Obsession: Part 1

By: Kathy

NOTE: Set after "The Sentinel Too Part 2" but before "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg"

I'm going to discover all of his secrets. What it is that makes him so special. It's more than just his appearance. There's something different about him, something that sets him apart from everyone else. And no matter how long it takes or what I have to do, by the time I'm finished I'll know everything about him. All of his hopes, his desires, his fears and his innermost thoughts will be revealed to me. I won't stop until I've seen his soul. And after I've laid him bare, totally naked and exposed to me, I'll extract all that I want from him.

I know it will be difficult. He's a fighter. His spirit is strong. But then again, that's part of the fun. Breaking his spirit, breaking him. The thrill and the ecstasy of my victory, my dominance over him, will make any struggle worthwhile. And I can tell that watching his agony will be a truly beautiful experience. Each cry, each pain filled moan, each tear will be total rapture. His suffering will be exquisite and I will relish every second of it.

Soon it will be time and I'll make my move against him. Soon, but not yet. The time isn't right yet. But I'm patient. For now I'm content to watch. Admiring his beauty, his... his light from afar. It's hard, though. It's painful being so close to him yet being unable to touch him. I long to feel his life force, to soak in his essence, to bask in his light.

I thought that I would make my move this morning, but he didn't come out alone. That interfering, irritating roommate was with him again. I think his roommate knows, or at least suspects, how special he is and because of this the man keeps a constant guard, an unrelenting vigil. But I won't be stopped. I won't be deterred. I will take what I want and no one will stand in my way.

Watching as they get in the truck and drive away, I make no move to follow them. There's no need for it. As long as the other is around, I know that I'll never be allowed to get close to him. I hadn't planned on killing his friend, but it may become necessary. Lately, it seems as if the other is aware of my presence. I've come to realize that the secrets I wish to learn may be tied to the other.

It doesn't matter. Whatever connection they may have will stand no chance against me. If the other tries to prevent me from acquiring what I want, I'll deal with the interference. Nothing will stop me. I am unbeatable and I always get what I want.

His face flashes through my mind and any hostility instantly melts away. Anticipation begins to pulse through me. Brutally, I shove it aside. Now isn't the time for it. There are still preparations that need to be made. When I finally do manage to possess him, I want to be ready. With him, I don't want to make any mistakes. With him, everything has to be perfection. He deserves no less.

The picture on the seat next to me beckons, demanding my attention. Picking it up, I trace the face imprinted on it. It portrays only a fraction of his beauty, unable to capture the full impact of his essence. "Soon, Blair. Soon you will be mine."

 

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Oblivious to the scrutiny he had been receiving, Blair immediately started to dig in his backpack as Jim started the truck and began to drive them to the station. Feeling more than seeing the sudden shivers that racked Jim's body, Blair looked up and asked, "What's the matter?"

"Nothing, Sandburg. I just had a chill is all."

"Yeah right. This from the guy that refuses to sleep in anything more than a pair of boxers even when it's twenty below outside? I don't think so. What's up?"

"I just..." Jim began.

"Yeah?"

"Haven't you noticed anything a little... well a little off lately?"

Confused, Blair asked, "What do you mean by off?"

"I don't know," Jim replied. Frustrated, he sighed, "It's just... Lately, I've just felt like there's something... something... off. I don't know. I can't explain it."

Pursing his lips, Blair stared at Jim for a while before responding. "Maybe we should skip going into the station today and just go back home, try to figure out what's bothering you. I mean, you shouldn't be out on the streets if you're distracted like this."

"Who said I'm distracted?" Jim asked. "Whatever it is, I'll handle it. It's not a problem."

"But..."

"I said it's not a problem," Jim interrupted.

"It is a problem," Blair insisted.

"It's nothing that I can't deal with."

"On your own, you mean?" Blair asked. Interpreting Jim's lack of response as assent, Blair continued, "I thought you weren't going to do this anymore, Jim. I thought things would be different after everything that happened with..."

"Happened with what?" Jim asked when Blair became silent.

"You know what." Came the soft response.

"Yeah, I do," Jim agreed. "Look, Chief, I know that we agreed to talk about stuff like this. God knows I don't ever want a repeat of what happened before. The image of you lying there..."

Pulling into a parking lot, Jim turned off the truck before continuing. "I didn't want you to have to deal with something like that again. I didn't want to have to deal with something like that again."

"Then talk to me this time. Tell me what's going on with you."

"What I've been feeling, it reminds me of... it's like...," Struggling to get the words out, Jim continued, "It's similar to what I felt when Alex Barnes was around."

Stunned, Blair inquired, "Are you telling me that there's another Sentinel in Cascade?"

"No," Jim answered. "At least I don't think so. The feeling, it's different this time."

"Different how?"

"I don't know," Jim yelled. "It just is. It's... It's..."

"Relax, Jim," Blair instructed. "Let's just go back to the loft and talk this out."

"What? No, Sandburg," Jim replied. "I can't deal with this right now, okay? Let's just wait until tonight, maybe the feeling will go away by then."

 "Or maybe I'll wind up dead by then," Blair countered.

"Sandburg..."

"Please, Jim," Blair pleaded. "Don't shut me out this time. I don't... I can't deal with that again."

"I'm not shutting you out," Jim insisted. "But I just need some time. I need to... to just gather my thoughts, okay? These feelings, they're so hard to put into words. It's hard to say it without upsetting you. The last thing I want to do is hurt you again, Chief."

"It's okay, Jim. Whatever you have to say, I can deal with it." Pausing, Blair hesitantly continued, "And if you need some space again, need me to... to leave again, then I'll go."

After taking several deep breaths, Jim stated, "I don't want you to leave, Sandburg. It's like I told you, the feeling is different this time. Instead of pushing you away, this time I want... I need..."

"What?" Blair asked, unable to make out Jim's words as the older man mumbled the rest of what he had been saying. "I didn't catch that, Jim. What did you say?"

"I... Well, what I mean is... Aw hell, Chief, this time I feel like I don't want to let you out of my sight."

"Is that why you've insisted on taking me wherever I've needed to go since the Volvo quit running?" Blair asked.

"Um... You see, Sandburg, it's a funny thing about that classic of yours."

Suspicious, Blair asked, "What exactly is funny about the Volvo dying, Jim."

"Well, it's like this... I kind of... Um..."

"What did you do, Jim?"

"Nothing that can't be fixed," Jim admitted. "Well, nothing that can't be fixed eventually."

"I can't believe you," Blair exclaimed. "Are you telling me that you killed the Volvo? Oh man, that's... I can't believe you."

"What was I supposed to do, Sandburg?" Jim asked. "Just walk up and say, 'Hey, Chief, remember when I went slightly nuts and kicked you out of the loft and you wound up dead? Well, it's happening again. Except this time my skin starts to crawl whenever you're out of my sight for longer than five minutes.'"

"Yes! That's exactly what I would have expected you to do."

"Yeah, right," Jim sarcastically responded.

"Call Simon and tell him that we're not coming in today, Jim," Blair ordered.

"Sandburg..." Trailing off when he saw the glare Blair directed his way, Jim picked up his phone and punched in Simon's number. "Simon, Sandburg and I won't be coming in today. Something's come up. What? No. Look, Simon..." After silently listening for several seconds, Jim responded, "Fine, we'll be there in a few minutes."

Watching as Jim ended the call, Blair inquired, "Jim?"

"We have to go in, Sandburg," Jim replied. "Simon's got a case for us and he says it can't wait."

"What kind of case?"

"I don't know," Jim answered. "He said that he'd fill us in when we get to the station."

"Fine," Blair relented. "But as soon as possible we're out of there, understand?" Crossing his arms, Blair turned to stare out the window.

Staring at Blair for a few seconds longer, Jim shuddered violently once again. Clenching his jaw, he tried to push aside the sudden feelings threatening to overwhelm him; tried to push aside the feelings of fear for his partner and anger towards the unknown presence that had invaded his territory. Ignoring the slight tremors in his hands, Jim started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot.

 

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Walking into the bullpen, Jim and Blair were greeted with Simon's bellowed, "My office now."

Striding over to the captain's office, Jim came to a halt when he caught sight of the two men inside. Jarred slightly when Blair bumped into his back, Jim reached back a hand to steady his partner. Ignoring Blair's soft grunt, Jim asked, "What's going on, Simon?"

Simon started to reply but paused when he saw the intense gaze Jim was directing at the other two men. Brow furrowed, he inquired, "Is there a problem here, Detective?"

"No, Sir," Jim answered. "I'd just like to know what's going on."

"Well, if you'll get in here then I'll be glad to fill you in." When Jim still didn't budge from the doorway, he ordered, "Get in here now, Jim, and shut the door behind you."

Squeezing around Jim, Blair managed to avoid the restraining grip that Jim directed his way as he entered into the office. "Hey, Simon," he greeted.

"Sandburg."

Shrugging his shoulders at Simon's questioning look, Blair went to take a seat at the table.

Watching as Jim finally moved away from the doorway and walked over to stand behind Blair, Simon wondered what was going on with his friends. Taking in Jim's rather protective stance, Simon shook his head and tried to ignore his feelings of uneasiness.

Suddenly doubting his decision to involve Jim and Blair with this investigation, Simon warily approached the table. Indication the two seated strangers, Simon announced, "This is Agent Mark Boone and his partner Tom Allen. For the past five months, they've been on the trail of a serial killer. A serial killer who they now believe to be in Cascade."

Calm and detached appearance betrayed by a slight quiver in his voice, Jim asked, "Why do they think this killer is here?"

"Because, Detective Ellison," Agent Boone answered, "like your captain said my partner and I have tracking this guy and he's left a trail of bodies leading straight to Cascade." When Jim seemed as if he were going to reply, Agent Boone continued, "Please just take a seat and let me explain."

"I don't..." Jim began.

"Look," Boone interrupted, "each time we get close to nailing this guy, he somehow manages to give up the slip. For some reason, he's come to Cascade now and we need your help."

"Our help?" Jim asked. "Since when do you Feds ever ask for our help?"

"Since we want this guy stopped," Boone exclaimed. "Look, Detective, I know a little bit about your past dealings with other agents. I realize that you've got no reason to trust us. But believe me, we'll do whatever it takes to get this guy. No over-inflated egos and no jurisdiction bull will get in the way."

"Jim," Simon spoke up when the agent fell silent, "I've checked them out. Thoroughly. They're on the level. Believe me, I don't want any repeats of what happened the last time."

"You mean the Lash case?" Agent Allen inquired. Attention drawn to Blair when he noticed the other man's sharp intake of breath, Allen added, "The nutcase who managed to infiltrate your department? Look, we've confirmed our identity both with Captain Banks and your police commissioner. So I don't appreciate this attitude."

"Tom," Agent Boone hissed, "that's enough. It's understandable that they'd be a little cautious here."

"They sure weren't too cautious last time," Allen countered. "I mean, how screwed-up is that? What kind of department are you running here that someone like Lash could gain such easy access both here and to the case?"

"I SAID that's enough," Boone admonished. Addressing Jim and Blair, Boone added, "Look, you have to understand that this case has been rough on both myself and my partner. This... This lunatic has left a trail of ten bodies in his wake; a trail which we've been following for the past five months."

"And I'm asking again," Jim said, "what makes you think this guy is here in Cascade?"

"Will you help us?" Boone asked. "I know that your captain can order your involvement with this case, but I don't want this to be something you're forced to do. If we're constantly battling against each other, no body will get any work done. I really want you on this investigation. But it won't work unless there's cooperation." Glancing at his partner, Boone added, "Cooperation on all of our parts."

In the silence that followed, Blair spoke up. "You've got ours."

"Sandburg."

Ignoring the warning tone in Jim's voice, Blair asked, "Do you have any idea how long this guy has been in Cascade?"

After glancing at Simon and Jim, Boone answered, "Our best estimate puts it at three weeks."

"Funny," Blair mused as he glanced up at Jim, "that's about the same time my car died."

Avoiding Blair's eyes, Jim sighed then sunk down into the chair next to his partner. "Tell us what you know."

Reaching into a briefcase, Boone pulled out three folders and handed them to Simon, Jim and Blair. "As I said, we've been tracking this guy for the past five months."

"Are you sure it's a guy?" Blair asked.

Exchanging a glance with Allen, Boone confessed, "No, we're not. Truthfully, we have no indication as to whether the killer is a male or female. However, statistically speaking, odds are we are indeed looking for a man."

"But you're not sure," Blair persisted.

"No, we're not," Boone replied.

"That makes our job just a little bit more difficult then, doesn't it?" Jim sarcastically observed.

"Jim," Simon warned.

"What?" Jim asked. "It's not like you're not thinking the same thing."

"Jim, man, why don't we just let the guy talk, okay?" Blair requested.

Scowling, Jim replied, "Did I say I wouldn't listen to the guy? I'll listen. But I do think it's kind of strange that they don't even have any idea if this lunatic is a man or a woman." Leaning forward, Jim locked gazes with Allen and smirked, "I mean, how screwed-up is that?"

Placing his hand on Jim's back, Blair murmured, "Back off, Jim."

Shrugging his shoulders, Jim dislodged Blair's hand then leaned back. "Talk," he ordered.

Clearing his throat, Boone gestured towards the folders lying on the table. "If you're just take a look through the material in the folders, I'll tell you what we do know." Watching as the three men opened their folders, Boone began his explanation. "So far, the killer seems to be following a pattern. For the past five months, a body has turned up every two weeks."

Interrupting the agent, Blair asked, "Exactly two weeks pass between killings? The pattern is always the same, no variation?"

"That's right," Boone confirmed.

Seeing the look of concentration on Blair's face, Simon asked, "What is it, Sandburg?"

"Well," Blair replied, "if these guys are right and the killer has been here for three weeks then why hasn't a body turned up? I mean there hasn't been a killing matching this guy's MO has there?"

"I'm having Brown and Rafe check on that right now," Simon answered.

"Wait a minute," Jim demanded, "if these jokers have know that this killer has been here for the past three weeks, why are we just now hearing about it? Why didn't they come to us sooner? What kind of game are you two playing here?"

"We're not playing any kind of game, Detective," Boone insisted. "The three week time frame is just an estimate based on the established method of operation. Or at least what we know of it."

"This is just great," Jim declared with a scornful chuckle. "You guys really don't know anything about this psycho, do you? Do you even know if these killings are related? I mean, are we even dealing with a serial killer situation here? How can you even be sure that these deaths are connected? Maybe they were all just random killing."

"These killings are connected," Boone insisted. "They were all done by the same person."

"Yeah, right," scoffed Jim.

"That's enough, Jim," Simon admonished.

"We are looking at a serial killer situation here," Boone declared. "These people were all killed in the same way."

"How?" Jim asked.

Before the agent could answer all eyes turned to Blair as he suddenly gasped. Looking up from the file he had been reading, Blair said, "Jim, you have to see this."

Concerned by the sudden spike in Blair's heartbeat and respiration, Jim asked, "What is it, Chief?"

Pushing the file towards Jim, Blair replied, "Just read it."

Grabbing the file, Jim spared Blair one more penetrating look and sensory scan before turning his attention to the file. Clenching his jaw as he read what had upset his partner, Jim closed his eyes briefly before turning to lock gazes with Blair.

Having already read the report prior to Jim and Blair's arrival, Simon asked, "What is it, Jim? I know it's rather gruesome, but we've seen worse before."

"Simon, you've already read this?" Blair asked.

Puzzled, Simon replied, "Yeah."

"You read what this... this... perverted son of a bitch did?" Blair persisted.

Becoming irritated, Simon responded, "I already told you that I did."

"It's what he did before he killed them," Jim stated.

"What? I don't understand..." Trailing off as everything finally clicked, Simon whispered, "Oh my God."

Rubbing a hand over his face, Jim recited what he had read. "Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands. All of them were mutilated. Before he killed them he... he destroyed their senses."

"That's right," Boone confirmed. "And we have no idea as to why. Even our best profilers have been unable to come up with an explanation for this type of mutilation." Feeling the increased tension in the room, Boone asked, "Does it mean something to any of you? Do you know of any significance to these wounds?"

"No," Jim answered. "The... the uniqueness of the mutilation just kind of threw us for a moment." Seeing the disbelief in Boone's expression, Jim added, "You have to admit, this isn't your typical MO. Odds are nobody will be able to figure out the reasoning behind it. The only person who knows what motivates this behavior is the killer. And until we catch him and can question him about it, we'll just be wasting our time trying. We need to focus our attention on finding this guy. Any attempting at understanding the reasoning behind his behavior can wait."

"Are you insane or just plain stupid," Allen yelled. "Figuring out this guy's motive won't in any way hinder our pursuit. On the contrary, it'll serve to help us catch him sooner. We need to focus on the motive because it's our best shot at finding this guy and stopping him."

"You've been trying to figure out this guy's motive for the past five months," Jim yelled back. "And the only thing you've come up with so far is ten dead bodies. I'll help with this case, but I'll conduct my investigation the way I think is best. So instead of sitting on my ass trying to get inside this guy's head, I'm going to be doing what you two should have been doing all along. I'm going to be out finding clues and following up on any and all leads. It's a little something referred to as detective work. Maybe you two know have heard about it before, though I seriously doubt it."

"Why you son of a..." Allen began.

"Enough," Simon bellowed, effectively cutting Allen off. "That's enough," Simon continued in a lowered tone. "Boone, Allen why don't you two go check in with Detectives Brown and Rafe, see if they've discovered anything. Meanwhile, Ellison and Sandburg can review the case file, see if they can find something that may lead to our killer."

"Captain," Boone replied, "perhaps it would be best if Agent Allen went to check in with your other detectives while I stay here and bring Ellison and Sandburg up to speed on this case. That way I can answer any questions that they may have."

Seeing Jim's slight nod, Simon agreed, "Fine. Since I've already reviewed the file, I'll take Agent Allen to see Brown and Rafe; I want to see what they found out anyway. Jim, you and Sandburg take Agent Boone to one of the conference rooms so that he can fill you in."

Turning to Boone, Allen started to protest, "Mark..."

"Go on," Boone insisted. "This way, we won't be wasting any time. You can go on and get the investigation underway while I fill them in."

"All right," Allen relented, though his tone clearly conveyed disapproval over the arrangement.

While Blair gathered up the files that Boone had distributed, Jim stood and said, "We'll be in the conference room at the end of the hall, Simon."

Nodding his approval, Simon escorted Allen out of the room.

Standing after the two men had left, Blair clutched the files in his hands and said, "I'm all set, Jim."

"Then let's go," Jim responded.

Walking over to the door, Jim stood in the doorway and gestured for Blair to precede him out of the room. Ignoring the whispered, "play nice," uttered as his partner passed by him, Jim turned to glare at Boone.

Noticing the attention directed at him, Boone looked up at Jim. "Like I said, Detective, I just want to stop this guy before he kills anyone else. I'm not here to further my career or to make a name for myself. My sole objective is to catch a killer."

Jim simply turned and followed after Blair.

Sighing, Boone hurriedly stuffed the rest of his papers in his briefcase then hurried to catch up with Jim and Blair. Arriving in the hallway just in time to see the two men enter a room at the end of the hall, Boone tightened his grip on his briefcase as he made his own way down the hallway. Entering the room that Jim and Blair had gone into, he crossed over to the table. As he sat down across from the two men, he asked, "Ready to get started?"

"Tell us what you've got," Jim responded.

"As I said, the first body was found five months ago." Taking the papers out of his briefcase once again, Boone passed a picture across the table to Jim. "This is Joanna Thompson. She was a paramedic in Albany, New York. Shortly before her death she was involved in the rescue of two children who were trapped inside a burning car. Evidently they were out shopping with their mother when a drunk driver ran a red light and crashed into them. When rescue workers arrived at the scene, there was no indication that anyone was alive in the car but Ms. Thompson insisted that she heard voices inside the burning vehicle. Ignoring orders to stay back, she rushed over to the car and somehow managed to extract the two children from the backseat of the car; the mother, however, was killed instantly. Seven days later she turned up dead."

After studying the picture of Ms. Thompson, Jim passed it over to Blair. Alerted by Blair's quick intake of breath, he turned to look at his partner.

Blair simply passed the picture back to Boone. "What about the next one?"

Pushing another picture over to Jim, Boone stated, "Douglas Carter from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a police officer and shortly before his death he came to the public's attention when he rescued a fellow officer. Evidently, the other officer was pinned down by sniper fire and Officer Carter somehow took out the shooter. It was a seemingly impossible shot because the sniper was on top of a five-story building situated a half a block away. Three days later he turned up dead."

Once again, Jim studied the picture before passing it on to Blair.

Picking up the picture, Blair took a look then closed his eyes for a second. "Who's next?"

"Michael Warren, a firefighter from Atlanta, Georgia." Again passing a picture to Jim, Boone continued, "He was off-duty and out for a walk with his family when he apparently smelled smoke. None of his family noticed anything out of the ordinary but suddenly Mr. Warren took off running. It turns out that a nearby home was on fire. Evidently, a child had gotten hold of a lighter and inadvertently lit some curtains on fire. Thankfully, Mr. Warren was able to alert the homeowners before the blaze got out of control. Ten days later he turned up dead."

The same motions were again repeated as the picture made it's rounds from Jim to Blair and then back to Agent Boone again. "Keep going," Jim ordered.

"The killer next struck in Little Rock, Arkansas." Passing the next picture over to Jim, Boone said, "Martha Stephens was part of a Search and Rescue unit. She and a group of her friends had gone out exploring some caves when she ordered some of her companions to go back to town and alert the authorities that there were some people trapped somewhere in the cave. When the authorities arrived, they were quite skeptical because nobody had been reported missing. Only Ms. Stephens' position on the S&R team allowed the search to continue. After several hours, the rescue workers finally stumbled upon three teenagers who had been conducting an unauthorized exploration of some off-limit areas of the caves. They had lost their bearings and couldn't find the way back out. Had Ms. Stephens not insisted on the search continuing, odds are that those kids would have never been found and died in those caves. Six days later she turned up dead."

While accepting the picture of Ms. Stephens from Blair with one hand, Boone passed another picture to Jim with his other hand. "The fifth victim was Mrs. Colleen Tucker. She was an emergency room physician. When she was on duty one night an unconscious man was brought into the ER. No one was able to make a diagnosis until Dr. Tucker took a look at the patient. In the course of her examination, she somehow detected a ruptured appendix by touch alone. Despite some rather understandable doubt from her colleagues, she was able to rush him up to X-Ray where the diagnosis was confirmed. If the operation had been delayed any longer, the man would have died. Eight days later she turned up dead."

Shivering slightly as he took the picture of Mrs. Tucker from Jim, Blair murmured, "Colleen Hughes."

"What?" Boone asked.

"Nothing," Blair said as he handed the picture to the agent. "Do you guys think we could take a break now? I could use a dose of caffeine."

"Sure," Jim answered. "Why don't I go to the break room and see what I can scrounge up?"

"That's all right, Jim," Blair replied. "I'll go. I need to stretch my legs anyway. How do you take your coffee, Agent Boone?"

"First off, it's just Mark okay?" Seeing Blair's slight smile and nod, the agent said, "I take mine with two sugars."

Standing up, Blair responded, "Okay."

After Blair had left the room, Boone turned to Jim and asked, "So where's the restroom in the place?"

"At the other end of the hall, near the elevators," Jim answered.

"Thanks," Boone replied. "Be right back."

Watching the agent leave, Jim reviewed Blair's response to each of the pictures. Taking into account Blair's increasingly elevated vital signs and the slight tremors racking his partner's body, Jim came to only one conclusion. Coming out of the self-induced mini-zone he had fallen into, Jim startled when he heard a knock on the door. Doing a quick scan of the hallway, he detected Blair out in the hallway. Walking over, Jim opened the door and barely managed to grab two of the coffees before they fell to the floor. Standing aside to allow Blair to enter the room, Jim waited until Blair had taken a seat before asking, "You want to tell me?"

"Tell you what?" Blair asked.

Coming over to stand besides Blair, Jim placed the cups on the table then leaned over to look Blair in the eyes. "Where you met these people and exactly how long you knew them before they wound up dead?"

Before Blair could say anything, Agent Boone returned to the room. Walking over to the table, he asked, "Which one is mine?" Nodding his thanks when Blair handed him one of the cups, Boone walked over and reclaimed his seat at the table. "Ready to get started again?"

Never taking his eyes off of Blair, Jim replied, "Whenever you are." Finally moving away when Blair turned away, Jim sat down and picked up one of the cups. Taking a sip, he grimaced and said, "This one's yours, Chief." Setting down the cup he held, Jim picked up the other and took a sip of it. "Aah. That's much better." Seeing Boone looking their way, Jim explained, "He takes his black but me, I gotta have cream and sugar."

Smiling, Boone said, "I know what you mean, my partner refuses to drink the stuff unless it's half coffee, half cream. One time I accidentally got a hold of his. Believe me, that was the last time I made that mistake."

Taking note that Blair's previously racing heartbeat had slowed to a more normal rate during his and Agent Boone's brief chat, Jim turned their talk back to the case. "You didn't tell us where Colleen Tucker was from."

"She was from..."

"Dallas, Texas," Blair supplied before the agent had a chance to finish.

"Yes, she was," Boone confirmed. "How did you know that?"

Nervously, Blair ran a hand through his hair. "Oh, well, I read it in my copy of the report that you gave Jim and I in Sim... um... Captain Banks' office. You know, when Jim and Agent Allen were having that little... discussion about how the case should be handled."

Cutting in when Boone appeared about ready to say something, Jim said, "Well then let's move on to the next one."

"Yes, well, the next victim was Marcus Taylor and he with the Sheriff's Department in Albuquerque, New Mexico." Withdrawing another of the now familiar pictures from his briefcase, Boone continued as he passed it over to Jim. "One day he was on patrol and, while passing by an elementary school, he suddenly stopped his car and ran over to where a group of children were having recess out on the playground. For some reason, he proceeded to approach a child who had been crawling around some bushes and poking a stick in between the branches. After ordering the teacher to take the students inside, he called animal control to the site. Surprised the hell out of them when they discovered the rattlesnake den under the bush. Nine days later he turned up dead."

When Blair looked up to pass the picture back to Boone, he found himself under close scrutiny by the agent. An attempt to take a sip of coffee was hindered by the tremors in his hands, so Blair merely asked, "And the next one?"

Turning his attention away from Blair, Boone accepted the picture and withdrew another one. "Daniel Purcell from Aspen, Colorado. He worked for a ski lodge, patrolled the slopes. One day, he insisted that the skiers had to come down off of the slopes and that the lodge had to be evacuated immediately. He said that he could feel tremors in the ground. The guy had grown up in the area and had an impeccable reputation and that's the only reason his warning was given any credence. Thirty minutes after the last of the guests and employees were evacuated the lodge was completely obliterated in an avalanche. Eleven days later he turned up dead."

Again Agent Boone gave Blair an intense, searching look as he accepted the picture back. Pulling out the next picture, he passed it over to Jim. "Victim number eight was Jane Henderson and she lived in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked as a building inspector for the city. On a routine inspection of a new constructed shopping center, she noticed several violations. However, when the building owner filled a report siting unsubstantiated allegations no other inspectors could see the violations reported by Ms. Henderson. Since Ms. Henderson persisted in her belief that the building was unsafe, the opening was delayed until a hearing could be conducted. Before the court date occurred, a section of the shopping center collapsed on the very day the Grand Opening would have occurred. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that the owner of the construction company and the owner of the building has been involved in a scheme to use substandard materials and then pocket the extra money. Four days later she turned up dead."

Remembering a similar scheme involving the renovations of a racetrack, which had been concocted by one of his brother's business associates, Jim silently passed the picture on to Blair.

Caught up in his own thoughts, Blair didn't bother to look at Boone as he glanced at the picture before passing it back to the agent.

Clearing his throat to get Jim and Blair's attention, Boone handed Jim another picture and said, "The next victim was Jack Anderson and he lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a retired marine who taught self-defense classes at a local college. During one class, he rushed from the room without explanation. Several students followed after him as he ran down three flights of stairs and continued on over to a closet at the end of the hallway. After breaking down the door, he went inside and a few moments later another gentlemen came flying through the doorway and crashed into the wall opposite the closet. The students were further shocked when Mr. Anderson re-emerged from the closet with a distraught young woman. The police were called and the young woman's assailant was arrested on charges of attempted rape. Mr. Anderson received an award for his heroism. Nine days later he turned up dead."

Accepting the picture back from Blair, Boone asked, "You were in the military weren't you, Detective Ellison?"

"Yeah," Jim replied. "I was a Ranger."

"That's interesting," Boone observed as he pulled out another picture and passed it over to Jim. "Our last victim was named Brenda Wilson and she lived in Sacramento, California. She was a caseworker with the Department of Social Services. One day, she was conducting a seemingly routine visit to a group home for runaways. After the visit she submitted a request for a more thorough investigation, a request which necessitated that the household undergo a complete examination. It took two days and repeated questioning before the man running the home finally confessed. A confession that led to the discovery of several bodies buried in the basement. Seems the guy was abusing the kids in his care. Sometimes, he got a little bit carried away and a kid would wind up dead. Nobody ever suspected anything because they just assumed that the kids had ran away again. The guy was arrested and the home was shut down. Twelve days later she turned up dead."

"Well, there you have it gentlemen, all ten victims. All seemingly unrelated to each other. No common element between them," Boone stated while accepting the final picture back from Blair. "Well, except for the fact that they were all brought to the public's notice a few days before their death. That attention resulting from rather unusual, somewhat inexplicable, acts of valor. Each of them was responsible for preventing almost certain deaths that would have occurred had they not noticed something was amiss. However, the one thing we haven't been able to explain is how they were able to notice that something was wrong. In each instance, they seemed able to detect or accomplish something that no one else could have."

"But why do you think this guy is in Cascade now?" Jim asked again.

Pulling out a newspaper from his briefcase, Boone tossed it onto the table and stated, "Because of this."

After glancing down at the paper, Jim glared at Boone, "You son of a bitch!"

"Jim, what is it?" Frustrated when Jim blocked his attempt to grab the paper, Blair demanded, "Let me see it."

"Blair..."

"Give it to me, Jim."

Closing his eyes briefly, Jim clenched his jaw and pushed the paper over to Blair.

Glancing between Jim and Boone, Blair pulled the paper over. Looking down at the headline, he gasped and then read it out loud. "'Man Drowned in Rainier Fountain'." Skimming the article, he noticed a quote from one of the paramedics that had been at the university that day.

"A very interesting article," Boone observed. "I found the paramedic's statements to be quite enlightening. Tell me, Detective, how is it that you knew Mr. Sandburg was still alive. By all appearance, he was dead and had been for a while. Yet despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite the protests of the paramedics, your captain, and your fellow detectives, you continued efforts to revive your partner. How is it that you knew he was still alive when everything else, including the paramedics and all their equipment, contradicted that your belief."

When neither man responded, Boone continued, "So you see, Detective, you are like all of the killer's other victims. Whatever his reasoning behind the killings, you fit the profile by which he chooses his victims. I believe he'll go after you next, and when he does I'm going to be there to take his down once and for all."

"Get the hell out of here," Jim growled. When Boone hesitated, Jim yelled, "NOW!"

"Fine, for now I'll leave you to your discussion of the case," Boone conceded. "But, gentlemen," he added as he gathered his papers, "we will be talking about this little fountain incident again."

After Boone left the room, Jim grabbed the newspaper away from Blair and ripped it the shreds.

"Jim..."

"Not now, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "The only thing I want to hear from you is how you knew these victims."

"Jim, I..."

"Don't even try it, Sandburg," Jim warned. "I was keeping track of your vital signs throughout the whole thing. I KNOW that you were familiar with all of the victims, you knew all of them!"

"Gee, Jim, why don't you say that a little bit louder," Blair sarcastically replied, "I don't think the guys down in the garage heard you."

"Sandburg."

"I'll tell you, Jim," Blair asserted. "But I really don't think that this conversation should take place here. That is unless you want to risk those federal agents hearing all about enhanced senses and Sentinels."

"All right," Jim agreed. "I'll go talk with Simon, tell him that we're taking the case file back to the loft to go over everything."

"Will he go for that?"

"He will," Jim insisted. "Unless he wants to tell the F.B.I why two of its men wound up accidentally falling out of a seven story window."

"Jim..."

"Just stay here and get these files together," Jim ordered. "I'll go clear things with Simon."

"Jim, when I explain everything, Simon should be there too," Blair stated. "If this killer is in Cascade, then Boone is right when he says that you'd be a target."

Nodding, Jim walked over to the door. Reaching for the doorknob, he paused and said, "Sandburg, you do realize that there's a very good possibility that Boone will link these victims to you. I mean, wouldn't it be likely that someone who knew them also knew about their involvement with you?"

"Yeah, I guess," Blair replied. "But I... Wait a minute. C'mon, Jim, you can't seriously think that I... Jim, I didn't have anything to do with these deaths. You have got to know that."

"I know that, Sandburg. I never thought that you did. Not for an instant." Jim declared. "But the feds, however, are another matter. Plus, there's a chance that the killer knows about your involvement with his victims. So either of us could be the guy's next target."

"But I don't fit the profile," Blair protested. "This guy is targeting people with enhanced senses and since I don't have any, that puts me out of the running."

"Then explain to me why I've been feeling this overwhelming need to keep you close lately," Jim responded. "I'll tell you why, it's because somehow I sensed that this guy was in Cascade and, for some reason, I know that he's going to come after you."

"Or maybe it's because you know that he's going to come after you and you know that in order to beat this guy you're going to need my help," Blair argued.

"We're not going to get anything settled right now. We'll talk about this some more at the loft, after you've filled me in on your history with the victims. For now, just stay here until I get back." Opening the door, Jim said, "I'm gonna go talk with Simon and then we're out of here."

"Fine," Blair replied as Jim left the room. After watching the door shut behind Jim, he began to collect the papers scattered across the table.

After leaving the conference room, Jim went directly to Simon's office. Seeing the captain was inside, he knocked then entered the room.

"Jim," Simon greeted. "Did Agent Boone fill you and Sandburg in?"

"Yeah he did," Jim replied, "right before he whipped out a newspaper with an article concerning Blair's drowning."

"WHAT?"

"That's right," Jim confirmed. "Then the arrogant son of a bitch went on to say that I was going to be this psycho's next target."

"Shit," Simon exclaimed. "Do I even want to ask how Sandburg is handling this whole thing?"

"Well, here's the thing," Jim responded, "you see, Sandburg..."

"Sandburg what?" Simon asked.

"Knew all of the victims."

"Would you mind repeating that?" Simon requested. "On second thought, never mind. Tell me something, Jim, how does he do it?"

"How does who do what, Sir?"

"That partner of yours," Simon answered. "How is it that he always seems to wind up right in the middle of just about every single case? Between the two of you, I don't know which one has the most tendency for finding trouble."

"Simon..."

Holding up his hand, Simon asked, "Don't, okay?" Sighing, he added, "But there's more to it than just Sandburg's prior association with the victims, isn't there?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

 

"Oh come off it, Jim," Simon growled. "I saw the way you were acting earlier. You looked about ready to tear those agents to shreds. Not to mention the way you were hovering over Sandburg. What's really going on here?"

"I can't get into it here, Simon," Jim replied. "Blair and I want to go back to the loft now. We've got a lot to discuss and we don't want to risk being overheard by those so-called agents."

"And exactly how am I going to explain your disappearance to those guys?"

"Just tell them we've got to wrap up another case before we start investigation this one or something," Jim replied.

"All right," Simon agreed. "I'll do my usual song and dance routine. Lord knows I've gotten enough practice over the past couple of years trying to explain your antics to the brass. Go get Sandburg and get out of here."

"Thank you, Sir," Jim replied. "But there's just one more little thing."

"Are you trying to get me to retire?" Simon asked.

Grinning, Jim answered, "Of course not, Sir. After all, what other captain would put up with Sandburg and me."

"Yeah, well you'd better keep that in mind, Ellison," Simon warned, "because retirement is looking better and better all the time. So what else do you want?"

Becoming serious once again, Jim informed Simon, "Sandburg thinks it'd be best if you were there when he explained things. He's convinced this guy will come after me next and he wants you to know everything so that you can be there to back us up."

Nodding, Simon agreed, "Okay. You and Sandburg take off now. Give me a few minutes to pacify the feds and I'll leave for the loft."

"We'll be waiting."

"Jim?"

"Yeah, Simon?"

"Keep your guard up," Simon advised. "Boone is right, this guy could be after you."

"Somehow, I don't think that he is," Jim disagreed.

"'Don't think that he is'," Simon repeated. "What are you talking about, Jim?"

"I think that the killer is going to go after Sandburg?"

"But why?" Simon asked. "He's not like the other victims."

"I realize that," Jim responded. "I don't know what to tell you, Simon. It's just... Well, I've got this feeling and... Look, Simon, I can't really explain it. All I know is that I think Blair might be in danger from this guy."

"I guess it's safe for me to assume that this 'feeling' is related to your being a Sentinel." Seeing Jim's shrug his shoulders, Simon continued, "Look, Jim, I can't say that I understand all of this Sentinel stuff. Frankly, there's some of it that I don't even want to try to understand. But if you say that Sandburg's in danger, then your word is all that I need. However I can help, just let me know. I don't want to lose the kid, not again. I don't want to lose either of you, my friend."

"I don't want that either, Simon," Jim replied. "Trust me, I'll be on the look out."

"I know," Simon stated. "Go on and get back to Sandburg. I'll see the both of you in a little while."

"See you then," Jim said then turned and left the office.

Walking back to the conference room, Jim paused for a moment outside and placed his palm on the door. "When is this shit ever going to end, Chief?" Taking a deep breath, he entered the room once again.

Looking up as the door opened, Blair greeted, "Hey, Jim. What did Simon say?"

"For us to take off," Jim answered. "He's going to deal with the feds and then join us at the loft."

"Sounds like a plan," Blair replied. "By the way, thanks."

"For what?"

"Did you really expect me to believe that you could accidentally mistake my coffee for yours?" Blair asked.

Averting his eyes, Jim said, "Well... I mean... I just..."

"Wanted to give me a few minutes to get myself together," Blair finished. "And I did need the time. So, thanks."

Jim just shrugged his shoulders. "Let's go."

Rising from his seat, Blair picked up the folders and then joined Jim by the door. "Before we leave you should do a quick scan, see if you're still picking up on those weird vibes from before."

"Sandburg..."

"Just do it, Jim." Watching as Jim's eyes closed, Blair stepped closer and laid a hand on Jim's arm. "What are you picking up?"

"That feeling," Jim murmured, "it's still there."

"Is it exactly the same as before?"

"Almost," Jim answered as he opened his eyes. "It's kind of... I don't know... muted somehow, not as intense. I mean it spiked some when I left you here while I went to Simon's office, but even then it wasn't as bad as this morning."

"When we were driving to the station?" Blair asked. Seeing Jim's nod, Blair remained silent for a few seconds before inquiring, "This feeling, is it also muted while we're at the loft?"

"How should I know, Sandburg?"

"Just think back to how you felt this morning," Blair stated. "Remember the feeling and focus on it. Did it feel the same as it feels now?"

Closing his eyes again, Jim thought back to the morning. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and reached out a hand to grab Blair's arm. "It was!" he exclaimed. "When we were still at the loft, it was muted; even more so than now. But as soon as we got down to the truck..."

Wincing as Jim squeezed his arm, Blair grabbed Jim's wrist and said, "Ease up, Jim, you're hurting me."

Blinking, Jim shook his head then looked down and saw his hand clamped down on Blair's arm. "Sorry, Chief. Don't know what happened." Releasing Blair's arm, he stepped back away from his partner. "We should get going now."

"Jim..."

"We'll finish this at the loft,"

"Fine," Blair relented. "But as soon as we get home, we're gonna talk this thing out."

"Not until after you've told me everything about your involvement with the victims," Jim countered. "That comes first, understand?"

"This feeling that you've been experiencing is just as important as my history with the victims," Blair protested. "In fact, it's probably more important. This feeling, it's got to be some kind of warning. Just like before when Alex was in Cascade. You can't just ignore it and hope it goes away."

"I'm not," Jim insisted. "I promise you, Sandburg, we will discuss it. I already told you that we would. I realize that all of this has got to be related; this feeling, the killer's probable presence in Cascade, your involvement with the victims. It's all tied together. Somehow. But we're not going to get into it here." Turning to open the door, Jim gestured for Blair to precede him out into the hallway. "So let's go."

Very much aware of the tension currently radiating between them, Blair sighed as he hurried past Jim and began walking down the hallway.

Catching up with Blair at the elevator, Jim he snapped, "Would you just hold up, Sandburg. I said the feeling was lessened, I never said it had gone away."

Any smart remark Blair might have said faded away when he turned and saw the worry in Jim's eyes. "I'm sorry, Jim."

When the elevator doors opened, Jim once again waited until Blair entered first before going in himself. Arriving at the garage, both men headed directly to Jim's truck and got in. Starting the truck, Jim pulled out of the garage. Immediately after driving out onto the street, he stiffened as the full force of the feeling hit him.

Noticing the change, Blair asked, "What is it? What's wrong?"

"That feeling we've been talking about," Jim began, "it just increased. A lot."

"It increased as soon as we left the station?" Blair asked.

"Yeah," Jim confirmed. "Do you have any ideas as to why?"

"Some," Blair answered. "But I need to think about it a little bit more. After we get to the loft, I'll tell you what I've come up with."

Not responding, Jim pressed down on the gas pedal causing the truck to speed up.

Bracing himself, Blair placed a hand against the dashboard. "I need to go by Rainier before we go to the loft."

"Why?"

"If I'm going to be explaining all this to Simon and you, then I'm going to need some of my files," Blair answered.

When Jim turned the truck around and began driving towards the university, neither he nor Blair noticed the car that followed them.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Arriving at the university, Jim and Blair quickly entered the building and made their way to Blair's office. Upon reaching it, Blair pulled his keys out and unlocked the door. Pushing it open, he cursed softly.

"What is it?" Jim asked.

"I think someone has been in here," Blair answered.

"Stay behind me," Jim ordered as he moved past Blair and entered the office.

Following behind Jim, Blair halted just inside the doorway. Silently, he watched as Jim scanned the room. "Are you picking up on anything?"

"I can't get a fix on anything specific," Jim complained. "There's just too many unknown scents. Take a look around and see if anything's missing or been tampered with."

As Blair began walking around the room, Jim pulled out his cell phone.

"What are you doing?" Blair asked.

"I'm going to call this in."

"You can't do that," Blair protested.

"What? Why not? We need to get forensics in here."

"Boone is already suspicious enough," Blair reasoned. "If we report this, he's just going to be even more curious and he won't quit digging until he finds out the truth about you."

Snapping his phone shut, Jim replied, "Fine, we won't call it in. For now at least."

Nodding, Blair continued his inspection of the room. "Somebody got into my files."

Moving to join Blair by the filing cabinets, Jim asked, "Can you tell what they looked at, or if they took anything?"

"They looked at the stuff filed under 'S'," Blair announced. "But it doesn't look like they took anything."

"S," Jim repeated. "So, what? They were thinking S for Sentinels?"

"Either that or S for senses," Blair responded. "I mean, it looks like they glanced through just about everything but I think they focused on this drawer."

"Looking for your files on Sentinels or enhanced senses."

"Probably," Blair replied as he shut the drawer. "But if that's what they were looking for then they didn't find anything."

"Why not?"

"C'mon, Jim," Blair said. "Do you really think that I would be that obvious? Or that stupid?"

"So what did you file your Sentinel records under?"

Pointing to the file cabinets, Blair asked, "Who said I keep those records in there?" Walking over to his desk, Blair picked up a wooden box. "Alright, let's go."

"Are you trying to tell me that you've got records in that thing? It's way too small to hold anything."

Sighing, Blair made a few quick manipulations to the box causing a hidden interlocking box at the bottom to slide open. Pulling out a key, he said, "It's big enough to hold this." Closing the box, Blair held it out to Jim. "This is a puzzle box. See the small buttons of top? Well, you have to press them in a certain order before the inner box will pop out. And when it's closed, you can't even tell that the inner box exists. Pretty cool, huh?"

Rubbing a hand over his face, Jim replied, "Just tell me what the key goes to."

"A safety deposit box," Blair answered. "The files that I'm going to need are in it."

"Wait a minute," Jim demanded. "The first time I came to your office, you pointed out a bunch of files to me. Files about people with enhanced senses."

"And your point being?"

"My point is, if you've got files here why do we have to go somewhere else?" Jim asked.

"The files that I showed you were only about people with one or two enhanced senses," Blair explained.

"So?"

"So, these files are different," Blair replied.

"Different how?"

"I'll explain after we get the files and get home," Blair promised.

"But..."

Ignoring Jim, Blair said, "C'mon, let's get going. At this rate, Simon will get to the loft before we do. The box is at the First Security bank downtown."

Confused by the whole matter, Jim just replied, "But that's not the bank you use."

"Well, I figured it would be too risky to use that one," Blair stated.

Shaking his head, Jim just walked out the door and stood in the hallway.

Following after his partner, Blair took a second to lock the door before turning to face Jim. "It'd probably be best if I go into the bank alone, Jim."

"Why?"

"Well, I didn't exactly use my name to get the box," Blair informed Jim. "Besides, we probably don't want to take a chance on someone remembering you being there."

"Why do I get the feeling that you've done something that I probably don't want to know about?" Jim asked.

"It's no big deal," Blair protested. "Just a little fake ID is all."

"Fake..." Jim began. "No, forget it. I don't even want to hear it right now."

"But I guess we'll be talking about it later, huh?"

"You can count on it," Jim promised.

Without saying anything else, the two men left the building and returned to Jim's truck. After a short drive, they arrived at the bank.

"Do you have a hat in here, Jim?" Blair asked after Jim had parked the truck. "A Jags cap or something?"

Reaching across Blair, Jim opened the glove box and pulled out a cap. "What do you need it for?"

Not answering, Blair took the cap and put it on. Next, he gathered up his ponytail and began stuffing it underneath the hat. After arranging his hair and the cap, he presented the back of his head to Jim. "Do you see a bulge or anything? Does it look like I have short hair?"

"It looks fine to me," Jim answered.

"Good." Turning back to face Jim, Blair said, "I'll be right back."

Watching as Blair entered the bank, Jim turned up his hearing. Keeping track of his partner, he listened in as Blair approached the counter and requested access to a Mr. John Smith's safety deposit box. "John Smith?" he mused. "Couldn't you have thought of something a little bit more original, Sandburg?"

Jim continued to listen in as Blair got the box and withdrew something from inside it. Starting the engine when he heard Blair return the box and the teller's resulting "Have a good afternoon, Mr. Smith", Jim said, "Oh yeah, Sandburg, we will definitely be talking about this one."

Watching as Blair backed out of the bank, Jim was surprised when Blair finally turned around. Taking into account the large amount of papers and files Blair was carrying, Jim reached over and opened the passenger side door as Blair reached the truck.

Carefully climbing into his seat, Blair mumbled, "Thanks." Finally getting himself and the multitude of files arranged, he turned to Jim. "I'm ready to go now."

Glancing at Blair as he started the truck, Jim asked, "Are any of those about me?"

"What?" Blair asked. Looking down, he said, "Oh these. No, Jim, none of these is about you. I keep all of my files on you somewhere else."

"Do I even want to ask where?"

"Um... probably not."

Pulling out of the parking lot, Jim warned, "Sandburg, just remember after this is over you and I are going to have a long talk."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever you say."

"I wish."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair asked.

"It just means..."

"Jim," Blair said when Jim stopped talking. "What is it? Is something wrong?"

"There's a car back there," Jim answered. "One that I could swear was behind us earlier when we left the station."

"Do you think they're following us?" Seeing the look Jim briefly directed his way, Blair said, "You're right, stupid question. But, can you see who it is?"

"Not until we've stopped," Jim replied. "Well, unless you want to wind up wrapped around a telephone pole that is."

"Funny, Jim. Really funny. Just like pull off to the side of the road or something. Let them pass us."

"If they are following us," Jim said, "do you really think they're going to just pass us on by?"

"Well, do you have any bright ideas?"

"Yeah," Jim answered, "this." Abruptly turning the wheel, Jim made a sharp U-turn.

Grabbing a hold of his files, which were about ready to fly all over the truck, Blair yelled, "Geez, Jim, give a guy some warning next time."

Ignoring Blair, Jim searched for the car he suspected of following them. Finding it, he locked onto the vehicle and stared at the driver as the two vehicles passed one another.

"Jim, look out!"

Startled by the shout Jim blinked his eyes rapidly and turned his attention back to the road just in time to swerve the truck, narrowly missing an oncoming car that was passing another vehicle. "Hang on," he yelled.

As the truck came to a screeching halt, Jim turned to Blair. "Are you all right?" Not receiving an answer, he repeated, "Are you all right? Sandburg, answer me. Are you okay?"

Breathing rapidly, Blair gasped out, "Fine. I'm fine. But, man, that was so not my idea of fun. But at least you got a look at the guy." When Jim didn't reply, Blair said, "Jim? You did get a look at the guy, didn't you?"

"Not exactly," Jim answered.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair yelled. "I mean either you got a look at the guy or you didn't."

Jim rubbed his eyes before informing Blair, "Whoever it was held up a mirror. Something shiny and reflective anyway. Just about blinded me. I'm still seeing spots."

"Look at me, Jim," Blair ordered. "Let me see."

"Back off, Sandburg," Jim replied. "It'll go away in a minute."

Turning away from Jim, Blair asked, "You know what this means, don't you?"

"What?"

"Whoever it is, they have to know about your senses," Blair answered. "Even if they don't know that you're a Sentinel, they would at least have to suspect that you have enhanced sight."

"How do you figure?" Jim questioned. "After all, something like that would have affected anyone even if they didn't have enhanced senses."

"Jim, take a look up at the sky," Blair ordered.

"Sandburg..."

"Please, Jim, just do it and then tell me what you see."

Sighing, Jim looked rolled down his window. Sticking his head out, he looked upward. "Clouds. I see clouds, Sandburg."

"Exactly," Blair responded. "So wouldn't it be a little bit odd for someone to attempt to blind a person with reflected light when the sky is full of clouds."

"Shit," Jim cursed.

"My thoughts exactly," Blair stated.

"So this guy knows about my senses and when he saw me do that U-turn he figured I was aiming to get a look at him," Jim observed.

"And he also correctly assumed that you'd have your sight dialed up," Blair added, "so that any amount of sunlight, no matter how minor, that reflected off that mirror would be enough to affect you."

"So the guy not only knows about my senses, or at least my sight, he's also a quick thinking son of a bitch," Jim stated. "I'm really starting to hate this guy."

"You're not the only one."

The rest of the drive back to the loft was quiet and when Jim and Blair finally arrived home, they found Simon waiting for them.

Walking up to the truck, Simon waited until Jim and Blair got out before asking, "Where have you two been? I was just about ready to put out an APB."

"Sorry, Simon," Jim apologized. "But we had to make a couple of stops first."

"For what?" Simon asked.

"Uh, for these," Blair answered as he joined the other two men.

"What in the world is all of that, Sandburg?"

"Just some files," Blair replied. "Files which are about ready to hit the pavement unless somebody gives me a hand with them."

"Let me grab some of those, Chief."

After smiling his thanks when Jim took some of the files, Blair said, "Well, let's go get this over with."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Entering the loft, Blair and Jim deposited the files on the dining room table. As Blair took a seat, Jim walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed three bottles of water. Walking back over to the table, he handed one to Blair before taking one over to Simon.

"Give me a minute to get organized," Blair requested.

"Just hurry it up, Sandburg," Jim replied. "I want some answers and I want them now."

"Jim, first, just back off," Blair yelled. "God, Jim, I just found out that ten people that I know... knew... and thought of as friends were tortured and then killed! So please excuse me if I need a minute here!" Taking a shaky breath, Blair turned his attention back to the files.

Taking a step towards Blair, Jim stopped when he felt pressure on his arm. Glancing down, he saw Simon's hand wrapped around his arm. Looking up, he glared at Simon.

"Not now," Simon advised as he released Jim's arm. "Give him some time, Jim. Let him get his head together first."

Nodding, Jim went to sit down on the couch and a few seconds later, Simon joined him. Almost thirty minutes later, both men were startled when Blair suddenly announced, "Okay, I'm ready."

After exchanging a quick glance, Jim and Simon got up and joined Blair at the table. As they sat down, Jim said, "I'm sorry, Blair. I should've..."

"Jim," Blair interrupted, "it's okay. We're cool, all right?"

Smiling, Jim replied, "All right."

Simon chose that moment to speak up. "Now that the heartwarming, bonding moment is over could we please get started?"

"Of course," Blair replied. Pulling some files over in front of him, Blair picked up the top one.

"Sandburg, first I want to know why you had these in a safety deposit box," Jim said. "Why weren't they kept in your office with the rest of your files?"

"Safety deposit box?" Simon asked. "Why do I get the feeling that I've missed something here?"

Grinning, Blair said, "Probably because you have." Seeing the resulting glare that Simon gave him, Blair stopped smiling. "Sorry, Simon. You see, in my office I have files on people with one or two heightened senses. But these files, I keep them somewhere else. Someplace more secure."

"Because..." Jim prompted.

"The people in these files are rarer and more unique," Blair explained. "You see, the people in these files have either three or four senses enhanced and quite possibly could have eventually become fully functional Sentinels."

Shocked, both Jim and Simon were silent for several seconds. Finally, Simon spoke. "Wait a minute here, you said 'could have'."

"That's right. You see the people in these files, they're all dead now," Blair stated as he held up several files. One at a time, he placed them in front of Jim and Simon. "Joanna Thompson, Douglas Carter, Michael Warren, Martha Stephens, Colleen Tucker née Hughes, Marcus Taylor, Daniel Purcell, Jane Henderson, Jack Anderson and Brenda Wilson. All had either three or four heightened senses and all are now dead, murdered by this sick son of a bitch."

"How did you know them?" Jim asked. "Or I guess that should be how did you meet them? It's pretty obvious that you knew them because of their enhanced senses, but what led to you meeting them? I mean these people were scattered all over the country and I find it pretty unlikely that all of them just happened to come to Cascade at some point in their life."

"Well, they all did eventually make a trip to Cascade," Blair answered. "You see when I first decided to focus my studies on Sentinels, to base my doctorate on them, I knew that I would have to have some kind of basis for my belief in their existence. Some hard evidence proving that people with enhanced senses were not only a possibility but were indeed a reality. So I applied for a grant which I used to..."

Stopping, Blair's brow furrowed in concentration for a moment. Standing up, he began to pace the length of the table. Hands waving, he continued, "You know that advertisements you sometimes see, ones requesting volunteers for experimental procedures like testing new drugs or something like that, well the grant I received allowed me to do something similar. I contacted various universities and medical centers all over the country announcing a program dealing with enhanced senses. Honestly, I really didn't expect much of a response but I ended up swamped with replies. I sent out questionnaires and communicated with those that responded. Most of them only had one or two heightened sense and our only correspondence was by mail or phone, but some of them were dealing with more three or four enhanced senses."

Pointing to the files laying on the table, Blair said, "They were the ones who were having the most trouble dealing with their senses. Some of them were desperate; they'd tried pills, doctors, psychiatrists but none of it had helped. Michael and Jane's families were about ready to have them committed. Colleen was about ready to drop out of medical school because she couldn't tolerate the smells permeating the hospital. You wouldn't think that they'd just up and come see a guy they'd never met in person, but they were all... They were..."

"Desperate," Jim finished.

Remembering his second meeting with Jim and the feeling of being pushed up against the wall of his office, Blair replied, "Yeah, desperate." Sitting down again, he continued, "So they came here, hoping that I could help them."

"And did you?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, I did," Blair answered. "Since they didn't have all five senses enhanced, they didn't face the risk of zone-outs. It was simply a matter of teaching them some meditation techniques, helping them gain a measure of control."

"Did you tell them about the dials?"

"What? Oh, no," Blair said. "For each of them I had to use something different. They were all unique and each had a distinct combination of enhanced senses. I couldn't use the same methods on all of them. But I have to tell you that my experiences with them still didn't prepare me for my encounter with you. The addition of completely enhanced senses totally negated anything I had learned from my dealings with the others. So, even though I did have prior dealings with people with enhanced senses, when we first met you weren't the only one on new ground, Jim. Both of us were learning as we went along. I know that sometimes I messed up, that sometimes I wasn't exactly what or who you needed me to be, and I really am sorry for that. Sorry for the mistakes that I made."

"Sandburg... Blair, I think that we've both made a few mistakes along the way," Jim replied. "But the main thing is we're both still here. Okay?"

Smiling, Blair said, "Okay."

Gesturing to some other files still laying on the table, Jim asked, "What about those?"

Picking up the three remaining folders, Blair explained, "These are the other people who came to Cascade. They've got three or four enhanced senses too."

"Shit, Sandburg," Jim cursed. "You're just now mentioning this. Those people are targets. We need to get in contact with them and warn them."

"That's not necessary."

"You want to tell me why not?"

"For starters, I doubt the killer could even find two of them," Blair answered. Holding up one file, Blair said, "Ellen Johnson is a botanist and she's currently on an expedition in the Amazon rain forest. Her group is hoping to catalogue the indigenous flora before it's totally wiped out by encroaching logging operations."

Setting that folder down, Blair picked up one of the others. "Jonathan Gibson is a Navy seal. And I don't think I have to tell you how difficult it would be for someone to track him down. Especially since the last time he wrote me he said that his team was going overseas on 'training maneuvers' and he wouldn't be in touch for awhile."

"Okay, I can see your point," Jim conceded. "But what about the third one."

Frowning, Blair set down the folder on Jonathan Gibson and picked up the last file. Voice filled with sadness and regret, he said, "Monica. Monica Ryan. She..."

"She what, Blair?" Jim asked in a gentle tone.

"I couldn't help her," Blair confessed. "I tried my best. I really did. But she couldn't handle her senses and she went insane."

"Sandburg, I'm..." Simon said. "What I mean to say is that's..."

"It's all right, Simon," Blair replied. "I understand. Thanks."

Silently watching the interaction between Simon and Blair, Jim waited until they were finished before he spoke up. "I think she's the killer."

"What?" Blair yelled. "No way, Jim. Look, I told you she lost it. Totally. Her parents came to Cascade and took her back home after... Well, after her breakdown."

Intently studying Blair, Jim asked, "Why do I get the feeling that there's more to this? What really happened, Sandburg?"

"Nothing."

"I'm telling you, Chief, I've got a gut feeling about this. Call it cop instinct, call it some kind of Sentinel mumbo jumbo. I don't care. But I'm telling you, I think this girl is our killer."

"No, she isn't," Blair protested. "You didn't know her, Jim. I did. Even... Even sick, there's no way that she could be a killer. I'm telling you, she was the nicest, kindest, gentlest person you could ever meet. She was an Archaeology major. We were even planning some joint expeditions since our fields were so closely related. And we were..."

"You were what?"

Looking down at the floor, Blair murmured, "We were in love. I loved her, Jim. A part of me still does. And I know that there is no way she could ever kill anyone. I mean, what reason would she have? Why would she kill them?"

"I don't know," Jim answered. "Maybe she's jealous."

"Jealous?" Blair asked. "What reason would she have to be jealous of them?"

"That they could control their senses when she couldn't," Jim reasoned. "Or maybe it's not jealousy. Maybe she's doing it out of some misguided sense of mercy. Sparing them from suffering through what happened to her. Putting them out of their misery before their senses drive them insane. All I know is that I want to check her out."

"You're totally wrong here, Jim," Blair argued.

"I don't think so," Jim replied. "I mean think about it, that also explains why this feeling that I've had is similar to what I felt when Alex was around."

"Similar but not the same," Blair countered. "There's a difference, you said it yourself."

"Hold it," Simon yelled before Jim could respond. "Feeling? This is what you were talking about at the station earlier, isn't it, Jim?"

"Yeah," Jim confirmed.

"I really don't want to know about it," Simon complained. "But I guess I should. So, tell me." When neither Jim nor Blair said anything, he ordered, "I said tell me!"

"Well, Sandburg..." "Jim really should..."

"Hold it!" Simon yelled, cutting the other two men off. "One at a time. Jim, you first."

"But, Simon..."

"Talk, Detective, and that's an order."

"Well, about three weeks ago I started to get this strange feeling," Jim explained. "I mean it was kind of like what I felt when Alex was in Cascade, but different. It's a vague feeling of uneasiness, a sense of danger, of some kind of threat. But it was nothing I could pinpoint. The only thing that really stood out was an... A kind of... I mean it was a..."

"For God's sake, Jim, just tell me!"

"A need to keep Sandburg close to me, keep an eye on him," Jim mumbled.

Deciphering the barely audible words, Simon stated, "I knew I didn't want to hear about it. Wait a minute, you said that you've been experiencing this feeling for three weeks?"

"Yeah."

"But that's..."

"When the killer supposedly arrived in Cascade." Jim finished.

"Okay, let's say that you're right. Monica is in Cascade and you're somehow picking up on her presence. But tell me why is the feeling different this time, Jim?" Blair asked. "I mean you seem to think you have all the answers, so what's your explanation for that?"

"There is an explanation, Sandburg. You'd see it too, but you're letting your emotions cloud your thinking," Jim reasoned. "It's different this time for two reasons. One, she's not a full Sentinel and two, you haven't been in contact with her like you were with Alex. But the only thing I can't figure out is why the feeling seems muted here and at the station."

"Muted?" Simon asked.

Ignoring Simon, Blair sighed and said, "I think I know why."

"Well, what is it?" Jim asked.

"I think it's a territorial thing," Blair explained. "Let's face it, you spend the majority of your time either here or at the station. So in essence, even though the whole city of Cascade would be considered you territory, the loft and the station would be considered your... I don't know... main territory or your domain. Your lairs, so to speak. So, theoretically, the feeling of danger, of threat, would be muted when you're in either location because you would feel more secure. You'd be more assured of victory if you were attacked either here or at the station because you'd find those places to be more defensible than any kind of unfamiliar area."

Glaring at Jim, Blair added, "But of course, I could be wrong about that, you know. What with my emotions clouding my thinking and all."

"Sandburg..."

"I don't want to hear it, Jim," Blair stated. "Monica isn't the killer. I don't know what you've been feeling or what you think you've been feeling, but you're wrong on this one."

"Well we'll find out soon enough, won't we," Jim replied. "Her parents took her home with them, right?" When Blair nodded, he continued, "So we just call them and see where she's at now. And I'm betting they don't know."

"You'd lose."

"Really? Are you sure about that?"

"Jim..."

"Wait, just hold it a minute," Simon interrupted. Lifting up his glasses, he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, I don't know about the two of you, but I could use a break and I really would like some aspirin right about now."

Standing up, Blair said, "Sure thing, Simon. I'll go get you some."

Watching Blair walk over to the bathroom, Simon said, "Well, you certainly handled that one well, Jim."

"Look, I know that I screwed up," Jim admitted. "But we've got ten dead bodies already and I'll be damned if Sandburg winds up being number eleven."

"Jim, if this Ryan woman is the killer, then you'd be her next target," Simon replied. "We've already discussed this. Blair, that moron Agent Boone and I, we all believe that you're the killer's intended victim. Why do you keep insisting that it's Sandburg?"

"I just know that he's in danger, Simon," Jim said. "Last time I had a feeling like this, I ignored it and he wound up face down in that damned fountain. I won't let something let that happen again. This time I'm not just going to pretend the feeling doesn't exist. I'm going to listen to it. And right now, it's telling me to protect Sandburg because if I don't something's going to happen to him."

When Blair returned with the aspirins, he handed them to Simon then turned to Jim and said, "You know, Jim, I've been thinking and there's a little flaw with your theory."

"And what would that be, Sandburg?"

"Okay let's just suppose that Monica is the killer, which she's not, but how would she even know where to find the others?" Blair asked. "She didn't even meet them."

"Tell me something," Jim replied, "have you always keep these files in that safety deposit box?"

"No," Blair answered. "I only put them in there after the whole mess with Brackett. I figured it'd be best to put them someplace safer than just in a filing cabinet."

"So, when you knew Monica you kept them..."

"In my office," Blair finished.

"And in the time that you knew her, don't you think that she could've taken a look at them?" Jim inquired. "It's only natural that she would have been curious about other people with enhanced senses. I would've been. Hell, I still am."

Before Blair could answer, Simon's cell phone rang. After quickly swallowing the pills Blair had given him, he answered the call. "Hello. What? No, that's not necessary. I'm at the loft right now so I'll tell them. Are Agents Boone and Allen aware of this? Okay. Thanks, Rhonda. And by the way, could you run a check on a Monica Ryan for me. Yeah, she's from... Just a minute." Holding the phone away from his mouth, Simon looked up at Blair. "Where is this Monica Ryan from?"

"She was living here in Cascade when me met, Simon," Blair answered. "She was attending Rainier like me. But her parents, Sherry and Mike, live in Boston, Massachusetts."

Smiling, Simon softly replied, "Thank you." Bringing the phone back up to his ear, he said, "Rhonda? Yeah, a Monica Ryan from Boston, Massachusetts. And I need the information as soon as possible. While you're at it, also check out a Sherry and Mike Ryan. They're the girl's parents and they're from Boston, too. Thanks, Rhonda."

"What is it?" Jim asked as Simon ended the call. "What's going on?"

Looking at Blair, Simon replied, "We've got a dead body and the MO matches the other ones. The killer has struck here in Cascade."

"What?" Blair exclaimed. "I don't believe it. Who is it? Who was killed?"

Looking at Blair, Simon stated, "Ellen Johnson."

"No," Blair yelled. "That's impossible. She's not even in the country."

"Evidently, she is," Simon replied. "Or should I say she was."

Watching as Blair sunk down into a chair, Jim asked, "Where was the body found?"

"Rainier," Simon informed. "A maintenance worker found the body about an hour ago. She was found... Aw hell, Blair..."

Surprised at hearing Simon use his first name, Blair looked up. "What is it? Where was her body found, Simon?"

Looking straight at Blair, Simon stated, "In your office."

"My... my office," Blair stammered. "Oh, man. She wasn't even due to return to the states for another six months. And what was she doing in Cascade?"

"That's what you and Jim are going to go find out," Simon stated. "Rhonda said that Agents Boone and Allen were already there."

Looking at Blair, Jim inquired, "You up for this, Chief?"

Startled, Blair looked up at Jim. "Oh... Huh? What is it, Jim,"

Concerned, Jim asked, "Sandburg, are you going to be able to handle this?"

"Handle what?" Blair asked. "Going to my office?"

"Yeah."

"I will," Blair declared, "because I have to. You're still at risk, Jim, even though you don't think so. And I'm going to be there to watch your back."

Clearing his throat to get Jim and Blair's attention, Simon said, "While you two head on over to the university, I'll go back to the station and see what Rhonda has found out."

"Sounds like a plan," Jim said. "After we check things out at Sandburg's office, we'll join you at the station. I really want to find out what's up with this Ryan woman."

"Jim..."

"Look, Sandburg, we're not going to agree on this so what's the point of arguing?" Jim responded. "Let's just drop it until we find out something.

"Since when did you become the reasonable one?" Blair sarcastically asked.

"Since you stopped," Jim retorted.

Standing up, Blair walked over to stand in front of Jim. "That's a low blow, Jim. Even for you."

"Would you two just stop it!" Simon yelled. "What is up with you guys anyway? One minute you're bending over backwards trying to protect one another and the next minute you act like you're about ready to come to blows. I realize that this case is hard on both of you, but you can't let it tear you apart. Alex Barnes couldn't succeed in doing that, so don't you dare let this sick bastard do it."

"You're right, Sir," Jim agreed.

"Sorry, Simon," Blair mumbled.

"Okay," Simon said. "I'm going to leave for the station now and I'll see the two of you later."

After Simon left, Jim turned to Blair. "Look, Chief, I..."

"Not now, Jim, okay?" Blair asked before Jim could finish. "It's just... Look, Jim, like it or not, neither of us has completely gotten over everything that happened when Alex was around. And our disagreement over this case isn't helping anything. But it's like you've always told me; you've got to check your emotions at the door. I think it would be best if we both did that now. At least until this case is over and we've caught this son of a bitch. After that, then we'll deal with all of this other shit that's going on between us."

Clenching his jaw, Jim simply replied, "Fine. Now let's get over to your office before those idiotic feds totally foul up the crime scene." Without waiting for a response, Jim turned and went out the door.

Following behind Jim, Blair paused to shut and lock the front door before walking over to the elevator. After a silent, tension-filled ride to Rainier, Jim and Blair made their way through the crowd of spectators. Arriving at Blair's office, Jim flashed his badge to the uniformed officer standing guard at the door. With a quick glance at Blair, Jim pushed the door open and entered the office.

Hesitating for a second, Blair took a deep breath and then ventured inside the room. Eyes scanning the office, Blair gasped when his gaze settled on the covered body currently lying on his desk.

Hearing Blair's gasp, Agent Boone turned to look at the new arrivals. "Detective Ellison, Mr. Sandburg, how good of you to join us. Well, as you can see, it appears our killer has finally struck here in Cascade. Just as I predicted he would, I might add."

"If I remember correctly," Jim growled, "you said that I'd be the one to turn up dead. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm the one laid out on Sandburg's desk."

"The killer will eventually target you," Boone declared. "You can count on it."

"Now see here, Boone..."

"Wait," Blair yelled. "Would you two just back off? Jim, c'mon man, I want to find out what's going on."

"You want to know what's going on here, Mr. Sandburg?" Boone asked. When Blair nodded, Boone reached out a hand and grabbed hold of the sheet covering the body. Jerking his hand, he pulled the sheet off and said, "This is what's going on."

Seeing the now revealed body, lying on his desk as if on display, Blair placed a hand over his mouth and exclaimed, "Oh my God!" Beginning to gag, he gasped out, "Jim... Oh, man, I think I'm going to be..." Suddenly, Blair turned and ran from the office.

"You sick son of a bitch, I ought to..." Halting his advance towards Boone, Jim suddenly picked up on the sound of retching coming from the end of the hallway. Glaring at Boone one final time, Jim turned and left the office.

Entering the hallway, Jim followed the sounds being emitted by his partner. Coming to stand in front of the restroom door, Jim took a second to get himself under control before entering. Pushing open the door, his nose wrinkled slightly as he was hit by the odors permeating the air inside the room. "Blair?"

"Yeah, Jim," Blair answered. "Just give me a second, okay?"

"Sure thing, Chief." Walking over to the sink, Jim grabbed a paper towel and then held it under the faucet. Turning on the water, he wetted the towel thoroughly. Twisting the knob and shutting off the water, Jim then wrung out the paper towel and held it up to Blair as he walked up.

Taking the paper towel, Blair murmured, "Thanks." Hands shaking, he raised the paper towel and used it to vigorously scrub his face. Lowering the towel, he looked over at Jim. "I'm sorry, Jim. I just..."

"Save it, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "You've got no reason to apologize. Hell, another minute in there and I probably would've lost it too."

Wadding up the paper towel, Blair pitched it towards the trashcan. Watching the ball as it sailed through the air and landed inside the container, Blair said, "I just can't believe someone could be capable of doing something like that. God, Jim, did you get a look at what he did to her?"

"Yeah, I did," Jim answered.

Continuing on as if he hadn't heard Jim, Blair said, "The mutilation, there's such a feeling of... I don't know... Of hostility, of anger to it. Whoever may be doing these killings, Jim, they're definitely not doing it out of some kind of pity or concept of mercy. This is pure, unadulterated hatred."

"Blair, I have to go back in there. See if I can find any clues, anything that will help us catch this guy," Jim said. "Why don't you wait outside with the officer? I'll be okay long enough to give your office and the... the body a look over. And on the off chance that I do have a problem, you'll be right there if I need you."

"No, Jim," Blair protested. "If you go back in there, I'm going with you."

"Blair..."

"I owe it to her!" Blair exclaimed. "No matter how you look at it, she's dead because of me; because she knew me. And because I didn't do shit to warn her that she was in danger."

"You can't blame yourself, Sandburg," Jim argued. "You didn't kill her. And as for warning her, you had no reason to think that you needed to. You thought she was out of danger, someplace safe where this guy couldn't get to her."

"Well it looks like I was wrong, doesn't it," Blair responded. "And she's the one who paid the price for my screw-up."

"It's not your fault!"

Both men startled when the door to the restroom swung open. Turning to face the door, Jim stepped back until he was standing between Blair and the newcomer. Grimacing as Boone entered the room, Jim growled, "What do you want?"

Holding up his hands, Boone said, "I just wanted to apologize. I know I did a pretty lousy thing in there..."

"You've got that right," Jim agreed.

"And I just wanted to say that I'm sorry," Boone finished. "Are you all right, Mr. Sandburg."

"Fine," Blair answered. "Right now I just want to find this guy and stop him." Looking down, Blair murmured to himself, "God, I can't believe Ellen is dead."

"Oh, you knew the victim?"

Glancing at Jim and noting the angry look being directed at him, Blair replied, "Um... well... yeah, I knew her. We met once a few years ago."

"That's interesting," Boone observed. "Well, why don't we go back to your office and I'll fill you in on what Agent Allen and I discovered."

"Okay," Jim replied while frowning at Blair, "let's go."

When they reached Blair's office, Jim halted. "Why don't you tell us what you know out here," he suggested. "If we go inside, the body will be too much of a distraction."

"All right," Boone agreed as he glanced over at Blair. "When Agent Allen and I arrived at the scene we spoke with the dean and she told us that one of the janitors found the door to Mr. Sandburg's office ajar. Evidently, he discovered the body after he went into the room to investigate."

"Is he all right?" Blair asked.

"Excuse me?"

"The janitor," Blair explained. "Is he all right. I imagine he was pretty shook up."

"I'm sure he's fine," Boone impatiently answered. "Now back to what I was saying, the dean called the police to report the body. The dispatcher recognized Mr. Sandburg's name when the dean informed her where the body had been found. The dispatcher immediately contacted Major Crimes and Detectives Brown and Rafe responded. They proceeded to contact us as soon as they saw the condition of the body."

"Why didn't you contact us immediately?" Jim asked.

"Listen, Detective, my partner and I may have asked for your involvement in this investigation but it is still OUR case," Boone declared. "And I'll handle it any way I see fit."

"Just stop it!" Blair shouted. "There's a woman lying in there dead, and you're standing here arguing about proper procedure and jurisdiction. I thought you said that you were only interested in catching this guy. That nothing else mattered to you. Did something happen to change your mind? I mean, what is wrong with you anyway?"

"Mr. Sandburg..."

"No," Blair interrupted. "Look, the only thing I want to hear right now is why Ellen came back early. I mean the expedition wasn't supposed to have ended for several more months."

"You knew that Ms. Johnson had been on an expedition?" Boone asked.

"I... uh... well, I had heard," Blair answered. "I mean, like I said, I met her once. And we have some mutual acquaintances."

"I see. Well, we did find out that Ms. Johnson had been on an expedition," Boone replied. "In the Amazon to be precise. And she did cut her trip short."

"Why did she cut her expedition short?" Blair yelled. "And what was she doing in Cascade?"

"It seems as if you're the reason she returned early," Boone answered. "She apparently came to Cascade to see you, Mr. Sandburg."

Staring at Boone in disbelief, Blair asked, "What... what did you say?"

"She came here to see you, Mr. Sandburg," Boone repeated.

Moving to stand between Boone and his partner, Jim said, "Just hold up a minute here. You didn't even know that Sandburg knew this woman, so what makes you think that she came here to see him?"

"Actually, I believe Mr. Sandburg should be the one to answer that question," Boone replied.

Glancing back at Blair, Jim asked, "What are you getting at here, Boone?"

"You see, Detective Ellison, Ms. Johnson's purse was also found here in Mr. Sandburg's office," Boone explained. "Would you care to take a look at what I discovered inside it?"

"Cut the bull and get on with it," Jim ordered.

 

"Very well," Boone replied. "If you'll just step into Mr. Sandburg's office, I'll show you."

Exchanging a glance, Jim and Blair followed Boone into the office. Looking towards the desk, Jim was relieved to see that the body was covered once again. Turning to face Boone, he demanded, "Show us what you found."

Walking over to Agent Allen, Boone accepted several evidence bags from his partner. Returning to Jim and Blair, he held up the bags. "These were found inside Ms. Johnson's purse, gentlemen."

"What is it?" Blair asked.

"What we have here, Mr. Sandburg, is newspaper articles covering each of the prior ten deaths," Boone explained. "What's strange about this is that Ms. Johnson was on her expedition to the Amazon while all these incidences took place. So, someone had to have sent her these articles." Looking at Blair, Boone asked, "Do you have any idea as to who that someone might be, Mr. Sandburg?"

Shocked, Blair exclaimed, "What? No, of course I don't. How could I?"

"Well, that's strange," Boone stated. "Because we also found this letter in Ms. Johnson's purse. A letter asking her to return to the United States immediately and to head straight to Cascade. A letter that just happens to have been written by you, Mr. Sandburg."

"NO!" Blair shouted. "I didn't write to Ellen. I didn't even know about the deaths until you guys showed up."

"But you did know all of the victims didn't you," Boone accused. "In fact, their actions prior to their death had nothing to do with their being killed. For some reason, they were killed because they knew you. Isn't that right, Mr. Sandburg?"

Lunging forward, Jim grabbed a hold of Boone. "Back off, Boone."

Breaking free from Jim's grasp, Boone yelled, "I will not back off, Ellison." Looking at Blair, he added, "Especially now that I've got a suspect."

Stunned, Blair just stood there silently as Jim erupted. "What the fuck are you talking about? You can't actually believe that Sandburg had something to do with this. Those murders took place all over the country. Over the past couple of years, Sandburg has only left Cascade a few times; and I've always been with him. Just like I've been with him today and I guarantee you that after we left the station today we didn't make a quick stop for him to commit murder."

"He may not have committed them himself," Boone replied, "but I think that he knows more about them than what he's saying. And if I can't get him for murder, then I sure as hell will get him on being an accomplice or for obstruction of justice. I will take him down and if you get in the way, I'll do the same to you."

"What is your problem?" Jim asked. "You've been looking to get Sandburg ever since you met him. First that move with the newspaper, then that little stunt of pulling the sheet off of the body. I don't know what you've got against Sandburg, but I'm not about to let you take him out of here. And as for that shit you found, it had to have been planted by the killer for some reason. Think about it for a minute. How would Sandburg have even been able to contact this woman? She was out in the middle of a fucking rainforest for crying out loud."

"That's just one of many questions that Mr. Sandburg will have to answer," Boone replied. "We're taking him down to the FBI's field office here in Cascade. That way, there won't be any chance of Mr. Sandburg being accidentally released before he can be interrogated."

When Boone tried to grab Blair, Jim shoved the agent away. "This isn't happening."

"Yes, it is," Boone stated. "And if you try to interfere, I'll bring you up on charges for hindering this investigation, Detective."

Both men turned as they heard Blair softly say, "I'll go."

"What?" Jim exclaimed. "No way, Sandburg. Your ass isn't going anywhere with these guys. And if you think that I'm just gonna stand here and watch as these two idiots take you away, you're nuts."

"You may not have a choice, Jim," Simon stated as he walked into Blair's office.

Turning around, Jim asked, "What? What are you doing here, Simon?"

"I wanted to come and tell you this in person," Simon replied.

Worried, Jim asked, "Tell us in person? What exactly do you have to tell us, Simon?"

"I received a call from the commissioner just a little while ago," Simon explained. "Evidently, Agent Boone here called him and informed him of Sandburg's connection to the case. As a result, we've been ordered to cooperate with the FBI fully. And that includes letting them question Sandburg."

"I don't fucking believe this," Jim yelled. "C'mon, Simon, you can't let them do this. And you certainly can't expect me to just let them take off with Sandburg."

"First of all, Detective, I do expect you to fully cooperate with Agents Boone and Allen in this matter," Simon stated. Turning to face Boone, he added, "However, Sandburg will be taken down to our precinct for questioning. This comes from the commissioner himself. You can call to confirm it if you like."

"Oh, I definitely will." Turning away, Boone pulled out his cell phone and began to dial a number.

Scowling at Boone's back, Jim asked, "Would somebody like to explain to me exactly what's going on here?"

"All I know is that the commissioner called and informed me that Agent Boone wanted to bring Sandburg in for questioning," Simon replied. "He told the commissioner something about hard evidence linking Sandburg to this case."

"So that son of a bitch just hands Sandburg over to them?" Jim asked. "I don't think so."

"Hey, guys, I am in the room you know," Blair spoke up. "And I can speak for myself."

"Sandburg..."

"Just listen to me for a minute, Jim," Blair interrupted. Motioning for the other two men to join him, Blair walked over to the other side of the room. Seeing that both Agent Boone's and Agent Allen's attention were focused elsewhere, he said, "First off, I will be going with these guys, Jim."

"NO!"

"Yes," Blair replied. "Look, Jim, you need to do a scan of the room and... and Ellen's body to see if you can pick up anything. You can't do that with these guys around. I'll go with them to the station while you stay here and see what you can find. Simon can stay here with you. He'll be able to help you if you start to zone."

"But..."

Cutting Jim off, Blair continued, "Odds are you won't even have to worry about that, Simon. Jim hasn't zoned in a while. He has good control over everything now so he'll be fine on his own."

"Who are you trying to convince, Sandburg?" Jim asked. "Simon or yourself?"

Ignoring the question, Blair added, "Then once you guys get done, you can come to the station and bail my ass out. I can hold my own with them until then."

"I don't like it," Jim stated.

"You don't have to," Blair replied.

"Sandburg..."

"Jim, just hold it a minute," Simon ordered. "Look, I don't like this anymore than you do. But I can't come up with anything better. Can you?" When Jim didn't answer, Simon added, "Officer Mills is out working crowd control, how about I send him with them? You remember him don't you?"

"Yeah," Jim answered. "He's an okay guy. I trust him."

"Thanks, Simon," Blair said.

"I'm going to go out and get him," Simon informed. "And, Jim, no killing federal agents while I'm gone, okay?"

"I'll try," Jim replied, "but I'm not promising anything."

As Simon left the office, Boone walked over to Jim and Blair. "Where's Captain Banks going?"

"He's arranging for one of our officers to ride along with you guys to the station," Jim answered.

"That's not necessary."

"I think that it is," Jim replied. "And if you want to take Sandburg, that's the way it's going to be."

"Fine," Boone relented. "As long as I get to question Mr. Sandburg, we'll do it your way. For now at least."

When Simon returned with Officer Mills, Boone ordered, "Let's go."

Sparing one final glance at Jim, Blair said, "See you soon."

"You can count on it, partner," Jim replied with a smile. Watching as Blair was escorted out of the room, Jim continued to monitor the men as they left the building and got into a car. Hearing the car doors slam, Jim winced slightly. "They're gone," he informed Simon when he then heard the car start up and drive away.

"All right. Now let's get this over with and get to the station," Simon replied. "I don't want to leave Sandburg alone with those guys any longer than necessary."

"Me either," Jim agreed.

"What do I need to do?" Simon asked.

"Just stand aside while I do a scan of the room," Jim answered. "And if it looks like I'm zoning, just come over and start talking to me."

"And if that doesn't work?"

"I don't know," Jim replied. "Just do something that will get my attention; something that will break my concentration."

"How about I just walk over and slap you upside the head?" Simon asked. "That sounds good to me."

Frowning at Simon, Jim just said, "Whatever." Then, turning his attention to the room, he began doing a sensory scan of Blair's office.

Several moments later, Simon was startled when Jim suddenly yelled, "Shit!"

Concerned, Simon asked, "What is it, Jim?"

"Nothing," Jim replied. "I'm picking up nothing. At least nothing that will help us any. I can't find anything that would lead us to the killer. The guy left no traces, no clues."

"C'mon, Jim, the guy had to have left something," Simon insisted.

"Not if he knew what he was doing," Jim countered. "And not if he knew I was going to be taking a look at the room."

"What are you talking about?"

"Whoever this guy is," Jim answered, "he knows about my senses."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," Jim stated.

"Shit!" Simon exclaimed.

"Exactly," Jim replied. "We're not going to find anything in here. Let's get forensics in here and then get to the station."

Nodding, Simon followed Jim out of the room. Stopping briefly, Simon told the officer standing guard outside the office to not let anyone other than forensics or police inside. Exiting the building, they spotted Serena and gave her the okay to go into Blair's office.

"C'mon, Jim," Simon said Serena walked away, "we'll take my car."

"What? No, Simon, that's okay," Jim replied, "I'll take my truck."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Jim insisted.

"Okay, then," Simon said, "I'll meet you there."

"Sure," Jim distractedly responded as he walked over to his truck. Once inside his truck, Jim sat for a moment and studied the group of people gathered outside the building. Shivering as the ever-present feeling of danger spiked, Jim hurriedly started his truck and started for the station.

Arriving at the station, Jim spotted Simon's car already in the garage. Bypassing the elevator, Jim raced up the stairs. Entering Major Crimes, Jim sought out Simon and spotted the captain in his office. Suddenly feeling uneasy, Jim remained standing by Rhonda's desk and watched as Simon looked up him. Mouth dry, Jim swallowed loudly as Simon walked out of his office and said, "We've got a problem."

"What is it?" Jim asked, voice low and shaky. "What's wrong?"

"It's Blair and the others," Simon answered. "They never arrived at the station."

"What did you say?" Jim asked in disbelief.

"They're never arrived at the station," Simon repeated. "And before you ask, I checked with the FBI field office. They're not there either."

Jim closed his eyes briefly before looking at Simon once again. "Then where the fuck is my partner?"

Glancing around the bullpen, Simon noted the attention being directed their way. "Let's go into my office," he suggested.

"No," Jim disagreed. "I don't have time for this. I have to get out there and find Sandburg."

"You will, Jim" Simon replied. "But first, there's something I need to tell you."

"Simon..."

"My office, Detective," Simon ordered. "Now!"

Walking into Simon's office, Jim went to stand by the window. Staring out over the city, he said, "It's that Ryan woman. I knew that she was here in Cascade, and now she's got Sandburg!"

"Jim..."

"Where could she have taken him?" Jim wondered out loud.

"Jim..."

"I know she's still in Cascade because that feeling hasn't gone away," Jim reasoned.

"Jim..."

"When I find her, she's going to regret even stepping foot in my city."

"JIM!"

Shaking his head, Jim looked up at Simon. Irritated, he asked, "What?"

"It's not Monica Ryan," Simon stated. Seeing Jim's questioning look, Simon explained, "Rhonda was able to run a check on her. Turns out Monica Ryan is dead."

Shocked, Jim asked, "The killer got her too?"

"No," Simon answered. "At least her death isn't consistent with how the others were killed."

"Tell me what you know," Jim demanded.

"After Monica Ryan's parent brought her back home, they tried to handle her care themselves," Simon explained, "but eventually they had to place her in a psychiatric hospital when she lapsed into a catatonic state."

"Why didn't Sandburg mention that?" Jim wondered.

"Probably because he doesn't know," Simon answered. "Look, Rhonda was able to locate the girl's parents. When I found out Sandburg hadn't shown up here, I called them. They became very agitated and hostile when I mentioned his name to them. Seems they blame Sandburg for their daughter's condition."

"Where do they get off thinking that?" Jim asked. "Sandburg said he loved the girl, and I believe him. There's no way he could ever be responsible for anything like that."

"You and I know that, Jim," Simon replied, "but this is the girl's parents were talking about here. As a parent, I can understand their need to place blame. And, justifiable or not, they placed the blame solely on Sandburg."

"Why?"

"She was attending another university when she found out about Sandburg's inquiries about people with enhanced senses," Simon explained. "She came here to see him and soon after transferred to Rainier. Her parents didn't support her decision, seems they didn't approve of Sandburg and didn't think he was good enough for their daughter. After her breakdown, they went to court and were appointed guardianship over her. They also arranged for a permanent restraining order preventing any further communication or contact between their daughter and Sandburg."

Sighing, Jim went over and sat down. "How did she die?"

"About six months ago, she simply stopped breathing," Simon answered. "All attempts at resuscitation failed and she was pronounced dead."

"Permanent zone-out," Jim murmured.

"What?" Simon asked.

"Nothing," Jim replied. Standing up, he began to pace the length of the room. "We're totally back to square one, here. We've still got a killer running loose, and odds are he's got Sandburg now."

"We don't know that for sure, Jim."

"I do," Jim answered. Walking over to stand by the window again, Jim scanned the city. "Sandburg is out there somewhere, Simon, and he's in danger. I can feel it."

"Jim, we'll find Sandburg," Simon reassured. "You can't blame yourself for this."

"Can't I?" Jim asked. "I knew he was in danger and I just handed him over to this son of a bitch. This is just like before. I let me go and he ends up in the hands of a killer. Last time he died because of my mistake, but I was lucky enough to get him back." Pausing for a moment, Jim took a deep breath and then asked, "Tell me something, Simon?"

"What, Jim?" Simon asked.

"Am I going to be that lucky again?"

"Jim..."

"Or is this the time that I lose him forever?"

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Flanked by Boone and Allen as he left his office, Blair was aware that Jim's attention was focused on him. Determined to not let Jim discover just how uneasy he was feeling, Blair fought to control his raging emotions and was grateful for Mills' somewhat reassuring presence behind him. Maintaining his façade of calmness, Blair didn't falter as they walked outside and immediately attracted the attention of the spectators gathered around the building. Ignoring the questioning looks directed his way; he remained silent as he was escorted over to the agents' car. Once they reached it, Blair stood by the vehicle as Agent Boone opened the back door and gestured inside. "Get in."

Obeying the command, Blair got into the backseat and then looked to the side to see Officer Mills climb into the seat next to him. Attention returning to the front as Boone and Allen entered the car, Blair leaned back and closed his eyes as Agent Boone started the car and pulled away from the university. A little while later, Blair's eyes flew open when he heard Officer Mills ask, "What do you think you're doing?"

Alarmed, Blair looked around and stiffened when his gaze settled on the weapon held in Agent Allen's hand. Seeing that the gun was pointed at Officer Mills, Blair listened as Allen calmly said, "There's been a slight change of plans, Officer." Firing the gun, even as the officer attempted to withdraw his own weapon in a futile attempt at defending himself, Allen smiled and stated, "Plans that don't include you."

Surprised by his partner's action, Boone brought the car to a screeching halt and, after glancing into the backseat, turned to look at Allen. "What the fuck are you doing? Are you crazy? You just killed a cop!"

Swinging his weapon around, Allen aimed it at Boone and ordered, "Slowly take out your weapon and hand it over." When Boone hesitated, Allen added, "Don't even think about trying to play the hero because I won't think twice about putting a bullet in you. Or putting one in the good professor back there."

Looking back at Blair, Boone noted the dazed expression on the other man's face. Grimacing, he relented, "All right." Slowing withdrawing his weapon with two fingers, he passed it over to Allen.

"Good boy," Allen remarked as he accepted the gun from Boone.

Facing Allen, Boone watched as the other man shoved the gun into his holster. "What now?"

Never taking his eyes off of Boone, Allen calmly replied, "This." Then he fired the gun and shot Boone in the chest.

Shocked and stunned, Blair struggled to take in the scene unfolding in front of him. Fighting down nausea, his brain barely registered the sound of the gunshot. Finally shaking off the daze he had fallen into, Blair made a lunge for the door handle.

"Don't even think about it, Professor," Allen warned. "I want you alive, but that doesn't mean that I still can't shoot you. Where would you prefer it? The leg? Or how about the foot? Either one is fine with me."

Moving his hands away from the door, Blair leaned his forehead against the window and asked, "Why?"

"Why what, Professor?" Allen asked. "Why did I shoot the cop? Why did I shoot Boone? Well I could say it's so that they won't be able to tell your partner anything, but that wouldn't be entirely true. Mainly, I did it because I wanted to." Grinning, he added, "It was almost as fun as killing Ellen Johnson and the others."

Seeing the surprised look on Blair's face, Allen said, "Still don't remember me, do ya, Professor? That's okay, you soon will." Taking one hand off of his gun, Allen reached in his pocket to withdraw a pair of handcuffs and then tossed them to Blair. "Fasten one of the cuffs to your left wrist," he instructed. Smiling, he continued, "And then fasten the other one to the cop's wrist."

Paling, Blair asked, "What?"

"You heard me," Allen yelled. "Do it now. I don't think you'll be able to run anywhere dragging a corpse behind you."

Slowly, Blair followed Allen's orders. Turning to face Allen when he was finished, Blair winced at the strain the awkward position put on his shoulder. Seeing the movement, Allen mocked, "Aw, feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Well don't worry about it, Professor, because soon that will be the least of your worries." When Blair looked away, Allen said, "Oh by the way, Professor, there's just one more thing."

Looking at Allen again, Blair asked, "What?"

"This," Allen answered as he suddenly reared back the hand holding the gun and then brought it crashing down against Blair's temple. Watching as the now unconscious Blair fell over to land against Officer Mills' body, Allen smiled. "Now the fun really starts."

Laughing, Allen reached over Agent Boone's body and opened the driver's side door. Attention still mainly focused on Blair he gave the body a hard shove, not bothering to watch as it tumbled out of the car and landed on the street.

Slamming the door, he scooted over behind the wheel and turned the car on. Starting down the street again, Allen glanced in the rearview mirror to get another look at Blair. "Oh yeah," he said, "we're definitely going to have some fun now."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Regaining consciousness, Blair groaned as he struggle to lift his head. Pain spiking behind his eyes, he gave up the attempt and allowed his partial raised head to drop back down again. "Somebody please tell me this is just a really bad dream."

"For you maybe, but for me it's definitely a fantasy come true."

Hearing Allen's voice, Blair succeeded in his second attempt to raise his head. Blinking slowly, he tried to focus his eyes. Failing that, he settled for addressing the vague, bleary image hovering in front of him. "What do you want?"

"Nothing much," Allen answered. "Just the usual, ya know. Blood, screams, excruciating pain."

"Well when Jim shows up to kick your ass, he'll be more than happy to oblige you," Blair retorted. "Believe me, you'll be experiencing all of that and more."

"Funny, Professor," Allen replied. "Let's hope that charming sense of humor holds out when you're writhing in agony."

"Who are you?" Blair cried out. "What do you want?"

Walking over to Blair, Allen reached a hand out towards Blair. Laughing when the other man flinched and tried to twist away, he continued on to lightly caress Blair's face with his fingers. "You know, I'm starting to get just a little bit upset here. Insulted too. Am I that easily forgotten?" Starting to turn away, he suddenly swung around and backhanded Blair.

Head rocked back by the blow; Blair quickly registered the blood running down his chin and then defiantly he turned his head back around to glare at Allen. "I don't care who you are, you sick son of a bitch," he yelled. "I'll kill you myself."

"No, you won't, Professor," Allen replied with a smirk. Laughing, he turned and started to walk away.

"Wait," Blair yelled, causing the other man to halt. "Where are you going?"

"It's time to teach the Professor a lesson." Came the cryptic response.

"This is just great," Blair complained after Allen left. Ignoring his throbbing head, Blair craned his neck around and tried to get a good look at his surroundings. "Where am I?" Taking in the vast open space, high ceilings and the overall dingy appearance, he said, "Well, I would say 'home sweet home', but my old warehouse was a little bit nicer than this dump. Not by much I'll admit, but some. Okay, Blair, let's just think this through. You've been kidnapped. Nothing new there. The kidnapper is a psychotic serial killer. Again, nothing new there. The only new thing is that this lunatic killed my friends. And if I get a chance I'M GOING TO KILL THE CRAZY, DERANGED, DEMENTED, SICK SON OF A BITCH!"

Struggling against the ropes that bound him to the chair he was sitting in, Blair continued to rant. "YOU HEAR THAT, ALLEN? IF I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, YOU'RE DEAD!" Gasping, Blair slumped. Groaning, he berated himself. "Okay, okay. Bad move. When am I going to learn that struggling against tight ropes does NOT make things better? Jim, where are you? This is about the time that you usually show up and kick some ass. Look, forget everything I've ever said about being able to take care of myself and not needing you to come to my rescue. This time, I'll be more than happy to play the damsel in distress. So please come riding up on your white horse, hell I'll even settle for the hayseed 'classic' truck of yours, and save the day. Not to mention saving my ass. I swear, for the next month I'll let you take the first shower in the morning. I won't lecture you if you want to get grease-ridden, artery-clogging, fat-saturated triple wonderburgers for dinner every night for a week. Just get here, like now. C'mon. It's cold, damp and smelly in here. And I really, really have to use the bathroom right about now."

Sighing, Blair continued to talk to himself. "Okay, Jim, so you're not going to be getting here within the next like five seconds. I can deal. It's fine. I'm just going to sit here and not think about what this guy's gonna do to me and try not to think about what he did to the others. God, I still can't believe that they're dead. What kind of person could do something like that to another human being? I can't believe he shot Mills and Boone. Oh, God! I don't even know if they're alive or dead. I should have checked on Mills when I was handcuffing myself to him. Why didn't I check on him? I really screwed up there. Mills. God, what did he do with Mills? Allen dumped Boone out of the car so hopefully someone found him, but what did the lunatic do with Mills? Mills and Boone could both be laying somewhere bleeding to death right now. And what did I do to help them? Nothing, that's what. I can't believe I froze up like that! Why didn't I DO something? Please, please let them be all right."

Leaning his head back, Blair closed his eyes. "Jim is going to be so disappointed with me. Not only did I allow myself to get kidnapped again, but I also let Boone and Mills get shot. And when he finds out that this is my fault, that all of these people died because of me, he's going to be pissed. And who in the hell is this Allen guy? I don't remember knowing anyone named Tom Allen. Especially not one who's a FBI agent. And how the fuck did this guy get to be a FBI agent? What, do those guys just take any psycho that walks in off of the street? Agent Tom Allen. What kind of name is that anyway? Guy's got two first names, or at least it sounds like he's got two first names. Tom Allen. Tom Allen. Allen, Tom. Allen, Tom?"

Brow furrowed in concentration, Blair repeated the name. "Allen Tom. Allen Tom? Why does that sound familiar? Allen Tom. Allen Tom? Holy sh... Oh my God. Alan Thomson. This is not good. This is SO not good. Why didn't I recognize him?"

"Good question," Allen observed at he re-entered the room, pushing a cart in front of him.

Startled by the voice, Blair turned to look at the other man. "Alan Thomson?" He said, voice conveying his confusion. "It really is you, isn't it?"

"I'm honored, Professor," Alan sarcastically replied. "You finally remembered." Tone hardening, he continued. "It sure took you long enough. What's the matter, Professor? Did your little dip in Rainier's fountain destroy a few of those precious brain cells?"

Ignoring the comment, Blair asked, "How? I mean... You're supposed to be..."

"Be what?" Alan interrupted. "Locked up?" Seeing Blair's nod, he continued, "I was. Isn't parole just wonderful? I tell ya, it was a work of art on my part. 'Oh yes, Sir. I truly realize that my actions were harmful and wrong. I promise I'll never do anything like that again. I whole-heartedly regret what I did and am truly ashamed by the pain I inflicted on others. I believe myself to be totally rehabilitated and I'll never act out in that manner again'. They ate it up. Of course, having the court appointed psychiatrist back me up didn't hurt. And the guy didn't even charge me that much for his supportive and very... um... liberating testimony."

Outraged, Blair yelled, "Of all the... They actually let you out? I don't believe it!"

"I'm standing here, aren't I?" Alan asked. "Come now, Professor. You never used to be this slow. Tsk Tsk. Such a shame." Walking over to Blair, Alan knelt down. Reaching out a hand, Alan began to fondle several strands of Blair's hair. "Now are you going to keep interrupting me?" he asked. Then tightening his hand into a fist, he grabbed a hold of Blair's hair and jerked sideways, "Or are you going to shut the fuck up and let me finish?"

Eyes watering, Blair retorted, "Sorry, man, but it was getting a little bit boring. But hey, if you want to finish then go ahead. After all, I could use a nap right about now."

Fist still entangled in Blair's hand, Alan drew back his other hand as if to strike Blair. Pausing for a few tense seconds, he then chucked and lowered his hand. "Nice try, Professor." Releasing Blair's head with a shove, Alan got up and walked over to the cart he had brought into the room. "But, you're not going to goad me into doing something rash. I've had a long time to think about what I was going to do to you when I got out of prison. Now that it's actually a reality, I'm going to do this right and savor every second of it. Now where was I before you so rudely interrupted me? Oh yes, my release. After I got out, I managed to win back my parents' affection. I mean, they were quite embarrassed over the whole scandal but I am their only child after all. Or should I say I was their only child. That was quite a nasty accident they had. Imagine the anguish I felt when after having just been accepted back into my parent's lives, they died suddenly in that dreadful accident. Of course, since they had already put me back into their will I was somewhat comforted when I inherited their entire estate."

"Gee, I wonder if that accident was really all that accidental," Blair sarcastically stated. "Or did it have a little help?"

"Nothing that could be traced back to me," Alan responded. "None of it can be traced back to me."

"Why?" Blair asked. "Why did you do it, Alan? Why kill them?"

"You've always known everything, Professor," Alan retorted, "so why don't you tell me?"

"I can't," Blair replied. "I can't even begin to imagine your reasoning, and you want to know why? Because I'm not a sick, perverted freak like you!"

Anger twisting his face into a scowl, Alan marched over to the cart he had brought into the room. Looking at Blair, he pulled off the towel covering the surface. Grinning, when he saw Blair pale at the sight of the newly revealed objects, Alan warned, "You think that you've seen horrors before? Well, just wait and see what I do next."

Voice shaking, Blair tried to reason with Alan. "Look whatever it is that you think I did back then, can't we just talk about it?"

"What I think you did?" Came the incredulous response. "I know exactly what you did, Professor. You pushed me aside and then ignored me. I wasn't important enough for you to bother with back then, was I? No, not like the others. Not like Colleen, Jonathan, Ellen or your precious Monica. It should have been me! I was more important than any of them!"

"No, it wasn't like that," Blair protested. "I didn't ignore you. It's just that..."

"What, Professor?" Alan asked. "It's just what?"

"The others needed my help more than you did," Blair quietly finished.

"I needed you!" Alan yelled.

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did," Alan insisted. "You could help them but not me. I needed your help the most. You helped them control their senses, so why not me? Why didn't you help me?"

"Because you didn't need my help," Blair countered. "You weren't like them. You didn't have enhanced senses!"

"Yes, I did," Alan protested. "I still do. I am a Sentinel!"

"No, you're not," Blair disagreed. "You thought that you were, but you're not. You know that, Alan. Remember the tests that we did. Your eyesight is slightly better than normal. But you are not a Sentinel. You weren't one then and you aren't one now."

Running over to Blair, Alan tangled his fist in Blair's hair and leaned down. Faces close, Alan hissed, "I AM a Sentinel. Those tests proved nothing. My senses... they were just... they just weren't completely developed yet. But I know that I'm a Sentinel. I know that I am. And my senses could have been so powerful if only you'd helped me to develop them. But you wouldn't, would you? You were too pre-occupied with the others. Just because their senses were already working while mine weren't. You weren't willing to take the time to help me. You wanted instant results. So you just ignored me and completely discounted me. Well, you can't just push me aside this time, can you, Professor? This time, I'll make you help me. And with your help I'll finally fulfill my destiny and become a Sentinel, like I was always meant to be!"

"Alan, listen to me," Blair pleaded. "Please just listen to me for a minute, okay? First off, you're right. I did ignore you back then and I'm sorry. I was just so wrapped up in my research that I didn't make time for you. I'm sorry for that. But... Look, Alan, having enhanced senses isn't something that you can control or something that you can develop. Either you have them or you don't. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. And even having enhanced senses doesn't necessarily make you a sentinel. Believe me, I learned that fact the hard way."

"You're just lying," Alan screamed, "because you're mad about the others! I will be a sentinel and you're going to help me!"

"No, I'm not," Blair yelled back. "I'm telling you the truth. Everything you did, all the people you kill... killed, was all for nothing! For nothing! Ten people, good people who dedicated their lives to helping others, had their lives brutally ended for nothing. That very fact, the fact that you killed them, totally negates the possibility of you ever being a sentinel. Even if by some bizarre twist of fate or nature your senses do somehow become heightened, you will never be a sentinel. A sentinel protects and defends. You, you just destroy and injure. You will never and can never be a sentinel. And, believe me, I would rather die than help you in any way. So you might as well just kill me now and get it over with, because I will never give you what you want. NEVER!"

"You will give me what I want, Professor," Alan proclaimed. "Oh, believe me, you will definitely give me what I want."

Seeing Alan begin to touch the items lying on the cart, Blair said, "What? You think you can torture me into helping you?"

"Oh no, Professor, I wouldn't dream of hurting you," Alan replied. "Okay so I might dream of it, but I wouldn't actually do it. All right, so I might actually do it, but it wouldn't be anything permanent. No this stuff here, this is for Detective Ellison. You know, your sentinel."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Blair stated. "Jim isn't a sentinel."

"Please, Professor, I may be psychotic but I assure you I am not stupid," Alan said. "I've kept track of you since I was incarcerated. I must admit, I was surprised when your name started frequently appearing in the paper. Even more so when I noticed that each article related incidences involving the police. I thought to myself, 'Now, why would my dear, sweet, peace-loving Professor get involved with the police?' Then I saw the article about your drowning and Ellison's behavior. I suspected before, but that's when I knew for sure. You finally found yourself a genuine sentinel."

"You're wrong," Blair insisted.

"You're lying," Alan replied. "But don't worry, I'm not angry at you. After all, I wouldn't expect anything less. I knew you'd try to protect him. I knew that you wouldn't want to leave. But don't worry about it. Everything will turn out fine, you'll see."

"What are you going to do, Alan?"

"Nothing much," Alan answered. "Just do what I've been doing all along, eliminate the competition. Oh, and also get that added bonus of making you pay for what you did to me."

"Alan..."

"Don't worry," Alan reassured, "I won't make Ellison suffer. Well, not too much anyway."

"Alan..."

"And then there won't be anything standing in the way," Alan continued.

"Yes, there will," Blair insisted. "Even if you ki... get rid of Jim, there's still Monica Ryan and Jonathan Gibson. They're both potential sentinels."

"You don't know?" Alan mused. "That's surprising. I thought you would have kept track of them. Interesting."

"Don't know?" Blair inquired. "What don't I know, Alan?"

"About brave, patriotic Jonathan and sweet, kind Monica."

"What about them?"

"Nothing much," Alan explained. "They're just dead, is all."

"You're lying!"

"Would I do that, Professor?" Alan chided. "Come now, you know me better than that. I would never lie about one of them being dead. After all, it gives me so much joy knowing that they no longer pose any threat."

Stunned, Blair was silent for several long seconds. "How?" He finally managed to ask.

"Poor, pathetic Monica just got lost in her own little world and eventually forgot about all those mundane, ordinary things like breathing."

"She zoned," Blair stated out loud. "I can't believe it. She had a fatal zone-out."

"Evidently," Alan agreed. "Jonathan, on the other hand, experienced a somewhat more unpleasant demise. It seems one of his little 'training maneuvers' went wrong and his whole team was lost. Such a shame really. Oh well."

"They're all gone," Blair whispered in disbelief. "Jonathan, Ellen and... Oh my God, Monica. She's... I can't believe it. Why didn't her parents let me know? She... She's gone."

Expression hardening, Alan stated, "Yes, they're all gone. And soon Ellison will be too. Then it will be just me and you, like it should have been all along."

Suddenly feeling numb, Blair just looked on as Alan picked up a cell phone and approached him. "Now, all we have to do is make a little phone call."

"A phone call?" Blair asked. "And exactly who are we going to be calling?"

"Ellison, of course," Alan answered as he began to dial the phone. "After all, I can't very well kill him unless he's here now can I?"

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Entering the bullpen, Jim saw Simon talking with Joel and walked over to join them. "No luck," he stated when they looked his way. "I went back to Rainier and tried every possible route they could have taken to either here or the FBI field office. I couldn't find any traces of them. It's like they just vanished."

"Jim..."

"I should have been able to find something," Jim continued. "I should have..."

"Jim..."

Distractedly, Jim asked, "What is it, Simon?"

"I was just getting ready to call you," Simon said. "Cascade General just called."

Fear gripping him, Jim managed to ask, "Blair?"

"No," Simon answered. "It's Boone. He was found not far from the university. Seems a passing motorist discovered him lying in the street."

"And?"

"He's been shot, that's all I know," Simon answered.

"Is he conscious?" Jim asked. "Has he said anything about Sandburg? Does he know where Blair is? Does he, Simon? Tell me something!"

"Jim!" Simon yelled, drawing everyone's attention. "Just calm down a minute. Look, I don't know anything other than the fact that Boone has been shot. Let's get over to the hospital and get some answers, all right?"

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "Let's go." Then he turned and hurried out of the bullpen.

Racing to catch up with Jim, Simon barely managed to reach the garage in time to see Jim climb into his truck. "Ellison, wait up!"

Slamming his door, Jim started the truck and then waited for Simon to get in before racing out of the garage.

"Slow down, Jim," Simon yelled. "You won't be doing Sandburg any good if you get us killed on the way to the hospital."

Easing up slightly, Jim growled, "I know that, Simon. It's just..."

"I know, Jim," Simon interrupted. "I'm worried about him too."

Arriving at the hospital, Jim parked the truck in front of the ER entrance and ran into the hospital with Simon following after him. Running up to the admittance desk, Jim demanded, "You have an Agent Boone here, tell me where he is."

"Pardon me?" The nurse asked.

Coming to the rescue, a slightly out of breath Simon said, "I'm Captain Simon Banks, Cascade PD, I need to find out about an Agent Mark Boone who was admitted just a little while ago."

"Just a moment, Sir, and I'll see what I can find out."

"Now just a minute..." Jim began.

"Jim, let the nurse find something out," Simon interrupted.

Nodding, Jim stood silently and glared at the nurse as she accessed the computer.

"Yes," she said, "A Mark Boone was admitted just a little while ago. He's being prepped for surgery right now."

"We need to speak to him," Jim stated.

"I'm sorry, Sir," the nurse replied, "but that's not possible."

"Yes, it is," Jim insisted.

"Sir..."

"Nurse," Simon interrupted, "we really need to speak to Agent Boone. He may have vital information that we desperately need to know."

"I'll contact the doctor."

"Thank you," Simon replied.

A few minutes later, a doctor approached Simon and Jim. "You're here about Mark Boone?"

"Yes," Simon answered. "What can you tell us?"

"He has a gunshot wound to the chest," the doctor stated. Sighing, he added, "Honestly, gentlemen, it looks bad but I'm optimistic."

"That's good," Simon replied. "Doctor, it is imperative that we speak with Agent Boone. He may have information regarding some missing men."

"I'm sorry, but..."

"Don't even try it," Jim cut in. "We will be talking with him." Backing down slightly, Jim continued, "Look, Doctor, one of the missing men is my partner. So can we please speak with Boone? Just for a minute."

"I don't even know if that's possible at the moment," the doctor admitted. "He's been in and out of consciousness since he was brought in, but even if he is conscious now there's no guarantee that he'll be of any help to you."

"I've got to try," Jim insisted. "He may be my partner's only hope."

Relenting, the doctor said, "I'll go see if he's awake. If he is, I'll let you see him, but only for a minute."

"Thank you," Jim replied.

Watching the doctor leave, Jim said, "If he isn't awake now, he will be after I get in there with him."

"Jim..."

"I'm getting some answers from this guy, Simon," Jim stated. "No matter what I have to do to get them."

Pacing the hallway, becoming more impatient with each passing second, Jim came to a standstill and looked up as the doctor returned. "Well?"

"He's awake," the doctor informed them, "and actually very aware considering the circumstances. In fact, when I mentioned you he was rather insistent on speaking with you. So, if you'll follow me I'll take him to you."

Leading the two men back into the treatment area, the doctor stopped outside a room. "He's in here. But just remember, gentlemen, you only have a few moments before he'll be taken to surgery. And if he becomes agitated, you will leave immediately."

Nodding, Jim pushed past the doctor and entered the room. Vaguely aware of Simon and the doctor's entrance behind him, Jim walked over to the bed. Glancing down at the agent, Jim said, "Boone? Can you hear me?"

Slowly opening his eyes, Boone stared up for a moment in confusion before recognition replaced the dazed expression. "Ellison."

"That's right," Jim confirmed. "I need your help, Boone. Can you tell me what happened? Where are the others? What about Sandburg, is he okay? Was he shot too?"

"Allen," Boone gasped out.

Misunderstanding, Jim replied, "We haven't found him yet, but I'm sure he's fine. Now what happened?"

"No," Boone weakly protested. "Allen shot me. Shot Mills too."

"What?" Jim exclaimed.

"What is it, Jim?" Simon asked. "What did he say?"

Turning to look at Simon, Jim said, "He said that Allen shot him and Mills."

Ignoring Simon's startled, "WHAT?" Jim turned back to Boone again. Seeing the Agent start to lose consciousness, Jim ordered, "Stay with me, Boone. C'mon. Stay awake and tell me what you remember."

Forcing his eyes open again, Boone whispered, "On our way to the station. Allen just shot Mills and then me. Don't remember much else, just a sharp pain and pressure in my chest then the feeling of falling."

"Your own partner shot you?" Jim asked in disbelief.

"Not my partner," Boone murmured. "Just assigned to work with him a few days ago. Don't know him."

Watching as Boone finally succumbed to the pain, Jim straightened up as the agent slipped back into unconsciousness. Pondering what he had heard, Jim didn't hear Simon calling him. Wincing as he felt a sharp sting in his arm, Jim shook his head slightly and then turned to look at Simon. "What was that?" He asked while rubbing his arm.

"I pinched you to get your attention," Simon informed him. "You were totally gone and we have to get out of here. They're going to be taking him to surgery now."

"Oh right," Jim replied. Walking out of the room, Jim uttered a quick "Thanks" to the doctor.

Taking a moment to express his gratitude to the doctor, Simon left the room and caught up with Jim who had already almost reached the exit. "Jim!" Simon called out. When Jim didn't stop or acknowledge him in any way, Simon yelled, "Stop right there, Ellison!"

Coming to a halt, Jim waited for Simon to catch up to him before turning to face the captain. "I don't believe this!" Jim yelled. "You said that you had checked these guys out, Simon."

"I did, Jim," Simon insisted. "They both checked out, I swear. Do you really think that I'd want another repeat of that Lash incident?"

"Well want it or not, it's definitely beginning to look like we've got another situation like that on our hands," Jim stated.

"Jim, I don't know what happened," Simon said. "But I will find out how this guy managed to get through the system, how he managed to get assigned this case."

"None of that matters right now," Jim responded. "How this guy got here, how any of this ties in to Sandburg and those others. It can all wait until later. Until after I've gotten Sandburg back. After I've taken this Allen guy out."

"Jim..." Simon began but was interrupted when Jim's cell phone rang.

Shrugging at Simon's questioning look, Jim pulled out his phone. "Ellison."

Watching as Jim became frozen in place, Simon whispered, "Who is it?"

Ignoring Simon for the moment, Jim spoke into the phone. "Where? When? I'll be there. But I swear if you hurt San..." Jerking the phone away from his ear, Jim drew back his hand as if to throw it against the wall.

Reaching out to grab Jim's arm, Simon asked, "What?"

Shaking off Simon's hold on his arm, Jim put the phone back in his pocket. "That was Allen."

"And?" Simon prompted.

"He's got Sandburg," Jim stated. "He wants me to come to where they are. Said if I don't, he'll hurt Sandburg."

"What's the location?" Simon asked. "I can have SWAT and our guys mobilized and ready to go within half an hour."

"It's no good," Jim replied. "He said that if anyone else shows up, he'll kill Sandburg."

"Jim, he won't even know we're there."

"I don't know about that," Jim said. "Remember back at the loft? When we talked about this feeling that I've been having."

"Yes," Simon answered. "You said it was similar to when Alex..."

"When Alex Barnes was around," Jim finished. "And if I've been sensing this guy, then there's a good possibility that some, if not all, of his senses are heightened. If that's so, then Sandburg's dead as soon as any of our guys get anywhere near them."

"But he can't be the one you've been sensing," Simon protested. "You said you've been having this feeling for about three weeks."

"Yeah?"

"So Allen can't have been in town that long," Simon reasoned. "You couldn't have been sensing him."

"First off, we've got no way of knowing how long he's been here," Jim argued. "And second, who else could it be? I mean c'mon, Simon, what are the odds of two lunatics, both of them obsessed with Sandburg, showing up at the same time? It had to have been Allen."

Giving Jim a skeptical look, Simon just asked, "So how do you want to handle this?"

"I'm going to go," Jim replied.

"Jim..."

"It's Sandburg's only chance," Jim said. "And besides, after everything that went down with Alex, I owe him, Simon. I can't let something happen to him. Not now, not after I just got him back."

"I don't like this."

"You don't have to," Jim responded. "Just let me go and don't do anything to interfere."

"Jim, you know that I can't do that," Simon declared. "I can't let you go into this without backup. I have to call this in, so give me the location."

"Sorry, Sir, but I can't do that." Pushing past Simon, Jim ran out of the hospital.

Bypassing his truck, knowing that Simon would put out an APB on it, Jim raced over to a guy climbing onto a motorcycle. Pulling out his badge, Jim yelled, "Police business." Then, pushing the guy aside, Jim climbed on the motorcycle himself.

Glancing over his shoulder, Jim saw Simon running toward him. Ignoring the yell of "Don't you even think about it, Ellison," Jim sped away from hospital.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Flinching as Alan tossed the phone onto the cart, Blair said, "You just made a big mistake."

"Oh," Alan asked, "and what mistake would that be exactly?"

"Thinking that a weak, spineless, cowardly, pathetic jerk like you could ever take on Jim and win," Blair retorted. "There's no way you could ever beat him. He's going to kick your ass and I'm going to enjoy watching every second of it."

"Don't be so sure of that, Professor," Alan cautioned. "After all, I got to all of the others, didn't I? I beat them and I'll beat Ellison, too."

"You're wrong," Blair protested. "Jim is nothing like the others. You don't stand a chance against him."

Laughing, Alan picked up a bag from the cart and walked over to Blair. "I think your precious sentinel will be at a disadvantage when he encounters the surprises I've left for him."

"Surprises?" Blair asked. "What are you talking about, Alan?"

"Let's just say that my encounters with the others were very enlightening," Alan replied. "Detective Ellison's senses are an advantage, but they can also be quite a disadvantage too. If you know how to exploit that disadvantage, he can be rendered harmless." Smiling, Alan added, "And I, for one, definitely know how to exploit my enemy's weaknesses."

"Alan..." Blair began.

"Time for you to be quiet now, Professor," Alan said as he pulled out a gag. "After all, your voice, your guidance is one of Ellison's greatest advantages; one which I will definitely need to eliminate. But only temporarily, of course."

Violently shaking his head, Blair attempted to evade Alan's grasp. Suddenly stunned by a blow across his face, Blair was rendered incoherent enough for Alan to affix the gag. Shaking his head, Blair frantically attempted to dislodge it. Halting his movements as Alan once again reached into the bag, Blair's eyes widen when he caught sight of the blindfold.

Ignoring the pleading look in Blair's eyes, Alan deftly placed the blindfold on Blair. Leaning over, he whispered in Blair's ear. "How does it feel, Professor, to be totally helpless and defenseless? Kind of like how I felt all that time I was in prison. You know, I think I like you like this; totally at my mercy." Reaching into the bag once again, Alan pulled out the last item. "Only one more thing to go, Professor. Are you wondering what it is? Wondering what I'm going to do to you next?"

Reaching out to Blair, Alan laughed as he brushed up against Blair's face causing the other man to flinch violently. Inserting a white noise generator into Blair's ear, Alan said, "How will it feel to you, I wonder? No sight, no speech, no hearing. Totally lost inside your own head. No stimulation. Nothing but the total void of sensory depravation." Reaching for Blair's other ear, Alan said, "Don't worry though, I'll record every second of what I do to Ellison. Believe me, that something I don't want you to miss seeing. But I really can't have you attempting to interfere when Ellison gets here. So just sit tight, Professor, and put that vivid imagination of yours to use. Imagine what I'm doing to Ellison while you're sitting here totally immobilized, unable to help him. Not able to do anything until it's all over and Ellison's dead."

Inserting the other generator, Alan quickly switched them both on. Chuckling, Alan watched as Blair proceeded to whip his head side to side before letting it drop down in defeat. With a final caress of Blair's cheek, Alan walked away. "I'm waiting for you, Ellison," he said out loud. "Time to eliminate the final obstacle. After I've killed you, there'll be nothing left standing in my way."

Twenty minutes later, Alan sat inside the warehouse watching the security cameras and waiting for Jim to show. Finally, he caught sight of Jim on one of the TV screens. "Ah, trying to sneak in the back way, huh, Sentinel?" Alan stated. "You are so very predictable. Good for me, but very bad for you."

Continuing to watch as Jim slowly and cautiously approached the back entrance to the warehouse, Alan encouraged, "It's all right. You can come on in. It's safe. Don't be afraid now. Come and rescue the dear Professor; just a few more steps now. Closer. Closer." Just as Jim reached out and grabbed the door handle, Alan said, "Let the games begin." Then, flicking a switch located on the control panel for the security system, he turned on a security light that was mounted by the door.

Suddenly blinded by the bright light, Jim yelled and stumbled backward a few steps before tripping and falling to the ground. Stunned, he lay there for a few seconds. Rapidly blinking his eyes, Jim sat up. "Shit!" he exclaimed. Vision blurred, he reached up a hand and rubbed he eyes. Frustrated when his eyes remained teary, Jim struggled upright and approached the door again. Dialing down his eyesight to avoid any further injury, he again reached a hand out and grasped the doorknob. Bracing himself for whatever lie on the other side, Jim slowly turned the knob and pushed open the door.

Crouching down, Jim slowly crept into the room. Eyesight temporarily impaired, Jim compensated for the potentially lethal disadvantage by dialing up his hearing. Quickly entering the room all the way, he moved over to some boxes piled beside the door. Ducking behind the convenient cover, he took a moment to scan the room. Hearing two heartbeats, he assumed that the racing one was Blair's and that the slower, calmer one belonged to Allen. Notching up his hearing a little more, he attempted to pinpoint the location of the two heartbeats.

Silently, Alan sat and watched the scene unfolding before him. Smiling, he murmured, "Hello, Detective."

Hearing the soft words, Jim jerked his head up and peered over the top of the box. Growling softly when his eyes still refused to function properly, Jim yelled, "It's over, Allen. Why not make it easier on yourself and surrender now?"

"What? Just when the fun's started?" Alan called out. "I don't think so, Detective. I've got so many things planned for us. Or for you, I should say. Surrender? Never, you'll have to kill me because I'll never surrender to you. And it's far from over; we've just begun, Detective."

Making a futile attempt at reasoning, Jim yelled, "Look, Tom..."

"Tom?" Alan replied with a laugh. "You have no idea do you? You still don't know who I am. Well, I really shouldn't expect anything else. After all, the dear Professor didn't remember me until just a little while ago."

"Where is Sandburg?" Jim asked. "If you've hurt him..."

"Oh, please," Alan interrupted, "save the pathetic little threats for those common, petty criminals that you normally face. I assure you, Detective, you've never encountered someone like me before."

"I don't know about that," Jim replied. "You seem just like a typical, ordinary, everyday lunatic to me; nothing that I haven't seen before."

"Well, since you brought it up," Alan sarcastically stated, "you're not exactly seeing much of anything right now, are you? Poor, Jimmy. Feeling a little bit worried about now?"

"Cut the shit," Jim yelled, "and tell me where Sandburg is."

"Gee, more worried about some civilian ride-along that one of your fellow brothers in blue? Wonder why that is?" Alan inquired. "Mills is dead, by the way, just in case you were concerned. Though why would you be? After all, Mills is just a fellow officer whereas Sandburg is something all together different. A fact that you're very much aware of, what with being a Sentinel and all."

"I don't know what you talking about, Allen."

"Funny, Blair expressed a similar sentiment when I mentioned it to him," Alan stated. "Anyway, don't worry about the dear Professor, he's fine for the moment. I really haven't had time to give him the attention he deserves yet. But after I've killed you, I'm going to give Sandburg some close, personal attention; which is something that I will derive an immense amount of satisfaction from. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Professor."

Cringing at the cruel laughter that followed those words, Jim frantically tried to pinpoint Blair's location again. Suddenly, the air was filled with the pulsating, loud sounds of heavy metal music. Dropping his gun, Jim slapped his hands against his ears in a futile attempt to block the noise.

Falling to the ground as the debilitating sensory assault successfully incapacitated him, Jim lay convulsing on the floor unable to move as Alan slowly approached him.

Standing beside Jim, looking down with contempt at his temporarily defenseless enemy, Alan simply stared for a while before slowly kneeling. "So the great Sentinel has fallen; cowering on the floor, utterly pathetic and totally helpless." Chuckling, Alan observed, "Oh yes, you definitely have weakness and I do know how to exploit them." Reaching out a hand, he pushed Jim over. "Which shall I take first?" Brushing a fingertip over Jim's face, Alan mused, "Should I start with your eyes or maybe your ears? I would start with taste, but it'd be a shame to cut out your tongue now. Then, I'd miss hearing all those delicious screams and titillating pleas for mercy."

Moving his hand down to grasp Jim's tightly clenched hands, Alan said, "How about touch? No, maybe smell. Five senses, each so appealing. How ever will I chose?" Sitting back on his heels, Alan declared, "I know what I'll do. I'll let you choose. Yes, Sentinel. You will be the one who chooses the order in which I destroy your senses."

Standing up, Alan walked over and reached down to grab Jim's arms. Grunting slightly, he pulled Jim over to the center of the room. Dropping Jim's arms Alan watched in amusement as Jim dropped down onto the hard concrete. Laughing as he heard the thud of Jim's head impacting against the floor, Alan proceeded to tie Jim to the restraint he had already embedded into the concrete floor. Securing Jim, and satisfied that the detective wouldn't be able to escape, Alan walked over to the cart.

"What shall I use to get your attention?" He asked out loud. Selecting an item, Alan returned to where Jim was lying on the floor. Squatting down, he contemplated the other man for a moment. "Let's see if the Professor will think you're so special after he sees what I do to you. Now that I think about it, I might not kill you after all. No, I don't think I will. I'll just leave you totally sensory deprived. No sight, no touch, no sound, no smell, no taste. A senseless Sentinel. Don't you just love the irony in that?"

Looking down at the a still unconscious Jim, Alan exclaimed, "Oh how rude of me. I really should be having this conversation with you, shouldn't I? Let's wake you up now; I'd love to get your input on this little plan."

Holding his hand in front of Jim's nose, Alan watched as Jim's nostrils flared. Moving back as Jim suddenly strained upward, Alan said, "Amazing what a little thing like smelling salts will do to that enhanced nose of yours, isn't it?"

Coughing, Jim struggled against the restraints holding him down. Catching sight of Alan, he yelled, "Let me go, you son of a bitch!"

"Now, tell me something, Detective," Alan replied. "Has that actually ever worked before? I mean, someone letting you go just because you told them to? So why insult both of our... well, mine anyway... intelligence by making such a ridiculous demand?"

"What do you want, Allen?" Jim growled.

"You saw what I did to the others," Alan replied. "You know what I want?"

"To kill me," Jim responded. "So what are you waiting for? Get on with it all ready."

"Now that's why I decided to wake you up," Alan stated. "Well one of the reasons anyway. First, I've decided that I might just leave you alive and I wanted your input on that decision. Second, what's the point in torturing you if you're not awake to scream in torment? I mean sure I'll still enjoy it, but let's face it; I'll get lot more pleasure out of it if I can see your face contort in agony while I'm subjecting you to new heights of pain and suffering."

"You're one sick, twisted freak," Jim replied.

"So everyone keeps telling me," Alan retorted. "You know if I was in the least bit self-conscious, I might start to feel a little bit uncertain about my behavior right about now." Smiling, he added, "Lucky for you, I'm a very confident, self-assured kind of guy."

Standing up, Alan moved away from Jim allowing the detective to finally get a look at his partner. Squinting, Jim was able to make out Blair. Seeing his partner's condition, Jim yelled, "What did you do to him?"

Looking back at Blair, Alan answered, "Nothing. I told you that already. I've just made sure that he can't interrupt our special time together. Later is for the Professor and I. Now is only for you and I."

"What are you going to do?"

"That depends on you, Detective," Alan replied. "Like I said, I've decided that I might leave you alive. Am I to assume that you'd prefer that rather than having me slit your throat at the end of our activities?"

Seeing Jim open his mouth, Alan said, "Don't be so quick to answer, Detective. There's a slight catch. You see, you'd keep your life but you'd lose your senses. So what will it be? A quick painful death to put you out of your misery? And believe me, Detective, by the time I'm through with you, you will definitely be quite miserable. Or do you want to live out the rest of your life in a dark, empty void; unable to hear, smell, taste, touch or see?"

When Jim didn't respond, Alan continued, "I know, tough decision isn't it? I mean, sure you'd be alive but you wouldn't exactly be living now would ya?" Standing up, he walked over to Blair. "And it's not like the Professor here would be around anymore. I mean even if I don't take him with me, but of course we both know that I will, how long would he continue to stay? After all, with your senses gone he really wouldn't have much use for you now would he? The only reason he's stayed with you for so long is because of your senses. Everything with the Professor comes down to the senses; comes down to this sentinel thing."

Reaching down a hand, his fingers hovering by Blair's face, Alan said, "We all have our obsessions. Some attainable and some not. Some are ours for the taking, you just have to have the courage to reach out and grasp them." Fingers making contact, Alan jerked his hand back when Blair violently flinched away from him. "Others are a little bit harder to acquire. They resist our possession and valiantly attempt to evade our grasp. But if we are persistent and our endurance holds out long enough, then eventually even the most seemingly unobtainable objects are ours for the taking."

Straining against the restraints, Jim asked, "And what exactly is it that you want?" Relieved when Alan moved away from Blair, Jim relaxed slightly. "What exactly is your obsession? Killing people with heightened senses? Or is it just to be a sick, twisted psycho that gets off on pretending to have heightened senses himself?"

"I'm not pretending!" Alan yelled. "You're not the only sentinel in this room."

"You're a sentinel?" Jim sarcastically asked.

"Yes, I am," Alan insisted. "I've always been one. I was one then and I'm still one now. But he won't believe me. Not back then and not now."

"Back then?" Jim inquired.

Walking back over to Jim, Alan yelled, "Yes, back then. How stupid are you anyway? Did you really think that I hadn't met the Professor before? I've known him for a while now, longer than you have and longer than any of the others did. All of the others, they tried to steal him away from me. Tried to distract him and turn his attention to them. But they're not around anymore. All that's left is you, and as soon as I deal with you then he'll be all mine. And there'll be no other distractions left to take him away again."

"You can't honestly believe that." Came Jim's incredulous reply. "Do you honestly think that Sandburg would allow someone to OWN him? If you really believe that, then you don't know him at all."

"When you're gone, he will want to be with me," Alan insisted. "He will!"

"Never."

"HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL!" Alan punctuated each scream with a vicious kick to Jim's side. Out of breath from his exertions, Alan panted as he gasped out a final, "He will."

Jaw clenched, Jim attempted to dial down the pain that was now radiating throughout his abdomen. Tensing in anticipation of further blows, Jim looked up to find that Alan was staring down at the floor. Continuing to watch, Jim was puzzled when Alan shook his head slightly and seemed to come out of the daze he had fallen into.

Turning his attention back to Jim, Alan smiled and asked, "Have you come to a decision yet?"

"A decision?"

"About your fate, of course," Alan replied. "Do try to keep up, Detective. Now, do you want me to kill you when I'm done or do you want me to leave you alive? Really it's a very simple decision. I don't know what's taking you so long. Are you normally this slow, Detective? I'm surprised you make any arrests at all."

"What the matter with you?" Jim exclaimed.

"What's the matter with me?" Alan asked. "Oh you're so right, Detective. I don't know what I was thinking. That's just so rude of me. I don't know where my manners are. Of course, proper etiquette dictates that I must properly introduce myself before I start torturing you. Please forgive my momentary lapse."

"No problem," Jim retorted.

"Thank you so much," Alan replied. "Now where should I begin? How about we make a game of it? Won't that be fun?"

"A what?" Jim asked in disbelief. "You want to play a game?"

"Yes," Alan stated. "You know, twenty questions. Although we should probably make it five or ten. After all, we are on a schedule here. So come on now. What's your first question? Ask away."

Shocked by the sudden change in behavior, Jim was speechless for several seconds. Finally, he looked up and asked, "How did you meet Sandburg?"

"Now how did I know that your first question would relate to the dear Professor over there?" Alan mused. "To answer your question, several years ago I was undergoing treatment at a medical center. It was some type of foolish psychiatric counseling. My parents were the ones who insisted that I undergo therapy. Though I simply can not fathom the reasoning behind their belief that I needed it. I mean me in therapy? How ridiculous can you get? Can you believe they actually threatened to cut me off financially if I refused to go? Anyway, one day I noticed this flyer announcing a study of people who were having any odd sensory experiences and I immediately called the number listed."

Turning to stare at Blair, Alan continued, "From the moment he answered the phone, I found myself captivated. It was just something about his voice. It called to me and soothed me all at the same time. I explained to him that I had noticed his flyer and that I had been experiencing sensory oddities, that on occasion I could see farther than what would be considered normal. He said something about sending me a questionnaire, but I knew that I had to meet him. He said that a face-to-face meeting wouldn't be necessary and then promised to send me the questionnaire in a few days. Then he told me that he had to go to a class so he said goodbye and hung up the phone."

Whirling back around to look at Jim again, Alan said, "But I knew that our brief conversation couldn't be our only contact. I knew that we had to meet. He felt it too. I could hear it in his voice. So I managed to track him down. When I finally got to Rainier and met him for the first time, the second I saw him I knew that he was what I had been searching for all my life. But he, the dear Professor, didn't even remember me. At first I felt angry, but I soon forgave him his oversight. In the beginning, he was quite accommodating and met with me frequently. But then the others began to show up. And soon he began to ignore me. I was pushed aside to make room for them. Suddenly, I wasn't worth his time or effort. But they, of course, were. Ellen, Jonathan and his precious Monica; all of them became more important to him than I was. More important than me, the one that had the first claim on him. Eventually, I had to remind him of that claim."

Chilled despite the oppressive heat in the room, Jim shivered. "What did you do? Exactly how did you remind Sandburg of your so-called claim?"

Knelling down beside Jim, Alan replied, "Sorry, Detective, but that was a private, special moment between the Professor and I. It wouldn't be right for me to tell you about it." Sighing, he added, "Unfortunately, he didn't exactly share my reverence for our encounter and I wound up spending the next several years of my life behind bars. My parents, in all their hypocrisy, totally turned their backs on me and didn't come to my aid during the dreadful ordeal. Eventually though I managed to secure my release and then I proceeded to win back my parent's affection, not to mention access to their bank accounts."

As his hearing came back on-line, Jim briefly tuned in to Blair's heartbeat and was alarmed at how fast it was. Splitting his attention between his partner and Alan, Jim listened as Alan continued to speak.

"You know, there's nothing you can't buy in this country if you have enough money," Alan observed. "Say, for example, a person wanted to arrange for a car to experience some sudden and fatal technical difficulties; ones that appeared totally accidental, of course. Some discreet inquiries to the right people, a clandestine meeting to exchange some funds and voila. You find yourself grieving at your parents' funeral. It really was a beautiful affair. Such colorful floral arrangements and the eulogies were simply divine."

Grinning, Alan added, "For the right amount of money, you can even buy yourself a whole new life. Don't you think it's amazing what some of these computer hackers can do? For the bargain basement price of ten thousand dollars, they'll set up a phantom identity. An identity so believable and so credible that it can even stand up to even the most intense and thorough security checks. And with that identity you can become anyone you want to be. You can become a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, even a FBI agent."

Standing up, Alan said, "I really do hate to cut this short, Detective. Believe me, I've found our talk to be thoroughly enjoyable. But alas, our time is growing short. So, one more question and then we'll proceed to the next event on our itinerary."

Looking at Blair, Jim simply said, "No matter what you do to me, you'll never get what you want. You can torture me, maim me or even kill me, but you won't succeed. If Sandburg goes with you, it will be because you forced him to." Turning to look at Alan, Jim added, "And he will never stop trying to escape. You will NEVER be able to break his spirit. I should know. I've touched it. Sandburg has the purest, bravest spirit of anyone that I've ever known. I've found him to be the most determined, strongest and courageous, not to mention stubborn and persistent, person that I've ever known. And I know that you can never and will never defeat him."

"Perhaps," Alan replied. "But then again, you didn't see him after our last encounter. I did break him before and I will do it again. Unfortunately for you, you won't be around to witness it."

Walking away from Jim, Alan once again went over to the cart and began looking over the items lying on it. "Hmm. Sight? Touch? Taste? Sound? Smell? Which shall I take away first?" Laughing, Alan picked up an object. "Oh yes, this will do very nicely." Turning to face Jim, he said, "Ready to play another game, Detective? However this one probably won't be as much fun. For you at least. I have a feeling I'm going to thoroughly enjoy it."

After seeing the object Alan held, Jim turned most of his dials all the way down. Glaring at Alan, he growled, "Bring it on."

"Good for you, Detective," Alan replied with a laugh. "Maintain that calm, collected façade. I applaud and encourage the effort. I'd be interested to know how long you can keep it up after I begin working on you."

Clenching his jaw, Jim warily watched as Alan slowly approached and knelt down beside him. "At least I won't have to listen to your demented ranting anymore," he stated when Alan placed the headphones on his head.

"Enjoy it while you can, Detective," Alan advised. "After all, soon you won't be hearing anything ever again."

Violently shaking his head, Jim tried to dislodge the headphones but stopped when Alan reached over and pulled the right one away from his ear.

"I wouldn't do that, Detective," Alan advised. "If you don't cooperate..."

"You'll do what?" Jim interrupted. "Torture me? We both know that's going to happen. So what else is there left for you to do?"

"Nothing," Alan replied. "To you at least. The Professor on the other hand, there's a lot that I can do to him. I only need him alive. Unharmed is a totally different matter all together. In fact, you're probably right. I should wound him a little bit, shouldn't I? That'd make it much harder for him to escape."

"Wait!" Jim yelled as Alan moved to stand up.

"Change your mind?" Alan asked. Grinning when Jim nodded, Alan said, "I thought that you'd see things my way. Now let's get started, shall we?"

Flinching slightly as Alan reached over and resettled the headphones to cover both of his ears, Jim braced himself in preparation for whatever was about to happen. Senses raging out of control, Jim tried to dial down his hearing then tensed as Alan leaned over him and began to touch the headphones. Suddenly the headphones emitted a loud squeal, causing Jim to wince. Anticipating the coming blast of noise, Jim's body tightened. Muscles tensing and body straining in expectation of the pain, Jim suddenly sagged back against the ground when instead of the mind searing, agonizing noise he had been awaiting, the soft strains of a slow ballad issued forth from the headphones. Opening his eyes, Jim found himself looking up into the laughing face of his captor.

"Oh, man," Alan gasped out. "If you could have seen your face then. I'm telling you, it was quite an amusing sight to behold. I might just keep you around for awhile, Detective. After all, I haven't had such an entertaining plaything in a long time." Seeing Jim's confused look, Alan added, "Did you really think that I would start with hearing? I mean come on. What's the fun in doing this if you can't hear me taunting you while it's happening? We will definitely be saving sound for last."

Leaning down to remove the headphones, Alan set them aside and then caressed Jim's face. "I think we'll start with sight," he whispered. "Imagine it, you lying there helpless. Not knowing where the next pain will be. Lying there in total darkness, completely at my mercy." Sitting back, he said, "Oh yes, I definitely like that idea." Standing, Alan walked back over to the cart and began looking through the items lying on it.

Seeing that Alan's attention was diverted, Jim began pulling at the restraint encircling his wrist. Grunting softly as the rope bit into his flesh, Jim grinned when the resulting blood began to coat his lacerated wrist and caused the rope to begin to slide slightly. Increasing his movements, Jim felt the rope begin to slip over his hand. With a final jerk, his hand was freed and he reached over to begin working on the rope restraining his other arm.

Turning around, holding a bottle aloft, Alan's look at pleasure quickly morphed into an expression of rage when he saw Jim. Screaming, he ran over and flung himself on top of Jim.

"No you don't," Alan yelled as he fell onto Jim. Still tightly grasping the bottle with one hand, Alan used the other to grip Jim's freed arm and pin it to the floor. "You're not going anywhere," he exclaimed.

Bucking against Alan, Jim attempted to free his arm. Experiencing a feeling of extreme relief when Alan let go of his arm, Jim was suddenly stunned by an unexpected and vicious backhand.

Staring down at the dazed man trapped beneath him, Alan grinned as he used the brief repose to twist the lid off of the bottle that he had continued to hold onto during the brief struggle.

When Jim shook his head slightly and then looked up Alan quickly upending the bottle, spilling its contents over Jim's face. Screaming as his clouded mind registered the resulting burning sensation, Jim raised his freed hand and began to frantically scrub at his eyes.

Hearing spiking, Jim heard the warehouse door open and then running footsteps that were quickly approaching his and Alan's position. Briefly, he wondered how Simon had managed to find them. Then he surrendered to unconsciousness.

 

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Other than a brief moment of consciousness in the ambulance, during which time his flailing fists struck the EMT, Jim remained unconscious all through his admittance to the hospital and the following examination by the doctor.

Moaning softly, Jim began to wake up. Mind muddled from sleep and pain, it took a second for him to notice the darkness surrounding him even though his eyes were opened. "What?" Flinching slightly as a hand came to rest on his shoulder, Jim relaxed when he smelled the reassuring scent of Simon's cigars. "Simon?"

"Yeah, Jim," Simon replied. "I'm here."

Bolting upright, ignoring the pulling sensation from the IV's attached to his arm, Jim yelled, "Sandburg!"

"He's okay," Simon reassured. "He's in the next room and he's fine. I promise."

"I want to go to him," Jim said.

"Not right now, Jim," Simon protested. "You need to rest. You both do."

"Simon..."

"In a little while, Jim," Simon interrupted. Clearing his throat, Simon said, "Um... Jim... About your eyes."

Ignoring the concerned tone in Simon's voice, Jim demanded, "Just tell me what the doctor said."

"Your eyes have been exposed to an unknown chemical compound," Simon answered. "They don't have any ideal as to whether or not the... the blindness is... per... permanent or not." Worried, Simon asked, "Jim? How are you holding up? Are you okay?"

"I'm blind and I have a splitting headache," Jim retorted. "How do you think I'm doing? Now just drop it and tell me what's going on with Sandburg."

"Jim..."

"Tell me!"

"He's catatonic," Simon stated. "He's awake, but totally unresponsive. The doctor's haven't got a clue as to what's wrong with him."

"What's wrong with him," Jim replied, "is what that sick, perverted freak Allen did to him. Putting all of the crap on him."

"What are you talking about?" Simon asked. "What did Allen do to him?"

"You were there," Jim responded. "You saw what he did."

"I was there?" Simon asked. "What are you talking about, Jim?"

"When you guys showed up and got Allen," Jim said. "You know, when you stopped him and saved us. Though I don't know how you managed to find us."

"Jim..."

"What, Simon?" Jim prompted when the other man fell silent.

"We didn't save you," Simon informed Jim. "We got an anonymous call to 911 informing us of your location. When we got there, you and Blair were both unconscious and lying next to each other on the floor."

"What about Allen?"

"What about him?" Simon asked.

"Is he in lock-up?" Jim inquired. "Please tell me you caught the son of a bitch."

"Jim..." Simon began. "God, I thought that you knew. I mean, I assumed that you did it."

"Knew what?" Jim asked. "Did what?"

"Jim, when we got there, Allen was dead." Watching as Jim's face, paled, Simon was further alarmed by the other man's sharp intake of breath. "Jim? What is it? What's the matter?"

"It can't be," Jim murmured.

"What?"

Looking up at Simon, Jim said, "Allen can't be dead."

"He is, Jim," Simon insisted. "I saw the body myself."

"Oh my God," Jim exclaimed. "I have to get to Blair! NOW!"

"What? Jim, I told you that you could see him in a little while..."

"Now, Simon," Jim interrupted. "I have to get to him now."

"WHY?" Simon yelled.

"Because Allen's dead," Jim explained.

"Yeah," Simon agreed. "So the threat to Sandburg is gone."

"Really," Jim asked. "If that's so, then why am I still having that feeling?"

"What are you..." Simon began. "Shit! You mean..."

"That's right," Jim confirmed. "Whoever or whatever I've been sensing these past three weeks, it wasn't Allen. Even though the threat he posed to Sandburg has been eliminated, there's still another one out there somewhere."

"Take me to him, Simon," Jim demanded again.

Placing a restraining hand on Jim's shoulder, Simon said, "Fine, but just wait a minute. I'll go talk with the doctor, see what he says."

"Hurry."

"All right," Simon agreed. Pausing by the door, he added, "Meanwhile, we need to be thinking of some way to explain all of this. People are going to want answers and I need to know what to tell them."

"Whatever," Jim wearily replied as he leaned back and closed his eyes. "But right now, all I want is to be with my partner."

"I'll see what I can do," Simon promised.

After Simon left the room, Jim dialed up his hearing and immediately located Blair's slow, steady heartbeat. Calmed by the reassuring sound yet also feeling a sharp increase in the need to be with his partner, Jim reached over a hand and began to feel along his arm. Locating the site of the IV, he slowly and carefully eased the needle out of his arm. Slowly climbing out of bed, he tentatively took a few steps away from it. Arms stretched before him, hands searching for the door, he gradually made his way across the room. Remembering the direction that Simon's voice had come from, he allowed the memory to guide his footsteps. Triumphant, he grinned when his hands finally made contact with the door. Running his hand down the door, he eventually located the doorknob.

Pausing, he leaned his forehead against the door for a second. "C'mon, Ellison, you can do this. It's just like what happened with that Golden crap; this is nothing that you haven't dealt with before. So just get your ass in gear and get to your partner." Taking a deep breath, Jim opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

Head tilted to the side; Jim leaned against the wall and quickly locked onto Blair's heartbeat. Letting the sound guide him, he hesitantly started along the hallway. Fingers trailing along the wall, ensuring that he wouldn't miss the door, Jim followed the soothing rhythm. Stopping as he noticed the different texture under his fingertips, Jim smiled and again felt along until he reached a doorknob.

Entering the room, Jim started in the direction of Blair's heartbeat. Stifling a yell, Jim cursed softly when his leg impacted against something. Reaching down, he felt around and located the chair he had bumped into. Angrily shoving it aside, he continued over to Blair.

Stopping as his legs bumped into the bed, he laid a hand on the mattress. Slowly moving his hand around, he stopped when he brushed up against flesh. Briefly he grasped the arm he had located before running his hand up the arm. Jim smiled when his hand finally reached the shoulder and he felt soft strands of hair brushed against the back of his hand. "Hey, Chief," he greeted.

Needing further contact, Jim continued to run his hand along the shoulder and up Blair neck until his palm gently cupped his partner's cheek. "I need you to wake up now, Blair. C'mon back to me." Sighing, he added, "You've never failed to reach me when I've zoned and I just hope that I'm able to do the same. I don't know if what you're experiencing could be called a zone-out exactly, but I'm sure it's something similar. Wherever you're at right now, I know that you probably want to stay. God knows that sometimes I would rather just stay in a zone than come out and face everything again. I know that you're in a calm, quiet, peaceful place right now. But you've got to fight your way out. I need you, Chief." Leaning down until his face was close to Blair's, Jim repeated in a hushed tone, "I need you."

Jerking his head back slightly when he heard Blair groan, Jim encouraged, "That's it, Chief. Wake up."

"Jim..." Blair murmured.

"I'm here, Blair," Jim reassured. "You're safe. Rest now. Got to sleep, I'll watch over you."

Hand still cupping Blair's cheek, Jim smiled when Blair sighed and then turned slightly to briefly nuzzle against his hand. Hearing the change in Blair's heartbeat and breathing which indicated that his partner was now sleeping, Jim repeated, "I'll watch over you."

 

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Down below in the parking lot, a solitary figure sat in a car and maintained a constant vigil. Looking upward, eyes instinctively drawn to the window of Blair's room, the lone sentry's attention never wavered.

You're safe now, Blair. I saved you when the other couldn't. I wanted to keep you with me. I needed to keep you with me. But I knew that now isn't the right time. So rest now, Blair. Recover and regain your strength. And after you've mended then I'll come to you. I'll come for you. And it will be glorious. We will be glorious together.

In that room, when I walked in and saw you there, I experienced a brief taste of your essence. And that taste left me craving more. That fool didn't know how to treat you right. It was my pleasure to kill him. I almost killed the other, too. His importance to you is the only reason he's still alive. That and the purpose he still serves. I know that he's the only one who can help you heal. Once he's accomplished that, he'll have no further value. Until then though, I will continue to let him live. Continue to let the two of you stay together.

For you, I will be patient, Blair. For you I will calmly wait until the time when we can be together, until the time when I can truly and completely know you. Until the time my hunger is fulfilled and I've feasted on your spirit and soul. Until I've learned all of your secrets and can fully partake in the knowledge that you possess. "Soon, Blair. Soon you will be mine."

 

The End

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