THE STALKING HORSE

By: ANNIE

EMAIL: Annie

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Petfly and Paramount. This fanfic was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: Drama, Angst, H/C.

RATING: PG (V)

 

"Why didn’t you go before we left?" Jim’s voice held the exasperated edge of a father on a long family drive.

"Well, I didn’t need to go then. I need to go now," Blair responded in a reasoned tone. "Besides, you didn’t exactly give me time to do anything before we left. You know, man, sometimes I think you should try to kick back a little, stop trying to rush everything, you know what I mean?"

"No, I don’t know what you mean. What do you want me to do, Sandburg, call the perps before we leave and ask ‘em to hold up their business for a few minutes more ‘cos my partner wants to take a leak before we get to the stakeout?" Jim’s voice had lost the exasperation Blair thought, now he was just trying to be sarcastic. "Anyway," Jim continued, "You’re a big boy now. Can’t you hold it?"

"No, I can’t hold it and a doctor I know told me once that you shouldn’t do that when you really need to go. It can cause all sorts of problems with your kidneys and bladder and stuff. She told me…"

"Enough!" Jim interrupted. "I really don’t feel like hearing a medical lecture right now. Just go, okay? But find somewhere out of sight and be discreet, hey, Chief? I mean, the last thing we need on a stakeout is for this guy to spot you out there when I told him I was coming alone. Worse still, would be if a patrol car saw you and pulled you in for public indecency."

"I know, I know," Blair said indignantly. "I have been on a stakeout before! Hey, Jim, I saw a little all night store just down the next block when we drove past. You want some coffee, or juice or something. I’m really thirsty, man. I mean, you didn’t even give me time to grab a bottle of water or anything. You know, I bet Hutch always remembered to bring along coffee on a stakeout for him and Starsky."

"You mean, you want to go and empty your bladder and then fill it up again! Are you planning on making more than one rest stop tonight? And as for Starsky and Hutch, that was TV, Sandburg, this is real life, remember?" Jim’s voice had the exasperated edge back.

"Look, Jim, this guy probably won’t even show. You said that yourself. Even if he does, he’s not gonna be here for another hour or more. That’s why I couldn’t understand why you were in such a tearing hurry to get here. I figure if he doesn’t show on time, you’re gonna insist on us sitting here all night, anyway, just in case he does. I just wanna run up to that store there and grab a couple of drinks. Hey, they’ve probably got a restroom there I can use. What do ya think, Jim? Okay?" Blair asked in his most wheedling tone.

Jim sighed loudly. "Okay, okay," he said, backing down. He had to admit it looked like it could be a long night and he was getting thirsty himself. "But, for God’s sake, hurry up and keep a real low profile when you come back."

"Yeah, no problem, man," Blair said, opening the door quickly and quietly before Ellison could change his mind. "You know me, Jim. Mr. Low Profile, that’s me!"

Jim shook his head, grinning a little as he watched Sandburg take off into the darkness as fast as his legs and his full bladder would let him.

Jim wearily turned his attention back to the abandoned warehouse, watching for the snitch who’d said he had information about the import of illegal armor piercing ammunition into Cascade. God, he was tired. That was the main reason he’d dragged his Guide out with him tonight, though he would never have admitted as much to Blair. He’d spent the night before, here, alone, with no result. But this morning he’d received an anonymous call that promised him information if he met the snitch tonight.

Of course, there had been the usual request that Jim come alone which Simon hadn’t been happy about. But the guy on the phone had sounded genuinely scared. He wanted out, he’d said. Jim wasn’t surprised the man was scared. The ammo had already been used in an armored car hold up and a security guard and a cop were dead, despite the Kevlar vests they had been wearing.

Jim had finally convinced Simon to let him make the meet. Other members of the Major Crime Squad were in strategically placed locations a couple of blocks away and they’d be there within minutes if Jim had to call them. And, he had his Guide with him. Blair refused to carry a gun but he’d helped get Jim out of a lot of tight spots in the time they’d been together and their Sentinel – Guide bond made for a formidable team.

Jim knew Blair hated stakeouts, especially night ones. But he was so tired tonight, he knew he needed Blair with him to keep him focused and to back him up, if the need arose.

A sudden flash of light at the side of the warehouse caught Jim’s eye. Damn, the guy was early!

"Come on, Sandburg," he urged mentally." Hurry up and get back here, partner."

The Sentinel dialed his sight and hearing up, trying to get a better look through the darkness at where the light was coming from, as well as keeping alert for Sandburg’s return or the approach of anyone else in the vicinity. His fatigue made it difficult for him to concentrate on focusing his sight and hearing at the same time and he worried about zoning out without his Guide beside him to bring him back. He cast an impatient look in the direction Sandburg had moved off. There was no sign of him yet.

Jim turned back to the warehouse, once again focusing his sight on the light, but this time keeping his hearing at normal level. He couldn’t see anyone moving but his eyes picked out a lantern flashlight placed upright next to the warehouse door.

He bent to pick up the radio, ready to check in with Simon and notify him that the meeting might be about to go down.

"Put the radio down!" growled a menacing voice.

Jim could feel the barrel of a gun pressed behind his ear. He cursed himself for not keeping his hearing up. He bent forward slowly, trying to reach his weapon in its holster at his ankle. He heard as much as felt the blow of the assailant’s gun against his head. Lights flared in front of his eyes and he tried with all his might to keep them open, not to fall into the blackness.

The truck door was wrenched open, and still stunned, Jim felt himself dragged out onto the ground. The man with the gun warned him not to move, as he pulled a small penlight from his coat and used it to locate Jim’s ankle holster. Jim could feel blood trickling down his temple. He closed his eyes against the nausea and dizziness, unable to get his muscles to obey his brain. In seconds, the holster had been torn from his leg and tossed onto the floor of the truck.

"Get up!" the man snapped at him. Jim dragged himself up, his legs finally making some semblance of effort to respond. He swayed on his feet and shook his head, trying to clear the muzziness. He realized at once that was a mistake as the ground tilted up at him and he nearly went down again.

He tried to bring his sight to bear on the man who’d assaulted him, but his eyes were still too unfocused, his vision blurred. All he could make out was a bear of a man who seemed to be at least a head taller than Jim himself.

The assailant grabbed his shoulder, easily spinning him in the direction of the warehouse door and pushed him ahead. As they reached the light cast by the lantern in the doorway, he grabbed Jim’s cuffs and snapped them over his wrists. A final shove through the door sent Jim stumbling, his cuffed hands outstretched in an attempt to break his fall. He grunted as he landed on his hands and knees, the sudden deceleration causing pain to flare in his head again. He squinted up at the figure in front of him, forcing down the nausea and dizziness, pushing his sight beyond normal limits until the face glaring down at him took on a recognizable image.

"Davis? Tom Davis?" he muttered, his mind casting back for forgotten fragments of a case he’d thought behind him.

"I’m touched, Ellison. You remember me!" the big man snarled, his face inches away from Jim’s. "You know, I’m surprised you haven’t been looking over your shoulder for the past fifteen years. I told you when you sent me to the stockade I’d get you one day. Did you think I was kidding, Ellison?" He aimed a hard kick at Jim’s ribs and seemed gratified at the pained intake of breath it caused.

"What about Johnson?" Jim managed to ask. "Was he in on this, too?" He was desperately stalling for time, knowing that Blair had to be heading back by now, that he’d find the truck empty and come looking for him.

"Johnson? You mean your little snitch? He was just my stalking horse, Ellison. He had information for you alright but I managed to convince him that my little vendetta was paramount."

Davis turned, his huge hand grabbing up a bundle of what looked like old rags. He dragged the bundle over and threw it down in front of Ellison. "See what happens to your friends, Jim boy? They die!"

Jim recoiled from the dead face inches from his own. Max Johnson had contusions covering his face, and a bullet wound in his temple left no doubt of how he had died. Jim heard a soft scuffle at the door. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Blair crouched just out of the light, Jim’s gun in his hand. He quickly moved his attention back to Davis, hoping against hope that Blair would stay put.

"When did you get out, Davis?" Jim ground out, averting his eyes from Johnson’s corpse, still trying to play for time, willing Blair to radio for Simon and not try any heroics on his own.

"Oh, I’ve been out for a while now, Jim," Davis grinned. "But you were a hard man to find for a while, at least till you joined the police and started making a name for yourself. I lost everything because of you! My wife dumped me, she took my kids away, I had no job, no house, no family, NOTHING left," his voice dropped to a whisper, "and for what, Ellison? Because you wanted to be the big man!’

"You deserved everything you got, Davis," Jim said hotly. "I caught you raping a twelve year old girl! What did you think I’d do? Turn my back, walk away, pretend it never happened. You were my friend, Tom and I’m sorry you lost your family, but did you ever think about what that 12 year old kid lost that day? I had no choice but to turn you in. Do you expect me to be sorry for it? I’m not!"

A heavy kick to his face sent him to the ground. Davis’ voice taunted him as he struggled to regain his balance.

"Oh, you will be sorry, Ellison. Today, you’ll be sorry." He stepped away from Jim’s sprawled body and pulled a .38 from the waistband of his pants. "It’s such a sweet plan, Jim. Johnson pulled a gun on you and in the crossfire you shot each other."

"You think they’ll believe that, Davis? I don’t even have a weapon on me." Jim spat back.

"You will have, when they find you, Ellison," Davis growled, raising the gun.

Jim dialed his eyesight and hearing up, his eyes never leaving the man in front of him. He heard two shots, seconds apart. He twisted his body desperately to the side, trying to evade the bullet and was thrown back by the force of the impact. White fire exploded in his chest and his vision clouded. He lifted his head, fighting to stay conscious. He focused all his senses, amazed he was still alive but aware of the pain battering him. Through the grey veil threatening to overwhelm him, he saw Davis clutch his chest, bright blood spurting between his fingers. With an anguished groan the big man fell, his arms moved feebly and his eyes glared into Jim’s own. In seconds, the life had faded from them and his head dropped to the dirt floor. Through the darkness encroaching on his senses, Jim saw Blair, just inside the doorway, the gun held in the prescribed stance.

Ellison fell back, his breath coming in short gasps, the pain tearing at him.

"Jim!" He felt his Guide at his side, hands scrabbling with the fastenings on his jacket. He tried to hold the darkness at bay, his pulse thundering in his ears. His head fell back limply, his eyes glazing over with pain.

Blair winced at the wound he exposed as he pulled back Jim’s jacket. Blood was pouring freely from the entrance wound, just above Jim’s heart. Blair placed a hand firmly over the ugly hole, pressing down to try and staunch the bleeding. Jim moaned, his cuffed hands feebly pulling at the unwanted pressure.

"Jim, listen to me! It’s Blair. I have to try to stop the bleeding. Just stay still. I called Simon and there’s an ambulance on the way but you have to let me help you."

Jim could hear Blair’s voice as if from a vast distance. He tried to focus his hearing but the effort opened up all his senses to the maximum and he gasped at the agony and found himself actually hoping he’d zone.

"Hang on, buddy. I’m here. I’m going to get you through this. You just have to stay calm, okay, Jim? Concentrate on my voice."

Blair almost collapsed with relief when he heard the sirens and realised the paramedics were on their way. Simon burst through the door and crossed the warehouse floor in seconds. Kneeling next to Blair, he quickly unlocked the cuffs around Jim’s wrists and held the writhing hands firmly in his own.

"Jim, you’re gonna be okay, man. The paramedics are right behind us. Just hang on, pal, okay, just hang on," he implored his friend.

Jim twisted his head, groaning, trying to get his hands free.

"Jim, you have to stay with me," Blair said forcefully. "You have to concentrate on my voice. Jim, I need you to dial everything back down, okay. The paramedics are going to help you with the pain, but first you need to find those dials and push everything back down, okay, man. You can do it, Jim. We’ve done it before. Look at me, and just listen to my voice. I’ll get you through this."

Simon saw Jim’s eyes regain some of their clarity. His own hands still holding Ellison’s, he watched as Blair went into Guide mode, drawing his Sentinel to him with his voice. Simon could feel the big man relaxing under his grip, the pain appeared to be less agonising, even while the blood continued to seep between Sandburg’s fingers as he kept pressure on the wound.

"Can you see the dials, Jim?" Sandburg asked evenly.

"On four," Jim whispered, eyes never leaving Sandburg’s face.

"That’s good, man, really good. I just want you to push them down another notch or two, okay, Jim. You can do that, right?’ Sandburg said, the expression in his voice making it more a statement of fact than a question.

Jim nodded weakly, his eyes almost closed. "Two… "His voice trailed off.

Blair and Simon felt themselves moved firmly out of the way as the paramedics knelt next to Ellison, their equipment and drug boxes already open as they assessed Jim’s condition and began their lifesaving treatment. For a moment Jim’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around in panic, conscious that Blair was no longer at his side.

"It’s alright, Jim, " Blair said reassuringly, "I’m right here, pal. Just keep concentrating on those dials okay?" One of the paramedics glanced up at him curiously. "It’s a self hypnosis thing, relaxation tip, you know," Blair responded quickly.

The paramedics had already contacted the hospital by radio, and on the doctor’s instructions they quickly inserted two IV’s, one of which they let run wide open to replace Jim’s lost blood until they could get him on whole blood at the hospital, and the other for morphine to counteract both the pain and the effects of shock. One of the medics had placed a 4x4 gauze dressing over the wound and taped it firmly in place. The blood continued to ooze through but Blair had done a good job of the emergency care and there was less bleeding than before. They made sure Jim was still conscious and getting enough oxygen through the mask they’d placed on his face, before carefully lifting him to the gurney and strapping him in. That done, they took off at a fast clip toward the waiting ambulance.

"You can follow us to Cascade General, if you want," the younger of the two called over his shoulder to Blair and Simon. In seconds they had Jim loaded and the ambulance was speeding away.

"Come on, kid," Simon said, patting Blair’s shoulder, "I’ll drive you." He quickly notified the others of his intentions and then ushered Blair to the car.

By the time they reached the hospital, Jim was already on his way to the OR. The only information Simon was able to get from the nurse at Reception was that he was unconscious but stable. He steered Blair over to the waiting area and began debriefing him, more as a way of keeping him distracted than for any procedural reason. He knew Sandburg was desperately worried about his partner, as was Simon, but the young observer’s face was pale and sweaty and he obviously wasn’t far off shock himself. The Captain fetched coffee and virtually forced Blair to drink it, standing over him protectively until he could see that some color had come back into the kid’s face.

It was three hours before the surgeon came out and told them that Jim was going to make it. The bullet had torn through the pectoral muscle and clipped the pulmonary vein, hence the large amount of bleeding, but they’d been able to oversew the blood vessel and stabilise his blood pressure. Now it was just a matter of rest and antibiotics, to stave off any infection. They could see him for a while in about five minutes.

Simon sighed with relief, grinning at Blair. "Well, you did it, kid. You really saved Ellison’s life this time. You’re quite the hero, Sandburg!"

"Yeah, right, Captain. If I hadn’t left Jim there on his own he wouldn’t have got shot. Some hero! Hell, some Guide!" Blair said disgustedly.

"Come on, Sandburg, don’t tell me you blame yourself for this. Jim’s a cop. He knows the odds of something like this happening on a stakeout. He also knows he’s damn lucky to have you to back him up. And tonight that’s exactly what you did. Jeez, kid, I didn’t even know you could shoot that good. Guess Rafe’s training paid off, hey?" Simon’s hand held Blair in place, his eyes staring down forcefully into Sandburg’s face, forcing him to listen. Blair started to shake his head, opening his mouth to argue.

"You stop right there, Sandburg. As your Captain, I make the decisions on who does a good job or a bad one. As far as I’m concerned, you did nothing wrong tonight and that’s what will be in my report. You’ll need to see IA about the shooting, but that’s just a formality. As for what went down between you and Jim before Davis got hold of him, you sort that out with Ellison, but I’ll tell you one thing, kid. There’s no way Jim’s going to blame you for this, or let you blame yourself. You know that, too. You know the man better than any of us. Now get your hippie butt upstairs and check on your partner. I’m going to call the station, let everyone know Ellison dodged the Grim Reaper again, and have a cigar. I’ll be up in a while." He pushed the unresisting Blair toward the bank of elevators and watched as he entered one, waiting until the doors slid shut before he pulled a cigar and his phone out of his pocket and headed outside.

~ooOoo~

"Sandburg, you should go home, get some sleep." Simon put a gentle hand on Blair’s shoulder. "You know, the paramedics gave him that stuff at the scene, and with the anesthetic as well, he’s not going to wake up till tomorrow. You can come back in the morning when he’s awake."

The only sign that Blair heard him was a slight movement of the shoulders as if to prove to Simon that he was aware of his voice. Simon knew Blair was here for the duration, no matter what he or the doctors said. He walked to the door and opened it.

"Sandburg?"

Blair turned toward him and Simon saw the pain and guilt etched in Blair’s face. "This was not your fault, Blair. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it. If you hadn’t got there when you did, Jim probably wouldn’t be here now. You did good, kid."

"Yeah, I know, Simon. I’m fine. Goodnight." Blair responded, a little too quickly.

Before Simon left the room he saw that Blair had already turned back to the bed, his eyes on Jim’s face, watching for the slightest sign of consciousness, alert to any hint of pain. Simon thought he had never felt so sorry for anyone as he did for Blair, right now.

Blair put his hand on Jim’s wrist, feeling for his pulse, needing the physical reassurance beyond the electronic monitors bleeping overhead, that his Blessed Protector was still there, still holding on. He grabbed a pillow and placed it on the bed, next to Jim’s chest. Carefully, he rested his head on the pillow, close enough to feel Jim’s breathing, his hand still encircling Jim’s wrist. He tried to attune his own pulse to Jim’s, gradually relaxing as he felt the steady beat beneath his fingers. Eventually, he tuned out all exterior sights and sounds. He slept.

~ooOoo~

Jim woke slowly. He could feel a dull pain deep in his chest and the pull of sutures when he tried to move his arm. His right hand seemed to be restrained and he looked down to see Sandburg, out to the world, on a pillow, Blair’s hand still grasping his partner’s wrist. Jim tried to gently extricate his hand, but the movement roused Blair anyway and he looked up groggily.

"Jim! Thank God, you’re okay, man. How’re you feeling? Any pain? I’ll get the nurse." He reached across for the call button but Ellison snagged his hand.

"Wait a second, Chief. It’s not too bad. Did you sleep here all night?" Jim asked huskily.

Blair’s cheeks colored slightly. "Well, I was worried about you and then I just got really tired. Guess I must have flaked out for a while. Jim, I am so sorry, man."

"Sorry? For what" Ellison looked at his partner, perplexed.

"I should never have left you there like that, Jim. I should have been there with you when Davis turned up. If I had been … "

"Whoa, whoa, slow it down, Chief," Jim interrupted, hand raised, trying to cut off the flow of words. He should have known Sandburg would find a way to blame himself for this. "If you had been there, Davis probably would have shot you too."

"Maybe, but Jim, I’m supposed to back you up!"

"Well, that’s what you did, right? Some of what happened is a bit foggy, but one thing I do remember is seeing you shoot that guy before he got a chance to take me right out. That’s called back up, Chief."

"I don’t know, Jim. I guess so." Sandburg still didn’t sound entirely convinced.

"Listen, Blair, we can have this conversation again later if you want, although it won’t change what I think. But, right now, I’m really tired. Think I’ll try to go back to sleep." Ellison closed his eyes wearily.

"Okay, Jim. I’ll call back later, see how you are. Get some rest, man." Blair patted Jim’s arm softly and turned to go.

As he reached the door, Jim whispered, "Hey, Chief?"

"Yeah, Jim?"

"Thanks for coming to get me."

"No problem, partner," Blair whispered back, closing the door behind him.

The End

8th April 2003