Blair flipped open his cell phone and pressed speed call. "Simon? Jim and I are going home. We'll be working this case from there."
"What the hell? You can't just fold before lunch and disappear...."
Blair stood tall. "I am on retainer as Special Consultant to Major Crime for a reason, Captain Banks," Dr. Sandburg said frostily. "I am consulting with my partner. We'll work this case from my base of operations at home, and report in the morning."
There was a moment of gargling, and the crack of a cigar being halved.
"You can't keep doing this, Sandburg, and neither can Ellison. If you're not going to be around to work the field, I'm going to have to put together a task force so that there are at least some people I can count on investigating the scenes of these crimes!"
"Do what you have to do," Blair replied firmly, before Jim tore the phone from his hand.
"I don't know what he's talking about, Simon. I'm still here," he reassured his boss tautly.
Blair grabbed the phone back, hitting Jim's right forearm with his left fist to ensure he'd succeed, and ducked away. "We're going home. It's a Sentinel matter. You know?"
"Oh, shit. No, I don't know. I don't want to know, do I?" was asked in a weary tone.
"I'm not going home!" and "That's right, Captain Banks." issued forth at the same time.
"Ellison, go home; that's an order. Dr. Sandburg," an icy voice changed target, "if you don't have a very good reason for doing this, I'm gonna kill you myself and the Police Chief and the Commissioner will help me bury the body. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes." Blair closed the phone over Jim's indignant protests.
"Get in the truck, Jim," Blair ordered evenly.
Jim tried to stare him down.
Blair was not backing off. "What part of 'Get in the truck, Jim' don't you understand?
Jim threw his hands up in disgust. "Most stubborn s.o.b. in the world," he muttered.
"Don't insult my mother," Blair answered him. "Just get in the truck and drive home."
Jim did just that.
They didn't exchange a word during the commute. Blair was evidently too furious to talk, and Jim had no idea what had set him off. It wasn't often that Blair Sandburg, the guru of processing, lost his temper, but when he did, the sparks flew. Blair was burning up. Jim bit his tongue on more than one occasion as the road signs went by.
Once back at Blair's lair, Libby took a sniff at them, and ran for the bedroom. Naomi wasn't home, and the Volvo had been gone from the parking lot, so presumably she was shopping and they had the place to themselves. At last, Blair spoke.
"What exactly does 'I've done this before' mean, Jim?" Blair asked dulcetly.
"Huh? What are you talking about, Chief?" Jim was clueless. He ambled over to the fridge to get a beer.
"Don't drink that," Blair ordered. "It's avoidance behavior. We'll have lunch later; drink it then. Now: you said, and I quote, 'I saw it, Chief, as it happened. I've done this before.' So, what exactly does 'I've done this before' mean?" Blair was clenching his jaw in an almost exact duplicate of Jim's tic-producing mannerism.
Jim saw the light. He cringed. "Um, see, I've had visions before, you know, Chief."
Blair backed him up against the red couch; Jim bumped into it. "Give me the beer, Jim."
Jim gave him the beer. Blair set it aside.
"You told me it wasn't that kind of vision. No jag. No Incacha. You said you saw the actual murder of someone who died over a century ago. You do remember saying that, right?" He was speaking far too softly.
Jim nodded weakly, edging around the couch.
"Well, just when was it that you had that kind of vision before? I fricking need to know, I fricking need the details. I'm the Guide, and you've been holding out on me. If you can touch something and get an accurate fricking vision of the past, don't you think I OUGHT TO KNOW?" He pounded Jim in the chest with a very hard finger.
"Oh," Jim said, falling against the cushions. "When you put it that way...."
"I'm putting it that way," Blair informed him. "Now give!" He folded his arms.
Every muscle in Jim's best friend's body was tense. The normally Mediterranean blue eyes were black with rage. Jim wondered how he could have been idiot enough to think he could get away without ever telling Blair about that experience.
"It was, uh, well, it was," Jim sputtered. Blair glared at him, so he tried again. "It was afterwards, when you were in the hospital," he said to his partner, obliquely.
Blair sucked in a couple of good lungfuls of oxygen. "Is this related to...?"
"Yeah, Blair, it is." Jim's line of sight was trained on his shoes.
"Oh," Blair said faintly.
Jim looked up again, and his friend's face was white. He jumped up and grasped Blair by the elbows, guiding him to sit on the cushion next to Jim's own, and then sat down again. "It's okay, Chief. It's okay," he said, patting Blair's upper arms.
"Just what did you see?" Blair whispered.
Jim knew he didn't mean that day's vision. "Ah, Chief, don't take this so hard! It only happened once. I went to Alex's place, and picked through the rubble. We didn't have any idea what to do next, you know? I was looking for, I don't know, a miracle, and I got one." He searched Blair's face for an answer, but there was no response.
Jim went on. "I picked up some things, and got images, impressions, visuals. Of what she'd done, and where she was. It's why I pressured Simon to track her to Sierra Verde. We were pretty much running on fumes. Don't you understand?" Jim was defeated. "I thought you'd understand, Blair," he said finally. "I wanted to get her for killing you."
Jim sank back. Blair was as stiff as a board, hardly breathing. 'Am I failing you, Jim?' Blair had asked; now, it must look to him as if his doubts were more than justified. Jim wished he could take back his words, take back his vision, take back the whole package of sentinel senses, if only it would release Blair from his despair. "I wasn't trying to hide it or anything," he said hopelessly. "I kinda forgot."
"You kinda FORGOT?" Blair swung around, up in Jim's face. "You FORGOT?"
"Uh, well, yeah," Jim confessed. "I forgot."
Blair was gritting his teeth, his cheeks on fire. "You forgot. You have the psychic skill of psychometry, and you just happened to forget about it. Jim Ellison forgot he psychometrizes things. The Sentinel of Cascade is a psychometrist, but forgets to tell his GUIDE." Suddenly, the fire went out of him. Blair peered closely at Jim, as if to memorize every square inch of his face.
Jim held back, uncertain of what he should do, what Blair needed from him.
Blair began nodding, and didn't stop. He stood up, nodding. "I'm going to take Libby for a walk," he said tonelessly. "Get some lunch and have the beer if you want to. Go back to work if you want to. I don't know when I'll be back."
Jim panicked. "What do you mean? You don't know when you'll be back? Go to work without you? Blair, what are you saying? For God's sake, Chief, tell me what's wrong!"
Blair was still nodding. He rambled around his quarters, finding Libby's leash, and on into his bedroom. When he reappeared, Libby in tow, he was nodding.
Jim was terrified. "Chief? Blair? What's wrong? Please tell me what's wrong!"
Blair looked at him. "You forgot to tell me that you psychometrize things, Jim." His words were gentle. "If I'd been the Guide you want and the Shaman you need, you'd have told me. It doesn't matter that it happened only once, or that it was because of Alex Barnes. If you'd trusted me, you'd have told me; you know you'd have told Incacha. We're not supposed to have secrets like that between us.
"Now, I have to think about what to do. I have to think about whether you're the Sentinel I should be guiding. Whether I'm the right partner for you, and you're the right partner for me. It's not just about you, or about me, any longer. It's about Cascade, and what we're doing here together. Or what I thought we were doing together. Whatever." He leaned down and patted his dog. "Come on, girl. I need to think this all through. Do as you like, Jim. Tell Simon anything. I don't care." With that, he was gone.
Jim sat on the red couch, thinking, Blair doesn't care. A rush of bile flooded his mouth. He ran for the bathroom, and was violently ill.
There was a rattling at the door of the loft. Jim heard it clearly from the floor below. Naomi Sandburg was letting herself in. Jim forced himself up from where he'd been sitting on Blair's red couch, waiting fruitlessly for him to return, for the prior hour and a half. He took the spiral staircase, and pasted on a smile of greeting.
"Hello, Naomi. Let me help you with those," he said, taking some bags from her arms.
"Thank you, Jim!" she said, pleased surprise in her voice and face. "I didn't expect you to be home now. Is Blair home too? Aren't you working a hot case?"
They'd gained Jim's kitchen, and Jim managed to keep his guest from seeing his expression for a good five minutes, opening and closing cupboards. He thought he might get away with the charade, but he'd forgotten who he was dealing with. The original Sandburg, and a Jewish mother.
"What's wrong, Jim?" Naomi asked, putting a hand on his arm as he closed the refrigerator door on the last tomato. "The negative energy in this place is fearsome." She shivered delicately. "Something's gone really bad, hasn't it?
He saw the honest worry in her eyes and sighed. "Yeah, Naomi, it has. I screwed up big time, and I didn't even know I was doing it."
Naomi coaxed him over onto his couch, and even swept the afghan off the back to lay it across his lap. She sat next to him. "What did you do, Jim?"
Jim grimaced. "There was something I should have told Blair, but didn't."
"Something about you as a sentinel," Naomi inferred. "He found out. Was anyone hurt?"
"No one's been hurt, except Blair. He," Jim swallowed hard, in remembrance of all the times the shoe had been on the other foot, "he thinks he can't trust me, Naomi."
"Oh, Jim, he trusts you more than anyone else on the face of the earth!" Naomi leaned over to put her arms around her host. "You know that."
"Not like that, Naomi. He thinks I'd have told him if I trusted him. That that's why I didn't tell him. And it wasn't that way! I just forgot it," Jim said into Naomi's shoulder.
"You forget a lot of things, don't you, dear?" she said.
"I guess," Jim muttered.
"Repression, denial, projection – you suffered a lot in your life," Naomi said soothingly. She cradled in her arms a man who hadn't known a mother since his early childhood. "I don't think you're going to lose Blair, Jim. He just needs time to process things."
Jim pulled away. "Process things? You think that's the panacea that will make it all go away? Let me tell you, Naomi, there are some things that can't be processed away. Some hurts that can't be healed." Jim was lost in memory for a moment. "I may have finally driven him off, and it was with something I never even thought about."
Naomi ran a gentle hand down his cheek. "You don't think Blair is smart enough to realize that?"
Jim almost laughed. "Yeah, he is. But the way he sees things, I'd never have forgotten it, if only I'd trusted him enough to tell him when it happened. And he may be right about that." He drew a breath that was almost a sob. "He said he had to think if I was the right sentinel for him. He's got a course at the U., Naomi, and lots of people in it who know other people with sentinel senses. I'm going to lose him to someone else."
"Friendship's not a competition, dear. But what was it, Jim? Do you mind my asking? What didn't you tell him?" Naomi laid her hands in her lap.
Jim sighed. "No, I don't mind. This is something you can't tell anyone, Naomi. You know why."
Naomi flushed. "I know. I've learned my lesson. I want to help, though. What was it?"
Jim explained about the visions he had had at Alex Barnes' destroyed apartment, and said that something like them had happened that very day for the second time only in his life.
"Psychometry? Touching objects and getting verifiable information from them? That's fantastic, Jim!" Naomi exulted. "If you could control it...."
"That's just it, Naomi," Jim cut her off. "I can't control it. It's spontaneous. Only I think Blair believes that he should be teaching me to do it, or control it, or something. He thinks we should be working on it together. Like we worked on my dials."
Naomi jerked her head up. "What's this doing to your investigation of the case? Why aren't you out investigating?"
"I'm waiting for Blair." Jim said quietly. "First he told Simon we'd be working here through the afternoon, and Simon read him the riot act. Then, once we'd 'talked', he said to go back to work without him and tell Simon anything I wanted. That he didn't care."
"No wonder you're spooked," Naomi said. She sighed, and reached over to pat Jim's knee. "What can you do to investigate from here, now, Jim? To make at least part of what Blair said to Simon be true?"
The stray thought that that might be how his partner had learned the art of obfuscation and misdirection so well flitted through Jim's brain, but he moved on to more serious matters. "Net research. It's got to be done, though that's more Blair's field than mine."
"Go ahead then, and do it. I'll take care of dinner. I'm sure Blair will be back by then."
"Why?" Jim was anxious to know.
Naomi smiled sweetly. "He took Libby with him, Jim. He'll get her home in time to feed her. You can be certain of that."
Jim's face lit up. "Yeah, he will, won't he? Thanks, Naomi." He betook himself to the computer in his bedroom, and began surfing the internet.
Naomi went looking for candles and the cleansing scent of lavender.
It was just after six when Blair and Libby arrived home. They entered Blair's apartment, and Blair went directly to Libby's food bowl.
On hearing him, Naomi let out a peal of welcome. "Sweetie! You're home! I'm so glad to see you again." She was at the top of the spiral staircase.
"Hi, Mom," Blair said, glancing up at her. "Nice to see you too." He puttered around his kitchen. "Come down and have some coffee if you want."
Naomi lost her grin for a second. It was worse than she had anticipated. Maybe Jim really was right, and their friendship and partnership were in danger. "No, honey, you come up. We've got your lasagna ready, and a Caesar salad and garlic bread, and I made an apple pie with cinnamon for dessert. You know you like my apple pie."
Blair smiled briefly. "I do, Naomi. Just now, I have things to do. I'll eat when I eat."
Naomi Sandburg, who had an unnerved, robotic Sentinel behind her listening to every word, was not about to put up with that kind of treatment by her baby boy. She clattered down the steps and threw her arms around him, instead.
"Jim told me you'd had an argument," she said, as Blair returned her hug.
"Yeah, well, that's how it goes; I lost my appetite. You go and eat. Keep Jim company."
"What about you?" Naomi wanted to know.
"I'm fine. I have Libby, and a refrigerator full of food." He began rooting in the fridge. "What more could a man want out of life?" He sounded bitter.
"A really good friend, even if he's a screw-up from time to time, maybe?" Naomi mumbled. "And a reason to get up in the morning, because you've got important work to do together? I think those are two things you have, and need to hold onto."
Blair looked at her over his shoulder. "Thanks for the advice, but I'm going to have to work this out by myself."
Naomi looked around the lair. She had cleansed it with lavender, but the bad vibes from Blair himself were going to take more than lavender could do. She made a spot decision "Well, come up if you want to. I'm leaving after dinner. I'm going to go stay with Jen."
"Aunt Jen? Jen Carr?" Blair asked, surprised. "I thought you were staying – upstairs."
"I'm in the way here, sweetie," Naomi admitted. "You and Jim have things to work out. I'm not going to come between you. I can see my friends and family, Robert, maybe, while I'm at it, and you know that I can keep myself entertained around town." Her smile was bright. "I want to meet the Druid circle Sky was in, and Cheryl, my friend from Greece, joined a Wiccan coven there, and has a sister in one here. I'd like to look her up. Then, there's a whole convention to attend! I'll be very busy, and having fun!"
Blair's smile faltered. "Okay, Ma. Go eat with Jim, and say goodbye when you leave. If you need a car over the next week or so...."
"I'll use yours!" Naomi announced brightly, dangling the keys. She whisked herself away to the loft as Blair spluttered, beyond reach of a retraction of the use of the Volvo.
Blair fulminated silently. She had outmaneuvered him. He wasn't going up there for his keys. He would have to ride with Jim, for the whole time Naomi was in town. Oh, joy.
Jim sat down to eat a dinner that tasted of ashes, and Blair began writing up preliminary reports, for filing in the morning with Simon.
Thus ended the Sentinel's and Guide's second day of the killing reign of the Copy Cat Ripper.
Day Three began with the Copy Cat Ripper, so spelled, being splashed all over the news. Don Haas's exclusive had turned into a journalistic free-for-all. The press, local and national, had all but submerged the second site – the superintendent probably sold the tip to everyone, Jim believed – the one where LuLu Nichols had died. Not only were the television stations out prowling for information, but all four Cascade newspapers too. In the most dangerous city on the continent to cover, three television stations and four newspapers not only could survive, but thrive. The two kill sites were crawling with reporters, and the police department was besieged. Every cop and support worker in the city had been warned against leaks. It would mean their jobs, and they knew it.
As for Jim and Blair, there was a sterile truce between them. They had a case to solve, as quickly as possible, by whatever means were at hand, and the partners knew they couldn't risk splitting up while it was ongoing. They didn't look at each other; and spoke seldom, and then only about the case.
When they got to the office, they found Simon in Major Crime organizing a task force. He had detailed Rafe and Megan to work the cases in the field, pairing Joel and Henri to work from the base of Major Crime, following up tips. Simon himself would be the liaison with the press. He had seconded Detective Fred Aberconway and Officer Chuck Warrener from Homicide to partner Rafe and Megan, ensuring two teams in the field at all times. He wasn't counting on Jim and Blair, apparently.
"What are Ellison and Sandburg doing?" Aberconway asked, being thorough.
"Here are copies of our initial reports," Jim said, as Blair returned from the photocopier. Blair took the place at Jim's side, which had been saved for him by Simon, and handed the documents to his partner. Jim circulated them around the group of investigators.
Everyone had copies of the forensic reports as to evidence on both deaths, and the ones referring to LuLu Nichols were identical with Amy O'Hare, right down to identifying the too-common, untraceable knife. A pall hovered over the conference room.
"Detective Ellison and Dr. Sandburg are following their own line of investigation," Simon declared, "and we'll have to see if it pans out."
"A tip from an informant? Shouldn't we all know about it?" Warrener wanted to know.
"Not a tip exactly," Jim explained. "We received information from an unexpected and confidential source, potentially a good one, and there may be something to it. But this line of investigation doesn't need more than the two of us to follow up, and we all know that most cases like this are solved by good old-fashioned police work."
Warrener grunted. "Yeah, we know."
Simon set the tasks for the day. Jim, Blair, Henri and Joel had pre-assigned duties. Rafe was to get the word out to as many prostitutes as possible, as well as see if anyone knew how the Ripper came into contact with LuLu Nichols or learned her name; Aberconway was to partner him. Megan and Warrener would revisit Jim's and Blair's work at the crime scenes and autopsies, in the unlikely event that they'd missed anything. Simon suggested acidly that Ellison and Sandburg might attend at the morgue with Megan and Fred, since they hadn't been at the autopsy the afternoon before. It was a stiff reminder to Jim and Blair that they'd walked out on the second murder, and now someone else was doing their job. They both colored, but they obeyed, trailing after Connor and Warrener.
"I want to see you two in my office, once you're done," Simon called after them dourly.
Jim guessed it wasn't going to be for cookies and coffee.
The body looked as they knew it would. Jim had downloaded from the net a description of the autopsy of Polly Nichols. The descriptions of the wounds were identical; Jim confirmed that to Megan and Fred. All in all, it was more confirmation that the Copy Cat Ripper was replaying the part of Jack the Ripper. The two teams broke, and went their separate ways.
Jim was driving. Simon hadn't been anything like gentle in their talk. Jim was sick at heart about the reaming Blair got; he knew it was more his fault than Blair's, and that Blair was shielding him in taking it. He and Blair had been rapt in misery for ten minutes in the truck, Jim paying no attention to where he was going, and unconsciously making for home. He couldn't take the silence and unhappiness any longer than that. Clearing his throat, he said, "So if this is the real Jack the Ripper, how'd he do it, Chief?"
Blair's head swiveled around, uncannily reminding Jim of the hellacious head of Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist.' "I'm not answering that until we're home. That's where we're going, of course." He sounded almost rational.
"Oh, yeah," Jim checked the surroundings. "Okay." He got them to 852 Prospect Avenue, and they ended up in Blair's condo, the faster of the two to reach. The men doffed their jackets and hung them up.
"How did Jack the Ripper get from London, England, in 1888, to here and now?" Blair recapped the question. "That's what you're asking me?"
Jim nodded, feeling silly.
"HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW?" Blair screamed in his face. "What am I, a seer with a crystal ball? You're the one having visions all over the place. You tell me!"
Jim was at the end of his tether. "Stop shouting at me!" he yelled back. "I'm not asking for guarantees. I just want possibilities, even ones so far out there that Mulder wouldn't believe in them. You're the anthropologist; I thought you'd know about this stuff."
Blair began spitting his words out. "Oh, you just want possibilities? Well, let's try some of these, Jim." The man was dangerously angry. "He has a time machine." He ticked one finger on his left hand. "Or maybe, in 1888, he fell into a fold of the fabric of the time and space, and fell out again here." Another finger was ticked off.
"Maybe he's an immortal demon, who just pops up here and there in time, wherever he likes, and kills for sport, letting humans take the blame. Or maybe he's an demon who possesses a mortal and makes him kill for him." The last two fingers were done.
"It could be the ghost of Jack the Ripper, who has somehow found a way to make himself solid so he can kill again. Or the ghost is possessing people, a la the demon." He ticked off the left thumb, and started over on the right hand with the next sentence. "Maybe the guy drank from the fountain of youth and he's a forever-young mortal. A human Jack the Ripper who's an adept could be killing by projecting his astral body, his ka or ba, on the astral plane." Two fingers on the right hand moved. "Or a medium using ectoplasm.
"Then there's sorcery itself. If he's Jewish, and that weird message about 'The Juwes are the men That Will not be Blamed for Nothing' actually has some meaning to it, he could be creating golems and using them to kill. Do you know what I'm talking about?" he checked with his audience.
"The reference to the chalk message that Sir Whatever had wiped off the wall where Catherine Eddowes died, I get. I don't know about golems."
"Doing research on the murders, huh?" Blair's eyes glistened.
Jim shrugged. "I was waiting for you for a long time, Chief. I needed to do something."
"Okay," Blair said nonchalantly, and the hairs on Jim's neck stood straight up. "In Jewish legend, a golem is a man made out of mud, who does the sorcerer's bidding, and then collapses, mud again." The third finger on his right hand was closed down. "Other sorcerers in other parts of the world could create tuplas out of light, or breed homunculi in glass jars, or make zombies from corpses." Blair threw both hands up, wide open.
"Or maybe he uses androids or robots. Or he's a cyborg, himself, with super strength. Hey, he could be a combination of Dr. Frankenstein and the monster!
"Or maybe it's really Jack the Ripper's great-great-grandson, and you got the reading from the psychometrizing you did because the DNA is so close.
"TAKE YOUR CHOICE, JIM!" he shouted the place down. "Because I can't think of any other way the real Jack the Ripper did it, you ruled reincarnation out about that, and I'm trying hard to find you answers. Believe me. Believe me, 'cause no one else on earth would believe you if you told your theory to them."
Blair collapsed into the green beanbag chair, like a marionette dropped by its puppeteer.
Jim stood, his hands at his temples. There was suddenly no noise in the lair, not Libby breathing, no fridge compressor, no wind at the windows. It was terribly shocking. Jim took the blue beanbag chair.
"Listen, Chief, I'm sorry," he said. There was almost a tremor in his voice.
Blair looked up from folded hands. "Yeah, I know you are."
"I expect too much from you sometimes," Jim admitted.
"Sometimes." Blair sighed. "But it's always about the wrong things."
"You can't trust me about your having psychometry, which I believe, when no one else would. God, I can't imagine how Simon would respond if we ever told him what goes on with us.
"But on the other hand, you expect me to have some crystal ball when it comes to the spirit world, and mysticism, and magic, as it pertains to someone we don't even know, and demand instantaneous access to the beyond! Jim, I'm a Shaman, and I do the best I can to back you up as your Guide, but I'm not all knowing about that stuff. No one can be." He sighed with helplessness.
"I just wish you'd trusted me before, the psychometry, I mean. Do you know how I know it's real? I'm not totally gullible; before, I thought it was fake, big imaginations or cold readings.
"But if you tell me you have it, it's real. I believe in it, because I believe in you. You're my Sentinel. That's how much I trust you. I just need you to trust me back." There was something like hope in his eyes. "It's that simple, Jim."
It was that simple. Jim was up and out of his chair, and Blair was up and out of his, and the two friends grabbed each other and Jim hugged Blair, who was pounding him on the back in exchange. It took perhaps three seconds, and then they were back to good.
"Geez, Chief, you scared me."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"It wasn't that I didn't trust you, Blair. But I couldn't go back to the hospital to see you...."
"...to tell me, before you went to Mexico. I thought of that while I was walking."
"But you're right about me forgetting to tell you things you need to know. I just, I can't. I forget them. They're not there, Chief."
"I'll try to help you with that. I don't know how, but I'll try."
"I know. I trust you. I really do."
Then Jim batted Blair's curls, Blair went for a pillow to whap him with, and they both had to deal with an energized Libby, who wanted in on the fun.
Jim had brought down floppies of the research he'd done on the original murders, and Blair had hauled over a dining room chair for Jim to use as they both worked on the net. They were in agreement that they needed to know everything they could about each murder, if they were to intercept and catch the Ripper. But the sheer volume of information was daunting. They were going through the names of suspects, when Naomi arrived upstairs, and never heard her, so intent were they on their work.
"Montague Druitt was 'sexually insane'? What the hell does that mean?" Jim asked.
"To Victorians, it could be anything from being gay to liking horses waaaaay too much," Blair said sarcastically. "Yeah, the guy offed himself around the time the Ripper disappeared, and we know it wasn't him, after all, since the Ripper's here, but still...."
"All this armchair quarterbacking from the higher-ups." Jim was shaking his head. "They had no idea who did it, did they?"
"None that I can see," Blair said, "and when you add all the new names proposed –"
"Like the Duke of Clarence and James Maybrick, you mean."
Blair nodded. "Yeah, royalty, and a guy whose wife did time for murdering him, when he probably overdosed himself on the arsenic he ate daily. Geez, poor woman. Whoever the Ripper is, I don't know if we're going to see him in the list of original suspects, Jim."
"Boys? I'm here," Naomi caroled from the loft. Libby scrambled upstairs to greet her. "Where are you?"
"Down here, Mom," Blair called. "Working."
"It's lunchtime. Do you have time to eat with me?"
They needed a boost to carry them through the rest of the afternoon; Ripper research was confusing and exhausting. "Sure, Naomi," Jim yelled up. "We'll be right there."
Blair saved what they had, and they went to lunch with Naomi.
She'd provided a table full of deli delights. Naomi stuck to cheese sandwiches, but Blair and Jim built massive heroes on baguettes, with tongue for Blair and corned beef for Jim. As they munched, coleslaw and potato salad, dill pickles and pickled onions at hand, Naomi smiled. They all had mineral water, and she'd put coffee on for later.
"I'm so glad you worked things out," she said perkily.
"We are too, Ma," Blair said around a bite of pickle.
"You need to cleanse the place," she told them, "but the important thing is that you're back on track." She put a slice of tomato on a baguette, and reached for the mayonnaise.
"Ah, yeah. Naomi, if you want to stay here," Jim started, awkwardly.
But Naomi was shaking her head. "No, not while you're in the middle of this awful case. I saw the papers. The Herald and the Sun were scary enough, but the Tribune was completely terrifying. You need a free hand, and I'm perfectly happy staying with Jennifer. I've got everything planned." She smiled. "I'm going to the convention, on and off, to have my palm done, get a past life reading, have someone read my cards, and look for some nice crystals. I've got messages for local Wiccans and Druids from friends in other places. I've got lots to do, and so do you, but they're not compatible, are they?"
Jim and Blair had to admit she was right.
"Ma? Since you've got my car, could you do something for us?" Blair asked.
"What do you need?"
"Libby's clip is next Friday. Could you take her and bring her back? Pete keeps standard office hours, and Jim and I don't, you know?"
"Yes, of course," Naomi pledged. "Who's Pete?"
"He's Pete's for Pets in the Midtown Plaza, and he's wonderful with animals. He talks to them, and they talk back. He and Libby are hilarious."
Everyone laughed. Naomi said he sounded like an animist, and wondered about whether they celebrated Samhain. When told the address, she said he had the place where Bill Montenegro's bar once was. Blair and Jim both wondered who Bill Montenegro was, but were not going to go there. They chatted over coffee, and then Naomi was gone again.
Jim and Blair went back to trying to become instant authorities in the search for the real Jack the Ripper. It was then that they had their brain wave about how he chose his vics.
There was no murder on the weekend. On Tuesday morning, the third body was found.
The woman was called Annie Chappelle. She was black, a widow, and well-preserved for forty. She also had a disabled son at home to care for. She frequented local bars, good ones, and picked up dates. She had thought that was safe. She was wrong.
The task force assembled on Tuesday morning.
"We went to the scene," Megan reported on behalf of herself and her interim partner, Detective Aberconway. She described the way the body had lain, and Jim tapped Blair on the hand.
"Uh, we've been doing some pretty intensive research into the original killings," he started, only to be shut down by Aberconway.
"And there's something from more than a hundred years ago that will help in this investigation, DR. Sandburg?" The man was more than combative.
"Yes, there is," Blair asserted. "It's a matter of victimology and methodology."
Simon interjected, "Let's hear him out. Maybe he's got something, maybe he hasn't, but we're not in the position to let any leads go uninvestigated."
"Thanks a lot," Blair mumbled, then launched into his explanation. "The Copy Cat Ripper seems to be tailoring his victims in Cascade to the victims in the original killings, which I'm going to call the Whitechapel killings, to keep them straight.
"The first victim here was Amy O'Hare, who went by the name of Bunny Tail when she was tricking. In the Whitechapel killings, the person considered the first victim isn't an analogue for Amy O'Hare. But there was an earlier killing that fits."
"Mary Ann Nichols wasn't the template for O'Hare?" Officer Warrender said, astonished.
Blair shook his head. "No, but a woman killed August 7, 1888, matches up with her. Martha Tabram was a hawker and a prostitute. Amy O'Hare was a painter, who tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to hawk her paintings, and turned tricks when she needed money."
"Is that all you've got?" Aberconway grunted.
"No," Blair said, long-sufferingly. "The thing that matches identically is the M.O.; both women had identical wounds. The copycat wasn't trying to find a 'Martha Tabram', but someone whose lifestyle was more or less like hers."
"If you'd read our preliminary reports," Jim said poisonously at the Homicide detective, "you'd have realized the similarities between the two."
Aberconway melted into his seat.
"With LuLu Nichols, it was the other way around. The copycat went for someone with a name like the first official Whitechapel Ripper victim. Mary Ann Nichols, going by 'Polly', and Mary Louise Nichols, going by 'LuLu'. True, Polly was a confirmed alcoholic, and LuLu a heroin addict, and they both prostituted themselves to keep themselves in supply of what had hooked them, but it's the names that really link them."
"I thought it was the wounding that did," Chuck Warrender put in.
"Well, I'm talking about how the copycat chose Lulu Nichols. It was opportunistic, I believe, sheer chance that the day after he killed Amy O'Hare, he happened upon Lulu Nichols. There was a three-week period between the killings of Martha Tabram and Polly Nichols in 1888. With 13 days to Hallowe'en to fill, there ought to have been a gap between the Cascade killings. That tells me this guy will deviate from his plan, his schedule, big time, in order to get the 'right' victim."
"We think he's stalking Cascade," Jim added to the conversation.
"Oh, so that's the line you were following up," Megan muttered. No one corrected her.
"The next victim in Whitechapel was Dark Annie Chapman," Blair stated.
"Anne Chappelle, a black," someone said.
"Chapman was a widow, with a disabled son, only he was in a home, because she couldn't care for him. Here the Ripper pulled off matches for name and lifestyle. It took him three days, but he did it."
"The injuries and poses match identically, again, too," Jim said. "Confirmation that it's the same man's handiwork."
"How?" Rafe demanded, clunking a fist on the table. "How? How is he doing this?"
Jim and Blair looked at each other. Jim spoke. "We think the guy is tapping into the city computer records for either or both criminal records and social services. We don't have a clue as to how to stop him from doing it, either. And he may already have all he needs."
The room exploded with exclamations.
"Therefore, we suggest that any woman whose name is 'Elizabeth' or 'Stride' or a variation of either, especially if she is a widow living alone, be very, very careful about who she goes out with over the next couple of weeks."
"Remember how many different nicknames there are for 'Elizabeth', too. Liz, Lizzy, Libby, Lisa, Beth, Betty, Bet, Elspeth, the list goes on. Get a baby book and check it for nicknames. Or even if she has a nickname that's nothing like Elizabeth, like Daisy or Honey, if this profile sounds like someone you know, especially someone in your family, be sure she's warned, and if you can, get her to some place safe."
"Thank you, Detective Ellison, and Dr. Sandburg. This is Don Haas for WCDE, reporting. If your name is Elizabeth, take care to be safe. And there you have it!"
Blair and Jim stared at the set, hoping it would work.
Apparently, it did have some effect. Blair had gone to school to teach his Sentinel seminar on Wednesday, and no one died. Megan was undercover as 'Ellie Stryker', a chronic alcoholic who was streetwalking to pay for beer. False records had been inserted in the computer system; 'Ellie Stryker' had a huge dossier of social system reports as a teenage alcoholic and mother, whose life went to hell before she was thirteen. But Megan didn't get a nibble. The only johns who picked her up were Jim, Blair, Rafe, Henri, Simon, Chuck and Fred. Joel manned the tip lines with an army of helpers. When they couldn't stare at the monitors any longer, Jim and Blair went out and canvassed the neighbors of the deceased women. Everyone did his or her job. No one caught a break.
When Naomi arrived on Friday to pick up Libby for her clip, both partners were much more relaxed with each other than the last time she saw them. It gladdened her.
"Do you think you've got a handle on this case yet?" she asked.
"We're doing the best we can do, Naomi," Jim told her. "If we can stop him from killing again, even if we don't catch him...."
"...which is not an option," Blair said, his lips grim.
"...we'll have done our jobs the best way we know how. Serial killers like this are hard to track, and he's not leaving DNA evidence behind. Without that, we may not get his identity. Stopping him, though, is a good second choice."
"How about you, Ma?" Blair asked. "It's not the visit you'd hoped for. Having fun?"
Naomi laughed gaily. "Oh, Sweetie. You know me. I can have fun anywhere. I've got a lovely platinum aura crystal, and those are hard to find. My tarot cards say I'm going to meet a generous gentleman within the next three months and we'll have great fun together. My astrology chart says I'm due to have a wonderful time all this year, with lots of money, so I'd better buy lottery tickets, and my past life reading was interesting too. Not Cleopatra, so I was a little disappointed, but a nice woman, a Marie Jeannette Davies, who died in childbirth. She was a world traveler, too, like me. I'm just really glad I have my son here and now, so I can take his dog to the groomer's!"
Blair reached over at the door and gave her a big smacking kiss on the cheek. "Me, too, Naomi. Me too. And I'm glad you're having fun."
"Oh, I am!" she said. With a laugh and a wave, Naomi and Libby were out the door.
"Good thing Libby's last name is 'Sandburg'," Jim said absently.
"Yeah, good thing," Blair agreed.
On Sunday morning, the dam burst.
There were two new bodies. They matched the templates of the next two murders by Jack the Ripper, and, like them, the women had been killed within a couple of hours of each other, over Saturday night into Sunday morning.
The first thing Blair did was phone his courtesy aunt Jennifer, and make sure Naomi was safe. She was. Blair went back to trying to catch a killer.
The task force was sodden with despair. The copycat had not only foiled their best attempts to close him down, but evaded Megan's lure, and was no doubt planning to kill on Hallowe'en. They had two days to catch him, and nowhere to look.
"The Mayor won't cancel the convention," Simon reported. "There are too many religious groups for whom the day is a holiday and who are taking part in the festivities. She says she can't treat it like a purely commercial event. She's happy to close the kids' funhouse, and tell parents to cancel Hallowe'en this year, but she won't do anything else."
"Maybe she's not got a warm spot for prostitutes," someone whispered. The room considered it in silence, and then moved on.
"Megan, you can't do any good out on the street. Your vic was taken. We'll reassign you wherever you can do the most good."
Megan made a check mark on a piece of paper.
"Who's seen the bodies?" Jim wanted to know.
Rafe had, and described two women butchered exactly like Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, left dead behind the rundown bars where they'd apparently been picked up by the killer.
"Any tie-in for names?" Warrender asked.
"Yes, to Catherine Eddowes. The vic was a Katey Dow. The other was Isobel Kidney. I don't see a match there," Simon replied.
"Ah, but I do, Captain," Blair said, with unaccustomed formality. "Isobel is a variant of Elizabeth. I left it out of the list of nicknames I gave in the interview with Haas." He couldn't meet the eyes of anyone else in the room.
Simon took off his glasses and pinched his nose. "Blair, you can't blame yourself for this killing. There are a ton of nicknames for 'Elizabeth' and you gave the likeliest. I don't think anyone in this room knew Isobel was one, so how could you expect that he would?"
Everyone murmured encouragement, and Blair sat a little straighter in his chair. "Thank you, Captain," he said, and glanced at Jim.
Jim's face was quizzical. "I think I remember something about Elizabeth Stride, the London woman," he said. "Help me out here, Chief. Wasn't she living with a guy named Kidney or something like it, at one point in her life?"
Blair blinked. "Yeah," he said, "yeah, come to think of it, I believe she was. That's what the Ripper focused on? How unpredictable is that?" He looked and sounded horrified.
Simon called for suggestions for preventing another murder, especially one on Hallowe'en. The consensus was that if the man struck on the night when people ran around with red-colored corn syrup all over them, when he could pull a sheet over himself and pretend to be a ghost, the chances were slim to none of getting him.
"Then," Captain Banks decided, "we need to get to the citizenry. A press conference, warning about the last woman killed in 1888. Mary Jane Kelly. Common names. So common. Megan, check the phonebook. Look for any listings for Kelly; there could be husbands listed. You find any Mary Jane Kelly's or Mary Ann Kelly's or Mary Beth Kelly's or MJ's or the name's spelled 'Kelley', anything, we'll put a uniform on them."
"Got it, Captain," she said, and went to scrounge up a phonebook.
"We need to alert the bar owners," Jim suggested. "They might have regular customers they can identify as being in danger. I don't know how to tell a menacing-looking partygoer from the killer, but that's not how we're going to get him. We're going to get him through the vics. I've always believed that."
"Rafe, make up circulars for the bars," Simon handed out the job. "Aberconway, you're in charge of warning the pro's; take Warrener and Henri Brown with you. Jim and Blair, follow your own lead," he decided. "I'm going to give a press conference to drag in all the help we can get from the public, and I'll be looking for the co-operation from the whole of Homicide on this. It's already nasty. We don't need it being any nastier."
Everyone ran from the room.
There were no deaths on the 29th and 30th. The 31st dawned, foggy, chilly, and one hour lighter than the prior week had been; daylight savings time was over, and the night would be darker than ever. Hallowe'en had come to Cascade, and there wasn't a cop or consultant who didn't have fear in his heart.
Jim and Blair went to Evidence. Blair had had an idea.
"Maybe you can initiate a vision through touch. It may not work, but it's worth a try."
It was a measure of how desperate Jim was that he didn't even argue about it. He just requisitioned all the material confiscated at the crime scenes. There was a truckload of it.
He duly touched each and every one, in the sanctity of a viewing room on the other side of the glass of its interrogation room. Nearly four hours later, he had gotten nothing at all. So they trekked all the material back to Evidence, signing it in again, and went home.
They ate soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, brainstorming as best they could. Blair had another idea. "Okay, so you can't initiate a vision after you've already had one. It could work in the future, though; we'll have to try it."
Jim gave him the fish-eye.
Blair ignored it. "What about recalling the one you had, Jim? Maybe there's something you've missed. I can talk you through it. Wanna give it a go?"
"Yeah, sure." Jim and Blair had done that kind of thing before; it wasn't entirely new to the reluctant sentinel.
But again, despite their best efforts, there was nothing more to the vision than the absolute assurance that they were up against the real Jack the Ripper, and not a copycat.
"Okay," Jim suggested. "Let's go back to the research and currycomb it for info." It was their only recourse. An hour after they began, Jim swore in a voice thin and low.
"Jim?" Blair asked, alert to danger.
"The last victim, Blair. Mary Jane Kelly."
"That was her common law name, Chief."
Blair asked what he didn't want to know. "What was her legal name?"
"She was a widow. Mary Jane Davies. She spent time in France, and the French...."
"...the French would be Marie Jeanette Davies. My mom," he stopped, unable to get the words out.
"Naomi might be the reincarnation of the Ripper's last victim. Where is she, Chief?"
"I don't know. I just don't know. She could be anywhere, Jim."
Both men dropped everything and raced for the truck.
Continue on to Act 4
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