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by Kristine Williams

Part 7

Blair entered the lower level from the back door just as the lights went out. He froze for a moment, listening. He had been sure Jim would already know what he was doing, and half-expected to find him down here, uncovering the stash he felt certain was tucked away in Emily's coffin. When the lights went off, he almost called out for Jim, but changed his mind. He stayed still for another minute, then hearing no one, he moved forward, carefully picking his way through the crates and boxes, until he came to the new coffin at the far end of the room. It was just outside the freezer, and Blair was certain Emily wasn't inside. They would have waited until it was time to leave before transferring her into the new, cherrywood coffin that Kenny Pritchard had so graciously purchased for her. Once there, he hesitated for a second, then lifted the lid. He didn't realize his eyes were closed at first. What if she was inside? But she wasn't. Blair opened his eyes, straining to see in the gloom of the basement. The sky suddenly opened up, sending rain down with such force, it startled him. He nearly dropped the lid back down and had to recover himself for a second. Then he saw it, wet against the silk of the padding. Reaching down, he ran his fingers over the water there, pulling up some sand as he reached further down behind the cushion.

"Damn him." Blair whispered, feeling the cold metal underneath the cushion. He was about to pull out the object when a movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Before he could turn around, he felt a strange pressure against his abdomen, followed immediately by a searing pain that spread across his right side. He cried out with the pain and felt someone push him away, up against the coffin. Blair fell, landing on his side, and cried out again as a second, more intense stabbing pain doubled him over. There was a knife on the floor in front of him. A kitchen knife covered in blood. His blood. Someone moved past him then and he faintly heard the door open, then slam shut with a clap of thunder.

Everything stopped then. There was no more rain, no more thunder. Emily, the island, everything disappeared as he lay there. There was nothing left but the pain, and something warm that was oozing out between his fingers. Blair wanted to scream, but he couldn't. His teeth were so tightly clenched he thought they would break. He clutched at his side and tried to roll over, tried to make the pain stop in any way he could. But it wouldn't stop. His initial shock had given way to full-blown agony as he lay there, unable to move, unable to cry out. He wasn't even sure if he was breathing, until the coughing began. God, Jim please! Make it stop! Where was he? Where was Amy? Oh God, was she a part of this too? Were they all in on it?

Blair couldn't think. Each time he took a breath, the pain grew worse. It was filling his mind until there was nothing left but the agony piercing his side, and the blood he could feel slipping between his fingers. He didn't notice the hand that was pulling at his own, the arm that came under his head, holding him. He didn't hear the shouting at first, or the quiet insistence that he move his hand until what felt like months later.

"Blair! Blair come on! Easy now, it's okay. Let me see."

The voice was there, beside his ear, and it was followed by a hand, pulling at the one he was clutching his side with. He didn't want to move his hand. He was sure if he did, the pain would get worse. He was sure his hand was the only thing holding himself together. But the fingers were there, slowly, gently, prying his away.

"Easy, easy, it's okay Blair. I need some help down here!"

The hand had completely pried Blair's fingers away, and now replaced his own hand in pressing against the wound. Blair cried out in pain as the pressure increased, pushing at the hand that was causing the pain, trying to make it go away.

"Hang on Chief, it's okay. Just keep breathing."

But he couldn't breathe. The hand was pressing the life out of him and he couldn't move it away. Another wave of agony hit and he tensed against it, bringing his head up and crying out again. "God, it hurts!" Was that out loud? He didn't remember unclenching his jaw.

"I know, I know. Just hang on partner. Keep breathing. Over here!"

Blair finally forced his eyes open, trying to focus through the tears that had been escaping through the corners of his tightly-closed eyes. Jim was there. It was his hand pressing into Blair's side. His arm holding his head off the ground. Someone else was there now, dropping to the floor beside him.

"Clive, bring the emergency kit! Hurry!."

Blair cried out in pain again as another wave hit, leaning back into the arm that was keeping his head from striking the floor. "Jim, it hurts! God it hurts!" Make it stop! I swear I won't do this again, just make it stop!

"Hang on buddy, it's okay, just hang on." Jim's hand was no longer pressing into his side. It had been replaced by another, smaller hand. He closed his eyes again to ward off the pain that continued to attack in waves. Jim's arm shifted and he felt his shoulders rise up off the cold floor, then his head was pressed back, and he could feel Jim sitting behind him, holding him down against his legs. There was more movement around him, but he couldn't focus through the tears and stopped trying. The agony struck again, and he tensed up, feeling two hands press into his shoulders, holding him down. God, was it ever going to top? Something pricked his arm, and he realized then that it had been held out, and the sleeve was being pushed back down.

"We've got to get him upstairs, he's losing too much blood."

"Take his legs."

"Amy, keep your eyes open for the others."

"Get that flashlight on the stairs."

Blair felt arms lifting him, and the hand on his side moved, easing its pressure. The voices were coming and going, and he couldn't focus on any one of them anymore. Where was Jim? Someone was still holding his head, who was it? The waves of pain were still there, still hitting, but they didn't send him into agony quite so much anymore. He was still feeling it, still feeling the searing pain that threatened to send him into unconsciousness, but he no longer had the strength to fight it, or the voice to scream against it. The hands were still on him, but now they seemed to be holding him down, pushing him into something softer than the basement floor. He tried to open his eyes, but they wouldn't obey.

"Help me get this sweater off."

It wasn't Jim. Someone was there, easing his sweater up and over his head, but it wasn't Jim. Why couldn't he open his eyes? He tried to ask, but his mouth was disobeying also.

"Hang on Chief, you'll be okay. Just hang in there."

There was Jim. He was still there, wherever there was. He couldn't remember. Blair couldn't remember what had happened. Why was he lying down? Why couldn't he open his eyes or get up? Something brushed his side and a wave of pain hit, reminding him exactly what had happened. He cried out, and was surprised to hear his own voice that time.

"It's deep. Open that cabinet over there, right behind you. There's another vial of Morphine on the top shelf. Do you know how to do it?"

"Yes, I do."

"Okay, give him ten more units. I'm going to have to get this cleaned up so I can close it. I only hope he hasn't lost too much blood already."

Too much blood? How much was too much? Blair felt another prick on his arm, then someone rubbed it and placed it back against his side. He was beginning to feel a strange sensation of detachment, and he wanted to ask why, but his mouth wouldn't open. Why was he able to cry out, but not form a question?

"There, that should keep him still for a few minutes. Can you hold this down while I scrub up?"

Blair felt one hand replace the other as the pressure was still being applied. Pressure that was pushing against the pain as it welled up each time he inhaled. He reached down again and tried to move the hand away.

"Hang in there buddy. Just try to relax, don't fight it."

Don't fight what? Why couldn't he speak? He could hear well enough, so he couldn't be asleep. And the pain was still there, pressing at his mind, so he couldn't be dreaming. A hand took his and held it, keeping him from pushing away the hand that was pressing down on him.

"I'm going to localize the area. Keep him as still as you can."

Blair sensed movement around him, then felt hands change places. Someone was at his head again, holding his shoulders while the other hands poked and probed around his side. He tried to pull away, to turn away from the hands, but he was being held down, and he didn't have the strength to fight it.

"There. It's a deep cut, but I think I can get it closed up. Hand me that tray."

Blair heard metal hitting metal, felt fingers pressing into his side, and hands still holding him down, but they were all beginning to melt. Every touch, every sensation was coming through layers of fog now. He could hear the voices, and the clanging of small metal tools, but his side felt as though it was miles away, and the waves of pain were duller. He felt himself relax slightly and the hands on his shoulders moved, one to his arm, the other to rest on his forehead.

"That's got the bleeders. Looks like it was all muscle, no organs got cut."

"What about the blood loss?"

"I'm not sure yet. We'll check his pressure after I get him sewn up. Do you know his type, just in case?"

In case what? He was feeling better now, surely there was nothing wrong?

"There's no sign of anyone out there. We've got the doors locked up. Shouldn't we turn on the generator?"

"No. It's better they can't see in. And I don't want anyone going outside. You two stay close."

"And bring those lights over here, it's getting darker."

"How is he?"

"I think he'll make it. There, that should hold him. Jim, hand me that roll of gauze, there on the shelf."

Blair tried again to open his eyes, but they wouldn't move. He could hear Clive and Amy just a few feet away, and Jim was talking to them. At least that meant they were safe, and Amy wasn't one of them. He couldn't really remember what was going on, only that Emily was dead, and Jim came up with him. And something about murder. But everything was beginning to slip away. Someone was holding him up now, while hands wrapped around and around his stomach, pulling something tight against his side. He wanted to complain, but he still couldn't open his eyes to see who he should complain to.

"He needs to rest."

"I'm going to need the three of you to stay close. Keep the doors locked."

Blair felt the hands move as he was laid back down, then Jim's voice began to get farther away. He thought he must be drifting off, until he heard Clive just as clearly as before.

"What are you going to do?"

"I need to get out there, see if I can find those three before they get off the island."

No, Jim, don't go outside. Wait for me.

"I need you three to stay put, and take care of him."

Wait, Jim, I'm your partner. Why can't I open my eyes? Blair tried to take a deep breath so he could call to Jim, but the bandages around his stomach made that too hard.

"I'll be back as soon as I can, but in the meantime, keep those doors locked, and stay away from the windows."

The rest of the voices began to move away then, and everything started to fade with the pain that was finally beginning to abate. Blair concentrated on breathing, trying to find a way to fill his lungs without pressing against the bandaging too much, but each effort brought back the pain he had waited for so long to be free of. The pain was coming in waves again, and he tried to find a rhythm that would allow him to inhale between spasms. Someone placed a hand on his forehead and he heard a voice moaning softly.

"Hey, Chief. Take it easy."

"Jim?" Blair's eyes finally opened and he could see Jim sitting beside him, looking down. Hadn't he just left? "Jim, where..." He had to stop and take another breath, trying to add volume to his voice. "What happened?" He finally managed.

"We lost 'em partner. But not for long." Jim was sitting on a chair beside the bed, pushing Blair's hair away from his face. "Just take it easy. You gave us all quite a scare this time."

Blair closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember what was going on, and figure out how long ago it was. He didn't remember falling asleep, but there was sweat coating the back of his neck. He opened his eyes again and Jim was still there, watching him. The room was dark, except for a propane lamp on the counter. He glanced around, recognizing the small aid room Katie maintained. It was still night, and the power must still be off.

"What's happening?" His voice was weak, but Jim could hear him well enough, he knew.

"They got off the island, but the storm is really taking off out there." Jim reached behind him for a moment and turned back with a damp cloth in his hand. "They had their stash in the coffin, but managed to take most of it out before you got down there. They destroyed the generator, and got out on the emergency boat." Jim placed the cloth on Blair's forehead and he closed his eyes for a moment, grateful for the cool touch on his sweat-covered head.

"So we lost?" he asked, opening his eyes again. God, there was Jim, taking care of him again. Even after he screwed up.

Jim shook his head, smiling a little. "No, Chief. We didn't lose. We're all alive, you're going to be fine, and we'll get them before they get very far. Their perfect plan didn't work out, so they're improving now. We'll get them."

"Hey, how's our patient?"

Blair and Jim both looked up as Katie stepped inside the small room, looking from Jim to Blair.

"I think he's gonna pull through." Blair tried to raise his head and Jim pushed him down, resettling the cold compress. "If he can survive himself, he can survive anything."

Katie smiled, shaking her head. "Typical. Jim, I've got those lobster boiling, you should eat something. From what Amy tells me, you nearly drowned getting them. We got a pot boiling on the old wood stove, go and get some."

Jim looked back at Blair and gave his arm a squeeze. "I'll be right out here. Just stay put."

Blair nodded, rolling his eyes a little. "I'm not going anywhere," he said, then had to clench his teeth against a wave of pain that stabbed at his side.

"That's for sure." Katie said, quickly trading places with Jim. "Go on." She waved Jim out the door and turned back to Blair. "He's been sitting here for hours." She checked the compress, then removed it and Blair heard water running. "He's right you know, you really did give us all a scare."

"Sorry." Blair replied. He wanted to say more, but his side was hurting too much.

"I know, it hurts." Katie put the compress back on his head and held it there. "The supply plane was due out a week ago. I didn't realize we were nearly out of morphine." She paused, thinking. "I suppose that's another thing I wasn't paying attention to."

"Kenny?" Blair understood what she meant. Katie was never one to run out of anything. But she was also very trusting by nature, as Blair used to be, and didn't lock up anything.

"I suppose so. I'll never understand what made him do this. What made any of them do this."

"Greed, no doubt." Jim had returned and stood in the doorway, fingering something. "I think enough of these little gems would turn any spoiled, failing student into a murderer."

Emily. "But he had everything." Blair didn't understand, Kenny Pritchard was from a very wealthy family. "What are they?"

Jim held out the piece of metal he was fingering. "Nothing. That's the Legend."

"What? Ow! God!" Blair had unconscious tried to sit up when he heard that, now the searing pain shooting through his gut was more than enough to send him back down. Both Jim and Katie pushing him back was unnecessary.

"Dammit Sandburg!" Jim was leaning over him then, both hands on his shoulders. Blair pressed his head against the pillow, closing his eyes tightly until the pain was reduced to a manageable level. "Are you sure there's nothing in there that can knock him out and save us the headache?"

Blair opened his eyes and glared at Jim, who was looking at Katie. "I'm fine," he lied, trying to stop breathing so deeply. What a stupid thing to do! Now Jim was going to get mad.

"I've got the cuffs here Chief. I'll get them if I have to." Jim's voice was stern, but Blair could see the concern in his eyes as they scanned his.

"I'm fine," he repeated. He wasn't, not yet anyway, but he was more upset at Jim's reaction. He'd been enough trouble already. Going down to the basement without getting Jim first had been stupid, he knew that. He was waiting for the lecture about playing hero, but he figured that would come later. "I'm fine," he repeated, finally able to breath again without gritting his teeth.

Jim stayed where he was, sitting on the edge of the bed, but he finally removed his hands from Blair's shoulders. "Clive explained it to me this morning." He lifted the gold coin again, holding it in front of him. "That ship was one of three identical ships sent up to Alaska to bring back gold that had already been melted down into these Spanish coins. But only one ship was filled. The other two were used as decoys during the trip down."

Blair nodded, remembering the story. "Yeah, and all three were brought in through the inside passage. But the other two were found."

"Right. Found empty. So the assumption was that this ship contained the gold." He fingered the coin, looking from Blair to Katie, then back.

"Rumor had it, before they even came into the islands, the ships made a landing farther up the coast during a storm, and the gold was secretly unloaded, fooling even the captains of the ships by reloading fakes," she said, reaching out for the coin. "If Kenny was half the student Emily was, he would have recognized a fake when he saw one."

Blair reached up and took the coin, fingering it slowly. "But why kill her?" he asked, handing the offending piece back to Jim. "If she examined them, she'd know they were fake."

Jim shrugged, putting the coin back into his shirt pocket. "Maybe she didn't get the chance. I'm guessing she didn't know what they were planning. Then when she found out, or they told her, she went against them. Obviously the others thought the coins were real and worth killing for." He paused, glancing at Blair. "Either her death provided them with a perfect way to transport the coins, or..."

"Or that was their plan all along." Blair pressed his head back into the pillow, shutting his eyes tightly against that possibility, and what it had meant for Emily. He felt Jim's hand on his arm, then heard Katie get up and quietly leave the room. He opened his eyes again. "I suppose they expected no problem getting the University to send someone out here to collect her and not ask questions." They expected Blair to come out, sit around for a day or two feeling sorry for himself, then fly back with Emily, and their gold, to the States? And Jim, what had Jim expected? No, don't do that. Jim deserves better. Blair hadn't realized he was rubbing Jim's shoulders until he was halfway back to the center. He was surprised at first that Jim hadn't said something. But, if he hadn't liked it, he would have said. He still wasn't sure when it was okay, and when it wasn't, so he tended to think it just never was. Blair wasn't sure how he'd react if Jim ever got truly mad at him. And he didn't want to find out. If he never reached out, he'd never have to worry about pulling back a bloody stump.

"Hey Chief, I promise you, we'll get them."

Would that be enough? Emily was killed, then both she and Blair were used. For what? For a trunk full of gold covered lead? What would be enough to make up for that? "What do we do now?"

"Now, we wait. The sun should be up soon, and Tim was due out first thing. He'll try to call first, and when he realizes the phones are out, he'll be here."

Blair nodded, closing his eyes again. Lying still like that was doing much to calm his breathing, which in turn was easing the pain in his side. He was so tired now, he could feel himself settling, feel the tension ease out of his back. Jim was still there, Kenny was gone. At least for now. Jim would take care of it. He always did.


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Monday May 10 2010
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