They had found nothing on the campus. Even the spent shell from that one round wasn't anywhere to be found. Jim's senses hadn't picked up a thing, aside from the residual smell of gunpowder where the shooter had been. Forensics had gone over every inch, and come up just as empty.
"You're sure that was a Washington plate, Jim?" Simon strode straight to his office, with Jim and Blair close behind.
"Positive, sir. That's one of the few things I was able to see before the sun blinded me." Jim sat down facing Simon's desk and Blair stood behind him, glancing out into the bullpen. "A Washington plate that starts with BA."
Blair caught sight of Carpenter and his partner at the far side of the room, both men looking in their direction.
"Well, that puts the jeep at least 7 years old, since they changed the plate sequence around." Simon pulled a cigar from his pocket and rolled it around between his fingers.
Carpenter's eyes met Blair's through the glass of Simon's office. The hostility in his gaze gave Blair chills.
"That narrows it down to a few hundred, no doubt." Jim shook his head and sighed.
Blair had to pull his attention back into the room and shake off the feeling that was creeping up the back of his neck.
"What do you think, Jim? A copycat? Just a fluke? What?" Simon thrust the cigar into his mouth and began to chew the end with frustration.
"I don't know, sir."
"What about murder?" Blair glanced from Jim to Simon.
Simon stopped chewing his cigar and stared at Blair for a minute, then looked at Jim. "What's he talking about?"
"Sandburg, I know what you're thinking, but I don't think you're right." Jim looked up, then glanced out to the bullpen. "He didn't have time, and he'd been in uniform all since this morning. I'd have noticed a uniform."
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Simon looked from Jim to Blair and back again. "Who didn't have time?"
Jim wasn't explaining, so Blair decided he should. It might be better coming from him, anyway. Simon was more used to discounting what he said, and Blair was getting accustomed to voicing the unpopular topics. "Carpenter. He and Jim got into it yesterday over this whole business." Blair looked at Jim. "He threatened you, didn't he, Jim?"
"What?!" Simon stared at Jim. "Ellison, what's this about?"
Jim shook his head. "You know Carpenter, Captain, he's full of hot air and some of it escaped yesterday." He glanced at Blair, then continued. "He made a threat and I punched him."
Simon nodded. "I'd heard." He put the cigar back in his mouth. "Jackass or not, Jim, he made a threat and someone took a shot at you today. I want to know what he said."
Blair sat down, more to keep himself from glancing out into the bullpen than anything.
"He threatened Blair, Simon, not me."
Jim's sentence didn't sink in for a full minute. When it did, Blair's eyes shot up, looking from Simon to Jim.
"All right, I want you two out of here. I need to talk to Carpenter, then his buddies. I'm sure they'll back him up, but if we can get something from this partial plate, we may have a start." Simon removed his cigar and thrust it roughly back into his leather case.
"Captain, I don't think he or his pals have the nerve to follow through with anything like this."
"Jim, any cop making threats against another is enough to get my blood boiling." Simon's voice took on an edge that made Blair cringe slightly. "You two get that list of red jeeps matching the partial from the DMV and go through them. Right now, that's our only lead."
"Right, sir." Jim stood and put a hand on Blair's arm, ushering him toward the door.
Blair reached for the handle and heard Simon on the intercom, buzzing Carpenter's desk. He opened the door and headed straight for Jim's desk, doing his best not to look in the direction of the officers watching them. Jim reached out for a file on the desk, then walked toward the elevators without a word. Blair followed. He could feel a tension in the air that was making his heart begin to race, but it wasn't dissipating as they left the bullpen. Jim's jaw was working overtime, and when they stepped into the elevator, Blair felt the air almost physically thicken.
"Jim, I..." Blair faltered, wondering if apologizing was going to help, or hinder. God, he'd been stupid! What was he thinking? He knew, almost more than Jim, what a taboo it was to accuse one of your own. And although he wasn't one of them, Jim was. Blair had no business accusing a fellow officer of having fired a gun at Jim. At them. It might have been okay to mention his concern to his partner...but to say that to Simon, when Jim obviously had more reason to suspect Carpenter than he did, and had said nothing.
Jim just looked at him, chewing the inside of his cheek. Before Blair could try again, the elevator doors opened. "Come on." Jim stepped out of the car and headed down the corridor at a brisk pace.
Blair had to hurry to stay even with the taller man. They retrieved a computer printout of every red jeep in Cascade with the partial license plate matching the one Jim saw, as well as another list of close matches. Jim handed the stack to Blair and led the way to the garage. He couldn't help but feel grateful they were taking this work home, instead of back upstairs where Carpenter and the others would be watching. Right now, Blair wanted nothing more than to just go home and stay there, and maybe forget today even happened. But he knew he couldn't do that. Jim wouldn't do that.
They drove home in silence, and twice Blair tried to apologize to Jim for having told Simon about the threats, but twice he stopped himself. His partner was angry, and he knew some of that anger was directed at him. When they got upstairs, Blair felt a little more comfortable.
"Jim, listen..." Blair reached into the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of water.
"Sandburg, I don't have time for this." Jim took one of the bottles and walked straight to the table, slapping the printouts down hard. "I've got a lot of work to do."
Dammit. "Jim, I'm sorry, all right?" Blair crossed the room and set his bottle on the table, looking at his friend. "Maybe I had no business telling Simon."
"That's right, Chief, you didn't." Jim glanced up, then flipped the printout over and looked at the list of names there.
"Well, someone had to." Blair was getting frustrated now, both with Jim's attitude and his own hesitancy. "Jim, I don't know what Carpenter said to you, but I don't have to know what it was to know it was bad. Man, you just don't go around punching people who say things you don't like. I know you, Jim. Whatever he said, if it was enough to get you that mad, then it was probably enough to get Carpenter out there with a gun."
"Sandburg, just drop it." Jim looked up. "What's done is done. Simon will talk to Carpenter, then his partner, and by now, the whole department knows I think he took a shot at me."
He looked back at the papers and Blair sighed, then ran a hand through his hair. God, he'd blown it. Now Jim would have trouble with every officer there, instead of just the handful who didn't want Blair around. What was he thinking? Here he'd been trying to convince Jim it would be in his best interest to side with his fellow officers, and Blair had--in less than five minutes--alienated his partner from the entire Station. Maybe Simon would make it known it was Blair who made the accusation? Maybe it was time for Jim to change sides, before he was pushed out by the entire Precinct?
"Jim, I'm sorry. But you have to admit you were thinking the same thing."
Jim said nothing as he continued to scan the sheets.
"I know, that whole blue brotherhood thing. I blew it, and now you'll have to face the consequences, and I'm sorry. If I could take it all back I would."
Still nothing. He flipped the printout over, scanning the second page.
"If it's any help, I can stay away from the Station for a while. There's some work I can get done with the research group this week." Blair's heart was beginning to pound somewhere close to his feet, where it had slowly been sinking since they left Simon's office.
Jim sighed and rubbed his eyes. When he looked up, Blair could see the stress of the past few days reflected in the deep blue. Stress he had just added to.
"Sandburg, this is more complicated than just one side against the other." Jim leaned forward, one hand open in an effort to explain. "I've been making it clear all along where I stand with this. Now, we've got someone out there either trying to copy our sniper, or trying to kill one of us. Either way, we've got a killer on the loose and I lost him. Whether or not I think it could be a fellow cop, someone out there took a shot at us."
"Come on, Jim, who else could it be?" Blair took some comfort in the fact that Jim's voice was calm, but his eyes still had an edge that could go either way. "I know you. There's no way some smart remark from Carpenter could set you off unless it was really bad." Why wouldn't Jim just tell him what was said?
"It could be anyone, Chief. Do I suspect Carpenter? Sure, maybe. But there are other ways to go about finding out. Bringing Simon into this is asking for more trouble than we want."
Blair sighed, staring at his water. "I'm sorry, man. I blew it, didn't I?"
Jim shook his head. "Listen, whatever happens now, we'll deal with it." He looked up and met Blair's eyes. "But I'll be damned if you're gonna run off to the University and leave me to deal with this alone."
Blair nearly flinched from the finger Jim stabbed in the air. He nodded, then sat down. "What do we look for with these?"
"Any name that looks familiar, first. Then, we go through the list one car at a time and call the owners." Jim tore off half the printout. "Just see if any name rings a bell."
Blair took the pages and glanced at Jim. That famous Ellison jaw muscle was still clenching, and he didn't have to see his eyes to know they were still as cold as steel. He flipped the papers around and stared at them, trying to concentrate on the names listed there. Jim was still angry, and had every right to be. Carpenter had disliked Blair from day one, and from what he gathered speaking to the other officers, that patrolman pretty much hated everyone. But Jim knew him, he'd been working around the man for years now. So that attitude couldn't have been a surprise. What could he have said that would make Jim angry enough to lose control like that? He'd said something about a threat to Blair.
God. Jim had been in there, defending his partner to the point of physically striking a fellow officer, and what had Blair done? He'd gone blabbing to the Captain, who then had to confront Carpenter about the possibility of him having tried to exact revenge. Now, instead of helping Jim, Blair had set the entire Precinct against him. After all this--Officer Simmon's death, and Jim taking a stand over the incident--after Jim had found some small balance again, and Blair has to screw it all up. The more he thought about it, the worse he felt. But dammit, if someone was out to kill Jim because of Blair...
"Sandburg, you helping or what?"
Blair started, then realized he'd been staring at the same page for the past ten minutes. "Sorry, just thinking."
"Well, thinking isn't helping right now, Chief." Jim took a long drink of water, then set the bottle down. "I've gotta start making calls. You still have that grocery list somewhere?"
"Why don't you go shopping then? I've got a lot of calls to make."
Blair sighed. "Yeah, okay." He walked to the kitchen and found his grocery list still stuck to the refrigerator where he had left it.
"Take the truck." Jim reached for the phone, glancing up at Blair. "And put gas in it on the way back."
"Right." Blair found the keys on
the table by the door, then with one last look at his partner, he left.
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