Warning: Death story.
"What the hell was that?" the quiet whisper disturbed the still air of the dusty room.
Blair Sandburg, former Guide and Shaman to the Sentinel of the Great City, looked up from his sensors and frowned. The cold air shivered around him expectantly and he felt as if an invisible hand was tugging at his sleeve, urging him to get up, to move. He dropped a hand to the unit clipped to his belt and touched the right switch gently.
"Alfie, where are you?" he asked quietly and hauled himself to his feet with a pained grunt. The wooden staff that was his constant companion was close to hand and he limped his way over to the darkened doorway while waiting for a reply.
"I'm in the front room with Tina boss," Alfie replied, his baritone a welcome rumble. Tina was Alfie's wife, as fair as he was dark, and as short as he was tall. Blair called them wind and earth - they were two opposites, and two complete soul mates - perfectly complementing each other in temper, knowledge and ability.
Blair frowned at the dark corridor, the chemical light strips - similar to flares but without the fire hazard - had completely darkened, though he knew they couldn't have been extinguished or burnt out yet. He looked both ways, like he was about to cross the road and then stared at the left hand corridor before turning right and heading slowly in the direction of the tugging.
"I'm heading towards the back rooms," he said into his mike, then fumbled the torch out of his tool pouch and clicked it on. The halogen bulb gave off a weak light, not the strong ray he was expecting.
"Your spider senses tingling, boss?" Tina's voice called lightly. He nodded in reply, and then tripped the device again.
"I've got extinguished strips up here around the main bedroom, heading down to the back passages, and my torch is at candle power," he replied, "What do the sensors say?"
"Definitely energy flowing up there," Alfie rumbled, "The ones you just set up are picking up all kinds of stuff. You want company?"
"No, but be ready," Blair grinned, "You may have to rescue me."
"Sure thing boss," Alfie laughed.
In the years since Blair had left Cascade his instincts as a Shaman had developed in leaps and bounds. The flashes of intuition that had so irritated his Sentinel had been honed into a set of instinctive tools - coupled with an impressive array of background knowledge - which Blair now used in his new line of work.
Simon Banks had been dismayed, then angered at Blair's resolution to go into what the pragmatic police captain called 'ghost busting'. He'd been highly sceptical of Jim's reports of Molly and though Ellison and Sandburg had solved a fifty-year-old murder, he was more likely to believe that Jim's 'ghost' was cold medicine messing with the Sentinel's senses. Even Blair had admitted that the medicine had hallucinogenic properties, though the dose was much lower than normal.
Bank's last discussion - or rather shouting match - with Blair had made his feelings clear on the subject. He'd cut his ties with the anthropologist, stalking from the loft and slamming the door on the shattered young man. Blair hadn't tried to renew the contact - there was no point.
The torch flickered and a large hand grabbed Blair's arm, holding it in an iron grip. He halted obediently, and took a deep breath, focusing on his hearing as the ghostly hand brushed against his ear, tracing the rim lightly.
In the far distance he could hear a child's voice, calling to its Nanny. The voice was vexed, as only a spoilt child who wasn't getting what they wanted could be.
"Amy?" Blair called softly, "That you kiddo?"
There was no reply, only a final call and then silence. The hand touching him stroked his arm lightly, and then tugged at one long curl before disappearing.
"Wait!" Blair lurched after the touch, his heart pounding. His bad leg twinged and he stumbled, clutching at the wall for balance rather desperately.
"Boss!" Alfie leapt forward, wrapping a beefy arm around his waist and holding him upright.
"I'm ok," Blair smiled, renewing his grip on his cane and forcing himself to stand up straight. Alfie looked worried, the baldhead gleaming in the light of his torch. It had brightened to full strength with the absence of the ghostly touch.
"We lost you again boss," Alfie said by way of explanation, "It did that weird black hole effect that Tina hates so much. You know how she gets when something messes with her gadgets. She sent me right up to find you."
"I heard Amy," Blair got to the point quickly, not wanting to get into why Tina's machines weren't working. He knew exactly why they didn't work around him sometimes and wasn't about to explain it to anyone.
"You did?" Alfie looked towards the back room, "What was she doing?"
"She was calling for Nanny - stage one of the reported phenomena," Blair nodded and let his employee help him down the stairs. Tina looked up from the bank of computers and frowned at her boss.
"You ok honey?" she asked, getting up and pushing her rolling stool towards him while reaching for the thermos. Blair sank wearily onto the stool.
"Alfie had to rescue me," he sighed, and took the offered tea meekly, "But we've just seen the first stage of the phenomena. If the house owners are accurate in their recordings, we'll be seeing some movement soon, then the main activity in about three hours time."
Tina and Alfie exchanged looks over his head. This had been their business - they specialised in 'freeing' trapped spirits. Tina ran the scientific side of things - she had her masters in parapsychology and abnormal psychology and was going for her PhD, and Alfie was her researcher and general dogs' body. They had been close to losing their business when Blair had arrived at one of their sites.
He'd talked his way in - citing the weather and a broken down car as well as his disability to get in. He'd promised to sit quietly with the computers, and when things had gone wrong - as they had so often for Tina and Alfie - he'd meditated quietly, using the information he'd gained in his vision to help them complete their 'cleansing'.
After they'd left - they'd followed Blair in his miraculously working car - Blair had negotiated to work with them, injecting capital to revive the business. He brought with him his Shamanic gifts - growing in strength daily now that Blair had turned to the spirit plane for comfort - and a not inconsiderable talent for managing people and research. His new partners called him boss and allowed him to direct them in the field and the securing of new assignments, though Blair was always careful to give them equal say and recognition. Despite the fact that they lived together in close quarters while travelling, and the fact that Blair rented the room above their garage when they were between assignments, Tina and Alfie knew very little beyond the professional façade that Blair now maintained in front of everyone.
"Are you getting any of those vibes?" Tina asked. Her theory was that Blair was a psychic of some kind - Alfie thought it was because Blair was a Shaman that his results worked for them so often. Blair finished the tea and shook his head.
"I'll meditate for a little while," he told them, "That should help."
Alfie helped his boss to settle on the floor and then went to sit with his wife, monitoring the sensors that they'd set throughout the house.
The jungle wrapped itself around Blair and he smiled, turning eagerly to look for his Sentinel. The blue tinged clearing was warm with sunlight and dappled with shadows and Jim was waiting on the steps of the Temple.
With a laugh Blair bounded over and was caught in a firm hug, his arms going around his partner's strong body gratefully.
"Where'd you go?" the question was muffled into Jim's shirt - the shirt he'd been wearing the day they were ambushed and Jim had died. Though Blair had been seriously injured he'd been unable to follow his Sentinel to death - Jim himself had forbidden it. The Sentinel had chosen to linger on the spirit plane, rather than go forward without his Guide. Blair had pleaded and begged and ordered without effect. His Sentinel would wait until reunited with his Guide before going to their final rest.
"I was looking for Nanny," Jim stroked the back of his Guide, feeling how thin the man was, frowning in displeasure. Blair was neglecting himself again, "You've lost weight again."
"Mm," Blair pulled away, refusing to meet his partner's eyes, "Did you find Nanny?"
"No," Jim sighed, "She's there though - I just can't get a fix on her. There's something screwy here, Chief. Amy is very angry."
"We researched the previous owners. Eighty years ago Amy was the daughter of a rich family. She was murdered by her Nanny, Jim. Then Nanny took her own life," Blair replied, "There would be anger there."
"But shouldn't Nanny be the angry one? Amy is a child - wouldn't she be frightened of her killer? Why is she still calling for her if the woman murdered her?" Jim shook his head and sat on the steps, Blair joining him easily - the crippling injury that pained him so much gone on the spirit planes. They sat with their shoulders and thighs touching as they had so many times before in their 'off duty' time.
"Yes," Blair said slowly, "You're right. The poltergeist activity the current occupants have reported is usually accompanied by a child screaming - we assumed it was fear, but what if it's rage?"
"What, you think that it was the other way around? Amy killed her Nanny and then stabbed herself to death?" Jim shook his head. Blair bit his lip in thought.
"Ok, how about if she killed Nanny and then one of her parents or someone killed her? This happened in a religious family, if they thought she was possessed or something they'd kill her - and Nanny didn't die easily Jim. She fell out of the attic window."
"Which is very hard to get to," Jim pointed out, "You couldn't get up there, remember?"
"That wasn't because of its location, Jim," Blair confessed, looking at the stone beneath his feet, "That was me wussing out on you again."
Jim made a sad noise and took his friend in his arms, rocking lightly back and forth. His Guide's fear of heights was worse than ever and his Blessed Protector was no longer there to soothe and calm him.
"I'm sorry Chief," he whispered, "If I'd waited for back up this would never have happened."
"Don't!" Blair choked, "Don't start apologising. I know you didn't want to die. Just…take the chance this time Jim. Go home. I'll be with you soon, please don't let me be your unfinished business."
"I'm not going without you Chief. This isn't so bad. We're still together and I'm getting better at the whole spiritual side of things here. We're helping the tribe - it's just a different sort, right?" Jim squeezed lightly and rested his head on the long curls. Blair's tears dried slowly and he pulled back with a shamefaced smile.
"Sorry," he whispered. Jim nodded and dried the last tear on Blair's cheek. His head turned sharply as something caught his hearing.
"I've gotta go, Chief. Maybe you're right about Amy. I'll see if I can find Nanny for you - I'll call when I'm ready."
"Take care Jim," even though he knew there was no way for Jim to die again on the spirit plane he still worried. Jim smiled and cupped his face in his hands for a moment before stepping back. In seconds the panther was standing in front of Blair. It chuffed once and loped off into the undergrowth.
Blair sighed and let the jungle melt away, returning to Tina and Alfie with tears still drying on his cheeks.
Blair watched the chair slide across the floor, pushed by unseen hands. It hit the wall hard and the leg snapped. The chair spun and flung itself across the room as a screech of anger filled the air and the temperature dropped to freezing. The chair shattered to kindling against the other wall and Alfie ducked a flying piece.
"Amy!" Blair's voice was strong and firm, "Time to go kiddo."
He'd told Alfie and Tina about his Sentinel's theory and backed it up with his own observations, blending the whole tale into a seamless cloth for his corporeal partners to view and understand.
"NANNY!" the scream was right in his ear and Blair flinched at the anger of it as Tina shouted something through the earpiece. He pulled the annoying piece of technology from his ear and felt Jim's arms come around him protectively. The familiar warmth and strength of his Sentinel seeped into his body as Jim merged their spirits like they had that awful day at the fountain. Blair's senses flared to Sentinel level as his partner took partial control of his body, pinpointing the coldest spot and turning them to face it.
"She's not coming," Jim/Blair's voice echoed eerily through the room and Alfie's hair stood up in reply. He hated it when this happened - the true power of his boss was as frightening as the phenomena they often faced.
"She's safe now, far away from here," Jim/Blair continued, "And it's time for you to go as well. No more anger kiddo, no more hurting. Time to go home."
The furniture in the room took off and Jim/Blair ducked as a chest of drawers flew at their head. Alfie threw himself out of the way of another chair and then rolled to avoid the door, which was slamming open and shut in frantic activity. The air became charged as Amy's fury and hate washed through the room, the psychopathic nature of the child unleashed to batter the adults that she hated for their control over her world. Blair/Jim stood motionless at the centre of it all, the flying furniture deflecting itself from them at the last moment as the Shaman Guide exercised his control of the world around him, responding to the threat of Amy's trapped soul.
"NANNY NANNY NANNY!" Amy shrieked and Blair/Jim's hand shot out, fingers splayed, energy pouring from him as he pinned the vengeful spirit down and let the Portal open. Its restless energy plucked at them and Jim/Blair hurled Amy into it, sending her to her rest, locking her away from others where she could do no more harm.
"Nanny," Jim/Blair called gently as the last of the furniture crashed heavily to the ground. Soft footsteps sounded and a gentle glow filled the room as Nanny stepped from her hiding place and went through the Portal as well, going home at last.
"Go," Blair whispered to the other half of his soul and felt Jim draw in closer, wordlessly refusing. Tears ran once more down Blair's cheeks and he called for help from the spirit plane, wanting his Sentinel to rest.
The old Shaman's spirit did not reply and the Portal faded from the room. Jim's strength and love washed through Blair and then faded regretfully - they did not have the energy to do this for very long.
Alfie groaned and sat up, a goose egg forming on his forehead as Tina ran through the much-battered door.
"Alfie!" she cried and dropped down next to her husband, "Baby, are you hurt?"
"No love," Alfie winced and looked over at the man standing in the centre of the room. He wondered who Incacha was. Another piece of the enigma that was Blair Sandburg. One day he and Tina would understand where the other man's power came from.
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