Disclaimer: You know the drill: They don't belong to me, probably never will. They belong to PetFly and Paramount, and in some ways, the fans that refuse to let them go!

Thanks once again to Carol for Beta'ing my work for me.

Spoilers: None that I can think of, but this continues the story of Alicia Andreson who first appeared in Land of Nye, so that means that Blair's a cop and this is set a year, maybe more, after the events that took place in TSbyBS.

Feedback: Oh yes! Please! I love feed back. I live for feedback!

Archive: Sure, why not?


Nye Until Dark

Suisan "Sue" R.


Carefully crawling out of the tent that he shared this past week with his roommate, James "Jim" Ellison rose to his feet to greet the dawn of a new day. Taking a deep breath, he pulled in a lung full of clear, mountain air. Crisp. Clean. Refreshing. He smiled as he recalled the past few days of hiking, fishing and plain old goofing off that he had indulged in. His recent battle with insomnia had left his reserves low, and the camping trip had been just what he'd needed to recharge his batteries. Walking over to where the view of Mt. Baker was unobstructed, he greeted the rising sun.

The shining orb was actually rising behind the huge mountain, giving the snow-covered pinnacle a wonderful aura. Carefully maintaining control on his eyesight, he watched as the sun cleared over the southern face of one of the tallest mountains in the Cascade Mountain Range, bathing the rest of the area with a warm, golden glow. Birds in the trees around the campsite started their own morning greeting to the sun, the melodious singing sounding very pleasant to Jim as he stood there, enraptured by the sight before him.

A little over five years ago, he'd thought he was losing his mind. He was seeing things that he shouldn't have been able to see, hearing things that no one else could hear, smelling, taste, touch all off the scale. Then he had had the great fortune to meet a young man who seemed to have all the answers that Jim needed, Blair Sandburg. Then, the young man had been a graduate student at Rainier University, studying Anthropology and something called 'Sentinels.' Which is what he had told Jim he was, sentinel. A man gifted with five heightened senses. Their first meeting, well, actually it was their second, hadn't gone well. But a near run in with a garbage truck had been the start to a friendship that had endured events that no friendship should ever have to endure.

Now his best friend, his soul-brother, his Shaman and Guide was Jim's official police partner, a fellow detective in the Major Crimes Unit of Cascade PD. Jim allowed himself to smile as he thought that, despite everything that had happened in the years that Blair had been his friend, he never had had a better partner. Never. As if his thoughts had conjured up the younger man, Jim felt the light touch on his back that announced the arrival of his friend.

"Morning, Chief."

"Morning, Jim." Blair looked past Jim's shoulder to see what had captured the man's attention. "Oh, wow! That's a gorgeous sight to wake up to!"

"Yeah, it is. I'm going to miss waking up to that."

Blair smiled and nodded, not wanting to interrupt the bird song that surrounded them on the mountain. They had chosen this campsite five days ago, for the view of the valley, the easy access to some of the best fishing they'd ever found and the lack of hiking trails, the latter nearly assuring them complete privacy.

Shrugging deeper into his flannel shirt, he turned back to face the camp. "Guess if we're going to make it back into Cascade before noon, we should get to breaking camp, right Jim?"

Looking over at his partner, he let out a chuckle. "Chief, you sure know how to ruin the start to a perfect day, don't you?"

"Me?" A look of pure innocence crossed his face. "Man, it wasn't me that told Simon that we'd be back today. And you were the one who promised to catch a large salmon for him. He's probably already up, going over plans on how to cook the damn thing." Blair walked back to the campsite, where he turned on the camp stove and started heating up water for tea for himself, knowing that Jim would want the instant coffee that they'd brought.

Following his friend, Jim walked over to the tent and began packing up the sleeping bags, clothes and a few other items that had gotten dragged out during their stay. "Good thing that I managed to land that twenty pounder then, huh?"

They had had more than their fair share of good fishing, most of which they had done yesterday, catching a variety of fish, salmon, trout and a few stripers. All in all, they'd have to either waste all of the fish, or find a bigger freezer when they got home. Good thing they had so many friends that would be more than happy to take the fresh catch off their hands.

They broke camp, hiked back to Jim's Ford pickup, and were on the road to home by eight am. Eleven o'clock saw them pulling into the tiny parking lot behind 852 Prospect Avenue. Home.

One of the first things that they both noticed when pulling into the lot was the car of their newest neighbor, Alicia Andreson. The dark green Subaru Legacy Outback was covered in mud. Completely covered. The windows were smeared where the windshield wipers had tried valiantly to cut through the dirt with little success.

Blair whistled as he stepped out of the passenger side, trying to avoid the mud-covered vehicle that Jim had pulled in next to. "Man, I wonder where Alicia went that she got so mud splashed?"

"Splashed? It looks to me like she went 'mudding'." Jim lifted the large, collapsible, cooler from the bed of the truck and waited for his partner at the door to the building. "Come on. I'd like to get upstairs before too long, Chief."

Grabbing the two large backpacks, Blair ran over and opened the door, then followed the other man up the stairs. It took a couple of more trips to the truck and back, but finally they were in the loft for the day. Jim had insisted on picking up a couple of bags of ice, which he used to fill another cooler and he transferred all the fish they weren't keeping into it, before grabbing up their dirty laundry and starting that chore. That left Blair to double-check the camping gear before repackaging it for long term storage in the basement. It was a familiar routine for them, though sometimes they'd switch off chores, and it made it that much easier to grab their gear and just go when the camping or fishing fever hit them again.

Blair was just returning to the loft from the basement when he noticed that Saint Germaine, Alicia's cat, was waiting by the loft's door. "Hey, Saint Gee. Miss me?" The lithe, black kitten came over to him and, stretching, put its paws on his jeans covered legs. "You want up?" Bending over, he scooped the cat into his arms where it snuggled against him and began to purr. "You are such a hedonist, Gee. Let's get you back downstairs before you cause your human to worry." Turning around, he headed back for the stairs. He hadn't even taken two steps when the door to the loft opened and Jim stepped out into the hall.


That one word was all it took. Saint Germaine twisted out of Blair's grasp, leapt to the floor, took one look at Jim, hissed, let out a yowl and took off running for the stairs. Blair watched as the cat streaked away, then turned back to his friend. He burst into uncontrolled gales of laughter when he caught sight of the expression on the man's face. Perplexed would be a good way to describe, but it just wasn't enough.

Scowling at his manic of a friend, Jim stepped back into their apartment. "I just don't get it. I usually get along well with animals, but that cat& "

Blair followed and closed the door behind him. "Hmm, most cats are pretty good judges of character. Maybe he just doesn't like the way you smell?"

Jim stopped in his tracks. "The way I 'smell'? Chief, I smell like fish. If anything, that would attract the cat, don't you think?"

"That's my point, Jim. You smell like 'prey' but you're way too big for him to take down, so he runs off. Pretty smart. I'd run too if I saw a salmon as big to me as you are to him." Blair walked into the kitchen, away from his roommate, putting as much space between them as he could. "By the way, did you manage to get a hold of Simon?"

Nodding as he wrinkled his nose, Jim decided that Blair had a point. "Fine. I get the hint. I need a good, long shower to rid myself of a few days worth of grime." Rubbing his hands over his face and a week's worth of beard, he walked down the hall to the bathroom.

"Hey! Don't use all the hot water! I'd like to clean up myself before Simon comes over!"

Alicia Andreson woke up from her nap, glaring at the ceiling above her as the sounds of the two men in apartment 307 drifted down to her. "And Jim had the audacity to complain about my radio being too loud?" Sighing, she crawled out of her bed and wandered out to her living room. The past week had been both a blessing and a bitch. The blessing in the sense that while the two men above her had been gone for a week, she'd be able to finish unpacking everything and getting her house in order. A bitch in the sense that she'd had to do that while getting everything over at the new Hallstatt Trust International office building set up and ready. In less than a week they would be opening the building for business.

Hearing a scratching at the door, she wandered over and opened it, only to have Saint Gee streak into the apartment like the very Devil was on his tail. Closing the door, she soon found herself having to deal with a cat-inspired obstacle course. The young cat kept bumping into her legs, running between them, as if trying to trip her. His purr was a nice loud rumble, letting her know that whatever it was that had caused him to dart into the apartment was over now. Carefully walking over to her stereo she turned it on and relaxed as the strains of classical music filled the air. "Ah, Mozart! And his 'Magical Flute suite to boot. Great." Reaching down, she scooped up Saint Gee into her arms and gave him his obligatory chin and ear scratches.

Stepping out onto her balcony, she took in the fresh, cool air. Glancing at her watch, she realized that she had napped for about two hours, and she really needed to get back to work. Leaving the French doors to the balcony open, she wandered back to her living area, sat down at her computer and booted it up. Saint Gee didn't like the noise that the hard drive put out and got down from her lap, complaining loudly at the imposition. Ignoring him and calling up her e-mail account, she sighed when she recognized one of the sender addresses. "Now what?" Pulling the letter up, she let out a moan. "No way! I'm not getting dragged into that. Not again!" She hit the reply button and sent off her own letter.

Finishing up her correspondences, Alicia decided that it had warmed up enough outside for her to take care of one last little detail, washing her filthy car. She ran and changed into some old jeans, a ratty looking tee shirt and a ragged chamois shirt, grabbed up some change and headed out.

She passed a tall, good-looking black man on the stairs, and wondered who he was, but was too intent on her destination to give it much thought. Getting into her Subaru, she headed off to where she knew there was a car wash with high-pressure hoses. The clay like muck covering her car would need the high pressure to remove it.

Captain Simon Banks moved out of the way of the small, blond woman rushing down the stairs, regretting the fact that the building's elevator was out of service. Again. However, he smiled as he thought about the fish that Jim Ellison had called to tell him about. A twenty pound salmon! Grinning like a fool over the thought of how many meals he could get out of such a fish, he knocked on the door to apartment 307, where his best detective team lived.

Blair opened the door. "Hi, Simon! Come on in."

Simon moved past the younger man to enter the well-appointed apartment. "Sandburg, Jim called me about the fish." He looked around trying to figure out where such a large fish could be waiting for him.

Letting out a laugh, Blair led his commander over into the kitchen and pointed out the two coolers on the floor. "It's in one of those, but I'm not sure which one."

Crouching down in front of the coolers, Simon lifted the lids. He let out an appreciative whistle, "Damn, the one time I can't go with you two and you hit the mother load! How many are in here?"

"Not as many as we caught." Jim stepped into the kitchen, hair still damp from his shower, dressed in faded blue jeans and a short sleeved Henley tee shirt. "Hello, Simon."

The tall Captain stood back up. "Not as many as you caught? What did you do, throw the little ones back?"

"Sure. They needed to have a chance to grow," Jim answered with a smile.

"And he promised that he didn't cheat, but I wonder when he caught his limit in less than four hours." Blair came up behind Simon and handed the Captain a beer, then passed one on to his roommate.

"I didn't 'cheat', Chief." Jim's smile grew wider as he recalled just how tempting it had been to use his sentinel sight to spy on the fish in the river, to know exactly where to throw his hook and bait.

"Yeah, right. So those fifteen fish you caught just sacrificed themselves to your hook?"

"Something like that." Jim walked out to the living room to sit down, Simon following him. "Of course, it would have been easier on me if you hadn't insisted on using your spear again."

Blair followed the two men to the living room and plopped down on the couch across from them. "Hey, don't complain. I did manage to catch two for dinner last night."

"That you did, Chief." Jim turned his attention back to his Captain, "So, Simon, how did the week go? Anything we should know about before heading in tomorrow?"

Simon relaxed back into the couch cushions. "No, not too much going on. Rafe and Brown have been working on a string of residential burglaries with Robbery Division, Connor's been working with Narcotics on another case, and Taggart's been teaching a EOD course over at the Academy."

"So, pretty quiet without Jim and I there, huh?"

Grinning wickedly, he responded to Blair's question. "Blessedly so."

Jim hid a smile behind his hand. He knew that he and Blair had a reputation for drawing the most violent cases, the psychos and the cases that no one wanted, making it very hard for their commander to assign them to 'normal' cases. The truth was, they were a good team. There was an unwritten rule in the Central Precinct: You have a puzzling crime? Give it to Ellison and Sandburg in Major Crimes and they'll solve it inside of a week.

"Any word back on that information I requested, Simon?" Jim asked.

"Not yet. But I've not heard back from Interpol yet, either."

Blair looked over at his roommate, wondering what he could've been looking into before they had left on their camping trip. "Jim? What information?"

Jim felt like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He knew that his partner had been spending a little time with their new neighbor, getting to know her and that little monster she called a cat. "Just a simple background check, Blair. Nothing major."

"Any one I know?"

Simon rose to his feet, not wanting to be caught in the possible upcoming battle between the sentinel and the shaman. "Well, I'd better collect my fish and head on back to the house. Daryl's supposed to be coming in for the week."

Thankful to Simon for giving him an 'out', Jim rose to his feet and walked in to the kitchen, where he pulled out the fish he'd set aside for his friend and wrapped it in several sheets of newspaper. "How did his first year of college go?"

Simon followed Jim out to the kitchen, draining his beer as he did so, "Fine. He was a little overwhelmed at first, being so far from home, but he seems to have settled in and made a few friends."

Seeing that the other two were intent on talking about Simon's son and ignoring his question, Blair slipped into his room, grabbed up a fresh set of clothing and headed into the bathroom.

Hearing the bathroom door click shut, Simon turned to Jim. "You haven't told him, have you?"

"No. Not yet."

"You contacted me the first day you were at your campsite, and you managed to avoid Sandburg when you called? How did you manage that little trick?" Simon handed over a roll of tape for Jim to secure the newspaper around his salmon with.

"Thanks." Jim put the finishing touches to the wrap and leaned on the counter. "I went for a hike. Told him if I wasn't back in an hour, to come looking for me along the only marked trail up where we set up at."

"And your little revelation? You are going to tell him, aren't you?" Simon reached out a hand and rested it on his detective's shoulder.

"I'll have to."

Blair had come out of the bathroom only to find that Simon had already left and Jim was standing out on the balcony, something the sentinel only did when something was bothering him. Reading the body language of his friend, Blair decided to leave him alone for a while. Going out to the kitchen, he started to wrap up a couple of the smaller fish in freezer paper that he'd stashed above the refrigerator. Finishing the chore, he walked over to balcony doors.


The older man turned and looked at his partner, "Yeah, Chief?"

"I'm going to take a couple of the fish we caught down to Alicia, if she doesn't want them for herself, maybe Saint Gee would like them."

Jim turned his attention back to the city below. "That sounds like a neighborly thing to do, Chief." Without really thinking about it, he stretched out his hearing and was rewarded with the sounds of classical music. "I think she's home."

Blair smiled. "You sure?"

"Well, either she's home or she left the radio on for the cat." Jim turned back to his friend. "Get back in time and I'll pop for dinner tonight."

"Okay, I won't stay long." Turning back into the loft, he hurried over to the kitchen, picked up the wrapped fish and headed out.

Knocking on the door to Alicia's apartment, he heard the loud greeting from Saint Gee.

Alicia opened the door and her cat stepped out into the hallway, to do his 'bump and rub' routine on Blair's legs. "Oh. Hi, Blair. Thought it might have been you when Gee streaked past me to get to the door. Come on in."

Stepping into the apartment, he couldn't help but notice that the woman's jeans covered legs were soaked. "Get your car washed up?"

"Yeah. Never thought I'd get all that mud off." She closed the door, noticing that Saint Gee was following her guest around like a lost puppy. "So, what brings you down here?" She walked over to her stereo and turned the volume down, the station was starting to broadcast the news.

Holding out the two packages, he smiled. "Just a little 'welcome to the neighborhood' gift or two. You like fish?"

Walking over to inspect the packages, she said, "Depends. What kind?"

He handed the two packages to her, identifying each wrapped item as he did so. "A ten pound King Salmon and a nice six pound rainbow trout. Jim and I had a lot of luck on our fishing trip and not enough room in the freezer for all that we caught."

Alicia smiled as he gave her the fish. "Salmon? I haven't had salmon in a long time. And I know just how I want to prepare it." She walked into the kitchen and placed the trout in the freezer, but placed the other fish in the 'fridge.

"Oh? How do you like to fix it? I'm always on the look out for a new recipe or two." Blair made to follow her into the small kitchen, but nearly tripped on Saint Gee who hadn't followed the fish like most cats would've done. Bending over, he picked up the black kitten and continued to walk into the kitchen while giving the little cat what he called 'belly scratches.'

Seeing that Saint Gee was enjoying the attention, Alicia answered, "I've got a nice smoker out on the balcony. All I need to do is find some good hickory wood, a nice white wine and some fresh herbs. Tell you what, I'll invite you and Jim down for dinner when it's done."

"You don't have to do that, Alicia."

"I insist. I still haven't really apologized to Jim for putting him on the ground that time." She was referring to the night that she'd been awakened by her car alarm going off, only to find a man, Jim, standing next to her car holding a gun.

Blair chuckled over the memory. "He's forgiven you for that. But if you're going to feed us, I'll have to bring another salmon or two down. How large is your smoker?"

Beckoning to him she walked past him. "Come on, I'll show you." She led the way to her balcony doors, very similar to the ones in the loft, and out onto the deck. She pointed to the large smoker standing in the corner. "See? It's large enough to smoke a twenty-five pound turkey."

Blair felt Saint Gee squirm and let the cat jump down from his arms. "That's a nice one. Okay, I'll bring the rest of the fish down on our way out."

"You and Jim going out somewhere?" She led the way back into the apartment, closing the doors after realizing that Saint Gee wanted to stay out and soak up the late afternoon sunshine.

Smiling, he quipped, "Yeah, I think he's tired of fish, but I have no idea where we'll end up." Glancing around the apartment he couldn't refrain from commenting, "Wow! You got everything moved in, looks like."

Letting out a small laugh, Alicia let an impish grin cross her face. "Yeah, finally. Didn't have a cranky upstairs neighbor telling me my radio was too loud and was able to work on it all week."

Wandering over to a well-stocked bookshelf, Blair found himself practically drooling over the many book titles he saw there. The collection was eclectic: everything from a history of crime and punishment in America to accounts on pre-civilized Europe and ancient Gaels. Without thinking, he reached up to one, touching the spine. "Oh, wow! That's one I haven't read."

Glancing over his shoulder to see what book he was talking about, she said, "Hmm, Burton's First Footsteps in Africa? You want to borrow it?" She reached past him to pull the book off the shelf, holding it out to him.

"Can I? I promise, I'll be real careful with it."

Placing the book in his hands, she said, "Go ahead. I trust you." She looked into his eyes, noting the dancing sparkle within their blue depths.

Carefully cradling the book to his chest, Blair smiled at her. "Thanks. Thank you. A lot, Alicia."

"You're welcome. Man, I haven't seen anyone so excited over a book since I found that one myself. Made a real fool of myself in the book market at Salzburg." She smiled at the memory; she'd almost gave the book dealer a heart attack when she came running up to the register to purchase the book she'd been looking for.

"Salzburg? Austria?"

"Is there another?"

Blair stopped to think about that. "No, I don't think so. When where you there?"

"I just moved back to the States from Austria. I lived in Vienna for just under two years." She walked over towards the door. "I hate to give you the bum's rush, but I'm expecting a call and I can't afford to be distracted. Besides, you said you and Jim were getting ready to head out to dinner?" She opened the door.

Getting her point, Blair walked over to the door with her. "Yeah, you're right. Thanks for the loan of the book." Impulsively, he placed a fast kiss on her cheek and headed out the door.

Closing the door slowly, her hand resting on her cheek, Alicia was still in a bit of a confused stupor when her phone rang. It took three rings before she realized what the noise was. Running for the phone, she answered on the fourth ring. "Hello?" She sat down on a barstool in her kitchen as the voice came over the line.

"Alicia, was ist dieses ich zu hören? Sie haben eine Anweisung abgelehnt?" The male voice wasn't very happy, but not completely pissed off either.

"Hiram. So nett, von Ihnen zu hören." Actually, she'd been expecting his call and it wasn't nice to hear from him. Switching over to English she continued, "Yes, I refused the assignment, so if that's what you heard, you heard correctly."

"Why? It was a simple assignment, well within your skill level."

Sighing, Alicia tried to get her point across to the man on the phone. "Look, Hiram, I'm trying to get past that part of my life. I do not want to go back there. For any reason! Can't you just find someone else to go? Wilhelm could do the job just as well as I."

"You are that uncomfortable with the idea of returning there?"


"Okay. Wilhelm will get the assignment. I'm looking forward to seeing you in a week. You will be there for the grand opening, will you not?"

"I'll be there. If only to make sure the job is handled properly."

"You will do a fine job, you have a knack for it. Will you need a stipend to get an appropriate dress for the occasion?"

"No. I'll make do with what I have."

"Do as you will, Alicia, you always do anyway. Good bye."

She hung up the phone, wondering aloud to herself, "Why would we need to go there anyway? Our involvement at that site was to have been minimal." Sighing, thankful that she had gotten out of a personally distasteful assignment, she went about trying to fix something for dinner.

Jim had noticed how quiet his friend was on the ride home from the Thai restaurant that they had ended up at for dinner. Silence from Blair was never a good sign. "Chief? What's wrong?"

Blair looked over at the man sitting on his left, behind the wheel of the old Ford pickup. "What makes you think that something's wrong?"

Pulling up to a stoplight, the detective turned to face him. "Oh, I don't know. Your lingering silence since we left The Dragon Pearl?"

"What do you expect? You tell me, just as we're leaving mind you, that you are running a background check on Alicia and you want me to just let it go?" Blair turned his gaze away from his friend, opting to look out the passenger side window instead. "I thought you were joking that one time that you said you were going to start running checks on my friends."

The light turned green and Jim pulled forward into the traffic flow. "That's not why I'm running the check on her," he growled.

"Then why?"

Taking in a deep breath, Jim tried to explain. "Chief, Blair, remember when we got that information that led to the arrest of Stuart Phelps? The Clown?" Glancing over at the younger man, he saw him nod in agreement. "Okay, remember that little 'zone-out' I had? The one connected with a scent?"

Looking back at the Sentinel, Blair lost all interest in keeping track of the passing landscape. " I recall. You said it was feminine, but couldn't place it at the time."

Turning onto Prospect Avenue, Jim decided to tell the whole truth. "True. But it came to me on the first day of our camping trip. I figured out where I had smelled that scent before."


"It's Alicia's."

Blair rocked back into his seat. "No way! It couldn't have been! She'd only been in Cascade for, maybe, a month when that 'tip' came into the precinct. Maybe her scent is just similar to whomever sent that letter to us."

Stopping at yet another stoplight, Jim looked at his partner. "That book you brought back from Alicia's earlier? It had her scent all over it. It's the same."

"Okay, I think I see where this is going. You don't think she was involved in the scheme that Phelps had cooked up, do you?" Blair looked at his friend, his eyes pleading for the truth.

"No, I don't." He pulled forward as the light changed and the Sunday evening traffic started flowing again. "But I would like to know how she came by the information."

Blair let out a sign of relief. "I think I can answer that one for you, Jim."

Pulling the truck into the parking area by the loft, he pulled into a vacant space and turned off the engine. "You can? How?"

Rubbing the back of the hand that he'd injured while helping Alicia change a flat tire, he answered. "The first time I met her, I found out that Alicia is an insurance investigator." Looking around the parking area, he spied the car that belonged to the woman he and Jim were discussing. "Look, she's home. Why don't we just go ask her?"

Jim looked over at his friend. "I don't think that would be such a good idea& "

"Look, you think it's her, so why not get this out of the way? Right now, tonight?" Blair opened up the truck door and hopped out before Jim could protest and slammed it shut again.

Scrambling to reach his guide before he got too far ahead of him, Jim jumped out of the truck and caught up to him at the door to the building. "Chief, wait up." He held the door closed, preventing

Blair from opening it. "I'd rather wait until I get something back on the background check."

Understanding Jim's need to have as much information as possible before confronting someone, Blair nodded. "Okay. On one condition."


"Tell me why you're having Interpol look into her?"

Jim smiled a crooked smile that showed his relief at such an easy question. "Because her Driver's License showed a little note on it that said it was 'valid without photo.' A common enough occurrence for a person who is serving in the military overseas when it's time to renew the license."


Jim opened up the door. "So, are we good with this?"

Blair shrugged as he ducked under Jim's arm to enter the building. "For now. When do you expect to hear back on your inquiries?"

"Hopefully tomorrow, when we get into work." Seeing that the elevator still had the 'Out of Service' sign on it, Jim led the way to the stairs. Halfway up from the second floor landing, he found himself confronted by a seething, black, fur ball.

Blair held back a snicker as Saint Gee walked, stiff legged, down the stairs, keeping as much space between him and Jim as possible, his fur standing up on end. It was comical. As soon as Saint Gee got close to him, the fur lay back down, and the younger man was rewarded with a friendly bump and 'mrreow' as the little kitten continued his trek down the stairs towards home. Shaking his head, Blair finally let out a small snicker. "Man, Gee just doesn't like you, Jim."

"So I noticed." Jim grumped as he continued up the stairs and on towards the loft. Entering their home, he turned back to his roommate. "So, you won't say anything to Alicia? At least not until I get the background check back?"

Closing the door behind him, Blair headed over to his bedroom. "Nah. I won't say anything." Ducking into his room, he came back out with the book he'd borrowed from their downstairs neighbor. Holding it out towards Jim he grinned evilly. "Here, take that."

Grabbing the book, Jim caught the smirk on Blair's face. "Okay, what's going on in that devious mind of yours, Chief?"

Seating himself down on the couch facing the kitchen, slinging his arms over the back, he raised an eyebrow. "You should know me well enough by now, Jim. You tell me."

He didn't bother to hold back the moan that escaped his lips. "Oh, I get it. Test Time."

"Got it in one. Come on, Jim. You want me to believe that you recognized Alicia's scent from a letter that we got three days before you could recall it?" Blair noticed that Jim nodded as he took a seat on the couch opposite of him. "Then prove it."

Monday mornings, Blair hated them. Okay, well, maybe not hate, but he certainly disliked them. Especially when they started out like this morning had. First, the hot water heater had gone on the fritz, leaving only cold water for his shower, and Jim's too. Due to that little surprise, neither of them was in a very good mood, and then the coffee maker had decided to really mess up the morning. The basket had clogged up, for no readily apparent reason, and instead of dripping fresh brew into the carafe, it overflowed coffee 'sludge' onto the counter top. Cleaning up the mess, Blair recalled that he'd promised a couple more fish to Alicia. Grabbing up the wrapped parcels, he took them down to her, luckily catching her on the way out. She was obviously heading into work, dressed in dark blue dress slacks, a light blue shirt and a navy blue blazer with a double world globe emblazoned on the breast.

She'd thanked him for the fish, then had to run after putting the wrapped fish into her 'fridge.

The drive in to the central precinct hadn't been as calm as normal either. First, needing the caffeine boost, they stopped off at a Coffee Hut and ended up waiting in the drive thru for fifteen minutes.

Then, just about a mile from the station, they'd got caught up in a stand still traffic jam. As they sat there in Jim's truck, Blair had recalled reading somewhere that the street department was supposed to start a huge resurfacing project this week. Thinking that if he had recalled that little detail earlier, they could've taken another route, didn't help either.

Finally getting to Major Crimes at a few minutes after nine, each man had found message notes on their desks. Jim was requested to report to Prosecuting Attorney Hidlemier's office when he had a chance and Blair's presence was also required. The message for Blair was from Alicia, telling him that she should have dinner ready by seven on Tuesday evening. Letting Rhonda know where they were going, the two partners headed over to the PA's office.

Rhonda looked up from her desk just as a liveried courier walked into the bullpen. Getting up from her seat, she walked over to the young man. "Can I help you?"

"I've got a package for a," The courier looked down at his note pad, "Detective J. Ellison?"

"He's stepped out for a while, I can make sure that he gets it if you'd like."

"I need a signature." He held out the electronic note pad and stylus to her, watched as she signed for the package, then handed over the large envelope. "Have a good day, ma'am."

Rhonda looked over the envelope. It was large, but not too thick, and the sender's address was vaguely familiar. Records Depository, Denver Colorado. Shrugging, she walked over and placed the envelope in Jim's 'in' basket, on top of the five reports that had been returned to him from Records with post-it notes all over them. Rhonda chuckled. Even with Jim's using the computer more frequently, he still got reports returned for 'corrections'. Not as often as he had when the reports where still hand written, but often enough to frustrate the man.

Jim returned to the bullpen alone, Blair having to stay behind with Hidlemier to double, and triple, check his arrest report of Stuart Phelps. Reaching his desk, he spotted the large envelope and picked it up. Seeing where it was from, he ripped opened the package and pulled the file out. It was disappointingly thin.

The file contained a copy of Alicia A. Andreson's military service record. Sitting down, he started to read the file.

She'd joined the US Air Force in 1985, trained in Security, worked at Lackland AFB, then transferred to Ramstein AFB in Germany in 1988 where she worked in communications. There was a note that showed that she'd gone back to Lackland in 90 for further training, but the nature of the training wasn't available. The last entries in her file showed a temporary duty assignment to Nellis AFB in Nevada, duties unlisted, then her discharge from the Air Force in 95. Her base of separation was Ramstein, but there was no mention to when she had transferred there after Nellis.

Her personnel jacket showed several reports for excellence in duty, a Top Secret clearance and her DD-214, the discharge papers, listed her as 'Inactive Reserve - Indefinite.' A very unusual occurrence, as most military personnel were only subjected to spend half of their active duty time as inactive reserves upon discharge. Therefore, if you had severed for twenty years as an active member, you'd spend ten as inactive. Andreson had served as 'Active' for ten years, which meant that she should've had five years of 'Inactive' time to serve, and not have to worry about being called up for the rest of her life.

Jim dropped the file onto his desk top, thinking about what could cause the military to hang so tightly onto a former member. Only one thing came to mind, Covert Operations. Covert operators could be kept on the

Inactive lists however long it took to declassify their missions, thus keeping them under their oath of secrecy. He looked up as Rhonda approached his desk.

"Jim? This fax just came in for you." She handed over three pages of papers, then returned to her desk.

Seeing that the fax was a response to his request from Interpol, he flipped over the cover page to read the report. Nothing. Well, nothing of interest. Alicia A. Andreson had applied for a work visa in May of 1995 to work in Europe, then had shown up in Austria in July of the same year. Less than two weeks after her discharge from the US Air Force, she was reportedly working for Hallstatt International Trust, Inc. out of their offices in Salzburg, Hallstatt and Vienna, Austria. The next page showed her passport records:

England, Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Russia, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, Japan, China&

The woman had been all over the globe in a few short years. Most of her entries had been in the last few years, the last one showing her return to the US in May of this year, two months ago. She'd come in through Dulles in Washington DC.

"No wonder her DL is active without photo." Jim said under his breath, "This is the first time she's been back in the US since 95."


Jim looked up to see Blair seating himself at his desk. "Alicia." He tossed the file and fax over to his partner. "Read that."

"Wow! She's traveled to more places than I have!" Scanning over her military records he came to the status report. "Jim? What does 'Inactive Reserve - Indefinite' mean?"

Raising an eyebrow, Jim answered with another question, "What do you think it means?"

Blair thought about it for a moment. "Uh, she can be recalled to active duty at anytime?"

"Correct." Jim started to boot up his computer, hoping that his other inquiries about his new neighbor were back. Checking his email, he found one response. Her financial records were clean, and showed her monetary 'worth' at just under 250,000 dollars. They showed holdings in several companies, and land holdings in Austria and several sites in the US, including a new one just outside of Cascade, fifty acres of woodland in the Cascade Mountain Range. Printing out the response, he looked up at his partner. "What do you say to lunch, Chief?"

Closing the file, Blair nodded. "I can do that."

After letting Rhonda know where they were going, they headed out. Jim was getting more curious about Alicia Andreson with every response that came in to his inquiries. He wanted to run one more check, but that would require getting her car tag and running the registry. He'd try to get that tonight when they returned home.

Alicia walked into the recently completed HTI Building, the final touches having been completed just last Thursday, and, nodding a greeting at the company's receptionist, headed to the elevators. Upon arrival on the sixth floor, she walked to the large office that had been designated for her use and walked in. The place was relatively clean, but the furniture that had been ordered for the space had yet to be arranged in the proper configuration. Except for the large cherry wood desk, that was set up. She smiled as the older woman sitting behind the desk stood and greeted her.

"Morning, Alicia."

"Bernie. Don't let me interrupt you." She walked over to a coat tree and removed her jacket. Turning her attention back to the other woman, Alicia automatically took in the appearance of her fellow office worker. Bernice "Bernie" Goldwater was a fairly tall woman, just shy of six foot, with dark brown hair that was heavily salted with silver strands. Her build was slender, but not so much that she looked like a model. However, it was her eyes that got Alicia's attention. The normally amber orbs were clouded, bloodshot and tiny lines had appeared overnight at the corners.

Bernie shook her head. "Mr. Erbauer called this morning." She stepped away from the desk gesturing for Alicia to take the chair. "He didn't seem too happy. Said something about Wilhelm having come down with a nasty bug?" Pulling a spare chair from against the wall, Bernie sat back down, across the desk from Alicia.

Sitting down, Alicia pulled up the information on her computer that would tell her just when Erbauer's call had come in. Looking back up at her companion, she said, "Bernie, you've been here a while? Did you get any sleep?"

Shrugging, she responded. "Some. Still haven't adjusted to West Coast time. Been in since 0430 this morning." Reaching over to the desk, she picked up a clipboard, glanced at it and composed her briefing. "You ready for today's itinerary?"

Leaning back in the chair, she sighed. "Go ahead. But I'm guessing I won't like it."

Bernie chuckled. "Probably not. Okay, a few of the boys from Security have offered their services to get this place straightened out." She gestured to the surrounding room. "They'll be up here in an hour.

Then we need to go over arrangements for the Grand Opening next week. Public Relations is completing the guest list and tells me we should have it in our hands by noon. They've also hired a caterer, here's the list of employees." She pulled out a two-page report and handed it over to Alicia. "Looks clear to me, but you're better at that sort of thing than I am."

Bringing her head up, Alicia stared at the woman. "Don't sell yourself short, Bernie. You're just as good as I am, maybe even better."

"Yeah, right!" Flipping over the paper on the clipboard, she continued, "So far, only fourteen of the offices have been fully completed, sixty-nine should be completed by tomorrow evening, the rest of them, twenty-one in all, should hopefully be completed by Friday."

"With the Grand Opening Gala scheduled for the following Friday." Alicia stood up and began pacing, "I hate this. I don't see how Hiram expects us to get everything done in such a short time!"

Bernie watched as her friend paced between the desk and the huge window that had a spectacular view of the Cascade Harbor. She grinned at the restlessness being displayed. "Alicia, Hiram trusts you. Though I will admit that he should've sent more than just a handful of us to this lovely city with you."

Coming to an abrupt halt in front of the window, Alicia glared at her reflection in the glass. Her response to Bernie was a growl. "He should have sent Wolfie to handle this. I'm just not qualified."

"And Wolfie is?"

"Wolfgang Caiden has opened more HTI offices than anyone, Bernie!" She executed an 'about-face' maneuver and faced her long time friend. "Hell, he had the DC office up and operational in three months!"

Bernie raised her hand to hide her smirk. "But isn't Caiden approaching mandatory retirement age?" She recalled meeting the man in question a time or two, back in Vienna. Wolfgang Amadeus Caiden was a tall, imposing man in his late seventies whose mind was still as sharp as the saber that he loved to 'play' with.

"Ha! Like one ever fully 'retires' from the business!" Alicia stomped back over to the desk and instead of sitting back into the chair, she walked to the front the massive desk and leaned against it, facing her companion. "Okay. Let's get on with this. What else is on the agenda for today?" Crossing her arms over her chest, she listened attentively.

The rest of the briefing was fairly smooth, according to Bernie's point of view. Alicia only 'blew up' one more time, and that was over hearing that Hiram had requested that she take care of the interviews for the remaining slots in the Technical Support Department. Once that storm blew over, Bernie excused herself and made herself scarce.

When the security personnel showed up, Alicia gave the lead officer a detailed floor plan, grabbed up her jacket and left the large office. Taking the stairs, she walked up to the seventh floor and entered one of the three offices on that floor. The office was large, taking up more than half the floor space of the entire floor, and it was, thankfully, one of the fourteen offices that was completely ready for occupation. Sighing in relief, Alicia shut the door behind her and walked over to the desk that exactly matched hers. Slinging her jacket over the back of the desk chair, she picked up the phone and dialed a phone number from memory.

Her call was picked up on the second ring. "Hiram? I've rethought my decision. I'll take the assignment after all."

Jim and Blair had just finished their lunch, at a new vegetarian eatery that the health conscious younger half of the pair had been wanting to try out, when Jim's attention was drawn to a nervous looking customer that had just walked in the door. Sliding out his side of the booth, he kept an eye on the man, as he silently drew his partner's attention. "Chief."

Looking up from where he sat, Blair placed the tea glass down on the table and made eye contact with his friend. The sentinel's face was tight with concentration. Jim's eyes shifted to the where the cash register was, and Blair noticed the nervous customer. He slid out of the booth, grabbing their ticket as he did so. He was standing close enough to Jim to hear him say, "Gun. He's demanding the day's receipts. Cover him."

Grasping Jim's plan, he raised his voice to 'normal' levels and said, "Sure, meet you at the truck." Grabbing up his tea glass to slug back the last of the beverage, he watched as Jim headed towards the bathrooms and the back door that he'd noticed when they had arrived. Carefully pulling out his wallet as he walked towards the register, not wanting to reveal his sidearm and badge, he stepped up behind the robber.

Years of observing people took control as he looked the man over: early to mid-twenties. Painfully thin. Caucasian. Bad shakes. Long-sleeved shirt. Drug user was the profile that leapt to mind. Probably needing to make this happen to score his next hit. Spotting Jim sliding in the front door, he carefully slid his gun out of its holster and kept it low by his thigh, just as his partner stepped forward, gun and badge displayed.

Sensing that Sandburg was ready, Jim moved forward and pulled his weapon, bringing it up to bear on the would-be robber. "Police. Drop the gun." He kept his voice low, not wanting to scare the eatery's patrons into a panic. The criminal, a kid really, started to bring his own weapon up.

"Don't even think about it, man." Blair placed the muzzle of his .45 on the back of the kid's neck. The guy dropped the gun with a loud clatter to the floor.

Jim smiled as he retrieved the perp's weapon, his eyes never leaving his target. "Smart move," he told the kid, and nodded to Blair that he'd cover the subject while he took the subject into custody.

Slipping his gun back into its holster, and pulling out a pair of handcuffs, Blair moved in to secure the criminal. The first cuff went on fairly easy, but just as he was bringing the other arm down around the perp's back, the fight was on. Desperately maintaining control of the arm that already had the cuff on it, not wanting to give the guy a chance to use the handcuffs as a flaying weapon, Blair was thankful that Jim moved in to assist.

Seeing that his partner was in trouble, Jim moved in with fluid grace. Grabbing up the free flying arm, he stepped in towards the twisting body and jerked the limb in his hands, pulling both the perpetrator and his partner off balance. He followed through with a stunning blow to the perp's brachial plexus nerve cluster at the junction of the neck and shoulder.

Feeling the robber's knees give out from under him, Blair followed the subject to the floor, bringing his knee to rest on the man's back, forcing the air and the fight out of him. Reaching out to secure the left arm into the free cuff, Blair grinned at his partner, who had his own knee on the man's neck.

"That went smoothly enough, don't you think?"

Jim shook his head. "Sure did." Looking up to the cashier he smiled reassuringly. "Ma'am, I'm Detective Ellison, I called dispatch, patrol units are on their way." Lending a helping hand to Blair, they got the robber to his feet. "I got him, Sandburg. You want to start taking the lady's statement?"

"Sure." Pulling a notebook out of his pocket along with his badge, he leaned over the counter, smiling at the young woman. "Detective Sandburg. Can you tell me what happened before my partner and I interfered?" Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Jim hauling the suspect out the door to greet the two police cruisers that had just pulled up, lights popping and sirens screaming. From the increased noise level behind him in the seating area, the customers of The Garden Spot had just figured out something had happened.

Captain Simon Banks looked up from his desk, currently cluttered in financial reports, just as the team of Ellison and Sandburg walked back into the bullpen. He didn't say or do anything, just watched as the men walked to their desks, dropped a couple of files onto them, then headed towards his office.

Glancing at his watch, Simon noticed that it was a quarter past one in the afternoon. Knowing that the two detectives had gone to 'lunch' just before noon, he guessed that they had run into some trouble. He dropped his watchful gaze just as Jim rapped, once, on the door and Simon let out a grunted, "Enter!"

"Captain, I can explain& " Jim started as he walked into the Captain's office, Blair fast on his heels.

Leaning back away from his disorganized desk, Simon grinned ferally and asked, " Oh really? Let me guess, you and Sandburg lost track of time and hadn't realized that you had taken a hour and a half lunch because& Hell, I can't even come up with a good one for that! Sit! Both of you! And this had better be good!"

The partners sat down across from their commander, and just as Blair opened his mouth to begin the 'explanation,' a member of the uniformed patrol knocked on the Captain's door.

Raising a hand to halt Sandburg before he started, Simon yelled out, "Come in!" He nailed the patrolman who opened the door with his patented 'state-your-business-and-get-out' look. "What is it, Sgt.


"Sorry for the interruption, Captain, I just need Ellison and Sandburg's signatures on this report."

Brigham J. Goodman held up a file so the Captain could see it, then handed it and a pen over to Ellison. "I didn't get the chance to thank you before, Jim, but I really appreciated your help earlier."

Jim opened the file, found the report that he had to sign off on and signed it. Handing the file and pen over to Blair, he grinned at the Sergeant crookedly. "Not a problem, B.J. I'm just glad we were there and no one was hurt."

Taking the file folder back from Sandburg, Goodman responded. "That's only because of your fast actions and Sandburg's faster mind. Anyway, thanks again. I'll let you know how the perp is, if you want, later?"

Blair nodded. "That'd be nice. I'm still having problems with how that kid was acting. I'm not sure what he was on, but he was obviously flying high."

Simon watched as Goodman nodded in agreement and left the office, closing the door behind him. Looking at his two men, he shook his head. "Okay, let me guess: You walked in on a hold up in progress?"

Jim grinned and shook his head. "Not exactly, Simon."

"Nah, more like it walked in on us," Blair supplied. "Just as we were getting set to leave The Garden Spot."

"The Garden Spot? You actually got Jim to go there? Voluntarily?" Simon sat back in shock, and listened as the two men related the lunch time events to him.

Simon allowed himself a good chuckle over the story. With the backup from Sergeant Goodman's request for a signature on a report, he knew it had to be true. "You two aren't even back on duty for a full day before you're getting into trouble!"

Blair smiled. "Okay, so who won the bet this time?"

"What time did this 'incident' go down?" Simon pulled a small notebook out from his desk drawer and opened it to a page near the back.

"I'm not real sure, Simon. I was a little busy. Chief?" Jim looked over at his partner.

"Sorry, didn't wear my watch today." Blair's grin was wide.

Simon reached for his phone. "Easily taken care of." Dialing the extension to the communications center he asked the dispatcher that answered, "Becky, Captain Banks. There was an armed robbery called in, for the Garden Spot? Yes, the one that Ellison called in. What time? Okay, thanks. No, not this time, Becky. Maybe the next pool? Fine." Hanging up the phone he turned his attention to his notebook once again.

"Damn! How does he do that?"

"Sanderson again?" Jim asked.

"Yes. Lucky bastard. Got it right down to the day and minute this time." Simon took a cigar out of his humidor and began to chew on it.

Blair sat forward on his chair, "Captain? Did I hear you right? Becky down in dispatch got in on the pool?"

"Sandburg, she's the one that started the whole damn 'Ellison/Sandburg In The Thick Of It' betting pool." Which was, Simon reflected, only one of the Ellison/Sandburg pools that floated around Central Precinct. There was also: E/S Solve Crime In X-Number Of Days, E/S Which One To ER This Time, and the on going one that no one had won yet  Ellison or Sandburg: Who makes Captain First? Simon had been responsible for the last one himself, and figured it was a fairly even field since Jim and Blair were both being considered by the brass for the next Lieutenant's test. The betting in that pool was fairly heavy on Jim, but four, no five, people had placed small wagers on Blair: Taggart, Brown, Rafe,

Connor and, of course, Simon himself.

The laughter that had followed Simon's revelation about the dispatcher slowed down to mere chuckles and the Captain returned his attention to the work before him. "You two got anything pressing right now, Jim?"

"Not that I can think of. What do you need?"

"Your partner."

"Me? Uh, for what, Captain?"

"Your skills at handling fiscal reports." Simon gestured at the paperwork piled on his desk. "I need to have this year's first quarter report finalized by Wednesday and I can't even begin to think of where to start."

Seeing that Jim approved of his assisting their commander, Blair took out his glasses, got up from his seat, and leaned over the desk. "From January to March, right? Okay, where are& " He started fishing around the deep pile of papers.

Jim left the two men alone, knowing that his assistance wouldn't be needed. He could balance his checkbook, keep track of his personal expenditures, but handling and justifying everything from overtime pay to office supplies drove him crazy. He'd done it, once, when Simon had been recovering from being shot by Zeller, and swore off ever having to get involved in the process again. Heading back to his desk, he sat down and pulled out the military record of Alicia Andreson to go over again. A thought had occurred to him at lunch, before the incident, and he wanted to check it out. Sure enough, there was no rank listing on her DD-214. Highly irregular.

Alicia let herself into her apartment just after five in the evening. Saint Gee greeted her with a loud, rapid discourse of his day's events while trying to wrap himself around her ankles. Slowly making her way to the kitchen, she placed the grocery sacks on the counter, and whistled a three note tune while patting the countertop. When Saint Gee responded by jumping onto the counter and padding over to his 'spot', she rewarded him with a teaspoon of kitty treats and a good ear rubbing. After he finished his snack, she snapped her fingers, once, and when he leapt down, she dropped to her knees and gave him a good back scratching.

"You're such a clever boy, Gee. Now, can you behave yourself while I get dinner ready?" His purring motor went into overdrive and he walked over to the sofa in the living room, jumped up onto it and settled onto 'his' pillow. "Thank you." Removing a bag of charcoal from one of the grocery sacks, she walked out onto the balcony, loaded up the smoker and fired it up. After making sure the coals fully caught fire, she returned to the kitchen and set about getting dinner for herself and Gee.

She had just set the three large salmon to smoking when her phone rang. Picking up the cordless from its place by her computer, she answered, "Hello?"

"Alicia, Hiram. Arrangements have been made. You'll fly out of Tacoma, on Wednesday at six a.m., arrive at Las Vegas at approximately nine a.m. and be escorted to the facility."

Letting out an exhausted sigh, she sat down at her computer desk. "Hiram, I know the routine. Remember? Have the facility coordinators gotten back with you about the items I requested?"

"Yes. They assure me that if they don't already have them on hand, they will in time for your arrival."

"Good. Okay, I have to finish my dinner, start packing and look for someone to watch my kitty for me."

Hiram laughed over the phone line. "You and your animals! One day, you'll run across one that won't take to you."

Feeling a pressure on her left leg, Alicia bent over, picked up Saint Gee and placed him in her lap. "Hasn't happened yet."

"I have more information on that other matter I told you about earlier."

When they had talked that morning, Hiram had informed her that someone had been running a typical background check on her. She'd asked if he could dig up whom. "You got a name for me?"

"Not yet, but the check is being run through the Cascade Police Department. Have you gotten into something that I should know about?"

"No." At least she didn't think so.

"You assured me that there is nothing in your past that I need to worry about, right?"

Alicia chortled, "Nothing. Look, should they manage to get a hold of my service records, they'll find nothing of interest."

"Good. Well, I shall let you be about your business. See you at the Grand Opening."

Hearing the connection terminate, she hung up the phone. Sitting back in her straight back chair, stroking Saint Gee's silky fur, she thought back to the only event that could possibly have the police interested in her. "I know that I was careful. There is no way that they could have identified me off that letter."

She shook off the speculation, enticed her cat to jump down off her lap, then headed out the kitchen to prepare the solution to put in the smoker's steam pan: a combination of a dry white wine, fresh rosemary and thyme and a white Worcestershire sauce. Seeing that it was taken care of, she went into her bedroom and changed into her normal 'biking' wear. Wheeling her mountain bike out of the apartment, letting Saint Gee out to roam, she set off to burn off some excess energy. She was just building up a good speed on Prospect Ave. when she passed a familiar blue and white pick up.

Blair looked up from the paperwork he was reading over, Jim had brought the files on Alicia home with them, just as their neighbor flew by them on her mountain bike. "Whew! She's booking it!"

"Thought she only rode in the mornings? Or does she fly past us while we're running just for the fun of it?" Jim pulled into the parking area of their building, parking next to the Subaru. He'd caught a glimpse of the vehicle's tag as he pulled in. It was a personalized plate, Tyler-1. He filed the information away to run through the DMV files in the morning.

"That's what she told me. Maybe she had a bad day at work?" Blair closed the files and hopped out of the truck.

Following his roommate, Jim had to agree with him. "Maybe." The gentle breeze that had been blowing in from the harbor died then switched directions, causing him to sneeze. "Damn! Perm day in the salon, again."

Blair laughed. " Okay, you know the routine, Jim." He placed his hand on the small of the other man's back, gently rubbing in a circular motion. "Turn the dial back to a one and leave it there until just before you go to bed. Got it?" The sentinel nodded. "Good. The fumes should be gone by then." They headed up the stairs, only to be greeted by Saint Gee with what was becoming a 'normal' routine. Every time the little cat spotted Jim, he'd fly into a snarling, hissing fit and either take off in flight, or plaster himself to a wall to avoid the tall detective.

This time, the cat stood his ground on the second floor landing and just hissed when Jim passed him. Looking down at the kitten, Jim voiced his thoughts. "You know, I was here first, fur ball. Get over it." And he walked by the cat and on up the stairs to the third floor.

Watching in amazement, Blair's jaw dropped as Saint Gee quit his hissing, sat down on his haunches and went about smoothing his fur back down along his spine. Keeping a close eye on Jim as he walked up the stairs. Looking down at the black kitten when it was his turn to pass him, he spoke to the cat. "He's right, Saint Gee." Blair was rewarded with a plaintive 'mmrrreow' and a flip of the tail tip as Saint Gee stood up and walked past him to continue his trip on the stairs.

When he entered the loft, Jim was already in the kitchen, rummaging through the refrigerator. Walking over to the dining table, Blair dropped the files and wandered back towards the bathroom. When he returned to the kitchen, Jim had started dinner: spaghetti from the looks of things. As he pulled a bottle of fruit juice out of the fridge, he recalled Alicia's invitation.

"Hey, Jim? When I took the fish down to Alicia, she invited us to dinner." His roommate's head snapped up from checking the sauce and Blair clarified his remarks. " Tomorrow night. I took it upon myself to answer for both of us. You interested?"

Carefully laying his large spoon on the plate he'd placed on the stovetop, Jim thought about the offer. It would give him a chance to learn a little bit more about their neighbor, seeing her in her natural environment. Providing that her kitten decided to behave itself. "Sure, Chief. Might be interesting."

The glint in the depths of the sentinel's blue eyes didn't fool the shaman for a minute. "Jim, we're going to be there as neighbors, friends. You will not use the opportunity to interrogate Alicia."

The strength of Blair's conviction came through to him loud and clear, he nodded in response and shrugged. "Okay, I'll behave myself." He picked up the spoon to stir the tomato sauce again, then used it as a baton as he continued his thoughts. "But don't blame me when it turns out she's some kind of mass murderer with a rap sheet as long as she is tall." Jim grinned impishly as he said it, hoping that his guide would catch on.

Nearly choking on his drink, Blair spluttered. "What? No way!"

"I don't know, Chief. You never can tell these days& " He grabbed up the pot with the boiling noodles and carried it over to the sink where he drained it into a colander.

Regaining his composure, Blair retorted. "You're right, Jim. You might want to run all our neighbors through the system. Including Mrs. Catropa. After all, she might be a retired 'hitwoman' from the mob.

She did move out here from Chicago you know." Hearing Jim break into laughter was enough of a reward. Taking his juice, he walked back over to the table, cleared the files and began to set out the dinner utensils.

They were relaxing on the balcony after dinner, taking advantage of the mild weather, drinking a couple of beers when Jim decided to try bringing his nose 'back on line.' The fumes from the beauty salon had faded, only to be replaced with a far more appealing aroma. Leaning a bit further out over the railing, he spotted the smoker on the balcony below, tendrils of smoke escaping from around the closed top. "Hmm, that's nice. Much nicer than the perm fumes."

Not wanting to lean over the railing, Blair took a couple of experimental sniffs then inhaled deeply as the fragrant smoke drifted up past his position. "That's got to be dinner for tomorrow night. Alicia said she liked her salmon smoked." Seeing an opportunity to get some discreet 'testing' in, Blair asked, "So, can you tell me? What she's using to smoke with?" Testing was no longer needed for his thesis, but this would also serve as a form of 'sentinel senses' exercise, to help Jim maintain his control.

Knowing what his friend was up to, but no longer as touchy about it, Jim inhaled. He, too, wanted to know what Alicia was using; the smell was fantastic. "Hickory, I think. And some kind of herbs. Rosemary possibly. Can't tell what the other one is, and some kind of alcohol. But not beer, lighter, a little sweet but not too much." Opening his eyes, not realizing that he'd closed them, Jim looked over at his friend. "Well?"

Smiling, Blair held up his hand. The gentle off shore breeze blew more smoke his way and he closed his own eyes as he dragged in another breath. Many years of cooking with, and using herbs for medicinal purposes, had given him a good working knowledge of most herbs. "Thyme. She's using thyme. If it tastes half as good as it smells, I may just have to wheedle the recipe out of her."

They laughed for a while, relaxing fully as the sun set in the west. Once the sun had fully disappeared, they went back inside. As he scooted past the stack of files, Blair picked up the one containing Alicia's passport record. He carried it with him over to the couch, wanting to see just how many places his latest friend had traveled to. The first entry was when she arrived in Germany for assignment to

Ramstein AFB, back in 1988. Then he noticed just how many times she had entered other countries in the past two and a half years. Counting, he came up with 19 different countries, with most visited three or four times, for a total of 42 entries on her passport.

Looking over at Jim who was reading another file at the table, he commented. "Jim, do you think that Alicia flies commercial aircraft? Or does her company, this Hallstatt Trust International, fly her around

in private?"

Bringing his gaze to rest on his partner, Jim answered, "I have no idea, Junior. Why?"

Removing his eyeglasses, he maintained eye contact with his friend. "'Cause, if she flies commercial, I'm willing to bet that the airlines had to 'buy back' a great many of their frequent flyer miles from her."

He stood up, carrying the file over to the table and laying it down in front of Jim. "Look, she's done more international travel since she left the military than she did when she was in. Only two of the entries here are from when she was in the Air Force, and both of those were to mark her entry into Germany." Picking up a pad of scratch paper, Blair started to work on a mathematical problem.

Watching Blair jot numbers down, Jim tried to follow what the younger man was doing, but math had never been his strong suit in school. Finally, he asked, "Chief, what are you doing?"

"Just a second." Blair finished up his calculations, then dropped his pen back onto the table. "Damn. If I've got this figured right, she was traveling, entering a different country, something like every six weeks. All in the past two and a half years!"

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jim tried to clear his thoughts and connect with his partner's train of thought. "So?"

"Jim, if she is a insurance investigator, she sure traveled around a lot! And most of it in Europe. What kind of company works their people like that?" That question set the two of them to digging. Blair hooked up his laptop computer and, accessing the Internet, tried to dig up information on Hallstatt Trust International, Inc. Jim decided to see what more he could dig up on the woman in question, running her car tags through DMV, which returned to Hallstatt Trust International, Inc. with a Rhode Island address.

As the evening turned to night and the deeper the two detectives dug, the more confused they became.

Alicia cursed softly as her cell phone chirped at her from it's resting place on her bedside table. Rolling over to grab the offending device, she noticed the time. "Who ever this is had best have an excellent reason for waking me at four in the morning." Her voice was gravely quiet.

"Alicia, I'm sorry. I lost track of the time difference."

Sitting up in bed, raking a hand through her hair and gently pushing Saint Gee off her lap, she came fully awake. "Hiram? What is it? What's going on?"

"I have a name for you."

A predatory grin came over her face, "Who?"

"Detective J.J. Ellison."

"What?!?" Shock coursed through her body.

"Ellison. He's a detective with& "

"I know who the hell he is, Hiram! He's my god damn neighbor!" Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm down. "Okay, I can deal with this. But I want a favor from you, Hiram."

"Name it." The smile came across in the deep male voice.

Shaking her head, Alicia tittered. "Nothing serious. I just want to return the favor. Have Wilhelm or Roberto run a complete background check on Ellison. Tell them I want no traceable trail left."

Hiram chuckled. "Ah, Alicia, even when I wake you, you have a deliciously devious mind. One of the reasons I recruited you into the company."

"Oh, really? And here I thought it was because I was so, I believe your term was 'angelic' looking?"

"That was just the icing on the cake, my dear. I'll have both men start the process. You want the results faxed to you at home or at the office?"

"Office. And thank Will and Rob in advance for me, will you?"

She concluded the phone call with her overseas friend and, realizing that she was up for the day, went to check on the status of the smoking salmon. The coals had burned out nicely, which would leave the rest of the cooking to be done later that day. She made a mental note to drop by on her lunch break and restart the process. In the meantime, she refilled the steam pan with her concoction, then she dressed for her morning ride. It would put her about one hour ahead in her daily routine, but change was good.

Saint Gee didn't want out this morning, but opted instead to stand guard over the smoker and the fish within.

Alicia was just returning home when Jim and Blair stepped out of the building for their morning run. Carrying her mountain bike on her shoulder, she greeted them with a cheerful good morning, as if she didn't know what was going on with Ellison digging into her background. Smiling sweetly, she inquired, "So, Blair are we still on for tonight? Are you going to come, Jim?"

"We'll be there. Seven, right?" Blair answered as he continued with his stretches.

Jim halted his pre-run work out and flashed a brilliant smile at his neighbor. "Is there anything we should bring?"

Letting the imp within take control for a moment, she flashed her best 'come hither' look at both men. "Just your bodies and a good appetite." She moved pass them to enter the building, hitching her bike higher onto her shoulders.

Jim and Blair watched her progress up the stairwell appreciatively. The spandex bike shorts and the matching cropped tank top showed off her trim athletic body to perfection. The only draw back was the fanny pack she wore around her waist.

When they returned from their run, Alicia had apparently already left for the day, for her car was missing from it's normal spot.

Going through the rest of their morning routine, they wondered what the day would hold for them and both men were looking forward to dinner that night. The smell of the smoking salmon had permeated the loft over night and still lingered in the air, causing both men to simply pick over their breakfast.

Alicia had made arrangements with Bernice Goldwater to handle anything that might come up while she was away, then checking over the offices that were now 'complete', she made her way home. Stopping off at a local market, she picked up the last few things that she needed for dinner: Wild rice, almonds, fresh broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash, and more fresh rosemary and thyme. Arriving back at her home at just after one pm, she put away the groceries and checked on the salmon. It was nearly done. Adding just a bit more wine to the steaming bowl and a handful of apple wood chips, she rekindled the fire. She then went about the apartment, getting ready for her visitors and for her upcoming trip.

At four pm, she was finished packing, playing fifty-two pick up, and was cutting up the vegetables. These she mixed together with a butter mixture of the rosemary and thyme, then wrapped them in foil to be placed in the smoker at five. Going over to the cabinet that she kept her alcohol in, she selected three bottles of white wine to accompany the upcoming meal. All the wines were good, well bodied, from different vineyards, and would compliment the fish, rice and vegetables nicely. She'd let her guests choose the dinner wine. Not knowing whether or not the two men would want desert, she checked her cupboards and found the ingredients for one of her favorite sweets: a flan with a coffee flavored caramel sauce. After putting the custard dishes in the oven with their 'steam bath' pan, she decided to change out of her work clothes into something a little more, well, if not comfortable, then relaxing.

She had just finished preparations, by putting the flan in the 'fridge to chill, when Saint Gee came streaking back into the apartment from the balcony  where he'd been on guard duty  and watched as he raced to the door. When the double knock sounded, she merely called out, " It's open!" and finished drying her hands.

One of the first things that Captain Simon Banks noticed when he returned to the bullpen, after an afternoon meeting with the higher brass, was that most of his detectives and uniformed officers of

Major Crimes seemed to be avoiding walking near a certain pair of desks. Watching from the doorway, he noticed that Detectives Ellison and Sandburg were apparently being very productive, passing files back and forth with Sandburg turning to check something on his computer every now and then. Curious, Simon walked up behind Sandburg to see what they were working on.

Jim didn't even look up from the notes he was making, knowing that Simon had walked into the bullpen by the smell of the Captain's cigars and his cologne. "Afternoon, Captain," he greeted while still writing out his notes.

"Ellison. Sandburg." Leaning over the smaller man's shoulders, he looked at the computer screen. "What are you two working on now?"

Blair pushed his glasses up onto his head, and looked up at his commander. "That background check that Jim was running."

Simon blinked in surprise. The last he knew, Blair hadn't been too happy about this investigation into the two men's neighbor lady, now it looked as though he was helping Jim out. Looking closely at the monitor, he said, "And you're looking into this Hallstatt Trust International because& ?"

"Alicia works for them." Rotating his head to relieve the tension in his neck, Blair stood up and picking up his coffee mug, as well as Jim's, walked over to the break room.

Simon sat down in Blair's chair and looked over at Jim. "Okay, how did you do it, Jim?"

Raising his eyes to meet the Captain's, Jim smiled. "I didn't do anything. But once he started going over what I had, he got interested on his own. Offered to help."

"And just what have you gotten so far?"

Sighing, Jim pushed back from his desk and stretched out his long legs. "Not much. Alicia A. Andreson served in the US Air Force from 1985 to 1995, separated while apparently stationed in Germany, went to work for Hallstatt just two weeks after leaving the service and has been with them ever since. Her passport has more entries than Sandburg's  I think the Chief might be jealous  and outside a few irregularities, her record is clean."


Jim handed over a copy of the woman's discharge paper, her DD-214. "Check that over and you should see one. And I can find no information on her prior to her entry into the service."

Scanning over the simple form, he did spot two odd things. "She's on Inactive status indefinitely? And why can't I find a rank on this?" Simon handed the paper back to Jim.

"That's just to start. One thing that I've asked some of my military contacts to look into is why, if she was stationed at Nellis in 95, she separated in Germany."

Blair walked back over to them just as Jim's phone rang, and his computer terminal announced the arrival of electronic mail. Placing Jim's refilled coffee mug in front of his partner, he reached around his

Captain to pull up the document. Seeing that Simon was about to relinquish his seat, Blair placed a hand on the man's shoulder. "You're fine, Captain." He read the mail. "Look at this." He pointed at the monitor.

Reading another man's mail didn't seem right, but the information displayed there was fascinating. It was a complete listing of subsidiary companies that Hallstatt held controlling interest in as well as other companies that they held over twenty percent of the total public stock. There were companies from all over the world, most of them in Europe or the United States, with a few in Russia, China and Japan.

Towards the bottom of the list was another category: Grants and Scholarships available from Hallstatt Trust. Blair gasped as he recognized one of the grants as one that he had received while still a student at Rainier University. "Whoa, that is so weird." Feeling two pairs of eyes on him, he ran his hands through his hair in a nervous gesture. "I was the recipient of one of Hallstatt's educational/research grants."

Simon stood up and looked his two men square in the eyes. "Well, as interesting as this may be, gentlemen, don't you have other cases to put down?" He turned and walked back to his office, leaving the two detectives alone in a room full of people.

Jim hung up the phone and beckoned for Blair to follow him out to the hallway.

"What is it? Was that one of your contacts?"

"Yeah. Colonel Makavey told me he couldn't find a damn thing on her. Nothing." Walking over to the break room, he filched a donut out of the box sitting on the counter. "This is getting frustrating."

Blair walked up beside him and, reaching out, broke the donut in his partner's hand and took half of it for himself. "Maybe it's frustrating because we're expecting to find something that just isn't there, Jim."

"It's there, Chief. Just buried so deep that it won't see the light of day until well into this century." Jim polished off the donut half that Blair had left him and wiped his hands on a paper towel. "I've heard of stuff like this before. Her file has probably been locked up by a Congressional Oversight Committee, which may, or may not, let the information there be declassified. Ever."

"Should we drop it then?"

"We may have to."

They returned to their desks and, putting away the files on Alicia Andreson, started in on their other cases.

Blair led the way up to the second floor, Jim lagging behind for some reason, and knocked on Alicia's apartment door at just before seven pm. Opening the door at her invitation, he was immediately run over by a black buzz saw who somehow managed to climb up to his shoulder without clawing him to death. "Hello, Saint Gee." He waited for the cat's response to Jim as his friend walked into the apartment behind him. Surprisingly, all the kitten did was twitch his tail harder and cuddle deeper against Blair's neck.

Walking into the apartment, Jim noticed a few things: The kitten wasn't reacting in its normal fashion, the place was as neat as a pin, and a small packed olive green duffel bag was sitting by the door. And, finally, their hostess was dressed in a typical Northwest outfit: Blue jeans, a light green tee shirt with a dark forest green flannel shirt over a pair of hiking sandals.

"I'm so glad you two decided to come!" Alicia walked up to both men and gave them both a peck on the cheek. "Dinner's just about ready, I just need to pull it out. I wasn't sure what to serve with it, so there are a couple of bottles on the counter. Pick what ever appeals to you." Grabbing up a large plate and tongs, she walked out to the balcony.

Since Blair was occupied with the feisty kitten, Jim walked over and inspected the choice of wines. They were all whites, one from Australia, one from Germany and another that was a California vintage.

Picking up the Californian wine, he saw that he couldn't pronounce the name. It looked German in origin: Gewurtztraminer. Deciding to chance it, since he'd never had a wine that he couldn't pronounce, and not seeing a single Chardonnay in the bunch, he turned back around to see Alicia coming back in from the balcony.

Alicia smiled as Jim came over to take the large plate of salmon from her over laden hands, leaving her only the foil wrapped packages of vegetables to handle. "Thanks, Jim." Seeing the bottle of wine that he'd set down before coming to her aid, she smiled. "Oh, good choice! Now, go relax. I'll bring the plates out to the table in a second." She 'shooed' him out of her kitchen.

Walking over to the couch where Blair was playing with the kitten, he sat down next to his friend. "How's it going, Chief?"

Blair looked at his friend and smiled. "Just fine. Notice how Gee here has managed to place himself between us?" The cat had settled down on his lap, with his back to Jim, the tail twitching in a rapid motion. Jim nodded. "Well, if I'm reading his body language right, he's decided to accept you as an inevitable factor in his life, but will refuse to acknowledge your existence."

"In other words, typical cat like behavior."


"Blair? Jim? Supper's on the table." Alicia called to them.

The table was set in simple style, the black dinnerware contrasting against a pale gray table cloth and white cloth place mats with bright red napkins that set off the simple design of the flatware. She was pouring the wine into a sizable goblet with a skill that bespoke of years of familiarity with wine. The plates were loaded with salmon, served over rice and a wonderful vegetable medley.

Handing the first glass of wine to Jim, she waited to pour the rest until he nodded his head after sipping the liquid gold.

The conversation that followed was relaxed. The three of them asking friendly questions: Alicia answering theirs about her stay in Austria, them answering her questions about Cascade and the surrounding country. After the dishes were cleared from the table, she put a pot of coffee on to brew and they adjourned to the living room.

"I don't know if you two have any room left, but I have a dessert that won't take long to serve." Alicia curled up in a chair across from the couch where the two men had settled.

Blair moaned, "I'm not sure I'll have room for it, Alicia."

"Chief's got a point. That was a excellent meal."

"Thank you, Jim. I don't often have time to cook, but when I do, I love to go all out." She looked over at Blair who had sunk deeper into the couch cushions while Saint Gee took up residence on his chest. "Looks like you've made a friend for life, Blair."

Reaching up to give the kitten a couple of strokes down it's long back, he said, "I don't mind. Gee's a great little cat."

Smiling, she stood up and walked out to the kitchen to warm up the caramel sauce. "Then, can I ask a favor?"


"I need to go out of town for a few days, can I impose upon you to watch the scamp?" She kept her attention on the saucepan, not wanting to scorch the delicate sugar laden sauce.

"No problem." Blair watched as Jim got up from the couch and followed their hostess out to her kitchen and smiled as he thought he knew what was about to happen. The sentinel had behaved himself as long as he could, and now that Alicia had given him an opening, he figured that his partner was going to take it.

"Great! I'll show you where all his stuff is before you leave. Oh, and I'll give you a spare key." She turned around and bumped into Jim who was hovering over her shoulder. "Oh! Sorry, Jim. I didn't hear you."

"My fault. I should've made more noise or something." He watched as she pulled out the custard dishes and dumped the contents onto three small plates. "What is that?"

"Flan. I fell in love with it while visiting a friend in Spain." She drizzled the warm sauce over the desert. " It's a wonderful way to clear the palate."

"So, where are you going? On your trip?"

Alicia looked up into Jim's blue eyes, and realizing that he was digging for information, mentally shrugged and gave her answer. "I have to travel to Nevada to clear up a snafu that was allowed to develop."

From his place on the couch, Blair called out, "How long do you think you'll be gone?"

"No more than five days. I should be back by Sunday evening." Placing the desserts on a tray with three full coffee cups and accompanying sugar and cream, she walked back out to the living room, Jim on her heels.

"Blair told me that you're an insurance investigator? What kind of case can you take care of in five days?" Jim asked as they settled back into their previous places in the living area.

Picking up her coffee cup, she leaned back in the chair. "The kind that is driving the primary investigator nuts because he's been working it too long. I'm just going to go down there, look over the case, talk with a few people and see if I can't come up with a different angle."

"Isn't that a bit unusual?" Jim asked as he picked up his own coffee cup.

"Not really. Don't you do the same thing, as detectives? Looking over another's case files, checking to make sure that they don't miss something?"

Blair had to bite his tongue to hold back his laugher. Alicia had just turned the tables on Jim and he watched as his partner's face flushed with embarrassment. He and Jim didn't have a chance to respond to her question as she launched into an explanation.

"That's what I do for my company. I go where an investigation has stalled, to see if I can give a fresh, new perspective. I love the challenge, but could do without the traveling. I've been to more places in the past few years than most people even dream about, but I'm hoping that my boss will let me stay here in Cascade for a while." Leaning forward, she picked up one of the flan desserts and handed it to Blair,

"Here, try this, I promise you, you'll have room for it."

Taking the proffered plate, Blair asked her, "So, where have you been? In your travels?"

Handing the other plate to Jim before picking up her own, she answered. "Just about everywhere. I was in Japan just before I came to Cascade. Lovely country, but you do not want to be a blond, American, female in there."

That comment sparked Jim's interest. "Oh? Why not?"

"Most of the men I had to deal with thought I was merely a decorative piece of fluff. Until I proved to them that they were looking in the wrong direction."

Tasting the flan, Blair piped up, "Did they lose 'face'?"

Alicia smiled, "Not too much. But I think that they were more than happy to see me leave."

The conversation stilled for a few moments as the three of them attacked their desserts. Jim had to admit, the confection was good, and he thought he detected just a light touch of Kaluha in the sauce, as well as a bit of white chocolate in the custard. Trying to be a courteous guest, he gathered up the plates and took them out to the kitchen, just as Alicia stood up and announced, "Come on, Blair. I'll show you where everything is." She smiled as Gee refused to leave the young man alone and he was forced to carry the kitten with him as she led Blair towards the back of her apartment.

Keeping his ears tuned to the conversation, Jim wandered around the living area, glancing over the many books that Alicia had on her shelves, and the various paintings and photos on the walls. One photo, in particular, caught his attention. It showed Alicia dressed in desert camouflage gear, standing with a large group of men in similar garb. It looked like a military unit, but none of the people in the photo had any patches on their uniforms. Not even name tapes over the pockets. The background of the shot looked to be desert country, but nothing in the photo gave away where it might have been taken. Puzzling over the photo, he listened to the conversation between his friend and their hostess.

"You have a whole room set aside, just for Gee?"

"Keeps him out of trouble. Oh, and keep this glass by the bathroom sink topped off. Other wise Saint Gee gets it into his head that it's okay for him to drink from the toilet."

"Eww. Okay. Uh, does he have a sandbox?"

"Yeah, it's here under the shelf in the bathroom. Just check on him in the morning and the evening, leave the balcony door cracked just a little bit and he'll be fine."

They came back into the living area just in time for Jim to actually 'overhear' that last remark of hers. "Alicia, that's not wise. That's like asking for someone to come in and rob the place."

Alicia shrugged. "I know. But it's not like there's much here to take."

"What about your books? You've got some classics here." Jim gestured to the shelves.

"Nothing that can't be replaced." Reaching over, she extracted Saint Gee from Blair's arms. "Thanks for agreeing to watch Gee for me, Blair. I didn't relish the idea of asking Bernie to watch him, or worse, putting him up in a kennel."

"Not a problem. He's a sweet cat." Blair smiled at her, bouncing on his heels.

Going up on her toes, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks. Now, I hate to do this to you both, but I have a plane to catch at six am, and it's now coming up to ten& "

Jim nodded, "We understand, Alicia. Thanks for a lovely dinner."

"You're welcome." She reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a set of keys and detached one from the ring. "Here, Blair. Don't lose that."

Taking the key, he promised, "I won't. And I'll take good care of Gee until you get back."

"I know you will." She escorted the two men to her door and just as Jim made to duck past her, she reached out and stopped him. "Jim? I hope that this evening means we can be friends?"

A feeling of guilt came over him. 'If she only knew what I am doing behind her back.' Smiling as graciously as he could, he said, "I think we can give it a shot."

"Good." Just as she had followed her impulse to kiss Blair, she now followed it to reach up, pull Jim down towards her and planted a peck on the detective's cheek. Before letting go of him, she whispered in his ear, "Sweet dreams."

"'Sweet dreams,' she said. Right." Jim had tossed and turned most of the night. Now, just before four am, he heard a door open and close in the building below, then a few minutes later a car started up. Then the unmistakable sound of a talk radio show drifted up to him.

"This is a special edition of Art Bell's show. And now, back to Art and Ghost to Ghost, AM."

Listening for a moment, he heard Art greet his caller and the caller, a man from Hawaii, started to relate a chilling tale of a not so friendly ghost that had haunted him and his wife.

Jim groaned. "Probably Alicia leaving on her trip." Rolling over, punching his pillow a few times, he curled up on his side and tried to get back to sleep. It seemed like only minutes had passed when the annoying ring of Blair's alarm clock went off. Knowing that his roommate would take a while to crawl out of bed, Jim rolled out of his bed and, slipping on his robe, went downstairs to start the coffee and grab a shower.

Coming out of the bathroom, he found Blair coming back into the loft. "Morning, Jim!" He had Saint Gee with him.

"Chief, you're just supposed to watch him, not bring Gee up here."

"I know, but he followed me up here and I couldn't just leave him outside." Blair looked over at Jim, his eyes silently asking, 'can he stay?'

Jim let out a sigh. "Whatever. But, should he make a mess in here, you clean it up." He grabbed a cup of coffee and headed up to his room to change into his work clothes, since Wednesdays were one of their 'off' days for running.

Giving Saint Gee a final ear scratching, Blair put the little black kitten on the hardwood floor of the living area. "See? I told you, he's okay once you get to know him. Now, behave yourself, I have to go get ready myself." And he fairly bounced down the hallway to the bathroom.

Jim was sitting on his bed, tying his shoes, when he heard a strange noise coming from the direction of the bathroom. Grinning as he focused in on the sound, it sounded like Alicia's kitten didn't like the idea of humans showering, for he was complaining in a loud voice as Blair asked the kitten what was wrong. Walking down the stairs he found Saint Gee sitting outside the bathroom, still complaining. Treading carefully down the short hallway, he startled the kitten, which gave out a short hiss and ran past him back into the living room. He knocked on the door. "Chief? I'm going to run down and grab the paper."

"Okay, man. I'll be done by the time you get back up here. What was wrong with Gee?" With a squeal of metal, the shower shut off.

"I'm not sure, maybe he doesn't like to be closed off from those that he likes." Jim shook his head as he walked out towards the loft's door. Carefully looking around the loft to see if he could find the kitten, he had to resort to listening to locate it. Saint Gee had found Blair's room and, if the loudness of the purr was any indication, was quite happy about his discovery. He left to grab the morning paper.

Coming out of the bathroom, just as Jim closed the loft door behind him, Blair looked around the apartment to see where Saint Gee had run off to. Not seeing the kitten anywhere, he shrugged and walked into his room, where he found the black kitten happily grooming himself while sitting on his white dress shirt, shedding fur all over the pristine fabric. "Aw, man! I was going to wear that today, Gee!" Reaching out, he scooped the kitten into his arms and looked over the shirt. Damage was done; the silky fine cat fur that Gee had shedded was fully covering the shirt. Depositing the kitten back onto the bed and the shirt, he was forced to grab another out of his closet. "I wonder how many lint brushes Alicia goes through in one month?" he groused, pulling on the light blue dress shirt he'd selected.

Jim jolted awake as the painful sensation of needles being thrust into his toes registered. Jerking his leg in reflex, he heard a startled yowl from Saint Gee, followed by the soft thump of the cat landing on the floor. "Damn cat," he muttered and punched his pillow into a more comfortable shape. Rolling onto his side, he settled down again, waiting for the kitten's next move.

He didn't have long to wait. The little black beast leapt lightly back onto the bed, moving stealthily towards his victim, the tip of his tail twitching, his eyes glowing with an eerie green fire. Jim smiled, watching the cat's antics.

Gee pounced, landing slightly to the left of Jim's legs, a low, frustrated growl issuing from his throat. 'What the in the hell is he tracking?' Jim wondered. Again, the cat jumped, front paws coming down together, razor sharp claws extended, piercing the bed clothing.

"Hey, little one, not on the good sheets. Okay?" Jim complained, reaching for the kitten. His hand encircled the small hunter's belly, just as tiny feet raced across his stomach.

"Yaagh!" Jim cried out, scrambling backwards, dragging a yeowling kitten with him in a tangle of sheets and blankets. They teetered on the edge of the bed for a moment, then toppled to the floor with a solid thump.

A small whiskered nose poked out from under the pile of linen, then the tiny mouse skittered across the room, Saint Gee and Jim in hot pursuit.

'One more day. Just one more, and Alicia will be home and Gee can go back to where he belongs.' Jim was trudging down the stairs from his bedroom, holding the kitten in one hand and a still squirming mouse in the other. He'd found both in his bed. Saint Gee had been spending a lot of time in the loft, thanks to Blair's soft heart, and over the course of three days had brought several 'kills' in. The mouse this morning was the latest example.

Having caught the offending rodent by the tail, he snatched up the cat and while he carried both creatures down stairs, Jim had to keep Gee from batting the mouse out of his hand. Walking over to the balcony, he carefully opened up a door and put both outside.

Grumbling under his breath, he walked over to the kitchen sink and scrubbed his hands. Drying them, he heard Blair stirring in his room. Talking the damp towel with him, twirling it as he crept along, Jim entered his partner's room and zapped him with the towel.

"Hey!" Blair could move fast when inspired to. He sprang out of bed and glared at his roommate. "What the hell?!? What did you do that for?"

"I need your help, Chief." He beckoned for his shaman to follow him and left the room.

Running a hand through his slept tousled hair, Blair followed. "What is it? You hear or smell something? Or something else?"

Jim just walked over to the French doors and pointed outside, where Gee was happily munching on the mouse. "Something else. I'm surprised that you managed to sleep through the excitement."

Looking at Saint Gee in the pale morning light, Blair realized that he could hear the kitten 'crunching' through his prize's skull. "Oh, yick! Wait a minute, where did he get a mouse?"

"My thoughts exactly. Either he brought it in alive last night and we didn't see it, or he got it from here inside the loft." Jim walked around, turning every light in the place on, flooding the apartment with light.

"Let me guess, we're about to go on a mouse hunt?" Blair shook his head in disgust. Jim liked to keep the apartment spotless; there was no way that a mouse could survive around his 'clean-freak' of a sentinel.

Dropping to his knees in the kitchen, intent on looking under the counters and stove, Jim glanced up at his friend. "Can you think of a better thing to do?"

Longingly thinking of his bed, he said, " Well, yeah, I can. But since it was my idea that Gee spend some time with us, I guess I can sacrifice some winks."


~~ To Be Continued ~~

Don't worry, folks! There is more on the way! Trust me! This is NOT me doing my imitation of UPN! =)~

And before I forget to thank her again, a little help from Carol {a fellow cat lover} helped me come up with the 'Hunting Gee' scene! Ask her, sometime, about her own 'rodent in the bed' incident! Thanks Carol!

Suisan "Sue" R.

Email the Author

Return to Stories Page