Life Is Uncertain
by Kay Lillibridge
Summary: A bomb scare at Rainier University's library interrupts an afternoon of study for Blair.
Note: This story is based on an actual event at the San Francisco main library.
Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Pet Fly and Paramount. I'm just borrowing them for a little while.
Late afternoon sunlight poured through the high windows of the main library at Rainier University, dust motes dancing in a stray sunbeam. Seated at one of the sturdy oak study tables, Blair Sandburg was deeply engrossed in a recently published journal article on the ceremonial headgear of the U'wa tribe of New Guinea. When the normal background hum of students passing through the stacks took a sudden upswing and became a muted roar, Blair didn't notice. What finally pulled his head up was an announcement over the library's public address system.
"Attention, attention. Due to an unforeseen maintenance problem we must close the building immediately. Please leave at once by the closest exit. I repeat, everyone please exit the building now."
Blair quickly gathered his books and notes and stuffed them into his backpack. Reluctantly he left the journal on the table; it was a reference item and he knew there'd be hell to pay if he tried to take it out of the building with him. Grumbling under his breath about the inconvenience, Blair joined a small stream of students heading for a nearby exit. He wasn't really paying attention, his thoughts still on the article, when he heard something that snapped his head around.
"I'm telling you Becka, I heard the guard say there's a bomb!" A petite redhead was gesturing back toward the circulation desk while dragging another young woman toward the exit with her other hand.
"No way!" Her companion hissed. "A bomb in here? You need some decaf, Lucy."
Blair lost track of the two women as he spun back toward the main desk. If there was a bomb in here, Joel would need to know anything he could find out. However, before he'd even gotten halfway, a burly security guard intercepted him.
"Not this way, kid. Back the way you came."
"No, really, man. I need to know what's going on! My friend is on the bomb squad and he'll need all the information I can give him."
The guard shook his head and placed a beefy hand flat against Blair's chest. "I don't care if you know Mohammed Ali, everybody's supposed to leave the building. Now." He shoved lightly and Blair was forced to step back or tip over.
Craning his neck to see past the guard, Blair caught a glimpse of a white-faced librarian hurrying out the front doors, but nothing else. The guard cleared his throat and Blair mumbled a quick sorry, then turned and went out one of the nearby side exits.
When he emerged into the sunshine he hurried around to the front of the building. He'd left his cell phone home today, but there was a pay phone half a block down the street. He was so intent on his goal that he didn't notice the blue and white truck pulling to a stop at the curb, but the familiar voice bellowing his name brought him screeching to a halt.
"Jim!" Blair hurried over to his partner as Ellison got out of his truck. "Hey, did you hear there might be a bomb in the library?"
Jim clapped him on the shoulder. "No Chief, I just need a copy of 'The Gingerbread Man' for my presentation tomorrow."
"Ha ha, very funny."
Jim chuckled and steered Blair toward the main doors of the library. "No, I was in the neighborhood and when I heard the call was for Rainier I decided to stop by and check it out."
"Cool. Is Joel coming?" Blair asked.
As if summoned by his name, Joel Taggart stepped out of a police cruiser and walked over to join the two men. "So, Blair, why am I not surprised to find you here?"
Jim grinned and cuffed Blair lightly on the head. "Because the kid attracts trouble. He's like a magnet, he can't help it."
Joel chuckled and nodded, much to Blair's annoyance. "Come on, you guys. There may be a bomb in there!"
Joel grew serious and nodded again. "I got the call just a few minutes ago. Can you tell me anything, Blair?"
"No," Blair turned to look at the crowd of students and staff milling about on the sidewalk across the street, "but something sure caused the head librarian to empty the building."
Just then a bomb squad truck pulled up and Joel hurried off to confer with his team. Blair and Jim crossed the street to join the small group of ousted librarians and students and a growing crowd of gawkers. Blair kept twisting his head this way and that, trying to see what Joel and the bomb squad were doing. Finally, Jim laid a hand on his shoulder. "Chief, you're giving me spasms just looking at you. Hold still for just two seconds and I'll go see what's up."
When Jim returned from conferring with one of the police officers stationed at the front of the library he told Blair that there had been a phoned-in bomb threat. The caller had been very explicit about where the device was located: a second floor trash can.
"No way! Who'd want to bomb Rainier's main library?" Blair was nearly bouncing on his feet with suppressed energy.
"Well, Chief, there was that protest last week against the change in admissions policy."
"That? Oh come on, they drop affirmative action and someone wants to bomb the library?"
Jim spread his hands. "I've heard worse excuses in my time. I'm sure Joel could spin some doozies."
As if summoned by his name again the bomb squad leader came out of the library, a deep frown etched into his face. He called over one of his team, spoke to her briefly and then disappeared back into the building. A few moments later two bomb squad members raced inside carrying a bulky case.
"What'd he say, Jim? Did you hear him?"
"He was telling them to bring in the portable x-ray. They must have found something."
Ten minutes crept by with excruciating slowness. Blair shifted >from foot to foot, then switched his backpack to his other shoulder. He glanced over at his partner, who seemed to be serenely contemplating the gothic carvings on the facade of the building. "Jim, how can you just stand there like that?"
"Hmm? What, I should bounce around like that hyper Taco Bell Chihuahua instead?"
"Be serious! Aren't you dying to know what's going on?"
"We'll know pretty soon, I hear people coming out again."
A few moments later Joel and the rest of the bomb squad came out onto the front steps. Joel talked with a few members of his team, then turned and scanned the crowd. When he spotted Jim and Blair he waved the two of them over.
Blair was almost bursting with questions. "So? Did you find the device? What was it? Did you blow anything up? I didn't hear any explosions. Do you know who put it in there? Where was it? Was it C4 or something like that? How about a note? This was really tense, I was worried about you in there."
When Blair ran out of breath Joel and Jim exchanged identical glances, then Joel broke into a huge grin and started chuckling.
"What?" Blair demanded. "What's so funny?"
"Aw Jeez, Blair, it was a piece of cake."
"What?" Blair was beginning to look confused.
"A piece of cake!" Joel was really laughing now.
"You shouldn't denigrate yourself man. What you do is important work!"
Jim was fighting back a grin of his own. "No, he means it Chief. I heard the squad boys talking as we walked over here. They found a suspicious box in one of the top floor garbage cans, but when they x-rayed it --"
"It was a piece of cake!" Joel was almost gasping now, he was laughing so hard.
"Huh?" Blair looked back and forth between the two men. "You're not pulling my leg, it was really a piece of cake?"
Joel wiped tears from his eyes. "Yeah, devil's food cake with fudge icing, from that bakery Just Desserts."
"No, no bomb."
Jim smirked when he saw Blair's stunned expression, then began to laugh as the grad student's mouth formed a silent O.
Joel couldn't resist adding "It was a sweet ending to the whole affair."
Blair groaned, then grinned as a wicked thought crossed his mind. "Well then," he said seriously, "I guess the day's motto should be 'life is uncertain, eat dessert first'."
Blair danced back out of reach as both Joel and Jim made a grab for him, then joined in their laughter. Sweet ending, indeed.
~ fini ~