They arrived at the hotel with one hour to spare before Detective
Bryce's man would leave the room. Jim parked the truck, then took one headset
and the black box from Blair and put them in his other jacket pocket. They entered
the hotel from a side door, then casually walked across the large lobby area to
the bar. Once inside, Jim found them a corner table in the lounge where they could
see all of the bar and most of the lobby. It was Jim's plan to spot Jennifer and
Diana beforehand, and possibly be noticed by them also. Blair tried to recall
Diana's face, but found it much easier to bring her legs to mind. He sincerely
hoped she was wearing pants today.
"Check it out, over by the phones."
Blair had spotted a woman in bleached blonde hair and black leather pants near
the phone booth beside the front desk.
"Looks like Diana," Jim said,
glancing at her, then around the lobby. "Over there, beside the restaurant
Blair looked to where Jim was nodding and found Jennifer, dressed
in black slacks and a black velvet shirt. He and Jim were similarly dressed so
as to not draw too much attention in the high class hotel. Jim had dark brown
slacks and a brown shirt with is blue suede jacket, where Blair was wearing black
jeans, and a dark blue shirt, covered by his lighter weight black leather jacket.
"Let's get into position, Chief." Jim stood and they walked to the
elevators, glancing casually at Jennifer who was just a few feet away. Once upstairs,
they found room 1215 easily, then moved down to the corner and each took a seat
in one of two comfortable chairs positioned there. From that vantage point, Blair
had a clear view of both corridors.
"Now remember, Jim, when you get ready
to open the safe, let me know." Blair leaned over to speak quietly, even
though they were alone. "I'm going to keep you from zoning out, but I need
to know before you start."
"Right," Jim replied, glancing down
the hall as the door to room 1215 opened. They both watched the man who stepped
out as he locked the door, put the key card in his pocket, glanced at them briefly,
then walked to the elevators. As soon as he was inside, and the hallways were
both clear, Jim made his move.
Blair put on his headset and changed seats,
giving himself a more head-on view of the room Jim was breaking into. "When
do you think they'll make their move?" he asked quietly, not sure of how
good a range the headset had, but knowing Jim had better.
soon as he gets off the elevator." There was a pause as Jim swiped the card
from the decoder through the slot in the door. A moment later, the door unlatched
and he stepped inside. "I'm in." Jim closed the door and Blair could
hear his breathing on the headset. "The safes supposed to be behind the dresser
mirror...There it is."
"Is it the same type?"
Any sign of them?"
Blair glanced quickly down each hallway. "No,
"Okay, here goes."
"Jim, describe it as
you're going." Blair strained to listen to his partner's breathing, unsure
if he'd recognize a zone out if he wasn't in the same room. "Jim..."
"It's pretty light, newer maybe than the one Fingers had. I've got two
numbers, going to the left now."
"Just keep it relaxed, natural."
Blair tried to keep Jim's mind divided. "Don't try too hard."
more numbers." Jim replied.
Jim's voice was beginning to sound strained.
"Breathe, Jim. Stay with me." Blair glanced down the hall again and
saw the elevator light come on. "We've got company."
Jim sounded a little more in control now, so Blair didn't speak
again as a woman stepped out of the elevator. It was Diana. She paused just outside
the car, then glanced down the hall at Blair. "Diana's here, Jim." he
said quietly, letting her see he was aware of her standing there.
more to go, keep an eye on her."
Blair watched as Diana moved away from
the elevator and walked slowly down the hall, towards him. When she passed the
door to room 1215 she paused, leaned against the opposite wall and rummaged through
her purse. "She's right outside the room." Blair kept his voice low,
and casually glanced down the opposite corridor for just a moment.
Jim's breathing could be heard over the sensitive earpiece, and
Blair could tell he was forcing himself to relax. He wanted to keep Jim talking,
but it would look really strange for Blair to be sitting alone in a hallway talking
to himself. Then again, they wanted Diana and Jennifer to know what they were
"How's it going, Jim?"
"Two more. Almost there."
Blair watched Diana again as she found her lipstick and looked back up at him.
She applied the color, using a mirror, then put it all back into her purse and
started walking slowly towards him again. As she passed, Blair glanced up and
smiled. She smiled back, pausing for just a second, then moving on down the other
corridor. Blair was certain she had noticed his headset; hidden as it was in his
hair, it still wasn't invisible. And she had most certainly come up stairs to
secure the hallway for Jennifer. Blair watched her move halfway down the corridor,
then stop and pull something else out of her purse. Her back was to him, but he
could see her reach up to one ear, bending over slightly. A few moments later,
she returned to her purse, glanced back at Blair, and turned around to begin walking
back towards him.
"Got it." Jim's voice came over the earpiece, almost
startling Blair. "Where is she?"
"Coming back your way. Almost
to the corner." Blair was trying to look nonchalant by pushing the hair away
from his forehead as he spoke. Diana passed him, smiling again, and walked straight
for the elevators. As she passed room 1215 she glanced at the door for a moment,
then continued on and pressed the down button. "She's at the elevators."
"Okay, I'm coming out and I'll head down with her. You meet me in the
lobby in five minutes."
"Right." Jim came out of the room then
and walked casually to the elevator just as the doors opened. Blair watched the
two of them step inside, and breathed a sigh of relief. Jim hadn't zoned out.
He thought if his partner did fall too deeply into the focus of just one sense,
that he could at least run in there, making a possible fool of himself, and get
him out of it. But he realized as Jim entered the room, the door automatically
locked. How long he would stay in the trance without help, Blair didn't know.
He didn't want to find out.
As the elevator doors
opened, Jim allowed Diana to enter first, then followed her inside, standing in
front of the panel.
"Lobby, please," she said, smiling up at him.
Jim nodded, smiling, and pressed the button. As they started down, he concentrated
on the numbers above the door, waiting for her to make a move. She might wait
until she rejoined her partner, but she had to know he and Blair had just beaten
them to the job.
"I give you a 9 for technique, but your follow-through
needs work," Diana said calmly, leaning against one wall of the car.
looked down at her and raised his eyebrows questioningly. "Pardon?"
She smiled and shook her head, looking him up and down from head to toe. "You
don't have the look, which is good. Your partner does, though. But your act needs
"I'm sorry? I don't know what you're talking about."
Jim shook his head politely and turned away again. He could see her from the corner
of his eye, and she was shaking her head slowly from side to side.
might have a business proposition for you," She said.
Here it comes.
"That gold in your pockets, you have a plan for
it yet?" She was still smiling and reached one arm out along the railing
in the car.
"I'm sorry, Miss, I don't have any idea what you're talking
about." Jim returned his gaze to the numbers above the door. They were four
floors from the lobby.
"It's Diana, handsome. And either you've got room
512's gold bars in your pockets, or you're just feeling real friendly." She
moved forward then and wrapped one arm around his, leaning in. "Come with
me to the bar, I've got someone you need to meet."
Jim looked down at
her hanging off his arm, and raised his eyebrows again. He was going to say something,
but the door opened and she started walking out, pulling him along. Jim glanced
around the lobby, then saw Jennifer sitting in the lounge, watching them approach.
"This is my friend, Jennifer." Diana released her grip on Jim's arm
and slid into the round bench beside Jennifer who then patted the cushion on the
"Please," she said, smiling up at Jim. "don't
be shy. What's your name?"
Jim hesitated for just a moment, trying to
seem slightly suspicious, then gave in and sat down next to Jennifer. "Jim,"
he said. From that seat he had a good view of the lobby and the elevators, so
he kept an eye out for Blair.
Jennifer smiled, glancing briefly out to the
lobby. "When does your partner join you? Or is he casing the next room?"
"He'll be along in a minute. So, what's your story?" Jim leaned back
in the seat, placing both hands on the table.
"Better than yours,"
Diana replied. Jennifer glanced at her, then turned to face Jim,
been at this a long time, maybe we could share some tips?" She smiled, "I'd
love to compare notes. Obviously you're good, but just how good are you?"
"We get by." Jim heard the elevator doors open and saw Blair step
out, then spot him in the lounge. "Maybe we could go somewhere and discuss
Jennifer shook her head, smiling as Blair approached. "We
like to conduct business out in the open, and what better spot than right in the
middle of the workplace?"
Blair was standing next to the table now, looking
at Jim. "This is Blair, my partner." He motioned for Blair to sit down
in the only free spot, which was next to Diana. "This is Diana, and Jennifer.
They have a business proposition for us."
"Listen, I'll get right
to it." Jennifer leaned forward, glancing at Blair for a moment, then turning
back to Jim. "This is our territory right now. We came into town a few months
back, and we're not ready to move on." She looked to Diana for confirmation.
"But, we do enjoy the occasional professional exchange, so to speak."
"We've got you beat for follow-through." Diana interjected, smiling
at Jim. "But, your technique is solid." She looked at Blair sitting
beside her and put her arm around the back of the seat, behind his head. "And,
fun to watch."
Bryce was right, these two are definitely social.
"So, what's your system for disposal?" Jim asked.
Diana looked to
Jennifer, who leaned back into the cushions. "I'm not giving away all our
secrets until we have an agreement."
"What did you have in mind?"
Blair asked, speaking up for the first time.
"An even split, 50/50,"
Jennifer replied, glancing at him. "We've got a line on several high rollers
coming in this week. We team up, take them all, then split the take right down
"Minus the processing fee, of course." Diana added.
Jim looked at her, then back to Jennifer. This had to be the boss coming in
to play. "Processing fee?"
Jennifer nodded, "We have one other,
silent, partner. He does the liquidating for us, so we can concentrate on acquisition.
After his 10%, there's still plenty left to go around."
Jim looked at
Blair, who raised his eyebrows and shrugged but said nothing. "I'd like to
talk this over with my partner. We're not used to sharing."
how do you liquidate your goods?" Diana asked.
"We manage. Takes
a few months between acquisition and liquidation, for safety's sake."
we can cut that down to two weeks," Jennifer said, "How's that for fast
turnaround? And, at no risk to you."
Jim saw Blair look out to the lobby.
"Jim." He nodded towards the elevators where they could see Bryce's
"Well, you did the only job we had planned for today."
Jennifer picked up her purse from the seat between her and Diana. "Your place,
or ours? We can work out the details."
"How about yours?" Jim
moved out of the bench and held out a hand for Jennifer. "Ours is a mess
right now." She took the hand and let him pull her out of the seat. Blair
had also stood, and Diana was wrapping her arms around one of his. "Lead
Jennifer kept his hand as they walked out of the lounge and
back to the parking lot. He and Blair climbed into the truck, then followed Jennifer's
'67 Mustang as they drove out of the lot and started north.
easy," Blair said, putting the black box Jim handed him into the glove compartment.
"How was it in the room, Jim?"
"Not bad." Jim replied.
His neck was a little stiff again, and his shoulders. He had been so incredibly
loose last night that he had slept better than ever. And no more nightmares. Maybe
he'd manage to get another backrub from his housemate tonight? He'd tried not
to make too much of a big deal out of it, and he had almost asked for one last
night, but when Blair volunteered, he didn't want to rock the boat and risk him
taking anything he said wrong. Jim realized his partner wasn't exactly up on simple
male bonding, as much as he understood the concept. "I almost lost it a couple
of times, though. I could feel myself slipping into this sort of void. Then I'd
hear you and be able to come out of it." He shook his head. "Hopefully
this will get easier."
"Oh, I'm sure it will. You just need to stay
relaxed, don't think about it as beating the lock, just...learning it."
learning it." Jim nodded. He knew Blair didn't always know what to say to
help him, but he always came up with something, if given enough time. Jim wasn't
always very patient, but it never seemed to stop his partner from trying to get
through. "Listen, if they're talking about hitting all those guests coming
in this week for the auction, and they have a two week turnaround for cashing
out, we might be introduced to the head guy sooner than we thought." Jim
remembered Blair hadn't liked the idea of stealing cars for what could have turned
"How long did we think?" Blair asked, raising his eyebrows.
Jim shrugged, "As long as it took" He glanced over at Blair. "But
if they offer us a two week turn over, we could get this wrapped up soon."
He turned left, following Jennifer's turn, and glanced around, making note of
the street they were on. Inside the car, he saw Diana turn to face Jennifer, so
he focused on their car, listening.
"Are you kidding? He's adorable. You
can have the big fella. He's your speed, anyway." Diana was speaking.
are they saying?" Blair asked.
Jim shook his head and kept listening.
"With them, we can work all the guests, not just half. And get them done
in two days." Jennifer was speaking now, turning to the right. "This
could be a better payday than we were hoping. And, it might be worthwhile to bring
them along to Vancouver next month."
"Yum. This could be the start
of a beautiful partnership." Diana practically purred.
"I think they approve." Jim grinned. "And, I don't think you'll
have to worry about doing any seducing this time, Chief." Blair looked at
him questioningly. "You might want to brush up on your self defense, though."
Blair raised his eyebrows and glanced at the car ahead of them. "So, Jim,
just how long did you figure this would go on again?"
Jim laughed, but
before he could respond, Jennifer pulled into a long driveway, and he followed.
There was no address on the mailbox, but it would be a temporary home, anyway.
Most likely a rental, and paid for in cash. They were only fifteen minutes north
of the airport, but the sound of the jets overhead was muted. Both women got out
of the car, then motioned for them to follow into the house as Jim parked the
truck. It was a simple two-story unit, seated well off the road, and surrounded
by a tall evergreen hedge, offering privacy from all the neighbors. Jim focused
on the house as they approached, but could hear no one inside. He had stashed
the gold bars under the seat in the truck, just in case.
Jennifer opened the
front door, and Diana passed her and went straight inside. "Can I offer you
a drink?" She moved into the house and let Jim and Blair enter, closing the
door behind them. "It's a little early for a beer, but we have tea, coffee,
Diana reappeared from down a hall and grabbed Blair by
the arm again, "I bet you're a tea man, hum? Something exotic and rare, maybe?"
Blair smiled. "Sure, anything's fine."
She led him into the kitchen
and Jim and Jennifer followed. The house was sparsely furnished, with two older
looking couches in the middle of the living room, three chairs scattered about
in no order, and several notebooks strewn about the floor. The kitchen was large,
and much more well-kept. The center was dominated by a large, round table, with
a laptop computer sitting off to one side. Attached to the computer was a cellular
phone, with several wires hanging off of it, some of which trailed to the computer,
while others snaked off to the wall outlets. Diana had Blair sitting on a stool
beside the counter where she was making the tea, so Jennifer sat at the table,
pulling out a chair for Jim.
"So tell me, Jim, what's your system for
spotting the good ones?" Jennifer put both elbows on the table and rested
her chin in her hands.
"Same as yours, I assume," he replied, glancing
at the computer. "Blair gets into the hotel's reservation desk, and finds
out who's coming in. If they look like they have potential, we check it out."
He paused and glanced over at Blair. "I suppose you know about the auction
Jennifer smiled, lifting her head and leaning back in her
chair. "Yep. I've had my eyes on that one since they booked the conference
hall three weeks ago." She sighed. "We can make a killing on that group
in just two days. Enough time to get in, get out, and leave no trail."
do you tell us your system?" Blair asked, accepting the cup Diana was handing
Jennifer and Diana exchanged glances, then she turned to Jim. "We
never leave the room with the take," she said. "That way, we never get
caught with the goods." She leaned forward again, wrapping both hands around
the cup of tea Diana had set on the table in front of her. "After the safe
is emptied, we bag it all up in ziplocks, and stick it inside the toilet tank.
I mean, when the guests realize they've been robbed, the last place they look
is in their own room. Then, when the maid comes in the next morning, out it comes."
She stopped and sipped her tea.
Jim nodded, "So, you have a person on
Jennifer nodded, blowing on the hot tea.
another person who gets a cut?" Blair asked, glancing at Jim.
her head, "No, a salary. Our silent partner pays for the service. The maid
just goes in to do her job, and doesn't question someone coming in for a minute,
and leaving a hundred on the dresser for the privilege. Nothing comes out of your
cut, other than the 10%."
"Listen, what's coming in this week is well over 10 million, once liquidated.
10% of that is a drop in the bucket." Jennifer said. "So, are you in?"
"What if we aren't?" Jim asked.
Diana shrugged, "Then, we
take you out. See, we don't like competition. Partners are good, but competitors...well,
it gets ugly."
Jim raised his eyebrows, wondering how she would plan to
take them out, but said nothing. The point was to get in with them, not make an
enemy and lose the chance. "Okay, I'm up for it." He glanced at Blair,
"What about you?"
Blair shrugged, "Whatever you say."
smiled, as did Jennifer. "Great. This could be fun." Jennifer set her
cup down and winked at Jim. "We'll have to discuss technique, sometime. I'd
love to see you in action."
Jim ignored the look on Blair's face from
the other side of the kitchen. "Sure, anytime." He glanced at his watch.
"There's three arrivals tomorrow morning that look promising. What time shall
Jennifer was still smiling, "We like to be there right
at check-in. Most guests get situated, then head out for lunch or some sightseeing.
Meet us in the lounge at 2:00." They all stood and she put a hand around
Jim's arm, walking him to the door. "Nice thing about these hotels, they
have an early check-in." They stopped at the door and she released his arm,
then shook his hand. "See you there, partner."
Jim replied. He glanced back at Blair,
"Maybe after work, we could go
out for some relaxing?" Diana asked. Before Blair could respond, she leaned
over and kissed him full on the lips. "Think about it." she said, releasing
Jim had to look away for a second before he lost his composure in reaction
to the look on his partner's face.
"Yeah, maybe," Blair managed to
reply. "See ya." he turned then and followed Jim out to the truck.
both climbed in, glancing back at the women in the doorway, then Jim quickly felt
for the gold, still stashed under the seat. He started the truck, and the women
walked back inside, shutting the door. He backed down the driveway, then into
traffic, heading back towards the highway. Blair was shaking his head and laughing
Jim laughed. "Well, I would
like to know how she manages it. Must use those detectors on the safes when she's
Blair shook his head. "You kids today."
weren't doing too bad yourself, Chief. Diana was practically down your throat."
he glanced at Blair for a second and could have sworn he blushed.
might be right about self-defense. Maybe I should take a class?" He shook
his head in amazement. "They're like cats, man. Friendly and attractive,
but dangerous, too." he looked at Jim. "We're keeping this professional,
"Good. Just checking."
raised his eyebrows, "You're not going to have a problem here, are you Chief?
No one expects you to do anything you're not comfortable with, just for a case."
"No, no problem," Blair replied. "I mean, it's just stealing,
right? Break into some safes, steal some property, no problem."
pulling off the highway at their exit. "Listen, Sandburg, like I said, it's
better to be robbed by undercover cops on a case."
"I know, I know."
Blair waved his hands in the air, nodding. "Forget it. It's just..."
"Just what?" Jim glanced at his partner as he made a left turn. He
never minded Blair asking questions about procedure, but he wanted to be sure
he kept asking until he understood.
"It just feels weird, that's all,"
Blair replied, looking over at him. "I was thinking last night, about what
someone with one Sentinel sense would do for a living, other than something legitimate,
like I already have documented."
"And you came up with, what?"
Jim made a right turn and they were on the street in front of the loft, looking
for a parking spot.
Blair shrugged slightly. "I dunno, pickpocket, safe-cracker,
"And that bothers you?" Jim parked the truck and
looked at Blair. He had often wondered himself what some of them must think, having
one or two senses that were so off the scale. Had they been as paranoid as he
was when his senses manifested? Or was having just one not so abnormal?
I guess it does." Blair looked at him for a moment, then opened the door
and climbed out of the truck.
Jim got out and they walked upstairs. "You
know, people are people, no matter what genetic advantage they may have."
He unlocked the door and they went inside. "Not every genius works in a think
tank, doing nice things for humanity." He tossed the keys to the small table
and took off his coat. "Actually, I've wondered if maybe I'm not the only
one with all five, maybe there's someone else out there, even in Cascade, that
you haven't found." Jim crossed to the kitchen and took a look inside for
dinner possibilities. Blair was still standing in the living room and Jim glanced
back at him. There was a strange, puzzled look on his face, then he turned and
walked over to a stool beside the counter.
"I suppose that's possible."
He pulled off his coat and draped it over the second stool. "Doubtful, but
Jim glared at the coat and Blair picked it up again and walked
over to the door, hanging it up.
"Maybe one slightly less anal."
"I heard that," Jim replied from halfway inside the refrigerator.
"Just for that, Chief, you get to warm up last night's linguini. I need a
hot shower." Jim shut the refrigerator door and passed Blair on his way to
the bathroom, smiling.
Once inside he stripped and turned on the hot water,
testing it before stepping in. His neck was stiff again and he wanted to stand
under the hot spray and loosen up the muscles. Working the safe without the black
box Fingers had given them had proved easier, but he'd still nearly zoned out
a couple of times. Luckily, Blair would begin to speak just in time, and he was
able to use his partner's voice to focus on and pull himself back. During the
tight concentration on his tactile sense only, Jim's body was aware of the slightest
changes in air pressure and temperature around him. He found that he could focus
tightly on one area, and block out what the rest of his body was telling him,
but then he began to feel the rest of the world fading into the distance. What
would happen if he did zone out and Blair wasn't there? How long would he stay
like that? Until someone found him? Once, he was nearly killed by a garbage truck
while focused on sight. And what about another Sentinel? If there was one, would
Blair find him or her? Was he even still looking? Jim never really knew what Blair
did at the University when he wasn't teaching a class or grading papers. And if
he did find another, would he leave to study a second Sentinel? What if it was
a woman? Suddenly Jim's mind flashed on a million possibilities and he shook his
head to clear the visions. No, one was enough for any guide.