"Jim!" Blair caught his partner, keeping him from falling backwards, but Jim fell to his knees. At the same time, Jessica Simms screamed and dropped her can of mace. "Jim!"
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I thought you were, I mean, I didn't know who..Oh God I'm sorry!" Jessica was kneeling now in front of Jim, looking from him to Blair.
"Jim, come on man, we need to get your eyes washed out." Blair was trying to get his partner back to his feet, but he couldn't lift the larger man. "Get me a first aid kit," he told Jessica. "Now!" She finally looked at him and nodded.
"Yes, there's one in the washroom." She stood and ran down the hall.
"Jim, hang on. Let me see." Blair was trying to pry Jim's hands away from his eyes.
"God, that hurts!"
"I know, man. Just let me see." He pulled at Jim's hands and finally got them apart. The skin around both eyes was flaming red from the irritating spray. Jessica rushed back down the hall and handed Blair the first aid kit. "Come on, Jim, open your eyes. I need to flush them out." Blair removed an eye wash bottle and some gauze, but Jim wasn't opening his eyes.
"I can't." He was still doubled over, holding both eyes tightly shut.
"God, I am so sorry." Jessica was on the floor beside Blair, holding out more gauze. "When the lights went out, then the phones, I just didn't know what was going on. I thought maybe someone was up here. I'm so sorry."
"It's all right," Jim replied, holding up a hand.
"Come on, Jim, just one, okay?" Blair had to reach up and pry the lids open on Jim's right eye."Lean over." He pushed his friend's head slightly to the left, then began to pour the solution across the open eye.
"OW! Sandburg!" Jim flinched, but Blair held on, continuing to pour.
"Come on Jim, we have to flush this out."
"Just let me do it." Jim reached up for the bottle but Blair held on.
"Jim, just sit still for a minute." He continued to flush the eye, then let go. "Now, the other one." He had to force Jim's other eye open and tilt his head to wash it out.
"It's supposed to wear off in twenty minutes." Jessica said, still trying to apologize. "I am so sorry, Detective."
"It's not your fault. I'll be all right."
Blair finished washing out the eye, making a face in response to Jim's complaints. "Actually, it's more like an hour," he said, taking the roll of gauze from Jessica's hand. "And until then, it hurts like hell." He began to wrap both of Jim's eyes.
"Sandburg, I'm all right." Jim tried to push the gauze away.
"Jim, trust me on this. You were a medic, you know this stuff." He continued to wrap Jim's eyes closed. "You need to rest the eyes until they clear up. This is your sight we're talking about here. Why take chances?" Blair finished wrapping a light bandage around Jim's eyes and taped it in place as Jessica handed him small strips of white tape. He knew enough about first aid to know a chemical burn when he saw one. And, having firsthand experience with the spray himself, he knew the kind of pain his stoic friend was in.
"We should call an ambulance or something," Jessica said, gathering up the leftover bandaging. "Oh, the phones."
"Right. And the elevators are out on this level." Jim put a hand on Blair's shoulder and pushed himself up.
Blair tried not to wince as his partner used him for a brace, then stood up and put a hand on his arm. "Come on, Jim, sit down." He guided Jim to the chairs in the waiting room. "What about the cell phone?"
"They don't work in this building. I think it's the computer equipment that interferes." Jessica had taken Jim's other arm and now stood beside him, still holding on.
Blair glanced at her, then released his hold on his partner. "We should just hang out here,
then, until your eyes clear up."
Jim shook his head. "No, that's not such a good idea, Chief. We need to get out and get after Nelson."
"Nelson? You mean the security guard?" Jessica glanced at Blair, then looked up at Jim who still hadn't sat down.
"You'll need to come with us. We can take the stairs down to the 40th floor, then use the elevator."
"Oh, wait. I need to shut down the office and get my purse." Jessica let go of Jim's arm and glanced at Blair. "I'll just be a minute."
Blair watched her go, then turned to Jim. "You don't think he's still in the building, do you?"
Jim shook his head, "No. But we don't want to take any chances with her still here." He reached up and felt his eyes beneath the bandages. "You'll have to be my eyes, partner, until this wears off."
"An hour, huh? Are you speaking from experience?"
Blair laughed and glanced down the hallway that Jessica had walked down. "That's a story for another time." He could see Jim readying a response when Jessica re-appeared.
"Okay, I'm ready." She had changed from her high heels into flat tennis shoes, and wore a small shoulder purse draped over one shoulder and around her neck. "I never wear those torture devices on the streets," she said as she noticed Blair's look. "A girl could break her neck in heels these days."
Blair laughed a little, nodding, and took Jim's arm. "Okay, let's hit the road. How do you feel, Jim?"
"I'll be fine."
Jessica placed a hand on Blair's outstretched arm, then reached for Jim. "That's okay, I can help him." She glanced up at Jim and placed both of her hands around his left arm. "After all, this is all my fault."
Blair just shook his head and turned, leading the way back down the corridor to the stairwell. Keeping it professional? He glanced back once and saw Jessica leading Jim slowly down the hall, smiling up at him the whole time. Great, just great. He can turn anything into a date when he tries. He made a date during their first five minutes at the monastery. He got a date with Wendy the night she announced her job with Cascade evening news. The man was a magnet. Not that Blair had too much trouble, as long as Jim wasn't in the room.
"Okay, nine flights down. You going to be okay here Jim?" Blair was holding the doors to the stairwell open so the pair could pass through ahead of him.
"We'll be fine," Jessica replied.
"Sandburg, take the lead. When we get to the 40th, don't open the door until I check it out."
"Right." Blair stepped in front of them after letting the door close, and began to descend.
"So, you think Mr. Nelson did this? I mean, shut off the power on purpose or something?" Jessica was holding Jim's right arm as they took each step cautiously. "Why would he do such a thing? And the same night that...Oh, goodness, you don't think that...I thought Mr. Conner committed suicide."
Blair was five steps ahead of the pair, trying to keep an eye on Jim and an eye on the stairs.
"It may have been murder, we don't know for sure," Jim replied. "Until we find Nelson, we have to assume the worst. But don't worry, as soon as we get down, we'll get you home safe."
Oh, brother. Blair reached the 44th floor landing and paused, looking back up at Jim. Jessica was holding onto him with both hands, and kept gazing up at him as they spoke. Couldn't be pheromones again, could it? "How are the eyes, Jim?"
Jessica looked at Blair, then up at Jim. "Yes, how do you feel? Maybe we should wash them out again? There's a first aid kit in every washroom, and I could use a trip to the ladies room, come to think of it."
"Sandburg, what floor are we on?"
"44," Blair replied, watching them step down to the landing he was on.
"It will only take a minute, and we should wash those eyes out real good." Jessica reached for the door.
Blair held out a hand. "Jim, hear anything?"
"I don't hear anything," Jessica said, pushing the door open. "The washrooms are next to the elevators, this way."
Before Blair or Jim could stop her, she was pulling him through the doors. Jim just shook his head towards Blair and followed. "It's all right, Sandburg. There's no one there."
Blair rolled his eyes, glancing down the stairwell for a moment, then stepped through the door and followed them down the hall. As the door behind him slammed shut, Jim stopped and turned. "What? Jim, what is it?"
"The door. I think it just locked." Jim started back but Jessica held him.
"Oh my God, I forgot. The doors can be locked from the security station down in the lobby. But that would mean someone was down there."
Blair rushed back to the door and tried it. "Damn. It's locked."
"Do you think Nelson locked them?" she asked, glancing from Blair to Jim. "Is he downstairs, watching us? Are we in danger here, Detective?"
"There's nothing to worry about." Jim reached up and removed the bandage from his eyes, squinting against the light in the corridor.
"Jim..." Blair walked back and took his partner by the arm.
"It's all right, Chief. They're fine now." Jim pushed Blair's arm away and looked around.
"Oh yeah? Then tell me how many fingers I'm holding up." Blair held up a hand, in a fist, "Jim, look at me."
"Sandburg, I'm fine." Jim glanced down at him, but shook his head and pushed Blair's hand away.
"I don't know, Detective, they do look awfully red still." Jessica reached up and put her hand on Jim's chin, pulling his face towards her. "You should let me rinse them out again, just to be sure. I'll go get a kit from the ladies room, be right back."
Jim nodded, waiting until she walked away, then turned to Blair. "We have to get out of this building, Chief. If Nelson's downstairs, it means he didn't get what he wanted from the computer in Conner's office."
"No argument from me, Jim. But if we can't get back in the stairwell, just how do we get down?" Blair was keeping his voice low, glancing up to the security monitor in the hallway. "The elevators don't work, and frankly, if Nelson's controlling them from the lobby, I wouldn't want to get in one."
"I know. We need to get back to the stairs."
"Here you go, Detective. Let's get you in a chair so I can flush your eyes."
Jim held both hands, "No, I think they're fine now." He was blinking and looking around. "Just a little scratchy."
"You sure, Jim? That stuff burns like hell, and your eyes are still red." Blair was trying to get a better look, but Jim wasn't cooperating.
"Jim, you took the full spray straight in the face."
"Excuse me...Do we have a way out of here?" Jessica asked, looking from Jim to Blair. "I mean, can we get an elevator?"
"Let's go see." Jim turned and led the way down the corridor to the row of elevators.
Blair rolled his eyes but didn't argue, following Jessica as she followed Jim. There was no way he was getting into an elevator with Nelson at the controls. Jim stopped at the two doors and pressed both down buttons with no luck. Blair approached and leaned in to Jim,
"You're not serious here, are you?"
"Give me a hand." Jim reached out and began to pry the doors open.
Blair took one side as Jim pulled on the other. The doors opened with some effort, exposing the open shaft. Blair looked down, following the cables with his eyes, until he saw the waiting elevator car several floors down.
"Jessica, I need something to prop these doors open with. A chair, or something I can wedge in here." Jim nodded behind them to an open office. When she nodded and went looking, Jim glanced down the shaft. "How are you at climbing, Chief?"
Blair looked at Jim, then back down the shaft. "Climbing, okay. Falling, really good." He looked back at Jim who was glancing up, then down the open space. "You're not serious."
Jim looked at him as Jessica returned with several coat hangers. "Perfect." He took the hangers and began to wedge them into the sides of the doors, forcing them to remain open.
"Jim, where are we going with this?" Blair moved aside so Jim could wedge his side of the doors open. "Jim?"
"We need to get back into the stairwell, and we can't do it from here. So, maybe the doors on the next floor are still open." He looked into the shaft again. "You just need to go down one floor, and open the doors. If you can get back into the stairwell from there, come up and open this door."
Blair was shaking his head, looking down the shaft again. "You want me to monkey down these cables, to the next floor, and get in through the doors?"
"Yep." Jim looked back to Jessica. "Are there any fire hoses or anything like that in the building?"
"No, just sprinkler systems," she said, glancing at them both. "Why not go down to the 40th and take the elevators from there to the lobby?"
Jim shook his head, "No, I'd rather we stay out of the elevators. The stairs are safer. We just need to get back in." He turned back to Blair. "Look, Chief, there's a service ladder against the near wall here in the shaft, see." He pointed into the shaft and Blair leaned in, seeing the ladder attached to the left-hand wall of the shaft itself. "Just take this down one flight, and check the doors."
"Why me?" Blair asked.
"My vision is still blurred. I'd rather not wait for it to clear up, but if you can't make it down, just say so. I don't want you trying if you're not sure."
"Fine. What do I get if I make it?"
"Respect," Jim replied, smiling. He moved aside so Blair could get through the open doors and reach for the ladder.
"Funny." Blair moved forward and looked at the walls, trying to find a foot hold that
would give him enough reach for the ladder. "Very funny." He found a ledge for his foot and
held on to the doors as he reached into the shaft with his other arm, feeling Jim hold onto his shirt. "You're proud of yourself for that one, aren't you?"
"If you can't get to the stairs on that floor, Chief, you'll need to go down one more." Jim held Blair's arm until he had one foot and a hand on the ladder, then let go so he could swing over completely. "If the doors open, walk back up here and let us into the stairwell. If they don't, open the doors to the shaft and let me know." He glanced at Jessica, then back to Blair. "If you can't get in from there, we'll come down to you. We might have to get to the 40th this way."
"Great. Wonderful." Blair started down the ladder slowly, mumbling to himself well within a Sentinel's hearing.
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