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Mercy Part 2


Disclaimers and Warnings in Part 1

Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.––Miguel De Cervantes

You can never be sure that a thing you are searching for is not going to suddenly jump up and bite you in the ass.  It is an experience like no other.   Usually, there is an unknown component involved, or you find that maybe, just maybe, you were the object of a search as well.  Only *that* search was organized, plotted and secret.  It is a tremendous moment of discovery when you find what you’ve hunted and longed for was in fact, waiting for you, for a perfect opportunity, and with that moment comes a clarity and knowledge that is startling in its breadth.

Jim had decided to search the streets of Cascade in the warehouse district.  It was an area very familiar to both he and Blair.  He often felt drawn to the location throughout this ordeal, but was never sure if it was from some bizarre sense of nostalgia or something more prophetic.  As he drove through the abandoned buildings he spotted the same car which had been at the seedy motel.  It was too much of a coincidence to leave alone.  Parking his truck nearby, he approached the vehicle warily.  He opened up his sense of hearing and concentrated on it as fully as possible.  It was in this mode that he was betrayed by the very senses that had been his key to survival so many times before.  The pain was so severe he felt as if a sword had plunged through one ear and exited the other. The squealing siren pulsated through the air, bringing him to his knees.  The last thing he remembered before the blow to the back of his head claimed his consciousness was the blessed release from the horrendous noise and the look on Blair's face as he lowered the bullhorn.

Jim awoke to find himself on a cot in a room inside one of the abandoned warehouses.  A quick sentinel scan of the steel door revealed a keyed lock and the heavy bolt that imprisoned him.  Realizing that *way* too many bad experiences happened to him in these places, he decided if he ever did get himself and Sandburg out of this situation, he would tell Simon to give *any* calls in this area to someone else.  Sandburg.  The memory of the preceding moments before his capture began to replay in his muddled brain in a continuous loop.  Blair had been there ... holding the implement of his capture.  Jim sat up on the cot and rubbed his head as he pondered the significance to this new development.  The nurse at the clinic had mentioned drugs.  Blair had been gone a very long time now.  There had to be a connection.  Jim knew Sandburg would never willingly betray him, not in his right mind at least.  With that thought, he involuntarily shuddered.  Blair as an enemy, willing or not, was an intimidating proposition.  For the first time in a long while, the scope of his friend's knowledge and brilliance hit him, but this time it carried a hint of the fear he had not experienced since their meeting in that office of long ago.

Jim rose from the cot and tested the strength of his legs as he scoped out his surroundings.  There was very little in the dark little cinder block room, just a bare light bulb which hung from the high ceiling, the cot, a small portable commode in the corner which was apparently the extent of the facilities and the heavy steel door which prevented his continued search for his friend.  He noticed an unopened bottled water beside the cot and made an inspection to determine if there were any injection marks in the sides.  He was unprepared for the sensation which accosted him.  As he checked for the smell of a foreign substance, a familiar scent was immediately recognized.  Sandburg.  So light at first he thought it was his imagination, but no, it was there.  Perhaps, more noticeable because it seemed at odds with the damp and dirty room.  With a deep sigh, Jim sat back on the cot and took a small sip of water.  Closing his eyes, he carefully concentrated on listening to his surroundings but found nothing more than the sounds of an abandoned building.  He sighed again; nothing to do but wait.  Answers would come soon enough.


He awoke with a start, his hearing focusing on two sets of footsteps approaching as if from down a long hall.  As he listened, the steps became louder.  Whoever they were, they were making their way to the room.  He leaned back against the wall with his head turned toward the door and his eyes open in mere slits.  As the door opened, Jim immediately recognized "the agent" from his composite drawing.  A man who looked incredibly like a  bouncer from Club Doom was at his side.  “The agent” gave a subtle signal to the bouncer who crossed his arms in a guarding posture and stood beside the door.  His captor stepped in and shut the door securely before turning and facing the sentinel.  Jim continued to watch through almost closed lids, waiting for a signal from this unknown man before committing himself in any way.  “The agent” smiled pleasantly at him.

"James Ellison, I presume," he said with a flourish as he extended his hand and made his way carefully to the cot.  Jim opened his eyes an iota more and watched with barely disguised disgust as the impeccably dressed middle-aged man with close cropped graying hair withdrew his hand.

"Ahhh...I'm sorry.  I told my young friend that you would not appreciate my scientist humor either."  The man clucked as he shook his head in a mocking way.

Without thinking, Jim stood in one fluid movement.  So quickly, in fact, that his captor took an involuntary step backward.  "Hey, hey, wait a minute, big fellow.  Let's not get carried away now.  I think you must remember your circumstances."

Jim spoke for the first time, and his voice was a growl.  "What *are* my circumstances?  And where is Sandburg?"

The man shook his head and motioned for Jim to sit down before he spoke.  As the detective reluctantly complied, the stranger said, "I’ll tell you what, why don't you let *me* direct the conversation?  You might get the answers you seek and I might get a little of the information I’m after.  First of all, I must remember my manners and introduce myself.  My name is Carter Hunt.  I have done many things in my life, some of which will seem familiar to you.  I was a soldier, mercenary, spy, and a student of philosophy as well.  These things combined have made me a rather independent sort, so my jobs now are of my own choosing.  Being a rather well read person, I find my current involvement with Mr. Sandburg quite enlightening and a chance to meet his illustrious partner certainly an honor."

At the mention of his friend's name, Jim's eyes narrowed once again but he  remained silent.  If the man liked to talk, Jim would let him talk.  Years in Covert Ops and police work had taught him the importance of gaining information by reading between the lines.

“So, Mr. Ellison, I am sure you are wondering why you have been so sorely mistreated and brought here against your will.  In time, you will come to know more, but for now suffice it to say you intrigue me.  And I am a man who honors his passions.  I am positive I can assist you in learning to utilize your talents in a very financially lucrative manner.  Your little anthropologist acquaintance used you sorely and I hope to redeem his indiscretions. The first order of business is to get the theory straight in my head and then we can work with the practicuum.”

Jim listened in shock to the man's brief explanation of his relationship to Blair and found the whole situation frustrating and vaguely frightening.  Hunt seemed to be under the impression that Jim had been used by Sandburg for his own gain.  How he resolved that Blair continued to live with Ellison and had even forsaken his career for him was anyone's guess.  Jim merely sat and glared at this verbose stranger and waited for what he was sure would be more speeches regarding Hunt's expertise on himself and his partner.  The wait was quickly rewarded.

"I read in the tabloids, as I tend to stick with the print media, that Mr. Sandburg had been studying "sentinels" for years and it seems *you* have some incredible abilities, Mr. Ellison.  It’s too bad you were found by this young upstart; a more seasoned man may have had more knowledge on how to help you capitalize on those senses rather than his own selfish ambitions."

Jim finally spoke, but he was careful to keep his voice and demeanor free of emotion.  "Sounds like you have a pretty low regard for the man you’ve so carefully hidden for all these weeks."

"Low regard?  No, no, no, Mr. Ellison.  You’ve mistaken my statement of the way the events have played out for some kind of emotion on my part.  I have nothing but gratitude for the things your partner has been able to share with me, albeit I had hoped for more.  Those animals who initially captured him had done their damage before I had a chance to contact them."

Jim had to carefully school his expression as he asked, "Done their damage?  Was he hurt?"

"Not to a great extent physically, but I believe that his mind may not have been so lucky.  We work with what we have, but there are days when that is not much."

Again, Jim managed not to blink.  This creep had obviously made some assumptions about Blair and himself that said more about his own twisted logic than it did anything else.  However, there was a resigned tone to his speech that chilled the detective.  He had no choice but to pursue the bait.

"How could they possibly have messed with Sandburg's mind?  Did they drug him?"

"Hmmm...so, my angry Mr. Sentinel is now having to admit that he might not be in total control here after all?  Remember, I direct the conversation, sir.  But, yes, the young man was drugged, fairly severely I might add.  As well as suffering after effects from sensory deprivation. Seems he was kept in a darkened closet and only given enough food and water to keep him alive.  He barely knew his own name when I got to him.  He is much better now, but things only come to him sporadically.  Besides, I must constantly keep testing him to make sure he is not trying to mislead me.  We both are aware he is quite capable of those types of antics, aren't we?"

Jim could truthfully allow a small smile to grace his face as he gave a brief nod.  "Yes, we do know that about him."

"I must say, he did pass his most strident test with flying colors.  Your capture would never have been possible without his help, I fear.  The bullhorn was ingenious, don't you think?"

Without realizing his actions, Jim absently rubbed the back of his head as he peered up at Hunt.  "What would you like me to say?  I admire your efforts?  I don't have the slightest idea where all this is leading, and frankly, your idea of directing the conversation is starting to bore me."

"Ahhh...I am tiring you.  Do you hear Mr. Sandburg approaching?  He should be here with something for you to eat any minute now."  Hunt waited expectantly as if he expected an answer.  Jim merely glared at him as he trained his hearing on the sounds outside the room.  Indeed, he heard footsteps gradually increase in volume as someone approached. 

To cover for his discovery, Jim continued to watch his captor with undisguised anger and replied, "What makes you think I would eat anything you gave me or he gave me for that matter?"  No sooner had the words left his mouth than the door was unlocked and opened.  Jim blinked as Blair, with his hair pulled back and a grin on his gaunt face, stepped inside carrying a tray. 


 Blair looked over at Jim with a fleeting glance and then turned his gaze back on Hunt.  "See, I told you I wouldn't forget to bring the food.  You're gonna have to learn to trust me just a little bit, Carter," he bantered while still wearing that shit-eating grin.

Hunt smiled back and replied quietly, "Yes, yes, my dear boy, I am beginning to do just that.  Your actions of the last 24 hours have gone a long way towards winning me over as well as convincing me that you are ready.  Just set the tray on the floor beside the cot and go wait in the office.  We'll talk about tomorrow's schedule shortly."

Jim swallowed the lump in his throat as he tuned in to the heartbeat of his guide and friend.  Blair was calm and serene and his attitude suggested a person at ease in his situation.  The only possibility Jim could imagine was that Blair no longer remembered him at all.  Grief at the loss of memory in such a young, brilliant mind threatened to overwhelm the sentinel.  Then suddenly, inexplicably, Sandburg turned those amazingly large eyes on him and said in a quiet voice, "Hey, Jim.  Glad you weren’t hurt too badly.  Try to eat something, 'kay?  I'll talk to you later on."  Before Jim could close his gaping mouth, Sandburg was gone.

"As you can see, Ellison, your cohort is in fine form.  He doesn’t eat much and has bouts of memory loss due to the trauma he experienced while in the hands of those idiots.  However, I assure you, I am doing my best to help him through that.  It is important to both of us that he regains his health."

Jim finally managed to snap his mouth shut and regain his composure.  "What do you want from me, Hunt?  What are you and Sandburg up to?"

"Ah, let's just say I have a proposition for you that I am afraid you *cannot* refuse.  Due to the publicity of the press conference and some research that I have rather painstakingly gathered, I am somewhat familiar with Mr. Sandburg's dissertation and his relationship to you.  However, his memory loss has caused some problems for us both.  We have agreed to help one another in our mutual quests and he assures me you will be along for the ride as well.  In fact, he told me you and he had a little code name for the plans that were made before his deceit was discovered.  I believe it was Project Brass Ring?"

"What?  What in the *hell* are you talking about, Hunt?"

"No, no... not now.  You must eat and I should take my leave.  You will have your answers soon enough.  I will be back in the morning and we can take this up when you have had some rest."  Before Jim could reply, Carter Hunt turned on his heel and motioned for the guard to leave as he opened the door.  After the guard exited, Hunt put his head back in the room before closing the door and said, "You really should eat and sleep as things will go much better for everyone if you do."  The door was closed and Jim was left alone.


The night passed very slowly.  Ellison's mind jumped from thought to thought as he searched for the pattern to the madness.  He knew Blair had left him clues just as he had in that clinic weeks ago.  But what was his purpose?  If he was pretending not to remember things, why hadn't he just pretended not to remember him?  Why had he told Hunt some details, apparently, but not everything?  What was the significance of the mythical Project Brass Ring? Jim could only guess that Sandburg was, in fact, struggling with some form of amnesia or stress related condition.  And, knowing Blair, there was definite method to this madness.  But what was real and what was an act?  Jim had to reluctantly admit there was no way for him to know.

Jim had finally managed to drift into a light sleep when approaching footsteps brought him awake.  The door opened, the guard took position outside the room, and a refreshed looking Hunt and a rather bedraggled Blair entered.  Gone was the air of confidence in Blair's demeanor that had so disturbed Ellison the day before.  In its place was a quiet and brooding attitude which seemed more in keeping with the present predicaments.  Something was different about Hunt as well.  He seemed to have an even colder air than the previous day and his eyes had a peculiar glint to them.  When Hunt turned to remove the untouched food from the evening before to the hallway, Blair quickly met Jim's eyes and whispered sentinel-soft, "No" and then looked away. 

Jim remained seated and watched the men warily.  Taking his cue from his friend,  he waited for Hunt to make his move.  It was apparently not time for action and that one word had held the detective in check.  As had become such a familiar role in the last few hours, Jim waited for clues. 

"So, are you ready to get started?  Blair, it would be nice if you got those chairs now."  Blair unlocked the door and went out into the hallway where he retrieved two wooden chairs. The guard had presumably taken up post elsewhere as there was no sign of him across from the room from Jim’s vantage point on the bed.  Blair came over to the cot and placed the chairs facing Jim. 

"Are you going to lock the door, Mr. Sandburg?  Must I tell you everything this morning?"

Blair murmured with eyes downcast, "Uh... yes, Mr. Hunt.  I got it.  Sorry." As he walked past Jim to go to the door, Jim reached out and caught his arm.  The touch electrified him and as Blair gasped in pain, Jim dropped the arm in shock.  Blair was hurt.  A quick sentinel check revealed that not only was Sandburg's arm injured, but his heart was racing and there was heat emanating from bruised ribs as well.  Something had gone very wrong for the anthropologist since the last time Jim had seen him.

"What did you do to him, Hunt?" Jim could not hide his anguish at seeing his friend in such pain. 

"Ah, Jim...here we go with the questions again.  Suffice it to say that your young accomplice forgot his place and had to be helped with his memory." 

For a moment Jim saw the red glow of anger descend before his eyes as he jumped up from the cot, and then he heard the soft voice of his guide calling him back from the fury which threatened to overtake everything.  Looking over at his friend, he saw fear for the first time.  Not a fear for his own safety or even fear that Jim would start something he couldn't finish.  Rather he turned to Hunt and said, "Carter, you shouldn't taunt him like that.  You'll trigger those territorial instincts I told you about."

Hunt calmly, but brutally, backhanded Sandburg while at the same time, pulled a gun from under his coat and pointed it at the detective.  Ellison stood as still as possible as he watched his friend hold his jaw in pain.  He kept his own jaw clenched and his eyes cold, but inside, every protective urge he had screamed for him to go to Sandburg's defense, but that look had frozen him in place as surely as the word had minutes before.  No, it had not been a look of fear of impending physical harm, rather it was the horror filled eyes of someone who was in terror of only one thing.  His betrayal.


The saying ‘time stood still’ took on new meaning as Jim felt his anger push his blood through the capillaries in his face.  He could hear his heartbeat pounding with pure fury and with it the synchronized thump of Blair's accelerated pulse.  Simultaneous breaths created a storm of sound as the air rushed from their lungs and around the sentinel's head.  The heat from the anthropologist's injuries and despair combined with the tactile rush of Jim's own turbulent flush to create a symbiotic energy, flaming to heights neither man could fully comprehend.  As their bodies responded to the fear and anguish placed on one another, a physical affirmation of their bond was realized and in that moment each knew that no man, crazed or sane, would defeat them.  And with that mutual thought, blue eyes locked, and the strength of the moment grounded them in a belief as ancient as the tribe itself.

Backing away from Sandburg, he felt his calves hit the cot and he sat down carefully and slowly, his eyes now on the gun in Hunt's steady hand.

"Mr. Sandburg.  You should take your leave now.  I will be by the office to speak with you when I am finished here."  Hunt's voice was as cold as ice and his eyes never wavered from the detective.  Sandburg shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of supplication.

"I'm sorry, Carter.  I just didn't want him going after you.  I've seen what he can do.  I do remember that with no problem."

Hunt's eyes softened minutely and his voice lost a bit of its bitter edge.  "That's fine.  Now, do what I’ve told you."  Without a further glance at his friend, Blair left the room.


Back To Part 1 
On To Part 3  Part 4

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Monday May 10 2010
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