Author's Notes: This story is a mostly stand-alone crossover of The Sentinel and Witchblade, though brief references to my other stories will be made. I am sorry this one took so long. While there are plenty of bunnies in the carrot patch, they all hid in their holes for a time. I blame stress. Good news is that the bunnies have finally come out and starting to communicate with me again.

For those unfamiliar with Witchblade, it was a show on TNT based on a comic book by Top Cow. Sara Pezzini is a Homicide detective with the New York City Police. One day a mysterious bracelet called the Witchblade finds its way onto her wrist. It is an ancient, semi-sentient 'object of power', that has been passed down to strong women (and only women) through the ages, including Joan of Arc and Cleopatra. Not only can it change into a gauntlet or a sword when needed, but also provides the bearer with abilities like slowing down time, warnings of danger, and visions of past and possible future events.

For those familiar with the show, this story is set after the second season. This means a season after what the fans dub as 'The Great Rewind', where Sara set time back to before her partner, Danny Woo, was killed. (Yes, I know how that sounds to non-fans, but you had to have been there J ) So for this story, Danny is alive and still Sara's partner, Sara is Jake McCartey's training officer, and Kenneth Irons (a baddie who knows a lot about the Witchblade) is dead -- or is he?

I am not as familiar with the comic as I am the TV show. However, I pulled in a little of what I could find on the internet to fill out the characters. For instance, Jake's name is listed as Jason Chance McCarthy, though the TV series has the last name as McCartey. I'm kinda filling in the blanks a little, and hoping I'm not stomping too hard on canon. If I am, I apologize.

As always, I wish to thank several people. To Zadra, who provides tons of encouragement and plans great road trips; Shallan for pep talks and brainstorming sessions; Toni Rae for lunch get togethers and cover when I need it; Lori Wright for good discussions and beta'ing; Gabrielle for beta'ing, and as always wolfpup, who gives my stories such a happy home, and even comes up with nice title pictures to go with some of them! Go check on some of her art work on my older stories.

Also, many thanks to all the sweet people who email me, even if it's to complain that I haven't posted anything recently!

Please send any comments to spacecloud@juno.com

Enjoy the ride.

Disclaimer: Most of characters are not mine. I'm borrowing them out of deep reverence, affection and respect. I will accept only personal fulfillment, and no monetary gain. If you do sue, you will not get much and I will send over my Black Lab mix, who will stare at you pathetically for hours and probably con you out of all your food.

Please do not reproduce, copy, or otherwise use any part of this story without permission from the author.

Rated PG-13, mostly for language



Cascade, WA

Patrick Chance leaned back heavily in his chair. A fire snapped in the fireplace, sending flickers of light to reflect off the golden cross in his hands. His fingers lovingly traced the ornate metalwork in a long-familiar pattern. For thirty-six years, he had been the cross' guardian. It would feel strange not to have its slight weight around his neck. It had not been taken off since his father willed it to him.

However, Patrick was no longer the spry, strong man who had inherited the family trust. There were days when every hour of his 65 years ached through his bones. The cross needed a strong guardian, a young guardian. One who would accept the responsibility and bear it well. Normally, it was passed on to a son or grandson, but Patrick had no children. While he knew several of his nephews and nieces would fight over his company when he was gone, none of them were worthy of the cross. Every time he went over the list of family members, only one name stood out.

The timing was right. It was his birthday next week and he wouldn't be surprised by a present. He would also recognize the cross. Hopefully, he would accept the treasured possession from a favorite uncle and wear it to please him. Patrick wished he could explain, but tradition dictated otherwise. The new guardian had to find out about the cross on his own.

Slowly, he lifted the gold chain over his head. He stared at the gleaming gold for a long moment. Then he reverently placed it into an oblong box. The box was carefully slipped into a large envelope, addressed to Jason Chance McCartey in New York, New York.


Eight months later, New York, NY

There were times when he was glad to be in New York. This was not one of them.

Detective Jake McCartey was perched on a fire escape of an old warehouse. The January air ruffled his short blond hair, sending its chill straight to his bones. He shifted on the cold metal, tightening his grip on his binoculars. Suddenly, a sneeze tore through him.

"Hey, Rookie. You okay?" The warm voice of Detective Sara Pezzini, his training officer, spoke through his earpiece.

"Yeah," Jake whispered, trying to keep his teeth from chattering. "Just love freezing my ass off for the second night in a row."

Danny Woo, Sara's partner, entered into the conversation. "What, can't handle a little cold, California boy?"

"Definitely wondering why I left." He was also wondering how the skinny Asian man handled the cold better than he could. Must be Danny's Zen mojo, or his New York upbringing.

"You're just wondering that now?" Jake could hear Sara's amusement behind the words. For a moment, the thought of the strong, beautiful brunette took his mind off the cold.

Then Danny's voice shattered the image. "He didn't want to miss out on all our New York fun."

"Well, I have to admit I wish Burbanks would hurry up and pick up his stash of guns. I'd like to bust him with illegal arms AND connect him to the murder of that bike messenger." Sara hadn't liked seeing the young girl sprawled alongside her bike. He hadn't liked it, either. But Jake had noticed how the more experienced detective tended to push harder on cases involving young women.

His mind partly on the conversation and mostly on watching the loading area for their perp, Jake's hand absently found the cross around his neck. The feel of the ornate gold seemed to soothe him. Was that why his uncle had always worn it? Then another sneeze forced its way out.

"You still have coffee left?" Sara inquired.

"Yeah."

"Drink it. It should warm you up."

"Yes, Mom." Jake could almost picture Sara's glare. With one last stroke of the cross, he reached for his thermos.


Next morning, Cascade, WA

Detective Blair Sandburg whistled as his partner drove up to the estate. "Man, this is some setup. There has to be at least fifty rooms."

"Closer to a hundred, Chief." Detective Jim Ellison braked his '69 Ford truck to stop in front of the steps leading to the mansion. Two marble lions guarded the entryway. "The Chance family was one of the original pioneers of this country. Made a lot of money in lumber."

Blair tilted his head up as he stepped out of the truck, trying to see the top floor. "Why exactly are we here? We usually leave home invasion to robbery." He started to climb the steps next to Jim.

"Take another look at the house. Mr. Patrick Chance was critically injured last night, and he's one of the mayor's main contributors."

Tilting his head to the side as he studied a gargoyle, Blair asked, "But still, why us?"

"Because there was a similar robbery at Chance's office, too. They think there's something else going on."

Blair glanced at his partner. "And because the mayor called the commish."

"And because the mayor called the Commissioner," Jim agreed.

"It's tough being popular," Blair chuckled.

The two men walked into the marble lobby. As Blair gawked at the gleaming room, Jim strolled over to the nearest officer. "Hey, Mitchell, getting any sleep with the new baby?"

The young man turned to the senior detective. "Not much, but more than Joanie. They call you and Sandburg on this one?"

"Yep." Jim glanced around, noting the officer on the balcony above and the nervous staff watching from an entryway in the back corner. "Any sign of forced entry?"

"None that we've found yet, and the security is state-of-the-art. Forensics is going over everything right now."

"Where was Mr. Chance found?" Blair queried as he joined them.

"Upstairs in his den. Looks like he was working late and the invaders surprised him."

Jim asked, "Did they go anywhere else?"

"Looks like the master bedroom and the office, but that's it."

"Let's take a look, Chief." Jim led the way up the curving marble stairs.

"You picking up anything yet?" Blair whispered as he studied the smooth railing.

Jim's nostrils flared a moment. "Just lots of cleaner and polish."

Blair chuckled. "I would say that would be suspicious, except in this place." He greeted the officer on the balcony, who directed them to the office.

Serena Chang was pointing at the window as she directed her unit. "Check over there." Then the round-faced woman turned towards them. "Hi, guys."

"Serena," Jim returned, his eyes swiftly taking in the scattered paper, pulled out drawers, torn up loveseat and the white outline by the overturned chair. "What do we have?"

"Mr. Patrick Chance, 66, was attacked at 12:34 am last night."

Blair frowned as he pulled on his gloves. "That's a pretty exact time."

Serena smiled. "The perps broke that mantle clock."

Blair knelt down to look at the clock without touching it. "Man, what a shame. It looks like an antique."

Tilting her head to look at it, Serena commented, "It must have been important to him; he would have had to wind it up every few days."

"Yeah." Blair continued to examine it. "It looks very well cared for."

Ignoring the clock discussion, Jim studied the scene critically. It seemed like the invader had become frustrated and swiped the top of the desk clean. Yet there was one object still on a corner. Jim stepped closer. From the cracks in the glass, the picture frame had apparently hit the floor with the rest of the items. Yet it and it alone had been replaced. Why would it be singled out? Jim turned as he began pulling on his latex gloves. "Serena? Was this on the desk when you arrived?"

"Yes." Serena and Blair both joined Jim at the desk. "I thought that was odd, too."

"Is it cleared to be picked up?" Blair asked.

"Yes, we're done with photos and fingerprints."

Jim lifted the frame from the desk, careful not to disturb the broken glass. Blair lifted up on his toes to examine the picture, too. For a moment they studied the young man with long, blond hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. "Does Mr. Chance have a son?" Blair asked.

"No," one of the forensic officers replied. The dark-haired young woman pushed her glasses back on her nose. "The newspaper did a huge write-up on the Chance family last spring, and it mentioned that Patrick Chance didn't have any kids. Sounds like he had loads of nephews and nieces, though."

Blair smiled his thanks at the girl. "We'll have to check into them, see who matches the picture." He then noticed that Jim was still frowning. "What?"

"He looks familiar," Jim replied. "I just can't place him." Then the senior detective shrugged. "It'll come to me. Serena, give us the reports as soon as you can. The Commissioner has taken an interest."

"Will do," Serena replied.

"Now we better talk with the staff. Serena, can I take this picture with me?"


Next morning, 2:30 am, New York, NY

Sara was tired, but in a good mood as she rode in the back of Danny's car. They had finally caught Burbanks around midnight. The murderer had been processed and was spending the night in a cell where he belonged. It felt good to finish a case without any major roadblocks or weird twists by the Witchblade. While the sentient bracelet protected her and sometimes helped with her investigations, it could also be a damned nuisance.

The ride home was quiet. Considering how exhausting the stakeout for Burbanks had been, Sara wasn't surprised none of them felt like talking. She frowned when she heard Jake, sitting in the front seat, cough. It was a good thing they did finish up tonight; the winter air had apparently turned his sneezes into a chest cold.

Pulling up in front of Jake's apartment building, Danny reached over to shake the dozing man awake. "McCartey, you're home."

"Thanks," Jake softly replied, then coughed again.

As he slowly climbed out of the car, Sara stepped out as well. "Rookie, take something for that cough. And sleep in tomorrow."

Jake cracked a smile, though Sara could tell it took more effort than usual. "Thanks, Mom."

Sara aimed a half-hearted swipe at his shoulder, then turned to sit in the seat Jake had just vacated. By the time she was inside, Jake had disappeared into the building. She was pulling on the seatbelt when she realized she was sitting on something. Lifting her hind end slightly, Sara discovered a wallet.

"What is it?" Danny asked, noting his partner's contortions.

Flipping it open, Sara glanced at the driver's license. "It's Jake's. I better give it to him." She opened the door again.

"It could wait until tomorrow," Danny suggested.

Sara didn't answer. The red stone of the Witchblade had begun to swirl with light. Suddenly, she jumped out of the car and raced up the sidewalk.

"Pez! Pez!" Worried, Danny shifted the car into park so he could follow his partner.


Jake felt like he'd been hit by a bus as he unlocked his apartment door. Exhaustion weighed down his chilled and aching body, emphasizing his sore throat. All he really wanted to do was fall face first into bed. He entered his dark apartment thinking only of sleep.

Closing the door behind him, habit made Jake turn towards the locks. Then the sound of footsteps penetrated the fog in his brain. The young detective jerked away from the body hurling towards him, throwing up his arms for protection. Avoiding the main force, Jake barely noted the tug on his left forearm as he scrambled away from his attacker. He was fumbling for his gun when he was tackled to the floor in front of his TV.

The faint light from his VCR reflected off the serrated hunting knife approaching his face. Using both hands, Jake managed to stop the wrist before it could descend further, but could not push the much heavier man away. The extra weight on his chest made it hard to breathe. Blood dripped from the knife tip onto his neck. The man's other hand gripped around his cross' heavy chain.

Jake stared up into the glaring eyes peering through a stocking mask. He was shocked at the hate in them. "What... You... Want?" he managed to ask.

For an answer, the man increased the pressure on the chain.

Then his front door flew open. "Freeze, Police!" Sara yelled.

The weight on his chest lifted, though the man yanked at the chain again as he stood. Then the intruder raced to the kitchen area and its fire escape, Sara on his heels.

Anger pushed Sara's tired body through the window and down the metal stairs. Anyone who was brazen enough to break into a policeman's home and attack him deserved to be caught. But by the time she had reached the pavement, the attacker was gone. Sara quickly checked both ends of the alley and various doorways, but couldn't find where the perp had disappeared. She glanced at her innocent-looking bracelet. The large red stone embraced by intricate swirls of silver laid dormant. "Oh well," she thought to herself, "At least it warned me that Jake was in danger." She shuddered slightly as she turned back, remembering the vivid images the Witchblade had shown of her junior partner being attacked.

When Sara reentered the apartment, Jake was lying on his back on the couch. Danny was holding Jake's left forearm high above the rest of his body, pressing a dish towel against it. Sara could see blood soaking the cloth around Danny's fingers. When both men looked at her expectantly, Sara could only shake her head. Danny frowned as Jake simply closed his eyes and coughed.

To Sara's questioning look at the towel, Danny replied, "I've already called it in and asked for an ambulance.

"I don't need an ambulance," Jake replied. "I just need some sleep."

"You need stitches," Danny corrected calmly. "This gash is pretty deep."

"Give it up now, Rookie," Sara replied as she studied him. The blond looked too pale for her own peace of mind. "If Danny says you're going, you're going. Trust me, you can't talk him out of it."

"Not that it ever kept you from trying, Pez," Danny replied with a smirk.

Sara pulled the light blanket from off the back of the couch and draped it over Jake's prone body. Sitting on the end by his feet, she asked, "Any idea who it was?"

Jake slowly shook his head. "He was husky, around six-four, six-five, and heavy. He had a stocking over his head. I could see his eyes, but it was so dark, I couldn't tell eye color."

"Did he seem familiar?"

"No." Jake coughed.

"Any idea why he was here?"

Jake again shook his head. "Maybe he wanted to rob me?"

"Then why start in your bedroom when you have a large TV and a full sound system right here?" Danny questioned.

Sara stood back up and walked to the open doorway. She whistled as she inspected the damage. Even Jake's mattress had been sliced open. "What in earth did you have in here?"

Jake shrugged, trying to look nonchalant though his eyes reflected his unease. "Bed. Plants. Alarm clock. Clothes."

Danny shook his head. "No way he'd go to all this trouble for clothes, especially your clothes."

Sara walked back, noting one of Jake's desk drawers had been dumped. "You must have interrupted him." She gently patted Jake's ankle as she retook her seat. "Any idea what he was searching for?"

All she could read from his face was quiet confusion as he shook his head. "I don't have anything anyone would want, except CDs and electronic equipment."

As Jake moved his head, Sara spotted another small wound. "What happened here?" She indicated the thin cut on his neck, surrounded by the faint beginnings of a bruise.

"He grabbed my chain," Jake explained, coughing again. "I'm surprised it didn't break."

"Any other injuries?"

"Other than a couple of bruises, no."

Hearing the faint sounds of sirens, Sara patted Jake's ankle again. "Just relax. We'll figure this out."


Police Headquarters, Cascade, WA

"I'm in charge."

"That's presuming a lot. Uncle Patrick would want me to take over."

"You? The company would be bankrupt within a month of you taking over."

"What, you think you could do better?"

Jim and Blair exchanged looks from across the conference room. The sister, three nephews and a niece of Patrick Chance that could make the meeting had done nothing but fight from the moment they had arrived. Jim had finally had enough. He let out a shrill whistle. When they had all turned to him, he growled, "I don't care who'll run the company, because right now, I'M IN CHARGE."

"But..." started Patrick's sister, Georgette Moore, as she flipped back her long blonde hair.

"No buts." Jim's glare finished off the objections. Then he got down to business. "Do any of you know of any reason why your uncle would be attacked?" Five blank faces stared back at him. "Do any of you know why your uncle's home would be ransacked?"

The oldest nephew, Tyler Chance, replied, "The main house does contain numerous priceless objects."

"As far as we can tell, nothing was taken," Blair softly countered.

"Do any of you know if your uncle has any enemies, either personal or business?"

They all looked at each other. Georgette offered, "I don't think Patrick has any personal enemies. It would have to be business, but I work for my husband's company, so I wouldn't know."

"I have never been involved with the family business," Tyler grumbled.

"That's because Uncle Patrick doesn't like you," Avery Chance sniped. He had yet to give a response that was not dripping in sarcasm. "I think the only one he's let near the business is Paige, so she should know."

"Not really," Paige Chance replied. "Uncle Patrick had me in the reception area last summer, and said I'd have to wait until I got my degree before getting into management. You can probably find out more from his assistant Julie, once she returns from Japan."

"Besides," Georgette's son, Dylan, added snidely, "isn't it your job to find out these things?" He glared at the detectives.

"Don't you what to help find out who attacked your uncle?" Blair returned.

Dylan only shrugged.

"Oh, that would require a depth of feeling lacking in this family," Avery Chance replied.

"How much longer are we going to be here?" Paige interjected. "I've got class in half an hour."

With effort, Jim forced himself not to rub his forehead. These people were giving him a headache. "Just one more thing, Miss Chance." He pulled out the picture that had been placed on the desk, minus the broken frame. "The household staff says this is your cousin, Jason, but none of them could remember his last name or where he's currently living."

Paige glanced at the picture. "Oh, that's Jake, Jake McCartey. Only Uncle Patrick calls him Jason."

As Jim did a double-take, Georgette nodded. "That's him. Jason is his full name. But I don't know where he is." She turned to her son. "Dylan, didn't you call him?"

"Why would I call him?" Dylan asked. "I can't stand him and don't know where he is. What about Avery?"

Avery snorted. "Call the whiner? He's a Californian surfer dude. Probably living out of an ancient van parked along the coast. I doubt he has a phone."

Tyler pulled himself up to his full height. "I'm sure Uncle Patrick has him listed someplace. He just better not have left the company to him. The beach bum would probably put the money into surf boards or some other lame idea."

"His Aunt Bonnie might know," Georgette suggested.

"Or Julie," Paige added. "Do you need anything else?"

"Not right now, but we may need to talk with all of you again," Blair replied. "Please leave your contact information with our administrative assistant."

Once the group had filed out and trooped over to Rhonda's desk, Blair closed the door and looked at his partner. "That was a waste of time. What's with those people? You'd think they'd want to know who attacked their uncle."

Jim shrugged his shoulders. "Most of them are only concerned about controlling the family business. But it wasn't a total lost."

"Meaning the id of the photo? Doesn't sound too promising, since they say he's a beach bum."

Jim chuckled. "Calling Jake McCartey a beach bum is like calling Tiger Woods a duffer."

"What?"

"I knew he looked familiar. Jake McCartey was a champion surfer. Huge name in the sport with a couple national titles under his belt."

"You're kidding?"

"In fact, I saw him compete once down in Maui. Pure poetry on a wave."

Blair blinked as his mind changed directions. "Okay. Can we track him down through... does surfing have a circuit like racing, or just individual competitions?"

Jim shook his head. "That won't help us, Chief. McCartey took a bad spill in the late nineties and got out of the sport. But I can see if I can drum up something through my contacts."

Blair looked at the picture again. "I wonder why McCartey was singled out. There were other pictures still on the floor. Do you think the perp is a fan?"

Jim frowned. "Then why not just take it?"

"Because it wasn't autographed?" Blair joked.

But Jim continued to stare at the picture. "I hope that's all he wanted. By the sounds of it, Tyler Chance thinks McCartey could be one of the major inheritors of the estate. That would make him a good kidnap victim."

"We had a whole room full of potential victims, Jim," Blair pointed out.

"All of whom, as you noted, don't seem to give a damn about their uncle, only the company. If Patrick Chance feels the same way except for McCartey..."

"And if the perp didn't find what he wanted..."

"McCartey could be a target."


Pezzini's apartment, NY

Sara stepped out of the bathroom combing her hair. Glancing at the couch, she noted that Jake was still sound asleep. The poor man had been wiped by the time the ER had stitched up his arm. Knowing that forensics would still be combing through his place and remembering the condition of his mattress, Sara had dragged Jake home with her. Ever the gentleman, Jake had refused to take her bed and had promptly sacked out on the couch with a couple of blankets. In spite of an occasional cough, he seemed to be finally getting some rest, even if it was drug-induced.

Probably just as well; she most likely would have fallen off the couch. The Witchblade had her tossing and turning with flashes of images, ranging from medieval knights, ancient ships, thundering horse chases, and a blond, pre-teen boy whose blue eyes reminded her suspiciously of Jake. While Sara didn't know what was going on, she had a bad feeling her rookie was still in danger.

The phone rang. Sara grabbed it before it could wake up Jake. Walking back into the bathroom, she answered, "Pezzini."

The voice of her captain roared into her ears. "How's McCartey?"

Sara glanced back through the open door. "Still sleeping, sir."

"Doctor take care of his arm?"

"Yes, sir, and prescribed antibiotics and pain meds."

"Good. Woo mentioned that he's been coughing, too. Serious?"

"I don't think so. But that's why I'm letting him sleep."

"Good, good. We've had too many people with Trade Center cough and I don't want to lose McCartey. Especially since you're nearly done training him."

"Yes, sir." That concern had also been in the back of Sara's mind. The fine, semi-toxic dust from the aftermath of the Twin Towers collapse had been hard on a lot of people's lungs. Jake had spent many days volunteering at Ground Zero and had admitted to her that the dust, among other things, had started to get to him.

"Woo said that McCartey has no idea who did this?"

"That is correct, sir. And it didn't seem like a robbery to me."

"I agree. I already have a couple of detectives looking into McCartey's cases. I also want you and Woo, especially you, to think if there's anyone out there who may try to get to you through McCartey."

Sara had wondered that herself. "Yes, sir."

"Next question, do you think McCartey could be doing something on the side?"

Sara's back straightened as her emerald eyes narrowed. "Jake's clean, sir."

"That's an awfully nice apartment on a cop's salary."

"He has money from his surfing days. And it's not extravagantly furnished."

"I know, I know, but until the we can pin this down, the question will come up."

Sara sighed. Cops always seemed to be under suspicion. While 9-11 had significantly improved their image, the accusation of 'bad cop' still could rise all too easy to the surface.

"In the meantime, I want you to keep an eye on him. I've got a bad feeling this isn't over."

"Me, too, sir."

As Sara disconnected, she could hear another soft ring. She was frowning at the receiver in her hands when the second ring came distinctively from the other room. Darting out the door, she found Jake sitting up and answering his cell phone.

Sara turned towards her kitchen area in order to give her houseguest some privacy when Jake suddenly jumped to his feet. "What! Is he okay?... What are his injuries?... Which hospital?" Sara turned back, worried, as she watched Jake start to pace as he listened. "The cops want to talk with me? Do you know why?... Yeah, Georgette's rarely full of information unless it's about her." Jake dropped back to the couch as he rubbed his face. "Yeah, I'll fly out the minute I can get a flight... I'll work it out... No, Aunt B, if there's someone running around with a knife, I'd rather you stay in California... Thanks for calling me, and I'll let you know what I find out... Bye, Aunt Bonnie."

As Jake hung up the phone, Sara repeated, "Running around with a knife? What's going on?"

"The Hell if I know," Jake replied. He closed his eyes as he coughed. Sara realized he was almost as pale as he had been the night before. "Apparently, my uncle Pat was attacked in his home by someone with a knife. He's currently in ICU."

"Damn, Jake." Sara walked over to lay a hand on Jake's shoulder. "Could this be related to your attack last night?"

"I don't know. Aunt Bonnie didn't have any details. She only found out this morning from one of my aunts on the Chance side. But considering the Cascade cops are interested in me, I'm not ruling it out."

"Cascade?" Sara asked.

"Cascade, Washington. That's where most of my mom's family lives. Uncle Pat runs the family's logging and lumber business. He's always been real good to me." Jake looked up into Sara's face. "I just don't get it. Everyone respects Uncle Pat, and he's getting up there in years. He's even thinking about retiring. I think the only reason he hasn't done it yet is because he's waiting to give my cousin Paige time to finish school and get some experience before handing the reins over to her."

"Nobody else in the family who could run it?" Sara asked.

Jake gave a hard laugh that ended up in a cough. "Lots of contenders. Mom was one of six kids, and they've all had one to four kids except Uncle Pat. But most of them you wouldn't want to run an ice cream stand, let alone Chance Industries."

"What about you?" Jake had never mentioned anything about his family before, so Sara was curious.

"He's offered me a job a few times, but it's not what I want to do. He understands that." Jake looked back down at his hands. "I could barely hold that guy off last night. If it's the same one... Man, Pez, he's like a second father to me. I've got to get there."

Sara squeezed his shoulder. "Let's call up the captain, then see about getting you a flight."


Police Headquarters, Cascade, WA

"Sandburg! Ellison! My office!"

Jim and Blair shared a 'what did you do now?' look, then walked into the office of their captain, Simon Banks. As they stood in front of the tall man's desk, Blair enquired politely, "Yes?"

"Yes, sir, to you," Simon reminded him as he leaned back and waved at the chairs. Once Jim and Blair were seated, he placed his unlit cigar in the ashtray. "You're still looking for that McCartey guy for the Chance case, right?"

Jim nodded. "One of my contacts says he's on the east coast, but wasn't sure where."

Simon grinned widely. "Now, guess who I just talked to?"

Jim gave a slight shrug, trying to hide a smile. Obviously, Simon was a step ahead of them and enjoying himself. "No idea."

"A homicide captain from New York City."

Blair's eyes grew wide. "Jake McCartey was murdered?"

Simon glared at him. "No, Jake McCartey is one of his detectives."

Blair's eyes grew wider. "The surfing heir's a detective?"

"Sounds like he's a better class than the rest of them, Chief," Jim remarked.

"And he almost was a murder victim," Simon inserted. "His captain said that McCartey was attacked last night in his apartment by a man with a knife. If he hadn't accidentally left his wallet in the car, and if his training officer hadn't run up to give it back to him, he could have been victim number two."

"Man, what are the chances of two people in the same family being knifed in their homes within two days?" Blair asked.

"Pretty good if they're connected," Jim replied. "How willing is the New York PD to work with us?"

"Very good. His captain says they've lost too many people already and don't want to lose any more." Jim and Blair exchanged glances. They could only imagine how much the NYPD was still hurting after 9-11. "He promises me that one of his other detectives, Danny Woo, will be contacting you soon with what they have at their end."

"Can we talk to McCartey?" Blair asked.

Simon nodded. "McCartey is flying out to see his uncle."

"He could still be a target," Jim pointed out. "The fact that someone had singled out McCartey's picture before he was attacked could mean there's some connection there we haven't made yet."

"Which is why his captain is sending McCartey's training officer with him. Says Pezzini is one of his best."

"Still, we better figure out what's going on." Jim glanced between his captain and partner. "Let's get to work, Chief."


Airport, NY

Danny handed Jake a duffle bag. "I tried to pull together what I could find."

"That's okay," Jake replied. "I'm sure it wasn't easy with the mess."

Sara examined the rookie a moment. He was too quiet. Meeting Danny's eyes, she could tell her long-time partner was thinking the same. Deciding to give the two men a chance for some 'guy talk', she waved towards the restroom signs. "I'm taking a break, be back in a few."

Once she stepped back out, a lean man in a long, black wool coat caught her attention. She rolled her eyes. Ian Nottingham was the last thing she wanted to deal with, but she better do it now. She walked over and glared at him. "What are you doing here? You can't get past security without a ticket." She waved at the line where Danny and Jake were holding her place.

"Security is barely a hindrance when the reward is to see your beautiful face, Lady Sara," Ian replied, glancing at her before returning his gaze to the floor.

"Nottingham," Sara growled. "What do you want?"

"I do not understand why you're taking this trip. McCartey is a big boy who can take care of himself."

"Jake got sliced last night by a large man with a big knife. I'm going along to make sure that doesn't happen again."

"You should concentrate on what the Witchblade wants, Sara. That is your main concern."

Sara took a step closer. "My main concern is protecting my partner. And the Witchblade agrees. It warned me last night and it's still twitching."

Ian lifted an eyebrow. "Did it warn you because of what it wants, or what you want?"

"Maybe we both want the same thing. Something is going on here, and Jake is right in the middle of it. He's not leaving my sight." As Sara spoke, she glanced back at the line to make sure they weren't ready for her yet. When she turned back, Nottingham was gone. "Damn him," Sara muttered.

"Was that Nottingham?" Danny had joined her, looking around. "Where did he go?"

"Who cares," Sara sighed.

"You know, Pez," Danny slowly began. "I'm beginning to think that guy's stalking you."

"Really?" Sara replied snidely. "What was your first clue?"

Danny was used to weathering her moods, but he wasn't ready to let this one go. "You should report him."

"Wouldn't do any good, and he won't hurt me. He thinks he's protecting me."

"Still you should think about it," Danny returned. "Just because he won't hurt you doesn't mean he won't hurt someone close to you."

Sara turned to stare at her partner. "He wasn't the one who attacked Jake last night."

"No," Danny agreed readily. "Jake would have recognized him. But you didn't see the glare he shot at Jake and I before he disappeared. He's jealous, and your partners make good targets."

Sara sighed. "I'll think about it."

"That's all I ask," Danny replied. "And in the meantime, keep an eye on Jake, will ya? These last few months have been rough on all of us, and he's more worn out than he'll admit."

"I know."

Danny pointedly looked everywhere except at her. "Do you really? You always run off on your own. I spend as much time with him as you do."

"Danny," Sara started.

"I don't know what's going on with you, Pez, though I think your stalker's part of it. But right now Jake needs your concentration."

"And I will." Sara stepped closer so that she could look Danny in the face. "I'll take care of him." She glanced over to see Jake waving at her. "I'd better get in line. Just call me if Sherry delivers before we get back."

A small but proud smile stretched across Danny's face, as it always did when someone mentioned his wife and their baby on the way. "I will."

A couple of hours later, Sara and Jake were in their seats, stretched out as much as possible in economy class. The plane was only half full, so they managed to be across the aisle from each other.

As the stewardesses prepared for take off, Sara studied her junior partner. Jake was staring at the seat in front of him, looking both intense and exhausted. She wasn't used to seeing that much worry in the Californian's face. Usually, Jake was pretty laid-back, trying hard to do a good job and not put his foot in his mouth as he inevitably did. Now he looked older, more worn out than she'd ever seen him. Sara leaned over and laid a hand on his arm. "You doing okay?"

Jake nodded, not really looking at her.

"Do you need a pain pill?"

Jake shook his head as he finally turned to her. "Danny nagged me to take one before we went through security."

"How's the cough?"

"I'm still congested, but the cough syrup's working."

Unable to say much else, Sara patted his arm. "Try to get some sleep."

"You too, Mom."

Sara rolled her eyes at the annoying nickname. Jake went back to staring at the seat. Once the plane was in the air, Sara did drift into sleep. Hidden beneath her sweater, the red stone of the Witchblade lit with swirling light.

~FLASH~

A man in armor was clasping the hand of another young man, dressed in a tunic befitting a lord. "It must be guarded, until such time when it is needed."

"I pledge that it will be done, brother."

~FLASH~

A century later, a young man was hiding behind barrels on a wooden dock. Black-hooded men were entering the building in front of him. Silently, he grasped a rope and climbed into the nearby ship.

~FLASH~

A man laid under a tree, his Yankee blue uniform drenched in blood. A younger man in the same uniform knelt beside him, tears running down his face. The dying man was pulling at his collar.

~FLASH~

A rider on a pinto rode hard across a western landscape, leaving behind him a cloud of dust. In the distance were others chasing him.

~FLASH~

A blond boy slowly climbed out of a car, staring at the rundown house. The sun was close to the horizon, the sky beginning to deepen in color. "Tyler, what is this place?"

A tall, dark-haired teenager turned back, his blue eyes flashing with annoyance. "It's the old Craddock place."

"It's haunted," added another teenager. Slightly younger, the blond had similar features as the older boy.

"Haunted?" the first boy repeated, looking scared. "Then why are we here?"

"Hey, you're the one who wanted to come with us," Tyler replied. "You've been following Avery and I around like a lost puppy since you arrived last week." He walked towards the house.

"Yeah, Jakie, be careful what you wish for," Avery snidely remarked, following Tyler.

The boy, who did look scared and lost, followed the older boys. "But why are we here?"

Avery laughed, sounding disillusioned. "Why are any of us here?"

Inside the house, the gloom deepened, throwing shadows across the room. The oldest boy led them through what once had been a front parlor. Dust clung to ancient drapes. A chair with a broken leg laid on its side, its color indistinguishable. In the room beyond was a library. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases were built into the walls, some of the shelves knocked off-kilter. The boy could see holes in the floor.

"Yep, there's the book." Tyler leaned forward towards the bookcase on the other side of the room, though he didn't move from the doorway. "Robinson Crusoe, just like the copy I ruined from the library. We just need to grab it, clean it up, and old Mrs. Reeves won't know the difference."

"Yeah, but do we want to walk across that floor?" Avery asked.

Suddenly, Tyler looped an arm around the boy. "That's where Jake comes in. He's light; he can walk across and get the book for me."

"You sure?" Jake asked, warily studying the floor

"Sure. You poor relations have to earn your keep somehow, right? Consider it your initiation."

Jake flinched at the comment about poor relations, then looked up at the bigger boys, blue eyes wide. "Won't the ghost mind?"

Tyler laughed. "Good one, kid. Now go get it." He gave the smaller boy a hard shove.

Jake stumbled a step, but continued to proceed across the floor. He was about half way when a loud ~crack~ echoed through the room. "Oh, oh." Jake uttered before the floor gave way underneath him.

The boy fell to the floor below, dust and boards raining down on him. Once everything had stopped falling, Jake slowly climbed back to his feet, blood flowing from his elbows and knees. Shaking a little as he held one arm against his stomach, he coughed out, "Tyler? Avery?" When there was no response, the boy swiped at the blood welling from his cheek and called louder, "Tyler, Avery, HELP!" The only answer was the faint sound of a car motor driving away.

Sara jerked awake. Then she glanced across the aisle, reassuring herself that Jake was still there, staring at the seat in front of him. She had no doubts that the young boy in the last vision had grown up into the man beside her.

The need to protect surged through her. Who were Tyler and Avery? Her impression was that they were somehow related to Jake. She didn't have any cousins or siblings, but she knew of abandonment and the desperate need to fit in. A part of her wished that she had been there, backing Jake as she did now. Yet Jake apparently had found a way out, in order to be sitting beside her. Why did the Witchblade show her that incident? How was it important?


Kenneth Irons' Mansion, New York ,NY

Confusion filled Ian Nottingham as he paced his master's favorite den. Everywhere he looked, memories of Kenneth Irons flashed through his mind. While he believed that the powerful man was finally gone for good, a part of Ian still couldn't accept it. All his life Irons had educated him, ordered him, controlled him. He had served his master for so long, Ian was uncertain how to carry on without his orders. "You taught me how to handle every possible contingency except this one, Father," he muttered into the air.

The only thing Ian had left to cling to was his loyalty to the Witchblade and Sara. He stopped moving to stare at his father's portrait. Irons' obsession with the relic had become his, though Ian saw his role as more protective, less controlling than the one his master had desired. But how could he protect Sara when she was on the opposite coast? She had never left the city before. Just because the threat from Kenneth Irons was gone did not mean there weren't other enemies of the Witchblade sitting in wait for the current wielder.

Should he stay here and continue the struggle to keep Irons' company together, or should he follow his Lady Sara to Washington? Which would his master chose? Or more exciting, what did he want to do?

For a moment, Ian relished the fact that it was his decision. He turned away from his father's portrait and made it. His loyalty was no longer split between Irons and the Witchblade's current wielder. He was following Sara to Cascade.


Later, Ellison's truck, Cascade, WA

"Man, Jim, none of this is making sense." Blair slapped the folder in his lap closed. "Both Chance's office at work and home were ransacked, but nothing was taken. He and his nephew were victims of similar attacks, but McCartey is way across the country and there were tons of easier victims to reach here. Nor does McCartey have any ties to Chance's business, so a business connection seems remote. Kidnapping seems rather pointless, considering Chance is still in ICU and in no condition to pull together a ransom. Did you get anything from that detective from New York?"

"Not much," Jim replied as he drove. "Detective Woo said they've been on stakeout for the past three nights, so that rules out McCartey taking any trips here. In fact, Woo said they've all been working overtime with everything's that happened."

"Yeah," Blair agreed. "I can't even imagine what it must be like for them."

"It's hard for any group to lose that many people, but how they lost them..."

A solemn silence reined for a moment, both thinking of how it would be if Cascade had been the target. Then Jim shook off the mood. "Woo said that McCartey apparently interrupted the perp tossing his place. Pezzini chased him out the fire escape, but lost him on the street."

"So it seems that someone is searching for something," Blair quietly concluded. "Something that Patrick Chance was more likely to send to his nephew, the surfer-turned-cop, than anyone else in the family. What could it be?"

"Don't know, Chief. Maybe McCartey has an idea." Jim pulled into the parking lot for Cascade Memorial.

As they walked into the waiting room for ICU, Jim immediately scanned the area. Down the hall, he spotted a blond man standing by the glass outside Chance's room. McCartey's hair was a lot shorter than the picture, but he still had the lean, broad shoulder, muscular build. Worry filled his face as he stared through the window. At least someone cared that Patrick Chance was injured. A soft cough suggested why the young man wasn't in the room. Probably didn't want to pass his germs to his uncle.

"Whoa," Blair breathed next to him. Jim snapped his attention to the waiting room, wondering what had caused that response from his partner. Then he spotted the beautiful woman sitting in a corner, idly flipping through a magazine. Brown hair flowed past her shoulders, framing a square, elegant face. Green eyes, tired but alert, spotted them. She rose from the chair with the grace of a cat to walk over to them.

"Man, I'd like to get to know her better," Blair whispered.

Jim hit him on the back, out of view of the woman. "That's probably Pezzini, the New York cop. She'd break you into pieces at the first rude suggestion."

"Yeah, but what a way to go," Blair grinned, unperturbed.

Sara had seen them enter the room. The tall, muscular man with short brown hair was easily recognizable as a fellow cop. Admittedly, the shorter one with the long hair didn't fit the profile, but the two men walked together like a team. She decided she should find out if these were the men assigned to Jake's uncle's case. Standing up, she started their way when suddenly, a huge jungle cat appeared in front of her. "What in hell?" she thought as she faltered a step. Then the black feline turned and jumped. Sara blinked as the cat disappeared into the taller man. Wondering what the Witchblade was trying to tell her, she continued across the room. "Hello, I'm Detective Sara Pezzini."

The shorter man greeted her with a warm smile and a handshake. "Detective Blair Sandburg." He glanced at his partner, who was staring at Sara's bracelet. Sara tried not to show her unease as Sandburg elbowed the other man.

The tall man blinked, then turned his gaze to her face. "Detective James Ellison."

Sandburg gave his partner another strange look before continuing, "Welcome to Cascade, though I wish it was under better circumstances."

Sara returned his rather infectious smile. "Thank you. Actually, I'm kinda happy to see something besides New York, but it's hard on my partner. Any idea who did this?"

"We're still digging, but we suspect the attacks on McCartey and his uncle are related," Jim replied. "We'd like to talk with him."

"Talk with me?" Jake had walked up to them. Sara quickly introduced him. Jim frowned. McCartey looked worse close up.

Blair, too, noticed how tired the fellow detective appeared. "Hey, I bet you two are exhausted, between the long flight and the time change. You have a place to stay?"

Jake slowly shook his head. "Afraid I haven't thought that far ahead." He coughed hard.

"We'd appreciate suggestions," Sara admitted.

"I have some friends who own a small hotel," Blair offered. "Being off-season, I'm sure they've got space and it'll be reasonable. Let me give them a call."

As Blair turned away and walked towards the phone, Jim gave the New York detectives a friendly smile. "It's a nice place. But I have to warn you; Bill and Marcy are old friends of Blair's mom from her flower child days. Each room has been Feng Shui'd and contains a homeopathic remedy bar."

"A what bar?" Sara asked, baffled.

A small chuckle that quickly turned into a cough rolled from Jake. "I'll explain later. Sounds like something I'd expect from home."

"California, right?" Jim asked.

"Yeah." Jake coughed again. "I grew up near San Diego."

Blair walked back. "All set! Then tomorrow, we'll pick you up for breakfast."

"Sounds good," Sara replied.


After making sure the New York detectives had arrived safely at the inn, Jim reached for his radio. He put in a request for an extra patrol in the area, then started the truck. As he pulled away from the curb, Blair asked, "You afraid whoever attacked him in New York could be back here?"

"Not out of the question," Jim replied. "It doesn't sound like the attacker's found what he's looking for and certainly has no problem with transcontinental travel. Besides, McCartey looks like he could use a good night sleep without perps with knives interrupting it."

"Yeah." A comfortable silence filled the cab for a moment. "Ah, Jim, what's with you and Pezzini? When most guys are confronted with a beautiful woman, they usually stare at her face or her chest, not her wrist."

"Most beautiful women don't have bracelets that wink at me."

"WHAT?" Blair turned as much as the seatbelt allowed. "What do you mean, it winked at you?"

Jim shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "That big red stone suddenly developed an eye and it winked."

"Jim, stones don't wink."

"That one did."

"Maybe Jake isn't the only one who needs sleep."

Jim shot him with an icy glare.


Sara leaned back into the pillow, staring up at the ceiling. The MacIntyres turned out to be warm and friendly, fussing over Jake's cold and providing hot tea to chase the night chills away. Even nicer, the price had not been nearly as bad as she had feared. Mr. MacIntyre explained that they were just happy to have guests this time of year. She also suspected Sandburg's recommendation and the fact that they were New York cops helped, too. Sara wasn't sure what to make of all the sympathy coming from around the country. She was used to protecting her city without so much as a 'thank you' from anyone. For her partner, however, she'd accept the extra nice touch.

Too bad there wasn't time to talk with Ellison and Sandburg about the case. Both had struck her as competent, and she appreciated how fast they picked up on Jake's exhaustion. However, once a detective, always a detective. She wanted to find out what was going on and who was threatening Jake. Then she'd figure out why there was a black jungle cat jumping into Ellison.

Finally, she drifted off to sleep.


~Flash~

Young Jake walked up to the front steps of a large, white house. A policeman walked beside him, hand firmly on his shoulder. When the front door opened, a tall blond man looked at the cop and then the boy. "What is this?"

"I found him walking along side the road on Waterview drive," the cop explained. "He said he's staying here?"

The man shot the boy an angry look. "We're stuck with him until his mother gets back from Africa. What kind of trouble is he in?"

"No trouble," the officer assured him. "Just that it's dark and he was a long way from home."

"I'll take care of it, Officer." As the boy limped into the entryway, he spotted his two older cousins lounging in the living room, looking like they'd been there all evening. Then the man closed the door and turned to him. "What in the world were you doing out this time of night?"

Jake flinched. "I'm sorry, Uncle Paul, but Ty..."

"Sorry? Sorry? You had to be escorted home by a POLICEMAN! This is a proper neighborhood. Policemen do not come to this house. I will not tolerate this nonsense."

"But..."

"You are grounded for the next two weeks. You will go to your room and stay there. You will not be allowed out of the house. Why on earth your mother thought marrying that trash McCartey was a good idea..."

As the boy turned to get away from his angry uncle, Avery walked past him, roughly bumping his shoulder. "You were going to rat on us, little boy? Just wait until we're done and you'll wish you'd stayed with the ghost."

Moving as fast as he could, the boy climbed the stairs to a tiny, mostly bare room. He sat on the bed, wrapping his arms around his middle. He stared at his backpack lying on the dresser.

~Flash~

Another tall blond man pulled up near a guard house. A heavy man in a uniform walked out to meet him, holding off the drenching rain with an umbrella. "Sorry to bring you out in this weather, Mr. Chance."

The blond man looked up at him. "Moira said you mentioned something about a McCartey?"

The guard nodded. "Yeah, we found a kid walking along the road who says his name is Jake McCartey, and he's looking for you."

"I think my sister Janet's son goes by Jake, but he's only twelve and lives in California."

"Well, the age is about right. Poor kid's soaked to the skin, so Todd has him sitting by our space heater talking baseball. Kid's a Padres fan, and that's a California team."

"Sounds about right," Patrick frowned. He started to open the car door.

"One more thing, Mr. Chance." As Patrick paused, the guard leaned lower. "I think that kid's hurt. He was limping pretty good before he saw us, and he's got a nasty looking scrape on his cheek. He's also scared."

The two men exchanged looks, then Patrick got out of the car to dash through the rain to the guardhouse. On a stool was Jake, hair plastered close to his head and the scrape an angry red against his pale skin. He looked up at Patrick with big, blue eyes. Scared eyes.

~Flash~

"...so after that, I thought that maybe I'd take a bus back home. But I didn't have enough money, so then I remembered how you usually send me some money for my birthday." Jake paused, face turning red in embarrassment. He was wrapped up in a fluffy blue blanket as a lean African American man worked on cleaning up his knees. A fireplace held a cheerful fire, sending an occasional snap through the room. "I thought that, well, maybe, you could, you know, lend me the rest? I only need eight more dollars." Jake looked up at Patrick, sincerity shining in his eyes. "I promise I'll pay you back. Mrs. Montgomery gives me five bucks to mow her lawn, and I'll send it to you every week until I've made good."

Patrick gave him a gentle smile. "We'll work that out later, Jason." He paused, thinking. "Did Paul or Lucinda look at your injuries last night or this morning?"

Jake shook his head. "Uncle Paul was too busy yelling at me. And Aunt Lucinda, well, she sometimes acts funny, you know?"

"I can guess," Patrick muttered under his breath.

Then a large woman, red and gray hair pinned in a bun, entered with a tray. "Here you go. Chicken soup and hot chocolate."

"Thank you, ma'am." Jake replied politely.

"Just call me Moira, child. That's what your uncle calls me."

As Moira set up the tray, Patrick nodded his head towards the door. The other man followed him out. Once they were into the hall, Patrick asked, "Thanks for coming out, Dave. I appreciate it."

"Any time, Pat, you know that."

"How bad is he?"

Dave gave him a comforting smile. "He's definitely scraped up and bruised, and I pulled some pretty large splinters out of his knees and arms. But all in all, I'd say he came off lucky."

"Those knees looked pretty swollen."

"Well, if he'd broken anything, I doubt he could have walked from the bus stop to the guard house. However, all that walking hasn't helped -- I suspect that's why they're so swollen. It's amazing the kid made it that far. He has to be hurting."

"I know, and he shouldn't have been walking at all. But I can't blame him for getting out of there."

Dave nodded gravely. "What's up with Paul? Or his boys for that matter."

Patrick shook his head. "Paul always felt Janet married beneath her. Didn't matter that McCartey was a highly decorated soldier; he wasn't good enough for a Chance. Sounds like Paul's attitude has infected Tyler and Avery."

"Then why did Janet leave Jason with him and Lucinda?"

"I don't know. I don't think Janet realized Paul would take out his hate of McCartey on Jason. Though I suspect that when duty calls, Janet tends to dump him at the handiest location. I've been out of town the past two weeks, Georgette's in France, Michael's in the middle of his second divorce, and Larry's moved to D.C. to work for the senator." Patrick glanced back into the room, watching Moira comb Jake's unruly hair. "It scares me to think that with eight more dollars, that boy could be sitting on some bus all on his own heading south to an empty house."

Dave laid his hand on Patrick's shoulder, his eyes reflecting his concern. "What are you going to do now, old friend?"

"Well, if Janet sent him to Cascade, it means she ran out of options in California. And he's certainly not going back to Paul's. I've always suspected Lucinda's a drunk, and if those boys pulled something like this once, I'm not taking the chance they'll do it again. Next time, Jason might not be so lucky." He looked at his friend. "He's staying here."

Dave nodded, a smirk indicating he had seen it coming. "Then I prescribe a week of rest and light activities. Elevate and ice his knees. I'll also leave an antibiotic and something for the pain. Allow the swelling to go down, and he'll be back to normal before you know it."

Moira walked out of the room. "I'll see how the preparation for Jason's room is coming along."

Patrick stared at her. "How'd you..."

She patted his cheek. "You're a good man, and that sweet boy needs someone to care about him for a change." Dave could only chuckle as she walked away.

Sara slowly woke up to weak sunshine trying to find a way around the blinds. Again, she felt as upset as Patrick had been over what had happened to young Jake. It explained why Jake was so devoted to his uncle. Did that bond transfer some of Patrick Chance's troubles to his nephew? It was time to find out.


Ellison and Sandburg met them at a diner down the street for breakfast. McCartey looked much better after a night's rest, though Jim's sensitive hearing could tell his lungs were still congested. Dressed in a blue, long-sleeve T-shirt, jeans and a well-worn leather jacket, the young man didn't look like a Chance heir. Jim liked him already.

He could tell Blair did, too. A familiar box was set on the table. "Hey, McCartey, just order hot water for tea. I brought my Uncle Obie's Special Blend number 3. He swears by it for colds."

As Sara lifted an eyebrow and Jake studied the box, Jim added, "Blair gave some to an old Ranger friend of mine, and Vin still asks Blair to ship it to him."

Jake smiled as he opened the box. Sara simply sat back. "Army Ranger?"

"Yep." Pezzini was definitely sharp as well as beautiful. She also looked tough. Jim suspected she could more than keep up with the boys.

Waiting until after they had ordered, Blair started the questioning. "First, do you know how we could reach your mother? We've been trying to touch base with anyone with a connection to the estate."

As Sara lifted an eyebrow at the word, 'estate', Jake shook his head. "My mother's with Doctors Without Borders. Last I knew, she was in Bosnia." Sara shot him another puzzled look. Jim could tell that she had been unaware of Jake's mother's occupation.

"Really?" Blair scribbled a note on his notepad. "My uncle has worked for them, too."

"Uncle Obie?" Jake asked, waving at the box.

"Yep, that's him. I can give him a call and see if we could get word to her that way."

"I'd appreciate it," Jake replied. He took a sip of water before asking, "Do you have any leads?"

"Right now it's more a process of elimination," Blair replied.

Jim entered into the conversation. "Our main lead at the moment is that the attacks on you and your uncle appear to be related."

"It could be a coincidence," Sara pointed out, though her own voice reflected her doubt. "Do you have any evidence?"

"Everything on Patrick Chance's desk at home had been swept off, probably in a fit of rage," Blair replied. "However, the perp then picked up a picture of you, McCartey, and placed it back on the desk."

"Call me Jake," the blond requested absently as he sat up straighter, eyes narrowing as his brain processed the information.

"Blair," the fellow detective responded in kind.

Jim continued, "You were attacked in the same manner the following night. That's why we suspect a connection."

"Makes sense, except I have no idea why anyone would want to attack either Uncle Pat or me. At first, we thought my attack might be robbery or because of a case I worked, but why would they go after my uncle?"

"And the attack on your uncle was before yours." Sara was tapping her fingers against her coffee cup. "Was Mr. Chance's home searched?"

Blair nodded. "Home and office. But nothing was taken. We suspect the perp wanted something specific, but didn't find it."

Sara frowned. "I talked with Danny this morning. They've been keeping an eye on Jake's place, but no one disturbed it last night."

"So either the guy found what he was looking for, is waiting, or decided to look someplace else," Blair concluded.

"Has your uncle sent you anything recently?" Jim asked.

Wearily, Jake shook his head. "We usually correspond by email."

"Has he mentioned if he was going to send you something?"

"No."

"I'll have Danny keep an eye on Jake's mail," Sara added, "Just in case."

Blair leaned forward. "Has he mentioned anything troubling him? Any personal or business problems?"

"No. I've gone through every conversation we've had recently, and he hasn't mentioned anything that raised flags." Jake coughed, took a sip of tea, then added, "He might not have wanted to worry me."

"How often do you talk?" Jim asked.

"A few emails a week and a phone call about once a month. Although, I've probably called him more since 9-11. And we've discussed that a lot lately. I think he knows I needed someone to talk to who wasn't in the middle of the mess. But otherwise, we just talk about sports, cars, weather, the usual."

"What about family?" Blair queried.

Jake smirked. "Not if we can avoid it."

Jim matched the smirk. "Understandable. We've been contacting them, and even had a few of them into the station yesterday morning."

"Who?" Jake asked, curious. "I'm guessing Georgette, since she was the one who called my aunt."

Jim nodded. "And her son, Dylan, along with Tyler, Avery and Paige Chance."

"I'm sorry," Jake replied sincerely.

"Sorry?" Sara turned to Jake, recognizing two of the names from her vision.

Jake sighed. "Trust me, Pez, if you can avoid meeting them, you're better off."

"I'd say you're doing well in that department," Blair remarked. "None of them even knew where you lived."

"Good." Jake replied. Seeing Sara's puzzled look, he explained, "I've never gotten along very well with most of them, especially Tyler and Avery. They're all trying to juggle themselves into Uncle Pat's good graces so they can get control of the company, and I refuse to put up with their nonsense. They worry that I've got an inside track, even though I've told them I don't want it."

"Do you think one of them would take the next step and hurt you or your uncle?" Blair asked.

Jake thought a long moment. Sara could almost see the wheels spinning. Then he looked up and shook his head. "I honestly don't think so. None of them would want to jeopardize their chances with Uncle Pat, or risk losing their monthly income from the company. But then, I rarely see them. I grew up in California, and have never had a lot of contact with them."

"Do you receive an income from the company?" Jim asked.

"No. I'd rather make my own way."

Jim nodded in understanding. "Do you have any enemies?"

"Nobody that matches the guy who attacked me." Jake stopped talking while the waitress delivered the food.

After everything was settled, Blair asked, "What are your plans for today?"

Jake shrugged. "First the hospital. Then..." He looked up at the detectives. "I know I'm WAY out of my jurisdiction, but I'd like to help."

Jim and Blair looked at each other a moment. Then they turned back to McCartey. "We do have some crime scene photos you could look at, if it's not too hard," Blair suggested.

"You know your uncle better than we do," Jim added. "Since there seems to be a connection to what happened here and in New York, perhaps you can see something we haven't." Jim jabbed his eggs with his fork. "In the meantime, do you mind going over what happened at your apartment?"


Outside the diner, Ian Nottingham watched as the two pairs of detectives left. His eyes lingered on Sara. She was so magnificent. He couldn't imagine a finer woman to wield the Witchblade.

Then a shock of recognition ran through him. James Ellison was here? He hadn't seen him since his military days. The Army captain had been one of the few men who could almost keep up with Ian and his fellow Black Dragons. What was he doing with Sara and her partner?

Ian frowned. It was so much easier to keep up with Sara and do research back in New York. This city felt so strange to him, foreign territory. Now adding in Ellison, he was going to have to be even more on guard.


The rental car was loaded with silence as he drove to the hospital. He had known that taking Pez on this trip was a bad idea. He had tried to convince everyone in New York that he could handle it by himself, but his arguments had been ignored. It wasn't an option to tell them he wanted to protect his privacy; the minute a good cop suspected you were hiding something, they would dig until it was unearthed. Both the captain and Sara were good cops. Once Sara was on the plane, he knew he'd be forced to reveal more about his background to her than he'd like.

So far, few in the New York PD were aware of his surfing championships, so teasing on that had been minimal. He could handle teasing. However, he knew that money, or even the hint of money, could change people's perspectives. He didn't want the Chance family wealth he didn't have to poison his partnership with Sara. He just couldn't see any way to avoid the train wreck.

"So," Sara started with a slow drawl, "What exactly does your mother do, Jake?"

Okay, that question wasn't too bad. "She's a doctor."

"A doctor," Sara repeated. "A doctor of what?"

"Internal medicine. She's based out of a hospital in San Diego."

"How does she feel about you being a cop?"

Jake tightened his fingers on the steering wheel a moment. These weren't the questions he thought she'd ask, but that didn't make them easier. The minefield that was his relationship with his mother wasn't one he could explain to anyone else. Yet he couldn't lie to Sara, either. "I gave up trying to please her when I dropped out of med school to surf full time."

Sara turned to stare at him. "You dropped out of med school? Why? Bad grades?"

"No, my grades were fine. Just that I realized I was only going so she'd pay attention to me. It wasn't working any better than anything else I'd tried, so I decided it was time to do what I wanted to do." Jake's laugh held more bitterness than humor. "I think I heard more from her that week than the previous four years combined."

"And your Uncle Pat?" Sara asked.

"Uncle Pat's the reason I didn't do anything TOO stupid." The bitterness left Jake's smile to turn rueful. "I didn't want to disappoint him or my Aunt Bonnie. They've both been really good to me."

"And why a cop?" Sara persisted.

Jake paused to cough, putting his thoughts in order. "I guess I'm more like my Mom than I'd like to admit. We both want to make the world a better place; just that she thinks she has to go overseas, while I decided to help the people closer to home."

Sara thought quietly for a moment. "When Ellison asked if you had any enemies, you said none that matched your attacker. You have any other enemies I should know about?"

He really didn't want to answer that one. He pulled into a parking space and shut off the car. Sara's intense emerald gaze was unnerving. No wonder it worked so well with suspects. After another cough, Jake admitted, "I had a stalker during my surfing days that really scared the shit out of me a few times. Haven't seen him since my wipeout, but he's always in the back of my mind. I'm certain the guy in my apartment wasn't him."

"That why you moved to New York?"

"One of the reasons."

Sara nodded. "Okay, Rookie, I'll let it go this time. But if you get even a whiff of that stalker in New York, you tell me. Deal?"

A warm smile stretched across Jake's face. Since Sara had rescued him from Dean and the drug dealers, he privately had thought of her as his 'Avenging Angel'. It was nice to know that she was still willing to look out for him. "Deal."

The smile disappeared as Jake and Sara walked towards the hospital. It angered him, thinking of someone viciously attacking his uncle. Hopefully, Uncle Pat was doing better today. Then he could concentrate on catching the bastard that hurt him.


Sara covertly studied Jake while he talked with the doctor. Her doofus rookie partner had been in med school? That could take some getting use to. So often Jake had said stupid things through his naivety, she tended to downplay the times he found crucial information or made intelligent connections. How could she have missed that he was smart enough to get into medical school? Perhaps Danny was more right than she wanted to admit.

More troublesome was the information about the stalker. It had never occurred to her that Jake would have picked up groupies and stalkers during his surfing days, but then it was hard for her to see him as a sports celebrity. She would have to file it away and check up on it more when they got back home. Though considering Jake's reluctance to talk about it, she had a bad feeling it wasn't going to be pretty. She had yet to quiz him on the 'monthly income' Jake had apparently refused.

She and Danny were going to have a lot to talk about when she got back.

Jake stepped away from the doctor feeling a bit better. While Uncle Pat hadn't regained consciousness yet, his vitals were improving. More than anything, he wanted to hear his uncle's voice.

Nodding at Sara in the reception area, he turned into the corridor in time to see an orderly step into his uncle's room. Something about the man made Jake's gut tighten. Picking up his pace, he reached the window in time to see the man place a pillow over his uncle's face.

"NO!" Jake yelled as he ran into the room. "Get away from him!"

Before the detective could reach him, the man turned. Jake immediately recognized the hate-filled eyes. "YOU!"

The attacker rushed him. Jake tried to side-step him, but the larger man managed to slam into his shoulder and sore arm, throwing them both onto the hard linoleum floor of the corridor. Stunned, Jake's eyes grew wide when the man reached towards his throat. He caught the wrist as it made an attempt to grab his chain. He slammed a knee into the heavier assailant as Sara yelled "Freeze, Police!"

Suddenly, he was shoved hard towards Sara, an elbow landing on his wound. He curled up as he rolled, pain exploding from his arm. What seemed like both a few moments and a decade, Sara was there. "Jake?"

"Same guy," Jake forced out, coughing. "Go!"

"He's already gone," Sara replied, frustration sharpening her voice. She helped him to sit up as the medical staff raced in to check on his uncle.


Jim spotted Sara leaning against a hospital wall looking pissed. He couldn't blame her. As Blair talked with the hospital security guard, Jim approached her. "Pezzini."

Sara looked up. "Hey, Ellison. You guys even make it back to your precinct?"

"Barely." Jim glanced around. "What can you tell me?"

Straightening, Sara waved a hand at the nearby corridor. "Jake was walking towards his uncle's room when he spotted an orderly that seemed familiar to him. Turns out it was the guy who attacked him in New York. Jake was in time to stop him from suffocating his uncle."

"Damn," Jim growled as he wrote on his notepad. "I'll make sure there's a guard on Mr. Chance's door from now on." Glancing around, he asked, "Where's McCartey?"

Sara waved at the room behind her. "Doctor's checking out his arm. His knife wound got hit during the fight." Sara ran a hand through her hair. "I can't believe I let that bastard get another shot at him. Should have stayed closer."

Jim shook his head as he finished his notes. "Don't beat yourself up. You had no reason to believe there was any danger here for either McCartey or Chance."

"Yeah, but Jake's my responsibility." Sara gave him a rueful smile. "I just keep thinking there's got to be more I can do. I feel like his big sister, which is weird because I'm an only child."

Jim returned the smile. "Well, from a big brother to a big sister, you can only do what you can. As much as we'd like to watch them 24/7, you can't. Believe me, Blair's been in situations that would make your hair curl. But you have to trust that most of the time, your partner can take care of himself." As Sara sighed, Jim prodded, "Why don't we see how he's doing?"

Jake lifted his head as they entered. He looked too pale to Jim. Apparently, Sara thought so, too. "What did the doc say?"

"He had to replace a couple of stitches, but I'm okay."

"Uh huh," Sara replied in disbelief. "Did you take any of your pain pills this morning?"

Jake shook his head. "They make me fuzzy, especially on top of the cough med."

"Jake..."

"Pez, there's someone out there trying real hard to kill my uncle. I need a clear head."

"Yeah, and he's doing a number on you, too," Sara pointed out, her face worried.

Recognizing the look on Jake's face as the same one Blair wore when they had had similar arguments, Jim interjected, "Pezzini said you recognized the guy as the one who attacked you in New York?"

After a final glare at Sara, Jake replied, "Yeah, it was his eyes. I don't know why, but he sure doesn't like me."

"But this time you saw his whole face?"

"Yeah."

"Think you could sit down with a sketch artist?"

"No problem."

Blair had stepped into the room as Jim and Jake talked. "I have an idea. The guy ought to be on tape. The security guard's getting them for me. You can look them over at our station, Jake, and see if you can spot him." Blair exchanged looks with Jim, both thinking that Major Crime was probably the safest place at the moment.

"No problem. Just wish I'd had my gun with me so we wouldn't have to search."

"You didn't bring them?" Blair asked.

"Everything was pretty rushed," Jake replied.

Sara nodded regretfully. "We didn't have time for all the extra security and the paperwork."

As Jim turned back towards Jake, a bruise on the younger man's neck caught his eye. He pointed to it. "What happened here?"

Raising a hand to the wound, Jake replied, "Oh, he grabbed my chain when we fought in New York. He just tried the same..." Suddenly, Jake's eyes widened.

"Jake?" Sara prodded.

"Nah," Jake whispered softly to himself as he pulled out the cross. "It can't be."

"What can't be?" Sara persisted.

Fingers tracing the ornate metal, Jake looked up. "Uncle Pat sent this cross to me for my birthday. But that can't be it -- it's just a cross. And I've had it since last spring."

Suddenly, the Witchblade began to swirl with light.

~Flash~

The knight, holding the chain, dropped the cross into the hand of the young lord

~Flash~

A stray beam of moonlight struck the gold cross as the young man climbed the rope into the ship

~Flash~

The man in Yankee blue yanked the chain over his head to give to the sobbing young man

~Flash~

The cross slid out of the open neck of the rider's shirt as he turned to look at his pursuers

~Flash~

The cross shone from Patrick's neck as he knelt next to young Jake.

~Flash~

Sara inhaled sharply, drawing Ellison's attention. That was the common thread. It was the cross. Why was it important?

Unaware of Sara's reaction, Blair leaned forward to study it. "Looks old. Fifteenth, maybe even fourteenth century."

Jake slipped it off his neck, settling it on his palm so they could all look at it. "Uncle Pat once told me it had been in the family for generations. I don't think I've ever seen him not wearing it. In fact, when I realized what it was, I called him immediately to make sure he wasn't dying or something. I never expected he'd just give it to me out of the blue like that."

Jim, too, leaned forward. Even in the fluorescent lighting of the hospital, the cross seemed to shine. "Could it be valuable?"

Jake shrugged. "I suppose it could be gold, but I never got the impression it was worth anything except sentimental value to my uncle."

Sara frowned as she looked at it. "I don't suppose you guys have a digital camera?"

"At the station," Blair replied. "Why?"

Jake looked up at his partner. "Bowman?"

As Jim and Blair looked confused, Sara nodded. "If it has a history that makes it valuable, Gabe's the one to dig it out."

"Gabe?" Jim asked.

"Oops, sorry," Sara returned. "Gabriel Bowman is a friend of mine who gets into the old and the arcane. If I email him a picture and tell him what we know about it, he may be able to track something down. He runs a dot com business that specializes in getting pieces of history for people."

Blair tilted his head thoughtfully. "I'll have to check him out." At Sara's frown, he added, "In a past life, I was an anthropologist. He may be a new source."

"I'll give you his card. Gabe's been a good source for me in the past." Sara glared at Jake as he rolled his eyes. "He has. You know he's come through for us a lot."

"Yeah, I know," Jake conceded. "He just gets on my nerves sometimes." He slipped the chain back over his head.


As they followed McCartey and Pezzini to their rental car, Jim suddenly tapped his partner on the shoulder. As Blair glanced up questioningly, Jim tipped his head towards the New York detectives. "You ride with them to the department. I want to check something out."

Blair's eyes narrowed. "You need help?"

"No."

After a pause to see if his partner would add anything, Blair shot him a 'you will tell me later' look and continued to the car.

Three minutes later, Jim dropped onto a concrete ledge next to a man he had hoped never to see again. "Nottingham."

"Ellison."

"What are you doing in my city?"

"Your city?" Nottingham looked around. "I did not realize you had purchased it."

Jim glared, unperturbed. "That still doesn't answer my question. Why is there a Black Dragon in Cascade?" Then he followed Ian's gaze. "Pezzini and McCartey?"

"I have sworn to protect Lady Sara."

Watching the trio climb into the blue rental car, Jim commented, "Pezzini doesn't strike me as someone who needs protection."

"Lady Sara is a magnificent woman."

Jim blinked. Nottingham sounded infatuated. Which wouldn't be surprising, except for the rumors that Nottingham led a chaste life. "Does this have something to do with your leash holder?"

"Mr. Irons is out of the picture."

Jim studied the man. He had never liked the Black Dragons. To the former ranger, they were dangerous loose cannons who were barely controlled by a psycho. Yet Nottingham had struck him as the last dragon who would rebel against the master. "Pezzini have anything to do with that?"

"Mr. Irons was cut down by his own obsessions."

Feeling his frustration grow, Jim remembered why he always hated conversing with the Black Dragons -- they talked in circles. "Did you have anything to do with the attacks on McCartey?"

"No. Sara's partner does not interest me."

"So why are you here?"

"To protect Lady Sara."

He had had enough. It was time to lay out his cards. "Be warned that if you cause any harm to Jake, Sara, my partner, or anyone else in my city, your ass is mine."

Nottingham's brown eyes remained calm. "Do you believe you have the ability to carry out that threat, Captain?"

Jim nearly growled. "You don't want to find out. And it's Detective."

Nottingham nodded once in acknowledgement. "Detective. You have nothing to fear from me. It would grieve Lady Sara for anything to happen to her trainee, or to anyone else who has helped her. I do not wish to cause Sara grief."

"Why are you so obsessed with Pezzini?"

Ian gave a faint smile. "Sara is a very special woman. We are connected in ways even she is unaware." Ian looked at Ellison. "I will not cause harm to her or to those you protect unless they try to harm Sara."

Jim nodded in acceptance as he stood up. While he didn't trust Nottingham, he did believe he would not hurt anyone if for no other reason than it would 'grieve' his Lady Sara. Black Dragons, crosses and winking bracelets -- what kind of weirdness was he and Blair into this time?


Major Crime

Sara leaned over Sandburg's computer keyboard as she held her cell phone to her ear. With a quick tap of the finger, she sent the file with an attachment. "There you go."

Over the phone line, she could hear her young friend Gabe reply, "Got it. Let's take a look." Sara drummed her fingers on the table as she waited. "I'm guessing fourteenth, fifteenth century."

"That's what Sandburg said."

"Then he's got a good eye. Otherwise, I don't see anything special. The Twitchblade doing anything?"

Sara glanced around the police bullpen. "It's twitching. I've gotten the impression that it's been passed down in Jake's family since the times of knights and lords, and that this isn't the first time someone's tried to hurt whoever is wearing it."

"But why?" Gabriel asked, mystified. "It doesn't look like anything that special, except perhaps its age."

"Yeah, well, whatever the reason, I don't think Jake's out of danger by a long shot. I'd like to know why."

"Okay, boss, I'll dig into it."

"Thanks." Sara hung up, hoping her friend could work his magic.

Sandburg walked up to her. "I got Jake all set. How'd your end go?"

"Gabe's going to see what he can dig up, but he didn't sound very hopeful."

"We'll figure it out," Blair told her confidently. "Is there anything you need right now?"

"You guys have any coffee around here?"

"That's an easy one."

A few minutes later, Jim found his partner sitting at his desk, typing away at the computer. After hanging up his coat, Jim sat down at his desk across from Sandburg. "Where's our visitors?"

"Jake's in with a sketch artist," Blair replied. "Once he's done, we're going to go over the security tapes. Rafe is showing Sara where the coffee's at." Blair looked up at Jim sternly. "And what exactly were you doing?"

Jim sighed as he glanced through his mail. "I was talking with a dragon."

"A what?" Blair asked, his eyebrow rising.

"Never mind. I do want to run something by you."

"Go for it."

Jim glanced around the bullpen to make sure no one was close enough to listen. "Is there anything about Pezzini that strikes you as... strange?"

Blair's eyebrows pulled together. "Other than how did such a beautiful woman end up as a cop? No."

Taking a deep breath, Jim asked, "Do you remember how Megan thought I was psychic? And how she thought it was great for a cop to have that kind of gift?"

Blair nodded.

"What if Pezzini is psychic?"

"Ellison! Sandburg! My office, NOW!"

Blair sighed. "I think Simon wants an update." He tapped his partner on the shoulder as he stood up. "I haven't noticed anything, but I'll keep my eyes open."

Jim nodded. "That's all I ask."

A few minutes later, Sara arrived at Sandburg's desk, inhaling the aroma from the mug in her hands. Coffee was just what she needed. Glancing around, she spotted Sandburg and Ellison through the glass of an office. Figuring they must be talking with their captain, Sara winced in sympathy and sat in Sandburg's chair. Searching for something to do, she picked up a folding metal picture frame from the desk. One side was a picture of a beautiful, red-haired woman smiling delicately into the camera. After a quick study of the face, Sara realized the eyes and nose matched Sandburg's. On the other side was a curly blond toddler sitting on the stomach of a young man leaning against a couch. An older, graying man sat in the couch. All three were laughing.

"Whatcha got there, Pez?" Jake asked.

"Just the pictures on Sandburg's desk." She pointed to the woman. "I'm guessing she must be his mother."

After a moment of study, Jake nodded. "Yeah, there's enough resemblance. What about the others?"

"My father, brother and nephew." The New York detectives looked up to see Blair beside them. He waved at the other picture, a proud smile on his face. "They live down in L.A., so I don't get to see them very often."

"Cute kid," Pezzini commented as she handed the picture back to Sandburg.

"Thanks. We had fun with Ian at Christmas."

"At least until you cracked a bone tripping over his toy," Jim commented dryly.

Blair chuckled. "Not used to having kids and their stuff around." Turning serious, he looked at Jake. "We've got the conference room set up."

"Let's go," Jake replied.

Sara turned to follow the two junior detectives when Ellison touched her arm. "A moment, detective." She followed him into an empty break room. "Do you know an Ian Nottingham?"

Eyes narrowing, Sara answered, "Yes. Why?"

"I found him watching you and Jake leave the hospital."

Sara cursed as she slapped her hand against a table. "I can't believe he followed me here!"

Jim studied her. "You know he's following you?"

Sara nodded sharply, still angry. "He seems to think he's my protector. Which is ridiculous," she added, not wanting to lose the respect of the Cascade detective.

A slight smile graced Jim's face. "I told him you didn't strike me as someone who needs protecting."

"Thank you." Sara studied him in turn. "How do you know Nottingham?"

"Ran into his unit when I was a Ranger. It's a scary group."

Sara nodded, remembering her own run in with the Black Dragons.

"It sounds like he's stalking you. Have you reported him?"

"No," Sara replied as she shook her head. "With his connections, I doubt it would go very far. Nor do I believe he'd harm me, though I'm starting to worry. Danny suggested he may attack him or Jake because they're close to me."

"That would be typical behavior. I was attacked once by a girl stalking my brother. But I don't think you have to worry about that in this case. He told me he wouldn't hurt Jake because it would, quote, grieve Lady Sara."

Sara ran a hand over her face. "I guess that's something."

Jim gave her a commiserating smile. "Speaking of the kids, let's go see what they're up to."

Jim led her to a conference where Jake and Blair were already working on the video player in the corner. Sara looked at the photos laying on the table. They didn't feature pretty mothers and cute kids. She frowned, looking at the stills of the damage done to an elegant-looking office and bedroom. She gently touched the one showing an overturned chair and the dark stains on the carpet.

~Flash~

A white-haired man was tipped over in his chair, hitting the floor hard. "It's too late," the strong voice of Patrick Chance told his attacker as he rolled onto his back. "It has already been passed on."

"It takes a year to fully bond," a deep voice replied. "We will find it and take it." Light reflected off the blade of a knife as it made its downward swing.

~Flash~

Sara shuddered, then glanced back at her partner. What on earth did he mean by 'bond'? And what did time have to do with the cross and Jake? Was that hunk of metal doing something to her partner? She knew from experience how a piece of jewelry could disrupt your life.

"You okay, Pezzini?" Sara's eyes were caught by Ellison, who was looking at her worriedly.

"I'm fine." She dropped her gaze to the pictures. The cross had been worn by Patrick Chance for years without apparent harm. She had to trust it wasn't hurting Jake.

Jim touched her arm. "Just know that if you have any important information, no matter how you got it, you can pass it on to us."

Eyes narrowed, Sara glanced at him. Jim gave her a slight smile, then reached over to pull out a picture. "This is the photo of Jake that was singled out."

Forcing back her unease, she picked it up and smirked. "Definitely his surfing days."

"It bothers me how blatant it was." Jim pulled out a photo of Chance's desk, the picture of Jake the only break in the flat desk. "It was like it was a message. We're just not sure who to and what about."

Sara frowned. It did look rather odd.

Jake voice suddenly rang out. "That's him!"

Sara and Jim turned as Blair hit the pause button on the VCR. All four detectives stared at the man. From the black hair that swept his collar to the light colored eyes, there was something about the man that made Sara feel cold.

"I'll have our lab blow it up, see if we can get an ID," Blair commented.

"While Blair does that, why don't we have you go over the photos, McCartey."

"Let me at them," Jake declared.


Late afternoon, Cascade PD

Simon was walking to the conference room. He was getting a lot of heat from above on the Chance case, and he wanted to know what Ellison and Sandburg had found. He was at the door when he heard a voice call out 'Banks!' Simon sighed. Talk about heat. He turned with a forced smile on his face. "Commissioner."

Police Commissioner Craig Mathews was leading a tall, graying blond and a short, dark-haired woman toward him. Mathews stopped next to him to wave a hand. "This is Captain Simon Banks, head of Major Crime who are investigating your brother's case. Banks, I'd like you to meet Paul Chance, brother of Patrick Chance, and Julie Warren, Patrick Chance's assistant."

Simon nodded politely as he held out his hand. "I was just on my way to get an update on that case."

Simon's hand was ignored. Paul Chance glared at him. "I want to know what kind of idiot investigation you're running! My brother has been attacked twice, and you haven't caught anyone yet."

Blinking once, Simon replied, "I understand your frustration, Mr. Chance. We have increased our protection on your brother, and we're dedicating a lot of time and resources to this case."

"Obviously not enough," Paul Chance declared.

"Leave him alone, Uncle Paul. They're doing a fine job."

Simon turned to find Ellison and Jake McCartey stepping out of the conference room. From the New York detective's narrowing eyes, Simon had a bad feeling this wasn't going to be a pleasant reunion.

A suspicion Paul Chance quickly confirmed. He pointedly examined his nephew's casual dress. "Exactly which beach did you drift in from?"

Jake rolled his eyes as he crossed his arms. "The detectives needed some information from me."

"And exactly what could a bum like you tell them?"

Commissioner Mathews smoothly stepped between the uncle and nephew and held out his hand to McCartey. "I'm Commissioner Craig Mathews, and you must be Patrick's nephew, Jason. I am sorry about these attacks. He's a good man."

After another glare at his uncle, McCartey turned to take his hand. "Yes, he is."

"Pat's told me a lot about you. He was pretty worried during 9-11."

"Yeah, I tried to get word to him as soon as I could, but it was a pretty messed up day."

"He understood. And he's very proud of you."

An appreciative smile crossed the younger man's face. "Thanks."

Paul Chance growled, "Patrick's always had a blind spot towards you."

Pezzini had also stepped out of the conference room. She was studying Paul with critical eyes. Simon noted she looked almost as deadly as Ellison when he didn't like someone. "Come on, Jake, let's get something to eat."

Paul turned his glare to her. "Who are you? Jake's bum girlfriend?"

As Jake turned red in embarrassment, the woman only lifted an eyebrow. "Detective Sara Pezzini, Homicide, New York PD. Who are you?"

Paul growled. "Paul Chance."

Sara turned from Paul dismissively to face the woman. "Hello?"

"Julie Warren," the woman replied. "Assistant to Patrick Chance."

Jake offered his hand. "I believe we've talked a couple of times."

Sara nodded sharply as she turned to Jim. "Detective Ellison, aren't these two on your list to be interviewed?"

"Yes, they are," Jim confirmed with a nod. He indicted the hallway behind him that led to the interview rooms. "Please follow me."

"What!" Paul exclaimed.

"I've already given my interview," Jake informed him. "It's your turn now."

As Jim led the way, the two citizens grumbled as they followed. Commissioner Mathews nodded at Jake and Sara. "If you two ever decide to change coasts, let me know. We can always use new investigators."

"Thank you, sir," Jake acknowledged as he shook Mathews' hand again. As he walked away, Jake turned to Simon, Pezzini, and Sandburg. "Now what?" Simon noted that he looked tired.

Apparently, so had his partner. "We really should get something to eat."

"But I'd like to check on Uncle Pat," Jake inserted. "And perhaps look over his home. I may pick up on something you wouldn't notice."

"Go ahead," Simon told them. "Just make sure you check in with us regularly, and call at the first hint of trouble."

Sara nodded. "No problem, Captain."


Two hours later, Chance Mansion

Jake rolled his window down as he pulled to a stop at guard shack. "Hi, guys."

"Sir, may I see some ID," a young redhead asked.

"Joe, he doesn't need ID." A burly man leaned slightly out the large window, just avoiding the rain pouring off the roof. "Good to see you again, Mr. Jason. Though I wish it was under better circumstances."

Jake nodded. "Thanks, Todd. Me, too." Jake pointed his thumb at Sara in the passenger's seat. "This is my partner, Detective Sara Pezzini. She's with me."

"No problem, Mr. Jason."

"And are we cleared to the house?"

"Yes. And as far as we know, everything's secure." Todd frowned. "Though I could have sworn the same thing before. We still don't know how they got to the house. I'm awfully sorry about that, Mr. Jason. We're going over everything with a fine-tooth comb right now."

Jake nodded. "I know. The police are stumped, too. If you like, I'll take a look tomorrow."

"We'd appreciate that, Mr. Jason. I just hope they catch those monsters soon."

Jake rolled the window up and followed the curving drive. As they approached the main house, Sara crammed her neck to peer out the windshield. "This is the place?" she asked incredulously.

Jake simply concentrated on driving in the rain. "Yeah. It's pretty big for just Uncle Pat, but all the rest of the family moved out as they grew up. I doubt any of them want to take over the cost of upkeep, and Uncle Pat simply says it feels like home."

"Did you ever live here?"

"No, not really. I spent a couple of summers here while Mom was out of the country. Since Mom kinda turned her back on the whole 'accumulation of wealth', I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego. When I wasn't staying at Aunt Bonnie's ranch, that is."

Sara frowned as she detected the emotions rolling in Jake's words. "Do you regret that? Not having money?"

A rueful smile crossed Jake's face as he shook his head. "No. I understand where she's coming from. My cousins are prime examples of too much money and not enough responsibility. And we didn't do too bad, since Mom's a doctor. I just learned that there are more important things."

"That why you turned down the monthly income?"

"No. That's my pride. I'd rather make it on my own than sponge off Uncle Pat."

Sara chuckled. "No easy road?"

"Nope. Too boring."

"Well, our jobs certainly aren't boring."

Jake parked in a private area behind the mansion. Then he and Sara raced through the drizzle to a rear entrance. As Jake paused to cough, Sara shook the moisture off her jacket. "You know, I think I'd prefer snow."

Breathlessly, Jake replied, "It doesn't snow much here. But they always have rain."

Sara glanced around the warmly furnished entryway. While she had visited mansions in New York for cases, she didn't normally enter by the private door. Perhaps that was why it felt more welcoming than the others.

"Mr. Jason!" A young voice declared. Various servants converged on them. Babbling to Jake about how he should have called them, towels magically appeared to soak up the rainwater.

"Are you Mrs. McCartey?" one shy voice asked.

"No!" Sara exclaimed, pulling the towel away from her face. She wanted to squash that thought fast. "I'm his partner."

Seeing the puzzled faces, Jake added, "I'm a police detective in New York. Sara's my partner."

Everyone nodded, though Sara wasn't certain if they believed the explanation.

"Jason!" A large, gray-haired woman breezed through the younger servants as if they weren't there. Sara could see the respect in their faces as they gave way. Age hadn't dimmed the strong personality Sara remembered from her vision.

"Moira!" Jake returned with a huge smile on his face. "I thought you were in Arizona." He gave her a warm hug.

"Now, what good is semi-retirement when your uncle nearly gets himself killed?" she demanded. "I flew back as soon as I heard." Holding the taller man at arms length, Moira frowned. "You don't look very well, either."

Jake gave her a tired smile. "I'm fighting a cold."

"Humph. Probably due to all that freezing weather back East. And who is this young lady?"

Sara found herself pinned by the woman's still fierce eyes. Yet she wasn't bothered by it, probably because she knew that Moira was only looking out for Jake. "I'm Detective Sara Pezzini, Jake's partner."

Moira nodded. "That's right, Patrick mentioned Jake was working with a female detective. Welcome to the Chance Mansion, Ms. Pezzini."


Cascade PD Headquarters

Blair looked up from his notes to study Julie Warren. She was a pretty woman, but her smug attitude was a turn off, even for him. "Do you really believe that any of these business competitors would do something to hurt Mr. Chance?" She shrugged a shoulder. "I wouldn't have thought so before, but who else could it be?" Jim tapped his pen against his pad of paper. "Do you know of a connection between any of these people and Jake McCartey?" Confusion filled her face. "You mean Jason? I know Mr. Chance is quite fond of him, but as far as I know, Jason's never shown an interest in the company." "What about outside of work?" Blair asked. "Are they involved in the same organizations? Know the same people?" Julie thought for a moment. "Not really. Even the rest of the Chance family rarely asks about Jason." Blair took a deep breath. They obviously needed a new approach. "Has there been any type of unusual inquiries lately about Mr. Chance or McCartey? Perhaps something out of the ordinary that at the time seemed strange but not harmful?" The assistant thought longer this time. Blair was about to give up when she suddenly nodded. "There was a really strange call just before I left for Japan. Some man said he'd found a cross and wondered if it was Mr. Chance's. I've noticed the cross before -- it's a very handsome, masculine piece. But it's usually under Mr. Chance's clothes, so I couldn't be sure if he had lost it. So I told the caller I'd check. When I asked Mr. Chance, he said very emphatically that it wasn't lost." She paused a moment, puzzled. "He seemed very upset that I would even ask."

Jim and Blair exchanged looks. Jim quickly finished up the interview and guided her out to Rhonda. When he returned, he caught Blair's eyes. "It's that cross."

"But why?" Blair ran his hands through his hair. "It doesn't look important enough to travel cross-country for, let alone kill."

"It's important to someone," Jim replied. "and the worst part?"

Blair looked up. "It's still around McCartey's neck."

"Let's find out where they are, Chief, and back up Pezzini."


Chance Mansion

Sara followed her partner into the office. The detective immediately corresponded the pictures from the Cascade PD to the room in front of her. While much of the carnage had been removed or righted by the staff, there was still a sense of the physical struggle that had occurred. In addition, there was an aftertaste of a battle of spirits, good versus evil. Could anyone else sense it, or was it something only the wielder of the Witchblade could decipher?

~Flash~

A figure in black knelt on the carpet in front of a tall, hooded figure. Neither paid any attention to the prone man whose blood soaked into the carpet. "It is not here, either, Master."

The hooded figure, in a fit of rage, swiped the desk clean. "He told the truth; he did pass it on. We must find it before the guardianship is complete."

"But where should we look?" The kneeling figure asked, head still bowed.

His master walked over to the pile he created, slowly waving his hand. With a jerk, he grabbed a framed picture from the debris. He sat it on the desk. Jake's smiling face shone from beneath the broken glass. "He has it."

~Flash~

Sara blinked. Who were these nut jobs? She had not sensed such evil since her encounter with 'V' and the doppelganger of her dead father. To make things worse, they'd singled out her rookie partner by a sweep of a hand.

Speaking of which, Jake was being awfully quiet. Sara glanced ahead to see him staring at the faint stain on the carpet. It was the spot where a man who had played a huge role in his childhood had nearly been murdered. Sara closed her eyes in sympathy, then took another step to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Jake?"

"What? Oh, sorry." He rubbed a hand over his face. "I keep thinking how alone he must have been. Wondering how scared he was."

Sara squeezed his shoulder. "He's not alone now. And we'll figure this out."

"Yeah, we will," Jake declared, voice low but determined. He stepped around the stain and looked at the visibly damaged clock sitting on the mantle. "Ah, man, Uncle Pat loves this clock. It was Great-grandmother's."

Sara looked up at the broken face. "Perhaps it can be fixed. I can ask Gabe, see if he knows anyone who can do it."

Jake slowly nodded. "I'd appreciate that."

Sensing he needed some time with his memories, Sara gave his shoulder a final squeeze. "Why don't I give him and Danny a call before it gets too late on the East Coast?"

Jake simply nodded, still staring at the clock. Sara stepped away and out the door to make her calls.


There were so many memories associated with the clock. The room felt dead without its quiet ticking. Uncle Pat always claimed that it helped him to think. As a child, Jake hadn't understood the need for background noise, but could see his point now.

Gently, he picked it up from its place, making sure to hold the broken face in place. He flipped it over to examine the bottom. During the first summer Jake had spent with his uncle, Pat had shown him a hidden panel to the clock. He swore that it was a secret his grandmother had shown only to him, and now he would pass the secret on to his nephew. Jake smiled as he ran his finger over the door. He remembered the scared, forgotten boy he had been, and how his uncle had made him feel like someone important. The security of Pat's confidence in him had been his foundation in an insecure world.

Pressing his pinky finger lightly on a small knob, his thumb slid open the panel. Jake blinked. There was a folded piece of paper inside. He slipped it out, then pushed the panel back and reverently sat the clock back on the mantle next to a fake ivy plant. Leaning against the stones of the fireplace, Jake opened the paper. It was addressed to him.

Jake's fingers had sought the cross under his shirt. Did he believe in a tale of good, evil and a gold cross? His modern training wanted to dismiss it as a family myth. Yet both his uncle and their mysterious assailant obviously felt the myth was worth dying and killing. After a moment of thought, Jake decided it really didn't matter whether he believed in the story. He believed in Uncle Pat, and his uncle had entrusted him with this task. That was enough for him.

He'd only had it for eight months. If the year transfer was also set in the myth, that meant he had another four months to go before he and the cross were untouchable. Could he keep it safe? It wasn't like he could hide like Uncle Pat -- his work was too important, especially after 9-11. Then again, it might be better to be surrounded by New York's finest. If it hadn't been for Sara, he wouldn't have managed this long. Yet now that he knew the score, perhaps he could handle it better. Deep in thought, he refolded the note and slipped it into his jeans pocket.

A noise drew his attention to the door. The large man with the hate-filled eyes was there, wearing all black. Jake felt his own anger rise to the surface. This man had hurt Uncle Pat. Out of habit, Jake's hand reached for his gun, only to remember that it was back in New York. He squashed his anger. The man was between him and the door, and Jake already knew he couldn't overpower the man. He needed a clear head to find a way out.

"You know, all you have to do is toss me the cross," the man told him, taking a step towards him. "I will take it, and you'll never see me again."

Jake noted the large, serrated knife in the man's hands. "You expect me to believe that? You attempted to kill my uncle in the hospital after you knew he no longer had it. Next you'll be trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge."

The man took another step forward. "Your uncle was a guardian for several decades. It will always be drawn back to him until it has bonded with the next guardian. His death would prevent that."

"That's supposed to convince me just to hand it over?" Jake replied, slowly shifting his weight. "Sounds to me like the only way to keep my uncle safe is to become the next guardian."

"We will not allow that to happen. Either we get the cross from you, or through you."

"Hmm, let me think," Jake replied sarcastically as his grip on the plastic plant hanging behind him tightened. "I think I'll take door number three." He swung the plant at his assailant. As the man threw up his arms to protect his face, Jake spun towards the glass door overlooking the driveway. He slid open the panel, slipped through to the small balcony, then slid it back with a click of the lock. A shiver shook him a moment as cold rain hit his head and neck. Jake glanced up to spy the fire escape that led to the ground. He jumped up in order to extend it. Glancing down, he spotted two more men in hoods below. He couldn't go down, and the breaking of the glass door signaled time was short. He pulled himself up and started to climb the metal steps to the roof.


"...I'll check and see who's in the area. I think there's an expert in Seattle. If he's not available, I know a couple of guys here who would do a great job."

Sara paced a few steps back and forth in a small alcove. "Jake would appreciate it. And did you find anything out on the cross?"

"Maybe something, but I don't know for sure."

Sara rolled her eyes. "Gabe, spill."

"Well, I couldn't find any pictures, but there is a rumor about a cross that has been passed through a family line. Called the 'Key of the Miraculous'. Supposedly, after the cross and its wearer bonds, no one can take it from the wearer."

"But why would anyone want it?" Sara asked. "Is it like the Witchblade?"

"No, I couldn't find anything that says it gives the wearer special powers. The main theme is that it unlocks something, but what that something is ranges from great treasures to a weapon of unthinkable power. However, no one knows who the family is."

"Someone apparently does," Sara pointed out. "Any rumors as to where this treasure is?"

"No, though it's supposed to have originated in the British Isles."

Sara sighed. "Guess we'll just have to stay on our toes." Breaking glass shattered Sara's calm. As she lifted her head away from the receiver, alarms tore through the air. She quickly shouted into the receiver, "Something's wrong! I'm getting Jake!" She was running before the device was closed, racing back to the office. Two men in black monk robes and hoods blocked her entrance. Both men pulled out small swords. "You can not interfere."

Sara felt her bracelet instantly change, growing into a gauntlet. "You sure about that?" She lifted the newly formed metallic glove, a sword sliding outward from her knuckles.

"The Digitabulum Magae!" the challenger from the right gasped.

"Oh, so you've heard of it?" Sara returned, recognizing the Latin name of the Witchblade. "Good. So make it easy on yourselves and let me through."

Both men hesitantly brought up their swords.

Sara rolled her eyes. "Damn it, I don't have time for the hard option." Her partner needed her. She began to the swing, the Witchblade humming with anticipation.


Jim pulled the truck up to the mansion. Blair opened the door just as the alarm started. "Jim?"

Head tilted, Jim replied, "There was the sound of breaking glass just before..." Jim paused as he tracked the sounds of boots running up metallic stairs and piggy-backed his vision on his hearing. He pointed upwards. "There's McCartey! He's being chased up the fire escape to the roof!"

Blair squinted against the rain and distance. "We've got to reach him."

"Inside!" Jim ordered as he slammed his truck door. The two detectives raced to the entrance. Two women, examining the alarm system, looked up when they entered.

"Who..." the older woman began.

"Detective Sandburg!" the younger one exclaimed. Blair remembered interviewing her.

"Roof!" Jim shouted over the alarm. "McCartey's in trouble."

The older woman immediately pointed. "The door in that corner. Goes straight to the roof."

"Thank you, ma'am," Blair tossed out breathlessly as he dashed after his partner. The door opened to four flights of stairs. Without pause, Jim and Blair started to climb as fast as they could.


Jake was coughing by the time he reached the roof. He was already drenched by the pouring rain. The top of the mansion was flat, surrounded by a two foot high border. It had once been the site of Chance summer parties. Now it was Jake's escape route. Dashing through puddles, he raced to the door leading to the main entry, only to find two men wearing black hoods. What's with these guys? Jake thought as he skidded to a stop. He turned towards another fire escape, only to find his original pursuer had cut him off.

Backing away, Jake stumbled against a broken antenna from the pre-satellite days. He picked it up. It was a lot lighter than he would have wished, but at the moment he was desperate. Swirling it around, getting the feel of the lopsided balance, Jake bounced his eyes between the three assailants. "You do realize with the alarm going off, security should be here soon as well as the Cascade PD. You won't get away so easily this time."

"We have no fear of cops," one of them replied. He took a swipe with his knife, which Jake easily deflected.

"Perhaps you should." Jake looked up to discover the strong voice belonged to Ellison. But before relief could sweep through him, his old nemesis launched himself at Jake, knife held high. Jake was forced to concentrate on defending himself from the blade.

Meanwhile, the two others instantly sprang to attack Jim and Blair. Jim managed to fire a round before the first one tackled him. His gun slid across the roof, along with the assailant's knife. They rolled around in the puddles, water flying into the air as the men traded blows.

Blair blinked when the other one flew at him. The junior detective ducked, missing the swinging knife. The hooded man, unable to stop on the wet surface, skidded across and over the side of the roof. Blair blinked, then stepped lightly over to the edge. The man laid below, spread-eagle.

Shrugging, Blair turned back to see who needed his help the most. He missed Nottingham in the gloom, perched on the chimney as he watched the fighting.


Sara finished off the last of her attackers. Picking up one of their swords with her left hand, she dashed into the office, only to find it empty. Her fear rising, Sara spun around. Where was Jake?

Suddenly, a black panther materialized in front of her. Sara blinked. She realized it was the same panther she had seen at the hospital. Suddenly, Sara saw Ellison struggling with a hooded man on the roof, Jake fighting with another nearby. When Sara blinked again, she saw the panther turned to lope down the hallway. She raced after it, trusting it to lead her to Jake and Ellison.


Blair had his gun poised to shoot, but didn't dare take a shot. It was just as likely he would hit a friendly instead of a foe as the two pairs moved and swung. Trusting that his partner could handle himself, Blair edged closer to the shivering Jake and his guy.

Jim finally managed get his guy pinned to the wet roof. He slammed his head against the tile, then handcuffed him. He looked up to see how his partner and McCartey were faring.

Jake was coughing harder. He had abandoned the antenna when it had gotten tangled up with the assailant's knife. Grabbing a nearby lawn chair, Jake swiped at the man. The man caught the legs. Both stood there, holding the chair while glaring into the other's eyes. Jake jerked the chair free, then swung it again. He hit the man, unintentionally knocking him off the roof. Before he fell, the assailant again grabbed the chair. Suddenly, Jake was being dragged over the side, too.

Jim and Blair, witnessing the end of the fight, both dashed over. They were just in time to catch Jake's legs as the detective slid over the edge. Unable to hold the slippery chair any longer, Jake watched wide-eyed as the man who attacked him fell to his death below.

Sara burst upon the roof, frantically searching for her partner and the Cascade detectives. Spotting them, she was just starting to trot over to help when she saw the man in handcuffs move. He was going to try to run into them, sending all three men to their deaths. Furious, Sara felt an answering anger from the Witchblade. It changed into a glove similar to brass knuckles. Sara tackled the man, throwing a punch into his face and knocking him out.

Before she could land another blow to break his nose, Sandburg shouted, "Help!"

Sara looked up to see Sandburg and Ellison, struggling to find enough of a foothold on the wet roof to pull Jake to safety. She raced over and grabbed Jake's belt. They hauled him back onto the roof. Finally, Jake was leaning on her shoulder, coughing and shivering. The Witchblade now back into an innocent bracelet, Sara ran her hand affectionately through his hair. "Let's get you inside and warm you up."

Jake could only nod.


Den, Chance Mansion

"...So we got McCartey back inside as all of you were arriving," Jim finished up his verbal report to Simon.

"Any idea who these perps are?" Simon asked.

"Some kind of cult is my guess," Blair replied.

"An insane cult," Jim added, "considering this is all over a cross that doesn't seem to be worth much more than the gold it's made of."

Simon chopped down harder on his cigar. "Surely we have more than that."

Blair sighed. "Maybe our interrogation of the suspects will give us more."

"We can only hope," Simon replied sarcastically.

"More importantly, can we find out something to keep McCartey and Chance protected?" Jim pointed out. "We got lucky tonight."

Across the room, Jake was sitting in front of the fire. He had changed into dry clothes, but still felt chilled. He coughed hard.

A warm hand squeezed his shoulder. "Drink this." Jake stared at the plastic cup of cough medicine, then back up at his partner. "I said drink. Then you can have the tea Moira promised without spilling it because you're coughing."

With a sigh, Jake took the cup and swallowed the sweet syrup.

"Are you hurt?" Sara asked him softly.

Rolling his shoulder, Jake replied, "I think I wrenched my shoulder a little when..." He sighed. "I really didn't want that guy to die. Sure, I wanted him to pay for hurting Uncle Pat, but not without telling me who's doing this."

"And why?" Sara asked.

"Nah, I know why." Jake pulled the note out, hesitated briefly, and then handed it to her. "I found that in a hiding place of Uncle Pat's."

Sara read the note, frowning slightly. "How long have you had that cross?"

"Eight months," Jake replied.

Nodding to herself, Sara replied, "So we'll have to keep an eye on you for the next four." She examined Jake over the paper when he coughed. "Perhaps we can convince the Captain to let you disappear to a warm and dry locale to get rid of that cough."

Jake smirked. "That'll be the day, with us so short-handed." He studied her a moment. "You seem to be accepting this stuff at face value."

Sara gave him a warm smile. "Let's just say I know something about stories of the past and family duty. I'm with you, wherever this duty takes you, partner."

"At least until my training's finished and it goes back to just you and Danny," Jake softly countered.

Sara tapped the paper against her hand. "Well, about that..."

Jake looked up, eyebrows raised. "I'm about to be cut loose?"

"Actually, Danny and I talked about that this morning." Sara's emerald gaze stared straight into Jake's blue eyes. "With the new vacancies and the results of the last officer's exam, Danny's been offered a promotion to Lieutenant of Burglary. "

Jake blinked, then nodded. "He'd be a good at it."

"And it's better pay and better hours," Sara added. "Especially important with kid number two on the way. And he said he'd take it under one condition."

"One condition?" Jake repeated. "What more could he want?"

Sara smiled. "He wants you assigned as my new partner. Says he thinks you're the only one who has a chance of keeping up with me."

Jake snickered. "I think he has more faith in me than I do. You're a hard woman to keep up with, Pez."

Sara swatted him on the head. "Just try to stay within sight, Rookie. Especially until your four months are up."

"Yeah, yeah." Jake paused, then softly added. "Thanks."

"Any time, partner, any time."


Next day, Cascade PD Headquarters

Jim stepped out of the interrogation room, followed by Blair. "What a load of bullshit."

"Yeah," Blair sighed. "But bullshit a jury would eat up."

"Too bad I can't punch him in the nose again," Sara inserted as she and Jake stepped out of the viewing room.

"Then he and his lawyer could add police brutality to his 'mentally unstable and just following along' defense," Jake pointed out. "You've got to admit, it makes no sense for a group of men to attack me for one simple gold cross."

Jim shook his head. "Unfortunately, he and four dead men are all we have. And we have no evidence that there's more of them."

"Forensics is still going over Bonner's home," Blair reminded him. "Serena says there's some pretty weird, medieval stuff in his paperwork. Hopefully, something will let us know if there's any more you have to worry about, Jake." The group took a couple more steps into the hall as an officer came to retrieve the suspect.

Jim turned to the New York detective. "Does the name ring any bells?"

Jake shook his head. "Honest, I have never seen nor heard of the guy until he attacked me in New York."

"At least Jake and I found the gap in the cameras this morning," Blair pointed out. "When Mr. Chance returns home, he should be safer."

The suspect, in prison garb and chains, was escorted out of the room. His lawyer walked past them, glaring. Sara felt a small twinge of the Witchblade. She followed the man with her eyes as he left, but couldn't place her unease.

Once he was gone, Jim asked, "What are your plans now?"

Jake shrugged. "I'd like to stick around a couple more days. I don't want to leave until I know for certain about Uncle Pat. But our captain wants us back in New York as soon as possible."

"No rest for the wicked, or at least for those of us who chase them," Sara added.

Jim examined both of them. "You know, we still don't know if we got all of them."

Sara nodded. "I know. But now that we know what's going on, we'll keep an eye on Jake."

Jim and Blair nodded. Closed societies took care of their own.

"I do want to thank you for all your help." Sara held out a hand that was immediately grasped by Jim. "We owe you one."

Simon walked up to the group. "I just got news from the hospital." He gave Jake a wide smile. "Your uncle is awake."

As Jake's eyes lit up, Sara tapped his shoulder. "Then let's get you to the hospital."


Cascade General Hospital

Jake, wearing a surgical mask to keep his cold germs to himself, sat in the hard plastic chair next to the bed. He hated seeing his uncle look so frail. At least the doctors were now optimistic for a full recovery.

As Jake clasped his hand, blue eyes blinked opened. "Jason?"

Worried at the hoarse sound, Jake managed a smile. "Right here. Would you like some water?" At his uncle's nod, Jake helped him to slip from a small straw.

Patrick's eyes were worried as he studied his nephew. "You okay?"

"Just a cold. That's why I'm wearing this, to make sure you don't get it."

"Do... you... know?"

Jake leaned closer. "About the cross? Yeah, found your note. And don't worry, it's under control."

Patrick still looked worried. Jake patted his arm as he pulled out the cross. "Honest. See, still in my possession. The guy who attacked you is dead, and my partner's keeping an eye out for me until the rest of the year is up." Jake stared into his uncle's eyes. "I will continue the family duty. All you have to do is get better."

A weak smile spread across Patrick's face. He knew he had chosen well. His eyes closed as Jake continued to hold his hand.


Sara was pacing the hall outside Patrick's room. She suddenly looked up to find Nottingham blocking her path. Sara's eyes narrowed in anger. "So you FINALLY decided to show yourself?" she hissed, grabbing his arm and dragging him to a corner.

"I was watching out for you, Lady Sara."

"Did it ever occur to you that I can take care of myself?"

"But what about your Rookie? Perhaps it would be better to give the cross to the people who want it so badly?"

Sara crossed her arms. "If it does unlock a weapon, I'd rather have Jake protecting it than a group of people who would attack an old man."

Nottingham nodded. "It is a more honorable path."

"Damn straight it is."

"Then I will help you keep watch."

"We don't need..." Sara paused, realizing Nottingham disappeared around the corner. She sighed. She couldn't even get rid of her shadow on the other side of the continent.


Secret location

"You failed!" the tall man in the black robes bellowed. The three men kneeling before him tried not to tremble.

"It will not be an easy task, Master," the bravest one replied. "Not only is the new guardian a warrior himself, but he is protected by the one who wears the Digitabulum Magae."

"What!" the Master exclaimed. "It was supposed to be hidden at the Vatican since Joan of Arc. Are you sure?"

The brave one nodded. "I saw it myself at the station. Both Turner and Houston were killed by a blade. And Pete said she struck him with it."

The Master waved his hand. "You are dismissed. I must ponder this new development."

As the younger members of the order left, the master barely contained his shudder. The Digitabulum Magae was reported to be a powerful weapon that drew to it what and who it required. It was troubling to think that a guardian was now within its influence.

With a wielder protecting the guardian, it would be nearly impossible to retrieve the cross. They would have to desist in their attempts for this generation. There was always the time of the next transfer.

If there was a next transfer. Did the alliance of the Wielder and the Guardian mean the time of the weapon was at hand?

The End

Author's note 5/5/04: Sorry again for taking so long on this one! The good news is that I'm about half-way through the next TS/MacGyver story, which will also add in Stargate characters. Hopefully, the bunnies will cooperate with this one!


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