There are a few, very brief notes from the episodes Cypher, Blind Man's Bluff, Deep Water, and Inside Man.
Blair Sandburg, professional student of anthropology and semi-professional police observer, strolled down the corridor to his office at Rainier University. As he walked he shared a joke with a fellow grad student, both of them in happy moods because the Spring Semester had just ended and all grades had been turned in. Now there would be two glorious weeks of vacation before the summer session began. Well, not exactly vacation for Blair because he would be spending most days at the police department, but he wouldn't be juggling two separate lives and that was a vacation of sorts.
He stood in the doorway of his office, still animatedly talking to his friend, when the phone rang. Parting with plans of seeing each other in a couple of weeks, Blair hurried to the phone. "Blair Sandburg," he answered pleasantly.
"There's a car waiting for you in front of the building." Click.
Blair stared at the dead receiver, his hand trembling slightly as he returned it to its cradle. Captain Simon Banks, his commander at the police station, was never one to waste words and he'd grown used to the brusqueness knowing it was nothing against him, merely Simon's way. But it wasn't Simon's habit to call Blair. There was someone else who relayed the captain's orders, requests, and demands. There was someone else who was supposed to pick him up later because, as usual, his car was in the shop. And what was making his hand tremble and throat close in panic was the fact Simon hadn't mentioned that someone at all. Grabbing his backpack and barely remembering to cut off the lights, Blair raced to the door.
The blue, gray, and yellow police cruiser was right where Simon said it would be. "Hey, Sandburg," the young uniformed officer said. "Heard you needed a ride. You can sit up here in the cop seat beside me. After all, you've been on the force longer than I have."
"So... so what's going on, Peterson?" Blair asked hesitantly.
"I honestly don't know. Captain Banks just said to come get you. You think something's wrong?"
"Jim was supposed to pick me up."
"Maybe Ellison's in the middle of something big and asked the captain to make arrangements for you."
"Yeah," Blair said, totally unconvinced. It was hours before Jim was scheduled to pick him up. He would have called if plans changed.
Detective James Ellison was Blair's police "partner". Well, actually he was more than that; his roommate, best friend, and brother by everything but blood. He was also supposedly the subject of Blair's doctoral thesis. Jim was a full-fledged Sentinel-- an individual with enhanced senses that were originally meant to help the person protect jungle tribes in ancient times. Although civilization with its laws, law enforcers, and advanced forensic techniques had made Sentinels obsolete, the genetic material for such individuals remained in play. While in the military, circumstances had forced Jim to spend eighteen isolated months in the jungles of Peru, and his unique heritage had kicked in to help him survive. With his return to the modern world, the senses had gone dormant once more.
But once the Sentinel had been unleashed, he could not be restrained for long, and Detective Jim Ellison had thought he was losing his mind as he began experiencing overwhelming sensory feedback-- hearing voices which he assumed were in his head, seeing things from impossible distances, keeling over from scents others could barely detect, and even feeling dust as it settled on his skin. He suffered to the point of considering suicide as the ultimate solution to a life out of control. Blair said a prayer every day to whoever was listening that he'd "found" Jim in time.
Many anthropologists considered Sentinels to be myths-- primitive versions of urban legend or internet rumors. Blair, however, believed wholeheartedly in Sentinel lore and coming upon Jim was like finding the Holy Grail. After convincing the distraught detective he wasn't going crazy, he'd talked his way into being Jim's Guide, the person who helped a Sentinel handle his gifts. He'd helped Jim regain control of his runaway senses and hone them into tools a detective could use.
That had been three years ago and now Blair knew the Sentinel/Guide relationship wasn't just that of teacher/student or hero/sidekick. It delved into emotions men weren't exactly comfortable with, especially in context with another man-- affection, caring, love. As it was, he and Jim rarely spoke aloud of the bond between them but it showed in every meal cooked and shared, the sometimes hesitantly-given confessions in the wee hours of the morning, the occasional hand on the shoulder to comfort or support.
The bond also manifested itself in worry. Because Jim had saved his life so many times, Blair teasingly called him his Blessed Protector, stemming from the old Chinese custom of the savior being permanently responsible for the life he saved. Jim took the role seriously, spending large amounts of time worrying about his Guide and friend. Blair believed that was the main reason he was still in Jim's guest room. His moving in had originally been a temporary solution to an immediate problem; Blair's original residence had blown up with the drug lab next door. Over the years, however, the subject of him moving out had faded as the guest room became Blair's room and the loft became their home.
It could be argued that this "protector" thing was part of Jim from the beginning. He'd spent nearly all his adult life "protecting and serving", first in the military and then as one of Cascade, Washington's finest. Considering that being a Sentinel was a genetic trait, Blair was convinced Jim had merely conformed to being a guardian in whatever form appropriate to the present era. Blair, on the other hand, didn't care for conformity in any way. He was the child of a free spirit and that was the only life he knew. Keep on the move. Don't form strong bonds. Anxiety was for those who cared and except for his mother, Naomi, who floated from place to place at will, Blair didn't care. Not that he was shallow or callous or even totally without feeling when he left a friend or lost one, but he'd learned to get over it and keep rolling on.
Until Jim. He'd gone after a research subject and ended up with family. With that came the ability to worry. Constantly. About the welfare of Jim, if he were letting Jim down, if he were in Jim's way, if he could back Jim up when he needed it. Sometimes he wished he'd never found Jim, never learned to care so much about one person. Then he compared his life "before Jim" to "after Jim." That was when he realized he never wanted to go back.
"Man, something big is going down," Peterson said and Blair looked up, surprised they had reached their destination as he mused. The panic, which had abated somewhat, gathered speed and crashed into his chest, making breathing difficult. The entire street ahead was blocked off and flashing lights made kaleidoscopes on the mist covered windshield.
"Jim," he mumbled incoherently as he got out of the car the second it stopped. He looked wildly about for his friend. But all he could see was the row of body bags lined up neatly in front of a dilapidated wooden house.
He turned toward his captain, a tall African-American man in an expensive gray suit. "Where is he, Simon?"
"Take it easy. He's not hurt."
"Then where is he?"
"I'll take you to him in a minute. But first I need to fill you in. You firing questions at him won't do him any good."
"I thought you said he was fine," Blair said accusingly. "What happened? Did he zone out?" At times, Jim focused so tightly on one sense that he wasn't aware of anything else. His Guide was often his anchor to the rest of the world. His voice reached him when nothing else could.
"Shut up for a minute, Sandburg, and I'll give you the whole story," Simon said sternly. Blair settled down. "Okay, the abandoned house over there was a cutting room for drugs. Narcotics was in charge of the raid and Major Crimes was just part of the back up. The operation went smoothly, and all the suspects had been rounded up and placed in the wagon. We were just about to leave when Jim said he wanted to make sure we'd gotten everything." Simon was aware of his detective's hypersenses and knew Jim wanted to scan the house with them, making sure no evidence was left anywhere. He agreed and stayed with him just in case he started to zone.
"Out of the blue, Jim grabbed his head and fell to his knees. I thought he'd had a stroke or something. But then he started talking about the bodies beneath the house. About how they were calling to him, begging to be found. Anyone else, I probably would have carted off to the funny farm but Jim's about as tightly screwed as they come. So on his word only, I called in a forensics team. They tore out the old wooden floor. With Jim's help the first body was found within ten minutes."
"The first?" Blair asked with a sinking feeling.
"So far the count's at eighteen. From what we can tell here on the scene, most of them were children and teens."
"Damn. And Jim?"
"He marked the spots where the dead told him they were buried. So far, every mark has turned up remains." He sighed and took off his glasses to rub his eyes tiredly. "I got him out of the house, but he says the dead won't let him leave until all the bodies have been retrieved." He motioned for the grad student to follow him.
Blair didn't know what to think. He didn't believe in ghosts but if Jim was hearing voices, voices with accurate information, he was going to have to reevaluate his disbelief. At least in this instance. "I don't know what I can do for him, Simon. I've never heard of this happening to a Sentinel. I've often suspected Jim's sixth sense, his intuition, was heightened, but this is beyond mere 'I've got a feeling', isn't it?"
Simon nodded. "You don't have to figure this out just yet, Sandburg. I think Jim will feel better just because you're here."
"Thanks, Simon." He knew the captain didn't fully understand the dynamics of their relationship, and as he'd told them often enough, didn't want to know more than he did. All he cared was that the Sentinel/Guide thing worked and it got cases solved. That was good enough for him to allow Sandburg police observer status and to call the younger man if Jim were in trouble.
The mist had turned into a soft rain by the time Blair reached Jim's side at the back of the house. The Sentinel stood at parade rest; his shoulders square, feet slightly apart, one arm straight down his side and the other folded across his back. A silent honor guard for the dead. Not wanting to disturb this solemn tribute, Blair held back, waiting for Jim to acknowledge his presence. When no sign of awareness came, he knew something was wrong. Jim always knew when his Guide was nearby, having the ability to pick out his heartbeat in the midst of a crowd. "Hey, big guy," he said softly, afraid of startling him.
"What are you doing here, Chief? I wasn't supposed to pick you up until later."
Blair heaved a sigh of relief. His Sentinel sounded fine. Maybe exhausted but mentally clicking on all cylinders. "Simon sent a chauffeur. How could I turn him down?"
Jim shook his head. "The captain must really think I'm nuts if he resorted to bringing you here." Simon respected Blair, even admitted to liking him on occasion, but the Guide's energetic personality often got on his nerves.
"He doesn't think you're nuts, Jim. How could he with all this tangible proof? Eighteen sets of remains, man."
"Forty-two in all, Chief. First one buried in 1971. The last in '83."
Blair's mouth dropped open before he recovered enough to drag a notebook and pen out of his backpack. "How do you know all this?" he asked, scribbling down the information.
"They told me," Jim replied, indicating the house. "Didn't Simon fill you in? I've been talking to the dead all afternoon."
"He told me, Jim. I just didn't know you had all these details. What else do you know?"
"Oh, a lot of things. The names and ages of all. The places of origin for most. Some are more talkative than others but from what I can gather, they were runaways. And they ran right into death."
"What about their killer?"
"They never saw him, never knew his name. One minute they were sleeping in an alley, the next they were drugged and blindfolded in this house. The blindfold was never removed. Not during the hours of rape, the days of torture, nor when he squeezed the life out of them." Jim's voice broke at the end, and he bowed his head to hide the tears he knew shone in his eyes.
Blair clasped Jim's arm, giving and receiving comfort. If he felt so bad hearing it, how must Jim be feeling with forty-two such tales rushing through his brain? A lesser man would probably be insane by now. "Jim, are you still in contact with these... ghosts?"
Jim cocked his head as if listening intently. "No, they're gone now. I hope they never come back."
Blair agreed. But even if the ghosts had receded back to whatever terrible place they'd come from, Jim's ordeal wasn't over. He was going to have to be thoroughly debriefed. Well, his Guide was going to make sure he only had to go through it once. Digging out the small tape recorder he used in class, he found Simon and in the relative comfort of the captain's car, Jim told all that he knew.
Simon had been stunned by the thoroughness of the information, but never once did he express any doubt. Blair was impressed. It was one thing for him, an anthropology grad student, to accept what had apparently occurred. But cops were notoriously close-minded, even Jim, and Blair understood why. Their training, their very lives were dependent on rules, laws and regulations because they were the only things that separated them from the criminals they caught. For Simon to believe in what Jim was saying, he would be putting his faith in the man and not on fact, evidence, or any other tangible thing. Blair wondered if Jim knew just what kind of friend he had in the captain.
Someone tapped on the car window. "Captain, we have forty-two sets of remains. Should we continue to search?"
Simon looked at Jim who shook his head. "That's all, Roberts. Get them over to the lab. Here's a list of their names, sexes and ages. Maybe that will help you identify which remains are which."
"I can do that, Simon."
"You've done too much already, Jim. You look like hell, man. Go home and rest."
Even though the voices had gone, they had left behind memories and Jim hoped putting the names with the remains would give him the closure he needed. "Please, sir."
Simon looked at Sandburg, silently asking him his opinion. Blair nodded, sensing the desperation in Jim's request. Once he got him home, he would start repairing the damage these ghosts had done to his friend. For now, he would merely support him.
"Hungry, Jim?" Blair asked as Jim came downstairs from changing out of his wet clothing. As he finished labeling the body bags, the sky had opened up as if heaven itself were weeping.
"No, but you go ahead. You probably didn't have time to grab anything at the University for lunch, did you?"
"You haven't had anything since breakfast either."
"All I could possibly stomach now is a couple of aspirin. My head's killing me."
"Why didn't you say anything earlier?" Blair chided, heading for the bathroom. "Here, take the acetaminophen instead. You don't need to put aspirin on an empty stomach. You're cranky enough without an ulcer to add to my misery."
"Very funny, Sandburg."
"I thought you could use a laugh," he said as he handed Jim a glass of water. "Why don't you go upstairs and lie down, at least until the medicine takes effect?"
Jim shook his head and stalked over to the glass doors that looked down upon the city, the tribe he was to protect. Up until today that had only included the living citizens. He didn't know if he was up to the task of being Sentinel to the dead as well. "I'm so angry, Chief."
"You've had a psychic event, Jim. You're entitled to feel overwhelmed," Blair said soothingly.
Jim laughed bitterly. "Is that what they're calling it now? 'A psychic event'?" Hell, that sounded almost normal. But what he was feeling wasn't. "I can understand my anger for the son of a bitch who assaulted and murdered forty-two people. I only wish I knew whether he was walking around in this world, or burning in hell where he belongs. But I am also furious with these...things which invaded my head. They took away my control, Chief, and I'm mad enough to kill them. But I can't, because they're already dead. How insane is that, Blair, to be angry at the dead?"
Blair came to stand beside him. "That's not insane at all. People are often mad at the person who died and left them alone."
"But that's not the same as this, is it?"
"No," he answered honestly. "But they're gone now, aren't they?"
Jim slumped against the window, and Blair's hand wrapped around his arm as to hold him up. "Yes, they're gone. But for how long, Chief? They found a way in. What's to stop them from doing it again?"
Sentinel and Guide stood looking at their city, shivering as darkness fell.
The bus was twenty-three minutes late when it pulled into the Cascade Depot. Most of the passengers hurried off, loved ones waiting eagerly for them. The old man exited last, allowing the driver to help him down the stairs, then hand his cane back to him. The luggage was removed and five minutes after its arrival, the bus was gone and a cabbie was loading the old man's suitcase into his trunk.
"Where to?" he asked as his passenger climbed into the backseat. He named a hotel in a shabby but still relatively safe part of town, asking the driver to take the long route there so he could see the city.
"You visiting Cascade for the first time?" the cabbie asked.
"No. But it's been a long time since I was here. I know there must be a lot of changes."
"Going to be staying long?"
The old man shrugged. "I don't know. Cascade was once my home." He gazed out the window and smiled. "Maybe it will be again."
"Come on to breakfast, Chief, while the bagels are still warm," Jim called as he picked up a knife to slice through the fresh baked goods he'd purchased at the corner market.
"I'll be right there. I forgot to pick up my university I.D. and you know how strict they are at registration," Blair said from his room.
"Jim?" Blair ran into the kitchen and found Jim on his knees beside the table, his hands clutching his ears, blood running down one arm. "Shit," he muttered and bent down beside his friend. "Jim? What is it? What are you hearing?" No response. "Turn it down, Jim. Quiet the noise," he said in his calm Guide's voice.
Jim looked at him wildly. "They won't shut up! Tell them to shut up, Blair! I can't think when they're screaming! I can't!"
They? Damn oh damn oh damn. "You're killing him!" he screamed into the air, wondering if the ghosts could hear him even though the opposite wasn't true. "He can't take the noise! You have to shut up! Listen to me, shut the hell up!" He grabbed Jim's shoulders as the older man began to tremble violently. Where the hell was all the blood coming from, he wondered worriedly. "You know he will help you," he added softly, giving the ghosts something to emulate. "He did so before. But you have to be quiet now. I have to take care of him first."
Jim stilled in his arms. "Thank you, Chief," he said, removing his hands from his head.
"Where are you hurt?" Blair asked, ignoring the thanks. He searched the bloody arm until he saw the deep gash in the palm of Jim's left hand. Quickly, he grabbed a towel from the drawer and wrapped it around the wound. "Can you stand?" Jim nodded and Blair carefully supported him to his feet. It was then he saw the bloody knife and bagel. He felt bile roil in his stomach, but forced himself to remain steady. "Let's get you to the emergency room, okay?" Jim nodded, his gaze still a little vacant.
Two hours later the vacant look was gone, along with the unwavering obedience. "We should have stayed at home," Blair told his stubborn partner as he steered the truck toward the police station. "I told you Simon said we could have the day off when I called him while you were having your hand sewn up."
"Stay at home and do what, Sandburg? Wait for my formless friends to pay another visit?" Jim said, wiggling uncomfortably in the passenger's seat.
"You'd rather collapse in front of the whole bullpen?" Blair asked sharply. Frigid silence was the reply. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize, Chief. It's a valid point. I just don't want..."
"To sit around at the loft waiting for them," Blair finished for him. "I understand. We'll just have to work out of Simon's office so we can have privacy if we need it."
"Oh, we will, will we?" Jim asked with his first true smile of the day. "Simon know this?"
"He will when we tell him."
Blair dumped a pile of folders on the conference table in the confiscated office. It hadn't been a hard sell to Simon after all; the captain was spending the morning in administrative meetings on another floor. "That's the last of the files on the forty-two victims, Jim. In the past two weeks, Brown and the others have located the next of kin for thirty-nine. They were positively identified and have been claimed and buried. The other three are probably going to end up being buried by the state."
"I didn't know so much had been accomplished," Jim said, amazed at the progress his colleagues had made.
"They wanted to shield you from the case as much as possible."
"Afraid I would space out again, huh?"
"Afraid they would cause you pain, man," Blair said firmly. "You really don't know how much they respect you around here, do you?"
"It's not something I think about," Jim admitted.
"Well, you should. You aren't the loner you were when you lost Jack, your first partner." According to some of the older officers, "cold" was the nicest way to describe Ellison back then.
"I know that, Chief."
Blair shook his head. "I don't think you do. You know you have me in your life, and you will allow Simon in on occasion. But, Jim, there are dozens of people who are willing to do anything for you. If anyone else had had the experience you had after that raid, there would still be strains of the Twilight Zone theme floating around this place. But not a single person teased you, and it wasn't because you're bigger or meaner than they are. It's because they like you. Appreciate that, Jim. It's very rare."
Jim knew Blair was right, and he knew he was going to have to reevaluate his life, change attitudes that belonged to the past, in the pre-Blair era. "I get it, Chief. But why are you pressing this now?"
"Jim, there were forty-two presences, spirits, ghosts, or whatever you want to call them, fighting against you in your head this morning. When they return, I want you to know that there are at least forty-two presences here in this world ready to fight for you. All you have to do is let us."
Jim knew from the beginning his Guide was one of the smartest people in the world, but he still managed to surprise him at times. "How did you get to be so wise, Chief?"
Blair smiled and hopped onto the table, letting his legs dangle. Simon would have a cow if he saw him. "I had good teachers. The one I learned the most from is here in this room."
Jim started to reply when a stabbing pain hit him between the eyes. He jumped up from the table with a moan. "It's starting, Chief," he managed to say, retaining more control this time. Perhaps it was because he had been expecting it, or maybe he was just getting used to them in his head. Scary thought.
"Set down the ground rules, Jim. Let them know they are the ones wanting your help."
We didn't mean to hurt you.
It was a single voice, although Jim could detect the presence of the others. "Apology accepted," Jim said aloud so Blair would know what was happening. "You are Michael Hadley, the first one, right?"
Yes, that's why I was chosen to be the spokesman. But I am no longer an individual. We are united in this. We prefer being called the Forty-Two.
"I know most of my information comes from Halloween stories and Hollywood minds, but I thought your kind settled down once you'd been properly identified and buried. Why this reappearance?"
"But you said you didn't know who he was."
We don't. But the evil of his dark soul shook us from our peace this morning. He has returned to Cascade. You must find him and destroy him.
Jim threw up his hands. "Sorry, Casper, but you picked the wrong guy if you're looking for an executioner. I'm a cop. I don't do things like that."
But you must. He is evil. He must die.
The voices reacted in unison. Shouting for Jim to kill their murderer, forcing the memories of their last days on earth into Jim's thoughts, demanding revenge. The Sentinel concentrated on the beating of his Guide's heart, and the voices and laughter he heard in the bullpen beyond the door. The sounds in his head were drowned out, and the presences recognized their defeat.
He must pay.
Jim nodded, relieved to hear the single voice again. "I agree. But I won't take the law into my own hands. We will work together to see that justice is served. That is the best I can promise."
Jim didn't like the tone of that last comment, and he realized he would have to take drastic actions to make them understand he wouldn't be forced, subtlely or otherwise, to do what he knew was wrong. "Trust me," he said directly to Blair, then drew his gun and placed it against his own temple. "Take my offer or find another," Jim told the ghosts firmly.
At that moment, Simon walked in and Blair quickly motioned for him not to disturb the detective. It was only because he trusted Blair to keep Jim safe that he merely shut the door.
For years we cried out for help. You were the only one to hear us. There is no one else. We accept whatever help you can give us.
Jim holstered the weapon. "When did you become aware he was back?"
When we came to you this morning. In our anguish we rushed to the one who freed us.
"Why are you still together? You should be with your families now."
We are bound by his evil. There will be no peace for us until he walks among the dead.
"You'll have to take that up with a higher authority."
We understand. Do what you can, Sentinel.
"How do you know about that?" Jim asked sharply.
We only know that is the name of the person who answered us. Is that incorrect?
"No. I will help the Forty-Two. But I need time to think. Leave me for now." Jim felt them depart, but the pain remained. "Chief, I don't think my head's big enough for forty-three people to occupy it, myself included. Hi, Simon," he said, acknowledging the captain.
"Damn it, Sandburg, I trusted you to let me know when it got this bad," Simon muttered angrily, flipping through the Rolodex on his desk. "You wouldn't happen to know the extension for the department shrink, would you?"
"It's okay, Simon," Blair said calmly.
"It is not okay when I walk into my office and see one of my officers holding a gun to his head. I should have done something about this two weeks ago. It's my own damn fault that it's out of control," he railed at himself as he picked up the phone.
"Simon," Jim said, disconnecting the phone. Thanks to Blair's earlier talk, he realized it was fear rather than anger driving Simon. "I'm not suicidal, my friend."
"What would you call it, Jim?" Simon asked softly, releasing the phone.
"I was making a point. The Forty-Two needed to know who was in control."
"And who is?"
Jim sighed and clasped the captain's shoulder. "I am, Simon." Jim met Simon's piercing gaze and because the detective realized how deeply his actions had shaken his friend, he dropped his normal shields and let him probe his soul until Simon found the answer he was looking for.
The captain blinked, absorbing what he'd seen. "What the hell is going on, Jim?"
"Let me take something for this headache and I'll fill you in."
"Here, Jim," Blair said, reaching into his backpack. "The doctor had me fill this prescription for you in case your hand starting hurting. It should help with your head."
"For a while anyway," Jim said as he downed the pills. There was some weird battle between his hypersenses and medication. The physics of the interaction was still a mystery but the end result was that medication was short-acting when Jim took it. It was mostly a minor annoyance; most pain he could control with "mind over matter" techniques Blair taught him. However, it became more serious when anesthesia wore off in the middle of an operation....
"Jim, you're fading on us," Blair warned, touching his Sentinel's shoulder.
"Sorry," Jim said drowsily. "These pills have a kick to them."
"Not to mention all you've been through this morning," Blair said sympathetically. "Why don't you crash on the sofa for a while. I can fill Simon in on some of it."
"Okay." Jim moved to the sofa. "Have someone check on arrivals in Cascade at the same time the Forty-Two hit me this morning. Planes, trains, buses..."
"The Forty-Two?" He'd phrased it that way before.
Jim opened his eyes but closed them when two Simons wavered in front of him. Damn it, what were in those pills? Then he remembered the E.R. doctor saying his odd reaction to medication was noted on his records. The intern had probably prescribed the strongest meds they had....
"We don't need this, Simon," Blair was saying when Jim became aware again. Cracking his eye just a little, he zeroed in on Simon's wristwatch. He'd been out nearly three hours.
"Damn it, don't you think I know that, Sandburg? But you know I had to fill out a report for NCAVC when the bodies were discovered." The National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime, run by the FBI, was a national clearinghouse. It could be particularly useful, because if a similar crime occurred somewhere else, local authorities could coordinate their efforts, even the track the killer around the country. The really unusual crimes were passed on to VI-CAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. "I figured VI-CAP would print out one of its stock profiles and send it along. Then we could ignore it and get on with the case. I never expected them to send a profiler here."
"Tell me I'm still drugged and didn't hear what I think I did," Jim pleaded as he sat up on the sofa.
"We're not that lucky," Blair said, confirming the news. "So you feeling any better?"
Jim yawned and stretched. "Yeah, Chief. We need to remember that prescription. It actually worked."
"Not really. I read the pamphlet the pharmacy stuck in the bag. 'Patient will be unresponsive for at least eight hours.' You didn't even make four."
Jim shrugged disappointedly. "So when is this profiler supposed to show up?"
"He's waiting down at the front desk. We're having the Seattle Bureau fax us his picture and I.D. before we let him up," Simon said.
"Good thinking." The last time they thought they were working with a Bureau shrink, it turned out the criminal they were tracking had killed the doctor and assumed his identity. David Lash had then gone on to kidnap Blair, and nearly kill him, before Jim could take him out.
The phone rang and Simon answered, grunting affirmatively before hanging up. "He checked out. Front Desk is sending him up now."
"We have to get Jim out of here," Blair said in a panic.
"How we going to do that, Sandburg?" Simon asked dryly. "He's mentioned prominently in the report."
"So we tell this guy about Jim's ghosts and they throw us all in a padded cell for the rest of our lives, right? Not how I wanted to go out, man."
"Calm down, Chief. This is the FBI, remember? We should be able to fake this guy out," Jim said with a nervous laugh. "Speaking of getting out of here, shouldn't you be registering at the university?"
Blair gave him an incredulous look. "Do you actually think I'm going to leave you alone for a second with forty-two ghosts and a Bureau shrink? If you believe that, you really are drugged, man."
"I thought you were looking forward to some class on pagan idolatry."
"Give it up, Jim. I'm not going anywhere."
"Hey, you guys can argue this later," Simon interrupted. "We have a more immediate problem." There was a knock at the door. "And it's right on time."
"Come in," Simon barked because he had no choice.
"Captain Banks?" A thin man of average height stood in the doorway, a lock of his thinning blond hair falling across his forehead. In his hand was a battered leather satchel that Simon assumed was a briefcase. "I'm Dr. Anthony Bozeman."
Simon motioned for the man to enter the office and held out his hand as he stood. "How do you do, Dr. Bozeman. Sorry for the delay."
The doctor smiled slightly. "I understand. I know what happened last time." He looked expectantly at the other two men in the office.
"Dr. Bozeman, this is Detective Jim Ellison and his partner, Blair Sandburg."
"Please, call me Tony," he said as they shook hands.
"So, Tony, why all the attention?" Simon began. "We weren't expecting the Bureau to take a personal interest in this."
"Why not? Forty-two serial murders over a span of twelve years. Sounds like my kind of case."
"So this is your area of expertise?" Blair asked.
"Interest, not expertise. But, yes, I've worked cases like this before."
"Any just like this one?"
Bozeman smiled. "I couldn't say. The level of detail you have in this case makes it unique. For instance when bones are the only remains left, it's hard to tell if the victim was raped or tortured. You didn't seem to have that problem."
"Just an educated guess," Simon said. "Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it in the report."
"And were all the other facts merely educated guesses too? How did your department, Captain Banks, manage to I.D. the bodies before the lab results were in? How did you know who to contact? Why did you stop the search immediately after the forty-second body was found?"
The room was silent and the psychiatrist was impressed by the men before him. Obviously they were protecting someone, but not one of them betrayed what he was thinking or feeling. Not a squirm. Not an uncomfortable look. Not even a glance around to make sure no one else was revealing anything. That implied great trust. He suddenly felt that the case was going to be less interesting than a study of these three.
"Don't worry, gentlemen. I'm not going to push you for answers." Not even a flicker of relief. They were good. "My focus is on the killer not the victims. What 'educated guesses' do you have on him?"
"Profiles are your territory, Tony," Simon pointed out.
Bozeman shrugged. "From the data in your report, I came up with a very preliminary sketch of the serial murderer. I made copies while I was waiting downstairs." He removed papers from his briefcase. "What we are probably looking for is a white male age fifty to seventy depending on his age when he started the killings twenty-six years ago. I assume you ran an ownership history on the house."
"Yes, but there was a rash of suspicious fires in 1983. Realtor records as well as ones at the mortgage company and the court house were destroyed. No one made a connection at the time."
"So our man's an arsonist too. That fits."
Before anyone else could comment, there was a knock at the door. "What is it, Jerry?"
"We may have a lead, captain," Detective Jerry Reid said eagerly, then stopped when he saw Tony Bozeman. He glanced at Simon to see if he should continue. He received a brief nod. "We checked transportation schedules but didn't find anything. But when I called my wife after lunch she said something about her aunt complaining about her daughter's bus was late this morning. It was the 7:00 bus, sir, and it was twenty-three minutes behind schedule."
Blair looked at Jim excitedly. "That's about right, Jim. I looked at the clock just before--" He caught Bozeman watching him.
"See what we can find out about the passenger list," Simon said, quickly filling in the silence.
"Brown's already on it."
"This may help you narrow it down a bit," Bozeman said, handing the detective the profile.
Reid nodded. He started to leave, but turned back. "You look better, Ellison."
"I feel better. Make sure everyone knows that, okay?" Reid smiled and left. Bozeman looked curious. "I cut my hand this morning," Jim explained, holding up his southpaw.
At 7:23, Bozeman wondered? So was it Ellison they were protecting? Why? "If you suspect the killer came to town this morning, perhaps someone should be watching the site. It has been proven that criminals actually do like returning to the scene of the crime." He knew it would be useless to ask how they knew when the killer came back, or that he was gone in the first place. For now, it was better just to accept the information and give what assistance he could.
"The situation is already being monitored," Simon said, frowning. The doctor was being too accepting. "You flew in from D.C., didn't you, Tony? You must be jetlagged. Have you checked into your hotel yet?"
"Yes, I did it prior to coming here. And I'm sort of used to flying about the country, so I don't get jetlag. But I could use some food. Any recommendations, gentlemen?"
"Plenty," Simon said. "Why don't we all go out to dinner together?"
"Uh, maybe Jim should be resting," Blair said, not liking the probing stares the doctor was giving his partner. At first he had focused on all of them, but ever since Reid asked Jim about his health...
Simon understood Blair's hesitation, but knew it was best to keep Bozeman where they could watch him. "What do you think, Jim?"
"I didn't have breakfast and slept through lunch, so dinner sounds good." He realized Blair was worried about Bozeman and he was too. But he agreed with Simon; the doctor needed to be watched.
"Well, if you gentlemen will wait outside for a minute, I need to ask Jim about another case of his," Simon said politely.
"Sure, I'll take Tony out and show him around," Blair offered, wishing he hadn't been overruled. But since he had, he continued the game.
"I guess you find this stuff fascinating, Blair," Bozeman said as they stood near Jim's desk, watching the others in the bullpen.
"Wouldn't study them otherwise." Blair waved to one of the detectives. "Did those articles help Suzie?"
"Yeah, thanks Sandburg. She says she'll give you her firstborn if she makes an 'A' on the assignment. I told her you better be old enough to be a grandfather before she fulfills that promise."
"I don't know. She's what, thirteen? In some tribes..." Blair pointed out, laughing when he received a deadly look.
"I've run into police observers before, Blair," Bozeman said, noting the interaction, "but I don't think I've seen one quite as accepted as you. That says a lot about you. Of course, most police observers aren't considered partners to detectives. According to the reports, you're often up there on the front lines with Jim."
Blair laughed. Most of the times he was on the other side of the line, and Jim had to cross it to rescue him. "I try to be helpful but I know when to stay out of the way." Of course knowing and doing were two different things.
Bozeman glanced over the desk. "I see Jim has pictures of you. Were you friends before you started working here?"
"Everything started about the same time."
"The desk is very neat. Is home the same way?"
"Neatness is a crime?" Blair asked, able to obfuscate with the best of them. Where were Jim and Simon? Bozeman was obviously digging. The doctor knew he and Jim lived together. What else did he know? How much had he studied them before coming to Cascade?
"I was just making an observation, Blair," Bozeman said lightly. "Everyone always takes everything I say so seriously. An occupational hazard, I suppose."
"Not everyone appreciates or understands what you do."
"It is the inner self which guides the person. If we want to know who does these terrible crimes, we need to know what drives him. So yes, I understand and I appreciate the risks you take trying to get inside the minds of killers. It takes a strong person not to succumb to the madness you map."
"But sometimes work has a tendency to spill over into other areas of your life. It would be hard to name a cop who doesn't automatically check the exits to a room or a fireman who doesn't note the location of extinguishers."
"And what is it you automatically do, Blair?"
Search for things that might irritate Jim's senses. But being a Guide was a 24/7 deal. "I've never really thought about it. I suppose you could put me in the 'exit seeker' category. I've been around cops too long." And been in too much trouble.
Before Bozeman could make another probing comment, Jim and Simon came out of the office. "Looks like it's time for dinner," Blair said with relief. "Any preferences?"
The old man stood on the sidewalk, staring at the familiar property. Even though it had been two weeks, yellow police tape still fluttered in the slight breeze. He wondered, just as he had the night the story broke on the national news, what had caught the police's attention. Why, after all these years, had his secrets been revealed?
There had been a mention of a drug raid. Perhaps they had been searching for contraband and stumbled upon his old hobby. Or maybe they had brought in dogs. In his prime, he had put lime around the perimeter of the yard to discourage pests like that. But he always made sure they were buried deep. Only major construction on the property should have uncovered his children. Something had gone terribly wrong.
He walked closer to the house and then past the yellow tape. If anyone tried to stop him, he would say that he was just trying to satisfy an old man's curiosity. He would insist he meant no harm, and then he would hobble away and be forgotten. Maybe the old were ignored in this country, but sometimes that was an advantage.
His skin tingled as he stood at the doorway. He remembered it all. The hard young bodies who thought satisfying him was the way to live, their muffled screams as he experimented in torture, the breaking of the bones beneath his hands. Even with his declining health, he still felt the sexual stimulation his old ways had caused and he smiled. He would have returned sooner if he'd known how much life the visit would bring.
"I'm sorry, sir. You shouldn't be here."
He turned and saw a nice young officer speaking earnestly to him. He longed for the return of his strength, but soothed his ego by deeming the cop too old for his tastes. Letting the officer help him back to the street, he waved with his cane and walked away. Just a nice old guy, out for a stroll.
Blair and Simon were arguing over whether to order dessert when Jim felt a familiar pain. With a terse, "excuse me", he fled to the bathroom. Blair quickly followed.
"I'm a medical doctor," Bozeman said. "Perhaps I should go see if there's a problem."
"No, no," Simon said, waving the man back to his seat. "Blair can handle it. Let's order dessert before he gets back. Then he won't have anything to complain about."
Bozeman remained quiet until the waiter had walked away. "What exactly is Blair handling, captain?"
"Side effect of Jim's medication. We were expecting it."
He's here. He dares to trample upon the earth that held our rotting corpses.
"He's at the house?" Jim translated, wishing the Forty-Two didn't use such vivid imagery, especially not after he'd just eaten.
He's here. He's here. Do something!
Jim pulled out his cell phone and handed it to Blair who stood watch by the door. "Call Simon. Tell him the guy's at the house now. Whoever's on duty needs to get shots of him, ask his name if possible." He and Simon had worked out this system of contact by cell phone in case something happened while Bozeman was around.
Protect us, Sentinel!
Jim rubbed the painful spot between his eyes. He had to remember that despite the number of years they had been dead, the Forty-Two were still kids. Still believers in the boogeyman. "He can't hurt you now. He can never touch you again."
We are frightened.
Damn it. How did one go about comforting ghosts? Maybe the dead and the live weren't so different. "You can stay." He actually felt their anxiety lessen.
"What did you say, Jim?" Blair asked, clicking off the phone.
"Ghosts? Ghosts are scared?" he asked in disbelief.
"Ghosts of children, Chief."
Blair sighed, wondering how much spectral lore was going to get changed during this case. "Okay, your ghosts have the heebie jeebies. What can you do, Jim?"
"The same thing I'd do for you. Be there for them. Make them feel safe. Keep them near."
Blair looked at him in horror. "What do you mean 'keep them near'? You've given them permission to stay in your head, Jim? What about the pain?" Okay, maybe he could spare an ounce of sympathy for the frightened kiddie ghosts, but hurting Jim was a different matter. Still, he knew there was nowhere he felt safer, less afraid, than with the Sentinel. "We'll see if those pills work as well the second time around."
"No, Blair. No pills. They need me, not some zombie."
Blair was getting angry. Jim was taking this protective thing too far. It was one thing to feel responsible for an entire city, putting his life on the line each night for this citizen or that one. It was another to let forty-two baby ghosts get all snuggly in your brain while your head split in two. Why that was almost as bad as... as bad as letting an obnoxious, irritating stranger stay in your spare room because he needed protecting and had nowhere else to go. How in the hell did people ever think this man was cold? Short-tempered? Yes. Anal retentive? Slightly. But cold? No way.
Jim's paleness made it easy to get away from Bozeman with minimal questioning, and Blair took his way too giving friend home and put him to bed. "You and your friends comfy?" he asked as he turned out the lamp.
Jim reached out to touch his arm before he left. "I know you don't understand, Chief. And when this is all over, I probably won't either. It's just that this feels right. Maybe this happened before my watch, but it happened in my city. I owe them this."
Blair sat on the edge of the bed. "If that's the way you feel, okay. But, Jim, what you don't owe is me an explanation. We've been through many a strange occurrence and I'm sure there are stranger ones out there just waiting for us. We each must do what we have to, and whatever the consequences are, we'll get through them together. So, how's your headache?"
Jim grimaced. "Growing by leaps and bounds."
Blair sighed and scooted back against the headboard. Gently he transferred Jim's head and pillow to his lap. "How are the kiddies?" he asked as he massaged the Sentinel's temples.
Blair nodded and began a soothing mantra, massaging in rhythm until he felt the tension leave Jim and his partner fell into a deep, but natural sleep. He got up and adjusted the covers before turning to leave. But then he stopped and because he knew no other direction, addressed the air. "You got a bad deal when you were alive, maybe abused by more than one person in your life. I'm sorry that happened to you, and I understand why you're angry and frightened. I also understand the miracle of being comforted by this man. So you can have tonight. But you better return him to me in the morning with no permanent damage. And when this is all over, you have to promise to leave him alone. You will have your peace; he needs his as well."
Blair jumped when the words floated to him, and if questioned, would never admit to hearing the ghosts. But the promise gave him comfort, and he left the Sentinel and the Forty-Two to their rest with less of a feeling of doom. However, he vowed to sleep with at least one eye open-- just in case.
"You should have woke me up, Chief," Jim said as he hurried into the kitchen, tucking his shirt into his pants.
"You getting your rest is more important than impressing Tony Bozeman with your punctuality."
Jim grinned. "Who's sounding like a mom now?"
"It isn't often I get the chance to take care of you, Jim. Let me have my moment, okay?" Blair scooped eggs onto a plate and grabbed the toast. "Eat up. You're going to need your strength, son."
His partner laughed. "I heard you talking to Simon while I was in the shower. What's happening?"
"Reid's taking the photos made at the house and showing them to people who were on the bus. We don't have a name yet because I.D. is not required for bus tickets, and the gentleman apparently paid cash. Also, we're contacting some of the elderly in the neighborhood, see if they remember anything about who used to live in the house."
"I thought we'd done that already."
"We had, but Simon's hoping the picture might spark some memories and possibly a name."
"Peterson didn't get his name when he ran into him yesterday or find out where he's living?"
"No, by the time Simon called, it was too late. But the guy was on foot so we know he's living somewhere in the neighborhood. We'll find him. Peterson got some really good pictures, however, and Bozeman's sending copies to the Bureau to see if they match up to any known felons. "
"It would be nice if it turned out to be that easy, wouldn't it?"
"Jim, we don't do easy. Drink all your juice," he added when Jim started to leave the table.
"You're looking better, Jim," Simon said as the detective and his partner entered the office. "Sandburg was right about you needing extra sleep."
"You know how Mom is," Jim said, curbing his urge to make a face at the profiler who was watching everyone so closely. "Where are we so far?"
"Here are the pictures of the man you suspect to be the killer," Bozeman said, handing the stack to the new arrivals.
"He doesn't look evil," Blair commented as he glanced at the photo of a man who appeared to be the epitome of grandfatherdom-- white-hair, slightly stooped with requisite cane, and a nice smile.
"That is what's so scary about these people, Blair," Bozeman said. "If they looked like what we think perverts should look, we would know to run the hell away from them. But who would suspect this old guy...but us?" He said "us" but Blair noticed his gaze settled on Jim.
Jim felt the eyes and ignored the man, but not the pictures. Blair was right: the man certainly didn't look evil, but he'd learned enough over the years to know looks had nothing to do with dark souls. Flipping through the stack until he found the clearest photo, he used his enhanced sight to see if anything had been overlooked. But all he could determine was the ornamental detailing of the cane and a small gold ring on the man's pinkie.
Blair's hand fell on Jim's shoulder to keep the Sentinel from zoning. Jim took his eyes off the picture and shook his head. His partner shrugged. "I hope everyone remembers geometry class."
"What are you talking about, Sandburg?"
"You remember proofs, don't you, Simon? You know, you're given the starting point and the answer and then you have to fill in the middle. That's what we're going to have to do. We know who did it. We know what he did. Now we have to fill in the blanks."
"It would be easier if we knew whether your guy took trophies from his victims," Bozeman said, trying not to focus on Jim-- but even he knew he was doing a lousy job. He was so excited about what he'd figured out back at his hotel. Everything was so clear now, everything-- including all of the detective's remarkable cases-- fit. "If he kept items from his victims as remembrances he would still have them, as close to him as possible. That would be the connection needed to convict him." He looked at the three still faces before him. "If you would excuse me, I need to make a trip to the men's room."
As soon as he left, captain and observer looked at Jim. "I don't know anything about trophies, but I can ask."
"And start the headache over again," Blair pointed out.
"Hey, I survived spending the night with them."
Simon's eyes widened. "Don't ask," Blair said in warning. The captain backed off.
"Okay, Chief. I've never initiated contact before. What do I do? Call out, saying, 'Sentinel to the Forty-Two, come in'?"
We are here, Sentinel.
"That was easy enough," he muttered, embracing the pain of their arrival. "Did the evil one take anything from you?"
"I meant something that would remind him of you. A token of some sort?"
Some of us lost jewelry. One had a special ring, engraved for her sixteenth birthday. Another had a St. Christopher's medal taken away. There is also a bracelet missing. The rest of us had nothing.
Jim remembered the ring on the man's little finger and felt a glimmer of hope. "Thank you. I will call if I need you again."
"So, you got something, Jim?" Blair asked, pushing him into a chair to rub his temples.
"Yeah. He took some of their jewelry, including an engraved ring. In the photo, there's a ring on his finger. It could be a match."
"Great! We got him!" Blair said happily. Then he saw the others' faces. "What is it, guys?"
"Ever heard of rights, Sandburg?" Simon asked dryly. "We just can't yank this man off the street and check his jewelry."
Bozeman chose this moment to reappear. "So, gentlemen, have I missed much?"
"Just a few speculations," Jim said. "You mentioned trophies. Would jewelry be in that category?"
The doctor smiled. He had hoped in his absence, Jim would come up with something. The man was obviously talented. "Of course. It could be anything that would remind him of the kill. Why do you ask?"
"There's a ring on his finger that just doesn't seem to fit his image."
"A ring? Where?" He shuffled through the photos.
"Believe me, it's there."
Bozeman pushed the pictures to the center of the table. "I'm sure it is, Jim. Now what do we do?"
"Find a way to question him. Legally," Simon said before a tap on the door interrupted him.
Reid came in, papers crammed in his hand. "His name is Harold Reagan. He was caught hanging around a middle school in St. Louis a few years back, but no charges were ever filed."
"Then how did you get this information?" Simon wanted to know.
"The FBI faxed it in."
Bozeman became the center of attention. "The Bureau takes child molestation very seriously and we keep very detailed records."
"That's not the best news, Captain," Reid continued eagerly. "A neighbor down the street remembers Reagan when he lived in the house."
"I thought everyone had been questioned."
"She was out of town helping with the birth of a great-grandchild."
"Is she a reliable witness?"
Reid grinned. "You better believe it, Captain. A retired high school teacher with a mind still sharp as a tack."
"Okay, bring in Reagan for questioning. I'm going to get on the phone to the D.A.'s office to make sure all our i's are dotted and t's crossed. We don't want Mr. Reagan to walk. It's looks like we have a case, gentlemen."
"Mr. Reagan, do you know why you're here?" Bozeman asked.
"Because I lived in that house a long time ago. But I didn't have anything to do with those people who were buried there. I was a traveling salesman. I wasn't home often. Anybody could have done anything in that house and I wouldn't have known about it. I swear."
A very good liar, Jim thought, as he stood against the wall watching the killer. His pulse wasn't racing, and his breathing was even, except for a few hitches which Jim attributed to the cancer growing in his lungs.
"Do you want a lawyer?" Simon asked for the second time.
"No. I don't trust lawyers. I don't trust you either."
Bozeman smiled. "Trust isn't necessary, Mr. Reagan. Can you tell me about that ring on your finger?"
"I found it on the street a few years ago. I thought it was pretty so I kept it."
"A few years ago? That means you found it in St. Louis."
Finally, a reaction, Jim thought gleefully. "Uh, yes, yes, I did."
"What if we told you we think the ring belonged to one of the victims found beneath your old residence?"
"I'd say you have to prove it."
"The ring is engraved."
Bozeman gave a wistful smile. "So we can call Theresa Miller's mother and asked what was engraved in her ring."
Reagan gave his own smile, and took the ring from his finger and placed it on the table. "Now I can argue that you read the inside of the ring and told her mother what to say."
"SSTM," Jim said softly. Reagan paled. "Sweet Sixteen Theresa Miller. Her mother could only afford the four letters."
Bozeman nodded. "We didn't need the ring, Mr. Reagan. Would you like to tell us the truth now?"
Reagan confessed, almost happily. Blair commented on that after Reagan was carted off to be booked, and the cops and Bozeman had regrouped in Simon's office. "That was way too easy. Why did he give up like that and why the sense of relief? Was confession good for his soul?"
'Some felons revel in telling of their deeds," Bozeman said. "He'd had the secret for over twenty years. He probably feels very successful."
Jim shook his head. "Sorry to disappoint you, doc, but it's really much simpler than that. Reagan's dying of lung cancer, and he just realized how to get free medical care and three meals a day."
Jim nodded. "By the time the lawyers get around to taking him to court, he'll be too sick to try. He'll die peacefully with an armful of morphine. And we, the citizens of Cascade, will foot the bill."
"That sucks," Blair lamented. "He kills forty-two kids, and in return, he gets a health plan? Where is the justice in that?"
"Some would say dying is justice."
"Hell, man, we're all dying," Simon pointed out. "It's just that some of us go earlier and faster than others."
"I want to see him," Jim said suddenly.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Simon said, knowing his quick-tempered detective.
"Why do you want to see him, Jim?" Blair asked, remembering how protective he was of the Forty-Two. He wouldn't do anything illegal to avenge them, would he?
"I just want the smug bastard to know that someone knows what he's up to, that he really hasn't gotten away with anything. Maybe it will give his victims...and their families some satisfaction. It's the least, and I mean the very least, we can do," Jim said, rubbing his forehead.
Blair cursed when he saw the action. Those damn ghosts were up to something. Before he could maneuver a way to get Jim away from Bozeman, the phone rang. "It's for you, Tony," Simon called.
"What are they up to?" Blair hissed, knowing Jim could hear him.
"They want to face him, look the devil in the eye. They need that closure, Chief."
"Are you sure that's all?" Simon asked. "If something happens, I don't think you can use ghosts as a defense."
"I won't touch him. I promise. You can all be there if you want."
"Fine. We will be," Simon replied quickly, catching Bozeman's return from the corner of his eye. "Anything wrong, Tony?"
"There's a situation in Texas. Since this one's about finished, I'm being sent the information. What's been decided here?"
"We're going to see Reagan before he gets to lock-up."
"Can I tag along too?" The answer would be no, but he figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.
"Why not?" Jim said with a shrug.
Reagan had been fingerprinted, showered, and given an orange jumpsuit to identify him as someone who shouldn't be allowed out the door. Now he was in a tiny room, waiting for his cell to be readied. He was quite content. At first, he'd been nervous when he realized the cops had him cold, but he'd quickly seen the brighter side. He wouldn't have to worry about his insurance running out, or dying alone in an unheated dump where his body may not be found for days. No, now he would be taken care of. It was a good thing he'd come home to Cascade.
He looked up to see the detective who had known about the ring. For some reason, he felt the room grow chilled. "What is it, cop?"
"I just wanted you to know I know you."
Reagan laughed. In the hall he could see the police captain, that federal shrink, and some pony-tailed hippie waiting. That meant the detective couldn't do any funny stuff, like "accidentally" bash his brains in. "You really think so? I think you may be surprised."
"So will you." Jim stepped closer, making sure his back was to the door. "Look at me, Harold. Look at me and see your sins."
Blair wasn't sure what had happened. One second Jim was standing there, eye to eye, with Reagan. The next second, Jim was crumbling to the floor in a faint, and Reagan was standing there frozen like a statue. Simon called for assistance, and Reagan was handcuffed and dragged away, still eerily silent. Bozeman did a quick exam of Jim, who regained consciousness in a few minutes, and pronounced him overworked and exhausted. Simon got mad and tossed everyone out, ordering Blair to take his partner home.
"What kind of stunt did they pull?" Blair asked as Jim settled on the couch.
"I'm sorry I passed out like that, Chief."
"That's not an answer to my question, Jim."
"Do you really want to know?"
Blair looked at Jim, and suddenly realized there were some things about his friend he was better off not knowing. "What I really want to know is that you're okay."
Jim smiled. "I'm fine. The headache seems to be fading on its own, but I might let you pull out your trusty bottle of pills just to make sure I get a good night's sleep. Wouldn't want to pass out again."
"Why not? It was good aerobic exercise for me. My heart hasn't pounded that fast since I dated that marathon runner." When she had inquired about his endurance, he hadn't known what she meant until he was panting through downtown Cascade.
A knock sounded at the door. "Probably Simon," he said, bouncing over to the door.
Jim shook his head. "No cigar." He turned up his sense of smell. A familiar aftershave. "It's Bozeman." Blair froze in uncertainty. "Open the door, Chief."
He could do that. "Hi, Tony, what brings you here?" he said, hoping he sounded friendly.
Bozeman noticed they weren't surprised to see that it was him. Now he knew he was right in coming here."I'm on my way out of town and thought I'd come by and say good-bye. It was nice working with you, gentlemen. I wish all my cases ended so quickly and neatly."
"Sometimes the roll of the dice is with you," Jim said, joining them at the door and shaking the doctor's hand. All in all, Bozeman could have been more of a pain than he had been.
"And sometimes you make your own luck." Bozeman smiled, then looked at the detective."Jim, I'd like to talk to you alone for a minute or so. Want to walk me downstairs? The captain was nice enough to let me borrow a patrolman to take me to the airport."
"Sure." Blair's face said volumes and Jim wondered if he was responsible for his partner's paranoia when it came to federal officials. Not all of them were bad-- just most. "Back in a sec, Chief."
Bozeman waited until they were in the elevator before he approached Jim with his proposal. "Come with me, Jim."
"To wherever problems like this appear. You have a gift. You and your friends try to hide it, and I understand. Psychics aren't always understood and if the public found out, I know it could be hell for you."
Jim was trying to figure out what he'd heard. "You think I'm a psychic?"
Bozeman smiled sympathetically. "You don't have to hide it from me. I'm a believer. In fact, that's why I came here. There have been several extraordinary cases here in Cascade, and I suspected that someone on the force had the talent. Further investigation led me to narrow it down to you or Blair."
"Anyone else know your theory?"
They left the elevator and stood just inside the doors. Out front the patrol car waited. "You can trust me, Jim. You being a psychic isn't just theory. How else could you have know that mobster's grandson was in danger from the falling crate? Or figure out where David Lash was holding your partner? Or stop the rest of your squad from eating the pizza laced with Golden? Shall I go on?"
Jim shook his head. "No, to both questions. No, you don't have to continue and no, I won't go with you. My life is here in Cascade. Good friends, good job. I don't need anything else." He looked around to the elevator. Seconds later the doors parted.
"Jim, Tony, Simon just called," Blair said, trying to catch his breath. He thought Bozeman would want to know this information before he left. "Reagan's dead."
"What happened!" Bozeman asked quickly, at the same time noticing that Jim wasn't showing any surprise. Damn, it was shame he'd turned him down.
"Heart attack from what they can tell. After they put him in his cell, he grew anxious, broke out into sweats, kept yelling out the names of the children he killed. They called in a doctor, but it didn't help. His heart just stopped after a while."
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer son of a bitch," Jim said mildly.
"I couldn't have said it better," Bozeman agreed. Sometimes nature took care of its own mistakes. "Well, I guess this is really goodbye then. Jim, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me."
Jim looked at Blair and smiled. "I won't change my mind. Good luck in Texas."
They watched the car drive away, then headed back up to the loft. "Change your mind about what, Jim?" Blair asked in concern as the elevator started its journey.
"He wanted me to go with him. He figured he could use a psychic along."
"A psychic?" Blair laughed, then sobered. "I guess that's what you were this time, Jim. I mean with your little invisible friends and all."
"Well, let me tell you, I prefer being just a Sentinel. Although, I admit I was getting a little used to the ghosts. They caused me pain, bugged me at inopportune moments, even came to live with me. But I am going to miss them."
"Does that mean you'll miss me too, Jim?" Blair asked as they left the elevator.
"No," Jim said, unlocking the door. When Blair failed to move, he gave his partner a slight push. "Because I'm never letting you go."
"You mean that, Jim?"
"You bet your funny sideburns I do."
Laughing, Sentinel and Guide entered their abode with the knowledge that for the night, the people they protected, both living and dead, were at peace-- except for one, and he would be burning in hell for quite some time.