"If you touch him again, I swear to God I'll kill you with
my bare hands." Jim's voice was level, and ice-cold.
The larger man with
the gun actually flinched and drew back as he sidled past the door to Jim's cage.
Blair tried to back away, to move away from the hands that were reaching down
for him, but the pain was too much. He cried out against the stabbing lightning
that tore through his right side when the larger man lifted him from the ground,
slamming him into the cage bars. There was no time to think, no time to cry out
or protest, before the metal-clad fist struck him again in the already injured
side. He wanted to scream, but he had no air. Another blow to his side, and the
cracking sound was both heard and felt. One more, and Blair was falling, blackness
swooping over him from all sides. There was an incredible clatter, like metallic
thunder, just as he hit the gunny sacks piled on the floor. Someone shouted, and
Blair expected another blow, but none came. He heard scuffling, and more shouts,
but they were growing distant as the blackness encroached. Blair wanted to succumb,
to let the numbness of unconsciousness take him, but something was nagging his
mind, keeping him from slipping away. Something that compelled him to try harder
to fight the blackness. He didn't want to fight it, there was pain out there,
but something wouldn't let him slip into it. The sounds were still there, and
someone was screaming. Jim?
Suddenly a gun went off, and Blair's consciousness
was slapped, bringing his head up slightly as he blinked, trying to focus. Jim
was there, in front of him, and there was a body lying motionless on the ground
three feet away. Jim had his back to Blair, and he was struggling with someone.
Something flashed past his head, and Blair saw the gun fly across the room to
slam into the cage bars. He saw Jim raise an arm, then send his fist slamming
down into the face of the man he held. The fist fell again, and again, smashing
into the larger man. Blair heard a muffled cry of pain, and realized that Jim
wasn't going to stop. Raymond was still cowering inside the cage, holding on to
the bars as if they would save him from Jim as well as the two now subdued kidnappers.
"Jim!" Blair couldn't move, could hardly breathe! God, Jim was going
to kill the guy! "Jim..." His voice was losing volume instead of gaining
it. He tried to reach out, to touch Jim's arm before the fist came down again,
but he couldn't move. Oh God, Jim, stop! He had them, it was over, why
didn't he stop? He's going to kill him! Blair steeled himself, took as
much air as he could, and concentrated the last of his strength into one final
plea. "Please, Jim, stop!"
The eyes that turned to him were ablaze
in blue fire. Cold, but alive with a heat that cut more deeply than any knife.
The instant after those eyes focused on Blair's, they changed, softened. The fire
was gone, but the intensity remained. He turned back to the limp body he was holding
up by the collar, and shoved the man aside, checking quickly on the other unconscious
form before moving to kneel beside Blair.
"Easy, partner, easy. It's over.
Lie back." Jim's hands pushed relentlessly on Blair's shoulders until he
surrendered and let himself fall back onto the sacks. Pain was stabbing into and
through him from all sides. "Find a phone!" He knew his ribs were broken,
he'd heard as well as felt them, and the thought of the broken bones under badly
bruised flesh made his head swim with dizziness. There was movement beside him,
and when he focused again, Jim had his cell phone and was dialing.
hang on, Blair."
He nodded, swallowing against the nausea that was welling
up from his gut. Turning his head to the side, Blair caught a glimpse of the cage
door, the one Jim hadn't been able to knock down. It was on the floor, half covering
the smaller man's unconscious body. The darkness was encroaching again, and Blair
felt himself start to drift. There was a hand on his shoulder, and Jim's voice
cut through the fog.
More voices joined in, but Blair
could no longer open his eyes. There was a buzzing in his ears, and the voices
were getting farther away. All but one.
"Hang on, partner. It's over now,
Hands were touching him now, several hands. Someone pried his
arms away from his side, and he was too weak to fight them. Hands touched his
arms, his chest, his stomach. One pressed into his side, lightly, but it was enough
to make him cry out against the pain that ensued. More hands touched his head,
pushing through his hair. His head was lifted slightly, and he felt something
under him, something softer than the gunny sacks. Jim's legs? The hands on his
head began to stroke his temples in the same slow, rhythmic pattern Jim had used
on his thumb. He tried to take a deep breath...big mistake!
His jaw was so tightly clenched, he wasn't sure if the words even got out.
easy, it's okay. You can breathe, partner. Just try and stay calm."
nodded. At least he thought he had, but there was no movement against the hands
stroking his temples. Vaguely, he felt himself being lifted up, then set back
down on something softer. The legs that had been under his head were now replaced
by something soft, but the hands remained, never changing their rhythmic stroking.
Blair focused on that touch, blocking out all the other sounds and sensations
around him. The pricking of needles, the touch of other hands, the motion of being
placed into the ambulance, were all numb sensations, barely registering on his
consciousness. All that mattered, all Blair was aware of, was the stroking of
his head, the hands maintaining a rhythm that eased him into an almost hypnotic
state. The hands were taking the pain away, and the fear. The voice continued
to talk to him, calming his nerves, easing the fear that each breath was going
to be the last one he could pull in.
Something told him he wasn't in the same
place as before, but he didn't care anymore. He was beginning to feel soft, and
floaty, and the pain was going away. The hands made the pain go away, and now
he could sleep. He could sleep, and it would all be a dream. Jim had fixed it
Hands were everywhere, touching, pushing, prodding... and
hitting! He remembered then. Remembered the pain. The horrible, relentless pain
that stabbed him in the side, piercing through his lungs, making the simple act
of breathing unbearable.
"He's coming around."
Who was that? Where
was he? Where was Jim? There was a tightness around his chest like he'd never
felt before, squeezing so firmly he could barely breathe. Oh God, he couldn't
breathe! He struggled to open his eyes, and a moan escaped his lips.
Sandburg. Mr. Sandburg, can you hear me?"
Who was that? Blair
turned his head away from the voice he didn't recognize, and the touch on his
forehead returned. The touch he knew. Heavy lids rose.
"Blair, can you
Jim was there, in blurred form, but right there beside him.
Blair tried to respond, but his mouth and lips were too dry, and he had no strength.
"Just take it easy, partner. You're in the hospital. The doctor needs
to talk to you, Blair."
Jim started to move aside, and Blair's heartrate
increased. No, stay! He tried to struggle, but his body refused to respond.
Jim's hand left his head, but immediately Blair felt the touch on his hand, felt
Jim's larger, stronger hand cover his own.
"I'm right here."
sighed lightly, then turned his head enough to see the other person he could sense
standing there. He swallowed, and his vision focused on an older gentleman with
grey hair and a white lab coat.
"Mr. Sandburg, you need to lie still.
Can you understand me?"
Blair nodded slowly. That motion alone cost him
nearly all the reserve energy he had.
"Fine. Now, that tightness in your
chest is the bandaging. You've sustained three fractured ribs, as well as a bruised
Blair swallowed again, trying desperately not to think
of the shattered bones as he eased more air into his lungs.
and should heal well, but you'll need some time to recover, and plenty of rest.
There's been no permanent damage. We've got you on continuous morphine for the
time being, so you'll be in and out for a while." The doctor looked away
for a moment, then produced a chart and pen and began to take notes. Blair closed
his eyes, feeling a soft floatiness surge over him again. Jim's fingers began
to stroke the back of his hand, and Blair wondered idly if it was intended as
a calming physical mantra for him, or Jim. When he opened his eyes again, the
doctor was gone. What the hell? Blair turned towards Jim, and found his
partner still beside the bed, one hand on Blair's arm, rubbing slowly as he snored
gently from the chair. By the look of Jim's chin, and the beginnings of growth
there, Blair realized it had been at least 12 hours since he last took notice
of his partner's appearance.
The bandages around his chest forced Blair into
a shallow rhythm of breathing, and he realized the multitude of IV's hanging down
from behind him, and hooked up to his right arm, must be keeping the worst of
the pain at bay. An errant strand of hair fell across his face, and he told his
right hand to move the offending curls, but it refused. He was about to chastise
his hand for ignoring a direct order when the hair was removed and a hand smoothed
over his forehead.
Blair sighed quietly and closed his eyes for just a moment,
before turning to face Jim. "Jim?"
"Right here, partner."
Blair's eyes met Jim's. He looked and sounded exhausted. How long had they
been there? His hand came up again to stroke Blair's head, and he noticed the
bandaging over one set of knuckles. He remembered then. The larger man. Jim was
beating him. Hitting him over and over again, even after he had succumbed. He
remembered those eyes, the ones that flashed at him when removed from their task.
The eyes that changed immediately upon seeing Blair. Oh my God...
did...you..." The pain, coupled with the tightly-wrapped bandages forced
Blair to take each word separately. "Tell...me...you...didn't..."
Blair?" Jim leaned in closer, still stroking Blair's head. "There's
nothing to worry about, partner. They're in jail, they can't hurt you again. Come
on, get some rest."
Thank God, he hadn't killed them after all. Blair
nodded, relieved. That anger, that incredible ice-blue anger released, even though
it only flashed on Blair for one instant, had terrified him. But he hadn't. Jim
hadn't killed them. He'd confessed once to nearly throwing Galileo off the building
when the elevator bomb went off. But he hadn't done that either. Jim wouldn't
do that. He was better than the emotions. He had control. But what if he had?
What if he had thrown Galileo off the building because he thought Blair was dead?
Or beaten that man to death? No. He wouldn't. Jim wouldn't do that. But...he was!
He had been beating him to death, right there. Those eyes had shown no signs of
stopping until they saw Blair.
Blair's heartrate increased as he realized what
Jim had been doing. He felt dizzy, but he was still lying down, eyes closed. In
fact, he couldn't seem to open them. Everything was slowing down, and he felt
the bed falling away again as he drifted into unconsciousness, Jim's fingers once
again stroking the back of his hand.
Blair's eyes opened slowly,
hearing voices in the room. His vision was a bit fuzzy, but he could make out
Jim standing at the other end, near a window. Talking to him, was a Viking. Blair
was sure he was seeing things, drug-induced things. Jim was talking to someone
who looked like a throwback to the old Nordic warriors. The Viking turned towards
him, and Blair thought the face looked familiar. It was a round, bearded, gentle
"Maybe we should do this in the hall?" the Viking asked Jim.
"He's pretty drugged up, coming and going. It's okay, he sleeps better
when he hears voices."
"Ah, like having the TV on for company"
Great, Jim, now tell him I've been sleeping in your old Cascade PD sweatshirt,
and I have nightmares. Tell him that. I'm sure the Viking wants to hear that.
Blair fleetingly wondered if those thoughts had just been out loud. Probably
not. No one was laughing, and he hadn't felt his mouth move. In fact, he couldn't
make much of anything work. He'd been trying to tell his right hand to scratch
his nose for the past ten minutes, but it wouldn't budge. Nothing was cooperating.
His eyes had just closed again and wouldn't open, his hands simply refused to
move. The bed would only stop spinning long enough to change direction. And his
heart felt like it was pumping pudding.
"...match perfectly with the other
three crimes. They claim mistaking Blair for Raymond was due to the ID. Idiots
didn't research their target very well this time."
Blair realized the
Viking was talking, and he thought maybe he wanted to listen, but the sentences
were cutting in and out. Or was he drifting in and out?
"Have they confessed
to the other ones yet?"
Jim was still there. His voice was calm and conversational,
so whatever the Viking was saying, at least it wasn't upsetting him.
I'm sure they'll hold out until we come up with more physical evidence. Each case
carries a minimum 20 years to life. That one...Edwards, he's dropped his charges
of police brutality. I think his lawyer forced it."
Brutality? Oh God,
that's right. Jim had been going to kill that guy. He had to talk to him about
that. Jim had been killing a man. Blair had never seen that before, and never
would have believed it.
"...almost perfect crimes. So far, they had netted
over 8 million in ransom. With Raymond, they were going for another 2.5 mil."
There was the Viking again. Man, it was like listening to a movie while falling
asleep on the couch. He hardly knew what the plot was.
"...was the money
marked? How did they get away with that much?"
"..in the case only.
They checked the money for marks. We didn't want to chance it."
don't like how this is sounding."
What, Jim? How what is sounding? Was
the movie still playing or was this another channel? The last film Blair remembered
seeing was about Amazonian tree frogs. Why would they have tapes? Should he be
sleeping in like this?
"...we can consider this case closed, and stop
the surveillance on the others now ."
This part of the movie sounded familiar.
But what was the Viking doing there in the jungle?
"What about Whatcom?"
"Raymond? He's with his father. The old man is staying in town until this
is all cleared up."
Raymond. That was definitely a name Blair recalled.
More of a color, really. Yellow, wasn't it? That name brought the color yellow
to Blair's mind. He didn't like this movie anymore.
"We can talk more
about this later. How is he?"
"Hurt." Jim's reply seemed louder
than the conversation. "But he'll recover in time. This never should have
"Some things come with the job. You can't prevent them."
"It's not his job. And I intend to prevent this from ever happening again."
Wait, prevent what from happening? Blair didn't like this movie anymore. He
stirred, trying to roll over on his side and go back to sleep, let Jim turn off
the TV, but he couldn't move.
"Hey, you with me, Chief?"
opened his eyes to find Jim, and only Jim, standing beside him, one hand on his
shoulder. He swallowed, glancing around the room for the Viking. Hadn't he just
been there? The bed was propped up now, and Blair's head was raised, giving a
better view of the room. The sun was streaming in from the large windows, and
Jim's face was clean shaven.
"Jim.." His mouth and throat were dry,
but he seemed to have a little more energy than before. "What's going on?"
"You've been in and out for a while. It's the drugs. They've started tapering
them off now, so your head'll clear soon."
Blair nodded slowly. There
was an incredible aching in his side and chest when he inhaled, but the pain was
bearable now. "How long have you been here?" There wasn't much volume
to his voice, but the words were coming out.
"Today? Just a few hours.
I've been back to the Station a few times. I don't think you missed me."
Jim was smiling as he looked down at Blair. "Agent Mills and I were going
over a few things."
Oh, right, the Viking was Agent Mills. "What's
"With the case? It's closed now, Chief." Jim pulled
up a chair and sat down beside the bed so he was even with Blair's eyes. "The
two men we caught are claiming innocence, but they were caught in the act this
Blair swallowed and adjusted his head to have a better view of
Jim. Everything seemed to be working in slow motion, but at least he wasn't fading
in and out again. "I don't get it. How can they claim that?"
ran a hand over his short-cropped hair, then leaned forward just a little. "Standard
operating procedure. You plead innocent even if you're caught with the smoking
gun. Make the lawyers and cops do all the work."
"What about the
money?" Blair paused to ease more air into his sore lungs. "From the
"Hasn't been found." Jim sighed. "They've
most likely got it stashed somewhere, hoping they'll get off on bail, or just
about anything. Sometimes they just don't want it recovered, as a last ditch effort
to inflict harm on the families they've stolen it from. It sits somewhere and
"So that's it, it's over?" Blair was encouraged by his
ability to complete sentences now in one breath. And Jim wasn't just making statements,
he was explaining the case in his usual patient manner.
"Yeah. The FBI
has them now. It's over, Chief."
Blair realized then that he had seen
doctors and nurses now and again, during some of the odd dream sequences he'd
been having. "When can I come home?"
Jim's hand squeezed his arm
slightly before releasing. "Tomorrow, if everything checks out tonight."
"What about Raymond?" Blair had nearly forgotten the reason for all
Jim's jaw flexed again, and there was a flash of steel in the blue. "He's
with his father." There was a pause, then Jim moved a little closer. "Listen,
Chief, Raymond's not exactly an innocent here. He switched ID with you back at
the Twisted Pearl. He led us on that merry chase to begin with. Simon and Agent
Mills felt, under the circumstances, he'd be better off in his father's hands.
I met him yesterday, and I can tell you, he's one man I'd hate to go up against."
Blair tried to picture the kind of man Jim might possibly be afraid of. He
"Listen, partner, here's the doctor." Jim nodded to the
door that had just opened. "I'll be right out in the hall, okay?"
One more gentle squeeze on his arm, and Jim rose and left