Sandburg, Ellison & Adam
Themefic for Sheffield on the SAlist.
Warnings: See notes at bottom of page.
"Hey, Chief, all right if I come in?" Jim asked, poking his head around the door of Blair's spacious office.
"Sure." Blair looked up and gave a welcoming smile. "I've just been checking out the file on this serial killer that Simon sent down to me. Don't have much to offer right now though. I've got a few ideas in mind for a profile, but I'll need a couple of days to get something more reliable put together."
"That's fine. I just called in to see if you wanted to grab some lunch. We can talk about the case then. Can I see what you've got so far?"
"I'd love to, man. I'm starving. Here." Blair stood up from his desk and walked around it to hand the folder to Jim, who stepped forward and grabbed for it, knocking Blair's hand and sending the file falling to the floor. "Shit! Sorry." Blair dropped to his knees at the same time Jim did, their heads bumping off each other's with a resounding thwack.
"Jeez, I'm sorry, Chief. Here, I got it." Jim rubbed a hand over his sore forehead, and picked the papers up with the other, stuffing them back into the folder. He stood up and hoisted Blair to his feet. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Blair walked over to the coat rack and pulled down his jacket. "So," he said, turning back to Jim, "who's buying?"
"We could go Dutch," Jim said. "I mean, you can afford it, right, now you're a high-flying forensic profiler with his own big office."
"Jim, we do this conversation every time you suggest we have lunch together. It was your idea so you should pay."
"Okay," Jim agreed equably.
Blair nodded, then frowned. "Wait a minute. If you pay, you choose the place, and I'm not going to Mister Tubesteak again."
Jim grinned. "Okay, then you pay and we'll go to that veggie place you're so fond of even though you're not a vegetarian."
"They serve tofu, Jim. It's very healthy. At your age, you need to be aware of things like that."
Jim laughed. "Relax, Sandburg. I already made reservations at Murphy's."
"Oh, man, really? I'd kill for a steak," Blair replied, the look on his face positively blissful.
"See, this is what I don't understand. How can you want to go eat grass and twigs when we could just go to a decent steakhouse every time instead?" Jim asked. He put the file folder under his arm and joined Blair at the door.
"Too much of anything isn't good, Jim. Balance, that's what it's all about." Blair pulled on his jacket then turned back into the office. "Adam, come."
Jim watched the big, white German Shepherd uncurl itself from under Blair's desk and walk over to them, its harness resting across its back. He patted the dog's head gently, then watched Blair pick up the handle of the harness and call the dog to heel. "I still can't believe you called your guide dog, Adam, Chief," he said as he followed Blair from the room.
"It was an homage to your favorite TV show, man," Blair said. "You know I've told you that a hundred times. In fact, I think Adam's a little hurt that you seem to think he doesn't live up to the worthy image of your Bonanza hero."
Jim shook his head as they reached the elevator and leaned around Blair to punch the down button. "He's okay, for a dog."
"See, Adam, what'd I tell you. Jim thinks you're terrific."
Jim watched the dog's ears prick up at the mention of his name. "He's a praise junkie," he said, shaking his head.
"Admit it, Jim, you like him," Blair said, following Adam into the car.
"Yeah, all right." Jim resisted the urge to pat Adam's head now he was in working mode, and contented himself with a pat to his Guide's shoulder instead. "He's a member of the team - Sandburg, Ellison & Adam."
"I like the sound of that," Blair said, smiling. "Now that's a winning team."
"Damn straight, Chief."
"Thanks, Shelley." Jim smiled up at the waitress delivering their food.
"No problem." Shelley flashed him a quick grin, then turned her attention to Blair. "Hi, Blair. It's great to see you again."
Jim shook his head as Blair sat up a little straighter in his seat and gave the waitress his best smile. Some things never changed.
"Nice to hear your voice, Shelley," Blair replied.
"Now, your steak is at three o'clock, your baked potato at nine," Shelley said. She nudged Blair's hand gently with his salad bowl. "I'm putting your salad at one, okay?"
"Thanks, Shel." Blair picked up his knife and fork and unerringly found his steak, cutting it into manageable pieces.
"Is it okay if I give Adam a bowl of water and say hello?" Shelley asked.
Blair nodded. "Sure. Thanks."
In a moment, Shelley had dropped to her knees and was crooning into Adam's obviously receptive ear.
Blair laughed as Adam's tail wagged against his leg.
"He loves you, you know," he said.
Jim watched as Shelley blushed and stood up.
"I'll let you get on with your meal. You three don't be strangers now, you hear?" she said as she walked away with obvious reluctance.
"So, Chief, you said you had a partial profile on this guy?" Jim asked. He speared a piece of steak, sighing in satisfaction as he chewed it.
"Yeah, I think so. I think the fact that he's going after physically handicapped victims tells us one of several things about him."
"Okay." Blair put his fork down. "I think he's either someone who is compelled to murder but is physically intimidated by taking on the able-bodied-"
"In other words, he's a coward," Jim interrupted.
"Well, that's one way of putting it," Blair replied. He picked up his fork again and ate for a few minutes.
"Or?" Jim prompted.
"I'm wondering if maybe he grew up in a home where a sibling, perhaps, was disabled and he felt that all the attention was on that child and not him."
"So that would make him a retribution killer," Jim replied.
"Very good, Jim. We'll make a profiler of you yet."
"You said several," Jim said, hurriedly finishing off his meal. He had a feeling that the rest of this conversation was going to make him lose his appetite.
Blair forked up a piece of potato and chewed it thoughtfully. "He may simply have no agenda at all. He may have begun as an opportunity killer who after the first murder, decided the easiest way to get his kicks was to pick victims who couldn't fight back as effectively."
"Which still makes him a coward," Jim rejoined, picking up his Scotch and taking a good swallow.
This case had left a bad taste in his mouth from the beginning. Three victims, all of them disabled in some way - one, a paraplegic; one, a stroke victim; another, a double amputee.
"We know he's working a very small area," Blair went on.
"I could go undercover out along the Porthouse area-"
"No way!" Jim shook his head emphatically.
"What? Why the hell not?" Blair straightened in his seat and set his hands firmly on the edge of the table. "I used to be a cop, remember?"
"Used to be, being the operative words, Chief. That was seven years ago. You're blind. I am not letting you go out there-"
"Letting me?" Blair's voice raised an octave, and Adam began to rise from his recumbent position at his feet. "Settle, Adam," Blair said, lowering his tone.
The big dog lay down again, but he kept his eyes watchfully open this time.
"Look, Jim, I think I can do this."
"I'm sure you think you can," Jim replied quickly. "Blair, listen, I'm not doubting your abilities here, but-"
"Jim, I didn't get blinded on the job. I had a brain tumor. It could happen to anyone." He raised a hand as Jim started to interrupt. "Let me finish. Since I became blind, my other senses have compensated. I hear better than before, my sense of touch is heightened, even my sense of taste." Blair dropped his voice to a whisper. "I'm almost on a par with you with my other senses, man. I just can't dial them up and down like you can."
"I know all that, but I don't like the thought of you being out there as bait for a killer," Jim said. "Even if you weren't blind, I wouldn't like it."
"Jim, listen, I'll have you watching me from the outside, and Adam with me on the inside. I couldn't be safer."
"Adam's a guide dog, not a guard dog."
"You know as well as I do that Adam is as good a guard dog as he is a guide dog," Blair said heatedly.
Jim looked down, fiddling with his fork, the memory of Adam protecting Blair when his partner had been mugged a month or so ago rising unwillingly to the front of his mind. "Yeah, I know. I'm still not comfortable with you being out there as bait for this guy though."
"Please, Jim, let me do this. You used to have confidence in me."
"That's a low blow, Chief." Jim looked down, and fancied he saw his own worry reflected in Adam's dark eyes. He sighed. "All right. If Simon signs off on it, we'll do it."
"Great! Hey, how about tiramisu for dessert?" Blair grinned across at him, his hand reaching out and fumblingly finding Jim's, patting it gently, in an obvious attempt at reassurance.
"Tiramisu? Sure, why not?" Jim grasped Blair's hand for a moment and squeezed tight, hoping he was conveying, by touch, all he couldn't put into words.
Blair nodded at him.
"You sure you want to do this, Sandburg," Simon asked, his voice conveying his concern. "We could always put one of the detectives out there undercover."
"Simon, listen. Ablebodied people react differently to someone who's physically disabled. Even if the guy was a terrific actor, I'm not sure this perp would buy it." Blair ran his hand along the back of the chair and followed it around so he could sit down. "The problem is, we don't know how well acquainted this guy is with the disabled. He could be someone who grew up with someone like that, or he could even be a nurse or a doctor. If we're going to have any chance of reeling him in, I think we have to be as certain as we can that we're offering the right bait."
Simon looked over at Jim. "You're okay with this?"
Jim opened his mouth to speak, then just shrugged as Blair interrupted.
"It's not up to Jim, Simon. With all due respect to his abilities and experience, this should be, and is, my call."
"In actual fact, it's mine," Simon said. "Jesus, why couldn't this have happened in two years after I retire?"
Blair smiled. "Somehow, the idea of Simon Banks retiring doesn't seem possible to me."
"I've been in this job for over half my life, Blair. Believe me, the minute my time is up, I'm punching that timeclock, collecting my gold watch, and heading for the best fishing spot I can find."
"Amen to that," Jim replied.
Blair stood up and called Adam to heel, picking up his harness. "So, do we have a go on this?" he asked.
Simon shook his head and rolled his eyes. "All right, but Jim stays close enough to get to you in a hurry if he has to."
"Wouldn't have it any other way," Blair said as he left the room.
"Jim," Simon said quietly as Ellison headed for the door.
"I know. I'll keep an eye on him, sir."
Blair hunched down into the warmth of his jacket as he made his way slowly down Port Street, Adam leading the way. "Nothing yet, Jim," he murmured, knowing the Sentinel was out there, on alert and watching.
Adam stopped suddenly, his ears pricking up. He growled softly.
"What's up, Adam?" Blair asked. "Jim, might not be anything, but Adam's just gone on alert. Wait though. We need this guy to try something first." Blair urged Adam forward again, the dog moving with obvious reluctance.
A sudden sharp sound had him jumping in shock, and he felt Adam's harness pull taut against his hand as the dog yelped.
"Adam?" Blair fell to his knees and reached out a hand, encountering Adam's soft fur, his hand coming away wet. "Oh God! Jim-"
His words and his breath were cut off as something thin and tight wrapped mercilessly around his throat. 'Garrotte' his mind supplied even as he felt himself pulled backwards, one hand going up to try to wrest the suffocating noose from his throat.
Within seconds, stars were prickling at his vision, and he could hear a rushing sound in his ears. He made himself go limp, wanting the killer to think he was unconscious, then felt himself dropped to the ground, the noose mercifully loosening and allowing him to gasp in precious shallow breaths. A hard kick to his ribs tore his breath from him again, and he shouted hoarsely with the pain of it.
Within seconds it seemed, there was noise all around him, Jim's voice above it all, telling the perp to let him go.
Blair let it all wash over him, and lay where he was, gasping for breath, his chest feeling as if he'd been run over by a truck. He heard someone reading the killer his rights and offered a small prayer of thanks that no one else would die at the creep's hands.
Then, Jim was there, right next to him, his hand holding Blair's, his voice tight with worry. "Chief, you okay? Where are you hurt?"
"Ribs," Blair rasped out, the fire in his throat making him gag, bringing a surge of pain to his abused chest. "Adam?"
"He's hit, Chief, but I think he'll be okay. You just relax, take shallow breaths, all right?"
Blair shook his head, moaning at the agony that cut across his throat at the movement. "I need to be with Adam. Please, Jim. He'll be scared," he managed to husk out.
He felt Jim's arms beneath his shoulders and knees, and groaned as he was lifted up and carried a few feet, then deposited gently on the ground. Jim's hand took his and placed it on Adam's head. "Don't try to talk, Chief. He knows you're here."
Blair bit back a sob as he felt Adam's wet tongue lap at his fingers. "I'm sorry, buddy," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
Blair swung his legs over the side of the gurney and sat up. "So I can go home now?" he asked, his voice a raspy whisper.
"Sure, but you need to rest your voice for a few days. And no work for a while either."
"Thanks, Doc. Jim?"
"Right here, buddy." Jim helped him down, steadying him for a minute. "Okay now?" he asked.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Have you heard how Adam is?" Blair asked anxiously.
"I called the vet about five minutes ago. The bullet's out, and the vet said he'll be good as new once he comes round from the anesthetic."
"Man, that's a relief. Poor Adam." Blair let Jim tie his shoes, then lead him from the cubicle and out to the car.
"Hey, he's officially a hero, Chief. We'll throw a celebration for him when he's feeling better." Jim opened the truck door and waited till Blair was settled in, then leaned in and did up his seatbelt for him.
"Yeah, he'd like that. Barbecue, that's his favorite," Blair said as he heard Jim climb into the driver's seat.
"Sure thing. We'll invite all the gang, Rafe and Connor-"
Blair laughed, then rubbed ruefully at his sore throat.
"What?" Jim asked.
"If we're inviting Rafe and Megan, we'd better have it at the park. Can you imagine the mess Tom and Jack will make with barbecue?"
"Good thinking, Chief." Jim shuddered as he remembered the last time the Rafe boys had come for a visit. His couch would never look the same again. He looked over at Blair, who was leaning back now, his eyes closed. He looked, not surprisingly, exhausted. "So, at the park; Rafe, Connor -"
"You know, seeing as Rafe and Meg are married, it should technically be Rafe and Rafe," Blair whispered around a painful-sounding yawn.
"Didn't the doctor tell you to rest your voice?" Jim scolded half-heartedly.
Blair grinned and closed his eyes again so Jim went on. "The terrible twins and their parents, Rafe and Connor; H and Debbie; Simon and Amy, of course-" He stopped suddenly. "Hey, Chief, I've just realized that you and I are the only two who don't have partners."
"Sure we do, Jim." Blair turned in the seat so he was facing him. "We have each other."
"Yeah, we do." Jim smiled as he started up the truck and pulled out of the lot. "Why don't you stay at the loft tonight, Chief? I can take you to pick up Adam in the morning and then drop you back at your apartment after that."
Gentle snores filled the air. Jim shook his head, grinning as he headed for the loft. Even seven years on, some things never changed.
AUTHOR'S WARNING: Blair has a permanent disability in this story.