I'm Looking Through You
by My Dad
Bored with the rhetoric of the speaker in the crowded Fillmore Theater, Blair Sandburg, let his eyes wander around the antique building. Across the crowded room, against the wall, Blair saw her. She could have been a poster child advertisement for the Flower Power Generation. Big round blue eyes, long dark hair with bangs, wearing a print shirt and vest... she even had flowers in her hair. He smiled somewhat at the anachronism of her appearance, but yet was captivated by the view to the extent that the voice of the speaker was reduced to an unintelligible drone of sound. Not that he was overly interested in the aims of the campus Historical Preservation Society, he was not even a member. But the clubs faculty advisor, Professor Andre Goodman, was head of the Anthropology Department, and a faculty member to whom he was Academic Aide, or more aptly put, "Indentured Servant" for the entire semester. That meant attending the H.P.S. rallies and meetings for the Professor who delegated such things, as if only Professors were authorized to "get a life".
As the words of the speaker droned on and on into an uncomprehensible background hum, Blair watched the captivating flower child and wondered who she was. Suddenly, a standing ovation to the speaker blocked his view. He quickly started making his way the standing crowd in the direction of the girl. Threading through the sea of people in the theater, like a salmon against the rushing water, Blair slowly, and with great effort, made his way. Bursting through on the other side of the mass of people, Blair suddenly found himself alone. The girl was not there. Where could she have gone? In such a packed room, who could she disappear so quickly. He was sure he now stood where she had been.
While the people slowly filed out of the theater, he went with the flow, looking around for her.
Awaking from a restful sleep, instinctively five minutes before the time set on his alarm clock, Detective James Ellison rolled over in his bed. Somewhere between the twilight of dreams and consciousness, while his senses activated to take inventory of reality, a vision flickered before his bleary eyes and he felt a chill dance across his skin. His eyes quickly focused. Exceptional sharpness revealed nothing... nothing there. Must have been the lingering presence of some forgotten dream. The event still somewhat disturbing left the hair on the back of his neck a bristle.
Brushing the sensations aside, Jim pulled himself from the bed and into the shower. He had to meet Captain Banks at the office of the Cascade Police Department, Major Crimes Unit. Some "city suit" was requesting a special protective detail and he had been drafted. This meant he and his roommate, Blair Sandburg, were due at Cascade P.D. within the hour.
Searching the faces of the exodus slowly pouring out of the theater to the chilly October night, Blair looked in vain for his flower girl vision. She was just not there. He waited as long as he dared, then popped open his cell phone to call Jim, who was to pick him up. "Maybe just a daydream or wishful thinking", he mumbled to himself.
Dressed and grabbing his jacket against the wet cold night, Jim jumped for the phone when it rang. "Ellison." he answered. Upon hearing that Blair was waiting at the campus, Jim let his associate know he was leaving momentarily to pick him up on the way to the P.D.
The very moment that Blair rang off, and a split second before Jim hung up, he felt the tingle of the hairs standing up on the back of his neck, like the rising hackles of a wolf. Someone behind him!! In a blink of an eye, Jim's accentuated senses sprang to life automatically, reaching out in all directions to identify. Simultaneously Jim crouched and spun, drawing his automatic from the holster and the small of his back. In one motion he moved from standing to armed crouch in the opposite direction. Gun drawn and ready.. aiming.... at .. what? Nothing. In a micro second a coldness, less than a breeze, crossed his face, leaving a faint aroma of.. what.. he could not identify it... for it was there and then gone in less than a moment.
Shaking off his edginess and cranking his extended senses back to normal, Jim holstered his weapon. Giving the apartment a quick glance over, he grabbed his jacket and truck keys. He thought he picked up the faint scent once again as he opened the door, but it was too fleeting to identify. Perhaps it was the breeze from the open door. Heading out the door to meet Blair, he pulled on his jacket and mumbled, "Spooks."
Driving up to the antique Fillmore Theater, Jim idled the truck while Blair Sandburg climbed in, throwing his knapsack of books and who knows what else on the seat between them. Both, in their own thoughts, sped to the rendevous with Captain Simon Banks.
Although the chilly October night frosted window panes outside, the hot and heavy atmosphere inside could steam the window, as Councilman Sterling La Troy paced the floor in front of Capt Bank's desk. "You may think this frivolous, Captain," he spouted, "But I, and the Commissioner, believe it prepatory to a major incident against me or my family". Captain Simon Banks sat, elbows on his desk, with the tips of his fingers together like a steeple. He had noncommital look on his face, though he would love to roll his eyes and shake his head at La Troy's inflated agitation.
"There has been no overt threat, councilman, that can be attributed to anyone opposing your views" Simon began, "However, we are prepared to ensure the safety of you and your family during the debates of the zoning proposition.
Councilman La Troy seemed hardly appeased, if he heard Captain Banks at all. "Those rabble rousing students at the college look for any excuse to rally and harass those who represent progress." he lectured as he paced back and forth. "This so called campus Historical Preservation Society is just a front for bored students who look for an excuse to crusade and intimidate the establishment." he theorized.
Captain Banks sat, neither agreeing or disagreeing, wishing that either the Councilman would run out of steam or that Ellison would arrive.
However, it seemed La Troy was just getting started as he climbed up on his proverbial soap box to preach. "This is not Kent State or a war!" La Troy continued. "Those days of protesting change and progress became obsolete a quarter of a century ago! I know. I was there!" he claimed "But this group is vicious and calculating."
At this, Simon perked up, and tried not to show too much impatience, "Now Councilman, there is no proof that the Historical Preservation Society is involved in your complaint. There has been no credit claimed and many of those incidents you cite could be coincidental.
Councilman La Troy seemed insulted. "Before I proposed to support the referendum to dismantle that eyesore relic, Fillmore Theater, I never had any problems, coincidental or otherwise!" he countered. "Now, suddenly, I am plagued with flat tires and pesky phone calls in the middle of the night with no one on the line. Someone trips my burglar alarm regularly, a system that I have had for years, I might add. What are you waiting for, someone to throw a Molotov cocktail through my picture window?!?" he challenged.
Councilman La Troy was agitated now and Captain Banks felt the heat of the politics of the situation pressing down upon him. La Troy had obviously called in some markers somewhere, buying upper level attention to his paranoia. Of course, as with anything connected to politics, the "gravity" of the situation (or lack thereof) caused a downward spiral effect until the "buck stops" at the bottom rung. There currently sat Captain Simon Banks... that is.. until Ellison and Sandburg got their butts into the office.
Meanwhile, Councilman La Troy continued with vigor in his "case to justify protective services". Captain Banks let him spout, though it was all for nothing, because the decision was already made higher than the Commissioner to assign the detail. "I was at Rainier University when the Fillmore was at its zenith." La Troy continued. "But it is a thing of the past - a dinosaur that needs to make way for progress and community expansion!" he claimed. "Those radical retro 'wanna be hippies' don't know the first thing about peaceful protest!" he charged.
At that moment, the door opened and in walked a curly, long-haired, cherub faced, Blair Sandburg, the epitome of retro to Woodstock, followed by Detective James Ellison. In a split second the shift of tension was like lightening. Captain Banks immediately felt the burden lifted from his shoulders when he saw Jim Ellison, a lower rung on the delegation ladder, where the buck would ultimately stop. Councilman La Troy redirected the focus of his pent up frustration and anger, in the form of a surprised look of disgust that could almost kill, at an unsuspecting and undeserving Blair Sandburg. Where a moment before then noise of the Councilman's tirade had been electrifying, the vacuum of sudden silence created a more energized aura that could have ignited the room with one spark.
"Did we interrupt, Simon?" Jim asked somewhat chagrined, "We can come back later".
"No, your timing is impeccable as always." Simon answered sarcastically as he rolled his eyes. "Councilman La Troy, let me introduce Detective Ellison and his assistant, Blair Sandburg. These are the two who will be detailed to your requested protection services."
La Troy stared at the pair, particularly Blair. "An undercover cop, no doubt, to penetrate the bowels of the student confederacy?" he surmised.
"No." Simon corrected, "Mr Sandburg here is on loan from the university as special consultant to the Cascade Police Department."
Somewhat chagrined, Councilman La Troy could not completely hide his displeasure in such an association.
"Detective Ellison, here, will be in charge of the detail assigned to you." Simon explained, "It begins now with their escorting you home for the night."
Councilman La Troy indignantly drew his shoulders back and spun on his heels, turning toward the door. With a loud, "Harrumph. Come Detective." He strode past Ellison and Sandburg.
Speechless and stunned, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg looked at each other and then to Simon, who only shrugged. Shaking his head and raising his hand to stop any rebuttal, he sighed, "Don't ask... just do it.... go!"
Dutifully they turned and quickly caught up with the striding Councilman, following him to the police parking area. A plain clothed officer driver awaited next to the Councilman's BMW. Jim and Blair climbed into his 1969, blue and white, Ford Ranger pick up to follow to the Councilman's residence.
"I think we were just 'dissed', if I'm not mistaken" Blair said, as they climbed into the truck cab.
"Suck it up, Chief." Jim replied with the sage wisdom of a big brother, "got a feelin' there's lots more where that came from."
Keeping his sharp eyes on the BMW and alert for any possible threats, Jim had his "working mask" on. His senses at the ready and his face unreadable, James Ellison was totally and professionally dedicated to the task at hand.
Blair, on the other hand, sat quietly seething from the perceived insult, without understanding why it had been hurled at him. Somewhat perturbed by the whole thing, he tried to settle down and calmly watch the traffic as the cold October night sky started to drizzle. As they passed the Rainier University Campus and the Fillmore Theater, where he had been earlier, Blair suddenly saw her! There she was.. getting on a local city transit bus! Of all the times not to be able to stop! There was not time to even think beyond a quick glance at the sign on the front of the bus. "Hillcrest", Blair murmured to himself to commit the bus route to memory.
"What's that, Chief?" Jim asked, without diverting his attention from duty.
"Nothing" replied Blair, "Just thinking out loud, I guess."
"Well, keep it down to a dull roar. Will ya?" Jim chided with a smile, making Blair laugh too at the cryptic, tongue in cheek reference to Jim's sensitive perception.
A quick, uneventful motorcade from the campus to the Councilman's residence found the drizzle had turned into a full fledged winter storm, complete with thunder and lightening. This would probably be the last storm before a drop in temperature would truly signal winter with a white blanket of snow. Pulling up to the circular driveway of Councilman La Troy's house, the motorcade detail saw members of the 'advance team' step out of the front door to admit the arriving party. Everyone dashed through the pouring rain in a group to the entrance alcove. Once inside, La Troy settled in for the night with his family, while Jim checked with the household staff and protection team already in place.
Blair, feeling about as welcome as mutt at a pedigree dog show, roamed around trying to stay out of everyone's way. He had gotten soaked on the way in and resembled a wet poodle with glasses. He just knew he was in for a head cold at least.
Securing everyone for the night, Jim started methodically checking all areas and the in place security system. As he was about to leave the basement area, a clap of thunder, simultaneous with a flash of lightening, startled him. Immediately the room was engulfed in darkness as the power ceased. Normally, Jim's eyesight would have adjusted to the darkness immediately. However the high candle power of the preceding flash had caused his sensitive pupils to constrict in compensation. In essence he was momentarily blinded by the flash, then darkness. To compensate of that loss, his other senses sprang to superior until the generators kicked in to restore power and return the light. In a moment, before the light returned, while the blackness surrounded, his senses reached out. There! He encountered it again!! That same smell!! It was there to be sure, but only for a moment before it either dissipated or Jim's olfactory glands became accustomed to it. He was sure that it had been there... but what was it? Again the identification of it eluded him like a mist.
The lights fully restored, Jim quickly contacted all members of the team and assured himself that everyone, including the Councilman, was okay. Another coincidence to feed the Councilman's paranoia... or was it? Jim now started to be concerned with trying to placed the odor that had, three times now, tickled his sense of smell. At the top of the basement stairs he met Blair. He started to mention the 'hide and go seek' fragrance when he was interrupted by Councilman La Troy.
"You see the typical subversive harassment tactics of these overaged juvenile delinquents? It's only a matter of time until someone gets hurt, namely my family." he raged.
Jim could not believe the ego of this man. Blair's eyebrows shot up and then down in a frown as he took a deep breath, prior to launching a retaliatory verbal assault on La Troy for his accusations and demeaning attitude. Jim, perceiving him to be a little kettle of steam ready to explode, quickly placed a restraining hand on his partner's shoulder and found him to be like a tightly wound spring. Raising an index finger and giving him a glance of warning that could only come from an older brother sage, Jim stopped Blair, whose mouth hung open without sound in mid word.
All was lost on Councilman Sterling La Troy who, after making his statement, turned on his heel and walked away from the pair as if, again, dismissing them from his audience. "Excuse me Councilman La Troy" said Jim, playing to his inflated ego. "But the security system, as well as the back up generator appears to have performed as expected. The electrical failure seems coincidental considering the size of the storm."
"Harrumph" La Troy snorted. "There's that word again! Coincidence will kill us all!"
"Just to make sure" Jim offered, "My team will troubleshoot the entire system and comb the outside for any signs of vandalism. La Troy scowled under his breath as he walked away. Jim looked at Blair and sighed, "So this is what Simon calls 'doing a tap dance for the brass'."
Calmed by the controlled professionalism of his partner, Blair too sighed, "Yeah." as he nodded in agreement.
The larger man clapped the smaller on the back as they turned to the task at hand... to ensure the house and occupants were secure for the night.
The next day, after an otherwise uneventful night, the weather was clear, though the temperature had dropped till it would chill to the bone. Blair had campus errands and Jim was chained, so to speak, to his pompous protectee. Before parting they agreed to meet later to grab a bite of lunch. Blair caught a ride to the campus with the relieved officer of the house. The campus was on their way back to the Cascade Police Department.
Entering the faculty lounge area of the Archeology Department, Blair went to see Professor Goodman. He was required to relate he had attended the meeting of the Historical Preservation Society. But he was also now curious about the resistance to the proposed referendum of Councilman La Troy. Afterward he planned to look for his allusive flower girl. What was it.... 'Hillcrest'.. On the front of the bus? He jotted the word down on a piece of paper and shoved it in his pocket so he would not forget.
He found Professor Andre Goodman at his coffee maker, about to pour a cup to go with a cheese danish he brought from home. He offered a steamy cup to the young graduate student, who gratefully accepted, if only to warm his hands. However, Blair declined the shot of bourbon Goodman put in his own coffee, supposedly against the chill of the morning. A hot toddy had become part of his morning ritual... if not occasionally during the day.
"Tell me Doctor Goodman," Blair started when the man had sat at the table of the faculty lounge, "Why all the controversy over the Fillmore Theater?"
Doctor Goodman shrugged as if it was no big deal. "A large number of Alumni and presiding faculty, were part of a drama society that made that old theater an icon when they were undergraduates here at Rainier."
"I understand that, in the '60's' the drama society was quite the rage with the best parties that would rival any fraternity on campus. They used to keep the campus police hopping, anyway." he smiled. Taking another long swallow of his 'hot toddy', he solemnized, "Some still feel a strong affinity for it as a landmark or symbol of a rite of passage."
Doctor Goodman chuckled in his cup, "I guess like a tribal shrine or temple in other cultures that really are not much different that the 'toga partying' student body."
"Well maybe if they dismantle it with proper reverence some of the pieces or photos could be preserved for nostalgia." Blair offered in compromise.
Doctor Goodman became less jovial as he quietly answered, "Best just let sleeping dogs lie." He seemed to look at something far away, saying, "For if the walls of that theater could speak... what tales would they echo... before or behind the curtain." As if Sandburg was no longer there, Doctor Goodman continued his soliloquy. "Righting wrongs when we were young... by singing songs best left unsung." he reminisced. With a far away look in his eye that turned almost sad he concluded, "Impetuous youth has no regrets... but those with age cannot forget... the secrets hidden in the walls... of silent tombs and hallowed halls."
There was an uncomfortable silence when the Professor stopped speaking. Blair, cleared his throat and broke the moment with a change of subject. "Uhh, Professor? One more thing. Do you happen to have a copy of the city bus schedule? The foggy brained Professor looked at Blair as if not comprehending the question if he had heard correctly. "Uhh, hmmm.. I guess not," Blair stammered.
"I can get one at the student union building" he added as he quickly got up to leave.
Blair walked the distance to the Student Union Building, very quickly in the chilly morning air, hoping the sun would come out and at least take the bite out of the cold. He bounded up the steps and into the welcome warmth, looking for the information area where he might obtain a bus schedule. There it was, next to the huge trophy case display of awards from bygone athletic and academic events of the Rainier Student Body. He quickly located a rack of brochures hawking a myriad of advertisements of local travel sites and such for newly arrived students. Among them were tucked flyers listing the schedules and routes of the Cascade City Transit Authority busses. He grabbed one of the handouts and walked over to a group of tables that served as a small study hall as well as a Student Canteen. Opening the schedule, he looked for the arrival and departure times of the City Transit Busses that serviced Rainier Campus. Scanning the pick up locations, he looked for the Fillmore Theater Bus Stop. Ah, there it is. He scanned for "Hillcrest" without success. There were a number of busses listed, along with their pick up times, for the Fillmore and other places on campus, but none referred to "Hillcrest" or anything close. Perplexed, he stuffed the flyer in his backpack and thought a minute. "What I need is a City Directory.... or map or something that has a list of street names." he mumbled to himself. He trudged back to the rack of brochures and found a small map of the city and surrounding area close, or within bus travel distance, to the campus.
"Halifax"...."Hallmark"..."Helms"...Hellman"..."Highland"...Hilldale"..... Blair scanned the Street Index. "Wait a minute." he thought. "Hilldale?" He retraced the alphabetical listing. Between "Highland" and Hilldale" there should have been a "Hillcrest". But there was not. "Hmmmm." Blair scratched his head, thinking perhaps the little map was not detailed or complete enough. Anyway, he had to hurry to meet Jim at the Department for lunch. He shoved the map in the backpack, where, like a pack rat, most things ended up, and headed for the door.
Before exiting the Student Union Hall, he had a sudden curiosity as he passed the book shelves containing a collection of annual campus yearbooks. Starting with 1965, he flipped through the pages of the annuals until he found reference to the Rainier Drama Society. There were pictures taken at the Fillmore Theater and various stage productions attributed to the Society, along with alphabetical lists of members. In the 1966 edition, he scanned the list and found Freshman Andre Goodman. His smile of amusement in his discovery turned to a jaw slacking look of surprise as, just a little further down the list, he saw Freshman Sterling La Troy!! "Interesting!!" Blair chuckled, "So our Councilman was a member of the 'Brat Pack'!"
Glancing at his watch he realized he would have to hurry now to meet Jim. He replaced the annual on the shelf and quickly walked out of the building. Stepping outside, the arrival of a city transit bus caught his eye. "Hey!" he yelled and ran to catch up with the bus before it departed. He got to it just as the doors closed and it was about to pull away from the curb. He banged on the door until it was opened by the driver, who was a little perturbed at being delayed on his route. "Hey, man" Blair said breathlessly. "Which bus goes to Hillcrest?"
"What?" asked the driver.
"Hillcrest street or district" Blair clarified "a bus route on the front of the bus. Hillcrest."
"We don't have a 'Hillcrest Route'." answered the driver. "At least not one that I know of and I've been driving a city bus for fifteen years. Now, on or off the bus. I have a schedule to keep!!" he ordered to a befuddled Blair Sandburg.
Blair stepped off the bus and the door slammed shut as the driver lurched away from the curb, leaving the curly haired moppet standing there dumfounded.
Blair, full of thoughts and confusion, slowly walked to the student parking area and found his early model Volvo, an outdated but otherwise dependable mode of transportation. He shook his head as he headed to Cascade P.D. to hook up with Jim.
Jim Ellison was having an uneventful day, babysitting his ill tempered 'city suit'. While the Councilman debated the referendum proposal in city hall, Jim was more or less in limbo status. He maintained contact with other members of the detail at Councilman La Troy's residence and vehicle. All appeared to be in order, but Jim was always trying to prepare for the unexpected. He looked around the City Hall chamber as the endless line of speakers droned on and on. It was quite crowded with citizens from all walks of life. Some in favor of the demise of the Fillmore Theater, that had fallen on hard times with much needed repairs. While others seem just as adamant that the icon of the tumultuous 60's should be "preserved for posterity". Jim did not agree with all the hoopla about some campus building and thought that there should be more pressing issues effecting the city government, but then that was the nature of 'city suits'. "Crusaders for the ever present trivial pursuits, but remarkably absent or astride the fence for issues of major importance." He thought to himself as he reached out around the room with his sight and hearing.
A few in the gallery looked as if they were part of the Rainier Student Body, but for the most part, the rest could have been Alumni, Teachers, or just citizens who had nothing better to do than attend a mediocre city hall meeting. Jim glanced at his watch. Looks like he would miss lunch with Blair. But on a high side, the debates would only last today. The vote on the referendum would be before the City Council on the following day. All would be decided.... and Jim could go back to "real" work.
One of the opponents to the proposition was speaking. She looked like part of those that resembled the Student Body. She was asking, "When was the last time any of the Council Members were inside the Fillmore Theater? Has anyone taken the time to take inventory of the history there? The interior could use a little renovation, but it could once again become a landmark to be proud of. It could be restored to its former charm and provide a place for visitors and students alike." She asked for a postponement of the vote on the referendum, until members of the Council had toured the property and inspected it very closely to see the extent of the sense of history there.
"Fine. Just what I need." Jim sighed, "an extension to this 'boondogle' of a detail."
To his dismay, a sitting Council Member seemed to agree with this requested delay and proposed it to those sitting. In another 'groaner' of dismay, another member seconded the proposal of the first. Suddenly there was an impromptu vote that was carried to adjourn and reconvene tomorrow at the Fillmore Theater itself. "What a pain" Jim mumbled to himself, "and for what? To decide some real estate issue. There were more important things.... real crimes out there that needed his attention." That is also where he wanted to be... not doing some 'tap dance for the brass'. "You're gonna owe me on this one, Simon," he grumbled under his breath "and payback is gonna be a 'bitch'."
In a few moments, the gavel had fallen to close the proceedings and everyone was filing out of the room. The Councilmen were exiting to the chambers in the rear of the hall. Jim walked through the division of the crowd which was moving in opposite directions, like the parting of the Red Sea. Suddenly, he smelled the odor that was becoming a haunting, taunting, mist that danced momentarily before him and wafted away. There it was again! He whirled around in an attempt to determine its origin, though it was still fleeting enough that he could not place a label on the fragrance. As quickly as it had manifested, it was gone again! "Damn." he swore under his breath. This was getting spooky.
Blair got back to the Police Department just in time to find out that Jim would not be there.
Simon said, "The assignment has been somewhat extended. Jim and the detail will be on through the night." Simon sat down behind his desk and pulled out an oversized cigar. Thankful that it was Jim and not he that was saddled with this Councilman 'Albatross', he leaned back and lit the cigar. He grinned at Blair and said, "It is good to be the king", quoting from a movie he had seen.
Blair failed to see the humor in it all, but having been an indentured servant... or rather an academic aide... to him they were synonymous, he understood the differences of power levels. R. H. I. P. or 'Rank Has Its Privilege'.
Before leaving, Blair had a thought, "Captain, have you ever heard of 'Hillcrest'?"
"No. What the hell is that, Sandburg?" Simon replied..
"Never mind, Captain, "Blair frowned "just something I was checking on."
"Well, get out of here. I have work to do." The Captain growled. "Maybe we can all get together for Breakfast in the morning."
After the meeting, Councilman La Troy seemed really agitated. He did not count on any delays and felt the successful passing of the referendum was virtually assured. Now he was going to have to make sure that everything was as it should be for the reconvened meeting at the Fillmore Theater tomorrow. "We need to drive over to the Fillmore tonight, Detective." he stated as the detail prepared to motorcade from City Hall to his residence. "I don't like to be unprepared and want a preview of what the Council will see tomorrow." he added.
"You're the boss." Jim patronized, knowing it was futile to argue. He pulled out his cell phone to notify the advance detail of their departure for the residence.
"Oh.... and I don't want a gaggle of police officers when we go there" the Councilman ordered. "This is not an official visit, I just want to make sure there are no surprises tomorrow."
Jim grimaced, knowing that a protective detail without numbers on your side was ludicrous, but then.... he, La Troy, was the boss... really. "I'll just call Sandburg and have him meet us there tonight." Jim stated, to ensure his guide was there to enhance his special abilities, and because 'misery loves company'.
"If you feel that you must." La Troy chided. "One, card carrying, liberal commie democrat, does not a constituency make. I'll be magnanimous and grant you this."
Jim, held his tongue and grit his teeth, as he knew that any rebuttal would be like 'spitting in the wind'. He was sure demonstrating remarkable restraint around this 'Adam Henry'. Simon would be proud of him, he thought... then added to the thought the intent to get 'even' with Captain Banks for tying this milestone around his neck. "Yes sir." Jim mumbled through clenched teeth, as they boarded their vehicles for the ride to the Councilman's residence.
Having missed his connection with Jim at the department, Blair stopped at a little Tofu Bar on the way back to the campus. Munching on a watercress sandwich on whole wheat, he had another idea to solve his quest. Jim would be proud of his investigative acumen, although unsuccessful so far. Finishing his lunch, he walked to the street and hailed a taxi. If any one knew where 'Hillcrest' was it would be a cab driver. A cab pulled up and lurched to a stop at the curb in front of Blair. He opened the passenger door and leaned in, asking "Hillcrest? Can you take me to Hillcrest please?"
The cabbie thought for a minute and said "You will have to gimme directions. Never heard of that one."
Blair, stood back up. "Thanks anyway, but that's okay". He closed the door and the driver sped away in search of his next fare. "This is turning out to be spooky" he mumbled to himself.
He returned to his Volvo and drove back to the campus. On the way, his cell phone rang.
It was Jim. "Hey, Chief, sorry about lunch, but you know how it is." Jim's voice came through.
"That's Okay, Jim." Blair answered. "Simon filled me in on the job extension. He mentioned breakfast after it is over."
"Sounds good to me, but I need you to do something for me. Tonight the Councilman wants to take a look around the Fillmore. Can you meet us there around eleven o'clock?" Jim asked.
"Yes, I can do that. I have a couple things to do, myself." Blair responded "But I'll be there."
"Thanks, buddy." Jim rang off "See ya later."
Blair continued to make his way to the campus, thinking to himself where he could turn to find his elusive 'El Dorado"... or rather "Hillcrest". He drove back to the Student Union Building, a place of supposed wealth of information concerning the local community and places to go. It was a short distance from the Archeology Department. He could even walk to the Fillmore Theater if he got delayed or distracted, as sometimes occurred when he was researching something. At the Student Union, he grabbed a hot cup of tea to warm his hands against the cold temperatures that were dripping drastically outside. "Now for the ultimate information source," he smirked, "the 'real Yellow Pages'."
Blair was thumbing through the yellow pages, looking for anything labeled "Hillcrest" , when a group of students came jovially into the canteen area. The only thing he heard of interest was the Archeology lecture that afternoon was canceled because Professor Goodman was "under the weather" and not up to it. Having found no reference to "Hillcrest", he decided to go and check on the good Doctor Goodman. He left the Student Union Building after stuffing the phone book in his ever present backpack. He made a mental note to return it later that night.
Blair walked to the Archeology Department Faculty Lounge where he had last saw the Professor. He was not there. He then ambled over to the Artifacts Room. This was the place where archeological pieces were warehoused and studied for research. It was also the place where serious students and faculty could lose themselves... or step out of reality to visit the past. For some reason he thought he might find the melancholic, nostalgic Goodman there. He was right. Among the dusty shelves at the back of the room, sitting at a lab table piled with manuscripts and research papers, he was definitely feeling no pain and was quite braced with hot toddy against the cold.
"Doctor Goodman," Blair said quietly, "I stopped by to see if you needed anything. I have some time before going to the Fillmore tonight."
Professor Goodman seemed to stir from the depths of the abyss that he was wallowing in. "Whassat the Fillmore tonight?" he mumbled.
"Just some people want to look around." Blair shrugged. "I don't know."
Goodman mumbled something about "No rest for the wicked" or was it "weary". Which was it? But he told Sandburg that he did not need anything other than to be left alone.
Blair backed quietly out of the room and went back to the Student Union Canteen to wait until time to meet Jim at the Fillmore Theater.
Jim hated everything about this assignment. He felt it was a total unnecessary waste of departmental time and manpower. Surely nothing good would come of it. A wasted morning and wasted day following around this pompous 'political wannabe'. Now the evening was shot too, as all he had to look forward to was driving the Councilman on a site seeing tour of the dilapidated Fillmore Theater. Well at least his partner and guide would be meeting him there as back up, as well as sharing his misery. Sitting in the Councilman's kitchen, he and other members of the detail had just finished sandwiches and coffee made by the cook. He had no chance to eat all day. "I hope Blair's lunch was more appetizing" he complained to himself. "For one thing, steak and eggs courtesy of Simon is for sure when we put this detail to rest for good." But first the trip to the theater. As much as he dreaded it, it was part of the job. Lately to Jim, the job was everything. At least it gave him the opportunity to exercise and control his extra sensory abilities. Looking at the clock on the wall, Jim slowly stood and went to check out the Councilman's BMW. He was going to drive the Councilman and they would leave the rest of the detail at the residence. He was relying totally and completely on his guide and partner, Blair, to meed them at the theater.
The night was cold and crisp as Jim stepped outside. He looked up and watched the clouds pass over a full harvest moon. The rain of the previous night had definitely cleared the air, as the night sky was aglow with the look of winter. Jim saw a strange circular halo li glow around the moon. He made a mental note to ask Blair what the lunar phenomenon was called. He smiled at that thought. He bet his 'little buddy' would know, too. Blair was a wealth of trivial data. Jim chuckled, "Sometimes useless information somehow finds a use when you least expect it." As he walked out to the BMW, a small breeze picked up, whispering through the hedges and surrounding trees. Instinctively Jim accentuated his senses. His face suddenly flushed as his adrenaline level rose slightly. There it was again!! "What was that smell?" Jim swore. As quickly as it had come, it was gone on the breeze that danced across his face. He shook his head to clear his mind and reached out further with his sentinel senses. But it was too late. The fleeting fragrance had come and gone. "Damn," he swore, "Where is the guide when you need him."
A moment later, Councilman La Troy came out ready to go. "Let's get this over with, Detective. I haven't got all night." he quipped.
"Yes sir." Jim responded as he opened the rear door for him. As La Troy got into the back, Jim went around to get in the drivers' seat. Another look at the strange 'harvest moon' with ghostly clouds drifting past, and jim got behind the wheel.
Blair was about to start his cold walk to the Fillmore Theater when, as he got up from the table at the canteen, someone came in. Henrietta Mason, the campus Librarian walked in. She was the unofficial 'campus historian' and a recognized authority on all things nostalgic, though eccentric. If he had told that to Simon or Jim, either of them would say it was like the pot calling the kettle black. "I guess to some I might be considered 'somewhat eccentric', he smiled to himself. "Well I guess it depends on point of view." Anyway, he returned and offered to get a cup of tea for the Librarian.
She gratefully accepted his hospitality and joined him at one of the empty tables. After she sat down, appreciated of the attention of the handsome, baby faced graduate student, she thanked him for the warming tea. "It is really turning cold out there tonight. There may be some snow before too long. Halloween is just around the corner, you know." she said as she took a sip of tea.
"I had forgotten all about that." Blair admitted. "Guess I was wrapped up in other things."
"Oh it's one of my favorite times of the year" the Librarian sighed. "I love the costumes as well as the carnivals and parties. This is the time of year that the campus used to be jumping with all kinds of socials, carnivals and fraternity parties. It seems like everyone was always trying to out do the other."
Blair smiled and nodded at her reminiscence. "Did you ever hear about the Fillmore Drama Society?"
"Oh my, yes!" Her eyes perked up. "They were the 'cream de la cream' of the social set, famous for their costume parties and toga type parties. "They were always balanced on the border of suspension or expulsion" she laughed. "And were always at odds with the Campus Security."
"Why were they hassled so much by Security?" Blair asked.
"Well, there was some talk and rumors about drugs at these theatrical group parties. But then there was always the suspicion of drugs everywhere on campus. Marijuana was more available in those days and hallucinogens were the rage." she recalled. "I guess alcohol was the least concern of the campus security. Some of those members of the Drama Society were students who belonged to prominent Cascade Families. I am sure that a possibility of expulsion for misconduct would have high impact on their family interests. Surely it would adversely effect anyone dependent upon scholarship, as well as those depended upon 'Daddy's money'" she surmised. "Eventually the social Club disbanded. Some say, as the more influential members graduated. Others say it was the perpetual conflict with Security who seemed to have a harassing vendetta against them, at least while Pete Pepper was the Sargent in Charge of Security."
"Where is the Sargent now?" Blair asked, now more interested in her nostalgic recollections.
"I don't know." she answered. "Nobody does. He just did not show up for work one day. His wife was supposedly a student here too. From what I heard, she claimed he would not just leave and suspected there was some foul play. She even asserted the Social Club rowdies of the theater group had something to do with it. I don't remember much about her at all. She died suddenly before anything was proven or thoroughly investigated."
Blair glanced down at his watch and swore. "Hell." He was late! Totally distracted by the Librarian's tale, he let time slip away. Now it would be almost midnight before he got to the Fillmore theater. He quickly excused himself from the Librarian, grabbed his backpack and rushed through the door into the cold night.
Jim and Councilman La Troy arrived at the Fillmore Theater precisely at eleven p.m., after stopping off at the Campus Security Desk where Detective Ellison obtained the keys. Jim nosed the B.M.W. up to the rear entrance.
When he started to get out, La Troy said "Just give me the keys Detective. You wait out here. I am sure there is no one inside." He held out his hand and Jim turned over the keys.
This situation was getting worse and the odds were on a downward spiral, increasing the chance that something could go wrong.
As La Troy took the police sized Mag flashlight and disappeared inside, Jim cranked up his radar like senses in anticipation of the worst. Then he pulled on his heavy coat and stood guard in the shadows. The time seemed to pass slowly while he stood out in the cold, confident his guide, buddy and partner would arrive any moment now. The minutes ticked one upon the other. Jim reached out with his sensitive hearing and located the footsteps of the Councilman inside the theater. But he did not want to divert his entire attention from the external security around him. After all, that was what he was there for. His other senses, sight and smell triangulated outward searching and identifying the environment.
Suddenly a breeze, carrying the ghostly scent that had been haunting him, lifted and blew past his face. It passed him and was gone before he could lock on and track it. However, it seemed to go through the rear door of the theater. "What was that?" Jim swore. He turned and debated on leaving his assigned post to step inside the theater. However, he saw no threat to justify his alarm or leaving the outside without coverage. His fine tuned hearing did not detect anything amiss inside, to include La Troy. He must have stopped somewhere inside. As if to help sway his decision, Blair arrived suddenly in a hurry.
"It's about time, Chief." Jim whispered from the shadows, startling the unsuspecting Blair.
"Jesus, Jim!!" Blair exclaimed. "Don't do that!! You almost scared me to death!! Sorry I'm late." he apologized.
Jim had decided to go in and get La Troy. It was time to go, ready or not. Things did not seem right to him. Blair followed Jim through the theater back door. The quiet eerie darkness made Jim uncomfortable. But at least he had his heightened senses to compensate. Poor Blair was feeling a case of the 'heebie jeebies' and tried to stay close to his sentinel. Jim searched with his hearing to locate La Troy. He picked up a voice, or voices, and moved in that direction.
"You think this is gonna end it?" he heard the slurred voice of an unknown male. "Don't you know when they tear it down somebody will ask questions?"
"You can't guard it forever" Jim heard La Troy say. "As long as it's here there is a chance someone will find out. I'd rather see it reduced to rubble!"
"You have more to lose now that before, La Troy" the other man argued. "It's not just my scholarship and your good family name." he sounded sarcastic. "This is homicide!"
At that Jim stopped so suddenly that Blair, who was following quite closely, ran into him. "Whassup, Jim?" Blair whispered, not having heard anything in the almost silent darkness.
"Shhh!" Jim warned, "Picking up some interesting conversation."
"Conversation??" Blair whispered back. He did not hear anything, but then he was no sentinel... merely a guide.
With stealth, Jim inched toward the voices with Blair following close behind. "I won't let you do this, Sterling!" the unknown voice warned. "If we don't remove the evidence then the building has to stay and keep the past hidden!" "No one can find it here as long as we don't allow them to tear it down" he pleaded with La Troy.
"You do what you want, Andre" La Troy retorted, "I'm leaving."
Jim heard footsteps, then a scuffle. He picked up his pace and drew his gun.
"What is it, Jim?!" Blair asked as he saw his Sentinel buddy go on alert like a hound on a hunt.
"Quiet, Chief!" Jim warned and moved forward like a panther. Blair almost reached out for his coat tails to be drawn or pulled in the right direction. But he did his best to stay up with Jim in the darkness. Giving up stealth for speed now, Jim moved quickly toward the sounds of a struggle. He arrived at the two men just in time to see Councilman La Troy club the other man to the floor with his huge Mag flashlight.
Turning toward the arriving pair, La Troy froze. "Detective Ellison!!" he exclaimed in surprise. He quickly recovered his wits and pointed at the unconscious man on the floor. "This radical bastard attacked me without reason. I told you they were a violent lot!!" he charged.
"Doctor Goodman?!?" Blair exclaimed as he came up behind Jim and recognized the man lying on the floor.
"I want him arrested and charged with assault... maybe attempted murder, Detective!" Councilman La Troy demanded indignantly.
Jim put his weapon away, giving La Troy a look of mild disgust, and knelt beside Blair. He determined the Professor was alive, but smelling like a brewery and out like a light.
"Gonna have quite a goose egg on his head from that Mag light." Blair noted. "What was the problem?" Blair asked, giving La Troy a dirty look.
"I don't know!" La Tory said defensively. "He came at me out of the dark without any warning!" he lied. "He's drunk or raving crazy. Either way, he's radically violent and should be locked up!!"
Jim caught the hint of the elusive fragrance wafting past him for a moment. He turned his head to the left attempting to reach out and follow or at least identify it. Suddenly his eye caught a faint glow.. a kind of fluorescent blue green glow... before the scent was gone again. "Did you see that!?!" he exclaimed.
"What??" chimed Blair and La Troy in unison.
"Over there!" answered Jim. "Against that wall."
"Don't see a thing." Blair said "What is it?" he continued, prompting Jim to probe with his senses.
"I don't see anything!" La Troy stated emphatically. "Don't you think we aught to get out of here and get him locked up?"
"Shut up!" Jim commanded, adding a belated.... "... Sir!" The alleged assault gave him license to take charge and investigate, something he was extremely good at. La Troy's momentary outburst broke his concentration enough that he lost the scent and the strange glow.
"What was it, Jim" Blair asked again.
"I don't know, Chief." Jim answered "Kinda weird glow" he explained, forgetting to mention the recurring smell. Jim slowly stood up staring in the direction where he last sw the glow. Leaving the others, he slowly walked forward, reaching out with maximum articulation of his senses. He kept moving slowly forward, hoping to pick up the trail somehow.
"What is this?" councilman La Troy began, getting a stern look from Blair.
"Shhhh. Shut the hell up!!" he hissed, "or I'll knock you out myself!!" the little bantam added. He whispered encouragement to his sentinel. "Concentrate and focus, Jim."
At the other side of the dressing room that they were in, Jim encountered a door. He opened it cautiously and found a closet. Not too deep, only about two feet, the closet was empty. He started to turn and walk back to the others when a sudden clod chill stopped him. It felt like ice, when the room temperature had been moderate before. It felt like the little closet was a refrigerator with the coldness emanating from there. "Chief, can you feel that?" He asked.
"No." Blair answered confirming, Jim's sentinel abilities were apparently at work here. "What is it?"
"A coldness." Jim stated as he stepped inside the closet. He sensed the presence of someone or some thing. The temperature dropped to freezing in there. He was the only one who could see his warm breath fogging as he breathed out. He put his open palm against the back wall of the closet. Although it was wood paneling, it felt as if it was cold steel that had been subjected to arctic temperatures. As the cold stung his skin, he jerked his hand back. But then he decided he was close to something that he had to know. Getting used to the frigid cold now, he felt along the back wall which appeared to be of normal panel board. He rapped on it with his knuckles, attempting to locate the supporting structural studs. The wall seamed hollow behind and he could not readily locate any two by four studs which should have been about twenty-four inches apart. "Find a light switch, Chief." Jim told Blair.
La Troy started to protest that they had been there too long already and that this was after all private campus property. Jim looked over his shoulder at Blair and said, "Keep him quiet." Looking La Troy in the eye, he added, "If he won't shut up, knock him out with that club of a flashlight."
Jim looked around the room. It was part dressing room and part prop room He saw something he could use.. a clawed hammer and a tool box. He used the hammer anas a lever to pry the bottom of the back panel away from the fascia trim at the floor. The panel came away easily enough to allow im to rip the plywood away. Immediately his senses were assaulted by stale air with a musky odor. No, this was not the fragrance that had flirted with him. It was more like the dust of ages. Apparently the closet had been deeper at one time. There was a two food deep space behind the panel. Jim threw the beam of his flashlight into the dark opening he had made and it fell on something round and white.
At that very moment, Professor Goodman stirred from his comatose stupor. He slurred, "It was thirty years ago today.... Sargent Pepper went away." Jim realized the object he was looking at was a skull.
Blair was looking at Professor Goodman, who had passed out again. Jim turn to him, "Get on the horn, Chief, and call Simon. We have a homicide here." Blair complied, using his cell phone to call Cascade Police Department. The moment Jim found the human remains and issued the order to Blair, the temperature rose in the closet. I quickly returned to match the room temperature and the frigid coldness was gone.
Not long after Blair called Simon, the Forensic Mobile Crime Lab arrived with a host of investigators from the Homicide Squad. They would take it from there. Both Goodman and La Troy were transported downtown. They would be offered the opportunity to render their statements there. Of course Goodman would wait until after he had sobered up. Simon had dispatched the squad and told Blair, "Breakfast is on me. You and Jim, move your butts and meet me at Delmonico's."
They were headed there now. Blair was driving them in his vintage Volvo. Before Jim could tell Blair what he heard between La Troy and Goodman, he remarked that he could almost smell steak and eggs. "The best tasting part of that is that Simon is paying." he joked.. In the middle of their laugh at Simon's expense, Blair slammed on brakes and almost sent Jim through the windshield.
There on the side of the road! He must have passed it lots of times, but never noticed before. The gothic wrought iron double gates to a cemetery. The small stone pillars on either side of the gates were engraved with the name...."Hillcrest".
"Are you crazy, Blair!?!? Jim admonished as he bounced off the dashboard. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Here!" Blair exclaimed. "Stop here!" he babbled as he got out of the car and stood before the gothic gates. "Jim, come here, man!" Blair said excitedly. "I gotta try something here." "You gotta do this for me." he babbled.
Jim joined his buddy, thinking him gone quite 'round the bend'. Blair grabbed Jim by his lapels and looked into his face. His blue eyes were wild and he was in a fervor as he instructed, "I want you to focus, Jim!"
"Focus what.... where?" Jim asked beginning tow worry about his little friend.
"Everything.... everywhere, Jim!" Blair stammered. "I don't know.. just reach out with all you have!" his guide instructed.
"Okay." Jim whispered to appease his friend. He closed his eyes and concentrated. First he reached with his ears and heard the leaves rustling across the ground. He allowed his skin to become sensitive to the chilly breeze that moved the leaves. He slowly breathed deeply sampling the fragrances around him. Suddenly it was there!! Riding on the cool wind that gently caressed his face like icy fingers, it was there!! His eyes flashed open to nothing exceptional in the grave yard. Then the icy fingers of the wind played across his cheek in a slight pull and the fragrance began to lessen.. or drift away. "Not this time!" Jim murmured and stepped forward, determined to find and identify his elusive, taunting spirit fragrance.
Blair, mesmerized at Jim's actions, grabbed his coat tail in the dark and they quickly set a forward pace like a blood hound dragging his handler. At this point it was uncertain if the Sentinel was guiding the Guide. But either way, the pair was off on a mission. Jim followed the scent that stayed just out of range and intensity of identification. Blair, tripping in the dark unfamiliar landscape, held on desperately to Jim's coat tails.
Suddenly, with a chilly breeze that seem to buss a kiss on his right cheek, the fragrance was overwhelming and then immediately gone!! Jim stopped, literally cold in his tracks. Blair, slammed into the back of his partner as he put on his brakes. "What is it, Jim?" Blair asked breathlessly.
"Dunno." Jim said shaking his head. Without moving from where they stopped, both gazed around, jim with his sensitive vision and Blair with the Duracell Mag light. Simultaneously they both saw a stone burial crypt. Engraved on the identification plate was the name of the deceased. "Patricia Pepper, born July 3rd, 1947, died October 31st, 1969."
"We have to go back to the campus!" Blair blurted out. "I have to check something!"
"What is it, Chief?" Jim asked. "What does all this mean?"
His questions fell on deaf ears, for Blair was already returning to his Volvo like a man possessed with a mission. "Are you coming?" he yelled to Jim as he raced the engine.
Jim barely had time to jump in the vehicle before Blair slammed it in reverse and stomped the accelerator. As the old Volvo backed up to twenty-five miles per hour, Blair jerked the steering wheel to the left without hitting the brakes. When the nose of the car spun around 180 degrees, he slammed the transmission into low gear and stomped the accelerator again, speeding toward the campus. Jim was significantly impressed at the driving. Blair had executed a perfect police driving procedure called a "Jay Turn". He made a mental note to ask him later if he had learned it or was it a desperation move. At the moment he preferred to hang on as Blair came careening to a screeching stop, very much like the F.B.I. slide in the movies, at the Student Union Building.
Without waiting to explain, Blair jumped out and ran inside.
Jim did not even get a chance to ask the "What's here, Chief?" that he was thinking. Jim jumped out of the Volvo and took the steps two at a time, but still did not catch up to the curly haired leprechaun until he was inside. He found Blair at the book shelves of Rainier Annual Yearbooks. He had thee book for 1969 and was frantically flipping through the Freshman class photos. "To the 'P's" he was mumbling lie a mad march hare. Jim arrive to look over his shoulder, when the pages of the book flew open to land exactly at the dedication page. Blair stood there dumbfounded. There she was. His elusive flower child. The name beneath the picture that he recognized said, "In loving memory of Patty Pepper, know to her friends as 'Peppermint Patty'".
Jim read the caption and exclaimed "Peppermint!!!" as he realized the identity of the elusive fragrance haunting him since this detail began.
"Huh?'Blair said as he quietly closed the year book deep in his own confused thoughts.
Shaken by the revelation from the grave, but each for different reasons, both Sentinel and Guide slowly turned and walked out of the Student Union Building into the cold of the night. Seemingly at the same time, the duo turned to each other and said "Simon!" Both sprang to the Volvo and rushed back to Cascade Police Department, surely having missed breakfast.
Bursting through the door to the Captain's office, they found him, as always, on the phone. He was facing away from them. Immediately, to his dismay, Jim's nostrils were again assaulted with "the fragrance" that this time he knew. Peppermint!! The hair on the back of his neck rose at the thought.
Incredible as it seemed, Blair must have also detected it, for he leaned to Jim and whispered, "Peppermint Patty!?!"
Captain Banks turned and admonished "You missed breakfast! You want an after dinner mint?" he offered, holding a bag out to them, "It's peppermint." Simon looked perplexed as Blair and Jim did a double take at each other and burst out laughing in relief.