See notes and disclaimer on part one.
"The days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds..."
---Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Nothing was certain this morning, nothing, not people, not places, not even the events of his own life. All around him the early morning was softened and blurred, everyone's business suddenly amorphous, undefined in the pale grey blanket of fog that shrouded Cascade, enveloping the road before him, hiding the University behind sharp smudges of dark evergreen trees. Fog was his world, inside and out. Blair laid on the Volvo's horn loud and long as an electric blue Geo materialized ahead--turning in from a side street, Blair's car unnoticed until he was almost on top of them. Didn't people realize what 50 foot visibility meant? It meant drive slower and look twice and then once more before driving out into the street. Fog was worse than snow, because people respected it less, drove faster, imagined it to be more forgiving. Trouble was, it wasn't; people could get just as damaged, just as injured in fog, worse even, because no one expected it. Just like yesterday and last night, when Blair found himself blindsided first by the cold hard truth about Morag, and then that damn phone call that left Jim irritated and angry and more than half convinced the entire thing with Persis was a hoax. But Blair didn't think it was, and had spent a *very* frustrating amount of time last night and again this morning trying to convince his roommate the same.
Blair waited patiently through a red light, then turned into the University parking lot. Straight edges softened and smeared by the fog became gradually harder, sharper, less deniable as he approached Hargrove Hall. His life was the same. Except of course, for Persis, who with every call grew more shapeless, untraceable, the truth unknowable. But the facts he wanted to deny, the things that had happened to his friend, only got harder and sharper the closer he looked. God, how in the world was he going to face Morag today--god, how did she face her days, carrying the weight of what had been done to her? She didn't, he reminded himself, hearing his own flip answer to Jim, the second time they'd met: "Traumatic memories tend to get repressed, and hell, I don't know, but that all sounds pretty traumatic to me!" But he lived with Jim, and he knew, repressed or not, those memories bugged the Sentinel, somewhere, somehow, down deep in his psyche. Blair just hoped he was around to help pick up the pieces when Mt. Ellison finally blew.
And Morag...hell, yes, whether she remembered it or not, what happened to her bothered her. Her senses came online in the spring; spring was when she'd been attacked. And that black clothing, the Gothic crap...
Suddenly, the thought that had been dancing just beyond his reach since yesterday's awful revelation, the one he hadn't wanted to even think, surfaced, became hard-edged and undeniable, like the building looming before him. Blair managed to park the Volvo before he crashed it into the concrete barrier, and then he just sat, hands clenched around the steering wheel in a vain attempt to stop their shaking. God, if wishes were horses, this was one beggar of a ride. Several deep breaths, and he reached for his cell phone.
Speed dial was a wonderful thing, Blair thought inanely, staring out of the car at the fog-obscured world around him. One ring, then, "Ellison."
"Jim?" Damn, he hated it when his voice squeaked like that!
"Sandburg? Everything all right?"
*No, everything's not all right, not if what I just realized is true. Oh, and by the way, in the midst of your search for "Cap'n Shiffer" and a serial murderer, here's one more banal thought that just came to me.*
"Yeah, I'm fine, it's just... look, I was thinking, on the way over to Rainier..." His throat was too dry to talk, for some idiotic reason.
*Come on Blair, be a man, spit it out.*
"With those new cases? The murdered prostitutes? We've got one a year now, don't we?"
"Um, I think so. There may be a few missing years." Jim didn't sound too enthused, obviously underwhelmed with Blair's observation so far. Well, hey, just give the kid time.
*Just humor me, Jim. This one packs a wallop.*
"Okay, could you check it out for me? See what years we're missing?"
There was a longsuffering sigh and some vague noises of assent on Jim's end of the call, and then the distinct creak of the detective's chair as he shifted at his desk and started digging for the requested information. Heart pounding as he waited for Jim to shuffle through the data on his end, Blair clenched a fist and pounded softly on the steering wheel--very softly; he didn't want Jim to hear his distress. If he closed his eyes he could see his roommate; the older man so cool and collected, the calm in the eye of the storm. Was this what Jim had been like when Lash had abducted Blair? Absolutely, completely focused and totally lethal in his intent to catch the perpetrator of such beastly crimes? On the surface the Sentinel was so very unflappable--cold, Blair had once called him, not understanding what it took to survive in Jim's world. In utter ignorance he'd judged the officer and his fellows at Cascade P.D. as unfeeling and heartless. Check their humanity at the door, man.
Well, maybe some in that building did, but not Jim, not Simon, nor the other officers he worked with in Major Crimes. They all cared, more than they should. It was part of what made them so damn good at their jobs. It was also the part of them that died a little with each crime, especially in cases like this, and so it was they learned to guard their hearts very carefully--*very* carefully.
Dropping his fist into his lap, Blair tried to see through the fog, tried find some of his partner's steadiness for himself in the grey vacuum that surrounded him. Breathing deeply, he sought his center, told himself that Jim was working on this too, the Sentinel of the Great City, and even if they couldn't wish this undone they could at least nail the son of a bitch.
The fog outside was thinning a bit, Blair was certain of it when he opened his eyes. The pressure in his chest was easing, whether the calm was leaching into him from the other end of the connection, or just from the knowledge that he wasn't alone, that Jim was there and he was taking this burden as personally as Blair was, if not more. Absently, Blair wondered what his partner would say if he just popped off with: "Oh, hey, man, there's like, this psychic connection between us now, you know? I used it to settle myself down when I came up with this particular revelation for you. Could feel it, reached right through the phone and touched your aura or something and calmed myself right down."
Right. And Jim would cuff him upside the head and tell him to stop imagining things and probably pull back further into himself than he'd been before Blair had met him. Nothing like a man in control of his feelings.
After a long moment, Jim's reply on the line drew Blair out of his musings, and he tried to focus through the remaining fog to make sense of his roommate's words.
"...first one we've got was in 1979, here in Cascade. After that, if I include the ones from the outlying areas, we've got one like clockwork every year...wait, okay, there's none from 1989 until...1993. Then we've got '93, '94, '96, and '97."
*Damn!* Blair knew with a sinking certainty that this unpleasant fact wasn't going to go away.
"Jim, what happens if a rape isn't reported? If someone comes to the hospital and doesn't file charges or anything?" His hand was clenched around the steering wheel again.
"Well, the hospital will call it in if they suspect something, but the victim doesn't have to talk to the officers. Someone from one of the rape crisis clinics will be called in too, usually, whether or not the victim chooses to press charges."
*Please, Jim, figure it out, don't make me say it.*
But Jim was oblivious to his silent pleading. Evidently that psychic bond only worked one way. Sandburg knew with that same sinking certainty he'd have to spit it out, somehow. He heard a mumble of voices on the line, Jim was talking to someone else for a minute, and Blair waited, marshaling his courage, trying and failing to find a way around the words he had to say.
"Sandburg? You still there?"
What? Oh, yeah, oh, god, he was still here, still wishing he wasn't.
"Yeah, I'm here. Okay, is there any way to check those records? Any way to see if maybe there was an attack, even if charges weren't filed?"
Jim mulled that thought over, and Blair could tell the light was beginning to dawn.
"You're thinking that there may have been attacks even during the years we don't have a murder."
"Morag lived, and if he was picking on prostitutes..."
"They might not have reported it at all," Jim finished for him. "Okay, I can do that, see if we can't get some information from rape clinics or maybe the hospital. Now, you want to tell me what's really on your mind?"
Maybe that connection was two-way after all.
Blair swallowed the lump in his throat, leaned his head back against the seat, and tried to find the words.
"Remember I said Morag didn't always dress like this?" Blair heard Jim's frown, he *heard* it. "She didn't, she dressed like any normal person, until..." Another swallow, another deep breath. *Okay, Blair, just spit it out.* "Remember I said she disappeared that one year, Jim? It was 1995. She didn't show up for the party on April Fool's, but no one had seen her for a couple of days before that, and Cindy, she'd gone by Morag's apartment looking for her a couple of times, but no one answered the door. When Morag came back the next fall, that's when she started dressing in black, Jim, that's when all that Gothic crap started."
Silence. Jim would be rubbing his forehead now, that's what he always did when he was troubled, or trying to figure something out. Then there was a deep sigh from the other end of the connection.
"There's nothing reported that year. You think maybe..." Jim didn't want to say it either.
"All right, Chief, I'll look into it. See what I can come up with."
"Thanks, Jim." *Not really, I'm not really thanking you for helping me confirm the very scary and ugly possibility that Morag had been attacked not once, but twice by the same creep. Damn!*
Okay, remember to click the phone off or he'd be crying when he got the bill, and it was done. The steering wheel vibrated under Blair's fists, and a passerby stared, turning to his companion with some remark that had them both tittering. Mocking them as they disappeared into the fog felt good. The damp pall that blanketed his world was lifting, he could definitely see further now, and it looked like it might be a sunny day. Usually was, after dense morning fog like this. Too bad his internal haze was only getting worse. Blair tried to gather his thoughts and his composure, along with his backpack, and climbed out of the car to set out through the thinning mist. Whether he liked it or not, he had things to do and places to be today.
Ever the efficient detective, Jim had called the Registrar's Office at 7:30 a.m., the very minute they opened this morning. The papers he'd requested arrived just in time for Blair to take them with him to his Anthro 101 section. Midterms today--this little project for Jim gave him something to do, something important but not so engrossing that he couldn't level a glare at the giggling sorority girls and frat rats in the back section, or grant a nod of affirmation toward the more serious cadre of older students that sat in the left front side of the auditorium. He had to do something, anything, to help this child Persis out; to help catch the son of a bitch that had destroyed Morag. Somehow, next to that sort of thing, proctoring an Anthro 101 exam didn't exactly stack up as crucial in the grand scheme of things. It just left him with too much time to think, and too many unpleasant things to think about.
Blair worked his way through the first class list, from his first semester after his Master's, with no students that matched, none at all, no one named Persis or any permutations thereof, and no one named Emby, and no one at all that he could recall with a rag doll child in tow. Persis was a Hindi name, Hindi or Sanskrit, but Sitka School didn't have anyone of that heritage in their student body, didn't know of any parents who were recent converts to Hinduism or New Age adherents that would have named their child such a thing. And, no one fitting that category lurked either in Blair's memory or his past classes. A second glance back through the list revealed nothing he hadn't seen before. Another sigh, another evil eye at the back rows, and then on to the next list. Damn, he didn't think he'd taught this many classes in the last few years.
Blair worked his way through several more lists, remembering to look up and pay attention to his current class occasionally. Surely Jim would have played the tape of Persis's call for Simon by now, the two men trying to decide if it was a crank caller or not. "Piss anybody off in the drama department, lately, Sandburg?" would be Simon's dry retort, but Blair knew both men wouldn't stop until they figured out what was going on. Momentarily distracted by the first of the exams to plop on his desk in front of him, Sandburg nodded to the student and went back to his lists.
Several hours later he'd covered them all, every single list, and found exactly nothing to go on. He was sitting in his office, staring blankly at the test he was supposedly grading when Jim's call came. It was a good thing Blair had decided to skip lunch, because after that particular argument with his roommate, he'd surely have lost whatever he'd have taken the time to eat.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Blair stalked down the third floor of Hargrove Hall ahead of Jim, ignoring the Sentinel. Jim lengthened his stride, covering in two long steps the distance it took the shorter man four. His hand closed over Sandburg's upper arm, and Jim stopped, letting his own inertia pull the anthropologist around to face him. Blue eyes blazing, his friend stared at him. Jim softened his hold Blair's arm, but kept his hand there. Around them the afternoon sounds of university life ebbed and flowed: the droning lecture in the room they'd just passed, the chatter of students in the stairwell, headed outside to enjoy the rare spring sunshine, the rustling of thousands of sheets of paper in books and file folders and reports. Jim tuned all that out, focused only on the very pissed man in front of him.
"Chief, you know Morag's the best chance we have of catching this guy. We *have* to talk to her."
"Right," Blair sneered. "Jim, you read the report. What makes you think she's gonna remember more now than she did then? Man, they said she couldn't remember *any* of it!" Hands on his hips, Blair glared at Jim.
Jim sighed and stood up straight.
"Chief, they never really got to interview her. You saw that. Her dad--"
"Was trying his damnedest to protect his daughter, to give her a chance to get her mind and her life back together. You can't blame him for what he did when they found out she couldn't remember. Hell, Jim, the man was just glad his daughter was alive." Sandburg emphasized his point with a finger in Jim's chest as he spoke, and Jim fought the urge to grab it and shove it back at the smaller man.
"Look, man, unless you're gonna tell me you've suddenly remembered your time in Peru in vast and specific detail, I'm gonna insist that this is a bad idea." Blair's voice dropped, and he nodded and smiled thinly at a pair of passing coeds before skewering Jim again with his gaze. "A *very* bad idea."
Jim sighed, staring at the end of the hall, at the door just discernable in the side wall there, waiting until the girls had finished making goo-goo eyes at his partner and turned the corner behind him before addressing Sandburg again. He knew all this, he'd had this same...discussion with Simon before heading over to the University to round up Sandburg for the task. But, he and Simon were both policemen, and they both understood that sometimes you had to ask the questions no one else wanted to ask.
"Bad idea or not, Chief, it's the only idea we've got right now. There wasn't anything new in the evidence that came in this morning. I've requested background information on John Gilbertson and personnel is trying to locate Detective Po for me. Simon okayed the DNA testing, but that will take time, and there's no guarantee the guy will be on record anyway. Morag's the best lead we've got right now. I wish there was another way, Chief, but I just don't have a lot of options right now."
Still glaring, Blair turned and headed down the hall, ducking through the open door Jim had seen, the detective at his heels. This time it was Jim who almost ran into Blair as the anthropologist came to a sudden stop.
Jim's first impression was that the Sociology department didn't have much of a budget. Blair got an office to himself, with windows and everything. Morag evidently shared her office with at least two other people, and there was barely space for their desks and a couple of spare chairs in a room not much bigger than Sandburg's bedroom at the loft. Books and papers and manilla folders were piled everywhere. One tall filing cabinet overflowed forlornly into another chair in a corner. The room did have one small window, qualified more as a clerestory than anything else, except the ceiling wasn't high enough. Ancient fluorescent lighting dangled from the ceiling, fizzing and buzzing, but the office still managed to look dark, and it smelled strongly of stale coffee and mildew. Jim wasn't really surprised when Morag wasn't there. He wouldn't be here much at all, either, not if this was his office.
One person was there, a tall, cadaverously thin man with holes in his jeans and stains on his blue oxford shirt. Wool socks and sandals completed his outfit, and his short, dingy blonde hair needed washing, badly. Bent over, digging through a pile of folders, he didn't acknowledge their arrival until Sandburg spoke.
"Hey, Reggie. Seen Morag around?"
The thin man didn't stop his search, merely glanced at them long enough for Jim to see that he sported one of those ridiculous little goatee beards. It looked like he'd had Veggie Surprise for lunch, given the debris caught in that chin hair.
"Hey, Sandburg. Nope, she ain't here. If you're smart, you'll leave before she shows up." Reggie found what he was looking for, stood, and paged through the folder as he shook his head. "Man, good thing her defense is almost here. It can't come too soon for the rest of us. I think the strain of it all's getting to the poor girl. Like she's into major PMS or something." Grinning at his own joke, Reggie missed Blair's immediate reaction, but Jim's hand caught his arm and after a tense second Sandburg relaxed. Jim did too, waiting for the famous Sandburg wit to come to Morag's defense, instead.
"You'll get the picture one of these days -- *if* you ever get that far, Reg," Blair said, coldly. "Morag's got office hours this afternoon, right?"
Reggie rolled eyes set too close in his pock-marked face at Blair, and continued thumbing through his folder. Jim was about ready to snatch it from the guy and beat the information out of him when Reggie finally answered.
"She does, but she ain't gonna be here. Pitched a hissy about poor O'Brien down the hall playing his stereo too loud and then blew out of here. Man, that was one black cloud she was under. At least she took it with her when she left."
Uh oh. Jim and Blair exchanged a glance; this didn't sound good at all.
"Did she say where she was going?" Blair inquired.
"No, and I didn't ask. Just go outside and look for the black cloud, man, I ain't kidding." Reggie dropped the folder on his desk and squatted down next to a different stack on the floor.
"Yeah, well, thanks, Reg." Blair tapped the door on his way out, and Jim followed him into the hall. The anthropologist stood there, staring towards the stairwell, hands on his hips and anger still radiating from him.
"You think she went home?" Jim figured he took his life into his hands by asking, but hey, what was life without a little danger?
"It's as good a guess as any, especially if her hearing's bothering her. Her classes are done for the day."
"Okay, you done here?"
"If I wasn't, I am now." Without waiting to see if Jim was following, Blair headed for the stairs. Jim translated his last statement without any trouble at all: No Neanderthal Genetic Throwback Cop was getting close to Morag without Sandburg there to pick up the pieces. Which was just fine with the Neanderthal in question.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"And Niamh calling Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream,
The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round..."
--- William Butler Yeats
The afternoon was bathed in sunlight as bright and clear as the morning haze had been dense and damp. Blair's sunglasses were perched on his nose, but Jim wasn't convinced it was because of the bright light. Sometimes the kid took his distance any way he could get it. The music was audible to the Sentinel from almost half a mile away, and he automatically tuned it out almost before he noticed it. Blair started bouncing and humming in rhythm to the song when they turned the corner two blocks from Morag's apartment. When he caught Jim's disgusted glance, the anthropologist just grinned.
"Hey, 'Orinoco Flow' by Enya. Cool tune, no matter what your style is, man." The grin grew wicked. "Though I'd say constant exposure to the more ancient forms of rock and roll, like, say, maybe 'Santana' could render you incapable of appreciating the finer aspects of the music, man."
Jim just rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"I wouldn't mind appreciating it if it wasn't blasting all over the neighborhood."
Sandburg's grin faded.
"You should turn your hearing down. This could really damage your ears."
"Already taken care of, Chief. What I can't believe is someone hasn't called in a complaint about it yet."
"Hey, you know, spring fever. It's spring break next week, and most of this neighborhood is college students and stuff. They understand the need for a little stress relief, man."
The music faded. But, as Jim parked the Ford, it swelled again, louder now as they climbed out of the truck. Blair turned back, digging in the glove compartment for a couple of earplugs. Sandburg had to grab Jim's arm to get his attention; Jim was taking no chances with his hearing and had turned it down, way down. He put the earplugs in without demur. It was the same song, again.
"Sail away, sail away, sail away..."
"Man, that is some awesome system!" Blair shouted, pulling his sunglasses off and dropping them in his jacket pocket. Two pairs of blue eyes suddenly locked on each other in fearful realization.
"Morag!" Blair shouted, and they were down the sidewalk and racing up the stairs to her apartment three at a time. Standing there as Sandburg pounded on the door, Jim could feel the porch vibrating; so could Sandburg, by the way he nervously eyed the floor beneath them.
"Morag! Morag! It's Blair, man, open up!" There was no way he could be heard, not over that stereo system.
"We can sail, we can sail, sail away, sail away, sail away..."
The date, the date...it was just the 26th, right? Three days early for their guy and his sicko anniversary, but still...Jim pushed the sudden swell of nausea away, and grabbed Sandburg's arm as he started to pound on the door again. Shaking his head, he indicated the door knob. The door opened easily at Blair's touch, and Jim winced as, once again, the music got louder.
"Carry me all way to the land I've never been..."
There was no sign of Morag in the apartment. His hearing turned down to almost nothing, Jim noticed the faint scent almost immediately, and his arm shot out to stop Blair before he could step over the small white box lying on the hardwood just beyond the front door. Ignoring the music reverberating in the room around them, Jim focused on the box. It had obviously been dropped, the lid lay just beside it, the flowers it contained peeking out beneath the box and the tissue that cushioned them within it. Jim knelt and carefully turned the box over with the nose of the gun he didn't remember drawing from his holster. When he pushed the tissue aside Sandburg's hand tightened on his shoulder painfully.
It was a nosegay, just a small one. Made up of pansies. And two white roses. And, Jim confirmed with a careful sniff, rosemary. All tied jauntily with a purple ribbon, bearing a card Jim could just read. Blair could read it too; Jim felt the air move as his roommate inhaled sharply.
"Been a good girl? I'll be waiting for you. Happy anniversary."
*SHIT!* As Sandburg would say, this *sucked.*
Jim couldn't use his hearing, not with that damn music, but Blair nodded as Jim indicated he should stay put with a touch on his arm. Another visual sweep of the apartment, then swiftly, Jim moved to check behind the kitchen bar, arms straight and gun out in front of him in proper police procedure. Nothing lurked there but the terra cotta planter, shattered on the floor, clay fragments poking from a bed of dark soil and now very withered pansies. Jim paused, sorting past the smells of earth and garbage, trying to find the one smell he knew went with Morag...there! He swung around, but the bathroom door behind him was closed, and a careful try of the knob revealed it was locked. A black cord ran from the outer room underneath the door, but Jim ignored it. He didn't have time to figure it out; Morag maybe didn't have time for him to try. Step back, one kick, and as the song sailed away again Jim was in the bathroom, gun first.
Still no Morag, but there was yet another door, closed, the black cord snaking underneath it as well. Swift kick number two revealed a large, walk-in closet, dimly lit by a small, high window. Gun still out in front of him, Jim eased into the room. No Morag, but the scent of her lip gloss was stronger here than anywhere, and that cord ran straight to a pile of black clothing on the floor.
Sandburg was there, now, peeking through the door behind him as Jim holstered his gun. Evidently he thought that was permission to enter. Jim took a deep breath, then swore and turned to shove Sandburg back out the door, but the grad student moved faster than the Sentinel for once, eluding Jim's grasp and pushing past him to the pile of clothing in one swift wriggle. Behind him, Jim was too late to stop Sandburg from pulling aside Morag's black cape and several indeterminate items of black clothing to reveal...
Morag. She'd ripped the hem and side seam out of her narrow black skirt, curling in upon herself in a fetal ball, stereo headphones askew on her head. The blood Jim had smelled was there too, but he couldn't be sure where it was coming from. Blair softly brushed aside the tangle of hair hiding her face, and Jim swore again. Those grey eyes were wide open and blank, staring blindly through a mask of hair and black and purple makeup streaked with tears. Blood ran from one corner of her mouth. Sandburg's hand waving once before her face didn't even rate a blink. Blair pulled the headphones from her ears, the same song blasting from them as in the other room. Shaking her softly got no response; calling her name was useless.
Jim touched Blair's shoulder, and once he had the grad student's attention made his plan clear with a few hand motions. Sandburg stood and stepped back, allowing the larger man in next to Morag. Kneeling, Jim carefully gathered her up into his arms. She wasn't quite limp, but she lay unresponsive in his embrace as he stood. Her backpack and a battered Piglet doll fell to the floor beside his feet; Blair swooped in to grab both items as Jim made his way back out to the main room.
Blair headed for the stereo as Jim deposited Morag gently on the futon.
"We can sigh, say goodb--"
The sudden silence was almost overwhelming. Jim's quick examination revealed the sources of the blood he'd smelled to be her hands, fists clenched so tightly her nails dug into the palms, and her lip, evidently bitten through. He circumspectly straightened her skirt, and then her short burgundy cardigan and the long-sleeved black top she wore under it, surreptitiously checking for bruises as he did so. But nothing Jim's sensitive touch or nose could pick up indicated she'd been assaulted.
"Is she--has she--" Blair's voice cracked behind him.
Jim hesitated, then shook his head.
"I don't think so. Do you know what she was wearing this morning?"
Shaking his head, Blair blew his breath out in a heavy sigh, then dropped both doll and backpack on the floor to kneel beside Morag, reaching out to take her face in both hands. Jim pulled the earplugs from his ears, pocketing them as he stood, and made his way back to the bathroom. A quick check of both the bathtub and the closet confirmed his first assessment. After that it only took a second to find a rag and thoroughly dampen it. Blair looked up as Jim came back out, and the detective shook his head.
"I think he just left his calling card today."
Rolling his eyes with relief, Blair took the rag Jim held out. As he carefully washed the makeup off her face, he called Morag's name, softly. There was no response. Jim retrieved his cell phone from his coat pocket.
"I'm gonna call Simon."
Blair nodded, his attention focused on the catatonic woman curled on the couch. Simon promised a forensics team immediately. That accomplished, Jim set a chair carefully over the white box and flowers, then went to where Blair was working with Morag.
"God, Jim, she's so zoned... I don't think I've ever seen you even close to being this far out." Blair's eyes were haunted, he absently waved the rag as he spoke. "From what I read in the police report I figured that's what happened when -- the first time this creep got her, but this... Jim, it wouldn't have been just her hearing, she's close enough to hypersensitive in touch that whole experience... God, and to come home to those flowers... she must have been absolutely terrified, Jim, absolutely. Why didn't she call someone? Call me or you? Damn, she did this on purpose, just turned on the music and zoned."
"Yeah." Sail away, sail away.... And Morag had sailed away, used her hyper sense of hearing to zone out and forget it all, her fear, herself, the man who had brutalized her at least once and evidently had every intention of doing so again. But that man hadn't counted on the Sentinel and his Guide, and there was no way he was going to get to Morag through them. Trouble was, Morag didn't seem to have known that either. Sandburg's worried voice cut through his morbid thoughts.
"Damn, Jim, I'm not sure how to bring her out of this. Usually when you zone I can talk you out of it, but, man, she's so far gone..." Blair turned back to Morag, obviously wrapped up in trying to figure out how to bring her out of the zone. "Morag? Morag, listen to me, come on, you gotta come out of it, it's safe now, I'm here and Jim is too, and you're safe..."
Jim listened and watched silently as Blair talked, running his fingers over Morag's slack face in a strangely intimate manner. After a few minutes they could both hear the forensics van pull up outside, and another car he quickly identified as Simon's. Two doors slammed. Simon must have brought Taggart or someone with him. Nothing had changed in the tableau before him, and Jim took a deep breath.
"Chief, I'm gonna call an ambulance."
The response was as immediate and as volatile as Jim expected.
"NO! Jim, no!" Sandburg's horror almost outweighed the disbelief in his face. "Man, I cannot believe you even suggested that! As long as she hasn't been--You know that's *not* what she needs, they'll just dope her up and it will be another three weeks before she comes out of it. Man, modern medicine cannot help her, anymore than it could help you three years ago. The *last* thing she needs right now is a hospital!"
"Chief, you said yourself you didn't know how to bring her out--"
"No, I specifically said I wasn't sure. That's a whole lot different than not knowing. Hell, half the time with you I'm not sure, but I just go with my instincts and it works, you're here, you're fine. And, man, right now my instincts are telling me we let her go to the hospital and she ain't coming out of there without a long stay in the funny room with the padded walls." Jim hesitated, hearing Simon's voice among the group ascending the stairs. Brown, he'd brought Brown with him. Blair heard them too, and leaned closer to Jim, whispering harshly, "She just needs time, man, time and a new focus point, and a safe place to come out of it." Dark blue eyes caught ice blue, the former refusing to back down. Jim sighed, and knew he'd lost. As long as Blair didn't realize Jim hadn't planned on winning, he'd just wanted this out of the way before any spectators arrived.
"Okay, Chief, if that's the way you want it. But, if she's not out of this in twenty-four hours, we take her to the hospital, deal?"
Blair nodded, curls bobbing. He had the grace not to look *too* triumphant.
"Deal." And he turned back to his mission, this time taking one of Morag's wrists and rubbing it between his own, still calling her name softly. Jim rose and turned to meet his captain, marshaling his own arguments on the way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Several hours later Jim stood in the doorway of Sandburg's room, watching as his friend's candlelit form drew a blanket up over Morag. As usual when it came to hyperactive senses, Blair had been right -- well, almost right. Morag hadn't completely come out of her zone, but about half an hour ago she had suddenly sighed and shifted in the bed, glassy eyes closing as she slipped into what Jim had confirmed a few minutes later was a natural sleep. Blair had stayed with her a little longer, just as he had since Jim had carried her blanket-wrapped form into the loft.
Sandburg's idea of a safe environment to bring Morag out of her zone had been his own room. Plug in Jim's white noise generator, add candle light and some of Sandburg's own blend of oddly peaceful incense, and then Blair started talking. He chattered on all the while Morag laid unresponsive in his bed. One hand loosely circling Morag's wrist, the other gently stroked her face and hair and Jim's Guide talked and talked and talked in that soft, hypnotic tone of voice.
Jim's own contribution had been doctoring the gouges in Morag's palms, and checking the cut in her lip. After that he'd sat in the living room, ostensibly looking through case files and watching the coverage of a freak spring storm in the South. He'd paid more attention to the murmuring cadence of his Guide's voice in the other room than he had to either the reports on front of him or the televised reports of millions of dollars in damage, thousands of people in shelters, three state governors already screaming for Federal Aid. Oh, he'd contributed some tea and a beer when Sandburg's voice seemed about to give out, but there hadn't been much else for him to do.
Now Blair came out of his room, softly shutting the door behind him, stretching and wobbling a bit as he followed Jim out into the main room. Jim sat back down on the couch, the open folders he'd had Simon drop off from the station before him. Blair dropped into the yellow chair with a heavy sigh, hanging his head over the back, arms dangling and feet stretched out before him.
"There's some supper in the kitchen, if you want."
"Yeah, man, in a minute," Blair croaked. Jim shook his head, he didn't know how the man did it, talking for hours like that. They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, the babble of the tv washing over them. Then Blair rolled his head over to look at Jim.
"Was that Simon I heard?"
"Did he say what they'd found at her apartment?"
"The flowers were delivered from a local florist. It was a cash purchase; no name required. We've got a description, but it's not much more than what we had before. Tall, dark hair, mid-50's, nice looking. The clerk spent two hours going through mug books at the station, but nothing caught her eye. We're running the prints on the card now, but that might take a while."
"Damn. So we still don't know who he is or where he might be." Blair looked back up at the ceiling. "Jim?"
"Yeah?" Jim clicked the tv off and started putting the folders away. Looked like Blair needed to debrief a bit. Sandburg was still staring at the ceiling as he took a deep breath and asked his question.
"Can you imagine being so terrified that you'd rather just run away inside yourself? Just detach completely from the world around you and hide away from it all? I mean, I know you've repressed stuff, hell I think everyone has at some time or another, but to just want to repress *life?*"
Jim didn't answer, concentrated instead on stacking the folders neatly and precisely on the coffee table in front of him. He sensed rather than saw Blair's head turn toward him as the silence grew, and finally shrugged.
"I don't think anyone can, Chief, not unless you've been there."
And Blair hadn't. Jim had, maybe, in Peru, if he ever remembered that time. Sure, he'd repressed Bud's murder, but that repression had been fed by despair, not fear. Not terror, like Morag. What had it been like for her, to hear and feel her own rape with preternatural hearing and touch? It was his turn to take a deep breath, and then Jim looked up to find Blair sound asleep with his head dropped back again. Jim grinned. He'd better tuck the kid in on the couch, or he'd have to listen to him gripe about a sore neck all day tomorrow. He leaned over and slapped Blair's knee.
"Up and at 'em, Chief. You'll get a crick in your neck sleeping like that."
Blair jumped, twitched, and mumbled something before nodding off to sleep again. Jim sighed. Well, okay, fine, if that's the way it had to be. He stood up, and pulled Sandburg up out of the chair by one arm. That got Sandburg's attention, sort of. The mumbling started up and didn't stop again until Jim had Blair lying on the couch, and a blanket pulled up over his shoulders. Geez, if this was what it took to get out of watching Star Trek every night for the next eternity...chuckling quietly, Jim turned off the lights and headed for his own bed.
"I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by name
It had become a glimmering girl..."
--William Butler Yeats
Jim wasn't sure what woke him up first, all the hairs standing up on the back of his neck or the strange sibilant noise that was actually a voice, barely audible over the white noise generators hissing in Blair's room. A second or two after that his senses verified that it was coming from the living room beneath him, where Blair was sleeping on the couch. Vaguely familiar, it wasn't anyone significant's voice, not that he recognized anyway. No time to decipher the words, he had to move quickly. Grabbing the gun from under his pillow, flinging off his comforter and getting to the top of the stairs took slightly less than two seconds. Adjusting his eyesight to the dark loft as he moved, it was a simple matter to peek over the railing as he felt his way down the stairs, carefully, softly, avoiding all the squeaks and hisses of each board by feel, shifting his weight before the faint noises could sound in the loft. Another second or two to size up the dark shape looming over his roommate as he slept on the sofa. About the same size as Blair, but with a baseball cap obscuring its features, the face turned away from him. Jim couldn't tell who or what it was as he crept across the room, Sentinel senses on the alert. Damn the white noise generators that took his most powerful sense from him when his partner and another innocent were in danger!
The dark figure moved then, leaning over Blair, one hand reaching out to--
"CASCADE PD! FREEZE!"
Things moved even faster after that.
Blair sat straight up on the couch as the dark shape bending over him shrieked and ran. Jim caught up with him/her/it? as it scrabbled frantically at the French doors. A sharp pain in one wrist had Jim swearing out loud as the being flowed through his arms like liquid, and then suddenly, impossibly, she--How did he know it was a she?--was free of his grasp, running, hat flying as she leaped directly at Blair and Jim's gun was pointed and Blair was yelling "NO, JIM!" and the woman was shrieking incoherently with a little child's voice as she climbed all over him. Jim dropped the gun on the coffee table to grab her and suddenly found himself holding a hellion all over again and Blair was over at the wall yelling something about lights! and Jim was trying his best to keep from being clawed to pieces as he prepared for the sudden brightness in the loft and then Sandburg hit the switch and everyone froze.
Jim found himself holding Morag by the hair with one hand, his other arm wrapped around her in a football hold, pinning her and her wildly clawing arms against his body. Blair, his own hair sticking out all directions, mouth open in a round "o" of surprise, stood and stared, and Jim figured his own expression couldn't be much less entertaining. Morag whimpered, but she didn't move.
"Morag?" Blair whispered incredulously.
The figure in Jim's grasp didn't respond, didn't say anything at all, just whimpered again. Jim slowly relaxed his grip, and Morag simply slumped to the floor in a puddle of hair and arms and legs and began to sob softly. The loft was silent except for her hiccups after that, except for the soft sound of Blair's bare feet as he hurried over to them then, stepping carefully around the baseball hat with Eeyore emblazoned on the brim. Shooting one confused glance at Jim, Blair knelt in front of Morag.
"Morag?" His voice was gentle, and Jim tensed as his roommate tentatively reached out to touch Morag's hair. She didn't answer, just shivered and abruptly scooted for the nearest cover she could find -- in this case, the dining room table. She found her way through the chair legs underneath the table and then curled up in a familiar fetal ball on the floor there, arms around her head, hair covering her face and still not talking, just whimpering and hiccuping to herself. The black tights now sported a long run.
Blair stood then, and looked at Jim again. The Sentinel shrugged.
"I woke up and she was standing over you. I couldn't identify who it was, so I came down here to see for myself and you saw what happened after that."
The whispering started again then, and Jim's head snapped automatically around to where he could hear and identify the source. Where....? He knew his jaw dropped open as the realization hit him: it was Persis's voice he'd heard before, that he hadn't taken time to identify, and now the Persis whisper, the--focusing his hearing just a bit more--Persis *hearbeat* were all coming from the woman lying under his dining room table.
Persis? What the...? Emby. Em. Bee. M. B. Morag Blanche. Oh shit....
Blair took a breath preparatory to speaking, but Jim's hand up stopped that. He pointed at the bundle of hair and limbs under the table, and when his roommate shrugged and shook his head in confusion, Jim mouthed slowly, "Persis."
His roommate's frown didn't clear up until the third time Jim mouthed it, but he was afraid to speak out loud for fear of startling Mora--Persis again. Blair's blue eyes grew round with sudden comprehension, then he squatted beside the table.
She jerked, shuddered, and the whispering stopped.
Blair tried again.
"Persis, Jim didn't mean to scare you. He didn't realize it was you, and he thought someone was trying to hurt me."
No response, but the tangle of limbs underneath the table seemed to relax just a little bit.
Jim knelt on one knee beside Blair.
"Persis? I'm sorry, I didn't realize..." What? That a five-year-old girl inhabited the body of Morag, along with the twenty-seven-year-old woman, and--sudden realization hit Jim, and he found Blair staring at him with the same wide-eyed comprehension--whomever that was in the schoolyard the other night. Big man, she'd called him "big man" when he walked up, and Jim, great big detective that he was, hadn't even caught it. Sheena, that was the name Persis had given the other girl, Sheena who was angry and didn't want help and didn't trust anyone.
How the hell was he supposed to know they were all living in the same body? Movement under the table, and when Jim looked back at the person there, he caught his breath. The eyes weren't Morag's, they were the same ones that had told him about the tea party with her mother for her birthday. My God, that had been Persis, and he'd missed that one too. According to his roommate, Morag had been a small child when her mother died. That birthday party was probably the last good time she'd had with her mother.
Her mother...oh my God, Persis's mother...
Before Jim could follow that thought through, Blair extended a hand to Persis/Morag, and the little girl/woman looked at him for a moment before scuttling out and nearly knocking Blair over as she tried to curl up in his lap, sobbing and hiccupping all over again. They sat on the floor, Blair rocking her gently and making shushing, soothing noises. They were still sitting like that when Jim came back downstairs, having put his gun away and donned some sweats. At that point Mora--Persis was relaxed enough that she allowed Blair up off the floor and back over to the couch. Once there, she curled up in a ball against his side, pointedly ignoring Jim, until he rescued the Eeyore hat from the floor and, sitting on the coffee table in front of his partner and the distraught -- child? Woman?--held it out to her.
Face still pressed against his roommate's shoulder, one grey eye glared balefully at him from the mess of hair and tears and snot. After a second's perusal he must have passed muster somehow, because a hand shot out and grabbed the hat, clutching it to her chest. Turning her head enough that both eyes were visible, the glare Persis leveled at the Sentinel was loaded with resentment and wounded pride as only a five-year-old child's could be. She sniffled once more, loudly, then declared indignantly, in a broad Southern drawl, "Ah thought yew *wanted* to meet me."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Continued in Part Six...