof of anything." Jay had the good sense to look embarrassed. "Now we'll have to kill the cop, and this chick," he added.
Jim couldn't take any more of these idiots' discussion; he slowly stood up from his cover behind the truck. "Put the gun down and let the woman go," he yelled, feeling like he had just spouted an absurd movie line. "You haven't done anything yet except property damage. Let's end this now."
"I think that's a wonderful idea, Detective," Falco said. He turned to Jay and said, "Kill her."
Brackett had been listening to the exchange and could smell the fear of the young woman. Everything in his mind told him to let the annoying woman die, and yet his body seemed to be propelled beyond his control. He left Sandburg and began moving closer to his target, moving from car to car. When he heard the man order her death, he rushed his target.
Jim watched, his eyes open wide in astonishment as Lee Brackett, bad guy, ran up behind the perp holding Digby and yanked back on his arm, slamming his fist in the man's face, and saving Digby in the process. As Jay crumpled from the blow, Digby fell in a dead faint. Lee caught her and lowered her gently to the ground.
Falco looked at his fallen comrade, then seemed to regain his senses and brought out his own weapon to take care of the newcomer and the woman. The gun had barely cleared the waistband of his pants when he was taken down by a shot from Ellison's gun.
Brackett cradled the unconscious Digby in his arms, berating himself for his heroic act. Moments later she came to and looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "I knew it," she sighed, snuggling back into his arms.
Blair walked up to see his partner placing handcuffs on the two perps and calling Dispatch for another pickup.
When Jim stood up and looked at him, pocketing his cell phone, Blair said, "So you think they've bonded?" Jim raised an eyebrow in question. Blair smirked, nodding over at Lee and Digby.
The detective snorted, and a grin spread across his features. "With superglue, Chief. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy." They both laughed at Lee's dismay.
"How's it going, Jim?" asked Blair, walking over to his partner's desk in Major Crime. He had finished his morning class at Rainier, and now looked down at Jim
"Just finishing the paperwork on the Hawkings' case." He closed the folder, tapping it with his fist.
"Falco confessed?" Blair was surprised.
"Nope, but his buddy Jay seemed to know quite a bit. And he was reluctant to spend time in jail; he told us all we need."
Blair snagged a chair and sat down next to his partner. "Have you heard from Digby?"
"Nope, not a peep, Chief. Thank God. She didn't show up for her ride-along this morning. How 'bout you? Any news from Brackett?"
"Just this." Blair tossed a large envelope onto Jim's desk.
Jim opened it, surprised when he viewed the contents. "Is this everything?" he asked softly.
"Looks to be. It contains his notes, some pictures, and a videotape showing off your 'superpowers'." The anthropologist shrugged. "Brackett never came back last night so I went through what few things he left at my place." He ignored the look of mock shock sent by his friend at the thought of Blair riffling through another person's belongings. "I found a key to a locker at the Cascade train station, and this was inside."
"That's the only thing that was in there?"
"Yeah." Blair sat back in his chair and mused, "I still wonder what became of Digby."
"She's gone," reported Simon Banks as he paused at Jim's desk on the way to his office.
"Where'd she go?"
Simon leaned against the desk, a lopsided grin on his face. "Apparently Digby's father was not happy with her. . . escapades. . . around the city, and for once decided to put his foot down."
Jim and Blair exchanged surprised looks.
"So what'd he do?" Jim asked.
Simon chuckled. "He sent Digby to his island retreat off the coast."
"She's gone for good?" Jim asked.
Simon nodded, amused by the look of relief on his detective's face. "At least for a couple years. He decided she needed to learn some self-control. Or at least that society needed to be spared her unique, um, talents."
Jim looked at the captain, head tilted as he assessed his long-time friend's expression. "Come on, Simon, give. What else?"
"What makes you think there's something else?" Simon asked, the picture of innocence.
"Simon. . . . " Jim said, with a mock-threatening tone.
The captain grinned. "Oh, yeah. Well, rumor has it that her boyfriend went with her."
"Her boyfriend?" Blair said. "Her boyfriend?" A smile started on his face, growing into a face-splitting grin. He looked at his partner.
In one voice they said, "Brackett?!" and both burst out laughing.
Simon cackled and stroked the cigar he'd removed from his pocket. After a minute he sobered, and said, "It was strange. . . almost as if he couldn't bear to be away from her." He shook his head. "I don't think we'll be seeing him again for a very long time."
"Really?" Blair asked.
"I just happened to be there when they were leaving--"
"Just happened to be?" Jim asked doubtfully.
Simon looked at him levelly. "Just happened to be," he said firmly. "And I saw her face as they were leaving. She had a look of pure contentment as she snuggled against Lee's side." He laughed. "I can't say he looked quite as content. Somewhat. . . . horrified, perhaps." He chuckled again. "And there's only one way on and off the island, which her daddy controls, so I don't think she'll be letting him go anytime soon."
Jim and Blair both smiled widely at the idea of a Brackett-free life.
With his usual finesse, their captain brought reality storming back. He crossed his arms and arched one eyebrow. "So, gentlemen, mind explaining why I wasn't informed immediately of Brackett's return?"
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