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Earlier | Later

Warnings, etc. in Part 1



Jim finished the last of the pages Brown had printed out for him. Blair Sandburg was a fascinating enigma. He had come to Rainier University as a sixteen-year-old 'genius', as dubbed by the professors at the university and his teachers at Cascade High School, when they graduated him at fifteen. As he said, he did get his undergraduate degree when he was just nineteen. He was taking summer school, something he did every year, when the attack happened. Five young men, about his age, jumped him on the way home one evening, causing a severe concussion and broken ribs and a broken right arm. He had been unconscious for several days, didn't remember his name when he first came to, but was still urged to make a police report. Jim read over the police report once more, amazed the young man had seen as much as he had. There was a slight empathy for the young man who had been beat up by five boys his own age, unable to fight back on his own. Back then, Sandburg had been just a kid. He didn't know any of his attackers and the officers who had taken the report had told him they probably would never be found. Blair had accepted the officers' conclusions and had moved on with his life.

He had returned to Rainier to resume his master's degree, but had to drop out several months later due to the inability to stay focused on his studies. He had started to suffer from the constant headaches with no relief in sight.

Jim thought it strange that Sandburg hadn't gone to one of the many free clinics in town. They would have gladly helped him get the relief he needed and wanted. Even if he didn't have any insurance, there were always people willing to help the less fortunate get the medical attention they needed. Jim's own father was one such person -- always willing to help the less fortunate with a monetary contribution if needed, as long as he didn't have to hobnob with those he helped.

Jim looked in the direction of Simon's office and wondered why Sandburg seemed so distant. He looked back through the sheaf of papers; looking for any indication that Sandburg had relatives in town or nearby. The only person mentioned was his mother, Naomi Sandburg, who had enrolled him into Rainier at sixteen. There was no current address for Naomi Sandburg in any of the pages. Jim looked over the police report again. There was nothing entered for next of kin or an emergency contact. Maybe the guy just didn't have family and friends.

>>>>>>>>>>

Henri Brown typed up Blair's statements from inside the interrogation room. No need to bring up the fact they had it on video tape also, unless the DA's office brought it up. Henri walked back to Simon's office and knocked on the door. He waited until Simon said 'Enter' before opening the door and walking in.

"Something I can do for you, detective?"

"Ah, yeah. I forgot to type up Mr. Sandburg's statement. The assistant DA will want to see it when they arrive. I just need him to read it over and sign it if it's correct."

"Would you mind doing that, Mr. Sandburg? It is something the DA's office expects."

"I don't mind."

Henri handed Blair the paper and Blair looked at it, squinting at the words and letters there. His headache had returned full force, the small respite from the aspirin completely dissipated by this time. He finally gave up the pretense of reading the statement and looked over at Simon.

"Can I borrow a pen, sir?"

Simon reached into his desk, producing a pen and handing it to Blair. Blair placed the edge of the paper on Simon's desk and scrawled his name at the bottom of the page. He handed the paper back to Henri and the pen back to Simon.

"Thanks, Mr. Sandburg." Henri made a hasty retreat out of Simon's office.

Simon looked over at Blair and noticed the slight grimace on the young man's face.

"Can I get you something to drink or eat? You've been here for several hours now. And we don't want to be accused of further mistreatment in your case."

Blair gave Simon a half-smile. "Something to drink would be fine. Soda -- cola if you have it."

"You stay here. I'll have my secretary get you a cola." Simon got to his feet and went to open his door. He called out to his secretary, Rhonda. "Can you get me a cola from the vending machine in the break room? Here's the money. No, go ahead. I'll pay for it."

Simon came back into the room and saw the discomfort on the young man's face. "Are you in pain?"

"Nothing I can't handle, captain. Thanks anyway. It's something I've come to live with for years now."

There was a knock on the door a few minutes later and the door opened to reveal a thirty-something year old woman who handed the can of cola to Simon and smiled at Blair. Blair smiled back at her and she left the office. Simon handed Blair the can of cola. Blair opened the can and took a long swig, happy to be quenching his thirst. A couple more aspirin would be nice, but he did not want to beg.

He finished the soda by the time the assistant DA showed up and taken into Simon's office to meet the witness in the shooting of Manny Torelli. The assistant DA was impressed with both the eyewitness account and the fact that Blair Sandburg was able to pick out the shooter, Joey Richards. The assistant DA thanked Blair for coming forward and showing courage to stand by his decision.

"I wasn't given much choice. The police told me I had to do it. I offered to look at photographs, but I'm not so sure about the testifying aspect of this."

"But that's the most important thing, Mr. Sandburg. When you finger Mr. Richards in court. We will provide every means at our disposal to make sure you stay safe and alive. We know how much danger you will potentially be in."

"I thank you for that reassurance. I know that you usually rely on uniform officers to provide the protection, but I was wondering if you could make an exception in this case and allow Major Crime to handle my protection. I trust these guys and as far ranging as the Malone crime syndicate is, you never know how far they have spread. Maybe even into the police department. Like I said, I trust these officers."

"I'm sure that could be arranged Mr. Sandburg. I'll talk to the DA and he'll make the final determination."

Blair smiled at the assistant DA. "Thank you for the consideration."

>>>>>>>>>>

They arrested Joey Richards that day for the murder of Manny Torelli. In his arraignment, the judge denied Richards bail and held him in custody. Blair had stayed in Simon Banks' office until the word came in that Richards was in custody and denied bail. That's when Blair Sandburg's official protective custody began. True to his word, Simon assigned Detective Jim Ellison to provide the bulk of the protection.

Simon asked Blair to wait in the bullpen while he talked to Jim. Blair walked out of Simon's office, going over to talk to Henri and his partner, Brian Rafe.

"Are you nervous, Sandburg?" Rafe asked the question.

"A little. There is just so many ways for a syndicate like this to get to a potential witness. Even the best police officers make mistakes at times."

"But Jim will make sure you're safe. There are rumors going around that Richards may have been the shooter in his partner's death also. Jim doesn't want anything to go wrong. He'll make sure you make it to testify."

"I hope you're right."

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim stood in front of Simon's desk as Simon told Jim he was to be the one to join Blair Sandburg during his protective custody period. Jim did not protest at all. He knew it was coming.

"I want you to vary the length of time spent at each safe location, and make use of the ones we have access to outside the city limits. The only person I want you to report to is me. No use bringing in a large circle of people who know the location of the one witness to this killing. Not even the DA's office will know, Jim. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, sir. How long until the trial starts?"

"Three weeks. That is, unless there are continuances and delays." Simon looked at Jim. "Are you sure you can do this, Jim?"

"I'm sure, captain. It will be fine and I promise not to attack Mr. Sandburg anymore."

"Just be sure you don't, Jim. He's been through enough already."

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim walked out of Simon Banks' office and looked around, quickly spotting Sandburg over talking with Henri Brown and Brian Rafe. 'Why couldn't Simon assign them to this detail?' thought Jim as he walked over to join the small group. 'They are much better at small talk and getting along with people than I am.'

Jim made it over to the group, standing behind Sandburg. Sandburg hadn't realized Jim was there yet. Jim looked from Henri to Brian. All of a sudden, Blair turned around.

"You finished with talking to Captain Banks?" He looked up at Jim.

"Yeah. We've got to go. We have three weeks until the trial starts. So, we are going to be together that long and I just want to set the ground rules."

"Here?" The surprise was evident in Blair's voice.

"Why not here?" Jim let out a frustrated sigh. "Okay, then. We will go some place more private. How about that interrogation room?" Jim started walking off.

"Thanks, guys." Blair quickly turned around and followed Jim, practically running to keep up with Ellison's longer strides. He had gone into the same interrogation room as before. Blair walked in behind Jim. Jim shut the door behind Blair when he was inside.

"The video's not running, right?"

"Nothing is running. Have a seat."

Blair looked over at Jim and then took the same seat as he had before.

"Just listen, Sandburg. I am only going to go over this once. And I expect you to follow all the rules."

Blair didn't say a word. Jim sat down in the chair opposite Blair, looking him directly in the eye.

"First, I am the investigator and I know best. You will not go outside any building we are in by yourself. In addition, when we are inside, you will not go near any windows or doors. Second, we will be changing locations frequently, to stay a step ahead of the inevitable search the crime syndicate will be making for you. Third, you will not use any phone to contact anyone. Any use of a phone is traceable back to our location and that is unacceptable. I will have the only phone, which I will use to keep in contact with Captain Banks. The signal is scrambled and tracing is not easy. Fourth, any order I give you during our time together you will follow. If I tell you to run, you will run. If I tell you to hide, you will hide. I do not need my orders questioned. I am here to make sure you make it in one piece to testify against Joey Richards. In addition, we have to assume the worst case scenario that they will be gunning for you. Do you understand what I'm talking about, Sandburg?"

Blair nodded and then spoke. "I understand perfectly, Detective Ellison. I do have one question?"

"What's that, Sandburg?"

"Can I get my things…from where I was staying?" Blair looked down at the tabletop.

"I'll send Brown or Rafe to get them. Where were you staying?"

"It was an abandoned store on Chester Ave. I think it used to be a liquor store. It was dry and warm and it felt good to get out of the rain for a change."

"I'll have Brown and Rafe check it out. What did you have?"

"A duffel bag with clothes in it and a backpack. It had a few of the personal items I was able to keep over the years. Not much really. I sold some of what I had and lost most of it when I lost the place I had been paying rent at." Blair's voice just faded away at the end of his sentence.

Jim looked again at the young man. Something was different about this guy from the regular run-of-the-mill homeless people he had encountered over his years. Sandburg tried to act all hardened and tough, but Jim could easily see through that exterior the kid was trying to convey. Jim still considered Sandburg a kid. After all, he was only twenty-four years old.

Jim got to his feet. "You stay here. I'll be right back." Jim left the interrogation room and went back to the bullpen where Henri and Brian still were.

"Hey, Jim. I've printed out more info on Sandburg. It appears he was some sort of genius when he started at Rainier. You want the information?"

"Sure, Henri, and can you and Brian do a favor for me and go to an abandoned store on Chester Avenue? Sandburg says he stayed there last night and he has a backpack and a duffel bag there. His clothes and the few possessions he has. He asked for it. I figure he deserves at least that. Maybe he has some other clothes that fit him better."

"Sure, Jim. We'll go get his stuff. Are you getting soft for the kid?"

"No, Rafe. Go!" Jim turned away from the two detectives, who snickered behind Jim's back.

Jim walked over to his desk, pulling out the take-out menus he had in the side drawer. He figured Sandburg must be hungry by now and they might as well get a good meal before they left the station and went to the first safe building. He took all the menus, not knowing what Sandburg would want to eat. He walked back into the interrogation room.

"I've sent Brown and Rafe to get your things. I thought we could order take-out while we wait for them to come back and before we go to the first location. What would you like? I have several menus here. I'm game for any of them."

Blair looked over the take-out menus. He had to control himself from drooling over just the sound of substantial food. It had been so long… He looked over the menus -- Chinese, pizza, Italian, Thai, Indian, a sandwich shop. There was just too much choice.

Blair looked up at Jim. "Pizza is fine with me."

Jim smiled. "Ah, a man after my own heart. Double meat lovers okay with you?"

Blair smiled back at Jim. "Sure. Sounds good to me."

"You might as well come back to the bullpen with me. I'll call in the order and we can eat it there."

Blair followed Jim back to the bullpen. He was beginning to think that maybe it wouldn't be so bad with Detective Jim Ellison.

"You know, once we're on our own, we'll have to fend for ourselves. We can't take the chance of some delivery person recognizing us."

"Well, I used to be a fairly good cook. I used to fix meals in the apartment I shared when I was going to the university."

Jim noticed the pained expression that came across Blair's face at the mention of the university. He decided to change the subject.

"We can share the cooking duties. I'm a bachelor, so I can fix basic things -- spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers. I think we can make do." Jim graced Blair with another small smile.

Jim pulled over a spare chair towards his desk. "Have a seat. No use you standing all of the time." Jim sat down at his desk and saw the extra pages Henri had printed out about Blair Sandburg. Jim quickly picked them up and placed all of the information into a file folder. He would take it with him when they left the PD. Jim was thinking he'd have to make a stop by his place to get some clothes and other things for himself while they were moving around. He figured he could do that after the pizza arrived and they ate. He'd excuse himself and leave Sandburg in Brown and Rafe's capable hands. Jim grabbed the phone, ordering two large double meat lover pizzas. He hung up the phone after placing the order.

"So, if you don't mind, what did you study at Rainier?"

"I got my B.A. in Anthropology. I was going to continue on with my master's and my doctorate, but those plans got derailed by my attack."

"Why didn't you get help for your physical problems afterwards?"

"Well, after being attacked by a group of five people, I sort of tended to shy away from people. In addition, I didn't believe anyone could help me. It has been so long now, that I just don't want to answer the questions all over again. One thing I have learned as a homeless person, people tend to look at you differently. Like you are damaged goods. Or mentally ill. Or both. Believe me; I have seen it all over the four years since I have been on the streets. If there was a way for me to make an honest living with a job, I could hold down, I would do it. However, I think I'm more of a lost cause. I can accept that."

Jim didn't know what to say. There was no easy way to change the young man's mind. He had set thoughts that he believed were true. Maybe after the trial, or in the wait before, Jim could help to convince the young man to get some help. Just from what he had read from the printouts, Blair Sandburg wasn't damaged goods or mentally ill. There must be more to the story than Sandburg was willing to share. He had made a slight mention of what he had seen over the four years since he had been on the streets. There must have been more than the attack. Maybe others had turned him down.

>>>>>>>>>>

Henri Brown and Brian Rafe got inside the abandoned store by the broken window in the back. That was the only entrance they could see. Actually, Brian went through the broken window, cursing all the way, at how his freshly dry cleaned suit was going to need cleaning again. Henri just laughed and told Brian to get the door open. Brian unlocked the back door and let Henri in. There was no electricity on in the place, so they shined their flashlights around the area. There were scurrying noises all over and Henri shined his light on three rats that ran across the floor.

"I can't imagine anyone staying here for very long at all."

"Sometimes, you do what you have to do. Let's just find Sandburg's things and get out of here."

They walked through the mostly empty building. As they got towards the front, they saw a counter there. Behind the counter, they found a sleeping area along with the duffel bag and the backpack. There was a threadbare blanket there and a pillow that had seen better days.

Henri shined his light on the contents in the duffel bag and the backpack. He turned to Brian.

"From the looks of these clothes, they're not much better than what Sandburg had on at the station, but we'll take everything to him. After all, they are his."

They left the blanket and the pillow and walked to the back of the store, leaving through the door there. They locked the door when they left. Brian looked back once they were outside.

"They should condemn that place. It could fall down during the next big storm that rolls through town."

"We'll mention it to the city building inspector. I am sure their office will want to look at it. Along with several other buildings along this block."

When they arrived back at the station, both Jim and Blair were eating pizza at Jim's desk. Both detectives made a beeline over to Ellison's desk, grabbing pizza for themselves.

"Hungry, boys?" Jim laughed at the two detectives as they practically inhaled the pizza.

"You didn't tell us you were getting pizza!"

"It was Sandburg's choice. I figured I would give him a decent meal before we headed out. Did you get his things?"

"Uh…yeah. About that. The clothes in the duffel bag don't look any better than the ones he has on."

Blair looked over at Brian and Henri. "As I was telling Detective Ellison, I lost most of what I had when I had to leave where I was paying rent. I was kicked out before I could get most of my things."

In the meantime, Jim was looking over what was in the duffel bag and the backpack. "This won't do at all. We're going to get you some clothes that fit, Sandburg." Jim noticed Blair about to say something. "No arguments! I can afford the necessities. We will just make a detour to the mall before we go to our first location. We should be safe enough for a few hours."

Blair didn't know what to think. It seemed as if Ellison had done a complete turn-around since their encounter earlier in the interrogation room about the picture. He hoped the Ellison he saw now was the one who would be there during their time together until the trial. He could not believe that Ellison was going to get the necessities for him. Probably put it on an expense report and be reimbursed by the police department.

>>>>>>>>>>

It was about half an hour later when they finished the pizza. Jim had gone to the break room and had gotten Blair two more aspirin for his headache. Blair thanked the detective and downed the tablets without another comment. Maybe this would be enough to dispel the headache. Of course, he couldn't deny that the food had helped. He had stuffed himself with the pizza, but it had been so long since he had had pizza. He had savored every piece and had even thought about grabbing a couple of slices for later. He had to stop himself from doing that, realizing he wasn't going back out on the streets by himself.

A few minutes later, there was a pat on his shoulder. He turned to see Detective Ellison standing there.

"You ready to go, ki…? Sorry, Sandburg. Habits die hard. You have to admit, compared to me, you are a kid."

"I understand, detective. I guess you could call me worse. Yeah, I guess I'm ready to go."

"We'll go by my place, so I can get what I'll need. And then we'll get stuff for you and a supply of groceries to run us for a while." Jim grabbed his coat off the hook there. He looked back over at Blair. "You don't have a coat?"

"Nope. Nothing warm. That is why I have so many sweatshirts. They seem to keep me warm enough."

Jim only shook his head and led Blair out of the bullpen. "Wait here. I'll be right back." Jim went back through the bullpen towards Captain Banks' office. He stuck his head in and told Simon they were leaving. Jim told Simon of his plans to get the 'kid' some decent clothes.

"You're becoming a softy, Ellison."

"I am not! I just don't want people to get the wrong impression of this guy."

"Go on, Jim. Don't forget to call when you get settled."

"It'll probably be late. I have to go to my place, and then get his stuff and then a supply of groceries for the first place."

"If you need any help, don't hesitate to call me. You don't have to act like the lone ranger on this one."

"Don't worry about that happening, Simon. I know how dangerous this could be. Maybe we'll get lucky."

Jim left Simon's office, waved to Brown and Rafe, and then rejoined Sandburg just outside the bullpen. He started walking towards the elevator and Blair followed him. They got on the elevator and Jim hit the button for the garage.

Blair stood silent by the detective. He was still amazed at the transformation between when he had first met the man to now, when he was practically doing everything for him. He would still be wary of the man. After all, he hadn't survived so long on the streets by trusting every person he met. He was careful. It had been a costly lesson to learn, but one that had definitely been worth it. In addition, Ellison's previous behavior gave Blair cause for concern. Just because he was acting all nice at this time, did not mean he would stay that way. Blair just had to remember to follow Ellison's rules and not do anything more to piss the detective off.

The elevator reaching the garage level and the doors opening brought Blair out of his musings. Blair followed Ellison to the same blue and white pickup truck. Ellison unlocked the passenger side and Blair opened the door and got inside while Jim went around to the driver's side. Jim turned to Blair once he was inside the truck.

"We'll go by my place first. Remember the rules I laid out." Jim started the truck.

"I remember." Blair fastened his seatbelt and Jim pulled out of the lot.

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim pulled into the lot behind the apartment building where his loft was. Sandburg didn't get out of the truck until Jim had a chance to get out himself and look around the area. Jim indicated it was okay for Sandburg to get out and Jim hustled the young man towards the building. There was always the possibility someone could be watching them.

They went upstairs to the third floor, Blair following right behind Jim as he ascended the stairs. When they reached the third floor, Jim juggled his keys so that the one to unlock the apartment was in his hand. He quickly unlocked the door, ushering Blair through the door first. Jim shut and locked the door once he was inside. He turned to see Blair scoping out the place.

"Look, I'm going to be a few minutes getting together my things. If you want to take a shower, the bathroom's right through that door." Jim pointed towards the bathroom, just past the kitchen area. "You can leave your duffel and backpack on the couch. Just grab a change of clothes. I think we'll toss what you have. They seem rather ripe."

"Oh, really? I hadn't noticed the smell. You have a sensitivity?" Blair put his things down on the couch, rummaging through the duffel bag for a change of clothes.

"Believe me; someone doesn't need a sensitivity to smell how ripe you are."

"Oh. Sorry, man. I mean, detective. I'll go take a shower. Thanks for the offer." Blair pulled out a pair of sweats and another sweatshirt. It seemed to be the only thing the guy owned.

"Look, Sandburg. Since we are going to be together for some time here, why don't you drop the detective? You can call me Jim, or Ellison. How does that sound, Chief?"

"Chief? What kind of name is that?"

"More manly than Blair."

"Hey, my mom named me Blair. It is a perfectly good name. Gaelic in origin, it means literally, child of the fields. I suppose that fits me more nowadays than it ever has before in my life."

"You're not a child of the fields; you're a child of the streets."

"A minute difference. However, if you want to call me Chief, you are more than welcome to. It's much better than kid."

"Go take your shower, Chief."

"I'm going, I'm going!" Blair was actually chuckling as he made his way to the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Jim was chuckling also as he made his way upstairs to his bedroom to grab what he would need for their time together. He would get his toiletries after Sandburg was finished with his shower. He came back downstairs with his own duffel bag, placing it on the couch beside Sandburg's duffel.

It was about twenty minutes later when Blair came out of the bathroom. He had used Jim's soap and shampoo, but Jim had to admit the guy smelled better. He had a towel over his head, still drying his hair.

"You really want to throw out my other clothes?" Blair seemed hesitant to do it.

"I'm getting you new clothes. You don't need to keep the old ones. Unless they hold sentimental value for you. If that's the case, leave them here and I can wash them up and get them back to you."

"Nah, I guess I don't have an emotional attachment to any of them. It's just that I've had them for some time."

"Good. You can place them in the trashcan under the sink in the kitchen. Just throw whatever you want to get rid of in there. I would suggest most of what is in there."

"You know, you don't have to get me new clothes. I don't like to be indebted to someone."

"You won't be indebted to me. I want to do this. My father brought my brother and me up to believe that it is better to give than to receive. Although I don't have much contact anymore with either my father or my brother, I still believe in the lessons my father taught me when I was growing up. I can afford this. Just think of it as my contribution to your acceptance by the court and the jury when you go to testify. It's always a good idea to make a good impression."

Blair thought that over. It was true. It added to the dichotomy that seemed to be Jim Ellison. At least the man he had seen so far this day.

"Okay, I'll accept your help, but I'll have you know, I don't just trust anyone. I've learned hard lessons over the years. And I've learned it's better to be cautious."

"That is an admirable quality for someone on the streets. I'm glad you were cautious, that you are cautious." Jim got up suddenly and went into the bathroom to get his shaving items and other things he would need. He'd have to buy all of that stuff for Sandburg. But he was willing to do it.

Jim came back out of the bathroom and placed the items in his duffel bag. He noticed Blair was placing the clothes in the trash. He came back over to the couch, looking at Jim.

"You ready to go now?"

"Yeah, I guess. I'm still not sure about this."

"It'll be fine." At Blair's look of skepticism, Jim spoke again. "Really, it will be."

"I hope you're right. It's just been so long since anyone did anything just for me."

"Well then, I think it's past time then. Everyone deserves to have something done just for them."

Blair didn't say anything. Jim picked up his duffel bag. Blair bent over to pick up his duffel bag and backpack. Jim ushered Blair over to the door. He stopped the young man there. He took a coat off the hook there and handed it to Blair.

"Here, take this until we can get you one that fits. This will be a little big, but it will keep you warm."

Blair took the black leather coat Jim handed him and slipped it on, noticing it was a little big, but not overly so. He looked at Jim and smiled. Jim let a small smile come across his face.

They left the loft, Jim ahead of Blair. Blair reflected on the generosity of the man who would be his protector. He was sure Jim Ellison would not let anything happen to him. He would be safe as long as he was in Jim's care.

Jim was thinking about how best to go about getting the things they needed. He'd have Blair go into the stores with him; otherwise, Jim would get the wrong sizes. That way, he could keep track of the young man.

>>>>>>>>>>

They went to the mall first. Jim went to the men's store where he had gotten many of his own clothes. He told Blair to pick out whatever he wanted. Blair went all around the store, looking at various items and always checking out the prices. Jim would follow behind him and pick up a few of the items that Blair rejected.

After a few minutes, Blair turned around to look at Jim. He noticed the clothes Jim was carrying.

"I rejected those."

"You can't reject everything in the store, Chief. C'mon, these pants would look really good on you."

Blair laughed. "You a fashion expert now?"

"Hey, I'm just saying, you can have whatever you want. I told you -- money is no object."

Blair looked over what Jim had in his hands. He picked out a pair of khakis, a couple pairs of denim pants and two shirts and a sweater. Jim put the rest of the clothes back.

"You might as well pick out socks. We'll go to a shoe store, get you a fancy pair of sneakers that will keep you feet dry and warm."

"I feel like a kept man."

Jim could only laugh at Blair after that remark. "Far from it, Sandburg! I'm not into guys."

"Yeah, I'm sure you have the ladies standing in line." Blair barely said the sentence with a straight face.

"Don't knock my attraction to the opposite sex. If I didn't have to bab…uh, guard you, I would be hitting on the new investigator in Forensics. She's a real knockout."

"Yeah. I'm sure she is." Blair had quickly lost interest in this line of conversation. While he had gone for his undergraduate degree, he had dated a few times, but most of the girls he had dated were older than he was. Moreover, definitely more experienced. Since he had been on the streets, no woman, or girl, had given him a second look.

"…you with me, Sandburg?" Jim was gently shaking him on the arm.

"What did you say?"

"I asked you if you wanted to go try these on to make sure they're the right size? You seemed like you were a million miles away."

"Just thinking about the past. Nothing really exciting. I'll go try these on. You're not coming into the dressing room with me, are you?"

"No, I think I can guard the entrance and that will be good enough. But don't take all day. We've got other places we need to go to."

"Right, right. It won't take me very long." Blair walked towards the dressing rooms, Jim on his heels. Jim stopped just to the entrance to the rooms. He looked around the store, making sure no one suspicious was around.

Twenty minutes later, Blair came back out. "I'll take them all. I really do appreciate this."

"Go get socks. At least four or five pairs."

Blair walked over to where the socks were and picked out six pairs. When he brought them up to the checkout counter where Jim was waiting for him, Jim raised an eyebrow at him.

"Hey, I couldn't decide between two of them."

"It's fine, Sandburg." Jim indicated for the clerk that they were finished. The clerk rang up the purchase and Jim paid by credit card. Blair didn't pay any attention to the total. He really didn't want to know. Jim made Blair carry the bags when they left the store. "After all, they are all yours, Chief," was Jim's reasoning.

They went on to the shoe store and it took no time at all for Blair to pick out a pair of comfortable stylish sneakers. Jim persuaded Blair to put on the sneakers before they left the shoe store. As soon as the worn shoes were off Blair's feet, Jim had the clerk throw them away. Blair walked around the store a little bit.

"They feel okay?"

"They're fine, Jim."

"Good, let's go. We've got a few more places to go to."

>>>>>>>>>>

They reached the nondescript house at around 6:00 PM. Both Jim and Blair were loaded down with bags to carry inside. Jim checked out the area before letting Blair out of the truck. It was quiet and nothing was out of place. When they got inside the house, Jim checked it out before he let Blair explore it. It was clear, but Jim knew he had to be careful. Chances were no one knew where they were yet. However, if things went the way Jim suspected they would, it would only be a matter of time before suspicions raised and questions asked.

Jim had Blair put away the groceries they had bought. Jim walked to the living room, out of Blair's hearing range and made the call into Simon to let him know where they were.

"The DA's office was demanding to know the schedule we're going to use to move Sandburg."

"Did you explain to them why we were keeping quiet about it?"

"Yeah, but they weren't happy to learn that we don't trust them. How are things going between you and Sandburg?"

"Okay so far. He's not so bad, once I get to know him better. I may not kill him by the end of our tour together."

"Just make sure you keep a watchful eye out. I don't want to lose my best detective."

"Don't worry about it, Simon. I've been very careful so far. I think we're going to turn in early tonight. We went to all types of stores. At least now Sandburg will be respected when he shows up in court."

"Give me a call when you change locations."

"Will do, Simon. Bye."

Jim closed the cell phone and slipped it in his pocket. He rejoined Blair in the kitchen. Blair was just finishing putting the groceries away. He turned to face Jim.

"Hey, if you want, I can make us some spaghetti."

"That sounds good. I wanted to tell you, you can take the bedroom nearest to the kitchen and I'll take the one down the hall. You might want to put your bags in the room."

"Sure. I can't believe this. A whole bed to myself. I don't get that luxury very often. I didn't even have that soft a bed when I was at the university."

"Well, these are king size beds, so you'll have plenty of room to stretch around."

Blair went to put the bags of clothes and personal items into the bedroom Jim had indicated for him to take. He was impressed with the entire house. He wondered what it would be like to live in such a place. He came back to the kitchen a short time later.

"Will I have to go into Witness Protection after I testify?"

"I don't foresee that happening. Once Joey Richards is put away, that should be the end of it."

"Are you sure about that? You don't think other members of the crime family will be coming after me?"

"It's not likely. Not if they have any hope of staying in business. Of course, I'm hoping we can find more evidence of misdeeds by the rest of the crime family and disband their hold on Cascade."

"I best start on the spaghetti."

"I'll help by cutting up the vegetables."

They worked side by side and soon the spaghetti was cooking. Blair sat down on a chair in the kitchen, taking a sip from the bottle of water he had gotten out of the refrigerator. Jim sat down opposite Blair and decided to try to get more information out of the kid.

"So? Have you given any thought to pursuing more college courses?"

"Well, as I said earlier, because of my attack, I lost the ability to concentrate for very long. In addition, I get tired easily. I don't think I'd be successful."

Jim was going to bring up going to the free clinic again, but didn't want to upset Sandburg any more than what he already was. Blair didn't say anymore and Jim knew not to bring up the subject again. He decided to try something different.

"So, do you have any family in Cascade or nearby?"

"No. There is only really my mom. I haven't had much contact from her since shortly after I started at Rainier when I was sixteen. She is a free spirit and doesn't like being tied down to one place. And I never knew my father. He died before I was born. Shortly after my mom got pregnant, my father went to Vietnam. He died in action about two months before I was born. I have seen pictures of him and I look like him. I've fantasized over meeting him. My mom isn't real close to her family or my father's family and I wouldn't know how to contact them."

Blair got to his feet to check on the spaghetti. Jim got up, setting the table. He felt sorry for Sandburg, not knowing how to get hold of his family. Most likely, they would be willing to take him in and help him. In addition, it might be a better situation if he had somewhere outside of Cascade to go until the heat would die down from the trial. Jim was being truthful with Blair, but it was always best to cover yourself totally, just in case.

Silence reigned as the men ate dinner. Jim didn't know what else to talk about to the young man. And he wasn't comfortable with small talk about nothing in particular. Blair didn't seem to miss talking at all and Jim chalked that up the young man's lonely lifestyle of living on the streets. Jim did notice that the young man had a healthy appetite.

When they were about finished, Jim spoke again. "You want to wash and I'll dry, or…"

"Yeah, that's fine." Blair looked up from the table, where he had been staring during most of the dinner. He gave Jim a small smile. "How long will we be staying here?"

"Probably a couple of days. We have got places throughout the city we can stash witnesses. Even some places outside the city limits, if we need to do that."

The task of washing and drying the dishes was finished in short order. Jim turned to Blair.

"We can turn the TV on if there's something you want to watch. I'm sure there's a basketball game on some channel."

"Basketball is okay with me. I used to play when I was in grade school and junior high. When the other kids didn't have such a height advantage over me."

"I used to play in high school. Along with football and baseball."

"I was the best pitcher in my junior high. Of course, I was only there for a couple years because they kept advancing me grades because of how smart I was. My mom didn't want me to play football. She thought the other kids would tackle me and break some bones or something. I wanted to go behind her back and join; because the coach said I was one of the fastest runners he had seen. I didn't want to have my mom mad at me. What about your parents? Did they support you in your athletic endeavors?"

"It was only my father. My mom left when I was about six years old. There was a problem between my father and mother. I'm still not sure what it was. And my father was more interested in business than paying attention to his sons growing up."

Jim walked away from the kitchen and made his way towards the living room. He sat down on the chair there, grabbed the remote for the television and flipped it on, going through the channels quickly. Blair followed a few minutes later, sensing he had hit a nerve with the detective. He sat down on the couch, as far away from Jim as he could get and still stay in the same room. He kept his eyes on the television, watching as the channels clicked by methodically. Finally, Jim stopped at a basketball game. He turned up the volume a little, but kept the remote in his hand. He didn't even spare a glace in Blair's direction.

After about half an hour, Blair was lying on the couch, his eyes closed. Jim chanced a look over. Sandburg really looked like a kid lying there asleep on the couch. Jim knew he would have to wake him up to get him to bed. It was getting late anyway. Time for both of them to turn in.

Jim got to his feet, went over, and shook Sandburg's shoulder. "C'mon, Sandburg. Wake up! It's time to go to bed. It is a lot more comfortable than that couch. Or a park bench somewhere."

Blair opened his eyes, looking around. By watching him, Jim knew Sandburg was a little confused as to where he was. Then the recognition dawned in the expressive blue eyes and Blair sat up, running his hands over his face.

"I didn't mean to fall asleep." Blair rubbed at his eyes, finally getting to his feet.

"Just go on to bed. It's getting late anyway."

>>>>>>>>>>

Blair sat on the edge of the bed. He had taken off his clothes, down to his boxers. He had put most of the clothes from the bags away in the closet and the drawers of the dresser. He hadn't had so much since he had been a kid. Even though he and his mom had moved around quite a bit. He hadn't explained to Detective Ellison that his mother had a severe case of wanderlust when he was growing up and they had moved around often. This was why he proved himself to his classmates as an athlete. Nobody had been impressed with his academic abilities and the knowledge he had possessed. He had to make it with the in-crowd somehow and avoid being picked on as the new kid in class. With his athletic ability, he was able to do that, and avoid the beating he normally would have gotten.

Blair pulled down the bedspread on the bed and lay down in the bed. It was the most comfortable place he had slept in for some time. It was warm, dry and free from varmints, such as rats, bugs and other critters. Blair was asleep within minutes.

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim double-checked all of the doors and windows to make sure they locked. He looked out the front window, pleased to note that all was still and quiet. He was hoping things stayed that way until after Sandburg's testimony. However, he knew that chances were good that Sandburg's identity would come out before the trail. He only hoped that no one would come after the young man.

If they did, Jim would be ready for them. Over the several hours they had been together, Jim had developed a passing tolerance for the young man. He hoped to convince Blair to have a doctor examine him after he was finished with his testimony, in order to find out the extent of any damage because of the attack four years ago. Jim knew there was the possibility that doctors couldn't do anything, but he would feel better if a doctor examined Blair just the same. Maybe he could regain some of his previous life.

Jim finally turned from the window and walked to his bedroom, leaving the door partially opened as he walked inside. He wanted to be able to hear if anything happened. He put his gun under the pillow and lay down in the bed. He had been in the Army, so he knew how to rest, yet stay alert for problems.

>>>>>>>>>>

Donovan Malone sat behind the big desk in the oversize office. Four chairs sat in front of the desk. In the chairs, sat his four sons: Christopher, Sr., Matthew, Andrew, and Nicholas. Donovan Malone was not a happy person. He looked from one son to the next and then to the next, until his gaze rested on Nicholas.

"How did Joey get caught?"

"From my contacts, there was a witness. Apparently, the police have him in protective custody right now. I don't even know his name. In addition, I haven't been able to get anything yet from my contacts. The DA's office is denying Joey bail. He has to stay locked up until the trial."

"If the witness disappears, then so does the case against Joey. I want all of you to hit the streets, and your contacts, and find out who this witness is. Track him down and make sure he doesn't testify. Understood?"

The four sons all nodded their heads as they got to their feet and left Donovan Malone's office. Donovan got on the phone, calling his personal lawyer.

"Matty, I need you to do me a favor. Talk to the DA and try to get him to provide bail for Joey Richards. There is no reason to keep him locked up. He's not going to be leaving town. I predict that soon the DA will probably even drop the charges against him. No, you don't need to know how I came across that information. Just talk to the DA and the sitting judge in the case and get Joey released. He's practically a member of the family. Okay, I'll leave it to you."

Donovan Malone hung up the phone. One way or another, he would get his way. He would get things back to the way they used to be.

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim had been surprised that there hadn't been any attack or attempt at stopping them. He was hoping that Sandburg's identity was still unknown. He wasn't looking for trouble. He had called in every day to Simon at the station, giving him an update and receiving any news Simon had to relay to him.

Jim and Blair had resumed talking, trying to avoid topics the other would find painful or unwilling to talk about. Jim let Blair do most of the cooking, since the younger man enjoyed doing it and it helped him to work off his nervous energy he had from just sitting around.

Sandburg had mentioned it felt like he was in a prison of his own, unable to enjoy the freedom he had always had previously. He would sit for hours on end and watch television. However, Jim noticed he couldn't really concentrate on anything for very long. Jim began to think some kind of head injury had occurred during Blair's attack. He seemed restless and never able to relax completely at all. Jim didn't know if that had anything to do with his predicament or what he had endured four years ago, during the attack.

Blair had wanted to look out the windows, but knew that was a no-no in Ellison's rule book. Blair had thought about giving the detective the slip, but knew if Ellison ever caught up with him, there would be hell to pay. Blair longed to be free again. He had told Jim he felt like a prisoner himself, instead of the shooter. Jim tried to reassure him that it was only until after he testified at the trial.

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim listened as Simon Banks explained that Joey Richards had gotten bail because of Donovan Malone's influential lawyer, Matt Childress. Jim just wanted to hit something. Anything. He noticed Blair looking at him strangely.

"I've got to go, Simon. We need to make our move to the next location. Yeah, I'll contact you when we get there. No, I'm not sure which one we are heading to right now. However, I'll let you know when we get there. Yes, I'll be careful, dad." There was a slight laugh from Jim as he disconnected the line. He held up his hand to forestall Blair.

"Joey Richards got bail this morning."

"How? Why? I thought he was going to be held until the trial?"

"His lawyer claimed he wasn't a threat to anyone and that he wasn't leaving town. He got bail of $500,000. Easily paid by Donovan Malone."

"Are you sure it's safe to move to another place?"

"It's safe. I can keep track of what is going on. There hasn't been anyone following us."

"Maybe I should just drop this whole thing."

Jim didn't need this now. "You're staying put! I told you, you are safe, I am safe, and we are safe! You're not backing out now!"

"Chill, man! I just cannot see where this is all worth it in the long run. Especially if this guy is going to find me. Maybe we should just stay put."

"Nope. That is not an option, Chief. We are moving on to the next location. Now, do you have all your things together? I'm ready to move out."

"Yeah, I've got everything together. I just want to go on the record that I'm totally against this whole move."

"Duly noted, Sandburg. Not that anyone cares what you think. Let's go."

Jim walked off, gathering his things together, not looking back to see whether Blair was getting his things together. After all, the guy was an adult, capable of following simple orders when given. Jim went ahead, taking his things out to put in his truck, pleased to see Blair following behind a few minutes later.

Blair was not pleased with the turn of events with Richards getting out on bail. He was sure the man got a good look at him and would recognize him if he saw him again. Blair so did not want to meet up with Richards again. Not even in the courthouse. As he loaded his things into Ellison's truck, he was thinking that maybe it would have been best just to walk away instead of staying behind and talking to the police. This whole incident had brought him more attention and interaction with people than he had to endure for years. Moreover, he was about to the end of his patience with Ellison. Why he ever thought it would be a good idea for Ellison to come with him to keep him safe, he could not understand. The guy still only just tolerated him and was still not accepting of him as an equal.

>>>>>>>>>>

There was silence on the ride to the next safe house. Blair faced away from Jim, looking out the passenger side window at the passing scenery. He had momentary thoughts of jumping from the truck, but didn't want to risk injury and Ellison's wrath. He noticed they were leaving the city. He wanted to ask where they were going, but he figured Ellison wouldn't tell him, so he kept watching out the window.

Jim kept a close eye out for anyone who might be following. He had made a thorough search before they had left the last place. He wasn't happy that they granted Richards bail and he was out on the streets again. Malone undoubtedly would want to find out who had fingered his employee as the shooter. If Richards got any look at Sandburg at all, it was a good guess that he could pick him out if he came across Sandburg out on the streets of Cascade. This was the real reason he was going to the safe house outside the city limits of Cascade. Chances were better that they wouldn't be spotted outside the city. In addition, maybe, just maybe, he could give Sandburg a little more freedom to wander around since trees surrounded the place in all directions. He needed to find some way of putting distance between him and Sandburg before he did something he would regret. He knew if it really got bad he could call Simon and request Brown or Rafe to come and baby-sit Sandburg, but he didn't want to admit defeat and have Sandburg say 'I told you so'. And the little…Jim cleared his thoughts. He really didn't understand why Sandburg was rubbing him all the wrong ways. It was just that Sandburg was pushing all the buttons.

As they reached the safe house, Jim decided to keep it professional, like they had at the beginning. Chances were good that he and Sandburg would have no contact after the kid testified in court. Sandburg would probably just disappear on the streets again and not be heard from again. Jim was sure Sandburg wouldn't be amendable to seeking medical help after he was finished testifying. And Jim knew he couldn't make the guy do anything against his will. Jim still saw it as a waste of potential.

Blair looked at the cabin sitting before them at the end of the dirt road. It didn't seem like much to him. At least it was away from the city. And hopefully Joey Richards and Donovan Malone. Blair got out of the truck the same time as Jim and wordlessly followed him to the front door of the cabin. Before Jim unlocked the door, he turned to Blair.

"Same rules apply out here as in the city. Just remember that." Ellison's tone was no nonsense.

Blair only nodded his head, not trusting himself not to mouth off to the detective.

They walked inside and Blair was pleasantly surprised with the inside of the cabin. It had all the modern amenities, including indoor plumbing. Blair was looking around when Jim's voice pulled him out of his contemplation.

"You can have the back bedroom. I'll take the front. Let's get everything in before dark."

Jim walked out of the cabin to retrieve more items. Blair followed a few minutes later, grabbing the rest of his things and several bags of groceries they had stopped to buy on the way. After placing the groceries in the kitchen area, he took the rest of his things to the bedroom. He came back out and started putting the groceries away. Jim had gone back outside. Blair could see him from the window in the kitchen, looking around the area.

>>>>>>>>>>


Part 3

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Jim?, You mean that
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These are my stories chronicling the continuing adventures of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg, Sentinel and Guide, partners and friends.

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