Complicated, he says. Blair was working his way across the room, hopping from one piece of furniture to another, trying to get to the door. Complicated. Jim's plan had been simple, in his eyes. But Blair didn't like it one bit. This Tom Hanks, if that was really his name, was obviously a hit man. Maybe not a good one, if Blair had been able to figure it out, but a hit man non the less. Jim had an empty gun, no backup, and he was supposed to just sit there on the couch and wait. He reached the door and had to stop to catch his breath. If only Dr Stuart hadn't taken away the crutches, defying Jim's order to stay put would be much easier. His leg was throbbing terribly now and he felt just a little dizzy.
"Man this really sucks." He took a few deep breaths, waiting for the dizziness to pass, then opened the door. Just a couple of quick hops took him to the balcony railing, with a good view of the lounge below. After allowing time for his eyes to adjust to the dim light he scanned as much of the room as he could see from there, looking for Jim. His plan had been to simply get a set of finger prints from Hanks, to compare them to the many they had taken from the gun. Maybe, just maybe, the threat of discovery would tip his hand. How he was going to do that Blair didn't know. But if Hanks knew they were on to him...this guy knew Jim's gun was empty.
No, Blair didn't like this at all. He started working his way down the hall, holding on to the railing as far as it would take him, then the wall, until he reached the elevator. Just as he pushed the button for the elevator, a door opened behind him, startling Blair into turning around. In his surprise, he inadvertently put his right foot down, and the pain that shot up his leg caused him to sway and fall forward.
"Mr Sandburg! Are you alright?"
Blair's vision cleared
sooner than the pain and he looked up. "Mr Smyth, your just the man I needed
Mr Smyth insisted on helping Blair back into the elevator. He had explained the situation as quickly as he could, while Mr Smyth was rummaging through his bags for something Blair could use. Once inside the elevator Blair was reluctant to allow him to help.
"This could be dangerous. If I'm right, Jim's in trouble. If I'm wrong, then I'll be sent back up here, I'm sure. Either way, I can't risk you coming along." Jim's gonna kill me for doing this, let alone bringing company.
Mr Smyth reluctantly agreed, on the condition that if Blair didn't return quickly, he would come looking himself. He agreed as the elevator doors closed.
Blair meant to hit the button for the lobby, but his hand slipped as he tried to lean against the wall and he hit the basement level instead. The service elevator was so old, it didn't like to change directions quickly, so Blair was forced to travel all the way down. Once it stopped, the doors opened automatically. He was just about to hit the 'door close' when he heard voices coming from the end of the hall. Jim's voice.
Carefully Blair eased himself out of the elevator, glancing around. The hall was empty, and dark except for the light he could see under the door at the far end. He worked his way as quietly as he could down the hall. The closer he got, the more distinguishable the voices were.
"What about the Federal agent? Is he dead, too?" Jim's voice was clear now.
"The avalanche took him out nicely. Went down the opposite side, so his body won't be found for quite some time." Blair recognized the second voice.
Oh shit. This was it. He had no way to call for back up. This time, he was the backup. The tazer gun Mr Smyth had loaned him was clipped to his pants, leaving his hands free to hold on to the wall for support.
"I don't have to take out your partner. He's not going anywhere, and I only kill for money. I would have left you alone if you hadn't gotten too close." Tom Hanks was speaking now, right inside the door. Jim must be farther inside the small room. "My plan was so simple. Just take out Benchly when he went up to meet his contact. Let the snow bury the man. It would have been months before he was found. Then you had to come along and insist we keep looking for bodies up there." Blair heard him pacing back and forth in front of the door. "If your friend had just died, no one would have known there was another person up there unaccounted for. No one knew he was even here."
"So, you drove up there, took out Benchly, beat the avalanche down the mountain, then came back up to help rescue?"
"Yep. Simple as that. I've been up here for weeks now, just waiting. Letting that snow build up."
"Too bad the mob didn't get their money's worth. They should have sent a professional. Only a small-timer would be stupid enough to hand over the murder weapon, help find the body, and then stick around."
"I was enjoying it, actually. Call it a study in Police Detection." Hanks was pacing back and forth in front of the door. "I expected Benchly to be buried for months, and the weapon. But then your friend had to survive, thanks to you, and mention Benchly. So, naturally we had to recover the body. Then it got fun, and I couldn't resist digging up the gun for you to see. Call it pride, call it whatever you like. You had no access to the Department, there was no way you were going to figure this out before I got away. So I didn't mind getting fingerprints on the gun. Mine aren't on file anywhere." he stopped his pacing and stood still for a moment. "But, your friend started to worry me. He has that look of a man who needs to know the answer for everything. I figured he might start asking too many questions." he began pacing again. "So I decided it was time for me to make my exit, but the snowmobile ran out of gas. Eddie had the only other working one, and you two were up there, still snooping around.
"How did you know Benchly would be coming here?"
"Pillow talk. I've been doing the Records Clerk at the Bureau. So, nothing personal, you understand."
Blair knew it was now or never. He had the tazer out. The handle of the door turned easily and he slowly opened it, just enough to discern Tom Hanks standing directly in front of him. He aimed and fired into the man's back, hearing the electricity discharge at exactly the same instant the gun fired.
Hanks went down hard and jerked several times before the charge stopped. Blair didn't care if it had worked or not, all he could see was Jim on the ground at the other end of the room.
"Jim!" He let the tazer fall over Hanks's now unconscious body and ran to Jim, ignoring the shooting pain that ran up his right leg with each step. He dropped down beside his friend,
"Oh man, oh man! Jim?!" He was unconscious, bleeding from a bullet wound in his right shoulder. "Shit!" Blair tried to get up, to get help, but his leg collapsed under him and he fell back down. "Dammit Jim, come on." Frantically he searched the room for something, anything that would help. Finding nothing he pulled his sweater over his head, using it as a pressure bandage to stop the bleeding. "Somebody! Help!" He couldn't get up, couldn't go for help. Hanks was still unconscious, but how long would that last? Mr Smyth knew he was there, maybe he would... "Somebody!!" God, what now? "Jim, please don't die man." He wanted to check the bleeding, but he knew better than to stop applying pressure. "Come on Jim, I need you. Don't do this to me." He heard movement and quickly glanced over at Hanks.
"Doc, thank God! He's been shot." Blair urged Dr. Stuart into the room, seeing then Mr Smyth following close behind her.
She stepped over Hanks and moved quickly to Jim on the floor. "Okay, let me take this. Mr. Smyth, could you help Mr. Sandburg out of here?"
Blair reluctantly let himself be helped up off the floor, but refused to be ushered out of the small room. "We can't leave him." he said, indicating Hanks.
"Not to worry, Mr Sandburg. I have more toys up my sleeve."
Blair watched incredulously as Mr Smyth removed a large pair of handcuffs from his shirt pocket, then expertly placed them on Hanks. He then took out a second pair, and secure their prisoner to a table that was heavily bolted down. He nodded when Mr Smyth looked up, but refused to leave.
"Mr Smyth, could you please escort our Mr Sandburg to the aid station?"
"No way, I'm not leaving him."
She smiled tolerantly. "If you don't leave, they can't get in."
Blair turned then and saw Eddie and another man standing in the hallway with a stretcher. He apologized quickly and allowed Mr Smyth to help him out of the way. He still refused to leave, waiting for them to load Jim onto the stretcher, then followed the group to the aid station.
The snow had stopped sometime during the night and there were stars visible for the first time in a long time. Blair hardly noticed as he was helped across the street. His head was buzzing, and he was certain it wasn't from the pain in his leg. That gun had gone off the instant the tazer leads struck Hanks. What if he was the cause? Did Hanks fire, then the tazers hit? No, he was certain they had happened at the same time. It was his fault. Why in the hell did he wait so long? He was listening outside that door for several minutes. Why had he waited until the moment Hanks was taking aim?
In his guilt, Blair didn't noticed they had taken him into
a room, instead of the waiting area. Mr Smyth and a nurse were trying to force
him onto the bed. "No, I'm okay." he tried to protest, then felt the
prick of a needle in his arm. "No, dammit, I'm all right!" but it was
too late. Before he could form another protest he felt himself drifting rapidly.
Gentle hands forced him onto the bed just as sleep overtook him.
Blair woke slowly. He remembered being worried about something. Terribly worried. And a strong feeling of guilt. But why, he wasn't sure. Then he remembered, and was awake instantly.
"Jim!?" he tried to sit up, but Dr Stuart was there, holding him down.
"Relax, take it easy. Your friend is fine." she said, pushing Blair back down. "He came out of surgery just fine. So did you."
"What? Me?" Blair was confused. Did she say Jim was okay?
"Yes. You ripped out every last stitch in that leg. Even the deep ones. You were bleeding almost as much as Mr Ellison was."
Blair sat back, trying to recall details. "You said he's okay?"
She nodded, pulling the blanket back over him. "Yes. The bullet went right through, missed the bone. He'll be fine after a few days rest. So will you."
"Can I see him?"
"Just relax for a while, okay? You need rest too." She stood then, glancing out the window that was now letting sun into the room. "The Feds arrived this morning and took Tom Hanks into custody."
"The Feds? You mean the roads are clear?" Blair wondered then what would have happened if they had just waited a few more hours. If Jim hadn't gone down to confront Hanks when he did. But then, if he hadn't waited outside that door as long as he had...
"Yes, they cleared a path sometime last night." Dr Stuart was saying. "For some reason, they knew about Hanks. I guess they were after him, I don't know. And, I don't care. I try to stay out of those things." She sighed, "That's why Eddie and I left the big city and came out here. I thought I left crime back there."
Blair closed his eyes, focusing on the fact that Jim was going to be all right.
"You, get some rest. Your friend was worried about you."
"Yes, when he came around last night they told him you were in surgery. The two of you are quite a pair, you know?"
He laughed a little. "Yeah, I guess so." he replied.
"He's a good friend."
"Yes. Yes he is."
She smiled then and left, shutting the door.
Blair sat back, pushing his head into the pillow. God Jim, I'm sorry. How was he going to make up for this? He was convinced now that Hanks had pulled the trigger because of the electricity that had hit his back. If he had acted sooner, Jim wouldn't have been shot. Maybe if he hadn't even gone to Mr Smyth. Blair had taken a big chance, hoping he had something in his little personal arsenal of toys. What if he hadn't? What if Blair had come back down the elevator and found Jim already dead? How could I be so stupid? All Jim needed was a diversion. He should have simply opened the door when he first found them in there. Jim could have taken out Hanks with a moment's diversion.
Blair's head was beginning to swim with 'what ifs' and he sat up carefully. He was too frustrated to sit still. He was scanning the room when he spotted the crutches against the far wall. Slowly, and with some considerable pain, he eased himself out of bed and over to the crutches. Once there, he had to wait several minutes for his head to clear. He opened the door quietly, checking for any sign of Dr Stuart. When he was convinced the coast was clear, he crossed the hallway to what he had figured out was the only other room in that small aid station. He opened the door and peered in. Jim was there, sitting up in bed, the phone sitting on the bed beside him.
"What are you doing out of bed?" he asked, watching Blair maneuver into the room.
"Shhh!" he said, making his way to the chair beside Jim's bed. "She'll hear you. That woman's got it in for me."
Jim shook his head, "And well she should. Sandburg, do you EVER do what you're told?"
Blair sat down, easing his right foot onto the radiator to raise his throbbing leg. "Have you ever known me to?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"Listen, Jim..." Blair held up a hand to stop his friend from delivering the speech he knew would be coming. "I know you're mad. You have every right to be. And I know.....after this, you might not want me around anymore, but I just had to..."
"What do you mean, not want you around?" Jim interrupted.
"I screwed up big time. This is entirely my fault and I know it"
"Sandburg, what are you talking about?"
"Hanks...you getting shot...this whole mess." Blair replied, trying to convey what he was unable to say without having to say it. "I should have been there sooner. That damn tazer, that's why he shot you. I might as well have pulled the trigger myself." He couldn't meet Jim's eyes then and had to look away. "I mean, if you had died, it would have been my fault. And I don't think I could live with that." He looked up again. Jim was smiling in an odd way. "You're my partner, and I let you down." His friend seemed more than willing to let him continue. "And, you're my friend...and if I had...."
"Listen. First of all, you didn't shoot me, okay Chief?" Jim interjected. "Hanks had me figured out before I even got the chance to talk to him. He was coming up to meet us both when I ran into him downstairs. I misjudged this guy and it's my fault he got the drop on me."
Blair was listening, but he still didn't believe any of this would have happened if he hadn't been so slow to act. "But that gun went off because I fired a tazer into him."
Jim shook his head, "Wrong. That gun went off before you fired." Blair was shaking his head and Jim continued. "Yes, Chief. I'm the Sentinel, remember."
Blair conceded. If Jim wanted to try and make him feel better by convincing him the gun would have fired anyway, he wasn't above letting him think he had.
"That Mr Smyth was really something. Good thing he had those little toys of his around." Jim replied, letting the subject change. "I'm going to have to recommend him to the Department, next time we need some high-tech gadgets."
"Actually, he already supplies the Department with most of his stuff. Remember those protein transmitters a few months back?"
Jim remembered the transmitters, and nearly being killed because of them being discovered. "Don't tell me, he makes those?"
Blair smiled sheepishly, "Well, actually no. He makes the little scanner that detected those."
Jim rolled his eyes. "Great, Sandburg. Just whose side is he on?"
"Ours, Jim. Definitely ours." he paused, looking around the room for a moment. "Jim, listen, when you were lying there...I really thought you might die." He was uncomfortable with the memory and Jim seemed to understand. "I just wanted to say...I really don't know what I would do without you." He looked up then, feeling a little braver with Jim's silence. "I mean, this Sentinel business is one thing. But it's gone beyond that. I mean...I really respect you...not just as a cop, or a Sentinel. It's more...."
"It's about friendship." Jim finished for him.
"Yeah. Exactly." There, he said it. Sort of. At least Jim seemed to understand what he was trying to say. The nagging fear of Jim's rejection, that had been lurking around the back of his mind all these months seemed to fade away.
The phone on Jim's bed rang. "Must be Simon finally calling back." he said as he picked up the receiver.
Blair sat back, listening.
"Simon...Yes, the Feds arrived this morning....No, just Hanks....Yes....No I'm fine. But we're going to be up here a while longer...No, I'm fine Simon, I just can't drive the truck right now...No, that avalanche nearly killed him. And the doctor won't let him out of bed now for a week...No, we'll be fine...Yes. Yes Simon, we'll be fine. Okay." Jim hung up and set the phone back on the bedside table. "Well, looks like we'll finally get that week of rest and relaxation after all."
"Did you tell Simon everything that happened?"
"Everything that mattered Chief."
"He's pretty pissed, isn't he?"
Jim shook his head, smiling. "No, not really. Why should he be?"
Blair opened his mouth to answer, but was interrupted by Dr Stuart's abrupt entrance.
"There you are!" She stormed over to the bed. "I told you to get some sleep." she said, glaring at Jim. "And you. Do I have to chain you to the bed? You get your butt back down that hall...wait, don't you move. Orderly! I need a wheelchair in here. Mr Ellison, don't encourage him." Jim had been laughing at Blair's scolding, then abruptly stopped. "You, get back to your room this instant and STAY there." She pulled Blair by the shoulders into the wheelchair that had been brought in. "Move it mister!"
"Rest and relaxation." Blair said under his breath as he wheeled himself out of Jim's room. Behind him he could hear his Sentinel friend laugh at the remark he was sure to have heard. Then it was his turn to laugh as he heard Dr Stuart begin scolding Jim. "Okay. This I could enjoy."
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