Jim laughed a little, watching Blair descend with tightly focused
eyes. The ladder, as the building, was still so new, there was very little buildup
of grease or dirt to slip on. Still, he didn't take his eyes off his partner until
he had pried open the doors of the 43rd floor and stepped inside. Concentrating
his injured vision that intensely was exhausting, and his eyes began to burn again.
"Do you really think Nelson killed Mr. Conner?" Jessica leaned back
from her vantage point and stepped farther away from the open doors. "Why
would a security guard kill the owner of a building?"
Jim kept looking
down the shaft, waiting for Blair to reappear. "I don't know. Right now,
he's our only suspect. That's all we have so far. At least until we get some answers."
The doors below them opened and Blair's head appeared.
"No good, Jim,
Jim glanced at Jessica. "How do you feel about heights?"
She shook her head violently. "No, I'm sorry. I can't. I couldn't do that."
Jim sighed, glancing back down the shaft. "Sandburg, keep going to the
42nd. I'll stay up here."
"Keep going, he says. I'll stay
up here, he says."
Jim smiled, knowing Blair knew full well he was able
to hear from up there, and would be keeping a close watch on him. "Be careful."
"Be careful, he says."
Jim watched closely, forcing his eyes to
focus as Blair returned to the ladder, then slowly made his way down another flight.
The doors opened easily and he went inside.
"I'm sorry about all this,"
Jessica said, watching Jim. "I mean, the mace, and the elevator. I just can't
"You can work on the 49th floor of a
building, but you're afraid of heights?"
"Yeah. Silly, isn't it?
If I'm in a building, surrounded by walls and stuff, I'm okay. But get me on a
roof, or try to stand on anything higher than an office chair, and I just get
"No good!" Blair stuck his head back through the doors,
calling up to them.
"Keep going." Jim called back.
going. At this rate I'll be in the lobby soon." Blair was still mumbling,
and Jim just shook his head.
"So, tell me, Detective...If it's not prying
into police secrets or anything, just how did you figure Mr. Conner was murdered?"
Jim didn't take his eyes off of Blair until he was safely inside the 41st
floor. "It's pretty complicated, really."
"Well, we're not going
anywhere anytime soon." She was leaning against the wall next to the open
doors, watching Jim. "I mean, just to pass the time. I understand Mr. Conner
did all of his business via computer. I envy the man, no paperwork. But, in Stocks,
you still need a paper trail for the accountants. Personally, I'd love it if we
could just do everything in cyberspace and save all the trees."
nothing!" Blair called up. "I suppose it's the 40th?"
"If you can't get in from there, I'm coming down." Jim watched as
Blair once again reached the ladder and began to descend. At the 40th
floor, he had to stand on the penthouse elevator and climb through the escape
hatch in order to reach the doors. He watched his partner enter the elevator,
then focused on the sounds emanating from the 40th floor. He could
pick out Blair trying to open the doors to the stairwell with no luck. "Listen,
I might have to go down there with my partner. You can stay up here, maybe in
one of the offices, and we'll come up for you when we get into the stairwell."
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea, Detective."
Jim had been
so tightly focused on Blair four floors down, he hadn't heard the safety come
off of Jessica's gun. The gun that was now pointed at him from just out of reach.
"That's right. You didn't really think Nelson had the brains to pull this
one off himself, did you?" She reached out with one hand. "Now, please
hand me your gun, very slowly, and your handcuffs."
Jim reached slowly
behind him, pulling the gun out by the handle. "So, what's in it for you?"
He twisted the gun in his hand and held it out to her, handle first.
about 10 million in Swiss accounts." She reached out and took the gun. "Now,
the cuffs. Put them on, with your hands behind your back."
He took out
the cuffs, and placed one around his left wrist. "You got his account numbers
and passwords? Then why hang out here?" He secured the left wrist, then put
his hands behind his back and secured the right.
"Turn around." Jessica
reached behind his back and tightened both wrists, then shoved him towards the
stairwell doors. "That dipshit partner of mine didn't get the codes. Not
yet, anyway. So, we have to go spend some more time upstairs, going over the security
Jim walked back to the stairs and heard a set of keys jangle
in her hand. "So, you've had keys to the stairs all this time? Then why the
ruse? What's Nelson up to?"
"Stop right there." Jessica pulled
on his shirt and then pushed him to the wall so she could unlock the doors. "Okay,
start down, then go in at the 40th."
Jim entered the stairwell
and started down, listening for any sign of Blair farther down. Was he trying
to get back up the shaft, or did he realize what was happening? Where was Nelson?
"So, what now?"
"Just keep going. I've got some work to do upstairs,
and don't need any interruptions."
"How did Nelson get you talked
She laughed, "What makes you think he's in charge? Because
he's the man?" She laughed again, pushing Jim in the back to get him to hurry
up. "Please. The man's a moron. Couldn't even keep his job as a cop. Nelson's
been useful to me, nothing more. He said he could see Conner's codes from the
camera angle, and I believed him. Foolish on my part, I can see now. But, the
tape is still good, we just need more time to work on it." They had reached
the 41st floor and she pushed him again, trying to hurry the pace.
Jim was focusing harder now, not paying much attention to what Jessica was
saying. They were only one floor up, he should be able to hear Blair. "I
guess you jumped the gun a little, killing Conner before you had the codes."
"Just hurry up. My unfortunate choice of partners is coming back to haunt
me before I'm even done with the job."
They were at the 40th
now, and Jim stopped at the doors when Jessica pulled on his shirt. He could see
through the glass window into the corridor, but from that far down, he couldn't
see the elevators around the corner, nor could he see any sign of Blair.
Jessica pushed the door open, then pushed Jim into the hall. "Now, to the
elevators. We just need to keep you in one spot for awhile, so we can work undisturbed."
Jim started down the hall. He couldn't see around the corner, but he was able
to pick out a heartbeat. Then another. As they came into view, he could see Blair
standing next to the second bank of elevators that would lead to the lobby. Standing
beside him, pointing a gun at his head, was Nelson.
"What took so long?"
Nelson demanded, shoving Blair forward as they approached.
Jim could see his
hands were behind his back, but he looked unharmed.
One of the elevator doors
had been opened and she pushed Jim inside. "How do we keep him in here?"
"I can lock the doors and secure this car in place. He won't be going
anywhere until we come back for him." He looked up at Jim and smiled. "Then,
we'll finish the job."
"You haven't learned, have you Nelson?"
Jim asked, looking down at the shorter man. "It wasn't enough to get kicked
off the force, now you want to spend the rest of your life in jail?"
laughed. "I'll be spending the rest of my life on some sunny beach somewhere,
sipping a Margarita and thinking of how I beat the great James Ellison."
He stepped around from behind Blair and handed Jessica his gun, then grabbed Blair
by the shirt collar and pulled him across the hall to a second elevator. Jim could
see another set of handcuffs, securing Blair's wrists behind his back. "Here,
take the Boy Wonder upstairs." He shoved Blair into the waiting car and motioned
for Jessica to enter. When she did, he retrieved his gun and stepped back to Jim's
elevator, inserting his key into a slot next to the wall. "Now, just hang
tight. Once we get into those files, which I'm sure we will, I'll send your partner
back down to meet you."
Jim watched as he turned the key, shutting both
doors. He didn't need Sentinel hearing to detect the locking mechanism slide into
place, securing the car. He listened, waiting for Nelson to join the others in
the second elevator and begin to ascend. Once they were lifting, he started to
work his wrists back and forth, trying to get one hand out of the bracelets. Nelson
had secured them tightly, and Jim couldn't get any leeway with either hand.
Dammit, come on. He knew Blair would be killed, they both would be, as soon
as Nelson and Jessica no longer needed potential hostages. He'd have to get out
of the cuffs, and get upstairs, before they got into those files.
Blair fell hard into the leather couch as Nelson shoved
him down. "Move, and you're dead." Nelson snarled, shoving his gun into
Blair's face for emphasis.
"Get over here and get these files open!"
Jessica shouted at her partner from behind Conner's desk.
Nelson slowly backed
away, then turned and pulled a small tape from his jacket pocket, placing it into
a machine Jessica had retrieved from the secretary's office. Blair watched as
Nelson inserted the tape, and began to scrutinize the video as it played back.
Blair's heart was racing. He knew when they opened the files, and found what
they wanted, both he and Jim would be killed. Neither one of these two had much
to lose. They had already killed a man, and kidnaped a police officer, not to
mention Blair. He had to stall for time. Jim would need some time.
one of you killed Conner?" Blair asked, shifting to a better position on
"What does it matter?" Jessica asked, walking slowly towards
him. "We're both in it up to our necks. What's two more?"
you must be the brains, huh?" Blair remembered seeing Jim work two people
against each other before, but somehow, he wasn't sure he was doing it right.
"Shut him up!" Nelson yelled from the desk. "I can't think with
that brat here."
"You shut up! Just get those codes, I'll deal with
him," Jessica shot back.
Blair watched them both, trying to determine
just how much of a partnership there was. It was obvious each was using the other,
but which one could be set off? Jessica was standing there, pointing a gun in
the general direction of Blair's chest. But Nelson...Nelson Blair had dealt with
before. He hadn't thrown any punches, but stood there, watching, while several
men attacked Blair...stood there watching as he was beaten---struck again and
again...Blair shook himself of that memory and tried to concentrate on what he
had to do.
"You trust a guy who couldn't even keep his job as a cop?"
Blair asked, looking at Jessica. "The man got thrown off the police force.
What kind of person does that make him?"
Jessica laughed slightly and
had opened her mouth to reply when she was shoved aside by an enraged Nelson.
"I told you to shut up!" Before Blair could react, Nelson fisted both
hands in his shirt and pulled him up off the couch. "Or I'll shut you up
Nelson had removed one hand and was pulling his
gun from its holster when Jessica's hand
came out and stopped him. "Wait,
you idiot! Not until we have the files, and we're halfway to
something." She let go of his arm, then pulled a scarf from around her neck.
"Here, shut him up if you have to, but don't kill him. We might need him
Blair flinched back as Nelson removed the other hand from his
shirt and reached out for his head. He tried to pull away, and even entertained
thoughts of slamming Nelson to the floor, until Jessica's gun entered his view.
He froze, staring at the barrel of steel that was mere inches from his nose.
been wanting to do this for a long time." Nelson wrapped the scarf around
both fists, then shoved it roughly into Blair's mouth, forcing it inside. He tied
it tightly behind Blair's head, almost cutting off his air for a moment. Once
gagged, Blair was shoved again to the couch.
"Now, get those codes!"
Jim glanced around the
elevator, desperately trying to find something he could use. He spotted the utility
panel and noticed a screw that wasn't tightened completely. Working on the screw
from behind his back, Jim was able to get the panel to swing open, exposing a
network of wires. He had to turn around and investigate the mess before he spotted
the one grounding wire he was looking for. He then turned back around, with a
mental picture of the wires, and used that to guide his hands through the tangle,
and grab the exposed ground wire and pull it off its lead. Once done, he was able
to work the exposed copper into a point, and began to pick the lock on the cuffs.
It took the better part of three minutes before he was successful. Once free of
the cuffs, Jim didn't even try the locked door, but reached up and flipped open
the emergency panel, climbing out on top of the elevator. Once out and on top
of the elevator car, Jim paused, focusing tightly up through the shaft. He could
make out voices, faintly, coming from above, but he couldn't make out any words
from that distance. "Hang on, Sandburg." Jim found the ladder built
into the shaft, the same ladder Blair had come down on, and began to ascend as
quickly as he could. Two floors from the top, he paused again, hanging from the
rungs as he listened.
"That's it, just three more." Jessica's voice
could be heard clearly from above. "No, you idiot, look here. He's got his
right hand on the number pad."
"I see it, I see it." Nelson's
voice had an edge of irritation as he answered her.
Jim continued up, slowing
down slightly as he reached the top floor. He hadn't heard Blair's voice at all,
but he knew better than to jump to conclusions. Still...Jim reached the doors
to the penthouse floor and carefully moved from the ladder to the tiny ledge in
front of the doors. He took each door in hand and pulled gently, separating the
doors slowly at first so as not to alert the pair in the office down the hall.
Once open, he moved into the hallway and crouched down. The voices were much clearer
now, so Jim switched his concentration off of the conversation. He had to breathe
in the steady, rhythmic pattern Blair had taught him in order to filter through
the voices and listen for only the sounds he wanted to hear. Slowly, the voices
blurred into the background, and first one, then another, and then one more heartbeat
could be heard. Jim breathed a sigh of relief and continued down the corridor,
careful not to be heard.
When he reached the now-locked door to the stairwell,
Jim saw once again the open utility panel, with its exposed wires. From there,
he could rise up to his feet and still not be seen by the occupants of Conner's
office. Jim examined the wires quickly, spotting the three that were still attached
behind the sabotaged main lines. He backtracked to the first open office he found
and hurried inside, rummaging through the few desks he found. nothing. There was
a janitor's closet at the far end of the office so he hurried to it, finding only
mops, buckets, and an assortment of bathroom supplies.
"That's it! They're
open!" Jessica's voice rang clearly down the hallway. There was no more time.
Jim grabbed a pair of rubber gloves, and broke the handle off one mop, then rushed
back down to the panel. It was now or never. He put both gloves over one hand,
took the plastic handle in the gloved hand, and carefully placed the pole behind
the three wires that connected the top floor to the emergency generator. He gave
one pull, and the entire floor was blanketed in utter blackness.
"What's that!?" Jessica shouted.
Blair tried to move off of the leather couch where he had
been pushed, but Nelson was there too quickly, grabbing his shirt and pulling
him up. He tried to protest, to let Jim know where he was and what was happening,
but he couldn't get a sound past the gag. He realized Jim could see in the dark,
but he was unarmed, and both Nelson and Jessica had guns of their own, as well
"I can't see anything!" Jessica shouted again.
up! He can hear you," Nelson replied in a hushed whisper. He pulled Blair
in front of him, shoving a gun into his ribs.
Blair heard motion, but he couldn't
tell if that was Jim, or Jessica moving away from the desk. The office was pitch
black. Where was Jim?
"I'll kill him, Ellison!" Nelson announced,
shoving the gun harder into Blair's ribs.
Jessica cried out from across the
room. There was a thud, and movement off to the right.
Nelson spun around, forcing Blair with him, and fired into the darkness.
winced, trying to pull away. Nelson fired again, blindly, and Blair used that
distraction to spin around, forcing Nelson's gun hand up with his shoulder. He
turned to push the man down, trying to give Jim enough cover to rush him, but
Nelson recovered too quickly. Blair couldn't see in the dark, but the fist that
slammed into the side of his head struck his earlier injury dead on.
head was spinning. He fell, landing hard on the plush carpeting. He fought to
stay conscious through the searing pain, and tried to roll away from Nelson. There
was someone else there, struggling. Blair could barely hear through the ringing
in his ears, but he was sure there was a struggle going on, somewhere. Sounds
were fading, and he felt as though he was beginning to fall. It was dark. Too
dark to see, and he was falling now. Falling down the shaft, towards the elevator
car below. Just as he thought he should be hitting the car, he heard an explosion