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Don't get me wrong, here. I never wanted to be partnered with Jim Ellison.

Yeah, I knew he had a reputation as a good cop. It would have done my career a whole lot of good if I had been partnered with him; his solve rate was pretty damn' marvellous.

But I didn't want him as a partner. Never. And luckily for me, Simon Banks knew that Ellison was totally the wrong partner for a new guy just moving into Major Crime... You see, I really should have been partnered with Ellison; he was the only permanently unpartnered detective in Major Crime when I moved upstairs. Instead, I was teamed up with Henri Brown on what was meant to be a temporary basis - his partner was off sick; only it turned out he was a lot sicker than anyone, including the man himself, had realized. What was originally diagnosed as a badly pulled leg muscle needing little more than a couple of months of rest turned out to be a pretty aggressive cancer. By the time they realized what it was, it was too late for any other treatment; they had to amputate the leg. Saved his life, and the PD found a physically undemanding office job for him that freed up an able-bodied cop to get onto the street; and while I felt sorry for the guy, well, it's an ill wind that blows nowhere; it meant my temporary teaming with Brown became permanent - and Brown's a good partner. Friendly.

But I was telling you about Ellison.

The guy who'd been Ellison's partner had disappeared a few months earlier under... well, you could only say suspicious circumstances. He'd been taking a million dollars in ransom money to a meet with the kidnappers, and disappeared. Or maybe it was five million. It depended on who you spoke to - nobody seemed to know exactly how much cash was involved, except that it was a lot. Anyway, the kidnappers hadn't been heard from again and there was no sign of the kidnap victim either.

The entire PD knew about it. IA had spent quite some time investigating the case. It was whispered - though not in Ellison's hearing - that Pendergrast had killed them all and gone off with the cash, and if he had, he'd certainly done a damn' good job of covering his tracks. Course, he was an experienced cop; and who better than an experienced cop to know how to hide from other cops?

It didn't seem unlikely, if the gossip was even ten percent true. I mean, the guy was rumored to have had gambling debts up to here; he could easily have seen that cash as a way to clear the slate and start over.

Whatever, Ellison refused to believe - or at least, to admit - that Pendergrast could have been tempted by the money, and insisted that it was just as likely that the kidnappers had killed the messenger as well as the victim then gone to ground; and his reputation as a hardass with enough attitude to face down a bad-tempered mother grizzly defending her young was enough to keep anyone from mentioning the name 'Pendergrast' anywhere in the same room as him.

Well, I suppose you couldn't fault him for his loyalty, even if it did seem to be misplaced.

Actually, although apparently he'd worked well enough with Pendergrast - and while working with him had even, according to the guys who were here before him, mellowed a bit from when he first moved to Major Crime from Vice - Ellison liked working alone, even preferred working alone. And like I said, he was good. Everyone agreed about that, even the guys he'd blown off when they tried to be friendly.

I wasn't one of them.

See, Brown warned me not to try. Warned me that he seemed to regard a friendly approach by anyone as the first step to being stabbed in the back. And right enough, he had a way of staring - not at you, but through you - that intimidated even the friendliest approach - and incidentally terrified any suspects he was questioning.

Which made me wonder how Carolyn Plummer ever got close enough to get engaged to him.

The wedding was a month or so after I joined Major Crime. One or two of Plummer's colleagues were invited, and it was from them that word went round that all the guests - all of them - were her family and friends. None of Ellison's family attended, and it seemed that he hadn't any friends he cared to invite, either. Even his best man was Plummer's cousin.

I felt sorry for the guy, in a way. God knows I haven't seen any of my family - or wanted to see them - since my mother died, and I don't have many acquaintances outside the PD - and even inside the PD they're mostly just acquaintances as well, rather than friends; I don't trust all that easily either, so in a way I can understand Ellison. But there are some guys I'd invite to my wedding, and among them there are two or three I'd be happy to have as my best man. Unlike Ellison who, it seemed, had nobody he knew - or liked - well enough to ask.

I'm not sure why that bothered me - it's not as if I liked the guy, after all. It just seemed sort of... well, sad. Nobody else seemed to feel that though. As Jarvis put it - "That's Ellison for you."

With that as a start, I for one wasn't surprised when Plummer walked out inside six months, unable to continue living with the guy, though I was surprised that it seemed to have been a relatively amicable split; she and Ellison remained on speaking terms until she left Cascade a year or two later. Plummer never actually told anyone why she left him - but from what we saw of him at work, I certainly wouldn't have wanted to try to live with him.

Which made Sandburg something of a puzzle.

* * * * * * * *

We all knew Ellison had been in the army, and rumor had it that he'd spent months on his own in the Peruvian jungle when a mission went wrong. Maybe that was why he liked working by himself, and why he seemed happy to take the kind of solitary surveillance jobs everyone else hated. Nobody ever commented on it, of course, we just let him get on with it.

And then things changed.

Ellison arrived one day with this long-haired hippy type in tow. Taggert recognised the kid - he'd been on the bus the Switchman tried to blow up, and apparently he'd helped Ellison bring her down. He was a grad student and Ellison wanted Banks to give the kid an observer pass so that he could study the work of the police, though why Ellison, of all men, was willing to have a student riding along with him, lord alone knew - and what a student. The long hair was the least of it - I mean, his clothes! They were - well, probably bought from a charity shop, dumped there by someone who considered them too old and worn to be any use, but was too miserly just to dump them. The wonder was that even a charity shop had considered them saleable; if I'd been working in one and stuff like that was handed in, I'd have said "Thanks" - well, I do know how to be polite - then quietly dumped the lot.

You'd have thought he'd put on something halfway decent when he was coming in for an observer pass - even if he did get his clothes second hand, some people put in stuff that's in pretty good condition. And he surely could have got something that fitted him instead of clothes that were hanging on him as if they were made for someone two sizes bigger.

Did the guy have no pride in his appearance at all?

Hell, even when I had to buy my clothes from a charity shop I always managed to find something that looked pretty decent, and was my size.

It was the sort of thing that told me he had to have money, but was pretending he didn't - the con man trying to engender pity.

He was going through procedure when we were all sent out to an emergency that - well, when we got there, it seemed it was a false alarm. One or two of the guys suggested going back, but without orders... Most of us felt TPTB knew what they were doing. Someone wondered very audibly whether it was a test of our initiative, and we'd be showing initiative if we went back to the PD instead of staying put like so many dummies. Turned out, of course, that it had nothing to do with TPTB, but how were we to know that? Taggert was one of the few whose duties kept him at the PD - as a result, he got a bullet in the leg that kept him off work for a couple of months. And Ellison came out of the whole affair smelling of roses, too.

After that, though, Taggert seemed to think quite highly of Sandburg, whatever it was he'd done that day. Someone said he'd taken out one of the perps with a vending machine, but that seemed a bit far-fetched to me. An academic with the sense to do something like that? Nah.

It wasn't long, either, before the little creep conned his way into Ellison's home. Well, okay, the warehouse where he was supposed to be living was blown up - but whoever heard of anyone living in a derelict warehouse? Nah, opportunist was his middle name; wherever he'd been staying, he obviously took advantage of the situation, told Ellison he'd been living in the warehouse, and next thing everyone knew, he was living at 852 Prospect and didn't look as if he ever meant to move out.

Like I said, though, that was odd - Ellison's wife couldn't live with the man, but Sandburg seemed perfectly happy sharing a house with him. Someone - not me, I don't start unsubstantiable rumors - suggested that the two of them were doing the nasty together, but nobody really believed that - not the way Sandburg dated, or tried to date, half the women in the place in his first month as a ride-along. And Ellison wasn't the sort of guy to share anything he thought was his.

* * * * * * * *

I grant you Sandburg took his position as Ellison's ride-along seriously. I've seen ride-alongs who didn't spend much time with the cops they were supposed to be with, but he was there virtually all the time. There were times he had to be at Rainier - he had to do something for the money he got as a TA - but most of the time he wandered in and out of the PD as if he actually was a cop. Blasted wannabe!

It wasn't long before I realized that I was pretty well the only guy in Major Crime who could see through Sandburg. He seemed to have Ellison wrapped round his finger. Banks, too. Taggert, like I said, couldn't see past him. Even Brown liked him. Granted it was good old Henri who first came up with the name 'Hairboy' for him, but I couldn't fool myself into thinking he meant it as an insult.

Me, he just irritated. Fucking academics! Most of them look down their noses at guys like me even when they pretend they don't. I learned that the hard way, years ago, and it's not a lesson I've ever needed repeated. And it's the handful who pretend to be friendly you have to watch out for most.

Like Sandburg.

Spouting all that stuff he'd found in books as if he really knew, trying to impress everyone - and the hell of it was, he mostly succeeded.

I don't know if he ever realized how I felt about him - if he did, he hid it well, but then a con man would, wouldn't he?

Academics. They always want something from you. Don't ever fool yourself, academics are snobs. If you don't have money, they don't want to know.

Student loans?

There was no way Sandburg could have persuaded a bank to give him a loan unless his family had money - which made the way he was sponging off Ellison even more blatant. 'Course, that's how the rich get richer.

The guys who really need a loan can't get one. Believe me - I know. The banks just don't believe you'll ever manage, or even try, to pay it back if your family doesn't have money. I wouldn't be here if I'd ever managed to get a student loan to let me finish school and then go to university instead of having to leave the moment I was old enough because my old man wanted me to start earning my keep instead of eating his drinking money.

I suppose I was lucky, though. Mom didn't take more from me than she had to, so I managed to save some money, and after she died I got out; well, there was nothing to hold me there any more. I've no idea if my father's still alive - though I suspect he drank himself to death years ago, and frankly, I don't care. In a way I was lucky there, too - mostly he was a quiet drunk, one who staggered home and collapsed in his bed rather than losing it and beating up his wife and kids just because he could. I've seen plenty of those since I became a cop.

I've got a couple of brothers and a sister somewhere out there too, that I haven't seen since Mom's funeral. There was never much love lost between the four of us; too much rivalry, I suppose, with each of us fighting to get the biggest slice of what little pie Mom could provide. Yes, they left home too, the same time as I did, each of us going his, or her, own way. I suppose that Mom left them some of their wages too. She was always very fair, always - I can see that in hindsight; she treated us all exactly the same, though as a child I'd always thought the others got more than I did.

But I'm not talking about me.

Ride-alongs last ninety days. The idea is that whatever these guys are studying, they learn everything they need to in three months.

Three months? Three years later, Sandburg was still there, though they were calling him a consultant rather than an observer by then.

He even managed to get credit for a lot of Ellison's solve rate, which I have to admit went from better than average to pretty phenomenal - and Ellison didn't seem to mind.


And then one day it seemed that Ellison had finally seen through Sandburg. Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but word was that Ellison had thrown the exploitive little bastard out, and I thought we'd seen the last of him. Yet within twenty-four hours Brown and I got an urgent call to go to Rainier - and as we arrived, so did Banks, with Ellison, and Conner with him, just a second or two behind.

We didn't have time to say anything - Ellison just snapped, "Sandburg's in danger!" and took off at a flat run for Hargrove Hall. Just as he reached the door, he swung round, then headed for a fountain a few yards from the buildings. As he reached it he called to Brown to help him.

They splashed into the fountain, and that was when I realized there was a body floating in it. They hauled it out, rolled it onto its back - it was Sandburg.

Well, all I can say is that Ellison certainly didn't act like someone who had thrown the guy out of his house just the previous day. He and Simon started CPR, but they weren't getting anywhere, and when the paramedics arrived they knew almost at once that it was hopeless. I mean, paramedics are supposed to keep on resuscitating till they get the victim to the hospital, even if they think they're wasting their time; they need a doctor to declare the casualty dead. But after just a couple of minutes they looked up, and one said, "Sorry, guys."

I looked around, studying the others. Brown had the expressionless look that cops get when facing a tragedy; Banks, of all men, was clearly close to tears; Conner was even closer, but then women are more emotional, aren't they? Ellison was muttering over and over, "This can't be happening!" Me? Well, all I was feeling was the impersonal regret you get when someone has died in an accident; I certainly wasn't feeling any deep grief.

Then Ellison broke away from Banks and knelt beside Sandburg again, carrying on with the CPR. Suddenly he stopped, and simply stroked Sandburg's face. I thought he'd finally realized it was too late, and he was saying goodbye; and then Sandburg coughed up water.

Ellison yelled for the paramedics - it had all happened so quickly they were still putting their gear away before getting a stretcher out to carry the body to the hospital for him to be officially declared DOA.

* * * * * * * *

We don't always get to hear about the cases other guys are investigating; though something was said about nerve gas that had been stolen from a supposedly secure unit at Rainier University.

Anyway, for some reason Ellison and Banks took off for Sierra Verde while Sandburg was still in the hospital - though why Banks got himself involved, and how they knew to go there, I never discovered. The next thing we knew, Sandburg had signed himself out AMA and gone off after them, along with Conner.

Well, that pretty well confirmed in my mind, at least, that the story about Ellison kicking him out was just a story. Would you have gone after someone who'd kicked you out under those circumstances? No, I didn't think so.

We never did hear exactly what happened in Sierra Verde, either. The four of them came back together, and after they'd written out their reports, Ellison and Sandburg went off again together.

Yeah, so much for the story that Ellison had kicked the little bastard out...

* * * * * * * *

A few weeks later, the shit hit the proverbial fan.

Nobody was expecting the sudden media attention directed at Ellison; for twenty-four hours, all the media seemed interested in was Ellison's sentinel abilities, once one of the papers explained exactly what that meant.

Apparently that was why Sandburg was riding along with Ellison - to 'help' him control those abilities. Yeah, sure. But he was also writing a dissertation about them, and although he denied it, he'd sent that dissertation to a publisher. It had to have been pretty well written, I suppose; the firm decided to rush through a printing, far faster than you'd normally expect any book to see print.

That was when the fan speeded up, with the fallout hitting pretty well everywhere. All the top brass started showing an interest, IA began to make noises about Ellison's past cases, rumor had it that some of the perps Ellison had put away were planning an appeal on the grounds of evidence against them obtained illegally - the kind of loophole cops hate - and as a result, Sandburg ran scared, tried to tell the publisher that the deal was off. The publisher, having decided it was interesting enough to print, ignored him.

And of course all the guys in the bullpen decided this was too good a joke to pass up. I mean, a sentinel? Five heightened senses?

I don't know whether we, as a group, were getting at Ellison or Sandburg - well, when I say 'we', I mean the whole of Major Crime. I was getting at Sandburg, and I meant it, though I don't think anyone else realized it - with the others, especially Joel, there was a sort of affectionate quality to the whole 'We're not worthy' deal.

Have to admit Ellison brushed it off pretty coolly. Banks was more annoyed by the whole thing than Ellison seemed to be, while Sandburg was keeping pretty quiet, which was unusual for him.

Then someone took a potshot at the PD. One bullet, teflon-coated - it took out Banks and the ricochet got Conner. Ellison was pretty sure he was the target, because of the Sentinel publicity.

So there we were, working without our Captain - though Joel made a reasonably good substitute - and short-handed. And Sandburg was playing least in sight, which considering Ellison's temper was maybe a good thing - though as far as I was concerned, if it meant Ellison had finally, finally seen through the way the little hippy was taking advantage of his... I nearly said 'his good nature', only Ellison never seemed to have one - it was a good thing.

There was usually a TV on somewhere in the PD - sometimes a news bulletin alerted us to a potential problem - and someone caught Sandburg's name; it was some sort of press conference. I called the rest of the guys in to catch it, and I have to say I wondered what sort of shit he was going to drop Ellison in - and we were all pretty surprised when Sandburg announced that his dissertation about Ellison as a sentinel was pure fiction. Well, word had got round about how much money he'd been offered by the publisher, and he sure wasn't going to get it after that! But it had confirmed what I'd always thought about Sandburg - he was a con man; though I couldn't understand why he should admit to fraud before he got the money.

And then I saw Ellison's face. And I knew.

I can't describe the expression on it - but there was no mistaking what it meant; and when I glanced round the room, I knew everyone else there had seen it too, and had reached the same conclusion I had.

Have you ever changed your mind about someone, or something, so abruptly that you got mental whiplash?

Sandburg was lying. He was standing there, publicly declaring that he had made up his facts - and he was lying.

He had had everything that I had ever wanted, and he threw it away, threw away his academic credibility, threw away three million dollars, apparently without a second thought.

I wouldn't have had the courage, and for the first time since I'd met the man I admitted to myself what I think everyone else in the place had done right from the day he first started to work with Ellison - he had guts, intelligence, and integrity... and I envied Ellison for having a friend who would sacrifice everything for him.

* * * * * * * *

You wouldn't think it possible for a complete stranger in cop's uniform to walk into the PD and not have someone ask him who the hell he was. A civilian, yes - someone come in to report a crime, to give a statement, to make a complaint about something; but not someone in a uniform. Yet it happened, and not for the first time, either. It was Zeller, of course.

Zeller was after the trade union guy, Bartley, and determined to get him - and the way he behaved, it was pretty clear the man was insane.

Everyone searched for immediate cover as he began shooting. He had two automatic pistols and he obviously didn't care who he hit, who he killed, and all the time he was yelling, "I want Bartley!" And when he ran out of ammo for the second time and took off for the roof, Ellison was close on his heels, with Sandburg not very far behind him. The rest of us began to pick ourselves up, the uninjured ones helping the injured. I'm not even sure who called for ambulances, I just know that someone did.

Taggert glanced over to where Brown was mopping my forehead. "Rafe? Are you badly hurt?"

I shook my head, although the movement aggravated my headache. "You know what it's like with a head injury, Joel, it looks worse than it is."

"All right, you two go after Ellison and Sandburg."

We headed for the stairs, but we'd only gone up a few steps up when we heard uneven footsteps above us, and Ellison limped into sight, leaning heavily on Sandburg.

Brown hurried to help Sandburg, and seriously, I would have, too, only I was beginning to feel just a little shaky.

"You all right, man?" Sandburg asked.

For the first time in three years I took his question at face value instead of assuming he was making a snide crack. "I will be," I said. "Just a bit shaken, you know? Did you get him?"

"He got himself," Ellison said grimly. "He went over the edge on a rope, and tried to shoot us when he knew we'd seen him - and shot through the rope."

* * * * * * * *

Well, that was pretty well that. There were fewer injuries than you might have expected, considering the way Zeller blasted those guns of his at random all over the place. Brown stayed to help Taggert sort things out, and Sandburg went with Ellison and me to the hospital.

My injury wasn't really much more than a graze, though once the adrenaline was out of my system I began to feel it a bit - not that I was going to admit that; and Ellison's wasn't much more than a flesh wound, though I knew he'd feel it for quite a few days. We were cleaned up and sent home.

I had a couple of days off; Ellison was officially off for a week, but he appeared in the bullpen the third day after the shooting - that is, the day I went back to work - leaning heavily on a stick.

"Where's Blair?" Taggert asked.

"He went to clear his office at Rainier," Ellison said. "He wouldn't let me go with him. Said he could get it done faster on his own. I could have insisted on helping him, but it wouldn't have been kind - I think he's hoping to get in and out without seeing anyone, and all I'd be good for really would be carrying stuff to the truck; and I wouldn't be able to carry much at a time when I've got one hand tied up with this stick." He scowled at it.

"What's he going to do now?" Taggert asked.

"He's not sure. But - " He glanced round the room and raised his voice slightly. "You all know how much help he's been in this department. I think he'd make a good cop."

"You think he'd buy that?" Taggert asked.

"He might, he might not, but I'd like to give him the chance. Will you all back me if I go to the Chief about him? Simon's already said he will."

There was a general murmur of agreement. Ellison nodded. "Thanks."

He headed out.

We never learned just what he said to Chief Warren, but it must have been persuasive; next thing we knew, we got word that Warren had agreed.

* * * * * * * *

It was a couple of days later that Sandburg wandered in. He looked all around the bullpen with a slightly lost expression on his face, then went into Banks' office. Taggert called to him; we all heard the desolation in his voice as he said, "I'm taking a last look around. I don't think Simon's going to want me here. I'm a fraud, man."

So even here he wasn't going to admit the truth, and my new opinion of him went up another notch.

"Sandburg, that is not your office!"

Banks had arrived, Ellison with him; and they told Sandburg the offer that was there for him. His three years with the department were to count as training; all he had to do was go to the Academy and take firearms training.

He managed to joke about not cutting his hair, but we could all see that the sudden shift from having no obviously viable future to having a guaranteed job, doing much what he'd already been doing for three years, was almost too much for him. We scattered back to our desks, leaving him with Banks, Ellison and his mother; they went together into the privacy of Banks' office, and stayed there for quite some time.

* * * * * * * *

Well, that was all a few weeks ago, and the place is fully repaired, everyone is back to work, and the newly qualified Detective Sandburg has his own desk now, instead of sharing Ellison's, though most of the time the pair of them still share a desk, heads together over whatever evidence they're studying.

They were always close; now they seem closer than ever. Good luck to them. Hell, good luck to Sandburg. I still wouldn't like to have Ellison for a partner!


Copyright bluewolf