Disclaimer: Pet Fly owns the boys. They let SciFi borrow them, so why not me? The bird is mine, though I'm not sure I should claim him. No money was made from this venture, so please don't sue. All you'd hope to gain is the cat who taught the new puppy to swat like a cat and the puppy with an unbelievable right hook. Believe me, you don't want my pet food bill.

Dedication: This one is dedicated to my kids who sat at the Sunday table and talked through the plot of this one with me. Thanks, gang.

Thank you to TAE, who is not only my beta through thick and thin, but got me started as a writer. Thanks, hon. Thanks also to Wolfpup for giving me a home here at the den.

Thanks also go out to the wonderful gal who offered to help beta this for me, right before my computer crashed and ate her addy.

Notes and warnings: A bit of "fowl" language, and a lot of "foul" language. What do you expect, the bird spent almost 50 years with a Navy man. *beg* This story is set mid to late 3rd season. One of the characters will come back in a post-TSbBS sequel. I'm not telling which one.


DIRTY BIRD



Emerald






Day one
5:30 pm

"You ready to head out, Chief?" Ellison picked up his coat, along with his partner's, and turned towards the door.

Sandburg hit 'save' before starting the shut down procedure on his computer. "Just a sec, man. Gotta save this report for you."

"Let's get out of here before Simon finds something else for us to do." The opening game started in less than an hour and Ellison wanted to get home in plenty of time to watch it.

Blair looked up to find the captain headed in their direction. "Too late." He dropped his voice so low that only a sentinel could hear him. "Should we make a run for it? I bet we could beat him to the elevator."

The Sentinel managed to cover his laugh with a rather suspicious cough but Banks chose to ignore it.

"Ellison, Sandburg, we just had a report of a murder out on the old Mill Pond Road, just past Highway 17. Meet the uniforms out there."

"Why us, and not Homicide?"

"Because, Sandburg, I said so. The victim's an old Navy hero, and the press is going to have a field day with this one. I want to have this wrapped up before the Mayor gets back from his vacation. Give me a full report in the morning, gentlemen. I'm going home to watch the game." With a slight smirk, Simon bit down on his cigar and walked out of the bullpen.

Ellison sighed and tossed the coat in his hand to his partner. "Come on Junior, back to the salt mines."


Flashing lights marked the scene as the blue and white truck pulled into the driveway. "My God..." Sandburg's voice trailed off as he stared at the crime scene. No less than fifteen cars sat in the yard, all in various stages of repair. Stacks of assorted car parts leaned against the side of what was apparently the home of the victim. A pile of broken boards was all that was left of the front porch and an old, rickety stepladder appeared to be the only access to the interior of the house. The slamming of the truck door brought him out of his reverie and he rushed to catch up.

Ellison barely grunted at the officer keeping spectators back as he ducked under the yellow tape. The uniformed man nodded at the tall detective, then put out a hand to stop his young observer. Sandburg bit back his retort, but after three years he was getting tired of this game.

"How are you today, Sgt. Coley?" As usual he got no response, but was just allowed to continue on to where Ellison was waiting.

"Damn, what's Coley's problem? I'm gonna..."

"Let me handle it, Jim."

"Sandburg..." The Sentinel's warning tone showed that he was angry and fed up with the subject of Sgt. Harry Coley.

"You've got to let me fight my own battles, otherwise I'll never earn their respect." As tempting as it was, Sandburg knew that he was doing the right thing by refusing to let his friend 'deal' with the obnoxious man.

"If you change your mind..."

"...You'll be the first to know." They gave each other a knowing smile; every discussion on this subject had ended with the same words.

Ellison batted the younger man on the head. "Come on, let's see what we've got here. If we're lucky we'll get to see the second half of the game." He started moving towards the stepladder, Sandburg right behind him.

"Yeah, well when have we ever been that lucky? Ooff." Blair let out a grunt as he ran into the backside of his partner. "Why'd you stop, man?"

"Even you've got to be able to smell that." Jim wrinkled his nose and turned away from the door in disgust.

After seeing his partner's face, Sandburg had no desire to take a deep breath, so he asked instead, "What do you smell Jim? Identify it, then dial it down."

Ellison held up one hand as he visualized the dials, working the smell down to a tolerable level. Eventually he nodded and moved again towards the ladder. "I don't know what it is Chief, but judging from the looks of this place I don't think I want to know."

Sentinel sight examined the ancient stepladder in the now dimming light. Mud caked every part of it, making it impossible to identify any fingerprints, or even how strong the braces were. He tested the first step and it creaked ominously. Stepping back off, he spoke up to catch the attention of the two officers already inside.

"Is this the only way in?"

"Sorry, Detective Ellison, that's it. The lock on the back door is rusted solid. Just watch the third step, it's the worst." The freckled face disappeared as the young officer moved back to give Ellison plenty of room to enter the dilapidated old house.

Ellison began to move cautiously up the steps, and then abandoned caution for speed as the sound of cracking wood reached his ears. Safely on the dirty floor, he turned to Sandburg who was waiting for his turn at the makeshift entrance. "Maybe you'd better wait, Chief."

A face peered over Ellison's shoulder. "Your partner's right, sir. They're bringing a ladder in the coroner's wagon. Maybe you should wait until they get here."

Blair looked up at the young officer leaning over the Sentinel. Freckles and round cheeks spoke of his youth. The green tint of his skin spoke of his inexperience. Whatever secrets the murder scene held, he was determined to not let his best friend experience it alone. "I can make it, I weigh a lot less than you do, man."

After a few moments Ellison agreed, secretly grateful that he would have his Guide at his side. He knelt down and braced himself, prepared to grab the younger man if necessary.

It wasn't necessary. With the grace of a cat Sandburg scrambled up the old ladder and onto his feet in the old house. Bounding ever so slightly, he grinned at the taller man. "See, man, that wasn't so..."

With no warning the empty ladder broke, the shattered pieces falling silently to the ground.

"...bad." Hardly missing a beat he continued. "Guess we'll be waiting for the coroner to get us down."

Ellison just shook his head and moved to where the second officer was waiting. "Jerry, Jerry Markle, how are you, man?" He smiled warmly at the man who had been a beat cop since Ellison had joined the force.

"Not bad, Detective, not bad at all. How about you? I see you've already met my new partner, Dennis Borst." He tilted his head towards the young man still hovering over Sandburg.

"Yes, he seems very...eager."

"Eager? Ha!" The gray haired officer had a good laugh. "He thinks you walk on water. Every time he has a question on procedure, he asks what you would do in that circumstance. You've got a one-person fan club going on there, hotshot."

Jim couldn't help but cringe at the old nickname from his former training officer. Adjusting his hearing slightly he was able to tune into the quiet conversation between his partner and the eager young rookie.

"...Wow, that is so cool. It must be so incredible to be allowed to observe someone like Ellison. If I get to be half the cop he is, I'll be happy."

"Yeah, Jim's a really great guy, he..."

"He lets you call him by his first name? That is so totally awesome. Do you do stuff together, like go get a beer together after work?"

Ellison turned back to his old T.O. "Does he know you were my training officer?"

"He sure does. He's gotten more stories out of me about you, than you even knew I had."

Jim glanced back at the two young men now laughing about something he had not been listening to. "Great. Just great." With a wry smile and a shake of his head, he turned back to the business at hand.

"Okay, Jerry, what do we know so far?"

Markle open up his notepad. "The victim's name was Harry Bennett, age 83. He was single and lived alone. Well, except for his bird."

That was one Ellison hadn't heard before. "A bird?"

"Yeah, a big noisy thing. He's the reason the murder was discovered; a neighbor got tired of the bird squawking and called in a complaint. We were the responding unit." Markle pointed at the covered cage in the corner. "We covered the cage after we got here and it calmed right down."

Ellison nodded, gratefully. He had tracked the terrible smell to that corner and didn't need the noise added to it. "All right, let's see the body."

Sandburg saw his partner moving towards the back room where the murder had occurred and quickly went to join him with a hurried "Gotta go, sorry..." to Borst. By the time Ellison had reached the body, Sandburg was at his side.

"Oh man, that's awful." The young man was obviously struggling to keep in control at the sight of the frail old man's battered corpse.

"Yeah, it is." Ellison's reply was terse, and he made no attempt to hide his anger.

Sandburg's mood wasn't much better. "What kind of a scumbag beats an old man to death?" He wasn't expecting an answer; instead he looked around the shabby room as the Sentinel examined the body. If anything had been stolen from the house during the murder, it would be almost impossible to tell in all the clutter. Except for one thing. He poked Ellison in his excitement.

"Jim...Jim...where's his leg?"

"His leg?" Perplexed, Ellison looked back down at the body, concentrating on the empty left pant leg. "Chief, they didn't cut off his leg if that's what you're thinking. There's no fresh wound on the stump, I'm sure that..."

Markle jumped in before Jim could finish. "We found crutches in the bedroom, son. He probably lost his leg back in the war.

Like a well-choreographed tag team, Borst stepped in while his senior partner took a breath. "He has a whole slew of medals and ribbons in there from the war and even a couple of purple hearts. He's got to be some kind of hero, kinda like Detective Ellison here."

Blair didn't have time for this. "Where's his leg now?"

"Now?" The two uniformed officers spoke in unison, matching dumbfounded expressions on their faces.

Ellison, however, knew his partner was going somewhere with this. He just didn't know where, so he waited.

"Not his real leg.... Oh, gross! No, where's his artificial leg?" Sandburg looked Borst straight in the eye. "Did you happen to find that in his bedroom while you were at it?"

It was Markle who answered him. "We don't even know if he had an artificial leg. Not every amputee is able to wear one."

"But he did." Blair took a deep breath to explain how he knew, but before he could begin Borst jumped in.

"If he did, then Detective Ellison would have noticed something. He's the best there is and you're just an observer. You need to remember that!"

A closer examination of the body had shown Ellison that Sandburg was correct. Even through the heavy work pants the victim was wearing, Sentinel touch could feel the calluses caused by the wearing of an artificial limb and the worn areas in the fabric from the harness that held it in place. However, he was curious as to how his partner had determined it. "All right, Sandburg, tell us how you know."

Blair sat back on his heels, getting comfortable to tell his story. "Take a look at his pant leg. Most amputees who don't use an artificial limb would fold up and pin the empty leg, or at least tie a knot in it. Otherwise it would drag on the ground and there would be a chance of catching their crutch on it. Not only that, but if he didn't, then the cuff would be dirty and worn. It's no dirtier than the rest of his pants. Besides, look at the wrinkles on the back of the pant leg, those come from sitting. There had to be something inside the leg of those pants to cause that."

Three sets of eyes blinked at him in surprise. Ellison was the first to recover, and then his shone with pride. A few seconds later, Markle's crinkled with amusement, and Borst's widened in amazement.

Markle laughed and clapped Ellison on the back. "I guess he really is an observer. Tell me hotshot, did you train him, or did he come fully trained?"

Ellison laughed along with his old partner, but his answer was for both old and new. "Actually, he trains me."

"So, you think the perps stole his fake leg for some reason? But why?" Borst was still playing catch up and was none-too pleased about it. "Can you observe the reason for that?"

"Watch your mouth, Borst. Mr. Sandburg may not be an officer, but he is a member of the department. You be sure to give him the proper respect.

Preventing any more discord, Sandburg jumped back into the conversation. "Actually, knowing why something was done can often be the first step in discovering who did it. For example it's possible that stealing the leg was a rite of passage for a gang, or it may have a personal meaning between the victim and his attacker. We may not know the why until we know the who, but I guarantee you that it is connected with whoever attacked him."

"Rite of passage, you mean like the Indians taking scalps?" Markle seemed intrigued by what the anthropologist was suggesting. He nudged his uninterested partner. "Borst, did you hear that? I never thought about it that way." The older cop turned his attention back to the observer. "How did you learn all this?"

Sandburg flashed a winning smile at his new admirer. "I'm working towards my Ph.D. in Anthropology. It really is amazing just how much the two overlap. And actually, the taking of scalps was not all that common among the Native American tribes, just among the more war-like tribes. The scalps were taken not because..."

"We get the point, Sandburg." Ellison's words were softened with a smile. "As interesting as this is, we've got a murder to investigate. If Jerry wants the whole lecture, he'll have to take one of your classes at the University."

Markle grinned at the unlikely pair. "Yeah, I guess I will at that. You teach at Rainier?"

"Sorry, that actually was last week's lecture. I guess I got carried away." His broad smile at Ellison showed that he understood the rebuff.

The arrival of the coroner broke the group up and Ellison and Sandburg moved over to the covered cage. Blair started to remove the cover on the cage, but Jim stopped him. "Let's look around before we get the bird riled up again. Markle said he was pretty noisy."

"Sure, man. Did you pick up anything on the body?" He accepted the gloves from his partner as they moved to the other side of the room and then into the kitchen.

"He put up a pretty good fight, judging from the condition of his knuckles. Other than that, I couldn't really get anything. Every square inch of this place reeks from that damn bird, I can't filter it out. Well, well, what do we have here?" Ellison reached out to touch one of the bags of groceries sitting on the counter. "Still cold, it looks like his attacker interrupted him when he came home from the store."

Sandburg was already digging through the other bag on the counter. "Nope, look at this." He handed the receipt to his partner. "There's a delivery charge added to this. The store sent someone out with these. If the beer is still cold, then..."

"...The delivery guy is either a witness or a suspect." Ellison finished the thought for him. "Guess we go shopping tonight."

A loud squawking interrupted the two men. Instinctively Ellison covered his ears until he could dial down his hearing. After a few deep breaths he lowered his hands. "What the hell was that?"

Sandburg grinned and pointed back into the main room of the house. "Sounds like the bird's awake."

In the living room the forensic unit of Cascade PD stood frozen in place by the loud commotion caused when one of the technicians had bumped the cage, knocking it over. Sandburg slid past them and went to the cage, standing it upright and talking softly to the occupant. "Easy there, you're alright. That's it, you're safe now, no one is going to hurt you."

Ellison felt a pang of jealousy. Sandburg was calming the bird using his 'guide' voice, the same tone that had calmed and centered the Sentinel so many times in the past. It wasn't long before the bird was calmed enough for Sandburg to open the cage and reach in. The bird didn't hesitate; he hopped onto the offered hand.

Sandburg settled onto the floor, cross-legged, with the bird nestled against him as he continued to croon to the brightly colored animal. Amazed, Ellison knelt down next to his partner. "He likes you, Chief. Any idea what his name is?"

The bird cocked his head and studied Ellison, then opened his beak.

"Dirty Bird."

"What?" Ellison wasn't expecting the answer to come from the bird.

"Dirty Bird, Dirty Bird." The bird leaned forward and peered around Ellison. "Aarry?" As the coroner's team zipped closed the body bag, the bird leaned forward and rested the top of his head against the Sentinel's shoulder. "Aarry."

"I'm sorry, little guy." Jim brushed his fingers along the short blue feathers on the bird's back, barely visible between his folded wings. The red and blue flashing lights from outside reflected a myriad of colors on the longer feathers of the wings and fascinated the Sentinel. Ellison reached out his hand and the bird easily relocated to him.

"Hey there." Jim raised his hand so the bird was eye level to him. "Did you see what happened? What happened to Harry?"

The bird straightened up and began to flap his wings, obviously agitated. The two men had to duck to avoid being slapped in the face with the bright blue wings.

"Bad man, bad man...run Aarry...bad man."

"Did you see the bad man, Dirty Bird?" Sandburg was the first to recover from the unexpected outburst. The bird was distracted by laughter and ruffled his wings again.

"Sir, your partner is trying to interview a bird." Borst laughed again, leaning against a near-by table. "Doesn't he understand that you have much more important things to do here?"

"What is more important at a crime scene that interviewing a witness? This may be just a bird, but he obviously has some sort of understanding about what happened here tonight."

Sandburg interrupted the two arguing officers. "Umm, Jim, he isn't just a bird. He appears to be a Macaw. They're considered highly intelligent animals with a remarkable ability to communicate."

Borst pushed himself off the table and walked to the center of the room. "If you say so, but right now it's just another critter without a home that's going to the pound." He jabbed his head in the direction of the open door, through which the animal control truck could be seen pulling into the crowded driveway.

Ellison watched as the two animal control officers got out of their truck and made their way over to the ladder with their heavy gloves, snares and canvas bags. By the time they climbed up to the living room, his mind was made up.

"Sorry we brought you fellows all the way out here for nothing."

The taller of the two men stared at the detective. "We got a call to pick up some bird and hold it for disposal. Is that it?" When he took a step closer, Ellison stepped back, putting a protective arm around the blue and gold bird.

Sandburg instinctively moved between Ellison and the two men. "It looks like he's a material witness in a homicide investigation. We'll be placing him in protective custody. Like my partner said, sorry for the bother."

The shorter, heavy-set member of the animal control team pulled off his gloves as he watched detective, observer, and bird present a united front. "You folks do what you want but I'll warn you, those birds can have a nasty attitude. Be careful, and keep away from that beak of his. Don't say we didn't warn you." With that he and his partner left the crime scene, muttering about know-it-all cops.


It was after 10:00 when the two tired partners finally crossed the threshold of the loft they called home. Ellison had the large, unwieldy cage and the bag of bird supplies, while Sandburg was carrying the stand and a pizza box. "Wait a second, Jim." The young man called out before dropping his armload and heading for the back storage.

Sentinel hearing could track the young man in his hunt. "...It's here somewhere, I know I saw it...aha! Got it, Jim!" Ellison just shook his head; the kid always seemed to know when the older man was tracking him.

"What'd you get buddy, and is it contagious?"

"Very funny, Jim. I think you're going to want this." With a flourish, Blair whipped out an old dropcloth left over from when they had painted the loft and placed it on the floor. Next he set the stand for the cage in the center of the new floor cover.

"Good idea, Junior. Better than worrying about refinishing the floors later." With an appreciative nod, Jim hung the cage on its stand. It took the bird less than five seconds to pop open the latch on his cage and climb out. He settled on the top of the cage and stared at his new foster parents.

Ellison glared back at his feathered guest. "Don't make me regret this, DB. You be a good boy." The Macaw bobbed several times before answering the tall detective.

"Good boy, good boy."

Sandburg looked at him questioningly. "DB?"

"I can't call him Dirty Bird all the time, it sounds like I'm scolding him."

"Jim, I hate to break it to you, but you probably will be." The younger man's voice faded slightly as he walked into the kitchen.

The bird hopped around on the top of his cage again and made a suspicious sound that had Sandburg poking his head back out.

"Jim, did he just blow a raspberry at me?"

Ellison bit back a laugh at the sight of the colorful Macaw hunkered down on the top of his cage, his green-crested head tucked underneath his wing. He winked at the bird before turning to answer Sandburg. "You're imagining things, Chief. Hurry up with the beer, the pizza's getting cold."

"Yeah, yeah, just keep your shirt on." Sandburg walked out with two beers and a roll of paper towels. "Turn on the TV. Let's see if we can catch the highlights from the game."

By the time the post-game show was over, the pizza was demolished and they were on their second beers. This caught the bird's attention.

"Beer? Beer?"

Jim turned and looked at the Macaw, surprised. "You want a beer?" He started to get up when a hand on his arm stopped him.

"You can't give beer to a bird, man."

"He's had it before. I can smell it in one of the dishes in his cage."

Sandburg's frustration was beginning to show. "I don't care if the old man used to make him martinis every night. We're suppose to be protecting him, not contributing to his delinquency."

The bird perked up again.

"Maaatini?"

Sandburg looked back and forth between man and bird. "No martinis, no beers. Good night both of you." He got halfway to his room before a little voice piped up.

"Barty Boober."

"Did he just call me a 'party pooper'?" Later, Sandburg wasn't sure who had the more innocent expression, Ellison or the bird. He sighed and shook his head, recognizing a losing battle. "Just don't forget to cover his cage tonight, and make sure he's in it."

In the dark and quiet of the loft at night, Ellison prepared to go to bed. Picking up his beer bottle, he saw that here was less than half of a swallow left in it. "Oh, what the hell, drink up, DB..." as he poured the remaining teaspoon into the empty dish. With an appreciative bob, DB scrambled back down into his cage and Ellison closed the door and covered it up for the night.


~Drip~

~Drip~

The sound of water hitting porcelain woke the sleeping Sentinel. Grumbling to himself, he climbed out of bed. 'Damn, Sandburg, can't you turn the water off all the way.' Never fully awake, he let memory and instinct guide him to the bathroom where he tightened the handles with a sharp tug before making a beeline for his sleep-warmed bed.

~Drip~

~Drip~

Making no attempt to be quiet this time, Ellison clomped back down the stairs, this time into the kitchen. Behind him he could hear the french doors opening, and his partner shuffling out.

"Hey Jim, it's two in the morning, what's up?"

"The damn faucet's dripping and it's driving me up the wall! Can't you hear it?"

"Umm, no." He watched as Ellison gave the heavy chrome handle a viscous yank. "Maybe it's the bathroom sink that's dripping."

"Already checked that one. I'm replacing all the washers this weekend, that'll take care of it."

"All of them? Isn't that kinda over-kill? Use you ears, man; track the sound to its source. Jeez, do I have to tell you everything?" Sandburg leaned against the kitchen counter, watching Ellison retreat back upstairs muttering about know-it-all Guides and waited.

Jim made it halfway up to his bedroom.

~Drip~

~Drip~

The Sentinel froze, then turned, the hunt obvious on his face. Head cocked; he tracked the sound while moving on silent feet. He stopped in front of the covered cage and listened, the sound was quite clear from this vantagepoint.

~Drip~

~Drip~

"AHA, got you!" Ellison crowed as he yanked the blanket off. "Dirty Bird..."

The bird bounced around for a few seconds, then settled down, making himself as small as possible.

"Deeb Kim Chi."

The angry words died in his throat, and all Jim Ellison could manage was a stern look. "Yes, you're in deep Kim Chi, Dirty Bird. Now be quiet and go to sleep." He replaced the cover and marched up the stairs, totaling ignoring the snickers from his partner still in the kitchen.


Day two
8:00 am

"Ellison, my office" The voice boomed before Ellison had even cleared the door into Major Crime, and he barely acknowledged his fellow detectives as he went straight through and into Simon's office, carrying the cage stand with him.

"Is it true? Did you really put a bird in protective custody last night?

Jim accepted the cup of coffee that was handed to him. "Yes sir, it's true. We felt that..."

"I can't believe the kid talked you into that. You must be getting soft Jim."

"Well, actually..."

"Where is this bird? Don't tell me you left it in the loft, what kind of protection is that?"

"He's with Sandburg. The kid had something to do at the university this morning, but he'll be here in a little bit."

"All right then, tell me what you've got so far." Simon refilled his cup and topped of Jim's before sitting back down.

Ellison took a large swig of the coffee before setting the cup down and recounting what they had discovered. "The victim's name was Harry Bennett. Dan seems to think that he suffered a heart attack while being beaten, but we'll know more after the autopsy this afternoon. Death was sometime after 4:00, probably between 4:30 and 5:00. That corresponds with the complaints about the noise from the neighbors and the groceries that we found in the kitchen."

"What was that about a suspect I heard?"

"The groceries were delivered by a local store. Sandburg and I will be talking to the manager this morning. We didn't want to tip our hand before he came back on duty."

"Motives?"

"Unknown as of yet. The victim's artificial leg is missing, but that's the only thing we could tell was gone. The place is like a junkyard, who knows what was there."

"His leg?"

"Yeah, weird, isn't it? I'm checking into his finances and acquaintances to see if anything pops up. Otherwise the delivery boy seems to be our best lead.

Simon nodded as his best detective got up to leave. "Keep me informed, Jim. The press is going to have a field day with this one.


"Damn, damn, damn." Sandburg glared at his feathered passenger while waiting for the light to change. "I can't believe you said that. Where did you learn stuff like that? She's the Chancellor, do you know how much trouble you've gotten me into?"

The Macaw just tucked his head under his wing.

"Did I ever tell you about the Hopi Indians?" He scowled at the now silent bird. "Do you know how they sent a message up to the heavens? They'd sacrifice a bird, so his spirit could fly up with the message.

Blair was still muttering when he pulled into the parking garage. "Why did I get stuck with you this morning? Just because your stand is too tall to fit in my car, I get stuck with you. We got everything home last night, I think Jim was chicken to face Simon with you in tow. And of course I was dumb enough to think it would be fun to take you to the University, that you'd attract the ladies for me. Thanks to you and that mouth of yours, now my name is mud with Joyce and Sarah and..."

"Having trouble with your bird, Sandburg?"

Blair jumped slightly and turned to see the amused face of Joel Taggart. "Not funny, Joel." He slammed the Volvo door shut with his hip and began walking towards the elevator, staggering slightly with the cage. The bird was not helping, moving side to side, and causing it to tip in the observer's grip.

Taggart laughed again and jogged ahead to open the elevator for him. "Jim was talking about it this morning, can that bird really ID the old man's killer?"

The doors slid closed on the elevator. "With as much trouble as he's caused, he better be able to ID this guy."

"Jim didn't seem to think he was all that much trouble."

"Jim has no idea." When the doors reopened Sandburg stalked out on a direct path for Ellison's desk.

"Here." Sandburg dropped the cage on Ellison's desk, directly on top of the report he was reading.

Ellison looked up, amusement clearly written on his face. "Are you giving me 'the bird' Chief?"

"Don't start with me, man. I am so not in the mood."

"What happened, Sandburg? I'd have thought that if you could keep Jim in line, you'd have been able to handle a bird easy enough." Simon grinned down at his best friends, pleased that he had been able to sneak up on them.

Ellison played along. "Did you hear him, Sir? He tried to give me the bird."

For once Banks felt sorry for the younger man. "You're a big boy, Ellison. I'm sure you can take care of yourself." He turned to the agitated, younger half of the pair. "I take it the parrot wasn't the babe magnet you were hoping?"

"He's not just a parrot, Simon. He's a Macaw, and a very irritating one at that." Blair glared at the bird again. "Let's just say that I know where he got his name from; isn't that right, Dirty Bird?"

Ellison was laughing, "OK, buddy, I'll bite. What happened?"

This was one of the few times they had seen the young man truly flustered. "I can live with what he said to all the women we met up with, I may live like a monk for the next year, but I'll survive. But..."

"But what?" Ellison was far more curious than he'd ever admit.

"I had to meet with the new Chancellor that the Dean hired. She was not amused by his choice of words. Man, that lady is going to be on my case from now on. This was not how I wanted to make a first impression with Chancellor Edwards."

"You mean she didn't like DB?"

Blair wasn't sure if the Sentinel was joking or not. "No she didn't. They just hired her away from some women's college in Georgia and..."

"You mean Agnes Scott College, in Atlanta?"

"Yeah, how'd you know that, Simon?"

The captain grimaced at the shorter man. "Joan graduated from there. As I remember, it was a very strict, very conservative college. I can't imagine one of their administrators having a sense of humor."

"Boy, is that an understatement. Anyway, she was not amused, and I now know why Bennett was a bachelor. That bird's got a real attitude about women."

Ellison pulled the report he had been reading out from under the birdcage and frowned at the wrinkles now on it. "I guess we'd better leave the bird here while we go do these interviews. The day manager we need to talk to is a woman."

Sandburg picked up the cage. "Great, I'll put him in the locker room, so he won't insult any of the ladies here, then we can go."

Ellison grabbed the cage out of Sandburg's hands. "You can't leave him in the locker room."

"Why not?" Sandburg reached again for the cage. "You certainly can't be worried about him picking up any bad language in there!"

"Gentlemen!" Banks reached between them and took the cage. "He can stay in my office, Jim already left the stand in there. Now get!"


Shay's Groceries was one of the last remaining holdouts from the days when service was a reality and not a catch phrase for chain store outlets. Old wooden clapboard siding and a graveled parking lot showed its age, while the variety of foods available inside showed its modern-thinking management.

"Wow." Sandburg climbed out of the truck and took a long look around him "Talk about diversity, man."

"What do you mean?" Jim had noticed the wide range of vehicles in the lot, from several brand new Lexus sedans to psychedelic painted Volkswagens, but he wanted to hear his partner's enthusiastic take on the store and its clientele.

"Don't you see it? Of course you do, you just don't know what you're looking at. It's not just the range of cars, but did you see that great bike rack? How many stores do you know of that encourage their customers to bike to the store? And look at the cloth bags with the store's name on them, this is an environmentally conscious place. Isn't that great?"

Jim just smiled; he secretly enjoyed his friend's ramblings and rants. Blair wasn't expecting an answer and after a rare pause for air he continued.

"Look at the writing in the windows, do you see all the different languages? I bet every ethnic community in Cascade can find food from home here. Say, while we're here, could we...?"

"No. Not until the investigation's over, then you can shop to your heart's content. Just remember I don't eat anything I can't pronounce."

The words were low, but deliberately within the Sentinel's range. "And the bird called me a party pooper." He knew he was safe because he was stepping through the automatic doors.

"Just you wait..." Ellison's words were whispered, then became louder as a clerk turned towards him. "Yes, where could we find your manager?"

The young man acknowledged them with a nod before turning back to the elderly oriental woman he was assisting. He spoke to her in a language Ellison didn't recognize and pointed to another aisle. She smiled at him, then tottered away in the indicated direction, with a departing wave at the clerk. He grinned, the metal bar in his eyebrow glistening in the fluorescent light.

"Sorry about that, she tends to forget what she asked if she has to wait too long for the answer. Karen is in the back, I'll take you to her, detective."

Ellison froze at the casual comment. "Excuse me, have we met?"

"No sir." The young man seemed puzzled by Ellison's agitation, then he relaxed. "Oh, man, I'm sorry. Are you undercover or something? I recognized Mr. Sandburg from Rainier, and I'd heard that he was working with some big beefy detective, so I just assumed...Oh, brother I've really put my foot in it. The cops are down here a lot, so I just assumed..."

"It's all right, you just surprised me. You get the police down here often?" Jim walked next to the young man as they made their way to the back of the store, taking note of the name 'Thom' embroidered on his apron.

"There's a couple of uniformed officers that come in once or twice a week, they give our customers a hard time about their papers, threaten to call in INS. A lot of our customers are refugees and they're pretty scared about stuff like that; most of them don't speak English, so I translate as much as I can for them. I'm a linguistics major over at the university."

The Sentinel didn't like the idea of someone hassling the weaker members of his tribe. "Can you tell me their names? We'll make sure they don't hassle your customers without probable cause."

"Thanks man!" Thom seemed relieved at the offer of help. "So many of the refugees are afraid of the police, so they won't file a complaint on their own. The two pi...umm...cops are Coley and Harrison. Harrison just hangs back, but Coley is the one who really gets in people's faces."

A look passed between the two partners. After clearing his throat, Ellison changed the subject. "So, you know Sandburg from the university?"

"Yeah, I'm on the waiting list for one of his classes." He moved ahead to catch the manager's attention.

"Waiting list? You have a waiting list to get into your classes, Chief?" Whatever answer the young observer may have had was stopped by the return of Thom with the store's manager.

"Gentlemen, I'm Karen Fitzpatrick, the manager here at Shay's. Thom tells me you wished to speak to me?"

Ellison quickly took the proffered hand. She appeared to be in her late 40's with salt and pepper hair and a sturdy build. "Yes ma'am, I'm Detective Ellison, this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. We're investigating a homicide, so if we could ask you a few questions..."

"A homicide?" Her voice rose up a notch. One of my employees didn't show up this morning, are you saying that he's been..."

"No. No ma'am, the victim wasn't one of your employees. Could we talk in private?" Ellison wanted the details of the delivery to Harry Bennett's house before the grapevine spread news of his murder throughout the store.

Ms Fitzpatrick nodded and pointed towards a small office in the corner of the large storeroom. "Of course, this way." She turned her attention back to the young man who had brought them back to her. "Thom, would you make sure the checkers know that we are not to be disturbed."

Once seated in the small office, Ellison wasted no time. "One of your customers was murdered last night, a Harry Bennett. It appears that the murder occurred near the time as a delivery from this store last night."

"Harry? Oh, no!"

Her distress seemed genuine to the Sentinel. "Did you know the victim?"

She visibly attempted to calm herself. "Mr. Bennett was a regular customer long before I started working here. We started delivering his groceries about three years ago after he had a heart attack."

Sandburg spoke up. "Is that a service you normally provide?"

"No, not at all. It would be cost-prohibitive to offer that to our general customers. We only deliver to three or four of our long-term customers whose health has failed. Delivering to them, in some cases, is the only way they can keep their homes rather than moving into assisted living. We charge them a token fee and one of my employees swings by with the food on their way home from work."

"And last night?"

"Last night, Detective Ellison, we had two deliveries. Thom took one, and Nathan Jacobs took the other. Nathan is the box boy who didn't show up for work today. Do you think the two are connected? Nathan is really a good kid, I can't imagine him doing something like this."

"Do you know for sure who took which delivery?"

Ms Fitzpatrick shook her head, turning towards Sandburg to answer his question. "We never assigned the deliveries, I've always trusted my people. Harry was a unique situation because of his bird. Not everyone was comfortable around it."

"You can say that again."

Ellison choked, then explained his partner's cryptic answer. "We have custody of the bird; he and Sandburg aren't getting along too well."

The store manager gave a knowing smile. "I understand perfectly. Dirty Bird is a bit of a character. He hates piercings of any kind, so naturally he can't stand Thom. And I don't dare send any of my female workers out there."

"So it's not my imagination, the bird really has a thing against women?" Sandburg felt vindicated.

"Oh, it's not your imagination, the one girl I sent out there was well endowed and she came back with a beak bite on her...well let's just say she wasn't wearing any low-cut dresses for a while."

"Ouch." Suddenly Sandburg's complaints made a lot more sense to the tall detective. He noticed that the younger man was unconsciously rubbing at his ear, where he usually wore the double earrings.

"Here, I'll make you a copy of Nathan's file. The sooner you find him, the sooner all of this will be cleared up. I'm sure Nathan didn't have anything to do with Mr. Bennett's death, he's a good kid."

Ellison hated to tell someone that they were wrong about something like this, but the odds were stacking up against the kid. "Thank you, ma'am. We'll do everything we can to find the truth."

They stood and moved to the door. "The copy machine is at the front of the store. If you gentlemen will follow me, I'll copy these papers and you can speak to any of the cashiers there. Everyone who was on duty yesterday afternoon is here now. Perhaps one of them may be able to tell you something else."

As they got to the front of the store, Ms Fitzpatrick motioned over a young woman. "Eileen, did you ring up the delivery for Mr. Bennett last night?"

The redhead left the boxes she was stacking and walked over to her manager and the two detectives. "Yes, I did Karen. Was there a problem with the order?"

"I'm sure it was fine, did Nathan take it to him?"

"His brother was here, and seemed to be in a hurry, so I told him he could leave early if he took the groceries on his way out. Was that all right? It was really slow last night, and his brother kinda gives me the creeps."

"No, that's fine, Eileen. Go on back to what you were doing." She waited until the teenager was out of earshot before turning to the two men. "That puts a different spin on things."

That got the Sentinel's attention. "How so?"

"The brother's name is Edmund. He's nothing but trouble if you ask me. I think he has a police record, but I'm not positive. Nathan usually doesn't let him come around the store."

"Nate's car broke down, his brother was here to give him a ride home." Thom walked past them, a load of register tape in his hands. I saw him waiting outside when I left to take Mrs. Gilmore her dog food."

Karen Fitzpatrick handed Blair the copies of Nathan Jacobs' personnel record. "Find out what happened, please?"


Simon strolled out of the break room, candy bar in hand, on his way back to his office when a stack of files hit him square in the chest.

~Whap~

"What the..." He instinctively caught the files before the papers were strewn over the hallway and looked up into the face of his secretary. "Rhonda, what the hell..."

"How long have I been your secretary, Simon?"

"Umm, five years, Rhonda." Banks was frantically reviewing the day in his head, trying to determine what he had done to incur the wrath of the willowy blond. Then it hit him, less literally this time; the files he was now clutching had been in his office. They had been in his office with the bird.

"Bird?" he squeaked.

"Do you know what that bird called me? Do you know what he tried to do?"

Before Banks could even hazard a guess, Rhonda was answering her own questions. "He called me a 'bimbo', Simon. He called me a 'blond bimbo' and he tried to stick his head down the front of my dress. The last time a man tried to pinch my backside I decked him. I am not going to let a bird..."

"All right, all right Rhonda. I understand. We'll get the bird out of here. As soon as Ellison and Sandburg get back we'll figure out something. For now, why don't you take an extra long lunch. Maybe by the time you get back, it will all be over."

"Thank you, sir."

Simon didn't breathe easy until she was safely on the elevator. Many a department's success rose and fell with the happiness of the department secretary. Before he could contemplate his next move, Taggart came up behind him.

"Hey Simon, what's up with Rhonda? She seemed kind of miffed. Well, anyway, Daryl's here; I sent him to wait in your office. See ya'." Without ever getting a sound out of Simon, he continued on his way.

It was a few seconds before the words connected. Daryl...office.... Bird... "Oh shit!"


The elevator doors opened, expelling two laughing friends into the hallway outside the Major Crime unit.

"Oh, come on, DB is not that bad Chief. He's just...misunderstood, that's all."

"Misunderstood?" Sandburg sputtered at the other man. "He's understood just fine in my opinion. He's a mouthy, chauvinistic..."

Ellison just smiled at his partner's agitation. "Sandburg, he's just a bird."

"Yeah, like John Wilkes Booth was just an actor. Forget it, man. You get to bird sit this afternoon."

Whatever answer Ellison was about to give was drowned out by an angry shout from inside the bullpen. He recognized the sound of his captain's voice.

"Ellison, where are you?"

Sandburg couldn't hide the grin. "Gee, it sounds like someone is in deep Kim Chi."

There was time for one quick glare before they were in the bullpen. Ellison stopped sharply, just inside the door and Sandburg ran into him with a muffled "Ooff." The two men watched as Banks literally pulled his son away from his office.

"Come on, Daryl, we are going to lunch now."

"Chill, Dad. I've heard worse at school."

That was obviously the wrong thing to say to his father. "We will discuss this later, young man, I think your mother needs to be in on this too."

Daryl was the first to see Ellison and Sandburg come in. "Hey guys, tell my dad to calm down, would you?"

Sandburg was thoroughly enjoying the fact that he was no longer in the minority. He gave his captain a wicked grin. "Bird, Simon?"

Banks ignored him and turned to Ellison. "Jim, deal with that damn bird. I don't care what you do with him, just deal with it."

"But Simon..."

"I don't want to hear it, Ellison. I do not want to hear it. Thanks to that bird, I've got a secretary who is threatening to quit and a son who now knows a lot more about things that he shouldn't, than he should."

"Umm, Simon...that didn't even make sense." Sandburg got the distinct impression that he was tiptoeing through a minefield. His theory was proven correct when Banks turned an accusing finger at him.

"And you..." Banks was shaking his cigar only inches from the young man's face, "...you knew what a problem he was, and you didn't say anything!"

"Didn't say anything?" Sandburg was back to sputtering. "Excuse me, but who was complaining this morning?"

Banks shoved the unlit cigar back in his mouth. "Sandburg, when do I ever listen to you?"

"Gee, thanks Simon."

While the arguing was going on, Jim slipped into the darkened office and held his hand out. DB left his perch on the top of his cage, and flew over to land on the Sentinel's knuckle. "Hey DB, did you get in trouble while we were gone?"

"Deeb Kim Chi."

Ellison couldn't help but smile at the bird's forlorn expression. "Are you going to be good for Jim now?" With his free hand he rubbed his thumb across the softly feathered head. The Macaw seemed to lean into his touch.

"Good for Jim."

"That's my good boy." When Ellison and DB stepped back into the bullpen the room turned deadly quiet. It took him a second to realize that it was the arrival of the mayor, camera crew in tow that had silenced the room, not them.

Banks recovered first and reached out to shake the mayor's hand. "Mayor Tuttle, what an unexpected surprise. What brings you down to the station?"

"Well, Banks, this is an election year. How are your people doing on that Bennett murder? The last thing we want is for my opponent to bring up the unsolved murder of a retired Army hero during our debate next week."

Simon kept his voice low. "Navy, sir. Mr. Bennett retired from the Navy."

Tuttle never faltered. "Army, Navy, what's the difference? I want this case solved and forgotten about." His attention turned to the large bird sitting on Ellison's hand. "Is that the bird that is going to identify our killer?"

"Yes sir, let me introduce you." The gleam in Banks' eye was evident to the Sentinel as Simon reached for the bird. DB hopped from one hand to the other without any fuss, and Simon turned back to the mayor.

"Mayor Tuttle, may I present our eyewitness, DB Bennett."

Kissing babies had become passe, but Tuttle knew a PR moment when he saw one. He made eye contact with his photographer and waited for the camera to begin filming before stepping closer to Banks and the bird. Tuttle leaned down to get closer to the bird's face. Jim realized that this put the mayoral nose within biting distance, but remained silent.

Tuttle continued to milk the moment. "Well, hello pretty bird."

DB turned his head so he could look at the mayor with one eye. He looked him up and down slowly before opening his beak.

"Hello, jackass."

Sentinel hearing could detect the sound of gears grinding, the camera stopped so quickly. Much to his credit, Tuttle's expression never changed as he straightened up. "Keep me informed about your progress." The rest of the men and women of Major Crime were barely acknowledged as the mayor made a hasty exit from the bullpen.

Simon waited until the elevator was descending before handing the bird back to Jim. "You know, DB kinda grows on you, doesn't he?" He then turned to his son, who was barely concealing his grin. "Come on son, let's go get lunch."


After a brief discussion of bird duties, Sandburg headed out to get lunch for the two of them, leaving Ellison with the bird and the paperwork on Edmund Jacobs. This was how Rafe and Henry found him as they returned.

"Hey Jim, who's your new buddy?" At Henry's question Ellison looked up and smiled. Henry and Rafe had spent yesterday and this morning in court on a tedious and boring case. They looked glad to be out.

"Dirty Bird."

Ellison's grin grew wider. "Yep, that's his name. How'd court go?"

Henry laughed and plopped down in the chair next to Jim's desk and began to hand the bird sunflower seeds. "Can you believe it? After two days of whining and moaning, the guy cops a plea. Man, why couldn't he have done it yesterday? I hate sitting in those darn little chairs all day."

Ellison nodded in understanding as he took a good look at the pair. Many considered them the true 'Odd Couple' of Major Crime. Today they looked it. Henry's clothes were casual at best, and well rumpled from sitting all day in the uncomfortable wooden chairs at the courthouse. Rafe, as always, looked like a walking ad for GQ.

"New Suit, Rafe?"

"Yeah, Liz picked it out." The youngest detective picked at a speck of lint on the lapel of his new charcoal gray suit. "She said that she likes the way I look in a double breasted jacket."

Brown just looked at Jim and shook his head. Rafe had been enough of a clotheshorse before, but now that he was dating the buyer for one of the largest men's stores in Cascade it was becoming extreme.

Ignoring the look between the two men, Rafe held his hand out to DB and the bird willing climbed on. "Liz is having a big costume party for Halloween and she wants us to go as a pirate and a wench. How about if I borrow the bird, he'd be the perfect accessory?" To illustrate, he placed the Macaw on his shoulder.

Before Jim could warn him to drape a towel under the bird, the telltale spreading of the tail feathers told him it was too late. A now familiar odor penetrated the bullpen and Rafe flinched as unaccustomed warmth seeped down his back.

"Please tell me that he didn't do what I think he just did."

"Okay partner, I won't tell you." Henry's wicked sense of humor was not helping the situation. "But hey, look at it this way...the bird did give you your costume, and it didn't cost you one red cent. Besides, someday you'll look back at this and laugh."

One look at the stained detective would show that day had not yet come. "The bird gave me my costume? Just what am I suppose to be?"

Much to his credit, Henry Brown kept a straight face as he looked at his partner and the slimy white stripe that was now on his back. "Well, now you can go as Pepe LaPew."

Sandburg chose that moment to walk in. He set two deli boxes down on Jim's desk and turned to the men standing next to it. Rafe's new decorations were very evident from the back, but Blair wasn't sure how aware of it Rafe was.

"Umm, Rafe..."

"Just take the damn bird, Sandburg."

His question obviously answered, Blair reached out for the bird. Obediently, DB hopped onto his hand and accepted the ride down to the corner of Jim's computer monitor. As soon as he was free of the bird, Rafe stormed off.

DB looked at Ellison expectantly.

"Good boy?"

"No." Ellison kept his voice firm, but couldn't quite keep the amusement from showing in his eyes. "Not a good boy." He continued to shake his head as he opened his lunch and began to eat.

The Macaw peered down into the open cardboard box and then began to prance across the top of the monitor.

"Bickle, bickle?"

Jim saw what had excited the bird. "Do you want my pickle?"

"No!" Sandburg slammed the lid down before Ellison could retrieve the dill spear. "If you want to give him pickles, then you can clean up after him."

Ellison thought for a few seconds, then smiled apologetically at the bird. "Sorry, DB, he's got a point." He had the impression that the bird was somehow planning something, but quickly dismissed it and went on eating his sandwich.

~Clunk~

~Clunk~

Ellison looked up, but the bird was no longer on the monitor.

~Clunk~

The sound brought his attention to the far side of his desk, where the Macaw sat with Ellison's last pen in his beak. Staring directly at Ellison, the bird let the pen drop to the floor where it joined the other three. When no sound came from the surprised man, the bird moved to the files Jim had been reading.

"Don't you do it, DB." Ellison finally found his voice.

The bird glared at him briefly then turned back to the papers. Ellison waited, and when the bird attempted to pick up the top file with his sturdy beak, he reacted. His index finger came down in a gentle tap on the top of the bird's beak. "No." Ellison's tone was firm and the Macaw dropped the papers in astonishment.

"Bad boy." Ellison continued to scold the bird, refusing to lose this test of wills. Finally, looking like a dejected two-year-old DB waddled the full length of Ellison's desk, dragging his wing tips through everything on it. When he finally got to the edge, DB flew the couple of feet necessary to reach Brown's desk.

Henry suddenly found himself in the position of favorite uncle to Ellison's naughty feathered son. He decided to milk it a bit.

"That's right, DB. You come sit with Uncle Henry. Was Daddy Jim mean to you?"

Sandburg almost bit his tongue, but Ellison seemed to take no offence to the remark, he knew the bird couldn't stay out of trouble for long.

"Good boy."

Brown was buying into it. "Yes, DB is a good boy. DB is going to sit here real nice while Uncle Henry finishes his expense report. Then when Uncle Henry is done, he's going to go down and buy DB a nice juicy apple. How does that sound? I bet that Jim has never..."

As the voice droned on above him, the Macaw became fascinated with the flashing cursor on the screen in front of him. He moved closer, stepping onto the keyboard for a better view. As the keys moved under his claws, the pretty flashing mark disappeared, along with everything else on the screen. More intrigued than before, DB turned his head and studied the blue screen with one eye.

"Bye bye."

"...ever gotten you a nice...what?" Henry looked down to see what the bird was talking about and encountered the error message now displayed on his computer.

"My expense report, what did you do to my expense report?" Brown flapped his hand at the bird to move him off the keyboard and began to frantically jab at buttons. Jim reached over and rescued the bird as Brown continued to rant.

"It's gone, where did it go? Hairboy! Sandburg, you've got to get it back!"

Blair moved in and began every way he knew of to retrieve lost data. Eventually, he gave up and turned to face the agitated detective. "Sorry, H, it's gone."

"Gone? What do you mean, gone?"

"Deleted, gone to cyberheaven, file not found. I'm sorry, there's no way to retrieve it, man. You're going to have to start over again."

"Start over? Do you know how long that report took me? You damn bird!"

"Sorry, man. You should have backed it up better while you were working on it."

"Backed it up better? Oh, I'll show you..."

Ellison stepped forward and handed DB to Sandburg. "Take DB home, would you? I think he's had enough excitement for one day."

"Why am I stuck with him?" Blair glared at the now docile bird sitting on his hand.

"Just...take...the...bird...home...Sandburg." Ellison's patience was wearing thin.

Sandburg opened his mouth, then closed it without a sound, turning and walking into Simon's office. When he came out the bird was in his cage. Blair set the cage down on Ellison's desk while he put his coat on and loaded up his backpack.

Jim stared at DB. "Are you going to be a good boy for Blair?"

A test of wills developed as the Macaw stared back at Ellison. Without warning, the bird threw back his head and let out a maniacal laugh the likes of which the Sentinel had never heard.

Sandburg froze, his coat half on. "I don't like the sound of that, Jim."

Ellison tried to make his smile reassuring. "Don't worry, he'll be fine."

"Isn't that what they told Linda Blair's parents in the Exorcist?" With a look that told he would be collecting big for this, Sandburg picked up the cage and walked out of Major Crime.

He got as far as the elevator. When the doors slid open, the bird became agitated at the sight of a young man in handcuffs. It was all Sandburg could do to hold on to the cage. Eventually the bird calmed down and then turned his back to the prisoner.

"Idiot, Idiot."

"Guess the bird knows you." Ellison's words were quiet as he stepped up behind his partner. He then turned to the uniformed officer escorting him. "Is this Nathan or Edmund?"


Ellison leaned against the wall of the interrogation room, arms crossed, watching the juvenile fidget. After he was suitably nervous, Ellison stepped up to the table and sat down across from him. The boy jumped when Ellison leaned forward and invaded his personal space.

"Let me draw you a picture, Nathan. You're six weeks from your 18th Birthday. An 83-year-old man was beaten to death; the DA is going to have no trouble convincing a judge to let you stand trial as an adult. Are you ready for that? You ready to play with the big boys in prison?"

Nathan dropped his head down into his hands, his sandy colored hair obscuring his features. Ellison had to dial up his hearing to catch what the boy was whispering. "Eddy promised me he wasn't going to hurt the old man. He promised me."

Ellison decided to push a little harder. "What did Harry Bennett do to deserve to die, Nathan? He was an old man, was it the thrill? Is that it?"

"No."

"Did you hate the old man?

"No! No, I really liked Mr. Bennett."

"Did you make him beg for his life?"

"No! No...no...I wasn't there, Eddy made me leave. He promised he wouldn't hurt him; he just wanted to know where it was."

"Where what was?"

Nathan Jacobs was openly sobbing "The treasure, man. Harry told me about the treasure he had, and...I told Eddy."

"Treasure?" Ellison sat back and thought for a minute. "You saw how he lived, what kind of treasure could he possibly have had?"

"He was a miser, man." Jacobs scrubbed at his face. "Eddy said that it was hidden there somewhere, he just had to convince the old man to tell him where."

"So he tried to beat it out of him?" Ellison didn't try to hide any of the anger he felt over the brutal death of an elder of his tribe.

"No, yes...I don't know. My bike was in the back of Eddy's car and I rode it home. I haven't seen Eddy since than -- you've got to believe me!"

"What I believe is that you're going down as an accessory to murder. If you want the DA to go easy on you, then you'd better come up with something we can use." Ellison tossed a pad of paper at the young man. "Write down all his friends, all his hang-outs, everything!" He punctuated the last of his words by slamming a pen down on the table.

Ellison stormed out of the interrogation room, nearly mowing down Banks in the process. "Whoa, Jim, take it easy!"

"Sorry, sir." The words were rushed, as if Ellison didn't really register what he was saying. Jim stopped and took a deep breath, rubbing his hands over his cheeks then automatically smoothing down his hair. This time the words were slower, with meaning behind them. "I'm sorry, Simon. This case is starting to get to me."

"Why?"

Ellison leaned against the hallway wall where he could watch Jacobs writing. "A miser with a hidden treasure? Come on, Simon, how lonely would a man have to get to come up with something like that?" He pushed away from the wall and turned to face the taller man. "He fought for this country and came home damaged. He never reconnected. That house he was living in was his parents; he never married-- he never had a life, Simon. He starts telling wild stories to delivery boys about secret treasures and it gets him killed."

"You're not Bennett, Jim. You did reconnect with life."

He turned and looked at Banks with a sadness and wisdom that took the older man's breath away. "Yeah, but it was real close, Simon, real close."


"Go home, Jim." An ebony hand covered the files he was re-reading for the hundredth time. "Edmund Jacobs is bound to show up somewhere, and the uniforms will pick him up on the warrant. Go home and rescue your partner from that bird."

Ellison couldn't stop the grin at that thought. "Yeah, he's really gone above and beyond on this one." He picked up his coat and headed for the door. "Good night, Simon."

Banks didn't answer, but just smiled as he heard Ellison begin to hum as he left the bullpen.

Jim was still in a good mood when he pulled the old truck up in front of 852 Prospect. As he got out, one of the neighbors came out of the building with her dog for their evening walk.

"Hello, Mrs. Dibell," he looked down at the teacup terrier that was growling at his foot, "hello Jezebel."

"Mr. Ellison," as usual, her voice could freeze a volcano. "I certainly hope that bird your roommate has been carrying around here is not a permanent addition to this building. We do have certain standards, you know."

He matched her icy tone. "Mrs. Dibell, the bird is a police matter. When it's settled, he'll be gone, but not before then." Before she could voice any further objections he nodded curtly, then hurried into the building.

The smell of herbs and garlic along with the sound of banging pots greeted the Sentinel before he reached the third floor. Ellison eased the door open and stepped through, quietly watching the younger man work.

"Reconnected."

"What?" Blair dropped the pan, startled. "Jim, man, I didn't hear you come in. What did you say?"

"Nothing, Chief." Jim walked the rest of the way into the kitchen and grabbed a chunk of tomato out of the salad, getting his hand slapped in the process. "Just talking out loud about the case." He began to automatically set the table.

"Yeah, what's happening? Did you make an arrest?" Sandburg pulled a roast chicken out of the oven and set it on the counter.

Ellison raised one eyebrow at him.

The young observer was just a little defensive. He leaned over slightly, speaking directly to the bird who appeared to be hiding in the corner by the balcony doors. "Yes, we're having chicken tonight. It seems that DB has already forgotten our discussion this morning about the Hopi Indians. I thought a visual example might help him remember. Sometimes my students learn better by seeing than by hearing."

While Sandburg's back was turned Ellison snagged another tomato. He kept his tone as neutral as he could. "I met Mrs. Dibell and Jezebel when I came in. She mentioned something about being introduced to DB..."

"Introduced? Introduced? Jim, you would not believe what that bird said to her. And referring to that stupid dog of hers as a rat didn't exactly help things either."

A strange sound from the bird distracted Ellison.

"What is he doing?"

Sandburg spoke as he cut the chicken into serving pieces. "I don't know, man, but he's driving me up the wall. He started on the way home."

Smiling at his friend's frustration, Ellison turned his attention back to the bird and the strange new sound he kept repeating.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

After glaring at his two human roommates, DB flew down onto the rug and began pecking at it.

"No you don't!" Ellison dove and grabbed the bird before he could damage the hand-woven floorcloth. "Back in your cage, young man." He opened the cage door and placed DB on his perch inside it. Before the Macaw could turn around and pop the latch on the door of his cage, Jim snapped his handcuffs on the cage door.

"Jim?" Sandburg stared at his partner. "Jim, you just handcuffed the bird into his cage."

"Yeah? Well, at least we'll get our dinner in peace."

"But handcuffs?"

The Sentinel grinned while sneaking one of the last pieces of tomato. "Whatever works."

The two men ate their dinner and reviewed the case in relative quiet as the bird sulked in his cage. As they were clearing off the table, he started in again.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

"What is he doing?"

Sandburg dropped the towel on the counter. "You're the one with the ears, you listen and figure it out. I've been listening to him for the past four hours."

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

"What?" Ellison scowled at the bird, then noticed his human roommate slinking off to his bedroom. "And where are you going?"

Sandburg froze, then turned back slowly. He hefted a stack of papers for Ellison to see. "Gotta grade these, man."

"You could work out here."

"Thanks, but no thanks." Sandburg smiled, then tilted his head in the direction of the cage. "It's your turn to bond with the bird. I'll see you in the morning."

"But..."

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

Ellison turned towards the bird. "Oh, hush!" When DB turned a disappointed face to him, he relented. "Yes, yes, you're trying to tell me something, but I'm too tired to figure it out. Tomorrow, DB, all right?"

The Macaw watched him for a long time.

"Night, night."

"Good night, Dirty Bird. Tell me again in the morning, okay?"


~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

Jim rolled over and looked at the clock next to his bed, 5:07 am. He raised up on one arm. "Not this early, DB. Go back to sleep."

Silence once again reigned in the loft. He couldn't help but whisper to himself, "I'll be damned, it worked."

The sun was rising the next time Ellison opened his eyes. 'That's better.' Jim pulled his robe on to guard against the morning chill and descended down the stairs. A rattling alerted him that the bird was waking up too.

"I'm not up until I've had my shower, DB." The cage instantly stilled.

Morning routines were wonderful things. So much could be done without any effort or thought. After his shower was completed, Jim detoured past Sandburg's room and knocked before starting the coffee. Once the coffee maker kicked on, he headed upstairs to dress, barely missing his roommate as he stumbled out of his room on his way to the shower. Three years and they had never collided.

"Morning, Sandburg, morning, DB."

Sandburg responded, "MMMBBBBBGGGGMMM"

The bird responded.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

Ellison couldn't help it. "Hey Sandburg, at least the bird's sounds mean something."

Sandburg paused at the bathroom door and opened one eye. "Up yours, man."

Jim finished tying his shoes just as the coffeepot gurgled; indicating it was almost at the end of its cycle. By the time he went downstairs, it was ready to pour. Two cups were filled and lifted; one to his lips, one to open air, snagged seconds later by the damp, dark haired blur leaving the bathroom.

His now empty hand automatically went to the bag of bread sitting on the counter. Two slices into the toaster. By the time the butter and jam were taken out of the refrigerator the toast was up. Both slices were buttered, one with a thin layer of strawberry jam. One went to the mouth; one was raised up to disappear only seconds later as his roommate sped past again on his way to retrieve the morning paper. Two more slices into the toaster. Buttered, jam, and on a plate. He heard the door close behind him as he set the plate down and reached out his hand. His fingers closed around the sports section and he looked up and made the first real eye contact of the morning.

"Classes today?"

"Nope. How'd you get the bird to be quiet last night?"

"I told him to."

"You told him?" Sandburg got up to set his cup in the sink. "How'd you get him to behave?"

Ellison smirked behind his cup. "It was easy. I have a lot of practice with scruffy looking, headstrong, tenacious, know-it-all critters." Without looking he leaned to the right just as a towel sailed over his left shoulder to land on the table in front of him. Yes, morning routines were a wonderful thing.

Sandburg retreated to his room for his backpack. From inside his room a voice floated back out to Ellison. "I am not scruffy."

Jim was still chuckling when the phone rang. He snagged it on the first ring. "Ellison." After listening to the person on the other end he smiled and hung up.

"Hurry it up, Chief. They picked up our boy a few minutes ago."

Blair came out of his room, still tying his hair back. "Really? Man, I didn't think he was dumb enough to show his face anywhere. Umm, what do we do about him?" He gestured at the cage.

"He comes with us, of course. And when he's done identifying Jacobs we can figure out what he's trying to tell us."

As if on cue, DB started up again.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

The bird paused for a second, looking at the two men.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

"After, DB, he said after."

The bird quieted down again.


Sentinel and Guide found their captain outside interrogation room three, watching the angry young man pacing inside. Banks watched the two men come closer, cage securely in Ellison's hands. He did a double take, then grinned.

"Aren't handcuffs a bit extreme, Jim?"

Ellison glanced down at the cage, its door still secured by the handcuffs he had placed on it last night and blushed. "Well, sir..."

Blair jumped in, "Simon, you were ready to put the handcuffs on the bird yesterday. At least Jim just used them on the cage."

Banks looked at the expression on the faces of the two partners and knew the comment he wanted to make could not be said in public. He was saved when DB caught sight of the suspect behind the two-way mirror.

"Bad man, bad man, bad man."

Ellison pulled the cage close to his face. "DB, is that the man that hurt Harry?"

The bird tucked his beak against his chest and began to rock slightly.

"Aarry...want Aarry."

The pathetic sight even got to Banks. "Here, give me the bird while you talk to Jacobs." He jabbed a finger at Sandburg. "Not a word from you, pipsqueak."

Sandburg didn't have to; the bird did it for him.

"Give 'em the bird, give 'em the bird."

One patented Banks glare settled DB right down as he handed the file on Edmund Jacobs to Sandburg and took the cage from Ellison.

Ellison entered the interrogation room, followed by Sandburg. The suspect spun around to face them.

"I didn't do anything, what are you holding me for?" The spike in his heart rate and the increased perspiration told the Sentinel otherwise.

"Well, if you didn't do anything then you won't mind answering a few questions." Ellison couldn't help but smile to himself; some perps were so easy.

Jacobs took a step closer. "I know my rights, I don't have to answer anything."

"Sit down."

Jacobs took another step towards the cop and the observer.

"If you don't sit down, I'll add assaulting an officer to the charges."

He didn't sit down, but he did stop coming closer. "You can't do that."

Sandburg looked up from the file and spoke for the first time since they entered. "According to the report, you resisted arrest. The DA won't have any problem adding new charges."

This time Jacobs sat down. Sandburg sat at the table across from him, while Ellison stood over him.

Ellison didn't waste any time. "Why'd you kill Harry Bennett?" He barely had to dial up his hearing to detect the jackhammer that was Jacob's heart rate.

"No, I...he...I've..."

Sandburg leaned forward and placed the file on the table. "It says here that the patrol officers found Harry's artificial leg in the trunk of your car."

The sweat was beading up on the young man's face. "I...I found it, I was going to return it to him today, I swear."

Ellison leaned down and placed his hands on the table in front of Jacobs. "You just happened to find it, is that right?"

"Yeah, man. It was out in the woods and I found it."

"How'd you know it was his?"

Jacobs froze. "I want a lawyer. I'm not going to answer any more questions until I get a lawyer."

Ellison shoved himself away from the table. "Fine, you'll get yourself a lawyer. Just remember that the man you killed was a hero. You may only get one shot at a plea bargain. You'd better think real hard about it."

They were halfway to the door before the kid spoke. "Yeah, he was some kind of hero all right."

The insolence made the Sentinel see red. He swung back around, but Sandburg stopped him from going anywhere. "What the hell do you mean by that?"

"He was your hero, not mine."

Before Ellison could say anything, Sandburg had him shoved through the door.

"Don't let him get to you, man."

"Sandburg..." Frustrated, Ellison scrubbed his hands over his face and leaned against the wall.

While Ellison composed himself, Sandburg turned to the captain. "Is forensics done with the car yet?"

"It's over in impound. They should be just about done. Why?"

Sandburg stared at the file he was holding. "Harry Bennett was killed because of something that kid thought he knew about him. We find out what that was, and we've got a motive."

Banks was impressed, although he tried to hide it. We'll make a cop out of you yet, Sandburg. Umm, what about..." he held up the cage, "...him."

The corner of Ellison's mouth started up. "We can't really take him to the impound yard with us, sir."

Following his partner's lead, Blair turned his most soulful face to the other man. Banks knew he'd been had.

"All right, he can stay here. Just put him somewhere where he won't cause a problem."

Sandburg looked between the two taller men. "And just where would that be?"

Banks pulled out a cigar. "Leave him with someone you want to annoy."

The two partners looked at each other and spoke in unison.

"Cassie."


"What are we looking for, Chief? If there is any trace evidence, forensics would have already found it."

"Then let them worry about that, we need to see just what Jacobs has in his car."

Sandburg stepped up to the table that the forensic team had used to lay out the items they had removed from the suspect's car. In the center of the table were the broken remains of Harry Bennett's artificial leg. He didn't need Sentinel senses to tell his friend was tensing up.

"Take it easy, Jim."

"He was a helpless old man, Sandburg." Ellison fingered the broken bits of plastic that had at one time been the 'skin' on the leg. "Why?"

Blair touched his friend's shoulder. "Do you remember the night of the murder, when I said that the 'why' and the 'who' were connected? Now we just have to find the connection."

Ellison thought for a minute, then nodded. "Okay, how do we find it?"

"Do you remember Jacobs' attitude about Bennett being a hero? Let's see if we can figure that out."

"You think that Jacobs was so disillusioned about Bennett that he smashed the leg?

"It's possible. Let's see what he knew about the man." Sandburg picked up the battered laptop computer that was on the evidence table.

"He probably stole that."

Sandburg agreed. "Probably, but according to the preliminary report, his fingerprints were on the keys. Let's see what he was using it for." He booted up and waited for the old system to kick in. "Hey Jim, there's a floppy in it. Let's see what's on it."

Ellison stood behind his partner while Sandburg opened one file after another. Each file had the same subject; namely the theft of uncut diamonds during World War II. According to the files Jacobs had copied from the Internet, over $3,000,000 in rough diamonds disappeared from the Philippines near the end of the war. There were rumors that they were lost on a Navy convoy that had been sunk, but neither government would admit they ever existed. One file listed six ships in the convoy, one of which was the USS Middleton, captained by Commander Harrison Bennett.

With a shaking hand, Sandburg opened the last file on the disc. This one told how Harry Bennett had stepped on a land mine two days after the peace treaty was signed.

"Harry's treasure." Ellison's voice was barely a whisper as he walked to the far wall and slammed his fist against it. He drew back a second time. "Damn it!" The third time, Blair grasped his hand.

"Don't do this to yourself, man."

Jim leaned back on the wall and let his partner check his hand. "Now what?"

Sandburg understood his partner's need to keep his concentration on the case. "Were the diamonds hidden in the leg?"

"No." Ellison visibly pulled himself together. "No, I don't think so. There wasn't enough room in it."

Blair nodded intent on keeping his friend talking. So if he had the diamonds, where would he keep them?"

"I don't know, someplace safe I guess." Ellison stood up straight and faced Sandburg, his eyes wide. "Someplace safe."

"What?"

"Safe, it needed to be safe." Ellison began to jog to the door. "Come on!"

"Where?"

"To where it's safe. We need to get him first."

"Who?"

"The bird, we need the bird."

"Why?"

No answer was forthcoming, as the Sentinel was already out the door.


All the way to the station Sandburg watched his friend, but Ellison gave no clue as to what was going on in his head. They went directly to Cassie Wells' office, where the very flustered woman greeted them.

"That...that...that bird!"

Sandburg did his best to look shocked. "Did you have a problem with him?"

Apparently that was not the thing to say. "A problem? A problem?"

"Gee, Cassie, I thought you could get along with anybody." Blair was glad to see his unhappy partner smirking behind Cassie's back.

"Just take him and go!" Wells reached back into the office and brought out the cage, shoving it at Sandburg. DB blinked at Sandburg, then turned around on his perch and looked at her one last time.

"Bye-bye, sweet cheeks."

The slamming of the office door could be heard throughout most of the station.

Ellison finally chuckled as he took the cage from Sandburg. "Didn't she like you, DB?"

"She no fun."

Sandburg didn't trust himself to open his mouth until they were far away from Wells, so he didn't speak until they were back in the truck. "Where are we taking him?"

The sad expression was back on Ellison's face. "I know what DB was trying to tell us. We're going back to Bennett's place.

The old place looked even more rundown in the light of day. Ellison pulled the truck up as close as he could to the front of the house.

"Umm, Jim?" Sandburg reached out and grasped Ellison's arm. "I hate to ask, but how are we going to get up there? We didn't bring a ladder with us."

Ellison climbed out of the truck, pulling the cage out with him. "Don't worry Sandburg, you bounce so well."

"Jim? Jim?"

Instead of answering, Ellison moved to the back of the house, Sandburg in pursuit.

"Come on, man. Where are you going?"

Ellison bounded up the back steps and turned to wait for his partner. "Didn't I tell you? They got the back door broke loose." He unlocked the door and entered the house, totally ignoring the muttered comments behind him.

Once inside, he let DB out of his cage to roam the house freely. "Show me where it is, buddy." The bird made a beeline to the small rug next to the old rolltop desk.

Sandburg knelt down next to the rug. "He was trying to tell us last night, wasn't he?"

Jim didn't answer; he just slid the rug out from under the bird and began to feel the flooring underneath. Within seconds he had found the release and the hidden access popped open.

Both men sat back and stared at the antique safe tucked inside the small opening. A heavy brass dial was on the center of the door, the numbers on it nearly worn off.

"He used it a lot."

Jim nodded absently. He didn't want to find what he knew in his heart would be inside. As if sensing his hesitation, DB reminded him of the access.

~Click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, clunk~

~Click, click, clunk~

"Yeah, DB, I know." Ellison shooed the bird back and prepared to open the safe.

"Jim, wait. Are there any other fingerprints on it?"

Ellison dialed up his sight on the old and dirty safe. "No, just Harry's. Whatever is in here, he's the only one to open it before us. Whatever's here -- it's his."

"Jim..."

"I have to know, Sandburg." He began turning the heavy knob. One, two, three, four, five, on the sixth, the tumbler dropped into place. Back the other way and again the tumbler dropped down when expected. Ellison puffed out his cheeks and looked over at his best friend as the third turn was started. One, two...clunk, he jumped as the last tumbler fell and the worn hinges swung open.

"No..." He breathed as he backed away, refusing to acknowledge the leather wrapped pouch now in view.

Sandburg reached past his still partner and lifted out the pouch. Turning slightly to protect Ellison from the truth, he set the leather satchel on the floor and began to open it.

"Aarry's treasure." Even the bird was subdued.

"Oh my God...Jim, you need to look at this." Sandburg's voice rose slightly from the whisper he had been using. "Jim, look... Jim!"

He reached out and grabbed the older man's arm, forcing him to turn and look at what he had spread out on the floor. "This was Harry's greatest treasure. Look at it, man."

Ellison turned slowly towards Blair and where he was pointing. On the floor in front of him were no diamonds, instead the floor was covered with age-stained photos of a young Harry with a beautiful woman.

"No diamonds?"

Sandburg slowly reached out with a small black and gold box that still carried the worn logo of a jewelry store. "Only this one."

Reverently, Jim opened the box. Its lid opened crooked -- the hinge long since worn out. Inside was an elegant platinum band, set with a small diamond. Shaking hands lifted the delicate band out into the light.

"There's an inscription. It's...'Harry and Margaret, forever'." It was a long time before Jim spoke again. "I can't explain it, but I really need to know what happened, I..."

As usual, his friend understood what the Sentinel could not explain. "It's all right, Jim. You feel an attachment to the old man, I understand. There's a journal here, and some names and dates on the photos. I'll find out, I promise."

"Jacobs' arraignment is in less than an hour."

Blair began to gather up the photos. "Drop me off at the loft, maybe I'll have an answer by the time you're done."


"Jim, I'm glad you're here early."

"Simon, what's up?" Ellison had barely had time to set the cage down before he was called into the captain's office.

Banks pulled his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Jacobs and his lawyer are objecting to the use of the bird as a witness. Judge Hammond has called all the parties involved to his office before the arraignment to determine how it will be handled."

"They'll let DB testify, won't they?"

"Listen to yourself, Jim. It's a bird, not a person. He can't be cross-examined, hell, he can't really be questioned."

"Simon, all he needs to do is identify Jacobs as the 'bad man' who hurt Harry. The evidence will do the rest. DB can do this, sir. I know he can."

"All right, Jim. Meet the team from the DA's office at Judge Hammond's chambers. They will have the final call."

Ellison stood up and headed for the door. "Thank you, Simon."

"Will Sandburg be there?" Banks' question stopped Jim at the door.

"No, sir." Jim closed the door and turned around, leaning against it. "The robbery and murder were because of a 'treasure' that Bennett claimed to have, and..."

"Treasure!" That got Banks' attention. "Is it real, did you find it?"

The sadness in Jim's eyes was such as Banks had not seen since Lila had died in the Sentinel's arms. "His treasure was a lost love. Blair is trying to find her for me."


Judge Hammond was known as a no-nonsense judge who handed down judgements with an impartial hand. Tough and fair, he was well liked by both the DA's office and the police department. However, sitting in his chambers always made Jim feel like a five-year-old waiting for his punishment.

"This is highly unusual." The judge was speaking even before he was fully through the door of his office. "You're going to have to convince me to let a bird sit on the witness stand, people. Somebody tell me why I should do it."

"Sir, I must agree. This is highly irregular and unprecedented. I really must object..."

"Of course you must, You're a defense attorney, that's what you do." As he sat down, Hammond peered over the rim of his reading glasses to take a better look at the balding man in the polyester suit. "However, I asked for reasons I should let the bird testify, not for reasons I shouldn't. Pay attention to me if you expect to get anywhere in my court, Mr. McNally. You got that?"

"Umm, well, umm, yes, yes, of course."

"Good." Dismissing the man from his mind, Hammond turned back to the defense team. "As you were saying?"

"Of course, sir." A tall, lanky young man stood up and moved to stand closer to the judge's desk. He seemed eager to please. "The bird in question is a Macaw, known as a blue and gold, due to its distinctive coloration. They are established to be highly intelligent animals, possessing a remarkable ability to speak and respond to simple commands. They have been recognized as..."

Judge Hammond interrupted him with a wave of his hand. "That's all well and good, but tell me about this bird, and just who in the hell are you?"

"I'm sorry, sir." The gangly youth had the good grace to blush. "My name is Marty Rennat with the DA's office. I'm assisting Ms Sanchez on this case."

"Then why isn't Ms Sanchez standing here explaining all this to me?"

"Sir, my parents run one of the largest bird breeding centers on the West Coast. I've handled Macaws since I was old enough to walk. District Attorney Michaels felt my knowledge could be beneficial to the case. Also, the bird is conditioned to respond better to men than to women. He tends to speak his mind."

Hammond leaned back and laughed. "Speak his mind? Well, I've been accused of the same thing, guess the bird and I will get along just fine. How do you propose to question the bird?"

"The bird recognized and reacted to the defendant earlier at the police station. All we're asking for at this hearing is for the court to witness the bird's reaction when he sees him here today."

"I object!" The defense attorney jumped to his feet and started pacing. "This is a bird, just a dumb animal. How do we know that you haven't trained the response into the bird?"

"Well?" The judge's question was directed at the prosecution.

Rennat was ready for that question. "Training like that takes time, more than we've certainly had. But if it would make Mr. McNally more comfortable, perhaps the bailiff could handle the bird when Jacobs is brought in?"

Recognizing a loosing battle, McNally sat down without raising another objection. Judge Hammond leaned back and addressed Ellison. "You've been babysitting the bird?"

Years of training brought Ellison to his feet. "Yes sir, he's one of the most unusual witnesses we've ever had in protective custody." Jim smiled slightly at the understatement.

"All right, let's see this bird then. Bring him into chambers please."

Jim wasted no time following the judge's instructions. He slipped out into the hallway and accepted the cage from the clerk waiting there. Beverly moved the papers on the table to give him room to set the cage down.

Once the cage was down, DB opened it himself and climbed out onto Ellison's ready hand. Ellison brought him up to his face and spoke to the bird loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

"These people have some questions for you, DB. You be a good boy and answer them for me, okay?"

"Questions?"

"That's right."

"Nosy farts."

It took all Jim had to not laugh out loud. From the sound of the judge's voice he wasn't alone.

"Bring him here and set him on my desk, detective."

Jim complied, then moved away, waiting to see what Dirty Bird would do next.

DB wandered around on the mahogany surface before stopping to look at the man sitting behind it.

"Eello, who you?"

The older man smiled warmly at his questioner. "I'm Judge Hammond..."

"You judge?"

"Why, yes." Obviously pleased, Hammond started to speak again but was interrupted by DB, who began bobbing along as he spoke.

"Eere come da judge...eere come da judge..."

"Okay, you know what a judge is." Hammond was enthralled by the bird's antics.

Beverly Sanchez slid down in her seat just a little bit, dreading what the bird would do next.

"Who is that?" The judge pointed to Ellison.

"Jim...good for Jim. Jim give beer."

"You gave the bird beer?"

Ellison smiled weakly at the older man. "It was a compromise, he wanted a martini."

Beverly slid a little further down.

Hammond pointed to the bailiff. "Who's that?"

DB waddled over to the far edge of the desk and studied the man in question, from the top of his snow white head, to the buttons straining across the middle of his shirt, to his shiny black shoes.

"Blimp boy."

By now Hammond was openly laughing. "Harold, I told you all those donuts were going to get you in trouble one day."

Eventually, the bailiff joined in the laughter. "Yes sir, I believe you did." He reached out his hand and smiled when DB climbed on. "Let's go see everyone else, shall we?"

The bailiff's first stop was the judge's secretary. She was what one might refer to as 'sturdy' or 'matronly', having aged past 'tomboyish' many years ago.

Dirty Bird hopped down onto her desk. He turned his head so he could study her with one eye. Ellison and Sanchez braced for the worst.

"No hooters?"

A slight squeak came from the judge, otherwise the room was silent and the bailiff moved in front of Beverly with DB.

Beverly never took her eyes off the bird that was watching her. DB fluffed up his feathers and opened his mouth.

"Hubba, hubba...ack"

Whatever else the bird was about to say was stopped when Jim grabbed his beak. Jim leaned over and hissed at the bird. "We get the point."

The last person in the office was the defense attorney. The bird seemed fascinated by the man for some reason and sat watching him for several minutes before speaking.

"Slimeball, slimeball."

Everyone in the room, with the exception of Mr. McNally, broke out into laughter. Wiping his face, Hammond looked at the lawyer who had been a thorn in his side for over twenty years.

"Well, I think that proves the bird has a working grasp of what is going on around him. Let's bring the defendant in, shall we?"

The bailiff set DB on the judge's desk before leaving to escort the prisoner into chambers. Surprising everyone in the room, the bird settled down to watch every move that the older man made. Curious, Hammond lifted his hand slightly and DB scooted under it, rubbing his head on the raised palm.

Before Jim could react to the natural affinity between Macaw and magistrate, the bailiff returned with Jacobs in cuffs. The sullen young man stared at the floor as he was brought before the judge. The judge never looked up at him; instead his attention was on the bird perched on his desk.

Even the most casual observer could tell the bird was reacting to Jacobs. Instead of the playful bobbing that he had displayed earlier, the Macaw was moving in short, angry jabs. Only those close to him could hear the words he was saying.

"Bad man, bad man, bad man."

Without warning the bird raised up, flapping his wings and screeching louder than even the night of the murder.

"Bad man uurt Aarry, bad man uurt Aarry."

Before anyone could grab him, DB flew off the desk on a direct path towards Jacobs' face. The handcuffed prisoner stepped backwards; throwing his arms up in the air to protect himself, and promptly tripped over his own feet.

As Jacobs fell, DB continued to swoop down on him, flapping and screeching, until Jacobs finally snapped.

"I should've killed you too, you damn bird!"

Ellison reached past McNally and grabbed DB before any harm could come to him, then moved back, listening to the angry rants.

"You wouldn't shut up, I'd had had more time if you would have just shut up!"

Realizing what his client had just done, McNally tried to salvage it as best he could. "Your honor, my client doesn't know what he is saying! He was just attacked by this so-called witness and he's rattled. I move that his comments be stricken from the court records."

Hammond automatically reached for his gavel, but it was on his courtroom bench, not his office desk. Improvising, he beat the desktop with his fist.

"Mr. McNally, we are not in court! This happens to be my office, so sit down and..."

"It should have been mine, I worked hard to track down that treasure..."

McNally tried to quiet his client. "I'll tell you when to talk, son."

His client would have nothing to do with it. "Shut up old man! You're as bad as that old man and his damn bird. Do you know how long he had been yapping about that treasure?"

"All those months of telling my kid brother about the treasure that only comes around once in a lifetime. He'd never tell him what kind of treasure it was, I had to figure it out myself -- and I did.

"He was just hoarding it, I deserved to have it. I deserve to have it."

The bailiff and two guards finally managed to restrain Jacobs and set him down on a chair. Ellison put the bird back in his cage and then stood over the confessed murderer. His voice was soft, but commanded the attention of everyone in the small room.

"There were no diamonds, Jacobs. The treasure he had, then lost, was love."

"Love?"

"Yeah," Jim paused; the pity was evident in his voice. The lesson was so clear to the Sentinel. For whatever reason, Harry Bennett had let someone slip away from him, someone whom he loved until his dying day.

"You don't get it, do you?"

Jacobs shook his head, unable to tear away from the penetrating eyes.

Ellison nodded as if the answer was so plain to everyone around him. "And that is the greatest tragedy of it all."

Guards removed the still muttering prisoner as Jim turned back to the cage. Someone had beaten him to it, and Ellison watched as Judge Hammond drew the still trembling bird close to his face. DB nestled into his neck as if he belonged there. Observing the two, Jim knew he did.

"Hey, Dirty Bird." After giving the two a few more minutes to bond, Jim decided it was time to broach the subject. He reached out and brushed his fingertips along the bird's soft back. "Looks like you've got a friend there."

Hammond seemed to understand where Jim was headed. "Has anybody claimed him yet, any family of Bennett's?"

The sadness in Jim's voice was genuine; he truly had grown fond of the cantankerous bird. "The old man didn't have family, just the bird. We've been putting Animal Control off, but once the case is over, they'll take him unless someone accepts responsibility."

"What about you?"

"I'm still housebreaking my partner." This time Ellison did chuckle. "But really, he need someone who can spend more time with him than I can."

Jim studied the older man. He knew that Hammond's wife of 45 years had recently passed away, and could only imagine the loneliness he was facing every night. "Perhaps..."

His smile seemed to take years off the judge. "Yes, perhaps."


"Hey, how'd it go?" The soft voice greeted Jim as he entered his home. Tracking the voice, he found his roommate sitting on the floor of the living room, surrounded by papers, photos, and his laptop.

Ellison detoured through the kitchen, snagging two beers, before joining the younger man. Blair accepted the bottle with a smiled thanks and waited for Jim to tell him what had happened.

"Jacobs lost it when he saw the bird, started bragging about it, claiming that he earned the diamonds because he had 'figured it out'. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him there were no diamonds. After everything calmed down his lawyer told him to take the plea-bargain."

"And did he?"

"Manslaughter. Minimum 10 before he's eligible for parole. The kid brother got five years probation plus community service."

"Are you satisfied with that?" He knew what this case had done to the Sentinel

Ellison thought about the question as he swallowed the last of his beer. "The autopsy confirmed that Bennett died of a heart attack brought on by the beating, not by the beating itself. Manslaughter probably would have been the best we could have done anyway. Besides, his attorney could have tied up the case for years, arguing about weather the bird's testimony could be admitted."

Sandburg looked around. "Umm, speaking of which, where is the bird?"

"With his new owner." Ellison waited for the reaction.

"What?" Sandburg stared at him. "Who?"

"Judge Hammond. The two of them really bonded." Jim gathered up the bottles and headed for the kitchen with them.

Blair seemed to mull this over. "Bennett and Hammond...okay, the bird likes crusty old men. Guess you weren't crusty enough for him." He ducked his head, looking through the curls for the response.

Jim sat down on the sofa across from his roommate and thwacked him on the head with a pillow. "Just remember, payback's hell pipsqueak." He became more serious as he indicated the items on the floor. "Any luck?"

"Actually, yeah." The young man leaned back against the sofa next to his partner's legs and began telling him what his research had found.

"Her name was, and is, Margaret Werner. She never married, but she raised her brother's children after he and his wife were killed."

"Any idea who this is?" Ellison held up the picture that had destroyed the old man's life all those years ago. The photo of his Margaret in the arms of another man.

Sandburg sadly shook his head. "No, there's no identifying marks visible on the photo, and Harry didn't even know his name."

"You read his journal?"

"Yeah, apparently about a month before the war was over Harry got a weeks leave and showed up at Margaret's with the ring. He was just getting out of the cab when this other guy walked up to the door and she came running out and started hugging him. Apparently Harry just got back in the cab and left. He wanted to take a picture of the look on Margaret's face when she saw him and the ring. Instead, he got this." Blair reached out and took the photo from Jim's limp fingers.

Sandburg continued, not noticing the flash of pain on the older man's face. "Man, that must have hurt. Imagine finding the woman you're going to ask to be your wife in the arms of another man."

Drawing a rough breath, Ellison took back the photo. "Do we know where she is now?"

Blair turned and looked up at his partner. "Yeah, she's in a nursing home out by Ridgefield. Her nephew's going to meet us there tonight. "Are you okay with this? We don't have to go, this has nothing to do with the case."

Ellison stiffly got up and moved towards the stairs. "Be ready to leave in an hour."

"Jim?"

The Sentinel sagged against the rough brick wall, staring at the ragged photo still in his hand. "I need to do this Sandburg. Please try to understand."

Blair could almost see his friend gathering the energy to continue up the stairs. His answer was so soft a Sentinel couldn't hear it. "I do, my friend. I do."


The blue and white truck pulled into the parking lot of St. Anne's Hospice at a few minutes after 8:00, after being slowed down by the mass of children walking the streets in costume. Without a word to his companion, the tall driver got out and started towards the main door. Once inside a tall redheaded man wearing jeans and a heavy work shirt greeted him. Ellison waited the few seconds for his partner to catch up before starting the introductions.

"Glad to meet you detective, Mr. Sandburg. I'm Randy Werner. Margaret is my aunt."

Not quite trusting his partner's mood, Sandburg took the initiative. "Is your aunt up to answering a few questions? We're trying to close a case."

Sadness seemed to swirl around the nephew. "Whatever questions you may have, you'd better ask them tonight. The doctors don't think it'll be much longer. She's not very lucid, is there something I can answer for you?"

Ellison pulled the photo out of his shirt pocket. "Perhaps. Do you know this man? We'd like to identify him."

"Wow!" A smile broke out on Werner's face "Where did you get this?"

"You recognize the man?"

Werner answered Ellison, his gaze never leaving the picture in his hand. "This is my dad. This is the day he came home from Germany. He had been shot down and declared MIA. Where did you get this picture?"

Ellison was too lost in the irony and tragedy to even hear the question, so Sandburg answered for him. "From a man named Harry Bennett. Did your aunt ever mention his name?"

"Harry? Sure, all the time. He was Aunt Maggie's true love. He never came home after the war and she never got over him. Where did he get the picture?"

By the time Sandburg had brought Werner up to date on what had happened those years ago, Jim had reached a decision. "We found something that Harry had intended for Margaret. I'd like to give it to her, if that's all right."

Werner studied the peaceful countenance on the detective's face before nodding and showing the two men to his aunt's room.

Once inside the room, Blair and Randy Werner waited by the door as Ellison moved to stand next to the bed. He watched the elderly woman sleep, seeing the shadows of the beautiful young woman under the frailty of age. As he took her hand, cloudy blue eyes opened to look at him.

"Hello, Margaret."

She didn't answer, but the question was in her eyes.

"I'm a friend of Harry's."

"Harry." Her voice was so soft; it was all the Sentinel could do to hear it. "I waited so long, but he never came home. I never stopped loving him, why didn't he come home?"

"He never stopped loving you either and he's sorry, so very sorry." Ellison's voice broke as he fumbled in his coat pocket. "He asked me to give you this." Trembling hands slipped the cool metal band onto her frail finger. "It says 'Harry and Margaret forever' on it."

With great effort, Margaret lifted her hand and gazed at the ring. A moment of understanding seemed to pass between them as she spoke again. "Will Harry wait for me?"

"Of course." Jim bent and softly kissed her forehead as she drifted off to sleep again.

It was almost midnight before the two men walked back into the loft, stopping to pick up the now empty candy bowl they had left at the doorstep.

"Good night, Chief," Jim said fondly to his sleepy friend. Knowing his Guide's almost obsessive concern for him, he added, "we'll talk in the morning, I promise."

Sandburg gave him a strange look before shrugging and walking into his room. "Good night, Jim."

Ellison chuckled at the thought of their upcoming conversation. He knew that nothing got past Sandburg when it came to him.

Jim walked through the room, turning off the lights and securing the doors when a movement on the balcony caught his attention. Two figures were dancing to music only they could hear. The cop automatically drew his weapon, but lowered it when he realized he could see through them. His actions brought their attention to him and they turned towards him.

Standing on his balcony was a young and strong Commander Harrison Bennett in his full dress uniform. In his arms was the love of his life again young and radiant, the sparkle of a diamond ring on her left hand. Ellison slowly straightened and saluted the officer, remaining at attention as they faded away.

The ringing of the telephone broke him out of his reverie. He picked it up without ever taking his eyes off the balcony doors.

"Detective Ellison, this is Randy Werner. I thought you should know that my aunt passed away about an hour after you left. I...I just wanted to thank you for what you did, she was in such peace at the end."

THE END

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