Saturday, 10:00 AM

Jim and Blair watched the tableau in the interrogation room through the one-way mirror. Jenice Martin was sitting on one side, thin lipped, her hands folded and resting on the table, still cuffed, her gaze fixed on the wall. Eddie Miles was sitting across from her, the tape machine setting on the table between them idle, as was the camera. Once she'd been processed, she had refused to utter a word.

Well, she'd said four before finally not saying a word. "I want my lawyer." And of course after that, nothing was said on either side of the table until the harried-looking woman had shown up.

Eddie had stepped out of the room after making sure the camera and tape recorder were turned off.

Jim and Blair also stepped away from the window as Eddie joined them. Jim turned as Michael Brighton burst into the area.

"I heard about it, but I don't believe it!" he stormed. "I mean, I'd know if she was – if she had –"

"Would you?" Jim asked him. "Or rather, didn't you?"

"Now look –" Mike moved into Jim's personal space and pointed a finger at the man.

"Mike, neither of us wants to believe that Jen could be so heartless as to run down those kids just because they were Goths." Jim ignored the finger and the threatening stance of the street cop. "Hell, neither of us wants to believe that she could run over Sam."

"She couldn't, Jim," Mike's voice nearly broke. "Maybe the others. But not Sam. She couldn't do that to Sam. Could she?" His voice finally broke. "Did she?"

"I don't know, Mike," Jim shook his head sadly. "I-I just don't know."

"Well if she didn't kill Sam," Blair demanded, "who the hell did?"


Jim looked at the report, fresh out of the printer, which Blair handed him. It was rather long, even for the verbose anthropologist.

"Sure you didn't leave anything out?" he asked.

"I tried to be thorough." Blair was terse as well as tense.

Obviously he was still upset about Jen being the Slayer, the one who murdered Sam. Well, that made two of them, Jim mused.

"I can tell." Jim signed his name and set the report in the 'Out' box.

"Any special reason why you gave the credit to Miles?"

"Because he worked on the case long and hard." Jim stood up. "Because it was really his case and we were only giving him a hand to help him over a rough spot."

"Because you don't want to be the main detective who testifies against your friend's niece and sends her to prison," Blair added, seeing the drawn and pinched expression on his friend's face that usually accompanied a complete shutdown of emotion. "I guess that's why you couldn't identify the scent at first."

"Yeah, maybe."

"So the women that you saw when you were trying to ID the scent at first…?"

"They were women I felt had betrayed me, one way or another." Jim shrugged, trying to keep his tone nonchalant.

"And now Jen is added to that list." Blair exhaled. "No wonder you had a hard time."

"Yeah, well…."

"You'll have to testify at her trial at some point, you know," Blair noted neutrally.

"Of course I know that!" Jim exploded. "And, no, I don't want to. I don't want to be the reason she's in prison for the rest of her life. Or that because of me, she'll be on death row."

"That lawyer of hers only looks tired and clueless," Blair mentioned casually. "I heard she's going to subpoena Jen's records from the time she was on suspension – show that the doctor wasn't competent and sent her back to work instead of continuing to treat her. Maybe her lawyer can get her declared mentally incompetent, get her sent to Conover instead of prison or death row. Maybe then she'll get the help she needed, she deserved."

"Maybe," Jim shrugged, looking at Blair with his bleakest expression. "And then again, maybe not."

"Jim, I have to believe that she's insane." Blair stared at his partner. "I can't believe she would knowingly hurt, let alone kill, Sam. I have to believe that she was not in her right mind. And I have to believe that, given time and care, she'll get better."

"And when she's better, what will she think then?" Jim returned his stare. "How will she feel then?"

"I –" Blair closed his eyes. "I don't know."

"I do." Jim's jaw tightened.

"And –?"

"And I already called Eddie and suggested he keep her on a suicide watch."

"Sui –" Blair gulped.

"Could you live with yourself if you realized that you were a serial killer?" Jim's stare became bleak and cold.

"No." Blair shook his head.

"Neither could I. And I'm betting Jen couldn't either." Jim tossed his pencil into the desk drawer. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready to blow this place."

"I'm more than ready."

"Good," Jim nodded. "We could probably still make this afternoon's races."

"Do you think we have time to stop by Stan's so I can get my car?" Blair asked.

"Yeah, provided we don't have to hit an ATM on the way."

"I won't need to get any cash," Blair said. "Since you're a friend of mine, or rather, I'm a friend of yours, he trusts my check."

"Then be afraid, Sandburg," Jim said wickedly. "Be very afraid."


Saturday near noon

Jim cast an appraising eye over the boxy dark green car in front of 'Stan's Body Shop'. "She looks as good as new," he noted at last.

Blair was staring at the invoice Stan had handed him, especially at the bottom line on the last of three pages. "That's because it is practically brand new," he finally got out. "I don't think I paid this much for it when I bought it!"

Jim peered at the page, shuddered at the price he saw, then shook his head, "No, I don't think you did, Chief."

"Well, for this price I hope it runs like new," Blair breathed.

"Relax," Jim chuckled. "That's one thing about Stan – his work is guaranteed."

"For ninety days. Watch it crap out on the ninety-first day."

"Not if he wants us to keep his kids in college, it won't," Jim snorted as he started for his truck. "See you at the track after you pay up?"

"I'm going to have to go to the track after this," Blair grunted as he got out his checkbook and headed toward the office. "If I win the Trifecta, I might be able to pay for this."

"Uh, Detective Ellison," Stan called from the office. "Can I see you a minute?"

Jim frowned, but turned and made his way to the office. "What's wrong, Stan? You know Blair's good for it."

"Oh, I know that," Stan chuckled nervously. "It's not about the check, Detective. It's-it's something else."

"Something else?" Jim's frown deepened.

"Yeah." Stan's balding head bobbed up and down excitedly. "Follow me, this way."

His finger waggled as he set off toward the back of the yard. Several dozen cars were parked along a chain-link fence; some were still damaged, others were in various stages of repair, probably waiting for parts, while still others were finished and waiting to be picked up.

One stood out among the cars; a nearly new Towncar of dark gray with a great deal of grill damage and a crazed windshield.

"That's the car I want you to see." Stan stood by the car, his expression grim.

Jim continued to study the car, letting the mechanic talk.

"It came in Monday," Stan went on. "It was brought in by – well, by another established customer. Now, normally I don't do things like this, but, well, his explanation just didn't ring true."

"You said that about some of my explanations to what happened to my truck." Jim looked at Stan with a raised eyebrow, making Stan turn a dusty shade of red.

"Yeah, well," Stan cleared his throat, "yours sounded just a little far-fetched. But after catching some of those chases of yours on the news…. His –" Stan shrugged expressively. "His was totally unbelievable."

"How so?" Jim asked.

"See all that damage?"

"Yeah."

"Well, he claimed it was caused when his wife hit a neighbor's cat." Stan shook his head. "A cat, he tells me! Let me tell you, I've seen that kind of damage before and it ain't done by no damn housecat. Least, no housecat I've ever seen."

Jim frowned thoughtfully at the explanation then considered the damage again. "I see what you mean."

"Would have to be the size of a mountain lion to cause this much damage," Stan continued. "Anyway, I'm kinda worried that the car might be a piece of evidence or something. So, would you check it out for me? So I can fix it with a clear conscious?"

"Okay, Stan."

Jim walked closer to the car, careful not to touch it. He knelt and scanned the damaged grill, then stood and studied the crazed windshield. Finally he stepped back and pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket.

"Well?" Stan asked worriedly.

"Can you sort of delay starting work on this car for a while?" Jim asked the mechanic.

Stan snorted and waved his arm toward the rest of the yard. "You see all this work? Yeah, I can put it on the back burner. Why?"

"Well," Jim moved closer to the car, still keeping far enough back so he wouldn't touch anything, "I doubt if it was ever used by the Goth Slayer –"

"Oh thank God!" Stan breathed.

"– but I do think it was involved in a hit and run."

"Shit."


Monday, 9:00 AM

"You know, you could wait like every other detective, Detective." Serena stared at Jim as he leaned on her forensics’ lab counter.

"I could," Jim agreed, "but then you'd be siccing Simon or Wolfe on me wondering what the hell was wrong with me."

"All too true, I suppose," Serena sighed. "Shall I guess why you're here?"

"Do you really have to?"

"The results on the car in Stan's yard."

"Bingo."

"Final report isn't in yet," Serena told him. She held up a hand as she saw the man's glare sharpen. "I'm expecting it this morning. Soon." She watched the jaw tighten. "Jim, I'll bring the report to you as soon as I get it. I couldn't put it on a fast track since it's not connected to any crime."

"Not yet, anyway," Jim said. "All right, I understand. It's just Stan is worried that he's sitting on some evidence."

"I told you, I'll get it done as soon as I can. Now go." She glared back at him, her hands on her hips. "Go, Detective. Quit scaring my staff. Go! Detect something!"

Jim held the glare for a minute, then gave her a half smile. "Okay, Serena."


Simon Banks chewed on his already mangled cigar and waited for one detective to enter the bullpen. There was something not right and he was going to get to the bottom of it.

"Ellison!" he bellowed when he saw the detective enter the room with a cup of coffee. "My office. Now."

"Sir?" Jim closed the door behind him and set his cup down on the desk. "Something wrong?"

"You tell me." Simon glared at him. "I heard that you have Serena working on a car that isn't even a part of a case. What? You need more work now that the Goth Slayer case is closed?"

"No sir," Jim shook his head. "But Stan had a car come in that looks like it was involved in a hit and run."

"I see."

"He's worried it might have been used in a Goth Slaying, and considering it matches the type of car that hit Sam…" Jim took a deep breath. "He's just trying to be a good citizen, Simon."

"Okay," Simon sighed. "Just don't let it take top priority."

"No, sir." Jim shook his head.


Jim sat back in his chair and read the file of Michael Jordan Sanderson, the owner of the car that was still in Stan's lot, still sitting along the fence, waiting to be fixed. It was rather thin, he noted. The man had only one speeding ticket on his record, nothing more.

He frowned and tapped a few numbers on the phone. Stan had said that Sanderson had mentioned the wife had been driving the car when it hit whatever it hit. He only had a report on the husband. He needed the file on the wife.

He couldn't actually link it to the Slayer case, but at the same time, he couldn't say the Slayer hadn't used it. Not until the forensics showed it wasn't connected. Which, he figured, wouldn't take too long now. There hadn't been the telltale scent on the interior, nor any fibers from the coveralls.

They had yet to find the car that taken Sam's life and Jen wasn't talking about that night.

Actually, Jenice wasn't talking to the police at all, following her lawyer's instructions. That woman wasn't letting Jenice say anything, not even her name. While it probably was a good thing for the defense, for her defense, it made it hard for the police, and the prosecutor, to know exactly how many hit and runs to charge Jenice with.

It was probably going to turn out that Stan had a car that had been driven by a person who'd had too much to drink and hit a pedestrian.

A simple DUI hit and run.

Then all he'd have to do would be find the poor victim of the DUI.


Serena stared at the report that had been handed to her by a very distressed Monique. She could see why the woman had been in tears.

"You're sure of this?"

"I ran it five times, Serena. Five! I had to be sure! The results were always the same."

"I see. Thank you."

It wasn't what she expected. It wasn't what anyone expected.

It probably wasn't what Jim was expecting either.

She picked up the folder and walked out of the lab. This was not something that should be transmitted over the phone.


Jim sat down, leaned back in his chair, and read the file on Millicent Sanderson. He wished Blair were here so he could bounce ideas off the man. Fortunately, he only had a short while to wait for Blair to come in and assist him.

Suddenly he sat upright and reread the portion of the file he had just read.

Millie had had two DUI convictions within the last three years. Shit, her insurance rate was probably through the roof, if any insurance company would cover her. The only way she could get her license back was to get an interlock system on her car.

Jim pulled the file back on the husband and on the Towncar. According to the paperwork, only Michael Sanderson's name was on the title. And, according to the insurance paperwork, only Michael drove the new car.

Yet Stan had said the husband had intimated that the wife had been driving.

Had the wife taken the car out on the sly, gotten a little drunk and hit someone and not told her husband?

Serena walked in, her face pinched and strained.

"Serena?" Jim stood and pulled a chair over for her.

Serena waved it aside and thrust a file folder at him savagely.

"Serena, what's wrong?"

"Read it, Jim." Her voice was low and tense. "I-I don't…. Just read it."

Jim flipped open the file and scanned the report. He felt the blood drain from his face and he sat down. He stared up at Serena, noting the tears filling her eyes.

"They're sure?"

"It was run five times." Serena finally sank into the chair. "Five times. The same result all five times. There's no mistake." Serena sighed deeply. "When we worked on the car, we recovered quite a bit of blood to run DNA tests. We checked all unsolved hit and run cases. Monique had to be sure."

"And the results were always the same."

"Yes, they were. The blood on that car belongs to Samantha Lenz."


Blair looked at his partner as he walked into the bullpen that afternoon and dropped his backpack by his desk. He noted the pensive look on Jim's face as the man signed a report and tossed it in the 'Out' bin.

"Bad news?"

"Just have to question a driver about a DUI," Jim sighed.

"That car in Stan's yard?" Blair thumbed through some reports on his desk, prioritizing them as he scanned them.

"Yeah."

"Need some help?"

"No," Jim shook his head. "I'm fine. It's just a simple interrogation after all."

"Oh, okay."

"Blair, I know you have a lot of reports that you've been putting off to help me get mine done…"

"Most of those were going to court soon," Blair reminded him.

"…and I'm grateful. But now, it's time for you to get your work done."

Blair stared at him. "Okay, where's the pod?"

"What? I can't behave like a human?"

Blair picked up Jim's half-filled cup. "Someone slip something in your coffee?"

"I'd notice if they did," Jim assured him, somewhat amused at his partner's antics.

"With this sludge? Not necessarily," Blair countered.

"Look," Jim reached over his desk and picked up a file, "this is not going to take long. I meant it; I'd like to get out of here early. I'll talk to these folks, get their statements, type it up and get out of here so I can catch a game."

"All right." Blair grinned at Jim cheekily. "Bet I'll be done first."

"Sucker bet," Jim snorted as he walked out of the bullpen.


Jim closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. He had to maintain control when he didn't really want to. But for the sake of the department, for Blair's sake, control was a necessity. When he was sure he was not going to lose his legendary temper, he opened the door and walked into Interrogation Room Two.

He sat down across from the couple that had been waiting, probably impatiently, for him, placing the folder to one side. He didn't need it just yet.

The woman was in her mid thirties, her dark blonde hair coiffed to perfection and her brown eyes full of worry and concern. The man next to her was a black-haired, blue-eyed businessman in the mold of his father and brother. The business suit barely wrinkled as he sat down.

"Thank you for coming," Jim said to both of them, keeping his tone neutral, but at the same time warm.

"The two officers didn't really make it much of an option," Michael Sanderson said brusquely.

"True, but then, when it was discovered your car was involved in a hit and run…" Jim shrugged apologetically. "You do understand, I hope."

"I suppose," Sanderson grumbled.

"I'm a little confused." Jim pulled out his notebook, flipping to a page, then looking at the scribble on it. "According to Stan, the mechanic, you said that your wife was driving the car. But, when I checked the insurance records, only you were to be driving the car."

"That's true." Sanderson looked a little nervous. "And really, Mille doesn't drive the car. It's a part of –"

"It's part of the plea bargain," Millicent Sanderson said softly. "Detective, I have a little … problem."

"Oh?" Jim let himself look mildly surprised.

"I – well, I have a drinking problem." She pressed her lips together. "But I'm going to AA and I'm learning to control it. But before then, I had several drunk driving convictions. You know how hard this state is with drunk drivers."

"I know the penalties," Jim nodded.

"Then you know I've had my license revoked," Mrs. Sanderson said, her fingers playing with each other. "I asked to have it returned. I have a sick little boy at home – he has cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy – and I need to be able to take him to the doctor's and to therapy. Michael can't take off work everyday to do that. I-I made a bargain with the district attorney. I'd only drive my son back and forth to the doctor's, and therapy, and if necessary, to the hospital, in a good used car. And I'd go to the grocery store once a week. In return, I got my driving license back. They check my mileage every week. The car has an interlock system so I can't drive if I'm drunk. I can go to AA meetings, also. And I can't drink. Well, as AA would tell you, I can never drink again. Not that I'd want to, but …."

"Still doesn't explain why Stan thought you were driving a car that you shouldn't have been driving."

"My car was in the shop, Detective," Mrs. Sanderson answered. "And I needed to do the weekly grocery shopping. I drove to the neighborhood supermarket, then home. And on the way home I hit a neighbor's pet."


Blair frowned when he made yet another mistake. It wasn't like him.

Leaning back in the chair, he exhaled loudly. He knew something was bothering Jim; his whole demeanor had been screaming that the man was hiding something. The questions were what and why.

Groaning, he forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. Speculation would garner him little except a monumental headache, which he didn't need at the moment.

What he did need, he decided, was to finish the task at hand, then solve the problem of Jim's mysterious behavior.

Blair grabbed a folder from Jim's desk and opened it. He scanned the page quickly, noting it was not a part of this case. Jim must have accidentally put it in the wrong folder.

He read a few more lines to determine which of the many on his friend's desk it belonged in.

Blair's scanning and file-checking stopped at the same time. He found his breath catching in his throat as he read, then reread the page, much slower this time.

"Oh gods, oh gods," he gasped, dropping the paper back on the files, breathing harsh and fast. "Oh, god, no! NO!"


Jim gazed at her steadily as he pulled a paper out of the folder at his side. He let it sit between them. "Are you sure that's what happened?" he asked, his voice a bit cooler than it had been.

Mrs. Sanderson's tongue touched her top lip, then disappeared. She blinked as she stared at the paper between them, and Jim noted with cold satisfaction that her heart rate increased.

"Of course I'm sure," she finally said. "The cat belonged to my neighbor's daughter. It made me sick, but it-it just darted in front of me – what could I do? I tried to stop, but…"

"From the damage," Jim pulled a picture of the damaged car out of the folder and set it next to the paper, "that was a very large cat."

"Yes, well, some folks don't know how to properly care for a cat." Mrs. Sanderson grasped her hands together in front of her, her tone prim and proper.

"You insist on sticking to that story?"

"Of course I do," Mrs. Sanderson protested as a sheen of perspiration broke out on her face. "It's the truth!"

Jim's finger tapped the first paper he'd pulled out, then turned it so that the writing was now facing the couple.

"You do realize," Jim noted calmly, his tone even cooler than before, "we can take the blood on your car's windshield and determine if it's cat blood or not, don't you?

"Y-you can?" Mrs. Sanderson's voice cracked. She moistened her lips again. "I-I mean, of course you can. I watch those crime drama shows all the time."

"Are you going to stick to your story, or do you want to change it?" Jim asked her.

"I hit that poor child's pet, and I killed it." Mrs. Sanderson's voice was a mere whisper. "I have had to live with that, knowing I've deprived a poor child of her pet, her friend."

Jim pulled another picture out of the folder, a closer look at the damage to the crumpled car and let it sit next to the first. He continued to gaze steadily at the woman.

"Mrs. Sanderson, according to our lab, you didn't hit a cat."

"I know what I hit. And I hit…"

"A woman," Jim cut her off.

"No!" Mrs. Sanderson wailed. Jim thought he could hear the anguished cry of his partner as well. "No!"

"A young woman who was just crossing the street getting to her car."

"No, no, that's not…"

"Now, maybe you didn't mean to," Jim went on. "You were out with your friends, probably for the first time in years without your husband at your side."

"No!" Mrs. Sanderson continued to deny what Jim was saying, her face ashen, her eyes tearing.

"Millie, you told me you had the accident on your way home from shopping." Mr. Sanderson stared at his wife aghast.

"You might have asked for only one drink, and then to have the rest virgins or sodas, but with the party crowd," Jim shrugged, "the waiting staff probably forgot the order."

"No, I only had one…" Mrs. Sanderson gasped, then bit her lip.

"Millie." Mr. Sanderson grabbed her by the shoulders.

"You knew that if it were discovered you were driving with a restricted license and under the influence, you'd get jail time," Jim continued, drilling her with his icy blue eyes. "You'd lose your license, and the insurance rates would be astronomical when you got it back. If you could get insurance, that is."

"It was only one drink!" Mrs. Sanderson screamed, tears streaming down her face. "And I hit my neighbor's cat!"

"Pretty big cat," Jim noted, tapping the picture, pointing out the damage. "Look at the damage it did to your grill, your headlight, your windshield…"

"It was a very big cat," Mrs. Sanderson hiccupped. "Very spoiled. The girl spoiled that cat. Let it eat whatever and whenever it wanted something to eat. Let it roam wherever and whenever."

"Really?"

"Yes, it was spoiled…"

Jim pulled a third picture out of the folder and put it on top of the two of the car. "Yes, she was spoiled." He spared a glance at the picture of the dead technician, taken at the scene. "And sassy. Used to having her own way, and usually getting it." His tone suddenly hardened. "She was also smart, and dedicated, and respected by her co-workers. And now she's dead. Her life cut short by a car. By your car."

"NO!" screeched the woman, her eyes squeezed shut trying to ignore the death grimace in the picture. "I didn't…. I mean. I couldn't have hit her. I couldn't! I only had one drink. Just one!"

"Millie!" The anguish in Michael Sanderson's voice was painful. "You promised! You swore! You told me you were grocery shopping!"

"It was just one night!" Mrs. Sanderson snapped at her husband. "You get to go anywhere and everywhere you want and party with your friends. I'm stuck at home with Chuckie and never get to see anyone but the therapists, the nurses and the doctor. Oh, and once a week I get to see the grocery clerks, and if I'm lucky, a friend who's shopping at the same time! One night!" She turned back to Jim. "But it was just one drink! One!" A shaking index finger was held up, emphasizing her statement. "After that they were all sodas!"

"Sure about that?" Jim continued to nail her with his stare. "And you didn't mean to hit her, but she was suddenly just there in front of you…"

"Yes, that's right!" Mrs. Sanderson's head bobbed eagerly. "She was just there! I thought I hit the brake, but I must have hit the accelerator instead. It was the shoes. And the car. I wasn't used to the pedals. I tried to avoid her…."

Jim suddenly found he had to leave the room. He closed the door and gulped in fresh air, praying he wouldn't make a mess on the floor before he made it to the men's room.


When he returned to the observation room, he saw his partner staring at the distraught man and howling woman, his face pale, his eyes wide.

"It's true?" Blair stared up at him. "Sh-she hit Sam?" He gulped. "It was just a damned accident?" His voice rose in anger and grief.

"Yeah, it was just another damned DUI accident," Jim nodded.

"Damn!" Blair's fist slammed into the solid wall as tears trickled down his face. "Damn!" A second slam to the wall as the tears fell faster. "Damn!"

The damns were echoed by the fist slams, falling faster and faster.

Jim finally managed to grab the fist from hitting the wall, cradling the injured hand in his, then pulled the crying man to his chest.

"She's just another damned statistic!" Blair keened. "A stupid damned statistic! She deserved to be more than that!"

"I know, Chief," Jim crooned. "I know."


Epilogue

Wednesday afternoon

The sky was gray; rain was predicted, though it had yet to fall. A sea of dark blue uniforms, with black armbands and black bands on the badges, gathered around a freshly dug grave in the Cascade Memorial Funeral Gardens. Those not dressed in the dark dress blues of the Cascade Police Department were dressed in dark suits, also wearing the black armbands of mourning. All surrounded the flag-draped coffin that waited to be lowered to its final resting place.

The family of the deceased was sitting by the grave, all dressed in black. The middle-aged man seated at the graveside was trying to remain stoic, but the tears welled in his eyes. The woman next to him didn't hide her grief; neither did the young adults sitting on either side of the couple.

The rabbi finished his homily, and the police chaplain added a few words, then the honor guard began to fold the flag that had draped the coffin as the piper in the distance started to play Taps. As the song segued into Amazing Grace, a voice barked an order and the snap of rifles was heard before the firing pins fell on blank bullets and the report shattered the silence.

As the piper segued into Going Home, the tall black man wearing Captain's bars handed the flag to woman. Her tears increased as she pressed the cloth to her chest. Behind the captain the honor guard stood at attention as the coffin slowly slid into the ground, out of sight.

The family left after dropping the white roses into the grave. They were escorted to the limousine that waited to take them back to the mortuary, back to what was left of their lives.

Other folks stopped at the gravesite, staring down, dropping flowers into the open hole onto the metal box. Several supported each other as they bid their farewells to their fallen comrade.

Simon Banks sighed as he watched the officers gradually fade away, back to the real world where mayhem was the norm.

Finally there were only two figures at the gravesite. The taller one in the police uniform stood guard as the smaller one in the business suit knelt by the grave.

"You'll be glad to know we got the Goth Slayer." Blair's voice was soft and low. "Turns out she was one of us. Yeah, she. So you can rest, Sam. The Goths aren't being targeted by anyone anymore. But, she didn't kill you. I guess you know that." He took a deep breath. "It took a little longer but we got your killer too. Well, Jim did. I had to sit it out since... since..." He swallowed and closed his eyes tightly. "I'm so sorry Sam. I should never have let you walk out of that club. I should never have..."

He bit his lip and let the tears fall silently briefly, then took a deep breath and wiped his face.

"Like I said, we got her. Beverly Sanchez has charged her with everything she can think of --vehicular manslaughter, fleeing the scene of a personal injury accident, grave and extreme indifference, failure to control her vehicle, and DUI. Her friends didn't help her much. Neither did the bartender or her tab. She'll spend a long time behind bars. But not long enough. Not nearly long enough."

Blair took a long shuddering breath and stared around the graveyard, then turned back to the coffin.

"I'm so sorry you never found the happiness you were always looking for. I hope you've at least found peace."

He stood and stared down at the metal box for another long minute, then he turned and walked to the standing sentinel and left the fallen comrade to her rest.


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