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Good at Love

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Local Museum Director Murdered

CASCADE, November 16, 2007

Rachel Jennings, director of the Cascade History Museum, was found dead today in the home she shared with her fiancé, Lieutenant Jim Ellison of the Cascade Police Department. The Cascade Times has learned that at the time of her death, Lieutenant Ellison, a three-time recipient of the Cop of the Year award, was being treated for an undisclosed work-related injury at Cascade General. A man claiming responsibility for her death took the museum hostage shortly after Ms. Jennings was found. The man, identified as Gerald True, refused to surrender until police shot him. True was a known protestor of museum policy who, police sources say, had made threats in the past against the museum, its staff, and its policies.

April 2008

“Ellison.” Half-distracted by the report I was typing, I answered the ringing phone. Habit had me checking the caller ID display, noting as I did it was a number with a non-local area code.

“Hey, Jim.”

“Hey, Chief, what’s up? I thought you were going to be on a plane today.” Worried, I stopped typing up my report and focused on the familiar voice coming across the phone line.

Sandburg was wry and resigned. “Can’t. Leaving the Prydian Group is a two-week process, minimum.”

“If this is your idea of an April Fool’s joke….”

“You think I’d kid about something like this?” Sandburg sounded frustrated. “I want out of here so bad I can taste it.”

“So why the hell can’t you just go?”

“Oh, going now would be ten kinds of bad. You know how you can’t talk about what you were doing before Peru?”

“Damn it, Sandburg, you said you weren’t going to do anything dangerous,” I swore.

He laughed dryly. “They lied,” he said. “Okay, so they didn’t lie but they didn’t exactly tell the truth either. Besides, I ended up liking what I was doing. I just…” He took a deep breath, then exhaled. “I can’t do this anymore. Not when it feels like I need to get back to you, back to being your Guide, and Cascade. I’ve got to wrap up some stuff with the project I’m working on now, get through the security debriefing, and it’s going to take two weeks to do it all. Listen, is it okay if I ship some stuff to you?”

“Yeah, but let me give you my new address.”

“New address? You sold the loft?”

“Yeah.” I took a deep breath, hating the way grief still gripped me. I’d lost people before but losing Rachel had hit me more than I wanted to admit. “Rachel was murdered there.”

“Oh, jeez, Jim, I’m sorry; I remember you said she was your fiancée.” Compassion laced his voice, and I clung to that like a lifeline. His voice would always be the thing that kept me from going crazy, and I’d been a fool to think I could live without him. “Your senses whacking out on you? Never mind, stupid question. I know how you are. Dial it down, Jim, you know you can, and hang on. I’ll be there as soon as I can. All right, give me the address of your new place.”

“1520 Bollard Avenue, number 401. Still in Cascade.”

“That’s…Garden District, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is.”

“Sweet,” he said happily. “I had a girlfriend who lived there when I was a freshman in college. Nice area. Feel free to smell my stuff when you get it if you need my scent to ground yourself. Oh, crap, I’ve gotta go. Um, 555-555-9214 is my cell. Call me if you need me, okay?” Without a goodbye, he disconnected the call.

I hung up the receiver and stared at my computer screen. Part of me wanted to go and find out just what Sandburg was trying to get away from; the other part – the part that had been fighting a migraine from my senses spiking out of control – advised to let it be. The sooner my Guide was back, the better off we’d be. Deliberately, I took a deep breath, and took his advice, letting the memory of his voice ease the pain I was feeling.