by Kristine Williams
"I know, Chief." Jim sat down in one of only two comfortable chairs in the hotel room, protecting his aching ribs with one arm held close to his body. "If I'm right, it explains a few things. Like the needle marks on your arm."
Suddenly remembering them, Blair stopped the pacing he'd started and pulled up his right sleeve, seeing again the bruising and marks there. Another chill ran down his spine, just as a multitude of others had coursed their way from his confused mind through his aching body, since he watched himself in a dream-like state pull Jim's revolver from the desk, take careful aim, and shoot.
"Jim, there's more to this than just the Burgini trial." Blair turned to face his friend, then had to turn again as anxious feet demanded movement.
"Jim, I spoke with Dr. Stoddard. Only you said he wasn't there." Blair reached the end of the room and turned, glancing at Jim as he redirected his movement. "So if he wasn't there, then just who in the hell did I talk to about you?" The question was emphasized by his pause in front of Jim's chair. Before his partner could answer, he was back on the move. "And if it wasn't Dr. Stoddard all that time, and I was talking to this Giovanni person, then, man, we have got problems here, Jim!"
"I told him all about the research, Jim. I told him about what you can do, and how it works so well on the job." Blair added a hand gesture to each point, determined his friend see the seriousness of the situation. "I told him all about your edge, even the things that can interfere with it." To bring his point home, Blair stopped pacing, staring at Jim.
"Chief, let's not jump to any conclusions just yet, okay? We're both tired, and sore, and right now lucky to be alive. Now, it could very well be that you were simply made to believe you had spoken with Dr. Stoddard about your work. If they were trying to program you to assassinate me, then learning what they could from you wasn't a high priority. Right?"
Reluctantly, and with some hope, Blair nodded.
"All right, then. The first thing to remember is, it didn't work. You didn't kill me, and you're still alive. So whatever he did, it's over. Now that we've figured him out, we're on the offensive."
Blair sighed, rubbing his forehead. The headache he'd been trying to ignore was getting more and more insistent. "I dunno, man. The realities of this are just coming in, you know?" He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up, only then realizing he'd sat down on the edge of one of the beds. Jim was beside him, looking down.
"I know, Chief. Are you going to be okay to sleep tonight? What did the doctor say?"
"I don't remember. I was too busy trying to make him tell me what happened to you." Blair's glance paused at the right side Jim was protecting. "Are you okay, really?"
"I'm fine." Jim gave Blair's shoulder a gentle squeeze and walked to the other bed, sitting down with some effort. "Just some bruises. Good thing Simon made me put that vest on."
"God, Jim. I could have killed you." How often had he said that since meeting the man? Taking a deep breath, Blair remembered one of Jim's favorite sayings: Anything you lived through was a good thing. Well, maybe not a good thing, but survived at least. He was not going to let his mind run wild with this! "Okay, how do we know there wasn't some kind of contingency plan or something? What if there's something else I'm supposed to do?"
"No, you'd know about it now, Chief." Jim turned to Blair, but remained on the bed. "We did some of this in Covert Ops. One of the men was trained in planting suggestions and some basic psychological programming techniques, to put it simply."
Simply. How could anything like this be simple? Blair turned more on the bed to face Jim.
"After the task has been exposed, and the subject realizes what's happening, it's over."
"Yeah, that makes sense." He nodded, then reached up to rub his throbbing forehead around the bandage. "That's why some people can't be hypnotized, they can't give in to it."
"And you meditate all the time, making it pretty easy for someone using the right drugs to get into that head of yours."
Jim's words were delivered softly, and without malice, but the guilt and anger they drove home were sure enough. "I guess I made a pretty convenient target."
"Don't, Blair, it wasn't your fault. I've seen trained men fall victim to worse. Besides, if I had read that postcard sooner, or put this all together before you got my gun out of the desk, I could have talked you out of this, just like before."
"Yeah, well, what do we do now? I mean, can we go after this Giovanni guy, or what?" God, his head hurt! Why couldn't Jim have talked the gun out of his hand this time, too? If only it hadn't happened so quickly. Humiliation, he could handle. At least last time, he never pulled the trigger. Not at Jim.
"What we do right now is get some sleep. Then tomorrow, we talk to the Department shrink and see what we can find out."
"Make me remember what really happened, you mean?" Blair nodded slightly, still rubbing his forehead.
"Something like that." Jim kicked off his shoes and sighed again. "Listen, Chief, I won't lie to you. Unless we can come up with some hard evidence, or get Burgini to cooperate in some way, there's a good chance we'll have nothing to go after Giovanni with."
Blair gave in to the pounding in his head and fell back on the bed. Staring up at the ceiling, he pondered the truth. "Without physical evidence, there's no case." He heard Jim move on the bed beside him, but there was no reply. "But his plan didn't work, did it? You're not dead, which means you can still testify." Blair turned to look at his partner. "So does that mean he'll try again?"
"Maybe." Jim shrugged, then very carefully got up.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'll be fine, Chief." Jim put a hand on Blair's shoulder, and was about to say more when the phone rang. "That must be Simon." He took a few steps to the phone, then turned and pointed back at Blair. "I want you to sit down and take it easy. Whatever happens next, isn't gonna happen tonight."
Nodding, Blair stayed where he was and listened to the only side of the conversation he could hear.
"Ellison. Yes, Simon, we're fine. What? He'll cooperate now? I want to talk to him. All right, fine, tomorrow then. I know, we've talked about that. Yeah, she can help him remember, for what good that'll do. Good night, Simon."
"What did he say?"
Jim glanced at Blair, then walked to the bathroom. "He wants you to talk to Dr. Gates tomorrow."
"The Station shrink?"
Jim nodded, then entered the bathroom, making Blair wait until he was finished.
"What good will that do, Jim?" Blair asked as his partner came back, still drying his hands. "If we can't use anything but hard evidence against Giovanni, how will making me remember things help?"
Jim walked to the other side of the bed, and began to unbutton his shirt. "We might not need evidence now, Chief." He pulled off the shirt and unbuttoned his jeans, kicking off both shoes as he did. "Burgini wants to make a deal. He wants to testify against his nephew."
"Then he knows. You were right about what Giovanni did, and he knows about it."
"Looks that way." Jim ran a hand over his hair, then rubbed his eyes and looked over at Blair. "We'll get him, Chief."
Blair nodded, his mind beginning to spin almost as badly as his vision had when he stood. He began to undress as well, trying to find the answer to a question nagging at him from somewhere.
"Just get some rest. Things might make more sense in the morning." Jim got into bed but settled the pillows up against the headboard and sat up. "The doctor said you had a slight concussion, so I'm going to wake you every few hours. You'd better try and get as much sleep as you can."
"What about you, Jim?" Blair pulled off his shirt, then kicked off his shoes.
"I'm not tired. Not yet, anyway. There's too much about this case that needs to be worked out." Jim shook his head and smiled tiredly. "Get some rest, Chief. We'll need access to what's in that head of yours tomorrow."
Blair replied with a sigh, and started to unbutton his jeans. Then the question finally clarified. "Jim, we can't talk to Dr. Gates. She'll find out about you."
Jim rubbed his eyes again, not looking up. "What are you talking about?"
"Jim, your Sentinel abilities." Blair moved closer to the side of the bed, suddenly realizing why a simple visit to a psychologist was worrying him so badly. "If I tell her what I was telling Giovanni, or whoever did this, she'll think I'm nuts!"
"Sandburg, everyone at the Station thinks you're nuts."
"No, look, I am serious here, Jim. I just may have told a major crime boss more details about your Sentinel abilities than even you know. God knows what kind of trouble that might have caused. We can't risk someone else finding out. She'd either believe me and report it, ask too many questions; or worse, have me declared unfit and get my Observer credentials taken away."
That finally got Jim's attention.
"See? We have to find another way, Jim."
"What do you mean, more than even I know?"
Oh, man, that was not the point! As both a diversionary tactic and because having raised his voice slightly made his head pound, Blair brought one hand up to press against his forehead for a moment. That gave his answer just the amount of time it needed. "I've got it!"
"Got what, Chief?"
"You. You can help me remember." Blair's hands reflected his discovery, trying to convey that confidence to his friend. "Just like when I helped you remember what you heard on the answering machine that time Jack called you. It's that easy, Jim."
"I don't know about that, Chief." Jim shook his head, holding up a hand. "You knew what you were doing."
"And so do you." Blair nodded to counteract Jim's negative reaction. "Yes, you do, Jim. You know what you need to look for. As a cop, you know what they probably did, when, where, how, all of that. I can get myself into a relaxed state, then you just have to guide me through it."
"No." Jim shook his head again, holding both hands up to emphasize his point. "Sandburg, what you're talking about is not something you just sit down and guide someone through. I could accidentally plant suggestions in your mind, or take you someplace dangerous. Or even trigger something."
"No, Jim, it will be fine. All you have to do is walk me to the beginning, then take clues from what I tell you. Come on, man, you're a detective. And you said you knew about this from your time in Covert Ops. You know what to do here, Jim." Blair paused, seeing his words have some effect on his partner's face. "I trust you."
Jim's jaw clenched as his face reflected a struggle. Finally, he flipped the blankets off his legs and swung them off the side of the bed, facing Blair. "Listen, we might not need to go through this. If Burgini is going to cooperate, he can give us something to go on. We won't get any hard evidence from you anyway, Chief, so why put yourself through this?"
"Jim, I've lost a week of my life."
"I know." Jim stood and walked to the wall where the light switch was, plunging their room into night.
Blair watched as his partner walked back to the beds, his eyes straining to adjust to the moonlight streaming in through the large windows. "Jim, we can't just let this go. I can't just let this go."
Jim stood next to Blair, putting one hand on his shoulder. "Sandburg, we aren't letting anything go. We'll get him, I promise." He smiled, almost sadly, then sat down on the bed and nodded toward the other one. "Now, get some rest."
Shaking his head, Blair sat down automatically. "Jim, I've lost a week of my life. I have memories that aren't real. I tried to kill you because someone somewhere told me to try, and I don't know why!" He stared at Jim, defying him to deny his own right to the thoughts inside his head. Surely Ellison, of all people, understood this!
"I understand what you're going through." Jim paused, closing his eyes for a moment. "Listen to me, Chief. Someone stole one week of your life, and replaced that week with memories of things that didn't happen. They used drugs, and all kinds of techniques I don't even want to describe to you, and they planted the suggestion that you should kill me."
Blair felt his jaw tensing uncontrollably. Anger welled up inside that needed an outlet, but he was trapped there, sitting on the side of the bed facing Jim.
"It sucks, and there's nothing we can do to change what they did. Trying to remember how they did it isn't going to help."
"And there's nothing that can bring that week back, Blair."
The anger flared in both cheeks, burning his face with impotent rage. He knew Jim was wrong. There had to be a way to get that week back. There had to be a way to replace the false memory of all those hours with Dr. Stoddard, with the truth.
"Sandburg, I know this isn't what you want to hear."
"No, Jim, it isn't what I want to hear." Blair's anger shot through his feet and he stood, intending to pace the life out of the hotel carpet, but Jim reached out and took his arm, stopping his forward motion.
"Blair, I can tell you what you'll remember."
He stopped, turning to look at Jim. His partner's gaze was intense, compelling him to listen.
"I can tell you that they kept you someplace for 4 or 5 days, drugged you, told you what to do, then erased what they'd done with memories they gave you."
Jim's voice was harsh, and so cold it sent shivers down Blair's spine, but it wasn't anger chilling his tone. There was nothing of his voice or words that spoke of anything but an urgency for Blair to understand something that couldn't be changed.
"Nothing will bring back that week, or take away what they did." Jim released Blair's arm and looked at him a moment. "If I can protect you from that memory, then I will."
All of the anger coloring Blair's face drained down through the floor as he stood there, looking at his friend. The intensity of his eyes had changed to a look he'd seen before only occasionally. It was a look that reminded Blair there was still a part of Jim Ellison he didn't know, and perhaps never would. While that look didn't frighten him, Blair still sat down, all thoughts of pacing the room to death lost to the truth just told to him by someone who knew it all too well.
"Did you do this to anyone?"
The silence only lasted a moment. Jim nodded, looking at Blair. "I helped do it. One of the men in my unit was trained in the detailed work. The rest of us were backup."
Blair's head began to pound again, adding to the numbness filling his mind. All of his frustration and anger abandoned him then, leaving a cold, tired feeling in its place. "You said if he'd planted any other suggestions, I'd know, right?"
Jim nodded. "Once you've realized what happened, the illusion is broken."
"So I can't hurt you again?"
"It's over, Chief." Jim's hand rested again on Blair's knee, trying to impart a physical reassurance. "You can't hurt me, or yourself."
"No." Blair shook his head, but waited until Jim's hand left his leg before swinging both up onto the bed. "It isn't over until somebody pays."
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