"This way." Jim said as Blair scanned the names listed there.
He followed his partner down the hallway, curving to the right, until they came to an open
door. Jim knocked then stepped inside, looking around as Blair followed. The office was a standard shape, front door opening to a small waiting area with a large, rounded reception desk. Behind it they could see another door similarly propped open, and Blair could hear someone inside, shuffling papers and mumbling something.
"Excuse me," Jim said as he walked towards the second door.
"Yes?" Blair looked up as a young, extremely attractive woman stepped out from behind the door. "More questions, officer?"
"Yes, ma'am, if you don't mind. I'm Detective Ellison. This is my partner, Blair Sandburg." Jim showed his ID then nodded towards Blair.
"Jessica Simms." She shifted her load of files from one arm to the other and Blair's eyes were drawn immediately to her flaming red fingernails. They were a match for the red heels she wore in stark contrast to her black skirt and white blouse. Her hair was also black, and nearly as short as the skirt. "I've already told the other officers what I know. Which isn't much really." She set the files down on the reception desk and rubbed her hands together, glancing at the two of them. "I'm just here getting my boss's office ready for Monday, and haven't seen anyone since coming up from the lobby. The guard down there checked me in. I didn't even know Mr. Conner was upstairs."
"Are you the only one on this floor, Mr. Simms?"
"Yes. And it's Jessica, please. Only my boss calls me Ms Simms. and it gets old after a while."
"Okay, Jessica. Have you been up here all evening?"
It didn't take long for Blair to realize she was staring at Jim the entire time they were there, and he decided it was just as well. She was a bit tall, even considering the heels. Women just seemed drawn to his partner like moths to a flame. He never could imagine why. Well, he could, but he'd rather not.
"Since just after 5pm. I'm in charge of setting up the office, we're in stocks and commodities, and when the building opens on Monday...assuming it still is?" She glanced at Jim questioningly.
Jim shrugged, "I really couldn't answer that. I suppose it's up to the estate or the stock holders. So, you've been up here for three hours and haven't heard or seen anyone?"
"No, not until the officers came here about thirty minutes ago." She shook her head, looking down for a moment. "I can't believe someone like Conner would commit suicide. A man like that, you figure he's got everything going for him."
Blair was waiting for Jim to tell her it most likely wasn't suicide, but he didn't. And she didn't seem to make the connection between the questions and the apparent cause of death. He decided his partner had his reasons and he'd just have to wait to find out what they were.
"Are you going to be here for much longer, Ms Simms? A woman all alone in a building at this late hour..."
"Oh, no. I'll be fine." She picked the files back up and smiled at each of them. "I can take care of myself, believe me. Besides, this is a secure building. I mean, it's not like Mr. Conner was murdered or anything, right?"
"Still, if you'd feel more comfortable, we could escort you down to your car."
"No, thank you, I've still got a few hours work to do. Gotta be ready for Monday." She smiled sweetly at Jim, then nodded to Blair and repositioned her files. "Is there anything else?"
"No," Jim replied, "Just be sure and check out downstairs, we need to keep a record of all building occupants right now."
"Certainly." She smiled again and walked back through the door.
Jim turned and Blair followed him back into the corridor. "Attractive woman."
"Really? I didn't notice." Jim continued down the hall towards the elevator, glancing over his shoulder at Blair.
"Oh right. You didn't notice. She was practically drooling, and you didn't notice."
They reached the elevators and Jim laughed as he punched the button. "Sandburg, first of all, you're imagining things." The doors opened and they stepped inside. "Second of all, we're on a case here."
Blair leaned against the back of the elevator car as they ascended. "Oh, I forgot. Keeping it professional?"
"All the time."
Now it was Blair's turn to laugh, but he said nothing. The elevator stopped, and Jim gave him a look before they got off. He laughed again and ignored it, following his partner back to Mr. Conner's suite. The body had been removed, and was replaced by a white tape outline that ran from the chair to the desk. Blair walked to the desk, trying not to notice the blood still smeared all over the top, and peered through the inlaid glass to the computer monitor recessed in the wood. The CPU was built into the desk as well, with cables and connections all strung through a hole behind the monitor and leading into the large drawer to the left of the occupant.
Jim was pacing the room, looking at the carpet, so Blair left the desk and followed his partner. "You see something?"
"Maybe." Jim pointed to the plush carpet beneath their feet. "Check this out. You can still see imprints of shoes in the carpet from the forensics team. Only here, and here," he pointed to two areas next to the front of the desk. "There's heel marks. Like from a woman's shoe."
Blair shrugged. "His secretary, maybe?"
"Maybe. I can't smell any perfume. Could be from a day ago. " Jim continued across the room, towards the door. "Just a few of them left an imprint, but they lead from the door, to the desk, and back again." He straightened up and glanced around the office. "Wouldn't a secretary be coming from her own office?"
Before Blair could comment, Jim moved across the office to a door set in the wall at the far right of the desk. He opened it and they both walked through into a smaller office filled with file cabinets, a smaller version of Mr. Conner's desk, a separate table, several smaller leather chairs, and all the other accoutrements one expects to find in a hard-working secretary's office.
"Maybe this is where all his files are," Blair said as he glanced around. The office was neat, and very clean, but he could tell it was well-used. He himself had only just discovered the discipline necessary to put his papers into the file cabinets instead of on top, but he hadn't quite gotten the hang of doing it on a daily basis. His was more the clean up now and again method.
"Maybe." Jim walked over to the first row of cabinets and opened the top drawer. Inside there were files all neatly arranged and labeled.
Blair peered over Jim's shoulder at the files. "Man, talk about anal." Each file was so neatly packed, there wasn't a single page out of place. And the labels had been made by machine, each perfectly printed and affixed to the file tab.
"Not everyone works like you do, Chief." Jim reached in and thumbed through the labels. Blair was about to ask what it was they were looking for when the phone on the desk
rang. He looked up at Jim and raised his eyebrows.
Jim stepped over and picked up the phone "Yes?" He glanced at Blair. "Yes, Simon. Good, we'll get right on it. If we could find those files, they'd have a case. Right, Simon. We'll see what we can come up with." Jim hung up the phone and Blair looked at him.
"Why didn't he call on the cell phone?"
"He tried. I guess it's not working in here, must be all the electronics or something."
"Yeah." Blair glanced around the office again. "It's like the tower of Babel up here. Gives me the creeps."
Jim laughed, shaking his head. "You kids today. Come on, it's time you earned your
keep." He slapped Blair on the back and pushed him back into Conner's office, towards the desk. "Simon's got that warrant, but the secretary says she has no idea what his personal codes
were. And the IRS has an ongoing investigation, but they haven't found anything yet." They were at the desk now and Jim removed the white tape, then pulled out the leather chair and motioned for Blair to take a seat.
He paused, making a face as he looked at the blood smeared desk and carpet. "Jim, I'm no computer expert. What makes you think I can find something the IRS couldn't?" Blair was all for helping out, but sitting in a chair that had just been vacated by a dead man, and using a computer that still had his blood all over it, wasn't his idea of helping out.
"You haven't looked at it yet, and they've been looking at it for months. Time for a fresh perspective. Besides, you're a great study of human nature." Jim was looking around the office as he spoke, and now came back to the desk with some paper towels he had located in the washroom. He began to clear away the blood now that forensics was finished and pushed Blair down into the chair.
Jim's compliment startled him for a moment. He never really thought his partner admired him for anything, not like that. But then, Jim had never made fun of his studies, and had always listened whenever he offered an opinion, no matter how ignorant it might turn out to be. He was flattered, but still doubtful about how he could help. "So, what am I looking for?" he asked, reluctantly sitting in the black leather.
"Anything that he didn't want to be found. Any bank records, coded files, anything pertaining to the building or the unions." Jim finished wiping the blood off and tossed the used towels into the wastebasket. "He was being investigated for tax evasion, and some union bosses have lawsuits pending in the millions."
"Great. So I'm supposed to crack some guy's code that the IRS hasn't been able to do yet." Blair was nodding and making a face but Jim seemed to be ignoring him. "And while I'm performing this miracle, what will you be doing?"
"First, I'm going back down to the lobby and have a look at the video tapes from today. Then, I want to have a chat with Ms Simms."
"Oh, I get it."
"Relax, Chief. Just see what you can come up with here, okay?" Jim slapped him on the back, then left.
Blair mimicked Jim's last sentence as his partner was walking out of the office. He would have repeated it out loud but didn't really want Jim to hear. For that, he'd have to wait until the elevator was descending. Blair sighed, pushing the hair from his face with one hand, and reached down to turn on the computer with the other. The screen came to life within the large desk and Blair found the mouse, also built in, recessed in the table top. It didn't take long at all to find a list of Conner's files, but each and every one was encrypted and awaiting the password.
"Great. The IRS can't crack it, but I'm supposed to?" Blair shook his head, and began the slow process of trial and error. "Okay, Conner, what do we know about you?" Absolutely nothing. He looked around the sparsely decorated room. Now, is that your style, or did you not finish moving in? Blair didn't bother trying any of the Zen related ideas he came up with. A billionaire who had a fetish for huge buildings and computerized offices, wasn't likely to do much meditation. The names of his buildings would be way too obvious, and he could assume the IRS had tried that already. "This is impossible." Blair leaned on the desk, staring down at the screen, and pictured in his mind the new Conner Tower itself. Massive amounts of steel and glass combining to stretch a good five stories taller than any other building in the city. The wind at the top was too strong for a helipad, Blair remembered reading about that a few months ago. This office was practically fit for a king, with its one, huge desk carved out of walnut and positioned facing the main doors. And the chair, a high-back, black leather throne. Blair shook his head, thinking. "No way." It couldn't be that simple. Still, he had nothing to lose.
B A B Y L O N.
The cursor blinked at him for a few seconds, then the speakers beeped and a file opened up, displaying rows and rows of new file names, all asking for a password.
"Great, one down, ten more to go." Blair was stunned. His first try had netted him partial access, now for the files themselves. Blair picked the first file in the list, and began to work on the code. He knew, five minutes later, that his first victory had been sheer luck, and the rest of the files could take weeks, if not months, to crack. "Sure, Jim, a great study of human nature," Blair said to himself. Just then he heard soft footsteps crossing the carpeted room.
"Hey, Jim, I..." Before Blair could look up, something struck him
on the side of the head. He was unconscious before he even hit the floor.
Jim watched the camera as he descended to the 40th floor. Why on earth the penthouse security would be last on the list, he didn't understand. From the 40th, he switched to the elevator that would take him down to the lobby. That car had a working camera, and he knew Nelson would be watching. The ex-officer was beginning to look like a prime suspect, but Jim couldn't fathom his reasons for killing Mr. Conner. There was no money in the office, no safe, and the jewelry and watch were still on the body. Jim wasn't willing to give Nelson credit for having come up with a scheme that would net him Conner's millions. But, he wasn't going to underestimate the man, either.
Once at the lobby level, he stepped out, automatically scanning for Nelson. He could see the security desk and the monitors, but Nelson was nowhere to be found. Jim couldn't even pick up the man's heartbeat. He moved cautiously to the desk, looking around. The monitors were all active, so he lifted the hinged desk barrier and stepped inside, glancing at the screens. He could see a picture of each elevator, including one marked penthouse. There were other monitors that switched views between empty hallways and vacant waiting areas. Another screen to the far left was blank, and Jim flipped a switch under the monitor, watching as the screen came to life with an image of Blair, sitting at Conner's desk.
Jim picked up a phone from the desk and dialed Simon's office.
"Captain, we've got our man."
"What? Who? Are you still at the Conner tower?"
"Yes, sir." He bent down under the desk and found a row of VCR's. "I was getting ready to view the security tapes. Simon, the camera in Conner's office is working. I can see Sandburg in there now."
"I'm not sure. He's not down here. He's starting to look like a pretty good suspect, Captain." Jim was glancing around, but he still couldn't pick up any sign of Nelson. "I should have known, Simon. It was too convenient, having him working security here."
"Come on, Jim, it's a natural job for an ex-cop to take, especially someone like Nelson. If it had been obvious, I would have taken him in for questioning earlier. I'll get an APB out on him. Any luck with the computer files?"
"I've got Sandburg working on them now. There's a woman working on the 49th floor, I think I should bring her out, just in case. If Nelson's still here somewhere, I don't want him taking hostages."
"Right. Get her and Sandburg and come on back to the station."
"Yes sir." Jim hung up the phone and took another look around the empty lobby and through the glass walls to the dark streets. It was nearly 8:30 and the street traffic was thinning out. Nelson was probably halfway to wherever he was going to hide by now. Just as Jim turned to lift up the hinged piece of counter, the lights to the building went off. He froze, turning each of his senses on full. In less than a minute, the building's emergency power came on, bathing the lobby in half the light it had before. Jim couldn't hear anything, not even a heartbeat other than his own. He picked up a phone and could tell before raising the hand piece to his ear that it was dead. The monitors were coming back on one at a time and he glanced at them quickly, scanning each one for a view of Jessica Simms or Blair.
"Dammit!" Jim threw up the hinged door and ran back to the elevators, entering the one he had come down on and punching the 40th floor button. He could tell from the camera angle that his partner was unconscious. But was he alive? "Come on, come on." The elevator proceeded at a snail's pace, finally reaching the 40th floor. He came out with his gun drawn, scanning the area with eyes and ears. There was no one on the entire floor, so he pressed the penthouse car button. Nothing. "Damn." He'd have to take the stairs. The door was at the far end of the hallway, and as he opened it he listened for anything he might pick up. The only sound that greeted him was that of the air conditioning, so he started up the 12 flights as fast as he could. By the time he reached the 52nd floor, he was sweating. Just inside the hallway, he spotted the utility panel, with its spitting wires, dangling freshly cut ends that sparked and danced with freed electricity. Leading with his gun, he hurried down the corridor and into the office.
"Sandburg!" Blair was trying to stand, one hand to his head, the other on the desk. Jim holstered his gun and ran to his partner, grabbing him by both arms. "Easy now." He helped him slowly to his feet, noticing the blood oozing out from between Blair's fingers. He half-carried, half-ushered Blair to the leather couch against the wall beside them.
"Oh man...what the hell happened?" Blair asked groggily. He removed his hand and glanced at the blood there.
Jim released his hold on Blair's arms and gently pushed the hair away from the gash on his right temple. "I was just about to ask you the same question." He had the hair out of the way and probed the area around the wound.
"OW!" Blair hissed and tried to pull away.
"Take it easy." Jim held his head in place, then looked into his partner's eyes. "Look at me." Blair stopped squinting against the pain and looked at him. Jim gazed at his pupils for a moment, trying to determine how bad the injury might be. Satisfied that both pupils were the same size, he let go and examined the gash again. "Did you see who did this?"
"Ow! No, I didn't see anything. Man, I...OW! I thought it was you, coming back." Blair kept trying to pull away, and Jim had to hold him still to get a good look at the injury.
"Nelson's gone," Jim said, glancing around the room. The door to the washroom was still open and he could see a first aid kit there. "Stay put." He pushed down on Blair's shoulder for emphasis as he stood. "The main power's been cut off, and the phones are out, but there's emergency lights and the elevators worked until the 40th floor," he called back as he entered the washroom. He opened the first aid kit and found bandages and antiseptic pads, then returned to the couch were Blair still sat, rubbing his forehead. "Did you get anywhere with those files?"
"Yeah, I did as a matter of fact. Ow, Jim." He had started to clean the cut and once again had to hold Blair's head still. "At least a little bit. I got through the first password, and found the files. But that's as far as I got." Blair hissed between clenched teeth as Jim placed the first bandage. "Ow." He winced again as Jim applied the last of the butterflies. "I was just working on one when the world went out."
Jim looked him in the eyes again, checking. "You didn't see or hear anything?"
"No. Man, it was Nelson, wasn't it?"
"I think so. This camera's working after all. And he's not downstairs." Jim stood and glanced around the room, taking note of the added imprints in the plush carpet that were as deep as the ones he and Blair had just made. "Must have come up here when he saw me heading down. I guess he wanted in the computer too."
"You think he killed Conner for those account numbers?"
"Probably. But then he couldn't get into the files." Jim looked at the camera, then at the desk. "From that angle, he could see the desk, but I don't think he'd be able to pick up on what Conner would be typing into the keyboard. Either he figured he could come up with them, or he thought he saw enough from the monitors to give it a try." He looked back at Blair. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine," Blair replied, looking up at Jim. "God, I can't believe this. He's been right here the whole time? And I let him walk up and brain me."
Jim shook his head. "Don't, Blair. You couldn't have known." He reached out a hand and helped his partner up off the couch. "Simon's got an APB out on Nelson. Do you feel dizzy?"
"No, just stupid."
Jim put a hand on his back and pushed him towards the door. "Come on, stupid. We're gonna have to walk down. The elevators up here aren't working."
"What about Ms Simms, downstairs?"
They entered the hallway and started towards the staircase doors. "We'll pick her up on the way down."
They started down the stairs. Jim turned his hearing on full, scanning below them for any noises other than the humming of the lights and the rumble of the air conditioning. The only other sound to greet them was Jessica Simm's heartbeat as they pushed through the doors to the 49th floor. Jim held up a hand for quiet as he focused down the hallway.
"In the office," he said, leading the way. Blair was glancing up and down the hallway as they followed the corridor to the offices where Jessica had been earlier. "Relax. He's probably long gone by now."
"Yeah, probably," Blair said. As they passed the elevators, he pressed a button. "Did these go out with the power?"
"No, I don't think so. I came up to the 40th in one. Nelson probably turned the penthouse elevator off to slow us down."
"Then how did he get up here, and back down?"
"He has keys. Probably used the second one, or a service elevator." Jim stopped outside the office door and listened. There was only one heartbeat, and it was racing slightly. "Ms Simms?" He pushed the door open and stuck his head inside. "Ms Simms, it's..." The fine mist that struck his open eyes burned on contact. Jim cried out, grabbing at his face with both hands as he staggered back and into Blair.
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