Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers

Dose of Confusion, Murder on the Side
Part Two
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
by Becky
January 1998

Jim was almost glad when his cellphone rang. The drug lecture was getting tedious and he felt like zoning out deliberately just to not listen. But he didn't think Simon would appreciate that. Ignoring the startled and vaguely annoyed glares around him, he flipped open his phone and answered the call as quietly as possible.

"Ellison."

"Is this James Ellison?"

"Yes, it is. Who is this?"

"I'm calling from Honolulu Queens Medical Center. Your name and this number were inside the wallet of a Blair Sandburg to call in case of an emergency. Do you know him?"

Jim's heart stopped for a moment, then started up again at double-speed. "Yes, I do. What happened? Is he all right?"

"I'm sorry, sir. I don't have that information. Are you able to come here?"

"I'll be there as soon as I can." He slapped the phone shut and leaned over to Simon. "Sandburg's at the hospital, sir."

Simon's eyes widened. "You've got to be kidding. You're not kidding. Hell, can't that kid keep out of trouble even for a day?"

Jim yanked on his suit jacket. "Apparently not, sir. I need to get down there."

"Hold on. I'll come with you."

***********************************

Mack sat wearily down in the chair next to the ER hospital bed where Blair lay, still mostly unconscious. The nurse had told him that he'd be okay -- just bruises and a major headache. He felt responsible and a little guilty for getting the kid into trouble and wanted to stick around until Blair woke up. His phone unit rang and he answered it quietly. "Wolfe."

"Mack, it's Kimo. I have been trying for hours to get in touch with you. Your phone's been off."

"It's my day off, Kimo. It's supposed to be off."

"Then why do you have it with you and why is it on now?"

"I needed to make a call and forgot to turn it off. Why are you calling?"

"I've got that information you wanted for the Buchanan case."

Mack straightened. "You do? Great. When can I see it?"

"Now would be best. I've got a hundred other things I need to get to before I leave today. And I won't be in tomorrow. You know that, Mack."

He looked down at Blair who had started groaning and slowly coming awake, then muttered into his cellphone mic, "Are you sure it has to be now, Kimo?"

"Yeah, Mack, I'm sure. Are you coming or not? I could just have it sent to your desk."

"No, no, I need you to hear it from you in case I've got questions. I'll be there in 15 minutes." He turned off the phone, then reached down to place a hand on Blair's shoulder. Shaking him slightly, Mack said quietly, "Hey, kid, I've gotta get back to the station. I am really, really sorry about this whole mess. Are you sure you're gonna be okay?"

Blair's eyes opened and he blinked fuzzily at Mack. "What? Jim? Oh, Mack, yeah, yeah, go on. I'm fine."

Mack patted him on the arm, then quickly left the bedside. He stopped at the nurses' desk. "I'm leaving now, just so you know."

The nurse glared at him. "Good. I think you've done enough damage for today, Lt. Wolfe."

Mack chuckled once and went on. "Love you, too, Nurse Wilkins. Someone called his friend, I assume."

"Yes, he's on his way."

"Good, then I'll get out of your hair."

"You do that."

***********************************

Threading his way through the crowd of patients, family members, and medical staff in the lobby of the ER, Jim walked into the room ahead of Simon and headed straight over to the nurses' desk. "Excuse me, where might I find Blair Sandburg?"

The nurse, an older, imperious-looking woman, glared at him over the top of her glasses. "What do you want, Wolfe? I thought you had other places you had to be."

"My name is not Wolfe." He yanked out his police ID and smacked it both down on the countertop. "I'm Detective James Ellison. Blair Sandburg is my partner. I was called and told he was here."

The nurse picked up the ID and made a show of looking them over carefully. "I don't know what kind of game you're playing here, Wolfe, but it isn't going to work. Aren't you the one who caused this whole mess in the first place?"

Jim opened his mouth to say something, but from his side, Simon interjected, showing her his ID. "Captain Simon Banks. I believe you have one of my men in here. Blair Sandburg. We need to see him. Right now."

She turned her attention to Simon. "You with him?"

"Yes, I am. And he is not this 'Wolfe' you keep referring to."

The nurse grunted, but didn't look convinced. Another voice came from behind them. "Mack? What are you doing here?"

A hand fell on Jim's shoulder and he pulled away from the unknown touch. "Who the hell are you? And where is my partner?"

Simon pulled Jim away a bit. "Calm down, Jim." He turned to the other man, opened his mouth to say something, then blinked and smiled. "Dave Herzog! I forgot you were out here."

The other man, gray-haired, tall and thin, and dressed casually, smiled in return. "Simon Banks! My goodness! Fancy running into you here. I was just checking up on one of my officers. It's been a few years since I last saw you. What are you doing on the islands?"

They shook hands as Simon answered, "Two of my men and myself are attending the Law Enforcement Drug Conference."

Dave nodded. "Yes, yes, the drug conference." Then he gestured to Jim. "And how do you know Mack?"

"Mack? No, this is Jim Ellison, one of my detectives."

"No kidding. Well, he sure looks like Mack Wolfe, one of my detectives."

Jim interrupted, voice growing cold. "Look, right now, I really don't care who I look like. I just want to find out if Sandburg's okay. Can we concentrate on that?"

Dave frowned. "Sandburg? Who's that?"

"He's my --" Before Jim could finish the sentence, another voice, one a whole lot weaker, caught his ear.

"Jim ...?"

Snatching his ID from the hand of the startled nurse, he shoved past her desk and into the ER examining area. Leaving Simon to deal with the nurse and Dave, Jim honed in on the heartbeat and whispering voice of his partner. After a few more seconds, he found the right spot and shoved aside the curtain surrounding an examining bed. Blair was in the process of trying to push himself up to a sitting position, one hand holding onto his head.

Jim strode across the few feet separating them quickly, grabbing onto Blair's shoulders and steadying him. "Whoa, easy, easy. Are you okay?"

Blair nodded once, squinting at Jim. "Yeah, I think so. Just a monster of a headache. What are you doing here? I thought --. Oh, no, they called you out of the conference, didn't they? Oh, man, I am so sorry."

"Don't be. I was falling asleep anyway. You want to tell me what happened?"

Rubbing at a bruise on his forehead, Blair replied, "I was at the horse track and had gone to the betting window to collect what I'd won after the race. We were standing in line and these big, burly guys came and started hassling Mack --"

Jim stiffened. "Mack? As in Mack Wolfe?"

Blair looked up at Jim, his eyes lighting up despite the headache. "Uh, yeah, have you met him yet?"

He all but growled out a reply. "No, not yet. But his name keeps popping up. Go on."

"Anyway, to make a long story short, there was a fight and I got in the way of someone's arm. I went down and was out like a light. Next thing I knew I was here. I woke up once and saw Mack, but I must've passed out again. Then I heard you causing a fuss outside. End of story."

Jim sighed. "What did I say about staying out of trouble, Chief?"

Blair immediately protested. "Hey, this wasn't my fault! I was just standing there. Or I was until Mack got shoved into me. Then it sorta turned into a free-for-all, I guess."

Simon's voice came from behind Jim. "So I've been informed. Dave said you and Lt. Wolfe managed to cause quite a stir."

Jim turned slightly, leaving one hand on Blair's shoulder. "Where is this Lt. Wolfe? I want to talk to him."

Blair answered the question, drawing both men's eyes to him. "He said he had to get back to the station. He was in here with me when he got a call."

Jim scowled a moment. "I'll talk to him later then."

Simon frowned. "Jim, you are not going to cause any trouble, are you?"

"I just want to talk to him, sir, that's all."

Simon stared at him, then shook his head. "Why don't I believe you? Never mind. The nurse out front said that Sandburg can leave."

Turning back to Blair, Jim asked, "Are you ready to go, Chief?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, let's get out of here." He hopped off the table, but as soon as his feet touched the ground, his knees folded beneath him. "Oh, boy."

"Whoa!" Jim grabbed him and hoisted him back up to a standing position, feeling Simon at his side, ready to help if need be.

Blair's hands latched onto Jim's jacket and he pressed his forehead against Jim's chest. "Oh, man, everything's sorta spinning out of control here. Don't let go, Jim, whatever you do."

"I won't let go. Just take deep breaths, slow and easy." Jim shifted his hold so he could rub one hand between Blair's shoulder blades. "There you go."

"Simon?"

Simon turned and saw Dave standing just outside the curtain. He threw one final glance at Jim, then decided he had things well in hand. He walked over to Dave, who was staring at the partners. "I just talked to Mack on the phone. I told him --" He broke off and shook his head. "This is really, really strange, Simon, downright uncanny. At least they act and dress differently. If they didn't, well, I don't know if there would be any way to tell them apart."

Simon didn't say anything for a moment, turning his head to watch as Jim leaned back slightly to look down into Blair's eyes. He saw Jim's mouth move in a whispered question, saw Blair answer and the small grins they exchanged as Jim ruffled Blair's hair. Simon grunted. "Trust me, Dave, there are ways."

***********************************

Later, when they entered the doors of the hotel lobby, Jim turned to Simon. "I'm gonna take Sandburg up to the room, Simon. Be back down in a few minutes." Simon nodded and headed back to the conference room.

Blair protested as Jim pushed him in the direction of the elevators. "Hey, I can take care of myself, Jim."

"Humor me."

Blair sighed and rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything as Jim herded him into an elevator. They rode up in silence, moving a few times to let other people on or off. Finally, they reached their floor and then their room. Jim unlocked and opened the door and stood aside for Blair to enter. Inside, Blair sat down on a bed, rubbing at one shoulder. Jim let the door close and walked over to him.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, Jim. I'm fine. Just a little sore. Nothing a nice hot shower and a few aspirin won't cure. I was only at the ER because Mack was worried I hit my head too hard. Which I didn't. I'm fine." He looked up at Jim, still standing in front of him. "Shouldn't you be getting back down to the meeting?"

Jim hesitated, indecision written plainly on his face. He placed a hand on Blair's shoulder, rubbing it carefully. "If you're sure...."

Blair swallowed another sigh and smiled up at Jim. "Yeah, I am. Go on now. Simon's waiting for you."

Nodding, Jim turned and went to the door. He pulled it open, then turned back, a small smile on his face. "About that bet...."

Blair raised an eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"You owe us dinner." Jim slipped out quickly, laughing to himself as Blair tried to call him back.

"Jim, that wasn't my fault! Jim!"

***********************************

A few hours later, the ringing of the room phone startled Blair from a light doze where he'd curled up on his bed. He stretched out an arm and grabbed the receiver, mumbling into it. "Hello?"

"Hey, Chief."

"Oh, hey, Jim. What's up?"

"Were you asleep?"

Blair sat up, yawning. "I dozed off in the middle of a book. I think the afternoon caught up with me finally. But it must have done me some good -- I feel better."

"Knowing the books you brought with you, I'm not surprised you fell asleep."

"Funny, Jim, real funny. How's the meeting?"

"Sometimes it feels worse than a root canal. I'll be glad when they're finished. I just wanted to call and check in with you. The meeting will end at 5, fortunately for us. And if you're feeling up to it, Simon and I thought maybe we'd head out for dinner afterwards. How's that sound to you?"

Blair glanced at his watch. That would be in an hour. "Sounds good to me. I'll be starved by then."

"Great. We'll meet you in the lobby at 5 then."

"Got it." Blair hung up and stretched, then propped the book in his lap again to continue reading. The time passed by quickly and at five minutes until the hour, Blair headed downstairs and was waiting in the hotel lobby when the meeting let out. He watched as the people filtered through the doors, not really trying to find Jim or Simon, trusting that Jim would find him a whole lot easier.

He had turned away to look out the doors of the hotel when someone tapped him on the shoulder. Looking back, expecting maybe to see Jim or Simon, he was surprised to see Dr. Kirk. Blinking, he took a small step away before remembering to say something. "Dr. Kirk. Uh, hello."

Dr. Kirk hesitated a moment, then folded his hands in front of him. "Mr. Sandburg. I feel I must apologize for my words this morning. They were hasty, uncalled for, and terribly judgmental. I have seen many young lives ruined by the use of drugs and I fear it has colored my perceptions of your generation, for which I am sorry. Recent occurrences have only reinforced my perceptions."

Blair swallowed, then nodded. "Apology accepted, Dr. Kirk."

Dr. Kirk went on, shifting his satchel to his left hand. "Thank you. And thank you also for being willing to talk about the drug Golden." He held out his right hand. "Good day, Mr. Sandburg."

Over Dr. Kirk's shoulder, Blair caught sight of Jim and Simon coming toward them. Jim was frowning, his eyes mostly on the Dr. Kirk. Blair took Dr. Kirk's hand and shook it firmly. "Good day, Dr. Kirk." The man inclined his head, then released Blair's hand and disappeared into the crowd of people.

A few seconds later, Jim and Simon were at Blair's side. Jim demanded, "What did he want?"

Blair answered after a moment, still a little distracted. "He wanted to apologize. Did you put him up to that?"

"Me? No. I haven't got the chance to talk to him yet. He vanished for an hour after the first meeting this morning."

Blair nodded. "Hmm. There was something about him, something sad. I couldn't quite put my finger on it though --" He shook himself and looked up at Jim, grinning. "I seem to recall you saying something about dinner?"

***********************************

Black-gloved hands lowered the camera and removed the zoom lens when the three figures came out of the hotel lobby and started strolling down the street. Fingers tapped on the steering wheel in a staccato rhythm.

"Well, well, well. Jim Ellison. It has been a very long time. Too long. What have you been up to? And who is the bouncy young man you seem so friendly with? And why was he talking to the good doctor earlier?"

As the three figures disappeared around a corner, those hands turned the car key and the engine was gunned to life. It idled for a moment, then pulled out into the early evening traffic.

"I guess I'll just have to find out."

***********************************

An hour later after a leisurely dinner, Jim, Blair, and Simon slowly made their way back to their hotel. Jim and Simon talked about nothing in particular, just passing the time, as Blair stopped every now and then to pop into a streetside shop to look around. Eventually, they arrived back at their hotel, all three relaxed, the tensions of earlier in the day forgotten.

Jim turned to say something to Blair as he pushed open the heavy glass doors of the front lobby, not looking where he was going. He saw Blair's eyes drift away from his and widen slightly even as he felt himself bump into someone. Backing up a step, he turned to apologize. "Pardon me, I . . ."

It was like looking into a mirror -- sort of. Same face, same eyes, same build, even the same hairline. And the same befuddled, open mouth expression at the moment. However, the clothes were different and the licorice stick certainly didn't belong in the mirror Jim looked in every day back in Cascade.

From behind Jim, Simon gasped. "Dave said twins, but I never . . ."

Blair just laughed and bounced on his toes a little. "I know. I had the same reaction when I met him this afternoon. Wild, isn't it."

Simon shook his head. "I don't think wild is the word I would choose, but it will do."

Mack was the first to recover, pulling up his lower jaw, his lips curling into a small smile. "You must be Jim. Blair told me about you." His eyes shifted over to Blair. "Speaking of whom, are you okay? I had to leave so quickly back there...."

Blair waved it off, grinning at the slowly receding shock on Jim's face. "Oh, I'm fine. Just a headache and a few bruises which a couple aspirin and a nap took care of. You?"

"Fine, fine." He looked back at Jim who blinked, shook himself, and blinked again.

Simon spoke up as Blair stepped around them to go to Jim's side. "You must be Lt. Mack Wolfe. Dave mentioned you."

Mack reached out a hand and shook Simon's. "Dave? You know him?"

Eyeing Blair momentarily as he whispered something to Jim, Simon inclined his head. "A long time ago. Spent a year in training together and became friends. We've tried to keep in touch over the years. He was at the hospital when Jim and I went to pick up Sandburg."

Mack paused a moment, then nodded. "Oh, yeah, Hudson's still there. Knee surgery. Took a nasty dive on a case last week."

Both turned to look at Jim as he took a deep breath and nodded at Blair, who turned grinned widely at Mack. "Jim, this is Lt. Mack Wolfe, from the Honolulu PD. Mack, this is my partner, Detective James Ellison, Cascade PD, Washington State."

Mack nodded at him, smiling slightly. "Nice to meet you, Ellison. Welcome to Honolulu." Jim stared at Mack. Mack stared back, one eyebrow raised, still chomping away on his red licorice. "Uh, you got a problem?"

Eyes sparkling, Blair grinned from Mack's other side, bouncing on his toes. "This is like so cool. I know people say that if you look hard enough, you'll find your twin somewhere, but this ... this is just so totally ... cool."

Jim registered his Guide's voice somewhere in the back of his head, but didn't reply to it. Instead he circled around Mack, sizing him up, then coming back around to the front again. When he finally spoke, his voice was chilly, but calm. "So, you're the one who put my partner in danger."

Blair frowned. "Jim...." Simon didn't look terribly happy with Jim's tone either, but didn't say anything.

Jim went on. "What are you doing at our hotel?"

Mack replied. "Well, I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I had to talk to someone in the area about a pending case and this was the only time they could give me. And since I knew which hotel was hosting the conference, I just decided to stop by and check on Blair. I felt a little bad about running out on him at the hospital like I did."

"You should." Jim's voice was sharp. "You got him involved in your trouble and managed to get him hurt, then ran off and left him by himself at the ER, without even having the decency to wait for his friends to show up!"

Blair grabbed Jim's arm. "Hey! Wait a minute, Jim! I knew he was leaving. And he knew I was okay. Stop it." Jim glared down at Blair, his eyes hard for several moments, then they softened. Blair released him, patting his forearm. "Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

Mack spoke up again, pulling the licorice stick out of his mouth. "I wouldn't have left the hospital if I hadn't known Blair was okay. Really. And I'm really sorry about the whole thing at the horse track. What can I say, I attract trouble sometimes."

Simon stifled a laugh and Jim cracked a small smile. Blair rolled his eyes and explained to the now more confused Mack. "They like to call me a human trouble magnet. You wouldn't believe some of the things that have happened to me in the past couple years."

Simon put in. "Well, then, I guess it was inevitable since you and Mack were in the same place that something was bound to happen."

Chuckling, Mack looked back at Jim and stuck out his hand. "Truce?"

Jim looked at the hand uneasily, then grasped it with his own. "Truce."

Blair grinned, bouncing on his toes again. "Cool."

***********************************

Twenty minutes later, Jim shifted again in the chair, wondering why he was still in the bar area with Mack and Blair, both of whom were talking a mile a minute about cultures and rites of Hawaii. Simon had left them ten minutes ago to go upstairs and call Cascade to check in at the office. Sighing, Jim admitted to himself a moment later that he didn't want to leave the Mack and Blair alone. Who knew what trouble they could get into?

The two of them got along so well, both of them thinking at high speed and talking about as quickly. Though Blair probably had sheer volume of knowledge, Mack had a lot more personal knowledge of the culture and customs of Hawaii. Which of course he was telling Blair about in rapid detail. And Blair, ever the academic, was soaking it up, along with a few wild tales of the cases Mack had been involved in. Just as Mack was starting to talk about some male dancing case he'd gotten rather too involved in, one of the bartenders came over and informed Mack that he had a call at the counter.

Mack excused himself and Jim watched him walk away before shaking his head. "How can someone who looks so much like me be so different and have such annoying qualities, like that licorice habit?"

Blair traced the edge of his glass with a finger, a broad grin on his face. "Hey, Jim, you'd better be careful. You and Mack have more in common than you think. We didn't talk a whole lot this morning, but we talked enough. Besides, could those 'annoying qualities' be things that maybe remind you of yourself?"

Jim snorted. "Oh, please!"

Blair held both hands up defensively. "Okay, okay, just an idea, nothing to get worked up about."

Mack reappeared at the table before Jim could do more than throw Blair a disgusted look. Sitting down, Mack glanced at Blair, then at Jim, then asked, "What's just an idea?"

Jim turned his gaze to Mack for a moment, then refocused on Blair. "Name one thing we have in common."

Blair smiled. "Other than the fact that you're both cops and former military, well, you both like to surf."

Mack blinked. "You surf?"

Jim nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do."

Mack took a swig of his drink, then grinned. "Why didn't you say so? I know a few great spots that are fairly empty in the early mornings. I must say I am impressed, Ellison. I didn't expect a cop from Washington to surf. Too cold up in those parts."

Blair interjected. "The cold has never bothered Jim. I think he's impervious." He ducked the open-handed swat Jim sent his way, backing his chair away from the table, chuckling.

Mack laughed. "Well, then, what do you say I show you some places to go tomorrow morning when the surf's up. Don't worry if you're a bit rusty, we'll have you up to speed in no time." He reached across the table and slapped Jim on the shoulder once.

Jim tensed slightly. "Sounds like a challenge, Wolfe."

"It is. You bring your board?"

Jim didn't answer for a moment and Blair held his breath, then Jim nodded. "Yeah, I brought it. And you're on. Name the place and time and I'll be there."

"Deal. Your meetings start at 10, correct?" Jim nodded once, and Mack continued. "Good. I'll meet you out front tomorrow morning at 7." He turned his eyes to Blair. "You gonna be there, too, Chief?"

Eyes crinkling with laughter as he heard Jim's favorite pet name coming out of a different mouth, Blair grinned widely, enthusiasm written boldly across his face. "Oh, yeah, I wouldn't miss this for anything."

***********************************

Blair sat on the sandy beach and shaded his eyes as he watched the two surfers on the waters. From this distance, all he could see were colors. Jim in his blue trunks and Mack in his purple ones. If they'd worn the same colors, who knew if he'd be able to tell them apart. As for himself, he was wearing a pair of dark green trunks, plus a T-shirt. It was still a little chilly outside for his taste.

Grinning to himself at the competitiveness of the two men, Blair stretched out his legs. He closed his eyes and lifted his face to the sky, absorbing the heat from the early morning sun as it poured down on him. He was gonna hate going back to Cascade. He didn't look forward to the rain much anyway, but after this, it would be even harder to take.

He opened his eyes again when he heard Jim and Mack's voices approaching him. About time too. They'd been out there for almost an hour already and hadn't been back to shore yet. Both were grinning and laughing. A good sign, Blair decided. After digging their boards into the sand, they came over and plopped down next to Blair, scrubbing water off their arms and faces.

Blair waited a moment, then asked, "So, anyone winning yet?"

Mack answered, "Ellison's not as out of practice as I thought he would be."

Jim smiled, chuckling. "I did try to warn you, Wolfe."

"How do you stay on the board so well?"

With a small sideways look at Blair, Jim smirked. "Really good balance." Blair's eyes lit up after a second and, for a moment, Jim thought he would say something, but then he only breathed out in a rush and grinned. Visions of balance tests began to dance through Jim's mind and he wondered what he'd just got himself into.

Mack turned to Blair. "So, do you surf, Blair?"

Blair shook his head. "No, never got the chance to learn growing up. Ever since I found out Jim surfed, I've thought about asking him to teach me, but it's always been too busy and too cold."

Jim chuckled, then stood up and grabbed Blair's arm, hauling him to his feet. "Well, then, Chief, I guess it's time you got a lesson or two."

Thus began Blair's indoctrination into surfing. Mack and Jim argued good-naturedly about best techniques, each thinking Blair should do things their way. Blair tried to find a nice, safe middle ground that would keep his sanity intact and the two men even in their competitiveness.

Jim was about to take Blair out further into the water when he heard his cellphone ring where he had it stashed next to their towels. Mack raised an eyebrow. "You brought a cellphone?"

Blair chuckled softly. "Jim doesn't go anywhere without his cellphone. That, and Simon wanted to have a quick way to reach us if need be."

Jim slapped playfully at Blair's cheek, laughing himself. "You two go on. Just be careful." Then he turned and loped back up to where they'd left the towels.

Mack and Blair rolled their eyes and headed out to the deeper water, Blair dragging along Jim's board. Behind them, they heard Jim answering the phone. "Ellison ..... Hey, Simon, what's up...?" Then the roar of the water and the waves blasted out any other sound. Mack got Blair situated on the board and then the real surfing lesson began.

After several dunkings, Blair hauled himself up on the board and just laid on it awhile, letting the waves carry him back to shore. Surfing was a lot more work than he realized. With a glance to shore, he saw Jim still on the cellphone, pacing a little as he talked. Blair smiled and waved, knowing that Jim would be watching. He glanced over to see Mack paddling out further to catch some waves.

Blair called out to him. "Hey, Mack, catch a big one for me." Mack turned slightly and grinned, waving a 'hang-ten' at him. The grin on Mack's face faded a bit and he seemed to be looking at something behind Blair.

Before Blair could ask what the problem was, something bumped into his board, jarring the younger man and almost sending him off the edge into the water. Scrambling, Blair regained his balance, muttering under his breath. Then he turned to push away whatever piece of driftwood or kelp that had knocked into him.

The first thing he saw was the puffy, pasty hand, then the back of a head with its gray hair matted down with sea water. As his mind caught up with his eyes, he registered the man's sodden suit. Stifling, a shout, he tried to back away, only succeeding in falling off the surfboard and into the water. Another wave crashed over him at the same time, smacking the surfboard against his head. He burst back to the surface, spitting out sea water and coughing, gasping for breath. Not really noticing the stinging on his forehead where a cut started to bleed, he made himself grab the board before it drifted too far off, yelling out between coughs. "Mack! Jim!"

He locked desperate eyes on shore, seeing Jim's figure come to an abrupt halt and turn toward the water, latching with his eyes onto Blair's form. The body bobbed at the surfboard again, pushing at it. With jerky movements, he looked at the body again, swallowing hard. There was something familiar about it.... A wave crested and turned the face toward Blair. With a sudden inward lurch and a hard gasp, he realized it was Dr. Kirk. The wave rolled over him and he got another inadvertent mouthful of salt water.

Spitting out the water, Blair inhaled to yell again when a voice came from behind him. "Kid, Blair, come here, you don't need to see this. Come on." It was Mack's voice, he realized. Jim had been too far away yet. With a quick sideways glance, he saw the long strokes of his partner as he swam out to them. A gentle hand pulled on his shoulder, drawing him and the board away from the horrific sight. He let himself be turned and urged onto the board. Mack kept in front of him, blocking out the scene.

As Mack was shoving the board toward shore, Jim arrived, steadying himself against the boards, asking, "What's going on?"

Blair blurted out between coughs, eyes wide and face pale. "There's a body. It's Dr. Kirk, I think." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Oh, man, I think I might be sick."

Jim looked up at Mack, who nodded grimly. "I don't know who it is. But it's not a pretty sight. I saw it a moment too late and couldn't get here before Blair saw." Jim nodded and turned his attention back to Blair, whose coughing up of salt water had finally slowed down a little. He laid a hand on Blair's shoulder, squeezing it warmly.

"Whoa, easy, easy, buddy." He looked back at Mack briefly. "I'll take him back to shore and call the authorities."

Mack said, "Okay. I'll, uh, take care of things here."

Jim nodded and pulled himself onto the board behind Blair. Then with quick and easy strokes, he began heading toward shore, letting the pull of the waves and water aid him. Most of his attention was fixed on his slightly shivering partner, seated in front of him, whose breath was still a little ragged and heartbeat a little fast. Pausing in his strokes, he pulled a hand from the water and laid it on Blair's back, rubbing it a few times in silence, letting his actions speak for themselves. Blair breathed out heavily, shuddering once more and coughing again, then nodded in reply to Jim's unspoken question. Satisfied, Jim pulled his hand away and went back to getting them to shore. Blair slowly uncurled his fingers from the edges of the board and began to help.

***********************************

The blonde woman stepped out of her car and looked around before grabbing her black medical bag and starting toward the sandy beach. She showed her ID to the guard in front of the tape and he nodded politely at her. "Dr. Holliday. Right down there. Lt. Wolfe is waiting for you."

"Thank you." Dr. Dawn Holliday, Holli to her friends and Doc to one particular homicide detective, began making her way to the waterline. She recognized the area immediately as one of the spots Mack liked the surf. She spotted his tall figure at the edge of the shore. He was in swim trunks and a T-shirt. If she remembered right, he was supposed to be on vacation. So much for that idea.

Inwardly glad she was wearing sandals today, she made her way around the few other police officers as she padded through the sand to Mack's side. He turned at her arrival. "Hey, Doc, Dave call you on this one?"

She knelt down on the sand, lifting the yellow tarp. "Yeah. I think he called me just because he heard you were involved in this mess."

Mack joined her on the sand, kneeling beside her. "Just because I surf here doesn't make me involved, Doc." Holli didn't reply to the jab, just stared at the body in silence. Mack touched her arm. "Doc, you all right?"

Holli looked up. "What? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. It's just, well, I know this man, knew him. It's Dr. Hiram Kirk."

Mack nodded. "Yeah, so I've heard. From the drug conference, right?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"The guy that, uh, found the body recognized him."

Holli stood, looking around. "Where was the body found?"

Mack stood as well, gesturing to the water. "Floating in the ocean."

"Is the person who found it still around?"

Mack turned, eyes searching the beach. "Yeah, over there. The guy with the ponytail. He's still a little shook up about it. He didn't exactly find the body; it was more like the body found him. Bumped into him when he was trying to learn to surf."

Holli followed Mack's pointing finger to two men at the further down the beach, both dressed in swim trunks and T-shirts, and sitting cross-legged on a couple towels, a surfboard dug into the sand next to them. The one with the ponytail had his back to her, but the other one was sitting sideways, one hand on the first man's back, rubbing between his shoulder blades. The second man turned his head to meet her eyes even as she looked at them. She blinked, gasping slightly. She looked from the second man to Mack and back again.

Mack chuckled, placing a hand on her back. "Come on, Doc, I'll introduce you to my lookalike."

***********************************

Jim focused back onto Blair, moving his hand up to grip the back of his partner's neck. "Hey, how you doing, buddy?"

Blair took a deep breath and let it out slowly, coughing slightly as residual salt water bothered his system. "Better, I think. It was just a shock. I wasn't expecting --" He broke off and shuddered, closing his eyes.

Jim leaned in toward him, scooting closer. "I know. And I'm sorry. Just remember that you're not alone, okay?"

Blair glanced over at him, a small smile on his face. "Yeah." He paused a moment, then looked down into his lap, picking at the towel under his legs. "Thanks for staying with me. I don't think --"

Jim interrupted him gently. "You're my friend, Blair, I wasn't about to leave you alone to pull yourself together again after that. You know that."

"Yeah, I guess I do. But thanks anyway."

"You're welcome." Jim glanced up again as Mack and Holli got closer to them. He looked back at Blair, moving his hand to Blair's shoulder. "You up to talking? The ME is here and I think she wants to ask some questions."

Jim heard Blair's heart skip a beat as he swallowed hard. Words tumbled out of his mouth. "Questions? But I don't know anything, Jim. Why would she want to talk to me?" He stopped as a coughing fit took him again, much less violent than earlier just after Mack had pulled him onto the surfboard, but it still hurt Jim to see Blair hurting. He lowered his hand back down, rubbing Blair's back lightly, murmuring low words of comfort.

Another voice spoke up, a woman's voice, soft, caring. "Are you okay?"

Jim looked across Blair to see the ME kneel down next to his partner. The cough finally stopping, Blair raised his head, blinking open his eyes. "What? Oh, yeah, thanks, I'm fine." He coughed again, shoving wet hair out of his face, revealing the dried cut on his forehead, wincing when he touched it accidentally. "Just inhaled a good dose of salt water when a wave got too close out there."

She nodded after a moment, then held out a hand. "Dr. Dawn Holliday. I'm the ME."

Blair took her hand, shaking it. "Blair Sandburg. This is --"

Holli turned her attention to Jim. "Detective Jim Ellison. Yes, so Mack tells me." She shook her head. "Simply amazing. The resemblance is astonishing." Jim didn't say anything, just glanced over at Mack where he was talking to another officer on the scene. He looked back at Holli as she turned back to Blair. "Mack tells me you found the body."

Blair nodded. "More or less, yeah. It was, uh, floating, I guess, and bumped into the surfboard I was on. Mack said he saw it a moment before I turned, but couldn't get to me in time."

Holli asked Jim, "And you were where?"

"On shore. I didn't see anything until after Blair yelled for me. I'd been talking on my cell to my captain."

Just then, Simon's voice rang out over the beach. "Ellison!"

Blair laughed. "Speaking of Simon . . ."

Jim sighed, turning slightly to see Simon at the edge of the police tape, his expression caught between concern and annoyance. "Guess I'd better get up there and tell Simon what's going on. I sorta cut him off earlier." He looked back at Blair, touching his arm again. "You gonna be okay?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah, go on before Simon gets into a tizzy."

"A tizzy. I don't think Simon knows what a tizzy is, Chief." Jim squeezed Blair's shoulder one last time, then pulled himself to his feet and walked quickly up the beach to where Simon waited.

Holli watched him go, then said, "Mr. Sandburg . . ."

"Please, call me Blair."

She smiled. "Blair, I, uh, know you don't know me, but I remember you from yesterday morning." He looked at her blankly, and she prompted, "At the drug conference. You talked about Golden."

"Oh, yeah, that." He fidgeted a moment, looking over at Jim who was busy talking to Simon, probably trying to explain that it wasn't their fault. He then looked back at Holli when she laid a hand on his arm.

"You were very brave to go up in front of all those people and talk about what happened to you."

Blair flushed, then shrugged. "Just doing what I can to keep someone else from having to go through what I did. All part of the 'Protect and Serve'."

She frowned. "But Mack says you're not a cop."

He grinned self-consciously, shrugging. "Some days I feel like one, even if I'm not. It's the mind set, I think. Being around Jim and Simon and all the other cops in the station, you sorta get used to it and then one day you wake up and realize you're thinking like they do. Sorta scary, but interesting, in a good way."

Another van, this one labeled 'Morgue', pulled up to the scene. Two attendants got out and started down the slope of the beach with a black wheeled gurney. Blair watched them go past idly, then turned back to Holli, asking hesitantly, "Do you, um, do you know how he died? Did he drown?"

Holli glanced over Blair's shoulder to where the body lay, then shook her head. "No, I don't think so. Mack told me it looked to him like Dr. Kirk had been beaten, then shot and dumped into the ocean. We'll know more after the autopsy."

Blair paled, lips rounding into an 'oh'. He swallowed hard. "But who would want to shoot him? He didn't seem that bad, upset, stressed, maybe even a little rude, and perhaps he let it get the better of him, but ... not so bad that someone would kill him."

Holli cocked her head. "I'm surprised to hear you say that after the incident yesterday morning."

Blair shrugged. "We bumped into each other later in the day. He apologized. He seemed sad to me. Somehow I got the feeling that something bad had just happened to him."

"It did. His son died of an drug overdose last week. Not many knew about it. I don't even think most people even realized he had a son. I found out only by accident. It hit him very hard. I think he'd been trying for years to get his son away from drugs, but it never worked. And when he died, it ended his hope of having his son returned to him healthy and whole."

"That's terrible." Blair paused, looking out over the water, then focused back on Holli, his brow furrowed. "Do you think that maybe it could have something to do with his death?"

"Playing detective, Chief?" Blair looked up and saw Jim and Simon standing next to them. Unfolding his legs, he pushed himself to his feet, letting Jim help him up with a hand under his elbow. Simon did the same for Holli as Jim introduced them.

Jim then looked from Blair to Holli and back. "Now, what's this I hear about something to do with Dr. Kirk's death ...?"

********************

Concluded in Part Three...