They exited on the 49th floor and found themselves looking at
a similar corridor as the penthouse, but with a much more crowded feel. The maroon
carpet covered a slightly less wide hallway that was lined with doors nearly twice
as abundant as the top floor. Each door had a label, identifying its intended
occupant. The only lights they could see were illuminating the hallway, so Blair
stepped up to the legend chiseled into the wall facing the elevators.
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
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.
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.
"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
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
"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,
"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?"
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
"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."
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
Jim was pacing the room, looking at the carpet, so Blair left the
desk and followed his partner. "You see something?"
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. 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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.
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."
Just see what you can come up with here, okay?" Jim slapped him on the back,
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
Jim picked up a phone from the desk and dialed Simon's office.
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."
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
"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.
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.
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?"
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,
"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
"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.
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."
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.