Blair followed Jim and Simon off the elevator. They had just spent
the better part of 2 hours searching the University campus for evidence and trying
to trace a red jeep with only 2 letters of the license plate. Jim had been quiet
during the entire drive to the Station and Blair could see the working of his
jaw as he chewed the inside of his cheek in frustration. He wanted to tell Jim
it wasn't his fault the shooter had gotten away, that it hadn't been his fault
the sun flashed at exactly the wrong time. He wanted to, but he didn't. Instead,
Blair remained silent, knowing that anything he said right then, would be ignored.
No, he'd have to wait until Jim had cooled off just a bit.
They had found nothing
on the campus. Even the spent shell from that one round wasn't anywhere to be
found. Jim's senses hadn't picked up a thing, aside from the residual smell of
gunpowder where the shooter had been. Forensics had gone over every inch, and
come up just as empty.
"You're sure that was a Washington plate, Jim?"
Simon strode straight to his office, with Jim and Blair close behind.
sir. That's one of the few things I was able to see before the sun blinded me."
Jim sat down facing Simon's desk and Blair stood behind him, glancing out into
the bullpen. "A Washington plate that starts with BA."
sight of Carpenter and his partner at the far side of the room, both men looking
in their direction.
"Well, that puts the jeep at least 7 years old, since
they changed the plate sequence around." Simon pulled a cigar from his pocket
and rolled it around between his fingers.
Carpenter's eyes met Blair's through
the glass of Simon's office. The hostility in his gaze gave Blair chills.
narrows it down to a few hundred, no doubt." Jim shook his head and sighed.
Blair had to pull his attention back into the room and shake off the feeling
that was creeping up the back of his neck.
"What do you think, Jim? A
copycat? Just a fluke? What?" Simon thrust the cigar into his mouth and began
to chew the end with frustration.
"I don't know, sir."
about murder?" Blair glanced from Jim to Simon.
Simon stopped chewing
his cigar and stared at Blair for a minute, then looked at Jim. "What's he
"Sandburg, I know what you're thinking, but I don't
think you're right." Jim looked up, then glanced out to the bullpen. "He
didn't have time, and he'd been in uniform all since this morning. I'd have noticed
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Simon
looked from Jim to Blair and back again. "Who didn't have time?"
wasn't explaining, so Blair decided he should. It might be better coming from
him, anyway. Simon was more used to discounting what he said, and Blair was getting
accustomed to voicing the unpopular topics. "Carpenter. He and Jim got into
it yesterday over this whole business." Blair looked at Jim. "He threatened
you, didn't he, Jim?"
"What?!" Simon stared at Jim. "Ellison,
what's this about?"
Jim shook his head. "You know Carpenter, Captain,
he's full of hot air and some of it escaped yesterday." He glanced at Blair,
then continued. "He made a threat and I punched him."
"I'd heard." He put the cigar back in his mouth. "Jackass or not,
Jim, he made a threat and someone took a shot at you today. I want to know what
Blair sat down, more to keep himself from glancing out into
the bullpen than anything.
"He threatened Blair, Simon, not me."
Jim's sentence didn't sink in for a full minute. When it did, Blair's eyes
shot up, looking from Simon to Jim.
"All right, I want you two out of
here. I need to talk to Carpenter, then his buddies. I'm sure they'll back him
up, but if we can get something from this partial plate, we may have a start."
Simon removed his cigar and thrust it roughly back into his leather case.
I don't think he or his pals have the nerve to follow through with anything like
"Jim, any cop making threats against another is enough to
get my blood boiling." Simon's voice took on an edge that made Blair cringe
slightly. "You two get that list of red jeeps matching the partial from the
DMV and go through them. Right now, that's our only lead."
sir." Jim stood and put a hand on Blair's arm, ushering him toward the door.
Blair reached for the handle and heard Simon on the intercom, buzzing Carpenter's
desk. He opened the door and headed straight for Jim's desk, doing his best not
to look in the direction of the officers watching them. Jim reached out for a
file on the desk, then walked toward the elevators without a word. Blair followed.
He could feel a tension in the air that was making his heart begin to race, but
it wasn't dissipating as they left the bullpen. Jim's jaw was working overtime,
and when they stepped into the elevator, Blair felt the air almost physically
"Jim, I..." Blair faltered, wondering if apologizing was
going to help, or hinder. God, he'd been stupid! What was he thinking?
He knew, almost more than Jim, what a taboo it was to accuse one of your own.
And although he wasn't one of them, Jim was. Blair had no business accusing a
fellow officer of having fired a gun at Jim. At them. It might have been okay
to mention his concern to his partner...but to say that to Simon, when Jim obviously
had more reason to suspect Carpenter than he did, and had said nothing.
just looked at him, chewing the inside of his cheek. Before Blair could try again,
the elevator doors opened. "Come on." Jim stepped out of the car and
headed down the corridor at a brisk pace.
Blair had to hurry to stay even with
the taller man. They retrieved a computer printout of every red jeep in Cascade
with the partial license plate matching the one Jim saw, as well as another list
of close matches. Jim handed the stack to Blair and led the way to the garage.
He couldn't help but feel grateful they were taking this work home, instead of
back upstairs where Carpenter and the others would be watching. Right now, Blair
wanted nothing more than to just go home and stay there, and maybe forget today
even happened. But he knew he couldn't do that. Jim wouldn't do that.
drove home in silence, and twice Blair tried to apologize to Jim for having told
Simon about the threats, but twice he stopped himself. His partner was angry,
and he knew some of that anger was directed at him. When they got upstairs, Blair
felt a little more comfortable.
"Jim, listen..." Blair reached into
the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of water.
"Sandburg, I don't
have time for this." Jim took one of the bottles and walked straight to the
table, slapping the printouts down hard. "I've got a lot of work to do."
Dammit. "Jim, I'm sorry, all right?" Blair crossed the room
and set his bottle on the table, looking at his friend. "Maybe I had no business
"That's right, Chief, you didn't." Jim glanced
up, then flipped the printout over and looked at the list of names there.
someone had to." Blair was getting frustrated now, both with Jim's attitude
and his own hesitancy. "Jim, I don't know what Carpenter said to you, but
I don't have to know what it was to know it was bad. Man, you just don't go around
punching people who say things you don't like. I know you, Jim. Whatever he said,
if it was enough to get you that mad, then it was probably enough to get Carpenter
out there with a gun."
"Sandburg, just drop it." Jim looked
up. "What's done is done. Simon will talk to Carpenter, then his partner,
and by now, the whole department knows I think he took a shot at me."
looked back at the papers and Blair sighed, then ran a hand through his hair.
God, he'd blown it. Now Jim would have trouble with every officer there, instead
of just the handful who didn't want Blair around. What was he thinking?
Here he'd been trying to convince Jim it would be in his best interest to side
with his fellow officers, and Blair had--in less than five minutes--alienated
his partner from the entire Station. Maybe Simon would make it known it was Blair
who made the accusation? Maybe it was time for Jim to change sides, before he
was pushed out by the entire Precinct?
"Jim, I'm sorry. But you have to
admit you were thinking the same thing."
Jim said nothing as he continued
to scan the sheets.
"I know, that whole blue brotherhood thing. I blew
it, and now you'll have to face the consequences, and I'm sorry. If I could take
it all back I would."
Still nothing. He flipped the printout over, scanning
the second page.
"If it's any help, I can stay away from the Station for
a while. There's some work I can get done with the research group this week."
Blair's heart was beginning to pound somewhere close to his feet, where it had
slowly been sinking since they left Simon's office.
Jim sighed and rubbed his
eyes. When he looked up, Blair could see the stress of the past few days reflected
in the deep blue. Stress he had just added to.
"Sandburg, this is more
complicated than just one side against the other." Jim leaned forward, one
hand open in an effort to explain. "I've been making it clear all along where
I stand with this. Now, we've got someone out there either trying to copy our
sniper, or trying to kill one of us. Either way, we've got a killer on the loose
and I lost him. Whether or not I think it could be a fellow cop, someone out there
took a shot at us."
"Come on, Jim, who else could it be?" Blair
took some comfort in the fact that Jim's voice was calm, but his eyes still had
an edge that could go either way. "I know you. There's no way some smart
remark from Carpenter could set you off unless it was really bad." Why
wouldn't Jim just tell him what was said?
"It could be anyone, Chief.
Do I suspect Carpenter? Sure, maybe. But there are other ways to go about finding
out. Bringing Simon into this is asking for more trouble than we want."
sighed, staring at his water. "I'm sorry, man. I blew it, didn't I?"
Jim shook his head. "Listen, whatever happens now, we'll deal with it."
He looked up and met Blair's eyes. "But I'll be damned if you're gonna run
off to the University and leave me to deal with this alone."
flinched from the finger Jim stabbed in the air. He nodded, then sat down. "What
do we look for with these?"
"Any name that looks familiar, first.
Then, we go through the list one car at a time and call the owners." Jim
tore off half the printout. "Just see if any name rings a bell."
took the pages and glanced at Jim. That famous Ellison jaw muscle was still clenching,
and he didn't have to see his eyes to know they were still as cold as steel. He
flipped the papers around and stared at them, trying to concentrate on the names
listed there. Jim was still angry, and had every right to be. Carpenter had disliked
Blair from day one, and from what he gathered speaking to the other officers,
that patrolman pretty much hated everyone. But Jim knew him, he'd been working
around the man for years now. So that attitude couldn't have been a surprise.
What could he have said that would make Jim angry enough to lose control like
that? He'd said something about a threat to Blair.
God. Jim had been in there,
defending his partner to the point of physically striking a fellow officer, and
what had Blair done? He'd gone blabbing to the Captain, who then had to confront
Carpenter about the possibility of him having tried to exact revenge. Now, instead
of helping Jim, Blair had set the entire Precinct against him. After all this--Officer
Simmon's death, and Jim taking a stand over the incident--after Jim had found
some small balance again, and Blair has to screw it all up. The more he thought
about it, the worse he felt. But dammit, if someone was out to kill Jim because
"Sandburg, you helping or what?"
Blair started, then
realized he'd been staring at the same page for the past ten minutes. "Sorry,
"Well, thinking isn't helping right now, Chief."
Jim took a long drink of water, then set the bottle down. "I've gotta start
making calls. You still have that grocery list somewhere?"
"Why don't you go shopping then? I've got a lot of calls to make."
Blair sighed. "Yeah, okay." He walked to the kitchen and found his
grocery list still stuck to the refrigerator where he had left it.
the truck." Jim reached for the phone, glancing up at Blair. "And put
gas in it on the way back."
"Right." Blair found the keys on
the table by the door, then with one last look at his partner, he left.