Who Says Timing Isn't Everything by Sammi M.*Well, last night certainly didn't go off as planned.* Jim mused as he sat at his desk waiting for Sandburg. *Instead of my making her trust me so I could get closer, I ended up losing my objectivity. I wonder what Simon would say if I walked into his office and told him I couldn't do this because the kid didn't seem like a thief. He'd probably laugh me right into the precinct shrink and take away my shield and gun for good measure. No, I've got to get my bearings back on this one - if only to make sure Blair comes out of this okay.*
As if hearing his Sentinel's thoughts, the young anthropologist walked through the doors and headed straight for his partner. "Sorry I'm late, Jim, but I had to drop Schuy off at a friends and it was a little ways out. Did I miss anything?"
"No, it's been pretty ..."
He never had a chance to finish as Simon poked his head out the door and motioned for the detective. When Blair made a move to join him, the captain quickly availed him of that notion. "Sandburg, you stay."
Jim looked back at his partner and shrugged. He hurriedly made his way to the office and closed the door behind him. "Hey, Joel," He greeted the other man as he sat in front of his boss. "That was pretty subtle, Sir. I'm sure Sandburg has no clue that we're conspiring against him."
"We're not conspiring against *him,* just a member of his immediate family," Simon responded. "No time for pleasantries." He threw a folder onto his desk before the detectives. "Lloyd arrived this morning with some new photos. It's the same woman and she's clearly at the Millerton Corp.'s building." He waited for them to look at the photos. "Seems like Miss Sandburg was seen near the diamond exchange and a computer software company that receives a lot of government grants. The higher ups are getting worried and they'd prefer if we can narrow down her prospects." He looked straight at Ellison and wished he didn't have to go where he was about to. "They want us to apply some pressure on *our* Sandburg to see if he can give us something."
"No way, Captain. He's not involved with this. He doesn't need to know what we're doing."
"Jim, I wish we didn't have to, but our hands are tied. If we don't do it, someone else will and they probably won't use as much tact as we will. He's close to her and we need that advantage. I'm sorry."
Joel stood and placed his hand on Jim's arm for support. "We'll try to go easy on him; he's our friend too." He watched as his co-worker nodded and turned towards the door. "I'll go get him."
As soon as the other detective closed the door, Jim raised his eyes to his superior. "This is going to push him away, Simon. We're going to ask him to choose between his family and us and I don't think we've got enough points to win this one."
The door opened and Taggert led Blair in and directed him toward the conference table. As soon as they were seated, Simon and then Jim joined them. The big Captain began. "Sandburg, a case has been brought to our attention and we need your help."
"Sure, no problem. You know I'm always willing to help you guys."
"Listen to the particulars, Chief, before you agree."
"That's enough, Ellison." *Damn, he's not going to make this any easier.* "A suspect in a string of robberies has shown up in Cascade. An officer from another city came up to warn us and offer a hand in apprehending the suspect. He's been doing some surveillance and has caught the suspect checking out several possible locations for hits."
Blair stared at them in confusion. "I don't understand. This sounds like straight police work. What could I possibly offer to this case that you guys can't?"
Without looking at his friend and partner, Jim opened the folder and pushed the photos toward him. "The suspect has been identified as Schuyler Sandburg."
At first, all the younger man could do was stare at the pictures, but then the anger started boiling to the point where the other three men knew he was going to blow. "You guys are nuts! Schuyler's not involved in some robberies. She wouldn't do stuff like that!"
"Then how do you explain Detective Lloyd's following her through seven cities and having photographic proof of her being on the premises of each of the hits."
"Because it's her job, man. It's what she does."
"You say that, but you don't say what exactly her job is. For all we know, being the frontrunner could be her line of work. She could hire herself out to case the subjects and identify the security. When the robberies occurred, she could be miles away planning the next one."
"It's not like that. Schuy wouldn't break the law."
"Then how is it, Chief? Tell us so we can understand and then we can get this guy off her back."
"I can't ... it's not my ... The only person who could tell you what she does is Schuy."
"Yeah, right, Sandburg. Like she's going to come out and admit she's a thief to a bunch of cops."
"SHE IS NOT A THIEF!"
"Then prove it. Tell us what she does at those buildings and once we check it out, we'll leave her alone."
"No! I want to talk to this other cop. I want him in here now so I can hear *him* tell me to my face what he's seen Schuy do. I want to face her accuser."
"That's not possible right now, Sandburg. He's ..."
"Fine, then until he's here and willing to talk, I've got nothing else to say. And, unless you guys are gonna charge me, you can't stop me from walking." When no one offered any resistance, he stood and faced the Sentinel. "Tell me something, *Detective*. Last night, it wasn't about enjoying each other's company, was it? It was about getting on her good side so that you could follow her around without arousing her suspicions. Man, she thought you were actually warming up to her. How could you do that to her, Jim? To me?" Blair turned and walked out of the office, slamming the door behind him. He stopped only long enough to grab his bag at Jim's desk and headed out of the bullpen.
Simon rubbed at his temples and took a deep breath. "That did not go at all well."
"Well, what did you expect? We practically came out and told him that the girl he was raised with is a thief and that we're going to do everything in our power to bring her down. Did you really think he would just roll over on her?"
"I don't know what I expected, but it sure as hell wasn't that. I don't think I've ever seen him that angry before."
"You've never threatened a member of his family before."
A knock broke the men from their thoughts. Lloyd walked in and closed the door. "I hear you guys had a few fireworks in here. Were you able to get anything out of him?"
"Only that he knows what she does but won't tell."
"Do you think he might be a part of it?"
Before Joel or Simon could correct him of that notion; even before Lloyd could take his next breath, Jim had him up against the wall with his arm bare inches from crushing the man's throat. "Don't you *ever* imply that Sandburg is mixed up in anything. No matter what his sister or his mother or, hell, his dog might be in, Sandburg is clean. Got that?"
With a touch of fear, Lloyd nodded and Jim released him. Three simultaneous breaths were released as well. Simon shakily tried to resume control. "Okay. I want the surveillance to continue around the clock. Even though I'm not happy about it, that includes the times she's with Blair. We can't take any chances with this one. Is that clear?" Three nods. "Good, now get going."
Once his office was empty, Simon leaned back in his chair looking up towards the heavens. *Why me, Lord? Can you tell me that? Why me?*
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%"I'll tell you what, Ellison. Since it's your place, how about I take the outside watch with Taggert? You can check in close to lights out."
"Sounds like a plan." Though he was making the motions, Jim Ellison's heart had long gone out of this. All he could think about was how Blair was dealing with everything.
Lloyd noticed it was a lost cause and gave up on getting more of a response from the other detective. "Well, I'm gonna head on out. Can't wait to hear from you." The other man left the building without a backwards glance.
Jim slowly trudged up the stairs and wearily let himself into the loft. He didn't get too far before he found himself collapsing on the sofa from pure emotional exhaustion. As he opened his tired eyes, he noticed something didn't seem right with his home. It took him a moment to realize an air of loneliness seemed to float in the atmosphere. He was alone and with this investigation, there probably wasn't going to be much chance of that changing any time soon. All he could do was hope that no matter the outcome, Blair would find his way back to the relationship they had.
With thoughts of happier times, Jim drifted off to sleep.
As the sun began to drop lower and lower, the turning of a key and laughter awakened him. He sat up and looked toward the door not knowing what to expect.
Schuy was the first through and she beamed at the detective. As soon as Blair saw him, the laughter and happiness that had surrounded him seemed to disappear. Jim noticed and a part of him ached.
The girl was oblivious to the tension and walked around the sofa and grabbed the older man's hand. "It's ready."
"My new place. H.B. and I just put away the last of my stuff, so it's like completely ready for me to move in." Just like her brother - the more excitement, the more bounce. "I want you to see it."
"I don't know, Schuy. It's been a long day and you should enjoy your first night in your new place without having to deal with a grumpy cop."
"No. What better way to welcome myself into my new home than to have my brother and my new friend there with me. Please come."
A pang of guilt stabbed through the man as he looked down at the beaming face. It was further intensified when Blair tried to dissuade the girl. "Schuy, he's probably got other things to do. I mean, he's a cop. There are probably loads of *criminals* he needs to be chasing - not spending an evening admiring your apartment."
She sighed and the excitement died a quick death in her eyes. "He's right. There are probably a million things you should be doing rather than hanging out with us. I'm sorry, Jim. I guess I just let my excitement get the best of me. I'll leave you alone."
Ellison jerked as he heard her say that word. Alone. It rang in his ears until he found himself quickly agreeing. "No, I want to see your apartment. Gotta make sure it's safe enough for Blair's little sister."
The excitement was back and so was the bounce. "Great. Lemme go freshen up and we can head over." She headed toward the bathroom and closed the door.
The two men stood watching each other like two strangers. The tension was almost unbearable; Jim hated it.
"You didn't tell her?"
"That would have devastated her. She's just now getting over losing her best friend. I couldn't tell her the person she chose as her 'new' friend was only getting close to her so he could pin a robbery charge on her."
"Blair, it's not like that."
"Then what's it like? Are you trying to tell me you like her, but you're still setting her up for a fall?"
Jim sighed. "No, what I'm saying is I'm trying to do my job the best way I know how, but this is hard. Not just because of you, but because I *do* genuinely like her." He paused. "You have to understand, Chief. As soon as Lloyd brought in that evidence, everything else had to go out the window. My feelings for you, how I'm feeling about her - everything had to take a back seat to what I'm sworn to do. And, if that means I'll have to take her in, I'm sorry."
Pain-filled eyes skewered the detective. "Then I'm sorry, too."
The bathroom door opened and Schuy floated into the room still oblivious to what was in the air. Grabbing both men by the arms, she dragged them to the door. "Come on. Let's get this show on the road. I just can't wait to see what happens next!"