Characters from The Sentinel are owned by Pet Fly Productions. All other characters belong to me. No money is made from the use of The Sentinel characters so please don't sue.

Please be aware that I do take a perverse pleasure in hurting Blair so those who don't, may not want to read any further. There are some rude words so I guess this should be rated PG.

This is my first attempt at fanfic for this fandom though I have written for another fandom. Feedback would be very much appreciated.

My very grateful thanks go to Sue Pokorny who kindly offered to beta this effort. Her suggestions were constructive and helpful and although I may have confused her with my Englishness, she never once complained. Anyone else who has any problems with the same thing can email me for a translation.

Rae

Stay in the Truck

by Rae

********************

8.00pm

Here we go again. Outside it was dark, wet and cold. Inside Jim's truck the windows were steamed up and Blair Sandburg was talking to himself, again. He and Jim had been on their way back to the loft when the call had come in. Blair had spent most of the day at the University lecturing and marking papers. A little after 4.00pm he had taken the bus to Cascade Police Headquarters and spent the next few hours clearing up Jim's paperwork. Then, with the promise of one of Jim's chillis, they had both been on their way home. 'Been' being the operative word here, he thought. First the radio had crackled into life and then the dispatcher had announced that there had been a report of shots fired at 724 Kerry Lane. Blair had seen the facial expression of his partner tighten but Jim had not so much as glimpsed at Blair. A shooting, if that was what it was, was not necessarily an issue for Major Crimes and Jim had more than enough work without adding a case that didn't even belong in his department. A few minutes later the dispatcher had announced "officer down" at the same location. Jim looked at Sandburg and Blair had known the bowl of chilli would have to wait.

Jim had brought the truck to a halt about half a block down from 724 Kerry Lane. Blair shifted in his seat, craned his neck and stared through the rain to see an old wooden house boarded up and dilapidated. The house looked like it had suffered a fire in the upper floor at some time in the past. Kerry Lane was a street of boarded up houses. Faint lights strayed from one or two of the former homes. Squatters, Blair thought, and why not, everyone should have a roof over their head on a night like this.

A squad car sat outside the house parked across the drive blocking in a bronze mid-range non-descript sedan; the passenger door open and a figure slumped in the seat. They made their way quietly to the open car door. The policeman inside was dead, a bloodstain across his chest. Jim hadn't even checked the dead man's pulse relying on his Sentinel abilities to listen to the man's heartbeat or rather lack of it. Fishing in his jacket pocket Jim gave his cell phone to Blair,

"Call for back up and stay put," Jim stated sternly.

"Won't they be on their way already?" Blair asked.

"Tell them Officer Irving is dead," Jim sighed looking at the young policeman's name badge.

Detective Jim Ellison moved towards the house and the darkness consumed him. Blair made the call and reported the grisly outcome. Looking at the body with rain seeping through his jacket and running down the back of his neck, he had decided there was nothing he could do there. The smell of blood was nauseating and Blair decided discretion was the better part of throwing up and returned to Jim's truck. Getting in the passenger seat, his normal position, he huddled into his now damp jacket.

Emotions jostled inside him. He knew his Sentinel wanted to protect him from unnecessary harm and that was why he had ordered him to stay behind, but how was Blair supposed to guide his Sentinel if he was always pushed back just at the time when he could be most useful. Going into a dark, broken-down building, Jim would be concentrating on using his heightened senses of sight and hearing. Provided he used them in the way that Blair and he had worked out was best he should be alright. Zoning out was still a real possibility, though, and Blair couldn't ground his partner from the truck. He and Jim were going to have a serious talk about Jim's over-protectiveness when they finally got home that night. Meanwhile Blair muttered to himself under his breath. Suddenly he slumped and smiled. He closed his eyes, hugged himself to keep warm and started talking to Jim as though he were there, knowing that if Jim were throwing his hearing out to catch for a sound of the shooter he would easily hear his Guide. Blair kept his voice steady and soothing. Whilst he wanted to ground his Sentinel he didn't want to distract him from the task in hand.

Looking at the clock on the dashboard, Blair worked out that Jim had been gone almost five minutes and back up had still not arrived. Toying with the idea of calling again, Blair rejected the thought, knowing that with an officer down the troops would arrive as soon as they could. He put the phone down on the driver's seat to stop from giving into temptation.

********************

Jim reached the house without incident. He looked back through the dark and saw Blair's head bob up and down as he spoke into the phone. He knew Blair would be frustrated, maybe even annoyed, but at least he would be safe. Smiling to himself Jim pushed his senses forward. Steps led up to a verandah that ran around the front and one side of the house. There was a handrail and Jim saw broken boards all over. He trod carefully, staying away from the door. He checked the windows and could not see anyone lying in wait. With his back pressed up against the wooden facia between the door and the window and his gun held ready he sent out his hearing, listening for heartbeats. He heard only one and hung his head. Sighing he realised either that the Officer was dead or the perp was and, chances were, after what he had seen outside, it wasn't the perp. He hoped he was wrong. The one heartbeat he could hear came from the back of the house.

The front door creaked open at his slight touch and he moved steadily but quietly into the room. His pupils dilated and the room sprung into view. There was nothing in the room at all. Not a stick of furniture, just layers of dust disturbed only by the imprints of rats' feet. Leaving his footprints in the dust he crossed the room and entered a small hallway. The heartbeat was closer. Two doors led off the hallway and stairs went up into the darkness of the next floor. A voice intruded into his thoughts. Sandburg, he muttered to himself and shook his head grinning. Junior never gives up. Jim didn't block the voice out but he set it to the back of his mind, like something nagging away that you ignored even though it never actually went away.

The heartbeat got fainter and Jim moved to one of the two doors leading off the hallway. It was a door that swung both ways. The hinges squeaked but Jim knew if he was going to check out that room he had to go through that door. Jim was pretty sure there was no one alive in the next room but he went in low and fast, rolling as he hit the floor. His gun was up and ready as he came to a stop, crouched. The door to the rear of the house was open and through it he could see a figure lying on the grass. The second police officer was alive, his chest rising and falling. Checking that the downed officer was not bait in some sick trap, Jim went over to the man who was bleeding badly from a gunshot wound to the thigh. The blood was seeping out at an alarming rate and Jim suspected that the artery had been nicked. He put pressure on the wound and heard the man groan.

"Where the hell is that ambulance?" he muttered to himself, frustrated at the delay.

"Sandburg!" He shouted

Ellison wasn't sure that he would be heard but he wanted to do all he could to save the life of the man whose blood was oozing over his fingers. Finally he heard sirens approaching.

"Hang on in there man," he told the Officer beneath his hands.

Within minutes paramedics were relieving him of his charge and he found himself explaining his involvement to the detective from Homicide who arrived on the scene to take charge.

"Where's Sandburg?" Jim asked Detective Hamilton.

"Who?"

"My partner; short guy, long curly hair."

"Oh, that Sandburg!" The detective smiled as if there were another, "Sorry Jim I haven't seen him."

"Probably still in the truck." Jim grinned at the other man, though he was unconvinced at his own suggestion.

"Thanks for your help Jim."

Ellison waved in acknowledgement as he headed back to the truck knowing that Blair would never stay away once the cavalry had arrived. He was too curious.

********************

So here he was again. It was cosy in the truck but Sandburg still snuggled down in to his jacket. He was hungry and pulled down the glove compartment cover. He was sure he had left an energy bar in there the other day. Jim had so much stuff in the glove compartment that some of it fell out as he pulled down the cover. He picked up two envelopes, a pair of handcuffs and a single glove, the mate of which he had back at the loft. He had been looking for the missing glove for ages. Placing the spilled items on top of the dash he rummaged for and found his energy bar. Ripping off the wrapper he bit into the bar and chewed.

Blair kept up the continuous dialogue for Jim and had just digressed down what he thought was a particularly interesting path about Sentinels choosing careers that put them in harm's way and whether that was genetic or just bloody-minded, when the driver side door was yanked open.

"Hey, Jim…" his voice died in his throat as he looked across. It wasn't Jim.

It was the gun that grabbed his attention; it was very big and the hand that held it very steady. The eyes behind the gun were wild. Blair put his hands up in immediate surrender. One look at those eyes told him that this guy would shoot him as easy as blinking. The guy was high on something, his nose dripped and he rubbed the back of his free hand across his face.

"Don't move," he growled.

Unnecessary, thought Blair, he wasn't even going to twitch.

"Keys!" the man demanded.

Blair indicated with one hand at the ignition, his hands still raised. The man slipped into the driver's seat and turned the engine on, all the while keeping the very large gun pointed at Blair.

Under his breath Blair muttered, "I'm in trouble Jim."

"What did you say?" the man shouted.

Blair jumped. "Nothing… nothing," he repeated to emphasise the point.

"You're with the cop," the man accused.

Blair nodded, his mouth dry. "But I'm only a ride along. I'm not a cop.”

"You smell different from the pig," the man continued.

Blair smiled weakly. "I said I wasn't a cop."

The man reached forward and Blair flinched, expecting physical harm. The man grabbed the handcuffs from where Blair had left them on the dashboard and quickly and easily fastened one round Blair's left wrist. The other he attached to the steering wheel.

"What?" Blair blurted out. "Why did you do that? I haven't got the key."

The man smiled and Blair's heart sank.

"Don't worry you ain't going nowhere."

The murderer drove off into the night shackled to a very reluctant passenger.

********************

The truck had been parked deliberately out of direct line of sight of the house. Jim somehow knew before he could see where it had been parked that it would no longer be there. He swore profusely.

"Sandburg." He warned as if that would assuage his anger.

Jogging back to the crime scene he sought out Detective Hamilton.

"Hey Paul, I think I know where your murderer has gone."

Hamilton looked at Jim quizzically. Jim explained. "My truck is gone."

"Wasn't your partner in your truck?" Hamilton asked.

"He's gone too. I hope he's still in the truck. Can I call in an APB on my truck?"

"Help yourself," Hamilton replied, handing Jim his cell phone.

Jim's second call was to Simon.

"Damn it Jim, that kid is always getting himself into trouble. What the hell has he got into now?"

"To be honest Simon, it's not entirely his fault. I told him to stay in the truck. If anybody is at fault here, it is me." Jim heard the guilt in his own voice, but let his anger and fear push it away.

"I'll be there in 20 minutes Jim. Don't do anything 'til I get there."

Jim closed the connection without another word. This was his fault no matter what anyone would say and he had to sort it out, one way or another.

By the time Simon arrived at the crime scene, Jim had paced up and down enough to almost wear a trench in the pavement.

"Anything on the APB?" Jim asked.

The urgency in his voice was apparent. Simon shook his head and put his hand gently on Jim's shoulder.

"Come on. Let's see if Hamilton has anything."

The two black men shook hands.

"Paul do we know anything?"

"Only what I have already told Jim. Officers Irving and Powell spotted the perp at a diner about 20 blocks away when they stopped for coffee. His name is Stephen Shadwell. They called it in and followed him here. Our guy is wanted for dealing, crack cocaine mostly. As to what happened here, we'll have to wait for Officer Powell to come out of surgery before we find that out. But our man has obviously stepped up to murder and kidnapping."

Jim clenched his fists at the final word. Hamilton went on, "Shadwell is a Chemistry Major, formerly of Berkeley. It seems he decided that making goodies for the other students was so much more rewarding than enlightening them. The slippery slope is long and hard and our Stephen has had two spells inside. Up until now his record has been surprisingly clear of anything even approaching violent behaviour. This time he is third and out, which no doubt accounts for the escalation to violence. Either that or he has been tasting his own wares. Sorry man, but whichever it is, it doesn't bode well for your partner."

Jim walked away, shoulders hunched. Captain Banks thanked Hamilton and made sure that he and Major Crimes would be kept in the loop on any developments, however small. Banks bit down on the unlit cigar and sighed. He followed Jim, who was standing in front of the house, staring at nothing.

"Come on," he said to Jim, "let's go inside. I'm no Sandburg but I'll do my best to stop you zoning. Let's see if we can find any trace of Shadwell."

"He wasn't in the house Simon." Jim despaired.

"Ok, but he was out here and in the garden, so let's go."

Simon was determined not to let Jim shoulder this burden and slide further into this guilt trip. Jim looked up at his superior knowing what Simon was doing. He nodded and walked off towards the garden, Simon following. Sandburg must see this view of him a lot he mused to himself and hurried to catch up.

********************

"Ow, come on man take it easy!"

Every turn to the left resulted in Blair's arm being yanked across the steering wheel. As he was trying to stay as far away from the man driving as he could given the restrictions of the front seat of the truck, the pull on his wrist was becoming all the more painful. They seemed to be taking a lot of left turns, or that was what it felt like to Blair. The man had not spoken since he started on this journey. The gun was stuffed in his waistband the butt towards his left hand making it almost impossible for Blair to grab it even if he was so inclined to do so.

"Shut up," the man growled.

They drove on finally hitting a straight stretch of fairly deserted road. They stopped at the first opportunity.

"Turn your head away," the man ordered.

Blair swallowed hard. "If you're going to shoot me I'm not going to make it easy for you."

The man's face contorted and with a lurch backwards Blair realised the man was smiling. It was a hideous parody of the intention.

"I ain't gonna shoot you yet," the man replied.

Blair turned his head away and looked out of the passenger side window. Reflected in the darkness outside he saw the man bring something that looked like a scarf down over his head. It was tied tightly around his eyes blocking out all vision.

"Why did you do that?" Blair asked, never knowing when to stay quiet.

"You talk too much."

Some sort of cloth was forced in Blair's mouth and tied tightly again behind his head. It tasted foul and Blair tried not to think about where the cloth had been before or what was on it. A hand pulled his shoulder round and he sat as normal. He put a hand to his blindfold but it was pulled away.

"If you try and remove them, I will shoot you."

Blair felt the gun tap his chest and he put his hand in his lap.

They drove on. Blair guessed they had kept going for another hour or so. The truck pulled off the road and Blair felt the vehicle lurch as they travelled over rough ground. The truck stopped and the man got out slamming the door shut. Blair disliked the dark. He always had, even as a child. Being blindfolded was a bad dream come true, being gagged as well made it a nightmare. His right arm was grabbed, as the passenger side door was roughly pulled open. He was pulled out of the truck as far as his shackled wrist and the steering wheel would allow. The sound of the shot came totally out of the blue and caused Blair to involuntarily pull hard at the handcuffs. In response he found himself toppling out of the truck and onto the wet and muddy ground.

"We don't need keys," stated the disembodied voice of his captor.

Blair was dragged to his feet by the back of his collar and pushed face first against the truck. With his ears still ringing from the blast his arms were pulled easily behind his back and tied together. He was prodded away from the truck, each pace a step into the unknown. He fell twice; once over a rut in the ground and then up a step. The wooden flooring creaked beneath his feet and the door they went through had hinges that needed oiling. The prodding stopped and Blair stood still. He could hear the other man moving around. It sounded like he was moving pots and pans. Blair wondered if he would be fed. He was cold and wet, tired and hungry. The promised bowl of chilli now seemed a long way off and it had been a long day before that. As if his mind had been read he was told to sit down. He obliged, sitting on the wooden floor in soggy trousers.

A smell of coffee soon permeated the room but Blair felt no fire and he was not offered a drink. The gag had pulled one side of his mouth and he could taste blood there. The tie around his wrist was so tight that his hands were already going numb. As the silence wore on the tension seeped out of him. There appeared to be no apparent immediate danger and, whilst Blair was scared, he was more cold and hungry now. The silence stretched on. For Blair it seemed never ending. He wondered if his captor was asleep. Deciding to experiment he slightly shifted his sitting position so that he moved backwards towards what he hoped was the door. He sensed the movement before he felt it and the boot that connected with his thigh caused a strangled gasp from behind the gag. Bad mistake, Blair thought.

The initial violence seemed to have spurred the man into action. Blair heard him walking around. There were other noises too but Blair couldn't identify them. Then the man was standing next to him. Blair could hear him breathing. Hands pushed Blair over from his cross-legged position until he was flat on his face. Tired as he was, Blair still struggled and those struggles increased when he felt a needle slide into the inside of his elbow. He tried to shout through the gag but nothing recognisable came out. The man kept him pinned down waiting for whatever it was to take effect. It didn't take long. He felt warm and lethargic. A last valiant effort at a struggle heralded his dip into oblivion.

********************

10.00pm

Jim had spent 10 minutes at the house in Kerry Lane and, apart from the man's body odour, the only other thing he picked up was a faint metallic odour, something he couldn't quite identify. The rain had made anything else impossible even for Jim's heightened senses. Jim hadn't realised how wet it was until Simon put his large hand on his shoulder. He felt the damp underneath his friend's touch. Running his own hands through his short-cropped hair, he turned to Simon and shook his head. He allowed himself to be led back to Simon's car. Jim nodded when Simon suggested they get back to the station.

Changing into the spare set of clothing he kept in his locker, Jim was about to close the locker door when a photo of him and Blair at the last Police Benefit Softball game caught his eye. Blair had been a surprisingly good pitcher for a guy his height and had been instrumental in Major Crimes winning for the first time in as many years as any one could remember. He was going to get Blair back whatever it took but moping around wasn't going to help. He pushed the guilt to the back of his mind and, by the time he got back in the Squad room, he was all business.

********************

Simon was relieved to see the change. He was in the bullpen with Rafe, Brown and Joel Taggart. The three men had been waiting for Simon when he got back. Word had already spread. Simon wasn't surprised. Rhonda handed Simon what he had ordered before he left Kerry Lane, the full file on Stephen Allen Shadwell. As he was looking through it questions whirled in his brain, all unanswered as yet. He had just finished filling in the three men when Jim walked through the double doors. Simon noted it was Joel who handed Jim a mug of black coffee. The Bomb Squad Captain was often to be found in Major Crimes.

"Rafe, Henry, I want you to go over Shadwell's file with a fine tooth comb. I want a list of family members, friends, known associates and anyone else he may have even acknowledged in his sorry life on my desk, yesterday."

Both men nodded and got to work. Jim walked over to Simon,

"Captain, I've been thinking. What was Shadwell doing in Kerry Lane?"

Simon looked at Jim not sure what he was getting at.

"Ok, picture this," Jim explained. "He is at the diner, minding his own business when he is spotted. What does he do? He hightails it out of there and heads to an abandoned house."

"Maybe he was hiding out there," Joel suggested.

Jim shook his head, "No. That place had layers of dust all over. There were no prints; the dust was not disturbed at all. No one had been in that house for months, years even."

Simon nodded. Jim was right. He had seen inside that house.

Jim continued slowly, carefully laying out his argument as though he were just putting the pieces together for the first time. "Kerry Lane is in the middle of a residential area. It is not the sort of place you would expect to find a semi derelict property or even an empty property, so why risk it? If you wanted to hide out you would have to have known about it beforehand."

"So he must have known about it." Joel added.

"I don't think so." Jim mused. "How do you check out a safe house without going inside?"

Jim looked at Joel who suddenly saw where Jim was going on this.

"A meet? He was there for a meet?"

"Maybe he thought he had given our guys the slip."

"It's slim Jim, but right now we don't have anything better." Simon had made up his mind.

"Joel can you see what you can find out about the house. Who owns it, when it was last occupied? Hook up with Rafe and Henry and see if we have any happy coincidences. Though I expect that is too much to hope for."

"I'm on it, Simon."

Joel left the Squad Room as fast as he could in search of information that could help his friend Blair Sandburg.

Jim had been deep in thought whilst Simon had been issuing orders.

"Jim, you ok?" he asked, concerned that the ex-Ranger was zoning out.

Looking up at Simon the detective paused before he spoke. "Simon, I want to go down to forensics and see if they can help me with that metallic smell."

"Ok Jim. I'll let you know as soon as we have something."

"Thanks Simon. I appreciate it."

Simon issued more orders and returned to his office. Taking up the half-smoked cigar where he had left it, he bit down on it as though gritting his teeth could provide inspiration. 

********************

10.00pm

Shadwell needed time to think. His head swirled. Everything had gone wrong the minute those cops walked into the diner. He had left quickly, hoping they hadn't noticed him. He had driven to the rendezvous knowing he would arrive early but preferring that to hanging around the diner. His buyer had chosen the location. Shadwell didn't care where he made a deal as long as the price was right he would make the deal. Leaving his car parked in the drive of the deserted home, he had gone to the back of the house to wait. There he would be out of sight. He had heard the police cruiser pull up, the tinny sound of the radio easily breaking the silence of the evening. Taking out the .44 Magnum, Shadwell had dared a look round the side of the building. The two cops from the diner were checking out his car. He returned to his spot at the back of the building. He had been shaking and was hardly able to hold the heavy gun. He knew he couldn't get caught. The third strike rule meant he was going away for life this time and he would not countenance that; he didn't deserve that, he was too good.

Shadwell had giggled to himself. Two puny cops wouldn't stop him. He had stood and put his hand into his pocket, fishing out a small plastic envelope. Inside were half a dozen blue tablets. He had popped two of them and smiled. Stepping out from behind the house he had started firing. He had a big gun, but he was a lousy shot. Both policemen had dived for cover. One went for the squad car and the other dived to the ground behind Shadwell's car. Shadwell had laughed out loud and run back behind the building.

It had happened very fast, Shadwell had run to the rear of the garden and hunkered down by the trashcan. There was no illumination from any of the adjoining houses and Shadwell had melted into the gloom. They came from different sides of the house. Shadwell had chuckled to himself at the stupidity of the pigs. He believed it was part of the selection process in becoming a cop. Anyone who passed the intelligence test was automatically excluded, only those stupid enough were accepted. He had waited until the two men met up and then started firing. One had gone down straight away, the other had staggered off. Shadwell had screamed his delight at the stars; the smell of death had been almost orgasmic. Dropping to his knees on the wet earth he hugged himself. The feeling of satisfaction had been overwhelming.

He hadn't expected more pigs to show up and he hadn't heard this one. He was different, he wasn't dressed like a pig and his eyes stared as though he could see through your soul. Shadwell had run. He knew his car was blocked in so he headed onto the street and ran as soon as the pig had headed into the house. The truck was parked on the side of the road. The windows were steamed up and there was someone inside. Shadwell had crept up to the driver side and pulled the door open.

The man he had found in the truck now lay unconscious on his floor. He knew it was a risk bringing the man back here. That was why he had blindfolded him, so he could not lead the pigs back here if he was allowed to live. Shadwell hadn't finally made his mind up on that one yet. Shadwell was angry.

"You stupid bastard!" he shouted at the comatose body and lashed out again with his foot. "Why did you have to be in the truck? Why couldn't you be a cop? Then I could just kill you."

Shadwell dropped the gun and put his head in his hands. The wail that escaped from his lips was of a soul in torment. He sat on the sofa watching the unconscious man. Almost without knowing what he was doing he retrieved the plastic wallet from his pocket and removed two more pills. The now cold coffee helped him swallow. His breath slowed and his eyes closed but only for a split second. He sat bolt upright a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Turning the prone form on to its back he searched the man's pockets until he found a wallet. The man was Blair Sandburg, a student at Rainier University. He didn't have much money in his wallet and only one credit card. Maybe he was just a ride along as he had claimed. That made things worse. He had no compunction about killing cops now and, in a sense, given his predicament, there was almost a logical imperative to do so, but a civilian and a fellow student, now that was different.

Anthropology had always seemed to Shadwell a dry and dusty subject and he had never been tempted to turn from the sciences to the arts, but he appreciated the discipline it took and this man had his Masters, a worthy student indeed, which made this conundrum all the more intriguing. Student Sandburg needed to be kept out of the way whilst Shadwell had time to leave the State and maybe, with a little planning, the man could help create a little extra time, an edge that might make the difference. The shot he had given Sandburg would keep him out of it for five or six hours.

Shadwell started to pack up, methodically placing his chemicals and equipment into boxes and putting each box carefully in the truck. He went carefully through everything in the house, taking time to touch all his belongings deciding what he was going to take and what would get left behind, which would be most of the items. He packed those items he had chosen and his clothes into suitcases. Finally he checked his briefcase, it was full of money. Tucking the briefcase under his arm he returned to the main room. The man still lay there. He was snoring quietly. Shadwell was tempted to remove the blindfold and gag to have a better look at the face that was hidden. The photograph on the student ID card showed a happy smiling face and long loose hair. Shadwell wanted to see that face, but knew that would not help him. If he saw that face maybe he would not be able to do what had to be done when the time came and time was running out, he would be coming round soon.

Time for another little shot then. This time Shadwell did it properly, tying off the tourniquet, wiping the enlarged vein with antiseptic and easing the needle in gently. Releasing the tourniquet, Shadwell wiped the puncture wound and placed a band-aid over the bleeding spot. The unconscious man didn't move.

He manoeuvred Blair into a position where he could hoist him onto his shoulder. He carried the unconscious man out of the house and put him on the front seat of the truck. Returning for the briefcase, he took one last look round before leaving. Driving to the turn off, he had to decide which way to go; back to Cascade and danger, or away and freedom. A freedom too easily won for someone of his abilities. A change of direction, a return to Cascade would be something they would not expect. He chose that direction but then turned off the main road at the first chance. Let's not make it too easy for them he laughed.

********************

>3.00am

The house had led them nowhere. The owner was a development company slowly buying each of the buildings in the street. The company knew nothing about Shadwell and the CEO was not happy about being woken in the night to impart that information to the police. Joel Taggart did not feel in the least bit guilty about getting the man out of his bed just frustrated that it was yet another dead end.

Rafe and Henry had the list that Simon wanted. Shadwell had a widowed mother in Florida, was an only child with no known friends or associates in the Cascade area. His last spell in prison had been in San Francisco where he had spent four years as a model prisoner. He had shared his cell with two other inmates during those four years, both of whom were still incarcerated. Another dead end.

Jim was building up a good head of steam at the lack of progress and Simon was having a hard time keeping the lid on. Forensics were doing what they could to come up with something on Jim's mystery smell, but it would be long slow work unless they got lucky and luck was something that was in short supply right now. As if on cue the phone on Jim's desk rang. He snatched it up and snarled into the receiver, "Ellison."

Joel noticed Jim sit up straighter. Maybe they had got their first bit of luck.

"Ok, we'll be there in twenty minutes."

Jim grabbed his jacket and looked at Joel. "That was Paul Hamilton, Officer Powell just woke up."

Joel moved to follow Jim out of the office.

"Rafe, tell Simon we're heading to Cascade General," Joel shouted over his shoulder as he saw Jim disappear down the stairs. Just for once, thought Joel, can't the man take the elevator?

It took the full twenty minutes and a few more to get to the hospital. They knew the way to ICU all too well. Too many times colleagues had lain on these beds. Some had made it, others had not. Paul Hamilton was waiting for them at the nurses' station. Jim affected introductions but Joel already knew the homicide detective.

"He's in recovery. The Doc will give us five minutes," Hamilton reported.

Jim led the way. The nurse responsible made it clear to all three men that they should do nothing to excite the young officer. Joel reassured her that they would be careful. She threw him a warning look as if to say she would hold him personally responsible if they stepped over the line.

Jim leaned over the pale man in the bed. He spoke quietly. "Officer Powell, can you hear me?"

Joel stood at the end of the bed. The officer struggled to open his eyes. The strain and tension in Jim filled the small room. Powell's eyes opened and he managed to focus on Jim's face.

"Officer Powell, I am Detective Jim Ellison with Major Crimes. I need to know everything you can tell me about Stephen Shadwell."

"He shot me," the young man whispered from a dry throat.

Hamilton pushed himself off the wall on the opposite side of the bed from Jim and helped the young man sip some cold water through a straw. Jim had sighed at the reply.

"Shadwell has kidnapped my partner and I need anything you can give me."

At the mention of the word partner a shadow passed over Officer Powell's face.

"How's Andy?" he asked.

Jim dropped his head. Joel could see the pain on the detective's face.

"I am sorry Tony, he didn't make it."

Joel nodded at Jim's tactics. When he wanted information from the young officer he was all business, but when a gentler touch was the order of the day, the man could show he understood the pain his announcement would cause.

Tony Powell closed his eyes and Joel saw his chest heave with emotion.

Jim pressed on. "Tony I know this is tough for you, but we have a chance to save my partner. Is there anything that can help us?"

The patrolman opened his eyes. They were full of tears.

"We got a tip from Walter that Shadwell used the diner. Andy suggested we take our break there just in case."

The young man's voice broke and the tears slipped down his face. Jim laid a hand on his shoulder. Joel heard Jim whisper thanks then he stood and looked at Joel,

"We need to find Walter."

As they left the room Joel heard Hamilton comfort the young officer.

Walter, a.k.a. the Pearly King, was a well-known informant. Originally from London, the man had been in the States for over twenty years but he still retained his London accent and prided himself on his Englishness. His normal haunt was an Irish bar on Diamond and 9th. They were headed there now. Joel drove his wife's Kia Sportage, his own SUV being in the shop. Jim called Simon to let him know the progress they had made. Although Joel was technically the senior officer, he let Jim lead on this. He knew Jim needed to take the point and in any event, Joel knew that trying to stop him would be akin to stopping a runaway train. It never ceased to amaze Joel the change that had come over the detective sitting next to him in the last few months. A change brought about by one man, the man they were hunting for now. Joel had been a recipient of the Sandburg effect and knew first hand the impact the young man could have. He gripped the steering wheel hard. They would find him, whatever it took.

********************

3.00am

"Got it!" Henry Brown shouted punching the air.

"What?" Rafe demanded.

They had finally had some luck.

"Captain!" Brown shouted and took off toward Simon's office, Rafe on his tail. Simon Banks opened the door before the two detectives got to him. Brown waved a piece of paper in his hand.

"I have it!" His eyes glowed. " The connection to Cascade."

The three men sat in Simon's office. Spread on the conference table was the file. Brown started talking,

"Although both of Shadwell's cell mates are still inside, one had a sister, Karin. She lived in Peyton, on the outskirts of town until four months ago when she died in an auto crash. Shadwell was writing to her right up until she died."

"And, Detective… What are you suggesting?"

"It's slim Captain I know but so far it is the only thing we have come up with." Brown knew the reasoning was shaky even as he said it.

Simon stood. "Slim! It's almost invisible, but as you say it is all we have." Simon made a decision. "Well what are we waiting for?"

The three men strode purposefully out of the office down to the parking garage. Calling Jim once underway, they were soon on the quickest road to Peyton.

"Is Jim meeting us there?" asked Rafe.

"Yes," replied Simon, "after checking out Walter."

Frustrated at the speed enforced on them by travelling through the city streets, he switched on the lights and hit the gas pedal.

********************

Even in the wee small hours Walter wasn't that difficult to find. He sat at the bar wearing a flat cap adorned with pearl sequins. In other circumstances his get up would have been amusing, but now, with Blair missing and in the hands of a murderer, all Jim wanted was to shake this man until the information he had fell out of him. Jim sat next to Walter at the bar.

"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked.

"I'll have a pint of Guinness and a shot of Johnny Walkers to wash it down."

The accent was strange to Jim's ears, sing song but with a grating edge.

The small man continued. "And what can I do for the fuzz?"

Jim hadn't heard the word before but he caught the intention.

"Earlier today… yesterday," Jim corrected himself. "You gave a tip to an Officer Powell about Stephen Shadwell, drug dealer."

The small man nodded as he took a sip from his pint.

"Yep, a bad 'un. He was looking to put some shit on the streets. You remember golden?"

Jim shuddered and nodded.

"This stuff was as bad. The bloke had no fucking honour. A real arrogant prick who thought he was better than anyone else. Totally off his trolley, a real loon, know what I mean?" he asked Jim.

"No," replied Jim, shaking his head

"I got on the dog and bone and shopped him. Nicest thing that could have happened to the bastard. Have you caught the bugger yet?"

"No," Jim stated again, beginning to feel a little lost in the conversation. "He killed one patrolman, shot Officer Powell and kidnapped my partner."

The small man took off his cap and ran his hand over his bald head.

"Well that's fucking clever. I hand him to you on a plate and you cock it up big time."

Jim took charge. "Look, I need to know if you can give me anything else, somewhere he holes up, where he makes this stuff, anything?"

Walter had been watching Jim throughout his plea as though weighing the older man.

"The loser has a place south of the city, called Peyton. He's been hanging there since he arrived in town."

"Thanks."

Jim offered his hand. Walter held up both his arms as if surrendering, "No way man, not in public. I have a reputation to maintain."

Jim chuckled. "What, as an honourable drug dealer?"

"No, a bloody good business man. My merchandise is cheaper and cleaner than Shadwell's. I wasn't going to have him treading all over me plates. I pay my taxes, you lot can do the dirty work."

Jim nodded and headed out of the bar. Joel had been silent throughout and waited until they were in the car to ask Jim a question.

"Did you understand that guy?"

"Not a lot but it seems the house in Peyton is our best bet."

He didn't say 'only' bet, but Jim knew the word was left unsaid between them.

********************

Jim and Joel arrived thirty minutes after Simon, Rafe and Henry. Simon had entered the house after a thorough search of the outside had revealed no sign of any living being. As soon as Jim walked inside the house he knew.

"He was here," he said plainly.

"Shadwell?" Simon asked.

Jim was momentarily confused. "No, Sandburg."

He breathed deeply again. Blair's smell permeated the entire room, but Jim had to try and push that to one side and search for proof of Shadwell. It was there, stronger this time. It had been masked by Blair's smell. That same metallic, chemical smell; he was no nearer to identifying it.

"He was here."

"Where is he now?" Simon asked.

No one answered him. Finishing up inside they found evidence of Shadwell's lab in the basement. Jim walked outside. The tracks in the mud belonged to his truck. He followed the tracks back to the road. In the light of the pre-dawn morning he could see that the tracks had come from Cascade and, strangely, led back the same way. Simon was on the phone to Forensics when Jim came back from the road.

"He's gone back to Cascade."

"Why would he do that?"

"I don't know." Jim shook his head. "To throw us off the trail, confuse us…" Jim ran out of ideas.

"Well right now that's not difficult." Simon almost spat out in disgust at their failure. Ordering Henry and Rafe to wait until Forensics got there, he asked Joel to take them back to Major Crimes.

"Come on Jim. We can't do anything else here."

The journey back to Cascade was quiet. None of the men felt much like talking.

********************

It was almost dawn as Shadwell parked outside the loft. He had got the idea looking through Blair's wallet. The address and telephone number had been on Blair's student card. It had come to him as he was navigating the back roads. He had stopped to find the wallet again and had decided then and there. His first intention had been to go back to Kerry Lane. After all it was the last place the police would look for him, but this was even better. Little Blair's home, his bolt hole, his place of safety - how ironic! He had rung Blair's home number and received no answer. He reasoned that at that early hour of the morning if he shared with anyone they would be home and answer. There had been no answer.

He had Blair's keys in his hand. An occasional car drove down the street but there were no people in sight. Down the block there were lights in a small bakery getting ready to open for the day. Going round to the passenger side he manhandled the still sleeping man out of the truck and into the building that was his home. Stairs or elevator, Shadwell contemplated. The stairs would take more time than the elevator but the elevator was more risky if anyone was leaving the building early. Speed was of the essence, Shadwell decided and made his way into the elevator with his burden and then unnoticed into the loft. He dropped Blair unceremoniously to the floor and locked the door behind him before exploring the loft. Looking around the large room he noticed the juxtaposition of ethnic and minimalist; an odd combination. Shadwell wondered who Blair shared his home with. He had seen the two bedrooms. Stopping to look at the photos that adorned the walls he saw the cop, the one with the staring eyes. He and Sandburg were together in many of the photographs. Was it him? Was that who Blair shared with? Shadwell smiled. Wouldn't that be just synchronous?

********************

"Jim, go home. Get some rest. You haven't slept in over twenty four hours," Simon ordered.

He knew his order would be ignored and he didn't have the heart to force the younger man to do as he was told. Simon had known Jim for long enough now to know that guilt was eating away at him. On their arrival back at the Station he had led Jim into his office, sat him down and made him drink a large mug of black coffee. He had tried to convince his best detective that he was not to blame. Jim had listened politely and then stated the bare facts as he saw them.

"I told him to stay behind Simon. After we found Officer Irving I didn't want him to have to see that again. You know that despite the time he has been with us he still has trouble with crime scenes. I think he always will. All the horror and pain we see day in and day out hasn't dampened his spirit, Simon, hasn't hardened him like the rest of us. I wanted to save him from that… again." Jim paused and then continued angrily. "I let Lash take him from the loft and now I practically deliver him into the hands of another murderer."

The tirade would have gone on if Simon hadn't stopped it, sharply raising his voice.

"Stop it Jim!"

He stared at Jim as though by sheer force of will alone he could stop his detective doing this to himself. Simon sighed. The look hadn't worked.

"Look, if Shadwell had wanted Blair dead he would have shot him at the scene, dumped the body and taken the truck."

There was a lump in his throat as he said the words but he pressed on seeing a repudiation spring to Jim's lips.

"Who else do you know that can handle himself as well as Sandburg when it comes to talking himself out of a sticky situation?"

Jim stood and walked to the windows, watching the city wake. Simon waited for a reply, knowing that Jim needed to get this out.

"I don't give him enough credit for being able to handle himself, I know, but he has nightmares Simon… There is always this decision, this choice I have to make about how much I let him in, how much to expose him. I thought I had made the right choice."

Simon started chuckling and Jim turned in anger at the sound.

"Jim, you think you can control Sandburg, make his choices for him? You know better than that. He chose this life, he chose you. Do you really think you can control him?"

Simon was trying to be gently logical.

"Maybe not, but I am supposed to protect him," Jim replied simply.

Simon couldn't gainsay that.

"Why don't you check with Dispatch? See if anything has come in on the APB on your truck?"

Jim left the office without saying another word. Simon sat down at his desk and rubbed his hands over his tired face. He knew what Jim meant, he felt responsible for the anthropologist too, but feeling guilty wasn't going to help anyone - least of all Sandburg. The only thing that would help now was good old-fashioned police work. He picked up the phone and dialled Narcotics.

Jim had come back from Dispatch with no news as expected and was now going over Shadwell's file in case Rafe and Henry had missed anything. Simon knew it was a waste of time but, what the hell, it kept Jim busy. The phone rang on Simon's desk.

"Sir, we have an anonymous call. The caller says he has information about Officer Irving's murder."

"Put him through."

Simon sat up in his chair. Jim cocked his head on one side in a manner Simon knew meant he was listening in.

"This is Captain Banks. You have some information for me?"

The voice on the other end of the phone gave an address claiming it was where the truck the police were looking for could be found. The call ended abruptly.

"Did you get anything Jim?" Simon asked.

"That was our man."

"How do you know?"

"Who else knows we are looking for my truck?"

Jim stared at Simon who felt like he could kick himself for not picking up on that.

********************

6.00am

Shadwell allowed himself a chuckle. As it dawned on him that his captive actually shared a home with a cop, he appreciated the delicious irony and could almost taste it in his mouth as he licked his lips. He sat on one of the two couches and altered his plans again. The sign of a genius was his ability to think creatively, without restraint, 'outside the box' as the modern vernacular would have it. And of course he was a genius - unappreciated, but still a genius. This would work to his advantage. He would enjoy taunting the cops and this cop in particular. No doubt at this moment he was probably scouring the city looking for the curly-haired man asleep on the floor. By leaving the truck parked outside and the sleeping Blair in the last place the cops would look for him, it would make his escape all the simpler and therefore more likely to succeed.

Pulling out a map, he circled various indicating addresses he could use to distract and delay the cops. Now he needed another car. He could steal one but he hoped that would not be necessary. In the basket by the door had been a set of car keys on a Corvair key ring. Slipping out of the loft and taking the stairs he stepped out on to the street. A grey Corvair was parked a few paces away. The keys fit and he had a getaway car.

Transferring his belongings from the truck to the smaller car was time consuming and tiring but satisfying all the same. With the job done he had one more thing to do before he could drive away from this dirty little city. He had decided to head south to the sunshine and warmth. This time he would go as far as Los Angeles, maybe even Mexico. Shadwell reasoned that his dominion over the easily led unintelligent creatures that inhabited that backward land would be eminently more to his liking than life in Cascade.

Back in the loft he took out a small case and filled another of the disposable syringes that the case held. It was early for another shot but he couldn't risk the sleeping man waking too soon and spoiling all his brilliant plans. He chose a third spot on the inside of Blair's elbow and carefully injected more of the sedative. Shadwell checked his watch. According to his calculations the man should sleep until at least noon, maybe even later. Checking his pocket for Blair's cell phone, he smiled at the body at his feet and left the loft. A few miles down the road, just before he hit the Interstate he pulled over and made the first of what he anticipated could be six or seven calls. He was brief by necessity. Smiling he started the engine and drove off.

********************

6.00am

It was a complete washout. The truck wasn't there and from the information they were getting from the door-to-door enquiries it was obvious it had never been. Jim was getting angrier by the minute.

"We are being played for suckers Simon." He practically hissed at the tall black man.

"Jim we have to stay focused," he reminded the younger man who glared at him, acknowledging the truth of the statement but hating to hear it.

Rafe came up holding his notebook, "Mrs Pearce at 1157," he nodded back the way he had come, "has been up with her sick baby since about 4.00am. She says she hasn't seen any vehicle matching the description of Jim's truck even drive by let alone park."

Jim looked at Simon and then cast his eyes away, dispirited.

"Thanks Rafe. Why don't you finish up and I'll drive Jim back to the station."

"Ok Captain. Hey Jim, don't worry man. We'll find Blair."

"Thanks Rafe," Jim replied quietly.

There were two more calls over the next couple of hours. Neither of them amounted to anything. The frustration grew. Each man and woman on the team had succumbed to it notwithstanding their professionalism. It didn't stop them doing their jobs to the best of their abilities but Simon could see it in their eyes and hear it in their conversations. It was matched only by the tired slump of their shoulders. Coffee and bloody-mindedness was about the only thing keeping them going. That and hope. The phone rang again. Simon answered praying it was not another hoax.

"Could I talk to Detective Jim Ellison?" the voice asked.

"Who is it?"

"My name is Jerry Orchard. I'm his neighbour. I just want to know if he is coming home to move his truck. He told me he would move it when I needed to get my stuff out of storage so I didn't have to haul it down the street. He isn't answering the door so I guess he is at work."

"He isn't here right …" Simon stopped, "what did you say?" he demanded brusquely.

The voice on the other end of the phone conversation sighed. "I want to speak to Detective Jim Ellison."

"No, no, not that." Simon was impatiently rude. "What did you say about the truck?"

"It's parked outside the building and I want him to move it."

Simon dropped the phone and was out of the office on his way to collect Jim from the break room. Jerry Orchard was talking to himself.

********************

Blair knew he had to fight harder. He seemed to have been struggling forever to wake up without success. It had been a mental battle that he had failed at miserably. Now was different, his body had joined the fray and his efforts had a renewed urgency. Forcing his eyes open a crack he tried to understand where he was. The floor was warm. Recognition slowly filtered through his drugged brain. He was not where he had been. He had no memory of being moved but with that realisation came the recognition that he was still tied at the wrists and the gag and blindfold were still in place. He sighed and tasted bile in the back of his throat. Oh god, he felt ill. There was a sudden panic. If he were sick he would choke. His stomach heaved and he tried opening his mouth to take in more oxygen. Nothing came up. Panting as hard as he could he could feel tears in his eyes trapped behind the blindfold. How could it end like this?

He vomited. Breathing through his nose he did what he could to push the vomit out past the gag. It didn't feel like much had come up but from the way his stomach was roiling it was going to empty again. His nose was running and Blair knew he was crying. How pathetic, he thought.

********************

In Simon's car Jim was hitting the dashboard. Road works two streets from the loft had slowed their breakneck speed. Simon had the lights and the siren on but they were boxed in. Jim undid the seatbelt and was running as soon as his feet hit the ground.

"Call the paramedics," he shouted back as he sprinted away.

He hadn't worked out why the truck was outside the loft but, as soon as Simon had dragged him out of the break room causing him to drop his mug on the floor where it shattered, he knew something was horribly wrong. Even though he was two streets from the loft he sent out his hearing ahead of him to search for Blair's heartbeat. He was too far away, or there was too much extraneous noise, or he just couldn't concentrate; whatever it was he couldn't hear the one sound he wanted in the entire world. He would not contemplate the bleak alternative.

********************

Maybe he was going to make it. He hadn't been sick a second time. He could just about breathe and Jim was going to come and rescue him. He knew with a certainty borne of desperation that Jim would save him. All he had to do was keep on breathing. His stomach shifted. His mind screamed no as he vomited again.

********************

Jim put all his effort in turning the corner without over running. He could see the loft ahead. He didn't slow down until the last minute, hitting the street door without slowing down.

********************

He couldn't breathe. He was choking. As his body finally gave up trying to function a word popped into his oxygen-starved brain. Aspirate. I am aspirating. His last thought was of a face with blue eyes, a smile and short-cropped hair.

********************

Jim took the stairs two at a time. He was breathing hard as he opened the door to the loft. As he took two strides to Blair's side all his senses registered the facts. He could smell vomit, tears and blood, Blair wasn't breathing, he was tied at the wrists behind his back, and he was blindfolded and gagged. Jim tore at the rag allowing vomit to trickle over his fingers. With wet sticky fingers he cleared vomit from Blair's mouth. He still wasn't breathing. Turning Blair onto his front he placed his hands over Blair's diaphragm and pulled up. More vomit dribbled out and a shuddering breath was taken in as Blair choked and coughed. Gently Jim laid Blair on his side away from the mess on the floor. Ensuring that Blair kept breathing, he undid the gag, removing it from Blair's throat and then took off the blindfold. Blair's eyes were blinking and he was moving under Jim's hands.

"Blair it's me Jim. Lie still, don't struggle, you're ok, you're home."

Jim desperately wanted to reassure the young man.

"Jim?"

"Yeah, it's me. You're ok," he repeated.

"Sick."

"I know, don't worry."

Jim became aware that Simon was next to him carefully cutting the nylon rope that had chafed Blair's wrists and cut his skin. In the distance Jim could hear sirens.

"Is he ok?" Simon needed reassurance too.

"He's breathing ok now, but he's semi-conscious. As far as I can tell he's ok, yeah."

"I'll go downstairs and direct the ambulance."

"'Preciate it Sir."

********************

8.00pm

Blair sat on the couch wrapped in the afghan. Thick socks protected feet that were tucked up on the seat and his hands held a glass of water.

"Hungry yet Chief?"

"Er… no thanks. The Doc said it could be tomorrow before my stomach settles down enough to accept anything solid."

"Have you got anything left to puke up?"

"Your sympathy is overwhelming." Blair smiled as he looked up at Jim who had moved out of the kitchen area, bottle of beer in hand.

"You know for someone so little you sure can bring up a hell of a lot."

"Hollow legs." Blair paused almost hesitating to ask. "Did they find Shadwell?"

"No Chief, he is long gone. The APB is State-wide but I can't see him coming back to Washington any time soon."

Blair yawned.

"Still tired?"

"Yeah, a little. Considering how much I have slept over the past day I can't believe I still want to sleep."

Jim sat next to Blair on the couch putting his hand on Blair's forehead.

"Your temperature is normal."

Reluctantly Jim took his hand away. His Blessed Protector instincts wanted to maintain the physical contact. Jim knew how close he had been to losing Blair. The paramedics had taken Blair's sleeping form to the hospital and Jim had travelled with him. The blood tests had shown the sedative used was Ketamine. Normally used by veterinary surgeons on animals, the doctor postulated that Blair had been overdosed and his body had purged itself. Blair had slept all the way through the morning and most of the afternoon. When he woke the doctor had given him a final check over and agreed he could leave with a few warnings about ongoing nausea and tiredness and ensuring Jim understood that Blair needed to come back in if he had any reactions.

Jim sat down on the couch next to his Guide. Blair seemed to be as reluctant as Jim to lose the physical contact between them and as Jim removed his hand from his forehead, he put his glass down and slipped sideways to lean against Jim's shoulder.

"Thanks Jim," he whispered.

"You're welcome Chief."

The stars brightened in the night sky as the two men enjoyed the companionable silence.

"Jim, do you think I'll get my car back?" Blair asked, his voice slurred with tiredness.

"Do you want it back?" Jim asked smiling.

"Hey man it's a great car. With the top down…" Blair yawned, "the music blasting out, wind in your hair…" he yawned again.

"Chief have you noticed how much it rains in Cascade?"

"Yeah but when the sun shines…"

Blair never finished his sentence. A small snore escaped. Jim smiled and settled himself, keeping his Guide comfortable for as long as he slept.

Finis

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