This is for the sibs on Cascade Times, particularly Mpala, who brought up Cassie and the question why everyone dislikes her so much, and for Angie, who needs some relief from real life, right now. This is based on a real-life incident from my checkered and sordid past and some of it is from what some of my friends have done. Just remember, this is for fun, not profit. I'm still grateful for the creators/owners of the intellectual property of The Sentinel for not suing me for taking their characters and using them to entertain my friends and acquaintances. As always, thanks to Wolfpup for providing me such a nice home on the net. I think I'm going to hit my goal even sooner than expected, with any luck at all.



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"No. No way, Sir. I am not taking on some rookie fresh from college, who hasn't even been through the academy. No." Jim was fuming. He had a partner. One he could depend on, one he trusted. There was absolutely no way he was going to play nursemaid to some wet-behind-the-ears...

"He's the mayor's nephew," Simon's tone was one of commiseration, but there was no way he was going to let his detective off the hook. "And you know what that means."

Unfortunately, Jim did know what it meant. "What about Sandburg?"

"He's still your partner. Just try to keep a lid on that temper of yours. I guess the kid is supposed to be some kind of college-graduate hotshot. Of course, that's what the mayor says..." They both knew how much they could trust that particular politician's word.

"Why me?" Jim's plaintive tone almost made his captain laugh, only he understood just how much the detective hated things like this.

"You know the answer to that, too. Cop of the Year, three years running. I'm not sure whether the Mayor is hoping you screw up, or if he really thinks he's doing you a favor, but either way, you're the stuckee on this."

"Great. When does the wunderkind arrive?"

Simon looked up past Jim, through the glass walls of his office, and announced, "Right now."

Jim craned his neck to see the new arrival. Great. Kid was wearing a navy blue suit, complete with striped tie. Looked like a Fan Belt Inspector, as Joel called the misfits the FBI tended to saddle them with. With a final glare at his captain, he rose and strode out, his expression grim and put-upon.

"You the mayor's nephew?" he asked without preamble.

"Yes. I'm Marcus Ward. You must be Detective Ellison?" The young man held out his hand. Reluctantly, Jim shook it, unsurprised to discover that the young man's handshake was as limp and insipid as the day before yesterday's fish.

"Yeah. I'm Ellison," he glanced at his partner, who had come up beside the visitor. "This is my partner, Detective Sandburg." His lack of use of their first names told Blair that the visitor was an unwelcome one. Deciding to play along, Blair merely smiled at the newcomer.

"How do you do?" Ward asked, extending his hand, "Marcus Ward. I'm here to do a ride- along with Detective Ellison."

"Hi. Ride-along, huh?" he glanced at his partner, wondering why he hadn't been included in the briefing. He also managed to ignore his desire to wipe his hand on his clothes after shaking the man's hand. "You a Fed?" he asked, looking at the younger man's suit.

"Oh, no. I'm just here for some experience. I'm supposed to go to work as an investigator for the DA' s office. They just thought that I should do a week or two with Major Crime, first." The man seemed oblivious to the impression he was making. The other detectives in the bullpen were glancing at him strangely and walking a wide path around him, as though they might become contaminated by too close contact with him.

"Oh, that's nice." Blair looked up at his partner and asked the question with his eyes, Jim shrugged and gave him a 'we'll talk later' look. Nodding, Blair turned away, letting his partner handle this.

He insisted that they call him Marcus, but wasn't invited to call them by their first names. Jim took to calling their guest by his last name, and Blair and the others followed suit. Most of the morning was spent trying to bore the young man to death with reports, but he seemed to have a comment and suggestion for everything.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just type your report in all capitals? That way, you don't have to worry about whether or not a word should be capitalized."

"All caps is like shouting. No one likes to be yelled at, Mr. Ward," Blair reminded him in a bland voice.


"We type our reports the way the powers that be want them. It's not up to us to change it. Back in the days when we wrote reports by hand, it was different. All caps made it easier for people to read, but those days are long gone." Jim's patience was wearing thin. It seemed that Mr. Ward had an opinion on everything, from the way his desk was laid out to the best way to drink coffee. And his way was the only way things should be done. Unfortunately, the only impression he was making wasn't winning him any friends and the only influence was the firm desire to do the opposite of his 'suggestions'. He was grateful that Simon chose that moment to motion him into his office and he quickly rose and left his current headache matching wits with his partner. Too bad Marcus was unarmed.

"Well, I think..."

"Really?" Blair blurted out, his voice conveying surprise. "I suppose that the generations of cops that have gone on before us, who tried just about every method and decided on the current ones were all wrong and that we should all immediately stop and reconfigure to your standards, no matter who we piss off?"

Ward looked surprised at the vehemence in Blair's tone of voice, "Well..."

"Let's go, Chief. We've got a floater," Jim announced, coming back from the captain's office. With a momentary grimace, Blair stood up and reached for his jacket, automatically following his partner; not waiting to see if their ride-along followed or not.

Because of the additional person, Jim had checked out a departmental sedan. Blair covered his grin as he climbed in the front seat, forcing their 'guest' to ride in the rear. Jim made no comment as they made their way to Bayside Park, where the body had washed up and been found by an elderly man who had been out for his daily stint with his metal detector.

Once on the scene, Blair was careful to stay back, letting his partner take charge; besides, he had no desire to look too closely at the body, not after it had spent several days in the water, anyway.

The body was still partly in the water. Jim crouched down to take a look. Marcus was right beside him, peering eagerly at his first dead body. He was, of course, full of suggestions.

"It looks like he was beaten to death," he began. Blair, out of Marcus' line of sight, merely shook his head. Even he knew that the bloating and discoloration was caused by the extended immersion in water. "Look at the bruises on his face."

Jim cast an annoyed glance at the idiot they'd saddled him with, but didn't bother to correct him, simply continued his own examination. Marcus didn't even bother to put on latex gloves as he reached toward the body.

"Don't try to move him," Jim warned, but it was too late. Marcus had grabbed the floater's arm and pulled, trying to turn the body for a better look. The expression on his face as the arm came loose from the corpse with a nauseating sound was almost worth it. Blair had turned away and covered his ears, knowing what would happen, and started humming to himself as he looked up the beach. Jim merely gritted his teeth and held himself in check. Poor Marcus, his expression horrified, dropped the arm and spun to spew the contents of his stomach on the sand. Blair moved a few steps upwind and looked toward the parking lot, where the coroner's van had just pulled in.

Jim shifted upwind, as well, and silently continued his examination. "We won't know anything until we get the M.E.'s report." He said. "Let's get some pictures and explain the damage to the body before we let them take him."

Blair pulled out a small, idiot-proof camera and took several pictures, getting the body from all angles. He kept his teeth gritted and didn't really look, merely letting the camera do the work. As the coroner's men came up, dragging the gurney through the soft sand, Jim stripped off his latex gloves and carefully put them in a zip-lock bag for disposal.

"He's all yours. Send the report to Ellison, Major Crime, OK?"

"Yes, Sir."

It was after eleven when they got back to the sedan. Jim had not said a single word to his ride-along since warning him not to touch the body. The man had at least had the presence of mind to be carrying a small bottle of anti-bacterial cleanser in his pocket. He used the entire bottle, washing his hands, over and over. If he'd had a bigger bottle, he'd have used it all, as well.

With a glance at his partner, Jim announced that they were going to stop for lunch. He didn't ask where they wanted to go, merely drove to where he wanted to eat. Once inside the small greasy-spoon caf,, he led them to a booth and sat, choosing to sit facing the door, Blair slid in beside him, leaving Marcus with his back to the door. Blair had a sneaking suspicion that his partner was up to something, and figured to play along.

The waitress arrived, smiling. "Hey, Detectives, haven't seen you in here in a while. How're things?"

"Same old, same old," Jim smiled up at her. She was probably a few years older than he was, but they always flirted in a friendly manner. "How've you been?"

"Oh, you know me, slingin' hash for the boys in blue." She winked at Jim and ruffled Blair's curls, "I see it's growin' back okay," she said. Blair just smiled at her. "So, what'll it be?"

"Uh, let's see," Jim pretended to read the menu and Blair realized that something was definitely up.

"You know, I'm in kind of a strange mood... can you make me a scrambled egg and hash sandwich, open face, with catsup?" Jim smiled up at her.

She caught his wink. Without missing a beat, she replied, "Sure can, sweetie. How about you, Chief?" she asked Blair.

Swallowing hard, Blair glanced first at Jim and then across at Marcus. He'd heard about this, but had never been subjected to it. Realizing that he had the honor of his friend and partner at stake, he smiled up at her and placed an order he normally would have never requested.

"I'd like some of that hash, too, along with some potato salad and..." he thought hard, what else? "Do you still have biscuits and gravy available?"

"Sure do, Chief," she'd been here for many years. She'd been party to some of the worst practical jokes known to be perpetrated on rookies, and this guy in the suit must be a really bad one, to have both of these guys on his case.

"What about you, mister?" she turned to the suit.

"Uh, I'd like a hamburger and fries, with a Coke, please." He obviously hadn't really listened to his companion's orders, or he'd probably have already made a mad dash for the men's room.

"Got it. You boys want coffee?"

"Yes, Lucy, thank you." Jim replied for them both.

Knowing what was planned, Blair prepared himself mentally for the upcoming ordeal. He'd been careful to avoid any close perusal of the floater, so he thought he could handle what they were about to do. He saw Jim's smile as he heard Lucy repeating their orders to the cook.

Marcus chose that moment to stand up and ask, "Where's the restroom?" Jim pointed and watched as Marcus headed for the door.

"What was so funny?" Blair asked as soon as Marcus was out of earshot.

"She told Charlie that she had a 'floater special' and a new version of same, as she told him what you ordered."

"Oh, man. This is so cold." Blair had to stifle a giggle.

"Hey, my first DB was a shotgun suicide. My T.O. took me out to breakfast and ordered scrambled brains and eggs, and he covered it in catsup."

"Oh, man..." Blair had to swallow hard, "Let's not go there, okay?"

"Sorry, Chief." He looked up as Lucy came over with their coffee.

"Thank you, Lucy," Blair said, "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Chief."

"Why do you call me 'Chief', and Jim 'Sweetie'?"

"Well, I call most people 'sweetie' but I've never heard you called anything but 'Chief', so..." She looked the younger man in the eyes, her smile warm and teasing.

"Oh! I'm sorry, it's Blair, Blair Sandburg." He beamed up at her.

"Very nice to finally meet you, Blair. Now, how bad do you want to do this guy?"

"Just enough to maybe shut him up for the rest of the time we're stuck with him," Jim said, smiling at her.

"Right," she looked at Blair, "If you mix your potato salad with the hash, it's pretty tasty, and generally gets a good reaction..." She straightened up as Marcus made his way back to the booth, his hands still damp from washing.

To give him credit, Marcus managed to not embarrass himself when he saw what his companions were eating. He did turn pale, and a little green around the gills, but he did manage to keep the meager contents of his stomach at bay. He found, however, that he was unable to eat his hamburger, and was barely able to drink his Coke. Jim and Blair made a production out of their meals, obviously enjoying every morsel. Jim, who almost never used catsup, poured it over his sandwich and ate every bite as though it was the best thing he'd ever eaten. Blair, likewise, mixed his potato salad in with his hash, then even added some of the gravy from his biscuits to the mix. After a couple of bites, he also added a bit of catsup to the as well. He found it surprisingly tasty. Not that he planned on ever having such a melange ever again.

Marcus had to ask for a 'to go' box, which held his hamburger and fries in separate compartments. He smiled a rather sickly smile at the cheerful waitress and left a very generous tip, despite what his companions had done to him. He didn't realize that he'd been had; he simply thought that the two men had very strange tastes.

Returning to the station, they went upstairs to Major Crime and, after reporting in, returned to their desks to begin their preliminary reports. Fortunately, Marcus remained silent for the remainder of the day, struggling with keeping his insides where they belonged.

At five-thirty, Jim called an end to their day. He'd deliberately caught up with all his paperwork, rather than actually take their visitor out in public again. He wasn't sure how long he was going to be able to take Marcus' foolishness, but he was going to try.

As they drove home, Jim said, "Thanks for backing me up at the restaurant, today, Chief."

"Hey, as soon as I heard your order, I knew what you were doing. I'm impressed, though. I don't think I'd have been able to keep anything down in those circumstances."

"He didn't, Chief. When he went to the restroom, he had a case of dry heaves and probably washed his hands a dozen times, trying to wash the idea of having touched the floater with his bare hands."

"Not to mention what happened when he did..." Blair muttered, swallowing hard. "You know I nearly lost it, too, don't you?"

"Yeah. I know. That's OK, though, Chief. You did just fine. I'm proud of you." With those words, Jim reached across and tousled his friend's hair.

"Thanks, man. One thing, though, please?"

"What's that?"

"No more grease until he's gone? I don't think my system can take any more grease after that lunch, man."

Jim laughed, and after a moment, Blair joined in. They stopped off and bought their dinner at their favorite Chinese restaurant, Blair opting for all vegetarian dishes, while Jim chose some lighter fare, as well.

Obviously, Marcus didn't have to work the same hours as the detectives he was supposed to be riding along with. He sauntered in a little after ten, the next morning. Jim and Blair had already done a good bit of work, by that time. The coroner's report had come in. The floater had died of a heart attack. They were doing a search of missing persons up the coast, as the prevailing currents would have pushed the body south.

He was wearing a charcoal gray suit with a red tie, this time. Had they been other than they were, Jim and Blair might have felt under dressed. As it was, they were comfortable in their denim and plaid and paid no mind to the clotheshorse appearance of their burden.

"Don't bother taking off your coat," Jim admonished as Marcus strolled in, "We're on our way to follow up on a couple of cases."

Again, Blair grabbed the front seat, leaving the larger man to squeeze into the rear of the sedan. Jim grinned as he pulled out of the garage. He was wondering how long it was going to take the kid to complain to his uncle, but decided to worry about that when it happened.

This time, Marcus was wise enough to simply watch and listen as Jim and Blair worked their magic on some possible suspects. Blair, with his enthusiasm and youth seemed to invite confidences from people. Jim, on the other hand, with his imposing presence and stern expression, provided the perfect counterpoint. As they returned to the car, Marcus couldn't resist pointing it out.

"You two were made for playing 'good cop, bad cop', you know that?"

With a weary sigh, Jim exchanged a glance with his partner and replied. "Gee, you think?" then shook his head and started the car. As they were going down the street, the radio crackled to life as they received a call from dispatch.

"One David Six, there's been a burglary at the warehouse, One-one-one-oh-one, White Rock Road. See the manager, Ms Tomlinson."

"Roger that, Dispatch. Proceeding to one-one-one-oh-one, White-wock-woad." Blair replied into the microphone, giggling and repeating, "I mean White Rock Road."

They all heard the dispatcher laughing as she replied, "Hey I had to practice before I could say it." She admitted. Even Marcus chuckled at the tongue twister.

The warehouse was a modern building, less than five years old. It was a prefabricated poured concrete edifice, two stories tall, with no windows on the ground floor, and nice, windowed offices on the second floor. They were met by Ms Tomlinson as they walked up to the main loading dock doors.

Jim spoke first. "Ms Tomlinson? I'm Detective Ellison and this is my partner, Detective Sandburg and our ride-along, Marcus Ward."

The woman shook his offered hand, nodding to the other two men. "Thank you for coming so quickly. We were supposed to be closed today, but I forgot some personal papers in my office and came in. When I arrived, I noticed that the security guard wasn't at his post and that the loading dock was standing open. I immediately called the police. I haven't been inside, as I'm not sure if they're still here, or not."

"Yes, Ma'am. That was a wise decision." Turning to his partner, he asked, "Call for a couple of units, will you, Chief? With a place this size, I think we can use the extra help in looking for intruders." Smiling at the woman, he then asked, "I'd like you to stay outside, here, if you will. Are the offices kept locked?"

"Oh, yes. Here," she offered him her key ring, on which were perhaps a dozen keys. "I have the master set of keys," she explained, "my father is the owner of the business and I'm his executive officer." She watched in concern as Jim took the keys and nodded, turning toward the open warehouse.

"How many guards do you employ on a shift, Ms Tomlinson?"

"Two per shift. That way, there is supposed to always be one at the door while the other makes the clock run."

"What's a clock run?" Marcus asked. Jim scowled at him, but didn't say anything, leaving it to Ms Tomlinson to explain.

"We use DETEX Clocks. They're a round, heavy clock, with a keyhole in the bottom. Inside, is a 24-hour chart. The guard goes through the building, stopping at pre-arranged locations where there are keys affixed to the wall. They put the key in the clock, and it punches the paper, indicating what time they were there. It's really quite simple."

Seeing the question on Marcus' face, Jim continued, "The guards walk through the building, looking for anything out of the ordinary. The keys just let management know what time they were at a particular spot and that they actually were walking through the building."

Turning back to Ms Tomlinson, he continued, "How many keys do you use in your system?"

"There are fifteen, in total. Two in the basement, seven upstairs in the offices, and six here it the warehouse proper."

"Thank you." Jim turned away and walked a short distance into the warehouse. Extending his hearing, he filtered out the background noises of the air exchange equipment and the people here with him. Searching, he was unable to find any sound of anyone alive in the building. He turned to look at his partner as Blair stepped up beside him, shaking his head at the question in his eyes. Moments later, they watched as two patrol cars pulled up outside. Waiting for the officers to join them, Jim took a look at the overhead door, searching for signs of forced entry.

"What do you have, Detective?" the first patrolman asked, looking curiously at the young man in the suit.

"Possible burglary. We need to search the building, the two security guards are missing and the manager here found the building open like this. I need you to cover the exits, just in case, while we go through the building."

"Sure thing." The officer replied, turning to share the assignment with his fellow officers. Leading the way, Jim headed into the building, with Blair and Marcus close behind him.

Jim didn't bother to have his gun out, his sensitive hearing had already informed him that there was no one on the ground floor. Still, he did a quick search, finding nothing. Taking the stairs, he went up to check out the offices. Once again, nothing seemed out of place, nor was anybody there. Returning to the stairs, he led the way down to the basement. He listened cautiously as he slowly opened the door. The noise of the machinery that worked the air-exchange system prevented him from hearing whether anyone else was down there. Seeing Blair's expression, he shook his head and carefully led the way.

Following the paths between the machinery, he cautioned the others, "Don't step on the dead mouse." Blair looked, but in the darkness of the basement, was unable to see any sign of it, but he stepped to the other side of the walkway. Marcus looked surprised, but simply shrugged, trailing along behind the two detectives.

Reaching one corner, Jim turned around and again attempted to extend his hearing. Finally, with Blair's hand unconsciously gripping his arm, he was able to filter out the noise of all the machines and pick out the very human sound of a soft groan. Piggy-backing his vision on his hearing, he was able to locate where the sound was coming from.

Backtracking, he stopped abruptly when Marcus said, "Where the hell's this G*D**dead mouse?"

Jim turned back, and looked at the young man following him. Raking his eyes up and down the offending creature, he growled, "Three inches behind your right heel." Marcus looked down and was able to barely make out the tiny, mummified remains of a small, brown, mouse.

"I thought you were talking about a rat!" he exclaimed, holding his hands about a foot apart to indicate size.

Jim sighed, "No, I said a mouse," he held his thumb and index finger about an inch and a half apart, the actual dimensions of the tiny corpse, "Little-bitty mousie, not a rat." Shaking his head, he turned to continue his search for whoever had groaned. Blair, mimicking Jim's shaking head, followed his partner, leaving the nonplussed Marcus to bring up the rear.

Jim held out one hand, silently cautioning the others to stay back. Blair stopped immediately and had to reach out to stop Marcus from crowding up. Silently, Jim crept up beside the huge air-transfer machine. He peered around the corner and immediately stepped out and hurried over to the figure he found laying on the floor.

"Call for paramedics and an ambulance, Chief. He's been clubbed." While Blair attempted to make the call, Jim gently probed the fallen man's injury. "He's trying to come to," Jim muttered to his companions. "Easy. Take it easy. I'm a cop. Detective Ellison, this is my partner, Detective Sandburg. Can you open your eyes for me?"

The guard blinked in the semi-darkness, his expression was confused and pained. "Where's Monte?" he asked. "He was right behind me, and then..." his eyes widened in understanding. "Monte hit me?"

"Well, we haven't found him, so it's quite possible. Do you have any idea why he would want to hurt you?"

"No, I..."

"Jim? The phone won't work down here. I'm going to go upstairs and make the call from there. I'll send the paramedics down when they arrive and let the others know what's going on."

Jim nodded, his attention primarily focused on the injured guard. He spoke soothingly to the injured man, gently questioning him as to what happened. The man was confused and couldn't understand why his colleague would have hit him. The DETEX Clock still lay by his side, the face was broken and the clock had stopped. If it was correct, the man had been unconscious for nearly two hours. Plenty of time for 'Monte' to have gotten away.

Marcus kept looking around, curious. He noticed that the guard was unarmed and couldn't help asking, "Why don't you wear a gun?"

"It's against company policy," the guard replied.

"But, aren't you afraid in this big building all alone?"

"Not usually. It's not generally dangerous."

"You're kidding?"

"Nah, really. Generally, if you're on a clock run, you're just looking for stuff that's out of the ordinary. I've been a guard for ten years and this is the only time I've been hurt, well, except for the time I fell off the dock, that is."

"Easy," Jim reminded the injured man, "By the way, what's your name?"

"Chuck Patterson." He looked back up at Marcus and continued, "Like I said, it's not usually dangerous,"

"But what if there was any trouble?"

"Well, the clock weighs three pounds and it's on a two foot long strap. If someone's there, you can hit them with it, if they're a little further away, you can throw it at them, and if they're any further away than that, you can run away from them." Chuck struggled to sit up.

Jim helped him, knowing that the man had to have a pretty bad concussion to have been unconscious for such a long time. He was gentle with the man, impressed despite his normal feeling toward security guards as simply cop wannabes. This guy, despite what had to be a killer headache on top of the feelings of betrayal by his fellow guard, was still capable of stringing words together coherently and putting his annoying thorn in his place.

"Take it easy, the paramedics are on their way. Just in case, I want you to stay still, okay?"

"Well, okay, but sitting up is a little warmer than sprawling on the pavement, you know?"

"Yeah, I know, Chuck. Believe me, I know." Jim, kneeling down beside the injured man, leaned him up against his chest, providing support as well as needed warmth.

Marcus, wanting to continue his discussion with the guard, spoke, "I'd sure hate to meet you in a dark alley behind a bar at closing time."

Chuck looked up at the young man, his expression was one of disdain, "I don't go to bars." He declared, snidely. Jim chuckled silently; Chuck looked up at the detective, smiling through his pain.

"So, why were both you and Monte down here? I thought one of you were supposed to stay at the front door?" Jim tried to get back to the real issue.

"Yeah. He was. I was doing my run. I usually start upstairs, checking the offices. We have to check the CEO's... um, washroom."

"You're kidding?" Jim had to stifle more laughter.

"Um, yeah. Seems that he came in one morning and someone had used it and forgotten to flush. It's a private restroom, right there in his office. He was not a happy camper. Anyway, I usually check that first, so I can put it in my report that it's OK, you know? Then I go through the rest of the offices. Then I do the warehouse, and end up down here."

"What all's kept down here, anyway?" Marcus managed to ask an intelligent question.

"Archives, some prototypes. The machinery and stuff like that."

"What kind of archives and prototypes?" Jim asked.

"I don't know. Stuff they make, something about peripherals for computers and stuff. I don't understand what all it is, but then, my job is just protecting it, not using it or making it work," he tried to chuckle, but it was too uncomfortable.

"Easy. The paramedics are here." Jim watched as the arriving personnel pushed Marcus out of their way and crouched down beside them.

"Hey, how's it going? Do you remember what happened?" The first paramedic asked, pulling out his penlight and checking Chuck's pupils. Not waiting for an answer, he shook his head and made a clucking noise, "You, my man, are in for a wonderful time." He looked up at the supporting detective. "Serious concussion, man. I'm surprised he's conscious at all."

"Well, it appears he was out for close to two hours before we found him," Jim explained. "He came to about ten to fifteen minutes ago."

"Well, I'm still surprised at how coherent he is," the paramedic said. Motioning to his partner, they prepared the injured man for transport.

Once they had gotten Chuck out, Jim rose and looked around. His eyes narrowed as he spotted something. Ignoring whatever it was that Marcus was babbling about, he strode across the open area to a gate in a chain-link fence. The fence was floor to ceiling and the gate was about seven feet tall. Without touching it, he bent down and looked closely at the lock.

"What is it?" Marcus asked. Peering through the dimness at the lock.

Jim looked up as Blair re-entered the room. Making eye contact with his partner, he said, "The lock has been tampered with."

Once they had informed Ms Tomlinson of what they had found, it quickly became apparent what had happened. Monte had obviously decided, either on his own or with help, to steal some of the prototypes. Whether or not he had help was quickly proved immaterial. Monte had simply taken what he wanted from the cage, after knocking out his colleague, and taken it home with him. He was still there when they arrived with search and arrest warrants in hand.

Half a dozen squad cars pulled up in front. Jim, Blair, and Marcus climbed from the sedan and, seeing that the uniformed officers were in position surrounding the house, moved in. Jim listened from the front steps. A small smile graced his lips. Easing open the screen door, he kicked in the lightweight wooden front door, breaking it completely out of its frame. Monte woke up from where he'd been napping on the couch and looked up into the barrel of Jim's pistol. There was a sound of liquid and...

"Oh, man," Blair laughed as they rode up the elevator up to the seventh floor. "I know that the expression is trite and cliched, but you actually did it, man." His chortle drew the attention of the other occupants of the bullpen as they entered.

Marcus was remarkably silent, watching the partners as they joked with and jostled each other. Jim reached out and playfully shoved his partner. "Yeah, well, I'm afraid that it was a little more than the usual cliche." He wrinkled his nose, remembering.

"Hey, he was stupid enough to just go home with his loot. I'll bet that he's gonna sing his heart out, if he has any accomplices."

"I suspect that he was simply a stooge. But I agree that he's going to give us everything."

"You mean, even more than he already has?" Marcus asked.

"What do you mean? He didn't give us anything," Blair asked, puzzled.

"Oh? I don't know about that," Simon's voice boomed from his office. "The way I heard it, he's singing like a nightingale. Of course, that would make sense after Ellison here did his thing."

"What thing is that, Simon?" Blair asked, with a puzzled look.

"His classic 'scared the piss and shit out of them' look." Simon's booming laugh was joined by the guffaws of the other officers within hearing. For a moment, Jim blushed a furious shade of red, then, realizing that the accuracy couldn't be denied, he joined in.

Marcus smiled, envious of the camaraderie and obvious friendship he could see in the group. Quietly, he left the room, finding his way to the elevator and down to the garage, where he got in his car and drove out. Pulling out his cell phone, he made a call.

"Uncle Thomas? Marcus. No. I think I'm through here. No, nothing's wrong. No. I don't think so. No, I don't think that you can improve that group in any way. The only thing interference would do is make them less effective, which would make the crime statistics rise. I know, but that's my professional opinion. I don't think you can do any better than the people you already have. Let me give you a little advice, unc, don't interfere with them. They're doing the job, and they're good at what they do. Trust me, on this. I've been doing efficiency studies for years and believe me, this is one of the best-run organizations I've ever seen. No, thanks. I'm going to go home, now. Do you still want me to do my thing with the DA's office? Okay. Sure. I'll see you tomorrow.

He knew that there was more than what he'd seen, but he wasn't going to try to 'improve' it. He was one of those rare efficiency experts, one who firmly believed, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. He smiled. He knew that his annoying of the detectives had made their job more difficult, but still, they'd managed to work around him. Although, that floater... Shaking his head, he thought about it and decided that their punishment for annoying them was mild. After all, Ellison could very easily have done to him intentionally, what he had done to that poor, stupid security guard. In fact, come to think of it, that had been possibly the best thing he had observed. He wished he'd had a camera; the look on Ellison's face when the suspect had wet and soiled himself... Remembering how all the officers had been laughing when he left, he belatedly joined them. Hey, what they didn't know wouldn't hurt him, after all. Now, if the DA's office was anything like Major Crime...

Jim, laughing with the others, watched as his ride-along looked at them all, there was satisfaction in his expression, which made Jim wonder. However, the expression on their unwanted visitor's face changed. He recognized the look, he'd seen it often enough in his own mirror over the years, the look of the outsider looking in and wishing that he belonged. Well, considering, he hadn't really been that bad. If he came back, and for some reason, Jim had a feeling that he wouldn't, he resolved to try to take it a little easier on him. He returned his attention to the teasing from his colleagues. After all, it wasn't every cop who could claim to have scared a suspect so badly that they had not only wet themselves, but crapped their pants, as well. He took the ribbing well. After all, there really wasn't much choice, and it actually had been pretty funny. Having seen the expressions on the other's faces, he could imagine what his own had been. Looking around at his friends, he couldn't help but laugh just as boisterously as they. Seeing his partner, eyes streaming with tears of hysteria, he tossed an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close. Yeah, come to think of it, it had been pretty funny. Just what his reputation had needed. Proof positive that he was still the meanest SOB on the force. Not bad. Not bad at all.

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