Simon came back into the hospital waiting room. "Jim and Rafe are going to look for them," he announced to Joel and Megan, who were sitting in the chairs.
"Good," said Joel, nodding.
Megan told her boss, "Rhonda just poked her head out and said that everything's going well. It'll be a while yet."
"Do they think she's going to wait for Henri to get here?"
"I really don't think she gets a choice in the matter, Captain," Megan said dryly.
Henri needed to make Blair aware of the possibly dangerous situation they might be facing, without letting the bad guys know he was on to them. This would take finesse and skill… damn. "Say, Blair. Do you remember the time we went to the Cascade Fairgrounds on the Midway?" He strove to keep his voice casual, while plastering a grin on his face.
Blair glanced over at Henri with a look of uncertainty. "Um, yeah?" Henri could see in the younger man's eyes that Blair was picking up on his tension and would follow along.
"We've had such bad luck today, with the car and all. I was just thinking of our bad luck on other occasions," Henri remarked. He saw the three men listening closely to their conversation, and strove to keep things light. Laughing, he started regaling them with a tall tale that had never happened about a nearly endless ride on a runaway roller coaster. As the detective continued, he noticed their would-be captors had partially relaxed and were laughing at their stories. They did not seem to be paying attention to anything else he was doing.
Reaching down as he talked, Henri gently pulled his backup weapon from his ankle holster. He slid it under the package of cookies on his lap.
Blair must have caught the movement. He shifted forward enough to block Henri's actions from the redhead and took over the narration, gesturing wildly with his hands to distract the others. As the consummate bullshit artist, he continued the fictional story, adding a flourish about the two of them getting stuck in the funhouse, trapped in a maze of mirrors.
Carefully, using slow motions, Henri slid his backup gun over to Blair's side and nudged him with it. Blair didn't stop his story, or even pause, as he moved his hand down and took hold of it. Satisfied now that the younger man was armed, Henri went about removing his primary weapon from its holster, hidden under his jacket.
Rumbling along the back road, the Hummer was making short work of the trip. Henri recognized the region and knew they would be back to the main road shortly. Fortunately, they were back -- barely -- in Cascade PD's jurisdiction. He had to do something before they were in an area with traffic and innocent bystanders.
Rafe watched the scenery going by at high speed. "How are we going to find them? What route are you taking to Seattle?"
"Anytime I've driven with Sandburg we've used the main highway. I see no reason that should change." Jim's expression remained grim as he steered the truck down the highway.
"But then they would be back by now." The younger detective tilted his head thoughtfully as he looked at Jim. "Maybe something happened: flat tire, out of gas, alien abduction, killer bees."
"Killer bees?" Jim arched an eyebrow as he glanced at Rafe.
"With Sandburg, anything is possible." He shrugged, trying to look casual.
"True," Jim admitted, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
They rode in silence for a few minutes, scanning the cars passing in the other direction.
"If H misses the birth he'll never forgive himself," Rafe said, anxiety and a touch of sadness in his voice.
"What do you want me to do, Rafe?" Jim asked softly.
The young detective sighed. "We've just got to find him."
"We will, Brian." Jim turned his attention to the highway, his expression again grim.
"… and then, after all that, they decided to junk the car anyway," Blair said, ending another fabricated story of bad luck.
The men laughed at the punch line.
Henri suspected that Blair still didn't know what exactly was going on, other than there was trouble and they were going to need to defend themselves from their "rescuers," but that was enough for now. Explanations could come later. Blair was sharp and would follow his lead.
Okay, it's now or never, Henri decided. "Hey, guys, I hate to have to ask this, but can we pull over for a sec?" he called out.
"What's the problem?" the driver, Steve, asked. He didn't slow down.
"I need to take a leak."
Bob, the blond, whipped his head around. "You're kidding."
"Sorry, man, but when the bladder knocks I have to answer. Wouldn't want to make a mess in your vehicle."
"I don't think so." The back seat passenger drew his gun. "Sit back and shut up."
Almost immediately, Blair bent completely forward, letting Henri dive across the seat and punch the bad guy. Not satisfied with the hit, Henri bounced the man's head off the glass, rendering him senseless.
In the front passenger seat, the leader reached for his gun. "Oh, no, you don't," said Blair as he sat in the middle, holding Henri's backup .38 aimed directly at the man's head. "Put your hands where I can see them, slowly and carefully, or I'll drop you."
The driver whipped out his weapon, bringing it to bear on Blair.
Henri immediately reached over the seat and pressed the cold barrel of his police-issue weapon snugly against the neck of the driver. "Give me a reason, man. I'm having a bad day."
The driver turned his gun so Blair could take possession of the weapon, and then kept both hands on the wheel.
"Pull it over, nice and easy," Henri instructed.
"I'm not going down like this," the leader said, making a leap over the seat divider onto Blair.
The pair went tumbling back, but Henri saw Blair immediately throw a hard punch into the man's side, followed by pointing the .38 right between the man's eyes. "Man, give it up."
Henri reached over with one hand, chopping the man hard in the back of the neck.
Unconscious, the man slumped on Blair.
"I am so not having fun." Blair tossed the man on top of his compatriot.
The Hummer stopped, and Henri got the driver out first. He said to Blair, "Take over here, and I'll get the sleeping beauties out the back."
Blair nodded. "Put your hands behind your head, slowly… good… now take three steps to your left. Slowly." Once the man had moved the way the police consultant wanted, Blair kept careful aim on the prisoner.
Henri watched in pleased surprise as Blair handled the man like a professional cop. Wow. I'll have to tell Jim about this. But then, he's been hanging with cops for five years now, I guess it would rub off. It took him a few minutes to struggle the two men out and, as they started to regain consciousness, one look at the guns pointing at them kept them subdued.
The detective grinned. "Hey, Hairboy, let's search these scum bags and get them under control, whaddaya say?"
"Sure thing, H." Blair flashed him a quick smile.
They checked the three men for weapons -- they each carried several. The partners-for-the-day disarmed them and got them safely from where they had been captured to a controlled position, lying facedown on the tarmac in front of the Hummer, hands behind their heads, with ankles crossed, and knees bent. They were safe from oncoming traffic -- if there were any -- in the lee of the vehicle, until he and Blair could get them restrained and back in the Hummer. Meanwhile, he could easily guard the three of them while they were lying in this position.
"Okay, Blair, go see what's in the bags in the back of the truck."
"Isn't that against the law?"
"Probable cause." Henri kept his focus and his weapon on the three men while Blair went around to the back of the vehicle.
Henri heard the sounds of a zipper and a quick inhaled breath. "Hairboy?" he asked glancing back at the other man.
Blair finally croaked out, "Lots and lots of money… lots."
"Okay." Henri gave a triumphant smile. "That's what I thought. How about that, boys? Not only do I get to arrest you for assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and a slew of weapons violations, but also for bank robbery. Gee, and here I am with only one set of handcuffs. Blair, you want to see if there's something in the Hummer we can use to tie the other two up with?"
"Sure." Blair came out, holding up a coil of rope. "They had it in the back," he said with a smile. Between the two of them, and with the help of Blair's Swiss army knife, they quickly tied up the protesting men.
"So, what will we do with them?" Blair asked, standing back and looking at their hostile captives.
"Let's stick 'em in the back. We'll take them with us."
"Last time I'll ever do anything nice for anyone," spat Bob.
"Nice?" asked Henri. "You picked us up to use as hostages. Not my idea of a Good Samaritan act."
Bob answered with a colorful string of profanity.
Laughing, Henri turned to Blair. "Let's get going. I have cookies to deliver."
Blair lifted the duffel bags over onto the back seat. Then they shoved the men in the back, using more rope to secure them to the supports of the rear seat so they couldn't cause trouble during the drive back to Cascade. Blair dug around and found an empty plastic grocery bag. They stashed the weapons they had taken from the men into the bag and placed it under the dashboard on the passenger side, as far from their captives as possible. Finally, the cookies were carefully placed between the two front seats where they wouldn't be lost or crushed.
"Okay, I think we're ready to go." Henri automatically moved to take the driver's side.
Blair stopped him. "I don't think so." The younger man looked at him determinedly.
"What are you doing, Sandburg?" Henri scowled at him.
Henri started to argue, but then he remembered why they were here in the first place. "After you, sir." He bowed and opened the door for Sandburg, who climbed in.
"Thank you, my good man." Blair smirked at him from his perch.
Henri snorted, shut the door, and jogged around to the passenger side. He got in and fastened his seat belt, then checked the cookies. Miraculously, they were still in good shape.
Blair turned the key that Steve had graciously left in the ignition and the Hummer roared to life. They heard cursing and yelling from the rear of the vehicle, so Henri turned on the radio and cranked up the volume.
As they were headed back down the road toward Cascade, the radio broadcasted a news alert about the armed robbery of a bank. It announced a daring daylight bank robbery two hours earlier in Seattle. Three men in black gear and masks had gotten away with $800,000. The robbers had been driving a black Hummer and were to be considered armed and dangerous.
"Oh, no need to worry, my friends," Henri said cheerfully. "Detective Henri Brown and Police Consultant Blair Sandburg of the Cascade Police Department have saved the day once again."
Curses were again hurled at them from the rear of the vehicle.
Blair laughed. A few miles later, he turned on the direction signal as they approached the entrance ramp that would take them onto the main road leading to Cascade.
Simon downed the remains of his third cup of bad hospital coffee. What was it about a baby coming that was so exciting anyway? He looked over at Joel and Megan. They were talking quietly.
Rhonda rushed into the waiting room, causing all three of them to stand and hurry over to her. "This is it," she eagerly announced. "She's ready to start pushing. They're taking her into the delivery room."
"Already?" Simon asked, eyebrows raised.
Megan swatted at his arm. "I'm sure Shaundra is more than ready," she said dryly.
"It's just that we haven't located Henri yet." Simon looked worriedly toward the door.
"Well, you'd better hurry," Rhonda said. She glanced toward the door. "I have to go back in."
"Okay, wish her luck," Simon said as she raced off.
The trio watched her disappear and sighed.
"I pray he makes it," Joel said.
Simon went over to the courtesy phone. He dialed Jim's cell number.
"Ellison," came the quick response.
"Jim, it's Simon. Any sign of Henri yet?"
"No. How's Shaundra?"
"They just took her into the delivery room."
"Damn it. Well, we'll keep looking, but I doubt we're going to find him in time."
"Okay, just… do your best."
"We will, Simon."
The phone went dead. Simon glimpsed up and saw Joel and Megan looking at him, hope showing in their eyes. "Sorry, no luck so far."
They sighed, their shoulders sagging.
Megan started to pace.
Henri kept an eye on the men in the rear of the Hummer, while Blair drove.
As they crossed into the city limits of Cascade, Blair exclaimed, "We finally made it!"
"With the cookies intact," Henri added. "Shaundra won't have to kill me."
From behind them came a siren and red and blue flashing lights.
"What now?" Blair groaned. He pulled to the side of the road and waited.
Henri looked in Blair's side mirror and saw a police officer cautiously approaching with his hand on his sidearm. "Just stay cool," Henri told his friend.
The officer called, "Driver of the Hummer, raise your hands a foot apart, with your fingers spread!"
Henri saw Blair roll his eyes, but the younger man cooperatively raised his hands above his head, fingers spread to show he was not holding anything.
"Good, Hairboy, just do as he says." The bald detective nodded, his own hands slowly going up in the same position. Henri knew he could talk himself out of this, but he felt responsible for Blair, and figured Jim would kill him if something happened to his partner.
"Yeah, I know." Blair’s head suddenly whipped around and he looked back at Henri his eyes wide. "Oh my God, I still have your .38!"
"Driver, remain still, eyes forward!"
Henri looked over his shoulder and saw another officer standing behind him outside the Hummer, her gun aimed at his head. "Just sit tight," he whispered to Blair. "It'll be okay."
"This sucks," Blair moaned softly as he turned again to look out at the officer, who was now holding his weapon on him.
"Yeah. Goes right with the rest of today, too." Henri grinned.
"Oh, man, don't make me laugh."
"You always this much fun?"
The officer instructing Blair continued, "Driver, roll down the window with your left hand and open the door slowly, using the outside latch. Passenger, remain still."
Blair did so.
Henri stayed where he was and did not twitch.
"Now step out of the vehicle with your hands above your head."
Again, Blair obeyed the command, acutely aware of the weapon aimed at him.
"Driver, on your knees, hands above your head."
Blair fell to his knees.
"Driver, put your hands behind your head and lay flat on your stomach."
Sandburg groaned as he complied, feeling the wet of the road beneath him.
"Driver, remain in that position."
"I ain't moving, man."
"Passenger, roll down the window with your right hand and open the door slowly, using the outside latch."
Henri complied, saying nothing. He knew what would be next.
"Passenger, step out of the vehicle with your hands raised above your head."
Henri did as he was told.
"Passenger, walk around the front of the Hummer, and lie down in the same position as the driver, three feet to the driver's right. You do have weapons trained on you, and we will not hesitate to shoot."
Slowly, carefully, Henri made his way around with the other officer a few steps behind him, and but out of hitting or kicking range. He dropped to his knees beside Blair, and then went down on his face. He figured a little more mud wouldn't matter, and this was procedure. He knew the officers would get the two prisoners where they could be easily watched; that also left one officer free, if needed, to move around.
Blair said, "Look, I need to--"
"Quiet!" The officer frisked Blair for weapons while his female partner kept her gun trained on them both. He found Henri's .38, and started to handcuff him.
When he finished, he searched Henri, coming up with his weapon, but not looking too closely at it. The officer ignored the wallet, because weapons were his main concern at that point.
"Wait, Officer! You don't understand. I'm Blair Sandburg; I work with the Major Crime Unit. That's Detective Henri Brown. We captured the bank robbers from Seattle -- they're tied up in the back." Blair said all this in one rushed breath.
The officer stared down at him for a long moment, eyes narrowed, then called out to his partner. "Officer? Check the rear of the vehicle. See if there's some guys tied up back there. Be careful." He drew his weapon and covered Henri and Blair as the officer moved off.
From his facedown position, Henri twisted his neck to see the female officer approach the rear of the vehicle warily, weapon at the ready. She edged up to the rear window at an angle, scanning around her carefully, and keeping an eye on the front passenger door. She glanced quickly into the back, then backed off. "There are three men back here, looks like they're tied up. Unknown situation, possible kidnapping." She moved back until she was at a safe distance, and kept her gun aimed at Henri.
Henri decided he really didn't like being on this end of a police officer's weapon.
"Advise Dispatch." The other officer told her.
"Right." She lifted her radio and talked to Dispatch while keeping her gun aimed dead-steady at Henri. After giving her call sign and receiving an acknowledgement, she said, "We're okay, two on the ground at gunpoint, three subjects tied in the rear of the Hummer. Standing by for backup."
Dispatch answered, and the backup officers acknowledged receipt of the message and confirmed that they were responding.
Officer Ralph Martin immediately read the Miranda warning to Henri and Blair, not allowing them to speak until they said they understood their rights.
Henri knew the two officers were treating this as a felony stop, and that the backup units would respond with full lights and sirens to assist this pair. It almost made him laugh to be the suspect of a felony stop, but then he figured it was just Sandburg luck rubbing off on him.
"No, man, they kidnapped us." Henri heard Blair's voice trying to defend them. "They were gonna use us as hostages. There are bags full of money on the seat there, and their weapons are on the floor in the front. Look, why don't you check his badge?" Blair nodded toward Henri. He couldn't use his hands to gesture with, as they were firmly handcuffed behind his back.
Martin stood back from the Hummer, his weapon now aimed at Henri.
Henri said, "Hey, guys, I'm Detective Henri Brown of Major Crime. I work under Captain Simon Banks. My shield is in my pocket."
"Take it out, two fingers, slowly." Martin directed him to carefully remove his ID. His partner, Karla Sheldon, took it from Henri, studying it and the picture and then Henri's face. She passed the ID to Martin.
After carefully inspecting it, Martin relaxed. "You can stand up, Detective." As Henri slowly rose, the officer handed him his ID and weapon. "Sorry about that, Detective. I'm sure you understand."
"Hey, no problem, man. I'm glad you're being careful. The .38 you took off Sandburg is my backup." Henri nodded toward Blair, who was still lying on the ground, hands bound behind him.
"Sure." The officer returned the second weapon to the detective. "Henri Brown. Why does that ring a bell?" Martin asked, looking quizzically at his partner.
Sheldon scrunched her eyes for a moment, then widened them, grinning. "He's having a baby! There was an APB put out on him a couple hours ago."
"Oh, yeah," Martin said, smiling. He reached for his lapel mike, giving his call sign over the radio. "Be advised that the two on the ground are from our Major Crime unit, and the three in the back are the Seattle bank suspects. We're okay, and cancel the lookout for Detective Henri Brown."
Detective Brown's mind grasped onto one vital piece of information and ignored the rest. "I what?" Henri asked, confused. Then, as realization set in, he shouted, "I what?! Oh, no! Blair, Shaundra's having the baby! Omigod! We have to go to the hospital! Come on!" He ran around to the driver's side of the Hummer and tried to get in, but Blair was still lying on the ground almost under the open door, and Henri couldn't get in past him.
"H! H! Henri, calm down. Ow, man. Take it easy."
Henri finally stopped trying to climb over Blair and stood looking down at him, a stunned look in his eyes. "I gotta get to the hospital, Blair."
"I know. We'll get you there. It's okay." Blair looked at Martin, who was grinning at them. "Um, can you get me out of these cuffs and let me stand up, please?" He gave the man his best puppy dog eyes. "We have an expectant father, who needs to get to his wife and baby as soon as possible."
"Sure." Martin stepped forward with the key and released Blair. "But you're gonna have to wait for another squad car for a ride. We can't let you take the prisoners with you, and the Hummer's now evidence." He nodded toward the vehicle.
Henri moaned. Blair put his arm around his friend. "It's okay, I can hear them coming." The sirens grew louder as he spoke, and two squad cars came into view as if on cue, lights flashing.
"Do you know which hospital they took her to?" Blair asked.
"I'll check," Sheldon said. She jogged back to their squad car.
The squad cars pulled up and the officers poured out onto the road. Martin went over to them and explained quickly what was going on.
Sheldon returned. "She's at Cascade General," the officer said, smiling at Henri. "Good luck to you, Detective." She rested her hand on Henri's arm briefly.
"Thanks, Officer." Henri spared her a quick, nervous smile.
"Thank you," Blair said. "Good luck with the happy trio." He gestured toward the back end of the Hummer, and gave her his most charming smile. "I'm sure we'll be seeing you soon to give our statements."
"I'm sure you will. Let me get your names and contact info, guys, before you take off." They quickly gave her the necessary information. Then Blair led Henri toward one of the other squad cars. Sheldon headed toward the Hummer to take custody of the three bank robbers. One of the newly arrived officers went to help her.
Blair helped Henri climb into the squad car and shut the door. The officer switched on the lights as Blair got in on the other side.
"I'm having a baby," Henri said, sounding dazed.
Blair patted his shoulder.
"You look well for nine months, Detective," the officer joked.
"Now." He had a lopsided grin on his face.
Blair couldn’t help but laugh.
"Don't mess up my car," the officer continued, "and I want some of the royalties for the first male pregnancy."
Just as they started moving, Henri yelled, "Stop!"
The officer slammed on his brakes and looked at the men in his rearview mirror.
"What is it?" Blair asked. He looked at Henri, eyes wide with concern.
"The cookies! We can't forget the cookies!"
Blair rolled his eyes. "I really don't think she's gonna care at this point, man."
Henri shook his head. "Oh, no. There is no way I'm going to face that woman without those cookies. Especially after everything we've been through to get them."
The officer grinned and maneuvered the squad car next to the Hummer.
Karla looked up. "Forget something, fellas?"
"There should be a package of cookies between the front seats," Blair explained. "They're for his wife." He nodded at a jittery Henri.
She laughed lightly. "Sure, just a sec." She reached into the Hummer and a moment later handed the package in through the partially open rear window of the squad car.
"Thanks a lot," Henri said. "Shaundra will appreciate them."
"You bet. You'd better get going." She waved as they pulled away.
"Hang on, Shaundra. I'm coming, babe," Henri murmured. He held the cookies carefully in his lap.
Blair put a hand on his shoulder. "It's gonna be fine, man."
Rafe and Jim were winging along the highway when they heard the APB on Henri Brown being cancelled. The father-to-be was en route to the hospital. They could almost hear the grin in the dispatcher's voice when the announcement was made.
The two looked at each other in shock, then smiled widely. Without warning, Jim swung into a U-turn, right in the middle of the highway. Rafe grabbed for handholds and wondered again how Sandburg withstood Ellison's driving.
They ignored the honking horns and screeching brakes.
"We have to get there. Punch it, Jim!" Rafe shouted gleefully.
"I know, I know," Jim replied, a look of concentration on his features. He pushed the gas pedal to the floor, determined to make it to the hospital in time.
The squad car slid to a stop in front of the hospital. As soon as the officer opened the rear door, Henri and Blair jumped out and ran in, shouting their thanks, but not stopping to see if the officer followed them. Henri knew the way to the obstetrics department from his earlier tour and led his companion there as quickly as the elevator would allow.
When they burst into the waiting room, Henri’s friends and coworkers instantly surrounded him. Blair took the cookies from him to protect them from the crush of people.
"Keep them safe, man," Henri said, warningly.
"No problem. Wish Shaundra my best," Blair said with a grin.
They shoved him toward the nurses' station, all trying to explain at once who the mud-encrusted man was and that his wife was currently in the delivery room. The nurse, used to dealing with slightly hysterical people, calmly led him away from the blathering group, helped him wash up and don the appropriate garments, and took him to the delivery room.
Finally he was with his wife. She was covered in sweat, coping with massive amounts of pain, and looked more beautiful than he could ever remember seeing her.
"I'm here, I'm here," he almost shouted, feeling overwhelmed with love for her.
"It's about time," she shot back, frowning. "Ooooh!" she cried.
Henri hurried to her side, taking her hand and trying to remember what kind of breathing she was supposed to be doing. One of the nurses helped him coach Shaundra through the rest of the contraction.
"And now a cleansing breath," the nurse said softly.
"Okay, baby, a deep cleansing breath," he murmured.
She complied, then turned and looked lovingly into his eyes.
Henri felt his heart swell with affection. "I love you, babe."
"Did you bring the cookies?" she asked.
Henri laughed. "Yeah, I've got them. I think you're a little busy with other things right now, though."
She looked at him with a look of determination. "Yes, but after this baby is out I'm going to be starving."
Henri looked at the nurse. "How much medication have you given her?"
An hour later, Henri Brown floated into the waiting room, a look of bliss on his face. He smiled beatifically at Jim, Blair, Simon, Rhonda, Joel, Megan, and his partner, Rafe. When they all looked up in anticipation, he straightened and proudly announced, "My wife, Shaundra, and I have a daughter, Camille Gloria Brown!"
The detective was almost swept away with the well wishes and congratulations. He made sure to give Rhonda a thank-you kiss for taking such good care of Shaundra while he was gone. There was more than one eye with a hint of wetness in it that evening.
Forty-five minutes later, all of Major Crime's personnel were lined up at the nursery window, noses pressed to the glass.
"Which one is she?" Simon asked
Henri, full of pride, pointed out his daughter. One nurse picked up the tiny bundle and brought her forward. Camille's round little face peeped out of the pink blanket. Wisps of her dark hair poked out from under the cap she was wearing to help keep her warm. Her eyelids opened a little and dark eyes peeked out. Bow-shaped lips puckered and tiny fists waved.
"Oh! She's looking at us!" Joel said, beaming.
"She's so cute!" Blair exclaimed.
"Henri, she looks just like… Shaundra!" Jim said, smirking.
"Awww!" Rafe said, awestruck.
"Hi, oo ittul baybee. Ooer so cyuuute!" Simon said. He suddenly realized he was babbling baby talk and stood up, straightened his shirt, and put a stern expression on his face.
"Oh, my! She's so sweet." Rhonda put her arms around Henri and gave him a hug.
"Isn't she just the cutest little baby you ever saw?" Henri hugged her back. There were tears in his eyes.
Connor joked, "Mr. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter."
"Good twist on the lyrics," Blair said with a smile.
There were a few snickers.
"She's gorgeous, H," said Blair, slapping Henri on the back.
"You just stay away from her, Romeo," Henri scowled playfully.
"Oh, come on. You know me better than that!"
"Exactly my point, Sandburg. Exactly my point."
Authors’ Note: Special thanks to Alf for the technical advice on police procedures.
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