It was a very somber group that appeared later that night in the detention area. Chris and Simon, accompanied by Captain Hanford, had come to take care of the problem with Cassie Wells. When she was led from her cell, she paled as she realized that not only were Chris and Simon there, but so was her immediate supervisor.
A red haired man, as tall as Captain Banks, looked down at her. "I don't want to hear it, Wells. Both Agent Larabee and myself gave you a break after that debacle at the warehouse. All you had to do was stay away from the department for two weeks. You would have returned to work with a reprimand in your folder and nothing else. But you once again tried to stick your nose in where it didn't belong. You've made a habit of doing that. I've had complaints about you before, but because of your exemplary work, I chose to handle them off the record. But no more. You're no longer my problem."
Glancing at the silent federal agent and Captain Banks, she swallowed. "What…what do you mean?"
"I'm here to inform you that your employment with the Cascade Police Department is over. You're terminated."
"But I was only trying to help," she whined.
"Cassie," Simon said, "you would have helped if you had just done your job. The forensics department provides the backbone of the investigations. Without the clues you people find and bag, the detectives wouldn't have any evidence to be able to solve crimes. We also might miss clues that could point the investigations in the right direction."
"Wells, when you're through here, go to your office and pack."
Cassie hung her head, trying to fight back tears. She'd fucked up. She was just now realizing how badly. "Yes sir. I'll do that now." She made a move to go past them, but a hand on her arm stopped her.
"No you won't." She looked up at the blond agent as he released her. "You're not finished here yet."
"I don't understand," she said apprehensively.
"Ms Wells, you are officially being charged with interfering in a federal investigation. You have to be fingerprinted and have your mug shot taken."
"You can't be serious," she said, stunned.
"Oh, I'm very serious." Chris growled. "I warned you what would happen if I found you around my case." He handed her a piece of paper. Cassie looked down and blanched when she realized that it was an arrest warrant. With Iher/I name on it. Chris continued. "You'll note that there's no bail amount. The Captains assure me that you aren't a flight risk, so once you're through being processed, you're free to leave on your own recognizance. You will show up at the federal courthouse first thing Monday morning for your hearing. You'll want a lawyer with you."
Cassie nodded and didn't look back at the men when the officer led her away to be fingerprinted. Captain Hanford sighed. "Well, at least my next Chief of Forensics won't be going nose-to-nose with the detectives."
"You've already got someone in mind, Hank?" Simon asked.
"Serena Chang is being promoted. She deserves it. She's done a damn fine job. But don't say anything yet. I want to surprise her on Monday."
"Mum's the word. And I think Serena is a great choice."
"Thanks," he nodded to Simon. He held out a hand to Chris. "Agent Larabee, my apologies once again. Good night, gentlemen."
"So," Simon said after Captain Hanford had left, "what do you think, Chris?"
"It's her first offense, Simon. She'll most likely get time served and a fine. She probably won't even get probation. But she won't ever work in law enforcement again."
"Well, Cassie is a good researcher. She'll bounce back, I'm sure. You did what you had to do, Chris. She stepped over the line. Luckily, she didn't get anyone killed." With that said, the two men left.
The enticing smell of chili with its subtle spices, wafted to Jim as he walked down the stairs from his bedroom, buttoning his shirt. He headed into the kitchen, intent on sneaking a taste, when his partner's voice floated softly to his sensitive ears from the bedroom under Jim's.
"Jim, stay away from the chili. Don't make me have to hurt you, man."
"Oh, come on, Chief, I'm hungry," he said loudly enough for his partner to hear him. "We missed lunch today. One bowl. Nobody will even know."
"Jim, they're going to be here in fifteen minutes." Blair came out of his room, tucking a shirt into his jeans. "And we'll eat before we start playing. You can wait that long. Besides, I haven't put the garlic bread in yet, and you know you want garlic bread to go with it."
Jim huffed, and crossed his arms. "Okay, okay. I'll finish getting the tables set up. But put lots of garlic on mine, okay." Jim headed over to one wall of the living room, where they had propped the two folding card tables they borrowed from their neighbor, Mr Jenkins. They needed the extra room to accommodate everyone.
"You know, Jim, it's interesting that your taste buds are so sensitive to other spices, but you can handle a large amount of garlic with no problem." Blair cut the two loaves of French bread in half and was spreading butter on them. "I was thinking we could run some tests…"
Jim held up a hand. "Not tonight, okay, Blair. We can discuss this to your heart's content tomorrow. Tonight, I just wanna relax, enjoy some good food, and have fun with some new friends."
Blair smiled and nodded. "Okay, Jim. Not tonight."
Blair turned back to the kitchen counter, humming softly. Digging his garlic press out of one of the drawers, he proceeded to layer fresh garlic on the bread. It was healthier than using the processed garlic salt and it made the taste of the bread even better. He grated some mozzarella cheese and would layer some of the bread with that, knowing that Simon, Jim and Henry all loved it on their garlic bread. He would ask the others when they arrived if they wanted it and he wanted to have it already grated.
When the ATF contingent arrived, even Blair could hear them. It wasn't easy to disguise seven men treading up the stairs, or the remarks Ezra made about having to do so. They elevator was inoperable…again. A common occurrence in the building.
Since the agents were being less than quiet, Jim went ahead and opened the door before they all got to the apartment. He invited the men in with a wave of his hand. Chris and his men entered, but stopped as they gazed around the loft.
"Amazing!" Buck said. "This looks just like our place, don't it, JD?"
"Yeah. Cool," his roommate answered.
"I beg to differ," Ezra said. "How can you tell what your domicile looks like with all the refuse that litters its floors?"
"Hey, now, it's just the way we like it, right JD. Everything's got its place."
"Yeah," Chris smiled at Jim and Blair. "Unfortunately they can never find that place, so it gets scattered around the loft." Buck just glared at this oldest friend, but Larabee wasn't fazed.
Hoping to forestall an argument, Josiah remarked, "Something certainly does smell appetizing, Blair."
"Thanks. Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes. Does anybody want cheese on their garlic bread?" Receiving answers, Blair went about adding enough for those who wanted it and put the bread in the oven. Then he helped Jim. Together they put the chips supplied by their guests into bowls and carried them out to the card tables. They also got glasses for the drinks.
Blair was just taking the bread out of the oven when a knock sounded. Jim, who already knew that it was Simon, Rafe and Brown on the other side, opened the door.
"Evening, everyone," Simon said, walking inside. He took a deep breath. "Umm, Blair, I've been smelling that garlic bread since the second floor."
"It's done, Simon. Your timing is perfect. Dig in, everybody," Blair invited. "The ostrich chili is in the silver pot, and the regular chili is in the black one. Spices are on the side of the range. Jim's got some allergies, so I don't add too many spices while I'm cooking. You can do it to your own taste."
While the crowd formed a line to the kitchen, Simon handed Chris two manila file folders he had brought with him. "We got a match on the severed hand we fished out from the wreckage of the boat last night. The fingerprints match one John Henry Parmenter. He's a muscleman from Atlantic City with a rap sheet dating back fifteen years."
Chris looked through Parmenter's file until he came to the man's picture. Jim and Vin both looked at the picture he held up.
"Yeah, I remember seeing him on the boat when it blew," Vin said.
"Yep." Jim agreed. "There's no chance he survived that explosion. What about the other one that was on the boat?"
"Well, all we have are body parts. It may take awhile for any definite identification. But Parmenter has been working the last few years with his cousin, Joey Shepard. I pulled his file just in case." He indicated the second file Chris was holding. Again studying the mugshot, Vin and Jim agreed that he was their second suspect that was visible on the boat moments before it blew up.
"Good, that'll give the coroner a place to start and may hasten the identification process," Simon remarked. "Harbor fished somebody else out of the water this morning."
"Dead or alive?" Chris asked.
"Dead. It was right around the mouth of that cove. He hadn't been there long. I had the coroner put a rush on the autopsy. We are also rushing his fingerprints through AFIS," he said, mentioning the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that police departments used. "I'll be contacted on my cell phone as soon as the results are in."
"Good enough," Chris said. "Let's eat. I'm hungry and that chili smells good."
Twenty minutes later, Buck had finished his chili and was wandering around the living room, looking at the pictures and artifacts that decorated the area. He stopped in front of one picture that showed Blair standing with his arm around the waist of a beautiful redhead. He whistled. "Man, I would love to meet this foxy little filly. Who is she, Blair?" he asked Blair.
"That's my mom," Blair answered with a glare.
"Oops," Buck raised both hands in a gesture of surrender. "Sorry. She's, uh, real pretty."
Blair's glare softened as he gazed at the picture. "Yeah, she is."
Josiah sat back in his chair with a satisfied sigh. "Blair, that was excellent chili. You will have to give me the recipe."
"Nothing to it, Josiah. You just substitute the ostrich meat for ground beef. Everything else is the same."
"You were right," JD remarked. "You can't even tell the difference."
"And ostrich meat is healthier?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah. Not as much fat. And ostriches are raised without the use of hormones, like cattle are."
"Now I just need to find somewhere in Denver to purchase ostrich." Josiah said with a smile. He stood and took his dishes into the kitchen, and the others followed. Soon, they tables were cleared and everyone had fresh drinks.
"Well, boys," Simon rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Let's play cards. I am feeling lucky tonight."
"Oh, good," Blair quipped. "The last time you said that, I won enough to get new tires for my Volvo."
"Hush, Sandburg, or you'll be doing paperwork 'til it comes out your ears."
"And that would be unusual how?"
"Poker." Simon changed the subject with a growl. "Let's play."
As they settled themselves around the table and figured out how they were going to play with such a large number of people, Buck started grilling Ezra for details about his date with Rhonda.
"So, Ez, where did you go last night?"
"Why do you wish to know?" he asked absently, shuffling the two decks of cards they were using.
"You do remember what inquisitiveness did to the feline, do you not?"
Chris snickered and leaned forward to place his elbows on the table. "Curiosity killed the cat, Buck."
"I'm just trying to make polite conversation," Buck insisted.
"No you're not, you're fishing for information because you're jealous," JD said.
"I am not!"
"Are too. You're afraid that you're losing your 'animal maggotism'.
"That's magnetism, kid. And I'm Inot/I jealous."
Chris and Vin both snorted at this. "Hell, Buck," Chris said. "You were greener than her dress when they walked out last night."
Vin agreed. "Yep. Kept telling Chris that it was all his fault because he sent Ezra instead of you with Rhonda to get dinner that night."
"You may as well satisfy his curiosity, Brother," Josiah said. "Or he'll harp about it all night long."
"If you must know," Ezra said in exasperation, "we went to La Boheme."
"La what? What is that, some kind of restaurant?"
"La Boheme, Mr Wilmington. It's an opera by Puccini. When I escorted her to get dinner the other night, we happened to pass by a billboard advertising that 'La Boheme' was playing at the Cascade Symphony Hall. She mentioned that she had always wanted to see it. So when I realized that I had the evening free, I invited her to go."
"Where did you get tickets on such short notice, Ezra?" Blair asked. "I know for a fact that they've been sold out for months."
"I gave him my season tickets," Rafe replied, absently flexing his injured arm. "I've already seen it, so I said he could use them."
"You have season tickets?" Blair asked. "I wish I would've known."
"You're welcome to use them anytime, Blair. Just let me know."
"Great," Blair grinned. "Thanks."
Buck pretended great interest in his cards. "So the opera usually lets out about what, ten o'clock?"
Ezra narrowed his eyes, glaring at Buck over his cards. "Usually around that time. Why?"
"Well, I was up late last night, reading…"
"Oh, new copy of 'Guns and Babes' magazine?" Ezra said sarcastically.
"Funny. Anyway, you didn't come back to your room until after three AM."
"Keeping in mind that I am an adult and Miss Rhonda is a lady, what exactly are you attempting to suggest, Mr Wilmington?" he asked.
"Nothing." Buck said defensively. "I'm just making an observation."
"I'm telling you this only out of care for the lady's reputation, but we went to a little coffee house near the Hall and talked. I escorted her home and left her at her door. End of story."
"And Mr Wilmington, even if something did happen, do you really think I would tell you? I'm not the type to, what is that quaint phrase, 'kiss and tell'."
"Oh, so you did kiss her."
"Buck, drop it." Chris growled.
"Yes, please," Simon said, arranging his cards in his hand. "This is my secretary you're talking about."
"Okay, okay. I won't bring it up again."
"Good!" several voices chorused.
Several hands of poker were played, with Blair and Ezra almost evenly splitting the winning hands between them. When his cell phone rang, Simon threw down his cards in disgust. "Hell, I fold. I couldn't win this hand even if I was the only one playing." He grabbed the phone and walked out to the quiet of the balcony.
The others were still studying their cards when Simon came back in. "Well, that was our coroner, Dan Wolf. The official cause of death is drowning. But the victim had a nasty gash on the back of his head. Dan thinks that he may have already been in the water when the boat exploded and he got hit by a piece of debris. Probably got knocked unconscious and drowned. Dan said he was wearing a fake wig and colored contacts."
"Any ID on him yet?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, AFIS came up with a match and our ID techs have verified that he was Martin Phillips from Atlanta. He used to be an FBI agent."
Ezra's head whipped around to stare at Simon in shock. "Did you say Martin Phillips?"
"You know him, Ezra?" Chris asked, glancing quickly at Jim. He remembered Jim saying that it was Heichler that had recognized Ezra. If Ezra knew this Phillips guy, then it was a good chance that Phillips and Heichler were the same person.
"Martin Phillips was an undercover agent with the FBI when I first started. He's the one who taught me all about using disguises, changing my appearance. He was supposedly killed while undercover not long before I joined Team 7."
"Ezra, would he have been able to recognize you under your disguise?" Jim asked.
"Undoubtedly. As I would have been able to recognize him." Ezra narrowed his eyes as he realized the implication of Jim's question. "You mean it was Phillips that blew my cover, not Doyle? Phillips is Heichler?"
"Looks that way." Chris answered. "Doyle admitted that it was Heichler that recognized you." Chris had made it a point to ask Doyle why Heichler had taken off without warning. He had been trying to get something that would have been admissible in court, since Jim's account of the conversation wouldn't be.
"That's fits," Tanner stated. "We kept getting different descriptions of Heichler. Not just hair and eye color, but weight and height too. Phillips would have known to use tricks to keep from being identified, especially if the Bureau thought he was dead. If our dead man was wearing a disguise, then it's probably him."
"So he faked his death and sold out to the other side," Buck said in disgust.
"I want to be sure that this is the same Martin Phillips that Ezra knew. And I want to know if he was Heichler." Chris demanded, turning to Simon. "Is the body in good enough shape to be recognized?"
"Okay. Have your coroner keep the body on ice. First thing Monday, Ez and I will go down and make sure this is Ezra's Martin Phillips. I also want one of the crew from the yacht to take a look as well. I want confirmation that the body is their boss, Heichler."
"Sounds like a plan."
"I'd like to know for sure."
"Be best to tie up all our lose ends."
"I will endeavor to verify our deceased subject's identity."
"It would make me feel better."
"And until then, cowboy?"
Chris looked at his team, then at the men from Cascade. "Until then, we play poker." He picked up his cards and lay them back on the table face up, revealing a royal flush. "I believe this pot is mine," he said with a grin.
Dan Wolf pulled back the sheet from the face of their corpse. Ezra took a long look, then sighed in resignation. "Yes, that's him, Chris. That's Special Agent Martin Phillips."
Chris lay a hand on Ezra's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Ezra. I know you were hoping it was all some big mistake."
"Yes, I was. I truly didn't want to believe that a man I had looked up to had turned." He looked at Chris. "Was he really Gunter Heichler?"
Chris nodded. "Yeah. Two of the crewmen from the German Mistress positively identified him earlier. Now that we have your ID, we'll inform the FBI of his resurrection and real death." He gazed at Ezra. "Are you gonna be okay?"
Ezra smiled a little sadly. "Yes. I'll be fine." He stood up and squared his shoulders. "If you don't mind, I'd like a few minutes to myself."
"Okay. I need to go see Captain Banks, so we'll meet you in the Major Crimes bullpen."
Chris knocked on the door and entered after receiving a 'come in' from the occupant of the office.
"Chris," Simon stood up from his chair. "Well, was it who Ezra thought?"
"Yeah." Chris rubbed the back of his neck. "And he was Gunter Heichler. At least we were able to stop him and get the goods on Doyle."
"Well, then the case it tied up all nice and neat. Now the only thing we have left is getting Ms Watkins into the witness protection program."
"No, actually, we don't. She's elected to return to her native England. She and the baby were put on a plane last night."
"Won't Doyle try to get to her there?"
"He has no reason to. He thinks Heichler sold him out and we'll let him keep believing that. Even if he's upset about Ms Watkins extracurricular bedroom activities, she claims that she can take care of herself and the child. We can't force her to go into the protection program."
"So when are you leaving?"
"In the morning. We'll drive to Seattle and drop the van off with ATF Headquarters there." Chris held out his hand. "Simon, it's been a pleasure working with you and your team. And don't worry, I'll keep Jim's secret."
"I know you will, Chris." Simon said, returning the handshake. "It's been a pleasure working with you, too. And Jim wanted to talk to you for a minute." He went to the window and motioned to Jim. The detective and Blair came into Simon's office, leaving Rafe and Henri talking to Chris' team.
"I just wanted to tell you thanks for handling the whole Sentinel thing so well. And to tell you that if I can ever be of any help to you or your team, just call. Blair and I will come running."
"Thanks, Jim, Blair. I'll keep that in mind. You guys take care of yourselves."
The four men exchanged hand shakes, then walked out of Simon's office and joined the team in the bullpen.
"Seen Ezra yet?" Chris asked.
"No, not yet," Vin answered. "You want I should go look for him?"
"Nah, we'll give him a few minutes. This has been hard on him. He knows where we'll be."
"You guys have a good trip back," Jim included them all in his statement.
"And if you ever come out this way again, make sure to drop by and say 'Hi'," Blair added.
"We will." Chris answered for them all.
Simon handed a file to his secretary. "Rhonda, could you run this up to the Commissioner's office?"
She got up to leave, having already said her good-byes to the team. Chris rolled his eyes as Buck made one final attempt to charm the woman.
"Darling," Buck said, grabbing one of her hands. "It just about tears my heart up to be going back to Denver. I wish we'd gotten a chance to get better acquainted."
Rhonda gently pulled her hand free and patted Buck on the face. "Buck, you're just not my type." She spotted Ezra, who had quietly come in to the bullpen. "But you," she said, walking up and grabbing Ezra by his lapels and pulling him close. "You I'm gonna miss." Then she gave Ezra a heated kiss, while Buck just watched in amazement. Ending the kiss, she turned and walked out, leaving Ezra with a bemused expression on his face.
Ever the good-natured one, Buck slapped Ezra on the back. "Damn, Ez. That was some kiss. I'm surprised your shoes aren't on fire." Ezra just smiled.
"By the way, Ezra. Thanks for the cigar," Simon said to the undercover agent. "I'm going to save it for a very special occasion."
"You're quite welcome, Captain Banks. I'm glad it will be appreciated by a true connoisseur."
"Well, are we ready to go guys?" Chris asked. "I'm sure the captain would like his department cleared." The team started to leave. Chris moved to follow them, but stopped in the doorway to the bullpen and turned around. "By the way, I just thought you'd like to know that your good friend, Agent Donohue, got transferred suddenly a couple of days ago."
Jim perked up. "Oh, where did he get transferred to?"
"That's funny, considering how much he always complained about Seattle's cold and wet weather," Blair said. "Wonder who he pissed off to get sent up there?"
"I don't know." Chris said innocently. "I'll have to ask Terry the next time I talk to him."
"Who's Terry?" Simon asked suspiciously.
"Director Terry Lessard. He's an old Navy buddy of mine. He's also Agent Donohue's superior." Chris grinned, turned around and walked away. The laughter from the bullpen followed him down the corridor.