Jim's question startled Blair out of his thoughts, and froze him
in place for several seconds. He brought his other hand out to steady the artifact.
Once recovered from the initial surprise and the sudden mental flash on his most
recent dream, Blair shook his head and reached back down into the crate with the
"No. But thanks for the little suggestion, Jim." Blair threw
as much sarcasm into his voice as he could while packing up the figure.
laughed. "Yeah, I know what you mean. You can get to a point where you're
thinking something to death. It just makes matters worse. Sometimes you have to
let your body take over. Go on instinct."
crossed the room to retrieve another figure. "Is that what we're doing with
this case? Going on instinct?"
"Something like that." Jim pointed
to the artifact Blair was now holding, then tapped the clipboard. "Lets get
this finished up, and we'll see if my instincts are right."
and packed up the figure. "You know, Jim, the key here is still control.
Your senses were thrown into overdrive, all of them at once, giving your mind
way too much information to process and not enough time to process it."
We know that, Chief."
"Right, but there has to be a way to control
it. We can't assume this will never happen again, given your job. And we've probably
been going on blind luck so far." Blair cringed, realizing what he'd just
said. Jim just rolled his eyes, apparently willing to let the slip go by. "Sorry.
But what I mean is, since your Sentinel senses tend to shake off drugs that you
take on purpose really quickly, and we've managed to teach you techniques for
keeping the effect around, then the opposite has to be true."
think I can shake off cocaine faster if I concentrate?"
Your metabolism isn't something we can alter, but your body's reactions are another
matter. The drug will affect your body, but we need to control its effect on your
"Like how, Chief? There was so much coming in at me all
at once, I couldn't even think straight."
"I know." Blair nodded,
walking to another statue. "But I think the best thing to do would be to
concentrate on your senses one at a time. If you can work on just one, and concentrate
until you've been able to gain some control, you can basically ignore the drug's
effects until they're gone completely."
"There's just one problem
with that theory: testing it out." Jim shook his head. "I'm not anxious
to try that again any time soon. Whether in one of your lab experiments or not."
"Yeah, I know, Jim." Blair sighed, picking up another artifact. But,
there had to be a way.
Jim loaded the last
crate onto the handcart and strapped it in place, then gave a little shove to
get the right angle for Blair to maneuver the load through the doors. It had taken
them three hours to pack up all the artifacts and fill out the rest of the shipping
documents, but that also gave Harry enough time to finish his work and leave for
the night. Which was what Jim needed. He helped guide Blair's load down the long
hallway to the shipping and receiving office. They had taken turns with the handcart,
and Jim made sure he took the larger loads to keep Blair from aggravating sore
stomach muscles. But this was their last one.
"Time to get to work."
Jim unstrapped the crates and let Blair finish working the cart out from under
the bottom box.
"Get to work?" Blair sounded exhausted. He flexed
his right hand. "What did you find down here?"
Jim motioned for Blair
to follow him into the back of the storage area. "When we were talking to
Bilks this morning, I caught a faint hint of talcum powder."
didn't you say something?"
"I wasn't sure at the time, and it could
have come from anywhere, Chief. Those Kleenex he was going through like candy,
baby powder from Elizabeth Evans, anything." He stopped and took a tentative
sniff, letting his olfactory sense open up. Immediately he detected the unmistakable
scent of talcum powder, as well as something else. Something that was so ingrained
now into his memory, he'd never forget it. "It's here." Jim wasn't going
to take any chances. Not again. He reached out for Blair's arm, intending to leave
quickly and call Simon, but the sudden appearance of Harry Bilks at the side door
stop them both.
"That's right, Detective. It is here." Harry waved
a gun at them, motioning both to move to the left, away from the door. "And,
it was supposed to go to LA with Professor Watson's science project, but now I
think our plans will change."
Jim mentally kicked himself for not having
heard Harry walking up to the door. He'd been so concerned with the possibility
of exposing himself again to the drug while Blair was with him, that he'd been
concentrating on everything internal, leaving them both wide open.
use my shipment to bring it in to Cascade, and Professor Watson's to ship it out?"
"That's right. We bring it in pure, cut it, then send it to our distribution
center." Harry shut the door behind him.
"Who else is in this?"
Jim heard the main doors open, and knew they were about to find out.
you figured that out by now, Detective?" Elizabeth Evans stepped around the
corner, a .38 in one hand and a packing knife in the other.
"I had my
suspicions." Jim glanced at Blair, trying to determine if there was a quick
escape route for his partner if he could create a diversion.
But suspicions and proof are two different things, aren't they?" Elizabeth
looked at Harry, then Blair. "Give me your gun, please. And slowly, like
they do on TV, if you don't mind." She held out a hand and Jim reluctantly
removed his gun, butt first, then handed it over, keeping an eye on Harry as the
man's gun pointed from Jim to Blair and back again. Elizabeth took the weapon,
and slid it into the pocket of her cardigan sweater. "I guess our little
crime spree is over now, huh?"
"What do we do with them?" Harry's
heartrate jumped, and his voice started to shake. Before anyone could answer,
"Oh, God, Harry." Elizabeth shook her head. "What
my father sees in you, I'll never understand."
Jim watched the pair, noting
Harry's tendency to shake and sweat, while Elizabeth's heartrate remained steady,
as did her gun-hand. "It's over now. The only question is, do you want your
other partner going down with you, or do you let him off and take the heat yourselves?"
He stepped forward, testing the mood.
"Just back off and relax."
Elizabeth's gun was aimed at his chest, unwaveringly. "You two are going
to help us repackage the goods, then we'll decide what to do."
calling Richard." Harry reached into his jacket pocket and produced a cell
"Don't be an ass, Harry!" Elizabeth never took her eyes off
Jim. "Daddy puts up with your screw ups because he's in love. But I don't
have any affection to lose." She pointed with her gun to the crates behind
"Now, you two, open those crates and get the bags out. We'll put
them in storage for a few weeks and ship them out later."
you kill us?" Jim looked at Harry, recognizing him for the obvious weak link.
"That's right," Elizabeth answered for her partner. "Now move!"
Jim turned with Blair and they walked back to the crates. The smell of talcum
powder and cocaine grew with each step, as did Jim's need to get Blair out of
"I'll do it." Blair stopped, reaching out for the packing
knife Elizabeth was holding.
"You'll both do it." She tossed the
knife and Blair caught it easily. "Now!"
He needed a distraction,
and maybe if he held his breath, and moved quickly, he could control it. "Go
ahead, Chief. Cut it open." Jim nodded, then glanced back at the pair watching
them. Harry was several feet away, once again blowing his nose. Elizabeth was
next to him, and could easily be pushed aside. That should buy Blair just enough
time, if he was quick, to get behind the row of boxes beside him and get out.
Blair sighed, then cut the seal off the first crate. He reached inside and
pulled out two tightly-wrapped bags of white powder. Catching Jim's eye, he nodded,
then turned around quickly and threw both bags straight into Harry's sniffling
Elizabeth was quick, but Jim was quicker. He managed to step aside and
grab her arms before the gun went off. One bullet pierced the crate, and a fine,
white powder erupted into the air, dusting them both.
voice seemed to come from everywhere. Jim held his breath, and forced his fingers
to wrap around the gun, wrenching it from Elizabeth's hands. After that, reality
came in flashes.
Jim heard running, but he couldn't tell if the footsteps were
approaching, or retreating. There were shouts, and a woman's voice cursing. Oh
God, oh God, it was happening again! Lights came in from everywhere, forcing
their way through his tightly-closed lids. Jim knew his hands had found a gun,
but it wasn't metal he felt his fingers clutching. It felt more like velvet. Or
soapstone. Like that statue. More shouts, and Jim forced his eyes open, then cried
out with the pain of bright lights and flashes of color. It was all happening
too fast. There was too much to take in! But Blair was here, and Jim wasn't the
only one holding a gun.
"Sandburg." Jim tried to keep his voice low,
just to prevent the backlash in his own head, but it didn't help.
concentrate." Blair's voice was there, a few feet away, judging by the echo
slamming through Jim's head. "Elizabeth is ahead of you, and Harry's hiding
Concentrate, one sense at a time. Jim forced his
mind to remember Blair's instructions. This would be the test that he'd been so
adamant about not wanting to try. But there was no time to think about it. No
time to think at all. He started with sight, trying with all his will power to
ignore the pain in his head and the sounds pounding his ears. Sight was the only
thing that mattered, his vision the only sense he had. Slowly, the lights dimmed
from a painful brightness to something he could tolerate. Blair was right, Elizabeth
was a few yards ahead of him, on the floor still trying to get the white dust
off her face.
Jim moved quickly, letting instinct take over the simple function
of retrieving his gun from her sweater and slapping handcuffs over one wrist,
which he then secured to the shelves beside her. Elizabeth was so affected by
the drug coating her face and sweater she didn't even notice.
He whirled, wincing at the reverberation of Harry's voice
between his ears. Blair was there, with a gun pressed into his side. Jim stood
slowly, but the room seemed to want to spin and tilt to one side.
wrong with him?"
"What do you think? He got that drug all over him.
Just like Elizabeth."
Jim tried to hold his gun level, but his vision
was blurring, then focusing with painful clarity. "Drop it, Bilks. It's over."
God, that hurt! The sound of his own voice was too much. The headache
grew even as his vision went out again. No, no, not again. Dammit not again!
Jim winced, feeling his mind slipping
out of its current thought. Concentrate, dammit! His mind was jumping
around again, and the only thing he could think about was the pain in his head.
He had to make the noise stop. But how? What had Blair taught him to do to make
the sounds go away? Concentrate. Yeah, that was it. Jim locked eyes with Harry,
as best he could with blurred vision, and focused his thoughts on the man's breathing.
He used a moment of clear vision to take aim. "Drop the gun."
inhaled, and Jim made a note of the sound, forcing it to become the only sound
in the room. For an instant, one instant, it worked. Just as Harry began to shake
his head, the minute spasm in his nasal cavity rang clear in Jim's mind. With
an almost unconscious precision, his gun went off just as Harry's sneeze took
hold. Blair had also seen the chance, and used the moment's disturbance to pull
away, leaving Harry's left side exposed.
Jim saw the man fall to the ground
just before the explosion of pain inside his own head caused his knees to buckle.
He never felt the floor that came up to meet him, or had any memory of being pulled
away from the cart of cocaine and propped against his partner's legs at the front
entrance, but that was where he found himself when next he opened his eyes.
man, the cavalry's here." Blair's voice was hushed, and he had both arms
wrapped around Jim, holding him as they both sat on the floor.
Security officers were un-cuffing Elizabeth, and one of them called for an ambulance.
"Good job, Chief." Jim was grateful that the sound of his own voice
no longer hurt his head. In fact, the headache seemed to be less than the last
"How you feelin', Jim? We should get you to the hospital."
He shook his head, then tried to sit up. "I'm fine." Blair's hand
stayed on Jim's right arm as they stood.
"Jim, are you sure?" Blair
looked into Jim's eyes. "Come on, man, let's just go have a doctor check
you out, okay?"
"I'm fine, Chief." Jim sighed, then smiled and
placed a hand on Blair's shoulder. "The headache will pass. You're all right?"
He scanned his partner quickly, seeing only the bruises he'd put there himself
just a day ago. God, if that had happened again... "You were right.
Concentrating wasn't easy, but when I did, it worked." He shook his head,
then winced slightly at the pain that motion caused. "It didn't last long,
but it worked. Maybe if I get used to it, I could get it under control."
"That's great, Jim. But I don't think I'm anxious to try this one out
again any time soon." Blair shook his head, and let go of Jim's arm. "You
really scared me for a few minutes."
"Yeah, I know, Chief. Whether
my fault or not, if anything had happened to you because of this, I don't know
what I would do."
"No, Jim, you were fine. I meant when you passed
out. I didn't know what to do. There wasn't much I could do, other than get you
away from that crate and call Security. I felt helpless." Blair's gaze dropped
to the floor.
Jim sighed, then gave his friend's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
Before he could say anything, Security brought out Elizabeth and a wounded, but
"It was all his fault," Elizabeth declared, eyes still
wide with the effects of cocaine that had been cleaned off her face. "If
he and daddy hadn't fallen in love, they never would have gotten me involved."
"If you think you can sell us out, you bitch, you've got another thing
coming!" Harry glared at his accomplice, sneezing as the two officers ushered
him out the door.
The head of Security approached Jim. "Your Captain sent
a team over to pick up Dean Evans. We can handle things here until your men arrive,
Detective. You look like you've been through hell."
Jim nodded "I
feel like it, too."
"Come on, Jim." Blair kept a hand on Jim's
arm as they left, steadying him down the corridor. "You sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. I am now. Let's get home before Simon shows up, huh?" Jim
reeled just a bit as they approached the stairs. His head was still pounding,
and his vision coming and going, but it was slowly returning to normal. "I
don't think I can take that cigar smell. Not until I get these senses back under
"I can barely take it on a good day, Jim." Blair held
the door open. "I don't know how you manage."
his guts before they even got him booked." Jim shook his head, handing Blair
the mask he'd had to pick up in order to sit in the only chair available.
confession?" Blair took the mask and set it on top of a pile of papers covering
"And then some. You'll be happy to know that was the first time
they used one of your shipments."
"How long had they been using the
"Six months, and three shipments of pure, uncut cocaine."
Jim shook his head and ran a hand over his short hair. "They'd bring it in,
cut it in the maintenance shed, then use a shipment to LA to send out street grade
product for sale in California."
"The rumors about Dean Evans and
Harry must have started last night." Blair sighed, tossing a pencil to his
desk. "By the time I got here this afternoon, their affair was all over campus."
"Interesting little triangle they had." Jim sighed. "You about
ready, Chief? It's been a long day."
"Just about." Blair stood
and began to put a few books away.
Jim couldn't help seeing the bruise on his
partner's face as he pushed the hair out of his eyes. It was darker now, and more
pronounced as it healed. "Listen, Sandburg, there's something I need to say."
Jim stood and held out a hand to stop Blair's cleanup.
He sighed. "Look, I know we've been over this, and I understand how you
feel about it." Blair's eyes began to dart about as Jim's subject dawned
on him. "I know this wasn't my fault, not consciously."
"I know, Blair." He held up a hand, then rested it on his friend's
shoulder. "It was no more my fault than you shooting up the garage. But I'm
still sorry. I just want you to know that."
Blair nodded, smiling slightly.
"Thanks, man. I know." Jim gripped his partner's shoulder until he looked
up, meeting Jim's eyes.
"Okay. Let's get out of here, I'm starving."
He knew insisting he was at fault would only make Blair re-think his own position,
even though the two were totally unrelated. Jim was a cop. He was trained to deal
with these things. Blair's safety was his responsibility. But he also knew his
friend wouldn't be able to make that distinction. He couldn't very well let him
think what he had done under the influence of Golden had been his fault. So, the
only thing left for Jim to do was allow himself the blame quietly. As long as
he hadn't lost Blair, or his trust, he'd be all right.
They were halfway down
the corridor when evening classes let out. Doors opened all along the hallway,
spilling students out in a rush. One voice rang out clearly over the mulling crowd.
Once voice both Blair and Jim recognized.
"Professor Kinyon." They
said in unison.
Jim and Blair glanced at each other, then as one ducked behind
a door just as Professor Kinyon and three students rounded the corner. They heard
her walk by, extrapolating on the delicate balance of father/daughter relationships,
and how the entire dynamic can be so drastically altered with the involvement
of a third party who can so easily change the perceived roles of each member.
Jim sighed, hearing her pass the room they had ducked into and enter her office.
"Coast is clear." He motioned for Blair to follow him back into the
"You know, Jim, she does grow on you." Blair glanced quickly
down the hall, then hurried to catch up as Jim started for the doors.
if you stand still long enough, Chief."