Too Close

A Love and Guns Missing Scene  

This is written in response to the Elves' Missing Scene Challenge at Guideposts.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim rolled off the very large, very dead man, momentarily stunned. He felt as though he'd been hit by a bulldozer. He blinked, pushing back the pounding in his skull. Get up, Ellison. Sandburg's in there!

That thought drove him into action, and he sprang onto his feet, swaying slightly as he stumbled back into the greenhouse. Soft cries reached his ears, and he followed the sound to the rear of the greenhouse. He stopped when he found Maya hunched over his unconscious partner, with Blair's head in her lap. Gently, she stroked his curls.

Blair's hands were still tied, and the gag remained firmly in place. Jim honed his hearing to the steady beat of his partner, relieved to realize that Blair was in no danger. Slowly, he moved forward, toward Maya and Blair.

"You okay," he asked softly.

Startled, Maya looked up quickly. Relief flooded her face when she realized Jim had won the battle. She nodded. "Yes... Yes I am fine," she said, looking back down at Sandburg, "but Blair doesn't look so good."

Jim knelt down next to his partner, pulling the gag out of the young man's mouth. Carefully, he stroked the bruises along Blair's cheek, searching for signs of cracked bone, relieved to find none.

Damn, he had to move. He had an officer down in front and an injured man here. He yanked out his cell phone and dialed 911, quickly relaying the information to the dispatcher and requesting an ambulance and black-and-whites. Finally, he flipped the phone closed and returned it to his pocket.

Taking a final critical look at his partner, Jim Ellison rose to his feet. He had to get back to Drennan, make sure she was okay. He let his gaze linger on his partner a moment longer, swallowing the lump in his throat. It had been too close. Way too close. Chopped to death with a machete...  That's what had happened to one man, his snitch. Jim shivered, imagining himself standing over that mutilated body and seeing Sandburg's face on the corpse. God, what a way to go...  and I almost let it happen to Sandburg.

Pushing those thoughts aside, he tore his gaze away from Blair and looked at Maya. "I'll be back," he said. "Take care of him."

The young woman nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks. "Yes, Detective."

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Jim watched the ambulance retreat, carrying Drennan to the hospital. Then he turned back to the second ambulance where paramedics tended to Blair and Maya. Ellison walked over to the two youngsters. Blair winced when one of the EMT's probed his cheek, and Jim clenched his jaw. Too close....

"Sandburg?"

Blair looked up at Jim, the lines in the young man's face etched with pain. "You okay, Jim?"

The sentinel nodded. "Yeah. You?"

Blair shrugged. "I'll live."

I'll live... The words echoed in Jim's skull. One of these times, you may not be so lucky, Chief. "Just what the hell did you think you were doing," Jim growled, his anger at Carasko and his henchman spilling onto Sandburg.

Blair lowered his gaze. "Just trying to see Maya." He glanced at the young woman uncertainly. Maya reached out and affectionately tucked a stray curl behind Blair's ear. "I walked around back," Blair continued. "Then I heard them talking in the greenhouse. They were saying something about a shipment, and I... " He glanced back up at Jim, seeking reassurance from the older man. "I got the information, and I was running back, but then someone slugged me." He rubbed his cheek, gazing at Jim with wide, sad eyes, then he glanced back at Maya. "I almost got you killed," he whispered, reaching a hand out to caress her bruised cheek. "I'm so sorry, Maya."

Jim's anger faded when faced with the enormity of Blair's own guilt. Hell, it's my fault for getting him involved with this in the first place.

"No, Blair, it's not your fault," Maya insisted. "I am so sorry my father did this to you."

Blair shook his head. "You didn't know."

Jim reached out and placed a hand on Blair's shoulder. "Listen to her, Chief. None of this is your fault." Blair shifted and looked back up at Jim. The sentinel gave his partner a reassuring squeeze and continued. "You didn't do anything wrong. I never should have gotten you mixed up with all this." He looked at Maya, his gaze intent. "Maya, Blair really cares about you. I'm the one who pushed him into this, but he defended you and your father at every step. Neither of us meant to see you get hurt."

Maya nodded, then looked at Blair. "I'm not angry with you, Blair. My father did those things you say, and I can't defend him. If it weren't for his business, my mother would still be alive." Fresh tears spilled onto her cheeks and she looked away.

"Hey," Blair said, reaching out to pull the young woman into an embrace. "I'm sorry."

She buried her face against his chest and cried softly. Blair turned pained eyes up at Jim, and the sentinel stepped back, giving Maya and Blair the privacy they needed. He turned and walked back to the car, sparing a final, furtive glance over his shoulder at his battered-looking partner. Then he propped himself onto the hood of the car, rested his feet on the bumper, and buried his face in his hands. The danger now passed and his adrenaline dissipating, he found himself shaking uncontrollably. His stomach clenched in a knot, queasy with realization. It had been way too close...



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