"Bottom line, I'm pretty sick and tired of you breaking the rules any damn time you feel like it," Chief Warren spit out, his voice just short of a roar.
"Well, technically," Blair Sandburg answered, "We didn't break any rules. Maybe bent them a little…"
Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg had been called to Warren's office. The invitation had been issued via Jim's cell phone as soon as they'd walked into the precinct, meaning that Warren had people watching their movements. Now they stood like penitents in a principal's office.
What Warren didn't notice is that Blair had positioned himself next to but just slightly in front of Jim. It allowed him to use his hand to communicate with Jim. What he was signaling to his partner was "let me do the talking". So Jim stood silently, clenching his jaw during Warren's tirade.
"And it happens all the time. I have to field questions about your methods and this is the last straw." Warren glared at Blair. "Sandburg, I don't blame you. Ellison's been your only partner, so you couldn't know better. Perhaps it's time to separate you two so you can be taught proper procedure." Warren sat back, smug in thinking he played his best card.
Jim twitched at Warren's threat, but again stayed silent at Blair's hand signal.
"With all due respect, sir, you and this city have benefitted from Jim's bending of the rules," Blair spoke up, using air quotes. Warren started to speak, but Blair pressed on, raising his voice slightly to control the conversation. "If Jim hadn't bent the rules and jumped off the Park Street overpass onto a bus during the Switchman case, that entire busload of tourists, including myself, would have been blown to smithereens."
Warren bristled. " Now, just a minute--"
"No, sir," Blair interrupted. "You've been upbraiding us without giving us a chance to answer your charges. I'm sure there's a rule about that which we shouldn't be overlooking." Warren subsided.
Blair crossed his arms, trying to contain his anger. "If Jim hadn't bent the rules and taken on that out-of-jurisdiction poachers case, Ho Ng and his illegal trafficking network would still be in business, and the crooked Fish and Wildlife game warden wouldn't have been exposed.
"And if Jim hadn't bent the rules and followed Alex Barnes to Mexico, hundreds and maybe thousands of Mexican citizens would have been killed with American-made nerve gas that was stolen from this city. What kind of headlines would that have made?"
Warren stared stonily until he was sure Blair had finished, then said, "I'll be taking all of that into consideration while I decide what to do." He straightened in his chair, trying to gather his dignity and authority. "Dismissed," he said with a wave of his hand.
As Blair exited, Jim close behind, he tossed a "get bent, you ungrateful S.O.B." back at the office, softly enough that only Jim could hear him. With his head turned, he ended up bumping into the imposing figure of Captain Simon Banks, his boss.
"Whoa, Sandburg," Simon grumbled. "Try not to run me over."
"Sorry, Simon." Blair looked up and hooked a thumb back at Warren's office. "What the hell?"
Simon frowned. "I'm about to find out. I was just informed that you were summoned." Beneath his calm exterior, both men could see his eyes snapping with anger. "Why don't you both head back while I have a word with the Chief." Without waiting for them to answer, Simon barged into Warren's office over his assistant's objections.
Blair looked at the tableau, then said to Jim, "I don't know about you, but I'd like to wait around to see what Simon has to say."
Jim nodded. "We're too visible here. Why don't we hang out at the coffee shop across the street. We can see him exit and intercept."
"Sounds good. We can order him a Danish and some coffee." Blair was quiet until they entered the shop, got seated and placed their orders. "Do you think Warren will go through with his threat to separate us?"
Jim shrugged. "Well, he's got the authority to do it. But he's also practical. I'm sure Simon will be reminding him of our success rate, years of dedicated service and all that other shit that has so far protected us."
Blair looked at Jim. "And if that isn't enough? I became a cop to work with you. I have no interest in another partner or staying on the force if I can't do that."
Jim reached for Blair's hand under the table and held it. "It won't come to that--"
"You don't know that," Blair said, becoming even more agitated. "You and I both know how crappy the powers that be are. Our good work could count for nothing." He squeezed Jim's hand. "Sorry."
"Well, let's not borrow trouble."
Blair laughed. "Who did you pick that up from?"
Jim looked offended. "What, you think only the Jews know that expression?" Then he smirked. He squeezed Blair's hand back and released it. "Ah, here's our food."
They ate quietly while Jim kept an eye out for Simon. They were only halfway done when he appeared. Jim pulled out his cell phone. "Hey, Simon. We've got a pineapple Danish with your name on it."
"I should have known you wouldn't go back to the bullpen. Where are you?'
"Across the street at Maggie's."
Two minutes later, Simon was sitting down and the waitress was serving him coffee. "Where's my Danish," he growled.
"I expect you need something a little more… robust. Why don't you order a decent breakfast."
Simon placed his order, then looked at his men. Typically, Blair spoke first.
"Well, what's the story?"
"Ostensibly, it's the havoc you caused in the Harbor Heights neighborhood yesterday during that raid. Apparently, several yards got trampled in the ensuing flight and capture of the perps. One of them was Olivia Darden, who's got some kind of convoluted relationship to the Chief's wife." Simon sighed. "You know the saying, 'if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy'."
Jim rolled his eyes but stayed silent. "But we weren't the only officers involved. Why is Warren singling us out?" Blair asked.
"Well, that's an interesting question, Sandburg. It's a good thing I was smart enough to ask." Blair grinned and looked attentively at his boss, waiting for the answer. "Since Jim was officially in charge of the raid, the Chief figured the buck stopped with him, as the saying goes."
Jim nodded. "Easier to blame the trouble twins, since we've got broad shoulders. But it doesn't make sense, Simon. There's got to be more to this."
Simon exchanged a dark look with Jim and continued. "Warren didn't admit anything, but I've heard rumors that you're getting a little too close to Jason McMasters' operations. There's no direct link between that house you raided yesterday and McMasters, but…"
"We're getting close to connecting the dots," Jim finished.
Simon nodded. "In the meantime, Warren's close-mouthed. So, I took the opportunity to talk enough for the both of us. I reminded him that he has been a stickler for chain-of-command, and he blew that by calling you two on the carpet instead of calling me in.
"I also reminded him that in the past he's been guilty of bending the rules himself when it comes to asking for you to be assigned certain cases that he's got a personal interest in. Cases that in no way can qualify as major crimes. By the time I was done, he was out of roar."
Simon stopped while the waitress delivered his breakfast and refilled their cups. After she left, he continued. "I expect, like most other things that have caught his attention, this one will be fleeting. Just keep a low profile for the next few weeks," he concluded and dug into his eggs.
Jim and Blair exchanged a look while Simon's head was bent over his meal. Somehow, this felt different than past kerfuffles. Perhaps they would need to do more than lay low in order to have a future together.