Like That Song


For a formal 'party', it wasn't that bad. He'd been stuck....gone to worse. Of course, he was working, not partying, but still... He watched as his target moved about the room, chatting with his guests, laughing and friendly. Not really what he'd expected, but then, people were seldom one sided. According to his employer, this was the meanest, coldest SOB on the face of the planet. He certainly didn't seem that way, but then, looks could be deceiving. He watched with cold, blue eyes as the man approached the only other person it the room who had caught his attention. The man was taller than his target, and his eyes were capable of causing frostbite with no trouble. Now, *that* one intrigued him, looking more like what he'd pictured his target to be. However, it wasn't his place to judge, only to perform his duties as executioner...

"Jimmy, I'm surprised to see you here, son," William Ellison was more than surprised, shocked was a much better term, but he certainly wasn't going to complain whenever his eldest son found time for him. The fact that Jimmy had dressed for the occasion didn't hurt, either.

"I heard you'd gotten some threats, Dad. I was wondering why you didn't call me, tell me. I can help, you know." James Ellison had long ago learned to mask his true feelings, something his father had taught him very well, indeed.

William waved a hand dismissively, "I've received threats before, Jimmy. This is nothing, believe me."

"I heard that they were signed 'the judge'," Jim countered. Looking around the room, his eyes took in everyone and everything. "What you may not know, Dad, is that there have been several deaths connected to threats received from him. He contracts hits on businessmen who don't meet his exacting standards..." he turned to lock his stern and forbidding gaze on his father, "What have you gotten yourself into, Dad?"

"I'm selling my business and retiring, Jimmy."

"To whom?"

"A big conglomerate. International Associated Businesses."

"Who are they?"

"Big enough that their offer was enough to make me decide to take the money and retire." William sighed, "I'm tired, Jimmy, I want to take the rest of my life a little more easily, is that such a bad thing?"

"No, Dad. I'm not judging you, but the fact that someone has targeted you and you didn't tell me, well, it bothers me, is all. And to get it from someone else, instead of my own father..."

"I'm sorry, Jimmy. I have no idea who might have reported it. It wasn't me. Maybe my secretary..."

"It was Sally. One of the threats came to her. She was scared and she called me. Yeah, your secretary reported them as well, but Sally called me and I checked it out. 'The judge' has been credited with the murders of fifteen businessmen, so far. Since they've been in all different cities and states, I had to go to NCIC to get any info. The FBI is very much interested. There's only one problem."

"What's that, son?" The information had him alert, he hadn't thought anything of the threats, himself. If what Jimmy said was true...and he didn't doubt for a moment that it was, then he was in trouble, and it could have been too late, if his son hadn't taken his housekeeper's concerns to heart.

"From what I've heard, your assassin is probably here, now, getting ready to kill you." Jim's eyes had been wandering, quartering, searching. His hearing extended, listening, sifting, deciphering... He turned his attention back to his father, "He's here, now. I need to get you out of here..."

"I can't leave my guests!" William protested.

"Which is worse? To desert your guests, or do die in front of them?" Jim's voice was soft, but there was steel beneath the calm. "I think they'll forgive your gaffe, once they understand why." His eyes began searching again.

"Jim?" The soft voice didn't distract him one bit, his focus intensified with the addition of his partner, Blair Sandburg.

"He's here, Chief. I know it."

"Use your sense of smell, man."

That broke his concentration for a moment, "Are you crazy? Here? With all the food, perfumes, cologne..."

"Gun oil?" The younger man reminded him. "You can ignore the normal smells, man. Look for what's out of place. If you're right and this guy is a pro, he's going to have the scent of gun oil on him, no matter how much he's bathed or cologne he's wearing."

Shaking his head, Jim turned his attention outward once more. With the arrival of his partner, they were effectively blocking his dad from anyone wanting to take a shot at him...and so far, all the victims *had* been shot, generally in the midst of a crowd, just like now. He sighed, closing his eyes and using his nose...

Son of a gun. Sandburg had done it again. His eyes snapped open, homing in on the target his nose had picked out. Tall man, alone, well dressed and blending in, only he wasn't eating, drinking or chatting... "Bingo. Got him, Chief. Call in the cavalry while I get closer."

"Sure, as soon as you point him out to me," Blair agreed, William watched them silently, amazed at the ease with which they communicated and worked together, like the chain and sprocket on a bicycle.

Jim had started to move, his head turned away from his target, "Tall guy, middle aged, alone, no food, no drink...I'm going to work my way closer. Tell Simon, and take my dad with you!" he added insistently as he moved through the milling crowd.

He debated whether to make this one more or less shocking. If there was going to be speeches, that would have been perfect, the target taking the podium was always a scenario he found hard to resist, but this was simply a party, very formal, but still... Ah, at last, the tall, dangerous looking man left the target. Not quite alone, yet. Still accompanied by a smaller, much younger man. Seeing the way the young man moved, he wondered who he might be, one of the sons, perhaps? Seemed a bit young for that, a lover? Possibly, the man had the looks for it... Not his concern, if only the kid would get out of his way, he'd take his shot and be gone in the confusion. His annoyance grew when the younger man grasped his target's arm and led him from the room... Frowning, he followed, discretely, or so he thought.

"It'll be okay, Mr. Ellison. Jim knows what he's doing. You'll see. Please, come with me while I contact our captain. He's waiting for us..."

"Are you saying that there is a contingent of policemen outside right now, waiting for Jimmy to tell them to come in with their guns blazing? What will my guests think?"

Blair stared, "Well, considering the alternative, you being killed in front of everyone, I think I'd prefer the cops, myself. Please, I can't leave you here, if anything happened to you because I left you alone, Jim would kill me...providing Simon didn't do it first. Please? It'll just be a few minutes, I promise. If this works the way we hope it will, your guests will never know anything about it, okay?"

He didn't like the idea, but couldn't see any way around it, sighing disgustedly, he nodded and allowed the younger man to guide him through the door, not realizing that Blair made very sure to keep his charge covered by his own body.

Jim was close enough to hear the man curse under his breath. Target located, firmly fixed in his sights. Jim looked the man over, expensively dressed, he fit right in with this crowd. Except for his behavior, he'd have to point that out to him, when he arrested him. Despite the assassin's care, he didn't notice that he'd acquired a tail, but then, the way the party was going, it wasn't really too surprising. After all, he'd already done this successfully at least fifteen times already. He had no reason to expect this time to be any different.

He followed his target, hoping that the young man with him wasn't too traumatized when his companion died... But knowing the resiliency of the young, particularly those in what he assumed were the young man's profession, he didn't expect him to grieve for very long, especially if he was in his target's will...

Ah, they were talking to one of the help, possibly one of their security people. His target was off to one side by himself. Excellent. He could take him out now, slip back into the party and no one would know... He slid his tiny little gun out of his pocket. Many people laughed that he used the little Beretta .25 with the silencer, but it was small, easily concealed, and with his skill...very, very deadly.

Got you, you bastard, Jim thought as he saw the man reach for his gun. He stepped silently forward and wrapped his hand around the man's, easily taking the weapon from him. "You are under arrest, you have the right..." he was glad he'd kept hold of him. When the man attempted to rabbit, he simply held on, spun him around and right into Simon's arms.

As Blair pulled out his cuffs and helped the captain restrain their suspect, Jim continued, "Uh, You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, you have the right to an attorney, if you so desire and cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed..."

Within ten minutes, the assassin, deeply in shock, wondering how they'd managed to catch him, was on his way to the city jail. Captain Banks congratulated his people and took off, smiling as he paused on the steps to light his cigar. It was always nice to stop the bad guys *before* they finished their dastardly deeds.


Jim turned back, "Yeah, Dad?"

"Thank you, son. I-I didn't take the threats seriously."

Blair, seeing his partner was busy with his father, slipped into the party, picked up a couple of plates and dished up some of the goodies for himself and his partner to nibble on back at the station while they worked on their reports. When he spotted Sally, he smiled and approached.

"You were right, Sally. We got the guy. With any luck, we'll get anyone else that's involved."

"Thank you, Mr. Blair. Is Mr. Ellison all right?"

"He's fine, a bit shaken, but not hurt. Jim got the guy before he had a chance to do any more than get his gun out. He's already gone. Jim and his dad are talking, so I thought I'd come in here and grab us some munchies. That's all right, isn't it?"

"Come with me." Sally led the way to the kitchen, where she pulled out several plastic storage containers and began stuffing them with the various goodies, including one entire bowl filled with caviar and a box of melba toast. Then, thinking, she exchanged the melba toast for some water crackers, explaining, "Jimmy likes these better." She placed all the containers in a pair of plastic grocery bags and handed them to him.

"But, won't you need these for your guests?"

"It won't be missed, and it will save me time cleaning up. Mr. Ellison doesn't like leftover party food, and I know that you will share it with the people you work with. I can't thank you enough for believing me and coming out and making sure..."

Blair smiled and leaned down to give her an awkward hug, "You did exactly the right thing, Sally. Jim would have been devastated if anything had happened to his dad and he hadn't been able to do anything to prevent it. As it is, we got one over on the Feds...they were planning on sending someone on Monday. That would have been two days too late. Of course, if you hadn't called on Wednesday..."

The older woman shuddered at the thought. "We were very lucky, weren't we."

"Well, I think we also had something extra on our side. Jim's pretty hard to get past when he sets his mind on something, you know."

She smiled and patted his arm, "Yes, and he has good friends to help him, as well."

Blair beamed at the praise, "Well, that, too..."

"You're welcome, Dad. If you ever receive any kind of threat again, I want you to call me, understand?" He was unaware of how stern and disapproving he sounded.

"I-I will, son. Can you stay? Just for a while?"

Jim shook his head, "I can't, Dad. I need to get back to the station and write up my reports."

"When will you have time, son?" William couldn't keep the plaintiveness out of his voice.

"I don't know, Dad..." Jim's brow furrowed, a sense of dj vu coming over him.

Blair came back in time to hear the last exchange. "Sounds like that Harry Chapin song."

The two older men turned to him, matching expressions of puzzlement on their faces. Seeing their confusion, he explained, most of his focus on his partner, but including his friend's father, as well.

"The song 'Cat's Cradle', by Harry Chapin. The one about the man, all the time his son was growing up, he was busy making a living, getting ahead, he missed out on all the stuff of his son growing up. He gives him a ball for his tenth birthday and then can't or won't take the time out to go out and play catch with him. He's constantly promising to get together with him later, only later never comes. His son keeps saying 'I'm gonna be like you, Dad, I'm gonna grow up just like you.'

"Eventually, the son grows up, and when his father wants to spend time with him, his son doesn't have the time, any more. He's too busy doing his own things. Finally, after asking his son to come and visit him, after he's retired, he realizes that his son *has* grown up to be just like him, too busy with his business to take time out for his family..." he looked between the two men, father and son. He shrugged, turning his attention to William, "You were always busy with your business, you didn't take the time out to go to games, to play with your sons, now they've grown up and you never see them, they're too busy with their work, their own lives to take time out for you, just the way you taught them." He turned to his partner, "You've complained that your dad never seemed to have any time for you, but now you don't make time for him, either. Think about it. If Sally hadn't called Wednesday, what would have happened? You don't have forever, man. Take the time. If not now, then soon. Before it really is too late."

Suddenly embarrassed, Blair ducked his head and sidled past the two men and headed for the door. "I'll, um, meet you in the truck, Jim," and he turned tail and practically ran from the house.

The pair of Ellison men stood regarding one another for a moment. William broke eye contact first, "He's right, you know."

"He often is."

William looked up, surprised by the bemused expression on his son's face. "He's very important to you."

"Yeah, he is." He looked at his father, consideringly. "He accepts me as I am. The only changes he wants from me are the ones that will, in the long run, make me happier and better."

"Your senses."

"Among other things," he got a far-away look in his eyes, "He also makes sure I take some time off just for myself, once in a while, he can be rather pushy when he feels the need, but he's always got what's good for me in mind."

"Not like me, eh?" There was a trace of bitterness in William's tone.

Jim shook his head. "I can't imagine what it must have been like, trying to raise a freak like me, Dad. You did the best you could. But he's right, you were always more concerned with business than you were with Steven or me. In that sense, we *have* grown up to be just like you. Steven and I get together three, maybe four times a year, as his business and my caseload permit...and we see you, what, twice a year? Your birthday and Christmas? Very cold, very formal dinner parties." Jim looked away from his father, his jaw clenching. "It's not enough!" He looked back, his pain showing in his eyes, "It's not enough. I-I-I still want to spend time with my dad, but you still don't seem to have time, then, when you do, you still don't call me. I can only take so much rejection, Dad. Blair's right. In that sense, I *have* grown up to be like you. But I don't know how to change it, do you?"

William thought that was the longest speech he'd ever heard from his son. Even longer than the one when he joined the Army...

"I was wrong, Jimmy. But I was right, too...the newspapers, when all that crap about your senses came out..."

"Don't go there, Dad," Jim's voice was brittle with warning. "Sandburg gave everything up to give me back my life the way I wanted it...don't you dare..."

"No. No! That's not what I meant." William backpedaled, his hands coming up defensively, "I still believe that I was right to try to protect you. I-I-I never meant to hurt you, son. I-I love you..."

Jim's aggressive/defensive stance wilted, his shoulders slumping and his head dropping, his gaze going to the floor, "I love you, too, Dad." He looked up, agony in his eyes, "but why can't we...I don't know. Why can't we be friends, too? Or at least talk civilly to one another?"

William could suddenly see his son the way he was growing up, trying so hard to gain his approval, but never quite reaching the pinnacle... "Maybe if we met on neutral ground somewhere? Dinner out once in a while?"

"Dad, I don't like the country club scene..."

"No, no...how about the steak house? Or, or... pizza? Maybe something else?" He could see his son drifting away, out of his life. In the past couple of years, they'd been forced together a few times, but he wanted his son back in his life. Any way he could. That had been the real reason behind the selling of his business and retiring. He wanted to spend more time with his sons...and he never would as long as he still owned the business...

Jim could see his father's struggles. They were so different in so many ways, but Blair had been right, as well, they were also a great deal alike. Leave it to his partner to see...

"I-I-I'd like to try, Dad, I really would."

"Can we, Jimmy? Can we at least try?" There was a trace of hope in the older Ellison's voice.

"We won't know unless we do, Dad," Jim replied, hearing a definitely Sandburgian voice in the back of his mind.

"When?" William was anxious to get something firmly set up.

"Let me..."

"Bill? Come on, man, your guests are asking where you went!" The woman had obviously been drinking. Definitely part of the country club crowd.

"I've got to go, Dad. I'll call you, soon, I promise!"

Jim made his escape, leaving his father behind, devastated.

Jim gratefully climbed in the truck, sighing.

"So, you going to get together with your dad?"

"I told him I'd call him."

Blair didn't like the sound of that. "Oh? Why didn't you make a date now?"

"One of his guests came looking for him."

"Jim...." There was a disapproving tone in that voice that made Jim flinch.

"I'll call him, okay?"

"I've got a better idea, your secretary can call his secretary and set you both up with an appointment," Blair said with extreme sarcasm.

Jim flinched. "Ouch. Okay, I'll call him later, will that satisfy you?"



"How close did he come to dying, today?"

Jim had started the engine to his truck and was about to put it in gear. With those soft words, he stiffened, his knuckles going white on the steering wheel. His face paled and he turned to his friend, horror on his face.

"That's pretty close, man. The reports can wait. Go on back and talk to him. At least get a date set up for dinner or something, okay?"

How could Sandburg be so calm and reasonable? Jim shivered. It *had* been close...too close. Absently, he reached down and turned off the truck. Getting slowly out, he murmured softly, "I'll be back in a few..."

"I'll be here, partner. Waiting patiently." Blair grinned into his partner's face as his friend lifted his head to look at him.

"It's okay, Jim. Go on. See the man."

"Thanks, Chief."

"You're welcome. Go."

Jim went.

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