Murder By Ritual
"Ellison, my office." The voice hidden within the office commanded.
Detective Jim Ellison looked about the bullpen before rising and heading to his captain's office, "Yes, sir?"
"Ellison, you look like shit." Banks observed aloud as he motioned his detective to a seat.
The detective shrugged as he sat.
"Jim, you've got to let the Switchman case go. It wasn't your fault."
"Captain, I got those people killed." Jim looked out the window as memories of the screams haunted his daytime thoughts same as they haunted his sleep.
"Jim, you didn't get those people killed, Sarris did. You saved forty-five people. You can't let your misplaced guilt eat at you." Simon Banks had said these words before and knew he'd have to say them again.
Jim shook his head, "Captain, my senses were out of whack, if only...."
"Jim, you did more than any other investigator and we had many here from other cities for the task force. Give. Yourself. A. Break." Simon paused as he picked up the newspaper off his desk, "Anyway, I have a different idea for you right now."
"What? A forced vacation?" Jim scoffed.
"Nope, an assignment." Simon tossed the newspaper at his detective.
The headline stood out boldly: CASCADE BUTCHER IS PUT TO BED. Sandman not in attendance.
Jim looked up and shrugged, "What's this?" This was old news.
"Read it," the captain commanded.
Jim skimmed the article. The case had been the FBI's. Jim had just transferred out of Vice but the local police were never involved.
Salvador Penne, brutal murderer of twelve Cascade citizens was finally put to death in the state gas chamber.
The Sandman, Dr. Blair Sandburg, the man instrumental in apprehending our city's most brutal serial killer, was not in attendance for the execution.
Jim looked up at his boss, the "so" expression written plainly on his face.
"Dr. Sandburg's life has been threatened because of this."
"Ah, Simon, Penne is dead. Threat over." Jim sat back in the chair as he tossed the paper back at his captain.
Simon took a small cassette recorder from his pocket and pushed the play button, "...You can go to heaven with the assurance that I will eliminate Sandburg in such a way that he will not be able to join you in heaven. Rest assured though, he will be very dead." Voice change, "Thank you, my friend, I will rest easier with this knowledge." Simon clicked the recorder off.
"The threat is real."
"Aren't the Feds looking into that......I mean they were closer......it was their case?"
"Dr. Sandburg has two conferences in Europe and you're going with him." Simon ignored the FBI inquiry.
"I'm not a bodyguard, Simon," Jim stated emphatically.
"This isn't a bodyguard job," Simon informed Jim calmly.
Jim raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
Simon shrugged as he relented some, "In essence it may seem like a bodyguarding job but the threat is real. The Governor wants one of our finest to protect him and the Mayor suggested you."
"Simon, the Mayor doesn't even like me."
Simon smiled a knowing grin, "The Mayor may not like you but he knows you're a good cop." The Captain paused, gauging that Jim still wasn't on board with this.
Jim sighed, "Captain, lots of the executed have groupies that vow vengeance, idle threats."
Simon was shaking his head as Jim spoke, "The warden is a friend. He has tapes from just before the execution. The caller promised Penne that Blair Sandburg wouldn't live out the year."
"Empty threat." Jim continued to fight the assignment.
Simon tried a different track, "This profiler was splashed all over the news, headlines in every paper because of that case. He has an impressive record even if he's a bit unorthodox. He's been accurate eighty five percent of the time."
Something in the Captain's voice made him curious, "The other fifteen percent?"
"Political. The authorities chose to ignore Sandburg and were caught out. Sandburg won't speak of it."
Jim looked uncertain, "Look, Simon, I told you I haven't been at my best."
Simon nodded, "This will give you a break of routine, time to refocus yourself."
"If you say so," Jim replied dubiously.
"This is not an option, Jim, it's an order."
"Fine, Captain. When do I meet him?" Ellison gave in, but not gracefully.
"This afternoon. Jim, just remember the threat is real. He needs a detective to ferret out the menace. He may profile, but he's not a cop."
Blair Sandburg wasn't looking forward to the meeting. It didn't matter how long he'd worked with police departments, he still felt like an outsider.
They looked at him, judged him and found him wanting. He wasn't "one" of them. It didn't seem to matter that they sought him out, wanted his expertise, they just took one look at him and he'd see the same expression on their faces.
Blair shook his head. He was a professional, it didn't matter how they viewed him. Many different agencies sought out his services. He believed that it was his anthropological background that gave him a fresh insight into ritual killings. He looked not for a criminal but for similarities in method.
He remembered that the police department had scoffed until a string of accurate profiles had him on everybody's request list. Now, he had been invited to Scotland Yard and Interpol to speak on the topic of ritual murder. He had learned early on that rituals were personal.
Dr. Blair Sandburg finished ranting to the bathroom mirror, centered himself and left for the police department.
He entered the police department building and was directed to the eighth floor - Major Crimes. As he pushed the elevator button, the anthropologist turned profiler recentered himself after receiving the looks he had expected. Steeling his ego to future reactions he was sure to get, Blair appeared calm on the outside. The ding announced his arrival and the doors opened.
It was a busy office, full of people. Many heads turned and stared. Some dismissed him out of hand, some just continued to stare. Others showed their dislike and some probably thought he was a lowlife.
Blair Sandburg ignored all that. He headed to the office door that indicated captain. He was just about to knock on the door but a woman stopped him.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Yes, Blair Sandburg." He smiled and looked at the nameplate, noting her name for the future.
"Oh, yes. Just a moment," Rhonda picked up the phone and pushed a button. "Dr. Sandburg's here, Simon."
"Send him in and get me Ellison." The voice was loud and clear to Blair.
Rhonda smiled and Blair returned it before opening the door.
"Come in, Dr. Sandburg. Have a seat," Simon waved him down to the chair in front of his desk. "Thank you for coming in. Detective Ellison will be here in a moment." Captain Banks looked out his window for his missing man. He sighed internally and turned back to Sandburg. "Have you received any more threats?"
"No, Captain. I really do feel this is unnecessary," Blair felt compelled to add.
"The Governor and Mayor disagree," Banks told him patiently.
"But you don't," Blair was trying to place the reluctance he felt.
"Actually, I do. The Warden sent the tapes over and I believe that the threat is real." Simon Banks had seen all the press coverage with the profiler, but was still surprised by the youthful man in front of him. He seemed too young, too innocent to be dealing with all the death that he had. He asked directly, "Do you believe that the threat is real?"
"Well, Captain, I've been threatened in this manner many times. I don't know if this is any more real, but this one does feel different."
Their discussion was interrupted by the commotion in the bullpen.
Blair watched as a large man slammed a shorter man into a chair. As the downed man tried to get up the bigger man held him down with just his hand. The sitting man tried to get up again. The female that came up from behind him slammed the little man back into the chair.
"We're done being nice, Mate. Get up again and I'll bust your chops." The fact that she was a lanky female didn't diminish the validity behind the threat.
Blair found the Australian accent a delight but he hadn't taken his eyes off the silent large man that had brought the perp in.
While the detectives and perp continued to talk, the anthropologist sized up the room, then found his eyes drawn back to the commanding presence of the quiet detective.
When matters seemed to be resolved, Banks yelled out, "Ellison."
With a grin at his partner, Jim headed to the Captain's office. He stopped short just inside the door and stared.
Even with the description, Blair Sandburg was not what he expected. He put out his hand automatically and without hesitation Sandburg placed his hand in the detective's and shook strongly.
Before the hands separated, Jim knew without a doubt that he would protect the man with his life. He knew, with an instinctual knowledge, that he was the only one that could.
"Blair Sandburg." Blair smiled and focused solely on the man before him. He recognized intuitively that this man was important. He was a many layered individual but one that he could trust. After their hands separated, Blair was left with a feeling that the basic essence of this man was hidden from others and from himself.
Blair knew he would enjoy getting to know this man.
It wasn't until the elevator doors closed that Jim noticed that his hearing had been sharp but comfortable. Relieved, he cleaned his desk for his upcoming assignment.
Blair drove his '66 Corvair toward home. He smiled to himself; this was one bodyguard he could enjoy. The man was a looker, no doubt there, but he also seemed intelligent and deep.
His thoughts preoccupied, the observer didn't notice the condition of his front door until he was standing before it about to use his key. He stepped back and away as he pulled out his cell.
"Captain Banks, please."
Ten minutes later, Blair watched as an old pickup with police lights on the dash pulled up in front of his place. Jim Ellison climbed out of the cab.
Jim approached his assignment in detective mode, "You touch anything?"
"Nope, haven't even gone in. I know procedure," Blair reminded the detective.
"Okay," then a pause, "You okay?" Jim asked.
"Fine. Just irritated." Blair crossed his arms across his chest in an action to match his voice.
Another vehicle rolled up along side the truck, a police light bar over the driver's side. Captains Banks and Taggert exited the vehicle. Behind them the crime scene team was arriving.
"Sandburg, you okay?" Banks asked as he stopped next to his detective.
"Yes, Captain." Blair answered dutifully.
The Captain nodded then looked to his men, "Ready?" He was met with nods. "Sandburg, you wait here."
Guns drawn, Ellison, followed by Banks and Taggert entered the Sandburg home. Blair followed right behind.
Jim wasn't in the room more than a few seconds before he said, "No one's here." He put his weapon away and surveyed the scene.
Banks wasn't sure how Jim knew but he did trust his detective's instincts. He and Taggert returned their weapons to their holsters and moved about the home.
Banks then noticed the profiler, "Damnit, Sandburg, I said to wait outside."
"Captain, this is what I do. I'm very familiar with procedure at crime scenes." Blair explained. His own detective said there was no one here. The Captain was taking his guard duties a bit too seriously.
Two members of the Crime Scene team stopped at the front door. They began the work of taking samples of what looked like blood that was spread over door. 'Welcome home' was scrawled in it.
Blair had followed the additional team's members around his home. He stopped in his office and looked around in dismay; hundreds of headless dolls littered the bed and floor of his spare room. He understood their meaning.
He closed his eyes and pushed it away. He needed to stay focused and professional to check out the rest of his place. Blair walked in further and silently surveyed his room. His desk had been touched and the tribal masks had been turned to face the wall.
Sandburg shared that information with Captain Banks and the Crime Scene team.
The profiler remembered the "Butcher" case clearly. He knelt by one of the mutilated dolls and a latex glove appeared by his shoulder. He nodded his thanks to Ellison as he slipped it on.
Dr. Sandburg picked up both the head and torso of the mutilated doll. He examined both parts, closely checking the division line. He looked up at Ellison, who hadn't left his side, "This has been done by a copy cat."
"Of course, Sandburg. Penne is dead."
"I wasn't implying that it was Penne. What I did mean was that it wasn't created by Penne hands. A copycat and not a good one, made this. These are not like the other one I received."
Two voices at the same time, "What other one?"
"Do you still have it," Jim asked.
"You should have told us," Banks barked.
Jim opened his mouth to add a comment when instead, he turned forward toward a room they hadn't entered yet. His attention was caught by his sense of smell. Without a word to Banks and Sandburg, Jim opened the door to the bedroom. His nose was drawn to the blood, his eyes were drawn to the large butcher knife protruding from the center of the bed. His ears took in the startled gasp from the intended victim.
Simon Banks moved in front of the bed and turned to face the profiler, blocking the scene from his view. "Dr. Sandburg, the threat is obviously real. I need your full cooperation in order to keep you safe. What else haven't you told us?"
Remaining calm despite the multitude of emotions vying for attention, Blair said evenly, "I did not seek out your protection. It has been foisted on me. I didn't tell you about the doll or note before because I didn't connect it to this particular threat. That one had come from Penne. I receive lots of threats. They can not dictate my life."
Simon felt forced into backing down his stance in the face of the reasonable argument. "Fine. The Mayor and Governor are worried. I must ask you to work with us. Please pass future threats of any kind, no matter how irrelevant, on to Detective Ellison." Simon used his most conciliatory tone.
Dr. Sandburg understood the gesture for what it was and nodded his agreement.
"Oh and Doctor, you'll need to plan on sleeping elsewhere tonight. Your home is still a crime scene. Please let Detective Ellison know where you will be staying."
Dismayed, Blair nodded, "I understand."
Simon turned to get a report from one of his men as Ellison stepped up to Sandburg.
"I've got an extra room. It's just for a coupla days. We leave for England on Friday." Jim offered, compelled to keep the man before him safe and irritated at himself for feeling that way.
Blair looked over his place and thought of the alternatives, most likely a hotel room, "Okay. Let me get a bag together."
Jim felt relieved and didn't know why.
It was a half an hour before the men could leave. Jim carried out a suitcase to make the trip faster. Jim kept an eye on Blair's car following him. His thoughts conflicted about this assignment.
He was a detective, not a bodyguard. He didn't like that part, all the following around and attending everything that Sandburg did. He'd feel like a lap dog or one of those muscle men that the mob guys kept around. No one would think policeman instead he would be treated as though he wasn't even there.
He pulled into his parking spot and shifted into park rougher than needed, but as his emotions were running high, he didn't notice.
Blair wasn't paying attention to his host or/ bodyguard, he was lost in his own maelstrom of thoughts.
Blair liked his work, he liked applying his anthropological knowledge in a practical manner. This kept him in constant contact with the law enforcement community. He was a fringe member, but there, nonetheless. He had learned that not all his life choices were acceptable within that community. So being a fringe member had its benefits.
Now he had to test his willpower and fortitude. He had to resist the allure of Detective Jim Ellison.
Not that the cop would even be remotely interested, the man looked like the poster boy for heterosexual America. Plus, he was a cop. They were not known for their good treatment of those out of their norm.
To be fair, most treated the victims fairly regardless of their personal feelings. But to have one within their ranks, well, that was different. So Blair had learned to keep that part of him buried away. Up until now, he had refused to put himself in positions that could become a temptation.
Now, he was staying with a Greek god that pushed all his buttons. He would need to keep his wall up at all times... ...yeah, easier said than done.
He got out of his car and followed the cop up the stairs to the third floor, only then wondering why they didn't take the elevator.
Together they made two trips up and down the stairs to bring up his stuff. Jim explained that the elevator was unreliable and he just automatically used the stairs.
Blair liked the layout of the loft style dwelling, but found it rather stark. Of course, he was rather fond of clutter and this place was absolutely clutter free.
After unpacking enough to clean up and change he headed to the bathroom. Jim broke into his concentration.
"Since I'll be traveling with you, it would be nice to see your itinerary."
Blair pointed to his backpack, "It's in the daily calendar. Third pocket." He continued onto the bathroom never seeing Ellison's scowl.
"Fine," Jim muttered to himself. It's already starting, he expects me to fetch and carry. The detective retrieved the item and scanned the schedule, looking for adjustments to be made.
His head came up as the bathroom door opened and a cloud of steam preceded the occupant. Jim watched Sandburg walk to his room, pick a small object up and head back to the bathroom. He continued to stare at the closed door.
Blair was a capable man in his own right, so Jim was having a hard time understanding why the need to protect the profiler was so overwhelming. There was no doubt the threat was real, the butcher knife protruding from the middle of the bed was proof enough for even his doubting soul, but still... ...Jim's thoughts were interrupted by subject of them.
Blair walked out of the bathroom affixing the last earring in his lobe. "Say. Jim, do you think......" the man stopped, as it was obvious that Jim wasn't listening. Jim appeared to be transfixed by his hair.
Blair stepped closer. "Jim, hey buddy, what's up?"
Again, no answer. Blair placed his hand on Jim's arm as he said Jim's name louder.
Jim responded immediately. "Not so loud, Sandburg, I'm right here." Jim realized that he must have had another time loss period, but of a shorter duration this time.
"Wow, lost in thought there, weren't you, Jim?" Blair said in a natural manner and added casually, "What were you thinking about?"
Irritated at himself, his voice came out more harshly than he intended, "Nothing that concerns you."
"Okay, man. Will you drive me..."
An incensed Jim interrupted, "Look, you hippie, witch doctor punk, I am not your lackey or your gopher. I am a detective, assigned to investigate the very real threats against your life. I am not a bodyguard. I want to you to get that clear."
Blair put up his hands, still keeping the smile on his face, "Okay, okay, you won't be guarding my body. Got it! Now chill."
The anthropologist still needed to get more research files from his place. He had remembered the extra boxes as he showered. So he grabbed his keys and closed the door behind him.
He drove by rote, his thoughts working out what set Jim off. The onlooker compiled his observations and concluded that no matter the connection he had felt to Jim Ellison, Detective Ellison was not performing this duty voluntarily.
Okay, Blair felt he could deal with that. He'd relieve the officer of his obligation by talking with Captain Banks. His inner being could admit to being disappointed. The rejection he felt on a personal level he didn't even want to deal with now.
The yellow caution tape surrounded the mini warehouse and a guard was posted in front. The profiler showed him his ID and the officer let him through.
"Just let me know when you leave, Dr. Sandburg."
"Will do, Cory," Blair answered as he walked past the officer getting his keys out.
The profiler remembered to touch as little as possible, his home was still a crime scene. He retrieved his backup briefcase and two more boxes of research notes. He carried them out to his car and returned to cart out two more boxes.
As he returned for a third trip, Blair picked up a large ceremonial mask just before he heard a loud pop and his body was jettisoned forward fifty feet. He knew nothing more as darkness overtook him.
Officer Builtman picked himself off the ground before he registered what had happened. The warehouse had exploded.
He ran to his vehicle to call it in. He picked through the shattered glass to find his radio intact.
"Dispatch, this is P271. Patch me through to Captain Banks and send the fire department and paramedics to the Sandburg crime scene."
"Do you need medical assistance?" the dispatcher asked.
"Yes, for Dr. Sandburg, he was inside."
"Here's Captain Banks."
Builtman collected his voice, "There's been an explosion at the Sandburg home with Sandburg inside."
Shit was Banks' first thought, "Is he still alive?"
"I don't know, I was calling it in first."
"Is Ellison there?"
"Check on Sandburg, but wait for the fire department for rescuing. I'm on my way." Simon pressed the disconnect button and let it up to dial his detective.
"Why the hell weren't you with Sandburg. His place blew up with him in it." He received no answer. Simon barked, "Ellison?" But all he heard was the dial tone.
Officer Cory Builtman took his handkerchief and tied it around his face before entering the building. The fire seemed to be concentrated in the back so Builtman searched the front area. He saw a hand through the smoke and beelined for it.
He found Sandburg under a huge mask. He checked for a pulse and found one. He pushed the mask off with his foot then searched for obvious injuries. He was about to shove his arms under the body to pull it out when he heard another person enter the dwelling. He went for his weapon but relaxed as soon as he saw it was Ellison that had burst into the front room.
"He's alive, but he's bleeding," Builtman told the detective.
Jim nodded, looking down at Sandburg, "I'll get him. You go meet and usher the paramedics in. They're just about here."
Builtman hadn't heard the sirens but figured that Ellison heard their arrival time on the radio. He did as asked.
Jim checked Sandburg's body. His heart was beating strongly but his respiration was being affected by the smoke. He couldn't detect any broken bones so he lifted the unconscious man and carried him outside. He didn't notice the weight until after he deposited Sandburg onto the waiting gurney. The man was heavier than he looked.
The paramedics put an oxygen mask over his face first thing, then listened to Jim's findings before double-checking for themselves.
The fire department arrived, connected their hoses to the hydrants and began the suppression process.
Banks pulled in amid the chaos. He searched and found his detective and demanded, "Report."
"Bumped his head, maybe a concussion. Some smoke inhalation, but not serious. He was under a large mask that must have protected him from most of the explosion and impact." Jim looked straight ahead and not at his captain.
"Why was he here alone, Ellison?"
Jim flashed a look at the Captain before looking guiltily away. "My fault, sir. We argued. This is on me."
The ambulance was just getting ready to pull away, Banks stopped it. He turned to his detective, "Go with him."
Jim nodded, got in back and sat beside Sandburg.
Simon turned to his officer on the scene, "Now, Builtman, in detail, what happened?"
Jim paced the waiting room. At times he thought he could hear Sandburg, but he put it off to concern. He walked close to the doors and was almost clunked as the doors opened.
"Detective Ellison?" the man with medical scrubs asked.
Jim nodded, watching the man closely.
"Dr. Sandburg will be fine. He is already arguing about staying. His lungs are clear but he will have a headache in the morning. He is refusing to stay for the rest of night. He should be watched for any signs of concussion."
Jim relaxed, "He's staying at my place, I can watch him."
The doctor nodded, "Okay, I'll get the release papers. You can go in now."
Jim nodded again as his heart raced, he wondered if Sandburg was pissed. He entered the room and watched as Blair turned and saw him. He smiled.
"Hi, Jim. I want out of here."
Jim returned the smile, glad that he had a good answer for him. "The Doc is doing that now. Need help getting dressed?" Jim was relieved that profiler was not holding a grudge.
"Nah, just put them on the bed for me." Blair sat up slowly noting some pain as he did. He made his way to the bathroom and finished dressing in there.
Blair felt a little happier, Ellison seem genuinely pleased that he was okay. He wasn't acting grouchy because he had to come down and pick him up. Talking to Banks could wait until morning.
Jim was leaning against the doorframe and Blair sucked in his breath. That casual stance only highlighted the man's sexiness. Blair took a calming breath and stormed ahead.
"Let's blow this joint." He moved right past the officer and into the hall.
Jim found himself amused at the bundle of energy that Sandburg was.
The admitting nurse had the paperwork ready for Sandburg's signature and they were free. Jim brought his truck out front and they were on their way back to the loft.
"Is my car okay?" Blair asked, concern for his research.
"Don't know, can find out." Jim picked up his radio and requested that he be patched to Captain Banks.
"Ellison. Sir, I have Sandburg with me and he was concerned about his vehicle. Did it sustain any damage?"
They could hear muffled voices. "No, it appears to be fine except for the broken glass. All the vehicles on the block lost their glass." Simon paused, "He can wait 'til morning before coming back here. Forensics hasn't been admitted yet." Then almost as an afterthought, "Dr. Sandburg okay?"
"Headache and some bruises." Jim answered. "See you in the morning, sir."
Blair relaxed and laid his head back against the seat. His important research was in the car, so all wasn't lost. He didn't have the energy to look at his loss tonight anyway.
Jim got the tired man up the stairs and pushed him towards his room. After a trip to the bathroom, Blair settled in the bed and fell asleep immediately.
Jim drove the two of them over to Sandburg's warehouse home, or what was left of it. The fire department deemed it a trigger bomb, so that meant the triggerman had been near by.
Jim prowled for clues as Blair searched for any salvageable possessions. The profiler discovered that most of his clothes had been destroyed. His computer was history, although one of the techs mentioned that parts of the hard drive might be transferable. The forensics people took it with them.
Seemed like the Mayor and the Police Chief were pulling out all stops in an effort to help Dr. Sandburg. They had already established a fund so the profiler could purchase new clothes. They realized that Sandburg, nicknamed the Sandman during the case, had become a media favorite. Politicians knew which side to work and helping Sandburg would be helping themselves.
Blair, himself, felt a little shell-shocked. He'd lost many dear and irreplaceable mementos. He was relieved that the bulk of his research had been back at Jim's place or in his car. He was spared total devastation because of this.
Captain Banks pulled up and Blair took the opportunity to speak with the police captain.
"Captain Banks, if a watchdog is an absolute necessity, I would appreciate you assigning another officer." Blair didn't wish it, but he knew that Ellison would.
"Doctor, if this is about yesterday... ..." Banks began.
"No, that has nothing to do with my request... ..." Blair found himself interrupted.
"Ellison is my best man," Simon could see Jim on his way over and from his expression, he already knew the topic.
"Captain Banks, if Dr. Sandburg doesn't feel safe with me as his assigned officer. Please assign one he would be more comfortable with." Ellison's face was stoic. No emotion was allowed to show. His real feelings were buried deep with practice.
Jim was actually distressed by the knowledge that Sandburg didn't trust him or feel safe with him. He believed that he should stay with the younger man but now he'd blown that chance by letting him get blown up. The irony wasn't lost on the detective.
Blair Sandburg had not spent over three-quarters of his life observing people without gaining a lot of knowledge. Ellison's body language was that of a wounded soldier. The tight clenching of his face muscles let Blair know that the man had lied. At that moment, Blair knew, that contrary to last night's blowup, Ellison did indeed want this assignment. Now Blair had to make it right.
"Detective Ellison, I was under the impression that you didn't want this assignment. That you were forced into accompanying me to Europe. I just wanted to relieve you of that burden. I feel safe with you and would trust my well being to your care." Blair could visibly see Ellison relax with his words. Loss of trust seemed to be the biggest issue for the detective.
"Fine. It's all settled. Then Ellison will remain with you." For Banks, the matter was settled. He knew more had gone on before him, but he was at a loss to figure it all out. "Now, get out of here. You leave tomorrow, go pack or something."
After a genuine smile directed at his captain, Jim ushered Blair out the way they came. They were stopped before reaching the truck by forensics tech.
"Dr. Sandburg, two of your masks are at the lab and will be released later this week. They also took your car in. Captain Banks signed for it, so all of your stuff will be going to his office."
Blair sighed, glad at least to have a temporary place for his stuff. He looked at the tech's name tag, "Thanks, Scott. I appreciate you letting me know."
"Hey, no problem Dr. Sandburg." Scott smiled and returned to his work.
Jim finally got his charge out of there.
Jim dreaded the flight. Lately, it seemed that the jet engine drone hurt his ears and left him with a huge headache. He didn't share this information with his charge, he didn't want to worry him needlessly. The blank out this morning had been hard enough to explain away.
He had been watching Blair pack his new clothes and toiletries; his razor had glinted and... ...that had been it. Several minutes later and a concerned face was all he could come up with. He had to admit that Blair hadn't freaked out. His growl about being late hadn't endeared him any.
He let Sandburg handle the bags and tickets as he kept his teeth clenched to counter the head pain. All he wanted was to board and find his seat. It was hard keeping his eyes open.
Blair loved airports, all the people enroute to somewhere else, excitement in the air, personal adventures for each traveler. He bounced through the security checkpoints and managed to get Jim through without incident. Jim had become uncommunicative and that had left Blair to get them boarded.
The plane rolled down the tarmac. Blair loved take-offs. He loved knowing that one moment he was on the ground and the next he had lifted off, no longer earthbound. It always made him aware that he was adventure bound.
A quick look at his seat mate let him know immediately that Jim was in pain. Blair gripped the back of his neck and Jim's eyes flew open. He massaged the tight spot at the base several times before he said in a low, calm voice, "Concentrate on my voice, block out all else. I want you to visualize a dial in your mind. Now, you are turning it off. Whatever sound is bothering you will be gone.
Jim was so relieved to focus on a single sound rather than the heavy drone of the jet engines, he did exactly as asked. Within seconds he was asleep.
As the plane made its way from SeaTac to La Guardia, Blair replayed all the odd incidents since meeting Jim. He added this airport reaction and it triggered memories of his undergrad years.
When the steward served lunch, Blair kept Jim's aside for when he awoke. He was going to let Jim wake on his own. If the serving routine didn't wake him, Blair figured he needed the sleep. He ate his own lunch as he put together the puzzle that was Jim.
By touchdown in New York, Blair Sandburg knew he had finally encountered a sentinel.
They didn't have to change planes, so Blair opted to stay aboard while Jim slept.
As the boarding for England began Jim woke more refreshed than he had felt in ages. He smiled as Blair handed him his lunch. He polished off the sandwich and chips before making his way back to the lavatories.
Upon his return, Blair also availed himself of the bathroom facilities. When he got back he found Jim holding his head, moaning.
In the few minutes that Blair had been gone, sounds had bombarded the detective, leaving him in pain and confused.
Blair scooted in front of Jim, using his shoulder for balance. After he was seated, he left his hand in place. He whispered evenly, "Jim, I want to try something. I want you to go ahead and picture a radio dial with numbers on it from one to ten. Those numbers correlate to how much sound you will allow in. You can turn the dial and put it on a low setting, then you can relax.
Remembering the relief after take-off, Jim complied, following the directions without question. As he moved the mental dial, sounds began to fade away. The engine drone disappeared, as did the drumbeats that reminded him of the heart's cadence. The endless chatter of voices departed until all he was aware of was the man beside him. Feeling himself relax even more, he stopped there.
The take-off was smooth and they were on their way across the Atlantic. They had another few hours and Jim opted for the movie and Blair buried himself in his note taking.
He jotted down all he remembered of his sentinel studies as an undergrad. He had done a lot of research about the phenomenon but it had never panned out. He had encountered many people with one or two heightened senses but never more than that.
He suspected that Jim had four, so in all likeliness he really had all five. As Blair reflected on this find, he was glad that he hadn't found Jim as an undergrad three years ago. Knowing himself then, he would have rushed head on, forgetting that the "subject" was an actual person. He would have been oblivious to the ramifications of exposure.
It was while he helped another undergrad with his thesis that he learned how a study could ruin lives; that had changed him profoundly and he reset the course of his studies. His studies would be used to help people, not harm them.
Now, he could put his specialized knowledge to use and hopefully locate the guide Jim was going to need.
Blair jotted down more questions he wanted to ask. He was fascinated about the advent of Jim's abilities, what had caused them to manifest now and whether he had seen any indication as a youth. Usually, people with heightened senses are aware of them all their lives. Jim had reacted like he didn't even know about them.
He also needed to formulate his thoughts so he could explain all this coherently. He didn't think that Jim was going to accept this easily. He already knew that Jim was skittish about his personal life.
Jim snoozed after the movie so Blair had to stroke his arm to wake him for the start of dinner. He knew that Jim would want to eat and he knew that they would be arriving late at Heathrow. They would probably be so tired that eating would be the last thing on their minds.
The landing procedures were simple and as they were guests of Scotland Yard, they were escorted through customs in an expeditious manner. The Yard also had a car waiting for them, so after collecting their baggage, they were deposited at the Hotel Savoy Court. They were just off Oxford Street, but close enough to walk to New Scotland Yard.
They had their keys and were shown their room in a matter of minutes. Jim and Blair had connecting rooms and both were pleased with the accommodations.
A tired Jim nodded at Sandburg, "I need a shower and sleep," looking at his watch, he shrugged, "I know it's still relatively early, but I'm bushed. See you in the morning."
Blair bid him goodnight, smiling, and entered his own room. He fetched his laptop from his luggage, plugged it in and emailed Captain Banks. He knew that he had Jim's key to the loft, so he requested that the police captain overnight Box TS1. The contents would help Jim a lot.
He, too, was tired. After a shower and wake-up call request, Dr. Sandburg hit the sheets.
Jim knew he was tired but he found he couldn't sleep. He felt unsettled. He tried TV. He tried pacing. He even took another shower, but the nagging feeling persisted.
Maybe he needed to check on Sandburg. After all, that was why he was here. He quietly opened the connecting door and entered Sandburg's room. Immediately, a calming sensation washed over him and just like that the nagging, unsettled feeling was gone.
He suddenly felt tired again and he laid down on the sofa and in seconds he was asleep.
In the morning, Blair was startled to find Jim asleep on his davenport, but not that surprised. This pretty much answered the question of whether or not Jim would respond to him as a guide. Jim's unconscious need to be closer to Blair would make his training a lot easier.
He sat down on the coffee table, reach over and touched Jim's shoulder. "Hey, Jim, couldn't sleep? Or you were taking your protection duties very seriously?"
Jim woke and realized where he was. He answered the easy out, "Yeah, something like that."
Blair smiled and said nothing else about it. Instead, he volunteered, "I'll order breakfast to be delivered in thirty minutes."
"Okay," Jim left to shower and change in his own room. As he entered his room, he felt that uncomfortable feeling again and just left the adjoining door ajar.
When he reentered Blair's room thirty-five minutes later it was like walking in on a college professor. Blair had his glasses on, papers strewn about, drinking his coffee absently as he make notes on the sheets in his hand. He seemed very focused on what he was studying.
Jim sat down across from the profiler. He buttered a piece of toast and poured a cup of coffee.
Blair warned, without looking up, "Coffee's kinda weak. We're in tea country."
Jim took a cautious sip, "I've had worse in my own department."
Blair nodded absently. He knew that when dealing with Jim's personality type, it was best to address the formidable topic head on and not wander around the subject.
"So, Jim, how long have you had heightened senses?" Blair blurted out.
Jim choked on his coffee as he replied, "What?"
"You hear more, you see farther, you smell stuff most of us don't. The Ivory soap in your shower at the loft tells me that touch is also heightened. I pretty much figure that taste is enhanced too."
Jim became defensive, his walls went up, "I can still do my job! I'm fully capable of protecting you."
Blair threw his hands up, "Whoa, whoa, Jim. I'm not doubting you at all. In fact, I feel safer. You can be your own walking crime lab. You can do amazing things. You just need to learn how to control them, I bet." Blair bounced on his toes. He was excited for Jim.
Jim cocked his head to the side, "You know about these... ...these... ..." he drifted off, not being able to say it aloud.
"Yes, it was my field of study as an undergrad," Blair calmed his voice, trying to hide his excitement, "Is it all five?"
A long sigh and a decision later, "Yeah. I don't know when or which one will go off the wall next."
"Now that you know, you will learn the control and that won't happen much anymore."
"So, what's the name of my ailment?" Jim was hoping it wasn't freak. He'd heard that one already.
"Man, it's not an ailment of any kind. It's like a gift. You're called a sentinel. An old explorer named Burton discovered that in all tribal cultures every village had what he named a Sentinel. Now this was someone who patrolled the border."
Jim nodded, "You mean a scout."
Blair shook his head, "No, no, no, more like a watchman. You see, this Sentinel would watch for approaching enemies, change in the weather, movement of game. Tribe survival depended on it."
Jim's eyes narrowed, "Yeah, what's this got to do with me?"
Blair launched into anthropologist mode, "A Sentinel is chosen because of a genetic advantage. A sensory awareness that can be developed beyond normal humans. Now these senses are honed by solitary time spent in the wild. Today, it's rare, if not impossible, to find them. I mean, there are certain manifestations today of maybe one or two hyperactive senses, like taste and smell, people who work for coffee and perfume companies. Oh, and in Vietnam, the Army long-range recon units that had to -"
"Change their diet to fish and rice because a Cong scout could smell a Westerner by his waste." Jim finished his sentence in understanding. His military training had taught him that.
Blair smiled at Jim's comprehension, "Right, right, exactly. I've got hundreds and hundreds of documented cases of one or two hyperactive senses but not one single subject with all five. That was the reason I changed my doctoral thesis." The anthropologist asked curiously, "Have you been isolated lately?"
"It's a regular feature of stake-outs. I was alone for seven days on my last assignment." Jim tried to remember when this all started.
"Jim, I know that you're the same Captain Ellison that survived alone in the jungle before rescue. Did you have them then?"
Jim shrugged, unable to see into his hazy memories, "The truth is I don't remember much of anything about the jungle."
The doctor nodded, "A year and a half spent in the bush? The sole survivor of your unit? I mean, I'm no psychiatrist, but that sounds pretty damn traumatic to me. And trauma tends to get repressed." Blair paused and lowered his voice, "It's possible that as you get control of your senses, your repressed memories will resurface naturally."
"Oh, great, something to look forward to," was said in a voice that claimed anything but.
Blair moved around the table and touched Jim on the arm, "Jim, with concentration comes control. You will then be able to use them whenever you want. You will have the control over them, they will no longer control you."
Blair started Jim out on short control lessons. He could tell he hadn't yet bought into this sentinel idea and was behaving like a youngster with a short attention span. An hour later found Jim really applying himself. He felt the control.
Blair began testing his range, getting a baseline to gauge future improvement. By lunchtime, Jim realized that he had indeed gained some real control over himself and that increased his confidence. He practiced the dial with all the senses and had some real fun with the room service lunch. He forgot everything when he opened his taste wide and took a hard shot of pepper.
Blair was at his side immediately, talking calmly as he stroked his arm and back. He bent his head closer to speak directly into the ear and Jim froze.
A single scent blocked out all other senses. He fixated on it, wanting to bury himself in it.
Jim opened his eyes to find his nose buried in Sandburg's neck as the younger man spoke gently in his ear. Startled, Jim backed away, already missing the beckoning scent.
"Jim, it's alright, focus on my voice and my face. You zoned. But, hey, you came out of it quickly."
Jim looked at his watch and hardly any time had elapsed. Not like the other blank out time periods. "What did you just call this?"
"A zone out. A sentinel can become overly focused on one sense and experience a time passage without remembering. It was named a zone. That is why all sentinels have had a guide. A partner that is trained and the sentinel would recognize the guide and follow their directions without question."
"I don't work with a partner." Jim told him flatly.
"Jim, a sentinel needs a guide. It's part and parcel of the package and it's essential to save the sentinel's life. If a zone out is triggered and he's alone, he * will* never come out of it. That can't happen, man, and I won't let it. You'll train with me until I can find you the right guide."
"How long do I have to have this "guide" with me?" Jim didn't like this turn in the conversation and he didn't like the thought that Blair wasn't the right guide and he especially didn't like that he even thought about that.
"For as long as you are a sentinel."
"Then I want to quit right now." Jim's thoughts on the subject matter were clearly written on his face.
In a gentle voice, "Jim, your senses are part of who you are. They have, most likely, been with you for most of your life. Now that they are open and online, you can't get rid of them. You would always run the risk of a zone. Jim, as a cop, you should be used to a partner."
"You're telling me that I am saddled with someone for the rest of my life. Hell that's worse than a wife. I'm not doing that." He stormed out of the room and back into his own suite. He encountered the disquieting feeling once more and headed for the shower. He turned the water on hot, shed his clothes and decided that if he were to be uncomfortable that at least he could enjoy part of it. He loved hot showers.
Blair knew immediately that he had pushed too hard. It had just felt so natural having Jim's nose in his hair to scent him, that he allowed his enthusiasm to carry him away.
Jim's need to be close and the scenting action led Blair to believe that he was actually Jim's destined guide. Jim hadn't gone through any of the grounding procedures and so he would continue to have the need to stay close until he did. If Jim wasn't willing, he certainly wasn't going to force him. Jim already touched him on so many levels, he'd have to continue more carefully.
He still had to go over his part of the conference, so he decided to take a walk to the New Scotland Yard building. It was only a few blocks away. He could use the exercise and it was a way to familiarize himself with the new environment.
After filling his briefcase, he left a note at the desk for Jim and headed to the Metropolitan Police Department, Downtown Division.
Most big cities sounded the same, but London had a lot of bicyclists and their ringing bells let the anthropologist know he was in a different place. He smelled fresh bread and looked forward to sampling some later on.
He entered the building and went straight to the information desk.
He asked of the officer manning the desk, "I need to meet with Superintendent Roger West."
The officer's face didn't change as he picked up the telephone and rang upstairs. "Who may I say is requesting an audience?"
"Dr. Blair Sandburg. Profiler for the Cascade Police Department." Sometimes it was annoying to be dismissed on the account of his appearance.
The officer repeated the name and his face took on a different expression immediately as he got up and ushered him personally to the private, express elevator.
Blair nodded his thanks and wondered what had been said to get this special treatment.
The elevator doors opened onto the twelfth floor and an officer was waiting for him.
"Dr. Sandburg, a pleasure. I'm Chief Inspector Venables and Superintendent West is expecting you." Venables led him to the big office in the corner. The view was of two different streets and the harbor. Blair loved it.
"Dr. Sandburg, may I say what an honor it is to have you speaking at the conference tomorrow." Roger West shook his hand then indicated the chair in front of his desk. "What, exactly, can I do for you?"
After his shower, Jim laid down on the bed and fell asleep. A bad dream had him waking suddenly and his first thoughts were for Blair's safety. In boxers only, Jim rushed to the connecting door and opened it. He knew before he crossed the threshold that Sandburg was gone. He looked for a note and instead was struck by the scent that he had fixated on earlier.
Keeping a fix on the odor, Jim dressed quickly and followed the scent trail that he knew was Blair, himself. Down the elevator, across the lobby and out into the street, he followed the scent. The Sentinel was hazily aware of the traffic and people around and that enabled him to concentrate on the scent without losing his focus.
He walked several blocks following the scent. A small part of his mind marveled at how he could maintain his direct link of the specific scent even while amidst thousands of other scents. He found himself entering the Yard building, which made sense since Blair was working with them. He traced the scent to the information desk.
"I'm here to hook up with Dr. Sandburg. He should be meeting with a Captain West."
"That's Superintendent, sir. And who are you?" The same officer that greeted Sandburg asked as he picked up the phone.
"Ellison, Detective Jim Ellison."
The officer spoke into the phone and then led Jim to the same elevator that Blair had used. Jim could tell. He was rather pleased with himself for that.
He was met as the doors opened. A polite and stoic looking officer stood there waiting for him. He looked at the collar pins and recognized that he was a Chief Inspector.
"Detective Ellison, I'm Chief Inspector Venables. Right this way. Superintendent West and Dr. Sandburg were expecting you." He led the tall American to the corner office.
Blair smiled as Jim entered and introduced him right away. "Jim, I'm glad you got the message. Roger, I would like you to meet Detective Jim Ellison of the Cascade Police Department. Jim, this is Superintendent Roger West."
The two men shook hands.
Jim didn't mess around with formalities, "I don't know if Blair has mentioned it, but he had received a serious death threat just before leaving Cascade and we have no reason to believe that the stalker wouldn't follow him here."
Blair rolled his eyes. West took it seriously.
The Superintendent picked up his phone and set a protective unit at the Savoy. "You should experience some degree of safety at the conference. The entire place will be filled with policemen. But I won't let that pull our guard down. Thank you, Detective Ellison. I do believe that Dr. Sandburg here would not have thought to mention it."
Blair nodded to Jim and continued the conversation that Jim's arrival interrupted, "My first topic covered will be: Anthropology As Police Officer Training. Day two will be, Identifying Ritual Murders; and the final day: Thinking Outside The Box." Blair paused as he looked up from his notes, "Will those titles work for you?"
"Just fine. They are intriguing as well. I have always considered anthropology as a historical study. How do you see it?" West was curious.
"Anthropology is the study of people. What makes them different, what makes them the same. A lot of folks see anthropology as a study of past peoples, but it studies current peoples, too. Many love working with the past, interpreting it. No one to refute their claims. Working with the living is harder and ultimately more rewarding for the anthropologist. Studying both past cultures and current ones we can extrapolate the similarities and learn from the mistakes."
"How did you use your field of study to profile?" Again, West was curious, but he wanted to learn if there was an edge in dealing with the criminal element.
"What alerted the ancient anthropologists to early civilizations was the use of ritual. Any ritual. Rituals ultimately say a lot about the people using them. Throughout all of the history of humans one can find the same rituals used over and over, names are different, rituals are the same.
"People celebrate the coming of spring. How their culture does that separates the groupings, but the celebrations still happen. Looking into similarities will define the ritual.
"Different cultures killed in different ways for different reasons but patterns can always be found. These patterns can lead to a precipitating event and that leaves major clues to the who. It has been said that all romance scenarios have been written, just the names and places have been changed. Well, the same can be said for murder. There are no new reasons, no new ways. The tools get updated but they are still used for the same purpose.
"With this in mind, I learned to generalize, and that led me to build profiles and this has accomplished my secret dream, to use anthropology with the living." Blair finished his short teaching spiel.
Jim looked on in wonder. He hadn't actually realized how bright the younger man was. He thinks it's simple to look at a multitude of cultures and pick out similarities and then use that to find a killer. He really didn't think like a cop.
Superintendent West had been captivated by the entire discourse. He had no worries for Sandburg's part of the conference. There would be standing room only as word got out. "Engrossing. I do believe that your lectures will be most well received."
Blair smiled, embarrassed by the officer's praise. Something he wasn't accustomed to getting from law enforcement.
After finalizing last details, they said their good-byes and the two Americans left the Scotland Yard building.
They walked along the downtown London streets soaking up the accents. Even though they were the foreigners, it still sounded odd to their ears. A stomach rumble had them agreeing to look for a food source. They settled on the Ascots Restaurant that was located across the street from their hotel.
They both ordered a meat and vegetable pie along with a desert pie. Then they decided to go native and give the warm ale a try.
As they waited for the food, Jim asked, "Where'd you leave a message, Chief? I never got one."
Blair ignored the nickname for the moment and asked instead, "Then how'd you know where to go?"
"I followed you."
"You were asleep when I left?" Blair's puzzlement showed.
"I should have said I tracked you." Jim sat back and waited.
"Tracked me?" Then enlightenment dawned, "Wow. How? Which sense did you use?" Blair was more than excited. Jim acknowledged using his senses and was sharing it with him.
"Scent. I followed your scent, Chief." Jim repeated the nickname.
"That amazing, Jim. You grasped the workings so fast." He paused then asked, "Chief?"
"Well, it seems to fit if you're gonna be guiding me and such." The air seemed to grow still as he took in the grandest smile he had ever seen and it was directed at him.
Blair was elated. He wanted to jump up and hug Jim, but chose instead to smile his pleasure at Jim's acceptance, of his senses and the role he could play.
"I've got a lot of ideas on how we should proceed..."
Jim smiled as he sipped the English beer.
Inside the lobby of their hotel, Blair went to the desk to check for messages and found that a box had been delivered to his room. Blair was glad that Simon had acted so quickly. That information would come in handy.
Jim was standing at a six foot by six foot map of London that covered one lobby wall. "So, Chief, where exactly is the conference being held." He looked at the downtown rail map.
"Hotel London Bridge." Blair pointed to the spot on the map. "Cool, isn't it?"
Jim just nodded at his enthusiasm.
"That hotel site has a heritage which dates back to Roman Britain when the area was already at the center of links with Europe, both in commerce and communications. Some significant archaeological findings unearthed during its redevelopment are now with the Museum of London. Pretty darn cool. I love the history here."
Blair bounced to the elevator and Jim followed. They exited on their floor, talking about the ale they had at dinner when Blair found himself pushed up against the wall with Jim's body covering him.
"That smell, Sandburg, it was at your place after the explosion. Now it's coming from your room." Jim explained his actions.
Without trying to extricate himself, Blair got out the cell phone that West had given him. He handed it to Jim, "Hit number one. Should connect to West, himself." Blair knew better that to try to move. A Sentinel in protect mode can be very territorial.
Jim did as Blair asked and heard West answer on the second ring. "West."
"Blair's stalker has been in his room. We're outside. How do you want to handle this?" Jim didn't want to tread on local toes.
"I'll dispatch a team immediately. Don't go in until we get there." The phone disconnected and Jim was reminded of Captain Banks.
Blair used a low, calm voice as he requested, "Jim, focus your hearing. You should be able to detect if there is anyone still inside the room."
Jim cocked his head to the side in a classic sentinel pose. Blair took a scientific moment to reflect on sentinel similarities over the decades.
"The room's empty. There are two people in the room at the end of the corridor watching TV." Jim added as he realized that he could read every room on the floor.
The elevator dinged and the Sentinel shielded his guide from view. Police Sergeant Gil Cunliffe of the Metropolitan Police stepped off and headed straight for Jim.
"Chief Inspector Venables rang and said you needed help," the sergeant said as he drew closer.
"Dr. Sandburg has had death threats and the man responsible has been inside his suite tonight." Jim explained. Then he watched as the officer called in the nature of dilemma.
"Yes, sir. Both men are all right." He paused, "Yes, sir. I'll stand guard." Officer Cunliffe tried to smile encouragingly at the Americans.
The next elevator ding brought Superintendent West himself and his CID team. They opened the door with a passkey and they entered carefully.
The floor was littered with decapitated dolls.
West sent two men to check the rest of the rooms as he surveyed the front room himself.
Jim and Blair followed the team in. Jim kept his charge completely behind him. Jim narrowed his eyes and concentrated his sense of smell on the dolls.
West was bending down to take a closer look. Jim called out, "Don't breathe too close to the dolls. They're packed with uncut heroin."
West stood and turned one doll over with his toe and a white powder trickled out. He punched some numbers on his phone and called for additional team members. He turned to the Americans, "You're being moved to another floor. My team will be working here all night." Then he looked sharply at Ellison, "How did you know about the heroin?"
Blair answered quickly, "The Butcher would inject the victims with heroin, then chop the body in half. He was collecting souls. The copycat has tried to stay close to his mentor's method. Usually there is a note amid the staged scene."
West nodded his understanding. He volunteered something helpful. "If this man bought his drugs here in London, we'll be able to tell within a few blocks where he purchased it from. And an American buying heroin will be remembered. This could be an unexpected break for you." West's attention was distracted as one of his men presented him with a note, now encased a plastic bag.
The note stated that Sandburg was next.
The hotel had given them an executive suite on the penthouse level. West had made sure that they were alone on the floor. They were to meet up with him before the conference to go over all they know about the original Butcher and the copycat.
Though the precipitating matter was serious, Blair couldn't help being excited at the sentinel abilities that Jim had displayed.
Jim couldn't help but notice that Sandburg was about to explode with the need to talk. "Okay, out with it."
"Jim, you were awesome. But it's more than your protecting me. It was all that instinctual stuff. You shielded me from danger. Your sense of smell alerted you without your thinking about it, but you never lost control of your senses the whole time. You checked out the entire floor and you saved West from an unpleasant evening by warning him of the drug that no one else in that room could have detected. And this," Blair spread his arms out wide, "Only your second day of training." Blair grinned so wide Jim was afraid he wouldn't find the end of it.
Jim scoffed, "Sandburg, protecting you is my job. My military training is second nature."
"Jim, it was so much more than that." Blair then changed tone to a more serious one. "Jim, I gather from our conversation at lunch that you are willing to work with your senses and stop trying to suppress them." He paused, waiting for Jim's confirmation. He received a head nod.
"Does this also mean that you understand the role of the guide and will accept that?" Blair tried not to show how important that answer was to him.
"Yes. But you can't try fostering some other person on me. You're the guide." Jim crossed his arms over his chest. Done, end of story was what the body language was saying.
"Then Jim, I need to explain what all this could entail before your final decision." Blair knew in his gut that he was Jim's guide. He also knew that he would be willing to do everything being a guide would entail, but he had to be honest with Jim.
Jim sat back and waited, nodding his head for Blair to continue.
"A sentinel must have an anchor. Something about the guide that the sentinel can return to when chaos ensues so he can reestablish himself in an instant." Blair paused, then veered off with a question, "Have you been experiencing an odd feeling when we are separated?"
Jim nodded, "Yes, but that's 'cause I can't protect you then," Jim countered.
"Jim, humor me here. Go into the hall and head for the elevator. Stay out there or ride to the lobby and back. I'll wait here. I'm safe and you know it."
Jim wasn't sure he wanted to leave Sandburg alone, but the eyes beseeched and he reluctantly agreed to do as asked.
He checked the rooms once more before actually leaving. Then he walked down the hall away from their room. That unsettled feeling from the night before returned. He pressed the elevator call button and waited as he fidgeted. The doors dinged open and Jim stepped inside. The doors closed. Jim didn't press any buttons at all for several seconds, then he pressed the door open button. This was the same feeling he'd had this afternoon while searching for Blair. He hurried back to the room.
Blair was at the door waiting for him and opened it before he finished knocking.
"Well?" Blair inquired.
"Yeah, okay." Jim acknowledged ungracefully. "I had the same feeling that I had last night and it drove me into your room to sleep. I needed to protect you. I still do."
"What if I tell you that after we establish a grounding ritual you won't experience that same feeling again?"
Jim leaned his head forward, interested in what the doctor had to say.
"You are a sentinel and I am a guide. But I am not yet your guide. Once you establish that I *am * your guide, then you will be able to ascertain my whereabouts without my being in your visual range. To be honest, there are several levels of bonding. The anchor grounding is the first. If it doesn't work, then I am not your guide for the long haul."
Jim's expression became mutinous again at the not-the-guide-spiel.
"But let's not worry on that unless we need to." Blair began to unbutton his shirt. He took it off and laid it across the back of the nearest chair. Then the Henley, and last, his hair tie.
Jim started to mimic the anthropologist's actions, but Blair stopped him.
"It's not necessary for you to be bare chested." Blair was afraid that his heart rate would give away how much he enjoyed looking at Jim and if his chest were bare, well, Sandburg was afraid of that.
Jim nodded and waited.
"First, with your left hand, find my carotid for my pulse. Now lay your right hand on my chest, above my heart. Can you feel there the same beat that's at my neck? I mean really feel it with your fingertips and palm."
Jim did as asked. He felt more than the single strong cadence. He felt the tiny hairs and even the blood flowing beneath his fingertips.
Blair's voice instructed, "Now you need to immerse your senses in me. Go with your instincts, Jim."
The Sentinel looked at the man in front of him and deep within his mind he heard, "Mine!"
Yes, this was his guide. He focused all his sight on Blair. He could see the fine hairs on his cheeks. He could follow them to their very follicles.
He heard the heart beat. He heard the lungs move, the sounds were like no other. They were Blair, his guide.
His right hand remained over Blair's heart, but the left moved over the chest and shoulders, feeling all the bumps and ridges.
His sense of smell was clamoring to go next. The Sentinel leaned his nose into his guide's shoulder, down to the armpit and then up to the head. He found himself stopping at the base of the neck.
The Sentinel inhaled deeply, the scent of guide filling him, reaching every nook and cranny within. He knew that from this moment on, that in a crowd of thousands, he would find his guide's scent without a problem.
He moved his nose and placed it behind the left ear, then back to the neck. He repeated the same with the right ear. As he moved from side to side he paused at the temple and licked the skin there. He licked the other temple, pausing for a moment to savor the taste before he moved his nose back and pressed into the neck.
Blair stood still as Jim moved his hand across his chest, willing his body not to react to the caress-like touches.
The guide could sense that the Sentinel was now mapping him. First sight, then sound, next his hand moved over his chest and back, stomach and neck. When Blair felt he could stand no more, Jim nosed his armpits, taking a deep breath there. Blair felt himself harden with the exoticness of the mapping. He never knew that could turn him on.
Then Jim moved his nose to his neck and ears and Blair wanted to sway into the touches. The lick at the temple had him hard and leaking and he had to use every ounce of willpower to remain still.
They stood that way, Jim's hand over Blair's heart, Jim's nose at the base of Blair's neck. Their heartbeats and respirations in sync.
As Jim felt his own control return, he categorized each different smell on his guide, something he now found easy to do. He found he could hear Blair's heartbeat even when not touching him. He felt a bit dazed as he stepped away.
Blair guided Jim back to the sofa and waited quietly until Jim had dealt with all the input. When he could tell that Jim was relaxed he suggested, "Jim, I think you should walk to the elevator again. See if it feels different or the same."
Jim felt reluctant to move, but the voice implored and he acquiesced. He scanned the room once again before leaving. He disliked the closing door, but the sooner he did this, the sooner he could return.
Jim hit the elevator button before he realized that it did feel different. That unsettled feeling was gone. He just 'knew' where Blair was and that he was all right. Jim paused mid-step. He cocked his head and focused on Blair and he could hear him whispering inside the room.
"I bet you can hear me, Jim. Isn't it great how fast you mastered this control. You are amazing."
Jim blushed even though no one could see him. He could feel the sincerity in Blair's praise. He hurried back to the room.
Blair greeted Jim with a huge smile and suggested something ordinary, "Let's order up a snack and watch the TV. British shows can be a hoot."
Jim nodded and smiled in return. Somehow, Blair knew he didn't want to talk about this anymore tonight. He unconsciously sat close to Blair, legs touching all the rest of the evening. They both fell asleep watching repeats of Benny Hill.
Blair's alarm woke the men early. They had a breakfast meeting with Superintendent West before they headed to the conference.
As they descended in the elevator, Blair was wondering if Jim would follow sentinel behavior. It didn't take long for Blair to get an answer.
As soon as they stepped outside the Savoy, Jim stopped Blair. He threw his arm over his guide's shoulder back to front and pressed his nose to the base of Blair's neck. After a deep breath, Jim let go as though nothing had happened.
Blair let out an excited squawk. "Yes!"
"What?" Jim asked.
"Jim, you are so cool. Without coaching, you established your own grounding ritual." Blair beamed a smile of pride at Jim.
Jim couldn't help liking it, but it wasn't something he was used to, he never got that kind of thing growing up.
They headed to their meeting with West. He shared that the drug had been purchased in the Lower East End. They were now hoping to get a description of the American. West agreed to fax the picture to Simon Banks once they got it. If the perp was from Cascade, Banks could probably get a faster ID than they could.
West paid their ticket and the three men walked over to the London Bridge Hotel.
The lobby was crowded and Jim kept Blair behind him, blazing a trail through the throng of cops. He didn't know the face but he would know the scent of the threat to Blair.
Dr. Sandburg was in the second set of workshops and he used the time for setting up a book display and placing the freebie handouts on the tables.
Fifteen minutes before start time, cops began filling the room. Five minutes of, there were no seats left.
West introduced Blair and he walked to the podium amid the welcoming applause.
"I'm sure that many of you are wondering how a doctor of anthropology could possibly be working for the police department. Vying for top honors would also be, how could anthropology be necessary in police officer training......Well, let me tell you a little about myself..." Blair caught their attention right away.
Two hours, and a whole pitcher of water later, Dr. Sandburg finished amid thunderous applause.
Jim was proud of his new partner. West was elated at how well received the American profiler had been.
Blair was surrounded by questioners and Jim stayed near. He didn't like the crowded conditions but these men were police officers so Jim didn't start busting heads.
Detective Ellison finally got Blair out of the room, then the hotel. Hitchcocks City Bar, with it's own entrance on London Bridge Street was a stylish venue for informal eating and drinking. Jim was sure that Blair would like it.
Blair chatted excitedly at how well received the topic was and Jim realized, at that moment, that Blair didn't know that it was he that had been well received, not the topic. The Profiler was already worried over tomorrow's topic and Jim decided that a break was in order.
After lunch they explored the New London Bridge.
Jim yelled out, "Hey, Chief, London Bridge is falling down..."
Blair threw his ice cream wrapper at his partner. Jim caught it and stuffed it in his pocket.
Jim stayed close but tried not to crowd his guide. In the Bridge Museum, he found himself pressing his nose into Blair's hair, but as Blair reacted so nonchalantly, Jim didn't feel awkward.
When they arrived back at their hotel, Blair was informed that another box had arrived. Jim's hackles went up and his protection meter lept into overdrive. Blair was convinced that he heard Jim growl.
The Concierge held up his hand and explained that he demanded that the package be delivered to him and he pointed to the box near his feet. He hadn't wanted the wrath of the hotel owner on him two days in a row.
Blair tipped him as he said thank you. He was sure that he heard Jim growl again. "Jim, we're gonna have to work on your people skills." Blair chuckled, as Jim didn't let anyone else ride up with them.
Before getting off the elevator, Jim cocked his head to the side and checked the whole floor before letting his guide exit. He double-checked the room before letting Blair enter.
Blair rubbed Jim's arm before going in for a hot shower. He had to promise Jim that he wouldn't open the door while Jim showered. Blair nearly suggested that they shower together just to alleviate Jim's concern. He smiled instead.
The profiler dug into the box of notes that had just arrived. He wanted to be sure that Jim's acclimation with his senses was going through all the stages. He was curious how far through them and what level bonding they would achieve.
West sent over the ID picture that Banks had sent them. Jim read it over before handing it to Blair.
"Hey, I recognize this guy. He worked at the prison. Fred Garon."
"Not any more, Chief. Simon confirmed that he has been terminated for missing two weeks of work. They were able to match fingerprints so this is the guy." Jim studied the picture. This man would not be allowed to get near his guide.
Dr. Sandburg's 'Identifying Ritual Murders' was first up this morning and the two Americans walked into a standing room only crowd and there was still a half-hour before the session began.
Blair sipped his coffee as he went over the notes in his head. Jim looked at every face in the room. He placed a scent with each face. Only when he was satisfied that all was well, did he allow Blair close to the podium.
"Similarities in rituals between cultures can help one recognize similarities in ritual killings..."
As soon as he started talking the room was quiet and the audience remained riveted the entire three hours. West had sent a note to Blair asking if he minded extending the secession and Blair just continued on through his finish time and no one got up to leave.
Jim stood vigil over his guide the entire time, not letting the crowded conditions overwhelm his senses. He wanted desperately to ground himself, but he knew that would raise too many eyebrows and he didn't want to tarnish Blair's acceptance into this policeman's world.
When they finally found themselves alone, Blair pulled Jim into the vacant breakroom and locked the door.
"Come here and ground yourself. I'm sorry that I didn't see it sooner. You can touch me whenever you want."
Jim put his arm over Blair's shoulder as he stuck his nose into his hair then let his nose travel down to the base of the neck. He took deep breaths, refilling himself of Sandburg's scent.
It didn't take as long to reestablish himself, just as Blair said. He had explained that the longer they worked together the necessity to ground would lessen. Eventually, just brand new places or extremely long, continuous use of the senses would necessitate a grounding.
Jim found that he couldn't complain. He had control. He could now perceive more than he had ever dreamed of before and everything seemed richer, somehow. And, he had Blair. He thought he would feel tied down. He had hated that with Carolyn, but with Blair... well...he would have to examine that at some other time.
"I'm hungry." Now that the people had left and Jim could relax, his stomach rumbled, reminding him he hadn't eaten since breakfast.
Blair smiled, "I could eat."
West and Venables met up with them outside and the four men headed to dinner. They each shared stories until Venables remarked, "Same stories, different countries." They all had to chuckle at that truth.
Back at the hotel, they sat on the sofa together as Jim flipped through the channels. Blair had put the coverlet over the back of the sofa, in case they fell asleep out here again. Blair was sure it was a sentinel protection thing, but he wouldn't call Jim on it just yet.
Coffees in hand, the two Americans walked the blocks to the conference hotel.
"Do you think there will be as many today, or do you think the novelty is over?" Blair inquired curiously.
"I think that they respect what you have to say and because you share your info in such an entertaining way, there will still be interest in what you have to say" Jim replied.
Blair paused his step and turned to look at Jim, "Really? Most the cops at home seem like they just force themselves to put up with me."
At that moment, Jim could feel Blair's pain.
"I think our local cops just take for granted what you can do. And you have to admit the cop world can be a pretty tight group and see outsiders as a threat." Jim tried explaining.
"I know, Jim, I'm not a cop." He should, he'd heard it enough times.
"Not in the traditional sense, but give them some time and they'll forget you didn't go to the academy. All they'll eventually see will be your accomplishments, your closure rate and that you made the super big brass look bad. That'll put major points on your side."
Blair felt a smidgen of hope for eventually being accepted. "Thanks, Jim."
At the hotel, West met them at the door. "They're changing your speaking location to the banquet hall. Seems everyone in attendance wants to hear your morning lecture."
"Is that a problem?" Blair asked as they moved to the different location.
"Well, only in that there wasn't enough room to hold all that wanted to participate." West told him delightedly.
Blair was struck silent. Jim smiled. West just led the doctor to the podium.
Fresh brewed coffee awaited and Blair prepared himself for the lecture. He always brought more material than he needed, but it looked like today he just might use it all.
West explained that Blair was now the only morning and mid-morning speaker by unanimous request. Even the previously scheduled speakers wanted to catch this last lecture.
Jim kept Sandburg in his peripheral vision as he started scanning the crowd.
"Thinking outside the box. Sherlock Holmes once stated that when all you had left was the impossible it was probably the answer. My approach to profiling is much the same..."
Just before lunch break, Jim went into the private break room and waited for Blair.
His guide bounced in and hugged his sentinel. Jim used the close proximity to ground himself as he hugged his partner back. Then, after more coffee and a bagel, Blair was back at it for the second half.
Five hours after he had begun, Dr. Blair Sandburg finally concluded his Britain engagement. He was rewarded with a standing ovation.
The cops filed out looking for lunch. Many stayed to ask a last question or two. Jim made a path to the break room and froze midway when he thought he caught a dangerous scent. Then nothing.
Blair was stepping back when he was grabbed from behind and a knife was placed at his neck.
Garon saw the cop next to him go for his baton. "Back off or I'll kill him here.
The room froze in silence as they watched the crazed man wiggle the knife at Dr Sandburg's throat.
"You all should thank me. He's a betrayer. He helped kill a great man. Penne was a visionary."
A loud growl was heard. Garon moved closer to the exit. When he heard a growl again, he figured that must be the door to the alley. He looked toward the door for just a second, but that was enough time for Blair to react. He slammed his foot on Garon's foot and hit his chin with the back of his head. Blair then fell to the side and rolled away.
All the high-ranking officers pulled their weapons.
Garon slipped out the door to freedom, or so he thought.
The growl he had heard had indeed come from that room, but it contained no exit to an alley, it only contained the sentinel to the threatened guide.
The predator caught his prey and threw him up against the wall.
He was about to advance again when he heard a voice in his head that said, don't kill him, so he wouldn't. He would do as his guide asked. But the scumbag didn't need to know that.
"You dare to threaten Sandburg? You dare to hurt him, try to kill him? Your life is forfeit. You can either go through the door behind you into the waiting arms of the cops - or try your chances with me. But remember, you tried to take what was mine. I don't share. And, in this country, I'm not a cop." Everything radiating off Jim was deadly menace. He knew he was capable of literally tearing that man apart.
Garon could feel it too. It surrounded him. He didn't think he could even make it to the door before the crazed man before him would pounce. He backed away and visibly flinched when the man matched him step for step. The man had eyes of a hunting tiger and they drilled into him as though they looked inside and found him wanting. Garon rushed to the door, stumbling in his hurried effort to get it open before he was torn apart. He slammed the door behind him and happily gave himself over the police. He escaped sure death.
Jim smiled a feral, lethal smile at the closed door. Sandburg was now safe. No one would touch what was his.
Jim then forcibly controlled that primitive part of himself that was truly capable of shredding another.
He could hear Blair coming toward the door. He opened it to meet him.
The Sentinel pulled his guide in and closed the door behind him. Jim held Blair against the wall with one hand on his chest as he used four of his senses on his guide. Checking him, making sure that he was indeed okay.
There came a knock at the door and West entered. "They're transporting him to the jail. He'll stand trail here first, then Cascade can have him." West told them.
Blair knew that Garon would have a tough time here.
West confirmed that, then added, "I do believe that most out there would like to see you before you leave. You've made quite an impression on them."
Blair nodded his head, feeling embarrassed.
West added, "Many are also speculating on just what Jim said to him in here. He rushed out and practically threw himself into our arms." West looked at Jim speculatively.
"Just threatened his very existence."
West smiled, wondering to himself how much had been a threat and how much had been fact.
Blair and Jim followed West back out and found themselves included in this policeman's family unit.
They had one day before the flight to Paris, so the two American played tourist.
Jim was able to lighten up as the major threat to Blair had been removed. A call to Simon kept Jim on the job. The Governor was unwilling to let their star profiler go unprotected in a foreign country, so without argument, Jim remained at Blair's side.
The following morning West took them to the airport. "Thank you for making the conference a sure success. You've also helped pave the road here for another type of police work." They shook hands, then reminded them, "You both will be needed next month for the trial."
Blair told him, "We'll be here."
Superintendent West walked Jim's weapon through and the men shook hands a final time.
Blair and Jim boarded the plane to France.
The silent figure let himself into the back entrance. The object was picked randomly from the four pre-selected items. He took the knife from his pocket and gouged an X across the canvass. He cut a small piece off and left the way he came.
After getting their luggage stowed in the back, Blair told the cabby to take them the long way to the hotel. Blair's Interpol contact had booked him into the Hotel Inter-Continental for the five day stay.
Jim sat close, legs touching as he looked out the window across Sandburg. Blair sat silent as they passed the Arc de Triomphe. He looked up to the Champs-Elysées, his eyes not leaving it until it was completely out of sight. Then he looked and shared a smile with Jim.
"It's so cool to see things that I had only read about before," Blair's voice held the awe he felt.
Jim felt it too because Blair's joy was so transparent. Jim found he really liked Blair. He smiled to show the man beside him that he shared in the pleasure, it had been a long time since he'd been in Paris.
Blair turned to face Jim and patted him on the knee. "My scheduled talk is for Wednesday in Lyon at the Interpol Headquarters. But I wanted to take in a few museums so I thought we could just drive down for the day. After I'm done, I thought we could check into Relsis Carré d'Or. Seems kinda pointless to fly home only to return shortly and I'd really like to explore Paris more."
"I'm here to protect you in foreign lands. The Governor didn't specify any duration, so I'm with you." Jim told him as he pointed to the Eiffel Tower as they passed from far away.
"Great! We can get in lots more practice."
Jim rolled his eyes and he'd probably complain, but he'd do it anyway. He wouldn't let on that with all the testing he was able to do more daily.
When the cabby finally dropped them off he was happy with his tip. He knew the shorter guy hadn't made a mistake because his command of French was excellent.
Blair let the luggage remain on the sidewalk as he watched Jim. His Sentinel needed to ground now.
As if he read the silent message, Jim pulled Blair's back to him. He wrapped his arm about Blair's chest as he buried his nose into the hair at the base of his guide's neck.
The scent washed over the Sentinel. All the other sounds and scents faded out, then returned sharper, clearer. In control once more, Jim dropped his arm.
Ritual complete, they picked up their luggage and entered the hotel.
It wasn't until the door closed behind the bellhop that Blair really took in his surroundings. He had known that Inspector Versailles had booked him a suite, so he knew that it had enough room for Jim. Though, since all they had used since the second night in Europe has been the sofa, Blair was none too concerned about the beds. Blair checked out the sofa, happy to see that it was large and comfy looking. Even after the danger had passed, Jim still fell asleep next to him on the couch.
Maybe during the next couple of weeks, the guide could get the sentinel to comment verbally on this overprotection thing.
When they had finished unpacking, Blair suggested a walk to acquaint themselves with the area.
In the strange city, threat or no threat, the Sentinel in Jim didn't like having the guide too far away. They walked, shoulders touching, and Jim liked that just fine. He couldn't help but notice the looks that came Blair's way. The attractive smile framed by the gorgeous hair was bound to be noticed by others.
Attractive smile? Gorgeous hair? He didn't think that was a sentinel thing. Was he just thinking that because of all the looks that Blair had garnered? Jim wasn't sure he wanted an answer for that. But he couldn't deny, even to himself, that Blair would be considered an attractive man.
After a long walk to the outskirts of the city center, they found themselves in front of the Musée Marmottan.
"This museum houses the largest collection of Monet. Can you believe the building used to be the Duke of Valmy's hunting lodge?"
"I can see some old aristocrat with too much money have a small hunting lodge such as this," Jim smiled to counter the sarcasm in his voice.
A busload of school children disembarked and flooded the area with noise. Jim pulled Blair back against him. The kids looked as though they intended to trample him. The Sentinel used the moment to take a deep breath of the Blairscent pressed against his nose.
The guide couldn't help but smile at the instinctive grounding nuance. Over the last few days, Jim had been touching him frequently, not that Blair would complain. He was just concerned that he was looking forward to said touches and enjoying them a little too much on a personal level.
Jim paid the entrance fee and pushed them in the opposite direction of the school children.
Blair pulled the directory map from under the ticket and led them to the Monet section. Blair stood just inside the door and took in art that he had up until now, only seen in pictures.
Jim moved himself into the middle of the room and soaked up the color. After many quiet moments, Jim shared, "I find, even now with the better eyesight, that I still like Monet. I even like the ones from his later years, the work without tangible form."
"The work that proved he had impaired vision?" Blair asked.
"Yeah, He was going blind and still produced aesthetically pleasing art. Great artists seemd to have the capacity to turn their misfortune into thought provoking art."
Blair smiled to cover his amazement. He had figured a cop wouldn't be up on French art. But he was learning that Jim was not your stereotypical cop. Instead, Jim was amazing. He liked this man more and more.
"Lots of folk do, not all produce art. Some are poets and songwriters and some go into law enforcement." He looked pointedly at man in front of him.
Jim looked at his companion, his eyes denying that he was worthy of those words.
"Your upbringing didn't necessarily push you toward helping people, but your own decisions did. I even bet you took on the school bully."
Jim looked down, a slight flush to his face, "Yeah, well, I was larger. I could handle it."
They both circled the room and ended up at the same time in front of the giant canvass of * The Water Lilies.* The impact of color had Jim pulling Blair closer.
Blair covered his hand and whispered, "Wow!"
Jim nodded into Blair's hair and added a whispered, "Yeah."
After a few more silent minutes they turned away without a word. They exited the room into the gardens. Blair translated the signs and they wandered about the flowering plants until they were invaded by hungry school children opening their sack lunches.
They grabbed a cab back to downtown Paris and elected to lunch at an outdoor café. They ate and people watched for an hour and then Blair dragged Jim off to the Catacombs.
Jim complained, "It smells bad, Chief."
"Dial it down. Sorry, man, I didn't realize that it would still smell after all these decades." Blair apologized.
"I think the odors that are bothering me are much fresher than that." Jim was thinking along the lines of dogs or homeless.
Blair translated the French sign, "The catacombs, in reality, are the quarries of Paris. They are ancient quarries in which bones of generations of Parisians have been stored in order to solve the problem of overpopulation in the cemeteries of the capital."
"And this is a tourist attraction?" Jim shook his head not understanding the attraction.
"I think of it as history. It's that aspect of human behavior that I find..."
Jim listened to the Blair's voice as he talked on about his interpretation of human behavior. Jim was once again struck at how sharp Blair was. He hoped that the Interpol agents welcomed him as the Yard had done.
They walked back to the hotel after the tour. Jim showered when Blair put in his call to Versailles. After Blair's shower, they went down to the hotel restaurant for an easy dinner.
Back in the room, they sat down on the sofa and Jim grabbed the remote and flipped channels stopping at a soccer match.
This one didn't have subtitles so Jim improvised. Using a deeper voice like the announcer, "I think the gold team will win because they chose Laker colors."
He then made his voice nasal, "Colors? They don't look like swimmers, Jean-Claude. This is fôtball."
Jim shifted to the deep voice announcer again, "No, Jacques, football is a manly sport. You grunt and hit each other hard. AND you throw the ball, not hit it with your head."
"Jean-Claude, I think you are an American putz."
Blair was laughing hard, hitting Jim in the arm as he howled aloud.
Jim flipped to a movie on a British station. Blair knew tomorrow was an open day so he settled in next to Jim and nodded off to sleep.
Jim held Blair, his back to Jim's chest. One arm could anchor him close, the other could just brush the long curls off his face. He took a deep breath, loving how he felt when Blair's scent washed over him. It never grew old. He didn't believe it ever would.
And he did love it. It wasn't for the grounding right now. He just plain loved the scent. It was earthy and real and made him feel good. Blair did that.
How did Blair do that? Well, he figured he could think on that later. He was sleepy. He slept better with the scent close and with the person closer. He liked it a lot.
That much honesty was enough for one night and Jim closed his eyes and went right to sleep.
Blair woke with his nose pressed against Jim's chest. He didn't move, instead, he allowed himself to enjoy the quiet moment. Jim's deep and regular breathing told Sandburg that the sexy man beneath him was still asleep.
It was almost like he blanketed Jim. His body was literally draped over the larger man's. He truly wanted this to be real, not a sentinel need adaptation.
Blair was also aware that his body wanted this to be real. He shifted his lower half so that he was pressed against the cushion and not Jim's thigh. Jim didn't need the added burden of knowing that his guide's interest was also of a very personal nature.
The movement was enough to wake the sentinel, though. Jim's arm then tightened around the man atop him automatically.
Jim blinked as he said, "Good morning."
Blair smiled into the armpit at his mouth, "Morning, Jim. It's nine o'clock and we have a free day after I call Versailles again. Oh, and we need to rent a car." Blair added the explanation, "So we can drive to Lyon tomorrow."
Jim nodded, then he stretched, arching like a cat but at the same time making sure that he kept the lower half of his body and its morning reaction away from Blair.
They had a light breakfast in their room as Blair poured over maps of the city. "I was hoping we could start with the Musée d'Orsay. We can walk along the Seine and I bet you'll love the converted railway station we pass along the way."
Jim knew that he would give in. Blair had talked of nothing else at lunch yesterday. Museums, they would be doing a lot of museums. Blair could plan the days and Jim got to pick the eating places. He would live. Food was more important. They both had a couple of clubs they wanted to check out before leaving like the Moulin Rouge. What was a trip to Paris without that?
Versailles had sent over a multiple museum pass for Sandburg. Jim reconciled himself to becoming more culturally enriched.
The walk there was pleasant. Blair had Jim go through some new control techniques as they strolled. It was relatively quiet and they had most of the time along the Seine alone. Blair was more than pleased at Jim's progress.
The pass got them into the museum without fuss and they decided to work their way, room through room, leaving the Monet section for last. Since they both loved Monet they entered the Corday wing first.
"That man must have had intense nightmares to create work like that," Jim commented as he pointed to a Salvador Dali painting.
"Yeah, extremely vivid. Hey, did you hear that there was a sculpture of his destroyed just a couple of nights ago? It happened at the Espace Salvador Dali. That is one of the museums that I do want to visit."
"Okay. That's too bad about the sculpture. If I didn't like it, I just wouldn't look at it." Jim replied.
They headed to the Cezanne room. After a quiet interlude with the art there they hit Gaugin, Renoir and Degas' works before the Monet on their way out. They found it all more tranquil than the Dali piece.
Two hours and three postcards later Sentinel and guide left the museum in search of food.
They passed a bakery on the way and Blair commented, "I want to stop on the way back and get some fresh bread. That is a must in France."
"We can get it from room service, Sandburg," Jim reminded him.
"Yeah, but it's not the same as standing in the bakery and smelling the bread fresh out of the oven," Blair explained patiently.
Jim put up his hands and nodded, he now looked forward to the aroma himself.
They picked a sandwich place and chose the outside seating again. People watching was something they both seem to enjoy. They talked of overall likes and dislikes, very general politics and shared more of their personal lives. Each left the restaurant liking the other more than before.
They wanted to do the Eiffel Tower next and headed for a taxi. A cyclist nearly ran into Blair and Jim didn't need the language to get his feelings across. He had pulled Blair away in time and growled at the cyclist.
The cab dropped them off amid a massive crowd. The Paris landmark was obviously a popular tourist site. The area seemed overcrowded to Jim; it was also distracting with so many different languages being spoken. He laid his arm across Blair's shoulders as he pulled him close. He left his arm there uncaring how others may view it. The Sentinel needed his guide and Jim needed to keep Blair safe.
They paid for a tour to the third level. They stayed in the back so Blair could translate all that was being said. "Listen to this, Jim. It was finished in 1889 as a communications tower. We're standing about nine hundred and eighteen feet high. But to the top of the antennae, it's one thousand fifty two feet. And as long as you don't want to jump off or walk along the edge, I'm okay with being here."
Jim smiled indulgently at the enthusiasm that Blair showed. He may be well traveled, but he still reacted with awe.
"Jim, Jim," Blair tugged at preoccupied man. "She says that today's visibility should be at forty-two miles. How far can you see?"
He pointed out into the distance, "The mountains are fairly easy to see."
Blair looked out and couldn't find them at all. He located a free telescope and fed it the appropriate coinage. "Oh, those mountains. Ah, Jim, looking at the telescope distances, you're seeing about seventy five miles away." Blair beamed at his Sentinel. And he did feel like Jim was * his *sentinel.
They took pictures with Blair's instamatic camera. He had also bought a souvenir Eiffel Tower as a remembrance.
They chose a little restaurant by Notre Dame, the Grenier de Notre Dame, known for it's vegetarian cuisine. It had a great collection of foods with and without meat of any kind. Jim chose a meat dish and Blair went without for a change.
Their talk touched on even more personal topics.
"Jim, do you remember having the heightened senses as a kid?" Blair dared, testing the newfound closeness they'd developed.
"No..." Jim froze as he was hit by memories, "Yeah, I did have them as a kid. Bud was a friend and mentor; he had faith in me. * Remember what I told you. Trust your instincts.* That's what Bud told me, he believed and didn't think I was a freak."
"You are not now and never have been a freak." Blair's voice was strong and adamant.
"That's not what I grew up believing."
Even though Jim tried to hide it, Blair could sense the pain that accompanied that admission.
Jim's voice grew low, "My dad raised us 'cause my mom was gone. He was always pitting us against one another, you know. He was really into the competition thing. One year he bought season tickets to the Jags. I mean, he only bought two. So whoever was in favor that week would get to go. I know it's a little thing..."
Blair had to curb his natural reaction of spitting fire at the father and instead tried to sound sympathetic. "That doesn't sound little to me. That sounds pretty harsh, man."
Jim shrugged, it was in the past. "I guess he figured the competition would toughen us up for the real world but, in reality, it just drove us further apart. I did a lot of thinking. I realized that, growing up...it wasn't us. It was Dad. Making us compete against one another. He kept us from really knowing each other. Kept us from trusting one another. The bottom line was that I realized that I couldn't change the relationship I had with my old man. It was what it was. I couldn't make him trust me. We just couldn't communicate." He felt the anger drain and it was replaced by a sense of loss at what could have been.
"Well, my mom was one of the original hippies. She even used to date Timothy Leary. Well, not date ...... actually more like live with. In fact, I always thought he might have been....." Blair stopped, realizing what he had just let out.
Gently, Jim inquired, "Your father?"
Blair opted for honesty, "Well, I did have a lot of candidates to consider. Seemed like every man Naomi met would fall in love with her. She never stayed with any of them for very long though." Blair tried to hide the loneliness he had felt at each parting.
"Well, that's too bad," Jim began.
Blair jumped in trying to correct the poor-me impression, "What? Are you kidding me? It was great! I went to three World Series and five NBA playoff games. Beautiful."
"I bet it was tough, too." Jim stated quietly.
Blair sighed, "Yeah, that too."
They both had the very French Choclat Mousse to lift their spirits. Blair was so full he didn't think about fresh bread at all on the way back.
They took a walk along the Seine before heading back to the hotel. They shared a few silly stories and both felt the closeness growing.
Blair didn't even pretend that he would make it to his bed, so he undressed to his boxers and tee shirt. He dove for the remote but lost out to Jim's lightening quick reflexes.
They watched Spartacus in French stretched out the comfortable sofa.
The Sentinel had his guide in his arms and all felt right.
Jim had arranged for a car to be waiting and the two American cops took off early to drive to Lyon. Blair had gotten precise instructions and they only got lost once on the two plus hour straight shot to the other city.
The Interpol building wasn't hard to find. The Sentinel and Guide had their grounding ritual before entering. Then, the two men walked to the information desk.
Capitaine Versailles had their ID badges waiting and they were escorted to the corridor that would take them to private section of the complex. Waiting for them was Agent Phillip Vichy.
"Good morning, Monsieurs. The Capitaine is looking forward to meeting with you. I, myself, am looking forward to hearing you speak, Dr. Sandburg." All the while he spoke he led them to the conference room of the adjacent complex and the office of Versailles.
Section Chief, Capitaine Jacques Versailles stood to greet his guests. "I heard that the threat to your life was apprehended in London. I am happy to see that you arrived here in one piece." He extended his hand to shake the one that Blair offered and then he shook Jim's.
"It's a pleasure to be here," Blair answered honestly.
"Morning. Yes, the Yard has Garon in custody." Jim answered the agent's query.
"Your talk is much anticipated this morning. I have a translator standing by and I am hoping that..."
Blair broke in, "I won't have need of one," he then switched to French. "I believe that I can speak well enough to be understood and not embarrass myself."
Versailles smiled as he nodded, "They will be surprised, though you may be teased about your accent."
"I can live with that."
Blair had an English copy of what he planned on saying and handed it to Jim. He grabbed a cup of coffee and stood waiting for his turn to begin.
Jim stood close by. The Sentinel in him was on duty even if the known danger was past. There were a lot of strangers in the room and the ancient primitive within distrusted this many people together. He scanned all that entered the room.
If the Interpol captain noticed the unusual closeness of the two Americans he didn't speak of it aloud. Capitaine Versailles introduced the American profiler. Blair stepped to the podium.
In the native language, Blair began, "Murder by ritual can be explored on a new level by having an anthropological point of view. I look at it as thinking outside the box."
The agents forgot he was an American, they forgot his odd accent, instead they found themselves intrigued by the completely different way of approaching the crime series.
Three hours later found Blair still answering questions. That's all the last hour had been comprised of.
"...Remember, I'm only talking about a repetitive crime." Blair finished the third part of a three-part question.
A voice from the audience, "So you're not just speaking of murder?"
"Not at all. Any series of crimes committed by the same person will have a ritual involved. Even if it's only how he opened the door or exited the place."
"So what about the art destroyer?" the same voice asked.
A murmur went through the room, then silence as if they all were waiting for the answer.
Blair turned toward the question asker, "You mean the Dali sculpture?" Blair felt he missed something that the rest of the room knew.
"The sculpture was the fourth piece of artwork destroyed," a different voice supplied.
Blair looked at Jim and cocked his head. Jim looked at his watch, then nodded as he if understood the silent question.
Blair said to the group, "Why don't we break for lunch. If somebody could go over the case with me, we can all try profiling it when we resume." Blair looked to Versailles.
He nodded enthusiastically.
There was a general consensus among the attendees that they would return in an hour and a half.
Versailles was joined by two agents, one of whom was the questioner. They escorted the Americans to lunch.
Agents Pierre Wegand and Henri Barras introduced themselves. Wegand had asked the questions, Barras handed over the file.
Blair and Jim each read the files. Blair jotting notes as he went.
Jim raised his head to ask, "You're positive there are no forced entries?" The detective was puzzled, he knew that the museum had extensive security.
"Positive. There is a list here of museum employees." Wegand answered.
"But employees usually only work at one museum...are the keys interchangeable?" Jim questioned further.
"No, that is what puzzled us. That and the willful destruction. If the art had been stolen..." Wegand shrugged.
Barras interjected strongly, "This was just a travesty. Most pieces are beyond fixing." Genuine sadness colored his voice.
Blair looked up from his notes, "This serial crime isn't about art. It's about hate."
"I don't understand."
"What do you mean, Chief?" Jim prodded.
"Art's about people. The person destroying the artwork is actually trying to destroy a person." Blair put it together as he talked.
Wegand stared at the odd American, baffled.
Barras asked, "How did you arrive at that conclusion?"
Jim smiled smugly, he already knew the expression his guide was wearing. The mile a second brain was putting it all together.
"A connoisseur would never harm the work of art. A thief would have removed the piece undamaged. A terrorist wouldn't have taken out one piece or gotten in without a trace. There is a personal connection directed at a single person. Find the common denominator and we'll have our guy."
"Are you certain it is a male?" Wegand asked.
"Doesn't have a female touch." Blair picked up the photos of the destroyed sculpture, he turned it to face the agents. "This object was destroyed in lieu of killing a person."
Wegand picked up the photo and looked it over again as Barras passed another photo to Blair. Jim looked over his shoulder.
Blair scrutinized the photo of the X gouged canvas. He noted a small piece had been cut off. "Do you have a picture of the original?"
Barras nodded. He got up and left for his office. He returned with a different folder.
"The mutilation was across the heart of the body," he paused, "But the face was removed."
Jim pulled the photo of the sculpture back over to him and checked with enhanced vision. "Did you recover all the missing pieces?"
"No, there seemed to be some missing. We figured that the missing parts were pulverized."
"I would like to check the other crime photos, but my guess is that our guy is taking souvenirs," Jim was still checking the sculpture photo.
Blair turned to Jim, "Exactly. This makes it even more personal. It would probably put the perp between fifteen and twenty five."
"I never saw this," Barras remarked.
Wegand said honestly, "I never looked at where the mutilation took place on the objects. I just saw the entire vandalism in its entirety."
Blair looked up from his notes, "He's acting out his pain and the souvenirs remind him that he has stood up in some manner." Blair scribbled faster than he could talk and did some out loud thinking. "This would most likely make him Caucasian. I'd also say that he knows art, so most likely he comes from a wealthy family. That would eliminate a lot of the employees."
"What about the principal benefactors?" Jim asked, following Blair's train of thought.
"Oh, Detective, some of our most influential and affluent citizens are patrons of the arts. We cannot accuse them." Wegand was troubled by the idea.
"You must look into them if you want to solve the case," Jim told them bluntly.
Capitaine Versailles moved away from the doorframe into the room. "Tonight, the Museum Society sponsors a benefit gala in Paris. Perhaps, we should all attend. Black tie." The Interpol agent turned to the Americans, "Detective? Doctor?"
"We'd be delighted," Blair answered at Jim's nod.
"Bon. I will arrange it." He nodded his head satisfied. "Now, we must return to the conference room. Let's see how the agents profile this."
Wegand smiled, "I do believe without Dr. Sandburg's perspective, they will miss some key aspects."
"Oui," the Capitaine smiled, "But that is how we learn."
The trained law officials attempted the profile from their point of view. A madman that hated art was their conclusion. Then Blair interjected his viewpoint and that altered the agent's view of the profile. In the end, all agreed they had created a much more accurate offering.
This exercise turned out to be a more effective method for driving home the alternative option that Blair had been trying to convey.
After many thanks, Jim and Blair headed back to Paris. They needed to rent clothes for the evening.
Blair admired how good Jim looked in his fancy dress. He was struck with the knowledge that he didn't want to share this man with anyone. His next thought startled him, he was in love with Jim Ellison.
He was well aware that the guide was connected to the sentinel, but this feeling was much more. Blair, the man, felt close to Jim, the man. Blair, the man didn't need the sentinel, Blair needed Jim. Oh dear.
Blair decided to stick close to his partner. Jim didn't need to know why.
With Blair at his side, the Sentinel cataloged all the attendees. The guide was convinced that if need be they could rely on Jim's sense memory.
They watched as Wegand and Barras mingled in among the crowd. Blair and Jim took that time to eat.
After stuffing himself on the crepes, Blair asked his partner, "Did you look at the photos of the other two vandalized sites?"
"Yeah." Jim wasn't done eating.
"At the Musée de l'Orangerie, the Renoir that was mutilated, do you recall what was missing?" Blair questioned.
Jim nodded his head, "Just the legs had been cut away. The rest of the painting had been slashed."
Blair lowered his voice knowing that Jim could still hear. "I know you reconstructed the sculpture in your head. What was missing?"
"The feet. Very little was actually pulverized."
"Do you see the pattern?" Blair was hoping that Jim figured it out for himself.
Jim didn't disappoint him. "He's collecting a body."
"This has to be aimed at a parent. Nothing else would make sense." Blair was still fine tuning his profile.
"I bet he's here tonight." Jim mused as he searched the room again.
"There is a group of younger people over there. Let's stand close and spout off some gibberish about the case."
"Where you going with this, Chief?" Jim asked, not following Blair's train of thought.
"Well, the pattern has been every fourth day. That's tonight. So we talk some trash and see what part is reflected in the next piece of art chosen for destruction."
Jim raised his brows, "Okay, Chief."
They dumped their plates on a busman's tray and moved to the bar to refresh their drinks. Then they moved close enough for their conversation to be overheard.
"It's hard to take these crimes seriously, there are no ritualistic patterns." Blair said in his undercover role.
"What are you saying, Doctor?" Jim worked hard to keep a straight face.
"Without a ritual, we can't figure out the message." Blair moved closer to his friend as he noticed some guests ogling the tall man beside him.
They chatted innocuously then moved away from that section of the room. They joined up with Wegand and Barras. The two agents pointed out philanthropic contributors and their offspring after Blair questioned them. Five total were pointed out.
By the end of the evening, Jim was ready to leave. Maintaining control on his sense dials was still work for him. Only with Blair at his side all evening had made it easier to withstand the many perfumes and body scents.
As they said their good byes, they agreed to meet Wegand and Barras at the Musée de l'Orangerie at ten a.m.
Even though he was weary from the long day, Jim flipped on the TV out of habit. When Blair sat down next to him, Jim felt himself relax. The Sentinel felt better with the guide close. Jim wasn't sure if that was the only reason he wanted to keep Blair in arms as he slept, but it was the only one he was willing to deal with at the moment.
Blair leaned back against Jim's chest. He laid his head in the crook of Jim's arm as he flipped through the channels. With his new found realization of how he felt, Blair was content to sleep on the sofa snuggled next to Jim.
The insistent buzz had Jim groping the air for his alarm. He wanted to shut it off but he couldn't find it. He opened his eyes to find he wasn't at home and it wasn't the alarm making the noise. It was the phone.
He reluctantly removed his nose from Blair's neck and his hand from under his guide's tee shirt and out of his guide's embrace to find the phone.
Blair's, "Just shoot'em," let the detective know that the profiler was awake, too.
He grabbed the phone, "Ellison."
"Versailles here. So sorry to disturb you, Detective, but we've had another art crime. We wish for Dr. Sandburg to see the actual crime scene."
Rubbing his face, "Okay, we'll be outta here in ten minutes."
"I'll have a car waiting."
Jim put the phone down and moved back to the sofa. He gently rubbed Blair's back, "Hey, Chief. We have a crime scene to check out. Versailles has requested your presence."
"Okay, Jim," Blair mumbled as he got up.
Both men quickly changed and hurried downstairs. The car took them to Musée d'Art Naïf.
A fertility figure received the worse treatment yet, only the head and legs were left.
What concerned Versailles the most was the big difference of the mutilation site. This time there were plastic druid runes placed haphazardly about the defiled statuette.
Jim froze a few feet away from the actual site and Blair ran right into the back of him. The guide recognized the tracking look and moved his hand to Jim's lower back.
Versailles eyes were drawn once again to the American team.
Sentinel soft, Blair asked, "What is it, Jim?"
"Scent. Person who committed this crime was at the shindig last night." Jim shook his head and Blair removed his hand.
Versailles approached the two men. "Does this mean," pointing to the runes, "That a different person committed this atrocity? What do the tiles mean?"
"These were placed for show. These runes have no discernable meaning. All it tells us is that the perpetrator was at the party last night and overheard the planted conversation that Jim and I had. We put out false information in hopes of this very thing happening." At the curator's face Blair amended, "The addition of the runes, not the decapitation." Blair paused his motion as his eyes searched the dismembered art object, "Jim?" He directed Jim's attention down.
The Sentinel squatted and looked at the fertility head. He turned to look at Blair and see what the profiler had picked out.
"The head had been placed face down. Can you tell if it was mashed against the floor?"
Jim looked up and over at the crime scene team, "Have you taken the photos yet?"
The team had confirmed that they had.
Jim picked up the head and dialed up his vision and touch to check out the floor. He shook his head in wonder, "How'd ya know, Chief?"
Blair shrugged and smiled.
Jim answered the original question, "Yeah, he did. With a lot of force actually."
"I bet he did that at every scene, but only you would have been able to tell," Blair told his Sentinel.
Jim stated the other obvious observation, "He got the torso. He has a whole body."
Blair nodded, "Yeah. This could mean he's done."
They heard the museum curator raging at the Interpol Captain. "Even if they restored the missing pieces, the piece is destroyed. DESTROYED." Versailles pulled the distraught man further away from the working policeman.
Blair could understand and empathize with the distress the curator felt.
Wegand and Barras entered the crime scene. Their helicopter had just landed on the roof of the museum. They had additional files and the still enraged curator allowed them use of his office.
Blair sighed as he perused the other crime scene photos, "This has been a series of crimes due to hate and anger with a yearning to be perfect."
Jim informed the agents, "It was one of the benefactor's offspring from last night."
Wegand sucked in his breath, he could already see problems forming.
Jim continued, "We narrowed it down to five. The art backers there last night that attended with their children. One of those children is our perpetrator. We need a list. Male children between fifteen and twenty-five."
Blair chimed in, "Also, who has a key card to all the museums hit. They got in legally."
Wegand plugged in his computer and brought up the information requested.
Three names came up. Papillion, Foch, Talleyrand. He handed the printed paper to Ellison.
Jim looked over the names as Wegand added, "Papillion and Foch both have the multi-museum key cards. And, they are the museum's largest financiers."
"What do you know about their children?" Jim asked.
"Foch's kid, Robaré attends Académie Francaise. Papillion's son, Henri, does too, but this quarter he is off due to an injury. Robaré is still in school only because his father pays big bucks to the school. Henri injured his leg while at a fencing tournament. His father paid tuition for the quarter even though Henri is not attending."
Blair looked at the photos on the screen, studied them for a few seconds and pointed to Henri Papillion. "It's this one. He's not perfect, yet he strives to be. The injury probably set him off and of course this ties into his relationship with his father."
Versailles took out his phone and arranged for the warrant papers.
Six a.m. found the three French Interpol agents and two American policemen at the Papillion estate. Fredrick Papillion was already dressed for his day when he met the policemen at his front door.
"Monsieur Papillion, I have a search warrant for your premises."
Papillion looked at the document then stood aside. As he called his lawyer the agents moved about the home.
In French, Blair asked, "Where is your son's room?"
He was answered in kind, "Top of the stairs. He's probably asleep." The father led the way. He knocked and entered his son's room.
It didn't take long to find what they were looking for. Arranged almost like a shrine were the missing objects from the mutilated art works.
Papillion froze in place devastated by what was in front of him.
The son watched his father, ignoring all the others in his room, "Now I am perfect, too. Will you pay attention?"
Blair and Jim left the room and the house to the Interpol agents. Versailles called for back-up. Ellison and Sandburg waited outside until a car was available to return them to the hotel.
Jim couldn't help commenting, "Fathers." He looked to Blair and shrugged as he sighed.
After a shower, shave and breakfast, the two Americans were on the move again. This time the Louve was the destination.
Jim found that he enjoyed the museum far more than he thought he would. His guide stayed close, they were in touching contact almost the whole time inside.
Jim thought the more it happened, the more he wanted the contact. He returned the touches and he didn't care who saw.
Rhonda buzzed the Captain, "Long distance for you, Simon."
Simon picked up the phone, "Banks."
"Capitaine Banks, I am Capitaine Versailles of the French Interpol. I just wish to extend my gratitude in your allowing Sandburg and Ellison the time to come. They were instrumental in the solution of a most baffling case."
"You're welcome." Banks waited, he could tell there was more.
"Capitaine Banks, your men seem very unusual. Very effective, mind you, but unusual. Extremely protective of one another."
Slightly puzzled, "Well, they are acting as partners."
"Oui, but Monsieur Ellison is more like a lioness," Versailles commented.
"He's very thorough," Simon couldn't help but wonder just what Ellison was doing."
"We are very happy here for their help. Dr. Sandburg is indeed extraordinary. Thank you, Capitaine Banks.
Simon was now more than curious about what Ellison and Sandburg had been up to. And he had to wait over a month to find out. Well darn.
They decided to have a late lunch at the Eiffel Tower. They took a taxi back to the hotel to get their jackets. Being cold on the top of the Eiffel platform would have ruined it for Blair.
They were surprised to find the French Interpol agents waiting for them. They shared that the son had confessed to all and they would not be needed to testify.
Versailles was sincere in his thanks. "I wish that it hadn't of happened, but it was most fortunate that you were here and able to demonstrate so effectively thinking outside the box." He extended his hand and Blair took it.
Wegand, Barras and Versailles bid them farewell, with an open invitation to return. Blair and Jim waved goodbye in an American fashion.
"We still have a week of our accommodations." Blair tossed out after they'd gotten their jackets and resumed their plans for lunching at the Eiffel Tower.
"How about we drive to the sea and cross the channel? Take our time, see the sights. We have well over two weeks," Jim tossed back.
"I'm down with that. I like the way you think. They walked to the Eiffel Tower Plaza, their shoulders touching, people watching.
Two men stood off to the side, the wind blowing blond hair into the face of one. The other gently moved it off his face, brushing his lips with his thumb as he did.
Jim watched the tender moment and knew at that instant that that was what he wanted with Blair. He wanted to be that close. He wanted to touch. He wanted to bury himself within the man that had come to mean so much to him.
Jim gently pulled Blair closer before he turned his head to look at the man beside him. He gazed into blue eyes that exposed a depth he had never experienced. All the answers to the unasked questions rested in their depths. A message of courage, sent and received.
The humbled man carded the long curls gently as he lowered his head slowly enough that the other could turn away if he wanted. He touched his lips to the smiling ones beneath his.
The kiss was gentle and welcoming. Joy bubbled up and Jim knew Blair was his. Breathing hard, they broke the kiss. Smiling eyes met smiling eyes. The joy felt by one was mirrored on the other's face. Fingers entwined, they walked contentedly along the Seine.
At the door to their suite, Jim stopped and framed Blair's face with his hands, "You need to know, this isn't a sentinel thing."
Blair framed Jim's the same way, "You need to know, this isn't a guide thing."
Each man smiled with the truth easy to read in the other's eyes.
"I love you, Jim."
"Oh, and I love you, Blair."
They sealed their declaration with a kiss. A kiss that started out promissory but transformed into passionate. They barely made it inside before Blair pulled their groins together.
Blair knew that they'd finally use a bed in France. The anthropologist, a studier of men, pushed his man down onto the bed. He unbuttoned the larger man's shirt, then did his own.
Jim took his turn as he pushed the shirt off Blair's shoulders and threw his own on the floor.
Blair unbuttoned and unzipped Jim's pants and his were done in kind by Jim's gentle fingers.
Jim wanted to remain in control, but the sentinel discovered new scents that hadn't been committed to his sense memory and they demanded his time. He buried his nose into the dark curls that framed the erect cock. Said cock was also producing its own scent and a flavor to test. The Sentinel committed the entire lower body of his guide to sense memory.
The guide was writhing under the intense scrutiny. He didn't think that Jim's nose or tongue missed any spot at all.
The Sentinel within appeased, Jim wanted to experience Sandburg for himself. He rubbed his face over the dark curls and up, down and sideways on the leaking cock. The odor so enticing, he knew he had to taste.
He swallowed. When his nose was buried deep into his balls, Jim realized that he couldn't swallow any more. He played, he worshipped, he loved the sounds that reverberated about his face.
Blair tried to push his face away in warning but Jim would have none of that and Blair gave himself up and exploded into the welcoming warmth.
Jim swallowed all there was, not remembering anything tasting as good before. Being a sentinel had its advantages.
Blair rolled over and pressed hard against Jim's erection. "Bond and claim me," he whispered sentinel soft.
The primitive part of himself purred. Acceptance was felt on all levels. Jim took the cream that Blair had placed there earlier. He coated a finger, but before touching, he kissed. He kissed the lips that smiled at him and won his heart. He kissed the throat and neck that was his grounding strength. He kissed the chest that held the beating heart of his mate for life. He kissed semi-hard cock coming back for more and he kissed the ball sacs below. He didn't stop there, he kissed the entrance that he wished to enter.
Blair spread his legs wider, welcoming the intrusion. Jim's lips and tongue bathed the area before his coated finger breached the entrance.
Relaxed, Blair welcomed Jim's exploration. He wasn't satisfied with the solitary digit and pushed back on it. Jim detected that Blair wanted more. He coated a second finger and eased it in. He let Blair adjust and pushed in further.
Blair's, "You, Jim," had Jim remove his fingers and replace them with his cock. He pushed in gently, not allowing Blair to push and cause possible pain. The Sentinel wouldn't permit it and neither would Jim.
Buried deep within his love, Jim knew true happiness. Never had he trusted another the way he trusted Blair. All his loved flowed out and oddly enough he felt Blair's love flow back into him.
His body screaming to complete, Jim could ignore it no more. He thrust up fast and hard and hit Blair just right. The, "Oh, yes, Jim," was all the assurance he needed.
He produced the rhythm that Blair wanted, that he wanted and he could feel their climax building, Blair's and his. He intensified it, put all that he was into it and he received all that Blair was in return.
Blair's name on his lips, his name on Blair's, this was heaven on earth. Then sleep claimed them.
Blair woke with his nose in Jim's armpit. This time it was for real. It wasn't a sentinel thing, it was a Blair and Jim thing.
They could go back to England, then back to the States. It would be fine. How could it not?
He had Jim.