"What? What's it Jim?" Blair tried to follow, but by the time he got off the couch, Jim was already at the phone, removing the back and peering inside. "What?"
"The humming, on the tape, is mixed in with your voice. It's also there with Wilson's voice. It's the same humming I heard on your office phone when I called you that night." Jim finished his exam of the phone and put it back together.
"Well?" Blair hadn't seen him remove anything.
"Has anyone been in here today?"
"No. I fell asleep on the couch for a while, but I would have heard someone come in. Jim, what is it? Is the phone bugged? Is that it?"
Jim shook his head. "Not anymore. It's all coming together now." He put the phone down and Blair followed him back to the couch. "That would explain why your phone didn't ring when I called you that night. And why this one wasn't working this afternoon." Jim didn't stop at the couch, but rather continued on to the window, peering outside into the now darkened street below the loft. "He wouldn't have to bug the phone, itself. Just the lines."
"He? Jim, you're losing me. What in the hell is going on?" Blair tried to look outside but couldn't see anything in the dark. "He who?"
Jim turned, "Her boyfriend. Kathy Fisher has a boyfriend who just happens to be a Communications Major. Would he have access at the University to some high-tech equipment?"
Blair nodded, "Yeah, sure. You'd be surprised what students can get their hands on these days. That place can be a veritable cesspool of ingenuity, especially around April."
"Well, this guy's no fool. He must have had our line tapped, your office phone, and Wilson's as well. That can make the phones act up. Then he just had to take bits and pieces of any conversation, and splice them together to make an argument. Then Ms Fisher sits in the office, playing back the tape, and adding her own live improvisations to make it sound more real to a Professor she knew would be in the next office."
Blair was stunned. He realized someone had been framing him for this murder, but Kathy Fisher? They had dated once or twice while she was his research assistant, but after he called it off, and she switched to working for Professor Wilson, he had thought they were still friends. He could handle not being friends, but did he warrant such an enemy? "Are you saying, her boyfriend did this?"
"No, I don't think so. I think she acted alone in killing him. Like I said, she had motive, and opportunity. She knew you were there that night. She knew where to find a weapon in a hurry. She probably knew when you left, and made sure she acted quickly. With the phone not working, and the parking lot deserted, she must have realized you would have no alibi."
Blair was nodding as Jim explained. "Yeah, that and the damn car breaking down."
Jim walked to the door and grabbed his coat,
"Hey, where are you going?"
"Just hang on, I want to check out the car." He unlocked the door and turned back to Blair. "I'll be right back."
Blair started to follow, then stopped as Jim pulled the door closed in front of him, giving him a stern look. God, it was all starting to make some sense. Not much, but some. It was hard for him to picture the Kathy Fisher he knew as a murderer. But, she had been ignored for so long by Wilson in his publications, she must have been pushed too far. But why frame him? She wanted the grant, she could have had it. God, she didn't know I didn't want it. He had never told anyone his reasons for not going with Dr Stoddard. And he sure as hell hadn't told anyone that he no longer wanted that grant. It would have taken him back to Peru, for at least a year, if not two. He could have spent all that time searching for a native Sentinel, and never found one. Before he met Jim, that was his only option in proving his theory. But now--now he didn't want to--didn't have to--go to Peru to study the real thing. And he didn't want to leave Jim. If he left, even for one year, Jim could very well have a new partner when he came back. There might not be a place in Jim's world for him any more. No, he made the right choice. But he had never told anyone. He hadn't wanted to sound like a sore loser, so he just played the part of someone passed over and let it go.
Jim's sudden appearance through the front door startled Blair. He had been pacing the room, waiting for his friend to come back from whatever it was he was doing.
"Your car isn't going anywhere for quite some time, Chief."
Blair raised his eyebrows.
"Sugar in the tank." Jim replied, "Not much, just enough to let you get a few miles down the road, then it starts leaking in. You had maybe a fifty-fifty chance of getting it started that second time, but that was it. She must have needed a little extra measure of time, to be sure you didn't have an alibi. I need to get back to the offices, check your phone and Wilson's. Maybe, instead of tapping such a complicated system, they just used bugs. And if so, there might be something in those phones that I can find. I'll have Simon send this tape to the FBI's lab for a detailed voice print and analysis. We are well on our way to proving you innocent, my friend."
"Yes!" Blair replied. "I'm coming with you."
"No, Sandburg. You are staying right here. That's a crime scene, and you are still the prime suspect. A prime suspect who can barely stand up straight right now."
"Jim, I am not sitting here on the couch another minute while you are out there, doing God knows what, with my life in the balance." Blair was raising his voice now and reached out to grab Jim's coat. "I am coming with you."
"I said you are staying here."
Blair was shaking his head as he listened, "No. No way Jim, this is too important. I am not staying here. Just go ahead and leave, I'll catch a cab."
Jim was shaking his head, "Listen to me, you are a suspect. That is a crime scene. You are staying here. I don't need you there, or anywhere else."
"Dammit Jim, when you were suspected of having a part in Jack's disappearance, you stayed on the case." He was determined to win this, he had to win this, there was too much at stake.
"And I was suspended, remember?"
"And, you went after them anyway." Blair reminded. "Jim, I've got everything to lose here. My career, my future, my partner...I'm not staying here, doing nothing about it."
"You'll just have to trust me Sandburg. You're staying here. You are NOT going to the University, or to Kathy Fisher's, or anywhere else for that matter." Jim was getting stern now, and Blair could see the commanding look in his eyes.
"Okay, fine. I'll just stay here." Blair tried to be as convincing as he could. Just get Jim to leave, then he could follow, maybe take a cab, as much as he hated that. He hadn't really thought of going to talk to Kathy, but now that Jim mentioned it....
Blair turned away for just a moment, then felt a hand grab his right wrist. Before he could react, his right arm was pulled behind him and pinned against his back.
"Jim! What the hell...?" Jim's other arm came around his chest and he couldn't turn.
"I said you're staying here." Jim replied. "And this time you're doing what I say for once. You think I can't read your face by now? It's an open book, my friend."
Blair could feel Jim pushing him down the hallway and he couldn't fight the stronger man. His right arm was pinned behind him. He used his left arm to pull at Jim's, across his chest, trying to pry it loose. "Jim! Let go of me. Dammit Jim, I'm coming with you. This is my life we're dealing with!" He fought as best he could, but even if his stomach muscles hadn't been so badly bruised, he knew he couldn't break Jim's hold. He could feel the strength in both arms that held him. He realized Jim was holding back, trying to be gentle, and yet he still couldn't break the hold.
"No. You can't go there, you're the prime suspect. We've gone over this already." They were next to the bathroom now and Jim stopped. "You need to use this? I could be a few hours."
"Damn you Jim, let go of me!" Blair realized then that Jim was serious, and meant to lock him up, keep him there. He used the larger man as a brace and lifted both feet, placing them against the door jam, trying to push Jim off balance. A stabbing pain shot through his stomach muscles as he pushed. "This isn't funny! Damn you!" His voice cracked slightly with the pain.
Jim backed up two steps and Blair's feet fell back to the floor. "Okay Chief, as long as you can hold it for a while." He continued to push Blair down the hall and into his room. "You are going to stay here. We have a chance to clear you now, and I'm not risking it by having you there at the crime scene. You want to go back to jail?"
Blair kept struggling, even though he knew he wasn't going to win. They were next to the bed now and Jim moved the arm holding Blair's chest. He struggled again, turning to pull his right arm down. "Jim, I swear to God...."
"Sandburg, what part of NO don't you understand?"
Blair felt the handcuffs then, slapping down around his right wrist. Damn him! He had never believed Jim would use his superior size and strength against him like this. He had manhandled him once or twice, but only to keep him from hurting himself. Once, he had thrown Blair against a wall, but they had just met, and he knew he was coming off as a smart ass that day to a confused and angry cop. And once before, on the train, but Blair had to admit he was egging him on that time. He was furious now and reacted in the only way he could think of.
Jim caught the fist he was throwing towards his face easily and held his arm. "Dammit, hold still."
Blair tried to pull his hand free but his stomach was feeling the effort and his head was throbbing again. Jim pulled his left arm around behind him. Blair could feel him being careful, but Jim's concern with his injuries was no comfort, considering he was going to handcuff him to the bed and there was nothing he could do about it now.
"I hurt you once before, I don't want to do that again. But if you don't stop fighting me and sit on that bed I'll punch your lights out and put you there myself."
Blair stopped struggling for a moment. A memory flashed into his mind. A memory of Jim, out of his senses, and the sudden and extreme pain, both physical and emotional, of that attack. His momentary pause was all Jim needed. Before he could react again he was lifted and set on his bed in one swift motion. His hands were forced behind his back, between two slats of the headboard. The other end of the handcuffs snapped around his left wrist, securing him to the bed.
"Jim, you can't do this! Dammit Jim, don't do this!" He couldn't lose, couldn't let Jim win against him, not like this. His friend was pushing pillows between his back and the headboard he was cuffed to, making him more comfortable. He didn't want to be comfortable, he wanted to go with Jim. He wanted to clear his name. What he didn't want--what he never wanted--was to lose control in front of his friend.
"I can, and I have. Now listen to me."
Blair looked away. He was furious, and the last thing he wanted to do was look Jim in the eyes, not now. Jim reached out and grabbed his chin. He tried not to turn, but the bruise on his jaw was right where Jim's fingers were. Reluctantly, he faced Jim.
"Listen! Now, we have got just one chance to clear you. One chance. And it's a slim one at that. This little frame job is a good one, not too intelligent, but hard to prove. Now I need to get in there, and have a look around, with NO distractions."
"Jim, I'm your partner." Blair tried to reason with him, to calm his own voice down, but he could hear the anger still rumbling in his throat. How could he do this?
"I know Chief. I know. But if you are seen there, even standing in the hallway talking to me, it's back to jail. They'll think you're there to taint the evidence. And, they'll get me kicked off the case. Then it's no more out on bail, no more chances to clear you. Besides, the doctor said for you to stay home for a few days, and that's what you're going to do. "
Blair paused, remembering the holding cell. Could he ever forget? He understood what would happen to him in prison. He wasn't so stupid as to think he could ever handle himself in a place like that. God, he would never survive.
"You don't want to go to jail, and I don't want to lose you. So, the only way around both is for you to sit here and wait." Jim moved to the door, then paused and looked back. He was smiling slightly then and Blair began to fume. "You need anything? Aspirin? You want I should turn the radio on?"
"Damn you Jim." Was all Blair could say. His stomach was so sore, and the shouting hadn't helped that at all. He had never felt so helpless. Even being chained to the dental chair in Lash's warehouse didn't compare to this. His friend, his partner, had just pushed him down the hall with hardly any effort at all, tossed him on the bed like a child, and handcuffed him to the headboard. And now he stood, getting ready to leave him there, asking if he wanted anything.
"Okay." Jim stayed there for a moment, watching him.
Blair turned away again as he felt his eyes well up. He heard Jim walk down the hall and pick up his keys. He pulled against the handcuffs, tugging at the headboard to test its stability. It wouldn't budge. Damn him!
"You break those cuffs and I'll take it out of your hide." Jim called from the living room.
"This sucks!" Blair
shouted back. He didn't have to shout for Jim to hear. He shouldn't have shouted.
The injured muscles of his abdomen were as sore now as the day it happened. His
head was pounding, but he figured that was more from the impotent rage he couldn't
calm, rather than the cuts and bruises. He heard the front door shut and sat back,
pressing his head into the pillows Jim had piled up for him. "This really sucks."
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