It was 3 a.m. and already I hated today.
It should have started at a civilized hour, but we had a stakeout go wrong and now I was standing here looking at the scene cops hate most but Captains especially.
One of my detectives flat on his back with his partner crouching beside him and calling his name.
Uniforms had taken the suspects away and were sitting outside the old brewery, waiting for my word. Only my people were there now - Megan and Rafe and Henri - clustered around Taggert as he tried to revive Ellison.
I filled a place in the circle as Taggert looked up. His worry and fear was written on his face for us to see - I suspect we looked the same way to him.
"C'mon Jim, it's been an hour. You gotta focus. Otherwise I'll let Conner have a go - I'm sure her approach will be a lot less fun," Taggerts voice was calm, but had a definite edge to it. His grip on Ellisons shoulder was firm, almost vice-like. As Taggert continued to urge Ellison on the zoned Sentinel grimaced, then finally opened his eyes.
After a few more minutes he was able to get to his feet and we surround him to walk out, like a phalanx of bodyguards. We sat Jim in the passenger side of my car - he looked embarrassed at all the attention and ready to blow his cool - and I asked what the hell happened.
"We just rounded up the last of the fake designer jeans crew and he went down," Conner frowned at me in confusion.
"He asked what that smell was just before he zoned," Taggert spoke up, "I guess something in there triggered it."
"There's all kinds of smells in there - all out of place," Jim spoke up, "Can we get a tracker dog in here? Something is not right."
"There is a funny odor to the place," Rafe backes Ellison up, "It's worth a try, Captain."
I was reluctant to call in a sniffer dog when I knew Ellison could locate the mystery smell just as efficiently. Maybe it was a lack of confidence that held him back - or he hadn't recovered yet. Sandburg would know, but the kid wasn't here and the call was mine.
"Are you all right, Jim?" I asked deciding to push him along now. After all this was what Sandburg wanted - Ellison's independence. Ellison looked at me and sighed.
"Yeah, all right," he grumbled, "But we should still get a dog in here - I don't think my sense of smell will stand up in court."
"Good point," I nodded and called it in while Taggert followed Ellison back into the brewery.
I arranged for the dog team and leaned back against my car, waiting with the rest of my detectives. By now we all knew not to get in Ellison's way when he was sweeping an area - the temper tantrums and glares had told us that screening out our presence made life way too difficult.
After an hour Taggert hurried out and I smothered a curse. Had Ellison zoned again and Taggert panicked?
"We need a mirror," Taggert said as he got closer, "Conner do you have a compact?"
"Sexist," Conner growled but dug around in her bag and car before finding one and handing it over reluctantly.
"So, what have you two found?" Rafe pushed for an answer and Taggert grinned at us.
"So far enough chemicals to put a drug lab to shame. Looks like we've gone from fake designer jeans, to fake designer drugs," Taggert replied, "There's a big cache in a nest of pipes though - we can't get direct line of sight. That's what this is for."
Taggert hefted the mirror in his hand and jogged back into the building. I was impressed that he and Ellison had managed to do such a clear sweep of the building.
Two minutes later they both came pelting out of there, running full speed.
"Down! Get down!" Taggert was yelling as Ellison waved at the uniformed cops. I turned, shoving my people ahead of me - trying to get them behind the cars. We made it just as Taggert slammed into us, knocking us flat. Jim was there too, trying to pull everyone into shelter.
"Jim! Block it off!" Taggert yelled just as the building exploded.
Heat, light and sound engulfed us as the force of the explosion flattened us to the ground. Debris rained down around us - bricks and timber. By sheer luck no one copped a brick to the head.
I waited until the echo died and rolled onto my side, scanning anxiously for my people - were they safe? Hurt?
Could I help them?
Had I let them down?
Rafe and Henri were already checking each other out. Conner was disentangling herself from Taggert and sitting up. Ellison put a hand on my arm before running to check the uniformed cops on the other side of the lot.
"What the hell?" I growled and Taggert took a deep breath, brushing dust off his jacket and looking around at the rubble.
"That cache in the pipes turned out to be enough C4 to … well, blow up the building," he gestured at the pile of rubbish that had once been a building and I looked at it in awe. Jim came back and squatted down beside us.
"Everyone ok?" he asked, though I got the feeling he knew we were and was just trying to maintain a sense of normality. It must really bother him to know that kind of thing and not be able to just let it stand for granted.
"We're fine," Rafe spoke up and I nodded when Jim glanced at me for confirmation. I looked over at the patrol car.
"The uniforms ok?" I asked and Jim nodded, focussing on them for a minute to be sure.
"They're calling it in," he told me and looked over at the pile of rubble. Taggert shot him an anxious look, but decided not to say anything that would annoy his partner. I was under no such restraints.
"Are you ok, Jim? How are your senses?" I asked and he grimaced in typical Ellison annoyance.
"They're fine. Joel's reminder was very timely. Thanks man," Ellison nodded over at Taggert and I relaxed a little.
The kid's plan was working. Jim was independent of him to function as a Sentinel, though he still needed a Guide. I began worrying that the pendulum was swinging the other way - would Sandburg have a Sentinel to return to when he graduated?
"Hey!" Connor exclaimed suddenly, "Where's my compact?"
To be continued in part 3
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