Disclaimer: The Sentinel and all characters related to it belong to PetFly Productions.
Blair Sandburg shivered and pulled his jacket tighter around him.
"You okay Chief?"
"Yeah, God it's cold today," he answered.
Jim Ellison smiled, the cold always affected Blair worse than it did him, but even he had to admit it was chilly. Not unusually cold for March, but it had been a very unusual spring so far. There would be a few days of warm weather, then it would drop back below freezing for a few days, them warm up again. Of course, there hadn't been a lot of sun, true to the weather of the pacific northwest, a lot of the days had been rainy. Today was no exception.
Jim himself would rather have been back at the loft, reading the Sunday newspapers and being lazy, but duty had called. Jacqie Hoyle, the ten year old daughter of Councilwoman Nancy Hoyle had been kidnapped four days ago. Her kidnapper was a novice, and had been caught easily this morning when trying to make the ransom pickup. He had been willing to make a deal and had told the police where Jacqie was, in an abandoned cabin in the mountains north of Cascade.
Jim had been amazed at how easily the whole thing had been solved. A lot of kidnappings didn't end on such an upbeat note. He and Blair, along with Simon and several other members of the Cascade Police Department had driven out the location of the cabin to retrieve Jacqie. When they reached the cabin however, they found it empty. Jacqie had been there, but had managed to free herself and escape. Now the detectives were frantically searching for her in the great northwoods.
"Jacqie!" Jim yelled, "Jacqie, we're the police, please answer us if you can hear us. We want to take you home."
As he had been doing for several hours, he strained to hear an answer. Nothing. He could hear the Cascade River in the distance, but no little girl's voice.
"Come on honey, it's getting cold out here." Blair called, shivering again.
As they moved close to the river, Jim cocked his head.
"What is it? Do you hear her?"
"I don't know, maybe. The sound of the damn river is interfering."
"Remember," Blair said soothingly, "Try to filter out the sound of the river. Concentrate on the sound you're trying to hear."
Jim took a deep breath and focused. There it was again. A small voice, "I'm over here."
"This way!" he headed towards the river. "Keep talking Jacqie, so we can find you," he yelled.
As they got closer to the river, the little girl's voice became louder. Suddenly, they reached the river bank. "Jacqie?"
"Down here. I fell." came the voice.
Jim and Blair looked down toward the source of the voice, and both gasped. Jacqie had apparently slipped and fallen onto a ledge above the rushing river, whitewater rapids caused by the spring thaw in the higher mountains.
Jim grabbed his two-way radio, to let Simon and the Search and Rescue team that had been called in that Jacqie had been found.
"Jacqie," Blair tried to calm the young girl, who was crying. "it's okay, we're going to get you out of here. Just hang on." Jacqie was about twelve feet below them.
He looked at Jim. "If she moves around to much, she's going to fall in the river. How are we...?"
"Search and rescue is on it's way. But I think I can reach her. Jacqie, I'm going to reach down to get you. Do you think you can reach up to grab my hands?"
"I don't know, I hurt my leg."
"Okay, why don't you try, if it hurts too much, you can sit back down."
Jim laid down on the ground and stretched his long arms out to the frightened girl. She tried to stand, but cried out, "I can't, it hurts."
Jim sat up and sighed. Suddenly he felt Blair's hand on his shoulder. "Jim I think I know a way to reach her." He pointed to a path about thirty feet from them. It lead down to the same ledge that Jacqie was on.
Jim knew what Blair was thinking. "I don't know, Chief. I know how you are with heights."
"Come on Jim, All I have to do is climb down there and work my way to her. It's not anywhere as steep as where Jacqie fell. And it's solid footing. When I get to her, I'll lift her so you can grab her arms and pull her up, then you can bring me up. Piece of cake."
Jim looked at Blair. That was Blair Sandburg, only looking at the bright side of things. Piece of cake, huh, no big deal that the Cascade River was rushing by beneath them at who knows how fast. That heights terrified the young anthropologist. But still, the footing did appear to be pretty solid. And Blair was right, if the child moved too much, she could very easily fall of the ledge.
"Okay, but take your time, and be careful. And whatever you do, don't look down. "
Jim watched as Blair slowly made his way down to the ledge and then to Jacqie, all the while speaking in soothing tones to her. He marveled at how expert Blair had become in this type of situation. Whether it was calming a hysterical witness or trying to convince some jumper not to end his life.
Simon and the search and rescue team arrived just as Blair was reaching Jacqie.
"Where is she?" he asked Jim.
"Down there. Sandburg's gone down after her. He's going to hand her up to me."
"Ready Jim?" Blair called up.
"Yeah, hold on." Jim laid back down on the ground to reach for Jacqie.
Blair noticed that Jacqie was shivering. He took off his coat and wrapped it around her, helping her to get her arms through the sleeves. he spoke quietly to the little girl, "This should help warm you up. I'm going to pick you up now, and hand you up to my partner, so we can get out of here. How does that sound?"
Jacqie, wiping tears from her eyes, sniffed, "I want to go home."
"I know, that's what we're going to do, take you home."
"Okay Blair, whenever you're ready." Jim called down to him.
Blair looked at Jacqie. "Here we go." Just as he began lifting the little girl up however, there was a loud crack that sounded like a gunshot, and Blair felt the ledge he and Jacqie were on shudder. He lost his hold on the girl and both fell back.
The sound was even louder to Jim and he covered his ears.
"What the hell was that?" asked Simon.
"Shit, we've got to get them off of there, now!" Shouted Captain Holms, the leader of the search and rescue team. He quickly explained that the ledge that Blair and Jacqie were on was not a ledge of earth at all, but instead one made up of ice and dirt, which was formed during the winter. Because of the cascades, the river never completely froze over, but ice did build up on the banks of the river. Now, because of the recent warm weather, the ice had started to thaw, and was about to give way.
Another loud crack, and the ice moved again. Jim looked down at Blair, who was trying to gain his footing. He could tell by the panicked look in his eyes that he had heard what Captain Holms had said. "Come on Chief, we've got to get the two of you off of there, now."
Blair took a deep breath, Jim was right, this was no time to panic. He laughed to himself, what had he told Jim? Piece of cake, yeah right. He looked at Jacqie, who was lying next to him crying. 'She's got to be a whole lot more frightened than I am,' he thought. "Come on honey, it's going to be all right. We've got to get out of here. Give me your hand."
Jacqie put her hand in Blair's and he quickly pulled her up. The ice moved again, but Blair braced himself. 'Not as bad as that damn elevator', he thought to himself. He picked Jacqie up and held her up for Jim to grab, just as the ice shook again, this time more violently. "Take her!" he yelled to Jim, "I don't think this ice is going to hold up against another tremor."
Jim grabbed the girl and scrambled to hand her to Simon. "Hang on Sandburg," he yelled and he turned back to grab his guide.
Just then a deafening roar was heard, loud enough to hurt everyone's ears, not just the Sentinel's. Jim watched in horror as the ice beneath Blair gave way.
"Grab my hand! he screamed at Blair. "Come on Chief!"
The movement had knocked Blair off balance, he looked up and saw the terror in Jim's face as he tried in vain to regain his footing, to grab his friend's hand and the salvation it offered. Even as he tried, he knew it was fruitless, he could feel the ice beneath him crumble and suddenly, below him was nothing but air. The last thing he heard as he fell into the icy river was Jim's anguished cry.
Jim watched in horror as Blair fell into the icy water and was carried away by the strong current. He trained his sight on Blair's flailing arms as he fought to keep his head above the rushing water, but the rapids were to strong and kept pulling him under. Then suddenly, Blair was gone.
"Jim, Jim!" Simon exclaimed. "Come on Jim, don't zone on me now." He turned Jim around to face him and grabbed a hold of his shoulders, shaking him hard. "Come on Jim!"
Jim shook his head to clear it. "Simon, we've got to help him."
"I know, search and rescue is already gearing up. They have on helicopter already. They've radioed for two others. They also have several all terrain vehicles ready to monitor the river banks."
"Simon, where's the chopper?"
"It's already in the air." Captain Holms had come up behind them.
Jim turned to him. "I want to be on the helicopter."
"Detective, we have a full crew on board."
Jim turned to Simon, a determined look on his face. "Simon, I need to be up there."
Simon looked at Captain Holms. "Is there anyway we can get him on a helicopter?"
Holms sighed, "Hold on". After a few minutes speaking with his team on his radio, he said, "one of the other choppers is just reaching the area. There's a clearing about a half mile from here. Take one of the ATVs and meet it there, you can go up with them."
Jim thanked him. As he started off toward the waiting vehicle, he felt Simon's hand on his shoulder. "Jim, we'll find him." but Jim could tell that Simon was as unconvinced as he was that they would find Blair in one piece.
After Simon and Captain Holms watched Jim head off, Holms said, " They must be real close. Are they partners?"
"Yeah," Simon answered. 'Or the closest thing Jim's ever had to one.' he thought to himself.
Captain Holms sighed. "It's never easy, It's amazing how important your partner becomes to you. Sometimes more important that your family, hell, sometimes they become your family."
'That's Jim and Blair in a nutshell.' thought Simon.
Blair hit freezing water and was immediately pulled downstream by the powerful current. As the water pulled him under, he struggled to push himself to top but as soon as he broke the surface, he hit another rapid and went under again. Every time he gasped for breath, he took in as much water as he did air. 'Maybe if I can make it to the bank, I can find something to grab onto.' he thought. He looked around, but saw nothing but water. The frigid river was beginning to numb his arms and legs, and he felt his strength ebbing. 'God, I don't think I'm gonna make it.' he thought to himself. He knew that there was no way Jim could help him. His friend was too far away. Just then, he came upon another, violent rapid. This time his head struck a large rock as he went under. 'Actually, this may be a good thing.' Blair realized as he began to loose consciousness. 'At least this way I won't feel it when I drown.'
Jim sighed and focused his vision again on the raging river below. They had been in the air for over two hours and had been up and down the river twice, finding nothing. Even Jim's enhanced sight had come up with nothing. He had become more and more frustrated at his failure. He had been sure he'd find Blair. "Detective," the pilot's voice broke into his thoughts, "we're going to head back to headquarters."
"Can we go down the river once more?" Jim asked.
The co-pilot turned sympathetic eyes on him. Both men were aware that the missing man was Jim's partner. "Sir, we've been up and down twice, and it's getting pretty dark. Even if there is something down there, we probably wouldn't see it now anyway."
'I would.' Jim thought. "Just a quick trip, then we can go back, please?"
Pilot and co-pilot looked at each other and nodded. "Once more." said the pilot.
Simon was at Search and Rescue Headquarters when the helicopter landed. The third trip had been as fruitless as the first two. No sign of Blair had been found. The men on the ATVs had had not better luck. They had traveled the banks of the river, hoping that Blair had made it to the side of the river, but found nothing.
"Captain Banks," Holms said, "We'll send a team out tomorrow as soon as the sun's up to search again. But I have to tell you, the chances of finding him alive are next to nothing. With the temperature dropping and everything." He sighed. "I'm sorry."
Simon sighed too, he had known the minute Blair had fallen into the river that his chances weren't good. The only chance he did have was if they could have found him soon after he fell in. That was why he had felt as strongly as Jim had about getting Jim on that helicopter. But even that had failed, and the chopper would be returning in a few minutes. He tried to compose himself. He wasn't even sure what he was going to say to Jim. He was upset about this, but he knew Jim would be devastated.
Jim slowly walked into headquarters behind the two men who had flown the copter. His heart felt so heavy he felt it would burst at any moment. He'd failed his guide.
Simon came up to him. "Come on Jim, I'm going to take you home."
"Simon, I couldn't find him, not a trace." Jim's voice wavered, threatening to break. "I was sure if I could just get on the chopper, I'd be able to find him from the air, but nothing. Some Blessed Protector I am."
"I know Jim, I know. Come on, I'll drive you back to Cascade, you look exhausted, you need some rest."
"I won't be able to sleep."
"Maybe not, but you look like you're going to collapse."
Simon helped Jim into passenger seat of the Expedition and walked around to the other side.
Once they were on their way toward the city, Simon looked over at Jim who sat dejectedly leaning against the door. 'I wonder if he realizes how much he looks like Blair right now.' he thought.
"Listen, they're going to search again tomorrow, as soon as it gets light."
Jim sat up straight. "Simon, I need to help them."
Simon sighed, he didn't think it would be a good idea for Jim to be here, if they did find Blair at this point. It was going to be hard enough for Jim to deal with Blair's death, let alone if he was the one to find the body.
"Jim, I don't think that that's a good idea. I know you think you can do more than them, because of this Sentinel thing, but the truth is, that's what these guys do for a living."
Simon put a hand on Jim's shoulder. "I know how you feel, but we have to let them do their job."
Jim sighed. "You're right, Simon." It was probably just as well. He knew that the chances of Blair's survival were almost nothing at this point, and he wasn't sure that he could take it if he was there when the body was found. Maybe it would be better if the word came to him when he was back in Cascade, around friends and familiar surroundings.
The two men continued the drive back to Cascade in silence.
"You're sure you're going to be okay?" Simon asked as he left the loft.
"Don't worry, Simon, I'll be fine." Jim assured the black man.
Simon had driven Jim back to the loft and had insisted on going up with him. He didn't want Jim to enter the empty loft alone. He hadn't wanted Jim to spend the night alone, but Jim had insisted he go home. They had driven to the mountains together in Jim's truck, so he called a cab from Jim's to take him home.
Jim closed the door behind Simon and sighed. He listened to the sounds of the city at night drifting through the balcony doors, but was struck by the overwhelming silence in the loft itself, he could only hear his own heartbeat, gone was the sound he had become so accustomed to, so comfortable with, his guide's heartbeat. Jim felt tears welling up in his eyes, but he couldn't cry. He grabbed the remote control and turned on the television. It was late and there wasn't much on, but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. He found some junk sport program on one of the sports channels and settled down on the couch. The program went off and somebody came on selling some form of exercise equipment that looked like something that would have been used in the torture chambers of medieval Europe. As some bulked up muscle man was exclaiming the virtues of the Bodybuster 2000, Jim fell into a fitful sleep.
"Don't let me fall! Please Jim help me!" came Blair's panicked voice.
Jim watched in horror as Blair's hand slipped from his grasp and he fell. Fell into the empty nothingness below him.
"Jim!" he heard Blair's voice as he fell, Jim!!!!!!!!!"
Then Blair was gone, not into a river, or off a mountain, just gone.
Jim woke with a start. Disoriented, he wasn't sure at first where he was. He looked around and realized he had fallen asleep on the couch. Light was filtering thought the windows. God was it morning already? He immediately listened for Blair, to see if he was up yet. Hearing nothing, the events of yesterday came rushing back to him, and his heart jumped to his throat. He remembered the dream he had had. Blair had trusted him and he had let him down. If he had only moved a little quicker, he may have been able to grab Blair's hand before he fell. If only... He got up slowly from the couch. Sitting around was only to make things worse. He had to stay busy. There would be things to do in the squadroom, people to keep him company as he waited for the inevitable.
Simon felt the sadness in the air as soon as he walked into the squadroom. He knew this was how it would be. It was the reason he had taken his time coming in this morning. He felt his own sadness, and knew that the rest of his officers would be feeling the loss too. Blair had come a long way since he had joined the force as an observer, and had earned the grudging respect of most of the men that Jim worked with. It was like losing one of your own. Hell most of them felt they had lost one of their own. Made even more frustrating because it had been an accident. No one to blame, no psycho to hunt down, to give them some sort of revenge. Just a stupid senseless accident.
He was surprised to see Jim sitting at his desk. Joel Taggert was standing next to him, his hand on Jim's shoulders. Simon could see the tears in Joel's eyes, and the grief on Jim's face. He walked up to Jim's desk.
"Joel," Simon said. "Good to see you."
"Yeah, you too Simon." the large man sniffed, "I wish it were a better day. Listen, I have to get back to work." He looked at Jim. "If you need anything, you let me know, okay?"
Jim nodded. "Thanks Joel, I appreciate it."
As Joel walked away, Simon said to Jim, "What are you doing here? I figured you'd want to take a few days off. You should you know, things are pretty quiet around here."
"Simon, I'll go crazy if I just sit around that loft, I'd rather keep busy. Besides, I need to do some things. Like go over to the University and..." Jim's voice trailed off, " Well you know, let them know."
"What about Naomi?"
"I'm trying to get a hold of her, but she's out of the country. She and her new boyfriend are in Africa. Blair said she's trying to help save the mountain gorilla or something. I've left messages to have her call me, but I don't know when she'll get back to me."
Two more detectives came up to Jim's desk, sorrow in their eyes. Simon excused himself and went into his office.
That afternoon, after Jim has made the difficult trip to Rainier University, he returned to the station feeling more in despair than ever. He hadn't even reached his desk when Simon called to him from his office.
"Jim, can I see you for a minute?"
Jim's heart leapt to his throat. Was this going to be it? Had Simon heard from search and rescue while Jim had been gone? He walked slowly to Simon's office.
When he walked in, he realized that Simon was not alone. Carolyn Plummer, Jim's ex-wife was also in the office.
Jim's breathing slowed a little. 'It must be something else.' Jim thought, 'Simon would make sure he was alone before he told me... ' he couldn't finish the thought.
"Jim," Carolyn said, "I'm so sorry about Blair, Simon told me what happened."
Jim thanked her, to Simon he said, " Have you heard anything?"
Simon shook his head. "Nothing at all. I'm sure they'll let as know as soon as they..." his voice trailed off.
Simon decided that this was a good time to change the subject. "Jim did you mean what you said about wanting to keep busy?"
Simon looked at Carolyn. "Well, Carolyn has come to us for help. It's not really a case for major crimes, but I figured we owed her a favor."
Carolyn smiled. "I really would appreciate some help. I'm just not sure what else I can do."
"Why don't you explain to Jim what you told me."
Carolyn took a deep breath, "Okay, here goes. Like I told Simon, I may be overreacting. But I can't help but think that something's wrong. Sorry I'm getting ahead of myself. A few months ago, someone new moved into the apartment next to mine, her name is Sara. She has a young son, about seven or so, named Nicky. Sara works at one of the laboratories in town. You know drawing blood and such. She works odd hours, so I started keeping an eye on Nicky when she was working late. She and I became pretty good friends." Carolyn sighed. "Every Thursday night, we have a girls night out. She gets a baby-sitter for Nicky and we go out to dinner, a movie or whatever. This Thursday, she never showed up. I figured she may have gotten stuck at work and didn't have a chance to call me. Friday when I got home from work, I checked her apartment and she and Nicky were gone."
"You mean not home?" Jim asked.
"No, I mean gone. Like packed bags and gone. It looked like she had left in a hurry too."
"Did it look like she left on her own accord?" Jim's detective instinct was kicking in.
"I didn't see signs of a struggle or anything. I checked with her employer, they said she just called Thursday night and left a message on the Personnel Director's voice mail that she was quitting. No reason or anything." Carolyn sighed. "Like I said, maybe I'm overreacting, but I'd like to think that if something was wrong, that she was going to leave, she'd let me know."
"Did you file a police report?"
"Sure, but you know the routine. She's an adult, she can come and go as she pleases." Carolyn sighed again. "I just don't know, but I can't help but think that there's something more to this."
Simon interjected. "What do you think, Jim?"
"I don't know, but it couldn't hurt to check into a few things." He smiled at his ex-wife. "I'd like to help. The first thing I'd like to do is check out her apartment."
Carolyn smiled back at him. "Thanks, Jim, I really do appreciate it. I'll be off my shift at five, what if you meet me at my apartment at five-thirty and I'll let you in then."
"That would be fine."
Jim and Simon watched as Carolyn exited the office. Jim saw the satisfied look on his captain's face. He knew that Simon figured that this was a way to keep Jim's mind preoccupied with other things for a while, but Jim had another reason for agreeing to help his ex-wife. He knew what it was like to loose a close friend. He wanted to do anything in his power to keep Carolyn from the same feeling of despair that he felt in the pit of his stomach.
Blair stirred slightly and moaned, every bone in his body hurt.
"Mom he's waking up." came a child's voice.
Blair slowly opened his eyes, God, his head hurt worse than his body, if that was possible. He forced his vision to clear and found the source of the voice. A boy, about seven or eight, was standing in the doorway of the room. Blair surveyed his surroundings. He appeared to be in a small bedroom, the only furniture was a the bed he was lying on, a bedside table and a small chest of drawers.
A young woman about his age walked into the room past the boy.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Okay, I guess." Blair said. "Where am ? How did I get here?"
"I think that's a question I should be asking you." The woman's voice was wary. "Nicky, found you by the edge of the river yesterday morning. You were in pretty bad shape, but you actually were lucky. You have a couple of broken ribs and you were starting to suffer from hypothermia, but I was able to bring your body temperature back without too much of a problem. My biggest concern was the concussion. You must have taken a pretty good crack to the head. Want to tell me what happened?"
Blair tried to clear his foggy mind. He seemed to remember another child, a girl, and a sudden feeling of helplessness as he felt the ground disappear beneath him, but that was it.
"I'm not sure, I must have fallen into the river."
The woman smiled. "I figured that much. You want to tell me who you are at least? You didn't have a wallet or anything."
"Blair... Blair..." a sudden wave of panic swept over him. God, he didn't know who he was, he couldn't remember anything. Not where he lived, who he was, anything. "I don't know, I think my first name is Blair, but other than that, I just don't know." he finished hopelessly.
The look on the woman's face surprise him. He had expected to find sympathy there, but instead, it looked like she wasn't sure if she believed him. Finally she sighed. "That's okay. Like I said, you took a pretty good rap on the head. It took ten stitches to close it up." She walked over to the bed to admire her handiwork. It's healing quite nicely though. My name is Sara West, and this," she grabbed her son's hand and pulled him to stand beside her, "is my son Nicky."
Blair could feel his eyes growing heavy. "Hi Nicky, I owe both of you, I guess I owe you guys my life, thanks."
There was that strange look on Sara's face again, but Blair was too tired to think about it.
"I think we'll leave you alone to rest. If you need anything let me know. Come on Nicky." with that, she turned and pushed her son out of the room and followed.
Jim watched as Simon hung up the phone and took his glasses off, rubbing his temples. He held his breath, waiting for Simon to open his door and call his name.
"To hell with it." he muttered to himself, and got up. He hadn't wanted to eavesdrop. But his Sentinel hearing made it so damn easy. Ever since Blair had disappeared, when Jim was at his desk, his hearing has automatically zeroed in on Simon's phone. Each time it rang, Jim was sure that this call would be the one. It had been three days, and finally it had come. All he had to hear was Simon say Captain Holms' name and that was it. He had tried to hear the rest of it, but his hearing began playing tricks on him. He heard everything else in the squadroom, but not Simon's conversation.
As Jim walked into the office, Simon looked up. He didn't have to ask how Jim knew.
"Jim..." he started.
Jim cut him off. "Have they found him?"
"Actually, no, but they're calling off the search. They feel that it's useless now." Simon sighed, this wasn't going to be easy. "They think it's possible that Blair's body has gone too far downstream, possibly washing into the Pacific. It's also possible that it may be caught and will wash up later." He looked at his friend. "Jim, I know that this is what we expected, but I am so sorry."
Jim let out a breath. "Simon, I know they're right, but I have to go up there once more, to see for myself. "
"Do you really think that's a good idea. You know you won't find anything now."
"I have to go."
Simon understood. "You want some company?"
Jim looked at his boss. He realized now how much this was affecting him. Simon thought of Blair as a friend also, and he too was grieving.
"If you don't mind, I'd rather go myself."
Simon understood this also. "Okay, go. I think I'm going to take the rest of the day off myself. Pick Daryl up from school. I haven't told him yet. I know this is going to be hard on him."
Jim thought of Blair and Daryl as he drove up to the mountains. The two had grown close over the past year. Maybe it was Blair's frenetic energy, or maybe it was because Daryl had someone under thirty to talk to. Simon was right, this was going to be hard on him.
Four hours later, he stood by the Expedition, no nearer to finding Blair that he had been when he had first arrived. Tears welled in is eyes again. Deep in his heart, he had known that he would not find anything. 'What was I thinking. Search and rescue would not have abandoned their search if they thought there was a chance, one way or the other.' He sighed. Maybe he just needed visit this place again, the last place he had seen Blair alive. Complaining about the cold, but coming through when the chips were down. There was no doubt in his mind that if it were not for Blair, Jacqie Hoyle would have ended up in the river. If she hadn't fallen, the ice would have given way with her on it before search and rescue could have gotten to her. Blair was a hero, a dead hero.
Jim suddenly heard an eagle cry. He looked and saw one land high in a tree about one hundred yards away. It cried again and then flew away. 'Maybe that was Blair,' Jim thought, 'he always did say that their might be something to this reincarnation thing.' Jim fought the lump that was forming in his throat. "God, Chief, I am so sorry." He said out loud, to the eagle or anyone else that may be listening. "I let you down, I should have been able to get to you somehow. I should have found you when I was in the helicopter. I... I..." the tears that had been threatening began to spill slowly down his face. He cried softly to himself until the tears were spent. Then he drove slowly back to Cascade.
Blair watched as Nicky fought with the fishing line. They were sitting on the dock of a small pond, a runoff of the Cascade River. It had been a few days since he had woke up. His physical injuries were healing fine, but he was no closer to remembering who he was or how he had come to be here. Sara had said that it was not unusual to have memory lapses after a head trauma, but it worried Blair that he had not remembered anything. He had a feeling that somewhere, there were people who would be worried about him, but he had no idea where.
"Hey, I don't think he wants to be lunch."
Nicky smiled. "I know, but I'm bigger than he is." He continued to struggle with the fish.
"Here, let me help you." Blair moved slowly to sit beside the boy. He helped him get the fish off the line and then bait the hook again. "You're pretty good at this. Do you go fishing with your father a lot?"
Nicky's eyes clouded. "I don't see my father. He left me and my mom when I was a baby. It's been just her and me for as long as I can remember." He sighed. "She tries, but it's hard sometimes."
Blair put his arm around the boy. "Yeah, I know." He wasn't sure how, but he felt sure he really did know how Nicky felt.
Just then, Sara's voice came from behind them. "Blair, can I talk to you?"
Blair got slowly to his feet. "Sure," then to Nicky he said, "don't let them win."
As Sara and Blair walked toward the cabin, he said, "Nicky is a great kid, he seems a lot more grown up that most kids his age."
Sara looked at him. "He hasn't had a choice." Instead of going on, she sighed then changed the subject. "Look, Blair, I don't know where you came from or who you are, and I'm not going to throw you to the wolves, but I want you to know, that as soon as you're up to it, I want you to move on. Nothing personal, but I just don't need any more complications in either Nicky's or my life right now."
"Complications?" Blair asked.
"Never mind. I just wanted you to know, that you can't stay permanently."
"Okay, message received loud and clear. I just want you to know that I wouldn't do anything to hurt either of you. I owe both of you my life."
"I just wish I could believe that." Sara thought as she walked back into the cabin.
'This is just great.' Blair thought to himself, absently running his fingers through his hair. 'What do I do now, I don't even know if I have a place to go, let alone where it is.'
Well, Sara hadn't asked him to leave immediately, he still had a few days. Maybe by then he would remember something, anything.
Jim unlocked the door to the loft and walked in, his frustration showing on his face. He had just finished talking with Sara's employer, who had nothing additional to add to the mystery of the missing woman and son. He had met Carolyn at her apartment and searched Sara's, but found nothing to help. And his senses were working too, he thought with pride. When he had lost Blair, he had wondered if he would be able to keep control of them. Oh he had had a few minor zone outs, but nothing major. Simon had kept an eye on him, but now, over a week later, he was still standing. His mind returned to Sara and Nicky. Carolyn had come with him to interview Mrs. Kramer, the head of personnel at QuestLabs. Sara West had been an excellent employee. Never taking a sick day, always willing to work double shifts. They were all shocked when she had called and quit like that.
Jim sighed, remembering the discouraged look on Carolyn's face as they left the office. He knew just what she was going through. Jim pulled a beer out of the refrigerator and slammed the door shut. Damn! He just couldn't do anything right could he? A simple missing persons case and what could he come up with? Squat, nothing, nada. Now his ex-wife was going to have to go through the same feeling of losing a good friend that he was going through. First Blair, now Sara. 'Great average, Ellison, you're batting a thousand.'
A knock at the door brought him out of his reverie. He walked to the door and swung it open. "Yeah?" he barked.
Simon was standing there. "Boy, you're in a foul mood."
"What do you expect, that I'd be jumping for joy? It's been a pretty shitty week for me, in case you haven't noticed."
"I know," Simon sighed. "Carolyn told me about the dead end at the lab. I figured maybe you'd like to grab a bite somewhere. What do you say, my treat."
"I don't think so, I'm not really hungry." Jim finished the bottle and walked to the refrigerator, grabbing another beer.
Simon watched him open the new bottle. "It might be a good idea, otherwise, pretty soon, you won't be feeling any pain."
"Maybe that's the idea."
Simon saw the look of desperation cross his detective's face. "Look Jim, I'm not going to say that I know what you're going through, because I don't, not really. I mean, I miss Sandburg too, but I know that I could never feel the loss you do. And I also know that you're feeling pretty lousy about not being able to find Sara West and her son. But Jim, you have to remember that it's not your fault, none of it."
"Let me finish. I was there remember, I saw what happened up there by the river. You did all that you could do. It's not your fault that we had such a crazy spring, that the ice melted like that. It's not your fault that Jacqie fell onto that ledge to start with. You tried everything you could. I know it, you know it, and Blair knew it too."
"I should have been able to save him."
"How, by flying down there like some superhero and pulling him out of the river? Jim, you may be a Sentinel, but I think superpowers are beyond even you." Simon sobered. "You have to accept it Jim, Blair is gone, and it hurts, but it wasn't your fault."
Jim smiled wanly. "My mind keeps telling me that, but I don't think it's convinced my heart yet."
"It'll take time. Now come on, I'm starving. I said I'd treat, and you know that's not an offer I make often."
"Often? How about never." Jim said as he grabbed his coat.
Concluded in Part Two...