Mischief was written by Teresa Buckley. Your comments are always welcome. Click here to e-mail me.
If you like this story, and you'd like to read some poetry of mine, Click Here. My poetry link is located at the bottom and near the top of the main page.
DISCLAIMER All standard disclaimers apply. The main characters are not mine. I recognize and respect the applicable copyrights, including but not limited to those of Paramount and Pet Fly Productuions. This story was created for the enjoyment of The Sentinel fans. On that note, enjoy!
"Okay Jim. How do I look?" Blair Sandburg asks, while adjusting the collar of his best blue dress shirt.
"Let me get this straight." Jim reaches and gets his jacket. "An old friend calls you--"
"Lady friend." Blair interrupts, smiling. He runs his fingers through his shoulder length curls.
"Right. Lady friend." Jim is used to the occasional interruption. "She calls, says she's going to be in town for the day."
"On business." Blair wipes the lenses of his glasses.
"And asks if you'll babysit for her."
"Babysit? Come on Jim! He's thirteen, I wouldn't call it babysitting."
"She's leaving town tonight, right?" Jim asks.
"And you're dressing up because . . . why was that again?"
"I make a good impression now," Blair gestures with his hands while he explains. "Get along with her son today. Another good impression when she picks him up tonight. Then, who knows what next time might bring."
"What's his name again?"
"Tommy. I've met him before. A couple of years ago."
"And you think you'll get along?"
"Oh, yeah. The kid's a wiz! He's into computers, he gets good grades."
"Just keep in mind, Chief. Kids don't like being left with strangers." Jim cautions.
"I'm not a stranger, that's the beauty of it! I told you, we've met before."
There's a knock on the door.
"That's them!" Blair excitedly answers the door.
"Hi Shannon!" He gives his old friend a hug. "And this must be Tommy!"
"It's Thomas." The boy's voice is flat as he eyes Blair coldly.
Shannon says, "I can't tell you how much this means to me. And on such short notice too."
"That's okay, my schedule is light today. This is Jim Ellison, my roommate."
"It's good to meet you Shannon." Jim says. Then turning to Thomas he notices how the boy has craned his neck, just to look up at him. He leans over so that he's not such a towering figure, then notices how the boy's eyes have widened. "Hello Thomas, welcome to Cascade."
"Well I've got to go." Shannon is on her way out the door. "Thanks again Blair. Jim, it was nice meeting you." She says, turning from one person to the next, then, "And Tommy, no mischief!" She points at her son, smiles, then hurries on her way.
"I've gotta go too." Jim says, moving towards the door.
"We'll meet you for lunch Jim. Don't forget." Blair reminds him.
"Right. At the Pizzeria." Jim waves, and as he leaves he hears one more comment.
"My mom's favorite color isn't blue anymore." And with a giggle, "It's . . . Orange."
Jim goes to work. He is a detective with the Cascade Police Department. But before he can even sit at his desk, his boss, Captain Simon Banks comes calling.
"Jim, they've found a bomb at West Side Bail Bonds." And before he has time to express any concern, Simon adds, "Don't worry, it's disarmed. They've got it over to the Lab."
There is an awkward pause. Then Simon corrects himself, "Well, I guess 'turned off' would be more accurate. Don't ask," He starts walking away as he continues. "I don't really know myself."
He glances back to make sure Jim is following him. "From what I've heard, it just doesn't add up.
My experience tells me that bombs just don't have Off buttons."
As they approach the scene, Simon points out Gus.
"That's the owner, Gus Marcy."
"He found the bomb?" Jim asks.
Jim goes to talk with Gus, while Simon hears what's been happening on scene from another officer.
Jim addresses Gus as he walks over, "Hello, Mr. Marcy. I'm Detective Ellison with the Cascade P.D. I understand you found the bomb?"
"Call me Gus." Gus is short and stalky. When he talks, he talks with his whole body. He gestures with his hands, shifts his weight from one foot to the other. All of this is natural for Gus and complements the character lines that draw out his face.
"Sure, I found it. Damn near tripped over it when I stepped out of my office here." Gesturing to the door behind him and then to the ground at his feet. "A little shoe box with a lid that don't fit. With a little breeze like this," he gestures as if to point at the wind itself. "I'm surprised that lid didn't blow right away." His eyes are friendly. But the strength of his body and the confidence that carries it, commands respect.
Jim encourages him to continue. "Then what happened?"
"Well, that lid was gonna blow away, so I took it off the box. Then I saw the bomb inside. I ain't no expert, but I know a bomb when I see it."
Jim nods, and Gus continues.
"I'm lookin' at it, and counter --"
"The timer?" Jim asks.
"Sure," Gus shrugs, "The timer has like, three hours on it left. Unless I'm readin' it wrong. But I don't think that's the case." Gus turns a little, so that his shoulders are square with Jim's. He looks Jim right in the eyes.
"Then I see the buttons. One red, one green. The red one says Off, the green one says On."
"Buttons?" Jim starts getting skeptical, but he doesn't show it.
"Sure, and the words are written right on 'em. Printed, real nice."
"So then you called the police?"
"No, I pushed Off. I figured if it's just the jerks way of playin' with people and it's not even hooked up, I still got time to call you guys in. Which is exactly what I did after I turned the bomb off, and moved it out of the walkway."
Between amazement and disbelief, Jim's imagination conjures up images of a timer suddenly ticking away faster, and carefully hidden pressure switches.
Knowing that lecturing Gus would be counter-productive at this point in their conversation, Jim lets his instincts take over. He wants this case solved, before someone gets hurt.
"Do you have any idea who might have done this?"
Gus chuckles, "What? You want a list? How much time you got?"
From behind him, Simon calls, "Jim! I'm heading back to check out the device."
"Okay Simon. I'll finish up here, and catch up with you." He wants to know more about the device, and get a good look at it. Maybe his senses will pick something useful up. But first thing's first. He and Gus go inside, and go over possible suspects.
Just as they are finishing up, Jim's cell phone rings.
Jim steps away from Gus and answers his phone. "This is Ellison."
"You're not going to believe this Jim."
"Simon? What's happened?"
"They've found another one."
Jim takes down the address of a nearby apartment building. He gives Gus his card and the standard, "Call me if you think of any one or anything else."
He arrives at the apartments before Simon and talks with Tony, a uniformed officer that was the first to respond.
"Tony, what's going on here?"
There are people everywhere, looking around and asking questions. Part of the parking lot (including one car with the driver's door ajar) has been surrounded with the familiar yellow tape; Police Line Do Not Cross. An irate man near the building is demanding to speak with someone in charge, while two more officers try to pacify him.
But what has caught Jim's attention is the teenage girl near the car with it's open door. Her windblown hair and baggy jeans are normal. But there is fear on her face and he can hear her heartbeat racing. She is standing perfectly still with her arms crossed. She is staring at him. One female officer is with her.
Pointing at the women Tony says, "That's a neighborhood girl. She says she has to be back to school, but she's shaken up pretty bad."
"Did she find the bomb?"
"No. That's him over there." Pointing to the man still demanding that he speak with someone in charge. "Buba Jones," Tony continues, pointing at the open car door. "This is his car, I believe he was the intended victim." Walking towards the car, Tony explains further. "He found the shoe box right outside the driver's door. He practically would have had to step on it to get into his car." Tony pauses before they get too close to the girl, and whispers, "This idiot just kicks it out of his way."
Once again images of various triggers and sensitive equipment flash through Jim's mind.
"Then what happened?" he asks.
"The lid is too big for the box, so it flips off. Mr Buba Jones sees the contents and runs back into the building, screaming like a madman."
"That's what caught the girl's attention?" Jim asks, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah, her name is Nova. By the time of day, I'd say she was skipping her morning class. But she's adamant about getting back to school ASAP."
"Okay Tony, thanks."
Tony walks over to help his coworkers pacify Mr Jones.
"Hi, Nova is it?" Jim smiles and offers the girl his hand.
She doesn't shake it.
Jim continues, "I understand you need to get back to class. If you'll just answer a few questions, this officer can drive you back to school, okay?" He nods to the lady officer, and she introduces Jim to Nova.
"This is the detective I was telling you about. You can tell him what you just told me, okay?" She then looks at Jim and adds, still talking to Nova, "I have your information so if they need to ask you some more questions, they can find you at home after school. You'll be there, right Nova?" She nudges the girl with her elbow.
"Yeah, whatever. Just make sure my mom knows I ain't in trouble." Her voice is steady and calm.
Jim smiles again and says, "Yeah we'll be sure of that. Can you tell me what happened?" He asks taking out his notepad.
"Yeah okay." Nova's arms are still crossed and she's still standing as if she's made of stone. The only difference now, is that she's looking at the ground instead of Jim.
"That guy screamed. He ran into the building. I thought he found a dead cat or something. So I go look. There's a shoe box by the front of this car. So I look in it." She pauses and takes a deep but quick breath. "I thought it was a game. Or electronics stuff or something." The rest spills out in one long and fast sentence. "I thought, when he saw the rat or whatever made him scream, he dropped this box, it didn't look broken but it was still running, so I shut it off by pushing the Off button and I was going to return it to him, I swear I was, then he came out again, with the manager, he was screaming about a bomb and the manager told me to leave the box alone and go inside until the cops come, and so I did." She looked up again, but not at anyone in particular. "Can I go now?"
"On one condition." Jim says. "You go to your school counselor before you go to class, okay Nova?"
"Yeah whatever." She finally looks at Jim again when he offers her his card.
"If your counselor's busy or you'd just rather talk to somebody else, call me. We can work something out. Okay?"
Her wet and shinny eyes break his heart.
As Nova is being escorted to a waiting squad car, Jim takes a moment to gather himself. He looks over the scene trying to find anything that might lend a clue. The bomb itself has been removed by the forensics crew.
He crouches beside the car with his back to Buba Jones. He wants to catch this guy --he needs to. But without Sandburg here to keep him from zoning out, he has to be careful with his senses. And he needs to keep his anger and frustration under control too. Especially if he has to deal with Mr Buba Jones.
Then he realizes that Buba Jones is no longer demanding to "speak with someone in charge." Jim relaxes and without turning, he lets his hearing focus in and tell him what is happening across the parking lot.
"Yes, yes I understand Mr Jones."
It was Simon. Thank God for Simon and his outstanding diplomatic skills! Jim smiles to himself and lets Simon finish the interview.
Jim finishes looking around the car and stands up as Simon joins him.
"This just doesn't make sense." Simon looks around at the dissipating crowd. "Did you find anything?"
"No. The locations of both bombs were out in the open. Anyone could have left them."
"From what I hear, Forensics isn't coming up with anything either. No prints, no strands of hair, nothing. The official report will take some time though."
"Simon, we don't have much time, if any! Two bombs and it's nearly lunch time. How many more today?"
"It gets worse." Simon's broad shoulders ease a bit as he recaps the information he has received from the lab. "These were serious devices, Jim. Professionally designed and built. It could have blown up this car and the ones next to it. The other bomb would probably have taken down half of the Bonds Shop." Simon shakes his head back and forth. "But this doesn't make sense. The timers are digital and attached to On and Off buttons? A switch would have been easier to wire. And as long as the guy building these things knows which one is which, why would he care who else knows?"
"Are you saying he wanted them shut down?" Jim can hardly believe what he's hearing. But as Simon continues, the pieces start to fall into place.
"Think about it. These bombs are professional. But what pro puts them in a shoe box with a lid that doesn't fit? He puts so much time on the timer, and places them so that someone is bound to come over them before detonation."
"More like trip over them."
"This guy wants his bombs found before they blow. But why?"
"Maybe he's trying to scare people?" Jim suggests.
"Well, Buba Jones is scared alright. But Gus didn't seem shaken at all."
"Yeah, he's a tough cookie." Jim smiles at the memory of Gus's casual attitude this morning.
"What about Jones?" Jim asks, "He have any idea who did this?"
"Oh yeah! He didn't actually SEE anyone." Simon sums up the interview. "But, he says that after he skipped bail six months ago a bounty hunter roughed him up before bringing him back and turning him over. Then he says this bounty hunter..." Referring to his notes, "Patrick Griffin, found out that Buba's lawyers managed to get him off with a misdemeanor, and community service. Which upset this Griffin--"
"And he came back for a second round." Jim finishes for him.
Simon smiles. "You know, you never interrupted me this much before Sandburg moved in." He asks, "Where is Blair anyway? I thought he had a light day at the University. I expected him here by now."
"Yeah, he's watching the kid of an old friend."
Simon's questioning expression urges Jim to continue. "She's in town for the day on business, and he thinks that if he gets in good with her son, then he gets in good with her. And maybe next time she's in town..." he trails off as Simon puts his hand up.
"I've heard enough. Just as long as he doesn't try to entertain the kid back at the station."
"No," Jim checks his watch. "Today is not a good day for visitors."
"Listen, why don't you grab a quick lunch, and make sure Sandburg knows -- No Visitors."
"Yeah, I'm supposed to meet them for lunch anyway."
"I'll check into Patrick Griffin's background, but it just sounds like Buba has a grudge to me."
"Okay Simon, here's a copy of the list from Gus." Jim tears a page from his notepad.
As Simon takes the copy, "After lunch, go over this list with Buba Jones. See if we can come up with another connection somewhere." Then he walks away.
Jim is already inside the Pizzeria waiting for them when Blair pulls up, and parks outside. He can see them through the big front window. Blair doesn't look happy. He listens and focuses in on Blair's voice.
"You might want to get rid of that gum before we eat." He smiles and tries to make a joke out of the comment. "We wouldn't want to have to explain to your mom, how you chocked on pepperoni and gum!" Blair chuckles, as he steps onto the sidewalk.
Thomas does not. He just turns his head and spits out the gum.
"Hey, man!" Blair stops dead in his tracks.
Jim laughs, he can't help it. He's heard Blair give this speech to complete strangers who've made that mistake.
"Put that in the trash!" He pulls a tissue out of his pocket and makes the boy pick up his gum.
"That's not biodegradable, you know. You want to contribute your old gum to the artifacts of the future? Just round fluorescent rocks with teeth marks in them? That's how you want our society to be remembered?"
Thomas picks up the gum and tosses it in the trash can by the door. "What do you think cave paintings and that stuff are?" he asks, defiantly. "It's just graffiti of the past. Probably just says, 'Joe was here' and you guys love that stuff."
They walk in and Blair points to the restroom. "Go wash up." He sees Jim wave and adds, "I'll be over there with Jim."
Thomas rolls his eyes, but does as he's told.
"Tough morning, Chief?"
"You would not believe this kid!" Blair sits across from his friend.
Blair's hair is falling out of the tie that held it back and he fixes it while recounting their morning.
"First he argues with a priest that was on campus; over evolution. He flirts with every girl in sight. He lied to another anthropologist after she said something abut intelligence running in the family, and told her he was my illegitimate son!"
Laughing quietly, Jim leans back, "I tried to warn ya Chief."
"And then!" He continues as if Jim hadn't said a word, "You remember Professor Sampson? He's like 97 years old, or something like that?"
Jim nods yes, he remembers the gentleman.
"Thomas put an x-rated screen saver on Sampson's computer. Some stripper program!"
Jim can't hold it in any longer. He laughs out loud.
"It's not funny Jim! You're going to encourage this behavior if he hears you. Quiet down!"
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry." He manages to get his laughter under control, "I already ordered one with everything. I hope that's alright with Thomas?"
"Yeah, if there's something he doesn't like he can pick it off." Blair finally settles back into his seat.
Thomas comes back, wiping his hands on his jeans. He looks at Blair and asks, "Well what about you? Aren't you going to wash up?"
Blair looks from Thomas to Jim.
"Hey," Jim says, holding up his hands, "I already did."
Blair gets up and Thomas promptly sits in his seat.
Thomas looks up and realizes that he's directly across from Jim. His grin falters.
"Thomas, I get the feeling," Jim leans forward, placing both arms on the table between them. "That you don't like me as much as you do Blair. Is that true?"
"Yes, Sir. Oh, I mean: No, Sir!" The boy blushes.
Then it clicks. In Jim's mind the answer he was looking for came with the Sir. "Did Blair tell you I was in the Army?"
"No sir, my mom did. He told her I guess."
"You don't have to call me Sir."
"She said you're a Ranger. Army Special Forces."
"That's right, I was. I'm with the Cascade Police Department now. You can call me Jim."
The boy's eyes widen. "Really?"
Jim smiles, then leans in closer. "Why are you giving my friend such a hard time?"
Thomas slumps in his seat. "I don't know. He doesn't make sense to me."
"What do you mean?"
"One minute he's going on about artifacts and the past. And the next he's telling me about high-tech stuff; like white noise." The boy rolls his eyes. "As if I don't know what white noise is! But, it's like he's got one foot stuck in the past and the other in the future. I don't know -- Hey!"
The pizza has arrived. Blair returns to the table as Jim gives Thomas a napkin.
But that comment sticks in Jim's mind: A foot in two worlds.
When they finish, Blair takes the tray of trash away. Jim takes the opportunity to put in a good word for his friend.
"I've gotta go back to work, but do something for me okay?"
The boy seems mesmerized.
"Try not to be so hard on Blair this afternoon."
"I'm not mad at him or anything, really." He's trying to reassure Jim. He sees that Blair is returning and continues. "It's my mom. She always goes out of town."
Blair stands beside the table and listens.
"I thought that since I was going with her this time, it'd be different."
Blair kneels down so that he can look Thomas in the face. "That doesn't mean we can't have fun, while she's at work." He raises his eyebrows and turns his head sideways to get a smile from Thomas. This time it works. "And she'll be done in a couple of hours. Then you'll have her all to yourself. What do ya say?" he asks, standing back up. "Since we can't visit Jim at work." He taps his chin, as if considering the possibilities. "I have the afternoon off. You have the afternoon off. What do ya say we hit the arcade?"
"Yeah!" Thomas lights up. "And maybe we can get some ice cream, after that?" He gets out of the seat and bounces lightly up and down. "Please, I'll be good. I promise!"
This time it's Blair's turn to laugh. "Okay, we'll see! We'll see!"
Jim returns to the bullpen then finds Simon in his office.
He looks up from his work. "Jim, come in. Did you talk with Buba Jones?"
"No. He said that Griffin, the bounty hunter, set the bomb right?"
"Yeah, but so far there's nothing unusual about him. And until Forensics has had the time they need, we won't have any physical evidence to go on." Simon pauses, looking back down at his papers, and shaking his head. "So, we're stuck with what we already have."
"And what we have doesn't add up, right?"
"I can't see how it does. Not unless he wants to kill and wants to be stopped from killing."
"What if that is exactly what he wants?"
"How do you mean?" Simon asks.
"This guy Griffin has a foot in two worlds. On the one hand he's a bounty hunter; he works to put the bad guys away, and keep the community safe. He works with and for the Justice System.
"But on the other hand, he's a hunter. Literally hunting people down like animals. Then when the system he's been working for and with, lets him down..." Jim pauses, searching for words.
Simon picks up where Jim left off. "Lets him down by letting go the people he's worked so hard to bring back." He slowly rises from his chair.
Jim, "Part of him wants to believe in the System."
Simon, "But when he sees the System fail."
Jim, "And he's been putting his life on the line."
They go back and forth, like a tennis match.
Simon, "You think he got frustrated and snapped?"
Jim, "Yeah, but deep inside, he doesn't want to kill anyone."
Simon, "That's why the shoe box lids don't fit."
Jim, "And the placement of the bombs."
The pieces are all falling into place. The only thing left is to test Jim's theory.
Simon, "Okay, lets see if this all plays out. I'll send Tony to bring him in for questioning."
"I'll go with him. Griffin could be dangerous if he feels trapped, or backed into a corner."
Simon had barely nodded his approval before Jim was out of the office and calling to Tony.
Jim and Tony park in front of a nondescript apartment building that could have been anywhere USA. They go upstairs, and find apartment 3-B. Jim knocks, and an equally nondescript man answers the door.
"What can I do for you?" he asks.
"Are you Patrick Griffin?" Jim asks as he looks the man over quickly.
Average build, average height. Plain brown hair, bland eyes. This was not how his mind's eye had pictured the bounty hunter.
"Yes I am." Griffin offers his hand and a calm smile. "You're James Ellison aren't you?"
Tony corrects him quickly, "That's Detective Ellison."
Jim shakes the man's hand more out of habit than anything. He asks, "Have we met before?"
"Not really," Griffin admits. "But I've seen you testify in court. You put together solid cases Detective."
Jim and Tony exchange a glance; neither one knows quite how to respond to the complement. Griffin continues, "I knew you were good, I just didn't think you'd figure me out so fast." At that, he let the door to his apartment open wide.
The door opens onto a small kitchen. A table nearly fills the small space there. The table is filled with bits and pieces that Jim recognizes as bomb components. Along with them is a shoe box. Underneath the box is a lid that's obviously too big for it.
"We were going to ask you to come to the station, to answer a few questions." Jim says, pointing inside, "But now, we have to arrest you."
"I know. I know the drill." Griffin is still as calm as when he'd answered the door.
Jim nods to Tony. Tony cuffs Griffin, and reads him his rights. Jim calls Simon.
While they're still in the hallway, Jim says to Griffin, "You know, innocent people could have been hurt, or killed." He was thinking of Nova's watery eyes.
"Innocents are hurt everyday detective. Every time another animal is set loose again. Every time a felon walks away with a misdemeanor." For the first time, Griffin's face changes. As he talks his expression becomes painfully tight. His cheeks flush, his brow becomes a mass of wrinkles.
"I've seen them run, Detective Ellison. Again and again. One way or another, they take advantage of our Justice System. And they use innocent people all the time." By now Griffin is shaking his head slowly back and forth. His eyes are on the ground, his jaw is clenched. "I just couldn't stand by and watch anymore."
Tony starts toward the stairs with Griffin in tow. "Yeah, well that's no excuse bud. No excuse for this kind of Mischief."
Jim follows, finishing Tony's thought. "Deadly Mischief."
Later that evening, Jim returns home. He opens the door, there's a voice in the kitchen.
It whispers, "I scream, you scream. We all scream for ice cream!"
"Hello Thomas." Jim steps in, and hangs up his jacket.
"Jim! Hey have you tried this before?" He holds out a bowl and spoon.
Jim looks. Then steps closer and looks again. "What flavor is that?" He accepts the bowl and pokes at the bright swirl of primary colors with his spoon.
"Playdough!" Thomas smile widens.
Before he can ask, Blair calls from down the hall, "Jim? Is that you?"
"Yeah, Chief, it's me." He raises a questioning eyebrow at Thomas and sniffs his ice cream. Blair comes into the room, adjusting the collar of his new shirt.
"Okay, Jim. How do I look?"
"It's Orange." Jim sets the bowl down.
"What do you think? Hair tied back or loose?"
"Is it supposed to be Orange?" Jim folds his arms, trying not to giggle right along with Thomas.
"Yeah! That's Shannon's new favorite color," he explains.
"That's right." Thomas chimes in.
"Hey, you'd better finish your ice cream Thomas." Blair checks a nearby clock. "Your mom will be here anytime."
They finish their ice cream. Jim listens to their afternoon, then sums up his own with as few details as possible.
Without being asked, Thomas gathers their dishes and rinses them off. The two roommates smile at each other approvingly.
There's a knock at the door. Blair answers. It's Shannon. She steps inside.
"Blair! Hi, Jim. And Tommy, have you been good for the gentlemen?"
"Mom!" Thomas whines, "I told you not to call me that!" His eyes rolling, is now a familiar sight.
As if she hadn't heard him, she asks Blair, "Tommy didn't get into too much mischief, did he?"
Blair looks at Thomas while saying, "Well, not TOO much."
Thomas lets out a sigh. Relief washes over his face.
"Okay then! Mom, we should be going!" He hurries toward the door. "Thank you Jim! Thank you Blair! We'll have to get together and do this again real soon!" He takes his mother's hand and practically drags her out the door.
She catches the door frame with one hand, leans back in, and says, "Oh, by the way, Blair. Love the shirt!" She winks, and then she's gone.
Jim would have heard Thomas laughing all the way to the car, if he hadn't been laughing so hard himself.
Blair asks, "What?"
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