There are times when I wonder how I get myself into these
situations. I mean, sure, everybody calls me a 'trouble magnet'
and they all seem to get a real kick out of it, but I swear that
stuff like this never happened to me before one James Joseph
Ellison came into my life. Well, to be fair, I guess it'd be more
accurate to say that I came into his life. So I can't really
fault him. But, damn it, how many times can one person be
kidnapped, shot, beat up, drugged or held hostage? I mean, come
on. Once, okay, that's believable. Twice, that's pushing it, but
still within the realm of possibility. Three times is starting to
verge on the edge of unbelievable, but still with the remote
reaches of reality. But this is, like, the fifteenth time.
Fifteen! Naomi would say it's fate or destiny or something. Yeah,
right. I'm supposed to believe it was my destiny to just happen
to stumble into this one. Get real, mom. And please try to visit
us here on planet Earth once in a while. Okay, okay, sorry. That
one was over the line. But, damn, what do you expect. This is
really starting to piss me off. Now where was I again? Oh, yeah,
See, everything started off pretty good. I woke up this morning. Actually got to take a shower with hot water since Jim had to be into the station early. Then, I fixed myself some breakfast - scrambled eggs, sausage and toast. I only fix the algae shake when Jim is around. To be honest, those green things taste friggin' awful, but I suck 'em back anyway if for no other reason than to have something to rag on Jim about. The man will put absolutely anything - and I'm not just taking food here - into his mouth yet every time I start up the blender, he gets this disgusted look on his face like it's the grossest thing he's ever seen ... or smelt. This from a guy who will pick something up off of the floor and put it in his mouth to taste it. Okay, okay, I know it's a Sentinel thing. And, yes, I admit there's the scientific part of me that is fascinated by the whole thing. But then there's the rational part of me that just plain gags at the sight of it. And this is the guy that gripes and complains about something as simple as a little algae shake? So, yeah, I guess there's this demented, impish - and Jim knows he'd better not ever call me that to my face, even though I know he's thinking it sometimes, or I'll knock him on his ass - part of me that gets a kick out of giving him a hard time every once in a while. And I wonder why Jim calls me Sybil sometimes. So, anyway, I fix myself some breakfast and then clean up the mess. And, of course, I fix an algae shake and then pour the vile mixture down the drain - hey, I have to divert any suspicions that might be aroused - and leave for Rainier.
I get down to my car - which is a classic, no matter how many times Jim refers to it as a rusted-out clunker that's drawing its last breaths - and it actually starts up on the first try. Okay, I admit that the Volvo might have seen better days but Jim's truck isn't a whole lot better. Oh, forgive me, I should have said Jim's 'Sweetheart'. Yeah, that's right, he calls the damn thing Sweetheart. The first time I heard that, I was rolling. But after one glare, I stopped laughing right away. Gee, who knew the guy would be so sensitive about his truck. Well, okay, I guess the memorial services for the first two trucks that 'died' should have given me a clue. But come on. Give me a break. I'm no where near as particular about Lulu as he is about that hayseed truck of his. And, yeah, that's right, I did say 'Lulu'. I admit it - I named my Volvo. But, see, I'm an anthropologist. By naming my car, I'm just adhering to the prevailing cultural trend of a person's tendency towards personification of their vehicles. But Jim, he's a cop. He's all macho and gruff and... Oh, who am I trying to kid. The guy is a nothing but a huge cupcake and I know it. I mean, sure, he has his rules. Hell, he color-codes the leftovers. He even has a dustcover for his dustbuster, for crying out loud, and I swear one time I saw him eyeing some doilies while we were out shopping. And he can do pissed off like nobody I've ever met before.
But, basically, he's one big pussycat. Rub him the right way and he's purring. And, no, I don't mean rubbing in that way - even though half the station thinks he uses me for his own, personal chew toy. But cook him his favorite meal, tape the Jags game for him when he has to work late, make a special trip to the store to pick up his favorite snack food ... and you'll have him eating out of the palm of your hand. And, no, that's not why I do all of those things. I do it because he's a decent, hard-working guy who puts up with a lot of grief and every once in a while he needs somebody to look after him for a change. God knows he does it enough for me. So I'm more than happy to turn the tables on him. And, hey, if he relaxes the house rules and I get to actually flush the damn toilet after 10pm, then what's the harm. He's happy. I'm happy. It's all good. And most of the time, things are good between the two of us. We're content with our lives and with each other. Then something like this has to happen and screw everything up.
So, there I am, driving to Rainier, when Lulu makes this wheezing noise and sputters. I'm sitting there, pleading with her - and why exactly does that remind me of one of my dates - and hoping that I'll make it to the university. But, of course, my luck doesn't hold out and she dies right there in the middle of the street - a deserted, trash-strewn street that Jim made me swear I wouldn't use but it cuts about ten minutes off of my driving time and I figure what he doesn't know won't hurt me, and boy was that a big mistake - when, naturally, I see these two guys walking up to me. There's no doubt in my mind that I'm in some serious trouble here - hell, with my luck how could I not be - and I rummage through my backpack, trying to find my cellphone. Which, of course, is sitting at home in the charger since Jim bitched at me last night because the battery ran out in the middle of our conversation that afternoon. Me being me, I went off and forgot the damn thing this morning. You know, as much as I complain about his mother-henning, it is nice to have him around to remind me of things sometimes. Though I'll never tell him that. The guy is way too smug for his own good sometimes as it is - no way was I going to give him any encouragement in that area.
The guys walk up to my car and one of them lays his arm on the hood as he leans over to peer through the window at me. I crank the window down a couple of inches. Hey, I figure I'm doing good here - there's not enough space for him to reach in and grab me after all - and that Jim would be proud. That's when I see the barrel of the gun that's sliding through and being pointed at me. I groan and bang my head against the steering wheel - not a smart thing to do, by the way, since I've now got a killer headache - while the guy says something about handing over all my money. At first, I'm tempted to say, 'What money?' I am, after all, a perpetually financially strapped grad student and I've currently got a whooping grand total of thirteen buck and twenty-seven cents on me. But my mouth has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion so I managed to curb my natural tendency to smart off at the guy. Jim would not only be proud, he'd be amazed as well. I smile at that thought which was a big mistake 'cause the guy starts yelling and screaming. He tried to open the door, which was locked - another helpful hint from Jim that finally got through my stubborn hide, his words, not mine, after hearing him bellow, 'Sandburg, lock your damn door', for about the gazillionth time.
Genius number one starts banging on my window with the gun - with the barrel pointed in his direction - while genius number two runs around my car and tries the other door. Yeah, like I would lock one door and not the other. How stupid did they think I was? Well, apparently, I'm an idiot - or a doofus, as Jim affectionately calls me sometimes - because the passenger side door opens up and genius number two - who actually seems pretty damn brilliant right then - reaches in to grab me. So he jerks me across the seat - which really hurt since I had on my seatbelt - and then gets frustrated when I don't budge. He leans in and lands a couple of good punches to the side of my head - on second thought maybe that's why I've got the headache - before letting me go when a gunshot sounds. Seems that genius number one has somehow managed to get the gun to go off and he's actually shot himself in the side.
Genius number two hightails it out of there. And it's not like I can just go off and leave someone lying in the street, bleeding to death, so I get out of Lulu and check the guy out. About that time, a patrol car pulls up - I can't help wondering where they were a couple of minutes ago - and these two cops get out with their guns drawn. I tried to tell them who I was and what was going on but they wouldn't listen. As one of them slams me to the ground and cuffs me, I can't help thinking how pissed Jim is going to be as I listen to the other one call in for an ambulance.
So now here I am, sitting in the emergency room - finally managed to get everything straightened out with Heckle and Jeckle after getting interrogated by them for what seemed like forever - waiting for the doctor to come back so I can get sprung from this place. My head is pounding. I'm irritated, miserable and just plain pissed. If anyone messes with me right now, I won't be responsible for my actions - and if they think that Jim can kick some ass, just wait until they get a load of what I do.
Then Jim walks into the room. He's got that look on his face - the one he gets just before he subjects me to a round of merciless teasing - and I just know he's going to start in with that 'trouble magnet' shit. Obviously, contrary to popular belief, the man has some measure of self preservation - which you'd never believe if you ever saw some of the reckless, stupid stunts he pulls every time I turn around - and he wisely keeps his opinions to himself.
The doctor finally comes back and gives me the all clear. Jim silently listens to his instructions and then herds me out to his truck. He tells me that he had the Volvo driven back to the loft and that genius number one is going to be okay. The next thing I know, I'm at the loft, sitting on the couch, blanket wrapped around my shoulders, shoes off, a mug of tea in my hands, and there's a fire going in the fireplace. I'm waiting 'cause I know he's going to start in on me pretty soon. But, instead, he just looks at me for the longest time. Then he sighs, like this huge weight been lifted off of him. And before I can ask him about it, he just says, "Do me a favor, Chief, and quit pouring those damn shakes down the kitchen sink. Do you realize how much Drano I have to dump down there to keep the drain from clogging up?" I just smile and take a sip of my tea as he, oh so gently, lands a smack to the back of my head.
So tomorrow when I go to the station and the gang laughs and calls me a trouble magnet again, I'll laugh right along with them. Because, you see, I am a trouble magnet. After all, I attracted Jim, didn't I? And, believe me, I wouldn't have it any other way.
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