This is the result of trying to work through a mild case of writer's block. It wasn't planned or thought through. It just happened.
"Hey, Zack! Do you have the interview with the maid?"
I sift through the piles of papers on my desk until I find the pad with the notes Brown wants. This is my second week as a detective in the Major Crimes Unit of the Cascade P.D. and I'm already swamped with work. When I transferred in from Spokane, I sort of thought I'd be lightening my workload. But Cascade has turned out to be a hotbed of crime. Okay, maybe I'm not being fair. There's been a heatwave up here in the Northwest for the past month and that's probably why violent crime has been so rampant.
"Yo, Zack! Stop daydreaming about pretty young things and give me the interview," Brown calls again and I quickly hand him the pad. I understand his impatience. The heat and the work is getting to all of us in the unit. Captain Banks yells so often now that I've learned not to flinch when his voice booms across the bullpen. I have to admit that first week he scared the hell out me though. But I'd rather have a commander who cares enough to yell than one who doesn't pay attention to his men at all. My last commander was like that and we received no support from him. I get the feeling, however, that if Brown or me or any of the others need backing around here, the captain would be the first in our corner.
"Gee, Jim. Are you sure we've been gone three weeks? I mean nothing seems to have changed-- including that stack of cases on Brown's desk," a voice called from the doorway.
Everyone in the bullpen looks up and it seems that all but me break into a grin. I just don't understand what the excitement is all about. Although I have never met the two men everyone is rushing, I know who they are. Ellison and Sandburg. Legends in the department or at least that's how it seems to me. What hadn't I been told about them? Let's see. Ellison and Sandburg have solved so many cases that the letter E has its own separate file drawer. If Ellison and Sandburg weren't in federal custody waiting to testify, there wouldn't be so many open cases plaguing Major Crimes. If a case is really dogging you, let Ellison and Sandburg take a look at it. Ellison and Sandburg. Maybe I should go bow at their feet.
I glance quickly at the two men everyone's joking with now. Okay, maybe I can put up with Ellison. He looks like a guy who knows how to get things done. I can still smell the military on him even though he's been out for quite a while. His eyes are very sharp and he seems to be aware of everything going on in the room. A good cop. I can see that. But Sandburg? I had been warned about his long hair, but I hadn't realized he would seem so young and so like those freaks over at the university. Of course, that's what he was. Not a cop at all. Just some student wanting to make his bones riding around with policemen. At least that's my take on it. Brown and Ryf and the others insist Sandburg is really Jim's partner but what can this punk know about policework?
Suddenly I feel Ellison's ice blue eyes fall on me and for a second I think he's reading my mind. I quickly drop my head and go back to work. I had been warned about getting on Ellison's bad side when it came to Sandburg. Brown had sat me down my first day and gave me the facts of life according to Major Crimes. Among them had been that I did not want Jim Ellison as an enemy and the fastest way to get to the top of his shitlist was to mess with Sandburg. So then I'd acted like a rookie and asked why Ellison was so protective of his partner? Were they "life partners" or something like that?
Brown had gotten ticked with me then. He said that even though it wasn't any of my business, I could ask any of the ladies around the department if the two men were "real" men. He said they actually did live together and if I had a problem with that, I should keep my mouth shut. I said I didn't have a problem (I lied) but if it wasn't anything sexual, why were they living together. Brown just shrugged and said they had a real special relationship and once I got to know them, I would understand. I don't think I want to know them that well.
"Ellison, Sandburg, this is Zack Dalton. He transferred in two weeks ago from Spokane."
I stand and take the hands extended in my direction. Surprisingly, Sandburg has a strong grip and his blue eyes, darker than his partner's, reflect real warmth and intelligence. Maybe he's not such a bad person. But he still isn't a cop. His partner certainly is. Ellison's eyes cut through me and I swear he sees every sin I've committed since age ten. Then they flicker away and I feel as if I've failed some very important test.
"Ellison, Sandburg! In my office now!"
The two men focus their attention toward the captain. "Aw, Simon, you don't have to be so vocal. We know you missed us," Sandburg replies and I eagerly wait for the captain to put him in his place for daring to call him by his first name. But the captain just smiles and I hear them laughing and joking as the door closes behind them.
"Sandburg calls the captain Simon?" I ask. The only other person who I've heard had the priviledge was Joel Taggart, a captain himself.
"Sure. All three of them are friends. In fact Sandburg is real close to the captain's son. The four of them go on camping trips together and stuff."
So that explained the mystery of why Sandburg seemed to have the run of the department. No one would dare go up against Captain Banks. But that didn't explain why no matter how much I poked and prodded, I couldn't find one officer in Major Crimes who resented Sandburg's presence, even in secret. Were they that scared of Ellison? Or was something else going on?
It was probably due to the fact that the heatwave broke, but within a week of Ellison's and Sandburg's return, Major Crimes was caught up. I must admit that they did clear a rather unequal portion of the cases but it wasn't like the rest of us weren't trying. The two of them just seemed to get all the breaks. And Ellison had this way of interrogating suspects. He would pretend to know something about the suspect that he couldn't possibly know like, "you were eating a Halls cough drop when you killed him," and the guilty party usually gasped, then confessed. It was all quite strange.
"Listen up, people," Captain Banks calls from his doorway. "We have reports of two similar crimes. Both involve a female victim with her heart removed. Ellison, I want you as primary on both. Brown, you and Dalton go secure the second site."
The four of us ride down in the elevator together. Trying to deal with my own unease, I study my companions. Ellison, of course, seems unaffected. I've noticed that he takes these things in stride. When he gets to a crime scene, he gets all intense and focused and even the forensics guys stay back until he's finished. I asked them about that and they say it's less work for them to let Ellison go through the scene first. I have no idea of what that means.
Ellison's partner, however, is about the color of a sheet of paper. The first time I saw him look like that, I just knew he was going to hide in the truck during the investigation. But as soon as Ellison stepped into the crime scene Sandburg was right there with him. As much as I didn't want to, I had to give the civilian credit. Hell, I'm paid to look at nasty things and I stay only as long as necessary to get the basic facts. Sandburg stays as long as his partner and I don't know what Ellison thinks he's doing, but sometimes he can roam a crime scene for hours.
Speaking of crime scenes, Brown and I get to ours and I can tell from the smell, it's one of those I can do without. We go in and the woman's sprawled across the bed, her chest split open and her heart sitting in her mouth like an apple in a roasted pig. I lose it, okay? The imagery is just too much. I run to the porch and toss my lunch over the side.
By the time Ellison and Sandburg get through with the first crime and visit our site, I'm still a little pale. Sandburg takes one look at me and gives me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "I take it this one is just as bad as the other," he says softly as our partners confer.
"If you mean she was fed the heart, then yeah," I say weakly. "I don't know why it's affecting me this way," I hurry to explain because I feel like a wuss. "You would think this was my first murder scene."
"No need to explain, man. They all hit me strongly. This one just hit the right buttons for you, that's all." Sandburg takes a deep breath as Ellison enters the house. He moves to follow.
I reach out to touch his arm. "You sure you wanna do this?" I ask in concern.
His eyes are haunted when he answers but I also see determination beneath the spectres. "Jim may need me," he replies with a shrug and disappears behind the screen door.
Thirty minutes later he joins me on the porch. He is unbelievably wan and that he is able to stand is amazing. I scoot over and let him sit beside me on the step. I probably should feel guilty just sitting here, but it's Ellison's case. I'm just here to protect the scene. "Anything different?" I ask.
"Nah. It's the same person. A very sick person."
"You were in there a long time."
"Jim is very thorough."
I nod. "Any leads?"
"I don't..." He stops and I follow his eyes as they trail his partner to the street in front of the house. Ellison has squatted down looking closely at something, sort of frowning as if he's trying to remember something. Sandburg stands up and the guy who could barely walk a minute ago, is now jogging to his partner's side. They talk for a little while, then they jump into Ellison's truck and wander slowly down the street.
Brown and I stay around while the forensics team goes through the place, then we head back to the station. Before we can get there word comes through on the radio that Ellison and Sandburg have captured Mr. "Eat Your Heart Out" in the act. We race to the address and we see a woman being placed into the back of an ambulance. Then a man in handcuffs is dragged away by six uniformed officers. Next out of the house is Sandburg, his shirt and hands covered in blood. He seems to be in a daze and is mumbling something to himself as he stares at his hands.
I start toward him but Brown holds me back. I look at him angrily, knowing that Sandburg needs someone before he collapses. Then Ellison comes out of the house as bloody as his partner and reporters are yelling questions and the neighbors are screaming, yet for him they don't exist. He only sees Sandburg and he goes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders and leads him to the truck. Brown and I sort of run interference for them and when they're both in the vehicle, Ellison looks at Brown and says, "Tell Simon we'll see him at the office in a couple of hours." Then he drives away, one hand still in contact with his partner.
Two days later and I still don't know how Ellison and Sandburg caught the murderer and quite frankly, I don't care. Just the knowledge that the perp is no longer out there mutilating women is good enough for me. True to their word, Ellison and his partner were back at the station a couple hours later. They had obviously gone home and changed. Sandburg was still pale but he didn't look like he would shatter anymore and when he came out of the captain's office, leaving Ellison I guess to finish up the report, I walked over to him and told him I thought that was one hell of a piece of policework they had done.
Even after all he'd been through, for I had overheard he and Ellison had walked in on the man stabbing the woman and while Ellison subdued the perp Sandburg had tried to halt the bleeding, the observer had asked how I was doing. I could have lied like I had done when Brown asked, but this man knew the score so I told him I was still shaky. He suggested I talk it over with the department shrink, that unlike in Spokane, it wasn't taboo to be seen talking to the psychologist. I asked if he would be going and he said he had before but now he felt more comfortable talking it out with his partner. At first I thought that was strange, because Ellison seemed like such a hard man. Then I remembered the care with which he'd handled the bloody Sandburg on that porch and I realized Brown was right; they did have a special relationship. And instead of that making me jealous, I felt comforted by it.
I guess that good feeling I discovered has something to do with knowing that what Sandburg and Ellison share isn't limited to just the two of them. Sandburg had gone out of his way twice to check on me, even though I'd never been particularly nice to him. And Ellison, whom I suspected wasn't too fond of me for the reason mentioned above, had included me in a celebratory round of drinks that night at the local cop bar.
I guess it also has to do with the fact that I am now a citizen of Cascade and just like the other inhabitants of this West Coast den of iniquity, I sleep a lot better knowing Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg are watching out for me.
Just a brief closing note: a guy transferred in yesterday from some little podunk town down in Oregon. Took one look at Sandburg and asked who the little punk was. I proceeded to tell him that he was one half of the best team in the whole damn state, if not the country, and that if he wanted to last any time at all in the Cascade P.D., he'd better learn to show some respect.
It's a shame how narrow-minded some people can be, isn't it?