Part 2: Signature Brushstrokes


Jim was wondering what was wrong with Sandburg as they got back in the truck.  He’d hardly said anything at lunch.  Jim kind of liked the quiet, but he didn’t like the downcast look on his partner’s face.  Partner.  It was strange.  He never thought he’d have another partner, let alone one who wasn’t even a cop.  It was even stranger how, after they got over the initial shock, everyone in Major Crimes had accepted Sandburg in the role.  Even Simon—though he’d never admit it. 


“Hey, Chief.  Come on.  What’s the matter with you?  I haven’t heard one single weird story from you in hours.”


Blair brightened a little.  “You really like my stories?”


“No.  But I’ve kind of gotten used to hearing you talk all the time.  You’re too quiet and it’s making me nervous.”  Jim tuned in his hearing to Blair.  He didn’t sound sick—pulse was strong and steady.  He sniffed the air.  His partner didn’t smell sick, either.  He’d discovered that sick people usually had a slight sour smell.


“What are you doing?”


“Checking to see if maybe you were coming down with something.  Then I’d know to stay far away from you.  But I’m not picking up anything.  You must be ok.”


Blair laughed.  “Thank you, Dr. Ellison, but I could’ve told you that.  I was just thinking.   That’s all.”  They pulled into the police garage.


“Where you’re concerned, that’s dangerous.”


“Ha, ha.  Very funny.”


Just then, Jim’s cell phone rang.  “Ellison.  Yes, sir.  We’re just getting back.  Ok.  We’re on our way.”  He put the cell phone away.  “Back in the truck, Chief.  It looks like we’ll have a chance to get started without Interpol.  There’s been another robbery—this one here in Cascade.”


“The Museum?”


“No.  Private residence in the Windsor Heights area.”


“That’s that really ritzy neighborhood.  This guy knows where to go for the good stuff.”


The two of them headed out for Windsor Heights.  A long, winding road near the edge of town led them to the private community.  Walled and patrolled by security, there was only one entrance into Windsor Heights.  Blair thought it was pretty ridiculous that they had to show their ID at the gate before they were even allowed into the neighborhood.  Maybe being rich wasn’t so wonderful after all if it made a person so afraid and paranoid that he would eagerly live in such an upscale prison.  The houses they passed were incredible—not quite mansions, but much more than average homes.  Blair figured most of the residents had to be successful doctors and lawyers with a little family money to back them up. 


Jim pulled into the Bramwell’s driveway.  Nice place.  He was thinking that this thief had to be one cool professional to have gotten into one of the Windsor Heights homes.  He could hear guards with Doberman’s patrolling the community.  When they’d passed through the gate, Jim had also noticed that the fences were the electrified kind. 


The guards were giving him and Sandburg dirty looks when then got out of the truck—probably ticked off because the residents had to call outside law enforcement for help.  He’d seen the attitude before.  It was always best to just ignore it and get to work.


Inside the house they found a distraught middle-aged woman crying in the arms of another woman.  The officer on the scene gave them the facts and directed them to the older woman—Mrs. Marguerite Bramwell.


While Jim went to talk to her, Blair uncharacteristically left his side to look around.  Careful not to disturb the scene, he looked under tables, on the mantle, on the desk, everywhere.  He didn’t see it.  That was a good sign.  He’d been wrong.


“Find anything, Sandburg?”


“Jim!  You scared the crap out of me, man!  You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.  No, I didn’t find anything.  Just taking a look.”  He moved around a lot as he spoke, trying to mask his nervousness.  Jim didn’t seem to notice because he was already looking at the wall where the picture had previously hung. 


Jim wondered why he’d taken only that one painting and left the two next to it.  Mrs. Bramwell said the other two were worth a lot more.  Was the thief ignorant of their value or did he have another agenda besides money?  Jim stopped and stared at the wall for the longest time, mesmerized by something that caught his eye.


“Hey, Jim!  Don’t zone out on me here, man.  Listen to my voice.  Let it keep you grounded.  What do you see?”


Jim shook his head, trying to clear the fog in his brain.  “There’s something there.  It’s wedged in the side of the threshold down near the floor.”


Blair’s heart jumped out of his chest.  He was relieved to see that Jim was preoccupied and didn’t notice.  He tried to keep a steady voice.  “What is it?”


Jim took a pair of tweezers and carefully removed the object.  He placed it in a small baggie and had an officer make note of where he found it.  Jim held it up to the light.  “A coin.  Looks…British.”


If Jim had been looking at Blair, he would have seen his face crumple.  Blair couldn’t believe it.  Why here in Cascade?  Why couldn’t Jack have just stayed in Europe?


The rest of the visit went by in a blur, Blair just going through the motions.  If Jim noticed something was wrong, he didn’t say anything.  On the way back to the station, Blair asked Jim if he could drop him off at the loft.  “I guess I’m not feeling well after all, Jim.  Maybe you were right and I am coming down with something.”


“You do look a little washed out.  I’ll take care of the paperwork at the station and grab some take-out for dinner on the way home.”  He pulled up in front of the loft.  “Get some sleep and take something for whatever it is you’ve got.  And not that seaweed crap or whatever that smelly stuff is you always mix up when you’re sick.  I’ll see you later.”


Blair let himself into the loft and went straight to his room.  He plonked down on the bed wearily.  How was he going to help Jim on this case without betraying one of his oldest friends?



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