New Arrivals
Author-Alicia
Titles

Camping
by Alicia

Summary: City boy Rafe can’t seem to catch a break when he and Brown go on a camping trip with sentinel and guide. If the ‘forest’ doesn’t get him the bad guys will. Not much plot but plenty of owies.

Disclaimer: I do not own the charcters of TS. If I did I'd take much better care of them!!! They are owned by Pet Fly and Paramount.

"Camping!? As in outside?" Rafe said dubiously.

"Yea, GQ, you usually have to be outside to camp and fish," Brown said with a chuckle.

The well-dressed detective sat back in his desk chair, eyeing his partner with trepidation. "I don't know Henri. I'm a city boy. The closest I've been to nature are the well laid out bike trails at the park."

"Come on babe, live a little. I cannot believe you've lived in Cascade all these years and have never been up in the mountains. You're really missin' out here partner, " Brown said shaking his head. "And a ski lodge doesn't count."

"All right. All right. Tell them we'll go! But I am not promising anything." Brian shot back as he quickly grabbed a file from his box and gave it his undivided attention, effectively ignoring his grinning partner.

Brown just shook his head, and clasped a hand on his partners shoulder before going to his own desk to start in on his own paperwork. After a moment of silence Brown heard a quiet question from the next desk. "Just what exactly does one pack to go camping?"

"You're hopeless!"

---------------------------

FRIDAY. 8:30 am

Brown brought his 4x4 to a stop in front of Brian's building as Blair asked, "So, you think Rafe's really ready for a weekend trip? Maybe we should have started him out on something simpler."

"I'm almost afraid to see what he has packed?" Brown commented as he climbed from the vehicle.

"H., you did help him out a little here; gave him a few pointers, right," Jim questioned as he climbed from the SUV, followed closely by Blair. "We're not gonna find 'things' in his gear?"

Camping —2—

"Things?! I gave him the run down on the gear he'd need—had him pick up the basics—I figured we had enough to handle the rest." Brown answered, heading for the lobby door.

"That's cold man, you didn't take him out at all to show him," Blair commented.

------------------------------

They entered the apartment and found Rafe's gear by the door. The detective himself was standing in his kitchen drinking coffee and scanning the newspaper, looking like he had just stepped out of a Cabella's catalogue----neat, crisp and unmussed.

"Rafe, man. We are going camping and fishing---outside---in tents, not to the Ramada," Blair said with amusement "Where's the blue jeans, the t-shirts, the flannel?"

"He doesn't know what flannel is," Brown quipped.

"That's it, I'm not going," Rafe pouted, hands raised in defeat.

"Now, hold on Rafe," said Jim, "How 'bout I make the boys play nice. Don't forgo a great experience because of the Bobsey twins here."

Brian glared at his two snickering friends a moment before nodding. "Fine, let's get the gear and go before I change my mind."

"Gentlemen," Jim said eying Blair and Brown and waving his arms in the direction of Brian's gear, "shall we get started?"

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As the miles slid by, leaving Cascade and its crime farther and farther behind, Brown and Rafe grew steadily surprised by Jim's relaxed demeanor. Even at his friendliest the older detective had always been aloof and standoffish; a direct contrast to the man that traveled with them now. Although they didn't know the details they knew the improvement in their colleagues disposition was somehow directly related to one long- haired, hyper- active anthropologist---Blair Sandburg.

Two hours later Brown pulled the SUV off the main road onto a logging trail, following it another half an hour to a small clearing. "End of the line gents," he said pulling to a stop.

Climbing from the SUV, Jim paused a moment to scan the area with his senses while Henri and Blair began unpacking the gear. Rafe walked around, taking in his new surroundings. "I may be new to this camping and fishing thing but I do know you tend to need water to catch fish."

"Oh, there's plenty of water. There's a great stream that way," Blair pointed off to his right as he explained, "about two miles."

"But we stopped here. You're unloading." Rafe commented with some uncertainty.

"So perceptive there partner. I knew there was a reason you made detective." Brown said with a grin.

Jim came up behind Rafe and put a pack on his back and handed him a small cooler. "This is the end of the line. From here on we 'hoof' it."

"'Hoof it'? You mean walk?"

In his best snooty professor voice Blair said, "The proper camping term is hiking."

Rafe rolled his eyes and hoisted the gear, "What have I gotten myself into!"

The other three men chuckled, hoisted their own gear and began the hike to the campsite.

___________________________

They made good time. They reached the clearing and had camp set up and secured in less than two hours.

"Okay, so far so good. Tents are up, camp is set, and I haven't been mauled by a bear, bitten by a snake or eaten alive by insects," Rafe said sitting on a nearby fallen log. "What's next?"

"Such the optimist there Rafe. 'You always this cheerful on vacation? Life is an adventure, just sit back and enjoy," Blair said coming to sit next to his friend.

"Next, it's time to catch dinner," Jim said grabbing up his tackle box and rod.

"I am down with that," Blair said jumping from the log and grabbing his fishing spear.

"You really gonna fish with that stick, chief," Jim asked.

"Ah, go ahead and let him play with his toy," Henri said grabbing his own gear, " saves more fish for us."

"We'll just see who's laughing tonight at dinner," Blair smirked.

"Come on partner time for your first lesson in the joys of fishing," Brown said to his partner.

Following behind his enthusiastic friends Brian asked, "Uh, just suppose the fish don't want to be dinner? This isn't a 'live off the land' trip', is it? You packed other food, right?"

The other three exchanged bemused looks before Brown answered. "Hope you're a quick learner."

The look of horror crossing his friends face was too much for Sandburg, who burst out laughing. "You guys are cold, man."

"Ha, ha very funny," Rafe shot back, glaring at Henri and Jim.

After a brief introduction to the 'joys of fishing', times three, and a brief debate over the value of reel verses spear the four men spread out in the wide, rocky river. In less than 15 minutes a startled yelp broke the silence.

"Whoa…whoa...okay, now what?" Rafe yelled as he fumbled with his rod.

"Damb beginners luck. You snagged one all ready." Brown exclaimed, sloshing through the water towards his friend, "Now pull up, pull up. Keep reeling in...steady there. Pull up some more."

Rafe continued to follow Brown's directions until the fish was close enough for Brown to scoop it up in the net. "Lookie here," he whistled at his partner's first catch. "Must be at least a seven pounder."

"Way to go Rafe," Blair praised his friend, as he rummaged around in his pockets. "Now it's picture time,"

Rafe meanwhile had taken the net from Brown and was peering at his catch. "I caught something! I really caught something!"

"Picture," Blair reminded, waving his camera. Brown slung his arm over his partners shoulder while Rafe held up the net.

The fish renewed its struggle against the net nearly causing Rafe to drop it. "Okay, what now?"

"Now GQ you take it out of the net, get it off your hook and put it on the line over there to keep it fresh 'til dinner." Brown explained slowly, like he was explaining to a child.

Jim had been watching the little drama unfold from his place in the river and shook his head in amusement when Brian continued to eye the fish with trepidation. "How?"

"Here, let me show you," Blair said feeling sorry for his friend's discomfiture.

Henri and Jim turned back to their own fishing while Blair showed Brian how to unhook his fish and get it on the line. "Now that you've proved your worthiness as a rod and reel fisherman perhaps you'd like to try some real fishing."

"With that…that, stick!" Rafe exclaimed. "I think I'll master one method at a time Sandburg."

"Suit yourself," Blair said sloshing back to his place in the river.

Brian rebaited his hook and moved a few yards farther downstream. After a few casts the line became snagged. When pulling didn't free it the young man moved farther out into the river, his feet suddenly finding empty space instead of riverbed.

A startled yelp, followed by a splash, drew the attention of the other three fishermen. As they looked in the direction of the cry they saw Rafe disappear under the water, resurface, and then go under again.

"Hold on Rafe," Jim called racing to the spot his friend had gone under. He made it to the spot as Rafe again shot out of the water, sputtering and coughing, and trying to regain his balance.

Jim reached out to steady Brian until his coughing fit passed. "You all right there, Rafe?"

"Fine….(cough, cough) …I think I'll….(sputter, cough, sneeze)…go back to camp, get changed…(cough)….maybe…(sneeze)…get a fire started,." Rafe gasped out. "Can you get my gear Jim?"

"Sure Rafe. Go, get out of those wet clothes." Jim answered, patting him on the back

"Sure your all right GQ, " Brown called after the retreating figure, who waved away his concern. "Okay then, try not to burn down the forest."

"I'll say it again Henri, you are one cold dude," Blair said, shaking his head.

Jim stayed tuned into Rafe as the young man trudged back to the campsite, monitoring that no more bad luck would befall his friend. Browns loud whoop a moment later caused the Sentinel to wince and immediately turn his hearing back to normal as he turned and watched, with a frown, as fish number two was being reeled in.

________________________

Another hour and three fish later the three packed it up for the day and headed back to camp for dinner.

"Stop grumbling Jim, "Blair scolded lightly. "You've got two more days to catch something."

"He's just jealous Hairboy, 'cause you actually managed to catch something with your pointy stick, " Brown interjected.

Jim harrumphed and shot the two with a petulant glare, which they pointedly ignored.

"It is not a pointy stick!!! It is a Cree fishing spear," Blair said with exasperation.

They entered camp in high spirits and dropped the gear near the tents. Brown turned and eyed the fire pit with a sigh. "Hey, where's the fire, I'm hungry. Yo, Brian. No fire, no food. I aint eating sushi."

"Maybe he crashed in the tent," said Blair lifting the flap and peering inside. "Nope, not there."

Brown groaned. "Surely he hasn't wandered off so far he got himself lost."

All three men began searching the immediate area around camp, coming up empty. "Jim, man, use your senses. Maybe he got hurt or something." The guide said, sentinel soft.

The sentinel opened up his hearing in search of his 'tribes' lost warrior and was rewarded a few moments later with the sound of Rafe's voice.

"Man, don't you critters ever get tired and just go away." The voice sounded tight and pained to the sentinel's ears, "An-y-time guys. You can come back from the river."

"This way," the sentinel said with urgency, suddenly taking off into the forest. His hearing had picked up on a second sound, the reason for Rafe's fear, the distinctive rattle of not one but several deadly snakes.

Followed closely by his friends, Jim tracked the sound of Rafe's ragged breathing for several hundred yards; coming finally to a steep, rocky outcropping that overlooked a bend in the river.

"Rafe," Jim called down the steep incline.

"Jim. Damb, I'm glad to see you. Be careful up there, those rocks are loose. I slipped—think I sprained my ankle. Hurts like hell," Rafe rasped out, then nodded towards the snakes. "My friends here are between me and the only way back up."

Blair and Brown were now peering over the side of the incline as well. "Oh, man, Rafe. Stay reeaal, reeaall still," Blair implored, eyeing the snakes angry snakes.

"Damb partner," Brown whistled and shook his head, "can't leave you alone for a minute."

"Make fun all you want. Just get me outa hear first, " Brain pleaded.

Jim who had been silent, assessing the situation, suddenly sprang into action. "Chief, go back to camp. Bring back the rope and that spear of yours," he ordered, then turned back to the cliff ledge and called down. "Rafe, you still with us. Hang on buddy. We'll have you up in a few minutes."

"I can wait if these snakes can," Rafe called back up.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" Brown called down to his partner.

"Head hurts. Hell, right now everything hurts," Rafe chuckled ruefully.

Soon a breathless Blair made it back with the items Jim requested. "Okay. Brown tie off the rope to that tree there and spot me, I'm going down. Blair, keep your eyes on those snakes for me. Tell me where they go, I'm gonna try to prod them away from Rafe."

Jim cautiously went over the side, careful to stay out of striking range of the angry snakes. After several pokes from the spear the snakes decided they'd had enough and slithered into the undergrowth, allowing Jim to lower himself the rest of the way down to the injured man.

"Let me have a look here," Jim said, kneeling beside his friend. "How's your vision, any blurriness, you've got quite a bump there."

"Visions fine. Just a killer headache," Rafe answered, as Jim moved to examine his ankles.

Jim could feel the heat coming off Rafe's right ankle. "Probably a bad sprain. We'll wait and take the boot off back at camp. Right now lets get you up and out of here."

"As Sandburg says, 'I'm down with that,'" Rafe said.

Jim tied the rope off around Rafe's waist, then came up behind the young man and wrapped his arms around the young man, grabbing the rope in front of him. Thus giving the injured man extra support for his climb up the steep embankment.

______________________________

"You got yourself one nasty sprain their Brian," commented Jim as he wrapped the injured ankle. "We'll need to get you looked at."

"I will," Rafe hissed in pain. "When we get back-- on Sunday."

"But Rafe…"Blair started to protest.

"No, Sandburg." Rafe said tightly, raising a hand to stave off further protests from his friends. "I'm not going to ruin the entire weekend just because of a tumble down a hill."

"You sure about this partner," Brown said with a frown.

"I'm sure," Rafe replied. "What are they gonna tell me in the ER. Prop it, pack it and wrap it. All things I can do right here—right?"

"Okay. For now it's your call. But if it starts to bother you worse or the swelling gets any worse we go in," Jim said.

"I'll be fine," Rafe said with a weak smile. "Besides, I'm ready for this infamous Sandburg fish dinner I've been hearing about."

"Well, lets get on it then," Jim said.

Brown got some aspirin and an ice pack for Rafe while Jim set about getting the cook fire started and Blair started in on preparing the fish.

Handing Rafe his aspirin and gently settling the ice pack on his partners swollen ankle Brown mused, "I don't know about all this GQ. First you nearly drown, then you take a tumble over a cliff and land on a rattlesnake den. Maybe you ain't cut out for the great outdoors, you're getting' as accident prone as Hairboy."

With feigned indignation, Blair looked up from his food preparation, waving a foil wrapped fish in Brown's direction. "Hey, I represent that remark! Keep it up and you'll be cookin' your own dinner."

The laughing and teasing continued through dinner. The four friends found themselves full and relaxed as evening came. Even giving rapt attention to some of Blair's more exotic tales.

"Sometimes I wonder how you managed to live this long Sandburg," Brown said with a shake of his head.

With a yawn Rafe interjected, "Well, I'm tired just listening to him. I'm ready to hit the sack."

"It's been awhile since your last pain pills. This dose should help keep the pain down so you can sleep," Jim said, handing Rafe some pills then kneeling down to check the ankle.

"Thanks Nurse Jim," Rafe said taking the pills.

"Welcome to Blessed Protector hell," Blair quipped.

"Yea, funny chief," Jim said swatting at the young man.

"Up you go partner," Brown said hoisting Rafe to balance on his good foot. "Night guys."

____________________________

"For the last time, Henri, I'm fine," Rafe complained. "Nary a sniffle from my dunk in the river, no one has ever died of a sprained ankle and besides taking about ten years off my life the snakes did no damage either. So stop hovering and go to sleep!"

__________________________

"What's so funny," Blair asked the chuckling detective.

"Henri. He's giving Rafe the ol' Blessed Protector routine and Rafe's not playing," Jim reported.

"Hey, man, I can sympathize there," Blair commented.

"Oh, yea." Jim said swatting Blair. "Takes a whole army of Blessed Protectors to keep you out of trouble."

-----------------------------------

The night passed without incident. Rafe followed Jim up the next morning.

"Another early riser," Jim said as he watched Rafe limp over and plop down next to the fire. "How's the ankle?"

"Stiff and sore, but I'll live," answered Rafe taking the cup of coffee Jim offered. "Now that really hits the spot. So what's the plans for today?"

"Fishing!" Jim said with a grumble, poking at the fire a little to hard and causing sparks to fly in the air. "I think Blair wants to do some hiking—look from some herbs for his next dinner concoction."

They sat in companionable silence for a while; Rafe listening to the sounds of the forest waking to the new day while Jim prepared breakfast. "It really is great out here. I'm glad you guys talked me into coming,." Rafe said quietly.

Jim was about to respond when the rustling of a tent flap drew their attention. A bleary-eyed Brown poked his head out. "Brrr—cold, coffee," he grumbled, crawling from the tent to the fire.

"Good morning sunshine," Jim teased as he handed Henri a cup of steaming coffee.

Brown just glared at Jim, then inhaled the warm vapor of his coffee. "Do you two know how to relax, the meaning of the word vacation; to kick back, do nothing, sleep-in!"

"The early bird gets the worm, that catches the trout," Jim said. "And there's a whopper out there with my name on it.

"You just keep on dreamin' there babe," Henri shot back with a laugh. "So how 'bout you Rafe, ready for round two? We can set you up with a rod on the bank."

"No way. One dunk in the river is enough for this city boy. Besides, I caught a fish yesterday."

"Listen to that Ellison. The boy caught one fish and he thinks he's conquered the outdoors," Brown said.

Jim smiled back. "Guess that means its time for lesson two—cleaning the fish."

_______________________

Half way through breakfast a tousled haired, squinty-eyed Sandburg popped his head out of his tent. "'Bout time chief. Thought you were going to sleep the day away."

"Cold," was the only response from the sleepy anthropologist.

"Here you go. This'll warm you up," Jim said taking Blair a cup of coffee.

Blair plopped down in the tent opening, wrapping his sleeping bag more tightly around his shoulders before taking the coffee. "Mmmmm…better," he mumbled.

"Is he always this cheerful in the morning," Brian asked.

Jim just laughed as Blair glared at his three friends over his coffee cup.

_________________________

Breakfast and several cups of coffee later Blair was bouncing around camp. "Are you really sure Brain? I could hang out with you today. I do not need to prove my 'great' fishing skills anymore on this trip."

"Keep that up Sandburg and Brown and I will use you as bait," Jim grumbled back.

"I'll be fine Blair. Go, hike, gather whatever you need to make another of your infamous dinners," Rafe said laughing. "I'm gonna take it easy today, enjoy the scenery from the safety of this spot. I'll come down to the river later and watch the mighty fishermen wrestle in our dinner."

"You sure you can make it to the river by yourself," Brown asked.

"I'm not an invalid guys. It's just a sprained ankle." Rafe chided his friends, "I told you this weekend was not going to ruined because of it. Now, go. Go fishing. Go hiking."

"You heard the man, lets go." Brown said grabbing up his gear.

"Okay, we're outa here," Jim seconded. 'Hey chief, you be careful out there. Don't wander off to far and stay away from that snake den."

Blair rolled his eyes and sighed. "Yes, dad," he said grabbing up his pack and taking off in the opposite direction of the river.

"Lets go Ellison. Those trout aren't gonna catch themselves," Brown said heading out of camp.

______________________________

"That's three to one, oh great fisherman," Henri smirked as he put his latest catch on the line.

"I'm waitin' for the big one," Jim grumbled.

"Sure, buddy, sure." Brown said with mock sympathy.

Jim tuned out Henri's teasing, reaching out to find the familiar heartbeat of his guide. The sentinel heard the pages of a book being flipped and a voice muttering. "Okay…looks about right, double check with Professor Drake on Monday…now for dinner tonight…"

Secure in the knowledge, that for the time being, his accident-prone friend was safe Jim pulled his hearing back to check on Rafe. The young detective had said he was going to come down to the river, but after nearly two hours he hadn't shown and Jim was worried he might have fallen again. What he heard triggered his cop instincts.

_______________________________

"Plenty of gear here, Arnie," said a thin, whinny voice.

"Now, I'm only gonna ask you one more time pretty boy—how many friends out here with ya' and when they due back," the gravely voice asked menacingly, followed by the sound of flesh hitting flesh.

--------------------------------------------

Brian had been dozing lazily in the early afternoon sun, perusing through some of Sandburg's books on the indigenous flora and fauna of the area, when a rustling in the nearby underbrush startled him.

Looking in the direction of the growing disturbance, he muttered nervously. "Damb, not another wild animal! All I need on my first camping trip is to killed by a bear or something."

His relief at seeing three men, and not a bear, step from the trees was short lived. "Or something is right," said one of the men with an evil sneer, pointing a gun at the young man.

------------------------------

"Damb," Jim cursed as he moved swiftly to Henri's side. "We got a problem H…."

"The only problem I see is you scaring away all the fish," Brown started to complain, but stopped when he saw the intense look on Jim's face. "What is it man?"

"Trouble—in camp. Sounds like Rafe's got some unfriendly company," Jim reported.

"Company? How could you hear…" Brown's question was cut off by a wave of Jim's hand.

"Sshh…." Jim ordered, focusing all his attention on the camp.

___________________________

"A few…and they'll be out all day. They went on a hike, not due back 'til late this evening," Rafe lied, nursing the cut on his lip. "I busted my ankle, that's why I'm here. You want the supplies, take 'em and go. No one has to know."

"You'll know pretty boy," growled out the large man called Arnie. He cocked the pistol in his hand a pointed it at the prone detective.

Bringing his hands up in a placating manner Rafe said quickly, "What do I know, man. I don't even know who the hell you are…what I'm I gonna tell. You can be long gone before my friends get back."

Rafe kept his eyes glued to the three men, silently weighing his options. He was sure he couldn't take down three, large, armed men weaponless and injured as he was. Rafe knew he needed to convince the three men to take the gear and leave, preferably in a direction not currently occupied by any of his friends, before any of them walked into an ambush.

Once the criminals were gone Rafe knew he could make his way to Henri and Jim for backup and be on the trail of the three crooks before the trail grew cold.

"So, what's it gonna be? Are you going to make a bad situation worse by killing me or are you just going to take the gear and go?" Rafe prodded carefully,

Finally, the third man, whose appearance was equally menacing ground out, "He's right Arnie, you shoot him and you'll likely git his friends back here in a hurry. I don't wanna leave a trail of bodies for the cops ta' find."

"Fine. We'll tie him up and leave him. Grab some gear and let's head out," Arnie finally agreed. "Eddie, you check them tents. Make sure their ain't no radios or cell phones. Don't need anyone on our trail any sooner'n we have to."

'No, not the tents.' Rafe thought with a grimace. "Hey, man, we're on a camping trip here; not at a stock holders meeting." Rafe called out adamantly, struggling against the hands that were binding his arms tightly behind his back.

"Damb it to hell." Eddie's loud curse from the tent echoed Rafe's thoughts. "We got ourselves a real problem here—one of his friends is a cop!"

Eddie came from the tent and handed Arnie the wallet with Henri's badge. Arnie gave it a cursory look then threw it to the ground. "Check the other tent," he ordered angrily, and Eddie scurried to comply.

"A cop. So what about you pretty boy. You a cop, too?" Arnie raged, yanking Rafe to his feet. "Jake, git his wallet."

Rafe hissed in pain as he was forced to put weight on his injured ankle in his struggle against Arnie's tight grip, and the hands grabbing for his wallet. Jake pulled out the black leather wallet and flipped it open to show Arnie the badge.

"Well, well. What have we got here. Not just a cop, but a de-tec-tive, with the Cascade Police Department." Arnie said mockingly, his brow furrowing in thought. "You know a cop named Banks?"

"What?" Rafe was confused by the shift in questioning.

"Banks. You know a cop named Banks?" Arnie raged, shaking Rafe roughly. "He's a big, black son-of-a-bitch."

"The only Banks I know is Captain Banks," Rafe rasped out, stumbling despite Arnie's tight hold on his shirtfront.

"Captain, huh. And I bet it aint over no meter maids neither; is it pretty boy.?" Arnie pulled Rafe so they were eye to eye, "So what is it cop?"

"What's it matter to you," Rafe said evenly, never wavering under Arnie's glare.

Arnie pushed Rafe back from him and let go of his shirt, the detective stumbled but maintained his balance. "What's it matter to me? I'll tell you what it matters." A sudden backhand sent Rafe crashing to the ground in a daze. "That cop cost me ten years."

Rafe shook his head slightly, trying to clear his head. "No. You cost you ten years." The comment earned Rafe several vicious kicks to the ribs.

Still gasping for breath. Rafe was hauled to his feet again to meet Arnie's cold stare.

"So I'll ask again. How far up the ladder did ol' Captain Banks git?

"Major Crimes. He's the captain of Major Crimes." Rafe's voice was nothing but a pained whisper.

Jake picked up Rafe's discarded badge and looked at it. "And looks here, his badge says we got ourselves a detective from Major Crimes, Arnie."

"Small world ain't it pretty boy," Arnie sneered, giving Rafe another shake and throwing him to the ground. Rafe's head struck the log with a loud thunk, knocking him unconscious.

Eddie came from the other tent, carrying Jim's badge and Blair's observer pass "What're we gonna do now Arnie," Eddie whined. "A whole damb forest and we gotta jack gear from cops."

"Yea, jackass. And who was it that lost our gear. Next time you jack a car make sure you get one that's road worthy. Damb near killed us when that tire blew," Arnie growled.

"Now, just shut up a minute while I think. No matter what we do the cops'll be on our tails in no time, right. So we need somethin' between us and them. Somethin' that'll give 'em second thought about shootin'."

Jake followed Arnie's gaze as the criminal glared down at the now semi-conscious detective. "Are you nuts? You want to drag a cop along with us. That's sure to put cops all over this forest lookin' for him."

"Look," Arnie cut in angrily," either way we're gonna get cops before we hit the border. Now, we leave him for his friends ta' find they're on our tail that much sooner. We kill him and we don't stand a chance of gittin' out of this forest alive. We take him with us and we got a ticket through."

"I don't like this," Jake complained bitterly.

"Two million don't do you no good dead or doing life. I, for one, plan on getting to that border," Arnie said, pulling Rafe to his feet. "We can always do him before we cross the border.

The still dazed detective had a difficult time keeping his balance, barely hearing Arnie's next threat through the merciless pounding in his skull; however, a nearby Sentinel heard it mingled with the angry snarl of a black jaguar. " I might even call you Captain Banks and let him know where your body is before the bears get to ya'."

"Fine," Jake snapped and grabbed up some gear," but it's your game so he's your problem."

"Grab me some gear, Eddie, then git yourself up there with Jake," Arnie ordered. "Yea, Banks is gonna know who did you pretty boy."

--------------------------------

Trying to keep his injured and dazed captive moving and on his feet, Arnie trailed behind his buddies by a good distance and didn't notice anything amiss until he came across the gear scattered all over the trail.

"Dammit, Eddie, I said you gotta handle this extra gear since I've got my hands full with pretty boy here." Arnie's eyes scanned the nearby tree line looking for his missing companions, not finding them, he yelled angrily, "Where the hell are you? Eddie? Jake?"

"Eddie and Jake are a little tied up at the moment," Henri said evenly, stepping out from behind a tree.

"What the hell…who, wait, you're one of pretty boys cop friends," Arnie snapped, pulling Rafe in front of him and pointing the gun at his head. 'Eddie. Jake. Where are you?"

"I wouldn't worry about it. You'll be joining them soon," Brown said, taking a few steps towards Arnie.

Arnie tightened his grip on his dazed hostage and growled, "Like hell. I go down, he goes down."

"Whatever crime you committed can't get you as much time as killin' a cop man. Do yourself a favor and let him go," Brown ordered, taking another step forward.

"Yea, right. Why don't you just put your piece down and let me pass, then maybe I'll let your buddy live," Arnie threatened, cocking the gun he held to Rafe's head.

Brown wavered for a moment then suddenly held out his hands in a placating manner. "Okay, man, no one has to get hurt here,"

Arnie's grip relaxed a little seeing Brown's gun lower to his side. The next instant Rafe suddenly sprang to life and plowed his elbow into Arnie's ribs, at the same time Jim came up behind the criminal and wretched the gun from Arnie's hand.

Arnie released his hold on his hostage, allowing Rafe to roll out of the fray, so he could focused his full attention on his new attacker, to no avail. It was over in seconds. Jim had the perp on the ground and tied with Arnie's own belt. "How's Rafe?"

Henri was kneeling beside his again unconscious partner, trying to assess his new injuries. "Rafe, babe, come on buddy wake up. Jim it doesn't look good here. He's got another knot on his head, probably has a concussion."

Jim cut him off. "Check his ribs, his breathing doesn't sound right."

Henri grimaced when he raised Rafe's shirt and saw the myriad of colorful bruises across his midsection. "I don't think there broken but good odds there are a few cracked ones."

"Stay with him and try to keep him still. I need to go back to camp and get some things to make a litter," Jim directed Brown as he was double-checking the three prisoners to make sure they were secure.

"Hurry back man," Brown said tightly.

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A very agitated Blair greeted Jim when he stepped into camp. "God, Jim, where has everybody gone to. Some of the gear's gone and Rafe's not here either. You and Brown weren't at the river…"

"Hold up Blair, I'll explain everything. But first we got to get back to Brian, he's been hurt," Jim cut off his agitated friend with a raised hand.

"Where is he? How bad?"

"Down that way a couple hundred yards. Brown's with him now." Jim was explaining as he gathered the supplies he needed. "Concussion and cracked ribs."

"Ouch. How?" Blair grimaced in sympathy.

"By the same guys that took our gear," Jim answered. "Get some sleeping bags and your spear, let's go."

-------------------------------------------

It was 'decided, after a brief argument, that Jim would stay behind with the prisoners while Henri and Blair carried Brian out to the SUV.

"Chief, the perps are secure and it will only be for a few hours tops. Once you hit the main road you can radio in to the sheriff and get some backup out here," Jim explained.

"I really don't see what the problem is here. Brian needs out of here now, and the fastest way, the safest way for his injuries is with the litter."

"I just don't like leaving you alone out here," Blair protested.

"I won't be alone," Jim said cocking his head to one side towards the prisoners.

"That is so not funny, Ellison," Blair grumbled in exasperation.

Despite his worry about his partner Brown couldn't help but be amused by Sandburg's streak of protectiveness towards Ellison. "Hairboy, just what is it you think is gonna happen to Mr. Army ranger, covert ops, cop of the year that he can't handle?"

Blair opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again, glaring back and forth between the two detectives.

"The sooner you get out of here the sooner you'll be back," Jim cajoled.

_______________________________

It took Henri and Blair a better part of two hours to reach the clearing with the SUV and get Brian settled in the back seat. Blair rode in the back with Brian while Henri pushed the 4x4 to its limits getting them to the main road and in less than a half an hour later they had hit the highway. Blair had out his cell phone immediately to call the sheriff. Another forty minutes had them in them at the ER.

Two hours later Jim walked into the small hospital and followed the sound of his guide's heartbeat, finding Blair hunched over a table in the cafeteria. "Chief."

"Jim," Blair exclaimed, jumping from his seat. "You all right? Everything go all right?"

Jim smiled. "Everything is fine. Sheriff's got our perps all locked up, and while I was waiting I took down camp and they helped me haul it back in. Now, how's Rafe?"

Blair grimaced as he gave Jim the run down of their friend's condition. "He's got a concussion, three cracked ribs, lots and lots of bruises and his ankle really swelled up. He's gonna be real sore for a while but he'll live; unless Brown drives him crazy first. You old guys sure like to hover."

"Is that so junior. Someone has to watch out for the wayward youth of today. And I'm not old," Jim said whapping Blair in the head.

----------------------------

24 HOURS LATER

"…so they heisted the armor car as it made its stop at the Teaysville Bank, that's a town about 40 miles from here. From what I've pieced together, they stole a car that ended up blowin' a tire and puttin' them in the river. They lost their gear and were looking to steal some more," the portly sheriff reported. "I know it was a hell of a way to spend your vacation, but I'm mighty glad it was trained cops they came across out there; saved us a hell of a chase."

"Glad we could help, sheriff." Jim said

"You get you rest young man, hope you'll be feeling better soon," the kindly sheriff said to Rafe, giving him gentle pat on his uninjured leg. Rafe just smiled and gave a nod. "I'll see you boys around, take care,"

"So, when am I getting sprung from this house of horrors guys?" Brain turned to his friends when the sheriff left.

"If all goes well, this afternoon," Brown answered. "Then we're outa here and heading home. Gears all packed."

Rafe nodded and closed his eyes, resting his head heavily on his pillows, and letting out a long tired sigh.

"Something wrong Rafe? You need the nurse or something," Blair said with concern.

"What!" Rafe started, opening his eyes to look at his friends. "No, nothing like that."

"Then what?"

"I'm really sorry, guys. I've been a walking disaster since this trip started," Rafe said sadly. "I really ruined this vacation."

"Ruined our vacation! Ruined our…listen Rafe, it should be us apologizing to you; for getting you into this mess to begin with. Jeez, and I thought Jim here had the market on guilt," Blair exclaimed going to his friends bedside. "You, my friend, did not do anything wrong!"

"He's right Brian. Somehow I don't think a tumble over a cliff and running into three fugitives was on your itinerary for the weekend," Jim said.

Rafe eyed his friends for a moment then asked with some amount of trepidation, "So, then, there's a chance there could be a next time?"

"A next time! You actually want a next time their partner?" Brown said with surprise.

"Well…yea. I mean, well, barring the fall over the cliff, the poisonous snakes and the sprained ankle, cracked ribs and concussion—the trip was kinda fun," Rafe said sheepishly but with a growing grin spreading across his face. "I mean, I actually caught a fish—thought I'd give the spear a try next time."

His three friends looked at him with amusement and Blair said with a smile, "You're on buddy! Next time it'll be the 'spears' versed the 'rod-n-reels'."

THE END