To Catch A Thief - Laurie
I stopped banging on the computer keyboard and looked at him. Sandy was pale. “Have you read this? Have you… Oh crap, I can’t talk about it out here. C’mon, Simon needs to hear about this, too. This could effect our jobs, and, man, Jim is going to be pissed.”
And Sandy grabbed me by the hand and pulled me up from my desk. What on earth could be setting him off? He’d wandered by my desk; probably having a mike, as I knew Captain Banks was waiting for him to finish the report on the last case Jim and he’d had. Procrastinating, he was. He’d picked up the book my friend had read and given to me, and started looking through it. He’d been casual about it at first, then looked more and more intently at it as he rapidly turned page after page, and then off we went to see Banks.
He knocked on the Captain’s door, then entered before Banks was finished bellowing for us to come in. The Captain looked up from his desk with the resigned look that so often crossed his face when Sandy had something to tell him.
Sandy tossed my book down on Bank’s desk and hurriedly said, “Simon, you should know about this. Jim is going to be pissed and I don’t blame him. There’re enough details that people who know Jim and me could figure it out. Even if she did change me to a woman -- but she kept my name. I’m still Blair, and I’m living with Joe – that’s Jim – and by the end of this book, we are so going to be doing it.”
Banks sighed, and said, “Sandburg. You’re losing me here. Start with who, and what, and work your way down the rest of the w’s.”
Sandy took a deep breath and started over. “Who is Jim and me. This… this plagiarizer wrote about Jim and me, the sentinel and guide stuff. Jim’s a cop and an ex-Ranger who works in the “Major Cases’ department of a Washington port city.” Only she changed Jim’s name to Joseph Anderson. And me to Blair Sanders. I’m still an anthropology grad student. Shit, she’s even got my physical description the same, except, of course, for the change in gender
Sandy made a face, and I picked up the book and studied the cover. A beautiful woman with long, cascading, curly brown hair and huge blue eyes was in the arms of a tall, bare-chested man, who had a gun in one hand and was looking intently off into the distance. The man did look a good bit like Ellison, although he had more hair on his head.
“Shit, Simon. She’s made a romance novel out of my diss! I’ve only leafed through the book, but from what I’ve read, she’s combined the facts of how Jim and I met, and of me moving in with him, with steamy making-out scenes, and -- crap… It isn’t just that she modeled her characters on us. I haven’t had time to really go through and check thoroughly, but I recognize my own words. She’s gotten a copy of my diss, and stolen my research and documentation. She’s woven it all in throughout the book, as kind of a mixture of a diary and research project. She took the data from my years of research, and wrote about the tests that ‘Blair’ is doing with ‘Joe’, only he’s not called a sentinel in the book. He’s a guardian and I’m, I mean, ‘Blair’ is a strengthener, and I’m – the character -- is supposed to provide support for the guardian. Supposedly ‘Joe’ and ‘Blair’ are attracted to each other but neither one wants to take ‘the supporting stuff’ to a sexual level, and the whole damn book’s romantic angle is them fighting the need to boink each other. Fuck. Jim’s going to be so pissed.”
“Sandy, where is Jimbo right now, anyway?” I wished I could tell him Jim wouldn’t be angry with him, but I didn’t think that would be true. Maybe it’d be better for Sandy to tell his partner in front of witnesses, so Ellison wouldn’t go off on him. Because he probably would hold poor Sandy responsible for this new trouble.
“He’s on his way; we were going to lunch together. Oh, crap. He’s going to hate…” I hoped he meant to say ‘this’ but I suspected he was thinking ‘me.’
“Conner, did you read this – what’s it called, anyway?” I handed the book over to Banks, who snorted after he read the title, Senseless Without You; shaking his head, he asked me, “Did you recognize our own Batman and Robin as ‘Joe’ and ‘Blair’?” He handed the book over to Sandy.
“Sir, I haven’t had a chance to look at it. I was going to read it on my tea-break.”
“Okay, people. We need a plan. "Maybe it won't be a problem, even if anybody figures out who the story's based on, but we'll handle it like it will be trouble. We need information. Conner, check out the author. Sandburg, you stay in here and read the damn thing and highlight the parts that are your words. I’ll intercept Jim and take him to lunch to break it to him. Blair…”
And Sandy looked up, a miserable expression on his face.
“It’s not your fault, and I think you’re thinking the worst here of Jim’s reaction. Don’t worry so much.” And I got the distinct impression that if Detective Jim Ellison did think it was Sandy’s fault, Captain Simon Banks would help him change that opinion.
Simon left; I got the information I needed to run computer searches, and Sandy sat down to read through the plagiarized book. How awful for him, when he couldn’t publish his own research, to see his own words kidnapped and held hostage in this trashy novel. Although Gina, the book’s previous owner, had thought it a really good read; of course, Blair was a good writer, and that must have come through.
“Sandy?” I said, before I opened the door back out to the bullpen.
He looked up at me, his big blue eyes looking worried, and I suspected that when Elizabeth Dawson faked her writing she had also obtained photographs of Sandy and Jim. Blair Sandburg was a lovely man, and I thought turning him into a woman for the romance bit was rather cowardly of her. Guess she thought she’d get more sales with a love story between a man and a woman than with a love story between two men.”
What a mercenary bitch.
“Were the sex scenes based on anything you wrote?”
Sandy blushed. “Not really, but I, ah… okay, in the folder my mom e-mailed to Sid’s publishing company, I also had my own less formal notes, kind of a diary I’d kept since meeting Jim. I put stuff about our lives in there, like the cases we worked and places we went – fishing trips and camping -- and about problems we had, and how I felt about living with Jim. She’s used some of that stuff in the book. But I didn’t write down any fantasies about having sex with Jim, so she must have written that stuff.”
I noticed he very carefully had said he hadn’t written down any fantasies, not that he hadn’t had any about Jimbo. Which just confirmed my own thoughts that Jim Ellison was an idiot not to realize Sandy was in love with him. I was an Inspector, after all; I didn’t get my credentials in a cereal box.
I smiled. And not a nice smile, either. It was my ‘got you by the bollocks, mate,’ smile, and Blair looked puzzled.
“Sandy. A plagiarist is a bloody lazy so-and-so, so I’m betting she didn’t write the sex scenes, either. If we’re lucky, she stole them from somebody who’s published and we can prove she plagiarized her book that way. I know we can’t use your dissertation to show her up as a thief, and I bet she’s counting on that fact, that even if you and Ellison figure out what she’s doing, you wouldn’t challenge her, in order to keep protecting Jim from gossip rags and the bloody government noticing him. But maybe we can sic another author on her and get the book pulled.”
Blair smiled at me and it was a much better look on his face than the worry that had tightened his features before.
“Megan, you are a genius. I’ll start googling likely paragraphs as I work my way through the pages.” He moved over to Simon’s computer and settled himself, and I let myself out and went back to my desk. Elizabeth Dawson was about to get her arse kicked.
I’d found out a few interesting facts about Ms. Dawson, the first being that ‘she’ was actually a ‘he.’ The name ‘Elizabeth Dawson’ was a pseudonym for George Markowski, and surprise, surprise, Mr. Markowski used to work at Berkshire publishing. Well, that explained how he got his greedy hands on Sandy’s research. He didn’t use Berkshire to publish his book; he must have been worried somebody there would recognize he’d pinched it from Sandy. I hoped we could prove he’d stolen from other writers; it would be a treat to see that dick-head get sued.
Simon and Jim hadn’t come back to the bullpen, and I hoped, for Sandy’s sake, that Jim wasn’t holding him responsible. I was continuing to put together a report on our plagiarist when my cell phone rang.
“Conner,” I answered.
“Conner, this is Ellison. Sandburg must have his phone turned off, or more likely, he let the battery run down – anyway, I can’t get in touch, so will you pass on a message?” Ellison sounded grim.
“Look, Ellison, this wasn’t --”
“Just tell him I’ve gotten a copy of the book and read part of it, and I’m coming in to pick him up. We need to talk – and I don’t want to do it at the P.D. Oh, and Simon has meetings the rest of the day downtown. Let Rhonda know. We’ll all meet in the morning and take it from there.” The way Jim was talking, I could tell the bloke had to be just about gritting his teeth.
“Jim, are you angry with -- ”
“I’m furious. Goodbye, Conner.”
And the stupid wanker hung up on me. Poor Sandy. Maybe I could talk to Jim before he jumped down Sandy’s throat, remind him that it wasn’t his life’s work that was being passed off as somebody else’s property.
I sighed and went over to deliver Ellison’s message. Sandy was busy at the Captain’s computer, and waved me over when I came in the door. He looked a bit like he should be saying, ‘the games afoot’; he had that look he gets when he’s putting together bits and pieces and coming up with some bleeding brilliant deduction for a case.
“We’ve got her, Megan. I went online to a chat room for fans of romance books and typed in a couple of steamy passages, and already two of them have been identified as belonging to other authors. The other folks at this forum – they’ve been great. It burns them up to think this Elizabeth Dawson ripped off some of their favorite writers. I told them it was for an investigation, but I didn’t identify myself as the ‘Blair’ in the book. Some of them had read it and said it was an intriguing idea, guardians and strengtheners, and that the UST – that’s ‘unresolved sexual tension’ -- from the way ‘Blair’ and ‘Joe’ argued and saved each other all the time was so strong that they wanted to smack’em upside the head to get them to realize they really loved each other.”
I coughed. Bloody blind men.
I relayed Ellison’s message, and asked, because I was curious. “Did you write down your arguments, luv?”
Sandy looked embarrassed, but he nodded.
I shook my head. I was tempted to smack both Jim and Sandy ‘upside the head’ too, but I would restrain myself. I’d had plenty of practice. Well, maybe I’d give Jim a good clout on the ear for being so dim.
I pulled up a chair next to Sandy and shared what I’d learned, and watched him type in more passages from the book to the website. Mr. Markowski, alias Ms. Dawson, was in for a world of hurt. We’d be contacting the other authors through official channels tomorrow. We chatted with some of the romance book fans, who were pointing out loads of examples of rather famous romance writers who had been caught red-handed bloody well stealing from other published writers. Absolutely amazing, the nerve of these plagiarists – to copy word for word like that and think nobody would catch them at it.
I asked for recommendations on good stories also, and made a note of several more books to pick up to read in bed. Nothing like reading romance books when you’re lying all cozy under the covers, with a cuppa and some biscuits to snack on.
“Sandy, if Jim’s a bit angry -- ”
“He has every right to be. This is his life we’re talking about. Jim doesn’t want to be known as some guy with strange abilities; he likes a simple life. And no way do we want any alphabet agencies, like the CIA, paying attention to him again. Not to mention the teasing around here, if the other cops get wind of this… Well, he’d probably have to kick me out, since he wouldn’t want his co-workers to think he had this flirting thing going on with his roommate. Who is a ‘girl’ in the book, and -- I haven’t read the end yet. I don’t think I want to, because ‘Joe’ and ‘Blair’, they’re going to be boffing like bunnies, and Jim and me… Jim… and me. No.”
“No? And why is that, Chief?” Ellison had opened the door so quietly we hadn’t heard him. Blair pushed away from the computer and stumbled around the desk.
“Jim, I’m so sorry, man. Really, really sorry. I thought all the fall-out from the diss was contained. I never, ever imagined somebody would do this. You’ve got every right to be angry. I don’t blame you at all, and if you want me to move out, I’ll understand. If you don’t want to lay eyes on me right now, hey, I can stay at a motel and get my crap out of the loft when you’re not there. Jim, um, how mad are you?”
Sandy looked so devastated, and if Jim Ellison kicked him out, then he’d be coming home with me, the poor lad.
Jim reached out to Sandy and pulled him away from the desk and looked him up and down. “I’m not just mad, Sandburg. I’m furious.” And Sandy kind of drooped for a second, then he straightened up. He was getting ready to take whatever Ellison was going to dish out.
Then Jim grabbed Sandy’s hands and pulled him next to him and hugged him. I let out a sigh of relief; I was still rooting for these two to come to their senses about each other.
“I’m not mad at you, Chief. I’m furious that this Dawson character took your hard earned work from you and claimed it as her own. It’s bad enough that you can’t publish your research on Sentinels while I’m alive, but to have this bitch steal from you… I want her taken down; it will never make up for what you did for me, Blair, but at least she can’t keep pouring salt in your wounds.
“And you were all worried about me; weren’t you, Chief. I bet you haven’t even ‘processed’ your own anger at all. Lets go home, okay? We’ve got a lot to talk about, the two of us. Conner…” Ellison nodded to me. “And you and me, we can meet tomorrow morning and figure out how to handle this mess.”
I interrupted the two of them gazing at each other. “We’ve got it wrapped up. We just need to contact a few about-to-be-pissed-off authors and turn them loose on Ms. Dawson – AKA Mr. Markowski.” Jim eyebrows rose, but I headed off his questions. “Tomorrow, mate. Go home, you two.” Jim gave me a quick grin, and pulled his partner to him.
He hugged Sandy again and kissed the top of his head, before sliding his arm around Sandy’s waist and heading the two of them out of Bank’s office. I’m no sentinel, but I could hear what Jimbo said as they got to the door.
“I think, after reading your words in that book, that we’ve been fooling ourselves, Chief. You love me. And I’ve loved you for a long time. And about that boffing like bunnies thing you mentioned? -- it sounds like a plan to me.”
I followed them out the door. And I called out, “Sandy?”
And Sandy turned around, and I felt like laughing when I saw the dazed and happy look on his face.
“I’ll finish up the reports, mate. And… Cheers. To both of you.”
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Acknowledgments: Beta’d by T.Verano and Dodificus. Thank you both so very much. Thank you to Patt for the artwork.