Thanks to Lyn for my site and for all the writing days. This story contains references to the episodes Payback and True Crime.
Evolution Of Friendship 14
Blair had always dreamed of being a baseball player, and now he lunged for his target as if going for the home plate, arms outstretched, hands cupped, his body stretched full-length to grab his prize. He hit the ground hard, unable to use his hands to break his fall, so intent was he on keeping the detonator away from the roadway beneath him. His breath whooshed out of him as he impacted the hard surface, and it was all he could do not to curl into a self-defensive fetal position as he landed.
Momentum pushed him a few feet along the unforgiving surface, the detonator held safely in his hand. He switched it off, then held it above his head, sighing with audible relief as someone took it carefully from him.
There was a cacophony of sound around him - gunfire, voices screaming and shouting, then it seemed to all die away and he looked up, seeing the gang members being taken into custody.
Standing up, he bent forward, catching his breath, his loss of oxygen as much emotional as physical, the adrenaline surge that had propelled him forward, now dissipating to leave him weak-legged and sweaty. He leaned against the car behind him, feeling more like an observer than ever as the medics came in and did their job, kneeling next to Mike, shaking their heads as they pronounced him dead.
Jim walked up to him, watching as he picked gravel out of the sides of his hands and wrists. "That was a nice catch, Chief. You saved a lot of lives today," Jim said, giving his shoulder a small pat of reassurance.
"Except one," Blair replied, his voice unable to conceal the sorrow that overwhelmed him as a gurney was wheeled past him, Mike's body encased in plastic atop it. He pushed himself away from the support of the vehicle and followed Jim. "I don't know how you guys get used to this," he said.
"We don't," Jim said over his shoulder, walking up to the gurney and pulling back the plastic covering Mike's face. He placed his palm on the dead cop's forehead gently, then pulled out an envelope full of cash tucked into Mike's shirt pocket. "What do we do with this?" he asked, handing it to Simon.
Simon gave him a sympathetic look. "We see it gets to Hurley's sister," he said flatly.
Jim nodded, then turned to Blair. "Meet me at the truck, Chief. There's someone I need to talk to before we leave."
Blair watched as Jim headed over to Akiko and escorted her into an alleyway.
"Come on," Simon said, "you look kinda pale, Sandburg. You sure you're okay. You hit the ground pretty hard there."
"Yeah, I'm fine," Blair replied, surprised at the concern in the Captain's voice. "I'm a little shaky, that's all. I'll just go wait for Jim in the truck. Thanks, man."
Simon nodded. "All right, take it easy, Sandburg. You did good, kid."
Blair was sitting in the truck by the time Jim came back. "You going to see her again?" he asked as Jim swung into the driver's seat.
Jim shrugged. "Probably not. You never know though." He gave Blair a searching look. "You okay?"
"Yep." Blair surreptitiously pulled his shirt away from his chest when Jim turned his attention to the road. Truth be told, it felt like his entire torso was on fire from gravel rash. He figured he'd be spending some serious socializing time with a pair of tweezers when they got back to the loft.
It was a couple of hours before they made it home - one of Cascade's finest trying to take out two of the city's worst gangs with one explosion - tended to mean a heap of paperwork to be done. By the time they got there, Blair was moving stiffly, unable to stop the wince as he pulled off his jacket and stretched his arm up to hang it on the coathook by the door.
Jim wandered past him into the bathroom, and Blair swallowed down his disappointment at having to wait for the second shower instead of getting the first as he'd hoped for.
Moments later, Jim came back out, the first aid box in his hands. "You want to take a shower first? It might help get rid of some of the gravel. I'll get dinner started while you're in there."
Blair nodded gratefully and headed for the bathroom, looking forward to the hot water unknotting some of the muscles he could feel tightening in his back.
When he came out, dressed in sweats Jim had left folded over the commode for him, his partner was in the kitchen, heating up the left-overs of the lasagne they'd had the night before.
Jim motioned at the dining table with his head. "Take a seat, Chief, and lift up your shirt for me better yet, just take it off. It'll be easier."
Barely stopping his mouth from dropping open with surprise, Blair did as he'd been told, peeling his shirt off as he reached the table. He turned one of the chairs sideways and sat down. "It's not that bad," he said. "Just kind of stiff and a bit sore."
"I know," Jim replied, setting the box down on the table and pulling out the tweezers and some gauze pads. "But if that gravel stays in there, it's likely to get infected. Might as well take care of it now."
"All right." Blair watched warily as Jim picked up a gauze pad and dipped into the small well of disinfectant he'd poured into the cap of the bottle.
"This is going to sting," Jim remarked casually, wiping the gauze over Blair's abdomen in one downward stroke.
Blair hissed in reply then clenched his teeth as Jim discarded the first swab and picked up another, using it to paint a path perpendicular to the first. He took his time, making sure he'd covered every part of Blair's abraded torso before picking up the tweezers.
"You did quite a number on yourself, Chief." Jim's finger traced around a bruise just blossoming into blue life over Blair's ribcage. He pressed firmly then looked up apologetically as Blair flinched away from his touch. "Sorry, buddy. Just making sure you didn't crack a rib."
Blair nodded, his lips tightening.
"No cracks or breaks," Jim told him. He held up the tweezers. "Ready?"
"Yep." Blair focused his gaze on the top of Jim's head as his partner moved in close and began to pull the tiny granules of gravel from his skin.
A couple of minutes later, Jim looked up at him. "How you doing?"
Blair tamped back the reply of 'how the hell do you think I'm doing?' that had been on his lips. "Fine," he replied.
"Nearly done," Jim said, returning to his painstaking work.
A minute or so later, he turned and dipped another gauze swab in the disinfectant. "This time, it's going to really sting," he said. "You've got like a dozen little cuts and abrasions there. I don't think they need bandaging or anything but you'll probably feel them in the morning." He swabbed the area again, while Blair clenched his teeth, then packed up the kit.
"Thanks." Blair stood up and pulled his shirt back on. "Want me to make a salad to go with the lasagne?" he asked.
"Sure. There's some garlic bread in the freezer too."
"Okay." Blair said. He went into the kitchen and pulled the makings for salad from the crisper then opened the freezer and got the garlic bread and tossed it into the oven on the shelf below the lasagne.
Thirty minutes later, Blair was still pushing his food around his plate, having eaten almost nothing.
"You all right?" Jim asked.
Blair shrugged. "I'm not that hungry, to tell the truth. I was thinking of just going to bed."
"Sure. Whatever you want. I'll see you in the morning then."
"Yeah, goodnight, Jim. Thanks for the first aid." Blair watched as his partner walked into the living room and turned on the TV then settled onto the couch and began to channel surf.
Jim nodded absently at him. "No problem. Keep an eye on those grazes. If they get red or start seeping stuff, you might want to go get them checked out by a doctor."
Blair wandered back out of his bedroom after a half-hour or so of tossing and turning. His bed had beckoned so alluringly, but once in there, he couldn't sleep. The grazes on his skin rubbed annoying against the sheets and every time he closed his eyes, the day's events replayed in his tired brain in full cinematic color.
From the corner of his eye, he caught the flickering of the TV and glanced over to see Jim hunched on the edge of the sofa, chin resting in his hand. The detective's eyes stared blankly at the screen, and Blair wondered if he'd fallen into a zone.
Detouring from his planned path, he walked over and sat on the arm of the sofa, then reached out and placed a tentative hand on his partner's shoulder. "Jim?"
Jim flinched, then turned to look up at him. "I thought you'd gone to bed," he said.
"I did. Couldn't sleep. Came out to make some tea. I thought you'd zoned," Blair replied, keeping his hand resting lightly where it was.
Jim shook his head. "Just thinking."
"Kind of." Jim turned to face him and Blair pulled his hand away, moving down to sit on the sofa next to his partner.
"Want to talk about it?" Blair asked, expecting to be brushed off.
"Yeah. Do you mind? I mean, I know you said you were tired but-"
"Like I said, I wasn't sleeping anyway." Blair swallowed his surprise at Jim's sudden willingness to talk, then waited for his friend to continue.
"When it happened today, when I realized Mike was dead," Jim began, "all I could feel was an overwhelming sorrow at the loss of a friend, of someone I considered a good cop." He shook his head.
"And now?" Blair asked.
"I don't understand how he could even think of doing what he did. He knew there was a chance he wouldn't just kill the gang members. Even if he didn't know about Akiko, he had to know there was a chance that a cop would get caught in the explosion and be injured, possibly killed." Jim's voice was harsh.
"He was hurting so badly I don't believe he was thinking straight," Blair said softly. "I think if Mike had known there was even a chance of a cop being killed or hurt, he wouldn't have tried to do what he did."
"God." Jim rubbed his hands over his face. "So much waste. Too many good people lost." He looked over at Blair. "I'm glad you weren't one of them."
"Yeah. I'm glad you weren't either." Blair blocked a yawn with his hand. "You gonna go to bed now?" he asked.
"Think so. Think you can sleep now?"
"Yeah." Blair stood up and turned toward his bedroom, pulling up as Jim grabbed his arm.
"I've been meaning to ask you," Jim said, standing as well, "where did you learn to catch like that?"
"Just Little League," Blair said. "I had this coach. Coach Moreton. He drilled us like we were in the majors, man."
"Well, thanks for the talk, Chief. I'll see you in the morning." Jim headed up the stairs to his bed and Blair went to his own room.
He was tired now, exhausted actually, yet as soon as he was in bed he started thinking again. About Coach Moreton. He shivered under the covers and tried to blank the memories from his mind. God, he hadn't thought about the man, about *that* in years.
It was a long time before he slept.
A week later and Blair was wondering if the deities were trying to tell him something. He looked over to where Jim was hunkered down behind a pile of boxes, Wendy Hawthorn and her cameraman beside him as the gang of bank robbers fired on them with automatic weapons. He saw the leader tell one of the others to circle round, in an obvious attempt to outflank Jim. Blair tried in vain to get Jim's attention and then looked back in time to see one of the weapons trained unerringly on his partner. Looking down, he saw several baseballs at his feet. Shrugging mentally, and deciding to think about it later, if he was still alive to do so, he picked up a ball and pitched it as hard and straight as he could.
The ball beaned the man on the forehead and he went down. Blair stopped long enough to grin over at Jim then ducked for cover as the shooting started again, aimed at him this time. By the time the weapons stopped and he felt safe enough to step out of cover, Jim was gone, on the trail of the leader, and the other robbers were lying in varying unconscious poses on the ground. Blair patted his chest. He didn't think he'd been hit but Breathing a sigh of relief, when he found himself to be unpunctured, he ran across to Wendy and Connor, asked if they were okay then looked up to see Jim marching a groggy-looking gang leader ahead of him across the warehouse floor.
After that, it had simply been a matter of waiting for backup to arrive to take out the trash, so to speak, and write up the report at the station.
The rest of the week had been slow, casewise, and Blair had spent more time at the University than at the PD. Jim had gone out to dinner with Wendy Hawthorn, and Blair had managed to fit in a few dates of his own.
He had thought about the synchronicity of the baseball-type incidents but shoved the memories they threatened to conjure up back into the recesses of his mind. There was a reason he'd forgotten a lot about that time of his life, he told himself. It was better to leave things alone. Life right now was good. Why muddy the waters with thoughts about something that was in the past and couldn't be changed anyway?
Blair looked up as Simon walked out of his office and over to Jim's desk. "Sandburg, Ellison, I need you both in my office." He turned back without another word, the line of his back tense and straight.
Jim shrugged and stood up, as Blair followed.
"Close the door, Sandburg," Banks ordered gruffly as soon as they were inside the room. He waited till Blair did so then ushered them to seats in front of his desk. "We've got a sensitive case and the Commissioner wants you to handle it, Jim."
"Why?" Blair asked, unable to hold back his inquisitiveness.
"Well, if you'd give the Captain a minute, I'm sure we'll find out," Jim chided, shaking his head. "Sorry, sir, go on."
"Yeah, sorry, Simon I mean, sir," Blair added quickly.
Banks frowned but then simply shook his head and continued on. "You know Tom Davidson?" he asked Jim.
"The football coach at Cascade High? Sure. Tom and I go way back. He's the Commissioner's cousin, isn't he?" Jim asked.
"Yeah. Seems a student at the high school has accused Davidson of doing things to him," Banks replied.
"Things?" Blair stood up, his heart already beginning to race. He forced himself to breathe evenly and curled his suddenly sweaty hands into loose fists at his side.
Jim looked up at him, a puzzled expression on his face. "Blair? You okay?"
"Yeah. Sorry. Just stuff like this gets to me, you know?" Blair sat down again, forcibly keeping his emotions in check.
"You gonna let me finish this briefing, Sandburg?" Banks asked, fiddling with the pen on his desk.
"A 14 year old boy named Marsh Travis has said that Tom Davidson told him he'd make his bad gradepoint average go away and keep him on the team if Marsh allowed the coach to 'be nice to him'. Marsh said the coach also threatened to tell his family he was homosexual if he didn't play along. Said he'd tell them he'd caught him in the locker rooms with gay magazines. The boy said he felt he had to go along with Davidson's demands and that Davidson sexually abused him several times."
Jim was shaking his head. "Not Tom Davidson," he said firmly. "No way. Tom's one of the best. He'd never do that to a kid-"
"What?" Blair looked at his partner in astonishment. "Just like that you say the kid's lying. You don't even know this kid-"
"No, I don't, but I do know Tom Davidson and I don't believe he'd do something like that. It's not in his nature. He loves kids-"
"Most pedophiles do," Blair bit back sarcastically. "That's the nature of the beast."
"Jim, listen, the Commissioner knows how well you know Tom, but he doesn't know about your abilities. The reason I asked you *both* in here," Banks fixed Blair with a hard look, "was because I thought that if you interviewed Davidson, maybe you'd be able to tell if he was lying." He held up a hand as Blair started to speak again. "Enough, Sandburg. Jim, do you think you could tell?"
Jim shrugged. "I think so."
"He could," Blair finally got the chance to say. "He can listen to his heart rate, see if it speeds up in response to certain questions, but if he's concentrating too hard on that, he's likely to zone."
"Which is where you come in, Sandburg. Can you work out a way to keep him from zoning if you're in there with him?" Banks asked.
"You know, guys, I am right here," Jim interjected. He shook his head as they ignored him and continued the discussion.
"Probably," Blair replied. "I can at least coach him on what to do to prevent it, ground him with another sense if he looks like sliding into a zone "
"Good." Banks stood up. "You're both interviewing Davidson, and then the boy. Find out what the hell is happening here, Jim. We have to take this accusation seriously but I don't want a man's name dragged through the mud for no good reason. And Sandburg?"
"What?" Blair said.
"I don't know what that little display before was about but keep your personal feelings out of the interview room. If you can't do that then "
"I'll be fine," Blair muttered, standing up and walking to the door.
"Davidson's in Interview 4," Banks said. "Good luck, Jim. I hope your instincts about Tom are right with this one."
"Me too, but even if they are then this kid has a serious problem anyway," Jim replied, following Blair out the door.
Jim reached for Blair's arm as the stopped outside the interview room. "You want to tell *me* what that was about in Simon's office?" he asked.
"Not right now," Blair replied. "Look, I'm sorry, I over-reacted, that's all. Working at the University, I've heard a few stories about kids not being believed when they complain about teachers."
"This seemed more personal than that," Jim observed, looking at Blair closely.
"It is-" Blair blurted out then stopped. He ran a hand through his hair. "Look, can we just get these interviews over first? We can talk tonight when we get home."
"I just need to make sure you can handle yourself professionally in there," Jim replied firmly. "Otherwise you stay out here, even if that means you have to keep me grounded by whispering to me through the door."
Blair gave a tentative grin. "That *would* be a cool test to try," he said, "but you need to have your hearing focused on Davidson, not me." He patted Jim's arm. "I'll be a good little observer and just observe, I promise."
"All right." Jim pushed open the door and ushered Blair inside.
In the end it had all been simpler and yet more tragic than they'd thought. Davidson had denied any part in abusing, sexually or otherwise, Marsh Travis.
Jim had been almost positive the man was telling the truth but he'd kept his opinion to himself till after they'd interviewed the boy.
Marsh Travis had been all over the place emotionally and it had taken a while before Jim was able to discern which jump in his heart rate meant he was lying, and which meant he was simply upset by the question he'd been asked. The kid had dissolved into tears thirty minutes into the interview and Jim had watched, with no small amount of admiration, as Blair had moved to sit beside the boy and placed a comforting arm around his shoulders. The fact that the boy didn't flinch from the contact told Jim almost as much as his Sentinel lie-detecting had done.
Eventually Marsh had admitted he was worried he was going to be sidelined from the team for poor grades. His father was a bully who felt his son would only be a real man if he played football. So Marsh had decided to bench his coach, so to speak. He'd figured it would be his word against Davidson's and as no acts had taken place, there could be no proof they hadn't. He just hadn't figured on having a Sentinel interviewing him.
Jim sat back in his chair and watched as Blair assured the boy they'd get help for him, a tutor to keep his grades up and that he was sure Coach Davidson would give him another chance to keep his place on the team. He marvelled at the ability Blair had to convince people to do what was best for them then shook his head. He shouldn't have been surprised. Blair had been doing that for him since the day they'd met.
An hour later, Jim had typed up his report (well, Jim had dictated it while Blair typed) and they headed for home where Jim planned to get to the bottom of Blair's mystery once and for all.
Blair actually made it surprisingly easy for him, turning to him the minute they were in the door of the loft and saying, "I know you want to know the story, Jim. Give me a minute to grab us some chips and a beer and we'll talk."
Jim nodded and walked across to the couch, lowering himself with a sigh of relief. He grabbed the bottle Blair offered him with one hand and dug into the chip bowl with the other while he waited for Blair to settle himself on the armchair across from him.
Blair sipped on his beer and shook his head at the chip bowl Jim held out to him. "Okay, keep in mind I was only ten so my memory's a little spotty. We were living in a little town in the mid-west. Mom decided I'd fit in better at school if I was more like the other kids-"
Jim raised an eyebrow. "You mean you were weird even as a ten year old."
"Funny, Jim. We'll get you that spot at the Comedy Club yet," Blair rejoined. "Yeah, I was different. Mom was single and she was is " Blair seemed to be searching for the right word.
"Unique," Jim supplied. "Like you."
Blair smiled then, a smile of such pleasure that Jim momentarily wondered why he didn't try more often to get that reaction from him. It warmed him to think that Blair appreciated his approval and friendship that much.
"Yeah, she's unique all right," Blair went on. "So, anyway, she signed me up for Little League. I'd always loved baseball but this was the first time we'd lived in one place long enough for it to be worthwhile for me to join a team. Coach Moreton said I was a natural and he spent extra time with me, coming round to my house on weekends to play ball with me before a game and letting me go to his house after practice to hang out. He didn't have any kids of his own. He made me feel special."
"What happened?" Jim asked, part of him wanting Blair to remain in this place where he'd once been so happy, but part of him knowing that the rest of it was something that shouldn't happen to any kid, definitely shouldn't have happened to Blair and just wanting to get it over with so Blair could put the bad memories back away in that dark corner where he'd obviously kept them until now.
Blair leaned forward and put his beer bottle on the table, then wiped his hands on his jeans. "I was sexually abused," he said finally, the words coming out so bluntly that even though Jim had expected them, he jerked back in his seat as if he'd been struck. "And no one believed me when I told. Well, that's not quite true. Mom believed me but she knew, with her reputation compared to that of the guy who did it, it was useless pressing charges. So we just left town."
"What?" Blair looked surprised. "Coach Moreton? Oh no. No, Jim, he was the only other person who believed me. It was Mom's boyfriend. God, I can't even remember his last name anymore. Don Smithson Sampson." Blair shrugged, obviously giving up on the search for that identification. "Doesn't matter. He's dead now. Got killed in a car wreck a year or so later. Mom saw it in the paper. He was from the rich side of town, scion of one of the founding fathers, if you get my drift. Coach Moreton went to the police when I told him what was happening, tried to have the guy arrested. The cops came to my house and took a statement from me but I could tell they didn't believe me. A few days later, when we hadn't heard any more about it, Mom called them. They said the guy had denied the charges and they believed him. They told her she should consider getting some psychiatric help for me, that I was obviously looking for attention."
"God, Blair, I'm sorry," Jim said, guilt at what those other cops had done coloring his voice. He looked at his friend, saw the unshed tears shining in Blair's eyes, and his heart clenched with sorrow for the frightened small boy Blair must have back then and for the man who sat before him now.
"Hey, it was a long time ago, man." Blair swiped his sleeve across his eyes and gave an embarrassed laugh. "What made me feel even worse was that they found an excuse to fire Coach Moreton. He said it wasn't my fault but I've always felt like it was."
"What happened to him? Did you keep in touch after you left?"
"No. We moved so much again after that. I did send him a Christmas card that year with the address of where we were living but I never heard back from him. I guess he's dead by now too."
"Not necessarily," Jim said. "How old was he back then?"
"Well, to a ten year old, he was ancient," Blair replied, "but really, now I think about it, he was probably only in his mid-fifties."
"And it was what, sixteen, seventeen years ago?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, something like that. Where are you going with this, Jim?" Blair asked, narrowing his eyes.
"If he's alive, he be around 70, probably applied for a pension or something by now, don't you think?"
"I guess," Blair said slowly.
"We've got the day off tomorrow," Jim said, getting up and stretching the kinks out of his back. "I think we'll go into the PD anyway, though. That little blonde in Records has a big crush on you, Chief. I think she could be persuaded to give us a hand with a search for an old friend, don't you?"
"Oh, Jim, I don't know if we should do that," Blair said, standing up as well. "I mean, no matter what he told me back then, he must hate me for getting him fired-"
"You were a ten year old kid telling the truth, Chief, and he was a man doing the right thing. I doubt he'd hate you and I think he'd like to know you're doing okay, that you were able to put what happened behind you and go on with your life, achieve as much as you have. Not all abused kids are able to do that," Jim said, smiling warmly at his partner. "Come on, Chief, it'll be fun. You're always whining about wanting to do more real detective work."
"You believe me?" Blair asked. "Just by hearing me tell you what happened, you believe me?"
Jim shrugged then nodded. "Of course," he said as if that explained it completely.
"Thanks." Blair's voice was soft. "That means a lot to me, Jim."
"So, dinner?" Jim moved out to the kitchen and opened the fridge, pulling out two large steaks he'd put in there to defrost that morning. "We'll go in about nine," he said conversationally, enjoying the smile on Blair's face, glad he'd been the one to put it there. "Well, come on, Chief, snap to it. Get that salad made. We need to build up our strength and endurance. Tomorrow we're going hero hunting."
Blair flung him a mock salute then scurried to obey.