Racism and bigotry are one of the greatest evils that humans perpetuate on each other. It pervades every aspect of our life and is invidious. If I had one wish in this life it would be that we could all accept every other person that we meet or in some way come into contact with, on the basis of a clean sheet, no preconceptions or in-built bias. Sadly no one has offered to grant my wish. We must all be vigilant, please.
This story deals with violence and hate but to balance that it also deals with love, in the form of friendship. I would rate it PG13 though there are some swear words in there too.
Finally can I say, I am very sorry? I really am very, very sorry, but I had to do it. No this is not a death story.
My unwavering gratitude to Tricia who did an amazingly fast and encouraging beta job for me.
Blair Sandburg, anthropology post graduate student and teaching assistant at Rainier University, Cascade, Washington took off his glasses, ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.
James Ellison, ex-Ranger, detective with the Major Crime Unit of Cascade Police Department and Sentinel of the Great City put down his book, looked back over the couch and watched his guide and the Shaman of the Great City rub at his temples, obviously in pain. He waited for the young man to answer.
"You remember the new student I told you about, transferred up from Texas?"
"Well he's in my Year 2 Sociological Anthropology class. I set them a paper two weeks ago entitled, 'Ethnicity is a response to contemporary circumstances not a resurgence of traditionalism.' Discuss."
Jim winced, "Do you make these up yourself Chief, or does some sadist sit in a locked room churning out these little pieces of torture?"
His reply pulled a small smile from the younger man sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by paper.
"One of my better ones, I grant you," he smirked, "and normally it provokes a lively debate."
"But…?" Jim left the question unfinished.
"This guy, Alan Bauer, has produced one of the worst diatribes on anti-Semitism I have ever read. His paper doesn't address the question at all, large chunks of it are plagiarised I think and it is basically an excuse for the Nazi atrocities. Where does this guy get off producing this garbage in this day and age?"
"You know as well as I do Sandburg, there are a lot of sick people out there."
Blair wrote 'F' in a large bold script in red on the top of the paper and circled it twice.
"You know if this guy fails he has no one to blame but himself."
"Finished?" Jim asked.
"Yeah," Blair replied, "Let's go grab some dinner. My treat. I want to get rid of the nasty taste in my mouth."
Jim stood and walking over to his friend put his hands on his shoulders, "Do I get to choose?"
"Anywhere but Wonder Burger Jim."
"Anywhere?" Jim contemplated, "You know there is a new burger place over on Maine."
Blair grimaced, "Ok, junk food it is but don't blame me when your arteries clog up."
"Wouldn't think of it Chief." Jim chuckled.
Blair waited until five minutes before the end of class to give back the marked essays. As he returned each one making personal comments to each student, he raised his voice slightly so he could be heard above the low level of chatter that always greeted the return of marked work. The students commiserated or congratulated each other, some muttered under their breath or chuckled at his hand written comments.
"Jenny," Blair looked at a blonde haired girl who had a constant smile on her face, "if you insist on writing in long hand please make your writing legible. I'd like to keep what little eyesight I have left beyond your stay at our lovely University."
Jenny blushed and whispered, "Yes, Mr. Sandburg."
"Stacey," he moved on to the girl behind Jenny, "the next time you type your paper please use a spell check that utilises English. I think you managed to come up with words that even I have never come across before."
Stacey stuck her tongue out at the boy sitting next to her who chuckled.
Blair stopped at the next student.
"Richard," Blair sighed, "how is the Twilight Zone these days?"
The ginger haired, freckle faced man who looked about sixteen but was actually a mature student with some strange ideas and a wicked sense of humour answered, "Fine Mr. Sandburg, really fine."
"At least this time you tried to stick to the question. Not a bad effort."
"Thanks Mr. Sandburg." The student said, genuinely pleased with his 'B-'.
"Wendy please tell your mom thanks but I will not go out with her."
"Aw Mr. Sandburg she'll be devastated."
Wendy's mom had turned up to drop Wendy off at College one morning and they had both bumped into Blair. The older woman had fallen head over heels in love with her daughter's teacher and notes had accompanied both of Wendy's pieces of work since from Wendy's mom pleading for a meeting to discuss her daughter's progress. The occasional gift of an apple or cookies had also appeared on the desk before his lectures to Wendy's class and Blair suspected the young girl was match making.
As Blair came to hand back the failed piece of work to Alan Bauer he dropped his voice, "Alan you may want to have a chat later about this."
As he scanned the red letter Blair saw the furious look that crossed the student's face. Handing back the remaining papers with a comment for each student, Blair finally made his way back to the front of the class.
"As you will all, of course, recall my office hours have changed this week. I will not be available tomorrow."
"Got a hot date Mr Sandburg?" A comedian asked from the back of the auditorium.
"No I'm coaching the Jags how to lay up after last week's storming performance."
The class joined in the laughter.
"If you want to talk to me about your papers I will be in my office this afternoon. Please book yourself in in the normal way. Richard you may want to make yours a double appointment if you want to argue space-time continuums again. That's all class."
Normally Blair would have been at the station with Jim but on Thursday they had a stakeout on a bank where, Sneaks had told them, there was going to be a heist. To enable Blair to be there with Jim he had swapped a class and moved his office hours. Having taught his swapped class Blair checked the appointment list. Three students wanted to see him. Richard had gone for the double session, which made Blair chuckle as he shook his head. Jenny Jones was up first and Alan Bauer had booked himself in after Richard. Blair was pleased. He needed to talk to Alan and set the young man straight.
Unlocking the door to his office Blair sat down by his desk and pulled a bottle of water and a sandwich from his backpack. He pushed the chair back, slipped the backpack on the floor and put his feet on the desk as he grabbed a few minutes to eat his turkey salad sub. Jenny was late, as always but only needed two minutes. Richard was on time and took the full half hour. As Blair steered Richard out of the door a sullen Alan Bauer was standing waiting.
"Come in Alan, grab a seat."
The young man had fair hair and pale eyes. He sat down with a thump in the straight-backed chair. Blair moved round to his side of the desk and sat down. He started talking, "Alan this is the first piece of work you have submitted to me and I have to say I am surprised. Your records from Texas indicate an intelligent, thoughtful and well-rounded student. What I read was as far from that as you could get."
Blair paused, expecting some comment from the young man. He sat on the chair looking down, picking at the skin around his thumbnail.
"Do you know why you got an 'F'?
The student failed to answer. Blair pressed on.
"Your paper failed to answer the question at all. I have checked and large portions of what you did write have been lifted directly from David Irving's work. That is plagiarism Alan. Leaving that and the irrelevance of the content aside, the arguments you do put forward follow no logical pattern. You do not structure a coherent argument and from a few flawed premises you come up with conclusions that are inaccurate and frankly offensive."
"You would say that." The young man muttered.
"What do you mean?" Blair was at a loss.
"You're a Jew."
Blair sat back in his chair.
"For your information Alan, I don't follow the Jewish faith and my 'religion', if you want to call it that is an accident of birth. Jeez Alan you have to notice that I wear a cross round my neck."
Blair could hardly believe what he had heard.
"You're still a Jew."
"Because of my name? Alan where is this coming from?"
"My father says you Jews always stick together, make things tough for us. We are the superior race. You people are no better than animals."
Alan fairly spat the word out. The last few sentences were the most Blair had heard the young man mutter in the last few weeks since he had arrived in Blair's class. He had obviously only just gotten started. The venom that spewed forth was typical of the neo-nazi, fascist hatred that was churned out by white supremacists the world over. Illogical and hateful it was almost as those the young man had learned the speech by heart. Given the number of times he sprinkled 'my father says' into his rant, Blair believed that the indoctrination was homegrown.
"You are worse than animals, you have no place in this world, you are an abomination."
The student ran out of steam. Blair had made no attempt to stop him.
"Have you finished?" Blair asked once the room had gone quiet. The blond man stared at Blair his eyes wild and his breath coming in short gasps.
"Alan I don't know where these ideas of yours come from, though I could make a good guess. I am afraid that in accordance with University protocol I have to report what you have said to the Ethics Committee. It is possible the Committee will decide to suspend your status as a student pending enquiries. The ultimate sanction here Alan is expulsion from the University. Come on man; give me something to work with here. I don't want to see you suspended or expelled."
The student remained silent, staring at Blair with hatred in his eyes. Blair waited for him to say something, to explain his behaviour. It didn't happen.
"Ok Alan, don't say I didn't warn you man."
The student sat still.
"You can go."
Slowly the young man got up and walked out of Blair's office. With a sigh Blair dug out an incident report form and started filling it in. He couldn't remember ever having had to fill one in before.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT (1)
After Alan Bauer had left Blair dropped off the form at the Admin Office and went to the cafeteria. Somehow he felt the need to be with other human beings. Helping himself to an herbal tea he sat on one of the hard plastic chairs and rested his elbows on the table. He had only been there a few minutes and his tea was still steeping when he heard his name being called.
"Blair, are you okay?"
It was Theodora Engels, an English Professor. In her late 50s she was an eccentric woman who hailed from England and despite her thirty years in the States still retained a very prim and proper English accent. Blair and she got on well. She had never married, flirted mercilessly with anything in pants and was well known for her colourful language. She cursed better than most men Blair knew. Theodora or Teddy, as she preferred to be called, sat herself down next to Blair and put her hand on his knee.
"Anything I can do for you?" She asked suggestively squeezing Blair's knee and raising an eyebrow.
Blair laughed. She was a welcome antidote to his gloomy mood.
"Ah Teddy you know I can't resist you."
He leaned across and planted a kiss on her cheek. She leaned in to him and whispered in his ear,
"My office, ten minutes."
Blair laughed out loud.
"You are an incorrigible flirt Teddy."
"I know and don't you just love it deary? So what makes Blair a dull boy?"
Blair explained what had happened.
"You know I met Irving once."
Blair looked up at the elderly woman.
"What's he like?"
Blair winced and put his hands over his ears as the woman next to him told him exactly what she thought of the man responsible for 'Denying the Holocaust'.
"Whoa Teddy. You keep that up and I might have to report you." Blair smiled.
"Just try it deary and I'll have you pinned to this table so fast your head will spin."
"Teddy you make my head spin just looking at you."
Blair leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek again. He could flirt too. The older woman moved her hand up Blair's leg. He shifted in his seat never entirely sure quite how far she would go. He knew she knew that and she played it to the hilt. There was a glint in her eye.
"Want my advice deary?"
"That would help Teddy."
"Don't lose any sleep over this Blair. When these children come to us, in our arrogance we like to think of them as blank pages, that we can fill them with knowledge and wisdom, that after they have passed through our hands they will somehow be magically imbued with a sense of wonder and awe, an insatiable appetite for learning, be an independent free-thinking spirit. Sometimes," she looked into Blair's eyes meaningfully, "one such child comes along and we do just that."
Blair blushed as he realised she meant him.
"But for the most part these children arrive on our doorsteps full of the dogma and mantra of their parents, their boyfriends or girlfriends, the latest film or boy band. We have no impact on them at all. Whether this boy believes what he says or not, whether he is just regurgitating his father's lies, it doesn't matter. We cannot allow such prejudice to go unchecked. If we do we acquiesce in it. Remember Edmund Burke, 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'. You are a good man Blair and I know you will not do nothing."
"You're right Teddy. I think I just needed to hear someone else say it."
"My mother lost both her brothers in the camps. Her parents smuggled her out to England just before the War started. She was the youngest. Her brothers never made it. They never found their bodies."
She became sombre.
"From what my mother told me it was a vile time, Blair, prejudice and hatred were a way of life. We must never return to that, we must stay true to our humanity and never let the bullies and the hate mongers take that from us."
Blair stared at the remains of his tea.
"I have never been 'Jewish' Teddy. It never really occurred to me."
"You don't have to be Jewish Blair, you just have to be a human being."
Teddy gave Blair's thigh another squeeze but there was no flirting in it this time.
"Make sure you come and visit us in the English Department again soon Blair. Everyone gets very jealous when I show off my toy boy."
She was back to flirting.
"Shall I bring flowers?" Blair asked joining in.
"No deary, just lots of energy."
Blair blushed again and gulped a little. Teddy laughed out loud. Whenever they got into these flirting games she always came out best. The older woman was on her feet moving away. As she reached the door she turned back to Blair and blew him a kiss.
Blair gave her an incandescent smile and she was gone.
Blair stood himself and picking up his backpack with a lighter heart decided he would go home and cook one of his favourites for dinner. Jim was on a date. It would be only him so he could indulge in something that Jim turned his nose up at. Blair returned to his office, picked up a book he wanted to flip through that evening and left Hargrove Hall. He could see the Volvo parked in the car park. As he approached the car, his keys jangling in his hand a figure slipped in front of him. It was Alan Bauer.
"What do you want Alan? Office hours are over."
The boy seemed to look over Blair's shoulder. A hand holding a cloth was pressed over Blair's nose and mouth from behind. He struggled but the grip on him was too strong and he could already hear the rushing sound that heralded blackness.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT (2)
Jim had never even got on his date. As he had been about to leave to go home to shower and change, Simon had come out of his office and announced that he wanted all senior staff in his office in ten minutes for a briefing. Jim had rung to cancel his date, winced when she slammed the phone down on him and then headed to the Break Room for coffee and a Hershey Bar to sustain him through the briefing. He mused that dinner might be a ways off now.
Simon started the briefing,
"The FBI have notified us that Cascade is going to have a visit on Saturday. There will be a rally to which all our local neo-nazis, white supremacists and probably even the Klu Klux Klan have been invited. It will be quite the party."
Jim glimpsed at the faces of the men and women he worked with everyday. It had not really occurred to him before that sprinkled amongst them was pretty much every hue of mankind. He knew them all to a greater or lesser degree, many were friends and he had never really considered their colour. They were all cops and they all had a job to do.
Whilst Simon had spoken, Jim had watched with interest the man standing to the right of Simon. He was about 5' 11", well built and had dyed blond hair. He had said nothing letting Simon do all the talking. The man Jim was watching was doing his own share of people watching, studying the faces in front of him as though trying to divine something from their very presence, thought Jim. The two men had locked eyes. Neither had flinched. The man stared at Jim and then moved on to the next person. Interesting, thought Jim.
Simon continued, "Apparently we have the pleasure of a guest speaker. In your briefing notes you will find reference to an individual called 'Prometheus'. Some of you may have heard of him. Ladies and Gentlemen one of the most wanted neo-nazis is coming to our city. The FBI believe that this is the first time in ten years that this man has ventured onto American soil. The last time he was in the US his presence sparked a race riot that saw nine people dead. Three of them police officers. I think we need to show Prometheus just what a warm welcome Cascade has to offer tourists to our fair City."
Simon smiled ironically.
"Agent Fergusson here will act as liaison and we have been assured that the FBI will give us its full support."
There were more than a few groans around the room. Jim watched Fergusson step forward for the first time. He spoke with a slight Southern accent; a lilt Blair would have called it, not a twang.
"I know that most of you will have had experience of working with the FBI and I'm guessing from what I hear that the encounter has not necessarily been one y'all would like to repeat. However I cannot impress upon you enough that I want this man caught. If you have the same objective, and Captain Banks assures me you do, then I am prepared to work in full partnership with you, sharing all information as soon as it is available. I will not allow this man to escape again. Too many people will die if he does."
The room was silent. Jim had been impressed by the man's intensity and from looking round it seemed the others had too. Simon went on as Fergusson stepped back,
"Inside your packs you will see the teams you have been split into. We must spread our resources to cover as much ground as we can. We don't know where the rally is going to be held or what time. We don't know how Prometheus is arriving or when or where. Shake every tree out there; pick up every snippet of information however small or insignificant. I want facts gentlemen and I want them soon. Any questions see your Lead Officers. Thank you."
The team started to file out of Simon's room.
"Jim can you wait?" Simon asked.
After the last person closed the door Simon and Fergusson were left with Jim. Simon offered to refill Jim's mug, which he gladly accepted.
"Matthew Fergusson, meet my senior detective, Jim Ellison."
The shorter man put out his hand.
"Please, call me Fergie."
"Jim, I want you to work with Agent Fergusson."
Jim held out his hand. Fergusson's handshake was firm and cool.
"Pleased to meet you Jim. Your Captain speaks very highly of you and your partner, Mr. Sandburg."
"You'll meet him tomorrow. This was supposed to be a night off."
"I do apologise but my Agency is determined that we nail the bastard this time. And to show our good faith in this operation, I have been authorised to show you our files on current possible activists. I thought we could compare notes."
Jim raised an eyebrow. Co-operation of this level was very unusual, if not downright unheard of.
"Let's go to my desk."
The quiet buzz in the bullpen was an indication of the increased level of activity. Files on all known suspects involved in, or with links to white supremacist groups were grabbed from filing cabinets or records and poured over. Officers headed out to follow up leads and put the word out to informants who might be able to get more information. Two hours after they had shaken hands Jim and Fergie had two leads they wanted to follow up. Before they headed out Jim called the loft. As he expected Blair didn't answer but he left a message on the machine saying he was working late and he didn't know what time he would get in.
"Reporting in to the wife?" Fergie asked.
"Something like that." Jim smiled.
The first lead was a dead end. They spent almost three hours tracking the man through four different addresses before being convinced that the man they were after had moved out of State three months ago. Grabbing a late night coffee and doughnut before going on to the next name on the list, the two men talked. Fergie was a career cop from Alabama, a little younger than Jim but older than Sandburg. He had joined up straight from College and spent the last few years working with the FBI Race Crimes Unit in Washington DC. He relayed to Jim all the information the Agency knew about Prometheus, both official and unofficial. By the time he had finished they were on their second coffee and doughnut.
"I can't help but admire your single-mindedness Fergie, but why do I get the feeling that this is personal for you?"
"The last time he was here he spoke at a rally in my home town. I had been a cop about five years. When the riot started it was a mad house. My partner and I were out on patrol. We got caught up early on responding to a call for back up at a Mall that was being looted. We were taken by surprise; no one knew what was going down. By the time it was all over my partner was dead, the Mall was burnt to the ground and I spent two weeks in hospital recovering from a stab wound to the stomach. Four years later I left the force and joined the Agency."
Jim looked at the man.
It was a statement not a question. He knew how the Agent felt; guilty, driven, obsessed some would call it. After Jack was killed he had gone through the whole gamut of emotions. With Blair's help he had been able to put a few ghosts to rest.
Fergie nodded, "Shall we go?"
The second lead was almost as dead. According to the owner of the flea-bit motel, which had been the last known address of one Peter Baxter, the man had left two weeks ago owing rent. Two items of mail were uncollected and a search of the room revealed nothing of any help. The two letters went back to the Station with the two men and they agreed to meet the next morning to review everything that had come in overnight and by then they should have the warrant to open the two letters.
Jim dropped Fergie off at his hotel and headed back to the loft. Blair wasn't home and the only message on the machine was his own. Blair had been known to stay out all night before so Jim wasn't too worried but normally Blair left a message. Jim reasoned that because Blair thought Jim had 'got lucky' with his date and was not expected back until the morning he had not thought it was necessary to phone in. A little uneasy even though he could explain his Guide's absence, Jim trudged slowly to his bed and slept.
THURSDAY MORNING (1)
Jim woke and realised he was still tired. He knew his guide and friend was still absent. After showering and dressing he called the University. There was no answer. He knew Blair didn't have his cell phone as it was sitting on the work surface in the kitchen, charging. Grabbing a bagel from the fridge he headed out intending to swing by Hargrove Hall on his way to the station. Blair's car was still parked in its normal space. Jim cast out his senses and smelled something familiar. Blair's backpack lay half hidden by low bushes lining the edge of the sidewalk adjoining the car park; his car keys nearby.
"Dammit Sandburg, where are you?" He muttered to himself.
As Jim strode to the Campus Security office he called Simon to tell him Blair was missing.
"Jim this is the worst possible timing. We are stretched to our limit with this Prometheus thing."
"I know Simon but we have to find him, I have to find him."
"Any ideas?" the Captain asked.
"No." Jim replied.
"I'll delay the briefing until you get back, but Jim I need you here working on this case."
Simon cut the connection as Jim knocked on the door of the office belonging to Susannah Tomacki. Jim liked and respected the woman and knew she would help if she could. Since they had worked together on what Blair called the 'spider' case, he knew that Blair and Susannah had gone to lunch a few times as friends.
"Jim, what a nice surprise."
"Sorry Susannah, this is business not pleasure. Blair is missing. I've just found his backpack and car keys over by his car. He hasn't been home since yesterday but there is no sign of a struggle."
"I've had no reports of any incidents at Hargrove and definitely nothing involving anyone matching Blair's description anywhere else on Campus. I can let you into his office but other than that the most I can do is put out an alert to all departments asking for information."
"The office is a start. Can we go now? I have a briefing to attend."
Susannah sensed the urgency in Jim and hurried to collect her keys before running to keep up with Jim's long strides.
There was nothing in Blair's office to help throw light on his disappearance. Jim extracted a promise from Susannah to contact him the moment there was any news and then left to attend the briefing. He knew his heart wouldn't be in it.
THURSDAY MORNING (2)
Blair woke slowly. His mouth felt like sandpaper, his head as though it were filled with cotton wool and his feet were cold. In fact all of him was cold and his left arm hurt. He opened his eyes. He lay on his back on a hard bed. The mattress, such as it was, was thin and dirty. There were no covers and Blair was dressed in the oddest striped pyjamas. He sat up and the world span.
"Whoa." He said and held his head in his hands.
He pulled back at the sleeve of his top and hissed. There was some sort of graze or cut on his left arm that had bled and as it had dried the material of the shirt had got caught up in the wound. By pulling up the sleeve Blair had pulled the material away from the wound and started it bleeding. He didn't remember being cut, in fact he didn't remember much at all. The last clear memory was of Teddy. Slowly as the fog cleared and he tried harder his recollection came back; the car park, Alan Bauer and something sickly pressed over his face.
Blair leaned back against the wall against which the bed rested and felt the cold seep into his shoulders. The room in which he sat had four bare walls. There were no windows and no openings other than a metal door that looked very locked. Apart from the bed on which he sat the only other item in the room was a bucket in the corner farthest from him. Light came from a weak bare bulb inset into the ceiling and covered by a metal grill.
"A regular home from home," he muttered.
The pain in his arm was getting worse. He used the shirt to dab at his arm; it wasn't cut or grazed, it had been tattooed. There were six numbers neatly marked in the inside of his left forearm. He knew immediately what it was; he had seen enough photographs. It was beyond his comprehension why anyone should mark him like that and he couldn't understand how Alan Bauer could be involved. Pulling his knees up to his chest he hugged himself tight. The material that made up his shirt and trousers was thin and coarse and offered no protection against the cold. Blair shivered.
"Right about now Jim, would be just great."
The silence he received in reply was oppressive and he hugged himself tighter not knowing what to expect.
Blair had drifted off to sleep despite the protestations of his body over the cold and the pain and the empty feeling in his stomach. He was awakened by the sound of the door opening. A large man stood in the doorway a hand resting meaningfully on the gun in a holster on his hip.
"Who are you? Why have you brought me here?"
Blair tried to sound authoritative but he was sure his voice sounded small and scared. The man indicated with his hand that he wanted Blair out of the room. Blair debated refusing but decided that compliance might get him some answers to his questions. The floor was rough and uncomfortable to walk on. A large hand guided him into a corridor and then through another door into a room not unlike the one he had just left. The new room had two chairs and a table. The chairs faced each other either side of the table. On the table was a plate and mug. There was bread on the plate. Guided to one of the two chairs Blair was allowed to sit down.
"Eat." His jailer ordered and then left the room, locking the door behind him.
Blair waited until the man left the room to eat the bread and drink what he hoped was water in the mug. It tasted like water anyway. There was little of either and it didn't take Blair long to comply with the order.
Time passed. Blair was used to not having a watch and was a pretty good judge of the passage of time as though he had an internal chronometer. Normally he had help from the elements but here inside the cold cell he could only guess that about two hours had passed, when a man he hadn't seen before walked into the room followed by his jailer. The bread and water had given Blair fortitude and he was more angry than worried as he confronted the man.
"What the hell is going on? Why have I been brought here?" he demanded standing up.
The man had spoken quietly but sounded as though he was used to being obeyed.
"Why have I been kidnapped? Why are you holding me against my will?"
The man in front of him nodded and the jailer put both his hands on Blair's shoulders forcing him on to the seat. Blair tried to shrug off the jailer but the downward pressure was maintained. Opposite him the man in charge studied Blair and the stare was returned. His captor was taller than Blair but not as tall as Jim, but thin and wiry. There was something about him that was familiar but Blair couldn't work out what. The man spoke again,
" Who are you?"
Blair snorted, "You kidnap me and don't even know who I am? What sort of Mickey Mouse operation is this?"
The question was repeated.
"My name is Blair Sandburg and if you are going to tell me you have the wrong guy you will not be getting a good review from me in Kidnapper's Weekly Digest."
As he said it, Blair could almost imagine Jim telling him to shut up and not antagonise the situation. Blair couldn't help it, when he was nervous he chattered, when he was scared humour bolstered him. He knew it was inappropriate but when he got too scared to be funny he was in way over his head.
"What are you?"
"I am a graduate of anthropology and teaching assistant at Rainier University."
Blair decided not to mention his observer status thinking that it might exacerbate the situation. The man took some papers from behind his back and laid them on the table in front of Blair.
"You are responsible for this?" He pointed at the letter in red.
Without his glasses Blair squinted at the writing. It was a large red 'F'. Picking up the paper his jaw dropped, it was Alan Bauer's essay paper.
"You did this to me because of that?" He was completely dumbfounded, "You are fucking crazy."
The man peered at him for a moment, "You are a Jew."
Blair started to laugh.
"You have got to be kidding me? Is that what this is all about?"
Blair shook his head in disbelief.
"The civilised world in which we live, all its art, science and technology are the product of the Aryan race. We are a higher humanity; the Prometheus of mankind from whose shining brow the divine spark of genius has sprung."
Blair shook his head again. It was obvious the man was regurgitating propaganda. Blair thought he recognised it from somewhere…'Mein Kampf'…maybe.
"You are the subject race, the conquered warrior who draws the plough, lower people who have to be subjugated and bent to our will. We are the masters, the preservers and the increasers of culture."
The tirade finished and the man's eyes were wide with glories only he could see and imagine; his face shone with exaltation. He stared into a glorious future that was somewhere in his fevered imagination.
Blair was still shaking his head in disbelief, when the man looked down at Blair and then spoke to the jailer still standing behind Blair's chair,
"Teach him some manners."
"Ja, Herr Bauer."
Blair was dragged sideways out of the chair. He stood no chance against the larger heavier man. The beating was efficient, painful and relatively swift. Blair recalled being dragged back to his cell and being allowed to drop to the floor. There was nothing after that.
THURSDAY DAY (2)
The briefing came and went. Jim concentrated as much as he could but his thoughts constantly strayed to his missing partner. He wanted to put all his efforts into finding Blair but knew that was not going to be possible. Cascade couldn't afford a riot similar to the one that occurred the last time Prometheus was on American soil. He felt stretched and taut, tense and edgy but getting a grip on his emotions and his senses was essential if he was going to achieve anything.
With the briefing over Jim returned to his desk and Rhonda handed him the warrant he had been waiting for.
"Any news of Blair?" she asked.
Jim shook his head. Checking the wording of the warrant he opened the two letters that they had been handed yesterday. The first was a note from what appeared to be a friend referring to a meeting 'soon' but giving no details or information that helped them. The second letter was much more promising. It was from a lawyer in Cascade. It was a firm that Jim had never heard of which was odd in itself as he came across most firms at some point or other. It was a one-man band, Penton Monte, Attorney at Law. The letter referred to confirming the arrangements between someone called 'Alan' and the lawyer's client, though there was no name for the mysterious client. The letter did though mention an appointment the time for which had already passed. Simon agreed that the lawyer needed to be spoken to.
"Jim use kid gloves on this one. I don't want any harassment suits against the Department."
"I'll be as nice as pie Simon."
Jim smiled maliciously and he knew he had Simon worried.
Penton Monte's receptionist was from the old school. A formidable woman in both size and attitude, she exuded the strength of character that told you straight she was used to being obeyed. When she said 'Mr. Monte sees no one without an appointment', you were supposed to shrink away with your tail between your legs grateful to be able to get an appointment for three weeks down the line. Jim had always believed that these dragons of women were the female equivalent of Drill Sergeants, without the shouting. Well he had handled plenty of Drill Sergeants in his time and he would deal with this one. Having received her opening shot Jim smiled sweetly and pulled out his ID.
"My name is Detective Ellison, this is my associate Agent Fergusson," Jim deferred to Fergie at his side, " and I am sure Mr. Monte can spare us a few minutes of his precious time."
The woman pushed her spectacles back to the top of her nose from where they had slipped down and muttered, "I very much doubt that."
She appeared to be scanning an appointment diary.
"He will be free at 4.30 for a few minutes. You could come back then." She sniffed with disdain.
Jim stood to attention making the most of his height advantage over the woman. His voice got quieter but more determined, "Miss." He used the title to intimidate, "we are investigating some very serious matters and we do not have time to wait."
The woman raised her head slightly as though she were trying to look down her nose at Jim despite the fact that she lost out nearly a foot in height on him.
Jim's patience snapped. "Listen lady, we are going in your boss' office now. If you know what's good for you, you'll step aside or believe me I will go through you." His breath was coming hard.
The woman raised her voice; incredibly she had not succumbed to the Ellison 'charm'.
"How dare you come here and behave like this?" Her voice got shriller, "You will not interrupt Mr. Monte. I don't care if you are the police, this is totally unacceptable."
Jim wasn't going to listen anymore. The woman continued to shriek as Jim forced his way past her. The woman grabbed his arm demanding he stop, he pushed forward and as matters came to a head the door to Penton Monte's office opened. The combatants froze.
"Doris, what is going on out here?"
The woman's attitude changed completely; she blushed and stammered, "Mr. Monte, this…gentleman…says he is from the police. He said he wanted to see you. I told him you were not available until this afternoon, then he just pushed past…"
Before she could finish her tirade Jim interrupted. The woman after a pause at Jim's audacity continued to explain herself to her boss whilst Jim spoke over the top of her.
"Mr. Monte I am Detective Ellison, Cascade PD. We need to speak to you about a letter you wrote to Peter Baxter."
At the mention of the name Monte held up his hand to silence his receptionist.
"That will do Doris. You are right…" he turned to look at Jim, "I am very busy, but never too busy to do my duty as a citizen. I'd be happy to answer Detective Ellison's questions. Please," he indicated through the open door, "do come in. Doris, hold my calls, all of them."
Doris stood opened mouthed as the two detectives walked past her. Monte settled himself behind his large desk. His smile reminded Jim of something slimy and a nasty sensation slid down his spine.
"Gentlemen please do sit down. Now what can I do for you, you mentioned a Peter Baxter?"
Jim handed over the letter. It was sealed inside a see through evidence wallet.
"Yes I wrote this letter." Monte said having studied the letter carefully.
"We'd like to know the name of your client, the one referred to in your letter."
Monte settled back in his large stuffed chair put the palms of his hands together and steepled his fingers. Slowly he brought his hands to his face and his index fingers touched his lips. The smile on his face grew wider and colder,
"Gentlemen you know I can't breach Attorney/Client privilege. The name of my client must remain my little secret."
He looked like the cat that had eaten the cream.
Ten minutes later Jim and Fergie left Monte's office. Jim stormed out and Fergie followed in his wake. Jim had known before he went into the office that it was highly unlikely that Monte would give up the name but he had to try. What had got to him as the interview had nose-dived into its inevitable conclusion was the smug look on the lawyer's face. Only will power had stopped Jim from reaching across the desk and grabbing the slimy son of a bitch round the neck and throttling the information out of him. Jim knew he was struggling to keep control; he needed his guide. No, more than that, he needed his friend, safe and sound. The pent up anger put inches in his stride and as he fairly flew out of the office and the building, Fergusson struggled to keep up with him.
"Hey Ellison, slow down." Fergusson shouted, as Jim got further away.
Jim stepped into an alleyway and stood facing the wall. He tried to breathe; he listened to his guide's voice telling him to stay calm. It didn't work. He punched the wall.
"Shit," he leaned his forehead against the bricks.
They were cool.
"That's gotta hurt."
Jim looked down at the blood on his knuckles and then turned his head to Fergusson, "Yeah it does," he sighed.
"Need to get it checked out?"
"No, nothing's broken," Jim replied, flexing his fingers, "I've got a first aid kit in the car."
As Jim cleaned the wounds, Fergusson leaned against the side of the car and watched.
"Want to explain to me what that was all about?"
Jim struggled to put his fears into words.
"Your Captain told me about Mr. Sandburg being missing and I sympathise, I really do, but this is much more important than one man. We have to stay focussed here."
Jim faced the final Band Aid on the bandage across his knuckles. He repacked the first aid kit and then turned slowly to the FBI agent. His words came out calmly and quietly but there was fury behind them and Fergusson took a step back.
"You have no idea what you are talking about Fergusson. I don't want your sympathy and I am doing my job here Agent Fergusson. If you don't like the way I do it then I suggest you talk to my Captain about working with another detective."
"That's not what I meant and you know it, Ellison." Fergusson was getting angry now. "You were ready to attack that man in there."
"But I didn't."
"He would have grounds to complain. You were rude and belligerent."
"He was lying." Jim shouted.
" I know, " Fergusson shouted back stepping into Jim's personal space, "but you played into his hands. He knew you were rattled."
"Rattled…rattled," Jim drew a deep breath, " you haven't seen me rattled."
Jim ground his teeth together. Fergusson didn't retreat. Jim, knowing the conversation was getting perilously close to dangerous, was startled when his cell phone ringing broke the silence.
Pulling out his cell phone he barked into the mouthpiece, "Ellison."
"Jim, it's Susannah Tomacki. I think I've found the last person to speak to Blair before he disappeared. I've asked her to come to my office when her lectures finish in an hour. Can you get here?"
"I'll be there."
Jim turned back to Fergusson, "I have somewhere to be, do you want dropping off?"
"I'll go back to the station and see what I can dig up on our lawyer friend."
Jim looked at the man and recognised the effort at building bridges.
He nodded, "I'll meet you back there."
The journey back to the station was completed in silence. As Fergusson stepped out of the truck and closed the door, he leaned in through the open window, "I hope it's good news."
"Thanks." Jim replied begrudgingly.
Jim found Susannah Tomacki in her office with a shorthaired woman wearing a plaid skirt who was drinking tea. As Jim entered the room the woman jumped to her feet. She strode towards Jim putting out her hand.
"You must be Jim, Blair has told me so much about you."
Jim was taken aback but shook hands with the woman. He tried to withdraw his hand but she held on.
"You are quite as handsome as he described."
"I'm sorry…I don't think we have been introduced."
"Of course, how silly of me. I am Theodora Engels but my friends call me Teddy and any friend of Blair's is a friend of mine."
She finally let go of Jim's hand and he felt he should check to see if all his fingers were still there. He steadied himself. Miss Engels, Teddy, if you have any information on Blair please just tell me."
"Of course, of course, I am so sorry you must be so worried."
The woman sat down and grasped her mug of tea firmly.
"Unfortunately I do not think I can be of much help."
There was a catch in her voice. Jim knelt in front of her.
"Teddy sometimes people know things without knowing it. Tell me when you last saw Blair."
She told him everything almost word for word.
"I have always been blessed with almost total recall," she explained seeing Jim's surprised look.
"Did you get the impression that Blair was scared of this student, that he had threatened Blair in any way?"
"Not at all. Blair was concerned for the boy's welfare, feeling guilty that by reporting him he might be the cause of his suspension or worse." She looked into Jim's eyes, "Have I been any help at all?"
Jim's head dropped, "I don't know."
He felt the woman take his hand.
"Please find the sweet boy. I would miss him dearly. Who would I flirt with?"
Jim raised his head and returned the woman's stare.
"I will get him back Teddy."
His voice was steady and determined.
"If there is anything I can do to help please, just ask."
"I will and thank you Teddy."
The woman was confused.
"Why I have been of no help."
"Thank you for being a friend to Blair when he needed one."
The woman nodded. As Jim left Susannah's office a voice stopped him.
"Jim," he turned to face the young campus security chief, "as far as I can piece together Blair left the cafeteria alone. I have no other sightings of him after that."
Jim rubbed a hand round the back of his neck trying to massage the tension out of his shoulders and neck.
"Keep at it Susannah. Someone must have seen something."
Susannah laid a hand on the detective's arm, "you know I will Jim."
Simon could tell from the slump of Jim's shoulders and the dejected look on his face that Blair was still missing. He left the conference table and opened the door to his office. Joel and Fergusson continued to work through file after file.
"Jim. We've made progress on the Prometheus case. One of Brown's snitches came up with a time and a place; 8 o'clock, Saturday night at Draper's Hall movie theatre."
"That place has been empty for years."
"I know but from the rest of the Intel we have been getting it is definitely the place."
Jim seemed to be deep in thought.
Simon didn't finish the question.
"No," Jim propped himself on the nearest desk, "but something… my gut… the Sentinel thing… tells me that Blair's disappearance is linked to what is happening here."
"How?" Simon was flummoxed.
"I can't give you a reason Simon. I just know."
Simon made an immediate decision. He had seen too much happen between his best detective and his best police observer, ok his only police observer, to not know when he had to accept a situation regardless of whether he understood or believed. He nodded resolutely.
"Then you need to hear what Fergusson has found out about our lawyer friend."
Jim didn't answer. Simon grabbed his arm and as Jim looked round at him, Simon swallowed seeing the despair in those blue eyes.
"Come on Jim, have some coffee."
He pulled the younger man into his office. By the time Simon handed the detective a mug of hot, sweet, black coffee the man seemed to be paying more attention. He was listening to Fergusson but took time to give Simon a tight smile of thanks.
"According to Bureau files, Penton Monte practised in Austin, Texas before arriving in Cascade five years ago. Before that he was in Georgia; always a one-man band, a small private practice, mainly criminal work. Nothing too big, too high profile, just staying under the radar but over the years he has defended a continuous stream of neo nazis and white supremacists across the State. No murder trials, no rapes, just small time beatings, harassments, arson, that sort of thing. Taken in isolation, for each of his practices you could say it was just run of the mill stuff that any defence lawyer is going to come across in his time. Put it all together and it is a very definite pattern."
"Very clever, " muttered Joel.
Fergusson nodded, "so clever that until now even the Bureau hadn't figured Monte as a mover and shaker."
"Where does he live?" Jim asked.
Simon let the three men work. Sometimes being Captain meant you got to see the intellectual sparks fly as well as the physical ones. Joel sorted through the sheets of paper on the large table.
"Isn't Bayview one of those new gated communities out on the coast road south of the airport?"
Jim posed the question as he reached for a doughnut. It disappeared in one mouthful. He must be hungry, Simon mused. I wonder when was the last time he ate.
Joel Taggart answered, "That would be a great place for someone who wanted to lie low. They have their own security, no one gets in or out without a pass, twelve foot high walls all the way round and regular patrols with dogs." The big man shrugged, "Might be worth a look."
"Could Prometheus be here already?"
Another question from Jim.
"It's possible," said Fergusson, "we don't know enough about his movements to say how far in advance he is likely to arrive."
"We could always go and ask," Joel smiled.
"Captain Taggart you are a clever man," Fergusson grinned.
"That's why they pay me the big bucks."
Simon put his mug down, "Joel take Megan and see if you can get in to see Monte at home. Whether Prometheus is there or not I suspect we will get short shrift. So let's keep an eye on the place, see who goes in and out, who knows maybe we will spot a familiar face. Jim and Agent Fergusson will relieve you at Midnight. I'll get Brown and Rafe to take over from them."
Joel got up, took one more doughnut and left Simon's office.
"Gentlemen, join me for dinner."
It wasn't a question. Simon looked at the two seated men daring them to deny him. Jim took the dare.
"I can't Simon."
Simon was prepared for that.
"You still need to eat Jim."
"I'm not hungry."
"You just devoured that doughnut in one bite."
Jim looked at his fingers. Simon saw the surprise on Jim's face and watched as he realised there was sugar on them.
"I can't go to a restaurant Simon."
There was almost a pleading in his voice and Simon realised what the man was saying. Without his guide and with the stress of this case, not to mention Blair missing, his senses must be all over the place.
"I'll order in Chinese, we can just eat here."
Simon offered a compromise.
"If it's alright with you Captain, I'd like to head back to my hotel, grab a shower, report in, you know the drill," Fergusson interrupted.
Simon wondered if the Bureau man was picking up on the vibes.
"OK Agent Fergusson, be back here by eleven o'clock."
The young man left the room quickly.
"Jim are you ok? Are your senses spiking? Are you zoning?" Simon asked when he was sure they were alone.
"No… to all three. My head is killing me."
"Did you sleep much last night?"
"Maybe an hour or two."
"Ok we are going to grab that Chinese and head to the loft. You can eat and still get a couple of hours sleep before we have to be back here."
"I can't Simon. He's out there somewhere and I have to find him " With everyone out chasing Prometheus it's like he's been forgotten."
"He's my friend too Jim and he hasn't been forgotten. Brown and Rafe have been working on Blair's case since lunchtime, just after they talked to their snitch."
"I didn't know Simon, I'm sorry."
"It's ok Jim. Come on let's get you home."
Simon drove. Jim hardly spoke save to say what he would have to eat. Over food at the loft Simon managed to tease out of Jim what he had found out from the English Professor at the University.
"And this makes you think there is a link between the two cases?" Simon asked realising how tenuous the link was.
"Yes… no… I don't know."
Jim was rubbing his temples and his eyes were closed.
"How's the head?"
"Got any Advil?"
"In the bathroom cabinet."
Simon brought Jim two tablets and a bottle of water from the fridge.
"Take them Detective."
Jim did as he was told.
For a minute Simon thought Jim was going to argue but the man just stood and headed to the stairs. It would have taken a damn good detective to notice the momentary pause outside the doors to Blair's room and the fingers that stretched out to try and touch something elusive. I am a damn good detective, thought Simon, swallowing hard.
Jim didn't think he would sleep. He lay on the bed not bothering to take off his clothes or move the duvet. As normal before he slept he stretched out his hearing to anchor himself on Blair's heartbeat. The absence made him shiver. The quiet sounds of domesticity as Simon cleared away the food they had left and washed dishes instead led him to sleep.
The panther snarled. Jim sat up. He was in the jungle, the panther at his side. The big cat's hackles were up and he was growling deep in his throat. In front of them was a part of the jungle Jim didn't recall having seen before in these dreams. It was old and dark, the trees gnarled and misshapen. The canopy of branches allowed no light to enter and as Jim stepped forward he could smell the decay, the stench of something foul. He could almost taste it. He stepped closer and realised the black cat hadn't followed him. Jim looked back questioningly. The cat paced from side to side. When it stopped to look at Jim there was fear in its eyes. Never before had the cat been afraid to lead Jim forward. A knot formed in Jim's stomach. He didn't know what the cat's reluctance meant but it wasn't good. Somewhere from deep in the dark jungle a wolf howled, a wolf in pain. With or without the cat Jim was going in there. A last look back showed Jim the cat had sat on his haunches, waiting, eyes glinting.
It was easier than Jim had realised to make his way into the jungle. The trees seemed to allow him to enter but then closed behind him. His enhanced vision gave him some sense of where he was going but even with his vision dial turned up to high everything was still gloomy. The wolf howled again.
"Blair," he shouted without knowing why.
"He isssn't here."
A sibilant voice answered his call. Jim whirled round looking for the source of the voice.
"He isss mine."
There was a definite hiss.
"No he is my guide."
"You may have hisss sssoul but I have hisss body and hisss pain isss mine to give."
"Show yourself you fucking coward."
There was a slithering sound and a thud. A huge black snake slid from the darkness. As it approached Jim could see red eyes piercing the gloom. The snake came to a halt in front of him, its black tongue flicking in and out. It coiled itself and then rose from the coils to reach a height level with Jim. It wavered in front of him. When the voice spoke the tongue spat out.
"You will not find him Sssentinel."
"If I have to burn this fucking jungle to the ground and you with it I will find him."
"He isss mine."
Jim stepped forward in a sudden movement and gripped the snake just below its head. The tongue lashed out and Jim felt burning liquid hit his face. He screamed but didn't let go.
"Jim for Christ's sake," hissed a familiar voice.
Jim opened his eyes. He had Simon by the throat. Jim let go and gasped for air. Simon dropped the wet flannel that he had in his hand and put both hands to his throat.
"Next time remind me not to wake you when you are in the middle of a nightmare."
"I'm sorry Simon. Are you ok?"
"I will be. Here use this. I was going to cool you off. I heard you call Blair's name. When I came up to see if you were alright you were sweating like a pig. I got the flannel to cool you off. As soon as I put it on your forehead you grabbed me."
Jim slipped off the bed, opened the flannel to its full size and dropped his face into it. Neither man spoke for a moment.
" I will find him Simon."
Somewhere in the night Jim swore he could hear a faint hiss and slither.
Fergusson was waiting at the stationhouse when Simon and Jim returned. His colleagues had nothing new for him but with what he had been able to report on the progress made by the Cascade detectives, he was promised that new enquiries would be made. Ellison's tension levels seemed to have gone up a notch or two since earlier that evening. Ellison and Banks had been arguing about something as they entered the Bullpen. As soon as the two men spotted him they had both clammed up but he could tell the tall black man was not happy with the outcome. As he and Ellison left Banks spoke to his man.
"Remember what I said, Jim."
There seemed to be more than a concerned warning in that statement.
Taggart and Conner had nothing to report. The armed security guards had told them on enquiry that Mr. Monte was not home and they had no idea when he would be back. Driving away from the entrance, the two detectives had wanted to park close enough to get a good look at any visitors to the gated community, but it was difficult to find a good position that was close enough. They chose the best they could find, ensuring that they would not be hassled by the security guards, even though it meant a compromise.
"This is fine," Ellison had stated.
Fergusson could hardly see a thing in the black of midnight and there were no streetlights. He looked at Taggart in amazement, "How can you see anything?"
"When a vehicle enters the security lights go on. It's like the 4th of July down there," the black man explained.
Fergusson settled into the passenger seat of Ellison's truck as their shift started. They were to be relieved at 4.00am.
"Any word on your partner?" he asked Ellison.
Fergusson looked at the ex-Ranger as he waited for a reply. He knew all about the man sitting next to him. He had read the Bureau files on all the main detectives at Cascade's Major Crime Unit in preparation for this job. He liked to know who he was working with. One mistake he had made was not reading the file on the police observer, Sandburg. In his experience police observers rarely contributed anything to the way a police unit worked. Something else was going on here though, something that warranted further explanation. His boss was Fedexing the man's file overnight. He wanted to know more.
"He's alive," came the grunted reply.
Fergusson sighed inwardly. This could be a long four hours.
The two men exchanged no more than a few sentences throughout the four hours they spent together. No one approached the security gates and other than a few bats to break the monotony, all was quiet. Jim got out of the truck looking back up the road into the night. The dark blue sedan that belonged to Brown pulled up behind Jim's truck. It was five minutes early. How did he do that?, Fergussson thought. He had only spotted the car at the last minute as it approached without headlights and by then Jim was standing in the road. By the time the car was stationery Jim was leaning into the driver side window. Fergusson was not privy to the conversation. Eventually Ellison moved back from the driver's door and the black man got out. He shook hands with Fergusson.
"Anything?" he asked.
"Nope. Quiet as the grave."
"Captain Banks asked if you could be back at his office by ten am. He will have the plans for the movie theatre from City Hall by then and he wants you and Jim to meet with the SWAT Commander to discuss deployment."
"Not a problem," Fergusson replied yawning, "Did you tell Jim?"
"Yeah I told him but he has his mind on other things," replied Brown with sadness in his voice.
"Any news on Sandburg?"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing."
Fergusson nodded and returned to Jim's truck. Jim had the engine running, ready to leave.
"Want to grab a bite to eat before we hit the sack?"
Fergusson wasn't hopeful of a reply but he knew where the man was coming from. He had lost a partner too. Ellison didn't answer immediately and Fergusson was about to press home his argument when the taller man spoke.
"I could use a coffee."
Making a U turn away from the stakeout they headed towards the airport. Taking a slip road before the main terminal Fergusson found himself in front of a small mom and pop type diner. Bright lights illuminated the pre-dawn dark and surprisingly even at this time the place was quite full.
"This place is open 24-7. It serves the airport staff, local insomniacs and most of the Cascade PD at some time or other. And it serves the best pancakes for miles. Blair and I often come here," Ellison explained with a small sigh.
They sat in a booth and sipped hot coffee that was surprisingly good. Fergusson had ordered pancakes with blueberries after Ellison had recommended it. Ellison ordered nothing for himself.
"Good coffee," Fergusson commented hoping to start a conversation with the increasingly silent detective, "nice place."
Deciding to await for the arrival of the food before trying again, Fergusson was surprised when a diminutive Native American woman stopped by his shoulder and placed his order in front of him. The smell made his taste buds drool in anticipation.
The woman spoke, "Jim you didn't order so I brought you your usual." She placed a plate in front of the older man.
"Where's Blair? Don't tell me the Professor has let you out alone?" She smiled in a motherly way.
"Fergusson meet Sally Geraghty the proud owner of this fine establishment and one of the best cooks around."
"One of the best?" she feigned indignity with her hands on her hips.
"Ok, the best pancake cook around."
Jim gave her a small smile but Fergusson could tell it was forced. He also noticed that Ellison didn't answer the woman's question about Sandburg.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Fergusson. Enjoy your pancakes."
"I will, thanks."
Fergusson tucked into his food. The meltingly smooth pancakes mixed with the blueberries to produce an exquisite taste.
"Oh my," he swallowed, "these are good."
He finished the rest of the stack in silence. Sighing he pushed the empty plate away and sipped at his refilled coffee. The man sitting opposite him had hardly eaten anything. The food had been moved around the plate but he had only seen a couple of mouthfuls make it to the man's mouth. Ellison radiated tension and pain. Fergusson knew he had to get through to the man somehow or he would have to get himself partnered up with someone else. He understood the pain of losing a partner but if they didn't get Prometheus there would be more cops out there losing partners real soon.
"Ellison… Jim, listen man you have to give me something here. I can't work like this. I know you're hurting but if we are going to get Prometheus you have to work with me. The man we are after is ruthless and intelligent. I know he spouts all that crap but he is one clever bastard. I need you with me man."
For a moment Fergusson thought he had got through to the man, he seemed on the point of talking.
"Finished?" was all he asked.
Fergusson nodded, annoyed. He was determined to get this man off the investigation, whatever it took. He was a liability. Fergusson followed Ellison out of the diner having left enough money to cover the bill. Outside dawn was breaking and off to the right runway lights shone bright in the early morning gloom. Ellison walked past the truck and stood by the perimeter fence that cordoned off the airport. He grabbed the wire and Fergusson had a sudden image of a trapped animal, a large black cat. The image was driven from his mind by the take off of a jumbo jet. The noise was incredible and Ellison clasped his hands over his ears and collapsed to the ground.
"Ellison," Fergusson shouted, "are you ok?"
As the plane disappeared higher and higher the older man slowly removed his hands and raised his head. Fergusson was shocked how pale he looked.
Fergusson had to strain to hear what Ellison was saying
"I know I haven't been…" Ellison grasped to find the right word, "focussed but I need to process some stuff."
"Does the name Alan Bauer mean anything to you?"
Fergusson was confused at the sudden change of subject matter. He listened as Ellison explained about his partner's problems at Rainier University. He pondered, "And you think that Sandburg's disappearance is linked to this student and somehow they are both linked to Prometheus?"
"I know it sounds pretty tenuous."
Fergusson snorted, that was putting it mildly.
"Accepting that there is a connection, and I don't know yet, no one is going to give us a warrant so we can get access to his student files or search his place on your hunch."
"I know, so we head back to the station, meet with the SWAT Commander, then we see what we can dig up on this boy and then we go visit a friend of mine who might be able to help."
Fergusson nodded, "sounds like a plan."
"Good so can we get up now my butt has gone numb?"
Jim's smile was genuine this time and Fergusson was relieved to see it.
FRIDAY MORNING (2)
Blair's entire world was pain. Well pain and darkness. Pain, darkness and hunger. Pain, darkness…. He groaned. He had come to about fifteen minutes before and found himself lying on a cold floor. As the pain spread to every part of his body so memory had also awakened. The big bastard had hit him and kicked him. Oh shit. Even blinking hurt.
Blair lay still for what seemed like hours but probably wasn't trying not to blink. His reverie was broken by the sound of a bolt being drawn back and the door to his cell opening. His jailor stood in the doorway.
The man moved quickly and knelt beside Blair.
"Are you gonna get up or do I have to drag you?"
"Thanks to you I can't get up, asshole, so you are going to have to drag me."
Before he could consider the wisdom of annoying the big man Blair was hauled up and pushed towards the door. Surprisingly he stayed on his feet though it was touch and go. Movement forward needed prodding from his attacker but eventually he managed to put one foot in front of the other even if he had to keep one hand on the wall to achieve balance.
He was pushed into the same room he had visited previously. Once again there was food and a drink on the table. Blair lowered himself gently onto the wooden chair. The pain had started to localise, his ribs hurt, his stomach hurt and his head hurt. He thought there might be one or two spots on his legs that didn't feel bruised or battered but he wasn't sure. Maybe if the pounding in his head would stop he could figure it out. He reached for the cup and noticed his hand shaking. He used two hands to bring the cup to his lips so he could drink without spilling. The water stung his lip and exploration of the sore area by his fingers discovered a cut. He had a vague recollection of being slapped in the face by a big hand. There was more bread on the plate. He ate slowly, savouring each mouthful and trying to avoid the left side of his mouth where his tongue had discovered a loose tooth.
The big man waited in the room and Blair pushed the cup and plate away after he had finished, placed his head on his arms and rested on the table. A voice bought him back. Bauer was sitting opposite him again. Blair groaned and put his head back down. His head was pulled up by his hair and in a futile attempt to stop this new pain he batted at the hand pulling his hair. Another hand grabbed his right wrist and secured it to the arm of the chair with duct tape. Looking up Blair realised that there was a third man in the room. The new man strapped his left wrist in a similar manner and then stood back. Blair kept quiet this time, trying to take small shallow breaths and ease the pain of his ribs.
"What are you?" Bauer asked.
Blair swallowed, "I am a graduate of anthropology and teaching assistant at Rainier University."
Blair realised his voice sounded strange and ran the tip of his tongue over the cut. His lip was swollen. The jailor moved to stand on Blair's left. Blair looked up at him. The man ignored Blair.
"What are you?" Bauer repeated.
Blair turned to stare at Bauer. He repeated his previous answer.
"What are you?"
"Are you deaf or just stupid?"
The big man reached down and took hold of Blair's little finger on his left hand.
"What are you doing? Let go."
Blair had a sick feeling in his stomach and tried to squeeze his fingers into a fist. The large man held onto Blair's wrist and sharply pulled back on the little finger. Blair screamed as he heard and felt the break. His breath came in huge gasps despite the pain it caused his ribs as he blinked away the tears.
"You fucking bastard," he screamed. Blair sobbed. How could such a small break be so painful?
"What are you?" Bauer continued emotionlessly.
Blair stared at him, "I am not playing these stupid, fucking games anymore."
He dropped his head, the pain still radiating from his hand. The big man moved again taking Blair's ring finger in one hand.
"No," screamed Blair, "please don't."
His pleas went unanswered. With the same clinical efficiency the jailor snapped the finger. Blair let go of conscious thought. It came back swiftly and he realised he was being dragged back to his cell. He was dumped on the mattress. Pulling his throbbing arm into his chest and his knees up he leant against the wall and let sorrow take over.
"Jim please help me," he sobbed.
When Jim and Fergusson got back to the bullpen Simon was waiting.
"You're late," he muttered as he strode out of the room.
"Sorry Sir," Jim replied as he lengthened his stride to catch up with the tall, black man.
The SWAT Commander had set up his ops boards in his conference room. Not many people visited the top floor of Cascade PD Headquarters. Rumours abounded about certain practices that the SWAT teams engaged in. No one really believed them but no one wanted to find out for sure. The SWAT teams, fully aware of the stories, did nothing to disabuse them and everything to perpetuate them. Jim had heard the stories, dismissed them and really couldn't be bothered to find out if they were true. The SWAT team had their uses but they were a bunch of gung ho, trigger happy wannabe GI Joes as far as Jim was concerned. Commander Swiggert was old school though, ex-military, ex-Vietnam, a good man. Swiggert nodded at the three men as they walked in. Simon effected introductions between Swiggert and Fergusson. The Commander introduced his second-in-command, a thin faced man with ginger hair in a buzz cut. His name was Richardson. Swiggert didn't bother giving his first name.
The Commander swept through his briefing with his normal efficiency. As Jim studied the floor plans of the movie house and the street layout he suggested a couple of changes to Swiggert. The Commander nodded having considered the suggestions. Simon stood to one side but Fergusson poured over every detail. He asked question after question which Swiggert answered quietly and calmly. Jim assumed it was Fergusson's lack of familiarity with the locale or he was anally retentive beyond belief. Forty five minutes later Simon was shaking hands with Commander Swiggert satisfied that whoever went into the movie house on Saturday night would not come out without Cascade PD knowing about it and nor would there be any repeat of the riot that took place last time. The plan was simple; let the bad guys in and then bottle the place up. The plan had its drawbacks and was not without its risks but Swiggert had minimised these as much as possible. Jim felt he had given up enough time and now all he wanted to do was get back to the real job, the search for Blair.
People who thought the police work was glamorous were sorely misinformed. It was a fallacy propagated by television programmes that made it look all so easy. You know those programmes that showed the good guys screeching round corners on two wheels, breathing down the neck of the n'er do well informant, pressing a couple of keys on a computer and then, hey presto the case was solved by an intuitive leap of logic of gargantuan proportions. Not here in Cascade though, Jim thought, here it was more than not boring monotonous and incredibly frustrating. Jim rubbed his hand over the stubble that covered his chin. Cascade PD had nothing on Alan Bauer and the FBI's file was not much better. They had details of his birth, schools attended and a long list of addresses though there was no mention of his current whereabouts.
"The boy sure gets around," muttered Fergusson.
Jim yawned checked his watch and slapped Fergusson on the back.
"Where are we going?" Fergusson asked.
"Susannah Tomacki is head of campus security at Rainier University. We are old friends."
Jim smiled at the suggestive look on Fergusson's face.
"We used to work together nothing more."
"Is she going to give us access to Bauer's file?"
"Nope Susannah is a by the book lady."
"So why are we going to see her?"
"Did anyone ever tell you that you ask too many questions?"
Jim drove and appreciated that Fergusson kept silence. He only hoped that Susannah was as willing to go along with his next suggestion.
"Jim, you know I can't release Bauer's file to you. Get a warrant and I will personally deliver the file to you."
Jim had made his suggestion to Susannah as soon as they were seated in her office. He had explained why. She had refused then as she was refusing now but in an effort to speed up the process once Jim had the warrant she had called administration and requested the file be sent over immediately.
"This way you know it is here and you don't have to go through the dragon that is Agnes Smith, Head of Admin when you do have the warrant."
"We appreciate the help Susannah."
Jim was sincere.
"You know I would do more if I could Jim? I really want to help you find Blair."
Susannah stood, "Gentlemen, I have to go. Jim ring me as soon as you have the warrant and I'll make sure I am here. Finish your coffee please. The door will lock automatically when you leave."
Jim gave her a hug as she picked up her hat and made to leave.
"Well that was a waste of time," Fergusson complained.
Jim sat down and sipped at his coffee.
"Patience, Fergusson, didn't you hear what the lady said, finish your coffee."
Fergusson stood, obviously angry, "this is a waste of time. I was crazy to go along with this plan. You are grasping at straws Ellison. There is no connection between Sandburg and Prometheus and we need to be out there chasing this guy down."
Jim remained calm, staring into his coffee. "Sit down Fergusson." He spoke quietly.
"I'm going to Banks. I want to work with someone else. You are a liability Ellison."
Jim turned and stared at the FBI agent. "Sit down." His words were harsh.
"Fuck you Ellison."
Fergusson stormed out of the office. Jim shrugged his shoulders and finished his coffee. Ten minutes later there was a tentative knock at the door.
"Come in," Jim shouted and stood moving behind Susannah's desk.
A mousy young woman hesitantly opened the door.
"Miss Smith asked me to bring this over."
The young woman blushed and held out a file. Jim gave her a beaming smile which deepened the blush. Jim took the file from her and laid it on the desk.
"Do you want anything from me?" he asked innocently enough but gave the woman a look that sent her heartbeat soaring. The woman struggled to give a coherent answer.
Jim took pity, "a signature?" he suggested.
"Oh yes," the woman giggled nervously.
Jim felt a slight pang at playing the woman but Sandburg was worth her embarrassment. Jim signed the receipt and heard the woman sigh as she left the room.
Flicking quickly through the file he jotted down Bauer's address and cell phone number. Scanning the rest of the file he cursed as he realised there was nothing much else in it. Closing the file he whispered up a prayer of thanks for good friends in general and Susannah in particular.
Bauer lived in a part of Cascade that was inhabited by many students. 2135 West Field Drive was a small town house. Apartment B had a buzzer outside that was labelled ‘Featherstone'. Jim pressed the buzzer. An excited female voice answered over the intercom.
"Miss Featherstone?" Jim asked.
"Yeah that's me."
"My name is Ellison; I'm a detective with Cascade PD. I need to speak to you about Alan Bauer."
"Ok, come up."
The buzzer sounded and Jim pushed the door open worrying about how trusting Miss Featherstone was, too trusting. He knocked on the door of Apartment B and looked down at a petite blond wearing what could only be described as a body hugging outfit. A two piece set, both pieces bright pink, left little to the imagination and the low cut of the top gave him a show of cleavage that was way too much, in his opinion. Maybe I'm getting too old, he thought.
"I was just in the middle of my work out… do you mind?"
Jim shook his head, "no please carry on."
The girl knelt down and resumed exercises she had obviously been doing before judging by the sweat stains on her outfit.
"Is Alan ok?"
She didn't sound worried.
"When did you last see Mr. Bauer?"
"Thursday… no, Wednesday night. He was here when I got back from classes. I told him to calm down; he had been drinking and was hyper."
"Why was he excited?"
"No idea," she panted as the intensity of the exercises increased, "but he had been dizzy all week. He was so pumped at meeting up with his dad again. Don't you think that's cute? I think it is so sweet… for a guy… you know?"
Jim turned to look at the girl who was contorted into a position that made him wince. He cleared his throat.
"Call me Bambi," she said loudly.
Jim gulped, "Bambi did Mr. Bauer say where he was meeting his father?"
"Oh he had already met his dad. Last weekend. Apparently he has been out of the country and only got back for the first time in ages."
The girl stood and took her foot in her hand. Slowly she pulled the foot up until it reached above her head. With a start Jim realised he was staring. The girl blinked and Jim had to remind himself he was old enough to be her father.
"Do you mind if I look around?"
"Help yourself," the girl replied smiling.
Jim undertook a thorough search. Each time his gaze came back to the girl he noticed she was watching him. His search turned up nothing. Having failed in that, he was determined to see if he could prise anything more out of 'Bambi'. She was standing by the fridge drinking juice from a bottle.
"OJ?" she asked.
"Thanks," Jim replied and caught the small bottle she threw at him. "I need to ask you some more questions Miss Featherstone."
"Bambi, what do you know about Alan Bauer?"
"Well what do you need to know? I don't know him that well. He only ended up staying here because of my twin sister Randy."
Dear lord, thought Jim, there were two of them and they were twins.
"She and Alan were an item. He moved up here after they got together back home and Randy decided she wanted to try living up here with me. Then when Randy changed her mind and went home, I let him stay on. The poor guy had transferred his Uni course and everything. I needed help with the rent and he kept to himself."
Jim asked question after question but Bambi gave him nothing that could help him find Blair. Reluctantly he stood and took his leave.
"Just out of interest Bambi, what are you studying at Rainier?"
Bambi smiled, "law."
"You are going to be a lawyer and you let me carry out a search and answered all my questions?" Jim was surprised, "why?"
"Bauer's a prick and you are such a hunk."
Jim cleared his throat, "thank you Miss Featherstone."
He opened the door.
"Come back anytime."
Jim knew fully well what she was suggesting. He shut the door and hurried to the truck. His thoughts were interrupted by his cell phone.
"Ellison, what the hell is going on? I have a very angry FBI agent in my office accusing you of dereliction of duty and demanding I reassign you."
"I'm on my way in Simon. I'll explain when I get there, but Prometheus is already in Cascade."
Jim could almost see Simon bite down on his cigar.
"Get back here detective, now."
The connection was cut. Jim got in the truck, started the engine and drove back to face a very angry captain of Major Crime.
FRIDAY NIGHT (1)
The pain in Blair's hand had settled to a dull ache. He sat back on the bed resting his back on the wall, the injured hand held close to his sore ribs. Since his fingers had been broken he had been left alone. His thoughts had wondered to his past, to Naomi, to Jim and he took some small comfort from the memories. The remembrances became muddled jumping backwards and forwards in time. He grew hot and wiped his forehead with his good hand. A fever he wondered? Probably, his arm where he had been tattooed was sore and the skin reddened. Blair knew infection when he saw it. Closing his eyes he realised there was sound to accompany the heat, the sound of birds and the wind in the trees. He wasn't surprised when he found himself in the jungle. He was lying in a clearing. Nearby he could hear something slither, something that made his skin crawl. He wanted to move but he couldn't. The slither drew closer and was accompanied by a hiss. An enormous snake slid into view.
"Oh god," he muttered.
"The panther will not ssssave you Sssshaman," it hissed.
"He will come for me." Blair was defiant.
"It will be too late."
Suddenly the snake shot forwards and Blair felt the fangs bury themselves in his arm. He felt the poison pump into his body.
"Jim…Jim," he cried out.
The tears rolled down his face. He licked the salt water as the tears reached his lips. His good hand came up to his face again and wiped away tears and sweat. He was once again in his cell.
Blair drifted for a while, the pain lessening as he let go. The door opening brought him back to the harsh world he inhabited. His jailor pulled him to his feet. Blair groaned and was prodded and pushed back to the room where his pain had been inflicted. The table and second chair had been pushed to one side. One chair sat in the middle of the room. To Blair it looked like a place of execution. His fears took shape when he was pushed down into the chair and once again his wrists were pinned to the chair with duct tape. A sob escaped and Blair wondered if he could survive the pain of having more fingers broken. With a shudder he knew he could.
The third man, the one he had only seen briefly the last time, the thin one, entered the room with a tray. He put the tray on the table and Blair started to shake hoping that breaking his fingers might be all they would do to him. The jailor pushed Blair's head down so that his chin touched his chest. He heard the second man approach and tried to pull away so that he could move his head to identify the odd metallic sound that got louder as the thin man approached. A voice inside him warned him that he really didn't want to know what the noise was. It stopped and then started again.
" No, no… don't… you fucking bastards. Please don't."
Blair's protests were ignored. Through tear filled eyes Blair looked at his feet as more and more of his curls drifted lazily to settle on the floor around him. He fought, he swore, he struggled but when the scissors stopped the pressure on Blair's head remained. He struggled again as he heard the sound of the razor but the grip on his head was relentless. He sobbed defiance but no one listened, neither man cared, they were clinical, efficient and thorough.
Dragged back to his cell and dumped once again unceremoniously on his bed Blair used his good hand to nervously touch his now shaven head. His fingers trembled and tears fell again. He tried to cover his head with his arm and hand. The pain of the loss was greater than any other pain inflicted on him so far.
FRIDAY NIGHT (2)
Jim managed to placate one of the two angry men he found in Simon's office when he got back. He explained to Simon what he had found that only made him more certain that there was a link between the two cases. Simon had the same reservations as Fergusson but he trusted Jim and his hunches. Fergusson was not swayed and Simon ended up assigning Taggert to work with the still angry FBI agent.
Jim went back to his desk. He pulled out the files and went over all the old ground. Now he could add Alan Bauer to the equation he hoped more pieces of the jigsaw would fit together. He was wrong. He searched every conceivable database across police forces around the world against the name Bauer. One or two searches came back with results but for the most part Jim was able to discount them. He worked late into the night and was on his sixth mug of coffee sometime around midnight when Joel Taggert turned up at his shoulder looking tired and wrinkled.
"How does it go, Joel?" he asked, concerned for the ex-Bomb Squad Captain.
"Nothing. This man could give Howard Hughes a few lessons."
Jim nodded, "where's Fergusson?"
"Gone, back to his hotel, said he had some reading to do. He is sure not one of your biggest fans Jim. What did you do to the man?"
Jim shrugged too tired to explain what had happened, "different priorities," was his only reply.
Joel sat in the seat normally occupied by Sandburg. "We will find him Jim, he'll be okay."
Jim sat up straight, "I know Joel, it's just sometimes it's nice to hear someone else say it. Thanks man."
"You look like hell. You should head back to the loft and get some sleep."
Turning off his computer Jim stood, "yeah I need to get out of here. 'Night Joel."
FRIDAY NIGHT (3)
Fergusson picked up the parcel from the hotel reception and decided to read the file on Blair Sandburg before showering and eating. While Ellison's behaviour had annoyed the hell out of him he grudgingly had to accept that Ellison had got information, albeit not much, that they would not otherwise have got. It led to a dead end but at least it was another dead end and eventually one of them had to lead somewhere. Fergusson knew that Ellison was searching for his partner primarily and if he stumbled across Prometheus' path as well all to the good. What he couldn't understand was why a cop like Ellison would put everything, his career and reputation at risk for a police observer. He wanted to find out.
The file on Blair Sandburg was thicker than Fergusson had anticipated and made very interesting reading. It raised more questions than it answered. He could see how an anthropologist could make a good consultant to a police force, much like the FBI's own profilers and there was no doubt that Cascade needed all the help it could get; its record on serial killers, murderers and other associated mayhem creators was phenomenal. So while Fergusson could see the logic he still couldn't see why these two men were hooked up. Ellison struck him as being the typical loner, hard-headed cop who chased away anyone who wasn't 100% cop when they tried to interfere and yet here he was risking everything for a guy who looked about as far away from cop as you could get, unless you counted undercover narcotics or vice and even then the picture on file cast doubt on this man fitting into any cop profile. Fergusson stared into the blue eyes and thought to himself that it might almost be worthwhile to join Ellison in his search just to see what it was about Blair Sandburg that had got under Jim Ellison's skin.
FRIDAY NIGHT/SATURDAY MORNING
When the jailor came back Blair had not moved. His right arm still protected his head. As much as Blair had processed the loss and tried to reconcile himself to it, arguing that it was 'only' hair and that it would grow back, the feel against his hand ripped those arguments apart and tossed him into despair. That logical part of his brain knew why it had been done; to humiliate, to denigrate, to dehumanise. He had read Primo Levi's 'Survival in Auschwitz' and recognised the techniques. The emotional part of him was determined he would not succumb to the horror but always it came back to what he felt then and there and that was not his curls, his hair and without that was he still the same man? He couldn't answer that honestly.
Blair stayed put even though he could feel the big man standing in front of him.
"Get up," he grunted. His voice was heavily accented and even those two words were difficult to understand. Blair ignored him. The man grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him off the bed. Blair resisted, staring at the man, his lips drawn thin, his left arm still held close to his ribs. He was unceremoniously dragged to the other room, his feet gaining no purchase on the concrete floor and his skin tearing off when he tried to resist. There was no chair to sit on this time, no table or other furniture. His jailor let him go somewhere in the middle of the room. Blair swayed but managed to remain standing despite being light-headed from fever, pain and lack of food. They waited in silence for what seemed like forever.
A part of Blair's mind realised his toes were leaving blood stains on the floor. The hurt from that merely adding to the other pains he felt. Another part of him wondered where his Blessed Protector was. It had been far too long since he had been taken and he wanted Jim to come riding to the rescue right about now. Actually, he thought, if he had the choice, right before they had cut off his hair would have been better. Unconsciously his right hand moved to his head and it took a real effort to stop the movement. It was only hair he told himself…again. He wondered if Jim would lend him his Jags cap to wear until his hair grew back, he couldn't possibly wear his winter hat for all that time, it would get much too hot and Jim only made fun of his hat anyway. Maybe he could get a wig. He had always thought he would look good as a blond and blonds had more fun, didn't they? Someone had told him that anyway. A Mohican might look good or he could go punk. Jim wouldn't like the music though. Punk and Santana didn't mix. Maybe if you sampled Santana into Punk. He shook his head disagreeing with his own thoughts and the movement made the room spin. Blair took a step back to steady himself.
"Stand still," his jailor ordered.
"Easy for you to say," Blair muttered to himself.
Something told him that the giggle that was trying to well up inside him would not be a good idea and he bit down on his upper lip to control the feeling. He felt sick and dizzy. He wanted to sit down or lie down but standing was becoming increasingly difficult. Someone entered the room. Blair looked up and the room slipped sideways before righting itself as Bauer came to stand in front of him. He stared at Blair before speaking.
"What are you?"
Blair repeated his answer. Bauer asked the same question again. Before Blair could reply he was shoved backwards. The movement took him by surprise. Up until now Bauer hadn't touched him, getting other to do his dirty work for him. Falling back Blair put out his right arm to cushion the impact with the floor. Bauer loomed over him.
"You are a Jew."
Spit flew from his mouth as he screamed the words at Blair.
"You are a Jew. You have no purpose other than to serve us. You will not stand in judgment of my son. You are nothing. "
Bauer lashed out with his foot at Blair's stomach. He impacted on the arm that was braced there and Blair thought he felt something crack. Agony shot from his arm into his brain and bounced around his head.
He screamed back, "I am a human being."
Curling up on the floor he sobbed as his right arm cradled the much abused left one. Words passed between Bauer and the Jailor. Blair couldn't understand the foreign words, he wasn't sure if he would have been able to understand even if they had spoken in English. The jailor dragged Blair to his feet and manoeuvred him back to his cell. Roughly shoved against the wall behind the door Blair tried to get away from the larger man hoping against hope that he would be left alone as he had been previously. His slow pained movements along the wall halted when he got to the corner. The jailor was close behind him, too close. Pushing Blair into the corner and blocking any further movement with his body, the jailor pressed his large hand into Blair's back pushing him face first into the wall.
"When I come back tonight Jew you die. Herr Bauer has given me that task and I enjoy my work."
The jailor's other hand moved to Blair's hips and then lower pulling the thin trousers down until his cheek was exposed, the paw of a hand taking a moment to fondle aggressively and then smack. Blair felt the man's fetid breath on his neck and knew the man could feel him shaking. The jailor laughed and left the room. Blair pulled up the trousers, slipped to the floor and stared in horror at his future.
Jim had gone to the final briefing on the top floor along with the other officers involved. People had been brought in from every available department. Leave had been cancelled across the board and Jim saw faces he only ever saw at the summer softball games. People of every gender and colour and Jim guessed every sexual persuasion pretty much gathered in one resolve - to stop the hate and the violence. He yawned. Another night with no more than a couple of hours sleep and even that interrupted had left him ill-tempered and scowling. He noticed that despite the number of people packed into the one room he was in an island of space as though he radiated his own personal no go zone. He was glad. His senses were locked down. They had been going haywire since Blair had disappeared and he had kept them dialled down as much as possible. He knew Blair would disapprove, telling him it was dangerous to have them dialled down that low. Right about now he would be willing to take one of Blair's lectures, it would mean Blair wasn't lost.
Even as Jim thought that it reverberated in his souls. It was he who was lost, without his guide he had been cast adrift in an ocean of sensory waves and troughs. He remembered how bad things had been before Blair had slipped his way into Jim's life and anchored him to sanity and control. With no guide, with no friend, with no heartbeat he once again floated on the endless expanse of doubt and loneliness. Just beyond the horizon lay total loss of control and the abyss. Jim shuddered at the thought and sensed a presence next to him. Someone was brave enough to breach the exclusion zone. He turned and saw Joel Taggart. The older man regarded him with sympathy. His large hand rested on Jim's shoulder.
"How you holding up?"
"Fine, Joel, fine," he lied.
Joel nodded. "You know my mother used to work at The Diamond."
Jim was confused. Joel explained.
"Before this place became Drapers Hall Movie Theatre it was a proper theatre, vaudeville mainly. Before that it was a gentleman's private club, 'The Diamond Club', in the Thirties. There was a fire and it was closed down. It had to be totally renovated before it reopened. My mom said the fire was an insurance job but nothing was ever proved."
Jim thought of Joel's mother, a woman almost as tall as Joel and as big. She had a shock of white hair and constantly wore a battered apron. The last time he and Blair had visited she had been baking ginger snaps. They had sat in her kitchen drinking coffee and letting the most glorious biscuits melt on their tongues. Despite being in her eighties and riddled with arthritis she loved to cook and to entertain her eldest son's friends. They had left her smiling and laughing and Blair had the recipe for the ginger snaps in his pocket vowing to try them out for himself as soon as possible.
Jim took stock of what Joel had said and realised the implication, "your mother worked in a Speakeasy?"
He knew he sounded shocked but he couldn't reconcile the image of the white-haired woman with the image of the sort of woman who worked in those places. Joel chuckled.
"She was ten years old, she helped the girls with their costumes, ran errands. Back then it was all glamorous and she said they were wild days. If they weren't being raided by the Police they were entertaining the most infamous mobsters Cascade had to offer. She could tell you a tale or two of the close calls they had."
Joel was interrupted by the arrival of Commander Swiggert. His final briefing was thorough and efficient. There were few questions after and everyone was dismissed. Jim intended to get in place early in the day. He wanted to be there when Bauer turned up. It didn't matter what the others said in Jim's mind Prometheus was Alan Bauer's father. He just couldn't prove it … yet. As Jim waited his turn to leave the room he looked at the blueprints to the Movie Theatre and the street maps of the surrounding area which were pinned to the wall. He picked out his spot on the street map across from the 1940's building. Something niggled in the back of his mind and he stared more closely at the blueprints.
"Joel," he called, checking to ensure he had the Captain's attention before he went on, "how much of the original building was left when they renovated?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Well I remember some of the stories I read about Capone in his heyday, a lot of the Speakeasies had escape routes, tunnels that gave the patrons a quick exit when they were raided."
Joel was still frowning "I know what you mean."
"Look here. The blueprints show the renovations clearly and the original foundations were used for the new building."
Joel was catching on, "they don't build them like they used to."
Jim smiled, "they surely don't. Say Joel has your mom been baking recently?"
"You know Jim, I do believe she was making shortbread when I called last night."
Jim took the other man by the elbow and steered him towards the door.
"You know when I was little I used to love coming home from school. Sally always had home-baked cookies and cold milk. When Stevie drank his milk he left that white moustache on his top lip. I always kidded him about it."
"I don't believe it," Joel said.
"What?" Jim asked.
"That you were little."
Joel smiled as he heard Jim chuckle.
LATER SATURDAY MORNING
Jim and Joel arrived at Mrs. Taggart's home thirty-five minutes later. The old lady was sitting in her favourite spot by the window. Her head was buried in the newspaper, glasses on the tip of her nose.
"Joel Taggart, what are you doing here?" she asked as she hugged him, her voice strong despite her age. "Why Jim, what a lovely surprise."
She stood and embraced the detective.
"Joel told me all about poor Blair. Have you found him yet?"
"No Ma'am, but we think you may be able to help us."
"Well of course, just ask, I would do anything for you but I don't know what I can do."
Mrs. Taggart resumed her seat as the two men sat in comfortable soft chairs covered in throws of rich blues and reds. She folded the newspaper, laid it neatly on the side table and pushed her glasses back up her nose to signal she was ready.
"Joel tells me that you used to work at The Diamond Club."
Her clear brown eyes swept from Jim to Joel and back to Jim. She raised one eyebrow in question.
"I was very young but yes I did."
Jim felt as though he had to tread carefully here.
"I remember reading a book once on Al Capone where in one of the clubs he frequented a secret tunnel had been constructed. It was used by the patrons to avoid police raids. Did The Diamond Club have any such tunnels?"
The woman sighed, stood up and walked to the kitchen. The two detectives followed her. As she began making tea Jim fidgeted. He wanted answers, he knew he was grasping at straws but he felt a need to push at this. Filling the kettle with water Mrs. Taggart sighed again.
"You do know the Club burnt down in the mid-thirties, it was completely destroyed?"
Jim stepped forward into the kitchen, closing the space between them.
"No, not all the building was destroyed most of the foundations survived. Well, according to the blueprints they did. The developers just built up over the top."
He paused, feeling an overwhelming desire to bring this to a conclusion now.
"Can you remember anything?"
There was real sympathy in the woman's eyes as she stared hard at Jim. Her concentration was broken by the whistle of the boiling kettle. She turned it off and took Jim's hand as she moved to sit down at the kitchen table. She patted the chair next to her. Jim sat, keeping hold of her hand.
"You must remember Jim I was a young girl, not even a teenager. My elder brother, George, cleaned at the Club. He got me a job ironing the girls' uniforms, tidying the dressing rooms, running the girls' errands. I wasn't even paid by the owners of the Club; the girls paid me out of their tips. If they had a goodnight so did I. By 10 o'clock every night I was gone. Joel's granddaddy insisted on that."
"Are you telling me there was no tunnel, no hidden exit?"
"No I am telling you that it was a long time ago and I was very young."
She paused and Jim held his breath. Joel started to speak but was silenced by a hand gesture from Jim.
Mrs. Taggart continued, "I remember one night George and me were eating. The Club Manager came up to him and told George off. There had been a delivery and the barman was off with one of the girls. George had stacked the boxes in the alley behind the Club. The Manager tore a strip off George telling him never to stack anything there again."
Jim was patient with the woman even though his whole body screamed with the agony of waiting. He appreciated she was reliving moments dragged from somewhere deep in her memory. He rubbed her hand to encourage her.
"George went off and moved all the boxes. When he came back he told me that underneath the boxes was a drain cover. George couldn't even understand why the man was so angry it was only a drain cover."
Mrs. Taggart stopped.
"Exactly where was the drain?" Jim asked intensely.
"The alley ran along the back of the building. That's all I know."
Jim leant forward and kissed the woman on the cheek.
"You will go and find Blair now?"
"Yes Ma'am I will."
Jim stood and left the house quickly. He was sitting in the truck with the engine running by the time Joel came out.
Jim smiled grimly at Joel, "let's go."
Joel was expecting that Jim would drive to the station, so when they pulled up two blocks from the movie theatre he was more than a little surprised.
"Jim you know you need to report this."
"Joel all I am going to do is check out the information. You wouldn't want me to send Simon on a wild goose chase now would you?"
Joel caught on, opening the passenger side door, "that would be irresponsible considering the pressure on manpower."
"I couldn't agree more, Captain."
Circling round to give the building as wide a berth as possible, Jim stopped every few steps to scan the surrounding building for Swiggert's men. His senses might be out of whack but he was still an observant detective who knew the best places to look. The closer the two men got the more convinced he was that their approach had been unobserved. Eventually they found themselves in the alley. It was typical of hundreds all over Cascade, large trash cans on wheels were scattered along both sides, rubbish overflowed to the sides of the trash cans leaving the alley ripe with the smells of rotting food and other unidentified but equally unappealing items. A series of small circular drain covers ran down the middle of the alley and the tarmac sloped from the buildings on either side so the frequent rain that fell on Cascade was naturally taken into the middle of the alley to run away under the men's feet.
"Joel start this end, I'll start at the other end."
Jim jogged to the far end of the alley breaking his stride about two-thirds of the way along the building. Joel saw Jim shake his head and then resume his run. Slowly the two men walked towards each other moving trash cans and using feet and hands to move the loose rubbish on the floor. Joel was about one-quarter of the way along the length of the alley when he uncovered a circular metal plate.
"Could this be it?" Joel asked.
Jim looked back up the alley to where Joel stood.
"The covers that run down the middle of the alley are smaller and are more grids than covers, slotted so that the surface water can fall through into the storm drain below.
Joel nodded, "this is different, a solid cover."
Now it was Jim's turn to nod, "exactly."
"You know Swiggert would have had his guys check the storm drains already."
"But no one has been near this cover in a long while," Jim's eyes were shining.
"How do we get this cover off?" Joel felt Jim's enthusiasm rubbing off on him.
Jim headed back down the alley towards the truck. Joel heard the word 'crowbar' in his wake. Jim was back in a few minutes, the crowbar held firmly in his right hand. It took the use of Jim's foot on the crowbar to prise the cover up. Peering into the gloom revealed an old rusty ladder which led down into the darkness. Jim pulled out a small flashlight from his jacket pocket. It provided hardly any illumination and Taggart frowned as he stared down. He looked at Jim wanting to ask if Jim could see anything more. For Joel Taggart Blair Sandburg's 'confession' in front of the cameras had been all the proof he needed to confirm his own theory about Jim's incredible forensic skills. However convinced he was in his own mind he didn't feel confident to confront Jim with it. Instead he looked at the younger man who had gone uncharacteristically still and quiet. Jim said nothing. Joel looked down at the opening.
"It's wide enough for someone to get down," he offered.
Jim stood up and looked at Joel. His eyes seemed unfocussed thought Joel.
"Joel you go back to the truck and radio in. Tell Simon what we've found."
His voice sounded distant to Joel.
"What are you going to do?" Joel asked but even as he uttered the words he knew the answer.
"I'm going down."
Joel knew it was useless to argue.
"Be careful Jim," Joel said but he was talking to himself.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON (1)
Joel never made the call. As he arrived back at the truck Simon's car drew up behind Jim's vehicle. Simon got out of the driver's side while the FBI man Fergusson got out of the passenger side.
"Simon," Joel greeted the Captain of Major Crime, nodding.
"Where's Jim?" There were no civilities.
Joel could see how angry Simon was. Taking a deep breath Joel started to explain trying to diffuse Simon's anger. He was allowed to finish before Simon spoke.
"What you two have done could have jeopardised this whole operation. Commander Swiggert wants your heads on a platter and right now I am just about ready to hand them to him."
His words were quiet but infused with so much anger he shook with tension. Joel didn't think he had ever seen Simon like this before.
"How did you know we were here?"
"Get this truck out of here," Simon stated walking back to his car.
Fergusson answered the question, "We've had had this place under surveillance for the last three days. Swiggert's snipers have been in place waiting for Prometheus to turn up."
"What about Jim," Joel sighed.
"He's on his own."
SATURDAY AFTERNOON (2)
Jim climbed carefully down the ladder. He had seen the bottom of the shaft with his small flashlight. It was about ten feet below the surface. Though rusted in places the ladder was sturdy, taking Jim's weight with little complaint. The shaft entered midway along a passageway. From where Jim stood the passageway stretched to left and right. Left and away from the building he could see footsteps in the dust. A lot of people had passed along the passageway recently. Right and towards the building there were the same footprints. The closer Jim looked he realised it wasn't it wasn't a lot of people but the same people many times over. With a start the fact that his sense of sight was suddenly back online surprised him. He couldn't explain why and the pain caused by the absence of his guide went deep. To his right he could see the end of the tunnel, a door blocking his progress. To the left the tunnel went on eventually curling round to the left about thirty yards away. This was how there were going to get Bauer in and out Jim realised; clever, quiet and extremely well-hidden.
Moving slowly to the left he walked to the curve in the tunnel trying not to disturb the dust. As the curve played out the tunnel went on for another twenty yards or so before it ended with a ladder going up. Jim tried to imagine where the ladder came up in relation to the buildings in the vicinity. Most of the surrounding buildings were shops, restaurants and bars but Jim couldn't pinpoint which one would be the exit point. Turning back he approached the doorway with caution. There was a handle but no lock. Anyone wanting to gain access from the outside would need a lock thought Jim, unless… he gently pulled down on the handle. It gave. The door opened inwards without a creak. Jim stepped through pushing the door closed behind him. He took several deep breaths to steady himself. The corridor in front of him was dark. He could see doors off on both sides.
Piggybacking hearing onto sight, he slowly made his way down the corridor. Jim briefly acknowledged that more senses were working now even though he didn't know why. Someone was down here with him. He listened to the sounds of a heartbeat. From its cadence the owner was sleeping. There was something else. He listened closer. His eyes flew open and he ran the few steps to the next door on the left. Pulling back a crude bolt he pushed open the heavy door with his shoulder. He couldn't see anyone in the plain room and his nose rebelled at the smell of sweat, blood, urine and fear. The heartbeat definitely came from this room and he turned to look behind the door, the only spot he couldn't see from the doorway. Blood and bruises marked the man's face. It was Blair, but Jim hardly recognised him.
"Oh my God, Blair, who did this to you? Blair?"
"He squeezed a shoulder gently and the body beneath his hand moved, a murmur escaping dried, cracked and torn lips.
"Blair, come on, come on speak to me Chief."
Jim spoke quietly, still rubbing the shoulder. Eyes heavy with pain and spent tears struggled to open.
"That's it Blair, almost there, just a little further now."
Blue eyes slowly focussed oh Jim's face. There was recognition but nothing else. The arm attached to the shoulder that Jim held moved up to lie across the shaved head and the eyes closed.
"Blair I have to get you out of here. You need help."
There was no response but Jim was sure Blair was conscious. Moving away from Jim's grip Blair tried to move his body back to the wall. Letting go of Blair's shoulder Jim swallowed his horror at Blair's state and moved so that he could pull his friend up to his feet. Jim would carry him to safety if necessary. An anguished cry escaped Blair's lips and Jim almost stopped in his tracks but continued Blair's upward movement until he was on his feet. Blair's heartbeat had rocketed and there was sweat on his forehead just from that simple movement. Heat poured from the injured man's body but Jim didn't have time to check out the less obvious injuries.
"Can you stand?"
Blair nodded. Jim kept his arm around Blair's waist and half-carried, half-supported the man to the door and out of the room. Jim's head came up and tilted towards the door at the end of the corridor where he had entered.
Jim stepped back pulling Blair into the cell they had just left. Lowering Blair back to the floor Jim took Blair's position behind the door and readied himself. The footsteps approached. Three men Jim counted and looked down at Blair to reassure himself. Blair was looking up at him. Realising that Jim was returning his gaze Blair lowered his eyes and put his arm over his head. The footsteps passed by entering one of the other rooms off the corridor.
Kneeling down again Jim whispered to Blair, "I don't think we are going to be able to leave while those guys are here."
Gently removing Blair's hand from his head he said "let me check you over."
He started with the arm he held, feeling along from fingers to shoulder. As his hands travelled across Blair's body he catalogued the broken bones, bruises, cuts and abrasions. Reluctantly he put a hand on Blair's cheek and started to move up his forehead. He wanted to cry and scream at the abomination visited upon his best friend but he knew he had to hold it together for Blair as much as for himself. Blair pulled back.
It was the first word he had spoken and Jim, not a little relieved that he had said something, took his hands away.
"Oh Blair," he sighed and pulled the young man into a gentle but loving embrace. Settling himself on the floor next to Blair he pulled his guide's head onto his shoulder and slipped his arm around Blair's shoulder persuading the man to rest against his chest. Quiet descended and Jim found himself listening to Blair's heartbeat and the voices in the nearby room. At one point the voices became angry. Jim believed they were speaking German but he wasn't sure.
"It's Alan Bauer's father."
It was Blair who had spoken.
Jim stiffened as he asked, "did he do this to you?"
"Yes… no, the other one… he…"
Blair swallowed, struggling to go on.
"It's ok Blair," Jim reassured, "take your time."
With a slight stutter Blair continued.
"He … is evil."
Blair looked up at Jim and sobbed, tears in check. There was a hysterical giggle behind his tears.
"Sh, sh ok Chief, don't, please Blair, it's ok. I'm here, no one is going to hurt you any more."
Blair's sobs subsided. His eyes closed and his lashes rested on bruised cheeks. Adjusting his position slightly Jim dragged his cell phone from his jacket pocket and punched in Simon's number on the speed dial.
"Simon, it's Jim. I've got Blair and Prometheus is here in the building."
Jim knew his words had robbed his Captain of the tirade he no doubt had been about to launch.
Simon spluttered, "he can't be, we have been watching the place for three days now. Apart from YOU no one has gone into the building."
Jim chose to ignore the emphasis and carried on keeping his voice as low as possible.
"There is a tunnel that goes from the drain cover at the back of the building for about fifty yards bearing off to the left. It must come up in one of the bars on Mulholland but I don't know which one. If you can find out and block it off you can grab him now before the rally."
Jim could almost see Simon put his hand over the phone and converse with the people around him, probably Swiggert and Joel and Fergusson. Waiting for a reply Jim studied Blair still disbelieving at the loss of all those curls.
"Why did they do this to you Chief?" he asked the sleeping man.
Jim shook himself.
"I'm here." Jim replied.
"Are you and Blair out of harm's way?"
"Swiggert's bringing his people in. Keep your head down Jim."
"Blair… is he ok?"
Jim sighed unsure how to answer but knowing he had to say something.
"We'll be fine Sir."
Jim heard the silence at the end of the phone and knew Simon had understood the meaning behind the words unsaid. Moving his arm from behind Blair, Jim slipped out of his jacket and managed to drape it around thin, bruised shoulders. The movement jostled Blair awake.
"Yeah Chief I'm here but keep your voice down. We've got company."
Blair shook, "Bauer?"
"I hope so; the cavalry are on their way in."
Blair moved back to Jim's embrace and the older man moved his arm back to surround the trembling body. Silence descended and Blair's trembling eased but never entirely disappeared. Jim tensed sensing noise at the limit of his hearing. Blair's hand reached for Jim and settled on his thigh.
"Don't reach out too far, let it come to you."
Jim smiled. Even with all he had suffered he was still the Sentinel's Guide. Allowing the feel of Blair's hand ground him Jim turned up the dial on his hearing. There were men at all the entrances to the movie house. Anchored by his guide Jim tracked the incoming SWAT teams, their progress sure and steady searching every room. The circle closed and Jim knew it wouldn't be long before his fellow officers upstairs would begin to make their way down to their level. Jim shifted to his knees and placing both hands on Blair's shoulders he looked into the pain-glazed eyes and whispered,
"Sit here, I'm just going to watch the door. I don't want Bauer getting in here."
Blair nodded slowly, dropping his head to his chest. Taking up a ready stance by the door Jim waited, part of him frustrated at not being in the thick of things, the rest of him more than happy that he was there protecting his guide. Whether the SWAT teams got sloppy or triggered some alarm or whether it was just a coincidence they would probably never know, but as Jim heard the first SWAT member enter the corridor outside, the door of the room where the three men had been ensconced opened and one of the trio entered the corridor. Jim held his breath. Gunfire erupted.
In the corridor the young SWAT man went down hit by the first two bullets fired by the thin faced man who had discovered his presence. The second SWAT man took a bullet in the leg and went back into the wall. Bauer left the small room at pace his back covered by the thin faced man and Blair's jailor. There was more gun fire and with no cover and outnumbered both of Bauer's men took fatal hits. The time they gave Bauer allowed him to make his way past the door which hid Jim and Blair and to the ladder at the far end of the corridor. Bauer had made it up two rungs before realising that his exit was blocked by the police. He dropped back to the floor and started back the way he had come. Reaching the ladder Jim had used to enter the corridor he started to climb when a shadow detached itself from the wall and a gun was placed at the back of his head.
"Cascade PD. Don't move."
"Please give me an excuse to shoot you," the voice whispered.
Bauer stepped down and turned to face his captor.
"Put your hands on your head."
Bauer complied. As police and SWAT converged from both ends of the tunnel Jim was handcuffing his prisoner. Relinquishing Bauer to Commander Swiggert's men, Jim sought out his Captain.
"Simon I need a blanket."
"What's wrong? Where's Sandburg?"
"They hurt him Simon," he paused, almost unable to speak the truth, "the bastards shaved his head."
The look of shock on his Captain's face made Jim grimace. He needed to protect his guide from that reaction and from the pity that would follow him until he recovered from this assault. Retreating to Blair's cell Jim waited by the door turning away the curious and the concerned until Simon arrived with the blanket.
"Don't let anyone in Simon, "he implored the older man.
Jim opened the blanket and spread it round Blair's shoulders and pulled it up over his head.
"Chief, we have to get you to the hospital," he said gently.
The injured man nodded and accepted the help to get to his feet, hissing with the pain that juddered through his arms and ribs.
"Let me lead you."
The words were half question, half plea. Blair turned into Jim's embrace and Jim slowly led the two of them out of the room, out of the corridor and out into the night.
The trip in the ambulance was something of a blur for Blair. He knew Jim had been with him all the way and he had been aware of cool professional hands touching his body but little else. Time passed, X-rays were taken, needles were pushed into his arms and gentle voices had spoken to him. He had hardly responded, the occasional nod or shake of his head all he could manage. Jim had answered some questions but Blair let it all wash over him holding on to the dread that had taken up residence deep inside of him.
Jim shook his shoulder and Blair looked up at him blinking.
"The doctor's here Chief."
Turning his head and focussing on the figure at the side of the bed Blair saw a small dark-haired man of Asian origin smiling at him. The doctor put the medical chart he held in his hands on the bed and moved closer to Blair.
"Mr. Sandburg a nurse will be here to take you to have a plaster cast put on your arm and fingers shortly. The breaks are quite clean and you will just need to come back in two weeks for us to check that everything is healing nicely. Your ribs are bruised but there is no break. You are badly dehydrated and shocky which explains your disorientation. There is no concussion but you do have an impressive display of bumps and bruises which will cause you some considerable discomfort over the next few days. I am prescribing a mild painkiller and some anti inflammatories which should see you over the worst. You can go home tomorrow morning if you have a quiet night but not before. We need to keep you hooked up to the IV until your electrolytes are rebalanced. The tattoo can be removed at some point in the future and you can talk to the plastic surgeon tomorrow before you are discharged. I have asked him to take a look at you on his morning rounds."
"Thank you," Blair replied.
It was the first time he had spoken since the arrest had been made. The doctor picked up the chart and opened the door turning to talk to Jim.
"Your Captain has persuaded me, against my better judgment, to allow you to stay over Detective Ellison. I have one condition. You let my patient go to the fracture clinic now and my nurse settle him for the night while you go and get yourself a hot meal and a couple of hours sleep. You will not be allowed back into this room before visiting hours are over. Am I understood?"
As the small man left the room Jim bent to the man in the bed, "Chief I am going back to the loft to get you some clothes to come home in. Is there anything else you want?"
"I… I'll need a hat."
Jim swallowed hard and gripped his partner's left hand.
"It will be okay Chief. We can get through this."
Blair squeezed the large hand.
"At least you won't be able to make any more cracks about my hair being short."
For a minute Jim thought he had blown it and he nervously ran a hand through his own hair. He held his breath. "I am sorry Blair, I didn't mean…" his voice trailed off.
Blair lay back in the bed closing his eyes, "It's okay Jim."
Before he could say anymore a nurse entered and started preparing Blair for his trip to the fracture clinic.
"I'll see you later man," he said quietly as he was wheeled from the room.
Jim left the room cursing his own stupidity. He had thought that Blair would respond to his attempt to lighten the mood, instead he had come off as some insensitive jerk.
"No change there then," he muttered to himself as he strode out of the hospital.
Blair sat on the couch in the loft, eyes closed, hands wrapped around a hot mug of chamomile tea, Jim's cap pulled down low on his head. For once Jim hadn't complained about his feet on the coffee table. It had been a traumatic day. The trip home had been painful but blessedly short. Once settled Jim had explained that the feds were keen for Blair to give his statement as soon as possible. Petulantly Blair had refused to speak to any federal agent. He knew it was childish but he was in pain and he didn't care. Jim had gently suggested a compromise but he had refused that too responding only to Jim's entreaties by offering to tell all to Jim but no one else and only if they could do it at home in the loft. Jim had phoned Simon, explained the situation and relented. Blair thought it was not as though they had any choice.
Seated at the kitchen table, tiny tape recorder whirring, Blair had haltingly and in hushed tones told Jim everything he remembered. Twice Jim had asked him to speak up. Both times Blair had glared at the detective and had forced himself to repeat painful details. There had been one break when Blair had just got up without saying anything and rushed to the bathroom. It had taken Blair ten minutes to recover his composure and come back to the table. As he sat down Jim handed him a fresh mug of tea and checked that he was okay to continue. Blair nodded and took up where he had left as though there had been no interruption at all.
Eventually it was over. Jim's face had been an open book. Blair had felt humbled that the bad ass detective who normally resided inside James Ellison Sentinel of the Great City was moved by his experience to share his pain. If only his face were that expressive on poker nights. Thirty minutes after they had finished Jim had gone to the door and skipped outside before the visitor had time to knock.
"Simon wanted to come in but I told him you were sleeping."
"You lied to Simon?"
"It was easier."
Jim sighed and settled himself next to Blair on the couch. Neither man spoke. The daylight started to fade and the hot tea in Blair's hands had long since cooled.
"Want me to nuke that?" Jim asked.
"Simon said you could see the department shrink if you wanted to."
"I think I will."
Both men watched the sky darken. Blair could feel the man beside him squirm and he smiled to himself. Placing a hand on Jim's thigh he spoke, "It will be okay Jim."
Blair could almost feel the disbelief and anger radiating off the polder man. Turning to face his friend, Blair looked hard into those steely blue eyes. Before he could speak Jim interrupted,
"Chief I hate that this happened to you."
Jim paused, summoning strength to tell the truth.
"I wanted to kill him Blair. I would have happily put a bullet in his head. He hurt you so much."
Jim swallowed unable to say anything more.
"He tried to take my humanity and I almost let him. All I could think about was my hair, he cut my hair. Stupid, huh?"
Jim shook his head in denial.
"It took me fucking ages to grow it that long, you know?" Blair let out angrily.
"Your hair is not who you are Chief."
Jim's voice was anguished.
"Ask anyone about Blair Sandburg and they will mention my hair."
A sob escaped and Blair's normally expressive hands became fists of fury. Jim took both fists and encompassed them in his larger hands. He pulled the fists together to still the pain and held them in one hand.
"When I look at Blair Sandburg this is what I see."
He placed his other hand on Blair's chest, over his heart.
"He didn't take that."
The tears finally came.
"He tried Jim, he tried."
"Not possible Chief."
Slowly with one hand still holding both of Blair's, Jim removed the Jag's cap. A tremor rippled through Blair and he bit his upper lip. Jim moved his fingers over the one part of his guide's body he had never seen before. To Blair the touch was feather light.
"It's already growing back. I can feel the hair, it is so soft."
Blair's precarious control slipped again. The Jag's cap was replaced and Blair wiped the tears away with the back of his sleeve.
"I am scared I won't be able to let go of this," he hiccupped.
"Not going to happen Chief. Your Blessed Protector won't allow it. And the Sentinel needs his guide. Whatever it takes Blair you will get past this. I won't let that bastard haunt you. I won't let you haunt yourself."
He paused as if to let his words hit home. He waited until Blair nodded.
"Though I may have to make the most of having the longest hair in the loft."
Blair smiled and Jim continued, "Maybe I ought to let my hair grow so you never catch up. Wonder if my hair would be curly?"
"In your dreams Jim."
"Maybe you're right, Chief. One Blair Sandburg in the loft is definitely enough."
Outside the sun finally slipped down on the day. Blair rested into the comfort of his sentinel's protection and let the hand that held his take the dread inside his heart and ease the pain.
I am really sorry I took the hair away. It was as painful for me to write it as it was for you to read but not as painful as it was for Blair. But it will grow back - promise!
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