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A little over two weeks later the Rabinovich case stalled, not something that Jim or any other detective ever wanted to admit about an investigation, but it didn't change the fact. By November 29th, he'd uncovered no new leads, no mysterious witnesses had come forward in the last week, and the autopsy report from Dan Wolf had been pretty straightforward. Cause of death: heart being ripped from chest while victim still lived. The toxicology report said traces of some sort of hallucinogen and sedatives had been found in the victim's blood, but not enough to identify them clearly. The phone records from the synagogue revealed that the call which had lured the Rabbi out of his home after 8 PM had come from a pay phone. It was in the area of Forest Grove Park, but was well used and no legible fingerprints had been recovered from the phone, the booth, or anywhere around it.

Closing down the desktop computer and throwing the Rabinovich file into his desk drawer, Jim made ready to leave the office for lunch. Maybe he could swing by Rainier and get Blair to go with him.

Grabbing his jacket from the coat rack, Jim exited the bullpen and made his way toward the elevator, only to stop in his tracks as he listened to the conversation filtering up the elevator shaft as the car moved upwards.

" you think this new murder might be related to the Rabinovich case Jim's been working on all week?" Blair! But who was he talking to?

"I'm just saying it's a possibility, Sandburg. I need you and Jim to head out to the site and see if you find anything of significance." Simon, and with another body for him. He gave serious thought to turning away from the approaching doom, heading for the stairwell and escaping. As much as he wanted to do that, Jim knew the Captain would just track him down -- either through his cell phone or his pager -- and hand the case off to him.

The doors to the lift opened up and Jim pasted his best 'surprised-to-see-you-here' look on his face. "Captain. Blair. What's this I've heard about a new murder?"

Simon Banks scowled at him, teeth clenching hard into the cigar in his mouth as he pushed past his detective. "I know better than to ask. Follow me to my office."

"You heard us, didn't you?" Blair while falling into step beside Jim.

"Kinda hard not to, Chief. I guess I must have heard one of you mention Rabinovich's name and focused in automatically." He held the door to Simon's office open, then carefully shut it behind his friend as he turned to face the Captain. "Where and how bad is this new case, Simon?"

Jim watched as Simon flipped open the file he'd had in hand when he stepped off the elevator, scanning the contents before he spoke up.

"New construction site over in the Woodlands area. The workers there were doing some earth grading and turned up a partially decomposed body."

"Woodlands?" Jim felt his forehead tighten up as he thought about where that new area was. "Simon, Woodlands hasn't been officially annexed by the city yet. Why isn't County handling this?"

Simon gave out an exasperated sigh. "County IS handling the case; they just want to bring us in before the land gets annexed and they have to get us involved, officially. Think of it as a gesture of goodwill. They're prepared to hang onto the case, even after the land is annexed, so they're just sharing information before that happens." He handed the file over to Blair. "Here, read what they've got and go meet with their detective."


"Where what?"

Jim quirked a little smile. "Where are we to meet the County's detective?"

"Probably the Sheriff's Office; his card is clipped to the file. If he's not there, call him and arrange the meet. Now, get out of my office before I snag our consultant from you and put him to work on helping me with the damn budget."

"Got'cha. Let's go, Chief." He tugged on Sandburg's arm to gain the younger man's attention, then steered him through the office door and the obstacle course of the bullpen while Blair continued to read the file.

"Oh, man! This isn't their first case! Remember that article in the newspaper a couple months ago about the bodies found outside of Cascade? Though there was no mention in the paper of any ritualistic elements to those deaths. I don't even remember seeing them listed as homicides."

"Could be the sheriff's department was keeping those details from the public. And didn't the article say the bodies were badly decomposed? Perhaps they're still waiting for lab results to determine if those people were murdered."

"Maybe Detective Sydoriak can give me, and you, some insight on the whole matter." Blair slapped the file closed just as the elevator opened back up.

"Maybe. Let's go meet him and find out what he's got first."

Detective Francis Sydoriak wasn't in his office when Jim called him on his cell phone, but agreed to meet both Blair and Jim at the site where the latest body had been found. As Jim pulled up to the construction site, he spotted what was obviously an unmarked police unit. The Chevy Caprice had the spotlight still attached to the driver's side. A man standing next to the dark gray car was smoking a cigarette. "Looks like Sydoriak beat us here."

"Yeah, and he doesn't look too happy about being out in the weather either." Blair's comment was very observant. The detective was dressed in a light mackinaw and it had been misting slightly ever since Jim had pulled out of the police garage.

Pulling in next to the other officer's unit, squelching tires through the muddy earth as slowly as possible so as not to splash the waiting man with mud, Jim rolled down his window. "You Sydoriak?"

The man threw his cigarette away and stepped towards the truck. "Yeah, you Ellison and Sandburg?" Jim noticed how the man's fingers slipped unobtrusively under his mack, and knew the officer was just being cautious in putting his hand close to his sidearm.

"Yeah. Come on, Chief, let's get this over with." Jim got out of the truck, slipping his Jags ball cap on, and shook hands with his county counterpart. "Jim Ellison, Major Crime." He nodded towards Blair. "This is Doctor Sandburg from Rainier. He's a consultant to the department and has been helping us out on a number of cases."

"Frank Sydoriak. Nice to meet you both." Frank shook hands with both of them then gestured over his shoulder. "Let's get out of this god damn rain and I'll bring you both up to speed." The county detective led them towards a house that was still under construction, but at least had a roof, before bringing a file out from under his coat. "Here, not sure that this case is related to other two we've found, but some of the stuff we recovered at each scene leads me to believe that they are connected."

The accordion folder he'd handed to Jim was thick and, upon scanning through it under the fading light of day, seemed to contain files on several cases. "And this makes what, number three?"

"Yeah, and to be honest, I'm getting rather sick and tired of it." Frank pulled out a pack of Morley Ultra Lights and lit one up. "I'd damn near quit this habit before these cases landed on my desk; now I can't seem to think without one in my hand." The detective was as tall as Jim, but not as well built, blond hair cut into a longer style than Jim was used to seeing on officers that weren't working undercover, but neatly trimmed anyway. The man's blue eyes seemed to hold all of his heartache in their depths. "Look, not that I'd wish this sick sonuvabitch on anyone, but I heard the news and, well, let's just say if your Rabbi was killed by the same man.... " Frank shrugged. "Misery loves company."

Jim handed the file and a small flashlight off to Blair. "Here Sandburg, read those over. Frank, show me where the body was found." He followed the county detective back out into the rain and tugged his ballcap lower on his forehead to keep the moisture out of his eyes.

Frank led him about fifty yards away, into an area that was just being cleared for a new house. As they rounded a pile of debris, a large squared-off boulder jutted out of the ground. A chill ran down Jim's spine. He'd known the boulder was going to be there. What the hell?

"Yo, Ellison, over here!"

Shaking off his strange sense of deja vu, Jim let the other man point everything out while trying to use his senses on the area in the vain hope of picking up a clue.

"Contractors found the body this afternoon, right over there. The man who'd been operating the dozer didn't notice anything at first, until the body actually dropped out of the scoop. Then, according to his coworkers, he let out a scream loud enough to be heard in Canada." Frank shook his head. "I've seen a number of homicides in my career, and just as many skeletons, but this one was strange."

"How strange?" Blair's voice queried as he came to join Jim and the detective, the accordion folder clenched in his fist.

"Doc!" The county officer nearly jumped straight up in the air. "Jeez! Give a man a heart attack! Do you always sneak up on cops?" Frank asked, as Jim listened to his heart trying to settle back down into a normal rhythm after the start Blair had given him.

"Nah, I didn't think I was sneaking. Jim, you heard me, right?" Blair had one of his mischievous grins on his face, making it hard for Jim not to chuckle.

Jim nodded from where he stood, the ground marked with plastic yellow tape showing where the body had dropped from the bucket on the dozer. "Yeah, I heard you."

Frank snorted. "No fair! Ellison was bound to have at least seen you. After all, he's got those damn hawk eyes of his!"

Jim smiled. "But I didn't see him, Sydoriak, I heard him. Big difference." Something caught his attention and he squatted down to poke at the mud. "Hey, Chief, you got an evidence bag handy?" Bare-handed, he removed his pen from his pocket, using it to pry the shattered bit of wood from the wet soil.

Blair and Frank came over to Jim, the officer holding out a County evidence bag. ""What did you find, Ellison?" Sydoriak asked.

Taking the bag from Frank, Jim pulled the object completely out of the ground, carefully bagged it, and held it up for Blair to see. "Look familiar, 'Doc'?"

"It's another damn flute," Blair ground out.

Jim stood up and glanced over at the county officer. "Frank, was anything like that found at the other crime scenes?"

"Yeah, both of them. Is it significant?"


He watched Blair's reaction closely; the case was now, in Jim's mind, connected firmly to the Rabinovich murder. The young doctor of anthropology was carefully examining the remains of the flute under the beam from the flashlight Jim had given him, color fading as the implications became clearer in his own mind. "It looks like the one the teams found at Forest Grove Park, but I need to clean it up first before I can tell you for certain."

Jim nodded and turned his attention towards Francis Sydoriak. "I guess you've got company on this case."

The detective looked up at the rain heavy clouds. "Let's get out of the weather, unless you see something more we missed, Ellison?" Jim shook his head. "Good, 'cause I need a hot cup of strong coffee and would like to compare notes on our friend who leaves broken flutes as a calling card."

The diner, attached to the large truck stop on the north end of Cascade, had several things going for it; it was dry, warm and the coffee was exactly as Frank had described it: hot and strong enough to remove paint, or to use as ink should they need it. It wasn't all that crowded, so the County Detective had snagged a table in the back of the dining area and soon he, Jim, and Blair had files opened and scattered all over the tabletop.

Jim pulled one of the files over towards him and opened it, nearly spilling the crime scene photos into his lap. "Great." He moved to gather the file up, trying not to notice the actual contents of the photographs. Flipping the photos face down on the table, he started reading the original report. "Frank, about this first body--" He glanced up to see Sydoriak looking at him. "The reporting officer said that he'd been waved down by a couple of hunters?"

"Yeah," Frank snorted while stubbing his cigarette out. "The Dillahunty boys. Had their dogs out, getting ready for the season, trampled all over the damn crime scene, letting their dogs root around for two days before they decided they should report their find."

"They stayed around the body for two days?" Blair's voice was full of surprise and Jim had to agree with him.

"Yep. When I talked with them, I chewed them out royally in front of their father, which could explain why when they found the second body, they reported it immediately."

Jim flipped open the second file. Sure enough, the reporting parties were listed as Roger and Reggie Dillahunty. "Seems odd that the same people who found the first body found the second one as well, and only three days later."

"You've never had a run-in with the boys, Ellison." Frank shook his head. "And you really don't want to, not with your nose. They're pretty much what you'd call 'hills people' and don't believe in taking baths too often." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out another cigarette but just held it as he finished explaining. "Roger and Reggie know the entire north woods by heart. Great assets to have when we have a manhunt going on, but not too bright. And they're probably the best hunters I've ever seen. When I talked to them the first time, they agreed to move their camp and just had the misfortune to chose an area close to the second body. Again, their dogs found the DB and pretty much tore the scene up before the boys could call them off, but according to the ME's report, I don't think it would've mattered much."

He'd been flipping through the second batch of photos while Frank had talked and, after looking at them, Jim had to agree with the detective. "I think you're right." Blair held his hand out for the file, which Jim handed to him, minus the photographs. "Trust me, Chief. It's not pretty."

"Need I remind you that I am an anthropologist and have seen dead bodies several years into decomposi..." Jim had flipped a photo over, one of the less graphic ones, and watched as Blair's color faded and he turned a little green. "Then again..." The kid covered well enough, grabbing the latest file, one without photos, and buried his nose in it.

"Frank, anything found at these other scenes that might stick out in your mind? Other than the flute or recorder that you've already mentioned." Jim had opened his notebook and was already taking notes on the file in front of him as he asked the question.

"Just one oddity." Sydoriak lit up his cigarette he'd been playing with.


"Yeah, we found a stack of clothing within twenty to thirty yards of each of the bodies. Neatly folded and, at least in DB # 2's case, there was a small leather pouch on top of the stack."

"Hold it. Frank, is there a list of what was inside the pouch?" Blair looked up from his file, almost staring at the county detective.

"I think so." Sydoriak slipped the file out from in front of Jim and leafed through it for a minute then handed Blair a sheet of paper. "Here you go, one evidence list, Doc."

Leaning over to read the list with Blair, Jim noticed what he thought the anthropologist was searching for and pointed to it. "That what you're looking for?"

"Yeah. I think so." Blair hadn't put his reading glasses on earlier, but did so now and Jim couldn't blame him. The evidence record was hand printed and whoever had done it had terrible penmanship. "Yeah, oh man! I think this victim was a Native American. The contents listed are common items for a 'medicine' pouch; pollen, cornmeal, flaked mica, and a 'carved soapstone in the shape of an animal'."

"Back to the real world, Chief. We're not all anthropologists, what the heck is a medicine pouch?"

"Sorry about that. It's a type of leather bag that some Native Americans carry on their person and usually has items used in daily ceremonies. Pollens to bless the dawning of the day, cornmeal to 'feed' the rising spirits or offer up as a greeting to the Sun. The soapstone is usually a representation of their personal spirit guide."

Sydoriak had been writing furiously in his own notebook and once Blair had finished talking, he broke into a smile, one of the few that Jim could recall seeing on the man's face. "You may have just given me my first break in these cases." Blue eyes, glittering in excitement, turned toward Jim. "Ellison, if you boys in Cascade ever tire of the Doc's services, can we steal him away from you?"

"Sure, but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, Frank."

"Damn. Hey, Doc, look through the rest of the evidence records and see if you can spot anything else that might help me, will ya?" Jim shook his head as he returned to reading the file on the second victim while Sydoriak started handing Sandburg the records from the other files. It wasn't until Jim opened the third file that he found something out of place.

"Hey, Frank, I think this belongs in the file from today's victim." He handed the evidence record over to Sydoriak who immediately handed it off to Blair.

"Sure does, must have gotten in there by mistake when I dropped the files in the car earlier. Here ya go, Doc."

Jim watched the two men work for a few minutes in mild amusement. It wasn't all that often that someone showed a true appreciation of Blair's talents and he made a mental note to correct that oversight on his part. He'd just returned to his reading of the technical team's findings at the second crime scene when he heard Blair's heartbeat skyrocket. "Chief? You okay?" He reached out and grabbed the younger man, who was rapidly going pale, by the shoulder and shook him gently. "Chief?"

"It can't be...Oh god, what if it is?"

"Blair, what's wrong?"

Blair looked up at Jim and handed him the evidence record. "Line 48."

"Line 48?" He looked at the indicated entry and, reading the description of the item, realized what had sent Blair's heart rate through the roof. "Aw, damn."

One silver filigree pendant. Pentagram design with Celtic scrollwork.

Blair was silent on the ride back to police headquarters, his mind on the past, as he wondered how he was going to break the news to Sky.

On November 3rd, a week after the wrap-up of the fake Ecstasy case, Blair walked into Major Crime to find Skylark Kullien sitting in a chair next to Jim's desk, a troubled expression on her face. The detective was nowhere in sight.

Crossing the room, Blair dropped his backpack at his desk then approached her. "Sky? What's wrong? What are you doing here?"

She jumped to her feet, her gaze haunted. "Blair! I came to talk to Jim, but he's not here right now, and I don't know who else to turn to--"

Reaching out, Blair laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. "What's the matter? Thorvald's people haven't been bothering you, have they?"

She shook her head, her strawberry blonde locks flying. "No, no, not a peep out of them. In fact the Toy Box has been closed since he was arrested. It's my friend Rowan MacLauryn. She's missing!"

"Missing? Are you sure she didn't just go on vacation, or out of town for a few days?"

Sky nodded, her fingers tightening on the strap of her purse. "Yes, I'm sure. I've called all her friends, and no one's seen her since she left my store last Saturday."

Blair considered the options. "Okay, we need to go talk to Patrol then. They handle welfare checks and missing persons reports." Placing his hand at the small of her back, he guided Sky toward the elevators. Once there, he turned her over to Corporal Li Xiong, but stayed to help her get through the difficult task of recalling the details of where, when and what clothing her friend had been wearing the last time Sky had seen her.

The anthropologist glanced down at his clenched fists. That had been nearly two months ago. Patrol hadn't turned up much in the way of leads, even though Xiong had made finding MacLauryn a personal goal . He wondered who would tell Li that his search had been in vain. He looked over at his partner. Probably Jim. Li had been a pet project of his, in much the same way as Danny Choi. Jim would make sure Li knew he hadn't failed.

How am I going to tell Sky her best friend's been murdered? Blair worried the inside of his lip with his teeth, then made a decision. He wouldn't say anything until after the autopsy, which was scheduled for the next morning, and ask Jim to do the same. If a match were made using dental and medical records, then he would find some gentle way of breaking the news to his girlfriend.

Day slowly crept towards night. Jim parted company with Blair in the precinct's garage, while Frank Sydoriak tagged along with the detective into Major Crime. If they were to work together on what now appeared to be related crimes, then Frank needed to see the files and evidence on the rabbi's murder. While the sheriff's detective pored over the Rabinovich case file, Jim was formulating a plan to confirm his suspicions that the body found earlier was, indeed, Rowan MacLauryn.

The autopsy wouldn't start until the morning, but a few phone calls down to the basement provided information he needed. Dan Wolf was staying late, awaiting the arrival of a 'floater' dredged up by CPD's Harbor Patrol, and Serena Chang was staying late as well. Something about doing an "inventory control check" of the evidence lockup, which meant he should be able to access what he needed.

Just after turning the Rabinovich folder over to Frank to read in the security of the bullpen, Jim headed down to the morgue, and requested a look at the county's body. He nearly gagged when the corpse was rolled out and he saw its mangled condition. Choking out a polite 'thank you' to the forensic tech who had assisted him, Jim returned to the bullpen, his thoughts in rapid motion.

The itemized list of evidence found at the Woodlands crime scene had Jim convinced he knew whose body it was. Now to get the confirmation from the one person who knew the victim the best -- Skylark Kullien.

Frank excused himself to go grab some coffee and Jim took the opportunity to place a phone call, only looking at his watch after completing his dialing. Damn, it was later than he thought, nearly 10 PM. Oh well....

"--ello?" The woman's voice was muzzy, as if he'd woken her up. Good. Served her right, since he couldn't get any decent sleep the night after all that sage burning she and Blair had done.

"Ms. Kullien? It's Detective Ellison."

"Jim! What is it, is something wrong with Blair?" He listened as her heart thudded in her chest, then started racing.

"No, this isn't about Sandburg, Sky. You filed a missing person's report a few weeks ago on Rowan MacLauryn?" He toyed with a pen as he spoke, his hands itching to do something.

"Uh, yeah. I mean, yes, I did. Has she been found?" The hope in her voice was genuinely heartbreaking.

"Yes, she has. And I really need a favor from you." He waved towards Frank Sydoriak, who'd just walked back into the bullpen. "I need you to come down to the station and take a look at a few things." He nodded in appreciation as the county detective set a cup full of coffee on the desk in front of him.

"Of course, when do you need me there?"

Jim glanced at his watch again. "I realize it's late, Sky, but could you be here in an hour or less?" He waved off the questioning look Frank tossed his way as the man sipped on his own cup of coffee.

Sheets rustled in the background on her end of the line. "Uh, yeah, I guess so. Just let me grab a quick 'wake-up' shower, then I'll come over."

"I appreciate this, Sky. I'm sure we can handle our business fast enough for you to get some sleep before you have to get up to open your store."

"I'll be there, Jim. And thanks for calling me -- even as late as it is."

He hung up the phone to see the detective still staring at him. "What's up with the look, Sydoriak?" Jim queried as he sipped the strong brew Frank had brought back with him. Obviously someone had made a fresh pot, for it wasn't the normal late-night sludge.

"I couldn't help but overhear a little bit of your conversation, Jim. Would that happen to have been the 'Skylark' who filled out the MP report on her friend you think is the body we found in the county?"

"It was. I'm pretty sure after reading your reports and her MP file that the body will turn out to be this Rowan woman." He held up a hand as Frank started to open his mouth. "Hang on, I said 'pretty sure,' not 100% positive. Dan's going to do the autopsy in the morning, and before he does that, I figured we could have Ms. Kullien go over the personal effects your teams found out at the Woodlands. Saves us time, and time, in this case, is a valuable commodity. Don't you agree?"

Frank's face creased into well-worn worry-lines as he pondered over what Jim had said. "Maybe. But don't you think having a woman, whose best friend *might* be in a morgue drawer downstairs, looking over evidence gathered at a crime scene is a little harsh?"

"No. In fact, Sky's reactions to my questions will tell me if I need to look into her as a possible suspect in her friend's murder, and the other murders as well."

Frank spluttered into his coffee, effectively managing to splash his light colored dress shirt and tie with dark droplets of fluid. He stared at Jim, his jaw hanging open. "What? Why in the hell would you suspect her?"

"Frank, there's things about Skylark that I think you should know...." Jim gestured for the man to follow him and led the county detective into the briefing room where they could have a little privacy from the few officers and detectives currently on duty in Major Crime.

Jim told Frank about her 'curious' religion, making sure to include all the horrific details he'd found on the Internet after the Clarity case. The stories were, by the authors' own admission, pure conjecture, based only on a few writings still legible in some ancient Roman scrolls. They said Druids of old had practiced human sacrifice on a regular basis, up to, and including, the ritualistic 'spilling of the King's blood' on drought-parched soil to assure the harvests the following year would be bountiful. But just because they might not have been true didn't mean people didn't believe them.

Frank shook his head. "I find that hard to swallow, Ellison. I know there are some sick people in this world but that's really a stretch. Now if it's a satanic cult you're talking about, that's something else. But these druids sound like a bunch of tree-huggers to me."

Ellison shrugged. "We'll never know unless we ask the question."

Jim and the county detective met Sky at the elevators when she showed up. As the attractive druidess stepped out of the car, the sentinel heard Sydoriak mumbling something about the woman not looking like a killer. Introductions were made, then all three of them headed down to the basement where Dan Wolf kept his office, next to the autopsy bays and, conveniently, the evidence lockup.

"Frank, would you take Ms. Kullien into Dan's office? I'll be right there. I just need to get Serena to unlock the evidence room." Sydoriak nodded sharply, placing a gentle hand on Sky's arm as he led her away to the Medical Examiner's office. Jim waited until they had disappeared into the room before heading towards the Forensics lab. Spotting Serena Chang sitting behind her desk, munching on a stale slice of pizza while reading the evening's collection of reports, he sauntered over towards her. "Serena."

"Ellison!" She jumped a little as she dropped the last quarter of the greasy slice onto the file she had open on her desk. "Damnit! Oh, hell. I didn't need that anyway." She picked up the stained report and dumped the remains of her late-night meal into a trash bin. "What are you doing down here so late, Jim?"

He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb towards the evidence cage. "I need to go over the stuff found at the Woodlands crime scene. I have a possible lead on who the victim might be and someone who knows her tucked away in Dan's office. I just want to see if she can confirm the body's identity from her clothing."

Serena's countenance dropped the pretense of good cheer as she looked up at him. "You know you can't use an ID from clothing alone. You saw the body earlier; it was in my tech's reports. So you know there's nothing left to identify her without using medical and dental records." She stood up, pulled a set of keys from her lab coat and walked over to the caged-in locker room. "But if your witness can positively identify the clothing or the jewelry as belonging to her friend, it would go a great way towards changing the status of Jane Doe number 127 to a real person."

"I know. And I have a feeling time is of the essence here. The sooner we can identify the victim, the sooner we can catch the sick son of a bitch that killed her before he kills anyone else." Jim followed her into the cage and over to a large locker. Serena opened it and started handing him sealed evidence bags.

"There, that's the last of it. Unusual piece of jewelry. Pure silver and, unless the techs that looked it over missed the mark, it's handmade, sand-cast silver. Nice knot work too." He looked at the pendant, which was the last item the woman handed him, then tucked it into his shirt pocket.

"Thanks, Serena. I'll get this stuff back to you as soon as possible." He started to walk out of the room.

"Hold up one moment, Ellison. If you think I'm going to let you break the chain of evidence, you've got another thought coming. I'm going with you." She pulled the gate closed behind her with a solid 'clang' and pocketed the keys again.

Jim shrugged and nodded. "I was going to sign them out, all nice and neat for the record. Honest I was, Serena. But if you want to tag along...."

Sky looked up as Jim entered Dan's office, Serena Chang on his heels. He juggled the packages in his hands, carefully arranging it so Kullien would see the deep blue, tie-dyed shirt with the Celtic knot design on the front, gauging her reaction. He didn't have long to wait as he set the packages on the low table in front of the chair she sat in.

"Oh my Gods!" Sky shot up from her chair, obviously recognizing the shirt encased in plastic and grabbing it up from where it sat. "This is Rowan's favorite shirt! Where did you find it? Oh Gods, she's dead, isn't she?"

Ellison felt a grim satisfaction as the woman's already pale coloring faded even further. "Yes, she is, Sky. I'm sorry to tell you this, but she was murdered. Weeks ago, if the condition of her body is any indication." Jim ignored the shocked looks aimed at him by Dan, Frank, and Serena. He had Sky right where he wanted her -- off balance, upset and more likely to slip up and reveal herself and her group of druids as the killers. And she was upset, her whole body starting to shake with tiny tremors as she bravely held her tears and emotions in check. Time to break down that control. "Sky, there's one more thing I'd like you to look at, to confirm that the body the County Sheriff's office found is, in fact, Rowan's." He pulled the unique pendant from his pocket and tossed it at her. "Recognize it?"

The distraught woman caught the item, pulled it close to examine it, and then dropped it onto the table as if it had scorched her through the protective covering. Sky collapsed back into her seat as Frank put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "It's Rowan's. She made that over five years ago, never took it off. Oh, great Dagda. She really is dead." Strawberry blonde hair fell forward to cover her face as she dropped her head into her hands and started crying, her sobs racking her body with great shudders.

Jim intentionally ignored the subtle by-play going on in the room, but took note of it anyway. Dan and Serena nodded at each other, then the lead Forensic tech bolted out of the office. Ellison crossed over to sit on the table, pulling Sky's hands down and forcing her to look at him. "Tell me, Sky, how long did you think you would get away with it, huh? How long were you and your druid buddies sacrificing animals before you stepped up to humans? To Rowan?"

"What!" Sky yanked her hands away from his and sat back in the chair, a look of utter horror crossing her face. "We never--I couldn't! No! My grove never, ever, spills blood! You've been to the ceremonies, you know that!"

"Jim? What are you doing?" Dan crossed the office to pull Jim to his feet and spun him around to get his attention.

"I'm doing my job. What about you, Dan? You haven't started the autopsy on MacLauryn, so do you think this is the time for me to drag Ms. Kullien in there and show her the body of her friend, lying on your table?"

"Ellison! That's uncalled for!" Frank exploded from where he stood beside the still crying and seething Sky.

"No, it's starting to make sense to me. Every murder we've had in this case, the rabbi and Rowan just to name two, have clearly been of a ritualistic nature, and Ms. Kullien's 'grove,' or whatever she calls her coven, dabbles in the occult. Remember what I told you upstairs, Frank." Sydoriak's face turned hard as he stiffly nodded, clearly recalling what Jim had told him about ancient druidic practices.

"You. Are. Insane, Ellison!" The harsh voice snarled through the office. Sky had regained some of her composure, and now stood to face him, fists clenched at her sides, fire fairly leaping from her blue-green eyes. "I did not kill my best friend! My grove isn't and has never practiced blood-letting and, if this is how you do your job, I'm sick to think that Blair ever got involved in your world!"

"What in the hell is going on?" Blair stood in the doorway, his expression black.

Serena's phone call had reached Blair as he drove back to his apartment from an evening of research at the university library. He'd been only a few blocks from the police station when his cell phone rang. Now, he bounced nervously in the elevator car on his way to the morgue, his thoughts and emotions colliding. Concern for Sky warred with anger at Jim. Had his friend lost his mind?

The car dinged as it reached the basement, the steel doors sliding open. He was wondering which direction to go when Sky's raised voice reached his ears. He burst into Dan's office in time to hear "--I'm sick to think that Blair ever got involved in your world!"

"What in the hell is going on?" All eyes turned toward him, but his immediately found Sky. Her face was flushed and streaked with tears, and even from across the room Blair could see her shaking in outrage and grief. She dashed to his side, and Blair instinctively put his arms protectively around her as he sought out Jim.

The sentinel's face was hard, his eyes chips of sky-blue ice as he said, "I asked Sky down here to look at the clothing and other items found at the Woodlands. She's managed to identify them as belonging to Rowan." His tone softened slightly, almost condescendingly, "She's obviously upset, Chief. Why don't you make sure she goes home and gets some rest?"

Blair glanced down at Sky, who had her face buried in his shoulder, tears dampening his shirt. Tightening his hold on her, he looked back at Jim. "What in the world possessed you to call her down here? I thought we agreed to wait until after the autopsy to tell her, and then you go behind my back and just spring it on her without me here? That's cold, man, way cold."

"He thinks I killed her," Sky choked out.

For a moment Blair was simply numb, too stunned by her words to say anything. Then the fury rolled over him. "You son of a bitch! You know that's not true! I was with her the day Rowan disappeared. You wanna accuse me of murder, too?"

Jim's stony expression never wavered.

"Go to hell, Jim." Blair guided Sky in front of them as they left the room. He soothed her with kind words and gentle touches while they waited for the elevator, all the while wondering when his friend had turned into such a bastard.

Jim watched as Blair gathered his girlfriend closer into his arms and turned sharply to walk down the hall towards the elevators. He sensed it when Frank and Dan joined him, but kept his eyes on the departing couple until the doors of the elevator closed on them. He opened his mouth to comment, but the two men returned to the Medical Examiner's office and shut the door. He snorted. "Whatever."

Jim shrugged, turning down the hallway and heading for the stairs, when Serena blew by him in a flurry of white coat, mumbling under her breath, "What an asshole."

The impact of what he'd just done finally hit him. The sentinel leaned against the wall, running a shaking hand over his face. He should go apologize to Sandburg, and his girlfriend. His guide was right, what had he been thinking? He hadn't been. It was this fucking case. They had nothing. Nothing! He was grasping at straws, becoming what he had so long despised--a cop who would go to any lengths to make an arrest. Including alienating his best friend.

On to Act 4