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Please note:  The copyright on The Sentinel and all it's characters is owned by Pet Fly Productions and Paramount.

China White

by Kristine Williams

Part 3

The trash bin was stuffed to the brim, but Blair's crate was set off to the side, smashed into several pieces.

"Must have found it when they came for the others." Jim bent down to examine the wad of packing and Blair reached out.

"Jim, don't touch it." He grabbed his partner's arm to keep him from touching the crate or the packing. "The statue was in there last night, and there were no visible traces on it. You're so sensitive, it must just take a trace amount for you to react."

"What are you talking about?" Jim looked puzzled, but moved away from the crate.

"You first noticed this extra-sensitivity last night, while you were holding that figure, and it lasted about what--an hour? You're senses were heightened, even for you. You felt good, in fact you kept telling me how good you felt. Then after dinner, it seemed to dissipate." Blair's mind was putting the pieces together even as he spoke, but Jim seemed to be following. "And then the crates inside, you were leaning in, touching the packing. Whatever that drug is, it must have--I don't know--leaked, maybe. Or whoever packed it up had some on his hands. Just enough to let your Sentinel senses pick up on it."

"So whichever drug this is, heightens alertness and sensitivity?"

"Yeah." Blair nodded, agreeing with his own realization. "Probably cocaine. Mild use causes heightened awareness and euphoria. And you know what Golden did to you after just rubbing a trace amount into your eyes, so it wouldn't take very much to have an effect on you. Any heavier dose, and the effects would have been more exaggerated and erratic. Possibly even violent."

"I'm not even going to ask you how you know so much about cocaine, Chief." Jim pulled the cell phone out and called forensics.

Blair ignored his implication with an absent nod of his head. Something else was nagging at the back of his mind. Something about the three who had attacked him. Whatever it was, it was too vague to catch.

"Okay, Chief. Lab tests should be done in another hour. I guess we might as well go get some breakfast and get to the Station."

"Yeah." Blair nodded and followed Jim back to the truck. Two officers who had been upstairs with the other crates came down, passing them in the alley as they went to collect the last crate. What was it he'd seen? He stopped in the middle of opening the door and stared back into the alley.

"Something wrong?"

Blair shook himself, then got in the truck. "I'm not sure." He looked at Jim. "I keep thinking I'm missing something."

"Something you saw?"

He nodded. "Yeah, maybe."

"Don't worry, Chief. If you did see something, it'll come back to you." Jim started the truck and pulled away from the curb. "Let's get some breakfast. We've got a long day ahead."

"Hey, Jim. Here's a report from forensics. I was just down there and they asked me to bring it up."

Jim looked up, then accepted the file. "Thanks, Mike." He sat down and Blair pulled his chair closer, setting his coffee cup on the edge of the desk. Experienced eyes found what he wanted right away. "You were right, Chief. They found trace amounts of cocaine in three of the crates."

Blair nodded. "That explains your senses getting turbo-charged."

"But it doesn't explain who put it in there, or who took it out." He closed the file and rubbed tired eyes, remembering that night at the race track, and the Golden that had nearly blinded him for life. "Who at the University had access, or knew those crates were coming?"

Blair sighed, then took another drink of coffee. "Me, Professor Peters, Professor Kinyon, and about 15 students who were assisting with the presentation." He ran a hand over his hair and shook his head. "The crates were late coming, and then they were down in the mail room for an hour. Why not open them down there?"

"Too visible, Chief. They had to make their move when they had a better chance of not being seen, and if the crates were late, they probably intended to get to them the night before, in the mail room, before you had a chance to open them up and possibly find their stash." Jim stood and reached out for his own nearly empty coffee cup. He finished the tepid liquid in one swallow, then motioned with his head. "Let's get over there and start asking." He set the cup down and suddenly realized where they'd have to start. "Sandburg, you said Professor Kinyon?"

Blair stood, blinking away the exhaustion that was beginning to show on his face. "Yeah, she and Professor Peters were, or rather are, in charge of the displays." He smiled then and reached out, slapping Jim quickly on the arm. "Come on, Jim, you're a professional. You can handle one little grey-haired lady, can't you?"

Jim made a face and started for the elevator. "Sure, Chief, I can handle her. Question is, can you?"

"What?" Blair looked up, suppressing a yawn, then his eyes shot open. "Oh man! I have to explain this to Professor Peters, then try and get the display moved. Jim, can we...?"

"Sorry, Chief. It's still a crime scene. Those artifacts are going to have to stay where they are, at least through the day." They stepped into the elevator and started down to the garage level.

"Damn. This isn't going to go over well." Blair looked up at Jim, then grimaced. "This display was supposed to be viewed at noon today."

"They'll have to reschedule." The doors opened and Jim led the way to the truck. "Until this investigation is over, those artifacts are off limits." They got in and Jim started the truck. "If they have a problem with that, you tell them to talk to me."

Blair nodded. He was quiet the rest of the drive back to the University, and Jim didn't interrupt his partner's thoughts. There were a few of his own that needed to be worked out. Like how he had come to fall under the influence of such a small amount of a drug he hadn't known was there in the first place. And not knowing he had been under the influence at the time. At least with the Golden, detrimental effects aside, he'd known immediately what was happening. That drug had blinded him, with an extremely small amount. A more highly concentrated dose had nearly killed Blair. If his Sentinel senses could pick up--and be affected by--such a small amount of a drug, how much exposure would it take to give him a more violent reaction?

They pulled into the University parking lot and Jim looked across the campus toward the Social Sciences building. The windows of the display hall faced out to the parking area and Jim focused inside, seeing no one.

"Who was in charge of the shipment, Peters or Kinyon?"

Blair got out of the truck and joined Jim on the sidewalk. "Professor Peters arranged for the shipment itself. Professor Kinyon worked out the function and the guests. She's on the University's cultural exchange staff."

They began walking to the building and Jim glanced around, working out the layout of the area in relation to three thieves. "Who picked the artifacts themselves?"

"That was me, actually." Blair shook his head. "Man, I can't believe this. Who would use the University's shipment to smuggle cocaine?"

"Anyone who knew how to get artifacts through customs." Jim opened the door to Blair's building and let his friend enter first. "I assume shipments like these are common place around here?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, about once a month or so we get something coming in from overseas, or South America. Oh, man, here we go."

Jim looked up to see a middle-aged man, dressed in dark slacks and dress jacket coming at them from down the hall. From where they were, Jim easily focused on the name tag the rotund man was wearing on his lapel, identifying him as "Your Host, Professor Peters." He walked purposefully toward them, scowling at Blair as he approached.

"Professor Peters. I'm very sorry this happened." Blair stopped and motioned to Jim.

"Mr. Sandburg, those security men tell me we can't get into that room. Not only that, but we can't get the artifacts out."

"I'm afraid that's right." Jim produced his ID and drew the Professor's attention away from Blair. "I'm Detective Ellison. I'm sorry for any inconvenience, but there was a crime committed in that room early this morning."

"So I'd heard." Professor Peters shot Blair a disapproving look, then turned back to Jim. "When can we expect to retrieve the displays, Detective?"

"I can't answer that right now, I'm sorry." Jim nodded down the hall. "Professor, I understand you arranged for the shipments of the displays. Is that correct?"

Professor Peters looked from Jim, to Blair, then back again. "Yes, that would be correct. I was put in charge of the luncheon, which is going to start in less than 2 hours, and I have no display to produce afterwards."

"Professor, there were several kilos of cocaine shipped inside those crates. Drugs that have been taken by three unknown assailants. I need to find out who had access to this building in the middle of the night, who might have known the security's schedule, and who had prior knowledge of this shipment."

The Professor glanced at his watch with a show of impatience. "I have to be in the lecture hall to greet the guest in 20 minutes."

"I'm sorry, Professor, but a crime has been committed here. A very serious crime. If I could just get a list of names from you right now, we can talk again after your function."

Professor Peters sighed heavily, then nodded and turned on his heel, leading the way back down the corridor.

Jim glanced at Blair with raised eyebrows. His friend just rolled his eyes, then followed the professor. Once in his office, then man moved quickly.

"I've got five students on my assistant roster. They were the only ones who had their hands in any of the planning. Aside from Mr. Sandburg, only one other student knew exactly what was being shipped. As for the others, they were involved in seating, setting up the display, and general function details."

Jim looked at Blair. "I thought you were setting up the display?"

Blair smiled apologetically to Professor Peters. "Actually, I was. Theresa called me last week. She had to go out of town, and asked me to take care of it for her."

"Well, in that case, Detective, you only have four students to work with." He handed Jim a slip of paper, with one name now crossed off. "I really must get over to the hall. My guests are arriving even as we speak. And with the obvious exception of Mr. Sandburg here, the other students are attending the function."

"Thank you, Professor. I'll be in touch." Jim nodded and followed the man out of his office. After Professor Peters was down the hall and around a corner, Jim turned to Blair. "Professor Kinyon is attending, I presume?"

"Yeah, she should be. This whole thing was her plan from the start."

"Good. We'll start in the display room then. Come on, Chief." Jim led the way back to the room, then ducked under the police line tape and opened the door.

"Jim, it might not be such a good idea for you to be in here," Blair cautioned.

"Sandburg, the crates have all been taken to forensics." Jim crossed the room to where they had been stacked. "I wasn't affected until I'd been feeling around inside them, remember?" He looked at Blair until his friend nodded reluctantly. "Besides, I can't exactly avoid a crime scene just because I might be affected by some lingering trace evidence. That pretty much excludes me from doing my job, don't you think?"

"Yeah, but Jim, you have to remember, with your sensitivity, it doesn't take much." Blair followed him into the room, then stood close by, as though trying to stand between Jim and an unseen threat.

Jim smiled a little at the sight, but shook his head. "Relax. Now that I know what to watch out for, and what it means, I can handle it." Blair looked anything but convinced, and Jim put a hand on his shoulder. "Okay, you keep an eye on me, then." He moved forward then, and started scanning the area around the displays.

"Great." Blair remained where he was and watched Jim. "Just be sure and tell me when you start seeing sparkling purple lights and alien women, okay, man?"

Jim laughed, shaking his head. "Sandburg, you'll be the first to know."

They searched the room throughly, then Jim had Blair walk him through the attack and subsequent robbery step by step, trying to get him to recall more details each time they went through it. By mid-afternoon, he was no closer to having anything figured out than when they'd started.

"Okay, Chief. I think what we both need is some sleep. We can talk to the students after this function tonight." He'd noticed Blair's voice getting more and more tired, and his own eyes were beginning to burn from being up since the day before.

"The party is scheduled to go on till around midnight, from what I've been told." Blair stepped through the door and under the tape, then waited while Jim shut and locked it. "If I know these students, they'll sneak out around 11:00 and continue the party elsewhere."

"And you would know where?" Jim glanced at Blair, eyebrows raised.

"Jim, come on. All work and no play."

He reached out a hand and cuffed his partner on the back of the head as they walked down the hall. "Right now I'd settle for sleep." Jim knew he'd need at least a good 3 hour nap before trying to face Professor Kinyon. He never should have stayed up watching that old black and white movie, but if he'd gone to sleep, he might not have noticed Blair's absence until later that morning.

They were almost to the door when Jim heard his name called.

"Detective Ellison! I came as soon as I could get away." Professor Kinyon rushed down the hallway, small hands holding her long skirt off the ground so as not to impede her approach. "Blair, I heard what happened, are you all right?"

Blair smiled and nodded. "Yes, thank you Professor Kinyon, I'm fine."

"I knew you'd want to talk to me, seeing as how I'm on the committee that arranged this and all."

"Yes, we did have a few questions, but they can wait until tomorrow. I really don't need to drag you away from your guests."

"Nonsense. They hardly know I'm away. Please, shall we go into my office?"

Before Jim could protest, or even question how anyone could NOT know when Professor Kinyon had left a room, they were being led back down the corridor and into her office.

Both men took seats facing the Professor's desk as she sat down, then pulled her glasses from their perch on the top of her graying hair. Several strands came down with them and she batted them back.

"I understand you were in charge of arranging this gathering?" Jim tried to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair.

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Monday May 10 2010
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