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Simon Banks was gone, promoted - much to his disgust - to a more senior and totally desk job, and this was the day when his replacement would take over.
The bullpen was full; even those detectives who would normally be out on a case were present, wondering just what their new Captain would be like. He was a complete unknown, for he was new to Cascade; he had come from Tacoma to take up this position. All they knew about him was that he had a reputation for standing no nonsense, and his name was Dawson.
Blair Sandburg sat at Jim Ellison's desk, wondering just what was going to happen to his status with the PD. Simon had known the truth, had covered for them on many occasions, but both he and Jim were doubtful about letting this new Captain know, at least just yet, the advantage Jim had.
The door opened, and all eyes turned to the two men who stood there - the tall, familiar figure of Simon Banks, and the surprisingly small, whippet-thin, sharp-faced man beside him.
"This is Captain Dawson," Simon introduced their new Captain. "I'm sure you'll all give him the excellent work you gave me."
"Thank you," Dawson said. He didn't quite push Simon away, but Ellison had the impression that he would have liked to.
"Good luck in your new position, Captain," Simon finished; then with a nod to the gathered detectives, he walked out.
Dawson went to the Captain's office, watched in complete silence by the occupants of the bullpen.
First impressions are seldom wrong; and Ellison already knew that he did not like their new Captain.
Several of the detectives, who were working on the street, headed for the door; Jim and Blair settled down to checking over the statements from several witnesses to an armed robbery the previous day.
Ten minutes later, Ellison's phone rang.
"Ah, detective." He could already recognise Dawson's voice. "Please come to my office... and bring your - er - observer with you."
Jim put the phone down very carefully. "This is going to be another Finkleman," he told Blair. "We're wanted." He glanced towards the office.
Blair nodded. "We knew that was likely."
They went over to the Captain's office, and Ellison carefully, and with quiet politeness, knocked.
They went in. Dawson had some sheets of paper in front of him. "Ah yes, Detective. I've been looking through some of your past cases. A most impressive record."
"Mr Sandburg." Dawson's eyes travelled from Blair's head to his feet and back again. "I note you first became attached to the PD nearly four years ago as an observer studying the police as a subject for a thesis."
"I fail to understand why you are still here."
"Mr Sandburg proved so helpful to the department that Captain Banks chose to let him stay," Ellison said carefully. "If you've looked though some of my past cases, you'll have seen how helpful Mr Sandburg was in them. He's helped some of the others, too."
"It doesn't alter the fact that a ridealong position as an observer only lasts three months, and calling Mr Sandburg - who is clearly a perpetual student freeloading on society - a 'consultant' is a specious way of allowing a ridealong to continue for far too long. I see no reason for that state of affairs to continue. As of now, I do not want to see Mr Sandburg in this building again. Your ID please, Mr Sandburg."
They looked at each other, then Blair quietly removed his name tag and handed it over.
"You're making a mistake, Captain," Jim said, with admirable restraint.
"I don't think so," Dawson replied. "If your success rate is this high - " he indicated the papers on his desk - "when you have to babysit a civilian, I would expect it to be much higher with a proper partner."
"No!" Jim snapped. "I don't want a 'proper' partner. Either I work with Sandburg or I work alone." He stopped, making a visible attempt to control himself. "Ask anyone out there." He nodded to the bullpen. "Ask Captain Banks. My success rate went up after Sandburg joined me, because he joined me. I've never been any use working with anyone else."
"Jim." Blair touched his friend's arm. "It's all right. You're still a good cop. Just be careful, man." His eyes said what his mouth didn't. He turned to Dawson. "If that's all, Captain?"
At Dawson's nod, he turned and walked out, went to Jim's desk and retrieved his coat.
Joel Taggert intercepted him on his way to the door. "Blair?"
"I'm out, man. My authorisation's been revoked. I mustn't sully these sacred portals with freeloading hippie feet any more."
"Not quite his exact words but it was what he meant."
"Blair... he can't do that."
"Well, actually, Joel, he can."
"Well, he's going to see a fairly massive downturn in solved cases in fairly short order," Joel said frankly. "Your input has been invaluable to all of us - and if he asks why, I have the rank to tell him without sounding insubordinate."
Blair smiled sadly and shook his head. "He won't listen, Joel. You know why? He's narrow-minded. He's probably a good cop, but he has the 'them and us' mentality taken to the nth degree. I'm not a cop, I'm one of 'them'. So what I have to say isn't worth considering." He shrugged. "You'll see. Inside the closed society of the police, he's a closed society of one. He's not open to the thought of flexibility." He turned and walked out.
Joel looked after him for a moment, then returned to his desk.
Inside a week, Joel realised just how right Blair's assessment had been. On the surface Dawson was capable and efficient, but he was also hidebound. Everything had to be done by the book, and Joel knew full well how often the book failed to cover everything.
As for Jim Ellison, he was like a bad-tempered bear. The attitude Joel could remember from four years previously was back; and he could only be grateful that for the moment there was no poor sucker unpartnered that Dawson might order to join Ellison.
Inside a month, morale in the bullpen was at an all-time low.
It was obvious to Joel that Dawson genuinely believed that he had tightened discipline that Simon Banks had permitted to become too lax and that he equally genuinely believed that the quiet in the bullpen was due to respect for him and his rules; in fact, as Joel well knew, nobody wanted to be the target of one of Ellison's vicious comments - his temper was on a hair trigger and everyone except Dawson walked on tiptoe around him.
And not one crime - except those where the perp had been caught in the act - had been solved in that month.
And it was about the time that Dawson would realise that.
Joel was right. Dawson came into the bullpen and glared round. "I want to know why we have so many unsolved cases this month!" he snapped. "You're all working in a more disciplined environment than you were. There are no distractions. So why has the rate of unsolved crimes risen?"
Joel saw Ellison's mouth opening to answer, and before Jim had the chance to speak, he cut in. "You want the simple answer, Captain Dawson? Sandburg's not here. He had a way of looking at things that - "
"Rubbish!" Dawson interrupted. "That hippie layabout? How you could even tolerate having him here... "
"Captain Dawson, he could see links that nobody else did," Joel said temperately. "And if there's one thing he never was, that's a layabout. He held down a teaching job at the university, he was studying for a doctorate, and though here he worked primarily with Ellison he was never so busy he wouldn't give any of us help - those are three full-time jobs. Damned sure I couldn't have done all that."
"He wasn't a cop. How could his input be so valuable? Whatever - I want to see an improvement in the number of cases solved, starting today!" He turned and stamped back into his office.
Joel looked over at Ellison. Ellison looked back at him. "Thanks, Joel," he said quietly.
Joel crossed to him. "Hey, Jim. You're human after all," he said. "We've all been scared to speak to you in case we triggered a temper tantrum."
Ellison sighed. "Sorry, Joel. It was just... I was sort of feeling nobody really cared that Sandburg was gone."
"Oh, we care, Jim. We all miss the kid. Believe me, we all valued his input."
Jim smiled a little tremulously. "I'll tell him."
"The day Dawson started, Blair and I had a conversation just before he left. He had Dawson's character pinpointed then."
"Yeah, I know." Ellison shrugged. "He's doing what he can to keep me on an even keel, Joel, but he's been a bit down too, you know. And I know I'm losing it. For two pins I'd resign... "
"Jim, for two pins I think we'd all resign."
They looked at each other, then Jim shook his head. "Wouldn't work, Joel. The PTB might wonder why, but there are always people wanting in to Major Crimes. It wouldn't be hard to replace us all, and anyone who didn't know what it was like under Simon, with Blair here, would probably get on fine with Dawson... and he'd probably be happier with that, too. A team he could mould to his requirements... "
As Jim entered the loft that night, he sniffed apreciatively. "Smells good, Chief."
Blair looked at him, and abandoning the meal he was preparing, went over to him and wrapped his arms round him. "What's Dawson done now, Jim?"
Jim returned the embrace with a sigh. "Guess what, Chief. He's realised the rate of solved crimes is way down and he's not happy about it."
"Wouldn't expect him to be."
"So Joel told him why. And pointed out to him just how hard you always worked, how much you did to advise everyone."
"And he didn't buy it. Wouldn't have expected him to. That man has more of a wall holding in his prejudices than anyone I've ever known."
"Blair, if I didn't have you here, I don't know what I'd do. As it is I have to keep my senses turned way down in case I zone. I've felt one coming on once or twice - luckily never when it's mattered."
"You really do want to be careful of that, Jim," Blair agreed. "Go and get washed. Dinner'll be ready in ten minutes."
They ate, and settled down on the couch, comfortable in the closeness of their nearly four-year-long friendship.
"The only advantage in the situation," Jim said softly, "is that you're not having to work your butt off all the time. You have time to keep up with all your Rainier work and the work on your diss, and can still take an evening to relax."
"I'm still not happy about it, though," Blair said.
"Joel's going to see Simon tomorrow, see if Simon can think of any way round this," Jim said. "It's not a situation that can last. You wouldn't think that one man could destroy morale in the entire bullpen inside a month, would you."
"In fairness, it can't be easy for someone to come in and take over a department, and anyone who does has to establish himself as boss right away. The new broom that has to sweep clean, even when there isn't anything to sweep up. I said that back when Finkleman took over - and you know the changes she tried to make."
"Yeah, but we all knew that was only temporary."
"And she turned out to be flexible enough in her thinking. Dawson isn't. He's hit his level of incompetence. He really needs someone senior to him making the final decisions. In a way I feel sorry for him. He took over a highly successful department from a well-liked Captain, and it's gone downhill fast."
"Yes, and he's been told why, and he still won't budge." Jim sighed. "I can't help wondering if Joel made a mistake rubbing it in how helpful you were to the department."
"Could be. Dawson's the sort of man who thinks it a weakness to admit he's made a mistake, and the more it's pointed out to him that he's made a mistake, the more inclined he'll be to stick his toes in, scared he'll lose face if he admits that Joel's right."
Jim sighed again, knowing Blair was right.
Panic hit the bullpen mid-morning with an all-personnel call-out to a serious hostage situation. Jim found himself crouching close to Joel as a negotiator tried to talk the perps - three men whose attempt to rob a bank failed when one of the staff managed to hit the panic button - into surrendering. Now they were holding the staff and four members of the public hostage while they tried to get the best deal possible from the authorities.
"Oh, God!" Joel muttered. Jim glanced at him, then followed his gaze. Dawson had just joined the negotiator. "We're gonna have deaths now."
"Maybe not," Jim said, as Dawson, after speaking to the man for a moment, ducked back.
A minute later, Dawson ducked round another car and joined them. "I'm ordering SWAT in," he said. "We'll join them."
Joel gaped at him. "With respect, Captain, I think it's too soon. Do that and the perps will start shooting. Some of the hostages will die."
"This situation has gone on too long," Dawson snapped. "It should have been settled an hour ago."
Jim was listening carefully. "I agree with Taggert, sir," he said. "You push them, the men in there will start shooting. It could be a bloodbath. Give the negotiator a bit longer, see if he can talk them into giving up."
"I've given him a deadline of ten minutes. If he hasn't accomplished anything by then, we're taking the building by force."
"Captain Dawson - " Joel tried again.
"I've made my decision, Captain!" Dawson snapped. He moved quickly away, obviously intending to give his orders to some of the others.
Jim and Joel looked at each other. "You know, Joel,"Jim said quietly, "Blair said it last night. He thinks it a weakness to let what anyone else says affect his decision."
"Even though people die."
"And they will." He indicated the bank. "They know. Somehow they know. One will take out the hostages, the other two will blast the cops. They know they'll die but they plan to take as many of us out as possible."
"How do you know that?"
Joel grunted. "Unfortunately, it's my guess too."
"At least Blair's not here," Joel said.
"If he was, I doubt this situation would have arisen. He'd have found some way to get through to them."
Too soon, the order came. "Attack!"
Even as it came, Jim rose to his feet, his attention wholly on the voices inside the bank; and he stood motionless, unaware of anything except the panic-stricken voices of the hostages begging for mercy... until a bullet hit him and he dropped to the ground.
When the gunfire ended, there was a long silence. Finally, the negotiator lifted the phone he had been using to speak to the perps. "Are you still there?"
Three or four cops, the ones who had been further back when the order was given, rose from their positions behind cars, where they had been able to take shelter from the hail of lead from automatic weapons fired from the bank.
Dawson was one of them.
The men who had not been able to take that cover still lay, mostly motionless, where they had fallen.
Dawson stood staring at the carnage, not quite able to accept that it was his order that had caused it.
The negotiator looked down at the phone in his hand, and with shaking fingers dialled 911.