Blair climbed into the truck and leaned back, closing both eyes with a tired sigh. Why Jim was fighting him on this, he didn't know. Well, he did know, really. But he needed this. Anthony Giovanni had taken from him something he could never get back, and had nearly ended his world with one well-placed bullet. For the first time in Blair's life, he wanted a man dead. At least he thought he did.
"Jim, I'm sorry I tried to talk you out of that trial." He glanced at his partner while they drove home. "I know you better than that, man. You'd never have given up."
"Sandburg, that wasn't you." Jim glanced at him, then focused his attention back on the road. "You'd been told to do whatever it took to keep me out of the courtroom. I knew you weren't being yourself, that's what helped put the pieces together."
"When this is over, I want that week back, Jim." Blair looked out the windshield, daring the city to deny him that right.
"We'll talk about it."
"Jim--" Blair was silenced by a raised hand. His partner was staring intently at their building as he parked the truck outside.
"We've got company." Jim lifted the microphone attached to his shirt closer to his mouth. "Captain, he's upstairs."
Blair reached for the doorknob, but a hand on his arm gripped tightly.
"You stay here!"
He turned, ready to argue, but the look in Jim's eyes stopped anything Blair could have said. Instinct, and a deep need for his partner to be right, kept Blair where he was, nodding slightly. All he could do was watch as Jim, Simon, and Agents Morrison and Bent made their way quickly toward the building, using the cover of early evening darkness to hide them from any watchful eye in the loft above.
Only the eyes they were after weren't upstairs.
"Don't make a sound."
The door was pulled open with such suddenness, Blair had no time to react. A gun was pressed into the side of his neck and he was pulled from the truck. He found himself facing a familiar man, taller than him, with black hair and thick eyebrows, and a gun aiming between his eyes. Giovanni glanced up at the loft across the street, then took a fistful of Blair's shirt and pulled him forward, propelling him into a darkened doorway.
Blair stumbled forward, then grabbed the doorframe and turned, anger and a burst of memory demanding attention. "They know you're here, there's no way out now."
Giovanni reached out and shoved Blair through the door. "We'll see about that."
The door led into an empty shop, vacant for the past two months since the little card shop moved downtown. Blair stepped into the open room, trying to adjust his eyes to the darkness and listen for signs of Jim. There must have been other men in the loft, decoys. Jim would have figured that out right away, and was probably closing in now.
"That's far enough."
He turned, facing a man he now recognized. Flashes of things Blair had seen in a dream-like state came back with dizzying clarity. Flashes of lights; nausea; thick, black eyebrows hovering over dull, lifeless eyes that held his gaze relentlessly. A voice that wasn't Eli Stoddard, insisting that it was. A face that Blair had never seen before, insisting they were good friends. Demanding Blair do as he was told. It was a lie. The entire week, everything he did and said and remembered, all a lie. A fabrication of this man.
"Your uncle was right. This new business of yours didn't work." Blair could see slightly better now that his eyes had adjusted to the moonlight streaming in through dirty blinds. Anthony Giovanni was an imposing figure, straight out of a Godfather film. The gun he held was steady, aimed at Blair's head with no sign of uncertainty.
"Oh, I think it worked fine, for a virgin company." Giovanni shrugged, smiling at Blair from three feet away. "I'll just have to pick my subjects with more care next time. But, these things you learn."
Blair shook his head, thoughts of Jim fading. He wanted this man, and if he could get that gun away, it would be so easy. "It was you I told all those things to about my partner, wasn't it?"
A smile broke across Giovanni's face, displaying perfect, bright teeth. "Indeed. And a very interesting conversation it was. A Sentinel, you called him."
Blair's blood ran cold for an instant, a shiver coursing down his spine.
"I thought you were off your rocker for a while, I have to admit." He shrugged again, smiling at Blair. "But then I did some checking. You're not the simple grad student I took you for, studying the life of Cascade's police force. Very interesting indeed. I might find a use for Detective Ellison in the future. I was considering the potential of the pair of you, but now..."
"You remember what I said about him?" Blair's eyes darted to a point behind Giovanni, then back again. "How he can see in the dark?"
For one instant, Giovanni's hand wavered. "Ah, but you forget, he's upstairs trying to figure out which of my men might be me."
Blair shook his head slowly, nodding toward the window. "He knew you were here all along. They just needed you to say enough before he could arrest you."
"That's very clever." Giovanni nodded, but inched toward the window all the same, glancing out and up to see the loft windows. "Now I have one for you, since we're playing games." He moved away from the blinds and waved the gun in the air. "Do you recall everything from our week together? Shall I help you remember?"
Pain, fear, injections that made him sickeningly dizzy, and Giovanni's face constantly in view. "I don't think you'll have time." With a calm Blair never knew he could have, he glanced into the darkness behind his tormentor, then casually looked back at him in time to catch the slight hesitation.
Lunging the short distance, Blair knocked the gun away while Giovanni's attention, however briefly, was directed into the darkness, looking for a man who wasn't there. Both men fell to the floor and the gun skittered across the tile floor, slamming into the far wall. Blair was up first, but Giovanni was quicker, catching Blair right over the eye with the back of his fist. As he fell back slightly, Blair reached out and found Giovanni's coat, pulling him off balance as he was moving toward the lost weapon. With a shout of anger, Blair swung hard, his fist slamming into the larger man's jaw. Both men were knocked apart by the blow, and Giovanni was first to his feet, running to the gun. Blair was right behind him, but not quick enough. He stopped when he saw the gun once again pointed at his chest, the finger pulling back on the trigger.
But the explosion came from beside him, not in front. Giovanni's shirt moved with the wind of the bullet that slammed into his chest and burst through the other side. Blair watched as the man, or what was left of him, slid quietly to the floor. The eyes that were haunting his mind now stared lifeless from below, a silent, unsatisfying ending to the torture Blair was just beginning to remember.
"Let me look at that, Chief." Jim was beside him, a hand on his chin, trying to look at the cut over his right eye.
"Ow!" The pain of Giovanni's blow over Blair's already wounded forehead brought him out of his shocked silence.
"Hang on." Jim looked him over, then stared into his eyes. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah." Blair nodded, then looked at the body again. "I told him you were here."
"I know, I heard you." Jim rested a hand on Blair's head for a moment, knelt down over Giovanni. "From upstairs."
"Upstairs?" The reality of what he'd done came crashing down, but his reaction was postponed by the sudden entrance of Simon and both FBI agents, guns drawn. Blair stared at the Captain for a moment, then swallowed hard and looked at Jim.
"Ellison! Are you two all right?" Simon lowered his gun when he saw the blood covered body on the floor.
Jim stood, nodding. "We're fine, Captain."
"You were supposed to take him alive, Detective." Morrison's stern look was easy to see in the dim light as he glared from Jim to Blair and back again.
"It was a justified shooting." Jim holstered his gun and stepped over the body back to Blair's side. "He was going to kill my partner."
"Give it a rest, Larry." Agent Bent put his gun away and looked at the body. "It's over."
Jim put a hand on Blair's shoulder and they stepped away from the blood-stained corner. It was over. Well, not really. There was still the forensics team that had to come out, and reports to be made while everything was taped off, bagged up and tagged. Then there were the two decoys Jim and Simon had arrested in the loft. They had to be brought in. Statements had to be taken, evidence had to be cataloged and guns turned in for the formality of reporting in triplicate.
By the time it really was over, the sun was crawling over the city, wiping clean what had happened the night before. Wearily, Blair made his way into the loft, following Jim, who seemed only slightly more awake than he was. Neither man had the energy to talk about anything until they had eaten what amounted to breakfast and were contemplating bed from the couch, both of them resting tired heads against the back cushion.
"I'm sorry about all of this, Chief. The case didn't even involve you"
"Jim, I'm your partner. Anything that affects you involves me." Blair's statement was directed at the ceiling, but then he turned and met Jim's eyes. "When I saw him, I started to remember that week."
Jim closed his eyes for a moment, sighing, then looked at Blair. "What do you remember?"
Blair was again looking at the ceiling, trying hard to remember the details while praying he couldn't. He opened his mouth twice to explain to Jim the feelings, the dizziness and fear, the abject terror he had reached before it all got confusing. But each time he tried, the lump forming in his throat stopped him. "It was him, not Dr. Stoddard." Still looking at the ceiling fan, Blair felt Jim's hand rest on his leg, imparting a much needed reassurance. He took that comfort and faced his friend again. "I told him about you. Everything. He said at first he didn't believe me, but then he checked it out."
Jim patted Blair's thigh. "It's okay, Chief."
"No, Jim, he knew. He understood what you can do." Blair sat up, trying to make Jim understand the importance of what had nearly happened. "He said he was going to find a way to use you in the future." Didn't he understand how bad this could have been?
Jim sighed, then sat up. "Sandburg, he didn't. It's over, remember? Giovanni's dead, Burgini's in the hands of the FBI and probably won't last a month testifying against his rivals. You're okay, I'm okay. It's over, Chief."
Blair shook his head and looked out the windows at the sun now blazing through a light blue winter sky. Jim never seemed to linger on things that could have shattered his entire world. Once they were over, it was done. It was a habit that mystified Blair, not so much the reasoning behind it, but the ease with which he made it happen. Some days, he wondered if he'd ever achieve half his friend's outlook.
"You were right about one thing." Blair looked at his hands for a moment, pondering last night's conversation. "Remembering that week didn't help."
Jim watched him for a minute. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No." Adamantly, Blair shook his head. He looked at Jim, meeting blue eyes that held more understanding than he'd ever seen before. Running a hand through his hair, he shrugged. "Not right now, anyway."
"Fair enough." Jim sat up, then yawned. "I'm gonna get some sleep. I suggest you do too."
"Listen, Chief, when you're ready to talk about this, if you need me for anything, I'm here."
He looked up again and tried to smile. "Thanks, Jim."
"I mean it. I'm always here, partner."
Blair stood with Jim and reached out, placing a hand on his friend's arm. "I know, Jim. Thanks."
"Get some sleep." With a returning touch and a nod toward Blair's room, Jim moved around the living room to close the shades, blocking out the sun that was insisting the time for sleep had passed.
Blair yawned his way to his room, shedding clothes as he went. As he fell onto the soft mattress, Jim's words stayed with him. I'm always here. He'd been there, in the dark shop, while Giovanni was taunting Blair. He was sure of it! How else could Blair have been brave enough to take that man on, giving his friend the break he'd need to take him down? But Jim said he'd heard Blair from above, in the loft. And yet...Blair was certain he'd felt Jim with him.
He sighed, pulling a blanket over his tired body, and closed his eyes. Whatever mystery last night held, it would have to wait. There were other things in line to be worked out. His lost week that was coming back had to be dealt with. Then there was his entire mental image of having told Eli all about Jim. He still wanted to do that, somehow. And the little problem of him having made an ass of himself in the Station yet again.
Wondering how he could have been so certain of Jim's presence at a time when he supposedly wasn't there would just have to wait. A little while.
Failed to execute CGI : Win32 Error Code = 2