Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Drama
Through a Window, Darkly
"Easy, there, Blair, you're doing good. Slowly, slowly...."
The nurse held Blair's arm and hand firmly, providing support for the few steps from his bed to the cushioned chair.
The Cascade winter penetrated straight through his blue hospital booties with rubber traction designs on the bottom. The coldness of the floor was only exceeded by the draft blowing in through the back of the thin hospital gown, as if he were naked. The three feet from the bed to the chair seemed more like three miles, but Blair finally reached his destination and lowered himself into it slowly, sinking into the generous number of pillows.
"Whew!" he exhaled, clutching the arm rests of the chair. His breathing came faster now, both from the pain at the surgical site and the unaccustomed exertion. He was glad the nurse had given him another pain shot before his little walk.
"Are you okay?" asked the nurse concernedly, pulling the IV pole over next to the chair and tucking a blanket around him.
"Yeah," Blair panted, "for an invalid teaching fellow on a Monday morning."
The nurse laughed. "I'll let you catch your breath. In a little while I'll bring your lunch. Sounds like they'll have a bed for you on the ward in the early afternoon."
"Thanks," Blair said. He watched her leave the room.
Then he realized the control to the TV still lay on the bed, out of reach. He was too tired to get it.
A lump in one of the pillows poked against his back.
Getting out of bed is sure different when Jim isn't here, he sighed. He remembered Jim helping him get out of bed the first time after he'd overdosed on Golden -- how he'd gently supported him all the way to the chair, then spent 15 minutes fussing over the arrangement of the pillows, repeatedly asking Blair if he was sure he was comfortable. And as for the TV remote -- well, Jim usually used it to find the station playing Bonanza reruns and then mercilessly put it back on the bed where Blair couldn't reach it. Blair grinned ruefully, remembering the self-satisfied smile on the detective's face as he settled into the chair next to Blair's.
With a nurse -- it just wasn't the same.
Ellison walked down the hallway of the police station toward Major Crimes, nodding a polite smile every now and then. Already several people had stopped him to ask how Sandburg was doing, reinforcing the weird naked feeling Jim had walking through the P.D. without his partner tagging along beside him and chattering away.
He felt relieved as he swung open the door to Major Crimes. At least most everyone here would have already been updated on his partner's condition by Simon.
Finishing a conversation with a uniformed officer, Captain Banks spotted the lone detective and sauntered over to Ellison's desk. Jim had already settled himself in his chair and proceeded to rifle through the thin stack of papers on his desk.
"Jim! I thought I said you didn't have to come in today," said Simon.
"I know, sir, but I've already been over at the hospital and there's not much there to do. I thought I'd...catch up on paper work or something," Jim replied, flipping through the papers, not meeting Simon's eyes.
Simon's eyes narrowed, but he decided to let the comment slip for now. "So how's the kid doing this morning? I'd planned to go over earlier but things have been hectic. Taggert told me he was awake this morning."
"Yeah. He's doing okay. I guess they're transferring him out of the ICU and down to the regular ward today."
"Good, good. The kid'll be out of the hospital in no time," Simon said cheerfully. When Jim didn't respond, Simon sat on the edge of the desk, chomped on his unlit cigar and continued in a casual voice. "So what did he say when you told him about the reaction? You did tell him, didn't you?"
"I told him. He was worried, wanted to know all the details -- you know, typical Sandburg. He thought it was the drug, too," replied Jim nonchalantly, hunching forward to examine a manila folder.
"And?" said Simon.
"And what?" said Jim.
"And what's gonna happen now? How're you gonna handle it?"
"Simple, Captain. We decided it'd be better for me to stay away until Blair gets off the drug," said Jim, examining a blank case form very closely.
"You mean it's okay to visit as long as you keep the door closed and talk through the window."
"I'll probably just call him from the cell phone. It'll be more convenient and I won't have to worry about being exposed. It'll be easier," Jim reasoned.
"Ah. Easier for you or easier for him?" asked Simon.
Jim turned his attention to the detective who appeared in front of his desk. "Rafe! How's the wrap-up on the Anderson case going?" Jim said brightly.
"I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?" Rafe said hesitantly, seeing Simon.
"No, no," Jim said, standing up. "Thanks for hanging out at the hospital last night."
"No problem," said Rafe. "The kid slept like a baby."
"What can I do for you?" asked Jim.
"If you're not busy, Brown and I could use your help on the suspect you and Sandburg took down yesterday. We've gotten all we could out of him, but he's not being much help. And your interrogation skills are the best around here."
"Sure, I'd be glad to help if it's okay with the captain here." Jim turned to Simon. "I'm between cases now, sir. If you don't mind...."
"Yeah, yeah, go on. The man needs something to do or he's gonna drive all of us nuts. He's all yours, Rafe."
"Thank you, sir," grinned Rafe.
The two detectives walked down the hall to the interrogation room. "H and I will be behind the mirror, Jim."
"Very good," said Jim, relieved he finally had something to take his mind off other things.
Behind the one-way mirror, Rafe and Brown watched the door to the interrogation room open and the tall detective walk inside, closing the door behind him. After a couple steps he stopped suddenly, blinking with a strange expression on his face as he looked at the handcuffed suspect sitting at the table. Then Ellison turned and exited the room. In a matter of seconds he burst into the room where they stood.
"This man isn't the one I knocked out and cuffed at the crime scene," Jim said, his jaw clenching.
"What?!?" Simon yelled.
"The man they found cuffed at the crime scene, the one we've got in our jail -- is not the same one I fought yesterday at Anderson's hideout," Jim repeated.
"The switch must've happened between the time Jim left the scene with Blair and four hours later when the rest of us showed up," said Brown.
"We've ID'ed the man in the cell as Joe Waterman," Rafe explained, handing Simon a file with the man's mug shot paper clipped to the front. "He's got a long record -- we'd already suspected he might be working with Anderson. He says he wasn't Anderson's right-hand man -- according to him, someone named Arnold Jackson was. Jackson fits the description of the man Jim cuffed at the scene. The last thing he remembers is Jackson limping inside Anderson's hideout where Waterman was building more explosives. Waterman undid the cuffs, then Jackson must've hit him over the head when he turned his back. The story is consistent with the bruise marks on his head and shoulders," said Rafe.
"Jackson probably dragged Waterman outside and cuffed him there, hoping it would throw us off since no one knew there was a third man at the hideout. He was counting on the cops showing up and not figuring out he was missing until he was long gone," finished Brown.
"Damn! Looks like it worked, too," Simon said disgustedly. "Why didn't Waterman tell us this sooner?"
"The guy was pretty out of it last night when we found him, what with the concussion and hypothermia. He wasn't really coherent until a few hours ago," said Brown.
"Forensics is out there right now going over the whole place with a fine tooth comb. Hopefully, we'll find some clues that'll help us figure out where Jackson's hiding," Rafe added.
"I'd like to go up to the crime scene and see what I can find out, sir," said Jim.
"Fine," said Simon. He chewed on his cigar a few more times, then spoke. "It's too late to get up there before sunset, but I want all three of you to go tomorrow morning. I've got a bad feeling this guy's not just going to disappear off to some deserted island."
The elevator doors opened on the 2nd floor and two people exited -- an African-American male nurse pushing a young man in a wheelchair with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and a blanket draped over his legs.
"Name's Josiah Ebenezer Main the third, but you can call me Bubba. Ah don't let all my patients call me Bubba, but Ah like you, Sandburg. 'Course my momma and all my friends from Jaw-ja calls me Bubba whether Ah want them to or not."
Blair laughed. "Pleased to meet you, Bubba. You can call me Blair."
"Well, Blair, yo' new room won't be as big as them drafty ICU things, but it'll be cozy. You'll have a roommate, too," said the nurse cheerfully.
"Good. I was going crazy being walled up in that room all by myself," said Blair.
"He's a nice one, too -- 'bout yo' age, I think. He don't have many visitors, so it'll do him good, too. So how'd you like your lunch? I noticed you didn't eat very much of it," the nurse drawled.
"The jello tasted okay but the beef bullion broth...." Blair shuddered.
"Oooo-whee!" the nurse exclaimed. "That stuff is nasss-ty! Ah know, Ah tried it myself when Ah had my appendix out a couple months ago. That stuff ain't fit for...well, let's put it this way, brother -- my dawg wouldn't eat that!"
Blair laughed. He liked this guy.
"Hey!" A voice came from behind them.
Blair and the nurse turned in the direction of two pairs of footsteps gaining on them.
"Hey Rafe, Brown! Bubba, meet two of my friends from the police station, Detective Rafe and Detective Brown. Guys, this is my new nurse, Josiah Ebenezer Main the third. He's from Jaw-ja!" The three men shook hands all around, then continued down the hall toward Unit 2300.
"You a trouble-maker, boy? Seems like all yo' friends are cops!"
"Yep, he sure is all right," laughed Brown. "Hairboy gets into so much trouble he has to live with a cop to keep an eye on him," he said solemnly.
"Hey!" Blair protested, swinging at Brown who agilely jumped out of reach.
"Yeah," said Rafe, "We're his parole officers come to check on him. Can't have him making trouble in this fine institution."
"HEY!" Blair objected. "You guys cut it out. I'm gonna have my reputation ruined before I have a chance to show what a model patient I am."
"Now, now, that's no way to treat two nice guys bearing gifts," Rafe said, holding up a large grocery bag. "Major Crimes got together and decided what essentials you'd be needing to keep yourself busy and out of trouble while you're here."
"Ho-ho-ho," Brown said in a low voice.
"Would you stop with the 'ho-ho' already?" Rafe grumbled, setting down the grocery bag with a loud thunk on the bed. "He's been making that ho-ho noise ever since we left the station. It's driving me up the wall!"
"Scrooge," muttered Brown.
"Hey man, Christmas was over two months ago!"
Blair laughed again as Nurse Bubba parked the wheelchair next to the bed.
"Ah'll be back in a while to get you settled, Blair," said the nurse as he left the room. "Ya'all startin' to scare me now. Makes me wonder if workin' at the P.D. is getting to ya'!"
"See, you scared him off, Henri," said Rafe.
"Me? All I did was try to cheer up our friend Sandburg here!" defended Brown.
"It is NOT Christmas!"
"Okay, okay," Blair laughed, "you're making my stomach hurt a lot, and that's not a good thing. Now what did you bring me?"
Rafe pulled out the first item. "We brought you a lovely stuffed, plush McGruff the crime-fighting dog in case you get lonely for Major Crimes."
Brown lowered his voice to a whisper. "Just don't tell Captain Banks we stole it from the supply room. I don't think they'll miss it -- it's been stuffed in a corner for at least three years."
"Two cops stealing a McGruff crime-fighting dog. The irony is killing me," Blair said drily.
"And then we have a Cascade P.D. coloring book and eight new crayons designed especially for your creative urges," declared Rafe.
"The cops in the book might look vaguely familiar," Brown interjected again. "Jim and Simon got blackmailed into posing as models for some of the pictures a couple years ago."
"It's like you're some guy from Extra who's giving me all these juicy scandalous tidbits, H," said Blair.
"That's m'job, Hairboy."
Rafe rolled his eyes at Brown's wide grin, then continued. "Simon thought we should get you this," he said, handing a little plastic cell phone to Blair, "just in case you were away from your room and felt the need to play phone boy."
"Look, it even rings!" said Brown, punching one of the buttons. He then held the toy up to his face and gracefully gestured around it with the other hand, as though mimicking the leggy models on The Price is Right.
"And last, but certainly not least," said Rafe, "a fabulous Hot Wheels blue and white pickup from Brown and me. You can pretend you and Jim are in a high-speed chase and do as many trademark Ellison evil U-turns as you want."
Blair picked up the tiny pickup and grinned, his whole face lit up. "Thanks guys -- you're the best. How can I ever thank you?"
"Just get better soon. Ellison is going to drive us up the wall if you don't," said Rafe.
"Can't you stay and play awhile?"
"No, I'm afraid not," said Rafe. "We just stopped by on the way back from our lunch break. Gotta get back to the station and work on the Anderson case some more."
"Do we have to?" whined Brown, pouting like a little kid as he looked at Rafe.
Rafe groaned. "Yes," he whined back, rolling his eyes. "The things I put up with..."
Blair laughed. "Well, tell everybody thanks for me. See you later." Rafe and Brown waved goodbye and left.
Blair set the Hot Wheel pickup on the side table and moved it back and forth. "Rmm, rmm, rmm," he grinned.
The afternoon sun poured in through the window next to Blair's bed. The perennial Cascade rain had stopped temporarily and the wet streets below glistened harshly. From his bed he looked out on the urban scenery with the snow-covered mountains far in the distance. Blair felt glad he'd been assigned a window bed.
He wondered what Jim was doing. He's probably at the station, knowing him -- probably working on the Anderson case with Rafe and Brown. Shouldn't be much left to do except paperwork, since we caught everyone yesterday. Nothing like those dual purpose fishing trips, he thought.
Flipping on the TV, he began clicking through the various channels. Almost everything was either a soap opera or a talk show. He paused briefly on Days of Our Lives, but decided he wasn't in the mood. Clicking on the last channel before they would start repeating themselves, he first heard the familiar music, then saw in large letters "Bonanza" emblazoned across the screen.
"You're not gonna watch that, are you? I'm sick of those reruns," an unfamiliar voice muttered.
Blair looked toward the door and saw a young man about his age with short brown hair wheel his way into the room.
Startled, Blair quickly flipped off the TV. "Sorry. You must be Adam Slowinski. I'm Blair Sandburg, your new roommate," Blair called out in a friendly voice, trying to recover from the biting comment.
"You're only the 9th roommate I've had to break in," Slowinski said, expertly transferring himself from the wheelchair to the bed without help.
"I see," said Blair, unsure of how to respond.
"Don't worry, it's not because they couldn't stand me. I've been here for the past 3 months," Adam explained.
"What happened to you?" asked Blair.
"Firefighter. Stupid burning tree fell on me, broke both my legs, damaged my spinal cord. It's taken me this long to get back the use of my legs."
"That's an awful thing to go through, man," Blair said quietly. "How's the rehab going?"
"Slow, but they're actually letting me out in a couple days, finally. I can't wait to get out of this prison," said Slowinski, settling himself in the bed. "At least I can walk again. I started a couple weeks ago. In a few months I should be able to walk pretty well by myself."
"Hey, that's great," said Blair sincerely. "Are you going to go back to firefighting?"
"No, I don't think so. Planning on going to Rainier to study computer programming." Adam pulled a laptop computer off the nightstand and flipped it on. The hard drive beeped and whirred as the computer booted up. "What do you do for a living?"
"I'm actually a grad student at Rainier -- anthropology. I work at the Cascade P.D. part-time as a consultant."
"Really. A consultant on what?"
"Uh, I work in the Major Crimes department," Blair hedged. "I'm partnered with a detective -- Jim Ellison. We work on cases with, ah, cultural significance. It's part of my dissertation research."
"Interesting," said Adam. "Never heard of the police department allowing anything like that before."
"It's, uh, a fairly new position," said Blair.
"Hey, were you involved in the whole Anderson capture thing? That's been all over the news today."
"As a matter of fact, yeah. Thanks to Anderson I'm rooming with you," Blair said ruefully, gesturing to the dressing on his abdomen.
"Tough luck, man. And you guys were just supposed to be on a fishing trip, right?" said Adam.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" Blair asked.
"The news. So did you have to take down a whole bunch of other bad guys besides Anderson?" said Adam, now clicking through several programs on his computer.
"No, just one other. My partner took care of him," Blair said proudly. "He should be snug in a jail cell by now."
"Lucky you've got such a dependable partner to back you up," said Adam. "My partner wasn't so lucky."
"What do you mean?" asked Blair.
"The accident -- I couldn't warn him in time. He was killed," Adam said quietly.
"I'm sorry," said Blair. "It wasn't your fault, you know."
"I just wish -- I'd do anything to make it up to him." Adam stared forward at the computer screen.
"I think I'd feel the same way," said Blair.
Jim put away the last carefully dried dish and closed the cupboard door. At 8 p.m., the kitchen was perfectly in order. Sometime after Blair had moved into the loft, the two men had started letting the dishes air-dry on the rack instead of wiping them and putting them away immediately the way Jim had before. Unfortunately, drying the dishes hadn't distracted him for very long. The apartment felt empty -- way too empty -- without Blair. He'd tried to fill the void with noise by turning the TV up to a normal volume, by humming to himself, but nothing worked.
Grabbing an empty box next to the garbage can, Jim set it on the dinner table. He placed all the textbooks and other things from Blair's office inside the box. He retrieved the backpack from inside Sandburg's room, making sure the colorfully decorated dissertation notebook was tucked inside. Jim also grabbed Blair's portable CD player and headphones and selected several of Blair's favorite CDs to go with it, packing all the things inside the box.
Back in the kitchen, Jim made a mental note to heat up the homemade chicken soup the next morning which he'd made for dinner. He also added a bag of some kind of Mexican sweet cracker or cookie -- Blair's cultural snack food-of-the-week. Everything was packed, ready to go to the hospital tomorrow morning. Then he remembered one more thing.
Blair's is in the hamper... Nah, he doesn't need that...but it would make good packing for the fragile things in the box... Fine, I give in.
He ran upstairs to retrieve the last item.
By 9 p.m., Jim was in his boxers and ready for bed. He felt more tired than usual, but not like the exhaustion of last night -- or rather, this morning. Yawning, he turned out the lights and padded upstairs to his room in the dark. At least tonight I'll actually sleep in my bed, he thought sleepily remembering his restless tossing and turning on the couch.
Jim climbed into bed and pulled his yellow sheets and down comforter over himself, shifting to lay on his side. He closed his eyes. But instead of falling asleep immediately like had he expected, he was hit by the feeling that the loft seemed huge -- huge and empty.
No quiet breathing or heartbeat came from the downstairs bedroom, no scratching of a pen or quiet click of a keyboard and mouse. Nothing except the occasional car or bus whooshing by on the street below, tires spraying mist from the wet road. Jim turned over and stared at the ceiling.
Blair had been hurt and in the hospital before, but each time Jim had been able to stay at his bedside -- able to touch him, to know he was okay, to maintain the connection that ran so strong between them. This time, he'd been denied -- robbed -- of that physical reassurance. It's not fair, thought Jim angrily. It's not fair everyone else in the entire world can walk right into his room and shake his hand, slap him a high five, give him a hug -- except me. My sentinel abilities connected me with Blair, and now they're keeping me away from him.
Then why didn't you visit him again this evening? a part of his mind whispered. Nothing says you can't do that.
Because I can't handle looking at him through the window. It's almost harder than staying away, Jim thought. It hurts too much!
You've tried it before, Ellison -- staying away from someone you cared about so you wouldn't get hurt. You can't do that anymore, his mind warned.
The voice changed to one reminiscent of the spirit guide. Don't let the absence of a physical connection destroy your emotional bond as well.
Jim continued to stare at the ceiling. He knew the voice was right.
Blair used the brown crayon to color a page in his Cascade P.D. coloring book, a small overhead light his only illumination. The city lights blinked in the night through his window. For some reason, he wasn't sleepy. The nurse had called it being in a new place.
Why didn't Jim come back this afternoon? Why didn't he call? Blair thought for the thousandth time, coloring in the shoes of the cop in the picture. He felt neglectful and inadequate in his duties as Jim's partner and guide, since he hadn't been able to talk him through the frightening experience of losing his hearing and any effects which might happen afterwards. And the more he thought about it, the more guilty he felt for telling Jim to stay away. The short phone conversation they'd had a few hours later apparently hadn't been enough to smooth everything over.
Then the phone on his bed table rang.
"Hello?" Blair answered quietly.
"Blair, it's Jim," said the familiar voice. "Did I wake you?"
"Jim!" he whispered excitedly. "No, no. I couldn't sleep. How'd you know I wanted to talk to you?"
"Maybe because I couldn't sleep and I wanted to talk to you, too," said Jim.
Blair heard what sounded like sheets rustling in the background. "Are you in bed, Jim?" he whispered.
"Yeah -- aren't you?"
"Yeah, but I'm in a hospital, and you're -- you never talk on the phone in bed!"
"It was cold downstairs and warmer up here. You're whispering -- is your roommate asleep?"
"Yeah, but don't worry about him. He's sleeping like a log. A real noisy one, in fact." Blair pointed the phone in the direction of the other patient to pick up the snoring better.
"All right, all right, I'm a sentinel, remember?" Jim protested.
"Sorry," said Blair. "How was the rest of your day?"
"Okay. I went and picked up your things at the University, then I spent the rest of the day helping Rafe and Brown on their case," said Jim.
"How's it going?" asked Blair, shifting to get more comfortable.
"We ran into a bit of a snag. A big one, actually. The guy they arrested at the scene wasn't the guy I knocked out when we were there."
"Jim, you're serious? What're you gonna do?" asked Blair.
"We don't have any leads yet, so Rafe, Brown, and I are going back up to the lake tomorrow to see if we can pick up any more clues," Jim replied. "Blair -- I didn't really call you to talk about the Anderson case. I wanted to say I'm sorry I didn't come by again today to see you," said Jim. "It's just so hard having to look at you through the window and not being able to go in. It's like -- "
"Like looking at a dog in a pet store -- make that florist," said Blair in a drily self-deprecating way, remembering the flower arrangements and plants crowding his side of the room which had already arrived from fellow students and teachers. "I know, Jim. I want you to know I still like it when you come by, even though I can only see you through the window."
Jim chuckled. "Okay, Chief. In that case, I'll drop by tomorrow morning with your stuff before I leave with Rafe and Brown, okay?"
"Cool. I'll be looking forward to seeing you, partner," said Blair. A large yawn enveloped his last words.
"Sounds like you've tired yourself out, Chief. Better hang up the phone. Chief?"
Jim shook his head, listening to the even breathing at the other end of the line. He almost clicked off the portable phone, then thought better of it. Gently, he set it down on the pillow beside him.
In minutes, Ellison slept soundly.
"Ellison! You sure look chipper this morning," said Simon, noticing Jim's smile as they met up in the hospital lobby and headed for the elevators.
"Morning, Simon!" Jim said. "It's amazing what a good night's sleep will do. I think today's gonna be a good day."
"Let's hope so. Getting a lead on Jackson would certainly make my day," said Simon. He eyed Jim's hefty load as they got into the elevator. "What's in the box? Looks like it's big enough to carry a spare anthropologist or two."
Jim laughed. "No, sir, just big enough to carry all the stuff Sandburg wanted me to bring from the University and the loft. Would you mind taking it into the room for me?"
"Done. You must be feeling a little better today, eh, Jim?"
"Yes, sir. Sandburg and I had a nice conversation last night -- cleared some things up," said Jim.
"Good. Rafe and Brown wanted to be warned if you were in a cranky mood this morning. I think they were talking about making you drive your own car up there," Simon teased.
The two men stopped in front of Blair's room. They grinned at the young man waving wildly from inside. "Here you go, sir," Jim said, handing Simon the unwieldy box. "Try not to give yourself a hernia -- lift with the legs."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gimme that!" Simon seized the box. Carefully balancing the box in one arm and reaching for the door with the other, he entered the room and closed the door behind him.
"All right!" Blair said, rubbing his hands together and eyeing the box. "This'll keep me from getting bored for awhile."
"What did you tell Jim to bring -- your whole library?" Simon groaned, setting the box down on the bed. "This thing is so heavy it might flip the bed over with you on it, Sandburg."
Blair wasn't paying attention, though. He rifled through the contents. "Good, good, all my textbooks are here. I can call my lesson plans in to the sub later today. CD player... Yes! A thermos of ..." he unscrewed the cap and aromatic steam rose from the inside -- "chicken soup! And a bag of Mexican cookies. Oh man, I am gonna have a feast today," Blair said excitedly. "I can feel my stomach preparing itself."
"What's this?" asked Simon, pulling out something soft and gray tucked in and around the sides and bottom of the box.
"It's a...robe," said Blair, reaching for the familiar soft fleece robe his partner wore every morning. He glanced over to the window and shot Jim a grateful smile, which the taller man returned. "Thanks for bringing the stuff in, Simon. How's Jim holding up, anyway?"
"He'll probably drive us all nuts before you're discharged, but otherwise, he's fine. I'm trying to keep him busy," said Simon, eyeing the detective outside the room. When he saw Jim frown, he cleared his throat. "Ah-hem, I see this isn't a very secure room for top-secret information exchanges," he said, and the man outside the room nodded. Blair laughed. "I'd better be more careful," said Simon, lowering his voice to a whisper which he knew Jim could still hear. "I'll have to set up a secure line in here for future debriefings, Sandburg." Blair tittered again, and both men looked out the window in time to see Jim mouth the word "Hey!" and gesture disapprovingly.
While Jim waited for Simon outside the window to Blair's room, he took the opportunity to observe Blair's roommate.
Adam Slowinski, Blair said his name was, Jim thought. He was in his late 20's or early 30's, short brown hair, intently working on a laptop computer. That laptop looks like it's been through a lot, thought Jim. The cover had quite a few scratches on it, and a few indentations where something hot had touched one of the edges. The top of the Intel Inside sticker was ripped off. He must be a serious computer nerd. Of course, the more important thing is I don't recognize him from the perp file at the P.D.....
At that moment, Slowinski happened to look up and see Jim standing at the window. For a moment, Jim thought he saw something flicker across the other man's expression, but then he dropped his gaze back to the screen.
"Glad to see you're doing better, Blair," said Simon. "I'd better be going so you and Jim can talk or whatever before he leaves for the mountains."
"Thanks for coming, Simon," said Blair. "Oh, Simon, could you take this out to Jim? Tell him I made it especially for him last night." Blair handed him a paper folded in half.
"Okay. See you later," said Simon.
"The kid gave me this to give to you, Jim," Simon said, once outside the room.
Jim unfolded the paper. Simon's hand flew to his mouth to hide a grin when he realized which coloring book the picture had come from. The neatly colored picture of a policeman looking suspiciously like Detective Ellison reuniting a little girl with her mother under a Lost and Found sign. An arrow drawn from the man pointed to the words printed on the bottom in red crayon: "My friend Jim."
Five hours later, the three men climbed out of the patrol car in front of Anderson's deserted, yellow-taped hideout and walked to the entrance. Once inside the main room, Rafe flipped on the wall light switch. The room was cluttered with long tables piled with coils of colored wires and other material which could be assembled into timing devices and explosives. All of the completed gadgets had already been removed by Forensics as evidence. Jim inspected the doorknobs, door frames, and furniture edges with his sentinel vision for any missed fingerprints, but it looked like all the prints had been taken down. An empty, non-dusty space on the lone desk in the room showed the spot where a computer had been confiscated.
Looking further around the room, Jim noticed a small crude wooden box shoved to the back corner of desk. It appeared to be partially filled with odds and ends -- a few broken pencils and some hardware. On impulse, Jim seized the box and turned it upside down, dumping the contents on the desk. Mismatched nails, bolts, nuts, and bits of wire fell out, as did a Phillips screwdriver and an old beaten-up computer chip. Nothing of significance here, he thought.
Then he thought he saw something glinting across the room out of the corner of his eye. The sun had just moved enough to catch its reflection. Zooming in with his sentinel vision, Jim focused across the room on the top half of a metal Intel Inside sticker.
Swiftly moving to the other side of the room, Jim bent down and reached behind the back leg of one of the tables. He grabbed the sticker and examined it closely. It was the top half of the missing sticker on Slowinski's computer -- he was sure of it.
"Brown," said Jim, "this sticker belongs to Adam Slowinski's computer. We've got to get back to Cascade now!"
Concluded in Part Five...