Shadow of a Doubt
The last thing Blair wanted to do was talk about it. But he needed
to talk about it. He needed to talk about it until it became a distant memory,
until the nightmare was over and they could go back to their lives. Even Jim's
newly discovered, heightened hearing limits hadn't been explored yet. The success
they had when Jim willed his sense of hearing to piggy-back onto his sense of
sight...Blair had definite ideas on how to test that new ability. He had planned,
when he was finished giving tests, to get Jim into the lab, and see what they
could do. But now, all he could think about was sitting up there, in front of
everyone, and being grilled by Brackett's attorney. Blair wasn't unaccustomed
to having all eyes on him, as it happened every class he taught. But the students
were there to learn, not to judge. And Lee Brackett was never in the group, watching
him. There was a hand on his shoulder, bringing him back into awareness. Back
into the awareness that he had once again been self-absorbed.
why don't you make some tea or something, and we'll talk."
and nodded. "Yeah, okay." He reached out and flipped on the gas, checking
to make sure there was water in the pot he kept there. Jim smiled slightly, nodding
his head, and walked out to the living room to sit on one of the couches. It didn't
take long for the water to boil, so Blair pulled down a pot and found his best
relaxation tea, then turned off the gas and filled the pot, taking his time unintentionally.
"I had lunch with Beverly today." Jim's voice was in such a perfectly
conversational tone, it took Blair a few seconds to realize what he had said.
"Really?" He carried his cup to the living room and sat down in the
chair, facing the fire. He was not going to worry. He was not going to worry.
"Nothing new. It's going as well as she thought,
with Kostov coming in tomorrow afternoon. His testimony alone will do a lot of
"And the other cases? She can't use them, can she?"
The Ebola virus scare, which should have kept him in prison for life, or the kidnaping
of him and Jim that was supposed to have left Brackett dead at the bottom of a
waterfall. None of that mattered in this case.
"No. The CIA has a black
flag up." Jim took a drink, then glanced at the fire that had taken off nicely.
"Don't worry about it, Chief."
"Well I am worried about it,
Jim." There. He'd said it. Oh God, he said it! Maybe he should have
gotten a beer, instead of tea that was still too hot to hide behind.
know," Jim replied, his voice quiet. "That's why I wanted to talk about
"Look, Jim, I'll be fine."
"I know you will."
"I just...I just wasn't ready to deal with this. Not now." Not ever.
He did need a beer, after all. He got up, then motioned towards the kitchen before
Jim could protest his leaving. Once there, he dumped the tea, and pulled out a
bottle, discarding the cap into the trash before returning to the couch.
I know it's hard. It never gets easy, and there's no such thing as a sure-fire
case, no matter how prepared you, or anyone else is."
Blair took a long
drink, listening to Jim. That was the first time his partner admitted that this
case, as sure as it might seem, could still go horribly wrong. It wasn't what
Blair wanted to hear. But, he knew it hadn't been easy for Jim to admit, either.
"So there's a chance he'll get off."
Jim shook his head, and leaned
forward on the couch, both arms outstretched in his explanation pose. "No,
Chief, not get off. There are too many charges against him. I just want you to
understand, that no matter what happens in there....No matter what they may say,
or imply, you're not alone in this. I'll be right there. And Beverly will be in
control. You just do what she said, keep your answers short, and to the point,
and don't let anything upset you."
Blair nodded. "Thanks, Jim."
He took another drink, a long one, and a little voice inside his head chastised
him for using chemicals to calm his nerves. He ignored it. "When you met
Beverly, did you go in?"
Jim seemed to understand what he was asking.
"Yes, I saw him."
Blair nodded, raising his eyebrows as he glanced
at the floor in front of him.
"It wasn't easy, Chief," he said. "But
it was gratifying to watch him get his day in court. You'll be fine."
nodded again, silently mouthing his agreement. He would have said something then,
but the phone rang. Jim got up to answer it, and Blair leaned back on the couch,
trying to force his mind into a soothing mantra. Trying to think of anything but
"Yeah, Mike, what have you got?"
Blair looked up for
a moment, then let his eyes rest on the fire, allowing the dancing flames to serve
as a focus while he blurred his thoughts. He felt his heart rate slow to an even,
resting pace. Felt his breathing fall into a rhythm. He watched as the flames
jumped, casting a warm glow in the darkened room. Somewhere, deep inside his mind,
a numbness began to spread. Before he understood what was happening, a feeling
of detachment had come over him, and he felt as though he was outside of himself,
out of control, and yet oddly quiet. The flames were dancing before his eyes,
and he couldn't look away. Suddenly, one of the flames stepped out of the fireplace,
and to his frozen horror, walked toward him as he sat, on the couch, completely
unable to move. He wanted to shout---to scream for Jim, but he couldn't move--couldn't
speak. And the flame--the flame was coming closer!! The flame had a face--it was
coming closer and he couldn't move! This isn't happening! This is NOT
happening! God--Oh God--not again!! This can't be happening! He tried to
move, tried with all his might to move his head, and look at Jim. If he could
look away---look away from the flame--it would stop. The illusion would stop.
There!---God, it dropped!!---It fell through the floor Jim!! Jim, they're
coming!! NO! This was not real---it was NOT real!!
Blair couldn't move,
couldn't scream, and two more were coming out of the fire!! Two more---coming
at him! WALKING towards him! Dammit Jim!! It's a nightmare---right? Just--Just
a nightmare!! He was asleep---that was it--he was asleep and this was one of the
nightmares! Oh God, where did they go? The two flames---they were here---where
did they go?! Down?! They went down again--just like before when they--NO! This
wasn't real!! It couldn't be real!! Oh God!! Three more---three more are coming--they're
They're coming out and going down---Just
like before! Down to the street---No, the garage---No, he was home--he was home--this
A gun---get a gun---stop them!! Jim
can't stop them---You have to be his eyes!! The gun was in his hand--squeeze
A violent shake snapped his neck back
and he was finally able to move, to see Jim standing over him, clutching both
of his arms, shaking him out of the trance. There was something wet on his hand,
and he groggily gazed down, seeing moisture mixed with blood, dripping from his
left hand. They were gone---It was gone.
"Sandburg, what the hell happened
to you?!" Jim was still holding his arms, his voice raised in a desperate
attempt to break the hallucination.
"I'm okay....I'm okay." Blair
knew his voice was shaking as much as Jim was shaking him. His eyes darted back
to the fire, and Jim moved to block his view, forcing him to meet his eyes.
the hell was that?!"
Blair took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. The
flames---they were still there! He opened them again quickly, focusing on Jim
instead. "It was just...A flashback, I think."
"Your heart is
racing. You were totally zoned out for nearly three minutes, Chief." Jim
was still blocking his view of the fireplace, and still holding his arms. "The
doctor said this would happen. Is this the first time?"
unable to speak again yet. It had been so real! He knew he was to expect flashbacks,
but---It had been so real! He could still see it---Still see them. If
he closed his eyes, they were right there, waiting---Watching! And Jim couldn't
see them---couldn't see---Stop it!
Jim let go of his arms, but stayed
in-between him and the fire. "Give me your hand."
Blair looked at
his left hand again, noticing the blood there and the bits of beer bottle fragments.
"Oh, man, Jim I'm sorry." There was glass and blood mixed with beer
on the rug beside the couch. Jim reached out and took the injured hand that Blair
wasn't offering up.
"Come on, Chief, we gotta get this cleaned up."
Jim pulled him off the couch and he didn't resist.
Idly, Blair thought they
were going to clean up the mess, but instead, Jim led him to the table and forced
him down, then went to the bathroom and retrieved the first aid kit. Blair had
no energy left, and didn't even feel the cut Jim was cleaning out. He was exhausted!
The visions still clear as day in his head. Visions that had been so real to him
before. They were just as real---just as terrifying--the second time around. Only
this time, the nightmare wasn't followed by a four day stint in intensive care.
Small wonder, considering the racing heart and complete lack of strength he was
"...scared me half to death, partner." Jim was saying.
"Is that what it's like for you, when I zone out?"
guess so, yeah." Only your zone outs don't scare the shit out of you.
"Ow!" He was coming back to his senses, and now felt very clearly the
cut Jim was rubbing salve into.
"It's not too bad. Here, hold this."
Blair took hold of the gauze Jim had placed over the cut in his palm and held
it in place while he unrolled several inches of gauze strip and some tape. "I'll
clean up the mess."
"No, you'll go to bed. I'll clean it up."
Jim began to wrap the gauze around Blair's hand.
you're pale, you're exhausted, and that little episode of yours was enough to
give me nightmares." He finished with the gauze and applied the tape. "No
He wanted to argue. He was afraid to close his eyes now...afraid
they'd still be there, waiting, watching. Was it going to be like that every time?
So real? And what had triggered it? Staring at the fire? The stress he was letting
himself fall victim to? Or just a random occurrence, that could repeat at any
time, for any reason? God, he was tired!
"Jim, I'm sorry."
"Don't, Blair." Jim had picked up the kit and returned it, and was
now gathering some cleaning materials from a cupboard in the kitchen. "It's
not your fault." He walked to the living room and began to carefully gather
the glass fragments. "Are you okay now? Do you need to talk about it?"
"You mean like you've been talking about your nightmares?" Blair
shot back. Instantly, he regretted it. He brought up a hand and shook his head
tiredly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."
Jim sighed. "Look,
Chief, I was going to talk to you about it tonight, until..." He stood and
walked to the kitchen with the glass, then stepped over to the table where Blair
still sat. "I don't think you're taking enough of your own advice, here.
Stress can do a lot to the mind and the body, and even more when you deny it's
Blair rolled his eyes just slightly. Those words did sound a bit
familiar. It was just easier to see stress and its related problems in someone
else, instead of himself. "Yeah."
"When this is all over, the
nightmares will stop. For both of us." He patted Blair on the back and returned
to the mess on the rug. "We'll talk about them then, okay? Now, get some
sleep. If you think you can."
No. "Yeah, thanks, Jim."
Blair slowly got up, glancing back once more at the mess Jim was cleaning up.
He was too exhausted now to offer any more help, and the visions hadn't faded
yet. Getting any closer to that fireplace wasn't something he was ready to do,
so he turned and walked to his room.
"Sandburg." Jim looked up. "It'll
all be over soon."
"Thanks, Jim." Blair entered his room and
shut the door, rubbing his face and pushing his hair back as he did so. He was
sure he wouldn't sleep, and was even afraid to try, but he was also too exhausted
to do anything else. By the time he climbed out of his clothes, and reluctantly
got into bed, he could hear the quiet sounds of a movie coming from the living
room. Jim was obviously staying up for a while. Blair lay down and took a deep,
cleansing breath, then let it out slowly and focused on the faint sounds from
the television in an attempt not to see the dancing golden fire people that remained
on the inside of each eyelid, looking back at him.
As convinced as he was that
sleep would elude him, the next thing Blair was aware of was the sound of his
alarm going off beside the bed. He rolled over and slapped it, a sensitivity to
Jim's hearing had given Blair good reflexes in the morning. Realization slowly
came back to him, as did the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen. Great, Jim
had gotten up before him again. He climbed out of bed and took another deep breath,
letting it out slowly. His visions hadn't come back, once he had fallen asleep.
The last thing he could recall was listening to a commercial about aspirin, or
some such thing. He did feel better, after a night's sleep he hadn't thought he'd
get, and when he opened the door to walk to the bathroom, he actually felt like
he could get through this with some semblance of dignity after all. Jim was upstairs,
presumably getting dressed, so Blair went to the bathroom and prepared for his
day. He hurried, but by the time he was dressed and coming back out of the bedroom
again, Jim was standing in the kitchen, talking on the phone while pouring a cup
of coffee. Blair looked at him questioningly and Jim handed him the cup and motioned
with his chin to the table, then returned to his conversation with Simon.
accepted the coffee and walked to the table, noticing for the first time the bakery
bag there, filled with fresh bagels. How long had he been up?
Chief." Jim set the phone down and poured himself a cup of coffee.
long have you been up?" Blair reached into the bag and retrieved a plain
"Just an hour. Got those down stairs, at the new bakery."
Jim sat down and pulled one out. "Thought it'd be a nice change from eggs."
Blair nodded, ignoring the cream cheese and simply pulled the bagel apart with
his fingers, eating it in small bites. He realized with surprise that his hands
weren't shaking, but his insides seemed to be. He was not going to be
a child about this. "So, you figure a couple hours of waiting, and answering
some questions, then it's over?" Yes, the voice was steady!
that," Jim replied, smearing cream cheese liberally over his now-sliced bagel.
"When's your first class today?"
Damn, he hadn't even thought
about the tests he had to give today. "First one at 1:00, then one more right
after that." He'd eaten about half the bagel, and was beginning to feel disinterested
in it. "Can you give me a lift after the...after we're done?"
problem, Chief. I might even take the afternoon off, after I talk to Simon this
morning. I can only take so much paperwork and reports." He smiled, then
popped the last of his bagel in his mouth and checked his watch.
nodding his head. Jim had once said having a Guide around the Station was the
best thing to happen to his paperwork backlog. Blair didn't mind filling in the
blanks on some of the reports that Jim would rough out, or going downstairs for
the forensics reports and files. And he had become quite good at forging Jim's
signature in the evidence lock-up. Research was Blair's field, and doing the research
for Jim helped him gain an even greater understanding of Jim's work, and even
Jim himself. He was just glad, for purely selfish reasons, that during his finals,
and this trial, Jim was giving his current case load to Mike Jenkins. Blair wouldn't
miss anything. He'd like to miss this entire trial, but...
Chief?" Jim had pushed away from the table and was picking up the cell phone
to put in his coat pocket.
"As I'll ever be." Blair took one last
drink of coffee, then stood and went for his coat. Jim seemed unconcerned that
the remains of breakfast stayed on the table, and Blair knew stalling for time
wouldn't work in this situation, so he followed his partner out the door and down
to the truck. The trip to the courthouse was as quick as a trip to the dentist,
making a twenty minute drive pass by in seconds. They parked across the street
in Jim's usual spot inside the Precinct garage and walked across the street to
the courthouse. Blair was convinced this was all happening too quickly. He had
planned to use the ride over to work out a little calming mantra in his head,
and figure out a way to walk into that courtroom, where Lee Brackett would be,
and not make an ass of himself in front of Jim by bolting out the door. But there
was no more time. They were almost to the courtroom door now. Blair took a deep
breath and looked up at Jim. He'd have to follow his partner's lead, and rely
on that to get him through.
Jim reached for the door handle and turned back
to Blair. Without a word, he placed a hand on Blair's shoulder for a moment, then
opened the door wide enough for both of them to step through quietly and find
seats in the half-filled room.
Jim made eye contact
with Beverly and nodded, then ushered Blair into a bench two rows behind her.
His partner seemed to be holding up well enough so far, but it was going to get
harder before it got better. Jim made sure he was sitting between Blair and the
isle, keeping as much of a buffer between his friend and Lee Brackett as he could.
He had spent the better part of the night keeping focused on Blair's heartbeat
and breathing pattern, setting his own internal alarm to go off if there was the
slightest change from the room below his. Jim had half-expected Blair to have
a nightmare again that night, especially after the incident in the living room.
At the hospital, they had told Blair to expect flashbacks, and that was the first
one according to Blair, but Jim hadn't expected it to be like that.
he was discussing a case with Mike on the phone, and Blair seemed fine. The next
minute his partner's heart was racing, his breathing was shallow, and he wouldn't
respond to anything Jim said, or shouted. He just sat there, eyes transfixed on
the fireplace, with a look of terror in his eyes. When Jim was unable to get through,
even with a touch on his arm, he started to panic, himself. Then, a look of sheer
hate appeared across the younger man's face, and Blair's hand clenched so tightly
the bottle broke in his hand. That's when Jim knew something had to be done, now,
to break the trance he was in. Blair had never said Jim's zone-outs were like
that, and Jim tended to think they weren't. His partner could always bring him
out with a touch, Jim had to shake Blair, several times.
Voices down a hallway
perked his senses and Jim focused on the door at the side of the courtroom. They
were bringing Brackett in, and the judge was also preparing to enter from the
Chamber door. Jim switched focus to Blair sitting beside him, keeping track of
his heart rate and breathing, without looking at him. He could almost feel Blair
tense up when the door opened, and Lee Brackett stepped through, accompanied by
two uniformed officers. As he approached his attorney, he glanced around the room,
and quickly spotted Jim and Blair. Jim returned an icy stare, then looked away,
towards the judge who was just now coming in.
"All rise," the bailiff
began. "The honorable Judge Franklin Claymore presiding." Jim and Blair
stood, along with everyone else, and waited for the judge to call the room to
order, then they sat down. Brackett was no longer looking at them, so Jim quickly
glanced at Blair. He was looking straight ahead, and wore a look of casual interest
that Jim could see was faked. Outwardly, he seemed calm enough, but Jim could
see the minute shaking of his hands, hear the occasional skipped beat in his heart.
Blair was doing a good job hiding it from the rest of the room, but not from Jim.
They listened as the lawyers began the business of getting the trial started,
and the judge made a ruling now and again. Jim knew instinctively what was important
and what wasn't, having been to more of these now than he could count. Blair seemed
transfixed on every word, but Jim knew from instinct, or maybe something else,
that he was numb inside, and most likely wasn't hearing a single word. Jim wanted
nothing more than to take the stand for his friend, keep him from having to go
through any more stress. But most of all, keep him from having to sit up there
and face Lee Brackett again.
"I'd like to call my first witness, your
honor," Beverly was saying.
This was it, time to get the ball rolling.
Jim glanced at Blair as Beverly called his name, and gave him a look of encouragement,
then stood and walked to the witness box. He took the oath, then sat in the familiar
seat after declaring his full name and occupation. Brackett was watching him,
but Jim had no trouble keeping an even expression on his face, and his eyes on
Beverly. His emotions were on automatic now, as they fell into place deep inside.
"Detective, can you tell the court where you were on the night in question?"
Beverly was standing in front of the jury, glancing at them occasionally.
was on stakeout, at the corner of 16th and Chester, downtown."
was there anyone with you?"
"Yes, Captain Banks."
Simon Banks, of Major Crimes?"
Beverly nodded, then
moved forward, walking slowly in front of the judge. "You received a phone
call during this stakeout, did you not?"
"Yes, I did."
can you tell us what, if anything, was unusual about his phone call?"
was no voice on the other end, just a message scrolling across the display."
"And what did that message say?"
"It said 'The game has begun.
You have 15 minutes to get home and make your move,' nothing more." Jim forced
his eyes not to connect with Lee Brackett as he repeated the message that had
sent him racing for the loft.
"That sounds pretty cryptic, Detective.
What did it mean?"
"Objection, your honor." Brackett's attorney,
a man Jim knew as Leroy Cutter, stood to emphasize his case. "There could
be a million interpretations for a message like that."
the question, your honor."
"Go ahead," The Judge replied.
what did that message mean to you?"
"It meant Lee Brackett was back."
"And why did you reach that conclusion?"
Jim glanced quickly at
Blair as he watched Beverly pace slowly back towards the jury. "The game
is an old CIA reference, and Brackett has used it before. Also, sending messages
over a cellular phone like that is relatively uncommon. Something Lee Brackett
would do." Jim paused, shooting Lee a quick look. "Also, my partner
was uncharacteristically absent that evening, and I had been unable to contact
"And after the phone call, what did you do?"
Banks called for backup, to replace us at the scene, and we drove to my home."
"You left the stakeout prior to your backup arriving? Is that standard
Jim clenched his jaw momentarily and glanced out
towards his partner, whose eyes had just shot to the floor, his face flushing
. "No, it's not. I was afraid for my partner's life, which seemed more immediate
to me at the time. The stakeout had so far been unsuccessful, and backup was on
the way." He didn't really feel the need to explain, but he understood what
Beverly was getting at. Maybe it didn't sound like standard procedure, and maybe
he should have been reprimanded for his actions. But he also knew, if Blair were
in danger again, Jim wouldn't hesitate to take immediate action.
were that sure that the message you received meant your partner, Blair Sandburg,
was in immediate danger?"
"Yes, I was."
"And when you
reached your apartment, what did you find?"
"At first, nothing. Captain
Banks and I entered the loft and searched quickly, then the television in the
loft came on. A tape recording began to playback automatically."
tape recording of who?"
"And what was
on the tape?"
"Brackett. He was holding Blair hostage. He said he
had business in town, and had decided to finish the game he had started earlier.
He said I had to find Blair in time, or he might die."
Jim's jaw clenched again, tightly. "He held up
a vial, and a syringe, then proceeded to explain what the drug he had was capable
of." Jim paused, his eyes darting to Blair and back. His partner was keeping
his eyes fixed on something near the floor, in front of where Jim was seated.
"He then injected Blair with the drug."
"And then what happened?"
"He said the tape we were watching had been made 20 minutes ago, and that
I had another 15 minutes to find Blair. Then the tape shut off."
then what did you do?"
Jim kept his eyes on Beverly, trying to force the
remembered terror back down where he could control it. "I realized Blair
was in the building, by the pipes I had seen on the tape. The Captain and I ran
downstairs, to the basement, and found him."
"And what did you find?"
Jim took a breath. "I found Blair. He was dying." He glanced at Brackett
who was watching Jim's every word with a look of complete calm. "Captain
Banks and I rushed him to the hospital."
"Detective, when you were
at the hospital, did Captain Banks receive word from the stakeout?"
The man we were waiting for had been killed, along with the person he was meeting."
"What was the time frame, between yourself and Captain Banks leaving the
stake out, and the relief officers' arrival?"
"No more than 10 minutes."
"So, theoretically, it would be possible for someone to make a phone call,
to your cellular phone, telling you to be home in 20 minutes...then as you drove
away from the stakeout, enter the house you were watching, kill the person there,
as well as someone who had possibly just arrived, and be gone in less than the
10 minutes it took for your backup to arrive?"
"Objection, your honor.
Calls for speculation."
"Your honor, Detective Ellison is trained
in these matters. I think he could judge time frames in a simple theoretical scenario."
"Overruled. The witness will answer the question."
it's very possible," Jim replied.
"And the death of the man you were
waiting for, how did that affect the case you were working on at the time?"
Jim paused for a split second, half expecting Brackett's attorney to object.
"Vince Delaney was a key witness to an extortion and money laundering case
against a man named Kostov. When he died, our case at the time was ruined."
He glanced at Blair and found his partner finally looking up, watching him. "We
later learned that Brackett had been hired by Kostov to commit the murders."
"Objection, your honor."
There it was. Jim looked at Blair while
the lawyers hashed it out, focusing in on his heartrate. He seemed outwardly to
be holding up well, but Jim could still detect a fast, occasionally skipping beat,
coupled with the slightest shaking of his hands.
brought himself back to the subject at hand, and realized the Judge had ruled
against the question.
"I have no further questions at this time, your
honor, but I reserve the right to recall the witness."
Jim watched Brackett's attorney stand, remaining behind the desk.
Ellison, what happened to the supposed tape you and Captain Banks claim to have
"It was destroyed."
his jaw muscle. "It was apparently exposed to acid. The FBI crime lab is
working on what's left."
"Expose to acid? And where did this take
"In the evidence room, at the Station." Jim remained
non-plused at the intimation.
"And did either you, or Captain Banks, witness
in person Mr. Brackett attacking or killing anyone?"
Jim's jaw spasmed
again, harder this time. He knew these games and what they were designed to do,
and he knew better than to let it get to him, but it was. "No."
you, Detective. No further questions."
"The witness may step down."