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DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly. This story was written for the enjoyment of myself and others. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHORS NOTES: There is no real plot in this one. Just an excuse for some angst and H/C. (g)
"Where is it?"
Blair Sandburg squinted blearily up with eyes that were rapidly swelling and blackening. "Wheres what?" he asked again.
He groaned, knowing full well what the reply would be and wasnt mistaken as a meaty fist came up and smashed brutally into his face. Blairs head snapped back from the impact and he would have fallen were it not for the two large men who held him suspended between them.
"Look around, see what you can find," Blairs assailant ordered and the anthropologist was dropped unceremoniously to the ground. He landed with a bone-shuddering thud and instantly curled into a protective ball, swallowing desperately to keep another wave of nausea at bay.
The second man squatted beside him and grabbed hold of a fistful of curls, pulling Blair back up to his knees. "Mr. Smith here asked you a question, Dawson," he hissed in Blairs ear. "Wheres the money you skimmed from the last deal? Ari isnt very happy with you. He thought you could be trusted."
"Sandburg." The word came out mangled from his gashed lips, blood spraying the floor and trickling down his chin.
"What did you say?" Smith said, bending closer.
Blair took a deep shuddering breath and swallowed a mouthful of bile before trying again. "Sandburg," he whispered. "Name is Blair Sandburg."
The voice came from the living area to Blairs right and Smith stood up immediately, stalking over to the man he had sent to search the warehouse.
"What is it?" he asked.
Blair watched through slitted eyes as the third man held out his wallet. "This guys not Max Dawson. Hes Blair Sandburg. Address is right. The other little prick must have skipped town already."
He looked over at Blair who now supported himself shakily on his hands and knees, blood dripping slowly from his abused face onto the concrete floor.
Smith shook his head and walked back to Blair. A hand in his hair pulled Blairs head up again and he stared into the dark eyes of his attacker.
"You keep your mouth shut or well be back, understand? Dont forget we know where you live. Better yet, let me leave you with a parting gift."
Blair cried out loudly as a heavy boot smashed into his tender ribs. The pain exploded through his chest and back and he wheezed in agonal gasps as he fought to catch his breath, then something crashed against the back of his head and he surrendered to the darkness.
Blair awoke feeling as though every nerve in his body was on fire and his muscles convulsed as he fought to escape the pain. A moan was forced out between his gritted teeth and then he rolled awkwardly to his side as the nausea he had kept at bay for so long returned with a vengeance. He wrapped a bruised hand around his torso as he vomited violently, then he lay spent and exhausted, shivering on the cold floor.
He was not sure how long he lay sprawled there, his mind drifting in order to escape the pain of his injuries. A word tugged at a corner of his mind but he could make no sense of it. A scrabbling of tiny sharp claws down his arm registered in his subconscious and he cried out as something bit into his forearm. He snatched his arm up toward his chest and cradled it there, watching as the rat skittered rapidly across the floor chattering frantically in fear.
The pain from the bite was enough to rouse his wandering senses and the word prodded at him again.
With a superhuman effort, Blair rolled himself over to his opposite side and began to laboriously drag himself toward the dimly lit living area. His body screamed in protest with every inch and by the time he reached his goal, he was shaking and wet with sweat, his face gray.
He reached a trembling hand up and managed to pull himself up onto the old couch, where he lay on his stomach, crying softly for long minutes. Finally, he reached out to the old black phone that sat on the packing crate that passed for a coffee table. He blinked rapidly to dispel the sweat and tears burning his eyes and blurring his vision and fought to calm himself enough to remember the number he needed to dial.
He held the receiver to his ear, praying softly that Jim and not the answering machine would pick up.
Blair could not hold back the sob of relief that was torn from his throat at the sound of the voice and he curled his hands protectively around his tender ribs as his precarious control on his fear slipped and he lost himself in the flood of emotion.
"Jim?" he whispered.
"Who is this?" Jim asked, sounding annoyed at the intrusion.
Blair began to panic as he fought to speak past the lump in his throat that threatened to choke him. His mind seemed to be able to process just the one word and he wasnt sure if even that was clear through his torn lips. He needed to explain his predicament but he couldnt grasp the words that hovered just out of reach and another sob found its way to the surface.
"Sandburg, is that you? Are you drunk? Because if you are, I am not coming to get you."
Blair took a deep breath, moaning softly as it sent a sharp pain through his chest and struggled to push the words out. "Jim. Please come." His whole body shook with the effort and he hung onto the phone grimly.
"Blair?" The voice was quieter now, worried. "Are you at the warehouse?"
Blair nodded mutely. "Co..come."
"Okay, Chief, hang in there. Im on my way."
The phone went dead and Blair let the receiver drop to the floor as he sank back against the old sofa cushions and allowed the tears to fall.
Jim shouldered his way through the flimsy door and raced up the rickety stairs to the living space above.
He called again on his way up the stairs, wanting to tell the anthropologist that help had arrived. Reaching the landing, he stopped and slipped his gun from its holster, holding it up ready to fire as he peeked cautiously around the corner. He could see no one in the vast space in front of him but the light only reached fifteen feet or so beyond him, leaving the rest of the building in deep shadow.
He concentrated for a moment, then dialed up his hearing. He heard soft wheezes of breath and then a heartbeat, rapid and pounding. Convinced that no one else was in the warehouse, Jim stepped around the corner and into the area Blair used as his living room.
The anthropologist lay face down on an old sofa, his face turned away from the detective, his shoulders heaving. Jim holstered his weapon and stepped slowly toward the other man.
"Sandburg? You okay?"
Blair finally turned to face him and Jim sucked in a breath. Blairs eyes were swollen almost shut and dark bruises ran the length of one cheekbone to his jaw. His battered lips oozed blood that trailed down his chin and along the curve of his neck and his scraped hands curled protectively about his ribcage.
"Jim," he moaned.
Jim rushed forward and knelt at the young mans side, picking up a limp wrist to check his pulse, noticing what appeared to be a bite on the inner part of his forearm. He brushed the hair from Blairs forehead and reached for the phone on the crate. Dialing rapidly, he waited to be connected, then rattled off the details, requesting an ambulance and asking the operator to contact his captain, Simon Banks.
Hanging up, he squeezed the now silent young mans shoulder reassuringly and went over to the kitchen sink to pour warm water into a bowl. He retrieved a washcloth from the tiny bathroom and sat at Blairs side, attempting to clean off the worst of the blood in order to see the condition of his partner more easily.
Dark blue eyes watched his ministrations for a moment then slid away to gaze lazily around the room. Suddenly they widened in fear and Jim heard Blairs heart begin to pound wildly as he struggled to sit up.
"No," Blair moaned, pushing at Jims restraining hands. "You cant be here. Theyll come back."
"Its all right, Sandburg." Jim tried to soothe the panicking man, concerned that hed complicate his injuries with his thrashing about. "Who did this, Blair? Whos coming back."
"Aris men. Thought I was someone else," Blair panted as he exhausted his meager energy and collapsed against Jims chest.
"Ari Scople? How do you know him?"
Blair shook his head, becoming more agitated and Jim patted his back, trying to calm him as he heard the sirens approaching the warehouse. "Dont worry about it now, Chief. The paramedics are here. Youre going to be fine."
Jim heard the sound of several car doors slamming and then the echo of heavy footsteps pounding up the stairs. Simon entered first, followed by Joel Taggert. Both men stopped, staring in horror at Blair.
"Jesus, Jim!" Simon swore loudly, looking around the ransacked living space. "What the hell happened?"
Jim shrugged and stood up, allowing the paramedics room to treat the injured man. "I dont really know yet, Simon. Hey, Joel." He nodded at the burly bomb squad captain. "What are you doing here?"
"Simon and I were finishing up the reports on the Kincaid bust when your call came in. When they mentioned Blair, I thought Id come along for the ride."
Jim was aware that Joel had developed a soft spot for the anthropologist ever since Garret Kincaid and his henchmen had taken over the police station a few weeks before. Kincaid had captured both Joel and Blair, but Blair had managed to outwit the terrorist for quite some time before he was discovered and then he had been instrumental in Kincaids capture. It had only been Blairs first day on the job as an official observer with the police department and he had earned the grudging respect of most of the officers in Major Crimes and it seemed Joel Taggerts undying admiration.
"God, Jim, he looks awful," Joel whispered. His feet seemed to unconsciously take him to Sandburgs side and he lowered his impressive bulk to the ground with a soft groan. He reached out and gently took hold of one hand, squeezing it lightly.
"Hey Blair. Its okay, youre safe now," he said.
The deep voice seemed to spark another flurry of fear in Blair and he struggled in the grip of the paramedics, tearing off a BP cuff and flinging it to one side as he fought to push away from the men.
"No!" he screamed again. "Youve got to go away. If they know I told theyll come back."
Jim turned from where he was filling Simon in on what he knew of the attack and hurried back to the sofa, shouldering the paramedics aside. He pushed Blair back onto the sofa, wincing as he cried out in pain. Then he knelt in front of the frightened man and placed both hands on his face, forcing Blair to look at him.
"Theyll come back, Jim. You cant be here," Blair moaned, abject terror evident in his voice.
"Blair, enough. Settle down," Jim said firmly. "Sit still and let the paramedics check you out. Theyre gonna take you to the hospital " he broke off as Blair shook his head vehemently and reached down to take his hands. "Theyre not coming back. I wont let them come anywhere near you. Okay?"
Blair stared at his friend for a moment, then slowly nodded his head. "Hurts," he whispered.
"I know, buddy," Jim answered softly. "I know."
Jim remained where he was, holding onto Blairs hands, keeping him calm as the paramedics worked around him and readied the anthropologist for transport.
The detective looked up as Simon Banks strode into the ER waiting room.
"Hows Sandburg doing? Any news?"
Jim shook his head and crushed the empty Styrofoam coffee cup, tossing it into the trash. "Nothing yet, Simon. The doctors are still in with him."
"Do you have any idea at all what happened?"
Jim stood and began to pace. "I got a little more out of him in the ambulance on the way in. Seems a couple of Ari Scoples hired muscle broke in, looking for money that was skimmed from their latest sale."
Simons eyes widened in surprise. "Scople? Jim, what the hell is Sandburg doing mixing with scum like Ari Scople?"
Jim shook his head vigorously and held out a hand. "Let me finish, Simon. Sandburg only moved into the warehouse a couple of weeks ago. The guy who owns it offered it to him cheap because his previous tenant skipped town owing a couple of months back rent. The previous tenant was one Max Dawson, known as a contact man for Ari Scople. Seems as though Dawson got delusions of grandeur and decided Scople wasnt paying him enough. He took his own cut out of Scoples profits and took off."
"And Scoples men thought Sandburg was Dawson," Simon finished.
Jim nodded. "Obviously they were given an address and a general description of the guy. Sandburg fit the bill."
"Has he been able to give you a description of the men who attacked him?"
"Not yet," Jim replied. "Lets let him recover a bit first, sir. He hasnt had the best couple of weeks, what with Kincaid and all."
Simon nodded his agreement. "Kids a regular trouble magnet," he sighed.
"Anyone here for Blair Sandburg?"
Both men looked up at the call and acknowledged the man who approached them and introduced himself as Doctor Scott. Simon shook the mans hand and then indicated Jim.
"Im Captain Banks, Cascade PD and this is Detective Jim Ellison, Mr. Sandburgs, um, partner."
The doctor looked surprised. "Oh, I thought he said he was an anthropologist."
"He is," Jim said. "Its complicated. Sorry to rush you, Doc, but how is he?"
The doctor motioned to a row of seats and sat down heavily. "Hes quite a mess, as youre probably aware, Detective. He was rather combative and disoriented when he first arrived. His face is badly bruised and weve sutured a gash under his right eye. He has a couple of phenomenal shiners, but there is no damage to the optic nerves or the eyes themselves. He has a moderately severe concussion but he appears to be lucid now. Weve also stitched a nasty cut inside his mouth, so hell be on a bland liquid diet for several days. His ribs are severely bruised as is his chest wall and he has what apparently is a rodent bite on his right forearm." The doctor grimaced distastefully at Jim, who merely shrugged. "Well, weve cleaned it out and begun an antibiotic protocol for that."
"Can I see him?" Jim asked, standing up.
"I was rather hoping you would, Detective. Due to his concussion and the severe nature of his beating, I would like to keep him overnight for observation. Mr. Sandburg is not conducive to that idea and is threatening to sign himself out AMA."
Simon shook his head and scrubbed a hand over his face. "Why am I not surprised," he muttered. "Jim, go talk some sense into your partner. Im going back to the office to look over what we have on Scople. Ill see if I can find out who he usually hires for jobs like this. Tell Sandburg Ill need a statement and description from him as soon as he feels up to it."
"Yes, sir." Jim was already heading toward the trauma room door.
The detective turned back to face his captain.
"Tell the kid I hope hes okay and assure him that we will catch these bastards."
Jim nodded and allowed a small smile to touch his lips. "Thanks, Simon."
If it were possible, Blair looked even worse now that the blood and dirt had been washed off. He lay on an examination table, several pillows supporting his back to ease his breathing. He was covered by a thin sheet to the waist, his bare chest beginning to show vivid bruising.
Jim felt his anger rise once more as he identified the shape of a boot in the red and black marks along Blairs ribs. Blairs eyes were closed, though whether they were swollen shut or if the anthropologist was sleeping, Jim couldnt tell. One forearm was heavily bandaged, the other had an IV inserted in it, a plastic splint keeping the arm straight. Soft restraints hung from the bars of the examination table but Blairs hands were, mercifully, free.
Jim stepped up to the table and lay a hand gently on Blairs shoulder. "Hey, Chief, how are you doing?" he said softly.
Blair started suddenly at the touch and sat up on the table, his breath coming in short gasps.
"Easy, easy," Jim soothed. "Its only me. Youre safe now." He pushed Blair back to lie against the pillows and smiled at him. "I hear youve been giving the doctors some trouble."
"I cant stay here, Jim," Blair muttered, the words barely distinguishable through his puffy lips. "I want to leave."
Jim shook his head. "Youre too sick right now."
He held up a restraining hand as Blair opened his mouth to protest. "I want you to stay here tonight. Let the doctor keep an eye on you. If he says youre okay, Ill swing by tomorrow afternoon and pick you up. Deal?"
"I dont know where to go, Jim," Blair said. He turned his face away, looking embarrassed. "What if they come back?"
"Ive got it all covered," Jim assured him. "Simons got a couple of good leads on these guys already. Well get your statement and description in the morning and if Joel has anything to do with it, I think you can safely assume these guys will be off the streets in the next day or so. In the meantime, youll come stay with me."
Blair turned back at the statement, a shy smile lighting up his battered face. "You dont have to do that."
"Do you have anyone else you can stay with? Family?"
Blair shook his head, then winced, regretting the action. "Not really, no. Ill be fine though. I can stay at my office," he protested.
Jim shrugged again. "Then its settled. Doctors going to want someone to keep an eye on you for a few days. Ive had some medic training. Its all organized. Joel picked up some clothes and stuff from your place before he left and the futons still made up from the last time you crashed at my place."
"Okay," Jim nodded, satisfied. "Theyll be here to take you to a room in just a minute. You get some rest, try not to give the doctors, or the nurses any grief. Im going to go call Simon, see if hes got anything on Scople and his buddies and then Ill be back."
"Ill be fine, Jim," Blair answered. "Go home, get some sleep. Ill see you tomorrow."
"I told Simon Id stay here tonight," Jim said. "Just an extra precaution," he added at Blairs worried frown. "Humor me."
"Thanks, Jim." Blairs eyes closed and he relaxed, content to let Jim take charge.
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