A Sea Of Trouble
Friday, shortly after midnight
The drunken, giggling revelers swayed out of the 'Taboo Mausoleum' bar, the glow of the garish neon lights turning their faces into hideous masks. Most of the folks were attempting not to stumble as they made their way to their various vehicles. A woman separated herself from her group, giggling as she waved to her friends, then staggered to her own car.
A sudden flash of lightning lit up the night, momentarily blinding the crowd, shocking them to a startled standstill. An echoing of the thunder masked the roaring sound that seemed to be coming closer. The partiers shook off the stupor that had gripped them, and continued weaving toward their cars, trucks and vans.
Thud of metal on flesh, tires squealing on pavement, a scream of horror rent the night and pulled the gathering Goths from their drug induced stupor, just in time to see a dark monster speed off into the distance leaving a broken person in the street.
The shrill screams from several women reached the other clubs nearby; their alarmed patrons erupted from the doorways. Their cries of distress brought other figures from the other clubs, who raced to where the victim lay in the middle of the street. Though less than sober, the three that reached her first were able to perform first aid and call emergency services.
The group of Goths continued to perform CPR that kept the unconscious girl alive until the EMTs and paramedics arrived and took over from the civilians. In short order, they had stabilized the girl and whisked her into the ambulance. As it headed toward the trauma hospital, the newly-arrived forensics team started to work the area.
A tall woman crossed her arms over her chest as she stared balefully at the sedan that pulled up to the site and at the tall sandy-haired man that stepped out of it. Her long straight hair, black makeup and split dress gave her the appearance of an avenging demon, which was further enhanced by her darkening expression. "This ends now!" she spat in anger and frustration.
"Twisted Illusions," another Goth sighed with exaggerated drama, "you've been rocking the boat ever since someone started to target us."
"No, Dead Pleasures," Twisted Illusions countered, shaking her head. "I've just been making a few waves. But I intend to start rocking the boat. I'll capsize it if I have to."
= = = = =
Edward Miles sighed and rubbed his eyes as he got out of his sedan and walked over to where the traffic police were taking statements from the Goths and other witnesses, and the forensic crew, headed by Serena Chang, was collecting evidence.
"Sorry Eddie," Serena said as she shook her head. "Still nothing to work with."
"Why should I expect anything more?" Eddie shrugged as he walked around the scene. Turning to the officer directing traffic, he asked, "What's the word on the vic?"
The grizzled traffic officer shook his head. "Touch and go. She was lucky that this group was still around and was halfway cognizant to perform first aid. Maybe when she regains consciousness, she can tell us what she saw. If she saw anything."
"I'll take any break I can get," Eddie sighed.
"So when are you going to get off your ass and do something?" a female voice demanded.
Eddie closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. The small headache he had been fighting since he had gotten the call was beginning to escalate. The headache was the first step his own personal demons sought to play on him during difficult cases.
"Ms Lenz, I am doing something," he began.
"Then why are there still Goths getting run over by this sociopath?" The irate woman forced her body into his personal space. "When are you going to do more than come to a scene where a Goth is run over and just look? When are you going to do something, like arrest someone?"
"What do you want me to do?" Eddie demanded. "Just grab some driver off the street and haul him in?"
"Don't be an ass," she snorted. "I want you to catch the sociopath that has targeted the Goths."
"Then find me some damned evidence that I can use to find this sociopath and arrest him!" Eddie snapped back.
"I've given you plenty of evidence," she retorted heatedly.
"That led nowhere."
"Then someone here isn't doing his job to the fullest."
"That's enough, Sam." Serena Chang came up to the two battling people.
"It's not enough!" Samantha Lenz, otherwise known as Twisted Illusions, protested. "Look around you. How many times in the last five months have we come to scenes like this and collected evidence –"
"I said that's enough, Sam," Serena repeated sternly. "If Eddie couldn't do anything with the evidence we collected, perhaps we messed up somewhere."
Sam's temper increased. "You know that's not true!" she spat.
"And you know it's not true about Eddie either," Serena continued calmly, firmly. "Now, if you can't act professionally –"
"I'm not on duty; you can't tell me how to act," Sam snapped.
"If you can't act professionally, even if you're off duty," Serena retorted, "I'll have you escorted off the premises. Think about that."
"You can't –"
"Try me." Serena glared at the Goth-dressed forensic technician. "Now, get back behind the yellow barrier, please. You're risking contaminating the crime scene."
Serena turned and walked back to where her technicians were working on collecting what little there was to get off the street. Sam glared after her superior, then turned on her heel in a huff and joined her friends. She might not be able to rock any boats here, but there was still the station.
= = = = =
Friday, 2:30 AM
Homicide Captain Harold Stone, a stocky man in his late fifties with graying black hair and hazel eyes, watched as Eddie Miles paced back and forth in his office. He glanced at the floor, wryly thankful it was tile and not carpet. He let the detective continue to vent his frustration with his latest case, figuring he'd give the man another five minutes, then give him a verbal kick in the butt and get him back to work. The man was not a showy detective, but he had a decent closure rate. Steady Eddie, as he was called by his coworkers, was nothing if not tenacious, chasing after his quarry until he caught the perp.
Or, the captain sighed as he watched the man's frame seem to shake minutely, until the man confessed he was hitting the wall. It didn't happen often, Stone admitted to himself, but it did happen. When it did, Eddie would come to his office, pace until he was fatigued, or started shaking, then ask the captain to give the case to someone else or get him some help.
"Has that Lenz woman been harassing you again, Eddie?" Stone asked, hoping to derail the man a little. "Because if she has, I'll have another talk with her supervisor. I'm getting tired of hearing her jumping on you when her department can't even give you anything to work with."
"Yes, she's been bugging me," Eddie acknowledged as he sank into a chair across from the captain. "But Serena's been riding herd on her. No, Cap, it's me. Usually I can get a handle on a perp; with this case, I can't even get a clue. It's time for someone else to try and get this creep off the streets."
"And who do you want me to give this case to?" Stone asked resignedly. "I mean, everyone here has a pretty full plate."
"I know that." Eddie frowned at his superior. "I wouldn't wish this case on anyone here anyway. Why not kick it up to Major Crimes? They seem to be able to catch whatever we can't."
"You sure, Eddie?" Stone stared at the man. "I mean, I know the Goth community is really upset about this, but you could step back for a bit, look at some of your other cases, then come back to this one."
Eddie shook his head. "And let more Goths be crippled or killed? No, Cap, I can't let that happen either. Let Major Crimes work on it; perhaps they'll see something I've missed."
"You rarely miss things, Eddie."
"Well I sure as hell am missing something here!" Eddie frowned at his captain, his green eyes snapping angrily. "And I won't be able to live with myself if another person gets killed while I'm spinning my wheels."
"They might have the same problem that you're having," Stone noted. "And more people might still die, or be injured."
"I know, and it'll still eat me up," Eddie admitted, "but at least I'll know that I've done the right thing letting another set of eyes look at the case. Please, Cap," he begged. "Give it to Major Crimes. Get this nutcase off the street before any more Goths get murdered."
= = = = =
Jim Ellison stared at the damaged Volvo that was parked next to his vintage Ford pickup truck in the precinct garage, then watched the driver who was getting out of the car. The rear fender was pushed up over the tire, the trunk crumpled up near the back seat.
"What the hell happened to your car?" Jim asked his guide.
"Someone backed into it," Blair answered glumly.
"That I can see," Jim snorted. "How did it happen?"
"Some jerk backed into it," Blair repeated, his tone sharper. "I found it this way when I got out of the library last night after I'd spent all day in class."
Jim raised an eyebrow. "And no one saw anything?"
"Of course not," Blair snorted. "No one ever sees anything."
"Didn't the guy who hit you even leave a note?"
"Are you kidding? And admit to being a crappy driver?" Blair exhaled. "And have his – or her – insurance rates go up? Hell no. Instead, I'm having to turn it in on my insurance, and I'm going to be the one whose rate is going up."
"Sorry to hear that."
"The adjuster is going to come here and look it over." Blair sighed as the two got into the elevator. "Let me know how much the insurance is going to cover. If it's going to cover the damage, that is."
"I feel your pain." Jim clamped a hand on his shoulder. "Believe me, I've been there. I have the high risk rates to prove it."
"You're not helping me here, man," Blair grumbled as they got out of the elevator and entered the break room.
The small television was on, with a breaking news bulletin airing. Both Jim and Blair glanced at it momentarily, noting the dress of the man that was being escorted out of the courthouse by two lawyer-looking men. The voice of Don Haas droned over the picture.
"Earlier this morning, the accused hit and run driver, Marcus Timmons, known in the Goth community as Violent Beauty, was granted time served and parole in return for a guilty plea for the hit and run deaths of the young teenaged twins Byron and Brenda Martin at the Homecoming Dance last November in front of Aaron Stemple High School."
Jim paused and looked at the screen, then moved to pour himself a cup of coffee, his face stony. Blair frowned, looked at the screen, noting the number of Goths that followed Timmons, cheering the sentence and jeering at the police.
To one side of the screen was an equally sized group of people, most in police uniform. One woman with dark hair and a pinched, defeated look was being comforted and protected from the jeering crowd that was surrounding the man.
Jim looked at the screen again, and his jaw started to move.
"Jim?" Blair raised an eyebrow in question.
"That's Jenice Martin," Jim said tightly. "She's Jack's niece."
"Jack, as in your late partner Jack?"
"Yeah. She was in the Academy when he was killed."
"What happened?" Blair looked at Jim, then at the television. "I mean, why is she there?"
"The twins that Haas mentioned?"
"The ones the Goth reportedly ran over?"
"Yeah, them," Jim nodded. "They were Jenice's younger brother and sister. They were on their way home from the homecoming dance at the high school when Timmons apparently drove through the area and hit them. Didn't even stop to render aid."
"Was he high or what?"
"Probably," Jim shrugged. "Jenice was there as well, doing traffic duty, trying to keep an eye on the kids, make sure that they didn't get in trouble. She acted like a pro, though," Jim went on. "Got a partial plate and handled the scene as though the two vics weren't her kid brother and sister. The kids died several weeks later, right around Thanksgiving."
"Oh, that's hard. To lose a loved one just before a major family holiday. And she lost two!"
"Traffic finally found Timmons' car in a wrecking yard. Still had the fibers and blood in the grillwork."
"So how come he's not doing time for vehicular manslaughter?" Blair wanted to know.
"Because," Jim sighed, "apparently Timmons knows the comings and goings of one Violent Sex Addict, AKA Samuel Miller, a known drug lord, pushing anything that kids will buy."
"And in return for a reduced sentence, and possibly even witness protection, he promised to give the DA all that information," Blair surmised.
"In one, Junior," Jim nodded as the diminutive woman who had been on the television screen several minutes before entered the break room.
"Here, Jenny," one of the uniformed officers said, holding a chair out for her. "At least that vulture Haas can't get to you here."
"Haas I can handle," the dark-haired woman answered. "It was the-the almost celebratory attitude of those Goths that I couldn't take any more. As if he was the injured party. What about Bryon and Brenda? Who gives a damn about them?"
"We do, Jen," Jim told her. "You know that."
"But who else does?" Jenice demanded, hazel eyes brimming with tears. "Who else?"
"A lot of people do," Blair supplied.
"Well, you couldn't prove it by what the DA did." Jenice looked down at her hands.
"I can't condone what he did, but I can't condemn it either." Jim exhaled slowly. "He was looking at the greater good. Getting Miller off the street will save a lot of lives."
"I just hope that Timmons gets his just rewards," Jenice said bitterly. "The sooner the better."
"You know the department, Jen," Jim said. "We'll keep an eye on him. He's going to go back to his old ways sooner or later."
"Probably later," Jenice answered cynically. "He'll keep his nose clean until he's off probation, then he'll go back to his old ways. And the next time he gets arrested, I'll bet he'll have another drug lord, or pimp, or maybe both to roll over on for the DA. Anything to get out of real jail time."
"A Greek philosopher once wrote, 'The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine'," Blair told her. "He may not get the punishment that we want for him, but he will get what he deserves."
"I've heard that one before too." Jenice shook her head. "And I've seen the bad guys get all the marbles and good guys get nothing. So forgive me if I don't believe it until I see it."
Jim sighed and got up, putting his hand paternally on her shoulder. "Try not to be too bitter, Jen," he told her. "It doesn't help anything, and it only ends up destroying you." Jim turned to his partner. "Let's go get that paper pile under control."
= = = = =
Jim put one more report into the 'Out' basket and leaned back in the chair. At the rate that he and Blair were working, the 'In' basket would be nearly empty. Perhaps he could figure out a way to get off and start enjoying the weekend early.
"Ellison, Sandburg, my office," Simon called from his doorway.
Jim groaned, letting his head drop to his chest. He knew his name was at the top of the assignment list. Rafe and Brown were working on that Stop and Shop robbery case that was garnering them a lot of attention, as well as several other investigations, and Connor and Taggart had a number of cases on their plate. Dills and his new partner were also currently busy on more than a few cases. Only he and Blair had fewer than five current cases, and none of them were very active at the moment.
He got up and made his way to the office, followed not-so-closely by Blair. They stepped through the doorway, noting the presence of another person.
"Jim, I think you know Edward Miles," Simon said by way of introduction.
"Yeah." Jim nodded at the man who nodded back.
"Ed, this is Blair Sandburg." Simon introduced the civilian consultant. "Blair, Edward Miles from Homicide."
"Hello." Blair held out a hand toward the detective. Eddie extended his hand and Blair shook it enthusiastically. "Nice to meet you."
"You won't be feeling that for long," Eddie muttered, slumping in the chair in which he was sitting.
Jim frowned at the detective, then looked over at Simon as the captain sat down behind his impressive desk.
"He's right, Jim," Simon said with a sigh. "You probably won't like this."
"Sir?" Jim raised an eyebrow at his captain.
"Seems we have a new case," Simon said, closing the folder in front of him. Jim noted it was a rather large folder. "Meaning, you have a new case."
Jim scowled. "Damn. I had plans."
"Well, shelve them." Simon scowled back. "I'm giving you a hot potato."
"How hot?" Jim's glare became guarded.
"Damned hot," Eddie supplied. "I've been juggling it for the past five months and getting nowhere." He exhaled heavily. "And all the while, there have been more deaths, or injuries, and I can't take it any more."
"The Goth Slayer case?" Blair grimaced.
"Yeah, the Goth Slayer case." Eddie got up and started to pace. "Look, I normally would just be calling in help to solve the case when it gets me stumped, but this time…" He stopped and took a deep breath, then went on, "This time, I can't claim to just be stumped. I'm totally baffled. I have no clue what to do next. And the Goth kids are still being run over."
"Simon, mind if we borrow a conference room and go over the information?" Jim asked.
"Conference room one is available," Simon nodded.
= = = = =
Jim led the way to the conference room. He noted the subdued demeanor of the Homicide detective. While he knew the other man was not as gregarious as Blair, he was rarely this quiet. The case, one that had hit the newspapers about a month ago, was not easy. How do you find a seemingly hit and run driver that leaves nothing behind?
"Coffee?" Jim asked Eddie as they sat down.
"Decaf if you have any," Eddie nodded. "I've been drinking the stuff since midnight, and any more caffeine will have me wired for the week."
Blair nodded and turned to the small coffee maker and made a carafe of decaf and another of regular coffee. Eddie took a sip and added some cream and sugar to the cup, then took another sip, nodded and looked at the partners.
"I really hate handing this case over to you two." Eddie kept his eyes down, not meeting Jim's eyes. "I should be able to finish it myself. But…"
"Hey, it's hard if the evidence is pointing nowhere," Blair offered.
"Or if the cop in charge doesn't look hard enough where the evidence is pointing."
Jim turned to the door where a controlled, but angry Samantha Lenz was standing. She was in dark street clothes, her hair loose around her face, her makeup sedate but darker than Jim ever remembered her wearing it when she had been dating Blair.
"Isn't that right, Eddie?" Sam stalked to the conference table and stared down at the tired homicide detective.
"Ms Lenz…" Eddie began.
"Allow me." Jim stood up and interjected his body between Sam and Eddie. "I've heard about you riding Eddie…"
"And I'll be riding you too if you turn out the same crap that he has." Sam stared at Jim, her dark eyes snapping. "Just because the victims are Goths…"
"Get out!" Jim snapped.
"You have a choice." Jim's glare turned glacial. "You walk out of here on your own, or I can help you out. And believe me, you won't like it if I help you."
"You have no right…"
"It's now my case, and you'd be surprised what I can and can't do." Jim smiled at her predatorily. "You going?"
"From what I can see, the one thing you're not doing is helping the case. So get the hell out and let us work."
Sam stared at Jim but, as others had found before her, very few could match his glare. She turned around in a huff and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
"What did you ever see in her, Chief?"
"Well, sometimes that behavior can be very…stimulating." Blair shrugged with a sheepish grin.
"Yeah, right," Jim snorted.
"Thing is, she might have some insights that we could use," Blair noted.
"Well, she hasn't been giving us any," Eddie grumbled. "All she's been doing is bitching about what I haven't been doing to catch this Goth Slayer."
"Jim, we could use her help," Blair persisted.
"If she can control her temper, I'll try and work with her," Jim said grudgingly. "But she's gonna have to be on her best behavior."
= = = = =
Samantha Lenz stomped to the break room, angrily grabbed a cup and made herself some coffee. Not that she needed any more caffeine, she noted silently. But the decaf just didn't taste right.
Sighing loudly, she slumped into a chair and leaned her head against the wall. "Damn it! It's just not fair," she mumbled.
"Tell me about it," a voice said off to her left.
Turning slightly, Sam saw another woman sitting at the next table, toying with her own cup of coffee.
"I mean," Jenice said bitterly, "what does it matter that that – that creature ran over two beautiful kids, leaving them broken and hurting, and later dying? As long as he has information to catch a big bad guy, so what? He doesn't have to pay for his crime."
"At least they caught him," Sam responded. "Try seeing your friends getting killed, and the cops ignoring everything and anything just because the victims aren't the social elite."
"That's hard," the other woman nodded. "I'm so sorry."
"Thanks. Sorry about the kids."
There was a moment of silence, then Jenice asked Sam, "How do you handle it?"
"Not very well," Sam admitted. "I'm making waves, rocking the boat…"
"Getting tossed overboard," Blair's voice sounded at the doorway. Sam scowled at the observer. "You know Jim was right to toss you out on your ear, Sam," he went on, sitting down next to her. "And let me tell you, if you keep it up, all you'll do is hurt yourself and maybe even the case. You won't be helping your friends at all if you get suspended."
"He's right, Sam," Jenice responded. "I went off the deep end and did nothing by the book. I didn't catch the guy that killed my kid sister and brother; I damned near made it impossible to get him, in fact. Took getting suspended and spending time with the head docs to get my head straight." She stood up and started to walk out. "Learn from my mistakes, Sam. Please don't mess up the way I did. It only creates a sea of trouble. It's not worth it; not at all."
"So, Sam," Blair eyed his former girlfriend, "do you really want to catch the killer or do you just want to bitch at the lack of progress that's being made and accuse the cops of not doing their jobs?"
"But…" Sam began only to have Blair raise his hand, his features hardening.
"I'm not joking, Sam. Do you want to help or not?"
"Of course I do," Sam said with a pout. "I just don't want the cops to keep coming up empty."
"Neither do we," Blair pointed out. "You see how not getting the guy has eaten Eddie up. Trust me, we all want this killer off the streets. What we don't need from one of our own is a lot a grief."
"What do I have to do?" Sam asked resignedly.
"Well, first of all," Blair stood and held out a hand to her, "you come back to the meeting and you contribute forensic information and suggestions. You don't say anything about what the cops did or didn't do with that information. You stay on your best behavior. Or else."
"Or else? Are you threatening me?"
"No, I'm not," Blair shook his head. "I'm letting you know the ground rules going in. Jim won't stand for the kind of crap you were doing with Eddie. You saw what he did in the conference room."
"Fine, I'll be a good girl," Sam retorted. "Good enough for you?"
"I'm not the one you have to convince." Blair walked toward the door. "Coming?"
= = = = =
Jim looked up as the door of the conference room opened and Blair walked in, followed by Sam. The scowl on his face when he saw Sam told Blair all he needed to know about Jim's mood. He turned to look at Sam and saw a similar grimace. Terrific. Two folks who should be working closely together were already ready to tear out each other's throats.
"Now that you're back," Jim spoke to Blair, ignoring the technician, "Eddie can tell us about the case."
"The MO is really simple; the problem is that it mimics accidents and that makes it hard to track," Eddie began. "I mean, the area is full of bars and clubs, and drivers who probably shouldn't be driving anyway. Who in his right mind would think that someone would be targeting a particular person? In this case, a particular group of people."
"We tried to tell you…" Sam started harshly, then pressed her lips together when she caught the disapproving glare from Jim.
"Yeah, the Goths did try and tell Traffic, and some even came to Homicide complaining that they were being targeted," Eddie agreed. "At the time, though, there wasn't much to back up that claim. It wasn't until one victim survived and was able to give us a statement that any credence was given to the claim they were being targeted. The girl, Amber Jordan or Leather Pleasure, was the first one to survive, and gave us a detailed statement about how the car came at her and continued to follow her when she tried to dodge it. And she was the first victim to have neither alcohol nor drugs in her system. Definitely made it easy to believe her statement."
"Of course," Sam muttered under her breath, garnering her another glare from Jim.
"So we went back over the other hit and runs," Eddie continued as though Sam hadn't said a word. "And we found similarities with most of them. I say most," he went on, sending a look at Sam, then returning his attention to Jim and Blair, "since we never found the cars that were involved in the other slayings. The first car we found, purely by accident was the one that hit Ms Jordan." The folder was opened and shoved from one detective to the other. "And that's where we still are. We are watching the Goth area closely…"
"Not close enough," Sam grumped.
"Sam," Blair warned softly as Jim glowered icily at her yet again.
"I know, I know," Sam snapped. "I'm not downing Eddie, not this time." Her tone was full of defeat. "There's too much going on during the times that the Slayer strikes. It's always at closing time for the bars, and the cops are needed all over the city. I've tried to get the Goths to stay together but…"
"But they just don't listen to authority figures," Eddie completed. "It took several more incidents to find another car, a stolen one from the area, by a wrecking yard. That one yielded us nothing."
"Nothing?" Jim raised an eyebrow and frowned at Sam. "What about the forensic evidence? Didn't you get anything from it?" Blair could hear the almost challenge in Jim's voice.
Sam scowled back at Jim, then shook her head. "We've found some strands of cloth from a coverall. And a strand of hair. Dark colored, dyed. No follicle so no DNA. No root, no original hair color."
"As you can see, not a lot to go on," Eddie sighed. "Each incident just gave us more of the same. A stolen car that is used in the hit and run, which is then abandoned at any one of the wrecking yards around town. The Goths are hit in front of any one of the clubs. We can't even point to a pattern for when the Slayer will strike next. The days that the kids are hit are vary from the weekends to the middle of the week to the start of the week, to the end of the week."
"No pattern?" Blair looked surprised.
"None that we could uncover."
"Anything on the driver?"
"Several of the survivors have tried to give us a description of the driver, but even that has been no help."
"What have they come up with?" Blair wanted to know.
"Medium build, wearing a ball cap and coveralls." Eddie exhaled heavily. "That description could fit any person anywhere anytime."
"Is there anything about the coveralls that can help us?" Jim asked, turning again to Sam.
"No." She shook her head. "The coveralls are off-the-rack generic coveralls."
"In short, a whole lot of nothing," Jim noted.
"And now," Eddie stood and headed toward the door, "it's become your nothing. I hope you're able to do more with all this nothing than I was."
"He's right, unfortunately," Sam commented softly. "There hasn't been a whole lot to give him to work with."
"So why have you been so hard on him?" Blair demanded.
"Because they're my friends, Blair!" Sam snapped. "And they're dying and no one seems to care…."
"We care, Sam." Blair put a hand over hers. "But there is no way we can just pick up anyone; not without evidence."
"And there is no damned evidence," Sam noted.
"Yet," Jim finally added. "Sooner or later, the Slayer will make a mistake. And then we'll catch him."
"How much do your friends know?" Blair looked at Sam.
"What do you mean?" Sam frowned. "If they knew something, they would have told the cops."
"You sure?" Blair raised an eyebrow. "No offense to your friends, but if they were drunk, or were on drugs, do you really think they'd talk to the cops?"
"Probably not," Sam sighed in defeat. "But they'd use the tip hotline to call in what they knew, and no one's done that either."
"Maybe they know something and don't know that they know it," mused Blair.
"And what are you going to do about it?" Jim challenged him, eyebrow raised.
"I intend to talk with them." Blair sat back and waited for the man to explode.
"You?" Jim grinned. "Talk with them?"
"Sure," Blair shrugged.
"I could introduce you to my friends," Sam offered. "Of course, you'd have to go in Goth costume."
"Costume?" Blair looked at the technician. "What do you mean, costume?"
"You can't go dressed like that," Sam chuckled. "The Goths don't like to talk to non-Goths."
"I'll be backing you up," Jim stated.
Blair sniggered. "If I don't pass as a Goth, what makes you think you can?"
"I'm not going as a Goth," Jim grinned back.
"A biker," Jim repeated.
"Like one of the Void or Hell's Angels? That kind of biker?"
"Sure," Jim grinned. "Before it was Ghoul Station, the bar was known as Biker Haven. In fact," he noted, "I was in it a few times as a biker undercover. It might still be a biker hangout except about nine years ago there was a drug bust and the owner lost the club."
"And how are you going to explain yourself?" Sam mused.
"Out of state for a while, came back, went to my old hangout and found a strange club instead." Jim looked at Sam. "It'll work."
"It might," she nodded. She turned to Blair as she stood. "I'll get a list of places where you can rent some clothing to fit in with the Goths." Her fingers played with his locks. "You should dye it darker."
"Dye it?" Blair gulped, looking at his ends. "But it's a dark color already."
"I had dark hair," Sam pointed out. "As you can see, it's a lot darker now."
"I'll think about it," Blair told her.
"Dye it," Sam repeated as she walked out of the room.
"I said I'll think about it."
= = = = =
Blair found a whiteboard, positioned it near his desk, and started to make notes on it from the case file. Jim interjected comments as he read Eddie's notes, which Blair added. Then the two partners stood back and looked at the board.
"Yep," Jim nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. "A whole lot of nothing."
"We're just starting," Blair reminded Jim. "We'll get something on that board that makes sense. Sooner or later."
"I'd prefer sooner to later, if you get my drift." Jim shook his head.
"Amen to that."
"And I'm telling you, H, that kid is going to come through," Rafe argued with his partner as he entered the bullpen. "He'll tell us who the real leader in the Stop and Shop robberies is."
"Only if he doesn't value his life," Henri countered. "Rafe, he lives on the streets with them."
"But he's not a member of the gang, H!" Rafe disputed.
Henri shook his head. "Don't matter. He knows if he rats out the gang, he'll get whacked. Or his family. And he's no candidate for the Witness Protection Program."
"We could find a way…" Rafe began.
"Only if you move his family and him yourself," Henri answered vehemently.
Rafe hung his head in defeat. "You're not helping here, H."
"Just telling you the way it is, partner." Henri patted the sharply dressed detective on the back.
"And speaking of the way things are…" Rafe looked at the whiteboard and map behind Blair.
Henri studied the map, then looked at both Jim and Blair. "Is that the Goth Slayer case?"
"It is," Blair nodded.
"I heard that Homicide was kicking that case our way." Rafe's tone was conciliatory.
"And you're the unlucky cusses that caught it," Henri added, his tone less conciliatory.
"That's one way to look at it," Jim shrugged.
"So," Rafe leaned against the desk, "think you can find this vampire killer?"
Henri rolled his eyes in exasperation, shaking his head sadly. "I keep telling you that whoever it is, is not a vampire slayer."
"But look at all the Goths that are getting killed! Someone must think that they are vampires."
"They still aren't vampire slayers," Henri insisted.
"Okay, why aren't they vampire slayers?" Rafe demanded.
"Simple," Blair butted in. "No vampires around. No stakes, no dust at the scenes."
Henri turned to look at Blair in surprise. "You watch Buffy too?"
"Of course I do." Blair's face broke into a wide grin. "She's one hot lady."
"And you told me you watched it for the mature themes in the script," Jim snorted.
"Hey, the show has many layers to it," Blair defended himself. "I watch for all of them."
Jim nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I can see that. The Buffy layer, the Dawn layer, the Willow layer, the Anya layer…"
"Yeah, them too," Blair agreed with a lecherous grin.
"Hey, Ellison." Eddie Miles stood by the bullpen door. "Got a call from Willie's Wrecking Yard. Looks like they found the car from last night's incident."
"Let's go, Chief."
= = = = =
"So the wrecking yards call in when a strange car shows up?" Blair looked over at Jim.
"When it shows up at their gate and no one sticks around to handle the paperwork," Jim qualified as they got out in front of 'Willie's Wrecking Yard' and walked close to the car, taking care not to go under the yellow tape just yet.
Blair pointed at the wet dirt on the other side of the tape. "Looks like we got tire tracks."
"Look used, probably after factory tires." Jim shook his head. "Not going to be easy to find the truck that has them."
Blair punched Jim as they crossed the line and made their way to the car. Serena Chang and Samantha were busy in the car, carefully pulling things from the seat and steering wheel.
Serena glanced at Jim and waved him to come closer. In one hand was a tweezers with a small fiber. "This is all we've been able to get." She held it up for the Sentinel to see. "Nothing much."
"What's that odor?" Jim frowned as he sniffed the interior of the car.
"Sure it's not our perfume?" Serena asked.
"Let's see." Jim sniffed again. "No, Sam's wearing Opium, and you're wearing Pikake. This is…" He frowned and shook his head. "I don't know. I can't place it. I can't tell if it's perfume or aftershave or deodorant or something else."
"Close your eyes," Blair instructed. "Just let your mind associate with the scent. It'll come to you."
Jim scowled as he closed his eyes and tried to name the odor that was teasing his memory. The scowl deepened and a pained expression started to cross his face.
"Headache?" Blair asked.
"Working on it," Jim admitted. "No idea why the scent is so…so familiar."
"Catalog it," Blair instructed. "We'll work in it later."
"You could figure it out if you wanted to," Sam accused from the back seat. "You could tell what Serena and I were wearing without any trouble. You're just not trying."
"Back off, Sam," Blair growled. "If he said he couldn't place it, he means it. It just takes time and a place where he can relax, which isn't here."
"One more word, and you'll see me tossing you off the case," Blair warned. "You don't tell him what he is and isn't doing."
"It's not fair."
"Life's not fair." Blair pulled her out of the car. "Besides, you didn't go into detail about the clothes I need for tomorrow night."
"And makeup," Sam added. "You'll need makeup."
"Makeup?" Blair stared at the taller woman in sheer terror. "First I have to get a costume, then dye my hair, and now makeup? I don't think so." Blair shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Blair," Sam smiled down at the observer. "Costume. Go to Jeremy's on Holcomb. There's a large selection to choose from. In fact, I can have him put several costumes aside for you. Make the selection easier. Hair dye…"
"I've got an idea about that," Blair interrupted her.
"And makeup I will supply and apply." Sam planted a kiss on Blair's forehead.
"I'll see what I can do by myself." Blair shook his head. "And let's talk about the makeup."
"I'll supply and apply the makeup, Beautiful." Sam grinned at Blair as she went back to work.
= = = = =
"Okay, got anything to help us forensic types out?" Serena asked Jim.
Jim shook his head. "Not really. What do you have?"
"Several nice strands from the coveralls." Serena tucked another fiber into an evidence bag.
"Can you get anything from that?" Jim pointed to the thread.
"Well, it's three whole inches. What do you want?"
"See if there are any pollens, molds, soils in it," Jim began listing. "Maybe find out what kind of fiber it is and who uses it so we can find who bought it."
Serena grinned. "Like I said. Three whole inches. I can do that. Anything else, O Great Detective?"
"Yeah, brand and size of the coveralls. And who was wearing it." Jim sighed as he watched Blair and Sam talking.
"Like I said, give me a few days."
"Think you'll get lucky with the hair strands?"
She sighed and shook her head. "All I can tell you is that, if this is from the same person who's been running down the Goths, they dye their hair. Right now, no follicle so no DNA. And there's no root, so I can't even give you the original hair color. Sorry."
"Not your fault the perp isn't being helpful. Serena…" Jim looked at the chief technician, a puzzled expression on his face, "what the hell is going on with Sam? I mean, Goth?"
Serena shrugged. "Hard to say, Jim. She's a damned good worker. Analytical and logical almost to a fault. Hell, there's a lot of cases would have been tossed out except for her evidentiary work. But when it comes to her love life, she's totally opposite; almost a little crazy. I mean, look at how she treated Blair just for missing a sushi bar date."
"Or her birthday," Jim agreed.
"Actually, when she was going with Blair, she seemed to have settled down a bit," Serena told him. "Wasn't nearly as crazy as she was when she was dating the racer, or the surfer, or the artist, or the banker."
Jim stared, startled. "You're kidding. If that was Sam at less crazy –"
"I know," Serena chuckled. "She really is a wild one when she's not working. I was hoping that Sam would finally settle down, even after she and Blair broke up; but she just went off the deep end, getting even crazier than before."
"I don't understand it, either, Jim," Serena smiled. "I just tolerate it. As long as she passes the drug tests and shows up to work cold stone sober, and doesn't seem to be involved in anything crooked, I can't do much else."
= = = = =
Blair joined Jim as he walked to where Willie, the owner of the wrecking yard, was standing, watching the activity. The middle-aged blond stood almost as tall as Blair, but was definitely pounds heavier from working in the yard and possibly even in the gym.
"Where's Eddie?" the blond man asked in a near challenging tone as Jim introduced himself. "Or did the brass take the case away from him?"
"No," Jim shook his head. "We're giving Eddie a hand is all."
"Oh, okay then." Willie visibly relaxed and smiled at the detective. "This will make the fourth – no, fifth – time that the Slayer has chosen to dump the car at my yard."
"Five?" Jim raised an eyebrow.
"Well, that we're sure of anyway," Willie qualified. "Second time I thought I saw a black four-by-four driving away before finding the car."
"Mud covered, powerful engine," Willie snorted. "That's about all I ever got to see. Might try the City Wrecking Yard and Cecil's Crashed Cars; they might have seen more when the cars were dropped off."
"We will, thanks." Jim shook Willie's hand.
= = = = =
"I'm going to take one last walk around," Jim told Blair as Willie went back to his office. "See if something pops out at me."
"Besides Sam, you mean," Blair commented.
"Yeah, besides Sam."
Jim stood and stared around, letting his vision telescope and normalize on its own. So far, nothing. Then he stopped, puzzlement etched on his face. He could have sworn that he saw a familiar face in the group of officers that was directing traffic around the forensic group. Whoever it was that he had thought he'd seen was no longer around. Maybe he was just imagining things.
He took a deep breath and found himself suddenly smelling the same odor that had tickled his olfactory senses earlier, in the car. A furrow creased his brow. Had he been smelling one of the female officers' perfume instead of the perp's?
"Jim?" Blair's voice finally broke through his musings. "You okay, big guy?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded, rubbing his head. Jeez, had he nearly zoned on the scent? "Just getting a headache."
"You sure?" Blair's dark blue eyes looked up into Jim's lighter blue eyes. "I mean you looked pretty gone there. Almost like a zone."
"I said it was just a headache." Jim closed his eyes. "Sorry. Acts like it's gonna be a bad one, too. Let's get back to the precinct and get ready for tomorrow night."
= = = = =
Friday, 4:00 PM
Back at the bullpen, Blair swiveled in his chair and looked at the form that Jim was filling out. "What are you working on?"
"Voucher," Jim said. "To rent a motorcycle from Cascade Motors."
"Rent a cycle?" Blair frowned. "What about using one from Vice or Narcotics or …"
"Nope," Jim shook his head, cutting the question off. "Can't. All the cycles used by Vice undercover are already known by the biker groups, and probably by other elements as well. Best way to get burned as a cop is to use one of those. Best way to burn an undercover cop is to use one."
"Okay," Blair nodded his head thoughtfully. "I can see that. But rent a cycle? With your driving record?"
Jim scowled at the observer. "You know, before I met you, I'd had one, maybe two bad accidents in the line of duty. Since I've met you, however…"
"So you think I've brought you bad luck in driving?" Blair grinned at the detective. "Interesting but rather hard to prove."
"At any rate, yes, I can rent the cycle, but Simon has indicated I have to have it back in twenty-four hours," he added wistfully.
"We're only going to the one club, for one night," Blair pointed out. "Twenty-four hours is plenty long enough."
"Not if we find out something at this club. Or find something that leads to another club."
"Oh," Blair nodded, then frowned. "Hey, only one club was known as a biker club, right? Right?"
"Actually, they all were," Jim told him. "It's just that some were into other – interests – as well as bikes."
"Oh yeah?" Blair perked up and grinned wickedly at his partner. "Which one was the gay leather bar? And did you ever go there undercover?"
Jim glowered the smaller man, his ears turning a dark shade of pink. "I didn't. I wasn't the type."
"Yeah, right," sniggered Blair.
"Speaking of vehicles, what did the insurance guy tell you?" Jim asked, switching topics.
"I don't even want to talk about it," Blair said disgustedly. "The deductible is going to kill me, and the increased rates – I don't even want to think about it." He leaned his head back and groaned. "I now understand why you've been paying Stan up front and ignoring the insurance company. So much easier on the brain and the checkbook."
Jim snorted. "I've been paying Stan up front so I can get my insurance rates back down to preferred status. And by next year, I should be back to that preferred rate."
"Great; you'll be preferred rate and I'll be heading for the high-risk rates," Blair groaned. "Uh, Jim, can you follow me to Stan's? I'm going to drop the Volvo there today and have him get started on it."
"Sure," Jim nodded.
= = = = =
Saturday morning, shortly after midnight.
Even though the phone had been muted to near silence, its ring still jarred the sleeping man to full wakefulness in less than a minute.
"Yes?" Jim sat up and rubbed his eyes. "I see. Right. On my way."
He hung up the phone and slipped out of bed, dressing in a hurry as he made his way down two flights of stairs and crossed Blair's apartment. Shaking his head sadly, he shook his sleeping partner to wakefulness. Blair looked up at the sentinel with bleary eyes.
"Slayer got another one, Chief."
"Shit." Blair rolled out of bed and reached for his glasses and jeans.
= = = = =
Jim and Blair got out of the truck in front of 'Staking Ale' and walked up to where the forensic photographer was clicking pictures. The ambulance's strobing lights broke the night darkness as the two workers belted the young man onto the stretcher and moved him into the back recess of the vehicle.
"How's it look, Andy?" Jim asked the paramedic who was crawling in beside the victim.
"He's alive, he's breathing on his own," Andy noted. "He's probably got several broken bones; maybe even a broken spine. We won't know till after he's been examined and x-rayed."
Jim looked over at Megan Conner who was busy taking names and addresses from some of the witnesses.
"You backing us up?"
"I am tonight, Jimbo," Megan nodded. "Here's a list of witnesses, such as they are."
"What's the matter with them?" Blair demanded.
"Sandy, most are potted and otherwise impaired. Their testimony, even if the truth, would have a hard time standing up in court," Megan told him matter-of-factly.
"Not good for our side," Jim remarked. "Look, could you go to the hospital and get a statement from the victim?"
"Sure, provided he can even give us anything," Megan sighed. "From what I'm hearing, he was more potted than the rest of the gang here."
"Probably what saved his life, in a weird sort of way," Jim shrugged. "Still, I'd appreciate it."
"Sure thing, Jimbo," Megan nodded. "See you both back at the station."
Jim walked around the accident scene, staying out of the way of the traffic cops that were taking measurements and of the forensic team that was bagging and photographing evidence. He spotted a scrap of paint outside of the yellow plastic tape. He found another flag and put it where the paint scrap had been, then bagged the scrap and made his way over to Serena.
"Think we have enough paint to figure out what the car is before it shows up at one of the wrecking yards?"
"It still takes three days to get information back from the state, Jim," Serena reminded him.
"You mean we don't have enough stuff in our labs to identify the cars? After all this time?"
"I'd be willing to teach you how to tell the difference." Serena smiled at him. "It would save us time and money."
Jim rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No, and be quiet. If Blair hears about this…"
Serena gave him a mock stern look. "What could Blair do that I can't?"
"Don't ask, Serena," Jim shuddered theatrically. "Just, don't ask," he repeated as he headed toward Blair, who was talking to some of the Goths that were still standing around.
Blair nodded at the man he was talking to and joined Jim at the side of the street.
"Megan's right," he said with a sigh. "Most of the group is so wasted they couldn't testify if they were seeing a car or a truck. Man, no wonder Eddie was having a hard time getting anywhere with this case. With witnesses like these, the perp has an easy way to escape."
= = = = =
Saturday, 7:00 AM
Once in the bullpen, Blair sat down beside Jim and looked over the bagged evidence from the case.
"Finding anything?" he asked.
"Well, I'm still smelling that odor," Jim admitted as he closed the evidence bag. "I just wish I could figure out what it is."
Blair frowned a minute, nibbling his lower lip, then nodded. "Quit trying to identify the scent," he suggested. "Instead, try to identify where you smelled it before."
Jim shook his head. "I don't know."
"Just try," Blair pleaded.
"I just don't think that it will work," Jim sighed. "The scent seems too common."
"Stop thinking about the scent and think about where and when you smelled it," Blair instructed.
Jim closed his eyes and settled in the chair, trying to let the scent lead him back in memories. His brow furrowed deeply as he continued to try and follow the scent. Strange visions filled his mind; most fast and fleeting, difficult to comprehend.
His mother smiled down at him, then she turned into Christine, his first high school crush. Next came Arlene, another high school girlfriend. Other faces, all female, flashed through the vision – some he could identify; others were strangers.
"Come on back, Jim," Blair's voice filtered through the images.
He opened his eyes and shook his head, noting the small ache behind the eyes was now a giant pounding that threatened to split his head open.
"Anything?" Blair asked.
"You mean besides a king-sized headache that's threatening to take my head off?" Jim asked shortly, reaching for the bottle of Tylenol.
"Yes," Blair nodded as he handed his partner a glass of water.
Blair raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me? And you call me a table leg?"
"The only thing I saw was faces of women."
"Any idea what it could mean?"
"I'm just the Sentinel of the Great City, Chief," Jim answered after he'd downed the two caplets. "You are the Shaman. Do something shamanistic."
"That's for when you have visions, not for your memory trips." Blair sank into his chair next to Jim's. "So who were the women you saw?"
"My mom, couple of girlfriends, then, I don't know. I didn't know them. I don't think I know them."
"At least when I have dreams about women, I know them," Blair remarked. Jim glared at his partner. "But then," he added, "I've never gone seeking the origin of a scent before. So, is there anything similar about all these women?"
"Not that I can think of." Jim leaned his head back, rolling it around trying to loosen tight muscles. "I know for a fact my mother never wore that scent. Neither did Christine."
"Your mind is obviously trying to tell you something," Blair commented.
"Well, it's not being very clear," Jim nearly snapped. "How are you coming with your Goth getup?"
"Need any help dyeing that mop of yours?"
"No, I'm fine," Blair insisted.
"And the clothes? Settled on a costume yet?"
"As a matter of fact, I have," Blair nodded. "And I can dress myself."
"Yes." Blair rolled his eyes in exasperation. "But what about you? I mean, I haven't seen you do one thing to get ready, Easy Rider."
"Never fear, little Gothie, the clothes are ready for wear."
"And the bike?" Blair wanted to know. "Did you get it yet?"
"I'm going to pick it up this afternoon," Jim grinned as his phone rang. "Ellison." He paused, the grin evaporating. "Right. On my way." He looked at Blair. "The Slayer left the car at another wrecking yard."
"Maybe this time, the Slayer left more than the car."
"We can always hope."
= = = = =
Jim and Blair sat in the truck and watched as the photographer finished taking pictures of the crime scene at 'Barney's Body Parts'. Serena was already there, pointing out different angles of the scenes that she wanted. She paused a moment and waved for the detective and the observer to join her in the car.
"So, what have you got for us?" Jim asked as they joined her.
"Some things old," Serena said as she held up the evidence bag with several fibers of coverall. "And," she grinned as she pulled another evidence bag out of her pocket, "something new."
"What?" Jim asked eagerly.
"The Slayer left us a strand of hair with root. Once I get it under the microscope, I'll be able to tell you the exact color," Serena added, "but it looks like ash blond."
Jim brought the bag up and eyed it closely. "Well, that's something we didn't know before."
"Doesn't look as though there's a follicle though," Serena continued. "I won't be able to tell you the gender of the Slayer."
"Maybe next time." Jim handed the bag back to her. "Come on, Chief, let's see what else we have here."
As they walked, Jim noted that he had smelled the same scent in the car. He hadn't mentioned it to Blair or Serena. It was enough that it was still present in the car, linking it more and more to the criminal.
They stopped by a technician who was pouring plaster onto a tire tread mark that had been left behind.
"Four-by-four again?" Blair asked.
"Looks like," Jim nodded. "And still after-market tires."
"Same ones as before," the technician agreed. "Except that now we have a distinguishing mark."
"Sure it's the same ones?"
"On three out of four tires," the technician grinned, pointing to the tread marks. "But on the fourth," he indicated the one that the was working on, "there's a nice perpendicular cut on it. Not something you see every day."
"Good," Jim grinned. "That should help make things easier when we finally catch the perp."
He and Blair turned to return to the car when he stopped and stared. There, standing at the edge of the crowd, was Jenice Martin. Jim walked over to her, keeping his pace calm and demeanor unreadable. Blair followed close behind.
"Jenice? I thought you'd be at home with your folks today. Especially after the court decision yesterday."
"I was," Jenice sighed. "I finally had to leave – I can only take so much of the disappointment that everyone is feeling, especially my own. I needed to get out. To do something, even if it was just vicariously."
"But here?" Blair frowned.
"It was the first call." She shrugged her shoulders. "And Mike's here. I can pretend I'm working traffic control with him."
"Looks like he and Pierson are getting ready to get back to patrol," Jenice tilted her head toward the patrol car that was pulling away. "Guess I better be on my way as well, huh?"
"Probably would be for the best," Jim agreed.
"Well, good luck." Jenice gave Jim a quick smile and disappeared back into the crowd.
"I'll need it," Jim sighed to the air.
"Amen," Blair agreed with his partner.
Jim stopped, turning around and sniffing.
"What?" Blair looked at the sentinel.
"That scent." Jim sniffed again, a furrow appearing on his brow. "I smell it again." He took a third breath. "Correction, smelled it again."
"Can you tell what it is?" Blair wondered.
"No," Jim shook his head. "It –" He stopped and shook his head. "It's gone now."
"Okay, now, try to follow it," Blair suggested.
Jim took a deep breath, closing his eyes, and concentrated on the odor. It was not loud or overbearing, making it harder to follow. Again he saw visions of women flash in his mind's eye. Besides his mother and Christine and the others, he caught a glimpse of Veronica. He started suddenly, nearly falling. The hands of his partner were the only thing that kept him upright.
"You okay, Jim?" Blair's tone was worried in his ears.
"Yeah, yeah," Jim answered roughly. "Let's get back to the truck, okay? If I'm gonna zone I don't want to do it where I can fall flat on my face."
"So, what happened when you tried to follow it?" Blair wanted to know as he buckled up in the vintage truck.
"I nearly fell on my face," Jim repeated. "Nothing else. Blair, it could be something one of the other technicians is wearing, or one of the officers. Hell, even one of the civilians could have been wearing it. I don't know!"
"Okay, okay." Blair held up a placating hand. "Let's just file it away until we know exactly what it means."
"Fine with me," Jim agreed.
In the bullpen, Blair was furiously adding to the scribbling on the whiteboard, pausing only long enough to look at the notes he'd made from the case files. Occasionally he'd stop, back up a step and look at the names and numbers, mumble something low, then return to writing facts and figures on the board.
"Can you make any sense of what you're writing?" Jim finally asked.
"Right now," Blair sighed, "I'm just trying to make sure I have all the data down in a semi-coherent form. From the stuff I noted yesterday and then again last night."
"That does not bode well," Rafe commented from his desk.
"Then," Blair continued as though the smartly-dressed detective had not spoken, "maybe I can make some sense of everything that Eddie and his team collected." He looked earnestly at his partner. "It's kinda sad that he tossed it over to us, you know. He's really got a lot of information here."
"It's just not telling us who the perp is," Jim pointed out. "And it didn't help that Sam kept harassing him the way she did."
"At least she won't be doing that to you," Blair grinned.
"Got that right." Jim's face darkened.
"I have a feeling if she tried it, one of us would become suspects in her sudden demise."
Jim shook his head. "Justifiable homicide, and we'd be able to prove it."
"In the meantime," Blair pulled out the map that was attached to another board, "I'm going to start mapping the Goth Slayer's sites."
"It's gonna get a little crowded on that map of yours," Henri warned. "Every last slaying has been done within a four-block radius."
"I got the street map blown up. I'm trying to see if I can see any sort of pattern," Blair stated. "Taboo Mausoleum one week, Ghoul Station next week, Kult Klub next, then Staking Ale, Pagan Place, Crypt Café, then start all over again."
"You'd think the guys in Homicide would have thought of that," Rafe pointed out.
"And they probably did," Jim agreed. "Only thing is, Eddie doesn't have any reference to such a study being done."
"So I'm having to do it over again," Blair finished with a shrug.
"You'd have done it over again even if the study had been in there," Jim commented. "It's your nature to study things ad nauseum."
Blair shook his head. "Would not."
"Yes, you would," Simon snorted from behind Blair. He grinned when the observer started.
"Simon!" Blair complained.
"Just seeing how observant you aren't."
"I don't have eyes in the back of my head!" He glared at his partner, noting the smug grin on his face. "But I obviously have a partner who is a bit lax when it comes to watching my back."
Jim immediately sobered. "Only when it won't harm you," he promised.
"So," Blair asked the tall captain, "what can we do for you?"
"It's more what I'm doing for you," Simon informed him. "Jim said you two were going to need some time to get ready for tonight."
Blair looked at the wall clock. "Sheesh! I didn't even notice the time! Thanks, Simon!" He gathered up papers, stuffing them haphazardly into a file cover. "I'll need all the time I can get to be ready."
"He has to dye his hair," Jim supplied.
"Oh really?" Rafe smirked at the observer as his phone rang.
Blair could see all the other detectives sit up and give him a second glance.
"Henna," Blair corrected his partner. "It's getting hennaed. There's a difference."
"But you're hair won't be the color it is now, right?" Henri asked.
"Well, it'll have different highlights," Blair hedged.
"It's dyed," he agreed with the sentinel.
"Hennaed," Blair insisted. "No peroxide, no harmful chemicals. Not dyed."
"Have it your way," Henri shrugged. "Your hair's not gonna be the same color; that means it's dyed."
"Tint," Blair insisted, "is not the same thing; my natural color will still be seen, but in certain lights the highlights will be more pronounced."
"Whatever." Rafe stood up, putting on his suit coat. "C'mon partner. Someone just tried to shoot the kid. He's in the ED of Cascade General."
"That might be the one thing that'll make him talk." Henri grabbed his sports jacket from the rack as the two headed toward the double doors.
"I know," Rafe nodded. "That's why I want to get to him as soon as we can. While he's still angry about nearly being killed."
As the two walked out of the bullpen, Blair turned to Jim. "Henna hair is not dyed. You can ask my mom. She hennas her hair every so often to bring out her highlights."
Jim canted his head. "Funny, I couldn't tell it had been dyed."
"Jim!" Blair glowered at his partner. "That's my mother!"
"Yeah," he sighed, shaking his head. "You keep reminding me of that little fact."
"Because you seem to keep forgetting that little fact," he grumbled as he gathered up his papers. "By the way, Jim," Blair suggested as he shut his file drawer, "you probably should keep your sense of smell dialed down a bit."
"Thought you said it wasn't dye."
"It's not, and while it doesn't have the harsh chemicals in hair dyes, it still has an odor," Blair answered. "I don't know if you’ll have a reaction to it or not."
"In short, you'll probably stink the whole place up and I might as well get out the spray."
"No, I'm not going to stink up the whole place," Blair retorted. "And if using that canned chemical keeps you happy, go right ahead. Just keep it upstairs, if you please."
"Not a problem," Jim grinned at the departing form.
= = = = =
Simon looked up at the knock on his door. An eyebrow crept up when Jim entered the room. "Thought you would have headed home with the kid," he commented.
"Yeah, well, Blair needs a little more time to get ready; my costume is pretty much taken care of. With one small exception that is."
"The bike." Simon leaned back in his chair and exhaled heavily. "Jim don't you think it's a little risky?" Sitting up and lifting a paper, he went on, "We're not talking about a cheap piece of merchandise, you know."
"I know, Simon, and I'll be careful," Jim said sincerely.
Simon snorted. "I've seen you drive, remember? And I have the memory of two cars, two cars, not fit to drive after you got behind the wheel." He stopped when he saw Jim's jaw start to clench tightly. "I know you weren't completely at fault, Jim, but, damn it, we're talking about a huge chunk of change that will come out of my budget if the motorcycle gets wrecked."
"I understand that," Jim answered tightly. "But it's not like I'll be in a car chase."
"Couldn't you use a bike from Vice or Narcotics?" Simon pleaded. "Surely they must have more than enough…"
"Simon, each and every bike is well-known on the streets as belonging to a particular rider. If I show up on one, they're going to know that I'm a cop, and the other rider is a cop."
"But you're not going into a biker bar, or even riding with them," Simon argued.
"Even if the chance is infinitesimal of me running into a biker group, it still exists."
Simon shook his head. "Been hanging around the professor too much. He's teaching you those multi-dollar words."
"They do come in handy," Jim grinned.
"So does the kid," Simon grinned back. Then he turned somber. "Seriously, Jim, are you sure there's no way you could borrow one from Impound or Vice or Narcotics?"
"Seriously, I'm sure there's not," Jim told his superior.
"Very well." Simon held up a slip of paper. "This should cover a decent bike."
Jim looked at the amount and looked back at his boss. "You're joking, right?"
"It's for a day, not a week," Simon scowled at the man. "I personally called around to several lots for prices. This is an average. Choose wisely."
"Yes sir." Jim's sigh was almost pathetic as he reached for the voucher.
"Oh, and Jim?" Simon pulled the voucher back out Jim's reach.
"Yes sir?" Jim put his hand down and looked at his boss expectantly.
"You wreck this bike, and I will personally take it out of your paycheck." Simon smiled wickedly as he saw Jim shudder. "And," he added, "your hide."
Jim glared at the captain. "You've made your point, sir."
= = = = =
Blair frowned as he read the instructions, again, on the package insert that was spread on his kitchen table. "If it's this detailed for a simple highlight, what the hell do they put you through for a real dye job?"
Libby, who had been sitting close to his heels, moving only when it seemed he would step on her, merely looked up at him, her short tail wagging occasionally.
Blair pulled the deep roasted coffee bag toward him, then looked at the information he'd downloaded from the internet, then at the perking liquid.
"You know," he informed his pet, "this is almost as bad as dyeing my hair. Certainly is as expensive."
The only response was a thumping on the floor by Libby's tail.
"Something certainly smells good," Jim quipped as he came down the stairs. "Where's the rotten smell?"
"It might be coming up," Blair answered. "I really don't know how this coffee will smell with the henna paste."
"You're wasting some perfectly good, expensive coffee on your hair?"
"Give me the darker color I'm looking for. And I'll be adding cloves too."
"It would have been cheaper to get Midnight Black at the drug store and color your hair," Jim snorted.
"And have all those chemicals leaching into my body?" Blair raised an eyebrow at the sentinel. "No thank you. I'll do this."
"Which is what, exactly?" Jim asked.
"Henna mix," Blair stated. "I had to mix the powder with some red wine last night and let it set. Now, I'm adding the coffee so it won't have quite as much red, and the cloves will make whatever red is left darker."
"So far, so good, Emeril."
"Now, I'm getting ready to put this mash on my hair and let it set for several hours," Blair went on. "You could do me a real favor and make sure Libby doesn't follow me into the bathroom."
"Yeah I can do that," Jim nodded. "Wouldn't want the terrier to become a Labrador, now would we?"
Blair shook his head when Libby gave Jim a lick and wagged her tail in agreement. "You two are incorrigible."
"So what have you been doing since you left the precinct?" Jim asked as Libby settled down next to him.
"Fixing up the bathroom so it won't have henna all over it," Blair told him. "I don't intend to redo my bathroom just yet, and definitely not in this color."
"You sure dyeing your hair wouldn't have been cheaper? Not to mention easier?"
"Probably, but then I'd have to wait forever before the chemicals would have been out of my system and my hair." Blair checked the paste in the tub. "Jim, does it seem to you as though the Slayer knows as much about police procedure and forensics as we do?"
"That thought had crossed my mind," Jim admitted. "But with all the cop shows on television, most of the general population is as knowledgeable as we are. It's a wonder we can stay ahead of the perps."
"You think it's just a really smart killer?"
"You mean, do I think it's a rogue cop." Jim frowned. "It's possible, I suppose. But who? And why?"
"Well, one could argue that Jenice has a reason," Blair noted. "And if she hadn't had those therapy sessions, I'd suspect her."
"But because she went, you don't?"
"It was more what she said to Sam in the breakroom yesterday," Blair responded. "She understands about vengeance and how futile it is."
"Interesting," Jim nodded.
"But we still have someone who is as knowledgeable as we are and about three steps ahead of us," Blair sighed.
"And we can never be absolutely sure if every time a Goth is hit, it’s due to the Goth Slayer," Jim pointed out. "Sometimes a hit-and-run is simply a hit-and-run."
"That's the part that's probably getting to most of community." Blair stood up, taking the tub of pasty material with him. "How do you prove that this hit-and-run is simply a hit-and-run?"
"You can't," Jim's voice sounded from outside the door.
"But as far as the Goth community is concerned," Blair continued, wrapping himself in an old ratty robe before carefully applying the material over his head and hair, "every incident is an attack by this Slayer."
"And there's no way you can convince them that they aren't being targeted." Blair wrapped his concoction-covered tresses with a plastic wrap. "It's impossible."
"We have no way to prove any one attack is a Slayer attack, and we have no way to prove the attack is not an attack. Talk about a perfect crime…"
Blair stepped out of the bathroom and looked up at his partner. Jim took one look at his friend and fell against the wall, laughing.
Libby, who was standing by him, looked up at the laughing man, then turned her head toward Blair. Her head tilted as she studied the observer, a questioning expression on her face.
"What?" demanded Blair.
"Oh, Chief, I wish I had a camera right about now," Jim finally wheezed out. "Priceless blackmail material! Right, Libby?"
The dog continued to study Blair, a strange, questioning look on her face. She walked around the robed-clad man, sniffing him carefully. Looking up at him, she gave a questioning sound as though to say, "You sound like my master, and you sort of smell like my master, but you don't look like my master."
"Not you too, Libby," Blair moaned as he wrapped the robe tighter around his frame. "The things I do for this job."
"Next thing he's going to be bitching about the sacrifice he's making," Jim snorted, speaking to Libby.
"Well, I am!" Blair huffed.
"I can't wait to see you in that outfit." Jim pointed to the black velvet garb hanging on the bedroom door. "Definitely a Kodak moment."
"Two can, and will, play that game," Blair promised. "I can hardly wait to see you looking like Sid Vicious."
"Actually, I'll look better," Jim promised.
Blair shook his head letting a grin grace his lips. "Yeah, you probably would. How about we have Sam take a picture of the two of us and use it for the Halloween picture later this year?"
"Sounds like a plan, Partner."
Blair sat down on a kitchen chair at the table. "Jim, I've been thinking."
"That could dangerous, Chief." Jim grabbed another chair and sat down across the table from Blair.
"I'm serious, Jim." He frowned at his partner. "I've been trying to figure out why you're having difficulty identifying the scent at the crime scenes."
"And?" Jim raised an eyebrow. "Have you come up with anything to help?"
"I've come up with several hypotheses."
"What have you come up with?" Blair heard the tenseness in his voice.
"I'm thinking that, first of all, the scent is very common, and therefore you smell it every day and a portion of your mind is trying to ignore it."
"So I'm somehow giving myself mixed instructions?"
"Exactly!" Blair started to nod his head, then thought he'd better keep it still, at least while he was wearing the wrap and henna paste. "You've trained yourself to ignore the common everyday stuff at a crime scene to uncover the clue, and up until now that has been beneficial for us. But now, the common everyday stuff is the clue, and your ability to ignore it is working against us."
"Any ideas on how to fix the problem?"
"Only have you categorize and identify every scent the way we did in the beginning," Blair sighed.
"Not until I take few Tylenol we don't," Jim grunted. "I remember those exercises gave me monster headaches."
"I remember, too," Blair nodded.
"And the next idea?" Jim asked. "Hypotheses implies more than one, and first implies there'll be a second."
"The second hypothesis is that you've linked the scent with someone and neither your conscious nor subconscious wants to believe what your senses are telling you. Sort of like when you got those spikes when you saw the triangle knife that Lila had," Blair finished, with a worried, measuring glance. He wasn't sure if Jim was really over that particular lady.
"It's possible, I suppose," Jim sighed with a shrug. "You were right about the knife and Lila; you could be right about my mind and the scent. Of course, the first guess could be right too."
"We have to figure out which one is right." Blair watched as Jim stood up.
"Later, Chief." He headed toward the stairs. "Right now I have to go and collect my ride."
"Yeah, my ride," Jim grinned. "It's the only part of my costume I don't have."
"Oh, right," Blair nodded. "You mean Simon actually signed a voucher for you to rent the bike?"
"Yes, he did."
"Bet it came with strings attached," snickered Blair.
"What makes you think that?" Jim stopped on the stairs.
"I know your driving record. I know Simon." Blair leaned back in the chair. "I also remember the look on Simon's face when you trashed his new car."
"Okay," Jim admitted, a sheepish grin on his face. "He's only giving me a day with the bike."
He started back up the stairs, then stopped and looked at his partner. He began laughing again, then shook his head and headed further up the stairs to the Loft. Blair sighed heavily and looked at the clock.
A whine at his feet brought his attention to the remaining occupant of the room. Libby looked up at him, that same quizzical expression on her face.
"I know, I look dorky," Blair said. "Still, I would have thought that at least my dog wouldn't make fun of me."
Libby dipped her head, her brown soulful eyes studying the floor. Slowly the eyes came up and met his.
"I understand," he said, holding out a hand. "You can laugh at me; I probably do look pretty silly." The dog stood up and walked toward him, then laid her head in his lap. He grinned and scratched the terrier between her ears. "But next time," he said, "at least pretend to be on my side until after Jim leaves, okay?"
Libby looked up, starting to lick his face, then seemed to think better of the idea and settled for licking his hands instead.
= = = = =
Jim walked around the lot at 'Cascade Motor Sports', evaluating the different motorcycles, mentally dismissing most as being too "civilized" for a biker that had been out of the city for a while. He kept track of the ones that were definitely worthy of being ridden by an older, seasoned biker -- the Kawasaki Ninjas, the Suzuki Katanas and Honda CRXs. He also noted a few that appealed to him personally.
"So, tell me," the salesman said, "you find anything that fits the bill?"
"Several, actually," Jim nodded. "I'll need to check them a bit closer…"
"You know, we could probably turn this into a test drive," the salesman suggested.
Jim felt his jaw tense as he looked at the medium-built, balding blond. "Look, Harold," he said tightly, catching the man's name on his tag, "I believe I said I'm renting. I don't mean I'm looking to buy. Can you understand that, Harold?"
"Er, yes, right," Harold gulped.
Jim turned on his heel and headed toward the group he had deemed worthy of an easy rider. He sat on them, wanting the one he chose to be easy on his butt.
Once he'd whittled the number down, he rechecked the remaining ones, revving their engines, listening for signs of missing and other problems which would not be found in a biker's motor.
He found himself having to continually turn away from one beauty that was definitely calling to him. As he had told Harold, he was here to rent a bike, not to buy.
Still… His glance slid back one last time to the silent siren that was calling to him. Steeling himself, he walked over to the cruiser he’d chosen to use that night, ignoring the one that he truly wanted to ride.
"You've got a good eye," Harold said, holding the voucher as Jim put the borrowed ramp on the tailgate of his truck.
"Thanks," Jim acknowledged as he rolled the bike up the ramp, then secured it in place.
"Exactly when can we expect the cycle back?" Harold asked.
"Probably around this time tomorrow," Jim guessed.
"And, er, it will be in the same condition, correct? I mean, I watch all the cop shows and every time they borrow anything it comes back in pieces…"
"Yes." Jim managed to stop himself from snapping. He couldn't blame the guy if his only information came from cop shows. "I don't intend to get into a car chase, bike chase, shootout, or any other kind of mayhem you could think of."
"It's just…it's not in bad condition, you know? It could still be sold for quite a bit of money," Harold went on. "And that money could come out of my pocket if it's ruined."
"I'm well aware of the value of the bike," Jim said patiently.
"Yes, I suppose you are."
"It'll be returned tomorrow in the same condition that it is now."
"That's all we – I – ask," Harold said.
"Good." Jim jumped off the bed of his truck, and headed for the cab. "'Cause that's all you'll get," he muttered as he closed the door and started the engine.
= = = = =
Blair walked around his living room, trying to get comfortable in the outfit of black velvet trousers and satin vest with white lacy shirt that Jeremy had selected for him. The trousers were a snug fit, a bit tighter than he was accustomed to wearing. Jeremy had been rather put out when Blair had insisted on the "looser" pair.
"You'd look much better in these," he had told Blair, trying unsuccessfully to get him to take the tighter pair.
"I might look better," Blair had told him as politely as he could, "but if I tried to sit down, I'd split the pants, and then, there goes my rental fee."
"Ah no sweat, man," Jeremy had grinned. "The ladies will love the split pants. And so might a few of the guys."
"Uh, no thanks," Blair shook his head. "I don't want to do more than just fit into the scene."
Jeremy wiggled his eyebrows at the observer. "You'd do more than just fit in if you got these."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Blair shuddered. "I'm taking these." He grabbed the larger pair.
Blair sighed and continued walking around. "I should have gotten an even larger pair," he confided to his pet.
Libby gave him that same quizzical expression she'd been giving him all afternoon.
"Aw, come on, Libby," Blair said, sitting down and holding out his hand to her. "I know I don't look like myself, but I'm still me; honest. Even if I look like a modern day version of Heathcliffe."
Libby walked over, placing her paws on his thigh gingerly, then lifted her head up and let her nose rest on his chin. Seemingly satisfied, she brought her nose to his and licked his chin.
Blair stood and checked out the trousers, making sure that none of Libby's coat had shed on the outfit. While he personally wouldn't have minded, he had a feeling that Sam might. He stopped in front of the mirror and sighed. The lace at his throat and wrists was going to drive him nuts before the night was through.
A whistle at the top of the stairs stopped Blair's inspection.
"Well, well," Jim continued, coming down the stairs. "You do clean up nice."
"Ha-ha," Blair snorted, giving his partner an ill-mannered salute. "You should try wearing this getup."
"No, no," Jim shook his head, grinning devilishly. "You were right; I'm definitely not the Goth type. This," he waved to his simple tee shirt, jeans and boots, the black leather jacket slung over his shoulder, "this is me."
"Oh I don't know." Blair’s grin was equally devilish. "I remember how you look in a tux and cummerbund. I'll bet we could find an outfit to fit you."
"Speaking of fit…" Jim raised an eye at the pants.
"Don't even go there, man," Blair shook his head. "It was bad enough trying to convince Jeremy to behave while I was trying on the damned outfit."
"Well, you do look sort of…" Jim stopped. "I mean, if this were a Vice operation…."
"Never mind," Blair shook his head. "I get the idea. Why do you think I was trying to go dressed in my regular clothes?"
"I guess trying to override Sam's suggestions is fairly difficult."
"Try damn near impossible," Blair muttered as he continued to pace around his living room.
"I'll give you some time to get settled before I show up," Jim went on. "And I'll stay until you tell me to go. But I'll be outside…"
"Jim…" Blair stopped in front of his partner.
Blair, you need to be careful," the sentinel said heatedly.
Blair rolled his eyes in exasperation. "I'll be careful, Jim."
"You've all but set yourself up as a target!" Jim exploded.
"I know that," Blair shook his head. "I told you I'll be careful and I will."
"It's just that…"
"I promise I'll look both ways before I cross the street, Dad." Blair grinned up at Jim as the doorbell rang.
"Smartass!" Jim cuffed the observer as he turned to answer the door.
Blair casually flipped him the bird and laughed as he opened the door.
The laugh died in his throat as he stared at the woman standing in his doorway. He felt his jaw move, but no words came out of his mouth.
"Oh do quit emulating a landed fish and invite me in, Blair," Sam sighed as she put a manicured hand on his chest and gently pushed her way into the Lair. "See how easy that was?"
Blair continued to stare at the black clad woman. A part of his brain took in that the skirt was much longer in the back than it was in the front. The hem of the skirt front was just this side of being indecent, and the low neckline barely covered her breasts. The lacings from the corset, or whatever it was she was wearing around her waist, gave her plenty of cleavage to salivate over. If one salivated over that, the more rational part of his brain added. Sleeves of black silk covered her arms from shoulder to wrist.
If he was Heathcliffe, Blair decided, Sam was definitely no Catherine. She more closely resembled Elvira, Mistress of the Night. Her hair was long, loose and black as the night.
He closed the door and moved to stand by the statuesque black-haired technician, letting his eyes wander to the edge of the skirt and openly appreciating the long, slender limbs that were exposed.
"Wow!" Jim whistled appreciatively. "That getup almost makes me want to trade places with you, Sandburg."
"Get your own date, Ellison." Blair moved to stand between his partner and the young woman. "This one's taken for the evening."
"Nice outfit, Beautiful," Sam smiled at him.
"You too," Blair stated as he continued to ogle her slender figure wrapped in the black silk and satin.
"And I love what you've done to your hair. Not bad. And much better than dyeing it black."
"Well, uh, thanks." Blair gave her a shy grin. "I guess we're ready, Sam."
"Not quite, Beautiful." She took his hands in hers and led him to the kitchen table. "I need to go over some ground rules. And you need some makeup."
"Now Sam," Blair tried to pull away as Jim exploded in laughter on his way to the stairs, "I thought we were going to discuss that. I mean, do you know what is in that stuff, clogging your pores?"
"We did discuss it, Beautiful," Sam smiled at as she managed to push him down on the chair. "You didn't want any; I told you I'd do it for you. Remember?"
His words were cut off as Sam deftly began applying the facial makeup. Blair tried to wriggle away from Sam, but was stopped by a sharp glare.
"Now, first of all," Sam continued to decorate Blair's face, "when we enter the night club, I'm not Sam any more."
"No, I'm not. I'm Twisted Illusions."
"Interesting pseudonym," Blair observed.
"And I won't be calling you Blair," Sam went on.
"And what's wrong with my name?" Blair wanted to know.
"It's a nice enough name but it's not a Goth name."
"Sam, I'm not trying to become Goth," Blair stated. "I just want to talk to them."
"Blair, you have to at least appear to embrace the culture, or trying to embrace it; they won't talk to you otherwise."
"Point made," Blair conceded. "All right, if I'm not Blair Sandburg, who am I?"
"You're Beautifully Chaotic."
The laughter at the top of the stairs increased in hilarity.
"It's not that funny!" Blair retorted.
"Oh yes it is," Jim wheezed. "And fitting."
"Especially the chaotic part," Jim went on. "Now the beautiful part…"
"He will be once I'm finished." Sam grinned at Blair. "He'll have women and men fighting for his attention."
"Sam!" Blair squeaked. "I'm not after that –"
"Yes, you are; it's a part of our culture."
"Terrific!" Blair moaned as Jim sat down on a step, still laughing.
"It's a pity I couldn't convince you to come as a Goth too, Jim," Sam continued. "I know I could have found you a fitting costume; there are biker-types in the Goth community as well."
"I've seen what they wear, and don't wear," Jim got out as he gasped for breath. "No thanks."
"Pity." Sam paused in her ministrations and looked at him. "I even thought of the perfect name for you."
"Oh yeah? What?"
"You," Sam looked up at the man, "would be Lucid Nightmare."
"I imagine more than Goths would say they agree with that name," Blair snorted.
"Nightmare, yeah," Jim nodded. "I like that; but lucid – no. It needs to be Worst Nightmare."
"So, we'll change it," Sam smiled. "The name changer is only a guide after all."
"Want to come along as a Goth, Jim?" Blair looked at his friend, a silent 'I dare you!' in his eyes.
Jim shook his head. "No, thanks. I'll stick to this getup. I don't think that style would suit me."
Sam leered up at him. "I know I could find a style to suit you."
"When Hell freezes," Jim grinned back. "Not a second before."
"Don't you have something to do?" Blair growled at him. "Something besides crossing words with my date?"
"I'm going, Chief." The sentinel made his way up the spiral case, still chuckling. "Call if you need any help."
"Oh, I'll be able to help him, Jim." Sam turned the lecherous grin back to Blair.
"Terrific," Blair muttered. "Libby, I could use a little help here."
His answer was a confused yip from the terrier.
"Would you sit still?" Sam fumed at him ten minutes later. "Honestly, my two-year-old niece can control herself better than you do!"
"Blair has the Energizer Bunny embedded inside him," Jim said from the stairs.
Blair stared at him, mildly shocked to see the doo-rag made from cloth with stars and stripes covering Jim's military-cut hair. He could see the whisper of a five-o'clock shadow on Jim's jaw.
"I should feel insulted by both of you," Blair growled.
"Don't be," Sam grinned. "The last person I made up fidgeted like a baby."
Blair stood and walked around, trying to at least look comfortable with the nearly too-tight clothes and face makeup.
"Well?" He turned and looked up at Jim. "How do I look?"
"I'm not the expert, Chief," Jim answered. "But you do look better than that turkey we saw on the tube yesterday."
Libby walked over to Blair tentatively. She sniffed the clothes, and the hand that was scratching behind her ears. She looked up, tilting her head and perking her ears. Still looking and smelling strange, her expression said, but still her master. She gave his hand a quick swipe of her tongue, then trotted over to her water and food dish.
"So how long do you think you'll be staying, Jim?" the technician asked.
"As long as I need to be there," he answered. "I'm backing up my partner, after all."
"Well, after you're finished backing him up, you can go home. I'll give him a ride home," she told him loftily.
"Uh, Sam, Twisted Illusions," Blair broke in, "this is strictly business. I'll catch a ride home with Jim."
"My car's more comfortable than that bike Jim has."
"I'm riding home with Jim," Blair stated determinedly.
"We'll see, my Beautifully Chaotic man," Sam purred as she led him out the door, the sound of Jim's laughter even louder in Blair's ears. "We'll see."
= = = = =
Saturday 9:00 PM
Blair sat in the booth in 'Ghoul Station', watching the crowd move and mingle together. Sam – Twisted Illusions – sat next to him, a drink in her hand. It was one of the few traditional booths in the place. Most looked like something one would see in a bordello. And they were all being used as though they were in a bordello. Those not otherwise engaged in the plush booths were on the dance floor, gyrating to the loud music blaring from the machine in the far corner. Blair toyed with his drink and frowned momentarily. The music was going to play hell with Jim's hearing.
"You should get up and join them," she whispered in his ear. "Dance, flirt, become one with them."
"I don't think they'd believe that I was trying to become one with them, especially since I'm not," Blair pointed out.
"We didn't go to all this trouble just for you to sit here," Twisted Illusions reminded him.
"We went to all this trouble," Blair clarified, "because you said they wouldn't talk to me otherwise. Well, Twist, I got made up like a Halloween castoff, and you know what? They still aren't talking to me."
Several young women, both dressed in exotic and erotic fashions similar to Twisted Illusions', stopped by the booth, gazing hungrily at Blair while talking to her.
"A friend, Disturbed Angel," Twist answered. "Beautifully Chaotic. He's –"
"– taking a look around, trying to decide if it's the way of life for me," Blair finished. "I wasn't sure when we first got here."
"And now?" one of the other women asked as she slid into the booth and pressed herself against him suggestively.
"It's –" Blair cleared his throat and tried to put a little distance between himself and her, only to find Twist had moved closer to him as well. "Well, it's definitely gotten friendlier in the past few minutes."
"Just remember the rules, Tongue." Twist smiled warningly at the woman. "Beautiful, this is Vicious Tongue. And hers is definitely that."
"Only when I'm talking," Vicious Tongue said, starting to lick his neck, letting her teeth nip, but not breaking the skin.
The third woman slid into the booth by Vicious Tongue. "I'm Liquid Dreams." She maneuvered herself until she somehow had herself between him and the table, sitting on his lap. "I can give you many."
"We all can," the woman identified as Disturbed Angel added from behind him.
Blair gulped and sought rescue from the woman he'd come with, only to find her lips on his neck, nibbling as eagerly as Vicious Tongue.
"See?" Twist whispered lustfully, "I told you it would be worth it.
"Yeah, well, I don't know," Blair shook his head. "I mean, there are some folks out there who don't like Goths." The last was said in a squeak as a several slender fingers started to approach sensitive territory. "Ladies, please! We're in public!"
"Don't worry, Beautiful," Twist murmured as she continued to nibble him on that side. "Everyone else is equally occupied."
"Or soon will be," promised Liquid Dreams as she tried to kiss him.
"But –" Blair managed to dodge the eager lips and tongue momentarily as another tongue started to lap at his ear. "Um, ladies, what about this Goth killer I've been reading about?"
The lips disappeared from his body, and all but Liquid Dreams moved away from him. Not too far, but enough to let him clear his head.
"I mean this all seems like the kind of life I want to live, but I'd like to live it for a very long time. You know what I mean?"
"We know." Liquid Dreams was the first to recover and moved further onto his lap. "We just don't want to think about – that other."
"But once you leave here," Blair managed to talk around the impatient lips and searching tongue, "you have to, don't you?"
"Twist," Disturbed Angel sighed as she pushed her body into the booth, "your friends can be so –"
"– so normal," Liquid Dreams pouted, squirming in his lap, as though trying to encourage certain portions of his anatomy to respond.
"Well," Blair gulped, feeling himself break into a cold sweat, "I've been called many things in my life, but normal has never been one of them."
"Is that a bad thing?" Disturbed Angel questioned as she began to insinuate her body next to his.
Blair gulped as he tried to figure out just how the four women were all so deliciously and yet so indecently close to his body. It certainly made honest discussion next to impossible, especially since his brains seemed to be turning to mush.
"Well, uh –"
He decided trying to talk with Vicious Tongue's tongue halfway down his throat was counter-productive. Instead he turned his attention to keep from swallowing the appendage and not make a total fool of himself doing so.
= = = = =
Jim rode to the nightclub, taking the long route down Harris Street on the way to 'Ghoul Station'. He told himself it was to give Blair time to get acquainted with some of Sam's friends. He knew better, in his heart of hearts. He'd only have this beauty a short time, and he'd really have even less to enjoy it, so he was going to make the most of it while he had it.
But even he could only prolong the ride to 'Ghoul Station' so long; all too soon he was parking the machine in front of the club.
Jim sauntered up to door and moved to push it open, when another man, about Blair's height and build, bumped into him. Jim scowled down at the man, his sensitive nose catching the heavy odor of alcohol and the lighter fragrance of drugs. The stranger was dressed much the way that Blair had been attired, his hair loose, as Blair's was, with four dark-haired beauties, dressed as Twisted Illusions had been, draped over him.
"Ooh! Look!" cooed one of the women. "A metal Goth."
"I want a piece of that one," another licked her lips.
"I don't think he's really one of us," the man said. For all the alcohol Jim had smelled, the man's speech was remarkably clear. "Are you?"
"Don't know what you're talking about," Jim grunted. "I'm just going in for a drink with some buddies."
"You have friends in the Ghoul Station?"
"Ghoul –?" Jim let his voice rise with his eyebrow. He looked at the name engraved on the doors. "What the –?" He stepped back and looked at the other bars. "What the hell happened here? Urban renewal or something?"
"Or something," another female answered. "Perhaps we can share a drink and talk about it."
"Then party," the fourth added as Jim opened the door and walked in.
A pale man stepped in front of Jim. "Hey, pal, you look lost."
"I'm not lost." Jim kept his eyes on the black-clad man as he deftly stepped around him.
"Let me rephrase that," the bouncer growled as he moved back in front of Jim, trying to block his progress. "You're lost. Let me help you find where you need to go."
"And I said," Jim glowered angrily, carefully pushing the man out of his way, "I'm not lost. This place may have a different name, but this is where I come to get a drink when I'm in town."
"Been out of town awhile, haven't you?" the bartender said.
"A few years," Jim admitted grudgingly with a shrug.
"Let him pass, Fairie Corpse. 'Cause if you don't, I have a feeling you're more 'n likely to become one. And we've had enough around here as it is."
"Thanks," Jim nodded at the bartender. "Beer."
"Don't thank me," the bartender pulled a bottle of beer from the refrigerator behind the bar. "Just doing my job and trying to keep the cops out of here. Once you've had your drink, you make tracks. Head toward the docks. You'll find your kind there."
"What happened here?" Jim asked, leaning against the bar, displacing a few Goths as he did so. Of course a few others started to settle around him, only to receive a harsh glare, sending them on their way.
The bartender shrugged as he continued to fill orders. "Owner got stupid and careless and lost the place in drug bust."
"My usual, Scooter," the male Goth who had been at the door with harem ordered, shoving his way to the bar, bumping into Jim.
"Watch it, Shorty," Jim grunted.
"You watch it," the smaller man said with a threatening tone.
Jim looked down at him. "Oooh! Don't hurt me! I'm sooo scared."
Then he gave the Goth his most sinister grin as he picked up his drink, deliberately bumping into the man as he made his way to a booth along the wall not far from where Blair was being smothered by the black-garbed vixens. He pretended to take a sip of the ice-cold brew, fearful that a real swallow would make him choke. It was next to impossible to swallow while one was laughing. He'd never thought he would see Blair helpless in the arms of women.
The jukebox started up a round of noise that made Jim grimace. Quickly turning his hearing down, he glared at the three males that looked ready to dump more coins in the machine. They glared back, but a woman's whispered word in one's ear stopped any more selections for the moment.
Jim adjusted his hearing so he could hear the discussions around him, including Blair's struggles to hold a conversation while avoiding several women's tongues in his mouth.
"Uh, mph, ladies," Blair tried to speak, "pl-mmph. Ladies, please!" Deep sigh, then, "Discussion first, if you please. Then, we'll see about this ménage."
"Promise, Beautiful?" a woman asked.
"Of course it's a promise," Twisted Illusions' voice purred. "And Beautiful has never broken a promise, have you?"
"Uh," Blair answered nervously, "no. Not intentionally, at any rate."
Jim took another sip of the beer and tried to decide when, or even if, he would extricate the observer from the willing, wanton women. Heaven knew he hadn't had a decent date since Sky's death.
Deciding Blair had his group under control, even if only barely, Jim turned his hearing carefully to listen to others.
The first group he concentrated on turned out to be even steamier than Blair with his bevy. Suppressing the blush that was trying to rise on his face, Jim quickly turned his attention to three males who looked like they were having an intense discussion. A few seconds of listening proved they were indeed having an intense discussion, about their tryst later that evening.
Sighing softly Jim continued to sample conversations, leaving when he was sure the topic wasn't the Goth Slayer.
= = = = =
"Okay, ladies," Blair tried to get comfortable under the perfumed females, "now, I've been hearing about this Goth killer in the news lately and ..."
"That's only because Twist here has been kicking the cops in the balls till they finally squealed uncle and admitted there was a real threat to our community," Vicious Tongue stated. "Up till then they acted like the murders were stupid hit and run accidents."
"Well, what do you know about the killer?"
"That's the trouble, my Beauty." Liquid Dreams maneuvered her body so that she was curled around him. "We know so little, even less than the cops, and they know nothing."
"So how do you protect yourselves?" Blair let his arm encircle her shoulders comfortingly.
"We stick together," Disturbed Angel told him. "As much as we can, at any rate."
"And we try and keep an eye out for strangers," Twist added.
"Yeah, like that biker," Vicious Tongue pointed out. "But Scooter doesn't seemed concerned about him."
"Scooter has a sixth sense," Disturbed Angel noted. "He can tell if someone is trouble or not."
Vicious Tongue licked her upper lip suggestively. "I think he'd be delicious, trouble or not."
Liquid Dreams playfully pushed at her. "You think that about all men."
"But of course," she pushed back. "The more trouble they are, the more delicious they seem to be."
"What the hell is going on here?" The roar startled everyone at the table.
"Prince Panic, dear." Twisted Illusions looked up, seeming a little put out. "You said you couldn't make it tonight."
"So that gives you the right to run around like a slut?"
Twisted Illusions flew out of the booth, and her hand connected solidly with his face. "You dare call me a slut?" She swung her other hand and marked the other side of his face. "You're the one who tomcats around with anything in a skirt, and a few who aren't! You're the one slutting around!"
"Whoa, now." Blair untangled himself from the ladies and stumbled over to where the two were starting to look like combatants. "Come on, both of you. This can be easily explained."
"Sure it can," Prince Panic snorted, letting his gaze travel up and down Blair's body derisively. "And I suppose you're going to explain it to me, right?"
"There's nothing to explain," Twist stated coldly.
"The hell there isn't."
"Look, just let me a few words in here –"
"You stay out of this, you little perv you!"
"Don't you dare call my friend a perv, you sorry excuse for a man!"
"Now, S- I mean, Twist." Blair put a placating hand on the tall woman's arm, only to have it forcefully removed. "Twist, you only brought me because I asked you to introduce me. See," he turned toward the glowering man, "Twisted Illusions and I work in the same building – different departments – and I was hearing through the grapevine how interesting this lifestyle was and, well, I needed a change from my lifestyle so I asked her to introduce me to some friends to see if I would really enjoy it and –"
"Would you just shut the hell up already?" Prince Panic yelled at him. "This is between Twisted Illusions and me."
"But you and she wouldn't be having this fight if I hadn't tagged along with her," Blair said firmly. "And if you were observing, you'd see that it was her friends more than she who were – ah – who were behaving friendly toward me."
"Don't bother explaining anything to this cretin," Twist said coldly. "I have a right to my friends, the same as he does. Right, my Prince? Isn't that what we agreed on, darling?"
"There a problem here?" The bar bouncer walked up behind the man labeled Prince.
"No, Corpsie." Twisted Illusions smiled cruelly at the Goth she'd been verbally sparring with. "Princey and I were just doing our usual mating ritual. And as usual, he's losing, which means he'll be bottoming again, and that has him in a rather snitty mood. Right, Prince, darling?"
Prince glared at Twisted Illusions, then at Blair; if looks could kill, Blair knew, he'd be charred to a cinder. Then he turned on his heel and stomped away, muttering under his breath.
The bouncer turned to Twisted Illusions. "You know, Twist, you gotta quit yanking his chain so much."
"I yank his, he yanks mine," she shrugged as she moved back to the booth. "It's just a phase we're going through." Twist looked at Blair. "Prince is sort of my steady. Well, as steady as one is around here."
"I didn't mean to cause trouble," Blair apologized.
"You didn't," Twist smiled at him, running her finger along his jaw suggestively. "We fight at the drop of a hat anymore. Don't worry, dear. Some good hot make-up sex will have him in a better mood in no time."
"Oh, well, uh," Blair stammered. He cleared his throat. "Now, ladies, about this Goth Killer –"
"Oh bother with the Slayer." Liquid Dreams moved her mouth over his and started to kiss him passionately.
"There's more interesting things to discuss than that party pooper," added Vicious Tongue, making use of hers on his neck, nipping it occasionally.
"And more interesting things to do than talk," concluded Disturbed Angel working on the other side of his neck.
"But – mnph!"
For the second time that night, Blair found that trying to speak with a tongue making its way down his throat not the wisest thing to do, and settled for trying to breathe with tongues licking the back of his tonsils and the rest of his throat.
= = = = =
Jim finished the last of his now-warm beer and looked around the club. So far he'd heard about six dozen trysts and other sexual liaisons occurring, and probably about half a dozen drug deals, mostly small and personal in nature.
He heard the bartender and the bouncer discussing business. Though he couldn't tell it from the crowd here tonight, apparently the count was down, and had been steadily dropping since the winter before. The bartender was wondering if the Goth phase was waning; the bouncer blamed the Slayer. Both were discussing ideas to see if there was a way to get the house count back up.
That was the only thing that he really heard about the Slayer. It was as the cadre of women had told Blair before they'd managed to shut him up with their kisses: there were more interesting things to talk about than the Slayer, and more interesting things to do than talk about the Slayer.
"Hey Jim," he heard his partner get out as he was passed to another woman for more kissing, and if he was any judge of what he was hearing, fondling. The poor guy sounded almost desperate. "You might as well go home. This is a bust. Oof! – No, Dreamy, I sometimes talk to myself – I'll be leaving as soon as I can. Which might not be as easy as it sounds."
Jim grinned. He was still debating whether to help remove his partner from the ménage a quatre or not. A younger Blair would probably have enjoyed the situation, but the more mature Blair seemed to be uncomfortable with it. Or maybe just not able to keep up with it.
Slowly he stood up and walked toward the door. He'd take the equally long way home before he strapped the motorcycle to the bed of his truck and returned it to the sales lot.
= = = = =
Blair had managed to keep the three tongues out of his mouth for the past few minutes. He wasn't sure how much longer he could keep them out. The more carnal portion of his brain was wondering why he'd want to keep them out. The higher portion of his brain just wanted to call it a night and crawl into his bed.
Blair had finally gotten a reprieve from the three vampish women. They were now talking with the observer instead of tonguing him. Blair was sure they were just getting their second wind, then would start in again. He wasn't sure he could survive a second assault.
There was a noise at the bar; the group turned and saw a new group that was buying a round for someone and, miraculously, the three friends melted away leaving Blair alone with Twisted Illusions.
Blair took a swig of his drink. "Talk about in the nick of time."
"You sound relieved," Twist chuckled.
"Yeah, well, they were a little overwhelming," he noted. "You could have warned me."
She smiled wickedly at the observer. "Now why would I do that?"
"Professional courtesy, maybe," Blair suggested.
Twist laughed, then leaned against him. "Sorry, Beautiful," she managed to get out. "But once I put on these clothes, I'm not Sam Lenz; I thought I told you that. She'd have told you about them; not Twisted Illusions."
"I'll remember that for future reference," Blair snorted.
"Now that we're alone…" She started to nuzzle his neck. "It's my turn. And then we can continue this at my apartment."
"Well, uh, what about your sort of steady? Prince Panic?"
"What about him?" Twisted Illusions asked, a dangerous glint in her eye.
"Well, um – I mean – well, you and he –"
Twist continued to nuzzle his neck. "It's not all that serious, Beautiful. And I'll see him sooner or later. We'll get together, have mad, passionate sex, be happy, and then go on with our lives. It's our way."
"Well, why not make it sooner, instead of later," he suggested.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Twist pulled back and blinked at him.
Blair pointed toward a booth across the room. "Well, he's over there, and he seems to be alone."
"Sam – Twisted Illusions," Blair stood up and held out his hand to help her up. "Take my advice. Make up. Even if it's just a fling for the two of you, you don't want to have a bad experience as the last thing you remember about him."
"Oh please." Twisted Illusions rolled her eyes dramatically.
"Please." Blair grabbed her shoulders. "Please. For me."
"And I suppose you'll make your escape while we're making up," she smiled.
"You know what they say – three's a crowd," Blair shrugged with a grin.
Twisted Illusions smiled coquettishly "Not for us; three is a perfectly good number, much better than two."
"I'm not Goth," Blair pointed out.
She gave him a deep kiss that left him gasping for breath then, laughing, walked away into the crowd.
= = = = =
Twisted Illusions slithered through the crowd, her heart beating faster. In spite of what she had told Beautifully Chaotic, she truly loved this man, more than she had ever loved any of her former lovers, even Chaotic. She felt giddy. She knew she shouldn't; it wasn't the Goth way. Still –
She stopped and stared at the scene in front of her. Felt the sting of tears in her eyes. The man, Prince Panic was settled in the booth, four women draped over him, fondling and kissing him, playing with his hair, and he was responding very enthusiastically.
Anger made her straighten and brush the few tears from her eyes. Anger gave her the ability to march toward the table like an avenging demon, pick up the bottle of liquor that was on the table and pour it over the five human figures, then throw the bottle at the man.
Twisted Illusions turned, found other bottles on other tables, and proceeded to throw them at the group of Goths in the booth.
The women squealed in outrage and surprise. Prince Panic looked up, saw Twisted Illusion's irate visage, grabbed the bottle that she had thrown at him and threw it back at her before trying to crawl under the table, under cover.
The crowd around the two quickly moved out of the immediate area, trying to keep from getting caught up in the melee.
"You dare call me a slut when you have your four whores here, waiting to take care of your wounded pride?" Twisted Illusions pulled him from the booth by his lacy shirtfront.
"Bitch I may be, but I'm not yours," she sneered. "I'll never be your bitch! You pathetic excuse for a man! I don't know what they see in you; I don't know what I saw it you."
"You sang a different tune last night when I –"
Twisted Illusions grabbed another bottle and slammed it into the side of his head, then let go of his shirt, watching him drop like a stone into the booth.
"Shut up, bastard," she hissed as she was pulled away from the man by Chaotic. "You think you really had me senseless with your so-called masculine sexual skills? I was faking it, Prince darling." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. "You are a poor excuse for a lover. What ever made me think I even wanted to be in your bed?" She pulled away from Blair then looked at the four women who'd been draped all over the man. "You all think he's so irresistible? Well, you can have him. I never want to see him again."
Twisted Illusions twirled on her heel and stalked back to the booth, throwing herself into it and calling for a bottle of liquor. She heard the sound of footsteps behind her, of a voice trying to calm her anger.
She wasn't sure if she wanted to hear that voice or not.
"Damn it, Twist!" Blair shook his head. "That was not what I had in mind."
"Well it wasn't on my agenda either," she snorted. "Damned bastard. Makes me feel like a stupid normal woman – I should have known better."
A bottle appeared on the table. Twisted Illusions picked it up and drained nearly half without a blink. Blair sighed sadly.
"He claimed he loved me, the son of a bitch." Her tone was bitter as well as angry. "Said this place was a shrine to our physical and spiritual love." More liquor made its way down her throat before Blair could stop her. "He swore he'd never tomcat around in here; the other clubs were open hunting ground for the both of us, to calm the physical itch, but this place was special, just for us."
A commotion at the entrance drew their attention to the doorway. The four women surrounding Prince Panic had increased to eight; Blair thought he recognized three who'd tried to ravage his body all evening in the group. From the guttural noises leaving Sam's lips, it was pretty obvious she recognized them as well.
"Sluts, the lot of them," she grumbled. "So much for sticking together. Those bitches! First, they compete with me to get into his bed, then they stand by me when he dumps them for another lover, and now they're back to competing with me for his sexual favors. Well they can have him. He's not that hot of a lover. Hell," she looked at Blair before she downed another portion of liquor, "you're a better lover than he could ever think of being. You have more…"
"I'll take your word for it," Blair interrupted her. In a different setting he would have gladly let her list his attributes, her opinion of them, including how womanly, how cherished, how loved he made her feel.
"They said they'd stick by me, Beauty." Sam turned sorrowful eyes toward him, seemingly unaware that he'd interrupted her. "But look at them. Chasing after him as if he were the only man who could find a woman's G spot."
"Bitches!" Sam spat out. "Rotten ugly whores! I ought to give them a piece of my mind…"
With surprising speed, she rose to her full height, barely weaving in spite of the liquor that she'd just consumed. She strode purposefully toward the door, her face glowering, looking darker with each passing moment.
"Sam - Twist! Wait!" Blair shot after her, catching her at the door.
"Why?" She turned a challenging face toward him.
"Well," Blair licked his lips, "you're my ride, remember?"
"Can it, Blair." Her tone was ice cold. And, he noted, she hadn't called him by his Goth name. "Those bitches turned on me. So did Prince. I don't intend to roll over and take it like some old hag."
"You won't be." Blair tried to reason with her. "Right now he's drunk, they're drunk, you're…"
"I'm what?" Sam's expression matched her icy tones. "Drunk? Not hardly; not yet."
She started out the door; he placed a hand on her arm. She turned a vicious glare on him.
"Take your hand off my arm before I take it off at your shoulder!" Sam bit out viciously. "That sorry excuse for a man dissed me; he's not getting away with it. And those so-called friends of mine crossed the line. No one treats me that way. No one!"
Jerking her arm out of his grasp, she stormed out of the bar, barreling toward one of the other bars.
"Twist!" Blair shouted. "Damn it! Sam!"
"Go back, Beauty!" She didn't even bother to look over her shoulder. "You don't want to be a party to this. Call Nightmare, or call a cab. Just go home, Beauty!"
"Sam! Twist! Would you just listen to me for a minute?" Blair blasted. "He's not worth it!"
Sam stopped as she stepped into the street next to a sports car. Her head dropped and shook side to side slowly. She turned and leaned her hips on the car's fender and looked at him.
"He didn't diss you," Blair went on, hoping he finally was finally getting through to his former lover. "He only showed the entire Goth community what an absolute ass and utter fool he is to even try to replace you."
"That's over the top, even for you," she said with a harsh laugh.
"No, it's not." Blair shook his head as he joined her by the car. "Even if I never convinced you I mixed up the dates that day, I never stepped out on you. I could never do that to you!"
Sam bowed her head, then lifted it and looked at Blair. Her eyes were suspiciously bright.
"You and I probably aren't soulmates, and probably never will be," Blair continued, "and I'll always be sorry about that, but we'll always be friends. Friends who stand by each other."
Sam let him place his hand on her neck, a silly grin on her face. "You pick the damnedest times to get all mushy, you know it?"
Blair felt himself relaxing. He was finally getting through to her.
Sam smiled at him, and this time it was the relaxed, friendly smile he remembered from when he first met her. "How about we continue this conversation at my place, hmm?"
"Okay," Blair nodded. "As long as that's all we do."
"You are such a party-pooper," Sam laughed.
"What can I say?" Blair shrugged.
"That you'll change your mind?" Sam's smile curved impishly.
"Maybe next time," Blair said. "I wouldn't want darling Prince to come to your apartment and find you in flagrante delicto."
Sam dismissed the man airily. "He's either at his place with his wenches having the orgy of a lifetime, or passed out from all the booze he's had. I just don't want to be alone tonight."
"I can't promise anything," Blair said soberly.
"You can promise me I won't be alone," Sam replied. "I'm not asking for anything more."
"Okay. I'll get our wraps while you get the car, okay?"
"Okay." Sam planted a kiss on his forehead.
"And be careful," Blair added.
"I'm the epitome of caution," she stated as she started down the street, her gait sexy and carefree.
Blair shook his head as he walked back toward the bar. Jim had never this side of the hot-blooded vixen, only the vengeful woman. Perhaps if he'd seen this side of her, he'd know why Blair had been attracted to her.
The squeal of tires shattered his reverie and the lurching lights drew his attention to the street where Sam was continuing toward her car, seemingly oblivious to the metallic menace.
"Sam!" Blair's panicked voice stopped the woman in the center of the street. His eyes widened in terror. "Run, Sam! Get the hell out of the street!"
Sam frowned for a brief instant, then the terror that Blair had felt was mirrored on her streaked face. She started to race for the bar where Blair was standing. She tripped, stumbled and got up, trying to increase her pace to get to Blair.
Blair felt an icy cold lump in his chest as he watched the scene in front of him. His legs felt leaden, unwilling to follow his commands.
The mechanical monster connected with the black-clad figure. He could hear the crunch of bones as they shattered from the impact against metal. The sickening squishing sound of flesh and organs dulled the crunching noise as the body was lifted from the pavement.
The limp figure arced into the air and sailed gracelessly across the street, dropping down, down, down until it landed on the asphalt below with an appalling thud, her arms and legs askew like a discarded rag doll.
Once her body touched the earth, the spell that had held him in place was lifted and Blair raced to the broken body.
Blair dropped beside her, his breath rapid and ragged. His fingers reached for her neck, barely noting the unnatural angle that the head was at.
"Oh god, no pulse, no pulse," he rasped. "Somebody! Call 911!" he shouted.
His body ran on automatic, positioning the head to open the airway while still remembering not to move the spine too much. Lips touched lips, forcing air through them to the lungs, then hands found their way to her chest, pressing down, demanding the organ beneath it to react.
"C'mon, Sam," he commanded through clenched teeth, "respond, damn it. C'mon!"
Time lost all meaning as he continued the rhythmic action on her chest, then moved to her lips, attempting to get her to return the action.
Hands pulled him from the still form. He tried to fight them, but found himself too weak to do much of anything.
"I'm sorry, Blair," one of the bodies attached to the hands whispered. "She's gone."
"No." Blair shook his head. "No, she can't…"
"I'm sorry," the voice repeated.
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."
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."
"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."
"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 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?"
"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?"
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."
= = = = =
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."
"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."
"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.
"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.
"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.
"Need some help?"
"No," Jim shook his head. "I'm fine. It's just a simple interrogation after all."
"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."
"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."
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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