Summary: Funny how life sometimes imitates art.
Disclaimer: All characters and plots associated with The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN and Paramount. No infringement is intended.
"Jim, can you grab my text book for me. It's on the bookshelf in my room. It's a big green book with yellow writing on the front."
It was business as usual in the loft that morning. As usual Blair had overslept and as usual Jim was standing by the door waiting to leave.
"You know Chief, if you packed your bag the night before, this wouldn't be necessary." Jim sighed as he went to look for the missing tome.
Blair finished stuffing his papers into his bag and looked up to see Jim standing with his text book in one hand, his other hand behind his back. There was an evil grin on his face that froze Blair in his tracks.
"Jim, what have you got there?" he asked, trying to peer round his friend.
Jim's grin widened and became, if possible, even more evil. This was sooo not good.
"Jim, come on man, you're scaring me here big guy. What is it?"
Jim brought his other hand out from behind his back and held up the brightly coloured volume he was holding.
"Paddington Bear, Chief?"
Blair stood looking like a deer in the headlights. His jaw flapped for a few seconds and Jim could almost swear he could hear the cogs grinding in Blair's head. He gave a little cough to clear his throat and gave a nervous giggle.
"Oh that." he giggled again "I use it in one of my classes as an example of how people anthropomorphize animals in modern culture."
Jim raised his eyebrows. He was impressed. He doubted whether he could have come up with something that fast, but this was Sandburg, the king of obfuscation. Blair was looking very pleased with himself, thinking he was off the hook. Jim's evil grin returned as he opened the book.
"That's very interesting Chief, but how do you explain the inscription inside?"
Blair froze again. He smiled a sickly looking smile and swallowed hard.
"Inscription?" his voice didn't just waver, it positively squeaked.
"Yeah. It says 'To my Paddington Blair, happy birthday, Naomi'. Is there something you want to tell me Chief?"
Jim was really enjoying himself now. It wasn't often he had Blair a disadvantage like this and he was going to make the most of it.
Blair's shoulders slumped in defeat. He knew he'd been found out and the best thing to do was confess and throw himself on Jim's mercy.
"It was Naomi's pet name for me when I was little. She said I reminded her of Paddington."
Jim had gone beyond smiling now. He was fighting down the laughter.
"I can see that. Small, cute and fuzzy. Always getting into trouble. Wait until H hears about this. He'll love it."
Blair's face drained of colour. "You wouldn't! Please Jim, if you tell the guys, I'll never hear the end of it." Desperation coloured his words.
"I don't know Chief." Jim pretended to think about it. "This is a valuable piece of information. I'm duty bound to share it with my colleagues. Unless of course you can persuade me otherwise."
Blair knew he was on to a loser. He sighed "Ok man, what do you want?"
Jim smiled again "Oh, I think a thorough spring clean of the loft would be a start, and I see a lot of home cooked meals in my future."
Blair held his hand out for the book. "Ok, ok. Whatever you say. Now give me my book."
Jim held it up out of reach. "Oh no. I'm hanging on to this for insurance."
"Jiiiimm! That is soooo not fair." Blair could hear himself whining. "It's my book, give it back."
Jim just shook his head and tucked the book under his arm. "Aren't you going to be late?" he said looking at his watch.
Blair swore under his breath and grabbed up his back pack. "You are gonna pay for this man. You do realise this is blackmail, don't you?" He stormed out the door ahead of his sentinel, muttering under his breath about tests.
Jim continued to smile, completely impervious to threat. Then a thought struck him. Turning to his fuming guide he said "Hey, Chief! Does this mean I should be feeding you marmalade sandwiches?"
Blair glared at him and made a rude gesture before stomping off to his car.
Jim gave a contented sigh and headed for his truck. This day just couldn't get any better.
It was late when Blair finally left his office and he was still muttering under his breath.
His day had not improved. After Jim and the book incident that morning he had rushed out and left the text book that had started the whole thing on the coffee table. That meant that he had to wing it through his class without it. Luckily it was a class he had taught before and he remembered most of it.
Then a fellow TA had stopped by his office at lunchtime and begged him to take a couple of her classes. Her father had just been rushed to hospital and she was needed by her mother. Blair had agreed and also offered to grade the papers she was clutching in her shaking hands. She had then burst into tears and hugged him, thrust the papers into his hand and rushed off.
The papers had taken a lot longer to grade than he had thought and when he finally stumbled out into the car park it was to find that the weather, which had been snowy for the past week, had taken a turn for the worse. It was blowing a blizzard and his car was half buried.
Muttering even more, he dug his car out and prayed that it would start. For once his luck held and it started first time. He pulled out onto the road and groaned. It would take forever to get home in these conditions. Although the roads had been cleared the snow was starting to build up again. The banks of snow at the sides of the roads were now several feet deep where the ploughs had been through.
The journey was slow, but uneventful until he was about five minutes from the loft. As he pulled up to the junction he looked over at the Wonderburger drive through. He was supposed to cook tonight, but he felt too tired. He picked up his cell phone and dialed Jim's number.
"Ellison." Jim answered his phone in the usual manner.
"Jim," Blair smiled at the sound of his friend's voice.
Jim's voice came through again with a teasing edge.
"Well Chief, I'm sitting here in the loft reading this really interesting book about bears, and I don't smell any home cooked meals. I thought we had an agreement."
Blair snorted, "That's what you call it. I call it blackmail. Anyway, I'm too tired to cook tonight so I thought I'd bring in some Wonderburger. That ok with you."
Jim smiled and answered. "Trying to get round me by plying me with forbidden food. Not gonna work Chief, but yeah I could eat burger."
Blair sighed. There was another good idea blown. Jim was getting to know him too well. He was so wrapped up in thought that he didn't see the two men burst through the doors of Wonderburger and head straight for his car. The first thing he knew was when the car door flew open and he was dragged bodily from the car.
On the other end of the phone, Jim was helpless to do anything except listen. He heard the thug demand Blair's keys and then the phone went silent.
He leapt from the sofa, grabbed his gun and key and was out the door in seconds. As he ran he called Simon on his cell, told him what had happened and asked him to send back up.
Back in the car park, Blair was beginning to regret getting up at all that day. The thug held him up by his shirtfront and demanded his wallet. When he saw how little there was in it he was not happy.
"Is this it?" he shook Blair again. "Is this all you have?"
When Blair nodded the thug threw him to the ground and rifled through the wallet some more. It didn't take him long to find Blair's observer pass. He dragged him up again and snarled in his face.
"Wannabe cop? Observer? Well observe this." He brought the hand holding the gun up and struck Blair across the temple with it. Blair sank to the ground with blood oozing from a gash on his head.
The second thug grabbed his friend's arm. "Hey man, calm down. Let's get out of here before we're seen."
The first thug nodded. He pointed down at Blair. "We can't leave him here, he'll be seen. Help me move him."
They picked Blair up and moved to the side of the road. They threw him into the snow bank and brushed the snow down so that he couldn't be seen. Then they jumped in the car and drove away.
It seemed to Jim to take hours to reach Wonderburger. What would normally be a five-minute journey took him fifteen minutes. By the time he reached the car park there was no sign of Blair or his car. He arrived at the same time as Simon and the Major Crime detectives. An ambulance followed them into the car park.
He looked around and spotted what appeared to be a small patch of blood on the snow. H crouched down to examine it closer.
"What have you got, Jim?" Simon walked over and peered down at the red snow.
"Blood, and it's fresh. And I'm willing to bet its Blair's."
"So where is he. If he were injured they surely wouldn't have taken him with them. He'd only slow them down."
Jim looked around at a loss. A Patrolman called to Simon, who wandered off.
"Where are you Chief?" Jim muttered to himself.
Jim looked up again as Simon rushed over.
"That Patrolman just informed me that they stopped Blair's car not far from here. The occupants were alone and they're not talking."
Jim frowned. "If he's not with them he must still be here. We should start a search. He may have wandered off."
"Can you use your senses to try and track him?"
Jim nodded "I can try, but you better be prepared for me to zone."
He straightened up and closed his eyes. He started to turn up his sense of hearing. Suddenly he became aware of all the heartbeats around him. They were all slightly elevated due to the cold and the stress of the situation. All except one. That was slow. Too slow.
Gradually he filtered all the others out and followed that one. It appeared to be coming from the side of the road. He crossed over to the snow bank. The disturbed snow was now more obvious.
"Oh my God, Simon! He's in the snow bank." Jim began to dig frantically with his bare hands. The others rushed across to help and in no time he was out of the snow and in the ambulance on his way to hospital.
Several tense hours later, the doctors announced that Blair had, once again, beaten the odds and was going to be ok. Barring complications he would be allowed to leave the following afternoon. A joyous whoop sounded round the waiting room and people started filing out.
Jim went in to check one more time on his partner then went home. He'd come back tomorrow with clean clothes for Blair.
When he entered Blair's room the next day all that could be seen of his friend was the top of his head poking from the huge pile of blankets on his bed.
"Wakey wakey Chief. It's time to get up." He shook Blair's shoulder to wake him.
"No! I'm warm and I'm never getting up again." Came the muffled reply.
"Oh well, if you don't want to go home..." Jim let his voce trail off, knowing how much his friend hated being in the hospital.
His words had the magic effect on Blair. His head popped out from under the blankets.
"Home? Now?" he sat bolt upright. "Quick give me my clothes before they decide to give me another sponge bath."
Twenty minutes later, Blair was dressed, the papers signed and they were in Jim's truck ready to go. As the pulled out of the hospital car park, Jim turned the truck and headed towards Cascade Police Department.
"I thought we'd stop off and get your statement done on the way home, while it's still fresh in your mind. If you feel up to it." Jim smiled as Blair agreed.
It wasn't until he was in the lift, on the way up to Major Crimes, that Blair began to suspect something was afoot. Jim's concerned smile had now been replaced by the same evil grin that had graced his face the previous morning.
As they stepped out of the lift and made their way to the bullpen, Blair began to slow his pace.
"Uh Jim. What are you up to?" He asked suspiciously.
In response Jim grabbed his arm and propelled him into the room. There he was met with the sight of Jim's desk decorated with a 'Welcome Back' banner. The top of his desk and all the surrounding surfaces were covered with plates of food. To be more precise, sandwiches.
Henri Brown wandered over and handed Blair a plate of food. Blair looked closely. It was as he suspected they were MARMALADE SANDWICHES. He turned and glared at his partner.
"You told them. Man, I can't believe you told them!! I'll never live this one down." He pouted.
Jim had gone beyond grinning and was outright laughing. "I'm sorry Chief, it was too good to keep to myself."
As he said it he reached into hid top pocket and pulled out a long loop of black ribbon. He dropped it over Blair's head and tied to the end was an old-fashioned luggage label. Blair picked it up and read it aloud.
"'Please look after this Blair'. Oh man that's cruel!"
Everyone around them burst out laughing. Things were back to normal.
Jim stood happily munching on a marmalade sandwich when he heard Blair mutter from across the room. It was the one phrase guaranteed to wipe the smile off Jim's face.
"I'll get you back for this Jim. You owe me tests. Lots and lots of tests."