starwatcher_fic ([personal profile] starwatcher_fic) wrote2009-09-28 07:55 pm

#34 - Byrd's-Eye View


Title: Byrd's-Eye View
Summary: A new detective is introduced to Major Crimes.
Style: Gen
Size: 5,640 words, about 12 pages
Warnings: None
Notes: Written March, 2007, for Sentinel Secrets challenge.
Feedback: Not necessary, but every one is treasured.
Email: If you prefer not to post a comment that everybody can see, you can reach me at starwatcher -at-

Byrd's-Eye View

by StarWatcher

"One last thing," Captain Simon Banks announced before he brought the Major Crimes' weekly staff meeting to a close. "Tomorrow morning, a Ms. Jolie Byrd will be joining us from Wenatchee. She was--"

"Where?" Megan asked.

"About two hundred miles southeast, on the Columbia River; look it up." Banks sounded testy at the interruption.

"So what brings her here?" Henri chimed in.

"I don't know, detective. Use your skills to find out. Now, as I was saying, Ms. Byrd was their lead detective, and comes highly recommended. I intend to have her work one week with each team, so she can get a feel for who we are and how we handle crime in the big city. I expect you all," he swept the group with an awe-inspiring glare that intimidated no one, "to be on your best behavior. Let her get used to us before you start in with your normal shenanigans."

"Shenanigans?" Blair affected wounded outrage. "Captain, you malign our reputations. Individually and as a unit, Major Crimes is the--"

"-- biggest group of ten-year-old clowns it has ever been my misfortune to work with," Simon finished for him. "However, you're a damned talented bunch of clowns, and your reputation as the best unit of detectives in the state is well-earned." He paused to let the self-congratulatory smiles sweep among the group. "All I'm asking is that you keep the antics low-key for a few weeks; give Ms. Byrd a chance to toughen up before hitting her with both barrels. If we want more people to share the load, we have to make sure they don't run away after just three days. H? No practical jokes. Connor? Remember you're no longer in New South Wales. And Ellison? No... growling," he concluded lamely, uneasily aware that he could neither enforce nor explain a directive of 'no zoning'.

"All right people," Simon barked, releasing the group, "you have criminals to catch, and sitting here won't help solve cases. Get out of here and get to work!"

"Oh, Blair!" Rhonda called as the young man breezed through the door. "Jim said he thinks he overlooked something at the McMasters' crime scene. He went out to check it, and he wants you to meet him there as soon as you can."

"What?!" Blair stopped short. "He knows better than to tackle a crime scene without me! With Jim's luck, he'll..." Glancing at the pretty, dark-haired woman who was sitting in front of Rhonda's desk, Blair continued, "...end up chasing the perps without backup, as usual. Why didn't he call me? I could've met him there."

"He tried," Rhonda told him. "Maybe your battery is dead?"

Blair yanked out his cellphone, and discovered that the readout screen was indeed blank. "Oh, hell, yeah," he sighed. "Okay, thanks Rhonda. If Jim calls, tell him I'm on my way."

He threw a quick glance at the stranger who'd been chatting with the secretary. "Are you Jolie Byrd? Welcome aboard. Sorry I gotta run, but I look forward to talking with you later." With a quick wave, he was out the doors, seeming to leave a sentence hanging in the air behind him.

"What was that?" Jolie asked, a scowl creating a vertical line between her green eyes. "And what zoo did it escape from?"

Rhonda stared for a second, slightly shocked. Even though not everyone in the police department was friendly toward Blair, at least they knew enough not to bad-mouth him around the members of Major Crime. Blair was such a charmer, Rhonda hadn't expected a negative reaction from another woman. Jolie must be one of those who thought they had to 'out-guy' the guys, who worked at being harder, tougher, meaner, and more cynical than any three men put together. If she turned that attitude toward Blair, the whole of Major Crime would close ranks against her; her stay would be short, but unpleasant for all concerned. Maybe a word to the wise would be sufficient.

"'That' was Blair Sandburg, our resident anthropologist and Jim Ellison's partner. He's extremely intelligent, very friendly, very capable, and extremely well-liked."

"How did an anthropologist get to be a cop?"

"He's not a cop; he's a grad student at Rainier who's riding along with Ellison while he does a study about the police department for his dissertation. But that's beside the point; he's as loyal to his partner as any cop on the force. You should get to know him before you make any judgments. In the meantime, remember what your grandmother probably told you -- 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'."

Jolie appeared unconvinced. "And your captain lets him get away with looking like a hippie reject?"

Her caustic tone irritated Rhonda, who just now realized that maybe Jim Ellison's frequently-clenched jaw helped prevent him giving in to the urge to commit mayhem; she might have to try it herself. In the meantime, she drew in a deep, calming breath before she explained, "Haven't you ever heard that you can't judge a book by its cover? Blair's long hair and flannel layers don't change the effectiveness of his contributions to his partner and the whole department. And he IS a civilian; there's absolutely no reason he has to look like he just graduated from the Academy."

"Sounds unprofessional to me," Jolie muttered. "But I suppose I can ignore him for a couple of weeks till his ride-along's finished."

"And then there's the old saying about not jumping to conclusions. Blair's been riding along with Jim for about eighteen months, now, and no one in Major Crimes would object if it turned into eighteen years." Rhonda allowed a bit of 'caustic' to enter her own voice; what kind of detective needed a two-by-four across the head instead of taking a hint? She stood, and her voice was cooler as she said, "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to meet Captain Banks, now." Maybe he could straighten out this new detective.

"Come in, Detective Byrd; have a seat." Simon waited until she was settled in the comfortable chair, then opened the folder in front of him. "You have an excellent service record, and Captain Brunson gave you a glowing recommendation; he said he was sorry to see you go. So, why do you want to transfer to Cascade, and specifically to Major Crimes?"

Now that she was operating within expected parameters, Jolie relaxed. She tried to project 'capable' and 'sincere' as she answered, "I have family here. My mom and dad are developing some health issues, and I want to be close by if I need to help out. And, frankly, my job in Wenatchee was getting routine; I think I'll enjoy the challenge of working in Major Crimes."

"We could use the help," Simon admitted. "Sometimes it seems like Cascade is becoming the crime capital of the western seaboard. Which means that it'll be a bit of a culture shock from what you're used to, and of course, we probably do things different from how you did them in Wenatchee. Accordingly, I've assigned you to ride one week with each pair of detectives. After that's finished, we'll see about assigning you a permanent partner."

"Thank you, sir; I appreciate the opportunity to get to know everyone," Jolie replied diplomatically. "I am wondering, though, about -- I think his name is Blair Sandburg? Your secretary told me he's not a cop, so what's the department's official position? And will he be part of one of the teams I work with?"

"Sandburg's official position." Simon leaned back in his chair, rolling a cigar between his fingers. "Good question. 'Officially', his position is tenuous; he doesn't carry a gun and he certainly can't make arrests. But he's one of the smartest men I know. Half the time, his esoteric anthropological ramblings go right over my head. BUT, the arcane knowledge he spouts has given us insights that developed into leads that helped us close over a dozen difficult cases. Ellison was a good detective before Sandburg joined him -- Cop of the Year, last year -- but his closure rate has jumped twelve and a half percent since he hooked up with the kid.

"And Sandburg's not stingy with his input; he's interested in everything and everybody, and the closure rate for everyone else who's not his partner has increased almost eight percent." Simon chuckled, unaware of the fond look on his face, which his new detective noted with some misgivings. "I admit, he can drive me crazy; besides being able to talk the hind leg off a mule, he tends to jump into a situation first, then look for a way out. But he does it for the right reasons -- the good of his partner first, and the good of anyone nearby; he can't stand to see an innocent person hurt, and he thinks everyone is innocent."

"But doesn't his 'look' send the wrong message?" Jolie asked. Privately, she thought the captain and his secretary might be 'protesting too much'; the flaky hippie she'd seen couldn't be that good. "How can he get any respect with the image he projects?"

Simon chuckled again. "He argues that it works in his favor; since he doesn't look like a cop, victims and witnesses are more inclined to open up to him. And I guess you haven't seen Henri Brown, yet; there's not a lot of difference in degree of 'professionalism' between loud Hawaiian print shirts or flannel layers. Basically, Blair Sandburg is a positive force in my department, and I'd be a fool to ignore that." He winked, inviting his new detective to share a joke. "Don't tell him I said that; I don't want him to get a swelled head.

"But you'll see for yourself in a couple of weeks, when you ride with Ellison and Sandburg. I'm assigning you to Joel Taggart and Megan Connor first. Besides you, Connor is our only female detective; I thought you might appreciate her viewpoint on working in Major Crimes."

Jolie stood, realizing the interview was over. "Thank you, sir. I look forward to working with your people." She nodded formally, and exited the office.

"So, Byrdie, what do you think of Cascade and Major Crimes so far?" Megan slid into the front seat of Joel's big sedan, smiling with frank appraisal at the woman beside her.

"Megan, there's no need to tack the 'e' sound onto 'Byrd'," Joel replied from Jolie's other side, his reproof gentle, but firm. "It can sound... childish, which is hardly fair to a fellow detective.'

Megan flashed her broad Aussie smile. "Guilty," she acknowledged, without a trace of conviction. "But I think it's 'friendly' instead of 'childish'. Two syllables roll off the tongue easier than one -- Joel, Megan, Sandy, Byrdie..."

"Rafe, H, Dills," Joel countered as he pulled out into the traffic, "none of which need two syllables."

Megan shrugged. "Those wouldn't feel right. Ask Sandy; I'm sure he can explain it."

"Sandy?" Jolie asked. "Captain Banks mentioned those other names, but I don't recall that one. Is she one of the secretaries?"

"The rest of us know the man as 'Blair' or 'Sandburg'," Joel explained. "Megan tagged him with the nickname her first day here -- before she'd even left the airport, in fact. None of us can decide if snap nicknames are a 'Megan' thing or an 'Australian' thing, but whoever does will collect a fifty-dollar betting pool."

Megan shook her head as she winked at Jolie. "That's a man, for you. It never occurs to them to ask the closest person we have to an expert -- and Sandy could use the money for books."

"You're talking about that longhaired scatterbrain who's not even a cop, right? Civilians don't belong in the middle of a police department; what makes him so special?" Jolie was beginning to feel a bit hostile toward the young man that she'd seen for all of thirty seconds; she'd never liked 'fair-haired boys', regardless of coloring or gender.

"I think it's camouflage," Joel said. "Blair is so smart that a lot of people might be uncomfortable around him if they realized it, so he kind of keeps it undercover. And he's not 'scatterbrained', exactly; he just has so many ideas bubbling up that sometimes they fall all over the place. But even without that, we'd want him around because he's our only competent 'Ellison-tamer'." He heard Megan's snort, and tossed a wink in her direction.

Megan continued the explanation. "I didn't know Ellison before Sandy became his partner, but he had quite a reputation -- surly and antagonistic, with the worst attributes of lone wolf and loose cannon. That all changed when Sandy came on board... well, not all changed, but at least Ellison acts human now, most of the time. What I think is..." her voice dropped to a confidential murmur, "Sandy helps Ellison control his psychic abilities."

Jolie's jaw dropped. "You're kidding!" she exclaimed, at the same time Joel thundered, "MEGAN!"

Joel took a deep breath. "You shouldn't spread unsubstantiated rumors," he admonished his partner. He moderated his voice as he glanced at Jolie. "And you shouldn't listen to such claptrap. Jim Ellison is an excellent detective because he keeps up with all the latest innovations, and he's able to integrate them into his working methods. And Blair helps out with insights and conclusions that come to him from his background in anthropology. It's not necessary to suggest 'psychic abilities' to explain what they do."

"I've seen it," Megan argued. "Right in front of me, he divined the address that belonged to a burned key. But I've worked with other psychics in Australia, and controlling the gift can be a bloody pain. Somehow, Sandy helps Jim control the gift, or helps him be more consistent. Something like that. It can't be explained -- just accepted." She turned to the woman beside her and said, "But we keep it a secret within the department; Ellison doesn't want outsiders laughing at him or hounding him. So, mum's the word, right?"

"I should hope 'mum's the word'!" Joel sounded uncharacteristically grouchy. "Can you imagine Ellison dealing with reporters in his face, asking him to bend spoons and predict the next Kentucky Derby winner? He'd head for the hills, with Blair right behind him, and Major Crimes would be the poorer for it."

Jolie was rearranging the puzzle pieces. "So, Ellison brought Sandburg into the department, and the only reason Sandburg stays is because Ellison needs him, somehow?" Both Joel and Megan gave confirming nods. "Are they lovers?" Jolie asked, abruptly.

Joel chuckled softly while Megan hooted her amusement. "Not bloody likely!" she gasped. "No one would be surprised if Sandy swung both ways, but Ellison has a poker up his arse; he couldn't bend over and nothing else would fit in there, anyway. They only act like a married couple."

"They're brothers of the heart," Joel explained softly, while Megan nodded agreement. "Each of them fills an empty space for the other, and gives him roots. Friendship like that is to be treasured; to suggest that it couldn't exist without a sexual component cheapens it.

"But," he shrugged easily, "no one in Major Crimes would be terribly surprised if we found out differently. And if we ever do, someone will have a nice little windfall; the betting pool's up to six-fifty, the last I heard."

"Chief, I've been getting a sort of 'early alert warning' from Detective Byrd," Jim said as they drove toward the PD one warm, sunny morning. "She's disinclined to like or trust you, and since I hang out with you, she's doubtful about my competence as well. She could cause trouble."

Blair lifted a careless shoulder. "What's the diff, man? Coworkers don't have to like each other to maintain a professional attitude while working together. Besides, I haven't even turned on the Sandburg charm yet; chances are she'll fall for me like a skier in an avalanche."

"Sure she will; you and Casanova are blood-brothers, right? Dream on, MacDuff."

"Hey, it could happen!" Blair protested. "But that doesn't matter; I'm more concerned about her noticing if you use your senses at sentinel levels."

It was Jim's turn to shrug. "I'll be careful, but it shouldn't matter; no one else even suspects, even after all this time."

"Megan does; she just came up with a different explanation. And I think she noticed because she didn't know you before, and the same thing could happen with Jolie."

"You're losin' me, Chief; care to explain?"

"After people know us for awhile, they stop paying attention. If they have us filed under 'known entity', anything we do automatically becomes part of 'known entity' in their minds. It doesn't matter if they can't exactly explain everything they see us do, because as far as they're concerned, their friends are, by definition, 'normal'. So clues you find by using your senses happen simply because you're an 'amazing detective', or 'really sharp' -- like how Joel thinks the rest of Major Crimes could do what you do, if they just took the right courses.

"Conversely, a new person is trying to build a picture to place in the 'known entity' file, so he -- or, in this case, she -- is tabulating and analyzing our actions and behaviors to fill in the blanks. If we do something outside of normal human parameters, it's remembered, and our new person looks more closely for unusual behaviors, trying to decide whether it was an aberration, or part of the pattern."

Jim grunted with mild frustration. "I hear what you're saying, Chief, but I don't know what to do about it. I can't tell where the limits of 'normal' are, anymore. If I see something or hear something, I have no markers to indicate I'm operating at twice normal, or three times normal, or whatever."

"Yeah, and trying to keep the dials at a set point doesn't work. I've noticed, as soon as something goes down, your senses crank up automatically, to give you the information you need. Which makes sense -- if you didn't have that instinctive reaction, your responses would be too slow to be useful." Blair chewed a hangnail as he considered the problem. "I guess I'll have to turn off the Sandburg charm and turn on the hippie-dippie, fast-talking, geek-boy nerd persona. With any luck, Joli'll be so caught up in her irritation with me that she won't even notice you."

"Well, at least your fast-talking nerd persona isn't a stretch; it's so natural, you'll be able to keep it up indefinitely. And no one in Major Crimes will even notice it, so it's the perfect cover."

"Up yours," Blair replied without heat. "It's too bad; it's a lot more comfortable to be on good terms with one's coworkers. But maybe later I can tone it down and convince her that I've started to 'mature', and change her mind about me."

"Or you could make the supreme sacrifice and avoid hitting on one woman in the entire Cascade Police Department," Jim chuckled.

"Just because you can't get a girl, Ellison, doesn't mean the rest of us are required to limit ourselves. But if you behave yourself, I'll find out if Jolie has a friend that might suit you."

"Two years from now, when she finally deigns to talk to you?"

"Yeah, well, there is that."

After a morning of following up clues that forensics had given them, Henri and Rafe treated Jolie to lunch at 'Mama Beth's Diner'. "Best home-style cookin' this side of your own mama's kitchen," Henri assured her as they sat down. "Even GQ Rafe, here, doesn't turn up his nose at it."

Jolie chuckled and perused the menu. After placing her order of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, she regarded the men across from her. Captain Banks might be right, she thought; there wasn't a lot to choose in sartorial splendor between Hawaiian print or flannel plaid. And, next to Rafe's tailored suit, Henri's loud colors were even more glaring.

"I bet everyone has asked you this, but I never claimed to be original," Henri said. "So, what do you think about Major Crimes now that you've been with us a few weeks?"

"I'm impressed," she admitted. "Major Crimes seems to be a very tight unit, and you all work well together. But I'm a bit surprised at how well some of the teams mesh. On the surface, for example, you and Detective Rafe have as much in common as oil and water. But your closure stats are very impressive, and that doesn't happen when teammates don't get along."

Rafe raised his water glass and saluted Henri. "Oh, H is definitely a diamond in the rough," he said after taking a sip and lowering the glass. "But the point is, he is a diamond. I estimate that, with ten or fifteen years of diligent effort, I'll have him suitably polished, and then people won't be surprised at how competent he is."

"And in the same ten or fifteen years, I'll have Rafe loosened up enough that people will be able to see the human being inside the starched shirt. That's my boy," Henri quipped, "a definite work in progress."

"But doesn't it bother you to have a civilian as part of the group?" Jolie asked. "I'd think it would be a bit... constricting, always having to explain or argue about procedure."

"You mean Hairboy? Nah, he's a cop in all but name. Hell, he even does half of Ellison's paperwork; handy kid to have around."

"I think it's because he's an anthropologist," Rafe suggested. "He's used to understanding different cultures, and doesn't argue about them, just accepts them and does his best to fit in."

"But if Sandburg won't carry a gun, isn't Ellison at a disadvantage, having a partner that can't back him up?"

Rafe shook his head while Henri laughed outright. "Hairboy doesn't need a gun; if he can't talk his way out of trouble, he can turn any object into a weapon. He's used vending machines, baseballs..."

"...A fire-hose, a walking stick, a crane..."

"Basically, Hairboy will back Ellison up no matter what it takes. He's making a real name for himself. Once he finishes his dissertation, we'll be sorry to see him go."

"Not least because somebody else will get stuck with partnering Ellison, and nobody can handle him as well as Sandburg does," Rafe concluded.

Jolie stabbed a piece of meatloaf and chewed angrily. "But why? I don't care how smart and talented Sandburg is, he's still a civilian, with limitations in how much and how well he can help a real cop. Why does Ellison let him keep hanging around?"

Henri and Rafe glanced at each other, exchanging unspoken question and answer. Finally, Rafe leaned forward and said softly, "Jim's got something special. We don't know what it is, or how it works, and we don't rock the boat with nosy questions. But he knows things, or finds things, somehow -- and Blair is a big part of that."

"I was part of the 'Switchman' investigation," Henri said. "Before Hairboy showed up, Ellison was about to self-destruct. After Hairboy, things changed, and Ellison was able to manage -- whatever-it-is -- ten times more effectively."

"Megan thinks he's psychic," Jolie murmured.

Henri shrugged, and Rafe shook his head. "It seems a bit far-fetched, but something's going on," Rafe agreed. "As I said, we don't ask questions. Whatever it is, it works, and that's all we need to know. After all, when it comes to catching the bad guys, all we care about is that the job gets done."

"And if Hairboy helps us do that, we don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

Jolie nodded and finished her meal in silence, chewing over the information as she chewed her lemon layer cake.

Blair reached the PD shortly before noon. He and Jim had planned to have lunch together, then spend the afternoon tracking down witnesses and interviewing them. As he stepped into the elevator, Blair saw the new detective approaching from down the hall, and held the doors open. When she visibly hesitated, staring at Blair with narrowed eyes, he unleashed his most winsome smile. "Ah, com'on, Detective Byrd; I don't bite, and I showered this morning -- no BO. Surely you can stand to be in my presence for the two minutes it'll take to get up to Major Crimes?"

Jolie gave a noncommittal nod and stepped into the elevator without speaking... but Blair was almost certain he'd seen a tiny flash of amusement in her eyes. Encouraged, he rambled on. "Of course, for me, elevators fall under the heading of 'dangerous transportation, proceed at your own risk'. But I figure here at the PD is pretty safe -- unless the Sunrise Patriots show up again. On the other hand, they prefer threatening with guns instead of --" Abruptly, the elevator car shuddered to a halt while a loud warning buzzer assaulted their ears.

"Oh, man, you have got to be kidding me!" Blair exclaimed after the buzzer went silent. "What kind of karma do I have to have for this to happen to me twice?"

Jolie stared at him, then glanced around the tiny compartment. "Twice? Must be bad karma; maybe you were a jailer during the Spanish Inquisition."

Blair nodded. "You may be right; I'll have to do some meditation, see if I can cleanse my aura. Meanwhile, let's see if maintenance is on top of this."

He picked up the emergency phone and pushed the big red button. "Hello? . . . Yeah, we have two people here, and our elevator stopped moving. What's going on?" He listened to the voice that offered not-so-reassuring platitudes. "Well, we're not going anywhere, but make it as soon as you can, okay? In the meantime, call up to Major Crimes and tell them where we are -- Detective Jolie Byrd, and Civilian Observer Blair Sandburg. Ya' got that? . . . Okay, thanks."

Blair hung up the phone with a sigh and turned to Jolie. "Well, that sucks. The cable has frozen for reasons unknown. They're working on it, but it might take an hour before they get it fixed. No sense standing around all that time; might as well have a seat." He bowed and grandly waved Jolie toward a nonexistent easy chair, then crossed his legs and sank down to the floor.

Jolie followed suit, staring now with more curiosity than suspicion. "So, what happened the last time?" she asked.

"Oh, man, it was a nightmare! Some over-intellectual idiot with delusions of grandeur thought he'd rob the bullion exchange at Wilkerson Towers. He hijacked an elevator with me and three other people and a bomb in it as a diversion. Every once in awhile he'd drop it a few floors, and kept threatening to drop it all the way if he didn't get his ransom. At least this time, the waiting will be a lot less exciting. When it comes to elevators, I don't mind 'boring'."

Joli settled herself more comfortably; if the hippie could talk 'cop-shop', he might not be so bad after all. "I know what you mean. I'm always amazed at the methods the perps will use to try to force an issue. We had one guy last year, put steel plates -- bullet-proofing -- in the side and back windows of a bulldozer and threatened to destroy the power station and wipe out electricity for the whole town. But with the windows blocked, he couldn't see around him. While the negotiator kept him talking, we sneaked in from behind and under, and siphoned out the gas. When he got frustrated and tried to 'attack', he didn't get more than fifty feet before the 'dozer wouldn't move anymore. Then we just waited him out; eventually he surrendered without a shot fired."

"Great tactics," Blair said. "I think the average citizen is more inclined to trust the police when they see potentially dangerous situations handled without gunfire. If they know shooting is a last resort, they'll have more confidence in calling the police when they need them."

"Rhonda said you're doing your dissertation on the police department; is that part of it?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm trying to examine the police subculture, and how they function as a type of tribal guardians -- sort of Sentinels of the City."

As Blair waxed enthusiastic about the men and women he'd learned to know and admire, Jolie shared several experiences she'd heard about or participated in. Blair soon pulled a pad of paper out of his backpack and started making notes -- he might be able to use some of these ideas to help Jim expand his senses. Time passed unnoticed until a loud CLANG interrupted them, and the phone rang. Jolie reached it first.

"Yes? . . . Thanks; we'll be ready." She turned to Blair. "There's some technical glitch that they can't fix, so they've hauled a secondary winch up to the floor above us. They'll hook onto the cable and lower us to the floor below, then pry open the doors to let us out."

"Sounds good," Blair breathed. "I was gettin' tired of hanging around. Not that I have anything against the company!" he finished hurriedly.

"You're not so bad yourself, Sandburg. I might even classify you as -- tolerable." Jolie winked, with a half-grin.

"That's me -- satisfactory Sandburg. I aim to please."

The doors opened and, with another grandiose bow, he motioned her forward. They exited onto the fourth floor and looked around.

"Three more floors," Blair observed. "Stairs?"

"Stairs," Jolie agreed, leading the way.

Jim slipped out of the truck and took cover behind a rusted-out van, Blair and Jolie following close at his heels. He drew his gun and nodded toward the seemingly-abandoned warehouse in front of them. "I saw one guy pass a window; it makes sense that the others are with him. Byrd, you cover the front; I'll go around to the back."

Jolie could see the main door easily, but the windows were small, and high on the walls. "How could you see anything from here?"

"He's very long-sighted; one of the reasons he was picked for Special Ops," Blair said.

"Right," Jim agreed. "Sandburg, you stay here and stay down."

"No way, man; you need me!" Blair insisted.


"You wanna argue, or you wanna take those guys out?"

"All right. But stay behind me and keep your head down!"

Jolie watched as Ellison traveled a circuitous route to the back of the warehouse, keeping to cover to avoid detection, with Sandburg a single step behind. While she waited for Ellison to make his move, she rewound some mental images, and examined them closely. Sandburg was even more ubiquitous than she had expected -- always near Ellison, and always touching or being touched. Come to think of it, Sandburg had had a hand on Ellison's arm as the detective examined the warehouse -- and anybody who was that long-sighted wouldn't be able to read a simple newspaper...

Her grandmother had told her stories from the old country, passed on from her grandmother, and her grandmother before her. Jolie had always enjoyed the tales, but classified them as no more realistic than sprites or pixies. Could it be...?

At the sound of shots, she rushed forward. The two men who ran out the main door were unarmed; faced with a gun held in a determined hand, they followed directions to lie flat with their hands behind their heads. Jolie waited, somehow very sure that Ellison -- and Sandburg -- had the situation well in hand.

As they watched the last of the black-and-whites carry the seven perps away, Jolie gave in to her curiosity. "So, if the last two were hiding so well, how did you find them?"

"I'm a detective; I put two and two together."

"Yeah, Jim's got great instincts, and he's learned not to ignore them."

"Instincts and... something else?" Jolie asked quietly. "My ancestors come from the Isle of Mann, and my grandmother told me stories of the arreyeder and his cumraag. That would translate as 'sentinel', I think -- or maybe 'guardian' -- and 'companion'. That's just amazing!"

"That's just a kiddie fairytale," Jim growled. "You should have outgrown it years ago."

"Yeah," Blair agreed. "Jim's one of the best; he doesn't need to be this 'arreyeder' to do his job.

"Doesn't need to be, but he is. And now I know why he lets you hang around. The cumraag never leaves the side of his arreyeder."

Jim clenched his jaw and stared at the upstart in front of him, while Blair reached desperately for a logical explanation. "No, really, he's not that -- we're not that -- it's just... just..."

"Just a very important secret, and you can be sure I'll keep it." Jolie smiled her understanding. "We've left the small tribal units too far behind for you to be open about your abilities; you wouldn't be able to do your job if the media -- or all the perps running loose -- knew about them. I promise, I'll never let it slip. But I'll be honored to work alongside you -- both of you."

"So, detective Byrd, you've been with us for a month." Captain Banks leaned back in his chair to observe his newest recruit. "Everyone you've worked with has given you high marks; they approve of your skills, your professionalism, and your attitude. I think you'll fit in very well here, and I look forward to making you part of the team. But how do you feel about it?"

"I'm grateful Captain. You have good people, and I can't imagine a better team to join. I accept; I look forward to working with all of them, and I think I'll fit in very well, here. Thank you."

He stood and offered her his hand. "Well then, Detective Byrd, welcome to Major Crime."

The End

arreyeder (ah-rayeh-der)

cumraag (koom-raeg)

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