By chance, Sandburg happened to cross paths with Ellison as he was escorting the cameraman to the station. They hadn't quite reached the upstairs yet.
"Hey, Jim! You won't believe what I just hit!" He was out of breath.
Ellison shook his head, "That can wait." He nodded at the cameraman, who wasn't cuffed, but effectively within arm's reach by means of a powerful grip on the shoulder. "I've found a snooper, and hopefully he might have something to tell us."
The man whimpered, "You'd better do it between the both of us. You don't want those three to hear what I know."
Ellison raised his eyebrow, but before he could say anything, Sandburg interrupted. "Hey! What's that tattoo on your wrist?" The man paled as it was inspected, "I've seen that before!"
Sandburg was quiet for a moment, "I think you better listen to the guy, Jim. We should be asking him questions in private."
It was a little while later, after some of the paperwork was filled, that they sat in a different interrogation room.
"OK, Mr. Johnson, you promised to spill the beans, so start talking."
He nodded. "All right, I did promise." His eyes were darting back and forth, and his whole body sweaty with fear. "But you gotta promise, you ain't telling anyone about what I have to say. Got it?"
Ellison shook his head, "I can't promise anything if I don't know what you have to tell me."
"Look, Detective. Your Captain isn't quite human... would you be surprised to find out that he used to be a slave back when it was legal?"
Sandburg slapped the table. "He's a Watcher! Jim, this is incredible! I thought it was a cult, but that, and the tattoo, and the--"
Ellison interrupted him, all the while noticing Johnson's heart nearly stop, "What the hell are you talking about?"
He calmed down a little, "That ties in with the information I just got from a friend of mine. The Captain and Mr. Pierson have no official pasts prior to ten years ago, and the Inspector has too much of one..." He explained the same thing that was told to him by Angela, without any of the incriminating details. Jim was growing increasingly introspective as Sandburg hammered in point by point. "Add that to the tattoo. I've come across it in my own research. I thought it was a cult based on some myth or grossly-exaggerated idea, but this is for real!"
Ellison mused, "Add that to the fact that Harlowe doesn't even have a scratch left after the kidnapping. I just noticed that a little while ago. I thought maybe he was in on it, fake bullets and all, but I could smell the blood. It was real." He pounded his head on the table, "It's too insane."
"So are a few other things?" whispered Sandburg under his breath.
Ellison heard it clearly. They both stared at Johnson. "All right. How do you fit into this?"
Johnson's voice was shaking, "Like the kid says, I Watch the Inspector. I've been assigned to him for the last ten years."
"What does this watching entail?"
"I observe from a distance, documenting the major events in Harlowe's life. I don't interfere. I just record things objectively so that in some future time, we'll have an honest account."
The cynical side of Jim showed up, "Just observe?"
"Look! I don't interfere, no matter how much I want to! That's the oath we take. Observe, but never interfere!"
Sandburg leaned back in his chair, cracking his fingers, "So then if you observe and record objectively, someone might be able to tell us where Amanda is and what this whole mess about the Council of Blood is all about?"
Johnson stood up, "Who the hell are you, kid?"
"Sit down!" barked Ellison. "Mr. Sandburg is a police observer." At that word, Johnson looked thoughtful. "He's been helping us on this case. His day job is in research at the University."
"I can imagine..." he looked pleadingly at Ellison. "Look. Now you know what I am, and maybe even believe it, can you let me go? It's not like you can formally charge me with anything except taking unwanted pictures."
Ellison nodded. "You're right in one way. I can't charge you. However... I think you can still be useful. You see, we want to bring Amanda's kidnapper to justice, and if you can produce any useful data about their whereabouts, then we want to know. Right now."
* * *
Amanda was alone for the first time in who knew how long. The pain from the tattooing had instantly faded, but some of the other tortures took a lot longer to fade and heal. She looked at herself in disgust. Some of those tattoos really were raunchy. Marisa had a hell of a lot of pay for. The change of her attitude and expression was sudden. She switched from hurt and submissive to furious in only a moment, and it stayed that way.
Escaping from her restraints was a matter of popping and unpopping the right joints and mashing the hands tight enough to slip out of them. It took as long as it took. Escaping from the room was somewhat easier. Marisa was a fool to leave so many belts and chains hanging around. Opening the door needed only a short loop.
She emerged into a dark hallway totally without lighting. No guards either. Stumbling around, she found a circular stairway and quietly made her way up to the top. It led to an empty warehouse. Abandoned for years, probably.
The door was ready and waiting, but she realized that she was also quite naked, and didn't want to draw too much attention. The evidence of her being raped was too long gone, so she couldn't cite that reason for her indecent exposure. Looking around in the faint light, she tried to find something that might show usefulness.
Not even a plastic tarp.
She made her way out the door, thankful that this place was in a dead part of town. With every dead part of town is the place where bums hang out. All she had to do was follow the smell of burning trash. It was a little more than around the block, but close enough.
Five grimy men were smoking cigarettes and slamming cheap vodka, mumbling incoherently about nothing in particular. She didn't have the time or luxury to play tricks, and she was pissed off as well, so she snuck up from behind a man on the edge and held her hand over the man's mouth, plugging his nose with the same hand, while the other arm clamped down on his throat. He struggled a little bit, but soon passed out. A few more seconds of the treatment would ensure that he wasn't faking.
All she took were his clothes, some change, and a cigarette. Nobody even knew what she had done, or saw her leave. Nobody, that is, except for her Watcher.
* * *
Johnson's pager beeped, and he jumped. He read it, and frowned, "It says '666'. That's a code for 'the shit just hit the fan.'"
"I wonder what that could mean?" Ellison frowned.
"I'll have to call to make sure."
"Use my cell phone," he offered.
"Thanks, but pay phones don't have 'redial'."
"No, but I'm a cop, and I have just cause to have the phone company find out where you called."
Johnson shrugged, "OK, then I'll take up your offer."
He dialed a number and nodded a bit once the other end picked up. Johnson thought that they would only be hearing a one-ended conversation, but he didn't know about Ellison. "You paged me?"
"Yeah. Amanda just escaped. She snuck up on a bum and took his clothes. I'm not sure where she's off to next. I'll keep you updated. Anything from your end?"
"Not much. He's just conferencing a lot."
"I figured. There isn't much else they can do. Marisa is elsewhere, and nobody knows where. Have you seen her?"
"Nope. I've been stuck here the whole time."
"Good. At least there's one piece we have down."
Johnson hung up. "You don't have to worry about Amanda. We don't know where she is, but she's no longer held hostage."
"What about her kidnapper. Marisa?"
Johnson got angry. "You've got beans to spill yourself! Do you know how much I've risked, telling you this much? What do you know?"
Ellison was calm, "Not as much as we need to know."
Johnson wasn't in a position to make demands, so he didn't. However, he did insist on his right to get the hell out of there.
Once he thought he was safe, he made another call. This one was direct to Regional Headquarters. "I think we have a problem. We've some outsiders who know about us and immortals."
"What do you know about them?"
"Detective Jim Ellison of the Cascade P.D. and Blair Sandburg, a police observer and researcher at the University. I need you to look into them. Something is really fishy about the kid. The cop found my hiding place -- I don't know how -- and the kid knew me by my tattoo. Claims he found it in his research on something else. He also let it slip that he got information about Harlowe, Robinson, and Pierson from someone else."
"Pierson? Adam Pierson? What about him."
"It looks like things are worse than we thought. The guy isn't rogue. He's an immortal."
"Are you sure?"
"One way to find out..."
"I was just informed that Amanda escaped, and Marisa's whereabouts aren't known. If she was killed, I'd have probably been told about that."
"You're still field commander. Keep this situation under control. We're sending emergency agents to handle this unforeseen circumstance."
What Johnson didn't know is that Ellison had followed him from a safe distance, figuring he'd freak out and make a call. He heard every word, but what was better, he had the phone number of the cell phone, so pretty soon they'd be able to listen in on every word.
What was not so simple was what he would do about the Captain (who apparently was really named 'Robinson'). Would he confront them about what he learned, warn Pierson that his game was up, or watch silently with his aces hidden?
Not a fun call.
* * * *
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