DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Paramount Studios and Pet Fly Productions. These stories are offered for the enjoyment of the fans. No money has exchanged hands.
Trust (Season Finale) by Sue Pokorny
Blair swallowed hard as Simon pulled the sedan past the police markers and onto the isolated field. The APB had turned up Jim's Ford pickup about two miles from the airport, near the older runways along the south edge. Forensics was already on the scene as Blair and Simon made there way across the overgrown field to the truck.
The photographer was just beginning to take photos of the truck's interior, but recognized the two men as they approached and backed away. The pickup was positioned with the tailgate facing the old dirt road. Both doors were wide open and the safety belt hung from the driver's side, swinging in the light breeze. Blair approached the open door, his heart thumping in his chest as he took in the scene before him. The seat and windshield were splattered in blood and there was more pooled along the floorboard of the Ford. The rear window was cracked behind the driver's seat and dried blood stained the glass.
Blair scanned the truck's interior, his eyes coming to rest on the items lying on the floor, near the accelerator. "Oh, God." His voice was little more than a whisper, but it was enough to bring Simon to his side. A firm hand gripped his elbow and pulled him away from the vehicle, directing him back to the sedan. He was forced to sit in the front seat of the car, as Simon crouched down beside him.
"Jim would never leave his badge and gun behind, Simon. Not if he could help it." Blair's voice sounded shaky, even to his own ears and he took a deep, shuddering breath to calm himself. He thought back to the time Jim was taken by Colonel Oliver. He had gone out to meet an old buddy and simply disappeared. Could it have happened again? Could Jim's past in covert-ops have something to do with his disappearance now? He closed his eyes, but the sight of the crimson blood covering the interior of the familiar cab forced them open and he gasped, trying to catch his breath.
"Easy, Sandburg." Simon placed a hand on the kid's knee and spoke in what he hoped what a soothing voice. "Let's not jump to conclusions."
Blair nodded and forced himself to breathe. In, out. In, out. There. That was better. Simon was right. There was no reason to jump to any conclusions. Jim was still alive. He had to be. Blair would know it if he wasn't, right? He would somehow feel it. He knew that Jim was in trouble -- but he was alive. Blair had to believe that. The alternative was not an option.
He glanced at Simon and offered a small smile in appreciation. "Thanks, Simon. I'm okay. There was just so much blood."
"I know." Simon's dark complexion looked a bit ashen. "Let's let Forensics do their job. We know Jennifer was stabbed. That could account for most of the blood."
Blair nodded, his eyes moving back to the abandoned truck. "Then where the hell is Jim? You know this could have something to do with Jim's military past."
Simon nodded. "The thought crossed my mind. But Oliver is dead. Who else would want Jim enough to kill an innocent girl?"
Blair shrugged his shoulders wearily. "I wish to hell I knew."
Blair followed captain Banks through the drab hallway of the apartment building, barely registering when they stopped and Simon rapped lightly on one of the uniform gray doors. A young woman of about twenty-five opened the door a crack and peeked out.
Simon held out his badge, positioning it for the woman to read. "I'm Captain Simon Banks of the Cascade P.D.. Is this the residence of Jennifer Conroy?"
The young woman's brow furrowed and she looked from the badge to Simon, opening the door a bit more. "Um, yeah. But she's not home right now. Is she in some kind of trouble?"
"I'm afraid she's dead." Simon had pitched his voice low and soft, but the woman flinched as if she'd been physically struck.
"What?" Her eyes were wide and she stepped back away from the door, allowing it to swing open. "No." Her voice was a hoarse whisper and she looked from Simon to Blair with an expression of sheer pain. "No."
Simon glanced at Blair, then moved through the doorway, placing a gentle hand on the woman's shoulder and guiding her to the couch a few feet away.
"What happened?" Her eyes were now beginning to fill with tears and her voice began to shake.
Blair took a seat on a chair to her left, carefully avoiding the woman's eyes. He was more than willing to let Simon handle this and made no move to interrupt. He knew that Simon was just as worried about Jim as he was, but the captain had to be able to remain somewhat detached in order to question the roommate about Jennifer Conroy. Blair was sure there was no way that he would be able to put his fears aside in order to get any useful information from the girl, so he simply sat in silence while Simon carried the investigation.
"Her body was found early this morning on the docks. She was stabbed."
The words sent a new wave of grief through the woman. "Stabbed? You mean someone killed her? Who? Who would do something like that?"
That's what we were hoping you could tell us, Miss..."
"Jamison. Brenda Jamison." She pulled a tissue from a nearby box and wiped at her nose. "Jen and I have been roommates for almost a year. We both work at the Mall. I manage the shoe store a few shops down from the Tobacco Bowl where Jen works."
Simon took a seat next to her on the sofa. "Miss Jamison. Was Miss Conroy seeing anyone? Was there anyone who would have known where she was last night?"
Brenda drew a shaky breath and shook her head. "Not that I know of. Jen's last boyfriend moved back east about six months ago. She hadn't been seeing anyone else since."
Simon nodded and repeated his second question. "Who would have known where she was last night?"
Brenda shrugged. "All I know was that she said she had a job or something. She told me she was helping some guy out with a prank of some kind on an old army buddy."
Blair and Simon exchanged looks of surprise.
"Did you happen to get a look at this man? Did Miss Conroy mention any names?"
Brenda shook her head and looked at them with regret. "Not that I remember. I think she said he was a customer of hers at work. She just said that she was supposed to pick some guy up and take him somewhere for a joke. She didn't sound worried about it." She blew her nose and wiped the tears from her cheek. "Is that who did it? The guy she picked up?"
"No." The force of Blair's voice surprised even him and he cleared his throat, avoiding the glare of warning he knew Simon was directing at him. "We don't have any suspects as of yet."
He glanced at Simon, relieved to see the captain's expression soften.
"If you think of anything else, Miss Jamison, please give us a call." Simon handed her a card >from his pocket and stood, motioning for Blair to follow.
The ride back to the station was quiet and tense. Blair knew Simon wanted to berate him for his lack of professionalism at Jennifer Conroy's apartment, but he couldn't apologize for his attitude. There was no way he was going to believe Jim had anything to do with the girl's murder -- it just wasn't possible. Simon may be able to work within the restraints of procedure, but Blair decided he was under no such obligation to do so. This was Jim they were talking about. His partner. His friend. His Sentinel.
He knew Jim was in trouble -- that was no longer in doubt. Something in his gut was telling him to find his partner, and find him fast. He could just imagine Simon's reaction to his "gut feeling." He didn't think he could stomach a "by the book" lecture at the moment. So, he had kept his thoughts to himself, only answering Simon's questions with a grunt or a shake of his head. His stomach had been churning since they'd found the body and he must have looked as bad as he felt since Banks had not pushed him to respond.
As soon as the elevator deposited him on the seventh floor, he made a beeline to his desk and started going over the reports on the truck and Jennifer Conroy's body. As they suspected, most of the blood they found in the truck was a match to the dead woman. But there was a second type found and Blair barely suppressed a groan when he matched it to his partner's.
The next file contained all the flights that had left the airport last night and early this morning. Since the truck was found next to the airstrip, it was logical to check on the outgoing flights scheduled for the time of the murder.
As his eyes scrolled down the list, searching for any inspiration as to where his partner could have been taken, one line at the bottom of the page caught his attention. A private aircraft had taken off around 3 am. The plane had left from one of the private runways belonging to Wathan Flying Service, located adjacent to the airport. No flight plan was listed. A call to Wathan Flying Service provided a destination -- Peru. Blair's breath hitched in his throat as his instinct told him this was where Jim had been taken. Now if he could only figure out why.
There was no question in his mind that the girl had been hired to lure Jim into a trap. If only the roommate had been able to give a description of this mystery man who had hired her. Then they would have something to go on. As it was, they only had the fact that she was approached at the tobacco shop she worked in. Now all they had to look for was a mystery man who smoked a pipe... or cigars.
His head shot up at the thought. His eyes stared through the partially opened blinds, directly into the gaze of Captain Simon Banks. Quickly averting his eyes, he berated himself for the thought, but the slight tug of doubt still clung to his mind.
Simon had known the girl's full name. How had he known that?
As he shook his head at his foolishness, another memory surfaced in his mind -- the man in the shadows last night. He had been slightly drunk, but he knew what he'd seen The man had been down on the street, watching the loft. When Simon had returned from his "smoke" the man was gone.
Blair could feel Simon's eyes on him and he took a deep breath before looking up to meet the captain's gaze. He forced a slight smile onto his face, suddenly feeling silly for his current train of thought. Simon was their friend. He had proven that time and again throughout the last four years. Hell, Blair wouldn't even be here if Simon hadn't gone to bat for him with the commissioner.
Rubbing a hand over his face, he pushed his chair back and stood. He moved to Simon's office, intent on telling the captain about the charter flight to Peru and his intuitive knowledge of Jim's whereabouts, but the doubts continued to plague him and he found himself spouting some obfuscation about being tired and needing to head back to the loft to think.
Simon reluctantly agreed, telling him to call if he needed anything.
Blair gathered up his files and his laptop, stuffing them into the old backpack lying behind his desk on the floor. He reached into his drawer and pulled his gun and holster, also placing them in the pack. He still could not get used to wearing the sidearm when he was in the station, but was finally getting used to remembering to take it with him when he left without a constant reminder from Jim. With one last glance at Simon's office, he headed for the elevators, hating himself for his doubts.
His conscience had been giving him hell for most of the trip home. He had caught a ride with a black and white unit and was still deep in thought as he turned the key and pushed through the door to the loft. Before he could turn to flip the light switch, he heard a sound close to his right and gasped as a hard punch to his stomach forced him back into the hard door, closing it with a bang. Another blow landed on his midsection before he had the presence of mind to double up and shift away from his attacker. The fading light of early evening allowed him to see two figures, dressed in black, both advancing toward him.
He swung his backpack, wincing when the laptop computer inside made a loud thump as it connected with his attacker's head. The man grunted in surprise and pain before falling to the floor. Blair turned his attention to the other man and, lowering his shoulder, barreled into the intruder. Momentum carried them both to the floor, Blair landing on top. A loud "oomph" was heard followed by a rush of air as the man's breath was knocked from his lungs.
Blair rolled to his side and, ignoring the throbbing of his abdomen, pushed himself off the floor. The two intruders were now between him and the front door, so he moved quickly toward his room and the back fire escape. He could hear one of his attackers beginning to rise and frantically pulled the door open. He scrambled down the fire escape and took off through the alley, not bothering to look behind him.
After running for a couple of minutes, he ducked down behind a dumpster, and chanced a peek back the way he had come. He could find no signs of pursuit and leaned back, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm his racing heart.
What the hell was going on? First Jim disappears, then two goons attack him in his own home. Maybe they were looking for something and he just surprised them. No. There was no signs of a search in the loft -- nothing was overturned, no drawers were open. Either they were very neat thieves, or they had been waiting for him.
Blair shuddered at the thought of how close it had been. Desperation had given him an edge and he had managed to use it to his advantage. But now what was he going to do? Maybe he should have let them take him -- it might have gotten him closer to Jim.
No. It could just as easily have gotten him dead. He could only help Jim if he was free. He was certain Jim had been taken on that private flight to Peru. It was the only thing that made sense and Blair's instincts were screaming at him to listen.
He needed to call Simon and tell him about the attack, but the lingering doubt about the captain still tugged at his subconscious. Simon had known he was heading back to the loft. Hell, anybody with a brain could've figured out that he'd go back there at some point. Simon would not betray him. Whatever was going on, Simon Banks was not involved.
The facts and doubts continued to plague his mind, even as his tired brain tried to reason the impossibility of the betrayal.
"Stop this!" He pressed his fists against his eyes and forced his mind to think. "This is not helping Jim." He took a deep breath and leaned back against the cold brick, suddenly very tired. Knowing he needed to trust someone, he made his way to the end of the alley and looked across the street to the public phone booth. Night had begun to descend, leaving the booth blanketed in shadows.
He quickly checked the street and, deeming it safe, emerged from the protectiveness of the alley and hurried across the street to the phone booth. He quickly dialed the familiar number.
"Come on, come on." His eyes continued to dart up and down the street, alert for any signs of his pursuers. The line was answered and he didn't bother to wait for a salutation. "Simon! It's Blair. There were two guys waiting for me at the loft. I managed to give them the slip, but I don't know what to do."
"Whoa, Sandburg. Slow down. What do you mean two guys were waiting for you? Are you okay?"
Blair swallowed and absently rubbed at his still throbbing stomach. "Yeah. I'm okay. One of them got in a few good punches, but I don't think there's any damage."
"Who were these guys? Can you identify them?"
Blair shook his head, even though he knew the captain could not see the gesture. "No. It was dark and it all happened so fast. I didn't get a good look at them. I knocked them both down and ran like hell."
"Blair, where are you?"
Before he could respond, another voice was heard over the phone.
"I'm sorry, Simon." Blair recognized the voice of Captain Joel Taggart. "I tried to tell them you were busy but they insisted on seeing you right away."
"Just what the hell is so important?" Blair cringed at the anger in Simon's voice, glad that, for once, it was not directed at him.
"I'm Special Agent Martinez and this is Agent Carter. We would like to know the whereabouts of one of your detectives, James Ellison."
"Why?" Simon's voice was a bit more distant as if he had lowered the receiver.
"We would like to speak with him regarding a federal matter. I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss the details at this time."
"Detective Ellison isn't available at the moment. But I'll be sure to tell him you were looking for him when I see him."
Blair frowned. Why wouldn't Simon tell the feds Jim was missing? If he had been abducted, maybe the feds could be of some assistance. He knew Simon and Jim both hated dealing with the feds, but if they could help find Jim, Blair was more than willing to put up with a little attitude. Blair found the earlier seeds of doubt beginning to grow.
"Captain Banks. I understand your apprehension, but I assure you Detective Ellison is only wanted for questioning. We were under the impression we could count on your cooperation."
Blair quietly placed the receiver in the cradle. What would the feds want with Jim? He felt an ache in the pit of his stomach, and he wasn't entirely convinced it was from the blows he had received. Ever since his dissertation had been made public last year, both he and Jim had feared that one day, some faction of the government would decide to test the validity of Blair's research. Now Jim was gone and the feds, for some unknown reason, wanted him and seemed to be expecting Simon to hand him over. Could this be the very thing they had both been dreading? He didn't like the thoughts circling in his head, but Blair couldn't help but come to an unpleasant conclusion.
Jim had been taken because he was a sentinel.
Running a trembling hand through his hair, Blair forced himself to breathe deeply and attempted to clear his mind. He needed to think. If Jim had been taken to Peru -- and Blair was convinced that was where he had been taken -- then Blair had to somehow get to Peru. But how? He couldn't go to Simon. The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach grew as he acknowledged this fact. He didn't have enough money for a plane ticket and any credit card use could be traced.
Out of options, he pulled some change from his packet and lifted the receiver once again. He punched in a number and tried to breathe normally as he waited for the line to be answered.
Blair took a deep breath and forged ahead. "Jack? This is Blair Sandburg. I need your help."
"Captain Banks. I understand your apprehension, but I assure you Detective Ellison is only wanted for questioning. We were under the impression we could count on your cooperation."
Joel raised his eyebrows at the agent's tone and fixed his eyes on Simon, expecting the captain's temper to flare at the suggestion of a breach in protocol.
"Agent Martinez is it?" Simon waited for a nod before continuing in a dangerously low voice. "My detective is currently not able to assist you with your case. As soon as he is available, I will gladly suggest he contact you. Unless you have a warrant, gentlemen, I strongly suggest you leave this office. Captain Taggart can show you the way out."
Joel hid a smile as the two feds bit back their argument then abruptly turned and pushed past him on their way out of the bullpen. He turned back as Simon raised the phone back to his ear.
"I'm sorry, Blair. Where are you?" Simon's look of frustration grew and his voice rose in pitch. "Sandburg? Where the hell are you? Sandburg!"
He slammed the phone back onto the desk and Joel was surprised by the anger in his voice. "Damn! Where the hell is that kid?"
Blair pulled his leather jacket closer around his neck and tried not to look too obvious as he lounged next to the pay phone outside the 7-Eleven. Jack had told him to call back in one hour and he had kept moving for that time, certain that whomever had abducted Jim, was now in pursuit of the sentinel's partner.
Jack Kelso had promised to check in with his contacts and get any information he could on what was happening. Blair ran a hand over his face and allowed himself to relax a little. If anyone could get to the bottom of a situation such as this one, it was Jack Kelso. The former CIA operative's connections inside and outside the murky world of covert-ops would be enough to tell Blair if he was on the right track. If Jim had been taken to Peru by some faction of the government, Jack would know. He would also be able to help figure out a way to get the sentinel back.
Blair had never discussed his dissertation or the ramifications of his claim of fraud with Kelso. Jack had never voiced the need. He had continued to be a friend to Blair, even after most of the academic world had turned their collective backs on him. Blair smiled a bit as he remembered Jack's words to him. "People do what they have to do. If the rest of the world doesn't understand it, so be it."
Whether Jack had believed Blair's dissertation was fraudulent or not, Blair never thought to ask, and Jack had never offered an opinion. Instead, Jack had remained a friend, supporting the younger man in his new vocation as ardently as he had supported him in his old. Blair had no reason not to trust the man, and he desperately hoped he had made the right decision now.
Checking the clock inside the convenience store, Blair picked up the phone and dialed Kelso's home number.
"It's been two hours." Jack had warned Blair against using any names in the event he was being watched. It wasn't likely whomever was after Blair would connect him with the former CIA agent, but there was no sense taking chances.
"Looks like your instincts were dead on." Kelso's voice belayed his relief upon hearing his friend's. "Seems an old friend of ours has managed to slip away from federal custody. Someone with an avid interest in your partner."
Blair didn't have to think hard. "Brackett?"
"Bingo. Word is he's been spouting off about 'special powers' your partner supposedly possesses ever since they locked him up. I guess somebody finally decided to listen."
Blair nodded to himself. He knew Jack had figured out what Jim was since the fiasco with his dissertation, but the respected professor had never said a word, "But why take him to Peru?"
Blair could hear Kelso's sigh. "That's where things get a little fuzzy. From what I could pick up >from my contact down there, Brackett has some interest in a uranium mine, although that could just be a front. Whatever he's planning, it obviously involves your partner and his abilities."
Blair squeezed his eyes tightly and swore under his breath. This just kept getting better and better. "I have to get to Peru."
"I figured that." Blair could almost sense the older man's knowing smile. "There's a cargo plane heading for South America leaving from a private strip about two hours south of Cascade. There'll be a car waiting for you in the parking lot of the little strip mall off Prospect. The one with the health food store."
"I know the one."
"Good. There'll be a map in the glove compartment. The rest of your supplies will be waiting for you at the airstrip." Jack hesitated, his voice suddenly filled with concern. "I don't think you should go alone, kid. You're not exactly trained for this covert stuff."
Blair couldn't argue the man's logic, but he had no choice. "I don't know who to trust right now."
"I hear you. Just be careful. There'll be instructions and the name of one of my contacts with the supplies. He'll be waiting for you when you land. Take care, kid."
"Thanks, Jack." Blair hung up the phone and, with a last look around, slipped into the night.
Continue on to Act III...
Back to the FPP Home Page
E-mail Faux Paws Productions.
If you experience any problems with this page, please contact The Pagemaster.
This page last updated 2/2/01.