Title: Stormy, Stormy Nights - A
email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Holiday, First Time
October 31, 2002
Series/sequel: Might be a sequel later
Disclaimer: Not mine, not ours,
but definitely should be. We know how to take care of these guys (if you don’t
count the number of times we’ve killed them, raped them, whumped them, and
angsted them (is angsted a word? Probably not) No money changed hands during the
writing of this story.
Warnings: None, other than this
is a silly Halloween story. YOU have been warned!
Summary: On a dark and stormy
night, Jim investigates a murder and Blair takes in a bedraggled neighbor.
Notes: First story posted that
was beta’d by the Cellar gang! Thanks you guys!!! You’re terrific. :)
Stormy, Stormy Night - A
Halloween TS story
It was a dark and stormy night.
No, really, it was. I mean, it
is, like... honest. It’s dark,
and it’s... night, and guess what? It’s storming. So yeah, it was a dark and
Have I mentioned that the
power’s out and I and the loft are absent one sentinel? And that it’s a dark
and stormy night? The good news is that the constant flashes of lightning help a
little. Every couple of minutes the loft is lit up like the Capitol building at
Christmas. If I need to do anything, like take a leak, all I have to do is move
in time with the lightning.
One... two... three... strike.
Run. Stop. Wait. One... two...
three... strike. Run faster. Stop. Wait. Good thing I have great bladder
control. This waiting for lightning to strike sure beats black and blue shins
and stubbed toes.
The rain is coming down harder
than I can ever remember and the thunder is like major ‘end of the world’
noise. I can’t see out the windows due to the amount of water cascading down
from the roof. Talk about sheets? I managed to rescue the plants earlier, and
throw a tarp over the barbecue and the two odd chairs out there, then secure it.
Jim will be so pleased.
Speaking of Jim. He’s stuck at
the station. I’m stuck here, stuck being the operative word. Streets are
flooded and basically driving is impossible. There isn’t much in the way of
crime right now, so Jim is probably bored out of his skull. My cell phone is
dead, can’t charge it due to the power outage. The mobile phone here is out,
also courtesy of the lightning. Email isn’t an option, obviously, but you
couldn’t have proved it by my actions of about an hour ago. Not that I’m
overly fond of showing how stupid I am, but we’re bored, right? Could use a
Okay, here goes:
I was on the phone with Jim when
the power went out. That meant I
had thirty seconds to tell Jim good-bye and reassure him that all was well,
which I did. Then I went into my room... and tried to power up my computer.
Yeah, I know. Power out, no lights, can’t use the phone to talk to Jim, so
what do I do? I try the phone in my room.
It wasn’t the first time I’d
been so unbelievably brilliant.
When I was fifteen, we were
living in Louisiana and lost power during a storm. I was watching Magnum P.I.
when the lights and tv went out. I remember groaning loudly as the
beautiful Hawaiian scenery and a near naked Tom Selleck were taken away from me.
But no one could say that a hormone driven Blair Sandburg didn’t have a brain.
No, sir. I simply got up and went into my room, whereupon I turned on my
portable set. No, it didn’t work, thank you very much. Isn’t that the point
of the story?
So here I am, in the loft, on a
dark and stormy night, without power or sentinel. I’m miserable and lonely.
It’s dark and loud, and when the lightning flashes, it’s bright.
I can hear you now: What about
candles, you ask? Got ‘em. They’re spread out all over the place. Of course,
they’re not lit, but they’re out. Why aren’t they lit, you ask? Um,
we’re out of... matches.
No, I’m not kidding. Oh, we had
matches. The long box by the range? It was there. Had four long match sticks in
it. I lit one, it went out before I could get the first candle lit. I struck
match number two and it broke. Match number three made it to the candle... then
I sneezed. Match number four never struck. It was a dud. I finally killed it.
Flashlights? Got ‘em. Two of
them. Jim’s, which he keeps under his bed and within handy reach of his long
arms. Batteries dead. See, he’s a sentinel and flashlights simply are no
longer required. He’s probably forgotten he even had it down there. Which is
why the batteries are dead.
My flashlight. Batteries
exploded. All this icky green stuff inside. Ruined.
My, aren’t you chatty and full
of questions tonight.
Okay, okay. Neighbors. To put it
bluntly, we don’t have that many, you know? Store on bottom floor, two
apartments on the second floor, one for rent, one occupied by a photographer who
is in... Hawaii. Probably with
Magnum. Yeah, yeah, I know, Magnum ain’t real. Third floor, the McGintys.
She’s a court reporter... stuck at court. He’s an airline pilot. In the air,
probably over Hawaii. Met her, never met him.
Next door, you ask? Hey, do you
want to go down three flights of stairs in this storm? Didn’t think so.
Neither do I. So here I sit. Can’t read, can’t listen to music... oh, I
heard that little voice of yours again. What about my Walkman? And if I can use
my Walkman, why not use those batteries?
Because my Walkman is at Rainier.
You know, I can’t believe there
aren’t any batteries in this place. I mean, we’re talking Jim Ellison, you
know? I should clarify. We have TONS of packages of triple A batteries. After
all, no way are two healthy men going to allow the television remote to go on
the fritz, you know? No remote, no television.
“The remote died, Jim.”
“Well, aren’t you going to
change the channel?”
“The remote died, Chief.”
“So get up and manually change
the channel, Jim.”
“Why don’t you?”
“Because the remote died,
See? No way are we going to allow
ANYTHING to happen to the remote. But see, the flashlights use those great big
honking batteries. Double D’s. Or is that a bra size? Like Jim’s last date?
No matter. The remote is safe.
That’s all that matters.
So here I sit. Dum de dum dum.
Why couldn’t I be stuck here in
the dark with Jim? We could talk. Joke. Laugh. I could suggest a quick game of
“Hey, Jim, wannna see my...
What was that? I mean, I know the
noises of storms and that was NOT a noise of the storm. That was... just not.
That was... odd.
There it is again. This is not a
good time to remember that basically... I’m alone in this building. Colette
closed down at noon today and just made it home before the storm hit. Colette
does not live here. Colette lives in Lemon Heights. Ritzy in Lemon Heights.
I wish I was in Lemon Heights or
the Cascade PD.
What the hell....
Door? Someone’s at the door? No
With some trepidation, Blair made
his cautious trek to the door.
“Who is it?”
“Um, this is your neighbor?
Blair unlocked the door and
opened it enough to see... nothing.
The shadow standing in the hall suddenly flicked on a a tiny penlight that
highlighted his face.
“You’re Sandburg, right?”
the ghoulish apparition asked.
Blair nodded, thinking that
penlights really did make a person look—spooky.
“My wife is gone, I was mugged,
no keys, can’t get in. I’ve
checked every other apartment, but no one is home. You’re the last one.”
At the word ‘mugged’, Blair
went into worried hen mode. “Hey, man, you okay? Come on in.” Blair stepped
aside and allowed the man in. He closed the door, locked it, then as the man
flashed the small light around, Blair added, “Have a seat and let me check you
“I’m okay. Not like I fought
them or anything. Just handed everything over, you know? Anything to get out of
the rain. Anyway, they got my wallet, watch, ring, and my car keys. I sincerely
hope by now that the sumbitches are flooded out somehwere, you know?”
Nodding sympathetically, Blair
got the man down and taking the penlight, he ran it over his neighbor.
Sandburg had to admit, the guy certainly looked as though he’d been
mugged. Beside being sopping wet, his blue suit was dirty and torn. His dark
hair was plastered to his face but Blair could see what looked like the
beginnings of a bruise on the man’s right cheek.
“Did they hit you?” he asked,
pointing to the discoloration.
McGinty brought his hand up and
gingerly touched his face. “I think this must have happened when they shoved
me up against the wall in the alley. Wow, I had no idea.”
“You’re probably going to be
sore tomorrow. Sorry I can’t offer you a hot shower. Come to think of it,
sorry I can’t offer you anything hot,” Blair said with a wry grin. “Hey, I
don’t suppose you have any matches on you?”
McGinty patted down his pockets,
then said,”Looks like it’s your lucky day. I must have picked these up
somewhere.” He pulled a book of matches out of the pocket of his slacks and
tossed them to Blair, who caught them in spite of the limited light provided by
“Way cool, man. Now I can set
the loft on fire. But first, let me get you some dry clothes, okay?”
“Maybe just a towel and a
robe?” McGinty suggested as he pulled off his damp suit jacket.
“No, no, you’ll catch your
death. I did the laundry before the storm hit. Hang on,” Blair said as he made
his way to the table and the laundry basket. He rummaged around until he found a
pair of Jim’s sweats and a towel. Carrying them back, he said, “These are my
roommates, but he won’t mind. Catch.”
He tossed them and McGinty caught
“Thanks, Mister Sandburg, I
really appreciate this.”
“No problemo. You change and
I’ll shed some light on the place,” he said as he turned and lifted the
large squat candle he’d put on the coffee table. “And please, it’s
He opened the flap and groaned.
One match. “You were rooked, man. Practically empty, but if this works, it
won’t matter. Pray for us.”
To the sound of McGinty changing,
Blair tore out the small match, held it up and said, “May the great God,
Shango, smile on us tonight.” He struck the match and watched gleefully as it
flared to life. “All right!” he exclaimed as he set it against the wick and
chortled when it too flared up.
As Blair made quick work of using
the one candle to light the others, McGinty, now in Jim’s sweats, took his
blue suit, draped it over the range counter in the kitchen, and said, “Shango,
Mister Sand... er, Blair?”
Smiling happily, now that the
loft was alight with the golden glow of candles, Blair nodded. “Yep, Shango.
Fire God of a Nigerian tribe called the Yaruba.” He knelt in front of
the free-standing fireplace and with practised moves, lit it up. Rubbing his
hands in front of the flames, he said, “Cool, we have light and warmth!”
Blair stood up, and as he took a
seat in the yellow chair, he said, “You turned out to be my lucky neighbor,
McGinty dropped onto the sofa and
shrugged. “Hey, you’re my lucky neighbor. We’re even now. And tell me more
about this Shango god?”
“You sure? Most people would
pay me not to tell them.”
“I’m sure. Besides, what else
is there to do? Spill.”
“Okay, but you’ll be
sorry.” Blair settled himself in, slung his left leg over the arm of the chair
and said, “Shango was the fourth king of the Yoruba people. He was supposedly
a tyrannical bastard and ruled so badly that two of his ministers challenged his
power. There was such a huge division in the tribe that caused Shango to flee
his people. He supposedly wandered the forest, alone and insane, until he
couldn’t take it any more. He made himself a nice neck tie with a rope, tied
it off on the branch of a tree he sitting on, and he jumped.
“Now this is where the story
gets good. See, after his death, all of his enemies’ homes caught fire. Now we
can surmise that in reality, the fires were set by Shango’s remaining
followers, but the tribe regarded the fires as demonstrations that Shango did
not hang himself, but instead, ascended to heaven. It was from his lofty perch
in the sky that he sent the firebolts down to destroy his enemies. Shango’s
been regarded as a storm deity ever since. His weapon was the ax, which
represents the thunderbolt.”
Stunned, McGinty shook his head
in wonder. “How do you know these things?”
Waving a hand dismissively, Blair
said, “I know lots of useless stuff like that. I’m an anthropologist.”
“Ah, that explains it. So are
these Yaruba people for real?”
“Yep. I’ve been there.
They’re an amazing tribe. Very superstitious, and they worshipped more deities
then Rainier has students. They’re very artistic as well.
God, you should see their sculptures. Absolutely incredible.” Blair
jumped up and hurried into his room, talking the whole time.
“I have this beautiful, wait a
minute, where is it...
oh, here we go,” he came back
out carrying an object,
“This is a brass rendering of
the sacred ram. Which by
At that moment, Blair’s words
were punctuated by a startling flash of lightning, followed on the heels by a
monumental clap of thunder. With a wry grin, he said, “See?”
“Shit, Blair, maybe it wasn’t
so lucky me finding you home after all,” McGinty said with quirky grin.
“Ha, ha.” Blair handed the
lovely sculpture down to his guest, who while handling it carefully, whistled as
he turned it. The candlelight flickered off brass, making it look truly evil.
“This is really exceptional
“I know. Like I said, real
artists. Their masks are almost as legendary. You should see the one in my
office at Rainier.”
“I’d like to. Maybe when this
storm is over—“
His voice trailed off as another
clap of thunder rattled the loft. Both men laughed. Uneasily, but they laughed.
“Ellison, you’re not going to
believe this, but there’s another one.”
Jim looked up from his computer
where he was playing a rip-roaring game of Hangman, to see Simon standing in his
doorway. The expression on the older man’s face was enough to make Jim yearn
for the boredom of just moments before.
“Sir? Another what?”
Worried, Jim said, “In this
“You heard me. Probably
wouldn’t have been found until tomorrow, but some woman’s car broke down and
as she was running for shelter, she tripped over it.”
Jim pushed away from his desk,
stood, and reached for his raincoat. As he slipped it on, Simon took out a
wrapped cigar, rolled it between his fingers, then said, “Aren’t you
interested in who will be going with you?”
Jim stopped snapping up his
slicker to look around the bullpen. “Sir, we’re alone, thanks to everyone
else being either stuck at court, at the airport, or flooded out somewhere. So
unless you’re assigning a beat officer to me, I’m thinking I’m going
With a resigned sigh, Simon put
the cigar back in his pocket. “Tonight is your lucky night. I’m your
“How do you handle a storm,
They were in the truck, slowly
making their way through torrential rain and streets with water up and over the
curb, when Simon asked his question. Eyes hard on the road ahead, Jim said,
“Am I supposed to handle it, Simon?”
“Well, sure. The sentinel
thing, you know? Lightning, thunder, seeing through the rain. How do you do
“Oh, that,” Jim said with a
smirk. “Sandburg’s taught me well. I think it’s almost instinctive now. Turn them up, turn them down, adjust, piggyback, the
“So no more zones?”
Jim chuckled as he turned onto
Fifteenth Street and slowed down even more, the water almost lapping at the
sides of the truck. “I wouldn’t say no more zones.
Can’t put Sandburg out of work, you know? But they don’t happen all
that often anymore. I think I’m kind of grounded in Sandburg now.”
“Do I want you to explain that,
Smiling, Jim shook his head.
“Probably not. And it looks as though we’ve found the spot,” he said,
indicating the flashing red lights that could be seen through the downpour.
Simon followed Jim’s gaze and
shook his head in resignation. “Almost wish we’d flooded out like everyone
else. Not really looking forward to this one.
Just hearing from Homicide about the last two bodies was bad enough. Bet
Captain Wiltern is thrilled that this case was turned over to us. He’s nice
and warm at home right now, as are his detectives.”
Jim parked but before shutting
off the windshield wipers, he stared out through the rain at the murder scene.
“What are they calling him again?”
“The Blue Suit Killer. What
little Homicide was able
“And dumps them in plain
Nodding, Simon parroted, “And
dumps them in plain sight.”
Jim pulled up the hood on his
slicker and opened his door. “I think the Cascade Times called him the Magical
Man in the Blue Suit. That Jessup Walters has a real sense of humor.”
Adjusting his collar, Simon
agreed, ”Macabre, but then he is a reporter and it’s his job to sell
newspapers... at the expense of the public.”
Both men stepped out into the
rain, slammed the doors shut, and made a run for the crime scene, their
rubber-covered shoes kicking up water behind them.
As they neared the tarps that the
first officers on the scene had cleverly erected, Jim’s vision zeroed in on
the not-yet-covered body.
Male, maybe late twenties or
early thirties, neck slashed, eyes wide open and seeing nothing. Jim knew there
would be other wounds as well, but that the one that had finally taken the young
man’s life would be the slit throat. A cut that Jim knew would have been made
slowly, the victim conscious at the time.
Gritting his teeth, Jim moved
forward, ready to get to work, and glad that for a change, Blair wasn’t here.
Jim was bent at the knees in
front of the body, Simon behind him, trying to hold his lunch in. After all
these years, something like this could still threaten to send him to the bushes
to puke his guts out.
“This one fought the good
“Unlike the others, if memory
Jim nodded, then straightened. As
he scanned the area, he said, “Unlike the others. Another mystery surrounding
this killer. How does he do what he does to them, without any sign of a
struggle? The other victims had no indication of being tied up, restrained, or
Jim glanced down at the body
again and added, “Nor does he. But this one’s clothes are torn and there’s
bruising on his arms and wrists, as if he’d been held to keep him from lashing
out. He’s also thoroughly covered in blood and mud, which suggests that unlike
the others, he wasn’t just laid out here for show, this is where he died.”
Jim glanced back up at Simon and asked, “Any word on the search of his
Simon shook his head. “Not yet.
But given the weather and the fact that Ames Avenue is blocked off, I’m
betting they haven’t arrived yet.”
Jim didn’t answer immediately,
his attention riveted to the small coffee shop across the street. When they’d
first arrived, he’d thought it empty, but now he could see a woman peering out
through the plate glass window. She look wary, but more than that, she had the
appearance of being more frightened than unknown police activity would warrant.
She couldn’t know that they were dealing with victim number three of the Blue
“Simon, we have a possible
witness over there,” he said, indicating the diner. “I’m going to jog
across the street and see what I can find out. There’s nothing else here that
I can find.”
“Go. Maybe by the time you
return, I’ll have news from his residence.”
Nodding, but already moving, Jim
by-passed the other officers and crime scene tape. He jogged across the road,
never taking his eyes from the woman. The closer he got to the shop, the further
from the window she backed.
At the door, he paused, then
knocked. He didn’t wait for any answer, instead quickly yelling over the wind
and rain, “DETECTIVE JIM ELLISON, CASCADE PD! CAN I HAVE A MOMENT OF YOUR
Nothing. He could hear her
breathing heavily on the other side of the door and knew by her heartbeat that
she was truly frightened.
“PLEASE? WE NEED TO TALK,” he
Head cocked, he listened and was
relieved when he heard the lock turn. A light came on and the door was opened.
Jim pulled at the screen door of the diner and stepped in out of the rain.
Shaking himself a bit as he yanked at the hood of the slicker, he said, “Thank
“Caulder. Amy Caulder.” She
quickly reclosed the door, then stood pale and expectant.
Jim fished inside his jacket
pocket and drew out his
ID badge, which he showed her.
“As I said, I’m
Detective Jim Ellison. We’re
“I know,” she said simply.
“I saw... him. I should have called the police, but I was too frightened, and
it all happened so fast. Then that young woman was there and found him, so...
here I am.”
“You saw... him?” Jim let the
emphasis stand for itself, hoping that she’d pick up on it and run with it.
“Yes. I... couldn’t believe
what I was seeing, you know?” She ran a shaking hand through short blonde hair
and her eyes darted around the diner before coming back to rest on Jim. “I own
this place and I sent my people home when the storm really took over.
I’d closed down, see? Even had the lights out. I was standing where
I’m standing now, about to pull down the shade on the door, when I saw him.
“I know you won’t believe me,
but one minute he wasn’t there, and the next... he was. Just like,” she
snapped her fingers, “that. I didn’t look away or anything, you see? I was
just reaching up, like this,” she turned and reached up for the blind, “and
the sidewalk was empty. My finger hooked around this,” she pulled at the
decorative shade knob, “and there he was. He had the young man with him, over
his shoulder, like a fireman, you know?”
Jim nodded, and waited.
“Something happened then,
something I can’t explain. I
On the last word, her voice
trailed away as she looked down at the ground and shook her head.
Jim waited a moment, allowed the
woman to gather herself, then said, “Would you be able to identify the man, if
you saw him again?”
Without lifting her head, she
answered softly, “Yes. I’ll be seeing his face forever. So good-looking and
harmless, you know?” She glanced up then and added, “And he was in a suit. A
blue suit. And... you won’t
believe this either, but when I first saw him, when he first appeared? He
looked... dry. Clean and dry. But
when I was pulling down the shade? And
they were on the ground? His suit was a mess. Wet, torn, dirty and it had only
been... seconds,” she stressed the word, then shrugged helplessly.
Years with Blair Sandburg and
heightened senses had done wonders in preparing Jim Ellison for the weird, but
this... this defied even the Sandburg Zone. And yet, Jim believed the woman. One
He glanced over her shoulder to
the street and officers beyond. The spot where the body had been found was
actually between two possible alley options, which prompted his next question.
“Ms. Caulder, which alley did
he go down?”
Amy turned and looked out the
door, then pointed to the one east of the body. “There, that alley. That must
be how he got away so quickly. The police arrived within minutes, even with all
the rain. If he’d gone down the other one, he’d have been trapped. It’s a
Jim fished in his pocket for a
card, then handed it to the woman. “We’ll need a statement, Ms. Caulder.
Would you be able to come in as soon as possible?”
Face paling to another degree of
white, Amy Caulder
nodded with some hesitation.
“I... suppose so. I don’t
think... I mean, I have a Miata
and I don’t think—“
“I understand. Would you allow
a squad car to take you over to the station now? They’d bring you back here or
take you home, your choice?” Jim
hoped the offer of a police escort would ease the woman’s mind. He also had
every intention of having a car assigned to her until they caught the guy.
“I... guess that would be
okay,” Amy Caulder finally said.
“Good. I’ll send an officer
right over. And thank you, Ms. Caulder. Your help is appreciated.”
Jim walked down to the alley in
question. He’d already informed Simon of the interview with Caulder and
secured her an escort to the station. Simon had further ensured that that
someone would be available to take both her statement, and get a drawing done of
the man she’d seen. As he glanced around the area surrounding the alley, he
realized that he was not in a part of town with which he was overly familiar.
Considering that he was less than three miles from his home on Prospect,
that was saying something.
As he sloshed through the
evergrowing puddles of water to the alley, he realized that the station and
Rainier were on the other side of Prospect, which certainly helped explain why
this part of town was less familiar.
In spite of his task and the
storm, Jim smiled. Even crime, until today, had kept him from this part of the
city. He was just about to turn into the alley when Simon called out, “JIM!
He turned to see his boss
stomping towards him. Jim waited and when Simon pulled abreast, he said,
“We just received a call from
the detectives assigned to the victim’s apartment. It was torn apart.”
“The killer must have been
afraid of the noise attracting too much attention, so he took the victim out,
couldn’t afford to spend any more time in the apartment.”
“That’s how I figure it.”
It was obvious that Simon was
going with him into the alley, so Jim made the corner and stopped, surprised.
“Jim? What is it?”
“I... guess I expected, I mean,
this isn’t really an alley,” he finished lamely.
“Well, no. This is Iverson
Street. You’ve heard of it, surely?”
Jim closed his eyes in disgust.
Of course. Iverson Street. One of Sandburg’s favorite haunts and the tail end
of Old Cascade. While he’d never been here himself, he’d certainly heard his
roommate wax poetic about the place often enough. Then a memory, or rather,
Sandburg’s words, came back to him. He’d been trying to get Jim to walk over
to Iverson Street with him a few weeks back, supposedly to pick up an odd book
“Oh, come on, Jim. From here,
we just cut through the alley that connects us with Edwards Avenue, and we’re
there. It pares the distance down to nothing. Even your old bones could walk
Okay, Jim thought, if their
killer had used Iverson, he’d have gone either north or south... and south was
out, thanks to more flooded streets. Which meant...
north. And when the man came out of Iverson, he’d have been right
across the street from... the loft.
A cold chill spread through
Jim’s body as he pictured the killer stepping out of the alley onto Prospect
and seeing. . . .
A indisputable and fundamental
truth yelled at Jim.
THE KILLER WAS WITH BLAIR!
Jim started running, and as he
did, he yelled over his shoulder, “SANDBURG!”
The man watched Blair gesturing
wildly as he regaled him with more information about the Yorubas. The
candlelight danced over the young man’s face, highlighting a strength of
character the man hadn’t caught at first. The strong handsome bone structure
almost made him dizzy as he tried to reconcile it with the long curling hair and
two silver loops that gleamed in the flickering light. Oddly enough, somehow it
The voice relaxed him and he
found himself settling into the couch and smiling as the meaningless words
swirled around him.
“...origin myth, which tells of
God lowering a chain at Ile-Ife, down which came Oduduwa, the ancestor of all
people, bringing with him a cock, some earth, and a palm kernel. The earth was
thrown into the water, the cocked scratched it to become land, and the kernel
grew into a tree with sixteen limbs, representing the original sixteen
He closed his eyes, ignoring the
small voice telling him to make his move. The man listened and smiled and
finally opened his eyes again to watch.
Blair’s shirt stretched across
his chest as he waved an arm and the man could see the tantalizing darkness of
hair teasing at the younger man’s neck. Visions of blood warred with visions
of laughter, swaying hair, and gesturing hands.
He really needed to... make his
The man sat forward. “Blair?”
Jim ran the way he’d run in
high school, on the football field, ball tucked securely into his body, goal
ahead of him. Back then, he’d run with a singlemindedness, one idea spurring
him on... to make the touchdown. He’d dodged other players, jumped over them,
zigged, then zagged, always with his head down, seeing nothing but that white
There was no white line this
time, only a face that remained floating in front of him.
Blair’s face. His goal. His
Behind him, he could hear Simon
huffing and puffing but digging in, dragging strength from God knew where, and
thus doing his best to stay close, to back Jim up.
Jim rounded the corner of the
alley, and sure enough, he was on Prospect. He never paused, allowing his senses
to assure him that the street was empty and he could continue his race for the
goal. As his hand reached out for the door to their lobby, he used every ounce
of willpower to focus in with his hearing, to hear something, anything, that
would tell him his partner was safe.
All he could hear was the
pounding of his own heartbeat and the sound of his tortured lungs desperately
taking in air.
Jim kept up the pace as he
entered the lobby, zagged left for the stairs and started up, taking them two
and three at a time. He could no longer hear Simon, he could no longer hear
anything but his own body screaming for relief. He ignored it.
He bounded onto the third floor
landing, turned left and pulled his gun. Breathing heavily, Jim plastered
himself against the wall, weapon at the ready. As he willed his body to silence,
Simon joined him, face grey, sweat mingling with the rainwater. He too had his
gun up, but unlike Jim, his hands were shaking from the effort it was taking.
Simon could barely see through
the wetness. His glasses were dappled with rain and his own sweat was pouring
down his face. His legs were rubber, and his gun weighed a ton, but he held
fast, watching Jim and waiting.
The younger man cocked his head
finally, then surprise took over his features. Slowly he put the gun down.
“Jim?” Simon whispered.
Jim pulled his keys out and
unlocked the door. Both men entered, still wary, but Simon trusted Jim, so he
followed, but prepared for anything.
What they found was Blair, face
down on the couch, arm hanging over the side, hand brushing the floor.
“Jim? Is he—“
“Heartrate and breathing are
normal. Completely... normal.”
“Then what the hell—“
Jim put his gun away and tore off
his slicker. He let it drop to the floor as he moved swiftly to Blair’s side
and squatted down in front of him. Gently he pushed some hair aside and said,
“Chief? Wake up, it’s Jim.”
For a moment, nothing happened,
then Blair yawned and his eyelids flickered, then opened. Jim watched the pupils
contract and he almost fell in head first.
Jerking back, he said, “Chief? You okay?”
Blinking confusedly, Blair sat up
and ran a hand through his hair as he said, “Wha—what happened?”
Shooting a concerned look at
Simon, Jim said, “Are you okay?”
Blair looked around, his
confusion growing. “Where’s Brian?” he finally asked.
Simon moved to stand behind the
couch as he said, “Brian? Are you saying Rafe was here?”
“No, no,” Blair said as he
waved a hand in the air, “Brian McGinty, our neighbor. You know, Jim, the
Now it was Jim’s turn to be
confused. “Chief, how could our neighbor have been here? I thought he had a
“Well, yeah, but he got in a
while back, got mugged, lost his keys and ended up here, thanks to the storm.”
Jim took Blair’s hand, the one
that was still waving aimlessly in the air, and held it to his chest.
“Sandburg,” he said softly, “the airport has been shut down for
hours. No flights in or out since this morning when the storm front moved in
from the ocean.”
Blair turned his head back
towards Jim and frowned.
“That’s impossible, man. He
was here,” Blair looked
Suddenly Blair jumped up and
slipping his hand from Jim’s, he faced the dining room and pointed to the
range top. “Look, see? His clothes. His clothes, Jim. He was here. His suit
was a mess, torn and everything, because of the mugging, so I gave him a pair of
your sweats and he changed.”
Simon shared a look with Jim and
nodded. He walked over to the kitchen, got within a foot of the clothing, and
what he saw caused him to immediately pull out his cell phone.
“Taggert? Yeah, this is me. I
need a forensic team over at Jim’s place pronto... Yes, I’m well aware of
the storm, Joel. I don’t care if they use motor boats to get here, just get
them here. Yeah, everything is all right, but I’m not sure why. Just... get
them here.” He closed his phone and slipped it back in his pocket, then turned
to Jim. “You might want to take a look at this,” he said, indicating the
Puzzled, Jim rose and leaving
Blair where he was, walked over to Simon’s side. Once there, the bigger man
said, “Can you read what it says?”
“Uh, guys? What, what says?”
Blair asked from the living room.
Jim held up a hand and said,
“Stay put, Chief. Just... stay
“Can you read it?” Simon
“Yeah. I can read it. He was
here, Simon. He was fucking here. That’s his blue suit.”
“Who was fucking here?” Blair
“So you gonna tell me what it
says?” Simon asked, ignoring Blair’s query.
“It says, ‘You’re lucky,
Detective. He’s too alive for me and I couldn’t do it. I’m leaving your
fair city for now, but someday, maybe, I’ll be back. Watch him closely,
don’t let that light dim, not even for a moment.’”
“Jesus,” Simon breathed out.
Blair listened to Jim’s voice,
heard the words, yet didn’t. A chill settled somewhere above his heart and
absently he touched his chest, then unaware of his movement, he began to rub
What the hell was going on? The
questions circling around in his brain were many, but oddly enough, Blair had no
desire to find answers. He waited.
Jim took a step closer in an
attempt to see how the note was attached to the suit and he winced. The killer
had used a skewer, threaded it through both paper and material, and had added
one touch; Blair’s hairtie. Without turning his head, Jim said unemotionally,
“Chief, did you have your hair tied back earlier?”
Blair frowned as his hand stopped
rubbing and moved, almost of its own volition, to his hair. Which was down. And
it shouldn’t have been.
“I... yes,” was all he could
Jim did turn then and said to
Simon, “I’m going to do a recon.”
“Right,” Simon acknowledged
as his gaze swept over the suit, then moved to Jim’s pale face. He knew his
duty. He moved to Blair’s side
and stayed there.
In full sentinel mode, Jim began
to move throughout the loft, spending several minutes in the bathroom, then in
Blair’s room. When he emerged from the latter, his face was impossibly whiter
than before. Without a word, he walked upstairs.
Simon craned his neck, following
Jim’s footsteps. The hair on his arms was standing on end. The whole feel of
the loft was different, weird. Simon hated weird.
Slowly he backed up in an effort
to get even closer to Sandburg, his eyes still fixed on the bedroom upstairs.
Behind him, Blair was just as silent, his own eyes following Jim’s progress as
his hand once again went back to rubbing his chest.
Finally Jim returned and walked
over to his partner, who looked up at him expectantly.
“Everything’s fine, Chief.”
“Why so long in the
bathroom?” Blair asked suspiciously.
“You said he changed in there.
His scent. Prints. Same in your... bedroom. He was in there too.”
“Did he leave any?” Blair’s
voice was suddenly cold.
Jim shook his head.
“And his scent?” Blair asked
Jim shot a look at Simon, then
returned his attention to Blair. “You don’t want to know, Chief. You don’t
want to know.”
Blair dropped down to the couch,
his hand still rubbing. Without looking up, he said tonelessly, “I think I do
Simon walked over and said
gruffly, “Well, I don’t.
Care to fill me in, Jim?”
Concerned blue eyes on Blair, Jim
said, “Trust me, Simon. You won’t benefit by hearing the truth.”
“Maybe not, but I’m the
Captain here, humor me.”
It was Blair who answered, in the
same toneless voice.
“Death. All Jim could smell was
Jim and Blair watched Forensics
work. Taggert and the team had arrived almost forty-five minutes after Simon’s
call, the storm still raging outside and still wreaking havoc on the city
streets. Now they worked silently, pausing occasionally to look at Blair before
returning to their jobs. Taggert stood in the kitchen with Simon, both
whispering. The note had been bagged, as had the suit.
At least three people in the loft
knew that Forensics wouldn’t find anything that could be used, but since no
one would believe the truth as Jim, Blair and Simon now knew it, protocol had to
While Blair watched Serena work
in his room, he said, “What did he do in there, Jim?”
“It doesn’t matter, you’ll
never sleep in there again anyway.”
Without turning his head, Blair
said, “Oh, yeah? And just where will I be sleeping?”
“Well, since I plan on having
the place fumigated tomorrow, I’m thinking that tonight and tomorrow night, we
stay at the Claybourne. A suite. VIP all the way.”
“Oh, sure, Jim, why not?”
Blair said sarcastically. “So two
wonderful nights at the Claybourne. Then what?”
Voice low, Jim said softly,
“Then upstairs. With me.”
That got Blair’s attention. He
twisted around and looked skeptically at his friend. “You want to back this
train up, Jim? Start over?”
As if simply sharing a secret,
Jim leaned over and with his lips just brushing Blair’s ear, he whispered,
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, Einstein.
This was one near miss too many. Consider the Claybourne a honeymoon.”
Blair blinked several times, each
one signifying another brain neuron exploding. His hand twitched, his left leg
started jiggling, and his mouth began to curve into a smile. He turned his head
so that now it was his mouth that hovered close to Jim’s ear as he murmured
sweet and low, “I am not carrying you over any threshold.”
It’s still a dark and stormy
night. Honest. Only now I’m in a suite you would not believe, sharing the king
size bed with Jim. We have lights, but we’re not using them. There is,
however, a fire going in the fireplace (yeah, one in the bedroom. Cool, huh?),
and Jim lit several candles that he placed strategically about the bedroom. We
also have champagne, white chocolate-dipped strawberries, the remains of two
lobster dinners, and two creme brulees waiting for us in the living room.
They’re going to have to wait until tomorrow.
Outside, the city is still
flooded, the thunder and lightning is playing to a sold-out crowd, but for now,
the good citizens of Cascade can sleep a little safer.
There will be no more action from the Blue Suit Killer.
Simon is in his avoidance mode, a
trick he picked up from Jim, but one he honed to a fair-thee-well thanks to
three years of covering for a sentinel. He knows the killer wasn’t human, but
he’ll be damned if he’ll say it out loud, especially since Jim is so certain
the guy is really gone. Must be a sentinel thing.
Speaking of Jim, well, once the
loft was empty of people and we had a chance to breathe, I noticed he’d begun
to sport what I’ve come to fondly call, “The Look”. Only this time it was
darker than I’d ever seen it. He tried to hide it, but come on, I’m the guy
he’s been living with for the last three years. If I could come up with one
word to really describe ‘The Look’ tonight, it would be... haunted.
We both know, deep down, how
close it really was tonight, and while I don’t have a clue why I’m not dead,
I’m discovering that for once, the whys don’t matter. I’m here, Jim’s
here, and that, as they say, is that.
Right this minute, Jim is one
pretty relaxed guy, given the circumstances of the evening. Or maybe he’s
relaxed because of the more... recent, circumstances of the evening. Yeah,
that’s it. Come to think of it, I’m pretty damned relaxed myself, in spite
of the man who has draped half his body over mine.
I’d like to say the sex was
great, but it would be a lie. We didn’t have sex.
What, you say? Two healthy men in
love, and no sex?
However, as an anthropologist, I
feel it’s my duty to explain the difference between sex and 'making love'.
We made fucking incredible love
tonight. The kind that
We are exhausted. Relaxed. Sated.
It's been a long time coming, but
damn, the man was
Maybe between the three of us, we
can go some towards
But for now? I'm going to burrow
deep into my sentinel