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.
Captain Outrageous and Wildeskind
Blair looked down at the pitiful collection of wizened donuts. "Oh man, what is this, stale donut week? I've seen better artifacts on digs."
Jim sighed and poked through the box looking for something edible. "Sorry Chief. The Feds are in town for that interagency co-operation seminar. They've been hijacking the deliveryman before he can deliver them. All we have are last week's donuts."
Picking up a sugar donut, Jim knocked it experimentally against the table. It broke into little hard pieces. Grimacing, he tossed what was left into the trash can and dusted off his hands. Things were getting desperate around the Major Crimes bullpen.
Blair snorted. "Co-operation Seminar. There must've been a misprint on their flyers or something. Instead of a co-operation Seminar it probably reads 'co-opting' seminar. Co-opting our donuts!"
Grabbing their mugs they walked back toward their desks. Today was Blair's first official day as a detective of the Major Crimes Unit. He had dressed up a little, wearing a suit jacket and tie. The tie had a stylized wolf on it, the muted blues blending well with the blue of his cotton shirt.
Blair continued ranting. "This can't go on. We have to do something about this! Maybe we could lay a trap or something. What about a net? We could cover it up with forms and when those sneaky Feds go to steal our donuts, whoosh, they'd go up in the air with all the paperwork!"
Jim rubbed his chin, considering the plan. "It wouldn't work. Feds can smell paperwork a mile away. Maybe we could --" He was cut of by the harried voice of their captain.
"Sandburg, my office." Blair and Jim looked at each other. It wasn't even 8 o'clock and already he was being called into the office.
He shrugged and marched into the lion's den. "Yes, sir?"
Simon opened his drawer and pulled out an unmarked envelope. "I have an important assignment for you, Detective."
"Sure, Simon -- I mean, Captain -- what's up?"
"As you know, the Feds have been stealing our donuts."
"Yes sir. Jim and I were just discussing tactics on how to catch them."
"Don't bother. I've decided to cut off our supply lines and establish them somewhere else."
Simon held out the envelope. "I want you to take this money and go find us some fresh donuts."
Blair grinned and grabbed the envelope. "Yes, sir, Simon!"
"Quit with the sirs and get out of here. We've been without any real donuts for three days now. If we don't get some soon, there'll be a mutiny!"
Blair tucked the envelope into his back pocket and backed away to the door, saluting. "Consider it done, Captain!"
He walked out and grabbed his coat from his chair. Jim looked up from his computer. "What's up?"
"It's a top secret mission. All information is on a need-to-know basis. I'm sure you understand." He grinned. He remembered when they were starting out as partners the time he and Jim had gone to the state line to pick up 'a package.' No matter how he wheedled and begged, Jim had made him wait until they were aboard the train before telling him "the package" was actually a state witness. Payback was sooo sweet.
Simon opened his door. "And don't forget to get some Bavarian Creme ones, too."
Jim grinned as Blair's face fell. "Top secret, huh? Time to get the donuts."
Detectives swarmed around the desk shouting orders. Blair held up his hands.
"Quiet, quiet! I already know what everyone wants. Rafe, you want apple filling with powdered sugar. Brown, you like the sugar donuts. Taggart, I'm getting your French Vanilla Twists, and Megan, I have your blueberry bagels covered."
The bullpen stilled in shock silence.
Brown was the first to break it. "Man, how did you know?"
Blair smiled secretively. "I'm a detective. It's my job to know these things."
Rhonda came up to him. "Blair, here's that coupon I was telling you about. Now, I've already called the order in and you have that list of everyone's favorites. Make sure they're all there before you walk out the door. And no sampling the goods till you get back." A tide of red covered the young detective's face.
Brown snorted. "I can see who's the detective around here."
Blair grabbed the coupon from Rhonda's hand. "Hey, don't harass the donut guy. I just might not come back with them." He walked around to his desk and slipped into his jacket. Winter was definitely on its way. Patting his pockets for his keys and his wallet, he turned to go.
Jim called out to him. "Uh, Chief?"
Blair turned around. "Yeah?"
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
He patted his pockets again. Keys, wallet, badge, pager, phone, coupon, list. "No, I don't think so."
Jim held up Blair's gun, in its new nylon holster. Blair hesitated before excepting it. "Oh yeah. That." He slipped the holster under his jacket into his waistband.
Jim shook his head. "That doesn't do you any good in your desk drawer, you know."
Blair shrugged and adjusted the gun again. "Yeah, well, it's uncomfortable. I can't sit at my desk with it on. No matter where I put it, it digs into me."
Jim looked at him for a long moment. "A bullet is going to dig into you a lot worse. That gun could save you life or the life of another person. You don't go out without your sidearm, you dig?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "I dig." He turned and walked away, muttering. "Sheesh, I'm only going to the bakery...."
The aroma of freshly baked donuts wafted up from the plain white box. Man, I can't believe they went three whole days without any fresh donuts. The fasting probably did wonders for their arteries, but still... I can see why donuts are so addictive to cops. Compact, portable, and chock full of simple sugars and saturated fat. An instant sugar rush when they need it most. I wonder if anyone makes whole-wheat donuts? If they fried them in soybean oil, the fat content might not be so bad... Blair stopped when he reached his car.
Leaning against the driver side door was a scrawny looking guy in his early twenties. His long dark hair trailed out from beneath a baseball cap in a scraggly ponytail. He had buckteeth and a long pointy nose. Man, this guy looks he crawled straight out of the sewer.
Blair shifted the box to his left hand, freeing up his right hand. "Hey man, how's it going? This is my car you're leaning against." He relaxed as the guy crossed his arms on top of the Volvo's roof. At least Blair could see his hands.
"Oh, is this your car? I thought it was my car. It looks just like my car."
He must be lost or something. He doesn't look drunk. "It can't be your car, I just parked it here five minutes ago. Maybe you got turned around? Where did you just come from?"
The man shook his head. "No, no, no, I really think this is my car. What do you think, Jake?"
Blair barely had a hint of danger before a blinding pain exploded in the back of his head and everything went black.
Jake grabbed the unconscious man by his jacket as he went limp, his strong arms easily holding him up. The box of donuts fell to the ground. Nudging it aside, he braced the limp form against the car with one arm. Pulling out a stick of gum, he unwrapped it and popped it in his mouth, which already held an impressive wad. "Hey Willie, why'd you go and use my name? Now he knows who I am."
Willie slunk around the car and reached into their victim's jacket for his keys. "He don't know squat. He didn't see you so he can't ID you. There has to be hundreds of Jakes around here. Besides, we're splitting town anyway. Here, put him in the car. At least we don't have to break in now." He tossed the keys to his accomplice.
Blair slid down, his chin hitting the roof with a thud as Jake let go to catch the keys. Muttering an apology, the large man opened the car door and started to stuff the limp body into the car when a flash of gold caught his eye. "Hey Willie, this guy has a badge!"
"What?!? Lemme see." Willie's face went pale when he saw the badge on the man's belt. "Shit, he's a cop. Of course he's a cop. Who else would be picking up 5 million frickin' donuts." He stared skyward, his hands balled up into fists. "Why does always happen to me?" Pulling back his foot, he kicked the tire in front of him. "Ow! Shit!"
Jake looked at his friend in concern as he hopped up and down, holding his injured foot. "He don't look like a cop, Willie. Maybe they won't miss him or something."
Willie let go of his foot and grabbed Jake's shirt, dragging his face down toward the pavement. "Look at the donuts, stupid. You don't think he was going to eat all those by himself, do you?" He dragged Jake with him as he reached into the car and jerked the victim's jacket up higher. "Not a cop?"
The butt of Blair's .38 police-issue revolver jutted from its holster.
"Get in the car, Jake. We gotta move, now." Whoever was waiting for those donuts was going to miss them soon enough.
Jim closed the file he was working on and looked at his watch. Blair had been gone forty-five minutes. Shaking his head, he picked up the phone and dialed his partner's cellphone number. He's probably met some woman in the store and is standing there talking to her. Better give him a ring and tell him to get his butt back here with those donuts. He counted fifteen rings before hanging up. He knew Blair had his cellphone on him. A feeling of unease ran through him. Maybe he left his phone in the car. Jim picked the phone up again and sent him a text message on his beeper.
Blair, where are you? The natives are getting restless. Time to come back with the donuts.
He waited another ten minutes before picking up the phone again and dialing Rhonda's extension. "Rhonda, can you give me the number of that donut shop Blair went to?"
"Sure." She gave it to him. "Blair's not back yet?"
"No, he's not." Jim sighed. There was a heavy feeling in his stomach. Blair had been anxious this morning to start his first day on the job. It didn't make sense that he was late getting back from this errand. "He probably stopped to talk to someone and got caught up in the conversation. If you see him come in, let him know I'm looking for him. And thanks for the number."
"Sure, Jim. Anytime."
He disconnected the call and then dialed the number of the donut shop.
"Hello, Dilly's Donut Shop. Dilly speaking."
Jim blinked. Dilly's? Was Blair dallying with Dilly? The voice did sound rather young. "Uh, yes. I'm looking for my partner, Blair Sandburg. He was supposed to pick up an order of donuts for the Major Crimes Unit. Have you seen him?" He heard her heartbeat speed up in the background. Maybe something had happened....
"Oh yes. He picked them up a half-hour ago. He left his card here. He said that if they were as good as they smelled that your unit might consider switching over to my place. They were fresh when they left here."
Jim sighed, disappointed. She was just excited at the prospect of more business. "Did you see him drive off?"
A bit of uncertainty crept in her voice. "No, I didn't. I saw him talking with some guy by his car. The timer went off and I went to take the donuts out of the mixer. When I came back, both of them were gone."
Damn. If he already picked up the donuts, then where was he? His hand tightened on the handset. "Did you notice what the guy looked like?"
"Kind of. He was tall and skinny. His hair was long, and he had a baseball cap on. I thought he looked like a greasy rat or something."
"Was he young, old? White, black?"
"He looked kinda young, maybe twenties? And he was real pale like. Ohmygosh!" Her heartbeat rocketed.
"What is it, Dilly?"
"There's a box of donuts in the street. My donuts! I didn't notice them because of all the pigeons."
"Dilly, can you do something for me? Can you go out there and make sure no one touches those donuts? Not even those pigeons."
"Sure, sure. Of course."
"Thanks Dilly. I'll be over there in a few minutes."
Jim hung up the phone. He called dispatch and put out an APB on Blair's car and the man Dilly had described. He looked up as Simon bore down on him.
"Where's that partner of yours? All I've been able to think of is that Bavarian Creme donut."
"He's missing, sir. I put out an APB on his car." Jim stood up and grabbed his jacket.
Simon frowned. "Don't you think that's a bit drastic?"
Jim shook his head. "I called Dilly's. She said he left a half hour ago, and the box of donuts he bought is in the street."
"The donut shop. I tried his cellphone and pager. He didn't answer either of them. Dilly said she saw him talking with a guy before he left. She didn't see either one leave. I'm going down there now."
Simon sighed. Not even one full day on the job yet, and Sandburg was already in trouble. "Wait, I'm going with you."
Willie and Jake breathed a sigh of relief when the cellphone stopped ringing.
"Willie, why don't we ditch the phone?"
"Because we can pawn it for a little extra traveling cash. That and the gun should bring us a tidy sum."
"But that ringing's gonna drive me crazy. Why can't we take the batteries out?"
"Because, stupid, whoever's calling will be suspicious if it goes dead. The more time they don't know he's missing, the more time we have to cover our tracks. Now shut up, I have to think."
All he'd wanted was to steal some wheels and get out of town. Now he had to ditch the car and the detective before someone noticed he was missing.
A train whistle sounded in the distance. The Volvo's tires squealed as he made a sharp turn.
"Willie, what are you doing?"
"We're going to the train station. I have an idea."
Simon and Jim pulled up in front of the shop. A plump gray-haired matron was standing guard over a white box across the street. She was engaged in a ferocious standoff with a flock of bold, determined pigeons. Simon grinned as he turned off the engine. The woman bore a striking resemblance to the birds she battled. They got out of the car and went to join her.
"Miss Dilly? I'm Captain Banks and this is Detective Ellison"
Dilly gave them a strained smile and shook their hands. "Call me Dilly. It's nice to meet y'all. I'm afraid the birds got to most of the donuts before I got out here. They were fresh, you know."
Simon bit back a grimace at the greasy, gritty feel of her hand. "Thanks, Dilly. I'm sure they were. Would you mind shooing these birds farther away? We'd like to take a look at the area."
He almost groaned at the sight of the ruptured Bavarian Cream donut oozing its rich creamy filling onto the pavement. All those beautiful donuts, gone. So was Sandburg. He watched Jim squat down and peer at the box. The top had been pecked off, but the sides were intact.
Simon crouched down beside him and whispered, "Do you see anything?"
Jim shook his head. "I'm not sure Simon. I see two sets of fingerprints. One set look like Sandburg's. A smaller one could be Dilly's."
He looked at Jim in disbelief. "Don't tell me you know Sandburg's prints on sight!"
Jim made an impatient sound. "Sandburg cut his finger shaving this morning. He had a Band-Aid on his left hand. The second set has different kinds of sugar and spices mixed in with it. Dilly has been making donuts all morning. They're obviously Sandburg's and Dilly's."
Simon rubbed the fingers of his right hand, remembering Dilly's greasy grip.
Jim looked around, his expression forlorn. "Dammit, Chief, why couldn't you leave me a clue? Something, anything to tell us who took you. Talk to me."
Simon looked around, feeling helpless. Blair would know how to get Jim back on track. He would say something, and then Jim would take one look and find the vital clue that would give them a solid lead. What would Blair say? He would say something like... "Come on Jim, try again. Take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Concentrate."
He blinked when Jim took a breath and let it out slowly. He must have spoken that last part out loud. What would Sandburg say next? "Now focus, Jim. Is there anything here out of place?"
Jim breathed in again, his face a mask of concentration. He turned his head sharply as something caught his attention. "There's something here. It smells sweet, fruity."
Simon shivered as Jim's pupils dilated, the blue of his irises disappearing under the tide of the black. How did Sandburg get used to seeing that?
Jim held out his hand. "Simon, give me your handkerchief."
Pulling out a handkerchief, he handed it over. "Find something?"
Careful to avoid the bird droppings, Jim leaned down and carefully picked up a gum wrapper. "I think so. This smells pretty fresh. It's Chewy Fruit. There's a fingerprint. The oil is still fresh. Let's get it back to forensics."
Simon looked up at the sky. Thank you, God, for putting the words in my mouth.
Jake stood guard as Willie dumped the cop's unconscious body into the trunk of the Volvo. They were in the parking lot of the train station. Jake froze when he heard a moan. He turned around in time to see Willie punch the guy in the mouth.
"Jeez Willie, didja have to do that?"
"Yeah, I had to do that," Willie snarled back. "We don't want him to bang on the trunk lid or something. Lookie here. He musta been a Boy Scout or something. Plenty of rope and some rags. Here, tie him up while I keep lookout."
"Okay, but I still don't understand why we're at the train station. We don't have our stuff here. It's still at Lenny's."
Willie took a quick look at Jake's handy work. His partner might not be too swift, but his father had been in the merchant marine. He knew how to tie his knots. "Because the detective here is going on a little trip. We're going to buy a ticket with his credit card for his car and send them both far away. By the time he gets out, we'll be long gone."
"But Willie, if you buy the ticket with his credit card, won't the cops be able to trace it?"
Willie's head whipped around so fast he almost got whiplash. Jake finished tying the gag in their prisoner's mouth. Turning around he saw Willie staring at him. "What?"
The skinny man shook his head. "Jake, you said something intelligent. The world must be coming to an end or something. I can't believe it."
Jake stood up a little straighter. Willie had told him he'd said something smart. He pulled out another stick of gum and shoved it in his mouth.
Turning around again, he arranged the limp body more comfortably in the trunk, shoving the junk aside and putting a blanket he'd found under the cop's head. Satisfied, he closed the trunk lid. "All set, Willie. Boy, you'd think a cop would have a neater car or something. We almost didn't have enough room for him with all the stuff in there."
"Yeah, well, there's all sorts of cops. I guess this one's a messy cop. Did you get all the stuff off him?"
Jake nodded. "Uh-huh. Wallet, phone, gun, watch and pager. This guy sure likes gadgets."
"Okay, let's buy a ticket and get outta here. I'll lift us a wallet on the way in. Come on."
Jim paced in Simon's office. They had dropped off the candy wrapper in forensics and were waiting for a match. It had now been two hours since Blair had left to pick up donuts. Two hours ago his friend had been safe here in the precinct. Two hours was a long time.
"Dammit, Simon, he can't even go on a donut run without getting kidnapped. When we find him, I'm going to handcuff him to his desk."
"Jim, you can't handcuff him to his desk. He's a full detective now, with all the rights and risks that go along with it. I thought you were okay with this."
Jim gritted his teeth. "How can I be okay with him disappearing on his first day as a detective?" He stopped and looked out the window.
Simon stood up and came over behind him. He put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I know, Jim. But if anyone can disappear and reappear with minimal damage, it's Blair. Hell, it's almost a universal law. Sandburg's Law. A hundred years from now professors will give lectures on it."
The phone rang. Simon picked up the receiver. He gave a "thumbs up" to Jim and jotted down some information on a notepad, then hung up with satisfaction. "Forensics made a match." Jim followed him around the desk to the computer. Simon brought up the criminal database.
"The prints matched one Jake Knapp. Let's see who Mr. Knapp is." Typing in the ID number, he brought up the man's criminal record.
Jim read the information off the screen. "Jake Knapp, AKA Jackie Natts, AKA Jake Knotts. Small time hood with a long list of priors in New York. Assault, robbery, battery. Known associate: William Pips." Simon helpfully double-clicked on William Pip's name.
"William Pips, AKA Willie Peters. Pick pocketing, B&E, robbery, grand theft auto. He spent a couple years at Riker's where he met Knapp. It looks like they got out around the same time. There's an active arrest warrant out on both of them, also from New York." The picture of Pips showed a skinny individual with buckteeth.
Jim tapped on the screen. "That's rat boy, I'll bet. Why did they kidnap Blair? Neither one of them have any connection to him. They're on the run."
Simon doodled on his notepad. "If they're on the run, they might need some money. This could be a case of a simple mugging gone bad. They took his wallet, and when they found out he was a cop, they panicked."
Jim nodded slowly. "It's possible. He had his ID on him." It galled him to think his partner was in trouble simply because he carried a badge. "So if they panicked, what would they do?"
"Neither one is a killer. They'd probably tie him up somewhere and lie low. I'm printing out a list of their known hangouts here in Cascade. If we're lucky, they'll be at one of them."
"Let's check 'em out."
They left the office. Waiting in the bullpen was the majority of the Major Crimes department. Taggart acted as spokesman. "Any news on Sandburg?"
"We think we know who took him. Two small time hoods, Willie Pips and Jake Knapp. We're going to check out their known hangouts."
"Well, what are we waiting for? Share the wealth and lets get cracking."
Jim smiled grimly. We're coming for you, Chief, we're coming.
Jim walked out of another bar. Dammit, they hadn't found a single person who had seen Pips or Knapp today. He could feel time slipping away. His phone rang.
Simon spoke. "Hey Jim, any luck?"
"No. None of the other teams have had any luck either. It looks like Pips and Knapp have gone to ground. Dammit. We're so close. Sandburg has to be here somewhere. We should have at least found his car by now. Where could he be?"
Jim scowled in frustration. "I don't know. When we do find him, I'm going to tag him with a radio transmitter."
"Maybe we don't need a radio transmitter."
"What do you mean?"
"He had his cellphone on him, right?"
"Yeah, I called, but no one picked up."
"Yeah, but maybe we could track him through his phone. The tech boys should be able send a signal so it will pick up before it rings and we can trace the open signal. If the cellphone is still active."
"If it's still active."
"I'm going to call tech ops now and have them set it up. We're going to find him, Jim."
"I hope so. I have one more name on my list. Lenny Smith. He owns a pawnshop over on Oak and Rosewood. Let me know when the phone trace is ready."
Blair opened his eyes. Or at least he thought he did. It was pitch black and hot. Groaning, he tried to roll over only to discover his was tied up. Man, this sucks. My head feels like it's going to explode and my right side is numb. He moved his legs experimentally. And there's not a whole lot of room in here. Where am I? Where ever he was, the rocking motion was making his stomach churn. He felt his gorge rise as the rocking motion coupled with the heat and his dizziness to make him even more nauseous. He tried to swallow, but the gag in his mouth made it difficult. Closing his eyes again, he repeated a calming chant. The dizziness didn't go away completely, but it did get better. Satisfied that he wasn't going to asphyxiate on his own vomit, he tried to remember how he had gotten here. Wherever here was.
It was my first day at work and they sent me out for donuts. I went to pick them up. I picked them up. I know I picked them up. Then I went back to my car and there was a rat there. No, there was a guy that looked like a rat. Yeah, and he was talking about my car being his. Something happened. Someone hit me on the head!
Blair groaned. Do I have a psychic sign on the back of me that says 'hit me, born victim'? I can't even go out for donuts without being kidnapped. Jim is going to kill me. First day on the job and I get mugged buying donuts.
He tugged on the ropes holding his wrists. Damn, I think these are the best-tied knots that I've ever been tied up with. Well at least they didn't use duct tape. I hate how that stuff tears off your hair and skin. It's even worse on your face. He tongued the rag, trying to push out of his mouth. Yuck, what was it about criminals and gags. Why couldn't they spend a little extra money and buy something that didn't leave your mouth tasting like the bottom of someone's shoe?
Something hard and pointy dug into his back. And they never put you someplace comfortable. It's either too hot or too cold, too damp or too confining. Why can't they hold you in a three-star hotel or something? At least when Naomi was kidnapped, she wasn't tied up. And they put her in a private tent with Dr. Mesgar. Okay, you know you've been kidnapped too often when you start complaining about the treatment...
Blair listened to the sound of himself breathing. Come on Sandburg, you've been in worse situations than this. All they've done is tie you up and stick you somewhere. So far, anyway. Jim must be going out of his mind with worry by now. Time to see if he could get out here. Gathering his strength, he heaved himself upwards. Halfway up he ran into something hard. Ow!
He fell back, stunned. Something hot and wet trickled on his forehead. Great! Having the bad guys hit him over the head wasn't enough, he had to bust open his own head. He closed his eyes, letting the rocking motion soothe him. Gradually he noticed a rhythmic clicking sound. CLICK CLICK CLICK... CLICK CLICK CLICK...
I've heard that sound before. Another wave of dizziness swept over him. Biting back a curse, he tried to turn over. Wherever he was, there wasn't a lot of room. Something cold and slick hit his face. He wrinkled his nose. Ugh, I know that smell. Those are the duck boots I keep in my car. Man, I should have washed them better after that day in the park.
Okay, so he was in the trunk of his car. He chuckled. He knew he was in his car, but he didn't know where his car was. Suddenly, the car shook violently. The boot danced over his face. Oh man, oh man. He butted his head against the offending footwear until it slipped behind him. I'm cleaning out my trunk as soon as I get out of here.
His eyes drifted closed, the heat, the knocks on the head and the swaying of the car all working to make him sleepy. Jim was worried about him. He had to be. I just walked out the door and vanished. He doesn't know where I am, if I'm alive. Jim! I'm safe Jim. I'm safe. The darkness became even darker as he slipped into unconsciousness.
The bell above the door rang as Jim stepped into the dusty pawnshop. Old TVs and VCRs rubbed against chainsaws, hand drills, and stereos on the cluttered shelves. Anything and everything that someone could pawn was displayed. The front was empty, but he could hear voices in the back.
He was about focus in on them when a wave of dizziness hit him. The world spun crazily around him. He grabbed hold of an upright vacuum to steady himself. Softer than a whisper, Blair's voice wrapped itself around him. Jim. I'm safe, Jim. The room steadied itself. A man came out from the back. He looked at him curiously.
"Are you okay mister?"
Jim blinked. What had happened? He stepped farther into the shop and then stopped abruptly when the man pulled a gun from under the counter.
"If you're some kinda junkie or something, I want you out of my shop. Now. You ain't getting nuttin' from me."
Moving slowly, Jim carefully pulled his jacket out of the way, showing his badge on his belt. "Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade PD. I'd like to ask you some questions."
The man's eyes darted away and then back again. He put the gun down with forced cheerfulness. "Hey, you can't be too careful, ya know? We have all sort of weirdos on the streets. Guys come in here once or twice a week, trying to bust up my shop, looking for some quick cash. A citizen has to protect himself."
Jim sauntered up to the counter and picked up the gun. "I hope you have a permit for this."
"Yeah, yeah, right here." The man pulled out his wallet and held out the slip of paper to Jim.
Jim took a look at it. Lenny Smith. He handed it back. "It looks in order." He kept the gun in his hand.
"What can do for you, officer?"
"I'm looking for two guys, Jake Knapp and William Pips." He put the two mug shots on the counter.
Smith barely looked at them. "Don't know them."
Jim gave him a predatory smile. "That's funny. Pips was arrested a couple of years ago for robbery. The cops found the stuff he stole in your pawnshop. Are you sure you don't know them?"
Smith looked down at the pictures. "Oh, yeah. I know this guy, Pips. Yeah, he passed some stolen stuff here. I didn't know at the time, of course. I'm an honest man. But I ain't seen him here since. Ain't he still in jail?" His heartbeat was racing.
Jim sniffed the air. A sweet scent tickled his nose. It was the same scent he'd got off of the gum wrapper. He wrapped his hands in the man's shirt and dragged him half over the counter.
"No, he's not in jail. He out, and he and his friend have kidnapped my partner. I know Pips was here. I want to know where he went."
"I... I don't know. He wasn't here."
Jim shook him hard. "You're lying. Let's say I take look in your back room. Let's say I find some of my partner's stuff back there. I'm going to be very unhappy with you for not telling me the truth."
"You can't do that. You're a cop. You don't have a warrant or nuttin."
Jim hauled the store owner closer, until his face was inches away from Lenny's. "I have probable cause. You lied about knowing Willie Pips. Now, are you going to tell me where they went, or am I going to have start tearing this place apart, starting with you?"
Smith shook his head. This guy was nutzoid. Maybe he was on drugs or something. "No, no. They just left. They said they were splitting Cascade. Something about it being too hot here."
"Where did they go?"
"I don't know. Willie doesn't like to talk much about what he's going to do. Jake, he don't know how to keep his mouth shut, so Willie don't talk."
"Where's my partner?"
"I don't know. Jake said something about donuts, but Willie smacked him. Said not to talk about it. They didn't say nuthin' about some cop. Honest."
Jim gave him another shake, hoping to get something more out of him. Smith's eyes pleaded with him, his hands grabbing at him. Jim shoved him away. "Get me the stuff they sold you."
"Whatever you say, detective." He went in the back room. Jim followed him with his hearing as he opened his phone and dialed Simon.
"Simon, I'm at Lenny's Pawnshop on Oak and Rosewood. I just missed them. They can't be far from here."
Smith came back with an open shoe box.
"Jim, we're almost ready with that cellphone trace. Tech ops is working on it right now."
Jim looked in the box. "Don't bother Simon. I found his cellphone, his pager, his watch, his gun and his wallet. They pawned them. Looks like Blair wasn't the only one they mugged. There're half a dozen wallets, watches and cellphones in here. I'm heading back to the station with them. Maybe we'll get lucky and they used one of the credit cards."
"Okay, Jim, I'll notify Dispatch that the suspects are in the area and then meet you back at the station."
Putting his phone away, Jim turned to Smith and took out his cuffs.
"Put your hands behind your head." He walked around the counter.
"What? I gave you what you wanted!"
Jim grabbed Smith and slammed him face down on the countertop. "What I wanted was my partner. I don't see my partner. Lenny Smith, you are under arrest--"
"What's the charge?"
"Dealing in stolen goods, accessory to kidnapping, harboring wanted fugitives. Do I need to go on?"
Smith slumped against the counter. "No."
Willie looked back as he pushed Jake down the alley. The Army-green duffel bag on Jake's back swayed in time with his steps.
"Willie, why are you scared?"
Willie ripped open the door of a car they'd stolen from the train station. "I'm not scared. Things just aren't going right today. First we mug a cop and now we have the goddamn Cop of the Year after us. Get in the car."
Jake tossed the bag in the back and sat down in the passenger seat. "What do mean, Willie? Who's the Cop of the Year?"
Reaching underneath the steering wheel, Willie grabbed the loose wires and touched them together with jerky movements. "Ellison. I saw him at Lenny's. He's some sort of supercop. I knew this guy he went after once. Tracked him down like an animal. Like a goddamn animal. They say he's psychic or something. He knows things, sees things." The engine sputtered and died.
Jake scratched his head. "How does he know?"
There was a grinding noise under the hood before the engine coughed and died again. Willie tossed the wires aside. "I don't know, Jake, he just does. Come on, get out. I want to put some distance between us and him while Lenny keeps him busy."
Getting out of the car, they continued down the alley. Turning a corner, they came to a dead end.
Willie kicked a trash can. The crash echoed in the alleyway. "Shit, shit, shit! Okay, gotta calm down, gotta think. Ellison's back there, we're right here. We can't go back because Ellison's there. Okay, so we don't go back there. We get out some other way. Man, he has me climbing the walls!"
Jake took that statement literally and wandered over to the brick wall that blocked the end of the alley. The top was a good five feet over his head. Putting down the duffel bag, he picked one of the trash cans and upended it on the ground, careful to keep the trash inside. Putting one foot on top of it, he hopped a couple of times before launching himself up. Grunting, he grabbed the top with one hand and hung there. Bringing his other hand up, he pulled himself to the top.
"Willie, we can go now."
Willie swung around. "Jeesh, Jake, you scared me. How did you... never mind. Let's go. Here, take the duffel bag." He threw the bag up.
Jake caught it and dropped it over the other side. Reaching down, he grabbed his friend's hand and swung him up. Willie scrambled over the top and dropped down, stumbling. Jake jumped down easily.
"Where'd you learn how to do that, Jake?"
Jake shrugged. "I didn't. You said we were going to climb the walls, so I did."
"Right. Okay, let's get going. Lenny's probably spilled his guts by now. There's going to be cops all over the place soon."
Jake picked up the duffel again and they walked down the alley into the street. Turning away from the shop, they headed uptown.
Simon sat at his desk watching Jim pace his office for the second time that day. "Jim, sit down, you're making me dizzy."
"I can't sit still, there has to be something we missed. Some clue."
"We're still waiting on the credit card info. Maybe they made a purchase somewhere."
"If only I hadn't had that allergy attack or whatever it was at Lenny's. I would have caught them and Sandburg would be safe."
"Jim, we had three units patrolling the area. Nobody spotted them. You can't take all the blame all the time."
He picked up a paperweight off Simon's desk, weighing it in his hand like he was going to throw it. "Blair's my responsibility. I pushed him into becoming a cop. It's his first day on the job. He walked out on a donut run and he didn't come back. Do you know how that looks?"
Simon stood up and took the paperweight from Jim's hand. "Whoa, Jim. What am I hearing here, ego? Because if that's what this is, I'm going to be really disappointed."
"No, it's not ego. It's taking responsibility. Blair's my partner, I'm supposed to back him up. When the bullets start flying or the shit starts happening, I'm supposed to be there. He wasn't supposed to disappear like..."
"Like Jack Pendergrast?"
This observation stopped Jim in his tracks, and he considered the words seriously. "Yeah, just like Jack. And my men in Peru. The list goes on, Simon. I let them down when they needed me. Now Blair's gone, too."
Simon put his hand on Jim's shoulder. "Jim, what happened to Blair was not your fault. Unless you're suddenly psychic, you can't take the blame for random chance. He went out for donuts, for goodness sake. You didn't blame yourself when Naomi and that doctor were kidnapped last week."
Shrugging off his captain's hand, Jim stood up and walked over to the window. "That was terrorists. We knew who we were dealing with and what they were likely to do. They were professionals. These two look so stupid, who knows what they'll do? What intelligent crook mugs a cop coming out of a donut shop?" He leaned his forehead against the cool glass and looked out over the city. Somewhere out there was his partner. Hopefully alive.
Simon sat down on the edge of his desk, his hands cradling the paperweight. "Jim, did you find anything else at the pawnshop? Something that could help us?"
"I don't know, Simon. I heard voices, but I was so dizzy from all the dust I couldn't focus enough to make out what they were saying. They were there, Simon, and I let them get away." He sat down in the chair, the hours of worry finally catching up with him and making him feel exhausted.
Simon put the paperweight down with a thud. "I thought we just went through this. You didn't let them get away. You had an allergic reaction to the dust and they slipped out the back. Don't be taking all the blame. You're not a supercop, no matter what you may think. We had several units out there within a few minutes and they didn't catch them either. Could you hear what they were talking about?"
Jim shook his head. "No. I was trying to keep myself from passing out." He stared down at the floor.
Pulling out a cigar, Simon rolled it between his fingers, letting the feel of cracking tobacco leaves soothe him. This was a Sandburg moment. A time where he'd come up with some crazy exercise to get Jim to remember what he heard. "Jim, Sandburg's gotten you to remember things before, hasn't he?"
"Yeah, he'd have me close my eyes and go through my breathing exercise. Then he'd walk me through remembering."
Simon put down the cigar carefully. "Then let's do that." He couldn't believe what he was suggesting. He, Simon Banks, police captain and natural-skeptic, was going to attempt some Sanburgian mumbo-jumbo in an effort to get Jim to remember what he might have overheard. It was a clear indication of his growing desperation.
Jim didn't look confident. "Sir, Sandburg's not here to guide me. And pulling out sensory memory like that isn't easy. I was pretty disoriented."
"I'll guide you." Simon schooled his expression into one of optimism. "This is for Blair. Are you giving up?"
"No! It's just..."
"Just what? Jim, he's waiting for us to find him. Now, sit back and relax. Do your breathing exercises or whatever. We're going to find out what those men said in the pawnshop."
Jim sat back and closed his eyes. Breathing in deeply, he tried to let the tension go. Images of Blair flashed in his mind: floating in the fountain; tied up while Lash played mind games with him; in a green house, unconscious. Shoving those images away, he concentrated on the good times: Blair at the loft, watching a Jags game with him; Blair in the woods on one of their many camping trips; Blair grinning in triumph as he figured out something new about Jim's senses. In his mind, he heard Blair guiding him through the relaxation exercise. The tension drained out of him. Totally relaxed, he heard the familiar, rumbling voice of his captain.
"Jim, I want you to think back to Lenny's pawnshop. Are you there?"
"Yes. It's dusty. I'm dizzy."
"Good, good. You hear voices." It was a statement.
"Yes, they're in the back. Three men. They're talking."
"Can you hear what they are saying?"
A wave of dizziness hits Jim again. "Ug. I can't hear. The room is spinning."
The smell of cigars wafted towards him. "Jim, listen to me. You have to block out the dizziness. You're safe here."
Jim. I'm safe, Jim. "Blair, he says he's safe."
"What...? Yes, Blair's safe. The three men, what are they saying, Jim?"
The dizziness faded. Blair's safe. Jim could feel the handle of the vacuum cleaner underneath his hand. The voices became clearer.
"They're talking about leaving. They've spotted me standing here. One of them says they should take the train. Another says they can't take the train because of... He shuts up. The third voice tells him to shut up. They leave."
Jim opened his eyes. "That's it. They can't go to the train station."
"Why can't they go to the station?"
There was a knock on the door.
Taggart came in with a file. "Here's the report on stolen credit cards you asked for. They were all reported missing within the last 48 hours."
Jim grabbed the file and started paging through them. "Here. A $430 purchase at the Cascade train station at 8:45 this morning."
Taggart whistled. "That's a lot of money for a train ticket unless you're planning on a really long trip."
"It says here it was for a freight ticket for Spokane."
Everyone looked up and spoke at once. "Blair's car!"
Simon snapped his fingers. "We haven't found it yet. The muggers may have stuffed him inside and put the car on the train."
"Simon, that train goes through some pretty high elevations. There's a lot of snow up there. If he's trapped in his car, he could end up suffering from hypothermia or worse."
"Let me see if they can get through to the train."
Jim paced as Simon made some calls, listening in as each one met with failure. Simon hung up the phone with a sigh.
Taggart looked at both of them. "Well?"
Simon shook his head. "The train is out of range. The mountains create some sort of communications black hole. They won't be back in range for another two and half hours."
Jim clenched his fists. "Sandburg has already been missing for six hours. He's not dressed for the temperatures up there. We have to get to him."
Simon picked up the phone again. "I'll order us up a chopper. It's time to bring our errant donut boy home." He spoke into the phone. "Rhonda, have a chopper on the roof in ten minutes." He hung up and grabbed his coat.
Jim already had his coat on and was holding open the door. "Let's get going, Captain."
Blair woke up, groaning. Oh, man. I'm still here. I wish they would just shoot me or whatever they're going to do with me. The waiting is killing me. His throat worked as he tried to swallow. If I get out of here, I'm going to drink a gallon of water. Jim, come on man. You can find me. I'm here. Wherever here is.
The car shuddered as the click-click-click noise got louder. It's a train. I'm on a train. Oh, man, how could I be so stupid. Of course it's a train. They put me on a train, Jim. The right side of his body throbbed in time with his head. At least I have a pulse. Now, if I only had some aspirin, I'd really be happy.
Grunting, Blair wiggled and squirmed until he was on his back. Sweat trickled down his neck, and his hair stuck uncomfortably to his neck. The air was getting closer in the trunk. Great, it's not going to be a bullet, I'll just suffocate here. Well, at least I'm consistent. The last time was a drowning, this time suffocation. They're almost the same.
He lifted his legs and started kicking against the trunk lid. "Let... me... out... of... here," he screamed through his gag. He gave the trunk one last kick before collapsing, trying to pant through his nose.
Ohhhh man, that was such not a good idea. My shins are killing me. He sniffed as his nose began to run. Great. Shin splints, a runny nose, concussion, contusions and my favorite jacket ruined. What the hell is poking at me? He nudged the metal object with his arm. Well, duh! It's the folding shovel Jim gave you last Christmas. Maybe you should cut the rope with it. He wriggled back on his side, angling to grab hold of the shovel. Wedging it against his back, he rubbed the ropes back and forth. Come on Jim, where are you?
The helicopter skimmed over the trees, winding its way between snow-covered peaks. Simon swallowed. No matter how often he went out on one of these mechanical monsters, he never got over that sinking feeling in his stomach. He pulled his jacket closer to his body as the icy air cut into him. It was definitely winter up here in the mountains. I wonder how Sandburg is taking the cold. He never did like it. Always had to wear those flannel shirts even in the springtime and the fall. He patted the backpack Rhonda had given them before they'd left. In it was an extra blanket, medical supplies, bottled water and thermos of hot coffee from Simon's personal stash.
Ahead, a trail of smoke curled upwards, marking the location of the train. Jim tapped on the pilot's shoulder and pointed toward it. "There it is. Get close to the engine." Turning around, he grabbed the backpack off the seat and put it on.
Simon tugged on his sleeve. "What are you doing?" he yelled, forgetting that Jim could hear him over the noise of the rotors.
Jim looked at him in surprise. "I'm getting on the train." He enunciated each syllable as if the course of action should be evident to Simon. The determination in his blue eyes gave Simon pause. Something told him that Jim didn't mean just stopping the train.
"We are stopping the train, right?"
Jim shook his head. "I hadn't planned on it. Why?"
"Why?!?" Simon's voice rose. "Because, despite what you may think, jumping on a moving train is not standard police procedure, that's why!" What does he think this is, a cop show or something? Simon had originally thought having Blair as a partner would have cured Ellison of the annoying habit of risking life and limb at the drop of the hat. It only seemed to encourage him. Of all the stupid stunts to pull...
Jim shook his head, his jaw jutting out in stubbornness. "I've done it before." His voice said ... and I'll do it again.
Simon stared him down, putting his most intimidating expression on. "Well, you aren't doing it now. Sit down and pay attention. When are you going to get it through your head that we're cops, not Hollywood stuntmen?"
The pilot swept the helicopter down in front of the locomotive and matched its speed to the moving train. Simon held up his badge and keyed the microphone for the helicopter's external loudspeaker. "This is the Cascade Police, stop the train."
The engineer hesitated for a second, then shook his head. They watched as he talked into his radio.
Simon huffed in frustration. Covering the mouthpiece of the microphone so the pilot couldn't hear him, he asked Jim what the engineer was saying.
Jim focused in on the locomotive. "He's trying to get confirmation that we're supposed to be here. I think he's nervous because we're in the blackout area. People have been known to stop trains in this area under false pretenses. Remember the group who claimed to be with the military trying to control an epidemic when they were really a bunch of thieves trying to steal a shipment of money being sent to be destroyed?"
"I don't care if he's nervous, he's stopping that train!" Simon keyed the microphone again. "This is the Cascade PD. We are here on official police business. Stop the train! Now." He put every ounce of authority he had into his voice.
The operator looked at him again and at his badge. Flipping switches and pulling levers, he slowed the train until it shuddered to a standstill. Dirt and leaves swirled through the air as the helicopter settled on the tracks ahead of the train.
Simon stepped off the helicopter, the frozen ground crunching underneath his feet. "This is the way you get off a chopper, Detective. Now, let's find Blair and go home."
He stayed two steps behind Jim as they ran down the length of the train, careful to watch Jim for a zoneout. Blair would kill me if we got this far and Jim hurt himself because I let him zone. About two-thirds of the way down the line of cars, Jim stopped. "Here."
Simon strained to hear anything coming from the freight car. "Is he okay?"
Simon held his breath as Jim cocked his head to the side, listening. "His heartbeat is a little elevated and I can smell blood. His breathing's off. We'll know more when we get him out of there." Jim reached up to unlatch the door.
The cold metal burned Simon's fingers as he helped Jim unlatch the freight car door. Metal squealed as the door slowly rolled open. Inside, Blair's Volvo sat in the middle of the boxcar. Jim climbed up into the train car, rushing over to the automobile. Simon was close behind him. Jim pounded on the trunk. "Blair?"
A muffled shout came from the trunk. Jim and Simon grinned in relief. Jim shouted back. "I'm getting you out, buddy, hold on." He pulled out his keys.
Simon looked at him and then at the keys. "You have keys to his car?"
Jim shrugged as he picked out the correct key. "He's locked himself out a couple of times. This just makes things easier. He has the keys to my truck." Simon saw a faint tremor in his hands as he shoved the key into the lock and twisted. The trunk popped open.
He saw Jim's jaw tighten as he took in his partner's condition. Blair lay on his side facing the rear of the car. His arms were pulled behind him and his hands and feet were tied with yellow nylon rope. Dried, crusty blood smeared across his face, and bruises darken his jaw and temple. But bright blue eyes smiled up at them, the joy and relief threatening to undo the two older men. Simon pushed back the anger welling up inside of him at what the two thugs had done. Now was not the time.
Jim took off the backpack and rummaged through it, looking for something to clean off the blood. "Hey there, Chief. You know, when I said kidnapping was genetic in your family, I really didn't need more proof."
Blair mumbled something through his gag.
Jim nodded. "Uh-huh, you say that now. If you keep this up, the guys are going to think you have a rope fetish or something." He pulled out a box of gauze and a bottle of water and dropped the bag on the floor.
Blair shook his head and mumbled something else. Jim was intently picking at the plastic covering off the box of gauze. Why is it they make these things impossible to open? Someone could bleed to death in the time it takes.
Jim heard Simon chuckling. "Uh, Jim?"
He looked up. "Yeah?"
"I think your partner would like to get out of that trunk now."
Jim looked down and blushed. "Oh, yeah. Hold on, Chief." He dropped the gauze and water on top of the backpack and grabbed his partner's shoulders. "Grab his legs, Simon."
Together, they lifted Blair gently out of the trunk. A shiver ran through the young detective as they stood him up. Jim could feel the cold draining the heat from his partner's body. He grabbed the army blanket from the trunk as Simon pulled the frayed ropes off Blair's wrists. The skin was chafed and bruised, but Jim noticed the ropes were almost cut through. Good work, Chief!
Blair reached up and untied the gag. "Yech. Oh mahn, wuder. Git mah sum wuder."
Simon reached down and grabbed the bottle off the open backpack. Unscrewing it, he handed it to Blair.
Blair took a swig, swishing it around in his mouth before spitting it out on the floor. Taking another mouthful, he let it soothe the abused tissue of his mouth before it trickled down his throat. "Ohhhh, that's water. Thanks, Captain." Another shiver went through him.
Jim shook out a wool blanket and wrapped it around Blair, rubbing his shoulders. "It looks like you did okay in the trunk there." He wrinkled his noise. "What's that smell?"
Blair grimaced. "Let's just say I need to clean out my trunk of certain items."
Pulling off the last rope from Blair's ankles, Simon stood up. "Do you remember what happened?"
Blair pulled the blanket closer around him. "I went to get the donuts and someone hit me over the head. When I woke up, I was in the trunk of my car."
Jim reached out and gently ran his fingers through the tousled curls, searching out the sore spots. "It looks like it took more than one blow to knock you out. Must be your hard head. Does this hurt?"
Blair flinched. "Ow, yes that hurts. And for the record, I got hit three times on the head and one punch to the jaw, which hurts too, thank you!" He grabbed Jim's hand as it hit another sore spot.
Simon gave his shoulder a squeeze. "At least it does hurt. You gave us a scare there, Sandburg. I asked you to go for donuts, not take a train ride. You didn't have to go that far."
Blair shrugged and let go of Jim's hand. "Yeah, well, only the best for the guys of Major Crime." The two older men grabbed him as he wavered on his feet.
"Whoa, time to get going." Jim reached down and snagged the backpack with his free hand. Nodding to Simon, they started to lead the errant detective to the open doorway.
Blair looked back at his car. "Wait, what about my car?"
Simon shook his head. "That's evidence, Blair, you know that. We'll have it shipped back from Spokane and forensics will go over it. You should have it in a couple of months."
Blair planted his feet. "A couple of months! I can't go without my car for a couple of months! What about the stuff inside it?"
Jim grinned. "Evidence. Next time you won't wander off so far." He tugged on his partner's arm. He was worried how pale his partner's face looked.
The young detective dug his heels in further, indignant. "I didn't wander off, I was kidnapped."
Simon nodded. "Uh-huh. Come on. Your chariot awaits."
Taking one last look back, he allowed himself to be led to freedom. "Does this mean I get overtime?"
Jim smothered a grin at Blair's wheedling tone. The whole time Blair had worked as a salaried TA, he had never been paid overtime. It was a concept Blair was trying to get used to.
"Overtime?" Simon looked down at Blair. "Sandburg, your shift isn't even over yet!"
Blair instinctively looked down at his wrist. "Oh, man, Jim, my watch! They took the watch you gave me. I can't believe I let them take your watch."
Jim patted his shoulder. "Relax, Chief. It's in evidence lockup, along with your phone, your wallet, your pager and your gun." Jim jumped down from the freight car.
Blair grunted as Simon helped him sit down on the edge of the boxcar. "My gun?" Blair checked the small of his back and slumped. "It just gets worse and worse. This has to be a new record. I wasn't even one hour on the job and I let two psychos get the drop on me and take my gun." He looked at Jim, his eyes pleading for reassurance. "They didn't shoot anyone, did they?"
Simon sat down beside him and answered. "No, they didn't shoot anyone and they weren't psychopaths. They were a couple of crooks who didn't even have enough sense not to pick a cop's car to steal."
Jim watched as Simon put his arm around Blair's shoulder, his no-nonsense voice laying out the facts for Blair. He set down the backpack and pulled out the thermos. Blair's lips were turning blue from the cold, and he wanted to get something warm in his stomach before the cold helicopter ride back to Cascade.
He poured out a cup of coffee for Blair as Simon continued. "In fact, a second car they stole was found near the pawnshop. They had to abandon it because they couldn't get it started. The third car they picked had a flat a couple of miles out of Cascade. State troopers picked them up hitchhiking. The only smart thing they did was pawn your gun for cash. They probably would have shot themselves."
Jim pressed the cup of coffee into Blair's cold hands. "Listen to him, Chief, he knows what he's talking about."
Blair shook his head and blew on the hot liquid. "It's still my fault. I knew there was something fishy about that guy. I just walked right up to the car. I let myself be taken in by him."
Jim shook his head. "I don't believe that, Sandburg. You're too good to be taken in by a two-bit crook. Maybe you should tell us exactly what happened." He pulled out the box of gauze and opened it. Since they were taking a break, he might as well get rid of some of that dried blood on Blair's face.
Blair sighed. "I went into Dilly's and picked up the donuts. I guess they saw me go in, they figured I would be awhile. They hadn't counted on Rhonda calling ahead with the order. When I came out, the first guy was leaning up against the car. I guess he saw I was wary so he put his hands on top of the roof so that I'd relax my guard. That's when the second guy, Jake, came up behind me and knocked me out." He winced as Jim started to wipe the dirt and blood off his face.
Simon looked at Blair, amazed that the kid could find fault in himself. "I don't see how someone coming up on your blind side could be considered your fault. I told Jim earlier and I'll tell you now: unless you've suddenly developed psychic powers I don't know about, you couldn't have anticipated that second man. I was your first day, Blair. You weren't even on a case. Things happen. This was just one of them."
Blair took a sip of coffee. "Sure, Simon. Just one of those things. I hear you. I go out on a donut run and get mugged. Happens all the time to cops. Not my fault."
Jim winced at the bitterness and self-condemnation in his friend's voice. Why couldn't Blair see it wasn't his fault? "Blair, you can't blame yourself for other people's actions. You did nothing to provoke this attack. You don't blame your mom for getting kidnapped last week, do you?"
Blair looked at Jim like he was defective. "She was in the middle of a national park! The chances of being kidnapped there were a million to one. It was a freak accident that she was mistaken for Dr. Mesgar's assistant."
Jim shook his head. "So why is it so hard for you to accept that what happened to you was a 'freak accident'?"
"Because it happens all the time, Jim! I thought when I became a cop it would stop, but it hasn't. You're still rescuing me. It's like I carry around my own personal Bermuda triangle or something, and I'm sick and tired of it. Ever since I hooked up with you I've been shot, drugged, kidnapped by psychopaths, held hostage -- the list goes on. It's been exciting, but I'm getting tired of it. I want to be your partner, someone you can depend on, not someone who needs rescuing all the time."
Jim tossed down the gauze he had been using to clean Blair's face. "And what about all times you've rescued me, Blair? Do you think they were my fault? It goes both ways, you know. Is it my fault that I zone? Should I be held responsible when a bust goes bad and you pull my fat out of the fire? Are we keeping a scorecard now? Because I think it's been a pretty even race. You save me, I save you. What's the difference?"
Blair looked at him, his mouth open to speak, but no words came out. Jim could see the wheels turning in his head.
"If I could say something here." Jim and Blair looked at Simon in surprise. The captain had been so quiet, they had forgotten he was there. "Blair, do you see yourself as a victim?"
Jim waited as Blair considered the question. "If you had asked me that yesterday, I would have said no. Right now, sitting with you guys, I don't feel like a victim. But when I was sitting in that trunk tied up and gagged, not knowing what was going to happen to me, yes, I felt like a victim. It's gotten to the point where I can anticipate the stages of being a victim. First comes the shock, then comes the fear, and then the anger. Right now I'm pissed that I let those guys take me."
Stern brown eyes looked into angry blues eyes. "As long as you make it to the anger stage, you are not a victim. Victims are people who let circumstance control them. That's not who you are. You're a person who controls what happens around him. You didn't let them take you, they caught you by surprise. And when they had you, you didn't let them tie you up, you were unconscious so you had no choice. But when you woke up, you started to take control. You found a way to cut through your ropes. You would have gotten out okay whether or not Jim and I came to your rescue. In your mind, you had already rescued yourself. Don't you ever forget that."
A lump lodged itself in Blair's throat. That meant a lot coming from Simon. Jim's hand came down on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "That goes double for me, Chief. Don't ever think you're a victim. To me, you're a hero."
He cocked his head. "Time to go. I hear the engineer coming, muttering something about getting back on schedule. I guess he's never heard about Sandburg time." He pulled out an evidence bag from his pocket and stuffed the trash into it. Simon jumped down off the car and took the cup from Blair.
Blair grinned and hopped down, suddenly full of energy. "Like you said, Simon, I'm still on the clock. There should be enough time for me to file my report before it's time to go home. I also want to be there when Jim starts grilling those guys, too."
Simon shook his head. "That report isn't getting filed today and you are not grilling anyone. The helicopter is heading straight for the hospital. You can file that report later. As for Pitts and Knapp, they aren't going anywhere soon."
The trio headed back up the tracks to the helicopter. "But Simon --"
Simon cut him off. "No buts, Sandburg. I will tell the doctor to hold you overnight if I have to, but you are not going into work. After the hospital gets through with you, I want you to go home and get something to eat and go to bed. I don't want to see you tomorrow either. No telling what came loose in that head of yours with all those knocks you took. You understand?"
Jim watched as Blair struggled to find an argument to dissuade their captain. Evidently stumped, he nodded.
Simon turned his glare on Jim. "And you are going to make sure he stays there, right?"
Jim held up his hands. "Right, Simon. Where else?"
Simon huffed. "Fine, just as long as we're all in agreement."
The smell of fresh donuts in the caused Simon's mouth to water as he drove his two best detectives to the precinct. He glanced down at the dashboard: 6:34. It was almost ten and a half hours since he'd sent Blair out on his donut run. "Will someone please remind me why I am driving my newest, slightly abused, detective back to the precinct from the hospital when I clearly stated he was not to come back to work?"
Blair leaned forward from the back seat. "Because you knew how important it was for me to complete my first day on the job. How am supposed to hold my head up if I can't even complete a simple donut run? It's a rite of passage, Simon. You do want me to be accepted as a detective, don't you?" His pale face gleamed in the dim light. The blood had been cleaned off his battered face and a butterfly band-aid was perched on his brow.
"Besides," added Jim with a grin, "you couldn't turn down a triple serving of Bavarian Creme donuts."
Simon scowled at Blair's reflection in his rearview mirror. "I still have yet to taste them. Why can't we open the box now?" He winced at the whine that had crept into his voice. What happened to not being a victim of circumstances?
Blair sat back and set the donut box on his lap protectively. "I have to deliver them intact or it doesn't count."
The big man rolled his eyes. "Right." Turning into the basement garage, he parked the car.
As they waited for the elevator, Jim noticed Blair staring into space, a troubled look on his face. "Hey, Chief, you feeling all right? You don't have to do this today."
Blair shook his head. "No, it's okay. I'm fine. I was just remembering what it was like when I came back after the Golden incident. It was so weird. I could feel people looking at me, pointing their fingers at the hippie who shot up the garage, wondering why I was still around."
Gently grabbing the younger man's shoulders, Jim turned him to face him. "You were still around because you didn't give up. You bounced back from that like a trooper and you're going to bounce back from this one."
Simon added in, "Beside, this time you come bearing donuts. That's gotta count for something."
Blair gave a weak smile. "Yeah, right, Simon." The elevator chimed and they got in. The mood of the group was absolutely glum.
Suddenly, Jim looked at Blair with a gleam of mischief in his eye as he said, "By the way, Blair, the answer is no."
Blair looked at Jim in confusion. "What was the question?"
"You remember the day you came in to fill out the paperwork for your observer credentials?"
Simon rolled his eyes, "How could he forget? I still have nightmares about Kincaid and his group taking over the station, not to mention when he took over the basketball stadium."
Jim looked at Blair. "Do you remember what you asked me up on the rooftop?"
Blair thought back. All his memories of that day were jumbled up. He remembered the excitement of signing up for his observer credentials, the panic when he discovered that a bunch of armed radicals had taken over the station, and the fear when he had been discovered on the scaffolding on the outside of the building. The three clearest memories were of the guy shooting the vending machine he was hiding behind, Kincaid threatening to execute him, and the helicopter ride. Afterwards, Blair almost had been hauled off with the rest of the Patriots. Simon had stepped in and claimed him as a member of his group.
I wasn't a victim that day. Kincaid was so mad that I'd escaped the initial lockdown and taken out two of his men all by myself. He was going to shoot me then and there. But I convinced him it wasn't in his best interests to kill me. I even got the pilot to turn around while Jim was hanging off the helicopter strut. That's the type of day he wanted. A day where even when things went wrong, they went right. What had he asked Jim? Oh yeah... "I asked you if that was a typical day for you. You wouldn't answer me."
Jim nodded. "Well, I'm serving you notice now. Today is not going to be typical day for us."
Blair rolled his eyes. "Sure, whatever you say. I totally believe that's going to happen. You know, if you had said that back then, I might have believed you."
Jim raised an eyebrow. "And now?"
"And now I know better." He grinned. "But whatever happens, I'm in for the long haul. Someone's got to be here to keep your butt safe."
~ Finis ~
E-mail the author of this story, Captain Outrageous and Wildeskind, at firstname.lastname@example.org Read more of this dynamic duo's fan fiction for The Sentinel at Wildeskind's Sentinel Fan Fiction Archive The artwork in Act III, Blair and Jim, was created by DannyD... Enjoy more of Danny's art at her website, Dexter's World 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 NEXT WEEK on THE SENTINEL: Sentinel Cordon Bleu (11/17/99, FPP-507) by Kim Heggen
An old, unsolved robbery and a released convict result in Jim and Blair in one of their most unusual undercover assignments... a culinary competition.
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This page last updated 2/2/01.