When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best
by Jamie Ritchey
Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters belong to Pet Fly and Paramount. No copyright infringment intended. This is all in fun.
Author's notes: The title is borrowed from a greeting card company, apropos since the two greeting cards quoted are real. They can be found in Hallmark's Shoebox line. Thanks go to all the great ideas from the gang at TSWriters, especially Bonnie, TAE, CC, Teej, Abelard, Lila, and Dee, whose suggestion gave me the title.
Detective Jim Ellison strolled across the bullpen and dropped his Wonderburger take-out sack on his desk. After hanging his jacket on the back of his chair, he sat down and arranged his breakfast burrito, hash browns and coffee with scrupulous neatness on a napkin he had laid out to catch any crumbs. With Blair Sandburg, his roommate and poster boy for healthy eating, completing his training at the police academy in another couple of weeks, Jim was enjoying his gastronomic transgressions to the fullest. So far, he had partaken of every fast food restaurant between the loft and the precinct for either breakfast or lunch every day, and was now on his second go-round.
Closing his eyes, Jim practically zoned on the explosion of flavors stimulating his sensitive taste buds; the balance of eggs, cheese, sausage, tortilla and grease absolute perfection. So distracted was he, that the loud "THWUMP" that came from in front of him almost startled him into dropping his burrito. He opened his eyes to find a six inch stack of files flattening his ketchup packets, a large brown hand resting on top. Tracking along the arm attached to the hand, he eventually found himself looking into the stern face of his Captain, Simon Banks.
"What's this?" he asked, glaring at the prodigious pile of paper that had been plopped in the middle of his breakfast.
Simon smiled. Jim recognized that smile. It was the "I'm the boss and I like it that way" smile.
Pressing both palms flat on the files, Simon leaned forward. "This? Why, this is paperwork, Detective." Then Simon stretched up to his full, imposing height and crossed his arms across his chest. "I realize it's been a long time since you had to handle any of it, PERSONALLY, what with Magic-fingers Sandburg around to do it for you." Simon placed a companionable hand on Jim's shoulder, his most malevolent grin splitting his face. "But give it a whirl. I know it'll all come back to you."
Jim raised his hand, preparing to object, but Simon was already walking toward his office.
Pausing a moment as he entered, Simon glanced back at his dejected detective. "I want it finished, TODAY," he stated firmly, then closed the door with a self-satisfied slam.
Jim slumped back in his chair, acknowledging defeat when it was dropped in his lap. Well, in this case, dropped on his desk. After taking another bite of his burrito, he grabbed the first file and began to go through it. This is going to be a fun day, he groused to himself.
Before heâ€™d finished updating the first report, Rhonda came over to his desk, smiling in sympathy. "Here's another bit of paperwork for you, Jim. But I think you're going to like this one."
She handed him a stamped, small purple envelope. He recognized the scrabbled handwriting on it as Blair's. He gave her a lopsided grin and said, "Thanks".
Turning it over in his hands, letting his fingertips brush lightly over Sandburg's name in the return address, he wondered why Blair was sending him a greeting card. It wasn't his birthday, there wasn't a holiday coming up, and since when did a lowly cadet have the opportunity with his busy schedule at the academy to go shopping for one.
Carefully slicing open the envelope, he pulled out the card. The picture on the bottom right corner was of a tiny cartoon cat looking a little forlorn. Across the top in big letters were the words,
I MISS YOU SO MUCH
Inside the card, it read,
SOMETIMES I HIT MY BRAKES TOO HARD AND SWERVE CRAZILY ALL BY MYSELF AND PRETEND IT'S YOU AT THE WHEEL.
Blair had written a short note underneath. "I can't believe I miss getting tossed around in your truck. Home, soon. Blair"
Everyone in the bullpen turned toward the sound of a delighted Detective Ellison laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.
Cadet Blair Sandburg trudged wearily back to the dorms after a long day of classes. Two more weeks and he would graduate. Then he could get back to his life as Jim's partner, only this time it would be official and permanent.
He was surprised to find some mail waiting for him as he checked his box on the way back to his dorm room. He'd kept the loft as his mailing address, and Jim would forward or deliver personally anything that looked important. On top of the weekly visits, he and Jim talked frequently on the phone, so letters were superfluous. When he'd been shopping for shaving supplies, he'dd browsed through the greeting cards while he waited for the other cadets he'd hitched a ride with. A card had caught his eye, it was SO Jim. The small purple envelope he was now holding was much like the one he had mailed to Jim a few days ago. Checking the handwriting, he saw it was the familiar Ellison scrawl. Jim must have liked the card and decided to reciprocate.
Dropping his books on his desk, he ripped open the envelope. The card he slid out had the picture of a little car puttering along a wavy road that zigzagged across the top. Underneath the picture, it read,
THINGS JUST AREN'T THE SAME WHEN YOU'RE NOT HERE.
He burst out laughing when he read the inside.
FOR INSTANCE, WHEN I DRIVE SOMEWHERE, THERE'S NO ONE TO CLENCH THE DASHBOARD AND SCREAM IN TERROR.
It was signed at the bottom with, "I'll keep the light on for you, partner. Jim"
Blair sat down at his desk and read the card again. When he got home, he was going to put this card in his keepsake album, the one he used for special memories. It was just an old-fashioned photo album with some snapshots of Naomi and friends and family through the years, papers he'd written that he was especially proud of, the basketball card that Orvelle Wallace had autographed for him. Yes, he thought as he propped Jim's card at the top of his desk so he could see it while he studied. This one is a keeper.