See notes and disclaimer on part one.
"These fragments have I shored against my ruins."
-- T.S. Eliot
Letting his roommate handle the conversation with Persis for now, Jim watched from the love seat. Expanding his senses, he almost zoned as he tried to understand what had taken place before him. Other than looks and the immutable scent of bubble gum lip gloss, it was *not* Morag who sat on the couch next to Blair; everything was different, everything. The way she moved, held her head, her mannerisms as she talked, the expression in her eyes--all had shifted, become those of a stranger. The heartbeat was the same one he'd heard over the phone, not Morag's, not at all. Her respiration was different; even Morag's scent had changed. It was younger, somehow; he didn't know how to explain it. The entire thing was nothing short of staggering. His own stupefaction was mirrored in Blair's eyes whenever their gazes met.
"Yew wuz supposed to help Emby. Keep her from hurtin' again!" Cross-legged on the couch beside Blair, who kept one arm reassuringly around her shoulders, Persis was managing to glare at both men.
Jim turned down his senses, and traded helpless looks with his roommate for the umpteenth time in the last half hour.
"Persis, we tried, we just didn't know ---" Blair tried to explain, again.
"She *called* you, an' you weren't there, or here or anywhar you'd said you'd be! She even called you, big man, and no one answered," the small voice accused.
Called? Emby--Morag--had called them...when?
"This afternoon? She called this afternoon?" Sandburg asked, flicking a guilty glance at Jim.
"What was she supposed to do? She hurt and you said 'call' and then you weren't there!" Indignant didn't even begin to describe Persis's attitude. She acted like a queen faced with two very recalcitrant subjects.
Damn. Morag must have tried to call them when her hearing started bothering her. Where had he been? Probably in Simon's office, or on his way over to the University to get Blair. Why hadn't she used his cell phone then? Tabling that query for one that mattered, Jim took a deep breath, and decided enough was enough.
"Persis, did you see the man today? The one following Emby? Do you know who sent the flowers?" Jim kept his voice gentle, soft, but firm.
She shook her head adamantly.
"That dip Morag answered the door. She don't know nuthin' 'bout nuthin'. And I didn' have nuthin' to do with those flowers." Chin held high, eyes narrowed, Persis wasn't just angry, she was positively arrogant.
Blair's eyes were telegraphing warnings Jim didn't need. What did the man think he was gonna do, turn the Ellison lasers on the child? Child. A twenty-seven-year-old woman sat in front of him, and yet he had no problem defining her as a child. She didn't just act childish, she *was* a child. Jim shook that thought off, and tried another tack. They needed information, and they needed it fast. Unfortunate as it was for her, Morag was the break he'd needed in the case and he wasn't going to *not* ask for her help.
"Persis, can you help us identify the man who's following Morag? If we know what he looks li--"
"It's all their fault he's followin' Emby in the first place." Petulantly, this time, her bottom lip actually protruding when she finished her statement.
"Whose fault is it, Persis? Why is he here?" Jim ignored the incredulous look Blair shot him. He was tired of playing games with this child.
Persis literally swelled up with anger. Anger? What the--
"They did it, they did! He wouldn't have bothered us again; we promised and we was keepin' it until that idiot slapped him. Raht in front of Gawd and ever'body she did!"
Jim winced, and turned his hearing down a notch.
"Who hit him, Persis?" Coupled with the lethal glare he shot Jim, Blair's quiet query meant he was taking over the interrogation. Jim sat back and let him have at it.
Eyes flickering over the loft beyond them, Persis suddenly shivered.
"Sheena did, dumb shit that she is."
"When?" Blair could be persistent, when he wanted to.
Persis wiggled in place, refusing to meet their gaze. Her lower lip protruded again, and when she finally mumbled her answer both men had to lean in closer to hear.
"Daddy's fun'ral. It wouldna killed her to let him hug her, it would have kept Emby safe, but she had to do it. I knew he'd come after that."
"Who? Persis, who was it?" Blair's voice cracked. God, to be so close to the answers they needed and have a recalcitrant child holding all the cards...
"I don' know his name. Nobody does, nobody but Emby. She won't tell, she don't want him to find us like he did after the funeral. And it was all Sheena's fault," Persis shrilled. If she'd been standing, she'd have stamped her foot.
"*What* was all Sheena's fault?" Blair insisted, reaching for Persis's hand and pulling her toward him gently.
She wouldn't meet their gaze again, burying her face in Blair's shoulder.
"Ask Sheena," she mumbled. Blair blew his breath out in a loud sigh, looking away from them both though he still held Persis close. His stomach was probably tied in at least as many knots as Jim's, if not more. Jim shifted in his chair, hand going up to rub his forehead before he took a deep breath.
Jim stopped in mid-word, his attention snagged by the increasingly familiar sensation of all the hairs on the back of his neck standing straight up. Persis went rigid, then sat up, grabbing Blair's arm and yanking it off her shoulders.
"Get your hands off me, asshole!" She pushed herself away from Sandburg, sliding her feet out from under her to stand up, hands clenched and glaring at them both before sidling away down the couch.
No, not Persis: Sheena. The grey eyes glaring down at Jim were angry, wild--desperate, just like they had been at the park. He concentrated on returning her gaze, stare for cold stare, forcing himself not to withdraw from the confrontation. What was it about Sheena that had him pulling back every time he ran into her? Instinctively, Jim extended his senses. Again, the transformation was absolute. Even with the white noise generators in the other room, he could hear Per--Sheena's heartbeat, it's sussurating murmur as distinctive as it had been the other night in the schoolyard. Her scent had changed again, subtly. Where Persis was childlike, all awkward motion, and Morag all control, no wasted energy or movement, Sheena fairly vibrated. Energy, emotion, anger--shoot, there wasn't enough sage in Cascade to counter the negative energy radiating from her as she stood, one foot tapping on the floor and her arms crossed tightly against her chest.
Blair, without Jim's sensory advantage, was momentarily confused, but as Sheena turned her glare on him, Jim saw the realization dawn.
"Whoa, hey, I wasn't doing anything. Sheena."
She didn't deny the name, just sneered at Blair, ignoring Jim.
"Yeah, right. Just like you weren't doing anything the last time you put your arms around Morag."
Blair flinched, and Jim did too. If she could have seen Blair in the alley yesterday, she would have known better. He closed his eyes, briefly, then spoke just as Jim took breath to defend his friend.
"Sheena, that wasn't the only reason I asked Morag out." Blair's gaze was steady, holding those ash-grey eyes. Looked like he'd dealt with his guilt the other day--maybe what Jim had said had helped him out a bit. In front of him, Sheena's eyes were doing her Viewmaster impression again, clicking and shifting before the emotions and reactions could be identified.
"Oh, so that's why you never asked her out again after that night." Cold, mocking, utterly ruthless, that voice--and a world of pain buried behind it. Blair flinched again, but for his own discomfort or for the misery laced through Sheena's voice, Jim wasn't sure. Sheena spoke before either of them could form a rebuttal.
"You want to tell me what the fuck I'm doing in your apartment? Or, is *that* the reason I'm here? Couple of grown up men couldn't get laid on their own so you decided to pick up someone defenseless?"
Open-mouthed, Jim just stared at her, his peripheral vision confirming Sandburg's goggle-eyed speechlessness as well. My God, what did she think they were? Abruptly there was a picture in Jim's memory, of Morag, battered and beaten...and raped. Twice, now, since what little Persis had told them seemed to confirm Blair's theory. Jim hadn't been able to dig up any local records that would prove it, but his gut told him he didn't need anyone else's report, probably the same way Blair's gut had figured it out in the first place. If Morag had no memory of being attacked, it looked like Sheena remembered it all too well--and still expected the worst. Blair had only given her more ammunition with his seduction attempt -- no matter that he'd realized his mistake and backed off immediately. In Sheena's eyes the damage was done.
Surprisingly enough, Jim was the one who found his voice first.
"You zoned." That merited him another glare, but the Viewmaster couldn't shift her surprise aside fast enough for Sentinel sight to miss it. She frowned at him, but Jim went on. "Blair couldn't bring you out of it, so we brought you here to give you time to come out of it on your own."
No reaction for a moment. Sheena wouldn't look at him. Uncrossing her arms, she bent slightly at the waist and one hand went down to tug at her skirt. She fingered the torn seam mutely, before turning on him again.
"You didn't do this?" Sharp, hard, straight shot at him. This time Blair found his voice first.
"Good god, Sheena, what do you think we are?" Unaware he was repeating Jim's own shocked thought, Blair's voice cracked on the last word, and he stared, openmouthed again, at her.
"Men," she retorted, and there wasn't anything either one of them could say to that.
Pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes, Jim tried to remember anything he'd heard or read about multiple personalities. They needed to get this conversation back on the track it had been on with Persis, and they needed to get it there now. Unfortunately, most of what Jim knew about Multiple Personality Disorder came from a couple of bad movies and channel surfing through a few too many daytime talk shows on his days off. Neither the military nor the Academy had prepared him for this--no courses offered in Conversations with Multiple Personalities 101. Sandburg had an edge, at least he had a minor in psychology, but that probably didn't leave him a whole lot more qualified than Jim. Not that his roommate had much to offer right now, with his mouth wide open and obviously floundering for something to say. Sandburg speechless was not an awe-inspiring sight.
"You did that, when you hid in the closet. That's where we found you this afternoon." Jim spoke calmly, trying to convey that he accepted her question as reasonable, that he understood Sheena might not know what Morag or Persis had done.
"Hid in the clos---" Grey eyes flicked from him to his roommate, and then Sheena stalked over to stare out the windows of the loft into the abyss of night outside. Stiff, rigid, and very much afraid, he realized, confirming the overwhelming scent of fear with a small sniff. Damn, what should they do now? His gaze locked with Sandburg's, and with a shrug and eloquent gesture of open hands, he passed the ball neatly to his roommate. Sandburg's court, Sandburg's turn. Up and at 'em, buddy. Get the information that will nail this guy.
Blair shook his head and rolled his eyes before standing up. He moved slowly over to stand behind Sheena, arms at his sides, leaving a good two feet between them when he stopped.
She flinched bodily, and the reflection in the window closed her eyes briefly before swirling angrily to face Blair.
"What the fuck do you want from me? Why won't you leave me alone?"
Damn, hope she didn't wake the neighbors shouting like that.
One hand went out, and Blair took a short step closer to Sheena.
"We're trying help you." Deep breath, and a glance at Jim, but for now Jim was more than willing to let Sandburg run the show. "Sheena, the man who attacked yo--"
"I don't have anything to say to you." She turned back to the window, leaning her forehead against it and drumming her fingers lightly on the glass.
"Sheena, please, if you can tell us who he is... You know, even if you could just give us an idea what he looked like, it would help. Police sketch artists are great, man, they can draw a picture..."
His voice trailed off as Sheena shuddered. Her hand went flat on the window before curling into a fist and jerking back. She knocked it against the glass twice, then dropped it to her side as she inched away from Blair. Jim was certain she would have crawled right into the wall to escape them, if that were possible. There wasn't any doubt she did not want to talk to a sketch artist. Blair looked at Jim, hands going out and his eyes pleading for help. Jim stood, moving over to stand a few feet behind his roommate.
"Who was the man you slapped at your father's funeral? Why was he there?"
Well, at least she acknowledged him, even if it was just to glare daggers at him from where she leaned against the wall.
"How the hell would I know? He didn't exactly introduce himself, just took what he wanted both times and ran. Just like any other man."
Damn. Blair turned away, swallowing hard. Jim took a deep breath. Sheena glared at him for a minute longer, then returned to staring out the window. It took Jim a few more seconds to come up with something else to say.
"Sheena, please, help us out here. The man is a murderer as well as a rapist; you're not the only one he's attacked. Help us for those other women, if not yourself."
She didn't even bother to lift her head from where it rested against the glass.
"Why? What's it to you? What does it matter how many sluts he took out? We all deserved it, didn't we? Asked for it?"
The window right in front of her muffled her voice, but her words came through loud and clear. Blair's jaw dropped open, and in one step he was right beside Sheena, attempting to look her in the eye. He grasped her elbow, and she didn't jerk it away.
"Mor--Sheena, you are not a slut! And, there's no way you *asked* for this! This man, he, he hurt you." Jim didn't blame Blair for not wanting to say it out loud, but Blair gulped, and swallowed, found the words and the courage to say them. His voice was low, compassionate. "Sheena, what happened to you wasn't your fault, you never asked to be beaten or raped. You sure as hell didn't ask for it to happen twice. Nobody deserves that, nobody! And it matters because it happened to you, it matters to Jim as a cop, and it matters to me because you're my friend. And it matters to both of us because it was *wrong.* He had *no* right to do that to you. It was wrong, wrong, *wrong,* for him to do what he did to you, and I--we--want to see him punished for it."
No answer from the statue staring out the window, but Blair wasn't done. He kept his face close to hers and, when Sheena risked one brief glance at him, tugged gently on her elbow. She looked out the window as Sandburg spoke again.
"I wish, God, I *wish* I could make it all go away, make it never have happened to you. I can't imagine how it feels to have lived through what you've survived, and I can't wish it away, but I can be here, I can be your friend, and we can make this guy pay for what he's done to you."
Beggar's ride, that what's this was. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and the woman standing at the window tonight wouldn't be broken and shattered into so many fragile pieces. Unbidden, the family picture, 5- year-old Morag smiling with her parents, came to mind. Jim closed his eyes, and sighed. The ugly truth was that a whole lot of wishes were going begging right now.
A tiny shudder was the only reaction to Blair's speech from Sheena, then what sounded like a sob, half swallowed. She turned her head away from Blair and his compassion, refused to look at him as she shifted and pulled her elbow from his grasp. But, she didn't run, and she didn't try to scratch his eyes out. Little things, but hey, they'd take what they could get in this case.
"Sheena, please." Blair stayed next to her. "Who is this guy?"
Twisting one strand of her around a finger, Sheena swallowed another sob as she inched further away from Blair.
"I don't know his name."
Well, hell, this was as informative as a kindergarten briefing. Damn, but he was tired of these games. If they were going to do what Blair had promised Sheena, they needed answers, and they needed them now.
"Why was he at your father's funeral? Is it the same guy that ordered the flowers?"
"Jim!" Blair hissed, glaring daggers at the larger man, but Jim ignored him. It was hard to tell who was more surprised when his question rated an answer from their guest.
"Maybe. All I know is he was at the funeral, and he's the same asshole that gave Persis that picture for Christmas. Ten years ago, and Emby still won't get rid of it, no matter how many times we ask her to."
Sandburg was gonna look ridiculous if his face froze that way, with his eyes and his mouth all wide open. Jim shared his incredulity, though, after taking a second to decide she must be referring to the garish pansy print sitting on the floor behind the stereo. God, who *was* this creep? And *why* was he targeting Morag?
Blair shifted fractionally closer to Sheena, one hand tentatively touching her arm.
"Wait a minute. You're telling us the same guy that attacked you gave Persis that picture?"
She favored Sandburg with one disgusted look over her shoulder.
"No shit, Sherlock."
"Why?" Blair was trying hard to get his mind around this one. Jim wasn't sure he wanted to try.
A shrug was the only response. Once again pulling away from Blair, Sheena stood back from the window, still twisting a long strand of hair around one finger as she stared out into the night.
"You'll have to ask Persis that. She *is* who you've been talking to, isn't she?" Bitterness and bravado. Lots of it, loads of both, and she still couldn't mask the resentment and fear in her voice. Well, shit. Nothing like internal politics to screw up a good investigation--except this put a whole new slant on the term 'infighting.'
"She's called a few times, asking for help. She wanted help for you that night we tried to help you with your hearing," Blair explained, quiet and reasonable.
"That's Persis, always covering her ass. Never mind who else gets left out to dry."
"What do you mean?" Blair shot back. Jim wanted to know the answer to that one, too.
Just as he had in the schoolyard two nights ago, Blair stood his ground when Sheena turned on him. Head down, chin thrust forward, hands clenched at her sides, she ground out the words, spitting each one of them at Sandburg, including Jim with one angry, raking glance.
"Look, Sherlock, Persis is the idiot who opened the door in the first place. She actually believed it when he said he wouldn't hurt her again! In spite of her so-called help since then, * I've* taken care of Emby, and Morag, just like I said I would. We *don't* need your help! Or your protection!"
Jim knew Blair's shock was reflected on his own face. Dammit! Why did they have to pry everything concerning this case out of this woman--women?
"We can do more than protect you. We can make sure this guy can't hurt you or anybody else again." Jim put all his authority as Sentinel of the Great City into that promise. "Why did she open the door?"
Sheena sighed, and turned toward him. The look in her eyes was bleak, icy, forlorn -- a child lost in a blizzard of terror and shame, utterly and absolutely alone with no hope of rescue.
"I don't know. Little bitch never would say why. That's why you can't protect us. No one can. No one ever did before, why would it be any different now?" She turned away, back to the window, but not before he saw the shimmer of tears in her eyes. "We don't need your protection. Find someone who does."
"Look, we're not like your father. We will protect you." Blair added his own promise to Jim's. "You can trust us."
"Please, just leave my father out of this." The soft plea was barely audible, shocking as it was. Not so much that she said it, but how she said it. Tired, weary, aching.
"Why?" No response. Jim stepped up, hating to ask this, but someone had to. "Sheena, your father...was he protecting this guy? Did he know the man who attacked you?"
"He wasn't protecting anyone."
Oh, God. Blair's eyes closed, and Jim stared out the windows for a minute. Silence reigned, the loft echoing with the quiet despair, the undertones resonating in that simple statement.
"Sheena." Jim's voice was soft, compassionate. What else could he be? Trouble was, they needed information, information that someone rattling around in the body before him had to have. Sheena didn't move, and Jim pushed a little harder. "Who was the man at your father's funeral? How did he know about the sound room in the basement?"
"Everyone who'd ever been to our house knew about that room. Daddy was so proud of it; he took such good care of that damn stereo, made damn sure it could be locked up and protected."
Unlike his daughter. Jim and Blair both heard it, she didn't have to say it. Blair's eyes were closed again, his lips moving soundlessly. Sandburg wasn't a religious man, Jim knew, but this was enough to send anyone begging to whatever God they believed in to make it better--or to demand why it had been allowed to happen in the first place.
Sheena wouldn't look at either one of them. Her heart rate was going through the roof, and she was sweating, shaking....and then, suddenly, she was in control again. Turning, she looked at both Jim and Blair with some of the same regal arrogance that Persis had displayed not twenty minutes ago.
"Look, as fascinating as you all seem to find this conversation, I'm tired, and my head hurts." She sighed, then shot a glare at Jim. "I'm not even going to bother asking if I can smoke here. If you feel you must protect me, can you at least get me something for this headache you're compounding and let me get some sleep?"
"Um, sure," Blair responded quickly, turning and heading for the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
*Coward.* Jim thought at his back. Not that he blamed his roommate. This case was turning into more of a nightmare everytime they turned around.
The silence grew as they waited for Blair. Jim and Sheena avoided each other's gaze, listening to the creak of the medicine cabinet and the rattle of the aspirin bottle. Water rushed into the sink, the sound echoing in the glass as Blair placed it under the stream. A minute later, Sandburg returned to the living room, holding the glass and the aspirin out as he came to a stop in front of Sheena. She didn't take either offering. Instead she stepped inside his outstretched arms and, threading her fingers quickly through his hair, pulled his lips against hers. The glass shattered on the floor as, pressing herself up against him, Sheena kissed Blair, hard.
Jim moved, but Blair was faster. His hands grabbed Sheena's and peeled her off his body. Stiffening as he held her out in front of him, those grey eyes returned his astonished gaze half in amusement, half daring him to finish what she'd started. It was taking Blair a minute to find his voice, and Sheena laughed, low and deep in her throat. Dropping her voice to a sultry whisper, she pushed herself towards Blair again, and purred, "I can give you everything you wanted that night, and more."
"Sheena, that is like *so* not going to happen--" Blair started, but she yanked free of his grasp and sneered, "What's the matter, Blair? Not interested in damaged goods?"
In spite of everything, Jim wanted to slap her, hard, just as hard as she'd tried to play his roommate. Fortunately, Blair was in the way.
"At the risk of being trite, real men don't treat their friends that way. I wouldn't do it to Morag, and I won't do it to you." Rolling her eyes, Sheena snorted her disbelief before turning away from Blair, towards Jim. Blair just looked at her, all calm patient reasonableness. "Morag is my friend, Sheena. And, whether you choose to believe it or not, you are too."
That hit, hit hard, right in the center of her being, same place Blair's compassion hit just moments before. Jim saw her shudder, saw the wounded look in her eyes before the Viewmaster could click it back to hard and angry. Arms folded tightly against her chest, Sheena ignored them both, staring at a point somewhere just to the right and above Jim's shoulder. He started to move, to get a broom, but Blair was already heading back toward the kitchen.
Jim's head whipped around when he felt the displaced air, to find Sheena standing in front of him--*right* in front of him. Head cocked to one side, lips parted in what any other time would have been a seductive smile, she reached out and softly traced the line of one bicep beneath his t-shirt.
"I don't suppose you take Blair's rejects." Her eyes locked with his as she brought both hands up to caress his chest. Thumbs circling lightly over his pectorals, she looked Jim up and down, obviously approving of what she saw. Jim was aware of Blair staring at them from across the room. Hands stilling, Sheena licked her lips, then shrugged slightly with one shoulder, leaning into him, her body almost but not quite touching his. "That's too bad," she whispered. "You military types really know how to make a girl scream. Must be that wonderful rigidity you have."
Jim gently captured her hands, waiting until those eyes met his.
"You're not a reject, Sheena."
She froze, the Viewmaster unable to shift this reaction aside. Jim watched as this bullet went right through the ice she'd surrounded her heart with, watched the white frosted panes of protection, weakened already, shatter, one by one, layer by layer, until his words lay in her heart, next to Sandburg's. Her eyes snapped shut and she jerked her hands from his just before the familiar prickle came across Jim's neck and shoulders. Someone gasped, then, reaching out blindly and Jim barely had time to catch her as she collapsed, lowering her gently to the floor. Sandburg was there, broom falling on the floor beside them. They waited an impossibly long moment for those eyes to open, to see who was here now. Then her eyelids fluttered, and she was there. No longer cool, not so aloof, but still...Morag. Helping her to sit up, her feet tucked demurely to one side, Jim kept a hand on her elbow, steadying her. Eyes flicking nervously from one to the other of them, she clutched at Blair as he reached for her other arm.
She was trembling, shaking, and, closing her eyes, she swallowed, then whispered, "Oh, God, what kind of a fool have I made of myself this time?"
Blair brushed the hair back from her face, gently.
"You're not a fool, Morag, you're *not* a fool," he whispered vehemently, pulling her into an embrace. Still shivering, Morag huddled against him as he rocked her slowly. Jim gave them a moment, then touched Morag's shoulder gently.
"I think we should all get some sleep. We can talk more in the morning."
Later this morning actually, the kitchen clock read 3:00 a.m. as they helped Morag stand, Blair's arm still around her. Jim bent down for the broom, keeping an eye on the pair as they headed for Blair's room. Morag leaned heavily against his roommate; Jim wasn't sure if it was for actual or moral support. At the door she stopped, one hand reaching out to grasp the door jamb.
"Morag?" Blair was solicitious, shooting a concerned gaze back at Jim. Jim frowned. He hadn't felt anything that indicated a change in personality. Morag shuddered, then faced Blair before turning to meet Jim's gaze over her shoulder. The ice was gone, shattered in the light of the night's revelations. Now her eyes were ash grey, ashes whirling in the storm. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. She closed her eyes briefly, then met Jim's gaze again.
"Martha." Her voice was low and rough. For a minute, he wasn't sure he'd heard her right.
"What?" Blair said it for both of them, and her gaze swung back to him.
Morag stared at Blair for a long moment. Sandburg's arm tightened around her, and she favored him with a ghostly smile. Taking a deep breath, her eyes closed, and then she met his gaze, including Jim with a glance.
"Sheena says to tell you...he called her Martha."
"'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir,' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'"
Blair woke at the 'snick' of a door closing, but he just lay there, comfortable in his cocoon of covers. The air about his face was warm already; Jim had been up long enough to get a fire going. Shifting, Blair curled in on himself and settled further into his warm nest. The shower was running, and he sluggishly decided the few extra moments of warmth were worth the abbreviated wash he'd have to take when it came his turn. Stretching and wiggling as his brain refused to give in to the drowsy comfort in which his body was luxuriating, Blair concluded it was nice to see the sun again in the mornings. The days of waking up in the dark and coming home from work in the dark were gone, though the long wobble toward the sun and the halcyon days of summer twilight wasn't complete yet. Oh well, a few extra hours of dark in the winter were definitely worth those wonderful extended evenings, when the sun didn't set until after 9 o'clock. He rolled over, seeking a more comfortable spot as his dozy ruminations continued.
Well, okay, not that he'd call the floor beside the couch *un*comfortable, it just wasn't quite what he'd had in mind when he flopped over on his back. At least he'd missed the coffee table on the way down, though. He really ought to be grateful for small favors. The only drawback to the situation was that the living room floor was cold. Darn cold. Down right drafty, as a matter of fact. Blinking slowly at the ceiling beams above him, Blair tried to recall just why he had slept on the couch--an attempt hindered by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting from the kitchen. Some deity please bless his roommate, the man had put coffee on *before* getting in the shower.
Indulging in a huge yawn, Blair tilted his head back. The sky outside the wall of windows was pale turquoise washed with gold above a thick, cottony blanket of ash-colored fog. Great. Just great. He watched the fog rise disgustedly. He *so* did not need another depressing day like yesterday. Yesterday...Last night...Last night! Brain and body finally reached the same waking wavelength, and Blair sat up abruptly.
"Shit!" Blair exclaimed softly, shooting a cautious glance toward the closed doors of his room as one hand went to his head where it had connected with the coffee table. Kicking free of the comforter that had flowed with him off the couch, he stood, scanning the loft for his backpack. There, by the door where he'd dumped it beside Morag's yesterday. Only now there was no sign of Morag's pack, just his shoes placed neatly at the side of his own scuffed up bag. Blair grinned. Jim must have taken his shoes off of him last night, after he fell asleep in the chair. The Sentinel had probably considered tucking in his wayward roommate a fair exchange for escaping the nightly installment of Star Trek.
Though in light of what came later, Jim probably would have happily settled for Star Trek in the first place.
Okay, into the kitchen for coffee, grab his pack, then back to the couch. Wrap the comforter around his shoulders because in spite of the fire crackling softly there was still that cold draft from somewhere. Hopefully Morag would sleep for a while longer while he surfed for some information. Persis's Eeyore hat still sat on top of the coffee table, and Blair moved it carefully aside before setting his computer down. Opening his laptop, he quickly connected the phone line, then left his warm spot long enough to string the line over and plug the modem in beside the kitchen phone. He remembered to set a chair across the cord in the hall. Jim would not be happy if someone-- namely him--tripped over it first thing in the morning. Back at the couch, wrapped in his comforter again, Blair tucked his feet up under him and drank gratefully from the steaming mug as he waited for the laptop to boot up.
He'd read up on Multiple Personality Disorder after David Lash, after his own nightmare with the serial killer was averted, so he knew a little bit about this. The official diagnosis was now "Dissociative Identity Disorder." DID was the response of creative and resilient minds to a world that made no sense, a reality that would destroy them if they did not flee. It was a fine and brilliant madness--not truly madness at all, not until the system caved in on itself, until the infighting screwed up the protection racket that had preserved the sanity of a terrified child. Truth was, David Lash was an aberration. Children who dealt with trauma by dissociating usually came out better in the long run than the ones who couldn't push the trauma away, those who couldn't insulate themselves from the horror in which they walked. Adults repressed or went insane, sometimes both. Children who ran away inside themselves usually lived to play another day.
Shuddering, he shoved aside the memories of David Lash in his long brown wig, "being" Blair, screaming in tandem with Blair's own cries for help. Unlike Lash, Morag wasn't victimizing anyone; she'd been victimized enough for any number of people.
The computer screen finally came up, and he logged onto the Internet. Grabbing his glasses from the coffee table, Blair sorted quickly through the websites that his search called up. He filled one page in his notebook and half of another with notes from the most promising ones before Jim shut off the shower. Wishing belatedly for his printer, sitting uselessly on his desk in his bedroom, Blair scrolled down the page, found another pertinent section of the website, and started writing again, trying not to press too hard on the screen of his laptop as he kept his place on the page with a finger. A blast of steam accompanied his roommate out of the bathroom. Pausing only to push his glasses further up his nose, Blair kept writing.
"Did you open a window?" Jim's voice shot through the early morning stillness, and Blair jumped. Looking over his shoulder at his roommate, Blair frowned. Come to think of it, that draft was pretty strong.
"No, I didn't."
Bare-chested, wearing only a pair of sweats, Jim swung around. His feet made no sound on the floor of the loft as he took two steps over to the doors to Blair's room. Standing there, he stared at his feet for a moment before looking over at his Guide.
Blair's stomach dropped, just like it had on the parachute drop when he was fourteen, when he'd foolishly listened to the friends who took him to Six Flags for the day.
"Nooo..." It was half plea, half moan, and he was up and over the back of the couch. Jim barely got his feet out of the way before Blair was standing in the same spot, knocking at the bedroom door and calling Morag's name. No answer, and he flung the door open.
It was rather silly, some part of his mind observed, for the two of them to stand there and gawk at the empty room this way. White noise generators hissing, his bed unmade, the fire escape door stood partially open, the cool morning air flowing through it into the warmer air of the loft.
"Damn!" Jim disappeared momentarily, and that same shocked part of Blair's mind knew he'd gone to get dressed and find his gun, though what good a gun would do against an unarmed grad student was debatable. The rest of him, including his pounding heart, knew if their perp had been watching, if he'd seen Morag leaving here, she was in deep trouble. The gun wouldn't be any use then either.
Blair's feet decided not to wait for Jim. Pelting down the fire escape, he swore. Why hadn't he realized the closing door he'd woken up to hadn't been Jim going into the bathroom, but Morag closing the door to his room behind her? She'd stepped out long enough to claim her pack and then run--someone had anyway. Sheena? Persis? Morag? No telling who or why, not now.
Helplessly, Blair stood in the alley behind the loft, shifting from one cold foot to the other as he waited for Jim to join him. He couldn't tell which way Morag had gone; that was the Sentinel's job. Then Jim was beside him, listening, sniffing...Blair followed as the Sentinel suddenly bolted down the alley. Four blocks later Blair couldn't ignore the protest of his bare feet any longer. He limped along half a block behind Jim, cursing the cold concrete, the icy pavement and all the little stones and debris he'd stepped on. The sight of Jim kneeling at the curb half a block down Morrison Ave from Prospect Street banished those complaints forever. His friend held Morag's Piglet doll, her backpack at his feet, ripped open and the contents spilled out across the sidewalk and into the street.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tattered streamers of fog clung to the tops of the evergreens, wispy wreaths reaching from tree to tree on either side of the highway as Jim drove. Above, there wasn't any way to tell where the fog ended and the sky began, hardly any evidence the sun existed at all, except for the gray light Jim drove through. On the other side of the pick up, red shirt incongruously bright against the soft colors of the day, Sandburg stared out the window. It was odd to see him like that, Morag's battered Piglet doll in his lap, his hands still, apparently run dry of words for the moment. Jim knew the younger man was trying to pick his way through the misty landscape of Morag's mind, figure out why--and who--had run from their protection this morning. Why, indeed? Blair was angry, frustrated, and scared for Morag. And he had every right to be.
The pickup rocked slightly as Sandburg shifted in his seat, and Jim glanced at his partner. Blair turned his head, stared balefully at the older man for a moment before he held one hand up, palm out.
"You know, Jim, I am like *so* not in the mood for your 'let the cops do their job' speech right now. So let's just not even go there, okay?"
Jim swallowed a retort. Damn, he'd walked right into that one. Okay, find a different tack. One hand rubbing his forehead, the Sentinel listened to the faint whump of the wheels on the sections of the concrete highway as he watched the mile markers. He concentrated on calculating how much farther until their turnoff, trying not to zone on either the diffuse greyness of the day or the memories he kept playing over and over. What had they done wrong? How had the fragile trust they had established last night with Sheena been so quickly shattered? Damn it, they'd passed her test, both of them, and still she'd run. * If* it was her. Jim sighed, slowing down and hitting the turn signal as his exit came up.
"Blair, look, you did everything you could do. No one had been in her apartment, and they'll notify Simon if she shows up at the university. We don't know for sure that anyone's grabbed her--"
"Oh, that's a crock, Jim and you know it. Where else could she be? Why the hell was her stuff all over the street?" Blair lifted the Piglet doll by the neck and shook it at Jim. "I know enough to know she'll keep all her important stuff with her, man, to help her know who and where she is. She'd never go off without it, and there's no way she'd ever leave it all strewn all over the road!" Blair stared at the doll for a minute before dropping it on the seat beside him. Staring out the window again, he shook his head. "You and I both know she isn't going to show up at the University, Jim. Hell, she isn't going to show up anywhere except dead in the city limits of Cascade Monday morning. I don't know about you, but seems to me that's gonna be a really shitty way to start my week."
"But that also means we have time to find her, Chief. Look, this guy's stuck to the same MO for almost 20 years now. He won't change it at this late date." Maybe Jim spent all his own confidence on those words because by the time Sandburg nodded, accepting his statement, Jim wasn't certain himself their man would cooperate. Heaven help Morag then, because Cascade P.D. sure didn't have a clue.
"Shit, Jim, I know that. I just can't figure out why she left. Dammit, I thought we were getting somewhere, I thought at least Persis or Sheena trusted us." Shaking his head again, Blair tapped one hand nervously on the door next to him. "Obviously we didn't get as far as we thought we did. Hell, I don't know, Morag may have decided she couldn't face up to us knowing her secret. I don't know, I just don't know."
And not knowing was eating his friend alive inside.
"Maybe it wasn't her. And maybe that's why whoever it was did leave. Because we were getting somewhere." Jim didn't try to explain why anyone would be more threatened by friends trying to help than a serial rapist and murderer. That one he really wasn't sure he wanted to figure out. "How much control would Morag herself have in a situation like this?"
Blair sighed, chewed on his lip for a minute.
"I don't really know. It depends on how the system works, if she's truly the host personality, the main person that the others split from. She's obviously got some control, but if she's tired and stressed my guess is the others have more leeway at those times to run things."
Morag had definitely been tired and stressed last night. Definitely. Trouble was, much as they'd like to, they didn't need to know why Morag had run. What they needed right now was to know who their perp was, and how they could catch him before Morag became a victim for the third time. Jim had spent a large chunk of precious time this morning convincing Sandburg it would be better for him to accompany the detective up to Samish, to interview Detective Po, than to risk serious injury at Simon's hands by dogging the rest of Major Crime's efforts to find Morag. The APB was out, and once they'd checked all of Morag's hangouts, few as those were, there just wasn't much they could do except watch and wait--and pray their perp stuck to his schedule while Jim and Sandburg tried to piece together the few pieces of the puzzle they'd gained last night. Except in the light of day it didn't look like they'd actually gained much at all from their midnight conversation.
His foot settling back on the accelerator, Jim glanced at his watch. Just ahead was a small sign indicating another ten miles to Samish. Hopefully this trip would net something, anything that would help put the events of the last few days into perspective, something that would help them track this guy down before he killed again. Jim stared ahead, into the fog, wishing some answers would come to him. None were forthcoming, stubbornly avoiding him the way they had avoided him since he got up this morning.
Sandburg shook his head, then sighed and quietly watched the scenery roll by for a moment.
"There's just one thing that bothers me--"
"Just one thing?" Jim's grin faded when Sandburg ignored the jibe, frowning and shaking his head.
"All of the stuff I read said that Dissociative Identity Disorder happens in children, children exposed to severe trauma over a prolonged period of time. It's rare, extremely rare in adults, or teenagers. I guess it's harder to dissociate then, to push things away. Adults tend to repress things, not build whole new people to handle the situation."
Oh oh.... Jim wasn't sure he liked the sounds of this.
"What are you saying, that Persis, Sheena, they're not all the result of that first attack?"
Blair shook his head.
"Persis is about what, five? Morag's mother died when she was five or six."
"Maybe that's why, the trauma of losing a parent, especially in an accident, and if she was injured as well..."
Blair shook his head again. Careful, didn't need him getting car sick.
"No, that shouldn't cause this complete of a split, I mean, Persis is real, she's a person, not a fragment. There's more to this than that. Sheena makes sense, she obviously handled the rape and all that for Morag, but Persis, where did Persis come from?"
"You've got me, Chief. Figuring out what makes a woman tick, even a young one, is more than I've ever been able to do."
"Ha ha, Jim. Very funny."
Well, okay, so he wasn't George Burns. Course, it would help if Sandburg wasn't in such a bad mood. Couldn't blame a man for trying to cheer a friend up. He glanced at Sandburg, frowning again out the window of the pickup. Well, then again, today Sandburg could blame Mother Theresa for not feeding enough of the poor. Jim sighed. Good thing their destination was in sight.
Samish, Washington was so small it barely qualified as a wide spot in the road. On the left side of the street, a dozen or so narrow houses on tiny lots crowded into the three block long, one block wide area between the rocky beach and the highway. Several of the houses fronting the highway were businesses as well. Across the highway another two or three dozen homes enjoyed larger lots, dotted amongst the pine trees on the gently rolling hills. The businesses on the east side of the road were actual buildings, not just someone's living room.
Already slowed to meet the requisite 25 mph speed limit for the small collection of homes and businesses, Jim drove past the pint-sized grocery store and the ever present am/pm convenience store/gas station. So far the largest business in town seemed to be a weathered grey building on the inland side of the highway. Festooned with heavy ropes and brightly painted red and white life preservers, it boasted a sign that proclaimed "Barnacle Bob's--Best Bargains South of Bellingham" and squatted in a sea of grey statuary, gnomes and squirrels and seagulls mixed in with any number of other fauna.
"Okay, now explain to me just exactly why anyone would want a concrete seagull?" Blair complained.
Jim shook his head as he signaled briefly, then turned and parked the turquoise and white truck in an empty space across the street from Barnacle Bob's.
"Beats me, Chief."
Across from Barnacle Bob's stood three cramped Victorian homes, their bright pink and turquoise exteriors unable to hide their fading aristocracy. The front windows were adorned with signs that read "Lotions by Lucy" (which promised Lucy was a New Age Herbalist who could mix potions as well as lotions), and "Annie's Antiques" and "Tea Time Treasures." Just beyond the three painted ladies was another slightly larger building, square and plain, painted a more respectable shade of tan and proclaiming "Po's Paperback Exchange."
"What, the entire town has Alliterative Disorder?" Blair groused, as he joined Jim on the wooden boardwalk in front of the buildings. The only noises in the small town besides the pounding surf and cries of seagulls on the beach was the wind and an occasional car driving through, straight through.
"Academic snobbery doesn't become you, Chief," Jim retorted, and led the way to Po's store, their footsteps resonating on the wooden walk.
"Well, they don't need doorbells with this sidewalk, do they?"
Jim just rolled his eyes and sighed, holding the door for his roommate to precede him into the bookstore. About the only thing that would bring Blair out of this snit he'd wound himself up in was for Morag to turn up, safe and sound. In the meantime Jim could only hope the grad student wouldn't disgrace himself or Cascade P.D.
Continued in Part Seven...