A reader wrote to say she'd taken a look at my list of "Coming" stories and since I had stated they were in no particular order, then she was putting in a vote for Ride-Along. I told her it wouldn't be the next story posted, but then I couldn't get it out of my head and the result is below. It was supposed to be a quick comedy but a bit of drama managed to sneak in. Hope you enjoy!
Oh yeah. There are a couple of references to old but popular episodes so I doubt spoilers are needed.
P.S. DON'T get used to these fast posts. My mind has just been firing on all cylinders lately. Probably due to some rare planetary alignment or something :-) With the arrival of the new moon, the old me will probably return....
"Jim can I see you for a moment?"
Detective Jim Ellison gave a small nod in acknowledgment, finished the last sentence of his report, then got up from his desk to go see what his captain wanted. Simon Banks was not only head of the Major Crime Unit of Cascade, Washington's Police Department and therefore Jim's boss, he was also Jim's friend. They went fishing and camping together, played poker, and occasionally just sat around and talked with each other. Friends.
The department knew they were friends, but no one had a problem with that because both were really great cops. Simon was a fair boss and in all honesty, every one of his officers considered him a friend, although none were as tight with him as Ellison and Ellison's partner, Blair Sandburg. Now, if they were inclined to talk about Ellison and Banks, this was what they would talk about. Blair Sandburg was an anthropology grad student who had no police training and, according to him, had no desire to ever attend the police academy. Yet, Ellison and Banks both considered him Jim's partner. When he wasn't attending or teaching classes he was at police headquarters writing reports, running computer checks, or out in the field with Ellison. At the beginning Captain Banks had given him police observer status and ride-along privileges, both of which should have run out some time in the three years since they'd been issued.
The other cops should have talked about this, but they didn't. That was because Ellison and Sandburg were the best team in the department. The crooks they had tangled with were the baddest of the bad-- murderers, kidnappers, arsonists, terrorists... And when these bad asses went up against Ellison and Sandburg, they were brought down hard. No cop worth his salt would complain about that. So what if Sandburg was a civilian? So what if he refused to carry a gun? So what if he wore a ponytail or let his long, dark curls hang free? He respected the job they did. He didn't treat them as dumb cops even though he had more education than most of them combined. In fact, he was a really nice guy... and more importantly, loyal to the Brotherhood. A civilian like that could definitely be tolerated.
That covered basically what the department knew about Ellison, Sandburg, and Banks. What they didn't know was the secret the three men shared. Ellison wasn't an average joe. He was what Sandburg called a Sentinel. In his anthropological pursuits, Sandburg had run across an old and little known study by a scientist named Burton. Burton had written about tribes he'd studied in Peru. These tribes, according to his papers, had guardians with enhanced senses. They used these senses to protect and serve their tribes-- ancient policemen with a little extra, some might say. Burton labeled the guardians sentinels and concluded they had to be born with these senses. Eventually the need for sentinels faded as more aggressive invaders from the "civilized" world tore the tribes asunder and specialized guardians disappeared. The genes that created sentinels, however, remained in the gene pool and Sandburg hypothesized they popped up as the dominant genes every once in a while. He started looking around and here and there he found a person with really keen hearing, sensitive fingers, or a nose like a bloodhound. But he never found anyone with all five of the senses heightened. Until he heard about a cop who claimed his senses were running amok. The doctor at the hospital he'd been dragged to claimed it was just stress. Sandburg knew that it was much more. And after meeting this cop he knew, without a doubt, he hadn't just found a sentinel; he'd found the Sentinel.
Jim Ellison thanked God everyday that Blair had found him, had forced him into listening to his wild theory. Then he thanked God for giving him the good sense to accept what Blair said, to invite the grad student into his home, and eventually into his heart. From that point on, he wasn't the same cold soldier he'd been since anger had driven him out of his father's home and into the Army where he had excelled using that anger as a motivator. Disillusioned after he discovered the mission which had downed his helicopter, killed all his men, and left him stranded in a Peruvian jungle for eighteen months had been arranged by his superiors, he left the Army and joined the police department. He wanted to, needed to, surround himself with strong people, people who could survive with little help from him... because he had learned the hard way that people shouldn't depend on him.
Which was why it had been such a shock when he let Blair Sandburg get so close. Outwardly, Blair seemed just the opposite of what Jim wanted in a partner. He was a long-haired academic who refused to carry a gun, had very liberal views of how criminals should be treated, and didn't look like he could fight his way out of a wet paper bag. After a while he finally realized what his soul had known from the first minute he'd met Blair-- his spirit was more than a fighter; it was a champion. Blair could be counted on to fight for survival, fight for his partner, and fight to protect those who needed him.
So Blair became the detective's partner and the Sentinel's. His official title was that of Guide. He helped the Sentinel master his special talents by talking him through investigations, by designing tests for him in order for the Sentinel to learn control, and by anchoring the Sentinel when he focused so intently with one particular sense that he "zoned" and took a psychic trip inside his mind, far from the physical world. It was a job Blair took seriously and he'd saved Jim's life on several occasions and the opposite was true as well.
The Sentinel and Guide protected their tribe of Cascade, yet they themselves needed protecting because nature's strange sense of humor almost always allowed the sickest of minds to see the clearest. If a madman was intent on destroying Cascade, he inevitably tried to get rid of the Sentinel and Guide-- true obstacles on his path of dominance. Thus Sentinel/Guide found they had a secret weapon on their side. Incident after incident, help miraculously appeared when they needed it. Whether it was backup in a firefight, emotional support when one or the other was about to crash and burn, a stirring lecture when their spirits lagged, or just a steady hand when the world around them disintegrated, someone was there-- always, without judgment, without question. He watched, then helped. Simon Banks-- Watcher to Jim's Sentinel and Blair's Guide.
Maybe that was the reason Jim automatically checked Simon with the Sentinel's diagnostic skills as he entered the captain's office. The Watcher was anxious, yet not alarmingly so. "What's up, captain?"
Simon waved his detective into a seat and handed him a steaming mug of coffee. "How's everything been going, Jim? Your cases alright?"
Jim was immediately suspicious. These were the questions Simon asked when he felt something was wrong. Like when he and Sandburg were arguing or a case was really ugly. But he and his roommate were getting along fine and the robberies they'd been working were tiresome, not gruesome. It would have been different, however, if the unit was still working the kidnaping of four-year-old Justin Arrowood, son of Cascade's premier architect. But just after two days on the case, the FBI had swarmed in and shut out the Cascade P.D. completely. So why was the captain being so solicitous? His blue eyes pierced the brown ones of his friend and he found the answer. "Just ask the favor, Simon. No need to butter me up."
Simon shook his head and smiled. "Why do I even bother to try to pull one over on you? You're too shrewd, Ellison, even without your special talents."
Jim returned the smile. "What do you need, Simon? Extra hours from me? Tickets to a Jags game? Advice on a woman?"
"Not with your track record," Simon quipped. He and Jim were both divorced. The last woman Jim was involved with turned out to be a syndicate hitwoman. He was getting way too like his partner when it came to females. "Someone requested ride-along status. He wants to ride with you and Sandburg."
"No," Jim said automatically. One, he already had a partner and the truck was crowded enough. Two, he didn't want to be responsible for another civilian. The guilt he felt every time Blair was injured on the job was enough for one lifetime. Three, he was the Sentinel and it was easier to do what he sometimes had to do if there were no witnesses around. "Why don't you give him to Rafe and Brown or better yet, Taggert and Dalton," he suggested helpfully, naming other Major Crime teams.
"He specifically requested you and Sandburg."
"So?" Jim saw Simon wasn't going to back down. Did this mean it was some political thing? Maybe a friend of the mayor's or somebody else with a lot of rank and pull? Oh, that was just perfect. "When?" he asked, resigned to the fact he was going to do this for Simon's sake. His friend had pulled, and continued pulling, strings to keep Sandburg as his partner. He owed him.
"Day after tomorrow. That's Sandburg's free day, right?"
Free from Rainier University but not from the department. "Right. Who is this guy? Not a reporter or something like that, I hope."
Simon shook his head. "He's a student and he's doing this because he's supposed to write a paper on the experience. Look, Jim, I'm not happy about this either. I tried to talk him out of it, but he's got me over a barrel."
The words caused Jim to study his friend. "You aren't being blackmailed or anything, are you?"
Simon pinched the bridge of his nose, his glasses rising awkwardly. "Children are born knowing how to blackmail their parents, Jim. If those tears aren't emotional blackmail..."
Children? "Daryl is the one wanting to ride along? Your teenage son, Daryl?" Jim asked incredulously. "Are you insane, Simon? You don't want Daryl riding with us. You know how Sandburg and I are. You know how Sandburg can enter the most innocent of situations and suddenly end up in the middle of 'Gunfight At The OK Corral.' Don't allow this to happen, Simon. I'm begging you." He would not be responsible for getting his friend's son hurt or worse.
"The possibilities scare me too, Jim. I'm your Watcher, remember? I've watched you and your partner take a mundane task and turn it into the lead story on the evening news. I've watched as people from your past show up out of the blue to hurt you and whoever is with you at the time. I've watched you, damn it, as you've struggled to live after a routine call goes bad. But Daryl wants to ride with you and what can I say? No, son, it's too dangerous? I'm a police captain and riding with my people is too dangerous? What would that say about me and my ability to run the unit? What would I be telling my teenage son? That the bad guys are better at their job than the good guys?"
Jim sighed. "Then make me the heavy, Simon. Tell Daryl I wouldn't agree to it. Tell him I didn't want a kid hanging around. I know he'll probably hate me and it'll probably be a long time before he wants to have anything to do with me, but that's nothing compared to his safety."
"I would do everything in my power to protect my son, and that includes assigning him to another team, But, despite all the reasons you've listed, Jim, it all comes down to one basic fact-- there's no other team I would trust my son to but you." There. It was said. The Watcher had bared his soul, laid his most prized possession at the Sentinel's feet.
The Sentinel accepted the gift, bending to lift it up and cradle it in his arms. "Then we do this, Simon. And I promise you, no harm will come to your son."
The Watcher nodded. His anxiety disappeared.
"Get a move on, Chief. We have someone riding along with us today and we have to go pick him up."
"Joel's coming with us again?" Blair asked. Captain Joel Taggert, formerly of the Bomb Squad, had recently-- on his request-- been reassigned to the Major Crime unit. Earlier, when Simon had been in the hospital, a substitute captain had demanded Joel ride with Jim. Upon Simon's return, Joel had been given a partner and was busy learning the ropes of his new designation as detective.
"You'll see," Jim said mysteriously. Daryl and Blair were good friends. Blair was young enough to understand Daryl's way of thinking, yet old enough to be a good role model for the kid. He and Daryl also sympathized with each other because both had a dominating male figure in their lives.
They were about a block from Simon's ex-wife's house when Blair figured out the mystery. "Daryl's our partner for the day? Cool," he said excitedly. Between the two of them they could probably drive Jim nuts. Blair thought it a good thing that every so often, Jim learned he couldn't control everything. It made him humble and cautious. It also made him human, something Jim needed to be reminded of when he mistakenly took blame for everything wrong in the world. "Simon knows about this, right?" Blair asked belatedly.
"What do you think?" Jim asked dryly.
Of course, Simon knew. How else could Daryl get permission to spend the day with a couple of cops? Uh, make that one cop and one observer. Simon actually agreed to this? "I take it the captain has a real dull day planned for us?" Blair questioned. "Not that I'm complaining. Dull can sometimes be good."
"Yes, it's going to be dull. And you, Chief, are going to be on your best behavior. You will obey me. If I tell you to be quiet, you will be. If I tell you to stay in the truck, no argument. Daryl's safety depends on him following the rules. He won't learn that if you don't show him."
"You're exactly right, Jim," Blair agreed heartily. When he chose to disobey one of Jim's orders, it was his life he was putting into danger. Today, he was going to be responsible for another's life. "I still can't believe Simon is going along with this."
"He says we are the only ones he trusts with his son," Jim informed him, sensing the warmth flood Blair as it had him. "Yet, he's still being cautious. We're going to be shadowed every minute of the day. So don't comment on seeing cops everywhere. Just let Daryl think it's routine."
Daryl was waiting for them and ran out the door as soon as he spied the truck. His mom waved from the porch as he scrambled in between Jim and Blair. "Welcome to the force, rookie," Blair said to his young friend as Jim started down the road.
"Man, Blair, this is so phat, spending the day with you guys. Is my dad the man or what?"
Blair shook with laughter as he watched Jim roll his eyes. Ah, the older generation just didn't understand. "First lesson of the day, kid," Blair said in a stern voice that was completely overridden by the amusement in his aqua eyes. "Don't use the lingo of the street with police. They equate street talk with gang membership. It's their way. No use in trying to change it. Also, cops call each other by rank or their last names on the job. So for today, I'm Sandburg and you're Banks. Next to you is Detective Ellison and your father is Captain Banks. Got that, Banks?"
"Got it, Sandburg," Daryl said with a grin. As soon as the teacher of Career Counseling class said for the students to choose a profession and see if they could "intern" for one day, he knew he was going to choose the police department. Even though he didn't know whether he wanted to be a policeman or not, he jumped at the chance to get to know his father better. Being the child of divorce stank and he just needed to know for himself why his dad hadn't fought for custody of him. In his mind, he knew it was because a cop had so many responsibilities and so many pressures that it would be hard for his dad to raise him alone. But his heart, sometimes in the dark of night, wasn't so sure.
At the station, Jim left them by the elevators as he went to get Daryl's temporary I.D. Daryl heard the desk sergeant say something to Jim about being a den mother and Daryl started to worry. "This is okay, isn't it?" he asked Blair. "I'm not causing the detective any trouble because he's got to babysit me today?"
Blair patted the teen on the back. "The sergeant is just teasing Jim, that's all. It's what cops do, Daryl. They see a lot of bad things, suffer abuse from criminals and sometimes even the general public. So they tease each other and tell stupid jokes to make up for all the bad stuff. It helps them release the tension. See how Jim's laughing? He'll have the memory of laughing to counter the murder he has to solve tomorrow or the next day."
Daryl nodded in understanding. The basketball team at school acted the same way, teasing each other during practice and when they won, and using the same jokes to cheer themselves up when they lost. He looked at Blair with awe. "You really know these people, don't you?"
Blair shrugged. "That's why I'm here, you know, to study them." That was the official reason for his activities at the station. Supposedly his thesis was about cops, how a closed society operated. His real thesis was the study of a particular Sentinel, but of course that was a secret.
Jim clipped Daryl's I.D. to him and they all got on the elevator to the seventh floor, home of the Major Crime unit. Blair was surprised to see a third chair had already been added to Jim's area and the other detectives paid no notice to their newest "member" other than the occasional, "How's it going, Banks?" Daryl couldn't keep a grin off his face after hearing that several times.
Joel Taggert came over. "Ellison, Sandburg, Banks, the captain wants to see you in his office."
"How's his mood today?" Blair asked, wanting Daryl to experience a really typical day at work. It always paid to know Simon's mood before you got in his office.
Joel shrugged. "He's okay. But then again, he hasn't seen you yet."
Blair laughed and Daryl frowned. "Dad's, I mean Captain Banks' mood changes because of Sandburg?"
"I sometimes irritate him," Blair admitted.
"But you're always so nice and helpful and you know so much," Daryl pointed out.
"That about sums up the problems Captain Banks has with him," Joel said laughingly. "It'll be okay, Daryl. The two of them really do like each other."
"If you say so, Uncle Jo-- I mean, Captain Taggert, sir."
"Banks, Sandburg, quit dawdling and let's go," Jim called, already across the room at Simon's door. "The captain is a busy man." When his partners joined him, he tapped on the door and entered. "You wanted to see us, sir?"
"Just needed a review of your schedule for today," Simon said, not even looking up from the papers he was reading.
"We have a few witnesses to interview from the robberies last weekend. That should take most of the morning," Jim said casually as if he and Simon hadn't carefully planned each hour of the day.
"Good, good," Simon said. "If you make it back by noon, maybe you and your team would like to have lunch with me." He looked up then and gave his son a wink.
"We'll try to arrange it, sir," Jim said. "Is that all?"
"Stay a moment, Ellison. The rest of your people can go."
Blair propelled Daryl out the door. "What's that about?" the teen asked curiously.
"The senior partner is often detained by the captain and given certain information that is on a need-to-know basis. We junior partners never need to know, or so I've been told."
Blair kept a running monologue on the whys and whereforths of what Jim said and did as they conducted the interviews. But Daryl was capable of forming his own opinions and kept a few notes of his own. Like how Jim and Blair worked so effortlessly together. In an interview, Jim was very straightforward, direct, and the witnesses responded to his aura of authority. And if that authority scared them, then they sort of shifted their focus to Blair and because he showed no fear of Jim, they relaxed too. And the guys just rolled one way or another, depending on the reactions of the witnesses. Jim would scale back just a little, letting Blair ask a question or two if the witness seemed intimidated and Blair would barely be in the room if the witness was comfortable with Jim. Cool.
They met a jeweler in his office to ask about a recent robbery and just as the man was showing them the updated security system he'd put in, complete with monitors, two gunmen came in. Jim swore softly and ordered them to stay in the office. Blair started to protest but remembered he was to set an example for Daryl and merely said he would call for backup. Blair, Daryl and the jeweler watched the monitor breathlessly as Jim quietly took out one of robbers and had the other under his gun as a couple of uniformed officers came through the door. The whole thing lasted maybe five minutes or so.
Afterwards, they had to go back to the station and Jim interrogated the men while Blair had Daryl help him with the report. Through this, Simon was at a meeting with the rest of the brass and when he returned to meet them for lunch, Jim decided maybe it was better not to let him know what had happened right away. That worked until they were leaving the restaurant and a couple of detectives called out, "Nice bust, guys. Maybe we all need two partners, Ellison."
"It does cut the paperwork in half," Blair joked and Jim was kidded because he never wrote his own reports when Sandburg was in the office.
"Bust?" Simon asked when the other detectives entered the restaurant. He had remained silent the rest of the time, trying to make certain what he heard.
Jim shot a glance at Blair, who was always quick with words. "It was nothing, Simon," Blair said. "It's just those robbers we've been after were stupid enough to try and rob the store while Jim was interviewing the jeweler. Nothing to it."
Simon looked at his son and then Jim. "These were armed robberies, were they not?"
"It was awesome, Dad!" Daryl added, not catching the undertones. "Det. Ellison just came up behind one of them and like in a blink of an eye, he had the man's gun and was putting the cuffs on him."
"You saw this?" Simon asked his son slowly. "You were close enough to see what was going on?" Close enough to be in the path of the bullet if the gun had gone off. Close enough to be hurt or killed. He glared at his detective.
"Sandburg and Daryl remained in the back office at all times," Jim hurried to explain. "He saw it all on a monitor, didn't you, Daryl?"
Daryl finally got the idea that his gushing over the incident wasn't making his father very happy. "We could barely even hear the gunfire, Dad."
Simon turned sort of an ashen gray beneath his dark skin. "There was gunfire?"
"Yeah," Daryl said eagerly, excitement making him forget once again how his dad was taking this. "You see, these uniformed cops just showed up out of the blue 'cause Blair had just called the incident in and no one could have responded that fast. Anyway, the remaining robber, the one Det. Ellison hadn't taken out, he saw them coming into the store and he aimed his gun right at them. But, bam! Det. Ellison shot the gun out of the man's hand. You certainly are a good shot, sir," Daryl added respectfully, nodding at Jim.
"Lots of practice, Daryl," Jim replied, wondering if Simon would be offended by a suggestion to sit. The captain wasn't looking too steady on his feet.
"Why don't you get in the car, son," Simon managed to say as he tried to figure out how he was going to explain this to his ex-wife. Joan was already wary of letting Daryl spend time with him. Once, the boy had been held hostage along with most of the Major Crime unit when crooks had taken over the police department. Then there was the time he had taken Daryl with him to Peru and they had been captured by drug dealers. Both times Ellison and Sandburg had come to the rescue. In fact, they were probably the only reason Joan had gone along with the idea of the ride-along. But this might be the last straw...
Daryl shrugged and loped toward Jim's truck. "My car," Simon instructed.
Jim's jaw clenched, Blair's mouth opened to protest, but Daryl was quicker. "Dad, you promised," he accused.
"Daryl, I won't have you in danger."
His son rolled his eyes. "I wasn't in danger. I was safe in the back. And just so you know, I was safer there than I would have been at school."
"What's that supposed to mean, young man?" Simon demanded to know.
"It means, Dad, that at school I'm surrounded by weapons all day, guns and knives and whatever, and there's nobody there to make sure I'm safe or take out the bad guys," Daryl explained impertinently.
Simon looked at his son in horror. He was a cop, so he shouldn't be shocked. Various reports and studies of growing violence in schools had crossed his desk. He had even approved the use of "resource officers" in Cascade's public schools. That was why Daryl was in a private school, where he wouldn't be exposed to such happenings. Now the boy was telling him... "Why hadn't you said anything about this, Daryl?"
"Because you would get upset and try to figure out something to do. But there isn't anything you can do, Dad. The violence is just part of the education process in the nineties." He looked to Blair for approval. He'd stolen the sentence from a discussion they'd had last week.
Simon stared at his child and knew Daryl was a lot older than he'd been at the same age. "Go on and get in the truck, son. You still have half a day of work ahead of you."
"Yes, sir, Captain Banks," Daryl said before his dad could change his mind, and pulled Blair along with him as he nearly ran to the vehicle.
Jim heard the teen express to Blair his relief at getting to spend the rest of the afternoon with them, then turned his attention back to the captain. "I'm sorry, Simon. I honestly didn't think something like that would happen. It was just a routine interview."
"No need to apologize, Jim. You promised to keep him safe and you did. I just have to get used to the idea that safe is a relative term now that he's part of the 'education process in the nineties'." He shook his head and reached for a cigar. "I think I missed the real danger when I sanctioned this ride-along, Jim."
"What's that, captain?"
"Too much exposure to Sandburg."
"Is your school really that bad, Daryl, or were you just playing your dad?" Blair asked as they drove along the waterfront. Jim thought it best to let Simon have some time to absorb the events of the morning before they returned to the station. Also, "plans" had called for them to continue with the robbery investigation. But now that was over and there was no way they would get a new assignment while Daryl was with them. That meant doing miscellaneous paperwork all afternoon.
"Mainly I wanted to freak Dad out, make him see how safe I was with you two. But there are weapons on campus, I just don't know how many. Everyone at school knows my dad is a cop, so I'm left out of a lot of stuff."
"Do you resent the fact that you are deliberately excluded because of your father?" Blair inquired.
Daryl studied his fingernails. "I used to when I was a kid. Back in middle school, I hated what my dad did for a living. I thought it made me some kind of freak because certain groups of kids wouldn't have anything to do with me. But now that I'm in high school, I'm kinda relieved. I don't have to make any kind of stands, you know. No one approaches me with drugs. I don't have to conceal any terrible secrets because no one tell me anything. It's weird, Blair. I don't have to decide whether to do right or wrong; my friends and non-friends have decided for me. But hey, it's cool. One less thing I have to worry about."
"But what happens if one day you are challenged, Daryl?" Jim asked, listening intently to the teen's narrative. One day he would be in a situation where no one knew who his dad was... or they wouldn't care.
"Then I'll just have to say no. I wouldn't hurt myself by getting involved with drugs or gangs. I wouldn't hurt Dad that way."
Jim nodded. Simon had raised one hell of a son. "You're a good man, Daryl."
Daryl turned and mouthed the word "man" to Blair and sat up a little straighter. Blair was proud of both his friends; Daryl for having chosen the right path and Jim for knowing just the right way to confer approval. He started to say something when suddenly, Jim stopped the truck. Looking to his partner for an explanation, he noticed Jim was in listening mode. Immediately, the Guide took over. "What are you hearing, Jim? Take deep, even breaths and focus."
"A man is telling a kid that his daddy is going to give them a lot of money. The child is crying. 'Shut up, Justin.' That was another man speaking. 'Crybaby.' A third, Chief."
Damn. Jim had to be hearing the kidnapers of Justin Arrowood. He reached for the radio as Jim reached for the door. With an order for them to stay in the truck, the detective drew his weapon and sprinted for one of the warehouses across the street. Blair nodded and called in for backup. Then he opened the door and... remembered Daryl.
"Go," Daryl prompted when he saw the indecision on Blair's face. "I promise I'll stay right here, Blair. But your partner needs you. He can't go after three men alone."
"You promise not to leave the truck?" Blair pressed, knowing if something happened to Daryl, he would never forgive himself but also knowing if something happened to Jim, he would feel worse.
"I promise," Daryl vowed solemnly.
Blair followed in Jim's direction, pulling up only when he reached the door. He peeked inside and saw his partner struggling with a man up on a catwalk, another man standing at the end of the metal bridge with a gun trying to get a clear shot at Jim. "Hey!" Blair yelled.
The two kidnapers were startled but Jim was not, having heard Blair's arrival. Taking advantage of his opponent's momentary lapse, Jim broke free of the other man's hold and one punch sent the guy tumbling off the catwalk to the hard cement below. By the time the second man had shifted his attention from the intruder at the door to his partner's body below, Jim had reached him and unconsciousness soon followed.
"Justin's in the back!" Jim called as he handcuffed his prisoner to the catwalk. "Take care of him, Chief. I've got a runner. He's heading for the docks."
Blair nodded and searched the warehouse until he found the little boy who sat on a pile of blankets, sucking his thumb as tears rolled down his face. "Hey, Justin," Blair said softly, not wanting to startle the terrified child. "I'm not going to hurt you, okay? I'm going to take you somewhere safe then call your mama and daddy to come get you. Is that okay?" The boy nodded and Blair scooped him up in his arms.
Daryl was just about to jump out of his skin with nervousness when he saw Blair running across the street with a little boy in his arms. He leaped out of the truck to meet his friend. "Where's Det. Ellison?" he asked quickly.
"One of the kidnapers fled," Blair explained in a rush. "He went after him."
Daryl looked at the child Blair held. "Hi, you must Justin. My name is Daryl. Why don't you and me wait together in the truck while Blair helps go after the other bad guy? We'll lock the truck up real tight and hide in the floor, okay? Then my friends will get all the bad guys and you get to go home. You and me will be okay, won't we?" He held out his arms and the boy obediently climbed into them. The child's straight black hair, indicative of his Native American heritage, was soft against Daryl's chin.
Jim heard his partner's soft panting and grabbed him, pulling him down behind the crate he was hiding behind. "Where's Justin?" he demanded.
"With Daryl. They're hiding in the truck."
"We're going to have a serious discussion about obeying orders when this is over with," Jim warned harshly.
Blair ignored the warning. "Why are we back here?"
"Because the guy has a gun," Jim said and pointed toward a hole in the next crate over, "and he's not afraid to use it."
If Jim had had time, he probably would have beaten his partner soundly. Instead he merely growled and formulated a plan. Too bad the cruiser which had been tailing them had received a call before all this went down. He'd seen them signal in the rearview mirror and had casually waved them on, thinking nothing could go wrong before they got back to the station. He was going to have to seriously consider giving up thinking. So far, it had gotten him nowhere but in trouble. "Can you distract him without getting yourself killed, Chief?"
Blair grinned. "No problem. What's the plan?"
Jim sent him noisily moving toward the left while the Sentinel moved catlike on the right until he was next to the man who was carefully aiming in Blair's direction. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," Jim said with a sinister smile. The kidnaper dropped his weapon and promptly surrendered.
Jim and Blair met Simon and a horde of officers as they escorted their prisoner from the docks. The captain was grim and got grimmer when he saw the two of them. "Where's Daryl?"
"In the truck with Justin Arrowood."
"We went past the truck. I didn't see anyone," Simon said and turning the kidnaper over to the officers, Jim, Blair, and Simon raced toward the truck.
Blair could barely breathe but he kept running. What had he been thinking, leaving Daryl and Justin alone? Daryl was just a kid himself. If there was another kidnaper, he wouldn't be able to defend himself or protect Justin. Why hadn't he thought about that? His lungs just about to explode, he was pulled up short by Jim's restraining arm.
"What the hell are you doing, Ellison!" Simon boomed as Jim's arm caught him too.
"Stopping you from scaring your son to death," Jim said softly. He heard the two heartbeats in the truck and knew the kids were alright. But if the three of them rushed the vehicle... "All's clear, Banks!" Jim called. "You can come out now."
Simon's breath caught as his son popped upright in the truck. The door opened and Daryl stepped out, reaching back inside to haul Justin into his arms. "You guys alright?" Blair asked. Daryl nodded.
"Why didn't you get out of the truck when you heard the sirens?" Simon asked, tentatively reaching out to touch his son's shoulder.
"I had my orders," Daryl said, puzzled that his father even bothered to ask the question.
Before Simon could say anything, a black car skidded to a halt beside the truck. Justin squirmed in Daryl's arms. "Daddy!" he yelled.
Paul Arrowood tightly embraced his son and managed to get in a grateful thank you before the feds bundled the reunited family away. Then the FBI demanded the full story.
"I can't believe this!" Daryl exclaimed as he looked at the framed certificate in his hand. "I have a commendation from the mayor!"
"You deserve it, son," Simon said, beaming down at his flesh and blood. "You all do," he added, including Jim and Blair. Everyone was dressed in his finest, the mayoral ceremony being semi-formal in nature. "The FBI are going to be steering clear of Cascade for a while, I suspect."
"As well they should," Paul Arrowood said as he joined the group. "One detective and two civilians managed to do what they couldn't-- save my son."
"How is Justin?" Blair asked.
"Fine. I left him and his mother in Florida so I could attend this ceremony. I was told that he needed to see a therapist to get him through what happened. He disagreed. According to Justin, two weeks at Disney World would work just as well. So far, he's been sleeping through the night."
Blair laughed. "It just may work, Mr. Arrowood. Children often react differently than adults do to stressful situations."
"You mean two weeks at Disney World wouldn't work for you, Chief?" Jim teased.
"Well, yeah," Blair admitted with a rueful grin. "I was just speaking generally, of course."
"You like theme parks, Mr. Sandburg? I often find myself studying the architecture of them."
"I like studying the people who visit them," Blair announced.
"I like the rides," Daryl stated. The three of them drifted off toward the buffet table, deep in discussion of rollercoasters.
"Arrowood tried to give Daryl a reward," Simon said, nodding familiarly at the police commissioner. "He told him to donate it to his high school. They have a scholarship program for kids who can't afford it."
Jim grabbed two glasses of punch and handed one to Simon. "I know. He made the same offer to Sandburg. Needless to say, Rainier University has a new endowment."
"Rumor has it an anonymous donor has given the Cascade P.D. enough money to provide every officer with a custom-made bulletproof vest. No more complaints about them being too tight or too loose or too bulky. Should save a few lives here and there."
"That's nice," Jim said, not acknowledging that he'd let a few things slip while talking to Arrowood one afternoon. He raised his glass toward his two partners. "We did a good job with them, Simon."
"Yeah, Jim, we did."
"So does this make you want to become a cop?" Blair asked Daryl as they found a quiet spot to sit and eat their hors d'oeuvres.
Daryl shrugged. "I had a great time but it wouldn't be the same with different partners."
Blair could relate to that. "So how did the paper turn out?"
"My teacher said he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't read about it in the newspaper. Anyway, he gave me an A+."
"Good for you."
"But, Blair, that wasn't the best thing about the ride-along," Daryl said in a whisper.
"What was the best thing, Daryl?" Blair questioned softly, sensing the teen wanted to confide in him.
"I understand why my dad doesn't want me living with him."
"Of course he does, Daryl," Blair protested quickly.
"Oh, I know he wants me to, but I know why I can't," Daryl tried to clarify. "He's responsible for a lot of people. He doesn't need me to be another worry."
"You're his son; it comes with the territory."
Daryl could tell Blair still didn't understand. "It's like with you, Blair. Do you remember how you felt when Det. Ellison went running into the warehouse? You wanted to go with him but you didn't want to leave me alone either. Well, that would be what my dad would feel if I lived with him. He wouldn't just stay at work late if he needed to or leave at 3 in the morning if he got a call. And maybe he would hesitate in helping someone because he had to think about me. I like Dad the way he is. I don't want him to change."
"He would do it for you," Blair said softly.
"I know that. Just like Det. Ellison did it for you. But that was for the better."
Gee, Jim. You even scared little children. "Jim was a bit frightening before, huh?"
"Yeah, but when you're a little kid, all adults scare you for a while. I'm talking about the other change."
The other? Had Daryl picked up on Jim's use of his senses? Damn. The kidnapers talking. Jim and I didn't even consider... "Uh, Daryl, you may have thought it was strange that Jim could hear Justin and the kidnapers--"
"Oh, I know Det. Ellison can do stuff other people can't do, Blair. It's cool." He looked at his friend in quiet amazement. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
The straightforward approach seemed the only way. "No, Daryl. What changed about Det. Ellison when I showed up?"
Daryl motioned for him to lean closer to him. "The sadness, man. I remember meeting him for the first time and I kept thinking it was a good thing that I didn't have blue eyes because they must make you sad. Hey, I was real little," he said defensively. "Then I saw others with blue eyes and I realized something else must have made Dad's friend sad. But then we got caught up in that mess at the station and afterwards, I saw Det. Ellison wasn't so sad anymore. So then I put two and two together."
Blair hung on to Daryl's every word. Other officers had described Jim as cold, heartless, mean, bitter... But strangely enough, to a child he had been sad. "And what did you come up with, Daryl?"
"That you and the detective were like me and Dad-- family. Dad would be sad without me and I don't even want to think about not having him around. And I don't think you'd be okay on your own either."
"You're right about that, my friend. All in all, we're pretty lucky to have them."
"And they us," Daryl pointed out. "Could you imagine them trying to make it in the twenty-first century without us?"
Blair feigned a shudder. "It certainly wouldn't be a pretty sight. Can you imagine them crossing the century line, dragging manual typewriters and turntables?"
"What's a turntable?" Daryl asked curiously.
"Oh, my man, what are they teaching you people in history class?" He threw his arm around the teen's shoulder and they ambled companionably toward their "older halves". "Come over to the loft Saturday and we'll see about improving your education, okay? I think I spied a box of 45's at the back of the closet..."
"Do I even want to know what you're plotting, Chief?" Jim asked as the two joined him and Simon.
Blair looked into his partner's blue eyes and saw not even a hit of sadness. "Just discussing the downfall of the dinosaur, Jim, and the fossils they left behind."
To the consternation of the older men, Blair and Daryl burst out laughing. Jim sighed. Simon sighed. Kids. Who could figure them out?