"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?"
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."
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
"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
"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,
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."
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
"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
"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
"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.
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,
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.
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
"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.
caught the fist he was throwing towards his face easily and held his arm. "Dammit,
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."
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. "
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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