edited by: Carolyn
Jim looked down at the wide-eyed face in front of him. It was Two Jack Morrison, a local con artist and not the nicest card in the deck. Alive, he had been bigoted, arrogant, and an habitual liar. Now he was Two Piece Morrison. His head had been cleanly severed from his shoulders and now lay tucked neatly into the palm of his wide hand like a basketball about to be thrown. This was the third body in a month and there was only one thing each had in common. They were all repeat offenders.
Blair groaned. Although he was getting used to seeing bodies, the weirder deaths still bothered him, especially the bloody ones. The Academy had forced them to stand in on several autopsies and thankfully, because of his long-term association with Jim, he was ready for that. Yet he still couldn't prepare for some of the things he encountered. Jim understood. In fact, he and Simon had both admitted that it had taken them a long time to learn how to deal with seeing death in all its perverse forms. Both of them had been soldiers before turning to police work. Death had a familiar place in their lives but for Blair, this was still something that frightened and disgusted him. As an anthropologist and scientist, he accepted death as a natural part of life. Even ritual sacrifice seemed part of the natural order of things as long as it didn't involve him personally. And despite his understanding of the facts and psychology behind it, human sacrifice was still a mystery to him in many respects. However, in ritual sacrifice, there was a purpose, generally for the good of the tribe, to appease the gods for a better harvest or a victory over their enemies. In these cases, life was considered the ultimate sacrifice to show the tribe's or person's devotion. Although distasteful to his western thought, at least this justification made sense. Then there was the killing for the non-religious reasons. The list was infinite in this category. There were the psychopaths and homicidal maniacs to contend with, not to mention the one-word reasons like greed, lust, jealousy, vengeance, insanity, and evil. Perhaps it was the price they paid for being restrained by the rules society had placed on them. Murder was a symptom of civilization. It generally came down to 'have' and 'want.' Thou shall not covet thy neighbor. It had been a good warning. It had been a comment on cause and effect. And the more civilized man became, the more perverse and brutal the killing became. Modern man had tried to eliminate blood from death. Clean, simple, untraceable. The cleaner death became, the more violent Mother Nature had become. This morning's seminar at the Academy had covered how to recognize communicable disease and deal with it. At first it had seemed an odd thing to study in police work but it actually was a real threat to society. He and Jim had already dealt with an Ebola scare in their police work. Again, it was a symptom of a progress. Man had been inspired by nature and now was trying to harness its version of death and destruction. Swallowing back the urge to vomit now as he watched a maggot move in and out of the exposed neck of the dead man, he focused on the dark brick red color of the drying blood. He had wasted his time studying the Sentinel. A more useful study would have been to isolate that one primitive impulse, that one radical particle floating around in the human brain that thirsted for blood.
Moving his gaze to the open-eyed head, it almost seemed surreal. Had he blinked? Was Two Jack mocking him? Was he trying to talk to him to tell him how ludicrous his job really was? Protector, servant of the people. What a laugh. Yes, he was mocking him. His life hadn't been taken by anything as simple as a gun or as complex as a chemical compound. Someone had returned to the past and had swung a sword, a very sharp sword. Morrison's gun was still in his jacket pocket. Strange how the past had a way of sneaking up on you when you were least expecting it.
"You okay, kid?" asked Jim.
"Yeah," answered Blair with a sigh. "So I'm going to take a guess here and say that this is probably related to the body we found last week."
"You had to guess?" joked Simon darkly as he walked up beside them. "Same M.O., same clean cut. No other mutilations. Just the head. No sign of robbery, mugging, fight, nothing. The only thing we found was this."
He handed Jim an evidence baggy containing a wooden token with a shield engraved into it. It was the same as the others. A family crest of six squares topped by a banner. Forensics had done an extensive search on the last one. It didn't match any family crests on record and hadn't been registered with any organization. Obviously, someone had done their own research and had come up with their own heraldry. At the top was a black silhouette of a man, from mid-chest up, a shadow casting over the other smaller squares. His arms were outstretched as if he were the guardian of those in the squares below. Two of the squares on the bottom of the crest were blank. In the upper left-hand corner of the crest was a sword and tartan. Next to it was a shooting flame encircled by a ring and below it was a silver chalice with blood dripping into it and lastly, a black silhouette of a man in a long robe holding what looked like a blue lightening bolt. All four of the symbols could easily be linked to the recent murders not just because each victim had one of the tokens lying next to them but because the victims had died by one or another of those weapons represented. Two had been decapitated and one was quick-fried. Jim let out a long breath. It was a pretty sure thing that they would eventually find victims whose method of death would match the other two symbols. It was only a matter of time. And there were the two blank sections on the shield.
"Forensics is coming up empty again and there's no witnesses," said Rafe walking up to the trio. "Whoever this guy is, he's good. And I hate to say it but frankly, the guys and I aren't that anxious to catch him. He's doing us all a favor. So far, he's just been skimming the bottom of the society pool. All three of the guys had a record a mile long and I'll still bet my life on Two Jack being the guy that was killing those runaway kids last year."
Simon shook his head. "He was tried and found not guilty."
"Oh come on, Captain," exclaimed Brown who had joined them now. "You know as well as I do that the trial was rigged."
Blair looked down at Two-Jack. "What next?" he asked.
"We beef up patrols," said Simon matter-of-factly.
"What about the media?" asked Rafe. "Maybe if people knew what was going on, we could finally get some answers. Somebody out there has to know something."
Jim shrugged. "Yeah, but as long as the bad guys are the targets, I doubt we're going to get any cooperation from the neighborhood. All we'll succeed in doing is promoting this guy as some City Avenger. It'll turn into a media circus."
"On the other hand," said Blair, "it might also send the rest of the lowlifes packing, not knowing who will be the next victim. This could be a blessing in disguise."
"Whose side are you on anyway?" growled Simon impatiently. He still couldn't quite get used to the idea of Blair actually being a cop and old habits were hard to break.
Blair was glad that things hadn't changed much between him and Simon. "I fight for truth, justice and the American Way, Simon," he grinned. "Don't we all?"
Jim put his hand on Simon's shoulder. "The Superman underwear gets worn only on his days off. I made him promise me that much."
"They cut more than just your hair, didn't they?" rebuffed Simon. "Time for a replacement pack of the marbles you've already lost."
Jim gently whacked Blair on the back of the head. It was his version of big brother talk saying 'stop or you'll get in deeper than you care to.' Blair sighed. It was so easy to dance the mental mambo with Simon. The ex-anthropologist knew that he could frustrate the man to the point of seeing steam.
"Listen, guys, I'm off duty now and I have to get going. Got a hot date with Desiree tonight." Blair bounced his eyebrows with anticipated excitement.
Jim just rolled his eyes. "Get a motel tonight, Chief," he said. "I'm bushed and need to get some rest."
"But Jim," begged Blair. "You can't. I mean, I..."
Rafe shivered. "She's got the looks, Sandburg, but there's just something weird about her that gives me the Willies."
"What?" asked Blair pretending to be offended now. "Because she practices witchcraft? She's a Wiccan. That's a recognized religion. I can't believe how archaic you guys are. It's the new Millennium guys. I mean, I hate to break the news to you but the world is not square."
"Aren't Wiccans like good fairies or something?" asked Brown with a grin.
Blair shook his head in disbelief. "You guys need to wake up and smell the cultural coffee. There's like "white" witches and "black" witches. Wiccans are the good witches, the white witches. Children of the Earth, man."
"Just tell your child to keep her eye of newt in her purse tonight, okay Chief. I didn't care much for the smell of whatever it was she left on the kitchen counter last week." Jim gave Blair a disapproving look.
Blair went into defensive mode. "Okay, so maybe lately she's had a fascination with the dark side. It's just research, Jim. She said she figures it's better to know the enemy and be able to counteract their magic."
"If you ask me, she's lost touch with reality," said Jim. "A couple of the ladies down in files are Wiccans and I don't see them parading around like Satan's daughters. They're normal, everyday people as far as I can tell. And if she's a "white" witch, then why does she dress like Stevie Nicks in a wind tunnel? That Goth look will get her a role on Dark Shadows but it doesn't say much for promoting her religion as legit. Next time I catch you trying on her 'magic' cape, I'll bury you in it, Sandburg. You want to play Dracula dress-up, you go somewhere else. You want my opinion, I think she's giving you a line there to keep you off her back about being a Satanist. She's just telling you she's Wiccan because you're a cop. You probably wouldn't date her if she told you she was a devil worshiper. Don't expect sympathy if you end up as a sacrifice on some underground slab."
"You're being unfair," complained Blair. "Desiree is a nice person. Maybe she likes wearing black and you're stereotyping her on a preconceived and archaic prejudice against witches in general. At the Salem Witch Trials..."
Simon interrupted quickly. "Never mind the Witch Trials. I'll be burning you at the stake if I have to hear any more about your bizarre love life. You got that?"
"Uh, yeah, Simon," answered Blair.
The evening wasn't going as Blair had planned. Desiree's sister had suffered some sort of setback at the mental hospital and they had spent most of the evening there, comforting and calming her. Agnes, "Aggie," had fried her brain on an overdose of LSD at 18 and three years later, still suffered from wild delusions and nightmares to the point of no return. Normally, as Desiree had explained it to him, Aggie had to be sedated, but recently, she had begun to have lucid moments of sanity. So they had cut back on her medications, hoping that the girl would begin to interact with the real world again. Blair had only known Desiree for three weeks. And what he knew of her was mostly physical. They hadn't spent that much time on the intellectual component of their relationship yet. Blair hadn't complained. Desiree was incredibly sensual to look at with her dyed black hair and blonde roots. Her dark brown eyes lined carefully with the mascara gave her face a Cleopatra look and the body piercing and tattoos were in all the right erogenous zones. Normally, Blair would never have been attracted to her purely for the physical attributes, although that was always foremost on his mind, but she had been so bold at their first meeting that he had been too flustered to refuse her. She had seen him on the street and had followed him to the precinct where she approached him with a line he'd never heard before. "You are my destiny for the moment. Please have sex with me and we'll talk about the immediate future." It was corny but had been delivered with such fervent conviction that he had said yes, despite the looks he had gotten from the others in the bullpen, especially Jim. Jim didn't like her. Jim didn't like most of Blair's girlfriends. And the sad thing was that Jim had pretty good intuitions in that department. He had never told Blair 'not' to date anyone but he would usually give Blair a few lines to make it clear that he didn't approve. Of course, it was Blair's nature to defy Jim in a futile show of independence and machismo despite his record of femme fatales. Fortunately, Jim had been there to pull his defiant butt from the fires of psychotic and eccentric women. Blair looked over at the woman in the black dress rocking the other dressed in her dingy white hospital gown. It should have been a Kodak moment, a warm and tender scene but for some reason, Blair was shivering suddenly as he thought of something. What if Aggie had been one of the children of darkness? Disgusted with the turn of thoughts he was having, Blair decided it was time to get some fresh air. It was already one in the morning. They had been at the mental hospital now for nearly seven hours. Some date. He was tired, he was hungry and he was suddenly finding Desiree very unappealing.
"Hey, Des," he said quietly. "I think I'm going to go out for some air. Maybe it will wake me up a bit. Plus, we should think about going soon. I've got an early call in the morning."
"Blow it off," she commanded. "This is real life. This is much more important than any job."
This took Blair completely by surprise. "What?"
"I can fix things for you, so don't worry about it," she answered, kissing her sister on the head. "They'll never know you're not there."
"Trust me, Des," replied Blair. "Simon is completely spell proof. He really IS Satan. I know."
"Just give me another half an hour or so," she said backing down.
"Yeah, okay. I'll be out in the courtyard when you're ready."
A couple of minutes later, Blair burst through the doors to the outside with a sense of relief. Just the act of exiting that place was relief enough but the cold winter air was briskly refreshing. He hated asylums. It was a true miracle that he wasn't a resident of one himself after all he had been through. All the pain, the torture, the stress he had undergone as the Sentinel's shaman was enough to break any man. Yet, somehow he had survived it and he had survived it because of Jim. For some reason, the two of them just attracted the evil of the world. It was like two cosmic bodies coming together to form a great magnetic net for psychos, murderers, thieves, disasters, and corruption. In the whole picture though, that was a good thing. It had saved a lot of innocent lives. He smiled. And all humility aside, it sort of made them into super heroes. Well, sort of.
He stopped and looked up into the night sky. It was brighter than usual. Moonless nights always made it seem colder. Yet the stars seemed like the ceiling of the Mayan Room, a theme- oriented restaurant he liked to go to. The twinkling lights were reminders of the good things in his life, the positive things. He needed that right now. He needed that reminder. One star seemed brighter than the others. That was Jim, he mused. That was Jim looking out for him, making sure that his partner and friend was safe. Every time he thought of Jim as a father figure or brother, it sent chills down his spine whether it was winter or not.
He grunted and then laughed. No way. If anything, Jim was more analogous to a comet, blazing its way through the cosmos or maybe he was a blue star, quietly condensing and gaining power, waiting to explode in a super nova. What was he thinking? No, Jim was sound asleep at home, completely oblivious to the nocturnal sex life of his partner and had probably locked him out of the apartment with the dead bolt to make sure he wasn't disturbed. It wasn't that Jim didn't care. He did, in his own conservative way. He just wasn't used to showing his emotions like Blair was. And sometimes that had been a bad thing. It meant that Jim's emotions were more raw and sensitive than Blair's. He got hurt much more easily and had built a number of walls to protect himself from it. With all his power and gifts, both physically and mentally, Jim was still vulnerable to attack. Blair tried to be aware of it. It may have been an illusion he had designed to cope with Jim's often gruff and seemingly uncaring nature, but Blair liked to believe that Jim had become emotionally dependent on him.
Besides, Blair was getting used to sleeping in his car when Jim locked him out. In fact, the whole back seat had been converted into a bed, complete with blanket, pillows, and alarm clock. The locker at the precinct held an extra set of clothes and underwear, a toothbrush and a brush for his hair. Though it was considerably shorter now, it was still too thick and curly to run a comb through. Thank goodness that the commissioner had agreed to let Blair forego wearing the rookie uniform when he was with Jim. Couldn't have detectives being conspicuous. Now he only needed the blues official occasions or classes at the Academy. On occasion he donned it for his lady friends who found enhanced pleasure with a man in uniform. Blair had tried to iron it once and had failed miserably. Jim ironed his uniforms for him. Blair giggled. The Sentinel would make a fine wife for some lucky girl someday.
Leaning up against a tree, he looked back at the hospital again. Outside it looked like any other building with this or that window lit up. Why should it still frighten him so? After all, everything was quiet and peaceful.
No, quiet wasn't the word, he thought as he watched a man move an air vent grate away in the far corner of the courtyard. He was dressed in black and was helping another man climb out with him. Now this wasn't kosher and it didn't take a rookie police officer to figure that out. He reached for his gun, something that had become strangely second nature to him now because of the training. Not that he wanted to use it and not that he condoned the use of it, but, as the instructors had screamed into his head at the Academy, your gun may be the only thing between you and certain death. Of course, now that he was willing to reach for it, it wasn't there. He was off-duty and would have to think of something fast. These guys were up to no good and he had to stop them. There were three now but two had bags. Maybe they were escaping inmates. Or maybe they were just thieves. Maybe they were stealing equipment or drugs from the hospital. And now that he was a cop it was his job to stop them. Hopefully, they didn't have weapons, he thought as he approached them, having picked up a short, stubby stick from the ground. Maybe he could fool them into thinking it was a gun in the dark of the night.
"Stop!" he ordered only ten feet from them now. "Police. Put the bags down and get your hands in the air where I can see them!" He desperately wished he had brought his cell phone with him.
The men didn't seem menaced by his approach. Instead, he watched as a fourth man exited the grate now. As soon as he was up, he replaced the grate to its original position and now all four men stood facing him.
"I said 'Police'! Hands in the air!" Thinking that they maybe didn't understand, he tried again. "Policia!"
He saw them look at each other before one pulled a sword from one of the bags. The rookie was now allowed to panic. Normally, a sword was no match for a gun but it would certainly take on a short wooden stick with ease. What was a thief doing with a sword anyway? And then it struck him. Two Jack Morrison. Davey Nightlinger. Joe Samms. Was there a flamethrower in the other bag? How could one man be so unlucky in a lifetime? Why did he have to find the serial killers while on a date with a witch who had a crazy sister? Life was so unfair. He had found the mystery murderers but it wasn't likely that he would be alive to gloat. Four men, four squares, four weapons. It made sense. He would just have to stay strong.
"Put the sword down and hit the ground! I'm placing you all under arrest for the murders of Joe Samms, David Nightlinger and Edward Morrison," he continued to play out his ruse.
The men looked at each other again, obviously not taking him very seriously. Did they think he was just another inmate here?
"He must be new," said one man. "Delusional. Must thinks he's a cop or something."
"Well, he's got guts," said another man. "Thinks that stick he's holding is a gun. Gotta be a whacko."
"Of course, he's got guts. Psychos generally aren't aware of the danger," said the fourth man with an academic tone. "One thing's for sure, we certainly can't let him loose on the city."
"I'm not a psycho," insisted Blair, suddenly flustered by their intellectual appearance. "I'm a real cop and I'm telling you to drop the sword and get your hands where I can see them."
"You know, that's very convincing," noted one of the men. "He's got talent there. With a little coaxing, I'll bet he's got real potential. What do you guys think?"
"You think he's the one?" asked one of the men.
"Maybe," answered another.
"We'll test him later. Right now, we're wasting time here," said the first man. He looked toward Blair. "Do it."
It took Blair a moment to realize that the man wasn't looking at him but at someone behind him. It was too late.
Jim entered the bullpen with a frown. Blair's car hadn't been in the parking lot and he hadn't seen it in the station parking garage either. He had a seven a.m. refresher course that he had missed this morning and it was already closing in on nine in the morning. It wasn't like Blair to be so irresponsible not even when a woman was involved.
"Jim!" came the harsh voice so early in the morning. "In my office now."
Jim hated that sound. It was the sound of a reprimand and it was probably on account of Sandburg missing his class this morning. The department kept close tabs on him since he had been given so many privileges.
As soon as the door was shut, the police captain softened. "Jim, have you heard from Sandburg?"
"No," answered the Sentinel. "I checked and he didn't show up for class either. Why?"
"His girlfriend called dispatch last night asking if he was here. When Rafe called and said he wasn't in class and he hadn't called in sick, I got suspicious. I found the call on the records. She told the operator that his car was still in the hospital parking lot."
"Hospital?" asked Jim starting to get nervous.
"Apparently, the young lady's sister was a patient at Snowden Institute. She overdosed on LSD and never recovered from it. I called the hospital and they told me they called the girl's number last night after her sister experienced an unusually violent episode. Blair and Miss Dansing showed up there. She said he went out into the courtyard about one o'clock and never came back. The hospital staff turned the place upside down looking for him but found nothing. His car wasn't touched. It's right where he parked it last night."
"Call me if you hear anything more," said Jim heading for the door.
"Wait, Jim," said Simon. "I'm going with you."
Just as he finished putting on his jacket, the phone in his office rang.
"Banks," he answered and listened for a moment.
Jim watched the black man's face go from annoyed to concerned.
"Oh God," sighed Simon as he slid back down into his chair. "Yeah, we'll be right there."
"What?" asked Jim wishing he had turned up his Sentinel hearing for the phone conversation.
"Jim, I think you should sit down first," said Simon.
"What? Simon, what's going on?" Jim was not about to sit down.
"They think they found Sandburg. The head's missing but the body still had the wallet in his pocket. It's Sandburg's wallet."
It took a minute to sink in. No, it couldn't be. The murderer's M.O. until now had been strictly lowlife criminals. Why Sandburg? Jim sank down into the chair across from Simon's desk. This was different. The killer had always left the head before. Why hadn't he left the head this time? It was a copycat. It had to be. Some potential victim had decided to change the public's opinion about the City Avenger. If the people thought that he was only killing criminals they would encourage the police not to solve the case too quickly. But if he was now killing cops and innocent people, then there would be an outcry to make these murders the city's main focus. It was the only explanation of why Blair had been a victim.
"Jim, you don't have to go. I'll do it," said Simon sympathetically.
"No, I owe it to him to be there."
"He wouldn't want you to see him like that. I can guarantee it."
"No, I need to be there. I might be able to pick up on something. If the body really is Sandburg's then he would have known that I would eventually see it. If he had time, he would have left me a clue."
"Jim, there's no guarantee of that."
"Let's just get down there, Simon," said Jim, getting up from his chair. "I need to know one way or another."
As he and the captain walked through the bullpen, the news had already spread. There were tears flowing down Brown's face and Rafe had gone ashen as he stared helplessly at Jim.
"It's not really true that Sandy was beheaded, is it?" asked Megan running from the elevator. "It's a joke, right?"
She looked from man to man. It was true and she burst into tears, turning to Jim for comfort who couldn't give it. He was already too numb. His senses were numb as well. He couldn't even raise his arms to hold her as she cried against his chest. Simon finally pulled her over to him, seeing the terrified look on the Sentinel's face.
"Listen," he consoled. "We don't know for sure yet if the body really is Sandburg's. Just because it had his wallet doesn't mean it was him. Until we know for sure, we run on the assumption that the kid is still alive and that someone just stole his wallet. Maybe he was mugged and maybe the mugger got caught by the City Avenger. Sandburg could be lying hurt in some alley somewhere."
That thought hadn't occurred to anyone yet. It seemed to bring them all back to their senses including Jim who, more than anyone in the room, needed an alternate explanation to the situation.
Jim knew immediately that it was a copycat as they drove up to the scene. There was blood everywhere. In the original murders, the blood had been contained around the victim. The decapitation had been clean and swift and it had taken the body a few moments before the shock wore off and it had bled. But as he got out of Simon's car, the difference in crime scenes was apparent. Blood was splattered for several feet around the victim and as he approached the body, he could see that there were stab wounds and hack marks on it. So Sandburg had seen it coming and had fought. Jim recognized the shirt on the man and felt the lump return to his throat again. As he approached the body, the severing of the head hadn't been swift either. It had taken several blows to accomplish. Some had bit deeply into the collarbone. Part of the left arm was gone. Unable to use his Sentinel abilities, he groaned. Looking away from the hideous corpse, he saw a cat behind a dumpster near the back of the alley, chewing on the missing arm. Suddenly, his whole body began to shake and Simon had to pull him back away.
"Jim, I think you'd better let us handle this. I'll have someone drive you home."
"No, Simon," answered Jim with a growl. "Whoever did this tortured him. It wasn't fast or painless this time. It was slow and someone had to have heard the screams. I'm going to find the son of a bitch and rip him apart with my bare hands."
"Captain," said a uniformed cop stepping up to him. "We found these on the body. Still haven't found the left arm. Or the head."
"Behind the dumpster down there," hissed Jim. "Do your job, man."
"Jim!" reprimanded Simon.
"It's all right, captain," said the uniform. "We all knew Sandburg. I'm really sorry, Ellison. I know how tough it must be losing another partner. Especially like this." He stepped away, ordering one of the forensic people to follow him.
Simon could still feel the man shaking. "Jim, I never expected this. It was worse than I thought. You shouldn't be here. I'm ordering you to go home. I'll have Rafe come sit with you until we can get the department counselor there to talk to you. We're all going to need her on this one."
"No, Simon," insisted Jim. "I'm not leaving. I'm on this case. You can't stop me. Department approval or not." With that, he went back to examining the body.
Simon watched sadly, his own horror and grief mixing with his duty as a police officer. He knew how close the two of them had been and he couldn't even begin to imagine what Jim was feeling.
Jim stopped the forensic photographer. "Did you already get the body photographed?"
"Yeah, we're ready to bag him," answered the man insensitively. "Why?"
Jim didn't answer. Instead, he quickly pulled on the rubber gloves he had in his pocket and knelt beside the body. At first, he seemed to be doing his job as he looked at what was left of the neck. Suddenly, he ripped open Blair's shirt and fell back with a look of shock. Simon didn't have a clue what was happening until he saw the look on Jim's face change.
"It's not him!" he finally exploded with relief. "Jesus, Simon! It's not him!"
"Jim, how could you know? We haven't got the fingerprints back yet," asked the captain.
"Sandburg's as hairy as those apes he used to experiment with. This guy's got a clean chest. Trust me, Simon. It's not him. I should know. I'm the one who has to unclog the shower drain all the time because of all the hair. Jesus, I've seen him naked. This isn't him."
Now it was Simon's turn to sigh in relief. At least there was a chance that the kid was alive now. Going to his car, Simon got on the radio and put out the APB on Blair Sandburg. That would certainly cheer a few people up at the precinct.
Returning to Jim who was still squatting beside the body, Simon rejoined him. "So where is he and why did this guy have his shirt and wallet?"
"I don't know, Simon," said Jim. "Maybe this guy mugged him for his shirt and wallet. It got pretty cold last night. That's gotta mean that he's hurt bad enough that he can't get to a phone."
Simon stood up again. "I'll put in a call to all the local hospitals and see if they have a John Doe that fits his description. See what you can do about dredging up some clues here for us."
Jim nodded. Wherever Sandburg was, he was in trouble but at least, he was alive.
Blair woke to the quiet, methodical sound of water lapping up against something hollow. He opened his eyes slowly only to shut them against the onslaught of blinding light. Now covering his face with his arm, he tried again but he still couldn't see anything except the shadows. It was the bright light that was causing him blindness. His head was spinning and his body felt as if a giant rock were weighing it down. He was on fire. How could that be if he was in water? Where was he? He tried to sit up but the motion around him caused him to fall back. He was rocking. Putting both arms out to steady himself, he began to pull himself up but stopped instantly as an intense pain surged through his groin. Swallowing back the urge to scream, he continued to pull himself up anyway, desperately trying to focus his eyes in the intense light. Finally, they began to adjust and the light dimmed just enough for him to see shapes. He was in a boat. No, not a boat, a narrow canoe maybe. Letting go of the side of the boat with one hand, he used the other to probe himself for wounds. Awkwardly, he moved his free arm across his chest and then down to his legs. His pants hurt where the cloth touched his skin but, at least, he wasn't physically on fire. Whatever it was causing the pain was under the skin. And he was so thirsty. He could hear the water teasing him. What if he drank the water? He felt horrible at the moment and unconsciousness seemed like an excellent idea suddenly. He was about to let himself fall back onto the floor of the boat when something caught his eye. Shielding the paper from the light, he struggled to examine it closer but could barely make out the words even though they were large and black.
"Welcome Home, Sea Demon."
Jim let out a long sigh of frustration. The crime scene was too chaotic, too bloody to see anything. Now he watched as the coroner's employees lifted the partial body into the black bag.
"Wait!" exclaimed Jim suddenly focusing in on the bottom of the man's right shoe, his Sentinel powers returning. There was something there.
Simon had seen his detective jump suddenly. It could only mean that he had finally found a clue. Walking to the corpse, he knelt down beside the detective.
"What did you find, Jim?"
"Look, Simon," said Jim, pointing to a fishhook stuck to the rubber cleats on the bottom of the man's hiking boots.
"Jim, he could have picked that up anywhere," said Simon. "This whole city is surrounded by the fishing industry."
"Yeah, maybe, but would anywhere have sand like this?" Jim pointed to some red sand.
"Red Sand Cove?"
"It's the only place I know of with sand that color around here." Jim was already sprinting towards Simon's car.
"Jim, wait!" yelled Simon after him. "Don't you think we ought to check out the hospital and see if we can find anything there?"
"I smelled vomit and fish guts on his shoes," answered Jim, getting into the passenger seat. "Blair's not at a hospital. This guy had his wallet and shirt and I'm guessing that they weren't gifts. Unless there's fish hooks and sand at Cascade General, my money is on Red Sand Cove."
Simon nodded and pulled out his keys from his pocket. This was definitely turning into a bizarre case already. But when was it ever normal around Jim or Sandburg for that matter?
Red Sand Cove was a quiet fishing spot about half an hour north of Cascade. But for Simon, the drive had only taken fifteen minutes. Jim had insisted on speed and they had gone through town with lights and siren blaring. Jim didn't even let the car come to a full stop before he was hopping out and hurrying to the dock master's office.
Simon came in on the interrogation already in progress.
"Nope, haven't seen anyone by that description around here," said the old man in his seventies. "Alls I know is that some dang fool stole one of my canoes off the river expedition truck. Didn't take the paddles. Just the boat. Now what good is a canoe without paddles, eh?"
"You didn't hear anything last night?"
"Nope, nothing but then, I'm a sound sleeper and half deaf anyway, so I don't hear nothing too well. And if they took that boat out to sea, they're in mighty big trouble. There's been a few Great White's spotted here in the last couple of days and a canoe with somebody's arm paddling it around is going to look exactly like a tasty seal calling them in for dinner."
Jim sighed. "Would there be anybody here that might have seen something going on here last night?"
"There's a retired couple staying in the rental cabin by the dock for the week. They might have heard something but mostly this place is for day fishermen. It's not really set up for camping."
"Can I get a list of all the people who dock their boats here?" asked Jim.
"Sure but it will take me a few minutes to get it together for you. You could go and talk with the Mailers meanwhile. They usually head into town for early lunch, so you'd better hurry."
Jim exited the door instantly. He was a man on a mission. Simon almost felt like laughing. The man was better than a trained hound and much less likely to be distracted by a bone or dog in heat. Okay, maybe the dog in heat. This Superman did have his kryptonite and it was his pheromones.
"Mr. Mailer?" asked Jim approaching the man on the porch.
"Yes?" answered the elderly man.
"I'm Detective Ellison with the Cascade PD. This is Captain Banks. We're here investigating a murder and possible kidnapping of a police officer last night. We'd like to ask you a few questions if we may?"
The old man looked shocked as did his wife who had appeared at the cabin door.
"What do we have to do with this?"
"Nothing, sir. We just need your help."
"What can I do? I don't know anything about this."
"Just a few questions, sir and we'll let you get back to your vacation here."
"Sure, ask away," said the man, suddenly feeling important.
"Did you or your wife hear anything unusual last night. It would have been between one a.m. and six this morning."
"Well, we were up at five and had breakfast on the porch," said Mrs. Mailer. "I don't remember anything out of the ordinary."
"Well, let's see," said the man. "There was the boat we heard coming into dock just as we were waking up. Didn't see anything though."
"Would you happen to know which boat?" asked Jim.
"Like I said, didn't see it but it had a pretty distinct knock in the engine."
"A knock?" asked Simon.
"Yeah, like it was missing something. Definitely needed a tune-up."
"If you were to hear it again, do you think you'd recognize which boat?"
"Well, yes, I suppose I probably could."
"Would you mind coming down to the dock with us for a few moments while we fire them up?"
"I guess so," said the man. "That okay with you, kitten?"
"Well, of course. Anything we can do to help find the missing officer."
As the three men headed for the boats, the dock master appeared with the list. "Here's the list you asked for. Anything else you boys need?" he asked.
"Any boats sign out for a fishing trip last night?"
The dock master shook his head. "Nope. But then, the owners have their own keys and can come and go as they please. Most of them don't sign out. Don't want their wives to figure out where and what they're doing."
"Do you have spare keys for the boats here?"
"Sure. I keep them in the safe. The owners like for me to have a spare just in case of an emergency or in case I need to move them into the sheltered dock down the way."
"Can we get them?"
A few minutes later, Jim was revving up the motor of a medium sized yacht.
"Nope," said the man, shaking his head. "From the sound of the motor, I'd say it's probably one of those." He pointed to the faster cruisers. "Pretty powerful motors."
Within minutes, they had found the boat.
"Yep, this is the one," said the old man. "That's the boat I heard this morning."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Mailer. You've been a great help. We may need to talk with you later, if that's okay?" asked Simon.
"Sure, but my wife's a diabetic. I need to get her fed here soon."
"By all means," said Simon. "Please go on. We can catch up with you later if need be."
Jim had already begun examining the boat with his Sentinel senses. His head suddenly jerked back a little.
"What, you come up with something?" asked Simon watching the old man hurry up the dock invigorated by the excitement.
Moving quickly down below deck, Jim pulled his weapon, motioning for the dock master to stay back. Simon pulled his now as well and was ready when Jim opened the door to the cabin below. On the floor was a paper cup. There was a crystalline ring around the one hundred milligram mark. Jim picked it up and smelled it first.
"I don't know, Simon," he said. "But Blair was here. I smell him."
Within the hour, there was a mobile lab and forensics team scouring the boat for more evidence. Jim had found blood on the deck.
"Captain Banks?" questioned a lab technician approaching Simon and Jim.
"The substance in the cup was pretty easy to determine. Amitriptyline. It's a prescription- only drug. Definitely not an over-the-counter agent. In minute doses, it's effective as a treatment for depression and anxiety but not lethal if given in the right doses. However, anything above fifty milligrams can be deadly. If your man ingested what it looks like he did, he's probably already dead. Generally it takes anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour for it to go through the bloodstream. We checked it for dilution and found a small trace of water but given the potency of the drug, even with water, it's lethal. The cup's still damp which means that the drug was administered maybe two hours ago, which means there's a remote chance he's still alive. But he can't be in very good shape. Assuming he wasn't dumped in the water, he doesn't have much time from the evidence we have here."
"Fine," said Jim already hearing the Coast Guard helicopter Simon had ordered.
The dock master had said that most of the owners log in their mileage every trip as a safety precaution. This boat had traveled thirty miles, which meant fifteen out and fifteen back. It was a long shot but whomever it was had probably set Blair adrift somewhere in the ocean in the missing canoe. Why he hadn't just been thrown into the sea or killed outright was still a mystery but one they would have to solve later.
"Is there an antidote?" asked Jim above the noise of the chopper.
"No. At this stage of the game, pumping his stomach probably would be useless. The drug has already had plenty of time to absorb into his system. The only thing you can do is keep the airway open, keep the heart pumping until you can get him to a hospital."
Jim nodded as he boarded the helicopter with Simon.
"We'll find him, Jim," yelled Simon as they took off.
Blair couldn't stop shaking. He was sure that his bones would just fall apart any minute and it was starting to frighten him. He had tried desperately to remember what had happened to him. But right now, he couldn't even remember his name. All he knew was that he felt as if he might spontaneously combust any moment. All he could see was a blinding light above him, searing him to death like a fish out of water.
"No," he cried out.
The noise of his own voice hurt his ears, which were already ringing. Unable to even sit up, he was helpless and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. It had to be the oven he was in. Someone was cooking him alive, roasting him slowly. Sea Demon? Who was Sea Demon? Was he Sea Demon? Did he belong in the ocean? If he somehow could get up and jump into the sea, would he be saved by the cold water? 'Welcome home, Sea Demon.' He had to be Sea Demon. He had to get to the water. The water would save him from baking.
Jim wasn't going to let his fears interfere with finding Blair. He had charted out a search grid by following a path straight out to sea and then accounted for drift and current. He would search there. It was his only hope. And from the evidence, it was probably Blair's only hope. How the kid got into these scrapes was beyond him but it was so bizarre, so out of the blue that he couldn't even comprehend this one himself. Normally, there was some reason for the trouble his partner got him into. There was usually some logical thread to follow, some connection, but this was as random as he could imagine at the moment. Somehow it connected but not in the helpful way. It was just a string of circumstances. If this new decapitation victim hadn't stumbled into the path of a copycat serial killer, they might have never known what had happened to his partner. He would have been lost to them forever and still might be.
"There!" yelled the Sentinel suddenly spotting the flash of light on the waves. "South twenty- five degrees!"
The chopper pilot maneuvered the helicopter in that direction, not sure what the man in the back had seen.
"It's probably just the sun reflecting on a wave crest, sir!" yelled the co-pilot back to the detectives. "We get that all the time out here on a sunny day."
"Get lower," ordered Jim.
As they swung lower, he heard the pilot exclaim. "Well, I'll be."
There it was. A lone canoe rocking unsteadily against the building waves.
"That thing's going to tip over any minute!" yelled Simon as he looked down at the craft where they could now see the prone figure of a man.
"I'm going in," yelled Jim as he put on his life jacket.
"No, sir!" yelled the pilot. "Great Whites in the water about twenty yards to the portside, sir. We can't risk putting you into the water. We'll call for the ship."
"How long will that take?"
"About ten minutes, sir! They're only about five miles from here right now."
"He may not have ten minutes!" yelled Jim.
"Jim, I know how you feel but we're going to have to wait for the ship. I know you think you're invincible but you can't wrestle a Great White. One bite and you're gone. Two and you're both gone. Don't be a fool!"
Simon was right and Jim knew it but it killed him to see his partner leaning closer and closer to capsizing as the waves swelled and dipped. It was going to be very long ten minutes.
Jim watched as the boat shot out a canister of shark repellent near the canoe. As soon as the two sharks they had seen from above were swimming away, Jim was in the water. He wasn't going to wait for the boat to maneuver in and the divers to get fitted. He was going to his partner now.
Resurfacing, he caught his breath and began swimming toward the canoe. Gaining the side of the craft, he tipped the edge of the canoe to get a better view of Blair. He didn't need to check for life, it was clear that Blair was still breathing. He could hear the rasping sound of his lungs struggling for air. His eyes were open but not looking at anything in particular.
"Blair? It's Jim. I'm here, pal. Just hang on. We're going to get you out of here."
Blair didn't answer. He was shaking.
"Hold on, Chief," said Jim again, hoping that Blair could at least hear him.
Jim was pacing the waiting room at the hospital. In his hands was the Sea Demon comic book they had found in the boat. Sea Demon #1. He had read it over and over trying to make sense of it as it related to Sandburg. Sandburg generally read Spawn comics and why would he be in a stolen canoe, half-naked, drugged and reading a Sea Demon comic book? They had checked it for prints but it was in mint condition, no prints except for Sandburg's. No chemicals, no nothing and not even a unique storyline. It was just your typical super hero theme. Nothing related to anything in real life even Sandburg's. There was nothing obvious but it had to be a clue.
The doctor finally stepped through the doors.
"Captain Banks?" asked the doctor.
"I'm Banks," answered Simon who had been talking with Rafe. "How is he?"
Jim was crowding next to him now as the doctor spoke. "It's not good. We've managed to stabilize his vitals but there's still a danger. Apparently, he was given aspirin with it and that caused a rise in his blood pressure. As long as it's in his system, there's a risk of congestive heart failure or stroke. We'll have to monitor him closely for the next twenty-four hours."
"But what?" asked Jim noticing the hesitation in the doctor's voice.
"He's suffering from serious delusions. He'll be going through some manic depressive episodes along with hallucinations and depression. The good news is that I think he'll make a full recovery. The bad news is that it could be a month or so of supervision and monitoring. I'd like to recommend that you put him in a full-time care facility for the next two weeks. After that, we can re-evaluate his progress. Any time we have a case of drug overdose related to the nervous system, it's better to be safe. These things can come back to haunt a person months, even years afterwards."
"No," said Jim definitively. "He was in one of those places before. It nearly killed him... and me. Why can't he just stay here?"
"You couldn't afford it," answered the doctor truthfully. "And home care would cost you almost as much. The Snowden Institute is covered by your department insurance for short-term care. I'm going to recommend that he be sent there as soon as he's able to be moved."
"Thanks, doc," answered Simon, seeing that Jim was going to argue the point. "When can we see him?"
"You can see him now but we've had to sedate him. He's under the delusion that he's some sort of sea creature and needs to be in water or he'll die. We're afraid if he gets loose, he'll end up drowning himself."
"Sea Demon," said Jim, holding up the comic book in his hand.
"Well, okay, Sea Demon. We've had to strap him down, so don't be alarmed. He's fine. We just don't want him hurting himself."
Jim nodded and followed Simon and the doctor. Rafe was behind him. It was going to be painful for all of them but the kid was strong and he was alive.
Jim had been dozing in the waiting room when his cell phone rang. It was obviously morning now as the sun glared into the room.
"Ellison," he answered sleepily.
"Jim?" It was Simon. "Have you been there all night? I thought I told you to go home and get some rest."
"What do you need, Simon?" he asked, unwilling to take a lecture this early in the morning.
"There's been another murder. The victim was exsanguinated."
"Next to the body. Same guy, Jim. Only this one was vampirized."
"This just doesn't make any sense, Simon. One guy, no common denominator. I'm going to check on Blair first, then I'll be there. Where is it?"
"Green and Seventh Avenue," said Simon. "I'll meet you there."
Jim walked up to Blair's bedside. This one just felt wrong. Why? What was the link between Blair, the Sea Demon comic book, and the murders? Somehow Blair had the answer in his scrambled head. Taking his partner's hand, he squeezed gently.
"I need an answer, pal. Play the nutty professor all you want later but we have a serial killer on the loose and I need your help."
"Water," said the man in the bed suddenly. "I need water."
Jim poured him a glass quickly. Unable to reach it, Jim lifted his partner's head and let him sip it slowly. When he had finished, the Sentinel leaned in closer and stroked his friend's head.
"Blair, buddy, you know who I am?"
"The Sentinel," replied the younger man confidently. "You're the Sentinel, savior of the city, warrior destined to save the city from the evil that plagues it."
Jim laughed. It was a good thing his partner was considered insane at the moment. "You make me sound like a super hero."
"You are," said Blair seriously. "And I'm your ally of the sea. I keep the waters around the city safe."
"Sea Demon," sighed Jim. "How do you know that you're Sea Demon, Blair?"
"I... I just am."
"When? When did you first know?"
Blair seemed to be thinking. "I don't know. When did you know you were the Sentinel? It was a revelation, a gut feeling. I... I don't know who I was before or where I came from. It's all a blur but I'm sure it will come back to me soon enough."
"But you do remember something? What happened to you last night?"
"I was out fighting evil. Black demons popping up from the ground, like shadows."
This may have been just residual nightmares from the time Blair had overdosed on the drug Golden, thought Jim. He saw demons then too, people made from ash.
"Describe these demons. Maybe I can find them and take care of them for you."
"Why am I tied down here? I have to save the city."
Jim decided to go along with Blair's delusion to get his answers. "You're stronger than you think, Chief. Someone, and I'm assuming it's an evil villain neither of us knows about yet, slipped you a drug that nearly killed you last night. With your super powers, and for the safety of the city and those around you, we had to strap you down until the drug wears off and you're in complete control again."
That seemed to satisfy the kid. "That's good to know. I was a little worried that I was hallucinating there. I thought for a while there that this was all just a bad dream. Duncan told me something like this might happen. That I'd question my existence."
"Duncan?" asked Jim suddenly picking up on the strange name. As far as he knew, neither of them knew a Duncan. "Strange, I haven't seen Duncan around lately. Where's he been lately?" Jim wondered if any of this was going to be helpful but you didn't just pull a name from thin air.
"Working. There's a lot of scum and villainy out there. It's a never ending battle for justice but then, you know that."
Jim smiled. "More than you realize. Was Duncan with anyone else when you saw him last night? Maybe I can hook up with him if I can find him. We can combine forces."
Blair seemed to concentrate. "Would you consider yourself a comet or a star?"
"What?" asked Jim.
"I guess you're more like a comet. Speeding along in the scheme of things. A loner, a renegade against nature. I wish I could be more like you. I envy you. What you can do, what you feel and hear. Sometimes, I think you'd rather not have me around. I'm a hindrance to you. I slow you down."
"That's not true," answered Jim, suddenly realizing that this was Blair talking now and not Sea Demon. "I need you. If I didn't, I wouldn't be hanging around with you. You wouldn't be my partner."
"You never show it," answered the man in the bed.
"Like how?" asked the detective. "How should I be showing it?"
"If I died, it wouldn't be such a big deal for you. You could go on. You would just close down that emotion. You don't ever compliment me on what I do unless I press it. You don't defend me when we're out with the guys. You tease me. It's just a strange way to care about someone if you ask me."
Jim was suddenly feeling the sting of Blair's words. He cared. Surely the kid knew that by now. What had he done to make this come to the surface now?
"Blair, what's up? What makes you think I don't care?"
"It's okay," sighed Sandburg. "The Sentinel can't afford to get too attached to someone like me. I'm expendable. I know that. I'm sorry. I shouldn't expect more than that. It's a failing I need to work on."
The doctor had said that depression was all a part of this and this conversation was definitely heading that way. Apparently, Blair needed reassurance that he was needed and wanted. Jim put his hand on his friend's face, cupping it gently. "You're so much like a brother to me that I forget to tell you how much I do appreciate having you around. I'm sorry if I take that for granted. You've made my life interesting. You've taught me more about myself than I ever could have learned on my own. And you've been there to keep me sane and even save my butt from the fire a few times. The fact that you sacrificed your entire career to keep my identity safe was more than any man I know would have done. I don't think I really ever discussed that with you. You're a lot more important to me than you can ever imagine."
Blair's eyes met his roommate's. They seemed lucid enough. "You shouldn't repress the emotions, Jim. It's hard on your physiological make-up. Adds stress where there shouldn't be. You should learn to loosen up a bit and say what you really feel." He smiled before his eyes clouded. "Who are you?" he suddenly asked.
"I'm the Sentinel," answered Jim realizing that he had lost his friend to the drug again. "Someone tried to kill you last night. What happened? Do you remember anything?"
Blair closed his eyes. "Yes, I remember some things. Just images and some people. I was with the gang on a boat. I must have already been losing it. I think they were trying to help me remember who I was."
"On a boat? Who was there with you?" questioned Jim, now interested in the story.
"Ben was holding me. He's a good man, you know?"
Jim nodded. "Who else?"
"Duncan, Nick, Johnny, and Ben. There might have been someone else but I don't remember."
"Duncan, Nick, Johnny and Ben? Where was the boat?"
"I don't know. I think I must have been poisoned. They tried to give me an antidote but it was too late. I passed out and that's all I can remember."
"It's been a while since I was at Duncan's place. Remind me where he lives," coaxed Jim.
Blair had opened his eyes and now looked frightened. "You aren't the Sentinel or you'd know the secret hideout."
"Relax. I am the Sentinel but I went there last night looking for you and it was deserted. What's going on? Why am I being left out of the loop?"
Calming, Blair's eyes seemed to suddenly get heavy.
"Where would they be, Blair? I need to get an important message to them."
"Everybody knows where they live, Jim," said Blair strangely. "Everybody." With that, he seemed to start to fade into unconsciousness. "Hold the fort, will you? I'm really tired here."
"Sure thing, Chief," sighed Jim as he watched his partner's eyes close.
So there were four guys involved in last night's adventure. And now he had the first names of four of them. It was a start, at least.
"I don't know which of you should be committed first," complained Simon after hearing the strange story. "You heard what the doctor said, he's delusional. How do you know any of this is even true?"
"I don't but it's all we have to go on. And it would explain why there's more than one M.O. being played out. Four different psychos working together as some vigilante group. For some reason, they convinced Blair he's the Sea Demon. I don't know why but they gave him the Amitriptyline and used it like a hypnotic enhancer. I don't think they meant to kill him. They want him to believe that he's a super hero for some reason."
Simon was staring at the body on the ground. The two holes in the neck were unusually large. Definitely not made by any normal fangs. They looked large enough to have housed exsanguination tubes.
"Jim, so what you're saying is that we have a group of guys out there that believe they're super heroes cleaning up the city? Some kind of collective Superman?"
"More like Batman," said Jim, examining the body.
"Duncan," said Rafe, now picking up on the conversation. "Duncan MacLeod. He's a TV character who uses a sword. A sharp katana that makes a clean cut when he cuts his enemy's head off."
"Yeah? Well, Batman didn't bite people and suck their blood," reproved Simon. "What hero did that?"
"No, it's not Batman," observed Rafe. "I can't quite remember the whole plot line but there was a show I caught late one night about a vampire that was also a cop. He was definitely sucking blood though. I think it's still on late night television in syndication."
"Okay, we look up his name and if it's Nick then we're in business. What about the fire bug?" answered Simon, finally buying into the theory. After all, it was as good as any they had so far.
"The Human Torch. There was a comic book character called The Human Torch." Rafe was getting excited now. "I forgot what the original's name was, but the new release character's name is Johnny Storm."
"Okay, smart guy," said Jim. "Who's Ben?"
"What does he do again?" asked Rafe.
"Carries a blue lightning rod," answered Simon.
Rafe caught it immediately. "That's not lightning, that's a lightsaber. It's Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. Ben Kenobi uses a Jedi lightsaber."
"This is ridiculous," exclaimed Simon suddenly. "This is a stretch even for you, Jim."
"It fits, Simon. It would also explain why they would try and convince Blair he was the Sea Demon. That way, they could get him to drown himself without having to lay a finger on him. If he was found floating dead in the boat with the comic book, then we'd think he tripped on the drug and went in search of his comic book hero."
"Blair was into Sea Demon comics?" asked Rafe in surprise.
"I don't think he'd ever heard of him before but that wouldn't matter. It would be an open and closed case." Jim's mind was racing to try and put things together.
"No, it wouldn't. There was too much evidence of foul play," reminded Simon.
"Not if they didn't know he was a real cop. What if they thought he was already a psycho? He disappeared at the hospital."
"They had to have seen his badge," said Rafe.
"No," said Jim. "Review the sequence of events. We've got victims showing up that rival those on television. Blair goes to an asylum where he disappears. Desiree says he was taking a walk in the courtyard. But the gates and doors are locked at all times. There's no way for someone from the outside to get in and no way for someone on the inside to get out unless someone helps them by undoing the locks. Say Sandburg was there in the courtyard when he sees these guys and comes to the conclusion that they're up to no good. He's not wearing a gun but probably does something stupid like confronts them. Obviously, they're going to think he's loony tunes for coming after them one to four. Only an insane person would do that and we all know Sandburg qualifies. He might have faked having a gun or something. Now we know that the boat they used belonged to the latest victim, Jimmy Felton. So they escape the compound with a nutcase who thinks he's a cop out to clean up the city at night. Just like them. They don't kill him, wondering what to do with him and decide that he should become one of them. When they strip him down to redress him as one of the good guys, maybe not Sea Demon but maybe somebody else, they find the wallet and discover that he's a real cop after all. Now, these guys are super heroes, good guys. They can't go around killing cops. So they need to make it look like suicide or an accident. The mark must have been Jimmy so they go on with the mission dragging Sandburg in tow, probably unconscious by now. When they get to Jimmy's boat, he's not there and they find the Sea Demon comic by accident. Maybe he was a collector or something. It gives them the idea of how to off him and keep their hands clean. All the scenarios fly okay. The drug they already take and probably carry with them on their night jaunts is perfect. Even if he's found, he's vegetable soup for quite some time and who's going to believe that four psychos from an asylum are running around loose on the city at night? Nobody. So they give him the drug which makes him pliable to suggestion, they convince him he's Sea Demon and they're just sending him home to recuperate. He floats out to sea without a struggle, gets put down by the progression of the drug in his system and dies from the effects of an overdose. If that didn't work, plan B goes into effect. If he thinks he's a super hero who gets his strength from the ocean, then splash, he's down. He ends up drowning himself, thinking he has gills and fins."
"Wow," sighed Rafe cynically. "You're good. Put some pictures to that story and you could sell children's fairy tales."
"I can't believe I'm saying this but it makes sense to me," replied Simon. "But what about the shirt and wallet?"
"They're psychos, Simon. Not geniuses. They strip him down to his pants, throw his stuff in a pile on shore, thinking they'll pick them up later. Jimmy comes by, finds the pile of discarded clothes, likes the shirt for whatever disgusting reason. Forensics said he was drunk at the time of his death. So maybe he messed his own shirt or something, so he finds a clean shirt just laying there and changes. Then he finds the wallet. What a stroke of luck. He puts it in his pocket to check out later and leaves. He's so drunk, he doesn't know where his boat is and doesn't care. So he returns to the city and doesn't know that the four Stooges have a fan club. He bumps into the wannabe and that's the end of his story. Meanwhile, the real murderers return to the asylum before breakfast and no one is the wiser."
"You've been free-basing some of that Amitriptyline yourself, haven't you?" snipped Rafe.
"Alright," said Simon, "let's just say for a delusionary moment, you're right. Now we have to prove they're real and not just a figment of your imagination."
"They're transferring Blair to Snowden today. It will give me an excuse to be there. I can go undercover as his older brother." Jim was sure that he had Simon convinced.
"I'm with you on the idea of this being someone from Snowden," said the police captain. "This could be dangerous enough for a sane man, Jim. I don't like Blair being the bait. He's in a pretty vulnerable state right now and I don't think we should risk anything interfering with his recovery."
"Simon, I know the risk but I'll be there. Nothing's going to happen to him."
Simon could read between the lines. Jim wanted an excuse to be with Sandburg and in the process, he could use his Sentinel abilities to eavesdrop on the inmates. Superman would be in- house. Sighing, he bit his lip and considered the pros and cons to the proposed sting. The killings had started slowly but were escalating now as the killer or killers grew bolder. There was a good chance that at this rate, there would be another killing tonight. And with a copycat loose, there was even more danger of it happening again and soon.
"This is crazy but it's just crazy enough to work. Not as a visitor though. That's going to look too suspicious. We need 24-hour surveillance and Snowden doesn't allow visitors to stay past normal visiting hours. If you were there, it would look too suspicious and would mean that you or Sandburg had special privileges. I'm going to have to make a few calls first but the safest cover is to have you committed there too. I can arrange for them to put the two of you in the same room."
"Fine," agreed Jim, not giving Simon the argument he expected. "Whatever it takes to get inside."
"I'll get on it," said Simon, taking a last look at the bloody mess around him. "I want this thing cleaned up pronto, people," he ordered to the others moving about in the alley.
Blair wasn't sure about the bindings holding him to the bed but he was sure of the headache and nausea he was encountering. There were flashes of memory and confusion and his eyes were still sensitive to the light in the room. Something had happened and it couldn't be good if he was here. Closing his eyes again, he listened to the sounds in the hall. He was in a hospital. Okay, this was something he had done before. No big thing but why the bindings? Taking a deep breath, he focused on his memories. There were the four black figures. No, five. He had been looking at them when someone had hit him from behind. Four characters in costumes, a boat, the water. Yes, water. He was Sea Demon. He was dying here. He was being held in place by the Evil Lord of the Sith Darth Vader... or was it Chewbacca? Damn, he needed to remember. The last face he remembered was a man's face. Could be Chewbacca after a bad case of mange. On the other hand, he could have been a doctor who hadn't shaved. Jim. Wait, it was Jim. Yeah, okay, that was who it was. So Jim knew where he was and had left him here. It had to be safe then, right? Jim wouldn't kill the Sea Demon. Jim was one of the good guys, wasn't he? Blair closed his eyes again and tried to concentrate on the memories of Jim. Yet everything he saw in his memory was violent. Shooting, running, explosions, kidnapping, Jim hitting him, people shooting at both of them, and even... even death. Now the Sea Demon was really confused.
"Says here his name's James Ellison," said the intern with a smile. "Well, I have to admit it's different. Looks like our friend here was playing G.I. Joe in some wannabe people's army camp and watched a guy get blown to pieces mishandling a grenade. He's been manic ever since. Doesn't talk much but when he does, talks about being a soldier."
The orderly shook his head as he looked at the man sitting in the wheelchair staring straight ahead. He looked healthy enough, strong enough but someone had turned off the main switch.
"He looks like he works out. Can't be too out of it," he observed.
The intern flipped through the paperwork. "Says here that he has aggressive tendencies. The therapists have him turning it into a workout."
"Well, I'm not looking forward to dealing with him off of his Thorazine," said the one man.
"So where's he being housed?"
"Fish boy's room," answered the intern with the information chart.
"Soldier boy in with Flipper?" smiled the other man. "Now that ought to be interesting. Kind of like putting a baby lamb in with a hungry lion."
"Yeah, remember that scene in Jurassic Park where they chain a goat to bait the T-Rex?" asked the one, putting down the chart.
"The guy won't have a chance tied down to that bed," clucked the other one.
"Yeah," laughed the other intern. "Funny how life mimics the movies, eh?"
Megan had been assigned to be the liaison between the department and the asylum. She was Jim's wife. She sat in the room beside Jim who was looking out the window silently.
"I know you," said Blair from the bed across the room. "I know you. Wonder Woman has black hair. Yours is red. You... you're... you're..."
"Brenda Starr?" asked Megan with a smile.
"No," grimaced Blair with a sigh. "Why are you with Jim?"
"I'm his wife," answered Megan seeing a nurse at the door. "Does my presence upset you?"
"No," answered Blair. "Well, sort of. Jim's my friend."
"He's my husband but I can be your friend too, Sandy."
"Okay," answered Blair quickly. "Could you tell the nurse that I have to go to the bathroom?"
She smiled again. "Of course," she answered getting up.
A few moments later, Blair was free to find his own way down the hall, leaving Jim and Megan alone.
"Has he said anything new?" asked Megan.
"Nothing," said Jim quietly. "Just that he's glad I'm here."
The grin reappeared on Megan's face. "I think that's sweet."
"Yeah, real sweet," sighed Jim. "Sometimes I think he's coming out of it and then he lapses back into this Sea Demon thing."
"And it scares you, doesn't it?" she asked, suddenly picking up on his concern. "They said it will go away in a few days. I wouldn't worry so much. It just gives you a chance to see farther into his psyche."
"Farther than I care to," said Jim. "It's pretty frightening even when he's sane."
Megan thought for a moment. "Yes, I suppose it would be. He is a bit unusual."
"Any leads yet on the copy cat?" asked Jim.
"Nothing to speak of. We found a footprint but it's not enough."
"How about the names? Any matches?"
"Only two Duncan's and they both check out. The other names are a lot more common but we're checking them out. Two of the names check out with patients here but no Duncan as a patient or on staff. And as for character delusions, Blair's the only one with that fixation according to the records."
"No other prints on the boat?"
"Just Jimmy's and some other people that check out with alibis. No one connected with this place though."
"Tell Simon to make sure that the doctor gives me the placebo. I don't know what the Thorazine would do to me." Jim could hear the nurse approaching and turned to look out the window again. "You'd better get going."
"Yes?" answered Megan.
The nurse looked concerned. "You haven't seen Mr. Sandburg come back here, have you?"
"No, not since he left for the bathroom," she answered.
"Recon?" said Jim, pretending to come out of his silence. "I can do some recon." Little did she know that the Sentinel was already scanning the halls and rooms for his partner's voice, his heartbeat, even his smell.
"No, thank you, Mr. Ellison. It would be better if you stayed here in case he does return. Keep him here. That's your mission, soldier."
As soon as she had left, Jim turned to Megan. "You'd better get going."
"What about Sandy?" asked Megan.
Jim shook his head. "He's swimming in the pool on the second floor. I'll get him."
"You sure? I mean, I could go get him."
"No, I can say I was on a recon and retrieval mission. Don't worry about it."
Sea Demon had discarded his hospital gown and was sailing through the water as if he had been born to it, free from the clutter of the land mammals. The water encompassed him like a blanket of soft warmth. He was waiting for the gills to emerge, the fins and gills. Maybe he needed total submersion and he dove to the bottom of the pool. Turning over to look up at the light dancing on the surface, he felt his lungs burning for air. The light from the skylights was beautiful. Yes, this was where he belonged. In the womb of the sea. He decided to take a deep breath. The water would transform him. Suddenly there was a moment of panic as the water filled his mouth.
Jim had been on the stairs when he heard the muffled gurgle under the water. The idiot really was drowning himself. He could hear the nurses and interns on their way as well. Apparently, they had seen him on the in-house camera. Blair was fighting the water now. His delusion was giving way to realization and then suddenly it stopped. He had stopped. Everything had stopped except for the guardian angel who had burst through the door. Seeing Sandburg sinking back to the bottom of the pool, he dove in.
Moments later, he was pumping Blair's chest, trying to clear the water in his lungs and get him to breathe again. The younger man responded almost immediately as he coughed up a big gush of pool water as he regained consciousness.
He was obviously frightened as he looked at the man on top of him.
"Yeah?" answered Jim letting out a sigh as he relaxed.
"Your pool privileges just got canceled," answered the Sentinel letting the doctors take over.
Back in the room, Jim was staring at the doctor in the chair across from him.
"That was a brave thing you did, Mr. Ellison," the doctor was saying. "How do you feel about that?"
What a stupid question, thought Jim. "I just did what I had to," he answered.
"Why did you feel you had to save Mr. Sandburg?"
"What kind of question is that?" answered Jim honestly now.
"What do you mean?" asked the doctor innocently.
"Why wouldn't I try and save a person's life if I could?"
The doctor smiled. "Exactly, Mr. Ellison. This goes back to your experience at the camp. You couldn't save that man at the camp, could you? You felt inadequate, helpless. You gave up, didn't you?"
"No," answered Jim.
"No?" asked the doctor. "But you've refused to talk to anyone since the accident. I'd say something was definitely not right there."
"Listen, doc. There's nothing wrong with me. I just don't want to talk to anyone about that or anything right now. I was a soldier. I was trained to deal with these kinds of things."
"Mr. Ellison," sighed the doctor, "that's part of your problem right there. You were never a soldier. You're a broker in an investment firm. You're married, have two kids, and you like to pretend that you're a soldier on the weekends." The doctor cocked his head as he watched Ellison's face.
Jim's blue eyes locked on the man in white across from him. "You're wrong there, doc. That's all fantasy. I'm a Sentinel, the reincarnation of an ancient Incan warrior trained to protect the people and the village. I have super senses. My mission is to protect the city from evil and Sandburg is my shaman, my soul. He helps me understand and use my powers to their full potential."
Blair had just been wheeled to the door and had heard Jim's confession to the doctor. What was he doing? Giving his identity away?
"I'll wait here until they're finished," he said quietly to the intern.
The intern gave him a doubtful look and Blair yanked on his wheelchair restraints to remind him that he wasn't in a position to run. The intern eyed him carefully for a moment and then left.
"Well, Mr. Ellison," said the doctor, "that's quite a revelation. I didn't know."
"You asked me why I saved Sandburg from drowning," continued Jim. "I saved him because I had to. It's like I told you, he's my soul, my conscience, my brother."
The doctor's voice sounded unconvinced. "Mr. Sandburg is your brother?"
"Yes," answered Jim.
The doctor stood to leave. "I can see that I need to reassess your case, Mr. Ellison. Clearly I had you misdiagnosed. You've had a busy day already saving the world. Why don't you get some rest now?"
"I'd like to be allowed to see Sandburg first, sir," said Jim almost pleadingly.
"I'll see what I can do," answered the doctor as he left the room, not noticing the man in the wheelchair on the other side of the door.
"Jim," said Blair quietly. "I'm right outside the door."
In a matter of a second the Sentinel appeared and an instant smile crossed his face. "Back to breathing air again?"
"Very funny. Get me inside."
A couple of minutes later, they had managed to loosen the bonds holding Sandburg's wrists down and he rubbed at them before he wheeled over to look out the window.
"How's the hallucinations, pal?" asked Jim sitting down in the chair next to him.
"What hallucinations?" asked Blair absently as he watched the people in the courtyard below.
"You still Sea Demon?"
Jim looked at him curiously. "That's why you took a walk on the bottom of the pool, Chief."
Blair didn't seem to hear him. Instead, he turned his attention to the doctor who had just been in the room with Jim. He was talking to four patients.
"I think we've found our men, Jim," said Blair nodding to the five men below. "Think you can hear what they are saying?"
Jim scooted his chair closer to the window and pushed it open slightly, letting the cool breeze of the winter day into the room.
The sound was clear and crisp.
"I don't understand why we have to kill them," said one of the patients. "They're just like us, right? They're the good guys. You saw what that guy did for the baby cop."
One of the patients sat down on the bench beside him. "This isn't right, M. We only take out the bad guys. They're not evil. There's got to be another way."
"They're spies sent here to shut us down. They're working for the evil Empire. I got confirmation today. Are you saying you won't do it?" asked the doctor.
"I don't believe it. Are you sure about your information. My feelings tell me they're on our side. We should just ask them to join us. We have two spots open. They'd make a good team. The big guy looks like he could be an asset to our cause and you have to admit that the little guy has potential."
"You're forgetting that we tried to kill him. He's not likely to forget that," said the man beside him. "And, yes, I'm sure. They're detectives with the Cascade Police Department. You know who's controlling them. They're spies alright and the first chance they get, they'll take us out one by one unless we get to them first."
"Let me do a mind probe first, see into their thoughts. If it turns out that your information was correct, then I'll incapacitate them so Duncan can take them both out. "
The doctor shook his head. "Too obvious and too close to home. We have to make them think we're initiating them into the fold. Take them away from here." He turned to the man wearing a robe that covered his entire body. The large hood hid his face and on his hands were gloves.
"Nick, the big one could be a problem. Think you could slow him down a bit?"
The man nodded.
"Alright, Ben. Use your Jedi powers and see if they're on the level. But I guarantee you that my sources are one hundred percent. Be discreet."
"I always am," said the one now known as Ben.
"What about me?" asked the man standing beside Ben.
"You and Duncan need to figure out the plans for getting rid of the bodies. You have until tonight."
The doctor turned and started to walk away.
"M?" called Ben loudly.
The doctor rushed back in horror at having his identity shouted out in public. He was M, James Bond's boss. "Don't ever do that again!" he scolded quietly. "You know we have to keep things secret. This is the best cover we can get."
"I'm sorry," apologized Ben. "I heard there was a copy cat killer out there. Is that true?"
The doctor's heart began to pound faster as Jim listened. "Yes, it's true. That will keep the cops looking for that guy instead of us. He's apparently killing at random and he's obviously not a professional like us. That kind of maniac on the loose scares them more than we do."
Jim watched as the doctor left the four in the courtyard as he continued to listen to the conversation below.
"Looks like we have some plans to make," said the one in the hood. "Let's get out of this damned sun."
Blair's voice interrupted his vigil on the group. "Jim, so what's up? What's happening?"
"The doctor's in on it alright," explained Jim.
"Then we can call Simon and get them arrested?"
"On what? There's no evidence yet linking them to the cases. We need something more concrete."
"They've got to be hiding the weapons in their rooms or somewhere on the grounds then. We'll just follow them to the stash. What if we followed the tunnel?"
"What tunnel?" asked Jim curiously.
"The night they shanghaied me, I saw them come out of a grate there in the courtyard. We just retrace that and we'll have our evidence."
"You saw those four get out of a tunnel?"
Blair was getting a little nervous as he shrugged. "They were wearing masks over their faces but they had the weapons in their hands."
Jim shook his head now. "If I shake it a little more, anything else important going to spill out?"
Blair seemed confused and then realized that he was remembering the night he was kidnapped. It had just flowed out like water in a brook.
"I'm sorry, Jim. I'm trying."
Jim softened and put his hand on Blair's. "I know, kid. Just remember that you're an air breather from now on and we'll be fine."
As the Sentinel stood to head for the phone, his Sentinel hearing picked up Sandburg's name being said out in the hall. Focusing in on the voices, he froze.
"The doc said both of them," said the man.
"We'll have to catch the big one off guard first. He's the only one I'm really worried about. The other one is still too weak to cause much damage."
Jim looked around the room. There was nothing but two beds, four chairs and a small table. Nothing that could be used as a weapon.
"Jim, what's up, man?" asked Blair realizing that his legs were still strapped into the wheelchair.
It was too late. The four interns had entered the room now and immediately were set on by Jim. Blair worked at getting his straps off but they weren't cooperating. Jim was fighting all four men by himself. At first, he was doing a fine job, kicking out at one while grabbing another and swinging him into the third and fourth men. But the one who had taken the kick, rolled back under him, hitting his legs and causing him to fall off balance. That was enough for the others to regain their feet and charge him all together. The five were pounding on the Sentinel now. Unable to stand seeing his partner pummeled like that, Blair built up some speed as he headed straight into the fray. It was like knocking down bowling pins as they scattered and fell in all directions. Jim scrambled to his feet and righting Blair's wheelchair began to run from the room down the hall.
"Get those damn straps off!" he ordered as he ran. "We'll never get out of here with this wheelchair."
Blair leaned down and began to yank at the leather straps again. They were simple buckles but they weren't budging. Jim looked behind him at the four men. Others had now joined them thinking that one of the patients had gone psycho and was threatening another patient. Jim pushed harder and rounded the corner where the fenced cage gate was.
"Hold on, Chief!" he yelled.
Blair looked up in time to cover his head with his hands as Jim rammed the gate with his wheelchair. The wire mesh gave way and they both tumbled through it, into open hall on the other side, knocking down the surprised guard. Jim heard the guard's gun scoot across the floor near him at the same time he heard the cocking of a gun as the group chasing them came around the corner. Scrambling to grab it for self-defense, Jim rose only to see the bullet leave the barrel of the gun not ten feet from him. His return fire would have normally stopped the bullet already in flight but the guard's gun had been on lock position. He felt the sting of the metal enter his shoulder. The lock clicked off just as he heard a second shot and heard Sandburg yell his name. In a blur of motion, metal and flesh blocked his view. His partner had taken the bullet instead. Aiming at the doctor whom he now knew as "M", he pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The gun wasn't loaded. It was over. He had nothing more to fight with and he threw the gun on down the hall as he crawled to Sandburg who was laying unconscious beneath the tangle of wheels and broken metal.
"Sandburg?" he queried before he was pulled away from his partner. He felt a needle poke into his neck. "Blair?" He was struggling to get to his friend now but his movement was slowing as darkness began to overtake his vision. It was over, he thought again as he finally went limp.
"What do you mean they were shot escaping?" yelled Simon as Rafe and Brown stood in front of his desk with the news.
"They said that Jim went psycho on them and was threatening to kill Sandburg. They had to shoot him."
Simon stopped for a moment. It had just been a matter of time before Jim cracked. Sandburg just had that affect on people. It was a miracle that he had tolerated the kid for this long. No court of law would convict him. It was temporary insanity.
"What's his condition?" he asked.
"Whose?" asked Brown.
"Jim's. Who do you think?" bellowed the captain.
Rafe answered. "Well, they were both shot."
Simon's knees buckled and he fell into his chair. "You mean Jim actually shot him?"
"No," said Brown. "From what they said, Sandburg jumped in front of the bullet to keep Jim from getting hit a second time."
Now the captain sat in silence. Something must have gone terribly wrong at the hospital since the kid had almost drowned. Megan wasn't scheduled to return until later this afternoon after the forensic reports came in on the last killing. Now that they were both safe in the city's hospital, he would just make sure that they didn't go back to Snowden.
"Okay," he sighed. "Let's get over to Cascade General and find out what really happened."
Brown shook his head. "They never made it to the hospital, captain. The ambulance just disappeared."
Jim woke to whispering. There were people standing close to him.
"Where's Blair?" he asked immediately finally opening his eyes.
"Your shaman?" answered the doctor. "I'm afraid you're on your own Sentinel."
Jim tensed and tuned up his hearing. He was laying in the hold of a ship. It was most likely an old oil freighter from the smell of it. There was no sign of his partner nearby.
"What have you done with him?" asked Jim.
"Don't worry. We gave him a proper burial at sea."
Jim tensed and listened again. This time he heard the seawater slapping at the hull. The deep resonant echo of the sound made it clear that they were out at sea already. Not wanting to believe what the doctor was saying about his friend, he began to use his senses of sight, sound, and smell. Across the room was a set of bloody ropes. His sense of smell told him it was Blair's blood. After all, he had smelled it before. Following a trail of blood up the stairs and through the hatchway, his heart began to pound. Were they telling him the truth? Was Blair really dead? Maybe he had just been taken up top. It was possible that his senses weren't able to penetrate through the thick metal walls.
"I don't believe you. I would feel it if he were dead. He's alive. Where do you have him?"
The doctor laughed. "Now that is amazing and if I didn't already know that you're a detective for the Cascade Police department, I might even believe your story about being a Sentinel with super senses. Fine. Maybe he's not dead yet but he will be. You see, he may think he's Sea Demon but he's not. A man can only tread water just so long."
So it was true that they had thrown Blair overboard. If he was hurt, he wouldn't have the strength to swim for very long. Nor could he last long in the freezing waters filled with sharks following the seal populations.
Looking back up, he noticed that one of the men had pulled a shiny thin sword from his long black coat. His black hair was pulled back in a ponytail secured with a Celtic knot. It had to be the TV character Rafe had mentioned, Duncan MacLeod. The man played menacingly with it, showing off his prowess with it. When he swung it towards Jim, he gasped, expecting to feel the sharp blade cut into his neck. Instead, it stopped just short of slicing through although where the blade touched his skin, he could feel and smell the blood leaking from the precise cut it was making.
The doctor squatted before him now. "If you were really who you said you were, then you'd be on the other side of that blade, one of us. But you lied. Liars are evil and evil has to be stamped out for the good of everyone. So Duncan will take your head. Don't worry. It's relatively painless. Then Johnny Storm here will torch your body to cinders before we scatter them to the sea. We can't have your body washing up on shore now, can we?"
"Where's Nick and Ben?" asked Jim.
"Nick's taking care of cleaning up your partner's blood and Ben is using the Force to keep us off the radar."
The Force? Jim almost laughed. He was probably using a radar jamming device. It seemed that Ben wasn't as anxious to see the two men killed as the others were. Maybe he would get lucky and get him to tell where they had dumped Sandburg. The only thing bothering him was the reference to Blair's blood. Just how much blood had he lost? His hands were already working at breaking free as he rubbed them up and down behind him on the sharp piece of metal protruding from the wall behind him.
"It's too bad you were working for the wrong side, detective. I think you had potential as a super hero," sighed the doctor. "In fact, you made a very good team. You risking your life to save his, him risking his to save yours. Those are admirable qualities not normally found in your kind. It's a real shame you have to die."
Duncan raised his sword once more. This time would not be a teaser. This time the cold steel would slice through his neck like a hot knife through butter. Katanas were made that way, forged steel folded thousands of times, polished and honed to such perfection that they were truly works of art as much as they were lethal weapons. Thankfully, he felt the ropes around his wrists break. The wound in his shoulder was throbbing but with his Sentinel senses, he was able to turn it down. He had a job to do.
As the blade came down, Jim rolled to the side and turned his roll into an attack on the man with the sword. It went flying to the floor several feet away as they struggled. The doctor drew his gun and Johnny Storm went for his flamethrower.
Cutting an upper left to Duncan's jaw, the imposter went flying back and hit his head on one of the pipes. As Jim turned to take on the others, he stopped short. The doctor was pointing his gun at him. He was fast but not that fast. Suddenly a pipe lobbed off the back of the doctor's head. Looking up to the hatchway, he saw a soaking wet Blair falling to his knees.
Jim smiled in spite of his situation. They really did make a good team. Using the last of his own strength, he turned to charge at the surprised Torch. Turning to see his attacker, Storm pulled the trigger and a long arm of flame reached out and caught Jim's shirt. Jim rolled to quench the flame but the Torch was following him. Another blast of flame hit just inches beside him as he rolled again. Johnny was laughing now as he aimed and waited for Jim to find out that he was now trapped against the wall.
"Looks like your super hero gig is about to go out in a blaze of glory."
A shot rang out and Johnny Storm's eyes suddenly had a look of shock. Stumbling a couple of steps forward, he finally fell. Exhausted, Jim looked up, expecting to see Blair holding a gun. Instead, he saw Simon, Rafe and Brown standing on the platform.
"What took you so long?" he muttered before losing consciousness.
Simon had given them a week to recover before having to return to work. Blair hadn't had a psychotic episode since the hospital incident, which was making Jim a very happy camper. Everything was back to normal, well as normal as life as a Sentinel could be. David Steiner a.k.a. the doctor, was still hospitalized from his head trauma, and would undergo psychiatric evaluation once he recovered sufficiently. Orville Manson a.k.a. Nick Knight the vampire was found with two broken legs and a fractured skull at the bottom of a stairwell on the ship and was presently housed under high security in the medical wing at Snowden. Blair still hadn't talked about either incident. Steven Rose a.k.a. Duncan MacLeod had come through unscathed, but had completely lost touch with reality. The only mystery remaining was the fate of John August, the inmate masquerading as Obi-Wan Kenobi. They had found his costume on the deck of the ship but he was nowhere to be found on the ship. The only logical explanation was that he jumped into the ocean.
But the real hero of the day was the young man lying on his couch. Bleeding and barely able to stay conscious, he had swum back to the ship, climbed up a tow line, manhandled Knight down the stairs, knocked out Kenobi and had saved Jim from being shot by the doctor. He was a trooper and strangely enough, Jim felt pretty lucky at the moment. Blair hadn't complained once, hadn't taken any credit for catching the criminals and had been unusually quiet. Maybe it was the aftereffects of the drug.
Snapping the tab on his cold beer as he sat down in the chair across from his partner, he reached forward and snatched up the remote control to the television.
"How about some TV, Chief? You choose." Jim figured that would cheer him up despite the prospect of having to sit through National Geographic.
Blair gave him a strange look. "Did we really do the right thing, Jim?"
This was an odd question. "They were killing people. In our line of work, we can't afford the luxury of being judge and jury."
"I guess you're right but it's just everything. They were sick. It's what we did to them. What kind of heroes do we really elevate in our society. False ones. We justify what they do because they're the 'good guys' and the others aren't. We condone their violence because we think it's cool. I mean think about it. One character was a hero because he was a few hundred years old and chopped off the heads of his fellow immortals to get their power. There are cultures around the world that believe when you kill someone you gain their life force. But not our society. Another guy was a walking furnace, and the last one was a vampire. We elevate these people in our society, make them heroes, but really they're killers. And think about the other heroes we push commercially. Homer Simpson, South Park, WWF Wrestling, and just about ninety percent of the video games on the market. It's a miracle any of us are sane anymore."
"I thought you liked the Simpsons," replied Jim, taking a sip of his beer.
"I do but so far I can tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Some people can't."
"Listen, Chief. You can't be responsible for what others do. All you need to remember is that your job is to keep the peace. That's what we did, partner. We kept the peace and still managed to keep breathing."
"I almost became one of them."
"But you didn't," said Jim, feeling his partner's body heat rise a fraction. "What's really bothering you, Chief?"
"I didn't want to kill them. I felt sorry for them. They thought they were doing something right, something to help society. I mean, I knew it might come down to it, but deep down, I'm not sure I have it in me. That could get you killed one of these days and it would be my fault," confessed Blair.
Jim let out a deep sigh. Confession was always good for the soul.
"You did exactly what you should have done," said the Sentinel. "I would have probably gone for my gun but pipes work too. I think we're going to have to rethink your position on the department baseball team though."
Blair relaxed a bit. Jim wasn't worried. He had apparently accepted his Shaman and partner "as is".
They both jumped when the doorbell rang and Jim motioned for Blair to stay put on the couch while he went to answer it. To his dismay, it was Desiree.
"Hi Jim. Is Blair here?"
"Yes," he answered though he wanted to just shut the door on her. Pushing him to the side, the woman floated in letting her long black cape waft across his body. Seeing the ex- anthropologist on the couch, she moved into the room, close to the couch. Jim shut the door noticing that she wasn't greeting him like a boyfriend and wasn't showing the usual concern of people who liked each other.
"Blair," she said. "Blair, I've been thinking this over and I don't know how to say this any other way but directly. I don't think we should see each other any more. You're just too weird. Your lifestyle, the things you get yourself into, I need something more normal."
Both Jim's and Blair's eyebrows shot up. Coming from a woman wearing a black Chiffon witch's costume under a velvet cape lined in red satin, the whole situation seemed ludicrous. The thick black make-up around her eyes made them look harsh and cold.
"Okay," answered Blair fairly stunned.
"Fine," she said. "I'm glad you're being civilized about this."
Having said her piece, she headed back for the door where Jim was still standing.
"Sea Demon, my ass," she huffed throwing the three day old newspaper at Jim's feet. "You'd look better in black," she said eyeing his plaid boxers as she headed down the hall. "Super heroes. Humpf. Like there's even such a thing."
Jim shut the door behind her before both men began to laugh heartily.
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