The rest of the day went by far too quickly for them. Diane went to apologize to Simon and inform him of the results of their meeting, since he had been left standing outside the door to Jim's loft wondering where everybody had run off to. The group then informed Chief Warren and the rest of the task force and security detail of the plans in a briefing later that afternoon. The gentlemen all went to get their tuxedos re-fitted, while Sharon went for a full massage and a yoga class, knowing that she needed to work all of the knots and kinks out of her system if she was going to be in top condition to take on Green the next night.
Jim, Sharon, Deborah and Blair were going to be in the Mystic Center for the full day on Monday in the preliminary rounds of the competition. They all knew that they had access to go backstage regardless if they were still competing, but Diane and Sharon insisted that they continue with their original plan, as it would draw less attention to their presence. Sharon insisted that there was a chance that he would show up during the preliminary rounds, either to set up the bombs, in which case he would be lurking around backstage and in the technical areas, or to gloat over his handiwork, in which case he would either be skulking around in the general area of the center, or he would try to get in with the small audience that was to be allowed in for the preliminaries. Either way, every entrance and exit would, according to Simon, be guarded by two security guards, one cop, and one Fed. In addition, Diane had four people undercover with the tech unions: one in lighting, two in sound, and one stage hand. Jim, Sharon, Deborah, and Blair would also be backstage, and Diane would be in the audience as a judge. It would be almost impossible for him to get in there without being seen, and each and every cop in the area would be miked and/or wired, depending on their particular assignment. If he were spotted within a mile of the Mystic Center, everyone would know within seconds.
Jim caught a brief glimpse of Sharon as she finished her third round song. After the reaction that "Someone..." had gotten at the club the other night, she had changed the order of her songs: "All Fired Up" first, then "Any Man of Mine", "Vision of Love", and "Someone..." for the finals. [She's definitely giving this her all,] he thought, [I wouldn't be surprised if she did win.] There was something at the edge of his senses trying to get his attention, but he tried to push it away. There had been no sign of Green all morning, and the team of bomb- sniffing dogs the mayor sent in to search the center before the first round turned up nothing. Still, the unknown smells and sounds were nagging at the back of his mind, and they kept splitting his focus.
Blair noticed Jim's revolving concentration, and asked him, "Jim, are you okay? What's going on?"
"There's something weird going on, chief. I hear something, like a ticking sound. It almost sounds like a watch, but it doesn't, you know? It keeps bothering me."
"Let your hearing lead your sight to the sound, Jim. Can you see what it is?"
Jim closed his eyes for a minute so he could focus his hearing on the sound. He then opened his eyes, and looked up...
One of the sandbags was causing the ticking sound.
Sharon was off-stage by this point, and heard Jim over her earpiece, stating, "Sir, I've picked up some suspicious activity on the catwalk above the stage. I'm going to check it out." She looked up and saw Jim pulling up one of the sandbags. She prayed that it wasn't what she thought it was. Apparently, though, God wasn't the one controlling A.J. Green, and she watched in shock as Jim pulled the wires out of a detonator.
[Okay, think Driver, think!] She pulled up every bit about Green she could think of. [He's going to want to watch his own work, right? So where would be the best place to do it?]
Jim and Blair collapsed on the catwalk, half in shock and half in relief. Then Blair's face darkened as he realized something. "Jim, you know what this means?"
"What's that, chief?"
"Well, you said the dogs went over every inch of this place, right?" Jim nodded. "And they didn't find anything?" Jim nodded again, and looked down at the detonator he still held in his hand. If there was one bomb here, knowing Green, there were more. A lot more. And they could be anywhere.
And he was the only person who could find them.
Sharon whispered discretely into her microphone, "Diane, I think you should find a way to calmly evacuate the building."
Over her earpiece, Diane asked, "might I ask why?"
"Jim just found one of Green's little surprises in a sandbag above the stage."
Diane stood up and announced to the unsuspecting final female vocalist contestant, who was still in the middle of her song, "Thank you very much. You may go now. We'll post the results in two hours. In the meantime, the security team needs to do a final check of the building before the finals tonight, so if everyone in the auditorium could please leave, your cooperation would be greatly appreciated."
She then turned to the judges and murmured to the group, "Please make sure that this happens. I just received word of the possibility of a bomb in the building."
Discretely, the judges rose from their chairs and started to escort people out of the building.
As fast as they possibly could.
Sharon's brain was working at the speed of light, trying to figure out where Green was. He was here, she could feel it in her gut, and her gut was almost never wrong. It was just a matter of figuring out where he was.
She looked out from behind one of the stage curtains and noticed for the first time the wall of glass along the top of the rear of the Center. She grabbed one of the stage hands, who was trying to exit the building, and asked him what was back there. Hastily he replied, "the broadcast booth. It's where they control the TV cameras and movie projectors and stuff. Well, bye!" He then took off toward the nearest exit.
[Movie projectors, huh? It's as good a place to start as any.] She started to make her way toward the staircases in the rear of the center, hoping to discretely make her way up to the broadcast booth.
The commotion going on down by the stage area woke Alex from a sound sleep. He figured he would be safe up in the broadcast booth, since they weren't going to televise the competition. Everything was set and ready to go for the finals. He had camped out there overnight so that he wouldn't have to worry about security in the morning, conveniently hiding in an air duct while they were performing their little 'bomb sweep'. He had taken a nap, figuring the commotion beneath him was people coming in to see the finals. He smiled and looked out at these people who didn't know it was the last night of their lives...
[Where is everybody going in such a hurry?] he thought. Then he looked up at the area above the stage- And saw Jim Ellison and his geek partner Sandburg, scanning the area carefully. They pulled up one of his treasures, and took all of the wires out of it.
Furious, he screamed, "NO! It wasn't supposed to happen this way!" He had hidden his detonator in a parking garage across the street, figuring he would use the dinner break to sneak out to his 'fireworks viewing area'. He opened the door to get out...
And found himself face to face with a slightly startled Sharon Driver.
Sharon regained her composure quickly. "A.J. Green?"
He didn't say a single word in response. He simply pushed her out of the way and ran toward the catwalks.
[Why do these guys always have to be so quick?] she thought. Then she ran out after him, calling into her mic, "Jim! I've found Green! He's on the catwalks, headed your way! I'm in pursuit!"
Jim heard Sharon on his earpiece, and commanded Blair, "get out of the building, now!"
Blair was about to argue, but one look in Jim's eyes silenced any possible protests, and he ran for the ladder.
Jim took off in the direction of the two sets of footsteps running along the catwalks.
Sharon heard Jim in her earpiece, "does he have the remote on him?"
"I don't think so," she replied. "If he did, we'd be dead already."
She never took her eyes off Green's back, so she was startled for a bit to see him drop to the floor of the catwalk. She was running so fast that she literally ran right over him and into Jim, bouncing off him like a sprinter hitting a padded wall...
and landed right in the arms of A.J. Green, who put her in a hammer lock with a gun pointed to her head.
[Did a black cat cross my path or something?] she thought.
Jim tried to point his gun at Green's head, but he positioned himself so Jim couldn't get a shot off that wouldn't hurt Sharon in the process. He barked out, "put the gun down, Green!"
"Not a chance, pig!" he spat out in retort. "I want to see you burn!"
Jim looked at Sharon for a second, and what he saw reassured him greatly. She was mumbling and crying like any typical 'terrified hostage', but her eyes, the eyes that Green were now trying to use as a shield, betrayed her true sprit. She was poised and ready to get out and end this, whenever Jim thought the time was right. She was just waiting for a signal.
Sharon saw Jim's jaw unclench, and she tensed slightly. At Jim's slight nod, she kicked Green in the knee, which distracted him enough that his hands loosened, sending the gun to the stage below. She then slipped out of his hands, dropping to the floor of the catwalk between Green's legs, and landed a swift kick to his groin. Green doubled over in front of her, and before she or Jim had the chance to catch him, he rolled off of the catwalk and onto the stage below, snapping his head back onto the stage floor in the process. She was afraid of what that might have done to their suspect, and one quick look at Jim confirmed it. He was definitely unconscious, and very likely dead.
[Well, maybe the black cat didn't cross my path after all,] thought Sharon. Green was unconscious, but very much alive, and since Simon had heard most of the fight over Jim and Sharon's wires, the paramedics were there within thirty seconds of Green's impact with the stage. According to the paramedics, he probably broke his back, and had some internal bleeding, but he was most likely going to make it.
The task force did another, this time much more detailed sweep of the Mystic Center and the surrounding area, and found not only the other thirty-five bombs (in addition to the seven Jim had discovered), but the command center in the security office of the parking garage across the street. The murder of the security guard was just one more thing to add to Green's list of crimes.
Now that their 'unabomber' was gone for good, Jim and Sharon could focus on the one challenge left for them on this case.
Both of them had qualified for the finals.
[Now this is an interesting dilemma,] thought Diane. She had seen all of the other judges electronic votes, and the computer was now waiting for her decision in the male vocalist category. The current standing was a 4-4 tie between Jim Ellison and his closest competitor, Chris McMasters. Both men were quite good-Jim being far better than she had really expected, even after seeing him at the club. Her vote would decide the competition. She noticed Jim watching from the wings, and waved slightly to get his attention. He started to head toward her, but she shook her head and pointed to her ear. He wasn't quite sure what she meant by doing that, but then he saw her start to speak, and focused in...
"Can you hear me, Jim? Can you hear me?" He nodded, smiling. She was speaking at barely a whisper, and if anyone else had actually heard her, they would have no idea who she was talking to. "Wow. This is interesting. Anyway, we can't be seen together talking about this, or it would jeopardize the rest of the competition. The other judges have cast their ballots, and it's a 4-4 tie between you and someone else for the title. The others don't know that you're a cop, so it's up to me. I would love to cast my vote for you, but since I know how you are about publicity, I wanted it to be your choice. Either nod your head yes or shake your head no. I'll vote based on that signal."
She looked around to see if anyone was looking at her, then looked Jim straight in the eye, and cast her vote.
The 'celebration' was definitely not what Jim expected. Instead of some big exhibition show at the Mystic Center, it was actually a gala party at Planet Hollywood. He, Simon and Blair relaxed at the corner table Sharon had been able to reserve for their group: himself, Sharon, Blair, Deborah, Simon and Diane. Sharon was onstage, singing her 'victory' song, "If You're Not in it for Love (I'm Outta Here)". [Much as I love her voice, I don't understand _what_ she sees in country music. I hope she uses that contract for something other than a country album. Maybe she can find whoever wrote that "Someone" arrangement for her and they can team up.]
Deb had retreated to the ladies' room to freshen up, and Diane had left briefly to greet Julia and Chris when she spotted them. You almost didn't need to be a Sentinel to hear her scream, "What! Congratulations!". He watched briefly as she embraced her younger brother, and (apparently) future sister-in-law. She motioned for them to join their group, but they bowed out, and made their exit after another round of hugs. The song ended just as Diane made her way back to the table, announcing, "Gentlemen, my assistant and my kid brother are getting married!" All three men raised their glasses in an enthusiastic toast, and Diane sat down.
As Sharon returned to the table, Diane, who by now had had quite a bit to drink, calmly asked Jim, "so, have you told them about how you turned down fame and fortune today?"
Simon and Blair looked over at Jim with the same surprised looks on their faces. Jim just shrugged while Diane explained, "it was a dead-heat tie in Jim's category, with my vote deciding the winner. Since I knew how much this big lug hates publicity, I asked him if he wanted me to vote for him. He said no, McMasters gets the glory, and Jim here goes back to serving and protecting the fine citizens of Cascade."
Blair smiled and raised his glass again in a toast, "to Jim Ellison."
Deborah joined the group at the table as the group raised their glassed, "to Jim." Deborah then asked, "so what are we toasting Jim for, guys?"
Jim looked over to her, smiling, and stated simply, "I'll tell you later," as he chugged down the last of his glass of beer.
Simon turned to Diane and declared, "You know, Diane, I happen to have quite a bit of singing experience myself."
"Oh really," she replied, "you never told me that." Sharon, too, looked surprised, then turned to Blair out of curiosity and asked, "what about you, Blair? You sing?"
"Nope," he replied, "play a mean bass guitar, though."
Now it was Jim's turn to look surprised. "You never told me that, chief. Where'd you pick that up? On second, thought, don't tell me, I have a feeling I don't want to know."
Diane smiled at the easy rapport between the two men. "What about you, Detective?"
"I used to play the drums, actually."
Blair gawked at him in shock. "Then why do you always hate the music I play?"
"I played _music_, Blair. The stuff you play is nothing more than noise with cultural history behind it."
Blair was about to respond to that, but then he saw the look in Sharon's eye. It was the same look she got before she told them the idea about the club gig. Cautiously, he looked at Sharon, and asked her, "Share, what idea is going through that sick, twisted little mind of yours this time?"
"You guys ever jam together? No, of course not. But, you want the chance?"
All three men nodded in agreement. Sharon then excused herself, and went back up to the stage, where the backup band was just finishing a set. After a brief conversation with the lead singer, she came back to the table and ordered, "okay guys, you're on right after this next song."
All three men looked at each other, their eyes trying to say 'what did we get ourselves into?'. Then, excited, all three men ran for the stage, ready to go on. As they took over their instruments from the members of the band and started up "Born to be Wild", they all looked like they had been jamming together for years. Diane looked at them, then at Sharon, and declared, "Share, I think you created a monster."
Deborah added, "a big, ugly, three-headed monster."
All three women looked at each other, burst out laughing, then attacked the dance floor.