Lord of the Drunks 2:
A Bad Hobbit is Hard to Break
The coffee was drunk, the cheese, onion, sprout and garlic omelette that Blair offered to share was firmly rejected by one and all, and the now-sober-and-regretting-everything Elves departed, leaving Blair in possession of a pair of ice skates, a half-deflated reindeer, a camera full of evidence and a roommate with a headache.
"C'mon Rudolph, we'll go take you back home while Uncle Jim cleans up, won't we?" Blair grinned as 'Uncle Jim' threw open the windows to clear the smell of fried onions then tucked Rudolph under one arm and hurried out of the door, grabbing the skates as he went. From the look on Jim's face, Rudolph might get damaged and so might 'Uncle Blair'.
The park was his first objective and the skates were easily returned, the attendant remembering the large group of large men easily. Mrs. Marskowitz, however, was not so easy to deal with.
Blair instinctively ducked behind the fence, clutching the reindeer to him for protection.
"Don't think I can't see you, Blair Sandburg. Now get yourself in here before I come over there and drag you in!"
Mrs. Marskowitz was over seventy years of age and only just came up to Blair's shoulder, but she was quite capable of fulfilling her threats. The local bullies were petrified of her - and those were the teenage ones.
Blair stuck his head over the top of the fence, Rudolph out of sight behind his back, and waved. "Hey, Mrs. Marskowitz. Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas! How you can stand there with my reindeer and wish me a Merry Christmas is beyond my comprehension, Blair! Now get over here!"
"Yes, Mrs. Marskowitz." Dejectedly, he trailed over to the little old lady and handed over her reindeer.
"Now then, young man, I want the truth! Did you steal my reindeer off my front porch last night?"
"No, Mrs. Marskowitz."
"Hmph! I'm glad to see that you've that much sense. All right, then, who did? One of your little friends?"
Blair choked as he thought of the six foot four police captain being one of his 'little friends'.
"Um...." Blair stared at the front of her house in search of enlightenment. It was incredible. Every inch of the facade was covered in some kind of Christmas decoration, and when the flashing lights grew too much for you, you could always admire the six foot tall inflated figures of Santa and a snowman that were parked in her front yard. Finally, he looked at her, knowing that he wouldn't escape - except by using brute force - until he'd answered her question. "It was Captain Banks," he muttered, blushing with shame at snitching on Simon.
Mrs. Marskowitz gasped. "Blair Sandburg, if you're lying to me -"
"I'm not! I swear!"
She stared at him for a good ten seconds then patted him on the arm. "And he left you to return my reindeer - and him a police captain! No wonder crime's the way it is, dear."
Blair wondered what Simon's purloining of Rudolph had to do with the crime rates but he had no time to stop and think about it as Mrs. Marskowitz deposited the reindeer back in its place and ushered him into the house.
An hour later, Blair escaped. He was stuffed to the gills with Christmas cake and cookies, and carried a large box of cookies under his arm, all courtesy of Mrs. Marskowitz who was convinced that he didn't eat enough. As he staggered home, the cake in his stomach weighed him down. Cooking was not one of Mrs. Marskowitz's talents.
Finally, he reached the loft and he dumped the box of cookies in Jim's arms as he headed for the kitchen, determined to drink enough juice to drown the taste of her 'secret recipe' Christmas cake. As he gulped the juice straight from the carton, he thought that it had to be a secret - no one in their right minds would want to make it.
Jim's attempts to get his attention finally sank in, and he turned to stare at his roommate who was holding the box of cookies like Joel held TNT.
"Please tell me these aren't Mrs. Marskowitz's special Christmas cookies that I'm holding."
"All right. I won't." He returned to gulping juice.
"Oh, God." There was silence for a few seconds then, "Maybe we can give them away as a Christmas present."
As long as he didn't have to eat them, Blair really didn't care. "Great. Who do we hate that much?"
Fortunately for his plans, Blair had his stomach mostly under control by the time the afternoon rolled around. Jim was busy visiting the neighbours and trying to pass Mrs. Marskowitz's cookies off onto them; unfortunately for him, they'd tasted the cookies before and knew them on sight, but it meant that Blair was able to sneak his camera out of the loft without even the risk of Jim realising.
Pausing only to gulp in lots of fresh air, Blair got into his car and drove to Rainier. A friend of his was an expert at printing off photos and turning them into the best Christmas cards, and he knew exactly which photo he wanted to use.
Monday morning came, and Jim walked into the bullpen with relief in his heart. He'd left Mrs. Marskowitz's cookies in the break room and they'd immediately been snaffled by the Swat team; they said they'd save a fortune on rubber bullets as the indestructable cookies were guaranteed to bring down a charging rhino. Stopping suddenly, Jim sniffed.
"Sorry, H." He moved out of the doorway and continued sniffing. He could smell Sandburg - his scent was tinged with nervousness, but Jim couldn't mistake his guide. Jim looked around. He was positive Sandburg wasn't due in to the PD today. With the Christmas break coming up, the grad student seemed busier than ever.
"Hey, was Hairboy in today?"
Henri held up a card with his name on the front. The writing was unmistakeably Sandburg's. Jim swung back towards his own desk - there was a white envelope neatly placed on his mousemat with 'Jim' scrawled across the front. What are you up to, Chief?
"Oh, babe!" Henri's voice was filled with laughter and Jim turned back again.
"What is it?"
"Take a look at this!"
Henri held out his card and Jim's eyes nearly popped out of his head with horror. There, on the front of the card, in bright technicolour, was a picture of their captain, fast asleep, with his arms wrapped tightly around an inflatable reindeer. Underneath it read, "Goodwill to men..." Jim opened the card, almost cringing in anticipation, "...and reindeers!"
Dropping the card, he lunged towards his own desk and snatched up the envelope there. He had the same card.
"Looks like everyone's got a card from Blair," Henri told him, holding up one with Rafe's name on the front.
"Simon's going to kill him!" Jim exclaimed, grabbing Rafe's envelope with a tense hand.
"Hey, mind out, man! I know Rafe's gonna want to save that card for posterity!"
Jim gulped as he stared at his boss, the well known inflatable reindeer hugger. "Nothing, sir." Hastily, he shoved the card back into Henri's hand.
"Brown?" Simon looked puzzled.
Henri shook his head, staring down at his desk. Finally, he replied, "I've got some files I need to fetch." He slid around Simon and was gone.
Shaking his head, Simon muttered, "If it wasn't the season of goodwill...." as he disappeared into his office.
Jim listened intently as Simon took off his coat and put it on the coatstand. Surely Sandburg wouldn't be so...insane as to leave the same Christmas card on Simon's desk? If he had, Jim could only suppose that the kid had a death wish.
There was a creak as Simon sat down in his chair, followed by a, "Hmm...what's this?"
"No. Oh no. Tell me he didn't!" Jim didn't even realise he was muttering as he threw himself at the door. He heard the envelope tear open as he burst through the doorway. "Simon, don't!"
Too late. The card was in Simon's hand and his jaw dropped. The card went too as Simon surged to his feet and bellowed, "Sandburg!"
Jim skidded to a halt. "He's not here, Simon, he's at Rainier. And I don't think he'll have heard you."
"Well, he's gonna hear me!" Simon grabbed his phone and dialled.
"Blair Sandburg." The voice was perky, innocent almost, and Jim cringed again.
You are so dead, Chief, and you don't even know it.
"Sandburg!" Simon yelled for the second time that morning.
There was silence for a second then, "Simon?"
"Just you wait until I get hold of you, you little-"
The laughter that Jim could hear clearly was a death knoll in his ears. Okay, so maybe Blair did know it and didn't care.
Simon slammed the phone down. "That's it - that's it! Ellison, you confiscate those pictures, do you understand me?!"
"Yes, Captain...but I don't think we can. What reason can we give?" In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Jim still had a grasp on how the law worked.
"I don't care what reason you give, Detective! Get me those pictures!"
"Yes, sir. But there is one thing you should know...." Jim really didn't know how to break this to Simon.
"And what's that?!"
"You and Brown aren't the only ones to get cards from Sandburg this morning."
Simon groaned and sank down into his chair. "Just get me the ones in the bullpen. I'll check out the rest of the P.D."
"Sir? Mr. Sandburg?"
Blair stopped talking and looked over at the student who was looking from him to the window and back again. "Yes, Molly? What is it?"
"You remember that friend of yours you had come over to give us a lecture on Peru?"
Blair's eyes widened suddenly before a smile creased his face. "Yes, I certainly do. Why?"
"Well, he's just driven up in a truck, and he looks real mad."
The bell rang just then and Blair grabbed his opportunity with both hands. "Okay, that's it! Have a good holidays and don't forget to read chapter nineteen before starting your essays!" He shoved his papers into his backpack and was out of the door before his students had even finished putting their coats on.
He knew that Jim would head straight for his office so he ran down the corridor towards the back exit. With any luck, he could duck out the back and work his way around to the parking lot before Jim realised he was nowhere near his office.
Blair's head snapped up and he stared at Jim who was leaning out of his office window and glaring down at him with the promise of sure retribution in his eyes. "Hey, man! What are you doing up there?"
"What the hell did you think you were doing?!"
"Just takin' some snaps for the family album, man!"
There was a distinct growl of fury, then Jim disappeared from sight. Blair ran.
His mind kept working as his legs pumped furiously. He had the length of the building to get around and then he'd be on the parking lot. Jim had the length of the building, plus stairs, plus students to negotiate. He, Blair, would be in the parking lot first. He hoped.
He refused to slow down as he ran around the corner, shouting, "Make way!" as he went and hoping that would be enough. In this race, second was no place to be at all.
Blair reached the parking lot with no sign of a furious Sentinel on his tail. He threw himself at his car and yanked the door open hurriedly before leaping in and locking it behind him.
Jim leapt down the steps in a way that was positively dangerous and Blair would have stopped to tell him that but he really didn't think Jim would want to hear it right now. He gunned the engine and reversed at top speed. "Bye, Jim!" He waved and grinned as he drove off but the gestures Jim was returning didn't involve waving.
Okay, now all he had to do was find a place to hide out until both Jim and Simon had stopped looking for him. He just hoped that Simon wouldn't cheat and put out an APB on him.
Jim ran for his truck. There was no way Sandburg was going to escape him, no way at all. What his little Hobbit friend didn't realise was that Simon was mad enough to call in the entire Cascade P.D. to track him down if necessary. Of course, Simon would have to come up with a reason to have Sandburg hunted down; 'taking embarrassing photos' was not a crime the last time Jim checked, and he doubted that Simon could persuade the Senate to add it to the Constitution before Christmas. In any case, better that he catch up with Blair and 'bring him in' before Simon blew a gasket and called out the National Guard.
Slamming his door shut, he threw on his lights and raced after Sandburg's car. It felt odd to be chasing Sandburg - normally when he was chasing anyone, he had his partner sitting next to him.
Blair glanced in his rearview mirror and grinned. Jim's truck appeared to be getting bigger. As he was used to driving, he knew that the truck wasn't actually growing in size - it was merely getting closer. A lot closer. Which meant that his pissed off cop roommate was also getting far closer than Blair wanted at that precise moment in time. In spite of that, he couldn't help but grin.
Speeding wasn't an option as he had no doubts whatsoever that, if he started speeding, Jim would pull him over and arrest him on the spot. Which left....
He spotted Wal-Mart's parking lot and swung into it, barely slowing down as he turned the corner. Hurriedly parking, he leapt out of his car, locked it and then took to his heels. A screech of tyres from not far behind him told him that Jim had also decided to do some shopping in Wal-Mart. The doors slid open and he dived inside, skidding to a halt and turning to look behind him.
Jim was a few feet from the doors and he slowed to a walk, crooking his finger at Blair as he approached. Blair laughed but shook his head. Jim wouldn't do anything to him while there were witnesses, and he wasn't about to leave the safety of the store. As Jim continued to approach, Blair backed off. He fully intended to keep his distance for as long as possible.
The doors swooshed open and Jim came in. "Well, my little Elf, you were busy this morning, weren't you?"
"Wrong species, man, I'm a Hobbit, remember?"
"You'll be a dead Hobbit when Simon gets hold of you," Jim warned him, keeping up his slow approach. "How many people did you give those cards to?"
"Just the bullpen, man, I swear!" Blair glanced over his shoulder and continued to back away, a grin on his face. "I figured Simon could forgive me for that one but if I papered the P.D. with them, I'd never live it down."
"You'd never live to live it down, you mean!"
Blair's grin got wider as he remembered Simon's roar of "Sandburg!" on the phone earlier. "So now what?"
"Now you and I take a little trip to the bullpen. I think Santa wants to see you in person."
He laughed, backing off some more as he retorted, "I think I'm a bit too old to go and sit on Santa's kne-eee!" His reply turned into a startled screech as he collided with the barrier guarding the children's ball pit and toppled over it into the mass of balls.
He surfaced to find Jim standing over him, shaking his head.
"I can't take you anywhere!"
"This was not my fault, man!"
"Oh, and whose fault was it?"
"Yours. You had me distracted."
Blair looked past Jim to see a frowning man in a business suit.
"The ball pit is for children only." One well manicured hand indicated the sign behind them.
Blair looked at Jim, who looked back at him. Then, "Detective Ellison, Cascade P.D." Jim briefly flashed his ID at the startled manager. "We've been after this character for a while now. He's been hitting a whole string of Wal-Marts, throwing himself into the ball pit. Very traumatic for the children."
"Jim!" Blair's outrage was ignored.
"I wouldn't get too close, sir. He bites too."
The manager backed off rapidly, shock on his face.
"You are so dead when I-"
"Threatening the life of a police officer, Sandburg? Keep this up and you'll be getting the chair." Jim's face was serious as he held out his hand to help Blair out of the pit, but his eyes were gleaming with mischief.
Blair glowered at the hand and shook his head. "If you think I'm going with you now, you can think again!"
"C'mon, Sandburg, don't make me use the handcuffs!"
Blair bit his lip to stop himself from replying as Jim pulled him up, but his mind was whirling with a thousand plans for revenge.
"No need to worry, sir," Jim reassured the manager. "I don't think you'll be seeing him in here again."
"You got that right," Blair muttered, as he was towed towards the doors. Once outside, he stopped. "You do realise I'll never be able to shop in there again?!"
"It's Wal-Mart, Chief. They've got a thousand branches in Cascade alone. I think you can manage to find another one."
The nearer they got to the P.D., the bigger Blair's grin got. He had no idea what Simon was going to do, or say, but there was no law against taking photos of your roommate's boss who was hugging a stolen inflatable reindeer. He knew there was no law about it - if there had been, Naomi would have protested against it by now.
He kept quiet as Jim parked the truck in the underground garage but, once they were out of the truck, he spoke up. "Hey, Jim. You're my blessed protector, right? You'll defend me, won't you?"
"Not a chance, Chief."
Blair pulled a face at the reply, then protested as Jim grabbed his arm firmly, "Hey, no manhandling the suspect!"
"Open and closed case, Sandburg," Jim replied, dragging him to the elevator. "You're goin' down!"
"Jim, this is the basement. There is no down from here. Well, apart from the sewers and I don't think you want to give me a guided tour of them!"
"Laugh it up, Sandburg. I hope you find it just as funny once you're in Simon's office."
Blair grinned again as he wondered if Simon would clear the bullpen before bawling him out. If he didn't, the world and Joel's wife would know all about his specially made Christmas cards.
"Well, well, well." Simon glared at the amateur photographer over the pile of innocent Christmas cards he'd spent the past hour retrieving from various sections of the P.D. His temper had abated somewhat with the knowledge that Sandburg had not given his 'special' Christmas cards to everyone in the building - he'd restrained himself to handing them out in the bullpen only. Even so, Simon was determined that the photos would be handed over and all the evidence destroyed. For a few seconds, he considered stealing back Mrs. Marskowitz's reindeer in order to wipe off his fingerprints but then he dismissed the notion. A really good criminal didn't revisit the scene of the crime.
"Hey, Simon." Sandburg's eyes wandered over the mass of Christmas cards and he grinned. "You've been busy."
Simon glared some more. Evidently Sandburg hadn't realised how much trouble he was in... yet, and it was up to one Simon Banks to enlighten him. "All right, Sandburg, where are the photographs?"
The look he got in return was Sandburg's patented innocent look, version 923, as he echoed, "Photographs?"
Grabbing a Christmas card which showed him mid-nap, Simon held it up. "These photographs - and any other pictures you took that night!"
"Oh, those photographs." The grin returned. "Simon, c'mon, it was just a few pictures."
Putting the card down, Simon put his fists on the desk and leaned forward over them. "Need I remind you that the other eight sleeping people in the loft that night are all trained Covert Ops?" Simon glanced meaningfully at the one trained ex-Covert Operative standing behind Sandburg. "I'm sure they'd be interested in...retrieving any incriminating evidence." Simon could see the cogs spinning in Sandburg's mind. The kid was bright, he'd get the picture...in a manner of speaking.
"Well. Since you put it like that." Sandburg removed his backpack and rummaged around inside it. Shrugging, he held out a small packet.
"These are all of them?"
He shrugged again. "Every last one."
Behind him, Jim nodded. Sometimes a lie-detector Sentinel came in real handy - especially where cross-examining Sandburg was concerned.
Simon took the photos and glanced inside, smiling at the picture of a sleeping Jim. "He he he." Remembering that Sandburg was still in the room, and still in disgrace, he stopped laughing and glared at him again. "All right, Sandburg, you can go."
"Gee, thanks, Simon." Sandburg shouldered his backpack again and turned his puppy dog eyes on Jim. "Any chance of a ride back to Wal-Mart?"
Simon scowled. The kid had gone shopping for picture frames already?!
"Sure, Chief, I'll meet you downstairs."
"Okay." Sandburg glanced from Jim back to Simon, then left, shutting the door behind him.
Jim held out his hand for the photos but Simon held onto them. "Just a minute, Detective. I'm not finished yet." Glancing through quickly, he removed any that featured him and handed over the rest.
"Thanks, Simon. If they're not too incriminating, I might send them on to the guys. I'm sure they'd love some souvenirs of the night."
Simon smiled, about to answer, but a knock at the door interrupted him. "Come in!"
It was Sandburg. Again. And looking far too happy, far too soon. "Hey Simon, you'll never guess who I ran into in the elevator."
He stepped to one side and Simon was horrified to see the diminutive figure of Mrs. Marskowitz. His jaw dropped as Sandburg made a tactical retreat.
"Simon Banks! I think you have some explaining to do!"
For a second he was struck dumb, then a howl managed to make its way to his vocal chords. "Sandburg!"
25th January 2005.
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