Jim handed Blair his glove to stuff in the bag and glanced around the field, making sure they hadn't forgotten anything.
"Hey, Ellison, you got any more of these observers hanging around your place?" Tony Brooks called from his car as he finished putting his own gear away.
"Oh, sure, Tony, I've got about five or six. Trouble is, Sandburg here is the only one who can pitch."
Tony shut his trunk, laughing. "Well, just be sure you bring him with you next weekend."
Jim smiled, glancing at his partner as he loaded their gear into the truck. "I'll do my best." Blair handed him a water bottle and grabbed his own before shutting the back hatch. "You know, Jim, if you had told me how hard up you were for a decent pitcher, I'd have come out sooner."
Jim reached out and slapped Blair lightly on the side of the head. "I pitch just fine, Chief. Just so happens I'm a better catcher, that's all."
"Well, sure, Jim." They crossed the back of the truck and walked to the front doors. "It goes along with your need to give orders and be in control."
"That's funny." Jim climbed in and started the truck, treating Blair to a look of sarcasm that was met with mock-seriousness. "For that, you're buying lunch."
As they pulled away from the curb, Jim was laughing. God, he felt good today! They'd had a good workout on the ball field that morning with the Precinct team, and played nearly a full 8 innings. Working shifts made team sports difficult, but between the plainclothes and the uniformed officers, they usually had enough members each game. Bringing Blair along had been more of an attempt to air his partner out after a full week of studying in the loft at all hours of the night. He hadn't volunteered to play, but after Jim and a few others coaxed him into pitching, he'd proven himself the best one on the team.
Just another of the multitude of odd talents he was discovering Blair to possess. They drove towards town in good-natured silence, both pretty tired from the workout. Jim was smiling, and couldn't help feeling a little sense of pride. His partner was a wealth of information, some of it even relevant. He was a quick thinker, and had easily adapted to Jim's life on the force. And now, after proving himself worthy of their baseball team, Jim couldn't help his sense of pride and responsibility for his "discovery".
"So, Jim, you weren't thinking of anything fancy for lunch, right?"
"Oh, yeah, Chief. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about Sunday's, down on the pier." He made a right turn and headed toward the bay. "Unfortunately, we're dressed more for the Bay Street Grill." He glanced at Blair and laughed a little at his partner's look of disgust as the joke registered.
Blair was just opening his mouth to reply when they heard the crackle of the scanner. "All units in the vicinity, shots fired at Cascade Community College. Officers request assistance. Any available units, please respond."
"That's just a few blocks from here." Blair said.
Jim nodded and reached for the radio, acknowledging the call. "Hang on." He cranked the wheel into a hard left and made a u-turn to take them back two blocks and north three.
When they pulled in next to the single squad car, Jim quickly scanned the area. Two female uniformed officers were standing several yards ahead of them on the grass, with a few students crouching around the area, and more hiding behind buildings or running in doors. Jim drew his gun as he and Blair climbed out of the truck and hurried to the officers.
"Simmons, what have you got?" Jim approached the first of the officers, a young woman he'd known for nearly a year now as the best marksman on the force.
"Sniper, fired five shots around the campus, but hasn't been heard from in over twenty minutes now." She glanced at them, then returned her gaze to her partner, who was scanning the area.
"Anyone hit?" Jim looked toward the building opposite where they stood and focused on the roof, moving his gaze along the top.
Simmons shook her head. "No, luckily. I think he's left already." She sighed, nodding at the students hiding behind the building across the lawn. "We've got three witnesses over there who caught a glimpse of the shooter."
Jim looked back at Simmons and her partner, Blake. "You two see anything?"
"Nope." Blake sighed, still looking around the area. "Campus security got right on it, but I think he's long gone."
"By the time we got here, the shootings had stopped." Simmons added.
"Okay, more units are on the way. Let's get this area secured and..." Jim turned to face Simmons and Blair. The glint of sun off metal caught his eye. He just had time to register the sniper's aim before his Sentinel hearing picked up on the cocking of the hammer. "DOWN!!" Jim shouted as he raced forward, catching Blair in a full body tackle that sent them both crashing to the ground as the bullet screamed past. He turned his head as they fell, expecting to see Simmons landing beside them. Instead, she had fallen the other way. Two more shots rang out, and Jim covered Blair's head with his arms, then quickly sat up when he detected movement, scanning the roof where the shooter had been.
"Stay here!" Jim leapt to his feet, glancing back at the other officers. Blood covered officer Simmons' chest. "Oh God." He rushed over to kneel beside Blake as she applied pressure to her partner's chest wound.
"Go after him! I've got her," Officer Blake shouted.
Jim turned to Blair. "Get an ambulance and stay here!" He didn't wait to see Blair's nod. The sniper had moved, and Jim needed to cross the campus before he lost him altogether.
The grounds were deserted now; all the students and faculty had ducked into buildings and rooms. Jim reached the building and found an outside staircase leading to the roof. He took the steps three at a time, focusing intently on the space above him and far to the left. Sounds greeted his Sentinel ears, sounds of a gun being loaded. He was going to try again. Even knowing there were cops coming after him, he was going to try again. Jim burst onto the roof, aiming immediately in the direction of the sounds.
Without a word, the man at the opposite end of the roof stood, turning to face Jim with his rifle in both hands.
"Drop it!" Jim held his aim, picking a spot in the center of the man's chest. There was a look in his eyes that was oddly familiar. This man was not going to give up.
And he didn't.
"Drop me." Instantly the rifle was up, hammer and trigger moving almost in one motion.
Jim squeezed the trigger, then ducked as the rifle went off, firing a last round over his head. When he stood, the sniper was down, and Jim could tell without looking that he had killed the man. He heard sirens, shouts, and car doors slamming as more officers came on the scene and an ambulance was ushered in. He crossed the roof to the dead man and retrieved the rifle.
"Detective?" Officer Ryder approached, having just reached the roof with his partner, gun drawn. They holstered their guns, looking down at the sniper.
"He's dead." Jim handed the rifle to Ryder. "Secure the area, and call it in."
"Right." Ryder accepted the weapon, and with a nod to his partner, began to pace the roof in search of spent shells that would identify the shooter's previous whereabouts.
Jim hurried back across the roof to the stairs, trying to hear what was happening below to the injured officer. When he returned, Blair was closing the doors to the ambulance
"How is she?" Jim asked as the paramedics drove away. Officer Blake was nowhere to be seen.
Blair shrugged slightly. "She's alive. Did you get him?"
"Yeah." A patrol car pulled up. Captain Banks got out and walked straight to them, chewing roughly on the ever-present cigar.
"Jim, what the hell happened here? They just told me an officer was shot!" Simon glanced at Blair, then looked to Jim again.
"That's right, sir. Janet Simmons. She and her partner were first on the scene. The area appeared secure at the time, but the shooter was on the roof, right over there." Jim pointed to the building across the campus, and they could see several officers walking around on the roof. "He's dead."
Simon nodded, removing his cigar. "Okay, I've got an officer shot
and a dead suspect. Let's go through this step by step."
Jim walked the Captain through the incident as they watched the forensics team taking evidence and bagging the body. Blair followed, adding what little he'd seen. When they finished, Simon was holding the dead sniper's wallet, examining his address.
"Jack Kingston, 113 Evansen Rd. All right, Jim, you and Sandburg get over to this guy's place and check it out. I've got to get over to the hospital and check on Janet."
"Right, sir." Jim took the wallet and put a hand on Blair's shoulder, steering him toward the parking lot.
They got in and pulled out, driving west. "Man, I hope she's gonna be all right."
"We all do, Chief." Jim glanced at his partner for a second.
"Do you know her?"
He nodded, then scanned the block they were on for house numbers. "I know her reputation, and I've seen her on the firing range. She's got a perfect record." The house they were looking for came up on the left and Jim pulled into the driveway.
"You know, Jim, the way you describe it, this guy wanted to be killed." Blair looked out at the house in front of them.
"Yeah, sure seems that way, Chief. Fires off enough rounds to get the cops out there in force, then waits till we all drop our guard, figuring him for gone, and starts up again." Jim undid his seatbelt and looked at the old house, scanning the inside as best he could, hearing nothing. "House is empty. Let's go have a look."
They walked up to the front door and out of habit, Jim knocked. The house itself was dilapidated and run down, with paint peeling badly off all the outside walls. Grass that hadn't been mowed in weeks was sprinkled generously with dandelions. By the looks of the neighbors, this was the accepted norm for the block. He tried the doorknob and found it unlocked. Another quick scan reconfirmed the emptiness, so Jim led the way inside.
The house was dark and smelled of mold, and until Blair flipped on the lights, Jim was having a hard time focusing while trying to ignore the odors of rotting carpet and dust.
"Oh, man. Nice place." Blair stayed behind Jim, trying not to touch anything.
"About as clean as your room." He could tell Blair's attempts not to touch or be touched by the contents of the house was more out of disgust than any sense of preserving evidence. This case was all over, except the questions.
"Funny." Blair moved around and walked to a writing table while Jim crossed the room to the kitchen table, which was strewn with gun cleaning equipment. "I guess he didn't have the benefit of living with a neat freak, huh?"
Jim ignored that remark and examined the contents of the table. There was a standard set of cleaning tools, gun oil, and a few extra shells for the sniper's rifle he had confiscated. He walked down the hall and looked around inside the one bedroom. It was wall to wall Desert Storm. Jim found a small night table with cases and opened them. Two medals of valor and a purple heart. Next to the medals, was an appointment slip for the VA hospital, set for yesterday afternoon at 2:00.
"Hey, Jim," Blair called from the living room. "I think I found something."
"What have you got?" He came out of the room and walked to the desk where Blair was holding up a sheet of paper. It was blank except for three badly written lines in pencil. "To whoever finds this, I was in sound mind and body at the time. They said it would be the best way. Make sure they spell my name right in the papers."
"Sounds like a suicide note to me, man."
"Yeah." Jim reached into his pocket for a plastic evidence bag and put the letter inside. "I can think of easier ways to do it, though."
Blair nodded. "Guess he wanted his fifteen minutes of fame."
Jim turned when he heard a car drive up and saw the forensics team pull in. "What good are the fifteen minutes, if you're not around to enjoy them? Looks like he was a vet. We'll need a warrant to talk to his shrink at the VA. Probably delayed stress." He nodded to Blair and they walked outside, meeting the team as they came in. "Gordon, any word yet on Simmons?" Jim asked.
"No, not yet." Gordon stopped, setting down his heavy case.
"Found this inside, looks like a suicide note." Jim handed over the letter. "We're going to head back to the Station, get a warrant to talk to his doctor. Let me know if anything interesting turns up."
"Sure. Hey, how was practice this morning? I hear tell the kid here has an arm?"
Jim nodded. "As a matter of fact, he does." Blair was grinning as he squeezed past Jim and walked to the truck.
"I also hear he's better than you, even," Gordon added, smiling.
"Yeah, well, this was just practice, Gordon. We've yet to see him play under pressure." Jim laughed a little, nodding to the team. When he got in the truck, Blair was smiling. "You know, if you disappoint me this Saturday, I'll never let you forget it."
"Jim, who was it that pitched three no-run innings?"
"That was practice, Chief." He started the truck and backed down the driveway. "This weekend is the season opener."
"You're sure me playing isn't breaking any rules?"
"Yes, I'm sure. You're an official observer, Sandburg. That qualifies you to get shot at, and play in the league." Blair laughed shortly and Jim smiled. "Listen, we're going to stop at the hospital, see if there's any news."
They drove back downtown in silence, and Jim replayed the past three hours in his mind. Janet Simmons was a good cop, and a very attractive woman who managed quite well in what was still very much a man's world. He'd seen her many times on the firing range, she'd even bested him on occasion. Her partner, Karen Blake, was younger and still learning, but under Janet's watchful eye was shaping up to be a fine officer in her own right. Both women were slightly built and very frail-looking, but many criminals had learned that looks can be deceiving.
Jim went over the incident again, checking his memory for details that would be needed for the report. He'd been several feet away from Blair and Simmons when he spotted the shooter. Blair and Janet had been standing in front of him, about 6 feet apart. Neither he nor Janet would have had time to aim and shoot before they were fired upon, so Jim had taken the next best approach. Blair and Janet had been looking at him, not the building. They hadn't been able to see what Jim saw, and wouldn't have been able to react. He had shouted right before pulling Blair down, expecting her to hit the ground as well. There was no way he could have...he had to get...
"What?" He just realized Blair had been talking.
"I asked if she has any family?"
They pulled into the hospital parking lot. Jim spotted Simon's car still there. "No, no family. She's been dating for a while, someone named Steve. Her partner knows more about that." He parked close to the Captain's car and they got out, walking to the emergency entrance. Simon was right inside, and the look on his face answered Jim's question before he could ask.
"Jim, did you find anything out?" Simon's cigar was stuffed in his pocket, and his face was dark with the news he obviously wanted to avoid, but couldn't.
"How is she?" Jim knew Janet was dead, without even focusing on the conversation down the hall with a doctor and Karen that he could see taking place.
"She didn't make it."
"Oh, man." Blair's comment was very quiet. He moved to the side of the waiting area a few feet away and leaned on the wall.
Jim looked at Blair for a second, than back to Simon. He wasn't sure what to say. As often as this happened, it was never something you got used to, or wanted to get used to. Before he could say anything, Karen Blake approached, looking to Simon.
"Captain, I should go call her parents." She looked understandably pale, and glanced at Jim for just a second, before turning back to Simon.
"I can do that," Simon said, putting a hand on her shoulder for a moment.
"No, it's okay. Janet and her parents weren't very close, I can talk to them." She sighed, fighting back some tears. "And I have to go see Steve. They were getting pretty close. There was even talk of marriage."
"If there's anything I can do..?" Jim offered.
Karen looked at him suddenly, then glanced at Blair. Jim saw something flash in her eyes before she turned back to him. "I think you've done enough, Detective." With one last glance at Simon, she walked past Jim and outside.
"What was that?" he asked, watching her leave.
"She's just upset, Jim. Her partner's been killed." Simon looked at Blair, then motioned for them all to step outside. Once back in the parking lot, he was able to put the cigar back in his mouth and chew on it. "What did you find at the house?"
"The guy was trying to commit suicide," Blair replied.
"That's right, Captain. We found a note, along with several more weapons. Looks like our guy was in Desert Storm. There were several medals, and an appointment card at the VA hospital dated yesterday afternoon."
"Great. That's just what we need. Wait until the media finds out a decorated veteran was shot and killed after fatally wounding a police officer." Simon sighed heavily. "All right, I'll get a warrant to talk with his doctor. You two, get back to the station and get this report done while it's still fresh. IA will be on this one quick."
"IA? This was pretty cut and dry, wasn't it?" Blair asked, glancing at Jim.
"Standard when an officer is killed, Chief." Jim nodded to Simon. "We'll head back now, sir." Jim nodded to Blair then followed him back to the truck.
That afternoon was more than fresh in Jim's mind, and would be
for weeks to come. He'd replay it over and over, and each time it would end the
same way. They always did. There was no way to alter the outcome, and any other
scenario Jim could imagine, had an ending he never wanted to see.
Blair followed Jim to the elevators at the far side of the parking garage. The place was deserted, and he wondered what was waiting for them upstairs. Jim was being very quiet, and Blair knew there was nothing he could say right then that would help either of them. The entire Precinct had been solemn when Jack Pendergrast's body was identified and re-buried, but they had all been given several years to mourn his death. This was Blair's first experience with the death of an officer in the line of duty. Kincaid's raid on the Station last winter had been different. Blair hadn't been in the rooms where the victims were killed. Although the death of several support-staff members hit just as hard.
The hallway off the elevators was almost loud in its silence. Blair followed Jim into the bullpen, and noticed all the officers, both plainclothes and uniformed, watching them walk to his desk. As much as Blair wanted to believe it was sympathy they were feeling, the hairs on the back of his neck said otherwise.
"Here, Chief, why don't you take this and sit in Simon's office?" Jim handed him an incident report and a pen. "You know the routine."
Blair accepted the form and nodded. "Yeah." He hesitated for a moment as Jim sat down, turning on his computer. Normally, Blair sat beside Jim's desk, and just filled in his side of whatever he'd seen after Jim was finished with the rest of the report. He wanted to ask why they were doing things differently now, but he feared he already knew the answer. The short walk to Simon's office had never seemed so long.
Blair shut the door and sat at the table with his back to the windows that faced the bullpen. All right, Sandburg, stop imagining things. An officer just died. A member of a very close-knit society. And now, every member of that society was feeling the pain of that loss, and banding together in a sense of unity and support. Typical social reaction. Nothing personal or antagonistic. Next, the micro-societies would split, and the uniformed officers would block out the detectives, who would feel the support staff couldn't understand their pain, and they in turn would push out all higher ranking authorities. Then, the uniforms would subdivide more to separate the patrolmen from the women, the rookies from the veterans. It was a predictable cycle that would eventually smooth itself out and life would return to normal.
Then why do I feel guilty? Was Jim separating himself from Blair out of a need to side with his fellow officers? Or was he just sending Blair into a safe zone, to buffer him from any odd feelings or comments outside? And why would he think there should be comments or feelings? He sighed, trying to concentrate on the report in front of him, trying to write down what little he could add. And trying to figure out just why he felt so odd about being there. He started to describe his location in relation to the other officers at the scene, as Jim had taught him, replaying the afternoon in his mind.
He was standing close to officer Simmons, Jim was off to their left, just turning to say something. He shouted, and Blair turned to look in the direction Jim was looking when he was pushed down. Jim covered him with his body and arms while several shots were fired. Jim then got up, and they both saw officer Simmons was down and bleeding. Jim went after the shooter, and Blair called for an ambulance while officer Blake stayed with her partner.
Pretty simple. Very tragic.
He was just now beginning to understand the implications of what had happened. Jim had saved him. An officer had been killed. Could Jim have saved her? Had there been a choice, or did Jim simply act on cop's instinct? Blair glanced behind him, into the bullpen where officers were milling around and working at desks. Mike Jenkins was standing next to Jim's desk, talking to him. At the other end of the room, three uniformed officers were standing together, watching Jim and occasionally looking in Blair's direction. They were taking sides already. But this wasn't just the usual, predictable groupings for mutual support and understanding. No, there was something almost hostile about what Blair was seeing. And it wasn't just directed at him.
Blair caught sight of Simon entering the room, stopping at Jim's desk for a moment before heading to the office. He quickly assessed the looks on both men's faces, and fleetingly wondered if the baseball practice had been just that morning, or weeks ago.
When they entered the office, Simon acknowledged Blair with a quick nod before walking to his desk. Jim shut the door, then sat down in front of the Captain. Blair decided it was best if he remained where he was, sitting now behind and to the left of Jim.
"I just got off the phone with Dr. Stohs. She was Kingston's shrink over at the VA." Simon leaned forward, resting both arms on his desk tiredly. "He'd been in and out of the hospital over the past three years, being treated for Gulf War syndrome, as well as some other psychologically-based problems."
"Did she have any reason to suspect Kingston was capable of this?" Jim asked.
"No." Simon took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "She said he used to hear voices, but that had stopped since he was put on medication 6 months ago."
"Maybe he stopped taking his medication," Blair offered, eyebrows raised. He couldn't help shooting a glance back out to the bullpen, seeing the officers still standing together, talking amongst themselves.
"Forensics found a prescription bottle in the house, but it was dated three months ago. They checked with the pharmacy, and it hadn't been refilled since."
Blair looked back at Simon, trying to force his attention on the room. It was normal for the officers to be talking, after all. There was nothing going on that wasn't expected in a situation like this.
"Sandburg, IA's gonna want to hear what happened from you as well as Jim."
"You were there, Chief. This isn't an inquest, just standard.."
"I know, standard procedure when an officer is killed." Then why did it feel like everyone was forming sides, with Jim on the wrong one?
"That's right." Simon reached into his desk and retrieved a fresh cigar. "The two of you head down there now, talk to Sheila, then go home. I think we've all had enough to deal with for one day."
Jim stood and Blair followed him out the door, staying close. He was sure all the eyes in the room were on them as they walked first to Jim's desk for their jackets, then out and down the hall. Jim was quiet, his jaw clenched. Being alone in the elevator gave Blair a little courage.
"Jim, why does it feel like there's something going on here, more than just a reaction to an officer's death?"
"It happens, Chief." Jim glanced down at him and his features softened just a little, but then tension in his face and jaw returned. "An officer's death isn't easy to take, for anyone."
"Yeah, I understand that, Jim. But it feels like there's more to this."
He shook his head. "Talking to IA after something like this is normal." The elevator doors opened and Jim stepped out.
Blair followed, trying to decide if Jim was misunderstanding his question on purpose or not. Before he could rephrase it, they were stepping into Sheila's office.
"Jim, Blair, come in." Sheila smiled politely and indicated that they should sit.
Blair couldn't help but wonder if he was sitting down in front of the woman who had stayed up all night talking with Jim, or the one who had once tried everything in her power to convict Jim of a murder he hadn't committed.
"I hope you realize this is just a formality. Paperwork has to be adhered to." She glanced from Jim to Blair, then back again.
"Of course." Jim sat down. "It was pretty straightforward."
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" She sat back, elbows on the arms of her chair, fingers pointed together just under her chin.
She was looking at Jim, so Blair remained quiet. He wasn't even sure why he was there.
"Sandburg and I arrived on the scene after Blake and Simmons. They said there was a shooter on campus, but so far no one had spotted him, and the shots had stopped before they arrived. I was assessing the situation when I caught sight of the shooter on the roof of the next building. He was taking aim, so I shouted at Blair and Janet. They were right in the line of fire." Jim's hands rose in a gesture of helplessness. "I got Sandburg to the ground, but Simmons wasn't fast enough."
Blair heard the tension in Jim's voice increase and glanced
at Sheila. She was watching Jim, nodding slightly, but her face was unreadable.
He couldn't help the uneasy feeling that continued to spread through his guts
like warm milk. There was something else happening...something he couldn't control.
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