Prologue

"Well, Chief, I don't know what you want me to say. I don't know if I can get past this. To me, it was a real breach of trust and that struck really deep with me."

He couldn’t get the words out of his head. They kept going round and round like an old scratched record as did his plea for understanding and forgiveness.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I lost track of my friend."

Groaning, Blair pushed back his desk chair and paced the office. What to do now? Alex was gone apparently, and South American police were on standby at the airport in Bogota to arrest her. Jim – Jim was gone too, at least out of his life.

The monograph was sitting on the shelf and Blair picked it up, stroking a loving hand over the worn embossed cover. Carrying it carefully, he took it back to the desk and sat down. When he lifted the cover, the pages fell open instantly to the picture of the sentinel he’d shown Jim three years ago when they’d first met.

Blair had been so excited to see the detective standing in his doorway that day, he’d babbled some incomprehensible bullshit about the Yanomamo music he’d been listening to and watched Jim’s assessment of him plummet instantly into minus figures.

Of course, the prehistoric man comment had really been the icing on the cake and he could still remember how his heart had almost beat its way out of his chest when Jim grabbed a large fistful of his shirt and slammed him up against the wall – hard.

He thought he’d blown it when Jim turned and strode from the room, Blair’s warning about the zone-out factor still hanging half-spoken in the air. He had no conscious memory of moving when he’d thrown himself at Jim after he followed him outside and saw the garbage truck bearing down on his motionless figure. Even now though, the feeling of the truck passing over them sent a shiver snaking down his back.

He’d been so naïve back then. Blair snorted as he closed the book. Looked like he’d come full circle.

He scrubbed a hand through his ponytail, loosening a few strands and making it look more unkempt than it already was. God, he was tired. He didn’t think he could spend another night in that motel room.

‘Tough!’ he told himself firmly. ‘It’s not as though there are a whole lot of options open to you right now.’

Doug Saunders, a fellow TA, had offered him his couch to sleep on for a few nights, but he didn’t get back from LA until Friday. He’d lived in an abandoned warehouse for three months, listening to rats skitter through the building and going to bed in his clothes to stay warm. Another couple of nights in a run-down, flea-infested motel room weren’t going to kill him.

He knew it wasn’t the motel. It was just that it wasn’t home, or at least wasn’t where he’d thought home to be for the past two and a half years. No use feeling sorry for himself, he’d brought this whole mess tumbling down, he’d screwed up by not telling Jim about Alex and this was his punishment.

It didn’t matter that Jim hadn’t known Blair had met the other sentinel when he kicked him out of the loft. It was all connected, somehow. Karma, fate, synchronicity? Perhaps it had been leading to this all along. He looked up as the doorknob turned and the office door swung inward.

"Alex."

He dutifully put his hands in the air when she aimed her gun at him. She looked disheveled and angry.

"If it hadn't been for you, I never would have understood what I really am," she said, not unkindly. "I owe you that. You want to know how I really got the sentinel senses?"

Blair nodded, though he’d already figured it out. If he could keep her talking, there might be time for Jim to get here. Maybe. Did Jim know where he was?

‘You know where to find me.’

"Solitary confinement in prison. I thought I was going crazy. It wasn't until I met you that I realized what I'd become."

"And look how you use this gift," Blair replied sadly. "What a waste." He knew he’d said the wrong thing when her eyes narrowed and she cocked the gun.

"This is the one thing I really didn't want to do, but I can't leave you alive."

She stepped up to the desk. Blair closed his eyes. Did that make him a coward? Not wanting to see death approaching? ‘Jim! I’m sorry!’

He jumped at the touch on his arm and looked up, relief coursing through his body, leaving him weak and shaky as she pointed at the door with her gun.

"Get up," she ordered.

He still had a chance. He walked around the desk, keeping his hands out from his sides, offering no threat. As they walked down the corridor and through the main doors, he drew upon his greatest strength and tried to reason with her.

"Alex." He half-turned toward her. "You don’t have to do this."

"Shut up." She shoved him hard in the small of his back and he stumbled down the rest of the steps, barely keeping his balance.

It was almost daylight. Pink streaked the sky and Blair found himself inanely thinking about the old children’s rhyme. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. It wasn’t going to be a good day to die. He stifled a terrified sob. He didn’t want to die.

He managed to look around as they crossed the expanse of grass in front of Hargrove Hall. The place was deserted; it couldn’t have been later than 6a.m. He stopped as he approached the fountain, his shins hitting the concrete edge, and knew.

"Where’s Jim?" he gasped, desperate to hear her reply, knowing her silence would leave him desolate.

Pain blossomed in the back of his head and he felt himself blacking out, his legs collapsing beneath him. His arms flailed out for purchase as he dimly felt a hard shove in his back, and then he was falling forward, his breath stolen from him in the first shock of icy water.

His hands scrabbled frantically on the bottom of the fountain, fingers slipping on the slimy residue built up there from years of neglect. He had no strength in his arms or legs to push himself upright, and the blackness in his vision began to change to red.

He felt totally disoriented, couldn’t figure out which way was up, felt his chest burning as he fought to pull air into his dying lungs.

Finally, his legs were supporting him and he pulled himself upright, water falling from his clothes and hair like rain. He took in a whooping gasp of air and choked, doubling over with the effort of expelling water from his lungs. Staggering, half-falling back into the water, he made it to the side of the fountain.

Alex turned, and he knew he was doomed as she stalked back toward him. He raised his hands.

"Please," he croaked.

The gun barrel hit him in the temple, and this time the darkness was absolute. He felt himself falling again, felt a weight on his back. He struggled convulsively, arms splashing the water. His face was pressed to the bottom and he rolled his eyes up to see her above him, her face dispassionate as she held him under.

He took a gasping breath and felt agonizing pain shear through his chest. He thought he screamed. He didn’t know it would hurt this much to die.

‘You know where to find me.’

 

To Chapter One