Cycles VI

by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Well, again, these guys are mostly mine. Since the notes are already pretty long, I'm going to take this space to tell those of you who don't know what this is that this is SORT of a death story, in that it takes place after the Jim and Blair of the Nature Series are both dead. However, they lived full happy lives, blah, blah. And now it's the year 2048 and there's a new Sentinel and a new Guide who spend most of their time gossiping about Jim and Blair. Which is the whole fun of the thing. I'd read the earlier parts first if I were you. Cheers! — F

Author's notes: Okay, okay, okay already! The next installment of the Cycles series, finally. For those of you who weren't around when the last part of this was posted, let me assure you that the name "Daniel Casey" utterly predates this Sports Night thing now sweeping the nation. Honest — ask your elders, they'll tell you. Much love and thanks to the very overworked and faithful Miriam. Come on — admit it, you wouldn't want to beta me, would you? I mean, presumably you all have lives and stuff. Thanks, Mir, for making space in yours. Oh! And thanks to Pumpkin for giving feedback on an early draft. (And please feed *me* back, ya'll. Thank you and goodnight!)

"Daniel? Daniel, pick up. Pick up, please?" Sonia Cortez begged, running a nervous hand through her short, dark hair. "Daniel — I'm working at home, today, all right? Call me here, okay?" She sighed, added a final "please" for good measure, and then plopped onto her sofa, tossing the cordless phone onto the coffee table.

Victor de Guzman looked up from Volume III of Blair Sandburg's dissertation. "You shouldn't have to beg him," he said, frowning.

"I'm not begging," Sonia replied irritably.

"Sounded like begging," Victor muttered, looking down again.

"Requesting," she snapped. "Requesting, okay?"

"You've been more than nice to him," Victor said. "You've given him a place to stay, helped him begin to understand his abilities..."

"Victor, please," Sonia groaned, letting her head fall back against the sofa cushions.

"I just don't know what the hell he wants from you," Victor said.

Sonia snorted and raised her head to glare at him. "I know what he wants. He wants Blair fucking Sandburg." Victor stared at her and she rattled on, defensively, "He wants that, okay?" She flung her hand toward the other sixteen volumes piled on the floor next to Victor's chair. "And I don't know if I've got that to give him."

De Guzman put the book down and stood up; from where Sonia was sitting his legs looked impossibly long. "A) — you shouldn't speak ill of the dead," he said, crossing his arms. "And B) — that's fifty years worth of history, there. He wants fifty years in five minutes?"

Sonia sighed and craned her neck up to meet Victor's eye. "A)," she replied wearily, "I'm not feeling real well disposed to Dr. Blair Sandburg at the minute. He's the one who got me into this mess." She raised her hand to forestall Victor's comment. "Yes, I know he was your friend," she said, quickly. "I know that the millions wept upon his passing — but right now, I can only see him from where I sit, okay? Right now I can only think — well, if he's this pushy dead, what the hell was he like when he was alive?"

Victor de Guzman's lips twitched. "Pushy," he admitted.

"Why am I not surprised?" Sonia deadpanned. "From where I'm sitting, Victor, Blair Sandburg is looking pushy and — well — sort of obsessive. Which leads me to point B)," she continued irritably. "One Daniel Casey — who wants me to be as obsessed with him as your Dr. Sandburg was with Detective Ellison. Seventeen volumes obsessed," she elaborated. "Devotion of my entire life obsessed."

Victor frowned and sat down again. "That's not reasonable," he objected.

"Victor — none of this is reasonable, okay?" Sonia raised her voice. "Reason has left the building, here. Seventeen volumes isn't reasonable, this Sentinel-Guide thing isn't reasonable — none of it is! But I'm going with it, because I've seen it with my own eyes — I've seen what Daniel Casey can do, and *you've* been assuring me that your Dr. Blair Sandburg isn't a fruitcake."

She jumped up and started pacing around her apartment. "Without Daniel, my first thought would have been — hell, my first thought was — that Blair Sandburg was out of his mind. A totally nutcase. A pushy, obsessive nutcase. But I couldn't ignore Daniel — all of a sudden there was six feet of Daniel Casey, acting exactly like the starring figure of a book he'd never read. So all right — I grant you — maybe Blair Sandburg *wasn't* a fruitcake. But that still doesn't give him the right to choose my sexual partners, does it?"

Victor stared at her. "What?"

"Am I the only one reading this damn thing?" Sonia cried angrily. "Are you reading the same book I am? I thought you were reading it!"

"I am," Victor sputtered. "I am, but — "

"Daniel is a Sentinel. Daniel thinks I'm his Guide. And Sandburg says — Sandburg says that this is genetic destiny! Sandburg's taking about mating here!" she said, glaring at the pile of books like she was willing them to burst into flame. "Sentinel and Guide mating for life!"

She stopped and gasped for breath, she was near to hyperventilating. "And I don't know if Daniel's read that far or if he just knows it instinctively or what — but he knows it, Victor. He knows and he's waiting. And I can't even say that what he wants is unreasonable — noooooooo, because there's Blair fucking Sandburg documenting in excruciating detail exactly how it works and how he managed it, no sweat!"

And then Victor was holding her tightly, and she let herself lean against him — she hadn't realized she was shaking.

"Sonia, calm down," Victor said softly. "Calm down. It's okay." He gently steered her back to the sofa.

"I hate Blair Sandburg," she wailed, collapsing on the couch.

"No, you don't," Victor assured her. He sat beside her and pulled her head against his shoulder.

"I do, too," she said, and then laughed a little, feeling sort of stupid.

"You didn't even know him to hate him," Victor protested, with a smile.

"Well, I wish I knew him less," Sonia moaned, and Victor sighed and rocked her a little. "I mean, you know, I'm starting to see Daniel's side of the thing," she said, looking up at Victor. "I feel like I'm starting to see old Ellison's side of it, too. I mean, you're always saying how gruff and irritated he was. Well, no wonder," she snorted. "I'd be grumpy too if I had to spend fifty-three years being pushed around by a obsessive-compulsive anthropologist."

Victor laughed. "Sonia, it wasn't like that."

"Napoleon was short," Sonia blurted angrily. "And Ivan the Terrible probably had long hair."

Victor laughed and leaned forward to rummage in the box of photographs on the coffee table. "Okay, I think you're losing perspective," he said, spreading some of the pictures out in front of her. "Losing touch with reality, here."

"Reality," Sonia admitted, "is becoming a somewhat shaky concept."

"We're not talking about stereotypes, okay?" Victor continued, grabbing her wrist and tugging her forward to look. "We're talking about real people. Look — here — here's your villain. Blair Sandburg. That's just about the time I met him," he added.

Sonia looked down at the photograph and sighed, nodding. Just a man — Blair Sandburg was just a man. In this picture he was a man of about fifty, she estimated — a trim, tanned man wearing dusty jeans and a t-shirt. His mane of graying hair was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck; he was standing outside somewhere, pointing something out to a group of interested students.

"Look — there's Linda — " Victor said, pointing, and Sonia immediately grinned as she looked where Victor's finger was pointing. Hilarious. The very powerful Linda Hill was a scrawny twenty-something wearing a halter top and shorts, blond hair hanging loose around her face. "So that's about right," Victor was musing. "This must've been — oh — maybe 2028? So Linda's about 22, I guess, and Blair's got to be close to sixty."

"Sixty?" Sonia boggled, staring at the muscular, tanned arms, the expressive face. "He looks great for sixty."

De Guzman nodded. "Yeah, everyone was always shocked when he told them how old he was. Young at heart, I guess." He laughed suddenly. "Actually, it was probably the police work, because Jim stayed in great shape, too." He fumbled through the photographs and pulled out another. "Here — here's Jim from that same trip."

Sonia looked; whomever had taken the photograph had caught Blair Sandburg leaning over to say something to his partner. At seventy, Ellison was leaner and smaller than he'd appeared in other photos she'd seen; here, finally, he and Sandburg seemed almost equally matched. The Sentinel was staring at the ground, listening intently, the ghost of a smile on his face — like he was amused and trying very hard to hide it.

Sonia couldn't help but smile at the picture — she thought she was really starting to like James Ellison. Hell, after seventeen volumes of Sandburg, she was really beginning to appreciate the Sentinel's gift of understatement.

It was as if Victor de Guzman was reading her mind. "Look," he said suddenly, "I know I started this stereotype stuff by telling you what a pain in the ass Ellison was. But that wasn't really fair of me. You have to remember that Blair Sandburg had a whole other career as a police officer, and every time I — or any of us, any of the Rainier grad students — saw him we were wanting something, you know? I mean, we were there to give him work."

Victor sat back in his chair and stared at her with his piercing , dark eyes. "'Dr. Sandburg, could you read this chapter?' 'Dr. Sandburg, could you write me a letter of introduction to so-and so?' 'Dr. Sandburg, could you look over my expedition plans, could you write me a job recommendation, could you possible review my article?' We were there to work him," Victor sighed, "so I can't imagine that Jim was all that happy to see us coming. All things considered, he was very nice to us — about this time, he gave a sort of surprise anniversary party for Blair's thirtieth year at Rainier. And he bothered to invite Blair's grad students out to this South American place over by the bay along with all the older, more famous scholars. Linda and I were in utter awe at the time." He grinned at himself, and then the smile abruptly faded from his tanned face. "I don't think that restaurant's there, anymore, either," Victor mused quietly.

Sonia nodded in quiet sympathy and squeezed his hand.

"And by the way," Victor continued abruptly, "despite what we all say in public, Blair Sandburg was far from perfect. I mean, you have to understand that there's not a little bit of nostalgia in all this — 'the best years of our lives, etc. etc.' Those of us who worked with him — well, we did it because we thought he was brilliant, but he was hardly Mr. Reliable."

Victor's lips twisted into a smile. "I mean, I had to schedule my defense three times before he finally showed up. You really had to bug him to do things. Everything was always late — grades, recommendation letters, you name it." Victor laughed. "I think it once took him two years to give me detailed comments on this paper I wrote for him. Of course," Victor added meditatively, "I published it afterwards — I published the revision I did from those comments. And that was the kind of thing that really earned a grad student's loyalty. He may not have been fast, but he was good, you know?"

Sonia nodded. "We just adored him," Victor explained, "so we covered his ass. There is a very long tradition at Rainier of grad students covering Blair Sandburg's ass," he added, grinning, and Sonia laughed helplessly. "There was always a team of us, covering for him. Later, when I got to know Shelley, he said it was the same thing in his time — only worse, because I think they were even busier then. Jesus Christ, " de Guzman murmured, laughing and shaking his head, "We covered his classes, we returned his library books, we did half his paperwork. We made excuses for him with the Chair — we said he was there when he wasn't. Standard policy. 'Have you seen Dr. Sandburg?' 'Oh, yeah, he was just here — ' Meanwhile, you hadn't seen him for days. We didn't really understand what Blair was doing — we thought he was just scatty. The prototypical absent-minded professor. And sometimes we got angry, but then suddenly he was back and he'd have done everything you wanted and more, so you just couldn't stay angry at him..."

"What year was that?" Sonia asked suddenly.

Victor de Guzman looked taken aback. "What?"

"Your defense," Sonia pressed, getting up. "What year?"

"2033," Victor replied, frowning. "Why?"

Sonia went over to the box of files on her dining room table, rummaged through them, and then pulled one out. "Here," she said, crossing over to him and handing it over.

De Guzman reached for his glasses, which were hanging on a cord around his neck. "What's this?"

"2033," Sonia replied, with a lopsided grin.

Victor flipped the folder open, the headline screamed out at him in large, block type: FOURTH VICTIM FOUND IN HARBOR KILLINGS. "Jesus," Victor muttered, staring down at the battered clipping. "I remember this," he said softly. "I think six people were killed that spring..."

Sonia sighed and sat down again. "Yeah, well, Sandburg says they were working that case on the quiet." Victor looked up and met her eyes and she nodded grimly. "Volume Eleven — you've got a ways to go, yet," she explained dryly. "Sandburg says that they had a real problem with this case, because all the bodies were found in the water and so much of the evidence had been washed away..."

"Jesus," Victor said softly, flipping through the thick pile of clippings. "Jesus Lord..."

"So now you know why your defense was canceled," Sonia said with a tight smile. "Good cause, anyway."

Victor de Guzman nodded slowly and looked up at her. "But you can't say they had it easy," he challenged.

Sonia sighed. "No," she admitted. "I guess I can't. At least Daniel's not asking me to dodge bullets or deal with crazy people." She reflected for a moment and then said, "And I don't get the sense from Volume Two that Ellison was immediately comfortable with the sexual thing, either."

Victor frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Well," Sonia hedged, "he doesn't really say specifically, but if you read between the didn't go well, right?"

"He didn't say anything like that," Victor protested.

"If you read between the lines," Sonia repeated. "I mean — just coincidentally he's in the hospital that weekend?"

"He said that his appendix burst," de Guzman growled.

"Yeah, that's what he said," Sonia muttered, looking away.

"He wouldn't lie in his work,"" Victor insisted.

"Okay! Okay! He wouldn't lie!" Sonia said, raising her hands. She exhaled and reached out for the cordless phone, hit redial and listened to it ring, ignoring Victor de Guzman's thunderous expression. The machine picked up again and she groaned aloud. "Jesus Christ — where the hell is he??"

Daniel Casey found that his hands were shaking, and he tightened them on the wheel of the car. Crazy, he thought with a weird sort of glee. Totally fucking crazy.

But the falcon was still soaring above him, a bright white fan against the blue sky. The falcon, real or not, was still in his view — the falcon was being deliberately careful not to lose him.

Well, hey — he didn't plan on getting lost. He wasn't about to drive for miles out in the middle of nowhere just to get lost. And with his enhanced vision, following the falcon was easy.

The hard part was reconciling yourself to the idea that the bird might not really exist. That it might not be a real bird — that it might be a mystical bird, a spirit bird.

That was hard. But for the moment Casey was determined to ignore that idea and just concentrate on the facts.

The bird had come. The bird had bid him go. He had followed the bird, and the bird was still flying, so...

The falcon banked left and Casey looked ahead and spotted the turn off in the road. He made the left and looked up — yep, still there, soaring in the sky ahead and above.

Well, he had needed a break, anyway — he had needed a distraction. And now he had gotten one, hadn't he? A nice little road trip, led by a little imaginary bird — but, no, he wasn't going to think about that now...

The bird suddenly dived down and disappeared. He slowed the car and squinted up at the sky, hoping it would reappear, because without the falcon up there, this whole trip seemed pretty stupid. It made a helluva lot less sense for him to be out here driving a car down a dirt road through a bunch of trees. Hell, he didn't even know where he was.

He felt his chest tighten, and he blinked his eyes quickly, to clear them.

For a moment he was convinced that he really was crazy.

And then he looked through the trees and saw the house.

Casey slowly brought the car to a stop, and turned the engine off. God, the place was ancient — it had to be at least a hundred years old, maybe even more. A cabin, really — one story, one room — but well-kept, well-cared for.

Homey, even.

Casey got out of the car and wandered over to investigate. The cabin was in startlingly good shape for its age, really; the dark green paint on the front door and the shutters looked practically new. He ambled toward the large garden on one side. Tomatoes, it looked like. Vegetables. Herbs — some familiar-looking, some unfamiliar. A strawberry patch.

Casey bent down and pulled a strawberry off the plant, popped it into his mouth. He continued to stroll around the perimeter of the property. Deck. Table and chairs. A large brick barbecue — very nice. Casey went to have a closer look at it — and then grinned.

James Ellison had built it. No question. The average person wouldn't have been able to appreciate it — the absolute correctness of the design, the care with which the mortar had been evened out. Casey drew his hand along side the brick structure and grinned. Smooth as the materials would allow.

He continued along to the back of the cabin, and frowned as he turned the corner. Nothing, suddenly. Just long grass, all the way to the edge of the forest. That was oddly disturbing — a real contrast to the homey domestication just around the corner. It was like the owners — like Ellison and Sandburg, Casey corrected; he knew it was Ellison and Sandburg's house — had just suddenly given up. "We'll have a garden, and a deck, and a barbecue — and just stop right there, enough is enough."


He wandered around in the long grass behind the cabin. Maybe, he mused, it was done to preserve the sense of nature. It was nice, really; from here, all you could see was grass, and trees —

Casey closed his eyes. Stream — there was a stream not too far from here. Well. That was nice, too.

He heard the cry of the falcon and looked up; there it was — circling overhead again. He felt surprisingly pleased to see it — hey, there, imaginary bird! Welcome back! He stretched and sat down in the long grass. A very pleasant place to sit, really. A very pleasant place to be.

He leaned back against his hands, bracing himself, and then wobbled as one of his hands slipped out from under him. He frowned and looked down — there was a weird indentation in the grass right there — the grass had grown to cover it, but there was a weird circular trench ploughed into the soil. He shifted to make himself comfortable, wondering if Ellison and Sandburg had been planning to extend the garden out here. Perhaps they were going to put down a flower bed or something...

He felt tired, and he let himself fall back in the grass, staring up at the circling falcon. It really was an incredibly beautiful creature — so graceful in flight, a gift from nature, that. He thought about his own days as a pilot — all the training, all the technology, just to do what that beautiful creature did naturally...

"Don't move!"

Casey jumped — he hadn't heard anyone coming, he hadn't sensed anything at all. Damn these Sentinel senses!

He jerked up into a sitting position and found himself staring into the double barrel of a shotgun.

"Don't move I said!" The black man holding the shotgun was almost impossibly tall from this angle, and the gun seemed impossibly long. Casey nodded and slowly raised his hands.

"This is private property," the man said, eyes narrowing. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

Well, now, this was where the imaginary bird thing just wasn't going to cut it. Casey swallowed hard; if he told this guy that he was brought here by an imaginary bird, the guy would probably just blow his fucking head off.

But still, he had been invited here, hadn't he? I mean, he hadn't exactly stumbled on this damn place on his own. And this was James Ellison's house — he'd have bet anything that this was James Ellison's house. Which meant it wasn't this guy's house, either, gun or no.

"Well, who are you?" Casey asked, trying to seem unintimidated. "This isn't your house either: you're trespassing same as me."

The man let out a short bark of laughter. "That's a fine thing for you to say," he said, and Casey saw a flash of white teeth. "For your information, son — this is my house. And I'm only asking one more time, here: who are you, and what are you doing here?"

Casey took a deep breath. "My name is Daniel Casey. I'm — well — I'm sort of a friend of James Ellison's." We have imaginary animals in common, Casey thought almost hysterically, glancing up at the falcon in the sky.

The man seemed taken aback at that, but the gun didn't waver an inch. "Oh really," he said, peering hard over the barrel at Casey. "Yeah, well, I knew most of Jim Ellison's friends and I never heard your name before. How'd you get here?"

"I got directions," Casey said, eyeing the falcon nervously.

"From who?" the man pressed.

"From the loft — from Detective Ellison's apartment." The falcon had come to the loft, so that was almost true, really.

The man laughed and lowered the gun a bit. "Yeah, I know what it's called."

"I live there now," Casey clarified, hoping that their apparent mutual affection for the loft would somehow prevent this guy from killing him.

'Sort of a friend,' huh?" the man mused. "Well, you had better start talking, man — and it had better be good, too."

Oh, it was good — it was plenty good, Casey thought grimly. Land you in jail or in a mental hospital — that good.

Still, this man said he knew most of Ellison's friends. This man was living in Ellison's house, like he was. So maybe he would understand. "So who am I talking to?" Casey asked, crossing his arms.

"Banks," the man said, raising his chin defiantly. "Daryl Banks."

"Okay," Sonia said to Victor, "you've got to leave now."

"I — why?" Victor asked.

"Because *I'm* leaving — I've got to go over there," Sonia said, looking around for her purse.

Victor sighed. "Sonia, I'm sure he's fine."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Oh, *you're* sure. Like you know. Victor, he could be zoned out over there. He could have fallen and broken his head open."

"He could be out buying milk at the supermarket," Victor objected.

Sonia put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "You know, I actually don't remember asking your opinion, thanks."

Victor closed Volume Three and put it on top of the pile. "All right, all right — you don't have to get nasty about it."

"If he's not there, then fine — there's nothing I can do," Sonia said. "If he is there, I'm going to feel terrible if he's cracked his stupid head open. So it pays to be on the safe side," she added, moving to the door.

"Fine," Victor said, coming up behind her. "Do what you feel is right."

"Thanks for your permission," Sonia snorted, switching the lights off with a flick of her hand.

Daryl Banks put his coffee cup down on the table and slid deeper into the wrought iron deck chair, crossing his long legs at the ankles. "You know what's funny?" he asked Daniel Casey.

Casey took a nervous sip from his own mug. "What?"

"I believe every word of that whole cockamamie story."

Casey blinked. "You do?"

'Yeah," Daryl said, shaking his head in bemusement. "How weird is that?"

"Pretty weird," Casey agreed.

"Yeah. Damn weird," Daryl said, frowning. "Cause I mean — that's nuts, what you just said there. Except I've been seeing nutty stuff just like that my whole life, you know? Jim going all spacey and falling over — Blair getting these weird hunches that always came true — I mean, no reasonable man would believe it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes." Daryl looked hard at Casey again. "So you're a Sentinel? Like Jim?"

Casey swallowed hard. "That's what they tell me."

"They — de Guzman and this anthropologist lady?" Daryl asked.

"Yeah. Sonia," Casey clarified. "Sonia Cortez."

"Hmm," Daryl said thoughtfully, looking up at the clear blue sky. "Her I don't know. De Guzman — I don't really know him either, but I know who he is. He hung around Blair for a while — I ran into him once or twice over the years."

Casey made a face. "Yeah, well, he's supposed to be some sort of academic bigshot."

Daryl grinned. "Maybe he's some sort of bigshot now — but from what I remember, he used to be Blair's errand boy." Casey grinned back at Daryl. "He used to stop over at the loft, bring Blair his university mail. So just you remember that if he ever tries to intimidate you."

"I will, thanks," Casey replied, gratefully.

Daryl scratched at his face with his hand. "I wonder how you ended up here."

Casey sighed. "I don't know, honest I don't. Blair Sandburg said to follow the bird, the bird brought me here. I know it sounds nuts, but that's the way it happened."

Daryl nodded absently. "Well, there must be some sort of a reason, then. I don't know much about it, but I'll tell you — after fifty years you learn to just go with it, you know?"

"I wish I had your confidence, " Casey said. "I mean, I have to tell you — I don't quite believe me, you know?"

Daryl laughed again. "Yeah, well — I've probably seen a lot more strange stuff than you have, what with one thing and another."

"How exactly did you come know them?" Casey asked, curiously.

"Man, I've known them since I was a kid," Daryl explained. "I've known Jim since — well, I don't ever remember not knowing Jim, actually," Daryl said with a frown. "He worked for my dad — my dad used to be the Chief of Police."

Casey sat up suddenly. "Banks. Simon Banks — holy shit, I knew I knew that name! I saw it in the papers. I've been reading the write-ups of Ellison's cases," he explained hastily.

Daryl nodded at him. "Yep. That would be my dad. They were really tight, Jim and my dad. Jim was like an uncle to me, you know? Lotta history, there."

Casey nodded slowly. "Right, right — of course."

"And I'll tell you — Jim was the real dope," Daryl said. "Whatever he had — it was real, you know? I saw it myself — I saw what he could do."

"Did he leave you this place when he died?" Casey asked.

Daryl sighed. "No — that's a whole other strange story. Dad used to tease Jim about this 'secret fishing spot' that he had — this was like a thirty year joke between them, you know? I didn't' really think there was such a place — I figured it was all just fooling around. Jim would say, 'Well, I'd tell you, Simon — but then I'd have to kill you,' — that sort of thing."

Casey nodded, smiling at him. "But then, three years ago," Daryl continued, his expression growing serious, "my wife died, you know? Breast cancer — god, that was a hell," he muttered. "After that, I didn't feel like doing anything. I just wanted to check out for a while. Next thing I know, Jim's over at my place, and he's giving me the deed and the keys to this place. Said it was a place of healing — and good fishing, besides." Daryl grinned and looked around at the property. "It has been, too."

"It looks it," Casey replied, sincerely.

"Yeah, it is. I come up here whenever I'm not working," Daryl said. "Hang out, fish, keep the garden going. I never knew that it was a real place — I really thought it was a joke." Daryl grinned again, suddenly. "Jim said that they were getting too old to make the trip up here, even though they really loved it. He said they'd say, 'Hey, let's go out to the cabin,' but then they wouldn't make it past the balcony." Daryl laughed. "They'd end up on the balcony, drinking beer. So Jim said that somebody ought to be using this place."

Casey nodded. "Well, it's a beautiful place,' he said. "And thanks for not killing me here," he added, grinning.

Daryl grinned and waved that away. "Don't mention it."

"You're awful persuasive with that shotgun," Casey added, nodding to it. "Are you a police officer, too?"

"Used to be," Daryl said. "Not anymore." He sat up, reached into his back jeans pocket for his wallet, pulled out a card. Casey took it.

It read:


"Decided it was about time I got to pick and choose my cases," Daryl said.

Casey nodded and pocketed the card. "Who's the other Banks? Your son?"

"Daughter," Daryl corrected. "Jeanine." He grinned suddenly. "Man, you don't wanna mess with my Jeanine," he added. "I promise you that."

"I believe you," Casey said, and he did.

"West Point, Class of '34," Daryl said proudly.

"Air Force Academy, Class of '40," Casey replied, extending his hand.

Oh yeah?" Daryl added, shaking his hand with renewed respect.

"Yeah," Casey said. "I just resigned — had to resign because of this damn thing," he added bitterly. "The damn senses," he clarified.

"That's too bad," Daryl said, staring at him thoughtfully. "That's a damn shame."

"Tell me about it," Casey muttered, sitting back in his chair.

Sonia knew he wasn't there the moment she unlocked the loft door; still, she dutifully checked the bathroom, the office, the upstairs bedroom.

Nothing. Nada. She sighed and sat down on the couch.

She supposed she should just leave — Casey was probably just out buying milk, like Victor said. She shouldn't worry — he was a grown man, he had survived before her, he'd survive after her.

This wasn't her problem, dammit. This shouldn't be her problem.

She sighed and sank deeper into the cushions. What were the reasonable limits of personal responsibility anyway? The old saw was that knowledge was power — but knowledge could be responsibility, too. If someone was drowning, and you were the only one who knew it — you had to do something, didn't you?

Didn't you? Did you? I mean, it was all so damn confusing.

Knowledge was definitely not always a good thing, she thought wearily. There was such a thing as knowing too much. There were fairy tales about that sort of thing, weren't there? People always thought they wanted to know the future, but they never really did, did they? They always got zapped by a wizard or something, turned into a frog or whatever. Punished for their hubris.

Except she hadn't asked for this — she hadn't asked for any of this. She hadn't wanted to know about Sentinels or Guides or genetic destiny or any of it. She had been thinking, Great, a nice little tenure track job, summers off.

She sighed and looked around the loft. God, the art, the art was so incredible. Every time she was here, she seemed to spot something new. You had to hand it to Sandburg — his eye was amazing. She got up and moved to the glass shelves that ran along one wall. That terra-cotta warrior — that was Maya-Tolteca, 12th century or so. Where the hell had he found that?

If he hadn't been an anthropologist, he would have been a great interior decorator, she mused, grinning to herself. And we'd all have been spared a lot of trouble.

She turned and frowned at the owl statuette sitting on top of the stereo speaker. Now that was a stupid place to put something — if anybody turned the stereo on, the vibrations might just knock the thing on to the floor.

She carefully reached out for it with both hands. The owl blinked, fluttered its wings, and hopped out of her reach — and Sonia Cortez stumbled back and screamed.  

The End