by Kristine Williams
"No, that's different, Jim. I need to know everything that makes you. It's all a part of these Sentinel senses. All a part of the whole picture. I need to know it all if I'm going to understand how it all works."
Jim nodded. "Right. And that goes for you too." He glanced at Blair. "I need to know everything there is about you, if I'm going understand this Guide thing." Blair looked at him for a long time, not saying a word. When Jim glanced at him again, his face was a mix of puzzlement and exhaustion. "Let's get you home before you fall asleep."
By the time they reached the loft, Blair was barely able to stand with help. Jim could only support him by holding his shoulders, careful not to touch his chest or ribcage in any way. He got the door unlocked with one hand, pushed it open with a foot, and took Blair straight to his room.
"You hanging in there, Chief?" He helped Blair sit on the bed, then brought his friend's chin up gently so he could meet Blair's eyes.
"Yeah." His voice was a little slurred but he nodded. "These drugs, man. I'm getting tired of being so tired."
"I know. It'll pass soon enough. You should enjoy all this sleeping in while it lasts." Jim reached down and pulled off Blair's left shoe. "Come on, get some rest." He tossed the shoe to the other side of the room, barely missing the closet, then took off the other one. Blair managed to get the zipper of the jacket down, and Jim eased it off his shoulders, then supported him as he lay down. He was asleep the instant his head hit the pillows.
Jim brought Blair's legs onto the bed, then slid the sweat pants off and pulled the blankets up. One more quick exam told him his partner would be out for several hours. Jim picked up the shoes and put them inside the closet, then stacked the sweats on top of the dresser. He left Blair's door open and went to the living room, remembering then that the files were still in the truck. With both ears tuned into Blair's room, Jim hurried down to the truck and retrieved the box. Blair was still sound asleep, but he closed the front door quietly. After making a sandwich, he sat on the couch with the files and started to go over the first three kidnappings.
The MO of the first three was unfaltering. Same method of taking their victims in public places. Each victim held within a few miles of where they had been taken. Each victim beaten, and videotaped, with the ransom demands dubbed over the original tape. Two ransoms paid, with directions that were so convoluted, even Mills' own men had lost the trail. Each of the paid cases, the money wasn't marked, as is normal procedure. The kidnappers had claimed knowledge of such actions, and would kill the hostages if the money turned out to be marked in any way. Each time, tracking devices had been put in place inside the briefcase used to transport the money, and each time, the devices were dumped just before reaching their destination. And this time, with the demand for 2.5 million dollars or the death of Raymond Whatcom, the MO was the same right down to the timing of each beating. Surely the FBI had enough on them for a complete conviction?
Jim's jaw clenched again at the memory of Raymond, telling them he was Blair Sandburg, knowing full well what those men were about to do to Blair. They had found Blair's ID back at the Twisted Pearl, right where Raymond said they would. According to Eugene, Raymond's father, his son had a penchant for small, petty crime. Not uncommon among rich children, it was seen as a dare. Something to do, Raymond had said. He reached out and retrieved the copy of the tape containing the first three kidnappings that Agent Mills had left with him. He shoved it into the machine, then paused, listening for Blair's sleeping pattern of breathing. He'd be out till tomorrow, most likely. Still, Jim turned the volume almost completely off, and then let the tape play.
After three hours of watching, rewinding, and watching again, Jim felt his eyelids get too heavy to continue. His head was pounding from watching the same three beatings over and over, trying to find something, anything, that would explain this nagging feeling at the back of his mind. He failed. And still, a second tape remained on the table. A tape containing his partner being beaten in Raymond Whatcom's place. He'd reached for it several times, but each time stopped short of putting it into the machine. Back at the Station, he and Agent Mills had viewed it, but Jim couldn't get past the vision of Blair being hit over and over. He couldn't even make out the background, or the words that had been dubbed over the video. All he saw, was his partner, in pain. In Raymond's place.
Jim shut off the television and tossed the remote to the chair beside the couch, rubbing tired eyes. He used the bathroom, then checked in on Blair who was still sleeping soundly. Jim was about to settle in on the chair in the far corner of Blair's room when he heard the quiet knock on the front door.
He shut the door to Blair's room this time, and went to the front door. He could tell it was Simon before he even reached the door. The lingering smell of a newly extinguished cigar permeated the air.
"Hey, Captain, come in." Jim held the door while Simon entered, shrugging out of his coat as he stepped into the living room. "Is something up?"
"Thanks," Simon said as Jim took his coat. "Just had an interesting conversation with Raymond's father." He crossed the room and sat, glancing at Blair's room. "Is he...?"
"Asleep," Jim replied. "What did you find out?" He joined his Captain on the couch.
Simon sighed deeply, shaking his head. "He's not too fond of his son right now, I can tell you that. Seems not only has he been in some trouble before, but right now there's that small matter of his possibly having gotten a young society girl pregnant."
"Not only that, but it's not the first time this subject has come up, according to his father." Simon glanced around the room. "Hey, how about a beer, huh? I'm officially off duty now, and so are you."
Jim smiled. "Sure." He went to the kitchen and retrieved two beers, popping the caps off and tossing them into the trash before returning to the couch. "Here you go."
"Thanks. Been one hell of a day." Simon took a long pull on the beer, then sat farther back on the couch. "Back in Montana, last year, Raymond was accused of raping a girl. Date rape from what Mr. Whatcom says."
"Did it go to court?"
"No. Settled for an undisclosed amount. From what I gathered, it was a pretty large sum. That was the summer before Raymond transferred out here to Rainier University."
"There's still something about this case that doesn't add up, Simon."
"The two men." Jim set his beer on the coffee table and leaned forward. "Edwards and Patterson, they're none too bright. Mills said that the kidnappers knew about money being marked, and knew ways of detecting it."
"That was probably just common sense. Maybe the only sense these two can be accused of having."
"I can't help but think those convoluted directions for the money to be delivered were done that way on purpose. Not because the men giving them didn't know what they were doing, but because they did." Simon looked puzzled, so Jim continued. "Blair was unconscious in the mens room when I came in, and so was Raymond. It would take at least two men, surprising them both, to get them down that quickly. And I was hit from behind. This was a crowded club, and still no one sees or hears anything? Then there's the small matter of getting three of us out of the club." Jim shook his head. "And why, when it was Raymond they wanted, did they bother taking me and Blair?"
"They must have thought Blair was Raymond at that point. When they checked ID's."
"Right. But then why take two more?"
Simon nodded slowly. "Unless they thought one or both of you could identify them."
Jim shook his head. There were a lot of unanswered questions. "So, they were prepared to kill a cop as well as one other innocent man."
"Must have figured 2.5 million for three lives was a bargain."
"There still has to be a third man, here, Simon. That door swung inward. And I was taken out the instant I opened it. There's no way someone hiding inside could have done that." Jim's headache had returned with a vengeance. "This case isn't closed, Captain."
"It's still the FBI's case, Jim. And frankly, I'm too tired to think about it anymore tonight." Simon stood and retrieved his coat. "I'll talk to Mills tomorrow, see what they've come up with. I'll keep you informed."
There was no easy way around this one, and Jim knew it. He shut the door behind his Captain, then turned and looked back at Blair's room. His partner was still sound asleep.
It was only 6:30, too early to go to bed himself. He thought about making dinner, but he wasn't hungry. There was a hockey game on, but Jim felt no compulsion to turn on the television. He was left with his thoughts, and those kept dragging him back to the same topic. A topic he still had trouble figuring out what to do with. He couldn't keep putting Blair into these situations, getting him kidnapped, beaten, even shot once. What the hell was he thinking? Letting some anthropologist come along on dangerous police assignments just because of these senses of his? Was he ever going to learn to control them, use them? What good were they if he couldn't control them?
"You can control them. That's what I'm here for."
Jim spun around, and saw no one. Blair's door was still closed, and a quick focus into the room was answered by the quiet pattern of a sleeper. Jim's heart skipped a beat and he glanced around the loft again. What the hell? He'd heard Blair's voice plain as day. Jim shook his head, then picked up his half finished beer and took another drink. It had been a long week, he was tired, that's all. Tired of seeing Blair in that hospital bed. Maybe it was time he ended the entire partnership, let Blair stay there if he needed a place to live, but no more police work.
Even as the thoughts formed themselves, Jim knew the answer. He could no more make Blair stay away from the Station than he could fly. No, this was stupid. It wouldn't work. Blair could go back to being an anthropologist, maybe even publish that paper, then go on to get his doctorate, and no longer need Jim. Then he could go back to being a cop, working alone, trying to handle these senses and the job. He'd have to eventually, anyway.
"That's why you need me to watch your back."
Jim's head spun around, sure that time he'd find Blair standing right behind him. Again he was alone in the living room, Blair still asleep in his own room. Jim set his beer down, then ran a hand over his short hair. There was a thought tugging at the back of his mind, but he wasn't sure he wanted to grasp it. Probably Raymond. The thought of Raymond, cowering in the corner like that, letting everyone assume Blair was him. Jim wanted to beat the crap out of the younger man, let him see and feel what Blair had felt. Let him experience the gut-wrenching terror that Jim had felt, knowing what was about to happen, and being helpless to stop it.
"It's about control, Jim."
That was it! Jim stood and walked to Blair's room, opening the door slowly even though he was certain he'd find Blair standing there, talking to him. His partner greeted him with a gentle snore. Jim stood for a long while, staring down at Blair's sleeping form. The bruise around his eye was nearly gone, and he was sleeping through the day without the pain waking him. As he stood there, Jim felt oddly detached. It was as if the world had been locked outside, Raymond included, and he was being compelled to look inside. But inside where, and for what, he didn't understand.
Satisfied his partner was asleep, he shut the door and returned to the living room. His stomach growled and he only then realized it was 8:30. Two hours! Two hours had passed, and he'd done nothing but sit there thinking. How could that much time have gone by? His stomach growled again and he took it to the kitchen. Keeping his mind on fixing dinner would help pass the time, and there would be no more hearing voices, surely. It would have to be something slightly complicated, he knew, to keep his thoughts from straying. Stir fry. Not terribly complicated, but it would occupy his thoughts and his hands.
An hour later Jim sat down at the table, wondering if Blair should be waking up. He seemed to be sleeping soundly, and bed rest was exactly what he needed. But right now, Jim felt he needed to talk. He picked up the phone as he began to twirl the chopsticks with his other hand, but his finger stopped over the keypad, not sure what number to dial. He could call Simon, but he had already stated his position on the matter. Pushing the issue wouldn't get him anywhere. He could call Beverly Sanchez, she was always a good listener. Jim started to punch in her number, then stopped. He had no idea what he wanted her to listen to. Frustrated, he set the phone down and concentrated on eating. When he finished, he cleaned the kitchen to within an inch of its life, then checked in on Blair again. As he watched, Blair sighed and turned his head, settling back into a deep sleep.
Jim backed out of the room and left the door open again, returning to the couch.
He clicked on the television, adjusted the volume, then began to flip through
the channels. His mind wasn't on anything in particular, and after two runs through
the entire cable list, he settled on a documentary about the history of flight.
Jim tossed the remote to the other side of the couch, got comfortable against
the cushions, and watched the program with half-closed eyes.
It was hot, hotter than it should be, and Jim was beginning to sweat. He reached up to remove his sweater, only to find he wasn't wearing one. Groggily, Jim opened his eyes and wiped the sweat from his forehead. How did it get so hot in the evening? A sound behind him forced both eyes open wide as Jim became instantly alert. He wasn't sitting on the couch anymore. He wasn't even in the loft anymore. Surrounding him on all sides, was a jungle of cement and wires. It was some kind of warehouse, with wires hanging from gaping holes in the ceiling, many of them shooting off blue sparks into the darkness that enveloped him.
Oh God. "Sandburg!" Where was he? It was night, and sparks flying from the wires lit up the room with an eery, flashing blue. Jim reached out with his senses, and found nothing. Nothing! He couldn't pick up any more sounds than the ones directly near him. Jim's heart began to beat faster, and the sweat was building on his upper lip. "Sandburg!" Okay, calm down. Switch to sight. That's it, use your eyes. Jim changed focus, peering through the heavy cables and cement pillars. Nothing! He heard a low growl and spun around, seeing nothing. Oh God, not again. He was alone, and his senses were out of control. How could this be? He had taken that step, made the commitment. Why had his senses left him again? And where was Blair? Jim's heartrate was rapid, his breathing quick. He had to calm down! Just calm down and concentrate. The spitting sound of wild electricity was getting louder, but not due to his Sentinel senses. He couldn't even focus on one of them.
"Blair!" That's it, he had to go looking for his partner, and he'd
have to do it the old-fashioned way. Jim glanced around, trying to judge where
he was, where Blair might be. There was nothing but darkness in every direction.
Cement pillars, huge dangling cables, loose wires spitting blue fire. Dammit,
Sandburg, where the hell are you? Jim picked a direction and started
to push through the cables. Blair couldn't be far. He'd have to circle around,
make his search in a grid pattern, figure out what kind of building this was,
and rely on his old army training if his senses weren't going to help. He'd find
Jim sat up with a start, instantly awake.
"Jim! You okay?"
He spun around, seeing Blair standing next to the couch, one arm wrapped around his side.
"What are you doing out here?"
A dream? He was on the couch, the sun streaming in from the windows. The television was still on, displaying the morning news. "I must have fallen asleep out here." God, he wassweating. The faint sounds of a toilet ending its flush filled Jim's ears, and he realized his sense of hearing was back to its ultra-sensitive level. "What are you doing up?"
Blair rubbed his face, then let his left hand run through his hair, keeping his right arm close to his injured side. "I had to go to the bathroom. Besides, I've been asleep since yesterday."
Jim cleared his throat, trying to recover the rest of his composure after that dream. He felt as though he hadn't been to sleep yet. "The doctor gave you something. Sleep is what you needed." He got off the couch slowly and stretched tired muscles, then found the remote control and one of his socks stuffed behind the cushions. Flipping off the television he pulled off the other sock. "How are you feeling now?"
Blair nodded, looking tired still. "Better. I'm just tired of lying down, you know?"
"Well, Chief, until you can stand up without looking so pale, I think you'd better get used to it." He took Blair by the shoulder and turned him around gently.
"I'm fine, Jim. Just let me sit down." Blair resisted the hand urging him back to his room. "As long as I'm moving slowly, I'm okay."
Jim paused, looking at Blair. The blueness of his partner's eyes caught his, and for one instant, he saw the pupils change shape, then quickly return to their normal roundness.
"Jim, what's wrong?"
Jim shook himself slightly, then shook his head to cover the action. "Nothing. You hungry?" He pulled out a chair and helped Blair ease himself down.
"Yeah, a little."
"Good. Let me grab a quick shower and I'll fix breakfast." Jim waited there until Blair nodded, then he walked upstairs to his room for some clean clothes. His heart was still beating quickly, and he scanned the room for any sign of the panther. Something was tickling the back of his mind, and he fully expected to see the jungle cat there, waiting for him. The room was empty. He went back downstairs with clean shorts and hurried into the bathroom.
"Jim, what's happening with the case?" Blair called from the dining room.
"Not much. Agent Mills has taken over, so it's out of our hands." Jim kept the bathroom door half open so he could reply, then turned on the water and began to brush his teeth.
"That doesn't sound like you, Jim."
Jim came out of the bathroom, towel in hand. "Why do you say that?"
"There's something not right about this one, Jim. It's just not like you to stop before it's over."
If it wasn't for his partner's slightly stooped posture, and the lingering bruise on his face, Jim would have sworn Blair was his usual chipper self. "That's something for the FBI to work out, Chief. As far as you and I are concerned, it is over. " Jim returned to the bathroom and turned on the shower.
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