Note: This story falls between 'Gone Fishin' and 'Nothing Happens in this Universe Randomly…'
The Road To Hell…
Excerpts from Blair Sandburg's Personal Journal…
This was a just one more 'thrill-filled' day in the company of the Cascade Police.
It all started calmly enough, I guess, with a trip to the airport to pick up an Australian police detective, Megan Conner, who was arriving on an Officer Exchange Program. Simon had decided to go personally, proper protocol after all, and besides it gave him a chance to show off his shiny new car.
Bet he's sorry he chose today to worry about protocol.
Megan had just introduced herself when Jim spotted an armed robbery going down and the next thing I knew, Jim had taken off with Simon in his shiny new car and Megan had commandeered a cab…and in the heat of the chase sorta forgot that we drive on the right over here.
And I thought it was wild riding with Jim!
VERY exciting…especially when she used the cab we were in as the barricade to stop the speeding getaway SUV.
Well, I might have freaked out, yelling hysterical gibberish about how NOT to drive, but I've been driving with Jim for almost three years so, business as usual, right? Nothing out of the ordinary, just another maniac at the wheel who thinks they and whoever is traveling with them must be immortal.
But, hey, we got the bad guys. Not a bad first impression, all things considered. Jim didn't fare nearly as well when the door to Simon's now battered and bullet-scarred car fell off. The Captain was not pleased.
Okay, so I kinda like Megan. She's feisty and she is certainly dedicated. Before the day was out, we'd learned she'd tracked a guy named Brunell halfway across the world from Australia to Cascade. The guy is definitely bad news. Ruthless, he has killed any number of people in the past as incidental casualties to the big heists he's pulled. Gotta admire someone who is dedicated to bringing a murderer like that to justice. Unfortunately, Jim and Simon were so unimpressed with her impetuous nature that they were willing to send her straight back down-under, but I suggested that, just maybe, having someone on our side who knew pretty much all there was to know about this Brunell character might be an asset.
Oh, sure, she doesn't follow orders very well, is as independent as hell, not to mention just a little bit trigger-happy, and impulsive. Likes to do things her own way, but nothing seems to scare her, and she's pretty darned capable.
Sounds a lot like a Sentinel I know. Might be the reason they seem to rub each other the wrong way. After all, once in a while, someone has to lead and someone has to follow…with them, it's a constant debate about who is going to do the 'following'.
Wish she wouldn't call me 'Sandy', though. Oh well, what's one more endearing appellation to add to Chief, Junior, Einstein, kid, professor, trouble-magnet…I'll get used to it. As aliases go, 'Sandy' is definitely better than 'trouble magnet', which I definitely think is an exaggeration and not at all fair. I mean is it my fault that said Sentinel is always up to his ears in trouble? And, man, he's a tall guy. That's a lot of trouble!
But, getting back to Megan, would it be chauvinistic of me to also mention that she's gorgeous, has this great mane of red hair and big brown eyes…not to mention legs that go on forever? Not sure. I mean, I am a man and men notice these things. But I don't think I'll risk asking her, or mentioning my observations out loud.
I think she might hurt me!
Megan is sharp, too sharp in some ways. She's been in town one day and already she's picking up on Jim when he's using his senses, wondering how he does the things he does. We're going to have to be very careful around her. It sure doesn't help that Simon has assigned her to work with us…WHAT is he thinking? Unfortunately, I think he's gotten so used to Jim's senses at this point that he forgets we still have to be careful about letting anyone else notice.
And, man, she and Jim keep going at it…two Alpha Cops who each like to be in charge. This should be fun...not. While the fireworks can be amusing to watch, they get in the way of just focusing on the case.
Like I should be worried about that…I'm not the cop, after all!
Like a pair of kids, the two of them. I have to wonder though, as I watch them go at it, if part of it isn't about an attraction they each feel for the other but so do NOT want to acknowledge.
Man, that Brunell doesn't mess around. Blew out the power for half of the city so that he could pull a heist at the Mint. Jim and Megan got the guys with him, but then he JUMPED OFF THE ROOF! Okay, so he had a parachute, but sheesh! What a way to avoid the grid-locked traffic not to mention escape arrest. One assumes he isn't afraid of heights. God, nothing would impel me to jump off a perfectly good roof.
Oh, sure, I know, I've jumped out of a perfectly good airplane…but that was different. Simon and Darryl were in trouble and Jim was going, so I could hardly stay behind, right? Besides, I'm digressing from the events of the evening.
Jim and Megan took off after him in the bad guys' van, leaving me to call it in.
Felt funny, you know, being left behind while Jim raced off with someone else.
Ah, well, I guess someone had to wait for backup. The Security Guards at the Mint couldn't be expected to watch over the guys our heroes had already subdued and had cuffed, so that they were pretty harmless, right?
I bet Jim appreciates having back up with him who actually carries a gun, knows how to use it and does whenever required…not to mention a back up who has great hand to hand combat skills. Must be a nice change for him in some ways, to have someone with him that he doesn't have to worry about and protect.
Still, it felt strange.
Well, Megan did such a great job in helping to apprehend Brunell, well, actually in apprehending him personally, that the Sydney and Cascade PDs decided to extend the exchange program and she's agreed to stay.
I think it'll be fun to get to know her better. She and Jim are beginning to play nicely, at least half the time, and she's got a lot to offer. She's bright and knows her business. And, she's as much a cowboy as is Jim, so things won't be boring with her around, either.
Not that things've been at all boring for the last three years. The roller-coaster ride just keeps getting more exciting with thrills and definitely a lot of chills from the extra loops and curves thrown in, usually with no warning whatsoever, to keep the adrenaline flowing!
Anyway, I think it's great that she's going to stay. Not good news for the bad guys in this town, I guess, but very good news for the average, every day citizen who just wants to live and raise their families in a safe community. Like I said, she's a good cop.
Oh, man, I saw a man blown up right in front of our eyes today. One minute he was talking to us, asking Jim for help and the next…well, that's an image I really don't want to dwell upon.
Before he was killed, Carson, a US Deputy Marshall, a guy who once saved Jim's life, told us the Witness Protection Program might be compromised. He was going to show us the proof that he had stashed in his trunk when his car blew up and took him with it. It was so unbelievably sudden and unexpected…and there was absolutely nothing anyone could have done to stop it from happening. God, and REALLY horrible to see.
But even though it wasn't his fault, I could tell that Jim felt bad…he saw the blinking light of the bomb too late to call out a warning in time to save Carson's life. It's personal for Jim. I know he wants to get whoever did this to Carson. So he pushed Simon to let him look into it even though the feds have officially taken over the case. After all, the whole reason Carson came to Jim in the first place was because he didn't know who to trust in his own organization and someone's life is in danger.
Thanks to Megan finding keys at the crime scene, but outside the official taped off area of the federal investigation, we may have gotten our chance to get involved in a way that doesn't completely violate the inter-jurisdictional authorities involved.
She spotted how Jim smelled the C4 on the keys and I had to scramble to explain it was because of his 'demolition' experience in the military. The two of them started up again, competing for who should have the case, and who would have the lead, until Simon finally pulled them into his office to settle them down. I ducked out of the meeting, but I'm pretty sure he was telling them both to cool it.
She caught us again later while Jim was going over the evidence, using his sense of touch, and sarcastically asked if he was some kind of psychic. She was kidding, but we let her believe he is. I mean, how else do we explain what he does? She's picked up too much and isn't afraid to ask what it all means. Like I said, the lady is sharp, too sharp…and very, very curious. Shouldn't be a surprise, I guess. Detectives live to solve mysteries.
Makes me think the other guys in Major Crimes have been looking the other way. No way they can't have picked up on stuff, too. They are just as good at being detectives as Megan is, and they've had three years to notice stuff and wonder about Jim's abilities. God, I wonder how much they really have noticed?
I should be paying better attention. After all, it's my job to watch Jim's back, to make sure he can do his thing without worrying about it. I guess Simon isn't the only one who has relaxed and gotten a little careless over the years.
And, good old Jim took off and left me to explain to Megan why he didn't admit to being a psychic. What could I say? I drew on his worries about being perceived as a freak. A lie works so much better when you blend in some truth…lends credibility, right? Just call me Blair 'Obfuscation' Sandburg, Master of Misdirection. If I get any better at it, I'll be eligible for a doctorate in deceit.
Anyway, back to the today's quotient of excitement, before the end of the day we'd traced the keys Megan found to a suburban home…and discovered that Megan had done the same thing. At first, we only knew there was another prowler around the place and thought the mystery person in black might be someone linked to Carson's murder. Jim was sure surprised to find out the prowler was her.
And then some wacko neighbor who takes the idea of 'Neighborhood Watch' to an extreme that I personally doubt was ever envisioned by the originators of the concept, took a shot at them. Yeah, that's right, shot real bullets at them. Jim pushed Megan out of the way, and tried to tell me to stay back, but what good am I if I'm not at his back. So, of course, I ignored him. It's all right. He's used to it.
Well, the neighbors caught us, but then Megan rescued us from the local vigilantes.
Megan made some comment about being his partner and he made a point of making it clear she was not his partner…well, they bitched at one another for a good hour, so much that good old Bud Flint, the guy who shot at them and seems to be the head vigilante, asked me if they ever stop bickering.
Simon wasn't happy that Megan had gone to check out the house, contrary to his orders to stay off the case. But…she talked her way out of it on a technicality and he gave her a break, this time anyway.
I have to admire her style, but honestly, I think I may have softened Simon up over the years. He's gotten used to a certain amount of respectful and well-intended insubordination. 'Course, Jim has helped on that front, too. Simon has an interesting challenge…how do you control dedicated, highly capable officers who just won't quit when there is something dangerous and possibly deadly going on that needs to be stopped?
Not that anyone can ever control anyone else, except to force compliance, which is grudging at best and usually backfires and certainly ceases as soon as the threat of force is removed. Actually, Simon does a really good job of just trying to keep people focused, organized and safe, as best he can, anyway.
Well, this is going to be amusing. Simon assigned Jim and Megan to go undercover as a married couple in the suburban home with the added direction to work out their differences. Then Simon told me I was going in, too. I suspect he wants someone there to make sure they don't kill one another. I really should have taken more psychology and conflict management courses when I was an undergrad…but who knew the skills would turn out to be so essential?
Anyway, I get to play Jim's nephew…well, it's appropriate, I guess. All in the family…I got into the PD in the first place as his 'cousin's kid'. But I felt like I spent the afternoon explaining we were related by a late second marriage, yada, yada…. I mean I'm a little old to be his nephew, much as they always seem to call me, and think of me, as 'the kid'.
We know the people threatened by a leak in the Witness Protection Program live in this neighborhood, at least we're pretty sure they do…we just don't know who they are, or who might be after them. Nothing like working in the dark.
Good old Bud was watching for us when we arrived, eager to introduce us to the neighborhood gang… and I use that term deliberately. These guys are armed and dangerous!
But there are small amusements in any situation if one is open to appreciate them. For example, Jim just loves being called 'Jimbo'. And I really wish I'd had a camera to catch Megan giving him a warm wifely kiss. I think he was as surprised as I was!
I met Katie Johnson today and her cute daughter, Rachel. Katie wasn't any happier about the guns in Bud's garage than Jim was. I liked the way she reamed them out and I liked her motivation. She was protecting her daughter. Of all the folks in the neighborhood, Katie and Rachel seem to be the only ones who are normal, not to mention sane.
Man, what a neighborhood! We got 'swingers', vigilantes, one of whom appears to be distinctly 'hen-pecked', and a pretty lady and her sweet kid. Is all of suburbia this nuts? A guy could miss out on a lot of excitement living in the middle of the city.
Katie sure is pretty, and sweet, you know? There's a kind of innocence about her. I like her.
Well, I got hit on by the swingers at breakfast…what a way to start the day. Nice of Jim to tell them that he rents me out on weekends. Oh man, I think they thought he was serious!
But it got better. I helped Katie wash her van.
What can I say? She makes me feel good, you know? I really like her…a lot. Oh, I know about my track record with women, but I think, maybe, given a chance, this could be special. Like 'for the rest of my life' special.
Jim told me to be careful…somehow, Katie doesn't look all that dangerous.
I am SO impressed with her. I had dinner over there tonight and the way she is with Rachel reminds me of how Mom and I were. She's doing such a great job being a single Mom and I know how hard that can be.
She's nervous, I know, about getting involved. But I told her we could go slow. I don't want to scare her away.
'Cause I really like her…a lot. Um, I think I've said that before. But, you know, maybe I could be the right guy for her. I'm not one of these guys that needs to come first in everything. I know Rachel has to come first, and I admire that about Katie, that she has her priorities clear. I wonder how many guys that she meets understand that, and respect her for it.
Unfortunately, Jim told me I can't see her anymore, at least not until the case is over, anyway.
But what if she's the one in the protection program…what if I never get a chance to see her again?
God, I really hope I have a chance to get to know her better. I think this could be special…really special.
Jim could see I felt bad about standing Katie up today. He told me I could see her later…but he'd no sooner said it that I learned that she's the one…the witness being protected.
We found out a US Marshal was murdered, so they are going to move the witnesses away…I know because I overheard her on the phone, with that directional sound receiver we were using, when she was being told.
I felt something tear inside. Just a small tear, nothing life shattering, I guess. Just this ache of regret, even of sorrow. But that's selfish. She needs to be kept safe, and so does Rachel. What does it matter how I feel about it, or how sorry I am to know I'll never get the chance to know her better. All that matters is that they be safe and happy, somewhere far away from any threat of harm.
But I guess I understand now what Jim meant when he told me to 'be careful'. He's a good friend and he didn't want me to get hurt. Someday, I may learn to take his advice.
So we packed up, the surveillance over…and then the 'swingers' told us they were US Marshals. Well, all I can say is, they chose an interesting cover story. I thought at the time that it was surprising really, 'cause it made them the talk of the neighborhood. Usually when you're on undercover surveillance you try to keep a low profile and not attract undue attention.
Apparently, Jim didn't think it felt right, either, and we traced their prints on the fruit basket. It turned out they were suspected of murder in another state.
God, I was scared! We'd taken off and left Katie and Rachel to the mercy of people who apparently wouldn't hesitate to kill. The only thing that kept me from completely losing it was remembering that they'd been in the neighborhood for a while watching Katie and Rachel and hadn't harmed them. So, the odds were, they weren't the ones who were the most dangerous. They were the forward guard…the real threat was on the way.
So, Simon sent Jim and Conner to protect Katie and Rachel…and I went with them. Like anyone could have stopped me!
Before we had even gotten there, Bud and the boys had started a firefight. By accident, I guess, but bullets were flying when we arrived…not a healthy situation for a frightened woman and her little girl.
Fortunately, we arrived in time to keep Katie's ex-husband, Lonny Stevens, from getting away with her and Rachel. The guy had just been released from prison and was determined to get his daughter back…and to have his revenge on Katie for having been the one who had provided a lot of the evidence to convict him in the first place. God, she's brave. That guy is seriously scary, which is why she was in the Witness Protection Program in the first place. But she'd done it because it was the right thing to do. And it had to hurt, you know. She must have loved him once. It hurts when someone you loved and trusted turns out to be someone you don't really know, someone dangerous who can't be trusted.
Katie told me she and Rachel are done with running. That it's safe to stay here now because they'll put Lonny away forever. I know she's open to getting to know me better…that she'd like to see me again.
God, I'd sure like to get to know her.
But, I heard from Jim and Simon that they will likely move her one more time anyway, 'cause no one can be sure that Stevens won't hire someone to go after her for revenge.
So…she really is going to disappear. In less than a week, she'll be gone.
It shouldn't hurt this much.
I just hope that wherever they end up, Katie and Rachel will be happy. I really want them to be happy.
I don't think I'll ever forget them…or stop wondering what might have been.
What a night! Before it was over, it felt more like a week than a twelve-hour night shift.
Well, let's see, where do I start? First, there was a strike of city workers, so we had to work even though I also had to get the first chapter of my diss ready for submission later this morning. If I don't get it in, there go my grants.
So I was working on it in the truck when we were on our way to a crime scene that had been assigned to Megan and Jim was bitching about me draining the battery, so I explained what I was doing and why I simply had to get it done. Anyway, he didn't seem happy about the idea that he couldn't read the paper, but I thought he understood that, as the subject of the study, he'd invalidate everything if he read it at this stage.
I probably shouldn't have pulled his chain, laughing about something in the paper that he couldn't see. I was just teasing, but…well, I guess that was a mistake. It was probably a mistake to say anything about it in the first place, but I didn't know he'd be so worried and it hadn't occurred to me to hide what I was working on from him. I mean…why would I? He's known from the beginning that I've been working on this paper. It's not news. Besides, I thought he trusted me.
Well, we got to the crime scene and, surprise! Megan and Jim didn't interpret the evidence in the same way. Jim figured it was a 'hit' and Megan figured it was a mugging.
Whatever, we finished up and went back to the truck after Jim had spotted a scrape of red paint on the building on the corner of the alley, and wouldn't you know it, the battery was dead. Jim has really perfected that long-suffering, 'I told you so and this is all your fault' look. Right, my fault that there's a strike and that I have to spend the night on police business when I should be spending the time on my academic responsibilities. But then, what else is new?
But then a distinctly weird thing happened. This homeless guy showed up, did something, the night got suddenly very bright for just a second, and the truck started. Well, you had to be there, but it was distinctly weird. How can I describe him? He had this air of incredible gentleness and innocence about him. Such a sweet smile. But he was, like bonkers, you know? Or I thought so at the time. You see, he told us he was Gabe, the Archangel. And then he started chanting in Hebrew.
Well, we might have left him in the alley and never seen him again, but it turns out he was also a witness to the murder that had gone down, so we took him back to the station with us. How credible his testimony would have been is another question, but one that by the end of the night was moot.
When we got back to the station the place was chaotic, with hordes of people filling the hallways who should have been getting help from social services, except they were the ones who were on strike. Not just people, either. There was a duck and I spotted at least one dog. And then, somehow, don't ask me how, an alligator at least nine feet long got loose in the station, taking refuge in the ventilation system. And some bozo was playing a harmonica and wailing over the PA system. Well, you get the picture.
The media showed up to add to the general confusion of overflowing halls and general insanity. One could only hope the alligator and the duck would never come face to face. Imagine the headlines. 'Defenseless Duck massacred by Guilty 'Gator, Cascade Police helpless to prevent atrocity in their own hallways!' The Mayor doesn't like that kind of publicity.
In the meantime, life goes on and work needed to be done. I took Gabe's witness report, and decided I had to show it to Simon. I mean, he'd written it in Aramaic, an ancient Biblical language that hasn't been spoken for over 1500 years, at least. Like, nobody but scholars even knows that language existed, let alone has the capacity to actually write it.
Simon, oh so indulgently, asked me if I thought Gabe was an angel. Well, I didn't think so, not then, anyway, but some cultures believe in angelic possession and well…well, the report was weird, you know? The ever rational and reality-based Simon sent me to missing persons to see if we could get a lead on Gabe's identity. Since angels don't routinely get listed as missing persons, that pretty much summed up what Simon thought of the whole business.
In my spare time, I called all the Shelters in town to see if they could take some of the people crowding the hallways, but no luck. But I did manage to get one that would send food over. The snack machines just weren't equal to the demand, you know?
And, then, as if all that wasn't enough, I couldn't find my draft chapter of the diss! God, I was scared and felt sick to think it had been misplaced in the confusion...I mean, I wouldn't normally leave anything like that just lying around where just anyone could read it. Jim would cheerfully kill me if anyone else read it, especially when I wouldn't even let him read it! I searched everywhere for it. I was sure I'd left it in my document portfolio case, the one I carry in my pack, but it wasn't there. I mean I searched everywhere… and was SO relieved that Jim had found it. I thought I might have left it in the truck or something.
Yeah, right. Or something.
The 'gator ate the media's mobile camera.
Gabe wandered around preaching in his chanting, sing-songy way, but nobody paid him any attention, even if they could have understood what he was talking about. Since half the time he was mumbling in either Hebrew or Aramaic, that wasn't likely.
In the midst of all the chaos, Jim just kept working on the murder case. I think he was worried about the kid who drove the stolen car into the front of the station. Johnny Macado, a kid who tried to look tough, but Jim had found out his mother was really sick and Johnny was trying to raise the money for her medicine and treatments any way he could. Poor kid. 'Way too much responsibility at his age, but you got to give him credit for trying to do anything he could to help her. Oh, I know he'd done things that were against the law, but he was scared and out of options. Sometimes, sometimes I just don't think people always have a choice, you know, not when they feel cornered and the world is closing in on them. And he hadn't done anything to really hurt anyone. Just stolen a car.
Okay, okay, I know I wasn't happy when my car got stolen. But there's a big difference between going for a joy ride and trying to save your mother's life, isn't there?
One of the more voracious legal sharks showed up after Johnny had called him for representation. It did seem a little odd that the car Johnny had stolen was owned by the same shark. Jim figured something didn't add up, well obviously, and went down to check out the car for evidence…he was certain it had been at the murder scene. Remember the scrape of red paint? The red car showed a recent scrape. And he found a bullet lodged in the grill! My partner is one hell of a detective!
Anyway, I went with him to look the car over and suddenly realized I was getting the cold, silent treatment from Jim. I couldn't figure out what was going on. When he shouted at me to give him some room and made a point of leaving a wide space as he walked around me, I demanded to know what was going on.
Well, guess what, my best friend, roommate, partner and Sentinel violated my privacy and read the draft chapter of my dissertation. After I had specifically explained to him why I couldn't show it to him.
And, man, was he furious with me! He sounded off about being' territorially threatened, to the point of paranoia', just to be sure that I got the point that he had read what I'd written. Challenged me about what I'd said about his fear of intimacy, thinking I meant sex, when I had meant close relationships, like trust. Then he raved on about all he'd done for me, letting me live in his apartment and getting me a job at the department. Said I'd violated his friendship and trust.
And then he strode away from me.
Well, let me tell you, he wasn't the only one who was furious. Talk about a violation of trust! And he didn't understand a damned thing that he'd read because he doesn't understand the vocabulary or the scientific references. So, of course, he had to put his own worst-case scenario spin on it all. Stupid, anal-retentive, control freak! He just couldn't let it go. Couldn't abide by our agreement and trust me.
He really believed that I betrayed him.
And we were back to it being 'his place' and that he 'let' me live there.
And he talks about this job at the department as if I got paid for it or something. Well, excuse me. I thought I was there to help him with his senses, to back him up, on my own time, thank you very much!
In the middle of it all, when I should have probably been sorting things out with Jim, Simon cornered me to tell me that Gabe was really Harold Blake, a former teacher of Ancient History who'd disappeared two years ago.
I tried to calm down, and review my priorities. I ended up sitting beside Gabe on the floor while we ate, to ask him if the name Harold Blake meant anything to him. Gabe was quoting from Exodus at the time, about how they who gathered much had nothing left and those who gathered little had enough, and how the Lord would provide, and then he said something about angels and how Blake was 'gathered up' and that he was using Blake's body to work a miracle. You can see why the general consensus was that he was a few cards shy of a full deck.
But I have got to say, if he's Blake, and he's mentally disturbed, he sure is convincing in his innocent but confident assertions. I'm not sure how I'd expect an angel to act, but he makes it seem like he could just possibly be an angel. Almost like it's all just obvious, you know?
I guess that's what mental instability is about. Believing so strongly in your own delusion that you can almost convince other people that it's real, no matter how much their common sense tells them that it's impossible.
But mostly, I just wondered what the hell I was going to do about Jim and the diss. And wondered about my own delusions of a trusting relationship and a solid friendship. Not to mention the delusion of believing I actually had a home, not just a place where Jim 'let' me crash.
Okay, I admit it. I was furious with him, but I could see that he was really upset, too. He genuinely believed I'd betrayed him. How could he think that? After three years? How could he believe I'd use him that way, betray his trust for my own ends? I don't get it. Would he betray me? I honestly didn't know whether to be angry or hurt. Man, maybe I have been as delusional as Gabe appeared to be.
I couldn't stand it. I needed to talk to him about it. So what else is new? I'm always the one who seems to need to talk about stuff he'd just as soon walk away from. But this was too important. I caught up with Jim at the food line, and he apologized, said that maybe he'd over-reacted and that he was sorry for any transgressions, which was good, right? I started to relax, but then he slammed me with that dig that he'd thought we were friends. Like I should feel guilty! That just made me mad all over again. I tried to explain it to him, that being 'fear based' doesn't mean being a coward. That fear could be a strength and that we should work on it, so that he wouldn't bottle up the fear but use it.
But he didn't seem to think that was possible…the implication being that since he didn't trust me anymore, we couldn't work together anymore. So, I backed off and offered to trash the diss…maybe I have lost my objectivity, but our friendship is worth more than a damned paper, at least to me. I know I was mad when I walked off but I was prepared to destroy my notes. I told him that…that the friendship meant more to me. He wouldn't look at me…and he didn't say anything when I walked away.
Damn it. Why does it have to be like this with him? Why is everything such a big deal, such a life and death issue of ultimate trust? As he defines and perceives it? Is it really that easy for him to just forget the last three years? To walk away from what I had thought was a pretty damned good friendship and pretty decent partnership? Shit. I honestly believe I've been helping him, but sometimes he makes me feel so helpless, useless…and incidental. Like I really don't matter a damn to him. Like up at Clayton Falls. Like he'd just as soon have me out of his life and this excuse would be as good as any.
Okay, Sandburg, just calm down. You know as well as anyone about Jim's need for control and all the fear that he keeps bottled up inside. It sounded personal and sure felt personal, but it was just standard, vintage 'Ellison' defence mechanisms firing on all cylinders. Let it go.
Meanwhile, Jim carried on as if everything was just fine and was still trying to help the kid. All I could think about at that point was that he sure didn't need to worry about the damned diss, or about me and my hurt feelings, when he was trying the save the kid from himself…and from Caplan. Oh yeah, Jim got Johnny to identify Caplan as the killer, which really made the situation even more strange. I mean, the kid had called Caplan to represent him…and had probably tried to blackmail the guy for hush money to support his mother's medical needs. The kid's got nerve, I'll give him that. I'd sure think twice about going up against an amoral shark that can probably kill as easily as he blinks. More easily…sharks don't blink.
We'd all seen the animal control guy wandering around the station. We were actually glad to see him, hoping he'd soon have the 'gator under control. But I should have known, with the night we were having, nothing could be that easy.
Turns out, he was an assassin, paid by Caplan, to murder Johnny.
All hell broke loose! The assassin tried to kill Johnny, and I got caught in the middle for a bit, but it was Gabe who saved the day, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was trying to see if Gabe recognized a picture of Caplan from the scene of the murder when a bomb blew in the elevator shaft. The place turned into an absolute madhouse of panicked people because of the explosion and the smoke. Rafe tried to maintain some kind of control, but it was pretty much a futile exercise.
Especially once the bullets started to fly.
In all the confusion, the assassin knocked H out and got to Johnny, but the kid got away from him and the next thing, bullets were flying everywhere. Gabe jumped up between the kid and the assassin and took a bullet. I tried to stop the shooter and ended up in a headlock, being used as a shield by the bad guy, which meant that Jim couldn't shoot back without maybe hitting me. The assassin was threatening to kill me if everyone, meaning Jim, mostly, didn't back off. You know, in that moment, I don't think either Jim or I gave a moment's thought to our fight about the dissertation. I know I didn't. I just felt bad that I was in the way of Jim getting the guy…when I wasn't terrified of ending up dead, that is. The assassin finally pushed me away when he got to the stairwell.
I ran to Gabe while Jim went after the assassin, and I could see that Gabe was hurt, really bad. God, there was so much blood. But Gabe was still conscious and he didn't seem at all concerned to think he might very well be dying. Instead of begging for help or moaning with pain, he asked me if I knew what was the hard part of making a miracle.
He told me it was trying to make it look like an accident. Definitely surreal, man...
And then he passed out.
I knew he was dying. Man, this good, gentle soul was slipping away and I couldn't do a damned thing to help him except scream for an ambulance.
But I was afraid it was already too late.
Anyway, Jim got the bad guy, the ambulance arrived and took Gabe to the hospital, the real animal control people got the 'gator, the strike got settled and the night from hell was finally over.
On the way out of the PD this morning, Jim asked if I could still get the chapter in on time. He said that he thought it was pretty good, except for the parts about him. Which was funny, because it's ALL about him. He knew that and let me tell you, it was a relief to see that he was trying to joke about it…'trying' being the operative word. He just needed to be reassured that no one would ever know his name and I assured him that no one ever would. Then he asked if I thought he was paranoid, and I couldn't resist…I had to tease him. I told him, if he had to ask, well, then…
Simon and Megan showed up just then. Simon told us that Johnny was going to be okay. The DA had granted him immunity to testify against Caplan.
But, the weirdest thing was about Gabe. Megan had called the hospital, and Gabe had still been breathing when they got him there, thank God. But, when an orderly had turned his back for a moment, Gabe just disappeared.
Then Megan told us that Harold Blake had been declared officially dead of exposure last winter in Chicago.
Twilight Zone time.
Jim said it was like that Jimmy Stewart movie.
I remember that movie…I remember liking the idea that whenever a bell rings, an angel gets his wings…
I can't stop thinking about Gabe, you know. He'd said he'd come to work a miracle, and he sure saved that kid's life tonight. And, it had looked like an accident, as if Gabe had just gotten caught in the cross-fire. But…it wasn't an accident. He'd done it deliberately. And he'd done it in such a way as for it to appear to be an accident… the record would show a homeless man had inadvertently been shot, but the young man, the key witness to a murder, had been saved.
And, if Harold Blake did die last winter, then who was Gabe?
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Gabe was an angel or an archangel, come to perform a miracle and save the life of an innocent. Oh, I know Jim and Simon and the others would think I was crazy if I ever admitted that to them. They believe in facts. What they can see and smell and taste and touch and hear. The 'mysterious' just makes them nervous.
But there is so much about this universe that we don't understand. Why can't there be such things as angels? Why can't angels be among us, to help the innocent? Or even the damned, if there is still hope of their soul's salvation?
How many times do we see 'an accident' and fail to see that nothing is a coincidence, that nothing is really random, but that everything has a point, a purpose, the bad as well as the good? Why is that so hard for us to accept? Why do we have to pretend we have control? When we don't.
Talk about delusional.
We don't control anything, not really. Hell, we can't even control our emotional reactions or our moods, or shut off our noisy minds at night when we want to sleep. We can only, ever, do our best.
I'm not sure anyone or anything has control…but it gives me a sense of comfort, you know, to think that something, someone, is at least looking out for us…and cares…and will try to help when it's possible.
When it can be made to look like an accident.
I handed in the chapter this morning for the peer review. It buys me a bit more time, I guess, and at least all my grants won't get cancelled. But I'm still worried about it, worried about Jim's reactions to it…and how quickly I was prepared to just walk away from it, from so many years of my life. Do I have so little sense of self-preservation when it comes to my career? Or is it that Jim has assumed such importance in my life that simple concerns about my life's work seem shallow and inconsequential? God, that's scary, especially since I'm a little nervous about just exactly what I mean in his life, about how 'disposable' I might be if he ever figures I'm more trouble than I'm worth.
Man, and I describe Jim as being paranoid!
To be honest, at least with myself, I'm worried that my research might not be good enough to get my PhD anyway, even if I do go ahead with the full paper. With only one 'subject', the validity of my observations and extrapolations are questionable. I can use the other data I have on people with one or two enhanced senses, but I don't think that'll be good enough to argue the existence of sentinels in our modern society.
Listen to me, complaining that I've only found ONE sentinel…when it was a miracle to have found Jim in the first place.
But I should get that alternative paper done, just in case, the one on the 'Thin Blue Line', because I think I'm likely to need it. God…what a surprise that would be for Jim and Simon! They think the whole 'thin blue line' business is such a joke and only good to cover my observer status. Would they be amazed or appalled to think I've actually been observing all of them? That I really have learned a lot about the closed society of the police sub-culture?
Jim seems okay today, about the paper…but I can tell he's still worried about it.
I meant what I said last night. Our friendship means more to me than a few letters behind my name. If it's ever a choice between him and my doctorate, he wins. But I really hope I don't have to make that choice. I've worked hard for this, for a lot of years. I'm sure we can work it out so that he's not hurt by any of it. God, I wouldn't hurt him for the world. And I've learned things that could be such a help to other people like Jim, because I'm convinced he's not the only 'sentinel' on the face of the earth.
I need to talk to Eli about it all. Get his opinion. Make sure we can keep Jim's identity secret…see if he thinks the paper is worth pursuing.
Oh, God, Jim got shot today in a stupid convenience store hold up. He's okay, but he kept talking about having seen a jaguar in the back of the shop. Only there was no jaguar there. We need to talk about this. It had to be a spirit guide, right? Only, it wasn't his jaguar…so what does the vision mean?
Jim's been like a bear for days, snapping at me constantly about the house rules. I know he hates being cooped up but with his wound, however much he needs to take the time off, but it's no fun being around him when he's like this.
I think I'll work at the station tomorrow night. They'll be fumigating my office at Rainier so I won't be able to escape to my 'home away from home' at the university and I cannot work in the loft with Jim like this.
I've never seen him so tense and irritable before. If he'd settle down enough to talk about it, maybe I could help him, but he won't even talk about that jaguar he saw in the store the other night. I know he hates the mystical stuff, but it could be really important.
But, typical Ellison, he doesn't want to talk about it. So that's it. We don't talk about it.
WOW! I met someone at the station tonight who I think might be another Sentinel! I can't believe it! Just when I really needed one to show up, to be a kind of 'control' in my research, Alex Barnes ends up at the station after a car accident, complaining about bright lights and her clothes itching and driving her crazy. I asked her to meet me tomorrow at the university. I sure hope she shows up.
WHOA! Major freak out, man! When I got home tonight, Jim pulled the door open and held his gun in my face. Like what was that about? He's never done anything like that before! He said he was a little jumpy. Yeah. Jumpy. Right.
Talk about the 'highs' and the 'lows' of life! This has been one memorable day for more reasons than one.
I tried to tell him about meeting Alex, but he cut me off and maybe it's just as well. I should probably bring them together under controlled circumstances.
Man, I will be so glad when he gets back to work and this nervous irritability generated by a serious case of pathological boredom settles down.
Being greeted by a gun in my face really bothers me. I guess I should just forget it. He's been jumpy for days. But…he's never done anything like that. I've gotten used to him knowing that it's me who is around, whether he can see me yet or not. I think he tracks my heartbeat…or how I smell. Not sure I want to go there, though it might make an interesting chapter for the diss.
But tonight he didn't seem to know it was me. God, he couldn't have known. He wouldn't point a gun at ME, would he? No, no, something is really making him antsy. Damn, I wish he'd talk to me about what's bothering him.
Alex came to Rainier today, and, man, she is CLASSIC! She experienced a period of isolation, lost in the woods, and that was when her abilities came out of dormancy. She's got 'em all, all FIVE! And she has visions, in her dreams, of some temple in the jungle. Which is new. Jim has visions about the jungle, but he's never mentioned the temple. I think she may be having visions of the ancient gathering place of sentinels…oh man, I CANNOT believe this!
You know, there's a theory about synchronicity, that when you're on the right track, things just fall into place. That there are no coincidences. I've always kinda believed that, that nothing random happens in the Universe, that everything has a purpose.
But I never dared dream that I'd actually encounter another Sentinel, especially not now. Not when I needed one so badly to validate my research and make it fully credible.
I have GOT to calm down about this! The worst part is that I can't tell Jim, because I'm dying to. If he knew for sure that there were other sentinels out there, maybe he wouldn't feel like such a 'freak' as he so pithily puts it. And he'll be so relieved to know that the paper isn't just about him anymore.
This is just so great, so amazingly, mysteriously great!
I can't wait to bring them together. I have to figure out how to do that so that it's not too great a shock for either of them.
Alex is beautiful, too. I think Jim is going to like getting to know her, comparing stories about what it's like to manage their senses. Having someone who really knows what it's like, to see what he sees when he looks at the stars. To hear another person's heartbeat. To have to cope with all the sensory overload, all the time. Sometimes, I know he feels so isolated, that no one can really understand what he experiences.
He won't feel so alone or so isolated anymore, not the way he has felt, not after he meets Alex. Not once he knows he's not the only one like him in the whole world.
Really. I can't wait to tell him! It'll be just the thing to cheer him up and get him out of the bad mood he's been in for days now. I hope it'll go well, that they won't face off in some territorial rivalry or something.
Yeah, I really need to think about this…make sure I do it right.
Alex showed me her artwork today. It's amazing. I couldn't believe it. Intuitively, somehow, she's linked into the whole mystical side of all of it. Blew me away.
She gets the headaches, too. Like Jim does when his senses are overloaded and wearing him down.
I know Jim is noticing that I'm caught up with something. I told him it was a project at Rainier. Well, it is. I didn't lie to him. But I'll feel better once he knows what I've found, what I'm working on. It's been about a week since I first encountered Alex. I think I'll be able to arrange a meeting between them soon.
It'll be good to have something to engage Jim's attention. He's been as miserable, as irritable, as I've ever known him to be. I know he's tired of being off duty.
It will be SO good when he gets back to work.
In the meantime, maybe it's just as well I'm out of his hair right now. He seems to need a little space and quiet.
Alex described the Temple today, the one mentioned in the legends, in incredible detail. A place where it was said that Sentinels gathered and had visions…even saw the 'eye of God'. The pictures of the carvings I've found of the so far 'mythical' Temple match her visions, and the pictures she has painted, perfectly. She is connected to the mysterious in a way I don't begin to understand…she is connected to all the mystical elements of what it means to be a Sentinel.
Well, that should have been the highlight of my day, and I guess, as far as 'highlights' go, it was. But, I also hit a major low.
Got home, and found Jim had packed up all my stuff and he told me to get out. Just like that. He told me he 'can't have anyone around right now', that he needs his 'space'.
And he wouldn't talk about it, like that's a surprise…just told me to have everything out of there before he got back. And he walked out on me.
So, for tonight, I'm camped in my office. Tomorrow, I'll have to find a cheap room in a motel somewhere until I can figure out what to do about this.
What the hell is going on with him? I know he's been irritable lately, but this is SO bizarre. I can't figure it out.
I know he told me a few weeks ago that he felt pretty much like a lab rat when he went off fishing on his own. And he was upset about the first chapter of the diss…and he did remind me that it was 'his place'.
But…there just wasn't any real warning. I was out…and that seems to be that.
I feel like I'm in shock or something. I just can't seem to get past it. After three years…he kicks me out with no warning, no reason or explanation, no willingness to talk about it or give me time to find another place. Just out.
Man, either he's going off the deep end or I've been seriously mistaken about our friendship.
Wish the hell I knew what I did to deserve this.
I didn't go down to the PD today. I just couldn't face Jim, not after what happened last night. Megan came to see me at my office this evening to tell me that Jim had freaked in the office about 'his space' so badly that Simon sent him home.
I don't get it. I do not have the first clue as to what is going on with him right now. But it's not just me, not if he's behaving like that at the office. There's something else here that's setting him off. I just haven't figured out what yet…and I know I should have. I have this overwhelming feeling that I am missing something so obvious that I'm going to hate myself when I figure it out.
Anyway, I went to the loft with Megan to see if we could get him to tell us what is bothering him, what's making him act so out of control.
And the loft was empty. I mean EMPTY! No furniture, nothing. The lights were out, the power was off, the place was freezing and Jim was standing on the balcony with all the doors wide open.
When we asked him what was going on, he said he couldn't handle the 'distractions', that something was 'going on out there, something wrong, very wrong' and he couldn't figure it out…and then he just took off, like a bat out of hell, racing past us.
Megan and I followed him and he chased someone down an alley, but lost them. Didn't help I guess when I inadvertently shone the flashlight in his eyes. He was NOT happy with me.
But then, he hasn't been happy with me for a while now.
This is too weird. Jim's right. There's something very wrong going on here.
Unfortunately, I'm as confused about it all as he seems to be.
Today, Jim watched the video of the theft, and he spotted it…the actions of someone who was in extreme pain from the sounds of the alarm. Someone as sensitive to the sound as he is when he can't control his hearing. He was trying to make sense of it, that it seemed as if there was another one like him out there, and then he said that he was having these strange dreams, about a temple…
I couldn't believe it.
When I mumbled something about them having the same dreams, he jumped all over me. I told him then that there was another sentinel, and he was shocked, really shocked. Not that there was another sentinel, but that I hadn't told him. There was condemnation in his voice when he asked me 'what the hell' had I done?
He insisted on seeing her, immediately. Well, of course he did. It looked like she was the criminal he was after. But, I still couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe Alex was a thief. I mean, Sentinels are protectors, guardians of the tribe…they are the quintessential 'good guys'. Jim sure reinforced that interpretation. The guy's a hero. I'd never conceived of a sentinel as anything else, and certainly not as one the 'bad guys'. No wonder I didn't twig to what was setting off all of Jim's alarms. My own assumptions and biases got in the way.
Well, some controlled meeting that turned out to be. She started out by lying, playing games. When I called her on it, her gloves came off and the claws were out for everyone to see.
Yep, territorial imperative, all right.
And maybe a whole lot worse than that.
Damn it…she probably is a criminal and I didn't tell him. Certainly, the information H dug up on the computer pretty much confirmed that she's told me a pack of lies. If I thought we'd had trust issues before…well, let's just say Jim is seriously pissed off.
And I can't honestly blame him. I have been such an idiot! I didn't put it together, and I should have, because it explains his behavior at the loft and everything else. How could I be so stupid? God, I even worried about bringing them together, about the possible 'territorial imperative' issue and didn't even consider that he could sense her presence in Cascade. Hell, he could probably smell her scent on me. No wonder I came home one night to find a gun in my face and another night to find all my gear packed up. No wonder he couldn't abide having me around.
But how could I have known she was a criminal? How could I have known that?
But I guess that's not the point, is it?
God, I feel so sick about this. I know Jim feels this is some kind of betrayal, and that he's mad, but he won't talk about how he feels. He just wonders how it could happen, like what the odds are of two sentinels finding me in Cascade at the same time? And I can see his point about feeling a bit betrayed. He's never understood or even been interested in things like 'research protocols'. That's all a bit too fancy and irrelevant to him. It's the partnership he cares about. It's maybe what I should have been more careful to think about it.
But at least he's talking to me. I haven't blown it completely. We can deal with this, fix this. God, I hope we can fix this.
We went to pick up Alex with a warrant and Megan insisted upon coming with us...well, it was her case, after all. When we got there and there was no answer to our knock, Megan wouldn't accept that we couldn't get into Alex' apartment to search for evidence and tried to force the door.
If Jim hadn't smelled the plastic explosives, Megan would have been blown up. They saw it as Alex trying to destroy evidence and anything else that could help them trace her.
But I don't think that's what the bomb was about.
I think Alex is issuing a challenge to Jim. I think she's taunting him. And the way he's acting right now, so angry, so unwilling to discuss it, I'm worried about him. He's 'reacting', not 'acting'…he's being driven by emotion and his Sentinel senses of having had his territory invaded, not his intellect as a cop on the trail of a dangerous suspect.
We found out she's stolen canisters of VH nerve gas, enough to kill everyone in Cascade ten times over. Then we learned that she'd taken off for Bogota, so we're out of it now. God, what have I done? Is it my fault that millions of lives are at risk? If I'd told Jim about her sooner, could he have caught her before she got away?
I tried to talk to Jim. I apologized to him, told him I was wrong, groveled even, that I was only thinking about my research, my work, but that I should have told him, that I'd lost track of my friend and I was sorry. So very sorry.
But he wasn't interested. Told me it was too late. He said he couldn't get past it. That it had been a real breach of trust and that had hit him deeply. That he needed a partner he could trust. And then he challenged the value of my research and said he knew who he was and didn't need me or anyone else to define that for him.
Then he told me I should finish my diss by writing about someone else. Right. Like Alex maybe? Shit.
I didn't know what to say…I told him I'd do anything to get past this, but he has to be willing to work on it, too. I know I was wrong, but I can't fix this by myself. I can't be the only one who cares enough to try to heal the breach between us. He didn't say anything when I walked out. He knows where to find me. Now that I've been kicked out of the loft, where would I be but here, in my office?
Well, actually, I could be in that cheap dive I've rented, but he doesn't know about it and wouldn't be able to find me there…and I really hope he'll come looking for me once he has a chance to calm down. He couldn't have meant all those things he said. Could he?
I can't believe how much it hurts to think I've blown it so badly that there is no hope of recovery.
Oh, God, what if this is it? What if I've really destroyed all that we've built between us…the trust, the friendship? Dammit, I decided a couple of weeks ago the diss wasn't worth our friendship. Why didn't I just trash it then? Yeah, yeah, I know…the research is valuable to him and could be valuable to others we don't even know about, who have the same abilities and who don't understand them, are in fact tormented by them. All I ever wanted to do was help…help Jim and help others like him. Man, have I screwed up.
I thought it was so great meeting Alex.
I thought she was an answer to a prayer.
But, she's a nightmare, man. My worst nightmare.
And I didn't see her coming.
I don't know what to do, how to make it right.
So, here I am, waiting in my office, hoping Jim will show up, so that we can still work this out, somehow. Hoping that he'll give me another chance.
That it isn't too late.
The hell with it…I can't just wait for him to come to me. This is too important. If I don't hear from him tonight, then I'll go to see him tomorrow.
I will NOT give up on our friendship.
I will not let it end like this!
This is NOT over!
Well, it's been a while since I made any journal entries. Not my fault really. Things have been a little hectic lately. It would take me a month to record what happened in the past almost two weeks. Longer to ever explain how it all felt. So I guess I'll have to make due with the abridged version.
Alex murdered me.
How seriously weird is that?
She found me in my office while I was waiting for Jim to come and pointed her gun at me. God, for a minute there, I thought she was just going to shoot me and be done with it.
Actually, I have no idea why she didn't just shoot me. But she didn't. She forced me to walk out ahead of her to the fountain. And then she hit me over the head with the gun, I guess. I don't really remember. Not sure I ever want to remember it all. I guess she must have dragged me into the fountain and left me there, face down, 'cause that's how and where Jim and the others found my body.
Wet. Cold. Drowned. Dead.
I heard they tried a long time to bring me back, until even the EMTs gave up.
But Jim wouldn't give up.
I don't know where I was exactly, I mean when I was dead. It's all pretty vague. It's not like what I'd always heard about. There wasn't any bright light at the end of a tunnel. I have the vague impression of waiting somewhere, in a jungle I think. I thought I could hear Jim calling me from somewhere far away, and I felt this terrible sadness that I couldn't answer…and I felt something pulling me away. I do know that I was somewhere, though, somewhere not in my body, but I still existed in some metaphysical way.
Yeah, something was pulling me farther away, but I didn't want to go. Not…not the way it had been with Jim, the way we'd left it. I didn't want it all to end like that. So empty and futile. I remember feeling lost and so miserably, overwhelmingly, sad, like I didn't belong there, and didn't belong wherever that force that was beckoning me wanted me to go…like I didn't belong anywhere anymore.
Then there was this blinding light and I saw a wolf and a jaguar racing toward one another, and they leapt into one another…merging in another burst of incandescent light.
And then I felt Jim pushing hard on my chest and calling to me…and suddenly I was coughing up water, though I was only barely conscious and even now, all I can really remember with any kind of clarity is gagging and dragging in one desperate breath of air after another.
Jim brought me back. Somehow, he used the power of our spirit guides and he brought me back.
God, how will I ever be able to thank him for that? Hell, he won't even talk about it. So what else is new? This is just one more thing on our ever-growing list of stuff that he just wants to ignore because he doesn't understand it.
But, hey, I'm not complaining, not about him saving my life, that's for sure. If he doesn't want to talk about it, fine, who I am to insist? He could have accepted that I was gone. He could have let me go.
It's just that I need to talk about it.
I was so scared when Alex…when she killed me. I didn't want to die. And it's not like I just went like some wimp. I tried to fight her, pushing back from the fountain when I finally realized what she had planned for me. Up until then, I'd had this crazy hope that she was just going to kidnap me, to use me to bait Jim, and that he'd rescue me like always and everything would be fine. I didn't really grasp the fact that she was going to kill me until we got to the fountain. So, yeah, believe me, at that point, I fought back. But she was behind me and I guess she was monitoring me, and knew when I was going to strike out in desperation. Hell, she's a Sentinel. Of course, she knew and was ready for it.
And…I died. That is so…scary. That it happened so quickly. That my life was over, just like that. With so much left undone, and unsaid. That's why I want to talk about it. I don't ever want to die again with the kind of regrets I had when she drowned me. The next time I take that journey, I want to go with the peace of knowing that everyone I love knows how I feel about them. I don't want to go in anger…or in grief.
And I feel so angry, you know? I couldn't stop her. Couldn't help myself, save myself. I was so helpless to prevent her from killing me. I hate knowing that, feeling that…hate the helplessness. Hate the memory of that sick, overwhelming fear. It's eating away at me inside.
I should just be grateful to be alive. I am grateful. Oh, God, am I grateful!
But the gratitude doesn't kill the anger, you know? It just leaves me feeling mixed up. Unsettled.
Anyway, a couple of days after I started breathing again, we all ended up in Sierra Verde, trying to track her down and get the nerve gas away from her.
I guess I shouldn't have gone, really. The doctor wasn't pleased with me signing myself out AMA. But I was so worried about Jim. She was ruthless, utterly ruthless and as much as he might have wanted to stop her because she was dangerous, and I guess also because she'd killed me, I knew he didn't have that same streak of cruel, murderous ruthlessness. And that meant he was vulnerable.
I had to go. Had to be there to help if I was needed. He'd just saved my life! How could I let him go up against something like her and not try to help?
God, I should have stayed at home.
Oh, yeah…I didn't really have a home at that point, that's true. Most of my stuff was still in my office, and my clothes were in that dive and so far as I knew, the loft was still empty. But what I mean is, I probably shouldn't have gone with Megan.
If I hadn't've gone, then I wouldn't have had to see Jim pointing a gun at me again. Like he did when he burst into his room where Megan and I were waiting for him.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't have had to see him kissing Alex on that beach, like he was drowning in his lust for her…and see her point his gun at me. Or see that he scarcely seemed to care if she killed me again or not.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't have had to admit to him that I didn't have a fine clue as to what was going on between him and her, or how to control it…or anything. If I hadn't've gone, maybe he wouldn't have realized just how useless I really am when it comes to giving him help when he needs it most.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't have had to witness him warn her and draw fire upon us to save her from the bad guys. Or have been abandoned by him when he took off and left me and Megan behind while he chased after her through the jungle…or abandoned us again once we'd finally caught up with him and he left us sleeping, unguarded and unaware, even though the really scary bad guys were still out there somewhere.
If I hadn't've gone, Megan wouldn't have seen my book on the Sentinels of Paraguay and might not have put all the pieces together and she wouldn't have guessed that Jim and Alex are sentinels. One more screw-up. One more betrayal. I finally worked up the nerve to tell him about that tonight, and he just stared at me, wordlessly, his jaw so tight…and then he just sighed and shook his head, looking away. He hasn't spoken to me since.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't have had to see him kiss Alex in the grotto, and see in his eyes how much it hurt him to lose her to the madness of her visions. Hurt to lose her…the woman who had murdered me.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't know that Incacha told him to go on without me, that he didn't need me.
If I hadn't've gone, I wouldn't have exhausted whatever pitiful reserves of energy I had left chasing around that jungle and nearly ending up with pneumonia so that, once again, I was practically dead on my feet and needed help to even get on and off the damned planes to come home. Once more, a burden to him, someone he had to take care of, when he looked so shell-shocked himself that he probably wished he didn't have to contend with anything or anyone, let alone me.
If I hadn't've gone…but I did go. One more bad decision that I can't ever undo.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. God, I think I got this year's contract for all the repairs to that particular stretch of highway.
I'm 'home', back in the loft. I don't really know why, exactly. I don't know if it's because when I died that the argument between us died, too. Or if he just feels bad about it all and is trying to say he's sorry that I died, or for how it went down in Mexico. All I know is, by the time we'd gotten back, he'd called ahead to ask H and Rafe to move some of the furniture back up from the basement, so that my bed was back in its room. And he'd had them pick up the boxes from my office and my gear from the dive. Simon thought I should be in a hospital, but Jim so clearly seemed to want to take me home…and, honestly, that's the only place I wanted to be. So that when we got off the plane, Simon and Jim helped me to a taxi and took me home and put me to bed and called a doctor and then went out to get the prescriptions I need.
He's taken care of me. When I was barely lucid, and the fever got too high, he even bathed me, more than once, to bring my temperature down. And he's forced me to drink until I've taken in so many fluids that I think I might burst. He was there whenever I woke, day or night, to make sure I took the medication, to monitor the fever and change sweat-soaked sheets. Jim has done everything and more that I needed. But almost wordlessly. He scarcely can seem to look at me.
Which is all pretty uncomfortable, really, and makes me feel even more useless, more of a burden.
I don't know how long he'll want me around this time.
I don't know if he trusts me anymore.
I don't know if I'm really any good to him anymore.
I don't know what I'm going to do about the dissertation, but I am definitely finishing 'The Thin Blue Line' in the next couple of weeks. Just in case.
I don't know what will happen once I finally submit a dissertation, whichever one it turns out to be, but I do know I can't keep putting it off forever. But…will that be it? Will he want me to move out then…finally see the last of me?
I don't know why I was allowed to live when I was definitely very dead.
Seems I don't know much of anything these days.
Suck it up, Sandburg and quit whining.
He let you back in…that means you've got another chance to repair all the damage. Another chance to win back his trust.
God, he brought you back to life! He wouldn't let you go. That has to mean something. And he's taken care of you, helped you beat the infection…he could have taken you back to the hospital and left you there. He's not talking…but his actions are showing you he still cares, and that he wants you around. It can't all be motivated by guilt or regret. Can't all be driven by some misguided sense of obligation. Can it?
So get your act in gear. Get healthy. Don't aggravate him. Deal with your anger and your own almost pathological need to talk about every damned thing. Be his friend. Show him that he can trust you again.
Grow up and be grateful you've got the chance.
'Cause you're on thin ice here, man.
And if you blow it again, you won't get another chance. It really will be over and the best damned friendship you've ever had will be nothing but ashes.
So…just don't blow it.
End of excerpts of Blair Sandburg's personal journal.
…Is Paved With Good Intentions
Jim Ellison stood on his balcony overlooking the city, nursing a beer in his hand. The night was cold and the wind had a bitter bite, but he welcomed the bracing chill, the clean cold air. After the muggy heat of the jungle, it was a relief and a balm, giving the impression that all that had happened was far away, over, done with and safely in the past. Though many of the memories were vague and distorted, as if everything had happened in a dream, there were others that remained far too sharp and still carried all of the emotional baggage of guilt, grief, anguish and horror. His jaw tightened and he swallowed, his unconscious expression one of resolute determination as he manfully wrestled with those emotions and tried to force them away, willing himself to forget…to just move on.
But how could he forget when the living, breathing reminder of the most painful memories was even now shuffling around in the kitchen, brewing a pot of tea. For a moment, Ellison locked his hearing on that beloved heartbeat and allowed its rhythm to wash over him, sooth him, remind him that everything, as bad as it had been, had worked out. But the relief didn't absolve the guilt or wash away the horror or anguish. Roiling emotions, and the acute awareness of the fragility of life, left him reeling with helpless anger.
Memories of the visions he'd had surfaced again, unbidden and unwanted. Visions of the deaths of people who were dear to him, deaths he never wanted to witness. Fear swept over him then. Fear of this ability to foresee a hateful future, fear of his helplessness to prevent it, fear of losing friends and most of all, fear of losing that special, irreplaceable one who grounded him and helped him stay sane.
Ellison hated it all, everything that had happened with one notable exception…he'd gotten Blair back. Sandburg was alive, not dead of drowning. But the rest of it…his rage, his fear, the words he'd said and could never take back, his inexcusable actions, his inexplicable lust and compassion for a woman he wanted to loathe, the visions, his dependence upon Sandburg's presence in his life…all the rest of it left him despising himself.
Jim was utterly exhausted in every sense of the word. Physically, he felt battered. Plagued by nightmares, he'd been sleeping fitfully at best since they'd gotten back from Mexico. Emotionally, he felt at the end of his tether. The memories, the haunting visions he'd had…and his continuing concern about Sandburg's recovery following his virtual collapse at the Mexican airport on their way home, plagued him. A lung infection had taken hold, courtesy of the filthy water in that fountain, not to mention running around in the muggy jungle, and Blair's temperature had suddenly spiked. Sandburg had hovered between restless sleep and a deeper unconsciousness for most of the trip back and by the time they had arrived in Cascade, Ellison had been almost frantic to hustle him home, get him into bed and call the doctor.
Ellison knew they should have probably gone straight to the hospital, but the idea raised such an atavistic aversion that he couldn't bring himself to take his best friend there. He needed to get Blair home, needed Blair to know the loft was still his home. The exhausted, emotionally depleted Sentinel needed to do this one thing…needed to take care of his Guide as he had not taken care of him for too long. Because it was largely his fault that his Guide was so very ill. It wasn't rational any more than any of his other actions had been rational for what seemed like weeks, and a part of his mind knew it. Certainly, even if he hadn't, Simon had been eloquent on the subject. But…it was instinctive and necessary. Jim knew that both he and Blair needed to reconnect now or they might never cross the abyss that had grown between them…and that wasn't anything he could even begin to contemplate. He was thankful that in the midst of his own somewhat disoriented state in Mexico, he'd thought to call the guys before they'd gotten on the plane to ask them to at least move the basic furniture back up into the loft and to retrieve Sandburg's things, and Rafe and H had come through for him. He couldn't have faced coming back to the emptiness; couldn't have faced not being able to bring Blair back home, not after all that had happened.
At the airport, Sandburg had mumbled something about not wanting to be a burden, but when he'd seen Ellison's reaction to that, and Jim's clear and unequivocal desire to just take him home, Blair had given his whole-hearted support to the idea. So feverish and weak he could barely stand, he'd still persuaded Simon that this was the best option, that he'd rest better at home…because that's where he most wanted to be. So Simon had swallowed his objections against his better judgment and had helped Ellison get Sandburg and their gear into the taxi, and then into the loft. Bless him, he'd immediately gone out on a supply run to stock the refrigerator and cupboards so that Jim wouldn't have to leave Blair until the doctor had seen him and they knew whether the kid would be allowed to remain at home.
When Ellison spoke to the doctor, he was less than pleased to hear Blair had signed himself out AMA to go to Mexico. The physician wasn't surprised by the collapse, but acceded to leaving him in his own bed if Ellison would ensure Blair took his medication and consumed enough fluids to quench the burning fever. If the kid had been halfway lucid, Jim would have probably reamed him out for having left the hospital before he should have, for all the good it would have done. But Sandburg had been seriously ill, so Jim bottled it up and said nothing. But he was angry that Blair had taken such dangerous risks with his health after…after they were lucky that he was even alive.
Ellison knew Sandburg had done it for him. After everything, the kid still had such incredible loyalty that he'd not hesitated to take off, to be there if he was needed. And what had he gotten for his extraordinary effort and commitment? Ellison closed his eyes and lowered his head, steeped in guilt for all that had happened in Mexico, but he swallowed and tried to push the memories away. It was over. He couldn't undo it.
Much as he might wish with all his heart that he could.
In the days since their homecoming, Ellison had drawn upon his old training as a medic to fight the fever and monitor his friend's health, foregoing sleep as a non-essential waste of time. Sandburg was getting better, thank God. He still had a low-grade fever and was too weak, but he was lucid all the time now and getting stronger. Blair was still too pale, though, with bruised shadows under his eyes, and his deep, hacking cough looked and sounded painful. But he was getting better, and Ellison held onto that thought and the comfort it gave him.
But with the improvement came the famous Sandburg restlessness and Ellison was deeply worried that Blair would try to do too much, too soon and have a relapse. The kid's abused body could only take so much punishment and Jim didn't think he had a lot of reserves left. The fear of what a relapse could mean left Ellison with a hollow feeling in his gut and the sense of a vise squeezing his heart. Take now for instance. The kid had only been in his room napping for an hour and already he was back up, shuffling around the kitchen, using up energy he didn't have to spare.
"Hey, Jim, are you all right? It's pretty cold out here, man," Blair murmured quietly as he stepped out on the balcony behind his friend and shivered against the wind's icy chill.
"Too cold for you to be out here," Jim snapped in reply. He didn't need to turn his head to hear Sandburg's soft, unconscious protests against the cold, his shivering, and the sudden chattering of his teeth when the wind gusted. "You're sick and you're supposed to be in bed getting better."
Blair swallowed at the abrupt, aggrieved tone and winced. Sighing, he tentatively reached out to touch Ellison's rigid arm, but stopped himself from completing the intrusive gesture, from offering a contact that didn't seem to be wanted. Turning to go back inside, he said quietly, "I'm all right, just a little restless. I just wanted to know if you needed anything…"
"I need you to take care of yourself," Jim grated, a weary note in his voice. He hadn't done much to safeguard his best friend in the last couple of weeks and had clearly proven to himself that he wasn't anyone Blair could count on. "That's what I need," he sighed.
Ellison knew he needed more than anything else some kind of reassurance that though he might screw up royally, Sandburg could take care of himself, and would survive whatever happened in the future…without depending upon his 'blessed protector' who only too clearly couldn't be trusted to be there for him.
Sandburg flinched at the words, his feelings of being an unwanted burden reinforced. Wordlessly, he carried his tea back to his room and quietly closed the door.
Jim jerked awake, a moan of anguish on his lips, and lay there on sweat dampened sheets, staring up at the skylight, his heart thumping in a paroxysm of fear. Taking one deep breath after another, he forced himself to calm down. It was just a nightmare, another damned nightmare to torment him in his sleep like the memories of all that had happened and the visions tormented him during his waking hours. He scrubbed his face with his hands and then bent an arm over his face as if by covering his eyes he could block out the fragments of horror that danced in his mind.
The blue jungle and a wolf dead at his feet, killed by his arrow…Sandburg dead at his feet…killed by his arrow.
A spotted jaguar growling and leaping to the attack.
The sense of being stalked, his territory invaded by an unseen and unknown enemy…feeling the world close in on him until he felt frenzied and dangerously close to losing all control.
Packing Sandburg's belongings into cartons and telling the kid he had to get out. Blair's confusion and hurt at the blunt, unexpected brutality.
The expression on Sandburg's face when he'd told the kid he didn't trust him anymore, that he needed a partner that he could trust…that maybe Sandburg should write his paper about someone else. Blair had looked liked he'd been slugged, all the color draining away from his face, leaving him white and his eyes wide with hurt disbelief.
Sandburg, cold, wet and dead at his feet, his lips tinged blue, the silence and stillness of a body whose life and spirit had fled…the agony of anguished denial, the rage of helplessness and horror…the crushing guilt…
Incacha…a leaping jaguar and wolf and a blinding burst of light as they merged…
The sound of Blair's heart, of his life, encompassing all else, leaving Ellison weak with indescribable relief…
Walking away from Sandburg, leaving him still gray and weak in the hospital…
The sounds of racketing bullets and explosions…
Kissing Alex, mad with lust, on the beach…
His gun pointed at Sandburg, in his hands, and in Alex' grip…the look of astonishment and fear on his Guide's face…the look of knowing he'd been betrayed…on the beach and by the river…
Fractured, frightening visions in the grotto's pool, Incacha's voice demanding, over and over, to know what he feared…loss of control, loss of people he loved, loss of Blair most of all…
Shooting and fighting at the Temple to save his own life…to save Alex…to save his Guide…
Kissing Alex in the grotto knowing that Blair was watching…one more betrayal…
Sandburg on the verge of collapse, the harsh bubble of laboured respirations, the heat of his fevered skin…
So many images, sights, sounds, scents, touches…all fragments, layered one over the other, mixed up, overwhelming, terrifying…
Over and over again, seeing Blair's expressions of confusion, hurt, betrayal, of seeing him lying dead…of an arrow, of drowning…of a bullet that was barely stayed…until the nightmare escalated beyond endurance, shocking him awake, sweaty, heart-pounding and sick to his soul.
Over and over, through all the hours of the night, night after night, without relief…without resolution.
The only peace Ellison would allow himself, the only refuge from the torment, was to focus upon the steady, reassuring heartbeat from the room below and gradually just the sound would enable him to relax, to once again dampen the horror and anguish and crippling guilt to something he could manage, barely, to control.
But he couldn't push it away completely, couldn't just forget it all as he so wished to do.
Sighing in frustration, Jim rolled over and sat up on the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. Sandburg wanted to talk about it all, he knew that…he could see the need of it in his best friend's eyes when he could bear to look at him. He wished he could talk about it, could respond at least to that simple need for comfort and understanding, for some kind of closure. God knew, he hadn't done much else for the man who was his best friend, partner, Guide, you name it, the man who grounded him, kept him secure and sane when his senses raged out of control…the one person in his life who he knew honestly loved him despite everything. He'd tried, but the words always got locked in his throat, inarticulate jumbles of sounds that couldn't ever come close to expressing the emotions that surged through him, barely in control, leaving him with only more guilt for once again failing to meet Sandburg's simple need, and feeling even more helpless and impotent.
Frustration began building to anger, and Jim stood to pace the dark bedroom to work off the restlessness and help himself think.
How could he explain what he didn't understand? How could he burden Blair with those hideous visions?
How could he look into those wide and still trusting eyes, accept that inexhaustible willingness to help and support, to understand and forgive, and say, "I killed you in my vision, Chief. And then I drove you away so that you were alone and defenceless when she came for you. And I don't know why! I don't have a fucking clue as to why! Or if I'll ever do it again…or if I might still kill you, like I killed the wolf in the vision."
How could he ask to be forgiven for his betrayals, or beg for an absolution his soul so sorely needed, when he didn't know why he'd lusted so feverishly for Alex, why he grieved her inability to turn away from the darkness. Dammit, she had murdered his best friend, the most important person in his life, and it hadn't mattered, hadn't stopped him from wanting her so badly that the need of her had drowned out everything else. It revolted and disgusted him, and left him very afraid. Hell, Sandburg had admitted it was all beyond his understanding, too, that he couldn't explain it either. So how could Jim promise that nothing like that would ever happen again? What if there was another one like her out there, somewhere, who would one day be drawn by the Fates that seemed to rule their lives to Cascade? Dear God, what if it all happened again?
He had no right to forgiveness or absolution.
He had no right to the friendship that seemed, despite everything, to still be available to him.
No right…but he wanted, even needed, that friendship.
And the need shook him to his foundations.
Pacing the loft, Ellison thrust frazzled fingers through his short hair and rubbed the back of his neck, trying to ease the knots in his muscles, as he picked at the need, as if it were an irritating, weeping sore. He hadn't ever really needed anyone before. When he had, he'd learned to do without. Without his mother, when she left. Without Bud, when he'd been murdered. Without any evident love or respect from his father or brother. Without his comrades in Peru when they'd been killed. Without Carolyn when she decided she'd had enough. Without partners who got killed or disappeared or just demanded a transfer when they got fed up with his belligerence and volatile temper. Through it all, through the whole of his life, he'd coped, moved on, found a way to survive, proving time and time again that he didn't need anyone.
Needing someone was a trap. It made you vulnerable. It was frightening and took away control. People were fragile, they got hurt or offended and took off. They died. You couldn't count on them being there, not forever. It was best not to need anyone, ever.
But at that fountain, with Blair dead at his feet, Ellison had known with a rush of inescapable horror that he had just lost the one person he might never be able to live without, the one person who was essential in helping him accept and cope with being the freak that he was.
And that awareness made him sick. Sick at his everlasting selfishness that he'd been as horrified by his own loss, what it meant to his life, as he was sick that Sandburg's last conscious moments had been of fear and the cruel pain of being so brutally murdered…that this brilliant, sensitive, exuberant man had been robbed of his future, of his hopes and dreams and everything that he was, his body an empty husk of all that might have been.
Once again, trembling in the dark, Ellison let the sound of Sandburg's heartbeat and quiet snuffles of sleep calm him, reassure him that he wasn't alone and soothe his troubled soul that in all that horror, he'd managed to do one right and good thing. Somehow, he had restored Sandburg's life force, allowing them both another chance.
But the need ate at Ellison, his vulnerability frightened him and left him with a hollow feeling inside. It wasn't just the need of the help in understanding and controlling his senses, though that had been the root from which their friendship had grown. It was the friendship itself…hell, it was the love though he would have cut out his tongue before he ever admitted it out loud. Over the years, Ellison knew he'd come to see his splendid isolation for the sterile, empty loneliness that it was. He'd sensed that need growing over the last three years and his glimmering awareness of it was what had driven him to that disastrous fishing trip which had only proven that he didn't really want to be that alone again. But Sandburg's death had crystallized it, turned it into a sharp, stark awareness that he'd come to depend upon having Sandburg in his life as much as he depended upon air and water, food and shelter. He might not die physically from losing Sandburg, but he knew something inside of him would be forever bereft, forever wanting what was irreplaceable. Something inside would shrivel and die and leave him almost as empty of anything resembling life as Sandburg's dead body was empty of spirit and energy and the capacity to feel, to hope, to love, to experience joy.
How could he face the inescapable fact that he would lose Sandburg eventually? Maybe the kid would just give up on him, as Carolyn had…and God knew the kid had even better reasons for giving up than she'd had. Or maybe when Sandburg had finished that damned dissertation, he'd move on. He was entitled to his own career in the field he loved. He couldn't be a 'ride-along' forever. Or maybe he'd meet someone like that Katie, fall in love, marry and leave to raise his own family. He was a great guy and deserved to know such love, to have the chance at a family he'd never experienced in his own childhood.
Or, maybe, one of these dark days, he'd die again, caught in a crossfire, or brutalized by some felon. It had been close, too close, too many times in the past to think that might never happen, that it wasn't a possibility.
Face it, Ellison, Jim railed at himself grimly, you can't hold him hostage to your need forever, so you'd better damned well get a grip. If you're any kind of friend, let alone one who deserves what he's given, what he still offers, you have to be prepared to allow him the life he deserves…before you get him killed again.
The conflicting and competing imperatives were tearing Jim Ellison apart, and he knew he had to deal with it all and soon. They'd been back from Mexico for a week now, and still the nightmares persisted and the visions haunted him. The memories sickened him and Blair's continuing harsh cough was a searing reminder of his best friend's vulnerability and the still too present dangers of having been drowned.
Ellison pinched the bridge of his nose and returned to his bed, to sit and try to calmly think it all through. In his orderly, methodical way, he made a mental list of what he had to do…not talk about, not feel, not think about, but do.
First, he had to make sure Sandburg got well, and that the last lingering vestiges of the trauma to his lungs healed. Which meant having to control his best friend's restless energy and desire to be up and about long before he was fully healthy. If it meant tying Sandburg to his bed and forcing the hated antibiotics down his friend's throat, then that's what he'd do. No giving in to those wide, plaintive eyes when Blair shuffled out of his room, looking for amusement and company. Best not to look at him, lest those eyes be his undoing.
Second, he had to keep Sandburg safe. So, that meant encouraging him to spend more time at the university. What trouble could he get into there amidst all the esoteric and intellectual challenges and concerns? And it meant discouraging him from spending quite so much time down at the PD, or going out on stakeouts, or to chase down the bad guys. Sighing, Jim knew that wasn't going to be easy. He couldn't let Blair know that the motivation for some degree of disengagement was first and foremost to keep him safe or the kid would rebel. Not any kind of coward and having absolutely no observable sense of self-preservation, Sandburg would never consider putting his own safety first. Rolling his eyes, Ellison thought to himself that subtlety wasn't always his strong suit, but he'd have to try.
Third, Jim knew he needed to reduce his own sense of dependency upon Sandburg. He'd have to be vigilant about managing his own senses the way Blair had taught him, to lessen the chance of zone-outs or overloads. It was doable; it had to be. Hell, he managed now, though it wasn't always easy, when Blair had to be at the university, or was here, at home, recovering from illness and injury. It would be tiring. It always took more energy, more concentration when Sandburg wasn't near by. But it was necessary.
Fourth, he had to learn to live with his guilt and the fear of all that had happened and all that remained yet to come, if those visions could be believed. That was just a matter of determined will to push it aside, to bury it and live with it, to get on with life and allow everyday concerns to capture his thoughts and emotions. It would take time…and there would be days when it would all swamp him again, but he could do it. He'd done it in Peru and that had been eighteen months of hell on earth. And he had to do it alone. Blair didn't need these burdens, didn't need the double whammy of having suffered through all of it while it was happening and having to suffer it all again to help his best friend cope with his demons. He'd have to bottle up his anger at himself and mute the guilt, harness the fear and just do the best he could to survive until it all finally faded into the background noise of his soul.
Fifth, he had to help Sandburg move past all of it, too. If they just didn't talk about it, dredge it all back up, eventually it would fade into memory. If he was just there everyday, and they did normal things like watch sports on television, did the shopping together, had dinner together, the simple routines of life would soothe the hurt and the fear, and reassure Blair that this was his home, that he needn't be afraid of being evicted again without reason or warning. The calm predictability of the daily structures of their lives would eventually bring back a sense of normalcy and peace. It would take time, but they could win back the easy friendship, restore the trust that Blair had had in him, the previously unwavering trust that had to have been eroded. If he was careful and diligent, they'd both be okay.
Everything would be fine.
Sighing, feeling his muscles relax now that he had the beginnings of a plan that would allow them both to move past all that had happened, Ellison looked with distaste at the rumpled sheets of his bed.
"And, sixth," he muttered, "I really need to get some sleep."
Lying on his back, staring up at the skylight, Jim focused all his concentration on the sound of Blair's heartbeat, lulled finally into a dreamless sleep before he zoned on that essential sound.
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