The Hell Within
Hands were all over him, pushing, hitting, touching, grabbing! Blair
tried to roll away from them, to get the hands off his body, but they followed.
No matter where he turned, how hard he tried to get away, they followed. He wanted
to scream, but his mouth wouldn't open and his own hands wouldn't move. He was
helpless to stop what was going to happen, and Jim was watching.
Eyes still closed, he reached up to touch his mouth, discovering he was no longer
bound or gagged. Fighting a surge of nausea, he opened his eyes, looking up at
darkness. There were spots in front of his eyes, but after a few minutes of blinking,
they clarified into stars.
Stars? Slowly, Blair glanced around without moving
his body. He was alone! Alone and untied, and in some kind of cave or hole or
something. Gingerly raising his head, Blair tried to see his surroundings more
clearly. A stab of pain shot through his gut before his shoulders even cleared
the rocky ground. He fell back, crying out quietly for fear he wasn't truly alone.
As the pain eased up, he realized there had been no answering shout or sound from
nearby. The stabbing had become a deep throbbing in his gut and right side. Carefully,
Blair brought a hand to his chest, wincing against the stinging sensation in his
wrist as night air struck raw flesh. He swallowed, trying not to cough, and ran
his hand over his chest and side, feeling for any gaping wounds, still not sure
he was really alone.
As his hand moved over his stomach, Blair realized his
pants were open. Oh God! Quickly, he reached down and pulled the zipper
up, then fumbled with the button until he got it closed. No, no no no.
He closed both eyes tightly, a small moan escaping his dry throat. Please...Almost
too afraid to think about it, Blair took inventory of his discomfort. His right
side hurt, his stomach was throbbing badly, his face and head were painfully bruised.
Both wrists burned from the ropes, and his right knee was sore. Feeling only slightly
braver, he checked again. Nothing below the waist or above the thighs was painful
in any way. At least not too bad. He could still feel the threat of hands there,
still feel Scarface touching him. But that had to be his imagination. It had to
be! He was alone now, and no matter what the ugly guard had done, he hadn't actually...No,
he hadn't done it. Whether that was true, or just something he desperately needed
to believe, he wasn't sure, but he was going to stick with it.
After all, he'd
managed two good solid hits to Scarface's balls; what could the man have done
after such injuries? Other than just... "Jim, where are you?" Blair's
voice cracked with the dryness, reminding him of how long he'd been without food
or water. The memory only added to his discomfort, and made him want to cough.
He was alone, wasn't he? He had to be. No one was making any sounds, he was
sure he could see four dirt walls around where he lay, and he was the only occupant
of whatever this was. Maybe he was supposed to find his own way out? Maybe he'd
just been dumped out here to give someone time to make a clean getaway?
that makes sense." He coughed again, then grimaced against the pain that
shot through his stomach and side. "Dammit!" He had to do something.
What if he was supposed to get out and save Jim? "Right. Get a grip, Sandburg."
As slowly as he could, Blair began to get up, gritting his teeth against the
pain that shot through his entire body with each movement. After what seemed like
an eternity, he managed a sitting position, leaning against one dirt wall. That
small accomplishment left him winded and soaked with sweat. He sat there, staring
at the night sky, trying to catch his breath, and played back the last few hours
he could recall.
"Oh, God, Jim!" Robert said Jim would be dead soon.
Was Jim dead already? "No, come on, man. No, this can't be happening."
He had to get out of here. Jim could be up there, above this hole he was in, dying,
hurt--he had to get out of here! Biting down against the pain, Blair pushed himself
to his feet, using the crumbling rock wall for leverage. When he got to his feet,
he stood shaking for a few seconds, trying to get past the vertigo sweeping over
him. With a few tries, he managed a relatively deep breath, then looking at the
opening several feet above his head, he shouted.
"Help!" The pain
in his stomach after the shout nearly doubled him over. He reached out for the
rock to steady himself. Much more of that and he'd be unconscious again, but he
had to try! He'd be damned if he was going to die five yards away from some old
woman's house in the back lands of India just because he couldn't shout.
the pain eased up, he tried again. "Chaarah!" The word in Hindi was
no more difficult or loudly delivered, but the pain it caused sent Blair crashing
to his knees, where he stayed, clutching his stomach and trying hard not to be
sick. "Jim." That name barely needed air, but the pain it gave his heart
hurt just as much.
Blair sank back on his heels, then leaned against the wall
again, pulling his knees up to hug himself against the pain. He closed both eyes
tight and pressed his head back, hearing nothing but the rush of blood in his
own ears. Every time he closed his eyes, he could feel those hands on him, touching
him. And Jim was watching. He forced his eyes open and heard an owl cry somewhere
in the distance. "Please, Jim." Only the owl answered back.
getting cold. Blair only had on his short-sleeved shirt and jeans. He'd never
planned to stay out like this. He'd never planned any of this. And he still didn't
understand what this was. It involved Jim and his old friend, Robert.
That didn't tell him anything. Obviously, Robert had done something, tricked or
captured Jim for some reason. But why? Vaguely, Blair remembered seeing Jim, for
just a moment, before he lost consciousness again. How long had he been there,
and what had he seen? Where was he now? Had Robert killed him already, like he
said he would?
"Jim." Blair eased his knees away, trying to find
a comfortable position. Failing, he started to rock gently back and forth, willing
that owl to shut up, willing Jim to come and pull him out of the hole. Willing
this to be over now.
He had no idea what time it was, or how long he'd been
there, sitting in the dirt, staring unseeingly at the rock wall in front of him.
He had to keep his eyes open, in order to keep the hands away. The sound of wheels
on dirt brought his attention upward, where he saw the night sky paling into dawn.
The vehicle came closer, spitting rocks and dirt as they approached.
Just when Blair feared it would drive right by, it stopped, coughing up a cloud
of dust he could see from below. Suddenly fearful of who might be there, he resisted
the urge to cry out. Scrambling painfully to his feet, Blair looked up just as
a wooden ladder was thrust into the hole. Startled, he tried to step back, pressing
against the rock wall.
Blair looked up. At the top
of the ladder, gun in hand, stood Robert.
"I said up here!" He waved
the gun, indicating the ladder. "I'll drop you there, if you prefer."
"Where's Jim?" Blair's voice wasn't very loud. He was shaking, he
knew, and his throat was so dry it hurt.
"If you want to live, you'll
get up this ladder."
"Where's Jim?" If he was already dead...Blair
knew he couldn't go through that again if Jim was already gone.
know Ellison, not far behind." Robert pulled the hammer back and took aim.
"Now, get up here or die in the hole. Your choice."
what Robert had said, Blair moved toward the ladder. Climbing it was painfully
slow, but when his shoulders cleared the hole, hands grabbed his shirt and pulled
him roughly up and onto the ground. He stumbled, trying to stay on his feet as
his hands were pulled behind him.
"What are you doing?" Not again!
Blair felt the rope dig into already raw flesh, binding his wrists together. He
opened his mouth to protest again, too hurt and exhausted to care about the reasons
for all of this. Before he could speak, a thick wad of cloth was shoved into his
mouth, then tied behind his head.
"I'm not in a listening mood. Let's
Robert shoved Blair's back, propelling him toward the trees lining
the dirt road. Blair stumbled, recovered, then walked, feeling the hand that held
his shirt and the cold metal of a gun muzzle pressed into his neck. When he reached
the edge of the road the sun was coming up, showing his surroundings more clearly.
The road wasn't a road, it was a dry riverbed with steep sides. Robert pushed
him forward, forcing him to climb the embankment with only the hand on his back
pushing him up when he'd stumble.
By the time he reached the top, the pain
in his stomach and side was too much. Biting down on the gag, Blair fell to his
knees, trying to double over to protect his bruised abdomen.
Robert pulled him back to his feet by the arm, then launched him toward a clump
of trees. A few yards farther in, and he was pushed down onto a large boulder.
Pain seared through him as he sat on the rock, facing Robert. Pain he didn't
want to show, but couldn't breathe through this time. He bent forward, trying
to catch his breath and ease the throbbing in his gut.
Robert looked down at Blair, gun aimed at his neck. "I never should have
changed plans, there wasn't enough time."
Blair looked at him, trying
to straighten up, and realized the man was talking to himself. There was a gleam
in his eyes, an almost insane rage that was barely held in check. But he'd said
Jim was not far behind, hadn't he? That must mean Jim had gotten away, and was
coming. There was hope. Jim was coming, and Robert was apparently alone. Blair
risked a glance around, praying he wasn't going to find Scarface in the trees,
waiting to finish what he hadn't been able to start in the cell. There was no
one else there.
Robert checked his watch, then looked up the riverbed. "Come
on, come on, dammit!" He turned quickly, glancing down the way he'd driven
up. "I'd rather let the river kill your partner, but if I have to, I have
Fighting rage and the pain in his gut, Blair didn't hear the other
vehicle crunching up the dry riverbed toward them until it was sliding to a stop
next to Robert's. When he did look up, he was grabbed from behind and pulled to
his feet. Robert wrapped an arm around Blair's throat, then shoved the gun into
his side and pushed him forward.
Blair's vision was
swimming so badly, he couldn't even see Jim until they were standing next to the
embankment's edge. But he was alive!
"It's over, Robert. Let him go."
Jim stepped out of the jeep, moving toward them.
Robert pulled Blair backwards
a few steps, and waved the gun in the air.
"Come up here."
came closer, his eyes holding Blair's as he walked. It was then Blair noticed
his arm, and the blood covering his left sleeve. He was unarmed, and once again
Blair was going to be used as a shield, or pawn, or whatever else served Robert's
purpose. With some difficulty, Jim climbed the crumbling rock embankment and came
to a stop a few yards away.
"That's close enough, I think." Robert
aimed at Jim, tightening the pressure on Blair's neck with his other arm. "I
never should have tried it this way. Changing plans that late in the game is never
a good idea."
"Just let him go, it's all over." Jim's voice
was quiet, and his eyes locked with Robert's.
"I don't think so, Ellison.
If I let him go, I'm as good as dead."
Blair searched Jim's face for any
sign of a signal, anything he was supposed to do to help Jim take this guy down.
His eyes were cold stone, staring through his old friend, but they were also full
of pain. His arm hung limp at his side, and there was sweat on his forehead and
lip. A surge of fear rushed up inside Blair. What if Jim was physically unable
to take Robert out? Blair was helpless, and neither of them had the gun. No, this
had to be the end of it. Jim was here, he'd take care of Robert. There was no
backup, no Simon or squad cars coming up the river.
"I'll give you the
same chance you gave me. Run for it." Jim's eyes flashed onto Blair's for
an instant, softening, then returned to Robert. "The authorities can't be
far behind. You can run for the border."
"Ah, but I lied, Ellison.
That dam will open any minute now, taking care of any bodies I need to hide."
From behind, Blair felt Robert shake his head, then the gun pressed into the side
of his face, the hammer clicking back. "I only plan to kill you. Him, I'm
going to sell. I have to gain something from this. I was set to get a big paycheck
for killing the Congressman. Now I have losses, and no way to recoup them."
Jim lunged forward and the gun moved, taking aim at his head. He froze, blue
"Right there, Jim! I'll drop you right there!"
going to have to do it, then."
Blair tensed, ready to make his own move
and give his partner an opening. Catching Jim's eye, he saw the slight nod. It
was time to get this over with.
But the explosion came first. Startled, Robert
released the trigger, turning his head with Blair to glance up the riverbed at
the source of the thundering they heard and felt.
Blair recovered first, just
in time to duck down and pull out of Robert's grasp so Jim could slam into the
man. He hit the ground hard, landing on his injured right side. Agony blinded
him. By the time he recovered his senses, Jim was on top of Robert. The gun was
nowhere to be found, and the two men were struggling in the dirt. He tried to
roll away, to give Jim more room, but the pain in his side and gut kept him in
place, helpless. Still gagged, he couldn't call to Jim. All he could do was watch,
Jim's rage was unleashed. He sat back
quietly and watched it take over, slamming his right fist into Robert's face over
and over again. His left arm was nearly useless, and he tried to shield it with
his body, but a sudden kick into his side threw him to the right. Another kick
caught the injury and Jim clutched his arm, rolling to the side, away from Robert,
who was getting to his feet. The ground was quaking, and the thundering in his
ears grew louder. Along with his determination to kill this man.
a lunge and Jim feinted left, rolling back to his feet in one swift motion. They
faced each other, sizing up the next move, each aware of the gun lying several
yards away in the dirt. He knew Robert was going to die, for what he'd done to
Blair, and what he'd been willing to allow the ugly scar-faced man to do. He also
knew Robert was aware of Jim's goal. This was a fight to the death, where surrender
and arrest wasn't an option. Simon wasn't here to stop Jim from doing what needed
to be done.
A stab of pain shot through Jim's arm. As he was blocking it out,
Robert made his move, tackling Jim and sending them both crashing to the ground
again. This time Jim was underneath, but before Robert could deliver a single
blow, he reached out with his right hand and found a sizable rock. With that in
hand, he slammed his fist into the side of Robert's face, knocking him to the
side. Before he could get to his feet again, a fist connected with the bullet
wound. Jim rolled away, nearly going over the embankment.
As he turned to locate
Robert again, he became aware of a fine spray reaching his face. The thundering
grew louder, and the ground shook with the weight of water pummeling down the
With a shout, Robert ran toward him. Jim looked up just in time
to see him rushing forward, a huge rock in both hands, poised to crush Jim's skull.
There was no time to move, and nowhere to move to. Jim glanced at Blair, one last
desperate attempt to convey a million emotions. But Blair wasn't looking at him,
he was struggling to raise both legs.
Blair's legs slammed into Robert. That,
combined with his momentum, sent Robert over Jim and down the rocky embankment
with a scream. Jim rolled over and got halfway off the ground, ready to jump down
and finish the job. Before he could, Robert and both jeeps vanished.
of water crashed into them with such force, Jim was sure the impact had to have
killed him. He fell back, instinct distancing him from the edge even after realizing
the level wasn't going to reach the top. One jeep bobbed briefly to the surface
before disappearing again under the white water. Jim watched the lip of the flood
until he could no longer see it. Until the water stopped its mad rush and became
a fast running but contained river.
When he could no longer see Robert, Jim's
rage cooled, counting it over. He turned to find Blair semi-conscious on the ground,
lying on his side. The pain in his arm was forgotten as he pushed himself to his
partner and untied the gag. A small moan escaped Blair's mouth when the cloth
"Easy, Blair. It's over." Jim ran a hand over his friend's
head, smoothing the hair from his face before starting to untie his wrists.
moaned again. As soon as his hands were free, he struggled to get away from Jim,
shouting. "No! Don't touch me!"
"Blair! Easy, easy, it's Jim."
Blair lunged away, then cried out, clutching his abdomen. Seconds later, he
"Blair." One quick check of his pulse calmed Jim's sudden
fear. "It's okay, Chief." He let out a breath he hadn't known he was
holding. After taking a few seconds to compose himself, Jim set about checking
them both over.
He rolled Blair gently onto his back, then examined the cuts
and bruises on his head and face. Dried blood covered his right temple, leaving
a trail of dark red that reached down to his throat. Mixed with that was old blood
from a cut on Blair's right cheek, just under the eye, and a split lip. Sentinel
fingers ran over his skull, confirming that there were no breaks.
up the cloth Blair had been gagged with and hurried to the new river. When he
returned, he washed the dried blood off, then began to work his exam farther down.
Lifting his friend's shirt, he found several dark purple bruises, most of them
concentrated over his abdomen and right side. Jim's touch felt no broken ribs,
but a firmer pressure elicited a moan of pain as Blair struggled to come to.
had to force his jaw to unclench as he continued to check Blair over. He knew
if his friend had been hurt in any other manner, he'd never admit the injury.
But if he was hurt, injured in any way, Jim needed to know.
He made the exam
as quickly as he could while still being sure. It wasn't easy with one arm too
painful to use, but he had to know. Blair began to stir when Jim was refastening
"Easy, Blair, it's okay."
Jim was reaching for the
button just as Blair shot up, blindly pushing at his hands while trying to scramble
Clutching Blair's shoulders, Jim winced against the pain in his own injured
arm. "Easy! Easy, it's okay. It's Jim."
eyes finally focused on Jim's. He grabbed the arms holding him up. "Oh, God,
Jim. I thought, I ..."
"Blair, it's okay. Lie back." Jim pushed
him back down to the ground, then had to gently pry Blair's hand off his injured
Reluctantly, Blair let go of Jim's shirt and closed his eyes for a moment,
gritting his teeth as he pulled both knees up. "What happened?"
take it easy, it's over." Jim reached down to finish buttoning Blair's jeans.
The instant his hands found the top of his pants, Blair pulled back again with
"No!" The word was coughed out, a quick, plaintive cry from
an enraged young man.
"It's all right, Chief." Jim finished with
the button, ignoring the hand that had tried to push his away. When he was done,
he gripped Blair by the arms and looked into his eyes, waiting for him to calm
down again and look at him. "Blair, no one hurt you. You're okay. I checked."
He waited until his friend finally looked up, meeting his eyes. "You're
fine." His eyes reflected anything but fine, but he nodded nevertheless.
Jim sighed, swallowing back the remnants of his own terror. He reached up and
smoothed back long strands of hair that threatened to stick to the freshly cleaned
cuts on Blair's cheek. Somehow the kid resisted the urge to pull away from Jim's
touch. He felt warm, but not from the morning sun. "You're okay. Trust me.
You just need to rest. We both do." With light pressure on Blair's shoulder,
he got his friend to lie back down. From the paleness of his face, it was just
Blair relented, teeth clenched against the pain, then looked up at
Jim. Uncertainty remained in his dark blue eyes. "Jim, your arm."
Before Jim could stop him, Blair
tried to sit up again, winced, and fell back. "Lie still, Chief."
closed his eyes and held on to the hand Jim had on his shoulder. After a few minutes,
he sighed and relaxed a bit.
Jim moved around to sit beside his friend on the
ground. He'd intended to return to the river and clean his arm, then re-bandage
it and try to bring some water to Blair, but right now his partner needed him
to stay there. Ignoring the pain in his left arm, he lifted Blair's shoulders
and moved himself under his friend's upper body, letting Blair's head and shoulders
rest on his legs.
"Try to rest, Chief." Jim ran his right hand over
Blair's hair, smoothing it back, trying to get his friend to relax. He was tense
and warm with the beginning of a fever, but after a few minutes, he nodded, eyes
still closed, and established a strong hold on Jim's left shirt sleeve.
wasn't sure how long they sat there, or how much longer they'd be safe being in
the area, but Blair finally drifted into a restful sleep. Gently, Jim eased himself
out from under the sleeping young man, making sure his head rested on a relatively
soft spot before he got to his feet. The sun had passed the high mark and started
down toward late afternoon, and his arm was throbbing badly. Jim made his way
to the edge of the river, dropped to his knees and began to unwrap the cloth bandaging
his arm. He'd been trying to block out the pain, but that took concentration,
and ever since he found the riverbed and started driving up, his mind had been