Ah man!" Detective Blair Sandburg groused. "How come I've always gotta be the homeless guy?"
"It's the hair, Chief," Jim replied absently. Blair's partner, roommate, Sentinel, best friend, Blessed Protector, and apparently crazed drug dealer paced in a small, silent circle, his cheap and eye searing jacket drawing the eye like an accident scene.
"We could always use Sandburg instead of volunteers," Captain Simon Banks growled for what was probably the hundredth time. "He's certainly young enough."
"Hey man, I'm cool with that!"
"Sorta defeats the purpose, though," Rafe added, strolling up with a casual adjustment to the lapels on a suit that was either one hell of an imitation or actually came from the detective's closet. There was no way the Cascade PD would actually pay for that, not even for this little project.
Simon glared at him from beneath his blonde curls. "Why do you get the suit?"
Rafe flashed him a grin before peeking around the curtain. "You wanna risk a suit with these monsters? Go ahead. My girlfriend's kid is somewhere out there."
The captain shuddered. "Thank God Daryl is outta here. If we had to do the high schools too.... I don't even want to think about the lecture I'd be getting."
Laughter and the thumping of boot heels on wood announced the arrival of Carolyn. Although she wasn't really part of Major Crimes, the forensic expert had agreed to help with the yearly escapade, provided that next time she came up on rotation, she got away free. Jim's ex was gratefully received, considering the only other alternatives were Taggert, who was at the hospital with Mabel for some sort of check up, and Brown, who had managed to escape to a family reunion (in Hawaii of all places. It had been decided that he was a dead man).
"Just be glad this is the only thing we have to do." She made a face. "Last time I had to do this, we did fairy tales meets Police Academy."
"I seem to recall you made a very nice Red Riding Hood undercover." Jim earned himself a deadly look. "What?"
"Come on," she growled, "let's get this show on the road. Oh, and Simon?" She paused to look back at him, meeting a desperate warning not to say it. She ignored the silent threat. "Nice dress."
The tall man folded his arms over the manufactured cleavage and tried to look threatening. "If any of you even think about pulling out a camera, I'll kill you. Got it?"
Nods covered smiles and laughter was held back by "Yes Simon's" as they dutifully filed onto the stage, following the tall black captain in floral print and low heels.
Blair waited in the safety of the wings, bouncing slightly in place and trying to smother giggles. Onstage, a bewildered third grader had already made it past Blair the Bum, Bag Lady Carolyn, Druggie Jim, and Pedophile Rafe, leaving only Simon the Drag-Queen. Ok, so Simon was the Crazy Alcoholic, but they'd all picked up nicknames over the weeks since they'd gotten the assignment.
Cascade Police Department had an annual Spring Safety Week program that mainly involved picking a division and having them put on a program for the local schools. This year's victim was Major Crimes, thanks in part to Jim and Blair's publicity. Before escaping to Hawaii, Brown had suggested an interactive skit with random victims from the kids and have them go through possible hazards from adults via the role-playing Detectives. So far, things were actually going pretty....
Lights flared to life with howling sirens that hovered at the border of pain. The thought instantly dragged Blair's gaze across the way, to find Jim huddled over, hands trying to protect his ears and eyes squinched shut from the assault. The Guide sprinted across the stage. "Come on, Jim, dial it down!" he called, uncaring if Jim actually heard him or not yet between the sirens and the noisy kids; he just automatically went straight into Guide mode.
Time and practice had left their kind mark. Even just a year ago, this would've been painful at best, a zone out at worst. Now, by the time Blair reached him, the Sentinel was standing, face back at the normal stern mask. "I'm fine. Let's get these kids out of here."
Frantic moments of herding later, the crowd had reassembled on the ball field outside. Jim paced at the edges of the horde, scanning for injuries and grinning as Simon fumbled though the pockets of his dress for cell phone or cigar. Almost absentmindedly, he tuned his hearing, hunting for his Guide's heartbeat among the crowd. Instead of the familiar rhythms, he centered onto a voice.
"Shit!" he hissed, turning and sprinting back towards the building.
"Jim! Hey man, what do you think you're doing?" Blair called, racing up to pace him.
"I hear someone inside."
The younger man spat out what was probably something nasty in some dead language, lengthening his pace enough to make Jim pour on the speed.
They skidded to a stop inside the doors.
"Where?" Blair demanded, trying his best to gasp for breath quietly.
Jim twisted his head, jaw slack and eyes narrowed as he tried to hunt down the cries hidden underneath the screaming of alarms. "Down there." He pointed down the hall at the right. "From the echoes, probably a bathroom."
Sandburg nodded once and started trotting away before realizing the Sentinel wasn't with him. He turned to find his friend still in the listening pose.
"Go on, Chief," Jim ordered. "I think I hear someone else."
"Hurry up, man," the Guide called, scurrying away. This is SO not cool. This was supposed to be fun! A faint whoosh, rattle was his only warning as the sprinklers opened up. "Ah MAN! I did NOT need this!" He glared up at the indoor rain before pushing into the bathroom. The sprinklers were on in here too. "Hello?" Blair called. "Anybody home?" His voice echoed in what was definitely an empty room. "Huh." Was Jim's hearing on the fritz again? There was no way anybody could sneak by him, and the windows were too high....
"Heh- hello?" The call was faint, and definitely not in the bathroom. "Help!"
Blair slipped though the door, trying to follow the voice. "Keep talking," he called. "Where are you?"
Oh, well that's a lotta help. "And where's that?"
But- No. Oh no. He stopped and gave the nearest door an evil look. "Are you ok?"
"Becky fell down an' she won't get up an' my battery died!"
If he'd been staring at anything other than the door to the girl's bathroom, he would've wondered at the last comment. Man, I can NOT believe I'm doing this. Shaking his head in disbelief, Blair Sandburg entered the forbidden realm.
All told, it didn't look TOO different from the guys' room. Obvious differences aside, the only major change was it was occupied. A sandy-haired girl, maybe 8 or 9, was enthroned in a wheelchair parked in the far corner. She stared at him with wide, green eyes.
"You're a boy. Boys can't come in here," she protested.
"Yeah, well, this is a special circumstance." Ya know, the whole building burning down thing. "You ok?"
"Yeah, but my chair battery died." She pointed to part of the wheelchair, far too solemn for someone her age.
"Ok, then I'll just get you outta here. So who's Becky?"
Ah...hah. "So where is she?" At least the chair had a physical brake. The chair and occupant were heavy, but nothing he couldn't handle.
Well duh! "Well, my friend Jim is around, and if Becky didn't get out already, he'll find her, ok?" He better. 'Cause if some bitch just left this kid....
The girl tilted her head to the side in a listening/thinking pose. "Ok," she finally chirped. "Oh, I'm Alison." She held her hand back and up, which he obligingly shook.
"Detective Blair Sandburg. Pleased to...." He managed to stumble over something and go face first into the water. "Gah! Wet! Man, this is so not fun!"
Jim stalked down the hall, hearing extended to full. There was the constant disconcerting drip of the sprinklers, the now retreating heartbeats of his Guide and someone else, and the heartbeat and breath he was following. He peered around, something nagging at him that was simply just wrong. Something was out of place and he couldn't figure out what. Absentmindedly, he piggybacked his sense of smell on his hearing, following Blair's orders in hopes of not zoning.
Chalk - LOTS of chalk - bad food, cleaners, mold, markers, very faintly blood -
It hit Jim like a garbage truck. No smoke. Even with all the water around, there wasn't a trace of smoke or anything burning.
The building - wasn't - on - fire.
The Sentinel cursed and broke into a sprint, concentrating only on honing in on the blood and heartbeat. He followed it to a stairwell. A blonde woman lay at the bottom of the stairs, crumpled into a nearly fetal ball.
Jim turned down his hearing and scent in favor of touch, running a quick, professional check for injuries. Dislocated shoulder, broken arm, possible fracture in the left leg, and what would be a lovely collection of scrapes and bruises tomorrow. Jade green eyes were constricted, so a concussion could be thrown in the mix. All told, it was a miracle she was alive. Jim pulled off his eye-searing Druggie jacket and happily began to rip up the polyester horror for bandaging. Some sacrifices had to made, after all.
An early spring wind blew up, an unnecessary reminder to the soaking wet Sentinel that it was still a weather-capricious April. Jim picked up his pace a little, tugged the blanket over his shoulders a little tighter, and hurried over to join a miserable Blair, who was seated on the hood of the truck, huddled underneath another one of the blankets the ambulance crew was handing out.
The younger man greeted him with a nod and a sneeze. "Hey Jim. God, it's cold! Have fun?"
"Not really. Although I did managed to make sure that jacket never hurt anyone again."
"Way to go, man. I thought that thing was gonna jump up and rip out my eyeballs. So you found whoever it was?"
The Sentinel joined his Guide on the hood. "Yeah." He nodded towards the blonde figure being loaded into the ambulance. "She was going down the stairs, tripped somehow, and started falling. Managed to grab the fire alarm, slowed her enough to keep her alive, but got all of us out. She's in pretty rough shape."
Blair's eyes widened. " 'Becky fell down an' she won't get up'!" he breathed. "Ohmigod!" He grabbed Jim's arm. "Jim, man, did you get her phone number?"
"What?!? Come on Sandburg, even you aren't that hard up for a date!"
"Did you get her number?"
"No. She was unconscious."
"Man!" Blair pounded the hood.
"What's this all about?"
"Alison - the girl I brought out? - said that. 'Becky fell down an' she won't get up'. The kid's in a wheelchair! There's no way she could've known!"
"There's no guarantee that I found Becky. Could be her imaginary friend or something."
"Yeah, but there's no other rational explanation!"
"Sandburg, there's no rational explanation for that at all."
"Oh come on, man! She could be a Sentinel!"
"Darwin, listen to what you're saying. The nine year old in a wheelchair is a Sentinel? Wait, let me guess: Becky's her Guide."
"It could happen!"
Jim groaned and tried to press the oncoming patented Sandburg headache out of his temples. "I think I prefer the psychic explanation."
His partner brightened. "Hey, I didn't even think of that."
The Sentinel sighed again. "Blair, give it up. She's gone, the kid's gone too, and we can't investigate a simple accident."
"Give it a rest," Jim growled, hoping the Ellison No Nonsense tone still worked. For once, it seemed to be effective as Sandburg just went back to his huddle under the blanket, trying his best to guilt trip Jim into at least an apology.
A tall firefighter strolled over to interrupt Blair's sulk before it got too far along. He held up a computer disk with an evil smile.
"Hey, you got it?" the Guide asked, giving a mirroring smile and beginning to bounce in place.
"Better'n that, I got about fifteen."
"Corrie! My man! I love you!"
The firefighter laughed. "I'll pass, so long as you call us even."
"Sure, sure, no problem, I'm all for that. Thanks, man."
"No problem. Oh, and if he asks, I never even saw you before." He handed over the disk, then walked off as casually as he'd come up.
Jim raised an eyebrow and gave his partner a look. "Care to share, Chief?"
Blair grinned at him, mischief clear in his eyes. "Corrie owed me one for helping him through a class at Rainer, and the firefighters have a digital camera."
Jim began to laugh, suspecting what his partner had done. "You didn't!"
"Yup! Fifteen photos of Simon the - Achoo!!! - Simon the Drag Queen!"
Ok, so pulling the alarm wouldn't set off the sprinklers. But 1, it didn't go off right away, so it was faulty wiring. Yeah, that's it, faulty wiring. ;) And 2, it fit the purposes of the fic, so just accept it!
May loud and long thanks need to be given to some very nifty people. Thank you Assata, Tyrethali, and Denis for plot help and nagging to get off my lazy bum and WRITE. And o'course, much groveling to Aislinn, who gave me the challenge, Sentinel addiction, and one heck of a beta reading. ;)
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
Any questions? Complaints? Screams of outrage that I actually consider myself a writer and/or dared to show this in public? Tell me! Send it all to Norcumi@backtick.net! I love mail!!!!The Sentinel is a Registered Trademark of Pet Fly Productions. All Rights Reserved. Used without permission. Any use of Pet Fly Productions' copyrighted material or trademarks in this file should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. I'm just out to have fun, so please don't sue, not to mention you won't get much at all.