Blair rushed to grab the phone before the answering machine clicked off and he lost his mom's call. He dropped his backpack and a sack of groceries on the floor in his haste. “Mom! Hi. Where are you? How are you?”
“Blair, I have some terrible news.”
Blair had heard the distress in her voice, “I thought as much, from what I heard of your message. What's wrong, Mom?”
“It's Jonas, Blair. The poor man, after all those years in hiding, they finally caught up with him and arrested him for murder. Oh, Blair, what are we going to do?”
Blair slid down the wall to sit with a thump on the floor. Memories of years ago took his breath away for a moment. He realized Naomi was frantically calling his name just a moment before he saw Jim come across the room and kneel beside him. Blair took a couple of trembling breaths to steady himself, and his voice. “Sorry, Mom. Just a lot came to mind all at once. If Jonas needs us, we'll be there. Mom? It wasn't just self-defense, he was defending us. It's our turn to defend him.”
Jim had relaxed back on his heels at Blair's response. He listened to the rest of their conversation, which was mostly about Jonas' attorney and Naomi's plans to meet with her.
Blair really appreciated Jim's support, especially after he told him the rest of the story.
Blair called Jonas' attorney the next day and they went over the gist of the story that Blair would testify to in court. As a preliminary discussion, it seemed to go well. The attorney seemed excited at the prospect of a cop being a witness for the defense in the case of an accused cop-killer. This would certainly shake up the prosecution and make a favorable impression on the jury.
Blair just felt weary, and he was grateful for Jim's hovering for a change. Jim hadn't said anything, but they both knew that things could go bad at the precinct when the story became known to their colleagues.
Jim had gone with Blair when he'd told Simon. They'd told their friends at the next poker game, and no one else. They'd been dismayed that Henri had left in a fit of anger with no explanation, but Rafe had vowed to find out what was wrong.
Unfortunately, the grapevine was working too well. For all they could discover, it could have been someone from the Sacramento PD, or the District Attorney's Office that leaked it. Somehow it had gotten out that Blair was a witness for the defense for a cop killer.
Jim and Blair's morning had started early. They had checked out a crime scene, interviewed the lone witness and were intent on a little research. They had part of a license number and a general color, that it was a sedan, but no make on the vehicle. And no description of the perp, except that he might be male. Hopefully, if they could narrow down the possible vehicles, they could get a warrant and find some hard evidence. When they reached the bullpen, which was fairly deserted for this time of the morning, they settled at their adjoining desks.
Blair came up with the list of possibles for the vehicle. “Hey, Jim. The list is printing out. Do you want some coffee?”
Jim leaned back and shrugged tense shoulders, “Yeah, that sounds good. We missed breakfast. I'll see what the donut girl has today. Any preferences?”
“A muffin would be good. Truth is, I'm starving. I'd even take a donut.”
Jim grinned. “We're corrupting you, Chief.”
Blair just chuckled as he rose. He collected the list from the copier, dropped it off on his desk, and then went to the break room.
When Blair entered the break room, he didn't think anything of it when Davidson, a homicide detective, rose immediately and left. Blair went to get their coffees and returned to his desk. He slowed to a stop as he got closer. His breath caught for a moment, then he clenched his jaw. He moved to put the cups down then went to get some towels to clean up the mess on his desk. Hot steaming coffee was spilled over the list he'd just printed. He looked around the department but no one was present, even Rhonda was off on some errand it seemed.
It didn't really surprise him, but it worried him. He'd heard stories during his years working with Jim of reprisals on cops by other cops. Jim returned before the cleanup was finished.
“Let me help with that, Chief,” Jim said softly.
“It's okay, Jim. I'm almost done.”
The morning had started too early, and it had gotten much worse with one small bit of harassment. Blair knew it was just the beginning. So did Jim.
“It was Davidson.”
Blair stopped for a moment, “You can tell?”
“Yeah, he wears so much even I should be able to smell it. He left the break room when I went in to get the coffee.”
“You have to report it.”
Blair looked surprised, “No. I don't.”
“No. It's just coffee. I can print the list again. Just, no.”
Jim straightened, and gave a soft sigh, “Maybe you're right. But you tell me ... promise ... if something else happens.”
“You know me, man. I tell you everything,” and Blair forced a smile.
“Right,” Jim snorted, knowing differently.
Blair stopped at the bookstore on the way home. He perused the new arrivals but wasn't really in the mood. On the way out he spotted the stationery supplies. He stopped for a moment, considering, then picked up a small, bound diary. His anxiety inched up just thinking about the future events he might record. He hoped he wouldn't need it, but logged entries of harassment were accepted as evidence … just in case. He walked to the checkout and paid for his purchase. All he had was one entry to make so far. He hoped that would be it.
Blair rubbed his ribs as he straightened. He wasn't really injured. Bruised, probably. He drew a deep breath and only winced a little. Okay, bruised. He drew some steady breaths and headed back to Major Crimes.
Later, at the loft. “Hey, Chief. The game's about to start. Are you coming?”
“In a minute, Jim.”
“What are you writing?”
Blair looked up and grinned. “I said I'd be right there. Just adding to my journal.”
Jim nodded. “Got a beer waiting for you. They're doing an interview with Orvelle during the pre-game. You don't want to miss that.”
“I won't.” Blair turned back to the journal. The pages were growing in number. Petty things, thankfully. Blair was glad Jim was letting him handle it the way he wanted ... which was to ignore what he considered the trivial stuff. Jim didn't know he'd started a journal specifically for the harassment. Blair wanted to keep it that way ... at least for now.
Jim watched Sandburg grow quieter as the weeks passed. He knew the harassment continued. He knew that Blair hid a lot from him. He tried to make his opinion on the subject known around the precinct. He had a good idea who was behind the harassment, and he let them know that he knew. He took a lot of detours through the PD, noting the reactions of people he'd identified. And still, Sandburg grew quieter.
Blair took a deep breath, pushed the door open and walked into Burglary. This was not his favorite department. He walked over to Gibson and waited for him to get off the phone. He knew Gibson saw him because he'd stopped speaking to the other person and had stared him right in the eye. He'd snorted, swung his chair around and totally ignored Blair.
//Fine!// Blair thought. He turned to Gibson’s partner, Willis, who was standing by his own desk. “I came for the report you borrowed this morning. Captain Banks wants a briefing on it.”
Willis glanced at him, then around the room, locking gazes with several other Burglary detectives. Blair thought Willis was going to respond to him when he turned toward him, but he walked past him close enough that his arm made solid contact, pushing Blair out of the way as if he was an obstacle in his path. Willis almost managed to knock him down then continued to walk across the room.
Blair was speechless, then angry. He walked over to Willis, who had joined the other Burglary detectives. “Willis ...”
Willis didn't move, and the others closed ranks, totally ignoring Blair. When Blair again said, “Willis,” they didn't answer, just started a conversation of their own and drowned him out. Blair didn't know what to do. What do you do when people won't look at you, or talk to you? In disgust he muttered, “Have it your way, then.”
He walked back into the bullpen, and sat at his desk doing nothing but trying to control his breathing and unclench his hands. When Simon called him into the office for the briefing, he stood slowly and went empty-handed.
Simon's scowl was as fierce as his bark. “Sandburg, this is a briefing. I sent you to get the report. Where is it?”
Jim's head snapped up in alarm as he realized something was wrong.
Blair stood practically at attention as he tersely answered. “Captain Banks, I - I tried to get the report, sir. I - I failed.”
Simon wasn't usually at a loss for words, but he did have to consider just what his next comment would be. “Sandburg? Can you ... explain that, please?”
Sandburg swallowed hard, and continued in his proper cop-mode voice, “I - I believe it was a case of disfellowshipping, sir. Shunning. I was shunned.” Slipping into his lecture voice, he continued smoothly, “It's a method used in certain groups, for example, religious groups, or a close-knit or closed society, to discipline or punish a member who strays from the beliefs or practices of the group. It's usually highly effective, especially in religious groups, whose members' support network is usually entirely within that group. It - it's even caused shunned members to commit suicide...”
“What! Wait ... who did this? I want to know,” Simon bellowed loud enough for the bullpen crew to hear, and for Jim to worry about the state of his friend's windows, while he notched down his own hearing a bit.
“Captain Banks, it was directed at me. I doesn't affect you ...”
Simon glared at Sandburg. “It doesn't? Where's that report? I called for this briefing. The wheels of justice are being affected, and that's in the scope of my work, is it not?”
“Yes, of course, sir. May I say something else, Captain?”
Blair licked dry lips, “This ... shunning. It isn't just confined to the individual. It includes that person's family, and close associates as well. They are expected to shun him, also ... or they could be shunned. What I'm trying to say is that, if this doesn't stop, the problems I've been having could become ... well, Jim's, too. Maybe others, yourself included.”
Simon leaned back, “Sandburg, this isn't happening on my watch. Do you understand? I will speak to Captain Johnson in Burglary and straighten this out.”
“But, Simon, you don't understand. It wasn't just one or two people, it was the whole department. They all stood and turned away from me. They talked over my voice. I finally gave up and walked out. I think this was planned. If they're escalating ....”
Simon's fierce look made him stop, “I am the Captain, Sandburg. There are ways to handle this, and I will pursue them. They cannot be allowed to interfere in the business of the Cascade Police Department. Now, I know there have been some minor problems before this, and I know you haven't reported them, but that had better change.” Blair looked at Jim in accusation, and Jim fidgeted but nodded. Simon watched then said, “I'll call Johnson now. We'll get this figured out. Dismissed.”
Jim opened the door for Simon that night. Simon looked tired and disgusted. He shrugged out of his coat, hung it up, and headed for the closest couch without a word spoken. Jim and Blair exchanged looks and joined him.
Blair asked, “Well … Have you had supper, Simon? We were going to order out. You're welcome to stay.”
“Thanks. I'm not really hungry.” He watched the two of them knowing they'd realized that the news wasn't good. “I talked to the Chief of Police. He was furious, as he should be. But he knows, probably better than I do, how this can escalate. We decided that official reprimands were due for everyone involved in Burglary. But he also warned me that this will be rough. He's known of instances when other cops have backed the instigators of harassment. I just wanted to warn you. And I know that you knew the possibility existed. That's why you held back on any complaints. Giving these people attention just feeds their participation.”
Blair stood and walked to the balcony, thrusting his clenched hands into his pockets. Jim watched him, but said to Simon, “Thanks for trying. And thanks for coming to explain.”
“What I want to suggest is that Sandburg accept desk duty, at least until his testimony is over.”
“No,” Blair grunted bitterly, “I think I might be safer away from the PD.”
“Is that what you want, Sandburg? You know Jim has talked to me about what's been happening, but if I know you, you've hidden as much as you can so he wouldn't worry. Has it gotten so bad that you're thinking of leaving? ”
Blair sighed. He turned back to his friends, “No. I'm not ready to admit defeat yet. If I leave the PD, they'll think they've won.”
Simon and Jim shared a worried look, but didn't disagree. They could only wait and hope that the harassment had reached its peak and would die down now that one group had been reprimanded.
Jim marched into the bullpen, his angry strides taking him from the elevator past his desk, then to Simon's office, before Blair got in the door.
Rafe looked up. “Blair, what happened?”
Blair sighed as he hung up his coat. “Just some mix up. It was a wild goose chase. We headed out north of the city, but State Police weren't there. Jim called from where we were told to be but they said 'it was south, not north, and couldn't we follow simple directions?'.”
“But, it wasn't a mix up, was it?”
“Nope. Jim knows north from south, even if I don't.”
“Sorry this happened, Sandburg.”
Blair nodded. “Thanks, Rafe.”
Blair sat dejectedly at his desk, wondering if Simon would bellow for his attendance. He didn't notice Henri moving over to stand in front of his desk.
“Sandburg, uh, can we talk. In private?”
Blair was surprised, but acquiesced quickly. Tension in the bullpen hadn't eased since the poker game when he had revealed his intention to testify. That night Henri had exploded in anger and had left with Rafe following soon after. It had hurt Blair tremendously and Jim had seethed at Brown's reaction and his continued cold shoulder of Sandburg. It was especially hard because Henri's anger was hard to ignore since they worked in close proximity. And now Henri wanted to talk. Okay. It was about time.
Brown paced the small interrogation room, while Blair stood out of his way. Blair had seen Jim watch their exit from Simon's office and knew that he'd be listening. Suddenly Brown stopped. He stood stock still, until Blair saw him try to shake the tension from his clenched hands as he visibly tried to relax. When Brown turned, he looked miserable.
“Sandburg ... I'm sorry. I've known you long enough to know you've got a good reason to be doing this. There has to be more to the story than we've heard so far. Rafe's been kicking my butt about this since poker night. It was just hard to see past ...”
Blair asked softly, “Past what, H? I knew there had to be more to your story, too, man.”
“My uncle, Henri Malcolm Brown, was a cop. He was a straight arrow if ever there was one. He grew up on the streets but he made sure his brothers and his brother's kids stayed in school, stayed out of gangs. He tried to do that on his beat, too. He mentored a lot of kids. He did a heck of a job. Dad was so proud of him that he named me after him.”
“What happened, H?”
“Stupid, senseless ... a drive-by shooting. Then they put the word out that they were proud to kill a cop. Well, I don't know how proud they are now. Some of the gang are in jail, most are dead. Still ... I don't think they got all they deserved.”
“They killed a good man. I'm sorry, H. There's more to my story, too. It's just been hard to talk about, and I don't want reporters to splash it all over the papers even more than they have. The lawyer wants to keep the details quiet so the public won't get a distorted picture.”
“Yeah. I know how that goes. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry, too, Hairboy. This Jonas guy must mean a lot to you. You don't have to say anything more. We're good.”
That was one of the rare times that Blair smiled during those weeks. At least tensions in the bullpen eased after that, and Henri and Rafe weren't shy about shadowing Blair when they could.
Megan punched the elevator button again in frustration. It hadn't moved off the third floor for five minutes. Giving up, she headed for the stairwell. On opening the door, she heard harsh laughter. She moved to the railing quietly, curious to see what was going on. She only needed a glance to see that Willis had Blair's arm twisted behind his back and had forced him into the railing. She ran down a flight to pull Willis away from Sandy. She pushed the Burglary Detective toward his partner, Gibson. He barely caught Willis before he lost his balance.
Megan pulled Sandy back from the railing. They'd pushed him half over the damn thing. “Sandy, you alright?”
As Blair tried to catch his breath, he gasped out, “Yeah, yeah. I'm okay.”
Willis sneered. “Good thing the lady showed up when she did, Saannndy!
You could have taken a fall. But then, she must have misunderstood, see ... we were just trying to help you out. Don't forget, hey Saannndy!” He pulled Gibson, who was still chuckling, along with him as he headed back to Burglary.
Megan Connor came barreling into the bullpen with Blair's arm grasped firmly in one hand. When they neared Simon's door, Blair pulled free. Megan tried to get Blair to join her, but when he refused adamantly, she went alone directly to Simon to make a formal complaint.
Joel took Blair into the break room and fixed him some tea. They didn't say much. Joel knew the strain Blair was under, and he certainly knew he was stubborn. He also knew that the small physical encounters Blair had been enduring had to have been wearing him down. From Connor's muttering, Joel believed this was beginning to get serious. Maybe deadly serious. He hoped Jim would get back from court soon.
Blair finished his tea and put on a brave face. “Joel, I have to get some files checked out for a case. Jim wanted to look at them if he got back here early.”
“I'll come with you,” Joel offered.
“Nah, I'll be fine. It's just down to Forensics.” Blair raised his eyebrows and whispered conspiratorially, “I think Rhonda spoke to the secretary down there. She's very polite.”
Joel had to grin. “Rhonda does have influence. You wouldn't want to get on her bad side.”
Blair grinned. “She has a bad side?” He put his cup away and headed for the elevator. He hesitated only a moment before punching the button.
Blair was glad that Jim was in court today as he came into the bullpen, limping.
Simon was standing at Rhonda's desk. He saw Blair's rumpled condition and requested his presence in his office.
“What's the story, Sandburg?”
“It was an accident, sir.”
Simon just glared.
“Look, I just tripped over the file drawer. I went over backwards! I'll be fine.”
“Don't think you're going to brush this off, Sandburg. Who?”
Blair's shoulders drooped. “Please, Simon. I'm okay. Really.”
Simon considered for a moment. “Get your coat. I'm taking you to the ER.”
Blair gasped. “But ...”
Simon said gently, “I'm the Captain, and that's an order, Blair.”
That was the quietest order Blair had ever heard from Simon, but he knew he'd lost that round.
Simon left a message for Jim to join them if he got out of court early.
Simon left Blair alone with the doctor during the examination, but joined them for the doctor's findings. Jim arrived in time to listen in when the doctor explained Blair's injuries to Simon.
Blair had scrapes and bruises on his arms and back, a sprained wrist, bruised ribs, a long swathe of purple from knee to ankle, and an egg on the back of his head but luckily no sign of concussion. Also ... many older, fading bruises on his abdomen, back, right knee, on his arms, and around his shoulder. The doctor hesitated a moment before gently asking the inevitable, “Are you safe at home?”
Blair blinked, and then laughed half hysterically, before he clapped a hand over his mouth in consternation. He finally whispered shakily, “Yes, I'm safe ... at home.”
Simon's gruff exterior should have given him warning. “Sandburg, I am going to exert my authority in this matter. Since the evidence is there ... I'm going to order you to comply with my order. And this is an order. The doctor will document your injuries for a complaint, or complaints, to be filed against a member, or members, or the Cascade Police Department. Do you understand?”
Blair stilled. “You can't force me.”
Simon knew the truth of that, but answered, “You know the consequences of disobeying an order, Sandburg. Are you willing to accept those consequences?”
Blair swallowed and turned as Jim came to stand in the doorway. “Jim?”
Jim's jaw was clenched painfully for a moment. “I'll be right there with you, all the way.”
“Heck, I knew that,” Blair retorted softly. Turning back to Simon and answered quietly, “I'm okay ... but since it's an order ... I'll allow it.”
Simon was waiting for them when they got back to the bullpen. As soon as they'd hung up their coats, he calmly asked for them to accompany him to the interrogation room. No one settled into seats. “Blair, you'd probably feel better if you sat down. This will take a while.”
“I'm fine, Simon. Just send me back to my desk or give me a case to work. What are we in here for? I'm not some perp that you need to interrogate.”
Simon gently answered, “No, you're not a perp. You're the victim.”
Blair turned away, fearing he'd break down. His fists were already clenched and shaking. He wouldn't let them win. He wouldn't let them force him out. He couldn't. He'd fought too hard. His friends had stood by him, had called in favors. Too much depended on ... on him being a cop. He just had to stick it out, because this is where he had to be, where he wanted to be. And ... it would be too hard if he lost everything again. After he'd gained some control, he turned back to the Captain.
Simon had waited for Blair to regain his equilibrium. When Blair turned back to them, Simon walked over to the table and opened the file he'd brought with him. “Sandburg, these photos the hospital faxed over tell quite a story. You've got a hell of a lot of bruises, and they're not all from the incidents that happened today.” He laid several out for Blair, who was too stubborn to look, and even though Jim had been present, he blanched at the sight of them.
“It's time to stop this. I need your statement.”
“I don't want to do this, Simon. What will Internal Affairs do if I'm forced to do this under protest?”
“Damn it, Sandburg! You know I can't force you ...” and he sighed resignedly. Internal Affairs had the report that resulted in the Burglary Department's reprimands. Since IA had yet to bring any formal charges, there probably wouldn't be any for that incident.
The harassers had been too smart to let Simon or Jim see any of their actions, although Jim's sentinel senses picked up clues everywhere. Every day. But the harassers weren't as smart as they'd thought they were. They'd slipped up, and Connor had observed the incident in the stairwell. Her report was now on its way to Internal Affairs. If there were more incidents of physical abuse that had been witnessed, no one had come forward. If Sandburg continued to say they were all accidents, there was nothing that anyone could do, and the kid knew it.
Looking at Sandburg, Simon saw someone on the edge. He didn't want to be the one that provided that last straw that broke this camel's back ... so he relented ... for now.
“I think you could probably use the rest of the day to take it easy, Sandburg. Jim, take him home. I don't think he should be driving.”
The ride home was silent. Jim expected no less. Sandburg was stressed, and he was afraid, and he didn't want to look like a wuss in front of Jim, or in front of Simon. But he knew Blair. He thought there was more behind this than he'd said.
“You don't have to do this alone, Blair.”
Blair jerked around to stare at him. His shallow breaths told Jim he was ready to break into a million pieces if he said the wrong thing.
“Chief, you're doing the right thing about Jonas. You told me what happened. You need to do this. You feel you owe him, so I wouldn't expect anything less of you.”
Blair's voice was shaky as he replied, “I don't know why I was afraid of what you'd think. When it comes to a cop killer ... well, I'm a cop, too. I understand ... but this situation was self-defense and another cop lied to cover it up. I can't stand back and do nothing, no matter what the Cascade cops think. Do you really understand, Jim?”
“I think most people eventually have to confront a situation where they have to stand up for what's right ... or go along with their peer group. There were times when I just went along, but there were also times that I thought I had no choice but to stand up for what I thought was right.”
“Thanks, man. That helps. It really does.”
“I'll back you up anytime, Sandburg. Anytime.”
Jim helped Blair out of the truck when they reached the loft. Blair had stiffened up from his injuries.
When they reached the loft Blair went toward the couch but Jim gently steered him to his bedroom. “Get into some sweats, and under the covers. I'll get some ice for those new bruises and some water for the pain pill. I think you could use a nap while I get some supper on.” Jim wasn't surprised that Blair did as he asked. He knew the kid was hurting, and not just physically. He just wished he'd open up.
Blair settled on his bed with a sigh Jim had no problem hearing from the kitchen. When Jim brought the ice and water he sat on the side of the futon and had Blair turn over for a massage. It wasn't long before the release of tension and the pain pill had Blair starting to drift off.
Jim spoke softly as he inquired, “Soup alright for supper, Chief?”
“We'll get through this.”
Jim kept up the massage while he thought furiously about what the kid meant. “No, you can't leave. I don't want you to leave, Blair.”
“Won't make me leave.”
Jim stopped in shock. “Blair, I won't make you leave. Not ever again. If anyone leaves, we both leave.”
Blair rolled over and eyed Jim. He smiled sleepily. “Sorry, Jim. I was half asleep. I meant they can't make me leave. This is where I want to be, where I need to be. I'll fight them every step of the way, but right now I just can't say who the harassers are. I feel like they win if I do. Do you understand?”
“I - I don't know, Chief. Willis ...”
“Jim, I was there. Willis and Gibson, they weren't going to throw me over the railing. It was a warning.”
Jim ground his teeth. “They hurt you. Maybe someone else did, too, today.”
“It was bruises. I've been through worse just being the new kid in school.”
At Jim's glare, Blair hurried on, “Look, I've been there before. I can handle it.”
“And if you can't?”
“Well, then I'll come forward.”
“Chief, there are worse things they can do. We're not getting separated on the job again ... not even to go to the bathroom.”
Blair sighed heavily, but then had to grin. “That will only encourage certain rumors, man. I think I can handle the bathroom by myself.”
Jim grinned back as he said, “Only if I check it out first, to make sure no one's in there, and I'll stand at the door until you come out. I haven't issued a new rule for a while, so let's make this one official, I escort you everywhere ... if not in person, at least with my hearing.”
“Oh, jeeze, you're going to listen in?” And Blair blushed.
“Like I couldn't hear a mouse ...”
“Okay! Okay! I know, man.” Blair chuckled softly as he rolled over, hoping for more of that massage.
Jim whispered, “Whatever it takes, Chief.”
Things were quiet for a while as the harassment eased off. The partners thought that the harassers were just waiting to see if Sandburg would press charges. Blair still wasn't sleeping or eating well but he was less tense.
Jim stood up from his chair, “Come on, Chief. Sneaks just called.”
They met Sneaks at the usual place, and Sneaks got his usual bribe, with Blair complaining all the way back to the truck.
As Blair buckled in, he said, “Jim, this guy, Jojo. He's really bad news.”
“We've been trying to get him for a long time. If we can nail him for this drug shipment, we'll put him away for a long time.”
“Man. Who calls himself ... Jojo, anyway?”
“It's easy for kids to remember, and they're his clientèle of choice. I'll call Simon and set up the stakeout for tonight.”
Blair muttered, “At least we won't have to go into the station again today.”
Jim reached out and squeezed Blair's shoulder as they waited at a light.
They waited for Jojo to arrive, pay for the drugs, and take delivery so they could arrest him and put him in jail where he belonged. And they waited. And waited. It was now well past the specified time, and Jim was getting antsy.
Blair wasn't happy either. He tried to shrug it off at first, but then suggested, “Hey, man. You want to stretch your senses out again. You know what Jojo sounds like. Maybe you can hear him. Maybe he's getting antsy about this setup, too. Maybe he's already called it off.”
“You're right. He should be here, and I haven't heard him at all. I should have heard his complaining easily, and long before this. He's not a patient man.”
“Go on, Jim. Dial up your hearing. Something just feels wrong.”
“Okay, Chief. Give me a minute.”
Blair kept his silence but placed one hand gently on Jim's forearm to ground him.
Blair thought Jim might have zoned until suddenly he jerked slightly, then turned to him. “It's a setup all right! For us! Call Dispatch. Tell them we need backup! We're surrounded.”
Blair hit speed dial but Dispatch seemed to be busy, or else they took the night off. So he picked up the radio, hoping there was something wrong with his phone.
Sandburg kept calling for backup even after Jim set the truck in motion with a squeal of tires. He twisted the wheel sharply to the right as a car pulled into their lane. It should have worked, but the other driver deliberately sideswiped their truck and it fishtailed. When the tires hit the curb, it flipped the truck on its side, breaking the side window next to Blair, and shattering the windshield into a spider web of cracks.
Blair groaned softly and pushed himself away from the door and broken glass. He tentatively tested his sore shoulder then pulled his weapon and kicked the windshield out, all while Jim struggled to keep his weight off Blair and get his bearings. But he also had his weapon out before they crawled out on the sidewalk between the truck and a building.
In one way, they were in a good position. The truck's engine was between them and the perps and they had a wall at their backs. But although this position was defensible, they'd have a hard time escaping it. They needed help.
There were shots firing and pinging off the truck and gouging chips from the brick building behind them, but they each took a moment to assess their injuries.
Jim gently prodded Blair's jaw until he turned to let him see the cause of the blood trailing down onto his collar. Jim could see that it wasn't urgent, and since Blair was moving, anything else would have to wait.
Blair took in Jim's easy movements, and whispered, “Senses okay?” After a quick nod he said, “Dispatch was busy, and I have no idea where my phone went.”
“Busy? It's been a slow night. There were only a few callouts during the whole stakeout.”
Blair ducked as a new gouge appeared above his head. He looked around quickly then back at Jim. He wondered if Jim was thinking the same thing that he was.
“Jim. Are those guys out there … cops?”
Blair could see him tilt his head in the familiar listening pose. He could see when his jaw muscles tightened into knots. Damn. “Do you know who?”
“Two from Burglary.”
“Gibson and Willis?”
“Surprisingly, no. Avery and his partner, Lamont.”
“Hey, Jim. Do you have a plan?”
“What? Like shoot those two and then get out of here?”
“How many are there? Are the others cops, too?”
“No. Muscle. Hired maybe. They might be Jojo's goons.”
“Are they above us? In the building here or across the street?”
“No. Not yet, anyway.”
The shots fired at them were frustrating their assailants. The truck engine blocked most of them although the brick building made ricochets dangerously possible. Jim and Blair both used their ammunition judiciously. They needed their shots to count.
“Jim. Can you reach the radio?”
Jim wiggled around to grab the mic, but gave it up when he saw the damage. He just turned to Blair and shook his head. He seemed to hear something then pushed Blair toward the truck and raised his gun and fired. Someone had gotten smart and tried to rush them from an alley. They needed help, and soon.
“Jim!” Blair had spotted several men take shelter behind the car that had tried to force them off the road. Blair took a shot but missed. Then those men started to barrage the truck with shots and Jim and Blair hunkered further down. They quickly glanced to their left and right expecting further sneak attacks, but saw no one else. But Jim's truck started to smoke, and Jim swore under his breath.
The alley was to their right, and they knew their assailants were probably still close. But to their left, beyond the tail-end of the truck, was a heavy freight door. It wasn't a good option. Kicking it down probably wouldn't work. They'd need a battering ram to go through that. But there wasn't much choice.
“Chief! That door. I'll head for it and try to shoot the lock open. You lay down covering fire. If I can't get it open, we'll have to run for it.”
Blair looked from Jim to the door and back. “I'll shoot the lock. It isn't a moving target. You cover me. Ready?”
“Ready or not, partner. Here I go!”
“Damn it!” Jim leaped out after Blair, firing steadily. He got one shooter through a car window and the others were startled. It gave them a few precious seconds. Blair shot the lock and threw himself at the door, cursing when it didn't give the first time. But Jim was there to add his weight on the second push. They were through and running with Jim in the lead, and Blair with a hand in the back of his coat. They'd done this often enough that it was a natural move when they entered a darkened room. Jim's enhanced sight was a life-saving advantage this night.
Their assailants knew their own advantage was lost, and they melted away into the dark when sirens were heard. Rafe and Brown's arrival had turned the tide. It seemed that one of H's friends had passed the word that something was up, and Ellison and Sandburg were in trouble. If not for them, the partners could have died that night.
The rest of the night was spent clearing the area to make sure it was safe for firefighters to contain the fire to Jim's truck and away from any other property and people. There was no saving Sweetheart, but Jim wasn't too upset because Sweetheart had taken a few bullets meant for them.
Back at the precinct the next morning Jim strode determinedly into Simon's office. Jim hadn't tried to force the issue before, but last night was his last straw.
Blair had followed reluctantly behind. “Jim. Wait.”
“Blair, it was a setup! They almost got us killed. You're the victim of harassment, and I understand that you wanted to handle it yourself, but this has gotten too dangerous, and not just for you. If it wasn't for Brown and Rafe, we'd probably be dead! Hell, they could have gotten killed, too!”
Blair had never looked so defeated but he finally just nodded and pulled his backpack from his shoulder. “I'd hoped to never need this,” he said, as he pulled out his slim new journal. When they saw that he had incidents, dates, and some names, they were relieved. This would be taken seriously because some of it could be backed up with other evidence, and that would give credence to the other entries.
There were at least two dozen names: the worst of Cascade's finest. Jim had sensed most of the people involved even if he hadn't witnessed it in the usual - legal - manner, but Simon was appalled at the length of the list and even more dismayed by the names of people he knew and had trusted.
After an intense investigation by Internal Affairs, two officers, Avery and Lamont, were fired. They were remanded to custody without bail and were awaiting trial. Most of one shift of Dispatchers were suspended without pay for a month. Two were up on charges of accessory. Most of the people named would eventually receive only warnings or perhaps formal reprimands in their files, but at least they had not caused obvious risk to either of their lives. Blair would have to testify against them, too, before this situation was over.
Blair was still quiet even after Simon put them both on desk duty. The Captain had made it official: Blair didn't go anywhere alone, not off duty, not on duty, and especially not at the PD itself. Walking the stairwells alone was off-limits. It was one thing to have Jim listen for problems, but that didn't stop the casual pushing and tripping incidents that had afflicted Blair from the beginning. Simon decided to keep them sequestered as much as possible so they settled in to work cold cases for a month, until the trial in Sacramento started.
Jim grabbed his bags as they started toward their plane. Jim had tried to lift his partner's spirits during this past month, but had finally settled for making sure that Blair ate and slept. He had tried to get him to talk about Jonas Cabot, but the kid had kept everything bottled deep inside.
Jim knew that Jonas' trial wasn't the only problem Blair was dealing with silently. Jim knew he was hurt because being a cop was important to Blair. He'd struggled to make over his life, his career. He'd thought he'd made strides and made friends. It kept them together as partners, sure, but it had been hard for him to fight against the fraud label, especially since it wasn't true.
It had taken threats of legal action for Sid Graham to publicly admit to pirating Sandburg's flight of fancy and presenting it as a literary work, an academic dissertation. When this hit the news, the University decided that they had acted hastily. Since Mr. Sandburg hadn't submitted a dissertation, no criminal action had been committed. The Press was duly invited to witness Chancellor Edwards' apology, and the subsequent reinstatement of Blair Sandburg to Rainier's PhD. Program.
Blair and Jim had finally considered the worst to be behind them ... Simon and Major Crimes were staunchly behind him, and Blair's own integrity and hard work had won over almost everyone else ... and then Jonas had been arrested.
Jonas' lawyer had taken the fraud media frenzy and the results under consideration. She'd thought it best to ignore it unless faced with it in court. She considered it a minor problem since she could counter it with the fact of Detective Sandburg's newly completed dissertation, his soon-to-be-awarded Doctorate, and his superlative arrest record. As for the harassment, she requested a copy of Blair's journal, but she doubted it would ever be brought up by the prosecution. They wouldn't want the jury to be faced with accounts of police officers who had acted in an unprofessional and unlawful manner. It would be prejudicial to their case when faced with Blair's testimony about the events leading up to the officer's death and the following cover up.
Jim lengthened his stride to catch up to his partner. “Hey, Chief. Wait up.”
“Sorry, Jim. Guess I'm just in a hurry to get this over with. You know I'm really not that eager to testify but I have to do this for Jonas,” Blair sighed resignedly.
Jim freed up a hand by slinging one bag precariously under the other arm. He grabbed his friend's shoulder and squeezed. “It won't be long, Chief. The attorney plans to call you tomorrow. Just a couple more days and your part will be over. Just a little longer, buddy. We'll get through this, too.”
Blair smiled gratefully. “We, huh? Thanks, Jim. I'm sorry to drag you through this ... to put you in danger. Oh, man. I'm so sorry about all of it.”
“Don't ... you have no reason to feel sorry for something that's not your fault. You've told me that you're right where you want to be ... well, so am I.”
Blair went to talk to Jonas after he and Jim were settled in a hotel. He'd had no contact with Jonas in all those years, but Blair said that he owed the man more than his own life. He owed him for Naomi's life, too. He'd come to repay a debt ... and to do what was right. It wasn't Jonas' fault that it had turned Blair's world upside down again.
Ms. Dewitt said, “I call Blair Sandburg to the stand, Your Honor.”
Blair and Jim exchanged a quick glance and Blair stood. He was used to testifying by now. He'd done it many times even as an observer. He was used to hiding how nervous he was but this time it was personal. This case had taken a heavy toll on him, and on his friends. He just wanted it to be over.
He swore to tell the truth and the lawyer began her questioning. During previous talks Ms. Dewitt had suggested that with his experience and clear, concise, yet compassionate tale it would be best to let him tell most of the story at his own discretion. Then she could question him on any details that needed clarifying. Blair had agreed. He looked at Jim and took heart at the obvious pride and confidence his partner showed in him.
“Mr. Sandburg, what do you do for work?”
“I'm a Detective in the Major Crimes Division, in Cascade, Washington.”
“When did you meet Jonas Cabot?”
“In March, 1978. I was almost nine years old at the time.”
“Would you describe your relationship with Mr. Cabot?”
Blair took a steadying breath and began, “Mr. Cabot, Jonas ... was an organizer of a protest march in San Francisco. My mother was active in the anti-war movement at the time. She and Jonas became good friends. When Jonas moved on to the next city, Sacramento, my mother and I joined him.”
“Did you and your mother live with Mr. Cabot?”
“No. My mother and I moved in with a friend of hers in Sacramento, Sunny Watson. My Mom, Sunny, and Jonas were very passionate about this cause. Sunny had helped organize a number of protests and had traveled all over the West Coast, but Sacramento was her home. She thought she could be very helpful to Jonas in organizing the protest there.
“Jonas was like a big brother to me. He was only 22 years old, I think, at the time, and I acted like I was nine-going-on-nineteen. At least, that's what my mom said. I admired him for his willingness to take a stand. And, uh, he taught me how to play baseball.”
“So this man, Jonas Cabot, befriended you.”
“Yes, that's right.”
“Please tell me in your own words, what happened on August 8, 1978?”
Blair experienced a brief flashback to that day while trying to order his thoughts. He could see that his sentinel had noticed. He hoped no one else had. He bit his lower lip, the pain a reminder of exactly where he was and what he had to do.
“August eighth. It was a beautiful day. I'd wanted Jonas to play catch with me. I was getting to be pretty good at pitching, and I wanted to work on my curve ball. But Mom and Jonas had plans to check out the location for the next protest rally. When I couldn't change their minds, I badgered them to take me with them, but they told me to stay with Sunny. But I waited until Sunny was busy and then I followed them.
“This was just to scout out the area, you know? It was on a busy street and bordered a University campus. Mom would never have let me tag along if she'd thought there might be a problem. Or Jonas either.
“I don't think we did anything wrong to draw the attention of the two policemen. That was certainly not what Jonas and Mom intended, especially since I was there. I know that we did kind of stick out. We dressed like hippies because that's how we lived. It's what we were. And it was a University town. I'm sure it must have been a common thing.
“We knew what they were, of course, but I thought they were just walking their beat. Eventually we took a turn away from the main street, and that's when I thought they might be following us. That's when I started to worry. There weren't many people around and they began to make loud, nasty remarks about us. I couldn't hear everything they were saying, but I heard enough to know that much.
“I remember that was when my Mom grabbed my hand and pulled me close. We kept walking and I'll admit I was getting really scared. Then the cops started talking even louder and saying dirty names. I remember thinking that Mom would have had a serious talk with me if I'd used words like that.”
There were a few muffled chuckles at that, and Blair glanced up quickly, surprised that sentiment seemed to be with him.
He cleared his throat softly and continued. “Then Mom looked at Jonas and then at me, and she told me to run back to Sunny if we got separated. I started to say no. I wanted to stay with her, but then Jonas took my other hand and we started to run. The cops yelled for us to stop, and then they started after us. We were trying to lose them, and we ducked down a side street and then into an alley, but we knew we were trapped when we saw a locked gate at the farther end. At that point we stopped and turned, but they'd caught up to us. They started to wave their nightsticks around and slap them into their hands. And they were laughing.”
Blair sighed sadly and then continued. “I can remember Jonas' face so clearly. He was so scared. He looked at me and at Mom. Then he looked like he came to a decision. He didn't look so scared then. Just determined. He told us both to run when we had the chance, and to not look back. I really think he believed he was going to die. But it didn't work out the way he thought.
“They both had their nightsticks out but one of them went after him, and the other one followed us, mom and me. The one that caught my mom pulled at her dress and tore it, so I picked up a piece of wood … it was about the size of a baseball bat ... and I hit him. He - he screamed. I was horrified. I'd only meant to stop him, not to hurt him. I - I think I was the one that broke his kneecap. The report he made listed Jonas as the one that had taken him down. I guess he didn't want to admit it was a nine-year-old kid.
“There'd been no reason for him to hurt my mom. She hadn't fought him. When he caught up to us she'd only pulled me behind her and stood her ground. I didn't know what he meant to do to her, but I couldn't let him hurt her. After I hit him with the stick I tried to get her to come away with me, but she turned to see if Jonas was coming, too. I saw the other cop hitting Jonas with his nightstick, and Jonas wasn't fighting back. He was on the ground and we could see he was hurt. It might have been a stupid thing for me to do, but I picked up the piece of wood again and hit the other cop with it. His partner was already screaming at him to get me, for what I'd done to his knee, I guess. Then the cop stopped hitting Jonas and came after me.” At this point Blair stopped, visibly overcome by his memories.
Blair tried to calm his thoughts, then answered softly, “I'm okay, Ms. Dewitt. Thank you.” But Blair seemed lost once again in the past as he continued, “The cop that was still on his feet came at me with his nightstick. He swung it hard and knocked the piece of wood out of my hands. Then he swung at me again and I tried to block it.” At this point Blair's hands unconsciously raised to protect his head. “I heard my wrist bone break. Then I felt it. I didn't have time to do anything else except roll up and try to protect my head. I guess that part was instinctive because the guy just kept swinging, hitting me over and over. Then I heard Jonas let out this wild yell and the cop fell on top of me. Dead, I guess. But I, I think that's when I passed out.”
The rest of the trial went as Blair had hoped. The prosecution couldn't shake his testimony, or Naomi's. The cop that had lived, and had given a false police report, had had his testimony torn to shreds by Ms. Dewitt. The jury had come back in near record time with an acquittal on the murder charge. Best of all, Jonas was free. No more looking over his shoulder, afraid of the police finding him and charging him for murder when it was self-defense.
Jonas was free, and suddenly it was over. And it was time to go home.
They'd been back in the bullpen for two days and were about to tackle a real case again. It was good to be back but there were still cases pending before Internal Affairs. They'd just grabbed their jackets to head out when there was a stir in the hallway. Two of the cops that had been reprimanded, partners from Burglary, were approaching their desk. Jim dropped his jacket quickly, readying himself for anything that might happen. He didn't trust these two anymore, especially around Sandburg.
Simon came out of his office and stood near his door, but said nothing. Henri and Rafe stood slowly and came to stand in front of their desks, nodding at them sharply in support.
They stopped in front of Blair. Officer Gibson was senior partner so he seemed to take it on himself to speak. “Detective Sandburg, we ... regret our part in your harassment concerning the case of Jonas Cabot. We have no defense. We make no excuses. That was our statement to Internal Affairs. We know we were wrong about you, and we did some stupid things. We know that doesn't make it right, but we hope someday you can forgive us.”
His partner, Willis added, “It's hard to gain back trust, but we'll do our best by you. You have our word.”
After an uncomfortable moment Blair said, “I know a little about that trust thing. I've done my best to earn the respect of everyone on the force. Maybe you can spread the word ... if anyone ever has a problem with me again, then all they have to do is come and speak to me. Deal with me.” He stopped only a moment before his face hardened and he continued, “But pass this on, too, so there'll be no mistake. There is one thing I won't abide. If anyone causes my partner harm ... they'll answer to me.”
Jim would swear that Gibson and Willis almost smiled as they reached to shake Blair's hand. Jim wasn't willing to forgive so easily. But a truce, that would be alright, as long as no harm came to his partner.
Shunning: (a.k.a. Disfellowshipping): This is a method of disciplining or punishing a member who strays from the group's expected behavior or belief. Other members --often including friends and family -- are expected to have no contact with the shunned individual. In a high intensity faith group where a believer's entire support network is composed of fellow members, this can have disastrous consequences; some have been moved to commit suicide.