Sorry, folks. I had this scene in my head. It's not a real story b/c, let's face it, I would flunk out of law school if I wrote a story around every scene that popped in my head. LOL!

But I hope you enjoy it! warning: language -- cursing and derogatory racial remarks by
politically incorrect psycho of the week. category: angst, h/c (surprising, I know. This  h/c stuff is something different for me) *grin*

~~~~~
Hang Man
~~~~~

Jim stood as rigid as a statue at his desk, his fingers gripping the receiver tight enough to turn his knuckles white and send an ache shooting up his arm. "Who are you?"

The voice on the other end of the line sounded deep and angry. "The New Wave."

Jim swallowed, his heart pounding in his chest.  *Oh, Jesus.* Rafe and Brown were assigned to a string of racially-motivated murders propagated by this 'New Wave' white supremacy group. Jim hadn't been involved in the case, but Sandburg....

Sandburg was Jewish -- at least peripherally. It didn't matter whether he practiced or not, he had the wrong name for the 'New Wave' group. "You hurt Sandburg and I promise you I WILL find you."

//"Jim..."//

Jim stopped breathing and focused his hearing on the soft, familiar voice in the background. Sandburg was speaking so low Jim doubted the kidnapper would be able to hear him.

//"Warehouse. Fifth and Trancas."//

Jim closed his eyes and inhaled a deep, calming breath. *Way to go, partner.* Now all he had to do was keep the kidnapper on the line while the cavalry went to rescue Sandburg. But he didn't want to stay here. He *needed* to be on the front lines to make sure things were done right. There was no way he'd risk Sandburg's life to anybody else if he could
be there himself.

He gestured to Rafe, who's gaze, along with everyone else's, was fixed on him. Nodding, Rafe picked up the phone and opened the line to listen in.

Jim spoke into the receiver. "You know what you are? A coward." If he could keep the caller angry, the guy might just stay on the line longer. "What's the matter? Pissed off because you lost a job to a black person, or a Mexican, or a Jew, or an Asian?" He was just rambling, trying to find words that would enrage the guy and keep him talking. "Too afraid to consider that you might just be inferior and stupid as hell, so you have to take it out on innocent people who just happen to have more brains than you? You're a remedial. These 'New Wave' murders aren't even original. Stabbing. Hanging. Shots through the head. What's the matter, lacking creativity? Hell, the NAME isn't even original."

"Fuck you, Ellison..."

Jim lowered the receiver and placed his hand over it. "Rafe, pretend to be me. Keep him on the line, but don't speak too much or he'll figure it out." Next he looked at Simon, who was standing in the doorway of his office, watching with silent concern. "Sandburg's at a warehouse on Fifth and Trancas." Then he turned to Brown. "H, dial a three-way on my
cell phone so I can listen in."

Without further explanation, Jim set the receiver carefully on the hook and stormed out of the building.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair swallowed hard and closed his eyes, standing on his tip-toes on the chair. His hands were tied behind his back, and his ankles were bound. The noose hung loose around his neck, but the only thing between him and death was the flimsy, foldable chair beneath his feet.

His only hope was Jim. Had the sentinel heard his whispered words? Would he get there in time? Find out all this and more. Coming up next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel. He almost laughed. Here he was moments from being hanged to death and cheesy lines from an old TV show were floating through his head. Hmmmnn... Maybe this was denial?

Denial. Yep. Big time. Standing here on a chair with a noose around my neck and some psycho on the phone with Jim...

//"You're a joke, Ellison"//

Blair almost laughed again... or sobbed... he wasn't sure there'd be a difference at this point. How the hell did he keep getting in these situations?

//"You and your entire police force. You have niggers and Jew-fags and even women out there carrying guns and pretending to work for the public good. No wonder Cascade has one of the highest crime rates in the nation...."//

Blair shifted on his toes and twisted his wrists, trying to work the ropes loose. He paid only marginal attention to the psycho's angry words. The man was obviously insane... which, by definition, all psychos were.

All of a sudden the 'New Wave' proponent started yelling. Blair opened his eyes to see the guy toss his cell phone on the floor and turn toward him, his eyes fiery with anger.

*Uh-oh. Time's up.* Blair took a deep breath, his body rigid. He could feel the pounding of his heart all the way down to his toes.

The killer stopped inches from the chair and looked up at Blair. "How does it feel to know you're going to die?"

Blair swallowed hard, forcing himself to meet his captor's gaze. The guy looked quite young -- in his twenties -- with thick, dark hair and large, hazel eyes. He wore Dockers and a thick sweater and could have passed for a normal, law-abiding yuppie any other day.

Blair continued working the ropes binding his wrists. "Death doesn't scare me, man. I've already been to the other side. You know what? There IS an afterlife, and I promise to make your life a living hell when I get there."

Mr. 'New Wave' simply laughed and glanced at the phone on the floor. "I left the line open. Think he can hear? You wanna say goodbye to your partner?"

Blair glanced at the discarded cell phone. *Oh God, please don't let him hear. Let the line go dead or the batteries run down or even let him zone but please, please don't let him hear."

~~~~~~~~~~

//"You wanna say goodbye to your partner?"//

HOOONK!

Jim turned the wheel sharply to the left, narrowly avoiding a BMW. Damn! He'd just ran a red light. Stupid! He glanced at the speedometer. Sixty MPH. Through city traffic. If he got himself or someone else killed he wouldn't do Sandburg any good.

//Goodbye, Jim. I hope you can't hear this, but if you can, I know you tried. I... " Blair's voice dropped to a whisper. "I love you, man. You've been a good friend."//

God...

He pressed harder on the accelerator. The truck flew through another red light at Fourth Street. His sirens were blaring, but that seemed to have little effect on the motorists. He killed the sirens as he approached Fifth Street, then took a sharp right. Trancas was two blocks ahead.

When he reached the corner of Fifth and Trancas, he slammed on his breaks. The screech of rubber on the blacktop must have been audible to anybody in the vicinity, which meant Blair's captor had likely heard.

He jumped out of the truck, automatically extending his hearing.

//"Goodbye, kid."//

A thud. A scrape. A grunt.

*No!* The time for caution was past. If the guy had heard the screech of the truck's tires, he gave no indication. Jim withdrew his gun and burst through the doors of what looked like an old, vacated office building. "Police!"

The 'New Wave' guru raised his hands in the air as he stepped away from Sandburg.

*Shit!* "Blair!" The young man was was hanging with a noose around his neck, a chair toppled on its side a foot away. His face was red and his eyes bulging, and his body jerked as he struggled against suffocation.

In one swift motion, Jim raised the gun, his eyesight honing in on the rope, and squeezed the trigger. The rope snapped, and Blair fell hard, collapsing bonelessly on the floor, gasping and wheezing, although he looked on the verge of passing out.

The killer had taken that moment to act, reaching behind his back to retrieve a gun. Jim saw the weapon swing toward him, and he shifted his own gun and rolled to his right. His opponent fired, but missed. Jim came out of his roll on one knee, the gun aimed, and he fired. The killer's body snapped back, and he lay motionless on the floor.

Jim slipped his gun back in its holster and hurried to Blair, dropping on his knees next to the young man. Blair was still wheezing, his body spasming as he gulped at the air like a fish out of water. His right cheek was pressed to the floor, and a red ring encircled his neck just beneath his chin, already swelling angrily.

Jim heard the sirens. Finally! He didn't know how he'd gotten so far ahead of everyone, but he was grateful that he did. If he had arrived a few seconds later and Blair would be dead.

But Sandburg was still in distress, though his eyelids hung low and he didn't seem to be aware of what was going on around him. Jim used his sensitive fingers to probe Blair's neck and spine, searching for signs of more serious damage. When he found none, he turned his attention to Blair's wrists. The rope cut deeply into Sandburg's flesh. Wincing in sympathy, Jim worked at the knot. It took him a couple of minutes to get the thing loose, but it finally gave, and he tossed the bindings aside. That accomplished, he carefully turned the young man onto his back. Blair's eyes opened, and his hands came up to claw at his neck. Quickly,
Jim grabbed his partner's wrists just above the rope burns and forced the arms down.

"Easy, Chief. Help's on the way."

Blair looked at Jim, his eyes red and watery, and nodded. He stopped struggling, but his breathing still came in labored gasps and his body remained rigid. Gently, Jim slipped the noose over Blair's neck and threw it away, a surge of anger rising to his cheeks as he glanced at the man who'd try to kill Sandburg. No breathing. No heartbeat. The guy was dead. *Good riddens.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The touch brought him awake. Fingers around his neck. A flare of pain. Pressure. He tried to pull away, but something from behind stopped him. An unfamiliar voice sounded low and deep near his left ear. The fingers traced a path of hot pain around his neck and thrust him further awake. He jerked, his hands coming up to ward off the assault.

"Take it easy!" A harsh command by a familiar voice. Then the tone softened and hands grabbed his. "Easy, Chief. It's okay."

"That was easy," the unfamiliar voice said.

Blair willed his heavy eyelids open, and he saw Jim and another man in a white jacket standing over him.

"Hey, partner." Jim offered a lopsided smile. "'Bout time you woke up."

Blair's brow furrowed with confusion. How long had he been out? He opened his mouth and tried to speak, but his throat erupted with fire, bringing the sting of tears to his eyes.

The doctor spoke up. "You probably won't be able to talk very well for the next day or so. You've got some swelling of your trachea, and we've been trying to keep that down to maintain your airway without a tube."

Blair closed his mouth and nodded. His neck protested the motion with a tug of pain beneath his jaw. Damn. it seemed his communication abilities were quite limited. He looked at Jim and mouthed the question, 'How long?'

Jim glanced at his watch. "About 11 hours, and to answer your next question, the doc says you can go home in a few more hours if you take your meds and stay in bed."

The doctor nodded. "The main concern we have right now is making sure the swelling doesn't interfere with your airway."

Blair grimaced. He hated the feeling of suffocation. Okay, who didn't? But he'd experienced it too many times already -- drowning, strangulation...

He didn't notice the steady beeping in the background until it suddenly increased. Both Jim and the doctor glanced at the machine, then Jim looked back down at him and placed a hand on his arm.

"What is it, Blair?" Jim grimaced and leaned forward. "Sorry. I forgot you can't speak. But whatever it is, try to relax. You're going to be okay. All you need is a little rest."

Blair took a deep breath and nodded, wincing slightly from the twinge of pain around the tender skin of his neck. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing. This was not the time to have a panic attack -- not in front of Jim and the doctor.

He felt Jim's hand brush across the top of his head, but it was only a whisper of a touch. "Just so you know, the guy who kidnapped you is dead. His name is Robert Carson. Rafe and Brown searched his apartment, and they found a list of other 'New Wave' members. They're rounding them up now for questioning."

Feeling the beckoning tug of sleep, Blair managed another slight nod. So now he had a name to put with the face that would likely haunt his dreams for a good time to come. Just like a handful of other people he wished he'd never met. But along with those people were others he cherished and wouldn't trade for anything. Jim. Simon. Joel.

'Thanks, Jim,' he mouthed just before surrendering to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The end.

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