Home > Graywulf > Bad Penny Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Bad Penny

by & Stargazer

Episodes inferred: Switchman, Warriors, Sentinel Too Parts 1 & 2, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg, (references to Fanfic – Many thanks to D. L. Witherspoon, and her permission to borrow a small piece of her Gates of Hell series. Also, many thanks to DawnC, for a little legalese…. TAE for allowing us to borrow Mable briefly… and Ronnee for Devon Cheshire. Last but not least - this is a sequel to You Don't Wanna Know....) Special thanks to our betas, TAE, Impala, Iris and Angie.

For those who've been waiting for the other installments of this story, we're going to make them available.
Please note: They have been partially betaed and we will be updating these as soon as we're able. Unfortunately, it seems RL has gotten the best of us.

Premise: Blair is missing. Jim's seeing things and turns to an acquaintance for help. Fallout and fun after TS by BS. Rating: TV-17

Blair was collecting things he would need for his weekend away as Jim followed him around the loft Blair stopped suddenly causing his loftmate to careen into him.

"Hey, man. Will you quit hovering?" demanded Blair, turning on his friend, exasperated. "Give me some space, here. I'm only going to be gone for 48 hours... 2 days and 2 nights.... Jim... you gotta get a grip, man!"

Jim sat down heavily on the couch, unable to voice his concerns. He scrubbed his face as Blair continued his search for his camping gear.

"Now where is that rain parka? Jim, I know I put it in here two weeks ago, now where the heck is it?"

Jim smiled slightly at his roommate's ranting. "Blair, if you'd put things away as soon as you're done with them, you wouldn't be looking for them now. You'd know right where they're supposed to be!"

Blair stood and made a face at him, mimicking Jim's words. "And I would certainly have heard about it if the rain parka had molded and mildewed, assailing your Sentinel sense of smell...."

"Yeah, well, it was already *ripe* when I hung it up by the back door to dry out."

"Oh, thanks, Jim," stated Blair as he ran to the back vestibule and grabbed his rain parka. He quickly wrapped it up as small as it would go and stuffed it into his trusty backpack.

"Chief, you're never going to get everything in that small backpack if you don't use a little foresight when packing things into it." Jim eyed all the gear littered on the floor surrounding the backpack.

"I'm just trying to cover all the bases. Never know what Mother Nature's going to be throwing at us up in the mountains," shot back Blair as he went into his room, pulling dresser drawers open and slamming them. Jim heard a distinct, "ah ha!" come from the bedroom as he found something he had been looking for.

The younger man returned with it, holding it up triumphantly.

"A compass?" asked Jim, incredulous. "Since when have you ever used a compass?"

Blair made another face at Ellison and quipped, "Since you bought it for me a year ago. I never leave home without it, just in case I happen to get separated from you out in the woods, Big Guy! That way I can always find the proper direction...."

Jim tried to hide a smile and muttered under his breath, "You couldn't find your way out of a paper bag, Chief, let alone the woods."

Blair turned on Jim quickly and smirked, "I heard that Ellison. I resemble that remark, you know. That's why the compass!" Jim and Blair laughed at this statement and the picture it brought to their minds of Blair in a giant paper bag, trying to find his way out.

Jim sobered as he had a flash of Blair lost in a large forest. He shook his head, trying to clear the image that had popped into his mind, unbidden.

"Are you all right?" asked Blair.

"I’m okay," Jim assured.

Jim shivered as another image came unbidden to him. He rubbed his hands up and down his arms to ward off the sudden chill. Blair stepped up behind Jim and touched his friend's forehead. "Are you sure you aren't coming down with something, Jim?"

"No, Sandburg, I'm not. I just got a sudden chill from a draft in here," lied Jim as he shrugged off Sandburg's hand and concern.

"You? Get a chill? Tell me another story, Ellison. The man who feels no cold or heat! You're a walking tank, man! Nothing phases you... but something's getting to you now and your forehead feels fine. Maybe we should take your temperature? Just to be sure... .I can always call and cancel at the last minute. I don't want you to be sick and have your senses go haywire, Jim...." Blair spoke so fast that Jim couldn't get a word in edgewise. He reached out to grab hold of Blair's hand as it reached for the portable telephone.

"Chief, put it down, now!" he commanded in his best intimidating voice he used on criminals. Blair jumped at the sternness in the voice and instantly dropped the phone.

"Whoa, man! Chill!"

"No, Sandburg, *you* chill! There's nothing wrong with me, and you're not staying home. You're going with your friends, or need I remind you of your own words?"

Blair shook his head while making a face and recited his words as Jim spoke them. "Naw, man, this will be good. My last weekend of freedom as a civilian before taking the oath of 'to serve and protect’ at all times...."

Blair threw his hands up in defeat. "Okay, okay. You made your point. I'm outta here as soon as I finish packing!"

A half an hour later, as Jim watched Blair stuff the last of his gear into the backpack, the older man stopped Blair with a hand to the younger man's arm.

"Blair, make me one promise, okay?"

"Sure, Jim. Anything within my power."

"Be careful, will you? You know you're a magnet for trouble..."

"Aw, man... this is just a little camping trip. I promise. No trouble coming from me. Although the guys and I may raise a little cane at the campsite. But no, no way am I going to get in trouble, with the law or anyone else!"

With that, Blair grabbed up his backpack and headed out the door. Jim heard a car honk its horn as Blair closed the door.

Jim found himself focusing on Blair's heartbeat seeking reassurance that the kid was all right. He listened until he could hear Blair's receding heartbeat no more. The only problem was, by the time that had happened, He had zoned…

Blair closed the door to the loft and quickly walked down the stars, a grin on his face. He just knew that Jim would be listening to him leave. He debated whether he should say something to his friend.

He nodded his head and went for it. "Hey, Jim! I know you can hear me man, so listen up. If there is anything wrong with you - have the Forest Rangers come look me up! I really want to know, man! And if you get sick and don't tell me, you'll have hell to pay, and I mean, hell to pay!" He laughed as he opened the outer door and spotted the van waiting for him.

A blond-haired girl got out of the VW Vanagon and opened the rear compartment to stow Blair's gear. He greeted the girl warmly. "Hey Andrea, thanks! Glad you could make it!"

"I almost didn't. My little brother decided to be a brat this morning. Thought it would be a good thing to hide my backpack!" she said with a grin.

She gave Blair a hug after he closed the tailgate and he giggled and hugged her back. "Now, that's what I call a greeting!" he said as he climbed into the back seat of the van with another friend of his, Devon Cheshire.

The van ground into gear and started off. Blair realized that they had packed the van pretty tight, even with the car-top carrier where the tents were. The owner of the van, Kurt Schmidt, had utilized even the spaces under the bench seats to stow stuff, which left little room for everyone's feet to stretch out. Blair didn't mind the cramped quarters and neither did the other teaching assistants, since they knew they only had an hour and a half ride. To save bucks, and the environment, they had pooled everything together and taken the biggest vehicle.

Blair greeted his friends who were all teaching assistants from Rainier Devon Cheshire, Andrea Bartlett, Lisa Schmitz, Gord Edmonds, and Kurt Schmidt.

"Hey Lisa, sorry about leaving you with the grading for Aronson's classes. I couldn't get them done before I left."

"I know Blair. It couldn't be helped. They're in. I called in a few favors to get some help marking them, so we made the deadline for the Admin office. Debra was a dream." Andrea continued, "By the way Blair, Debra appreciated that you remembered to help her out with proctors for the exams. She was heartbroken to see you go."

"Thanks, Andrea," replied Blair, he sighed as he continued, "Yeah, it's been a bummer not to be able to finish...."

"So... You start the academy on Monday. You're really going to do it?" questioned Kurt.

Blair swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, what else can I do? I can't go to another university after this. Besides, that's basically what I've been doing for the last three plus years as an Official Observer. Hopefully, I can get around carrying a gun."

"It was wrong - the whole thing. The way it was handled. There should have been another way around it without you having to give up everything," commiserated Kurt.

Blair nodded his head as the others chorused their agreement. "But what's done is done. I can't undo it. And to be honest, now I'm going to get paid to do what I've been doing anyway. It does make some sense."

Devon, turned around, "What about suing them, Blair? Especially after all the years you've put into your research and teaching."

"I don't know. It's a possibility, but right now it's still too fresh to think about."

"Man," started Gord, "I can't believe you, Blair Sandburg, pacifist, are going to be a cop!"

Blair shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what else to say.

Another friend teased him, "Hey, Officer Sandburg has nothing to say!"

Blair sighed. "I thought I got enough of this at the PD."

Gord punched Blair in the shoulder, gently.

"That's okay, man. We understand, don't we?" he asked, glaring at each of the van occupants.

"Thanks, guys. It is appreciated."

Devon agreed with Edmonds. "Yeah, Gord, I know I understand. Man, what a bummer to not be able to finish. I honestly don't know what I'd do if I were in your shoes, Blair. More power to you, man!"

"Let's just have a fun weekend, okay? Hey, I even remembered to bring a compass to make sure I didn't get lost," joked Blair.

"That'll be a first!" chuckled Devon.

That brought on laughter from the other teaching assistants, since they knew Blair was directionally challenged.

The former anthropology grad student dug into his pocket and produced the compass. "See? I have it right here!"

Kurt laughed. "You'd better put it on a rope around your neck, Blair, so you don't accidentally drop the thing!"

"I have a funny feeling the only way we won't lose you is to implant a GPS in you...." threatened Devon.

Blair made a face and grumbled, "Oh, ouch! I don't even want to think about it!"

"We can implant into your wrist and cover it with clear plexiskin...and call you Mr. Data for having implants!" teased Kurt.

"No! No!" protested Andrea. "We'll put microchips in his head with a little antenna coming out and call him My Favorite Martian!"

"You're cruel, man. Really cruel," laughed Blair

"You'd have your own satellite hookup then, for the GPS in your arm. And, and..." joined in Andrea

"Then Captain Kirk can always find you, no matter where you get lost! You'd just say, beam me up, Scotty!" added Lisa.

"Stop! Stop! I'm starting to have nightmares already!"

Gord made a serious face and intoned, imitating Mr. Spock, "Fascinating that the man has survived this long, Captain! I would have given him only a .125762 chance of surviving on his own in the forest!"

Blair mumbled to himself, "Boy, am I glad the rest of the Major Crimes guys aren't here to see this. They'd never let it go!" Blair squirmed in his seat and apologized to Andrea who was sitting next to him.

"Oh, that's okay, Blair. It is getting a little hot in here with all the teasing. I'm sorry, you know we tease you only because we love you!"

"If this is love, maybe I need a few more... nope strike that. I've got enough enemies, too," said Blair

The others chorused their agreement as Blair looked critically at Andrea. "Andrea, do you really love me?" He had never thought about dating Andrea before... maybe there was hope after all, for his love life.

"Well, yeah, but not *that* kind of love, more like sister-brother love, okay?"

"Damn!" he said softly, but not soft enough. Andrea put her hand on his arm and rubbed it.

"Oh, well, I tried," muttered Blair.

"I'm sorry Blair, you've been always like a brother to me. I couldn't see you in any other way. Forgive me?" she asked, contrite.

"Sure, Andrea, sure," he replied with a rueful smile. She gave him a big smile in return and gave him another hug. "As long as you don't stop giving me hugs, I'll forgive you!"

She playfully punched him in the shoulder for the implication.

"Ouch!" he cried playfully. "This is the treatment I get when I forgive someone? Sheesh! What happens if the girl is really mad at me? Throw me out of the van?"

Andrea rolled her eyes at Blair and grinned. "You don't want to know, Blair.... As long as you don't cross me, you'll be safe...."

Blair and the others in the van laughed good-naturedly at Andrea's comment.

"Ooooh, Sandburg, look out...she means business!" shot back Lisa. She and Andrea were best buddies so she knew what Andrea was talking about. "Ask Gord, he knows what happened when he crossed her last week!"

"He's still alive to tell the story?"

Gord groaned and shook his head. "My ears are STILL ringing from the dressing down she gave me, Sandburg. Good thing I was fast or my ears would have been boxed, too!"

Blair laughed and pointed to Andrea. "You? Miss Meek and Mild? Dressed down Gord? What the heck did he do that deserved that, or don't I want to know?"

Gord turned in his seat to address Blair. "All I did was make a simple statement about how much harder it is to teach chemistry to the undergrads and she went ballistic...." Gord shrugged his shoulders and gave a lopsided grin to indicate that he really didn't know what had happened.

"Gord, you got off lightly...." said Lisa with a feral grin.

"Oh, sure," started Andrea, her ire getting started up again. "You chemistry people get to play with chemicals all day and do mathematical equations of the stuff, while Ed majors have to do lesson plans, teach curriculum classes...."

Gord interrupted her. "Just because you have normal people taking education classes, we, of course, work with the budding geniuses!"

"Ha!" she snorted. "Geniuses, my foot! You chem people can't put two sentences together and make it sound right! That's why I'm always helping you with your papers, right?"

He looked a little sheepish as she again asked, "Right? Come on Gord, fess up! If it weren't for me helping you on your papers...."

He looked at the other occupants in the van. "Help me guys, before she gets up here and boxes my ears again...."

The others laughed at his predicament and he beckoned to Sandburg. "Hey, Blair, can I charge her with assault and battery? Can I?"

He was met with a round of laughter from the other passengers, and raised his hands in self-defense. They knew better than to intercede in his case.

Blair laughed and put his hands up. "Hey, man, I'm still a Observer, not official yet!"

Andrea swatted Blair on the arm again and he complained. "Ow! Why make me your punching bag! Go after Gord!"

"Then don't get in the way..." started Andrea.

She swatted him again and stated, "Besides, you're closer than he is! I'd have to climb over too many bodies to get to him."

Blair watched Andrea out of the corner of his eye for a few minutes to make sure that she wasn't going to swat him again. They jumped to other subjects and planned what they were going to do on the campout.

The rest of the trip was spent discussing summer plans and how former students were doing in their chosen fields of work.

At the campsite, the seven friends quickly divided up the chores for setting up the tents, getting the gear out, setting up the sleeping bags, who was sharing tents, setting up the cooking area, etc. Blair pulled firewood duty for the first day along with Lisa.

Kurt passed out the snacks with the help of the girls. Blair thanked Lisa for the treats. She sat down next to him on a log that they had pulled up around the campfire.

"So, how are we going to handle the sleeping arrangements?" asked Gord.

Blair added, "We've got three tents, and seven people."

He turned to her and pouted, "Actually, Lisa, I was hoping that I could share a tent with you two ladies. The tents the guys are sharing are way too small to sleep three. I'm gonna get smooshed by these guys!" He used his snack to point to the other males in the group.

She swatted him on his left arm and he complained. "Ow! What was that for?" he asked innocently.

"You should know better, Blair!"

"This isn't a menage-a-trois, you know, Gord and Blair!" humpfed Andrea.

"Aw, come on," encouraged Blair, wiggling his eyebrows at the girls, "It might be fun!"

Both girls threw their empty candy wrappers at Sandburg and shoved him off the log.

"You know Andrea, Blair might have a point. That way, if he shared the tent with us, we could protect him from the other guys," joked Lisa.

Blair rubbed his hands together in anticipation, and grinned madly. "Now you're talking!" His face changed as he realized what Lisa had actually said. "Protection from the guys? Why? Do you know something I don't know Lisa?"

Lisa just smiled evilly.

A chorus of the X-Files theme being whistled came from behind Blair.

She stood up and packed up the leftover snacks, then shot Blair a glance. "Come on, Sandburg. The faster we get the firewood, the sooner we can start the fire for lunch. I know you guys are always hungry!"

"And the sooner we can sit down and relax for a while!" Blair replied to Lisa.

"Since when do you ever relax, Blair?" asked Devon. "You're the only guy I know who can fidget in his sleep, or should I say bounce in his sleep? I think we'll put Blair in his own tent so the rest of us can get some sleep!"

"Hey! I was planing to do a little meditation this afternoon to just relax," protested Blair.

"Yeah?" challenged Kurt. "I bet you can't even sit still when you meditate!"

"Why don't you join me then?" challenged Blair

The others laughed heartily at Blair.

"Laugh all you want. I'm going to enjoy myself this afternoon."

"Sure, Blair, sure," said Lisa as she grabbed Blair's hand and pulled him up off the log. He dusted himself off and stepped over the log and followed her. "Well, you're not going to enjoy anything unless you get your butt in gear!"

"Okay, okay, Lisa! Don't pull so hard!" complained Blair good-naturedly.

Kurt yelled to the retreating couple, "Hey Lisa! Be careful of Blair. Don't fall for his ploy that he has something to show you behind a bush! He might try to steal a kiss, you know!"

The others laughed hard at that and she shot back, "How do you know, Kurt? From experience?"

The others laughed at Kurt who waved his hands in negation. "You guys know I'm straight!"

"Just a sec, I almost forgot my compass!" he cried as he dived back to his backpack.

"Oh, come on, Sandburg!" said Gord. "You? With a compass? You don't even know how to use one! You'll still get lost!"

Blair finally found it and triumphantly flashed it at his friends. He flipped it open and showed them. "See? It was from Jim! I told you guys in the van that I had one!"

"Yeah?" asked Devon. "How do you read it? Do you know where you are now?"

"Give me a break. Anyone can read a compass," retorted Blair as he fumbled with the compass and turned slightly to get a reading. "Well, it's pointing north now, so if we go in a southerly direction, then we just turn around and come back north!" He grinned wildly.

Devon stood up and read the compass over Blair's shoulder. "Sandburg! That's pointing south! Sheesh!"

Blair stammered and started to turn red. "I knew that. I was just testing you guys!"

"Where's the sun, Sandburg?" asked Gord.

Blair shook his head, not willing to continue to play into their game. "In the sky, moron!" He grinned back to soften his statement. He pocketed the compass and ran to catch up with Lisa who had gotten a good head start. "So, how do you want to do this?" asked Blair as he caught up with her. "Start out the farthest and work our way back in, or start close by, bring stuff back, then go back out?"

"Whatever, " she replied as she started to pick up some kindling. He shrugged in reply and started to gather up wood. After a few minutes their arms were full and they took the stuff back to camp. They headed out again after dropping their load off.

They continued gathering the wood. As he rounded a large bush he stopped dead in his tracks as he spied a fawn sleeping under a bush a little farther ahead. He quietly backtracked and hurried over to Lisa. He poked her in the ribs with a finger as she was bending down and made her squeal in fright. She dropped her bundle of wood as she stood up, ready to lash out with her fists at whomever was poking her. She quickly stopped when she saw it was Blair.

"Stop that! Look what you made me do!" He dropped his bundle of wood next to hers, quickly shushed her, and beckoned her to follow him. She shook her head no as she started to bend down and pick up her wood. He grabbed her hand and pulled her along behind him, whispering, "Come on, Lisa! Quietly!"

She dug her heels in and tried to pull out of his grasp. "Sandburg! Stop! I'm not falling for any of your tricks here." She used her other hand to try to get out of his grasp but he hung on and kept pulling her behind him, muttering for her to be quiet. Finally he managed to pull her around the bush and put a hand on her mouth to stop her diatribe. He shushed her again and pointed his arm in the direction of where the fawn was sleeping. She looked at him wide-eyed, wondering what he was up to.

"Shhh, Lisa. Just follow my finger and see? There's a cute little fawn sleeping over there!" He removed his hand from her mouth when she nodded that she saw it. They slowly backed away so they would not disturb the sleeping fawn.

Simon Banks, captain of the Major Crimes unit of the Cascade PD, hung up the phone feeling more than just a little unsettled. It wasn't like Jim Ellison to be this late. He hadn't left word he was going to be interviewing witnesses or doing any other investigative work that would have taken him away from the bullpen. The fact that he was answering neither the phone at the loft nor his cellphone was disturbing.

A knock on the door was followed by Joel Taggart's arrival. "Sure is quiet here without Jim and Blair around. I know Blair was going away for the weekend, but wasn't Jim supposed to be in this morning?"

Simon looked up. "Yes, he was. There's no answer at the loft. Ellison's not answering his cell phone. He hasn't called in. It's just not like him."

"You don't think that, what is it Blair calls it? You know, when something happens to Jim, and he just blanks out?" Joel asked.

"A zone? That normally only happens when he focuses too long on one thing. Sandburg can get him out of it fairly quick," replied Simon.

"You don't think…" started Joel.

"I don't know. Maybe someone should go over and check out the loft, make sure everything is all right." At that moment, the phone rang and he answered. "Thanks for the reminder, Rhonda." He looked up at Joel. "You'll have to go to the loft to check it out. I've got an appointment at the commissioner's office to go to right now." Simon reached into his pocket and tossed his copy of the keys for the loft to him.

Joel raised an eyebrow. "Simon, how long have you had a key to Jim's place? Is there something more going on here?" he asked with a teasing smile.

Simon's answering glare said everything.

Upon his arrival, Joel found Jim standing near the door. Scared by the blank look on Jim's face and that he hadn't responded to his greeting, he swore under his breath and called Simon. He had forgotten that Simon was not in the office. He pleaded with Rhonda to get a hold of Simon immediately!

Simon's cell phone rang while he was sitting in the commissioner's office. He answered, only to discover that Joel had called in a panic. Rhonda explained that Joel told her there was serious trouble that only the captain could handle.

Simon realized that this meant one thing. Jim had zoned and because Blair wasn't there to handle it, Joel was calling for backup.

"I'm sorry, Sir, a situation has arisen that requires my immediate attention. I'll call Monday morning to reschedule our meeting." Simon quickly thanked the commissioner for his understanding and left. He hoped that he could get Jim out of the zone when he arrived at the loft.

Joel tried everything he could think of, cold, heat, pain. Nothing worked.

"Aw, come on Jim. I'm not Blair. I don't know how to do this thing! How in hell do I get you out of this zone out? He was going to teach us on Monday how to do that! Damn! Why couldn't it be Monday, instead of Friday? Shit," he complained to himself, rubbing his neck in agitation, pacing the loft.

Simon arrived to find the door to the loft ajar and Joel standing next to a seriously zoned Jim.

Simon launched into a tirade. "What the hell should I do? I haven't done this nearly as many times as Blair and Jim will kill me if I even think about calling the kid for assistance. He said Blair needed this weekend to sort things out about the academy and stuff."

"Simon, take a deep breath, in and out. We need to be calm if we’re going to help Jim." coaxed Joel, demonstrating for the captain. Simon started to refuse, when Joel gave him a look that said: "I'm a captain, too, so don't pull rank on me! Cause you can't, so there!" Simon capitulated and took one halfhearted breath.

Joel told him he that he could do better than that and demonstrated. "Just who do you think you are with all this breathing crap, Sandburg?" demanded Simon.

"Well, he did help me overcome my fear of bombs, Simon, and the breathing exercise was one of the techniques.... If I need to be, yes!"

"Okay, Joel Sandburg, what next? I took a deep breath. So? I don't feel anything," stated Simon in a normal sounding voice.

Joel smiled knowingly. "Take another one, Simon, just do it and no arguments!" Simon rolled his eyes but did as he was told.

"Now what?" asked Simon as he finished his last breath.

Joel motioned to his friend. "You tell me. You've seen Blair do this more than I have. What does Blair do to get Jim out of a zone?"

Simon thought about Sandburg and tried to recall different times he had actually seen the two in action. "Well, I think he talks to Jim in a soft, low pitched voice. Just talks to him." Joel motioned Simon to try it. Simon sat next to Jim on the couch. He reached out and placed his hand on Jim's shoulder. "Come on Jim. We need you back here. What in the world happened to send you off into this?" sighed Simon. "Jim, you have to come back. We need you. If you don't come back, I don't want to be the one to face Sandburg."

"Say something else, Simon. Remind him why he should come back to us. Wherever he is at right now," stated Joel as he lowered himself to the couch opposite.

"Do you really want to face Sandburg when he gets back? I mean, getting yourself into a zone and spending the *whole* weekend in it? You'll never live this down."

Jim took a shuddering breath, and blinked, surprised to see Simon and Joel standing near him. Jim rubbed the back of his neck as he asked what they were doing there. That had been one heck of a zone to come out of. Simon asked Jim what started the zone and Jim tried to explain without giving too much away, and then Joel reprimanded the younger man for trying to hold back info.

"Oh, man, sorry, Simon. Sorry, Joel," apologized Jim, rubbing his face, trying to wipe the last vestiges of cloudiness out of his mind. Both men brushed off Jim's comment until he stated, "But the looks on your faces were priceless!"

"Ellison!" growled Banks, going in to full captain mode. "Joel will take you to the station. You are not going to be on your own today. Got it? You two will work together today while the kid's away."

"But, Simon.... I'm fine. Really," protested Jim. "Joel? Help me out here, Joel...."

"I will, by being your taxi driver today, Jim," said Joel with a wicked smile. "I agree with Simon on this. You scared us silly."

"You're outvoted," Banks said with a slight grin as he took out his cigar case, gently pulled the lid off, and took out a treasured cigar. He sniffed it lovingly, and Jim gave him an evil eye - to remind Simon not to dare light it up in the loft.

Jim heaved a big sigh, playing the martyr. He stood up, walked to the door with his shoulders slumped, and took his jacket off the coat rack. Jim shrugged into the coat then turned toward Simon and gave him and Joel the "puppy dog eyes" routine. Simon growled while Joel snickered.

"Get a move on, Ellison. And stop with the puppy dog eyes! It doesn't work! You're NOT Sandburg, thank goodness!" groused Simon, wondering how Blair was doing on his little outing.

Simon turned to his two friends, "I'll meet you both back at the office." With that, Simon left.

Joel looked to Jim, "Ready?" Resigned to being "looked after," Jim nodded and followed Joel out the door.

Once in Joel's car they began their drive to the PD in relative silence. Finally, Joel gave Jim a sidelong glance. "You know, you really had me worried. I'm sorry I stuck you with my tie tack."

Ellison looked down at his hand and saw the blood that had congealed on the back of his hand. He absently flicked it off as Joel maneuvered through late morning traffic.

* * *

Once back to the office, Jim settled in to writing reports that needed to be finished. He'd resigned himself to the fact that, until Blair finished the academy, he'd be doing the reports himself. Now he had to catch up on the files that had been piling up on his desk.

Again, with the thought of Blair, the uneasy feeling from that morning resurfaced, this time even stronger. What the heck is happening to me? Without even being conscious of the decision, Jim opened the top desk drawer and pulled out a business card he'd tucked away months ago.

He turned the card over in his hand. Shaking his head, he returned the card to its spot in the drawer. What the hell are you thinking? he wondered. Several times, he found himself going back to the business card and staring hard at it. He couldn't resist the urge to make the call any longer. He knew he was going to sound crazy. But maybe, just maybe this could be the solution….

Picking up the receiver, Jim started to dial.

Blair finally reached the area where he thought he had seen the glinting. He looked around and didn't see anything at first.

He shook his head and started to turn back in the direction he had come from. Then, under what appeared to be a dropping of leaves, he spied something metallic, like a zipper. He walked toward the object and bent down to move the forest debris away from it. He grabbed the object and pulled it out and inspected it. It was a leather moneybag with the name of Cascade First Bank and Trust on it. He opened the zipper, but didn't find anything inside. He stuffed the bag in his back pocket with the intention of taking back to the campground and eventually returning it to the bank.

He took a step forward and thought he was going to step on something solid. Instead his foot went down. "What the...?" he asked out loud. He stepped back, then brushed the ground with his shoe.

He uncovered a guard's hat. He picked it up and dusted it off. He continued to look around and pawed through some bushes, uncovering a whole guard uniform. When he realized what he was looking at, he knew he should make a call to the local authorities. It definitely wasn't right to find one of those courier bags the bank used and a discarded uniform in the middle of the woods.

Blair had a bad feeling about this. He was ready to not only go back and call the local authorities, but to get his friends to move their site. This could be an indication of a lot of trouble for them if they stayed.

He decided to forget about the wood for now and make a hasty retreat back to the campground. He jogged as fast as he dared trying to remember the direction he had come from. He stopped as he got to a fork in the path that he hadn't remembered.

Could he have taken the wrong turn elsewhere? Jim was always kidding him about his poor sense of direction. Now the problem was trying to decide whether he should try to double back and find another path that he may have come down or try one of these two?

He dug in his pants pocket and pulled out his compass. He opened it and tried to find the correct direction to take in the fork. He shook his head, realizing that he didn't know which direction the camp lay in, so the compass was useless. Throwing caution to the winds, he finally decided to take the right fork of the path, positive (or as positive as he could be) that it would take him back to the camp and his friends. The path twisted and turned through the local landscape. The further along the path he went, the less familiar it became.

"Great, it looks like I should have taken the left fork! Maybe if I keep going I can either find a road or someone who can help me get back to the others."

Just when Blair thought he should have reached the campground, he stumbled onto a road. He shook his head looked at the compass again. He heaved a large sigh and mumbled to himself, "Great, Sandburg. The compass was a really great idea! You *still* get lost, even with it!"

He shrugged his shoulders and decided to walk along the road, figuring that he would eventually come across someone in a car that would take pity on him and drive him back to the campground.

Blair walked for another half-hour, or at least so he thought. It seemed nothing was cooperating. Even his watch seemed to have stopped.

He saw a cabin off to the left and started to walk towards it. "Maybe they'll have a phone at least," Blair muttered to himself. He saw a car that vaguely looked familiar and was trying to place it when the door to the cabin opened. Three men came out, laughing, and stopped suddenly as they saw Blair.

"Hey, guys! I seemed to have gotten lost. Any chance of you having a phone I could use? Or could you give me a lift back to a campground not far from here?" Blair inquired, realizing as he said the words their reaction was becoming decidedly hostile. What the hell had he done now?

The tallest of the three ambled over to Blair and grabbed the uniform hat he had been holding. He showed it to the other guys. The other two men circled around Blair, effectively trapping him between them. The shortest man grabbed the money pouch out of the observer's back pocket. Blair jumped in surprise.

The middle height man spoke with a sneer, "Well, well, well. Lookee what we got here! A little lost hippie punk!"

"Yeah, one that has ties to cops. You remember that story on the news..." said the tallest of the three men.

Blair could feel his heart in his mouth with that comment. He was in deep trouble now.

The shortest man, who had a scar running down his left cheek, read out loud the name of the bank imprinted on the side of the bag. "Cascade First Bank and Trust.... hmm.... looks like a cop gone bad, huh, fellas?"

Blair stepped backwards as the shorter man jabbed him in the shoulder punctuating each word.

He bumped into the tallest man behind him who then grabbed Blair's arms.

"Look, man, you've got this all wrong. I came up here to go camping with friends. I got lost in the woods, and found this stuff."

"Oooh, he says he found this stuff!" mimicked the middle guy. "I think we found us a bank robber!"

"Better frisk him for a gun, Brad," ordered the one holding Blair.

"Come on, guys," begged Blair. "I don't use guns, so why would I be carrying one? I said I was on a camping trip. I'm not a robber! I just found this stuff a few minutes ago. Let me go?" asked Blair hopefully.

Brad patted the back of the Blair's pants and found his wallet. He pulled it out.

"Hey!" yelled Blair.

"Well, well, well. Let's see. Blair Sandburg, student at Rainier University...." stated Brad as he showed the I.D. to the other men.

"Hey, now. Well, what do you know? Blair Sandburg, Police Observer. Okay, so you're not a cop. You just work with them," sneered Brad.

"See? I told you guys I'm not a cop! So will you let me go now? Please?" asked Blair, looking from one to another of the men that he could see.

"What? So you can bring your buddies here? Think again," retorted Brad.

Blair gritted his teeth as the shorter man pulled his hair and pulled his head back. "Look, I told you guys.... I'm camping up here. No cops. Just me. Okay? I don't know who you are or what this is all about, but I'm getting a little tired of these games!"

"Oh, so now hippie boy thinks we're playing games!" hooted the man holding Blair. "I'll show you games. How's that for playing around?" He yanked on Blair's arms and the observer winced in pain."

"Cool it, Skeeter. Get your jollies some other time!" demanded Brad. He looked at the other man who was standing next to him. "Hey Scott, think he's with a posse of cops looking for something?"

"Probably, which means they can't be too far off," replied the middle man.

"See?" he said pointing to Blair's hair. "He's that cop on TV a while back whose partner, that tall dude, has heightened senses or something!"

Brad looked to the man holding Blair. "Skeeter, take this cop inside. We'll put him in the back room until we can decide what to do with him."

Blair squirmed again. I'm a dead man, now. Come on Sandburg, think of a way out of this....

Blair feigned tripping on something, leant forward suddenly, and just as quickly reared his head up and made hard contact with Skeeter's nose. . Skeeter howled and let go of Blair to grab his broken nose. He kicked out to the side of him and landed a quick kick to Brad's midsection, knocking the man off his feet.

Scott was surprised at the turn of events and tried to tackle Blair but missed him. Blair spun and jumped over the fallen man and made a beeline for the road. He came to the end of the driveway and skidded to a halt as a car pulled into the driveway. The car doors opened quickly, blocking Blair's avenue of escape. He tried to dodge around one of the doors but was stopped when Brad yelled at the car's occupants to stop the runaway.

A large heavy set man blocked Blair's way with a large forearm, sweeping Blair off his feet and onto his back. He landed with a thud, winded, and looked up at the beefy man.

"He's a cop!" cried out Scott.

Blair started to crab walk backwards, trying to get away from the large man. He stopped suddenly as he heard two guns being cocked by the new arrivals.

Brad hurried up to Blair and roughly pulled the young man onto his feet. "No running for you, hippie cop!" he growled.

Blair put his hands up when he saw the two guns still trained on him. Brad yanked him by the collar, choking him. Blair pulled on his shirt to try to lessen the constriction so he could breathe. "Hey! Easy on the shirt! It's one of my favorites!" He didn't think it would help, but it was worth a try with the sympathy plea. The former student was hauled back to the other men as the two new arrivals brought up the rear, guns still drawn.

The driver wanted to know why the others thought Blair was a cop. Scott looked at him. "He was that guy that wrote about that super cop. You know, from a couple of weeks ago. He’s got an ID that says he’s a police observer."

"Well, looks like we caught us a cop then, boys! Good work! This might just work out to our advantage after all," growled the driver, Lester.

"A little leverage when his buddies come calling. They'll think twice before trying anything with us," added Brad

"What happened to you?" asked Lester of Skeeter.

"The little turd head-butted me and broke my nose, and I'm gonna do the same for him!" replied Skeeter as he wiped the blood off his face with his hand and proceeded to clean off his hand on his pants. "Right now!"

Skeeter drew back his hand and proceeded to smash his fist into Blair's face. Blood spurted from his nose. Blair shook his head to try to stave off the impending blackness.

He suddenly felt a fist smash into his stomache and he collapsed with a grunt. "That's for kicking me!" declared Brad.

"All right, that's enough. If we're going to use him for leverage, he's gotta be able to talk and breath," stated Lester.

"And I was just going to hand him off to Skeeter to hold so's I can get my licks in, too," whined Scott.

"Enough!" roared Lester and they all subsided. It was evident to the barely conscious Blair that Lester was the leader of this group.

"Get him inside. Tie him up and lock him in the back room," ordered Lester.

"Sure thing," replied Scott. Blair had no choice but to walk meekly with his captor. It didn't help that the big beefy man jabbed his gun into his ribs.

Scott was none too gentle with the ropes as he tied his hands and feet. Blair knew if it got any tighter, he'd lose feeling in both his hands and feet. He may not have been able to get his licks in outside, but he was doing a good job of it now.

Scott and the beefy guy, whom he had called "Tony" backed out of the room, all the while training the gun on Blair. He sat there, looking around the room trying to find a means of escape as he worked on the ropes around his hands.

Oh, man. I've really gotten into it this time. Blair tried to listen to the noise out in the main room as he worked at his bonds. Jim, man, I could really, really use your help here, Big Guy. Like, any time! Oh, geez, I wonder who these guys really are? The Cascade Bank


Blair shifted around, trying to ease the ache in his stomach from the punch. If they are the bank robbers I'm in deep trouble, really deep trouble.... Okay, okay, Sandburg, review the facts here. Five robbers were involved in the bank heist, you found a bank bag and a guard's uniform. Facts are adding up here, man.... Too many coincidences. Shit!

"So, what do we do if the little runt really is just a lost camper?" asked Scott.

"Nothing," stated Tony. "We still use him for a hostage... right, Lester?"

"Right," agreed Lester. "He's got cop buddies. If he really is lost, they'll come looking for him and find us."

"It's either that or add murder to our rap sheets. If we do that - we have to find another safe place to hide out," Lester continued.

Blair sighed in the back room as he heard the word "murder" and muttered to himself, "Oh, geez, oh geez...not that, please, please, please.... Okay, okay...this isn't getting you anywhere, Sandburg. Keep calm. Keep calm." He breathed in and out, trying to calm his racing heart and to block the pain in his face and gut.

Blair decided to try to bring his hands out from behind his back by trying to quietly lie down on his side. He landed with a thump and lay there breathing hard at the renewed pain from the jarring of his body. "Oh, geez, Sandburg, you couldn't do this any louder, could you?" He heard one of the captors ask what the noise was.

"Tony, go check on the runt. Make sure he hasn't gotten himself loose," ordered Lester

Scott answered, "It's probably nothing. The hippie cop ain't going nowhere. I tied his hands real tight. He's probably just squirming around back there as the pain starts setting in as the circulation gets cut off."

"He won't get far," stated Tony. "The window is boarded up from the outside and the inside. We'd hear if he tried to escape from there. The only other way out is through here."

"And that door is locked," he continued.

The other men gave a quick chuckle at that. "He'd have to be a Houdini to get through all that," said Scott.

Blair heard their words and groaned. He worked to bring his hands from behind his back. When he succeeded he struggled to untie the knot with his teeth.

Blair could tell by what little light was coming from the boarded up window that it was late in the day. The sun hadn't gone down yet, but he'd obviously been gone a lot longer than anyone expected. Maybe, they would have reported his disappearance already. Hopefully, someone thought to call Jim.

"Okay, I can do this. I can do this.... just very, very carefully. Kinda reminds me of the time when Nancy decided she wanted to get into that bondage thing and left me hog-tied for a couple of hours...."

He tried again to grip the ropes with his teeth and concentrated on his efforts, willing the pain to stay away as he continued to gnaw at the ropes. He felt one starting to move, just a little. He grabbed it again and pulled. "Well, I guess you didn't tie it as tight as you thought you did! Yes! Come on baby, you can do it...." He pulled the rope all the way through and continued with his job. It took him about a half-hour or more to get the ropes completely free of his hands. He grabbed his wrists and bit his lip to keep himself from crying out as the feeling returned. When his wrists felt better and were less painful, he attempted to untie his feet. It was a little harder because the feeling hadn't returned fully into his hands and he was clumsy.

He finally managed to get his feet free and he slowly flexed his feet up and down to get the feeling to return to them as well.

"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow," said Blair softly to himself. "Geez, that smarts! You'd think I'd be used to this stuff... nah...." He continued rubbing his feet and managed to get his shoes off so he could rub the actual skin under his socks.

Blair got to his knees, then managed to get himself to his feet. He grimaced as the pins and needles got worse with the pressure on his feet, but managed to move a few steps forward as he leaned on the wall for support.

He managed to hobble over to the window and tried to pry off the boards on the inside. He felt one give, but it made a screeching noise and Blair stopped immediately. He held his breath and waited for one of his captors to come to the door.

Blair continued to explore the room. He peeked out the keyhole and could just make out the men sitting around a table and it looked like they were playing cards. He jumped back as the keyhole went dark, but the door didn't open. He listened carefully and heard the footsteps go away from the door. He peeked again and saw the heavyset man, Tony, sit down in one of the chairs.

Blair watched the men for a few minutes more but soon became bored with that. His knees had started to hurt from kneeling in front of the keyhole while he was spying. He continued the investigation of the window and tried to work at loosening the boards more. He realized that he was getting an urgent sensation from a protesting bladder. He decided he'd take a chance and call out for someone to take him to the bathroom, if they had one. He quickly sat down and tried to make it look like he was still tied up before he called out.

"Hey! Hey!" he called. "Would someone please take me to the can? I gotta go, here!" He heard the voices stop talking and yelled again.

He heard heavy footsteps coming towards the door, and then the key in the lock.

"What do you want?" grunted Tony.

"I gotta go, man, bad!"

"Oh, all right," responded the big man. "Hey! Skeeter, come cover for me while I untie this guy's ropes. He's gotta go wee wee!"

The other men laughed heartily at the comment. Blair's face burned at the remark and the laughter.

"Just give him an empty can, that should do it!" called Brad.

"I gotta do both, man!" yelled Blair back to Brad. "Besides, I can't, um, undo my zipper with my hands tied behind my back, now can I?"

"No funny stuff while I untie your feet," ordered Tony. Blair held his breath hoping that Tony wouldn't realize how loose the ropes were. After the Tony was done and the ropes were off he grabbed Blair grabbed by the upper arm and hauled him to his feet.

"Scott, I thought you said you tied these ropes tight? You'll have to do better next time. Hell, next time I'll make sure he's trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey!" said Tony.

"Hey, man, what about my hands? I gotta use them, you know?"

"I'll untie them only when we get to the outhouse!"

"An outhouse?" Blair shuddered.

"It's that or you do it in your pants, kid."

Blair nodded. "Thanks. But, hurry!"

Tony yanked the observer toward the door while Skeeter continued to hold the gun on him. Blair sighed as he realized there was no hope of escape at the present time. He blinked at the setting sun as they exited the house. He stumbled on the steps and Tony yanked him upright.

"Ow! Watch it man! Those are the only arms I have.... If your buddy hadn't tied my feet so tightly, I wouldn't have a problem walking!"

"And if you want to keep those two feet, you'll walk without stumbling, kid. I've been known to pull arms out of people’s sockets if they're not careful, right Skeeter?"

Skeeter laughed viciously in response.

Blair gulped and tried to walk without stumbling again. They led him around to the back of the house and sure enough, there was an outhouse with the half-moon cutout and all.

Skeeter held the door open and trained the gun on Blair's head as Tony untied the ropes. "Okay, you can go in now. I know you can't escape from it, so don't even think about it.

"And make it quick!" ordered Skeeter. "I'm missing the game!"

Skeeter still had the door open as Blair entered the outhouse. It was dark, dank, and looked like several different types of animals had tried to set up housekeeping at one time or another. He turned around, and stared at Skeeter. "Hey! Can I have a little privacy here? It's not like I can jump out a window!"

Skeeter shrugged his shoulders and closed the door. He leaned against it just in case.

Blair stood looking at the interior of the outhouse. "Think, man think! There's got to be some way out of this," he muttered.

Blair mumbled to himself about the spiders crawling in the cobwebs. He waited long enough to make sure the guys were getting good and bored.

Hoping the element of surprise would be on his side, Blair readied himself.

"Guys! Guys! Get me outta here." Blair shouted, pounding on the outhouse door. "Man, there's a snake in here that would put an anaconda to shame!"

"Snake?" asked Skeeter. "What's a snake doing in the shitter?"

Blair heard the weight shift off the door and then went barreling through, knocking Skeeter off his feet. He kept his head down, and dived straight for the other man. Tony grabbed him by the collar and plucked him out of the way. He then grabbed Blair's arm and twisted it behind him.

"Aw man, it would have to have been him behind the door and not you..." Blair muttered

"You gotta problem with that?" asked Tony.

Blair shook his head jerkily, "Ah, no. No problem with that. Just kinda interfered with my escape plan, that's all."

Tony laughed heartily. "Hey, Skeeter! The little guy thinks he can escape us! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Now if you behave yourself nicely until we get back inside, I'll tie you up. If you don't, I'll leave you to Skeeter."

Skeeter stood up and dusted himself off, retrieving his gun where it had fallen. "I'll show you what happens when you try to escape, cop!"

Blair tried to skip ahead of Tony and keep out of Skeeter's reach. "Uh, Tony, wasn't it? Call him off, man! I'm being good, I'm being good!"

"Aw c'mon, Tony. Don't let this little runt get away with this. I owe him, big time," pleaded Skeeter.

"Tony, save me, man!" begged Blair in return.

"You know Lester wouldn't approve. Leave him alone." ordered Tony. "As long as he doesn't try anything else, he's off limits."

Skeeter backed down but gave Blair a glare that said, "Give me a reason..."

Blair walked up the steps of the house and looked at the floor as he passed the other men.

"Trouble?" asked Lester. Tony shook his head.

"Nothing I couldn't handle."

He followed Blair into the room and told him to sit down. Tony tied him up again, leaving his hands in front of him this time. Skeeter was told to bring a can in for Blair to use, if he needed it. "Thanks, man," said Blair.

Tony closed and locked the door behind him. Tony returned a few minutes later with a bottle of water for him, and set it within his reach. "If you're hungry, we got some sandwiches made," offered the big man.

"That would be great, man. I really appreciate it," he replied as he took a cautious sip of the water. Tony was as good as his word and brought Blair a couple of sandwiches and potato chips.

After he ate, Blair drank a little of his water, trying to conserve it for later, since he didn't know when he'd get something else to drink. He lay down to rest and fell asleep within a few minutes.

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