Summary: He's not safe anywhere...even from himself.
Feedback: Yes, please
Notes: Special thanks to Lyn for finding all my tense problems! I started to write this a long time ago...before I went back to school and since I've been enjoying my mini break I thought you all might enjoy a silly little something.
This is actually based on a true story, a case of real life being stranger than fiction.
by Twilight (Dawn)
My body trembles under the weight of it, the wobbly wheel of the dolly squeaking and squealing all the way down the long hallway of Hargrove Hall. The wooden shelving unit is huge, and heavy as hell, but I have to have my office clean and all my preterm paperwork in by the end of the day... The new semester starts tomorrow and I am so not prepared.
I should have started earlier...I say that every damn year.
Even though I'm in and out of my office year round, I tend to neglect basic cleaning over the summer months and now I'm paying for it, really paying for it.
Dust, an inch thick, covers all the metal surfaces of my storage shelves, floats in the air in a heavy curtain of allergens, making my eyes water and my nose run. I was hoping that the janitorial staff would be back by now, but I haven't seen one familiar face in the past week that I've been here, trying to tidy up.
I push past a few other teaching fellows, doing the same dance, juggling file cabinets and office chairs, moving desks and computers, rearranging their spaces to be more efficient or just for a change of pace, but not me, man... I'm getting a new cabinet to store my junk, so this old one, with a missing door hinge and a broken lock is heading for the dumpster.
"Oh... sorry." Pamela Sutherland brushes past me, jumping across a packing box, kicking it with her foot to clear the hall and I'm ever so grateful, 'cause I don't want to lose my momentum. It took me twenty minutes to lift this sucker onto the dolly and lean it back enough to get it rolling and hey, I've only smashed my fingers twice. "Eee". Okay, make that three times.
The double doors leading to the back of the building are propped open, the new guy from down the hall rolls a dolly toward me, sweat staining the front and underarms of his once white cotton t-shirt.
"Hey, man." He nods as he passes, rolling his empty cart with ease, generously not offering to help in my time of need.
Where the hell is Jim anyway?
What happened to, 'I'll be there at twelve sharp, Sandburg. Lunch and then I'm all yours.'?
After I clear the threshold, giving an extra hard shove to get the dolly wheels up and over the metal door framing, I take a quick smell of my own shirt and decide I reek.
But no time to shower before lunch... Jim's taking me to the Paper Moon, a new café near the docks that caters to the more health conscience consumer and I plan to consume plenty.
I'll just have to take a stud bath, which is a nicer term than what my mother would have called it... A quick wash up in the faculty restroom, I can freshen up my deodorant, pull my hair back... It'll do.
The sidewalk leading around the back of the building suddenly drops from under me as it slopes down to allow handicapped access and my sweaty hands slip from the bar grip. The huge cabinet sways on the dolly and nearly topples, but I manage to grab the bar and yank up before it smashes to the ground.
Easing down the sidewalk slope, I roll my burden to the narrow alley way, shifting my stance, trying to decide where to deposit the worn storage unit.
Sweat rolls down my neck, nestling between my shoulder blades, an itch that I can't reach just yet. I settle for blowing my hair out of my face for about the hundredth time, sighing as the strands tickle my eyes once again.
The back wall near the large dumpster is covered with all manner of debris and I can't immediately see a place I can unload the dolly.
My arms tremble, my fingers slip and I have no choice but to bring the dolly upright. The cabinet lands with a huge thud and pulls me along with the weight of it, smashing my fingers between the settling hunk of wood and the metal bar grip.
"YOUCH..." I pull my hand free, swinging it around wildly, as if the motion will take away the sting. Eventually, I cradle my fingers in my other hand. Blowing on my boo-boo like my mom used to do.
The absurdity of my action doesn't register until I hear a light, flowery giggle. Looking up, I see a willowy blonde beauty passing the mouth of the alley.
"You okay, Blairy Bear?"
Beautiful Pamela Sutherland... The object of my latest obsession.
I've been trying to get her in the... to get a date with her since the fall quarter.
"Oh yeah... I'm good." I straighten quickly, laying one arm across the top of the dolly, crossing ankle over ankle, tucking my injured hand into the pocket of my favorite faded blue jeans and smile, showing just the right amount of teeth and wave as she continues on out of sight.
God... what a dork.
I shove my hair back again, turning to the dolly and dislodged cargo. "Crap." I'm gonna have to manhandle the unit back against a bank of boxes, over enough so that it won't block the dumpster.
After pushing and shoving, grunting and cursing, the thing budges a few inches and I nearly fall flat on my face, knocking my nose against the wooden surface and biting my lip. "Arrgh..."
Running my tongue along the upward curve of my lip, I taste blood. Man... I'm gonna need emergency assistance if this keeps up.
Visions of sweet Pamela in a pink and white uniform and a stethoscope came to mind... Maybe a tongue depressor.
Sighing deeply, I wipe at my grungy neck, looking over the boxes that line the alleyway... If I had a little more time... Checking my watch, seeing it is past twelve but not by much, I figure Jim will come looking for me.
One man's trash... another's treasure and all that.
I open a few lids, perusing the contents like I'm a Sunday flea market bargain hunter, tossing aside paper and rubbish, finding a heavy glass paper weight and a nice pencil caddy... The things people throw out...
Setting my finds aside, I make my way to the dumpster, each box revealing a few more goodies and hey, the price is right.
From this angle, I can see a soft leather satchel shoved between the rusting metal and the brick wall.
You've got to be kidding me... Why would anyone throw out such an expense briefcase?
Then another thought occurs to me... Maybe it was something placed there on purpose, something to be picked up at a later date...
The case is about halfway down, but closer to the middle.
Crouching along the side, resting my back against the brick wall, I reach behind the garbage bin, my fingers barely brushing my quarry. I shift a little more to my side, face turned away, searching for the case by feel alone, but I can't get a good handle on it.
Standing, I look up and down the alleyway, checking my watch again.
It could work...
I pull myself up on the side slot, where the dump truck grips the container for disposal. If I lean over, I might be able to reach the case.
But it's a no go. This angle isn't any better than the other... I need to be higher up. Testing the closed, hinged lid, I knee crawl over the rippled surface, kneeling in the middle, looking down at the case and its extended handle.
If I reach straight down, I should be able to grip it.
The space between the wall and dumpster allows me to shimmy my upper body over the edge and into the crevice if I lay flat on my belly.
I manage to touch the case, but it shifts lower, so I move forward, my shoulders rounding and pressing between the wall and container.
I have it... Gripping my prize, I try to back out of my position, but a slight tug and loud ripping sound clues me into a slight problem...
No matter which way I move, the nail or whatever hung up in my shirt, digs in deeper, tangling the material around and without the leverage of my hands, I'm not going to free myself.
What will Pamela think of me now?
If Jim chooses this moment to come looking for me...Even if there's a zillion dollars of drug money in the case...I'll never hear the end of it.
Okay... just think.
Time ticks by, no one comes to get rid of their rubbish and none of my fancy moves seems to work, and worse of all, the case is slipping, slick with my sweat, I can't keep hold of the handle. Using my knees, I push forward again, trying to turn my head, hoping the movement will dislodge me, hoping that by turning my head, I can shimmy out of this tight spot but that's not what happens.
In a dizzy display, my shoulders slip all right, but not up and out... in farther.
As I slide, my back scrapes the brick wall and the lip of the dumpster presses into my chest, coming to rest on my stomach. The air in my lungs is squeezed out and it is hard to draw any back in, bright bursts of light fire behind my closed eyes and the top of my head tingles.
I'm fading fast and praying that Jim will be the one to find me... I can't bear the thought of lovely Pamela Sutherland finding me asphyxiated, lodged between a wall and a dumpster, ass in the air.
I would laugh... or maybe cry if I could get in enough oxygen...
Twinkling light beats against my eyelids, the ocean pounds in my ears and then everything fades away...
...I really wanted to try the Paper Moon...
Where in the hell is he?
I'm what... ten minutes late and he's probably off with some co-ed in a corner, smooth talking and sucking face.
The hallway leading to his office is like a maze. Boxes and papers litter the floor and the dust in his office is so thick that the floating particles clog my throat, stick to the lining of my nose, and I sneeze, hard and loud.
What... hasn't the man ever heard of a dust rag? A little old fashioned elbow grease... How can he work like this?
The hall is mostly empty; a man in a stained t-shirt stacks boxes on a dolly and heads up the hall, going the way I just came.
Pulling my cell from my coat pocket, I dial Blair's cell and groan as his phone chirps from a heap of books and other clutter piled by a chair in his office.
"Oh, excuse me."
Turning away from the mess of the room, I back peddle, allowing a pretty little blonde to enter. "Ah... here, let me."
She smiles, her blue eyes sparkling as I reach forward to take the oversized box she is struggling to put on Blair's desk. "Thanks... I thought Blair might be back..."
"Blair... have you seen him? I'm running a little late and I was supposed to meet him."
She rubs her hands together, and then brushes her palm against her worn denim pant leg. "I saw him in the alley a few minutes ago. Are you Jim?" Her soft smile is radiant, even if it is hard to see her clearly through the veil of dust. "I'm Pamela Sutherland."
"Jim, Jim Ellison." Her slender hand is warm when I clasp it in my own, she shakes my hand firmly, a pleasant surprise.
She lingers, allowing me an extra second of sensory pleasure. "He ah... he should be back soon."
"Soon... Oh, Blair... yes. I'll ah... I'll just go see if I can find him." Her fingers caress my palm as she turns to go. "Pamela?"
"Yes," She steps toward me again, head canted slightly to the side, twin dimples and a perfect row of teeth revealed.
"I, well... I was thinking that maybe you might like to go out sometime... Maybe dinner and a movie or if you'd rather..."
"...maybe get a drink or ah... yes?"
"Yes, Jim... I'd love to. Blair has so many wonderful stories about you and how exciting it is to work with you, and I have to admit I'm curious..." She picks up one of Blair's business cards from the card holder on his desk and snags the pen from my shirt pocket. After scribbling her number on the back, she tucks the card into the same shirt pocket, but keeps the pen. "Call me soon, okay..."
And then she is gone, walking down the hall, turning her head for one last look before opening an office door near the end of the hall.
Yeah... I still got it.
With a lift in my step, I make my way toward the propped doors at the other end of the hall. The sun beats down on the pavement of the parking lot, heat rising in a hazy wave and the sidewalk that leads around the building is empty. Looking closer, I can make out two tar smudged tracks zig-zagging up the handicap access ramp and disappearing around the corner.
The alley holds a large dumpster and stacked boxes. An old wooden cabinet with one door off the hinge blocks part of the old rusty garbage bin.
As I move in from the mouth, I see some boxes are open; trash and other objects flood over the top of them, a glass paper weight and black metal pencil caddy sit in the middle of the alley.
A huge sack or something rests on top of the closed dumpster, like someone didn't want to take the time to open the hinged lid. Something white catches my eye, it jumps and pulses within the rumpled blue material.
What is that... a shoe?
I nearly collide with the metal bin, reaching up to grab hold of one leg. It's still warm to the touch and I can clearly see his other leg, but my mind can't comprehend the odd angle in which his body rests, rear up, shirt pulled from his pants, a sliver of bare back above his belt, but the rest of his body...
Pulling my cell, I dial 911, squatting down and looking into the tiny place between wall and dumpster. Blair is wedged in between, both arms hanging down over his head, one hand reaching toward a leather briefcase that's equally stuck.
Straining, I reach into the space, touching his neck, falling back against the wall when I feel a steady heartbeat. His breathing sounds funny, cut off and I realize he's not getting enough air.
"HELP... SOMEONE HELP ME..."
I don't know if anyone can hear me, or if anyone even cares. Minutes ago, a dispatcher told me help was on the way, but I don't think Blair can wait that long.
I need to get him out of there... now.
I push against the bulk of the bin, moving it a fraction of an inch, but then I worry I'm only moving the metal closer to the wall, crushing Blair.
I can hear feet running toward me and I scream again. "Help! Over here."
Two puny freshmen, looking like a stiff wind could blow them down, round the corner. "Help me."
One kid shimmies along the crevice, sliding his legs behind the bin while the other comes along my side to help push and pull.
I can hear the sirens in the distance, but that doesn't stop me from throwing all my weight against the container. The kid around the side is using his legs to press against the bulk, moving it enough to allow me to get my back against the wall and push.
It rolls away enough, there's the sound of ripping material and then Blair's upper body flops against the side of the bin.
I reach up for him, holding his neck, not knowing if he's hurt his back.
How in the hell did he manage to get himself into this one?
The ambulance screeches to a stop at the mouth of the alley, one man jumps from the rear, pulling a gurney along behind him, the other rushes to keep up, shouldering a heavy pack.
I step back, but keep my hand on Blair's leg as they check him over, calling out numbers and talking to the doctors via a radio attached to their shirt collars.
"Step back, sir. We got him."
They lower Blair off the bin lid and onto a backboard, holding his neck until they can get a collar around his neck and soon he's strapped to the gurney and rolling back out of the alley and into the ambulance.
I run along beside, noting the bluish tinge to his lips and his sluggish heartbeat.
"We're taking him to Mercy."
The paramedic closes the door once Blair's loaded and the ambulance pulls out in view of the growing gathering crowd.
"Ah, mister..." One of the kids is holding the briefcase, his eyes as big as saucers.
"Thanks guys." As I get closer, I can see the case is cracked opened and peeking from the opening, a busted plastic bag leaks a white powdery substance.
Man, I'm so stiff.
This totally sucks.
"Come on, Blair. You have to come out sooner or later."
No, I don't. I'm staying in here forever.
"Blair... come on, I said I was sorry." Jim's standing on the other side of the bathroom door, dressed to the nines, in preparation for taking my Pamela Sutherland to the Paper Moon.
I haven't even been to the Paper Moon yet...
"Come on, Blair... let me help you get settled before I go." I can hear him shifting from foot to foot, like I'm the one with the Sentinel hearing.
He feels guilty... good.
He does have a point though.
As much as I’d like to hide in here, I can't. In the past week, I've gotten more sore, but the bruises covering my torso and back have gone from black to yellow to green. My cracked ribs don't hurt with every inhalation, but I'm still pretty tender and I have to get some rest if I'm gonna get back to work tomorrow.
And I have to get back to work...
"Alright, suit yourself..." He starts to walk away, but returns and bangs on the door with his fist, rattling it in its frame, even the walls tremble. "Get the hell out here, Sandburg."
Since you asked so nicely...
I throw the door open, ready to... Well, I'm not sure what I'm ready to do, but I'm not expecting to see him standing inches from me, my coat hanging casually over his arm.
"'bout time." He turns me around, feeding my arm into the sleeve of my coat. "I'm starving here, Chief."
"But I... I thought... I thought you and..."
He grunts, spinning me back around and I draw in a deep breath and hold it as he maneuvers my other arm into my coat.
Man that still hurts!
I slap his hand away as he starts to zip up my coat. "Jim... what about Pamela?"
"What about her?" He walks away from me, heading toward the front door. "Let's go."
I take baby steps in his direction. "Go?"
He looks heavenward, shaking his head. "Go... the Paper Moon... dinner."
He steps closer, taking my elbow in his hand and grabbing his keys as we cross the threshold. "Pamela's a very nice girl. We had coffee the other day, but she's..."
I dig in my heels, pulling away. "She's what? What is she, man?"
Jim continues to the ancient elevator, pressing the call button, knowing that it will take a few minutes to bring the car up from the lower level. "She's crazy about you..."
The car arrives with a tinny ding, sliding open on squeaky rollers and I hurry the best I can, stepping past Jim as he holds the door.
"Did she say that, man? What did she say?" The car descends slowly, but Jim doesn't say a word. "Come on, man... give."
He holds the outer glass door for me and I follow him to his truck, waiting as he unlocks and opens the door.
A week ago, I almost died in a freak accident, waking to find my best friend asleep in a chair near my bed, drooling and head bent at such an angle that I knew he would be regretting his bedside vigil.
But when I came to again a little later that day, he never complained, patiently explained my injuries, reassured me that everything was gonna be fine.
And now he waits until I have my seatbelt fastened before closing my door and moving around the front and sliding behind the wheel.
"She didn't have to say anything, although she wants to know why you haven't asked her out."
As we head out I mull over this new piece of information. Jim and Pammy had coffee, probably while I was still in the hospital. It had to be the morning of the third day when Simon came to tell me that they linked the drugs back to a new gang that targeted the college. One of the guys that helped Jim get me loose recognized the briefcase, led Major Crimes right to the top of the chain.
Wow, she really does like me...
Jim shifts the truck down to a lower gear, changing lanes and signaling to get over. The Paper Moon sits off the highway, simple in design, but the dining room features a spectacular view of the bay and if we hurry, we'll make the sunset.
"So, Blairy Bear..." Jim parks the truck in the spot nearest the entrance, a smug smile on his face. "...you'd better hurry up, 'cause when I dropped her off at the U, stained armpit guy was chatting her up."
Who? Not the new guy from down the hall...
"Wait up, Jim." I hobble after my friend, "Can I borrow your cell phone, man? Jim... Jim?"
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