Around the hole stood a handful of firemen, the detectives from Major Crime, a few of the men from Cyclops Oil and a few officers. They waited for the harness to begin it's journey back down.

 I chose to wait with the Major Crime Detectives. I still don't know why.

 The gurney was loaded into an ambulance and the caravan of officials, press, the family and workers, pulled away and sped off to the hospital.

 And Mother Nature decided to deliver her final blow.

 The earth shuddered and shifted yet again, as if in it's final death throes. Those hooked up to the mic heard only a faint gasp, than nothing. The thundering earth swallowed up all other sounds except one. The gut wrenching yell of Detective Ellison as he screamed, "NO!".

 The earth finally stilled, the dust settled and no one moved ~ no one spoke.

 But word must have spread because in minutes, the press returned, the happy ending suddenly tainted.

 Camera crews and work crews began again.

 But after less than an hour, hope was lost. For every few feet of dirt they cleared, more dirt took it's place.

 The hole was destroyed, Detective Sandburg was gone.


 I'd watched Detective Ellison during that final hour, watched him shake off his captain, get down on his hands and knees and relentlessly dig, and I watched as soon others joined him.

 I watched hope work tirelessly and I watched hope die and I watched the machines being turned off.

But Detective Ellison continued to dig and finally Captain Banks knelt down next to him and talked quietly, his words lost to us.

 <<"Jim, the machines are off, can you hear him?">>

 I watched as Detective Ellison stopped digging, stood, cocked his head, and appeared to be listen intently, trying to hear something he could never hear.

 And then I watched him fold as his arms clasped his stomach and his head dropped to his chest.

 Detective Taggert was still kneeling in the dirt, tears streaking his face, his hand grasping at the earth as if it were a hand he could pull up.....Inspector Connor was weeping in the arms of Detective Rafe and Detective Brown had his arms around both and was crying outright.

 I couldn't move. I was transfixed by their grief, their loss. And I realized I was crying as well, that it was *my* loss too.

 Klieg lights were extinguished, equipment packed up and crews started to move out. Famous anchormen with million dollar smiles stood before the self-made gravesite and tried to express the horror, the grief and failed. Finally, they too gave up.

 But I couldn't leave. It felt too much like abandonment. I couldn't leave that young man, dead, alone and in the dark, so I stayed. As did a few others and soon I was joined by two of the highest paid anchors in television, eyes suspiciously moist.

 I glanced over at Detective Ellison and watched as his head jerked up, his body freeze.....and then he was up and running.

 We followed. All of us.

 Ellison ran across the field, through the trees and kept yelling one word, over and over...."SANDBURG!"

 His run took us all to the old Lennox mine.

 And the miracle stood there, holding himself up against the granite walls of the opening, covered in dirt and mud, hair loose, matted with blood and sweat and more mud.

 Someone yelled for medical attention and cell phones were whipped out.

 How he survived was a mystery for now, and no one cared, he was there, he was alive.

 <<Blair knew his legs would soon give out. He didn't dare look up, to see if the harness was on it's way back down, but he knew from the shouts that Genna was safe. His left foot slipped, but he managed to steady himself. He knew Jim was monitoring him and he took some calming breaths and smiled. Here he was, stuck in this hell hole and he was worried about keeping Jim calm. Love was good.

 Blair heard the low rumbling and knew it wasn't the winch. The huge boulder he was braced against gave a lurch, the walls around him seemed to shimmer and dirt began to rain down on him. The wall opposite gave way and Blair was free-falling. He had time to give one gasp before the air was sucked from his lungs. He was tumbling, knew he was lost, worried for Jim, then his body hit something hard and he was barely aware that he'd landed on the same ledge that had held Genna for all those hours.

 Then the ledge bucked and he felt his body tossed up, then sideways.

 The hole was collapsing in on itself but this had opened another shaft and Blair was tossed into it. This shaft ran east to west for a few feet then dropped down into a tunnel below.

 Blair's body tumbled over and over through the vent, then he was weightless again as he plummeted down, to finally land hard, but cushioned by a mound of dirt.

 He lay a few moments, dirt cascading down. Common sense said, "move" or be buried, so he rolled off the mound.

 For awhile he gave into the sensation of floating, but eventually knew he needed to move. He did a quick inventory of himself, found the cuts and abrasions he expected, found bruised ribs, sore muscles and a scalp wound that was still bleeding, but not serious.

 It was time to find his way out.>>


 The Major Crimes contingent immediately formed a protective circle around the two men, but in all truth, it wasn't necessary. The media didn't move in, we were too dazed. Professional reporters, with over seventy five years in the business between us all, and we were dumbfounded.

 Then comprehension dawned. I *felt* it move through the small crowd. Heads lifted and eyes widened as the truth penetrated our exhausted minds.

 Detective Ellison had *heard* his partner. And had known exactly where to go.

 Detective James Ellison *was* a Sentinel.

 *Our* Sentinel.

 The enormity of the truth and the pureness of Sandburg's sacrifice hit us all. But it brought a peace, not confusion.

 I glanced at my companions, eyes holding, acknowledging and coming to a silent, tacit agreement. We would keep this secret, revere it, revel in it, but protect it with our lives if needed.

 The Sentinel existed. He was our guardian. And the Sentinel had *his* protector, Detective Sandburg, and they had *their* protectors ~ Major Crimes and us.


 The paramedics finally arrived, cleaned and bandaged the young man and tried to talk him into going to the hospital, worry about concussions and internal bleeding their paramount concern. No one was surprised when he said no, or when Detective Ellison agreed.

 Slowly the small crowd dispersed. People began the walk back to the field, to cars, trucks, vans, for clean-up, to disassemble equipment, to pack up and go home. To go home and hug loved ones, to rejoice, to offer up all manner of thanks, and finally to bask in the secret knowledge of an astounding and comforting truth.

 I lagged behind, not willing to break the fragile link to Detectives Ellison and Sandburg, wanting to remain in their circle, remain in what I believed to have been the final miracle.

 The other members of Major Crime began to peel off, realizing the need to leave the two men alone and I wondered about that, so I slowed my pace even more and as I reached the fringe of trees, I stopped and waited.

 Sandburg had been sitting on a log and now Ellison helped him up. For a few seconds they stood, facing each other, only inches apart. I felt my breath catch as Detective Ellison put one arm around his partner's waist, gazed in rapt attention as his other hand came up and gently brushed the younger man's cheek and used his fingers to softly wipe away some dirt. Then he ran his thumb slowly across Sandburg's lower lip. And I knew what would come next.

 My life judgements, my values, all the teachings I knew, should have had me shocked ~ disgusted, I should have turned away, uncomfortable at the very least. Instead, I experienced a joy, a deep sense of "rightness", and there was the "click-click" of my life changing, my perceptions, my values, my beliefs, turning on a moment, the moment I watched Jim Ellison touch his lips to Blair Sandburg's.

 I watched as the kiss deepened, as arms lovingly wrapped around each body and I took delight in two *men* expressing such love. I couldn't help but ask the gods above how this could be wrong and I found the answer within myself. It wasn't.

 I don't know which of the miracles I witnessed was the greater, you decide. I only know that I was profoundly changed.

 My mother was right. Miracles *do* happen every day. And you don't need Sentinel sight to see them, just an open heart.

 The End

 John Upton

June 25, 1999


Upton got up from his desk, took the handwritten sheets and walked over to his fireplace. He looked into the flames, then at the papers in his hand, then tossed them into the blaze.

 For several minutes the reporter stood there, smiling, as he watched the greatest story of his career go up in flames.

 He was content.


The End.