OK, this one is Bonnie's fault. She insisted I continue it. That's fine with me... of course, that leaves Jim in his kilt and Blair in his snug tights and really short tunic all alone with me again... still... hmmmm. I can handle this, I think. ;]
Anyway, here we go again. This is, obviously (or maybe not so obviously) the sequel to 'It's Me Again, Blair'. Again, the disclaimers are still in effect. I receive no remuneration for this and am grateful to those who own The Sentinel for being so kind as to forebear suing me. (OK, so I'm feeling a bit verbose today... have I ever mentioned how much I love words? Well, I do, just in case you've never noticed. I love the way they fit together and flow. I adore alliteration, and... and the way they sound when spoken concisely... OK, so I'm in a weird mood, today. What else is new?) Undying gratitude goes out to Wolfpup for still putting up with me after two years and a seemingly never-ending supply of stories. Thanks, Keed...
It's Her Again, Blair
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"She made bail, men. Of course, it was to be expected. After all, it's only a misdemeanor, not a felony." Simon Banks watched as the jaw muscles flexed and Jim's eyes shot their concern at his partner, who was nervously taking a deep, hopefully calming, breath.
"So, did they at least hit her with a restraining order?" Blair asked hopefully.
"Yeah, but you know how ineffective those things are. Do you still have the equipment to tape your calls?"
"Yes, Sir," Jim replied, his stiff posture showing more than any words could, what he thought about the whole thing. "We'll get Joel to fix Blair's cell phone up with a recorder and his desk phone, as well."
"This sucks," Blair said succinctly, shaking his head.
"Yeah, it does, Sandburg. Look I'm sorry, but that's just how these things go. They did send her for a psych evaluation, and they, at least, gave her a clean bill of health..." Simon knew perfectly well that it wasn't encouraging the younger man in the least.
"Well," Blair said, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh, "If she calls again, what do we do?"
"You tell her that you know what she's doing and that it won't do her any good. Then, I suggest you call a lawyer and sue her for harassment," Simon advised.
As they were driving away from work that evening, Blair expressed his dismay over the whole incident with Ms Edwards. "Great. This is just great, you know? Why me? Why... arrugh!" the last shout of frustration made his partner flinch, partly from the noise, partly from commiseration.
"Take it easy, Chief. It's going to be all right. Hey, if she's as smart as she's supposed to be, you won't be hearing from her. Don't worry until something happens."
Blair glared, "That's easy for you to say, man. You aren't the one she was after."
"No, but believe me, I was affected as much as you were, Chief. Come on, relax. Tell you what, how's about we stop off at that Persian place you like so much? My treat?" Anything to take his partner's mind off the idea that former-Chancellor Edwards might start in again with the obscene phone calls.
"You hate that place," Blair declared, but was weakening.
"So? I just won't order anything made with lamb."
"And dial down your sense of smell to zero?"
"Minus four, Chief. It's pretty pungent," but he smiled, just to make sure Blair understood that it really was okay to go.
"Well, if you're sure..."
"Make the call for reservations, Sandburg."
"OK, OK, give me a second, man."
Dinner, despite Jim's profession of not caring for the cuisine, went very well. Jim teased his friend and kept the conversation going in every direction except the one lurking constantly in the background. Laughing, they finally exited the restaurant and returned to Jim's truck to go home.
Turning on the overhead lights as they entered the loft, Jim had already spotted that there were telephone messages waiting for them. Hanging up his coat, Jim crossed to the phone and pressed the 'play' button. The digital machine beeped and began to play the messages.
"It's me, Blair. I'm not in that nasty jail cell anymore. You really shouldn't have talked to the Board of Regents, you know. That wasn't very nice. Not at all. I think you need to understand that what you did was wrong, you little hippie freak..."
Jim pushed the button for the next message, trying to ignore how pale his roommate had become.
"Don't worry about it, Chief. It's all going to the DA first thing tomorrow."
"What's wrong, Sandburg? Too afraid to answer the phone?..."
Jim pushed the advance button again.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," Edwards' voice singsonged from the machine. Jim hit the forward button for a third time.
"Where are you? Don't you want to play any more?"
Shaking his head, Jim advanced the machine yet again, and again, and then again. Finally, after fifteen messages, all from Edwards, he reached the end. Shaking his head, he checked the extra tape recorder that they had attached to the telephone to record all calls, even those that didn't wait to leave a message on the machine. It had run out of tape.
"Oh, man. This sucks," Blair muttered, his eyes lifting from the machine to his roommate's "So, now what do we do?"
"Well, first, we call it in, then we make a copy of what's on the machine, then we reset the tape recorder to tape and when she calls next time, we answer it."
"Oh. Happy-happy-joy-joy," Blair grumbled listlessly.
Jim, seeing his partner's dismay, clapped him on the shoulder, "It's going to be all right, Blair. All she's doing is putting the locks on the jail cell for us."
"Yeah. I guess," but his tone told that he didn't really believe it.
"You'll see, Chief. I promise." Jim's concerned gaze finally caught Blair's and the reassurance held a bit more weight when accompanied with the promise in the pale blue eyes.
"I'm gonna hold you to that, man."
"I expect you to, partner."
"That's her," Blair took a deep breath and answered the phone before it could ring again. The tape recorder automatically picked up.
"Where have you been?" Edwards' voice shrilled from the speaker like a fishwife's.
"Uh, well, Ms Edwards, I was at work, earlier, then we stopped off for dinner and afterwards, we came home. Not that it's any business of yours." Blair had an almost cocky tone in his voice, a cockiness that was belied by the expression on his face and the body language that showed his fear.
His words were met with silence and then the sound of a phone handset being slammed down into its cradle. Wincing, Blair jerked the phone away from his ear.
"Ouch. That hurt even from here, Chief. You okay?" Jim asked from across the room.
"Yeah. But I think I pissed her off, man." Blair disconnected the cordless phone as he absently rubbed his still ringing ear.
"Come on, Chief. With any luck, she won't call again tonight."
"Yeah, but I doubt if I'm going to sleep very well, wondering when she's going to call again."
Jim didn't have an answer for that. He just hoped that the woman didn't decide to escalate her game and actually start stalking his partner.
Jim startled awake. Looking at his bedside clock, he groaned.
"Ms Edwards, it's three-seventeen in the morning. This constitutes harassment of a police officer. If you do not cease and desist, you will be..."
Grumbling softly to himself, he hung up. Since she never spoke, this particular tape wouldn't be of any help, but still...
"It's okay, Blair. She hung up."
"Sorry, man. I'll get it next time."
"Don't worry about it, Chief."
"I said, it's all right. Try and go back to sleep, okay?"
"What is it now, Ms Edwards?" Unconsciously, Blair had begun to sound like his partner. There was exasperation in his voice, as well as exhaustion.
"You're going to pay, Sandburg. I promise you that."
"Fine. Come on over and beat me up, why don't you? Then Jim can arrest you for assault and battery and maybe I can get some sleep," he disconnected the call and waited for Jim to say something.
"Good idea, Chief. I'd be more than happy to bust her."
"I know. I just wish..."
"I know, Blair. I know."
"You think you're so big and strong. Maybe I should come after you, too."
"Go right ahead, Ms Edwards."
He hung up on her.
"Don't you dare..."
"Or what? What will you do to me, Ms Edwards?"
"It's all right, Chief. I asked her what she was going to do to me, and she ran out of words." There was laughter in his voice.
"Do you think that was a good idea?"
"Probably not, but it felt good."
"Yeah. I guess it would. Why do you think she's doing this?"
"I can't imagine, Blair. I'm sorry that she is, though."
"Yeah. Thanks. Me, too," Blair's sleepy voice replied.
"Now, what, Ms Edwards?" Jim's tone was finally angry. The phone had rung at three- seventeen, three-forty-three, four-twenty-nine, and now it was five-forty-eight and he'd had enough.
"Sorry, Simon. I thought you were the Chancellor again."
"So I hear. I'm sorry to bother you, but there's been an incident, and I'd like you to come and take a look, if you would."
"Might as well. I don't think I'll be able to get back to sleep, now, anyway."
"Yeah. Look, you might want to leave him at home, if you would."
"You know he won't like that. Why?"
"Well... you can vouch for his whereabouts all evening?"
"Yeah. Why?" Something was starting to send off little alarms in his mind. Simon wasn't usually this obscure.
"One of the members of the Board of Regents from Rainier had a visitor, sometime within the last two hours."
"Well, since the setup we have on the phone gives times, as well as recording, I can prove I was here, and since I spoke to Blair on each occurrence, and one time he answered the phone, I don't think it will be a problem, Sir."
"Good. Not that I think there will be a problem, but it's better to be safe."
"Yes, Sir." He paused. "So, you want to tell me what happened? Not to mention, where?"
"Yeah. I'm at the University. Someone vandalized Hargrove Hall..."
Dr. Chambers had been working late in the vandalized artifact room. The security personnel opening up the building had found him bludgeoned and unconscious, barely alive. The security guard had first called for paramedics and then called the police. Simon had been called from his bed, as it was uncertain whether Dr. Chambers would survive, and he had, in turn, called Jim. Now, it was nearly six in the morning and, while Dr Chambers had already been transported to the hospital and the forensics people had begun on the artifact display room that had been vandalized, the detectives of Major Crime had arrived to assist.
Not only had they spray-painted obscenities on the walls, they had broken in and painted the offices and classrooms, as well. Jim's jaws were spasming in his anger. Blair was devastated.
"Oh, man. What... why would anyone do this? Oh..." His voice trailed off in injured dismay as he crouched over a smashed artifact.
"What was it, Chief?" Jim's voice was gentle as he crouched beside his partner.
"Well, it was a Mesopotamian burial urn. Only about four thousand years old." There were tears in his eyes at the damage done to so many artifacts. He might not be a teaching fellow any more, but he would always be a scholar, no matter what; and the devastation to the antiquities was irreparable and irreplaceable.
"Can you identify what else was damaged, Sandburg?" Simon asked, his concern showing in the gentleness of his voice.
"Yeah. Most of it. None of it is especially valuable, per se, but the age of the artifacts... they're irreplaceable. Sure, they can be repaired, but they'll never be what they were before." Blair's voice showed his bitterness that someone would come in and vandalize his former haunt.
"When do they think it happened, Simon?" Jim asked, looking around to try and pick up any evidence, but not seeing very much. He had found and marked several footprints in the dust of the shattered pottery, some of which were obviously from the security guards who had discovered the vandalism.
"Well, the cleaning crew finished at twelve-forty, and security came through and locked up at one-fifty. Dr. Chambers had told them that he would be there for another hour or so and that he'd make sure he locked up behind himself. They didn't come back through until five-fifteen, when they opened the buildings for the day. They only make three runs through here a night, at eight p.m., after the cleaning crews are through and again when they open up; but they check the outer doors twice more, at two and three-thirty, and everything was fine on the last run, until they opened. They just don't have the personnel to go through more often."
"No. Of course not," Blair muttered, bitter at the loss, even though he was no longer actively involved with the university.
"Easy, Chief," Jim murmured softly, placing a hand on his partner's shoulder. "One thing, Sir; the timing on the calls we got definitely does not free Ms Edwards from the possibility that she's the one who did this. In fact..." he walked over to the phone and, after checking that forensics had already dusted it for prints and found it to have been wiped clean, pressed the hands-free button and then redial. The phone at the other end rang four times, and then an answering machine picked up. Everyone looked up in surprise when they heard Jim's voice reciting that they were away from the phone right now, but that if they would leave a message, they would be sure to get back to them as soon as possible.
"Well, it's not proof, but it's pretty good circumstantial evidence. You have all of the calls you've gotten tonight on tape?" Simon was looking pleased at what might just turn out to be an open-and-shut case.
"Yes, Sir. Now, since this place is wired to an automated switchboard, we should be able to get the logs and find out what other times we were called from this phone. My guess is that they all were." Jim looked at his partner, seeing the dismay turn to disbelief, then to realization, to horror, and finally, to rage.
"I'll kill her." The venomous words from the usually mild and peace-loving Blair Sandburg took everyone aback. Every eye in the place turned to stare at him. His face was pale and there was a definite tremble to his entire body, but the rage in his eyes at the senseless destruction gave them all pause.
"Don't make me pull you from this case, Sandburg." Simon's warning brought the enraged blue eyes to focus on him. He took a half step back from the force of the glare. Never had he seen such anger from the gentle younger man.
"You won't, Sir." The deadly calm of the voice, combined with the bright, slightly dilated eyes caused Simon's breath to catch uneasily.
He turned to the voice. Lifting his eyes to his partner's, he was caught by the calm of his friend.
"Don't worry, as soon as we get the times from the system, we'll be able to take care of this, Chief. In the mean time..." Jim glanced up to see a couple of members of the Board of Regents outside the vandalized display room. "Why don't we go and talk to them?" He gestured towards the new arrivals. Blair turned his head and saw that Dr. Warner and Ms. Silverstein had arrived and were looking around in shocked dismay at all the damage.
His rage deserting him, Blair sagged a bit and nodded, unable or unwilling to bring his head up to look at those around him.
"I'm sorry to have had to drag you out so early in the morning," Simon began, shaking hands with the two board members, "But we needed someone to take charge, what with everything that's been going on."
"Perfectly understandable. Is there any word yet, on Robert?"
"No, Sir. Dr. Chambers was sent to Cascade General, but we have yet to hear anything. I've sent a detective to his home to notify his family..."
"His wife is out of town, visiting her mother, who is very ill. I have a number where she can be reached, and their children no longer live in town, I'm afraid you'll have to get the numbers from her." Ms Silverstein explained.
"Thank you. If you can think of anyone who might be able to tell us if anything is missing, in addition to the value of the objects destroyed...?"
"I'll have to contact the Dean of the department... oh. That would be Dr. Chambers, I..." Dr. Warner seemed at a loss for what to do.
"That's all right, Dr. Warner," Blair soothed, tentatively touching the older man's arm, "If you can tell me what might be new, I think I can probably start on a list. I recognize the pieces of the Mesopotamian Burial Urn, and there were some Anasazi bowls that are broken, as well as some baskets. I haven't really looked around, much, but..."
"Oh, thank you, Blair." Ms. Silverstein smiled at him. "I don't believe there have been any additions to this area in the past few months... Gordon?"
"Well, I think there were some new pieces brought back by Eli, but were they out here, yet?"
"Well, they also smashed up the lab, I'm afraid," Blair added, his misery in his body language as well as his voice.
"Oh. Then, I'm afraid that we'll have to get Eli down here. His people were doing most of the work on the new acquisitions, along with Dr. Chambers."
"Thank you. If you would be so kind as to have him check in with our forensics people before he gets started?" Simon was at his political best, solicitous of their feelings and in control of the officers working the crime scene.
"Oh, certainly. Perhaps..." Ms Silverstein looked hopefully at Blair, then, her face fell as she remembered that he was no longer a member of the Rainier staff.
"Sandburg, I'd like you to coordinate this for us." Simon's voice told Blair that it was because he was the best person for the job, not because he used to belong here. Blair simply nodded and turned to search for his partner, who had wandered away, probably following his own form of leads.
"Yes, Sir," Blair replied, a bit absently, as he searched harder for his partner. "Did you see where Jim went?"
"I thought he went into that lab room?" Simon replied uncertainly.
"Oh. Uh, I'll be right back." He looked up at the two members of the board, one of whom he already knew was partial to him, and the other who seemed grateful to have him here at this time. Smiling shyly at them, he turned and headed after his partner.
Blair waited, watching his partner curiously, as he seemed to be tracking something. His puzzlement increased as Jim seemed to be behaving like a cat that had found a mouse hole and was patiently waiting for his prey to emerge. Motioning for Blair to stay back, he pointed towards a large cabinet that was designed to hold some of the larger artifacts and protect them from dust and light damage from the fluorescent lighting. Simon, coming up behind Blair to see what was going on, recognized the symptoms of the predator on the prowl.
"What's he after, Sandburg?" Simon whispered.
"I think it might be a 'who' instead of a 'what', Captain."
The two members of the board, seeing them, followed them into the room. Jim cast a harsh glare at them, annoyed at the noise their soft footfalls were making, distracting him from his stalking. Slowly, several other officers came in, curious at the silent gathering. Finally, with eight extra people in the lab, Jim simply jerked open the door to the cabinet, revealing the disheveled Ms Edwards, cowering within, covered with pottery dust and blood. Blood that was not her own. And since Dr. Chambers had been the only person bleeding anywhere within the vicinity recently...
"She was angry with the board for not backing her 100% on Blair's dismissal, it would seem." Simon explained as they went over the reports a few weeks later. There had been more psych evaluations done, and the former Chancellor was deemed sane, in a legal sense, at least. She was perfectly aware of what she had done and simply seemed uncaring that she was hurting anyone else.
"But why make obscene phone calls to me?" Blair asked, totally at a loss.
"Because she blamed you for the trouble she was in. What Chambers and Warner said when we first caught her making that call to you, Chief. They'd been investigating her actions. It would seem that a very great many people complained about your dismissal. Only they didn't just complain to each other, a whole lot of them wrote letters to the Board of Regents, complaining that you were being railroaded. That the whole Fraud fiasco was none of your making, but due solely to the animosity of Edwards and a few jealous old professors who have long been known to be 'bribeable' for grades."
Blair shook his head. "I still don't get it."
"Don't worry, Sandburg. I don't know too many people who do. It would seem that several of the older members of the faculty, some with the most tenure, felt threatened by you. You taught some of the Anthropology 101 classes, and those sessions you taught always had waiting lists, while many of the other classes went unfilled." Simon took a sip of his coffee and looked at the youngest of his detectives, rather pointedly. "You were aware of that little fact, weren't you?"
"Uh, no. Not really. I didn't pay much attention to anyone else's class schedules. I was too busy..."
"Taking care of me." Jim interrupted. It was all well and good that Blair's thesis mess might be cleared up, but that brought back the worry that his guide would leave him and go back to academia and leave him alone to deal with his senses. As far as he was concerned, that was not an option.
"Well, yeah. That, too," Blair grinned. "But you don't have to worry, man. I'm not going anywhere. At least not in the near future."
"Yeah, but what about next month, or next year, Chief?"
Blair looked at his Sentinel, reading the words he couldn't say, he glanced for a moment at Simon and saw the same questions in his eyes, as well. He thought about it. He had choices to make. Important ones. He loved teaching, but hated the politics. He loved working with Jim and the other members of Major Crime, but hated the death and mayhem and violence. He would always be torn. Torn between the relative safety yet stagnant life in academia, and the whirlwind ride and danger of police work. He looked first at Simon, then at Jim, his eyes losing focus as he contemplated what he wanted. What was important.
They were both holding their breath. Watching the younger man. With all that was happening at Rainier, they were convinced that Blair was going to be offered the opportunity to return the conquering hero, his Doctorate, probably even a tenured position teaching... Something they both knew their friend truly loved. He could be safe from the danger that dogged his heels by being involved with the police, protected from most of the insanity that seemed to follow on the trail of James Ellison.
That's what it really came down to, after all. Sure, he loved to teach. He loved to see the light of understanding ignite in the eyes of a student. It was exciting, in a quiet, gentle way. The excitement and adrenaline rush of a car chase, the terror when up in the air, chasing bad guys from a helicopter, the excitement of putting his Sentinel through his paces...
The knowledge that he could make a difference.
Blair, totally unaware of the fear and consternation his continued silence brought to his friends, glanced through the glass wall of Simon's office and did what he did best. He observed. Megan was casting frequent glances toward them, as were Brown and Rafe. Each of them trying their best to not stare, not to question. Then there was Joel. He didn't bother trying to hide his feelings. He stared right at him, meeting his eyes. The worry plain on his broad face. Blair smiled. Turning back to Jim and Simon, he let the smile show to them, as well.
"There's really no decision to make, guys."
"You're going to get that Doctorate, right?" Jim asked, trying desperately, and futilely, to hide his pain.
"Well, yes. I'm going to get my Ph.D. I think I've worked hard enough for it, don't you?" His bland tone of voice seemed to tear holes in the fabric of Jim's control, and like a hot-air balloon, deflated him.
"Yeah. You have, Chief." He couldn't bring his eyes up to meet his friend's. He could feel his world crumbling around him. Oh, sure, they'd remain friends, but...
Jim felt he must have heard wrong. He glanced at Simon and, seeing his broad grin, looked at Blair, who was watching him, very closely.
"Staying. Right." Blair nodded, watching his partner, who had a dumbfounded expression on his face.
"What's to choose, Jim?" Understanding his friend's insecurity, he continued, explaining. "Sure, I could go back and teach again, and maybe someday, I will. But I always hated the politics involved with teaching, the whole tenure track thing. Here, I just have to do a good job, sure, sometimes, Politics raises its ugly head, but Simon's pretty good at taking care of the heat from that." Both men managed to ignore Simon's rather choked cough/laugh, they were too busy staring into each other's eyes, trying to read meaning and nuance.
"Hey, I'm still not ready to get off the roller coaster, Jim. Besides, why in the world would I want to leave my family in order to teach a bunch of uncaring, semi-literate at best freshmen, deal with the politics of the university, publish or perish, and all that paperwork... well, I guess the paperwork's about the same, but still..."
"Staying. Yes." Blair glanced again at their captain and saw his beaming smile. At least one of them got it.
"Thank you, Blair." Simon said, giving Jim a chance to absorb and understand, and wipe away some rather suspicious moisture from his eyes.
"Hey, I meant it. I'm going to do the 'Thin Blue Line' thesis. The one about closed societies. It's going to be a bit difficult, because I've gone native, but I don't think it's really going to be a problem." He grinned slyly at his friends. "And, just maybe, Sid will be even more interested in this one as a best seller. Proceeds to go to the Police Benevolent Society, of course."
"You think you'll get offered another three million?" Simon asked in surprise.
"Maybe even more. Because this time, I think I can use the names of my subjects and it's probably going to make just about everyone look good."
Jim gave him an uncertain look. "Are you sure, Chief?"
Blair reached over and patted Jim's arm, above where his fingers were trying to crush the arm of his chair. "Yeah. I'm sure, Jim. I'll let everyone read it before I submit it, of course. But I think..."
"You're really going to stay?"
Blair looked at his partner and understood. "Yeah. If you don't mind?"
Jim's smile could have lit the entire city on a dark and cloudy night. "Mind? No. I don't mind in the least."
"Good." He turned to glance again at the rest of his 'family'. "Well, in that case, I think we'd better put them out of their misery, don't you?"
"Yeah. I think that might be in order," Simon dryly replied.
For a Monday, the crew from Major Crime certainly seemed to all be in rather jovial moods. Everyone in the building seemed to notice. There wasn't one, single, word of annoyance or anger to be had from any single one of them. Not even Ellison, the man that everyone knew had the shortest fuse of any cop they knew. He just seemed to have this weird, silly grin plastered on his face. It was enough to make some people wonder what they put in their coffee, but whenever anyone asked, all they got was laughter in reply.
It had to be something in their coffee. Everyone knew that Captain Banks got his coffee special from some cousin. Whatever it was, they hoped the effects never wore off.
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