Happily Ever After by Landis McQuade

Happily Ever After - Landis McQuade

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Notes: This story is a sequel to The Honeymoon Bandits.

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SMOLDERING

Blair and Jim make their way towards their seats. Blair is eyeing up the empty seats near the back of the plane and bumps into Jim when he halts in front of the emergency exit aisle. Jim puts his bag in the overhead. Blair turns around to check other seating options but there is a line of passengers stretching back to the cockpit. Blair smacks Jim on the back

Blair: Jim, dude? No. No way.

Jim ignores him and sits in the aisle seat. Blair reaches up to remove Jim’s bag, much to the annoyance of the passengers waiting behind him.

Jim: Put it back.

Blair: Yeah, you’re really scary without a weapon.

Disgruntled passenger: Move it.

Jim tugs Blair into the row of seats causing him to trip and fall across Jim’s lap. Jim manhandles him into the window seat and then takes a magazine from the seat back pocket.

Blair: Typical. But then why would I expect anything different from you? Always the alpha. It’s your conscience. And what is it with you anyway? How come I never examined this before?

Jim: Examined what, Chief?

Blair yanks the magazine from Jim’s hands.

Blair: The passenger seat phenomenon.

Jim: The what?

Blair: Right hand man I may be, but that doesn’t translate into buddy who gets crushed. What is goin’ on with that?

Jim: It’s a sex thing. It turns me on.

Blair: Be serious, would you. I’m not pleased with the situation.

Jim snatches the magazine back.

Jim: I can see that. Buckle up, Sandburg; the flight attendant’s starting to make her rounds.

Blair: You need to respect what I’m saying.

Jim: You expecting another plane to play bumper cars with our plane? Sandburg, just settle down.

Blair: Switch?

Jim: It’s not like I tell those morons who try ripping me off to ram the truck on your side.

Blair: You didn’t pay your taxes. They were just doing their job. You didn’t need to chase them down and run them off the road.

Jim: I was offering them a better employment opportunity.

Blair: After acting like a deranged lunatic and scaring the shit out of them. And me.

Jim: Coercion is great strategy. It’s worked well for me.

Blair lightly smacks him on the arm.

Jim: Blair, come on, you know I would never hurt you and besides if the plane crashes it doesn’t matter where any of us are sitting.

Jim flips through his magazine. Blair kicks Jim’s ankle.

Blair: I don’t want to be the first one sucked out of the plane.

Jim: I paid Dr. Burke for a year’s worth of sessions. Are you ditching them already?

Blair: The guy’s obsessed with alien parasites that pass themselves off as human gods. He’s more whacked out than me, man. You should be paying for his therapy sessions.

Jim: Sit back and relax, Chief. We’ll get a beverage, have a snack, and watch a movie. But if for some reason anything goes wrong you can have my backup chute. Where’s your book?

Blair: You confiscated it, remember?

Jim: Yeah, yeah. I don’t want you getting any ideas. And besides, it’s not, you know, manly.

Blair: That’s where I get my best ideas and when I’m trying them out on you I don’t hear you complaining.

Jim uses his Sentinel sight to look around the plane at what the other passengers are reading. He spots an old lady flipping through pages of a thick romance novel. Jim extracts himself from his seat, makes his way to the old lady, grabs her book out of her hands, and throws several hundred dollar bills in her lap. Her immediate shock turns into happiness as she counts her new fortune. Jim goes back to his seat and hands Blair the book before buckling in again. Blair studies the cover.

Blair: Iris Chance? I can’t read this crap, man. There’s no substance to her stuff. It’s all white-trashy whoresville.

Jim: Hmm?

Jim takes the book from Blair and gives Blair his Field and Stream magazine.

Blair: I guess I’ll listen to some tunes then.

Blair digs in his bag for his IPod and extracts it as well as a large envelope emblazoned with the Cascade police insignia. Blair puts in his earphones, places the envelope on top of the magazine and hands both over to Jim.

Blair: Check that out man.

Jim suspiciously eyes the envelope.

Jim: What’s this?

Blair, playing air guitar and jamming to his music does not hear Jim. Blair turns to look at Jim, gives an air drum roll.

Blair: Just read it.

Blair turns to the window and looks out at the runway. Jim cautiously opens the envelope, using his senses to sniff and feel it out. Satisfied its okay he hesitantly lifts the materials from it and begins reading. He is absorbed when the Flight Attendant leans in close to his head, making sure to shove her cleavage into his face.

Flight Attendant: Sir, we’re about to take off. You’ll have to put that away, put your tray in its upright position, and wait for the captain to turn off the seatbelt light before you can get it out again.

Jim starts sneezing which puts Blair on full alert. He is not happy to see the Flight Attendant all over Jim.

Blair: Hey, lady, back up. Can’t you see that he’s allergic to you?

Flight Attendant: Sir, I’m going to confiscate your IPod if you don’t follow FCC guidelines and put it away right now.

Blair: It’s complete hooey that cell phones and electronic devices interfere with the plane’s computer system and controls and don’t even get me started on that megalomaniac organization that’s run by the ghosts of Stalin’s regime.

Flight Attendant starts to reach for the IPod when Jim grabs her wrist and starts snarling at her between sneezes.

Jim: Okay, you slutty waitress in the sky, get us a different stewardess when it’s time to hand out the drinks.

Blair: He’s not a man you want to mess with.

Jim slightly releases his grip and the Flight Attendant yanks her hand away and stalks down the aisle. Jim turns to Blair and holds out his hand for the IPod.

Jim: Get some sleep, Sandburg; it’s a long flight.

Blair hands it over, closes his eyes and Jim starts reading.

ACCELERATING

Blair and Jim are settled in at the loft for a quiet evening. Rain is falling and Jim is building a fire as Blair flips through the TV channels.

Blair: Jim, man, this is so not working for me.

The fire has lit and Jim turns his head towards Blair with exasperation.

Jim: You’re the one who was complaining how cold it was in here.

Blair: It’s about damn time. What took you so long? It’s freezing in here, you cheapskate.

Jim ignores him, gets up and goes over to the table which is covered with books and sits down and starts reading. Blair continues to flip through TV channels.

Blair: Really, man, it’s just not working anymore.

Jim: Then turn it off and do something else. That flipping is incredibly noisy, Sandburg, and you can see I’m trying to study here. This stuff isn’t as easy as it looks.

Blair: Neither is being a kept man.

Jim waves him off and goes back to reading. Blair turns off the TV and comes to sit on the edge of the table.

Blair: I know you heard me.

Jim: Huh?

Blair: I have something to say.

Jim: You always have something to say, Chief. Give me a break, here. What was I thinking starting something new at my age?

Blair slides from the table onto Jim’s lap, straddling him and massaging Jim’s shoulders.

Blair: How many times I gotta tell you this before it sinks through that armor plated skull of yours? You’ve A. got an organic advantage and B. as a previous non-law-abiding citizen you are intimately familiar with the inner workings of the criminal justice system. You know procedure better than 10 year veterans.

Jim proudly beams at this pronouncement. A few seconds later his confidence is depleted.

Jim: So, I know it, but I still have to pass the exam.

Blair: I’ll help you. I was great at school.

Jim gently pushes Blair to get him to move, but Blair won’t budge. He slides even closer and instigates a fiery hot kiss.

Jim: I’m up for a study break.

Blair: Yeah, you sure are. Sounds good to me.

Jim initiates the kiss this time with lots of petting. Blair breaks away.

Blair: Distraction won’t work. We’ll continue this after you listen to what I have to say.

Jim: I’m listening.

Blair: With the wrong head.

Blair eases himself off Jim and makes his way to the French doors. Jim grabs two beers out of the fridge and tentatively offers one to Blair. Blair accepts and takes a swig.

Jim: What’s not working, Blair? Us?

Blair: What!? No! No, of course not. No. Jesus, James we are rock solid.

Jim: Then what?

Blair: I’m bored.

Jim: You’re never bored.

Blair: Not bored bored.

Jim: Not bored?

Blair: Right. It’s more like gastronomically unchallenged.

Jim: Boredom is a metaphor for constipation? We still have those prunes you made me buy at the market.

Blair: I’m not constipated. At least not the way you’re thinking.

Jim holds up both hands in the air and shakes his head.

Blair: Gastronomy. The study of foods as a science and an art.

Jim: You cook every day.

Blair: For you. For my friends.

Jim: Five course feasts with the finest of ingredients my wallet will buy. We’ve eaten sea creatures for you, Chief. Sea creatures best left at the bottom of the ocean.

Blair: Yeah, well maybe I want to cook sea creatures for someone who actually likes to eat exotic food.

Jim: I’m a man of simple tastes.

Blair: And I haven’t always minded cooking simple fair at the shack. It’s just that lately I’ve been wondering what if.

Jim: What if I’d never have found you in the jungle and you’d actually managed to find your way out and gone on to wow the great chefs of France with your gastronomical delights?

Blair: We both know I’d be dead if you wouldn’t have found me.

Jim: Nah, one of the natives would have found you sooner or later.

Blair: Or made me one of their gastronomical delights. I don’t regret any of it. I…just…lately….We’ve been back from our real honeymoon for almost a month and I’ve had a lot of time to think…

Jim: I get it. You want to find out if you still have what it takes to be the sharpest knife on the board.

Blair: I’ve been doing some research and as it turns out Cascade has some hot new chefs and an eclectic mix of ethnic cuisine.

Blair is getting all worked up and Jim’s happy to see him happy.

Jim: You go do what you need to do.

Blair: Really?

Jim: I’m not a dictator.

Blair: Only sometimes.

Jim: It’s fine by me.

Blair: You’re okay with me getting a job?

Jim: Why wouldn’t I be? You worked before we got married.

Blair: For you.

Jim: New me, remember?

Blair: All right. This is me doing my own thing. No interference.

Jim: But…

Blair: No. I appreciate the gesture, I do; however, I’ve taken way too many money handouts from you already, not to mention the enormous fact that you know nothing about fine cuisine…

Jim looks hurt and offended.

Blair: Okay, so you do possess the necessary business acumen, but you know diddly squat about being a true restaurateur. It’s nothing like running the shack or any of your other businesses. Okay, so occasionally you’d have to threaten your distributors- especially your fish guy- and you’d always have to scout the competition for new talent- and you are very persuasive when it comes to your bribing practices…

Jim: Sounds right up my alley.

Blair: Your old alley.

Jim: Guys who know more than one way to use a knife, can lift hundreds of pounds, wield a big garbage bag to their advantage, lusty babes in short skirts drawing in suckers at eight dollars a glass of watered down hooch? Superstar pretty boys looking for dumbass investors so they can get their 15 minutes on the food network?

Blair glares at him. Jim holds up his hands in a peace offering.

Jim: Come on. Your thing. You do it. I’ve got other things to do. I’m just saying that I’m your backup guy should you need one. Now, about that study break?

Jim leans towards Blair who pushes him away.

Blair: What are you doin’ messin’ around with me? You’ve got a test to study for and I’ve got planning to do. I’ll meet you in bed in an hour.

Blair runs upstairs. Jim meanders back to the table. He picks up his phone and dials.

Jim: Hey, I need a tap on Blair’s computer. Yes, now. He’s got some cockamamie idea in his head and you know how he gets when he’s got a new project. That’s right. Trouble. Exactly what I’m saying. Get Brackett it on it too. Thanks.

IGNITING

Blair is in the kitchen with fellow co-workers Maya, Beverly, and Elaine jammin’ to the radio when Maya screams. Blair springs into action.

Blair: What? What is it? Are you cut? How bad is it? Should I break out the first aid kit? Call the doc in?

Maya: No, it’s okay. I’m not hurt, Blair. It’s this.

Maya show’s Blair some lettuce filled with bugs.

Maya: This is the third case in two days. Antonio’s the best produce guy in the city. I don’t understand it. Everything’s coming in with something. I’m all for sustainability but people want the pastoral ideal, Blair.

Blair: Yeck. I’ll give him a call. People can have both. It is entirely possible. I’ll call him and get a credit for the next shipment, see what’s up with his farmers. We don’t have a large crowd tonight. Let’s do something with the endive. It looks good, right?

Maya is edgy and nervous.

Maya: It’s 2 hours to dinner and I haven’t even… I’ve got a million things to do Blair; I don’t have time to change the salads.

Blair: Deep breaths. It’s all good. I’ll get Janet out of the pit to help you. I promised her I’d start letting her get hands deep in food prep; no time like the present. We’ve got baby shrimp and prosciutto and Gorgonzola. We’ll work it out.

Blair walks towards his office when he hears a loud crash.

Blair: I’m cursed. Gods, you curse me. Why? I pay libation, dudes.

Blair sees everyone gathered at the dish pit and makes his way over.

Blair: Now what?

Janet: I think it exploded.

Blair: Dishwashers do not explode. They break, they malfunction, they get gunked up with food, they experience electrical or plumbing problems but they do not explode.

Janet: There was a flash of blue light and a loud noise and smoke.

Yeager:: Fire!

They all look over and flames are shooting out of the dishwasher. Spalding rushes over with the fire extinguisher and puts out the fire. Blair looks in dismay at the white foamy chemicals covering the dish pit area. Janet starts freaking out.

Janet: I can’t hand wash all the dishes. And the glasses! It’s a disaster. And we don’t have time to hand dry all the silverware!

Blair: Janet, calm down. (he reaches in his wallet and takes out his credit card and gives it to her) Go over to Crate and Barrel and buy everything we need. Yeager and Spalding go with her. You guys know every piece of washable equipment we need to make this place function. Have ‘em call me if they need verification for such a large order.

Janet: What kind of service wear and silverware?

Blair: Whatever you think looks good. Akiko's is closed today. I’ll call her and go get the keys and meet you guys there in an hour.

Blair turns to the rest of his staff.

Blair: We’re smart, we’re good at what we do, and we’re going to do it, okay? We just have to do it a little differently tonight. I’m going to go make some calls.

Everyone gets back to work at a furious place. Blair looks around the kitchen and goes back to his office, sits at his desk, and looks up at the picture of Jim posted on the corkboard.

Blair: (pointing his finger at the picture) You can explode my dishwasher, pay off Rafferty to give me the worst of the worst, give the LCB and health inspectors season tickets to the Jags games, and personally tell everyone in the city that I serve fancy schmancy dog food, but I am not giving up, Ellison. You hear me? So, bring it on, James; I got game.

THE HOME FIRES

Jim sits at the table, the remains of dinner pushed aside, books scattered all around when Blair comes home. Jim looks up at the clock which reads 1:40. Blair looks exhausted.

Jim: How’d it go?

Blair takes a deep breath as he hangs up his coat and tosses his keys in the basket.

Blair: You know how much it sucks to not be able to occasionally tell you a white lie?

Jim gets up from the table and guides Blair to the couch.

Jim: What happened?

Blair scrunches up his face.

Blair: The ceiling caved in over the best seating. In the middle of the dinner crunch no less.

Jim: What? I checked out that building thoroughly. The roof was in mint condition.

Blair: Nature, man. Ice, apparently.

Jim: You sure about that? That storm wasn’t too bad.

Blair: The roof guy said ice.

Jim: Hmm. Anything I can do?

Blair: Find me a new saucier? Welles decided she needs to heed her call to write mystery novels. And…oh, never mind.

Jim: I can get you H.

Blair: The shack needs H. I can do it.

Jim: In addition to everything else you do?

Blair: I admit that this is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I am not giving up. In spite of all the mishaps I’ve been doing okay, making some great food, even making a profit, so let the universe throw all it has my way; I can deal.

Jim turns away with a guilty look on his face. Blair wraps his arms around Jim and snuggles close.

Jim: If you need anything…

Blair: I’ll ask. I’m only stubborn for so long and then… enough of me and my bad day. You should be in bed; tomorrow’s a big day for you.

Jim: I’m ready.

Blair: I don’t doubt it.

Jim gently rearranges Blair so that Jim is the one engulfing Blair in a hug.

Jim: I’m jealous.

Blair laughs merrily.

Blair: Oh?

Jim: Usually all that drive, that intense focus of yours is focused on me. I’m not used to sharing you.

Blair: After the big V-day mania is over, I’m all yours, my man. At least for an entire weekend. There’s this place up in the mountains I’ve been checking out. We can get our own cabin. Play in the snow, soak in the hot springs, and cuddle by the fire.

Jim: I’m up for that.

Blair grabs Jim by the butt and pulls him closer

Blair: What are you up for now?

Jim: Some good luck love?

Blair: I’m the best love charm you’ve ever had.

Jim kisses Blair

Jim: No argument there.

Blair: Why are you still fully clothed?

All thought is lost. Passionate kissing ensues. Groping follows. Clothes start flying. Mirth and merriment are had.

RESTOKING THE FIRE

Jim quietly extracts himself from the bed, covers Blair and heads downstairs. He picks up his phone from the table and goes out to the balcony to make a call. He dials and someone answers.

Jim: Yes, I know it’s late. I have a new plan.

BURNING BRIGHT

Blair is behind the bar doing inventory when the door to the restaurant opens and some delivery people enter carrying bunches of hydrangea.

Blair: Whoa, there.

Christine: Hey, Blair.

Blair: Christine. You told me you had no hydrangea.

Christine: Got some. You don’t want them?

She signals deliverers to halt.

Blair: Don’t be hasty; of course I want them.

Christine: Good. They look gorgeous with your décor. What are you going to make to compliment them?

Blair: Blackberry soup. Blue corn pudding. Something. I have plenty of time to figure it out. You hear any news?

Christine: I got the news all right. What do you got?

Blair exits into the kitchen, comes back with a bouquet of fruit flowers.

Christine: All right. My grandma’s gonna love these.

Blair: So? Some new resort in the Swiss Alps?

Christine: (placing an arm on Blair) Do you have any enemies?

Blair: Huh? No, of course not. I’m eminently lovable.

Christine: Let me make that a statement: you have enemies. They are the hot stuff down at the marina.

Blair: The marina? There’s nothing down there but tourist eateries.

Christine: No, not working; glammin’ it up, livin’ the life sailing around the bay in their yacht.

Blair: (eyes narrowing with suspicion) Yacht?

Christine: I’ll keep spreading the word, okay?

Blair: Thanks.

Christine: See you next week.

Blair: Yeah.

As Christine pulls open the door to exit, a man and a woman wearing jeans and CDC jackets enter. The woman is carrying yellow tape. When Christine is out the door she puts tape across it.

Blair: Hey. What’s going on?

Quinn: We’re closing you down.

Francine finishes with the tape and gives Blair a shrug.

Francine: Sorry. Budget cuts. Usually we’d have a whole team in here.

Blair: Who are you?

Quinn: Dr. Quinn. I’m an epidemiologist with the CDC. This is my colleague Francine. We’ve traced an outbreak of e-coli here. This place is ground zero. We’ll need to speak with the owner immediately.

Blair: I’m the owner. And I’ve never seen you before. How can you claim an outbreak began here when you’ve never been in to investigate anything? I follow ServSafe, and OSHA guidelines and the sustainability and organic guidelines. If there’s a guideline, I follow it. I run a clean operation here, guys, so you’ve got the wrong place.

Francine: Your restaurant is the common factor, Mr.?

Blair: Sandburg. And I’ll ask again, what are you talking about?

Francine: In simple terms, there are currently 12 people being treated for food poisoning at Cascade General.

Quinn: They all ate dinner here two nights ago.

Francine: We’re going to test all of your food. So far no other incidents have occurred in the city but…

Blair: You think it’s a result of a lack of cleanliness on the part of my staff?

Quinn: We’ll rule out all other possibilities first.

Blair: My staff is incredibly knowledgable and well trained.

Francine: I’m sure they are, but they’re human too. We all make mistakes, Mr. Sandburg. We’re not trying to blame you. We’re scientists; not lawyers. It’s our job to find out the exact source of contamination.

Quinn: Can we count on your cooperation?

Blair: Of course. I’ll call everyone and have them come in early.

Francine: We’ll start on the perishables.

Francine and Quinn exit the dining room and Blair gets out his cell and starts dialing.

BLUE FLAME

Jim has completed his exams at the Academy and is finishing the firearms testing. The instructor pushes the button to bring the dummy sheet forward. Jim’s aim is sure and all of his shots have hit the head and heart. The instructor writes Jim’s score on a piece of paper on his clipboard, examines the paper, nods, looks up at Jim with a smile on his face and extends a hand for Jim to shake.

Instructor: Downtown on Monday, 8 a.m. sharp for your assignment.

Jim: Thank you, sir.

The instructor exits and Jim takes out his cell to call Blair when it starts ringing.

Jim: I was just about to call you.

O.S. Blair is ranting. Jim holds the phone from his ear and listens from a distance. When Blair is finished with his tirade Jim holds the phone back to his face.

Jim: That’s crazy. I’m on my way.

O.S. Blair’s tirade begins.

Jim: I most certainly did not have anything to do with this. We’ll talk when I get there. Just calm down Sandburg and stop threatening to divorce me.

Jim closes the phone as Blair can still be heard talking.

WHO LIT THE BONFIRE?

Blair has gathered all of his employees in the dining room. They all look grave. Francine is inspecting the bar area while Quinn is still back in the kitchen. Francine finishes what she is doing and comes over to address the staff.

Francine: You do a good job; I’ve found no evidence of unsafe food handling practices. The produce was fine. Quinn’s checking the meat now (she shudders and the employees look at each other) I’m a vegetarian.

Jim enters from the front door as Quinn enters from the kitchen wearing plastic gloves and carrying a plastic bag.

Quinn: It’s contaminated. You’ve got yourself some bad beef, Mr. Sandburg.

Jim: That’s bullmalarkey.

Blair is about to protest this accusation as well when he notices Jim sniffing. Jim comes over to Blair, pulls him away from the crowd.

Jim: Your beef is bad. Where’d you get it?

Blair: You going to go shake the guy down?

Jim: Let’s just say I’m going to pay the farm a visit using this as a credential (he extracts his badge from his pocket which Blair promptly grabs from him) and see what Farmer Fred’s up to.

Blair has a large grin on his face. He hugs Jim and then kisses him.

Blair: I’m so proud of you, man. Congrats. I knew you could do it.

Quinn has made his way over to the two men.

Quinn: Bad beef is serious business, Mr. Sandburg and we’ll inquire into this, a-hem, Farmer Fred (looks at package with the label Babe’s Beefsteak) and see what we find, but surely you are not their only customer and if the meat had been contaminated at the farm other restaurants in the area would certainly have had outbreaks too.

Jim: You think it’s a case of someone not washing their hands?

Maya: Beef’s not a regular item on the menu; Blair prefers ostrich, emu, and buffalo meat. It’s leaner. We only had beef that night because Melanie and Freeman had that mushroom sauce they wanted to try out, remember?

Quinn: What are you implying?

Employees: Sabotage.

Janet: From day one things have gone wrong at this place.

Jim: I’ll make this right, Chief.

Quinn scrutinizes Jim, giving him a smug sneer before turning to address Blair.

Quinn: Until then, The Harvester is closed.

Francine: Sorry, Mr. Sandburg; its policy. Where is Babe’s Beefsteak located? If they are the source we’ll shut them down and have you back in business by Tuesday.

Blair: Tuesday? The weekends are my money river; I can’t be closed.

Blair is about to get hysterical so Jim places a hand on his shoulder and whispers something in his ear. Blair takes a deep breath and nods okay.

Jim: You check out the farm while I check out who…

Blair: Who bought your yacht?

Jim: Something like that.

Blair: Okay, then. Are you two hungry? I can fix you some lunch and I can drive out there with you. It’s way out of the way and if you don’t know the roads you’ll have trouble finding it.

Francine: I only eat organic.

Blair: What’s your definition of organic? Because I gotta tell you if you say you shop at Whole Foods I’m about to rock your food world forever.

Francine: What’s wrong with Whole Foods?

Blair and his staff peer at her with incredulity.

Blair: Maya?

Maya shows Quinn and Francine to his best window with a view of the bay and the mountains.

Quinn: I have some paperwork you’ll need to sign.

BURNING GROUND

Blair, Quinn, and Francine are squished into Jim’s truck driving along gravel and dirt back roads. Blair makes a sharp turn onto an even more rickety road and a farm is seen in the near distance.

Francine: So, you only bought product from this farm the one time?

Blair: Yep. She came highly recommended.

Blair continues toward the farmhouse. As they get closer they see no signs that this is a working farm. Blair pulls to a stop and they all get out to look around at the abandoned farm.

Quinn: This certainly is suspicious.

He opens the barn door to reveal rotting corpses of many cows. Blair has followed him and starts gagging. They both exit.

Francine: What’s going on?

Quinn: We’re going to need a cleanup unit out here.

Francine gets out her cell phone.

Quinn: And FBI. ( he faces Blair) Have your restaurant up to CDC guidelines by Saturday morning and you can serve dinner Saturday night.

Blair: You have a copy handy?

Quinn opens up his attaché and extracts a thick file folder and hands it to Blair.

Francine: I didn’t know the restaurant competition was so fierce in Cascade.

Blair: (grumbling) It isn’t. Someone other than my husband has it in for me.

SPARKS AND CRACKLES

Jim is aboard his old yacht, arm across the throat of Tommy Ho who is trying to talk but can’t. Jim lightens his grip.

Jim: What’s that?

Ho: Blair’s got Eastern blood in his veins. I wholeheartedly support his business and what he’s about. I’ve been renting out the yacht when I’m not using it.

Jim: You’re renting out my yacht?

Ho: My yacht. It’s good cover. I can’t exactly have the cops knowing I don’t use it strictly as pleasure craft.

Jim pulls out his badge and flashes it at Ho who takes it from him and examines it.

Ho: Maybe you have some Eastern soul too.

Jim retrieves the badge, puts it away and scrubs a hand across his face.

Jim: Maybe. So these yabbos?

Ho: The woman? Knows how to crack a safe- a skill most welcome when I’m trying to liberate what is rightfully mine.

Jim: The man?

Ho: Let’s say his knowledge of computer programming can be used for a variety of work I need done.

Jim: Next time you see them, kindly persuade them into the brig, would you?

Ho: I can see it’s going to take awhile to incorporate your new methods of handling obstacles.

Jim: Yeah, doing background checks on all of Sandburg’s staff. Thing is, I don’t have access to the Cascade PDs databases until Monday morning and I’m gonna catch this s.o.b by the end of the day.

Ho: I don’t doubt that you will, Ellison. May I offer assistance?

Ellison: I’m not a cop on the take.

Ho: I’m not asking you to be such a man. Like I said, I like Blair and if someone’s messing with him, well…that won’t do.

Jim nods his acceptance, extends a hand which Ho shakes.

Ho: I’ll call you when I have something.

Jim: I’m gonna look around the place. See if they left anything behind.

Jim examines the sleeping cabins. He opens a cabinet and finds a handful of foreign coins and colorful paper money. He holds the paper money to his nose and sniffs. He exits the cabin and makes his way back to the sun deck where Ho is talking with the first mate. He excuses the first mate and comes over to speak to Jim.

Ho: I had him going through surveillance.

Jim: Alcante?

Ho: How did…?

Jim is across the gangway into the parking lot and getting into Blair’s Volvo.

LIGHTER FLUID

Blair and his staff are meticulously scrubbing every inch of the kitchen and dining room when Jim enters. Elaine notices Jim.

Elaine: He’s in back.

Jim makes his way through the dining room and into the kitchen where Blair is throwing away all of the food into large trash bags.

Jim: Is that necessary?

Blair: Probably not, but I’m not taking chances.

Blair looks haggard and tired. Jim gently eases him away from the box of pineapples he’s discarding and enfolds him a hug.

Jim: I’m sorry.

Blair: It’s not your fault, man.

Jim: That’s not entirely true.

Blair: I know you, remember? I get why you did what you did, but you passed the exams and you’ve got your own thing now, so you’ll let me have my thing.

Jim: Doesn’t make what I did right.

Blair: Of course it doesn’t, but I forgive you, okay?

Blair gives Jim a squeeze and extracts himself and goes back to what he’s doing.

Jim: I want you to succeed.

Blair: I have.

Jim: I feel responsible for you.

Blair: Have we had this discussion like a million gazillion times already?

Jim: Yep. Let’s have it one more time for old time’s sake.

Blair: Babe’s Beefsteak doesn’t exist.

Jim: Babe does.

Blair: Huh?

Jim: She’s out there cleaning your air vents.

Blair stops throwing food away and grabs Jim’s arm.

Blair: What are you talking about?

Jim removes the money and coins from his pocket and places it on a table. Blair picks them up.

Jim: Look familiar?

Blair: No. She wouldn’t. Why would she try to put me out of business?

Jim: Oh, could it be that her boyfriend’s rotting away in some stinking hole somewhere in the tropics thanks to your civic pride?

Blair: Years and years ago.

Jim: You know what they say about revenge. You better go make peace with her. Gustavo’ll be here in 20 minutes. He’s going to reunite the long lost lovers.

Blair shakes his head in disappointment and disbelief and exits the kitchen with Jim following after him. In the dining room, Blair goes to confront Maya who is screwing on a cover to a vent.

Blair: Can I talk to you for a minute?

Maya: Sure, let me finish this.

Jim: I got it.

Blair sits down at a nearby table and Maya joins him while Jim uses his senses to discover how she messed with the vent. He unscrews the screws she had in place, removes the cover and sticks his arm up the vent and starts feeling around.

Maya: What’s up?

He unscrews the screws she had in place, removes the cover and sticks his arm up the vent and starts feeling around.

Maya: What’s up?

Blair places the foreign currency on the table. Maya stares at it and then looks over at Jim who is holding a small device with wires and buttons. He carries it over to their table.

Blair: You were going to blow up my restaurant?

Maya: (shrugging) More like smoke it up, set off the sprinklers, get the fire department here, and shut you down.

Blair: Why?

Maya: Why? Why!? You ruined my life. That’s why. You took away from me everything I wanted, everything that made me happy, so I was going to take that away from you too.

Blair: Jim’s everything that matters to me.

Maya: I knew he was behind the problems here.

Blair: You thought I’d choose my business over the man I love?

Maya: I thought I could drive you apart.

Jim: That’s never going to happen.

The door opens and Gustavo enters.

Jim: Ah, that would be your escort.

Maya looks away from Gustavo in shame.

Gustavo: ( to Jim) I will handle this now. (to Blair) Mr. Sandburg, I assure you that my niece will pay restitution for the damages she has caused, but now we must go and we can discuss the details at a later time.

Blair: Nice to see you too, Gustavo.

Gustavo grabs Maya by the arms and pulls her out of the restaurant. A few seconds later, Quinn arrives with some federal agents.

EMBERS

Jim and Blair are lying spent in their bed, Blair’s head on Jim’s chest with Jim holding him.

Blair: That was…

Jim: Fireworks?

Blair: Yeah. Fireworks inside of fireworks.

Jim: Must be love.

Blair kisses Jim’s neck.

Blair: What else could it be?

Jim: Am I forgiven?

Blair: Just stay out of my business from now on.

Jim: I’ll try.

Blair: I’ll try? That’s the best you can do?

Jim: Yep.

Blair: Try harder next time, okay?

Jim rolls Blair off of him and lays on top of Blair.

Jim: You want hard?

Blair pulls Jim closer and kisses him passionately.

Blair: I’ve been reading this new book.

Jim groans.

Blair: For better or worse, my man.

The End

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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Patt for the lovely cover.