Warning: Death story.
Ghost Story 2
Simon sighed heavily as he placed the flowers on Jim's grave. Only five years ago he'd stood next to the raw earth that contained his best friend and whispered his goodbyes. Sandburg hadn't been there with them - he was still in hospital in a serious condition, weeping for his loss whenever conscious, withdrawing slowly from life before their eyes.
Something had rallied the man at his lowest ebb, he'd returned to a shadow of life, worked silently through the grueling months of therapy required to return to some measure of mobility, and then withdrawn to the loft, becoming a hermit of sorts. The PhD was awarded without ceremony, and Blair had contacted Simon some months later - his first communication with his Sentinel's former colleagues.
Blair had been much thinner and his hair was wilder than ever. The loft was pristine - upon closer examination, only the furniture remained in place. Everything else was packed away. The young man had told Simon he was joining a couple whose work specialized in paranormal events and spiritual disturbances. Simon had protested vehemently, even to the point of shouting and arm waving. He'd stormed from the loft incensed, and Blair had very quietly disappeared. The loft was being rented, and the rent was paying Blair's student loans off.
Every year on the anniversary of Jim's birthday Simon came to talk to Jim, telling him about Daryl, the people of Major Crimes, and the status of the men who'd killed him and injured the man Jim had called Guide. Blair had spent four hours alone at the top of the new, unfinished skyscraper, clutching his dead partner in his arms. Both men were grievously wounded, but the Sentinel had succumbed to those wounds immediately. No one knew how Blair had managed to survive so long, and no one knew what had made him decide to live. The plot beside Jim's was Blair's - bought years ago when Jim had purchased his own, so they would be reunited in death. Not that the Sentinel had actually said that at the time, he'd made up some story about it being for his eventual spouse, which his Guide had seemed to accept. Simon came each year with the slight fear that he would find Blair's plot filled, with none of his former friends the wiser.
Simon squatted on the grass beside Jim's head stone and started his yearly report.
Tina looked up as Alfie took the fax off the machine, logged it and then read it through, walking over to his wife's desk as he did. They had set their office up in the conservatory of the old house that Alfie had inherited from his grandfather. It seemed to catch the sun all the year round, and there was more than enough space on the back wall for Tina's bookcases - which contained the primary texts she was using to gain her PhD.
The old coach house had been converted to a garage, and the upper floor of that building was where their boss lived - the enigmatic Dr. Blair Sandburg, shaman and financial backer of their business. He had come to them under unusual circumstances, saved their bacon, injected some needed revenue, and then faded gracefully into the background. He continued to accompany them on their trips around the country, helping to send the disturbed spirits that Tina was studying to their final rest. Crippled by incredibly painful wounds, the young man was a very diminished presence in their lives. He never intruded, and offered only his support and expertise.
"Some rich guy in Cascade wants us to come and sort out his apartment complex…apparently he can't keep tenants in it due to a poltergeist," Alfie summarized. He sat beside his birdlike wife and kissed the top of her head as she read the fax over, flipping through the information and nodding as she realized that the man had fulfilled all the pre investigation requirements.
There was a tap at the glass door that led out into their snow-covered yard and Alfie waved their 'boss' in. Blair hadn't bothered to throw a coat on over the thick sweats he wore for his daily self-imposed therapy. Alfie got up and poured the man a cup of coffee from the ever-bubbling machine in the corner and Blair sat next to the air vent that was blowing warm air into the conservatory. He was underweight and susceptible to cold, though Tina did her best to feed him hearty, nourishing meals and Alfie supplied a seemingly endless round of snacks.
"We got a fax?" Blair half asked, half stated in that strange way they had come to expect. Their boss always knew when there was a new job in the offing. Tina put it down to some kind of psychic ability, and Alfie no longer questioned it. Before Blair came along Tina's thesis had primarily been on the 'energy' given off by the spirits they studied. Now their boss was a major part of the thesis as he channeled the 'energies' and banished them to some other realm.
"Yep, from Cascade, WA," Tina handed over the paper. Blair paled even further, and Tina leapt up to put her arm around him, steadying him on his chair. Though she was smaller than him in stature she out weighed him.
"Easy, boss," Alfie murmured, "We haven't taken it yet…we don't have to…"
"No," Blair sighed, "It's ok…its just that…Jim died there…I died there…"
Tina and Alfie exchanged glances over Blair's head while he sipped at the hot coffee. Color was slowly seeping back into his face, and he was straightening in their arms, re-establishing his independence. They had just received a very important clue to the past of their boss. Despite his apparent friendliness and openness, they knew very little about the true Blair Sandburg. Though he was genuine in his dealings with them, they had never learned much about who he was or how he'd come to be hurt.
"Boss, we really don't have to take this job," Tina offered and Blair gave them a little smile. He adjusted his glasses and read the fax through.
There was a ghostly touch to his hair, a large hand tangled in the curls, cradling the back of his head gently. It gave him the strength to take in the salient points; he'd meditate with Jim later to formulate their strategy. There was no way he could ignore the request of a member of his former tribe.
The jungle enfolded him and Blair straightened slowly. Normally he couldn't wait to see his soul mate - to feel the strong arms around him - to feel safe and warm for a short time. Today he had to tell his friend they were returning to the city they had died in…something that he knew wouldn't meet with Jim's approval in the slightest.
"Chief?" Jim's smile had faded. He was walking along the path that led to the temple. Blair hadn't thought his friend could leave that meeting place - it was a pleasant surprise.
"Hey big guy…sorry…I got lost in my thoughts…" Blair summoned up a smile from somewhere and Jim folded him in his arms. He sighed and wrapped himself in the feeling of his Sentinel, pretending to himself for a long moment that they were standing in the loft, warm and safe after a long day.
"What's wrong, Darwin? I felt the shock from here," Jim mumbled into Blair's hair, for once not quibbling about the weight loss or the signs of neglect. Blair sighed and shook his head, breaking the hug and taking Jim's hand to walk them back to the Temple.
In life Jim would never have considered walking along holding another man's hand. In death, all those inhibitions and 'don't touch' rules were wiped away. Now he simply enjoyed the prolonged contact with his Shaman and reveled in the comfort the touch gave to Blair. No one really touched the other man in the corporeal world, and he always came to the spirit plane hungry for contact.
They sat together on the steps of the temple and Jim wrapped an arm around the smaller man, drawing him close, so his head would rest on his shoulder.
"They got a fax today…for a job in Cascade…and it just hit me Jim…we were pretty happy there once, but I never thought I'd go back," the whisper was Sentinel soft, and Blair's hand was knotted in Jim's sweater. His other hand was rubbing over Jim's kneecap in slow, warming circles, getting comfort by giving it.
"You don't have to take the job," Jim said after a long while, "I'd understand."
It was Jim's need to help his tribe that had Blair involved in aiding the spirits trapped on the wrong plane of existence. At first, Blair had worked on this task alone, talking his way into peoples houses or resolving the unrest from a distance wherever possible, but eventually he'd needed someone corporeal with an established reputation - and Jim had sensed the actions of Tina and Alfie. Blair let Jim guide him to the spirits that needed the most help, and Tina and Alfie got the data they needed for their thesis as well as the financial rewards that the grateful relatives or property owners bestowed upon solution to their problems.
"No, Jim," Blair's tone was warm but firm, "I've never backed away from where you've guided me, and this…well, it's meant to be. I can face the past. It's time to stop running."
Jim gathered him close, his heart breaking a little that there was nothing he could do to ease the painful burden of survival that Blair carried. That would only be eased with his death, something that his Blessed Protector just couldn't sanction. He wanted Blair to live to grow old and content. His Guide was just going through a rough patch…he'd be ok soon…Jim's arms tightened around his Guide.
"I'll be with you every step of the way, Chief. I won't leave you behind…." it was a vow from the heart.
Simon chewed grumpily on his cigar and glared at the yuppies thronging around his officers. The Mayor had rousted him and his department out of bed way too early this morning in order to investigate the sudden appearance of a dead body in the middle of one such yuppies apartment. The owner of the building must have been a major contributor to the mayor's re-election campaign, because as far as Simon could see there was nothing…redeeming about the man in front of him. They'd all been here for hours - it was well past Simon's breakfast time now.
"…by the way, Captain Banks," the idiot was waffling on, "I've sent for a trio of psychics to investigate some disturbances that have been reported in the building. They'll be here this morning to begin their own investigation. If this…phenomenon has turned lethal, I'll expect your full co-operation with these people."
"I'm sorry, sir, but the police are not in the habit of handing over their investigations to psychics," Simon frowned, "They'll stay out of our way or they'll be charged with obstruction!'
"We'll see about that…here they are now," the man waved at the blue van that was pulling up, its tinted windows preventing Simon from seeing inside. A short, birdlike woman hopped out of the drivers seat and rounded the front of the van to stare at the circus made up of media, yuppies and tired cops. A small mountain got out of the passenger seat and then moved to open the sliding door, assisting a second man to the ground and steadying him until he got his wooden staff situated.
Simon had once sat down with Daryl and watched 'The Green Mile'. He was reminded of the scene where the guard was dragging John Coffee into the cells, shouting 'dead man walking! Dead man walking here!' Blair Sandburg was pale, thin, and there was something in his eyes that made Simon want to cry. The contrast between the vibrantly energetic man that he had been at Jim Ellison's side and the pale shell that stood beside his two employees was criminal.
Brown ambled up to Simon's side with the preliminary forensics report. He was talking, but Simon didn't really hear him, too busy trying to reconcile the Blair he knew with the one standing beside the curb. Brown trailed off when he realized his boss wasn't even listening. He thought about saying something to get the captain's attention, and then the detective tracked down what Simon was staring at. Blair was moving in the wake of his colleagues, heading for the building owner. Henri hadn't seen the kid since he'd got out of hospital, though he'd visited the man daily and even attended a pt session with him. Once out of the hospital though, Blair had requested some time alone to work on his thesis and get his life into some kind of order. The captain had disregarded that request and still visited often, a pattern that had continued for about three months. Then one day, Simon had stormed into the bullpen and yelled something about Sandburg selling out and becoming a ghost buster. Henri and Brian took the news with a pinch of salt - Sandburg had always been a little 'out of this world' to them, and if he was getting involved in the spirit world, then he was probably looking for his partner or something. Their captain's reaction was to be expected - he was a sceptic all the way through, and they knew that he'd never come to terms with what he saw as a betrayal by Blair.
"Hairboy," H breathed and shoved the folder he held into Simon's hand before jogging over. His friend looked like crap, but he didn't care, he just stepped right into the man's space and wrapped him in the warmest hug he could, pulling the skinny body in tight and chuckling a little.
"You look like shit kid," Henri told his friend. Thin arms wrapped around him straight away and a curly head rested naturally on his shoulder in unabashed affection.
"So do you…haven't you got another coat?" Blair replied, returning the hug warmly, teasing in his old tone. Some things never changed…taxes, gravity and Henri Brown.
"Hey, this coat is ageless!" Henri protested, letting go a bit and moving to look his friend in the eye. Blair rolled his eyes and shook his head. There was a small commotion behind them as his partner spotted them and headed their way.
"You mean style less," he corrected as Rafe joined them. Henri passed his armful over carefully, aware of the wooden staff and the fact Ellison would haunt them forever if they hurt his partner. Rafe wrapped Blair in close again, holding on wordlessly for a long moment before pulling back carefully.
"I've tried, Hairboy, but what can you do? The man just doesn't like to buy clothes," Brian patted his partners chest with the back of his hand and Blair nodded sympathetically. H protested and shifted so that he was holding onto Blair again in an unashamed group hug.
"We're not all fashion victims."
"No, you're a fashion reject," Brian retorted, and H winced dramatically. Blair chuckled a little, and shook his head. Some things really never changed.
"So, are they your fellow ghost hunters?" H jerked his head in the direction of Tina and Alfie. Blair's smile faded a little and apprehension trailed over his face. He shifted in the hug, but the partners tightened their grip. He wasn't going anywhere with the wrong idea. Henri Brown and Brian Rafe didn't care what his job was.
"Look, Hairboy, I don't know what happened between you and the Captain, but we figured that you were doing what you had to," Brown said it gently, "If getting into the ghost thing was what you had to do, then we won't judge. At least we'll know there's one guy out there who isn't a fraud."
Blair nodded, swallowing against the lump in his throat and breathing out hard to regain his emotional balance. Jim's ghostly hand brushed his cheek and he straightened a little, gaining energy from the contact as always.
"Tina and Alfie are my partners," Blair nodded, "The building owner, Mr. Wellborn asked us to investigate some kind of poltergeist activity here. Why are you guys involved? And before you answer, I'm only looking for the general details - we don't get involved with the police unless we've uncovered evidence of a crime of some kind. Then we hand over what we have and stand back…"
"Relax, Sandburg," Rafe smiled, "It's cool. The people in apartment four-oh-one woke up this morning and found a dead man lying on their table - no sign of forced entry, and at the moment cause of death hasn't been established."
"Ok," Blair nodded, thinking it over. He really hoped the poltergeist hadn't started killing people - a very rare occurrence, but a frightening one.
"Listen, I know that you'll be busy doing whatever you do, and we're about ten seconds from a Banks bellow ourselves, but come out to dinner with us some time," H invited, squeezing Blair gently, "Do you still have our numbers?'
"Um," Blair blinked at them in astonishment. After Simon's reaction he hadn't expected any sort of welcome at all.
"Here," the partners spoke in unison, steadied him onto his feet and then dug out their cards. Blair fished one of his own out too - a simple one with his name and phone number on it only - and they swapped them around.
"Don't forget," H admonished, and Rafe nodded.
"Gotta put some meat on those bones of yours," he agreed and they stepped back slowly. Blair was a little flushed, his eyes bright as he stowed the cards away carefully, feeling Jim's hand on his own.
"You're good men," he said softly, "I won't forget."
Tina had been fascinated by the welcome the two detectives had given her boss. The man didn't seem to like to be touched, even when he'd taken a bad fall or been injured on one of their cases. Those two men had simply walked up and wrapped him in a group hug that had been all inclusive and he'd leaned into their touch. Whatever they'd said had sent color leaping into his cheeks, and life into his eyes.
The group hug parted reluctantly and a shadow of the man he'd once been crossed to meet the already irritating Sebastian Wellborn. Wellborn took to him immediately, accurately guessing that the man before him was the psychic of the group. Shaman Blair had him eating out of the palm of his hand in mere minutes and his team had the master keys to the building and full co-operation from the superintendent in very short order.
Blair ushered them up to the top floor, feeling Jim's hand under his elbow in silent command. His Sentinel had never been so corporeal before - he usually had the occasional fleeting touch, but since he'd stepped out of the van he'd felt Jim's hand always on him somewhere. A part of him was worried about this - he didn't want his Sentinel to drain his powers completely. Blair was still very conscious of Jim's well being and comfort, though technically a spirit needed neither.
"Okay," Blair smiled at Tina, leaning against the wall for support, the old, familiar pain in his leg shooting through him in jagged waves. He ignored it, as always, turning his version of the dial down ruthlessly, "We need atmospheric readings throughout all the floors, and spectroananlysis as well I want you to place a few listening posts on each floor in the stairwells and add a temperature gauge as well. Alfie, while Tina is doing this I'd like you to interview four families on each floor. Ask them about the sounds they hear most often in the apartments, the usual background questions and ask for any unusual activity. If they have kids, ask if you can interview them and get the usual questions in with them too. I'm going to walk through the place and see what I can sense."
"Meet you back at the van, then," Tina confirmed. Alfie dug out his folder, with the usual questionnaires, credentials and a copy of the fax that Wellborn had sent them. Blair smiled and wandered slowly down the hall, away from them, following the playful tug on his hair.
Simon had shadowed Blair up the stairs silently, wincing with each hitch in the smaller man's step, breathing easier when he made it safely to the top and out into the corridor. He walked right past Tina and Alfie without seeming to notice them, his attention solely fixed upon one of his former best friends. The ugly words he'd thrown at the shattered young man as he stormed from the place that had once been a warm and welcoming home echoed through Simon's head in an endless, hellish loop.
Five years had passed and he still hadn't forgiven himself for the way he'd treated Blair - for the grief fuelled anger that had driven a wedge between them; two men who'd lost so much in one short afternoon. Simon sighed, knowing that Jim would hate to see the Shaman in such a sad condition. He followed Blair through the corridors, not really processing what he was seeing until they had reached the fifth - and middle - floor.
Blair's head was tilting this way and that, as his Sentinel once had. He would stop and sniff the air, or place a hand on a wall, stroking his fingers over a certain spot almost compulsively. Every now and then he would hesitate, then bend stiffly to take a closer look at something on the floor or crane his neck to peer at the ceiling.
He bypassed the crime scene on the fourth floor altogether, not even trying for a glimpse, though his curious backwards glances showed Simon very clearly that he wanted to have a look. Simon was still in shock; Blair had apparently developed Sentinel senses of his own…and was apparently Guiding himself. Simon wondered if he should make himself known, then decided to just hang back until Blair was finished with his sweep of the building.
"Jim says you still smoke the same brand, Simon, and I'm beginning to understand why he complained the way he did about the smell," Blair said in the basement, turning his head to the shadows where Simon was standing quietly. The police captain jumped, and then came over slowly.
"Jim says?" Simon asked apprehensively. He wasn't sure how much hocus pocus he could take before he lost his temper again. Even though Shaman and Sentinel had solved the fifty-year-old murder of a ghost called Molly, he'd never really had much belief in the spiritual side of things. If he couldn't see or touch it then it didn't exist.
Blair nodded at his former Captain, his curls ruffling in a breeze that didn't exist.
"He's always with me, Simon," Blair said gently, "We figured out a way to share his senses from the spirit plane."
Simon frowned, not wanting to start a second huge argument so soon into their first conversation in five long years. Before he could decide how to respond to that a very familiar hand landed on his shoulder and squeezed warmly. Blair's eyes were a little unfocussed and he smiled at the Sentinel that Simon could feel and smell standing behind him - the faint hint of Jim's cologne and the smell of snow that always seemed to mark the Sentinel's personal scent. Unarguable proof that Blair was not deluded or a little nuts was squeezing his shoulder, standing close enough to be smelt.
"Jim says you look good, Simon. And he thanks you for the flowers…"
Simon choked, tears coming to his eyes. He put his hand very cautiously on the one on his shoulder, convinced for all time that Blair had been irrefutably right to follow the path he'd chosen, and Simon was inarguably in the wrong.
"You're welcome, Jim," he whispered, reluctant to break the fragile moment. Blair's smile was warm and forgiving and he limped over when Simon put his arms out, folding the larger man into his arms and feeling Jim twine around them both before fading away completely, leaving the two men to heal the breach in their friendship.
When Simon could bear to let go he wiped his eyes and jerked his head at the service elevator.
"Come on - I'll get you into the crime scene," his voice was gruff, and his hand replaced Jim's supportive grip at Blair's elbow. The silence in the lift was a comfortable one, and Simon's badge got them past the uniforms keeping away gossiping neighbours and reporters.
Blair looked around keenly, taking in the richness of the appliances and the latest styles in furniture and art works that dotted the trophy apartment. The paint was fresh - in fact he could smell it in the air without Jim's enhancements to his mere Guide level senses. There was no forced entry to any of the windows that Blair could see, and the front door had been intact, though there were forensic techs swarming all over it.
"No forced entry, and I'll bet you don't find any prints that shouldn't be here," Blair whispered to Simon as they walked into the dining room. The corpse was lying on the table, hands folded peacefully over his chest. The man was emaciated and filthy; it looked like he had been living on the streets for some time. In the cold weather, it was easy for those who didn't have the resources or a place at the overcrowded shelters for the homeless to freeze to death, unremarked in an alley or beneath a bridge.
"Simon, you should check to see if this man was a tenant in this building before Mr Wellborn inherited it," he continued, feeling Jim's approving pat on the back. He made a mental note to hit the microfiche library and check the probate courts as well.
"Simon, I know you hate what I do now, but I think this case will have more to do with my line of work than yours. Our man here probably died of exposure," Blair murmured, turning to face the taller man, squaring his shoulders to shoulder the disdain he was sure he'd see. Instead, Simon's scowl was directed at the corpse and the sigh he heaved was exasperated, but not aimed at Blair personally.
"You'll keep me in the loop?" he asked and Blair nodded, putting a hand on Simon's wrist lightly, relieved that their connection had been renewed. Though he and Simon had never been very touchy feely with each other, Blair was only comfortable with a few people touching him. Even as a child he'd never been prone to hugging or cuddling with the adults around him - even Naomi had only been hugged rarely.
"Of course I will," he promised, "Rafe and Brown are meeting me for dinner tonight…would you like to come?'
"I can't tonight," Simon sighed, "How about tomorrow?"
"If I'm not on our version of a stakeout, I'll be there," Blair promised, and they went their separate ways. He left a message in the van for Alfie and Tina and headed out.
After dinner at the sports bar that Brown and Rafe favoured - it had booths for privacy and the food was excellent - Blair made his way to the Cascade public library. They'd spent two enjoyable hours reminiscing. Blair had eaten an excellent burger and fries in Jim's honour. They'd had a laugh together and Blair had promised to see them again soon. Luckily the public library was open late, and Blair had no problem securing a terminal and starting his information search.
The building they were investigating had once been full of low rent housing, filled by tenants who were close to their neighbours… the kind of place that held block picnics and celebrated Halloween together. When the previous owner - Thomas Sebastian Wellborn, their client's grandfather - died and left the property to his oldest grandson, Sebastian, who had immediately raised the rent, then evicted the families one by one when they couldn't keep up the payments. He'd gutted the building and redeveloped it, making it a part of the trendy urban renewal movement. He'd filled the place with yuppies and made a very nice income off it, supplementing his trust fund and other investments.
Blair gathered a large stack of relevant documents and newspaper articles, then headed over to the probate court website. Wills were available to public perusal under certain circumstances and Blair found that Thomas Sebastian met those requirements. He put in a request for a copy of the Will and then gathered his data together. It was time to meet Tina and Alfie and put together what they'd learnt.
One taxi ride to the hotel later - the first night was usually spent away from the site, allowing them to pool information and make a 'plan of attack' - Blair limped his way into the suite that Tina had reserved for them. The coffee table was covered with files already and Blair smiled at his colleagues as he joined them. Tina and Alfie had left an armchair free for him to sit on - knowing that getting up off a couch was often painful.
"How was dinner?' Tina asked hesitantly - not wanting to make trouble, but at the same time hoping that her boss had finally had a good night out with friends. Blair's grin illuminated the room, making her catch her breath. For a moment he looked like the young man he was, instead of the pained, solitary creature he'd become.
"It was great, Tina. Did you guys get a decent meal?" Blair settled into the chair, his files on his lap, a notepad balanced on top of them so he could keep track of their information.
"Yes, the place you recommended was perfect," she smiled in reply and Blair nodded, gesturing to the files on the table.
"What have you got?"
"A few bits and pieces that might help with the background information," Alfie nodded to his boss, "For starters there was some controversy about the will. It seems that Sebastian wasn't actually named as the inheritor of that piece of real estate. Some of the grandkids felt the property was supposed to go to the oldest grandchild, not the oldest grandson. The oldest is actually Lee Tobin, a lady with a successful business of her own. Sebastian is her cousin, and after the reading Lee couldn't be persuaded to contest the will."
"Why not?" Blair frowned. In his experience the children of the rich were very materialistic. If they felt they had been denied their rightful dues they got quite militant about it.
"None of the tenants were sure," Alfie sighed, "We'd have to talk to her."
"Ok, lets put that aside for now," Blair tapped his pen on the pad, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. What sort of activity are we dealing with, Tina?"
"Fairly run of the mill stuff," Tina replied, "Cold spots, odours that can't be traced, knocking, objects that move, are broken, levitate, simply go missing. There's one family that keep having their furniture rearranged, and another who have to go next door every morning to retrieve their television."
"Are there any pets in the building?" Blair made a note. Tina got up and poured herself a cup of coffee as she answered, waving the pot at the two men in silent interrogation.
"A few - they're left alone for the most part. They have areas they won't go into, and spit and hiss, or growl and bristle (depending on the animal obviously) at certain spots in the apartments. The phenomena are widespread, and there's no discernable pattern at the moment. I'm still working on it."
"The interesting thing is the kids in the building," Alfie shifted closer to his wife as she rejoined him on the couch. It was an unconscious movement, and Blair's heart ached a little as always upon seeing it. He and Jim had often made the same movement, Sentinel and Guide needing to share closeness together.
"They all talk about an old man who lives in the building and is very angry. Their parents say that there is no tenant that matches their description and the kids insist that he's there. They aren't afraid of the man, it's like they know the anger is not directed at them personally. None of them agree on where he lives - some say it's the top floor, others the basement - but they all agree that he's tall, has white hair and wears a suit."
"Do they know why he is angry?" Blair asked and Alfie shook his head, sighing.
"Nope. He's warned them to stay out of any of the arguments the poltergeist activity is raising and once he let a couple of kids from the third floor out of the maintenance cupboard in the basement when the door locked behind them. He seems pretty benevolent to the kids really."
"Hmm," Blair mused, factoring in the information. He felt Jim tug at his hand, pulling in the direction of the room that would be Blair's. His Sentinel was summoning him to conference. Blair got up carefully and nodded to his colleagues.
"I want to set up an observation post tomorrow and we'll start the stakeout tomorrow night. We need to get more information on the will and the Wellborn family in general. I'll meditate tonight and see what else we can come up with for tomorrow. Get some rest, I have a feeling it's going to be a long day."
"Sure, boss. Sleep well," Tina nodded and Alfie raised a hand in casual acknowledgement. Blair limped to his room, missing the significant look being traded behind his back. It never occurred to him that he'd just said 'we' instead of 'I'.
Simon Banks slipped into the apartment that had been vacated only yesterday. In the wake of the dead body arriving in the living room of one of the so-called secure apartments, a lot of the tenants were cutting their losses and leaving, lease or no lease. Needless to say, Mr. Wellborn was furious.
Blair had moved his team into the fifth floor apartment, located in the 'middle' of the building. They'd set up the usual sensors in the corridors and then a few of the families had agreed to allow a sensor in their apartment as well. Simon had called Blair from the station at five, and been invited to the stakeout. He had some information that Blair might find useful.
Blair was sitting up against the wall, a bunch of files stacked beside him, glasses on, hair pulled back in what the bullpen had labelled the 'scholar look'. Tina called her boss' name and he glanced up, greeting Simon with a smile and a wave.
"Mind if I pull up some carpet?" Simon asked lightly, sinking down to sit beside his long estranged friend. Blair gave a dutiful chuckle and closed the file on his lap, eyeing the ones Simon held with interest.
"We identified the DB in apartment 502," Simon sighed, "He was Peter Turnbull, former resident. When he was priced out of his apartment, Peter started sleeping in a storage closet at work - he was discovered, fired and ended up homeless on the streets. Cause of death was hypothermia, mixed with starvation and all that good stuff."
Blair closed his eyes sadly, shaking his head. He'd been in that situation before - though luckily the University didn't know he'd been living in his office.
"I've started tracking down the rest of the former residents," Simon continued, watching Blair closely for some sign that Jim was with him, "We've found about half of them - they're doing ok. Of course, the ones that are harder to find are either on the street or have left town. We're also checking the morgue records - just in case."
Blair took the folder that was being offered to him and flipped through it slowly, memorising the names and circumstances.
"I think that if there had been any earlier deaths they'd have been returned 'home' by now, Simon," Blair told him, "The Old Man would have made some kind of ruckus."
"Speaking of which, heads up! We've got movement," Alfie interrupted and Blair started to struggle up. Simon got up and then hauled him up as well, steadying him onto his feet and shadowing Sandburg to the instrument panels.
"Top floor…cold spots and knocking," Tina pointed to the various screens and Blair headed for the door. Simon followed close behind, not willing to let the younger man go into danger alone. The irony was not lost on the police captain - this young man had been alone for five long years.
Tina and Alfie exchanged a long look and tracked their colleague to the top floor. Cascade was proving to be very interesting indeed.
At Simon's insistence they had taken the lift. Blair wasn't too happy about it - he was worried that the poltergeist would stop the thing between floors, and he wasn't up for scaling the sides of elevator shafts at the moment. They made it without incident, though, and Blair led the way along the corridor, walking slowly and extending his senses as Jim had taught him.
He could feel the cold pouring from floor to ceiling just ahead of them and stopped Simon from stumbling straight into it. The captain held out a hand and flinched at the intense cold that greeted his hesitant touch.
"Shit!' he mumbled softly, "What the hell is that?"
"The Old Man," the voice that came from Blair was an eerie mixture of his own and his Sentinel's, "He's standing before us…"
The corridor lights flickered and dimmed, and an ominous knocking sounded as the poltergeist realised just what it was confronting. Simon edged a little further away from Sandburg, giving the ghost two distinct targets and coincidentally moving away from the man who was seriously starting to creep him out. Doors started to shudder in their frames, and Simon could hear the occupants of the flats starting to wake up, calling out in fear and confusion.
"Enough of this," Blair/Jim commanded, "Tell us why you are here."
A frigid wind howled along the length of the sealed corridor, buffeting them all strongly. Doors began to slam open and shut all along the corridor, the knocking increasing, the wind shrieking and howling in fury. One door remained absolutely still and Blair advanced towards it cautiously, Simon trailing along behind reluctantly, leaning into the wind with his arms wrapped around himself for warmth.
Just as the Shaman reached out to touch the door it burst open, slamming into him, knocking him flying backwards into Simon who slammed into the wall. He felt a peculiar charge pass from Blair to himself and his senses suddenly sharpened, letting him see the old man standing over their supine forms, glaring and gesturing as he shouted words Simon couldn't hear over the ringing in his ears. Blair was an unconscious bundle in front of him as the old man gestured at the door that had hit the Shaman one last time and then disappeared.
Everything stopped, like someone had thrown a switch and moments later, Tina and Alfie burst from the stairwell, running for their boss, clutching blankets and a pack that turned out to be a very comprehensive first aid kit. Simon's senses snapped back to their normal range as whatever power was tingling through Blair into him also disappeared.
Bewildered residents poured out of their apartments in various stages of dress, and Simon turned Blair over to their care very reluctantly to deal with the people milling around the corridor.
"So what's causing the disturbances?" Sebastian Wellborn frowned, glaring from Blair to Simon to Tina to Alfie, "And where did that dead body come from?"
"He was one of your former tenants, Mr Wellborn," Simon spoke up, choosing to answer the only question he could, "He died of natural causes."
"But how did he get into the building?" Wellborn's shout had Blair wincing in pain, lifting a shaking hand to the dressing that covered the small cut from where the door had struck his forehead. He'd only been out for a few minutes last night, but the resulting headache was a doozy.
"Lower your voice," Alfie ordered, "And we think that the poltergeist placed him there. He was the former occupant of apartment 401."
"So what's causing the disturbances?" Wellborn repeated, "After last night I'll be lucky to have any tenants left at all."
"We think we've identified the cause, but not the reason," Tina replied ambiguously, "We have a little more research to do before we can attempt a cleansing, though."
"How much more?" Wellborn slitted his eyes at her, "I'm not paying any extra fees."
"You won't have to," Blair said in a voice as pale as his face, "This is all included in the original quote. You must give us the time Mr. Wellborn if you want us to succeed."
The business mogul glared at the pale man and then nodded, getting up and stalking for the hotel room door. Alfie jumped up to let him out and Simon frowned at his friend. He'd let Alfie and Tina take Sandburg back to the hotel and made arrangements to be here for the breakfast meeting that Wellborn had insisted on.
"How are you feeling?" he asked in a quiet voice, and Blair shrugged, grimacing at him a little. Simon could sympathise - he knew exactly how nasty a blow to the head made him feel.
"Well enough," Blair sighed, "I'll meditate later today and things will be fine. Tina, did you get a copy of the floor plans before and after the renovations?"
"Yep, sure did boss," Tina got up to fetch them and Simon moved closer to his friend.
"Last night…" he trailed off and Blair smiled at him crookedly.
"You got the enhancements when I passed out?" he guessed and Simon nodded, a little afraid. He'd never really credited Ellison and Sandburg enough. To have to deal with those enhancements every day, feeling every thread in your clothes, smelling everyone and everything that had walked down the corridor for the last few days, hearing the heartbeats of the people closest and structural shifts and groans of the building that you were in, able to taste scents, and see to almost microscopic levels… well Simon just knew that he'd have gone nuts in the first ten minutes or so, never mind dealing with it for three and a half years.
"Did you see the Old Man? Did he say or do anything that might help us?" Blair leaned forward a little, pinning Simon to the couch with his eyes. Simon sighed. He closed his eyes and thought back, trying to remember as much as he could.
"I couldn't hear him, though I had the impression that he was yelling pretty loud - my ears were ringing. He was pointing to the door that slammed into you, and waving his arms around. He was pretty pissed with us, and he kept… that's odd. He kept pointing to the floor just inside the door."
"What changes were made to the top floor, Tina?" Blair asked quietly. Simon opened his eyes and helped Tina track the changes. Wellborn had enlarged the apartments on the tenth floor, reducing the number on that floor from eight to four.
"Did Thomas ever live or work in the building?"' was the Shaman's next question, and Alfie rifled the files quickly while Simon helped compile a list of changes floor by floor.
"He had an office on the top floor!" Alfie exclaimed, "No one knows why, or if they do it's not on record."
"Hmm, and I bet that maintenance closet is where he had a safe, or a hidey hole," Blair mused, "We've got to get back there and have a look."
"Nice try, Sandburg, but if you think I'm going to let you set foot out of this room before dinner you've got a bigger head injury than we thought," Simon replied dryly, "You are going to lie down and I'll go with Tina and Alfie to check this out. Deal?"
"I thought you were working today?" Blair frowned and then winced when his head throbbed in reminder. Simon chuckled.
"I'm not working out of the office today. Got a problem with that?" he got up and then assisted his friend up as well, walking him back to the bedroom and even tucking him in. The total lack of resistance told him just how much the curly haired man was hurting and he patted a blanket-covered shoulder before leaving the room.
Simon watched as Alfie and Tina measured the closet carefully, comparing it to the plans and generally doing their scientific thing. They even took a few atmospheric samples and some very detailed pictures. Simon stood where the Old Man had and pointed like he had as best he could remember. Once the sciencey things were done Simon took the crowbar that Alfie was carrying and very carefully set the flat end into a convenient crack in the floorboards.
They came up with a quiet crunch and Tina leant down to shine her torch into the gap. Her breath misted as the temperature took a dramatic drop and she glanced up at her husband, her eyes sparkling.
"We're definitely on the right track," she whispered and reached into the hole carefully. After some rummaging around she came up with a lock-box, which she passed to Alfie.
"Anything else?" he asked, slipping the box into his backpack quietly. Simon's conscience twinged him a little - they were essentially removing evidence, and he was an officer of the law after all - but he told the little voice to shut up. He'd be there for the opening and eventual disposal of the contents.
Tina grunted and pulled out a second box before delving back inside. Simon noticed that the temperature normalised and exchanged a glace with Alfie.
"I think that's all we're gonna find, hon," Alfie said after a moment and Tina sat up, a little disappointed. She accepted her husband's help up from the floor and Simon replaced the floorboards carefully - no point in vandalising the building.
"Let's get this back to the hotel," Tina said eagerly.
"How do you plan to open those?" Simon asked blandly, "Are either of you locksmiths?"
"Damn," Alfie frowned, "I hadn't thought of that."
"Look, come down to the PD with me," Simon sighed, hoping that the Chief never found out about this, "We'll get someone to have a look at it."
"Thanks, Captain!" Tina smiled, thinking that the trip might give them a further glimpse into the enigma that was Blair Sandburg. Simon pulled out his phone as they headed for the lift, and put a call in to Rafe. He organised for the man and his partner to take Blair some lunch - with orders to see that the man actually ate it - and followed the couple to their van.
Sandburg was going to learn that once a member of Major Crimes, always a member. They were harder to escape than the Mob and a hell of a lot more determined.
Blair shook his head as Brown waved goodbye from the lift, closing the door and patting his very full stomach. The lunch they'd brought had been a feast from Blair's favourite deli. They'd remembered every food he'd ever brought into the bullpen and made sure he ate a fair amount of it. Blair sighed, remembering some of the arguments about taste and smell that Jim'd had with him, the Sentinel's sensitive nose able to detect if not identify some rather unique ingredients.
The Shaman shook his head again and headed back to his bed. His head was starting to ache again, and he knew that if he lay down for a while it would calm again. In the meantime he would try a little light meditation and see how Jim was doing with his hunt on the other side.
The familiar path formed under his feet, and Blair left his body lying on the comfortable bed to go visit his partner.
The temple steps were empty and Blair shrugged mentally, sitting down in their usual place and settling comfortably to wait. The air was fresh and there were birds calling in the distance. He tilted his head back a bit to let the warmth of the light play over his face. He was still doing that when Jim arrived and stood in such a way as to cast a shadow.
"You're blocking my sun, man," Blair murmured, opening his eyes and smiling at his friend affectionately. Jim's eyes crinkled in his familiar grin and he joined his partner on the steps.
"How's the head?" he asked, touching Blair's unmarked forehead lightly. Blair shrugged and rolled his eyes. One Blessed Protector, front and center.
"A small cut and some bruising. And before you ask when I ate last, Rafe and Brown just sat on me and fed me enough deli food for a small army."
"How are they?" Jim asked fondly, and Blair grinned, giving his partner a blow-by-blow report on lunch and the talk that went with it. Jim just leaned back and smiled at the old enthusiasm and energy - his first glimpse of it since they'd found themselves in this situation.
When he'd run out of things to tell Jim, Blair shifted so he could lean into his Sentinel's side and sighed softly. Jim held him close for a long moment, regretting their separation more than anything at this moment.
"Simon was pretty surprised when he got your senses," Blair said after a pause, "Actually that's an understatement."
"No more surprised than I was," Jim revealed, "I've gotten used to sharing with you - Simon's closer to my height and weight."
"Are you saying I'm short?" Blair tensed an elbow for retaliation purposes. Jim weighed his response very carefully.
"Not at all," Jim said sincerely and then 'oofed' when Blair elbowed him anyway. He ruffled the curls resting on his shoulder in reply and Blair shifted so he could look at his friend.
"Simon said he couldn't hear the Old Man. Did you have any luck at all?"
"Some…it faded in and out a bit. Simon's not used to controlling these things like you are - he kept getting distracted." Jim sighed, "Mainly he was ranting about his grandson and some book. There was something about his will or a will or he will do something…that bit faded out a lot. There's definitely something under the floor there though - I could sense it."
"Hmmm, well Simon's with Tina and Alfie so anything they find will be official," Blair mused, "Where were you when I came here?"
"Looking for our poltergeist," Jim shrugged, "No joy, though. Do you think he'll go when we finish his business for him?"
"I don't know," Blair wriggled to get comfortable, "Maybe. It might take a while though, if we have to get rid of young Sebastian and tell the next heir that these apartments should be rent controlled… assuming the next heir will even listen to us."
"You think that's what's going on here? Sebastian fiddled with the will in order to turn himself into a wealthy landlord?" Jim asked curiously. Blair nodded slowly, thinking his response through.
"That's the vibe I get," he confirmed, "In which case I don't think we're gonna get paid for this one Jim."
The snort of laughter he got in response was all Blair had hoped for.
Simon stuck his head around the door to Blair's room and met the curious eyes with a wink.
"Jackpot," he nodded and Blair slid off the bed carefully. Simon hurried across to supply the man with his staff, taking a moment to really look at the knarled stick with the rounded knob for Blair to rest his hand on.
"Where did you get this?" He asked, handing it to Blair and watching the young man flex his hand on it for a moment.
"Not long after I got out of hospital I went up to a place that Jim and I used to go to when we didn't have enough time to camp out but needed to be surrounded by trees for a while," Blair's voice was a thin thread of sound, and Simon had a feeling that he wasn't going to like this story, "I took Jim's home weapon with me and a bottle of scotch."
"Oh shit," Simon stared at his friend in horror, "What stopped you?"
"Jim," the name was said simply, belying the pain of the memories that he was sharing, "He threw this at me. It knocked the gun under the car and I was too drunk to get it out. I slept in the car that night and in the morning I took this home, along with the gun. A few minutes with the sandpaper he kept in the tool box got the rough edges off."
Simon swallowed heavily and breathed a silent prayer of thanks to this young man's Blessed Protector. Blair opened the bedroom door and stepped out, leaving Simon to get his head together. The captain shook his head, admiring the courage it took for Blair to stay behind when he knew his friend was waiting.
Tina and Alfie were already laying out the papers they'd found in one of the boxes and Blair was sitting in the armchair, watching curiously.
"Well?" he quirked an eyebrow at them all, "Are you going to tell me or do I have to poke someone?"
There was a bark of laughter, and Tina sat back, grinning at her boss. No matter what happened next, this trip to Cascade had been good for her boss. He was more alive here than he'd been in the four and a bit years that they'd known him.
"Well, to cut a very very long and involved story short, our dear client basically found his grandfather's will, changed it to favor him, bribed and blackmailed quite a few people to go along with HIS version of events and made a small fortune in the bargain," she shrugged, "I don't think we're gonna get the rest of our fee, boss."
"Hmmmm," Blair nodded, "So it should have gone to the granddaughter?"
"Yep, on the condition that the building remain in the family - which he left in the new version of the will - and that the apartments remain rent controlled until the original lease holders lease ran out. Which by all account should have been in twenty years time. There are copies of the original leases here, and all sorts of legal mumbo jumbo that means that Sebastian is in a world of hurt."
"Why didn't the granddaughter contest the will?" Blair asked. Alfie shook his head.
"She'd had a big fight with her grandfather a week before he died and Sebastian told her that the old man had changed the will because of it. Since most of the family were there for the fight and his little announcement…she was devastated apparently."
"Ok, I assume that this is all legal and above board and defendable in court?" Blair mused, "So how do we handle this? Simon? Any ideas?"
"A few," Simon nodded, "Mainly involving the DA and presenting a warrant."
"There's no question about the Old Man's cause of death?" Blair sat up suddenly, "That would explain some of the anger we're seeing."
"He died of an apparent heart attack - an existing condition that the family doctor confirmed for us at the time…and there's no mention of him in the box here," Simon frowned, "I think we're clear on that."
"How good is the trail of evidence? Are we only relying on the contents of the box?" Blair tilted his head, "I don't think this guy is going to move on unless we've got a lock on the whole deal."
"We used the contents of the box to back track Sebastian very discreetly. Once the warrant is issued we'll be able to seize papers and so on…this guy is too arrogant to not have kept records," Simon reassured him, "Tina and Alfie thought it best to run this past you first."
"Thanks guys…look, the only worry we really have is the court questioning how the three of you found the box. A good defence lawyer…"
"Can't make much of a case when his client hired you all in the first place," Simon interrupted, "It's covered. The DA is going to be here in an hour's time to look this over. You guys need to decide now how you want to play this and how you're going to get your ghost to move on."
And if that wasn't an indication of how far the man had come in the last few days, then nothing was.
"Hey, H?" Rafe sounded a little surprised to see his partner in the park, dressed in the clothes he'd been wearing to work that day. Brown turned, looking just as surprised.
"Bri? What are you doing in my dream?" H asked with a small grin, looking at the suit the Brian had been wearing to work. It was very out of place in this casual setting.
"Or maybe I should be asking what the both of you are doing in MY dream?" Simon joined them on the path. All three men stared at each other for a moment until the silence was broken by a voice they hadn't heard in seven years.
"Guys! Over here!"
Jim Ellison, wearing the clothes he'd worn the day he died (thankfully blood stain free) was standing by a grill, waving to the trio on the path. All three men forgot their unease and grinned, heading on over eagerly. They hugged their friend and patted his shoulders, saying hello the way old friends do when they've been apart for far too long.
"Where's Hairboy?" H asked, looking around at the picnic setting. The nearby table was full of salads and there was a cooler with beer to one side. Rafe was already handing the bottles around while Simon took over the grill - just they was they always had on the Major Crimes Fourth of July picnics.
"He'll be here in a minute," Jim replied vaguely, "Before he gets here, I want to thank you guys for taking care of him the last few years. It's made all the difference to him, and to me too. He was always so alone before…"
"No problem Jimbo," H grinned, "Hairboy is no great hardship to look after, and once we'd convinced him to come visit a little more often…"
"Although I wish he'd come back to Cascade," Simon said, flipping burger patties with his usual consummate skill. Jim shook his head.
"He couldn't…we still had so much work to do. At least he could spend his downtime with you guys," Jim took a sip of his beer and then turned, a broad smile creasing his face. Blair stepped out of the shade of a nearby tree, moving with the pent up grace and energy that had symbolized his grad student years. He wore a blue sweater and black jeans, solid boots on his feet, his hair down and floating in the light breeze. The light in his eyes was almost blinding.
"Jim!" the shout was joyful and Jim put his beer down to receive his partner's rib-crushing hug. There was a hint of sadness in the Sentinel's eyes though, and Simon shifted from one foot to the other uneasily.
A moment later the look was gone and the five men settled into their usual picnic routine of beer, cards and bull dust. They shared fond memories and talked over old cases and old friends. There was a very nostalgic air to the picnic, oddly comforting in the silent and unpopulated park.
"Well, I'm glad that I don't have to clean up," Blair chuckled when everyone was nursing along their last beer. Rafe chuckled and Brown rolled his eyes. The sun was going down, sending brilliant rays of light across the grass and between the trees.
"Yeah, leave us to do the donkey work," Simon growled, but his heart wasn't in it.
"We've got to go now," Jim said and got up. He hugged them all goodbye, before standing back so Blair could also make his goodbyes.
"We're not going to see you again," Blair said softly, "Not for a long long time. Take care of each other, ok? And thank you. For everything."
The three cops nodded, some instinct keeping them silent. Jim held out a hand, which Blair took with a grin. He turned and led his partner under the trees and into one of the brilliant rays of light, disappearing from their view.
The phone woke Simon from the dream.
It took him a few minutes to realize that Tina was on the other end of the line, telling him about the accident at the construction site they were investigating. There had only been one person involved, and he'd been injured fatally.
Simon took in the details mechanically and started the ball rolling on the funeral arrangements before thanking Tina and hanging up the phone. He picked up the photo of himself and his two best friend, all in tuxedos, holding an award and grinning for the camera.
Blair had rejoined his Sentinel.
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