Sunday 2:00 AM
The truck pulled alongside a police cruiser in front of 'Ghoul Station'. The engine cut off as the door opened and the driver spilled out of the cab.
Jim strode to the ambulance where the observer was sitting, a blanket from the EMTs around his shoulders and a mug of steaming liquid in his hands. The young man was staring at the covered form on the asphalt, his expression listless.
"She's gone, Jim." The flat tone of his voice worried the sentinel. "One minute she was alive and the next –" He drew a shuddering breath. "Damn it, Jim! It's just not fair!"
"Are you okay?" Jim asked as he checked out his partner, noting some blood on his clothes. "You didn't –"
Blair closed his eyes as he shook his head. He took a small sip of the hot liquid, then shook his head again.
"I didn't get hit, Jim. I'm fine. But Sam – she's-she's…" Another shuddering breath. "Damn it, Jim! She never had a chance!"
Jim felt helpless to comfort his friend. He hadn't seen Blair look this hopeless since the death of Sky.
"I'm okay, Jim." Blair leaned against the vehicle's frame. "Go, do what you have to do."
Jim took a final look at his partner. Physically he was fine, Jim agreed as he walked over to the forensic team. But why the hell did this have to happen just when Blair was getting over Sky?
Serena was collecting debris from the road near the curbing. Jim could see the fine tremors in her hands as she resolutely did her job. Her eyes were dry, but he could tell that was due to a strong act of will, one that was slowly crumbling.
She was avoiding the body in the center of the street, now covered with Blair's black velvet jacket. Jim walked to it, knelt down and pulled the jacket back just enough to view her face. The once vibrant, beautiful features were now garish and grotesque, frozen in a grimace of pain and fear.
Looking up, he saw a familiar face directing traffic around the scene. He covered the form again, then stood and walked to the man.
"Hi Jim." Mike Brighton gave him a shrug as he continued to direct the cars. "Not the best situation to meet at, I guess."
"No," Jim shook his head.
"We have Blair's statement," Mike told him. "He was trying to keep her alive. Doing CPR, breathing for her – didn't stop until the EMTs pulled him away. Even then, he tried to get back to her. I had to threaten to cuff him to the ambulance."
Jim nodded. "That sounds like Blair."
"Soon as I saw everything, I called Major Crimes," Mike went on. "At least this time we have a description of the car." He pulled out his notebook. "Here, you can give it back to me before you leave; I'll be sure you get a copy of the printed report."
"Thanks." Jim was scanning the notes. "A large sedan." He looked up, then at Mike. "Up till now, the cars used by the Slayer have been midsize cars."
Mike shrugged. "Well, maybe that was the only car the Slayer could get tonight."
"With all these cars on the street?" Jim raised an eyebrow at him. "Says here there was an altercation in the bar?"
"Apparently Sam and her boyfriend got into it just before she ran out into the street."
"Must have been a second fight between those two," Jim suggested, handing back the notebook.
"I wouldn't know." Mike shook his head. "He only mentioned the one."
"Well, looks like I'll just have to find out for myself."
Jim headed for the bar. A shout from the ambulance stopped him.
Running to join him, Blair demanded, "Wait for me."
"Can't," Jim told him firmly. "Go back to the ambulance. Or go to the truck. But don't come with me."
"Now look here –" Blair began heatedly.
"Sandburg!" Jim snapped. He took a deep breath. "Blair, you've become a witness; I can't have you as a part of the investigation, at least not an active part. Not unless you want the case tossed out of court."
As Blair stared into his eyes, Jim could see the anguish as well the need to find Sam's killer. He knew exactly how his friend was feeling.
"Blair, I've been where you are." Jim took him by the shoulders. "I know what you're going through. Remember Danny?" He took a deep breath. "I don't want you to see Sam's killer walk on a technicality like I had to with Tommy Juno. Please, Blair, let me do my job."
Blair took in a ragged breath, then lowered his head and nodded. "All right, Jim." He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders tightly and made his way to the truck. "I'll do it. I won't like it, but I'll do it."
Jim walked to the bartender, passing the few Goths that were still inside 'Ghoul Station'. He ignored the looks and remarks from them as he leaned on the bar.
"You're that biker guy," the bartender noted. "The one that was lost. Guess you weren't so lost, were you?"
Jim shrugged. "Just doing my job."
"And that would be…?"
"Seeing if the Goths knew anything about the Slayer that they hadn't told the cops," Jim admitted.
The bartender stared at him. "Not trying to bust anyone?"
"I had plenty of opportunity to bust a lot a folks earlier; I didn't, did I?"
"Okay, so you didn't. Yet."
"Right now, I want to bag a killer." Jim returned the bartender's stare. "I don't care about stupid little drug deals or orgies courtesy of illegal drugs. I just want to get the killer that murdered that young woman tonight and all the other Goths before her. I want to catch that bastard before there's another casualty or fatality."
"Fair enough," the bartender nodded. "What you want to know?"
"What happened after I left?"
"Twist caught Prince with his harem. He don't usually bring them here when he knows Twist is gonna be here," he added. "They more or less agreed that this bar was neutral territory – she'd keep her boyfriends out of here, and he'd keep the girls out." The man continued to clean up around the bar. "Yep; I bet they were both surprised to see the other. Of course, Twist had no reason to bitch, bringing that pretty boy in with her; even if she said he wasn't one of her guys; neutral is neutral in my book."
"From what I was seeing, she wasn't participating in the orgy," Jim noted.
"Well, not as enthusiastically as I've seen her," the bartender agreed. "But Prince still tries to act like the big macho man; even though she's proven to him she can take him out and half his buddies as well. And that's when she's drunker than an entire company of soldiers and sailors."
"They fight often?"
The bartender looked at Jim and broke into a harsh laugh. "Did they fight often? Hell, those two only knew how to do two things together, and both of them began with 'f.' If Twisted Illusions and Prince Panic weren't fighting, they were f-"
"I got the picture," Jim scowled.
"Got to the point that I made both of them keep a plus tab here to cover breakage," the barkeep continued. "Probably shouldn't use hers to pay for the broken booze bottles though, now should I?"
"No, you probably shouldn't," Jim agreed, his tone cold.
"Could use it to send flowers," mused the man.
"Or," suggested Jim in the same icy tones, "you could send the money to her family. Start a collection out of your own pocket to send flowers."
"Yeah, I suppose," the bartender agreed in less than happy tones.
"By the way, who is Prince Panic when he's not Prince Panic?" Jim asked.
"You mean, who pays the bills?"
"He could pay in cash," the bartender noted.
"Yeah, he could, but she wouldn't, and he'd try to at least be better than her. So, what name is on his credit card?"
"The guy's name is Joe Hall."
Jim stepped out of the bar, looking over the scene. Chalk marks were scratched on the asphalt around the body of the lab technician. The crime scene photographer snapped picture after picture of the woman's body and the surrounding area.
Blair had his eyes closed, sitting in the Ford's cab, avoiding the view in front of him. Jim didn't blame him; he could recall, vaguely, the way he felt when the CSI group had worked in his house after Incacha had died. If Blair hadn't dragged him up to the roof to get his senses back….
Serena was kneeling by the body, now, carefully picking up more debris and putting it in evidence bags. The tremors were more pronounced, and she was biting her lip and blinking furiously. Jim walked to her and knelt down by her.
"I think I'm missing some, Jim," Serena managed to choke out. "Would you check for me? Please?"
"Not a problem, Serena." Jim's voice was soft, gentle, caring, taking the tweezers and bags from her. "Why don't you take a break, stand up and walk around a bit?"
"I can –" she began.
Jim pressed a finger to her lips. "Go on, I can handle this," he promised gently. "Take a break. Go. Get some coffee while you're at it."
"Only if I can get you some as well."
"Won't hear me turn you down," Jim smiled at her.
Once she was gone he busied himself collecting the shards, leaving none behind. Then he rose and joined Serena at the CSI car.
"If we're through here, we can let the morgue attendants take Sam," Jim said after taking a sip of the coffee.
"If we've collected all the evidence around her…" Serena answered, her voice faint. "I know we've gotten all the photos we need."
"We got all the evidence," Jim assured her.
"Then I suppose we can let them take her," Serena agreed.
Jim waved for the attendants and watched as the two men carefully placed the body into the vinyl bag and zipped it shut, then just as gently lifted the body bag onto the gurney.
Once Jim was satisfied they were giving the dead technician the reverence due her, he started to walk around the scene. As he walked, Mike came from the center of the street, after waving his partner to take his place, and joined Jim.
"Where's Jen?" Jim asked.
"Called in sick," Mike shrugged. "Might be the stomach flu, or might be something to do with that weasel getting off. I kinda wish she'd take some more time off and get back into counseling."
"When I saw her last, she told me she was getting bored being on leave."
"So she said," Mike agreed. "But I kinda wonder sometimes…"
"What?" Jim stared at Mike, frowning.
Mike shook his head. "Nothing. Well, nothing substantial. Just a … feeling."
"A feeling," Jim repeated, continuing to stare at Mike.
"Probably nothing but me being an over-protective partner. You know how that can be. Notice the lack of brakes until just before Ms Lenz was hit?" he asked the detective as he dismissed the subject.
"But I thought I saw some ghosting right where she was hit," Mike added.
"Really?" Jim stopped and looked at the uniformed officer.
"Really." He shrugged. "I just don't know if I really saw it, or wanted to see it, you know?"
Jim bent down, narrowing his eyes, examining the street carefully. His vision acclimated until the minute pebbles were the size of boulders. He slowly raked his sight across the road, seeing the synthetic material left behind when the brakes were hit.
He followed the trail of the material until it changed. Gradually Jim let his vision return to normal.
"You're right," Jim stated. "Looks like he lost a year's worth of tires doing so."
"Guy was probably drunker than the proverbial skunk," Mike snorted. "Didn't see her until she was on his windshield."
"Unless he didn't want to stop," Jim noted.
"You think this was the Slayer?" Mike stared at Jim, the surprise in his voice mirrored by the look in his eyes.
Jim shrugged. "Could be."
"Could also be a regular DUI, right?"
"Anything is possible," Jim agreed as he continued to study the veteran officer.
"We did find some tread marks after the ghosting," Mike added, pointing to the more visible marks on the street. It might have been Jim's imagination, but it looked to him as though Mike's hand was trembling. "Probably put pedal to the metal to get the hell out of here."
"That he did." Jim knelt beside them, mentally comparing them to the ones he'd seen at the ghosting site. "Left a nice pattern for us too."
"Sure did." One of the forensic photographers came up to join them. "I made sure I got plenty of pictures. Once we find this car, we'll be able to nail son of a bitch."
Jim walked toward his truck. Blair, who'd been sitting in the cab, had left the truck and was walking toward the coroner's wagon. Jim let a soft sigh escape his lips as he followed his partner to the wagon.
Dan Wolfe stopped the two attendants and opened the body bag enough to see the flaccid face. He looked up when Blair and Jim came to stand on the other side of the gurney.
"Don't worry, Blair," Dan said, letting the younger man stand by the still form of the woman. "I'll take special care of her."
Jim noted that under the streetlight, her visage was less ghastly. Still, the waxen pasty color of death under the pale makeup gave her an unreal appearance, as though she had never been alive.
Blair's hand crept from his pocket and hesitantly touched the woman's hair, carefully moving a stray lock back in place.
"It's my fault," Blair whispered. "I shouldn't have let her go by herself. If I had been with her, I could have pulled her to safety."
"Maybe," Jim agreed reluctantly. "Or I could be viewing two dead bodies."
"Right now, Jim, the fact that I'm still alive doesn't give me much solace."
Blair walked back to the truck, his head bowed.
Jim sighed as he took one last look at the feisty technician. "I know," he said softly. "But it does comfort me, just a little."
Sunday, 10:00 AM
Even though he had gone to bed once Jim had gotten him home, Blair had found it impossible to sleep. From the sounds coming the apartment above his, it seemed Jim was also finding sleep elusive.
They both finally decided to forego the pretense of sleeping and got up. After each had stood under hot showers to get rid of the residual tiredness that clung to them, Jim fixed a bland breakfast that took care of glucose levels without bothering tastebuds or tenuous stomachs.
Jim delivered the motorcycle to the dealership, then drove the two of them to the station.
Blair went straight to his desk and began gathering data on Sam's erstwhile boyfriend. He'd seen Jim shake his head before telling Blair he was going to Forensics. Jim was not ready just yet to make the jerk a suspect.
As the computer obediently collected data on one Joseph Philip Hall, AKA Prince Panic, Blair sat back in his chair, squeezing his eyes tightly shut, hoping the image of Sam's broken, bloodied body would fade from his mind.
It hadn't when he'd tried to will his tired brain to rest, and it didn't now as he waited impatiently for the information.
It probably wouldn't until he caught the monster who'd killed her.
= = = = =
In the forensics lab, Jim sat on the stool by Serena as she finished a test on a piece of evidence.
"That should help Joel's case," she said with finality.
"That's good to hear," Jim nodded.
"But you're not here to find out if I have something to help Joel." Serena pushed back from the lab table and let her hands rest in her lap. "You want to know if I've managed to find out anything to help you."
"You got it."
"It still takes three days to get information back from the state," Serena reminded him.
"But?" Jim looked at her.
"Look, everything is incomplete," Serena began. "I only have partial data. It wouldn't…"
"Serena, Blair needs something, anything, right now to help him find the person who murdered his friend. Hell," he added, "I need something."
"What I have is based on a partial lot number we got from some of the headlight glass shards. I ran them through NLET and got a probable make and model."
"Give it to me," Jim demanded.
"Okay, but remember what I said." Jim nodded. "I think the car that hit Sam was a dark gray Towncar, probably made within the last two years," Serena said.
"The headlight tell you the color too?"
Serena hit him in the shoulder, shaking her head. "The color of the paint chip we – you – retrieved. We'll have the information from the state lab in forty-eight hours or so that will either back me up, or prove me wrong."
"Well, it's a start." Jim stood. "When you get the rest of the information just email Blair or me."
Blair took the papers that were spewing from the printer, and placed them in a semblance of order on his desk. Not that there was much. Except for few arrests for drunk and disorderly, there was nothing spectacular about the man.
He sat down, taking a sip of cooling coffee, then commenced reading the biography of Sam's latest, and last, boyfriend.
"What have you got?" Jim asked as he walked in with two cups of fresh coffee.
"The life and times of one Joseph Philip Hall, or as Sam knew him, Prince Panic." Blair took the cup and tossed the papers toward Jim. "He's led a relatively harmless life. Several charges for drunk and disorderly, but otherwise, nothing spectacular."
"Hmm." Jim scanned the pages. "What else?"
"What else?" Blair looked over at Jim.
"Yeah, what else? Look, you're a speed-reader of the highest order. You've probably read every page as you put it in this order. So, what else about him?"
"He went from one fast food restaurant to another, was a manager at one, then decided he wanted to do more than flip burgers." Blair leaned back, flipping a pencil through his fingers. "So he went to one of those eighteen month technical schools and got a degree in mechanics."
"Worked in several garages, then went into business with someone else as a tow truck driver." Blair pulled his copy toward him and scanned it again. "Apparently got tired of the dirtier aspects of the job and went into sales. Car sales. Apparently he's pretty good at it," he added. "Making some really good money according to the latest tax returns."
"And because he sells cars at a dealership, he gets a discount when buying cars. He has, according to the DMV, two vehicles. One a black 4x4, one a midnight gray Towncar."
"Towncar?" Jim's head snapped up and he stared at Blair. "We think Sam was hit by a Towncar. Dark gray."
Blair leaned forward. "He was pretty pissed at her when he left the table."
"You think that he might…?"
"Anything is possible," Blair pointed out. He moistened his lip, then went on, "Sam was a crazy lady, and she could drive one to the brink of madness. And yes, I speak from experience. Maybe she drove him over the edge."
"You think he might have decided to kill her, and started killing others to cover his tracks?" Jim stared at Blair, an eyebrow raised.
Blair shrugged. "I don't know, Jim. I don't know if Hall's personality is such to be a serial killer. He could be just copying the Slayer's MO to hide the fact that he's Sam's killer in a fit of passion."
"Yeah, he could be," Jim agreed. "He got angry at Sam for bringing you to their club, maybe he decided to punish her."
"And he's got the car similar to the type that killed Sam."
"Possible car that ran her down; we don't have anything solid."
"I saw it, Jim; a large sedan," Blair argued. "A Towncar fits the description to a tee."
"So do a lot of other cars," Jim stated. "The fact that you can't positively identify the type of car, let alone give us the color, doesn't help all that much."
Blair twirled the pencil some more. "One more thing, Jim," he added. "Look at his early DMV pictures."
Jim picked up the picture. "He's a blond."
"And, didn't Serena find a hair that had a blond root?" Blair asked.
"Yeah," Jim nodded.
"It's enough isn't it?" Blair stared at Jim, his voice full of hope. "We can bring him in, can't we?"
"I – " Jim took a deep breath. "I can question him," he finally said. "I won't promise anything else."
Monday, 10:00 AM
Jim parked the pickup in the customer parking area of 'Frankie's Fantastic Ford Dealership' and got out, followed by Blair. He walked around, checking out the newer SUVs, noting the packages.
"Thinking about getting one?" Blair asked checking out a few of the cars himself.
"I have a perfectly good truck," Jim snorted. "Why would I want to get a car that would crumple into a wad of plastic at the first ding?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because they have a factory warranty," Blair grinned at him.
"Tell you what, partner, I'll start thinking about a new car when you get one." Jim looked around. "And considering how reliable Volvos are, we both know when that will be."
"So, where's Prince Charming?" Blair wanted to know.
"I'll find him," Jim said. "Just remember, I do the questioning. You keep quiet."
"I mean it, Sandburg," Jim insisted. "If you can't trust yourself to keep quiet, then go back to the truck. Neither of us wants this guy to get away if he killed Sam."
"All right, Jim," Blair sighed. "I do understand. It's just hard, you know?"
"I know," he acknowledged as a man walked toward them.
"Good morning, gents," the salesman greeted them, his dark hair tied back from his face. "Looking for a new car? Let me tell you, we have the deals. We can even do a good deal with that – classic – you're driving."
"Mr. Hall?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, uh, yes I am." The man stared at Jim. "Excuse me, do we know each other?"
"Not exactly," Jim shook his head.
"Wait." He stared first at Jim, then at Blair. "Wait, you're that lost biker. And you…." He stared harder at Blair. "You're the Goth wannabe that moved in on my girl." He licked his lips and took a step back. "If you're serious about a car, I'll get you another sales rep. If not –"
"No, we're not here to buy anything," Jim answered.
"Then you can get off this lot right now before I call the cops," he replied stiffly. "I don't intend to spend time with someone who helped my lady two-time me."
Jim spoke, halting the departing man in his tracks. "Actually, Mr. Hall, we're with the police. And we need to talk."
"About what?" He stood in front of the sentinel, feet planted firmly, hands on hips, his face dark and angry. "That little spat in the club? Twist pressing charges? 'Cause if she is, I'm countering with charges of my own."
Hall started to walk away.
"No, she didn't press charges, Mr. Hall," Jim cut him off. "In fact, she won't be able to press charges or anything else. She's dead."
"What?" Joe stopped in his tracks, turned and stared at the two men, shock on his face. "You mean that –? She was the woman that was killed –?" He turned, his hand suddenly over his mouth, his eyes closed. "God! No! Twist is dead? The Slayer got her?" Tears filled his dark eyes. "Damn! Not Twist."
"Is there somewhere we can go?" Jim suggested. "Somewhere reasonably private."
"M-my office," Joe stammered. "Th-this way."
Jim noted that Hall's face had become paler than the makeup that he had worn the previous Saturday. He could hear the man struggling not to throw up. As soon as they got into the cubicle, Joe collapsed into his chair.
Jim looked around, trying to find something to help the hyperventilating man. Not finding a paper bag, he reached over and pushed the man's head down between his knees. When Hall started to protest, Jim just grunted, "Head down, deep breaths. You'll feel better."
Several minutes later, Joe sat up, leaning his elbows on the table and supporting his head. "Sorry about that."
"Don't be; it's understandable," Jim answered. "Feeling a bit better?"
"Well, I don't feel like I'm going to puke my guts out," Joe admitted. "Still feel like shit. Shitty thing you did out there. Springing it on me like that."
Jim kept his tone neutral. "Didn't mean to. Thought you might have heard it from the community."
"I don't go Gothing when I have to work the next day. Trying to sell cars with a hangover is a sure way to lose sales," he added. "Besides I partied pretty hard the night before; don't think I got out of the sack till sometime yesterday evening." The last was said with a self-satisfied smirk.
"When was the last time you saw Twisted Illusions?"
"Saturday night," Joe answered. "When she tried to beat the crap out of me."
"Didn't see her after that?"
"No," he shook his head. "Me and the girls went to my place – bars were getting ready for last call; didn't make sense to go to another. Besides I have better booze and no last call to worry about."
"Didn't see her as you were driving away?" Jim questioned.
"No." There was a hint of irritation in his voice. "I said I drove away from the bars. You can ask the girls. All eight of them."
"You do understand I have to ask…" Jim began.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." He leaned back in the chair and looked up at the ceiling. "Most murders are committed by someone the victim knows and Twist and I were close." He sat up, leaning on the desk. "We weren't all that close, you know, no matter what you may have heard." He scowled at Blair who was struggling to keep quiet. "She was nice enough, I guess; she was certainly hot enough in bed. I know she wanted an exclusive relationship, but I'm not ready for just one woman."
"I see." Jim kept his tone neutral, nonjudgmental.
"What? You think I should have dumped her or something?" He stared at Blair. "She knew I wasn't her Mr. Right; she didn't seem to care as long as she got some good toe-curling, mind-blowing sex."
Jim found his temper was slowly slipping from his control. If Hall was trying to make himself look innocent, Jim decided, he was doing a damned poor job of it.
"It's a pity she can't support that claim, isn't it?" he asked silkily.
"Look, I know your buddy there wants to paint me as the killer, but I'm not. I'm not going to tell you that Twist and I were star-crossed lovers when we weren't. Truth is, she felt something for me that I didn't feel for her. Didn't mean I was going to refuse what was freely offered and given. And she certainly had no room to bitch; I gave her as good as she gave me; maybe even better."
"I see," Jim repeated.
"I suppose you'll want all the names and addresses of the ladies that were with me," Hall continued with a martyred sigh.
"It would help," Jim acknowledged. "It would also help to see your car."
"Why?" Hall glared at Jim, then at Blair for good measure. "Someone saying they saw it?"
"A car matching the description of yours was seen in the vicinity," Jim responded, his voice remaining calm, neutral, void of any sort of judgment.
"Sorry, can't help you out." Hall lazed back in the chair. "I brought my truck in for its quarterly maintenance. Besides, the car is used strictly for business. I don't party in it. It's too new and my friends have a tendency to overindulge; getting it detailed every week would be a bitch."
"I can see how that might be a problem."
Jim stood up, prompting Blair to do likewise. Hall stayed seated, looking up at them.
"Thank you for your assistance." Jim gave him a lopsided smile and headed out of the cubicle. He stopped, turned and smiled wolfishly. "Just, don't leave town, okay? Just in case we need to talk with you again."
He turned and left the office area without a backward glance.
"So is he lying through his well-cared-for capped teeth or what?" Blair demanded as he shut the truck door.
Jim inhaled deeply, then let it filter out of his body slowly. He knew Blair had been hoping for an arrest when they went to interview the man and was disappointed when none had been forthcoming.
"Well…" he started.
"Don't tell me you believe that conceited little jerk?" Blair stared incredulously at his partner as the truck was started.
"I call as I see them, Chief." Jim headed the truck into midmorning traffic.
"Jim, he jumped Sam just because she was sitting with me, and he smacked her twice."
"I was there," Jim reminded him. "And I saw her give him a good right cross that would have had me thinking twice about smacking her around, if I were of a mind to smack ladies, that is. The truth is, according to all I know, and all I sensed, he was telling the truth."
"Jim!" Blair's tone was full of shocked surprise. "You can't mean that!"
"I can, and I do."
"But Jim –!"
"I don't like it any more than you do, Chief," Jim sighed as they stopped at a traffic light. "But, you saw his reaction to the news of her death. That was no act."
"And as far as I can tell, he was telling the truth the whole time." Jim proceeded when the light turned green.
"The whole time?" Blair snorted. "Yeah right."
"He was," Jim began.
"The whole damn time? Like when he was dissing Sam?" Blair thundered.
"Maybe he believed everything he said," Jim answered with a frown.
"So he was lying!" Blair pounced on the statement. "I knew it!"
"Not when he was talking about Sam," Jim shook his head.
"When he was talking about the car," Jim cut him off. "He was lying about his car."
"You mean, he wasn't telling us the real reason he drove the truck in?"
"No, he wasn't," Jim shook his head. He stopped talking to concentrate on maneuvering the truck through a harrowing intersection. "His heart spiked when he was telling us why he drove the truck to work."
"Well, can't we…?"
"Chief…" Jim let a warning note enter his voice. "Yes I caught the telltale signs that he was lying, but the why is anyone's guess. He could have taken it out and someone got sick in it, and he didn't want to admit that."
"Or he could have hit Sam while he was trying to get out of there and is scared to admit it." Blair's voice was full of accusation.
"Or he could have hit Sam," Jim agreed. "But I'm only a sentinel, Sandburg; I'm not a telepath."
"Look, we're having enough fun with the legal beagles and the sentinel stuff," Jim complained good-naturedly. "I don't think I could handle another superhero talent on the news."
"So he lied about the car. I can deal with that. We just watch him and see if he makes a mistake. Anything else?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded. "Those pictures on the driver's licenses really aren't all that good. The one you showed me made it look like he was just a blond."
"I saw the root, remember?" Blair nodded. "It was ash blond. Joey's roots are showing. They're not blond; they're ash blond."
Tuesday, 1:30 AM
Blair covered a yawn as he followed Jim around the latest hit and run scene in front of 'Pagan Place'.
The young man was unconscious but, according to the EMTs, in fairly good condition. The car had only clipped him instead of hitting him squarely. Either the Slayer was getting sloppy, the Goths had gotten better at dodging the Slayer, or the driver was not the Slayer.
Blair looked over the crowd and frowned when he saw Joe Hall walking out of the nearby Kult Klub bar with four striking women – none of whom he'd seen before – draped around him.
"I guess he's not the Goth Slayer," Blair said dully.
"Guess not," Jim agreed. He concentrated his sight on the man. "Looks like he forgot to see his hair stylist too. Roots are still showing."
"Doesn't mean he didn't kill Sam," Jim added, seeing the dejected look on his partner's face.
"How do we prove it?"
"We wait for the State to send us the information we need and then we nail his sorry ass to the wall."
Tuesday, 10:30 AM
Jim stood by his truck watching as Serena and her crew examined a Toyota Celica, recently found in front of 'Cecil's Crashed Cars', and the tracks of the truck which had towed it there. Blair would have been with him, but had a class at the university; Jim couldn't remember if he was teaching or going to that particular one. He just knew his partner was not with him. And without Sandburg to ground him, he didn't want to do as in-depth a study of the car as he would have with his guide at his back. Later, when Blair came in, the two of them could go over the car and see if that elusive odor was in the car.
Jim's gaze wandered to the cops doing traffic control and was mildly surprised to see Jenice once again directing traffic.
"Seems Jenice is feeling better, or at least not bored anymore," he said out loud.
"What?" Serena looked up at Jim.
"Just thinking out loud." Jim sat by the woman who was bagging more evidence from the car. "Anything new?"
"No, sorry." Serena shook her head. "Well, the Slayer hasn't dyed his hair yet. The roots are still showing.
"Should make Joe Hall good for it, except he was occupied when our latest victim, Deranged Insanity, was hit."
"And when Sam was hit?"
"Well, we don't have the car," Jim pointed out. "He could still be her killer."
"I'll call you as soon as State sends me the information," she replied. "I hope you can nail him when it comes in."
"Blair agrees, except he's after specific body parts."
"Can't say I blame him."
Jim gave her a grin and walked toward Jenice and her partner, Mike Brighton. He frowned and stopped several yards away. The girl looked tired and cross; she should be fresh, her shift was just several hours old. Granted, she was young and single, and probably liked to go out nights as much as anyone; still he'd always heard she was very responsible.
He saw Mike join her, also looking concerned.
"Having trouble sleeping again?" he overheard the older officer ask.
"No." Jenice shook her head. "Just getting damned tired of either finding ourselves directing traffic around another Goth who got in front of the wrong car, or at the scene where the car was found. I know, I know, they're people with families, but god, I am getting so damned tired of wasting our time and manpower on them when there are others who are suffering so much more."
"Jenice…" Mike's tone was warning.
"Don't start on me, Mike," she snapped. "I know, and I understand, but I can still be damned upset that the same amount of time and money wasn't and isn't being spent on others who are also getting killed."
"Fine, fine, just, don't be so damned vocal about your opinion, Jen," Mike cautioned. "You were suspended once; you can be again."
"I got it, Mike." Jen smiled at her partner even though her tone was glacial. "Mouth shut, lips sealed, thoughts kept to self."
Jim turned away from the two of them, feeling almost guilty at eavesdropping. He hadn't meant to, of course. Still, there was something about the young woman's tone and words that troubled him. Coupled with what Mike had said the other night, and hadn't said, it was not giving him good vibes, as Sandburg would say.
Blair had suspected a rogue cop, and would have suspected Jenice except for the meetings she had gone to. Was there something that he had missed, they had missed, or was Jenice just upset, the way she told Mike?
Jim started back to go over the scene again, when a scent began to tickle his nose. He inhaled deeply, noting that it was the same scent that had been plaguing him at all the other Goth Slayer scenes.
Thursday, 10:00 AM
Serena sat back in her chair and pulled the envelop from the State Forensic Lab from the 'In' basket. They'd been waiting for the information for three long, harrowing days. Everyone had been on pins and needles. It hadn't helped that the car that had taken their colleague had not shown up at any of the several wrecking yards.
She slit open the envelope and pulled out the report. As she read it, she pressed her lips together and sighed. This confirmed what she had suspected from the headlight shards, what she had told Ellison.
The car that had hit Sam, had killed Sam, was a 2000 Towncar.
She sat back again. The Goth Slayer liked smaller cars, the midsize or compact cars. Most had been older cars as well; stolen from used car lots as a rule, though a few had been stolen off the street.
Serena picked up the phone and dialed Ellison's extension. "Jim," she said into the receiver, "I got the news back from State. The car that killed Sam was a 2000 Towncar, midnight gray."
"They sure?" Jim demanded.
= = = = =
Jim put the receiver down and turned to his partner, who was studiously working on reports.
"Save it, whatever it is, Chief," he instructed as he grabbed his jacket. "Let's go."
"Where?" Blair hit the proper buttons on the keyboard and stood, grabbing his jacket and trotting to catch up with the taller man.
"Guess what got back from the State lab this morning?"
"The results of the tests done on the evidence?"
"Yep." Jim hit the down button at the elevator.
"And?" Blair stared up at his partner.
"It was a new Towncar, same color as the one that Joey owns. The one no one has seen since the night of Sam's death."
"The one he said he didn't take out Gothing?"
They entered the elevator car.
"That's the one," Jim nodded. "We didn't have probable cause to see his car before; we do now."
Jim pulled up in front of 'Frankie's Fantastic Ford Dealership' and sighed as Blair jumped out of the truck before the engine was cut off. He stayed by the truck, bouncing on his feet. Jim shook his head as joined the observer. Together they walked across the lot to where Joe Hall was shaking hands with a middle-aged man getting into a new car.
They waited until the car drove away before they approached him.
"I've been waiting for you to come back." He waved to the disappearing car. "Found out anything else?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, we have," Jim nodded. "Not much, but enough. Like, we now know for a fact, a car just like yours is the one that ran over Samantha Lenz – Twisted Illusions."
"Really?" A faint sheen broke out on the salesman's forehead.
"Do you think that we can see your car?" Jim looked around the lot. "I mean, you did drive it in to work today, didn't you?"
"Well, as a matter of fact…"
"After all," Jim's tone was conversational, "everyone saw you two fight."
"Everyone always saw us fight," Joe countered.
"But they usually saw you two make up, right?" Jim smiled at the man. "This time they didn't. But they did see her get run over. And they didn't see you come to her rescue. It might be nice to be able to tell them that you didn't come back and run her over, wouldn't it?"
Jim canted his head and studied the man. He heard the rapid tattoo of the man's heart when he mentioned the car.
"Look, ah," Joe rubbed his mouth and licked his lips. "I got a little confession to make. See, I did take the car out Saturday – the ladies were bitching about sitting in the back of the truck, and of course the cops are cracking down on that behavior, so…" He took a deep breath. "I drove us all to my place – I wasn't kidding about my booze being better than what is served at the bars – and we partied."
"Where's the car?"
"It's still at my apartment," he admitted. "See, when I was driving home…. Well with the ladies all crowded around and a few of them rather high, they sort of made driving difficult. I sort of lost control and ran into the post at the entrance to my apartment complex. When I heard that Twist had been killed by a car like mine, I knew the busted headlight would be suspicious."
"You can check the car out, if you want…"
"Yes, we will want," Jim told him.
"And here's the keys to my truck," he pulled a set of keys out of his pants pocket. "You can check it out too."
"We probably will." Jim took the keys. He stepped away from the man and hit a speed dial. "Simon, I need someone to go and impound Joseph Hall's car."
"Do I need to get a warrant?" Simon's gruff voice demanded.
"No, he volunteered. Could you get someone to supervise the pickup? Oh, and could you have a team check out an entrance post to the apartment complex?" Jim added. "He claims he ran into it while he was trying to get in Sunday morning."
"He's also volunteered to let us check out his truck," Jim went on.
"Oh he did?" Simon's voice sounded suspicious. "And what kind of condition is the poor man in after all this volunteering?"
"He's quite healthy," Jim retorted.
"Of course he is. If you really wanted to hurt him, you wouldn't do it as a bad-ass cop," Simon snorted. "You'd do it as your bad-ass covert ops persona."
"Just get another team over to the dealership and check out his truck, would you, sir?" Jim sighed.
"Of course I will."
The connection was cut. Jim put his phone back in his pocket and nodded at the salesman. "Thanks for your assistance."
"Look, Twist and I were like fire and gasoline with plenty of sparks and explosions." Joe stared first at Jim, then at Blair. "I'll be the first to admit it, and if she were here, she'd agree with me. We fought, we made up, we had sex that never left either of us complaining. We never had anything to fight about that would cause either of us to kill the other." He shrugged. "We might have said we wanted to kill each other, but that's all it ever was."
"You remember what I said earlier?"
"You mean about leaving town? Yeah, I remember," Joe sighed.
Jim pulled into one of the guest parking spaces at the Cascade Regency Apartments. He didn't think the management would mind. Much. They were probably more upset with the yellow plastic around one damaged post at the entrance, with the CIS cars parked close by.
He noted Serena and her team were busy around the post.
"How's it going, Serena?" Jim asked the forensics chief.
"I'm finding a lot of glass shards and paint chips, consistent with a car arguing with a post," she answered. "I can probably match the paint chips to the car directly, so we won't have to wait three days."
"That's good. The sooner I have a reason to bring him in for questioning, the better."
Jim looked up as the police tow truck drove past with the dark gray car on it. He looked at the damage to the driver's side of the car, noting several shades of paint matching the post on the car's crumpled fender. The window was crazed, but not the way one usually sees when the object causing the cracks was a human body falling into it. The one thing he didn't see was blood.
"Unless there's some blood hidden in the grillwork," Serena said, her tone wistful, "I don't think it's the car that hit Sam."
"Hate to say it, but I agree with you." Jim's tone was just as sorrowful.
"I'll go over it with a fine tooth comb once it's in the garage," Serena went on, "but all things considered, I'd say that while dear Joe is a cad and a poor excuse for a man, he's not Sam's killer."
Jim's cell phone interrupted his response. "Yes?"
"Jim," Rafe's voice said, "we've taken tread samples of his truck tires."
"And?" Jim didn't let any hope color his voice.
"Well unless he just recently got a new set of tires, he's not the Goth Slayer."
"Kind of guessed that last night." Jim sighed deeply. It was not a good thing to suddenly not have a prime suspect. "Just be sure those aren't brand new tires, okay?"
"Sure thing, Jim."
"He's not Sam's killer, is he?" Blair's tone was dejected as well as disappointed.
"Sorry, Chief, but I don't think so."
Jim kept quiet; there was little he felt he could say to comfort his friend and partner. Blair exhaled harshly. Jim studied the hard features of his friend.
"There's something I'm missing," he finally said.
"We," Blair corrected him. "There's something we're missing."
"Okay, something we're missing." Jim smiled at his partner. "Think we need to go back to square one?"
"Probably," Blair agreed. "And that scent you keep smelling at the scenes."
Jim groaned good-naturedly. "I'd rather tackle that after a good night's sleep and a decent breakfast," he told the observer.
"Uh huh, and your definition of a good breakfast is what?" Blair gave him a gentle punch on the shoulder. "Bacon, eggs, white toast smothered in butter?" Jim felt his mouth salivate. "Or would you prefer a dozen buttermilk glazed doughnuts all to yourself?"
"You're playing dirty, Chief," Jim complained, barely able to contain his saliva. "You know my weak spots."
"Yours and countless other cops in the western world," Blair chuckled. "Okay, how about you drop me off at the university, then go back to the station and try to crank out a few of those reports we have due?" he suggested. "After you pick me up, I'll spring for dinner somewhere –"
"Only if the restaurant does not have a drive-through window," Blair relented.
"There is nothing wrong with a drive-through," Jim argued.
"I intend to sit down and enjoy this meal," Blair stated. "And I don't mean sit in booths while kids are screaming around me or sit in the truck on the way home, dripping sauces and whatever else on my shirt."
Friday, 9:00 AM
Blair stared at the whiteboard with his writing all over it and frowned. Jim was doing the same from his desk, scowling deeply with frustration.
"So," Jim finally broke the silence, "all we really know is the Goth Slayer has natural light blond hair – ash blond – knows how to hotwire cars and drive a tow truck."
"And either wears that scent that's driving you nuts or carries something impregnated with the odor," Blair added.
"That's an understatement."
"We still don't know what that scent is, do we? I mean, is it a perfume, or aftershave, or deodorant, or what?"
"No, we don't," Jim answered. "And I suppose, before we go any further, we'd better figure out what it is and if it has anything to do with the case or not."
"And once we know what it is, we might figure out why you have those strange visions when you try to identify it." He jerked his head toward Simon's office. "Let's see if we can borrow a conference room or something where we won't be disturbed."
Jim settled himself into the chair and closed his eyes. He could hear Blair's voice, soft, lulling, protective, even if the words weren't distinct any more. They had settled him, and slowly, ever so carefully, brought him to this place where he could learn the identity of the odor.
Jim pictured the scent that had been tormenting him at the scenes. Holding the imagined odor in abstract hands, he let his mind, both conscious and subconscious, study it, savor it, examine it from any and all angles possible, then try a few that were impossible.
Slowly the blank card that held the fragrance began to change; portions of the card started to raise and lower under his fingers. A hazy form started to coalesce in front of him.
As the hazy visions became sharper, so did the ridges on the card; finally the figure was complete and, in this place, solid. Her back was to him, but he knew the person as he now knew the scent without having to read its name on the embossed card.
Still, he let his illusory legs carry him as he walked around the form to view the serene face of his grandmother. She smiled at him, nodding her head in a silent approval, then just as slowly faded from his sight.
"Come on back, Jim."
The distant voice sounded worried, scared. He knew he should listen to it, obey it, but he lingered another half instant, letting himself read the card, now rose-colored, a favorite of his grandmother, with embossed lettering in her delicate handwriting naming the fragrance.
"Follow my voice back; you can do it." The voice was becoming more insistent, more frightened.
Jim took one last look at the card as it gently faded into nothingness, noting the added remarks under the name in a decidedly sharp and upset notation.
"Jim? Come on back."
Touch, a hand on his arm, helped to guide him from this place of otherness to reality.
Jim slowly opened his eyes, looking around, letting himself re-connect with the real universe.
"God, Jim," Blair kept his hand on Jim's arm. "You went deep this time."
"Yes, you did. You nearly stopped breathing once."
"Didn't mean to scare you."
"I know." Blair's breathing calmed as Jim became more animated. "It's just, you've never been so totally under before, you know?"
"Maybe that means we're more in sync."
"Maybe," Blair nodded his head. "So, were you able to figure out what the odor was?"
"Yeah." Jim stretched, noting the time. "I did."
"And now I have to find out who besides Vera in Personnel wears White Shoulders."
"Whoa!" Blair blinked. "No wonder you had problems identifying it."
"Actually I think it's the Hobbes Number Nine with the cordite that made identifying it difficult," Jim responded.
"Gun oil and gun powder?" Blair's eyebrow rose. "We talking about a cop here?"
"I think so, Chief."
"But who?" Blair frowned. "I mean –"
"Jenice Martin, for one." Jim let disappointment sound in his voice.
"Look, I know I said she had motive, but –"
"– she went to counseling." Jim looked at his partner as he finished the sentence. "And you said she understood about vengeance. But –"
"But?" Blair stared at his friend.
"You weren't with me at the last scene." Jim looked at Blair. He inhaled, exhaled and tried to keep the disillusionment out of his voice. "You didn't hear her complaining about the time and money being spent on this case instead of on other cases."
"I know she was a bit bummed when Timmons got off –" Blair looked at Jim. "I mean, who wouldn't be? You think she was just quoting the party line, so to speak, so she could get back to work?"
"Maybe." Jim let his head drop and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Might as well accept what seemed to be the truth of the matter and face it instead of ignore it or, worse, repress it. "Maybe she was just making sure we wouldn't look her way when the Slayer's activities were discovered. Or maybe she thought no one would think of a serial killer with a hit and run MO. Or that anyone would look at a cop as the killer."
"Anything's possible," Blair admitted. "Including you could be wrong you know."
"I know. Can you check the dates of the Slayer's attacks with Jen's days off?" Jim asked. "To see if they coincide?"
"Sure," Blair nodded. "You going somewhere?"
"Get a cup of coffee and something to eat, then check out some stuff on one of our other cases."
"Try the new vending machine," Blair suggested. "It's got stuff that's good for you."
"Good for me?" Jim choked.
"Good for you."
"That's not why you buy stuff from a vending machine, Sandburg," Jim growled good-naturedly as he walked out of the conference room.
Blair headed toward the bullpen and the whiteboard. "And while you're there, get me something as well."
"Ho-hos, Ding Dongs or Twinkies?"
Blair sighed as he entered Traffic Division. He needed Jenice's schedule for the past several months. Normally he, or Jim, would let Simon know of their need and let him pave the way, calm any troubled waters and otherwise keep peace in the precinct. Unfortunately, that means usually took several days, something they didn't have. Besides, he reasoned to himself as he looked over the busy division, the request could get leaked to Jenice; his way, there would be nothing to leak.
"Hi, Blair," a tall willowy blond smiled down at the observer. "Haven't seen you in a long time."
"Hi yourself, Renee. Married life seems to agree with you," Blair grinned at her.
"It sure has," Renee grinned back.
"But why are you here instead of in a cruiser?"
"Because I have a quack for a doctor, that's why," she snorted as she led Blair to a desk. "Seems he doesn't think a pregnant woman should lift more than twenty-five pounds."
"Your flack jacket and belt weigh that much!" Blair gasped.
"More, actually." She sat down and started working on some reports.
"You're pregnant?" Blair lifted an eyebrow in surprise.
"Yeah." She sighed. "Only three months, but as a result of his damned restrictions, I can't work on the street."
"I'm stuck behind the desk until after the baby is born and I come back from maternity leave."
"Now that really sucks!"
"Only one happy is Brandon," Renee sighed. "He says I should be taking it easy. I tell him activity is better for the baby and me."
"I guess I can't blame him," Blair smiled. "And by the way, congratulations."
"Oh well, at least I'm able to study for the sergeant's exam." Renee smiled up Blair. Then her expression changed. "Oh damn! Blair, would you be a dear and watch the phones for me? Please? I've suddenly developed the smallest bladder in the precinct."
"Sure," Blair nodded.
He watched her run to the ladies' room, then slid behind her desk and smiled as he noted she was logged in. The smile got larger when he found that she had the clearance that he needed to get to the file he wanted.
He quickly navigated to the needed files and sent them to Jim's mailbox. He'd be able to get them from there and, hopefully, keep Renee from getting in too much trouble.
Just as quickly and skillfully he returned to computer to the page she'd had it on, and was casually looking over reports when Renee returned.
"I hope it's just the bladder that's been sending you to the ladies' so much," Blair commented, concern creeping into his voice.
"You mean morning sickness?" Renee smiled and gave him a hasty kiss on the forehead. "You are so sweet, Blair. No, I'm not having any trouble with that."
"Well, there's this tea…" he began.
"I know. I've gone to that store that you recommend," Renee nodded. "I've been using it every day. No queasiness at all. But not even herbal remedies can stop the frequent bathroom breaks."
"No, I don't suppose they can," Blair agreed as he left the division.
Blair looked at the board with the new information on it. A deep sigh slipped through his lips.
"Problem, Chief?" Jim asked from the doorway of the bullpen.
"Depends on your definition of a problem." Blair sat down, leaned his head back and sighed again. "And on what you were hoping I'd find once I got Jen's schedule."
"How'd you get it so fast?" Jim snagged two cups of coffee from the local carafe and came over to his desk and sat down.
"If you don't know, you don't have to lie when you're asked," Blair answered as he straightened up. "It's pretty damning, Jim."
"I can see that." Jim's subdued voice mirrored the disappointment in his eyes.
"But it's still just circumstantial," Blair noted, a hopeful tone in his voice.
"I suppose so," Jim agreed, less hope in his voice, "but I don't think so."
"Why? Why would you now believe that she's the Slayer? She comes from a long line of cops."
"She wasn't interested in becoming a cop," Jim sighed. "At least not at first. She was a little hellion getting into all kinds of trouble. Nothing too serious, at least, but still trouble. Jack always said she was too much like him and his sister, her mother, for her own good." He took a sip of coffee, then continued. "She enrolled in the Academy just to please her folks I think. She never really shined at the Academy her first semester –"
"Hey, some folks are just average, run-of-the-mill students," Blair objected.
"Not Jen; she might not be the genius you are, but she was definitely not a C average student in high school," Jim countered. "Anyway soon after she started at the Academy she did something stupid. It should have gotten her kicked out of the Academy at least, and headed for jail at most, but the cop that arrested her was a friend of her father and of Jack."
"What could she have done?" Blair frowned.
"Jack never said, and to be truthful, while Jack was friend of mine, I was not that interested in his personal life." Jim studied his coffee cup then looked at the whiteboard again. "At any rate, he cleaned up her mess, then cleaned up her attitude, much the way he cleaned up mine and managed to keep her in the Academy. She buckled down, improved her grades and graduated with a decent grade point average, joined the force, and has been in uniform ever since."
"Jim, she's got dark hair. The Slayer –"
"You didn't get to look at her file, I take it,"
"Uh, that would be a no," Blair stared at his partner. "I can't flimflam Vera the way I can some of the younger ladies around here."
"Well, she used to have blond hair," Jim told him.
"There are blonds, and then there are blonds," Blair reminded his partner. "Just how blond was she?"
"Very blond," Jim answered. And everyone, Jack included, used to tease her with dumb blond jokes. I guess it didn't bother her much in high school, but once she got back into the Academy…"
"She wanted a little respect," Blair finished.
"She sure did. So she dyed her hair darker. Seemed to help a little. At least the dumb blond jokes stopped."
"I asked before. You never answered. Just how blond was she?" Blair stared at his partner.
"Just a minute." Jim's attention moved from his partner to a wall near the coffee maker. "There it is." He got up and motioned for Blair to follow him. "Here." He removed a picture from the bulletin board. "Last one that Jack was able to attend." He pointed to a young woman standing between Jack and him. "That's Jen."
Blair took the picture and studied it closely. "There's blond and then there's blond," he repeated. "And Jen –" Blair took a deep breath and stared up Jim. "And she was very blond." He handed the picture back to the detective to return to the board. "Think her hair is light enough to be considered ash blond?"
"I don't know," Jim shrugged.
"Damn it, Jim!" Blair paced in the bullpen. "She went to counseling! She understood about the futility of vengeance!"
"You mean she was able to quote the futility of vengeance." Jim shook his head.
"You think she fooled the doctor?!"
Jim shrugged again. "Why not?"
"It's possible, but usually only if someone has studied psych. I mean, I probably could, if I wanted to, I suppose," Blair mused. "But Jenice didn't seem to be one to be able to play that kind of game."
"Vengeance can make folks do some things they normally never would," Jim pointed out. "She could have spent some time studying what she needed to say, how to say it and how she needed to act to show she was on the road to recovery."
"Yeah, I suppose. But a good doctor should have been able to see that she was faking it."
"Key words: good doctor." Jim walked back to the whiteboard. "There are a few doctors on staff that probably aren't very good. Someone with a little savvy could probably outfox them."
"Someone like me, you mean."
"No, you'd totally bamboozle them." Jim grinned at Blair humorlessly. "Someone like Jen, though, could probably figure out how to appease the shrink so she could get off suspension."
"I just –" Blair began, then stopped. "Damn it, if you're right, she managed to outwit the doc and me!"
Jim stared at his friend. "Blair, you're no more telepathic than I am. You can be fooled as easily as the next person. Besides, you weren't thinking of her as a suspect. You were thinking of her as a fellow officer."
Blair glared back at Jim. "I should have been thinking of her as a suspect. You've taught me, hell, following you around for all these years should have taught me, that anyone can be a suspect, that no one is exempt."
"So when's her next day off?" Jim steered the conversation away from the blame game.
"According to this," Blair scrutinized the schedule, "tonight."
"Tonight?" He looked at his watch. "Let's see how fast we can get a stakeout together."
"We going to watch Jen?"
"Do what?" Jim asked. "She'd probably catch on that she was being tailed. The only way we're going to stop this is to stop her in the act."
"How many folks you want?"
"As many as we can get together on short notice," Jim answered. "I'll take care of things with Simon. Oh, and call Eddie in Homicide. He should be in on this."
"Yeah, he should be," Blair agreed. "And we probably should beef up patrols around the used car lots as well."
"Care to give us a hint on which ones we should concentrate on?"
"Maybe the ones around the Goth clubs? How should I know?" Blair stared incredulously at his partner.
"Well, you are the Shaman of the Great City. Do something a shaman would do and narrow it down for us." Jim grinned at the shorter man.
Blair continued to stare at the taller man, his expression changing from incredulous to sarcastic. "Oh very funny, big guy. Ha, ha. I'm doubled over with laughter here."
Jim frowned. "Well, Willow does that thing with the crystal to find the demons –"
"That's the Charmed Ones," Blair interrupted him. "You know, the three sisters. Though," he mused, "Willow would be capable of doing crystal divination, I suppose." He looked at the map he'd constructed. "Probably concentrate on these two blocks here," he decided. "They're the ones that have been hit the most. Hopefully we can catch her before she runs someone else over."
"Hopefully," Jim agreed. "But we still need to stake out the club sites."
"Oh joy," Blair rolled his eyes. "All right, I get the coffee and snacks for everyone. You set up the schedule."
"Well, you're with me," Jim reminded him. "So there had better be something besides that tofu frutti tutti that you had the last time."
"That's tofu tutti frutti, and I thought you liked it." Blair sounded hurt. "You sure ate enough of it."
"I was starving and that was all there was in the cab."
"All right already," Blair sighed and shook his head. "I'll be sure there's more than tofu tutti frutti."
"Twinkies?" Jim asked eagerly.
"Anything but," Blair stated firmly. "You Twinkied yourself silly on them last time I got them for you." He rolled his eyes in memory, shaking his head sadly. "Talk about a sugar rush…"
"So why are you getting to get the snacks together while I have to be the bad guy and set the schedules?"
"One," Blair ticked off a finger, "I know what everyone likes and know where I can get them cheap. Two, you're lead on the case; I'm just the sidekick. Sidekicks get the food. Only," Blair sat down, dejection on his face, "I'm not even that for this case."
Friday, 9:30 PM
The driver sat in the car and watched as the salesman moved away from the desired car in the corner of the 'Awesome Used Cars' lot. A grimace on the driver's face might have been a smile, but it was too fleet for anyone to determine what it was.
Once the area was deserted, the driver got out of the large black 4x4 and, pulling a ball cap over a sweaty forehead, moved to the car that had been chosen. The door opened, causing a sigh to escape parted lips.
The car, one of the newer Nissan Altimas, wouldn't slip into gear without the key; unfortunately the key was nowhere close by. Hands pulled tools out of pockets and manipulated the column until the shift lever finally slid into neutral. Slipping out of the car, the thief pushed the car until it was off the lot and positioned behind the 4x4, then applied the chains to attach the car to the truck.
The driver slid back into the cab of the 4x4 and carefully drove away.
Saturday, 1:00 AM
Jim looked around, seeing the signs of the crowd leaving to continue their partying elsewhere. He had parked the truck in the shadows near 'Crypt Café', where he had a good view of the surrounding area, but hoped to be inconspicuous. He spared a glance at Blair, noting the pen and paper in his hands.
"Taking notes, professor?"
"Yes," Blair answered. "You know, this is a fascinating subculture that needs more study."
Jim cut him off. "Save the sales pitch for your professors or your students. They'll understand everything you say more than I will."
"Jim." There was a disappointed tone in Blair's voice. "You really need to broaden your horizons."
"Blair, I have you," Jim informed his guide. "I have a question, I ask you, you come up with an answer for me."
"And when I'm not around?" Blair raised an eyebrow imperiously.
"How often do you think that will happen?"
"Isn't once more than enough?"
The black Nissan drove around the area near 'Goth Club'. It was getting close to closing time. They would be coming out soon. A frown creased the brow under the ball cap. That truck with the two passengers hadn't moved at all. A light flashed from an oncoming car, lighting the truck cab and the passengers.
The lower lip was nibbled worriedly. A choice had to be made: just drive by and disappear, or continue with the mission, a mission that had been sworn to. Of course, the driver decided as the nibbling on the lower lip slowed, the mission could be completed, and then work on eluding capture.
It would be difficult, but not impossible.
Jim shifted restlessly as they continued their lookout of the area, then frowned as he dug around in the bag for something to munch on. He kept finding the tutti frutti bars.
"I thought you promised no tofu tutti frutti," he growled.
"No, I promised I'd have something besides the tutti frutti," Blair countered. "You ate all your snacks. Now you're starting in on mine."
"That was all you got me to eat while on stakeout?"
"It's a stakeout, not a picnic," Blair snorted, rolling his eyes.
"What you had in that sack for me wasn't enough to keep a Chihuahua from starving," Jim retorted.
"Only if the Chihuahua was the size of a greyhound bus, a size which you will be obtaining if you keep eating like that."
"Come on, there has to be –" He sat up and stared out the window.
"What's up, Jim?"
"That's the third time that car has come around here."
Blair frowned and tried to see out the window. "Could they be waiting to pick up someone?"
"Bars aren't doing last call for at least another forty-five minutes."
"Looking for a parking space?"
"Doubt it." Jim shook his head. "There are three spaces on the other side of the street and one four spaces back."
"You think…?" Blair looked over at his partner.
"Maybe," Jim nodded. "Maybe."
The Nissan continued down the street near the 'Goth Club', the driver's attention split between the street and the rearview mirror. The driver could almost see the two sets of eyes following the car's every move. Perhaps tonight had not been such a good night. The police department, as well as the media, was paying more attention to the Goths. Pity they hadn't been paying attention sooner. Well, they couldn't do anything; driving around wasn't a crime, and the car would be returned to the lot from which it had been borrowed missing only a few gallons of gas, if that.
Sounds of revelers shattered the silence as several Goths staggered out of the Pagan Palace. The three teetered and tottered, attempting to balance each other. One broke away and stumbled toward a large SUV.
The Nissan's driver felt the familiar flush of rage rise, burning an already dry throat. Another drunk driver, free to strike down innocent victims, unless the cops in the truck arrested him or called a patrol car to stop him.
If they called. If they acted. If, if. If only….
The chance wasn't worth it. The ball cap dipped with the driver's head. They wouldn't do anything to save innocents from the drunken Goths; it was up to the driver to keep the innocents safe.
"I think that's her, Chief." Jim indicated the black sedan. "Let the others know."
Blair picked up the mike. "Okay guys, heads up. You're looking for a nineteen ninety-nine Nissan Altima four-door sedan, black. License number –" He squinted trying to read the metal.
"Seven-seven-seven BRE," Jim supplied.
Blair repeated the number into the mike.
"Looks like the safety sticker is outdated," Jim added.
"I've seen it," Rafe acknowledged.
"So have I," Miles responded.
"Make that a ditto from me," Dills stated.
"Four for four, Sandy," Megan added.
"For now, just watch it. It could be the Slayer; and it could just be someone waiting to pick up someone at the clubs.
"Well, if she makes another pass," Jim said, "I might pull her over just for that lapsed sticker. See what happens."
"Jenice," Jim answered. "Remember?"
"Could you see the driver?"
"Nope." Jim shrugged. "But, it is her night off."
"It could still be someone else," Blair stated.
"Yeah, it could be," Jim said. "But I doubt it."
The driver of the Nissan took a deep breath and looked around. The Goth was definitely heading toward a car and, in his condition, the chances of him not hitting someone were too small to be comfortable.
The ball cap shook slowly side to side as the decision was made.
It was probably reckless, bordering on stupid, but it had to be done. That drunken menace had to be stopped.
The foot pressed down on the accelerator….
"Shit!" Jim turned the key in the ignition and hit the lights and sirens. "It's her! It's the Slayer!"
Blair grabbed the mike. "Heads up! It's the Slayer!"
"Looks like she –"
"Or he –"
"– has a target."
"We got the Goth, Jimbo," Megan's voice sounded back at them as a Taurus moved into the street between the black Nissan and the Goth. "You get that bugger!"
The Nissan swerved and slewed around in the center of the street, then straightened out. Jim moved his truck down the street, stopping the Nissan from making a U-turn and trying to get the Goth from another angle.
The Nissan's backup lights flashed briefly as the car did a fast reverse Y-turn. The motor revved as the car sped down the street.
"Damn it! She's rabbiting!" Jim swore.
Blair grabbed the mike. "One-Zebra-Two in pursuit of a nineteen-ninety-nine Nissan Altima four-door sedan, black. License number seven-seven-seven BRE, westbound on Fifth."
Immediately the calm voice of the night dispatcher echoed the information, "All units: One-Zebra-Two in pursuit of a nineteen-ninety-nine Nissan Altima four-door sedan, black. License number seven-seven-seven BRE westbound on Fifth."
Jim maneuvered his truck around the sparse night traffic, noting the traffic signs as they flashed past them. "I think she's heading toward the downtown district."
"Or trying to make us think that so he can double back and get to the wrecking yard and his four-by-four," Blair countered.
"Whatever." Jim didn't bother to correct his partner. "Help me box this chump so that we don't wipe out some poor stupid partying schmuck that's out on the road."
Blair nodded. "Consider it done. Rafe, run parallel on Fourth and cut in front of us on Mason."
"Megan, if you've got that Goth safe, run parallel on Sixth. Make sure he doesn't cut over and double back."
"Will do, Sandy."
"Dills, do the same on Fourth. Miles, stick behind us just in case he manages to get around us."
"You got it Sandburg."
"Blair, we're running out of time here. The bars are closing, which means there's going to be more cars on the road with impaired drivers."
"I know! I know!" Blair growled. "Wait!" he commanded as he watched the small sedan start to turn off the street. "Any unit! Block off Fifth at Harris! Dills, make sure that he can't get around you! Make sure he stays on Harris. Stop her from doubling back."
The Nissan's driver swore softly and continuously. A few colorful invectives were for the police that remained hot in pursuit, but most were self-depreciative. It should never have come to this. As the old instructors had always preached: listen to that little voice inside your head; it may one day save your life.
Well, the little voice had been ignored, and the price for doing so had to be paid.
The driver turned the car away from the unmarked cars, in the opposite direction desired. Well, opposite direction for now. Perhaps speed would get the Nissan around the police cars.
"Sandburg, where are you taking us?" Jim asked as he continued to stay close to the Nissan. "Is this the way to the Sandburg Zone?"
Blair spared Jim a glare as he continued to issue directions in the mike. "Rafe, move over to Mason and run parallel to Harris, in case he manages to get by us."
"I've got it under control," Blair responded.
"But if we don't get off the main roadways soon, we're gonna have to cut off the chase," Jim snapped. "It's getting too dangerous."
"This from the man with a history of car chases during rush hour, of crashing cars to get the perps, and who has a high risk insurance policy due to said practices."
"Soon to be a thing of the past," Jim vowed.
"The high risk tag, or the driving?"
The Nissan suddenly dove for a side street and sped away. Jim forced the truck into a sharp U-turn, slamming the passenger against the back of the seat and the door. Jim's arm swept out and braced the observer from flying forward.
"Sorry I asked," Blair gasped.
"Never mind, just help me get her!"
The Nissan soared down the side road toward another main street. Knowing the city helped, of course. Had the car continued down Harris there would have been no escape; now there was a chance.
Blair fumbled for the dropped mike as Jim pressed his foot to the floor of the truck. "Miles, can you force him – her – back this way?"
"I'm on it," Miles answered.
"All units, block off all of Harris from Sixth Street to Mills. Block off Sixth from Harris to Mason. No one gets through. No one!"
Sirens sounded in the distance as the small car continued to race toward freedom. The driver licked dry lips nervously. Epithets were muttered less frequently; the hands gripping the steering wheel were bone white. Escape was getting further and further away.
"All units," Blair continued to issued instructions, "block off Mason from Fifth to Mills."
"Nice going," Jim nodded. "Still gives her several blocks to play in."
"For now, not for long," Blair promised. "Rafe, start to crowd the Nissan. Head it toward Martin."
"Martin?" Jim's brow furrowed. "Isn't that where you …?"
"Where I used to live before some idiots decided to blow up my nice drafty warehouse?" Blair asked.
"Yep. Briar patch coming up."
The Nissan's driver gripped the steering wheel even tighter and let the workman's boot slam the accelerator to the floor, mindless of the speed or the innocent passersby on the street.
Escape was all but hopeless. They were crowding the small car into another box canyon of streets.
Still, if the driver could get to the docks, there was a chance. The car would be a loss, but there was a chance that a swim up the coast would lead to freedom.
The caravan of cars led by the small black Nissan had left the downtown district, and was now in the warehouse area of the city. At least the traffic here was less than in the city and the chances of accidents were dwindling.
"Okay guys," Blair spoke into the mike, "time to circle the wagons."
Jim gunned the truck's engine one last time. The older vehicle jumped and its engine roared as it moved alongside the small sedan. On the other side of the Nissan a dark Taurus did the same.
The Nissan sped ahead briefly, then slammed to a stop. The driver's door opened and a small figure darted from the car.
The two vehicles came to an abrupt halt beside the Nissan. Eddie tumbled out of the Taurus and took off after the racing person. Jim leaped from the truck and dashed after both of them.
The three figures ran between the warehouses, leaping over refuse and dodging around larger rubbish. The two detectives slowly gained on their quarry, who continued to dodge and twist around the trash in the alleyway, doing whatever it took to keep the distance between them as much as possible.
Then the runner zigged to the left while Jim zagged to the right and he found himself closer to the runner than before. He forced tiring muscles to stretch even more and moved closer to the Slayer. He gauged the distance, and threw himself at the small figure in a flying tackle, bringing the fugitive to the ground.
Jim didn't hesitate on grabbing his cuffs and placing them on the suspect. Once the cuffs were on, he stood and, with the Eddie's help, pulled the Slayer upright as Blair and the others joined him.
Angrily Eddie tore the ball cap from the head of the Slayer and stared into the eyes of Jenice Martin.
"Jen?" Blair panted in disbelief.
"Jen," Jim said, sadness in his voice. "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right anything you say –"
"I know the drill," Jenice spat at the sentinel.
"– anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you by the court. Do you understand these rights?"
"I ought to," Jenice snarled. "I've said it to others often enough."
"Why?" Blair demanded. "Why? You told Sam vengeance only created a sea of trouble. What –?"
"This isn't vengeance, this is justice! Something the court system doesn't seem to understand anymore. Or carry out." Jenice tried to pull away from Miles. He tightened his grip on her arms. "They were drunk, damn it! They even might have had drugs. They left the bars intoxicated and under the influence and didn't give a damn what they did to others on their home. They didn't care if there were innocent kids on their way home from parties, or whatever. They only cared about their own pleasures. And if they were caught by the police, the courts let them go with a slap on the wrist."
"Not always, Jen," Jim said. "Not always."
"Once was one time too many, Jim. My sister and brother never had a chance. They were hit so hard they had splinters instead of bones. They lay in agony in ICU for over a month before they died. And their murderer gets a free walk and a new life.
"So I made sure that no one else would have to suffer the way Mom and Dad did. The way my sister and brother did. I showed them justice would prevail."
"And now, Jen, you'll get a taste of that same justice." Jim looked at her sadly. "Perhaps it will be gentler with you than you were with the Goths."
Jenice stared up at Jim, a frown of confusion on her face. Slowly the confusion faded, replaced by misery as her eyes blinked and her face crumpled in on itself.
Jim looked over at Eddie. "Go ahead, Eddie, take her in."
Continue on to Act 4
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