Revenge is Sweet

by alyjude



October 31, 1977 - 7:00pm Cascade, Washington

It was a perfect Halloween. Cold, windy, and with the full moon casting long, dark, scary shadows into every corner of every street, it was the perfect night for trick-or-treating.

The small, eight year old boy stood on the sidewalk, two larger boys on either side. He should have felt safe, but he didn't. Alex and Alan weren't there to keep him safe, they were there to make sure he delivered.

"Well, BabyBlair, you gonna do it?"

He stared up at the dark, forbidding house, at the shuttered windows, at the huge oak front door, at the overgrown vegetation that surrounded the house like ghosts, at the ruin that was Marchand Mansion. He gulped. And nodded. "yes, i'm gonna do it. do it now. i'm not afraid." And he wasn't - exactly. It was just a house. An empty, stupid house. On All Hallow's Eve......

Alex, the fifteen year old on the boy's right, looked over the top of the tousled, curly head, to his twin brother Alan, and smiled.

"Okay," Alex said, "You have to go inside and stay for one hour, then we'll come back and get you. Understood?"

"And if you make it the whole hour, don't leave, and," Alan added, his voice low and full of scare, "you come out alive, you get to join our club. Now go, BabyBlair."

*Baby* Blair took a deep breath, put out one small hand and pushed the large, dark wrought iron gate open and stepped through.

Alan and Alex remained where they stood, both smiling deliciously, knowingly and watched.

Blair gave one last, long look back, took in another painful breath, and began to trudge slowly up the long, shadowy walk to the front porch and ultimately, the front door.

"I give BabyBlair two minutes inside before he comes running back, balling his eyes out and screaming for his mommy," Alex posited.

"I say he'll make it up to the front porch before he collapses from fear, and we have to go in there and rescue the baby. But at least we'll have him out of our hair."

"Yeah. What do you suppose Dad sees in that pipsqueaks mom, huh?"

"Well, if you don't know, than you're dumber than I've ever given you credit for, Alan."

Alan frowned, as the remark slid right over his head, then asked, "You think he'll marry the bitch, bro?"

"You don't marry that kind, you fuck 'em, then dump 'em."

Both boys were speaking in their normal voices and completely unaware that they could be so easily heard by the boy, still walking toward the big door. His small hands balled up into fists as he bit his lower lip, and as tears threatened to spill over. But he kept walking. Forward. How better to prove that he *and* his mother were worthy? Were brave and good?

Naomi had brought him here to Cascade three months ago, from Bakersfield, California, because she'd fallen in love with a man named August Winters. Father to Alex and Alan. Divorced, wealthy, handsome and eleven years Naomi's senior. He loved her and he loved her son. Which was why Blair was here now, going through with this ridiculous stunt. Alex and Alan were jealous. Even a eight year old boy could see that. And their dad was forcing them to include Blair in everything they did. This was their way of getting back at him and making sure that Blair didn't bother them again. Which was stupid, because in two more weeks, they'd be with their mother in Greece.

 But Blair had to do this. Two weeks was a long time, a long time to make one eight year old miserable. And he had to prove his worth. He *had* to.

So he walked on, when what he really wanted to do was run back and punch them both. In the balls. Best he could reach.

Back on the sidewalk, Alan turned to his brother, an evil smile on his face. "Hey, bro," he whispered, "Who says we have to stay here, or go home? Why don't we make *sure* he comes running out screaming?"

"Al, I like you're thinking. Oh, yeah. Let's go 'round back. Nip this step-brother thing in the bud."

They shook on it and hurried around the corner, neither of them taking any notice of the man, in the shadows, watching the small boy.


"Jimmy, no. I said no."

"Shit. You promised. I go to Cecilia's Halloween party for two hours with you and then you'd go with me to Stan's party."

"And now I've changed my mind. I want to stay here. Stan's party is a bunch of losers."

"Those are *my* friends you're talking about, Jen."

 The tall, willowy blonde pouted up at her date.

"Jimmy, they may be, but they are still losers. This is a hot party and I'm not leaving. Period."

Jim Ellison gazed down at his companion, his lips drawn into a straight line. She was beautiful, smart, and spoiled rotten. Why was he dating her, anyway? But he knew the answer. Because he was supposed to. He was the Captain of the Cascade High School football team, she was the head cheerleader. It was an unwritten high school rule. Captain dated cheerleader. And if he bucked it.....the worse thing possible - he'd be an outcast. In high school. So he dated Jennifer Reynolds. And as of two weeks ago, he also fucked her. Big deal.

 He was tired and it was only October. Only one month into their senior year. And eight more months until he could leave Cascade. But he didn't have to wait eight months to leave Jen.

 "Fine, you stay here. I'm going to Stan's. I'm sure Rick will get you home." And with that, he turned on his heel, pushed his way through the costumed crowd of high school revelers and stalked out the front door.

Once out onto the sidewalk, he stopped and took a breath of clean, crisp, wood burning fall air. And he smiled. He didn't feel quilty, or bad. He just felt relieved, free, and happy. And on the street, small ghosts, goblins, witches, Luke Skywalkers, Han Solos, and Obi-Wan Kenobis walked the streets, flashlights playing on each other, candy filled bags swinging, youthful giggles ringing in the night air, matching the sound of doorbell after doorbell ringing and voices chorusing, "Trick or Treat!" Stan's party beckoned, so Jim started walking.



 The door. And it looked so huge to the boy gazing up at it. He put his hand on the knob, praying it was locked, and turned.

It gave. He pushed. It creaked open. It was a night of deep breaths, he took another one, and stepped inside.

Out on the street, a dark figure seperated himself from the shadows and walked up to the gate, pushed it open as Blair had just minutes ago, and started a slow, deliberate walk up to the door.

The door swung shut, with a loud thud that startled the boy. He whirled around, expecting to see a monster behind him, and sighed in relief as he saw only the now closed door.

His small heart was beating wildly, his breath coming in gasps, but he took another step forward, glad that so many of the boards that had been put on the outside, were now torn down, because it allowed both the brightness of the moon and the corner streetlights to illuminate Blair's way. He took several more steps and found himself in a large foyer, a room to his right, a room to his left and ahead, a large circular staircase.

He put his hand to his mouth, one finger absently nibbled on, one nail about to be chewed down to a nub, as he looked from one room to the other, trying to decide where to go. His mother's words came back to him, "Blair, don't chew your nails", so his hand dropped to his side. He could just stand here, for one hour. The bargain would be kept. But not the spirit of the bargain, of the test. He turned to his right and moved ahead, his tennis shoes making a squeaking sound on old, rotting linoleum.

Something soft and sticky and icky fanned across his face and his hands came up immediately and began to swat the offending whatever from his face.....spider webs, big spider webs. Lots of spider webs. Tons of spider webs. And where there are spider webs? There are big, fat, ugly spiders. Blair shivered. But continued forward, hands still scrapping at his face, his hair, and biting down hard on his bottom lip.



 Jim decided to take a shortcut to Stan's, to cut across a field, and go down Marchand Ave. He hated not having a car, certain that he was the only high school senior without one. And equally angry that his father couldn't have loaned him his tonight, of all nights. Damn. Only eight more months and he was outta here.

As he turned onto Marchand, he wasn't surprised to see the street empty of trick-or-treaters, since the street was avoided after dark like the plaque, thanks to the Marchand Mansion. Empty for the last ten years, following the mass murder of the entire Marchand family at the hands of Emmett Marchand, who'd just lost his entire fortune and decided to take it out on his wife, two teenage sons and the family dog. At least after, he'd had the grace to put the gun to his head and blow his brains out.

It was said, of course, that Emily Marchand haunted the house, that at night, sounds of crying and gun shots could be heard......but Jim Ellison didn't believe in ghosts, Jim Ellison believed in very little, except that in eight months he'd be in the army. And free. He kept walking, and whistling.

 Until he noticed a lurking figure, in the shadow of the Marchand porch.....he frowned and concentrated. A man. Tall, breathing hard, peering into a window on the right side, so Jim Ellison concentrated harder, listening.......

A heartbeat, from *inside* the house. Footsteps, hesistant, maybe afraid? Walking, slowly, carefully. Jim heard a gasp, and the gasp sounded young. He picked up his pace, still too far away......



Alan and Alex made their way around the back, forced open the back gate, and moved up to the back door. Alex tried the knob, but it wouldn't budge. They both looked at the windows, but none were open or broken enough to allow entrance. As they stood there, uncertain of their next move, a sound from above caught their attention.....a black cat, pouncing down, onto a tree branch, from a ledge, and an open window. Alex smiled at his brother. Alan smiled back. They both walked over to the tree and began to climb.



Jim saw the man step into the house, and he started to run.


Blair turned toward what looked like a huge fireplace to his left. There appeared to be a picture above it, and he was drawn to it.....

He walked forward, eyes frozen on the portrait, on the smiling face, the friendly eyes gazing down on him. A woman,

beautiful, graceful, ethereal, blonde hair loose and flowing, a blue gown billowing out from a tiny waist......

A strong hand grabbed his arm........

"What are you doing here, little boy?"

Blair found himself whipped around, and looking up into dark eyes, eyes that were angry, hungry......

"i...i, my brothers, i'll leave, i'm sorry....."

The huge man leaned down, while at the same time, his other hand gripped Blair's sweat shirt and yanked, bringing the boy off his feet......

"You'll not leave, boy. You'll not leave this house ever." And the hand that had grabbed his arm, now let go and Blair hung there, helpless in his grip, his legs kicking uselessly........

From the staircase, two boys froze, fear invading every pore. They stepped back, back up a step, then another, and another.....they turned, moved as silently as possible, back the way they'd come, back to the open window, and they climbed down, and once on the ground, they ran, and ran, and ran.


Jimmy Ellison heard the words, the menace, and ran up the walkway, burst into the front door, and tackled the man,

throwing them all forward with his strength. Blair was suddenly flying through the air to land against a chair and drop to the floor.

Jim rolled with the big man, hands grappling, legs kicking, but the big man managed to scramble away and to his feet.

"Whoa, boy, just one minute....relax. I'm not the enemy.....", the man spoke, humor in his voice.

Jim Ellison stopped dead and looked up.

"Just trying to teach the kid a lesson. Scare him good, he should know better than to be around this house after dark. I'm Caleb Marchand. President of the Cascade Merchant Bank. And I recognize you, young fellow. You're William's oldest boy, right?"

Jim hurridly rose, brushing off his jeans, and looking hard at the man.....he did recognize him. He'd been to the house, he was a golf buddy of his dad's.

And across the room, a confused Blair Sandburg knelt, ashamed, blushing furiously, wanting nothing more than to crawl into a hole and never come out.

He looked to his left, to a hallway, and he crawled forward, and once in the darkened hall, he stood and ran. He found a side door which led outside and once free of the house, he looked to his left, saw Alex and Alan running out of the backyard, running wildly for home.

They were leaving him there. They would have left him there. Left him to that man, and if that man *had* been bad? He felt the tears then, and he let them come. He *was* a baby. Just a baby. And a fool.

He looked over his shoulder at the house, and wondered about the teen who'd come to his rescue. He should have stayed, but he was too embarassed. And he was just a baby. He shoved his hands in his pockets, let the tears roll down his cheeks, and hated Cascade and hated his mother, and hated Alan and Alex, and he'd wanted brothers so he hated himself instead.

 And he didn't have a clue how to get home.


October 31, 1999 - 7:00pm - Cascade, Washington


It was a perfect Halloween. Cold, windy, and with a full moon casting long, dark scary shadows into every corner of every street, it was a perfect night for Trick-or-Treating.

The thirty year old Blair Sandburg sat in his car, stuck in traffic, on Marchand Ave, singing with Bobby *Boris* Pickett as he sang the best Halloween song ever. Blair's fingers tapped lightly on the steering wheel, eyes idly moving about, darting around, looking at the people in other cars, noting those who were already costumed, smiling at some, looking askance at others. He moved his Volvo up a few more inches, wondering what the hold up was, and wondering if he should call Jim, tell him he was running late?

He looked over to his right and he drew in a sharp breath, as he caught sight of the old Marchand Mansion.

It still stood, untouched after all these years. The only sign of time marching on; a tall, wire fence around the house and grounds, with razor wire at the top.

A memory filtered back to Blair, an odd memory, clothed in fog, and he tried to move through it, and he could see himself, as a boy, standing at the front door.......

His cellphone rang.

He fumbled, grasped it and almost yelled into it, "Sandburg!"

//You'll not leave, boy. You'll not leave this house ever.....//

 The phone clicked and Blair was listening to a dial tone.


//You'll not leave, boy. You'll never leave this house.//

The words meant nothing to Blair, as he looked at the now silent phone in his hand. He frowned, and wondered if this were some new fangled Halloween practical joke, perpetrated on him by Rafe and the others? At that moment, two things happened simultaneously; traffic jumped forward a whopping foot and his phone rang again.

"Sandburg," he said, his voice subdued.

//Where the hell are you, Chief?//

"Hey, Jim man, I'm stuck in traffic, on Marchand Ave, but don't worry, I already picked up my costume, and I can be ready in a flash, and you know these things never really get going until after eight, and we wouldn't want to be first, and did you pick up your costume? And can you tell me why the Marchand Mansion is still here? Why they haven't torn it down, after all these years? And did you ever find out what Simon's costume is....."

//Shit, Sandburg, what's got you so wound up? And how do I turn you off?//

"Uh, sorry. I mean, I'm just excited about tonight, being invited and all, it hasn't been exactly easy, and I figured we'd be slighted, you know? And maybe I shouldn't go after all...."

//Sandburg, give it a rest and the gang wouldn't go without you, understand?//

"Right. Rest. Understood. So. Did you?"

//Did I?//

"Find out Simon's costume?"

//What, you think I'm clairvoyant or something? Can see through walls and Halloween garment bags?//

"......hear conversations miles away, X-ray vision, faster than a speeding bullet.....So, did you?"

//Yeah, he's going as Darth Vader. Satisfied?//

"What's so fucking secretive about that, for crissake's!"

//Watch your language, young man. And how the fuck should I know? So, what is *your* costume?//

"Ha! Wouldn't you like to know.....".

//Yes, and has traffic moved yet?//

"Two more feet. Got any suggestions?"

//You past Vaughn yet?//

"No, coming up, maybe another foot or so."

//Turn right and cut over to fifteenth, then....//

"Got it, then over to Palmer and Voila!"

//Shake your booty, Chief and get home, pronto//

"Booty? Did you just say, *Shake your booty*?"

//Got a problem with that, Chief?//

"OHMIGOD! You did it, you got the Saturday Night Fever outfit, didn't you? You're going as John Travolta, right?"

//No, Tony Manero, jerk//

"The white suit?"

//Yep, now get home//

"Turning right on Vaughn as we speak, and hanging up, you wild thing, you."

He clicked off the phone and made his right, which put him on an empty street, and from that point he made excellent time. Twenty minutes after his conversation with Jim, he was pulling into his parking space on Prospect, grabbing up the bag that held his costume, and running up the three flights of stairs to his home.

He pushed the door open and nearly toppled over at the sight which greeted him.

"Blair, honey!"

His mother, dressed as somebody's fairy godmother, wand and all, was *floating* toward him, arms outstretched.

"Mom! When did you get in? And why didn't you call? And...." his words were lost as he was smothered in gauze, satin and Obsession.

"Oh, sweetheart, I've missed you, and look who's here." She finally relinquished her son and turned him toward the couch where Abraham Lincoln sat next to Tony Manero.

"Blair, it's so good to see you again, after all these years." And Lincoln stood, walked over to the fairy godmother, wrapped an arm around her slender waist and put out the other hand.

Blair blinked, looked over to Jim for help, got a helpless shrug for his efforts, so he turned back to Naomi.

"Honey, it's Auggie."

Blair's mouth dropped open and *Auggie* gave out with a booming laugh, and Jim found himself looking from one person to another, and wondering when he was going to be let in on the joke.

Slowly Blair raised his hand to meet Lincoln's and they shook, but Blair's stunned expression remained intact.

"You do remember me, don't you, Blair?"

"Yes, yes, of course. You and Mom, you almost, I mean, you nearly...."

"We nearly got married, honey. You can say it."

Blair looked at his mother and cocked his head before answering, "Married. You almost got married."

August Winters took Naomi's left hand and held it up for inspection, and the huge diamond gracing her ring finger blinked in the light and nearly blinded him.

"We're engaged, Blair, honey. The wedding is next month. Just before Thanksgiving. We'll be married here, in Cascade, at the North Street Calvary Church. Are you happy for me, for us?"

What could a good son say?

"Of course, very happy. Do I get to give the bride away?"

Jim Ellison wasn't a Sentinel for nothing, and he hadn't been living with the young man standing with egg on his face, for over three years without learning a few things. Like that tone of voice. Which so clearly said he wasn't happy at all, and which also said that there was something very wrong.

He moved over to his lover's side, making his message very clear, and watching in delight as Naomi's mouth dropped open.

"Blair, you'd better get dressed. And don't worry, I'll keep them company. It seems we're all going to the same party. The Mayor of Cascade is very popular this year." Then with a little shove, he added, "Go."

Proof of Blair's discomfiture was in the fact that he found himself doing just as Jim asked. He mumbled a few words and excused himself, while also picking up the bag from the floor where he'd dropped it upon seeing his mother.


"Well, that went over well, Auggie."

Winters guided Naomi back to the couch, letting her get comforable in her voluminous gown, before joining her.

"It was to be expected, sweetheart. We ended it on rather, well, on bad terms. He surely remembers that. The loud fights, the yelling, and he must remember that I chose my sons over you."

"Auggie, you had no choice. I'll tell him that. He'll understand."

Jim suddenly found himself in never-never land, the helpless victim, the fifth wheel. He let his body slink back, until his hand landed on the knob of the french doors, that now led to their exercise room. As Naomi and August continued to talk as if he didn't exist, he turned the knob and stepped back and into the room.

Closing the door, he whispered, "Chief, are you okay?"

Blair was seated on the exercise bike, staring straight ahead, unseeing. He'd taken his shirt off and it was now hanging from the handlebars.

Jim knew instinctively that Blair was not in the present. He knelt down and took one cold hand.

"Blair? Is this your version of a guide zone-out? Because if it is, I don't have a clue how to bring you back."

"you'll never leave, boy. you'll never leave this house."

The words were whispered, but to Jim, it felt as though he'd been hit with a sledgehammer. The words came back to him, and he remembered them, spoken by a man over twenty-two years ago, to a boy he'd held by a navy blue sweatshirt.

"Blair, look at me. Come on, Chief, look at me now."

The head turned and eyes stared blankly, then Blair began to talk low, voice cold and distant, "The Marchand Mansion, I passed it tonight, and there was a memory, but I couldn't pin it down, and I got a phone call, just before you, and it was a man's voice, and he said, *You'll never leave, boy. You'll never leave this house.* But it didn't mean anything then, I just thought it was a practical joke, but now.....".

"But now?" Jim encouraged.

"Alex and Alan." Blair said it as if it should explain everything, but at Jim's quizzical look, he continued, "Twins. Auggie's sons. Older than me. Auggie made them take me everywhere with them. They hated it and they hated me. On Halloween, they said I could join their club if I did one brave thing, to prove I was worthy."

And now Jim could *see* the little boy he'd rushed into the mansion to *save*, could see the short curly hair, lighter than now, and the frightened blue eyes, so round.....

"Good God, you. It was you. You were the little boy. You disappeared and I couldn't find you."

Blue eyes, dark now with memory, widened and Blair's mouth formed a perfect *o*, followed by, "Jim? You?"

"Yeah, Chief, me. I was the big, brave teen, rushing in to save the boy from the big, bad monster, who turned out to be a good friend of Dad's."

Blair came rushing back to the present, eyes locked on Jim's. His expression moved from "absent" to the very here and now, and Jim watched as the *scholar* took over.

"Jim, you were there, in that house, with me. With - *me*. It's karmic, and like, so cool. You were protecting me before you even *knew* me. This is so *out there*."

Jim shook his head in amazement. One minute, he was the poster boy for Pyschotics Anonymous and now he was Blair the Scientist.

"Look, it's now after seven-thirty, and we have a party to attend. You think we can put this *karmic* discussion on hold until later?"

"Yeah, man, sure. Later. I can't believe this."

"I can. Nothing about the two of us can ever surprise me again. Now I'm going out to keep our company - company. Get dressed and let's party."

With that, he stood and dropped a quick kiss on lips that were already busy as Blair mumbled to himself. Jim smiled and with a last glance at his love, he went out into the lion's den.



".........he'll come around, I know Blair, and he's generous, and he wants my happiness."

Jim walked in on the conversation as if he'd never been gone. Twilight Zone time, and how appropriate for Halloween.

Naomi looked up as Jim came around the corner of the couch and took the chair.

"Jim, you agree with me, don't you?"

He wisely just nodded and smiled.

"See, honey? Jim knows Blair, and he knows that Blair will be just fine with this news."

"I wish I could be so certain. Alex and Alan are being their usual prick selves, so don't count on them at the wedding. And you know, they'll be there tonight. You think you can handle that?"

For the first time since arriving, Naomi appeared flustered and Jim was in awe. Naomi, flustered? Hell, even after destroying her son's life, she'd been so damn calm.

"You didn't say anything earlier. How long have you known?"

"Just a few minutes before I got home. Patty called, said they were looking forward to seeing me tonight. And no, I didn't tell her, you asked me not to, and I didn't. But the boys will know."


Okay, that was new one. Naomi, using a four letter word other than love. And Blair had missed it.

She seemed to collect herself and glanced quickly over to Jim. She blushed and he smiled wickedly and promised, "Don't worry, I won't tell Blair that his mother can cuss with the best of them."

Auggie patted her hand and smiled gratefully at Jim as Naomi gave Jim a quick wink.

"Look, Jim, maybe Auggie and I should go on ahead? Leave you two to follow? Blair and I can talk tomorrow, and tonight can be for fun, okay?"

"That's a good idea, Naomi. We'll meet you there."

She and Auggie stood, but before they left, Naomi gave Jim a stern look and added, "And don't think you and I don't have some talking to do, young man," and she waggled her finger at him and then kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "I'm so glad for both of you. Keep him safe and happy."

And they were gone in a whirl of fantasy and history.

Jim shut the door and turned, grateful for the quiet and *aloneness* of his home with Blair.

He was just getting his second wind when the french doors opened and Blair stepped out. And getting a second wind was suddenly very necessary. Otherwise, he'd have been unable to breathe.

"My God."

"Yes, I am. But at the moment, I'm in disguise, as an indian chief."

Jim found his eyes watering, his mouth salivating and his cock hardening. Blair was gorgeous any day of the week, but right now? He was downright sexy and edible. He wore a loincloth and below that, leather leggings, which left his thighs bare, and appeared to be hooked to the thin string that held the thin cloth around his hips. His chest was bare, with only native necklaces adorning his neck. He'd taken a hunk of hair on each side of his face and braided it with thin strips of leather. The right braid also had a long, eagle feather dangling from it.

And if that weren't enough, he'd painted his face. Two slashes of red on his right cheek, two slashes of blue on left cheek, with a yellow moon just above the blue slashes. He looked dangerous, fierce, awesome, and erotic as hell.

"What? What's wrong?"

All Jim could do was blink. Over and over again.

"Well, come on, let's get going."

Jim continued to blink and added mouth movement.

"Jim? You zoning?"

Jim nodded.

"No you're not, or you couldn't nod. I take it you like my *Chief* look?"

Jim nodded, and wet his lips.

"We going to be even later to the party?"

Jim nodded and wet his lips again.

"Well, good thing this outfit requires no zipper, I don't even have to undress. Just lift up the flap, see?"

Jim saw, nodded, wet his lips and - pounced.

You know, it's not easy making love and not getting bodily fluids on leather loincloths or white slacks. But they did it.



As Chief Blair and Tony Manero entered the Mayor's Annual Charity Halloween Ball, they were immediately surrounded by several members of Major Crimes. Megan was dressed as Morticia Addams, and Rafe, the clever man, was Gomez. Henri Brown had done his costume shopping late and was stuck with Barney, as in the big purple Barney, not Barney Fife. Joel Taggert, the master of understatement, was all in brown except for a gold cumberbun and Blair immediately figured out that he was dressed as one of Simon's cigars. Darth Vader was no where in sight.

"My god, Sandy, I can't believe Jim let you out in that outfit."

Blair gave Megan the evil eye and tweaked a long hunk of black wig, "And why shouldn't he? Let me out, that is?"

"Uh, oh, nothing, forget I said anything. Just spouting." But she promptly mumbled, "if you were mine, *I* wouldn't let you out...." and Jim leaned forward and whispered, "But he isn't, is he?"

"So, Rafe, care to dance? NOW?" And Rafe, happy as a clam, whisked his Morticia onto the dance floor, completely unaware of her now very red face.

"Jim, you are so bad."

"Yep. Let's grab some food. Then bother some people."

They laughed and began to make their way over to the buffett table. As they loaded their plates, a voice from behind Blair spoke up, "Jim, my boy, how are you?"

The plate that Blair was holding, crashed to the floor.

Jim turned back from the older man who'd addressed him, to his partner. "Chief?"

Blair Sandburg, his face pale, eyes burning with fever, turned and faced the man. His voice, when he spoke, was so low, so *far away*, that Jim felt the hair on the back of his arms rise, and his heart started to hammer, and he was certain the whole party could hear it.

"the boy will leave the house, but not until he holds the truth up to the light of day."

Caleb Marchand blanched, stepped back and spoke one word, "Emily."

Blair's eyes rolled back in his head, and he dropped like a stone.


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