Angel of Mine
by Sue Pokorny********************
Detective Jim Ellison could appreciate the irony of the situation. He leaned back in the chair, resting his aching head against the wall of the ICU waiting room. He was, thankfully, alone in the all too familiar room. Closing his eyes, he let his mind drift. The past six hours had been a complete blur. Coming home early from the station to find the message on the answering machine.
"This message is for a Mr. Blair Sandburg. This is Nurse Williams at Cascade General. There has been an accident and we have admitted a Naomi Sandburg. You were listed as her next of kin. Please call as soon as you get this message."
Jim had immediately called the hospital, identifying himself as a police officer and explaining that Blair was on his way back from Seattle and not expected until later that evening. The hospital had explained about the accident. Naomi had apparently flown in to surprise Blair and had decided to take a cab from the airport. The cab had been broadsided by a semi near the interstate on-ramp, killing the cab driver and seriously injuring the passenger, Naomi.
Jim had driven to the hospital, wanting the full details of Naomi's condition before deciding whether to call Blair. When they had told him that she was in ICU, that she had suffered sever back and head trauma and was not expected to make it through the night, Jim had been forced to call his partner.
Luckily, Blair had taken his new cell phone with him so reaching him had not been a problem. The problem was that he was stuck in the Seattle airport, his flight having been delayed because of inclement weather. When Jim had explained the situation to him, Blair had decided not to wait for the weather and had opted to rent a car and drive back to Cascade. Calling ahead to the rental agency, Jim had secured the grad student a reliable car and told him that he would wait for him at the hospital.
That was over five hours ago. Jim checked his watch again and picked up his cell phone, hitting the speed dial number designated as Sandburg's cell. He waited as the phone rang and was replaced by the sound of Blair's voice mail.
Damn. He knew Blair's new phone was the digital service that covered the entire country, let alone the state of Washington. There was no way he could be out of range and he doubted, under the circumstances, that the anthropologist had turned his cell off. He leaned forward, tossing the phone into the chair next to him and rubbed his hands over his face. To quote Sandburg, this really sucked.
He had sat in this very room when Blair was dosed with Golden, waiting for the okay to sit with his partner. He had tried every number he could think of then to find Naomi, but had not been able to reach her. He had never dreamed that he would one day be sitting here with Naomi in ICU with Blair the one that couldn't be reached.
"How is she?"
Jim looked up into the dark face of Captain Simon Banks.
"Not good," he answered shaking his head and leaning back again. "The doctors are surprised she's hung on this long. They don't think she'll regain conciousness before..." He let the thought trail off, not wanting to voice the inevitable.
"How's the kid taking it?"
Jim's concern showed in his face as he jumped to his feet and began pacing across the small room. "He was pretty shook up on the phone."
"On the phone?" Simon asked in confusion. "You mean he's not here yet?"
Jim shook his head. "I've been trying his cell number for the last two hours, Simon. I'm starting to get a real bad feeling."
"Don't worry, Jim. His flight probably got delayed again. I'll go to the airport and check it out."
"No, sir," Jim held up a hand to stop the older man. "When he couldn't get a definite answer from the airline, he decided to drive back. "
Simon nearly shouted. "You let him drive!"
Jim ran his hand over his short cropped hair, his jaw muscles clenching in frustration. "I tried to talk him out of it, Simon, but he wouldn't listen. He wanted to get here as soon as possible. I called the rental agency and got him a Cherokee. He's got four wheel drive in case he runs into any trouble."
Simon nodded his approval. "But he should have been here by now." It was more of a statement than a question.
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "And I haven't been able to get through on his cell..." he trailed off again, the worry clearly evident in his voice. He turned his back to Banks, rubbing his neck and walking slowly back across the waiting room.
Simon pulled his cell phone and quickly dialed a number. "Brown," he said gruffly into the phone as Jim turned his attention back to the captain. "I want a state wide ABP put out on Sandburg." He paused as his face took on a pained expression. "Yes, our Sandburg. He was driving a rented Jeep Cherokee ..." He looked at Jim expectantly.
"Green," the detective answered the unasked question. He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to the Captain. "Here's the license number."
"That's a green Jeep Cherokee," Banks relayed into the phone. "Washington license number 544 FEC." He waited while Brown read the information back to him before confirming it and telling the detective to have the highway patrol concentrate on the route from Seattle to Cascade and to inform him directly of any developments.
"Thank you, sir." Jim sighed as Simon replaced the cell phone in his pocket.
"We'll find him, Jim."
They were interrupted by the ICU charge nurse.
"Detective?" She smiled, acknowledging Banks. "You can go back in if you like."
"Thank you," he answered.
Simon motioned towards the chair Jim had recently occupied. "I'll wait out here for you."
Jim nodded his thanks and followed the nurse back into the ICU room.
As before, Jim thought the pale figure in the hospital bed held no resemblance to the vibrant woman he had come to know and respect. The first time Naomi had blown into his life, she had pushed all the wrong buttons, forcing Jim to exercize strong control over his temper. But in time he was able to see the unconditional love between Sandburg and his mother, his views of Naomi began to soften until he could almost see the woman that Blair saw. He saw the loving, gentle soul that had nurtured her only child to grow into a strong, independent person who was not afraid to reach out and help someone in need. He saw the free spirit who had taught her son to accept people for who they were and not try to mold them into somethingsociety thought they should be. He had come to care for her, not only as the woman who had given him a friend greater than any he had ever imagined, a brother of souls if not blood, but as a beautiful, caring person who brightened every soul she touched with the beauty in her own.
He crossed the room and sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair he had only recently vacated. ICU visiting hours stated that there could only be one visitor for 10 minutes every hour. Jim had been in this chair five times since getting the call from the hospital. Each time, he felt his heart ache as he looked at Naomi's bruised face.
Leaning forward, he took her small hand in his own, brushing her cheek lightly with the back of the other. "I'm back, Naomi," he said softly. "Blair's on his way. I'm sure he'll be here soon. You have to hang on for him. He needs you." He wanted to say more, but his voice betrayed him.
"He needs you, Jim."
His Sentinel hearing barely picked up the familiar voice.
"Naomi?" he asked in disbelief. The doctors had given her no chance of regaining conciousness. His heart stopped as he searched her vitals for some sign. The monitors continued to beep in steady rhythm while the respirator forced her lungs to rise and fall. Respirator... she's on a respirator... how could she have spoken? How could she have...?
Jim shook his head and rubbed his tired eyes. He was loosing it. Between standing vigil at Naomi's bedisde and worrying about his missing partner, he was beginning to show signs of the strain. He was tired. God, he was tired. And now his mind was playing tricks on him. He laughed to himself and sat back. Get a hold of yourself, Ellison. The kid is going to need you.
"Find him now. He needs you."
Jim jumped as the voice registered clearly. Staring at Naomi, he was certain that he had heard her voice although his mind argued that it was impossible.
Jim shook his head again and stood, moving quickly to the door. He needed some air.
"Jim, save him."
This time the voice was accompanied by the distant roar of a large cat, freezing him in his tracks.
After a few moments, Jim turned and slowly moved back to the bed. He stared down at the still face, as he forced his lungs to breathe slowly and evenly. He had seen and experienced far too many unexplainable things since accepting his Sentinel gifts to try and pretend that what he had heard was all in his imagination. As soon as he had himself back under control, he placed his hand on Naomi's forhead and leaned over the guard rails.
"I'm not very good at this mystic stuff," he whispered. "That's Blair's department. I don't know if this is real or if I'm just cracking up here, but I'll make you a deal. You hang on and I'll bring him to you." He placed a light kiss on her forhead and, with a quick look back, left the room.
He found Simon waiting for him in the waiting room.
"I have to go," he said, his voice a bit clipped. He held up a hand to stifle the other man's reply. "I can't explain it, Simon. I just know that Blair's in trouble and I have to find him."
"You just know?" Simon asked.
Jim pulled on his jacket as he nodded. "Yeah, Simon." He looked pointedly at the Captain. "I just know."
Simon sighed, his head dropping in acceptance. "This is something I don't want to know about, isn't it?"
"Probably, sir." Jim smiled sadly and patted the larger man's arm.
"Keep your cell with you," Simon instructed. "I'll relay any information I receive from the Highway Patrol."
Jim thanked him and looked back at the closed door of Naomi's room. "Simon..."
"I'll stay with her," the black man said softly. "Just find Sandburg and get him back here before it's too late."
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
Simon clapped him on the back and watched as the detective ran down the hall and into a waiting elevator.
"You'd better be okay, kid," Simon whispered. "Or I'll kill you myself."
Blair slowed the Cherokee to take a curve on the incresingly treacherous mountain road. The woman at the car rental counter had mapped out the quickest route, bypassing the expected rush hour traffic on the interstate. An unexpected detour had forced him to find an alternative route back to the interstate and had led him ontothis dimly lit road through the mountains. He leaned forward as the rain pulsed down on the windshield. He had the wipers set on high, but they could barely keep up with the downpour that had begun almost an hour after leaving Seattle. He had met no other cars since turning onto this road and drove carefully on the rain slick surface. He had seen a few signs warning of the possibilities of mud or rock slides, but had seen no evidence of either.
His mind split itself between concentrating on the road and what Jim had told him on the phone. He could tell by the tone of Jim's voice that the accident had been bad. The Sentinel had not given him many details, merely telling him to be careful and to get there as quickly as possible. He had picked up on the urgency in his friend's voice and knew that the detective did not panic unnessesarily. That in itself had scared the hell out of him. He had wanted to call and get more details, but did not want to divert his attention from his driving under the conditions. So he simple focused on getting back to Cascade, repeating to himself a simple mantra. Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm....
A sudden rumble from the right drowned out the now familiar sound of the driving rain, causing Blair to brake hard. He fought as the Cherokee slid across the yellow line, coming to a stop moments before the first wave of mud and rocks flowed down the mountain side and across the road. Unable to do anything but grab the steering wheel and hold on for dear life, Blair screamed as the Cherokee was caught in the explosive force of the flowing mud and pushed over the edge of the asphalt and down the embankment. The vehicle rolled twice, finally coming to rest on its side, its motion halted by a large stand of trees.
As quickly as the slide had begun, it was over, leaving no sounds except the thunder of the driving rain as it pelted the
Simon jumped up as the code blue rang from the loudspeakers and an army of medical personnel ran into the small room. He stood outside the room, watching helplessly through the window as the doctors worked over the small form in the bed. He knew from the expressions on their faces their efforts had been in vain.
Blair came to, wondering why the loft was suddenly so cold and his pillow so hard. Cracking an eye, a moan escaped from his throat as the light sent shards of pain through his head awakening the rest of his body to the aches that now seemed to envelope him. Forcing both eyes open, he squinted through the windshield of the car, surprised to see the trees standing on their sides. After a few moments, his brain kicked into gear and informed him that it was probably him that was on his side, the trees standing straight as trees are known to do.
Moving his head slightly, he bit back another moan and took stock of his situation. He was lying sideways still strapped in the front seat of the overturned Cherokee, his head against the cracked glass window of the driver's side door. The rain was blowing in from above him where the remains of the passenger side window hung precariously to the door frame. Moving to undo the seat belt, he was rewarded with a harp pain in his left shoulder which threatened to send him back into the black void from which he had only recently awakened.
Closing his eyes tightly, he willed the wave of pain and nausea to pass, and forced himself to breathe through his nose in an effort to remain calm. Working with his right arm, he managed to release the restraint and turn himself to relieve the pressure on his shoulder. Taking stock of his growing list of aches, he surmised that nothing was actually broken aside from the possibility of his arm or shoulder which he now held close to his stomach. There was a dull ache in his ribs, but experience told him they were probably only bruised. His left knee also ached, but it moved so it was momentarily ignored.
Unfortunately, his head was killing him. The dull pounding that had brought him to consiousness had quickly become a painful throbbing which had him seeing sports whenever he moved to quickly. This in itself was not too alarming, but that, coupled with the incessant buzzing he heard in his ears, scared him.
He was in trouble.
The events of the crash ran through his foggy mind and he managed to deduce that the slide had taken him over the embankment and down the hillside. Luckily the drop hadn't been too steep or he doubt if he would be having these thoughts at all. Looking around for his cell phone, he groaned out loud as he saw it smashed near his feet.
"Great," he said surprised at the hoarseness of his own voice. From his position he could make out the edge of the drop off about 50 yards up the embankment. Even if a car happened along the little traveled road, there would be no way they would be able to see the Cherokee unless they were right at the edge of the asphalt, He doubted if anyone would be foolish enough to get that close. Jim would ... if he thought that Blair was in trouble. He would be able to see the skid if the mud wasn't too thick as well as the damage left when the Cherokee went over the edge. He would be able to hear his guide's heartbeat through the pouring rain and take him to warmth and safety.
But Jim wasn't coming. He was at the hospital with Naomi, keeping her company, holding her hand until Blair could get there and hold it himself. Hr felt a stab of fear as he remembered the urgency of his partner's voice. Naomi must have been pretty badly hurt for the Sentinel to have let the worry come through. He took a deep breath and tried to clear his mind. First things first. He needed to get out of here and back up to the road. Maybe he would get lucky and a vehicle would drive by. Otherwise he would be forced to walk the ten miles to the next rest stop and call Jim from there. Whatever the plan, he had best get moving before his body decided to cramp up and he wasn't able to move at all.
Clearing his throat, he gathered himself for the expected pain, and forced his knees to bend, bringing his feet down and underneath him. He pushed himself up slowly, waiting for the dizziness to pass, avoiding the broken shards of glass still clinging to the demolished passenger door. Pulling his sleeve down over his hand, he pulled the larger pieces away, tossing them harmlessly to the ground outside the vehicle. Standing precariously on the center concole, he managed to twist his battered body through the opening and pull himself out of the Cherokee. The rain had let up a bit, but he was already soaked by the time he managed to lower himself onto the rain sodden ground. He was shivering, which caused his shoulder and head to hurt more. The slight wind that was blowing bit into his skin, despite the meager protection of the water drenched flannel shirt and canvas jacket.
He tried to force himself to his feet, but slipped on the mud and fell hard, eliciting a scream of pain from his throat. The white hot flame raced from his shoulder through his body, setting off every ache he had accumulated.
"Ohgodohgodohgod," he lamented as the rain mixed with the tears which had begun to stream down his face.
At first he did not hear the voice through his own cries of pain and despair.
"Blair, sweetie. It's allright."
"Mom?" he cried, not able to open his eyes through the haze of pain which clouded his mind. "Mom, it hurts! Make it stop!" He rolled onto his right side, pulling both knees up towards his chest, cradling his left arm against his stomach.
"Shhh. It's okay, baby. Momma's here."
Blair felt a presence wrap around him filling him with warmth and chasing the chill away.
"Mom," he whispered. "I'm sorry. I tried to get there. I wanted to be with you. Jim said you were hurt, I was scared..."
"Shhh. I know, baby. Everything will be alright."
Blair had stopped shivering as a peace settled over him, embracing him with warmth and dulling the pain. "I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too, Blair. I always will."
Blair felt a moment of panic at the sadness in the voice. "Don't leave me," he pleaded softly, the tears beginning to fall again. "Please, don't leave me."
"Never, baby. I'll always be watching over you."
Blair nodded accepting his mother's words, even though something was screaming at him to fight.
"I have to go now, Blair. Jim's here. He'll take care of you."
"Mom, don't go," Blair could feel the cold beginning to seep back into his bones. His short respite from the pain made its return all the more excruciating. "Mom, please..."
"I love you, Blair. I'll always be with you."
Jim Ellison grabbed the ringing cell phone as he drove up the slippery mountain road.
"Ellison," he barked, keeping his attention on the trecherous turn ahead.
"Jim, it's Simon."
"Any news about Blair?" the detective did not like the defeated tone of Banks' voice.
"No," the captain answered. "The highway patrol is still checking out the highway between here and Seattle but they said there are a couple of detours caused by road work in the area. He could have turned off and taken an alternate route." He paused long enough for Jim to begin to worry.
"What aren't you telling me, Simon?"
"Jim," Banks paused again and Jim could hear him take a deep breath. "It's Naomi," he continued softly. "She coded about 20 minutes ago. They did all they could but... she's gone, Jim."
Jim felt his heart drop and fought back the pressure that had suddenly begun to build behind his stinging eyes.
"Jim?" Banks asked after a few moments. "Jim? Are you there?"
"Yeah, Simon," he managed to croak out. "I"m here. I'm just...." He was just what? Shocked? Upset? In pain?
"I know, Jim," Simon understood the unspoken words. "Me too. Where are you?"
"I'm moving up Canyon Road," Ellison responded forcing himself to concentrate on the one life he could save. "I can't explain why, Simon, but I think Blair's up here somewhere. I keep smelling..."
"What?" Simon asked when the detective didn't continue.
"I think this falls under that 'you don't want to know' category, sir."
"Humor me this time," Simon demanded.
"Okay." Jim took a deep breath and told the captain what he had been following for the last hour.
"Sage!" The volume of Banks' shout caused the detective to cringe and pull the phone away from his ear. "Jim are you telling me that you're following some hunch because you think you smell sage?"
"Look, Simon, I know it sounds crazy ... hell it is crazy ... but you yourself said that the APB was bringing in nothing. I don't understand it myself, but I think Naomi is trying to, I don't know, lead me to Blair."
"Naomi?" Banks asked with a touch of concern. "Jim, Naomi's gone. Are you trying to tell me that you're following a ghost?"
"No, sir. Not a ghost." He steeled himself for another outburst and launched into his explanation. "Like I said, Simon, I don't understand this any more than you do ... that's Sandburg's job. But I heard her voice. I know I wasn't imagining it. She told me to help him ... to save him. After all that's happened, Simon, with Alex, with Molly... I can't just ignore it. I can't just write it off as a stress related hallucination, sir."
He braced himself for the captain's response, but before one came, a dark shape darted in front of the pickup, forcing him to swear loudly, drop the cell phone and slam on the brakes. The pickup skidded a little to the right thanks to the soft mud that sat in patches on the asphalt and finally came to a stop sitting sideways across the road facing the embankment.
"Jim! Jim! Answer me, damnit!"
Jim took a moment to allow his heart to begin beating again before picking up the phone. "I'm okay, Simon." He said, trying to catch his breath. His heart was thundering in his ears as the adreanline rush started to abate.
"What the hell happened?"
"I don't know," Jim shrugged looking around him. "Something ran out in front of the truck, then it disappeared."
"Jim..." Banks warned.
"I know, Simon. I'm a little spooked myself. It's like something wanted me to stop here ..." as he was speaking he leaned forward and caught a glimpse of green metal at the base on the embankment. "Oh my God! Simon! Get a chopper up here now! I'm about 9 miles past the Interstate turnoff... Hurry!"
With that, he threw the phone onto the seat and rushed out of the truck, not bothering to shut the door. He ran to the edge of the embankment, throwing himself over the edge and sliding his way to the bottom.
"Blair!" he called as he raced to the form lying huddled on the cold, wet ground. Kneeling beside his partner, he took in the pained expression on the young man's face, fighting back a moment of panic. Opening up his hearing he could hear Blair's heartbeat, slow, but strong, beating a welcome rhythm.
"Blair?" he called loud enough to be heard over the sound of the rain. He leaned over to shield his partner from the water that was pelting his face. "Blair? Can you hear me, Chief? Help's on the way, buddy. Just hang in there." He smoothed the rain soaked hair back from his partner's feverish skin. He took his jacket off and laid it over the young man. It wouldn't help much, but it wouldn't hurt either.
Frantically searching the sky for the sign of a chopper, Jim almost missed the soft whisper.
"Yeah, buddy. It's me. You're okay. Everything is going to be okay. You just stay with me here."
"Not planning on leaving." Blair smiled weakly.
"Can you tell me where you"re hurt?" Jim asked desperate to do something to ease his friend's pain.
"Shoulder," Blair whispered, still not opening his eyes. "Left knee..." he stopped as a wave of pain assaulted him.
"Easy, Blair," Jim coaxed helping him move to lay flat on his back. He noticed the blood seeping from under his partner's long hair which was quickly washed away by the rain. "How's your head?"
"Hurts," was the soft reply.
"Okay, buddy," Jim said as he probed the side of Blair's head gently. "You've got a pretty good gash on the side of your head. I need to check your eyes. Think you can open them for me?"
Luckily the rain had tapered off into a slight drizzle and Jim used his body to easily block the rest from falling onto his guide. "That's it, Blair. Let me see those baby blues."
He smiled as his partner's eyes fluttered once, then opened. Blair blinked a few times, trying to focus on his partner's face.
"You're fuzzy, man."
Jim smiled at the attempt at humor. "Yeah, I'm just a big teddy bear, Sandburg." He peered into his partners pain dulled eyes, his concern growing. "Looks like you got yourself a pretty good concussion there, Chief," he said casually. He pressed lightly against his friend's shoulder, letting his Sentinel touch feel the damage beneath the surface. "And your shoulder is completely dislocated." He continued his examination, gently probing the young man's chest, abdomen and legs. When he was finished, he pulled his jacket up tighter under Blair's chin and placed his hand on his forehead.
"How'm I doin, Doc?"
Jim couldn't help but smile. "Terrible." he answered truthfully. "If I didn't know better, I would say you went mud-surfing down a hillside in a rented jeep."
Blair tried to laugh. "Gallows humor is not a good idea, here, Jim. I hope you got full insurance on that thing."
Jim sighed. "Of course I did, Sandburg. You were driving it."
The sound of a helicopter reached Jim's ears and he breathed a sigh of relief. "The calvary is here, Chief. You'll be warm and
dry in no time."
Blair stood at the edge of the dock, staring out over the ocean. The sun was just touching down, sending warm tendrils of dark orange reaching towards him across the rippling water. He held the small urn close against his chest, aware of the tears falling from his eyes. His left arm was still in the sling which restricted his movements, but the physical therapist had been pleased with his progress and had hinted that he may be able to remove it as early as next week.
After almost two weeks in the hospital, he had been eager to go home, agreeing to everything the doctors had prescribed including the daily physical therapy sessions. Jim had hovered over him in the days since, making sure he took his medications as well as got enough rest. He smiled as he rememberd the big detective in his flowered apron bringing Blair his lunch on a tray the first day home. The doctor had given him strict orders to stay in bed for at least another few days, and Jim had made sure he complied.
He felt the presence of someone behind him and turned his head slightly as the familiar touch fell onto his shoulder.
"How are you doing, Chief?"
Blair took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes closed to stop the flow of tears. Smiling faintly, he looked back at his friend. "I'm okay, Jim," he said softly. He looked back across the water, his eyes taking in the brilliant display the setting sun provided. "This was always Naomi's favorite time of the day." His voice quivered a bit, but he continued. "She always loved to watch the sun set over the water. When I was a kid, She used to tell me that if you listened really hard, you could hear the sizzle of the sun as it hit the water." He smiled sadly at the memory.
Jim mirrored his friend's sad smile. They stood there, in companionable silence, each remembering the beautiful soul who was now free from her earthly restraints.
"I miss her."
The sadness in the soft voice tore at Jim's heart, and he tightened his grip on Blair's shoulder, moving closer to the smaller man.
"I know, Chief." He stood beside his friend as the sobs racked his body. Blair had been pretty out of it for the first few days in the hospital and Jim had not had the heart to tell him about his mother. He kept talking about her as if she was still with him. After Jim's own experience, the detective had not been able to bring himself to try and convice his partner otherwise. Ellison knew that his young friend understood that Naomi had died, but had not let himself mourn her until now.
After a while, Blair's grief abated slightly and he pulled the lid from the small urn and slowly held it out in front of him. He tipped the urn. letting the delicate ashes fall. They watched as the ashes were picked up in the soft breeze and blown across the water, disappearing into the soft colors reflected from the setting sun.
"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim said, his voice low. "I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to say goodbye."
"It's okay, Jim." Blair turned to his friend, touched by the sadness and concern he saw in the light blue eyes. "She didn't leave me." He brought the now empty urn back to his chest and turned his tear streaked face back towards the now dark water. He could still feel the warmth of Naomi's love as it wrapped around him, bathing him in the brightness of her soul. "She never will."
The End< P>Email Sue at Spok507@aol.com
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