This isn't my fault. I was working away on numbers 98, 99, and 100, when I read my email, this morning. So, you can blame this in its entirety on Toni Rae (not to be confused with me, Tonie TAE). Yeah, it was obvious which of the Darwin candidates she thought could have been Jim. Anyway, I have no idea where this will go, nor how long it may be. However, it does give me the option of not finishing one of the other stories I'm currently working on (at least, not by the sixth, anyway). Well, that's OK. I can live with that. Combined with the aforementioned Darwin Award, I just heard an interesting blurb on the news. It should work very well with this story. Maybe. We'll just have to wait and see (yes, I have no idea where this one is going)

As usual, I'm using the intellectual property of others, for which I receive no recompense. Fortunately, the owners have not yet seen fit to sue me or any of the rest of us for this flagrant violation of copyright law (it is copyright law, isn't it? Not that I really care, however). And also as usual, I'm thankful to Wolfpup for giving me a home on the Web and for putting up with my prolific proclivities (although, I have slowed down somewhat). And special thanks to those friends who make a wonderful substitute family, the ladies of Cascade Times, who not only talk a lot (and boy, do they talk!), but listen just as well and are willing to provide advice and moral support to all and sundry. Here's to you, ladies!

Runner's High


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New Year's Eve. It was supposed to be just a twelve-hour shift. Unfortunately, thanks to this particular perp, it was going to last somewhat longer. Not daring to take his eyes off of his prey to look at his watch, he had to guesstimate how long he'd been pursuing the man he was trailing. Briefly, he wondered where his partner and backup was? He wondered just how much longer he could keep going, but the perp wasn't pulling away... of course, he wasn't gaining on him, either. The air burned in his lungs and his muscles had tightened and were trying to refuse his instructions to continue. The hill they were climbing was nearly as steep as stairs, and they had already been running for close to two hours. He couldn't believe that the guy in front of him could still move, let alone maintain his lead... How on earth did he get to this point and, more importantly, when would it end?

(Earlier that evening)

"Oh, man. I will be so glad when this week is over. Tell me again why we have to pull twelve hour shifts all week?" Blair Sandburg's voice was tinged with the exhaustion of too many long days with too-little sleep.

"Y2K, Chief. We've been lucky for the past few years. We managed to miss having to work on New Year's Eve or the nights leading up to it and immediately following. This year, with the year 2000 coming, and it falling on a weekend, there are a lot of parties and celebrating going on. They figure that our normal New Year's preparations aren't enough; particularly with the threat of terrorist attacks. And, as we've seen, that particular forecast appears to be perfectly accurate."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. But, twelve-hour shifts? I'm too tired to even think, man."

"So is every other cop in town, Chief. At least we get off at ten, tonight, rather than have to actually be out here when the year turns."

"Yeah. And I'm really glad that we're just patrolling the business district instead of having to be in uniform and cruising the party districts. Last night was bad enough. I can imagine what it's like over there tonight."

"The mall is practically a war-zone. Lots of cops conspicuously present, just in case someone decides to try to turn it into a riot." Jim shook his head. "I wonder why what is supposed to be a celebration has to be turned into a battle?"

"Drugs and alcohol?"

"It's more than that, Blair. It's attitude. People don't seem to care anymore. I just don't understand it."

"That's because you're who and what you are, man." At the expression on his partner's face, he chuckled, "No, not because you're a Sentinel, man. Although, that may be part of it. You're a protector, Jim. Someone who believes in right and wrong. People aren't generally taught that very much, any more."

"Well, they should be... Did you see that?" Jim's vision focused on a building down the block. "At the jewelry store? A light?"

"No. But that doesn't mean it wasn't there. I'll call it in. Wait up, Jim!" but the last was said to his partner's back as he quickly made his way towards the building down the block. Blair grabbed the radio microphone and called it in to dispatch.

"Dispatch, this is Echo 7. We've got a possible burglary at the Crown Jewelry store on Front and Forest. My partner is taking a closer look."

"Roger Echo 7. Backup in on the way, ETA is seven minutes."

"Roger that." Hanging up the microphone, he slid from the truck and followed after his friend.

Jim was waiting outside the front door of the shop. "It looks like they're using a torch to cut open the safe," he whispered. Can you see it?"

"Yeah. That bluish light? Looks like oxy-acetylene."

"Yeah. Cover me," and with that, Jim pushed open the unlatched door and slipped in, his partner close behind him, guns at the ready. Working their way through the shop, they were practically breathing down the burglar's necks when Jim spoke.

"Cascade PD. Freeze!"

Of course, they didn't. The man with the cutting torch turned toward them, increased the flow and aimed the now much larger flame at the two detectives. Splitting up, Jim fired at the man with the torch, his bullet striking the man in the shoulder, causing him to drop his torch, which fortunately went out. The other two raised their hands and gave up. Blair grabbed the closest one and turned him toward the wall, frisking him quickly and handcuffing him. The injured man groaned and the third man took his chance and ran. He smacked into Jim, knocking him off balance, and sprinted for the door. Blair looked up from his prisoner in time to hear his partner curse and take off after the third perp.

"I'll follow you as soon as backup gets here!" Blair shouted after his partner sprinting out the door and taking a right turn down the street after the running burglar. Mere moments later, the first squad car pulled up out front. Blair quickly explained what was happening and, while the uniformed officers called it in and took charge of the suspects, Blair ran out to Jim's truck and jumped in, started the engine and followed in the direction the two men had run.

The trail was actually fairly easy to follow. There were still a lot of puddles left over from the last rain, but much of the pavement had dried, allowing the wet running footprints to remain visible, even to his unenhanced vision. He maintained contact via radio with dispatch, until he lost the trail at the woods.

The other available officers pulled up nearby and shown their spotlights into the forest. There was no way to tell which way they had gone. From here, the Wilderness Park led up into the mountains and tracking was impossible without dogs. At least until it got light, that is. Blair insisted on trying to find them, but the others had to go back on patrol. Blair waited in the truck, peering into the darkness, worrying and wondering where his partner was, and whether or not he was all right.

He was tired. Obviously, he wasn't as young as he used to be, but this was ridiculous. He should just stop and go back. Of course, he should have done that half an hour ago. His lungs were aching with the strain, his legs were threatening to cramp, as were his ribs. Forcing himself to push on, he managed to narrow the gap between himself and the perp. He couldn't believe just how long this guy could run. At this point, there was only one way he was going to give up on his attempt to take down this guy, and that was if he collapsed... which was becoming a distinct possibility.

The only thing that kept him going was sheer determination. That and the fact that his quarry hadn't been able to pull away from him. Slowly, as they covered the miles, the gap between them narrowed. It was enough to keep him from quitting. His entire focus was on the suspect. He didn't look anywhere but at the figure just over one hundred feet in front of him. Sure, he could have pulled his gun and shot him, but he didn't think the guy was armed, so that left shooting him out of the question. Not that he wanted to kill anyone. He didn't use his weapon unless he or someone else was in danger of being killed. That was as it should be.

But, it was New Year's Eve. It was supposed to be just a twelve-hour shift. He knew that it was past quitting time by quite a bit. But he couldn't quit, not now. Unfortunately, thanks to this particular perp, it was going to last somewhat longer. Not daring to take his eyes off of his prey to look at his watch, he had to guesstimate how long he'd been pursuing the man he was trailing. Briefly, he wondered where his partner and backup was? He wondered just how much longer he could keep going, but the perp wasn't pulling away... of course, he wasn't gaining on him, either. The air burned in his lungs and his muscles had tightened and were trying to refuse his instructions to continue. The hill they were climbing was nearly as steep as stairs, and they had already been running for close to two hours. He couldn't believe that the guy in front of him could still move, let alone maintain his lead...

He wondered if he was zoning. The pain in his muscles had faded into the background, like he'd turned the dials down to zero. His only awareness was the air gasping in his lungs and the man running ahead of him. Mile after mile they ran. Every time he attempted a burst of speed, the other man did the same. He would gain a few feet, but never enough to catch up. They were laboring up a steep hill and Jim wondered how much longer he would be able to go on. Cresting the hill, Jim could see the man in front of him, nearly staggering down the hill. At the bottom, he could see the highway crossing the path. Knowing that this was going to be his best and possibly only chance, Jim drew the last of his willpower and strength from somewhere deep inside.

Downhill. It was a lot easier to run downhill. He extended his stride; with the help of gravity, he managed to nearly double his stride length. Sucking in air as fast as he could, pumping his arms and legs, he suddenly found himself gaining on his quarry. The man was staggering, now, frequently looking over his shoulder and staggering from exhaustion.

From the burglar's point of view, the cop behind him had suddenly taken on the proportions of an avenging angel bent on his destruction. The man's grim visage, mouth drawn open to take in air, teeth showing in a feral snarl... he tried to keep going, but the fear of the figure gaining on him from behind combined with hitting 'the wall' was too much for him. Gasping audibly, wheezing with his body's need for more oxygen, he cast one last desperate look behind him and while his attention was on the enormous being almost upon him, he stumbled and collapsed.

Jim, seeing his prey faltering, extended his stride again. The hunting instincts he had been running on through the exhaustion of too many long work shifts; the pain of lungs striving for enough oxygen for overextended muscles; the pain of muscles misused and abused, extended far beyond what should have been humanly possible; it all faded into the background as he saw his quarry falter and fall. Unable to stop, he leaped over the falling body, managing to stop only by falling, himself. His body automatically twisting into a roll to avoid hurting himself, he came back upright and staggered back to the fallen suspect. Gasping in exhaustion, he pulled his handcuffs from his hip pocket and, kneeling down beside the exhausted burglar, he pulled the man's hands behind his back and cuffed him.

Panting heavily, he informed his prisoner, "Y-y-you h-h-h-have the right t-to re-main ~gasp, pant~ silent. Any-anything you s-s-say, if you can even say anything at this point...~gasp, pant~ m-may be used a-a-gainst you in a court of ~gasp, pant~ law. You have the right to an attorney. If you so desire and cannot afford one, counsel will be appointed for you before questioning. ~Deep, shuddering breath~ Do you understand these rights? Do you want a lawyer? Do you give up your right to remain silent?" Seeing that his suspect was nearly unconscious from exhaustion, he continued, "How about we do this again after we both catch our breath? Maybe by then I can get someone to come and get us."

Standing, he looked down the short distance to where the highway was. Pulling his prisoner to his feet, he urged him the rest of the way down the hill until they reached the highway, where he allowed his exhausted prisoner to collapse to the ground to rest. Off in the distance, back toward the city, he could see an off-ramp sign. Focusing his vision, he was able to read the sign. With a sigh, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and hit the speed dial.

Blair decided that Jim wasn't going to be coming back the same way he'd gone into the woods. He waited impatiently, hoping for word. After almost an hour, he was fretting and grumbling to himself. Worried, he tried Jim's cell phone, but was informed that it was either turned off or out of range. Cursing under his breath, he tried to be patient. Pulling the map from the glove compartment, he opened it and tried to figure out where they might come out. He was surprised when he noticed that the trail that began here, connected with I-5 about fifteen or twenty miles north. There was no way they could get that far but, maybe, he could start from there and get the truck partway up the trail...

"Echo 7, this is Dispatch. You're needed to provide backup at the Banner Street strip mall."

"This is Echo 7, my partner is still in foot pursuit of burglary suspect from Crown Jwelers..."

"Understood, Echo 7, but we have shots fired and need every available officer on the scene. There are reports of looting and..."

"On my way. Echo 7 out." Muttering and looking worriedly into the woods, he started the truck and drove to Banner Street.

Once there, he helped round up the group of drunken rowdies who had thought to ring in the new year a little early, firing off their guns into the air, breaking a few windows and frightening a large number of people. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but still, it took time to corral the rowdies and arrange for assistance to secure the damaged buildings. By the time Blair was satisfied that he was no longer needed, his shift had been over for nearly an hour, and he still hadn't heard anything from his partner.

"Dispatch, this is Echo 7. Show me off duty at eleven-oh-five."

"Roger, Echo 7. Off duty at eleven-oh-five. I'm sorry, Detective. We still haven't heard from your partner."

"Understood, Dispatch. I'm going to go looking for him. I'll let you know what happens."

"Roger, Echo 7. Dispatch out."

"Echo 7 out."

He got to I-5 and got on, heading north. The highway was nearly deserted. About fifteen miles out, he thought about giving up and going back. After all, Jim had taken off to chase their perp more than two hours earlier. He was seriously worried. No way they could still be footracing...could they? Pulling off onto the shoulder under a sign, he turned the truck off, as well as the lights. Sitting, he reached for his cell phone, thinking to try to reach his partner one more time. Just as he pulled it out, it rang. He nearly dropped it in his surprise.

"Jim?" he answered the phone, hope and worry in his tone.

"Yeah, Chief, it's me." Jim's voice was obviously tired and he was breathing hard enough that Blair could hear it.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah. I'm fine, just a little tired and out of breath."

"Out of breath? Why? It's been over two hours since... you're not trying to tell me you've been chasing that guy all this time?!? Have you?"

"Uh, yeah. I caught him, though. He's right here. I caught him on the last down-slope. I was gaining, he kept looking back, I got closer, he panicked, I got closer and he looked back and tripped over his own feet."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah. Maybe a couple of bruises from when I tripped over him, but I'm OK, Chief. What I need, though, is a ride."

"Sure. Fine. Where are you?"

"I'm about a mile north of the Old Coast Road, where the path comes out on I-5."

Shocked, Blair stared. The sign he was parked under was the sign his partner was referring to. "Uh, Jim?"

"Yeah?" He was too tired to speak any more than absolutely necessary.

"I'll be there in about five."

"Five? What? Hours? Where are you? What's wrong? Why so long?"

"No, Jim. Not five hours. About five minutes. I'm parked under the sign." Knowing that Jim could see him, even from that distance, he turned on the headlights and started the engine. "See?"

"Yeah. I see you. Thanks, Chief."

"You're welcome." Hanging up the phone, he lifted the microphone to the radio and made the call.

"Dispatch? This is Echo 7. Show my 20 as one mile north of the Old Beach Road. I'm picking up my partner and he has his suspect in custody."

"Echo 7? You're where?"

"One mile north of Old Beach Road. Trust me, it looks like my partner chased his perp all the way from the jewelry store to here, on foot, through the woods..."

"Oh, my... Roger that Echo 7. Showing you ten-ten at one mile north of the Old Beach Road." Blair grinned, knowing that the tale would grow as it was passed around that his partner had done it again.

Five minutes later, he was helping their prisoner into the cab of the truck. Now that they had regained their breath, both men were shivering from the cold. They had sweated heavily while running, and the sweat had soaked their clothing. Now that they were no longer exercising, the perspiration was evaporating and cooling them rapidly, causing chills.

"Chief, remind me to read him his rights again, when we get back to the station, will you?"

"Didn't you..."

"Yeah, but I'm not sure he was capable of understanding at the time."

"Oh." Glancing over at his passengers, Blair wasn't surprised. "Uh, do you want to go to the hospital, or the station?"

"Station. We're not hurt, just tired, is all."

"You got it." Blair reached over and turned the heater up to warm them, then drove back to the station.

The suspect was re-read his rights when he was booked, just to make sure. Since it was so late, Jim and Blair decided to simply go home and do the paperwork the next day. When they got home, it was almost two a.m. Jim was nearly staggering from exhaustion. Despite that, he insisted on taking a shower before collapsing into his bed. Once Blair was certain that his partner was asleep, he tiptoed up the stairs and turned Jim's alarm off. Then, he tiptoed back down the stairs and took the cordless phone with him to his room. There, he made a call to leave a voice mail for their captain, Simon Banks, explaining what had happened and that he was going to let his partner sleep as long as he needed to and to expect them when he saw them.

Jim was awakened by a ringing phone. Reaching for the phone that was usually on the nightstand beside his bed, he was surprised to find it missing. Raising his head, he saw the clock. He squeezed his eyes shut, hard, for a moment, then looked again. It read twelve-fourteen. From the light streaming through the skylight, he knew that he should have been at work a bit over two hours earlier. Cursing, he lunged to get out of bed...

And fell back with a groan and a whimper of pain. While he had been still, his misused and abused muscles had been quiescent. But with the first sign of movement, they all began to scream, telling him just exactly what they thought of his foolishness of the night before. His arms were fine, as was his upper back, but his lower back and legs...

"Jim?" Blair's voice came softly from the top of the stairs. Turning just his head to look, he saw his roommate holding the phone out to him. "It's Simon."

"Yes, Captain?"

"What happened last night, Jim? Your suspect can hardly move this morning. His hands and knees are all skinned up and he's not saying a word. Will you please explain what happened?"

"Happy New Year, to you, too. We caught three guys torching the safe at Crown Jewelers, they'd left the front door open, which let Sandburg and me sneak up on them. The man with the torch turned it on us and I had to shoot him. Blair had cuffed one suspect and when the injured man groaned, I was distracted for a second and the third man bolted. Since it was my fault he escaped, I went after him."

"You chased him on foot, through the woods for more than two hours?" Simon's voice was shocked, but not disbelieving. He was well aware of the tenacious nature of his detective.

"Yes, Sir. He was in sight the entire time, I just couldn't seem to catch up to him, until we were going down that last hill. I saw the highway below and knew it was going to be my last chance of catching him. So, I went for it. He started looking back, and eventually tripped and fell. I jumped over him to avoid crashing into him, went down, rolled and came back up. Then I cuffed him, helped him down to the highway and called for Sandburg to come and get us."

"According to the voice-mail he left me, you chased him to about a mile north of the Old Beach Road turnoff?"

"Yeah. That's where the trail came out. Why?"

"Jim, have you ever considered running in a marathon?"

"Hell, no, Simon. I could never run that far. I hate running. You know that. I can barely manage the ten K runs for charity."


"Yes, Sir?"

"From the jewelry store to the trail is about three-quarters of a mile."

"Yeah, so?"

"The path you took through the woods is the old Cascade Marathon trail. The one they changed about fifteen years ago, because it was too difficult? You did it backwards, Jim. The hard way."

"I...oh. Maybe that's why I can't stand up this morning?"

"Take a lot of aspirin, use some of that Mega Pain Stuff, it's really good for sore muscles, and stay down for at least another twenty-four hours."

"But I need to do my reports..."

"They can wait, detective. I just want you to take it easy. Hot baths have been known to help, too."

"Sure, Simon, but I thought..."

"We can handle it here, Detective. However, you've got another 'Superman' story to live down, you know."


"Yeah, well, you and Sandburg enjoy the day off, oh, and Jim?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Happy New Year."

"Thank you, Sir. Happy New Year to you, too. And the rest of the guys."

"I'll tell them. Maybe instead of calling you Superman, they're going to start calling you 'The Flash'." There was a great deal of humor in Simon's voice.

"I hope not, Sir."

"Well, you never know. Maybe no one will notice the distances and it'll all be forgotten in the excitement of the New Year."

"That would be nice, Simon. Uh, you're not going to tell anyone, are you?"

"Me? No. Joel's the one who pointed out how far you ran. They're out there making bets on how soon you'll be able to walk again, I'm in the pool, by the way. It might be nice if I could win, for a change."

"Well, I don't want to cheat, but I'll let you know. Uh, probably in about five minutes, Sir. I gotta go."

"You're upstairs in your bedroom?"

"Yeah." Jim struggled to his feet, his aching muscles tying themselves in knots. "Well, Sir. I'm vertical. Let's see if I can make it down the stairs."

"Never mind. I don't want to hear any more. I'll see you tomorrow. Just take it easy, all right?"

"Yes, Sir. I'll be in tomorrow."

"Good. Tell Sandburg he did a good job, last night. I've got lots of reports on my desk saying how helpful he was with the group at the Banner Street strip mall shooting. He seems, by all accounts, to have talked the gunmen into giving themselves up."

Frowning at his partner, Jim said, "He did? He didn't tell me about it."

"Were you in any condition to have listened?"

"Uh, no. I guess not."

"So, don't give him a bad time about it. He did a good job, Jim. He deserves praise, not censure."

"Yes, Sir. He does." Jim smiled, realizing that he had nothing to complain about; after all, Blair wasn't even sporting a bruise from his adventures.

"Well, tell him for me... better yet, I'll tell him, myself, when he comes in. I'll talk to you later, Jim. Happy New Year."

"Thanks, Simon. Happy New Year." Hanging up the phone, he looked at his partner.

"So. You going to give me a hand, here?"

"Sure. You want a shoulder to lean on?"

"Just as long as it's yours, Chief."

Blair looked up at his friend, a slow smile spreading across his face, as Jim stretched one arm across the smaller man's shoulders and allowed him to help support him going down the stairs. "Thanks, Jim."

"Thank you, Blair. Simon says you did a good job, last night. I have to agree. Not only did you manage to avoid getting hurt, you talked a bunch of drunks with guns into giving themselves up and then managed to find me and bring me and my prisoner home safely. Good work, buddy."

"Thanks, Jim. By the way, don't you ever do that again, okay? I was worried sick about you, wondering if you were out in the wilderness somewhere, lying there, hurt, unconscious, who knows what."

"Sorry. I couldn't take the time to call, or he'd have gotten away. I promise to try to avoid that in the future. Especially the long runs, all right?"

"That will do, under the circumstances. So, do you think we can go in later and at least do the reports? We have Monday and Tuesday off, but I'd rather not have to spend all day tomorrow playing catch up on our paperwork..."

"Well, let me get a hot shower and we'll see."

An hour later, after a long, hot shower, the massage setting on the shower working wonders on his aching muscles, filled with a nice, hot breakfast with plenty of coffee, he felt nearly human again. Deciding that getting the paperwork out of the way was a good idea, Jim allowed Blair to drive them in to the station in the Volvo.

"Hey, look what the Blair dragged in!" Henry Brown's jovial laugh greeted them. "If it isn't the 'Marathon Man', himself."

"So, H., Who won the pool?" Blair asked, ignoring his partner's scowl at his new nickname.

"Joel. He said you'd be in today, even if Jim had to crawl. How does he know?"

"Because I understand Jim and Blair, Henry." Joel's voice was gently chiding. "You gonna be all right, Jim? That was some chase. Oh, we got an ID on your rabbit. Seems he's spends a lot of time running marathons. He was an Olympic hopeful. I guess jail is going to mess with his training program."

Jim stared at the older man. "You're kidding, right?"

"Nope. Here's his bio. Got written up in "Runner's". Rafe recognized his name. He had the magazine. Pretty good, Jim, keeping up with him like you did."

"Yeah, Jim," Simon's voice chided from behind them, "That was pretty good. I thought I told you not to come in until tomorrow?"

"Yes, Sir. You did, but I needed to work the stiffness out and I'd just as soon do some paperwork as lay around at home, Sir." Jim replied.

"Jim?" Rafe asked, "May I ask you a question?"

"Sure, Rafe. What do you want to know?"

"Did you hit the wall?" Seeing the puzzled look of his colleagues, he explained. "It's kind of a runner's term. When you hit that point of exhaustion where you're ready to quit, your muscles are screaming to stop and your lungs are burning, unable to draw enough air in to feed your starving muscles, it's called 'the wall'. Most people hit it and just stop. One of the things we train for when we run, is how to get past that point. I was just wondering..."

"Yeah. I hit the wall. I thought I just couldn't go another step, but he was so close, less than a hundred feet. I just kind of zoned out on the running. Focused all my attention on the guy in front of me, like I was hunting, having to catch my prey or starve." He glanced at his partner, who nodded his understanding of the primitive urge that had driven him past his exhaustion and through his pain to continue and catch the suspect. Glancing at the others, he saw them all nodding, understanding, even without ever having experienced it. The dogged determination to not give up.

"Was it hard?" Rafe asked.

"Not really. I'd been distracted and he rabbited, I just had to catch him to rectify my mistake. As long as I could see him, I couldn't give up. I'd push to try and catch him, and he'd glance back and try to get away, every time, I'd manage to gain a few feet, but I just couldn't keep it up. When we got to the top of that last hill, I was sure I was going to drop, but there he was, staggering down the other side. I knew that it was going to be my only chance and I went for it. I gotta admit, though, I don't recall ever being so damned tired or winded."

"Well, after going twenty-seven miles in about two and a half hours, I'm not surprised." Joel laughed, slapping Jim on the back. "Good job, Jim. You too, Blair."

"Thanks, Joel." Jim and Blair chorused.

"Yeah, guys. Good work," Brown agreed, heading back to his desk.

"Well, since you're here, you might as well get at those reports, gentlemen."

"Yes, Sir, Captain." Jim agreed, turning toward his desk, pausing, as he noticed Rafe still waiting. "Rafe?"

The younger detective just smiled, "I don't suppose you'd like to join our running club, Jim?"

"Running club?"

"A bunch of us run three or four times a week. Mostly cops, with a bunch of local kids, kids who don't have anything to do after school. Most of them are between ten and fifteen. We could use you. Especially after last night. I guess you didn't see it, but the story made the morning news. No names, lucky for you, but still, the idea of some cop chasing a perp for twenty-seven miles over a course that is no longer considered a good marathon track because it's too hard... well, you can imagine how that would go over with a bunch of kids."

"Yeah, Rafe. I can." Jim looked away, trying not to see the hope in the younger man's eyes. Seeing the expectant look on his partner's face, however, cemented his decision.

"Sure, Rafe. Sandburg and I can run with you. When and where?"

"We meet at the high school on Front Street, they let us use the gym in the winter time, during the summer, we run the track and through the streets, sometimes. Right now, we're working on weights and strength training, getting ready for when the weather clears." Rafe was nearly vibrating with excitement, reminding Jim of Blair.

Smiling, Jim clapped Rafe on the shoulder, "So, what time, this afternoon?"

"We generally meet at either four or five. We can only meet during the week, so we won't meet again until Monday."

"Then we'll meet you at the high school on Monday, then. We're off Monday and Tuesday, this week."

"If you need help with your reports, getting them done in time...?"

"I think we've got it covered, Rafe. Thanks, though."

"Thanks, Jim. Thanks a lot."

"Sure, Rafe."

"Us? You volunteered us?"

"We're partners, Chief."

"Well, I don't see H helping out his partner."

"Well, H likes running even less than Joel does."

Blair snickered. "OK, you've got me. I'll help, too."

"I knew you'd see it my way. Besides, it's a good way to work out. If they're using weights and strength training, we do that anyway, don't we?"

"Yeah. But every day?"

"Well, no. But it won't hurt us to help out two or three times a week for a while. At least until we figure out if it's something we want to do, anyway."

Blair contemplated the idea for a few minutes as they started up their computers. "Yeah. I'm down with that, man." Turning to his computer, he frowned.

"Uh, Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"Um, did you do this?" He pivoted his monitor so that his partner could see it. Instead of the usual log-on screen, there was a red background with an ugly cartoon insect with slavering jaws.

"Nope. Not me, Chief." Jim cast a quick glance at his own computer, sighing in relief when he observed the usual log-in screen. "Maybe someone's playing a joke on you?"

Blair hit a few keys and tried to reboot, only to have an alarm sound and the screen begin to strobe. He jumped back and watched as his computer monitor showed an icon for a disk drive melting down into a puddle. When that was finished, the computer screen went dark and played taps as a lily appeared over an obviously dead computer.


"Looks like you may have picked up a Y2K virus, Chief." Jim had to struggle to keep from laughing.

"But...since this is on the network, why don't the rest of the computers seem to be affected?" Blair's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he glared around the bullpen.

"I wouldn't know, Chief," Jim replied, smirking.

Blair gave his partner a angry glance and stood up to wander around the bullpen, seeking the perpetrator. Standing over Brown's desk, he stared daggers at the man.

Looking up and seeing the angry younger man, Henry asked, "What? What'd I do?" His puzzled expression and tone of voice demonstrating his lack of knowledge of the trick.

Blair went to everyone in the area, staring accusingly at them, but finding that none of them had been behind his computer's seeming crash. Defeated, he collapsed back at his desk. Looking over at his partner, he asked, "Do you have any ideas who would have done this?"

"I don't know, Chief. You piss off anyone in tech support?"

"Not lately. At least, not that I know of." He frowned. "About the only person who's been mad at me lately was Andrews, down in booking. He's still mad that I came straight here out of the academy and he didn't."

"Andrews, huh?" Simon's voice grumbled. "He was here this morning. I guess I'm going to have to have a little talk with his supervisor."

"No. Please, Simon. Let me handle it, OK?" Blair, for some reason all his own, still seemed to be trying to prove himself.

"Not this time, Sandburg. He messed with one of my people and I don't take kindly to that. Besides, if he intentionally infected your machine with a virus, what's to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the LAN?" Simon was heading for his office, the rising head of steam preparing to scald someone for messing with one of his detectives, even if it was the newest one. A practical joke was one thing, but when some rookie in another department wreaked havoc in his bailiwick, well, then, that person had another think coming. And Simon Banks wasn't a captain and the man he was by letting people walk on him or his men.

He left the door to his office open. When he made the call, the bullpen was remarkably silent as everyone strove to listen in. Not that they really had to try very hard to hear their captain. His bellow could probably be heard down in booking even without the telephone. First, he yelled at the sergeant who answered the phone, then he shouted at the secretary he was switched to, then he got really annoyed and reamed the lieutenant in charge and finally, received the satisfaction of someone sending Andrews upstairs for him to ream personally.

Blair, meanwhile, called down to tech support for some help. He described the problem and was told to do absolutely nothing until they got there, as there were apparently about a dozen terminals infected with this particular virus and messing with it only caused it to spread to the mainframe and other units in the LAN.

Tech support got there first. They saw the screen of Blair's computer and set to work. The first thing they did was disconnect it from the LAN, then they rebooted it with a master disk, apologizing for having to reformat his drives, but that all his files were corrupted and that they hoped he'd backed everything up. Grumbling his thanks to the technician, Blair moved out of their way and sat by his partner's desk.

Glancing around to make sure no one could hear him, he whispered, "Good thing I always back up my files on floppies, huh, Jim?"

Jim just smiled and gestured toward the door, where Andrews had just walked in. Every eye in the place, save that of the technician, was on him, surreptitiously, of course. After all, it wouldn't do to have him figure it out.

Andrews was cocky. He'd been cocky in the academy, he'd tried his best to belittle and put Blair and several other 'misfits' down. Namely the smaller men and any of the women in the class. He was fairly universally disliked by just about everyone in the class. But he'd had some sort of political pull and made it through, even though there were numerous complaints about his behavior and even one threat of a harassment suit from one of the female cadets. Instead, the woman had quit, much to a number of cadets' dismay.

He simply walked right into Simon's office. No knock, no nothing. Just opened the door and entered. Simon, who had seen him arrive, schooled his expression. "Close the door."

Andrews complied. With a smirk, he relaxed into a chair without invitation. "You wanted to see me, Captain?"

"I don't recall inviting you to sit down, Officer Andrews." Simon's voice was cold and any one of his men would have known that they were in for a dressing down that would require paramedics and maybe even life-support by the time the captain was through.

Andrews looked surprised, and didn't bother to stand back up. "Oh, that's okay. I don't mind."

Swelling with rage, Simon slowly stood up. "I said that you were not invited to sit. I suggest you stand on your feet, at attention, and wipe that smarmy smirk off your face."

Andrews blinked up at the enraged captain and slowly stood up. For some reason, he seemed to have thought that he was going to be commended for his brilliance, maybe even asked to join the elite team of detectives. His expression lost its confident smirk and became bewildered.

"I'd like you to tell me what you've been doing for the past couple of days, Andrews? Where have you gone in the station, who have you talked to, what have you done?" Simon was prowling around his office, like a wild animal on the hunt.


"Oh, like, this morning? Why were you up here? Don't you have enough to do down in booking? Why were you using Sandburg's computer? Hmmmmm?"


"These men are detectives for a reason, mister. They're on my team because they're the best we have. I only recruit the best of the best. A person has to prove themselves before they're offered a spot in Major Crime. You." He paused, staring out the window at his people who were diligently working away and pointedly ignoring what was going on in the office. "You will never be a part of this unit. Would you like to know why?"

"Why?" Andrews breathing was beginning to sound labored and sweat was trickling down his face.

"Because, Mister Andrews, you will not be a police officer for very much longer. Do you know why that is?"

"N-no, Sir?"

"Because people who infect other people's computer terminals with viruses are not welcome here or anywhere else within the Cascade PD; or, for that matter, anywhere within the city government, no matter who they may know or be related to. IS THAT CLEAR, MISTER ANDREWS?" Simon's voice raised to a shout and Andrews cringed before the blast.

"You don't know..."

"Don't I?" Simon's voice was velvet soft. "Do you think I spend my time in here drinking coffee and contemplating my next cigar in here all day? Hmmmm? Do you? Well, guess what. I don't. Now, I admit that I didn't think anything of you coming in here this morning and messing with Sandburg's terminal, but after he came in, and I haven't been out of the office all day, and he found that virus on his computer, guess what? That's right, Mister Andrews. When someone else remembered that you were in here earlier, we knew who was responsible. Now, Tech Support is out there reconfiguring Sandburg's computer after having to fixed at least a dozen others due to your little 'prank'. Do you honestly think that this was a good idea? I mean, you're still on your one-year probation, right? I know that Sandburg is." Simon had prowled around the office the entire time he'd been speaking and was now back behind his desk.

"I suggest you call yourself a good lawyer, Mister Andrews, because you're under arrest. I'll let your colleagues down in booking decide on the various charges, since I lambasted them first." Simon strode over to his door and opened it. Glancing around the room, he picked out his victim.

"Conner. Would you escort Mister Andrews down to booking? The charges include whatever charges they can think up for deliberately infecting departmental computers with deadly viruses."

At the captain's words, the technician looked up. "Him? That's the guy who did all this?" He started to rise, but Joel's meaty hand clapped him on the shoulder, pushing him back down in his chair.

"We've got it covered, Simon. I'll give you a hand, Megan," the massive former head of the bomb squad volunteered. His gleaming smile doing nothing to reassure Andrews.

Megan looked the man up and down, sneering. Shaking her head, she pulled out her handcuffs. "Assume the position, Mister Andrews."

Andrews seemed to snap out of his shock and, like the fool he was, drew his firearm and sought to aim it at the group of detectives in front of him. Unfortunately, he forgot about the six- foot-four-inch captain who was behind him. With a move that anyone would have been proud of, Simon dumped his cup of hot coffee over Andrews' head and then smashed his cup down on the scalded man's wrist, disarming him.

Shrieking in pain from the scalding coffee and the agony shooting up his arm from his broken wrist, Megan was able to easily subdue the young man and unceremoniously and ungently urged him out the door. Blair picked up the lost firearm and handed it to the captain.

"Good work, Simon," Joel called, shaking his head. "Who was he related to, anyway?"

All eyes turned to their captain. "Well, not that I think he'll try to play upon that particular relationship again, but he was the step-son of our own, dear, Commissioner." He sighed, "Whom I'd better call."

The detectives all winced at the news. This was not going to go over well with their superiors, but then again... They'd just have to wait and see.

Joel, seeing Simon finally off the phone, went to the office and gently knocked. The rest of Major Crime solemnly watched him, allowing him to investigate for them all.

"Come on in, Joel." Simon sounded tired. Of course, he'd been there since six a.m. and it was after five, now.

"Hey, Simon." Joel gently closed the door behind him and settled his bulk in a chair. "So?"

"So." Simon stood up and poured himself another cup of coffee, gesturing an offer with the pot, Joel shook his head and Simon replaced it on it's heating pad. Sitting back down, he took a sip, set his cup down, and took off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose to try and alleviate the pain of his headache.

"That bad, huh?"

"No. The commissioner was really very understanding. I promised to try and keep his name out of this, if he can keep Andrews from blabbing it out in public. I hope that he's going to be smart enough to do that. I guess the kid thought he was something special, since his step-father was the police commissioner, what he didn't realize was that it would be his own abilities and merit that would advance him, not bullying or threats. This last one was more than the commissioner could handle. He said to 'Let the little bastard fry'."

"Direct quote?" Joel asked, at Simon's nod, he winced, "Ouch. Too bad he didn't make the kid straighten out and stand on his own earlier. Then he wouldn't be facing the possibility of political suicide should the kid try and trade on the relationship."

"I feel sorry for the commissioner. You know as well as I do that it was his wife's prodding which made him cover for the kid. Anyway, once forensics is able to place him at the scene of every one of the computer crashes, there won't be any rescuing him from his own folly." Simon wearily leaned back in his chair.

"So, how's it going out there?"

"Well, everyone's catching up on the paperwork for this last week. Jim's moaning and groaning about how his muscles hurt. I still can't believe he managed to keep up with that Olympic caliber runner. That's amazing. Anyway, Blair's trying to fetch and carry for him, but you know Jim. Figures that if he keeps using those abused muscles, they'll 'loosen up' and stop hurting." Joel chuckled. "I told him to go home and soak in Epsom salts."

"Yeah, and they're on duty tomorrow, as well. With any kind of good luck, it will stay quiet and they won't have to go out."

"I'm on tomorrow, too. I figure that if anything comes in, Megan and I can handle it. Try to make it easy on them for a while. I wouldn't want Jim to have to do another footrace quite so soon after this, you know?"

Simon smiled, his headache easing with the release of the tension his worry had been causing. "Thanks, Joel. I'm glad you're here to help take care of them, you know."

"Yeah, I know. This is a good group, Simon. I can see why you're so protective of them all."

"They deserve it, and you know it. Sure, Jim somehow manages to get most of the big media sensations, but I sometimes wonder if they would be so sensational if say, Rafe, or Brown, or you or I had them. I think a lot of the time, the media has Jim's name flagged. After all, he was on the cover of News Magazine. Even though it was a long time ago."

"Yeah. That makes sense, you know. Maybe we can get him to change his name?" The two men looked at each other and laughed.

"Nah," they chorused.

"Why don't you go on home, now, Simon? You've pulled your twelve hour day already, you know."

"Yeah. I know. I just..."

"Feel guilty not being the last one out?"

Simon looked hard at his friend, then remembered that Joel had given up his own captaincy to join his crew. He might just be a detective, again, but the man had a lot more experience with running a division than Simon did, and he knew it.

"Yeah. I guess I do."

"These guys don't need to be babysat, Simon. And they'd resent the idea that you feel the need to hold their hands... at least until they're hurt and you show up to show them you care. Go on home. We've got it covered." Joel stood up and snagged Simon's coat from the coat-rack. "Go. Isn't Daryl waiting for you?"

Standing and allowing Joel to help him on with his coat, Simon smiled, "Yeah. He is."

"Well, then, I can't think of any better way to end New Year's Day, or a better excuse to get out of here. Go on, now. We can handle it here."

Meeting his friend's eyes, Simon patted Joel on the shoulder, "Thanks, Joel."

"Any time, Simon."

Opening the office door, Simon looked out into his bullpen. All the detectives lifted their heads from their various tasks and looked at him, some expressions were slightly hesitant, others openly showing their concern. Simon couldn't help the pride that straightened his back and lifted his head. These were good people, they were his people, and he wouldn't trade a single one of them.

"Gentlemen, and lady," he added, with a nod to Megan, "I, am going home, now. My instructions are for you to finish up what you're doing and do the same." With those words, he wove his way through the bullpen towards the exit.

Blair was the first to break the silence, "Good night, Simon. Say 'hi' to Daryl for me and wish him Happy New Year, please?"

"I'll do that, Sandburg."

"Good night, Sir, Happy New Year." Jim added, followed by choruses of similar greetings from the rest of the detectives.

At the door, Simon stopped and turned, the bullpen was quiet, as the detectives awaited his final comments.

"Good work, people. Happy New Year to all of you, too. I hope this year will bring each and every one of you all the happiness you deserve. Good night." He turned and left, the swinging door drifting closed behind him.

"Good night, and the same to you, Sir," the quiet voices echoed the departing figure.

And may the New Year bring each and every one of you all the happiness you can handle, and then some. R. I. Eaton

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