Meeting of Minds
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these guys. Pet Fly and Paramount do. I have promised to return them in roughly the same condition that I found them in.
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to my roommate Lisa, who came up with the idea and has been my beta reader through this story and the next few. She's great.
Category: AU (sort of, you decide). The first of many?
Rated: PG-13 for some violence and shooting.
Somewhere in the Jungles of Chile
28 July 1998
Blair Sandburg, anthropologist, police observer, and partner/guide to one stubborn, opinionated Sentinel by the name of Jim Ellison wiped his hand across his sweaty brow. He had been staggering through the Chile jungle, supporting his half-unconscious partner, for what seemed like days but was really only a few hours. Jim kept muttering about something every few minutes and it was slowly driving Blair crazy.
"Musumby," Jim said again.
"No Jim, it wasn't the Musumby plant. It didn't look anything like it, I swear."
Jim continued to mutter the same word for another few minutes and then silence reigned. Blair decided that he needed a rest and wanted to check Jim's breathing again. He saw a tree up ahead that looked like it could afford them some shade from the sun, so he staggered on toward it. When he reached its base, he slowly lowered Jim to rest against the trunk. Blair checked all around the tree to be sure there were no snakes, bugs, or dangerous plants. Finding none, he gratefully sank down next to Jim and let out a pent-up breath. After what seemed like only a few minutes to himself but was really more than twenty to thirty minutes, Blair sat up and started to check Jim's condition. Jim's breathing wasn't any harsher than when Jim had first been exposed to the unknown plant. Jim's eyes and nose were still red and raw looking. They were also more swollen and when Blair lightly touched the side of Jim's face near his eyes, a groan escaped from Jim. Blair brought his hand away from Jim's face quickly, as if he'd been burned. He dug out the canteen from his pack, wet his handkerchief, and gently laid it across Jim's eyes. A sigh escaped Jim's lips this time, which had Blair smiling in spite of Jim's condition.
"Thanks, Chief," Jim mumbled. "Feels good, cool on my face."
"Glad I could help Jim but I don't know what else to do for you. If I could find a village or maybe a small tribe of natives, and then maybe they might have a cure for this reaction you're experiencing. I just don't know what else to do," Blair said sadly.
"Your doing everything you can do, Chief. I did this to myself. You warned me to lookout and I still got too close to that plant, whatever it was," Jim said, sounding more awake than he had for the past few hours.
"Yeah, I know but I still should have been faster about getting you away from it to begin with. I just..." Blair trailed off.
"You did the right thing Blair. If you hadn't, I might be dead now instead of just incapacitated. Just keep doing what you're doing and I'll get better gradually. As long as we're out here and there's no help in sight, just keep doing your best." Jim paused for breath and then asked, "do we still have enough water in the canteen?" Jim was starting to sound like his usual self and he seemed to be a bit stronger with the rest period.
"We're getting a little low but we should be fine for a while longer. You don't happen to hear a stream or river nearby, do you?"
Jim cocked his head and opened his hearing. Jim had been born a Sentinel, an individual with enhanced senses. All five of his senses, hearing, taste, touch, smell and vision, were heightened beyond that of normal man. This fact alone made him a better police officer. He was also subject to 'zone outs' as his partner/guide called them. A 'zone out' occurred when Jim focused on one sense more strongly than if he was using two or three senses at a single time. Blair's duty was to watch for these 'zone outs' and to bring Jim back to the present. As Jim concentrated now on finding running water, Blair kept a hand on Jim's arm and talked him through the routine that they had fashioned together to aid Jim through different situations and the use of his different senses. Now as always, Blair kept up his low but steady guiding voice.
After about two minutes of watching Jim, Blair finally asked, "well, did you find any water?"
"Yeah, but I don't think you're going to like where it is."
"Why, is it some huge waterfall?"
"To be honest, yes it is Chief."
"Oh man, you're right, I don't like where it is. Okay, how far away is it?"
"About two miles I'd guess," Jim said.
"Okay, do you think you're ready for some more walking? We need the water and I don't want to leave you here by yourself."
"Help me up and we'll find out how well I'm really doing," Jim stated as he started to push against the tree trunk to stand up.
Blair stood up and reached down to give Jim a hand up. When both men were on their feet, Blair placed Jim's arm across his shoulders and asked, "which direction is the river?"
Jim listened once more and replied, "south. I think we were already heading in that direction."
"All right, off we go then," and Blair and Jim started off in search of the waterfall/river.
As they made their way through the hot, damp jungle, Blair's mind wandered back to how this whole mess had started.
Major Crimes Bullpen
19 July 1998
Captain Simon Banks, head of the Major Crimes division, looked over the latest report on the murder of a drug dealer. The death of the dealer was the concern now, since a new drug had hit the streets. The Vice division had passed the case over to Simon when the dealer had been found murdered that morning. Simon had looked over the file and decided to give the case to his best detective. Simon looked up from the file and observed the entrance of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg.
Simon stood and walked over to his door and yelled, "Ellison, Sandburg, my office."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other and then made their way to Simon's office. Jim ushered Blair into the office and shut the door behind him. Jim looked at Simon as Blair took a seat and asked, "what's up, sir?"
"I have a new case for you. It came down from your old stomping ground Jim."
"Vice sent us a case. Why? What makes this our jurisdiction?"
"A drug dealer was found murdered this morning. You busted him once but it seems he went right back to business as soon as he was released from prison. He and an associate started selling a new designer drug. Vice thinks there is a connection to the Chile Drug Cartel."
"Why does Vice suspect Chile, sir? Do they have a man on the inside?"
"Because the Chile government sent a couple of their men to Vice last week and informed Captain Driskol of the possible connection. In fact, the three of us will be meeting them in about ten minutes. Look over the file and see what you can come up with before the meeting," Simon said finally and handed the file over to Jim.
Ellison took the file and then opened the door to leave with Sandburg right behind him. The pair walked back to Ellison's desk and sat down. Jim opened the file and started reading aloud the highlights of the case for Blair's benefit. "Well, well. Good old Rusty Rafeson finally bought the farm. He was a very nasty piece of work. We could never prove it but we suspected him of a few murders."
"How'd you finally catch him? How long was he in prison?"
"Three years. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and the sale of the same controlled substance. It was his first offense so the judge went easy on him. Too bad he couldn't have been convicted for the murders but we were just happy to have him off the street." Jim took a deep breath and then continued. "Anyway, it says here that he hooked up with 'Sweet' Harold Malloy. Harold was into drug and gun running. He hired Rusty to deal for him here in Cascade. We could never pin anything on Harold but we just might make it stick this time."
"Well, where's he getting the drugs from?"
"Says here that he has a connection with the drug cartel out of Chile. I guess that explains why we're meeting with the Chile Representative."
As Jim was closing the file, a tall well-dressed distinguished gentleman entered the Major Crimes bullpen. The man had dark brown hair and brown expressive eyes. The man was tall and wiry. He paused at the door and casually looked around the room. His eyes swept over everyone, but stopped when he observed the longhaired anthropologist. He continued to stare at Blair as he finally made his way towards Simon's office. When the man reached the door, he took his eyes off of Sandburg, knocked on Simon's door, and entered even before Simon could acknowledge someone was outside of his office.
Simon looked up from his desk as the stranger entered his office. Banks stood and stated, "can I help you?"
"Yes Captain Banks. My name is Cisco Eladio and I'm the Representative to Chile. I'm here for our meeting about the Chile Drug Cartel and how they are associated with people in your city."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Eladio. Let me get the men who'll be working on the case."
Simon walked around his desk, opened his door, and again called his best team into his office. Simon turned back to his guest and asked, "I thought there was supposed to be someone else with you Mr. Eladio?"
"Yes, my associate had to return to Chile. His wife went into labor several hours ago. It's their first child and it's been a difficult pregnancy."
"I can understand that. My son's birth was also difficult for my wife."
Cisco Eladio watched as the two men made their way to Captain Banks' office. He noticed how the taller man guided the younger, longhaired man towards the office. He wondered about the pair and how they could work together with being so different.
After the two men entered, Captain Banks made the introductions. "Mr. Cisco Eladio, may I introduce Detective Jim Ellison and his partner Blair Sandburg. Jim, Sandburg, this is Cisco Eladio, government representative of Chile."
All three men nodded and then everyone took a seat. Eladio started by telling them a bit about the Drug Cartel in Chile. Both Jim and Blair were surprised to hear how vast the Cartel was. Both asked questions about the extent of the power the Cartel had over the Chile government and what steps had been taken to halt its existence. Eladio described everything that had been done and what was being done currently about the Drug Cartel. It was his governments and his own hope that this United States connection could be completely quickly resolved.
Jim asked, "do you know who the connection here in Cascade is?"
"A man by the name of Jesus Ramirez. He runs a small drug smuggling operation, we believe, for the United States Syndicate. He has dual citizenship with Chile and the U.S. Jesus travels a great deal between here and Chile. He always has the proper papers to enter either country and has never been arrested. He has his own security personnel and they safeguard his life as well as his merchandise. Unless we can get a man on the inside, we will never be able to stop the drugs. One more thing, Jesus has been using eight to ten year old children to sell his drugs in the local schools."
"How do you intend to get someone on the inside if they have their own security? I'm sure that they'll check the background of anyone who applies for a job with them," Blair commented.
Eladio smiled and said, "that's where you come in the picture Mr. Sandburg. They don't know you and you definitely don't look like a police officer. I was hoping that you would be game into going undercover for us."
"What! Are you nuts? Blair's only a police observer, not some rookie cop ready for his first undercover assignment! I won't have it!" Jim turned to Simon with steel in his eyes and said, "how can you even condone this idea? Do you want to see Sandburg hurt or even killed, because that's what's gonna happen if you let this plan go through!"
"Jim, calm down. This was the first I'd heard about using Sandburg." Simon turned to Cisco and pointedly asked, "why didn't you mention this fact to me when you made the request to see my men?"
Eladio started to reply when the subject of the ranting stood up and moved to stand in front of Jim. Blair looked directly into Jim's blazing blue eyes and quietly said, "I want to do this! If it stops Jesus from using kids, little kids Jim, from dealing and using, then I want to do it." Blair turned to face Cisco and started, "what's your plans for getting me into this 'gang'?"
Cisco Eladio smiled warmly at Blair and began, "we'll introduce you as a very wealthy and connected dealer who can easily move a large quantity of Jesus' merchandise. When the deal is made, then our task force will move in and clean up his operation."
"And just how do you plan to protect Sandburg from being hurt or killed if your little operation hits a snag," Jim asked point-blank.
"He won't be in any danger Detective. I can assure you that we'll take every precaution to safeguard Mr. Sandburg's life."
"Well, I can do you one better Mr. Eladio. Since Blair is supposed to be very wealthy and very connected, then he would have his own personal bodyguard. I'm that man. I will stay with Blair until this little 'operation' is over." Jim turned to Blair and said, "no arguments about this Chief! I'll be by your side until this is over and you're safely out of there. Understand?!"
"Sure Jim, anything you say. Always glad you're there looking out for me." Blair gave Jim one of his best grins and then turned to Cisco Eladio. "We're a package deal, sorry."
"No problem Mr. Sandburg. I can see that he will keep an even better eye on you than any of my men could."
For the next two hours, the four men went over every detail of the operation. They built a background for Blair that even impressed Jim with its intricacies. Any one checking into Blair's past would find out that he came from a family that was wealthy and well connected in the drug smuggling and gun running world. Blair was the heir apparent to the organization and his own operation had been doing extremely well.
Somewhere in the Jungles of Chile
28 July 1998
Blair was brought back from his memories when Jim stumbled for the third time in a little under two minutes. He looked up into Jim's face, a little surprised to see the glassy-eyed look back in the eyes of his Sentinel.
"Hear sommmthin'" Jim mumbled.
Blair halted their progress and looked around for some large animal stalking them. He didn't know if he could fight off an animal with Jim being ill. After searching as best as he could, Blair looked at Jim and asked, "what do you hear and where's it comin' from?"
"Sounds like something or someone crashin' through the jungle. Sounds lost, like us."
"You want to keep moving or rest until this thing catches up with us?"
"Wait. Be here soon enough."
"Okay, we'll wait but I'm not too happy about this idea."
"S'okay, neither am I."
"Let's rest against this tree here." With that said, Blair stumbled over to a large tree and helped Jim to slide down to lean against a large tree trunk.
Approximately ten minutes later, a very bedraggle figure came out of the jungle and fell to his knees. Blair jumped up, prepared to defend Jim. As the figure slowly stood up, Blair recognized his face and asked, "Janos?"
"Oh, Mr. Sandburg. Am I ever so glad to see you. After you and your bodyguard fled the compound, Chilean troops swooped in and started arresting everyone. I'd seen the direction that you two had gone and was finally able to slip out of the compound undetected. I tried to follow your trail but got hopelessly lost. Do you know where we are? Are we safe yet?"
Blair stared dumbfounded at the man in front of him. Janos Nicodemus Bartok was a chemist. He held several degrees in Science and Technology. He was also a world renown chemist. Dr. Bartok had been hired under legitimate circumstances and taken to Chile by his new employers. He was told that he was going to be working on a new pain reliever for the medical industry. His successful development of the new painkiller was in actuality being sold on the street as a new designer drug.
Jim and Blair had met Janos when the dealer in Cascade said that the only way to meet the creator of the drug and see the main operation plant was to go directly to Chile. Blair and Jim had agreed and the next day, they were off to Chile. The pair had been taken to a remote area in the Chilean jungle, where the drug processing plant was located. They had been told that the main chemist, who had actually created the new drug, believed that he was working on creating a legitimate medical pain reliever and that they should go along with the ruse. Jim and Blair had agreed and were soon introduced to the good doctor. He truly believed that he was creating something for the good of others.
Blair didn't know what to tell Janos. He knew that he had to get Jim to a hospital and fairly quickly. Blair said, "Janos, can you look at Jim for me? He was exposed to the chemical at the compound and has been having an allergic reaction to it, I think. I'm not sure what I can do for him out here."
"Certainly, Mr. Sandburg."
Janos stepped over to Jim and started checking him over. Jim had been overly quiet while Blair and Janos had talked and now Blair was getting very worried. Jim almost seemed to be unconscious and was letting Janos move him around without any comment.
Janos finally stepped back and shook his head. He turned to Blair and said, "there's not much I can do for Mr. Ellison. He appears to be unconscious but his pulse and respiration allude to him being awake. If this is a reaction to the chemical, then it's nothing like I've ever seen. My suggestion is to get him out of this jungle as soon as possible."
Blair slowly sank down to the ground next to Jim. He couldn't believe what was happening. Jim was the strong one, the one who protected Blair. Now it was Blair's turn to protect Jim and he'd failed. Blair couldn't think. He finally put his head down against his knees and wrapped his arms around his bent legs. Blair felt like crying. They were stuck in the middle of the jungle with no help in sight.
Janos finally sat down on the other side of Jim. He was hoping to get out of the jungle with the help of these two men but that seemed hopeless now. His great-grandfather had been an inventor, helping to create some standard pieces of equipment many countries used today. If only he was as creative as his great-grandfather.
Suddenly, Janos heard a rustling of leaves. He at first thought it was his imagination playing tricks with him. He heard it again and looked in the direction that the noise had come from. From behind a shrub, an old woman stepped into view. He reached his hand across Jim's chest to touch Blair's arm as he watched the woman step closer.
Blair felt a hand on his arm and tried to shrug it off. The hand was tugging on his sleeve so he finally looked up to see what Janos wanted. He was about to say something when he noticed that Janos wasn't looking at him but at something across the jungle path.
Blair watched an older native woman step towards the three men cautiously. She looked at Blair and gave him a motherly smile. Blair smiled back and slowly stood up, so as not to frighten her away. The woman took another step towards them and looked closer at Jim. She spoke without moving her lips. Blair couldn't understand what she said but could read enough on her face to know that she wanted to help Jim. Blair said, "can you help my friend? He's very ill and needs help. We're lost and need a guide out of the jungle."
A voice in Blair's mind said, 'I understand Young Shaman. I can help your Sentinel. Follow me.'
Blair shook his head. He had just had a female voice in his head and he didn't know if he was hallucinating or actually hearing it. Blair decided to follow the instructions and reached down to grab one of Jim's arms. He looked over at Janos and said, "help me get Jim up and we're going to follow the lady."
As Janos stood and reached for Jim's other arm, he asked Blair, "are you sure this is a good idea?"
"I think so. She seems to want to help us. I don't think she'll harm us. Let's just get moving, it's getting dark and I don't like the idea of being out here when night falls."
The woman waited at the edge of the jungle for them and soon all four were on their way. She led them through a dense section of jungle for about an hour. As the three men followed the woman, they noticed that she wore a strange pendant on a bag around her neck. Finally, the jungle seemed to thin out and a small village appeared. The woman led them through the middle of the village and back into the jungle. The men followed her into a well-covered opening of a cave and she showed them a pallet on which Blair and Janos laid Jim upon.
Blair watched as the woman reached for a bowl with a small amount of water in it and observed her placing different kinds of herbs which she extracted from decorative clay pots. Grinding the herbs together, she added them to the bowl with water. As a final ingredient to the bowl, she pulled a twig-like substance from the unusual pouch with the strange pendant on it, which hung from a cord around her neck. She broke off a small amount and added it to the mixture. She then stepped over to the pallet on which Jim laid upon and raised his head so he could drink the mixture. When he had drained the bowl, she gently laid his head back down and stepped back towards Blair.
Blair watched in silent curiosity what the woman did. When she stepped back from Jim, Blair finally spoke. He asked her, "what did you give to Jim?"
Her reply was simple and said within his mind, 'I gave him a potion that will help him get well quickly. The plant he was exposed to is not deadly but usually leaves the individual quite ill for many days. The potion will help the Sentinel get better in only a few hours. He will be completely healed.'
"Why do I hear you in my head? Are you telepathic?"
'Yes Young Shaman, I am, as you say, telepathic as are you. Your Sentinel is also. Being able to communicate silently aides in protecting the tribe.'
"But Jim and I aren't telepathic. Neither of us has shown this ability ever. In everything that I've ever read about Sentinels, nothing was mentioned about silent communication between Sentinel and Guide."
'Yet you both have the ability. He, as a Sentinel and you, as a Shaman. You have not yet begun to know or understand all of your own abilities. In time, you will be able to do things far beyond anything that you can comprehend currently. The Sentinel being exposed to the plant will have that ability opened up to him. He will only be able to communicate with his Guide and Shaman. You, being a Shaman will only be able to communicate with your Sentinel and other Shamans, such as myself.'
"So, what do I have to do to tap into this ability?"
'First, open your mind to the idea of the ability and then truly believe in it. One of the effects of the plant is temporary paralysis of the voice. Your Sentinel will regain his voice but not for a full day from the time the symptoms leave his body. The silent communication will aid you in the battle to come.'
"What battle to come?"
'The battle between your Sentinel and the evil ones who lie and disrupt my home. They are seeking you even now. They will not find you here. You must stop them before more destruction has occurred. Now, Young Shaman, you must open your mind to your Sentinel's thoughts.'
Blair stared at the woman, no Shaman he told himself, and finally sat down on the floor near Jim. He closed his eyes and regulated his breathing to where it would be when he meditated. He relaxed rather quickly and slowly began to open up his mind to anything new that would be said to him. After a little while, Blair started to hear a voice. He opened up his mind a bit more and recognized Jim's voice. He listened quietly to what Jim was saying.
'What's happening to me? God Sandburg, I wish you could hear me and answer my questions. I feel really weird. Parts of my body are tingling and others feel like I'm burning. My throat feels like it's asleep or something. I can hear what that woman's saying but I don't understand it why I can't talk. Why do I hear her in my head?'
'Jim, can you hear me?'
'Sandburg? Chief, I hear you. Can you hear me?'
'Yeah, I hear ya Jim. I don't know how to explain this but your mind is talking with my mind.'
'What?! I can't believe that. I hear you but how can you hear me if my mouth isn't moving?'
'I told you. You and I are speaking telepathically. I know, this is absurd but right now, it's true. Until you can talk again, this is how we're communicating. Other than your throat feeling like it's asleep, what else is wrong?'
'Okay, I'll buy this telepathy for right now but there better be a good explanation when I'm over this plant exposure.' Jim paused and gathered his thoughts together and then began to describe how he was feeling to Blair. 'Right now, my arms, hands, legs and feet feel like they've been asleep and are just now waking up. You know that 'pins and needles' feeling? My chest and back feel okay. My throat feels, well, it doesn't. I mean, I know it's there but I don't really feel it. I can't tell if I'm swallowing or not. Does this make sense Chief?'
'Yeah Jim, I know what you're meaning. According the Shaman, the woman who brought us here, you should be feeling better and back up to speed except for your voice in another hour or so. She also said that we're going to be having company soon. I have a feeling that some of the drug dealers or the main drug lord escaped from the local police and are now hunting us. I just hope they don't find us until you're able to move.'
'Me too Chief, me too. So is this mental talking going to be a permanent thing between us or is it a one-time shot?'
'According to the Shaman here, it's a permanent thing between you and me. It's part of you being a Sentinel and part of me being a Shaman. I think that I'm a throwback now too.'
Jim sensed that Blair was fading a bit and asked, 'are you all right Chief? You sound like you're fading away from me.'
'I guess I'm just tired and I have a feeling that I'm gonna have to explain some things to Janos soon. Why don't you get some sleep and we'll talk more when you wake up.'
'Okay, but you get some rest too. If those guys did escape the Chile police, then we are going to have a firefight on our hands. I want all of us to be rested and ready to move at a moment's notice. Tell that to Janos too. Make sure you both get some rest. Night.'
'Night Jim. I'll tell Janos.'
Janos Bartok watched and listened to the one sided conversation that his new friend, Blair Sandburg, had with the strange native woman who had led the three men to a very well-hidden cave. He didn't understand what the conversation was about and he had no idea what a sentinel was but he didn't want to distract his new friend with questions right now. Janos observed Blair give the woman a strange look and then proceeded to sit down next to Jim Ellison and meditate. He had often done the same thing himself when an answer alluded him. Janos sat quietly, watching Blair meditate. He finally closed his own eyes and fell into a light sleep.
Approximately an hour after Blair had started to meditate, his eyes open and he looked at Janos. Blair decided to let the man sleep since they would probably be fighting for their soon and needed to be ready for anything. Blair moved out of the lotus position, stretched his cramped legs, and laid down on the floor next to Jim. He fell asleep quickly and all was silent in the cave.
The Shaman had stood watch over the young Shaman and injured Sentinel while they'd communicated. She didn't listen to the conversation but felt that a new beginning of understanding was starting between the two men. She watched as the third man had fallen asleep and knew that their secret was safe with this man. He may have been misled by the evil men but his heart was good. The Shaman smiled at the three sleeping men and then turned to keep watch.
Captain Simon Banks' Office
28 July 1998
"What do you mean that you can't locate my men?! You were supposed to keep a close eye on the two of them. How long have they been missing? Four hours!!!!!! Was either of them hurt? Well, Mr. Eladio, you better find them. And they better be in one piece or you will have a great deal of explaining to do before my government and me. Do I make myself perfectly clear? Good day!!!" Simon Banks slammed his phone down into its' cradle and then chewed on the end of his unlit cigar. He had sent his men on this assignment, thinking that the pair would be relatively safe. Now the operation had gone somewhat wrong, and both Ellison and Sandburg had turned up missing along with the main drug lord and two of his most deadly bodyguards. The drug lord and bodyguards had probably gone after Sandburg and Ellison. Simon could only hope that his best team would make it home.
A rap on his door brought him back from his thoughts and he called, "come in."
"Simon, what's wrong? Is it Jim and Blair? Are they all right?" Five distinct and diverse people stood at his door all asking the same questions.
Simon sighed, stood, and moved to his door. He glared at the three men and two women crowding his door. As one, all five people turned around and moved away from the door. Simon moved past the door and into the center of the room. He cleared his throat and began his little speech.
"Listen up people. Here's the situation, as of four hours ago, Ellison and Sandburg went missing. They were last seen at the drug processing plant in Chile. The Chile police or whatever they're called, figured that they had enough evidence on the drug lord to arrest him and shut down his operation. Ellison and Sandburg got out of the plant area just about the same time that the raid went down. Only problem now is that the main drug lord and his two closest bodyguards escaped into the jungle. The police down in Chile think that the drug lord is following Sandburg and Ellison to shut them up. The worst part about this whole situation is that the police of Chile can't find our guys. All we can do is sit and wait to hear from either Ellison or Sandburg or the Chile police. Any questions?"
"How long do you think we'll have to wait until we hear some news?" Joel Taggert asked.
"I don't know Joel. I only wish it was over with now."
Henri Brown, Ryf Van Rafe, Megan Connor, and Rhonda all slowly went back to their desks. They each sent up a prayer for Sandburg and Ellison. All four people considered the missing two men not just as colleagues but friends as well. They longed for their safe return.
Joel followed Simon back into his office and asked, "anything I can do for you, Simon? I can just imagine how rough this is for you."
"I agreed to this stupid operation Joel. I let Sandburg be used by a government I don't know a great deal about and Ellison went along with it as long as he could stay close to Blair. Now both of them are missing and that damn Cisco Eladio didn't even know if either of them was injured. I swear, if they both return unharmed, I am never letting another country borrow them again."
"Can't say as I blame you. I'm sure Ellison knew the risks going in and he's keeping a close eye on Blair. I bet they're both getting ready to come back home, even as we speak."
"I hope so Joel because I'm sure not looking forward to having to explain to Sandburg's mother why her son is missing in Chile."
"I hear you."
Somewhere in a Cave in the Jungles of Chile
28 July 1998
The three sleeping men slowly came awake in their hidden cave. Blair Sandburg sat up with a stretch and a small groan. He was achy from sleeping on the hard ground. He yawned and opened his eyes, suddenly remembering where he was and why he had slept on the cool, hard ground. He turned to look at his partner, Jim Ellison. He wanted to make sure Jim was all right and recovering from his exposure to the plant.
Jim Ellison blinked sleepily and tested his different extremities. Everything seemed to be in working order, although as he sat up on the pallet, his muscles protested loudly. He looked around the cave and his eyes settled on his partner and friend, Blair Sandburg. Jim smiled down at Blair and went to speak, but no sound came from his throat. He tried again and started to panic. He heard a voice inside his head saying, 'calm down Jim. Take slow, deep breaths. In, hold it for a three count, out. Keep repeating the exercise until you feel that you're calm. Remember what I said earlier, that you would NOT get your voice back until twenty-four hours after the drug had left your system. Keep breathing slowly. That's it. Take another slow breath. Are you feeling better now?'
'Yeah, but I still think this is weird. Okay, what's the current situation? Are you hurt?'
"Hey, slow down with the questions and let me answer at least one question before you start on another one.' Blair gave Jim a grin and took a deep breath before he continued. 'All right, I'm okay, just a little tired from running around the jungle. Janos appears to be in the same condition as me. I think you are almost completely recovered from your exposure to that plant, the exception being your voice. According to the Shaman that found and helped us, we're being followed by some of the men that are involved with the drugs. I don't know how many or how heavily they're armed but I'm glad you're feeling better man. How much ammo do you still have?'
Jim reached for his 9mm handgun, checked the clip, and found it fully loaded. He searched his vest for the extra clips he always carried and came up with only two. He looked at Blair and thought, 'I lost two of the extra four I had with me. I hope these guys aren't bringing an army or we're gonna be screwed.'
Blair's face became guarded and his eyes had that scared look in them that Jim had seen so often. Jim reached over and clasped Blair on the shoulder. This was Jim's way of giving comfort to Blair. Blair just looked at him, leaned into Jim's touch, and shuddered slightly.
Janos had awakened fully and had watched the two men silently. He had no way of knowing what was going on between them but seeing the look on Blair's face and Jim's reaction to the look roused him. He finally spoke up by asking, "what's wrong? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Jim and Blair were both startled by his voice. Blair jumped underneath Jim's steady hand. Blair looked over at Janos, smiled slightly, and said, "you scared me Janos. Almost forgot you were here. The situation is this, Jim only has three clips for his gun, so if there's an army out there, we're pretty much screwed."
"If you're needing assistance in stopping these ruffians, then I think I can help, if you'll allow me to."
Blair looked at Jim. Jim smiled back and sent, 'any little bit helps Chief.'
"All right Janos, what's your ideas?"
"Well, I'll need some assistance gathering some wood and vines, while I browse the jungle for some appropriate plant material," Janos smiled as he thought about what he had in mind. "Let's be off gentlemen."
Blair grinned up at Jim as Jim stood up and reached a hand down towards his partner. Blair stood, with help from Jim, and followed Janos out of the cave.
Approximately an hour and a half later, Jim paused in his work, stood straight and cocked his head slightly. Blair glanced up, recognized the stance and quietly thought, 'what is it Jim?'
'I hear voices. About a quarter mile away but moving towards us. It's Ramirez and one, no two of his bodyguards. They must have escaped the raid. He's ticked, keeps saying that you set him up and he's going to make you pay. Don't worry Chief, he won't touch you.'
'I know he won't, since you're here. I just hope this idea of Janos' works. I'm set over here, how about your side?'
'All done. Let's get into position.'
"Janos, we're set and they're coming. Three of them. Are you ready?"
"I'm ready my dear fellow."
After another fifteen minutes of endless waiting, Jim heard Ramirez say, "you two go on up ahead, split up and scout around. I don't want any surprises waiting for us. If you see the boy, wound him and bring him to me. I don't care what you do with the other two."
Jim clenched his jaw tightly but held his ground. He knew that sending Blair out as bait was the only way to get the ball rolling yet he still didn't like it. Jim sent to Blair, 'get ready. Ramirez is sending his bodyguards out first. I see one on Janos' trail. Now!'
Blair stumbled his way out onto the trail, looked around like he was lost. He turned his head and looked directly into the face of the biggest, meanest man he had ever seen. Blair swallowed hard, turned, and ran away from the man. The man, Jose, gave chase. He pulled out his gun and started firing at Blair as the pair raced through the jungle. Blair passed a large growth of plants, the man racing furiously behind him by several yards. Suddenly Jose fell, his leg, having caught on something invisible in the path. As he struggled to get up, the wild-eyed crazy chemist flung a bowl of stinking liquid in his face. Jose thrashed around wildly and then crumpled to the ground. Janos prodded Jose with his boot to make sure he was unconscious and then quickly bound Jose's hands and feet with vines. Janos also stuffed a large wad of green spiny leaves into Jose's mouth. Janos smiled and smugly proclaimed, "well, Jose, if you do wake, those leaves certainly won't taste very good."
Blair hadn't stopped in his running. He had raced into his next position to await the next bodyguard. He asked Jim, 'did Janos get the guard?'
'Yeah, Jose's down for the count. Are you all right? Can you do the other guard?'
'Just a little winded, but I'm ready. Just say when.'
Jim had been listening to Blair's breathing and hoped that Blair would be breathing easier by now. He listened for the next bodyguard. Jim heard him hitting the undergrowth. He piggybacked his sight with his hearing, judged the man to be about at the right place, and sent to Blair, 'Now!'
Blair ran out onto the path, swiped at his face and took a quick look around. When he saw the guard, he realized that he had underestimated the features of the previous guard. This man made Jose look like a model. This other guard looked like a bad version of a TV wrestling villain. Blair swallowed and took off running. The guard, upon seeing Blair, followed his instructions and took a shot at Blair. Blair felt a burning in his arm but kept on going. The guard ran after the boy. Blair passed a small copse of trees. As Blair passed by, Jim started cutting a thin vine. The vine snapped, releasing a heavy, massive tree trunk. The guard, having his total concentration on catching the boy, was startled to see a large mass quickly moving towards him. His feet could not stop fast enough and the large mass crashed into his chest, sending him flying backwards into another tree trunk. The guard let out a gust of air and slid down the trunk, unconscious. Jim came out of his hiding place, raced over to the guard. He checked to make sure that the guard would live and then quickly bound his feet and hands with vines. Jim also stuffed his mouth with more of the spiny leaves to keep him quiet.
Blair was in pain. His arm felt like it was on fire. He called to Jim, 'Jim, are you all right?'
'I'm fine Blair. I'm finishing up with this guy and then I'll be over there. Just stay down and quiet.'
'No problem Big Guy.'
Janos made his way cautiously over to where Blair was hiding. As he got closer, he took notice of something on a few leaves. He paused to examine one of the leaves and was surprised to find that it was a smear of blood. Janos rushed over to Blair's hiding place and knelt down beside him. Blair was sweating badly and his face grimaced with pain. He was holding his right arm tightly and Janos could see a blood stain on his shirt that seemed to be spreading. Janos gently tried to pry Blair's hand from his upper arm so that he could get a better look. Blair hissed in pain and tried to get a tighter hold on his arm. Janos said, "Blair, you must let me see what I can do to stop the bleeding. I know it hurts but it must be done."
Jim was almost back to Blair's hiding place when he heard Janos' comment. Jim picked up his pace and had joined the pair, quickly taking over from Janos. Jim turned up his sense of touch to check Blair's arm. The bullet was still in the arm just below the shoulder. Blair hissed in pain as Jim checked the arm. Blair asked, 'is it bad? It hurts!'
'I know Chief. The bullet's still in there. I'm gonna stop the bleeding until I can take care of Ramirez and get you to a hospital. This is gonna hurt and I can't do anything about it.' Jim reached over and found a sturdy twig. He placed it under Blair's mouth and said, 'bite down on this.' Blair opened his mouth slightly and Jim slipped the twig in between his teeth. Blair bit down on the stick hard as Jim and Janos bandaged his arm.
Janos looked at Jim and quietly asked, "will he be all right until we get out of this jungle?"
Jim nodded his head in affirmation, checked Blair's breathing and pulse one last time. Jim then opened up his hearing to find out where Ramirez was. Jim found him fairly quickly since Ramirez had started calling for his men.
"Jose! Joseph! Where are you two?" Ramirez called quietly. After a few times calling, he realized that something must have happened to his men. "That's what I get for sending boys to do a man's job. I will find and kill you Blair Sandburg. I will make an example of you to all those who would oppose me."
Jim just shook his head. He nodded at Janos to watch Blair and stay hidden. Jim stealthily moved out from the hiding position and crept around to where Ramirez stood. He waited until Ramirez had turned around again and had taken a step away from where Jim was hidden. Jim found a large stick and threw it at Ramirez' hand, knocking the gun from it. Both men rushed for the gun and Jim reached it first. Ramirez, seeing that Jim would reach the gun first, pulled a knife from his boot and lunged at Jim. Just before Ramirez had reached Jim, a large, black panther leaped out of the bushes onto Ramirez, knocking him to the ground. Jim could have sworn that he could see a necklace around the panther's neck. The rather large panther disappeared into the jungle within seconds of knocking Ramirez down. By the time Jim had gotten to his feet, with the gun firmly in hand, a small band of soldiers from the Chilean Army surrounded the two combatants. Jim recognized Cisco Eladio at the head of the group.
Cisco motioned to two of his men, who stepped forward and arrested Ramirez. He stepped over to Jim, shook his head and said, "we heard a couple of shots about ten minutes ago and started searching the entire area. Are you and Mr. Sandburg all right?"
Jim shook his head and motioned for Cisco to follow him. As he got to the edge of the clearing, Jim noticed something on the ground. He reached down and picked up what appeared to be the old woman's neckpiece and quickly shoved it into his pocket. He led the man back to Blair and Janos. Blair was in a great deal of pain but was very glad to see that Jim was in one piece.
'Jim, you okay?'
'Yeah, but are you up to being my voice for a bit?'
'Think so, just go slow. Arm really hurts.'
'Okay. Tell Cisco what happened with the bodyguards.'
"Mr. Eladio, you'll find two other men, bound and gagged...."
"We already found them Mr. Sandburg. What happened to your arm?"
"One of them shot me. They were supposed to wound me and kill Jim and Janos. I was going to be used as an example to any one that opposed Ramirez' orders. The bullet's still in there, I think."
"We'll get you to a hospital immediately. Why hasn't your partner said anything? Was he injured also?"
"Jim was exposed to a plant in which he had a severe allergic reaction to. I think he should be all right by this time tomorrow. Jim, this really hurts man."
Jim leaned over and checked the wound again. It had started bleeding. Jim looked at Blair and rested his hand on Blair's forehead. Blair looked at Jim, then over at Eladio and said, "it's bleeding again. Can you get Jim some bandages to rewrap it?"
"Certainly. Medic needed here now! Blair, when you're ready we will transport you to the nearest hospital."
Blair just nodded and leaned into Jim's comforting hand. Jim gently wiped the sweat from Blair's forehead.
Cisco Eladio watched has the company medic quickly evaluated Blair's condition and rewrapped the arm. He observed how Jim Ellison never left his injured partner's side except for when he was loaded into the awaiting helicopter and finally watched as the chopper headed towards the nearest hospital. Cisco finally turned his attention to the remaining man, Janos Nicodemus Bartok. He looked the man over and asked, "and what is your involvement in this affair, sir?"
"Well, I am so very glad that you asked that question. You see, I was hired...."
Chilean Hospital Room 232
29 July 1998
"Yes Simon, I'm fine. Blair will be wearing a sling for about two weeks but he'll be fine. No, we should be leaving here on the 31st. The doctor wants to be sure that there's no sign of infection. I'll tell him, sir. Yes, sir, we'll see you then. Good bye, sir."
Blair shifted in his hospital bed and tried to sit up a bit more as Jim finally hung up the phone. Jim watched in amusement as Blair tried everything to sit up without using his wounded arm. Finally, Jim reached over and moved Blair into a better position. "Thanks Jim. So what did Simon have to say other than yelling about me getting hurt."
"Actually, he was more mad at me for letting it happen than he was at you. He said that I made that big stink about you getting killed by going alone and then when it all came down to it, I let you get shot."
"Jim, you did not let me get shot. I didn't zig when I zagged or visa-versa. The gist is, that you couldn't have prevented me getting shot anymore than I could of. That guy was a better shot than I thought. It could've been that I was more winded than I thought too. I'm all right or at least I will be. The bad guys have all been arrested, a new drug is off the streets and in another day or so, we can go home." Blair sighed and continued; "I wonder what's going to happen to Janos?"
"He's being let go after he gives his official statement. He was duped, pure and simple. He has completely cooperated with the Chile authorities and will give testimony at Ramirez' trial."
A knock sounded on Blair's door and Jim turned to greet Janos. Janos looked much better since he had gotten at least one good night's sleep along with a shower and a change of clothes. He walked in with a large stuffed panther in his arms. He placed the panther on Blair's bed and smiled down at his new friend.
"Well, Blair my dear friend, how are you feeling today? You certainly look much better than you did yesterday."
"Thanks Janos, I feel a whole lot better. Thanks for the stuffed cat. Where did you find him?"
"I was passing this little shop and I looked in the window and there he was, just waiting for me to bring him to you. You do like him, don't you?"
"Yeah, a lot. So are you going to tell me how you came up with your ideas yesterday? I'm dying to know how you decided on those things."
"Well, it was rather simple really. For the trip wire and the log, I am a big fan of the John Wayne movie 'The War Wagon'. I really thought the way they got around the cannon was ingenious. I deduced that it might just work for us if we could get them into the correct position. As for the sleeping potion, well, I had noticed some of the herbs and other assortment of plants and fauna around the old woman's cave and being a chemist, I felt I could concoct a fairly effective 'knock-out' potion with what was available. As you could tell, it worked wonderfully. Funny thing is, I never saw the old woman again after she left us in the cave. I do hope that she is in good health."
Jim and Blair glanced at each other quickly when Janos had mentioned the old Shaman. They also hoped that the old woman was well. Blair swallowed hard then looked up at Janos. "I'm sure she's fine. So what happens to you now? Are you staying or going back to your own country?"
"I thought I would check out America. My great-grandfather was in the Old West for quite a while. I was thinking of looking around and exploring your great country. Do you have any suggestions as to where I could start?"
"California is nice and diverse. Then there are the Plain States. East Coast can be nice, depending where you go and what you're looking for."
"Well, thank you for the suggestions my friends. I can see that you're tired Blair so I will take my leave of you. Get well and I look forward to seeing you on my journey through your great land. Jim, it has been a pleasure meeting you. Keep a watchful eye on our young friend here."
"I will Janos, take care."
Blair yawned and tried to blink the tiredness out of his eyes. Jim smiled and helped scoot the younger man down in his hospital bed. He tucked the blanket around his friend, moved the big cat so that Blair could wrap an arm around it while he slept.
"Before you fade out on me Chief, I found something that I think belongs to you now," Jim said as he handed the pouch with the pendant on it to Blair.
Blair's eyes widened in awe as he held the pouch and gazed at the pendant. He turned astonished eyes to Jim and asked, "where did you get this? The last time I saw it, it was hanging around the old Shaman's neck."
"Well, you remember that large black panther I told you about? I think it fell off its neck as it ran back into the jungle. I figured you would know what to do with it."
"Thanks Jim, I'll take good care of it." Blair yawned again and fought against his drooping eyes.
Jim sent to Blair, 'get some sleep, Chief. I'll be here when you wake up.'
Jim Ellison watched his partner and friend slip into a peaceful slumber. In another day or so, they would be back in their home territory and everything would get back to normal for the Sentinel and Shaman of the Great City.