Major Crimes Division
The physicist stopped pacing the floor to glare at his friend. “Where have you been?”
As usual, Al ignored him. “Geez, Sam, what is it with you and the men’s room this Leap?” He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “It’s bad enough when you drag me in here to talk.”
“Well, since you neglected to tell me where I live, where else was I supposed to go?” Sam retorted.
“Oh.” Al slapped the handlink. “852 Prospect, apartment 307. Sorry. But why are you in here, instead of in there?” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the bullpen.
“Because, frankly, Cascade’s finest were behaving a little too immaturely for my taste.” He fixed an impatient glare on the hologram. “Please tell me you have something.”
“Well, we think we’ve figured out why you’re here.”
“Finally! What does Ziggy say?”
“That there’s a fifty-six percent chance you’re supposed to stop a Sid Graham from publishing Blair’s doctoral thesis…and an eighty-four percent chance you’re here to stop Captain Simon Banks and Inspector Megan Connor from getting shot by a man named Klaus Zeller.”
“Al, that’s incredible!” Sam exclaimed when the Observer had finished relating Blair’s story to him. The same breathless excitement was in his voice that the Visitor’s had contained when he’d been told about Project Quantum Leap.
Al smiled ruefully. “Yeah, well, according to Sandburg, it was only incredible when it was a secret. This unwanted publicity is destroying Ellison, and taking their friendship down with it. Not to mention Blair’s got a deathly fear of the guy becoming some sort of government guinea pig, which is why it took so long to get him to talk to us.”
“Sentinels,” Sam breathed. “I’ve got to read that dissertation.”
“You go right ahead. Just don’t say anything about it to anyone. Oh, except Captain Banks and Inspector Connor. Apparently, they’re in on the secret.”
The Leaper nodded. “Do you think that’s why they were shot?”
“Beats me, Kid.”
“So, why does Ziggy think I’m primarily here to stop the shooting? Were they killed?”
Al shook his head. “No, they both ended up in the hospital for a while, but that’s it. But he says from what he’s got so far, it looks like Sandburg managed to fix the dissertation problem all right on his own.”
Sam nodded. “All right. So what–”
He was interrupted by the ringing of Blair’s cell phone.
Jim was passing the men’s room when his ears were drawn automatically to the sound of Sandburg’s voice coming from inside.
“Do you think that’s why they were shot?”
The detective stopped and stared at the closed door. What the hell? He focused his hearing more closely. For the moment, the younger man was silent, as if listening to someone, but all Jim could pick up on was some sort of bizarre static.
Then Blair spoke again. “So, why does Ziggy think I’m primarily here to stop the shooting? Were they killed?”
Another strange, static pause followed.
Ziggy? Who the hell is Ziggy? And what on earth is Sandburg rambling about?
“All right. So what–”
The anthropologist’s cell phone rang unexpectedly, causing the Sentinel to wince and clap his hands to his ears.
“Blair, it’s Sid again! You drive a hard bargain.”
“Sid, yeah. Look, I told you, I don’t want to publish–”
“You’re gonna turn down three million dollars?”
The Sentinel quickly dialed down his hearing. His stomach felt like it did after some of Naomi’s concoctions. Pushing the hurt into the blacksmith’s forge of his lingering anger, he turned deliberate steps away from the bathroom where Sandburg was negotiating a contract for the sale of his life.
Sam had been pleasantly surprised to discover that Inspector Megan Connor of New South Wales was a very good listener. She had willingly endured his frustrated monologue that seemed to be a mesh of his own concerns and some left over from the young man whose life he’d borrowed.
He’d poured out everything to her, from his frustration over Graham’s refusal to take no for an answer, to an inexplicable conviction that he’d lost the trust of a man he’d never actually met. That part, he was certain, had to be Blair, even though it reminded him a little of the guilt he’d felt when he’d discovered what Al had given up to help him save Tom. Of course, even if Al had been there instead of trying to get more out of Ziggy, he couldn’t have said that. Not with someone else around.
That made him wonder all the more that Ziggy didn’t seem to think he was there to help the two men. If Jim and Blair were as close as he and Al…how could he just stand by and let that be destroyed?
Megan smiled sadly at him. “It’s an extraordinary accomplishment…but I hate to see what it’s doing to you and Jim. Look, Sandy, if you know you’re doing what’s right, then you can move on with a clear conscience. So can Jim.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. But what’s the right thing to do? And am I supposed to be the one to do it? “Yeah,” he murmured.
She turned to go inside the building where Bartley, his people, and the rest of their team awaited them. The Leaper followed–at least until he had another chance to talk to Al, he wasn’t letting Inspector Connor out of his sight.
They entered the room just as Ellison was leaving it. Sam let his eyes follow the other man, but continued in the direction he had been going.
“What are you doing?” the man he’d identified as Captain Banks glared at him. “Go with him, Sandburg.”
Sam’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “I…are you sure he wants me with him, Sir?”
“I need you with him. Help him focus. Now, go.”
“Babe stays here though, right?” the other man in the room asked.
The Inspector smiled tightly. “I might shoot him myself.”
With a grin, Sam turned and left the way he came.
Simon cast a confused glance in Megan’s direction. “Connor, was I hallucinating a moment ago, or did Sandburg just call me ‘Sir’?”