"Jim, what did it feel like, anyway?"
"When you were so focused on the dial. What did it feel like?" There
was a pause and Blair stopped massaging Jim's neck. "Jim?" He was falling
"Oh man, I feel so loose now. That knot is completely gone."
Jim rolled his shoulders and sighed. "This is incredible. Thanks, Chief."
Blair let go of Jim's neck and shrugged a little, "You're welcome."
"No, I'm serious. I've never felt so loose and relaxed." Jim moved
his head from side to side. "I've been thinking this should be one of the
new house rules. A guy could get used to this."
Blair laughed and rolled
his eyes. "Come on, Jim. With your tactile sense you could back up to a pole
and enjoy it just as much." He climbed off the arm of the couch and sat down
in the chair on the opposite side of the table. "What did it feel like, anyway?
The safe, I mean." The last thing Blair wanted to hear was how good the massage
was. He hadn't gotten a good backrub himself since he and Maria had that little
fight, and he really wanted one.
"Just before I zoned out, it was like...like
that dial in my hand was the only thing left on earth." Jim turned to face
him and Blair could hear a note of fascinated excitement in his voice as he explained.
"The dial was larger than life, and I could feel every little imperfection
in the metal. And the teeth fell into place with a sort of jarring suddenness."
he shook his head with the memory. "I was on automatic for a few seconds,
then I'd feel your hand on my arm like some sort of hook, pulling me back."
He raised his eyebrows and sat back against the couch. "I hope you're right
about keeping me on track in there, 'cause I never even knew the door was open
until you pulled me out."
Blair nodded, "I think I've got that covered.
With the headset I can keep you talking. And, I think you might be trying too
hard. Your senses are a natural part of you. If you just relax and picture the
tumbler in your head while you're working it, you'll be fine."
"Yeah, maybe you're right. It's like when I'm with a woman, it's more..."
"Whoa, hey man, that's more than I need to know." Blair raised both
hands and stood up. That, was the last thing he wanted to hear. "I
think I get it. Thanks."
Jim laughed and shook his head. "Hey, maybe
Don Juan was a Sentinel, huh?"
Blair rolled his eyes and walked to the
refrigerator, pulling out a beer for each of them. "Funny." he said,
shaking his head. God, it was enough that Jim had women calling him every day,
now he wanted to be Don Juan? Not that Blair had much trouble, but to have Jim's
sense of touch...Blair hadn't even gotten up the courage to ask Jim about that
aspect, not even for his paper. He pulled off the bottle caps and returned to
the living room, handing a bottle to Jim, who was still grinning. "So, what's
our plan?" He sat down in the chair again and took a drink.
we get in place just before Bryce's man leaves the room." Jim pulled out
a plan of the hotel's 12th floor from the file and tossed it to Blair.
"Room 1215 is right there in the middle of the hallway, with the elevator
at the end here, a nice corner spot five doors down, then around the other corridor
are more rooms, and the stairs. You can sit there in the corner, and watch both
hallways from that V." Jim paused and took a drink.
Blair was examining
the plan and saw how the V in the corner of the building held two chairs and a
small table. From there, he'd have a clear view of anyone coming off the elevators
down one hall, and anyone coming towards them from the other. "So, you figure
Diana to be coming up, see me there, and...?" he let the sentence trail.
"She won't make a move unless the hallway is clear. I'm sure she cases
the area, then calls for Jennifer when it's clear. If they see you sitting there,
then me coming out of the room they want, they should be able to put two and two
"And we're sure they'll want to team up? What if they
just ignore us?"
Jim shook his head, swallowing a drink of his beer. "No,
I don't think they'll like passing up $50,000 in gold, and God knows what else
we'd get to before them. Besides, according to Bryce's information, they aren't
adverse to teaming up." He took another drink then set the bottle down. "We
just have to make them believe we're that good, turn on the charm, work those
eyes of yours, and we'll be in."
Blair rolled his eyes and took a drink.
Jim and Simon were always giving him a bad time about his facial expressions.
He had to admit, he never gave it much thought. In fact, unless they were pointing
it out, or making fun, he really didn't know what he was doing. Could he help
it if he was expressive? Maybe that's what made him so good with the embellishments?
"Then what? If this gold is a plant, and we get in, do we continue to
steal until you get this boss of theirs?"
Jim nodded, "Don't worry,
Chief. We'll let Bryce know exactly who and what we do. He'll take care of the
rest. And when it's over, everyone will get their money back."
some day. Don't they keep everything until after the trial?"
but it's just a minor inconvenience most of the time. No one's being hurt here,
Chief. Better they be robbed by cops on a case than just two thieves getting away
Blair made a face. He didn't like the idea of actually committing
the crimes against innocent people, for who knew how long. "Yeah, but Jim,
we'll be stealing from them. Can't we just use a setup each time?"
shook his head. "No, they'd smell a rat sooner or later. Some of these people
have booked reservations months in advance. If we keep them from doing a job they've
been planning on, they'll get suspicious. We need the big fish, these two are
small time really."
Blair nodded, but he still didn't like the idea. He'd
been around Jim and the cases he'd solved for some time now, and he knew the time
frame between arrest and conviction could be months, sometimes years. That thought
brought another one that was nagging at the back of his mind: Brackett. It had
been nearly a month since Brackett was put in jail. His trial would be coming
up soon, wouldn't it? Or did he even have a case? Maybe they could just convict
him and put him away based on so many witnesses already. Maybe he wouldn't have
to be part of it. He should ask Jim, but he didn't want to know. Not yet. Besides,
Jim had that nightmare this morning, and it had bothered him enough to not want
Blair along on this job. If he brought it up now, he could find himself sitting
at home while Jim zoned out in front of a safe in some hotel room. No. Jim said
he wanted him along, he needed him.
"Well, I'm turning in." Jim stood
and took his empty bottle to the kitchen. "Well get to the hotel at 1:00,
that'll give us some time to look around and maybe spot our girls. They should
see us hanging around the hotel before the job." He reached both arms high
above his head and stretched, smiling. "Man, my back feels great! Thanks
again for the backrub. That really hit the spot."
Blair raised his eyebrows
for a second and laughed shortly. "Sure, anytime. Glad I could help."
Jim was crossing the room and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. "Hey,
you help all the time, Chief. More than you know." With that, he climbed
the steps to his room.
Blair sat there on the chair for a few minutes, finishing
his beer and thinking about what his partner had just said. He used to think Jim
was taking him for granted, and resisting almost every suggestion he made regarding
the police work. Jim only seemed to listen when he was helping him deal with his
senses, and keeping him from zoning out. But he had begun to realize that wasn't
true. He was slowly learning to interpret Jim's few facial expressions, but more
importantly, his words. He was a man of few, but he always meant what he said.
Blair had a tendency to speak too soon, thinking out loud, and then find himself
trying to back track or explain something and choosing all the wrong words to
do it. And, if Blair was to be completely honest with himself, Jim was always
supporting him in some way. If it wasn't verbal, then it was a pat on the back,
or a hand on his arm. Jim used touch more than words to convey support and friendship.
Blair was getting used to that more and more, now that he understood what it meant.
Jim never made fun of the occasional absurd remark Blair made, and he never got
impatient with Blair's constant questioning during a case. In fact, he was more
patient than most men Blair knew. Definitely more than Simon.
Jim turned the
lights out upstairs and Blair decided it was time to turn in. He'd have to figure
out how to hack into the hotel's reservation computer tomorrow morning, in case
he had to prove himself for one of the real jobs after the setup. He still wasn't
sure about actually stealing from innocent travelers. But, Jim had done this before,
and it was better that they be robbed by an undercover officer on the case, than
by the real crooks, right? If they switched the real loot with fake, they would
surely find out. Blair yawned and walked to the kitchen to throw away his empty
bottle, hitting the lights on his way. The moral implications of Jim's work were
endlessly fascinating at times, but he was tired.
The next morning,
it took Blair only an hour to figure out how to intercept the hotel's reservations.
He was sure, for a true hacker, it would have taken minutes. Maria had taught
him a few things about finding back doors in secured systems. He'd have to call
her soon and apologize, if she didn't call first.
"Wow, this place is
popular with the jet-set." Blair pushed the laptop around slightly so Jim
could see the display. "No less than ten master suites booked for later this
week alone, all with requests for in-room safes." He shook his head in wonder.
"I never realized there were so many rich people flying into Cascade."
"That's just it, flying in," Jim replied, glancing at the screen.
"Up here for business deals, most likely."
"Oh, hang on...Look
at this." Blair accessed the hotel conference room schedule and found a reason
for all the high rollers to be in town.
"Estate auction?" Jim read
the reservation then raised his eyebrows. "See if you can find out what's
being auctioned off."
Blair switched screens, did a little surfing, and
found a list labeled "Members Only", "Wow, check this out. We've
got gold coins, jewelry, some antiques, and several varieties of loose gems."
Blair whistled through his teeth. "Some estate."
be planning a big payday this week," Jim said, glancing at the list. "Looks
like we'll have our hands full."
"Won't they have security for a
collection like this?"
"Of course, but look here." Jim pointed
to the list of contributors on the display. "Each guest coming in this week
is bringing an assortment for the auction, not just one. Ten different contributors,
with ten different schedules, and ten different ways of protecting their property.
I'm sure none of them wanted to lump it together for security when they can keep
their own goods in their rooms. Besides, big time security plans attract too much
"So much trust in the world." Blair shook his head.
"So, our job isn't any different?"
"Nope." Jim checked
his watch. "And, we'd best get moving. You ready, Chief?" Jim patted
him on the back and walked over to grab his coat.
"As I'll ever be."
Blair replied, shutting off the computer.
Jim handed him the black box for
the safe, and both headsets, putting the key entry decoder in his jacket pocket.
They had decided Jim would take the motion sensor Fingers McCoy had given them,
but not turn it on. It would look more natural if they were using the same equipment
they expected Jennifer and Diana to be using, but keeping it off would prevent
Jim from trying to out match the box. The headsets they would each wear were small
and lightweight, fitting snugly around one ear with a short, thin microphone extending
a mere two inches from the base of the unit. On Blair, the entire setup was invisible
in his hair. On Jim, it was much more obvious, but he would be in the room, and
not seen by any passers by as Blair would. The big mystery, aside from who was
organizing the two women, was how they always managed to pull the jobs without
getting caught with the goods. Detective Bryce and his men had arrested them several
times, but never once found the just-stolen property on either of them. They had
a method, and possibly an insider, but unless that insider moved with them from
town to town, they must have a new recruit at each hotel.