dsact3a.jpg - 45363 Bytes

act3.jpg - 23478 Bytes

Jim shot out of Major Crime as soon as he left Banks' office. He had a list of leads on Sandburg a mile long and was determined to check out each one.

First was his ex-wife. He invaded the Forensics department, grabbed her gently and drew her away from a conference with Serena Chang and down the hall. "So you pumped Sandburg for information yesterday, right, Caro?" Jim asked, leaning negligently against the wall outside the department.

"That wasn't nice, Jim!" Carolyn Plummer said, rubbing her arm. "He made a lunch appointment with me and we talked."

"Sorry, Caro," Jim muttered. "I need to know what you talked about."

Carolyn Plummer turned a casual face up to her ex's stolid one. "Why? He talked about his experiment with the ape and we're going to meet sometime later to talk about Forensics for his thesis. What else do you want to know?"

"Anything he said about living with me."

"Oh! He said he would be moving out soon, but hadn't found a place. I gather he's been looking, but, as he said, he doesn't like bedding down with vermin. Is that what you wanted, Jim?"

Ellison nodded, though it wasn't entirely what he wanted to hear. "Thanks, Carolyn. Let me know if he talks to you about it again."

"Can't wait until he's out of your hair, huh?" Caro jeered slightly. "Well, you never did enjoy company much."

"It depends on whose company," Jim told her and bade her adieu.

For his second objective of the afternoon, Jim headed over to the Municipal Building and the realty tax office. He checked the tax rolls for the owner of the burned-out warehouse Blair had previously called home, and got his name and personal address. Spiros Kouriakis, 2011 Drayton Street. Upscale location; the guy must be a wealthy slum landlord, Jim deduced.

At Kouriakis' monster house, he was faced with a maid who wouldn't let him in and redirected him to a business office in the heart of town. Jim drove over and was sufficiently impressive with his badge to get past the teen-aged receptionist and into the inner sanctum.

Spiros Kouriakis jumped to his feet. He was a man built like a bull, and the shaven head gleaming with oil only added to the impression. He also roared like a bull.

"Who are you, to invade my office? Call the police, Sylvia!"

"I am the police," Jim said softly, smothering the roaring.

Kouriakis peered closely at the badge. "So. What do you want? I can give you five minutes, no more."

"If we're not done in five minutes, you can accompany me downtown and we can continue our interview there," Jim suggested.

Kouriakis scowled dreadfully, but sat down in his leather desk chair. "What, then? You waste my time!"

"You recall the recent fire...." Jim managed to get out.

"I had nothing to do with that! Nothing at all! It was those no good tenants of mine, they blew up and burned my building. I will help you put them in jail. Tell Sylvia what you want, and she'll get it for you." Kouriakis seemed to think he was done.

Jim wasn't. "You had multiple tenants in the building."


"One of them was named Blair Sandburg."

"Blair Sandburg? Oh, yes, the student. Was he involved with the gang? I should have known he was using drugs. Did he sell them too? Did he help burn down my building? Put him in jail!" the slumlord growled.

"No, Mr. Sandburg is totally innocent. However, I have questions about his lease." Jim left the floor to the minotaur.

"Lease? What lease? He rented the space for one month. Eight hundred fifty rent, eight hundred fifty last month's deposit, five hundred dollar security deposit. He's out now. I don't know where he is. If you want him, you'll have to find him yourself." Kouriakis was again willing to wash his hands of the matter.

"Mr. Sandburg is not a wanted man and we know his whereabouts. However, the matter of his rent is an issue. Have you refunded any part of the money you received from him?"

"No, of course not. My beautiful building is in ruins. The tenants did it! They shall pay!" Self-righteous indignation suffused the man's unlovely features.

"Mr. Sandburg has been determined not to be part of the drug gang which was responsible for the destruction of your warehouse," Jim announced. "It is mandatory that you refund him his security deposit, his last month's rental, and a pro-rated amount from the day the building burned to the end of the month he rented it for."

"Who are you to say that to me? " Kouriakis was almost foaming at the mouth. "I have all this loss! How will I make it up? If Mr. Sandburg wants a refund, let him sue! A judge will say if he burned my building or not, not you!"

Jim smiled maliciously. "I'm the lead investigating officer on the case. I have determined that Mr. Sandburg is innocent of any charges. What I haven't determined yet is whether you're guilty."

Kouriakis turned magenta. "ME? I did nothing but rent my beautiful warehouse to those lowlife scums! And Mr. Sandburg. What have I to be guilty of? I lost my...."

"Beautiful warehouse. So I've heard," Jim said wearily. "You didn't happen to have an insurance policy on it, did you?"

Kouriakis began to splutter. "Of course I did. It's automatic business practice! I have a policy on a building that drug gangs burn down, and it's my fault? Why? You should have stopped them, officer, before they burned it down. It's your fault, not mine!" He pounded on the desk before him.

Jim waited for the tirade to end. "Yes, well, Mr. Kouriakis, if you collect the insurance money has it come in yet?"

The slumlord's eyes flicked away to an interesting spot on the overhead light fixture.

"I thought so," Jim said with satisfaction. "So you've collected, and any lost rent should have reimbursed to you, shouldn't it?"

The light fixture was positively enchanting.

"So the excess Mr. Sandburg paid should be refunded."

"I tell you what I told him. Sue me." The man was bullheaded in more ways than one.

"No, Mr. Kouriakis, he doesn't have to sue you. You know why? Because you really want to give Mr. Sandburg back his surplus."

Kouriakis took Jim's measure and spat out one dangerous word. "Why?" He folded his arms in defiance.

"Because as lead investigator, I will be referring this issue to the DEA. And they will be looking into your involvement as the owner of the beautiful warehouse in which illegal drugs were being manufactured and from which they were sold. If they determine that you knew about the drug dealing, or have acted in any way differently from a completely honest landlord, the DEA will claim the warehouse as forfeiture. You will lose both the insurance proceeds and the land, which is valuable in itself, isn't it? And you might be charged and criminally prosecuted as well."

If Kouriakis had been magenta before, he was aubergine then. "You! You! You! I will report you!"

"For what? For doing my job?" Jim laughed in the slumlord's face. "I'm just checking out whether you're an honest landowner, victimized by his bad tenants, but law-abiding when it comes to your innocent ones. So what's it gonna be? Refund or forfeiture?"

"Refund," the man said in a low, gravelly voice. He hit the intercom button. "Sylvia. Make out a check for thirteen hundred and fifty dollars."

"Wrong amount, Spiros," Jim pushed. "You forgot the prorated amount for the end of the month's rental Mr. Sandburg never got to enjoy."

Jim was himself captivated by the light fixture; Kouriakis had switched mythological identities and become a Gorgon, and it wouldn't do to laugh in his face. It wasn't until Sylvia brought in a check in the right amount that Jim turned his attention back to the man.

"This isn't fair," Spiros grumbled as he signed the check with a scrawl. "It wasn't even a legal tenancy in the first place."

"Wanna tell me about that?" Jim asked brightly. "You know, you're lucky the place burned down, too lucky to my way of thinking. It wasn't habitable, was it? Mr. Sandburg deserved better accommodations."

"Let him find somewhere else to keep the ape, then. You think any apartment owner wants an ape in the house? I should sue him for damage! The ape maybe caused the fire!"

"Give it up, Kouriakis," Jim chuckled. "The drug dealers caused the fire, you got your insurance, and as long as you're behaving like a legitimate, honest businessman, you'll get to keep the insurance money and the land. Screw Mr. Sandburg around and you'll find the land seized and your bank account frozen. So don't even think about putting a stop-payment on this, okay?" He grabbed the check from the desk, and turned to go.

"Go! Get out! You have what you came for! Get out! Get out!" Kouriakis yelled after him.

"Good-bye, and may we never meet again," Jim said. Outside in the reception area, he wished the hapless receptionist a good day and left for his next interview.

The primate labs at the university were large and loud. Everywhere, howls, yelps and gibbering filled the air. Jim hoped he wouldn't have to stay long. He inquired for Blair's lab professor, knowing who she was from Blair's long recitations about Larry and the experiment.

"Dr. Singh? I'm Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade P.D.," Jim flashed his badge.

"Yes, detective," replied a tiny Hindu woman, about fifty, with large black-rimmed glasses and in a saffron sari. "You're the one Blair Sandburg is staying with now, aren't you? He's spoken to me of how kind you've been to him." She extended her hand to Jim.

He shook it firmly. "Yes, I'm Blair's host right now. And Larry's."

"Oh! Is it about Larry that you've come?" Dr. Singh asked. "Has he caused more damage? Blair has been very worried that he might become more destructive than we'd thought at first. I do hope that isn't the case." She wrung her hands with worry.

Jim smiled reassuringly. "So far it's been manageable. He makes a mess of the place when he gets out of the cage, but we've finally found a lock he can't crack. It's Sandburg I need to talk to you about."

"What about him? He's an interesting student and, in my opinion, a fine man, very kind to the animals," the professor said. "I can't think of anything else to say." She threw her arms wide.

"It's just background information I need. He's riding with me, when he's not at school, and because he has been granted access to all areas of the police station, we need to have as complete a history as possible. I'm sure you understand."

"Oh, yes. The University requires histories for many of its personnel and students, especially in the area of the sciences. We cannot allow anyone dubious into the labs with potentially dangerous materials. I do understand. So what do you want to know?"

Jim thought fast. He really wasn't sure what he needed to find out, so it was a fishing expedition of the most blatant type. "What can you tell me about his career here, Dr. Singh?" he asked.

"Let me see. I didn't know him when he was working on his first degree, but met him when he started taking graduate courses in psychology. It isn't his major, but his minor. What I know professionally of him is that he's ingenious and very scrupulous in his research."

"Can you give me any examples?" Jim cast his hook.

"This very experiment with Larry, in fact. First, that Blair was permitted to do it at all is a mark of how well regarded he is."

"Why?" Jim asked simply.

"Most lab tests for students' university credits are run on rats, Detective. They are much cheaper and more plentiful than our primates are. We reserve them for the best studies and the best students, usually private studies lasting many months or years. Furthermore, normally, this kind of test wouldn't be run by someone who wasn't majoring in psychology, but Blair undertook to provide a an environment outside the labs here where the only unusual stimulus Larry would be subject to would be televised violence. Trusting any student with one of our primates off campus is almost unheard of, you see." Dr. Singh searched Jim's face. "It's as much a mark of our estimation of him as your department allowing him access to confidential material."

"I see," Jim said, and he did.

She went on. "Because of the trauma Larry suffered in losing his home so violently, the original experiment was compromised. There was no way to tell whether any increase in violence was due to the media or to the trauma. But Blair suggested we turn the experiment around and look at it from the reverse angle."

"I'm not sure I understand," Jim said, lost.

Dr. Singh smiled. "Blair needed the lab credit, so we were running a fairly tame experiment on some rather well-travelled land. There was plenty of research on the subject and he suggested we winnow out the ones most like the one Blair was running. We looked for literature combining Barbary apes, much the same length of time for running the experiment, and similar violent media used."


"We found enough to set a range of expected results due solely to media violence to use as a baseline, and now the experiment is measuring the influence of both media violence and post-traumatic stress on Larry. We know the upper and lower limits where the results should have fallen, absent the trauma, going by past experimental data, if the test had run its original course. If Larry is significantly more violent or acting out more than the reports of test subjects in the literature, the other primates we're using as a de facto control group, we can theorize it's due to the trauma. It is not the best way to study the subject, certainly, but many people frown on subjecting lab animals, especially higher thinking ones like primates, to traumatic experiences just for the sake of finding out what happens. As an attempt to turn catastrophe around to good purpose, I believe the new aim of the study is worthwhile, and Blair and I have spoken about writing up the results for publication once he's finished with it."

"So it's not just a common garden variety lab experiment?" Jim asked with a glint in his eye.

"No, no. Originally it was. The results would hardly have been worth mentioning in a footnote. But combining the effects of media violence with post-traumatic stress is something definitely worth adding to the literature. Or so Blair and I believe," Dr. Singh concluded. She looked up at Jim for the next question.

"What happens to Larry then?" Jim asked.

"He goes back into his lab cage and, as long as he isn't very violent, we might run a few non-stressful tests on him in the future." The professor smiled broadly. "We take good care of our animals, detective. Would you like to see them?"

"No, no, that won't be necessary," Jim said hurriedly. The whirlpool of sound was already sucking him under. "Thank you for your time, Dr. Singh. I appreciate it very much."

The psychology professor patted his shoulder in a motherly fashion. "We should thank you for providing a stable environment for Larry now. It is allowing us the time to study the aftereffects of the trauma on him. It is very good to know you are supporting Blair, and me, also, by allowing Blair to keep Larry in your home. A home environment is the most suitable for the study but, of course, it doesn't exist here at Rainier, and the bylaws prohibit keeping apes and other wild animals inside the city environs, other than in a university or zoo setting. So let me thank you for your support. The experiment will have run its course in about ten days. Then Larry will be out of your hair entirely!" She giggled a little.

Pleasantries were concluded, and Jim escaped the chattering horde with relief. Something about the visit wasn't sitting well with him. Testing lab animals. Larry, with both exposure to daily violence and a past with trauma. Jim shivered. That fell too close to home. Even so, Dr. Singh seemed gentle and kind, and Jim could believe the animals were as safe in her care as humanly possible. Rather like Blair, he realized, and shook off his ponderings so he could continue detecting Sandburg.

Jim knew he was taking a risk by going to the main administrative offices of Hargrove Hall; Blair was probably somewhere in the anthropology building. But he kept his sentinel eyes and ears open, and there didn't seem to be a Sandburg anywhere nearby.

It was his first question to the chief clerk, however.

Flashing his badge, Jim said, "Detective Ellison. Can you tell me if Blair Sandburg is on campus now?"

Ted Corbey, according to his nameplate, looked up and answered readily. "Blair was just in here a few minutes ago. He's teaching a two-hour class in Anthropology 102, Room 200. Do you need to speak to him immediately? It would disrupt the class rather badly."

"No," Jim replied. "I'm really more interested in speaking to his colleagues."

"About Blair?" Corbey's cultured English accent made the question seem somehow out of bounds. "What sort of information are you seeking, Detective?" Chill hauteur was the order of the day.

Jim smiled his warmest, most charming smile, and broke it off when Corbey's face turned to ice. He leveled with him. "Look, he's riding with me at the police department."

Corbey began to thaw.

"I just have to do a little background work, purely procedure," he reprised the explanation he had given Dr. Singh. "He's already got his observer's credentials, and I'm on paperwork duty today. I have to report on his years here at Rainier." He shrugged carelessly.

"If you want to know anything about Mr. Sandburg, I'd be the one to talk to," came a strong male voice from behind Jim. "Leave this to me, Ted."

"Certainly, Dr. de Villiers." Corbey left the counter, and Jim turned around to face the Assistant dean of Anthropology.

"I'm Dr. Perry de Villiers, detective," the academic said with smooth courtesy, "Assistant dean of the Anthropology Department." He was middle-aged and medium-tall, with regular features and the gray hair to be expected of someone who had risen to the height he had attained in academia. He was also very much in charge. He shuffled Jim out of the main office and into his own private quarters, with a call for a pot of coffee, in a matter of minutes. Then, with a no-nonsense face, he silently invited Jim's questions.

The wealth of the ages lay around and about Jim. He sat in an antique leather chair of a deep red shade, and saw books to the right and left of him. The sum knowledge of centuries, the very breath of man's curiosity and dedication to learning, were closed behind glass doors, valued and protected, or open to the hand put out to grasp something new, something different, something challenging. He was impressed, despite his own college days. He had forgotten what the true academic was: someone who was one of a legion of discoverers, bent on making great discoveries of his or her own. This was a place where Blair Sandburg belonged, quite as much as he belonged to the Cascade Police Department, or at Jim's side, his 'partner'.

Jim cleared his throat, dragging himself back to the delicate task of interviewing the assistant dean without tipping him off to the secret he and Sandburg shared. "Blair Sandburg is riding with me at the police department. Has he told you?"

Dr. de Villiers bent his head. "Of course. He's doing a paper on the integration of new officers into the police hierarchy, I believe. What do you need to know, detective?"

"Call me Jim, please," he said with a businesslike smile. "He's on a short term observer's pass, and its expiration date is coming up. He wants to extend it, but that's highly irregular."

"Oh, I see," the assistant dean replied, looking troubled. "Is he in danger of losing the ride-along before he can finish his work?"

"Well, yes," Jim said truthfully, ignoring the difference between the kinds of work he and the assistant dean meant. "My captain suggested I sound you out about Sandburg first, before we make any decisions. I usually work alone, you see." He raised a sardonic eyebrow.

"And you got Blair?" De Villiers started laughing, and didn't stop until he couldn't breathe. "Good Lord. What do you make of him?"

Jim wasn't prepared for an interrogation of his own reading on Blair Sandburg. "It's not what I make of him. He can be entertaining...."

The assistant dean cut him off again. "Oh, that he can be, certainly! When he isn't yanking your chain, that is." He was back to chuckling.

"Sandburg yanks his teachers' chains?" Jim asked, rather glad that he wasn't the only one.

"Right from the start, detective," the man said sympathetically. "He was a baby when he started here, a baby with the intellect and experience of a man twice my age in those days. I was still teaching then, and had him in a couple of my classes. You know, we used to send out 'Sandburg Bulletins'."

Jim had never seen anyone smile so broadly. "Sandburg Bulletins? What are they?"

De Villiers leaned back in his chair. "Well, it started with his Anthropology 101 course, which was hacked into four sections over a year, one each for the four divisions of anthropology: cultural anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology. He was dropped into the cultural anthropology first, and, wouldn't you know it, his professor used the Dukhobors as an example of a closed society." He cocked his head at Jim.

"Dukhobors?" Jim was lost.

"A Russian sect. The Canadian Dukhobors are a very insular group of emigres, with unusual religious beliefs uniting the society. Well, as the instructor was talking, Blair butted in and corrected something or other about what was said. The instructor repeated his point, and Blair corrected it again. The instructor got a little ticked off and told Sandburg to sit down and, in essence, learn from people who knew more than he did." There was a riff of laughter again. "Then Sandburg dropped the bomb. He had lived with the Dukhobors for two months when he was about twelve -- apparently his mother had dropped him off and left him there until she could pick him up again, highly unusual to be sure. But he had cracked the group and he had kept a detailed personal journal of his stay. So, unless the instructor could match that, he told the whole room, he was the expert and the instructor should shut up and learn from him."

Jim was in hysterics. "I can see him doing it. Oh, God. I can see him doing it!"

"Thus was born the first Sandburg Bulletin. It went, 'Beware of Blair Sandburg. You know, the little kid with the mouth on him. He's freaking lived with the Dukhobors! No one has lived with the Dukhobors! But he knows everything about them, and it's got to be from personal experience. He took over my class and I don't know if I'm ever going to get it back. What curse did I trigger, and what god needs appeasement? Help!'"

"You remember the wording?" Jim asked, astonished, between gasps for air and his own chuckling.

"Hell, I wrote it," Dr. de Villiers said.

Jim developed a stitch in his side.

"Then the other instructors started sending out Sandburg Bulletins. Often just one-liners: 'He's been to Machu Picchu; don't even mention it'; 'How did this kid get to study a Tibetan lama? Who translated? No, I don't want to know. I want to pretend that today never happened.' 'He not only can tell 3000 B.C. Sumerian pottery from 1760 B.C. Babylonian-Sumerian, but analyze the symbolism of both accurately. ???' 'The kid knows freaking everything. Can't we hire him or something, and get him out of our hair?'"

"And all the stuff was true?" Jim needed to know. Sandburg's tales were often colorful and dramatic. Validation from the assistant dean would make Jim sleep a little more happily at night.

"Yes, indeed, everything he said in class checked out," the academic replied. "We tested him, you know, when he challenged us. It was always a duel to the death. He stood his ground, and he was rock solid on his facts. Remember, this was ten years ago and some of what he knew then was far more obscure than it is now. But when he found his niche for further study, all of us were so relieved that we held an unofficial ceremony of thanks to the worldwide pantheon of gods and goddesses."

"His niche?" Jim prompted, trying to look blank.

"Yes," said de Villiers, and then a tray arrived, courtesy of a young woman with a harried look. "Thank you, Julie. I'll pay into the fund later. Would you care for a cup of coffee, Detective?"

"That would be nice, thanks," Jim agreed, as the woman hurried away.

With a fine aroma rising from two cups, Jim prompted the assistant dean for more information about Blair's 'niche'.

"He'd found a legend and was spending a lot of his time in the library researching it, quite apart from his formal studies. He was an unbelievably well focused young man and always intent on getting his Ph.D. Whether it would make a good enough topic, he wasn't sure, so he brought it to me, among others, for my advice." Dr. de Villiers stopped for a healthy swallow of coffee.

"What, this sentinel thing he was pestering me with?" Jim put forward as a preemptive strike, with a slight frown of interest.

"So he told you?" The man looked surprised, and then his own mien fell into the creases of a man with a puzzle. "Why?"

Jim lifted both his eyebrows. "He talks a lot."

The assistant dean chortled again. "Yes, he does. And he knows what he's talking about, too. Well, the sentinel legend was sufficiently obscure to allow for a good thesis topic for his B.A. as a mythologist and he did an excellent cross-cultural survey of it through the millennia, all over the world. For his M.A., he went beyond legend, and began to do work on the possibility that sentinels still exist." The assistant dean's eyes narrowed suddenly.

Jim had to deflect that, and fast. "These sentinels, they were supposed to have superpowers or something, right? So how could they exist in reality? It seems farfetched to me." He was skirting rudeness in his voice, filled with apparent disapproval of an academic study taking a lot of years and a lot of taxpayers' money, more incredibly idiotic than far-fetched.

"Not so unbelievable, actually," Dr. De Villiers responded, geared up for protecting his fiefdom. "It's based on the laws of probability, and the statistical likelihood that any people are born with five extremely sensitive senses. I'm sure Blair's mentioned tea-tasters and parfumiers to you." He waited for a reply.

"Yeah, sure," Jim gave it to him. "I have excellent eyesight myself; I was a marksman in the service. But all five? What would someone with heightened touch be like?" he wondered innocently.

"That's one of the things Blair got into in his M.A. thesis," the assistant dean continued. "He found people with one, two or three enhanced senses, did case studies of them and extrapolated to what living sentinels would be like. How the senses might work for them, how they might work against them. He got most of his subjects from urban North America, but found a few elsewhere in the world, while on digs or doing fieldwork for other projects. He's got feelers out everywhere through every anthropology major he ever met, and pretty much all his instructors, too. He never misses a chance to check out his surroundings for a potential sentinel." The speculative look was back in the assistant dean's eyes again.

"Oh, hey, I already said I have good eyesight. Sandburg's taken my measure and moved on," Jim lied outright.

"'Moved on'? How do you mean that? Is he thinking about doing his Ph.D. thesis on another subject?" The assistant dean seemed concerned. "He's been trying to find a living sentinel to study, and he might be scouring the Cascade Police Department for one."

"Why look there?" Jim wanted to know.

"Well, part of the sentinel legend is that the sentinel has an extreme need to protect his or her tribe or people, whomever he or she lives with. I would imagine that if there were living sentinels, they'd be working in service-oriented organizations, the police, or firefighters, maybe the army or another branch of the service, maybe as Search and Rescue personnel. So Blair's riding with you, and writing about the police department. Maybe he's killing two birds with one stone."

"How so?"

Dr. de Villiers pulled his chair forward and leaned against the desk with his hands. "If he can't find a living sentinel, detective, he'll need to change his thesis topic. He might be thinking of doing a study on the police department." He stared at Jim Ellison like a hawk at a mouse.

But Jim had his answer ready, "Actually, he got the observer's pass on the thin blue line thing but, like I said, it's coming close to the end. So we need to determine if he's good to go for an extension. His stories have been pretty wild at times." Jim smiled man-to-man. "But if he really has done some of the things he talks about...."

"Oh, he has. Unlikely though it seems, he has!"

"Then I'm happy to recommend him to the captain. I just need to know about his bona fides." Jim sent a serious 'genuine' glance toward the academic.

"Besides being entertaining, Blair is a very estimable man. He's done many things and gone many places since he started here at Rainier and I know about all of them. I've followed his academic career with a great deal of interest. If there is such a thing as a living sentinel, I know Blair won't rest until he's found him or her.

"But if he can't do it soon, he's going to need another string to his bow. Maybe the study of the police department will be it. If he does find a line of research which requires riding with you, then I hope you and your captain will consider giving him all the extensions he needs. He's a loyal friend, has demonstrated great bravery and much ingenuity while in the field, and has a streak of what I can only describe as rectitude running right through his soul. If you need a written reference, I'd be more than happy to give you one and I can muster up a dozen more from others acquainted with Blair."

Dr. de Villiers was shaking his head, grinning. "I almost envy you, getting to know Blair Sandburg for the first time. My introduction to him was certainly great fun, even if at times he was an annoying little gadfly. Under the scruffy outfits and past the baby-face is a man who has every reason to be proud of himself and his accomplishments. So if there's anything I've left out, let me know, and I'll glow about that, too." The assistant dean rose and extended his hand to Jim.

Jim shook hands with him. "No, I think that's pretty much put any doubts we have to rest. Oh, except for one: the financial side of things. Anything to know about that?"

The assistant dean rocked back on his heels. "Blair is like every long term student: perennially broke. His priorities are his studies and he'd stop eating for an entire term if it meant he could buy an enticing book with the savings. I don't know if he has a clothing budget as such, but he's always presentable, if in 'alternative' garb, when he's teaching his classes. But in anthropology, we study alternative ways of living and wherever he derived his values, they aren't about material things, but about morals and ethics and the pursuit of wisdom. If you're suggesting he might be a liability in the department because he's broke, I can stand surety for the fact that he is as honest as the day is long, when it comes to money and when it comes to his research. Some of his tales might be embellished, but there's always a core of truth to them, and so you'll find out as you get to know him better. As I said, I almost envy you, Detective Ellison."

They shook hands, and the interview was done.

Jim still had an hour free before Sandburg would be finished teaching his class. He stopped into the administrative offices and looked for Corbey again.

"Back again," the accented voice noted carelessly. "Is there any other way we can help you?"

Jim wasn't sure if the man was being snooty or trying to protect Blair again, but he preferred the latter and chose to believe it. "Yes, just something minor. His last known address, please."

Corbey mulled that over for three seconds longer than it deserved and finally decided to bend to necessity. He reached under the counter and pulled out a roster bound in university covers. A few flips of the pages brought him to the listing 'Sandburg, B.' "Here it is: Apartment 222, 406 Rosemont. That's in the...."

"Area bordering Rainier to the east. Yes, I know it. Not university-provided housing, is it?" Jim asked.

"No, private, but a popular place for school personnel and older students to rent. I'm in apartment 131 myself." Corbey seemed insufferably pleased with himself.

Jim put it down to culture clash and gave the man a break. "Oh, so you're one of his neighbors?"

"Yes, I am. I'll be happy to see him back in the complex, and hope it's soon. His replacement is an inconsiderate, rude, arrogant boor who doesn't belong in a civilized society!"

Well, okay, then, Jim thought. Let's find out about the boor. "His replacement?"

Corbey looked sour and said, "Blair rooms with two other students. He was going to be away for about a month and his roommates decided to sublet his room for that period to someone else for beer money, without Blair knowing it. Now the guy won't move out without a court order and Blair's stuck for accommodations. That's just not done! One of the other roommates ought to have moved out and given Blair his room. It would be only fair!"

Jim looked suitably shocked and appalled.

Corbey went on, "I hope he finds a place soon. He's got notices up on the bulletin boards all over Rainier, but no one's moving now. I'm afraid he's going to have to find some money somehow and rent an entire apartment to himself somewhere else in Cascade. Everything around here is occupied, and I should know."

"How's that?" Jim asked.

"My wife's pregnant, and we wanted to move to a two- or three- bedroom apartment before the baby arrives. So we've been searching too and we're stuck ourselves. The hunt goes on, but it's the wrong time of year for this location." He sighed. "Helen really wanted more space, too. I'd have liked a den. With books. And a chair and lamp for reading." He was unutterably wistful.

"Congratulations on the baby, and I hope you find a new home soon," Jim said sympathetically.

But on the drive over to 406 Rosemont, he wondered just what kind of place Blair thought he would have to move to, once Larry went back to the lab and Jim pulled the invitation out from under him. It almost didn't bear thinking about.

Jim nearly had to break down the door to get into Apartment 222. He could hear people inside, though they were trying to be quiet. He thumped harder and harder until his fist hurt.

"Go away, Blair," someone yelled at long last. "We don't have your money and we don't know where we're going to get it, so please go away. We'll give it to you when we have it, promise!"

"Cascade Police! Open up!" Jim shouted back.

"Oh, geez," a hushed voice rang only in sentinel ears. "Did we do anything illegal?"

"What if he thinks we're in with him?"

"Oh, geez!"

Jim kept thumping and shouting.

Finally a tall, thin brunette of about twenty-two, with hair to her waist, unlocked and opened the door.

"Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade P.D.," Jim said sharply. "I'm here about Blair Sandburg."

"Oh," the girl said with relief. "He doesn't live here any longer. I don't have his current address, either. Sorry." She tried to shut the door, but there was a sentinel in the way.

"Excuse me, ma'am. I'm well aware that Mr. Sandburg is no longer a resident here. In fact, he's staying with me at the moment. And he's having trouble looking for a permanent place." Jim sent her a glare full of personal animosity. "It seems he's short of cash because you won't refund his money. Now, what can you tell me about that?"

"Oh, man. Peggy!" the brunette called over her shoulder. "He wants Blair's money! What do I tell him?"

Jim marched into the living room of the three-bedroom apartment and sat down on the couch stretching his arms out along its back. He looked up stoically at the brunette. Her platinum blonde friend, likewise somewhere in her twenties, had appeared from behind the now-closed bathroom door. She had concealer plastered all over a bad black eye.

"Peggy? You got some input here?" he did his impression of Jim-from-Vice.

"Oh, man, Georgia," the blonde moaned. "Did Blair send you?" she asked Jim.

But Georgia was hissing at her, "He's the one Blair's staying with. I think he wants Blair out and Blair doesn't have money for a place to go."

"We're screwed," Peggy said hopelessly.

"We so are screwed," Georgia agreed.

Then they both stared unhappily at Jim.

"What's the problem, ladies?" Jim gave them an opening. "Where'd you get the shiner?"

Georgia looked at Peggy and Peggy looked at Georgia.

Peggy took the floor. "The problem," she said grimly, "is our other roommate."

Jim looked around. "Three bedrooms, but more than three occupants?"

Peggy started picking at lint on her clothes. "Yes, now. It used to be just us and Blair. But then Blair moved out for a month because he couldn't bring his ape here, the landlord wouldn't let him, and we rented his room to an exchange student so he could look for another place to live. He'd been tossed out of his old apartment for playing his music too loud, he said. But when he moved in, he only paid half what he said he'd give us, he started bringing dates home, so they were all staying here, and they're not paying their way, and they use twice as much in utilities as all three of us together. He's bringing all his awful, rowdy friends over all the time, and he won't move out, and it's an illegal sublet, and he's gonna get us thrown out by the landlord, and there aren't any other places to live or Blair would have found one, and we don't know what to do!" All said in a tumble of words to do Sandburg proud.

Jim seldom had patience with silliness, but these damsels in distress seemed to be more victimized than victimizing. He sucked his tongue and looked around the room. "This male roommate of yours. Does he have a name?"

"Boris," the brunette said glumly. "That's all we really know. We've heard him use a bunch of different last names on the phone. We didn't know. Just Boris. And he's more than Badenov."

Peggy began giggling hysterically. "I'm sorry. I can't stop. Hee-hee-hee!" She looked mortified.

Georgia grabbed her and shook her hard. The giggling stopped.

"He give you that black eye?" Jim wanted to know.

"N-n-not him. But he's doing drugs," Peggy stuttered out. "Bad ones. We don't, we never, did drugs. Blair says we should treat our bodies like temples. And he's right."

"We never, Detective Ellison. Never!" Georgia confirmed.

Jim considered his options. "Does any of the furniture in the bedroom belong to Blair?"

The girls looked at each other. "Yeah, it's almost all his, only, you know, I don't think he'd want the bed back," Peggy said slowly.

Georgia nodded emphatically. "Or his linens."

Jim didn't want to know.

"Well, let's take care of first things first," he said. "What else in there is Blair's?"

"He's got a desk, a chair, a bookcase, a dresser and some clothes, but he took most of his books and clothes with him when he moved out." Peggy was itemizing things in her head. " I think he only took the stuff he had on loan from the U., though. We packed Blair's own curios in boxes and kept them in our rooms."

"I have a truck. Show me the stuff that's Blair's and I'll take it with me," Jim said.

"Oh, man, I don't know if that's a good idea," Georgia appealed to him. "You don't know Boris. He's mean."

Well, he certainly had these kids scared. Jim began to think that Blair had been their protector. He's kind to lab animals.

"I don't care what Boris thinks," Jim said. "And I have a hunch that it's all going to work itself out nicely. Just show me Blair's room."

The girls scampered over to a moderately sized bedroom, not all that much larger than Blair's room under the stairs, truth be told. Jim took a good look, and sniff, around.

"Who does that bong belong to?" Jim demanded to know. The thing on the floor was almost hidden under a sweep of the bedspread on the unmade bed. Almost, but not quite. The girls saw it plainly, once Jim had them stand where he was and turn in its direction.

"Boris," the girls chimed together.

"Good enough," Jim said, and the girls started giggling again. "When do you expect Boris back?"

"Any time now," Georgia answered with dread.

"I'd better start my search now," Jim said. "You can be witnesses. You might have to come to court to testify, but don't worry. It will turn out all right."

The girls clung to each other. Whatever was happening couldn't be good, could it?

Jim found Boris's stash of weed and all its paraphernalia, a baggie of coke and a small quantity of GHB capsules. Jim had it all bagged and tagged, and his notes on the bust written up, with time for a cup of tea before Boris got home. What he hadn't found was perhaps more valuable: a passport and a student visa.

The girls gave him free rein in their own bedrooms and they were clean. Jim was thankful; he hadn't wanted to have to arrest them too. He was also interested in the fact that they had student-sized furniture also, a twin bed, dresser and desk apiece.

When Boris walked in, 220 pounds and 25 or so years of vicious arrogance, with a nondescript girlfriend behind him, Jim immediately arrested him. The girl fled. Jim was fine with just bringing Boris in and quoted the Miranda rights in between squeals of outrage.

"Pig! You have no right to go into my room and search it!"

Jim smiled meanly. "I went into Blair Sandburg's room, the one he's legally paid the rent for, as his agent and current roommate, to retrieve articles belonging to him. I was legally admitted by your roommates to his bedroom, where, in plain view, I saw your bong. Ever hear of the plain view doctrine, Boris?"

Boris just cursed, but he shut up once Jim started asking about his real name and how he had gotten into the country. That settled any doubts Jim might have had. The two Rainier students were not in this man's league at all.

"You're screwed, Boris," Georgia yelled, pointing at him.

"Oh, you so are screwed," Peggy joined her. "You know, you should have just left when you could."

"We're changing the locks," Georgia said, with a quick glance up at Jim her savior, and getting a curt, long-suffering nod from him.

"So don't even think about coming back!" Peggy gloated.

"I doubt he's that stupid," Jim said, "but I doubt even more that he'll get the chance. The INS is going to be very interested in him, aren't they, Boris?"

What the druggie said to that was unforgettable.

Jim marched Boris downstairs and cuffed him to the truck door, then returned to Apartment 222.

He looked long and hard at the two girls. "Why did you rent the room to Boris in the first place?"

Peggy answered dully. "We got mugged, Georgia and me. Blair usually escorted us home from the U., but when he moved out, we just went together. Whoever it was gave me the black eye, and took all our grocery money for the month. We reported it to the police, but that didn't get our money back. We didn't know what else to do," she said. "We're on scholarships, we don't have any new money coming in until the end of the month and we have to eat."

"We don't have folks to write home to, either," Georgia told him. "It's us against the world." She laughed humorlessly. "So we did the only thing we thought we could. We thought we were lucky to find Boris. Some luck, huh?" She was bitter.

Jim lightened up on them. He scribbled out a phone number on the back of his business card and handed it to Peggy. "Call here, ask for Lou, tell him Jim Ellison referred you, and that you need a change of locks within two hours. Tell him I'll pay the tab and to say hi to Frances. He'll understand. Then call your landlord, tell him Boris is gone, and give him one of the keys. Tell Lou you'll need at least four."

Peggy stared at the note as if trying to decode who Frances was.

"Do you have food for the rest of the month?"

The girls shook their head and Georgia began patting at the corners of her eyes.

Jim took out his wallet and began to peel off twenties. "Here, take this and restock your cupboards, after Lou changes the lock. Better yet, order a pizza for tonight, and I'll see someone escorts you shopping tomorrow."

Georgia put her hand out, but Peggy was pushing the money away. "We can't take your money, Detective. We can't repay it," she whispered.

Jim turned on his best charming smile. "Now, what would Blair think of me if I let you two go hungry for the lack of a few dollars?" He took Georgia's hand and stuffed the cash into it, closing her fist over. "Got it?"

"Yes, thank you," Peggy said with a big gulp.

"Okay, we're done here for now. You have my number, and if anyone comes looking for Boris, call me at once. Oh, and don't go and re-rent Sandburg's room. You got that?" Jim said.

"No, no, we'd never do that again," Peggy said. "We sure didn't want to!"

"Thank you so much!" Georgia burst into tears of relief.

Jim was not prepared to handle that. "I've got to go book Boris. You call Lou right now."

Peggy picked up the phone and began to dial.

Jim left for his truck, juggling new ideas, and phoned Simon Banks as he did.

"Captain? I've got a lot of Blair's history now and everything I've found out is good. I'll report back as soon as I book this jerk that's been living in his apartment on possession. Yeah, yeah, he had an apartment, but it's a long story."

"Jim, I'm glad to hear it, but I really need you to hurry up with the booking. Get back to the office as soon as you can. We have a situation."

Jim began feeling for his gun. "What kind of situation, sir?"

"The campaign against Sandburg has gotten ugly. You know all those mishaps around the department?"

"What? Like the photocopier, or Henri's keyboard? What about them?"

"There's another to add. Sandburg came in about three-quarters of an hour ago. His class ended early or something and he wanted to finish the reports on Kincaid, said he was prioritizing it because it's going to trial."


"Within ten minutes of his getting here, Rider's computer gets a virus and things started going wrong on the all monitors. Everyone's panicking. Sandburg hops up and does some mojo at Rider's desk and gets it fixed, no harm done."

"Good for him."

"Not so good, Jim. The whispering after that was loud enough that I could hear it. People were saying the Sandburg Curse wasn't just a joke. That it was real."

"Oh, come on! It was just a private joke between Sandburg and me. There's nothing real about it, sir!"

"Maybe, but I'm not on top of what is going on yet and that means I can't control it, detective. They're still whispering, and it's getting hinky here. I have the feeling that something's gonna break very soon, and when it does, Sandburg's head will be on the block. So just get back here, Jim, and do some sentinel stuff! I need information!"

Jim ran for the truck.

Continue to Act 4

Return to Novation Productions