Touch Therapy
-- by Mackie/

Sean Doyle, a forensics technician only a year or two older than Blair Sandburg, hurried into the Major Crimes bullpen with an eagerness in his step. He was an ingenuous-looking young man, cute rather than handsome, his wire-frame glasses and curly red hair giving him the appearance of a bookish academic. He came over to Jim Ellison's desk, where Blair was web surfing with little regard for the departmental policy on internet usage.

"Hey, Blair, where's Jim?" he asked, an excited gleam in his eyes.

"He just called from the courthouse," Blair answered. "His testimony is running a little over. What's up?"

"Well -- " Sean leaned forward and lowered his voice. "I think I'm really on to something. Come on over to the lab and I'll show you."

Blair's interest was piqued. Without hesitation, he logged off the computer and joined the tech for the short walk to the forensics labs. The various nooks and crannies of the huge lab had always intrigued Blair, although he seldom got the opportunity to explore them. It was here that a myriad assortment of criminal investigative techniques were applied to the various evidence gathered at crime scenes. The facts determined here could help make or break a case. Evidence gathering, processing, storage and documentation techniques were key to almost every case Major Crime worked. Blair was learning a little about the painstaking processes involved at a crime scene itself, where evidence was excruciatingly detailed in notes and photographs before being collected. It was fascinating, much like archaeology except applied to the world of criminal investigation.

"Uh, don't mind the mess," Sean warned as they rounded a corner in the almost labyrinthine corridors and Blair came face to face with a huge, blood soaked sheet hanging from a makeshift clothesline.

He recoiled in stunned surprise. "What's that?"

"Evidence," Sean answered simply. "Very large evidence. Our drying room is already full of stuff, so we had to hang it out here."

Somewhat appalled by the grisly sight, Blair nonetheless skirted the macabre article and followed Sean into a workroom. It was the fingerprint lab, where prints were lifted from every sort of object imaginable, including the amputated fingers of decaying corpses. Modern techniques enabled an image to be recovered from a victim's skin and other material long thought impossible to fingerprint.

Sean sat down at a workstation and switched on a computer. He gestured for Blair to sit on a nearby stool as the machine booted up. A few moments later, the large monitor resolved its image into two side-by-side fingerprints. "Look at this." Sean's voice sounded excited. "The first print is one we took from a double homicide at an all-night stop-and-rob. The second was from a domestic where it looked as if the wife had stabbed her husband."

Blair peered at the prints. They looked -- "They're identical."

Sean nodded earnestly. "Yeah, I think we have a very crafty devil at work," he enthused, calling up another set of prints. "Look at these -- the one on the left we got off the victim's car in a parking garage; he'd been garroted. The other one is from an old crime scene where a poison victim lay undiscovered for over a week."

"Is it the same person as the first set of prints?" Blair asked in alarm. "Do you think we have a serial killer in Cascade?"

"Different MO's, nothing to link the victims," Sean admitted. "Just the same fingerprints left at every crime scene."

"This is incredible." Blair was dismayed to think of the possibilities. "This is what you wanted to talk to Jim about?"

Sean leaned close and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. "No. I did some checking on my own, and I've ID'd the prints. We had them on file from three years ago."

"You've traced a serial killer back at least three years?" Blair was impressed in spite of the grim thought that the killer had been operating in Cascade for such a time, his crimes so cleverly dissimilar that no one had linked them until Sean's discovery. "You need to show this to Simon."

Glumly, Sean shook his head. "Can't do it."

Blair was incredulous. "Why not?"

Strong hands suddenly gripped his shoulders from behind and pulled him to his feet. Blair yelped in surprise as he was thrust up against the nearest wall. "Blair Sandburg," said a deadly serious Rafe, "you are under arrest for suspicion of murder."

It took Blair only a moment to process the bizarre turn of events, and then he had the grace to blush even as he felt Rafe secure his wrists behind him. "Oh, man, it was me," he murmured in embarrassment.

"That sounds like a confession," Rafe observed dryly.

"Man, I'm sorry," Blair practically pleaded as the young detective plopped him back down atop the stool. The handcuffs were neither tight nor unduly uncomfortable, but Blair was surprised at how vulnerable and helpless they made him feel. "I know you've told me a dozen times -- "

"Don't touch anything at a crime scene!" Sean and Rafe finished together.

The detective patted him on top of his head. "Well, now that we've caught our perp, I'm heading back to the joys of paperwork."

"Wait!" Blair almost shouted. "The handcuffs!"

Rafe just gave him a thoroughly wicked smile. "That's up to Sean. See ya, Sandburg." He whistled as he left, the strains of "Working on a Chain Gang" floating back to mock Blair as he hunched on the stool.

"Sean --"

The forensics tech wasn't buying any excuses. "Blair, we process hundreds, sometimes thousands, of fingerprints each month. I've seen your prints so many times, I can identify them on sight. Do you realize what the odds are against that?"

"Pretty high, huh?"

"Astronomical."

Blair tried to find the bright side. "Well, at least it makes for an easier process of identification."

Sean just shook his head. "Nope. What if I'm wrong? We collect and process every print we find at a crime scene. I run the ones I think are yours just as if I'm seeing them for the first time, but I do them first to get them out of the way."

"Have you ever been wrong?" Blair asked hopefully, beginning to fidget atop the hard wooden stool.

"Not once," Sean replied. "Do you have any idea how many hours I've worked just to eliminate your prints from the evidence?"

"I'm really sorry," Blair said again, and he meant it sincerely. He hated the thought of all the time wasted while Sean collected and processed his prints. He knew he'd feel even worse if his carelessness obliterated a critical fingerprint. "I promise I'll keep my hands in my pockets, just like you told me," he swore.

"OK, that's a start."

Blair frowned in suspicion. "A start?"

"Yeah. I figure I can give you three options." Sean's green eyes twinkled mischievously. "First, you can go to Rafe and ask him to take off the handcuffs. You know he's gonna make you beg, probably on your knees, right there in the middle of the bullpen."

"Uh-huh." Option one was definitely out. "What's option two?"

"You can wear handcuffs at the next five crime scenes you visit, with Jim being responsible for making you wear them."

Shit. That was even worse. Blair winced. "And three?"

 

Almost two hours later, he figured his writing hand was just about ready to fall off. It was a little after six p.m., and the bullpen had filled with detectives returning to finish up their paperwork for the day or to catch a much-needed breather before heading back out to slog away some more at the most urgent cases.

Blair was so engrossed in his work, he didn't realize his partner had returned.

"Sandburg, why are you still here?" Jim asked curiously, hanging up his jacket.

Hastily, Blair gathered up his papers and shifted around to the visitor's chair. Casually, he put his arm over the top sheet so Jim could not read his mad scribbling. "Hi, Jim, how was court?"

"Long and tedious," was the prompt answer, followed by a repeat of the original question. "Why are you still here?"

"Uh, I need to catch up on some paperwork."

"On lined notebook paper?"

"It's a rough draft," Blair improvised quickly, wondering if he was going to have to confess his lack of professionalism after all.

Jim's suspicions were aroused, but Sean came in then and spared Blair any further interrogation. "Hey, Jim, glad you're back. Can you come down to the lab for a minute? There's something I want to show you." He glanced at Blair. "How's it going, Sandburg?"

Blair shot visual daggers at him. "Slowly," he answered. Damn, Sean was going to tell Jim even after he'd promised he wouldn't.

"Can it wait until tomorrow?" Jim asked. "I'm bushed."

"It's really important," Sean said, his disappointment evident.

Jim shrugged. "OK." To Blair, he added, "If you'll hang around a bit longer, we'll grab some takeout on the way home."

"Sounds good," Blair mumbled, unable to look at his partner. Jim was gonna be so pissed when he found out.

Jim headed out with Sean, and Blair sighed in chagrin before uncovering the sheet of paper upon which he was writing repeated lines of "I will never touch anything at a crime scene again." Over and over. Four hundred times. His scrawl was becoming all but illegible.

Only one hundred more lines to write.

But why should he? After all, Jim was going to find out. Why should Blair keep his promise to Sean when it was clear the courtesy wasn't going to be returned?

Simply because it was a promise.

He heard a chair scrape and looked up to see Rafe leaving the bullpen, his handcuffs twirling nonchalantly around one finger.

Blair went very still.

Jim wouldn't have -- would he?

And even if he had, Sean and Rafe wouldn't have the nerve to pull the same trick they'd pulled on Blair. Would they?

Grinning, Blair went back to writing. If he were to wager on the chances of Rafe putting handcuffs on Jim, Blair's money would be definitely on his partner.

THE END