"My God, they've got Sara!" Mike exclaimed, still disbelieving what he had just seen. "But how, she should be at work! Oh God, they're going to kill her!"
Jim took Mike by the shoulders and gave him a quick shake, but before he could voice the reassurance that he didn't even feel, he was interrupted.
"Excuse me, gentlemen." The Police Chief had entered the room as the tape was ending. He turned to wave two other men inside and closed the door. "These two men are from the FBI, Special Agents Flynn and Michaels. They'll be taking over this case as of right now."
"Taking over?" Jim asked, looking from Simon to the Chief. "Helping out, maybe, but not taking over."
"Jim..." Simon began.
"No, Simon. Not this time." Jim replied, anger coloring his face.
"Detective Ellison, you are off this case as of right this minute." The Chief said, waving his hands to include all three men. "You are too personally involved, each of you. This is kidnaping, and extortion, and that's Federal territory. End of discussion."
Jim set his jaw, clenching against words he wanted to say, and considered each man for a moment. He knew they were correct, as far as proper police procedure went. He knew Simon, and Mike, wouldn't be able to stay objective in this case. He also knew, that if left to the Feds, he would never see Blair alive again.
"So, what do we have on these three men?" he asked, forcing stillness into his voice.
"Not much, yet." Agent Flynn replied, setting a briefcase on top of Simon's desk. "We know they are the family of convicted murder Samuel Jackson, and they are holding hostages in exchange for his release."
Jim was incredulous, "That's it?! That's all you have, and you expect me to just go sit at my desk and wait for this to be over?" He looked from the agent, to Simon, to Mike, and back again. "I picked that up from the first two minutes of that damn tape!" He was raising his voice now.
"Detective! You are off this case." The Chief commanded.
"Chief, Detective Ellison is highly trained in this type of rescue work."
"Captain, you and officer Jenkins may stay, we'll keep you informed as we go along." Michaels said, removing the tape from the machine. "Detective Ellison, you are welcome to tag along. But I will accept no interference. Any input you contribute will be accepted. But my best advice to you is to back off. Let us handle this, it's what we do."
"I'm not backing off." Jim replied
"Is Mr. Sandburg a relative? Have you known him for long? Detective, we will keep you informed, but you are off this case, and as far as I am concerned, not a vital link to it at this time, other than being a casual acquaintance of one of the captives." Michaels turned to Agent Flynn. "Take this to the lab for a detailed analysis." He turned back to Jim, "If that situation changes, we will call you."
Jim was seething, but he willed himself to calm down. Glancing around the room, he let his gaze pause briefly on Agent Michaels, then turned to Simon. "Okay, maybe he's right." He said, forcing a lightness in his voice that he didn't feel. "Keep me informed, will you Simon?"
"Jim?" Simon started to rise but Jim was already heading out the door, letting it swing shut behind him.
Once out of the office, Jim headed straight for his desk phone. He had to check his Rolodex for the number, and briefly worried that she wouldn't be there. Finding what he wanted, he dialed the phone, watching as Flynn left Simon's office and walked down the hall.
"Lab, Kathy speaking."
"Kathy, it's Jim. I need a
Guiltily, Blair had to admit he was glad for the company of Sara Jenkins and Darryl. He didn't like the fact that they were in this mess, but having them here kept him from going crazy with fear himself. His shoulder had stopped bleeding quickly, another hint that it wasn't too serious. His head still hurt, but he wasn't sure if it was from the impact of the tire iron, or the situation he was in. It had taken Sara a while to calm down, and Darryl was pretty shaken, but after a few hours alone, they had pretty well accepted the fact that this ordeal was going to last some time.
"I have to go to the bathroom." Darryl said, sheepishly.
Blair raised his head and was opening his mouth to speak when they all heard the door opening again. He turned, fleetingly praying it was Jim coming to the rescue, until he saw Cliff and Frankie enter.
"Just so you don't think bad of us, we've decided to let you three use the facilities." Cliff said, walking over to Blair. "But I'm warning you, any funny business, and the girl gets it first."
Blair glanced over to Sara, then back to Cliff. He decided silence was the best answer, unsure if a response would bring on another attack, and afraid it wouldn't be him who was hurt next time. He just nodded.
"Good boy." Cliff reached down, pulling Blair up by the shirt. As his hand pushed into the cut on Blair's shoulder, he had to grit his teeth so as not to cry out again. Cliff lifted the smaller man easily to his feet, pushing him ahead, towards the door.
Blair could barely walk at first, his vision blurred again for a moment and he staggered a little, finally gaining control. Cliff had a hand on his back, and as he glanced behind, he saw Frankie had stayed, standing next to Sara. As he was pushed through the door and down to the right, Blair glanced around, trying to figure out where they were. It was definitely a ship. Gun metal grey, lots of rust. The Naval scrap yard? Or maybe an unused cargo ship? Cliff stopped him just in front of another door by grabbing his shirt.
"Right here." He said. Turning Blair around he forced him roughly face first against the wall. "Remember, any tricks, and the lady will regret it."
Blair was silent, trying to pull his injured shoulder away from the pressure of the wall, as Cliff reached down and unlocked the small padlock that held the chains around his wrists. Before Blair could free his hands, he was pushed into the small bathroom and the door slammed and secured from the outside. He shrugged his hands loose, rubbing the feeling back into them as he examined the red, sore marks left by the chain. He was glad to be alone for a moment, he thought he wanted to be sick. Okay Jim, any time now. There was a bang on the door,
"You got five minutes, use em' well." Cliff called from the hallway.
Blair had a response formed, but changed his mind. It was easier to keep silent, say nothing. If he didn't participate in this, he could convince himself he was just a bystander, outside of himself, and it was happening to some other idiot dumb enough to trust a stranger on a dark road alone at night in the city. Speaking out hadn't done him any good with psychotics before. There was a mirror in the room and he wiped it clean, taking a better look at his injuries. The cut above his eye was ugly, the eye partially swollen and the skin turning black. His face had a two inch slice along the jawline but it didn't seem to be serious. He pulled the shirt away and examined his left shoulder. It had bled more than he thought, but a cautious examination told him the blade hadn't gone deep.
Blair took a long breath, feeling a little shaky again. There had to be something he could do. What if Jim didn't come in time? If they brought the video recorder in again, if he could whisper, tell Jim what he knew...But what did he know? That they were in a ship wasn't going to be much help in this area. But if he could find some identifying marks. He searched the bathroom for anything that would tell him the name or class of ship. Just as Cliff began to open the door, he spotted it.
Blair moved back instinctively as Cliff opened the door. Briefly he had considered using the door to knock the man out, make a break. But the door swung inward, useless.
"Turn around." Cliff demanded, reaching out and grabbing him by the left shoulder. He quickly scooped the chain from the floor where Blair had let it fall.
Blair winced, "Hey come on, I'm not fighting here."
Cliff laughed, "That's right you ain't." He pushed Blair into the hallway and back against the wall, pulling both hands behind his back.
Blair allowed his hands to be chained again, not struggling, but trying to force a little more give in the restraints this time. Now that he could feel his hands again, the chains hurt. This time Cliff merely wrapped his wrists, neglecting to interlace Blair's fingers.
"Back to your little friends. It's nearly time for another film."
Blair allowed himself to be pushed back to the cargo room without struggling, passing Sara Jenkins along the way. Frankie was escorting her, presumably cousin Bob was with Darryl.
Cliff shoved Blair against the wall. "Come on kid, you're going now too." He picked up Darryl and shoved him back the way they had come. Blair watched as cousin Bob stepped over to stand beside him.
"You and your cousins...must be a close family." Blair heard himself say. He was sure he had decided not to say anything. Hadn't he?
Cousin Bob didn't speak, just stood there, staring down at Blair.
He shrugged, raising his eyebrows for a moment. "You guys always pick on women and kids?" What was he doing?
Bob said nothing. God, Blair thought, shut up stupid! Inwardly he breathed a sigh of relief for having had nothing more to say. Bob was just standing there, silent. A few minutes later, Frankie returned with Sara, pushing her against the wall next to Blair. He glanced at her, trying to smile. She still looked terrified, but she had every right to be. Soon after Cliff came back with Darryl.
"Bob, go get the camera." Cliff ordered.
Blair watched as cousin Bob left, returning almost immediately with the camera and holding it up, facing Cliff. They were standing a few yards away. Blair waited until Cliff began to speak, then, quietly...
"Jim...it's a cargo ship...the Aggripa..." Blair spoke as softly as he could. He didn't think even Darryl or Sara heard him, but he was sure Jim would. If the tape was delivered...and Jim saw it...and got there before...
He hadn't been paying attention to what Cliff was saying, and hadn't noticed Frankie moving over to grab Sara by the arm. What he did see was the gun.
"Ten o'clock, tonight, or she is the first to go." He was saying.
Sara screamed. Blair lunged at Frankie,
"Leave her alone!"
Cliff was immediately behind Blair, grabbing him around the neck. "You wanna go first, pretty boy?"
Blair couldn't breathe. Cliff's arm was around his throat. He struggled, out of some instinctual need to inhale, and the arm tightened. Black spots began to appear across his vision. He stopped struggling, hoping the arm would loosen. Some part of him didn't want to pass out, not when Jim would see this.
as blackness began to envelop him, Bob shut off the tape and Cliff tossed Blair
down. He fell to the floor, breathing hard, and had to close his eyes. He heard
Sara being pushed to the floor and heard her light crying. He thought Darryl was
saying something, but he was still breathing too hard, and his ears were ringing.
Jim, please....I won't ask for the truck again, I swear.
Jim rewound the tape for the hundredth time, grateful his friend in the FBI lab had still been speaking to him after their last, unfortunate date. He knew, if Kathy wasn't still angry with him, that she wouldn't mind making a copy for him, unofficially of course. He also knew this time he'd have to make good on his promise to call her. And he was certain the FBI's crime lab wouldn't find anything he couldn't find, and possibly find sooner. Every time the tape played, he found himself focusing on Blair, reassuring himself his friend was ok. But this tape was now five hours old. What was happening now? Was Blair still alive, right now?
Every time he closed tired eyes, pictures flashed vividly across his mind. Pictures of every DB he had ever discovered. This time he saw Blair in each one. Kidnappings almost never ended successfully. But they had never been so personal. Darryl, Sara Jenkins...They had been taken because of who they were related to. Blair had been taken because of him. Jim inhaled deeply, willing the visions to drain with the breath he exhaled. This isn't helping anyone.
He hit play, listening again to as many sounds as he could pick out, trying to see something he didn't see before. Nothing. Nothing was working. Why couldn't he hear more? See more? Why wasn't he able to find them? The only sounds he had managed to come up with were metallic echoes, but from what? From where? He was startled out of his thoughts by a knock on the door to the lab room he had commandeered.
"Jim? I wondered where you went." Simon entered the room, followed by a very pale Mike Jenkins.
"Simon, I can't get it." Jim was frustrated with his own inability. "I've tried and tried, and I can't get any more from it." He waved to the tape still playing back on the machine. "I think it's a ship of some sort, but which one? Where?"
"Jim, they sent another." Simon held up the tape that Jim hadn't seen him carrying. "I had our lab copy it before the FBI saw." He tossed the tape to Jim. "They sent it by courier to my house." Mike said. "My in-laws are visiting. I haven't even told them yet."
"You should go home, Mike." Jim took the first tape from the machine. "This isn't doing you any good."
"What about you?" Simon asked. "Jim, this is no easier on you than us."
Jim turned to Simon, remote control in his hand. "What do you mean, Simon?" he said, irritation coloring his controlled voice. "Blair's not a relative, remember?" He shot the agent's words back at his friend, realizing as he did that Simon really wasn't the enemy. But someone had to be.
He turned back to the television and hit 'play', watching with Sentinel vision for new clues. Focusing on Blair in the background he saw the younger man's lips moving. Jim quickly changed focus, as Blair had taught him, and heard what he had been hoping for.
"Simon, I know where they are." he announced. Just then he heard Mike swear behind him and he changed focus on the film, just in time to see someone choking Blair. His stomach tightened as he watched, intently eyeing his friend, trying to determine his health. He saw Blair's knees begin to buckle just as the tape ended, leaving behind white snow where his partner had been
Mike turned, his face red with anger. "Where are they?"
"Simon, I'm going after them." Jim said. "You can tell the Feds, they can be backup if they want, but I'm going in there."
"Jim, where? Where are they?" Simon asked, putting a restraining hand on Jim's arm.
"A cargo ship, the Aggripa." he replied. "Mike, call the Port Authority, find out where that ship is docked. Simon, you can go to the Feds, I'm going after them."
Jim pushed his way past Simon and opened the door, not giving Mike a chance to wonder how he knew the name of the ship.
"I'm coming with you." Simon was resolute. "They have Darryl." He followed Jim down the hall to the stairway. Mike had found a phone and was dialing, nodding to them to proceed.
Jim and Simon gathered enough guns and armor for a small war, then met Mike at the truck behind the Precinct.
"It's docked at Pier 61." Mike said as he caught up, pulling on the bullet proof vest Jim handed him. "Registered to Peru, but seized when the company went bankrupt for back docking fees." He checked his gun, and grabbed a few more. "The Feds are looking in the Naval scrap yards. They're way off base, those yards are patrolled."
"Jim, are we sure we should do this?" Simon seemed suddenly unsure. "The Feds..."
"Simon, you do what you have to do." Jim replied, climbing into the truck. "I have to do this. Blair is in there because of me, I can't sit back and hope the Feds can get him out." He held the passenger seat forward so Mike could climb into the back. "I'm the reason he's in there, I'm going." He paused, waiting for Simon to get in. "What'll it be, Simon? That last tape is at least an hour old...what's happening to Darryl right now? I can't wait for the Feds."
Simon gritted his teeth and climbed into the truck. "I hope you know what we're doing."
They drove as quickly as they could to the shipyards, in silence, each man dealing with his own demons. They pulled onto the pier and Jim parked the truck at the opposite end of the dock, hiding it as best as he could behind a pile of shipping crates. Mike had taken out a jar of shoe polish and smeared his face, handing the jar to Jim who then did the same.
The sky was beginning to darken with the false dusk of an overcast Fall afternoon. They hurried carefully to the freighter. Jim stopped, just before the gangway, and knelt behind a huge metal cleat. Simon and Mike ducked behind him.
"Anything?" Simon asked, whispering.
Jim concentrated, scanning the deck for any sign of a lookout. Seeing no one, he listened for movement, but he couldn't penetrate the ship, couldn't focus clearly enough. The sounds of metal, waves, and seagulls began to overwhelm him.
"It's clear." he said. "They must be inside."
"If they're still there." Mike had been scanning the deck with binoculars and hadn't noticed Jim not using a pair. "What if they moved? What if they..." Jim turned, "We don't have any other option. We have to go in." He looked at Simon. "Are you ready?"
Simon nodded. He turned back to Mike. "Okay?"
Jim lead the way up the gangway to the ship,
motioning each man to take one of three hatchways leading into the main body of
"Darryl, how you holding up?" Blair found it easier to be concerned with Sara and Darryl's well being than worry about his own, identical situation.
"I'm okay." Darryl replied. "My dad will get us out of here."
"Do you think they'll really make a trade?" Sara asked, shifting around for a more comfortable position on the hard floor they had all been sitting on for so many hours. "What will happen to us if they don't?"
We'll die horrible deaths. "I don't know." And it will all be on tape. "We just have to believe that Jim, Simon, and your husband--that they'll get us out of here before that happens."
She fell silent again and Blair didn't offer more. He couldn't. He felt helpless. Completely helpless. What would Jim do if he was here? What was he doing right now to secure their release? Had he heard Blair telling him the name of the ship, or was he too emotional to focus? Was he even being shown the tapes? Was he outside right now, taking care of their captors?
Blair closed his eyes tightly for a moment, trying to banish the questions he had no answer for. He thought about the University. At least he wasn't being missed, having finished grading and handing out finals for that quarter. He briefly wondered what had become of his car, and remembered leaving the cell phone on the front seat. Had Jim known the battery was dead?
"How long have we been here?" Darryl asked. "I'm hungry."
Blair shook his head, "I don't know Darryl."
Suddenly the door opened and Blair held his breath as Cliff entered, followed by Frankie. Bob wasn't with them this time, nor was the video camera. Blair was glad of that. It seemed to have been several hours since the last taping, and Blair was pretty sure if one of them was to be killed, it would be filmed.
"One more comfort stop." Cliff said. He reached down, picking Darryl up. "Then it's show time again. One of you is going to put on a star performance. Frankie, you take this one." He pushed Darryl towards his brother, then reached down for Blair.
Blair tried to stand without being hauled up, and couldn't help the revulsion he felt when Cliff's hands locked around his shirt. He knew what they meant, knew that one of them was going to be killed. But which one? Some choices...a woman, a kid...or me.
Cliff smiled, shoving Blair ahead of him. "You don't like me much, do you?"
Blair stepped through the hatchway, turning left as Cliff pushed him. "What's there to like?" he asked.
Cliff just laughed, stopping long enough to pull the door closed, locking Sara in alone. They continued down the hallway to the same room Blair had used earlier. He realized then that Darryl must have been taken to another room. Cliff once again pushed him into the wall, unlocking the restraints and shoving Blair in before he could free his hands.
Blair shook the chains off as the door was pulled shut, letting them fall to the floor again. He used the facilities, then stood at the sink for a long time, letting the cold water cool burning wrists. He was so tired! Physically and mentally. It seemed like weeks since his car had broken down. Since he had been standing in Jim's loft, making his bid for the truck. Everything was so out of control and he was helpless to do anything about what he now felt sure was going to happen. He splashed water on his face, willing it to wake him from this nightmare. Jim, if you are ever going to do something, now would be a good time. His hands were shaking. This feeling of helplessness was nearly overwhelming. His life, Darryl's, and Sara's, were in the hands of desperate men. Men who were obviously willing to kill strangers to get what they wanted. Blair just wasn't used to this. He had seen, and even experienced, some pretty wild stuff since meeting Jim. But how did someone get used to this?
He heard the banging against metal that told him Cliff was coming in, and stood back, waiting for the door to swing in. There were footsteps, more clanging sounds, muffled voices. Blair froze, listening. Suddenly the door burst open and a gun was shoved in his face.
"Captain?!" Blair was incredulous, then concerned. "Where's Jim?"
"He's here." Simon had lowered his gun and motioned for Blair to come out of the bathroom. "Mike took care of one down the other hall. He had Darryl."
"Is he okay?" Blair asked, glancing around for any sign of Jim. He saw Cliff lying on the floor, unconscious, with hands cuffed behind his back.
"Yeah. Come on, let's get you out of here. Mike's gone to get Sara."
Simon was turning in front of Blair, to lead the way out to the deck, and didn't see Frankie stepping around the corner facing them.
Blair didn't call out, why he didn't know, but
pushed Simon sideways back into the tiny room.
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