IN PLACE OF ANGELS

By Annie

EMAIL: Annie


                                            
DISCLAIMERS: "The Sentinel" and its characters belong to Petfly , Danny Di Meo and Paul Bilson. The character, Reeve, in this fictional story, does, however, belong to me. (So there, Petfly!) No money has been made from this story and no copyright infringement is intended.This story is fiction based on real life events.

WARNING: This story contains descriptions of child neglect and abuse. If you feel this would offend or upset you, please do not read further.

CATEGORY: Gen




"I'm sorry. I'm getting your clothes dirty," the boy whispered huskily, indicating the soiled front of Ellison's shirt and coat.

Jim swallowed hard against the lump that suddenly formed in his throat, blinking back the unaccustomed wetness in his eyes. He patted the kid clumsily on the shoulder. "That's okay, Reeve. We'll have you out of here any second. Just hang tough, all right buddy?"

The boy nodded tiredly, his head drooping toward his chest. Jim placed the bolt cutters around the length of chain connected to the stair railing and bore down, snapping the link in half. He left the cuffs that were wrapped around the boy's wrists and feet in place. They would get them off at the
hospital. The bolt cutters weren't wide enough to reach around them and Jim was worried about doing even more damage to the weeping, purulent flesh he could see protruding from under the shackles.

Crouching by his side, it was as much as Blair could do not to turn away and throw up. The poor kid stank of waste and vomit and unwashed skin. Blair realized Jim must have dialed his sense of smell down. There was no way he could have stood it otherwise.

"Reeve, can you stand? Do it real slow, okay?" Jim continued to use the same gentle even tone as he placed his arm around the teenager's shoulders and carefully began to help him to his feet. It was the same voice Blair had heard him use in the parking garage at the police station when Blair had
been dosed with Golden and almost died. The same voice he used whenever Blair was hurt. Jim motioned Blair to get on Reeve's other side and then slowly they stood him up. Almost at once, he swayed and even with their arms supporting him, he collapsed as his legs buckled and refused to hold his weight. Jim immediately bent and placed his other arm beneath the boy's
knees, lifting him effortlessly into his arms and cradling his head against his shoulder.

"Your shirt. " Reeve murmured.

"Forget it," Jim said easily. "Shirt's wash." Seriously, he doubted this one could be resurrected though. Reeve had been chained to the stair railing in the basement of his parent's apartment for a week now. His only sustenance had been a few slices of bread and a jug of water. The bread had been consumed after 2 days and the water had run out this morning. The kid had vomited several times in the past few days and he had lost control of his bladder and bowels. Blood had seeped from the restraints at his ankles and wrists as he'd abraded layers of skin in his desperate, panicked fight to escape his prison and now it was marking Jim's shirt with crimson streaks. He clasped Reeve more firmly in his arms and headed up the stairs to the waiting paramedics. His clothes were the last things on his mind right now. It was at times like this that he wished he had a dial in his head like the
one he used to dial down his senses, so he could damp down his emotions too.

He carried the boy to the gurney and laid him down carefully, moving to step aside as the medics moved in to assess their patient. Reeve reached a trembling hand toward him and snagged his arm, tears beginning to spill from the teenager's red rimmed eyes and trail down the grimy face. "Don't go. Can you come with me?" he implored the detective.

Jim glanced around as Captain Banks stepped up to the gurney. "Sir, get what information you need from Blair for now, would you? You can meet me at the hospital. I'm going to travel in with Reeve," he said, smiling down at the boy.

"Sure, Jim. No problem. Come on, Sandburg, you're with me. You can fill me in on the way." Simon headed for his car, Blair scurrying to keep up with his long legged stride.

The medics had inserted an IV in Reeve's arm and placed light dressings under the restraints. They wheeled the stretcher to the ambulance with Jim walking alongside, his hand on Reeve's, relinquishing his grip only when the boy was lifted into the vehicle. Jim climbed up after him, sitting down in the jump seat. He looked inquiringly at the paramedic when he saw Reeve's eyes close and was relieved to hear the man say, "It's okay, Detective. He's asleep."

                                                       ~ooOoo~

Simon waited until the ambulance wheeled out of the parking lot and then pulled out behind it. He glanced sidelong at Sandburg. He could see the observer was pale and shaky. "You want to tell me what happened there, Sandburg?" he asked. Getting no response, he reached across and touched the young man's arm. "Blair? You okay?" he asked, more gently this time.

"What?" Blair jumped at the pressure. "Yeah, I'm fine, Simon. Just. you know?" his voice trailed off to a whisper.

"Yeah, I know, kid. It's tough, cases like these. Think you can fill me in on what you know and how you and Jim happened to find the boy?"

"Sure. Sorry, Captain. It was just a bit ." Blair shook his head, then straightened his back, mentally shaking himself. He forced himself to push aside the images of the boy as he'd looked when they'd found him and concentrated on giving Simon the information he'd asked for. "Jim and I were
walking past that apartment building this afternoon and this woman came running out of the front door screaming about someone being dead inside. Turns out she's Reeve's parent's housekeeper. His parents went to Las Vegas for a vacation. The housekeeper thought the boy had gone with them. They're due back tomorrow morning, so she went in to open the place up and get things ready for when they got back. She opened the door to the apartment and heard someone moaning. She followed the sound down the stairs to the basement and found the kid chained to the railing. She panicked and ran out into the street, looking for help, just as we were walking past."

Blair drew a deep breath, shuddering, remembering how sure he'd been that they were going to find a corpse inside the apartment the frightened woman had directed them to. As he pictured in his mind their first sight of Reeve at the foot of the stairs, he knew that it was as bad as if it had been a
dead body. His heart had jumped in his chest and his breath hitched in his throat as his brain tried to process the scene in front of them. Resolutely, he continued on. "Reeve was in a pretty bad way when we found him, but he was able to tell us his name and that his parents had chained him up when they left to go away. He said they usually do that when they go anywhere. But normally they're only gone overnight. When he realized they weren't coming back after a day or two he started trying to free himself. He tried to ration the bread and water but there wasn't enough to last. He tried to
shout for help but he became too weak ." Blair raised a hand to his eyes, swiping at the tears he found there and turned his head to stare out of the window of the car.

"Okay, Blair," Simon said softly. "That'll do for now. The parents will be picked up at the airport tomorrow as soon as they land. We'll get to the bottom of it then."

                                                          ~ooOoo~

By the time they reached the hospital's ER, Reeve had already been taken into an exam cubicle. Jim met them in the waiting room.

"How's he doing, Jim?" Blair asked.

"Not sure yet, Chief," Jim replied, "He went to sleep in the ambulance on the way here. Poor kid must be exhausted. The doctor will come out and give us a report in a while." He slumped into a chair, the muscles of his jaw working, teeth worrying the inside of his bottom lip. "Christ, I hate these
cases."

"You and me both, Jim," Simon agreed, sitting down next to him.

"How you doin', Chief? Holding up okay?" Jim gave Blair a careful Sentinel once over. His partner's heart rate was still a bit high and he looked pallid but he seemed to be keeping himself together.

"Oh, I'm okay," Blair answered quickly. He lowered himself into the chair on Jim's other side and leaned back, closing his eyes.

It was another 30 minutes or more before a doctor came out to tell them how Reeve was.

"He's very dehydrated and malnourished. He's also in a severe state of psychological and physical exhaustion. The wounds on his ankles and wrists are badly infected and he was in quite considerable pain from them. We've given him some Demerol and rehydrated him intravenously. We'll gradually get him onto eating solid food once we're sure he won't just throw it up again. We do need to contact his parents regarding getting permission for treating him further. We'll need to take him to the OR to debride his wounds under anesthetic. Do you know how we can reach them?"

"The parents won't be an issue here, Doctor," Simon responded quickly. I've already got one of my men bringing in an emergency court order, making Reeve a state ward. As soon as that gets here, you'll be able to take him up to the OR. Ah, here he is now."

Rafe ran through the doors of the ER, the necessary documents in his outstretched hand. "How's the kid?" he asked breathlessly, handing them to Jim.

"He'll be all right, Rafe. Thanks for getting these here so quickly." Jim gave the papers a cursory glance and handed them on to the doctor. "I'd like to wait here until he's out of the anesthetic, doc. He seemed to want me to hang around."

Blair smiled to himself, remembering all the times he'd woken up in a hospital bed to find his Blessed Protector sitting beside him. He was glad Jim would be there for Reeve, too. God knew the boy would need someone he trusted at his side. "I'll catch a ride back to the loft with Rafe, Jim. You
tell Reeve I'll be in to see how he's doing in the morning, okay? I'll bring him in some of my clothes. They'll probably swim on him but they'll be better than what he was wearing when we found him."

"Thanks, Chief. I'll let him know. Get going now and get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

"You make sure Jim gets something to eat before you leave, Simon, won't you?" Blair asked. He knew how focused his partner could get, forgetting to eat or even sleep when he was really worried about someone. Of course, up to now, that someone had usually been Blair himself, but he knew it would be no different when Jim was keeping watch over Reeve. The boy had touched some
deep place inside Ellison, Blair sensed. Maybe he identified with the kid's obvious alienation and neglect from those who were supposed to love him most: his parents.

"Yes, Mother Sandburg. I'll take care of your partner. Now, get out of here. You're going to have to come down to the station tomorrow and give a written statement about all this, okay?" Simon answered.

"No problem, Simon. I'll be there. I want to be there when they bring Reeve's parents in," Blair said, harshly. He swung on his heels and followed Rafe out to the parking lot.

                                                    ~ooOoo~

Jim startled awake at the touch on his shoulder. He glanced hazily around and saw Blair standing behind him. "Hi, Chief. Is it morning already? I must have nodded off." He looked over to the still figure in the bed. Reeve was still asleep. He'd woken several times in the night, crying in pain and fear. Jim had managed to soothe him back to sleep with reassurances.

Blair put the bag of clothes he'd brought in at the foot of the bed. "They finished questioning Reeve's parents about an hour ago, Jim. You want to step outside?" he inclined his head toward the sleeping boy. He didn't want the kid to hear anything he had to say.

Jim stood up and smoothed an errant lock of hair away from Reeve's forehead then followed Blair out to the hallway, closing the door quietly behind him.

"Well, what did they have to say?" he asked.

"God, Jim, you wouldn't have believed it!" Blair replied indignantly. "According to them, this is all Reeve's fault! They said he's been difficult since he was a toddler. They can't take him anywhere with them because he's a pest. He interferes with them having a good time. He was diagnosed with
ADD about 5 years ago when he was 10. They never bothered with the follow up the doctor recommended or the medication, for that matter. They just decided to chain him up every time they wanted a break!"

"It's okay, Chief. Take it easy," Jim said, placing a hand on Blair's arm. His Guide's heart was racing, his words spilling out in impatient puffs of breath. "Have his parents been charged?"

"Yeah. There's one bit of good news, though, Jim."

"What's that?"

"Seems Reeve's mom has a brother who's put several reports into Child Protective Services before. He wants Reeve to go live with him. He's married with 2 kids, lives on a farm in Wisconsin. He's been checked out and if the kid wants to go with him, it's fine. Otherwise, Reeve gets put into a foster home till he's 18."

"Well, maybe we should talk to Reeve and find out what he wants to do?" Jim asked rhetorically, leading the way back into the boy's hospital room.

As they seated themselves next to the bed they realized the teenager was awake.

"Hi, Reeve. You in any pain? I can get the nurse to get you something," Blair asked quietly.

Reeve shook his head. "It's okay. It doesn't hurt anymore. Are my mom and dad here?"

Jim caught the telltale acceleration of his heartbeat as he asked the question. "No, buddy. They're at the police station. They're okay. You need to concentrate on yourself right now, all right?"

Reeve nodded hesitantly.

"Blair told me you have an uncle who wants you to go live with him in Wisconsin. How do you feel about that? You don't have to do anything you don't feel comfortable about."

"Uncle Steve? I remember him coming to see us sometimes. He's got two kids. My cousins, I guess they are. Bonnie and Josh. I liked him. He played ball with me sometimes, when I wasn't in trouble. He used to tell my dad to cut me some slack. He really wants me to live with him? If he really does, I'd like that. He has horses on his farm." Reeve smiled engagingly. "I promise I'll behave for him. I won't cause any trouble."

"I know you won't, Reeve. You're a good kid and yes, he does want you to go live with him. Um, your parents might not be able to come see you for a while. Are you okay with that?" Jim asked gently.

"I never want to see them again! I don't have to, do I?" Reeve asked vehemently.

"Not unless you want to. But you can decide that later, all right?" Jim said.

"Okay. Jim? Before you found me I was praying for angels to come and help me. I thought I'd just die there. But then you were both there and I knew I'd be all right. You came in place of the angels."

END