Just thought of a missing scene from Cypher
I always thought they never really went deep enough with the Sentinel portion of the show. This would be the first real test of how deep Jim could go. And both Jim and Blair acknowledging how deep the whole thing really was. It would change how things went later between them but that isn't all bad either. Jim can still have his anxiety attacks about his skills becoming public knowledge.
The scene opens: David Lash has left the building. Jim, Blair and Simon are headed back up to Major Crime – they are the only ones in the elevator.
"Damn it! How did he get out of sight so fast?" The anger was directed at himself and the wall of the elevator as the detective pounded it.
The other two in the elevator knew it was a rhetorical question. But the captain still had to have answers. The observer was torn between trying to comfort his friend and his own anger at the fact that the killer was right in front of their faces.
"What kind of APB do I put out? Be on the look-out for a naked crazed lunatic?"
The jaws of both officers were tight.
Sandburg opted for staying in the near corner – close but not too close. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm himself. Then it clicked.
"Wait a minute! Jim, we're giving up too fast. We keep forgetting you're a Sentinel. You have another sense to use to track this creep down. Smell!"
Ellison rounded on his partner. "What?"
Sandburg bounced and ran a hand through his hair. "You get the scent from the clothes he left behind and track it."
"You want me to act like a damn blood hound? I am NOT putting my nose to the ground! It's bad enough I've got these senses now you want me to act like a dog?" Ellison got into the younger man's face.
Blair didn't back down. A voice in him told him to hold to the plan. 'Get the Sentinel using his senses.' He tentatively put his hands on Ellison's shoulders and worked hard to keep his voice calm. "Jim, you're using your senses more naturally every day but you're relying on sight and hearing because they are the most natural to humans. But you are more than that. You are a Sentinel; protector of the tribe. This creep is a threat to the tribe." He kept his eyes steady on those of his Sentinel. 'His' sentinel? That sounded really possessive. When did that happen? Focus, Blair, there's a creep to catch.
"This isn't a tribe! It's a city, Sandburg."
"Right, right. A city maybe, but the people within the city are a tribe. In an extended sense. Anyone within the borders of Cascade is yours to protect. Use the gift you have been given to protect them."
Banks watched the two men. One on the verge of pounding a hole through the elevator wall at what the other was telling him to do. The other continued to surprise him – right now the observer was standing toe to toe with a very angry Ellison and not backing down. His voice was calm and his eyes steady. Most surprising was watching Ellison's body respond. The mind might not be conscious of it but Banks could see the taut muscles relaxing. The kid really did know his stuff about this sentinel shit.
The elevator stopped at their floor and the doors opened to frenzied activity in the hall. Banks pushed the two men out and into the bullpen. They continued to focus on each other allowing the captain to move them into his office. The closing of the door caught Ellison's attention, breaking whatever 'spell' the anthropologist had him under.
The detective looked around him. "Captain?" His mind was relaxing to match his body but it wasn't quite there yet.
"Look, Jim, if Sandburg's right and you can get a track on this guy – you have to do it. We have to get him before he finds his next victim."
"I'm not a dog, Simon!" Some of the tension was coming back now that Sandburg's hands weren't on his shoulders.
Blair turned him. "Not a dog, Jim, a Sentinel." He pushed the emphasis on who he was.
"A sentinel? But how? I can't run around with my nose on the ground." He was starting to accept the idea. He paced away from the younger man.
"Scent isn't just on the ground, it's in the air, on anything he touched." They had to move if they were going to try it but he knew he couldn't rush Jim into accepting it. "Catalog the scents on the clothes, label them like we've done with sound and taste. Then follow where they lead."
Ellison looked out the office window at the people milling in the bullpen and the hallway. "But there's been so much going on since Lash took off. And I can't do this in front of everyone," a tone of fear crept into his voice.
"I'll clear the floor. We need Forensics up here anyway. You two do what you need to do once everyone's out." Banks didn't wait for confirmation that they would act; he headed out the door and in his most commanding voice cleared everyone out. In a few moments the floor was empty.
He returned to the office with the clothes – they had been on Brown's desk waiting for Forensics. Setting them on the table he stepped back out to call Forensics.
Sandburg spread out the clothes. "All right Jim. Nice and slow. Just like we've practiced. Take a deep scent, catalog the smells, focus on them and label them."
The Sentinel stepped forward and the detective mind was pushed to the background. Jim shook his head as he tried to figure out what he just did.
"The Sentinel, Jim." The soft commanding voice told him.
Ellison nodded and focused on the feeling he remembered from the jungle. The confidence in his senses as the Chopec shaman coached him. The voice he remembered became Blair's. His senses opened and changed under the command of the young man's voice. A hand rested against the small of his back and his focus sharpened on the clothes before him. Scents entered his awareness as if the wind in the jungle had changed and brought him news. There were common scents of detergent and hygiene products. Those were cataloged, labeled and moved to the background. Scents from the environment were recognized and moved to the background. Then there were the more personal scents – pheromones that were unique to each person. The Sentinel started to recognize what each one meant: fear, panic, arrogance, aggression . . . arousal. Lash was getting off on being right in front of them and they're not seeing who he was. The scent layers were unique and familiar.
Familiar. The Sentinel remembered when he had first encountered them. The scents had been teasing him for a couple days now. Setting him on edge around the man posing as the FBI expert. Teasing him at the funeral. The man was a threat to the tribe. Find and eliminate the threat.
A low growl sounded in the Sentinel's throat.
The voice settled the Sentinel. The hand on his back soothed the desire to hunt. Focus. Find the track.
The detective tried to push through.
"Easy Jim. Don't push it. We track him down first." Sandburg seemed to know the Sentinel wanted to hunt the threat down. He wanted to shake off what was happening but knew he couldn't. Something was changing – it wasn't just about teaching Jim how to use his senses and writing a dissertation . . . but what was it? "Let the Sentinel track the scents. The captain will take the creep in."
The Sentinel turned to the voice. Track the scent. Warriors will take care of the threat once he found it. That was acceptable. The Sentinel settled. "Got it," the man responded in a deep voice. "Follow."
Sandburg blinked at the command. Of course he was going to follow.
Banks watched the exchange from the open door but couldn't classify what he was experiencing. This Jim was someone totally different. The picture Sandburg showed him in that old book came to mind. The warrior hunter. If this Jim caught up with Lash . . . No, Banks couldn't allow that to happen. He followed the pair as they moved out into the bullpen.
The Sentinel sniffed the air in the bullpen. The scents he wanted were faint here; his target hadn't been in the room in a while. The scent did lead him to a desk. The trail went in two directions – one towards the chief's space and one out of the room. He followed the track into the hall.
The scent swirled and flowed and mingled with others but the Sentinel followed it. Through the men's room door to the stall where the clothes had lain. The scent was very strong here and was mingled with a stronger taint of fear. The threat was afraid. The Sentinel growled low in his throat, pleased that the threat was afraid. The stronger scent of fear went out the door and down the hall.
Ellison followed the scent to the stairway. Sandburg and Banks followed close behind him. They started down the stairs but the Sentinel stopped. The scent swirled based on the air currents created by people moving through. Others had followed the Sentinel when he had first gone down the stairs but that wasn't where the strongest path led. The scent trail went up.
"The threat went up," the deep voice stated. The man turned and headed up the stairs, his companions close behind.
Three floors up the scent trail stopped. The tenth floor of the building was some executive offices. The Sentinel paused at the door listening for occupants. There were few people on this floor and they were concentrated away from the door. The detective wanted to resist going through the door because of who might see him in this sentinel state but the Sentinel was on the hunt.
"Sandburg?" Banks whispered.
"I think he's checking to see how many people might be here before he goes on. If Lash is hiding up here Jim might actually be able to hear his heartbeat – he may have subconsciously cataloged it when we met him as the doctor. If he's up here it could be faster than anyone else's. And away from them." Blair answered.
The Sentinel nodded, please that his guide understood what he was doing. 'Guide?' the detective mind asked. It received no response. Satisfied with his auditory search the Sentinel opened the door and continued on the scent. It stopped at a janitor's closet. Stacks of uniforms inside were disturbed.
Sniffing at each shelf the hunter found something else. He held up a bound lock of hair. "Disguised," the deep voice offered. "Hiding in sight." The low growl again; now displeased that his prey thought it could hide from him. Finding all that he cared about the Sentinel was back on the scent. It had changed a bit. The fear was tamped down and now there was excitement. The threat thought he was eluding the Sentinel. He pushed back through the door of the small closet and continued down the hall. Down a side hall to the freight elevator.
Banks found himself admiring Lash's resourcefulness to evade pursuit. He was also pissed that the crazed killer had found ways to use the building against them. None of them would have normally thought of the freight elevator as an escape route.
The Sentinel stared at the box before him. The scent was inside but there was no exit from the box. His prey was not there. "Where?"
"Sentinel, check the buttons. Which one did the threat push?"
Ellison stared at the buttons then leaned in close to scent them. "Down." He pushed the button for the basement.
Banks pulled the door down to close it. The cold eyes of the Sentinel turned to him. The captain felt the need to explain himself. "Had to close the doors before the elevator . . ." He stopped when he saw understanding in those eyes.
The Sentinel turned back to stare at the door that was between him and his prey as the elevator moved slowly down the shaft.
"Sandburg, what the hell is going on with him?"
The observer shrugged. "I don't know, Simon. I think he's pure sentinel right now."
"Are you going to be able to get Jim back?"
"I hope so."
"You're not sure?"
Banks' tone held a threat – or at least the Sentinel thought it did because he moved fast between the chief and his Guide. Even the chief was not allowed to threaten the Guide. Banks automatically stepped back trying to figure out what he had done to get this version of Jim growling at him.
The voice in Blair's head came back. 'Calm the Sentinel. Keep him on the real threat.' "Easy Jim. The captain didn't mean anything." Sandburg rubbed a hand in slow circles on the Sentinel's back. "He's worried about you. Easy. The threat to the tribe has us all on edge." His voice was deep and calm despite the fact he didn't feel it.
"Keep safe," the eyes that had been cold to the captain were warm when looking at the younger man.
"Yes, Sentinel." Blair surprised himself with his response. 'This is really freaky. Will you remember any of this, Jim?'
The elevator slowed more as it reached the basement level. When it stopped nothing happened. Banks sighed and raised the door. Jim may know how to work a freight elevator but the sentinel version didn't. The motion of the door held the Sentinel's attention for a moment then the scent teased his nose. It continued beyond the door.
The three men stepped out of the elevator then the Sentinel froze. He tilted his head and scanned the immediate area. The area before them was dimly lit and cluttered with everything from broken or surplus furniture to cases of toilet paper. Storage cages further broke up the space. There was no clear line of sight anywhere and plenty of places to lie in wait. The threat could be hiding here.
The sensitive ears picked up sounds everywhere. It flooded the mind. The Sentinel shook his head then put a hand on his Guide's shoulder. The younger man automatically put a hand on the small of his sentinel's back, rubbing in small circles.
"Filter out everything but the heartbeats, Sentinel."
Banks turned and stared. Sandburg's voice was changing – it was getting deeper and the tone more formal. What was going on with these two? The captain hoped whatever it was wasn't permanent. So far they had been able to explain away how Jim found stuff but a complete change in personality would be a lot tougher to cover up.
The Sentinel nodded and closed his eyes knowing that the Guide and chief would be watchful for the threat. To normal hearing the sounds of the building's basement were like a loud background hiss – water pumps, boilers, air handlers, hum from electrical panels (the garage was located on the other side of the building) – loud enough to require slightly raised voices to be heard. To the Sentinel it was a cacophony – layers of noise and echoes that threatened to overwhelm him. With the anchoring touch of his Guide he started to identify each sound, catalog its importance to his search and move it to the background.
He identified the heartbeats of his two companions first and used them as the baseline to catalog the others. The heartbeats of hiding rodents were cast aside as too fast. Soon only the two remained.
"Not here," the Sentinel stated as he opened his eyes. He cast out for the scent then moved off quickly. The trail wove around the obstacles, sometimes doubling back as an escape route proved to be a dead end.
Another scent started to tease the Sentinel's nose. One he had experienced before – the utility tunnel. Cataloged and pushed aside. But the trail was leading to where the scent of the tunnel was strongest.
The Sentinel led them right to the gate that normally would have isolated the tunnel access from the rest of the building. A floor to ceiling heavy gage fence with a padlocked gate. Improvised tools – a section of pipe and a wrench – lay near the section of the fence that was bent back. A bit of cloth, similar to the uniforms in the janitor closet, was caught on an exposed end. The cover was moved off to the side. The scent trail went to the cover and down the hole.
"He went down." The Sentinel started down the access ladder.
"Wait, Jim. We can't see down there," Sandburg's normal voice was back. "Simon, I think there was a flashlight on the workbench we passed."
"I'll be right back."
The Sentinel was agitated. "Cannot wait." He went down the ladder and disappeared in the darkness.
"Jim! Jim! Sentinel!" Blair called down the tunnel. His voice echoed back but no answer from Ellison. "Damn it Jim. Hurry up, Simon! Jim went on without us!"
Simon returned a couple minutes later with two flashlights. "Could you tell which way he went?" The captain climbed over the edge of the hole and started down the ladder.
"I saw him go left from the ladder. I haven't seen him double back." Sandburg started down the ladder.
Simon coughed below him. "This can't be the same tunnel we used to get in the garage. The smell is definitely stronger."
"Strong isn't the word, Simon." Blair had a hand over his mouth and nose trying to filter out the stench.
The light from Banks' flashlight cast a beam to the left of the ladder with no Jim in sight. Blair shined his to the right with the same result. "Which way?"
"Ah. Got two pairs of foot prints here. That one," Simon pointed with his light, "definitely Jim's boots. Let's get going. Whatever is going on with Ellison right now has got me worried."
"Worried, Captain?" The anthropologist settled into step with the tall captain.
"The look is his eyes right now is downright murderous."
Blair shook his head. "Probably pushed the 'threat to the tribe' line a little too hard. Sorry."
"Let's just catch up," the tall captain grumbled. "You better be able to get Ellison back to normal."
'I hope so.' Blair looked ahead trying to keep the worry from his face. A remembered passage from Burton's book came to mind. The chief of Burton's host tribe had told a tale of a sentinel who had been hunting an enemy of the tribe. The sentinel had become lost in the drive of the hunt. He had found the enemy but before the warriors could take the man, the sentinel had almost ripped the man apart. The man had killed a woman of the tribe and severely injured the woman's child. The sentinel had declared a 'blood hunt' before the chief sent him on the trail. Even his guide had been unable to control him. Sandburg shook his head; yeah, pushing the threat button wasn't a good idea.
Scene Break – SBSBSB
They had gone about twenty yards when they caught up to Ellison. He was standing, unmoving, his face blank.
"Oh crap, Simon! He's zoned. Probably focused so hard on isolating Lash's scent from the stink down here he lost everything else. Working to see in the dim light down here wasn't enough to split his attention." Blair put his flashlight in a back pocket of his jeans then put both hands on the Sentinel's upper arms to hold him steady. "Simon, stand behind him and get ready to catch him if he starts to fall."
"Got it. He gets like this in a zone? Can you get him out of it?"
"Yeah to both. In a zone he loses connection to everything around him. So far I've been able to get him out. I'm worried about this happening on the job when I'm not there. We're trying different stuff."
"What? This happens a lot? Ellison can't be on the streets. . ." New anger colored Banks' voice.
"We know Simon. Can we talk about this later?" Getting a reluctant nod from the captain, Blair turned his attention to the zoned Sentinel. "Come on, Jim. Listen to my voice Big Guy. Follow it back." The observer rubbed the arms he was holding as well. "When he takes a deep breath get ready. Come on back, Jim."
On cue Ellison took a deep breath and sagged a bit into his captain's arms. He caught his balance, blinked a couple times then started coughing deep enough his companions thought for sure a lung would be coming up.
"Easy Jim. Shallow breaths till we get you out of here. Nice and slow. That's it."
A few more rasping coughs. "Shit." The detective looked around. "What the hell?" The voice was a hoarse whisper.
"Come, Jim, let's get you out of here." Banks tugged his detective back towards the ladder.
Once topside, Ellison looked around. "Lash's trail led down here and into the tunnel?"
"Yeah. You were so focused on hunting him down you didn't wait for Simon and me. I think you zoned on trying to follow his scent down there."
Ellison rubbed his face. "If he had still been down there. . ."
Blair looked away from the angry, yet confused, glare thrown at him. "I know, Jim, I know. But you're getting better."
'I know,' Ellison thought to himself, 'but only when you're next to me.' "Captain, Lash can't be that far ahead. We'll just have . . ." The detective's voice broke in a coughing fit.
"This time, Jim, we lost him." Banks looked concerned and disappointed. Watching the Sentinel track Lash throughout the building Banks started to hope they would catch the guy before he got away. Or at least been able to track him to a probable hide out. Ellison had been incredible; and frightening. If the kid really could get Ellison comfortable using his senses there could be no limit to what he would learn at a crime scene.
The captain also noticed the way Ellison was subtly leaning against Sandburg. The Sentinel's focus sharpened every time the kid touched him or spoke. To sell him on the idea of a ride along for Sandburg, they had pointed out in the book that the sentinels of old had a companion that helped with their senses. The book wasn't clear on how long the companion had to stay with the sentinel. Just this brief glimpse of Jim's abilities made Simon wonder if companion had to always be with the sentinel. A glance at Sandburg's face let the captain know that the observer was having the same thought. Time enough to worry about that once they caught up with Lash.
Ellison's cough subsided to allow him to breathe again. He glanced up at Sandburg and wondered what would have happened if he had managed to wait. Whatever was going on it felt like he was back in the jungle with the Chopec. The first time he had really let go with his senses to track the men who had come through with loads of raw leaves the tribe's shaman, Incacha, had to have two warriors hold him back when they finally caught up.
Little snippets were starting to come to him. He had been ready to do the same thing. If they had found Lash there wouldn't be anything left. But underneath that was Blair's voice calming the Sentinel, keeping his focus on the trail, leaving the punishment . . . for his chief. Jim turned to Simon. 'His chief.' Oh boy.
'Ok, Jim old boy, just get through this case. Don't lose it. Don't let Lash get under your skin.' Ellison took a deep breath to settle the new nerves that were rattling. Blair gave him a concerned look and rested a hand on the detective's shoulder. The nerves instantly settled. He had told Simon Blair understood what was going on with him and his senses; here was proof again. What was it about the kid? 'A sentinel always had a companion.' The Sentinel had called Blair 'Guide' – that he remembered. 'Ok. Sandburg will figure it out.'
"Jim?" Simon kept his voice low noticing the wince in his detective's reaction to each new noise that rattled around the basement.
"I'm good, sir." He stood slowly, conscious of the fact that Sandburg never left his side. "A pounding headache but good."
Banks nodded. "Let's get back upstairs and see if Forensics has anything." He chose to ignore the comment about the headache.
"Jim?" Sandburg asked tentatively.
Jim smiled weakly at his young partner. "I'm ok, Chief. Let's wrap up this case then you can ask your questions."
Blair nodded and stayed close to the wavering detective.
Scene Break – After the news report:
As the elevator made its way down to the garage level Blair noticed his partner had grown quiet. Looking over discretely he noted the closed expression and the frustrated set to the jaw – there was acceptance there too. Acceptance of what?
"Jim? Where are we going? New case?"
Ellison sighed. "Administrative leave." His focus stayed on the doors.
"What? Why? Because of me getting grabbed by Lash?" Sandburg was getting upset that his capture was causing problems for Ellison.
"No, no. Easy, Chief." The detective turned and put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "No. Administrative leave while they investigate the shooting." Seeing the blank look Jim realized Sandburg hadn't been around the station, or him, for the after-shooting stuff. "I shot a suspect. It's standard procedure to do an investigation that I didn't use deadly force needlessly."
There was something about 'deadly force' that caught the anthropologist's attention. "Deadly force?"
"I put five shots into . . ." Ellison stopped and stared at the door. The Sentinel side had been awake during the fight and drove the detective side to do anything necessary to protect the Guide and the tribe. It felt just like Peru when the Sentinel drew on the soldier's experience. During his debrief and wind down the psychiatrist had called it a survival tactic to have a split personality – on the rare session that Ellison had opened up about finding it hard to get himself comfortable again in civilization. Despite the reassurances that it was perfectly normal, the soldier never spoke of the problem again – split personalities were the realm of crazies and he definitely didn't want to be tagged crazy.
"Jim? What is it?" Deep concern quieted the voice.
"When we're out of here." The split personality was back but Sandburg seemed to understand it and almost expected it; Jim was wondering, deep down, why that expectation didn't trouble him. They had talked a bit the night before but with the lingering effects of the drugs the anthropologist was asleep before the detective was willing to really open up. Now Ellison knew he could without the worry about being labeled. Though, sometimes the kid did get a little over-excited about his partner accepting another part of being a sentinel or some breakthrough in keeping his senses balanced.
That short comment had Sandburg on alert – Ellison was willing to talk about something. It also meant that the anthropologist had to rein in his own enthusiasm at a breakthrough and let the detective talk at his own pace. Who had the harder task for this talk, Blair wondered.
The doors opened at the garage level and anyone nearby backed away from the fierce glare on the detective's face. Blair followed solemnly behind him and noted that some of the officers gave him a look of sympathy. He waved off a couple of concerned looks guessing that those that offered thought he was the cause and target of the glare. The grad student heard one of the older patrol officers offer 'shooting review' to his comrades; followed by knowing nods.
The pair got into the truck silently. Surprising everyone with the courage to watch, the truck left the garage in a sedate manner.
Sandburg stayed quiet, with effort, while Ellison drove to whatever destination he had in mind. It was a surprise when the truck pulled up at Hargrove Hall.
"Jim? Why here?"
Ellison looked at his hands still gripping the steering wheel. "I don't know. Maybe because Sentinel conversations belong here more than any place else?"
"You know Jim, I think we should head either to the loft or the park. My students have radar. If they even think I'm here they'll come out of the woodwork." Blair offered.
In response Jim just started the truck and pulled out.
Pulling up in front of their building Blair restrained himself from giving a grateful sigh. This was Jim's talk and it had to be at his comfort level. The loft was the Sentinel's home territory. Blair had been so exhausted the night before after an overnight stay in the hospital and getting released late in the day and then helping Jim do some clean up. During their cleaning Jim had started to talk a bit but never went deep about what was really bothering him. Sandburg was also a bit distracted by his own thoughts of being caught in the loft – somehow he found helping the detective clean and put things back in order therapeutic. That morning he was a little more at ease – he could tell Ellison was a little on edge watching his partner's reaction to being in the loft. Maybe talking through whatever was on Jim's mind in the loft would go a long way in reclaiming the space for both of them.
"Chief?" The tone was laced with concern.
Sandburg noted the detective's door was open; lost in his musings he missed the getting out of the truck phase. "Sorry Jim, just got a little lost in my thoughts. In case I forgot, thanks for last night." Blair opened his door. "Cleaning and putting things away helped me put Lash away."
Ellison moved to the front of the truck and waited for his young partner. "Me too," he replied softly. He looked up to their window and all his senses flared out, checking – but he couldn't focus them.
The Guide moved to stand next to his Sentinel and rested a hand on the small of his back. The senses sharpened and focused on the building. Everything came back as acceptable and safe for the Guide.
Ellison shook his head trying to figure what the heck just happened. Though the cynical detective side wanted to back away from Sandburg and what had happened Ellison couldn't move. The younger man was his anchor – not dragging him down but acting as a focal point around which everything else turned. Not dragging him down. Not dragging him.
"Jim?" The voice was soft, the register deep, the tone concerned. The Guide's voice underlay Blair's voice.
The detective shook his head again. This topic was for inside only. "Come on."
The anthropologist had registered how his own voice had changed. It reminded him of the search through the building when Lash disappeared. That voice focused and balanced Jim's Sentinel. Something was definitely going on with them and he had to figure out what. Checking for traffic the young man fell into step beside his partner.
The silence between them was expectant but not uncomfortable. Which surprised Blair. Any other time Ellison was on edge about Sentinel stuff or cases his brooding silences were Sandburg's cues to lay low and do everything in his power to lessen his own impact on the detective's life or ease whatever the Sentinel problem was. This time Jim was acting not at all like the surly detective – there was something going on he desperately wanted to understand but he was also showing that he had confidence that Blair would be able to help him understand it.
Blair shivered just a bit as they approached the loft door. The mark of Lash's boot was still evident and the door framing showed stress cracks. He could hear the door slam open even though it didn't move. A panic attack started to brew just under the surface. He hadn't put Lash away as much as he had hoped.
Then there were strong arms around him. He struggled in the embrace to break free then a voice penetrated his panic. The embrace moved him so he was against the wall . . . for protection. The large body shielded him.
"Easy, Guide. There is nothing to fear here." The voice was deep and resonant. His Sentinel. There was nothing to fear. Sandburg burrowed into the embrace and drew the warmth into his fear-frozen heart. "Easy. All is well."
His Guide was in distress. The legacy of the threat lingered. The door still showed signs of the attack. It must be replaced. The Sentinel scanned the area for other threats to his Guide while providing the comforting presence the young man needed.
There was the sound of footsteps on the stairs just below. Slow, measured, light steps with the accompanying sounds of shallow slightly labored breathing. Both were familiar. The Sentinel compared the sounds to accepted persons – second floor neighbor, Mrs. Watson, late 70's, slowed by arthritis. The scents were muscle rub, delicate perfume and warm chocolate chip cookies. Mrs. Watson was allowed to approach his Guide because she was nice to Blair Sandburg and watched out for him. Also Blair Sandburg was fond of the elderly lady. The Sentinel found no other threats and stepped back, allowing his detective to return to the present.
Ellison shook his head. This was starting to get weird and worrisome. It was all connected to the day he searched the building for Lash; and felt like his time in the jungle which was still only seen in brief glimpses. But it felt right . . . but too soon. Too soon? . . . Not the time for understanding that question, Mrs. Watson was almost there.
Blair had calmed down so Jim stepped back and whispered, "Mrs. Watson is coming."
The grad student nodded and rubbed his face. "Sorry, man," his own whisper was tainted with shame.
"We'll get the door replaced." Ellison offered in reassurance. "Ok?"
"Yeah. I'm good."
Mrs. Watson arrived on the top step. All five foot two, silver hair, and dressed like the stereotypical grandmother – flower patterned dress with a little lace trim on the collar and a bright colored apron carrying a dusting of flour. Her smile got brighter as she saw her two favorite boys. No one else in the building seemed to need or want her mothering but these two boys certainly did. Though when Detective Ellison first moved in he was quiet and kept to himself. Now with young Blair at his side he spoke to her, offered to help her, and accepted her visits with a smile.
"Jim. Blair. So good to see you boys. I was so worried when I heard the all the noise and the police. Then the news today." She ran out of breath or she would have kept going.
Blair stepped over to her with a big smile. "Mrs. Watson. We're both ok." He gave her his best reassuring hug – careful not to tip the plate of warm cookies that his mouth was already watering for.
"Are you sure? It sounded so awful."
Jim stepped to her other side to gently direct her to the loft door. "A couple bruises – but nothing that a couple of your homemade chocolate chip cookies can't cure." He gave her his cheekiest grin that always worked on the family housekeeper when he was growing up.
Mrs. Watson laughed at her boys. She saw the doorframe had cracks in it but decided it was best not to mention it. She had been frightened by all the noise and knew it wasn't normal even when her boys had friends over. The matron had called the police and the first car arrived just after Jim. He was terribly upset when she saw him on the stairs a while later – but he hadn't seen her.
Inside the apartment everything was clean and back in its place – for that she was grateful. She felt the gentle squeeze on her shoulder from the detective – he seemed to know she was a little upset.
"I'll get the milk," Blair said as he bustled over to the cabinets.
"Have a seat Mrs. Watson."
"Oh, I don't need to stay Jim. I'm sure you boys have better things to do than entertain an old lady."
There was something in Jim's eyes that vanished so quickly the old lady wasn't sure she saw it. "But nothing so pleasant. Would you like a glass of milk, cup of coffee, cup of tea?"
"Jim, come on, milk always with chocolate chip cookies," Blair laughed.
Thirty minutes later Mrs. Watson left the apartment with an empty plate and a warm spot in her heart. The boys had talked with her about anything under the sun. She could see that they were both a little sore and insisted that they take some aspirin – and wouldn't leave until they did. Both had given her a peck on the cheek as she left. They would be ok.
Blair looked over at his friend as he closed the door. Ellison had closed down a bit as Mrs. Watson walked out the door though she wouldn't have been able to tell. He wanted to talk about his experiences but he had to get ready. Sandburg moved to Jim's side as he started water running in the sink to clean up the glasses and plates from the cookie snack. The observer would dry and let the older man think in peace. It was hard not to try to draw the man out but if they were going to move forward with whatever had happened Jim needed to talk about it at his own pace.
Observations didn't cover just Ellison either. The anthropologist was watching himself. There was something different in himself that started the day he coached the detective in using his senses to track Lash through the building. A voice older than the one he usually heard in his head as he worked out problems was telling him how to treat Jim as a Sentinel – not a detective with really great senses. Before that they had focused the exercises and use of his senses on how to use them effectively on his job. To sell Jim on how to search for Lash, Blair had used 'protecting the tribe' to focus the man.
'A Sentinel protects the tribe,' the old one's voice said.
With a start Blair recognized the voice. A start he was grateful he was at the cupboard putting away a plate. Any closer to Ellison and he would have bumped into the bigger man. As it was the detective glanced his way, the eyes watching for cues for a panic attack. Blair tried to project calm as he worked on the memory of the voice.
A trip with his mom to South America when he was seven – when he first learned about Sentinels. The old man in the village took a liking to him and invited the young boy to sit with him every morning. Their seat was an old bench that was on the east facing wall of the old man's house. The old man liked to sit in the rays of the rising sun. Simple adobe walls, thatch roof, windows covered with fabric. Chickens scratched in the yard. Dogs barked. Children played everywhere but Blair didn't join them until the old man smiled and sent him on his way.
The adults in the village seemed to be grateful that Blair sat with the old man – almost as if he was taking on a burden for them. Blair didn't see it as a burden – he learned a lot during those talks. He learned about tribal guardians and their . . . guides.
His reach stopped in mid-motion. He was his Sentinel's Guide. The old one spoke about the Guide being the support of the Sentinel – not just with his senses but in all things. The instincts to protect the tribe were ancient and could be quite powerful and overwhelming. Even the instincts had to be trained.
Sandburg unconsciously lowered his arm as his memories wound through those days in the village.
"Hmm. I see, young one, that there is a Sentinel waiting for you."
The boy got excited instantly, "where? Is he here? Will you be training us?"
The old one smiled at the energy of the boy beside him. Not much could harness that energy but the stories of the old ways held his attention. The boy was destined to be with a Sentinel but . . . not here and not yet. "There is much time between now and when you will find your Sentinel, Little Wolf. You will learn much so you can bring balance to his world." He considered the boy's disappointment. "Ah, such a face you make. Your Sentinel must find strength in himself first before he can turn to you. The great city is no place for a young Sentinel to grow."
"What do you mean?"
"He has put his senses away to protect himself from scorn."
"But if he wasn't alone, if I was with him, everyone would understand who and what he is."
The old one chuckled. "You have much to learn and experience, Little Wolf. A small village, where everyone knows their neighbor, would protect its Sentinel. But a great city would not understand what its Sentinel was – the tribe would fear him. And you."
"Fear us, why? We would be protecting them."
The old eyes saw the understanding begin in the young face before him. "Yes, protecting them but from whom? The old ways are not taught in the great city. The fear of ones with such power keeps the tribe locked behind their doors. To protect such a tribe the Sentinel and his Guide must hide for a time and do their work quietly. In such a tribe Sentinel and Guide must learn the laws and work within them. The Guide must understand the peoples of the tribe and use that knowledge to guide, train and help his Sentinel.
"It will take time, Little Wolf, once you find your Sentinel. His instincts will drive him to do more but you must find the balance for him – allowing the instincts to meld with the needs of the great city."
Questions threatened to spill from his mouth but something deep within the old one's eyes told Blair he must think about what he had been told first. There would be time for questions later.
Only later never came. The old one died during the night. A small amulet with a small slip of paper bearing Blair's name was found in his hand the next morning. The man's grandson saw no value in the amulet so gave it to Blair without question. The amulet was a circle of stone, no bigger than a U.S. quarter, almost a half inch thick with a woody fiber cord strung through a hole. On one face of the amulet was the detailed, full body carving of a wolf; on the other was a great cat.
"Sandburg?" Jim was getting a bit worried. He was the one that blanked out for no apparent reason, not the grad student. Even when Blair was deep in thought something was moving. This . . . Blair was not even moving his lips. "Blair?" Jim put a hand on his shoulder.
"What!?" Blair jumped, shocked out of his thoughts. "Shit! Jim!" He dropped the plate which broke. "Oh gawd! Sorry man. Oh crap."
From total stillness to total frenzied activity was a shock to the detective's system as he tried to figure out what was going on with his friend. Said friend sprinted away to the cupboard opposite the bathroom to retrieve the broom and dust pan to sweep up the broken plate. Ellison felt like he was stuck in a vat of molasses as he tried to keep up with his friend's movement. He tried to put up a hand to slow down the younger man but his hand touched only empty space where the anthropologist had been.
The broken plate in the trash and the broom back in the cupboard Sandburg ran his hands through his hair as he paced in front of the counter. His thoughts got scattered but they were starting to fall back into place. Before he said anything to Jim he had to have them in order.
Jim! Oh geesh. Blair looked at his friend who was staring at him with his mouth slightly open and looked to be stopped in mid-motion.
"Jim? You ok, man?"
Ellison shook his head. "I've been trying to catch up to you to ask the same question. What the hell was that?"
Sandburg ran his hands through his hair again, relieved that the detective was at least not zoned. "Uhm, an old memory." The pacing continued but it was at a speed that Ellison could keep up with now. The detective seemed to understand that the grad student had to pace this one out. "I was just a kid. Mom and I were in Paraguay, staying in a small village. No idea how we ended up there – maybe we traveled with her latest boyfriend."
"Paraguay?" A piece settled into place.
"Yeah, home of Burton's sentinels." The grad student turned to his room. "Give me a sec." He suddenly remembered where he kept the small amulet and felt he needed it now. The young man dashed to his room and straight for the box that held the special treasures. Tucked under a small cigar box, next to the water polished Petoskey stone from Lake Superior, and wrapped in a scrap of fabric from the village was the amulet the old one had left for him.
Having the amulet in his hands seemed to slow everything down in Sandburg's mind as if the old one was scolding him for his anxious drive to have answers now. The answer was in his hand. And just as the carving had taken time to do right so would presenting the answers to his Sentinel.
'His Sentinel'. Jim was the sentinel the old one had seen. And he was to be the Sentinel's Guide. He had to learn much to be able to help his Sentinel. Blair now understood the drive behind getting his doctorate. It was never about the degree, it was about Jim. Even though he had planned to only observe like he had done on other expeditions and journeys, with Jim he had gotten involved right at the start. His heart, his spirit, had known Jim was his Sentinel – his mind finally caught up.
The dissertation had to change. He would keep up the document as a journal of their progress together but it was no longer his dissertation. He had to protect them both just as the old one said.
Blair carefully unwrapped the amulet in the palm of his left hand. As he looked at it he sensed rather than saw Ellison move into the doorway to his room. "A gift from an old man who knew I would find you one day," Sandburg answered the question that wasn't asked. He turned to his friend.
Ellison was surprised by the serene look on his friend's face. Almost as if he had found the Holy Grail and the answers of the Universe were revealed him. A memory flashed at that thought – Blair had called Ellison his holy grail. But this was different. This wasn't the joy that was on the kid's face that he had finally found the one person with all five senses. This was an understanding of something far deeper.
"Blair?" The concern in the tone reached the young man.
"Jim. We have a lot to talk about," Sandburg said in a 'stating the obvious' tone. He held up the amulet.
The cord, old when Blair first received it, chose that moment to break. In classic slow motion, both men watched the stone drop to the floor. It hit edge on, held upright for a moment, then split in half. Rather than falling to the floor the halves seemed to take on lives of their own as they rolled – one towards Jim and the other towards Blair. The halves landed face up – the wolf at Blair's feet, the great cat at Jim's.
"Sandburg?" Jim's tone was jumpy even if he wasn't showing it.
The grad student bent over to pick up his half of the amulet. Other than split in half there was no damage to the stone. He felt something on the backside of the stone. Carved on the reverse was the great cat and the wolf together – just their heads, the cat behind and little forward of the wolf.
Following his partner's lead, Ellison picked up the half that landed at his feet. To his sensitive fingers the small stone seemed to vibrate and was warm.
At the shocked sound from his Sentinel Sandburg looked up. "Jim, what is it?"
Ellison was flipping the stone from hand to hand – unable to put it down and unable to keep it in one hand. "I can feel it vibrating and it's warm. Sandburg, what the heck is going on?"
"I think we're about to learn what it is to be Sentinel and Guide." He stepped up to his friend and held out his left hand to take the stone.
With a touch of confusion clouding his eyes, Ellison shook his head. "I'm . . . getting use to . . . it." The amulet landed reverse side up and showed the same paired carving that Sandburg's had. Though Ellison's was raised and Sandburg's was recessed – like the positive and negative of a press die. Ellison's mind flashed to a memory from Peru. The tribal shaman sitting with him, helping him control his senses. 'Enquiri, your spirit animal is the black jaguar. Your Guide will be the gray wolf.'
The Sentinel shook his head as the detective tried to make sense of what the heck was going on. There was no sense. There was only the moment. "Guide?"
"Yes, my Sentinel."
Their voices were deeper and formal in tone.
"We have much to learn, my Sentinel, together."
Scene break –
Ellison became aware of sitting. That awareness was surprising since the last conscious thought he remembered was holding half of Sandburg's amulet while standing in the doorway of his partner's bedroom. He knew he wasn't sitting on the floor or at the table. His seat was soft and lightly textured – the couch.
The next awareness was that time had passed. A lot of time. It had been just after Noon when they had gotten back to the loft and now it appeared the sun was setting. Way too much time.
Next came an awareness of sound and a weight on his legs. The gentle sound of someone breathing deeply as in sleep and the warm weight of Blair's head and shoulders resting on his thighs.
Sandburg was asleep on his lap. While he recognized the past week had been rough on them – especially Blair – it was very odd for them to end up on the couch, asleep, together, occupying the same space; sort of the same space. The younger man was laid out the length of the couch and Jim had settled into the corner. The corner that faced the door, his right hand free and his gun (the small one from his ankle holster since his primary and back-up were with the shooting board) resting on the side table. He definitely didn't remember taking out his gun.
The detective recognized that he felt more protective than usual towards the sleeping man. And it wasn't such a bad thing. Sort of. He just wanted to understand what was going on.
Giving the young man's left shoulder a shake Jim made sure his head wasn't in the projected path of Blair's if he shot up. "Chief," he asked gently.
Blair mumbled then settled back to sleep.
"Come on, Chief," he shook the shoulder a little harder. "I have questions and you have answers."
"Fiv' 'or mins," the mumbled response begged.
"I don't think five more minutes will make a big difference. Come on."
"All right. All right." Blair swung upright slowly and through where Jim's face would have been if the detective hadn't settled back into the couch. "I'm up. Why?" He looked around and rubbed his face. "Uh, Jim? When . . . what . . . where?"
Ellison chuckled as his friend got four out of six of the major questions out of the way. "Why – because you are the brains of this outfit. When – sometime after eight I think. What – I'm hoping you can figure it out. Where – still in the loft, on the couch. Who – that would be us. And how – not sure."
Blair looked around processing and trying to catch up. He felt a weight in his left hand. He had rubbed his face with a closed fist. Opening his hand he saw the wolf half of the amulet. The imprint of the paired carving fresh in his palm.
Ellison's left hand came into his view with the imprint of the carving in his palm.
The imprints didn't look to be permanent – just pressed in from the pressure of their closed hands. That was ok.
Sandburg looked to his partner and saw the next question reflected in the older man's eyes. "No idea how we got to the couch?"
"Not one. Or how we ended up with you sleeping on my lap," there was no tension in the tone – just acceptance of whatever weirdness had happened. And expectation that Blair could sort it out.
"You're expecting an awful lot, Jim." The thoughts that had been clear before they ended up on the couch were fogged now. "I'm not sure . . ."
Ellison held up a hand. "Just do your thinking thing and I'll get some dinner started." This tone was edged. The detective wanted the younger man to do all the talking and sort it all out. Whatever he was going to say earlier he hoped Sandburg would run over it with whatever explanation there was.
"Yeah, I could eat." He watched the detective move into the kitchen and he got up to follow. "But Jim, I need you to tell me what's going through your head right now. Please."
The man stopped with his back to his friend. There was a certain tension in his frame that if Sandburg could see his jaw line it would be clenched tight. The left hand rose as the head bowed. Neither had put down their halves of the amulet. He started walking into the kitchen again and placed the amulet face up on the counter. A stiff walk to the refrigerator, a quick turn and he was facing his friend again.
Without preamble, Ellison began, "When we were tracking Lash through the building I felt like I did back in Peru. When we would hunt the drug runners Incacha would talk to me like you did and the soldier would be . . ." He ran his hands over his face. "The soldier would be pushed back. I became like another person watching my body track the runners through the jungle. The sentinel could . . . he would . . . I . . ." Jim paced the length of the counter a couple times.
"When they got wise that someone – something – was tracking them more guards came with the runners. It didn't matter to the sentinel. I could smell the men and their guns. I'd send the warriors out to intercept the guards first."
Picking up the amulet on the next round of pacing Ellison passed it hand to hand as he continued pacing. "The first time Incacha talked me into my senses he told me I had to protect the tribe. The men were a threat." Not having enough room in the kitchen to really pace out what he needed to Ellison moved past his partner to the living room.
"What happened, Jim?"
Clouded eyes searched through memories that were starting to come back. Painful memories of his team dying. The memory of his own injuries. "My team was gone by that point." The amulet passed from hand to hand. "I had a broken leg that was healed. Concussion that didn't leave me dizzy anymore. And . . . an anger that seemed to be eating at my soul." He looked to his best friend to see if there was rejection in those expressive eyes. He found only support. The anger was something he never told the therapist – the guy had made all of his other reactions seem ordinary when they were anything but. That anger had seemed to be a living thing at the time.
"Like Danny?" Blair sat on the arm of the couch as he watched his friend pace. His support would be total – whatever Jim needed he would get. Watching the clenched fists he thought a trip to the gym might be in order.
"Worse," Jim admitted to himself and Blair. "It was alive, inside me." He tapped his chest over his heart.
That kind of anger. "Incacha sensed it?"
"Yeah. He said something like the sentinel needed a focus. Needed a hunt. I didn't even have a chance to ask him what a sentinel was before my senses kicked into high gear. It was a few weeks before I remembered who Jim Ellison was."
"Did Incacha tell you what happened?"
Ellison paced some more. "Yeah, he figured out that I didn't know what I was and started teaching me what it was to be a sentinel. As I learned the anger changed. It . . . became the Sentinel. But no longer hunting. More watchful; protective; focused."
Blair got a thoughtful look on his face as his partner grew silent. Jim's Sentinel had always been a part of him; his senses doing their thing unconsciously as he protected each tribe he associated with. "Jim, do you remember if your senses were on-line when you were growing up?"
Ellison shook his head. "Not really. My dad was pretty strict about everything. If something didn't meet his standards . . ." A new haunted look touched the bright blue eyes then was quickly gone.
No childhood discussions, yet. The anthropologist got that signal loud and clear. "Ok. We've talked about how the Sentinel protects the tribe. I bet your sentinel side was angrier than hell that it hadn't been able to protect your men – your tribe before the Chopec. With the Chopec to protect and in a place where a sentinel would be comfortable it would be a natural progression that the sentinel would be dominant. When the other soldiers arrived your military training kicked back in. The sentinel was comfortable to let others protect the tribe for a while so he could rest."
The detective was still pacing but focused on his friend. "The night before I left. Incacha . . . he uhm . . ." The right hand rubbed over his short hair. "Incacha put me in a trance and put the sentinel to sleep . . . until," he stopped suddenly and stared at Sandburg, "until my Guide arrived. The wolf."
Sandburg nodded. "The old one called me Little Wolf."
"Ok. That explains my senses coming back. But what the heck happened when we were looking for Lash?" The tone was unsure and tense but not angry or frustrated – the usual undertones that Sandburg heard when they got deeper into Sentinel stuff.
"Your sentinel instincts took over when I told you that there was a threat to the tribe. Freaked Simon out. Freaked myself out. Sorry about that." It was Sandburg's turn to pace. "The old one taught me that the guide helped the sentinel balance his senses and his instincts. Without the guide the sentinel could become ruled by his instincts to protect, to hunt, to destroy any threat to the tribe." He looked to the older man, his eyes asking for forgiveness in not understanding his full role.
"How could you have known what your role was? You were a kid at the time. If Burton's book had any insights to the ways of the guide you would have absorbed them like a sponge."
Blair looked in surprise that Jim understood so clearly. The older man shrugged – obviously unsure how he had known.
The pacing resumed. "Burton downplayed the role of the companion because he was fascinated by the sentinel. The companion was the servant therefore, based on Burton's world view, unseen." Hands ran through long hair.
"Jim, I was fascinated by the sentinel. To experience the world with senses like that . . . When I found you I forgot the old one's lessons – helping you balance your senses was all I focused on. That and the dissertation. Then with Lash I started hearing the old one's voice in my head, coaching me how to get you working with your senses. And then I pushed the threat to the tribe button and you just turned into the Sentinel. Focused, driven, protector."
The grad student kept pacing as he organized his thoughts and developed an understanding of his own role.
Ellison thought he should be mad about what he had been put through searching for Lash in the building but he found he couldn't be. With pieces of his memories of Peru he realized that even Incacha had treated him like a fully trained Sentinel. So as a first go as Sentinel and Guide they really didn't do too bad.
Then there was the dissertation.
"Chief? How are you going to keep both our names out of your dissertation? You're a part of it now, right? Doesn't that go against the prime directive or something?"
"Prime directive, Jim?" The laugh was genuine. "Yeah – I've gone way beyond native on this one; a big no-no in Anthropology. The cover story is looking pretty good right now." Despite the jesting tone there was tension in the grad student. The hair got scrubbed again. Blair pulled at his flannel shirt then turned to his friend. His Sentinel. "I'm figuring out that everything I've done was leading me to finding you. Helping you – us – understand the roles destined for us."
That got a little Ellison anger up. "You're saying this is all destiny!?"
Sandburg got that message too. "No, Jim, not like that. The people we met on our journeys were all part of teaching us to be Sentinel and Guide. I'm pretty sure we still could have turned from the path before we met each other."
The detective had a flash of memory from his time in Peru, "but now that we have we are Sentinel and Guide." There was a bitter tone of resignation. "Chief, I don't want to lose myself to the Sentinel again like I did in Peru. I can't go through that again." His own pacing had taken on frantic motion.
The fledgling Guide was up and turning his Sentinel around with a firm grip on the older man's arms. "Jim, I will not lose you. We'll be learning together but you will still be Jim Ellison, a detective with the Cascade Police Department, who just happens to be a Sentinel using his amazing abilities to protect Cascade from itself." His tone was certain, his gaze solid – this was his pledge to his Sentinel.
"You're sure?" This tone was pleading – so strange to hear from the strong detective.
"Yes, Jim, I am." He smiled at his friend. "In the end you can add another title to your business card. You know, James Ellison, Detective Cascade PD, Sentinel."
Ellison nodded, mollified for now. "Big learning curve?"
"Very big, but we can do it. Simon will freak."
The detective cracked a small smile thinking about his boss' reaction to more 'Sentinel-shit' as he put it. "Probably. Let's understand what we're doing a little better first before we tell him."
Blair watched as Jim's eyes to clear a bit – he could feel a new level of understanding between them. It was still new and raw, and they would probably have complete breakdowns of communication while they learned, but they would still get through this. "My dis advisor will be pleased I'm getting off the Sentinel idea – he's been trying to do that for years." His stomach rumbled and he laughed, "now, how about dinner? I'm starved."