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Earlier | Later

Warnings, etc. in Part 1



Donovan Malone ushered Joey Richards into his office and indicated for him to sit down. Joey sat down in one of the chairs and looked at his boss.

"How did you let yourself be seen, Joey?" Donovan was not happy with the circumstances of Joey's mistake.

"I didn't know there was anyone there, Mr. Malone. I checked the area before we went into the alley. There wasn't anyone there."

"Apparently, there was someone there, Joey. Someone who saw you and Manny in that alleyway and saw you shoot Manny. Did you get a good look at who it was?"

"I did see him, Mr. Malone. A young guy, maybe in his twenties, short with long hair. He appeared as if he was homeless. He was going through the dumpsters."

"I have my sons looking into who this guy is. The police seem to have him in protective custody until the trial. If he is allowed to testify against you, you will go to prison."

"I don't know the guy's name, but I can eliminate him if he's spotted."

"I have every confidence that you can, Joey. Just stay out of trouble and I'll contact you if we locate the witness."

"Yes sir, Mr. Malone."

Joey got to his feet and left Donovan Malone's office. Before the trial began, Donovan hoped his men found the witness. By eliminating the witness, it would enhance the Malone crime family's standing in Cascade. That even witnesses against them were not safe. They had a stronghold on the city and Donovan Malone wasn't about ready to relinquish any of that influence.

>>>>>>>>>>

Blair woke from a sound sleep. He listened intently, but didn't hear any noises in the cabin. Which meant Ellison was asleep and it was safe for him to get up. He got to his feet as quietly as he could, walking over to the door to his bedroom and opened it, pausing to listen to see if he heard anything from the older man. It was quiet and Blair tiptoed out of the room, closing the door softly behind him. He walked towards the living room, passing Ellison's bedroom. Blair kept walking towards the door leading outside of the cabin, noticing Ellison's bedroom door closed. Blair paused again at the front door, waiting several heartbeats before opening the door a crack and looking out on freedom. He knew if Ellison discovered him doing this he would be in deep trouble, but he just had to put some distance between him and the detective.

There hadn't been much conversation between the two of them since they had arrived at the cabin. Ellison was being the hard-nosed cop Blair had encountered from the beginning and at the police station. Blair didn't want to risk saying the wrong thing and have Ellison jump him for it. Therefore, they had suffered in silence through dinner and the cleaning afterwards. After dinner, Ellison had gone back outside the cabin, telling Blair to 'stay', as if he was a dog. That infuriated Blair and he had retreated to his bedroom, staying there even after Ellison had come back inside the cabin. The cabin had modern amenities, but no television, no radio and no other form of entertainment. So Blair was in his bedroom, sulking. Actually, his headache had returned full force and he couldn't find where Jim had put the aspirin, so he suffered in silence, not even letting Jim know his headache was worse.

Blair had hatched the plan while lying in the bed -- he would go outside the cabin for some fresh air after Ellison had gone to bed and was asleep. He knew it was against Ellison's rules and was a risk to his safety, but he didn't like the fact that Jim had treated him like a dog, telling him to 'stay'. He just wanted to check out the area around the cabin. He wouldn't go far.

Blair opened the door a little more and slipped out of the cabin, standing on the porch just outside. He pulled the door closed behind him, careful not to make too much noise. He moved forward, looking out on the area in front of him, illuminated by the moonlight coming through the trees. He walked down the three steps and stood there.

Before he could even contemplate going any further, he heard the noise behind him. He turned and saw a very pissed off Jim Ellison standing there, hands on his hips.

"Do I have to handcuff you to the bed?" Ellison spoke the words softly, but the force and anger in the voice was unmistakable.

Blair briefly thought about running, but knew Ellison had his gun and would probably not hesitate to use it at that instant. Blair walked back up to the porch, not looking Ellison in the eye and stormed back into the cabin. He knew all trust he had built with the man was now gone. He wondered how Ellison knew he was gone. He wanted to ask, but somehow knew the detective wouldn't answer his inquiry.

Jim followed the young man back inside the cabin. He couldn't quite explain things himself. Something had woken him and he was able to hear Sandburg as he walked through the cabin, opened the front door and slipped outside. Jim thought the young man was trying to make a break for it, so Jim had jumped out of his bed and was outside within a couple of seconds. The guy was standing at the bottom of the steps, looking around the area. A perfect target for anyone who might have discovered where they had moved. Jim had been deadly serious when he threatened Blair with handcuffing him to the bed. For a moment, Jim knew Blair had thought about running. Jim had seen it in the eyes. In fact, Jim had been able to see the range of emotions on Sandburg's face, from surprise, to anger and finally to acceptance as he passed Jim to go back inside the cabin.

Jim locked the door to the cabin. He sat down on the couch in the living room, intent to keep watch the rest of the night. Jim decided if Sandburg was going to try his patience like this, he was finished with this gig. He didn't need to risk his life for someone who didn't care. He'd have to have a long talk with Sandburg, and he figured there was no time like the present, since both of them were awake. He got up off the couch and walked to Sandburg's bedroom, knocking on the door.

"Get out here, Sandburg! I know you're not asleep and we need to talk!"

Jim went back to the couch to sit down and wait. It was several minutes later when Sandburg came out of the bedroom and sat down in the chair opposite the couch.

"Do you have a death wish, Sandburg?"

Blair didn't look at Jim. He was looking at the floor. However, he answered the question. "No. I just thought…"

"You know the rules! I told you to stay inside, stay away from the windows, not to disobey me."

"Yeah, you told me to 'stay', like a DOG! I'm not a dog, I'm a man!" Blair had gotten to his feet during his tirade.

"Calm down! I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean that remark. It just came out."

"What difference does it make anyway? I'm probably not going to make it to the trial anyway."

"Why would you say that? I told you, I am not going to let them find you. But you can't be running around, letting yourself be seen."

"In the middle of nowhere? Who's going to see me?"

"We could have been followed. I don't think we were, because I didn't see anyone, but it is possible that someone got a bead on us in the meantime. I just don't want you to take any unnecessary risks."

"Not to burst your bubble, detective, but you're not superman. If they find me, they will get to me. Even if they have to eliminate you to do it."

"That's the only way they're getting to you, Chief. Through me. And I don't plan on that happening. You are my responsibility and I intend to see you to the trial."

"Forgive me if I don't share your optimism." Blair leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes, the pain obvious on his face.

Jim noticed the gesture. "Are you having pain? I told you to let me know when you needed something."

"It's not like it helps a lot. I don't think there's an answer for my pain."

"You know, you could go see a doctor, have some tests done…"

"I don't have the money for that. I'm just a poor homeless man. Nobody cares about my welfare." Blair got to his feet and walked towards the kitchen, getting a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.

Jim followed the young man. He reached into the cabinet over the sink and shook out two aspirin, handing them to Blair. "I care about your welfare, Chief. You would be surprised at how many people care."

Blair swallowed the aspirin with several gulps of water. He walked back towards the living room, standing in the middle of the room. "I've never had anyone care about me before." Blair said the words softly, but Jim had heard them clearly.

"Why don't we both go back to bed? We can sleep in tomorrow morning. And maybe we can explore the surroundings, if you want to."

Blair turned around to face Jim, a frown on his face. "But what about your rules?"

"Supervised exploration, Chief. I still think we are relatively safe out here. At least for the time being."

"Look, I'm sorry about trying to sneak out. How did you know anyway?"

"Something woke me. It must have been some noise you made."

"I tried not to make noise."

"I could hear you, Sandburg. I'm ex-Army. It takes some doing to get anything past us."

Blair finished his water, disposing of the bottle and then walked to his bedroom, closing the door behind him. Jim stayed out in the living room for some time afterwards, still not totally trusting Sandburg to stay put for the rest of the night. After some time, Jim fell asleep on the couch, sure he would hear Sandburg if he tried to sneak out again.

Blair sat down on the side of his bed; still wondering if he was safe. He knew Ellison meant well, but even he couldn't stand up to the firepower of the Malone crime family if they found out where he was. Finally, he lay down in the bed, smiling to himself in the knowledge that Jim Ellison cared about his welfare. No one had cared about him since he had been out on the streets. He had to fend for himself and couldn't rely on anyone else to assist him. It was actually rather humorous that someone like Detective Jim Ellison would care about someone like him, a homeless man who had no prospects of a future. He hoped that if the syndicate eliminated him, then Jim would be safe. Overall, Jim was a good guy and he helped the city as a police officer.

>>>>>>>>>>

It was the next day when the Malone sons convened back in their father's office. Donovan Malone looked up expectantly as his sons walked inside.

"I hope you have good news for me?" Donovan Malone got right down to business.

Nicholas was the one to speak up. "We found out the witness' name is Blair Sandburg. From what I could find out, he is a homeless man. The police are keeping him in protective custody, but my contact at the DA's office doesn't know where. They said that the Cascade Police Department, specifically Major Crime, is handling the job. And it's Detective Ellison handling the assignment."

"By himself?" Donovan Malone sounded surprised.

"As far as I could determine from our source in the police department."

"Do we know where they are sequestered?"

"No. I'm trying to get an idea of where their safe houses are and where Ellison might have taken Sandburg, but it is not an easy piece of information to obtain. I have all of my contacts out on the street trying to locate either Ellison or Sandburg, with a handsome reward for whoever comes up with any information. We will find them. It's only a matter of time."

"I hope that you are right. We've got to assert ourselves and let them know we run this city."

All of Donovan Malone's sons agreed with him. They did run Cascade.

>>>>>>>>>>

Even though they had explored the area around the cabin, Jim was ever vigilant in watching out for trouble and keeping an eye on Sandburg. He didn't think the younger man would try to slip away again, but Jim Ellison wasn't going to take the chance and kept Sandburg in his sights at all times.

Jim had found himself relaxing more since they had been out in the middle of the forest. Surrounded by trees and wildlife, it was like when he was a kid and he and his brother Steven went camping. There was even a lake about a mile away from the cabin. He and Sandburg had hiked to it the other day.

Jim also noticed Blair had begun to relax more since they were at the cabin. He was sleeping easier and longer and seemed to have more stamina. In addition, his headaches seemed to be less severe. At least that was Jim's impression. He hadn't given Blair many aspirin tablets since that first night. They had been there for five days now.

Jim decided to call Simon to find out what was going on. He hadn't talked to his captain since the first night they had arrived. Jim wanted to know if there was a search ongoing for Sandburg by the Malone crime family.

Jim noticed Blair sitting on the couch, reading a paperback mystery left over from a previous occupant.

"I'm going outside to call Captain Banks to check in."

Blair looked up from his book. "Tell him hi from me."

Jim chuckled. "I will, Chief. Is that a good book?"

"It's passable. I think I've figured out the murderer already."

Jim just shook his head and walked on outside. He looked around the area, before making the connection to the Cascade Police Department. Simon answered after the second ring.

"Banks."

"Hey, Simon. It's Jim. I thought I would call to find out if there is anything going on."

"I'm glad you did call, Jim. Apparently, Donovan Malone knows Sandburg's identity and he has his minions looking for him. Have you had any problems?"

"None. It's quiet and peaceful out here. Maybe we'll stay here a little longer, rather than chance coming back to the city and have someone spot us. Do they know we're keeping Sandburg in protective custody?"

"I'm not sure, but I would suspect so. I'm not sure if they know you are keeping him in protective custody. I would watch out, Jim. If they find out where you are, I'm sure they won't hesitate to eliminate both of you."

'I'm sure you're right, Simon. I told Sandburg that Richards got bail and was out. He didn't take the news real well."

"Is that any surprise? I'm sure the kid is scared that he will die if Richards finds him. How's it going with the two of you?"

"Better. He tried my limits when we came to the cabin. Of course, I guess you could say I pushed him to it."

Simon chuckled. "Didn't I tell you to get along with the kid, Jim? He'll reconsider suing you and the department!"

"I don't think so, Simon. We've come to an understanding. I can start to see his side of things. He's not used to being cooped up in one place and having his movements restricted. And it seems his headaches were occurring with more frequency lately."

"Is it better now?"

"I'm not sure. I think the isolation has helped both of us. This is why I'm considering staying out here a little longer."

"Whatever you think is best, Jim. Just make sure you keep a lookout. Do you want any additional help? I could send out Brown and Rafe."

"Nah, Simon. I can handle it. And less people, the less conspicuous we'll be. We definitely do not want to draw attention to ourselves. I'll be calling in daily to get any updates."

"Sounds like a good idea. Take care of yourself. And Sandburg."

"I will, Simon."

Jim disconnected the call and walked back into the cabin, noticing Sandburg had fallen asleep on the couch. Jim couldn't keep the smile off his face. Sandburg looked like a young kid asleep there. At least someone barely out of his teens. The book he had been reading had fallen to the floor. Jim walked over, picking up the book, placing it on the table in front of the couch.

Jim decided to make dinner for them. He went out into the kitchen and started preparations. He kept thinking about what Simon had said -- it was a good bet that Donovan Malone was looking for Blair. None of the Malone crime family took kindly to people bringing charges against anyone in their group and Jim had seen first-hand over the years how witnesses disappeared, left town or even turned up dead on the streets. He gripped the pan harder and then released it. It clanged against the stove. The noise brought Jim out of his contemplation. He set the pan upright again and pushed his thoughts away from the consequences if he didn't get Blair Sandburg safe and sound to testify against Joey Richards. It would happen. Jim would make sure of it.

A few minutes later, Blair came weaving into the kitchen. He looked half-asleep still and Jim knew what brought him to the kitchen.

"Is there a problem?"

"No, no problem. I just dropped a pan. Sorry I interrupted your sleep. I decided I'd make dinner for us."

"I've slept long enough. I need to take a couple more aspirin. The pain is flaring up a little. I thought a little prevention would help."

"Not a bad idea. It will be about an hour before dinner is ready. You can take a nap."

"I'll help with dinner, if that's okay with you?"

"Fine with me."

Jim watched as Blair took the aspirin and then started on cutting up vegetables for a salad. He debated about telling Blair about the crime family looking for him. He decided to keep that information from the young man. No use worrying him even more.

>>>>>>>>>>

Simon didn't like the rumors he was hearing. The grapevine at the PD was as active as any other police department in the country. Word was going around that the Malone crime family knew the locations of the PD's safe houses and knew the vehicle Detective Ellison was driving and had pictures of Ellison with the witness, Blair Sandburg. Simon knew if all of that was true that one other thing must be true; there must be cops on the payroll. It wasn't an appealing prospect, but one that Simon knew had to be true. It was also possible they were able to tap into his and Jim's communications. They might be able to get a lock on where Jim and Blair were hiding out.

Simon knew he had to warn Jim. He'd have to break off constant communications with his detective and, although Simon wasn't looking forward to doing something that drastic, he knew it was necessary and could possible save Jim's, and more importantly, Blair's lives. He would give Jim the warning tomorrow when he called.

If there were cops on the take, Simon knew they were in trouble if he tried to get anyone else to help in making sure Sandburg made it to testify. It was a lot just to eliminate one witness, but even a small chink in their armor would make the crime family seem vulnerable. If Sandburg were successful with his testimony and the conviction of Joey Richards, then some of the invincibility would be gone.

Simon was sure none of his detectives were on the Malone payroll. He wasn't 100% positive, but his group of detectives had gone through a lot together. They were a tight-knit group and knew what the others did on a regular basis. They were a family and family did not betray one another.

Of course, Simon thought the entire PD community was a family also, but it appeared as if some of the family didn't appreciate getting scum off the streets. There were always rogue cops and cops who went beyond the law and thought themselves above it all. They were most always rooted out, but Simon wondered if that would happen this time. He hoped so. He liked the concept that they were all on the same page, working to get the criminals off the streets.

>>>>>>>>>>

Jim closed the cell phone and knew he had to talk to Blair. The young man had gone to take his daily walk down towards the lake. Jim knew anyone could find them at any time. There was no longer any illusion of safety and Jim knew he had to explain these concepts to Blair. There would be at least one attempt on Sandburg's life. Jim was sure of that. He had to keep them as safe as he could. This meant using other means than the PD's established safe houses.

Jim walked towards the lake. If he concentrated, he could hear Blair mumbling to himself. The kid talked to himself almost non-stop. Jim was surprised he could hear Blair at such a distance. However, Jim had noticed that all of his senses seemed a little more intense out here away from the city.

He had experienced the same thing several months ago and thought he was going crazy. He had taken a week off from work; going to every doctor he could think of, trying to come up with an explanation for his problem. All of his clothes had seemed uncomfortable, as if they were scratching his skin, even though they were the same clothes he had been wearing for years, and noises bothered him, like they were assaulting him on every level and from all sides. In addition, his taste buds couldn't tolerate anything more than bland oatmeal and soups, and he suffered from headaches and thought that maybe that was the root of all of his problems. However, the headaches were a result of the florescent lights at work and the intensity of the light, along with the smells that seemed to overwhelm him at the most inopportune times. Jim coped with things just fine in the dark of his loft, sitting in the quiet and using meditation to take him away from the present. The incident had passed, thankfully, but Jim had never gotten any answers from any of the doctors. They would treat his symptoms, but didn't have any answers for the reason it happened.

This time, when his senses seemed to intensify, there wasn't that out of control feeling. Finally, Jim figured out why. Blair Sandburg had been with him. He didn't understand why it made a difference, but it did. Jim was able to concentrate on Blair and it seemed as though everything was fine. Jim was thinking about talking to Blair about this also, but he wasn't sure if it would be too much for the young man. He might go running off. Jim didn't want that to happen.

Jim stopped as he reached the clearing. He actually laughed at the sight before him. Blair was sitting by the lakeside, his shoes and socks off, and was splashing his feet in the water there.

"Enjoying your swim, Chief?"

Blair didn't stop what he was doing or turn around. "Come on and join me, Jim. You need a little levity in your life."

"Enjoy it while you have it, Chief. I've got to talk to you."

Blair stopped what he was doing and turned to look at Jim. He saw the serious look on the detective's face and instinctively knew he was not going to like what Jim was going to talk to him about. He pulled his feet from the lake and dried them off with the towel he had brought with him. He was putting his socks and shoes back on when Jim sat down beside him.

Blair gave Jim a sideways glance as he finished tying the laces of his shoes. "So, what's going on, Jim? You look like you're ready to go into combat mode."

"It may not be a bad idea. I just talked to Captain Banks." Jim paused, not sure how to continue. He looked directly into Blair's face when Blair turned his body to face Jim.

"And…?" Blair wondered what exactly was going on. He suddenly got to his feet and faced away from Jim.

"Stay close by, Chief. There are rumors going around the PD that the Malone crime family has ascertained the locations of the safe houses that are used. Plus the fact they know I'm the one protecting you and they know what I drive and have our pictures."

"They're going to find us." It wasn't a question; it was a statement of fact. Jim could not dispute it.

"It's very possible. However, I'm not giving you up without a fight. We will be out of communication for a while unless we can find secure ways of doing it. They could tap into the cell phones and the calls. I'm sure some of Malone's goons are going to check out the safe houses, which is why we need to start moving. Now."

"Maybe I should just…"

"Don't say it, Sandburg!" Jim's voice was full of authority. "You are NOT going to back out from this now. We've come this far and I can make sure you make it to testify."

"It's just that it seems to be such a bother."

"You are going to get a killer off the streets. That is not a bother. Now, let's go get our things packed up so we can find a safe house that is truly safe."

"But you said…" Blair looked at Jim, confusion clear on his face.

"I have friends, acquaintances. We'll find somewhere safe."

They walked side by side back to the cabin, Jim ever alert for anything out of the ordinary. About five feet from the cabin, Jim heard the distinct sound of a gun cocking.

"Run into the cabin, Sandburg! Move it!" Jim punctuated his words with a shove to Blair's back.

Blair stumbled somewhat, but then got to the steps, looking back to see Jim scanning the woods in all directions. What was the guy looking for? Blair hadn't seen anything.

Then, two quick shots punctured the silence. Jim spotted the shooter, and then turned back towards Blair.

"Inside the cabin, Sandburg! You know what to do!"

Blair knew this was serious. Nevertheless, Jim was a sitting duck out in the open. He couldn't just leave Jim vulnerable. However, if he disobeyed Ellison's direct orders, there would be hell to pay. Blair went inside the cabin just as a bullet whizzed by him. He closed the door and went down to the basement, making himself as inconspicuous as possible. He could still hear shots firing and wondering again how Jim had spotted the shooter.

>>>>>>>>>>

After what seemed like eternity, Blair ventured out of his hiding spot. He hadn't heard or seen anything from Jim at all. And no one else had found him, hiding where he was. He came back upstairs, cautious and looking around. The truth was he was scared shitless. What if the shooter was just waiting for him to show his face? What if Ellison had been shot and was bleeding…or he was dead somewhere out in the woods?

He saw Jim by the sink in the kitchen, cleaning up what looked like blood from his right arm. Blair quickly got over to Jim's side.

"Are you okay, man?" Blair took over the cleaning, looking at the wound at the same time. "This doesn't look too bad. Of course, I'll have to bandage it."

"You'll have to bandage it?"

"It's kind of hard to get it bound tight enough with only one good hand. I've done basic first aid before."

"Thanks. The first aid kit is under the sink. What are you doing up here? I told you to go and stay put?"

"I was worried, man." Blair bent down and pulled up the first aid kit, opening it up on the kitchen table. "I thought maybe you had been shot…or…worse."

"Make sure the wound is fully irrigated. I don't want to get infection."

"We could make a stop by a hospital?"

"Nope. We are behind already and the crime syndicate knows we're here. Just finish this up quickly."

Blair finished cleaning and bandaging the wound in Jim's right arm. From what Blair could determine, not having any formal knowledge of medicine was that the bullet hit the fleshy part of Jim's arm. It probably hurt, but it was not life threatening.

Blair started cleaning up when he finished. "All done. Does it hurt much?"

"Just a dull ache. It's hardly more than a flesh wound. I'll live."

Blair could only shake his head as he put the first aid kit away. "Big, macho cop. Well, we have plenty of aspirin if you need any."

"We're leaving ASAP. Get your stuff together."

"Right, Detective Ellison." Blair gave Jim a mock salute.

Jim shook his head and had to smile. Blair turned around just before he went into the bedroom.

"Oh, by the way, how did you know someone was there?"

"That's something else I need to talk to you about. But not until we're on the road."

"I look forward to it, man." Blair disappeared into the bedroom.

Jim let out a long sigh and gently stretched his right arm. It ached, but the kid had wrapped it tightly. Jim went to his bedroom, packing his things. He automatically listened in to Blair in the other room. It was so easy to hone onto the younger man. Jim would miss it when Blair wasn't around anymore. That's why he wanted to explain things to Sandburg. Hoping maybe, he would understand. Not really expecting him to.

Blair came out of the bedroom with his stuff. A few minutes later, Jim came out with his things. He looked over at Blair. "You ready to go?"

"Yep." Blair's body language spoke so much more than that single word.

"Look. I don't know how many times I have to tell you -- I will keep you as safe as I possibly can. As long as you follow my rules, you'll be safe."

"Whoever shot you could have killed you and he would have found me in here and killed me, too."

"They won't know where we're going."

Blair started to take his things out to Jim's truck. Jim's voice stopped him.

"Stay here until I check things out."

"You know we're sitting ducks here."

Jim left the cabin after fixing Blair with a look that told him to stay put. Blair stood by the door, watching Jim as he surveyed the area once more. The detective seemed to scan the area with his sight. Blair tried to do the same thing from his vantage point, but he couldn't see more than a few feet straight ahead. It appeared as if Jim was checking out several feet in every direction. Maybe the guy had exceptional sight.

After several minutes, Jim turned back towards Blair and indicated for him to come out of the cabin. Blair cautiously came out, looking around the area.

"Will you move it, Sandburg?"

"How do you know it's safe now?"

"Dammit, Sandburg! We cannot stay here! Get out here!"

Blair could tell Jim was about at the end of his patience. He shut his mouth before he blurted out the retort he had in his mind. He reached Jim's truck, loading up their things.

"Is that everything?" Jim barely contained his irritation.

"Yes." Blair lowered his head and moved to get into the passenger side of the truck. He looked up as Jim walked back into the cabin. A few minutes later, Jim came out, carrying something. Blair recognized it.

Jim got into the truck. He handed Blair the coat. "You might need this."

Blair mumbled, "Thanks", putting the coat across his lap.

Jim started the truck, driving off without another word.

>>>>>>>>>>

"Why didn't you kill Sandburg?" Donovan Malone pinned Joey Richards with a deadly glare.

Joey swallowed, but showed no other outward sign he was nervous. "It was a warning. To let him and that detective know we can find them wherever they decide to go."

Malone took a deep breath and looked down at his desktop. "I don't want you to give them warnings! I got you out on bail to eliminated Sandburg! If that means you have to kill a detective, then you kill a detective!" Malone looked up again at Joey. "We need to prove our hold and control in this city. We are in charge. If you can't do the job, I'll find someone who can!"

Joey looks down at the floor. "I'm sorry, Mr. Malone. I can handle it."

"Don’t be sorry, Joey. Just get me results."

"Yes, sir." Joey Richards left Donovan Malone's office.

Joey had come up with the idea of toying with Sandburg before he killed him. After all, there was still over a week before the trial started. And he planned to make sure Blair Sandburg was dead before the trial. No one would be able to prove he was the hit man. It had been a fluke that there had been a witness when Joey Richards eliminated Manny Torelli. It meant a lot to him that Donovan Malone gave him the opportunity to take care of the 'loose end' -- Blair Sandburg. Moreover, if that meant getting rid of Detective Jim Ellison, it would be an added bonus. He knew all the safe houses, the vehicle Ellison was driving, and thought he could out-think whatever move Ellison made.

Joey had liked stalking the two men and found the hunt exhilarating. He had been able to reach the cabin unnoticed and had even watched Ellison and Sandburg for over a day before making his move. He had a bead on Sandburg and took the shot. He had missed Sandburg intentionally and watched as the little shit ran into the cabin. However, Joey had been able to hit Ellison in the arm, when he tried to spot him in the woods. Joey had quickly left the area before Ellison could track him down.

>>>>>>>>>>

There was silence inside the truck. Blair was gazing out the side window, watching as they approached the city limits of Cascade. Jim kept his eyes on the road, not even sparing Blair a glance.

Jim was debating about telling Sandburg about his senses. He did not understand it all himself and doubted whether Blair would believe any of it. He had promised the kid that he would explain how he knew what was going to happen.

Blair was practically bursting to ask Jim several questions. He wanted to ask him how his arm was feeling. Blair was thinking it might not be a bad idea to run by a hospital to have Jim's arm looked at, but Blair knew Jim would veto that idea.

The other thing Blair wanted to ask Jim was about how he knew someone was in the woods just moments before the shots rang out. Jim had intimated he wanted to talk to Blair about that very thing. Blair noticed Jim appeared to have exceptional eyesight. He knew Jim wasn't going to speak any time soon. He chanced a quick look in the older man's direction, seeing the clinched jaw.

"Are you okay, man?" Blair barely whispered the words, not wanted to irritate the other man too much.

"I'm fine. Look, Blair, I am sorry about being so abrupt. I think whoever found us, was toying with us. Trying to scare us."

"Well, he succeeded. I'm scared shitless and if you weren't with me, I'd give up right now. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine." Jim fixed Blair with a quick look before concentrating again on the road.

"Hey, I was just thinking maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to stop by a hospital to have someone look at your arm."

"I can't afford the luxury. We need to find a safe place to stay and try to get a different vehicle. And I need to find a way to communicate with Captain Banks. We have to try to anticipate what they'll do next."

Jim got out his cell phone and made a call. "Yeah, Mike. It's Jim. I need to call in that favor you owe me." There was a pause, as Jim listened. "No, Mike. This is serious. I need a change of vehicle, something non-descript. Where do you want me to meet you? Okay, Mike. We'll be there shortly." Jim chuckled. "Yeah, Mike. We're even now." Jim closed the cell phone and made a left turn at the next intersection. He didn't say a word to Blair.

Finally, curiosity got to Blair. "Um…where are we going?"

"A friend of mine. From my Army days. He owes me a favor."

That was all the explanation Jim gave. He soon pulled up to a garage. Blair recognized it as being on the outskirts of Cascade. They both got out of the truck as a man came out of the garage.

"Jim Ellison! You are looking fit! How long has it been since we've seen each other?"

"Close to six months, Mike." The two men shook hands. "What do you have for me, Mike?"

"I've got a real beauty, Jim. A Ford Mustang. Fast."

Jim only shook his head. "I said NON-DESCRIPT, Mike. You have anything else?"

As Mike laughed and thought about things, Blair observed the two men, who were obviously good friends. There had been no introductions and both of them were going on as if he wasn't even there. However, Blair didn't really mind. He was used to the feeling.

"Okay, let's see…I have a Volvo I just finished with. Not as flashy as the Mustang, but…"

"Where is it, Mike?"

"Behind the building. You want to look at it?"

"Yeah. It sounds less flashy than the Mustang."

The three of them walked behind the garage. Along the way, Blair was thinking about when he had his car. It had been a Volvo. A reliable car. As they rounded the corner, Jim could hear the gasp from behind him.

He turned to face Blair. "You okay, Sandburg?"

"Um…yeah. It looks like my car. Well, the car I had before I had to sell it."

Mike turned around, having heard the exchange. "Well, I've had the car for several years now. I got it from a young man from the university who was trading up. You want it, Jim?"

"Yeah, Mike. I need you to safeguard my truck until I get back to you. It may be better than a week."

"So, do I want to know what you're involved in?"

"This is Blair Sandburg. He's a protective witness. Can I borrow your phone to make a call?"

"Sure, Jim. I'll show you where it is. And I'll get the keys for the Volvo at the same time."

Jim turned to Blair. "Get the things out of the truck. I'll be back as soon as I talk to Captain Banks."

"Okay."

Blair watched as Jim and Mike walked inside the garage. He went over to the truck, pulling out the duffel bags and his backpack. He looked around, wondering if any of the syndicate had been able to follow them. He took their things over to the Volvo. It did look like his car, the same color, green, and the same model. He would have to wait until Jim and Mike came back out with the car locked. He put the stuff on the ground by the car and leaned against the side.

Mike pointed out the phone to Jim and then went to get the keys for the Volvo. Jim walked over to the phone, calling Simon's cell phone, not trusting the phone lines into the PD.

"Simon, it's Jim. We are on the run. Someone found us at the cabin."

"You both okay?"

"We're fine. We cannot go to another safe house. I've gotten a different vehicle so maybe they won't be able to track us."

"Why don't you bring Sandburg into the PD, Jim? We'll put him into protective custody and keep him safe."

"I'm not going to lock him in a cell, Captain! He doesn't deserve that. I'm having a hard enough time keeping him from running out and giving up. Do you have any idea where else we can go?"

"Why don't you try various hotels and motels throughout the city?"

"Maybe, but I just came up with another idea. Something Sandburg may be able to help me with this time. I'll be in contact when I can, Simon."

"Make sure you keep watch, Jim."

"I will, Captain."

Jim hung up the phone and flexed his arm. It was starting to ache.

"I have the keys, Jim."

Jim turned to face Mike. Mike tossed the keys and Jim caught them.

"Thanks, Mike. I'll bring the Volvo back once this is all over."

"No hurry, Jim. I'll keep your truck safe and sound. Maybe I'll even clean and detail it for you."

"Thanks Mike. I best get going."

Jim started to walk out of the garage when Mike's voice stopped him. "If you need anything else, just let me know."

"You've done more than enough, Mike." The two men shook hands again and left the garage. Blair was still leaning against the Volvo. He straightened up as Jim came towards the car. Jim unlocked the trunk and Blair put their things inside. He closed the trunk lid and got into the passenger side of the car. Jim was already inside.

Blair looked around the interior of the car. It reminded him of his car. Of course, it had been over four years since he had seen his car.

Jim started the car and left the garage. About a block later, he spoke.

"I need your help, Sandburg. We can't go to another safe house. What I have come up with is we can live on the streets. You know your way around, how to avoid people, and so forth. With your knowledge of the streets and my abilities as a policeman, we'll be able to avoid being found."

Blair actually laughed aloud, but then he placed his hand over his mouth. "I'm sorry about that. I just can't see you on the streets, man."

"It's not like it's going to be forever, Sandburg. It will only have to be for about a week. That's how much time until the trial is supposed to start."

"Why don't you just put my in jail, in protective custody?"

Jim pulled over to the side of the street and stopped the car. He turned to face Blair, a look of shock on his face. "You don't deserve to be in jail! I can't believe you would even say such a thing! Don’t you know that Malone and his goons will find you even easier in jail than anywhere else? Do you want to die?"

"Hey, I figure if I do live to testify, I won't live long afterwards. Why not just get it all over with now?"

"They want to kill you BEFORE you have a chance to testify, not after. Once you give your eyewitness testimony that will be it for Richards. Now, are you going to help by offering suggestions of where we can go to avoid people?"

"Well, I guess it won't be as bad as being alone with no food. Okay, detective. We can start with that place on 9th & Chester Ave. Where Detectives Rafe and Brown got my things. It's off the beaten path and we may be able to stay there for a couple of days. The only drawback is there are mice, spiders and bugs running around."

"We can put up with it for a few days. We'll get some ready-to-eat food and go there. And there's something else I want to talk to you about."

"How well you were able to see whoever it was that was gunning for us?"

"More like hearing who it was gunning for us."

"Oh. Should be an interesting conversation."

Jim only shook his head and started the car up again. They went to a nearby store, buying crackers, peanut butter, chips, cheese, candy bars and granola bars. Jim paid for the purchases and made Blair carry the bags. They walked out of the store and Jim had Blair stop while he scoped out the area.

Blair leaned close to him. "You're using your sight now, right?"

Jim only nodded his head as he continued to look around. Soon, Jim moved forward and Blair followed him.

>>>>>>>>>>

They had lost Ellison and Sandburg as they returned to the city. Nevertheless, Joey Richards wasn't worried about not finding them again. It was only a matter of time. With the resources of the syndicate, he knew it wouldn't take long to blanket the city and find both men. He was confident as he sent out feelers and inquiries throughout the city that soon Blair Sandburg, and possibly Detective Jim Ellison, would both be dead.

The older man stumbled along the sidewalk. He had been in the shelter and had overheard two people talking about looking for a young man with long, curly hair. He had seen the young man around, although it had been some time. He had heard there was mention of a reward if information led to finding the young man. He could use the money. Anyone out on the streets could use the money. Besides, everyone knew it was best to stay on the good side of the Malone family and their associates. That's who was looking for the young man. Undoubtedly, he did something against the family. It really was not his concern. Out on the streets, it was every man (or woman) for themselves. There was no time to make friends or alliances. It was a cutthroat world and only the fittest survived. If he came across the young curly haired man, he'd get his just reward.

>>>>>>>>>>

They were eating in silence, but Blair's eyes darted towards Jim from time to time. Finally, Jim had enough.

"What are you looking at, Chief?"

"Just waiting for that explanation you were going to give me."

"Well, can't you wait until we finish eating?"

"Sure, man. No problem. Can you hand me a candy bar? It's been a long time since I've had a chocolate candy bar."

Jim reached into the bag and pulled out a candy bar, handing it over to Blair.

"Thanks." Blair tore open the wrapper and practically inhaled the chocolate bar. Jim could only laugh at him. Then he sobered up, remembering Sandburg's position prior to becoming a witness to murder.

They had arrived at the abandoned building. Jim almost suggested another, more stable, building, but Blair had already gone inside and Jim followed the younger man inside. It would be okay for a while. However, Jim wanted to find somewhere else. He would be able to scout around the area later and find another building.

Blair had walked around the place as if he had been there forever, finding the few remaining chairs in the place and bringing them to the front of the store. Jim made sure that they weren't in line with the windows in the front.

Now, they were just finishing up. Jim was throwing out the trash and he came back to sit down beside Blair. He looked over at the young man and wondered how to start. It was best to just come right out and tell him everything.

"Okay. I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I am going to start at the beginning and then I will explain what has been happening lately. Can you just listen until I get finished and then I'll answer any questions you have?"

"Sure. Go ahead."

"About four or five months ago, I experienced what I would call a spike in my hearing. Noises were bombarding me from all sides, some were loud and I could hear whispers from across the room in the bullpen. I could hear people's conversations on the phone, both ends. Then my clothes became almost unbearable against my skin, affecting my sense of touch. I could only tolerate bland oatmeal and weak soups, affecting my sense of taste. I couldn't eat anything spicy." Jim paused, taking a deep breath. Why in the world was he doing this? At least Blair hadn't gone running from the building yet. Jim didn't even spare the young man a look.

"And I was suffering from headaches almost constantly. I figured out it was the fluorescent lights and the intensity of the lights at the PD against my sight. To top things off, I could smell everything within a certain radius of wherever I went. I had no idea what was going on. The only relief I got was when I would go home at night, turn all the lights off and meditate, trying to alleviate the overload of stimuli. It did seem to help. I went to several doctors and they would treat my symptoms, but had no answer for the underlying problems I was experiencing. After a time, things returned to normal and I didn't think anything more about it." Jim paused again, this time looking over at Blair, who was hanging on his every word. Maybe this would not be as bad as he thought.

"Things started to intensify again when we were at the cabin. However, this time, it didn't seem out of control. I couldn't explain it, but you seemed to be a factor in why it was not out of control. When you were around, I felt things becoming sharper, such as my hearing and my sight. That is why I was able to hear you when you tried to leave the cabin. I was able to track you with my hearing. When you would go to the lake, I'd be able to track you by your mumbling. Did you know you mumble to yourself?"

The admission stunned Blair. "Uh…no. I wasn't aware that I mumbled. This is fascinating, man! I remember something I studied when I was going to the university. I even did a study…" Blair suddenly stopped talking. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."

"No, it's no problem. If you have an explanation, I'd be willing to listen to it."

"Well, in all tribal cultures every village had what they called a Sentinel. A Sentinel is chosen because of a genetic advantage. A sensory awareness that develops beyond normal humans. I think our experience out in the woods, away from the city, probably brought your senses back on-line, so to speak. I studied people with one and two enhanced senses when I was an undergraduate. There wasn't anyone with all five senses. It was in conjunction with my studies in psychology, as well as anthropology."

The answer Blair had given Jim impressed him. He was amazed that Blair understood what he was experiencing and had an explanation for it.

"How do you know this?"

"Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor, wrote a book over a hundred years ago explaining about Sentinels. Every Sentinel had someone to watch his back. Maybe that's why your senses weren't as out of control as the last time."

"It sounds plausible to me. But why did my senses spike the last time?"

"What were you doing?"

"I was out on a stakeout, by myself. I was out of communication for close to a week. That could be it." Jim gave Blair a smile as recognition came to him.

Blair smiled back at Jim. This was all exiting to him, to think there was someone that who possessed all five senses heightened. However, his excitement died, as did his smile. He got to his feet and walked away from Jim, over into the shadows. Years ago, it would have been exciting to explore such a thing. Now, with him far removed from the university, it was just a curious fact. Maybe he would suggest to Ellison that he go to Rainier and see if anyone else would be interested in pursuing his claim of heightened senses.

Jim was concerned when Blair got up and walked away. Blair had seemed all excited and then just as quickly, his enthusiasm died.

"You okay, Chief?"

"Yeah. You should go to the university. I'm sure someone there would be able to help you and find more information about Sentinels than what I've told you."

"You made it make sense to me, Blair. Maybe you could find out more for me?"

"I'm not at the university, man. I don't have access to the university. I can't concentrate enough to explore a long-range search for information."

"But you were the one who helped me."

"Only because I was in the vicinity when you needed someone to ground you."

"What if no one else knows about Sentinels?"

"I'm sure there will be other people. I can't have been the only one."

"Well, it appears as if I'm one of a kind. Maybe backups are one of a kind also."

"Guides."

"What?"

"Guides. I remember reading something that the ones who helped a Sentinel were referred to as Guides."

"Well then, maybe you're a one of a kind Guide."

"And maybe I was just able to help because I was in the neighborhood."

"But I've also noticed that your headaches seemed to be less."

"Well, maybe the isolation did us both good. Maybe we should find some place outside of Cascade to hole up in until the trial."

"I don't want to be out in the middle of nowhere. How come you won't accept that you may be my Guide?"

"Because I'm no one special, man. And you can't exactly have a homeless man as your Guide."

"Maybe we can change that."

"But you need someone who has access to the latest literature and someone who would be able to document and quantify your senses as to their strength and your abilities."

"You could do that."

"No, I can't. I told you. I can't concentrate enough to read a book."

"You did at the cabin. That mystery novel you were reading."

"I can't, Jim. Don't you understand? I have been away from the university for over four years. Even if I wanted to go back, I have no means. I don't have money, I don't have a place to live, and I don't have anything. Well, I do have the clothes you bought for me, but that is it. That is not going to pay for an education. I can't just walk in and ask to use the research facilities."

"What if it could be arranged that your education would be paid, you'd get medical attention for your headaches or whatever else is going on and you were able to study me and my senses? Would you be interested?"

"I can't let you do that, man. It's too much. You don't even know me and you barely tolerate me at times."

"But you've given me hope for the first time in months. You've given me answers to questions I've been wondering about for years."

"Years? How long have you been experiencing problems?"

"Since I was a kid. Then, when I was in the Army, I was involved in a mission where someone shot down our helicopter and I was the sole survivor. A Peruvian tribe took me in and the shaman helped to heal me. He recognized my abilities then. I seem to remember they were out of control at that time also."

"You've had heightened senses for years and you've never told anyone?"

"I didn't want to be perceived as a 'freak'. I just wanted to live a normal life."

"Then why even mention it to me?"

"I'm not sure. I just thought you'd understand."

"I'm not sure it's something you want to be broadcasting out to everyone. Especially a homeless man."

"Stop calling yourself that!" Jim had gotten to his feet and walked over to where Blair was standing. He placed his hands on Blair's shoulders.

Blair shook off the hold and moved away from Jim. He turned and faced the detective. "Look, just accept that I can't help you. If you want me to, I can contact the university and see if there is anyone there who can help you. There may still be someone there that I remember."

"No, I don't want anyone but you."

"I'm not in a position to help you."

"If you weren't so afraid, you could be." Jim knew it was brutal, but he was trying to help the young man.

"Just like testifying, right?" Blair looked down at the floor. Then he raised his head and looked Jim straight in the eyes. "Okay, a trial basis. But if I can't do it, I need for you to drop it and forget about me."

Jim let the smile come across his face again. "It's a deal, Sandburg. But I have every confidence you can do it."

"I'm glad one of us does."

>>>>>>>>>>


Part 4

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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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