"Sandburg!" Jim knelt beside Blair on the floor. He seemed to be coming around, so Jim reached around behind his partner's head and untied the cloth gagging him. The blood was once again flowing freely down the side of his face. "Sandburg, come on, wake up." Blair moaned and moved his head to the side. Jim turned, still tightly focused through the darkness, and located Nelson's body. The ex-cop was unconscious from the bullet that had grazed his head, so Jim dug through his pockets until he found the keys to the handcuffs around Blair's wrists. "Come on, Chief." Jim eased Blair onto his side so he could reach his hands and unlocked the cuffs, then brought both of Blair's arms gently out from under him as he placed him once again on his back.
"Wha...what happened?" Blair stirred as Jim was removing the handcuffs.
"Hang on, buddy, you'll be fine." He pocketed the cuffs and turned his attention back to Blair. "Just stay still."
"Jim? I can't...I can't see." Blair tried to raise his head, then grimaced and reached a hand up to his forehead.
"It's okay, it's okay." Jim placed a hand under his partner's head to support him. "It's too dark in here to see. You're fine."
"What happened?" Blair stopped trying to move, and lay still, letting his head rest against Jim's hand.
"It's all over." Jim paused, listening. He could hear voices, muffled from the distance, coming up the stairs down the hallway. "Nelson and Jessica aren't going anywhere. It's over." He focused again as the voices drew nearer, then was able to make out Simon's shouts coming towards the doorway. "Simon! In here." The door from the stairway opened and flashlight beams began to probe the darkness, approaching from the far end of the corridor.
"In here, Simon."
"What happened to the lights?"
Simon and several other officers entered the office, shining their lights all around the room. The Captain noticed the unconscious forms of Jessica Simms and Nelson, then moved over to Jim and Blair and knelt down. "Sandburg, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Blair said, somewhat tiredly.
"He'll be all right, Simon. Nelson and Ms. Simms were working together." He nodded to the pair, then turned back to his partner who was trying to get up. "Hang on, Chief." He had to press both hands into Blair's shoulders to keep him on the floor.
"Freeman, call an ambulance," Simon ordered, then looked down at Blair. "Make that two. And someone get some lights on up here."
"I'm fine," Blair insisted, but he didn't make another move to get up.
"We'll just get you checked out anyway." Jim said. He turned back to the Captain. "They got into the files just before I cut the power from the generator."
"Jim, the files were open when the lights cut out." Blair said, looking up at him and Simon.
"Yeah, so?" Simon asked.
"You think they're erased?" Jim glanced over to the desk.
"Well, we'll find out soon enough." Simon shook his head. "Jim, get your partner here to the hospital, I'll wrap things up with Nelson and Ms. Simms." Simon flashed his light at Jim again. "What happened to your eyes Jim?"
"Mace," Jim replied, nodding his head towards the now stirring form of Jessica.
Simon looked at his eyes again. "Get yourself checked out at the hospital. It looks nasty."
Jim nodded as the medics entered the darkened room. Someone had managed to get the elevators working again, and both cars were disgorging officers and paramedics. Jim stood close by while the paramedics checked over Blair, then placed him on a stretcher. Power was returned to the building, and lights were coming on all over the floor, making Jim squint with the effort of closing his abused pupils. A medic was standing next to him, looking closely at his eyes.
"You'd better come let a doctor have a look at those."
"Jim, go with Sandburg. I'll meet you there."
Jim glanced around the room one last time, then nodded at the Captain and allowed the medic to lead him to the elevator.
In the ambulance, a paramedic washed Jim's eyes out with sterile saline as they followed the car with his partner, taking them both to the local hospital. Once there, Jim relaxed, having been able to tune in on the doctors in the next room who were examining Blair. He cooperated as the doctor rinsed out his eyes, then gave each a complete exam.
"You're very lucky, Detective. I've seen several cases with permanent damage, thanks to pepper spray in the eyes."
Jim nodded as the doctor finished his close scrutiny. "It certainly was potent stuff."
"Now." The doctor opened a small packet and took out a medicated cloth. "You're going to have to take it easy on these eyes for a day or two. No harsh lights, and I recommend wearing sunglasses outside." He gently dabbed the red, sore skin around each of Jim's eyes. "But, I don't see any permanent damage in either retina." He finished cleansing the skin and took out a pad and pen. "I'm giving you some cream for those burns. They may blister a bit, around the eye." He tore a sheet off the pad and handed it to the nurse who entered the room. "Nurse Evans, would you get this filled down the hall for the Detective, please?"
Jim was blinking away the last of the rinse still coating his eyes when he heard the nurse's voice. If he was any judge of voices, she had to have a face to match....Jim's vision cleared just as she left the room, leaving only a glimpse of a very short, wide form with grey hair. He blinked again, sure his vision was still affected, but only saw the doctor standing at the far end of the room.
"She'll bring that cream right in. If you'd like to wait here, I'll check on your friend for you."
"Yeah, thanks doc." Jim nodded, moving his legs off of the exam table. While he waited, Jim returned his attention to the voices from the room beside his, listening as the doctors told Blair he was to take it easy for a few days. He heard Blair make inquiries as to Jim's health, then something down the hall caught his attention, and he focused on the new voices.
"It's for the Detective in exam room 11. He's ready to check out." Nurse Evans was returning, but had paused to speak to someone on the way.
"Oh, the Detective they brought in with the chemical burns in the eyes?" Jim perked up as he focused tightly on the sultry tonal quality of the second female voice. "I'll take it in to him. Room 4 needs his shots."
Jim listened as the footsteps came closer, wondering if he would be rewarded this time with proof of his listening and deductive talents. The footsteps where now nearing his room, and from the gate, and lightness of step, he was sure he was back on track.
"Ah, Nurse Tiggle, is that the cream for the Detective?"
"Yes, Doctor. I was just taking it in to him now."
"Thank you, I'll take it."
Damn. As the doctor entered the room, Jim shot a glance out through the open door, catching only the barest sight of a slim, blonde figure retreating down the hall.
"Here we are, Detective." Jim reached out as the doctor handed him a small tube. "Your friend is all checked out and ready to go. There's a Captain Banks out in the waiting room, says he's going to drive you both home."
"Thank you." Jim slid off the table, pocketing the tube. He followed as the doctor led him from the exam room, meeting Blair as he came out of his own. "Hey, Chief, how you feeling?"
Blair had a fresh bandage covering the gash over his right temple, and was looking a little shaky, but nodded as Jim approached. "I'm fine. Just a little sore."
"There you two are." They both turned as Simon came from the waiting area, looking from Blair to Jim. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah, Simon, more than ready." Jim put his hand on Blair's arm and they turned to follow the Captain. "Come on, Chief, let's get out of here."
After seeing Blair safely into the backseat of Simon's car, Jim climbed into the passenger side and they started home.
"What happened with the files?" Blair asked, resting his head against the back of the seat.
Simon glanced at him in the rearview, then looked over to Jim. "You were right, Sandburg, they were erased. Every last one of them."
Jim shook his head. "At least Nelson didn't get anywhere with them."
"Never would have, anyway." Simon replied, chewing his cigar. "According to his secretary, Conner was broke. Flat broke."
"You're kidding?" Jim's response echoed Blair's as they both stared at Simon. "You mean, that was all for nothing?"
Simon nodded. "Yep. He went broke putting up this last tower, and was on the verge of bankruptcy." He glanced at Jim. "Poured everything he had into the building, and didn't have enough tenants to fill the place. Seems more and more people are setting up shop in those smaller buildings around town." He chewed the cigar more and shook his head again. "Can't say I blame them. I hate these newer buildings. All glass and metal. They're just plain ugly."
Jim laughed a little, glancing back to Blair behind him. "Well, at least Nelson will get what he deserves."
"That's for sure," Simon agreed. "And I want to be there when they toss him in that holding cell." He glanced back at Blair through the rearview mirror. "How you holding up back there, Sandburg?"
"I'm fine," Blair replied.
"He'll be okay, Simon. We just need to get home and get some rest."
"Listen, I've got Mike Jenkins bringing your truck back to the loft. What do you say the four of us play a little poker? You two up for it?"
Jim smiled, glancing back at Blair, who was smiling back at him and shaking his head slightly. "I don't know, Simon, the kid here's pretty good."
Simon looked at Jim, then glanced for a moment at Blair. "Aw, come on, Jim. How good could he be? Look, it's midnight, and I'm not gonna get any sleep tonight. You two aren't coming in tomorrow. What have you got to lose?"
Jim smiled. "Sure, Simon, I'm game." He glanced back at Blair who nodded. "Okay. Now, this is for real money? I mean, we're all grown ups here, right?"
"Of course, real money. Why wouldn't it be?"
Jim chuckled quietly to himself the entire drive back to the loft. Of course. Why wouldn't it be?
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