"You mean, what if I turned out to be an international thief, instead of a cop?"
Blair nodded, picking up his fork. "Yeah, something like that."
Jim ate a mouthful, then looked up at Blair. "What would you have done?"
"What would you have done, if I turned out to be a criminal?"
"But you didn't." Blair put a forkful of linguini in his mouth.
Jim waved his fork in the air at his partner, "That's not the point. What would you have done, if I turned out to be not so perfect?"
Blair laughed around his mouthful, "Perfect? Jim, don't flatter yourself."
"Answer the question." Jim put his fork down and drank some milk, waiting.
Blair finished swallowing, trying to figure out just what to say. He honestly didn't know. "I'm not sure." There, that was the truth, believe it or not. "I'd like to say I wouldn't have hung around much. I mean, if I could have gotten him into the lab more than you, maybe studied him for a few months or something, I would have all my answers." Maybe. It was a good question, and one Blair had asked himself more than once after having met Jim. What would he have done? He had never been as concerned with what his Sentinel would be, as he had been with just finding one. It stood to reason that a Sentinel would be employed in some type of protection work, but then again, there was no real basis for that assumption. Sentinel abilities were genetic. Was the profession one chose also genetic in some way? Blair realized he was sitting there, fork in hand, staring off into space with Jim eyeing him. "What?"
"Nothing." Jim returned to his plate, then looked back up. "Do you think Jennifer has a Sentinel sense of touch?"
Blair rolled his eyes, knowing what Jim was thinking. "I suppose you could find out."
Jim grinned, then shook his head. "I don't think so, Chief. We're keeping it professional, remember? Besides, they're the bad guys."
Blair nodded and returned to his dinner. He knew Jim would never compromise himself for the job, especially with a woman like Jennifer. There had been only one other time, since his meeting Jim, that he had abandoned all judgment during a case for a woman. But, that had turned out to be due to his extrasensory response to pheromones. That was scientific, purely instinctual, and would hopefully never happen again. This, was just a case. And Diana, as attractive as she was, was definitely not Blair's type. Sure, she was nice to look at, and dressed for distraction, but Blair couldn't see himself picking her out of a crowd for a nice conversation.
But what about Jim's question? What would he really have done, if the Sentinel he finally found had been employed in anything other than a legitimate job? He had always envisioned himself as a Guide, once he admitted to himself and accepted the fact that he was NOT a Sentinel himself. And being Jim's Guide was turning out to be an educational, and life-changing position to be in. But what would have happened if Jim had refused him? Or if he couldn't stand to be around Jim? Blair used to have a mental picture of the tribal Sentinel and Guide as two proud, traditional, devoted men, spending months together alone in the jungles, watching for trouble and protecting the tribe. But, surely there wasn't danger around every corner, anymore than there is today. What did they talk about while sitting in the forest, getting rained on, with nothing else to do for days on end? Were they always a perfect match? They would have to be, wouldn't they? In order to spend what would be their entire lives together, often the only two people around for miles? Human nature didn't change much throughout the centuries. Did the old-time Sentinel get tired of seeing the same face all day long? Was he always the older, wiser member of the group? What about some of the Guides? Did they ever get fed up, and throw in the towel for the sake of their sanity? Or would they think of the tribe ahead of anything? How did Blair compare to the Guides of so long ago? There was a whole new aspect for his dissertation that he hadn't really considered.
"What's the plan for tomorrow?" Blair asked, realizing he had been thinking quietly all through dinner. He picked up both their plates and started for the kitchen.
"There are four more guests for the auction checking in tomorrow. I assume we'll try and hit all four." Jim stood and stretched, then crossed over to the couch and sat down. "The other six are all coming in the day after. If we hit them all, we might be able to meet this boss of theirs by the end of the week."
"Four in one day, then six the next? Jim, can you do that many?" Blair finished scraping the plates and started to fill the sink with hot water. "You sounded pretty stressed during the job today."
"We'll split them up, I assume. Jennifer and Diana take two, we take two."
"Yeah, but then three? And this one was controlled. We knew when Bryce's man was leaving and that he wouldn't come back until we were done." The sink was filled so he turned off the water and put the dishes in to soak. "This will be the real thing."
"I know. That's what we're here for, Chief. We'll go see Bryce in the morning, let him know what's happening."
Blair nodded and did the dishes, thinking about the fact that they were going to commit a real crime tomorrow. When he finished, he joined Jim in the living room. "I don't know, Jim. This could get tricky. I'm worried about you zoning out in one of those rooms."
Jim shook his head, "You kept me from going today. That should work again, no problem."
This time Blair shook his head, leaning forward in his chair. "No, it was easier today. First of all, there was no one in the hall except Diana, and we wanted her to know what we were doing. Second of all, we knew Bryce's man wasn't coming back. This time it's not a controlled experiment. I mean, what if someone comes back? What if I'm not alone in the hall and can't just start talking to no one? And if you do zone out, how am I supposed to get into the room if it locks behind you?" He shook his head again. "No, I don't like this."
"It's too late to back out now, Chief. Besides, you'll keep me from losing it like you always do, and I'll get us through the job like I always do, okay?"
Blair was quiet for a moment. Jim's faith could scare him sometimes. Finally he nodded, "How's your neck?"
Jim turned his head around a few times, "Fine. It was a little stiff, but the shower took care of it. Now, tomorrow might be another story, so keep those fingers limber."
Blair laughed shortly, "Yeah, if I don't want to run out of hot water again."
Jim ignored that remark. "I'd like to get a look at the equipment Jennifer uses to get into the safes. That setup at the house, they had enough hardware attached to the computer to keep any trace confused for hours. And they've got someone on the inside at the hotel; wether or not they know what is being done while they look the other way, I don't know. But they have to get the stuff to their silent partner somehow. He either comes for it, or they take it to him. Sounds to me like they'll be finished with this town after this week."
"Don't you think that after tomorrow's take, the hotel will be crawling with security? Two guests get robbed of several million dollars, and the cops would be swarming."
"Bryce will take care of that."
Blair nodded. He could think of a million more reasons
why something would go wrong, but Jim would have an answer for each one. At least
no one was going to get hurt this time.
The next day, they drove to Detective Bryce's office and filled him in. After that, and a call to Captain Banks, they were on their way back to the hotel to meet their new partners. Jim had the motion sensor in his jacket pocket along with the key decoder, and they each had their headsets. Jennifer and Diana were waiting for them at the same table as the other day, so Jim slid in beside her, while Blair sat next to Diana again, this time trying to keep some distance between them. Immediately a hand was on his knee and he tried not to pull away. He was attracted to her on a purely physical level, but nothing more.
"Right on time." Jennifer smiled at them both, then nodded out to the lobby. "Our first guest has just arrived. He checked in about three minutes ago, in room 713." She glanced at Blair and Diana. "I normally send Diana up to scout out the floor, while I wait down here for the all clear." She looked at Jim, "I like to see the mark actually leave the hotel and get into a cab before going up. That way I know I have some time."
Jim nodded, glancing at Blair for a second. "Why don't we send the kids upstairs, while we wait for the other guests to arrive?"
Blair tried to shoot Jim a nasty glance, but he was being ignored. He didn't want to leave Jim, and he most definitely didn't want to be alone with Diana for long. But before he could protest, Diana had snaked an arm around his and was pushing him out of the bench.
"We'll head up to the seventh floor and get comfortable," she said.
Blair was still trying to glare at Jim, but when his partner looked at him he just smiled and nodded towards the lobby with his head. "Let us know when he leaves the room."
"Do we know he's alone?" Blair asked, glaring at Jennifer now.
"He's alone," she replied. "We'll take this one, if he leaves soon. After we get another check-in, Diana can cover the new one." She turned to Jim. "Three of them are going to be on the same floor. Maybe we'll get a chance to work together."
Jim was replying to her, but Blair didn't get to hear it as Diana was pulling him toward the elevators. Once inside, Blair thanked every god he had ever heard about that they were not alone in the car. At the seventh floor, they proceeded together down the corridor until they came to room 713. The room was farther down the hallway, towards the corner that mirrored the vantage point Blair had yesterday while he watched out for Jim. They paused at the door, then proceeded on around the corner and down the other hallway a few doors, until the lady behind them rounded the corner and entered her room. Once clear, they went back to the corner and each took a seat in the padded chairs set up with a small table between them. Diana removed a headset from her purse, and Blair took his from his pants pocket, putting it on his right ear. Hers was somewhat smaller, and she raised a hand to her head when a guest passed by so as to hide the instrument.
"I envy you," she said when they were alone in the corridor. "I had long hair once, and it was a perfect cover for this contraption."
"Why'd you cut it?" Blair asked, trying to picture her in long hair.
"Got mad at a boyfriend and just started whacking. I guess I was feeling aggressive or something." She shrugged. "Should have cut his while he slept I suppose."
Blair nodded, then turned to see who was coming off the elevator. After the couple passed them, he turned back to Diana. "How long have you two been together?"
"Oh, I dunno. Maybe three or four years. Who counts?" She glanced down the right-side hallway as they heard a door. "What about you and Don Juan?"
Blair was taken aback for a second by her reference, but he quickly recovered. "Not long, really. Not quite a year." He watched the man who had exited his room pass them and walk to the elevators. As the gentleman passed, he gave Diana a long look. "Don't they start to wonder, seeing the two of you at these hotels for so long?"
She shook her head, "No. We only work one hotel for no more than a week, and the staff just figure us for working girls. You know, the professional type. The one's that high-paying guests might call in while they're in town. Hotels like these don't make waves for high priced guests. Actually, I'm surprised they haven't gotten into the business of supply and demand themselves. Think of the money the hotel could bring in on the side if they provided their own."
Blair just raised his eyebrows for a second and nodded. Her comment reminded him of Amber, and that in turn reminded him of Zeller. Which all served to remind him of why going undercover with Jim could be not such a desirable thing to do sometimes. Calm down, there's no target painted on your butt this time. Just then the door to room 713 opened. Blair and Diana watched as a gentleman in his fifties stepped out, tested the door before putting his key-card back into his pocket, and walked to the elevators. Diana reached into her purse and pulled out a small beeper-sized box and punched a button. Within seconds, Jim was on the headset.
"Sandburg, which elevator is he in?"
"The far right. He's wearing a black wool jacket." Blair answered, hearing Diana tell Jennifer the same thing. "Looks like he's dressed for the weather."
There was a pause, "Here he is. He's hailing a cab." Then to Jennifer, "Who gets this one?"
"We've got two more check-ins, both for the seventh floor." Jim paused again and Blair turned to Diana as she spoke to Jennifer.
"Okay, come on up. I can handle it. Those rooms are just around the other side. We could hit them all this afternoon if they leave."
"Sandburg, Jennifer is coming up to take room 713. The other two check-ins are heading up in the left elevator, rooms 719 and 724. Keep an eye on them."
"Right." This was getting complicated. Jennifer stepped off of the elevator before the other guests arrived, moving straight to room 713. She used the same device Jim had to open the door, then stepped inside just as the second elevator opened. Blair and Diana switched seats, so she had a more straight on view of the room her partner was in while Blair kept an eye on the new arrivals as they approached their rooms. Each of the two men that passed him was carrying a brief case with a small silver handcuff and chain, securing them to their property. Ten minutes later, just as Jennifer was coming out of room 713, Jim announced the arrival of guest number four.
"She's done." Blair said, speaking quietly into the microphone. He watched as Jennifer calmly shut the door behind her, glanced at them for a moment, then walked to the elevators and pressed a button. As she waited for the car, Blair saw the man from room 724 come out and walk down the corridor towards her. "Jim, room 724 is coming down. The same car as Jennifer."
"Got it." Jim replied. "You ready to go to work, Chief?"
"Hang on...here comes room 719, too." Blair watched the second man come out of the room, spray his breath with an atomizer from his jacket pocket, then walk towards them, smiling at Diana as he passed. He had just missed the elevator Jennifer and room 724's guest were in, so he pressed the button and waited, still smiling at Diana.
"He's getting into a cab. I'm coming up." Jim's voice was clear enough to Blair, but he knew Diana couldn't hear it. As soon as the elevator opened up, and guest 719 got in, he told her.
"Jennifer will take room 719, as soon as Mr. Friendly takes off." She turned to Blair, "This is turning out to be a good day. Maybe we'll get this wrapped up in time for some dinner?"
Blair tried to smile. "Maybe." God, he didn't want to spend too much time alone with her. It hadn't taken Jennifer long to get into the safe, but Blair hadn't seen what method she used. He had decided the idea of her having a Sentinel sense of touch was just too far-fetched. She had to have equipment like that which had been given to Jim by Fingers McCoy. Even if she did turn out, against all odds, to have one sense...she couldn't possibly have all five. Blair really didn't expect to find another Sentinel anywhere near Cascade during his lifetime. After all, one was enough for any Guide to handle.
Jim came off the elevator and walked towards Diana and Blair as they sat in the corner, watching. He didn't pause, but continued down the other side to room 724, swiped the key-card through the lock, and went inside. "Jennifer is coming up in the next car, so Diana will be occupied."
"Good." Blair replied over the headpiece.
Jim smiled to himself and found the room safe behind the dresser mirror. "Okay, Chief, here goes." He took hold of the tumbler and let his tactile sense become prominent in his mind, feeling the metal underneath his fingers take on a larger-than-life feel.
"Jennifer's in her room." Blair's voice was inside his head and Jim mentally took hold of it to keep from falling into a sensory trance as he moved the tumbler into its first position. He remembered to breathe, and turned the dial in the opposite direction. The tumbler had magnified itself in Jim's mind, and through his sensitive fingers he could envision the inner workings of the lock, even to the point of feeling the wear and tear this safe had been through in the years since it was first installed. His mind began to pull him into the safe as the focus intensified itself. He began to feel smaller and smaller, and a voice in the back of his mind was trying to call to him, trying to pull him back out of the safe. Jim could feel his heart begin to race with the effort it took to hear the voice, then the tumbler hit a combination, and the teeth falling into place sent a jarring through his arm and up to his tensed neck.
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