New Arrivals
Author-Kim Jackson
Titles

Moon Lake
by Kim Jackson

Summary: Sequel to Fathers Don't Always Know Best. Blair is invited down to California for a weekend getaway with Maxi and her new friends, but things aren't as they seem. They soon discover something sinister going on when people start to die off one by one. Crossover with Diagnosis Murder. Rated R for blood, gore, drugs, and violence.

Author’s Notes: I got this idea after I saw a certain movie at the theater, and thought this would make a good story. See if you can guess which movie it was that inspired this story. Hint: There’s a certain someone in this movie that my interest all you TS fans out there. It was certainly a big surprise for me.

Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, and all other characters don’t belong to me. Any other characters do belong to me so if you wish to use them, please ask.

Moon Lake, California

Warren DeWitt pushed his way through the trees surrounding Moon Lake. Even though it was a full moon that night, Warren couldn’t see a thing. The trees blocked the light from the moon, making it pitch black. Warren was lost, but he wasn’t worried. He was aggravated. This was his weekend off, and he had been looking forward to spending it relaxing on his couch for the first time in a long time. But no. His friend, Madison, had to suggest a camping trip up to this out of the way place at a lake that was named because it was shaped slightly like a crescent moon. He hated camping and hiking, but he couldn’t say no. That would have been rude, and Madison had been so excited.

It hadn’t started so bad. But then Madison wanted to explore the surrounding area, but Warren hadn’t wanted to. Madison had looked a little disappointed, but she went anyway, leaving Warren alone at the campsite. After a while, he began to feel guilty and decided to go find her and apologize. And had promptly gotten lost.

“‘You’re gonna love it,’ she says. ‘It’s gonna be great,’ she says. ‘You’ll have fun,’ she says. Yeah right. I’m having loads of fun,” Warren grumbled as he pushed branches out of his way. “Ok,” he said, pausing. “Let’s think about this. I couldn’t have gotten too far away from the campsite. Oh man, why did I have to make so many twists and turns?”

He continued walking. A slight breeze brushed his cheek and he shivered, pulling his jacket closer. The shadows seemed to move eerily around him, and he suddenly had the feeling like he was being watched. He shook his head, trying to convince himself that it was nothing. As he walked by, he failed to notice the dark figure that seemed to materialize from the shadows.

He paused when he heard a twig snap behind him. His heart pounding, he turned around but saw nothing but trees. The wind picked up, rustling the leaves noisily. He hugged himself against the chill. After making sure no one was following him, he turned back around. He only had time to utter a startled yelp before an ax was buried deep in his chest, piercing his heart. He collapsed to the ground.

The trees shifted and the moon shone, and in the reflection of the glassy-eyed stare, a figure dressed in black and wearing a faceless mask could be seen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Loft, Cascade, Washington

Blair Sandburg sat at the kitchen table, his laptop computer open in front of him. He finally had the loft to himself as Jim was working late and decided to get a head start on his research paper. He was surfing the Net when an instant message popped up on screen.

Sonea14: Hi, Blair!

He smiled. He knew that username. It was Maxi Boone. He had met the young girl six months ago when Jim, Steve Sloan, a cop from LA, and a few others were kidnapped in order to teach their fathers a lesson. The two responsible had been Maxi’s two brothers, who had dragged their younger sister all over the country, on their quest to punish all fathers that they deemed unworthy of their children by tortured their children while the fathers watched. Maxi had helped them escape from her brothers, and afterwards had gone to LA with Steve and his father, Dr. Mark Sloan, to attend medical school there. She and Blair had kept in contact through email. Blair typed in his response.

Anthro1000: hey, whats up? Sonea14: nothing much. u? Anthro1000: oh just doing some research. Sonea14: oh how fun. i’m just surfing the net. u know, trying to take a break from studying. Anthro1000: oh that’s right. you’ve got midterms coming up don’t you? Sonea14: yeah and i am pooped. i’ve been studying for weeks now. Anthro1000: lol. i’m sure you’ll do fine. Sonea14: thanks. hey, what r u doing this weekend?

Blair thought about it. He actually had the next week off for spring break. He had planned to spend that time helping Jim out at the station, but as far as he knew there was nothing planned for this weekend.

Anthro1000: nothing that I can think of. why? Sonea14: well, some friends and i r going up to moon lake. one of my friends has a house up there right on the lake. anyway, jason, he’s the one who invited us, said that i could bring someone if i wanted to. i was wondering if u wanted to go. it’s just for the weekend. Anthro1000: you’re going up to a lake for the weekend huh? what about your studying? Sonea14: r u kidding? if i cram any more knowledge into my brain, it is going to explode. if i’m not ready by now, i’m not going to be. Anthro1000: lol Sonea14: so will u come? Anthro1000: well i don’t know. let me check with Jim first and i’ll get back to you. Sonea14: ok, talk to u later.

Blair closed his laptop and sat back. A weekend getaway to a house on the lake. Sounds like it could be fun, but he’d see if Jim needed him for anything first. He hated leaving the sentinel by himself. Jim could take care of himself, there was no doubt about that, but Blair worried about Jim’s senses going haywire. If he wasn’t around to help him out, there could be some serious consequences for Jim. But maybe he could get Jim to come to LA with him. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about him getting into trouble. Blair smiled. Yeah, he would try to convince the sentinel that a vacation was a good idea.

He looked at his watch and decided that it was time to start dinner. Jim would be home soon. He got up, put his laptop back in his room and went to the kitchen.

Jim walked in the door an hour or so later, and he looked annoyed. Of course, that didn’t faze Blair in the least. He smiled at the other man.

“Hey Jim. How did it go?” Blair asked.

Jim sighed as he hung his coat up on the hook by the door. “Not so good.”

Blair frowned as he followed his weary partner into the living room. “Still no luck in finding the guy responsible for those robberies?” he asked as he sat down on the couch next to Jim.

There had been a series of convenience store robberies over the past few weeks. Robbery had handled the case at first but the case got upgraded to Major Crime when the store owner and a customer were killed during the last robbery. Jim had been trying for the past three weeks to get this guy, but he was apparently very elusive.

“No,” Jim answered. “We found out the guy’s name, Jeremy Holland, but we just can’t find him. It’s like he disappeared off the face of the planet.”

Blair smiled. “What you need is a vacation.”

Jim snorted. “Yeah, that’d be nice.”

“Well, you know I do have the next week off from Rainier,” Blair said suggestively.

Jim looked at him suspiciously. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, we have been talking about going to Los Angeles for months now. And you know Steve, Mark, and Maxi would love to have us.”

Jim leaned back against the couch cushions. “That’s very tempting, but this case…”

“Is going nowhere,” Blair interrupted. “You said yourself. And I’m sure Simon would be very happy to authorize the leave since you haven’t had a decent vacation in like years. You can hand the case off to Brown and Rafe.”

“You’ve just thought of everything, haven’t you?” Jim asked, crossing his arms.

“Yes.”

“Uh huh. You know just yesterday you were talking about helping me out at the station all of next week. And now all of a sudden, you want to go on vacation to Los Angeles.” Jim narrowed his eyes. “Where did this idea come from?”

“Oh, I just had a chat with Maxi, and she and some friends are going up to a friend’s house at a lake near LA, and she invited me to go along.”

“Oh, I see. So why am I going to LA again?”

“It’s just for the weekend, and then I thought when I got back we could spend the rest of the week cruising the sights of Los Angeles. Come on. You could use the break.”

Jim seemed to mull it over. As the minutes rolled by, Blair started squirming impatiently. Jim laughed and finally relented.

“Alright, alright. Like you said, I could use the vacation.”

Blair’s mega watt smile was in full force as he bounced off the couch. “Great! I’m going to call Maxi.” He headed toward the phone.

Jim’s brow furrowed as his sensitive nose picked up the smell of something burning. “Hey Chief, I think the food’s burning.”

“Oh crap!” Blair detoured from the phone and hurried into the kitchen to shut off the oven. When he opened it, smoke billowed out. “Oh man.”

Jim came into the kitchen, the cordless phone in hand. “Chinese or pizza?” he asked.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

LAX Airport

A few days later found Jim and Blair disembarking from the plane in Los Angeles, California. It hadn’t taken any persuading to convince Simon to give Jim the time off, saying that Jim was long overdo for a vacation. So after letting Maxi know they were coming, they made arrangements for plane tickets and a rental car for Jim.

After getting their baggage, they headed toward the car rental desk.

“Man, I can’t wait for this vacation to get started,” Blair said excitedly.

Jim smiled at his partner bouncing along beside him. The kid was a veritable ball of energy. There was nothing so far that could keep the kid down for long. Jim could admit that he sometimes got on his nerves, but other times he was just a breath of fresh air when compared to the cynical cops he hung around all day. Not that he didn’t enjoy hanging around with those cops and he was probably just as cynical as they are, but it was nice to have someone on the Major Crime team who could look at things from a different perspective.

“So what are you going to do while I’m gone, Jim?” Blair asked.

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet,” Jim replied, signing for the rental car. He saw Blair’s frown and patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’ll figure something out.”

They hefted their bags and started searching around the airport. Steve and Maxi were supposed to meet them at the airport. They were going to show them the best hotel they could stay at and then take them out to dinner.

“Blair!”

They turned at the shout to see Maxi running excitedly towards them, an amused Steve following behind.

“Hey Maxi!” Blair greeted her enthusiastically.

“Are you excited or what?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Wait until you see the house. It is amazing. And the lake is beautiful.”

Jim joined Steve and the two watched as Maxi and Blair talked animatedly.

“She seems excited,” Jim said.

“So does he,” Steve added.

“Are you annoyed yet?”

“Very.”

“Good. At least I’m not the only one.”

“Hey, I heard that,” Blair said indignantly, but the corners of his mouth twitched into a smile.

“Oh, and I thought I was the sentinel.”

“Alright, alright. Let’s just go,” Maxi said.

They headed out the door. Steve and Maxi went to Steve’s truck while Jim and Blair went to the rental car, a dark blue SUV. The two partners followed the white truck to the hotel and after checking in and dropping their stuff of, all four of them piled into Steve’s truck.

“So where are we going to eat?” Blair asked.

“Oh, it’s a nice little barbeque place called BBQ Bob’s,” Steve said. “And I happen to know for a fact that the food is excellent and the service is suburb.”

“Eat there a lot, do you?” Jim asked.

“Well, yeah. And I own the place,” Steve answered.

“What?” Blair said, leaning forward to grip the back of Jim’s seat. “You own a barbeque restaurant?”

“Yeah. My friend, Jesse, and I bought it after…” Steve paused and Jim saw the brief look of terror on his face before it was gone.

“After what?” Blair asked quietly.

Maxi leaned forward as well in order to listen better. They had never told her why they bought the restaurant, and Maxi never thought to ask.

Steve took a deep breath. “After the hospital blew up…while we were still inside.”

Blair’s eyes widened. Maxi’s look of shock told the two from Cascade that they had never told her that.

“We were lucky to survive, and Jesse and I promised each other that if we lived, we were going to follow our dreams. And both of us had the dream of owning a restaurant.”

“What happened?” Maxi asked softly. “What caused the explosion?”

“It was a bomb. We had just got done with this serial bombing case, and the suspect’s sister wasn’t too happy that we arrested her brother.”

“Wow,” Blair whispered, leaning back.

BBQ Bob’s was a nice little place and was apparently very popular as it was packed with customers. The four paused at the door, looking for a free table.

“Hey Steve.” A young blonde man behind the counter greeted them as they walked in.

“Hey Jess. Well, business seems to be booming,” Steve said.

“Yeah. The dinner rush, you know.”

“Jess, I’d like you to meet some friends of mine from Cascade. This is Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg. I told you about them.”

“Oh yeah. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Jesse Travis. I’ve heard so much about you guys.” The young man smiled jubilantly.

Jim smiled back. This young man reminded him a lot of his young partner.

“Jesse owns the restaurant with me. He also works at the hospital with my dad,” Steve explained.

“You’re a doctor too?” Blair asked.

“Yeah,” Jesse replied with an easy smile.

“Wow, and I thought I was busy.”

“You are, Sandburg. Trust me. No one is busier than you,” Jim said.

“Thank you…I think.”

Jesse laughed. “Well, Mark and Amanda are over there if you want to join them. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“Alright. Thanks Jess,” Steve said, leading the way through the crowd to where his father and a young African American woman sat. “Hey Dad, Amanda.”

“Hi Steve,” Mark greeted and then his eyes fell on the two men behind his son. “Jim. Blair. Glad you could make it. This is Amanda Bentley. She’s a pathologist over at Community General, and she’s also a medical examiner for the police department.”

“Nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you boys,” Amanda said.

“So we’ve heard,” Jim said as they all sat down.

A few hours later, the seven of them had pushed two tables together and were talking and laughing together while they ate.

“No I absolutely am not kidding. This kid cannot stay out of trouble for the life of him,” Jim was saying. “He’s the biggest trouble magnet in the world.”

“Oh I am not. You’re exaggerating,” Blair argued.

“Ok, in Cascade. How’s that?”

“You lie. I do not get into that much trouble.”

The others at the table were laughing and shaking their heads. The partners had been arguing over this for the past twenty minutes.

“Oh yeah. You can’t even get on an elevator without getting into trouble,” Jim said.

Blair crossed his arms and glared. He looked like an indignant child who couldn’t get his way. “That was not my fault.”

“What about an elevator?” Maxi asked.

“Sandburg went to Wilkinson Tower to get some figurine appraised and on his way down, the elevator he was on got taken over by a psychopath wanting money. Threatened to drop the car if he didn’t get what he asked for,” Jim explained.

“Threaten nothing. He did drop that car,” Blair said. “Five floors every ten minutes. It was not a pleasant ride.”

“I should say not,” Mark said, incredulous.

“You must have been terrified,” Amanda said.

“Oh, I was especially after we found that bomb,” Blair said.

“Bomb?” Steve said.

“Yeah, there was a bomb in a briefcase.”

“Plus one that was wired to the hatch in the ceiling of the elevator car,” Jim added.

“Right. But I knew that Jim was working to get me out of there, and everything turned out all right in the end. No one on the car was seriously injured and the guy responsible was arrested. But like I said, that wasn’t my fault.”

“Ok, what about Iris?” Jim said with a smile.

Blair closed his eyes and leaned his head on his hand. “Oh man,” he groaned. “Am I never going to live that down?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Who’s Iris?” Jesse asked.

“She was a girl Sandburg met and helped move into her new apartment,” Jim explained.

“I thought she was pretty nice,” Blair added.

“Yeah, until she and her boyfriend, Chance, kidnapped you after they stole 100 kilos of uncut heroin from a guy named Artie Parkman.”

“Your girlfriend kidnapped you?” Maxi asked incredulously.

“No, she wasn’t my girlfriend. I had just met her. But yes, she did kidnap me,” Blair admitted.

“Man, and I thought you had bad luck with women,” Jesse said to Steve.

“Don’t go there, Jess,” Steve said.

“What happened?” Maxi asked.

“Well, after I was bounced around from one criminal to the next, Jim finally found me and saved my butt.”

“What do you mean ‘bounced around’?” Amanda asked.

“Well, let’s see. First I was kidnapped by Iris and Chance, but they threw me out of the car. And Artie Parkman came along and kidnapped me again, but I managed to get away from him. Then I ran into Iris and her brother later on, but I managed to get the drop on them. But then Parkman showed up again and took us outside at gunpoint.”

“Wow,” Jesse breathed. “Talk about bad luck.”

Mark shook his head. “What is the world coming to?”

“I don’t know, but I will say this. Sandburg being a trouble magnet is not entirely his fault,” Jim said.

Blair looked at his partner in surprise. “It’s not?”

“No. It also has to do with the fact that Cascade is the most dangerous city in America.”

“I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. Los Angeles takes that title,” Steve said.

“I begged a differ. You don’t know some of the things we’ve had to deal with,” Jim argued.

“Oh yeah. Like what?”

“Well, a couple of years ago, our precinct was taken over by a militia group called the Sunrise Patriots. They killed a bunch of cops, and took many more hostage including our Captain’s son.”

“And me,” Blair added.

Steve raised his eyebrows in shocked surprise. Then he seemed to shake it off. “Ok, that’s pretty bad. But we had a serial bomber lose on our streets not to long ago. He was blowing up buildings all over the city with no conceivable pattern. And after he was finally caught and executed, his son and daughter took over.”

Jim nodded. “Ok, ok. But we had a serial bomber of our own. She called herself the Switchman, and she was blowing up buildings using all different kinds of explosives. Plus she taunted me personally with letters and emails.”

“Well how about this? We nearly had an outbreak of a mutant strain of small pox. Dad and Jesse were exposed to it and were quarantined at our beach house while Amanda and I were running around trying to find out who synthesized it and if there was a vaccine.”

Jim and Blair looked at each other. Jim smiled as he looked back at the LA detective.

“Got you beat there. We nearly had an outbreak of the Ebola virus. A rogue CIA agent stole a canister of it and threatened to release it on the city if I didn’t help him steal a top secret government aircraft.”

“Wow,” Jesse whispered.

The two detectives went back and forth comparing the two cities, trying to decide which city was worse for about an hour. Blair shook his head. Now this was low. Arguing over which city was more dangerous. He looked at the other people at the table, and they looked like they had just about enough of this as well.

Mark leaned toward Blair. “Were they like this in Cascade?” he whispered.

“Pretty much. Only that time the topic was basketball.”

“Well, I for one have had enough of this. Tell them good-bye for me, will you please?” Amanda said to Mark before getting up and walking toward the exit, shaking her head and smiling.

Jesse got up too and went behind the counter to start cleaning up. The crowd had died down considerably, and it was nearly closing time.

“Hey guys,” Blair said. They continued as if they hadn’t even heard him. “Guys,” he said a little louder. Still they ignored him. He looked at Maxi and Mark and shrugged.

Maxi put her fingers in her mouth and blew out a loud whistle. Both men stopped talking and turned toward them. Jim winced and put a hand to one ear.

“That’s better,” Maxi said. “Now it’s nice hearing about all the adventures you guys have had, but enough is enough. Besides, it’s getting kind of late, and Blair and I have to be up in the morning.”

Steve looked at his watch. “Oh wow. It is late. I’ll give you guys a ride back to your hotel.”

“I’ll go with you,” Maxi said.

Steve looked around, just noticing that they were missing somebody. “Where did Amanda go?”

“She left while you two were arguing. I’ll see you at home, son,” Mark said.

“Oh. Alright.”

Back at the hotel, Blair and Jim got out of Steve’s truck.

“Now remember, Blair. I’ll meet you out here tomorrow at 8am,” Maxi said through the open window.

“Right,” Blair said.

“Wait a minute,” Jim said, coming to a stop. “Where is this lake again?”

“It’s just outside of Los Angeles,” Maxi replied.

“Uh huh. Where exactly?”

“Jim,” Blair scowled.

“What? I’d like to know where you are in case of trouble, and you know, with you there…”

“Alright. Let’s not start that again.”

Maxi laughed. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you directions to the house when I come to pick up Blair tomorrow morning. Good enough? Or would you rather I draw you a map?”

Jim glared but couldn’t keep the smile off his face. “No, the directions will be fine. I’m not navigationally challenged like some people.” He looked pointedly at Blair who avoided his gaze.

“Alright, alright. Let’s just go,” Blair said, hurrying into the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim’s Rental

The next morning, after seeing Blair off and collecting the directions from Maxi, Jim headed out for some breakfast. Afterwards, Jim found himself at Mark and Steve’s beach house in Malibu. Steve had given the Cascade detective directions to the house on the way the hotel last night saying that he was on vacation that week as well and to come on over whenever.

Jim got out of the car, walked up the stone steps to the front doors, and knocked on the etched glass. Steve opened the door and smiled.

“Hey Jim. Come on in.” He stepped aside to let the other man in.

Jim walked in and looked around the spacious house. “Nice house. You live here with your dad?”

“Yeah. It kind of became necessary after my place was destroyed by an earthquake, and I just haven’t gotten around moving out.”

Jim smiled. “I know how that is. When Sandburg moved into the loft, it was only supposed to be for week, and he ended up staying for about three years.”

“Well, when you’ve got a good thing going, it’s hard to change.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“So you eat breakfast yet?” Steve asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good. So have I.”

They walked out onto the back porch and sat down at the patio table.

“It’s kind of funny that you’re on vacation this week too,” Jim said.

“Yeah, it is kind of funny that way,” Steve said with a smile. “Actually, I think Maxi planned this. It was her idea that I take this week off.”

“Why?”

“Well, I think she figured that if she invited Blair, he’d bring you along, and she didn’t want to leave you alone.”

“That was nice of her.”

Jim looked out at the beach. He took a deep breath and smelled the salty air, listening to the waves crashing onto shore. It was a very soothing sound. He could definitely get used to living by the beach. He spotted a couple women in bikinis running alone the beach. He smiled as he watched them run by. He definitely liked the view as well.

“Nice view, isn’t it?” Steve asked who noticed the women too.

“Oh yeah.”

Once the women were out of sight, they took their eyes off the beach. They each looked at each other with dopey grins on their faces.

“Well, do you feel like surfing?” Steve asked.

Jim thought about it. “I don’t know. I haven’t been surfing in a while.”

“Come on. It’s like riding a bike. You never forget. I’ve got an extra board. I haven’t really had the time to surf either.”

“Why not?”

Jim followed Steve back into the house. It would be good to get back on a surfboard again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Moon Lake

Blair got out of the car in front of what was obvious a summer house. He looked up at the house and let out a low whistle.

“Wow,” he said. “Nice place.”

“Yeah, I know. Wait till you see the inside,” Maxi said, shutting her car door.

As they were making their way to the house, the front door opened and a young woman in her late twenties came out.

“Maxi!” she squealed in delight. She ran to greet her friend, her long black hair trailing behind her.

“Amy!” Maxi exclaimed and hugged her friend enthusiastically. She pulled away and turned to Blair. “Amy, I’d like you to meet Blair. Blair, this is my very best friend, Amy. We were friends when we were kids back in Cascade.”

“Oh really,” Blair said.

“Yeah, I moved out here when I was twenty,” Amy said. “I haven’t seen Maxi here since we were thirteen, not since all that stuff happened with her dad and then she moved away.”

“We ran into each other again in med school,” Maxi explained.

“Wow, small world,” Blair said.

“Well,” Amy said, clapping her hands together. “Welcome to Moon Lake Manor. Allow me to show you around.” She gestured elegantly toward the house, and Blair walked on ahead into the house. Amy stayed to walk with Maxi. She leaned close and whispered, “Wow, Max. He’s cute. Have you gone out on a date yet?”

“Amy, we’re just friends,” Maxi said.

“Oh, then you won’t mind if I ask him out.”

“Don’t you dare. Besides, he lives in Cascade. You know long distance relationships never work.”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t have fun while he’s here.”

“You keep your mitts off him,” Maxi said with mock severity. They both laughed and headed into the house after Blair.

Blair looked around the inside of the house. It had a spacious living room with a fireplace. The kitchen was located off to the side and the dining table was situated by the glass sliding doors leading out to the back patio. The lake could be seen close by with a pier and a motor boat. He was quite impressed with the place. He turned to the girls.

“So, Amy, is this your house?” he asked.

“Actually it’s mine.”

Blair turned at the new voice and saw a tall man in his early thirties walking toward them. There was a woman at his side with shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair. She had her arm around the guy’s waist, obviously a couple. Another couple stood behind them and two other guys were at the kitchen table munching on some potato chips.

“Hey Jason,” Maxi greeted with a smile.

The tall man smiled back. “Hey Maxi. What took you so long?”

“There was traffic. Shut up. Guys, this is Blair. Blair, meet the rest of the gang. This is Jason and Renee, and be forewarned, they will be groping each other for the entire weekend.”

Jason moved forward and smacked Maxi playfully in the arm.

“Ow! Hey! Abuse!” Maxi said, rubbing her arm.

“I’ll give you abuse,” Jason said and his girlfriend laughed.

“Anyway,” Maxi went on, giving the couple a playful glare. “The next couple is Chris and Madison.”

She indicated the couple standing next to Jason. The guy was Blair’s height with blonde hair not too long, but long enough to run a hand through, which, Blair noticed, he did a lot. He must have run his hand through his hair at least five times from the time Blair and the girls walked in. The girl was just a few inches shorter than her boyfriend with very short brown hair. Her green eyes sparkled with pleasure as she stood closer to her boyfriend and locked hands with his.

“They won’t be groping each other as much as Jason and Renee, but they will be making out a lot,” Maxi went on. The couple in question just smiled. “And last but not least, the two hyenas over there eating all the food are Patrick and Collin. Hey guys! Stop eating for one second and come over here.”

Patrick and Collin wiped their hands on their jeans as they joined the group. Patrick was a tall, skinny man with a buzz cut. Collin was mid-height and kind of stocky with a head full of curly red hair.

“Maxi, when did you get here?” Patrick asked.

“My guess would be while you guys were polishing off the chips.”

“Hey, we were hungry,” Collin said defensively.

“So what else is new? Anyway, guys, this is Blair Sandburg from Cascade.”

Blair was greeted with a round of “hellos,” and Blair waved back. He was impressed with the group of friends that Maxi had managed to make in the time that she’d been down here. He was glad that she finally had friends to hang out with. She hadn’t had many since her brothers started their little crusade.

“Well, welcome to my house, Blair,” Jason said. “Let me give you the grand tour.” He turned around and pointed toward the living area. “That’s the living room. The kitchen is over there. There are two bedrooms downstairs, and another two upstairs along with a bathroom. The two bedrooms down here have twin beds, and the ones upstairs have king size beds, but one of you is going to have to sleep on the couch.”

“That’s the grand tour, huh?” Blair asked. “And all without moving from this spot. I’m impressed.”

Jason smiled. “Well, what can I say? I’m lazy.”

“I call dibs on a bedroom,” Patrick called, running down the hall to where the two bedrooms were located.

“Me too,” Collin said, running after his friend.

“Hey, wait up,” Amy called as she followed them.

Maxi took a step to follow but stopped and turned toward Blair guiltily. It was obvious that she wanted to be with her friend but didn’t want to leave Blair. Blair smiled.

“It’s ok. I’ll take the couch. You go ahead.”

She still looked guilty as she picked up her bag. “You sure?”

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

She gave a brilliant smile and went down the hall toward the bedrooms. Blair shook his head in amusement and turned to the other people remaining in the room.

“So Blair, what’s Cascade like?” Chris asked, popping a potato chip in his mouth.

“Cold and rainy,” Blair replied, putting his stuff by the sliding doors so that it was out of the way.

“Sounds like a great place to live,” Renee said sarcastically.

Blair laughed as he joined the two couples by the kitchen table. Grabbing a handful of chips from the bowl, he ate a few before answering. “I’ll admit. I don’t like to be cold and I don’t like to be wet, and I certainly don’t like to be both, but I love Cascade.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Madison said.

“Well, when I was a kid, my mom and I traveled all over the world. We never really had a set place to live. We never had a home. Cascade’s been the first home I’ve ever had.”

“Wow, that’s deep,” Jason said.

“What makes it home?” Renee asked curiously.

“The people mostly.”

“Let me guess,” said Maxi, who had come up behind him while they were talking. She put her arm around him. “Would one of those people be named Jim Ellison?”

Blair smiled as he thought of his friend. He couldn’t wait to spend some down time with him later. Looking at Maxi, he replied, “Of course.”

Maxi smiled knowingly and looked back at her friends. “Jim is Blair’s friend, partner, and roommate.”

“Partner?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, Jim’s a police detective. I told you that,” Maxi replied.

“Yeah, but I thought you said he was anthropologist.”

“Well, I am,” Blair said. “I’m also an unofficial police observer. I work with them from time to time.”

“Well, as interesting as all that sounds, I’m up for a swim. Who’s with me?” Patrick said, opening the sliding door. He and Collin were already in their swim trunks and ready to hit the water.

“Oh! Jason, can we go skiing? Please?” Renee asked pleadingly, looking up into her boyfriend’s eyes.

Jason smiled and kissed his girlfriend on the forehead. “Sure.” He grabbed the keys to the boat from a hook by the back door. “Let’s go get changed.”

“Yes!”

Everyone raced to get changed while Patrick and Collin headed out to the lake. Blair walked calmly over to his bag and pulled out his swim trunks. Oh, this was going to be fun, he thought. He hadn’t been water skiing since he was a kid, and he had sucked at it then too.

They each took turns skiing around the lake. Blair tried it a few times, but after falling three times, each time within the first five minutes, he decided to leave the skiing to the others and just enjoy the ride in the speed boat. Maxi sat with him, explaining that she wasn’t much of a skier either.

After a couple of hours, they all went for a swim down by the pier in front of the house. They horsed around and played a few games. Blair felt good. It had been a long time since he’d had this much fun. The only thing missing was Jim. Finally, they all settled in the water talking.

“Hey Jason,” Chris called. “What are that scar on your shoulders there? I never noticed those before.” He indicated a small circular scar one of Jason’s shoulders.

“Hey yeah. I never noticed either,” Renee said.

“You’ve seen him without his shirt on, haven’t you? You’re telling me you never noticed. They’re kind of hard to miss,” Maxi said.

“Well, we were kind of preoccupied,” Renee said with a grin.

“Ok, that’s more than we needed to know,” Amy said in mock disgust.

“So what is the deal with those scars?” Patrick asked.

Jason looked down at the scar that was a little bit bigger than a quarter. His face became grim. “Oh, I was in an accident a couple of years ago.”

“What kind of accident?” Madison inquired.

“It was a car accident. I was driving in front of this truck that was carrying a load of bars of some kind. Anyway, there was this accident up ahead which caused a chain reaction. Cars were smashing into each other. I couldn’t stop fast enough and I slammed into the car in front of me. The truck behind me crashed into me and the bars went flying through my back window. One went through my shoulder.”

Shocked faces filled the circle of friends. It was a few minutes before anyone spoke.

“Wow. That’s incredible,” Collin said.

“Oh baby. That must have been horrible for you,” Renee said, running her hand down the side of his face tenderly.

“You’re just lucky that bar didn’t go up the middle. You could have been killed,” Patrick said.

“Don’t I know it.”

“Well, that’s some impressive scar. But check this out,” Patrick said. He turned around and indicated a jagged scar on the back of his head. “I got that skateboarding. I tried to grind on a railing. I fell and cracked my head on the pavement, cracked my skull.”

“Ouch,” Chris said.

“Weren’t you wearing a helmet?” Maxi asked.

Patrick scoffed. “No. Helmets are for wusses.”

Maxi rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but I bet wusses stay alive longer.”

“That’s nothing,” Collin spoke up. “Check this out.” He swam over to the end of the pier and hopped up on the end so his legs were daggling over the side. He pointed to a long scar that went from knee to ankle.

“Whoa, that looks nasty,” Chris said, looking at it closely.

“I was dirt biking, and I tried to do this huge jump. I didn’t make obviously. I crashed the bike and went tumbling along the ground. This needed over a hundred stitches to close.”

“Ok, who’s next?” Patrick asked as Collin jumped back into the water. He looked around and his eyes settled on Blair. “How about you, Blair. Got any interesting scars you want to show us?”

Blair, who had been silent up till then, raised his eyebrows. This was definitely a strange game, but he had seen weirder. Some of the tribes he had stayed with over the years had some pretty strange games of their own.

“You don’t have to,” Maxi said when he didn’t answer right away.

He looked at her and smiled. “No, it’s ok.” He jumped onto the pier the same as Collin and pointed to a scar on his thigh from a bullet wound he had received chasing after Dawson Quinn.

“Is that a bullet wound?” Collin asked.

“Yep. I got shot while Jim and I were chasing an escaped convict who had kidnapped our captain through woods.”

“So the guy shot you?” Amy asked.

“Actually, this was caused by some mountain man we met in the woods who decided that he was entitled to the money that Quinn had hidden in the woods before he was arrested.”

“Ok, I think I’ve had about enough of this conversation,” Renee said. “As much fun as it is listening to you guys compare bodily scars.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetheart. Are we boring you?” Jason asked, putting his around his girlfriend’s shoulders.

“No, more like grossing me out,” she said in disgust.

“I’m sorry” He kissed her temple. “How about I make it up to you? How about a little hike in the woods, just the two of us?”

She looked at him and the corners of her mouth slowly turned up into a smile. “How could I argue with that?”

“Great! We’ll see you guys later,” he told the others as he led Renee toward shore. They dried off, put some clothes and shoes on, and then started down a path that led into the trees.

“Well, I think I’ve had enough of the water. I’m starting to turn into a prune. Plus, I’m starving. Anyone care to join me for some lunch?” Maxi asked, hopping up onto the pier and walked back toward shore.

They all followed Maxi back up to the house. After getting dried off and dressed, Amy and Madison went to the kitchen to start cooking lunch with Chris’s help while Maxi and Blair set the table.

“So what do you think?” Maxi asked as she put plates on the table for each person.

Blair was setting the silverware for each place setting. He looked up from his task and then looked into the kitchen at the three people cooking lunch and laughing.

“They seem pretty nice,” Blair said.

There was a loud crash from the living area that caused all of them to jump. Patrick and Collin had been wrestling and had knocked over a small table.

“Smooth move, Pat,” Collin said.

“Me? It was your elbow that knocked it over.”

“Hey, will you guys be careful in there?” Amy called from the kitchen. “Jason will freak if you mess up the house.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine,” Patrick said nonchalantly, picking up the small end table and putting it upright. He put everything back on the table haphazardly. “See? Good as new.”

They went right back to wrestling.

“Well, most of them anyway,” Blair said, sending a smile Maxi’s way.

She laughed. “Don’t mind them. They can be a little rough sometimes.”

“So how did you meet them?” Blair inquired.

“Patrick and Collin or all of them?”

“All of them.”

“Well, you already know that Amy and I grew up together in Cascade and then we met again in med school my first day there. We met Madison and Chris a couple of days later. We worked with them in the ER. They worked pretty well together actually. Um, Chris introduced us to Pat and Collin. They were old college buddies.”

“So they’re not med students,” Blair clarified.

“Are you kidding? Those two? They barely graduated high school and just got by in college. They would never survive in med school.”

They looked over at the two men on the floor in the living room. Patrick had Collin in a headlock, and Collin was trying desperately to get out of it.

“I can believe that,” Blair said with a small laugh.

“But they’re fun to be around. They can be pretty damn hilarious sometimes.”

“What about Renee and Jason?”

“Renee showed up at the hospital a few months after I did. She had just moved to Los Angeles and didn’t know anybody yet, so we sort of just took her under our wing. We met Jason at a bar actually. Renee took a liking to him right off the bat, and Jason seemed to reciprocate. And thus, he was added to our little group. We’ve all been friends ever since.”

“I can see you’ve built quite a life for yourself here,” Blair said.

“Yeah. I like it.”

Once they finished setting the table, Madison, Amy, and Chris brought the food over to the table.

“Lunch is served,” Madison announced. “Hey guys, quite messing around and come eat. Unless you’re too full from all those potato chips you guys have been scarffing down since we got here.”

Patrick and Collin pulled apart and hurried to the table.

“No way. I’m starving,” Patrick said. He sat down in one of the chairs and immediately started dishing out the food.

“Me too,” Collin said, sitting next to him.

The others shook their heads as they sat down too.

“Just be sure to leave some for Jason and Renee,” Maxi said.

Collin snorted. “Yeah right. They can make their own food,” he said as he piled food onto his plate.

Once lunch was over, everyone gathered in the living room with the TV on to give the food time to digest before they did anything else.

“Well,” Patrick said, clapping his hands together. “Now the party can begin.” He smiled as he got up from the loveseat and went into his room. He came back a few minutes later carrying a bong.

“Oh hell yeah,” Collin said, sliding off the couch and setting in front of the coffee table.

Blair raised his eyebrows. He watched them as they packed weed into the bong and got ready to smoke it. He looked at Maxi questioningly.

“What?” she asked. She looked at the two men smoking the bong on the floor. “Oh, yeah. Well, they do that sometimes.”

Blair stared at her, asking a silent question.

“I don’t do it,” she answered the unspoken question. “And the others only do it every once in a while. Patrick and Collin do it the most. They’re not hurting anyone. Most of the time they just goof around and say stupid stuff. It’s not like they get behind the wheel, and we wouldn’t let them anyway.”

Blair shifted in his seat. It wasn’t the first time he had seen someone smoke. In fact, his mother had smoke a little when he was younger, but he never got into it. He couldn’t understand why anyone would. He hadn’t liked the way his mother and her friends acted when they were high.

“I’m sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable. I could ask them to stop,” Maxi offered.

Blair gave her a reassuring smile. “No, that’s alright. I can deal with it. As long as you don’t do it, I’m fine.”

“Are you kidding? One of my best friends is a cop. Steve would kill me if he found out I was doing drugs. As a matter of fact, so would Mark, Jesse, and Amanda.”

Several hours later, Patrick and Collin were pleasantly high and mellow. They sat on the loveseat with these stupid grins on their faces. Blair thought those smiles were a bit creepy, but at least the silence was better than the giggling that had come before.

Blair looked out the window and noticed that it was getting dark, and he could hear thunder in the distance. He wondered where Jason and Renee were. They had been gone a while.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renee and Jason walked side by side down the hiking trail deeper in the woods. Renee was nestled close to her boyfriend’s side, and she couldn’t have felt safer. It felt good to be by his side. He had filled her life with happiness and pleasure. She snuggled close and fingered the gold necklace around Jason’s neck. It was a large gold coin on a silver chain. He had worn that necklace for as long as she’s known him. He never took it off except to sleep and shower.

A sudden wind blew. Renee shivered and felt Jason pull her closer, rubbing her arms to warm her. She sighed. She didn’t know how long they had been walking, but it was starting to get dark and it was getting kind of chilly. Plus, thunder could be heard in the distance, signifying a coming rainstorm.

“Jason,” she said. “Maybe we should be heading back. It’s getting kind of late and I think it’s going to rain soon.”

Jason looked at her and then up at the sky. “Oh. Yeah. Alright. Let me take a leak first.”

She sighed. “Baby, come on. You can go back at the house.”

“No, I really need to go. It’ll only take a minute.” He kissed her on the forehead and then disappeared into the trees.

Renee stood alone on the dark path. She rubbed her arms trying to get warm. She could swear it was getting colder by the minute. Fifteen minutes went by, and there was no sign of Jason.

“Jas, come on. It’s getting really cold and I want to get back,” she called. There was no answer. After twenty-five minutes, she left the path and walked into the trees where Jason had disappeared. “Time’s up, Jason. It doesn’t take this long to take a leak.”

She pushed leaves aside, searching in the growing darkness for her boyfriend. She was starting to get worried. What if something happened to him? Then she saw him sitting up against a tree with his back to her. Frowning, she approached him.

“Jason, what are you doing? I told you I wanted to get back.” He didn’t answer. She was starting to get scared now as she got closer. “Jason?” She shook his shoulder, and he slumped over onto the ground. She gasped as she saw his face and chest covered in blood. She put her hands over her mouth as she backed away. His face was so mutilated that he wasn’t even recognizable, but the gold coin around his neck proved that it was indeed Jason.

She continued to back away, her eyes locked on the dead body of her boyfriend. She bumped into something soft. She turned around and saw a man dressed all in black wearing a faceless mask towering over her. He held a bloody knife in one hand. She screamed and raced into the trees in the direction she hoped was the house.

It was too dark to see much of anything now, but she knew that she had to keep running or she was dead. She could hear the man running close behind her. Leaves and tree branches whipped her in the face, arms, and legs, and she tripped over unseen objects a few times. Then she felt an intense pain shoot up her leg and she collapsed to the ground.

She screamed in pain and horror when she saw that she had stepped in a bear trap. The sharp, rusty teeth bit into her leg relentlessly. The pain was intense she thought she was going to pass out. She saw a dark shadow moving through the trees and frantically tried to pull the teeth part to free her leg but stopped immediately at the white-hot agony the attempt produced. Taking a deep breath, she ignored the pain and tried again. But she couldn’t do it. She wasn’t strong enough and it hurt too much. Finally, she started crawling away, dragging her injured leg behind. Each time her leg slid across the dirt, waves of pain shot up and down her leg, but she kept going.

The killer came up behind her and stabbed her in the back with the large knife. She screamed and collapsed to the ground. Darkness closed over her. He continued to stab her over and over again until she was dead. He picked up a leg and started dragging the body away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark’s Beach House

Jim sat in the sand and watched his new friends surf. He and Steve had been surfing all day, only stopping for some lunch. Near dinnertime, Mark and two other people who had been introduced as Jesse Travis and Amanda Bentley arrived. Jesse joined Steve and Jim surfing while Mark and Amanda started dinner.

Jim had been enjoying himself until just a few minutes before when he got this really bad feeling all of a sudden. He just got the feeling that something was wrong, but he didn’t know what. It had distracted him so much that he just had to take a break from surfing for a little while. But the feeling didn’t go away. In fact, it just got stronger as time went by.

“Tired of surfing?”

Jim started and turned. Mark was standing behind him. He had been so lost in his own thoughts he hadn’t even heard him coming. He turned back to the water.

“Just taking a break,” he replied.

“Sorry I startled you,” Mark said, sitting down in the sand next to the sentinel. “I would have thought you would have heard me coming even before I left the house.”

“I’m just distracted.”

“You look like you’re worried about something.”

“I just have this bad feeling that’s all.”

“About what?”

“I don’t know.” He tried to focus on this feeling, tried to figure out what it was, what it meant, but he couldn’t. He shook himself out of it and smiled at the older man. “Never mind. We should get inside. It’s going to rain soon.”

“How do you know?”

Jim smiled. “I can smell it. I can feel the changes in air pressure. It’s going to storm…badly.”

Mark chuckled. “It still amazes me at the things you can do. Come on. Dinner’s almost ready anyway.”

“I’ll get Steve and Jesse,” Jim said.

Dinner was filled with casual conversation, but Jim didn’t participate. He didn’t eat really. He just pushed the food around on his plate. He wasn’t hungry. He couldn’t shake this feeling that something bad was going to happen and soon. He kept trying to convince himself that it was just nervousness from being away from his Guide, but he knew that wasn’t it.

Jim’s head shot up when the howl of a wolf filled the air. He looked around at the other people at the table. They didn’t seem to have heard it. He knew what it meant though. The bad feeling he had been having all day had something to do with Blair.

Mark noticed Jim’s tenseness and frowned. “Jim, what’s wrong?”

He looked at the worried faces around him. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Jesse said.

Muffled ringing reached the sentinel’s ears. He swore as he got up and hurried over to where he had left his jacket that morning. He pulled out his cell phone and answered it.

“Hello?”

“Jim? Thank god. I’ve been trying to reach you all day.”

Jim knew that voice. It was Gary Hobson. He and Blair had met him in Chicago about a year ago. He had saved Blair’s life a couple of times with the help of tomorrow’s edition of the Chicago Sun Times.

“Gary? What’s wrong?”

“Are you and Blair in LA right now?”

“Yes.”

“Damn. I was hoping I could reach you before you guys got there.”

“Gary, what’s going on?”

“There’s a story in the paper about a mass murder that occurred at a place called Moon Lake just outside Los Angeles,” Gary explained.

“Moon Lake,” Jim whispered, his heart hammering in his chest.

“Yeah. They were brutally murdered up at a house on the lake. They’re going to be found early tomorrow morning. Jim, one of them is Blair.”

“Shit,” he swore. He knew now what this bad feeling meant. This and the howl he had heard earlier just confirms it. Blair was in trouble. “Alright. I’ll try to get up there as soon as possible. Thanks, Gary.”

“Don’t worry about it. I just wish I had gotten to you sooner.”

Jim closed his cell phone, gathered up his clothes and went to the bathroom to change. When he came out, Steve and Mark were waiting for him, both with worried expressions. Jesse and Amanda were standing by the table with equally worried expressions.

“Jim, what’s going on?” Steve asked.

“Look, I don’t have time to explain right now, but I have to go.”

“Go where?” Mark asked.

Jim took a deep breath. “Mark, you remember that feeling I told you about earlier?” Mark nodded. “I know what it means now. It’s warning me.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s this whole mystical side to being a sentinel that I’m not going to get into right now. Just trust me when I say that Sandburg, Maxi, and everyone up at that lake are in danger. I have to go now.”

Mark and Steve looked at each other and then back at the anxious face of the Cascade detective. Admittedly, there was a whole lot of things about being a sentinel that they didn’t understand, and this was one of them. They just had to trust that Jim knew what he was doing.

“Alright. Go,” Steve said. “But you will explain this later, won’t you?”

Jim gave them a small smile. “Of course.”

They walked Jim out to his car. Darkness had settled. The wind had picked up, and it had gotten colder since they had gone inside. Dark storm clouds could be seen in the distance. Jim got into the rental car and rolled down the window when Steve tapped on it.

“If this storm is going to be as bad as you say it is, then you better hurry. The roads leading up to the lake get flooded pretty easily,” Steve said.

Jim nodded. “Right. Thanks. I’ll call you when I get the chance.”

The four Californians watched Jim back out of the driveway and drive away.

“Someone want to tell me what’s going on?” Amanda asked.

“Yeah, really,” Jesse said.

“Not right now, guys. All you need to know is that Maxi is in trouble and so is everyone at that lake,” Mark said, his eyes focused on where Jim’s car had disappeared. He was really worried. Jim had been so scared. It was almost as if he knew for a fact that Blair and the others were in danger. But how could he possibly know that? He could understand having a bad feeling about something. He had a few bad feelings himself, but Jim knew wholeheartedly without a doubt that there was trouble up at the lake. How could he know, and who was on the phone?

Mark shook his head. He couldn’t sit here and wait. He would go nuts. He turned to his son. “We’re not just going to sit here and wait, are we?”

“What do you suggest?”

Mark smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Moon Lake

Madison sat up from her boyfriend’s arms. She sighed. “Chris, I’m bored. Let’s go down to the lake.”

“What? What about dinner?” he asked.

“We can have something when we get back. Come on. Please?”

“It’s dark out, babe, and I think it’s going to rain.”

She shrugged. “So? That’s the best time to go out walking.” She got up from the couch and pulled Chris to his feet. “Come on.”

Chris sighed but let his girlfriend pull him up and towards the back door. He looked back at the others. “We’ll be back. Don’t do anything stupid, ok?” He directed this last statement to the men on the loveseat.

“Hey, no problem, man,” Patrick said.

“Bye,” Collin called.

Once they were gone, Patrick said, “They’re going to make out.”

Collin laughed. “Yeah.”

The couple walked along the lake until they found a good spot to go in that was away from the house a bit. Madison went to the edge of the water, took off her sandals and dipped her toes in the water. It was starting to cool off because of the coming storm, but it was still warm in her opinion. The cool water felt so good. She turned to her boyfriend.

“Let’s go swimming,” she said.

“Oh come on, Madison. It’s too cold out.”

“Not for me. Come on. Please? I love swimming in the rain.”

Before he could answer, she started stripping off her clothes, leaving her only wearing a skimpy bikini. She ran into the water and dove under. Chris shook his head. He leaned back against a tree with his arms crossed over his chest. There was no way he was going into that water.

Her head burst through the surface of the water. Pushing her hair back, she waved. “Come on, Chris.”

“No way.” He shook his head.

“Oh yeah?” She walked toward shore and stood knee deep in the water. “Well, I got news for you. You want this body, you’re going to have to come in and get it.” She smiled seductively and dove back under the dark waves.

Chris sighed. Now how could he resist that? Grumbling, he started taking off his own clothes. In the midst of taking off his shirt, he heard a twig snap behind him. He spun but saw no one.

“Is someone there?” There was no answer. “Patrick, Collin, that better not be you guys, or I’ll kick your asses.” When no more sound reached his ears, he shrugged and proceeded to take his shirt off.

A man stood in the trees watched as Chris bent down to take his shoes off. A heavy axe was gripped tightly in one hand. When Chris stood up straight, he made his move. He moved with such grace and speed that Chris didn’t even have time to turn. He swung the axe and connected with his victim’s neck. The axe cleaved through his neck and lodged itself in the tree behind him, severing his head completely. The body collapsed to the ground while the head remained sitting atop the blade of the axe imbedded in the tree trunk. Blood was pouring down the trunk.

“Chris!!”

The killer looked out at the water at the horrified young girl. He yanked the axe out of the tree trunk, letting the severed head fall to the ground. He walked down the water’s edge. Madison was still treading water, staring. She seemed to be frozen in place. He stopped at the edge. He looked down at the axe in his hand. He then hurled it as hard as he could straight at her head.

Seeing the axe spinning through the air toward her snapped her out of her trance. With a yelp, she dove under the water and started swimming as fast as she could back toward the house. When the house was in sight, she swam toward shore. She crawled out of the water and stopped next to a large tool shed. Trying to catch her breath, she looked toward the house. She never noticed it before, but there was quite a distance of wide open space between the house and the lake. Her heart leapt into her throat when she saw movement in the trees. She quickly went around to the front of the tool shed and went inside.

The tool shed was much larger than any average tool shed. There were metal shelves filled with nails, screws, nuts, bolts, screwdrivers, hammers, and a bunch of other tools and little knick knacks. There were heavier tools hanging on pegs on the walls, and there was a large freezer in the corner.

Madison searched frantically through the shelves looking for any kind of weapon. She picked up a hammer and held it tightly to her chest. She backed up against the wall and kept her eyes on the door, waiting for her would-be killer to enter. Then she noticed the freezer. She opened up the lid, climbed inside, and closed it. She was shivering madly within a few minutes. She knew she couldn’t stay in there for long. With her wet skin and hair and the fact that she was only wearing a bikini, she would succumb to hypothermia pretty quickly.

She put her hand over her mouth to quiet her heavy breathing when she heard the door to the tool shed open. She listened to the killer’s heavy footfalls as he walked through the tool shed. The footsteps walked away and then she heard the door open and close again. She breathed a sigh of relief. She was about to push open the lid when she heard what sounded like a saw.

The killer powered up the circular saw and plunged the spinning blade into the freezer. It sawed right through the lid and into the top of Madison’s head. Blood and brain matter spewed everywhere. He pulled the saw out, turned it off, and dropped it on the floor. He then turned, picked up a sledge hammer and walked out of the shed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair stood at the sliding doors staring out into the night. It had started raining a half hour ago, and it was steadily getting worse. There had been no sign of Jason and Renee or Chris and Madison. It had only been about an hour since Chris and Madison had gone down to the lake, but they should have at least come back when it had started to rain.

Maxi stepped up next to the young man. She could see the worry on his face. “Are you ok?” she asked.

Blair turned to her and smiled. “Yeah. I’m just worried about the others. I mean at the very least Jason and Renee should have returned by now. They’ve been gone for hours.”

“But you don’t know them. One time when we all got together, they disappeared for hours, and we all knew what they were doing so we didn’t worry. They probably found some shelter from the rain and are making out right now.” Maxi seemed nonchalant about it.

“They do that often?” Blair asked.

“Oh yeah. Chris and Madison too. I’m sure they’re fine.”

“I just have a bad feeling. That’s all.”

“I think you’ve been hanging out with cops too long,” Maxi said, smiling and patting him on the back. When his face remained serious, she sobered. “Look we can go out a look for them if it’ll make you feel better.”

Blair gave a brilliant smile and nodded. Maxi went into the kitchen and rummaged around in a drawer. She returned with two flashlights and handed one to Blair.

“Hey Amy,” she called. “We’re going to go out and look for the others. They’ve been gone a while. Keep an eye on the two stoners, will you? Make sure they don’t break anything.”

Amy smiled. “Will do.”

Blair and Maxi put on their jackets and went out into the rain. They ran down to the lake first, but when they got there, there was no sign of Chris or Madison.

“Chris! Madison!” Maxi yelled.

“I don’t see them anywhere. Do you?” Blair asked. He had to yell to be heard over the pouring rain.

“No. They might have gone down farther. Come on. Let’s go look for Jason and Renee.”

They ran down the path they had seen Jason and Renee take hours earlier. It was raining so hard by now that the dirt was turning into thick mud which sloshed over their shoes as they ran. They swept their flashlights over the trees, searching for any sign of movement.

At one point, Maxi tripped and fell into the mud, dropping her flashlight. When she sat up, she looked down at herself and gasped. Blair knelt down next to her, thinking that she had been hurt and caught his breath when he saw that the mud on her hands and clothes was mixed with blood. Blair shone his flashlight on the ground. The water and mud were red with blood. Following the blood trail with the beam of his flashlight, it came to rest on a dead body lying a few yards away. There was a gaping chest wound and the face was mangled beyond recognition.

“Oh my god,” Maxi cried. She got to her feet and ran toward the body, stopping a few feet short. She covered her mouth with her hand and looked away. “Jason,” she whispered.

“How can you tell?” Blair asked.

“The necklace.” She pointed to the gold coin around the dead man’s neck. “He never took it off.”

She turned and buried her face in Blair’s shoulder. Blair held her tight, patting her back and stroking her wet hair soothingly. All the while, he kept his attention on their surroundings. Whoever did this had to still be around.

“Renee,” Maxi whispered. She pulled away and started looking around. “Renee!” she yelled into the darkness.

Blair looked around as well. He caught sight of a foot beyond Jason’s body. He traced the beam of the flashlight up a leg, torso, and up to a face. He closed his eyes.

“Max,” he called.

Maxi turned and followed Blair’s flashlight to the second body hidden in the woods. “No.” It was almost a sob.

Blair kept looking around nervously. He felt sorry for Maxi. These were her friends, and he felt terrible too, but the fact of the matter was that the killer could still be nearby. And they were too vulnerable. He moved forward and gripped Maxi’s arm gently.

“Maxi, come on. We can’t stay here.”

“But Jason. Renee. We can’t just leave them.”

Blair grabbed both her arms and turned her toward him. “Maxi, look at me. Whoever did this could still be out there. We have to get back. We have to warn the others. Ok?”

Maxi nodded. “Ok,” she whispered.

“Ok, come on.” He took Maxi’s hand and led her back toward the house as fast as they could.

Patrick was laughing like a bumbling idiot. He stood up and then proceeded to fall over the coffee table, spilling the glass of beer that had been sitting there.

“Smooth move, Pat,” Collin said, laughing.

“Jason’s going to kill you two,” Amy said, shaking her head. She headed toward the kitchen to get a towel to wipe up the spilt beer.

The sliding door opened to admit Blair and Maxi. They were soaking wet, covered in mud, and breathing heavily like they had just run a marathon. Amy paused and frowned as Maxi collapsed onto a nearby chair. She looked on the verge of tears.

“Whoa, what happened to you two? Did you roll around in the mud?” Patrick asked with a laugh as he and his drinking buddy came around the couch.

Amy gasped when she noticed Maxi’s clothes were stained red. “Oh my god. Maxi, what happened?” she asked as she knelt in front of her. “Is that blood?”

Maxi just nodded, her eyes staring over her friend’s shoulder.

“Are you hurt?”

“It’s not mine,” Maxi whispered, her voice trembling.

“What do you mean? Whose is it?”

Blair, who had been staring out the window trying to calm his shaky nerves, now turned around. His wet curls hung in his face, making his pale complexion look white.

“Jason and Renee are dead,” he said.

“What?” Amy said, shocked.

“You’re kidding,” Collin said. He and Patrick were now dead serious.

“No. We saw their bodies. They were murdered,” Blair replied.

“Holy shit,” Patrick whispered.

“Who would do something like that?” Amy asked.

Blair sighed, pushing his hair out of his face. “I don’t know, but the killer could still be out there.”

For a few minutes, no one moved or made a sound. Finally, Amy walked to the phone on the wall next to the back door. She put it to her ear, pushed a few buttons, and then slammed it back down.

“It’s dead.”

Blair walked over to where he had left his pack and rummaged inside for his cell phone. He flipped it open and sighed.

“I’m not getting a signal,” he reported.

“Neither am I,” Maxi said.

Blair looked up. Maxi was standing, looking down at her own cell phone. She seemed to have gotten a handle on her emotions for the time being, which was good. The last thing they needed was for her to be hysterical right now.

Blair gripped the phone tight. How were they going to get out of this? They could try driving out, but it was like a monsoon outside. The road leading to the house had been treacherous before the rain, and Blair remembered hearing Maxi say that that road was prone to flooding. So the road was probably a lake by now. But they couldn’t stay here with a murderer running around. He closed his eyes. He wished he could get a hold of Jim. Then he would at least feel better knowing that help was on the way.

The lights suddenly went out, bringing Blair out of his thoughts.

“Oh god,” Amy said fearfully.

“Ok, I say we get the fuck out of here right now,” Collin said.

“Wait, what about Chris and Madison? They haven’t come back yet. Did you see them?” Amy asked Blair and Maxi.

Blair shook his head.

“They’re probably dead already,” Collin said.

“Don’t say that. We don’t know that. We can’t just leave them.”

“Amy’s right,” Blair said. “We should go out and look for them again.”

“Screw that. I’m getting out of here now!” Collin said and then ran toward the front door.

“Collin! Wait, no!” Maxi called, running after him.

Collin ran out the front door into the pouring rain and down the front walk toward Jason’s SUV parked in the driveway. He went to open the driver’s side door when he noticed that both tires on that side of the car were flat. A closer inspection of the other two cars in the driveway revealed that all the tires were flat on all the cars.

“Damn it!” he yelled in frustration, kicking one of the tires.

“What is it?” Maxi called. The rest of them had stopped on the front porch.

“All the fucking tires on all the cars have been slashed.”

“Looks like we’re not going anywhere,” Blair said grimly.

Amy sighed and turned back toward Collin. Her eyes widened when she spotted movement behind him. She had to squint her eyes before she could make out the outline of a man dressed in black and carrying a sledgehammer.

“Collin, look out!” she warned.

Collin spun around just as the man was lifting the sledgehammer up over his head. He swung it down on top of Collin’s head. His head seemed explode upon impact. Blood sprayed everywhere as he went down. Amy and Maxi squealed in fright as Blair and Patrick pulled back into the house and closed and locked the door.

“Oh my god. Oh my god,” Amy chanted, her hands shaking. “He just killed him. He just killed him.”

“Who the fuck was that?” Patrick yelled.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you go out there and ask him,” Maxi snapped while trying to comfort her friend.

“Quiet!” Blair yelled.

They others quieted down immediately and turned their attention on the man who had his head leaning on the door. Blair took a deep breath. He couldn’t think with all this yelling. If they were going to get out of this alive, they needed to be calm not frantic. He tried to calm his nerves. He felt like falling apart himself, but he knew he couldn’t. Not yet. He took one last deep breath and turned away from the door.

“All right. Amy, go lock and barricade the back door,” Blair said calmly.

The girl straightened, wiping the tears from her eyes, and nodded.

“Patrick,” Blair turned to the other man, “barricade all the windows. Make sure no one can get in.”

“All right.”

Once both of them were gone, Maxi turned to Blair. “What are we going to do?”

Blair blew out a breath as he rubbed his face and pushed his still wet hair back. “I don’t know,” he replied wearily. “Try to stay alive.”

“Until when?” Maxi asked. “I doubt anyone’s going to come looking for us. We’re supposed to be up here for the weekend.”

Both of them jumped at the sudden pounding on the door. They started backing away from the door slowly, never taking their eyes off it. His heart hammering in his chest, Blair looked around for some kind of weapon. He picked up the poker from the stand next to the fireplace and stood in front of Maxi protectively.

Amy joined them and gripped Maxi’s hand tightly. Patrick came back as well sporting a baseball bat he had apparently found while barricading the windows. The two men stood in front of the two women with their weapons raised ready to defend themselves against their would-be attacker as the pounding continued.

Blair gripped the poker tightly and tried to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat. This was it. He didn’t want to die. It seemed to last forever. The pounding was relentless. They could hear the wood creaking from the tension. There was a loud crash of thunder followed by a flash of lightening just as the door gave way. They all screamed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim drove down the muddy road that led to the house where his Guide was. Steve wasn’t kidding about the road. It had been severely flooded. He almost didn’t make it. He almost got stuck a time or two, but the SUV with its four-wheel drive powered through. He knew he probably wasn’t going to be able to get back though.

He could barely see through the driving rain even with his enhanced sight, but finally the house came into the view. He parked behind the last car in the driveway and got out. The first thing he noticed was that the lights were all off in the house. It was too early for all of them to be in bed.

As he walked past the cars, he noticed that they all had flat tires. He was getting a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something was definitely wrong. He continued up the drive, and that’s when he spotted the body. He didn’t need to check to know that he was dead. It looked like his head had been bashed in by something heavy. A large amount of blood was mixing with the rain water on the driveway.

He pulled out his gun and scanned his surroundings but could find no sign of the person responsible. Unfortunately, with the heavy rain, thunder, and lightening he couldn’t dial up his senses to find the culprit, not without risking a zone out or a severe spike.

On his way up the front walk toward the door, he found a bloody sledgehammer in the bushes and knew what had caused the devastating wound. He just hoped his partner was still alive. Running up to the front door, he tried the knob, but it was locked. He started pounding on the door, calling his partner’s name, but there was no answer. Pushing his fear aside, he started to kick it. It took a few tries before the door finally swung open.

Thunder shook the house and lightening lit up the room. In the brief flash of light, he caught a glimpse of four people huddling in the living area, and one of them was his partner. He heard running footsteps and quickly dialed up his sight to penetrate the darkness. He quickly put out his hands when he saw his partner and another man running towards him, Blair brandishing a poker and the other guy a bat.

“Whoa! Whoa! Chief, it’s me!”

Blair stopped abruptly and quickly grabbed Patrick before he could swing his bat.

“Jim?” he said uncertainly.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Oh thank god.” He sighed relief and dropped his weapon. “We thought you were the killer.”

“Yeah, I kind of figured that.”

“Jim!” Maxi cried, jumping into his arms.

Jim was startled at first. Then he wrapped his strong arms around her and starting rubbing her back trying to calm her down. “Hey Maxi. It’s ok.”

She pulled out of his embrace and nodded.

“Is everyone ok?” Jim asked, looking directly at Blair.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Blair replied.

“Just a little scared,” Maxi added.

“Um, excuse me, but who are you?” Patrick asked.

Maxi laughed slightly. “Oh sorry. Patrick, Amy, this is Jim Ellison. He’s from Cascade too. He and Blair live and work together. He’s also a detective.”

“You’re a detective?” Amy asked hopefully. At Jim’s nod, she sighed in relief. “Oh thank god. There’s some psycho killer running around out there.”

“He’s already killed three people,” Patrick said.

“And two more are missing,” Maxi added.

“Alright. Did any of you try to call for help?” Jim asked.

“The phones are dead,” Blair replied.

“And cell phones don’t get any signal out here,” Amy said.

“Did any of you get a look at the killer?” Jim asked.

“We all watched him kill…Collin…out front.” Blair swallowed hard, trying to keep himself under control. He had to keep calm until they were all out of this safely.

Jim noticed his partner’s distress and placed a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder. He saw the condition the body had been in. It must have been horrifying to watch, especially for his kind-hearted partner.

Blair gave him a strained smile, took a deep breath, and continued. “But we didn’t get a good look at him. He was dressed all in black and he had some kind of black hood over his head.”

“What do you mean? Like a sweatshirt?” Jim asked.

“No, it covered his whole head,” Amy said.

“Like a ski mask?”

“No, it didn’t have any eye or mouth holes, which makes me wonder how he can see,” Maxi said.

“It was a faceless mask,” Patrick said. At everyone’s questioning looks, he explained. “You know, a faceless mask. One of those masks for Halloween. It’s a black hood that you pull over your head and it makes it look like you have no face.”

“Oh yeah. I’ve seen those,” Maxi said.

“Oh man. Those things are creepy,” Amy groaned, a shiver running through her body.

Jim sighed and walked to the sliding glass door to look out at the driving rain. “That doesn’t give us much of a description, does it?”

Blair stood next to him. “No,” he sighed.

“Where are the other two bodies?” Jim asked.

“Out in the woods. Maxi and I found them,” Blair said in a small voice.

Jim felt the small tremors that ran through the smaller man’s body. He put an arm around the young man’s shoulders and felt his body start to relax a bit.

“What about the two who are missing?” Jim asked.

“Chris and Madison,” Amy supplied. “They said they were going down to the lake, but that was hours ago before the rain started. And we haven’t heard from them since.”

“And we didn’t see any sign of them when Maxi and I were out there,” Blair said.

Jim stood there a moment thinking. Finally, he asked, “Do you have all the doors and windows locked?” They all nodded. “All right. Stay here. I’m going to look for them.”

“I’m going with you,” Blair said.

“No way, Chief. It’s too dangerous. I want you to stay here with the others.”

“Oh come on, Jim. You’re going to need some back up especially with this storm.”

“Sandburg,” Jim argued.

“No, Jim,” Blair interrupted. “I’m not letting you go out there alone.” He glanced back at the others and then pulled Jim into the kitchen for some privacy. “Look, the last thing we need is for you to zone out there and be an easy target for that killer. I’m going. All right?”

Jim sighed. He knew Blair was right. He would have to use his senses out there if he was going to find the two missing people, and with the storm raging outside, it would be very easy for him to zone out or become overloaded. He nodded.

“All right,” he conceded.

“All right. Now,” he said, turning back to the others, “we’re going to need some flashlights.” He sensed the protest from Jim and sent a glare the Sentinel’s way. He knew Jim could see very clearly in the dark with his night vision, but one flash of lightening would send him reeling, and then they’d both be vulnerable. No, they were going the safe route. When he saw Jim close his mouth and nod, Blair turned back around. “Do we have anymore?” he asked.

“No, not that we know of,” Amy said.

“Wait, I remember Jason saying something about there being back-up flashlights in the tool shed down by the lake,” Maxi said.

Jim and Blair looked at each other and nodded. They put on their jackets and prepared to brave the storm.

“Stay here,” Jim said to the others. “And lock this door behind us.”

“Be careful,” Maxi said.

The two men ran across the yard to the small building at the lake’s edge. After Jim made sure it was clear, they went inside. By the time they were inside the tool shed, they both were soaked to the bone.

“Oh man. This sucks,” Blair said. He felt Jim stiffen beside him and looked at the older man. He couldn’t see Jim’s face in the darkness, but he knew the sentinel had sensed something. “What is it, Jim?”

“I smell blood. A lot of it.”

“Hold on. Let me find the light switch.” Blair ran his hand alone the wall on the both sides of the door until he found the switch. “Got it. You ready?” he asked, making sure that Jim had his sight turned down. At Jim’s nod, he flipped the switch.

The small building was flooded with light, and both men’s eyes went immediately to the bloody circular saw on the floor. Blood was still dripping from the blade, indicating that it hadn’t been used that long ago.

“Oh my god,” Blair said, a horrified look on his face.

Jim gave the saw a cursory glance and then went to the source of all the blood, the freezer. He noted the cleanly cut line in the lid and the blood that stained the lid and the sides where it had dripped down. He gripped the lid with both hands and opened it very slowly.

Blair took one look at the body inside and vomited in the corner. Jim quickly closed the freezer and went to his partner’s side. He rubbed soothing circles on the young man’s back. When Blair was done, he sat back on his haunches and wiped his mouth. He was white as a ghost.

“Are you ok?” Jim asked.

“Yeah,” Blair whispered, his voice shaky.

“I take it that was Madison.”

Blair nodded, closing his eyes. He put his face in his hands. “God, who would do something like that?” he asked, his voice muffled by his hands.

“I don’t know, Chief,” Jim replied gently. He grabbed a couple of flashlights from the shelf above his head and handed one to Blair. “Come on. We still have to find Chris.”

Blair took a deep breath and accepted the flashlight. “He’s probably dead too,” he said dismally.

“Maybe, but we won’t know until we try.” He stood up and pulled Blair to his feet. “Are you sure you still want to come? You can still go back to the house.”

“No, I’m coming,” Blair said resolutely.

Jim patted him on the back. Turning on their flashlights, they stepped back out in the rain. They went down the same path that Blair and Maxi had taken but this time they stopped at different spots along the lake, spots that looked like a good place to swim and would offer privacy.

Blair stuck close to Jim’s side. He tucked his jacket closer around him, not that it would do any good. His jacket was soaked through, and his clothes clung to his body. He shivered. He hated being cold and wet.

Jim swept his flashlight in a wide arc as he walked. He wiped the rainwater from his eyes and let out a low growl. He hated not being able to use his senses. He felt like he had blinders on. He wished the rain would just stop so that he could stretch his senses. He felt very vulnerable at the moment.

They came to a small path that led toward the lake. Following the muddy path, they came to the shoreline, but there was no sign of Chris.

Blair sighed as he looked around. “I don’t see anything.”

There was a flash of lightening and a roll of thunder. Jim took a chance and dialed up his eyesight so he could see better in the darkness. He examined the area thoroughly with his sensitive eyes. His sharp eyes spotted a leg. He moved his eyes up the body to the empty space where the head should have been. He closed his eyes.

“Chief,” he called.

Blair turned around and looked at Jim questioningly. He followed the beam of Jim’s flashlight to the body. He gasped. He felt like he was going to be sick again.

“Oh god,” he whispered. “Do you think it’s Chris?”

“Most likely. Come on. We better get back.”

Maxi, Amy, and Patrick were sitting around the kitchen table when the two men returned. Maxi immediately jumped up to let them back in.

“Did you find them?” she asked.

Blair looked at her desolately and nodded solemnly. Maxi sighed and closed her eyes sadly. She could tell by the look on his face that they were dead.

“Great. So now what are we going to do?” Amy asked.

“I vote we get the hell out of dodge. There’s nothing keeping us here. We could take Ellison’s car,” Patrick said.

Jim shook his head. “No, bad idea.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because the road is washed out. I barely made up here as it is, and that was a couple of hours ago. I guarantee it’ll be worse now. We could end up getting stuck out there.”

“In other words, sitting ducks,” Blair said.

“So what do you suggest?” Patrick asked angrily. “We sit here and wait for the killer to pick us off one by one?”

“No. We hold out here. Lock the doors and windows and either wait until the storm passes or until morning comes. Then we can try to get out of here. To go now would be suicide.”

“Jim’s right,” Maxi said. “We can’t risk it. If we go now and we get stuck, the killer will definitely pick us off.”

“Now what we can…” Jim stopped. He looked upward, his head tilted somewhat.

Recognizing the stance, Blair moved closer to his partner and put his hand on his shoulder. “Jim, what is it?”

“Is there anyone else here?” he asked.

“No,” Amy replied.

He pulled his gun and walked toward the stairs.

“Jim, what is it?” Blair asked again, following him.

“There’s someone upstairs.”

“Oh god,” Amy whispered.

“Stay here,” Jim ordered and he headed up the stairs.

“Be careful,” Blair called after him.

Jim moved stealthy down the hallway, his gun held in both hands. The footsteps he had heard downstairs retreated the minute he reached the top. He had lost them after that. He had tried to locate a heartbeat, but the rain, thunder, and lightening was messing with his senses. He couldn’t risk dialing them any further.

He checked every room and every closet. Then he came to what looked like a master bedroom. The balcony doors were wide open and rain was pouring in, soaking the carpet. That must have been how the intruder had gotten in. The question was, was he still inside the house? Taking a deep breath, he decided to dial up his hearing just a bit to find out where the killer had gone.

He heard the heartbeat behind him. He spun around, aiming his gun toward the sound. He felt a sudden sharp pain in his shoulder. Looking down, he saw a nail protruding from his shoulder. He felt a second nail impact his gut, and before he could react, the killer came out of the darkness with a baseball bat. He swung the bat and hit Jim in the side of the head. Jim collapsed to the ground dazed. Through blurred vision, he could see the killer standing over him, aiming the nail gun at his head. He knew that at that close range and in the right spot, a nail could kill him. His last thoughts were of Blair before he lost consciousness.

The killer aimed the nail gun right at Jim’s temple, intending to fire. Then he paused and lifted the gun away. He rummaged around in Jim’s pockets until he came across his wallet. After staring intently at the ID and badge, he looked back at the unconscious man. He put the wallet back in his pocket and pulled out Jim’s handcuffs. After making sure to take the handcuff keys, he handcuffed Jim to the balcony door, hooking it through a broken window pain and securing it around the frame. Dropping the nail gun on the floor, he walked out of the room, leaving Jim alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair and Maxi sat at the kitchen table while Patrick stared outside and Amy paced around the room nervously.

“How could this happen?” Maxi asked. “I mean am I cursed? Does something always have to happen whenever I’m around?”

“Hey,” Blair said soothingly, putting an arm around her shoulders. “You are not cursed. Ok? This is not your fault. Besides, you’re not the only one trouble follows around.”

Maxi smiled. “Yeah,” she said with a small laugh. “What a pair we make, huh?”

“What is taking him so long?” Amy asked as she continued to pace.

“Relax. I’m sure everything is fine,” Blair said calmly even though he was far from calm. He was worried around about Jim too. It shouldn’t be taking him this long to check out the upstairs.

There was a sudden loud thump from upstairs. Amy stopped her pacing, Blair and Maxi got up from the table, and Patrick turned away from the window. They all looked up at the ceiling.

“What was that?” Amy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Blair answered.

They moved as a group toward the stairs.

“Jim,” Blair called. “Jim, are you ok?”

There was silence for several seconds and then they heard footsteps coming down the stairs. They stood huddled together staring at the stairs that curved away from them.

“Jim,” Blair called again, hoping fervently that it was Jim coming down those stairs, but he had a sickening feeling that it wasn’t. If it was, he would have answered by now.

Blair’s feeling was proved right when the killer appeared from around the railing brandishing a very sharp butcher knife. They backed away from him as he slowly advanced on them.

“Run,” Blair said. “Go out the back door.”

“What about you?” Maxi asked in a shaky voice.

“I’ll hold him off. GO!” he yelled.

Amy, Maxi, and Patrick ran out the back door while Blair picked up the fireplace poker from where he had left it. Brandishing it once again as a weapon, he faced the faceless killer who now stood and seemed to be staring at him, but with that faceless mask, Blair couldn’t tell.

Taking a deep breath, he said as calmly as he could, “You want to kill them you’ll have to kill me first.” Oh god, he hoped the killer wouldn’t take him up on that.

“I’m not going to kill you, Blair.” There was a smile in the killer’s voice.

Blair lowered his poker somewhat. How did he know his name, and why did that voice sound so familiar?

“How do you know me? Who are you?”

The killer didn’t answer. He just took a step towards Blair, and Blair instinctively took a step back.

“Where’s Jim?” Blair asked. “What have you done with him?” Jim couldn’t be dead. He’d know it if he were, wouldn’t he?

“Your friend’s fine. I handcuffed him upstairs.”

“Why should I believe you? You viciously murdered five people.”

“I have no reason to kill you or Jim.”

“You had no reason to kill the others either.”

“That’s not exactly true.”

Why does his voice sound so familiar? “Who are you?” Blair asked again.

The killer gripped the knife by the end of the blade. “You’ll find out soon.”

He whipped the knife at Blair, catching him in the forearm and causing him to drop the poker. Blair pulled the knife out of his arm with a hiss and applied pressure to the bleeding wound. He looked up in time to catch a fist in the face and then there was darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maxi and Amy ran through the woods. They plowed through puddles and tree branches without any regard as to where they were going. They were too scared to think that far. All they knew is that they had to get away as far and as fast as possible.

Finally, they had to stop because they were too tired to run anymore. They both leaned against a tree to catch their breath. They didn’t know how long they had been running for, but in that time, it had stopped raining heavily. There was now just a light drizzle.

“I don’t…think…anyone’s…following us,” Maxi panted.

“Good. Do you think…Blair will…be ok?” Amy asked in between breaths.

“I don’t know. I hope so.”

After catching her breath, Maxi stood up straight and looked around, trying to discern where they were. Then she noticed that someone was missing.

“Hey, where’s Patrick?”

Amy looked around too. “I don’t know. He was right behind us.”

“Patrick,” Maxi called.

“Patrick!”

“Patrick, where are you?”

They searched back the way they had come but could find no trace of where Patrick could have gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patrick ran fast and hard through the trees and didn’t stop until he tripped over an unseen tree root and went down face first into the mud. Then he just laid there for a few minutes catching his breath. Finally, he sat up and wiped the mud from his face and clothes. It was then that he realized he was alone. His heart started pounding as he looked around and saw only trees.

“Maxi! Amy!” he called but there was no answer. “Great,” he said to himself. “How did I end up by myself? Ok, don’t panic. I’ll just retrace my steps. Bound to run into them eventually, right?” Or run into the killer, he thought silently to himself.

He took a deep breath, stood up, and started walking. It seemed like he had been walking forever when he heard something behind him. He spun around but saw nothing in the darkness. After a few minutes, he turned back around and continued walking at a much faster pace. Another sound behind him made him pause. He turned around slowly but still there was nothing there.

“Man, I am hearing things.”

Then he thought he heard footsteps coming toward him. Frightened, he turned and ran…right into the killer. He came to an abrupt stop as he felt a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down and was horrified to see that there was a knife stuck in his chest all the way up to the handle. With blood bubbling from between his lips, he looked up at the killer’s face. The killer looked back at him for a moment and then pulled the faceless mask off. Patrick’s eyes widened as he got his first look at his murderer.

He felt the knife pulled from his body and felt his body fall to the ground. As he laid there staring up at the sky and struggling to breathe, his mind was on the man who had stabbed him. He couldn’t believe who had just killed him.

His vision began to gray out and it was becoming harder to breathe. As he stared up at the face of his killer, he tried uttering the name that was on his lips. He wanted to ask why, but all that came out was a breathy whisper as his last breath left his body.

The killer dropped the knife next to the body. He lifted his head up as he heard Patrick’s name being called. He smiled. He put his mask back on and followed the two female voices.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim slowly became aware of a dull throbbing his temples. He slowly opened his eyes, adjusting his eyesight to compensate for the darkness and saw that he was still in the master bedroom. His face and shirt were wet, and he realized that he was lying in the balcony doorway. Luckily, it was only drizzling now. It looked like the storm was finally passing.

He tried to sit up, and that’s when he became away of the pain in his shoulder and stomach. Seeing the nail heads sticking out of his flesh, he remembered getting shot with the nail gun. He also remembered the killer standing over him aiming the nail gun straight at his temple. So why was he still alive?

Pushing that question to the back of his mind, he reached to pull the nail out of his abdomen first. When his wrist was met with resistance, he found that he was handcuffed to the balcony door. Ok, what the hell was going on? The killer took the time to make sure he couldn’t get away, so why not just kill him? He obviously didn’t have any qualms about murdering the other five people. He shook his head. He could figure out the puzzle later. Right now he had to get out of there and find Blair and the others.

Using his free hand, he pulled the nails out of his stomach and shoulder. Luckily, the nails missed any major artery, so he wasn’t in any danger. Then, using one of the bloody nails, he went to work on the cuff around his wrist. It took longer that it should have, but finally he got the cuff of his wrist.

With a hand over the wound in his stomach, he stood up. With the storm finally over, he could now dial up his senses fully. He did a sensory sweep of the entire house and only found one heartbeat inside, and it was Blair’s. He knew that instinctively. It was strong and steady, which had Jim sighing in relief. But where were the others?

He picked up his gun where he had dropped it, a little surprised that the killer didn’t take it, and headed down the stairs. He found Blair lying unconscious on the floor in the living area. He was alarmed at the blood that was pooling under his partner, but the steady heartbeat was reassuring. He knelt next to the young man and started patting his face gently.

“Chief,” he called. “Blair, come on. Wake up.”

Blair let out a groan and turned his face toward Jim’s hand. His eyes fluttered open and pain-filled blue eyes looked up at him.

“Jim?” he said in a whisper.

“Yeah, Chief. It’s me. How are you doing?”

“Oh, my head is killing me. And my arm.”

“Hold on.” Jim got up and went into the kitchen. After rummaging around in the drawers and cabinets, he returned with a first aid kit. He knelt down next to Blair and put a gauze pad over the wound and applied pressure. “Here. Keep pressure on it. What happened?”

“The guy came at us with a knife. I tried to hold him off, but he got me in the arm with the knife.” He winced.

“Where are the others?” Jim asked.

“They ran out the back door.” Blair paused as he noticed the blood on Jim’s shirt. “What happened to you? You’re bleeding.”

“I’m fine. The guy got me with a nail gun.”

“A nail gun?”

“Yeah. I didn’t hear him until it was too late. That damn storm was messing with my senses.”

“Are you ok?” There was concern in his voice.

“Yeah, it’s nothing.” He lifted the pad a little to inspect the wound. It was still bleeding a little but not badly. “It doesn’t look too bad. You’re lucky. Doesn’t look like the knife hit any major vein or artery. It’s going to need stitches though.” He placed a new pad over the wound and then wrapped Blair’s arm with gauze wrapping. “That’ll have to do. Come on.” He pulled Blair to his feet and handed him his jacket. “We have to find the others.”

“Jim,” Blair said. “This guy, he told me that he wasn’t going to kill me, that he had no reason to kill either of us.”

“You spoke to him?” Jim asked.

Blair nodded. “Yeah, and his voice sounded familiar, but I just can’t place where I heard it from.”

“He had the chance to kill me too, but he didn’t.”

“Jim, what is going on?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll have to figure it out later. Come on. We have to get going,” Jim said, heading out the back door. “We have to find them before the killer does.”

They stopped outside the back door, and Blair put a hand on Jim’s shoulder.

“All right, Jim. Storm’s over. Do your stuff.”

Jim obediently closed his eyes. He’d never thought he’d be so happy to use his senses. He had felt blind during that storm.

“Try to find their voices, Jim. They can’t have gone far. Block out everything else. Concentrate,” Blair instructed in what Jim affectionately called his Guide voice.

Jim stretched his hearing far out in a wide sensory net. He catalogued and discarded all other sounds until he came across a familiar one. He opened his eyes.

“I hear crying. This way,” Jim said, leading the way into the trees with Blair on his heels.

It wasn’t long until they found the source of the crying. Amy sat huddled against a tree. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, and her head was buried in her arms.

“Amy?” Blair said, kneeling down next to the young woman.

Amy lifted her head and looked at him with moistened eyes. There were tear tracks down her cheeks, and her face was swollen.

“Blair?” she whispered. “You’re alive!” She jumped into his arms and held on tight. “I was so scared.”

“It’s alright. Are you ok? What happened?”

“Oh it was horrible! He took her! He took Maxi!”

“Who did? The killer?” Blair asked.

She nodded. “He came out of nowhere. He knocked me down and grabbed her. I could hear her screaming. And then I must have lost consciousness because the next thing I knew they were gone.”

Blair hugged her tighter, rubbing the back of her head. “It’s alright. We’ll get her back.” He looked at Jim over Amy’s head.

Jim knelt down next to them. “Amy,” he said gently. He waited until he had her full attention. “Do you know which way they went?”

She shook her head. “No, I didn’t see.”

“Ok.” He pulled the keys to the rental out of his pocket and pushed them into her trembling hands. “Amy, take these. I want you to go back to the house, take the SUV, and go get help.”

“But what about Maxi?”

“We’re going to try to find her. Don’t you worry. You just concentrate on getting some help up here fast.”

She nodded. She stood up, gripping the keys tightly in one hand and wiping the tears from her eyes with the other. Then she ran back toward the house.

Jim and Blair stood up and watched her go until she was out of sight. Then Blair turned to Jim.

“Can you tell which way they went?” he asked.

Jim nodded and closed his eyes. Blair took a step closed to his partner and put a hand on his shoulder to ground him. After a few minutes, Jim opened his eyes and pointed.

“This way,” he said as he ran closely followed by Blair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Maxi slowly came to, she was aware that she was moving. Slowly opening her eyes, she saw the back of someone’s legs and realized that she was being carried over someone’s shoulder. Then memory returned. She remembered looking for Patrick with Amy and the man in the faceless mask coming out of nowhere and attacking. She remembered Amy being knocked down and then being hit over the head.

She started to freak out. She struggled violently, kicking her legs and flailing her arms until finally the man dropped her. She kicked him in the stomach and then pushed him over as she ran for her life. She didn’t get very far before he was on top of her, pinning her to ground.

“Who are you!? Why are you doing this!?” she yelled.

“You’ll know soon enough,” he whispered in her ear.

“Please, just let me go,” she sobbed. “I didn’t do anything.”

The killer let out a dry, humorless laugh. He turned her roughly onto her back and pinned her arms down. “That’s exactly the point.”

“What do you mean? Who are you?”

He didn’t answer but reached up and pulled the faceless mask from his head. Maxi’s eyes widened in shocked surprise.

“Jason?” she whispered. “But I thought you were dead. I saw your body.”

“It’s amazing what you can make people think. All I had to do was find someone who looked enough like me. Same height, same build, same hair color. Mangle up the face a little, put my necklace around his neck, and you were balling your eyes out for me. I was actually a little touched.”

“But why?”

“Why?” He looked at her with menacing eyes. “Why! I’ll tell you why.” He grabbed her by the back of the neck and pushed her along. “Remember how I told you that that house by the lake was my dad’s?” he went on. “It wasn’t true. I just acquired it a few days ago. Then all I had to do was get you and your friends up here for the weekend all alone.”

“But why kill all of us. We were your friends. Renee loved you,” Maxi said as she stumbled along, trying not to fall.

Jason stopped and lowered his head, and Maxi could have sworn she saw regret in his eyes. “I’ll admit I didn’t like killing Renee. I loved her too. But I wanted you to suffer like I suffered.” He started pushing her forward again. “Do you know why I picked this spot?” He threw her to the dirt and pointed ahead. “That’s why.”

Maxi looked up. Her eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat. Nestled in the trees was a fairly large log cabin. Vines were growing up the sides and a few of the windows were broken. It looked like it had seen better days. She knew this place. She couldn’t believe she didn’t recognize the area sooner.

Jason leaned down and whispered in her ear. “Look familiar.”

“Oh god,” she whimpered.

“This was your headquarters shall we say here in Los Angeles. This is where your brothers tortured and murdered four people.”

Maxi let the tears fall as she was pulled to her feet and marched toward one of the places of her nightmares along with so many others around the country. She could remember hearing the men and women scream from outside and feeling completely helpless. She remembered that it was harder to see the captives in secret because the cabin was so much smaller than what she was used to. Usually, they would settle in some warehouse or someplace with a lot of space to set up their equipment, but her brothers loved the locale. Out in the middle of woods where no one would hear their screams. It was perfect.

Unfortunately, it also made it almost impossible for her to get to the captives without her brothers knowing about it. There were only three rooms in that cabin. There was the main living area where her brothers performed their “tests”. One bedroom was where they were all kept locked away and the other room was where the twins set up their monitoring equipment. There was always one twin in the monitoring room and one in the main room, effectively cutting her off from the captives. She talked to them a few times but she couldn’t find a way to get them out safely. So all four ended up dead.

She had been devastated after that session. It was one of the few times where she lost all four. Usually she was able to save at least one or two. She was actually surprised that her brothers didn’t catch on that she was the one setting them free. She knew that Dan had suspected, but she suspected that Ricki had kept him from getting rid of her. She had always been closer to Ricki than Dan. She was sorry that he had been the one who had died.

But the question was, what did all this have to do with Jason? What was his connection? Why did he care so vehemently? She shook her head. I suppose I’ll find out soon, she thought as she was pushed inside the cabin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you sure they came this way?” Blair asked.

Jim bent down to inspect the grass. He could see evidence of their passing. “Positive,” he replied. He took a deep breath and looked back at the young man. “I can smell Maxi’s shampoo. We’re getting close.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maxi lifted her head and watched Jason move about the deserted cabin. She was strung up in the middle of the room, her feet barely touching the floor. Apparently, he had done his homework. This was exactly how her brothers had treated their victims here in Los Angeles. They strung them up and tortured them. They had always liked to use different methods of torture in different cities.

“You know, I didn’t even know about you at first,” Jason said suddenly. He stopped in front of her. “Not until your brothers were caught. Then the news was talking about you and how you were a victim just like all the others.” He took a step closer. “But I think that’s just bullshit. You were there with them the whole time, weren’t you? You stood by and watched as your brothers tortured and killed.”

She could feel the tears coming again and tried to hold them back. “I wanted to stop them. Please, you have to believe me.”

“Bullshit!”

She flinched at the shouted word. He took a deep breath to calm down.

“When we first met,” he went on in a calmer voice. “I told you my name was Jason McKinley, but that’s not true. It’s Ketterson, Jason Ketterson.” He grabbed her chin in a bruising grip and shook her roughly. “Ring any bells?”

Her eyes widened, and Jason stepped back with a smile of satisfaction.

“Oh my god. Max,” she whispered.

Max Ketterson had been one of the victims in Los Angeles. She remembered him well. He had been so strong. Even though he knew that there was a chance he was going to die, he kept calm, and he kept the others calm. Maxi had actually managed to have a conversation with him for a while and found that she really liked him. She had tried to get him out, but she had failed. She had cried for weeks when he was killed. Looking at the man before her now, she realized that he did look a lot like Max. She couldn’t believe she didn’t see it before.

“I see you remember my brother,” Jason said. “He was the world to me. He was my big brother. I looked up to him. We did everything together, and your brothers took him away.”

“I didn’t take part in that. I tried to save his life. Please believe me.”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear it!” he yelled angrily. “You know my family crumbled after my brother’s death. Dad couldn’t handle what happened. He blamed himself so you know what he did. He committed suicide, leaving my mother and me alone. And my mother, she just fell apart bit by bit until she went insane. So I decided to follow you from city to city, state to state, trying to find some way to pay them back. Until a Cascade detective and an LA detective did it for me. But I wasn’t satisfied with just them. There was still you. You deserved to be punished as much as they did.”

“No, you’re wrong. I did the best I could.” Maxi was surprised at her outburst. She hadn’t really believed that before. She still felt guilty for the ones she couldn’t save despite the reassuring words from Mark, Steve, Jesse, Amanda, and all her other friends that she did what she could. Now, as she tried to talk down this man who had been driven insane by the all-consuming grief and hatred, she really did believe that she had done the best she could.

“Enough!” he snapped. “I wanted you to suffer like I suffered so I killed all your friends so that you may know the loss that I felt. Now,” he picked up a large knife and held it in front of her, “you’re going to suffer like Max suffered. I’m going to torture you exactly how your brothers tortured him.”

Maxi’s eyes began to water and tears streamed down her cheeks. Her breath hitched as she closed her eyes and waited for the pain to start. Oh god. She was going to die.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim stopped to dial up his hearing once more, hoping to catch Maxi’s voice. Blair, recognizing the tell-tale tilt of the head, placed his hand on the bigger man’s shoulder. Jim concentrated and finally caught Maxi’s voice followed by a man’s voice, loud and angry.

Jim opened his eyes. “This way,” he said, taking off once again.

Jim kept his hearing trained on those two voices as he moved, ignoring the pain in his head, shoulder, and abdomen. Finally, his sensitive eyes spotted a large cabin. It was several minutes before Blair could see it too. They stopped about ten feet away.

“Is that it?” Blair asked.

Jim nodded. His senses were still focused on what was going on inside the cabin. He clenched his jaws as he listened to the killer speak and Maxi’s racing heart. Then he heard the words that made his blood run cold.

*Now you’re going to suffer like Max suffered. I’m going to torture you exactly how your brothers tortured him.*

Blair could see the tension in the sentinel and feared what he was hearing in that cabin. God, he hoped Maxi was ok.

“So what do we do now?” The question was soft in deference to Jim’s sensitive hearing.

“Stay here,” Jim growled.

He pulled out his gun and headed toward the cabin without waiting for a reply. He went as fast as he could without making any noise. He could hear Maxi’s screams of pain now and knew that he couldn’t afford to wait. Maxi couldn’t afford to wait.

He ran up the steps to the front door and kicked it open, bringing his gun up to aim at the man with the knife. Jim was disgusted at the display before him. Maxi had been strung from the ceiling like a piece of meat. Her shirt had been stripped from her and there were several shallow cuts already on her stomach that were bleeding freely.

“Freeze! Drop the knife!” Jim ordered.

The minute Jim made his entrance, the killer had moved behind Maxi and now held the knife to her throat.

“No way. You drop your gun or I kill her.”

“Not a chance.”

“I let you live! You owe me!”

Jim’s gun never wavered. Their eyes were locked on each other, and it seemed they were at a stand off. They stood like that for quite some time.

“Jim,” Maxi said finally.

Jim shifted his gaze to Maxi’s tear-stained face. He was surprised at what he found in her eyes. There wasn’t just fear but mortification.

“Put your gun down,” she continued.

He shook his head. He couldn’t give this guy the upper hand, not when he had a knife to Maxi’s throat.

“Please,” she pleaded. “His brother was one of Dan and Ricki’s victims. He’s just angry and grief-stricken, and he’s looking for someone to blame. Since he can’t get to my brothers, he’s taking it out on me.”

Jim looked back at the man beside her. The guy looked nervous. There was a hatred in his eyes that made Jim uneasy, but deep down there was also a deep sadness. Maybe there was a chance that he could resolve this without resorting to violence. He just wished he was as versatile with words as his partner was.

He put his hands up and slowly knelt down, gently placing his gun on the floor.

“All right. I’m unarmed,” Jim said carefully.

“Kick it into the corner.”

He did as he was told. The gun slid into the corner of the room.

“Look, um…” He looked to Maxi who supplied him with a name. “Jason, right? I know how you feel.”

“You don’t know shit!” Jason yelled angrily.

“I do. I know what it’s like to loose someone you care about. I’ve lost plenty of people in my life, and the pain, it never really goes away, but it does get easier. But this isn’t the way.”

“Shut up! Shut up! She deserves to die! She deserves to be punished just like her brothers! She’s as guilty as they are!” He pushed harder on the knife at her throat, piercing the skin slightly, eliciting a gasp from her.

Jim winced in sympathy as he both saw and smelled the fresh blood. He had to talk this guy down or he may lose Maxi.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair shivered and rubbed his arms against the sudden chill. He had been standing outside for what seemed like forever. Finally, he couldn’t stand it. He had to know what was going on. He closed the distance between him and the cabin. He silently made his way up the steps and peeked in through the window.

What he saw made his breath catch in his throat. Maxi was hanging from the ceiling with a knife to her throat, and Jim still stood by the front door, his gun raised. But what surprised him the most was that it was Jason who was holding the knife.

Jason? Jason was the killer? But that was impossible. He was dead. They saw his body. Of course, now that Blair thought about it, that body could have been anyone. The face was pretty messed up, making it impossible to make a positive ID. The only reason Maxi recognized him was that necklace, and Jason could have taken that off and put it on some guy after he killed him to make it look like he was dead. But the question was, why?

As Blair listened to the conversation going on inside, he finally understood. He was angry because his brother was taken from him, and now he wants to punish Maxi for it. It looked like Jim wasn’t having much luck in talking this guy down. He seemed to be getting angrier by the minute. Blair knew that he had to do something.

He silently moved to the back of the cabin and found a window that led into a bedroom. He opened it and quietly climbed inside. He tiptoed to the door, opened it a crack, and peered out. He was behind Jason and Maxi. If he could sneak up on Jason, he may be able to get him away from Maxi, and then Jim will be able to subdue him until the police arrive. He took a few deep breaths to calm his racing heart. He couldn’t believe he was going to do this. Jim was going to kill him. One more deep breath and then he stepped out of the bedroom.

Jim saw his Guide step out of the bedroom behind Jason and Maxi but kept his eyes on Jason. He had to keep himself from sighing. When was that kid going to do what he was told?

Blair took careful steps, trying to avoid making any noise. He froze when he heard a creak from under his foot. Jason spun around while still keeping the knife where it was. He shifted position so that he could keep an eye on Jim as well while he addressed Blair.

“You! What are you doing?” Jason asked.

Blair put on an innocent face and prayed to god that his voice didn’t shake as he spoke casually. “Me? Nothing. I just want to talk.”

“Yeah? Then why are you trying to sneak up on me?”

“I wasn’t trying to sneak up on you,” Blair denied. “Like I said, I just want to talk. I mean you spared mine and Jim’s life. I just want to know why.” He had to keep the guy talking.

Jason narrowed his eyes. “You’re victims, just like my brother and me. The only difference is that you’ve both been poisoned by her.” He looked at Maxi briefly before returning his gaze to Blair. “But not me. I know. She didn’t help when she could have. That’s just as bad as performing the deed herself.”

“Were you there? Did you see?”

Jason looked away, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “Yeah, I was there with my dad. I saw what they did.”

“So did I. I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to have to watch someone you care about suffer. Between each session, you were afraid that he may not survive the next one, or that if he did, he may suffer permanent damage. You were afraid that you may never see him again. I know. I felt the same way.”

Jim watched the by-play, ready to act if Jason tried anything. His heightened hearing caught the sound of approaching vehicles. Looked like Amy was able to get help after all. He almost sighed in relief, but then he realized that they weren’t going to know to come to the cabin. He had to find a way to either bring them to the cabin, or get Jason to go to them.

“But he survived.” Jason’s voice was almost venomous as he glared at Jim.

“Yes, he did,” Blair continued calmly. “And I’m sorry you lost your brother. I really am, but that’s not Maxi’s fault. She didn’t kill him. She saved Jim and the others, and I’m sure that she did her best to save your brother too.”

Jason seemed to ponder Blair’s words as his eyes darted from Blair to Maxi. He brought the knife away from Maxi’s throat.

“Just put the knife down, and we’ll help you.”

Jason stared daggers at Blair, and the anthropologist had a bad feeling that he just said the wrong thing.

“I don’t need help,” Jason spat the words out. He turned the knife around in his hand. “I need her to die!” He raised the knife above his head.

Blair’s eyes widened in horror as he watched the knife being raised seemingly in slow motion. “NO!” he yelled.

Jim sprang into action at that point. He ran forward and tackled the guy to the ground just as he was bringing the knife down on Maxi’s chest. They wrestled on the ground, both fighting for possession of the knife. Blair watched for a few seconds before he remembered Maxi was still hanging from the ceiling. He quickly untied her wrists and steadied her while she got her balance back. They both watched Jim wrestling with Jason.

Jim rolled around on the ground with Jason, trying to gain control of the knife. He knew that if he lost, he would be dead and so would Blair and Maxi, and he couldn’t let that happen. Peripherally, he noticed Blair and Maxi standing frozen in place watching.

“GO!” he yelled. “Get help!”

But Blair couldn’t move. He didn’t want to leave his best friend alone with a killer. He felt a tug on his arm.

“Blair, come on. We have to go,” Maxi said. “Blair, we have to get help.” When Blair didn’t move, she grabbed his shoulders and turned him forcefully toward her. “Blair! I know you want to help Jim, but the best way you can do that is to go get help. Ok?”

Blair nodded and followed her out of the door and into the night. Oh god, Jim, please be alive when we get back, he thought.

They ran long and hard, not pausing for anything. They didn’t even slow down to look where they were going, and Blair tripped over a hidden tree root and fell once or twice, causing pain to shoot up his injured arm. He didn’t know how Maxi managed to avoid tripping over anything.

The temperature had dropped significantly, and there was a light rain falling. Blair shivered as he struggled to keep going. He just wanted this night to be over. He wanted to be back home, dry and warm, and watching TV with Jim beside him.

Blair was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the shape that detached itself from the shadows until he ran into it. He let out a surprised yelp and jumped back. It took a minute to register that the shape he had run into was a person, and that person was speaking.

“Easy Blair. It’s me. It’s Steve.”

Blair blinked a few times and finally recognized Steve Sloan standing in front of him, gripping his shoulders tightly. His face was pinched in concern.

“Steve?” Blair said.

“Yeah, are you all right?”

Blair took a deep breath and sighed in relief. He nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Steve!” Maxi cried and jumped into the lieutenant’s arms. Strong arms encircled her and rubbed soothing circles on her back. “Oh god. I’m so glad to see you. It was a nightmare. All my friends are dead. It was Jason. He killed them and he was going to kill me.” She was crying now.

Steve held her closer. “Shh, shh. It’s all right. You’re safe now. Where is he? Where’s Jason?”

Maxi’s eyes snapped open. “Jim!” she cried, pulling away from Steve’s comforting embrace. “Oh god. They were fighting…back at the cabin.”

“The cabin?” Steve looked at Blair questioningly.

“There’s a cabin back that way,” Blair replied, pointing back the way they had come. “Jason took Maxi there. Jim and I followed. Jim fought him off so that we could escape and find help.”

Steve nodded and looked back at Maxi. “Maxi, I want you to go back to the house. My father’s there. He can take a look at you.”

Maxi shook her. “What about Jim?”

“You let us worry about that. Now this officer’s going to escort you back to the house.”

A uniformed officer seemed to materialize out of nowhere. He took her arm gently and started leading her away. Blair watched them go, and it was then that he noticed the other officers that seemed to have appeared behind Steve.

“Blair,” Steve said.

Blair brought his gaze back on the detective. “I’m not going back to the house Steve.”

Steve almost smiled. “No, I didn’t think you would. Would you care to lead us to this cabin?”

Blair smiled and nodded. He led the way back towards the cabin, back towards Jim. Hang on, Jim. Just hang on, he thought.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back at the cabin

Once Blair and Maxi were gone, Jim focused solely on his attacker. They rolled around on the ground for a while before Jim managed to kick Jason off of him. They both got to their feet and faced each other. Jason tried to stab the sentinel, but Jim blocked the attack and punched him in the face, knocking him to his knees.

Jim tried to kick him, but he blocked every one like a pro and then he lunged forward with the knife. Jim grabbed his arm, twisted it around, and flipped him to the floor. Jason jumped back to his feet with power and grace and kicked Jim in the chest and then did a spin kick to Jim’s head, leaving him seeing stars. Jim dropped to his hands and knees, and Jason proceeded to kick the detective in the ribs.

Jim was trying to catch his breath and fight through the pain when he felt hands grab his shirt, pull him to his feet, and slam him up against the wall. His head hit the wall hard, and he almost blacked out. Then he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder as he felt the knife pierce through muscle and tissue. He grunted but managed to bite back the scream.

Jason, breathing hard, looked into Jim’s pain-filled blue eyes. “Sorry Ellison. I truly am. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I can’t let anyone stand in the way of what needs to be done.” He pulled the blade from Jim’s shoulder and raised it again for another blow.

Jim saw it coming. He put all his remaining strength behind the punch that sent the killer to the floor. He hissed as the motion sent fiery pain through his shoulder, and he put his hand over the bleeding wound. Jason shook his head to clear it and then got back to his feet. He went in for another attack.

It was at that point that Steve and other uniformed officers came in pointing guns.

“Freeze! LAPD!” Steve yelled.

Jason paused and stared at the arriving police officers. There was a moment of indecision on his face. Then he sighed, dropped the knife, and surrendered quietly. Steve moved forward cautiously, pulled Jason’s hands behind his back and handcuffed him.

Jim, his strength spent, slid down the wall to sit against it. He felt light-headed from the blood loss.

“Jim!” Blair rushed to his partner’s side and knelt down next to him. “Oh god,” he whispered, horrified at all the blood. He replaced Jim’s lax hand with his own over the wound to try to stop the bleeding. “We need some help here!” he yelled.

Steve was way ahead of him as he asked one of the officers to go retrieve the paramedics and his father.

Blair turned back to his partner. Jim’s eyes were glassy and unfocused. Blair wasn’t even sure he knew they were there. Blair grabbed Jim’s chin and turned his head until he was looking into his eyes.

“Jim? Are you with me?”

Jim’s eyes finally focused on Blair. “Chief?” he said in a whisper.

Blair smiled. “Yeah, it’s me. Stay with me, ok?”

“Maxi?” he asked. He seemed to only be able to manage one word at a time.

“She’s safe. She’s back at the house. Mark’s taking care of her.” Blair glanced worriedly at the blood that was seeping through his fingers. He had to get this bleeding under control. A flannel shirt was suddenly in front of him, and he looked at the person holding it out to him. Steve. Blair had almost forgotten he was there.

“Here,” Steve said. “Use this.”

“Thanks.” He took the shirt and used it to apply pressure to Jim’s shoulder. Jim winced but didn’t make a sound.

A few minutes went by before Mark and Maxi finally arrived with a pair of paramedics right behind. They took over for Blair, taking vital signs and blood pressure readings. By this time, Jim was unconscious now, and Blair stepped back to give them room. He trusted Mark. He knew about Jim’s sensitivities and would treat him with that in mind.

“Lieutenant.” An officer approached Steve. “We’ve found five bodies total so far. There were four out in the woods plus the one we found out in front of the house.”

Four out in the woods, Blair thought. That meant that Patrick was dead too. But wait, they found only five bodies. There should be six, and he had a pretty good idea which one they were missing.

“There’s one more,” Blair spoke.

Steve and the officer turned toward him.

“What?” Steve asked.

“There’s one more body. In the tool shed. In the freezer.” Blair’s voice cracked. He swallowed hard and tried not to think about that one. That one had been the worst. He would be seeing that one in his nightmares for quite some time.

Steve frowned in concern. “Check on that,” he told the officer and then went to stand next to the young man, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Are you ok?”

Blair took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m just worried about Jim. That’s all.”

“Don’t worry. He’s in good hands.”

Blair nodded. Steve looked him over and noticed that one sleeve of his jacket was soaked through with blood.

“Blair.”

Blair looked at the detective and then followed his gaze down to his arm. He lifted the appendage and was surprised to see blood. He didn’t even notice that the knife wound had started bleeding again.

Steve gently lifted up his sleeve. The bandage Jim had wrapped around Blair’s arm was now stained bright red and blood had started seeping out from under the gauze. Steve looked back at Blair’s face.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were injured?”

“I didn’t think about it,” Blair answered. “It must have started bleeding again when I fell.”

“Dad,” Steve called.

“No, wait,” Blair protested but it was too late.

Mark came over and immediately noticed the blood. “Blair, what happened?” he asked as he carefully took Blair’s arm in his hands.

“I got stabbed. It’s not that bad. It had stopped bleeding for a while, but I guess when I fell trying to escape, it reopened the wound. Ow!”

“Sorry,” Mary apologized. He carefully examined the wound. “Yeah, this is going to need stitches. Come on. You’re coming with us to the hospital.” He started to lead Blair toward the paramedics who had already gotten Jim on a stretcher and were getting ready to transport.

“But it’s not that bad,” Blair protested. “Jim is worse.”

“The paramedics are taking care of Jim. Besides, this’ll give you a chance to ride with us in the ambulance. That is what you want, right?”

Blair gave him a small smile and nodded.

“We’ll meet you at the hospital, Dad,” Steve called after them as they were leaving. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Community General Hospital

Blair sat in one of the treatment rooms while Dr. Jesse Travis stitched up his arm. Jim had been taken to one of the trauma rooms as soon as they had arrived, and Mark had gone with him. Blair hadn’t seen them since so he had no idea how Jim was doing.

“How are you doing?” Jesse asked as he sutured up the deep knife wound.

“Huh? Oh, I’m fine. It doesn’t even hurt.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Blair looked at him quizzically.

“You saw some pretty horrible things tonight, Blair. I know I’d be upset if I saw some of the things you saw.”

Blair lowered his eyes. It’s true. He’d probably have those images burned into his brain for quite some time, and he’d probably have nightmares about it for weeks, maybe even months, but he couldn’t think about that now. He had other worries.

“I’m ok. I’m just worried about Jim.”

Jesse didn’t seem to buy that, but he nodded and didn’t ask anymore questions. After finishing suturing and bandaging up Blair’s arm, he stood up and took his rubber gloves off.

“Ok, Blair, you’re all set.” He picked up his chart and started writing a prescription. “Here’s a prescription for some pain killers.”

“Great,” Blair said. He took the slip of paper and hopped off the table. “Can I go now?”

“Whoa, slow down there. Don’t move around too much yet. You may not have a concussion, but you still took a good knock to the head. Look, why don’t you stay here and I’ll go find out how Jim’s doing. Ok?”

Blair nodded and sat back on the examining table. His head was throbbing and so was his arm despite his earlier statement that it didn’t hurt. A few minutes after Jesse left, Maxi, Amy, and Steve came in.

“Blair,” Maxi exclaimed and hugged him. “How are you doing?”

“I’m ok.” He looked her in the eyes. “I’m sorry about what happened. Are you and Amy ok?”

“I can’t speak for Amy, but I honestly don’t know. I haven’t really had the time to process things just yet.”

“It’s just so horrible,” Amy said, wringing her hands nervously. There were dried tear tracks on her face and her eyes were red and puffy.

Maxi nodded in agreement. “How’s Jim doing?” she asked.

Blair sighed. “I don’t know. Jesse just went to check.”

Steve moved to Blair’s side and put a hand on the young man’s shoulder. “He’ll be ok. He’s in good hands. Dad’ll take good care of him.”

“Thanks Steve. By the way, how did you guys get up there so fast?” Blair asked.

“Oh, a friend of mine has a Hummer, so we sort of borrowed it.”

“Oh, that’s how you got past that flood.”

“Yeah, although it took the emergency vehicles some time to get through. Then, we ran into Amy on the road, and she told us what was going on.”

“Well, thank god you got there when you did.” Blair didn’t even want to think what would have happened if they hadn’t.

It was a few minutes before Jesse returned. Jesse greeted Steve and Maxi before going to Blair. The anthropologist didn’t like the serious look he had.

“Ok, Jim’s stabilized and on his way to surgery right now,” Jesse reported.

“Surgery?”

“Yes, apparently the knife nicked an artery in Jim’s shoulder, which is why he was bleeding so much, and the doctors have to go in and repair the damage.”

“But…he’s going to be ok, right?”

“I’m not going to lie to you. He’s lost a fair amount of blood, but he’s stabilized. He’s in great physical condition, and I believe that he will pull through. Mark’s going to perform the surgery himself so he couldn’t be in more capable hands.”

Blair breathed a sigh of relief. He felt better knowing that Mark was going to be the one operating on Jim. He had grown to trust the old doctor in the past few months.

“Thank you,” Blair said.

“You’re welcome. Now you guys are welcome to wait in the doctor’s lounge. As for me, I’ve got other patients I have to attend to, but I’ll be back to check on you.” He directed his last statement at Blair in particular before he turned and left. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Blair paced the confines of the doctor’s lounge while Steve and Maxi sat at one of the tables drinking coffee. It had been hours since Jesse reported that Jim was being taken up to surgery, and they hadn’t heard a thing since. Blair was getting antsy. He had called Simon earlier to let him know what had happened, and after convincing the worried captain that he was fine and the doctors believed that Jim would pull through and that it wasn’t necessary that he come down to LA, he had returned the doctor’s lounge to continue his pacing.

“Blair, will you calm down? I’m sure Jim’s doing fine,” Maxi said.

“But we don’t know that. It’s been three hours, and we haven’t heard a thing. What could be taking so long?”

Just then, Mark walked in wearing blue scrubs. Steve was the first to notice his arrival.

“Dad.”

Blair spun around and practically ran to Mark’s side.

“Mark, how’s Jim? Is he ok?”

Mark put up a hand and smiled. “He’s doing fine. The surgery went extremely well, and he should be up and about in no time.”

Blair let out a humongous breath in relief. He hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath waiting for Mark’s news. “Thank god. Can I see him?”

“Of course. He’s in ICU right now, but he should be moved to a private room in a day or two.”

Mark led Blair to the ICU. Pausing outside Jim’s room, Mark turned back to Blair.

“He hasn’t woken up yet, but he should be coming around soon. You can stay as long as you want. I’ll let the nurses know.”

“Thanks Mark.”

Blair took a deep breath before pushing the door open and walking in. Jim lay in a bed surrounded by machines monitoring his condition. Blair could see the white bandages that swathed across Jim’s chest and shoulder. Well, Blair thought, at least he’s not on a respirator. He hated seeing his partner with a breathing tube stuck down his throat.

Blair grabbed a chair from against the wall and pulled it to Jim’s bedside. He sat down and immediately took Jim’s hand. He started speaking in low tones.

“Hey Jim. I’m right here. It’s ok to wake up now.” There was no response from the unconscious man not that Blair expected any. “Man, one of these days we’ll have a normal relaxing vacation.” Blair laughed but quickly sobered. “God, I’m so sorry Jim. If it hadn’t been for me and my always getting into trouble, you wouldn’t be lying in this bed right. You’d be on beach somewhere enjoying the sun.”

“Not your fault,” a voice whispered.

Blair sat up straighter and found himself staring into the pale blue eyes of his partner.

“Hey Jim. You’re awake. How are you feeling?”

“A little tired. What happened?”

“You were stabbed, remember?”

“Oh yeah. Jason?”

“He’s in custody. Jim, I’m so sorry.”

“I told you, Chief. It’s not your fault.”

“But…”

“No buts,” Jim interrupted. “You couldn’t have known what was going to happen. Now no more feeling guilty. I’m too tired to fight you.”

Blair laughed. “Alright. You just go back to sleep.”

Jim nodded. With Blair’s hand still gripped firmly in his own, he closed his eyes and fell asleep to the sound of Blair’s heartbeat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark’s Beach House

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” Mark asked.

Jim had been in the hospital for a few days before he was finally released. He and Blair decided to just head home rather than stay like they had planned. They were all set to head to the airport. They just had to stop at the beach house to say good-bye.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Jim said, adjusting the sling on his arm. He always hated these things. They drove him nuts. “I won’t be able to do much with this bum shoulder, and I would much rather rest at home.”

“It’s a sentinel thing,” Blair supplied.

“How so?” Mark asked, curious.

“Well, sentinel’s go by instinct, and a sentinel’s first instinct is to protect the tribe, which in this case would be Cascade. So they feel that they have to be in their territory in order to keep it safe. Trust me. He’ll recover a whole lot faster once we’re back home.”

“But we’ll be back I’m sure,” Jim said.

“Oh yeah,” Blair agreed. “I didn’t even get to try surfing.”

“Well, I could teach you a thing or two,” Steve said. “And I’m sure Jesse could give you a few pointers too.”

“Oh I don’t think so. If anyone’s going to teach the kid how to surf, it’ll be me,” Jim stepped in. “I want to make sure he does it right,” he said jokingly.

“Are you saying that I don’t know how to surf?” Steve asked, trying to act defensive.

“No, I’m just saying that I’m better at it,” Jim said with a smile.

“Oh really. Well how about next time you show me what you can do. And then I’ll do it better.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah that’s so.”

Blair shook his head with a smile. They were arguing like school children.

“Do I have to separate you boys?” Mark interrupted, in his best parental tone.

The two men looked at Mark and then lowered their heads shamefully.

“No Dad,” Steve said.

“No Dr. Sloan,” Jim echoed.

Blair couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. Jim cuffed him in the back of the head playfully, laughing himself.

“Hey guys,” a soft voice said from the doorway.

They all turned to see Maxi walking slowly into the house. They hadn’t seen much of her for the past few days. Mark had told the two men from Cascade that she wanted some time alone, which was understandable.

“Maxi, come on in,” Mark said.

“I heard you guys were leaving today,” she said as she approached Jim and Blair.

“Yeah,” Blair said.

She hugged each of them. “Bye guys. You’ll come back some time, won’t you?”

“Definitely,” Blair said. “How are you holding up?”

“Ok, I guess. I’m still trying to process all this.”

“Well, don’t forget, you still have friends,” Jim said, resting a hand on her shoulder.

“That’s right,” Steve said as he and his father gathered around her. “We’ll always be here if you want to talk.”

“And I’m just an email away,” Blair added.

Maxi looked around at all the caring faces around her, and she couldn’t have felt more loved. A small smile formed on her lips. “Thanks guys.”

“Any time,” Jim said. He looked at his watch. “Well, we better get going or we’ll miss our flight.” He looked back at Maxi. “You take care, ok?”

She nodded.

The two men said their good-byes before getting into their rental and driving to the airport.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cascade

Back at the loft, Blair and Jim were settled on the couch watching TV. They had gotten home the day before and were now enjoying a good basketball game. Their peaceful evening was interrupted by a certain cigar-smoking captain.

“Hey Chief, get the door, would you?” Jim said.

“Huh?” Blair asked.

“Get the door. Simon’s coming.”

“Oh.”

Blair stood up and opened the door just as the captain was getting ready to knock. He looked at Blair in surprise.

“I expected Ellison to be standing there,” Simon said.

“Well, he’s resting.”

“And I thought for once I was actually going to get to knock.”

Blair smiled as he invited the captain in.

“Hey Simon,” Jim greeted.

“Hey Jim. How are you doing?”

“Better. So what brings you here?”

“What, can’t a captain come and check on his best detective team?” Simon asked.

Jim and Blair looked at each other before they both answered, “No.” They laughed at the mock look of hurt on Simon’s face. They knew the captain cared about them, but it was good to tease him every once in a while.

“Well, you’re right. That wasn’t the only reason I came here. I wanted to let you know that your convenience story robbery case has been resolved.”

Jim sat up straighter. “Really? What happened?”

“Your suspect was found dead out in the woods.”

“What?” Blair said in disbelief. “What happened to him?”

“He was found burned to death next to his motorcycle and a burnt out campfire.”

“So what, he set himself on fire?” Jim asked.

“We believe so. Now this is a first in all my years with the police.”

Jim and Blair waited and when no explanation was forthcoming, Blair blurted, “Well, what happened?”

“Well, we found a broken bottle of whiskey near the body, and there was also a plastic bottle filled with gasoline mixed with some kind of energy drink.”

The room was silent for a few minutes as the partners tried to piece together what could have happened.

“Wait, he was drinking gas?” Jim said incredulously.

“That’s what it looks like, yes,” Simon replied.

“Why the hell would he do that?”

“Well,” Blair said, “If he accidentally broke the whiskey bottle, he was probably trying to get drunk off it. There is ethanol in gasoline, which is what’s in alcohol that makes you drunk.”

Jim shook his head. “Let me guess. He puked the gas all over the campfire and set himself on fire.”

“That would be my guess, yes.”

“Oh my god,” Blair said, shaking his head. “Are you serious?”

“Now this is just speculation of course,” Simon reminded the two men. “But based on what we found, we believe that’s what happened.”

Blair continued to shake his head. He was in shock. “How could someone be so stupid?”

“Well, he did rob about seven convenience stores, Chief. I don’t think he was too smart to begin with.”

“Well, I should be heading home,” Simon said. “Take it easy you guys.”

“Bye Simon,” Jim called after him.

They two men sat in silence watching the game together. Jim cast a glance his partner’s way. Blair was curled up in the corner of the couch, his arms hugging himself tightly. He looked miserable. Aside from all the bumps and bruises, the kid had seen some pretty horrible stuff. He was probably going to have some pretty bad nightmares for a while now. Maybe there was something Jim could do to help in that department.

“Hey Chief.”

“Yeah, Jim?”

“Come here.”

Blair looked at him uncertainly.

“Come here,” Jim repeated.

After a moment’s hesitation, Blair scooted toward Jim. The sentinel gently coaxed his guide to lay down with his head in Jim’s lap. Jim ran his hand through Blair’s soft curls, and the younger sighed in contentment.

“It’s going to be ok, Chief. We’ll get through this together. You won’t be alone.”

With another sigh, Blair closed his eyes. “Thanks Jim,” he whispered.

The End

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author’s Notes: Did you guess which movie? Well, here’s the answer: Friday the 13th (the remake, not the original). And for those of you who haven’t seen it, no worries. I didn’t spoil anything. As for the certain someone, it’s Richard Burgi. That definitely blew my mind. It’s a minor part, though.