Calling Carl J

 

Let me tell you, Cascade is cold at four o’clock in the morning. My little corner of it, that is. Well, actually, a lot of the problem being that my little corner isn’t so little. Relatively speaking. Ten thousand square feet has ample opportunity to get friggin’ cold. Space heaters mean absolutely nothing in 32-and-frosty. Which is why you’d think someone with so few opportunities for sleep would still be in bed. Which would be true, if I hadn’t just shot straight out of it for the third time this week. I am so not into having my own personal nightly rendition of Big Cat Diary. Only I’ve got jungle, not savannah, and no nice BBC crew in sight. Plus it’s blue. Blue. A blue jungle. 

Definitely calls for Jung or Freud or, at this point, anything I can find since I’ve tossed half the paperbacks onto the floor already with no luck. Because I swear I have a copy of Carl J. and I sure as hell know The Interpretation of Dreams is in there somewhere. Huh, didn’t know I still had that -- The Serpent and the Rainbow, gotta read that one again sometime. But the blue place is looking more South American than Haitian and as far as I could see, not a zombie cucumber in sight. Popul Vuh … might leave that one out … at least it’s the right land mass. 

I really want Dreams. Okay, what I *really* want is to go back to sleep but this is gonna bug me until I work it out. I figure, you know, this is my subconscious trying desperately to communicate something. And if we’re going Jungian, think Sandburg, you’ve got the exposition of the setting – that would be jungle, weirdly blue. You got the plot development – uh, so it’s not much of a plot: there’s me, there’s this black jaguar, there’s me seeing this jaguar, then there’s me running scared out of my collective wits because I mean it’s one *big* pussycat. Culmination? Haven’t got to one, just wake up hyperventilating. The lysis simply ain’t happening here, Carl. 

Crap. Wonder if I traded them? I remember taking a big boxful to McKay’s when I needed that copy of "Policing in a Multicultural Age". Argh. I’m cold, I’ve gotten maybe, *maybe* eight hours sleep in the past four days and Simon’s probably expecting me to appear right after class with some new angle on this homeless mess. The only thing that seems to be going good right now is Jim’s progress.  

He’s managed a lot more in the past few weeks than I would have originally thought possible. I know he’s in there and I know he’s trying to reach out. It’s not exactly Helen-Keller-at-the-pump, but simply the act of naming us has opened up a trickle of language ability. Not satisfied with being able to identify us, Jim now wants to order us around. That brought a smile to even his father’s normally compressed lips. It seems to be person-specific at the moment but I don’t think that will last. He’s gonna catch on after a while that somebody besides Steven can supply waffles and that it's not just Sally he can ask for a hug. All he seems to want me to do is talk, well, and not leave his sight. That last one’s gonna take some work.

Which reminds me why I really needed to sleep. I’m not sure how much Jim is able to put together, but I thought if I took him down to the station, showed him where I am when I tell him I’m at "work". Hell, show him that Simon is there -- he and the Captain seem to share some secret who’s-in-control-of-Sandburg agreement.  

I’m really starting to feel a little possessed here. First Simon somehow gets me thinking so much like a cop I’m starting to scare myself and now Jim seems to be expecting me to … God, I don’t know … do *something.* 

If Burton had spent half the time researching Sentinels that he put into deciphering the Kama Sutra maybe I’d have some answers. Okay, so my early sex life would have been a lot less interesting but maybe I’d know how it is I’m supposed to start helping Jim.  

~oOo~ 

Cynical of me, but I wonder sometimes how this would have worked out if Jim wasn’t the son of the richest guy in the city. Not that I’m complaining. Simon isn’t impressed with wealth, but he’s not na´ve enough to think that staying on the good side of the mayor isn’t in everyone’s self-interest so if I want to bring Jim into the bullpen for the afternoon it’s all hunky-dory. Want a visitor’s pass? No problem.  

Very like Jim to, in fact, find the visitor’s pass (at least for the first few minutes) to be the most fascinating thing about the entire place. He fingers it, rubbing lightly over the laminated front, then moving to the edges and repeating the entire process. Then, as if suddenly noticing he’s in a room full of people he doesn’t recognize, he drops the badge to the floor and latches onto my wrist. 

Joel Taggart is watching all this intently. I haven’t warned them, but it’s obvious enough that Jim Ellison isn’t behaving in an average way. And if there’s anyone here I trust to be understanding, it’s Joel. 

When I introduce them I notice Jim giving him the same scrutiny he gave Simon down at the waterfront. Joel offers his hand, and I don’t expect Jim to comprehend the gesture, but Joel stands there patiently and after a moment Jim straightens the fingers cuffing me and responds in kind. No words are exchanged and Jim’s hand immediately returns to its tight hold, but, by damn, if he didn’t just shake hands. I’m grinning like a madman. Joel sees me smiling and joins me. Jim lowers his head and stands quietly but I still feel like doing a friggin’ victory dance.  

‘Cause maybe, somehow, my blind stumbling is actually helping. 

~oOo~ 

Trying to get across to Jim what the bullpen is turns out to be somewhat of a challenge. I’m more and more thinking that my theory is right – that, because sensory information is so overwhelming to him, Jim has to sense the parts and slowly construct the whole.  

There’s an abandoned desk I’ve reclaimed from the boxes of file folders that were piled on top of it. According to Simon it’s more than a part-time observer, full-time pain in the neck deserves, but he’s the one who helped me clean it off. Anyway, it’s the perfect place to settle Jim, out of the way and relatively quiet. I point out people, ask if he remembers Rafe or H, generally just let him soak up the atmosphere while I slump further into the need for a serious afternoon nap. 

Conner comes up and cuffs me lightly on the back of the head, a semi-regular greeting, then backs up as Jim growls. Really growls. Which is enough to send the bullpen’s resident non-resident back to her own safe corner. 

When he’s finished checking out all the items on my desk, Jim gets up and wanders toward Simon’s closed door. His head tilts slightly and, undoubtedly, he hears Simon talking on the phone.  

It’s actually kind of weird that Jim took to Simon so easily. I joke that it’s the height thing, but it took a while for Simon and me to grow on each other. Yeah, I can hear him now. "Like a fungus Sandburg, the only way you’d ever grow on me is like a fungus."  

I needed a diss topic. Really needed one since everyone in the department thought the Sentinel idea was not publishable, which made it worse than crazy. I had started out with tribal protectors and I figured there was no sense wandering any further afield than was necessary. Sentinels to cops didn’t seem that big a jump. Shows you what I really knew about either topic. 

I go to retrieve Jim and Simon opens the door unexpectedly, ushering us in. Jim’s nose wrinkles slightly at the combination of brewing coffee and lingering cigar scent that normally hangs in the captain’s office. 

"Mr. Ellison, it’s good to see you again." 

I get "Sandburg" or "kid" or, even, "hey you" and Jim gets "Mr. Ellison." Simon sees me roll my eyes and frowns, biting down on the unlit stogie he carries between his teeth. 

"I thought I’d show Jim where I work, you know, let him know where it is I disappear to." 

My guess is that Jim really may think I disappear, swallowed up into the cacophony of the world that lies beyond the quiet so painstakingly built by Steven and Sally.  

Shyly Jim darts a couple glances up at the captain’s face then seems to decide something. He makes my name sign, circling his hand around his own wrist, touching the pulse point. Then he draws both his hands to his face, his fingers touching his lips before lowering them to finally steady palms up. One of the new signs we’d been working on. 

Simon raises an eyebrow. 

All I can do is shrug. "He said ‘Blair’ and ‘thank you.’ I think he’s thanking you for something you did, or didn’t do, that has do with me." 

"Like what? Putting up with you for the past year?" But gently, surprisingly so, Simon steps closer. I’m the one who almost jumps when he puts a hand on Jim’s arm. I’d seen hysterics when Jim was touched and would rather have not been. "He means a lot to you, doesn’t he?" 

Jim looks down where Simon grasps his arm then back up at the bigger man. 

"Don’t worry. We look after him here. We’ll do our best to keep him safe." 

There is that long moment of eye contact again and I’m standing there getting impatient because Jim is finally communicating in some way other than touch and who does he pick for this important turning point? He picks Simon?  

Then, oh my God, Jim does something incredible (well, if you’ve been waiting for weeks to see some glimmer of it). It’s the equivalent of the damn Sistine Chapel as far as communication is concerned. He *nods* at Simon. You’re thinking that’s not much, but it’s more than it seems. He initiated conversation, received a response and then replied which is pretty damn wonderful. Jim Ellison, who a few weeks ago, was completely mute, has been participating in a conversation. I grab him, whooping, and spin him unprotesting in a tight circle. In the blur he looks slightly perplexed, Simon looks quite conceited. 

~oOo~ 

By the end of the visit, though, Jim is grouchy and sensitive. He pulls away from my touches to his arm, not wanting me to even place a guiding hand on his back. My guess of sensory overload turns out to not be completely correct. By the time we make it back to the house he’s flushed and fingering his throat. I’d heard this from Steven, that on the rare times Jim does succumb to whatever bug is going around, it comes on quick and strong. Looks like that nasty respiratory virus that decimated the PD force last week has claimed another victim. 

Steven’s not there. It’s Sally’s night off and that leaves me and William with one quickly drooping Sentinel whose senses are apparently off the map. He turns unceasingly in the bed, finding even wearing silk pajamas and being tucked under 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets to be too much to bear. The orange juice I offer is literally knocked out of my hands and lies staining the Ellison’s pristine carpet. A cold cloth on his forehead quiets him for a while, say, thirty seconds. 

William Ellison may be a master when it comes to controlling a roomful of irate stockholders, but he’s an absolute coward when it comes to one cranky son. By a little after midnight the CEO is settled comfortably in his own bed and I’m patiently explaining to Jim, for the third time, that even if you’re feverish, taking off all your clothes is not an option. By two, it is. So is endlessly sucking cherry popsicles and forcing your friendly neighborhood anthropologist to read the same section of "The Jungle Book" over and over and over. That sign for "again" is way too easy. 

So, for about the twelfth time I thumb back through the pages, the edges turning brown and brittle in a copy so worn it probably belonged to the elder Ellison himself. 

"Now this is the Law of the Jungle – as old and as true as the sky;

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back –

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, the strength of the wolf is the pack." 

I don’t know what is so particularly appealing about the Law of the Jungle, except maybe the rhythm is lulling. Sure as hell is about to put me out. The last line I remember getting out is from the fourth stanza, thirteenth reprise. Then I must have nodded off.  

I’m used to the usual panoply of dreams. Naked in synagogue is pretty common. Not that I’ve been to synagogue with any regularity clothed either. Elevator in freefall is another good one for raising the heart rate. And let’s not forget my all-time favorite – unprepared for the final exam, although lately that’s been morphing nastily into naked *and* unprepared for the oral diss defense. 

Point is, I already have my set of tried and true nightmare-producing anxieties. I’m used to them. I’m practically dream-lucid as soon as I see the familiar walls of the temple/ elevator/classroom. So it looks like that would be enough self-torture for my psyche that it didn’t have to dream up this damn blue jungle. 

Sure, Sandburg, read Kipling over and over while exhausted and see what you get. At least in the temple there’s always a spare yarmulke around to borrow, not that it’s going on my *hair*. Okay, so I’m not naked, that’s not the point. The point is I want *my* nightmares back. I don’t want to have to figure out what this whole jungle motif means. 

Haven’t I got enough to worry about? I’ve got Simon and the homeless-killer thing. I’ve gone so native that Dr. Stoddard is questioning practically every sentence I write and telling me I should have gone to Borneo like he suggested, or even to Peru looking for some damn Sentinel temple I’m not sure even *I* believe in. Then I find a
Sentinel and the best thing I’ve accomplished is that he now can ask for waffles. 

Crap. If I’m going to lucid dream it could at least do me the favor of not being *this* lucid. I mean there’s no point in being this aware if I’m still stuck in the one-crayola rainforest. 

Shit, did something just move?  

Thanks Jim, now the place is seriously stocked with wolves. I mean if Jim was going to go turn-of-the-century, couldn’t he have wanted to hear Robert Lewis Stevenson or something? I don’t remember anything with teeth in "The Land of Counterpane." 

Nice wolf. 

Blue wolf with blue eyes.  

Huh, blue teeth, too.  

So if you get eaten in a dream, does it hurt? I remember being on that 747 piloted by poodles and it crashing – like, poodles, man, you just know they couldn’t steer. That didn’t hurt. 

Why’s he growling at me like that? 

I gave at the office, dude. Really. Cascade Mountain Sanctuary. 

So is it wolves where you’re supposed to play dead if they attack? Or is that bears? Nope, not thinking about large carnivores right now, that probably wouldn’t be good. Uh, too late ‘cause there’s something dark and furry just beyond those really big blue leaves over there. And you can pretty much figure that’s not some housecat who’s been eating serious Friskies. 

Backing up is good. Slowly backing up. Wait, what’s got my wrist? Oh nonononono …

I’m half out of the chair, when I figure out it’s a warm hand wrapped around my arm, not a paw. 

"Shit! Jim, you just scared the life out of me. Hey, hey … I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell." 

My heart’s pounding. Jim’s cowering with his hands over his ears and red popsicle juice and a hurt look on his face. Crap. When’d it get so hot in here anyway? 

"It’s okay, big guy." I get Jim’s hands lowered and stumble to the bathroom to get a washcloth. A glance in the mirror makes me groan. I haven’t looked like this since I pulled five days straight to finish up my thesis. I haven’t felt like this since … oh hell. A whole week with eight infected detectives and not a sniffle. A day with Typhoid Jim here and I’ve got the beginnings of the virus from hell. 

If this is what Jim’s throat feels like no wonder he’s downing flavored ice like a rabid penguin. 

"Hey." My patient has uncurled himself and is looking at me with a frown. "Just had to get me to join you for the ride, huh?" 

Jim lets me wipe off the sticky cherry residue with the tepid cloth. Even leans into it a bit. 

"Well if your throat feels as bad as mine, I can see why you’ve been devouring the ‘sicles, man." 

I swallow tentatively and wince. A glance at the clock shows a disheartening 6:15 and I’ve promised I’d take Al Cranston’s eight o’clock intro class for him.  

~oOo~ 

It’s the fever making me say this, I know, but right now I’d give practically anything to trade places with Jim. I mean the man’s got it made. Hot cocoa’s been produced. Sally didn’t even have to be asked for waffles, they just magically appeared on a breakfast tray. He can lie comfortably in bed and watch TV all day. 

Not that Sally didn’t offer the spare bedroom, but there’s no way I can play sick today. Haven’t been able to do that since I was a kid and Naomi would get off on feeding me organic chicken soup and checking my temp with the back of her hand. 

While Jim’s distracted with his maple syrup I slip into the hall. It’s lots easier on both of us if we can skip the goodbye scene. I can run by Nature’s Pantry on the way to class and grab a bottle of Echinacea. If that doesn’t work Simon’s got that industrial-sized bottle of ibuprofen in his desk drawer.  

Sally waves at me on the way out and for one last second the temptation to yield to the insidious invaders trying to make surrogate moms out of my cells is almost too great. I stop on the sidewalk and look back wistfully at the front door. I glance up to Jim’s window and see him looking out at me, one hand flat against the glass pane. With a sigh I wave and move on. 

Before I start the car, I rest my head on the steering wheel. Tonight I gotta get some sleep. I can call and check on Jim when I get to the PD. Maybe Simon will take pity on me and let me go home. That way I can get those midterms graded at a decent hour. I mean Sally knows how to take care of Jim. That’s it. Class. Call about Jim. Use my best look on Simon and get home.  

And no blue jungles … I refuse to deal with any wild animals for the rest of the day.  

And I mean that. 

~end~