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)
The waitress squeezed through the crowd and approached the table, her serving tray loaded with frosty amber bottles.
"Here you go, guys." She leaned over, placing the bottles in front of each of the patrons and collected the empties. With a flirtatious smile, she accepted a crisp bill from the cute, curly haired man and made her way to the next table.
Blair Sandburg grinned, his deep blue eyes fixated on the retreating waitress as she glanced back over her shoulder and gave him a playful wink. He took a deep breath and shivered as a feeling of pure lust washed over him. "Wow!"
A heavy hand on his shoulder dragged his attention back to the table, and he looked up to see his partner smiling at him like a disapproving parent. "Down, Romeo. She's too much for you to handle."
Blair's eyes opened wide in surprise and he couldn't help but let go an indignant snort. "Excuse me? Too much? For me? Since when, man?"
Jim Ellison nodded and took another draw from his beer, his eyes moving back to the blonde waitress who seemed to be enjoying the attention from his young partner. "Since she's probably got a boyfriend who plays for the Seahawks." He laughed at the momentary look of panic in Blair's eyes. "Or maybe she's a drug dealer who's moving in next door, or the daughter of a gun runner, or..."
"Okay, Okay. I get the point." Blair sighed, his eyes still on the beauty across the crowded bar.
"So, what are we plotting over here?" Captain Simon Banks joined the partners. He threw his arm across Blair's shoulder, causing the shorter man to exchange an amused look with his partner.
The entire squad had come tonight to honor their captain on his 10th anniversary as the commander of the Major Crime unit. They had all met at Simon's favorite steakhouse down the street and regrouped here at Flannigan's Pub for a beer or two. The night was still young and they all needed the down time to relieve the stress of their jobs.
"Who's Sandburg targeting this time?"
"The blonde waitress." Jim nodded his head in the general direction of the girl.
"Shelly." Blair's smile widened at the young woman's name. He looked at the captain, his eyebrows rising a few times, his eyes sparkling with delight.
"Shelly, huh?" Simon tried to suppress a grin and leaned closer to Jim. "Better put a leash on him, Ellison. He hasn't had his shots."
Jim chuckled and took another drink. He turned away from the table, just as Sandburg wound up to give Simon a speech on the mating rituals of some remote Amazonian tribe. Tuning out his partner's anthropology lesson, he glanced around the crowded room, his blue eyes catching and holding a lovely pair of emerald green ones at the bar. The eyes were encased in a beautiful heart shaped face surrounded by soft auburn hair.
He returned the young woman's smile and, with a quick glance back at his companions, made his way through the small crowd.
"Is this seat taken?" He gestured at the recently vacated bar stool immediately to her left.
"No." She shook her head, causing the auburn hair to brush against her shoulders. "Please, join me."
"I'm Jim." Ellison set his bottle on the bar and held out his hand in greeting.
"Jennifer." The young woman took the hand and squeezed it warmly. She glanced back at the table full of men across the bar, smiling as they all clinked their drinks together in a toast. "I take it you're celebrating something?"
Jim followed her eyes back to the table of detectives, smiling as his sensitive hearing picked up the words of the toast. "Right now they're toasting my partner's rather dangerous love life."
She looked at him, her confusion written plainly on her pretty face. "Partner? Are you cops or something?"
Jim nodded and took another sip from his beer. "Detectives. Major Crimes. We're here celebrating my captain's anniversary in the department."
She smiled, a gesture that brightened the entire room. "A room full of cops, huh? I feel safer already."
Jim spent the next few hours deep in conversation with Jennifer. She was very easy to talk to and Jim found himself becoming more and more comfortable with her as the time passed. Of course, it could've simply been because he had not had to deal with anything remotely to do with a crime the entire evening, he reminded himself, but he was feeling too good to care. He was in the company of a beautiful woman and he was actually relaxed. Since he was only on his second beer of the evening -- and nowhere near drunk -- he could only attribute his current euphoric state to Jennifer's intoxicating presence. The Major Crime gang had begun singing some old Irish tune the bar's owner was attempting to teach them and Jim couldn't help but laugh at the spectacle.
"Are they always like this?" Jennifer was enjoying the show, also. Her eyes were sparkling as she watched the detectives swing wholeheartedly into the chorus.
She laughed, the sound reminding Jim of bells at Christmas time. She checked her watch, her expression turning to one of regret. "I have to get going, Jim. I know this is rather forward, but do you think I could talk you into giving me a lift home? I don't think I should be driving."
"I think I could be convinced." Jim leaned closer, a mischievous smile on his face. She leaned toward him and planted a soft kiss on his lips. "I'm convinced. Let me go tell my friends."
He stood and walked back across the room, grabbing his jacket from the pile at the back of a booth.
"Hey, Jim! Where ya been, man?" Blair looked up at him as he shrugged into his jacket. The shorter man's eyes were glassy and he was obviously having some difficulty standing straight. He followed Jim's path back to the bar , his eyebrows rising in surprise as he saw Jennifer smile and wave. "Whoa, man! And you have the nerve to talk about me?"
Jim looked at his friend with tolerance. "Her name is Jennifer. She works in the mall and she doesn't feel up to driving herself home." He took another critical look at his slightly inebriated friend and frowned in concern. "Maybe I should take you home, too, Chief. I think you've had enough."
Blair waved him off. "Nah. Three's a crowd, man. Simon can drive me home, right Simon?" He turned, his voice rising in volume as he called the captain's name.
"What is it now, Sandburg?" Banks noticed Jim's jacket. "And just where do you think you're going, Detective?"
Blair slapped the captain's arm and pointed across the bar, his voice a loud stage whisper. "He's taking Jennifer home."
Simon glanced across the bar and let out a low chuckle. "Jennifer, huh?" He returned his attention to Jim and gave him a shooing motion. "Go. Go. What the hell are you waiting for?" He noticed the detective's look toward his partner and understood the man's immediate concern. "Don't worry. I'll make sure Junior gets home. Now go before she sobers up and changes her mind."
Jim laughed and patted the captain on the arm. "Thanks, Simon. Don't wait up!"
Simon steered Blair into the loft, throwing the young man's keys into the basket beside the door.
"Whoa, man. Stop the ride, I wanna get off!"
Simon shook his head but couldn't help but smile at the younger man. Blair had matched the bigger men, beer for beer, and he was definitely beginning to feel the effects. Simon had decided to walk him up to the loft, which was a good thing since the young man had barely been able to move in a straight line once he stepped out of the car.
"Okay, Sandburg. Let's get you to bed."
Blair giggled and slapped at the hands that were holding him upright. "I am not that easy, Simon. I hardly ever go to bed on the first date." He tried to sound indignant, but the giggles killed the illusion.
"I'm sure women everywhere are sighing in relief."
Bank's steered the young man through the doors to his room and pushed him onto the small bed. Blair turned onto his side and immediately curled into a ball, his eyes drifting closed as he fell into an alcohol induced sleep. Simon sighed and shook his head at the sight of the young man curled up so innocently before him. He had no idea what it was in Sandburg that brought out the protectiveness in other people, but he couldn't deny he was as affected as anyone else.
He pulled the afghan from the bottom of the bed and laid it over Blair's inert form. With a low chuckle and another shake of his head, he quietly moved out of the room, closing the door softly behind him.
Blair awoke to the intense pressure of his bladder. He opened his eyes, recognizing his room in the darkness. The stale taste of beer in his mouth reminded him of the recent celebration and he groaned as his head began to register the slight rotation of the room. Since it was still dark, he deduced he hadn't been home very long.
The need to attend to his bladder forced him to push himself up from the warm comfort of the bed. A second effort got him to his feet where he swayed, his eyes squeezed tightly closed, as the wave of dizziness washed over him. As soon as the room leveled itself, he padded his way to the bathroom, using the walls to maintain his tentative hold on balance. He didn't bother to turn on the lights, knowing that his head would not appreciate it and it would probably be more bothersome than illuminating.
He quickly emptied his bladder, hoping like hell his aim was true. Jim would not appreciate waking up to that in the morning. The thought of his roommate made him wonder if the man had come home yet. He remembered Simon driving him back to the loft because Jim was taking the redhead from the bar home. What was her name?
Oh yeah, Jennifer.
Jim had left to take Jennifer home. She was pretty, from what Blair could remember. Just Jim's type. He was glad for his friend. God knows the big guy could do with a little more romance in his life. Although, if the truth be told, Jim's track record was not much better than Blair's when it came to his choice of women.
Blair made his way out of the bathroom and turned toward his bedroom. A movement in the living room caught his eye and he squinted into the darkness, making out the figure silhouetted against the balcony doors.
"No, Sandburg. It's me, Simon."
Blair rubbed his tired face and moved a little further out into the loft. He pulled his arms around his torso to ward off the slight shill of the larger room. "Simon. What are you still doing here?"
"I was too tired to drive home so I thought I'd crash here on the couch. I didn't think you'd mind."
Blair shook his head and stifled a yawn. "No. That's cool. I take it Jim hasn't made it home yet?"
"He's a big boy, Sandburg. He can take care of himself."
Blair was surprised at the gruff tone of Simon's voice. A yawn reminded him of the late hour and he decided the captain was probably as tired as he was.
Simon moved suddenly and walked toward the front door, grabbing his coat in the process. "I'm going out to have a smoke. You go on back to bed, Blair."
Blair just nodded as he watched the captain quietly open the door and disappear into the shadows of the hallway. A frown on his face, Blair made his way across the loft and peered out the large glass balcony doors, into the dark street below. A flicker of movement caught his attention and he squinted into the shadows across the street from the building. He was able to make out the form of a man in the darkness, the faint outline blending with the shadows of the night.
He watched for a few minutes, his eyes becoming more accustomed to the dark. The man was leaning against the building, his head tilted up as if he was looking straight at Blair. After a few moments, the figure averted his gaze and stepped back quickly into the shadows. Blair squinted, wishing he could remember where he had left his glasses. His eyes roamed the dark street, trying to discern the difference between what was there and what his slightly inebriated imagination was creating.
A sound from behind him made him jump and he let out a breath when he recognized the tall form of Simon Banks move back into the loft.
"I thought I told you to go back to bed, Sandburg." Banks tone was gruff, but Blair ignored it.
"Did you go down to check him out?"
"Check who out?"
"The guy across the street. He was standing there watching --" Blair stopped abruptly as he returned his attention to the scene below. There was no sign of the mysterious observer and he was suddenly unsure if the figure hadn't been a figment of his overtaxed imagination.
Simon joined him at the balcony doors and scanned the street below. "There's nobody there, Sandburg." He turned to look at the smaller man, the faint moonlight highlighting the confusion in Blair's eyes. "I think you'd better get back to bed, kid."
Simon gently turned him and steered him back to his room.
Blair shook his head slowly. Maybe he was a little farther gone than he thought. "Yeah. That might be a good idea. Goodnight, Simon."
Stepping out of the bathroom, Blair decided the shower had helped to make him feel almost human. Almost.
The marching band that had been playing in his head when he had first awoke was now reduced to a single drum, beating a soft but persistent rhythmic pattern behind his eyes. The inviting smell of coffee tickled at his senses and drew him into the kitchen where he found Simon sitting at the table, reading the paper and sipping on a cup of the aromatic liquid.
Simon looked up, grinning as the younger man stumbled into the kitchen, made his way to the counter, grabbed a mug from the strainer and poured himself a cup. Blair held the mug to his face, breathing in the steam before taking a small sip, his face breaking into a contented smile.
Simon chuckled, a low vibrating sound that echoed through the quiet loft. "You look like crap, Sandburg."
"Good morning to you, too, Simon." Blair took another sip of the coffee, feeling it flow down his throat and warm his stomach, the sensation somehow dampening the pounding of his head. He wandered over to the table and took a seat opposite Simon. He looked up at the captain, ignoring the bemused grin. "Is Jim still asleep?"
Simon's grin slipped momentarily, causing Blair to focus his attention on the bedroom upstairs. He placed the mug on the table and quickly stood, making his way to the staircase leading up to Jim's room.
"Sandburg, Jim's a big boy."
Blair hurried up the stairs, his heart thudding in time with his head. Jim's bed was neat and undisturbed. He glanced at the clock on the bedside table. 10:15. He tried to quell the sudden feeling of trepidation that began to gnaw at his gut, but the concern had already taken hold.
Blair ran back down the stairs and headed directly for the front door. He grabbed for his jacket only to be thwarted when a strong hand grabbed his arm and turned him roughly around.
"Blair, Jim's fine. He's just a little slow getting home this morning."
"Did he call?"
Simon shook his head and sighed in exasperation. "No. He didn't call. You're not his mother, Sandburg. Jim doesn't have to check in with you every minute."
Blair bit back a retort, knowing that Simon was only trying to help. While it was true Jim did have a life of his own -- a part that didn't concern Blair at all -- it was not like the Sentinel to stay out all night and not let his partner know where he was. Jim was the most responsible person Blair knew. After all the lectures he had given his younger friend about the consideration of a phone call when Blair had come home from an all-nighter, there was no way he was going to believe Jim had just forgotten to call. That was definitely not the Jim Ellison he knew.
The phone rang, causing him to jump.
"See," Simon smiled. "That's probably Jim now."
Blair nodded, crossed to the table next to the couch, and picked up the phone.
"Hello?" He felt a twinge of disappointment when a voice he recognized as Joel Taggart asked for Captain Banks. "Yeah, he's here." He held the phone out to the captain. "It's for you."
Blair made his way back to the table and resumed his seat as Simon barked a greeting into the receiver and listened in silence to the voice. His head was still pounding and he was contemplating getting up to dig the aspirin out of the medicine chest in the bathroom when Simon's voice broke through his consciousness. "I'm on my way."
The urgency in the captain's voice made Blair look up, the cold ball a fear that had begun to form in the pit of his stomach growing a little larger.
"Come on Sandburg. You're with me."
Blair furrowed his brow in confusion. "What is it, Simon? Is it Jim?"
Simon shook his head and grabbed his coat off the hook by the door, tossing Blair's leather jacket to him. "No, it's not Jim. We've got a body on the pier. A woman's body"
Blair breathed a sigh of relief and caught the jacket, but made no move to put it on. "Simon, I'd rather just stay here and wait for Jim --"
"Sandburg. May I remind you that you are now an official member of the Cascade P.D. and under my command. You and your partner are next up on the rotation so I would like at least one of you to be present at the crime scene." Blair had taken a step back at the harshness of Simon's voice and Simon cringed at the momentary flash of fear in the kid' eyes. He softened his tone, acknowledging his understanding of Blair's concern for his partner. "Jim's probably on his way home as we speak. You can call him from the car and tell him to meet us on the pier."
The wind tugged at his jacket and he pulled the collar up to ward off the slight chill in the air. He pushed his hair behind his ears, trying to ignore the strands as they whipped across his face in the breeze. He followed Simon to the crime scene out along the pier, his mind only half on the flurry of activity going on around him. His call to Jim's cell phone had gone unanswered and the tug of concern for his partner had continued to haunt him. He had no viable explanation to give for his feelings of anxiety, but something deep inside was telling him something was terribly wrong. Call it an instinct or gut feeling -- whatever it was, it was telling him to find his partner. And it was getting stronger.
They crossed to the large form of Joel Taggart, who was with a small group of people standing near the plastic covered body. Although he had gotten more accustomed to this part of police work over the years, Blair had never quite gotten comfortable being near the corpses. Jim still looked at him in concern every time his heart skipped a beat or a there was a hitch in his breathing, but he had learned to control his reaction to the sight of the dead bodies -- at least on the outside. On the inside, he was still sickened by the atrocities human beings could impose upon one another and wondered if he would ever be able to 'check his humanity at the door' as his partner seemed to be able to.
"What have we got?" Banks took charge of the scene, posing his question to Taggart.
"A fisherman found her here about an hour ago." The detective squatted down beside the body and lifted the plastic sheet, drawing a gasp of horror from Sandburg.
Blair's feelings of anxiety over his partner's whereabouts exploded into full fledged panic as he stared at the glassy green eyes and limp red hair of the dead woman. His mind flashed to the bar the night before, quickly recognizing Jennifer's features.
He felt a hand steady him as his knees threatened to buckle and grabbed onto it gratefully. Slowly he raised his head and looked into the eyes of Simon Banks. He couldn't speak around the lump that had suddenly lodged itself in his throat, but he could see his fear reflected in the captain's dark eyes.
Blair glanced back at the body, only one thought racing through his head. Where the hell was Jim?
Blair stood off to the left of the small group as Simon spoke quietly to Joel. He was aware of the quick looks of concern he was receiving from both of the captains, but didn't acknowledge them. He stared at the plastic sheet, his mind not able to grasp anything except the fear that Jim was somehow in terrible danger. He could hear Simon's voice through the whistling of the wind and latched on to it as an anchor against the despair he felt welling up inside.
"Her full name was Jennifer Conroy. She worked at the Tobacco Bowl at the Mall."
Blair turned his attention toward the captain, who glanced at him with a worried frown.
"Check there for a current address then have a unit secure her home until we can get forensics to check it out."
Blair looked up and noticed the captain's eyes on him and quickly looked away. Something wasn't right. He thought back to last evening, trying to force his brain to focus. He remembered Jim introducing the woman as Jennifer, but he couldn't remember his partner mentioning her last name -- let alone where she worked. How would Simon know that?
He glanced back up at the captain, who quickly finished with Joel and approached Blair.
"According to the M.E., there's not enough blood here to account for the amount she should have lost. She must have been killed somewhere else and dumped here." Simon took a careful look at Sandburg, his forehead wrinkling in concern. "You okay, Sandburg?"
Blair wasn't able to meet the captain's eyes. He pushed a strand of hair behind his ear and watched as the body was placed onto a stretcher. "We have to find Jim."
"I know. I'm having an APB put out on him and the truck."
Blair turned to Simon, his eyes wide with shock. "You what? You don't think Jim had anything to do with this?"
Simon took a deep breath and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "No, Blair. Of course I don't. But Jim did leave with her last night. As far as we know, he was the last person to see her alive. He may be the only one who can tell us what happened. That is if --" He didn't finish the sentence and Blair looked at him, a cold fire burning in his blue eyes.
"If he's still alive. That's what you were going to say."
Simon sighed and placed a hand on the smaller man's shoulder. "Look, Blair. I'm not trying to say anything."
Blair wrapped his arms around himself and nodded in response. "He's alive, Simon. I can feel it. Jim's alive and he's in trouble." He looked back at the captain, the anger in his eyes now replaced with a haunted look. "We have to find him, Simon." Blair's voice was soft and low and Simon could almost feel the intensity of his statement.
"We will, kid. We will."
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.
The dark van sat unnoticed outside Jack Kelso's residence, the lone occupant silent as he listened to the conversation going on inside. As soon as the phone call was finished, he disconnected the parabolic microphone and placed it back into its protective case. He picked up the radio transmitter and flipped the switch.
"Rover 1 to Com. Come in Com."
The static was replaced with a far away voice. "Rover 1 this is Com. We read."
"Package number two is in the mail. I repeat, package two is in the mail."
"Roger Rover 1. Com out."
Moments later, the van disappeared quietly into the shadows.
The pounding in his skull forced him from the warm comfort of sleep and into the cold reality of consciousness. Raising his hand to the back of his head, he was relieved to find a sizable lump and small cut, but no blood. Desperately searching for the dials, he managed to turn the pain down to a bearable level before attempting to open his eyes and ascertain his surroundings. The room was no more than a 10' x 10' cell, complete with cinder block walls and a small 12 inch tall window near the top of the wall. Muted daylight filtered through the barred opening, allowing the hot, moist air to seep through.
I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto.
The heaviness of the climate was familiar to him, although he had absolutely no idea how he would have gotten to the jungle. The last thing he remembered was taking Jennifer home from the bar. He had turned onto West Third and stopped for the red light -- and then all coherent memory abruptly stopped. He vaguely recalled hearing a scream and feeling a sharp prick near the base of his neck. There was a fuzzy recollection of being lifted and carried, then nothing until the thudding in his head filtered through and he found himself here.
Wherever the hell 'here' was.
He pushed himself into a sitting position -- careful to maintain control of the pain dial -- and leaned back against the cool cement wall. Taking a few deep breaths, he forced the cobwebs from his brain and focused his mind on the situation at hand.
He was in the jungle. That much he was sure of. The familiar sounds and smells filtered through the small windows, playing havoc with his senses until he could find the dials and turn them down. He surmised the pounding in his head was probably a combination of whatever had caused the lump and the aftereffects of whatever drug had been used to keep him unconscious. He ran a hand over his chin, surprised by the coarse stubble across his face. From the length of the stubble, he could tell it had been at least 48 hours since his last shave. Concentrating on what he could sense from his surroundings, he ascertained he was being held in some kind of jail or small compound. He carefully sent his hearing out into the compound, his eyes going wide in surprise as he was met with nothing but a familiar static.
White noise generators?
Who in the hell would have white noise generators? The last time he had come up against one was when...
Things were suddenly beginning to fall into place.
A sound directly outside the heavy wooden door to his cell caught his attention and he shifted on the cot, positioning himself to face the door. The heavy slab swung inward, revealing the smiling form of Lee Brackett.
"Hey, Jimmy. Glad to see you back among the living." The ex-CIA operative frowned. "Somehow I don't think you're all that surprised to see me."
Jim kept his expression carefully blank. "I'm not."
"I told you he was good." Brackett remarked to one of the guards who had followed him through the door. The man laughed and nodded, his rifle trained on Ellison. Lee Brackett was not quite the man Jim remembered. The All-American good looks had been tempered by time spent in prison, and a freshly healed scar adorned his left cheek. But it was the man's eyes that were the most changed. Gone was the fire and desire of challenge. Now all there was rage and hatred directed at his captive.
Brackett tossed a newspaper onto the cot and Jim's eyes automatically read the headline.
DETECTIVE WANTED IN CONNECTION WITH MURDER
"Looks like you're famous, Jim."
Jim clenched his jaw as his eyes skimmed down to the photos directly beneath the headline. One was his police Department I.D. photo, the other was of Jennifer Conroy.
"Too bad about the girl." Brackett's voice held no remorse. "I really did like her."
Jim forced his eyes from the photo, directing an icy stare at his kidnapper. "You're a dead man."
Brackett's eyes opened wide in surprise and a smug smile formed on his lips. "I've been dead for three long years. Now it's time to return the favor."
The two men stared at each other for a few moments, neither flinching from the other's intense gaze. Finally, Brackett rubbed his hands together and took another step forward. "So. I bet you're wondering why I've invited you to join me in my humble little retreat."
Jim shrugged, not breaking eye contact with the mercenary. "Actually I'm more interested in how you managed to get out of your last place of residence."
Brackett crossed his arms, his smile widening. "You mean my 'federal' address? Believe it or not, Jim old buddy, I have you to thank for that. Or, more to the point, your little friend, Sandburg." Brackett began to move back and forth across the small cell. "You see, nobody wanted to listen to me when I told them about your, shall we say 'special' abilities. As a matter of fact, most of my former colleagues figured I'd gone off the deep end. Who could blame them, huh? I mean, who would ever believe that a real life Superman was hiding out in the guise of a cop in Cascade, Washington?
"Fortunately Sandburg's dissertation was made public and, although the little sneak managed to cover your butt's pretty well, it gave a certain amount of credibility to my claims." Brackett turned to Jim, a look of admiration on his face. "By the way, it must have really been something to watch the professor throw away his entire career just to save your hide. Amazing."
Jim bit back the pang of guilt at Brackett's words. He and Blair had worked through this particular chapter and he was not about to let this psycho undo everything they'd worked so hard to come to terms with.
"Anyway, once certain parties decided I might be actually telling the truth, they arranged for me to be liberated and here I am."
"Remind me to send them a thank you card."
Anger flashed in Brackett's eyes before the careful smile once again took up residence on his face. "Ah, Jimbo. It's not nice to bait your host. Especially when he holds all the cards."
Jim felt a small stab of fear at the remark. The last time they had been forced to deal with Brackett, he had held an entire city hostage under the threat of releasing a deadly contaminant. He couldn't help but wonder what the madman had up his sleeve this time.
"If you're holding the cards, Brackett, why don't you stop shuffling and deal."
Brackett chuckled at the pun. "If that's what you want, Jim." He spread his hands innocently. "I'm going to give you an opportunity to redeem yourself. You are going to get another chance to help me borrow something."
Brackett shrugged. "Okay. Steal -- if you want to get technical." He approached Jim and crouched down in front of the cot. "Did you know that Peru is home to the largest uranium mine in the world?" At Jim's look of surprise he laughed. "Neither did I! But it's true! There's a smelting plant not too far from the mine itself which is secretly run by the U.S. government.. Of course that's not common knowledge to the rest of the free world and that information ever found it's way into the wrong hands, well, let's just say Uncle Sam would have to come up with one hell of a dance to cover his tracks."
"Why do you need me?" Jim already knew the answer, but he wanted all of Brackett's cards on the table.
"You, my friend, are my ace in the hole. After your amazing demonstration getting me into the aircraft hanger, I've managed to convince my employers that you'll have no problem bypassing the security to the smelting plant."
Jim smiled as he played his own cards. "And just what makes you think I'd help you?"
"Because if you don't, you'll lose something very precious to you." He looked innocently at Ellison. "Did I mention that your partner was, as we speak, on a cargo plane headed to Peru?" His eyes narrowed coldly at the flinch in Jim's carefully controlled demeanor. "I thought that might interest you. I have a man waiting for him. As soon as he lands, he'll be brought here. If you value your guide's life, you'll do whatever I tell you."
Jim could only stare at the man. The newspaper photo of Jennifer Conroy flashed into his mind and the ember of fear in his gut expanded at the thought of what Brackett could do to his unsuspecting partner. He felt his muscles tense with fury.
"Leave Sandburg out of this."
"No can do, Jimmy." Brackett slapped him on the knee and stood, gazing down at his prisoner with mock sympathy. "I'm afraid the professor is my trump card. If it's any consolation, I promise I won't kill him right away. I'll just make him wish he were dead."
Jim moved, intending to wrap his hands around Brackett's neck, but the cocking of the rifle stopped him in his tracks.
"Think about it, Jim." Brackett smiled coldly. "You can't help him if you're dead. I'll let you know when your partner arrives."
The intense heat weighed down on him even before he disembarked from the plane. The flight had been long and uncomfortable, and he stretched his back in an attempt to work out the many kinks. He looked out across the tarmac, squinting his eyes against the late afternoon sun. The glare from the metal hanger danced in the waves of heat, causing him to look away as his stomach rolled in response.
Pulling off his jacket, he rolled the sleeves of his white cotton shirt up past his elbows, aware of the sweat already making the shirt stick uncomfortably to his back. He'd forgotten just how hot it could be here. Not like he'd had time to pack or anything. He looked down at the green duffel bag Jack Kelso had arranged for him. It held some clothing along with the water, rations, radio, gun and ammunition. Plenty of ammunition.
Blair normally would cringe at the thought of actually having to use a gun, but the knowledge of it's presence was almost comforting at the moment.
The sound of an engine caught his attention and he shifted to his left as a military jeep approached from the hanger. The man behind the wheel was of medium build, with short cropped reddish hair. His eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses and Blair shifted nervously as the man pulled the jeep to a stop and jumped to the tarmac.
"Are you Sandburg?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah."
"I'm Cosgrove." The man grinned, his head moving slowly up and down as he gave the civilian a once over. "So you're a friend of Jack Kelso's."
It was more of a statement than a question and Blair merely nodded in return.
"Jack's a good man." Cosgrove relaxed his stance. "If he vouched for you, I guess you're okay." He motioned toward the jeep. "Hop in, son."
"Thanks." Blair grabbed the duffel and threw it into the back seat of the jeep before hopping into the passenger seat. "Where are we going?"
Cosgrove started the jeep and glanced over at Blair with a smile. "To see a friend."
"Oh." Blair grabbed the dash as the jeep took off.
Blair jerked awake as the jeep hit a deep rut in the dirt road. Blinking, he mentally kicked himself for dozing off and tried to determine exactly where they were. The road cut a path through the jungle, the familiar sight of trees and plants whipping by on either side. He rubbed his eyes, trying to alleviate the fatigue which still lingered throughout his entire body. He hadn't been able to sleep on the plane, the loud sounds of the engines and the less than comfortable seating making it all but impossible to relax. The movement of the jeep, coupled with the heaviness of the jungle air, had acted as a dampener to his jumbled nerves and lulled him into a semi-coherent state.
He glanced over at Cosgrove, wishing he knew more about the man. Jack had said he was trustworthy, but something about the man's demeanor had put Blair's instincts on alert. Unfortunately, his exhaustion had won out and he had unwisely allowed himself to doze.
Another rut in the road brought a different need to his attention.
"Do you mind if we stop?"
Cosgrove looked over, his expression hidden behind the dark glasses. He still wore the smile on his face, but the glasses prohibited Blair from seeing if it reached his eyes.
"We'll be there in another hour or so."
"Don't think I can wait that long, man." Blair gave a small laugh and shifted in his seat to transmit his dilemma.
Cosgrove's smile widened and he nodded. "I got ya." He pulled the jeep to a halt in the center of the road and motioned toward the trees. "Go ahead, kid. Just don't get yourself lost."
Blair jumped from the jeep and sprinted off into the dense trees.
A few moments later he emerged, buttoning the fly of his jeans. He sauntered quietly back to the jeep. Cosgrove was speaking into some type of bulky phone, his back turned to Blair, and the young detective remained quiet, not wishing to disturb the conversation.
"No. No problems so far. The kid doesn't suspect a thing."
Blair frowned and focused his full attention on the driver.
"Tell Brackett our ETA is approximately 90 minutes."
Blair took an involuntary step back, his boot scraping the dirt below it.
Cosgrove's head shot around and Blair found himself staring into a pair of the coldest green eyes he had ever seen.
Cosgrove's smile now looked sinister as Blair backed up, his breath coming in short, loud gasps. "You're working for Brackett?." His voice shook and he couldn't pull his eyes away from Cosgrove's.
The driver rounded the jeep and advanced slowly on the smaller man. "Too bad you had to hear that, kid. I was hoping to get through this without any bloodshed."
He reached out in an attempt to grab Blair's arm, but Sandburg's fear and instinct took over. He lunged forward, bringing his knee up and into Cosgrove's groin. The man uttered a sound of surprise before all the breath rushed from his lungs and he doubled over, his hands instinctively going to cradle the injured area.
Blair violently brought his fists down on the back of the man's neck, forcing Cosgrove to the ground. He looked longingly at the duffel in the jeep and debated whether to try for the vehicle. A quick glance revealed the keys absent from the ignition -- Cosgrove was obviously very careful. A groan from the injured man rose in volume until it became more of a growl, and Blair reluctantly backed away in the opposite direction. As Cosgrove struggled to rise, Blair considered his ability to fight the stronger, well trained military man. Cosgrove's fury showed through the pain on his face and Blair shuddered at the raw hate the man was directing at him. Knowing his advantage would soon be up and he stood little chance of defeating Cosgrove, Blair dashed for the trees and ran blindly into the jungle.
His lungs were burning and the black dots forming at the edges of his vision convinced him to finally slow down. He collapsed near a fallen tree and gasped for breath, his eyes darting >from shadow to shadow as he surveyed the dense jungle. He absently pushed the hair from his face, not registering the sweat that plastered the dark curls to his head.
He had been running for what seemed like hours. He held his breath despite the desperate fight for air he lungs were now waging, in an attempt to gauge the closeness of his pursuer. He sighed in relief when indigenous sounds of the jungle were the only ones to register. He leaned back against the log and took stock of his situation.
He was lost. He had to admit that. He had run to put distance between himself and Cosgrove -- where he was going had not been his top priority. For all he knew, he had run in a complete circle and was only a short distance from where he started. He looked around, hoping for something -- anything -- that would give him an indication of where he was. A street sign would be nice. Or one of those maps you find in the mall with the little orange dot stating YOU ARE HERE.
Now that he was sure he had lost Cosgrove, the reality of his predicament was able to take hold. He was somewhere in the jungle, probably hundreds of miles from civilization, with nothing more than the clothes on his back. No food, no water, no weapon. He felt in his pocket, smiling when he withdrew the ever-present Swiss army knife. Okay, I'm armed. Watch out world.
He pulled his knees up and rested his arms against them, trying to force his mind to think of a plan. He needed to find some type of shelter. It had been late afternoon when they had left the airstrip and, although the dim light was still seeping in through the dense trees, Blair knew that once the sun set completely, he would be far to exposed to the predators who roamed the jungle at night.
Movement caught his eye and he looked up quickly to his left to see a small animal staring at him with big, dark eyes. The animal, a kinkajou if he remembered correctly, sat on a low branch of one of the tall trees. His fur was short and a muted tan color, with his small face a bit darker. His long tail twitched, his eyes never straying from the human below.
"Don't worry." Blair told the kinkajou. "I'm just passing through."
The animal seemed to accept the statement and began to forage for food, keeping a wary eye on Blair.
"You wouldn't happen to have a phone I could use, would you?" He smiled and leaned his head back, closing his eyes against the pressure building inside his skull. "Didn't think so. I doubt if you can point the way to the nearest town either, huh? I understand." He paused as he took a deep breath, grateful his heart was beginning to stop hammering in his chest. "You would not believe the day I've had. First I fly half way across the world in a plane with nothing but crates for company, then I get attacked by some psycho in Ray Bans, and if that's not enough, I end up having to leave my supplies behind because I have to make a hasty retreat before Ray Bans has a chance to pound the crap out of me and drag me God knows where and deliver me to the head psycho, otherwise known as Lee Brackett. Needless to say this has not been my idea of the ideal tropical vacation." He watched the kinkajou dart around the tree branches before scurrying up and out of sight.
"Nice to see you! Come back soon!" Blair chuckled and pulled his knees up closer. God he was tired. His head hurt, the air was so heavy he could hardly breathe, his hair was sticking to his neck and he could feel the perspiration gluing his clothes to his body like some new form of industrial strength adhesive. What he wouldn't give for a shower right about now.
The thought of water awakened his growing thirst and he moaned, wondering if the situation could get any worse.
Brackett could have you.
That would definitely be worse.
If Lee Brackett was the one behind all this, then it was pretty safe to assume he had taken Jim because of his Sentinel abilities. But why Peru? What was here that a mercenary like Brackett would need Jim's senses for?
Shaking his head, he decided trying to get into Lee Brackett's head was a far too difficult maneuver for him in his present depleted state. Maybe after he got some rest. He folded his arms across his knees and lowered his head onto them, telling himself he would only rest a few more minutes before continuing his trek. The minutes ticked by as exhaustion crept up in him and he succumbed to his body's need for sleep.
Jim was pulled from his light doze by the sound of Brackett's voice. The white noise generator was still in place, but the mercenary's voice had carried enough for the shout to be heard by normal ears.
"I don't care what happened! Find him, damnit! How much trouble can one ex-anthropologist be?"
Jim smiled in relief. Way to go, Partner.The continued rants from the man outside his cell, coupled with the frantic voices of the guards only confirmed his suspicions. Sandburg had somehow escaped and Brackett was now pulling out all the stops to track him down.
Jim bit back a moment of concern. He knew his partner was clever. He would be able to lead Brackett's men on a merry chase through the jungle. Blair had been in the jungle before, and he had increased his survival skills since then. He was mentally and physically tougher since he had graduated from the academy and Jim was certain he would be able to stay ahead of any pursuit for a while.
Jim listened as the footsteps moved to the outer compound. The white noise generator dampened his hearing beyond the door of his cell, but Brackett was not aware of Jim's ability to focus his hearing in a certain direction. He concentrated on the sounds now coming through the small window >from outside the building, easily honing in on Brackett's voice.
"I want every available man searching that area. I don't want anything overlooked. All units will report to me directly. I want Sandburg alive. He is of no use to me dead. Is that understood?"
There were murmurs of consent from the troops followed by the sounds of engines. "Let's go!"
Jim listened as the jeeps moved away from the compound, further into the surrounding jungle until the sounds faded from even his ears. Brackett had gone with them. He was positive of that. The man was much too egotistical to let Sandburg's escape go unpunished. And Lee Brackett was the type of man who liked to handle punishment in a personal manner.
A sound directly outside his door brought his attention back to his immediate surroundings. The jiggle of keys was followed by the click of the lock being released and the squeak of the rusted hinges as the heavy door was forced open. The guard who had accompanied Brackett earlier walked into the room, his rifle slung across his shoulder, a smug smile on his face.
"Your partner has made a grave mistake."
"Not as grave as yours, my friend." Before the man could react, Jim jumped from the cot, shoving the startled guard back into the wall. Jim delivered a powerful blow to the man's chin, backing up as the guard's knees gave way and he tumbled to the ground. One more punch and the man lay unconscious at his feet. He quickly gathered up the fallen rifle and the ammunition belt around the man's waist, slinging them both over his shoulders, the belt crisscrossing his chest.
He poked his head into the hall and attempted to extend his hearing, frowning as he was met by the annoying wall of static. Fine. We do this the old fashioned way.
He slipped out into the hallway, rounding the nearby corner quietly. There was one more guard in the main room of the building, and Jim quickly disposed of him with a sharp thump of the rifle butt to the base of his skull. Just as he was about to make a beeline toward the front door of the compound a familiar scent tickled his nose, causing him to frown.
He traced the scent to a small alcove off the main room, recognizing the smell of cigars -- the same brand Simon smoked. He shook his head, amazed at the coincidence of finding the same brand of cigars lingering in a secret compound in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. His eyes followed the faint scent, focusing on a small green spiral notebook laying on the shelf of the alcove. The notebook was the same variety Sandburg had used to keep his notes for his dissertation. If Brackett had somehow gotten hold of Sandburg's notes...
But that was impossible.
Blair's notes were locked up in a safety deposit box with the one copy of his dissertation. He had put all the notes as well as the tapes and computer files in the safety deposit box soon after the fiasco with Sid Graham and the release of his dissertation. Sandburg had not had the courage to destroy his life's work, and Jim had not had the heart to force the issue. They had compromised on the safe deposit box, deeming it a secure place to hold the information until they could determine what to do with it.
He shifted the rifle back to his shoulder and opened the notebook, his eyes going wide as he read the first few paragraphs. It contained notes about his sentinel abilities all right, but it was not one of Blair's. Jim's brow furrowed in confusion as he recognized the sprawling script of Captain Simon Banks.
"What the hell?" His voice was barely a whisper. "Simon, what have you done?"
He ran through the trees, his paws flying soundlessly over the soft ground. The wind whistled past his ears in a familiar melody, mixing with the symphony of the jungle sounds. His fur ruffled in the breeze, cooling his body as his strong legs carried him toward the clearing. He slowed as he approached, his blue eyes locking on the two animals who sat in the center of the clearing, bathed in a faint blue light. He stepped into the clearing, stopping a few feet from the others, awaiting their invitation. The small red fox, raised its head, studying the newcomer for a moment before trotting to sit near the large, powerful looking cat. The tiger lay motionless, his brown eyes studying the gray wolf before him. After a few moments, the tiger let out a low purr and the fox moved to allow the wolf to join them.
He sensed another presence and turned to face the direction he had come, his eyes searching the shadows. The black jaguar appeared from the darkness, stealthily approaching the others, his head lowered, his eyes trained on the larger feline. A low rumble sounded from the dark cat which was answered by another growl from the tiger.
The jaguar slowly approached the three, his bright eyes turning toward the wolf. He lay at the wolf's feet, allowing the canine to smell his scent. The familiar scent of the jaguar sent a shiver through the wolf, and he howled with primal joy as he recognized the bond between them. The jaguar moved a few feet away and the wolf followed, pausing to glance back at the other two animals who had welcomed him. The tiger gave a deep roar, then rose majestically and turned, following his companion into the shadows of the jungle.
The sound of movement filtered through Blair's sleep fogged brain, and the young man stirred, his weary mind trying to focus. The insect and animal sounds of the jungle impressed themselves upon his consciousness and he slowly began to remember where he was. A movement close to him registered the presence of something and he jerked awake, pressing himself back into the tree trunk. He squinted through the darkness, but was only able to make out three shadowy forms in the slight moonlight.
"Who's there?" His voice shook and he cleared his throat before speaking again with increased volume. "I'm armed," he lied. He could barely speak around the lump of fear in his throat. Could Cosgrove have found him? He turned his head as one of the shadows moved closer, backing away from the silent, unknown visitor.
"I..I mean it," he stuttered. He reached into his pocket, withdrawing the small Swiss army knife. The slight weight of the tiny weapon did little to alleviate his nervousness. "Please. I don't want to hurt you. Just stay back."
The shadow continued to inch forward as he scrambled backwards, his eyes darting from one shadow to another, barely able to discern them from the darker recesses of the jungle.
Blair nearly jumped out of his skin as a deep voice spoke near his right ear. The language sounded somewhat familiar, but Blair could not understand the words. A warm hand came down upon his arm and he let out a surprised yelp before twisting away. He was now surrounded, the three shadows in a tight circle around him. The words the voice had spoken finally registered on his mind and he turned and squinted into the darkness.
The voice spoke again, this time adding a word that Blair easily recognized.
"Enqueri?" Blair held his breath, hoping to God his hearing hadn't betrayed him. If these men knew Jim's Chopec name, it was highly possible they themselves were from the tribe. Possible hell it was probable!
"Enqueri," the shadow confirmed. The figure moved closer until Blair could distinguish his features through the dim light.
"Moi?" Blair was relieved to see the Chopec warrior smile. He was one of the three men who had accompanied Incacha to Cascade to stop Cyclops Oil from destroying the jungle. The visit had ended with Incacha's death and Blair's somewhat dubious promotion to Shaman -- a role he had just begun to come to terms with.
Moi held out his hand, and Blair grasped his forearm in the Chopec greeting.
"Man, you scared the hell out of me!" Blair took a deep, shaking breath as the adrenaline began to dissipate from his body. He shivered slightly in the cool, night air and looked apprehensively at the other two shadows who were now discernible as Chopec. "How did you find me? Oh right, you don't speak English. Unfortunately I'm not all that well versed in Chopec so..." He let his voice trail off as the three warriors stood.
Moi, who still held Blair's arm, pulled the American up off the hard ground and steadied him as he got his bearings. One of the other two said something quickly, the urgency of his voice not lost on the detective, and Blair looked up to find Chukiru nodding his understanding.
"I take it company's coming?" He listened a moment to the sounds of the jungle but could discern no signs of immediate danger. The Chopec spoke again, this time accompanied by a pointing motion with his hand. Blair noticed the other warrior place his hand on the first's back in silent support and his dream came rushing back to him in vivid detail. The wolf, the jaguar and the tiger and fox...
This was the tribe's new sentinel!
Blair was aware his mouth was hanging open and quickly shut it, staring through the darkness at the two warriors. He swallowed against a suddenly dry throat.
That was something he did not want to have to deal with. After the fiasco with Alex Barnes, Blair had no desire to place Jim within a thousand miles of another sentinel. Jim's reactions to Alex may or may not have been territorial, but Blair really had no way of gauging his partner's reaction to another sentinel when he was the interloper.
Moi obviously knew who and what he was -- Jim's guide and shaman -- and neither the Chopec sentinel nor his guide seemed to have a problem with it. Maybe the reaction between Jim and Alex was a fluke. Maybe not all sentinel's react badly to each other, just to the ones with harmful intentions. There were so many "maybes" Blair's head was swimming and he clamped down on his wandering thoughts, forcing himself to deal with the here and now.
Moi smiled and patted him on the shoulder as if he understood Blair's concern. He spoke a few words and Blair found himself oddly comforted even though the exact meaning of the words escaped him. The details of his vision floated before his eyes and he calmed, suddenly confident he had nothing to fear from this sentinel. Moi nodded slightly to the others who slipped quietly into the darkness and he motioned for Blair to follow.
Blair hesitated. He knew Moi had been close to Incacha and had no reason not to trust the Chopec, but his recent doubts concerning other long standing loyalties gave him pause. On the other hand, he could just wander blindly in the jungle and hope to find civilization before he was eaten by some hungry carnivore out trolling for tasty Blairtreats.
Put in perspective, he figured he'd take his chances with the Chopec.
He took a deep breath and nodded at Moi. "After you, man."
Jim headed due west, toward the river he had been hearing since he left the compound. His senses came alive as he moved through the jungle, his hearing focusing easily on the sounds of the native life even as his eyes traced a path through the shadowy darkness. His olfactory senses were alive with the smells and tastes of the tropic air and his enhanced sense of touch tingled with the sensation of the cool night breeze and velvety soft leaves as they brushed across his skin.
His thin undershirt was wet with sweat, which mixed with the slight breeze to allay the heat of his exertion. He had ripped his dark blue oxford shirt into wide strips, sporting one around his head in an effort to keep the stinging sweat from running into his eyes.
A glint of sunlight caught his eye from approximately twenty yards to his left. He crouched silently and easily focused his sight across the distance. He was surprised to see the metal sign, half buried under the lush tropical foliage. He was even more surprised by the words printed in bold, black letters across the surface.
Cyclops Oil -- Block 18 -- La Montana Region
A small smile played on his lips as his mind quickly accessed a map of the region. He was near Chopec territory. A slight shiver of excitement went up his spine at the thought of being so near his old tribe. That explained the unexplained pull he had felt ever since his escape. Something was drawing him toward the Chopec -- toward safety.
He had no doubt the Chopec would help him. Incacha had welcomed him into the tribe. He had become one of them and, even though he had gone back to his own people, he remained part of the tribe. Incacha had made that clear before he had died. The Chopec would welcome him. They would help him find Blair and capture Brackett.
With renewed determination, he continued his journey.
Joel Taggart carried the take-out bag into Simon's office and placed it on the captain's desk.
"What's this?" Simon looked up, his dark eyes squinting in confusion.
"You skipped lunch." Joel shrugged and turned back toward the door. "I figured you might be hungry."
"Thanks, Joel." The gruffness in the captain's voice faded and he smiled tiredly at his old friend.
Joel stopped at the door and leaned against the wood frame. "Any word on Sandburg?"
Simon sighed and shook his head. "Nothing. I've got every available unit in the city looking for him. It's like the kid just dropped off the face of the earth."
"He's okay, Simon. You know Blair, he's probably just lying low until things cool off. As soon as we find Jim, we'll probably find Blair right beside him."
Simon pulled the burger from the bag and laid it on his desk. "I'd feel a lot better right now if I did know they were together."
Joel shook his head in response. "I hear you, Simon. But we have to believe they're okay. They've been in worse situations." He took a step out of the office. "Eat your lunch."
The ringing of the phone stifled any reply and Simon picked it up, bringing it quickly to his ear. "Banks."
Joel glanced back into the office and watched as Simon's face registered many emotions, finally settling on surprised anger.
What?" Simon's voice rose in volume. "How the hell could he have escaped?" He looked up, surprised to see Joel still hovering near his door. He quickly lowered his voice, returning his attention to the call. "How the hell could that have happened? I thought --" Simon pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses and sighed. "Okay. Where can I meet you?"
A few more nods and Simon hung up the phone. He stood and grabbed his suit coat from the back of his chair, the burger all but forgotten. He threw on the coat as he stepped outside his office.
"Joel, I have to take care of something. I want you to take over for me here."
Joel frowned in confusion. "What's going on, Simon? Is it Blair? Has something happened?"
Simon seemed to have some type of internal debate, finally returning his gaze to Taggart. "I'm sorry, Joel. I'll explain later. You'll have to trust me on this. Can I count on you?"
Joel studied his friend's face, resigning himself to the fact he was not going to get any more information from him. "Of course, Simon. Just promise me you'll explain this all to me when you get back."
"Thanks, Joel." Simon patted him on the shoulder and ducked out of the bullpen, leaving a confused detective staring after him.
Jim moved quietly to the edge of the village, his eyes searching for what his hearing had been focused on for the last half mile. His search led him to a small hut on the edge of the village and he smiled as the familiar rhythm filled him with a sense of relief.
Blair was here.
His heartbeat was even and his respiration was slow and deep. He was asleep.
Jim stood and moved into the firelight, his eyes locking onto the lone sentry who stood facing him from across the village's central circle of flames.
Jim nodded, the image of a powerful tiger shimmering into view in his mind's eye. This was the Chopec sentinel. Jim was surprised to feel no animosity toward the other sentinel. What he felt was more like... kinship. He stepped closer to the low flames, his arms outstretched in a gesture of friendship.
"You are the tribe's guardian," he said in the native tongue of the Chopec.
The guardian nodded. "As you once were. Have you come to reclaim your place?"
Jim smiled sadly and shook his head. "No. I am no longer the guardian of the Chopec. I have another tribe to protect."
The guardian nodded and gestured toward the nearby hut. "Your shaman awaits you."
"Thank you for protecting him in my absence."
The guardian bowed his head slightly. "Incacha's spirit is strong within him."
Jim smiled at the comment. When Incacha had died, he had passed on the title of shaman to Blair, which had done little more than completely freak the kid out. He had insisted he had no idea how to be a shaman, but had since made great strides towards fulfilling that part of his destiny. The simple statement from the Chopec sentinel proved what Jim already knew -- Blair was already what he aspired to be.
The guardian bowed and turned, disappearing into a hut on the other side of the fire. Jim focused on the sounds of his partner, ducking through the small doorway and finally kneeling down beside the sleeping form. "Sandburg?"
Blair rolled to his right and opened his eyes. His heart rate jumped and he sat up quickly, scurrying back from the shadow before him.
"Whoa, easy, Chief. It's me."
Blair blinked a few times, trying to squint unsuccessfully through the darkness. "Jim?" His voice was barely a whisper and Jim cringed at the fear and exhaustion he detected.
"Yeah, partner. It's me. Are you okay?"
Blair suddenly lunged forward, wrapping his arms around his surprised partner, nearly knocking the bigger man onto his butt. He squeezed tightly until Jim was sure his circulation would be cut off.
"Hey, easy, Darwin. I've gotten kind of used to breathing." Despite his words, Jim found himself returning the embrace.
Blair quickly let go, but kept a firm hand on his friend's arm. "God, Jim! What the hell happened? You just disappeared and then we found that girl's body and the truck and then they were waiting for me at the loft and I didn't know who to trust, Simon was acting strange and I figured out you'd been brought here and one of Brackett's men tried to -- Oh God, Jim! Brackett! Where's Brackett?"
Jim laughed, completely amazed that Blair could pack such a great amount of information into one run-on sentence without even stopping to take a breath.
"Just relax, Blair. Brackett's not here. Hold on a sec." He moved quietly out of the hut, returning a moment later with a torch which he used to light the small fire pit in the center of the hut. Once the fire caught and began to cast light inside the small room, Jim sat down and took a good look at his friend.
Blair looked exhausted. His white shirt was torn and streaked with dirt. His denim jeans were ripped at the knee and his hair was disheveled and hung in loose curls around his face. There was a dark bruise on his left cheekbone which blended with the dark circles under his eyes.
"Are you okay?"
Blair swallowed and let out a deep breath, wincing slightly at the effort. "I am now." He smiled slightly, the relief of their reunion shining in his eyes. "What about Brackett?"
Jim shrugged. "He wanted me to break into a uranium smelting plant. He was hired to steal weapons grade plutonium."
Blair's eyebrows rose. "Plutonium? As in 'kaboom'?"
Jim chuckled. "Yeah. I think his mind was bent more on revenge than anything else. The plutonium deal was just an excuse to break out of the federal pen and pay us a little visit." He glanced wearily at his friend. "He said he wanted you as a bargaining chip to force me into stealing the plutonium, but I have the feeling the plutonium wasn't exactly the focus of his agenda."
Blair averted his gaze and rubbed a hand across his eyes. "That sucks."
Jim nodded, agreeing silently with the younger man's assessment of the situation. "Now tell me what happened. Slowly."
Blair nodded and took a deep breath, unconsciously brushing a stray curl behind his ear. "When you didn't come home after the party, I started to get a little worried. Then we got a call about a body which turned out to be Jennifer Conroy." He looked at his partner , but the older man merely nodded for him to continue. "Simon put out an APB on you and the truck. We found it near the airport with your gun and badge. I knew something had happened to you." He took another deep breath and pressed on, bringing Jim up to speed on their interview with Jennifer's roommate and the attack at the loft. He finished with the flight Kelso had arranged and the discovery of Cosgrove's connection to Brackett. He glanced at the sentinel apprehensively, debating whether or not to express his doubts about Simon's strange behavior.
Jim knew him too well. "There's something you're not telling me, isn't there, Chief?"
Blair swallowed and stared at the fire, letting the warmth of the flames calm his nerves. "I don't know how to say this, man." He looked at his partner, a sad, almost sick, expression on his face. "I'm starting to think Simon is a part of all this." At the surprise on Jim's face, he hastily continued. "I know it sounds crazy, man, but there's just been way too much weird stuff going on. First, he knew Jennifer's full name as soon as he saw the body. You never told us her last name, Jim. Second, her roommate told us Jennifer was hired to pick you up by some guy she met at work."
"She worked at a tobacco shop."
"Right. Simon was the only one who knew I was headed back to the loft, man. After I got away I called him to tell him about the attack and he was talking to a couple of Feds about you." He stopped and took another breath, watching the sentinel carefully.
Jim closed his eyes and pulled the notebook out from under his T-shirt. "I found this at Brackett's compound." He handed the notebook over to Blair, his expression grim.
Blair's eyes widened in shock as he read the notebook, recognizing Simon's handwriting. "Why would Simon be keeping a journal about you?"
"Not me. Us." Jim shook his head, his shoulders slumped in resignation. "I don't know what to say, Chief. I'm not sure what to believe right now."
Blair shook his head, not wanting to believe the evidence either. "I don't know, Jim. I can't help thinking there has to be a logical explanation for all this."
Blair stared at the notebook, his mind racing to find any reasonable explanation, but coming up with nothing. "What are we gonna do, Jim?" he whispered. "Who the hell do we trust?"
"The same people we always trust, Chief. Us."
Blair nodded. They would get through this together. As long as they were together, they could get through anything.
"Tell me again what the hell we're doing here?" Blair kept his voice pitched low enough to be heard only by sentinel ears He looked around, amazed at how well the Chopec warriors were able to hide themselves in the jungle's shadows.
"We have to find out who Brackett's contact is. He was commissioned to steal the plutonium. I want to know who has enough power to break a man out of a federal prison and set up a deal like this."
"Maybe we should just let the feds take care of it."
Jim shook his head, his eyes searching the compound. They were hidden at the edge of the jungle at the perimeter of the compound. "Brackett killed Jennifer just to get to me. I can't just ignore that."
"I'm not asking you to. I'm just saying that maybe we should get a little more backup before we charge into the lion's den."
"Sandburg, for all we know, Brackett could still be working for the CIA. What good would it do to have the feds go after one of their own?"
Blair nodded slightly, accepting his partner's suspicions. "Anybody home?"
Jim shook his head and pulled his rifle into his hands. "I don't hear anything." He turned to face his partner, laying a firm hand on the smaller man's shoulder. "Blair, I want you to stay out here with the Chopec. You'll be safe here."
Blair was shaking his head before Jim was finished. "No way, man. I'm staying with you."
"No. The last time we got separated, you ended up half a world away. We do this together or we don't do it at all."
Jim sighed in exasperation at the determination in Blair's eyes. He knew the look all too well. There would be no arguing with the young man. "Okay. But you stay close, you hear me?"
"Like glue, man."
Jim chuckled and whispered a few words in Chopec, alerting the other sentinel of their move. He rose, remaining in a crouch, and quickly covered the short distance to the east wall of the compound. He motioned for Blair to follow, keeping a wary eye on the surrounding area as his partner scurried to join him.
The sound of a heartbeat suddenly filled his ears and he quickly motioned for Blair to get down, flattening himself against the cold stone wall. He edged quietly to the end of the wall and peeked around the corner, shocked to see the crouched form of Simon Banks behind a boulder nearly forty yards up the slight hill to the north of the building. Simon was looking directly at him, frantically waving him to move around the corner.
"Behind you, Jim," came Simon's urgent whisper.
Jim turned quickly to see two men dressed in army fatigues slowly creeping through the jungle directly behind them. A soft whoosh of air was followed by another and the two men were both lying motionless on the ground, a Chopec arrow piercing each of their chests.
Jim quickly motioned Blair around the corner and dashed for the front entrance of the main building. As soon as they were safely through, he turned to look for Simon, idly wondering what the hell the captain was doing in Peru. He remembered the notebook, hoping to have the chance to hear Simon's explanation.
Simon breathed a sigh of relief as Ellison and Sandburg made it through the door of the main building. He stood, suddenly aware of a presence behind him. Expecting one of his own team members, he didn't think to bring his weapon up until he turned and recognized the new arrival.
"Brackett." He said the name with no surprise in his voice. "I was wondering when you'd turn up."
"It's nice to see you, Captain. I'm just sorry it had to be under such unpleasant circumstances." The feral grin on his face turned colder as he held up a small black box. It was roughly three inches long with a short antennae, a blinking light and a small red button. He pointed the antenna at the compound and forcibly pressed the button.
The front of the compound exploded with incredible force, knocking the captain off his feet. Quickly he picked himself up, turning unbelieving eyes upon the entrance he had just seen his two friends disappear through only moments ago.
The blast had gone off near the entrance, collapsing the stone walls around it. Simon stumbled a few feet down the hill, falling to his knees as the front wall of the compound caved in on itself. Thick, black smoke rose from the rubble as the sounds of the tumbling pieces of stone echoed through the jungle. The building was destroyed.
"Oh my God."
~ TO BE CONTINUED NEXT SEASON... ~
E-mail the author of this story, Sue Pokorny, at SPok507@aol.com Read Sue's other fan fiction for The Sentinel at Shycat's Sentinel Domain Story Editor: Lois Balzer Please visit our Virtual Season 5 Staff Page to learn more about the hard-working behind-the-scenes crew responsible for bringing you this episode E-mail Faux Paws Productions at email@example.com Return to the VIRTUAL SEASON 5 EPISODE ARCHIVE Return to the FAUX PAWS PRODUCTIONS' HOME PAGE
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This page last updated 2/2/01.