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Bad Penny
Part 3

by & Stargazer

Cat grabbed a couple of six packs of bottled water and put them in the shopping cart to join the box of granola bars and the cans of cola and root beer. From behind her she heard, "You forgot these," as Jim carefully placed two packs of Pepperidge Farms Chesapeake cookies in the cart. He was rewarded with a chuckle, as Cat said, "You remembered." His smile mirrored hers, and she felt this had been just what they had both needed."All four of the food groups, right?" he joked. "I’ve tried to get away with that, but I keep getting reminded I’m a cop, not a computer programmer.""Our loss, Cascade’s gain," Cat replied impishly, trying to keep the mood light, knowing full well that it would have been Blair doing the reminding."By the way, thanks," said Jim softly."For what?" ask Cat, not quite following."For trying to help," Jim paused and then continued almost under his breath, " and for not asking." Making sure no one overheard that part of their conversation. They had been lucky this time, with few, if any, prying eyes or ears around.Cat smiled, as she realized what he was thanking her for. "If my guides aren’t going to tell me something, I feel I have no right to ask. They must have been in the military at some time. Sometimes, information is only available on a need to know basis..."

Blair slowly opened his eyes, trying to figure out where he was. It was dark and silent. He looked around and finally remembered he was in the cabin. A little moonlight filtered into the room through the boards on the window. Blair worked the knot that secured the rope on his wrists.He again used his teeth to get the ropes off his hands. Then he finally managed to get the ropes off his feet. Thankfully, Tony hadn't tied the ropes as tight as Scott had, so he still had feeling in his hands and feet.Blair immediately went to the door and tried it. Locked. He knew the window was out because it would make too much noise if he tried to break out the boards. He reached down into his boot and pulled out his Swiss Army Knife. He was glad that he had purchased a pair of hiking boots that had zipper pouches on them.He opened up the knife and found the tool he was looking for. He carefully and quietly worked at picking the lock. As he heard the bolt slide back, a big grin suffused his face."Yes!" he whispered, clenched one fist and pulled it quickly to his body in a victory gesture. He carefully and slowly turned the handle and opened the door just as carefully.He waited a few seconds, just in case someone was awake and had seen the door open. Safe. He stepped outside the door and quietly closed it behind himself.Blair peeked out into the room and realized that there was no way he could make it to the door without disturbing the bandits. He'd have to step over too many pairs of legs and hope that no one would wake up as he progressed through. He decided to risk making noise with the windows. He tiptoed back into the room, shut the door and turned to the window.Blair felt around the casing, trying to find the board he'd started to pull out earlier. It gave way with little protest. He tried his knife and found a tool that would help pry the nails out and gave him extra leverage, and hopefully, keep the noise of the nails down, too. Blair tried a couple more boards. Some gave way as easily as the first did. Others would require a crowbar at least to move them. He cleared enough away from inside that he'd be able to get through. The boards on the outside were not as thoroughly placed across the window. But now the tough part. How to open the window without breaking it?

"Blair…. No!" Cat was fully awake at the sound of Jim’s anguished cry. She’d dozed fitfully, only too aware of the man who slept in the next room. She’d heard him toss and turn, and now he seemed trapped within a nightmare. Cat quickly got up, and opening the sliding door between the bedroom and sitting room, where Jim had been sleeping just as fitfully on the sofa bed.They’d worked late, trying to help him work with the vision again, with little success. Both of them were tired and frustrated by the end of the session. Cat had offered him the sofa bed, because she was too tired to drive him home, and figured he wasn’t in much better shape. ‘Yes, I could have taken a cab home.’ Jim thought. A breakthrough would come soon, she had argued when he had suggested taking a cab home. But Cat had preferred to have him close, wanting to be there when the breakthrough occurred to help him through it."Jim. Wake up. You’re having a nightmare," she said as she perched on the edge of the couch.Jim opened his eyes at the sound of her voice. Trying to figure out where he was, remembering finally that he was in Cat’s suite."No. It wasn’t a nightmare," Jim said quietly. "I remember. I remember the whole thing now." "Close your eyes again," Cat directed. "Visualize the whole thing, and describe it."Jim looked at Cat, perched on the side of the sofa bed in the dark. "Uh, Cat? Can you do me a favor before we go any further?""Sure, what do you need?""Could you put on a robe or a little more clothing?"Cat blushed, mortified at the thought she was only wearing a T-shirt which left nothing to the imagination. She quickly got up, dashing back into the other room closing the door behind her again.Jim closed his eyes. ‘This is not the type of distraction I need right now. For all the times I’ve kidded Blair about table legs, I owe him big time for this one.’ Still, the images that he saw in his mind’s eye at that particular moment were not unappealing. Jim tried to dismiss it as wishful thinking.In the other room, Cat was trying to settle down. She turned on a lamp, and then glared at herself in the mirror, taking in the t-shirt she admonished herself, ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! Okay, so you weren’t expecting a ‘sleepover’ during this trip. You shoulda packed a proper nightgown and robe. You’ll know better next time.’ Unbidden, a series of images played themselves out for her, making her blush even deeper shade of pink…. ‘Get your mind out of the gutter, kiddo. You’ve got work to do. You’ll have time for daydreams once this is over and Blair is back where he belongs.’ A few minutes later, she re-entered the room, this time in jeans and the T-shirt. Jim had taken the time to put on his own clothes Cat noted, thankfully. He had turned on the lights in the room, and was in the process of closing up the sofa bed."So," she hesitated, "what do you remember?" Still feeling slightly embarrassed, she sat in the chair at the desk, finding herself staring at his back, watching his movements."Everything," he replied as he finished setting the cushions in place. Jim turned and sat down on the couch. "I think I have an idea of where he may be.""This is good news. Tell me more, like how Blair happened into this predicament. Do you recognize any of the places or people in the vision? Strike that, of course you do, if you’ve got an idea where he is."Jim grinned, thinking, ‘She really was like Blair with all the questions.’ "It starts off with Blair going into the woods. For someone as ‘directionally challenged’ as he is, why he chose to go off into the woods by himself, I’ll never know."Cat could feel the grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Directionally challenged, eh?""He was trying to find his way back to the site where the others were, and he found himself at a forked path, which he didn’t remember. He chose the one on his right, and headed off, expecting to find his friends. Blair got deeper and deeper into the woods. Finally, he found a dirt road leading to a cabin, where he hoped to get help. Instead, he found trouble. I’m not sure he knows who is holding him, but they know him. I’m not sure if it’s because we’ve run into some of them in the line of duty, or, if it’s because of the publicity we received a couple of weeks ago."As he spoke, with a slight of a shiver a funny look passed over his face, though it wasn’t cold in the room."Jim? Did you feel a sort of tingle just then?" she asked quietly.Raising an eyebrow at her question, he answered, "How did you know?""What part of the sentence gave you the tingle, the line of duty or the publicity?""What?" he asked having a hard time trying to follow her reasoning. "Trust me on this," she said patiently, "Which part of that last sentence did you get the tingle on?""The publicity. Damn, it just happened again!" his bewilderment showing on his face."Congratulations, you’ve just had another form of confirmation," Cat said cautiously. "It appears Blair is being held because they know of his connection to you and the Major Crimes unit. Consequently, he has to be some sort of threat to them. Now the question is why? Do you have any idea how many of them are there? Do you recognize any of the faces of the people holding him?""At least four. Though, I have a funny feeling there are possibly be more than that. One of them, possibly two, seemed familiar. I’m just trying to place them," Jim replied, racking his memory for the reason they seemed familiar. He rose and started to pace like a caged cat."Would it be worth it to go to the station to view mug shots to try to pick this person out? Or is it from something else you recognize him from, like the news?""That’s it!" He stopped where he was, turned to look at Cat and continued, "He was on one of those Crime Stopper pieces one of the local stations played during the news recently. He was part of a bank robbery caught on video. Another unit in the P.D is handling the robbery. His face wasn’t visible, but the movements, the body language were familiar.""Okay. Now we’ve got the why and part of the who. How about working on the where? Start thinking about the place, any landmarks you can see, to help us find them. Picture the cabin, the things around it, see if you can follow the road out to where it meets a larger, main road."Jim closed his eyes, to visualize the cabin and its surroundings. He could see the cabin, the trees around it, and the dirt road. He pictured himself in the middle of the road, and started walking away from the cabin, noting the different landmarks, finally tracing it to a junction with a main road he knew he’d be able to recognize later.Cat watched him carefully, for signs of a zone. He seemed to be doing it a lot easier than he had earlier. It looked like the suggestions she’d made had apparently worked."I think I can find them. But we’re going to need help. I’ll call Simon, Captain Banks, and we’ll need the help of the local authorities, since it will be outside of our jurisdiction." Cat smiled. He had finally found a firm footing with this. She could see his confidence had returned. He knew what to do. Who needed to be called. And best of all, she could almost swear he knew everything would be all right."How are you going to explain to Captain Banks how you found out where Blair is?" Cat asked. "I mean, how are you going to tell him you got the information? Does he even know you have special talents, like visions?" she continued.Jim thought for a moment, and started to smile. "Well, I could always tell him I got some help from you…." The things he’d learned from Blair…"Not a lie, not the whole truth. But would he buy it?""After what happened with the Kalan case, add to that the fact you showed up in Cascade on the day Blair goes missing? He may not like it, but I think he may be able to keep an open mind on the subject."

Jim suggested they stop by his place. It gave him a chance to change clothes and gather a few things he felt they needed, like a first aid kit. Jim had called Simon to let him know Blair was missing, and that he had received some information leading him to believe Blair wasn’t just lost in the woods as his friends believed, but was being held somewhere near the area he had been camping with his friends. Jim had also advised Simon that he was going up to scout ahead, to ensure that the information was right.As expected, Simon insisted that he not go in alone. He’d have people standing by ready to roll, once Blair was located, and they knew what they would be facing.The sun hadn’t even risen yet as they approached Cat’s rental car. They had decided to take the Neon, since it wouldn’t be as noticeable as his truck. If these thugs were aware of the press conference, and the events leading up to it, they might even know his vehicle. The rental was low-key enough, that even if they were stopped, who would think twice at a couple watching the sunrise in the mountains."Heads up!" Cat called out as she tossed the car keys to Jim. He gave her a questioning glance as he caught them. She replied quietly, "You can find him, I can’t. You already have some idea where to go. You know the area. Follow that feeling, those images, whatever will lead you to Blair.""Like you did on the campus? When you found Kalan?" Jim asked as he opened the car door for her.She waited to respond until he got in the car. "Pretty much. For me it was like a knot in my stomach that just got larger as I got closer, add to that what felt like someone screaming in the back of my mind as I got closer – it’s hard not to miss. Your own reactions and feelings may be completely different. But if you start out in the right direction – you should start to feel something, and it will only get stronger as you get closer.""You make it sound so easy," he replied as he started the car and pulled out of the parking space. He drove to the main street that would head them in the right direction. "It is really, once you get used to it. All you have to do is leave yourself open to it and listen. I’ve always believed that everyone can do this. It’s a matter of giving yourself permission to believe in it and accept it."They started on their way, carrying on a quiet banter between them. Occasionally Cat would ask what he was feeling, was it getting stronger or weaker? After a couple of false starts, they found themselves on the right road, and Jim noticed an indefinable feeling gaining strength. It wasn’t a feeling he could easily describe and its level was rising the closer he got to their destination. He could understand why Cat described it as a knot. The difference in the feeling when he was on the right or wrong road amazed him. It was subtle, but it could be felt. Without Cat helping him, he may never have realized what it was.After about 45 minutes Jim pulled over to the side of the road, at what appeared to be a scenic lookout spot. It was wide enough to accommodate several cars without being a danger to traffic on the mountain road. "The smaller road leading to the cabin is just up the way. I’m going to call to Simon now, so he and the others can meet us here. He’ll also alert the local authorities, so we don’t have any jurisdictional problems. We’ll wait here until they arrive," Jim explained.Cat nodded her understanding. She wondered what reaction the others would have to her presence when they arrived. The other members of the Major Crimes unit wouldn’t know her on sight, but she was willing to bet that her reputation preceded her and that they would know of her and the Kalan case."I think I’m going to stretch my legs a bit, if you don’t mind," Jim asked."That sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll join you. A breath of fresh mountain air might be nice, too."They didn’t have long to wait. Twenty-five minutes later, they were leaning against the car talking when they were joined by three County Sheriff’s vehicles and Captains Banks and Taggart. Each of them did a double take when they saw Cat. She remained where she had been when they arrived, as Jim went over to talk to the gentleman who appeared to be Captain Banks and the Deputy Sheriff who was leading the local group. She could tell there was a heated discussion going on, with pointed looks being sent in her direction. That did nothing to ease the feeling of anxiety at meeting the rest of Jim's co-workers. Finally, Jim brought the Captain over."Captain Banks, I’d like to introduce you to Catharine Alexander. Cat, this is Captain Simon Banks.""It’s a pleasure to meet you Captain," Cat said as she extended her hand. "I’m only sorry it wasn’t under better circumstances. When I spoke to Jim last night, I offered my assistance in finding Blair."Simon took her proffered hand, the surprise evident in his eyes. "Ms Alexander.""That’s not entirely correct, Sir. I asked for her help in locating Blair."Cat gave him a questioning look. Was he really going to tell Captain Banks that he was the one who had been having the visions?"Does this have something to do with the state we found you in yesterday morning?" Simon asked.Jim nodded and continued. "When I woke up yesterday morning, I had a feeling something was wrong, or about to go wrong. Something to do with Blair. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I zoned listening to Blair’s heartbeat as he left."Simon shot a look at Cat wondering how much she knew. "She knows, Simon. I zoned again last night, while she was trying to help me pull the images together. Cat was able to get me out of the zone and helped me pull everything together. It took a while, but it worked. I know where Blair is.""But you haven’t had any visions for what, almost six months? You had no problem then. Why now?""It isn’t always that easy, Captain Banks." Cat explained. "Think of it like a dream. How often do you remember them? How often do you even try? Sometimes it’s only fragments or fleeting feelings that are remembered, then we have to work at remembering the rest, like trying to fit a puzzle together. It isn’t as straightforward as watching a television show or a movie where everything is laid out neatly for you."Simon looked from Cat to Jim, not quite sure what to make of this development. Cat could read the frustration in his face. Not much different from the frustration that had registered on Jim’s face the night before while he tried to accept similar information."If I had any sense at all, I’d send her back to Cascade now," said Simon, "But you’ve said she has to come with us, I don’t like it, but I’ll allow it on one condition, she stays put once we get to the spot you’ve indicated, Jim. I just hope she listens better than Sandburg.""You’ll get no argument from me on that, Captain," said Cat. "I’d prefer to be as far away from the action as possible." She wondered though, what had made Jim insist that she stay with them, instead of being sent back to the hotel to wait it out."Now that everyone is here, let’s go over the details," Simon told Jim as Detectives Rafe and Brown arrived.Cat was more than a little surprised when Jim put a hand in the middle of her back to guide her over to meet the others."Hey Ellison! When did you start bringing dates to this kind of party?" called out Brown."Jealous, H?" kidded Jim. ‘This is not helping…’ thought Cat, feeling more anxious the closer she got to the others."Henri, Rafe, Joel, this is Catharine Alexander," introduced Jim. "I think you remember the Kalan case. She’s the one who gave us the information that nailed him. She’s also the one who’s helped me locate Sandburg." Cat watched their faces register dismay as a feeling of unease seemed to settle over the group. The only ones not effected by the news were the deputies from the Sheriff’s office and they only seemed curious about the turn of events."I can see why you were reluctant to tell me who you were meeting last night," said Joel in a low voice to Jim. "She’s okay by me if she can help get Sandburg back in one piece."It was at that moment Cat realized that Captain Banks was privy to information the others weren’t. 'He knows that Jim is different, and accepted it. He’s allowed Blair to be Jim’s partner, when he would normally have been partnered off with another detective. He also trusted Jim’s judgment enough that he willingly goes against his own better judgment,' Cat thought wistfully, 'It’s good to know that there were some people in this world who could at least try to understand or try to accept it even if they didn’t understand. I just wish there were more of them in my life.'

Blair stared at the window. He tried the latch but it didn't want to give. So close, yet so far away. He looked for another tool on his knife and tried that. It gave a little and he kept working at it. Finally, he managed to turn the latch. Maneuvering his right hand under one of the boards, he started to raise the window.And it screeched! He stopped and rested a moment, and listened for any noise from the other room. It was obvious that the window hadn't been opened in ages. Blair continued to open the window, slowly trying to make the least noise possible. He held his breath, hoping the window wouldn't make anymore noise.The window eased up and he managed to get it up as far as it would go. Then he tried to push out the boards on the outside. They weren't hammered in any better than the ones on the inside. Putting his hands on either end of the boards, he was able to ease them out of the frame of the window. Age and weather had worked to make them easier to remove than the inside ones. Finally there was enough room for him to squeeze through."Okay, Jim, now would be a great time for the cavalry to arrive! Come on, Jim. I know you're out there, somewhere!" thought Blair. He continued his silent pleas for his Blessed Protector to show up, soon.He climbed out the window, carefully, and dropped to the ground with a small thud. He crouched there, listening, making sure that the others hadn't woken. He kept to the shadows as he tried to move away from the cabin. Dawn was just breaking. It had taken him longer to get out than he realized. He moved off through the woods, trying to keep enough foliage and brush between him and the house so he wouldn't be seen. He made his way around the cabin, back towards the road, and into the woods on the other side, trying to make his way back to the camp. He ran as fast as he dared in the shadows made by the overhead trees. He stopped to listen, to make sure they weren't aware he'd managed to get away. As he caught his breath he heard a sound in the brush. It came from the direction the deer had come from. Not wasting anytime to find out if it was a bear or not, Blair sprinted off again. He just hoped it wasn't the robbers out looking for him, but he doubted it. He didn't really care which direction he ran in, just as long as it was away from the bank robbers! He was sure he would have heard shouts from the men if they were looking for him. He ran about a half an hour before he became totally winded and had to stop and rest for a few minutes.

"…at this point, we'll leave the cars and carry on by foot," Jim advised, as he pointed out the location on a map provided by one of the deputy sheriffs. Cat stood quietly at Jim's side as he outlined the raid on the cabin. The others were listening intently as they leaned against the hood of the car where the map was laid out."The cabin is further up this dirt road, the cars will be out of sight, and should be out of their hearing range. They won't know we're coming. The cabin has only one door, but in the back is a partially boarded up window. Sandburg is in that room, where the boarded up window is. We should be able to get him out safely and surprise them if we can get inside, by going in through both the door and the window of that backroom. There's enough cover from trees at the side and back of the cabin, we should be able to get around it without being seen. Only approaching it from the front will be a problem. With any luck, it's still early enough, they may be sleeping and we can catch them unaware. They will more than likely be expecting us, because of Sandburg, believing the police are onto them.""Any idea how many we should be expecting?" asked Simon."Four, possibly five."Simon clapped his hands once. "Okay, people, let's move out. Time's wasting and I want to use the low sun to our advantage. Ellison, you take point," he ordered. Jim and Cat got in their car and lead the way down the road. The sheriff's department and Major Crimes followed after. They drove for about 15 minutes until Jim stopped and pulled off to the side. He got out as did the other officers and they regrouped. Simon gave assignments to everyone. Rafe and one of the deputies were assigned to the back, while the rest were arranged to attack from the front. Henri was to be in the middle between the back and front to let the others know when the window was opened up to get in.Rafe reported back to Henri that the window was open, then ran back to help get the rest of the boards off the window. Henri relayed the message and went to the back of the house to make sure both men got in safely. After they were inside the room, he ran around the front and reported in. They crept up to the cabin, and Ellison quietly approached the porch, climbing up on it stealthily like his spirit guide. He bobbed forward to look in a window and saw the men inside sleeping on various pieces of furniture. He signaled how many were in the room and waved the others forwardThe others crept up onto the porch and stationed themselves in front of the open window and beside the doors. Ellison motioned that he was going in.Rafe and the sheriff's deputy found the ropes that had held their friend captive, but no Blair. Rafe smiled when he realized Blair must have gotten away. Why else would the window have been open, with boards on the ground?He tried the door and found that it opened easily, but a little noisily. He motioned for the sheriff's deputy to follow him out into the room. Rafe saw Jim enter the room. Rafe quickly strode in front of Tony who was snoring. Rafe visually checked the robber over for a gun and gave a thumbs up sign that there was no gun.The police and sheriff's men quietly arranged themselves around the room, each training a gun on a robber. Jim tapped Lester's shoulder and the man groggily moved his head and swatted at the offending arm poking him."Nice and easy, fella," ordered Jim as Lester jerked awake and saw a gun in his face. He mumbled a "Wha?" and put his hands up when Jim motioned with his gun. The officers, under Simon's watchful eye were rousting the others at the same time.All the bank robbers were rudely awakened. All were startled that they were under arrest. "Hey! How'd you get in here?" asked Brad. "Where's that little guy?" demanded Skeeter, looking around at the various officers."What little guy?" asked Simon."That Sandburg runt!" growled Scott."Shut up you moron," ordered Lester.Rafe spoke up, "Jim, he's not in the room. Blair's gone."Skeeter sat up straighter. "He's gone? How'd he get away? He was asleep the last time I checked on him! I knew I shoulda taken care of him when I had the chance!"Jim turned and glared at Skeeter who went pale. Jim's jaw tensed when he heard Skeeter's comment. He looked over at Simon and the captain shook his head. "Joel, read them their rights and let's get these scum bags outta here!"Joel did as he was bid and the officers made the robbers stand and handcuffed them. They were then marched out of the house, one at a time and kept separated from each other.

Cat had only been left behind ten minutes earlier, but already she was starting to get restless. She got out of the car and started to pace. 'Why had Jim insisted that she come along? Something wasn't quite right. But what?' She felt she wasn't supposed to stay at the car. She was needed elsewhere. Finally she slowed her step and stopped pacing. She started the process of centering herself, slowing her breathing and trying to clear her mind. She turned toward the forest, closing her eyes and waited. She felt a slight pull into the forest, and followed it. Cat followed the feeling she found herself guided by through the woods and stopped as she heard someone running towards her. Spying Blair, she called out "Hey Sandburg, did you take a wrong turn on the way to the corner store? Isn't this a bit out of the way for a litre of milk and some eggs?" Blair stopped dead. The confusion in his face was so evident, Cat nearly started to laugh. The confusion gave way to concern. "Cat? Are you a figment of my imagination or real?" he asked as he reached out to touch her. "I don't know what you're doing here," he replied shaking his head in bewilderment, but glad to see a friendly face, never the less. "But we've got to get out of here. You don't know what's going on, it's dangerous to stay here…" he said as he started to take her arm to guide her away from the danger. "Ummm, no Blair. The cavalry has arrived…." she said with a cheshire grin, putting her hand on his shoulder in reassurance. "What?" he said still trying to reconcile the fact that Cat was here, out in the woods with him. "Jim, Simon, and a few others from the Major Crimes Unit, and the local County Sheriff's office are at the cabin now, cleaning up and looking for you. I was, uh, left behind for safety's sake, but sorta realized you'd already gotten away and were heading away from the cabin. I just decided to make sure you made it to the cars so when Jim and the others return, you'd be there to greet them, instead of them having to start a manhunt to find you." Cat paused, watching the news sink in. "C'mon. Let's head back to the cars. Oh, by the way, would you care for these?" Cat said as she pulled a small bottle of water and a granola bar from her purse. Blair grinned and accepted both. "Are you sure you're heading in the right direction? Isn't the road this way?" suggested Blair, pointing in a direction away from the road. "Oh, yeah, I'm sure. This is the way back to the cars. See this mark here?" Cat pointed out a fresh mark in the bark of a tree as she spoke, holding up a metal nail file which had seen better days. "I made sure to leave marks so I could find my way back."

Cat reached into the backseat of the car, and pulled out the first aid kit Jim had brought along. Blair had a few bruises, scrapes and cuts from his experiences over the past 24 hours. Nothing that required hospitalization, but the sooner some of them were looked at, the better the chance of fighting off infection. "Man, I still can't believe you're here. The timing is way strange," commented Blair. He was sitting on the passenger side of the car, with the door open, facing her. Cat set the kit on the roof of the car, and quickly picked out a couple of cotton balls and some antiseptic."What can I say? I'm here on business as of Monday, and I decided to come into town on Friday instead of Sunday so I could relax a bit. Little did I know that this would be how I'd start off my weekend," said Cat with a wry smile."How much do you know about what happened? I mean, when did you find out I needed help?" questioned Blair. "It's complicated, Blair, and I think that explanation will have to wait until later," Cat stalled. There was no way she was going to try to explain this without Jim being present. It was his call as to how this was going to be handled."Ow! Take it easy!" Blair cried out as Cat started to clean the scrape on Blair's left cheek. "Okay, you can do it yourself if you prefer." Cat offered him the cotton balls and antiseptic, and Blair started to clean his scrapes and cuts himself, using the rearview mirror. While the lighting wasn't the best, it would have to do until they got back to Cascade. He hissed often as the antiseptic let him know about each cut and scrape.Cat stood by the car, listening to voices coming from down the road. They were getting closer, so she knew that they'd have company in a few minutes. "It sounds like Jim and the others are returning. I'm sure they'll be happy to see you waiting here for them, if not surprised.""Speaking of the others, do they know who you are?" asked Blair."Oh, yeah." Cat sighed. "We were introduced earlier, the whole tone of things changed very quickly after that. I think they were as uncomfortable as I was." "I can imagine that... the guys of Major Crimes are not all that open to alternative stuff. They'd have called it "voodoo" or some such name," commiserated Blair."I can well believe it. You're not exactly the run of the mill for the department. How did they take to you when you arrived on the scene?" Cat asked with a smirk."Not very well. They were always kidding me about all my herbal/natural remedies I learned from the different cultures I've studied!" Blair gave a short laugh, remembering some of the kidding/hassling he got over stuff.Cat backed away from the car a bit, to allow Blair room to get up. She could see the others coming up the road. Jim had been right. There were five of them, not four.Jim called out to Cat as he saw her standing there, casually leaning against the open door of the car. "Hey, Cat. We got the bad guys, but Sandburg's managed to get away!"Simon guffawed. "I'll help you search for him, Jim, if you promise I get to have a few minutes with him...."Other voices from the Major Crimes detectives chimed in as they wanted to have a few words with Blair as well.As they got closer, Jim winked at Cat, to let her know he knew Blair was already there. Then she understood why he had insisted on her being allowed to stay. He'd known that she'd have Blair waiting for them when they got back, and hadn't told her. "Why you dirty little...." she started to mutter under her breath.With that, Jim started to chuckle. "C'mon out Sandburg, I know you're there."Sandburg peeked his head around Cat's shoulder giving a casual wave as he said, "Um...Hi! Guys! Thanks for coming to the rescue." He muttered more quietly so only Jim and Cat could hear him. "Again.""Sandburg! How the heck did you get here?" yelled Rafe as he brought up one of the criminals.Brown did a double take as he looked at Sandburg, then back at the way they had come from."Hairboy! What? How?" asked H. bewildered as he gestured at Blair and Cat. Both were standing now beside the car."Um, Hi guys. See you got the guys responsible for the bank heist...." started Blair indicating the five culprits that the officers had between them. "Did you manage to get the loot they had stashed there, too?""Joel and deputies are bringing up the rear with the goods," said Rafe.Simon handed off his perp to one of the county deputies and strode over to Sandburg. He pulled the Observer by the arm out from behind Cat. "Now I've seen everything, Sandburg. You disappear and leave Jim worried, you involve a civilian in this mess, and then you hide behind her for protection!""Aw, come on, Simon...." whined Blair as the captain clamped down on his arm harder. "Hey! Watch the arm! It hurts, Man! It hurts!""At least she knows how to stay put when she's told. Jim, maybe you should consider another partner," scolded Simon. Cat struggled to keep herself from laughing at Simon's comment, knowing full well that she hadn't stayed put. But then, Jim and Blair also knew that....The officers of Major Crimes surrounded Blair as Simon still held on to his arm. Cat looked to Jim, wondering if she should be worried about what was about to happen."Um, Simon, can we talk about this? Uh, guys? Can we talk?" Rafe, Joel, and H took a giant step forward. "Jim? Hey! Jim! Help me out here, man!"Jim shook his head at his partner's pleas. "Uh, uh.""You put one heck of a scare into us, Blair," said Joel."Hairboy," started Brown, "we are so glad to see you're alright!" he continued after slapping Blair soundly on the back.Rafe seconded his friends. "Yeah, Blair... I'm glad you're safe! Now I can go back to my date that I left back home...""Sandburg, one of these days you're going to do something crazy," said Simon, "like go away for a weekend and nothing happens. I'm just not sure my heart would take it."Cat sighed in relief at that comment and added her own, "You guys make it sound like Blair is always in trouble!"Five male heads nodded emphatically back at her and each man tried to tell her about an escapade that Blair had gotten involved in. "Fishing..."Peru.... Elevators.... Gunrunning...."Blair shook his head and looked over at Cat. "It's not as bad as it sounds, Cat! Really, it isn't!""Who are you trying to convince, Cat or yourself?" joked Jim."Watch it Jim, maybe he's making a play for your new girlfriend...." joked Brown."Come on, Jim," beseeched Blair, as Brown slapped him on the back again and he winced. "Watch it, H.! That hurt! My back is bruised!""Maybe we should get you to a hospital to get you checked out?" Brown offered as a way of an apology."No way," Blair brushed off the suggestion. "I'm fine. No hospitals....""I think we had better go tell the rest of my camping group that I'm okay," suggested Blair. Rafe, Joel, Henri, and Simon headed back to their respective vehicles, leaving Blair, Jim and Cat behind. The county sheriffs had already departed a few minutes earlier with their arrested suspects.As Simon climbed into his car, he called back to the trio, "I want your report on my desk first thing Monday morning, Blair! And make sure you stop and give your statement to the sheriff's office!""I'll make sure of it, Cap!" returned Jim as he waved in the direction of the other vehicles as doors slammed shut.

Cat slid into the backseat of the Neon, leaving the front for Jim and Blair.Blair let out a sigh of relief as he relaxed in the passenger side seat. Cat watched the two men as Jim drove the vehicle out of the area, back to the access road. He asked Blair which campground he had been at originally.Blair was relieved when he found out the campsite wasn't that far away. At least he hadn't gone too far off course. "I can stay in camp tonight, I don't mind," amended Blair, "if you could bring me back here after my statement to the County Sheriff's Department?""Blair, we can do that if you want, but I think we need to talk sometime this weekend," responded Jim."Aw, man. What's there to talk about? I walked away from the campgrounds, got lost, and got kidnapped by those guys...."Jim leaned close to Blair, "I zoned not once, but twice."Blair quickly looked at his friend and partner. He shot back, "What? How? Where? How long?" He quickly looked from Jim to Cat and swallowed audibly. "Um, does Cat know about, you know..." asked Blair as he casually pointing to his ear."I told you, we need to talk. We can go to the sheriff's so you can give your statement. Then we can find somewhere to talk. We can do it out here, or back at the loft. It doesn't matter to me." The detective pushed his friend toward the car. Jim slammed the door on Sandburg, who could hardly contain his questions until they were under way. Jim ambled over to the driver's side of the car, got in, started the engine, backed the car up and started for the campground. "I asked Cat for help to find you and zoned last night. Cat brought me out of it."Blair nodded his head slowly. "Okay... and the other time was when...?" he punctuated his question with hand motions as the car hit a bump in the rough road, making Blair grab onto the dashboard."That is what we have to talk about. Yesterday morning, after you left," Jim admitted. "Joel and Simon brought me out of that one."Blair repeated what Jim had said, trying to figure out the implications of the admission. "What time did you go into that zone, and more importantly, what were you doing when you zoned?""I don't remember the time, but I zoned listening to your heartbeat."Blair frowned, confused. "Why were you listening to my heartbeat, Jim?"Jim shot a quick glance at his Guide, not sure he really wanted to admit the real reason."Blair, maybe this should wait. It really is a lot more involved," suggested Cat.Blair sighed heavily, knowing somehow that this was way more involved than it should be and that Jim probably would not answer until they were back at the loft.The group that Blair had camped with looked up warily as the strange car approached their campsite. When Blair emerged from the car, all six people who had been sitting around the campfire visibly relaxed. Jim climbed out of the driver's side, then helped Cat out. Blair's friends gathered around him all talking at once. His friends were glad to see him alive and in one piece. "Guys! Guys!" said Blair loudly and held up his hands, trying to get the others' attention. "I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm just tired. Thanks...." His friends stopped talking and Blair introduced Jim and Cat. Jim recognized a couple of the campers as his college friends. Blair quickly explained what happened, then gathered up his stuff. Jim put it in the trunk of the car, slammed the lid, and motioned to Blair to hurry it up. Blair waved back to Jim, acknowledging the request, and begged off for the rest of the weekend.

He climbed wearily into the passenger seat again and sighed. "Thanks, Jim, for getting me out of there. Those guys and gals love to talk and I could have been there for hours answering their questions...."Cat chuckled in the back seat at Blair's obvious relief about the second "rescue". Jim shot Blair a quick look and asked, "And you wanted to spend a whole weekend camping with them? You are a glutton for punishment, Chief." "Yeah, well," started Blair, sitting up straighter in his seat, "they're a great bunch to hang out with, but I'm not up to any detailed explanations. I just want to give my statement about this whole mess and be done with it! I am never going camping again, mark my word...." At Jim's chuckle, Blair amended, "unless my Blessed Protector is with me of course!""Blessed Protector???" said Cat.Blair mumbled a soft, "Oops!""Well, go a head and tell her, Chief, how I got that title!" commanded Jim with a chuckle."Right, right, sure thing..." started the Observer. Blair was nervous that he had given too much away. "Jim saved my life once and there's an ancient Chinese proverb that says....""Wait, let me guess, if you save someone's life you're responsible for it right?" said Cat. "I've heard that before - but I don't remember who it was attributed to." Blair's mouth dropped open as Cat finished his sentence. "How did you know that's what I was going to say?" Jim laughed softly to himself and checked in the rear view mirror, making eye contact with Cat. She just smiled back at him."What can I say, I just remembered it," as she smiled back...Blair looked at her, opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, then waved one hand in the air, "Nah, you wouldn't would you?""Wouldn't what?" she asked"Um, be able to read minds? You made it sound like you knew exactly what I was going to say...." explained the curious Observer."Not that I know of," replied Cat.Jim laughed as Blair made a face that said, yeah, right, then asked, "But, then, how did you find me in the woods back there, Cat?" "It goes back to what I said earlier, I just knew. I had to follow something that was leading me into the woods," she said as she glared in Jim's direction. 'I'm not going to forget you didn't tell me that's why I was along....' she thought."Like what did you know, Cat? I'm really curious how you knew you had to follow something?" pushed Blair.Cat scrunched her nose up and shot Jim a look in the mirror as well as goosing him under the seat to get his attention. He shot her a quick look back in the mirror and gave a slight shrug in return."Blair, you really know how to ask the hard questions don't you? I have no way of explaining it. I just know.""Well, I am still a scientist, first and foremost, and am always curious about the metaphysical world... kinda got into that through my mom."Jim snorted at his partner's comment and Blair stuck his tongue out at the older man."Then ask your mom...." suggested Cat, starting to feel a little exasperated."Hold on there, Chief. Let's leave Naomi out of this for now, shall we? We don't need to drag your mom into the middle of this...it will only complicate things."Blair opened his mouth to ask another question, but Jim beat him to the punch, since the detective was watching his partner out of the corner of his eye. "Sandburg, lets drop it for now. We'll talk about it later, okay? We're all tired and I take it Cat doesn't want to talk about it right now."She mouthed a silent "Thank you" to Jim and sighed.Blair threw his hands up, "Okay! It's not like you were awake all night, being held a captive, in pain, cold, wet, tired, hungry....""No Blair, he was awake most of the night trying to figure out how to help you," said Cat quietly."Um, I would like to ask what you meant by that," started Blair, looking at Cat hopefully."Later?" she pleaded hoping he'd understand."Okay, okay. I get the picture. Turn around and shut up, Sandburg... I'm turning around," and suited action to his words, "I'm shutting up, at least until we get to the Sheriff's office."Jim grinned in triumph and relief to have gotten Sandburg to drop the subject, but not forgotten.He shot Blair a quick glance, then caught Cat's eye in the mirror. He smiled at her and said, "Sandburg never shuts up unless he's asleep or sick, Cat, so this should be good! Care to take bets as to how long he remains quiet?" She smiled in return and shrugged, looked at her watch and replied, "Five minutes, tops....""You think he could really hold out that long?" Jim kidded "Three," countered Jim. Blair started to open his mouth to say something, shut it, folded his arms across his chest, and "hmmpf'd" at them, hoping that the sound wouldn't count.

As they pulled into the Sheriff's, Blair still hadn't said a word. He was too tired to be very talkative, he was struggling just trying to stay awake.Jim nudged Blair to alert him that they had reached their destination. "C'mon Chief, time to go inside so we can get this over with.""Hm? Oh, yeah!" said Sandburg, finally becoming aware of his surroundings. He fumbled with his seatbelt, then slowly climbed out of the car and grimaced from the stiffness he was suffering.Blair hobbled around the car as Jim watched him. Blair looked up to see a small smile on Jim's face. "What? Can't a man hobble a little?" He took a few more steps as the stiffness worked its way out. "Man, if I feel this stiff, what's it like to feel old?" Jim clapped his partner on the shoulder and Blair pulled back, mumbling an "Ow!""Sorry, Junior, but with the way you keep getting into trouble, I'm surprised you're not used to it!"Blair gave Jim a dirty look and mumbled back, "Too bad I can't dial down the pain, like someone I know can!"Cat made a mental note as she silently followed them into the Sheriff's office, once they got seated she would do a little more energy work....Jim led the trio into the Sheriff's office and was directed to his office. They passed the booking area and saw that the 5 criminals were being processed. He heard the perps grumble amongst themselves as Jim and Blair were recognized. He made out one particular comment that made him clench his jaw."Too bad we didn't off that hippie freak when we had the chance. His cop friend wouldn't have found us then.... Still trying to figure that one out.... Do you really think he's a super cop?"Jim glared at the bank robbers and they stopped talking and stared back at the Sentinel. Jim caught up with Blair and Cat as they took seats in the Sheriff's office.Blair gave his statement to the officer, answered questions to shed some further light on the case, and was asked to wait to sign the statement papers. The Sheriff treated the trio to coffee and snacks as they waited in the break room.Cat passed on the coffee, opting for water instead. She sat quietly, closing her eyes and concentrated. "This should have them feeling a little better shortly," she thought."Tired, Cat?" Jim asked.Cat, shook her head, and smiled. When she was finished she opened her eyes, and said, "Remember last night? When I was trying to use energy? I just did a little more energy work. Hopefully enough to make us all feel a bit better for the drive back to Cascade.""I want to learn more about this, but I guess this isn't the time or place, huh, Cat?" Blair asked tentatively."No, not really. Besides, I'm only here for another two weeks, so I doubt I can help you much in that time. I've lived my entire life with this little gift and basically, I've had to do a lot of research about it to get the understanding I have. This kind of thing is a personal journey and no one can give you a definitive answer. I can tell you how I do it, but that doesn't by any stretch of the imagination mean it will work for either of you, but it is a starting point. That's one of the reasons you have to do the research yourself. I can't give you all the answers. How can I, when I don't even have them all? I know what I know, but even then, it doesn't always work on cue.""I'd appreciate any help you can give then," replied Blair, thinking that whatever he could learn would be helpful since he was still trying to get a handle on the shaman's responsibilities.A few minutes later, a sheriff's deputy brought the statement for Blair to read over and sign. He quickly scanned the document and signed his name with a flourish, then got up to leave. The sheriff thanked them for coming in and showed them the way out.

At the outskirts of Cascade, Jim asked if anyone was hungry. Blair made a snide comment about no Wonder Burgers that garnered him a sharp look from Jim and a small chuckle from the back seat at Blair's comment. Blair suggested pizza for lunch. Jim wanted to know if they wanted Pizza Hut pizza.Cat spoke up. "Do you think they'd make a cheese-less pizza? If so, I'm for it."Jim looked in the mirror at Cat. "A cheese-less pizza? How can you possibly eat pizza without cheese? Gotta have cheese!""No, you don't. It's actually quite nice without. I've even made a few converts... A summer of working for a catering firm, doing cheese trays day in and day out sorta made me lose any thoughts of liking it."They continued their debate as they arrived at the pizza place with Jim insisting that he wanted cheese on his pizza. After they arrived, Cat looked at the restaurant as she got out of the car, and just shook her head with a grin. No matter where you went some things were constant. The red roof and the sign, they were just like back home. Maybe Canada really was the 51st state.The hostess recognized Jim and Blair as they entered the restaurant. Cat noticed that they were more at ease here, so the recognition didn't stem from the publicity. Obviously they were at least semi-regulars here. The hostess quickly escorted them to a booth in the darkest part of the restaurant. They finally compromised with a cheese-less pizza that Blair and Cat would eat and a medium pizza with all the trimmings, extra sausage and pepperoni, for Jim, just in case he didn't like the cheese-less pizza."So, what's life like back in Toronto, or do you even spend much time there?" asked Jim with a smile, subtly digging for information on her."Busy, normally. I don't live in hotels all the time. I actually have a three bedroom apartment with a good size kitchen, living room and balcony.""Hey, Jim! The woman has a three bedroom apartment! How come you only have a bedroom and a loft!" Blair gestured to Jim with his pizza and Jim just shrugged. "To keep wayward Anthro…, er, Police Observers from taking over the whole place!" Jim answered and smiled to soften the remark."I have an office and a spare bedroom which doubles as a library. I do work from home sometimes. I didn't want the office in either the living room or my bedroom. I do need to get away from the computer occasionally.""What do you do," asked Blair, "live with your computer? You work with it at work AND at home? When do you have fun?""I don't work all the time. It just seems like it sometimes. I do actually have a social life. Now my turn to ask a question or two. How did you two meet, end up become partners in the department and end up sharing a place to stay?" Cat asked, curiosity finally getting the better of her.Blair looked at Jim and nodded to the older man to give the answer. Jim nodded back to Blair."No, you answer it, man," chuckled Blair."Uh, uh. Not touching that one with a ten foot pole!" the detective returned, putting his hands up defensively, trying to ward off Blair.Cat looked on in bewilderment, wondering what was up."Well, someone had better tell me, or I'll think the worst of you both!""Ummmmm...." stalled Blair."Need to know, huh?" Cat questioned."Yes," stated Jim."No," volleyed Blair with a smirk, daring Jim to be the one to enlighten Cat.Cat started to chuckle with that exchange. "Forget I asked. It's not worth it.""Come on, man, you can tell her. Cat's trustworthy." The younger man quickly turned to Cat with a smile, "You are trustworthy, aren't you?""Sandburg...." warned Ellison, holding his glass of water up to his partner and threatening to dump it on him."Jim!" cried Blair, quickly sitting back as far as he could and making ready to jump out of the booth if Jim followed through on his threat.Cat rolled her eyes at their antics then kidded. "I haven't revealed any company secrets lately...." Jim sighed and relented, knowing Sandburg wouldn't leave it alone. Not for a minute. "Alright, Sandburg. I'd better tell her before you embellish the story, and we're here until after midnight!"Sandburg put on a hurt face, raised his eyebrows as far as they would go, and pointed to himself. "Me? Embellish a story? I'm hurt, Jim, really, really hurt by that!""That could be an interesting embellishment - 12 hours worth. Might be worth the hearing," said Cat checking her watch."Ah, here comes the pizza now, folks. Saved by the pizza!" declared Jim, dramatically rubbing his hands together as he watched the waiter bring the pizzas."You'll use any excuse to get out of telling me something, won't you?" Cat said to Jim.'Me?" asked Jim. He copied Blair's hurt expression, which made both Cat and Blair laugh. They dished up the pizza and both men tasted the cheese-less one. They ate their pizza while trading stories - mostly about Blair's teaching and some of his expeditions with school before he had met Jim. The two men had silently agreed to avoid that subject until later, without unwelcome ears around. They could never be too sure who was in the restaurant with them and they didn't want anyone overhearing anything that could bring more publicity down on them.Blair had Cat and Jim laughing at some of his funnier exploits on a couple of trips as they made their way out to the car and headed back to Cascade.

End Part 3Go to [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 4 ]

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Sunday May 09 2010
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