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, Part 2
Sue Pokorny


(If you haven't already, you may want to read Trust, Part 1 first)

Act I

Simon swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, his eyes wide behind the wire rimmed glasses perched across his face. A tightness in his chest reminded him to breathe, and he coughed at the acrid cloud of smoke that wafted in his direction from the devastation before him.

A sound from behind him made him tear his eyes away from the ghastly scene, focusing his rising anger at Lee Brackett.

"That wasn't quite as satisfying as I'd hoped," Brackett remarked, dryly. His eyes remained on the destroyed building as his face took on a bemused expression. "But I suppose it will have to do."

Simon rose to his feet and took a step towards the mercenary. "You. Are. A. Dead. Man." His voice was low, more of a growl than a statement.

Brackett simply smiled. "Tell me something I don't know, Captain." He shifted on his feet and revealed the hand gun he held trained on Simon's heart. "But I doubt if you'll be the one delivering the final stroke." He glanced back at the compound, his eyes squinting as if trying to come to a decision. "I would very much like to believe Ellison and Sandburg are dead, but we both know they aren't your ordinary pair of cops, don't we?"

"If they are alive, Ellison won't stop until you're dead."

"I'd have to agree with that assessment, Captain. That's why I've decided to hold onto my ace in the hole." He grinned at Simon, his perfect white teeth flashing a contradiction to the insanity in his eyes.

The meaning of his statement was not lost on the policeman. "I'm not here alone," Simon stated as he glanced around. The team of four intelligence officers which Jack Kelso had arranged to travel with him was nowhere in sight. and the captain tensed, suddenly registering the fact he was indeed alone. The realization was not a welcome one.

"Your team has been dealt with, Captain." Brackett took a few steps until he was only inches from Banks' ear. He leaned forward, pitching his voice low and soft. " Believe me, you are very much alone."

The silence was broken only by the sounds of the concrete tumbling to the ground from the heap that had once been Brackett's compound. A figure moved, carefully dislodging the debris, which had partially covered his aching body. A dusty, dirt-streaked Jim Ellison shook his head, instantly regretting the action as the steady throbbing escalated into a mind numbing pounding. Taking a deep breath, he desperately searched for the mental dial that would allow him to bring the pain down to an acceptable level.

A sound to his right caught his attention and he shifted his focus as a pile of debris began to move. "Sandburg?" His voice was harsh and he cleared his throat, repeating the name. "Sandburg? Blair? You okay?"

A head emerged from beneath the rubble and Blair blinked, looked in the direction of the voice, then squeezed his eyes shut. "Oh, man. What the hell happened?" His voice was as rough as his partner's. He extricated one hand from beneath the rock and brought it up to his head, gingerly touching the growing knot above his left temple.

"I'd say Brackett was expecting us."

Jim pushed his way to his feet, breathing deeply as he waited out the short attack of light-headedness. As soon as his vision returned to normal, he took stock of his aches, quickly deciding there were no serious injuries. He made his way carefully across the debris littering the small room and knelt next to his partner. "How are you doing?"

Blair had not moved, most of his body still buried underneath the pieces of concrete. "I'm okay. I think."

He slowly moved his legs and arms, forcing the collection of rocks away from his limbs. He hissed as a large slab fell from his back, scraping skin exposed through the large tear in his dingy white shirt.

"Careful." Jim removed the rock and examined the raw skin on his partner's back. "You got pretty scraped up, Chief." He leaned closer and took a good look at the darkening bruise and lump on his friend's forehead. "Looks like you took a pretty good whack to the head, too."

Blair nodded slightly and managed to open his eyes. He squinted up at his partner, taking in the sentinel's appearance. While there were a few scrapes across Jim's face and arms, he had apparently been able to avoid serious injury. Blair took a deep breath, coughing as the dust from the settling debris filled his throat.

"Think you can move?"

Blair quickly nodded and held out a hand. Jim pulled the smaller man to his feet, steadying him as he regained his equilibrium. Blair brushed some of the dust from his jeans and looked at their surroundings.

"Why would Brackett blow his own base?"

"Either his need for revenge is stronger than his need for the plutonium, or he's just plain crazy."

Blair laughed humorlessly. "Like that was ever in doubt."

Jim moved toward what had once been the front of the building. The explosion had caved in the entire front room, destroying most of the functional base. He and Blair had been at the far end of the room, near the corridor where he had been held before, when the blast occurred. The initial force of the explosion had thrown them both forward into the relative safety of the corridor, the interior wall shielding them from the building's partial collapse.

He moved through the rubble, instructing Blair to follow closely. The remaining walls were beginning to crumble, large pieces of concrete continually succumbing to the call of gravity. By the time they had picked their way to safety, most of the structure lay in ruins.

The Chopec warriors who had accompanied them were waiting at the edge of the clearing, apparently having realized -- probably from the Chopec Sentinel -- that the two men from Cascade were okay and working their way through the debris. Jim briefly exchanged words with the Chopec Sentinel before turning back to his partner. Blair was holding a hand to his head, his eyes once again squeezed shut against the burgeoning headache.

"The Chopec said two men left from here right after the explosion. From the descriptions, one of them was Brackett. From what I can gather, he must have had some kind of remote he triggered as soon as we entered the building."

"Great." Blair lowered his hand and looked at his friend in disgust. "We walked right in, just like he wanted us to."

"I'm sorry, Chief." Jim looked sadly at his friend. "I thought I could trust him."

Blair stared at his partner. "Brackett? Why would you trust Brackett, Jim?"

Jim shook his head and looked off across the clearing. "Not Brackett. Simon."

Blair's eyes narrowed as he tried to understand the sentinel's meaning. "Simon? You mean Simon was here?"

Jim merely nodded, the pain of betrayal clouding his chiseled features. "He warned me about two men coming up behind us. Then he waved me into the building." He hesitated a moment before continuing softly. "Right before it exploded."

Blair shook his head, trying to put his conflicting thoughts into some kind of mental order. "How would Simon know we were here? I never told him. How could he know where to find us unless -- " His eyes went wide and he looked to Jim, seeing the confirmation of his conclusion in the sentinel's eyes. "Oh, God, Jim. It can't be true. Simon wouldn't betray us like this."

Jim just shrugged, his eyes taking on a look of defeat. "I want to believe that, Chief. But the Chopec saw him leave with Brackett."

"We have to talk to him, Jim. There has to be some logical explanation for all this."

Jim sighed and placed a hand on the shoulder of the one man he did trust. "I hope you're right."

Blair nodded and took a deep breath, comforted by the physical contact. "Now what?"

"Now, we find Brackett. He's on his own now, and he's running from whoever hired him to steal the plutonium, as well as the Feds."

Blair turned and looked back over the destroyed building. "I don't suppose any kind of communications equipment survived."

Jim squeezed his shoulder and smiled at his partner's ability to focus on the problem at hand. "There was a radio room back down the corridor. It may have been shielded from the blast, but it'll probably take some time to get to it. Do you have anyone in particular you want to reach out and touch?"

Blair grinned and shrugged." Not like we have much of a choice, but I figure Jack Kelso would be a good place to start."

"Jack. It's Blair." Blair spoke into the microphone, thankful his former colleague still maintained his short wave radio. He had shown it to Blair years ago, telling him that nobody ever really retired from the company, they simply moved on to another type of service. Blair had not wanted to know exactly what "type" of service Jack still performed for the government then, nor did he want to know now. He just hoped this service would be enough to help them.

"My God, Blair! Are you all right? I heard about Cosgrove. I guess I really messed up on that one. I'm sorry, kid. I had no idea he had gone bad."

"It's okay, Jack. We're fine." He stressed the word 'we', hoping Kelso would pick up on the reference.

"We? Good. I feel a lot better about your safety now."

Blair looked up at Jim and smiled. Jack understood. The fading light of day flickered across the sentinel's features, accentuating the dark circles under the man's eyes. Even with the help of the Chopec, it had taken them the better part of the day to unearth the communications gear. Now Jim looked as sore and tired as Blair felt.

"Jack," Jim bent down and spoke into the microphone. "What's the situation back there?"

There was a moment of static before Jack's voice returned. "Not too good. " The voice paused and static filled the air for a moment. "Your captain is missing."

Jim smiled grimly -- he had expected that.

"And I have a message for you from Lee Brackett."

Jim's eyebrows shot up. That he had not expected. "What's the message?"

"He says he wants to meet with you. He says he'll give you 24 hours to return to Cascade. After that, his hostage will die."

Jim furrowed his brow in confusion. "Hostage?"

Blair shrugged, his face showing his own lack of understanding. "I don't know who he could..." His voice trailed off as his brain supplied the only logical answer. "Simon." He looked up at Jim, his eyes wide with shock. "He has to mean Simon."

Jim nodded, having come to the same conclusion. He was as confused as ever at his captain's part in all this, but a part of him still refused to believe Simon would betray them despite all the evidence to the contrary. "What else did he say, Jack?"

"Not much." The voice was bathed in static, but the words were still decipherable. "I'm afraid I may be the cause of some of this. After I learned about Cosgrove from an old CIA connection, I informed your captain of Brackett's escape. I planned on sending someone to look for Blair and Banks insisted he go along. I know they arrived and had reached Brackett's compound, but since then there hasn't been any communication from them. If Brackett got to them..." His voice trailed off, obviously coming to the same conclusions as the Cascade cops. "I'm sorry, Blair. I guess I've been out of the game a little too long."

"This isn't your fault, Jack. You got me here, and I found what I was looking for." He looked up at Jim, letting the sentinel's presence fill him with renewed purpose. "Now it's up to us to take care of the rest."

Jim patted Blair's shoulder in agreement and leaned down again. "Jack, we're going to need some help. Can you find us a transport back to the U.S.?"

The ex-CIA agent's voice was suddenly all business. "I've already checked, hoping I'd hear from you soon. There's a plane leaving from Lima in four hours. Can you make it?"

"We'll make it."

The flight back to the States wasn't quite as bad as the flight to Peru, Blair decided. Maybe it was just because he had Jim for company rather than a bunch of crates. Jack had arranged for them to hop another cargo plane from Houston to Sacramento and had a private plane waiting to transport them the rest of the way to Cascade. One of these days, Blair was going to sit down and ask Jack Kelso exactly how he was able to work his magic. On the other hand, maybe it was better if he didn't know.

It was past dusk by the time they returned, less than two hours before Brackett's deadline. Jack Kelso met them at the airstrip himself and ushered them into a waiting van. As soon as Kelso had swung himself into the rear of the van and pulled his folding wheelchair behind him, the vehicle pulled away from the small private airstrip and began to make its way toward Cascade.

"Thanks for all your help, Jack." Blair shook his friend's hand.

Jack smiled warmly, grasping Blair's hand firmly between both of his own. "I'm glad you're all right, Blair." He looked across the van at Jim and amended his statement. "Both of you. I just wish things hadn't gotten so messed up."

"Lee Brackett has a way of doing that." Jim smiled reassuringly. He knew Kelso had great affection for Sandburg and was certain the man had done all he could to help. He was grateful to Kelso for being there for Blair when the young man wasn't sure who to trust. "Where does he want to meet?"

"He instructed me to take you to the docks. He said to meet him near the end of Pier 11." Jack looked from Blair to Jim, his mouth set in a grim line. "I don't like this. You'll be too exposed."

Jim nodded his agreement. "I know, but right now he's holding all the cards."

"Maybe we should call Major Crime," Blair suggested.

Jim shook his head. "We can't risk it, Chief. If Brackett has Simon, he wouldn't hesitate to kill him at the first sign of trouble."

"I know that, Jim. But I was talking about Jennifer's murder. You're still a wanted man. Maybe if we explain what's going on to Joel, he'll be able to shift the investigation in a different direction -- and find some real evidence to connect Brackett." He smiled at the surprise he saw in his partner's eyes.

"I appreciate the thought, Chief, but that is the least of our worries right now."

"I know you're worried about Simon, Jim. So am I. And we need to concentrate on finding Brackett and beating him at whatever sick little game he has planned. I just think that would be a lot easier if we didn't have the rest of the Cascade P.D. breathing down our necks. Maybe if we get his name at the top of the list, it'll make it a little hotter for him and give us some kind of edge. I'd really feel better knowing Joel had the whole story so he could start working at clearing your name."

Jim seemed to consider the statement before nodding. "I guess it couldn't hurt, Chief. Besides, that's not something I'd want on my tombstone."

Blair smiled and shook his head, accepting the cell phone Jack handed him. "No. I'm sure you'd prefer your Tombstone with sausage and pepperoni."

Continue on to Act II...

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This page last updated 9/27/00.