"All finished, Teach?" Jim looked up from the notebook and closed it.
"Yeah, for now." Blair raised his eyebrows and nodded towards the book in Jim's hand. "Entertain yourself all right?"
"Yeah." Jim set the notebook back on the desk and stood up. "Fascinating subject matter."
Blair laughed, shaking his head. "It's all about you, Jim."
"Exactly." Jim was grinning ear to ear in a playful manner. "Come on, let's hit the road."
Blair laughed again, then shouldered his pack and checked the desk for any stray tests he had forgotten to gather up. Jim was in a fine mood, smiling and happy. He must have a good feeling about the trial, or maybe he had learned something during those two hours? Blair hurried out of the office, pushing the door shut, then followed Jim out to the parking lot. His partner was still grinning as they drove out of the crowded lot and onto the main street.
"Tell me something, Sandburg."
"Sentinels have been around for centuries, right?"
"Yeah." Blair had been looking out at the traffic, but now he turned his attention to Jim.
"So presumably Guides have been around that long too, right?"
Blair's eyebrows raised. "I guess, yeah."
Jim glanced at him for a moment, then back to the road. "Then, why hasn't there been a study made of them?"
"A study of the Guides, Chief." Jim glanced at him again. "I mean, if they're that important, then someone should study them, right?"
"Jim, most people don't even understand the Sentinel theory, why would anyone be interested in a study made of Guides?"
"I would." Jim replied simply.
"You would." Blair was perplexed now. "Why, Jim?"
"What do you mean, why?" Jim shook his head in mild amazement. "Sandburg, I live with one. I've got a Guide following me everywhere I go. I'd be interested in finding out what makes one tick."
Blair just stared at Jim, unsure of what he was saying, or what to say himself.
"I mean, what qualifications does it take to be a Guide, huh?" Jim glanced at Blair as he looked down the road before making a turn. "Is it genetic, like being a Sentinel? Is it personality? Luck? What?"
"Jim, I'm not a genetic throwback to some ancient cult of Guides or anything. I was just lucky enough to find you, and I knew about Sentinels and Guides because it's my life's study."
Jim shook his head. "No, I don't buy that, Chief."
"Nope." Jim looked at Blair, shaking his head once. "I think you are a throwback, Sandburg. This is just all too natural for you, too easy."
Blair shook his head and made a face. "Thanks, Jim."
"No, I'm serious. I saw all those papers and notes back in your office. And those little tests of yours we need to talk about."
"Hell, you know more about these senses than I do, and I'm the one who has them." They were in front of their building now and Jim parked the truck. "Face it, Chief, you're a natural." Jim shut off the engine and opened his door.
Blair sat there for a few seconds, completely perplexed. This turn of conversation was so totally unexpected, he had no idea how to react. Helping Jim work out what to do and how to do it just seemed to come naturally, but Blair knew that was due to his years of study. He felt in control, and able to understand and interpret Jim's thoughts and moods when they were "on the job". It was now, when Jim was just being Jim, that Blair often faltered, and had no idea what to say or when to say it. He did remember to get out of the truck, though, and follow his partner up to the loft.
Once inside, Blair tossed his pack to the table, and it suddenly dawned on him what Jim had done. For at least fifteen minutes, Blair hadn't once thought about the trial, or Lee Brackett. That was it. Damn, he's good. A study of Guides, indeed.
"You hungry? I was going to order a pizza."
Blair's stomach suddenly turned. "No, thanks."
Jim turned and quickly set the phone down. "Sorry, Blair. How about Chinese?"
"No, man, you go ahead. I'm not hungry." Blair was pulling tests out of his pack and he turned to Jim. "Really, it's okay." He sometimes wondered if he could ever eat pizza again. Maybe in a few more months.
"I think I'll get Chinese."
"Jim, it's okay."
"Sandburg, if I want Chinese, I'll order Chinese." Jim had been dialing, and now held up the phone and placed his order for Chinese food.
Blair just shook his head and finished removing the tests from his pack, then went to his room for another red pen and his small alarm clock. When he came back out, Jim was in front of the television and had fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen. Blair set the alarm for 1:00 a.m., hoping that would be enough time, taking the odd hour or two of completely drifting off again into consideration. He waited until the coffee was finished, poured himself a large cup, then sat down at the table and with a sigh, opened up the first of many.
Jim's food arrived shortly after Blair finished the second test, and Jim offered him some, but Blair's stomach wasn't settled down from all the morning's adrenaline yet. The sandwich he had eaten at lunch was still sitting there, going nowhere. Three more tests passed, and Jim found a movie on television. Blair made another pot of coffee then went to the bathroom. While in there, he heard the phone ring. When he came out, Jim was still on the phone.
"Right. Tomorrow, then?" Blair glanced at him, then returned to his tests on the table and picked up his glasses. "No problem, I'll be there." Jim hung up the phone and Blair looked up again.
"What's up?" He tried to remain casual, but he knew it had been Beverly Sanchez on the other end of the phone. If he had to go back into that courtroom again, he'd really blow it.
"Nothing to worry about, Chief," Jim replied, fishing a cup out of the cupboard. "Kostov didn't testify today." He poured some coffee, then walked to Blair with the pot and refilled his cup.
"Jim, what's going on?" Blair barely noticed that his cup was filled.
"It's okay, he's coming in tomorrow morning." Jim returned the pot to the kitchen and turned around. "Just a little change in schedule, happens all the time."
Blair's face had gone cold, and he prayed Jim couldn't see that somehow, but he knew he could. "Change?"
"He'll testify tomorrow." Jim picked up his cup and poured milk into it. "Nothing to worry about. They don't need us back again tomorrow, but I'm going in to the Station in the morning. I want to be there when Kostov comes in."
Blair nodded. He could feel his mind numbing up again, retreating back as far as it could. He had to shake himself a little to bring his focus back to the here and now. Jim was looking for more sugar, so Blair hoped he hadn't noticed. Just get these tests done.
"I just need to get these done and posted, then I'll be free," He said, conversationally.
"Good." Jim had found the sugar and added a spoonful to his cup. "Meet me at the Station when you're finished and we'll get some of those reports done." He tasted his coffee, then returned to the couch and the movie.
Sure, "we". Blair sighed and opened up another test. He knew Jim was aware that doing the reports and paperwork were no big deal, and that Blair even enjoyed it. Nothing wrong with doing what you're good at. If Jim counted on his help, all the better.
The movie ended at 11:00, and Jim announced he was tired. Blair offered to remove himself to his room to finish the tests, but Jim told him to stay. Now that he was in control of his hearing again, Blair's every move didn't drive him up the walls anymore.
"Just be sure you hit that alarm two seconds before it goes off, okay Chief?"
Blair laughed shortly. "Right, Jim."
When the alarm did go off at 1:00, Blair was ready for it. He had just set a completed test aside, and was glancing at the clock when it clicked over. Shutting it off as it started, he paused, listening. Jim didn't make a sound from upstairs, so Blair hoped he had been in time. He looked at the pile of completed tests, then the pile of the ones yet to be done. He was making progress, but still had a way to go. If he didn't finish now, he'd fall short of his promise to have the grades posted in the afternoon. The students were counting on him to be as punctual as the other instructors, and it wasn't their fault Blair led a double life, so he set the alarm aside and grabbed another test. When this was all over, the tests, the trial, everything, he'd catch up on some sleep. But until then, the only thing he had any control over was the papers in front of him.
When the last one was finished, Blair's eyes were blurring badly. He hoped he hadn't made any mistakes, but at least he had been able to focus on the task at hand, using that to keep from thinking about anything else. Anything, until now. He sighed, rubbing tired eyes, then tried to see his watch. 4:30. Hardly worth going to sleep now, but his eyes could use some down time. Blair quietly gathered up the graded tests, placed them in a pile on the table, then went to the bathroom. Then, in his state of mental fatigue, forgot Jim's no flushing after 10pm rule.
"Sandburg!" A sleepy, yet clearly grumpy voice called out from upstairs.
Blair cringed, realizing what he had done. "Sorry." He didn't need to raise his voice as he apologized on his way to his room. Shutting the door quietly, Blair didn't even bother getting undressed. He unzipped his jeans and fell on top of the bed, face down, burying his face into the pillow.
"Sandburg, wake up." Blair moaned tiredly and rolled over, glancing up at Jim. He was sure he had just then crawled into bed, but there was his partner, and another man. Blair blinked several times, trying to clear his vision. Jim wasn't alone. There was someone standing beside him. A man, in some type of tribal dress, looking down at him. Blair could see a spear in one hand, and a notebook in the other.
"Jim, what....?" Blair started to get up, glancing from the stranger to Jim.
"Come on, Chief, time to leave." Jim turned to the other man, then looked at Blair again and smiled. "It worked, just like you said. I followed the panther and found him."
Blair looked at the stranger. He was smiling now, and nodded his head slowly.
"Come on, Sandburg, he needs the room. You have to be in court today and we have to get back to work."
"Jim, no, wait." Blair sat up, then reached out for Jim. Before he could get closer, the stranger raised his spear. Blair stopped and looked at him, then Jim. "Jim...?"
"Come on, Sandburg, this is for real here. I've got work to do." Jim turned to leave and the stranger moved forward.
"Jim!" Blair shouted, but he couldn't move. Something was holding him down. He looked at the man in tribal dress, looked at the spear he had raised above his shoulder. Blair opened his mouth to shout again, but the spear suddenly flashed to life, arrowing straight for his neck.
Blair shot out of bed, clutching his neck. Jim came rushing into his room then, his face still half covered with soap. Blair's heart was racing.
"Sandburg, what happened?" Jim was standing next to him now, a concerned look on his face.
Blair sighed. "Nothing, I'm sorry." He shook his head and removed the hand that was still covering his throat, searching for a wound that wasn't there. "Just a bad dream."
Jim pulled down the towel he had draped over his shoulder and wiped his face. "Maybe you should stay home today."
Blair shook his head, pushing the hair out of his face. "No, I'm fine. Just didn't get much sleep."
"What time do you have to get those grades up?" Jim finished wiping his face and checked his watch. "It's only 7:00."
"Yeah, maybe I'll wait a few more hours." Blair blinked a few times, trying to focus on his clock. He could function on 2-1/2 hours sleep sometimes, but this probably wasn't the best week to practice that habit. "I'll catch you later this morning, okay, Jim?"
"No problem, Chief." Jim paused a moment longer, then returned to the bathroom.
Blair reached over to set his alarm for two hours from then, and fell back down on the pillows. He considered getting out of his jeans, but before he could reach a conclusion, his alarm was going off.
"Oh, man." He reached around and slapped it off, then listened for any sounds of Jim. Remembering he had left for the Station two hours ago, Blair forced his tired eyes open and gazed at the clock. 9 a.m. He moaned audibly and rolled over, swinging his legs off the bed before his body had the chance to talk his mind out of doing it. The momentum carried him off the bed and he propelled himself across the hall to the bathroom. A quick shower, shave, and brushed teeth helped a little. As he was dressing, Blair recalled Jim's conversation with Beverly the night before. Kostov would be taking the stand this morning. What time? Part of him wanted to be there, to watch Kostov's testimony hang Lee Brackett. But there was a little voice, shouting at him from the back of his mind, that convinced him otherwise.
Blair gathered up the tests, shoved them into his pack, grabbed a bagel from the counter and stuffed it into his mouth as he reached for his keys. He'd just get to the University, post the grades, scribble down a few more notes that he had left hanging last week, and go meet Jim. Maybe by then, there'd be some good news. Or at the very least, no news at all. Before going downstairs to plug the grades into the University's program, he stopped and purchased a double-tall mocha, then chatted with a couple of students from his research group. By the time he got to his office, Blair was beginning to feel normal again. Fortified by two shots of espresso, he plugged the grades into the school's database, then found his notebook where Jim had left it, and re-read his last four pages.
Blair turned on the radio for background noise, then found a pen and began to finish the thought he had started on the last page. Idly, he wondered what Jim had thought, reading page after page about his own abilities. He had seen, after all, the test ideas Blair had come up with to examine Jim's hearing range. Getting Jim into the lab sometimes was like pulling teeth.
"....partly cloudy, with a slight chance of rain later this afternoon."
Blair's mind idly recognized the weather as he began to jot down more notes. If he could just get Jim to agree to a few more experiments, they could really be onto something.
"And in breaking news this morning...."
He had to find out if Jim's other senses could piggy-back onto each other as his sight and hearing had. And what had that felt like? How had Jim been able to accomplish what Blair had suggested? Was it hard, or did it come naturally after Blair's hurried explanation?
"....confirmed case of jury tampering."
Would it work with more than two senses at a time?
"....admitted to having received over $50,000..."
And what about smell? Could Jim use his sight, to pinpoint an area and pick out smells from a greater distance?
"A definite mistrial. Just another case to be made for a professional jury system."
Then there was touch. One of Jim's senses they hadn't delved into very much yet.
"Until the prosecution gets another case put together....."
Blair was fully aware that Jim used his sense of touch in ways he didn't really want to explore, but for the sake of the research, they'd have to discuss it one of these days.
"Bail was set at....."
As if Jim needed any sexual advantage. The man was a magnet. Blair shook his head and continued to write.
"....leaving suspected murder Lee Brackett free pending a second trial."
"In financial news this morning....."
No. No, he hadn't just heard that. Oh God--oh God--he had! Mistrial?! What the hell had---what did that---Oh God, Lee Brackett was out!! Blair's pen fell to the floor. How long? How long had he been out? And Jim---where was Jim? The phone rang and Blair shot to his feet, spilling papers everywhere. His eyes darted from the phone to the door, then to the clock. It was 11:30. The phone rang again and Blair backed away from it, glancing back at the door. He had to get out, had to get---he had to get out! Brackett would come for him---was probably coming for him now. He'd get Jim. He'd come after Blair and get Jim. He had to get out! The phone rang again, and Blair lunged for the door, opening it before stopping to wonder who might be outside. He ran up the stairs, then out to the parking lot and into his car. Brackett wouldn't try anything right there in the open, would he? Where was Jim? Blair dug the keys from his pants and started the car. He had to get away, had to get far enough away so Brackett wouldn't find him and get to Jim. He had to---Jim could take care of himself, which is why Brackett came after Blair. Jim would be safe if he could---get away.
Blair drove out of the parking lot as fast
as he could, barely glancing down the road before pulling into the light traffic.
He didn't see anyone watching him, didn't see Lee Brackett anywhere. He didn't
even see Jim's truck as it pulled into the parking lot from the opposite side.
"Dammit Sandburg, pick up!" Jim held the cell phone to his ear and drove with one hand as he entered the parking lot in front of Blair's building. He had been phoning since he left the Station, letting it ring and ring as he drove, lights flashing, to the University. He let it continue to ring as he ran from the truck to the building, then down the stairs, and into Blair's office.
"Sandburg!" Jim scanned the room in seconds, realizing immediately his partner wasn't there. He saw the papers strewn on the floor, and heard the news still coming from the radio at the other end. "Dammit." He knew then that Blair must have heard. Of all the days to listen to news, instead of those obnoxious drums. Jim had hung up his cell phone, and it now rang in his hand.
"Jim, it's Simon."
Jim sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Anything, Captain?"
"No. He wasn't there?"
"I can't find him." Jim started back out of the office and up the stairs. "Is Mike at the loft?"
"Yes. No sign of him there, but Jeff and Randall are on Brackett. He hasn't left his lawyer's office yet. We just have to find Sandburg."
"I'm trying, Simon." Jim was at the truck again, and he focused tightly around the area, scanning for any sign of Blair. "Tell Mike to wait there. He has to have gone to the Station or home, Captain. I'm going to head that way, see if I can pick up on anything."
"Keep me informed."
Jim hung up and climbed back into the truck. Blair's car wasn't in the parking lot, but following a heat trail would be impossible, with all the other vehicles on the road. He'd have to go on instinct, and pray that would work. He drove to the road and turned, heading in the opposite direction he had come in. If Blair had just left, as Jim suspected, then he would have passed him on the road coming in from the south. He drove straight for several blocks, hoping that was right. With his hearing turned up, even to his new-found advantage, he scanned the streets for the distinctive sound of Blair's Corvair. Having heard him drive home at all hours of the night, Jim was keenly aware of the sound that engine made. He continued straight, heading towards the bay, scanning for Blair or his car. The sounds of the city began to overwhelm him, threatening to overload his hearing.
"Come on, Blair, where are you?" Jim came to a stop at the pier and looked down towards the city center. Would he have gone someplace public, in the hopes that Brackett wouldn't make a move against him? Then why hadn't he called? If he knew, as Jim had found out only moments before the newscast, then why hadn't he called? This whole trial had gone so horribly wrong, with Kostov suddenly deciding to change his story, then leaking a suggestion that there had been jury tampering. Before Jim knew what was happening, Lee Brackett had been released on a quarter-million dollars bail.
From his pocket, the cell phone rang again. "Sandburg?"
"Jim, still no sign of him at the loft. Brackett's just left his lawyer's office."
"Simon, I can't find him anywhere."
"It doesn't make sense, Jim. Why wouldn't he run to you? He hasn't come here, or home."
Jim shook his head, glancing up at the seaplane he could see just now lifting off from the bay. "I don't know, Simon. He's scared. This week hasn't been easy, and he's scared to death." He unconsciously focused on the plane in front of him.
"We'll keep an eye out here, Jim. And I've got Mike...."
"Hold on a minute, Simon." Jim lowered
the phone and focused all of his attention on the small seaplane as it circled
for altitude, then set off in a northerly direction. "Simon, I think I found
It took some doing, but Jim was finally able find a charter to take him north. It left in twenty minutes, so he hurried back to the truck, retrieved an overnight bag he tended to keep there, and phoned Simon as promised.
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Just be sure you come back, Jim. And bring that partner of yours with you. We'll keep Brackett in check."
"Thank you, sir." Jim hung up, then climbed into the waiting seaplane
and strapped himself in. Within minutes, they were airborne and heading north,
towards Puffin Island.
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