| Disclaimers, Warnings, Acknowledgments, Authors
Notes in Part One.|
"Im begging you, Marion. Please, can you spare a couple
of people to help us out? Ive got a few dozen lunches to prepare and Ive
got no one to serve them," pleaded the pretty young brunette.
cant, Vivian. Were running into the same problem you are and the cafeteria
doesnt run on its own," the older woman replied in frustration.
"Half our staff is out with the flu. Hell, Ive been in since six this
morning and, because Ive got only two people showing up for the afternoon
shift, Ill be here until eight tonight."
me? I couldnt help but overhear your discussion. Is there something I could
do to help?" Blair offered.
Both women stopped and stared
at the young man. "Help us?" they chorused with a mixture of surprise
"If a shortage of staff is the problem,
why not help each other?" Blair suggested. "Combine your kitchens and
your staff. And if youre still short, Id be willing to pitch in. Id
gladly be willing to help out for a few hours. Im between jobs, and although
its been a while, Ive been a waiter before."
women looked at each other and then back at the young man.
on." Marion looked at Blair with an eyebrow raised.
Blair Sandburg. And you are?" he said, by way of introduction.
Marion White, I run the cafeteria. This is Vivian St. Claire, she runs catering
for the building."
"Where do you want me to start?"
Blair grinned. There was more than one way to finagle a way in to see Jim.
do you say Vivian? We can start him out by bringing your things down here, and
then we can figure out between us how to get this juggernaut running."
about the paperwork?"
"Im willing to put that
off until tomorrow. At worst, if we forget, youll get a free day out of
me and Ill be busy," Blair suggested. "Youll need to start
getting ready for the breaks which will be starting soon and then we have to get
the lunches started."
Both women grinned, liking this
young mans willingness to pitch in.
Blair. Ill take you upstairs to our kitchen and we can start bringing down
what we need for the day. By the end of this day, you may regret volunteering
to help us," warned Vivian, leading the way to the service elevator. "If
you survive it, you may have a job."
been kidding. He ran back and forth constantly between the two kitchens until
all the supplies needed for the days catering were in the cafeterias
kitchen. Marion and Vivian had worked out a schedule, which had Blair on the run
until just before noon. He was traveling all over the building delivering coffee
for breaks to different board rooms in addition to taking a quick tour around
the cafeteria to collect trays to be returned to the kitchen for cleaning.
them, Vivian and Blair split the deliveries of the lunches to the different boardrooms.
Blair offered to take the lunches scheduled to be delivered later, thanking Cat
silently for getting the information on Jims lunch meeting. It would be
very interesting to see what his reaction would be to the arrival of lunch.
* * * *
Blair closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steel
himself for his next meeting with Jim. The frosty glare hed received when
Jim recognized him earlier had been pretty much what hed expected. He didnt
appear to be the easiest person to rattle, but the fact remained, he had gotten
a reaction and he was being noticed.
Hed made sure the
lunches for the other boardrooms were delivered first, leaving Jims until
last. At least, if things went wrong, he would only have disappointed himself,
not Vivian and Marion.
Cat joined him in the hall just before
he went in. "Good to see a friendly face," she said, slightly relieved.
"Lets just say that I want to see this
over with as soon as possible. I dont like this Jim. I want ours back."
hesitated at her words. "I guess its time to get on with this part
of the plan. Hopefully, I wont be on the receiving end of anything more
than one of his frosty glares. Wish me luck!"
luck. Just remember Im in there with you," she offered.
* * * *
A light tap on the door and the room fell silent. The
door opened and a young man entered pushing a cart before him.
in the room noticed that J. J. Ellisons gaze had not left the young man
since he had entered the room, everyone, that is, except the young man who seemed
to be totally oblivious to him as he took his time setting lunches and the dessert
trays out. He exchanged the old urn of coffee for a fresh one and ensured there
was enough cream, milk, and sugar for the people in the room. Turning to take
his leave, his eyes locked with Ellisons.
For the first
time since she had met him, his assistant saw something akin to surprise on J.
J.s face. The young man didnt flinch from his steely gaze, nor did
he lower his eyes in submission, like most of the staff did when Ellison was in
one of these moods. He met him as an equal. There seemed to be a flicker of something
more, but Karla couldnt put her finger on what it was. The young man broke
the gaze and left the room as quietly as hed entered it.
the catering has arrived, why dont we get our lunches and then we can return
to our discussion?" J.J. suggested as he held Karla back, wrote her a quick
note and then joined his guests at the sideboard. Karla read the brief note and
then shook her head as stared after him. //I wonder why this young man upset him
* * * * *
Blair sagged against
the wall opposite the boardroom door. He let out the breath hed been holding
since he broke Jims gaze and waited for security to escort him out of the
building. But it never happened. //I wonder why?//
did fantastic in there!" Cat crowed, joining him a moment later. "Are
"Yeah, Im okay. It was just a little
harder than I thought it would be," he admitted.
held your own," she coaxed.
"Come downstairs with
me so we can talk," Blair suggested as he started to move the cart in the
direction of the freight elevator. "Youre right though, I dont
like this Jim either."
"Youll like it even less with
what Ive got to tell you," she cautioned as she followed him to the
"What happened?" he asked warily, as they
got on the elevator.
"After you left, he wrote a note
to his assistant. I was standing behind her as she read it. He instructed her
to find out who you were and to make sure you never came up to these floors again."
at least he didnt call security and have me escorted from the building.
Thats something, I guess," he answered with a tired shrug.
Did you notice the look on his face when you looked him straight in the eye?"
she asked thoughtfully.
"No, I was trying too hard not
to blow it. I knew I had to keep myself calm until I left. I just kept waiting
for the explosion that never came. Why?"
people in the room noticed his reaction to you and I know his assistant was wondering
what was up. Youre getting through to him," she encouraged. "Im
pretty sure I saw a flicker of recognition before he caught himself."
at least Ive gotten this far, but if hes banned me from this area
I wont be able to get to see him again, at least not here. We need to find
other opportunities to get to him without me coming across like a deranged stalker
or corporate spy."
Cat grinned at his statement, knowing
it wouldnt take much to cross that line with this particular version of
Jim. "How about I follow Jim for the rest of the day. Ill hitch a ride
with him tonight and I can meet you back at the hotel when I have some more information
we might need," she offered.
"Sounds good. Ill
stay here and help Marion close up the cafeteria tonight, then go back to the
hotel and get some dinner. When you come back, check the hotel restaurant first,
then look for me in the room."
"Deal," she agreed
as the elevator doors opened. "Ill see you later then," she said,
before changing back into the cougar and making her way to the stairwell. Blair
grinned, glad that he was the only one able to see her. Hed hate to see
Animal Control trying to catch her.
* * * * *
go on home," Jim told his assistant. "Ill see you tomorrow at
nine for the meeting with the marketing group."
about you? Are you staying?" Karla asked, knowing he was notorious during
this time of year for staying almost around the clock working on reports.
Jim replied with a weary smile, the first one Karla had seen all day. "Carolyn
has struck a deal with me. I can work on the reports all night as far as shes
concerned, as long as I do it at home."
Karla shot back.
"If I didnt know better Karla,
Id say you two have been talking," J.J. accused, eyeing his assistant
"I dont know what youre talking
about, J. J." Karla declared. "Now, pack up and get out of here before
Carolyn figures out youre trying to renege on your deal. And do me a favor?
Try to get a good nights sleep. You were definitely off your game today."
was that damn waiter with the caterer," Jim told Karla with a hint of anger
and frustration. "Make sure you take care of that first thing tomorrow morning,
before the meeting. I dont need any more surprises."
was it about him that set you off? Ive never seen you react that way to
anyone before," she asked with concern. Something wasnt right. J. J.
did not lose his cool like that. Ever. But somehow this young man had gotten under
his skin on sight.
"If I didnt know better, Id
say hes following me. I saw him at the hotel this morning at breakfast.
I saw him again as I came into the building, and then he showed up as the waiter
delivering lunch. It was just too coincidental."
talk to the caterer in the morning before the meeting to make sure he doesnt
show up again," she promised. It still didnt sound right. But then,
J. J. wouldnt have gotten to where he was if he didnt know what he
was doing. So who was she to second-guess him?
* * * * *
silently padded after Jim as he headed down to the parking garage. She slowed
in surprise as she saw him approach his car. //Who woulda thunk it? Jim driving
a sleek black Lexus?//
Cat quickly hopped into the vehicle
just as Jim started the ignition. The trip to Jims home was a pleasant drive
to the outskirts of the city. He lived in an older neighborhood and the houses
screamed old money.
Jim pulled into the driveway of a large
home, modest in comparison with his neighbors. The grounds were immaculate and
the fašade was simple, yet elegant. When she followed him inside, she noticed
the interior was beautiful. It was like something out of a magazine. Definitely
the type of place an executive would have to have to entertain. She wondered if
that was Carolyns doing, or if shed hired an interior designer?
* * * *
"Jim?" Carolyn called from the dining room.
were expecting someone else?" he kidded, setting his briefcase down.
heard that might be a possibility," she paused for a beat, waiting for his
reaction. She saw a flicker of surprise, but that was it. "So, how was your
day?" she prompted.
"Like any other," he replied
as he loosened his tie. "You know the routine, meetings all day, trying to
get a handle on the information I need for the reports due at the end of the month
for the CEOs meeting."
"Now try telling me
the truth. What happened today?" she prodded.
dont know what you mean," he denied obstinately.
did you honestly believe I wouldnt hear what happened at lunch today? When
the guys from R & D left your meeting today, it took less than half an hour
for the floor to be buzzing with speculation. You know I normally hear whats
going on there. The fact that your wife works in R & D doesnt stop all
the talk. Now, Id like to hear your version," she stated firmly.
wish I could explain what happened," he said in frustration. "All I
know is this
young man seemed to be dogging my every footstep today. He
was there this morning at breakfast. He showed up again at lunch as catering staff.
I half expected him to follow me home tonight."
come on, Jim," she admonished. "Youve been edgy ever since your
dream the other night. What is it about him that set you off? Did he really do
anything threatening? Anything else that would make you think he was dangerous?"
" he stopped before he said it. There was something familiar
about him. He had recognized the young man from the nightmare, but he wasnt
about to admit that to anyone. He wasnt sure why, but he knew something
terrible would happen if he did.
"Just what?" she
asked, sensing his hesitation to answer.
he answered with a sigh. He didnt have the answers. He wasnt sure
he ever would. And right now, it seemed the only one who might was the stranger
who kept popping up when he least expected it. "Never mind. Lets have
dinner," he suggested. "Ill work in the office for a bit later."
shed lost this round, she backed off. "Mrs. Hagen prepared a wonderful
dinner for us. Have a seat and Ill bring it in."
* * * *
While Carolyn and Jim had dinner, Cat explored their
home, looking for more information she could use. Curiosity had definitely gotten
the better of her. She guessed the Mrs. Hagen who had been mentioned was their
housekeeper. The house was immaculate.
On the main floor there
was a living room, dining room, office, library, and kitchen. Of the rooms on
this floor, only the office looked like it saw much use. She noted their unlisted
number and the second number in Jims office, which she suspected was also
unlisted. The books in the library were a mix of fiction and non-fiction. The
mysteries made her smile, knowing that some things never changed. The historical
biographies intrigued her. She suspected the bestsellers were Carolyns.
beside the storage area and the laundry room, she found what most would refer
to as a family room. A home entertainment center sat prominently along one wall.
The stereo system was to die for. The music ran the gamut from the classics to
Upstairs were four bedrooms. The master bedroom spanned
most of the back of the house. It looked like it would be a bright room in the
daylight with the windows. The room matched the rest of the house elegant
and understated, but not overly feminine in appearance. The guestrooms were a
little less so. It appeared that Carolyn had had a little more leeway with those
Back downstairs, Cat settled into the office, watching
Jim who was now hard at work. Occasionally she would look over his shoulder, hoping
for some more information that Blair could use.
After a while,
Cat perched on the corner of his desk, watching him. She reached out and caressed
his cheek. "Come back to me," she whispered. Just then, Carolyn strolled
into the room, resting her hands gently on Jims shoulders she asked, "Going
to be much longer? I was thinking of heading off to bed." Cat stiffened and
"I should be there shortly," he
"Uh, uh. Youre not getting away
with that tonight. The last time you said that, you ended coming to bed at three
in the morning," she scolded, slipping her arms around his neck and leaning
forward to whisper in his ear.
With a gasp Cat turned and fled
the room changing into her favored feline form. She had been in denial since she
got here she chided herself. Not wanting to think about where Jim had been, or
what hed been doing since his arrival. The anguished cry of a cougar filled
the home, but no one heard. Moving blindly, she finally found her way to the backyard,
without a backward glance she quickly changed to an owl, and flew off in the direction
of the citys center.
* * * * *
Cat called from the hallway before entering the room.
in Cat," he answered, turning the television off so they could talk. "How
did it go?"
"Okay. Ive got a couple of numbers
for you. I suspect they are both unlisted. The first is their home number. The
second is a line for Jims home office."
else?" he asked.
"Jim and Carolyn live in a beautiful
home on the outskirts of town in an old but definitely moneyed area. Looks like
when hes not in the office downtown, he lives in his office at home, and
believe it or not, Carolyn also works at Cyclops in the R & D group."
She watched the surprise register on his face before continuing. "And I think
you should know
Carolyn knows you made an impact on him today. Word spread
like wildfire this afternoon. Apparently, she believes his reaction to you had
something to do with a nightmare hes had recently."
you believe the nightmare is what I think it is?" Blair asked, looking for
Cat nodded in agreement. "Blair, if our
reality is a nightmare to him, we may have a problem."
kind of problem?" Blair asked in concern.
he stays in this reality, the more real it will become. Right now, most of his
life is just a bare sketch to him. The fact his home and office are so stark might
indicate he is just beginning to fill in the blanks. If this world becomes his
reality, our reality will cease to exist for him."
means what? Our Jim will end up in a coma?"
she admitted. "Or
he could die," she finished in a whisper.
got up from the bed where hed been sitting and started to pace. She perched
on the desk and watched as he moved back and forth in the small room. She watched
the emotions flit across his face as he tried to figure out the next move.
where are those phone numbers?" he asked.
She pulled out
a piece of paper from her purse and laid it on the desk beside the phone.
said the second one was his home office number?" he asked thoughtfully.
But when I left, I think they were on their way to bed, so Im not sure youll
get an answer tonight," she replied in a rather harsh tone.
if I call their home line, they should answer," he speculated, too intent
on trying to figure out what to say to JJ to notice the change in her voice.
than likely, there was a phone beside the bed," she agreed. "Are you
sure you want to call tonight?" she asked, silently praying he would make
that call as she fought a rising tide of jealousy.
think I have to do this now. Tonight. You just said time is a factor. I need to
keep him off balance. Calling him tonight, this late, and on his unlisted number,
should do it. I just hope it will work out the way I hope it will."
* * * *
Jim rolled over in the bed at the sound of the ringing
"Ignore it, Jim," Carolyn protested sleepily
"It has to be a wrong number. Who in their right mind would be calling at
this time of the night?"
Jim thought about ignoring the
ringing phone, but then sighed as he sat up and reached for the light before answering
"Hello," he growled.
Ellison, this is Blair Sandburg."
"Sandburg? I dont
know any Sandburg. How the hell did you get this number?" Jim demanded, his
level of irritation rising.
"Thats not important
right now. We need to talk," the voice stated firmly on the other end of
the line. "Im the person you saw this morning."
have nothing to say to you!" Jim declared.
at him from the other side of the bed. "Jim? What is it? Whats going
on?" she asked.
"No, but I have answers to the questions
you may be having about your nightmares. Meet me across the street from Cyclops
as soon as possible," he instructed, hanging up before Jim could protest.
stared at the phone, unsure of what he wanted. "Ive got to go out for
a bit. Ill be back," Jim told his wife, quickly gathering the clothes
hed worn earlier and getting dressed.
" Carolyn started, but he stormed out before she could finish
the thought. Minutes later, she heard the car start and back out of the driveway.
* * * *
Across the street from the Cyclops Oil building, Blair
paced impatiently. Hed placed the call to Jim only 15 minutes ago. //He
should be here in a few minutes, if hes going to show up at all. If *this*
Jim is anything like the one I know, hell be here. Pissed, but hell
As if to confirm his expectations, Jims car
sped around the corner and screeched to a halt in front of Blair. He stormed out
of the car and slammed the door, which made the whole vehicle shake with his fury.
have had enough of you!" spat Jim, grabbing the younger man by the shoulders,
pinning him against the wall. "Everywhere I turned today, you were there.
Hell, youre even turning up in my dreams, but before today Id never
met you. I want to know why youre in my face."
you do know me and a part of you is trying to remember who you are. You are Jim
Ellison. Youre a detective
out of your mind? Im James Ellison, the Vice President in charge of Operations
at Cyclops Oil, *not* a detective. And I *dont* know you," he
shook Blair to punctuate his objection.
"You joined the
Cascade PD after you left the army. Before that, you were a ranger in Special
Ops. You were sent on a mission to Peru. You lost your team in a helicopter crash.
You lived there for 18 months with the Chopec until you were found," he insisted.
spin a mean story, kid," Jim scoffed.
not just a story, its who you are," replied Blair with determination.
fought to clear his thoughts as images from the nightmare, which had plagued him
the last couple of nights resurfaced. He felt a sharp pain behind his eyes. Releasing
Blair, he started to back away. He shook his head slowly, trying to dispel the
voices and noises he suddenly began to hear.
a little girl wheedled in a passing vehicle.
I cant wait to see you tonight, either. I should be there in about twenty
minutes," a young man promised his date from a phone booth down the street.
car horn blared as two cars collided three blocks away. The shriek of sirens could
be heard even further in the distance. It all seemed like it was right there surrounding
him as the sounds of the night threatened to drown him like a rising tide. He
clamped his hands over his ears trying to block the onslaught.
streetlights suddenly flared like the noonday sun, even though it was almost midnight.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw a brief shimmer in the shadows. He closed
his eyes tightly against the offending light. His clothing suddenly felt coarse,
burning and chaffing his skin. The odors of the street assailed him. Gulping for
air, Jim fell to his knees. His agonized cry echoed through the night as his senses
However, through the barrage, he felt the gentle
touch of a hand resting on his shoulder. How it got there, he had no idea. Who
it was, he wasnt sure. Jim heard a voice from very far away, soft, insistent
"Cmon, Man. Listen to me. Dial it down.
You know how to do this
Slowly, the pain and noise
assaulting him began to burn away like a fog as the sun starts to rise.
okay, Jim. Cmon, you can do it," Blair repeated resolutely.
Jim finally opened his eyes to look at the young kneeling man before him, one
hand still on his shoulder as his soft, steady voice continued the reassuring
"Who *are* you?" Jim whispered, bewildered
by what was happening.
"A friend," the young man
"What is happening?"
starting to remember that youre a sentinel."
that? A sentinel?"
"You are," Blair stated
quietly. "A sentinel is a person with a genetic advantage. They have a sensory
awareness that can be developed beyond normal humans. You have always been a sentinel
and you always will be a sentinel."
not a dream. Its where we belong. Youre a detective with the Cascade
PD. Im your partner. We work for Captain Simon Banks in Major Crime. This,"
Blair indicated with a sweep of his other hand, "is the dream."
suddenly saw the image of an imposing black man sitting behind a desk, saying
to him "Yeah. Says in big letters, You are divorced. Now what?
Hell, man. I kept expecting this to be a great moment, and... I don't know. All
I feel is empty. It gets better, right?"
The image changed
to the young man before him, standing on a familiar balcony saying, "This
sentinel thing... You know, it's more than just a research project. Uh... it's
about friendship. I just didn't get it before."
Jim asked, his eyes narrowing in recognition.
Ive also been known to answer to Sandburg, Chief, Darwin or Professor,"
he returned with a smile.
?" Jim started
"Sorry. I dont have any of the details,"
he apologized. "Maybe we can figure that out
now, we have to figure out how to get you home."
Jim whispered softly as he remembered what *home* was to him. As the memories
grew stronger, the city around them began to dissolve and run together. Jim found
himself standing beside Blair. Behind his friend stood a woman, hovering anxiously.
asked Jim, trying to confirm he was really remembering things correctly.
beamed when she realized he could see her. "Its over? We can head back?"
Its finally over. Now, can we get the heck out of here?" urged Blair.
that, they turned their backs on the last vestiges of the fading Cascade and walked
into the gray nothingness to begin their journey home.
* * * *
Jim had never been the superstitious type. Had it been
a normal black cat that crossed his path, he wouldnt have thought twice,
but when the big black jaguar passed between him and his friends, he stopped,
knowing there was a reason for it to be there.
He watched his
friends walk into the grayness as the jaguar regarded him. Jim turned to the cat
and asked, "Now what?"
The jaguar changed before
his eyes into an image of himself, which he hadnt seen in several years.
He couldnt remember the last time hed seen the spirit image of himself.
He was sure it had been more than three years.
you?" the man challenged.
"My name is Jim Ellison,"
"What are you?" he demanded.
sentinel," Jim answered.
The figure before him changed
again, assuming the form of his friend, Incacha.
know why you are here?" the image asked.
not sure," Jim spoke slowly, trying to figure out exactly why he had been
"What lesson have you learned?"
This was a lesson?" he responded in confusion.
changed again. This time, Jim did not recognize this person.
"Your teacher," the shadowed figure
"What lesson was I to learn?"
lesson you have not wanted to learn before."
lesson was that?" Jim demanded.
"Reflect upon the
life you have chosen to return to and the one you now leave behind. What were
the differences? What was the cost of choosing one life over the other? What made
this life worth returning to over the one which was offered to you?"
stared at the stranger in the shadows, realizing what was being asked; understanding
that he had made a conscious choice to return to his life. He had turned his back
on what might have been if things had been different in his life. He had never
realized that giving up the worst parts of his life also meant giving up the best.
is your name?" Jim asked quietly.
"I have many names:
Loki, Hermes, Baubo, Monkey, Raven, and Coyote, are but a few. In your world,
some call me simply, Trickster," he replied with a smile.
I remember any of this?" Jim asked.
"If you choose
to," answered Trickster.
"What about my friends?
What will they remember?"
"They will remember what
they choose to," Trickster assured him. "They too, had lessons to learn.
It is time for you to return."
"You already know the way." And with that,
the figure disappeared, leaving Jim alone in the gray nothingness. Jim turned
and began the rest of his journey home.
* * * * *
eyes fluttered open. He looked across to Cat, who was rubbing her eyes with the
heels of her hands. After stretching briefly to ease the stiffness in his muscles
he looked down at Jim, who was still laying motionless on the floor.
hes not back yet. Is there something else we have to do? Something we forgot?
He was right behind us," Blair said, slightly panicked.
dont know. Has anything changed at all? Pulse? Temperature? He still appears
to be breathing," she offered.
Blair was checking Jims
pulse when the older mans eyes slowly opened. "Oh, man! Dont
scare me like that ever again! How are you feeling?"
okay," Jim assured him. "What happened?"
you did a really good impression of a redwood falling," offered Cat cryptically.
grinned as Jim groaned and cupped his hands over his eyes.
do you remember, Jim?" asked Blair.
"I was standing
in the kitchen getting mugs for coffee and tea just a few minutes ago. Now Im
in the living room on the floor. Though I dont know how I got here,"
he replied looking to his friends for answers.
weve got a lot to talk about," suggested Blair.
got up from the floor and, after ensuring there were no apparent after effects,
crossed over to the stereo to turn off the tape. "How you can meditate to
that, Ill never know,"
Cats drumming tape for journeying," Blair countered.
"Well, it helped bring you back from your little
trip," Blair quipped as he started a fire in the fireplace to take the chill
off while Cat turned turn the lights on in the darkened room.
Why dont I put on some coffee?" Looking at her watch Cat noted the
time and realized why she felt hungry. "Actually, why dont you order
in while I make a fresh pot of coffee? She remembered that the timer automatically
shut the element off and the pot that had been made earlier had long gone cold.
"The usual?" Blair asked, reaching
for the phone, making a mental note to get the forgotten groceries from the car
after ordering dinner.
"I wonder how long we were gone,"
murmured Blair as he looked at the remains of the candle on the floor. He turned
on the TV to check not only the time but also the date. He knew they had spent
almost two days in the other reality and was curious as to how much time had passed
in this one.
"I figure Cat called me at about ten after
three this afternoon. According to the weather channel, weve been gone
for about eight hours. Which reminds me, excuse me for a few minutes, Ive
got some groceries in the car. If youve got enough room in the fridge, Ill
put the perishables there until Im ready to leave."
* * * *
"So, what happened?" asked Blair as he dug
into his chow mein. "I mean, why did you end up in that other Cascade?"
not entirely sure," Jim replied, dishing out some more rice. "I think
Im going to need some time to go over what happened to figure it out."
it seem like a dream, like this life did there?" prompted Blair.
does have an unreal feeling about it," admitted Jim. "What about you?
How did you know what to do? Where to find me?"
suspected what may have happened, and had an idea of how to find you," admitted
Cat. "As for actually tracking you, Blair made a list of the major events
in your life and we tried to trace you from there. It was a bit of a shock to
find youd actually ended up as an executive at Cyclops Oil. How did you
"I guess I followed in my fathers
footsteps. Hed always pushed us academically and encouraged us to be competitive.
In that life, instead of going into the Army, I became a business major. I ended
up at Cyclops and worked my way up the ladder."
what made the difference? What made you take a different path?" Cat asked,
passing around the plate of fortune cookies that had come with their meal. Each
took a cookie as Jim thought about where things had changed.
it was Mom. She was there throughout that life. I guess looking back at it and
comparing it to this life, she was there to smooth things out when things got
rough. Some of the things that happened between Dad, Steven and I just didnt
happen then. Maybe
just because she was there."
cracked open his fortune cookie and read the small slip of paper. His brow furrowed
and he looked at the others. "Uh, why dont you two check your fortunes?
I think something weird is happening."
Jim and Cat crumbled
their cookies and pulled out their fortunes. Jim visibly paled and Cats
eyes went wide as they read them.
"Shall we take turns
reading them out loud?" Blair suggested. "Ill go first. You
walk a different path than most. Walk it proudly."
when to follow," added Cat.
"Be careful what you
wish for," finished Jim.
A booming crack of thunder sounded
outside. This time they heard the laughter in it.
* * * *
"I guess, I should be heading home," began Blair.
why dont you stay?" Cat suggested "I just changed the bedding
in your room yesterday. And if I remember correctly, I think theres still
a change of clothes or two in the dresser for you."
looked at Jim. Jim grinned and told him, "Dont even think of arguing
with her. You wont win."
"Hey, Ill even
offer to take your groceries over to the loft on my way to work in the morning,"
"Okay, Ill stay," Blair agreed with
a grin, raising his hands in surrender.
"Good! On that
note, I think Ill leave you two to talk," rising from the couch, she
whispered under her breath for Jims benefit, "
and I do mean talk."
With a smile she turned to Blair, gently squeezed his shoulder on her way past
him and mouthed the word, "Thanks."
Both men grinned
"By the way, Blair," Cat said from
the hallway. "You wanted to know about that walk I took. You had a great
time in Borneo. You finished the work on your dissertation there. It seems you
found a sentinel in Borneo. Youve been back a couple of times to visit him
and his people. Just thought youd wanna know," she finished with a
Jim turned to Blair and asked, "What was that
"Ill tell you later," he stalled.
Cat was out of earshot, Jims expression became serious. "Hey, Chief?"
he began, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. "Do you by any chance
have any books dealing with," he paused before continuing. "
Looking up at his friend, he realized Jim
was dead serious and waiting patiently for an answer. "The Trickster? Really?"
"Ill see what Ive got," answered
Blair dumbfounded. "If I dont have it," he answered with a grin.
"Im pretty sure I know where I can get some books on the subject."
Jim sighed in relief then yawned. "But no hurry, it can wait until tomorrow."
do realize, I want to know more about where the Trickster fits into this,"
"I was afraid of that," Jim responded
with a grin.
"But youre right. Its after midnight
and weve got work in the morning," reminded Blair.
a word of this to Simon, understood?" warned Jim.
said Blair with a smile. Blair started down the hall to his room, but stopped.
Turning back, he looked at Jim and smiled. "Thanks, Man."