Interlude in the Life of a Guide
Summary: Blair gets to do some things that he missed out on while growing up.
Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount and no copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Thanks to my beta reader, Judy, for taking the time to read this, helping me come up with a title, and encouraging me.
Sandburg is like a child.
I know heís a grown man Ė hell, heís saved my life more times than I can count, but there are times when I feel he is just this side of 12 years old. Especially when heís been doped up with a pain-killer or a sedative from one of his many trips to the hospital, or if heís had one beer too many, or if heís over-tired and gets silly, or if he gets a bee in his bonnet about some esoteric topic Ė like hiring insomniac road workers.
I know everyone calls him my "shadow," but there are days when I feel like Iím following a three-year-old from one disaster to another, cleaning up after him and making it right Ė pulling him out of the way of anything dangerous and pointing him in another direction. And he goes merrily on his way, not really fazed by anything, open to some of the most bizarre ideas, babbling on about the topic of the week which can range from domestic arguments in New Guinea villages to shadow-boxing in the Mangrove.
Take last week, for instance. Simon assigned him to one of the more senior officers in a community policing division for the week since I was going to be in court for at least that amount of time. That was all right with me and Blair didnít seem to mind. School was out and Blair was a paid, full-time consultant for the police department for the summer, and it was good for him to learn what the other departments did Ė get a little field work outside of Major Crimes. Anyway, what kind of trouble could he get into in the community policing division? The kinds of cases that came to their attention were more likely to be how to get a new stop sign installed or mediating minor neighborhood squabbles. Heíd probably have everybody charmed within a half-hour, knowing him. And he has shown his adeptness at mediating conflicts more than once, which is really important in community policing.
I know heís curious enough to enjoy being paired occasionally with someone else Ė the anthropology/observer part of him would be intrigued by the community policing concept Ė at least thatís what he was babbling on to me about the night before his assignment started. I actually think all that talk was just to convince himself that he could survive being partnered with someone beside me for a whole week. I knew he was a little nervous, and Iíd also noticed that he was checking out the community policing concept on the Internet.
He really didnít need to be nervous; I, of course, (without his knowledge) had made sure that he was partnered with someone trustworthy. Dan Johnson had been on the force for almost 25 years. He was 12 years older than me and was a legend in the communities he was working with. He was well liked and respected, and the crime rates in his areas had been drastically reduced since he started implementing the community-policing concept. We had worked together on a case a few years ago and his handling of it impressed me. I thought surely Sandburg would be safe with him. My first mistake, however, was forgetting to factor the Sandburg Zone into my calculations.
I know the community-policing concept was working well in Danís communities. Gang activity was almost nonexistent since Dan had been assigned to the neighborhoods. They had moved on to other areas where they could thrive. But, our "trouble magnet" from Major Crimes seems to be able to find himself in the worst possible situations, no matter where he is.
He hadnít even been at his new assignment for 48 hours when Simon called me out of court. It seemed that Blair had been taken hostage by some guy who had gone berserk when he thought that his children were going to be barred from seeing him by social services.
It all started when Dan and Blair were going to talk to the day-care kids about safety with the help of a traveling, neighborhood, kiddie puppet show. Dan participated in these all the time. There were never any problems with past shows. When a couple of urgent phone calls from community leaders came in at the last minute, Dan had sent Blair on ahead to the day-care, not wanting to make the day-care kids wait, and arranged to meet up with him after fielding the phone calls.
Well, it turns out that the guy barged into the day-care waving a gun. He thought his kids were there and he was going to take them with him. What the idiot didn't know is that his kids hadn't gone to that day-care for months. They were in a new one and he had never bothered to find out about it. It seemed his ex-wife took care of delivering and picking up the kids with no help from their slacker dad, who barely made the time to see them once a month. Well, he herded a couple of the teachers and Blair into a room, after Blair convinced him that he didn't want to hurt the kids. The cops were able to evacuate the building of all the kids and teachers except for the two with Blair and the gun-waving dad.
By the time I got there, the guy had been talked into letting the teachers go. Blair was still with him. I spotted Simon, went over to him, and squatted down next to him behind one of the squad cars.
"Jim! I can't believe he got himself into this situation," said Simon. "It's like he's a walking bull's eye or something."
"Well, he didn't exactly get himself into this you know, Simon - you assigned him to fieldwork."
"Next time I come up with a brilliant idea like this just swat me upside the head, will you? I should have made him stay in the station and help everybody with their paperwork until you got back."
Well, you have to admit, who could possibly think he would find trouble in a day-care center?
About this time I noticed some commotion going on among the cops closer to the building. I extended my hearing to eavesdrop on them.
"Simon!" I said, standing up. "The guy's gone! And he took Blair with him!"
Simon stood up.
"What?" he yelled. "What the hellÖ?" One of the uniforms came running over.
"Sir!" he said. "Somehow the suspect got out the back door with Sandburg, hot-wired a car, and left the vicinity."
"Of all the incompetent Ö!" Simon was ready to blow a gasket.
"Wait, Simon," I said. I turned to the officer. "How long ago did this happen?"
"About 15 minutes ago, near as we can figure."
"Can you show me where the car was that he took?"
"Yes, sir. Follow me."
I was led over to a small parking lot behind the day-care building and he pointed to an empty parking space where the car had been. I looked in relief at the fresh oil stain on the pavement where it had been parked.
"Simon - I think I can track him. Can you get a car so we can follow him?"
Simon took off and pulled up a few minutes later with his car, yelling at me to get in.
The car they took had an oil leak and I could see it as well as smell it. I didnít tell Simon that I could also smell Blair's scent too, where the car had been parked, so I knew that he was in it. His aftershave had a really distinctive smell and I had just told him this morning not to use so much in the future. I made a mental note to buy him a case of it.
Simon drove while I leaned out the window trying to see the oil leaks. Simon kept in contact with the others by radio letting them know our progress. We made a couple of wrong turns as I lost sight of the oil spots. We already had a witness who gave us the color, make and model of the car. Before we could catch up with them though, a report came in on the radio that the car had been sighted. Someone saw the driver stop, get out and carry what looked like a body into to a wooded area next to a high school and then run back to the car and take off. Simon and I just looked at each other with fear in our eyes.
"Jim - It's probably not what you're thinkÖ"
"Just drive, Simon," I said tersely, cutting him off. I didn't want to think about what it might not be.
Simon turned his attention back to the road and we headed for the area near the high school. In about 15 minutes we arrived. We were the first ones there. Using my sense of smell I picked up on Blairís aftershave easily and ran into the woods, Simon following close behind with his gun drawn.
I skidded to a stop. Simon almost knocked me over as he bumped up against me.
"What? What's wrong?" he asked in panic.
"He's not here," I said, puzzled. Simon looked at me in confusion, but I spoke before he could say anything.
"He was here. I can smell him. But, it looks like he left. I can see his footprints in the soft dirt and grass right here. It looks like there are some others, too. These are all recent. His are behind the others. It looks like he was following them."
We followed the footprints over to where they ended on the concrete. I stopped and looked around, expanding my sense of smell to get a fix on him, when my eyes and nose started to stuff up.
Simon's cell phone rang and he answered it quickly.
"Yeah Ö you did? Uh huh Ö uh huh. Thank God. Uh huh Ö he did? Yeah, that's definitely Sandburg. OK." He hung up.
"They picked up the suspect," Simon said. "He knocked Sandburg unconscious, took his wallet (said he needed gas money), and then propped him up against some tree in the woods. Guy said he was OK - just out like a light when he left him. Said he kept asking too many questions and then they had a fight about how often he saw his kids so he knocked him out and left him in the woods. Wanted to know if he was OK, said he was a good guy, just talked too damn much and it was irritating him."
"Thank God," I said and just stood there in silence for a minute looking around desperately, my eyes tearing and my nose stuffing up rapidly.
"What's wrong, Jim?" asked Simon.
"I lost him," I said. "And I don't have any idea which direction he went. Someone must have been smoking some kind of weird brand of cigarette and I think Iím allergic to it. Now I can't smell anything!"
We looked helplessly at each other.
Same spot a little earlier:
Blair moaned as he came round. Oh man, my head hurts, he thought. He leaned forward and then realized that he had been sitting against a tree and it looked like he was in the woods. That's funny, he thought. How'd I get here? Just as he started to get up he was startled by a group of laughing, joking teenage boys walking through the woods. They stopped suddenly when they caught sight of Blair.
"Hey man, you OK?" one of them asked.
"Oh yeah, sure," said Blair as he stood up slowly.
"Well, you're gonna be late if you don't hurry - I just heard the first bell go off. C'mon!" The boy waved his arm at Blair to come with him. "Hey, what's your name? I don't think I've ever seen you around before."
Blair trotted to keep up with them.
"My name isÖisÖ" Blair stopped. He couldn't remember his name. Well, that was weird. In fact he couldn't remember much of anything, except forÖ wait a minute. Jim! His name was Ö Jim! That didn't sound quite right, but Jim was a good name, he just knew it. He didn't mind using it for the time being.
"I'm Jim. I'm Ö I'm Ö"
"Oh, I bet I know who you are," said one of the other boys. "You're that new guy from out east - Maryland, right?"
Maryland was as good a place as any to be from, Blair guessed.
"Yeah, that would be me - Jim from Maryland."
"Well, hurry up Jim from Maryland, you don't wanna get caught coming in late by Beeson. She'll read you the riot act and take all day doing it."
Blair trotted after them a little quicker and followed them across the street. This didn't feel quite right - he didn't feel like all his connections were firing and his head was still throbbing uncomfortably. But he was sure of one thing: it was important for him to fit in, be accepted. He was sure he'd done this before - lots of times. It seemed to be almost second nature to him to try and fit in. And these boys seemed to accept him. He liked feeling like a part of the group.
One of the boys stopped and stuffed something into his jeans pocket right as they approached the school entrance. He noticed Blair looking at him.
"Want one?" he asked.
"Cigarettes?" asked Blair. "No way, man. Those are like so bad for your health."
"Oh, these aren't real cigarettes, with tobacco or anything. They're herbal cigarettes. I found them at that health food store down on Fifth and Main."
"Oh. No - thanks, anyway."
The other boys were yelling at them to come on since they had fallen behind a little. They speeded up and joined the group. The halls were crowded as students hurried from lunch to their next class. This really felt normal thought Blair. A feeling of déjà vu kept sweeping over him. I'm sure I'll remember everything soon, he thought. No need to tell anyone he couldn't even remember his own name. They would really think he was weird if he told them that. They probably wouldn't be so accepting of him if he told them THAT. But how was he going to remember where his next class was? And where was his backpack? He felt naked without it.
Just then, one of the boys (Eric, he thought) pulled him aside.
"Say, has anyone shown you the new lab yet?"
"No," said Blair.
"Come on. I know a way to get in without anyone seeing us."
He pulled Blair with him and Ryan, the boy who had first spoken to him in the woods, whispered "I'm coming, too - I've only got a study hall next."
Blair and Ryan followed Eric down a series of halls that were under construction and then Eric pulled him into a doorway, Ryan following.
"This is it," said Eric, sweeping his hand around. "Pretty cool, huh? It's not finished yet, but they're gonna open it next Fall."
Blair looked around. There were glass beakers, bottles labeled with chemical names, Bunsen burners, and all sorts of equipment that would appear to be fascinating to most teenage boys.
"Hey, anyone told you any of the Hansen stories yet?" Blair shook his head.
"Who's Hansen?" Blair asked.
"That's the chem teacher. He's really something else. About once a month he burns his eyebrows off, or causes an explosion, orÖ" he was cut off by Ryan.
"Oh yeah - remember that time he accidentally turned his hands purple?" They both broke down in giggles.
"Heís really accident-prone."
"Sounds like it," said Blair, laughing along with them.
Suddenly there was noise from the hall.
"Hey, guys," said Ryan. "Get down over here!".
They all crouched down and huddled behind a counter where they couldn't be seen from the door. Blair's head was starting to throb again. He scooted back and leaned against the wall and felt something against his back. Turning around he saw an open electrical socket. That jarred a memory loose as he looked at it.
"Whoever or whatever it was, is gone," said Ryan.
The boys sat there for a minute looking around.
"Maybe we can do some kind of experiment with this stuff," said Eric, waving his hand around at all the equipment and chemicals in the room.
"Hey, I know a neat experiment," said Blair, anxious to be a part of the group. "We could try it here if either of you has some gum with foil wrappers around it."
Eric and Ryan looked at each other.
"All the gum I've ever seen has paper wrappers," said Eric.
"Wait a minute," said Ryan. He fished in his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of aluminum foil. "Will this do? My lunch was in this and I was gonna take it home and recycle it."
"Yeah," said Blair. "I think it will."
He tore a small strip off.
"You guys stand back over there," he said.
"You take one end and stick it into the hole here, like this." He took one end of the foil and stuck it into one side of the electrical socket. "Then you stick the other end in the other side and you get a little Ö"
Right as he did that there was a lick of flame and a monstrous "popping" sound. Blair was thrown back landing flat on his back and the other two boys fell landing on their behinds. They hurriedly crawled over to Blair.
"Jim, Jim! Are you all right?"
Blair sat up a little groggily.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he said. His focused on the electrical socket and saw it now had black streaks on the wall around it.
"Hey, who turned out the lights?" he asked, noticing that the hall was now dark.
The boys looked around and then Ryan hurried over to the door.
"Holy shit!" he said. "The power just went out in the whole school! Everything's dark!"
They both looked at Blair in admiration and not a little awe.
"That was bitchin'!" said Eric.
"I've never seen anything like that," said Ryan in reverence. "Where did you learn something like that?"
Blair opened his mouth to tell them and realized that he couldn't remember.
"There was only supposed to be a little spark. I never used aluminum foil before," he said, instead.
"Hey, guys," said Eric, excitedly. "We could skip out right now and nobody would ever know it. Listen!" He opened the door and sounds of chaos came drifting in.
"Follow me. I know a quick way out." They followed Eric who seemed to have an inordinate amount of knowledge about secret entrances and little-used exits.
The boys snuck out a back entrance without meeting anyone and were across the street and congratulating themselves on their freedom in no time at all.
"Well, what do you want to do now?" asked Ryan.
"I know. Let's go to the carnival down on Bayside. Itís not too far to walk. You been there yet, Jim?" asked Eric.
"No, but it sounds like fun," said Blair.
"Oh, it is. I went last weekend. Theyíve got the biggest Ferris Wheel Iíve ever seen and some of the coolest rides."
They all agreed that it sounded really "slick" and headed off to the amusement park.
As they were walking down the street, laughing and joking about their unexpected "freedom," a woman who was about a block away and walking toward them suddenly went flying through the air landing facedown on the sidewalk. Her purse was snatched up from the ground where it had fallen by the man behind her and he took off at full speed toward the boys.
It happened so quickly that Eric and Ryan just stood there in surprise, but Blair reacted quickly and stuck his foot out right as the man came even with them. The man went flying and Blair snagged the purse in mid-air. The man was up and running almost before he hit the ground after taking one look at the three boys and figuring he was pretty well outmatched.
Blair rushed over to the woman who was just rising from the ground.
"Are you all right, lady?" He asked taking her by the elbow to help her up and to a seat on a nearby bench.
"Oh Iím fine, young man. I'm a little shaky and a little scraped up, but nothing that wonít heal. Thank goodness you were here," she said breathlessly.
Blair handed her the purse.
"Whatís your name, Dear?" She asked.
"Jim," said Blair.
"What you did was incredibly brave, Jim! I would have really been in hot water if he had taken my purse. I had my paycheck, all my credit cards, keys, driverís license ... oh, Iím just so grateful to you for what you did." She patted Blairís cheek as he blushed profusely and then she dug around in her purse.
"Here, I want you to have this." She handed a 50-dollar bill to Blair.
"Oh... no, I really canít accept this," stammered Blair.
"Please - it wouldíve really inconvenienced me if it had been stolen. And I saw what you did. You deserve it."
The other two boys stood behind Blair with their mouths hanging open and finally Eric nudged Blair and whispered "Take it, Jim."
The woman tucked the money in his shirt pocket and Blair tried to give it back.
"No - really, I canít take this..."
"I insist, Jim. Listen boys, I have an appointment in 15 minutes and Iím going to be late as it is, but if you need a ride anyplaceÖ?"
"No thanks, maíam," they said in unison. "Uh - weíre headed for the carnival," said Blair pointing down the block where they could see the tops of some of the rides.
"Well, have a good time. And thanks again, Jim." The woman walked over to a parked car and got in. As she pulled away, both Eric and Ryan turned to Blair in amazement.
"Oh man, that was so awesome," said Eric.
"I canít believe that you did that," said Ryan.
"Oh, it was nothing," said Blair, uncomfortably. "Listen," he said, trying to change the subject. "Letís go to the carnival and Iíll treat you to lunch now that Iím filthy rich."
They both clapped Blair on the back and put their arms around his shoulders as they all headed for the entrance to the park jostling each other and teasing "Jim" about being a hero.
They walked into the amusement park and stopped. Blair looked around him and took a deep breath. His head was starting to throb again, but he didnít even mind. He looked at all the food stands; there was cotton candy, hot dogs, corn dogs, caramel apples, bloominí onions, mini-donuts, snow cones, salt-water taffy, cream puffs, elephant ears, and that was only what he could see from where he was standing. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was in heaven. If he didnít know better, he would have thought that heíd never been to a carnival before. Well, come to think of it, maybe he hadnít - he certainly couldnít remember.
"Címon, guys. Letís eat!" Blair led them over to the food stands and they pretty much gorged themselves on junk food. Eric and Ryan looked at Blair as he finished his second cotton candy.
"Wow, man. I canít believe you ate all that," said Eric.
"Yeah, itís like you never saw this stuff before," said Ryan. "You must have had one of at least everything. You have been to a carnival before, havenít you?"
Blair started. "Well, of course I have. Who hasnít? Hey, how about we go on some rides now?"
Just as the other two boys were about to agree a high feminine voice yelled "Ryan Ogden, what are you doing here?"
They turned around and Blairís jaw dropped as one of the most beautiful creatures heíd ever seen headed their way. The petite, feminine form was topped with hair as dark as night that curled enchantingly around her face; her skin was flawless ivory tinged with rose across her cheekbones; her slanted green eyes were fringed with lush dark lashes; her full, pink, dewy mouth was just made to be kissed and her figure ... at this point Blair started to overload. His heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketed and he entered into that peculiar catatonic state that only affects males in front of beautiful females and is sometimes referred to by the male of the species as being "whipped." Later, as he thought back to this moment, he just hoped he hadnít drooled as his mouth hung open.
"Whoís your friend?" said the beautiful one, eyeing Blair predatorily.
"This is Jim. He just moved here. Jim, this is my cousin Erin. Sheís gonna be a freshman over at Rainier in the Fall."
"Hello, Jim," said Erin moving closer to Blair and brushing up against him "accidentally."
Blair just stared down at her in awe. "H ... hi," he said lamely.
"Say, isnít school still in session for you, Ryan?" She asked, turning away from Blair but not without giving him a "come hither" look first.
"Yeah, but they let us out early," lied Ryan skillfully. "Power went out."
"Ohh, lucky you. Why donít you hang with my friends and me? Theyíre over by the tilt-a-whirl." She took Ryan by the arm and led him in that direction.
"All right, Erin. Leave Jim alone though, will you? Heís new. Give him a break."
Erin just looked innocently at him, gave him a "who, me?" look, smiled, and kept walking.
Eric leaned over to Blair as they followed them and said sotto voice, "Jim, watch out for Erin. She dated my older brother a couple of years ago. Sheís got a real bad rep. Likes to come on to all the new guys and sheís really wild. Sheís real bad news."
"But ... but sheís so pretty, and her eyes ... did you see the color of her eyes? Oh man, I've never seen anything like her. And I think she likes me, man!"
"Oh brother, itís too late for you. And I thought I might be able to get to you in time. You are totally owned, buddy!" said Eric shaking his head.
But Blair wasn't listening. His eyes were fixed on Erin ahead of him like there was nothing or no one else in the entire world. Eric gave up. He's seen that look aimed at Erin before and knew he was pretty much talking to thin air, now.
Ryan and Erin stopped and as Eric and Blair came up to them, she turned the full force of her gaze on Blair.
"Oh Jimmy, Ryan just told me how you saved a woman who had her purse snatched. I've never heard of anything so brave!" She sidled up to him and right as she leaned forward they were interrupted as her two girlfriends showed up and introductions were made all around. The other two boys knew the girls and everyone paired off as they waited in line for the tilt-a-whirl. Erin made sure that Blair was paired with her and was almost sitting in his lap as they were seated and waiting for the ride to start.
Blair was doing his best not to melt down. He was sweating and nervous, and couldn't keep his eyes off Erin. When the ride was finally over, Blair really thought that the name should be changed to "tilt-a-hurl" like his friends were laughingly suggesting. He was a little nauseous. It must have been that last cotton candy he decided, and determined to put it out of his mind, which was pretty easy considering the bundle of beauteous, femininity plastered to his side.
Simon looked at Jim who was wiping his nose and eyes with Kleenex while uniforms swarmed all over the woods looking for traces of Sandburg.
"Damn it, Simon! How can he just disappear like this?"
Simon didn't answer right away.
"Simon, Simon! Are you listening to me?"
"Oh - yeah, Jim. Say, do you think maybe any of the high school kids from across the street might have seen anything?"
"I suppose it's possible. But it would be pretty hard to see something here from a window in the school."
"It was right around lunchtime when it happened. Some of the kids could have been walking through here on their way back from lunch."
"Let's go," said Jim.
"Go where?" Asked Simon in surprise.
"To the school. We can ask around, see if anybody saw him."
They made their way over to the school, but right as they arrived at the entrance, students started pouring out and down the steps.
"What the hellÖ?" exclaimed Simon.
Jim grabbed one of the students by the arm.
"What's going on here? Where's everyone going?"
"Power went out, mister. They're letting us go home early!" He pulled away from Jim and hurried down the steps.
Jim and Simon just looked at each other. "Sandburg!" they said simultaneously.
Both ran up the steps and sought out the administrative offices. Explaining that they were looking for a missing department employee who had been held hostage, they learned that the power failure had been traced to the new lab that was still under construction. Jim and Simon asked to be shown to it. Jim's nose had started to clear up by now. They knelt next to the socket on the blackened wall.
"He was here, Simon! I can smell him," said Jim in an excited whisper.
"Do you think you can track him?" asked Simon.
"Yeah, I think so. Follow me." Jim led Simon to the exit that the boys had used and down to the sidewalk.
"They went this way. Let's go."
Jim and Simon ran quickly down the street in pursuit of Sandburg.
At the Carnival:
Blair and the group of boys and girls decided to try the fun house next. They went through that, laughing and teasing each other about the mirrors that made them look goofy or demented. Erin took advantage of the darkness to pull Blair close to her and kiss him to within an inch of his life. It took all he had not to just collapse right there on the spot. His knees were shaking, and he felt like the top of his head was going to come off. He pulled back and just looked at her in a daze. She pulled him back and started to put her hands in both of his jean pockets when he giggled nervously and pushed her away right as some young children came past.
"Ah, Erin, I don't think we should do that here. It's kind of risky," said Blair nervously looking around for their friends.
"Oh come on, Jim. You're the big hero. You must know that taking risks is what makes life interesting." She tried to pull him back, but Ryan came up to them at that moment.
"Come on, guys. There are some really cool rides we want to go on."
Blair followed him quickly in relief, taking Erin's wandering hand in his and pulling her with him.
They went on a few more rides. They picked the most dangerous-looking, fastest rides there. Finally, one of the girls suggested the Ferris Wheel.
"Oh, said Erin. "That's not very exciting."
"Maybe not," said her friend. "But it's one of the biggest in the nation. We can't NOT go on it. It just wouldn't be right."
So they all stood in line for the Ferris Wheel. By this time Blair was really feeling quite nauseous, his headache was worse, and he was almost relieved to be going on something that wouldn't make his insides churn around. But Erin would be sitting right next to him. That was heaven if ever there was one.
Jim and Simon came to the gate of the amusement park and stopped.
"I can't believe he went in there," said Jim.
"Why not?" Asked Simon.
"He told me he avoided these things like the plague when he was a kid. Couldn't stand heights and all those rides made him sick just looking at them. And Naomi didnít believe in letting him eat all the junk food youíd find in a place like this when he was growing up. He can't be in his right mind, if he's in there."
"Well, that's a given, Jim."
"Yeah, that's true."
Simon pulled his cell phone from his pocket.
"What are you doing?" asked Jim.
"Iím gonna call for some back-up We can spread out a little more and maybe find him a little quicker."
Simon made the call and then they headed inside to find their missing Police Consultant. Which was easier said than done. After a lot of dead end leads which all seemed to end at food booths, they were finally able to track him to the Fun House.
"I'm positive he went in here, Simon. Come on."
They showed their badges to the ticket-takers and explained that they were looking for someone. They were waved in immediately.
Right as they disappeared into the Fun House, Connor and Rafe ran up to the ticket-takers. They waved their badges and Connor said, "We have to talk to the two police officers who just went inside. Is there an exit?" The ticket-lady pointed around the corner and Rafe and Megan raced around to the exit to await Ellison and their Captain. A few minutes later, Simon appeared, coming out of the fun house, pulling Jim carefully along with him.
"Captain! What's wrong with Ellison?" asked Rafe.
Jim looked dazed and completely nonreactive to outside stimuli, but Simon got him to walk unsteadily over to Rafe and Megan.
"He's Ö he's," Simon tried to figure out how to tell his detectives that Jim had zoned on the mirrors in the Fun House.
"Stand back, Captain. Sandy told me how to handle this." Megan stepped forward and drew back her arm.
"Connor, no!" yelled Simon just a split-second too late.
Megan let loose with a right hook that would have been the pride of any prize fighter. And flattened Jim right onto his back.
There was a loud moan coming from the man on the ground. As he opened his eyes, he saw three concerned faces hovering over him.
"Wha' happ'ned?" he mumbled and tried to sit up. Simon and Rafe helped him to a sitting position.
"Ah Ö well Ö you zoned in the fun house and Connor here tried to bring you out of it by Ö wellÖ"
"I smacked you, Jim," said Megan, with not a little pride. "Sandy told me the best way to bring you out of one of these things is toÖ" She smacked her fist into her other hand.
"OK, OK," said Jim holding up one hand while holding his jaw with the other noticing that Rafe was looking confusedly at them. "Look, I'm fine." He got to his feet with help from Simon.
"Was Sandburg in the fun house, Simon?"
"No, he wasnít," said Simon.
"OK. Let me see if I can get a bead on him Ö" he trailed off as his attention was caught by the Ferris Wheel off in the distance. It had stopped and people were still on it. Shrieks of real fear were coming from that vicinity. Jim zeroed in on a familiar-looking blue shirt in the car at the very top of the Wheel.
"I can't believe it - he's at the top of the Ferris Wheel!" yelled Jim. He took off in that direction with Simon, Megan, and Rafe following.
As they arrived at the Ferris Wheel, Jim was already questioning the ride operator. He turned to the other detectives and Simon.
"It's stuck. It'll be a while before they can get it fixed. They had to call someone in this time."
They all looked up to where Sandburg was seated.
"Jim, do you think he can hear you?"
"Not above this din. He should just sit up there until they get it fixed. I can't believe he went on this thing with his fear of heights."
They all looked up, trying to spot Sandburg.
Meanwhile, up at the top of the Ferris Wheel:
Erin dug in her purse and pulled out a covered coke can. She took the lid off and offered it to Blair.
"Want some, Jim?" she asked.
Blair's head was really pounding now and his mouth was dry. That coke looked pretty good.
"Sure," he said. She handed it to him and he took a big, long swallow - and almost choked.
"Ahgg!" He said, sputtering as it burned its way down his throat. "This isn't coke!"
"Sure it is. I just added a little 151 rum to make it "interesting." You look thirsty. Go ahead and have as much as you want. I've got more." She then pulled a little silver flask from her purse and showed it to him.
Blair's eyes almost popped out of his head as she took a swallow from the flask.
"I Ö I don't think I should have any more Ö"
"Oh, come on Jimmy baby. Surely you're not afraid of a little rum and coke are you? You act as if you never had a drink before. I have a hard time believing that. And I hate to drink alone. Have some more," she said looking pointedly at the coke can and rubbing her hand along his thigh.
Blair put the can to his lips almost without thinking as he entered into the male catatonic state even deeper. She fluttered her lashes at him. He took another swallow. It wasn't so bad the second time. It didnít burn nearly as much. And his headache did seem to be easing. Oh my God, she had the most incredible eyes Ö and she was pressing up against him again with that luscious body for another kiss. He decided to just lean back and enjoy it. What could be the harm in that?
Down on the ground:
"We've been here almost 20 minutes now, Simon. What's taking the repair crew so long?" Asked Jim.
"I don't know, Jim. Rafe, why don't you go over there and see what the problem is."
"OK, Captain." Rafe left to seek out the ride operator once more.
"What the hell was he thinking coming here, huh Simon?"
"Jim, he got hit on the head. He may be confused or got lost or something."
"Well, once he's OK I'm gonna wring his neck for taking off like Ö"
There was a collective gasp from the audience on the ground looking up at the Ferris Wheel.
The detectives looked up. The car at the very top of the Wheel was rocking precariously back and forth.
Jim ran back a little to a spot where he could get an unobstructed view of the car and focused his vision.
Blair and the young woman with him were giggling madly and rocking the car. Then it looked like Blair was trying to stand up!
"SIT DOWN!" Jim yelled, but to no avail.
"Oh my God," said Simon. "What the hell is he trying to do?"
"I'm going up there!" said Jim, taking off for the Ferris Wheel.
"Jim, Jim - you can't do that! It's too dangerous," shouted Simon.
"Look what he's doing, Simon - there's something wrong with him," yelled Jim over his shoulder.
Simon looked up again. Blair was standing and swaying now. He definitely looked like he had taken leave of his senses.
The crowd on the ground was pointing and someone screamed as Blair tilted suddenly and seemed to fall. The young woman in the car suddenly grabbed him and pulled him back. Thank goodness, thought Simon, his heart in his throat. He looked for Jim and saw him crawling up the Ferris Wheel. He was hopping from vacant car to vacant car obviously heading for the one right under Blair.
Jim cautiously made his way up the wheel, panting as he swung from one car to the other, muttering under his breath "Of all the lamebrained Ö thick-headedÖ only Sandburg Ö gonna pound some sense Ö Ö genius, my ass ... "
Finally he reached the car under Blair's when it started to rock crazily again. He looked up right as Sandburg stood up, both arms above his head yelling at the top of his lungs "I'm the king of the world!"
"Sit the hell down right now, Sandburg!" roared Jim.
Blair jumped and swayed when he heard that and looked down in amazement.
"Jim!" He said in awe. Then he shook his head as if trying to clear it. He looked at Jim again and bent forward a little with a puzzled look on his face to see him clearer. Erin grabbed him by the back of his belt as he swayed a little and he gripped the bar in front of him.
Blair looked around himself in confusion as if he were seeing everything for the first time. Then he looked back at Jim.
"What the hell am I doing up HERE?" he said in a frightened tone of voice.
"Chief, you need to sit down - NOW," said Jim in the commanding tone of voice that usually made even the most hardened veterans or criminals pay attention, but usually just made Sandburg giggle and ask Jim if he knew that he sounded just like that guy who played the commandant in the Police Academy movies. But this time a funny look came over Sandburgís face. Jim knew that look. It meant: move out of the way fast! But Jim couldnít move. There wasnít much room in the freakiní car. Oh HELL, he thought in resignation as Blair upchucked all over the front of his shirt. It wasn't the first time and probably wouldn't be the last.
"YOU!" he bellowed and pointed to the young woman next to Blair who still had a hold on his belt. She looked at him, white-faced and eyes round with fear. At least that tone of voice still works on SOME people, he thought with satisfaction.
"Iím a police officer. You make sure he sits down and stays put, and NO ROCKING THE CAR! You understand?"
"Yes, sir," she managed to squeak out, grabbing hold of Blairís belt with both hands and pulling him back into his seat. There was no protest from Blair, whose head lolled back on the seat with his eyes closed.
Jim heard his name being yelled and looked down. Simon was telling him to sit down. The ride was fixed and they were going to bring them down.
Jim sat down with a sigh of relief, but kept a wary eye on the car above him.
They finally reached the ground. Jim jumped out and waited for Sandburgís car to come to a halt in front of him. Megan came running up with a towel and handed it to Jim so he could wipe the front of his shirt off. Blair was passed out in his seat as the car came to a stop. Jim helped Erin out and handed her over to Simon. Then he picked up Blair, who was as limp as a rag doll, and walked over to a clearing outside the fence surrounding the ride and lay him down on the ground.
Next, a group of teen-agers came running up to him, yelling, "Jim, Jim, are you all right?"
Startled, Jim looked at them as they rushed right past him to hover over Blair. "Jim?" he said in confusion. Oh, this was just too much! he thought.
"Settle down!" He used his "Police Academy" voice again. They all stopped talking and looked at him in shocked silence. That feeling of satisfaction swept through him once again. Nice to know he still had "it."
"Do you know him?" asked Jim.
There was a pause and then one of the boys stepped forward.
"Yeah. This is our friend Jim. He goes to our high school. Heís new."
Jim looked back at him in stunned silence. "Your high school?"
Simon, who had been listening off to the side, decided to take matters in his own hands. He walked over and informed Jim that paramedics were on the way and should be here in a few minutes. Then he rounded up the young men and women and told Megan and Rafe to get the whole story from them.
Jim knelt down beside Blair and gently patted his cheek. No response. He was breathing fine and his heart rate was normal. Jim leaned down, as he smelled something unusual coming from him - and it wasnít his aftershave. Alcohol! Blair had been drinking! He rarely drank more than a couple of beers. This smelled like rum! This was getting weirder all the time. Jim shook his head. He reached out and brushed Blair's hair back from his forehead. How on earth did he end up here in this condition? Soon, the paramedics ran up to them. He stood up and stepped aside and told them as much as he could.
"Heís going to be fine, sir," said one of the women a few minutes later, standing up and walking over to Jim. "Heís definitely concussed but thereís nothing wrong with him other than that and a little too much alcohol. When he wakes up though, you should tell him that he should never drink after a bump on the head, like this."
"Oh, donít worry. Weíre going to have a looong talk when he wakes up," he said in a dark tone. The paramedic just looked askance at Jim and decided to move away a little.
Simon walked over. "Howís Sandburg doing?"
"Heís fine. Got a concussion and had too much to drink, but otherwise heí ll live. Although he probably wonít want to when he wakes up."
"Well, hereís the scoop according to those kids." He told Jim everything they had relayed to Megan and Rafe, referring to his notepad every once in a while to clarify a detail.
Jim just stared at him open-mouthed, in disbelief, until he was finished.
"Let me get this straight," said Jim. "He got taken hostage in a day care after convincing the perp to let go of everyone but him, got knocked out, forgot who he was (we think), took up with a couple of high school kids, knocked out all the power in the high school, almost electrocuting himself in the process, rescued a lady who had her purse snatched, probably sampled the food at every booth here, got hammered on 151 rum, almost maimed himself by pretending to be Leonardo DiCaprio, while he was stuck at the top of a broken Ferris Wheel, to impress his date who likes guys who are "risk-takers," and, let's not forget this one, tossed his cookies all over me. And as far as we know, the only good things about this story are that nobody was hurt or killed at the day-care center, the lady got her purse back, and Sandburg was NOT responsible for breaking the Ferris Wheel - as far as we know. Right?
"You got it." Simon flipped his notepad closed and stuck his cigar in his mouth.
"After I take out those damn Energizer Bunny batteries, I think Iím gonna have to wring his neck, Simon," said Jim shaking his head.
Simon had a little coughing fit as he tried hard to cover the repressed laughter that wanted to erupt.
"Oh, now Jim. He didnít know what he was doing! It sounds like he was really confused from that knock on the head. Temporary amnesia is not uncommon after a head injury of this nature, according to the emergency techs that looked at him. This really was NOT his fault."
"Maybe not the whole thing, but I wish heíd have just stayed where he was when he got dumped in the woods, then none of the rest would have ever happened!"
The paramedics were loading Blair into the ambulance at this point and Jim told Simon that he would ride with them and meet up with Simon at the hospital, later.
Three hours later in the hospital:
Blair Sandburg opened his eyes and quickly closed them again as he felt the worst headache heíd ever had take hold of him. He moaned loudly and then stopped quickly - even that hurt. He heard some rustling sounds by his side and pried one eye open to see who was making that god-forsaken noise. It was Jim, who had leaned over and was staring at him in concern about 10 inches away from his face.
"Oh God, Jim. The last thing I want to see when I wake up is you right in my face. Do you mind?" he said, irritated.
"Chief, do you know where you are?" asked Jim after a pause.
Blair opened both of his eyes, now.
"Iím in the hospital," he said as he looked around. "Oh geez, what happened? Wait, wait," he held up one hand. "That nutcase at the day care took me with him when he left - right?" He looked at Jim who nodded his head.
"I canít remember too much after that. Did you guys find me or something?"
"Or something," Jim agreed.
Blair sat up a little and looked a little closer at him, squinting his eyes and wrinkling his nose.
"Um Jim, man - no offense, but you stink."
Uh oh. Wrong thing to say. Jim was looking at him like he was some sort of icky bug that needed to be stomped on and then flushed down the toilet. He closed his eyes and sank back into the bed.
"Oh man, Jim. Donít look at me in that tone of voice. I told you I donít remember too well."
"I canít believe that you donít remember what happened!" Jim burst out.
"Well, I donít," Blair said, annoyed. He put a hand to his head, pushing back his hair. "Why donít you just tell me?"
"All right, but before I get into that, have you talked to Megan yet about the correct way to pull me out of a zone-out?"
Blair looked up at Jim. "Well, I really meant to; it's just that I've been really busy lately and she hasn't been around andÖ"
"Never mind. Just make sure you talk to her as soon as you get back to the station. My face isn't going to survive much more of her "help." Jim rubbed his jaw. "OK, this is what we knowÖ"
Next day at the loft:
"Jim, will you quit hovering, man? Iím fine. The doctors all cleared me. I can go back to work tomorrow."
"I know, Chief. I just canít believe that you still donít remember anything after getting hit on the head. That doesnít seem normal to me. Youí re sure you feel OK?"
"Yeah. Iím 100%, man. They said I still might remember later on. Címon and stop worrying. Letís have some lunch."
Blair went into the kitchen to see what was available to make sandwiches. As he spread food out on the counter to prepare lunch, he noticed a bag in the corner of the kitchen counter.
"Whatís this?" he asked.
"Oh, Eric and Ryan brought that by yesterday at the hospital while you were sleeping. Said they thought youíd probably enjoy that more than flowers. I brought it home last night since you slept through the night and couldnít eat it anyway."
Blair looked in the bag.
"Wow," he said in delight. "They brought all the things I ate yesterday! Thereís cotton candy in a plastic bag - oh man, it really did melt in my mouth, a caramel apple, those mini-donut thingies - they are truly amazing, salt-water taffy..."
As he named off and commented on the items in the bag, he suddenly came to a stop realizing what he had just said. He jerked his head up and looked over at Jim who was standing up with his arms crossed over his chest and a dark look on his face.
"Chief, I THOUGHT you said you didnít remember anything from yesterday after you got hit on the head," said Jim as he walked slowly over to Blair.
"Oh - I, ah ... I, ah ... donít you remember, Jim? You told me what I ate yesterday- thatís right - donít YOU remember, man?" said Blair backing away from Jim.
"No I didnít, Chief. Because I didnít know what you ate. Nobody told me. The only ones who knew were Eric and Ryan and they didnít say what you ate, just that you ate everything you could find." He backed Blair into the kitchen corner.
"Oh, dammit!" said Blair throwing his hands up in defeat. "OK, OK, I remembered. I just figured the hassling would be kept to a minimum if you and the guys at the station thought I didnít remember ... Jim? Jim - youíre not really mad, are you man?" he asked as Jim came closer and closer.
Jim slowly put his hands on Sandburgís shoulders. Blairís eyes got wider.
"When did you remember?" said Jim ominously.
"R ... right away. Soon after I woke up in the hospital," said Blair in a small voice.
Then Jim gently pulled him into an embrace.
After a minute or two of stunned silence on Sandburgís part, he said "Uh, Jim. This is really nice and all, but I thought youíd be mad," his voice muffled by Jimís shirt.
"Iím not mad. We were really worried about you when we got the report that a body was being dragged from the car to the woods. I think I lost a few years of my life at that moment."
"Oh." Jim rarely shared his feelings like this. Blair didnít know what to say. He patted Jim's back awkwardly. It was kind of nice to have someone, like a brother, who cared that much for you, other than your mother, he thought.
"You did good, Chief," said Jim quietly. "You saved those people and those kids at the day-care center. Someone could have gotten hurt or killed so easily. You said all the right things and I'm proud of you. I'm proud to have you as a partner, buddy."
Blair blinked rapidly as his eyes filled up with tears. He buried his face a little more into Jim's chest so he wouldn't see.
"However," said Jim (Blair winced - here it comes, he thought. Heís gonna yell at me). "I think you should forfeit something for not telling me the truth right away." Jim reached around Blair and snagged something off the counter.
"Jim! Hey, man - you canít have that, itís mine!" said Blair, tears forgotten, reaching for the bag of carnival goodies that Jim was holding over his head, stepping out of Blairís reach.
"I think I deserve some kind of reward for climbing up one the "nationís biggest Ferris Wheels" to save your sorry ass," said Jim with a grin, holding the bag high.
"What! Hey, I was perfectly capable of getting down on my own. I didnít need any help. And I AM the sick one, you know!" said Blair turning big, sad, "lost puppy" eyes on Jim.
"I thought you said you were 100%," said Jim with a grin.
"Well, yeah, but I need that stuff to... to... well, I just need it, dammit!" He made a grab for the bag, but Jim pulled it out of reach again.
"Tell me more about Erinís eyes, Chief (or should I say "Jim?"), and I might share this with you. You do know that you talk in your sleep, donít you?"
"Oh man, I knew it, I knew it! You are never gonna let this go are you? What are doing with that phone? Youíre calling Simon?! Oh shit, donít do that Jim. Aw, c'mon..."
So you see what I mean? Sandburg is like a child. One thingís for sure - if I ever do have any children, Iíll be prepared for just about anything. Especially caring for and loving said children. I'm just not sure I'll be as well-entertained - Sandburg is definitely one-of-a-kind.
But, maybe comparing Sandburg to a child isnít quite accurate. Maybe heís from another planet. Hmmm. Iím going to have to run that by Simon and see what he thinks.