"What? What is it?" Blair whispered.
something down there, past our friend. See, he hears it too." Jim watched
as the bear woke from his nap, looking around. He strained to hear more clearly
and felt Blair grab the back of his shirt. There had been something, far off,
but something. The bear stood and stretched, glancing up at them for a moment.
Jim heard it again, the rustling in bushes farther up the hill, back where they
had come. It sounded like hoof beats now, something climbing over rocks. "I
think his dessert just arrived." They both watched as the bear turned towards
the sound, listening, then moved off in the direction of the meal.
Blair said quietly.
"Hang on, let's wait till he's got it, and occupied."
They watched the bear move out of sight, then Jim listened as he walked up the
incline, paused, then roared and began to run. He heard the cry of a smaller animal,
and hoofbeats as it tried to escape. For one terrified moment, he thought the
prey was going to lead the chase right back to them. But then it turned, and the
bear followed. He brought down the beast moments later.
"Okay, let's go."
Jim motioned to Blair and began to climb down. Blair started to come down on the
other side, then had to climb back up and over the branch that their chain had
"Sorry." Blair replied to Jim's glance when the chain
snapped his right hand up just as he was reaching down for the next branch.
hurry up, we might not have much time." Jim had to wait for Blair to backtrack
enough to free the chain, then follow him down. It wasn't easy, climbing out of
a tree while keeping one hand higher so his partner wouldn't be pulled down on
top of him. They hit the ground gratefully and Jim pointed down the hill, "Let's
go. Get as much distance as we can before dark."
Blair just nodded and
followed. They ran for some time, heading down and away from the grizzly, before
Jim stopped and took another look around. Blair was winded, but he'd had no trouble
"Anything?" he asked as Jim listened.
crickets." Jim replied. "And birds. And water somewhere over there."
He pointed to the left. "Let's head that way, find a place for the night."
The sky was just beginning to darken. He estimated they had spent at least three
hours in the tree, maybe more. They continued on towards the sound of water, but
at a slower pace. Jim was being more careful to listen as well as look, and as
far as he could tell, there was nothing amiss. After another half hour, they reached
the small stream he had heard, from surprisingly far away.
"Man, Jim this
is so incredible. You heard this little stream from miles away! I wonder if this
was the drug sending you into overdrive? This is great!" Blair was so astounded
Jim was almost embarrassed.
"Come on Chief, it's the air. Sound really
carries up here, you know that." He leaned down to take a drink, but Blair
was still standing, and he had to tug on the chain to make him come down.
no way, not that much." He got down on his knees by the water but didn't
take a drink, he was too impressed. "Man, I wonder if it's the surroundings
or the situation? This is incredible, you've never heard that well before. Your
senses are like on overdrive or something."
"Chief, do you mind?
I'm thirsty here." Blair had been gesturing with both hands, which resulted
in Jim's right hand being jerked up each time he reached down for water. Leave
it to Blair to find something 'incredible' about this situation. He definitely
had a talent for that.
"Was it like this in Peru, when we were there last?"
Jim just shook his head and indicated his desire for more water. Blair finally
shrugged and started to drink as well. He didn't want to admit, either to Blair
or himself, that he too was startled at how well he'd heard the water at such
a great distance. Back in Peru, when his senses were taken to a higher level,
he'd had a mission and purpose to focus on. Finding Simon and Daryl had been only
thing on his mind. Then Blair and Kimberly, with the kids. He hadn't had to think
about what had happened until they were back home. And then, when the reality
struck, he hadn't known what to say when Blair asked. After his Spirit Guide,
or whatever Blair wanted to call that panther, heightened his senses to more than
double what they had been, it frightened him. He had just adjusted to his life
with these things, and his Guide. But after that, after the panther, as much as
he wanted to be in control, he didn't feel he was. Blair seemed to think it was
natural for him to see what others couldn't, hear what no one else could hear,
but it wasn't. It wasn't natural at all, unless you were a comic book super hero.
It was easier to just ignore them sometimes, not use them. But there was Blair,
always making him use a sense he didn't think would work. And then it did. How
could this kid know so much about senses that weren't even his?
Yet he did. The panther hadn't mentioned Blair, not verbally. But Jim knew, somehow
inside himself, he knew his Guide was a permanent part of him, just as his heightened
senses were. He was always telling Blair that fear was natural, and not to be
ashamed of it. But then why was he?
"What now? It's getting dark. Can
we risk a fire?"
"Might as well. It's going to get cold tonight."
He glanced around and pointed to a clear area next to some large boulders. "The
only one who might be up here is Brackett, and he already knows where we are."
They moved over to the clearing and both began gathering wood. That task took
twice as long as it should have, with each of them reaching for something at the
same time, and in opposite directions. "Hold it Chief, this is getting us
nowhere." Jim held out his wood. "Here, just hold this and follow me."
Blair rolled his eyes, but held out both arms, accepting the wood. After they
gathered, dropped, and re-gathered their load, they set about starting a fire.
"You hungry?" Jim asked, stoking the fire.
I'm a little nauseous. What the hell was that drug he used, anyway?"
have no idea, Chief. Brackett had access to all sorts of things in the CIA, and
God knows what he got a hold of after that." Jim leaned back against a boulder
and tried to make a pillow with both arms behind his head. "Why don't you
get some sleep?"
Blair shuddered a little and Jim looked up. "What
"I know. He's out there somewhere. I don't understand
his plan, but if he wanted us dead tonight, he'd just shoot us."
Then why aren't we dead already? Jim, why are we out here? Is he just going to
follow us down the mountain? Then what?"
"Did he say anything more
to you back at the loft? Anything at all?"
Blair thought for a moment,
rubbing his hands together against the evening chill. "Not much. He said
he wanted to see what we were made of. No, that wasn't it. He said he wanted to
see what the Sentinel and his Guide were made of. He knew where you were, that
you had a date with Wendy. And he said he wanted to give you a last night out.
Jim, this guy has no moral code. This is just a game to him. What the hell are
we going to do?"
"We're going to get out of here, Chief. We'll sleep
in shifts. Keep an eye out for Brackett."
looked up at Blair. "And bears." Blair was still trying to warm his
hands, so Jim added another piece of wood to their fire. The only one out there
to fear already knew where they were. Both he and Blair were in long-sleeved shirts
and jeans, but no jacket against the cold night air. They were below the snow
line, but it was still going to drop to near freezing at night. "Why don't
you get some sleep. I'll wake you later."
Blair shook his head, moving
a little closer to the fire. "I don't think I can. You go ahead."
in a little while." Jim wanted to keep watch for as long as possible. He
knew Blair would stay awake if he had to, but he didn't have Jim's range of sight
in the blackness of a moonless night.
"So, how was it?"
"Your date, with Wendy. How was it?"
"Oh." Jim rolled
his eyes. "Fine, just fine." He was not going to elaborate on this one.
"Come on, Jim. You were home before midnight. That's not like you."
Blair was laughing a little and watching Jim.
Jim looked away for a moment,
trying to compose his face, then looked back at the fire. "It was just fine,
Sandburg. She had to work the next, I mean this morning. That's all."
laughed again. "Right, sure. No problem."
Jim shook his head but
made no comment.
"Okay, that's cool."
"Sandburg, drop it,
okay?" Jim looked at him, then around at the boulder he was leaning on. "Well,
if you aren't tired, I am." He moved farther down onto the ground and used
the smaller rock that was under his back as a pillow, bringing both arms up under
his head. Blair moved forward to sit even closer to the fire, but when he did,
his left arm pulled Jim's right one out from under his head.
do you mind?" Jim tugged and brought his arm back, putting his hand under
his head again while giving Blair a dirty look.
"Great. This is going
to be real fun."