by Kristine Williams
"You should be able to get him to a hospital, before he slips into a coma." he glanced at his watch and Blair felt a burning sensation flowing down his neck, into his gut. "Now, this tape was made twenty minutes ago. I'd say you have another fifteen to find your partner. Your move." Brackett reached over to the tape and shut it off, then turned back to Blair. "There we go, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
Blair wanted to scream, but Brackett had put the gag back in his mouth. The burning sensation had reached his abdomen, and it was increasing. What had he said on the tape? Just pain? Like he was just a madman. Blair tried to breathe, tried to clear his head of the encroaching fog. Was that the drug, or the fact that he was scared out of his wits? Suddenly, and with no warning, the burning became an intense, mind numbing spasm of pain. Blair bit down on the gag and balled both hands into fists, oblivious to the pain in his arms now. His guts were being torn apart from the inside. He tried to inhale, and that sent another spasm shooting through him.
"Well, I guess we've got this show on the road." Brackett leaned into him, forcing his chin up so that their eyes would meet. The spasm subsided and Blair was able to open his eyes, staring into Brackett's. "I must be going now, I have a previous engagement." Blair saw his hand come up; a knife flashed there. "Try to lie still, and don't fight it. You'll last longer that way. And if your partner is half the Detective he should be, you just might make it."
Blair felt the ropes fall away from his wrists in the same instant another spasm sent him crashing to the floor in agony. Brackett stepped away and picked up his video equipment as Blair rolled over, clutching his side with aching arms. He didn't see Brackett leave, but when the spasming stopped, he was alone, lying on the damp cement floor. He reached up with shaking hands and pulled the gag from his mouth, trying to see around the room. There was steam and water everywhere, but no sign of his captor. The blood was rushing back down his arms and he looked at both wrists, seeing blood still dripping from the rope burns. Just breathe, slow and easy. Brackett was gone, and he was cut free. Just get up slowly, and get the hell out of here.
Blair should have known it wouldn't be that easy. He had just eased himself up on both hands when the pain shot through him again, doubling him over, crying out in agony. There was a brief relief, when he was able to catch his breath, then it hit again, doubling him over. The spasms were getting worse each time, lasting several minutes now. He tried to breathe through them, tried to prepare for each one during the few seconds between attacks, but he couldn't. The pain was tearing him apart, from the inside out. God, where was Jim? How long had it been? Did he get the message? Was it hours, or minutes? God it hurt! How long would this go on? He wanted to call out, to scream, but he didn't have the strength to do anything. Anything but cry out against the pain. Each time he was sure the next one would kill him, or at least send him into oblivion, but each time he was still alive, still awake.
When Blair finally
did hear the door slam, the shouts, the footsteps, he was ready for Brackett to
return and finish it. He was ready for it to be over. He'd had enough.
"Simon! Over here!" Jim saw Blair from the doorway, saw through the haze of steam and fine water spraying across the basement's boiler room. He didn't wait for Simon, but ran to his partner who lay doubled over on the wet floor. "Blair! Hang on partner, we're here." Jim fell to the ground, beside his partner. "Simon, over here!" Jim was holding Blair, trying to get him to open his eyes, but he wouldn't. He checked his pulse, it was weak and thready. "Come on Chief, hang on. Stay with me." Blair was covered in sweat, and even semiconscious, he was shaking. His legs were pulled up, and he was trying to roll over onto his side.
"Jim, God, is he alive?" Simon had finally made his way through the dark room to where Jim was trying to get Blair farther off the wet floor.
"I'll call an ambulance." Simon turned to go and Jim reached out, grabbing his sleeve.
"No, Simon. There's no time. Help me get him up, we'll take the truck." Jim took both of Blair's bleeding wrists in his hands and worked his arms under his partner's shoulders, lifting him up as Simon took his legs. They made it to the truck and Jim opened the passenger door, easing Blair inside.
"I'll drive, just get in." Simon pushed Jim into the truck, then hurried around to the driver's side. The keys were still in the ignition and he started it up, then helped Jim get in the seat with Blair, who was now completely unconscious.
"Hang on, partner." Jim held him, checking his pulse again. "Damn him. What the hell was this for anyway?"
Simon understood Jim was talking about Brackett, and he didn't try to answer. Jim held Blair, feeling the pulse beat slowly through his neck. His own heart was still racing, and his jaw was getting tired from all the clenching. What was he doing? What game was this? All he had done was kidnap Blair, take him downstairs to their apartment's boiler room, and torture him. For what? Why? He hadn't even tried to hide, or make Jim search the city for his partner. It had taken only minutes to realize the yellow pipes Blair was tied to were the same yellow pipes that ran through the loft from the basement below.
"I'm driving as fast as I can. Just hang on, we'll be there in a minute."
Blair was beginning to breathe heavily, struggling against Jim's hold. "Easy, easy Chief. It's okay, it's okay." He held him down, feeling the sweat begin to build on his forehead. He could feel the muscles in Blair's abdomen tense up violently. What the hell kind of drug was it? Did they have to worry about an antidote, or would it just wear off? Brackett said something about a coma. "Simon.."
Jim looked up and recognized the emergency entrance to the hospital. Simon drove the truck right up to the doors and jumped out, helping Jim ease Blair out and onto a stretcher that someone had brought out to meet them.
"What have we got here?" A doctor hurried over to the truck as they settled Blair on the stretcher.
"This man has been drugged." Simon said, stepping forward and producing his badge. "We don't know what with."
"Twenty five, thirty minutes." Jim replied, following the doctor as they all hurried down the hallway. Blair was beginning to stir, clutching at his abdomen. "He's in pain."
"I need a complete blood work up, stat." The doctor pushed the gurney into a room that suddenly filled with nurses and turned to Jim and Simon. "Officers, you'll need to wait out here. And if you can identify the drug, that would be helpful."
Jim tried to protest but the doctor had turned and closed the door behind him. Simon reached out and took him by the arm. "Come on Jim, sit down. There's nothing we can do right now." Jim allowed Simon to lead him to the chairs in the waiting area and push him down into one. Two uniformed officers stepped forward then and pulled Simon away. Jim didn't even try to listen, he was focused on the room his partner was in. They were trying to get samples of blood, checking vitals, trying to get Blair to answer them. It seemed so confused, but he knew they knew what they were doing.
"Jim...Jim." Simon was standing beside him, trying to get his attention. "Jim, they got Delaney."
"What?" Jim was suddenly alert and stood up, looking at Simon. "Who did?"
"We don't know. It happened right after we pulled out. By the time backup got there, Delaney was dead, and so was his dealer."
"What? Jim, what would Brackett have to do with this case?"
"Think about it Simon. Kostov was from Russia, and moved his protection scheme here three years ago. Brackett was in the CIA, and had access to all the files. Hell, he may have even worked for Kostov when he started playing both sides." Jim knew then the answer to Blair's kidnaping. "He needed us out of the way, to make the hit on Delaney when he came in for his buy. He knew when, and he knew how."
Simon sighed, pushing his glasses up so he could rub his eyes. "So, this whole thing with Sandburg, was just to get you away from Delaney long enough to kill him? So he couldn't testify against Kostov?"
"That has to be it, Simon." It had to be. No one else knew they were waiting for Delaney to make his cocaine buy. No one else knew about the dealer they had been staking out for the past three days. No one else would know to use Blair in order to get to Jim. Brackett was well known internationally as a rogue CIA agent for hire, and had probably gotten the word out as soon as he escaped that he was on the market again.
"So we're back to square one. I'd better tell the DA we lost our chance for Kostov." Simon patted Jim on the arm and moved across the room to use the phone at the nurses station.
Jim sat back down, still shaking his head. How had Brackett survived the waterfall? And how had the CIA missed him? Or had they? There was always a rumor that the CIA had a group that actually funded organized crime, for reasons that still remained a mystery. But even if that were true, Brackett was too dangerous a man even for them to keep. And if they couldn't catch him, and put an end to these games, then Jim could.
Jim stood and turned, facing the doctor as Simon approached them both. "How is he?"
"Well, we still haven't determined the makeup of that drug, but it seems to be wearing off." He looked from Jim to Simon. "It seemed to affect mainly the muscles of the abdomen, causing extreme spasming and pain, with no lasting effects, although it was touch and go for a few minutes." He looked back at Jim. "His heart seems to be settling back into a normal rhythm now, but he's going to be very weak for a few days. The spasms are diminishing, and at this rate, should be gone within another 12 hours."
Jim let out the breath he had been holding and tried to force the tension from his neck. "He'll be all right then?"
The doctor nodded. "As long as there are no complications, he should recover. They'll take him upstairs in a few minutes, you can see him then if you like."
"Thank you doctor." Simon reached out and shook his hand, then put a hand on Jim's back and walked him back towards the far wall. "Listen, you stay here with Sandburg. I've got Jenkins and Clark on their way over to keep an eye on you both."
"Don't argue with me." Simon held up a hand, stopping Jim's protest. "Right now both you and Sandburg are under protective custody. Brackett may come back, and if he does, he'll be after you both."
Jim reluctantly nodded. "Okay Simon. I'll lay low for now."
"You'll lay low for as long as I tell you, got that?"
Simon patted Jim on the arm then and smiled slightly. "Jim, I know it's not easy. But after what this madman has done in the past, as well as tonight, I'm not willing to take any chances, with either of you."
Jim smiled a little inside at Simon's inclusion of Blair in his concerns. "Okay. But something tells me he's done for now."
"I won't be happy until he's done for good."
Blair stirred and tried to resist waking up. He could feel a dampness on the back of his neck and across his forehead. There was a steady beeping coming from somewhere behind him, and he could feel wires rubbing on his chest each time he inhaled. Other than the beeping, there was no sound that he could hear. No more hissing of steam, or dripping as water slid down to the cold floor. His arms and wrists no longer ached. He stirred again and took a deeper breath, then heard the moan escape his lips as the muscles across his abdomen complained bitterly against the movement.
Blair opened his eyes at the touch of a hand on his forehead. "Jim?" He glanced around, realizing where he was. "Where...where's...Brackett?" Blair had to take a new breath for each word, trying to force them out without using too many muscles. His stomach was reminding him of the recent ordeal with each breath. God, he was sore! He swallowed, and felt the bruising on his neck where the needle had gone in.
"He's gone for now, just take it easy."
Gone for now? What did that mean? Wasn't he gone for good after the river? "Jim..."
"Don't talk Blair, just rest. I'm right here. There's nothing to worry about, okay?"
Blair nodded weakly, more to calm his friend than himself. Jim looked as though he had been awake for weeks. How long had he been there? He had a hundred questions, but no strength to ask them. Jim was sitting beside the bed, a hand on his arm, so he closed his eyes. Breathing hurt his abused stomach muscles, and he could feel bandages around each wrist. What had Brackett wanted? He left before Jim came, and now Jim was here with him, and safe. What was the game? Blair heard the door and his eyes shot open.
"Jim, some coffee?" Mike Jenkins stepped in quietly, handing a cup to Jim. "Hey kid, didn't mean to wake you." Mike was whispering, even seeing that Blair was wide awake.
"He's been in and out." Jim replied. Blair had tried to speak, but his mouth wasn't moving. It was too tired. He was too tired. In and out? For how long? Jim... He watched as Jim stepped over to the door to talk privately with Mike out of earshot. After a minute or two, he returned to the chair beside Blair's bed and Mike stepped back into the hallway.
Someone touched him and Blair tried to pull away. Lash was holding his face, pinning him with his hands against the chair. He struggled, but he was too weak to move. He tried to cry out, but his mouth wouldn't form the words. Lash stepped away, and walked behind him. Oh God! Oh God what now! Someone was behind him, moving around. A face. A hand. Brackett. It was Brackett again. But he was dead! Jim told him Brackett was dead! Now he was here, holding Blair down, tying his hands. Something pricked his arm, something sharp. Blair pulled away, tried to get away. No, not again, I can't take it again!
"Blair! Sandburg, take it easy!"
Hands were on him again, holding his arms, shaking him. Blair tried to fight, tried to move away, but he was so weak and sore.
"Blair! Wake up."
Suddenly Blair opened his eyes, trying to pull away from the face he saw there.
"Easy Chief, it's me."
Blair focused and saw Jim, not Lash, not Brackett. "Jim?" It was a dream. A nightmare. He was in the hospital room, with Jim beside him, holding both of his arms in an attempt to wake him out of the nightmare. A nurse was there too, holding a vial filled with blood. Blair sighed and closed his eyes again for a moment, trying to calm his racing heart. The EKG was no longer beeping in the background, and his chest was now free of tape and wires, but he knew Jim could hear the racing beat in his chest, his rapid, if shallow, breathing. It was so real! Could Jim hear his thoughts? He had felt such panic, he was sure half the hospital could have heard what he was thinking.
"It's okay. Just a nightmare." Jim sat back down, but kept one hand on Blair's right arm. "Okay?"
Blair nodded weakly, trying to smile. "Okay." It was okay, for now. But he would be back. There was one thing Blair was certain of. Brackett would be back. He opened his eyes again and tried to clear his throat. "Jim...he'll come...back." His voice was more than just a whisper now, but it cracked with the dryness in his throat.
Jim was shaking his head, "No, Chief. Not here. And we've got Mike Jenkins and Jeff Clark right outside, keeping an eye on us."
Jim nodded. "That's right, us. Simon's idea. You and I both are under guard for awhile."
Blair could tell the idea upset Jim, being guarded like someone who couldn't take care of himself. But he was glad. Glad that while he was lying there, too weak to get up or even raise his head, someone was keeping an eye on his partner. Brackett would be back. And he wanted to kill Jim more than anything. "Listen...Jim.."
"No, you listen. Get some sleep. The doctors say that drug Brackett used is still running through your veins." Jim paused, looking away for a moment. "When they let you out of here, we'll be on the offensive again. But until then, we sit and wait. Okay?"
Blair nodded. He was relieved to know Simon was in charge, making sure Jim didn't go out there alone, against this madman. Brackett's plans always involved them both, and he had already done...what he had done, to Blair. He knew Jim would be next. He also knew how hard it must be for his friend to just sit there, watching over him, and not charge out there after Brackett. Slowly, that relief turned to sleep, and he willingly drifted into it.
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