Jim handed Blair his glove to stuff in the bag and glanced around
the field, making sure they hadn't forgotten anything.
you got any more of these observers hanging around your place?" Tony Brooks
called from his car as he finished putting his own gear away.
Tony, I've got about five or six. Trouble is, Sandburg here is the only one who
Tony shut his trunk, laughing. "Well, just be sure you
bring him with you next weekend."
Jim smiled, glancing at his partner
as he loaded their gear into the truck. "I'll do my best." Blair handed
him a water bottle and grabbed his own before shutting the back hatch. "You
know, Jim, if you had told me how hard up you were for a decent pitcher, I'd have
come out sooner."
Jim reached out and slapped Blair lightly on the side
of the head. "I pitch just fine, Chief. Just so happens I'm a better catcher,
"Well, sure, Jim." They crossed the back of the
truck and walked to the front doors. "It goes along with your need to give
orders and be in control."
"That's funny." Jim climbed in and
started the truck, treating Blair to a look of sarcasm that was met with mock-seriousness.
"For that, you're buying lunch."
As they pulled away from the curb,
Jim was laughing. God, he felt good today! They'd had a good workout on the ball
field that morning with the Precinct team, and played nearly a full 8 innings.
Working shifts made team sports difficult, but between the plainclothes and the
uniformed officers, they usually had enough members each game. Bringing Blair
along had been more of an attempt to air his partner out after a full week of
studying in the loft at all hours of the night. He hadn't volunteered to play,
but after Jim and a few others coaxed him into pitching, he'd proven himself the
best one on the team.
Just another of the multitude of odd talents he was discovering
Blair to possess. They drove towards town in good-natured silence, both pretty
tired from the workout. Jim was smiling, and couldn't help feeling a little sense
of pride. His partner was a wealth of information, some of it even relevant. He
was a quick thinker, and had easily adapted to Jim's life on the force. And now,
after proving himself worthy of their baseball team, Jim couldn't help his sense
of pride and responsibility for his "discovery".
"So, Jim, you
weren't thinking of anything fancy for lunch, right?"
Chief. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about Sunday's, down on the pier."
He made a right turn and headed toward the bay. "Unfortunately, we're dressed
more for the Bay Street Grill." He glanced at Blair and laughed a little
at his partner's look of disgust as the joke registered.
Blair was just opening
his mouth to reply when they heard the crackle of the scanner. "All units
in the vicinity, shots fired at Cascade Community College. Officers request assistance.
Any available units, please respond."
"That's just a few blocks from
here." Blair said.
Jim nodded and reached for the radio, acknowledging
the call. "Hang on." He cranked the wheel into a hard left and made
a u-turn to take them back two blocks and north three.
When they pulled in
next to the single squad car, Jim quickly scanned the area. Two female uniformed
officers were standing several yards ahead of them on the grass, with a few students
crouching around the area, and more hiding behind buildings or running in doors.
Jim drew his gun as he and Blair climbed out of the truck and hurried to the officers.
"Simmons, what have you got?" Jim approached the first of the officers,
a young woman he'd known for nearly a year now as the best marksman on the force.
"Sniper, fired five shots around the campus, but hasn't been heard from
in over twenty minutes now." She glanced at them, then returned her gaze
to her partner, who was scanning the area.
"Anyone hit?" Jim looked
toward the building opposite where they stood and focused on the roof, moving
his gaze along the top.
Simmons shook her head. "No, luckily. I think
he's left already." She sighed, nodding at the students hiding behind the
building across the lawn. "We've got three witnesses over there who caught
a glimpse of the shooter."
Jim looked back at Simmons and her partner,
Blake. "You two see anything?"
"Nope." Blake sighed, still
looking around the area. "Campus security got right on it, but I think he's
"By the time we got here, the shootings had stopped."
"Okay, more units are on the way. Let's get this area secured
and..." Jim turned to face Simmons and Blair. The glint of sun off metal
caught his eye. He just had time to register the sniper's aim before his Sentinel
hearing picked up on the cocking of the hammer. "DOWN!!" Jim shouted
as he raced forward, catching Blair in a full body tackle that sent them both
crashing to the ground as the bullet screamed past. He turned his head as they
fell, expecting to see Simmons landing beside them. Instead, she had fallen the
other way. Two more shots rang out, and Jim covered Blair's head with his arms,
then quickly sat up when he detected movement, scanning the roof where the shooter
"Stay here!" Jim leapt to his feet, glancing back at the
other officers. Blood covered officer Simmons' chest. "Oh God." He rushed
over to kneel beside Blake as she applied pressure to her partner's chest wound.
"Go after him! I've got her," Officer Blake shouted.
to Blair. "Get an ambulance and stay here!" He didn't wait to see Blair's
nod. The sniper had moved, and Jim needed to cross the campus before he lost him
The grounds were deserted now; all the students and faculty had
ducked into buildings and rooms. Jim reached the building and found an outside
staircase leading to the roof. He took the steps three at a time, focusing intently
on the space above him and far to the left. Sounds greeted his Sentinel ears,
sounds of a gun being loaded. He was going to try again. Even knowing there were
cops coming after him, he was going to try again. Jim burst onto the roof, aiming
immediately in the direction of the sounds.
a word, the man at the opposite end of the roof stood, turning to face Jim with
his rifle in both hands.
"Drop it!" Jim held his aim, picking a spot
in the center of the man's chest. There was a look in his eyes that was oddly
familiar. This man was not going to give up.
And he didn't.
me." Instantly the rifle was up, hammer and trigger moving almost in
Jim squeezed the trigger, then ducked as the rifle went off, firing
a last round over his head. When he stood, the sniper was down, and Jim could
tell without looking that he had killed the man. He heard sirens, shouts, and
car doors slamming as more officers came on the scene and an ambulance was ushered
in. He crossed the roof to the dead man and retrieved the rifle.
Officer Ryder approached, having just reached the roof with his partner, gun drawn.
They holstered their guns, looking down at the sniper.
Jim handed the rifle to Ryder. "Secure the area, and call it in."
Ryder accepted the weapon, and with a nod to his partner, began to pace the roof
in search of spent shells that would identify the shooter's previous whereabouts.
Jim hurried back across the roof to the stairs, trying to hear what was happening
below to the injured officer. When he returned, Blair was closing the doors to
"How is she?" Jim asked as the paramedics drove away.
Officer Blake was nowhere to be seen.
Blair shrugged slightly. "She's
alive. Did you get him?"
"Yeah." A patrol car pulled up. Captain
Banks got out and walked straight to them, chewing roughly on the ever-present
"Jim, what the hell happened here? They just told me an officer
was shot!" Simon glanced at Blair, then looked to Jim again.
right, sir. Janet Simmons. She and her partner were first on the scene. The area
appeared secure at the time, but the shooter was on the roof, right over there."
Jim pointed to the building across the campus, and they could see several officers
walking around on the roof. "He's dead."
Simon nodded, removing his
cigar. "Okay, I've got an officer shot and a dead suspect. Let's go through
this step by step."
Jim walked the Captain through the incident
as they watched the forensics team taking evidence and bagging the body. Blair
followed, adding what little he'd seen. When they finished, Simon was holding
the dead sniper's wallet, examining his address.
"Jack Kingston, 113 Evansen
Rd. All right, Jim, you and Sandburg get over to this guy's place and check it
out. I've got to get over to the hospital and check on Janet."
sir." Jim took the wallet and put a hand on Blair's shoulder, steering him
toward the parking lot.
They got in and pulled out, driving west. "Man,
I hope she's gonna be all right."
"We all do, Chief." Jim glanced
at his partner for a second.
"Do you know her?"
He nodded, then
scanned the block they were on for house numbers. "I know her reputation,
and I've seen her on the firing range. She's got a perfect record." The house
they were looking for came up on the left and Jim pulled into the driveway.
know, Jim, the way you describe it, this guy wanted to be killed."
Blair looked out at the house in front of them.
"Yeah, sure seems that
way, Chief. Fires off enough rounds to get the cops out there in force, then waits
till we all drop our guard, figuring him for gone, and starts up again."
Jim undid his seatbelt and looked at the old house, scanning the inside as best
he could, hearing nothing. "House is empty. Let's go have a look."
walked up to the front door and out of habit, Jim knocked. The house itself was
dilapidated and run down, with paint peeling badly off all the outside walls.
Grass that hadn't been mowed in weeks was sprinkled generously with dandelions.
By the looks of the neighbors, this was the accepted norm for the block. He tried
the doorknob and found it unlocked. Another quick scan reconfirmed the emptiness,
so Jim led the way inside.
The house was dark and smelled of mold, and until
Blair flipped on the lights, Jim was having a hard time focusing while trying
to ignore the odors of rotting carpet and dust.
"Oh, man. Nice place."
Blair stayed behind Jim, trying not to touch anything.
"About as clean
as your room." He could tell Blair's attempts not to touch or be touched
by the contents of the house was more out of disgust than any sense of preserving
evidence. This case was all over, except the questions.
Blair moved around and walked to a writing table while Jim crossed the room to
the kitchen table, which was strewn with gun cleaning equipment. "I guess
he didn't have the benefit of living with a neat freak, huh?"
that remark and examined the contents of the table. There was a standard set of
cleaning tools, gun oil, and a few extra shells for the sniper's rifle he had
confiscated. He walked down the hall and looked around inside the one bedroom.
It was wall to wall Desert Storm. Jim found a small night table with cases and
opened them. Two medals of valor and a purple heart. Next to the medals, was an
appointment slip for the VA hospital, set for yesterday afternoon at 2:00.
Jim," Blair called from the living room. "I think I found something."
"What have you got?" He came out of the room and walked to the desk
where Blair was holding up a sheet of paper. It was blank except for three badly
written lines in pencil. "To whoever finds this, I was in sound mind and
body at the time. They said it would be the best way. Make sure they spell my
name right in the papers."
"Sounds like a suicide note to me, man."
"Yeah." Jim reached into his pocket for a plastic evidence bag and
put the letter inside. "I can think of easier ways to do it, though."
Blair nodded. "Guess he wanted his fifteen minutes of fame."
turned when he heard a car drive up and saw the forensics team pull in. "What
good are the fifteen minutes, if you're not around to enjoy them? Looks like he
was a vet. We'll need a warrant to talk to his shrink at the VA. Probably delayed
stress." He nodded to Blair and they walked outside, meeting the team as
they came in. "Gordon, any word yet on Simmons?" Jim asked.
not yet." Gordon stopped, setting down his heavy case.
inside, looks like a suicide note." Jim handed over the letter. "We're
going to head back to the Station, get a warrant to talk to his doctor. Let me
know if anything interesting turns up."
"Sure. Hey, how was practice
this morning? I hear tell the kid here has an arm?"
Jim nodded. "As
a matter of fact, he does." Blair was grinning as he squeezed past Jim and
walked to the truck.
"I also hear he's better than you, even," Gordon
"Yeah, well, this was just practice, Gordon. We've yet
to see him play under pressure." Jim laughed a little, nodding to the team.
When he got in the truck, Blair was smiling. "You know, if you disappoint
me this Saturday, I'll never let you forget it."
"Jim, who was it
that pitched three no-run innings?"
"That was practice, Chief."
He started the truck and backed down the driveway. "This weekend is the season
"You're sure me playing isn't breaking any rules?"
"Yes, I'm sure. You're an official observer, Sandburg. That qualifies
you to get shot at, and play in the league." Blair laughed shortly and Jim
smiled. "Listen, we're going to stop at the hospital, see if there's any
They drove back downtown in silence, and
Jim replayed the past three hours in his mind. Janet Simmons was a good cop, and
a very attractive woman who managed quite well in what was still very much a man's
world. He'd seen her many times on the firing range, she'd even bested him on
occasion. Her partner, Karen Blake, was younger and still learning, but under
Janet's watchful eye was shaping up to be a fine officer in her own right. Both
women were slightly built and very frail-looking, but many criminals had learned
that looks can be deceiving.
Jim went over the incident again, checking his
memory for details that would be needed for the report. He'd been several feet
away from Blair and Simmons when he spotted the shooter. Blair and Janet had been
standing in front of him, about 6 feet apart. Neither he nor Janet would have
had time to aim and shoot before they were fired upon, so Jim had taken the next
best approach. Blair and Janet had been looking at him, not the building. They
hadn't been able to see what Jim saw, and wouldn't have been able to react. He
had shouted right before pulling Blair down, expecting her to hit the ground as
well. There was no way he could have...he had to get...
He just realized Blair had been talking.
"I asked if she has any family?"
They pulled into the hospital parking lot. Jim spotted Simon's car still there.
"No, no family. She's been dating for a while, someone named Steve. Her partner
knows more about that." He parked close to the Captain's car and they got
out, walking to the emergency entrance. Simon was right inside, and the look on
his face answered Jim's question before he could ask.
"Jim, did you find
anything out?" Simon's cigar was stuffed in his pocket, and his face was
dark with the news he obviously wanted to avoid, but couldn't.
she?" Jim knew Janet was dead, without even focusing on the conversation
down the hall with a doctor and Karen that he could see taking place.
didn't make it."
"Oh, man." Blair's comment was very quiet.
He moved to the side of the waiting area a few feet away and leaned on the wall.
Jim looked at Blair for a second, than back to Simon. He wasn't sure what to
say. As often as this happened, it was never something you got used to, or wanted
to get used to. Before he could say anything, Karen Blake approached, looking
"Captain, I should go call her parents." She looked understandably
pale, and glanced at Jim for just a second, before turning back to Simon.
can do that," Simon said, putting a hand on her shoulder for a moment.
it's okay. Janet and her parents weren't very close, I can talk to them."
She sighed, fighting back some tears. "And I have to go see Steve. They were
getting pretty close. There was even talk of marriage."
anything I can do..?" Jim offered.
Karen looked at him suddenly, then
glanced at Blair. Jim saw something flash in her eyes before she turned back to
him. "I think you've done enough, Detective." With one last glance at
Simon, she walked past Jim and outside.
"What was that?" he asked,
watching her leave.
"She's just upset, Jim. Her partner's been killed."
Simon looked at Blair, then motioned for them all to step outside. Once back in
the parking lot, he was able to put the cigar back in his mouth and chew on it.
"What did you find at the house?"
"The guy was trying to commit
suicide," Blair replied.
"That's right, Captain.
We found a note, along with several more weapons. Looks like our guy was in Desert
Storm. There were several medals, and an appointment card at the VA hospital dated
"Great. That's just what we need. Wait until
the media finds out a decorated veteran was shot and killed after fatally wounding
a police officer." Simon sighed heavily. "All right, I'll get a warrant
to talk with his doctor. You two, get back to the station and get this report
done while it's still fresh. IA will be on this one quick."
This was pretty cut and dry, wasn't it?" Blair asked, glancing at Jim.
when an officer is killed, Chief." Jim nodded to Simon. "We'll head
back now, sir." Jim nodded to Blair then followed him back to the truck.
That afternoon was more than fresh in Jim's mind, and would be for weeks to
come. He'd replay it over and over, and each time it would end the same way. They
always did. There was no way to alter the outcome, and any other scenario Jim
could imagine, had an ending he never wanted to see.
Blair followed Jim to the elevators at the far side of the parking garage.
The place was deserted, and he wondered what was waiting for them upstairs. Jim
was being very quiet, and Blair knew there was nothing he could say right then
that would help either of them. The entire Precinct had been solemn when Jack
Pendergrast's body was identified and re-buried, but they had all been given several
years to mourn his death. This was Blair's first experience with the death of
an officer in the line of duty. Kincaid's raid on the Station last winter had
been different. Blair hadn't been in the rooms where the victims were killed.
Although the death of several support-staff members hit just as hard.
off the elevators was almost loud in its silence. Blair followed Jim into the
bullpen, and noticed all the officers, both plainclothes and uniformed, watching
them walk to his desk. As much as Blair wanted to believe it was sympathy they
were feeling, the hairs on the back of his neck said otherwise.
Chief, why don't you take this and sit in Simon's office?" Jim handed him
an incident report and a pen. "You know the routine."
the form and nodded. "Yeah." He hesitated for a moment as Jim sat down,
turning on his computer. Normally, Blair sat beside Jim's desk, and just filled
in his side of whatever he'd seen after Jim was finished with the rest of the
report. He wanted to ask why they were doing things differently now, but he feared
he already knew the answer. The short walk to Simon's office had never seemed
Blair shut the door and sat at the table with his back to the windows
that faced the bullpen. All right, Sandburg, stop imagining things. An
officer just died. A member of a very close-knit society. And now, every member
of that society was feeling the pain of that loss, and banding together in a sense
of unity and support. Typical social reaction. Nothing personal or antagonistic.
Next, the micro-societies would split, and the uniformed officers would block
out the detectives, who would feel the support staff couldn't understand their
pain, and they in turn would push out all higher ranking authorities. Then, the
uniforms would subdivide more to separate the patrolmen from the women, the rookies
from the veterans. It was a predictable cycle that would eventually smooth itself
out and life would return to normal.
Then why do I feel guilty? Was
Jim separating himself from Blair out of a need to side with his fellow officers?
Or was he just sending Blair into a safe zone, to buffer him from any odd feelings
or comments outside? And why would he think there should be comments or feelings?
He sighed, trying to concentrate on the report in front of him, trying to write
down what little he could add. And trying to figure out just why he felt so odd
about being there. He started to describe his location in relation to the other
officers at the scene, as Jim had taught him, replaying the afternoon in his mind.
He was standing close to officer Simmons, Jim was off to their left, just turning
to say something. He shouted, and Blair turned to look in the direction Jim was
looking when he was pushed down. Jim covered him with his body and arms while
several shots were fired. Jim then got up, and they both saw officer Simmons was
down and bleeding. Jim went after the shooter, and Blair called for an ambulance
while officer Blake stayed with her partner.
Pretty simple. Very tragic.
was just now beginning to understand the implications of what had happened. Jim
had saved him. An officer had been killed. Could Jim have saved her? Had there
been a choice, or did Jim simply act on cop's instinct? Blair glanced behind him,
into the bullpen where officers were milling around and working at desks. Mike
Jenkins was standing next to Jim's desk, talking to him. At the other end of the
room, three uniformed officers were standing together, watching Jim and occasionally
looking in Blair's direction. They were taking sides already. But this wasn't
just the usual, predictable groupings for mutual support and understanding. No,
there was something almost hostile about what Blair was seeing. And it wasn't
just directed at him.
Blair caught sight of Simon entering the room, stopping
at Jim's desk for a moment before heading to the office. He quickly assessed the
looks on both men's faces, and fleetingly wondered if the baseball practice had
been just that morning, or weeks ago.
When they entered the office, Simon acknowledged
Blair with a quick nod before walking to his desk. Jim shut the door, then sat
down in front of the Captain. Blair decided it was best if he remained where he
was, sitting now behind and to the left of Jim.
"I just got off the phone
with Dr. Stohs. She was Kingston's shrink over at the VA." Simon leaned forward,
resting both arms on his desk tiredly. "He'd been in and out of the hospital
over the past three years, being treated for Gulf War syndrome, as well as some
other psychologically-based problems."
"Did she have any reason to
suspect Kingston was capable of this?" Jim asked.
took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "She said he used to hear voices,
but that had stopped since he was put on medication 6 months ago."
he stopped taking his medication," Blair offered, eyebrows raised. He couldn't
help shooting a glance back out to the bullpen, seeing the officers still standing
together, talking amongst themselves.
"Forensics found a prescription
bottle in the house, but it was dated three months ago. They checked with the
pharmacy, and it hadn't been refilled since."
Blair looked back at Simon,
trying to force his attention on the room. It was normal for the officers to be
talking, after all. There was nothing going on that wasn't expected in a situation
"Sandburg, IA's gonna want to hear what happened from you as
well as Jim."
"You were there, Chief. This isn't
an inquest, just standard.."
"I know, standard procedure when an
officer is killed." Then why did it feel like everyone was forming sides,
with Jim on the wrong one?
"That's right." Simon reached into
his desk and retrieved a fresh cigar. "The two of you head down there now,
talk to Sheila, then go home. I think we've all had enough to deal with for one
Jim stood and Blair followed him out the door, staying close. He
was sure all the eyes in the room were on them as they walked first to Jim's desk
for their jackets, then out and down the hall. Jim was quiet, his jaw clenched.
Being alone in the elevator gave Blair a little courage.
"Jim, why does
it feel like there's something going on here, more than just a reaction to an
"It happens, Chief." Jim glanced down at him
and his features softened just a little, but then tension in his face and jaw
returned. "An officer's death isn't easy to take, for anyone."
I understand that, Jim. But it feels like there's more to this."
his head. "Talking to IA after something like this is normal." The elevator
doors opened and Jim stepped out.
Blair followed, trying to decide if Jim was
misunderstanding his question on purpose or not. Before he could rephrase it,
they were stepping into Sheila's office.
"Jim, Blair, come in." Sheila
smiled politely and indicated that they should sit.
Blair couldn't help but
wonder if he was sitting down in front of the woman who had stayed up all night
talking with Jim, or the one who had once tried everything in her power to convict
Jim of a murder he hadn't committed.
"I hope you realize this is just
a formality. Paperwork has to be adhered to." She glanced from Jim to Blair,
then back again.
"Of course." Jim sat down. "It was pretty straightforward."
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" She sat back, elbows on the
arms of her chair, fingers pointed together just under her chin.
She was looking
at Jim, so Blair remained quiet. He wasn't even sure why he was there.
and I arrived on the scene after Blake and Simmons. They said there was a shooter
on campus, but so far no one had spotted him, and the shots had stopped before
they arrived. I was assessing the situation when I caught sight of the shooter
on the roof of the next building. He was taking aim, so I shouted at Blair and
Janet. They were right in the line of fire." Jim's hands rose in a gesture
of helplessness. "I got Sandburg to the ground, but Simmons wasn't fast enough."
Blair heard the tension in Jim's voice increase and glanced at Sheila. She
was watching Jim, nodding slightly, but her face was unreadable. He couldn't help
the uneasy feeling that continued to spread through his guts like warm milk. There
was something else happening...something he couldn't control.