A Frame For Murder by Krisser

A Frame for Murder - Krisser

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Author's notes: This story is set in the Murder By Ritual setting. It doesn't need to be read to enjoy this one, only casual references to the first story.

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William Ellison walked away from the gravesite a determined man. He knew that with Stephen gone, Jimmy would have to realize that it was all different now. He'd have to return, he was now the only Ellison heir after all.

When his secretary had called Scotland Yard to inform Jimmy of his brother's demise, she had been informed that his son was in South America with Captain Simon Banks on a police matter. Obviously, his son had finally come to his senses and returned to the U.S. He'd see reason, he'd have to.

---------

Jim Ellison looked up from his pile of correspondence, the top letter was the official notice of his brother's demise and it included the Cascade Times news article.

Steven Ellison was shot and killed in the parking structure of the Lastings Park Horsetrack. His death brought to light the inadequate infrastructure of the racetrack. Paper work found on the dead man revealed his own complicity in the substituting of cheaper materials for what was in the architect's specs. Also brought to light, was that the full amount of money authorized by the company was actually skimmed off the top. As the money has not been located with the dead man, inquires have been launched in regards to his partner, Pat Reynolds.

Steven Ellison is mourned by his brother, James Ellison, formally of the Cascade Police Department and his father, William Ellison of Ellison Enterprises. Services will be on Saturday at ten a.m.

Jim placed the letter on Susan's desk, "Would you please send a general note of condolence to Ellison Enterprises."

"I've already done that, Jim, right after it first arrived." Susan explained.

"Thank you, Susan." Jim sighed in regret. "I'll send off a note to Sally myself."

"And your father?" She asked to be sure. She had assumed that the collective condolence to the firm did include him.

Jim looked out the window, his expression hardened. "He tried to have Blair killed. No direct communication."

Susan nodded, she remembered how aghast she'd been when she had learned that and could truly understand her boss' current position.

-----------

Jamison Franklin waited for his employer's secretary to announce his arrival.

William Ellison had him ushered in immediately.

Franklin tossed a folder on Ellison's desk. "Six of the twelve are in England currently. Only one of them is in transit."

"Set it up. Make damn sure it can't be connected to me."

"Yes, sir."

----------

"Well, my little guppy, you think you can compete with the Great White Hunter?" Jim Ellison's laugh was carefree.

"Anytime. Bring it on." Blair Sandburg answered with great confidence.

Gordon Venables chuckled and in a loud aside, he mock whispered, "Do you think either fish is as large as their hand?"

"I'm not sure it matters anymore? They've already lost the most important contest, anyway, most edible fish." Roger West said with superiority.

"Well, of course that's the most important to you, you won it." Blair laughed at his boss' feigned astonished expression.

Blair leaned back and smiled, at ease and content. Finally achieving a desired vacation had almost taken an act of parliament. Roger West, Superintendent in New Scotland Yard, head of the Special and Unusual Crimes Unit and their boss, had been beside himself on the day they had returned from their South American trip.

"I just knew you two couldn't go on a typical holiday."

"It wasn’t our fault," Blair leaped in to explain.

"Oh, I heard the whole story. The helicopter crash that wasn't, the rescue that managed to capture drug lords that had evaded, up to this point, the local authorities. To be followed up with intervening with a rogue CIA agent pretending to be a Chopec serial killer. Have I forgotten anything, wait, helping a fellow sentinel find a guide in the Peruvian rainforest. Easy, I'm sure. You call that a holiday?"

Jim Ellison laughed out right, "Not exactly . . . just typical."

"Then I guess it's time someone showed you how a holiday is supposed to go." West smiled at his men, actually quite impressed with all they managed to do in the time they were gone.

Blair returned the smile, "You have someone in mind?"

"Just so happens, I do. Gordon and myself. A little fishing in Scotland."

And here they were, Loch Fyne, in the wilds of the Scottish highlands. Blair had to admit that he’d been surprised by the depth of planning that their boss had put into this excursion. Surprised, but pleased. They had flown into Edinburgh and had driven out almost immediately. West had proclaimed that Edinburgh deserved an entire holiday to explore. Instead, they headed for Glasgow via the waterways and the elaborate Fullkirk Wheel.

Blair had been greatly impressed by that waterwheel. It turned out to be an elegant boatlift that would gently swing the boat between the two waterways, creating an uninterrupted link that connected Edinburgh and Glasgow.

They had only stopped on the outskirts of Glasgow to eat lunch at Gavin’s Mill; well known for its authentic Scottish meals. Of course, all four had opted for the traditional Scots meal. Haggis accompanied by Chappit tatties and bashed neeps. Jim had been pleasantly surprised at how good the sheep’s stomach stuffed with lamb actually tasted. He had even enjoyed the potatoes and mashed turnips.

West had talked about the great early summer salmon fishing as they drove through Pitlochry. Jim made a mental note to return to the pine forested hills. Blair smiled in remembrance at how flabbergasted he had been at where they had stopped for the night. Blair’s Castle.

His namesake castle had been a rambling turreted castle that had been altered and extended so often in its 700-year history that it had become a unique insight to the history of the area. Blair had been more than pleased by the detour.

Another couple of castles along the way made it even more interesting. Included were lots of pub stops and fishing holes until they finally arrived here, at the shores of Loch Fyne, for ten uninterrupted days of fishing.

The first two nights in the Argyll Forest Park, the men tried valiantly to camp. Between the mist and wind they had a hard time keeping their tents in the location that they started the day in. So, they opted for the pub and inn, The Basket Bird in Lephinmore. It was located just fifteen miles from their fishing spot. They figured that they spent less time traveling than resetting their tents back up each morning and evening.

They remained after dark most nights so they could partake of the tradition of sitting around the campfire, rehashing their catches and eating the hard earned meals. There were many pub suppers as well or they would have starved.

Jim Ellison enjoyed the banter. It was truly remarkable how one's life could change, and for him, it was all for the better. He would have never dreamed that a bodyguard assignment would have led him to a new destiny and inner peace.

He was saddened by the death of his brother, but it made him realize that his real family resided within Blair and the niche they had carved out together.

The odd sensory spikes that had plagued him since childhood were now a welcome part of who he was. His choice of life companion, though atypical for some, was accepted within their work and personal worlds here in the UK. The life that he and Blair made surpassed any childhood hopes.

In an odd, uneasy moment, Jim was almost afraid that because he was so happy that ill was sure to come, but a giggle from his partner redirected his thoughts and he joined in the playful banter himself.

---------

It was on the eighth night in Lephinmore that they returned to a waiting pub owner.

"There's an urgent message for Superintendent West." The publican was relieved that she'd been able to pass on the important message so quickly.

Roger thanked her before asking for a phone. He then returned the emergency call from Susan Oscar. West listened intently to the department administrative assistant. "Well, we know it's not true. So, don't worry. We'll head back immediately." He disconnected the call and replaced the receiver into the cradle before he turned around.

"Blair, we have a problem."

The named man turned startled eyes, first to his boss, then to his partner who nodded in agreement. The Sentinel had listened in after he heard Blair's name mentioned.

They headed to Blair's room in silence. Roger wanted his three men seated.

"A woman was found murdered day before yesterday in Greenwich; several stab wounds to the abdomen and chest. Currently, Blair, you are their only suspect."

"But that's impossible," Blair began but Roger interrupted.

"We know it as well. We will confirm your whereabouts. That's not the worry; my concern is why do they suspect you in the first place?" Roger West conveyed his puzzlement.

"Pack up. I'll arrange for us to fly back in the morning. I'll arrange for the motor to be collected as well." Gordon announced, as he stood quickly and left to implement his plans.

Their return from Scotland was subdued; a far cry from the jubilant spirits that started their trip. The relaxation achieved on holiday was lost in the speculation of Blair's dilemma.

They arrived in Greenwich by late afternoon and headed directly to the police station. They immediately sought out the man in charge of the case, DC Harper.

Harper met them in the station lobby. "I'm Detective Constable Harper, how may I assist you?"

"I'm Chief Superintendent West from Scotland Yard," he pulled out his ID, "I understand you are seeking one of my men for questioning."

"Yes, I believe we are."

Blair stepped up, "I am Dr Sandburg."

Harper motioned to another officer and he stepped up behind Sandburg and took both wrists and placed cuffs onto them. "Blair Sandburg, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Jane Fishbane."

"Wait just a minute," West bellowed as Jim moved in to halt Blair's removal. "Blair Sandburg has been in Scotland for the last three weeks."

"Who can collaborate that?" Harper asked.

"All three of us," West indicated Ellison and Venables and himself. "Dr Sandburg is also a member of Scotland Yard. You have not questioned him or sought his whereabouts. Now, still, even with an alibi, you continue to have him in restraints." West was obviously agitated with the presumptive action on the part of the Greenwich station.

"Yes, we know who he is. This is standard procedure, Superintendent." He motioned that the officer was to remove Blair. "He will be questioned now."

They all watched as Blair was removed from their sight and placed in the closest interrogation room.

The Superintendent turned abruptly to the man in charge, "Detective Constable Harper, I have just stated that the man is innocent. I have stated and collaborated his alibi, so why are the cuffs still on him?" West had been pushed to the edge of his patience. Venables was holding Jim back to prevent his interfering and making it worse.

"Not to question your veracity, sir, but. . . "

"But that's exactly what you are doing." West pointed out.

The DC drew himself up straight and continued, "Would there be other witnesses than the men from your department?"

The fact that DC Harper was impugning the integrity of not only a Superintendent of Scotland Yard but his entire department as well was not lost on West. The DC before him must either be very green or very confident about some piece of evidence. West decided that before he blew his top he would discover which was indeed the case.

"Yes, there would. The innkeepers and their staff. All the travel spots we visited along the way. What evidence do you possess that you would insult a Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard?"

The DC faltered for the first time. "Well, sir, we have hair and a fingerprint from the crime scene."

"I will be able to supply you with irrefutable proof that Blair Sandburg whereabouts for the last three weeks were in the wilds of Scotland. The three weeks prior to that he was in North and South America and all that can be accounted for as well." West pinned the DC sharply with his stare. "What would you conclude from that?"

The DC looked uncomfortable as he reevaluated his case. "I could conclude that Sandburg was being framed."

"Yes . . . I see it that way as well.” West’s voice implied that he was stating the obvious.

"Why, sir?"

"That is what we have to discover."

Jim fumed as he listened to his guide give a complete and through run down of the last three weeks. He could tell that Blair was angry. When the constable asked for the menu of their pub supper on the day of the murder, Blair gave him a blow by blow account of each bite. He then offered to give details on the lovemaking that followed. The constable declined those particular details.

Jim also heard West going toe to toe with Harper and win. Now, they all had a job of finding out who was framing Blair.

----------

West opted for a quick return to New Scotland Yard via helicopter as Venables and Ellison waited for the Greenwich police to complete Blair's interview. Upon the Yard’s demand, the Greenwich police provided a vehicle for their return home. Gordon dropped the two detectives at their personal residence before joining his boss at the Yard.

Back at headquarters, West immediately requested a copy of the entire case file, including all pictures taken, not just the ones in the official folder. He knew that Jim might be able to make out something that could be useful that was missed by the others.

He put a call into Venables, already back in his office. West wanted a detailed report of all their stops, witness statements and any video for back up. Then he would need to talk with the minister.

---------

Their door had two locks but Jim only engaged one before he pressed Blair up against the wall. The detective didn't like his partner almost incarcerated. The Sentinel abhorred the thought of the possible separation from his guide. Both came together in a need to reaffirm their connection to a man more precious than the air itself.

Blair recognized the need in his mate and matched it, measure for measure. Tongues dueled in a passionate dance as they explored known territory as though new.

The Sentinel could lose himself in the textures and tastes of his guide. The Guide's blood sang with anticipation of the upcoming possession.

Where hands explored, a tongue followed, mapping all known sections to date. Blair gave himself up to the handling, knowing it would all be good.

Jim loved being a sentinel at times such as this. He knew his guide and lover on levels most missed. The changing scent alone was enough to drive him over the edge. He could sense Blair's excitement building; he could smell the changes and knew instantly when he was ready to begin the journey.

Buried deep within his love, Jim knew bliss. The euphoric feeling held him spellbound each and every time. Blair, no passive partner, matched the thrusts and arches that drove them both headlong into oblivion, there against the wall, just inside the door.

Awareness found Jim with his nose buried in his favorite place, just behind Blair's ear. He snuffled before he moved a drained Blair away from the wall. He half carried his guide to the sofa and with the last of his energy; he collapsed next to his partner.

---------

Jim woke to a variety of scents informing him that dinner was soon to be ready. He quickly cleaned up before sitting across the table from his partner. Jim enjoyed the garlic chicken and rice, but the compliment was lost in Blair's preoccupied thoughts.

"Jim, I just initiated an in-depth search of Jane Fishbane. At this point, I don't believe I know her."

Jim nodded as he watched his partner try to appear unconcerned for his own predicament.

"One thing we do know is that the person framing me didn't know I was on vacation or at least, not with my boss. So, he's not yet inside the department."

"He?" Jim paused as he remembered and nodded an agreement, "Yeah, fits the scent I detected here when we returned from Cascade. Now that we know what he took – we can expect to find more hair turning up."

Crestfallen, Blair replied, "You think he'll kill again?"

"He'll do something. This didn't work." Jim pinned his partner with a glare, "We have to keep in open view until all are convinced that this really is a frame-up."

Ellison and Sandburg headed to New Scotland Yard.

----------

After a quick stop at Devon's for two large cups of their favorite coffee, Sentinel and Guide made straight for the office. There they had state-of-the-art equipment waiting to be utilized.

They exited the lift to Susan's anxious face. She immediately picked up the phone and uttered, "They're here."

West and Venables joined them forthwith.

West began as soon as the lift doors closed. They had the whole wing to themselves now and the Superintendent wasn't worried about being overheard.

"Thoreau Fitzgerald was found stabbed in his Soho flat six days ago. The stab wounds match those found on Fishbane. They found a single fingerprint belonging to Blair, as well."

"I need to see the fingerprint." Jim told his boss. He was betting it would be the same print used at the Fishbane crime scene.

"All the pictures and files will be here by morning. I have talked to the Minister and he is aware there is a frame up being set. He wants you in plain view, Blair. I think we all should put up at the Brigadier Hotel. I have called in reinforcements. Halloren and Jackson. As retirees, they are outside this department and can be called upon as witnesses. Someone has it out for you, Blair." West stood and spoke to the group, “First, we need a connection between Fishbane, Fitzgerald and Sandburg."

A subdued Blair turned to the computer screen.

Susan set about booking the hotel and contacting Halloren and Jackson. She included herself in the booking, Dr Sandburg needed to see he had full support from those around him.

Blair set up the fact finding programs before leaving for the Brigadier with Roger, Gordon, Susan and Jim. He waved to the security cameras on his way to the car park.

-----------

By breakfast the next day, Halloren and Jackson had joined them and Susan had the necessities in place. To augment the hotel’s security cameras, she added video feeds from the lifts and the stairwells. She had commandeered the eighth floor for their use and with the exception of Jim and Blair, all others had their own rooms.

Halloren and Jackson worked out eight-hour shifts for accompanying Blair. They were both puzzled by the case but glad to aid all they could. They did recommend that more outside help be brought in and even suggested the same two men they worked with on the Pembrooke case; Grimsby and Sanford, the retired constable friends of Gordon’s. Getting the okay, Susan made the calls.

Halloren joked with his old friend, “Gotta say this, Roger, no boring divorce cases with you.”

West snorted before he threw the case files on the table. “Didn’t recruit you for just the brawn, we could use your thoughts as well.”

Jackson laughed as he joined them, “Damn, Roger, you are aiming high.”

Roger West laughed; he knew exactly what he was doing. “If this can be done to Sandburg, it can be done to any one of us.” He knew the retired detectives were on board.

------

Halloren got the day shift and drove in with Ellison and Sandburg.

A complete copy of the Greenwich file on Jane Fishbane was waiting for them. The entire case file on Thoreau Fitzgerald was there as well. The Soho police had been more than willing to release the case to the Yard boys; they had no wish to incur the ire of a Chief Superintendent. Venables then had the body transported to their morgue and called in a respected pathologist, Dr John Billings.

The American detectives took the files into their specialized high tech room. Blair began by scanning each picture at the highest resolution. Jim examined them with sentinel vision.

After a bit, Jim tapped the first two pictures, “Blair, these remind me of the Pembrooke case, no emotion conveyed with the killing.”

Blair looked up at his mate, “Meaning the killer had no personal connection or it was a kill for hire. What do these people have in common?”

“They are being used to frame you.” Jim stated the obvious.

“Besides that.” Blair knew it was odd, but he wasn’t worried as much about himself anymore. His friends and co-workers had rallied around him with such conviction that he knew an inner peace like never before.

-----------

Jim started with the fingerprints. He knew without a doubt that these prints had been lifted from their home while they had been away. He also knew that each subsequent print was just another copy of the first and only print taken. He was hoping that there would be some deterioration of the print each time it was used. Something that their boss would be able to use to prove the hypothesis.

After long, intensified study, Jim was sure that he had found something odd. At first, he’d thought it was the natural bend of the thumb, but began to suspect that the flaw was in the material used to lift the copy.

“Blair, can you blow up the prints taken from the two crime scenes without losing clarity?” The Sentinel knew he was right, now he just had to prove it.

“Yeah, I have a new program that will re-pixel every two-point increase.” Blair was excited to put his new resources to work.

He scanned each photo with just a two-inch border around the desired print. He then set the program parameters with the details that Jim specified.

Once completed, Blair tagged them on the board. Jim took a red marker and drew a circle on each print.

“That flaw, that tiny bend in what looks like the fingerprint is actually on the tape that was used to lift the original print. Can you follow the print through the bend?”

Blair looked closely and could see the area that his partner was intrigued by. He wasn’t sure if he actually saw it or was seeing what Jim wanted him to see. “I now know what area you want so I can enlarge it even more. Let me . . .” Blair let his fingers fly across the keyboard then hit print.

The next set of photos showed the details that Jim had known were there.

“Susan, would you call Roger and find out when he has a minute?” Blair asked their assistant.

She nodded as she picked up the phone. Susan could tell that her boss was excited and that had to mean good news for Blair. “Mr. West and Gordon are on their way down as we speak.”

By the time they arrived, Blair had made another enlargement of the Fishbane print and the printer was just spitting out the Thoreau Fitzgerald print. He tacked it up on the board alongside the first print.

West and Venables arrived with an excited anticipation in reaction to Susan’s voice. Halloren joined the fray that waited to hear what the American detectives had discovered.

Jim pointed to the circled prints, “These two prints are the exact same print.” Jim smiled as he could see the ‘duh’ written all over their faces. “Not a print from the same man, but the same print used twice. When we returned from South America, I was convinced that someone had been in our home. I filed a report but as nothing was missing it amounted to nothing. What I believe now is that something was taken. Samples of Blair’s hair were easy to get from brushes and whoever also took a copy of Blair’s print. This copy,” Jim pointed again to the posted pictures. “Our perp lifted the print with something very like our own print paper. See that flaw, that tiny bend in what looks like the fingerprint, is actually on the tape that was used to lift the original print.”

“On one print, it would be easy to say that it was just how my print looked from an odd angle or such, but with it on two separate lifted prints from two different crime scenes, I would have to have a flaw on my skin, and I don’t.” Blair explained the why of the importance of the find as he showed off his unflawed fingers.

“This collaborates that the evidence of the print was planted and such, it would not be a big leap to suppose that hairs could have been planted as well.” Roger nodded his understanding. “This is enough to alleviate any of the Home Secretary’s worries, but it’s not enough to go public with as yet.”

“The press has no word as yet, the Home Secretary put out a D-notice until we have more facts.” Venables shared the newly acquired information.

“Won’t last long but it should buy us a bit more time to get more information without tipping our hand to the killer. What we do need is some connection between these people and Sandburg. It may not be obvious, but there will be one or it would be too easy to prove another’s involvement.” Roger knew they still had a major battle on their hands. “We should get the pathologist’s preliminaries later today and that could give us more info as well.” Roger stood and that broke up the meeting.

“I may be impartial in the eyes of the courts, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t help. I have my own methods of tracking down information.” Halloren volunteered his time and know-how.

Blair smiled and showed him to a computer and set up his own internet access.

The Chief Superintendent took the copies of the circled prints for his meeting with the Home Secretary as the others all returned to the job at hand.

----------

Jim was fraught with worry and was possibly not the best choice to be left to man the phones when Susan went to collect the takeaway but he had volunteered. He regretted the offer as he immediately recognized the caller even before he was asked for by name.

“Jimmy!”

“Dad.” Jim’s voice was flat, no welcome whatsoever. He paused a second before pushing on, “Sorry to hear about Steven.”

“His partner killed him and tried to frame him and tarnish the Ellison name. At least he still has that, now that he has been vindicated. They caught her with all the stolen cash.”

“Good, good,” Jim said as he thought his father was still more concerned with the Ellison name than the loss of his son.

“Jimmy, you must see that things have changed now. Time for you to come home.”

Jim sighed, “I am home, Dad, nothing’s changed.”

“Jimmy, you’re the heir now. You’re all I have left.”

Jim sighed again, “Dad, my life is here, with Blair, working for Scotland Yard.”

“Damn it all, you need to get serious. Come home, learn the company and produce your own heir.” William Ellison was no longer cajoling, he was demanding.

“Dad, you’re not listening. I’m gay. Won’t be producing heirs. I have a job. I don’t want the company, never did. My life is here, in England, with Blair, working in law enforcement. Truly sorry for your loss. Goodbye Dad.”

“Jimmy, wait . . .”

Jim Ellison hung up the phone. He was calm. His father just didn’t understand, never did, never would. He accepted that with disappointment in the man that his father was. Oddly, it also afforded him a closure of sorts and one that he could live with.

-------------

Blair overheard most of the conversation, or at least, Jim’s end of it and he could gather the rest. He was more than pleased by his partner’s calm air. Now all he had to do was see if it was real or a mask of what Jim thought was expected of him.

Susan returned with Thai and the four of them chowed down while talking about unessential. Afterwards, Blair got his partner off to one side for a quiet discussion.

“Your dad, huh?”

Jim ran his fingers through his hair, or what he had. “Yeah. Wanted me to join the company now that Steven is dead.”

“How did he take you declining the offer?”

Jim shook his head, “Didn’t hear a thing I said. Only hears what he wants, except this time there was nothing he could twist. Told him I was home.” Jim felt an odd pleasure that his partner never even doubted his commitment to each other or the job.

“Probably not the last time you’ll hear from him on this matter,” Blair warned.

“That’s a sure bet. Eventually, when he receives the same answer every time, he will have to accept it.” Jim shrugged, “Either way, easy or hard, I know the man for who he is and he doesn’t have the power to hurt me anymore.”

“Wow, man, that’s so real. Can’t even say how much I love you.” Blair’s eyes conveyed enough that Jim felt like he had a fair idea.

------------

Dr Billings called up in the late afternoon with his preliminary findings and an offer for Jim to look over the body.

The detectives hopped up at the chance. Since they would remain in the building and be in the company of the pathologist, Halloren remained at the computer terminal doing his research.

The Sentinel and Guide traveled to the basement in full view of the video camera. Jim kept his arm about his partner’s shoulders the entire time. They exited the lift and entered the familiar morgue.

“Afternoon, lads. Good to see you again, too bad it has to be around dead people.” Billings greeted the American detectives with honest emotion.

“Dr Billings, I am glad that Roger called you in and that you were willing to make the trip down here.” Blair smiled his gratitude. Having the best on the case eased some of Blair’s suppressed worries.

The compliment at being requested showed in his voice, “Call me John.” The pathologist looked down to his clipboard first, “The Greenwich morgue sent over Fishbane and their pathologist’s report. I do confirm the time of death between 3:30 and 5:30pm, four days ago. I finished my preliminary examination of Fitzgerald and his time of death occurred before that of Fishbane. He died seven days ago, closer to seven p.m., I suspect.”

“He died first but was found after.” Blair made notes.

“Both victims were knocked out before they were stabbed. Each was stabbed four times in the chest. Death occurred so quickly that it would take a closer examination to ascertain which wound killed them. What is most obvious to me is the lack of emotion. Like last time, nothing personal in the delivery of the blow or subsequent stabbing. The knife entered and was withdrawn almost casually.” The doctor pulled Fitzgerald out and looked at Jim. “I figured that you would like to take a closer look. Detective, last time your insight helped, could this time as well.”

The Sentinel had begun his enhanced scanning as soon as the doctor had pulled the victim out of the storage facility. He approached the body and asked for permission to touch without words. After Billing’s nod, Jim turned the victim onto his side and checked out the base of the neck slowly.

“Under the obvious bruising, there appears to be another mark, a kill shot. Navy Seals and Army Rangers are taught to use this to silence the perp instantly. It kills them, of course.” Jim delivered the information with no emotion. He knew though that they would be looking for a professional.

Billings looked thoughtful as he studied the area Jim had indicated. “The fake blows would have had to been administered on top of the kill shot to leave any bruising marks. That’s why it was difficult to determine the stab order, all were post mortem.” He moved to a different drawer and pulled out the Fishbane corpse. Billing’s immediately turned her on her side and looked for evidence of a killshot mark.

Jim saw it instantly and Blair traced it silently, obvious once your attention was drawn to it

“Once again, Jim, you have that knack and great vision. I will have a more detailed report by tomorrow.”

“Thank you, John,” Blair distracted the pathologist as Jim continued his sentinel check. “I hope that this is all, but we all feel that there will be another. The plan has failed up to date so something else will happen, I just wish we could prevent it.”

Billings patted the young man on the arm. He liked Dr Sandburg and was glad there was no real cloud hanging over him within the department. “If anything else unusual crops up, I’ll call. Otherwise I’ll send up the complete autopsy for both victims by tomorrow afternoon.”

The detectives took their leave and headed back to their office.

-----------

DC Harper looked up as one of his men rushed into his office. “Problem?”

The flushed officer nodded as he started explaining. “The local beat constables were called out for a possible dead body. The medics pronounced him dead at the scene, but noted that he hadn’t been dead long. Our medical examiner found that he had been stabbed four times, just like Fishbane . . .”

Harper interrupted, “I knew they were covering for Sandburg,” pleased that his initial theory was indeed correct.

“Wait, sir, our medical examiner confirms what the medics claimed, that he had only recently died. The examiner puts his death between 1:00 and 1:15 yesterday afternoon. The locals located building security and have a video of a long haired man fleeing.”

A more subdued man questioned, “Is the time of death confirmed?”

“Yes, sir.”

Harper sat back, frustrated, “Bloody hell. Once again, Sandburg is cleared. 1 p.m. yesterday, Dr Sandburg was in our interrogation room under full surveillance. West must be right about the frame.” The DC turned to his man, “We need to get the video and reports to New Scotland Yard as soon as possible. You gather the evidence, I’ll make the call.”

The officer left to do as bid as DC Harper picked up the phone.

--------

Venables returned in the early evening from Greenwich with the video surveillance tape and reports in hand, and with the body in the process of being delivered to the morgue.

Blair took the reports as he handed off the video to Jim. He opened the folder searching for the name of the victim. “Ulysses Dobson, 59, also of Greenwich. Preliminary autopsy finds four stab wounds to the chest, same as the others.”

“Same as the others would mean that he was knocked out and killed with a blow to the base of the neck first.” Jim reminded his partner.

“Yeah, that’s true.” Blair handed his partner the crime scene photos.

The Sentinel checked the victim and nodded his head. “Yup, one efficient blow to the base of the skull. The stab wounds are for show and again, there is a lack of emotion in the carnage.” Jim looked over the rest of the photos. He stopped on the picture that held the fingerprint. “Same exact print with the flaw used here.”

Blair tapped the videotape. “They say this shows the killer running away.” He moved to the VCR and popped the tape in as Jim found the remote and turned on the TV.

The tape showed a longhaired man running with a bloody knife in his hand.

Jim recognized the jacket on the man. “You need to inventory your clothes, Blair, that’s one of your less used winter jackets.”

“Are you sure?” Blair felt stupid even asking the question.

Jim raised his brows, thinking the same thing but answered anyway. “Yeah, the BBQ sauce stain on the left pocket.”

“Well, that looks bad.”

Gordon Venables couldn’t help his smile. “Oh, Harper knows you're innocent. At the time of death, you were in his custody, handcuffs and all. They have that on video as well.”

Jim couldn’t help the laugh that escaped.

Halloren added the additional name to his to his data search as did Blair.

Marty Jackson entered the office and called out a greeting to his old pal, “Halloren, your day at the grind is done.”

“Uh huh,” was the only response. Jackson looked to the detectives inquiringly.

Gordon answered, “His curiosity has been piqued.”

“He’ll be here all night,” Jackson laughed.

“Got something now.” Halloren turned around to make sure that he had everyone’s attention. “Fitzgerald owned a bookshop in Soho. Fishbane, an artist from the same area, did work that was in the shop on a regular basis. Dobson was a retired editor. He worked for twenty years with Eastland Publishers. In retirement, he had been editing books for some of the local authors that frequented Fitzgerlad’s shop.”

“So they all knew each other.” Jim couldn’t see the connection to his partner.

“What’s the bookshop called?” Blair asked, seeking the connection himself.

“Earthprose. Has the reputation of attracting radicals and free thinkers.” Halloren brought up the financials and read them quickly. “Seemed to be a steady business and had a large clientele. I’ll cross check them with the vics and Blair.” Fingers flew as he set the search in motion.

“I’ve never been there. Don’t know the people, haven’t even used it as a resource. I still don’t get the connection.” Blair was puzzled as to why he was being cast as the villain of the piece. “Could it be as simple as to confuse us from locating the real killer that would have to be closer to home . . . meaning the bookshop?”

“That could go along way to explaining why they would involve a police officer. Possibly, due to the press you’ve received since joining the Yard, they chose your name for its very familiarity . . .”

“But still it feels wrong.” Ellison finished. “They knew where we lived. They knew enough to collect a print and hair samples without leaving any evidence of himself behind. This has a very well planed feel about it and not just a means to cover up a series of bookstore murders.” Jim knew he was working off his abilities but still felt that the evidence would back his gut.

Blair’s computer beeped out that his video enhancer was complete and he turned to the large screen. “Let’s see the suspect fleeing.” The video showed a longhaired man walking with his back to the camera as though he knew the camera was there. The dripping knife was held away from the body, not out of view of the lens as one would suppose, but in direct line of sight, so that only a blind man would miss it.

“Seems a bit contrived,” Venables commented aloud what the others were thinking.

The Sentinel’s eyes remained fixed as he examined the figure in great detail. He sighed in relief, “That is so obviously not Sandburg.”

Susan looked at her boss, not seeing what he was able to see. “We know it’s not but to anyone else, it could be.” She shrugged.

Gordon Venables jumped in with, “As Jim’s vision is much more acute than the average bloke, let’s get him to show us average folk what he sees.” He smiled at Blair who nodded his thanks at his save.

Jim wished that he could just let them all know, but now was not the time. He picked up Blair’s laser pointer. “One, math will back me, that man is at least two inches shorter than Blair. Two, the hair is a wig that is not even a close match for his hair color. Three, even with the jacket on, it’s obvious that his back musculature is more robust than Blair’s. Four, the man’s fingers are stubbier and scarred, where Blair’s are not. I could probably come up with more, but that’s what I see without greater detail.”

Blair smiled at his sentinel. Gordon was once again reminded what coup acquiring this duo had been. The others sat stunned at the detail the man saw.

“Now that you mention the hand, it is easier to see, but you must chow down the carrots,” Jackson declared, eyes still on the frozen still of the video.

Blair worked on the areas that his partner spoke of and printed hard copies to add to the evidence. He was hoping to magnify other parts of the figure that might aid in establishing his identity.

As each of the team resumed their tasks, Blair couldn’t help but be reminded that his role in this had yet to be explained.

The Sentinel, more sensitive to his guide daily, moved behind him and rested his chin on Blair’s shoulder close to his ear. “We’ll find the connection, Chief.”

Blair stepped back just enough to feel his partner’s warmth and nodded.

Just before midnight, the Yard men and women decided to call it a night. All but Halleron headed back to the hotel. Jackson drove with Ellison and Sandburg, each lost in their own tired thoughts.

-----------

Blair returned to the hotel in a pensive mood. He felt he should know these people that had died because of him. He knew there was a connection or the supposed frame could never have worked. He slapped his hand against the table in his frustration.

The Sentinel, sensitive to his Guide’s pain, collected the reflective man and pushed him toward the bathroom. He undressed Blair, who displayed no unwillingness on his part. Then he moved him into the shower. The Sentinel started with his Guide’s long hair, first massaging the scalp before washing and conditioning it. Sensitized fingers moved onto the neck and worked out tension kinks before moving downward to the shoulders.

Blair recognized his Sentinel’s need to comfort and gave himself up to the ministrations.

Jim soothed muscles before washing the skin of Blair’s back and chest. He moved downward again to hips and ass. The smooth cheeks beckoned and his good intentions lost out to the baser need of giving comfort.

Jim ran his tongue over the firm skin to the dividing crack. He traced it down until he was impeded by the closed thighs. He nudged them open with his hands as his tongue continued its journey south.

Blair leaned against the stall wall and braced himself against his arms. He would no more stop his partner as not take his next breath. He quaked with anticipation.

The Sentinel inhaled the scent of his Guide’s musk that was evident even with the water cascading over the white skin. His tongue found unerringly the exact spot he wished to explore. He pushed and probed and his tongue was rewarded with entrance to the sacred part of his Guide. He pushed in as far as he could go as his hand came up to cup the taut sacs. He fingered the jutting erection just to let it know it wasn’t forgotten.

The Sentinel's tongue pushed in harder until it made contact with the hard nodule it was seeking. The groan and sway from his Guide was rewarding enough for the extra work. He moved his hand to grasp the leaking erection as his tongue touched the sensitive spot again. The wiggling and moans only intensified his own experience until Blair contracted about his tongue and erupted into his hand.

Lassitude inundated limbs almost folded on him, but Jim used the inertia to his benefit. He gelled his own cock and let Blair fall back onto it. Just the thought that it was replacing his tongue was enough to send him quickly over his own edge.

Never forgetting his primary motivation, Jim bundled his mate into a fluffy towel and dried him on his way to the bed. He laid him down and joined him. Spooning their bodies close, Jim placed his hand over Blair’s heart and his nose behind his ear. Sleep quickly claimed the weary men.

---------------

Chief Superintendent West’s voice on the answering machine woke the detectives from their restorative sleep.

“Good morning, I know it’s early, but it is morning nonetheless. I have already checked with the desk and I know you are both still in your room. I would hate to wake Jackson or Halloren just to get you guys to the phone.” The enjoyment of the hour was evident in his tone.

Jim grabbed the phone muttering obscenities under his breath. “The sun’s not out yet.”

“It is somewhere, I’m sure.” West answered in a chipper voice.

“Lucky for them.” Jim yawned into the phone.

“New case. The Bath Superintendent called us in. He’s afraid they may have a serial killer in their district and wanted your help. He’s expecting the both of you by 8:00 AM. Helicopter will take you to a RAF landing strip nearby and a car will be waiting to transport you. Morris Kent will be accompanying you.”

“Got ya. We’ll be there within the hour.” Jim put down the phone and went to rouse his partner.

--------

The transplanted Americans loaded their standard equipment into the helicopter before greeting Kent.

“Thanks for having me. I may have a related case and West suggested I tag along to be sure.” Morris shook both the men’s hands before boarding.

“Okay, hold off on detailing your case until we assimilate the case in Bath. Then we can look for similarities.” Blair explained before Kent could talk about his own case.

They landed outside the city limits and were met by a constable of the Bath Police department.

“The Superintendent requested that I take you straight to the latest crime scene. He said your boss suggested that would be best.” The Bath constable explained as he pulled into traffic.

“He’s right. That would be best. To see the crime scene before it’s released is more advantageous.” Blair smiled and won over the police constable.

They passed the site of the ancient Roman baths and Blair made a mental note to visit them with Jim on one of their off weekends.

The car moved from the busy trafficked streets and into a smaller neighborhood. The constable stopped in front of an older cottage with a rose covered arbor. The crime scene tape was another obvious indicator that they were in the right location.

The Yard men exited the vehicle as the constable identified them to the officer in charge.

The Sentinel and Guide stood still as the Sentinel imprinted the house perimeter.

Familiar with how the detectives worked best, Kent distracted the constable as Jim and Blair made their way into the dwelling on their own.

The Sentinel grounded himself first, then with a hand on his Guide’s back, extended his senses room by room. He catalogued scents and filed them away. He catalogued the feel of the room and then checked them over visually.

“One scent is in all the rooms. Three scents are in most rooms, but I can apply them to the policemen outside. One is all over the front of the house but not in the back or closets.”

“Great, Jim, you get better on every case.” Blair’s earnest tone touched that inner part that still was afraid that he was a freak. “Let’s look at the body now.”

They moved to the front room and found a man, obviously shot in the chest. His face was covered in white greasepaint. Jim checked, with his enhanced vision, if there was anything written below the white cover. No words, just lines could be detected. He’d wait until they were back at the coroner’s office to recreate it for his partner.

“There is something, Chief. I don’t think it will show up in photos, but take some anyway.” The detective knew his partner would be more than thorough.

“Anything else unusual to your senses?” Blair questioned as he took notes and photos.

Jim stood still; head cocked to the side and was filled with the impression of frantic hate. He hated shit like that but he felt compelled to share it with his guide.

“Well, Professor, you know how Dr Billings commented that there was no emotion in the stabbings?” He got Blair’s nod and continued. “I sense the exact opposite here. It’s . . . almost like . . . well, that I can feel it. The emotions used. They seem to be lingering in the air or something.”

Blair was poleaxed and elated at the same time and tried to not let either emotion show. He knew it was probably a wasted effort but he worked at schooling his excitement. “Exactly how do these emotions register? Scent? Touch?” Blair desperately wanted more information on this newest addition of Jim’s talents.

Jim rolled his eyes. He knew it, Blair reeked of excitement and his eyes were glowing. His eyes showed more than just excitement though. They seemed to convey pride and awe as well. Well, he couldn’t disappoint his Guide now, now could he?

“I can smell a kind of hate. Frantic somehow . . . acid like, burning. It also seems to be pushing at my skin, like a heavy mist.” Jim paused, closed his eyes and extended himself. He wasn’t really sure what he was doing, just trusting himself like Blair always does. He was filled with the impression of a frenzied clawing of another. Hate and resentment filled the air about him, clinging and suffocating. Jim opened his eyes and shook his head to clear away the impressions.

Blair had one hand rubbing Jim’s chest as the other gripped his arm. “Jim, you with me?”

“Wasn’t zoning, Chief. This sounds stupid but it was like the hate surrounded me and tried to close in. It was as if I could almost see something clawing or hacking at something else.”

Blair took a deep breath, “Wow, you never cease to amaze me.”

“I don’t need any new shit happening here.” Jim reacted with his innate fear-based response.

“Not new, just an intense honing of what you already have.” Blair smiled.

Jim couldn’t believe how a few simple words from his partner and Guide could relax and put a favorable spin on the shit that just happened. He smiled back.

“I’m thinking that this is just an extension of your olfactory abilities and sense of touch.” Blair’s matter-of-fact tone put Jim even more at ease.

“That’s okay, then,” Jim nodded his acceptance.

“We better let in the others now. Any areas they should concentrate on?”

“Yeah, the whole front of the house.”

Blair went to the door and signaled Kent and the techs invaded the dwelling. Blair then arranged for the body to be transported to the Yard facility.

Once matters were settled to his satisfaction, Blair returned to constable. He looked at the nametag and called out, “Constable Markin, I take it this is not the first victim to be found this way?”

“No, sir. We have had two others that had their face covered in white paint.”

“Do you have the files with you?”

“No. The Superintendent was rather hoping to discuss this with you in person.” Markin made the request with great respect in his voice.

Blair nodded, pretty much expecting the request. He signaled to Kent that they were ready and he called to Jim sentinel-soft.

The trip to the Bath headquarters took another twenty minutes. They used the time to discuss Morris Kent’s case.

“My victim had two shots in the chest and his face covered in white grease paint. This was three weeks ago. I have taken to reading the crime sheets from other districts and cities. I wish more precincts could make the time.” Kent felt he had learned a lot from working with Sandburg and Ellison on the Wake Murders. That case had been enough to get him an upgrade to Detective Constable in Reading. He knew he was working with the best.

“Who was the victim and what did he do?” Detective Ellison questioned.

“Toby Hanson, 69, retired circus clown. I think I saw him once when I was a kid. He always preformed just prior to the acrobats and flyers. Came out to kid faires the last few years.”

“Suspects? Motive?” Jim pursued the questioning.

“No, not really. His wife died four years ago. He had a modest income, was well liked in his community. No motive could even be guessed at.”

They arrived at headquarters with no fanfare and were escorted directly to the superintendent’s office.

Superintendent Peters stood as the Yard men entered and shook their hands. “Thank you for coming, Special Chief Inspectors. I attended the conference you spoke at, Dr Sandburg, and have attempted myself to think outside the box. So, I am especially pleased that you are able to assist us in what I believe is a serial killer.” He handed a file to each detective.

Kent looked over Blair’s shoulder as he opened the file and looked at the crime scene photo of the victim, Bruno Albertson. An obvious bullet wound to the chest and a white paint covered face convinced Blair that they were indeed dealing with the same killer.

Jim’s file held a photo much like the one that Blair held and a match to the crime scene they had just left.

Morris Kent spoke for the first time since entering the office. “My victim is a match to these crimes.”

Blair read quickly through the bio of Albertson. “He was a clown for twenty-seven years.” He looked at his partner.

Jim read through his folder and could confirm Blair’s speculative look, “Yes, Ellis Darby was a clown for a great portion of his life.”

“So we have a clown killer?” The Superintendent asked.

“Appears so, but no outstanding motive.” Jim’s eyes were still in the folder.

“Could we take these and have the newest victim’s file faxed over as soon as you can. I need as many of the crime scene photos as you have, even all the extras. We pick up the oddest clues from seemingly meaningless shots.” Blair smiled to take out any insinuated lack that may have been implied.

“The folders are your copies. I will send along all the photos and the new file as soon as my men are through accumulating it.”

“Thank you. We have some amazing equipment for enhancing the minute details from photos. I am hoping that due to the emotional nature of the murders that our killer has left something behind. I will call you soon as we glean anything.” Blair wanted to assure the Superintendent that he would be kept in the loop.

Sandburg, Ellison and Kent followed Constable Markin back to the vehicle and returned to the RAF airport for the flight home.

--------

Two cases for the Unusual Crimes Unit made sure that they were all very busy. Jim Ellison was grateful for the workload; it kept both of them obsessing on the single, personal case.

Morris Kent joined them and surveyed the updated offices with awe. “Nice set-up, Blair.”

Jim looked over at the detective, “Why do you assume that Blair set this all up?”

“I have seen you type – sometimes using as much as four fingers.” Kent laughed at the mock-offended expression on Ellison’s face.

Only half-paying attention, Blair still smiled at Kent’s comment on his partner’s typing acuity, or lack thereof. He let his fingers fly across the keyboard imputing the clown names. After setting up the fact-finding program he started the process of scanning the crime scene photos.

Jim requested a hard copy of each dead man’s face and a copy for the overhead. He took a black marker and traced the faint outline around the face and mouth. Each photo displayed a slightly different shape about the eyes and mouth. Kent’s clown had tear shapes at the corner of each eye. The most recent victim had a round circle on each cheek.

Jim passed the altered photos to Blair before he switched on the overhead projector. He motioned Kent over. “If you look closely, you can see faint traces of dark lines about the face,” he took up the marker. “One outlines the face; the others complete the clown expression. Each face is different.” He marked each photo on the overhead and placed them side by side.

“Humm, was the grease paint put on over the original face or did he try to wipe it off before applying the white paint?” Blair mused aloud.

“Don’t know, Chief. We’ll have to ask the coroner.”

Kent flipped through his autopsy report, “There is no mention or anything underneath, but then I’m not sure if it ever occurred to any of us to ask.” Kent looked at his own photos, trying to make out the face lines.

Blair tilted his head as he stared at the faces, “I’m not sure yet how this applies, but I know it must. It’s a lot of work to do after he killed the clown.” He looked at the other photos in the files, his eyes fixed on an unknown point. “These killings are all about the clowns. It looks like he has a plan to start but his emotions take over until after the kill. He’s calm when he does the face covering.” Blair could see in the photos the strong emotions the Jim mentioned feeling. “Time for clown research.” On a different terminal Blair designed a new search.

They read and researched until late afternoon. Being Sunday, not all avenues were open and most questions couldn’t be answered until the next day.

The duo headed out with Grimsby and they opted for a pub supper before an evening at the hotel. Instead of a placid evening, they returned to find a poker game already going. They joined Jackson, Sanford and Halleron and played several hands before West and Venables joined the fray and they all continued to win and lose until the wee hours.

----------

Blair followed Jim out to the elevator, a smile on his face. It would have been difficult to keep it off as the memories of his waking were still so very fresh. A tongue, a finger and a cock, each inside, creating three different pleasures. No, he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

In the hotel dining room, they met up with their boss and two of their witness guards. Conversation between bites was mostly sports. Just before West took his leave, they updated their boss on the clown case.

“The press hasn’t twigged onto either case as yet, but they will soon enough.” West knew the press was always at their heels. “Send up all you have by early afternoon. I have the weekly meet with the press just before five.”

---------

Susan had their favorite coffee waiting when her bosses arrived with Jackson in tow. Blair was doubly grateful for the coffee as he eyed the huge stack of clown information awaiting him.

Sandburg breezed through the history of clowns, the different types, the rules and obligations. Clown work appeared to be a great deal more than just making a kid laugh. He put in a call to the regional clown registry.

“European Clown Character Registry,” a tinny voice answered.

“Hello, I’m Dr Blair Sandburg with Scotland Yard and I would like to ask you a few questions about clown faces. Can they be reused?”

“Odd that you should call.”

“Odd? How?”

“Well, about two months ago, a chap called about acquiring an already registered clown face. I explained that each is unique and belongs to the individual that created and registered it. He then asked if the owners were deceased would he be able to acquire it? Again I explained that unless the clown explicatively left instructions to that end, it was still impossible. I suggested that he create his own and register it.”

“Do you get that kind of question a lot?” Blair asked.

“In a way. New clowns are generally inspired by a clown performance they’ve seen and usually want to emulate that clown as closely as possible. Most accept easily that the original is patented and they can come close, but not exact. This one man stuck in my head because he asked about the owner being deceased.”

“You didn’t get a name?”

“No it wasn’t that kind of conversation.”

“And you wouldn’t know if this individual ever came in and registered a clown face.”

“No, not to my knowledge, but there are clown registries all over the world.”

“But the faces are individual no matter the country?”

“Exactly.”

Blair put down the phone as Morris Kent entered the offices.

“I think I have a motive.” Sandburg explained his research and phone call.

Jim nodded, on board. “We should check to see if these men left instructions for their faces to be reused. . . or if they were forced into something before their deaths.”

“I can do that,” Kent volunteered. “My Chief cleared me to work with your team. I can contact each solicitor and check what type of instructions were left. Also, who stands to inherit.” Kent jotted down the needed information and left.

Jim called Superintendent Peters as Blair took out the part of his research that included the list of the different types of clowns. He matched the faces to three different clown face types. Ideas began jumping in his head.

“Our man is between twenty and thirty. Had a generally dull or unhappy childhood. Probably associates a good period with a clown. He was somehow unsuccessful at becoming one. Probably got into trouble for copying an existing clown. So his one joy became tarnished and became the focus of all his disappointments. He won’t be satisfied with just one clown type now, and will collect a face from each major group.” He printed out the major groups of clowns and tacked it up on the board.

Sandburg was in professor mode, “According to “clown law”, a REAL clown has a distinctive personality and character, which are extensions of the personality of the person in whom the clown dwells. They have been broken down into the following groups.” Blair pointed to each as he described what was written.

Neat Whiteface Clown The Neat Whiteface is the most elegant, gentle and traditional of clowns. This style of clown is sometimes referred to as the Pierrot clown. The Neat Whiteface is not necessarily funny and is not a silly clown. The Classic Whiteface is usually skilled at what they do, such as magic or juggling, and is not a bumbling clown or the butt of a joke when working with other clowns. The features of the Neat Whiteface clown are the smallest and most delicate of all clown faces.

Straight Whiteface Clown
The Straight Whiteface is next in the clown hierarchy and is frequently in charge when performing with other clowns. The Straight Whiteface is somewhat more fun loving and not as straight-laced as the Classic Whiteface.

Comedy Whiteface Clown
The Comedy Whiteface clown is less artistic, and is zanier than the Neat or Straight Whiteface clown. They may instigate a prank and end up being the fall guy of the prank.

Auguste Clowns
The Auguste clown is the most slapstick and zaniest of all clowns. They are the prankster, with bigger movements and actions, and tend to be more clumsy and awkward than the Whiteface clowns. The Auguste clown is considered the least intelligent and most bungling of clowns. The Auguste clown is traditionally the most comic of clowns and gets away with bigger pranks. They tend to be the butt of jokes and usually get the pie or water in the face when working with other clowns. The Auguste face has bold facial features and is the most colorful of all clown faces.

Character Clowns
The most familiar character clowns are Hobo and Tramp clowns. Whereas the Classic Whiteface is at the top of the clown hierarchy, the Hobo and Tramp are at the bottom. There are attitudinal, character, and costume differences in Hobo and Tramp clowns. Hobo and Tramp clowns imitate the looks of the hobos and tramps that rode the freight trains and lived in shacks by the railroads either by choice or by forced circumstances. It is said that the Hobo was living his transient lifestyle by choice, but the tramp was in the lifestyle as a result of factors he could not control.

“Can we give that profile to West?” Venables asked.

“Yes, but suggest he only use it if asked about the killers. That way our suspect won’t know we’re looking for him.”

“I’ll make sure West keeps it underwraps as long as possible.”

“Good, then we need to find all the clowns registered in the remaining types.” Blair was already typing in his request. “But I can’t help but think that there is some other dead clowns out there that we haven’t discovered,” he mused aloud.

Jim nodded, “We can work with those just located here in England unless there are no matches.” Jim punched in West’s private number.

Blair called many of the local registry and found he would have to make a trip to each as most of the clown faces were not online.”

With the A to Z in hand, Sandburg and Ellison left with Jackson for the first of four stops before a lunch break. They made five after lunch and had arranged with each to send a man in for follow up to collect all the names of clowns that were in the target categories. The list was diverse and there was no way that they had the manpower to protect hundreds of clowns.

Venables popped in late to let them know that the press was currently unaware of both the serial murder cases.

They had one more night to rest easy.

---------------

Or, maybe, not a whole night.

The call came in just after twelve thirty a.m., another murder with the Sandburg signature.

Jim had coffee ready by the time Blair had dressed and collected his laptop and digital camera. The drive to Paddington was made in reflective silence. Blair hated - hated with a passion, that people were dying in an attempt to frame him. He may not be committing the actual murder, but ultimately, he was responsible. Someone hated him so much that they would kill without personal purpose just to implicate him.

Jim knew that his partner needed the time to deal. He had to find the fine line between dealing and a guilt fest.

Arrival at the crime scene redirected both men thoughts.

Venables crossed the lawn as the Americans exited their vehicle.

“The Paddington Chief Constable recognized the MO and called us. Their crime scene pathologist estimates that death occurred twelve to fourteen hours ago."

“So, just before noon. Good,” Jim knew they had been at the Wimbledon clown registry with a roomful of witness. “Well, you know what I mean, good for Blair. No less that five witnesses."

“Our framer is completely unaware of Blair’s movements. A plus for us.” Gordon walked under the crime scene tape. He looked down at his freshly inscribed notes before continuing, “Petunia Slocam, 55. Shares the house with two flatmates. They found her when they came home this evening. A fingerprint was collected off the knife and several hairs were placed in her hand post-mortem. The pathologist could tell that her hand had been curled after death.”

They flashed their IDs to the constable at the door before entering. Jim stepped in first and quickly surveyed the dwelling interior with as many senses that could prove useful.

“Same scent as that residual scent on Dobson and it matches the scent I detected in our home.” Jim turned his head side to side slowly with his eyes closed.

Gordon Venables stood transfixed; he’d never really had much opportunity to watch Jim work.

Sentinel eyes connected with his Guide, “No emotion on part of the killer. Only residual emotion must be from the victim. Fear mostly.” Jim found it much easier to separate the emotions this time.

Blair forgot his own problems and the case. He was so very impressed with his partner. Jim has assimilated this newest ability with ease. Jim’s sense awareness intensified as he mastered more control. This time, being able to have an explanation that fit the new manifestation into his existing sense of touch probably made use of it easier. Blair itched to make notes, but knew he had to wait until later. Oh, the tests he could run.

Jim looked at him as if he could read his thoughts. Blair shrugged. Jim smiled then pointed to the knife.

“This is the first time the weapon has been left behind,” Blair commented aloud as he started taking pictures of the body.

Jim looked at the stab marks first. “The first two stab punctures were made with a different knife . . . and it broke off,” Jim looked closer without moving, “There appears to be a piece still inside.” He indicated the found knife, “It matches the other two stab wounds.” Jim turned the body on her side and checked the back of the neck. He could see the single kill shot and the camouflage blows that came after. He had Blair take close up shots of the area.

Venables arranged for the body to be delivered to the Yard morgue and the case was officially turned over to Unusual Crimes.

Jim and Blair headed home to finish out their night’s sleep.

At least they tried for at 7a.m. all hell broke loose, or, at least, that’s how it felt.

The phone started ringing and didn’t stop until Blair disconnected it from the wall. The press wanted to talk with suspected killer, Blair Sandburg.

Jim called West on his cell. Blair turned on the TV. Both confirmed the worst.

“Someone leaked the story to the press, not as a possible frame but as though the Yard is shielding a killer intentionally.” Roger imparted the news with a great deal of anger in his voice.

Headline news had the video from the third murder that showed someone running away with the knife visible. “. . . Video shows the killer, identified as Blair Sandburg, fleeing the scene with the weapon in hand. This reporter discovered that Sandburg’s print has been found at the scene of three other murders. Can we say POLICE COVERUP?” The TV droned on but Blair muted the volume.

Jim went downstairs to collect the paper, relieved that no press were camped outside the hotel.

The headline was all about Blair: Scotland Yard Shields Killer.

Blair Sandburg, an American transplant has been implicated in the murder of now four people. The Yard continues to hide him because he’s one of their own. Evidence is being withheld. Prints and hair samples were found at each of the murder sites.

Jim crumpled the paper as he slammed the door.

Blair was calmer than his partner. “Jim, chill. The killer has been frustrated. He’s the only one that could have leaked the information or video. Means he made a copy. Never thought of that, and he could have left something on the tape or interior of the recorder.” Blair felt hopeful.

“West is holding a press conference at 10 AM. Doesn’t want us there. He wants us on the clown case.” Jim took a deep breath, “I’d better warn Susan.” He punched in her number. After a brief conversation he closed his phone and turned to his partner. “She already knew and is just leaving for the office.”

“As we should,” Blair said as he headed to the bathroom. He paused as he looked back at his partner. “We really do have a great team.” He disappeared inside then quickly poked his head back out. “Call Jack, we need visible company now more than ever. It’s not only myself we have to vindicate, but the entire department."

-------------

Chief Superintendent West walked casually up to the podium, placed his notes on top and waited for the furor to die down. Once the noise ceased, West tapped the microphone to check that it was operational.

“Erroneous information was leaked to the press alluding that one of our detectives has been implicated in the wrongful death of four people. I am here to state emphatically that this is untrue. Dr Sandburg has been in the presence of three or more police officers during each of the crimes. We are not wasting valued resources in chasing down falsely planted clues. Instead, we are pursuing promising leads that will uncover the real killer.”

A voice from the crowd yelled out a question, but did not identify himself, as was the norm with the press. “Isn’t Sandburg that Yank queer that’s infiltrated the Yard?”

The room filled with a quiet unrest. The tone of the question was so offensive that many of the reporters took exception to it, as did Chief Superintendent Roger West.

“Dr Sandburg is a respected profiler with New Scotland Yard. We feel very fortunate that he elected to join our police force. Our country has only benefited from his experience and he has saved many lives. His life style choice is irrelevant.”

A loud murmur swept through the press members as they absorbed the new information before they began bombarding the Superintendent with questions as to the identity of the real killer.

------------

Jim turned off the TV. “Smooth. He is so calm and dignified under pressure.” He admired his degree of composure.

“Roger was always the smart one.” Jack Halloren contributed. “Have to, these days, if you want to advance. Playing the press is as important as playing politics. Glad I retired when I did.”

Blair knew Halloren’s statement to be true. His brain switched gears. “Petunia Slocom, real name, was a retired professor of radical poetry from UCLA. She did poetry readings at Fitzgerald’s store. We keep coming back to that shop, but I don’t think that’s all of it.”

Halloren added the name to his internet search and emailed it to his American counterpart.

Jim closed his phone, “Dr Billings said he’d have the autopsy done by this evening.”

------

The autopsy arrived as Dr Billings stated but didn’t divulge any real new information. A single kill shot, just like the others. The report indicated that the first two stabs were made with the same weapon that killed the other three victims. The broken piece matched the damaged skin. The other two stab punctures were made with a different knife. They matched the weapon found at the scene. No prints were found on either knife.

“This is interesting,” Jim paused as he looked to his partner, “Billings figures that at least five minutes elapsed between the first two stabs and the second two."

“Must have had to search for a knife. We should check the inside of all the drawers for prints.” Blair said the words to be thorough but he knew that the killer had been wearing gloves and the search would yield nothing.

“This time, though, the camouflage blows were inflicted a noticeable time later.”

“Yet, even with all the delays, he still had time to dress like me and make a copy of the tape. He had to have watched her to know that he would have the needed time.” Blair concluded, but it didn’t help. He slammed the table top in frustration.

Sensitive to his partner and lover, Jim moved to his side and rested his hand on Blair’s back. His hand moved up under the long hair and massaged the base of his skull with knowing fingers.

Blair pushed back into Jim’s touch to let him know that the efforts were appreciated.

Hunched over his terminal, Halloren grunted loudly before he turned around. “All of the vics have been Stateside and all have resided in California. He looked back at his terminal, “Her trail dries up in California in the early seventies. I have some old contacts Stateside that might lend a hand,” he looked at the Americans, “He’ll expect remuneration for his troubles, though.” The question was asked obliquely.

“Go ahead,” Jim decided, “If the department doesn’t pick it up, I’m good for it.” Jim knew his partner needed the information.

Grimsby entered the offices for his shift. Like the last time Halloren was relieved, he didn’t move from his computer screen.

“Make sure you send food in for that guy or he’ll eventually keel over as a mass of starved bones. He doesn’t do the break thing well.” Grimsby smiled as he received the middle finger from his friend.

Jim, restless for having to wait around, suggested they try contacting in person the rest of the different local clown registries. All for doing anything productive, Blair jumped up, ready to go.

Grimsby followed with a parting shot, “I’ll bring back enough to keep you alive, but the ale’s all mine.”

A chuckle followed him out the door.

-----------

Later that night, back at the hotel, Jim and Blair opted out of the nightly poker game. Instead, Blair had a need to communicate his appreciation of his partner to said partner. What better way that through his senses.

Soft music filled the room to induce a relaxing atmosphere. He had the finest Swiss and French chocolate laid out so that Jim had to follow the edible trail to the bathroom. There, Blair had the shower going at Jim’s favorite temperature. He soaped his lover with vanilla scented suds as he washed him from toe to head. He used his hands as Jim would do to him and lingered on the most sensitive of spots just long enough to tease, but not fulfill.

He knew that the Sentinel could dial up the sensations but would not. He would play it out just the way his Guide wanted.

Blair rinsed the soap off and changed to consumable body oil. He slicked Jim’s belly and groin with lightly moving fingers before trailing a single digit up the crackline.

Jim threw back his head and spread his legs in gleeful anticipation.

Blair did not disappoint. He kissed the muscled tummy before working his way down to the taut testicles and sucked them in gently. He swirled his tongue around them before he popped them out. Blair’s mouth did not remain inactive as it moved to the weeping cock and sucked it with a great deal more force than he had with his balls.

Jim released a moan-like sigh that communicated his pleasure better than words.

Blair used one hand to cup the oiled sacs as the other cupped the round globes behind. Then, one and only one finger worked itself down the crackline and into the solitary opening. The slicked digit slipped in with ease and Blair knew exactly where he wanted to go. He rubbed the nub within and Jim was flying with sensation.

Blair’s mouth sucked in rhythm with his finger and he could feel Jim’s release building. Just before the final moment, Blair whispered, “Open wide.”

Jim dialed up all the senses and exploded into a maelstrom of sensation.

Blair’s musky, aroused scent filled his nostrils as he smiled and leaned back against the shower’s tile. He opened his eyes and pulled Blair up to capture the lips that had just sent him to ecstasy. He turned and leaned against the cascading warm water.

Blair wedged his oiled cock between his favorite cheeks. Jim clenched his muscles and Blair was gone in seconds. While the lassitude still remained in his limbs, Jim washed and conditioned his hair. They washed each other once more before leaving the water.

They tried drying each other but ended up laughing so hard they concentrated on themselves instead. They curled up together in bed. Remote in one hand, Blair in the other, all was right in Ellison’s world at the moment.

---------------

The fallout from the press conference turned out to be all on the positive side. Surprised and pleased, Blair began the day on a positive note.

Susan had their coffee waiting for them and they knew she had to have gone way of out her way to do it. Before they had any chance to talk with her Gordon breezed in, papers in hand.

He looked at the team, announcing, “Acting on Blair’s query, Roger put out a case similarity inquiry sheet over the wire and we had a hit from Liverpool. Two cases match our MO down to the white grease paint.” He threw the faxed information onto the work pile.

Blair looked at the pictures, automatically identifying which categories the faces would belong in. “Neat, Straight and Comedy all have happy and sad subsections. The Liverpool deaths took one from each subsection in the Comedy group. Auguste, Hobo and Tramp do not have those subsections. He’s already killed in those last three categories. The other three, one from each category, are all in the happy column. Based on how the clown index works, to me, it appears he’s going for a ‘happy face’ and ‘sad face’ within each grouping. If we can get a list of the sad faced clowns within the remaining categories, maybe, we can beat him to the next one.” Blair tapped the keys quickly as he pulled up the register of faces.

“We know he’s going to apply to the Clown Registry for one of the faces he coerced a transfer for, but that is too long to wait.” Jim stated with a frustrated tone.

“Maybe there’s a connection between clowns?” Blair set up a new search. “Maybe they worked the same areas or events. I’ve set up a search grid that includes all past clown jobs for each victim.” Blair noticed Gordon’s puzzled look. “Macklin, of the European Clown Registry gave me a disk with all the clowns of the United Kingdom when he realized he could help prevent more clown deaths.”

“There’s thousands of clowns in each of those categories and hundreds within the London boroughs alone. Not near enough man power.” Halloren complained as he watched Blair work two computers at almost the same time.

Undaunted by the scope of the job, Blair let his fingers fly and imputed all the relevant parameters and let the program do the sorting. Blair was never more grateful for the fourteen phone lines, twelve separate internet connections and the twelve computer stations.

Knowing it would take several hours for the information to be available, Sandburg and Grimsby headed down to the morgue to talk with Dr Billings. Ellison started checking the photos from the Liverpool crime scenes.

Down in the morgue, Blair found Dr Billings working at the computer. He leaned back in his chair as Blair approached and pulled out a file. He handed the folder to him.

“Several hairs were found at the Slocam scene. If one tested only one hair, chances are it would be matched to you. Most of the hairs were yours. Not fresh contributions, by any means.”

“Most of the hairs? You found something?”

“Yup. One hair was fresh but no viable DNA attached. I can confirm it’s not yours due to texture and density. More evidence in the frame, but no closer to the real killer either.”

“It helps; it tells us that the killer has dark hair.” Blair replied with that hopeful quality in his voice that others responded to.

Blair took his copy of the findings and headed back upstairs with Grimsby. They actually took the stairs for the exercise. Huffing and puffing as they opened the stairwell door, they were surprised by the commotion of one man.

Susan stood as she recognized the man that barreled past her. William Ellison had returned. He stomped into the office.

“Jimmy, you must stop avoiding your responsibilities.”

The younger Ellison turned to face his father. Dreading the confrontation but knew it was inevitable.

“Dad, I don’t avoid my responsibilities. They just don’t include Ellison Enterprises.” Jim told him in a flat, non-emotional voice.

“Don’t be an ass; of course they include Ellison Enterprises. I built the company for you. It was always intended to be yours.”

Jim Ellison sighed, “Dad, I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but it’s the truth nonetheless. My work and life are here. I won’t be returning to the States. I won’t be working in Ellison Enterprises. I don’t want the company whatsoever.”

“That’s your hippie friend talking. That’s not how I raised you.”

“You raised me to lie about myself. To hide an important part of myself. You created a rift between Steven and I that was never healed. Dad, you’ve done enough. Please accept that you must find someone else to leave Ellison Enterprises to. It won’t be me.”

William Ellison’s face was as red as a tomato. “How can you allow yourself to be led by that fairy man who’s just short of being a convicted murderer?”

If the room could grow even more quiet than it already had, it did. Jim Ellison’s voice was colder than ice. “You will not speak of Blair in that way.” The restrained fury could be heard in his voice and read in his body language.

William Ellison was obviously deaf and blind. “All he does is degrade what you are.”

“Dad, listen up. Blair is my lover, my partner, my friend, my family. You need to leave now. Don’t contact me anymore. This is over.”

William Ellison looked at the frozen people in the room. “This isn’t over until I say it is.” He walked to the elevator, pushed the button and waited without looking back. The doors opened and closed behind him.

Jim turned to find Blair. Blair was already moving across the office and into Jim’s arms. Jim and Blair, sentinel and guide, stood quietly together waiting for the internal storms to blow over.

Halloren furrowed his brows as he looked to Susan, “Man, what a jackass.”

Jim gave a relieved snort, “You said it.”

--------

The beeping of a computer broke into Blair’s pensive concentration of the earlier confrontation. The new information took the forefront in Blair’s thoughts. He grouped the pertinent data under the clown’s real name for easy reading.

Blair called to the others as he put the job histories on the screens. He highlighted all the like engagements so that it was easier for the others to identify the commonalties.

Jim scanned quickly and found that several had worked together or had been in the same general events but only one venue did all the dead clowns participate in together. “Got it. Each worked for the Morely Flyers at one time or another. Never together.”

“Okay, so if we check all the registries within the categories it shows that the killer hasn’t completed his sad face kills for any clowns that worked in the Morely circus. So, we may be able to catch him.” Blair rambled as he spoke his thought process aloud.

“How long, Chief?”

“There are three major registries for the lower UK. I’ll start with them. He only killed within that area so far.” Blair looked over to his partner. “Several hours at a guess. We’ll have to follow up with phone calls to the register controllers to double check for those not computerized.” Blair set the search engine in motion.

“Gotcha. Let’s go out for some food.”

Blair smiled, “I could eat.”

-----------

Halleron walked in and announced to the office at large, “Roberts faxed what he’s found so far.” He riffled through the papers. “The first part confirms what we knew. The four knew each other from way back. Here in London, they met up at least twice a month. Fitzgerald owned ‘Earthprose’, that free thinking bookshop for fifteen years. Fitzgerald’s background had been easier to ascertain,” he shrugged at Sandburg, “He didn’t change his name the way the others have. Fitzgerald knew Dobson in California from the sixties; free thinking hippies, communes and off the government radar for years. “

“I still can’t work how this would tie to me. As cool as the bookshop sounds, I’ve never been in it.” Blair couldn’t help but wonder if he hadn’t missed something obvious.

Halleron continued, “Roberts dug around in California. He found the commune’ history. It was started in 1965, had over a hundred members. By ’67, twenty-five remained and lived there until ’72. Fitzgerald and Dobson were two of the remaining twenty-five.” He flipped through the pages, then turned it toward the detectives. “Here we go . . . Petunia Slocam was only sixteen and Petunia was her given name. Jane Fishbane went by Morning Star during her commune years. She changed her name twice since. She’s only used her given name since living in England.

The only thing else of connecting interest is the list of members and at the end two recorded births, Sun Flower and Blair Sandburg.”

All eyes looked at Sandburg.

“Mom said I was born on the road.” He took a deep breath, “So I am connected. They would know my name, but I don’t recall meeting them in all my travels with Naomi. NAOMI!” Blair’s panic vibrated. “My god, she could be in danger as well. She’s the link.” He went to the phone and punched in the numbers of his mother’s current abode. The ringing continued with no answer forthcoming to calm Blair’s raging fear.

“Where is your mother located?” Gordon asked.

“I don’t know. I just have the number. I can back trace it.” Blair was worried that this was all aimed at his mother.

“Give it here, I can do it,” Halloren volunteered.

Blair wrote it down and handed the paper over.

Jim rested his hands on his mate’s shoulders, “Hey, Chief. Remember that the killer is not emotionally involved, so this isn’t a payback kind of thing. This is a purely a kill for hire with the intention of framing you. There had to be some link to you or it wouldn’t have been believable. You said that yourself. Don’t worry, she’ll be okay.” Jim squeezed and let his fingers linger.

Blair rested back into his partner’s hands. Calm warred with agitation as Blair thought on Jim’s words. He was right and he needed to remain focused on the real motive.

The real motive was to frame him, but for what reason. He had no court case coming up, no reason to defame him. Nothing shouted itself to him. He pushed it aside as his computer beeped at him once more.

"We have a list of potential marked clowns." Blair scrolled through the list. "Oxford, Reading, Bedford. Each have one clown that worked for Morely Flyers."

Morris Kent pushed himself away from Susan's desk to chime in. "Birmingham, Manchester, Derby have clowns that worked for Morely as well."

Gordon wasted no time as he picked up the phone. "Roger, we need to enlist the aid of the local police in Oxford, Reading, Bedford, Birmingham, Manchester, and Derby. We will try to pinpoint the most likely, but they need to be watched." With his boss' assurance he turned to his profiler. "We need a work up the most likely targets. Do that stuff you do." Gordon smiled.

Most in the room laughed, although they knew it was true. Blair had a knack of seeing unrelated facts and connecting the dots.

The profiler nodded and turned to his computer terminal.

Halleron continued working on the bookstore case. Gordon worked on the follow up of West's compliance requests. Susan worked at locating where William Ellison was staying at Gordon's request. Kent continued to call registries that weren't internet connected. Jim stood behind his partner looking for patterns.

For over an hour Blair stared at the computer screens. He grouped and regrouped clown identities as Kent added several more retired Morely Flyers clowns. Finally something clicked. He sat back and faced the room. Jim knew that his partner had concluded something for value, but he couldn't see it and he had looked at the same information as Blair.

"This all goes back to a single event in our killer's life. It happened at a Morely Circus and it devastated him. My best guess is that the actual clown that caused this fracture within his life was already dead by the time he decided to take action. So, he has made up for that by taking all that could have played the role. All the potential clown candidates must be between the ages of fifty to seventy. It was an older clown that he interacted with. It doesn't matter if the clowns even had the opportunity to interact with him, in his mind, they could have. So, eliminate any of the younger clowns. Then, let's work out from Bath and Reading." Blair clicked his keyboard, as did Kent.

"That gives us a Neat and Straight Whiteface. One in Oxford and one in Birmingham." Kent concluded.

"We need to post our men on watch in those two sites. Let the locals continue on the others to be sure. We concentrate on these two." Blair knew the action would take place in either of these places and he was betting on Oxford. The when was harder to pinpoint. He'd need to make a new graph. He set it in motion as Jim prepared to leave for the hotel.

"Downtime is required, Chief. Food is an absolute must. Poker is calling. Let's go."

"Okay, Okay, I get the message." Blair packed up his gear.

Halloren was ready to go as they headed for the lift.

------------

The phone rang in their room and Jim could hear it ringing in the others rooms on this floor as well. Shit, why do all the callouts seem to be in the middle of the night?

They met up with Halloren and Venables downstairs as they all headed to Surrey.

West was already on site. He met them at the front door. "Derby Spokes. Author associated with the bookstore and on the commune list. We were alerted to him because of a videotape delivered to the London Times. The editor hand delivered a copy to me. It was too convenient and after the press conference he felt he owed me one."

Jim turned his dials up as he entered. Nothing new with the body. Kill shot, disguised by the blows. Four stab wounds inflicted post-mortem. This time, though, his nose picked up two fresh scents instead of the single scent that had been at all the scenes. He catalogued those for future recall as his Guide had taught him.

Blair indicated all the areas that Jim pointed out for the techs to work on. He photographed them as well so they could download them sooner. Both wanted to head to the office to see the tape.

When they arrived, they weren't really surprised to see Susan already there with their favorite coffee for everyone.

West produced the tape and inserted it into the player. They watched as Blair stood outside a building, looked both ways before entering it. They saw a Blair like person exit and watched as he pocketed a bloody knife. West rewound and played it again.

“Freeze it.” Jim commanded as he stood.

West pushed the pause and froze the frame displayed on the VCR.

Forgetting that there were several people in the office that didn’t know of his abilities, Jim pointed to the shadows displayed. “See the direction of those shadows? See the trees? That all indicates springtime. As we are already in autumn, this video has been tampered with. That back shot,” he pointed to the left side of the frame, “That shadow is different from the object siting next to it. So, yes, that’s Blair, but it’s the wrong when. Of course, the man exiting is not Blair, but the same man from the other tape.”

Roger picked up the phone and called the news station that had provided the tape. He pointed out the discrepancies and asked that they check it out for themselves before they aired an obvious fake. Satisfied that this tape would not make the airwaves he turned back to his men, “Anything else?”

The Sentinel studied the shot. He fixated on the untampered area. The rain droplets on the leaves were jewel like and captured the light surrounding them. They sparkled with color . . . mesmerizing.

Blair stepped beside his mate and placed his hand in the middle of his back. “Jim, follow my voice. Break time’s over.”

Jim smiled, “Chief. The rain drops had images just like glass.” He turned to his boss. "We need the original. We could possibly get an image from a raindrop of who was doing the filming.”

Roger nodded, already picking up the phone.

Susan looked at the still frame and tried to locate the raindrops.

“Carrots, huh?” Halloren quizzed, his puzzlement evident.

On hold, West smiled, "Jim's vision is a great deal better that normal. It's our advantage and one we hope to keep under wraps."

While West negotiated for the acquisition of the original tape, Halleron received a phone call to put Sandburg at ease.

"Naomi Sandburg is in Tibet. She is studying with a meditation guru and is incommunicado for three weeks. My source confirmed that she is safe and unaware of the death of her friends. He can keep someone in the area if you wish." Halloren looked to Jim.

"My tab." Jim said with such authority that Blair didn't even consider contradicting him. Halloren nodded and set up the arrangements.

The sun had yet to rise, but that hadn't dawned on the Unusual Crimes Unit for they were hard at work.

When the editor of the London Times arrived with the original tape, Blair started right in with the examination. He stood next to West and "off the record" watched as the team dissected the tape visually.

Blair set up connectors to play the tape through the computer so they could view the video on their big screen. He froze the picture on the first shot of himself, and looked for the shadows.

Jim moved to stand next to the screen and used a pointer, "Now check the direction of those shadows there," they all followed the pointer, "And you can see the trees here, they both indicate springtime. Now see how that shadow is different from the object siting next to it. We see Blair, but it’s added from a different picture." He fast-forwarded the tape to the figure leaving the house, "Here the shadows are different. Autumn."

"No doubt there, but you mentioned raindrop images?" Gordon Venables was more curious than he wanted to admit.

Jim turned to Blair, "The trees on the last part," he waited for Blair freeze-frame forward, "The lower drops facing away from the figure hold some kind of image. If Blair can enhance it we may find something."

West had already ushered the London Times editor to the coffee counter to distract him from noticing Jim's abilities. The computer set-up would be more than enough to convince the journalist of the science.

Blair reworked the pixels so as not to lose clarity. The water, like glass, captured the reflections of what was near. Blair worked and reworked the droplet until it was clear and it showed that several did indeed hold an image. His fingers finally accomplished a single image from the many droplets. He removed the borders and fused the images into one. A face was now center stage on the screen.

Only one person recognized the face. Jim Ellison. No one knew that Jim had recognized the face except for Blair.

Gordon looked to the screen and back at Jim, he was grateful to the circumstances that brought this unique team here, but he wondered for the thousandth time why the Yanks ever let them go.

While Halleron and Venables worked on the face recognition program, Blair caught West's eye and headed for the elevator. Their boss waited for the elevator to return then headed for the carpark.

His men waited just outside the elevator door.

Jim didn't wait. "The man is Jamison Franklin. He works for my father. This all has been some kind of ploy to get me back to the States. Damn the man." He turned to Blair, "Sorry, Chief."

"Jim, Jim, not your fault. The man is just not playing with all his marbles. There was no way to connect this to him. You couldn't have known."

West looked at Jim, "How do you want to play this?"

"Franklin must have hired the killer. We locate him and force the killer's name from him. I'm quite sure there is no direct trail to my father, so we have to wait and flip Franklin." Jim Ellison's voice was very detached.

"I'll inform our team as to the identity of Franklin and let them locate him. You two go get some rest. I want you both alert for what is to come." West pushed the up button as he pointed to their vehicle, "Go."

Ellison and Sandburg left.

----------

Distracted by this latest treachery perpetrated by his father, Jim was completely unaware of the car that followed them back to the hotel.

They parked in the hotel garage but didn't make it to the elevator. A man with a gun stopped them.

"Sandburg, I don't know what lucky shit you got, but it stops here." He pointed the gun chest high.

Jim started to put some distance between him and Blair but the voice stopped him.

"No hero shit, Ellison. Stand right next to your fuck buddy. The frame was perfect. Why didn't they arrest you? Made me look bad, could have damaged my rep. Lousy nancy boy."

The killer may have followed them back today but he didn't know of the set-up within the hotel. Due to Susan's surveillance upgrades, there was no part of the hotel that wasn't monitored. The hotel clerk wasted no time in ringing Jackson's, Grimsby's and Sanford's rooms to alert them of the trouble.

The retired policemen moved into the underground carpark in silence. They split up to get the best vantage points. The Sentinel knew when the cavalry arrived and strived to distract the armed man.

"Didn't Franklin tell you we were out of the country when you committed the first three murders? Doesn't say much for your reputation if you didn't check that out yourself." Jim taunted.

Blair hoped that his partner had some kind of plan. He figured that the killer still wanted the frame to work, so only Jim's life was in danger.

From behind the armed man a voice yelled, "Police. We have you covered." Jackson announced it as he had a thousand times in his career.

"NO!" The killer turned with his weapon pointed at the voice and two shots from opposite directions took the gunman down.

Jackson went forward to the body and kicked the gun away. He checked for pulse but found none.

They could here sirens in the distance. All waited for the commotion to begin.

-----------

Two hours later, Jim and Blair finally made it upstairs to their room. A room they would no longer be in need of after today.

Each did the barest of ablutions before crawling under the covers for a bit of shuteye. Jim pulled his lover close and rested his nose under his ear. Blair's wiggle to get closer relaxed the pair enough for sleep.

Four hours of sleep left Blair feeling refreshed and Jim distanced. Blair would have none of that guilt shit and followed his mate into the shower. He spoke no words, just used his hands and mouth to convey his love and trust.

The Sentinel gave himself up to his Guide. The love was a tangible haze that surrounded him. He extended his sense of touch and was lost in the overwhelming sensations that bombarded his body. He was peripherally aware that his Guide sucked his release explosively from him but then he was caught up in the frenzy of the aftermath.

How he came to be wrapped in a towel or sitting on the bed was a blur, but the one thing he was sure of was his place within Blair's life. No bastard relative would shake that position and Jim's world was solid once more.

-----------

Activity was still ongoing when the Americans returned to the office. Susan was tearfully checking hotels for her uncle with news of a death in the family. Kent was on clown watch. Venables was running down Franklin's life history.

West returned with the identified fingerprints of the Bookstore killer. "Langton Perry. Served with Franklin in the Special Forces. Hand to hand combat was his forte. He's wanted in Hong Kong."

Jim sat in silence as he listened to West talk about the man that was linked to his father. "He'd find a hotel that was nondescript, mid price range, nothing to attract the attention of anyone. The idea is to be forgettable." He knew the drill, he'd been trained the same way.

"We need to get to him before the story breaks. We've only got a couple of hours before the afternoon news cycle." Gordon reminded everyone.

Everyone worked with renewed diligence. Three-quarters of an hour later, Susan's act was rewarded with a find. A man fitting the description was registered under the name of Jamison in a Soho motel. West issued weapons to the back up and all but Susan headed for the motel.

Exits covered, West and Ellison knocked on the door. Franklin answered without a question, obviously expecting someone else. His stunned look said it all.

"Jamison Franklin, we are placing you under arrest for . . ." West began as Ellison watched him with an intent eye.

"I think not," the man knew he was cornered. He took the only option he had. One he had trained to do in situations such as these. He bit hard on the capsule located in his back crown. The cyanide took effect immediately.

"Shit. Still no tie to William Ellison." Jim was disappointed.

West called for the local pathologist and stood his men down.

Blair moved to his partner's side. "We'll find a way to deal with this, Jim." He used his most soothing voice to break through his partner's preoccupation.

"Okay."

------------

The local police from Reading, Birmingham, Derby, Manchester all reported in that nothing or no one suspicious had occurred in their stakeout locations. West had his men on in Bedford and they reported in all clear. Kent was in Oxford and eagerly expecting Sandburg and Ellison. They were on schedule to take over that evening.

Kent didn't wait until their shift to call them.

"I've not seen anything out of place, but it's a feeling I get, that something is off kilter. Just can't pin it down."

"A vehicle maybe? Out of place or driving around?" Jim asked, as it wasn't unusual for coppers to have that inner radar for that type of placement.

"Thought of that, but no, don't think so. Kept a list to be sure. It's more like an odd feeling that I'm missing something." Kent paused before asking, "Not any chance that you blokes will appear earlier than scheduled?"

"We'll leave straight away." Jim put down the phone then turned to explain to his partner.

Blair was all for it. He hoped it would distract Jim's thoughts away from his father.

They stopped for takeaway and got enough Chinese for Kent as well. They parked down the block forn the stakeout flat and made themselves look as casual and belonging to the area as they could before they entered the building.

Morris Kent greeted the food and detectives enthusiastically. Blair was sure that the food rated higher.

Kent munched on the sausage rolls as he tried to describe what felt off. "I just know that I'm missing something, something that doesn't fit. Too proper, something feels too proper." Kent shook his head as he realized that he couldn't even describe what was wrong.

"Instinct, gut feeling, good way to go. Don't ignore it just because it isn't tidy." Blair understood, as did his partner. He started his own survey of the neighborhood.

The Sentinel cataloged the unit with their clown first. He heard movement, then breathing. As he focused closer he could distinguish more that one person. "Did Putman receive a visitor?" Jim continued to scan as he waited for a reply.

"No. None that I saw." Kent answered, perplexed by the question.

Jim fine tuned his hearing and blocked out all but the unit for his nose. He sniffed and stood up. "That same scent is in there now that was present at each of the crime scenes." Jim was already on his way to the door.

"Call for backup and then follow us in." Blair requested as he followed his partner out the door.

Jim pulled out his weapon as he crossed the street. He motioned for Blair to cover the back entrance.

Blair whispered sentinel soft, "Use sound to locate and piggyback your sight. Get an exact spot and keep tabs on my heartbeat so you won't zone." Blair ducked around a bush before he crawled up onto the fence and over to the back entrance. "In position."

The Sentinel paused as he honed in on the exact spot their perp was. The killer was demanding the clown sign away his face and screaming that it was owed to him. Jim wasted no time; he picked the lock and slipped inside. He moved cat-like through the livingroom straight to the bedroom. He found a young man with a gun at an old man's head. "Put the gun down now. Police."

"I'll blow his brains out," the killer threatened.

"And I, yours. I'll count to five and do it anyway." Jim countered. He knew the killer wasn't a rational man. "One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five."

The clown killer let his gun drop to the ground. "You don't understand, I need to finish," he yelled and begged at the same time.

Kent ran into the room with his gun drawn and covered him as Jim put the cuffs on a now subdued man. Blair rushed to the downed clown and knelt on the floor next to him, untying his arms and legs.

Backup arrived as Jim put in a call to West.

--------------

The next twenty-fours hours was packed. All temporary residents of the Brigadier Hotel returned to their homes.

Blair worked non-stop on completing the profile. He wanted answers. Jim watched the psychologist interview the perp and it was obvious to all that the man wasn't functioning on all cylinders.

Venables completed the reports on both Jamison Franklin and Langton Perry per West's request. There was still no sign of William Ellison.

Once the reports were completed, West sent out for food. All gathered in their conference room so that Blair could fill them in on the clown killer.

"Daniel Brooker is a twenty-seven year old clown wannabe. From what I gather, he asked a clown, Red Hutting, to be his mentor and in an unclown like way. Hutting refused. He was going through a divorce. His wife had left him for a younger clown. So he must have viewed Brooker like he was one of the replacements. Hutting was working for the Morley Flyers at that time. Morely the third, manager of the circus at that time just brushed Brooker off.

Brooker evidently tried again but he copied a clown face and Toby Hanson recognized it and told Brooker that it was the same as theft. Clowns may have a gentle or funny disposition to the public, but many hide grouchy men, or folks that don't interact well in a one on one encounter.

Those two events conspired to form a basis for his unrealized dream. The fact that he is unbalanced didn't bode well for taking disappointment well. I'm thinking that we should try to locate Hutting. He may have been a victim that wasn't identified as such.

Brooker took small jobs in the area of his potential victims. He could hang around, learn the habits for the comings and goings of his victim, so he knew best when to move in. When the neighbors were asked about strangers he didn't come to mind. No wonder no one talked, we didn't ask the right questions." Blair finished the profile.

Blair turned his seat to face Kent, "You pegged it, that feeling that something was off. He fit, but he didn't, not really. That call to us to come out early saved Putman's life. Good job."

Kent nodded. He was glad the case was solved, but sorry that his time with the Americans was over.

West walked him to the elevator. "Next spring, after financial review, we'll be looking to add to our staff. You interested?"

"Yes sir, I am." Elated, Kent shook West's hand and left on a buoyant note.

West liked the man and was more than pleased with all that Blair had shared in how he had copied Venable's method of distracting the locals. Allowing Jim the opportunity to work unhindered without freaking out the locals with unique abilities. His unit weathered the potential problems well and provided enough science to placate even the most skeptical without endangering Jim.

Pleased, West let the entire team go early.

Blair shut down all the computers as Jim locked up the files before they headed out. They argued good-naturedly all the way to the elevator on what needed to be done first to get their flat back in order. Blair was all for stopping at the grocery on the way home. He continued to persuade as they stepped in the lift.

"You know we have nothing in as we haven't been home in over a week." Blair expected more than the grunt he received. He turned to look at his partner.

Jim's head was cocked to the side in a sentinel listening pose.

"Jim, what is it?" Blair used his guide voice, "What's wrong?" Blair received no answer.

Jim's air of unrest affected him and as the elevator doors opened he stepped out cautiously into the parking garage.

The Sentinel heard the growl of his jaguar and the snarl of his Guide’s wolf. Danger was near and immediate. His senses on high alert, he searched the area near and far for the source. The parking garage had lots of places to hide, let alone crouching behind a parked vehicle. His honed senses, strong due to the constant exercises, worked without conscious thought. He piggybacked to see into dark corners. He used chrome bumpers or hubcaps to bend his sight around corners.

The Sentinel’s spirit guide’s roar was near deafening and Jim ran for Blair. This manifestation would only occur if the guide’s life was in catastrophic danger. He recognized the scent of the danger before he saw his father enter the garage. He saw the gun in his hand swing round in search of his prey. He leapt for Blair as he heard other cops yell ‘gun’ and draw their weapons.

Oblivious to his danger, William Ellison shot at the nemesis of all his plans. The hippie freak-lover must die and he would make sure this time. He fired just as his son leapt in front of the blasted man and his bullet found a resting place, lodged in his son’s chest. He never felt the hail of bullets that took him down. His last thoughts were for Ellison Enterprises.

Blair yelled to Jim. Cops within the garage shouted, “Officer down.” Help was on its way but all Blair cared about was Jim. He moved his partner’s body enough to feel for his pulse and was rewarded with a strong beat beneath his fingers. He was elated with a moan of pain.

“Dial it down, Jim. Help is on its way.” Blair rubbed the base of Jim’s head, needing to keep in contact.

“Chief,” Jim’s voice hard to make out amid the din of garage chaos. Blair leaned in closer to hear, “You okay?”

Blair sighed in amazed relief. Jim was hurt but was worried for him. “Yeah, Jim, I’m fine. You just scared me shitless.”

“Sorry about that, Chief, had to keep you safe. The spirit guides were here again. I hate that shit.” Jim closed his eyes and seemed to fall unconscious.

It was timed well as the emergency vehicle arrived and their crew pushed in to take care of the injured man.

By the time that Jim was loaded and Blair to join him, West arrived. “I’ll meet you at hospital.” He waved them on. He turned to get the details of what happened.

---------------

Blair started in on the hospital staff as soon as he arrived. "Jim Ellison is allergic to most medication and to most anesthesia."

The intern at the admitting desk asked, "Are you a doctor?"

"No, but. . ."

"Then I would leave this to the professionals." His condescending air even put the receptionist on edge.

Blair decided to take away deniability. He yelled with full lung power, "Jim Ellison, patient in room four, is deathly allergic to most anesthesia. I will hold you all accountable if he dies."

As expected, a nurse appeared at his side immediately and escorted him into emergency room four.

Blair started talking without waiting to be asked, "Ether would be better than the standard anesthesia. If possible, a topical is best unless you are doing internal surgery." Blair suggested aloud for the doctors. Then, under his breath, for sentinel ears alone, "Dial down full body pain then bring up the pain level in the injured area only. They need to know what to treat."

The Sentinel's body visibly relaxed after hearing the guide's voice and followed the instructions.

The doctors got the bullet out and stopped the bleeding. They forgot Blair's presence and he watched the entire procedure, murmuring encouragement to his partner for his ears alone.

By the time the staff was ready to move Jim to the post surgery room the rest of the Special Unit was in the waiting room. Superintendent West had already got the most current update on Jim's condition but the team gathered around Blair asking him just the same.

"He's doing okay. They're wheeling him to post-op as we speak." Blair was glad that he was speaking the truth.

Knowing that they had a bit of a wait, West explained to the entire team, "The garage camera showed that William Ellison had hidden himself in the maintenance stairwell. After brandishing and discharging his weapon he was shot by four different armed officers. All shots were in reaction to his shooting of Jim. Internal Affairs will clear all of them."

Amid the nods of relief, West pulled the younger man aside. "Blair, he was gunning for you. The cameras showed that as well. Jim somehow knew and jumped in front of you, his shoulder taking the bullet that would have hit you mid-chest. The cameras showed him freezing a nano second, a frantic search and the leap. We can't figure what he saw or heard but he saved you." West watched his profiler.

With a big sigh, "It's a sentinel thing. I'm glad you can't really tell all that he does by the video." Blair relaxed even more. Jim was going to be okay and his secret was still safe.

"You may need to think about including the rest of the team to the secret. Susan, Kent and possibly Halleron." West suggested as Blair waited for Jim to be allowed visitors. He had fixed it with the hospital administration that Blair was Jim's family.

"I've been thinking the same thing. Sometimes, Jim jumps in, excited and forgets who's all around him." Blair agreed and decided he'd take it up with his partner after he got him home.

Susan handed him a cup of Devon's coffee before she hugged him. Her silent conveyance of comfort much appreciated.

Nurses and orderlies finished the move and the attending doctor allowed Blair in. The rest of the team took their seats in the waiting room.

----------

Jim fought his way out of the anaesthesia. He felt muddled and his senses were offline. He was surprised how bereft he felt at that prospect. He knew there was a time he would have rejoiced, but now, after saving so many lives, especially Blair's, he was grateful to his oddity. He could already hear Blair grousing at him for any negative spin.

Blair!

Was Blair all right? He couldn't hear him. Damn. He needed to turn up his hearing. He sought his inner dial and saw it was at zero. He turned it up and immediately found the most delightful cadence thumping away close by.

"Blair." His voice was raspy

"Jim!" Blair stood and leaned over to his partner. He kissed him on the head before he whispered, "Hi, lover. Okay, now set all the dials at three. I had you take from all down before they operated." He picked up the cup of ice chips and placed one in Jim's mouth.

The Sentinel did as the Guide asked. He first checked then reset each dial, greatly relieved that his senses were intact. He took in the ice chip and savored the wetness. There was another waiting when the first melted. He opened his eyes and smiled. His partner's happy face filled his vision.

"Love you, Chief."

"Back at you, Jim."

All of the events leading to the hospital flashed in his head and Jim sighed in disappointment. "He dead?"

Blair didn't need clarification; he knew exactly who Jim was speaking of, "Yeah. The armed officers reacted to the discharge of his gun and shout of officer down. You saved my life, man. Thank you . . . and . . . I'm sorry."

"No, Chief, I'm sorry. His obsession for his business drove him over the edge, a long time ago, actually. We just never saw it, well, maybe my mother did. She escaped."

Jim opened his hand and Blair grabbed it immediately with his own. Jim lifted the clasped hands and squeezed. "My family. You . . . you and me . . . what we created. Nothing ever has felt this safe, this real. Love you, Blair."

Blair Sandburg swallowed past a tight throat and nodded, eyes bright. "You, me, us. Always us."

fini

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Acknowledgments: Thanks to Mary for the beta and Patt for art and all the encouragement.