"Harry, have you seen Elizabeth come back through here?"
Blair stayed a few feet away, knowing the man's propensity for Kleenex usage.
"No. She went up to talk to the Professor and I haven't seen her since."
Harry wiped his nose then reached around the counter for a clipboard that held
a huge stack of forms. "Here. Professor Peters wants those artifacts shipped
out first thing in the morning."
Blair took the clipboard in his right
hand, then had to quickly transfer it out of his stiff, bruised fingers to his
left. "Right, I heard."
"I'll have some crates delivered to
the exhibition hall later this afternoon. You can pack them up and bring them
"I can't get to them till this evening. You want me to
seal them up?"
"I have some urgent packages for Professor Watson
that need packing." Harry sneezed again into a wad of tissue. "I'll
be shipping the whole bunch out first thing in the morning."
at the documents he held and sighed at the tedious paper work involved so soon
after having them all shipped in. "What's Professor Watson shipping?"
"Some science exhibit on tour, going to LA." Harry sneezed again
and blew his nose loudly.
Blair smiled quickly and used Harry's allergic reaction
as a good time to leave. He'd missed Elizabeth, and having no clue as to her schedule,
returned to his office to call the Art Department and see if he could track her
down. Jim wasn't back yet, so Blair made another pot of coffee, tossed the clipboard
full of papers on his desk, and called around looking for Ms. Evans. The closest
he came after five phone calls, was her having lunch with her father somewhere
off campus, so he gave up. Maybe when Jim came back, they could find her. Meantime,
Blair had forms to fill out, and with a right hand that was throbbing horribly,
that was going to take some time.
An hour later, he was only halfway through
the forms, but his hand was finished. Blair had to pry the pen from his right
hand, then force his stiffened fingers open. Wrapping them around the warmth of
a cup of coffee helped to work out some of the soreness. He'd just managed to
make them move again when the phone rang.
do you have a key to this maintenance building?"
Blair stood and carried
the phone to his window. "Yeah, I do, Jim. Why?" His partner was visible,
standing outside the building with the cell phone in hand, looking up at him.
"I want to have another look around, see if forensics missed anything."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea, Jim. Going back in there and
all." Blair returned to his desk even as he voiced his concern, and pulled
out a set of keys.
"I'll be fine, Chief. Just come on down."
hung up and hurried out the door and through his building. They hadn't been back
inside since that night, but Blair wasn't convinced that Jim wouldn't react to
any trace elements still in the building. True, he could find more using Sentinel
senses than forensics could using all of their equipment. But equipment didn't
have adverse physiological reactions to trace amounts of stimulants.
waiting in front of the door when Blair arrived. "Jim, I'm not sure about
this. You know how you reacted back in my office, with such a tiny amount on that
"That was from handling it, Chief. And the crates in the
display hall contained pure cocaine, and I was leaning into them." Jim opened
the door after Blair unlocked it, but waited outside till he was finished talking.
"And in here that night, it was definitely physical contact."
still wasn't happy with the situation, but he knew even the smallest bit of evidence
would help. Jim placed a hand on his shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze.
now that you know what to look for, you can keep an eye on me."
nodded, then started to go inside, but Jim held on.
"Here, just in case."
Jim drew his gun and handed it to Blair, butt first.
shook his head as he accepted the weapon. "Come on, man, this isn't necessary."
"Probably not, but I'm not taking that chance again, Chief." Jim
patted Blair's arm and walked into the shed, ignoring his attempts to return the
Blair stood at the open door, torn between wanting Jim to take his gun
back, and not wanting a repeat of the other night. He didn't like how familiar
the gun felt in his hand, but setting it down somewhere was out of the question,
and Jim wouldn't take it. Resigned, Blair followed his partner into the maintenance
shed, holding the gun by the body, instead of the handle that wanted to fit his
"Just don't touch anything, Jim." He hurried to stand beside
his partner, ready to pick up anything he might find. "And don't take any
deep breaths in here." Blair glanced around, seeing just a trace of white
powder left on the long table to the left of the door. He was sure that couldn't
be anything more than talcum powder, but then again... "And for God's sake,
let me know if your senses get any stronger."
Jim laughed shortly and
put a hand on Blair's shoulder for a moment. "Relax, Chief. I'll hurry, okay?"
Blair nodded, then pushed the hair from his face, unconsciously exposing the
bruise on his cheek. He realized what he'd done when he noticed the jaw muscle
on the side of Jim's face tighten suddenly. Great, Jim's still feeling guilt
that doesn't belong to him. But then, Blair had to admit he still felt responsible
for having nearly killed every officer at the station. If that gas line had blown
up...well, at least he wouldn't have been alive to regret it.
anything?" Blair shook himself out of that Golden memory before it had the
chance to grab hold and send him into a flashback, and turned to look at Jim,
who was staring off into the distance.
"No. Nothing." Jim shook his
head, then turned to leave. "Come on, Chief, let's get out of here."
When they walked through the doors, he handed Jim's gun back. "Did you
find out anything out over at Campus Security?"
"Nothing solid, just
a few rumors." Jim holstered his gun and sighed. "If I could have followed
the trail last night, I might have been able to sense at least all that talcum
powder. Those two from the shed would have had it all over their hands."
"Jim, you had a few other things to deal with." Blair put the keys
back into his pocket. "They'll get caught, Jim. Whether by you or Narcotics,
does it matter?"
"Yes, Sandburg, it matters." Jim turned and
looked down at Blair. "They attacked you, brought several kilos of pure cocaine
into Cascade, and caused me to lose complete control and nearly kill you. It matters."
Blair nodded. "Yeah."
"Come on, I'll call Simon from your
office, then how about a late lunch?" Jim started walking toward Blair's
"We're not going in to the Station?"
I'll see what little else there is from Narcotics, and we'll wrap up a few loose
ends here. If we can find anything at all to use, we can stay on this case. Otherwise,
the Captain's gonna put an end to our involvement."
Blair had a sudden,
unpleasant thought as they crossed the grounds. "Jim, are we avoiding the
"What?" Jim stopped, looking down at Blair.
know, after the other night and all." He shrugged and indicated the black
and blue mark on his face. "Trying to explain..."
nothing to explain. If anyone asks what happened to your face, I'll tell them
the truth." Jim shook his head and continued toward the building. "I
just want to stay on this case as long as possible, and if we go back to the Station,
we're just giving Simon reason to take us off."
Blair followed, shaking
his head. Great, add to the situation by suggesting Jim be less than honest.
Real good, Blair. "Hey, Jim, why don't I run across the street and get
us some lunch?"
Jim nodded as he opened the door to Blair's building,
then reached into a pocket for his wallet. "Yeah, sounds good."
man, it's on me." Blair held up a hand, shaking his head. "What can
I get you?"
"Roast beef on rye, with the works." Jim put his
wallet back. "And thanks, Chief."
"No problem. I'll be back
in a few minutes." He left as Jim entered the building, crossing the street
to the deli he liked. Luckily, it was well past noon, and the majority of their
usual lunch crowd had left. Blair ordered Jim's usual, and a salad for himself.
He added two bottled waters, and carried lunch back to his office. He found Jim
seated at his desk, just hanging up the phone.
handed Jim his lunch then pulled up another chair and sat down.
No news on the streets about a new shipment, no rumors spreading anywhere. As
far as the drug dealers are concerned, there is no new cocaine in Cascade."
"I don't get it." Blair twisted the top off his bottle of water and
shook his head. "There's no way they could keep that much just to sell on
campus, is there?"
"Not unless they wanted a year's supply."
Jim bit into the roast beef just as Blair's phone rang.
"Sandburg? You are going to have those artifacts ready to go by morning,
aren't you?" Professor Peters sounded irritated.
I'll have them all ready to ship out first thing in the morning. I've got the
shipping forms, and I can pack them up this evening." He was probably still
fuming about the ruined luncheon display.
"Good. There's a truck coming
tomorrow, and I want those artifacts returned on time. I'm still catching hell
from the Dean over this mess, and the sooner it's over, the better."
Blair heard the phone slam on the other end and he hung up with a shrug.
"Yeah, upset is what Professor Peters does best."
Blair stabbed more lettuce and a cherry tomato and shoved the forkful into his
"What kind of salary does a Professor like him pull in, anyway?"
Jim's question startled Blair for a moment. "It's like any job, really.
You don't make what you're worth, but sometimes more than you deserve." He
reached for the water. "Why?"
"Just checking all the options,
Chief." Jim finished his sandwich and shook his head. "Security had
a few rumors to spread, about Professor Peters and his reputation."
paused, chewing his salad as a cover. Sure, he'd heard rumors. And so had Security,
apparently. But hearing them, and spreading them, were two different things. Besides,
talking about something he had no proof of, wasn't something Blair thought Jim
would approve of.
"You know what these places are like, Jim. It's just
like back at the Station. Rumors spread faster than the truth, and change from
one telling to the other." Blair shrugged and couldn't help notice a small
smile curving the side of Jim's mouth.
"That's true." Jim nodded.
"But some rumors need to be checked out, to find out if they've got any basis
"What have you heard, Jim?" Blair tossed his empty
salad container into the trash and leaned back in his chair.
Peters and Dean Evans have had a few disagreements over the years. Disagreements
that get nastier each year."
Blair nodded, then shrugged a little. "Professor
Peters is a very opinionated man, and when things don't go the way he thinks they
should, he lets you know about it. I guess they have come head to head a few times.
There's a lot of politics involved at a campus like this one. It's big, and has
a reputation to uphold in many fields. Social Sciences is just one of them. Dean
Evans has to see the larger picture most of the time, and Professor Peters, like
most of us, tends to view life from his own little corner." Blair shook his
head. "That's why I'm more comfortable out in the field, I think. Researching,
documenting, that kind of work keeps you out of most loops." He took a drink,
then saw the grin on Jim's face. "What?"
shook his head, then glanced around the office. "So, you have to get those
artifacts packed up again? Need some help, Chief?"
Blair watched Jim for
a full minute, wondering just what was going on behind those eyes. "What
about the case, Jim?"
"It's in the thinking stage. I want to get
a look around that shipping department later tonight, after Bilks has gone. You'll
have to take the crates down there after packing up, right? We can have a look
"I'm not sure you should be around the artifacts, Jim.."
Jim raised a hand, cutting Blair off. "Sandburg, I can't go through life
avoiding everything. This never happened before, and now that we know what to
watch for, we can take care of it."
"But Jim, you've never been around
this much concentrated cocaine before. At least not since your Sentinel senses
came out. I think we should avoid something we already know isn't safe."
Jim nodded. "You're right. Tell you what, I'll wear these." He pulled
a pair of latex gloves from his back pocket, the type he always used when collecting
evidence. "And I'll just help you with the crates. How's that?" Blair
nodded. "Listen, Chief, I would never knowingly put you, or myself, in that
kind of situation again. You know that."
"Yeah, I know that, Jim."
Blair sighed, then reached for the clipboard and his unfinished paperwork. "Well,
no time like the present then, huh?" Jim nodded and stood, waiting for Blair
to collect his pen and keys to the display hall. He was right, of course. Blair
did know Jim wouldn't endanger either of them knowingly. So, if he was willing
to help pack up the displays, then he must be convinced that any traces of cocaine
had been removed when forensics went through the room. The idea that a team of
cops had been handling his artifacts gave Blair some apprehension, but he had
seen them at work many times, and had to respect the care with which they handled
all evidence. In fact, these statues, urns and masks were going to be shipped
back much cleaner than they had come out. Not that the Universities and museums
that had loaned them out would appreciate the reason for the clean up.
the way back to the unused display room and unlocked the door, noting the missing
police tape that had been up the day before. They had just walked inside when
the door opened again and Harry pushed his way through, forcing several crates
on a hand cart through the double doors.
"Here's the first lot. I'll bring
up the rest, then I'm off for the night. Just leave these..." He paused long
enough to sneeze. "..You know where to leave them."
Blair nodded, helping Harry remove the crates from the cart. "Thanks."
Harry nodded, Kleenex flapping in the breeze, then turned and left with the
Jim sat on the corner of a table near the first of the displays
and examined the clipboard Blair had set down. "This is pretty repetitive
"Yeah, the return trip is just a reverse of the first round."
He flexed the fingers of his right hand and grimaced at the soreness. "I'll
work on it after I get these things loaded up."
"How about I fill
this out as we go?" Jim found the pen and looked up. "If I'm going to
help out, I might as well start here, huh?"
Blair nodded, glancing at
the various artifacts waiting for him. Artifacts that had been so recently packed
in crates hiding concentrated cocaine. "That'd be great. I can just tell
you what to fill in as I pack them up." He reached out and took hold of the
first statue, realizing it just happened to be Mobutu Denai. "Hey, Jim, what
exactly was the first thing you noticed that night, when you were holding this
in my office?"
Jim sighed, then sat back a bit and looked thoughtfully
at the statue Blair was holding. "The first thing I remembered was how it
felt. It didn't feel like clay at all. It was soft, and warm, like soapstone."
Jim's voice took on an almost wistful quality. "I--I didn't want to put it
down, it felt so--so sensual."
"Sensual?" Blair's eyebrows arched
and he looked from Jim to the statue he was holding.
Jim shook his head. "After that, I noticed the colors, how vivid they were.
But then the coffee caught my attention." He sighed. "Why?"
interesting." Blair took one last look at the figure in his hands, then walked
to the first open crate and nestled it snugly into the packing straw, making sure
there was plenty of padding around it.
"What's interesting, Chief?"
Blair straightened up and walked to the next display podium. "I was just
wondering if your senses reacted to the drug in order of sensitivity, or if it
was more a pattern of cocaine reaction." He picked up the urn and turned
it around in his hands thoughtfully. "Since the drug was on the statue, your
first contact was tactile. That might be the reason for the reaction sequence.
From your fingers, to your eyes then taste buds." Blair took the urn to the
same crate and found a safe section for it, then returned for another. "You
know, Jim, ever since that exam when you got your ears cleaned out and your hearing
magnified, we haven't tested your limits like I've wanted."
you're not telling me what to write down here, Chief." Jim tapped the pen
on the clipboard.
"Oh, right." He picked up the next statue, absently
registering its identity. "Um, that first one was your sensual friend, Mobutu
Denai. Then the urn was 12th century Yanamamo. I've got those two and
this one already filled out." He walked back to the crate, holding the statue
in one hand while still thinking about Jim's reactions, and what they could mean.
"Hey, Chief, have you ever dropped one of those?"