INTERVENTION





It was a tombstone much like the other tombstones in the Cascade Memorial Gardens cemetery. The deceased's name was carved into the stone along with the dates of birth and death. 'Sonia Whittaker. July 17, 1978 - March 1, 1998.' The words 'Gone But Not Forgotten' were etched in script below the dates. It was a tombstone much like the other tombstones.

Kneeling to the left of the tombstone was a young woman in her early twenties. Long black hair fell over one shoulder as she rested her forehead against the side of the tombstone. Her left hand clenched a tear-stained tissue while her right hand lightly hit the tombstone.

On the other side of the tombstone stood a tall broad-shouldered young man with black hair and dark brown eyes. He stared down at the young girl, helpless misery in his eyes. Ryan Travers had buried one sister. He didn't want to lose the other. He glanced at the young man who stood a few feet away, watching them with arms folded across his chest. Then he shook his head and cleared his throat. "Come on, Gina. This isn't helping."

Gina Travers raised tear-filled blue eyes. "No, nothing can help Sonia now," she resentfully spat. "We're just supposed to go on with our lives? Is that it, Ryan? Sonia's lying in her grave, and we worry about what's for dinner?"

"Stop it!" Ryan angrily demanded. "I know damn well where Sonia is! I helped carry her coffin here!" He ran both hands over his face. "Gina, please. This isn't what Sonia would have wanted."

"She's dead, and that bastard sits in a hospital because he fooled everyone into thinking he's crazy!" Gina closed her eyes. "Why didn't anyone believe us? Why?!"

"Because Sonia wouldn't admit Jeff was abusing her," Ryan tensely answered. "She always had a reason for the injuries."

"It was because he was her husband!" Gina shouted. "That made it okay in their eyes!"

"No, it didn't!" Ryan argued. "It just made it harder for the authorities to do something about it!" He glanced once again at the silent man watching them. "Talk to her, Devon."

Devon Webster shrugged. The breeze whipped his long blonde hair across his face and he tossed his head to remove the hair from in front of his eyes.

Ryan sighed. Reaching into his pocket, he held out a key ring. "Here's the key to the van. It'll do you good to get away for a while, Gina. You always liked camping."

Gina slowly reached up and took the key ring from her brother's hand. "Thank you, Ryan. I know you don't understand…"

"I do!" Ryan knelt on the other side of their sister's grave. "But you can't change what happened to Sonia. You've got to start taking care of yourself." He reached for Gina's hand and gently squeezed it.

Gina nodded, returning the squeeze. She looked over his shoulder. "Rosa's waiting. I'll just be a little longer."

Ryan glanced over his shoulder to where his fiancé patiently waited next to her car. "Don't stay," he urged, looking back at Gina. "Leave now."

"Just a little longer," Gina promised.

Ryan kissed his sister's hand then got to his feet. He glared at Devon then slowly walked to the roadway.

Rosa Madeiros held out her arms as Devon approached. She held him close for a moment then Ryan opened the car door for her. As Rosa settled behind the wheel of her Neon, Ryan stared at his kneeling sister one more time then resolutely got into the passenger seat.

Devon watched as they drove away. He walked to Gina and put a hand on her shoulder. "It's not his fault. He doesn't understand."

"And I can't make him understand!" Gina angrily sobbed. "Just like I couldn't make the cops understand! Just like I couldn't make Sonia understand!" She turned her head and stared up at Devon. "You're the only one who understands!"

Devon solemnly nodded. He remembered the cold January morning years ago when his mother's coffin was lowered into the frozen ground. He remembered his father's hypocritical sobs and the sympathetic murmurs of the people around them. He also remembered their shocked stares when he screamed that his father had murdered his mother. No one listened then and no one listened now.

"I can't let it happen again." Gina took a deep breath and got to her feet. "I've tried, Devon! The cops aren't listening. They're just protecting one of their own."

Devon nodded. "This time WE intervene. This time we'll be able to save someone from being hurt again. When we get the proof, not even the cops can ignore it anymore."

Gina brushed her tears away. "I just wish I hadn't had to lie to Ryan to get his van."

Devon gave her a quick hug. "He'll understand when it's over."

"I hope so," Gina sighed. "But if not…" She straightened her shoulders. "A man's life is more important than what my brother thinks."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Any idea what this is about, Simon?" Jim Ellison glanced at the tall, dark-skinned man standing next to him in the elevator.

Captain Simon Banks shook his head. "Capt. Weston said nothing. Just that I was to bring you down to IA immediately. It seems Lt. Marshall wants to have a few words with you."

"Great," Jim groaned. "Now what?" He mentally reviewed the cases he'd handled over the past couple of months. He couldn't see any reason for IA to be involved with any of them. "You'd think they'd have better things to do…"

"Jim, I suggest you keep your mouth shut," Simon hissed as the elevator doors opened to the fourth floor. "Let Marshall do the talking. Understand?"

"Perfectly, sir," Jim nodded.

Simon quietly sighed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lt. Geoffrey Marshall thoroughly enjoyed his job and looked forward to going to work every day. Even though he was hated, despised or feared by his fellow officers, Marshall considered those emotions proof that he was good at this job.

He LIKED being in Internal Affairs. As far as he was concerned, if a cop broke the law, he was no longer a cop and no longer a member of the 'brotherhood'. If that meant that 'good cops' sneered at him behind his back for being good at his job, it was price he was willing to pay. He wasn't the first person not to have friends at work.

And Lt. Geoffrey Marshall of the Cascade Police Department's Internal Affairs Division WAS that damn good at doing his job.

Marshall eyed the files in front of him, forefinger idly tapping the top one. Detective James Ellison was no stranger to Internal Affairs. He wondered if Ellison would be surprised to know the size of his IA file. Upon reviewing it, Marshall had discounted about half of Sheila Irwin's notes. She had let her personal emotions cloud her investigation.

But what was left made for interesting reading. Just about everyone in Internal Affairs had taken a shot at Ellison. The number reprimands and suspensions early in his career had tapered off once he'd transferred from Vice to Major Crimes. But it was the quality of those that came after the transfer had caught Marshall's eye, especially the investigation into the death of David Lash. Five shots to the chest seemed a rather dramatic overkill to Marshall. But Ellison had been cleared although Marshall wondered if the result would have been the same if the dead man hadn't been a psychotic serial killer.

And then there was the matter of his civilian "partner" to be considered.

"Lt. Marshall, Captain Banks and Detective Ellison are here."

Marshall glanced at his desk to be sure no personal items remained. All he saw were the appropriate files. He gently pressed the intercom key on his phone. "Send them in, Miss Johnson."

While others might be on a first-name basis with the support staff, Marshall insisted on a professional attitude not only from himself but others as well.

The door opened and Simon entered, closely followed by Jim. Jim eyed the IA investigator, the man being one of the few he hadn't been interrogated by.

Marshall was a tall, slender, thin-faced man in his early fifties with short-cropped light brown hair. Pale green eyes stared at them from behind wire-rimmed glasses. He wore a pristine white shirt with a dark gray tie neatly knotted at this throat. He had a reputation for incorruptibility, which made him an asset to the PD, not to mention the Internal Affairs division. He also had a reputation for seeing matters strictly in shades of black and white. And Marshall's lengthy tour of duty in Naval Intelligence had given him a poker face to rival Ellison's.

"Captain Banks. Detective Ellison." Marshall politely nodded at the two empty chairs across from his desk. "Thank you for responding so promptly."

Simon graciously nodded in return as he settled into the barely comfortable chair.

Jim perched on the edge of his chair and glared across the desk at Marshall. "What's this about?" he demanded.

Marshall opened a manila folder and glanced at the first page. "Detective Ellison, you're entitled to have legal representation if you wish."

"Is there a reason I need representation?" Jim testily asked.

"That's not a determination I can make," Marshall answered. "If you wish an attorney present, we can wait until he arrives before we begin."

Simon's dark eyes flickered from one man to the other. He was reminded of how a lion tamer would tease the beast just before cracking the whip. He suddenly wished he'd swallowed a couple of the Excedrin in his desk drawer before leaving his office.

Jim settled back in the chair, folding his arms across his chest. "Let's get on with this."

Marshall nodded. "You are free to exercise your right to an attorney at any time during this interview." He looked at Simon. "Captain Banks, I requested your presence because you may be able to shed some light on these allegations."

"What allegations?" Jim angrily demanded.

Simon shot Jim a warning look, then stared at Marshall. "We'll be glad to help in any way possible."

Marshall's pale green eyes flickered from Jim to Simon then back to Jim. "Please explain Blair Sandburg."

"You must be joking," Jim grunted.

"What Detective Ellison means…" Simon automatically interrupted, then stared at Marshall in surprise. "What do you mean, explain Blair Sandburg?"

Marshall glanced at the papers in front of him. "He's been on a 90-day ride-along for nearly three years."

"Is there a problem with his ride-along status?" Simon asked. "If so, that's under my authority, not Detective Ellison's."

"I'm not aware of a problem with Mr. Sandburg's ride-along status," Marshall denied. "That isn't the purpose of this interview."

"Then what is?" Jim demanded.

"Captain Banks, perhaps you could explain why Mr. Sandburg, after nearly three years, is still riding with Detective Ellison on a 90-day ride-along pass?" Marshall ignored Jim's demand and patiently waited for Simon to answer.

'Sandburg, what the hell have you done now?' Simon quickly cleared his thoughts. "Blair Sandburg is a graduate student working on his dissertation about closed societies. Specifically, the Cascade PD. I'm not positive about all the ins and outs of it, but I've urged him to avoid using the 'thin blue line' angle."

Marshall nodded. "I've never liked that phrase myself," he admitted. He glanced at the papers in front of him. "I understand Mr. Sandburg began Rainier at 16?" When Jim nodded, he continued. "Very impressive. Very well traveled, too."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Jim demanded. 'Allegations? What do allegations have to do with Sandburg and his background?' He frowned. 'Wait a minute. Marshall didn't specifically state the allegations were against ME.'

"And his continuing association with your department, Captain Banks?" Marshall asked. He was aware of Jim's frown and nodded to himself. Ellison's reputation as a skilled investigator was proving itself.

"Sandburg, because of his background, has a unique insight on various issues." Simon spoke slowly, carefully picking his words. "He's been of invaluable assistance on many cases." His dark eyes stared at Marshall. "I consider him to be a valuable member of my department."

"His record with Major Crimes certainly speaks for itself," Marshall agreed. He slowly flipped through the file. "I understand Mr. Sandburg is also your roommate, Detective Ellison." Marshall glanced over the top of his glasses at Jim.

"Is there a reason Internal Affairs is interested in my living arrangements?" Jim challenged. He heard Simon's hiss of disapproval, but kept his eyes on the man behind the desk.

"Perhaps," Marshall nodded. "I understand his previous place of residence was destroyed. Is that when he moved in with you?"

Jim nodded, forcing his jaw to relax. "He needed a place to stay. I had an extra room. It suits us both."

Marshall picked up a closed folder and reached it across the desk to Jim who automatically took it. "Are you familiar with the information in that folder, Detective?"

Jim opened the folder and glanced at the top couple of pages. "This is Sandburg's medical file." He looked at Marshall with narrowed eyes. "What are you doing with this?"

"Medical files are supposed to be confidential!" Simon barked.

"With all due respect, just what the hell is going on?" Jim sarcastically snapped.

Marshall ignored Jim to nod at Simon. "Medical files ARE subject to subpoena under certain circumstances." He looked at Jim and felt the thrill of the chase. "Detective Ellison, allegations have been made against you. These allegations claim you are physically abusing one Blair Sandburg. These allegations also claim that you are using these physical abuses to keep one Blair Sandburg with you…" He looked down at the open folder in front of him. "…Quote 'because of Detective Ellison's possessive and aggressive nature' End quote." He closed the folder and leaned back in his chair. "Would you like to call for legal representation, Detective Ellison?"

"NO!" Jim angrily replied. "This is a load of…"

"Jim!" Simon barked. He waited until Jim swallowed what he was intending to say, then looked at Marshall. "Let me get this straight. Someone is saying that Jim is…what?…thumping Sandburg just for the hell of it? Around a bunch of cops?"

Marshall half-shrugged. "You must admit, Captain Banks, that Mr. Sandburg's history of injuries is excessive for a ride-along observer." He eyed Jim and tapped one long forefinger on the arm of his chair. "It raises suspicions and asks questions that demand answers."

"Sandburg's definition of 'observer' is a little different than yours or mine," Simon admitted.

'I'd like to see YOU try to keep Sandburg in the truck.' Jim snorted. "You're barking up the wrong tree. Ask anybody about how Sandburg and I get along." He smirked. "If I so much as smacked him, I'd have Major Crimes in my face to fast I couldn't see straight."

Marshall's head tilted to the right as he studied Jim's reaction.

"But those injures are well documented," Simon pointed out. "None of them can be attributed to the sort of physical abuse you're alleging."

"I agree, Captain. Those injuries ARE well-documented," Marshall nodded. "But there are other injures that are not related to his 'observing'." He allowed himself a slight mocking smile.

"What?!" Simon shouted.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Jim yelled, both hands balled into fists.

Marshall folded his hands across his stomach and patiently waited until the two men quieted. "Would you like legal representation at this time, Detective?"

"No! I want to get this settled!" Jim seethed. "And, for the record, I have never EVER laid so much as one finger on Sandburg! For any reason!" He breathed heavily, remembering the couple of times he'd thrown Sandburg up against walls. 'That's not abuse. There were reasons. Right?'

"So noted for the record, Detective," Marshall briskly acknowledged, seeing something flash in Jim's blue eyes. "Are you willing to discuss these undocumented injuries? For the record?"

"You bet!" Jim snapped.

Marshall opened the upper left-hand drawer of his desk. Reaching in, he pulled out a tape recorder. Activating it, he began, "This is Lt. Geoffrey Marshall, and the date is September 27, 1998. With me are Detective James Ellison and Captain Simon Banks. I will be questioning Detective Ellison regarding allegations of Detective Ellison physically abusing Blair Sandburg. Detective Ellison has declined legal representation at this time." He looked at Jim. "If you'll turn to page seven of the medical reports, Detective."

Jim handed the folder to Simon. "Just ask your questions. I don't need to look at Sandburg's medical file to answer them." He glared at Marshall with a silent challenge in his angry eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair Sandburg struggled to swing his backpack over his right shoulder, elbow open the door of the library, and put on his sunglasses at the same time. 'One of the few bright sunny days in Cascade, and I'm stuck in class almost all day. Hope Jim isn't stuck at his desk the rest of the day!'

Smiling at the afternoon sun, Blair hurried towards the parking lot. As was typical on a late Friday afternoon, the campus was nearly deserted. Most students were in their dorms or apartments getting ready for the weekly weekend round of parties.

Blair sighed in unconscious envy. He had a ton of essays to grade for next week's classes. 'I'll call Jim. If he doesn't need me, I can head straight home to get a jump on these essays. I can grade them on the balcony and throw a lasagna together pretty fast for dinner.'

As he approached the Volvo, he fished in his pocket for his keys. A tall dark-haired girl leaned against a van parked next to Blair's car while a young man was bent over, poking at the engine. 'Guess they limped onto the lot. Hope Security cuts them a break if they get caught. The Administration has been really cracking down on vans parked in the smaller lots.'

As Blair reached the Volvo, he felt the keys slip through his fingers. "Damn it," he sighed. He started to bend over, then grabbed the overloaded backpack before it slipped off his shoulder.

"Let me."

Blair looked around to see the young girl who'd been leaning against the van bend down to get the keys. "Thanks," he grinned, holding out his hand for the keys. "Engine problems?"

"Yeah." Gina Travers swept her long dark hair over one shoulder.

Just then, her companion slammed the hood shut. "I don't know what's wrong with it," Devon Webster snapped in disgust.

"Can I give you guys a ride or something?" Blair offered, turning to unlock the Volvo.

"Thanks."

Blair was startled to hear the young man's voice just behind him. He instinctively turned, then felt a cloth pushed against his nose and mouth. The backpack dropped to the pavement as he struggled.

"Don’t fight!" Gina snapped. "This is for your own good!"

'You must be kiddi…' Blair's eyes closed as he lost consciousness.

As Devon picked Blair up into his arms, Gina quickly opened the van's side door. While Devon was putting Blair onto the floor, she grabbed the backpack and threw it into the front seat. By the time Devon had the side door shut, Gina was climbing behind the wheel of the van.

"Is he okay?" Gina demanded.

"Yeah, he's just out of it," Devon assured her. "Let's go!"

Gina nodded and carefully drove away.

None of them noticed a frantic student yelling into a cell phone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Sixteen months ago, Mr. Sandburg was treated at Cascade General Emergency Room at 2:17 am with a badly bruised right jaw and concussion." Marshall looked up from the file. "Can you explain those injuries?"

Simon glanced at Jim who frowned.

"Sixteen months ago?" Jim closed his eyes in thought. "Jonas Collin's promotion party." He nodded as he opened his eyes. "Sandburg had just gone through some emotional stuff with some girl and was down in the dumps. He didn't want to go, but I thought it would do him good to get out a little. He wound up drinking too much." Jim shrugged. 'Poor kid. That bitch, Maya, stuck it to him again. I swear if I ever see that lying little…'

Marshall calmly watched the fleeting look of anger in Jim's eyes. 'Angry at your roommate's romantic entanglements?'

Feeling Marshall's scrutiny, Jim got his anger under control. "When I got him home, he passed out on the couch. I'd hurt my back subduing a perp the week before and didn't feel like completely throwing it out by dragging him to his room. So I threw an afghan over him, took off his shoes, and went to bed." He shrugged. "Sandburg woke up a little later and tried to go to his room. He tripped over his shoes then hit his shoulder on the coffee table and his head on the floor. That woke me up, and I took him to the ER."

Simon closed his eyes and shook his head. 'Only Sandburg…'

Marshall merely nodded. "If you'll turn to page fifteen, Captain?" He waited until Simon had found the correct page. "Twelve months ago, Mr. Sandburg was treated at Cascade General Emergency Room at 6:22 pm for a burn to his left arm and a severe bruise of his right foot. Can you explain these injures, Detective?"

"Oh, yeah, the ironing incident," Jim sighed. "I guess that COULD be my fault."

"Excuse me?" Simon demanded.

"Captain," Marshall frowned. "Let Detective Ellison answer, if you please."

Jim sighed again. "Sandburg borrowed a very expensive shirt of mine for a date. I told him that was fine as long as he put it back as he found it. Washed and pressed." Jim inwardly smirked. 'I should've known better. I was lucky to get the shirt back at all considering how he borrows my sweatshirts.' He tried not to laugh, remembering his brief vision of Blair standing next to the ironing board while dancing to the beat of the music on the stereo.

"He'd set up the ironing board and was ironing the shirt. He was also playing some God-awful so-called music on the stereo. Very loudly." Jim glanced at Simon then back at Marshall. "I came home with a splitting headache to hear that crap halfway down the hallway. Thankfully, when I opened the door, it was between tracks so I yelled at Sandburg to turn it off." He cleared his throat. "I…uh…sorta startled him. He dropped the iron and instinctively tried to catch it. He didn't but it fell against his left forearm and then hit the top of his right foot. I then unplugged the iron, turned off the stereo, and took him to the ER." He saw the exasperated look in Simon's eyes. "Sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair groaned as he forced his eyes open.

"Can't we give him something to drink?" Devon curiously asked.

"Not yet," Gina shook her head. "It might cause him to throw up. He doesn't need to get dehydrated."

Blair turned his head to see the young man and woman from the parking lot sitting across the room from him on a couch. He looked down to find himself securely tied to a chair. "What…" He slowly shook his head and licked his lips. "What's this…what's going on?" he finally mumbled.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sandburg, but it's for your own good," Gina primly advised.

Bair forced his head up. He frowned, then identified her. "Gina Travers. I had you in Anthro 101 what…three years ago?"

"Yeah." Gina knelt in front of him. "You're safe now. No one is going to hurt you. This is Devon, and we're going to help you."

"Safe?" Blair looked down at the ropes restraining him. "You kidnapped me, tied me up, and I'm safe?"

Gina nodded. "Safe from HIM." She patted his knee in an attempt to soothe him.

"Who?" Blair asked, licking his lips again.

"The man who's abusing you," Gina answered. "Jim Ellison."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The iron burned his arm and hit him on his foot." Marshall stared at Jim without expression. 'Well, at least that's a different sort of explanation than the usual.'

"That's right," Jim defiantly answered.

Marshall referred to the open folder in front of him. "If you'll turn to page twenty-two, Captain."

'Page twenty-two! Just how many times has Sandburg been to the hospital?' Simon threw a glare towards Jim, but the detective's attention was on the IA investigator.

"Nine months ago, Mr. Sandburg was treated at the Rainier Clinic at 9:42 pm for a twisted left ankle and severe bruising to his left hip and back." Marshall leaned back in his chair. "Your explanation, Detective."

"He fell coming out of the back entrance of the library at Rainier," Jim explained. "It was just after the ice storm. Rather than go out the front and take the long way around to get to his car, he decided to duck out the back. The steps hadn't been cleared yet. He slipped and fell all the way down the steps." He scowled.

'Thank God. That seems almost reasonable.' Simon looked at Marshall who had leaned forward to flip through the folder.

"The matter was investigated by Rainier's Security. You can check with them," Jim added.

"Thank you for the suggestion," Marshall pleasantly nodded with a smile.

"Page twenty-six, Captain, if you please." Marshall looked at Jim. "Twelve weeks ago, Mr. Sandburg was admitted to the Cascade General Emergency Room at 4:07 pm with a dislocated right shoulder. Your explanation, Detective?" By this point, he was almost eager to hear what Ellison would say.

Jim winced. "We were camping and decided to hike for a few hours. We came to this drop-off. I went to the edge to get a good look at the valley. Sandburg stayed away from the edge since he has a fear of heights." Jim forced his hands to relax and cleared his throat. "The ground went out beneath me. Sandburg jumped forward and grabbed me as I stared to go down. I was able to get my feet into solid ground and climbed up. But Sandburg had dislocated his shoulder when he grabbed and held onto me."

Jim didn't need to look at Simon to see the silent question in his eyes. 'Yeah, damn senses nearly got us both killed. Zoned out on an eagle in flight then came to hearing Blair shrieking my name and him hanging on to my arm while I'm dangling in space over the side of a cliff! Scared me outta ten years' growth. And he wonders why I hate these senses sometimes!'

"I see." Repressing a smirk, Marshall tapped his fingers on the open folder. "Do the two of you spend much time together? Away from the station?"

"Sandburg's my best friend. I enjoy spending time with my best friend." Jim answered, grinding his back teeth together. 'But then you don't have any friends around here, do you, Marshall? So you wouldn't know what that's like.'

"How nice." Marshall cynically nodded.

Simon nearly rolled his eyes when Jim flushed. 'Dear Lord, just let me get Ellison out of here before I have to decide whether or not to help him hide the body.' He looked at Marshall. "Everyone in Major Crimes has seen Sandburg with the bandages, slings, and what-have-you. We all know what's happened. There's no way what you're insinuating could have happened without our knowing about it."

"Is that a fact?" Marshall asked. "Tell me, Captain Banks, have you ever witnessed these…accidents?" When Simon didn't answer, he continued, "Or have you just taken Detective Ellison's word for all of it?"

"Now, just a minute!" Jim shouted, getting to his feet.

"Ellison! Sit down!" Simon shouted even louder.

For several seconds, Marshall stared into Jim's angry blue yes, patiently waiting for the man to either attack or sit down.

Finally, Jim slowly sat down. His rigid posture and clenched fists made it evident that he really wanted to do something else. Slowly, he took a deep breath. "Blair Sandburg is my partner and best friend, as I've said. Nobody, and I mean nobody hurts him and gets away with it."

Marshall nodded, a faint smile on his lips. Then he looked at Simon. "If you'll refer to page twenty-eight, Captain." When Simon nodded, he continued. "Ten weeks ago, two weeks after the hiking incident, Mr. Sandburg was admitted to the Cascade General Hospital Emergency Room at 11:29 am with a concussion and black eye." He glanced at Jim. "Well, detective?"

Simon closed his eyes, remembering the teasing Sandburg had suffered from Major Crimes.

"It was just after Summer house cleaning," Jim began.

"Summer house cleaning?" Marshall's pale eyebrows rose in surprise.

"Sandburg's room the exception, my home is kept neat and tidy!" Jim snapped. "Yes! Summer house cleaning! Spring isn't the only time I thoroughly clean my home!"

"My apologies, Detective. Please continue," Marshall calmly responded. It was only sheer strength of will that kept him from bursting into laughter.

Jim took a deep breath to calm his temper then shook his head. "I'd waxed the wood floors and steps. Sandburg couldn't help a lot because of his shoulder so he was putting laundry away. He'd gone upstairs with my laundry when he slipped on the stairs."

"He slipped? Bare feet skidded on wax?" Marshall asked.

"He was wearing socks." Jim met Marshall's eyes. "Sandburg gets cold easily."

"I see."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"What are you talking about? Where did you get the idea that Jim abuses me?" Blair demanded.

"It's okay. He can't hurt you here," Gina assured him.

"Why the kidnapping?" Blair demanded. 'Damn! Someone knows how to tie knots. No way I'm getting out of these ropes by myself.'

"You've been hurt so many times!" Gina angrily got to her feet. "I know if you could have reported it or gotten away from Ellison, you would have. But many victims stop understanding that they're victims. They wind up thinking they deserve the abuse." She eyed Blair with pity.

The young anthropologist stared in shocked silence at each of the young people. 'Oh, God. They actually believe it. They believe Jim's beating me up!' He took a deep breath. "Look, I don't know what you think…"

"Don't tell me what to think!" Gina yelled. "I changed my major from Art History to Psychology after my sister was beaten to death by her husband," Gina angrily continued. "I made a promise the day we buried her that I’d do everything possible to keep what happened to Sonia from happening to anybody else."

She leaned forward, resting her hands on the arms of Blair's chair. "Nobody believed her. Not the cops. Not her so-called friends. I was the only one who believed her, but nobody believed me either." She looked over her shoulder at Devon. "Devon's father beat his mother so badly that she finally died. But no one believed Devon when he accused his father." She looked back at Blair. "This can't go on! It has to stop!"

"But what makes you think Jim's abusing me?" Blair calmly asked. "Or that I'd ALLOW anybody to abuse me?"

"I've seen your medical records," Gina triumphantly smiled. "I'm doing volunteer work at Cascade General. I've seen how many times you've been hurt." She straightened and folded her arms across her chest as she stared down at Blair. "I know the truth. I've seen the truth."

"Gina, I'm doing my dissertation on closed police societies," Blair patiently explained. "I have ride-along status. It's unfortunate, but I get in the line of fire sometimes."

"And that's a good cover," Devon scoffed. "Makes everything nice and neat in case questions are asked."

Blair sighed. "First of all, Gina, you shouldn't have had access to my medical records. Second, you violated a lot of professional ethics by discussing my medical records. Third…well, third, you kidnapped me!" He shook his head. "Look, if you really believe I'm being abused, you should tell the cops."

"I did," Gina admitted.

"I mean, if the hospital authorities or the doctors who treated me had any…" Bair stared at the young woman in shock. "YOU WHAT!?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Finally, if you'll refer to page thirty-one, Captain Banks," Marshall directed.

Simon sighed as he searched for the proper page. 'I swear if I didn't know better…'

"Detective, three weeks ago, Mr. Sandburg was admitted to the Cascade General Hospital Emergency Room at 5:52 pm with burns to his left hand and arm." He settled back in his chair. "How did this happen?"

Jim and Simon looked at each other. "Naomi," they both groaned.

"Naomi?" Marshall questioned.

"Sandburg's mother," Simon grunted.

"Are you saying she's responsible…"

"NO!" Jim roughly interrupted. "Sandburg's mother was visiting. She's…" He shook his head.

"You have to meet Ms. Sandburg to really understand her," Simon explained. "She believes in karma and vibrations."

"Feng something-or-other," Jim added.

"Cleansing rituals with sage and meditation," Simon finished.

Marshall looked from one to the other. "And?"

"Sandburg's mother thought there was too much bad karma around the loft," Jim explained. "So they were going to meditate. Now, I just knew she was going to burns sage to 'clean' the place, and I’m allergic to sage." He shrugged. "So I asked Captain Banks if he minded if I used his spare bedroom for a few days. I told Sandburg he and his mother would have complete privacy for their visit while I was gone, but that I wanted the place aired out before I got back."

Marshall eyed Simon. "And you agreed to this, Captain?"

"I've met Ms. Sandburg," Simon evenly replied.

"And Mr. Sandburg's injuries?" Marshall asked.

"They were on the balcony meditating," Jim recalled. "They had candles everywhere, even on the two small end tables we have out there to put drinks and snacks on. There was a sudden gust of wind and one of the tables…with the candles…toppled over onto Naomi. She was wearing this lightweight silk wrap around her shoulders."

Jim's blue eyes clouded momentarily as he remembered spinning around to see Naomi's shawl going up in flames and Blair frantically diving onto his mother. "Sandburg heard his mother scream and came out of his meditation," Jim added. "He immediately threw himself over his mother and began to smother the flames."

"With his hands," Simon finished.

Marshall studied them. "You witnessed this, Captain?"

"I got there just as they were leaving for the emergency room," Simon admitted.

"So you didn't actually see the incident, did you, Captain?" Marshall allowed himself a half-smile.

"Sandburg had the flames extinguished by the time we got to the balcony, but he'd burned his hand and arm." Jim angrily eyed the IA investigator. "The burns weren't bad, but I was concerned since it was the same area he'd been burned earlier." He angrily snorted. "And if you think Naomi was going to stand around and let me deliberately burn her son, you're…"

"I'm curious, Lt. Marshall. When were these allegations reported?" Simon quickly interrupted.

Marshall eyed Jim with open enjoyment then looked at Simon. "They were reported six weeks ago. The file was assigned to Lt. Irwin who was on vacation. She felt her past associations with Detective Ellison precluded her involvement in this investigation so the file was then assigned to me. Unfortunately, I had already left on personal leave for two weeks." He shook his head. "Personally, gentlemen, I deplore the delay and apologize for it. In my opinion, it's inexcusable. Any allegation against a police officer shouldn't be lying on someone's desk for four weeks before action is taken."

"So the allegations have only been under investigation for about two weeks," Simon mused.

"Correct." Marshall frowned. "Is that important?"

Simon shrugged. "The allegations are false. I'm wondering who would make them and why. In that case, the timing could be important."

Marshall nodded. "I see your point, Captain. But first, the allegations have to be disproved."

"Look, I've explained about those injuries," Jim began. "And all you have to do is ask Sandburg."

"Thank you for your cooperation, Detective." Marshall closed the file and stood. "You'll be notified of my findings."

Recognizing the dismissal for what it was, Simon got to his feet and motioned for Jim to do so as well. "Thank you, Lt. Marshall." Grabbing Jim by the elbow, he walked towards the door.

Marshall waited until he was sure both men had left the outer office before buzzing his secretary. "No interruptions for a while, Miss Johnson, unless it's an emergency. Thank you."

He stared down at the folders on his desk for a few minutes then shook his head with a smile. 'I'm going to enjoy talking with Mr. Blair Sandburg.'

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim waited until they were in the elevator before he exploded. "I do NOT believe this! Nobody in their right mind could possibly think I'm abusing Sandburg!"

'Especially anybody who's seen you when Sandburg gets hurt.' Simon shook his head. "I'm more interested in who filed the allegations."

As the elevator door opened, they nearly collided with Joel Taggart. "We just got a call from Rainer," he breathlessly spoke. "Somebody's kidnapped Blair."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You told the cops you think Jim's abusing me?" Blair asked in shock.

Gina nodded. "Almost six weeks ago. And you've been to the hospital since then. It's obvious they're covering for Ellison…covering for a fellow cop."

"Oh, that's ridiculous!" Blair snorted. "Internal Affairs would LOVE to throw this at Jim!" He angrily wiggled in the chair, glaring at his restraints. "I can't believe you did this! With no proof! Without even asking me! Do you have any idea how much trouble Jim could be in? He's a cop!"

"He should be in trouble!" Gina shouted. "After all he's done to you, he should be in more trouble than anyone else in Cascade!" She grabbed her shoulder bag from beside the couch and opened it. "I'm sorry. But the truth must come out."

"I'm telling you the truth!" If he could have done so without looking ridiculous, Blair would have stomped his foot. "Why don't you listen to me?"

"You sound so much like Sonia," Gina sadly reflected. "It got to the point that she couldn't even see what was being done to her. The violence became so commonplace…so much a part of her everyday life. A bruise…broken finger…cracked rib…" She angrily shook her head. "Just another day in Paradise."

"Let's do it," Devon curtly demanded. "He's not going to cooperate."

"Do what?" Blair anxiously asked. He tried to struggle when Devon grabbed his right arm and pulled the sleeve of his sweater back. Then he pulled at the sleeves of Blair's two t-shirts.

"How many layers are you wearing?" Devon irritably grumbled.

"Let me go!" Blair shouted.

"Nobody ever listens!" Gina screamed. Her eyes were wide and wild. "Nobody ever listens! But, by God, this time they'll listen!" Suddenly she stood next to Blair with a hypodermic needle. Silently, she injected something into Blair's vein.

"What…what are you DOING?" Blair yelled. "You can't do this!"

"Oh, hush!" Gina ordered. "It's nothing that will harm you…just help. It's sodium pentathol."

Blair looked up at her in confusion. "Truth serum?"

Gina nodded. "We'll get it all on video tape. Then even the cops can't ignore what's going on! They won't ignore me again!" She put both hands on either side of Blair's face and forced him to look up at her. "You can't hide any more," she solemnly told him. "It's time to strip away the old, abused Blair Sandburg and turn you into the person you were meant to be."

Frightened for the first time, Blair shivered. 'She sounds like…she's not Lash…she's NOT Lash!…she's NOT!'

Gina stepped back and walked into the nearby kitchen.

Devon smirked at him before walking down the hall. Less than a minute later, he returned with a video camera and tripod.

'Oh, damn it!' Blair warily eyed the camera. 'Not good not good not good at all! Okay, Sandburg, keep your wits about you. Gina's not Lash so just forget about that! You can't say anything about Jim or his senses. You can't even let them…oh, man, how am I gonna protect Jim?'

Devon coldly smiled at Blair as he positioned the camera. "Now you'll HAVE to tell the truth," he muttered. "I don't know why the victims want to protect who's hurting them, but you're gonna stop doing it." Throwing Blair an angry look, he followed Gina into the kitchen.

He watched as she disposed of the needle and washed her hands. "Think it'll work?" He opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a can of Sprite.

"He'll have to," Gina nodded as she dried her hands. She turned and triumphantly smiled at Devon. "For once, the truth will be told."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Screeching tires warned the forensic personnel working on Blair's car that Jim Ellison had arrived. More than one person rolled their eyes, waiting for the approaching storm. More than one person instinctively moved out of Ellison's way and found a reason to be doing something…anything…far away from the Volvo.

"Ellison! Calm down!" Simon ordered as he climbed out of the truck. During the wild ride from the PD to Rainier, his estimation of Sandburg had gone up at least two notches. Ellison had driven like it was the last lap at Daytona…and he was in second place.

Both Detectives Henri Brown and Brian Rafe unconsciously braced themselves as they moved to intercept Jim.

"Rainier Security got a call from a student who saw a young man and woman, possibly students, putting Hairboy into a dark blue van," Henri quickly reported. "They got a partial license number, and we're checking with DMV."

"The driver of the van was the young woman," Rafe continued. "The man had Sandburg in the back. The witness could see them until they turned left at the intersection down there."

Jim turned to follow where Rafe pointed. "Eventually it leads to the McDaniel Road entrance," Jim identified.

Henri nodded. "Campus Security's already on it. Seems the Art Department was having outside classes today close to that entrance. Somebody may have been seen the van or recognized the driver."

Jim nodded in silent thanks then joined Simon who was watching the forensic team go over the Volvo. "Simon, we need to know who filed those allegations with IA."

Simon's dark eyes narrowed. "You think it might have something to do with Sandburg's kidnapping?" He reached for his cell phone.

"I don't believe in coincidences, sir." Jim walked closer to the Volvo and stared inside the car. "Surprised to see you here, Serena."

Serena shrugged. "I've got almost a quarter of my department out with the flu." She half-smiled. "And when I heard Blair was involved…" She shrugged again.

"Yeah," Jim grunted. "There are some days I think I should just put him into one of those plastic bubbles…" He turned when he heard Simon arguing with Lt. Mitchell.

Serena choked back a laugh and concentrated on the pavement next to the Volvo. She couldn't refrain from thinking about Blair encased in a plastic bubble. She could see the young man standing within the bubble, mouth moving a mile a minute, his hands moving in time with his arguments, one foot irritably tapping for emphasis. Outside the bubble stood Jim Ellison, arms folded across his chest as he solemnly shook his head. Serena saw a co-worker give her a strange look and forced the image from her mind.

"Look, Lieutenant, you figure it out!" Simon yelled into his cell phone. "Somebody makes allegations that Sandburg's been abused and then he's snatched. Do you think they're not tied together?"

For a brief moment, everyone froze then uneasily looked at one another. A glare from Jim got them working again.

"Have you called the FBI?" Mitchell calmly asked.

"No, and I don't intend to unless it's absolutely necessary," Simon snarled. He saw Jim tilt his head forward and realized the detective was listening to the call.

"Good," Mitchell snorted. "They'd probably screw it up anyway."

Simon stared at his cell phone in surprise.

"I can't compromise the investigation on Detective Ellison," Mitchell finally explained. "But if you ask me a name, I will confirm or deny." He sighed. "At this point, it's all I can do until you have something more definite to tie the two matters together."

Simon grunted and disconnected the call.

"We need to know about the van." Jim anxiously paced.

"And we might have it!"

The two men turned to see Rafe and Henri spreading out papers on the hood of the forensic van.

Jim looked at Henri's scribbled notes and frowned.

"That's a list of plates from the DMV based on the partial listing by our witness," Henri explained. He pointed at the second piece of paper. "This is a list of vans that match the one seen with complete license plate numbers. There were two people at the McDaniel entrance who saw a blue van leaving about the same time as Hairboy was snatched. They couldn't identify the driver, but they were sure the van had a University parking sticker in the window." He pointed at the third piece of paper. "That paper has a list of license numbers on vans with University stickers."

Jim nodded. "Each type of car, van, sub-compact, or whatever is listed separately because of the size of the vehicle needed to figure parking spaces. Theoretically, the larger vehicles have to park in specific places."

Simon eyed Jim who shrugged.

"Sandburg had a disagreement with the Parking Authority about how they classified the Volvo," Jim explained.

"Got it!" Rafe quickly circled one of the license plate numbers. "It's the only one on all three lists!" He handed it to Jim.

"Ryan Travers. 1123 Borders Lane." Jim slapped the two detectives on their backs. "Good job."

"Let's go get Hairboy," Henri grinned.

Simon was pulling out his cell phone and dialing. "Lt. Mitchell? I have a name for you. Ryan Travers." Seconds later, he snapped, "What!?" He shook his head at Jim. "Are you sure?" He irritably rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Yes, Lt. Marshall. Thank you." Closing the cell phone, he looked at the other detectives. "That's not the name."

Rafe and Henri looked at each other in confusion.

"Let's go talk to him," Jim snapped. "We've still got a good lead with his van."

Simon nodded. "Brown, Rafe, you're with us." He turned to Jim and yelled, "Ellison! You wait for me!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mr. Sandburg, do you know what sodium pentathol is?" Gina asked. She looked over her shoulder to see Devon standing behind the camera. He silently nodded in return.

"Yeah," Blair nodded. "Truth serum. I gotta tell the truth." He looked around the room, a little surprised at how clear-headed he felt. 'Now watch out…you don't want to tip them off by being TOO clever.' He suddenly giggled at the thought of being too clever.

Devon looked at Gina. "Is he supposed to be like that?"

"Keep filming!" Gina snapped. Then she gently touched Blair's knee. "Mr. Sandburg, you must tell the truth. Do you understand?"

"The truth…the whole truth…nothing but the truth." Blair closed his eyes. "Gotcha."

"Mr. Sandburg, when was the first time Detective Ellison was violent with you?" Gina softly asked.

Blair leaned his head to one side and thought. "Well that would be the second time he saw me. I really irritated him, and he shoved me a little."

Gina nodded. "It always starts out with little pushes and shoves."

"But I called him…." Blair shut his mouth. 'NO! Can't do that…can't say anything more…'

"It doesn't matter what you called him!" Gina snapped. "That doesn't give him the right to push you…shove you…hit you."

"He didn't hit me," Blair argued. He shook his head in confusion. 'Man, this doesn't feel right…'

"But he did later, didn't he?" Gina demanded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rosa looked up in surprise as the two cars parked in front of the house. She and Ryan were washing her new Neon in the driveway. "Hey, Ryan. Check this out."

Ryan, his hands full of soapy sponges, looked up from the rear of the Neon. Seeing the approach of the four men, he dropped the sponges into the nearby bucket. "What's going on?" he asked.

"Are you Ryan Travers?" Simon asked.

"Yeah," Ryan nodded. His eyes widened when the four men pulled out badges.

"I'm Captain Banks of Major Crimes," the dark-skinned man identified. "These are Detectives Ellison, Brown, and Rafe."

Rosa gasped and laid her sponge on the hood of the car.

"Oh God, has something happened to Gina?" Ryan quickly asked. "Damn, I shouldn't have just left her, Rosa! She was so upset!"

"Who's Gina?" Simon asked, glancing at Jim.

"My sister." Ryan pulled Gina next to him.

Jim's eyes narrowed as he watched the young girl soothingly pat Ryan on the stomach.

"Our sister, Sonia, died six months ago," Ryan anxiously explained. "Gina's…she's not handling the loss well. I saw her at the cemetery today. She was…really upset."

"And Devon's doing nothing to help," Rosa angrily added. "Devon Webster. He's Gina's boyfriend."

"Please…is Gina okay?" Ryan asked. "She's not dead, is she? Please tell me she's not dead."

"As far as we know, your sister is fine," Simon quickly answered.

Ryan hugged Rosa in relief. "Then…I don't understand. Why are you here?"

"Do you own a 1998 dark blue Chevy van?" Henri asked.

"Yeah, Gina borrowed it earlier today," Ryan nodded. "She said she and Devon were going camping. To try and get her head straight."

Jim slowly nodded at Simon. 'He's scared for his sister, but he's telling the truth.' Jim cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to ask this, Mr. Travers, but how did you sister Sonia die?"

Ryan closed his eyes. "Her husband beat her to death. He'd been abusing her for several months, but Sonia would never press charges. And she always had a reasonable excuse for her injuries. He was arrested when she died, but the jury found he was not guilty by reason of insanity. He's in Conover." He saw Jim and Simon exchange quick looks. "Why?"

"What's your sister's address?" Jim snapped.

"2137 West McDaniel Road," Ryan answered.

"That's just about five minutes from here," Henri muttered.

"Oh, no…what's she done?" Ryan looked from one man to the other.

"We're not sure," Jim hedged. "But it looks like she's involved in a kidnapping."

"She wouldn't." Rosa looked up at Ryan. "Ryan, no matter what she said…"

Simon stepped away and pulled out his cell phone. "Marshall, how about Gina Travers?" He grimaced. "Well, you could have told me that last time!" Closing the phone, he nodded at Jim.

"My sister…she's not thinking right," Ryan pleaded.

"Let's hope that changes," Simon advised. "Detective Rafe will stay with you. As soon as we have something, you'll be notified." He turned around and barked, "Ellison! You wait for us! We're gonna need backup!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mr. Sandburg, when did Detective Ellison first hit you?" Gina demanded.

"Hmmm…" Blair opened his eyes slightly. "I can think about it, can't I?" he innocently asked.

"Of course." Gina nodded. "Thought and memories can't hurt you."

Blair sniffled and closed his eyes again. "What it then? No…maybe…" He snickered to himself. 'Oh, man, you are SO good! This is a snap! Truth drug, my ass! Wonder if Jim knows how easy it is to get around this so-called truth serum?' He shook his head again. "No…not then…"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Cascade PD silently encircled Gina's house.

"Everyone wait for my signal," Simon quietly ordered over the com-link. He looked at Jim, who had frozen against the side of the house, his head cocked to one side. After moment, he hissed, "Ellison!" He poked the other man's arm. 'He better not be in one of those zone-outs or so help me…'

Jim turned to Simon and grinned. "I hear Sandburg. He's chattering, sir." He glanced back at the house. "They're all towards the front."

Simon grunted. 'Chattering indeed.' Activating the com-link, he quietly relayed the information. "We're going in the through the back. Be prepared if they try to get out the front."

Silently, Simon and Jim, followed by Henri, walked towards the back door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You know, I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd hit me when I accidentally taped over the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs," Blair mused, his eyes still closed. "He was on stakeout and refused to listen to anything that might give it away. Then he came home and found out I'd taped over the game." Despite himself, Blair snickered. "He was really surprised to see a Discovery Channel special on the Pyramids of Central America." He slowly shook his head. "But he didn't. Hit me, that is. No, he surely didn't."

"Mr. Sandburg, when did Jim Ellison hit you?!" Gina shouted. She reached out and grabbed Blair by the chin, forcing his face upwards.

Blair's blue eyes, surprisingly clear, snapped open, and he stared into her eyes. "Never. Not once. Not even under severe provocation. Not even when I don't stay in the truck or use the right color Tupperware."

"And that's the God's honest truth. Cascade PD! Hands up!"

Gina and Devon stiffened in surprise to see Jim Ellison standing in the doorway to the kitchen, gun pointed at them. Two other officers, all wearing Kevlar vests and identification as Cascade PD flanked him.

Devon spun around and flung open the front door. He had one foot outside when he suddenly put his hands in the air. Obeying an officer's barked command, he stepped out onto the porch.

"No! You can't stop this!" Gina screamed as she backed away from Blair. "It'll be on tape! You'll have the evidence!" She raised her hands to claw Simon's face as he approached.

"Gina!" Blair shouted.

Startled, she turned to look at him. Then she began struggling as Simon handcuffed her.

Henri slipped past Ellison and began to cut the ropes restraining Blair.

The young anthropologist twisted his head around. "Hey! Henri! My man! How's it hanging?"

Henri stared at Blair in surprise. "Uh…as good as I need…want…uh…" He helplessly looked at Jim.

Jim waited until Gina had been cuffed before holstering his gun. Then he looked down at his grinning partner with confusion.

Behind Blair, Henri made a circling motion with his forefinger against his temple then shrugged.

"You know, Jim, this truth serum stuff is nothing! Nothing, man! I could lie like a cheap rug and get away with it!" Blair rubbed his reddened wrists. "Go on. Ask me anything!"

"You gave him sodium pentathol?!" Jim demanded, glaring at Gina

"Yeah!" Blair grinned.

"No," Gina denied.

"Yes, you did!" Blair argued.

Gina shook her head. "I was going to use it, but I couldn't get any. What I gave you was just a saline solution. I thought if you believed it was truth serum, you'd tell the truth."

Blair's eyes narrowed. "No truth serum?" he asked in disappointment.

Gina shook their head again. "We weren't hurting you. We just wanted the truth."

"Well…that's just…just…" Blair kicked the chair as he stood. "You'd think I could trust my own kidnappers to tell me the truth!" Suddenly, he turned to look at Jim. "Oh, man! They sent a complaint to the PD about you. Said you were abusing me."

"I know." Jim nudged Blair to follow Simon who was taking Gina out the front door. As they walked onto the porch, Jim grinned. "Already had a meeting with IA, Chief." When Blair groaned, he chuckled. "I must admit, you do make frequent trips to the ER, don't you?"

"Hey, I wouldn't be there so often if you didn't insist on taking me!" Blair irritably snapped.

"Here we go," Henri murmured he walked past them and down the front steps.

"How nice that he takes you to the hospital after hurting you!" Gina scoffed from the bottom of the steps.

"Left up to you, I'd be dragged there every time I'd get a paper cut!" Blair ranted.

"Except with you, Sandburg, the paper cut would become infected, possibly requiring time in an isolation chamber," Simon grumbled. He nodded to the officers to take custody of Gina. At the end of the driveway, Devon was being put into the back of a cruiser.

"That's cold, Simon," Blair pointed out. "Really cold."

Simon shrugged and caught Henri's arm. "Call Rafe and tell him to let Travers know what happened."

Henri nodded and walked away, pulling out his cell phone.

"You HAVE to tell the truth!" Gina screamed. All the officers stared at her in surprise. Even though two officers held her arms, she managed to take a step towards the porch.

Jim instinctively stepped in front of Blair.

"I told you I was telling the truth!" Blair looked down the steps at her. "Why won't you believe me?"

"My sister never admitted the truth, and she was killed for her silence!" Gina struggled with the officers. "You need help! We were helping you!"

"Gina…" Blair began. He took a deep breath. "Look, your hearts were in the right place. If you think someone's being abused, you can't just and by and do nothing. But you have to be sure you're right about it. You can so easily ruin someone's life by making false accusations. And saying you're sorry afterwards never makes it right. You've gotta be right the first time."

Gina shook her head, her long dark hair falling around her reddened face. "Please, Mr. Sandburg! For your own sake! Get away from him! Don’t you understand! He's going to kill you! Run! Now!" The slamming of a squad car door silenced Gina's screams.

Blair sadly watched as both Gina and Devon were driven away. He saw Gina frantically staring out the back window at him as the police cruiser turned left out of the driveway. "Jim, they didn't really hurt me, you know?"

Jim sighed. "Tell it in your statement, Chief. They both need some serious help." He started down the porch steps.

"Yeah, I know," Blair nodded, biting his lower lip. "So, should I go see this guy at IA? It's not Sheila Irwin, is it? I don't think she likes me so I'm not sure she'd believe anything I'd say. How bad is it? I mean, they didn't take this seriously, did they? What am I talking about? Of course, they did. You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think IA was out to get you, Jim. Not that they'd admit it, of…"

"Sandburg!" Simon roared. "Watch where you're going!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The DA's going to make sure Gina and Devon get psychiatric help," Blair explained the next evening as he limped towards Jim's truck

Jim grunted. "How's the ankle?"

"Huts a little," Blair admitted. "Even if it's just twisted, I guess I've been on it too much today."

Jim silently took Blair's backpack and helped the younger man into the truck. Setting the backpack at Blair's feet, he then went to the other side of the truck and got in.

"C'mon, Jim," Blair argued. "Their hearts were in the right place."

Jim took a deep breath as he stopped at the garage entrance to wait for a break in traffic. "I'll grant you that, Chief." He glared at his partner. "But only that."

"You know, that guy in IA was spooky," Blair shuddered. "He didn't say much of anything. Made me feel like I was just running off at the mouth without really saying anything worthwhile. You know?"

Jim just glanced at the younger man and shook his head.

"He was just doing his job, I guess. He cleared you quick enough, though," Blair mused. He leaned forward, digging into his backpack. "Guess he was doing what he thought was right. Just like Gina and Devon."

Jim spotted Lt. Mitchell opening the side door to a van parked in a handicapped spot in front of the PD. It was a modified van, allowing Mitchell to push a woman in a wheelchair into the van. Two girls, one a young teenager and the other not more than six or seven, patiently waited. When Mitchell reappeared, the smaller girl thrust a paper into his face. The man leaned back a little and studied it. Then he gently smiled and patted the girl on the shoulder. The girl threw her arms around his waist then climbed into the van. The older girl also gave him a hug before following the younger girl into the van. Mitchell secured the side door then got behind the wheel of the van.

"Jim? You okay?"

Startled, Jim turned to see Blair looking at him with concern. "Yeah," he nodded. Checking traffic, he pulled into the street. He glanced at Mitchell's van as he drove past. "You're probably right, Chief."

"I am?" Blair looked surprised, then grinned. "Sure, I am. About what?"

"Everybody was just doing what they thought was right."




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