The weary figure huddled in the doorway. He was cold, hungry and tired.
Glancing around, he took in the sights, the rundown warehouse, the half derelict buildings, the garbage dumped by uncaring, unthinking people to gather flies and slowly over the passage of time, turn to dust.
Kind of like him, Jim Ellison thought. He pulled his coat further around him, trying to contain what little warmth it held, in the process of doing so; his fingers brushed the dog-eared letter stuffed in the inner pocket.
Pulling the yellowing paper out, he re-read the words for the thousandth time:
'Dishonorable discharge' and 'guilty of causing or allowing by actions or inaction, the death of seven men under his command in the jungles of Peru.'
The words 'mentally unstable since his return' also leaped off the page to taunt him.
Why did he keep this reminder of his sins? And why did he constantly taunt himself with its accusations? Not that they were true. In his heart he knew he'd done his best for his men, but the army wasn't built on sympathy and understanding. They had needed a sacrificial lamb to quell the call for investigation into their covert operations, sanctioned by no one, and answerable to the same.
James Ellison was tied and staked, and left for the wolves.
Jim shivered; he badly needed to warm up. Picking up a lump of fallen masonry, he flexed his arms, in slow deliberate movements. At least by exercising this way, he could ensure that his body did not suffer the slow degeneration that his mind was spiraling into.
Even living as he did, Jim saw no point in abusing his body; it was often only his strength and fitness that kept him alive. Despite the hunger clawing at this belly, Jim soon felt the warmth spreading through him.
Suddenly, a voice spoke to him. He had been so focused on his 'workout' that he had failed to register the fact that a man had approached him from behind.
<Stupid, Ellison,> he thought angrily, <and dangerous.>
"Hi," the voice said.
Jim wheeled around, glaring at the stranger, "What do you want?" he growled.
"Nothing!" the man smiled, "I'm John, I just saw you working out, and thought I'd say hello."
Jim took stock of the young man quickly. He was twenty -four or twenty-five, six feet tall, slim build. His suit showed a well-paid position probably in advertising, Jim guessed, the suit was sharp and making a statement. That statement being: 'I can have anything I want, because I can afford it.'
"Hey, fancy a coffee?"
Jim felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, but the growl from his stomach answered for him, "Sure," he whispered.
As he and John walked to the burger stand, he barely listened while John made small talk.
"Burger?" the young man asked.
John handed him a burger with everything on it and Jim tried not to eat like a starving man, but after all, that's what he was.
They sat on a bench overlooking the park. John told Jim about the park he used to play in as a child, back in Maine, and how he loved the fall, when the leaves were knee deep, but Jim knew where all this was leading, and John didn't disappoint him.
Suddenly the young man slid a hand on Jim's knee.
"You're very attractive, Jim," he said quietly. Jim's gut tightened, but he didn't look up from his coffee. "Do you want to make some easy money?"
<Easy?> Jim thought sickly, <There's nothing 'easy' about what you're asking.>
"How does a hundred bucks sound?" John said moving closer.
Jim swallowed hard; he was hungry and tired and had nowhere to sleep again tonight. A hundred bucks would, at least, get him a room for the night, and a meal. "You supply everything?" he said in a whisper.
"Yeah," the young man's voice was edged with excitement, "I have everything you'll need." Reluctantly, Jim nodded in agreement. "Great, I'm staying at the Rialto, come on," John climbed to his feet eagerly.
Jim threw the empty food cartons in the trash, they hit the bottom of the can with a thud, then settled into the dirt as though they were finally home. Seeing this Jim allowed himself an ironic smile; he knew what that felt like.
The hotel room was small but well furnished and clean. Not the Hilton, but modestly pleasing.
Jim watched as John stripped off the suit and with it any last vestige of the decency that he wore like an overcoat.
Something else Jim had noticed on the journey here, a wedding band on John's left hand. Somewhere, a loving devoted wife was probably worrying that her equally loving and devoted husband was alone tonight. When in reality, he was here about to be fucked by a stranger who could have God knows what diseases, that he her loving husband, could kill her with. Jim knew he was clean, he took regular checks down at the free clinic on 5th and Main, but John didn't know that, and obviously didn't care.
"You want me to help you with that jacket?" John asked, moving close.
"No," Jim replied coldly. He hated the thought of this man undressing him. He just wanted this over, so he could leave.
"Shall we take a shower?" John asked, his voice dripping with passion. He reached for Jim's hand.
"Look, if you want sex, we'll have sex. If you want a love affair it'll cost you a hell of a lot more than a hundred bucks," Jim said angrily.
John backed off slightly, "Okay, handsome, no problem, " the young man smiled. He moved over to the side of the bed. Opening the drawer he reached in and retrieved condoms and a bottle of lubrication, setting them down on the bedside table beside the telephone.
"Everything you need," John smiled. Jim nodded, and proceeded to peel off his jacket. John stripped off the remains of his clothing, and lay down on the bed to enjoy the show.
Jim finally pushed off the tattered jeans and plain boxers in one movement, revealing his impressive body. He heard John gasp, as the pants fell to the floor and he stepped out of them.
"My God, you're gorgeous, "the young man said breathlessly, "What the hell are you doing on the streets? With a body like that you could make a fortune."
Jim's stomach churned, this little shit could never understand. He moved around to the side of the bed, not making eye contact with the man who so openly ogled him. He sat down and took a deep breath. Closing his eyes for a moment, he tried to think of something pleasant, anything that might help him prepare himself for this. Suddenly he realized that he couldn't think of anything pleasant anymore.
Resorting to sheer mechanics, he rubbed his hand slowly across his groin. Trying to remember what it was like to feel this emotion for real, to really want someone so badly that it was physically painful to be without them, to desire another human being so much that nothing else mattered. Suddenly, he felt
John's hands slide around his waist, sweep up across his chest, and then down to join his own hands.
The young man's fingers reached for his cock, desperately stroking and squeezing, trying to elicit a response. Jim heard him moan as his hand pumped the unwilling flesh. Jim gritted his teeth, and reluctantly reached back, stroking the young man's thigh with his fingertips, John shivered, and rubbed his body against Jim's back.
"Oh, Jim, hurry...fuck me..." he whispered breathlessly.
Jim was beginning to respond to the physical assault on his cock, and decided that the sooner this was over, the sooner he could walk out of here. He turned around, facing the young man for the first time, "Turn over, on your stomach,"
John obeyed without question, pulling a pillow under his hips, "Yes, hurry," he gasped.
Jim ran his hands over the upturned ass cheeks, desperately wishing he could feel something right now, even if it was only revulsion.
He reached for the bottle that sat on the cabinet, opening it, and squeezing out some of it's content, he moistened his fingers well. As much as he could loathe this man, he could not bear the thought of deliberately hurting him.
He stroked his finger down between the cheeks gently, John cried out in frustration, Jim slowly slipped a finger inside of him, and began to work the muscles loose. The young man thrust back urgently, begging for Jim to continue.
Jim merely worked another finger into the space, and then a third, stretching the ring of muscle further. When satisfied that he was ready, Jim removed the invading fingers and began to prepare himself. John pleaded, promising Jim the world, if only he would give more pleasure. Jim pulled the condom over his reluctant erection and rubbed in some of the slippery substance coaxed from the bottle. He closed his eyes, taking a steadying breath, and then eased his way into the upturned ass.
John yelled, begged, pleaded.
Jim worked up a rhythm, slowly building until he was pushing the young man hard, forcing him down, his own erection painfully buried in the pillow beneath him. It felt like an eternity to Jim before he felt John shudder as he came, his breath reduced to gasps, Jim followed soon after, withdrawing slowly, before sitting back weakly on his haunches. After a few moments, Jim climbed off the bed, walking away into the bathroom. He threw away the condom and cleaned himself up.
Splashing water on his face, he glimpsed himself in the mirror; was that really him? Picking up a towel, he walked back into the bedroom. He flung it at the young man coldly.
"Here, clean yourself up. And when you've done that, I want my money," he stated.
"Won't you stay a while? Have a drink?" John asked almost drunk with satisfaction.
"No," Jim replied dressing hurriedly. He watched as the young man wiped himself down, then reached for his wallet.
Pulling out a hundred-dollar bill, he held out his hand. Jim took the bill and pushed it in his pocket.
"You were worth it," John smiled, "I'm not stupid, Jim, I know you didn't enjoy it, but if only you could learn to, you'd never need to be hungry again, or poor."
"There are worse things than being poor, "Jim said finally, pulling on the last of his clothing, he walked out of the door.
After a night in a real bed: albeit with fleas the size of small rodents, Jim felt a little better. He decided to go into town and get something to eat, his stomach had been churning too much last night to hold any food, so this morning he was starving.
Following his usual route, past the mission and on past the University, Jim walked with his eyes trained on the floor, he didn't want to look at anyone, or have them look at him.
On the corner of Main, building work was in progress on the old office block that had once been a fine example of Victorian architecture, but had long since fallen into serious disrepair.
<Good to see that something old and crumbling can be put back together,> Jim thought, <Not just discarded like everything else in this throw-away world.>
Workmen clattered around on the scaffolding above, as Jim stepped into the road to avoid walking through a group of youngsters, talking and laughing. One particularly energetic young man flailed his arms widely as he relayed the details of an obviously tall story. The other young people laughed at his vivid descriptions.
From some unknown place, Jim heard a creak, and the sound of metal scraping metal. Looking up, he saw the scaffolding, three floors above him, slip from it's housing.
"Get out of the way!" he yelled to the still chattering group, "Get out of the way, now!" he threw himself into the group, pushing most of them back out of harms way. The eloquent young man, however, was closer to him, and further underneath the falling metal.
Jim grabbed him, bodily picking him up, and throwing them both out of the way, as the scaffolding crashed around their ears.
Both men lay there for several minutes as the dust settled around them, they could hear the sound of worried voices all around, calling to them. Jim's body completely covered the smaller man. He could feel the young man's heart beating fast beneath his chest, and hear his ragged breath escaping in short spasms.
"Are you alright?" Jim asked finally.
"I...I think so," the other voice was weak and shaky. Jim finally rolled off him, and helped him to his feet. "You sure you're not hurt?" he asked.
"No...Thanks," the young man shook the dust from his long curly hair. Jim nodded and began to walk away. "Hey, at least tell me your name."
"Jim? I'm Blair Sandburg, " he held out his hand, "And I'd really like to thank you for saving my life, man."
"That's okay," Jim took the proffered hand slowly.
"Hey, can I buy you a drink or something, just to say thank you?" Blair asked.
Jim regarded him suspiciously. Yet, something about this young man seemed up-front and honest. "It's okay, there's no need," he said.
"Hey, come on, I feel like I owe you, man. Just let me get this off my conscience?" his large blue eyes pleaded, "If it wasn't for you, I'd look like road-kill about now."
Jim thought for a moment, the kid seemed straight up. "Okay, just a coffee," he said finally.
The young man's eyes lit up in a glorious smile, "Cool," he smiled.
The two men sat in a café across the street from where the accident had happened. Blair chattered endlessly about the accident, and how the restoration work was improving the look of the place. Jim occasionally nodded politely, unable to keep up with the express train that was Blair Sandburg. He was at least grateful for the mountain of food that Blair had bought as a 'thank you', he was just hoping that there wasn't a higher price to be paid here.
"So, Jim. How did you know that stuff was coming down?" Blair asked.
"I heard it creak," Jim replied, his mouth half-full of doughnut, "When I looked up, I saw the pole slip from it's housing."
Blair frowned, he could see the building from where he sat, through the window of the café, "But that's three floors up?" he said, "How could you possibly...?"
"I have very good hearing, and sharp eyesight," Jim said nonchalantly.
"Wow, you must have!" Blair exclaimed, looking back at the building in disbelief, "Oh, hell, I've forgotten my watch. I wonder what time it is?"
Jim turned around and gazed out of the window for a moment, "Two fifteen," he said.
"How do you know that?" Blair asked.
"What drugstore clock?"
"The one over the counter...across the street," Jim continued to eat.
"You can see the clock that's over the counter, inside the store, across the street?" Blair gasped.
"Uh hu," Jim grunted.
Blair felt his skin prickle, as though a live wire had been passed across his flesh. "Tell me. Your hearing? How good is it? Can you hear the clock ticking?"
"Oh," Blair let out a disappointed sigh.
"It's digital. But I can hear when the numbers change," Jim said.
"Please* tell me that you smell things too, or have very sensitive skin...?"
"Look," Jim said, glancing up at the young man, "I got a lot of problems, but I don't enjoy talking about them."
"No, you don't understand. I'm an anthropologist at Rainier University, I study people with 'gifts' like yours. Would you be interested in doing a few simple tests?" Blair enthused.
"No," Jim said shortly.
"Look, it wouldn't be anything heavy, just an eye test and hearing test, that kind of thing. I promise, no drugs, no needles, nothing like that," Blair insisted, "I can pay you, to complete the basic set of tests, say...hundred dollars?"
Jim shivered slightly, unpleasant memories flooding into his mind, "I don't think.."
"Come on, man. A hundred bucks for sitting around for a few hours. What do you say? I'll even throw in a meal at the University when they're finished." Blair's face suddenly changed, "Oh, maybe that last point couldn't be considered a plus, but hey, it's still a good deal?"
Jim sighed, "Okay, okay," he said as much to shut the young man up as anything else.
"Great, great!" Blair enthused, "Here's my card, I'll expect you at say ...seven this evening?"
Jim looked at Blair suspiciously, "Yeah, fine," he said at last. Hoping beyond hope, that this wasn't what it looked like; just another lame come on, and that Blair Sandburg was going to be the man to finally disappoint him.
Standing outside the 'office' of Blair Sandburg, looking disdainfully at the shabby door. Jim wondered if he'd just made another in a long line of big mistakes. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Maybe he should just turn around and get out of here now.
Suddenly, the door swung open, and Blair Sandburg's elfin face peered around it.
"Hi, come on in," he smiled.
Jim nodded a greeting as he walked through the door. He made a mental note of the chaos that was this man's working world. Books were stacked dangerously high along the wall. Folders and files lay around, seemingly haphazardly thrown into piles. The few items of furniture that graced the room were piled high with papers and textbooks. This room was as erratic as the man himself.
"Sit, sit," Blair gestured, hurling a pile of folders that lived on the old chair, into the corner.
Jim was barely listening as Blair babbled on about sensory spikes and African tribal cultures. When the young man finally sat down and slipped on some thin-rimmed spectacles, the moment's silence was almost a relief. "Okay," Blair said, "I've worked out some basics, so if you'd like to take off your jacket and shirt, and lie down on that couch over there, we'll get started."
"What?" Jim said suddenly, feeling his temper start to simmer, he rose to his feet, "What is this? Since when do you need to undress to have an eye test?" he said angrily. Angry at this man who'd proved him right yet again, and angry at himself for thinking this one could be different.
"No, you don't understand," Blair began. He stood up and placed a placating hand on Jim's arm.
"Oh, I think I do," Jim snatched his arm away, "If you're looking for a 'butt buddy', you'd better try cruisin' a little further downtown."
Blair moved around the desk, he held up his hands in surrender, "No!" he said nervously.
Jim grabbed him by the shirt, lifting him off his feet and slamming him up the wall, "That's it isn't it? You're some queer little hippie punk, looking for a piece of ass?"
"Hey, man. Cool it!" Blair swallowed hard. "I just want to help you. I think I understand why you can do the things you do, and I'll bet they're part of the reason you're living rough? You have a problem handling your senses? Am I right?" his voice became stronger, more self-assured. Jim let him slide down the wall, slowly. "Well am I?" he pushed.
"You don't know anything about me, kid," Jim said, releasing his shirt.
"No, but I want to. I want to help. I only asked you to remove your jacket and shirt, so that I could fix you up to this monitor to register your skin responses, heartbeat and stuff. I wasn't making sexual advances towards you, I swear!"
Jim looked into Blair's open blue eyes. He couldn't detect any sign of deceit in them, or even, surprisingly enough, any great degree of fear. "Okay, I...I'm sorry."
"Hey, no problem," Blair set free one of those wide open smiles, that made Jim want to join in, "Let's start from the beginning again, huh?"
"Okay," Jim decided finally. Maybe this time, he really was wrong.
After three hours of tests, Jim was surprised to find that the initial irritation he'd felt towards Blair had lessened. Once the young man was focused on the job at hand and had regained control of his mouth, he had proved to be a remarkably astute and intelligent companion, if a little 'unconventional'. Jim had reluctantly found him to have a charm and easy manner that was almost infectious. Hell, the guy had made him smile and he couldn't remember the last time he'd done that.
"Look," Blair said as Jim pulled on his jacket, and prepared to leave. "We've only scraped the surface here. I'd really like to go into more detail, if that would be okay with you?"
Jim looked at him with a sense of puzzlement. Blair took out his wallet and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill. Jim eyed the money, held out in the young man's hand.
"No," he said quietly.
"Oh," Blair said, his face dropped, "I'm sorry if this has been unpleasant for you."
"No, I don't mean that," Jim said almost shyly, "I mean, I don't want your money," he turned away.
"Hey, come on. We had a deal. Anyway, It'll do you more good than it does me. I just use this to try to impress women!" Blair smirked.
Jim felt himself threatening a smile, "Does it work?" he asked.
Blair's eyes twinkled with mischief, "Only until they get to know me," he laughed, "then they're outta here," he gestured into the distance with his hand.
Jim laughed lightly, "I don't believe you, but I appreciate the thought," he smiled, "How about, instead of that, you buy me a meal and a beer after the next session?"
Blair's heavenly face lit up, "Oh, man. That's great. Just wonderful. Deal!" he enthused.
With a smile, Jim walked out of the office, away from this strange young man, and back to reality.
Two months of tests had proved fascinating for Blair and surprisingly enjoyable for Jim. They had become comfortable in each others company, enjoying a movie and a beer as well as working on the sensory tests that Blair had devised.
The young anthropologist had also discovered that Jim could easily go on sensory overload, or 'zone-out'. When all of his senses were engaged they challenged for supremacy, causing one to take over and Jim to blank out.
"Did you hear that?" Blair gasped. Checking for the fifth time the readings on the audiometer.
"Uh hu," Jim said.
"My God. Dog whistles must be a nightmare for you," Blair said with a grin.
"Just call me Fido," the older man replied with a wry smile.
"These readings are incredible."
Jim watched the excitable little anthropologist busily jotting down figures, lost in his world of Sentinels and pre-civilized cultures.
Blair was the most 'alive' person he'd ever met. So bright and vigorous and so very lovely. Jim shook his head, hurling these thoughts into oblivion. He did not even want to consider thinking about Blair that way. This young man was so refreshing, so untainted by everything that he himself was and had become, that to even dream those kind of dreams seemed, somehow, to stain this savior of his soul. He shivered.
"Hey, man. You cold?" Blair asked, his face creasing with concern.
"No, I'm okay," Jim replied. Suddenly he felt Blair's hand touch his, as the young man checked his body temperature, he shivered again.
"Oh, man. I'm sorry, I get so lost in my research, I forget that I have a guy sitting here half-naked wired up to it," Blair smiled, reaching over and pulling a blanket out of a cupboard. He flung it around Jim's shoulders and pulled it up around his neck.
"Blair, it's okay. I'm not delicate," Jim sighed.
"Are you kidding me? With my luck, I'd find a real live Sentinel, then kill him with hypothermia," Blair fussed around the bigger man like a mother hen.
"It's okay," Jim grabbed Blair's hand and looked into his eyes. A thrill ran through the Sentinel like wildfire, spread even faster by the heavenly smile that appeared on the young man's face. Jim swallowed hard, "So," he said, "How come you keep blankets in your office? Or does this tie in with the hundred dollar bill to impress the girls?" the older man teased.
Blair blushed slightly, "Alas, nothing so exciting," he mumbled, looking away, "I just crash here some nights when I've been working late and I'm too tired to get home."
"I believe you," Jim smiled.
Blair glanced up and met his eyes momentarily, Jim wasn't sure what it was he saw there, but the young man pulled away, returned to his monitors and slipped back into 'business' mode.
Jim slowly strolled along the bleak street. Yet, somehow, the streets no longer seemed quite so bleak, nor the skies so dark, he thought. In his heart he knew why. Blair Sandburg, that's why.
It had been only three months now, yet Jim had been shocked at how deeply the young man had touched him, how easily he'd slipped into his heart, found a safe place to curl up and made himself at home, like a hobbit in a hobbit hole. Jim smiled to himself.
That had been his favorite book as a child, the one his mother always read to him, before she went away. And the one he always read when he wanted to be reminded of her. When he lay in his bed at night, listening to his younger brother cry, and weeping his own silent tears into his pillow.
Suddenly, he heard someone moving up behind him. Turning quickly, he spotted a familiar figure.
"Hello, Jim. I've been looking for you," John smiled.
"What do you want?" Jim said.
"Silly question, Jim. I want you," he reached out to touch Jim's face.
Slapping the hand away, Jim growled into his face, "Find your entertainment somewhere else," he pushed the man away.
"Don't be like that, handsome. You know I can pay," John cooed.
"I don't want your money," Jim replied turning to walk away.
"Really? What? Your new boyfriend supplying you with funds now, huh?" the younger man said with malice, "Does he know what you do?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jim said angrily.
"Oh, so that cute little guy with the lush lips and the cascading curls is just a 'friend'?"
"How do you know about him? What the fuck's it got to do with you anyway?" Jim advanced on the man.
"I just wondered how he'd take it if he found out that you sell your body?" John smiled, "How would he feel about you then?"
Jim's jaw tightened angrily. Was it worth risking his friendship with Blair for one lousy fuck with this pathetic little creep? Wasn't this just what he always did? Close his eyes and imagine something better?
"Come on, Jim. I leave town tomorrow and chances are I won't be back this way. What difference can it make if you do this just one more time?"
Jim swallowed hard. This was it, the end of this life forever. Blair had offered to help get him a place to live, then, he'd be able to get a job. Make something of his life, maybe even discover what pride meant again, and love.
Slowly, and hating himself, he nodded to the smiling man. Wordlessly he turned and followed him.
The following day, Blair worked feverishly to complete the new tests he had in store for Jim. It was a constant challenge to come up with something new to test Jim's incredible abilities.
As the telephone began to ring, Blair somehow knew there was a problem, and he knew it concerned Jim. Lifting the receiver, he spoke; "Hello, Blair Sandburg?"
"Blair, it's Jim," the familiar voice said.
"Hey, Jim. What's wrong?"
"I'm not going to be able to make our meeting tonight, sorry," Jim's voice was tense.
"What's wrong?" Blair asked.
"I've been arrested."
"Okay, Ellison," the tall detective said, " I'm Detective Philips. Now, what do you have to say for yourself about the murder of Richard Packington?"
"Never heard of him," Jim said coldly.
The detective slammed a photograph of the corpse down heavily in front of Jim, "Recognize him now?"
"I knew him as John," Jim replied.
"Okay, what do you know about the murder of this man, who you call 'John'?"
"Nothing?" the detective sighed loudly, "Okay, how do you know him?"
"Met him on the street," Jim said with no expression on his face.
"You just bumped into him on the street? What you two move in the same social circles?"
"Just met him on the street."
"And after you 'just met him on the street', then what?" the tall man pushed.
"Went back to his hotel room," Jim said through gritted teeth. He wasn't stupid, he knew that the police already knew why he was in the hotel room with John, what was the point lying about it.
"To have sex."
"Is that what you do, Ellison?" the detective said, his voice dripping with disgust, "You pick up men in the street and have sex with them?"
Jim looked up into the other man's eyes. He held their accusing gaze for a moment before looking away.
"Answer the question. Do you have sex with men you pick up in the street? For money? For pleasure? What?"
"Money," Jim said, "When I have nowhere to sleep, no food," he trailed off.
"Aw, Ellison. You're breaking my heart here," Philips sneered, "How much did he pay you?"
"$100 to fuck another guy? How many times?"
"So, what time did you meet him last night?" Philips asked.
"Around ten p.m." Jim replied.
"What were you doing? Cruising for trade?"
"No. I don't do that," Jim said with an angry edge to his voice, "I was just walking back from...*he* found me," he said suddenly realizing that Blair could be dragged into this so easily if they knew he'd been at the University.
Philips looked at him suspiciously, "Walking back from where, Ellison?"
"Just walking back."
"Okay, where had you been all evening?"
Jim struggled with his conscience. If he told them he was with Blair they would first; jump to the wrong conclusions and secondly; drag him down here to check it out. But, if he lied, and they discovered the facts anyway, they would never believe him when he was telling the truth Taking a deep breath, he said; "I was at the University, helping one of the teaching fellows with some 'experiments'."
Philips laughed derisively, "Oh really? Is that what they call it now?" he taunted, "What's the name?"
"He's not involved in this," Jim protested.
"Well, he is now. Name!"
"Sandburg. Blair Sandburg," Jim felt his stomach turn, <Oh god, Blair, I'm so sorry,> he thought sadly.
"Right, we'll need Mr. Sandburg to come down make a statement. Now, you'd better tell me what happened after you met 'John'.."
Blair strode into the Cascade Police Department. After a word with the desk sergeant, he was directed to Major Crimes.
"Hi, I'm looking for Detective Philips?" he said to a young black man with a cheerful face.
"And you are?"
"Blair Sandburg. I'm a friend of James Ellison's, you've just arrested him for murder. I spoke to Detective Phillips on the phone, he asked me to come down and make a statement," Blair said trying to cover the nervousness he felt.
"Right. I'm Detective Brown. Detective Philips will be back in a minute. If you'd like to take a seat?"
"Thanks," Blair smiled. He glanced around the room quickly. Other than the young man he'd just spoken to, he could see a good-looking Detective in a sharp suit, <this job must pay better than I imagined> he thought with a smile. An older black man, who'd just growled the name "Taggert" into the telephone. And in the room marked 'Captain's Office' sat a ruggedly handsome black man in his forties, chewing on a thick cigar, and bellowing at a younger white officer, who nodded slowly. The younger white man came out of the office dejectedly, and walked towards Blair.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah. Ellison's 'friend'," the man said with a sneer. Looking Blair up and down.
"That's right," Blair replied through clenched teeth.
"How long you known him?"
"I'm presuming that you are Detective Philips?" Blair said, deciding that he could be just as difficult.
"That's right. Now, how long you known him?"
"About three months."
"Mmm. What's your relationship with Ellison?" Philips asked with an obvious inflection to his voice.
"We're friends. He's been helping me with a project that I'm involved in at the University, where I work and study," Blair answered.
"So you're not his pimp then?"
"What?" Blair gasped.
"So you're telling me that you didn't know that Ellison fucks other men for money?" Philips smiled.
"*What*?" Blair stared at the Detective blankly. So many thoughts were wheeling around in his mind that all rational thought flew out of the window. "You're mistaken," he said finally.
"I'm afraid not, Mr. Sandburg. One of Mr. Ellison's 'customers' was found dead in an alley, behind the hotel he was staying at. In his room, we found evidence that sexual activity had taken place. Forensic evidence, coupled with an eye-witness who saw your 'friend' go into the room with the victim, places Mr. Ellison there and gives him a motive."
"Robbery. The victim's wallet was empty," Philips looked at Blair coldly.
The young man could feel the contempt rolling off the Detective in waves. "I don't believe it. There has to be a mistake," he said.
"It doesn't look that way, does it?" Philips flipped open the folder he had in his hand, " Now, If you'd just like to tell me when you last saw Ellison, and then I'll just ask you a few questions."
An hour later, Blair scribbled his signature on the bottom of the paper and pushed it back towards the Detective.
Glancing up, he saw the disgust on the older man's face, all of which was aimed at him. Somehow, he'd turned from an innocent anthropologist and friend, into an accessory to murder and a queer, all in the time it took to walk into this place. He felt like he'd been stripped and beaten in public and that was only sitting here answering questions. How must Jim be doing right now?
"Thank you for coming in, Mr. Sandburg," Philips said.
"Can I see, Jim?" he asked.
Philips sighed. "It really should be just family or lawyer...."
"I'm all he has," Blair said before he realized how it sounded.
The Detective eyed him suspiciously, "I'll see what I can do."
As Jim walked into the small room, he almost stumbled back at the sight of Blair Sandburg sitting there before him. He could tell by the look on the young man's face, that they'd told him....everything.
Dejectedly, he sat down, but was unable to meet Blair's eyes.
"What you doing here?" he asked.
"I had to come in to give a statement. And I wanted to see you," Blair whispered.
"Why? Because you're my friend, that's why!" the young man said angrily.
"Did they tell you?" Jim asked.
"About me," Jim hissed, "About what I do for money?"
"Yes," Blair said quietly.
"Doesn't it make you feel sick to look at me?"
"No," Blair leaned forward slightly, "Just look me in the eyes and tell me that you didn't kill that man."
Jim looked up, straight into the heart stopping blue eyes of his beautiful young friend, "I did not kill that man," he said.
Blair smiled, "That's good enough for me," he replied.
"I wish the police were so easy to convince, "Jim said coldly.
"I'll do anything I can to help," Blair stressed.
"I don't want you involved in this, Blair," Jim said.
"Too late. I already am." The young man ran his fingers through his hair, "Look, I'll contact a lawyer I know, he used to date my mom. He always managed to drag her ass outta jail when she was arrested for protesting."
"This is a bit different, kid, " Jim said quietly.
"I know that. But at least it's something for me to do," Blair touched Jim's hand, "I'm not just going to abandon you, " he said.
"Blair, I don't want you tainted by all of this, " Jim said sadly, "What about your job, your studies? Hell, what about your reputation?"
"What about my friend? " Blair insisted. Suddenly he smiled, "If you really think this is the first time someone's called me a queer, then you are out of touch." The intensity of Blair's smile caused Jim to catch his breath, "I care about you, and what happens to you. I won't just walk away."
Jim grasped the young man's out stretched fingers, and lightly squeezed them, "Thanks," he whispered.
"Hey, no touchin'," the guard growled, "Your time's up."
"I'll come back tomorrow, " Blair said as he rose from the chair, "I'll go home and phone Joe Shaw, the lawyer I mentioned," he looked into Jim's haunted eyes sadly, "I will be back."
"Blair?" Jim said as the young anthropologist walked past.
"So, Ellison," Philips sneered, "Happy now you've seen your boyfriend?"
Jim stared at his fingernails blankly, refusing to give this cocky detective the satisfaction of knowing that he was getting to him.
"Gotta give it to ya, he is a fine piece of ass! A real pretty boy. Where did ya find him? Some street corner? Was he hookin' too?" the young detective sneered, "I'll bet he can make a fortune, a pretty baby like that."
"Just get to the point or put me back in the cell," Jim sighed.
"Okay. Was pretty boy involved in the murder of your 'client'?"
"Blair isn't involved in any of this. He had no idea what I was, I was just helping him out with some tests down at the University."
"Really? So, this 'innocent kid', who is a complete stranger to you. Comes down here, offers to pay a big shot lawyer to defend you, sits there 'holdin' your hand', but he doesn't know that you fuck for money?"
"Ellison. Do I look that stupid?" Philips asked.
"Well, I'm not. That little queer's involved, and I'm gonna prove it," the detective growled dangerously.
"Just leave Blair out of this!" Jim said, anger bubbling just beneath the surface.
"Ooh, protective over that little cutie, huh Ellison?" Philips taunted, "He must give you something special to demand that kind of loyalty."
"He doesn't give me anything. I told you, he's just a kid, an academic, working on his dissertation. I was just helping him out with some tests. He doesn't know anything about anything," Jim snarled, "And I'm not fucking him. So why don't you just let him be?"
"Because I don't believe you."
"So," Simon Banks said leaning back in his chair, "What do you think?"
"I think the kid's involved, " Philips said, pacing the floor like a caged lion.
"What makes you think that?"
"Ah, the little queer's obviously involved, Captain. He's mooning over Ellison like a love struck teenager."
"You know something, Philips?" Banks said sitting forward, "I think you're making some dangerous assumptions there. Do you have any proof that Mr. Sandburg is involved? Or even that he and Ellison have a sexual relationship?"
"Not exactly, Captain. But look at him, it's pretty damned obvious," Philips said with distaste.
"Not to me and I'm damn sure not to the D.A. You find me proof, and I'll slip your leash, and let you go. But you cannot base an entire case on your own prejudices against small guys with long hair," Banks regarded Philips with barely contained rage, "So I suggest, for now, that you concentrate on the evidence we do have and leave your bigotry at home."
Philips glared at his boss, "Yes, Sir."
"What's up?" Joel Taggert asked as he watched Philips storm from the bullpen.
Simon Banks sighed, "That young man is beginning to worry me, Joel. This Ellison case is bringing out the worst in him. Now he's gunning for this kid that's 'befriended' Ellison. Insists that he's 'queer, therefore guilty'. I think he's lost his objectivity on this one, coupled with his natural bigotry, we have one hell of a time bomb just waiting to go off."
"Hi," Blair smiled. The woman on the hotel desk regarded him without so much as a flicker of emotion. "I was wondering, all the excitement that's been going on around here, did you see anything?" he asked.
"Who are you?" she said suspiciously.
"Pete Hadley. I'm with 'Gossip' magazine," Blair winked, "And this story could be hot. It could earn you a free subscription, that's if you know anything of course."
"I know everything that goes on around here. Like I told that cop," she said with a certain pride, "A free subscription you say?"
"So, what do you want to know?"
An hour later, Blair was still scribbling notes. "And you saw the big guy with the muscles leave, how long was he there?" he asked.
"Oh, about twenty minutes or so, maybe a little less," she replied, "I remember thinking that I wouldn't kick that outta bed myself!"
"And did you see or hear the guy who was killed after that?"
"I heard something, couldn't swear that it was him, mind, but I know someone else visited that room afterwards, because I saw him leave."
"You did? What did he look like?" Blair said, his heart beginning to pound.
"Couldn't tell you exactly, I only saw him pass the window for a few seconds."
"But you don't think that it was the first guy gone back?"
"Oh no. This guy was much smaller, probably no bigger than you and slightly built. Not a hunk of beefcake like the first one," she grinned appreciatively, "No offence of course!"
"None taken, Ma'am," Blair smiled, "Did you tell the police this?"
"Oh yeah. Not that they took much notice. That cop has a real bad attitude!"
"Yeah, I think I know the one you mean," Blair said, "Do you think that there's anyway I could take a look in that room?"
"There's a young lady cop outside. I guess it wouldn't hurt to go ask her," the woman said with a grin, "With that smile of yours I guess you're pretty used to getting your own way!"
Blair blushed slightly, "Thanks for your help, Ma'am."
"My pleasure. Don't forget my free subscription now."
"Hi," Blair said flashing his prize-winning smile, "Er, look I know that this is still off limits."
"That's right, Sir," the young officer said.
"Hi, I'm Pete, from the insurance company," Blair held out his hand waiting for the young woman to tentatively take it, "And the owner of this property is really getting on my case about the claim for damage. I was wondering if it would be possible just to peek inside? Just so I can make a quick assessment?"
"I'm sorry. I really shouldn't let anyone in," she said unsurely.
"You are so young to be a police officer, Officer?"
"Paige. Cathy Paige," she smiled.
"Officer Cathy Paige. What, were you still in diapers when you went through the academy?" Blair turned the charm dial up to maximum.
Cathy smiled and shook her head, "Not quite," she said.
"Must be a tough job for a young woman," Blair said softly, "Especially one as cute as you."
Cathy giggled, "Oh, you are good at this, aren't you?" she laughed, "Okay. You can have two minutes, no more. And don't touch anything!"
"Got it. Thanks!" he reached over and planted a kiss on her cheek, " Can you be arrested for kissing an on duty police officer?" he teased.
"Yes," she replied, "But if you'd like to practice a little more, I'm free Saturday."
The underground parking lot at the Cascade PD was a gloomy place, Blair thought miserably getting out of his car and locking it. He took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths before starting the journey into that awful place. Just having all those eyes following him, with the thoughts that hid behind them, made him very scared. But he had to talk to someone, anyone who would listen, about the evidence that was so blatantly being ignored, that he'd just seen with his own eyes. Suddenly he was aware of a figure behind him. Wheeling around he came face to face with Detective
"Well, if it ain't Ellison's interfering little bed warmer!" he mocked.
"I really don't think you have any rights to address me that way, Detective," Blair said, trying to hide his nervousness.
"Really? Well, I guess I'm just a straight talkin' kinda guy. I believe in callin' a queer a queer!" he sneered moving closer.
Blair backed off slightly, "Detective, since I haven't been formally charged with any crime that I'm aware of, I really think that your tone is improper," he said, now fighting the anger that built in his gut.
"Improper? You even talk like a little fag, " he laughed," I know you're involved with Ellison and this murder, and I'm going to prove it. Then I'm gonna watch as they haul your ass into jail. Oh, are you gonna be popular! Sweet little thing like you, you'll be snapped up in no time," Philips stroked his finger down Blair's face.
Blair slapped his hand away angrily, "Get your hands off me, you bastard," he spat.
"What? I don't get you hard like Ellison does? What is it he has?" Philips grinned.
"Manners. Something you couldn't even begin to understand," Blair seethed.
"So he says 'thank you' when he's shoving his dick in, huh?" the detective grabbed Blair's jacket, pulling him close, "You can wave goodbye to fine manners when you're in prison, pretty boy."
"Let me go," Blair insisted.
"So, I don't get the offer of a free blow-job then?" Philips laughed, pulling Blair even closer.
Without a thought to the consequences, Blair balled his fist and with more power than he thought himself capable, let his right fist fly, catching the detective squarely on the jaw, sending him sprawling. Blair fell back, his hands trembling and his face pale.
"That's all I wanted you little shit!" Philips said through a rapidly swelling mouth, "You are under arrest, assaulting a police officer," he growled.
"No, he's not," a voice said suddenly.
Blair turned around to see a tall black man standing in the shadows. He swallowed hard, he stood no chance against a giant of a man like this, "I...I didn't mean to hurt him.." he stammered.
"I know. Mr. Sandburg, isn't it?" the man said, slapping a huge hand on Blair's shoulder.
"Yes," Blair answered.
"I'm Captain Banks, Major Crimes. I saw and heard everything that happened. I'd just like to apologize for the conduct of my officer. Who is, as of five minutes ago, suspended."
"Oh, God," Blair felt his knees weaken.
Banks grabbed the smaller man, "Mr. Sandburg, please come up to my office, I'll get someone to grab you a coffee and I'd like to apologize formally," he said, "Philips, in my office now. Turn over your badge and weapon, then get out of this precinct." Banks lead Blair away to the elevator.
"I really don't know what else I can say, Mr. Sandburg, to convince you that most of my officers are not like Detective Philips," Simon Banks sighed.
Blair sat in a chair opposite the Captain, a cup of hot coffee cradled in his hands, "I'm sure they're not, Captain, but that doesn't help my friend. It is because of Detective Philips bigotry that he refused to look at the evidence I found at the motel," Blair insisted, "And as for the reason that Jim can't recall events...well."
"Mr. Sandburg, if there is anything you know, please feel free to tell me," Banks said.
"It's a little difficult to explain," Blair said awkwardly," It's all to do with the research I'm doing at the University."
Over an hour later, Blair still sat in Simon Banks' office. The police Captain had been more open to the whole Sentinel thing than Blair could ever have hoped for, but it was still a lot to expect anyone to believe with so little in the way of evidence to show.
"I know it's a lot to take on faith, Captain, but you are welcome to see my research on the subject. Jim Ellison is the only man I know of with all five senses so heightened. He's a throwback to a pre-civilized culture, his abilities are phenomenal," Blair enthused.
"That, presuming it's true, is all well and good. But that doesn't mean he's incapable of murder, " Banks said.
"No, I know. I can appreciate your view, Captain. I just know Jim didn't do it, I can't explain how, I just do," Blair said trying to find words for his feelings.
"Your faith in him is commendable, but although faith might move mountains, it won't budge the D.A. I need proof. What were you saying about finding something?" Banks asked.
"I went to the scene today. It's obvious that there had been more than one person in the room with the victim. There were used condoms on the floor at the side of the bed, as well as the one that your detective said he got the D.N.A sample from. He never had those analyzed, they're still on the floor several days later. He's already made his mind up that Jim is guilty."
"How do you know that they weren't Ellison's?" Banks said puzzled.
"Jim said that he was doing this for money, right?" Blair said, "He stated that he did it once, got paid and left. Hookers of either sex, don't do repeat performances, unless the price is right. You have proof that he had a hundred dollars. I...I don't want you to misunderstand this, Captain, " Blair blushed slightly, "but Jim Ellison is a very good looking man, a hundred bucks is cheap at half the price for a guy like him. Plus, and I know this is going to sound just as weird, but Jim is a very obsessive/compulsive man about tidiness, he wouldn't leave stuff like that lying around on the floor. No, the others belonged to someone else."
"Mr. Sandburg. In light of the situation you have been put in by one of my officers, I will personally oversee this investigation. I'm going to assign Detectives Rafe and Brown to the case, I'll get them down to the hotel, I understand that the room still hasn't been used. Though, obviously, the scene isn't 'untouched'," Banks eyed the young anthropologist.
Blair smiled, "Sorry, I was desperate to help Jim,"
"How did you get past my officer, by the way?" he asked.
"She is pretty cute," Blair grinned.
"And she's on traffic duty for a month!" Banks sighed. "Mr. Sandburg, I'll do what I can. And once again, I'm sorry about that incident earlier."
"That's okay, Captain, you've been pretty cool about everything. I appreciate it," Blair stood up, taking Banks' hand and shaking it firmly, "Oh, and by the way, could you call me Blair in future? It doesn't feel so much like an interrogation then," he smiled.
"Sure, Blair. Thank you. I'll be in touch."