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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...
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
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?"
my business and retiring, Jimmy."
"A big conglomerate.
International Associated Businesses."
"Who are they?"
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..."
sorry, Jimmy. I have no idea who might have reported it. It wasn't me. Maybe my
"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
"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.
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
"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
"Use your sense of smell, man."
That broke his concentration
for a moment, "Are you crazy? Here? With all the food, perfumes, cologne..."
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
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
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.
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..."
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.
were right, Sally. We got the guy. With any luck, we'll get anyone else that's
"Thank you, Mr. Blair. Is Mr. Ellison all right?"
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
"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
"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
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."
smiled and patted his arm, "Yes, and he has good friends to help him, as well."
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.
don't know, Dad..." Jim's brow furrowed, a sense of dj vu coming over him.
came back in time to hear the last exchange. "Sounds like that Harry Chapin song."
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.
pair of Ellison men stood regarding one another for a moment. William broke eye
contact first, "He's right, you know."
"He often is."
up, surprised by the bemused expression on his son's face. "He's very important
"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."
"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?"
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..."
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..."
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?"
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
"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
"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.
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
"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!"
made his escape, leaving his father behind, devastated.
climbed in the truck, sighing.
"So, you going to get together with your
"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
"Jim...." There was a disapproving tone in that voice that made
"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?"
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."
"You're welcome. Go."
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