Title: Future Tense

Author/pseudonym: alyjude

Pairing: J/B, other pairing

Rating: NC17

Category: Drama, PU

Date: March 10, 2002

Series/Sequel: Not sure yet

Archive: Yes, please

Other website: www.skeeter63.org/k9kennel

Disclaimer:  Who in their right mind would *want* to disclaim Jim and Blair? Not me. I acknowledge them as the greatest romantic couple of all time. Better than Cleo and Tony, better than Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, Heckle and Jeckle, Popeye and Olive Oyl, you name it, Jim and Blair are better. No way do I plan on disclaiming them. In fact, in the name of fan writers and readers everywhere, I, ALYJUDE, DO HEREBY CLAIM THEM. so there.

  Warning: Um, er, don't play with matches?

  Notes: thanks to the great gals on TSL and to Dolimir, Gersh and Greenie. Made several changes since beta'd, so new mistakes are my own.

Duh. Also, this story is a PU. Parallel Universe. Takes place in season four and TSbyBS doesn't happen.

  Summary: Blair Sandburg needs to find his place in the universe, while Jim needs to accept his.


Future Tense -

by alyjude



“Jim, we have to talk.”

Afraid to put down the Sunday paper, Jim rattled it instead and said, “I hate it when you say that.”

“About my dissertation. It’s finished.”

The Sunday paper became a sudden non-entity. Jim sat up, whole sections of the Cascade Times sliding from his lap. “Finished?” Nodding, Blair sat on the edge of the coffee table and for the first time, Jim noticed the item in his friend’s hand.

“That it?” he asked with a nod in its general direction.

“This is it. You need to read it before I burn it.”

Jim was reaching for the large, thick it when Blair said, burn it and he snapped his hand back as if it had been burned.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I could turn it in, but to tell the truth, I’ve still not been able to find a way to hide your identity, so you do the math. It’s got to go. I’ve already petitioned for another subject and I’ll know in a few days if my doctorate is still viable. Sid’s going to bat for me but Edwards isn’t exactly a champion of mine.”

Jim was stunned. He sat back and rubbed at the back of his neck. With a sigh, he offered, “So we wait until you can hide my identity. No biggie.”

Blair leaned forward, tossed the manuscript on the cushion beside Jim, then smiled. “No biggie? How long am I supposed to remain in limbo, Jim?  What, I’m gonna be a TA until time to retire? Rainier might have something to say about that idea. And the fact is, I’m facing the big 3-0, man. I gotta get on with my life, you know?”

Jim felt his heart climb into an elevator and freefall down to his toes.

But all he said was, “Oh, well. Yeah. Of course. So. You burn it.”

“*After* you read it. Then I thought we’d go somewhere together,” he waved a hand as if fanning flames, “then set it on fire. Like some great tribal funeral, you know? Maybe go up into the mountains, forest primeval, no human for miles around and do the deed. What do you say?”

With some trepidation, Jim picked up the dissertation. “Let me read it, then—then we’ll talk. Maybe I’ll come up with something.”

“Sure, Jim. Sure. And tell me we really don’t have to have the scientist versus friend discussion before you read?”

Hiding his smile, Jim said, “Anything worse in here,” he hefted the book, “then your introductory chapter?”

‘Hell yeah. You think I’d leave out the millions you have stashed in an offshore account? Or how, instead of for good, you used your powers to call horse races, rack up the big bucks in poker and your wayward habit of watching, from sixty miles away, babes undress in their bedrooms?”

Jim snapped his fingers. “That’s it! You hide my identity by calling the sentinel in your dissertation Blair Sandburg.”

With a huff, Blair stood. “You just read it. I’m going to make myself

scarce.” With that, he grabbed his jacket and keys. “I’m outta here,

Jim. Be back in—“

“Try to avoid the obvious slurs on my reading capabilities, Sandburg.”

“Oh, hey, that reminds me—the dictionary is on the dining room table.”

Laughing, Blair left Jim alone.

Once the door closed, Jim stared at the book in his hands. This was going to take some fortification. Taking the diss with him, he went into the kitchen, grabbed two beers and then sat at the table. He twisted off the tops of both and after taking a swig of the one he deemed to be the coldest, he started reading.



The words swam before his eyes and he realized that maybe he was—crying. Take that, William Ellison. Your son, the big macho cop, is crying. But nobody needed to know that the tears were as much for the incredible work in front of him as for the fact that Jim was acknowledging that his life with Sandburg was almost over.

Jim slowly closed it, then looked at the array of beer bottles in front of him. Six of them. He should be drunk. But he wasn’t. He’d never been so sober.

And Blair wanted to burn it.



“So, you liked it.”

“I liked it. And I reiterate my position; we wait. Give you more time.”

“Can’t be done, Jim. There’s no way without invalidating the material.  They won’t believe it and the end result is no doctorate. Worse, no chance for one. So this weekend, I’m going into the forest and doing it.  With or without you, man.”




“This is it. The spot.”

“Agreed. We make camp, eat, then—“

“Do it.”

‘Right, Chief. Then we do it.”

Three hours later, both full on chili and cornbread, the darkness enveloping them in its arms and the sounds of the forest surrounding them, Jim piled on more wood. Blair took out the dissertation, reams of notes, tapes and diskettes. He’d already wiped his computer clean.

As the flames danced high, reaching for the stars, Blair handed over his notebooks. While he began to tear at his diss, Jim started crumpling up wads of yellow legal paper.

Staring at each other from across the pyre, they nodded silently and in one uniform move, began to toss various pages onto the hungry fire.

As sheets floated down to be consumed, Blair proclaimed loudly, “Here’s to Brackett!”

“Here’s to tests and drinking sour milk that you, for some unknown reason, poured into a cup and set on the sink,” Jim added.

“Here’s to checking your humanity at the door.”

“And to not letting your anger take you out of the game.”

Blair tore at more pages and tossing them in, added, “Here’s to stubborn sentinels who won’t listen.”

Following with his own stack, Jim said, “Here’s to observers who won’t stay put.”

“Here’s to Kincaid and a normal day in the life of a Major Crime detective.”

Both men began to rip and tear ferociously, their grins wide.

“Here’s to a guy who never knew how to slow down and talks a blue streak,” Jim yelled out.

‘Here’s to dials, piggybacking, zones and trash trucks!” Blair yelled back.

“Here’s to journals, sage and tongue!”

“Here’s to redheaded thieves, mob wives and deputy D.A’s!” Blair challenged.

“Don’t forget daughters of South American gun runners and forensic fire-wielding girlfriends,” Jim countered.

“Three cars totaled in three years!”

“Three?” Jim stopped tossing. “Hey, there were only two!”

“What, we’re no longer counting the Jeep? We’re forgetting driving it

into a quarry after—“

“Here’s to how many lost pairs of glasses and house keys?”

Both men resumed the funeral with widening grins and fevered dedication.

“Here’s to Tupperware and house rules!”

“Here’s to meditation, burning incense and flannel,” Jim  countered back.

Both men were out of paper. Breathing hard, they divvied up the tapes and cassettes. Jim went first, tossing one cassette into the blaze.

“Here’s to ESP, freaks and fathers who

don’t know how to love.”


Blair tossed in one his disks. “And here’s to abiding tolerance, fathers who can learn and brothers who can start over.”

“That was unfair, Chief.”

“But true. No self pity allowed.”

“Oh yeah? Then explain the abiding tolerance remark.”

“That wasn’t self pity, that was simple fact.” Blair took another disk and tossed it. “Here’s to chopper rides, boat rides, ferry rides and the Feds!”

Eyes narrowing, Jim tossed in a small tape, saying, “Here’s to oil rigs, foolish anthropologists who don’t know when to take a dive and here’s to the Cascade Jags!”

“Here’s to exchange officers from down under, Cassie Welles drinking us both under the table and leggy lady lawyers!”

Two more tapes were tossed as Jim, nodding, said, “Right. And here’s to aging actors who think they’re detectives, sleeping beauties, and precocious kids.”

“Oh, man, I’d almost forgotten Alec.”

“I was talking about you, Chief.”

With a wicked gleam, Blair upended his disks and shook them out to fall into the fire. “And here’s to nicknames and the ridiculous notion that I might just have a first name!”

Emptying his box, Jim whined, “Aw, Chief, you have a girl’s name!”

“Tell it to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Jim,” Blair yelled from across the fire.

“Good point. And we’re done, which means time to get plastered.”

“Right, you are, old bean!”

Jim rolled his eyes, walked over to the supplies and pulled out a bottle of scotch. He sat down on a log and Blair quickly joined him. As they watched the tapes and disks burn, Jim took off the top of the bottle, swallowed a healthy swig, then handed it to Blair who followed suit.

“It’s been a great ride, Chief.”

“Liar. And it’s not over yet. I figure once I get permission,” he took another gulp before handing back the scotch, “it’ll be at least three months. I have notes up the gumpstump, I just have to put it all together.”

Jim wiped his mouth with the back of his hand after his swallow. “And just what is your new subject?”

The alcohol was burning its way down Blair’s throat and two large gulps were already working on him as he said, “Death, Jim. Death.” Bottle just to his lips, Jim paused. “Death?”

Blair took the scotch away from his friend, took another swig, then nodded. “Yep. Death.”

Noting the puzzled and somewhat frightened look on Jim’s face, he added, “Death and the men and women who face it daily.”

“Jesus Christ.”



“How’d it go?”

Blair sank down on the bench and exhaled noisily. “I—don’t know. All right, I think.”

“How long before—“

“Anytime now.”

“So it’s over.”


Jim stared at his shoes. “Three years, Chief.” Blair, eyes fixed on the door opposite, nodded. “Yep. Three years. All boiled down to something that weighs about five pounds.”

Jim looked at his partner in surprise. “Five pounds? That much?”

“You held it. At least five pounds.”

“Who knew words could weigh so much.”


“If it matters, I think it’s—incredible.”

Blair took his eyes from the door long enough to smile at his partner.  “Thanks, Jim. And it matters. More than anything the people in that room could say or think.”

Oddly satisfied, Jim went back to looking at his shoes. It was over.  Three years of literal blood, sweat and tears and the infamous dissertation was completed and today, defended.

The door opened and Sid stepped out. He was smiling.


“So, you’re now Doctor Sandburg.”

Blair stood in the hall, just in front of the doors that led outside.

His expression was still one of disbelief.

“Yeah, I am. I’m Doctor—“ he turned and faced Jim, “I’m fucking Doctor Blair Sandburg.”

“I see you set your sights high. Fucking a doctor no less. Your mother would be so proud.”

Blair punched Jim in the arm. “You asshole. Shit, I need to call Naomi!”

He started through the doors but Jim grabbed him. “Wait, you haven’t—“

“No way, Jim. Not until, well, not until I was sure, which is, like, now.”

“You gonna let me tell Simon and the rest of the gang?”

They’d moved outside and stood in the sunshine. Blair’s eyes took in the grounds, his gaze skipping over the fountain as he shook his head. “I’d rather we wait, Jim.”


“I don’t know—I mean, there’s no teaching position available here,

which is okay by me, and I need to, you know, make some decisions. Sid

wants me keep my ties to the university, he thinks Carlson is leaving at

end of term and that would leave an opening, but—“

“That would be—lying to Simon, Blair.”

“I don’t mean that I’d continue to ride with you. I know that’s not possible now. But we don’t—look,” he ran his fingers through his hair, “give me a week, okay? Then I’ll tell him myself.”

“All right, Blair. A week. But are you considered to still be on staff here? Will you be teaching? What?”

“I’ve been—I haven’t been teaching in weeks, Jim. I—it was part of the deal. They gave me a deadline and I needed the time, so no teaching.”

“Oh. I see. Well then.” Then Jim slapped his partner—soon to be ex-partner—on the back and said, “Why don’t I take you to dinner and we celebrate your success?”

“That’d be great, Jim.”


Four days into his week, Blair had made no decisions. And he figured he had a damn good reason for being decision-less. He was waiting for Jim to say something. Anything. An offer, words, anything that would tell Blair that it mattered to Jim what he finally decided. But so far—nothing.

The excruciating thing about his week was how badly he wanted to say something. Like, “Jim, I don’t want to stop being your partner. Got any ideas?” But Blair was the interloper. The deal was completed, over and there was no reason, no sign, that anyone wanted him to continue as Jim’s partner, let alone Jim. So he waited.

On Thursday, wandering the apartment, bored out of his skull, and with only two days of his week left, Blair realized that his tenure as Jim’s roommate was coming to an end. The real end. He began to gather his belongings and pack them away.

As he was double checking the kitchen cabinets, the phone rang. He hurried over, foolishly hoping that it was Jim.


//Blair? It’s Eli. I understand congratulations are in order?//

“Eli! What on earth?”

//Am I or am I not talking to Doctor Sandburg?//

Blair grinned like a loon. “Well, yeah, you are, as it happens.”

//It’s about damn time, Doctor Sandburg. And how would you like to be

number two on my next expedition? It’s funded, I have the go and we

leave in six weeks. South America. We’ll be the first ever to interact

with the Umaua tribe, Blair.//

Blair closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead. This was incredible.

“God, I can’t believe you’ve actually managed to—“

//I know, Blair, I know. This is the miracle we’ve both dreamed of

happening. Imagine, the Umaua, Blair. Say yes this time.//

So many thoughts sped down the expressways of his mind and none of them led to a life of meaning for Blair. He could stay in Cascade, try to stay close to Jim, maybe, eventually, take a teaching position and start politicking for tenure, meeting Jim once or twice a week, then once, then maybe twice a month, then—

“Yes, Eli. I’d like to be on your team.”


Blair hadn’t moved since he’d hung up with Eli and collapsed into one of the kitchen chairs.

How the hell was he going to tell Jim?

For two hours he’d sat and pondered this earth-shattering question and had come up with exactly bupkis. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. The words would be easy.

“Jim, I’m going on an expedition.”

How much easier could anything be? It was everything that would go before. That’s what he was having difficultly in conjuring up. And of course, he was now obligated to talk to Simon. To tell him. Not that it would be bad. Simon, not to take anything from the man, was above all else, practical. Jim was fine, senses wise, he no longer needed a tag-a-long, so Simon would shrug in his characteristic manner and wish Blair well. Been there, done that. Par for the Sandburg course of living.

The sun was setting, using one of its more spectacular techniques and if Blair had been paying attention, he’d undoubtedly have given it a 10.  But because he hadn’t noticed the glorious dip, he was completely surprised by Jim’s key turning in the lock.

“How was your day, honey?” Jim quipped as he tossed his keys.

“Same old, same old, Jim. Soap operas, laundry, made the beds, got the kids off to school, walked the dog, gossiped with our neighbors—did you know that Bertha Russell got a facelift?”

“No, really?” Jim asked as he got himself a beer. Lounging against the island, he shook his head. “Amazing. Did you happen to find my green shirt? The one with the alligators on it?”

“Oh, yeah. Found it in the rag drawer.”

Jim swallowed, then gave Blair a pretty good imitation of a stricken husband. “Rag drawer? That was my lucky bowling shirt! How could you?”

“You know I hated that old thing. And you don’t bowl anymore. Bad knees.” Blair got up, walked past Jim, got himself a beer, then with back resting against the fridge, said, “I’ve made my decision, Jim.”

Jim paused, beer half-way to his mouth. A sense of deja vu swept over him. “Oh, really?” He managed to sound—interested, but not worried.

“Yeah. I received a call from Eli Stoddard today. He’s got another

expedition put together—“

“In Borneo, by any chance?”

Blair grinned and ducked his head. “Ah, no. South America. There’s a tribe that’s never, that no one has ever, but well, Eli received permission. It’s been a dream of his for over twenty years.”

“I see. And maybe when you come back, something at Rainier may have opened?”

“You never know.”

“No you don’t.” Jim set his bottle down, his enjoyment of the sharp, cool drink suddenly dampened. “So when do you leave?”

“Well, the start date is six weeks, but I’m his number two, so I really need to meet up with him in—well, I promised—next week.”

“I see. Wow, that was quick.”

“Yeah, but—“

“But it’s what you do, who you are.”

Blair watched Jim toss the bottle, then watched helplessly as Jim headed for his room.

“Yeah,” was all he could say.

“So when do you tell Simon?” Jim called down from above.

“I’ll go in with you tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Then Jim looked out over the railing. “What looks different, Chief?”

“Oh, um, I kind of started to, you know, move my stuff—into my room, so I could—pack.”

“I see. Sure, makes sense.”

“That’s how I saw it.”


The next day, walking into the station, no one familiar with the team of Ellison and Sandburg would have noticed anything out of the ordinary.  They rode upstairs discussing the Jags, stepped out and entered the bullpen betting on the next game, but as Jim went to his desk, Blair, large package in his hand, headed for Simon’s office.

He knocked and as usual, walked in before Simon had the chance to answer. The older man looked up and grimaced.

“It’s too early for you, Sandburg. I’ve only had one cup of coffee and no danish. And just once, would you allow me the honor of saying, come in when you knock?”

Blair blinked, grinned, then walked out. One minute later he knocked again and—waited.

With a roll of his eyes, Simon gave out with a disgusted, “Come in.”

Blair entered and set a prune danish on Simon’s desk. “You need this more than Joel, sir.”

“Smart ass.” But he reached for the offering and took a huge, satisfied bite. Still chewing, he indicated that Sandburg should sit. Taking his usual spot, Blair waited, allowing Simon another bite before jumping in with both feet.

“Um, Simon—I completed my dissertation. Actually, I’ve even turned it in, defended and well, I’m Doctor Sandburg now.”

He waited. He didn’t have long. A spray of prune danish hit his face.

Simon jumped up, reached back and grabbed several paper towels from the roll that sat next to his coffee maker. He mopped up, then handed a couple of clean ones to Sandburg.

As Blair wiped his face, Simon said calmly, “Care to repeat that, Sandburg?”

Blair nodded, got up, took several steps away from Simon’s desk, then said, “I’m Doctor Sandburg now. I brought you a copy—thought you’d like to read it. And no, it’s not about Jim.”

“Excuse me?”

Blair gazed down at his chair, then back up to Simon. “Is it safe, sir?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, sit down.”

Blair did. “I pretty much realized that any paper on Jim Ellison was impractical, given his job, so three months ago, I switched topics.  Here,” he handed over the package.

Simon took it, but the expression on his face was one of dread. “Tell me this isn’t anything even remotely connected your thin blue line thing.”

Smiling, Blair said, “It isn’t. But it *is*--in a way—about police work. That’s your copy, so read at your leisure.”

Simon sighed with relief and set the heavy package down. He missed the flicker of disappointment that crossed Blair’s face. “So what happens now, Sandburg?”

“Um, well, as you’re no doubt well aware, Jim really doesn’t need anyone anymore. He’s in full control and between you and Megan, well, you can handle anything that comes up, you know? So basically, I’m back to being a full time anthropologist. I’m heading out next week, to South America.”

“What about Rainier? Teaching?” Simon had about twenty more questions, most starting with what about Jim?, but he settled on Rainier.

“There aren’t any openings right now and to be honest, teaching, while

challenging, was never my ultimate goal, you know? I mean, I’m not even

thirty yet—“

“Right, of course.”

“Maybe someday I’ll settle into university life, but that’s not really—well not now, anyway.”

“Understood.” He didn’t understand at all. “So no more Ellison and Sandburg, eh?”

“No sir.” Blair fingered the chain around his neck, then slowly removed it and handed it to Simon. “Won’t really need this anymore. Which means no more having to explain to your boss why you have a civilian on an expired ninety day pass, right?”

Simon ignored the pass as he grinned and nodded. “It has been getting tougher, Sandburg.”

“Figured as much.” Blair stood, heart in his throat. He’d had to say good-bye to more father figures than he’d care to count, but this one—

He held out his hand. “I just want to say—thanks, Simon. I know that

the last three years were more than you ever bargained for when you let

Jim talk you into this whole thing—“

“Let who talk me into this?”

Blair’s face went pink. “Yes, well, anyway. I really appreciate how you handled it all. I was a bit of a pest,” he waved a hand, “and don’t say, a bit?, okay?”

Simon grinned.

“I leave next week and I’ll be in South America for about six months, maybe more, so this is really good-bye.”

Simon took the offered hand and they shook. “Well—good luck then.”

Blair swallowed the lump in his throat. “Thank you, sir.” Blair started

out, then turned. “Um—“

“Yes, Sandburg?”

Blair stared at Simon’s desk, then, “Can we keep this between you, Jim and me? Megan might make a fuss, you know?”

“Of course.”

Blair opened the door, stepped out and shut it quietly after him. He walked over to Jim’s desk.

“Everything go well?”

“Naturally. I suspect Simon’s a bit relieved, you know? Anyway, I’m going to head over to the Civic Center. I have some credentials to update. See you hom—back at the loft tonight.”

“Right. I’ll bring home pizza. Hawaiian?”


Jim watched his best friend leave, but remained in his seat until the elevator closed. He listened until Blair exited the building, then rose and took the few steps to Simon’s office. He didn’t knock.


Simon, expression stunned, said, “In—sit.” Jim took his seat and for a few moments, neither one could find any words, but finally, it was Simon who spoke.

“So. It’s over.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Three years.”


“I suppose we have to let him go, right?”

“It’s what he is. Who he is.”

“But you two talked about it?”

“In our way.”

“That’s not hopeful, Jim. Not what I wanted to hear. Maybe he could go to the academy?”

“You really think someone like Blair Sandburg, with his abilities and knowledge, should be a cop?”

Simon gazed at the half-eaten danish. “No, I guess not.”

They both continued to sit silently.


The week, Blair’s last week, sped by and it was the change in the loft that Jim found the most difficult to handle. His home had become their home and represented both men—equally. But now, with the belongings of half of the team of Jim and Blair gone, it looked so—barren.

Blair was scheduled to fly to Mexico City on Friday, his flight at the ungodly hour of seven in the morning, and on Thursday, the two men found themselves seated in the dining room. The day was over and there were only hours before Blair would leave.

“You saved my life, Chief.”

“Hell, you saved mine more times than I can count.”

“Yeah, because you were with me, helping.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to bring that part up.”

“Jerk,” Jim said fondly.

“Hey, it’s not like we’re never going to see each other again. We’re friends, Jim. And you know how to use email now.”

“True, true. So we can chat in one of those sleazy adult rooms?”

“Oh, you know how to chat now, do you?”


“You think Simon’ll ever read my diss?”

“Sure. When he gets really bored.”

“Or exhausted and needs something to put him to sleep.”

“That too.”

Blair checked his watch. “Well, I’m up early so I think I’ll hit the sack.” He stood and stared down at his best friend. “I guess we’ve said it all this last week, eh?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“One thing I never said though, was that you, Jim Ellison, are not only my best friend, but the greatest man I’ve ever met. I wanted you to know that before I left.”

Jim struggled to his feet. “I feel the same way about you, Chief.”

They stared at each other, then, awkwardly, the two men hugged. As Jim held on longer than necessary, he said into soft hair, “You take care out in those jungles, you hear?”

With eyes closed, Blair mumbled, “You too, Jim. You too. And please, don’t forget everything we’ve learned, okay? Use smart sense.”

Jim pulled away a bit and looked down at the face he knew better than his own. “Did you just make that up?”

Sheepishly, Blair grinned. “Hey, it worked.”

They both stepped back as Jim nodded. “Yeah, yeah it did. Smart sense. I like it.”

“Good. Use it.”

The moment stretched with neither man moving. But finally, inevitably, Blair said, “Won’t see you in the morning, so I guess this is good-bye.”

Jim nodded mutely, unable to say the words.

Blair turned around and walked into his room for the last time.


Jim heard the stealthy movements of his friend and partner but knew that another good-bye would be impossible for him. He remained in bed, feigning sleep. It was still dark out but he’d heard the airport shuttle pull up in front of their building ten minutes earlier.

Blair had given the Volvo to Daryl and then refused Jim’s offer of a lift. Too early on a Saturday, one of the rare weekends for his sentinel. Besides, it would be easier for both of them to again, avoid too many farewells.

Jim listened as Blair moved about below, now putting on his jacket, picking up the two bags with shoulder straps and then nothing. Jim concentrated and realized that Blair must be just—standing by the door.  He ached to rise, to go down, to remove the luggage, to beg Blair to stay—

The door opened and Blair shuffled out. As it closed behind him, the sentinel heard the beloved voice whisper, “Good-bye, Jim.”

He squeezed his eyes shut.

“Good-bye, Blair.”


“What airline again?”


“No problem. We’ve plenty of time.”

Blair nodded and as the shuttle driver put his luggage into the shelves, Blair turned and glanced up for one more look at the building that had been his home for three years.

He’d left more places than most people ever saw in a lifetime and yet, never had his heart been as heavy. Blair Sandburg wanted nothing more than to go back to number 307, climb the stairs up to Jim’s room and crawl into bed with the man. He climbed into the shuttle van instead.

Blair never saw Jim step out onto the balcony.


The drive to the airport was spent in silent good-byes to old landmarks, familiar haunts; to his city. Blair knew that he could never come back.  Would never see Jim again. Just too damn painful.

He’d found his sentinel three years ago and today, he had given him up.

Let go.

Blair moved through the airport in a daze. He checked his luggage, claimed his boarding pass and rode the escalator up to Gate 15. He found a seat next to a window, sat down and waited for his flight to be called.

How many expeditions? This one would make—sixteen? Twenty? Man, he could remember when he used to count them, buy a new journal for each one. He could remember the butterflies, the excitement, the way he’d bounce in the airport, bringing forth laughter and jokes by his fellow teammates.

Today there were no butterflies. No bounce.

“Jim,” he whispered.

God damn it, why didn’t Jim want him, at least as his continued partner? Why the hell not?

Why not?

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. TWA would like to announce that we will begin pre-boarding Flight 341 to Los Angeles and Mexico City in a few minutes. This includes our First Class passengers, VIP passengers, members of our Golden Flyer Club, parents traveling with small children and any passengers who need additional time to board.” Thanks to Eli, Blair held a first class ticket. He rose, grabbed the one carry-on bag and moved, with a few others, to the gate. Five minutes later he was taking his seat.

Pillows were offered, orange juice, sweet rolls and bagels as others traipsed through first class to get to their seats. Blair had a window seat so he turned his face away to stare at the airport. The door was finally closed, the captain came on and announced their pull away from the gate, the lights dimmed and slowly the plan began to roll back.

And still—Blair stared out at the airport. At the windows and the people plastered against them, waving at their departing husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. And Blair wanted to see Jim. He wanted to see the older man’s face, his hands waving frantically as he tried to get Blair’s attention. Sandburg wanted the plane to come to an abrupt stop, then move back to the gate.

He wanted the door to open and Jim to slide in beside him.

“Good morning. I’m Captain Edwards and we’ve just been given our

clearance for take-off. Our flying time to Los Angeles is—“

Blair tuned it out. He knew the flying time. He could imagine the weather. He dropped his head back and closed his eyes.


From his balcony, Jim watched Blair’s plane take off.

“God damn it.”

He remained on the balcony until not even a sentinel could see the tiny silver speck.



Half way across the city, Simon Banks stood on his lawn in the cold morning. A plane flew overhead and he imagined it to be Blair’s.  He saluted, then bent and picked up the morning paper. He was grateful that Monday was two days away. He had time to prepare for a life without Sandburg.

Brazil - deep in the jungle and off a tributary of the Amazon

  Four months in the jungles of Brazil and the heat still didn’t bother Blair. Although, with the rainy season only a month away, the air had become very oppressive and was clearly uncomfortable for the majority of Eli’s team. But to Blair, even the humidity and clinging atmosphere hung on him like an old dear friend.

Eli had put together a surprisingly eclectic mix of scientists and eager, bright-eyed students. In spite of the fact that he was Eli’s second, Blair found himself fitting somewhere in the middle of age and experience. He was the youngest of the scientists and yet, next to Eli himself, the most seasoned but the least published.

It also felt very odd to be called doctor by everyone, especially the students. And no one seemed put off by the fact that he was a new doctor at that, let alone one who hadn’t been on a expedition in over three years. A fact that had been responsible for more than a few strange conversations with his teammates over the last weeks. A couple of those exchanges had been priceless.

“So, Doctor Sandburg, where have you been studying?”


Strange looks.

“Cascade? As in Washington?”

“Yep. I’ve been riding with a detective attached to Major Crime.”




“Yep. Riding around and observing.”

More strange looks.

“Observing what?”

“Closed societies. Life and death on a daily basis.”

Then muffled chuckles and giggles.

“Oh, yeah. Life and death. And tough decisions like chocolate sprinkles on the donuts or those cute little colored ones.”

Blair always managed to keep his temper reined in when the inevitable flurry of pig jokes started flying. But as soon as the laughter would subside, he’d then proceed to patiently explain what most cops really did for a living. And it never failed that eventually, impatience and disrespect would give way to stunned surprise—and finally grudging acceptance.

In the months that Blair and his compadres had been studying the Umaua, he’d found very little of the enthusiasm that had marked his early years in anthropology. Not that the people of the tribe weren’t incredible; they were. The Umaua seemed to have much in common with more than a few Peruvian tribes, and were an offshoot of several including, much to Blair’s surprise, the Chopec. But their closest relative appeared to be the Juma.

The Umaua were fascinated by colors, dressed brightly, something Eli had attributed to a Carib influence, and were fiercely protective of their children and the senior members of the tribe. It had taken the team over two months to gain enough trust to be allowed to speak to, or get closer than ten feet from, any child.

In the beginning, pictures had been forbidden but, in the case of the Umaua, it had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with complete anonymity. But gradually the team gained enough respect and were allowed drawings and eventually photos. But so far, four months into the study, video cameras were still tabu.

Blair worked hard, enjoyed the tribe and his fellow teammates, but he was only half there. He recognized that fact but was pretty sure that his partial enthusiasm was still as great, if not greater, than most of the others, and he refused to allow his feelings to interfere with the nuts and bolts of his work.

Today, air particularly heavy with moisture, Blair found himself sitting in a what was called a charun circle, an honor he fully recognized. He was the only member of the team allowed this status, and the only non-tribal member to ever sit in charun, which was the Umaua’s version of a trial. Even Eli had been impressed enough to allow such a break from normal procedures.

The purpose of this particular charun was to discuss the fit punishment for a tribe member who was accused of stealing.

Shifting his gaze from the Chief to the other members of the group, Blair was acutely aware of his teammates standing or sitting on the outskirts of the circle, pens scribbling, pencils sketching or shutters clicking. Across and in back of the circle, Blair could see Peter Kellogg, head bent over his drawing paper as he frantically tried to capture the moment. Next to him, Sheila Browning, brown eyes bright with excitement and mouth slightly agape, watched avidly. Eli was behind and to Blair’s left; his tape recorder on, the small spools spinning.

Chief Ortuno was speaking quietly on behalf of the accused while the other six listened. When he was finished, the Shaman, Petak, spoke condemning the accused. As Blair watched and listened, he was amazed at the process which so closely resembled the American judicial system. In essence, Ortuno was the defense, Petak the prosecutor. And the judge?  The other five, which meant that in the case of the Umaua, the jury was the judge, the judge the jury.

There were differences, however, between the Umaua way of trial and the system in America. For instance, no family members were allowed to speak, nor was the victim or the accused. Since the tribe was small and everyone knew everyone else, it was deemed unnecessary to hear witnesses.

Blair had a healthy grasp of the language, which was a weird combination of Portugese, Omagua and Tupi, so was able to follow the discussions. It didn’t skip his notice that on the ground, in the middle of the rain forest, while listening to tribal lawyers, Blair finally felt at home.

With his own excitement dancing in his eyes, he leaned forward and found himself nodding as the others questioned either Ortuno or Petak, then squabbled amongst themselves.

Blair was sitting crosslegged and fairly bouncing on his hindquarters as it became apparent that the jurors were stuck on the penalty. Of guilt, there was no doubt. The Umaua didn’t lie. Young Kateka, the thief, had freely admitted the theft of Bora’s nyatak, or personal pouch.

Among the Umaua, the nyatak was their version of a wallet. Except that it also contained their spiritual persona and stealing a nyatak was serious indeed. As the jurors continued to argue, Ortuna lifted his head and stared across the circle at Blair. Then he lifted one arm regally, pointed at the anthropologist, said a few words and before Blair could say nyatak, all eyes were fastened on him.

Well, damn.

Suddenly the whole conversation ground to a halt and it was clear that Ortuna expected the others to listen to anything Blair might say. Seeing Blair’s confusion, Ortuna spoke again, explaining Sandburg’s unique position as someone who, because of his background in law enforcement, had anayea or authority where the decision of penalty was concerned.  Ortuna felt the others should listen to the white man with anayea.

Blair did possess some insight into the crime, thanks to his observational skills. But while Eli had allowed him to sit in on the charun, well, actually participating? Such an involvement could backfire, and seriously. But his other self argued that by agreeing to sit in on the charun, he’d already become involved. He cleared his throat and in halting and broken Anapia, he asked that the others consider Kateka’s possible fear. Fear that his betrothed, Ammua, had in fact, been stolen by Bora. And wasn’t it much talked about that Bora practised korakei or magic.

Noting that everyone was listening and some even nodding, Blair leaned forward and decided that asking questions and allowing the others to come to their own conclusions might mitigate his immersion in their ways. Or not.

He took a deep breath and started in.

Had Ammua been behaving differently since Kateka had stolen the nyatak?  And if so, did that give credence to Bora being the original thief? And if that was possible, should not Kateka be free of any punishment since he was only taking back, via the nyatak, that which had been stolen from him?

The members of the charun began to talk non-stop, gesturing wildly amongst themselves. Finally, Youkaki, the foreman, rose and it was clear the decision had been made. The circle was broken and all stood, then walked to where Kateka stood with Ammua and his family.

Ortuna stepped up to him and immediately removed the circle of black beads that hung around the young accuseds neck. The tribe, who’d been waiting as anxiously as Kateka, cheered wildly. Kateka would receive no punishment and the label of thief, in the form of the beads, had been removed. As for Bora, it was quickly discovered that he had disappeared into the jungle. It was assumed that he would never return. But if he did, he would face the charun.

Blair smiled and moved into the background and next to Eli, who immediately said, “That was risky, Blair.”

“Yes, I know. But wasn’t sitting in on the charun?”

“Yes, but a risk worth taking. They are a strange people, but one deserving of our admiration.”


“How did you know about the magic?”

Blair turned and gave Eli a surprised smile. “Hey, we’re observers, right?” At Eli’s nod, Blair said, “So, I observed. Kateka didn’t want to hurt Ammua by telling Ortuna of the magic, but it seemed kind of obvious.”

“Obvious to you, maybe, but to no one else, my friend. Three years observing a detective came in mighty handy today for young Kateka over there.”

“Oh, well, yeah. I guess so.”

Eli dropped an arm over Blair’s shoulder, shook his head helplessly and said, “Come on, let’s eat and debrief with the rest of the group.”


Cascade, Washington


This jackass was not going to get away. Jim dropped his head low, stretched out his legs and pumped even harder. Slowly, the distance between him and the perp lessened and finally, Jim launched himself, aiming for the knees, and he and the jackass hit the ground.

Miller Sawyer wasn’t going to give up that easy. He twisted beneath Jim and managed to wiggle one arm free. Jim saw the blow coming, did some fast twisting of his own and managed to ward off the punch. He was up in a second, one hand tightly gripping the arm he’d captured. Before Sawyer could blink, Jim had flipped him over and was cuffing him, his out-of-breath voice informing the guy of his rights.

“Nice dive, Ellison.”

Without looking up, Jim said grumpily, “Thanks, Rafe. For nothing.”

“Hey, I was right behind you, man,” the younger detective whined.

“Behind me is good, Detective.”

Jim hauled Sawyer to his feet and was grateful to see Joel Taggert swing alongside them in his Pontiac, two squad cars right behind him.  Thankfully, Jim handed off his catch and as Sawyer was being put carefully into the back of the closest car, Joel thumped Jim on the back.

“Good catch, partner.”

Jim took out his handkerchief and wiped his face, then stuffed it back into a pocket. “Joel, I’m too old for this shit.”

The remark was not said in the usual humorous or self-deprecating manner of one Jim Ellison and Joel frowned. “Jim, you outran Sawyer, who’s what, five years younger? And you outran Rafe. What’s your complaint?”

“That I’m too old for this shit?”

“Yeah, right. Come on, you need a break. Reports can wait. I’m taking you to lunch, my friend.”


They were settled in a back booth of Dooby’s Diner, their order having been taken and two cold sodas sitting in front of them. Joel took a sip, watched Jim do the same, then feeling that the time would never be better, said, “Okay, what’s up?”

“Don’t know what you mean, Joel,” Jim said listlessly while playing with his straw.

“You know exactly what I mean. Too old for this shit? You? Not hardly.

Spit it out, Jim.”

Without lifting his eyes from the straw that was trapped between his fingers, Jim said quietly, “I’m thinking of retiring.”

Joel just managed not to spit out his drink. He swallowed rapidly, then sat back, stunned. Finally, after several minutes, he said thoughtfully, “You miss him that much, Jim?”

The straw snapped but all Jim said was, “Miss who?”

“You can try that shit on everyone else, Jim, but don’t bother with me.”

Jim glanced up, brow creased. Joel never used any words that anyone could deem inappropriate. “You said shit.”

“Jim,” Joel said, warning in his voice.

“I miss him. But that’s not why I’m thinking of retiring.” At a snort

from Joel, Jim gave a half smile and added, “Well, not exactly why. The

job just seems to have lost something—“

“Yeah, coincidentally, since Blair Sandburg left Cascade. And you.”

“He didn’t leave me, Joel. He left Cascade for his job. You remember that, don’t you? His job which just happens to be in anthropology?”

“You know what I’m wondering?” At Jim’s cocked eyebrow, Joel said, “I’m wondering what would have happened if someone, say someone like you, had asked Blair to stay. Yeah, I’m wondering what would have happened then, you know?”

“Didn’t have the right,” Jim mumbled.

“Oh, really? Did you ever think that maybe he expected someone, say someone like you, to ask him? That maybe that’s all he wanted?”

“Look, Joel. It’s been terrific bouncing between you and Conner in this partnership thing, but trust me—Blair did not want to be a cop.”

“That might very well be true, but I think he did want to be your partner. Just that. Which by the way, allowed him to also do his job.” At Jim’s look, Joel added, “You know, his * job*? In anthropology?”

“When did you get to be such a smartass?”

“That would be since riding with you.”

“God, you’re even starting to sound like him.”


Their plates had been picked up and the table cleared of all but their coffee mugs. Joel stirred some cream into his and as he moved the spoon around in endless circles, he decided to go for broke.

“You love him, don’t you?”

“That’s a given.”

“No, Jim. You love him.”

Slowly Jim raised his head. Sharp blue eyes bore into gentle browns. The frown on Jim’s face gradually faded. “Yes. I love him.”

“Any chance of reaching him?”

“None. He’s deep in the rainforest of Brazil. And I mean deep. Top secret. I suspect that the only person who knows where his expedition might be is the top sertanista, Sydney Possuelo and he won’t tell. He is, according to Blair, very protective of what is called, the lost tribes of Brazil.”

“Okay,” Joel said, leaning forward, “first off, what’s a sertanista? And second, lost tribes?”

“Indian trackers. Sertanistas are Indian trackers. See, it’s believed that the Amazon has the greatest population of isolated tribes. Tribes never seen by anyone. These sertanistas go in and try to find them, then protect them.”

“And the tribe Blair is studying?”

“The Umaua and yes, definitely one of the lost tribes. No scientists have been allowed to go in and stay with them, meet with them, nothing -- until now.”

“So a major deal for Blair. Important work.”

“You got it, Joel.”

“I see.”


Jim finished his reports and looked at the clock. After seven. With a tired sigh, he rose and without much enthusiasm, took his jacket off the coat tree and headed out.

He stopped at Bernie’s Deli, started to order a corned beef, then switched to—tongue. He took two pickles, ordered a pint of potato salad and to complete his Blairorder, he took a cream soda out of the cooler.  Jim fumbled in his wallet, took out two fives, received his change, then walked slowly out. As he stood next to the truck, he decided not to go home.

Ten minutes later he was at the shore and seated on a bench overlooking the bay. Jim pulled the poptop of his soda, stuck in the straw, opened his sandwich and took a big bite.

For a moment, the taste almost overwhelmed him, full as it was with memories. He could hear Blair’s voice squeaking at him after finding his mother upstairs on Jim’s bed--*with* Jim. And the way the younger man’s face lit up with pleasure at the taste of the tongue Naomi handed to him—

Jim chewed—and remembered. And mourned.

Blair was lying on his side and staring out the opening of his tent.  Rain was pouring down, having arrived almost three weeks earlier than normal. For the Umaua, it was a godsend but for the scientists, it meant trouble.

Eli’s permission from the Brazilian government was granted based on six months - period. That included the journey back to Brasilia. The early start to the rainy season meant that Eli and his merry band of scientists would have to leave earlier than planned. Much earlier. Like now.

Blair had packed up most of his supplies and they were scheduled to head downriver in two days. The Umaua were actually sad to see them go and a great feast was planned for the next day, but in the meantime, Blair watched the sheets of warm water fall and sighed heavily.

He could be up and working, transcribing notes and such, but he had no inclination to do anything. The ennui was unlike him and had increased in the last few days.

A large shadow loomed before Blair, temporarily blocking out all light.  Then it shifted, entered and Eli sat down on the chair beside Blair’s cot. He pulled off his poncho, shook himself and reached for one of the towels that sat on Blair’s trunk, wiped his face and arms, then his thick, almost white hair.


Blair shifted his gaze from the rain to his mentor. “Wow? Is this some new scientific mumbo jumbo I should know about?”

Eli grinned, his hazel eyes all but disappearing. “Very new. You’ve been out of the loop too long, Blair. We now say wow, gee whiz and keeewl.”


“Good boy.”

“Wanna talk about the weather?”

“No, but thanks. I’d rather talk about you.”

Blair gave a little shiver. “Ick.”

“Ah. You have been keeping up. We say ick now too. Very scientific.”

When Blair did nothing more than smile in return, a smile that never moved further than his lips, Eli said, “You’re not happy here, Blair, and definitely not happy doing this,” he waved his arm around, indicating the tent and camp. “The young man I knew would have been in seventh heaven and the only time I’ve seen anything close to that Blair Sandburg was a few days ago at the charun. Care to talk about it?”

“The charun?”

“Blair, don’t play dumb with me, all right? I know you too well.”

Blair rolled over on his back and clasped his hands behind his head. As he stared up at the tent ceiling, he said softly, “Look, I made a simple mistake and I’m paying for it. I’ll survive, but right now, well, my ego has taken a bruising, that’s all.”

“Your ego? Care to elaborate?”

“Honestly, Eli, it’s nothing. A lesson once learned and forgotten, then relearned. I won’t make the same mistake again.”

“You’re going to make this difficult, aren’t you? Make me drag it out of you, right?”

Blair turned to look at his friend and teacher. “I’m sorry, Eli. I don’t

mean to be difficult, honest. Let me see if I can explain this—“

Blair’s eyes seemed to focus elsewhere for a moment, then he said, “You know, up until I was six years old, I believed that my mother’s world revolved around me and nothing else. I guess all kids that age feel the same. Parents exist for only one reason—the child. Anyway, I learned at six that I was wrong.”

“What happened?”

“She left me to go on some retreat and was gone for, what seemed to me, an eternity. Six weeks. I stayed with one of her good friends, but I knew where I fit into her life. I don’t know when most kids learn that lesson, but if my reaction was any indication, it’s a pretty devastating moment.

“As the years rolled by, the lesson was constantly reinforced. She’d leave, or the men she dated would leave, or she would leave them. When I was fifteen, well, I caught a little break. I was getting some serious attention at school and man, I thought I was hot stuff. The world, once again, seemed to revolve around Blair Sandburg. And mom stayed home for an entire year.”

“Why do I hear a but coming?”

Blair grinned. “Because a but’s coming?”

“Go on, smarty pants.”

“Oooh, another highly technical scientific term. I should write that one down.”

“Yeah, yeah. So where’s the but?”

“I went to Rainier, was touted as this semi-genius, and started to really strut my stuff, made everyone’s life a hell and was quickly and efficiently brought back to earth. And mom took off again.”

“Ah. So the world moved on, eh?”

“Yep. Kept right on revolving but not around the sixteen year old wunderkind. Now mind you, all this was a good thing. I learned to take care of myself, couldn’t depend on anyone else to do it, and consequently became very self-sufficient. The world may not have revolved around Blair Sandburg, but neither was it going to revolve on without him, you know?”

“I’m getting the picture. Explains a great deal about the seventeen year old I first met.”

“Yeah, well.”

“So what happened this time? What bruised that ego of yours?”

“I allowed myself to forget that the world didn’t revolve around me.

Forgot that it’s business as usual with or without Blair Sandburg.”

“Blair, that’s true for all of us.”

“Oh yeah? How important do you believe you are to say, this expedition?


“Blair, that’s not the same thing.”

“I disagree. There are specific needs here that must be met and only you can meet them. Hell, only you could have finally secured the permission required for us to even be here, Eli. There’s a reason you’re one of the foremost experts in our field.”

“So you’re saying what, exactly?”

Sandburg sat up and crossed his legs Indian style. “I’m saying that I

thought—they needed me, that I contributed enough that they’d want me

to stay. At least—I thought—they’d ask me to stay—because I was one

of them.” His expression took on a lost quality as he added, “I really

thought I was one of them—“

“And you wanted to be. And I assume we’re talking about your work with the Cascade PD?”

Blair nodded miserably.

“You really enjoyed working with Ellison, didn’t you?”

“I did. I enjoyed trying to understand the criminal mind, to help Jim

and the others, to puzzle out a case, figure out how something was being


“In other words, using your talents as a damn fine anthropologist.”

“I guess so.”

“So? It’s not your fault those cops are a bunch of closed society nits, is it?”

Blair couldn’t help the twitching of his lips. “Nits? Man, you are getting way too technical for me.”

“You know, if you don’t behave, I may have to take off my socks and toss

them at you and you’ve been in the jungle long enough—“

Blair raised his hands in mock surrender. “You win. You win.”

“Look, Blair, all I’m saying is that if police work is what you want to do, then find a way to do it. Just because those dolts you worked with didn’t know a good thing when they saw it, doesn’t mean you don’t belong in that field.”

Eli shifted on the small chair, then mused, “You know, several major police departments now use anthropologists, forensic anthropologists, and cultural anthropologists as civilian consultants. I know New York City does, as well as Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In fact, I was asked a few years ago to assist the Boston Police with one of their investigations. Have you considered doing a little surfing when we get home?”

Blair studied the idea, turned it over in his mind—

“You know, that isn’t a bad idea, Eli.”

“Yeah, well, that’s why they pay me the big bucks, Blair,” the scientist teased.

“Wow, you sound just like Si—“


“Sorry, no one.”

“I think there’s something else you should think about, Blair. If a parent is doing their job? Their children never learn what you learned at six. To this day I’m quite convinced that the only thing my mother worries over and cares about is me. She’s 75 and still expects me to call when I arrive somewhere, to not forget my scarf or galoshes and she still wants to know when I’m going to find a wife.”

Blair looked at his friend and mentor with such a stunned expression that Eli went on.

“Parents never cease being parents, Blair. And their lives do revolve around their children. In fact, it’s one of the things I have to deal with when I bring young students along on trips like this one. You wouldn’t believe what I have to do to convince terrified mothers and concerned fathers that their baby will be safe. Their ninteen year old baby. Or their twenty year old baby.”

“You notice that you never had the problem with Naomi. In fact, the only ones who  did happened to be the Cascade PD and that was because her dear boy was working with the pigs and she thought he was too fragile.  Can you imagine that? Me? Too fragile?”

“But I bet she grilled them, didn’t she?”

“Hell yeah. Made me feel about two years old, which even at two, I didn’t.”

Blair uncrossed his legs, then swung them over the edge of the cot.  “Look, Eli, I’m the one with the probem about revolving worlds. And it’s okay now. No biggie. Like I said, as long as the world doesn’t revolve without me, I’m cool and happy to run alongside.”

“I think you’re missing my point.”

“No, I’m not. I’m just saying you’re wrong.” Blair spoke with a snappy grin to take the edge from his words, but Eli clasped his hands over his heart and feigning pain, said, “I’m wounded here, Blair. Eli Stoddard wrong? Impossible.”

“Look, I’m not saying mom doesn’t love me, Eli, or that the detectives of Major Crime didn’t like me, okay? All I’m saying is that I made a stupid, juvenile mistake. Got sucked into my own press, you know? A legend in my own mind kind of thing.”

“This is a fine line we’re talking about here, Blair. One person’s worth to others. Tricky. Let me ask you this, do you need any of them? Or your mother?”

“Well, I guess we just got to the crux of the matter, Eli.”

“And the answer would be?”

“I’ve always needed my mother more than she needed me. But hey, we move on. Did that make you any happier to know?”

“And the detectives back in Cascade? You need them?”

Blair looked away while at the same time knuckling back his hair over

and over again. “I—could, there were a few—and this one—that maybe

I’d like—and Simon, he was kind of a father figu—“

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Blair Sandburg tongue-tied.”

“Yeah, well.”

“So you’ve discovered that you need people, Blair. That isn’t a bad thing.”

Sharp, intelligent, and hurting blue eyes captured Eli’s hazel ones. “It isn’t? Not even when the people you need, don’t need you? Feels kind of bad to me, Eli.”

“I see.”

Then in typical fashion, Blair smiled, stood, stretched and said, “But like I said, I’m okay. Good to go. We humans bounce pretty damn well.”

“Oh sure.”


Simon, unlit cigar stuck in his mouth, opened another drawer in his quest for his favorite pen. As papers slid aside, Blair’s face smiled up at him. Simon paused and stared at his ex-observer’s pass, then he removed it, sat back in his chair and as his detectives went about their business in the squad room, he continued to stare at the ID badge.

The lost favorite pen, the one given to him by Blair Sandburg on Simon’s last birthday, sat comfortably unnoticed in his shirt pocket.


“So what do you hear?”

Jim scowled. “Mumbling, Conner. Plain old, everyday mumbling.”

“You’re supposed to be able to hear more than mumbling, Jim. Is everything all right?”

Jim slapped his hand at the woman behind him. “Will you please be quiet?”

Megan pursed her lips, but shut up.

Damn, Jim thought. His heightened sense of hearing seemed—clogged. Like it had been before he’d gotten his ears cleaned the first time. Which he now did—regularly. He shook his head and tried again. Their suspects must have moved because Jim could just make out a few important words.

“They’re about to rabbit. Let’s get back to the truck, now.”

They backed up along the cover of the building, then when clear, made a dash for Jim’s truck. Both jumped in and Jim slammed it into reverse, then spun the wheel around and just as their suspects came around the corner, he revved the engine and took off.

“Call it in, Conner.”

She was already reaching for the radio.

Jim followed at a brisk pace, noticing that it appeared that, like his hearing, his vision was less than what passed for normal. As he wove his way in and out of traffic, Megan kept the directions flowing. Sirens could be heard in the distance as their back-up joined in the chase.

“Crimeny, is that a gun or is he just happy to see us?”

“It’s a gun, Conner. And he’s glad to see you. Duck, by the way.”

Megan ducked as the first bullet hit the truck.

“You know, I really hate it when they start shooting at my truck. Pisses me off no end.”

“I’m not exactly happy myself, Ellison. Do something.”

“Well get up off the seat and take this.”

This was the steering wheel. Megan popped up and started driving. Jim leaned to his left, pulled his gun and with Megan nearly in his lap, he aimed, cursed at the edginess of his vision, then clipped off one shot.  The tire of the SUV they’d been chasing blew and the vehicle careened into the curb, bounced back, twisted around and came to rest against a light pole.

Jim hit the brakes and as he skidded to a stop next to the SUV, the driver’s door opened and Miguel Flores, a nice gentleman who’d been happily selling drugs on playgrounds, jumped out and started running. Jim groaned. Why the hell did everyone have to run lately? Couldn’t they just give up graciously?

Both he and Megan hit the street but before having to run far, a couple

of black and whites cut off Flores’ escape. The guy gave up. Conner

started to turn back to the SUV when

Jim said, “Adams is out cold. No seatbelt.”

“Aw, that’s too bad.”

“Yeah, ain’t it?”

Smiling, they both holstered their guns.


“Done yet, Ellison?”

“Conner, put a lid on it.”

Megan stood and sauntered over to Jim’s desk to perch on the edge. She picked up the little cube that Jim didn’t use as a paperweight and said, “So, what’s wrong, Jimbo?”

“Excuse me?”

“You seemed a bit off your game today. Not that it would have been noticible to anyone. Maybe you should see somebody?”

“Who? A sentinel doctor or something?” Jim hissed at her.


“Well, you could call,” she put down the cube and cupped a hand to her mouth, “you-know-who.”

“Conner, you-know-who is deep in the jungles of Brazil. They’re a little behind on building telephone lines, you know?”

“Oh, well, sure. But you could call the university in Brasilia, leave a message—maybe?”

Jim shook his head. “Conner, try using that brain of yours. Number one,

there’s nothing wrong with me that a few days away from you wouldn’t

cure, and second, if there were something wrong, which there isn’t,

you-know-who wouldn’t get my message for another—“

“Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses.”

“Conner? Get the hell off my desk, okay? I’d hate to have to shoot you.”

“You are such a pansy. Just call. Leave a message. Want me to write it out for you?”

“Conner—go. Now.”

Megan Conner rolled her eyes, then walked away.


Jim glanced around him. Good, almost empty. He picked up the phone, pulled the small piece of paper toward him and looking at the number Blair had written, he dialed.

//Doctor Montoya//

“Doctor, you don’t know me, my name is Jim Ellison and Doctor Blair Sandburg gave me this number—in order to leave a message?”

//Oh, yes of course, Senor Ellison. I would be happy to give the good

doctor any message. The rainy season has hit early and Doctor Stoddard’s

team will be returning early. What is it I must tell Doctor Sandburg?//

Jim closed his eyes. Then opened them. “Um, how soon do you expect them?”

//In approximately two weeks, perhaps less.//

“I see.” Jim gripped the receiver tightly. “Would you be so kind as to ask Doctor Sandburg to call Jim Ellison as soon as he can?  It’s—important.”

//Of course. I’m writing as we speak.//

“Thank you, Doctor Montoya.”


Geraldo Montoya put the phone down and was just finishing the message from Senor Ellison when a screech from the outer office brought him rapidly to his feet. As he hurried around the desk, the edge of his sweater caught a styrofoam cup of coffee. He never gave it a glance as he rushed out to see what new emergency had befallen his secretary.

Five minutes later he returned to his desk, having been forced to show Elsa that hitting delete on the computer was most definitely not enter nor the end of the world. As he sat down, he cursed. Coffee covered nearly a third of his desk. He grabbed a few paper towels, did some quick mopping up, then tossed the drenched towels in the trash, completely oblivious to the fact that the important message for Doctor Sandburg had been included and now rested in his waste paper basket.


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