Blair tried to add another piece of wood to the fire using only
his right hand. Jim was sound asleep. How, he didn't know. He was so jumpy at
every sound he thought he'd overdose on adrenaline. Normal, everyday forest noises
took on a whole new aspect when he knew there was a madman out there, somewhere,
watching them. And there was Jim, fast asleep. That was either a testament to
his trust in Blair, or more likely, to his system still being under the influence
of that drug. Either way, Blair couldn't sleep. But he was freezing! He just hoped
the wood they'd gathered would last through this cold night. He had been trying
to sit still, and keep his left arm in one place, but he had managed to wake Jim
three times already. There was no way he was going to be able to gather more wood
without having Jim get up with him. As much as he new his partner would do that,
he didn't want to ask him. If that drug was strong enough to wreak havoc with
Jim's senses, then it was still strong enough to be flowing through his blood
stream. He needed rest. Blair tried to pick the lock with his knife, like Jim
had done, but he couldn't make any progress. If only he could get the shackle
off, then Jim wouldn't be stuck with him, and he could go after Brackett more
easily. His hands were cold, they should be a little smaller. He stopped wearing
his rings in the cold weather 'cause they could slip off so easily. But the metal
was cold too, and was constricting just enough to make up for any changes in his
A wolf howled in the distance, and Blair entertained thoughts of Brackett
being hunted by a pack. As unlikely as that was. He sighed, and began to work
at the shackle binding his wrist. If only he could get it over his thumb, it would
slide right off. It wasn't so tight as to cut off any circulation, so there must
be some room there. If only he could work it up and over. He busied himself with
that task until he noticed the first rays of light shining over the hill to his
right. He heard a stomach growl and worried that it had been his when Jim stirred
and looked up at him.
"Sandburg, what are you doing?" Jim noticed
the sun and sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes. "Why didn't you wake me?"
"You needed it Jim. What ever Brackett used, is hasn't affected me the
same way. I thought a good night sleep would help work it out of your system."
"That's not the way it works, Chief." Jim looked around, noticing
the fire had gone out. "It's equal time, got that? I should have woken up."
He stretched, pulling both arms high above his head, making Blair reach over so
he could bring his right hand up all the way. "You hungry?"
"You should eat. We both should, we're going to need it."
He stood and pulled Blair up. "Come on, you know the mushrooms in this area,
"Yeah, enough to keep us from dying slow, painful deaths,
I think so."
Jim smiled and led the way back into the forest. Blair followed,
he had to. He still didn't understand this madman's plan, but that was what made
him so mad. Blair just couldn't understand what kind of game Brackett was playing.
If he wanted them dead, just kill them. If he wanted to hunt them up there, then
where was he? Maybe he was the bear's dessert? No, Jim said he had heard hoofbeats.
As much as he was willing to consider Lee Brackett a devil incarnate, he doubted
the hoofbeats part.
They gathered several handfuls of mushrooms and a few wild
roots, then walked back to the dying fire. "Hey Jim, when you were coming
up to the loft, did you hear anything?"
Jim paused, thinking. "No,
nothing. But you said Brackett had that white noise generator."
he did, but I don't know if it was on or not. If you had no reason to suspect
anything, you might not have been paying attention."
point?" Jim looked a little irritated and Blair realized he had probably
just pissed him off.
"No, I mean the last time, when he used it at the
University, you said you couldn't hear anything at all, I was just wondering if
that's what it does, makes you totally deaf...or what?"
more like a buzzing in my head. Like all I could hear was static, nothing more."
He paused, looking around. "Not like now, I can hear just fine."
nodded, piecing the information together, trying to find something they could
use. If Brackett was with them, and could turn Jim's hearing off with a flip of
a switch, they had to find a way to detect it. Otherwise he could sneak up on
them at any time. But then, why didn't he kill them already? None of this made
since. Sometimes he thought Jim expected him to have all the answers regarding
his senses. But Blair was learning about them just as Jim was. The fact that he
knew Jim was a Sentinel, and why, didn't mean he had ever studied one before.
But he tried. Jim was always deferring to him in that respect, and he was determined
never to let his partner down. He had learned to do a lot of quick thinking on
his feet, and sometimes out loud, but with Jim's insistence, he usually found
an answer that worked. His friend's trust in him was frightening sometimes.
you ready to get out of here?" Jim had finished his breakfast and was kicking
the still hot wood around, spreading the embers. "Let's follow this stream
down, that way we'll have plenty of water near by. It should take us all the way
Blair nodded and got up, following Jim as they crossed the stream
and walked along the opposite bank where the ground was more flat. The quick run
through the ice cold stream made him grit his teeth. Blair let Jim walk slightly
ahead of him so he wouldn't block his view in any way as he kept an eye, and hopefully
an ear, out for trouble. The sun was climbing higher but it wasn't taking much
of the chill out of the air. He was cold, but as he and Jim were so similarly
dressed, and Jim didn't seem affected by the temperature, Blair didn't want to
say anything. He was used to Jim's 'do what I tell you , when I tell you', and
found it easier to get through situations like this doing exactly that.
walked on for several hours with Jim leading the way, and Blair trying very hard
not to jump at every sound. So much time had passed with no trouble that Blair
was taken totally by surprise when Jim stopped suddenly, holding out his arm to
"What? What is it?" Blair kept his voice low, looking around.
"It was there, for just a minute."
"What was there?"
"That sound." Jim said, looking around. "Like a buzzing in my
"Yeah, I think so."
it still there? Do you hear anything?" Blair stopped scanning the trees,
he couldn't see anything, and concentrated on his partner. "Could you get
anything from it? Direction, intensity, anything?"
Jim shook his head,
frowning. "No. Nothing. It wasn't there for long, then it stopped."
He looked around again. "It took me a minute to notice it."
try smell, Jim. See if you can pick up his scent." Jim looked at him for
a second, then rolled his eyes and took a long, slow breath through his nose.
"No. Nothing...wait." he repeated the action. "There is something.
I'm not sure what it is."
"Can you describe it?" Blair tried
Jim took another breath. "Yeah, it smells like...like cat pee."
Blair laughed a little. "Did you say, cat pee?"
Jim nodded as
he took another wiff. "Yeah, cat pee. But with more musk in it." He
stopped smelling and wrinkled his nose. "Must be a cougar or something."
Blair glanced around again. "How far away?"
"I don't know.
Not close. Come on, let's keep going."
Blair fell in step behind Jim again.
"So we know Brackett is here. But what is he doing? Why turn on the white
noise, then turn it off?" Jim just shrugged and kept walking. Blair decided
to keep quiet. He knew his friend was thinking the same thing. Neither one of
them had an answer, and his voicing their concerns wasn't helping Jim's concentration
any. But the fact that Brackett was there, and close enough to think he needed
to block his presence from Jim, made him nervous. As much as he wanted to know
what they had been brought up there for, he really wasn't in much of a hurry to
have Brackett show them the answer. He'd much prefer it if Jim would just figure
it out, catch this guy, and get them home.
Jim stopped so suddenly, Blair bumped
into him again.
"What?" Blair froze, trying to back up just enough
so as not to tip Jim over without actually moving.
"There, see that wire?"
Blair tried to peer around the taller man's shoulder and caught a glimpse of
the thin metal wire stretched across their path. Jim's finger followed the wire
as it wrapped around a tree, then threaded up the trunk, and attached itself to
a small crossbow.
Jim nodded. "He must be in
front of us, setting these little surprises." Jim pushed Blair back a few
steps, then found a stick he could set the trap off with. "Otherwise, he
couldn't know which way we were coming down." Jim tossed the stick and they
both watched the crossbow fire, sending it's arrow into the tree opposite, just
about chest level for Jim.
Blair shuddered, wondering how many of those they
might have simply walked past already, not tripping off out of sheer luck. But,
Jim had seen this one right away. It must have been the first. "God, Jim.
"Yep. We are going to have to try and confuse him
somehow." Jim looked back in the direction they had come.
back up the way we came? Jim, he'll just follow us."
"No. It would
take us days to go up and over." He looked back at the trap and past it,
down the hill. "Okay, we keep going, carefully, until we come up with something."
Blair followed again, keeping quiet this time so his friend could concentrate
on keeping them both alive with no distractions.
was getting more and more frustrated with himself. He should have seen that trap
sooner, before he was about to walk into it. His vision had mostly cleared up
the night before, but he was till noticing the occasional flash of black spots.
Just what kind of drug had Brackett used? Blair seemed completely recovered. He
tried to concentrate his sight without overdoing it, so he could also try and
listen for the static. Blair had suggested that he listen for what he couldn't
hear. Where he came up with some of these things, he had no idea. He had to admit,
his partner was well traveled, and wasn't stupid. But, he also had a knack for
coming up with a quick and believable lie when the need presented itself. He had
heard something over the roar of the helicopter, when Blair tried to get the pilot
to take them back, about his having flown Cobra's in Desert Storm. The fool at
the controls must have believed him. Then there was the story about the spiders
in his beard. Jim never told Blair he heard that one, either. He didn't like to
remember that day much. He should have been there, right behind them, but that
brat in the elevator. Then he'd had to run up eight flights of stairs. When he
heard the gunshots, his whole world stopped for a moment. Had Blair just been
killed? Shot in the head, instead of the vest? Had Zeller been too close for the
vest to stop the bullets? Was he using armor piercing ammo? Jim could still bring
back the ice cold feeling that filled his chest at that moment. Almost easier
than the sensation of extreme relief when Blair woke up, hurting, but alive.
walked on, carefully, moving farther down the mountain. The trees were growing
more dense and it was getting harder to see any great distance, so he changed
his focus to smell. Occasionally the stench of some carcass, or animal waste ssaulted
him and he would reel back, eliciting a question from Blair.
Maybe smell isn't the best sense to work on here." Blair said after Jim found
a skunk somewhere off in the distance. "How's your hearing? Still cutting
in and out?"
"Not as much. I think it's clearing up." Jim was
still walking, but had turned to listen to Blair. Then he heard it, not too far
off. "Wait a minute." he held up a hand to quiet his friend. "Our
little stream just found a bigger one." He motioned to Blair and they changed
direction slightly, moving more to the left as the sound of the river increased.
They had only traveled a few minutes when Jim stopped suddenly, putting out an
arm to keep Blair from walking off the edge he had just discovered.
man, that's some drop." Blair had grabbed Jim's arm and now stood, leaning
forward just slightly, trying to peer over the cliff they were perched on at the
raging river below. "Look, Jim, over there."
Jim followed Blair's
gesture and saw the suspension bridge a few yards farther down. He scanned the
bridge, focusing on the structure. He couldn't see any sign of tampering, or that
anyone had crossed before them. "Let's go have a look." They picked
their way along the edge, moving closer to the bridge. Once there he scanned it
again, searching for any sign that Brackett had been there before them. He had
to have been, but Jim couldn't see anything on the bridge, or on the other side.
"Well?" Blair asked, looking down at the river about one hundred
feet below. "Do we cross?"
Jim looked back into the woods, then over
the bridge again. Brackett was no idiot. He must have known they would come this
way. He had known which way they were going this whole time. "I don't like
this." Blair was inching closer to the edge, looking down. God, did he
have a death wish? Or just a severe lack of self preservation?
I don't see much choice. If there's a bridge, it's probably here for a reason,
and it's going down, off the mountain. I'm betting it's the quickest way out of
here. Any sign of Brackett?"
Jim shook his head, looking around them.
Then he heard it, behind them in the trees. "Wait." he paused, listening,
then saw several birds take flight above the trees several yards down, on their
side of the bank. "I hear something on this side."
get on that side." Blair said, pulling on Jim's arm. "Come on man, if
we can get across, then take this bridge out, we could be home free."
looked over the bridge again skeptically.
"Come on Jim, if Brackett's
here, I'd rather be there." Blair was pointing across the canyon.
Kept a hand on that guide wire and keep your eyes open." Jim instructed,
stepping forward. "If he's been here already, it could be rigged."
was stepping onto the bridge and now paused, looking at Jim.
call, Chief. Say the word, and we'll go back the way we came."
it's fine. Let's go for it." Blair held on to the right guide-wire as Jim
instructed. The wires were independently attached at either end, and he hoped
if the bridge did come apart, maybe the wires wouldn't.
Jim nodded, taking
hold of the wire on the left, and they stepped out onto the bridge.
side was a tantalizing fifty feet away, but Jim didn't let them rush the distance.
He kept scanning the bridge, looking at the wooden planks, the thickly cabled
wires, looking for any signs of tampering. He was convinced Brackett had been
there, but whether or not he would take out the bridge, he didn't know. He just
might want them on the other side. Blair looked down at the river far below now
and again, but never faltered in his step or mentioned the height, so Jim continued.
They were halfway across when he heard the flash that ignited the charges on the