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Disclaimer: Not mine. No money. Don't sue. They're still Pet Fly's, but thankfully they no longer have anything to do with up of n. I'm just borrowing them for a brief time. The story however, is all mine.

Archive: yes please. GL and CT. Ronnee'll send an official announcement when she gets it posted.

Warnings: Blair's a cop in this one. I've been slowly working my way there and this is my first attempt to write a Jim and Blair "case story."

And a second big warning. This deals with the death of a child, in a rather unpleasant manner. Though the event occurs prior to the start of the story and I never go into great detail, it is a rather key point to the plot. If you are sensitive to these things you might want to avoid this one. (I truly hope we are all sensitive to these things, but some of us are more so than others.)

Summary: Jim and Blair go to interview a witness and something interesting happens to Jim. How's that for noncommittal?

A big thanks to my betas Ronnee, TAE, and Wnnepooh. Thanks ladies, your input made this a better story. Any mistakes that remain are mine and mine alone. What can I say, I can be rather stubborn about some things.... Okay, just about everything.... <g

Feedback welcome at <parker1933@home.com>.

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The Domino Effect

by

Toni Rae

March 2000

Detectives Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg stood quietly at the back of the elevator as it traveled up to the top floor of the fourteen story Cascade Towers high rise. Neither man looked forward to the upcoming interview, which was more likely to turn into a confrontation with a potential suspect in the latest Cascade murder.

Reaching fourteen, the two men stepped out of the elevator into a plush carpeted hallway.

"Well, at least we got an express." Blair tried to lighten the somber mood somewhat.

"What was that, Chief?" Jim turned to him with a slight look of confusion on his face, stunned out of his reverie by his Guide's words.

"I said, at least we got an express. You know, we didn't have to stop at each floor on our way up here. Are you okay, man?" Blair looked at his Sentinel in consternation.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Just thinking about his case. That poor little girl... just way too young... And now her own father is the leading suspect." Jim mumbled his last thoughts. He had to stop before the helpless feelings of not being able to protect one of the youngest members of the tribe returned. Not to mention he didn't want to further upset his Guide. The sensitive young man took the girl's death unusually hard and he didn't want to remind the young man of the brutal circumstances of the girl's death.

"I know what you mean." Blair shuddered in recollection. Beaten, raped, and mutilated with a knife, the little girl's body was hardly recognizable. /No one deserved to die like that,/ he thought to himself, knowing his overprotective partner shared his sentiments.

Shaking off the melancholy of the case, Jim patted his friend on the shoulder, offering comfort and support. Then, without words, the two men turned and walked down the hallway towards Jonathan Russell's office to question him in regards to his daughter's death.

As the door opened the receptionist looked up from her computer screen.

"May I help you?" She calmly asked the two stern and imposing looking men now standing in front of her well appointed desk.

The quality of the furniture, as well as the professional look of the woman behind the desk, spoke volumes about the quality and affluence of the clientele who utilized Dr. Russell's services.

"We're here to see Dr. Russell." Blair took charge, noting the still slightly dazed look on the Sentinel's face.

"Do you have an appointment?" The receptionist looked down at the leather appointment book laid neatly on the corner of her desk.

"Actually, no. We're here in regards to his daughter's death." Jim joined the conversation, the dazed look receding from his face.

"He's with a patient now. But if you would care to wait he should be through in the next ten minutes or so." The receptionist dismissed the two men by turning back to her computer screen.

"Thank you." The two men said almost in unison as they moved toward the chairs situated around the edge of the room.

The next ten minutes passed in silence as both men contemplated the irony of them sitting in the waiting room of a well known Cascade psychiatrist. Jim sat thinking silently to himself. Had it not been for Blair, he might well be somewhere like this under far less pleasant circumstances. Blair sat quietly as well, all the while thinking to himself that without Jim's support, the dissertation fiasco could have driven him to someone like Dr. Russell.

Only moments after they noticed a woman with a tear-stained face leave the inner office, the receptionist interrupted both men's thoughts with her professional, "The doctor will see you now."

The partners exchanged weak smiles, both for the welcome reprieve from their thoughts, as well as in silent support for each other.

"Gentlemen, how can I help you?" Dr. Russell stood up from behind his desk as the two men entered the room, preparatory to shaking hands with his visitors.

"I'm Detective Ellison and this is my partner Detective Sandburg. We're here to ask you a few questions about your daughter."

"Of course. Please have a seat." He indicated the two stuffed leather chairs in front of his desk. "Have you made any progress on finding her killer?"

Jim noticed the doctor's light, nearly imperceptible, twitch as he and Blair moved to sit down. Making a mental note of the action, he allowed his partner to take control of the questioning.

"Now, Dr. Russell, you told the first officers on the scene that you had been out all day and hadn't seen Kellie since the night before."

"That's correct. I woke up very early that morning. Not wanting to wake Kellie I came here to work."

"Did anyone see you?"

"No, it was a Saturday, so the building's usual residents were all gone."

"Didn't you feel somewhat strange leaving your seven year-old daughter at home by herself? And not even letting her know you were leaving?" Jim interjected into the conversation.

"Actually no. It is an old habit of ours. She's been staying home by herself on Saturday mornings since she was about four. In fact we started this just after her mother died. Being apart gave us both time to cope with the situation."

"I see." Jim acknowledged the man's words, however he wondered to himself how someone could leave a child that young alone to deal with her mother's death. /Then again, that's what Dad did to Steven and me/ he reminded himself. /True, but we were older./ The internal dialogue continued. /And Sally was there, most of the time, so we weren't completely alone. But still, he never committed murder,/ he reminded himself, maintaining his belief that the Doctor murdered his daughter.

"Did you have a housekeeper? Or someone that looked after Kellie in your absence?" His thoughts of Sally prompted the question.

"There was a woman who came in to clean three times a week. She is actually the one who found Kellie. Saturday's one of her usual days to work."

"So Kellie would have been alone from the time you left until the housekeeper arrived?"

"Yes."

"What time did she usually arrive?"

"Around eleven."

"So you routinely left your daughter alone in the house for about four hours every Saturday morning?" Jim pressed the issue, still not liking the idea of a father nearly abandoning his child on a regular basis, his own experiences notwithstanding. But then if he really thought about it, he hadn't liked it when William did it either. "Was anyone aware of this practice?"

"I'm sure all the neighbors knew. There is a nice older couple two doors down who kind of keeps, I mean kept, an eye on Kellie. Of course the housekeeper knew. Some of my colleagues. Pretty much the normal extended family people develop."

Jim grimaced, as he realized that others knew Kellie's father left her home alone and didn't report it. /Had someone even thought to call social services the little girl might still be alive,/ he lamented mentally to himself. /Once again wealth and privilege outweighed common sense./

/Another example of wealth equaling special status,/ Blair thought to himself, unaware his own thoughts mirrored that of his partner. Thinking back to the earlier interview he and Jim had done with the older couple down the street, Blair remembered their explanation of events. They told them Kellie usually came down on Saturday mornings and played with their dog. They always thought that her father dropped her off on his way into the office. When she didn't show up this weekend they thought the Doctor finally had a change of heart and decided to spend the day at home with her.

"Any of your patients know?" Blair, testing his own theory in the matter, continued Jim's line of questioning.

"Not that I'm aware of."

As the conversation began to ebb and flow around him, Jim began to take an active interest in his surroundings, as well as the other occupants in the room. He noticed Blair had things well in control. He also noticed the incredible view of downtown Cascade through the window. Dr. Russell had a view of the entire skyline thanks to the large windows that covered two walls of his office. Finally, Ellison noticed the Doctor's slightly elevated heart rate and the fine sheen of sweat that covered his brow.

"Any suspicious activity in your daughter's life recently?" Blair continued to probe for information.

"Not that I can think of right off hand. No, wait. There was the incident at school last week."

"What incident?"

"One of the teachers reported a strange vehicle in the parking lot. They sent a letter home with all the parents advising them to be aware of unusual people and things when we picked our children up."

A copy of the now closed case file, started after one of the teachers called in the suspicious vehicle, landed on Jim's desk after someone made the connection between Kellie and the school. The suspicious vehicle turned out to be a father who recently moved his family to Cascade. He wanted to observe how the children reacted as they were arriving and leaving before he decided to enroll his son there. The story checked out and the son was now happily enrolled in the new school.

Jim continued to monitor Blair's reactions to the Doctor while admiring the incredible view from the fourteenth floor window. /Almost like being at home and standing on the balcony,/ he thought to himself. /It's amazing how much more of the city you can see from here, though./ Enjoying the rare chance to observe such a large part of his tribe at once, Jim allowed his focus to wander to the happenings on the streets of Cascade.

"Do you still have the letter?"

"I think it is in my filing cabinet at home."

"Can you get us a copy?"

"Of course. I'll fax it over when I get home."

"Did you notice anything strange after you got the letter?"

"Actually, yes. There was this man who seemed to be watching Kellie when I dropped her off in the mornings."

/A father wanting to see the children interacting with each other explained the scrutiny in the parking lot,/ Blair thought to himself. /Not to mention it blew a few holes in the good Doctor's story./

Swallowing hard to clear his suddenly clogged ears, Jim returned his focus to the room and its inhabitants. As he did so, he noticed a light humming in the room that hadn't been there moments before. At the same time, he noticed the room begin to sway slightly and his vision went briefly grey.

"Excuse me." Jim interrupted before Blair could ask another question. "Where is the nearest bathroom?"

Somewhat surprised at the question, Blair turned to the other man with a questioning look.

"Back out past Janeene's desk and to the left. It's just down the hall from there." The Doctor seemed nonplussed by the question.

"Thank you." Jim returned, as he abruptly stood from his seat and quickly moved out of the room.

Blair's eyes followed him as he moved, silently asking if the Sentinel was okay. Trying to be reassuring, Jim nodded in return.

Not wanting to further question their suspect while Jim was out of the room, Blair resorted to general conversation about the weather in Cascade and how they were having an unseasonably wet summer, not to mention an unseasonably windy one. Nearly ten minutes later, Blair's supply of weather related stories exhausted, Jim returned, a slightly green look on his face.

Jim waved off the question in Blair's eyes with a slight shake of his head. Realizing the older man wanted to finish their interview and leave, Blair resumed his questioning.

"Now, you were telling us about the man you thought was watching Kellie at school." Blair prompted.

"Yes. He spent several days in the parking lot. It was always one of those nondescript sedans. But it looked like he had a pair of binoculars with him."

"Could you describe the man to a sketch artist?"

"I would be happy to."

"We'll let you call the station and make an appointment. But remember the sooner we get a description of this guy the sooner we can catch him."

"I'll try to make it down this afternoon. Now if there isn't anything else gentlemen I have another patient scheduled." The Doctor attempted to dismiss his visitors.

"No, I think we're finished here." As he stood up Jim wobbled slightly and reached out to catch himself before he fell. Instead of steadying himself on the back of the chair as he'd intended, he caught Blair on the shoulder as the smaller man moved to stand. Jim's arm motion nearly toppled both men.

"Are you okay?!?" Blair steadied them both, being as he was currently the more stable of them.

"I just feel a little woozy. I'll be fine in a minute." Moving away from the chair, Blair still supporting him with a hand on his arm, Jim took several steps before collapsing, nearly dragging Blair down to the floor with him.

Attempting to regain his footing, Blair bounced off the chairs they had just vacated. In the process, he knocked both chairs to the floor with a domino effect, then found himself on top of the pile. In his haste to regain his footing and check on Jim, Blair further scattered the chairs.

From his position on the floor, Jim watched Blair's almost comical attempt to stand. Through Blair's flurry of movement, Jim noticed a strange metal glint reflecting off the underside of one of the chair's seat cushions. Focusing in on the glare, Jim saw a rather deadly looking knife taped securely to the wooden support frame.

If time stood still as the two men tumbled to the floor it suddenly moved at light speed when Dr. Russell saw the chair fall to its side. Changing his focus from the knife to the Doctor, Jim saw the decisions flash through the other man's eyes. Gloating turned to Flight. Flight changed to Fear. Fear became Resignation. All in the span of several heartbeats.

When Jim recognized the Doctor's capitulation by the look on his face and the slump of his shoulders, he exhaled softly thought his teeth. /Thank you./ He sighed his relief to the heavens. /I'm in no shape to chase after this guy./

"Why did you do it?" Jim asked, still sprawled on the floor. He watched as Blair finally regained his footing and moved over to handcuff their prisoner.

Holding up a hand to forestall any answer, Blair read the man his rights as he tightened the handcuffs behind him. The formalities taken care of, Blair officially reiterated Jim's question.

"So, why'd you do it?"

"She wasn't interesting anymore." The Doctor admitted, a look of gloating returning to his eyes.

"Excuse me?" Blair mentally restrained himself from saying anything more.

"The same thing happened with her mother. I thought that it might last a little longer with Kellie, but I woke up one day and there she was, my nagging little wife. You know how hard it is to take pleasure from someone who wants to know if you remembered to do the laundry, and whether or not you have on a clean shirt, or if you fixed the leaky faucet?"

Jim could see the look of pride crossing Russell's face, as he finally moved to stand. Deciding not to give-in to his anger and disgust at the man, he made a mental note to double check the circumstances of Mrs. Russell's death when they returned to the station. Followed quickly by a mental note to mention the circumstances of the good Doctor's arrest to a few well placed contacts. Regaining his footing, although his knees were still wobbly, he pulled out his cell phone. Quickly hitting the numbers for the auto-dial, he waited for someone in dispatch to take the call. "Dispatch. This is Ellison, Echo 7. We have a suspect in custody. Send a squad car to Cascade Towers office building, fourteenth floor, Dr. Russell's office."

"No, I don't." Blair finally answered the Doctor's question. "Personally, I rather like that someone cares enough to ask." He thought of Jim and the other man's almost obsessive need to look out for him, his words meant more for Jim than the Doctor.. /Apparently being a Blessed Protector extends to my laundry./ He smiled to himself.

Hearing Blair's words and noticing the small smile gracing his friend's lips, Jim raised an eyebrow in question.

Sentinel soft, Blair answered the unspoken question. "Thanks big guy. My wardrobe thanks you too."

Blue eyes met blue. Several long seconds later, Jim nodded. Mouthing the words 'You're welcome,' he smiled back at his friend.

Jim moved slowly to the door, knowing that Blair had the Doctor well in hand. Leaning out, using the door frame for support, he spoke to the receptionist. "You might want to cancel all of Dr. Russell's afternoon appointment. Actually, you'd probably better cancel the rest of his appointments period. I don't think he's going to be fit to preform psychiatric evaluations any longer."

"What happened?" She looked up from her computer screen. "I heard a crash, but that's not out of the ordinary. A lot of his patients throw things while trying to work through their anger."

"Dr. Russell is going to be working through his anger at Starkeville from now on."

"Oh." She said before turning to the phone and beginning to cancel appointments.

By the time the uniforms arrived to take Dr. Russell into custody Jim had sufficiently regained his equilibrium. Gratefully turning their prisoner over to the new arrivals, the two men headed for the elevator.

As they made their way down the hall, Blair tried to put his disgust at the situation into words. "How could he do that to her? She was just a little kid."

"I know, Chief." Jim didn't really know what else to say, but his lack of words didn't stop his partner.

"I mean, people kill other people all the time. I may not like it, but they do it. But this...." Blair trailed off taking a deep breath. "He abused that child almost from the time she was born. And I don't even want to think about what he did to her mother. How can someone do that?"

"I don't know." Jim quietly responded, as he ushered the other man into the elevator, his hand remaining on Blair's shoulder in silent support. /God I hate when you have to see the darker side of humanity, Chief. Just because you're now officially a detective doesn't mean I'm any less your Blessed Protector./

"And then to keep the knife in his office like that."

"It gave him a thrill. Watching his patients sit on it excited him. Gave him a feeling of power and control." That one Jim had an answer for.

"That's just sick, man. I understand the motivation, but really."

"Yeah."

Both men allowed an almost solemn silence to envelope over them as the elevator continued its descent to the ground floor. Thankfully they also got an express on the trip down, as neither man was quite up to dealing with outside forces.

Reaching the ground floor they walked through the lobby, passing Serena Chang and her latest assistant on their way up to examine Dr. Russell's office for any further evidence.

As they left the building heading towards the truck, Jim began, "it was really weird, Chief. It was like my senses were out of wack, but not really. I was nauseous and I could barely stand up straight, but the rest of my senses were fine. I don't know what caused it."

"The wind."

"Did you just say the wind?"

"Yeah. When you were off in the bathroom. You were in there forever man, what happened? The Doctor and I were talking about the weather and how rainy its been around here this summer." Blair smiled slightly to himself, as he remembered the green look on Jim's face after he'd returned.

"Yeah, so what?" Blair's abrupt change in questions didn't faze his partner.

"Well we also talked about how windy its been this week and he mentioned that when the wind started blowing really hard the building began to shake. Something to do with the way the wind comes off the mountains and the angle it hits the building. I wasn't paying very much attention, but now it makes sense."

"What makes sense? You lost me there Darwin."

The two men came to a stop by the truck. Jim fished his keys from his jacket pocket and unlocked the passenger side door, opened it, then leaned against the side of the truck bed. Jim's puzzled expression giving impetus to Blair's response.

"You notice how windy it is today?" Blair continued not waiting for an answer. "With your heightened sense of touch you probably felt the building moving. The motion is probably what caused your nausea and lack of equilibrium. While it wasn't windy enough for the rest of us to feel it, on you it acted almost like severe turbulence on an airplane." Blair grinned at his own words. Whoever would have thought ex-Army Ranger Ellison, known for his levelheadedness under fire, would get motion sick from a little wind.

"So what you're saying is I got motion sickness."

"Yeah. Pretty much." Blair's grin widened at the thought of sharing the story with Simon.

Jim recognized Blair's widened smirk and tried to forestall the inevitable. "No. You are not sharing this story with Simon. Huh-uh. You want to ruin my tough guy reputation?"

"Now Jim, would I do something like that?" Blair turned his best puppy dog eyes on his partner.

"Yes, you would. Without hesitation." Jim rapidly racked his brains trying to remember the latest Sandburgian indiscretion. His memory alighting on the previous weekend Jim also began to smile.

Blair recognized Jim's expression and knew instinctively it involved the events of the previous weekend. He tried to top things before they exceeded his own control. "You wouldn't tell Simon about that would you? What am I saying, of course you would. Come on man, it'd blow my entire image..." Blair trailed off at the suddenly feral look in Jim's eyes.

"Just remember Sandburg, payback is a bitch. And even without dredging up last weekend, I still have plenty of ammunition after living with you for the last three and a half years." Jim said with a feline grin. Of course Blair's weekend obsession would go forever unmentioned, as would the kid's preference for superhero boxers. Some things were better left between friends. After all, if everyone knew, it wasn't as much fun.

"What incident. There wasn't an incident here. Nope. Nothing out of the ordinary happened today. Except, how do we explain finding the knife under the chair?"

"That's easy. Just tell Simon it was a Sentinel thing and he'll kick us out of his office. Either that or he'll rationalize it in such a way that we can use it in our report. He's good at that remember? After all, he's the Captain." Jim began to laugh at the thought of Simon's reaction to their latest escapade. His laughter healing a small part of the wound in his chest caused by the death of one of his protectorate.

The mental image of the look on Simon's face when they greeted him with yet another example of their unusual partnership sent Blair into a fit of cleansing laughter.

"Well in a way it's true." He gasped out around chuckles. "I mean it was your heightened sense of touch that allowed you to feel the building moving..." Blair trailed off at the mock-stern look from his partner. How stern could the man be considering his continued guffaws?

Once they both had control of their amusement Jim gently nudged Blair, who clambered into the truck and reached across to unlock the other door for his partner, while Jim circled around to the driver's side and climbed in. Then like a dog with a bone, Blair returned to the question that still bugged him.

"You know, you never answered the question." He probed.

"Which question?"

"The why you were in the bathroom for so long question."

"Oh, that question. Would you believe me if I said hunting for evidence?"

"No."

"Well then. Trust me Chief, you don't want to know."

Finis

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