"How could this happen Simon? He was in a holding cell. Where was the officer in charge?"
"I said I didn't know, Jim. Now calm down. It's being investigated."
Blair heard voices, somewhere in the distance. It was dark, and he felt like he was floating, hearing the voices drift across the wind. He didn't want to join them, so he just listened, allowing himself to remain in that soft darkness.
"You know these things can happen pretty quick with a group like that."
"I don't understand why he was put in there in the first place. There was another cell. God, Simon, he wasn't even in there for an hour."
"I know Jim. I said we're looking into it."
The voices seemed to be getting closer. Or was he drifting towards them? The side of his face was beginning to throb, and there was a distant memory of pain creeping back into his stomach. The pain began to increase as the voices drew near. His stomach hurt, but not from being sick. He could taste blood in his mouth, down his throat. He vaguely remembered something striking him, over and over in the abdomen.
"The bail you posted was approved, you can take him home when they release him. Are you sure you can handle this case? I shouldn't let you."
"I can handle it, Simon."
"I could get in trouble for this, you're too involved. But, there's no one else available. And I think it's safe to say, with the evidence stacking up, Sandburg's best chance is with you on the case."
Blair didn't want to get any closer to the voices. The pain was building again. He wanted to pull his legs up, to curl into a ball and hug himself against the throbbing, but to do that required stomach muscles that didn't want to be used.
"Doctor, how is he?"
"Lucky." Blair didn't feel lucky. A third voice moved closer, and he felt hands touching him. "The x-rays are clear, no broken bones. No internal bleeding. Very lucky."
Blair still didn't feel lucky. The voices were clear now, as was the stabbing pain in his gut.
"He's going to be very sore for some time, but I think we can send him home in another 24 hours."
Blair heard someone moan softly, then there was a hand on his shoulder and he realized it had been him. He didn't want to open his eyes, didn't want to acknowledge the fact that he was in a hospital. That would mean he hadn't been dreaming it all. That he hadn't just eaten Chinese food with too much MSG and had a bad night.
"Mr Sandburg, just lie still." The third voice was leaning over him. He moaned again, turning his head away in an effort to return to the floating darkness. "He'll be drifting in and out for a few hours." Why couldn't he drift out again? His stomach hurt with each breath, and his face and jaw were throbbing.
"I've got to get back to the station. Jim, keep me informed. I'll check on this little incident myself."
"Thank you, Simon."
Blair reluctantly opened his eyes then, seeing a blurred image of Simon leaving the room he was in. There was a man in a white coat standing over him, and someone else farther back. Jim?
"Mr Sandburg, you've taken quite a beating. Just lie still. You're going to be fine. Do you understand?"
Blair tried to speak but his mouth was dry, and his split lip too sore to move. He simply nodded then, trying to focus his vision on the man at the far end of the room. He wanted Jim closer. Nothing was going to be fine until Jim told him it was all over, all a bad dream. He swallowed against the dryness and a wet cloth was touched to his lips by a nurse he hadn't even seen. Gratefully he swallowed the water that dripped into his mouth. He wanted to take a deep breath, so he could call to Jim, make him come closer, but when he tried, pain stabbed into his stomach again and he had to close his eyes tightly against it.
"He needs to rest, Detective. If you'd like to come back tonight, I'm sure he'll be feeling better."
"Okay, thanks Doc."
"Hang in there, Sandburg, I'll be back."
He forced his
tired eyes open just as the door was shutting behind his friend. Something pricked
his arm and he quickly fell away, back into the fluffy darkness.
There was a knock on the door and Blair opened his eyes, not sure if he had really heard anything.
"Come in." His voice cracked, and he could barely manage any volume. It was late in the afternoon, and he was hoping Jim would come by soon. They'd kept him drugged through most of the day but he had been awake now for nearly an hour. He was sitting with the bed propped up so he could wrap both arms protectively around his stomach. Somehow he had managed to bend his knees and bring them closer too, for added protection against the constant, throbbing pain. The look on Jim's face as he entered the room told him he must look as good as he felt.
"Hey, Chief. How are you feeling?" Jim crossed the room and stood at the side of the bed. He reached out and touched Blair's jaw, turning his head gently towards him for a better look at the purple bruises there.
"Tell me this is all over, and I'll tell you I feel fine." Blair replied. His voice was pretty quiet, but he knew Jim could hear him.
"Blair, about what happened, in the holding cell. It's being investigated. Did Officer Nelson....?"
Blair held up a hand, "No, Jim. Just let it go, okay?"
"I can't do that, Chief. And why would I? You were in custody. There's a protection issue here. Prisoners are not supposed to get beaten up in the Precinct building."
"No, Jim. Please, just let it go."
Jim shook his head. "Why?"
Blair cautiously took a deep breath, just enough to hold a sentence. "Jim, these guys, they're your friends....not mine," he replied, pausing for another breath. "They tolerate me, for your sake." Jim was still shaking his head. "Yes, Jim. I'm not stupid, I know how they feel. Last night I was a cop to the guys in the cell, and a criminal to the cops. Just let it go, please?" His friend looked away for a moment, locating a chair. When he pulled one up next to the bed and sat down, his face was even with Blair's. "It's not over yet, Chief. But you don't have to go back. They'll let you out of here tomorrow morning and you can come home."
"For how long?" he asked. "Jim, what the hell's going on? I don't understand any of this." He had to stop then. Speaking used more muscles than he had ever realized before.
"Someone has you framed, and it's pretty good." Jim replied, almost admiringly, Blair thought. "Don't worry, we've been in thicker than this. Remember Jack?"
Blair nodded. But it was Jim who'd been a suspect then, not Blair. This was too personal.
"I've been to the University today. This Kathy Fisher, she didn't care much for her Professor did she?"
Blair shook his head, "Not exactly. He was a hard man to get to like." he replied, trying and failing to add volume to his voice. "Reminded me of Simon."
Jim laughed a little. "Yeah, well. Some people are like that. I hear she was his research assistant for the past eight months. Why stay with someone like that for so long?"
"The research." Blair replied with a shrug. "You'd be amazed what you can put up with in the name of research, if that's your field."
"That's not some Sentinel crack, is it Chief?" Jim was smiling. Blair tried to respond in kind, but smiling hurt his face too much. He knew his sharp intake of breath was noticed. "Listen, get some rest. They said I can pick you up in the morning, take you home." Jim stood, pushing the chair back where he found it. "This investigation is just beginning. Don't worry Blair, we'll get this straightened out. Trust me."
"I do, Jim." Blair replied quietly. "I'm just a little scared, you know?"
Jim looked at him, "I know, Chief. I know." He put a hand on Blair's shoulder for a moment, then left the room.
Blair watched him go, half wishing he'd stay, but sleep was creeping up on him again and he didn't want to deny it. They had him drugged up most of the day, and he had just been given another shot prior to Jim's arrival. The pain was manageable when he stayed perfectly still, but he didn't want to stay still. He wanted to go with Jim back to the University. Back to the crime scene. Somewhere, somehow, there was something there to find that would clear his name. Would Jim find it without him there? Of course he would. Jim Ellison had been a Detective longer than he had been a Sentinel. At least, longer than he had known he was a Sentinel. Blair was just a Guide. How important was that to police work? He wanted Jim to come back, tell him he was needed at the scene. What would Jim do if he was in prison? Stupid, he'd go back to work. But Jim didn't always think to use his Sentinel senses on the job. Was that because Blair was necessary, or because Jim wanted him to feel necessary? And if he hadn't gone to Peru, would Jim have followed the panther? Or would he have denied his senses and gone back to being James Ellison, cop? Leaving the Sentinel behind. God, where would he be now if he had gone to Borneo? He would be happily studying somewhere with Dr Stoddard. But that would have meant not only leaving Jim, but leaving his Sentinel research as well. A research that he believed in, that he was basing his career on. Research that Professor Wilson had called 'absurd'. What was he going to do if they sent him to prison? He couldn't survive another day in the holding cell, what would prison be like? He wasn't foolish enough to think he could ever live through that. He had to trust his friend would get him out of this.
"I do, Jim." he whispered, just as sleep overtook him.
Jim unlocked the door to the loft and pushed it open, putting a hand on Blair's back to usher him gently inside. He had picked up his partner at the hospital early that morning, and wanted to get him settled in at home before going in to the Precinct. Blair was walking slowly, and kept an arm wrapped around his stomach.
"Bed, or the couch?" Jim asked as he closed the door. Blair walked straight to the couch and began slowly lowering himself down.
"I'm fine Jim, thanks." he replied. "I'm out on bail, aren't I?"
Jim crossed the room and pulled a blanket and two pillows from a chest, then began stuffing the pillows behind his friend's back as he settled in on the couch. "Yep. Don't worry about it Chief, we'll get this figured out before anything else happens. You'll stay here until then."
Blair wasn't protesting the pillows, but set the blanket Jim was unfolding off to the side. "I'm fine, Jim. Thanks."
"How about something to eat? Coffee?" Jim passed the couch and walked to the kitchen, flipping on the switch to the coffee pot he had filled before going to get Blair.
"Jim, what's going on? What have you found out?"
He could hear Blair trying not to use much air when he spoke. Jim had been angered with the sight of his friend in the hospital room when he arrived. The bruises on his neck, the split lip, and the slow, deliberate way he was walking, reminded Jim of what had happened just a few floors down from his own office. He wanted Blair to explain what he had meant about the officers at the Precinct, but he didn't want to upset Blair further with that discussion. He was going to make sure those responsible were held in account. "How about some eggs?"
"Jim, come on."
"Okay Chief, okay." Jim returned to the couch with two cups of coffee, handing one to Blair. "You've been framed, that's obvious. And it's a good one, but we'll figure it out." he sat down in the chair next to the couch so as not to jostle his friend. "And, it's someone who didn't know you work with me. There's no way any partner of mine would be stupid enough to use a spear from his own office, then put it right back on the wall, blood and all."
Blair shook his head, smiling a little. "Thanks, Jim."
"So, we just have to find out who hated Wilson enough to off him. Why they did, and why they felt the need to frame you for it."
"That's what I don't understand. I mean, Wilson had few friends, but murder?"
Jim glanced at his watch. "Hey, I gotta get going. You going to be okay? Do you need anything? Are you sure you're not hungry? "
"No, Jim. I'm fine. I just need to get out of this mess, that's all."
"Don't worry Chief, I'm on the case." He dumped the rest of his coffee down the sink and rinsed out his cup. "You sure you don't want something to eat? I can fix some eggs real quick."
"No, thanks. I'm not hungry." Blair reached out for the blanket now and pulled it over his legs and body, hugging his abdomen with both arms.
"Okay Chief. I better get going."
"Hey Jim, I don't understand. How can I be out on bail if there was no arraignment?"
"There was. Suspects don't have to be present to be arraigned." Jim pulled on his coat and grabbed the keys, moving the phone to within easy reach on the coffee table. "Happens all the time. Simon got the DA to take it to night-court, then I posted bail that night."
"Bail? What does a prime suspect go for these days?"
Jim adjusted the collar of his jacket. "Don't worry about it, Sandburg. You're not skipping out, and when we arrest the murderer, I'll get the money back. Just sit there and get some rest." He left then, before Blair could voice the protest Jim could see forming in his eyes. He had to put up his truck against the bail bond, but there was just no way he was going to let them keep Blair in jail while he found the killer. Having to handcuff his partner and take him down to the officer's in Central Booking had been one of the hardest things he had ever done. But Simon was right. They needed to play everything by the book if they were going to secure Blair's permanent release.
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