Long Time Gone by Kerensa

Long Time Gone - Kerensa

Detailed notes at the end of the story.

Blair Sandburg was driving through the streets of downtown Cascade, headed back to the PD where he and his lover, Jim Ellison, worked, when he glanced over and spotted a travel agency just up the block. The business would have been hard to miss; there were posters of far off destinations plastered over every available inch of window space. He clicked on his blinkers and pulled over to a diagonal parking place just a few storefronts past his destination and thanked the parking gods for giving him a break.

The ex-grad student, ex-observer, Shaman, Profiler-wanna-be, anthropologist, Guide slowly stepped out of his Volvo. He stood and waited for a few moments, leaning against the open doorframe of the car, for his back to stop protesting the move. Blair had been injured, yet again, in the line of duty.

Three days previously, Blair had been following Jim, who had been chasing Steve Perkins, a suspected drug dealer and pimp, who had been running like the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels. Blair had slipped, heaven help him, on a banana peel, and fallen face first into a garbage can.

Yep, he was never going to live that one down. It wasn’t his fault that the perp had chosen to cut through the alley or that some of the garbage had spilled out. But do you think the guys at the precinct would consider that?

Noooooo. Nada. Nyet. Zippo. Zilch. No way, Jose.

Even Blair’s twisted back, did he need to stress again that he had been hurt during working hours, hadn’t earned him much sympathy. Not even from one James Joseph Ellison, Sentinel extraordinaire and Blair’s lover. The normally stoic Sentinel had stood over his prone body, lying in that filthy alley, and laughed, actually laughed. It had been a nice bonding moment for Jim and Mr. Perkins. The captured criminal had even told the story to his cellmates; nothing like having hookers and pimps laughing at you when you hobble by to brighten your day.

Silently cursing all things trashlike and other police people in general, he had even seen Megan tittering at him, Blair pushed away from the support of his vehicle and carefully climbed the curb. The ex-grad student almost used the hood of the car for balance, but thankfully he remembered at the last moment that the vehicle would be hot and saved his hand from getting scorched.

Looking at the window displays, Blair could see his eager reflection staring back at him and grinned at the time for Christmas presents look he had on his face. It was the same look that Jim accused him of having every year at Christmas and birthdays. And every year he denied it, although Blair was fairly sure it was true.

Something moved in the reflection, off to one side. Blair let his eyes wander over and be caught on a shock of pale blond hair. His gaze wandered past for a moment, until something about that hair made him look back and there was a man standing there watching Blair. Intense gray eyes locked with Blair's for a moment. David Lash’s image briefly flashed through his mind. Blair whirled around and almost fell when his back spasmed sharply. He vividly remembered seeing Lash standing behind him at Club Doom and the nightmare that followed. No matter how many years it had been since that night, Blair still had nightmares sometimes.

The anthropologist gasped as his back injury reasserted itself and he leaned back against the glass wall behind him for support. Even through his pain, Blair was prepared to defend himself. Oh, not from Lash, Blair knew for a fact that Jim had shot that madman, but from the multitude of other people who could take his place. It’s not like he or Jim lacked enemies.

But…there was no one there. Blair made sure. He carefully looked over everyone in the immediate vicinity, but no one was watching him or acting suspicious.

Except for myself. Blair realized ruefully. I saw a flicker in the glass, probably of a car driving by,’ he realized with a shake of his head. ‘And now I’m shoved up against this office front like some kind of head case. It was either that or some poor schleb wondering why I'm walking like a 90 year-old man with a broken back.

“May I help you sir?”

Blair gasped and jumped, scraping the side of his hand on the concrete wall behind him in the process. He looked over to his left and saw that there was a younger man standing in the travel agency doorway looked at him with concern. “Are you alright?”

“Uh, yeah.” Blair gave him a shaky, but megawatt smile. He gave his hand a quick glance and saw that the skin was irritated but not bleeding. Blair tucked his hand in his pocket and gave a wave towards the street with his other. “I, uh, thought I saw somebody I knew and moved too fast.” At the other man’s confused smile, Blair explained. “I hurt my back a couple of days ago.”

The travel agent, Ted Langry, according to his name tag, smiled vaguely and nodded. Inside his own head, Blair snorted. He recognized that half pained, half distant look on the other man’s face. It was the same look people got on their faces when they asked “How are you?” and got a laundry list of somebody’s aches and pains instead of the polite and fictitious “Fine, how are you?” back.

Blair knew that this guy didn’t give a damn about his back. Who would? He just wanted Ted to know why he’d been acting so freaky. Okay. Snap out of it, Blair, he chastised himself.

"I see, sir."

Standing up a little straighter, Blair followed Ted back into the Travel Agency. "I wanted to see if I could get some information about a couple of trips and maybe your advice..."

)))))

Three quarters of an hour later, Blair exited the Around the World travel agency. He was stunned, both by the sheer volume of pamphlets and brochures they had given him of different places there were to visit and, more importantly, by the mind boggling prices. Blair was used to traveling with a study group on a shoe-string budget, or no budget at all. He wasn't used to traveling some place just for the luxury of it.

Blair slipped his sunglasses on and used their dark lenses as cover to surreptitiously glance around, looking for the person he had seen earlier. He didn't see anybody. Well, nobody that didn't look like your typical, late afternoon shopper. Heaving a sigh of relief, Blair walked back to his car. It was easier now than it had been earlier, because his back had limbered up somewhat. Sitting for long periods of time caused the muscles to seize up.

Giving the brochures in his hand a happy look, Sandburg thought about the vacation that he and Jim were planning. Jim, not surprisingly, wanted to go fishing. Blair wanted to go someplace different, possibly explore some ruins; anything, just as long as they were together, alone, for a little while. Hopefully it would be a criminal free trip. It would be a nice change if they could just have fun for once with no accidents, no poachers...

Blair's cell phone rang just as he was getting back in to his car. "Hello."

"Chief. There's been a kidnapping/murder. I need you to meet me at the corner of 5th and Carlton."

The Shaman blinked in surprise at the address. "That's just down the street from where I used to live."

"Yeah, I know." Jim sounded distracted. Blair figured he was either already at the crime scene or on his way. In either instance, he didn't need Blair distracting him. Especially not if he was driving!

"I can be there in," Blair glanced at his watch and calculated, "no more than 15 minutes, probably less."

"Okay, Chief. Drive carefully now."

Blair rolled his eyes at Jim cautioning him to drive safely. He wasn't the one who destroyed several vehicles a year, both his and other peoples. "I will, Big Guy. You take it easy too. Don't use your senses too much."

"No, I won't. I'm going to check out the scene as a detective first. I'll use the senses after you get here."

"Okay, bye Jim."

"Bye, love."

As Blair waited for a chance to back out of the parking space, he popped off the child-proof lid on his bottle of anti-inflammatory medicine. It took the college graduate several tries to get the little tabs lined up and the bottle opened.

Blair hated to take pain medicine, but he figured that Jim was going to need him mobile on this one. The time needed to drive to the scene should give the meds time to kick in.

Blair sped away, as fast as he could, hoping against hope that this case wouldn't be a bad one.

)))))

Driving away, Blair missed seeing the young man who stepped out from between the buildings. It was the same person that Blair had thought he'd seen earlier but dismissed as a figment of his imagination.

He wasn't a very big man and appeared to be relatively young. If Blair had seen him, the young man would have seemed familiar; and if he had thought about it a while, Blair would have recognized him as the rather creepy young man who had watched Blair during their Haunted House last Halloween. It was the person who dressed up as a RoboGeek and had bothered Blair with his intensity.

As it was, Blair falsely missed and dismissed him. The blond haired male, dressed innocuously enough in faded jeans and a dark blue sweater with stretched out sleeves, pulled out his cell phone and hurried over to his car. Like Blair, the younger man was very cold natured, so even though it was fast becoming summer, he had to wear a lightweight sweater most of the time. He kept looking down the street, watching Blair’s car as it slowly inched down the busy street. He was hoping that he wouldn't lose Blair in the traffic.

"Hey, it's me," the young man said when someone finally answered the phone. "Yeah, everything's going according to plan." He frowned, both at the person on the other end of the line and how long it was taking to get moving. "I know you think I should just get it over with, but I'm the one who has to do it, so leave me alone," his petulant tone emphasized just how young he really was.

His patience at an end, the young man backed out into the street, making his own hole in the traffic, amid much screeching of tires and horn honking, and took off down the road after Blair. There was cursing and gestures from the people he had driven in front of, but the impatient driver didn't see or hear them and wouldn't have cared if he did. His objective once again in sight, even if Blair was a long ways ahead of him, the driver returned to his conversation.

"I know. I know!" The young man’s tolerance with his speaking companion finally snapped and he barked into the phone. He sighed when a small, pathetic whimper came through the phone line. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell. I know this concerns you too, and I promise to do something soon." He listened some more, murmuring soothing nonsense as he wove through traffic.

When he was finally just a few vehicles behind Blair's car, the young man slowed down and gave his full attention back to the person he'd been semi-listening to. "That's a good idea." He purposely made his voice deeper, calming the other person. "Okay, Tommy, I'll take care of everything. Why don't you put on that CD you like...yes, that's the one, and go lay down for a while.” He nodded, even though his speaking companion couldn’t see him. “I promise to be careful. Okay, bye now."

He closed the cover on his cell phone and dropped it on the seat beside him. The young man rubbed a hand across the top of his head wearily, mussing his carefully styled hair. With his free hand, he began to pull and tug on the edge of his sleeve. This nervous habit explained the appearance of the sweater sleeves.

"Yes," he said out loud, "I will take care of everything."

)))))

Blair pulled the Volvo in behind Jim's truck and killed the engine. From where he was sitting, Blair could see the shell of what used to be his old home just four warehouses away. Despite the fact that it had been about seven years since the place had been blown up, and how much of a hazard the exposed walls were, it still had yet to be torn down. That wasn't really surprising, not around here. The neighborhood was bad and not many people would care about the safety of the people living around here.

The warehouse he was about to go into wasn't much better than his old home. It was a two-story derelict place and for years housed a business that stored and shipped fine cigars; at least, that’s what the faded writing on the side of the building informed him. Now, there were missing windows and birds flew in and out of the rotting roof. Inside, the ground floor was empty of everything but the personnel working the crime scene. There was a rickety wooden staircase with no handrail that led up to a partial second floor. The back of a woman's head and her up flung arms were hanging over the edge of the upper balcony. The white blond hair that Blair could see was beautifully bleached and long enough that it was tied in a knot around one of the metal posts.

Blair frowned at that. From where Blair was standing, he could see that the knot was a very intricate one. He wondered how someone could have done that intricate work at the odd angle they would have needed to be standing.

"Hey, banana boy."

The observer turned and glared at the cop as he passed by, his concentration shot for the moment. Blair only knew the officer by sight, didn't even know his name, and sure as hell didn't appreciate being teased by him. The guys in Major Crimes were one thing, but strangers were another. For right now, the murder investigation was foremost in his mind, but Blair vowed to stop the teasing by one means or another.

"Up here, Chief. Be careful, the stairs aren't very steady." Jim's voice drifted down from the balcony like a military cut Juliet. Blair dismissed the teasing cop and grinned internally.

I guess that makes me Romeo, he thought.

"I'm on my way, Jim." Blair answered quietly. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks..."

With Blair's back bothering him, despite the pain killers, and especially with no railing, it took the anthropologist twice as long as it normally would to mount the stairs. Of course, considering how fast the hyper man usually ran up the stairs, it still didn’t take longer than a few seconds.

Jim gave Blair a serious look when he arrived on the landing, clearly having heard the mini-joke, but he had an amused, tolerant look in his eye. The Sentinel realized that Blair had used the reference, not necessarily as humor, but as a way to make the tragedy bearable, in a similar vein as the gallows humor that the other cops did. Blair would never refer to the victim in a humorous way, but he would talk about other things.

"What's up?" Blair inquired quietly.

"This," Jim gestured to the victim, "is Lydia Wagner. She and her seven year old daughter, Lilly, were abducted from a shopping mall yesterday."

"Damn," Blair said. He watched from the side as Dan Wolfe, the head forensic examiner, scrutinized the body. "Where's the daughter?" Blair winced as he looked around, not anxious to see that little body.

"She's not here. There's no sign of her at all."

"Then there's a chance we can save her." Blair tried not to sound too hopeful, but any chance was good.

"Let's hope so, Chief. Let's hope so." Jim sounded so depressed and no wonder. A child being in danger was so much worse than an adult. The death of her mother was bad enough, but the little girl hadn't lived her life at all yet.

"Any sign of what killed her?" Jim asked, turning back to the tall, Indian man.

Dan stood up and shook his head; his long black ponytail twisting on his back as he moved. "No, there are no signs of trauma at all. If I had to guess, I'd say poison, or possibly even natural causes." At Jim's incredulous look, Dan gave a small smile and continued. "The shock of being kidnapped might have led to a stroke or heart attack."

"Uhmmmm," Jim hummed, showing his doubt in that theory.

"I won't know until we do the autopsy. The only odd thing I noticed was..."

"...her hair," Blair interrupted, thinking out loud. Realizing what he'd done, Blair smiled in apology. "Oh, sorry."

"That's fine. Yes, the way her hair is knotted is odd."

Jim nodded. "We'll cut the pipe and slide something in its place so we can keep the shape of the knot intact."

"Good idea." The pathologist took off his latex gloves and stowed them away in the procedures bag he was carrying. The big man carefully made his way down the stairs and left Jim and Blair alone on the none-too-sturdy platform.

Blair moved over and laid a hand on Jim's shoulder, grounding the Sentinel and allowing him to have free reign with his senses. The older detective blinked a couple of times and used his enhanced eyesight to scan the area around the body before he moved closer. Not finding anything that would be out of place in the dusty warehouse he walked over and squatted down beside the woman. Blair moved with him, still keeping contact with some part of Jim's body.

Ellison carefully dialed up his sense of smell a few notches and stiffened immediately. "You find something?" Blair got down on the ground beside Jim, ignoring the pain that caused in his back. "Did you smell something?"

"Yes." Jim closed his eyes and concentrated on the odor. "I'm not sure what it is though. There's a...sickly sweet smell around her mouth." Jim opened his eyes and looked closer at the corpse's lips and the partially open mouth. "She has a thin film of something on the inside of her mouth. I think we are looking at poison here."

Jim spent several more minutes examining the body, using both his detective skills and his Sentinel ones. Finally, the detective stood up and put his hands on his hips. "Can I take a closer look at her hair now?" Blair asked. He knew to wait his turn, so that any evidence wouldn't be trampled under foot.

"Yeah, that's fine."

Blair ooched forward and leaned over to get a better look at the long, knotted hair. He tried to avoid looking at Mrs. Wagner's face, not to dehumanize her, but because it was hard enough for the shaman to concentrate, being right beside her body. If he really looked at her, he'd be overwhelmed by the needless loss of life and not be able to concentrate enough to find out who did this horrible thing to her.

"I recognize the way this is knotted," he said out loud. Blair closed his eyes to think for a moment. Pictures from books, web pages and videos flashed through his mind.

Jim walked up behind Blair and peered over his shoulder. "Any idea why it seems familiar?"

Blair shook his head. "Not yet. I..."

There was an ominous creaking sound and both men froze, afraid that the balcony was going to collapse with them on it. The wood that surrounded the rusted out metal bar that the woman's hair was wound around decided that it had had enough abuse and began to crumble. Both Jim and Blair reached out, but it was Blair's hands that got there first. He managed to grab the bar and kept it from falling and undoing where it was tied. That most vital piece of information was preserved.

Jim, saw that Blair had a firm grip on the piece of metal, both above and below the hair tied there, and sighed in relief. He also saw that his lover and Guide was off balance and took hold of the curly haired man by waist and straightened him up, thereby keeping his vital lover preserved. Blair carefully laid the saved evidence down.

Ellison sighed. "Good catch, Chief."

"Thanks, man." Blair's shaky voice belatedly reminded the Sentinel of his lover's fear of heights. He pulled the anthropologist up and into a brief hug. Blair was trembling in his arms, the look over the side of the platform having upset him.

The two men broke apart and eyed the dead woman sympathetically. They knew that work was going to be hell for a while, with long hours and lots of worry. Lydia Wagner and her missing daughter deserved no less.

)))))

"Yes, very good work, Sandburg." Simon patted Blair on the back. "It would have been a damned shame to lose that clue."

Blair nodded and smiled up at the captain from where he was seated in the visitor's chair in Banks' office. "Thanks, Simon." The ex-student had taken more pain relievers on the way to the station. He wasn't over the recommended dose, but it was a lot higher than he was used to and he needed it right now. The climbing and kneeling and grabbing at the abandoned warehouse had aggravated the injury and his back had been screaming. Now, it was just whimpering a little.

The captain offered his two men coffee, from that cousin of his again, and Blair took the cup that Jim handed him. This time the flavor was vanilla cream. Blair grinned at the look on Jim’s face and personally, Blair had to agree with his Sentinel’s unspoken assessment. Vanilla was good in cake, but in coffee, not so much.

“So, Jim, did you find any new clues; ones that the forensic people didn’t come across?” Banks lowered his voice and muttered, “and will have a fit over missing?”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know they would, but I didn’t find anything for them to moan about.”

“Damn,” Simon swore.

“Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.” Jim sat his coffee cup down and opened the file again. This early in the investigation, there wasn’t a lot to go over, but that damned clock was ticking on little Lilly’s life, so he’d give it a whirl.

“Lydia Wagner, age 28. Housewife and mother…”

Here, Blair interrupted his lover. “Homemaker.”

“Her…what?” Jim turned a little in his seat and gave Blair a blank look.

“The politically correct term is homemaker, not housewife. You better change that or people will get ticked off.”

Jim started to comment about worrying about that kind of thing now, when Simon added his two cents worth. “He’s right.” Simon sighed and shook his head. “Last month, Brown sent in a report about a garbage man being killed. There was more of a fuss over him being called a garbage man instead of an environmental engineer than there was over his murder.”

“Yeah, I remember that now. I hate how job titles change all the time, it makes it hard to keep up.” Jim took a long drink of his coffee. “Good catch there, Chief.”

“No problem, Big Guy.” Blair patted the older detective on the arm, knowing how frustrating political crap can be when you are trying to save lives. The former grad student knew all about politics; he had been dealing with it since he entered college at the tender age of 16. Such things hadn’t changed much over the years, just different terms that went in and out of favor. Even going from the more insulated college scene to a more public police environment hadn’t been that different. Kissing ass was kissing ass, no matter if the butt wore tweed or blue polyester.

“Okay,” Ellison continued, “her father owns Milardson’s department store, but isn’t that wealthy. There have been no ransom demands, for her or the little girl. No signs of struggle at their house and so far, no real suspects.”

“What about the husband?” Simon asked unnecessarily. He knew that Jim and Blair were very thorough in their investigations, as were all his people, and would already have checked out the most likely suspect.

“He’s clean and has an airtight alibi. David Wagner, also 28, was at a dental convention in Albany, New York, when they disappeared. The dinner that night was given in his honor and there were literally hundreds of witnesses. Plus, it was videotaped.”

Blair let their voices wash over him as he, once again, delved into his memories about that darned knot. It wasn't something he'd seen in a book, he was almost certain. Or a video. It seemed like he had seen and touched something similar. But where? Blair was not into bondage.

Bondage...hmmm, that was close.

Beep beep.

"Yes?" Simon barked into the phone. He listened intently for a few seconds. "Alright, they'll be right down." He dropped the receiver back into his cradle. "That was pathology. Wolfe has found something unusual he thinks you two should see."

"Right away, sir."

Blair followed Jim out of the office. They stopped at their desk long enough for the Sentinel to grab up Blair's jacket. The morgue was very chilly, and considering Blair's normally cold nature, he'd be miserable in minutes.

The elevator ride was made in silence as each man thought about the little girl who was still missing. The first 48 hours in a situation like this were the most critical. If Lilly Wagner had a chance of being found alive, they would need a miracle, because their window of opportunity was quickly closing.

)))))

"I took a swab from her mouth, inside and out. It was poison."

Jim gave Dan an amazed look. "You have the results already?"

The dark skinned man nodded. "Yes, we lucked out there. I recognized the smell when we got to the lab. It was the first thing I tested, Trichloroethane."

“What the hell is…?”

“Trichloroethane,” Dan reiterated. “It’s what’s used in correction fluid. We just had a young man in last month who accidentally overdosed on the fumes. It gives the feeling of euphoria and leaves a sweet smell on the breath.”

Blair frowned. "At least she wouldn't have had long to suffer." He glanced over at Jim uncertainly. “I guess.”

"True, however, that's not what I called you about." The tall man led the way over to a draped table. "I found something very interesting when I began the autopsy."

The sheet that covered the body was pulled back, all the way down to the corpse's knees. Blair could see that the pipe was still sticking through Mrs. Wagner's hair, albeit a smaller, cut down section. However, that was not what was odd. Dan hadn't exposed the body from lack of modesty for the dead woman, but to show what was on her body.

Rough hemp rope was wrapped around her body in an intricate pattern. The breasts were outlined with rope that went up and over her shoulders and down around her waist. There were several ropes used.

Finally, something clicked.

"Shibari!"

"What?" Jim and Dan said in unison.

"That's Shibari, the art of Japanese Rope Tying." Blair gestured. He looked closer at the woman's hair again. "That's what was so familiar. Her hair is done in a modified version of the Shinju position on her breasts."

"Is it torture?" Jim asked, looking at the rough and scratchy rope. You could see where her skin had been irritated by the hemp, indicating that she had been tied like this for a while. The set of ropes that wound around her waist and down between her legs seemed especially painful to him.

"It's not supposed to be," Blair clarified. "It's, uh, supposed to be sensual. The use of knots," Blair gestured to her rope and panty covered crotch, “is called Shiatsu. That’s where you use different knots at sensitive body spots, like the anus and genitals, to stimulate them.” At the look Jim gave him, Blair shrugged. "Hey man, don't look at me, I'm not into dom/sub stuff like that, but the people who are say it's nice. Of course, they use nicer rope and it's consensual."

"Well, this certainly wasn't," Dan stated. "Her hands were tied at some point too." The pathologist lifted one hand showing them Lydia's wrist. There were evenly spaced lines from the wrist bone and up about two inches where a rope had been wrapped tightly.

"Are both arms that way?" Blair asked. He tried to think like a scientist and ignore the fact that what he was examining was just a few hours earlier a living, breathing person.

"Yes, they are."

"That's part of the Shibari too. It's called, well, Hands Bondage." Blair shrugged at the obvious sounding name.

Dan put Mrs. Wagner's hand back down and pulled a tray of instruments over. His assistant handed him a sharp pair of shears and Dan carefully began to cut the rope. As each piece was removed the technician placed it on a tray that had adhesive on it. In that way, the way the rope had been positioned on the body could be preserved and further examined later.

"I'll let you know if I find anything else." He picked up a saw and turned the motor on. "Unless you want to stay and watch."

Blair hurried out, not really wanting to see the dismemberment. For all his macho cop attitude, Blair was amused to notice that Jim was only seconds behind him.

)))))

"Don't tell me...you learned about this stuff for school." H’s lips twitched as he tried not to laugh.

Blair rolled his eyes at the bald detective's juvenile attitude. "Yes, Henri, I did a study on the cultural ramifications of sexual idiosyncrasies of eastern cultures on western society today." Blair grinned at their confused looks as H, Rafe and Jim tried to follow the convoluted subject. "As a matter of fact, that was my master's thesis in psychology."

He turned and began typing on the computer and missed the flummoxed look on H's face. The people Blair worked with every day were so used to Blair being at the station that they tended to forget that he had a doctorate, among other accomplishments.

Jim looked at his lover in surprise. "I thought you minored in psych."

"I did, man." Blair grinned, the smile spreading from one ear to the other. "I didn't get a doctorate, after all. Yet," he muttered, and Jim looked startled at the news that Blair wanted to continue on with his education.

“I’d hate to see what you majored in,” Rafe said, and then he gave a little cough as he glanced sideways at Jim. “Uh, yeah. Anyway, so this Shibari is supposed to be for fun?”

“Uh huh. The fact that it’s being used differently here will tick off a lot of people,” Blair said distractedly. “Here we go.” Blair scooted his computer chair over to let the others see the site he had pulled up on the internet.

On the screen was an example of the Shiatsu technique that was used on Lydia Wagner. Jim nodded his head. “Yeah, it’s the same alright.”

Rafe, Brown and Simon all had their mouths hanging open. Simon and H seemed to be amazed at the explicit pictures of men and women in bondage that came up on the screen. Blair had to smile at the overheated look the normally cool and calm Brian Rafe had on his face. If Blair were a betting person, he would gamble that Rafe would be doing a little internet search himself that night.

"Simon...it gets worse."

When Jim hesitated, Simon nodded and gestured Jim to go on.

"I think we may have a serial killer on our hands."

Simon stood up straight and looked at Ellison warily. "Why do you say that, Jim?"

Ellison opened up two other files and turned them around for Simon to see. "Six months ago, Steve Harkins was found dead in his downtown office. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the chest and abdomen." Jim pointed to another file. "Three months ago, Amelia Indin was found beside a jogging path in the park, also the victim of multiple stab wounds." Jim closed the files. "Dan had blood samples from the victims and I just had him run a new test on them. Both Harkins and Indin had the same drug in their systems that Lydia Wagner did and there was evidence that they had been tied up as well. Homicide never made the connection because the victims weren't connected in any way we could find."

"But they didn't die from a Trichloroethane overdose," Rafe said as he looked through the Harkins file.

"Dan says that Lydia seems to have been particularly sensitive to some chemicals. According to her medical records, she had a tough time with anesthetics too," Blair pointed out.

“So, her death was an accidental overdose,” Simon clarified.

“It looks like it.” Jim nodded.

"The rope marks from the first two victims were mistakenly thought to be where they were tied up, not from Shibari rope art," Blair went on to say.

"So, what do they all have in common?" Pictures of all three victims and young Lilly were spread out on Jim's desk.

"Nothing that we know of. Harkins was the manager of a computer firm. Indin was the president of an electronics manufacturing company and Wagner didn't work outside the home." Jim sighed and crossed his arms. "They lived in totally different neighborhoods and didn’t have any friends in common.”

"Their hair," Joel said quietly. The big man had come up to the engrossed group unnoticed. "They all have beautiful hair."

Everyone looked closer at the pictures. "You're right," Simon agreed.

"Well, I'm safe," H said with a grin, as he ran a hand over his completely bald head. Jim laughed and Simon just shook his head at the younger detective.

"They all died on the full moon too," Blair pointed out as he consulted a calendar. "And Lydia died before they could perform their sacrifice ritual."

"Damn," Jim swore. "When's the next full moon?"

"Technically...tomorrow night is the full moon.

The mood sobered once again as they thought about the young girl, with the same lovely hair as her mother, who was still missing.

)))))

“Chief, what’s wrong?” Jim rubbed a strong hand on Blair's back and in spite of himself, the anthropologist jumped a little.

“I…” Blair glanced up at the darkened loft. He had arrived several minutes earlier, well before Jim got there, but couldn’t make himself go up. He was still sitting in his car when Jim arrived. Every time the younger man started to get out of the Volvo and go in, he remembered the phantom guy from earlier and kept seeing Lash kidnapping him out of their home.

“Chief?” Jim squatted by the open door of the car and tilted his head at Blair questioningly. The Guide didn’t want to tell him about his irrational fears, because Blair knew that his overprotective Sentinel would be worried and jump into Blessed Protector overdrive, but Blair learned many years ago that keeping secrets from one another was not the way to have a relationship, even if he was keeping the secret in order to protect Jim.

Blair sighed and let his head drop back against the head rest. "When I was out today, I thought I saw somebody watching me. When I turned around, the person wasn't there, or had never been there, but it still creeped me out."

Jim clenched his jaw, making the little muscle in the corner twitch, just like Blair was afraid it would. "Have you seen him since then?" Ellison's eyes defocused for a moment and Blair knew he was using his Sentinel senses, searching for an unseen watcher.

"No, and I'm pretty sure it was my imagination the first time," Blair tried to reassure him.

"No you aren't," Jim looked into Blair's eyes intensely, "otherwise you wouldn't still be so worried."

Blair sighed. "You're right. I don't really think I imagined him; I've just been trying to convince myself. And who knows," Blair shrugged as he got out and locked the car door, "the young man I saw may have thought he recognized me."

Jim nodded. With all the publicity they'd garnered over the years, one or both of them was recognized every once in a while. "Well, there's nobody around close except for Mr. Johansen, who's walking his dog."

"I think we can dismiss him," Blair said with a small smile.

"Yeah. He and Melvin don't exactly strike me as the stalker types." They both glanced over at the smaller, skinny man who was patiently waiting for his toy poodle to finish sniffing at a tree. "You know, poodles are gay looking dogs*."

"What?" Blair sputtered with laughter. "How exactly is something gay looking?"

Ellison shrugged and put a protective hand in the middle of Blair's back. "I don't know, but that is." He tilted his head to the tiny dog.

Blair laughed and leaned into his lover's side. He knew what Jim was up to and let himself be distracted from his worries.

)))))

The young man lowered his binoculars and tried to stop laughing. He knew how to read lips and had heard what Jim had said about the poodle. From his vantage point many blocks away, the young man was out of Jim's Sentinel range, but still able to keep an eye on Sandburg.

He sighed sadly and glanced down at the older newspaper clipping. The picture showed Blair at his infamous press conference. Sorrow was written on Blair's face as he denied his life’s work.

"Sorry," he said quietly. "I don’t want to cause you any more problems, but I need your help."

Deciding that Jim and Blair were probably in for the night, he started his car back up and drove away.

)))))

"Jim, man, I'm telling you, this guy is the foremost expert on unusual sexual practices that I know. Unusual to us anyway," Blair clarified. "Did you know that in some cultures wearing clothing is considered to be freakish?" Blair nodded. "In others you aren't supposed to show more than your eyes, especially the poor women." Blair shrugged. "Everybody's different. What was taboo a hundred years ago is considered tame now. In another hundred years, we'll be considered prudes."

Ellison just nodded as he listened to his lover. The detective knew how much Blair liked to talk and his mini-lectures were always informative and interesting.

Blair knocked on the wooden door. The, "come in," was muffled because of the thickness of the solid door.

"Blair, my boy!"

The older man who stood up to greet Blair was unprepossessing. He was tall and slender, but with a substantial layer of muscle. Silvery blond hair framed a sun bronzed face. Jim couldn't accurately judge how old the man was because of the weathering that wind and sun had done on his skin, but Ellison estimated that he was in his early 60's.

"How are you doing, Scott?" Blair stepped back from the mutual hug that the two men had been having.

"Excellent, my boy!" he boomed again. Jim got the impression that the professor was enthusiastic about everything. "How are you doing? Do you like working with the police?" Scott raised an eyebrow and Ellison could see that he was really interested in the answer.

"It's great." Blair said with a big smile.

"Excellent, excellent." The professor looked politely and enquiringly at Jim.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Jim, this is Dr. Scott Carlyle. Scott, this is my good friend and partner, Detective Jim Ellison."

Carlyle nodded and extended a large hand to Jim. "Nice to meet you, detective."

"Nice to meet you as well, Dr. Carlyle." Jim noticed that the handshake was strong, but not overpowering, even though Jim could feel the strength hiding behind his grip; Scott didn't feel the need to show his strength.

"Scott, please," he insisted. "Any friend of Blair's and all that." Carlyle grinned, his white teeth gleaming in his brown face. "I'm glad Blair had a partner to keep an eye on him." The emphasis on partner wasn't lost on Jim, nor was the professor's easy going acceptance of his and Blair's relationship. Jim was glad for Blair's sake; he didn't want Blair to lose an old friend over their love.

"What can I do for you, son? Or is this a social call?"

Blair shook his head, making his long curls swoosh. "Not this time. I need your expertise." Scott smirked and arched an eyebrow. Blair smacked him playfully on the arm. "For an investigation."

Carlyle turned serious. "What do you need to know?"

"Tell us about Shibari, please." Jim stated as he pulled out his notebook and pencil.

"Oh-kay," Scott drawled and then he did tell them.

)))))

"I had no idea that there were so many different ways to tie a person up."

"Yeah, man and that's just the ways Shibari uses." Blair snickered at Jim's astonished look and then pretended to cough to cover it up when Ellison glared at him.

"Keep it up, Einstein." Jim stepped away from Blair and detoured around a group of students who were standing in the middle of the hallway, loudly discussing something or other. When he and Blair got past them, Jim gravitated back to his lover. Blair bumped his shoulder against Jim's arm.

"Hey, Big Guy, how often is it that I get to surprise you guys. I've gotta enjoy the moment while I can."

"Uhmmm," Jim hummed. "Point taken, just don't milk this too much."

The two men walked companionably across the quad, the silence that fell over them not a burden, just calm. Then Jim felt something, like someone was watching them.

"Keep walking Blair," Jim whispered to his lover. Louder he said, "I've gotta make a pit stop before we head out, Chief. I'll meet you at the truck.

The anthropologist wasn't surprised when Jim headed towards the next hallway and supposedly towards the bathroom; he too had felt that target in the middle of your back feeling. Blair purposely kept his carefree smile on his face, even though he was nervous as all get out.

"Uh, Dr. Sandburg..."

"Freeze, Cascade PD." The young man's tentative voice was cut off when Jim spoke.

Blair turned around and saw the same blond hair and gray eyes he had seen earlier. Right now those eyes were wide with fright, and it was no wonder, considering that Jim was standing to one side with his gun drawn.

"I guess you were real after all," Blair said unnecessarily. "What do you want?"

"I..." the young man's voice squeaked. He swallowed, making his Adam's apple bob quickly up and down. "I just want to talk to you."

Jim gave the young man a quick scan with his senses and decided that, although he was definitely nervous, he was telling the truth. Ellison put his service revolver back in his shoulder holster. The blond man lowered his hands and relaxed a little.

"Who are you?" Blair was glad when Jim came to stand beside him. He wasn't afraid of the guy who had been following him, but he was worried about his Sentinel who was still very tense.

"My name is Steve Jameson and I need your help."

Now that Blair had the opportunity, he looked Steve over, frowning in almost recognition. He was too young to have been a student of Blair's and if he'd seen Jameson at the station, Jim would have recognized him as well. "You look familiar."

"I was at the charity haunted house the police department sponsored last Halloween."

"RoboGeek!" Blair exclaimed. Jim gave him an odd look, but Steve just nodded. "You acted odd then too."

"I know I did and I'm sorry if I've worried you." Jameson looked contrite and very young.

"Then why..." Blair glanced at all of the students wandering around, class had just let out and the walkways were inundated, and made a decision. "Come on, let's go somewhere more private."

Blair led Jim and Steve down a little used side path and right to the edge of the woods that made up one side of the campus. In between a small grove of trees was a clearing. Blair plopped down on the soft grass. Steve immediately followed, as did Jim, after a roll of his eyes. The sheltered patch of ground was cool underneath their butts, but worth it.

"Okay, now we can talk freely. If you need my help, why didn't you say something all those months ago?"

"I chickened out," he admitted. Steve pulled up a blade of a grass and began to worry it between his fingers. "Every time I got close to you, I lost my nerve."

"I can understand that.” Blair gave a sideways look at Jim, who still looked ready to go all Special Forces any moment. “So, what did you need?"

Steve dropped the shredded bits of grass and straightened up from his slump. "I think my brother is a Sentinel."

)))))

"So, this Jameson kid wanted Sandburg to help his brother?"

Jim nodded at Simon. "I had him and his brother, Tommy, checked out. Steve is a straight A student at Burkel High who plays trombone in the band. Until last year, Tommy was into everything. He played football, baseball and acted in all the school plays. And he managed to keep a B+ average while doing so."

"And this year?" Simon clicked a finger against the side of his lighter distractedly.

"The poor kid's had a lot of problems. He's been out sick for so many days that his guidance counselor pestered his parents until they took him to a specialist. Not surprisingly, they didn't find anything wrong."

"Let me guess, he has the same symptoms as you did." Simon tossed the lighter onto his desk, to Jim's relief. Ellison had begun to wonder if he was going to go nuts before Simon stopped.

“Yeah. Noises too loud, lights overly bright, etc. etc. Steve remembered seeing Blair on the news and actually read the excerpt of the dissertation that was printed. When his brother started having the same symptoms, Steve decided to contact Blair. It’s just taken him this long to get up the nerve to approach Blair.”

Simon nodded. “So, what happens now?”

“Blair is meeting with the two of them right now. He’s going to give some pointers to Steve. You know, tell him about the dials and the allergic reactions and things. That and hope that Steve really is Tommy’s Guide. I hope he is, otherwise that kid’s in for a rough ride.”

“Yeah,” Simon said, remembering all that Jim went through before finding Blair. “What about the Sentinel thing?”

Jim frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Are you having any problems with another Sentinel in the area?” They both knew that Simon was referring to Alex Barnes.

Ellison shook his head. “No, it’s different this time. I followed Blair to the meeting, just to be on the safe side, and even though I could sense another Sentinel, I didn’t feel out of control like I did when Alex was around. I didn’t even mind when Blair touched him to help settle his senses.”

“That’s good,” Simon breathed out a sigh of relief. None of them wanted to go through that hell again. After a few minutes, he smiled.

“What?” Jim asked.

“I’m just glad that the kid’s work is going to help another Sentinel,” Simon stated.

A soft smile crossed Jim’s face. “Me too.”

)))))

Jim and Blair walked around Lydia Wagner’s home, searching for clues as to who might have taken her. Or better yet, what connection she had with the other two victims. So far, nothing had panned out. Lydia appeared to be exactly what she seemed to be, a loving wife and mother.

David Wagner, Lydia’s husband and Lilly’s father, had agreed to the search immediately and wholeheartedly. He didn’t give a damn about a search warrant and had insisted on signing a waiver stating that. Nobody wanted there to be any slip ups if and when they found the people responsible for the tragedy.

Blair peeked into a bedroom and quickly backed out when he saw the teddy bears and other stuffed animals. He and Jim were certain that the mother was the target here and Lilly was taken because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Man, Blair thought, what a day for Lilly to come home sick from school.

The child was supposed to have been safe in her private school across town. Lydia was a creature of habit and went to the shopping center where she was kidnapped from every Tuesday at noon to meet a friend for lunch. On that particular Tuesday, she had just stopped for a moment to tell her friend that Lilly was sick and she couldn’t meet her for the day. She and Lilly never made it back to their vehicle.

“Find anything?” Jim glanced into the room. A pained look crossed his face when confronted with such innocence.

“No. What about you?” Blair followed Jim down the hallway, grateful to be leaving the vicinity of Lilly’s room. Rummaging through Lydia’s things was bad enough, but disturbing Lilly’s felt too much like they were giving up on the little girl.

“No, damn it.” Ellison led the way down the staircase and to the front of the house. “There’s got to be a link between all the victims, I just don’t know what.” Jim slammed his fist against his leg in frustration.

Blair put his hand on Jim’s shoulder to calm him down. The Guide wanted to do more for his Sentinel, but Blair was in a sticky situation. Some people knew that they were a couple, mainly their friends at Major Crimes, but if the information became general knowledge, then all kinds of problems would arise.

“We better get back to the station. Maybe H and Rafe found something at the other places.” The partners were checking out Harkins’ and Indin’s residences, also looking for any kind of a connection between the three.

Jim sighed in frustration. He glanced around the room one last time. Blair noticed that Jim had concentrated his attention on David’s office.

“Find something?”

Blair craned his neck, trying in vain to see across the room and into a semi-darkened office. The anthropologist gave it up as a bad job when he realized that he was getting a headache. Blair sometimes forgot that he didn’t have the same talents as his lover and had strained his eyes on many occasions. It didn’t help anything that Blair had spent several hours earlier in the day working with the newest Sentinel and Guide pair in Cascade.

In just that short time, Blair had seen that Steve was Tommy’s Guide. It hadn’t taken Tommy any time at all to understand the dials, or Steve to be able to help him through them.

Blair had been glad it went so smoothly. Tommy had been an understandable wreck and Steve hadn’t looked much better. Blair had been able to see scratch marks on the young Sentinel’s neck where his clothes had irritated him into clawing at his skin. Tommy had been wearing extra dark sunglasses, even though they were inside, and had whimpered when music started playing next door. Steve had winced when his brother did and whimpered almost as much. Blair could understand. It hurt him every time Jim was in pain.

The two young men were benefiting from Blair’s experiences and failures. There wouldn’t be the trial and error method that Blair had stumbled through to help Jim, because he already knew what did and did not work. Blair didn’t know if it was their youth, or the closeness they already had as brothers, but Steve and Tommy already had a close Sentinel/Guide bond.

“No, nothing important.” Jim’s voice brought Blair back to the present and their investigation that was fast going nowhere. “Let’s head back to the station.”

)))))

“Alright people, quiet down,” Simon’s bellow startled Blair, who had been studying the files. The Guide jumped and spilled the cup of coffee he'd been about to take a drink of down the front of his shirt and on to his jeans. The younger man yelped and jumped up. That, of course, got everybody’s attention focused on him and his wet clothing. For once Blair didn’t care, because the coffee was hot!

Wiping ineffectually at the large stain on his clothing with a paper towel, Blair turned to Jim. "I'm gonna go change," he murmured to his lover.

"Good idea, Chief."

Blair hurried out of the bullpen and over to the elevators. A uniform officer, one of the ones that liked to tease Blair, joined him when the elevator stopped on the third floor. The cop looked Blair up and down and smirked, especially at Blair's wet jeans. The Shaman was aware that the way the coffee had spilled made it look like he'd peed in his pants. The officer kept eyeing Blair's crotch and smirking. In Blair's head, he could hear new taunts of coffee boy or worse, so he decided to turn the tables and see if he could nip this new trend in the bud.

Blair glanced over at the cop and waited until he realized Blair was watching and then eyed the other man up and down, stopping for a long time on his crotch. The tight blue uniform didn't leave a lot to the imagination.

"Don't worry, man," Blair clapped the blushing man on the back companionably, "maybe someday people will call you 'banana' too." He gave a mock look of sympathy and gave his crotch another sad look.

The officer's face wavered between bright red and very pale; he couldn't seem to decide if he wanted to be pissed off at Blair, embarrassed by the frank assessment...or go measure himself to see if he measured up. Blair hid a grin as he exited the elevator in the basement and headed towards the locker room. He was satisfied that there was at least one cop who would hesitate to pick on him now.

Blair snickered as he pulled off his now cold and clammy clothes. The officer had been so flustered that he'd missed his own floor. Blair had heard him cursing as the elevator doors had shut behind him.

A quick wash with a hand towel removed most of the coffee that had soaked through his jeans and onto his skin. Blair was trying to hurry, he didn’t want to miss very much of the important meeting going on upstairs. The anthropologist pulled a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt out of his locker. Years of experience, even before he started riding with Jim, had taught the Shaman to be prepared for anything.

A muffled brrrring made Blair pause. It sounded like a phone, but he could barely hear it. Another ring and Blair rolled his eyes; he'd forgotten his cell phone in his wet jeans and shut it back in the locker. Blair retrieved it just as it rang for a third time.

"Hello." Jim tried to get him to answer the phone using his name, but Blair couldn't get into the habit of answering like Jim did. He figured that if somebody was calling his cell phone, they were probably expecting him to answer it.

"Blair, my boy." Carlyle's never ending enthusiasm never failed to impress Blair.

"Hey, Scott. What's up?"

Blair tucked the cell phone between his ear and shoulder and pulled on an over shirt. He never felt very comfortable with just a t-shirt on and for some reason, when he tucked the over shirt in, people bothered him more at the station. Blair had no idea why.

"I called a friend of mine who is into the Shibari culture; he and his lover are in town on vacation and have heard a rumor. They'd be willing to meet with you to tell what they've heard."

"That's great, man. Where are they? Jim and I will head over there right now. This little girl's time is running out quick." Blair was hyped up himself now. This was the first possible lead they'd had.

"They are going to be at the All Tied Up club for a while. I told them you'd probably come over right away. Uhm..." Scott hesitated. "The club is very explicit; there are live artists all through the club, even in the front rooms. You might want to take someone less likely to attract attention than your police officer. He screams police and military, not something that will endear you with the club members."

Blair thought for a moment. He wasn't upset at what the professor was saying. Blair knew that Jim intimidated people just by looking at them. "Right, okay, I'll go by myself."

Scott's laughter rumbled through the phone. "I wouldn't, my boy. Someone who looks like you do should have a companion, or you won't get two feet inside the door before everyone will be all over you."

The younger man could feel his face reddening as he blushed. Normally he could handle the situation, but from what he'd seen of Shibari, Blair knew he'd be out of his depth.

"Okay, I'll get somebody else to go with me then. Thanks for talking to people, Scott. I really appreciate it."

"No problem. Oh, and Blair, be careful. They'll just eat you up."

)))))

Jim rubbed the back of his neck, trying to relieve the tension, and wished that Blair would hurry up. Ellison knew that his lover would want to be in on the meeting they were having and the younger man had good insight. He could listen to the facts and pick out one nugget that the others might miss.

“…only thing interesting was the picture of Mrs. Indin.” Jim’s brain caught the reference and he turned to see Brown’s happy grin. “It was really hot. Apparently she had some intimate pictures taken for her hubby.”

“That’s funny,” Rafe said with a blush. “Harkins had a picture of an oil painting in one of his desk drawers. He was, uhm, naked in it.”

“That’s it!” Jim exclaimed. “That’s the connection. Lydia Wagner’s husband had a nude painting of her on his office wall. I saw it as Sandburg and I were leaving. The artist’s name was…” Ellison closed his eyes and tried to remember what he saw.

There was a shuffling of paper. “Eric Sherman,” Brian supplied, as he looked up from his notes. “At least that’s the artist on Harkins’ picture.”

“Yep, that was on one edge of the photo I saw too.” H nodded excitedly.

Jim nodded. “That’s the name all right.”

“I have something to show you.” They all turned at the unexpected entry of Joel Taggart. “I was helping out with a raid on a sweat shop, run by Tommy Charsten…” They all grimaced. Charsten was a low life who was notorious for exploiting his underpaid, illegal workers. “This was found at the scene.”

Joel turned on the VCR and inserted the video he was carrying. A grainy picture flickered onto the television screen. There was Amelia Indin, naked as could be, except for a very small towel that she was holding in front of herself. The men watched as a photographer arranged her in various positions on an old fashioned love seat. When he was through, Amelia was still naked, but her long hair was draped in such a way that you had a hard time telling that she was unclothed.

“Yes,” Brown confirmed, “that’s what the pictures looked like that I saw.”

“Excellent.” Simon rubbed his hands together. Excitement spread around the room like a gasoline fire. “Find out where he works…”

“Got it,” Henri turned from his computer where he’d just looked the artist up. “He lives on Kingston St., and that’s where his artist’s studio is, too.”

Simon nodded. “Perfect. Good work people.”

Everyone scattered. Jim could hear Blair’s heartbeat getting closer and met the anthropologist by the elevator bay. The Sentinel snagged his Guide’s elbow and turned him back around and into the elevator he had just left. H and Rafe were hot on his heels and jumped in just as the doors shut.

“Chief, we’ve got a lead on the connection between the victims.”

Blair’s eyes widened dramatically. “That’s great. I just got a call from Scott. He’s got a lead on the Shibari angle.”

“Okay, how are we going to handle this then?” Rafe asked as he watched the numbers on the elevator crawl by.

“Scott suggested that I take somebody less…intimidating… with me to meet my contact,” Blair said with a wince, not knowing for certain how Jim would react.

Ellison just nodded. He had worked hard to perfect his intimidation factor and didn’t want to scare any witnesses off. “Why don’t you and Rafe go then? Brown and I will head off to follow up the other lead.”

“Sounds good to me,” Rafe agreed, as he hurried through the lobby.

“Cool.” Blair gave Jim a surreptitious wink and followed the dapper detective out the door.

“It’s you and me, Ellison.” H grinned. “Think of the hot pictures we’ll see.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Jim snorted. “Let’s go, Brown. We have a killer to catch.”

)))))

"Are you telling me that the killer is using my portraits as a way to choose his victims?" The slightly older man looked horrified. “Down girl,” he spoke absently to the dog that jumped against his knee. Ellison frowned at the odd looking dog with the curly, bluish-gray hair.

"Yes, sir, I'm afraid so." Jim laid out pictures of the three known victims and one of young Lilly. "Can you confirm that these people were all models of yours?"

Eric Sherman leaned forward in his chair and reached across the table to take the proffered photos. With a grimace he grabbed up a stained cloth and wiped his hands off before he actually took them. "Sorry, I don't want to get any paint on them." He laid the cloth on his lap, where it slipped off and on to the floor. The dog grabbed it up and began to playfully whip it back and forth.

Eric looked the pictures over carefully. "Lydia certainly was a model, it's been several years though." He laid her photograph down on the table and shuffled the other prints around. "Yes, the other two look familiar as well. I'm not certain of her name," he tapped the photo of Amelia Indin with a blunt fingernail. "This was...Steve Harkins. He was my model about three years ago." Sherman turned the picture of Lilly around and shook his head. "I don't know her, but she definitely wouldn't have been a model. All of my artistic work is either partial or complete nudes. I wouldn't use a child." He curled up his nose at the thought.

Jim nodded and exchanged a glance with Brown. That fit in with the portraits and photos that they had seen. "May I?" Jim indicated a VCR and television on a side table.

Sherman blinked in surprise at the direction the conversation had taken. "Uh, sure."

"I was wondering if you taped all of your subjects," Jim said, as he slipped the tape into the video player.

"Tape, what do you mean tape?" Eric walked over to stand beside Jim in front of the TV. His mouth fell open as Amelia Indin appeared on the screen. "What the hell?!" he yelped. Jim and H watched his reaction carefully. "I don't tape my sessions. That would completely ruin the intimate atmosphere I try to create."

"Well, somebody did."

"Yes...and I'm going to find out how," Eric said distractedly. "I remember her now," he gestured at the tape as they watched the young woman being photographed. "That's Amelia. She wanted a series of intimate photos for her husband."

"Has anybody ever shown a particular interest in these models?" Jim ejected the tape and slipped it back into the evidence folder. It was a copy of the original, because they wouldn't risk losing or tainting vital evidence.

Sherman kept staring at the now blank television screen, his brow furrowed as he thought. In the full sunlight that was streaming through the windows, Eric looked older than his reported age of 55 years old. Silver was shot liberally through his hair and deep lines creased his forehead and bracketed the sides of his mouth. He was handsome though, and his bright emerald eyes made you forget the years on his face.

"As a matter of fact..." He hurried over to his desk and powered up the computer, which had been in hibernation mode. "I remember a couple of men looking at my artwork a few months back.” Sherman clicked on a file. "They looked at a lot of different portraits and pictures before they bought any. I was kind of surprised, because they sometimes picked nudes, but not always. And they mixed oils and photos. Most collectors pick one or the other, not both. Plus, I noticed that they only bought ones where the model had long, attractive hair."

Jim nodded in agreement. Amelia had thick black hair that hung almost to her hips and was so dark that it gave off a bluish sheen. Steve had had strawberry blond hair that had rippled around his face in waves. Lydia's hair was long and pale, like corn silk, as did her missing daughter's. Blair had been mistaken in his first impression; Lydia's hair wasn't, in fact, bleached, but was the blond color naturally.

"Here we go. They were bought by Ainzawa Fujiaki and Emile Raymaunt."

Brown shook his head and pulled out his cell phone. He walked to the other side of the room and called Rafe. Fujiaki was one of the members of the Shibari club, and definitely one of the main suspects.

"Thank you for all your help, sir." Jim nodded and hurried to follow Brown out to the truck. Time was fast running out for Lilly.

"Detective." Jim looked back impatiently. "They bought a lot of other pictures too." Sherman held out several printed pages of artwork.

"All of these?" Jim asked.

"Yes. Forty three, to be exact."

"Crap," Jim muttered as he waved H on. "We may have more than one victim to rescue."

Ellison and Brown raced out to Jim’s truck. Inside the studio, Eric Sherman sat back down at his computer and looked over his pictures, shaking his head.

)))))

Across town, Rafe snapped his cell phone shut. Blair heard the dapper young detective cursing under his breath and got up from the booth where he'd been sitting.

When Blair and Brian had first arrived at the club, Rafe had stood in the doorway goggle eyed. Even Blair was amazed at what he saw. There were bodies all over the place, and not in the death sense.

Around the room, various people were tied in varying degrees of the Japanese rope art. One woman knelt beside a man’s chair. Her breasts were tied so tightly that they were scrunched up into an odd shape. Blair knew from his research that the position of the ropes would increase the sensitivity of her breasts and add to her pleasure, rather than cause pain.

Blair had seen Rafe’s eyes go even bigger and looked over to see what the detective had seen. The anthropologist knew his own eyes had grown huge at the man lying on the bar. He was stretched out flat and tied in the hips bondage position. That is, he was completely immobilized all up and down his body. If the young man had been upright, he wouldn’t have been able to stand on his own. As it was, he was laid out and covered with snacks. If someone at the bar wanted a pretzel or a few peanuts, they would have to take them off the bound man’s body.

"Thanks, William,” Blair said, coming back to the present. He glanced over at the younger man who was sitting beside William. “You too, Chase. You've both been a lot of help."

“Oh, phooey,” Chase said with a negligent wave of his hand. “It wasn’t any big deal at all.”

"No problem, Blair." The dark haired man smiled. "These creeps are giving the rest of us a bad name." He pulled his smaller, pink tipped, wheat-blond haired lover close. William’s leather cuffs gleamed softly in the subdued overhead light. "I hope you can save that little girl."

"Me too," Blair said as he nodded goodbye.

Blair hurried over to where Rafe was waiting for him. Blair had talked Jim into letting him take Rafe to the All Tied Up club, because he knew that they would have a better chance of fitting in, which they had. The pair of them hadn't been there five minutes before Blair had struck up a conversation with William and Chase, who it turned out knew more than the man who had called Scott. Personally, Blair was glad, because it was much easier to talk to the bubbly Chase and easy going William than it was to converse with the tied and food covered Joshua, who was the original informant.

The two men lived somewhere out in the Midwest and were in Cascade for a vacation, but they belonged to a club called Shibari back home and had been happy to help. They, of course, were friends with most of the members of their sister club and were able to open even more doors, conversationally speaking.

Blair had just been informed that there was a cult operating out of the Thompson Art House on Rock Street. One of William’s friends had heard rumors that they were responsible for several deaths and that the Shibari angle was just one of the leader's kinks.

"That was H." Brian informed Blair. "Apparently Fujiaki is involved after all."

Sandburg nodded. "I'm not surprised. He is the curator of the Thompson, after all."

Rafe's head snapped around at that. He wasted no time in contacting H, and through him, Jim.

)))))

When Jim arrived at the Thompson Art House, he knew immediately that this was the right place. Ellison took the risk and dialed up his hearing, even without his Guide there. The Sentinel had had enough practice over the years that there wasn't too much danger. Blair arrived moments later, just as Jim's superior hearing picked up on a little girl crying inside.

Blair's touch on his shoulder grounded Jim enough that he was able to hone in even more. Not far from the little girl was a large congregation of people who were chanting.

"We need to hurry," Ellison stated.

Used to Jim's knowing things other people couldn't even guess at, the members of Major Crimes raced into the museum and fanned out. Just the fact that they were able to easily gain entry into the building that should have been sealed up tight for the weekend showed that they were on the right track. Outside, several police cars pulled up. Backup, in the form of about 40 cops, quickly followed them.

Jim led them unerringly to a locked office. Even those without Sentinel hearing could hear the little girl crying inside, even over the loud chanting from down the hall. Unsurprisingly, the door was locked. Somebody pulled out a set of lock picks and the door was quickly opened. Inside they found a drugged, but thankfully unharmed, Lilly.

"Hi, sweetheart," Blair whispered as he knelt down in front of the confused child. "My name is Blair. I'm with the police." Blair showed his badge. The blond girl gave it a droopy eyed stare. "Will you come with me?"

Lilly nodded and opened her arms to be picked up. She trusted the police, just like her mommy and daddy had taught her.

Blair scooped up the child and dodged around the cops that were converging on the front auditorium. The Guide wanted to get her out of harms way, and hopefully out of the building, before she saw or heard anything that would frighten her more. Heaven only knows what the child had seen so far. There was no sense traumatizing her any further. Luckily, she was more interested in tracing the writing on Blair's Kevlar vest than what was going on around her.

Blair was just hurrying down the front steps when police officers started streaming by him. "Run," one yelled as he raced by. Blair didn't stop to wonder what had gone wrong, he just clutched Lilly tighter to his chest and ran as hard as he could down the block and around the side of another building.

"Shhh, shhhh, it's alright. You're safe now," Blair used his Guide voice, trying to calm Lilly back down. She could sense how upset Blair was and it had stirred her up from her semi-dozing state.

The anthropologist peeked around the edge of the building, worrying about his lover and all their friends, and saw Jim barreling towards him. He jumped back as Ellison, quickly followed by Simon, rounded the corner.

"Down!" Simon bellowed. "There's a bomb!"

)))))

Jim sat impatiently and let the paramedic clean the blood off his arm. They had been damned lucky and had gotten off lightly, all things considered.

Of the half a hundred or so cops, only two were moderately injured when the Thompson Art House exploded. Warned by Jim and his senses, most people only had scrapes and a few minor cuts. Rafe had a nasty cut along the outside of his leg and Officer Jennings had a possible concussion. Both were taken to the hospital, with Rafe more upset about the damage to his expensive suit than anything.

Blair had gone with Lilly to the hospital as well. Neither one of them was injured; Blair had dove, straight onto the ground, and covered Lilly, and Jim had covered Blair; however, they wanted to have the little girl checked out because of the drugs she was given during her captivity. They also needed to make certain that nothing worse had happened to her while she was detained by the insane group.

The members of the cult hadn't fared so well in the explosion and subsequent fire. As far as they could tell, none of them made it out of the building alive. It would take a while to be sure, because the building was still burning merrily. All that old canvas and oil paints had gone up like a torch.

"I wonder how many people are in there?" Simon was puffing vigorously on his cigar as he watched the burning building.

"There's no telling." Jim eyed the large amount of cars parked to one side. So far, none of the extremely expensive cars had exploded. "But based on the number of vehicles, I'd say we're looking at a hundred or more."

"Yeah, that's what I figure too." Simon took the cigar out of his mouth and rolled it between his fingers for a few moments. "What was it like?"

Jim took a deep breath. He had been the only one of them to have gotten a glimpse inside the room before one of the suspects had spotted him and triggered the bomb. "It looked like something out of a bad horror movie, Simon." Ellison shook his head. "There was an altar down front that was literally covered in blood. I saw people standing around in all sorts of weird costumes. I’m so glad that Lilly didn’t have to see any of it, she would have been scared to death.”

“Me too,” Simon agreed, glad that they’d been able to spare the little girl that horror, at least. “What kind of costumes?”

“Animal heads with leering faces. Demon like clothing that looked like it was really their bodies. They were all carrying at least one weapon; knives and swords and such. I tell you, Simon, it scared the hell out of me and I knew I had backup, not to mention my own weapon. The victims must have been completely terrified.”

“I know.” Simon watched the firemen battling the flames. “Can’t say I feel too sorry for them, seems to me they got off lightly.” He nodded towards the building, indicating the dead cult members.

Ellison felt a slight buzzing against his leg and pulled his cell phone out. He had changed it to vibrate mode instead of ring so he could dial down his hearing; the noise from the firemen and other rescue workers was daunting enough.

“Ellison.”

“Hey, Jim.” He dialed up slightly to hear his lover.

“Hi, Chief. How’s Lilly?”

Blair’s voice crackled with static. Jim guessed that all of the radios around them were playing havoc with their signal. “Lilly’s doing great. Her dad’s here and it doesn’t look like she remembers much.”

“That’s a relief.” Jim flinched when one section of the building collapsed. The resulting noise had whatever Blair said being lost. “What was that, Chief? It’s kind of loud here.”

“I said that I got a call from my friend…” Static cut across the line again. “I’m going to meet him at his flea market. The…” More static. “…said he’d open up so I could get it. I don’t want to risk losing it, I’ve been looking for this book for years. I’ll meet you back at the site when I’m through. It shouldn’t take too long.”

“That’s fine, Sandburg. But don’t bother coming back here. We’re going to head to the station and start on the paperwork.”

“Ok…” The words faded out. “…meet you there.”

Jim shut the lid on his cell phone with a frown. He didn’t like it that Blair was meeting somebody he didn’t know.

“Captain.” Brown hurried up. There was quite a bit of blood on his hands and arms. Jim realized that it must be Rafe’s blood. Henri had been the one to staunch Brian’s bleeding, after all. “Good news, sir.” A big grin stretched across the bald man’s face.

“Oh, what?” Simon asked wearily.

“That,” H turned and pointed to a stretch limousine, “belongs to Ainzawa Fujiaki.”

A happy smile graced Jim and Simon’s faces now too. Since Fujiaki’s vehicle was at the seen of a crime they had probable cause to search his residence.

)))))

So far, the search of Fujiaki’s home had been a bust. There hadn’t been any problems getting into the house, only one maid was left in the entire premises.

“I would imagine that we are going to find the bodies of most of his staff back in that building,” Megan said. Her Australian accent deepened as she glanced at the adult artwork in distaste. “The rest have probably run off.”

“It’s not like the fire is a secret. Camera crews from every station in town were at the museum.” Simon tossed the porn magazine back on to the stack beside the fireplace.

They were standing in Fujiaki’s bedroom, not quite certain where else to look. They had searched every other room in the house and had found no sign of the artwork that he had supposedly bought.

Jim closed his eyes and concentrated. “I hear something.” Around him, the others immediately stopped what they were doing and listened too.

“I hear…a dog barking,” Simon stated, amazed that he could hear the faint yapping.

Megan, Henri and Simon watched as Ellison unerringly led them to the far wall. He narrowed his eyes and gave the plaster a hard look. “There’s a seam here. I think we’re looking for a hidden room.” Jim ran his hand over the invisible seam.

The other detectives crowded around and began to look for a way in. After much pushing, it was Megan who accidentally pressed in the right spot. The wall clicked and a door popped open a fraction, like a cabinet door.

A small, black and white dog ran out, still barking; Jim recognized the breed as a Japanese Chin. It ran into Jim’s leg and jumped back with a startled yelp. The little dog gazed up at the large Sentinel, gave one small bark that seemed to say “thank you” and ran over to a sandbox in the corner and proceeded to relieve itself.

The room wasn’t very big, but it was packed to capacity with pictures. On one side they were leaning against the walls in neatly lined stacks, on the other…it was a shrine. There were seven portraits and one picture hanging on the wall; small black ribbons were affixed to the corners of each piece of artwork.

“Damn,” Simon swore. “There were a lot more victims than we knew about.”

H pointed to one of the paintings. “That’s Jennifer Hockstetter.”

“I remember her,” Megan said with a puzzled frown. “But she fell off her yacht and drowned.”

“That’s what we thought, but by the time her body was recovered, she’d been in the water so long they couldn’t tell much about what really happened.” Simon glanced at the other artwork and then over at Jim. “It looks like we’re going to have to reopen several cases.”

Ellison nodded his agreement. “It looks like it, sir.”

“Jim,” Megan’s strained voice caught their attention. “I think you need to see this.”

Megan was standing next to a small pedestal that was in the middle of the room. A picture of a sleeping Lilly was lying on top of the small altar. Thankfully the little girl was completely clothed in the picture.

“I guess Fujiaki wanted something for his wall of horror.” Jim mused as he waved his hand at the memorial.

“That’s not what I wanted you to see.” Megan looked scared. Jim realized she was holding another portrait in her latex gloved hands. “This is.” And she turned it around.

On an old fashioned divan a man was laying on his stomach. A white silky sheet laid alongside his body and across his hips, barely covering most of the buttocks. Long curly brown hair twined its way down his smooth back; the red highlights making it appear alive and moving. Blair’s beautiful blue eyes glinted out of the smilingly seductive look he was giving over his shoulder.

“Oh…my…” Simon gasped out. Even for those not in love with Blair, the portrait was breathtaking.

Jim, who was most assuredly in love with Blair, felt his heart begin to pound. The edge of the sheet didn’t come all the way down on Blair’s behind in one spot and the Sentinel distinctly remembered his fingers tracing that spot where leg and bottom joined.

“Jim?” Megan’s voice snapped Ellison back to the here and now. “What if they didn’t all die in the fire?”

The Sentinel looked at where Blair’s portrait was. It was in the middle of the room, not on the side with the dead, but not on the side with the possible victims either.

He hurried out of the room, to make sure of better reception, dialing his cell phone as he did. “Come on, Chief, answer the phone.”

Ellison felt his heart plummet with each ring of the phone that went unanswered. Blair always answered his phone, and thanks to the phone call he got from him earlier, Jim knew that he both had the phone with him and it was charged up, so there could be no false hope.

“Where was he going?” Simon’s dark eyes looked just as worried as Jim knew his did.

“To the flea market. He said a friend of his had found a book he’d been wanting.” Jim thought for a moment. “Okay, it must be the one on Maxwell St. His friend Tony runs a booth there.”

“Let’s go then.” Jim and Simon raced out, leaving the others behind to handle the processing of the scene.

)))))

The parking lot was deserted, save for Blair’s Volvo. The older car stood in solitary splendor close to the front of the flea market entrance.

Jim swallowed hard and tried not to throw up when he saw his lover’s car. Ellison knew that Blair would have called if he’d had car trouble, either for a ride, or to let him know that he was catching a cab.

He and Simon got out and stood in front of the vehicle, both too upset to say anything. In the fading light of the day, they could see something written across Blair’s windshield.

MINE was emblazoned in foot high red letters. Jim took a deep breath and realized it wasn’t red paint, but rather blood. Blair’s blood.

“Blair,” the anguished Sentinel whispered.

"Some of those damned people must have escaped from the museum." Jim's voice exploded into the quiet of the squad room like a bomb, making most of the detectives jump in surprise. One of the uniformed men slung his coffee all over the floor and bent down to wipe it up with a mumbled curse.

Megan nodded. "I agree, mate. What with Sandy's painting being in the middle of the room like it was, it seems as if he was slated to be the next victim." The Australian inspector's accent betrayed her nationality to anyone who didn't already know her.

"Yes," Rafe agreed. "On the one side of the room," he waved his left hand, "was the artwork of the people who we know have been murdered, and some that we now suspicious of their deaths. On the other side of the room," his right hand swung out too, "were images of potential victims. With Blair in the middle, along with the picture of Lilly Wagner, it shows that he had been targeted too." Rafe's own, very slight accent, deepened appreciably. His inflection was so slight that you did have to know him to really hear it, but it was there.

"So, where does that leave us?" Simon asked with authority. As the captain, he was used to helping the men and women under his command to coordinate their accumulated intelligence and experience. Directing his people and getting them all going in the right direction was an important, but exhausting task.

"Back at Ainzawa Fujiaki's home," Ellison stated firmly. "He was, or is, the linchpin of that secret society. If there will be any clues lying around as to Blair's whereabouts it will be there."

Banks barely had time to nod his head in agreement before Jim was up and running out of the room. It had taken everything in Simon's power to get the Sentinel back to the PD for a meeting in the first place. In the three days since Blair's abduction, Ellison had been searching the city tirelessly, looking for the younger man, so getting him to stop at all was a major accomplishment.

So far, other than the painting of Blair and the cryptic message painted on the windshield of Blair’s Volvo, there hadn’t been any clues. No ransom demands, no threats or calls taunting them about the kidnapping. Just—nothing. That didn’t bode well for Blair’s chances of survival. If the kidnappers wanted the anthropologist himself, and not something he could be traded for, then the odds on ever finding him were slim and got slimmer as each day went by.

"I'm with him." Megan jerked her head at the retreating man. She stood quickly and grabbed her coat off the back of her chair, before racing after the rapidly disappearing Sentinel. Megan knew that she had to catch up fast or Jim would leave her behind.

"Good," Simon spoke to the Australian woman’s back, as she ran out of the room. The dark haired woman would be able to hold her own against the rampaging man and hopefully keep him from killing anybody he questioned. Banks paused for a moment and watched the Major Crimes main doors close behind the intense pair. Considering Megan's own volatile temperament, and the strong feelings she had for Sandburg, and Simon was wondering who was going to stop whom.

For a moment a snippet from an older, David Bowie song flickered across Banks' brain. I've been putting out fire--with gasoline.

"We're going to go back over Blair's car," Henri Brown indicated Brian Rafe and himself.

Simon nodded his approval. So far, Blair's Volvo had been had been examined by everyone. Forensics had scoured the vehicle, both the main team and Dan Wolfe personally. It had been given the Sentinel treatment. Simon had watched Jim scan the car, touch it everywhere, sniff it; the captain even swore he saw Ellison licking the doorframe at one point, but didn't want to believe that.

All of Blair's friends and colleagues from Major Crimes had taken their turn looking for clues. The car had yielded up enough bits and pieces of Blair's life to make an interesting anthropological study, but no clues as to the missing man. Simon admitted that he had gone down to the impound lot and looked at the vehicle himself the second night after Blair's abduction. Standing in the empty parking garage and seeing the word MINE on the windshield in Blair's own blood had been so upsetting that Simon had broken down and cried.

Thankfully, Dan Wolfe had determined that the writing wasn't all blood or they'd most likely be looking for a corpse. No, just enough of Blair's blood had been mixed in with some animal blood to make the gruesome writing.

"We'll find him," Joel Taggart reassured Banks.

Simon walked into his office and the other captain followed him. "I hope so." He sighed and put his elbows on the cluttered desk and balanced his head on his hands. "I hope so," he repeated softly.

Joel sat down in the visitor's chair and slumped. "Me too," he said quietly. The former bomb squad captain slumped down in the seat, giving evidence of his own mounting despair and exhaustion.

Simon looked at his friend and saw the circles under Joel’s eyes and the weariness seeping out of the big frame. The captain figured that he looked just as bad; they all did. Even when one of the searchers went home to snatch a few hours of sleep, they were back again long before they were due. No one could really rest, not knowing what horrific things could be being done to their friend while they were waiting.

^^^^

Megan watched as Jim walked around the trophy room as the hidden room with the portraits had been dubbed. The Sentinel was looking the room over, foot by foot, no, more like, inch by inch.

First he used his enhanced eyesight to look over each and every available surface. Nowhere was exempt from the intense inspection; even the frescoed ceiling was scrutinized—just in case. Ellison had a disgusted look on his face and considering the pornographic torture scenes depicted on the ceiling, Connor couldn’t blame him.

The portraits and photographic art were beautiful, and not in any way pornographic, especially the portrait of Blair. He looked sexy and innocent at the same time. The smile on his carefree face showed the promise of love fulfilled and more ecstasy to come.

The Blair in the painting was obviously several years younger than the man she knew now. There was an innocence about his carefree face, one that people like Alex Barnes had erased. Megan ached for the sweet person that was so changed.

Next, Jim utilized his sense of smell. It didn’t take as long to cover the room with that sense and taste, thank goodness, wasn’t even a consideration. There was absolutely no telling what that psycho had done in among these pictures, but from the disgusted look on Ellison’s face, Meagan had a pretty fair idea. Personally, she was glad for her average senses. She didn’t want to know what Jim saw and smelled in the opulent, but disgusting, rooms.

Connor’s main job, other than keeping Jim from killing anybody in frustration, was to keep the rest of the police force from noticing Ellison doing odd things. Like feeling up the wall; which is exactly what he was doing at the moment.

Megan glanced towards the partially open bedroom door and was relieved to see that none of the technicians were standing around. She had no idea why Dan Wolfe had sent them back and didn’t care at this point; as long as they stayed out of her way. Ellison’s less than friendly attitude kept them from hanging around. Megan had to admit that she wasn’t exactly welcoming herself.

I don’t give a rat’s arse what they’re up to, she thought. I’ve gotta concentrate on keeping Jim from zoning.

The Aussie inspector saw that Jim wasn’t moving and thought he was studying the wall for clues. When he hadn’t moved after a few moments, she realized the truth and hurried over. She gave Ellison a slight push on the arm; not too hard so he wouldn’t be unbalanced, but not too easy either. The Sentinel blinked a couple of times and looked around for a moment or two like he didn’t know where he was.

“Thanks, Connor.” Jim’s voice was gravelly with exhaustion.

“No problems, Jim.” Meagan patted him on the arm. She’d noticed that Blair touched Ellison all the time and knew that the anthropologist used touch and his voice to keep the Sentinel from zoning.

“Not all of my talking is just stories,” she remembered her friend saying once. “I say things that I know Jim won’t pay that much attention to, so he can concentrate on the sound of my voice.” The young man had grinned unrepentantly. “The fact that my stories drive some people nutso is just a bonus.”

The echo of Blair’s remembered laughter made the Australian woman smile. She just hoped that they would get to hear that joyous sound again soon.

Ellison stopped rubbing the walls and pictures, looking for trace evidence missed by the other cops and his own senses. Megan knew he wasn’t through searching though and sure enough, the Sentinel’s head tilted to one side in his listening pose as Blair called it. It reminded Megan of her Uncle David’s dog, Barty, when he was hunting game.

She started to ask him something, but managed to stop herself in time. With Ellison’s hearing dialed up like it was, the sound of her voice would likely send him into a sensory spike. Of course, by not talking to him she risked another—

“Jim.” She sighed, he had zoned out again. “Jim, listen to the sound of my voice.” Megan lowered her voice, the way she had seen Blair do time and again, and rubbed his arm. Then she did it again, and again. She kept talking to him, for several minutes. Nothing was working and she was quite frankly getting really worried, because she didn’t know how long he could stay in a zone out before it started to affect him physically.

‘I don’t see how Sandy does it all the time. It’s a full-time job, just keeping Ellison from zoning,’ she thought to herself.

Ellison finally gave a small, shuddering gasp and slumped a little as he came back to himself. Megan slumped down herself and the two propped each other up for a moment.

“You are pushing yourself too hard, especially with as little rest as you’ve been getting,” she admonished him. “If you get lost in a zone, I won’t be able to get you out and you’ll never find Sandy,” Megan stated quietly.

Jim started to protest and then snapped his mouth shut as he saw reason. Nodding abruptly, he straightened up and gave one last gaze around the room.

“There’s nothing more to be learned from in here,” he admitted. Failure lay heavy on his shoulders and made them bow down in disappointment.

“We’ll find him, Jimbo.”

The Sentinel snorted at the detested nickname, but he gave the inspector a smile, that Megan figured was a good sign. “Let’s hope so, Meggie.”

She wrinkled her nose at the nickname and then grinned. Then she sobered and gave him one last request.

“Promise me you won’t dig so deep into your abilities.” They both automatically looked around for potential witnesses. Luck was still on their side and the rest of the house was quiet; the techies had finally gone away.

“I promise.”

“Thanks.”

^^^^

Simon Banks rolled his unlit cigar between his thumb and forefinger, absentmindedly listening to the tobacco leaves crackle as they were manipulated. The big captain looked up and saw that Rafe and Brown were back from the impound lot where they’d been looking over Blair’s car. Their depressed faces and slumped shoulders bore witness to their failure. Not to mention that they would have let him know right away if any clue had been found.

Thinking for a moment, Simon came to a decision. With an emphatic nod of his head, Banks stood up and walked to his office door. He opened it and everyone in the squad room looked up hopefully. The captain winced at their eager faces and how those faces fell when they realized he didn’t have any news.

“Brown, Rafe.” The two detectives stood up immediately. They knew the captain would want them to do something different. “My office, please.”

The captain waited until the partners had entered the office before shutting the door on the roomful of curious faces. Simon rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand, trying to relieve the tension in his muscles and sat down. He waved a hand at the two visitor’s chairs, indicating that the detectives didn’t need to stay at attention. They were all too tired and worn out for that kind of nonsense.

“Yes, Captain?” Brown asked softly.

Simon looked at his two men and could see the toll Blair’s disappearance had taken on them. Brian Rafe’s suit was as impeccable as always, but the strain of the last few days showed in the carelessness of his hair styling. The dapper detective was still limping painfully from the injury he got when the museum exploded, because he hadn’t been able to take it easy and keep the leg elevated the way he should have.

Simon eyed the younger man carefully. If it looked like Rafe was going to cause permanent injury to that leg, he’d send him home, whether Rafe liked it or not. They were not going to lose another member of their team, not if Simon could help it.

Henri Brown was wearing a subdued shirt. Banks didn’t even know the man owned anything that wasn’t Hawaiian and very vibrant. The dark brown and blue shirt wasn’t exactly tame, but it wasn’t anywhere near his usual wild standards. The man’s trademark grin was missing as well. Surprisingly, Simon found that he missed the smirking smile.

“I want you two to do a thorough background check on these young men.”

Banks slid a folder across his desk to Rafe, who happened to be the closest one to him. The younger man flipped the file open and angled it so that H could read it as well.

“Steve and Tommy Jameson,” Henri read with a frown. “Who are they, sir?”

Simon gave the two men a long, hard look, as he thought about what he was doing. The possible ramifications had the potential of being devastating, but Blair’s life was at stake here. Ellison’s abilities weren’t something he was comfortable talking about, but Banks knew that he had to give the detective’s some information.

“Steve Jameson is a high school student who was following Blair last week. Tommy is his brother.” Simon raised a hand to stop them before they could interrupt. “Don’t get too excited. Ellison checked them out and Blair was in contact with the two young men several times before he disappeared. They appear to be exactly what they say they are; namely, two high school students who needed some expert help from Sandburg.”

Rafe and H gave a quick, knowing glance at one other. Simon didn’t mention Blair’s dissertation about Ellison’s fake senses, but they knew that’s what the captain was talking about. No one who knew Blair at all believed he would lie that way and everyone who knew Jim realized that there was more to him than just being a good detective. There was only so many times that even a great detective could find the miniscule and elusive clues that Ellison found and there not be something different going on.

“However,” Simon raised his voice, regaining their attention, “we can’t leave any possibility unexplored. I want you two to delve a little deeper into these boy’s lives. Make certain that they aren’t really a front for whoever took Sandburg. It seems too much of a coincidence that Blair disappeared not long after this one young man,” Simon tapped the picture of Steve, “started following him.”

Brown gave the older man a questioning look. “Do you really think these kids had anything to do with Hairboy’s kidnapping?”

Simon sighed and sat back down in his chair. “No, not really. I just don’t want to leave any avenue unchecked.”

“We’ll get right on it.” Rafe closed the manila folder with a snap and hurried out of the office, limping and wincing as he went. H watched his partner grimly.

“Keep an eye on him,” Simon ordered. “We don’t want him to aggravate that injury.”

H nodded and gave Simon a forced grin. He followed Rafe across the bullpen. “Slow down and wait on me.” The admonishment worked and Brian stopped to wait for his partner.

Simon stuck the cigar back into his mouth and watched them leave. At least they had something to keep them occupied for a few hours and who knew, they might actually find a lead. He sat down and began to brood.

^^^^

Megan walked into Fujiaki's bedroom and stared. It was less of a bedroom and more of a torture chamber.

“It looks like something out of a bad porn movie,” Megan commented to herself.

Whips and padded manacles adorned the black leather walls. In one corner of the room there was a padded bench, covered in red leather, presumably to hide the blood, and chains with padlocks. There were levers and hinges that went in several directions, and made it possible to restrain a body in any position imaginable and some that she didn’t want to imagine.

On closer inspection, Connor could see that the implements of pain that were positioned like art on the walls, weren’t just for display. They still had bits of skin and blood on them from their last use.

“Scary,” Megan muttered. “This room is just plain frightening.” She turned in a circle, trying not to imagine Blair trapped some place similar and not succeeding. “I guess that’s the idea though.”

“Yes, I would guess so.” Ellison walked in the door and flinched.

Megan could only imagine what he was smelling and seeing. If a non-Sentinel like herself could see the grisly details it would have to be bad for someone with Jim’s senses.

“It worked. I can still smell the sweat and fear of his last victim.” Jim glanced over at the California King sized bed. Walking over, he knelt down and reached under the edge of the bed. Another manacle, this one without any padding, was attached directly to the metal of the bed frame.

“Bloody hell,” she swore. The bed was covered with similar restraints. Once on the bed the victim would be completely helpless and at the mercy of all those sex toys. While she could marginally see the titillation of Shibari and being tied up like that, or better yet tying up some hot bloke, this room was made to terrify, not enhance.

"There's nothing else in here," Jim stated with gritted teeth. He dropped the manacle on the tile floor. It hit with a loud clank and the Sentinel winced as the sound echoed around the room.

Megan winced too and thought about how that echo would make cries of pain sound even worse. She glanced at the leather covered walls and knew that they would muffle the sound somewhat.

Of course that just helps soundproof the room, she decided, shivering at how vulnerable the room made her feel.

"Yes, Forensics went over it with a fine toothed comb," Megan agreed. They'd both known this search was a long shot, but that's what they were down to now, long shots. "I imagine we should go back to the station."

She started out the door, the plush carpet muffling her footsteps, and glanced down, startled. Looking back, Megan realized that the tile was only around the play areas.

“Ugh,” she groaned. “Easy clean up, I guess.” Jim didn’t answer her and Megan shrugged, used to the other detective’s reticence.

Walking down the hallway, Megan realized something was missing; namely she realized that Ellison hadn't followed her. Thinking he might have found a clue she hurried back inside the disgusting room. One glance told her she had been mistaken. Megan found him still standing, motionless, by the bedside.

Bloody hell! Not again, she thought in exasperation.

"Jim?"

"I see something," he said, startling her. Apparently he hadn’t zoned out like she’d first thought.

Ellison reached into his pocket and pulled out his own version of a mini-Forensics kit, complete with evidence bags, tweezers and gloves. He donned the disposable gloves and used the tweezers to carefully extract something from the corner edge of the bedside table. Ellison carefully placed the scrap of paper in the plastic bag and sealed it.

Megan leaned forward, her chin almost touching the back of the detective’s hand in an effort to get close enough, and peered at the tiny bit of red and blue that was caught in the middle of the clear plastic. It was less than a centimeter square, so there was no wonder that it had been overlooked by the multitude of people who had processed the room.

"What is it?" she asked out loud.

“Do you mind?” He twitched his hand slightly and she backed off with a flush. In the excitement, she hadn’t realized she was right on top of him.

“Sorry,” Megan said.

Ellison ignored the apology, his mind had already moved on to the more important matters at hand. "It's part of an envelope," Jim decided after a few moments of perusal.

"How can you be sure?" Megan inquired. "Just looks like a dab of paper to me."

Jim shook his head. "I can see where the edges overlap to form the corner of the page. There's no telling what it is from though."

Connor stood a moment and thought. "It looks familiar to me."

Ellison nodded at the Australian woman. He bent closer to the table, dialing up his eyesight so that he could almost see the individual grains in the wood, looking for more missed evidence. Megan pulled out her cell phone and dialed quickly.

"Hi, Rhonda. I'm at the Fujiaki scene. Can you look on the evidence list for me and read out what was on the bedside tabletop in the master suite." She listened to Simon's secretary for a moment and gave a small laugh. "Yes, that bedroom."

The Sentinel got down on his hands and knees to search around the small table further, just on the off chance that some other minute clue might have been overlooked. Megan watched him for a moment, admiring the view while she waited for Rhonda. She knew he was taken, but there wasn't anything wrong with taking in the scenery.

"Yes, I'm still here." Megan said when Rhonda came back on the phone a few, short minutes later.

The tall woman pulled a pad and pen out of her jacket pocket and prepared to write the contents down. For a couple of minutes the faint scritching noise of the pen against the paper was the only sound in the room. Megan arched her eyebrow as the list went on and on; apparently Fujiaki had a lot of things on and in the little table. Most of them were as frightening as the rest of the room, but there was one item that gave the inspector a small ray of hope.

"That's great, Rhonda. Thanks for all your help. Could you do one more thing for me? Would you find out if the writing tablet has been analyzed yet? Ellison just found some new evidence stuck in one of the corners of the table and that might give us a clue as to where it comes from." She paused a moment and smiled. "Yes, I agree. Anything for Sandy. Bye."

"Well?" Jim leaned back on his heels and looked over his shoulder at her.

"There was a small tablet that had been used. The forensics people are doing some sort of fancy scan on it to see if they can read what had been written on the previous pages. Rhonda thought they were almost through."

Jim sighed and ran a hand over his short hair. "Damn. If I could get hold of it, I might be able to pick something up. B-Blair taught me that trick a long time ago."

"I wouldn't call that a trick," Megan stated calmly.

"No? What would you call it?" Ellison stood up and watched her.

"A bloody great talent." She smiled at the surprised look on his face. "And a damned good teacher."

The Sentinel nodded. "Yes, damned good."

The two detectives exchanged wistful smiles as they thought about some of the different times that Blair's innovativeness had saved the day.

"I think we've found everything there is to find." Megan waited to see if Jim agreed with her.

"Yeah, let's go."

They left the suite of rooms behind, both thankful that Blair wasn't trapped in it.

^^^^

Rafe leaned his elbow against the arm rest and rubbed his temple.

"Headache?" his partner, Henri, asked him.

"Yes,” Rafe said with a tired sigh. "Do you have any pain reliever in here?"

"Sure, babe." H reached across and popped open the glove compartment door. "Help yourself." He waved at the contents.

“Thanks,” Rafe replied.

Brian Rafe pulled out a small bottle of Tylenol and extracted a couple of caplets. He then opened the small cooler in the back floorboard and opened a small, plastic orange juice container.

They were in H's car, a 1983 Bentley. Yes, a Bentley. Henri’s great aunt Amelia had died and left her favorite nephew a car that was worth more than the detective could make in a dozen years.

And H loved it. He pampered the car, keeping the hunter green exterior waxed and clean, even during the messiest of Cascade’s wet and messy weather. The cream colored interior was just as immaculate.

The normally laid back Henri was not always so complacent. He made sure the vehicle, or whatever loaner they were using from the station, was always stocked with whatever they might need for an emergency, be it extended stakeout or being stranded somewhere for two or three days at a time. Both had happened in their time as partners and as a result, both detectives were always prepared.

Brian's own, 1975 Jeep was similarly stocked, although it differed vastly from Brown’s expensive car. Rafe’s Jeep was a faded brown, with a few rusty patches that were slowly spreading across one fender like a lawn full of crabgrass. The detective kept intending to get the vehicle painted, just as he kept intending to get the ripped and hastily repaired cloth top looked at, but never found the time. Instead Brian devoted his money and energy to maintaining his more expensive and beautiful home.

Each man had chosen what was more important to them. Rafe picked his house and H picked his car. Most of their friends were surprised at the choices.

"Any sign of them?" Rafe asked after he'd returned the Tylenol bottle to its proper place. Despite Henri’s laid back demeanor, he was almost as particular as Ellison when it came to having everything just so-so.

"Nope, not yet." Brown gave Rafe a sardonic smile. "I think we're on the trail of a couple of reallllly hardened criminals."

Rafe snorted inelegantly, and not like his usual image at all. "Oh yeah. They've gone to school, arriving early I might add, gone to their respective afternoon jobs and are now at home doing errands for their mother. Really scary individuals." Brian leaned his head back against the headrest and kept watch on the nice, pale blue, two story house, with flowered border, that the boys lived in with their mother, great aunt and two dogs.

"Yeah, babe."

Brian grinned to himself. It had taken him a while to get used to being babe'd all the time. It wasn't an endearment, the two partners were as straight as boards, but more of a saying; like Blair saying man all the time. Some people gave the pair of them odd looks, until they were called 'babe' a few times and realized the truth. After all this time, Rafe rarely noticed any more.

"The oldest one really showed his criminal tendencies when he chased that lady down to give her back the change she forgot." The dark skinned man grinned and rolled his eyes.

"Hmmmm," the man with the lighter colored skin hummed in agreement. That act of goodness had shown more about the boy's character than a dozen investigations could.

They heard a clattering and turned back to their surveillance. Steve Jameson was rolling the trash can down to the curb. It was the plastic wheels on the concrete driveway that was making so much noise. The young man was about to go back inside when he saw something and hurried across his lawn, carefully stepping over the flowers as he went. What he had seen turned out to be an elderly lady from next door who was struggling with her own, albeit much smaller, garbage can. Steve talked with her for a moment and then carried the can to the curb.

"I don't know about you," H said, watching the scene, "but I don't need to see any more."

"Me either." Rafe agreed.

The dark skinned detective started his car and drove away. The lighter toned man leaned his head back against the headrest again and tried to rest. Maybe a little relaxation would help his headache.

^^^^

"Are they still there?" Steve asked Tommy.

The young Sentinel closed his eyes and listened, his body tense with concentration. Steve hesitated a moment and then reached over and put a hand on his brother's shoulder to ground him like Dr. Sandburg had taught him how to do. The physical contact worked and Tommy relaxed, the frown disappearing from his forehead.

"No, they've left now." He turned worried eyes to his brother. "Why are the police watching us?"

"I'm sure it's because Dr. Sandburg was kidnapped."

"But," Tommy began, but Steve interrupted him.

"I know we didn’t have anything to do with that,” Steve stated, preempting what he knew his brother was going to say. But you have to admit, I did follow him around for a while. And to top it off, we were some of his newest acquaintances. It only makes sense that they would check us out, just to make sure we were who we said that we were."

"I guess so." Tommy looked through the slats in his bedroom's mini-blinds. He dialed up his sense of sight and could easily see the detective's car waiting at a stop sign three blocks away.

"Don't worry," Steve reassured him. "We haven't done anything wrong, so they won't have a reason to bother us."

"You're right," Tommy reassured him right back. “In fact,” he tilted his head to the side in a listening pose that seemed to be an ingrained stance for Sentinels. “They are talking about how nice we are. How honest and helpful. Neither detective thinks we are anything to worry about.”

“Honest? Helpful?” Steve frowned in consideration. He honestly didn’t see anything unusual in anything he’d done that day.

Tommy gave a quick grin, his worry momentarily forgotten. "Race you downstairs; the loser has to cook supper."

Steve sputtered in mock indignation as Tommy took off, out the door in a flash, before he could join in the race. He laughed though and was deliberately slow chasing after his brother; Tommy's attempts at cooking left a lot to be desired.

^^^^

Ellison glanced over when Megan pulled out her cell phone. The instrument hadn't rung, because she had considerately put it on vibrate to not risk distracting the Sentinel. What she didn't realize was that Jim could feel the vibrations, especially in a confined space like his truck. They jittered from her purse, down her leg, and across the seat, making his own leg feel like ants were dancing on it. The Sentinel fully realized that if his Guide were with him, Ellison wouldn’t have noticed a thing. Blair’s presence was enough to keep such minor irritations from being a problem.

"Connor." Megan listened intently to whoever was on the other end. Jim deliberately didn't listen in, although it was tough not to.

Jim watched the passing scenery, looking for Blair's face in every person he saw. It wasn't a conscious effort; neither was his searching for his lover's scent or the sound of his voice. To Ellison it was as natural as breathing and just as likely to be stopped any time soon.

"Got it. Thanks for encouraging them. Bye." Megan snapped her phone shut and turned to Ellison triumphantly. "They picked something up from the paper. It read #322 and 7/18."

"The 18th was the day after Blair disappeared," Jim said as he thought, his mind racing with the million and one possibilities that those three little numbers had conjured up. "The other must be a flight number, or something similar."

"Yes," Megan nodded. "But where? There are a lot of bus stations, train depots and airlines that come in and go out of Cascade every day. We have no way of knowing which one to go to."

Jim tapped a finger against the steering wheel as he thought. He snapped his fingers and gunned the truck as the light changed. The detective saw Megan grab hold of the panic strap, as Blair liked to call it, when he took off down the street. When he skidded to a halt several blocks away she was still holding on to it like her life depended on it. Considering the way Connor herself drove, Jim thought her reaction was a little over the top.

"I take it you have an idea," she stated sarcastically, as she carefully peeled her tight grip off the strap and then unhooked her seatbelt.

"Yeah." Jim ignored the sarcasm and realized with a pang that he should have at least warned her before taking off that way. His mind wasn’t working as well as it should have been, because he was so worried about his lover. Jim waved at the brick building they had stopped in front of.

Megan looked up, as she jumped out of the older truck and raced along the sidewalk beside the detective. "A travel agency?" Jim started to explain his reasoning, but the Aussie woman beat him to it. "Oh, I get it. They might know that departure number or be able to find it easier."

"And who better to recognize the envelope, if it has anything to do with the numbers that is." He waved a hand negligently, trusting that she would understand he meant the information she had gotten from Rhonda.

"Right then."

The welcoming smile on the face of the young clerk at the front desk faltered a little when he saw the two determined looking people striding in. Ellison figured that most travel goers weren't as intense as he and Connor were.

"May I help you?" The young man glanced at both of them equally, not favoring one over the other, indicating a very savvy salesperson. In this day and time, you couldn't be too careful about who was footing the bill. As many women came in and booked trips as men.

"I need to ask some questions about a possible booking." Jim gave the colorful brochures a quick glance and winced when he remembered Blair bringing a whole stack full of them back to the loft for the vacation they wanted to take.

They were still sitting on the coffee table in the living room where Blair had tossed them down, waiting until he came back to look at them again. It was Ellison’s own promise to Blair and to himself that the younger man would be coming home sometime soon.

"Certainly sir. Where would you like to go?"

"This is about a departure that happened on the 18th."

"Uhm, I see." Clearly the clerk didn't see.

Megan smiled at the confused young man. She pulled out her badge and held it open for him to see; that captured the attention of the other two people in the office, who got up from their desks and came over. "We're from the Cascade PD. I'm Inspector Megan Connor and this is Detective Jim Ellison. We're investigating a kidnapping and need your help with a possible lead."

A man in his 30's stepped forward and patted the clerk they had first talked to on the back. "I'll handle this David.” After the young man had walked back to stand by the other worker, the newest man turned to face Megan and Jim. “My name is Thomas Harmon, I’m the owner. How may I help you?”

Ellison pulled out his badge and showed it to the owner; Megan hadn't put hers away yet, so Harmon closely examined them both. "As I was explaining to him," Megan gestured with one hand toward David, "we are investigating a kidnapping and want to see if you can help us."

"Of course," Harmon indicated that they should follow him into his office. "Anything I can do, I will."

Jim pulled out the evidence bag with the envelope corner in it and held it out to the man. "Do you recognize this?"

The owner peered at the bit of paper through the clear plastic bag. "I'm not sure. It looks a little bit familiar." He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a magnifying glass. With a blush he held it up and shrugged. "My eyes aren't as good anymore." The man examined the evidence with an hmmmm, before laying it down on his desk. "I can't recall where I've seen it. Let me think about it for a minute."

"That's fine," Megan said encouragingly. "We also have some numbers for you to look at." She handed the notebook to the owner who looked at the information with a frown on his face.

"Obviously it's a schedule. Do you know what mode of transportation?"

"No, that's the problem." Megan smiled encouragingly. She knew that a little flirting got more help than the serious scowling that Jim was doing.

"Hmmmm," Harmon said again.

Jim clenched his jaw to keep from snapping at the other man. The detective knew that it was just a nervous habit, and that his own nerves were shot to hell, but that damned humming was getting to him. He glanced over and noticed Megan's face looked strained and guessed he wasn't the only one.

"You probably don't even know if this is an arrival or departure time," Harmon stated as he swiveled his chair around to his computer.

"No, we don’t." Ellison exchanged a look with Megan. Neither one of them had considered that. Their search had just doubled and the chances of finding out where Blair might have been taken had lessened dramatically.

The owner's fingers flew over the keyboard as he entered data, typing faster than Jim had ever seen anyone type before. Even Rhonda, Simon’s secretary extraordinaire, who could type 90 wpm, would have been in awe. In a matter of minutes, screens of information started popping up, layered, one on top of the other. The younger man clicked and read and frowned and minimized screens and deleted others.

Ellison, who wasn't the best on a computer, was soon lost in among the screens and data. A not-so-subtle poke in the leg by Connor reminded him not to try and read what was coming up. He certainly didn't want to zone out in the middle of the travel agency and scare this guy.

Nevertheless, Jim rubbed his leg where she'd stuck him with her sharp fingernail and glared at the Australian woman. He'd tried to tell her that it wasn't necessary to resort to physical aggression to keep him out of a zone; a simple touch on the arm would suffice. Personally, Jim thought that Megan was using the opportunity to smack him around.

At the front of the shop, the faint tinkling of a bell signified the opening of the door. Harmon stood up and smiled when he saw who had come in. "Ah, now we've got a fighting chance. Emile would you come in here, please."

Emile sauntered in. There was no other way to put it. The young man was beautiful and knew it, but not in an arrogant, look at me, kind of way. No, it was more that he knew of his good looks, but they were just a fact of life, nothing unusual or special. He was tall, not quite six feet in height, and slender, with longer hair the color and texture of corn silk.

"Emile I would like to introduce you to Inspector Connor and Detective Ellison, from the Cascade police."

The enticing specimen of manhood turned to shake his and Connor's hands. Even his eyes were intriguing, being a dark golden brown color. When he smiled a dimple appeared in one cheek. Also, there was something that seemed familiar about the younger man, like Jim had seen him somewhere before.

"Detective, Inspector, this is Emile Chardonnay, my partner."

The Sentinel could smell the pheromones pouring off of Megan, although they dropped off sharply when Emile was identified as a partner. Not that he blamed her. If Jim hadn't been deeply in love with Blair he would have been seriously interested himself.

"Hello." Emile's voice was just as captivating as the rest of him. His handshake was firm and Ellison noticed calluses on the palms of his hands, indicating he wasn't as ethereal as he seemed.

"Hello," Megan answered back. Jim nodded.

"Chardonnay, did you say?" Ellison clarified, so he could add the young man's name to the evidence list.

"Yes, just like the wine." Emile shrugged. "And it's not just a stage name either."

"I hope you can help." Harmon sat back down and waved at the computer screen. Emile looked surprised at the amount of data on the monitor. "They're trying to find information about a kidnapping."

"Alright." The young man waited for more information.

Jim picked up the evidence bag and handed it to Emile, even though he wasn't sure why. But if it would help find Blair, Ellison would let a bloodhound sniff it. He gave a very brief account of Blair's disappearance. Emile nodded several times and Jim reasoned that the young man had read or seen on TV about Blair's abduction.

"This was found at one of the crime scenes. We're trying to identify where it came from," Jim began.

The young man gave the evidence a cursory glance and looked back at the detective. Ellison sighed in disappointment.

Another dead end, he thought.

Emile waited for a moment, and when Jim didn’t go on, he handed back the envelope and smiled. “It’s from a ticket envelope for Air Canada,” he pronounced decisively. “They are the only carriers I know of that use those colors.

“Oh, of course.” Harmon turned back to the computer and eliminated all but one of the windows. “I knew you’d know it. Eyes like an eagle, memory like a steel trap,” Harmon said proudly.

With a start, Jim realized that the blond man had been able to see the paper as easily as he could. Ellison eyed the other man speculatively, wondering if there was another Sentinel in their midst. He didn't sense anything from him, but then again, he hadn't from the Jameson boy either. It was only Alex, the Sentinel who had been a danger to Jim's territory and his Guide, who set off alarm bells in Ellison's head.

The young man smiled happily at the comment Harmon had made. He glanced over at the stunned cops and shrugged negligently again, making the silky material of his shirt shift enticingly. “I have a photographic memory. Comes in handy sometimes.”

Chardonnay leaned over his partner's shoulder and gave softly spoken suggestions. Thomas nodded several times and gave the other man a quick smile of thanks. Emile patted him on the shoulder encouragingly.

"You can do it." The blond man glanced at his watch and gasped. "Is that the time? Oh dear, I must fly."

"Oh, that reminds me," Thomas said, as he swiveled his chair around. "How did it go?"

Emile smiled brightly. "I got the role. You are looking at the newest cast member of Surf City," the blond man said, referring to a very popular television show.

"That's great." Harmon stuck out a hand and they high-fived each other. The owner cocked one eyebrow and stated, "I hope I'm not the first one you've told though." His voice was filled with warning.

Chardonnay laughed and shook his head. "Heavens no! I value my butt more than that. I really don't want it chewed off." He grinned and continued. "I called Megs as soon as I left the interview."

"Smart man." Thomas gave him a thumbs up.

"Hmmm," Emile agreed. "See you later. I have another audition this afternoon."

Harmon whistled. "Good luck and give Meggie my love."

"Will do." Emile smiled at Jim and Blair, and gave a wave over his shoulder to Thomas, as he hurried out the door.

Megan looked over at the man on the computer in confusion. "Is he a model?" she tried to clarify.

"Yes," Thomas stated proudly. "He models and acts as well. You might remember him from the Smith-Klein tuxedo commercials he made last year."

Jim snapped his fingers. "That's where I recognize him from."

The owner smiled and nodded. "Most people do. He's had several acting jobs as well, both in the theater and on television. That's how we were able to start this." He waved a hand around, indicating the business. "He and Meggie wanted to invest in a business. Lucky me, they decided my little travel agency was prosperous enough to risk their money on."

"Meggie?" Megan asked, again in confusion.

"Yes, Emile's wife," Harmon answered distractedly.

"He's married?" The Aussie woman couldn't seem to wrap her mind around this new twist.

"Um huh. They're expecting their second child any day now." He seemed to realize there had been a lot of questions about Emile, personal ones. "Why?" He looked back at the red-headed woman again.

"Oh, well, I—uhm." She gave Ellison an agonized look, her face turning red with embarrassment.

Jim decided to help her out. "We thought, since you called him your partner—," Jim trailed off.

"Oh!" Harmon laughed. "Sorry about that. A lot of people make that mistake. No, Emile's my business partner, not my significant other. He's been happily married to my sister since they were both 18."

A dinging noise saved Megan, and Jim too, from further embarrassment. "Got it," Thomas said triumphantly. "Air Canada had a flight from Cascade to Calgary, Canada, on the 18th, that left at 2:47 in the morning. It left on time and arrived in Canada at 5:10am."

Megan was busy writing the information down. Jim's mind was in a whirl as he tried to figure out the logistics of following Blair and his kidnappers into another country.

"Here you go," Thomas said gently. He handed Jim a printout of the information. "I hope you find your friend."

"Thanks." Jim could tell that the other man realized that he and Blair were significant to each other. "Is there any way you can call up the passenger list?"

Harmon shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not. At least, not unless they booked the flight through us. Who are you searching for?"

"Ainzawa Fujiaki."

The other man's eyes widened dramatically. "Oh my. Uhm, I'm almost certain he wasn't a client, but let me check." Megan spelled the name for him and Thomas quickly checked their records. "No, he wasn't one of ours."

Megan stuck out her hand and Harmon took it as he stood up. "Thank you for all your help," she said sincerely.

"Yes, this," he waved the computer printout, "has saved us invaluable time."

"I'm glad." Thomas gave Jim a sad smile. "Good luck."

Ellison just nodded. His throat had closed up, holding back the tears he wanted to let go. Harmon's reaction to Fujiaki's name only reminded the Sentinel of what his lover might be going through.

As he and Megan got back into the truck, Jim glanced at the sign on the front of the building and decided that if, no, not if, when, he and Blair took their vacation, Charms Travel Agency would be where they'd come.

'Charms.' The detective smiled to himself. 'Chardonnay and Harmon, abbreviated and combined into one word, spelled Charm. Clever, very clever,' he thought in admiration at the inventiveness.

^^^^

By the time they got to the Cascade International Airport, Banks had already convinced a judge he knew to issue a search warrant for Air Canada's passenger manifests and the airport’s surveillance tapes. Because it was rush hour, it took the Sentinel and the Australian woman a while to reach the airport and allowed Joel Taggart enough time to arrive, via back roads, with the warrant.

"I'm sorry," the ticket clerk said, as she looked up from her computer screen. "Nothing was booked by Ainzawa Fujiaki on the 18th. Or any other date that I can find for that matter."

Jim closed his eyes in pain at another dead end. He could feel Blair slipping further and further away.

"What about Emile Raymaunt?"

Ellison gave Taggart a grateful look. He'd almost forgotten about Fujiaki's accomplice. The Sentinel blinked in surprise at the coincidence of one Emile helping find information about another.

"Yes!" Even the clerk was thrilled. "Emile Raymaunt booked three tickets to Alberta, Canada. It shows that the tickets were used."

Jim didn't know whether to be happy or not. This might be the clue they were looking for, but it also might indicate that Blair was with those psychopathic, torturing freaks.

^^^^

They started watching the surveillance footage at about 15 minutes before the flight took off. The ticket clerk had informed them that the three passengers had boarded at the last minute, so there was no need to scan the grainy images for more than that.

"There they are!" Megan pointed at the screen. Naturally, Jim, with his Sentinel abilities, had spotted them a few moments earlier, but again he'd been unable to talk.

The camera angle only showed the trio from the back, but there was no mistaking Blair's long, dark auburn hair. Or the dark brown leather jacket that Jim had given him for his birthday only a few months earlier. The two men who had him by the arms and were pulling Blair along were not as easily identified, but they obviously were not Fujiaki or Raymaunt.

The Japanese man had been very slender with dark hair and Raymaunt had sported a thick, red ponytail that had been as big around as your wrist. The two men with Blair were massive. They bulged with muscles and were very tall. One was almost completely bald, a small fringe of hair was all that remained, and the other one had thin, stringy, dirty blond hair.

"He's—" Megan clamped her mouth shut quickly.

"Yes, he's alive," Jim finished her aborted statement. He knew that they'd all wondered, but hadn't said anything for fear of upsetting him. "And he's not with those two animals."

"Thank god," Joel breathed out.

“Yes.” Jim’s voice held a questioning air. There was complete silence as they watched Blair being manhandled onto the plane. A million unanswered questions flooded their minds.

Were these two men part of Fujiaki’s faction? Was Blair being mistreated by them? Where in heaven’s name was the missing anthropologist now?

The only question that had definitely been answered for them was that Blair was definitely alive. This was the first proof they’d had that their friend hadn’t been murdered and his body unfound somewhere. That, at least, gave them a small measure of hope.

^^^^

“Crap.”

Megan looked over at Ellison, as she automatically tensed up, wondering what the Sentinel had sensed now. “What is it?” she asked, glad that no one else was on the elevator with them. A few officers had started to get on the elevator when it stopped on the 2nd floor, but one look at Ellison’s face and they had remembered they’d forgotten something and had to go back.

“The damned feds are here.” Jim gritted his teeth. “I can hear them up talking with Simon.”

“Well, that’s understandable, isn’t it? This is a kidnapping case, after all.” She held up a placating hand when the detective glared at her. “Don’t look at me that way. Just because you managed to intimidate the first set of agents, doesn’t mean no more would be sent to replace them.”

It had been funny really. As often as Jim and Blair had been in the news it wasn’t very surprising that Blair’s kidnapping was of interest now. Two agents from the FBI had been waiting in the bullpen less than four hours after Blair had disappeared.

The duo, one man and one woman, had been out of the bullpen only a few hours later. Megan wasn’t sure what the Sentinel had done, but they had rushed out like they were on an important errand and had never returned.

The Sentinel snorted. “Yeah, I guess so. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“Bloody hell, Ellison. Nobody will like it,” Megan admitted.

Their entrance into the Major Crimes squad room was greeted with waves and hopeful looks, just like always. And just like every other time, people’s faces fell when they saw that there was no good news.

“Ellison, Connor! My office, now.”

The men and women working diligently were so exhausted from the day in day out search for their missing man, that Simon’s standard bellow didn’t cause as much as a ripple. In fact, a worn out Rafe, who was asleep with his head resting on folded arms, slept on, undisturbed, at his desk.

Megan followed the Sentinel into the captain’s office. She had stopped at her desk long enough to grab up a file folder from the Forensic Lab that she saw lying there.

“This is Agent Samantha Reynolds and Agent David Rosado,” Banks introduced the feds to Megan and Jim.

Megan shook hands with the feds. Absently, she noted how good looking Rosado was and that Reynolds was a very striking red head. She had a brief moment to wonder if they had been chosen for their looks, just to get in good with the Sentinel. Everyone knew how attracted Ellison was to red haired women and it wasn’t that much of a secret that Jim and Blair were together, so a handsome man would have covered all their bases.

Sitting down in one of the chairs, Connor flipped open the file and began to peruse the contents. As expected, it was the results of the analysis from the notepad from Fujiaki’s night stand.

The computer generated image of the top page showed the writing that they had already found the answer for, plus some extra information at the top, left side of the page. Rhonda hadn’t said anything about that, so Megan figured that the lab people hadn’t seen it until after they’d talked on the phone.

A note from the forensics’ people stated that they were going to try a few different analyses’ to try and make the other writing clearer, but they didn’t hold out much hope. Apparently, because it was so jammed into the corner, their computer couldn’t read the writing very well. Megan made a mental note to see if Ellison could use his senses to tell more details.

It wasn’t easy to make out the numbers that they did find and the page was hard to look at since they had printed it out in negative format, meaning white writing on a black page.

Agents Reynolds and Rosado were eyeing Ellison warily the next time Connor looked up from her appraisal. She had read all the new information in the file, not that there was much to add to what she'd already been told, and had managed to listen to the strained conversation at the same time.

Jim wanted to contact Canada himself and the FBI agents were insisting that they be the ones to do the connecting, since it would be going across country lines. Finally, the detective gave in, with very bad grace, and let Agent Rosado make the call. Actually, there was no hint of grace at all. The Sentinel flopped himself down in the other chair and glared at them, one and all.

Simon leaned back in his chair and waited. Apparently he was all talked out and too tired to care about smoothing the waters between the feds and his department. Megan gave a brief thought to trying to help and then decided bugger it all.

"Oh-kay," Rosado said in surprise. He was holding his cell phone in one hand, with the other over the receiver. He had the most astonished look on his face. "Can one of you give me the e-mail address? The LeBeau Airport is going to connect us with their surveillance tapes." Even the agent seemed stunned at the extremely fast cooperation he was getting.

"Uh," Simon glanced over at his recalcitrant computer hopelessly. The captain wasn't exactly computer friendly.

"The e-mail addy is," Megan rattled off the computer address to the agent who dutifully relayed it to the people on the other end of the phone line, and then they waited.

In just a few moments there was an e-mail from the Canadian airport. Simon clicked on the file and Megan looked over the captain's left shoulder while Jim looked over his right. Agent Rosado seemed put out that he did the work getting the file, but he couldn't get close enough to even see it. The man was hopping around like a demented chimpanzee, trying to see over and around people's heads. Agent Reynolds didn't bother to even get up from her seat on the couch, recognizing a futile effort when she saw one.

Blair was struggling this time. At least, that's how it appeared on the tape. The two men were having a tougher time dragging Blair off the plane this time. Yet again, no one noticed the person in distress; everyone was too wrapped up in their own problems to pay attention.

The airport personnel helpfully tracked the trio, via various cameras, as they made their way across the concourse. Camera angles were often odd and didn’t show more than the back of the men’s heads or the tops, so they couldn’t get a good enough view of them to see anyone’s face.

The first stop was apparently the bathroom where, according to the time tracker on the video, they stayed for almost 15 minutes. When they exited the facilities, it was a much more subdued man that they were leading.

"They drugged him," Simon said painfully.

Ellison's grip on the back of Simon's chair tightened appreciably. Megan wondered if the Sentinel was going to break the chair. The Australian woman heard a crackling and glanced down. She had her own death grip on the chair and it was making protesting sounds.

They watched as Blair was led along, past several different concourses, and then sat down in one of the lounges while the bald man went up to counter to buy tickets. The other man, the one with the stringy, blond hair, sat down beside Blair.

It was frustrating to watch the scene being played out and knowing there was nothing they could do about it. These events had taken place several hours ago, even though it felt like they were watching them live.

"Uh," they all turned when Rosado spoke up. "According to Canada, that man," he pointed at the bald man, "bought 3 tickets to Mexico City, Mexico." The federal agent listened carefully and 'uh huhed' a couple of times. "They departed yesterday afternoon, at 3:25pm. They would have arrived in Mexico last night at about 11:13."

They all groaned. Blair had been missed by a matter of hours. Now, they were going to have to deal with the Mexican government for information.

“Does anyone speak Spanish?” Reynolds asked quietly, trying to dispel some of the anxiety that had crept back into the room.

Everyone shook their heads, even Ellison. Simon looked at him and frowned. “I thought you did speak Spanish, Jim, from when you were in Peru.”

Ellison shook his head. “No, I speak the language of the Chopec, it’s completely different, even though it does sound like Spanish. It’s an Indian/Spanish combination.” Jim sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “I could probably squeak by, but not enough to get the kind of information we need.”

“Alright, I’ll get a translator on the line.” Agent Reynolds glanced over at the computer screen. On it, Blair was frozen as he was being drug on to the next destination. “What airport were they going to, anyway?”

“Uhm,” Simon peered at the computer screen like it was written in hieroglyphics, trying to find the name of the airport.

“It’s the El Gato Airport,” Rosado said resignedly, after consulting the person still on his phone line. He said his goodbyes and snapped the cell phone case shut, as he looked over at his partner.

Reynolds’ shoulders slumped. “Oh crap,” she said unenthusiastically. “That’ll be fun.” The last was said with a great deal of sarcasm.

“Why? What’s going on?” Simon didn’t like being left in the dark and was looking at the two agents to enlighten him.

“The officials at El Gato are about as cooperative as a Missouri mule—” The woman trailed off with a roll of her eyes at the questioning look from the group from Cascade. Reynolds shrugged her shoulders at their uncomprehending looks, not bothering with explaining the cultural reference. “Never mind.”

^^^^

Joel Taggart took a deep breath and readied himself; this wasn’t going to be pleasant. Or easy.

The bomb expert knocked on Banks’ office door. “Come in,” Simon hollered.

The big captain stepped into the room and could feel the waves of tension hitting him in the face like a tidal wave. He braced himself and looked around the room. The feds were on one side and the Cascade contingent was on the other side of the room. The two groups were clearly distancing themselves from one another.

“Taggart?”

Joel nodded. “I’m sorry to interrupt, sir. But I’ve got some news.”

Jim looked so hopeful at that, that Taggart felt his heart clenching in sympathy. Ellison’s heart was on display for the world to see and his heartbreak was so sad.

“You can take Ainzawa Fujiaki and Emile Raymaunt off the suspect list. Their bodies have been officially identified.”

“Already?” The woman FBI agent seemed surprised.

“Yeah, apparently both men had had some unusual dental work done in the last few months. It was easily identifiable and the dentist they used had the x-rays readily available.”

“That’s something at least,” Megan commented.

“Yeah,” Ellison stood and looked out the window. He sounded less than enthused.

Joel nodded, unseen from the detective. Joel knew that it was good that those two psychotics didn’t have Blair, but then—who did?

^^^^

Jim pushed the door shut behind him and looked around the loft sadly. Without Blair's presence, the large space felt cold and uninviting, not a home at all. The Sentinel dropped his keys into the basket by the door and shrugged his jacket off. He tossed a white paper, Wonderburger bag, onto the coffee table in the living room and trudged off to the kitchen for a beer. The detective had grabbed some food from his favorite fast food place.

"Man, those are a heart attack waiting to happen."

The Sentinel had heard his lover's voice chastising him and had changed his order from a double Wonderburger and a super-sized order of fries to a regular burger with a side salad, dressing on the side, of course. Jim imagined Blair smiling happily at his choices and had almost fallen apart in the drive thru window.

Simon had insisted that Ellison go home for a break and hopefully to sleep for a few hours. Jim didn't expect to get very much rest, no matter how tired he was. Banks realized that as well, but Jim guessed the people at the station could use their own break—from Jim himself.

The detective trudged up the stairs and decided he might as well be comfortable, even if he didn't plan on getting very much rest. Sitting on Blair's side of the bed, Jim picked up his lover's pillow and hugged it tight. If he raised his sense of smell, just a tad, he could almost fool himself into believing Blair was there with him. Underneath the pillow was the anthropologist's neatly folded t-shirt that he wore to bed. Giving into the impulse, the Sentinel pulled off his own shirt and tossed it haphazardly onto his own pillow. He then donned the sleep shirt. Luckily for Ellison, Blair wore the garment extra, extra big, so it fit over Jim's more muscular frame.

Ellison walked slowly back downstairs, Blair's pillow tucked under his arm. It was only when he was sitting back down on the couch that Jim realized he'd carried it down. Jim began to eat his dinner, but his mind was still whirling, trying to solve the case and bring his lover home.

Finding a translator hadn't taken more than a few minutes, not with the resources of the FBI at their disposal, but wresting the information from the Mexican airport authorities was another matter entirely. None of the officials were willing to take the responsibility of releasing the information they needed. One of the FBI agents, Jim couldn't remember which one, had called in a few favors. A friend of his—ah, Jim remembered now, it was Rosado who'd found the help they needed—had called in a favor from a friend of his, Señor de la Plata. The official had found out that a Señor P. Falsa had booked three tickets to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Simon had convinced Ellison to go home when he pointed out that contacting Scotland and getting their records would take quite a while. Jim had looked at his watch and calculated the time difference and reluctantly agreed. In that section of the world, it was in the middle of the night. Rousing someone from their warm bed wouldn't be the way to convince them to cooperate.

The Sentinel slid his butt down, slumping further in the couch, his Wonderburger forgotten. Even the promise of that rare treat couldn't tempt him too much, although he'd eaten all of the salad. The image of Blair being taken onto the plane for Scotland was burned into his mind. His lover had been so out of it, that this time he was seen, all but being carried by the two kidnappers.

"Blair," Jim whispered to his missing love. "I'll find you, I promise. You will come home."

Ellison leaned against the arm of the couch with Blair's pillow between his face and the nap of the armrest. He fell asleep on the couch, despite himself, and dreamed of Blair. In his mind, he heard the front door opening and the younger man calling to him.

"Hey, Big Guy. I'm home.

^^^^

Jim woke up with a start and looked around, disoriented for a moment. Then he remembered that he and Megan were on a plane, heading to Edinburgh, and he relaxed back into his seat.

The authorities in Scotland had cooperated fairly quickly, but their tapes had shown Blair and his abductors leaving the airport without booking a flight anywhere else. That was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they at least had a stopping point where they could look from, but also a curse, because there had been no indication of where they'd gone next. No further trips planned, no vehicles rented—nothing.

Refusing to accept the seeming dead end, Jim had gotten permission to go to Scotland and look for Blair himself. Banks had agreed readily enough, as had the government agents. Even the mayor had personally authorized the expense vouchers. Jim guessed that all the times he and Blair had solved some really big, and very public, cases had been the deciding factor.

Megan, of course, had insisted that she go with Jim. Banks was the only one who knew why she needed to be the one to go. Jim needed someone who knew about his abilities to help guide him until his Guide could be found. The captain couldn't leave for an extended search in a foreign country, so that left the Australian woman.

Neither he nor Connor had said much on the long flight, the one that had lasted over eight hours. They were saving their energy until they reached Scotland.

^^^^

Jim’s fraying nerves made questioning people a dicey proposition, so he left that little task up to Megan. While she was trying to charm more information out of the clerk, Ellison had a look around the airport, getting the feel of the place.

"Bloody hell," Megan's curse heralded her arrival.

"What?" Jim frowned at her.

"How could no one have seen anything? A man was brought through the middle of the airport, all but unconscious, and being supported by two men, but nobody noticed anything out of the ordinary." She shook her head in disgust.

"It's easier not to get involved," Jim said cynically. "They weren't bothering anybody else, so people let them be." The detective was just as disgusted, but he knew the facts of life. "Most people wait for someone else to do the right thing, so nobody does anything."

The two detectives headed outside. They eyed the long line of cab drivers, waiting for the arriving flights and their disembarking passengers. Both looked at each other and nodded in unison. Without a word, Jim went to the head of the line and Megan to the rear. Someone had to have driven the kidnappers and Blair, because they hadn't rented a car.

'Unless they had another accomplice,' Jim's traitorous mind whispered to him.

After about an hours worth of questioning, Jim was wondering if they needed to try another avenue, because this was going nowhere fast. He'd discovered that the drivers spoke English. The detective had been somewhat surprised, he’d thought the people in Scotland spoke Gaelic or something like that. He was delighted to find out that he was wrong, because that made communicating much easier. The sheer volume of the drivers however, still made it a long and laborious process.

The Sentinel was standing to one side, trying to avoid the crush of passengers that had just come pouring out of the main doors. The influx of new people made keeping track of who'd had already been questioned almost impossible.

Out of the corner of his eye, Ellison saw something gray. He glanced over and was stunned to see a wolf trotting around the side of the building. In his mind, the Sentinel cheered.

Yes! Blair's spirit guide is going to help!

"Connor!"

Jim's yell was the only warning Megan had before her fellow searcher hurried to follow the animal. He rounded the corner, just as the spirit guide went around the back of an alleyway and onto the next street. The Sentinel stopped and stared in amazement.

It wasn't a wolf after all, but instead an oddly colored dog. Jim's heart sank into the ground when he realized that it wasn't Blair's spirit guide after all. But the animal was acting strangely.

The dog sat, waiting patiently, beside a red and white colored cab. The canine looked at the Sentinel, tilted its head to one side and licked its lips, and then turned to look over its shoulder.

Recognizing something other worldly in the dog's behavior, Jim followed the animal's gaze and saw a man leaning against the building wall, smoking a cigarette. Ellison realized that he must be the driver of the cab and walked calmly towards him.

"Hello," Jim greeted casually.

"Mornin'," the dark haired man answered back. His slight burr gave proof of his nationality.

"I was wondering if you could help me?" Jim heard Megan's footsteps as she caught up with him.

The driver obviously did too and flicked an interested look at the noise. He nodded at the woman when she stopped beside Ellison and turned back to answer Jim. "I'll give it a try," he said with a slight smile.

"I'm Detective Ellison and this is Inspector Connor. We're from the United States." The driver's grin widened. "Yeah, I guess that was easy to tell. Anyway, we're trying to find a pair of kidnappers and their victim. They left the airport at about 10 o’clock on Friday morning."

Megan pulled out a photo of Blair being helped along by the two men. It was a printout from the Canadian video, one that gave the best look of all the different pictures and angles. "Do you recognize any of them?"

Jim and Megan both held their breath as the driver glanced at the picture. "Yeah, I drove them."

And it was as simple as that.

^^^^

It took almost two hours to reach the cabin that was tucked back into the woods. This driver was one person who did notice that Blair wasn't acting right. He hadn't reported it to anybody, because one of the men had explained that Blair had suffered a stroke a few months before and still hadn't recovered. Not having any reason to doubt them, the driver had taken the trio to this out of the way place, but had remembered their odd behavior.

The Sentinel stood at the end of the long, rutted road and listened. Inside the house he could hear two men talking.

“I’m telling you, we stopped too soon.” The voice had a Southern lilt.

“Oh, give me a friggin’ break, will ya.” The second man sounded mad at the first one. His accent was more New Englandish, with it’s drawled out “a’s”.

“We’ve gotta be careful,” the first man whined. “The whole Cascade police force is lookin’ for this guy.”

Ellison grinned triumphantly. Megan swallowed hard at the look on his face. Jim figured that he was pretty scary looking at this point; he hoped so.

“They just mentioned the Cascade police,” Jim confided to the Australian woman.

Megan gave her own hard grin and the Sentinel had a fairly good idea what he looked like. And he was right—it was frightening.

Good.

The Sentinel gave a quick scan back the way they’d come and was pleased that, not only was the cab driver still with his car, but he had called the local police as well. Jim knew that the FBI had cleared their being in Scotland and some backup would be nice, just in case.

Jim and Connor crept up until they could get a visual on the wooden structure. Ellison had to fight the urge to race on in, but he didn’t want to risk Blair, especially not when they were this close to saving him.

The two Major Crimes detectives looked at one another again. After a silent exchange, Megan walked up to the cabin door while Ellison slid over to one side. The Sentinel pulled out his gun, silently thanking the government, his and the Scottish one, for allowing he and Megan to bring their weapons with them.

Once Ellison was out of sight, Megan knocked rapidly on the door. Jim could hear a faint yelp of surprise inside. Megan knocked again.

“Please, somebody help me.” Despite the seriousness of the situation, the detective had to smile at how helpless and vulnerable Connor managed to sound.

The door opened a crack, letting a ray of bright light spill out into the twilight gloom of the night. It illuminated Megan’s face and the Sentinel had to admit, the tears in her eyes were a nice touch.

“What do you want?” Apparently the bald man was the one from New England.

“Please. I need help.” Megan clasped her hands to her chest and gave a small sob. “I turned down this road by mistake and accidentally drove off into the ditch.”

After a moment, the door opened all the way. Apparently, even kidnappers were capable of chivalry. Either that, Jim thought cynically, or they plan to attack her once they make sure Megan’s alone.

Whatever their intentions, the moment Megan was inside the cabin and “baldy” was about to shut the door, Jim slammed against it, knocking the man to the ground. At the same time, Connor had reached the blond man and kicked his legs out from underneath him.

From start to finish, the fight lasted all of three seconds. After that, it didn’t take long to cuff either man, who seemed too stunned to fight back.

^^^^

Jim could hear moaning in the back room and shoved the blond man out of the way in his haste to get to his hurting Guide. The man, who Megan had just stood up, fell back to the ground with a thud. The Sentinel ignored everything and everyone else. He dialed up his hearing even more and could hear the thump-thump of the heartbeat in the far room and the soft gasps for breath.

The first door down the hallway was locked. The door was heavy and solid oak, but the Sentinel didn't let that deter him, he simply gave it two very powerful kicks and the lock splintered. Jim gasped as the clanging sound of the door hitting the wall behind it reverberated in his sensitive ears; he had forgotten to lower his hearing back down.

It doesn't matter, Jim thought in desperation. I've got to get to Blair.

Luckily the next door wasn't locked and Ellison flung the door open. It bounced off a dresser behind the doorway and rebounded toward him. Jim caught it with the palm of his hand, keeping it from smacking him on the side. And there, on the bed crying, was a familiar curly head—that smelled off.

"Blair?"

The man sitting on the side of the bed turned his head and Jim looked into velvety brown eyes. The Sentinel's eyes widened in pain as realization struck him in the chest like a boulder.

It wasn't Blair.

A dull, nagging pain in his lower back was the first thing Blair was completely aware of. There had been a few isolated instances before that where he'd caught snatches of awareness, like a bit of fog in his hand. And just as ephemeral as that same fog, consciousness would slip away, leaving the anthropologist more confused than before. But this time Blair was awake long enough for him to realize that he was hurting.

It wasn't a sharp pain, like he'd been stabbed or shot, nor was it a grinding pain, like something was broken. Unfortunately, Blair had plenty of experience with both of those feelings and knew them well. No, this was the achy feeling you got from lying in one position for too long. Blair had learned to hate that feeling after Dawson Quinn had shot him in the leg and he'd been confined to his bed for a couple of weeks. The extended bed rest was Jim's doing, not the doctor's. His Blessed Protector had insisted that he take it easy and had made sure he did.

Speaking of Jim, where was his lover and Blessed Protector? James Ellison would never leave him like this. When he'd been overdosed with the Golden, all those years ago, Ellison had been the one to keep turning him while he'd been in a coma, and that had been well before they'd become lovers. Jim was even more attentive now that he and Blair were in love.

Blair moaned as the pain built up, it seemed to double every few seconds, until he was sure he couldn't stand it any more. Just when he was about to start crying, a large, warm hand touched his waist, startling the young man; he would have jumped if he'd been more awake. Another hand landed on his shoulder, again frightening him, and causing a soft whimper to escape from his throat.

It wasn't that the person was rough, on the contrary, the large hands rubbed all across his back, through the covers, soothing it. Instead, the problem was whoever the hands belonged to. Blair could tell instinctively that they weren't Jim's, and therefore, shouldn't be caressing him.

The insensate man was rolled onto his back. He gasped as the cool sheets touched along the entire length of his body, from the back of his neck, all the way down to his heels. Now, that same someone was pulling the blanket down and rubbing his chest. Blair whimpered again when he realized that he must be naked, covered only by a lightweight, clingy blanket. He shivered at the cold that was creeping along his skin and could almost feel the goose bumps popping up all over.

"J'm?" he called for his lover, not really expecting a reply.

Jim didn't answer, but the person stopped touching him and thankfully moved away. There was a brief moment of time when Blair wasn't being touched, and then he was back. Blair knew it was a he, because the arm that slid under his shoulders and sat him up was very muscled and the chest that he tilted on to was flat and decidedly masculine.

Blair tried to resist when he felt something being poured into his mouth. He started to spit the sugary sweet liquid out, but the person tilted his head back and stopped him. Blair kicked one leg in resistance, which was all he could manage to do, and kept the substance in his mouth, refusing to swallow it. He was startled when a bristly mouth covered his. The anthropologist sucked in a surprised breath, and the medicine at the same time.

Consciousness faded away quickly, even as the mouth kept kissing his.

-_-_-

Jim Ellison paced back and forth outside the interrogation room. Inside the small room, Carson Heath and Edward Mulvaney, the two kidnappers who had led them all on a merry chase for over three weeks with the false Blair, were being grilled by detectives Henri Brown and Brian Rafe. The two younger detectives had perfected the good cop, bad cop routine, with Rafe playing the bad cop. Jim had no qualms about letting them interrogate the prisoners, he was just ticked off because Simon wouldn't let him at them too.

"Come on, Simon!" The detective turned to face his captain, raising both hands in the air, in a pleading gesture. "Let me go in. I guarantee that they'll tell who hired them."

Simon Banks watched Ellison warily. The Sentinel was positively rabid, not that Simon blamed him all that much. But the captain's hands were tied. It had been hard enough to get the two men extradited to the U.S. Simon knew that the delay had aggravated the detective further, but there hadn't been any way to speed up the process.

"Jim, be reasonable. If you go barreling in there and terrorize those two men, they'll scream police brutality and walk." Banks held up one hand when Jim started to argue. “Think about it for a minute, will you. Right now they are our only lead to Blair."

Ellison slammed the palm of his hand into the wall beside the door. "Simon," Jim hesitated, turning to lean a shoulder against the wall, "he's gone." Jim closed his eyes in pain at the words. Simon flinched too and walked over to lean against the wall, facing Jim. "It's been three weeks," Jim whispered. "Three weeks that Blair's been with god only knows who, enduring heaven only knows what. Twenty three days that we've been chasing our tails all over the country and he's been getting farther and farther away."

Banks put a hand on Jim's shoulder, the one not currently supporting the wall. "We'll find him," Simon reassured his friend and fellow detective.

"Will we?" Jim's bloodshot eyes looked desolate. "I'm not so sure any more."

Simon opened his mouth to answer, to give more, hopefully not false, reassurances, when the interrogation room door opened. A grinning Henri Brown stepped out into the hallway.

"They talked," he said, with considerable satisfaction.

Jim and Simon jerked to attention. Ellison's suddenly hopeful eyes darted from H to the closed door and back again.

"They gave a name?" Simon's voice rose on the last word.

Brown frowned and shook his head. "Nothing that concrete I'm afraid. They say that they never met their employer, but we have bank account numbers and they told us where they picked up their instructions."

Simon thought quickly, hanging on to the bit of hope. "That's a start anyway. Account numbers can be traced and if we send our best," he glanced at Jim as he spoke, "to the drop off site, we may find some extra clues."

Henri nodded and gave his trademark grin. "Do you want to know what finally made them crack?" Simon nodded. Jim was too busy pacing again, anxious to be off. "Ellison."

Jim turned and gave H an incredulous look. "What are you talking about Brown? I've been out here the whole time."

"Yep," the detective agreed. "Mulvaney said he could feel you staring at him through the door. According to him, your eyes were like lasers digging into his brain." Brown waggled his hands by his head, showing what the perp thought Jim's eyes were doing. "What clinched the deal though was when somebody hit the wall a few minutes ago. That startled the crap out of them both and Heath was sure you were going to break down the door any minute and kill them both." The dark skinned detective, with the wildly flowered red and gold Hawaiian shirt, grinned and shook his head. "Can you believe it?"

Jim's glare at the door and Simon's silence, along with his arched eyebrow, answered Henri's question.

"Oh, I guess you can." H shrugged. "They got their instructions in an accordion type folder. You know the kind. People in offices put files and things in them. The file is still at Mulvaney's place."

"What's the address?" Simon asked.

H held out a piece of paper, Ellison snatched it out of his hand and began to memorize the information. Brown knew how upset the detective was and therefore didn't take offense at the abrupt and rude behavior. Anytime Blair was hurt or in danger, Ellison reverted back to the hard ass persona he'd had before the long haired young man had bounced his enthusiastic way into the bullpen, and all of their lives. And considering how many criminals decided to single out the anthropologist for their attacks—the old Jim was a frequent visitor around the station.

"They got their instructions in the old manager's office in the abandoned cannery warehouse on Fleur de Leis Rd.," Henri informed them. "The instructions were on top of the old desk," he yelled to the Sentinel's retreating back.

Banks nodded and clapped H on the back. "Good work you two." With that he took off after his rapidly retreating detective. Simon had insisted that Connor go home and get some rest, so the captain would accompany his detective himself. Banks knew that he had better catch up quickly, or Jim would leave him behind in his haste.

-_-_-

Something was crumpled up under the edge of his hip and it was bothering Blair. He couldn't even get his eyes open this time, let alone move, to smooth whatever it was out, so he had to lay there and suffer in silence.

The warm, but oh-so wrong, hands were back again. Blair was shifted onto his back, off of his side and the, as he know realized what they were, waded up sheets. The irritated skin on his hip was rubbed, smoothing out the reddened skin. But even when the area felt better, the hands kept on caressing him, moving lower on his body.

“Nooo,” Blair begged. His throat was so dry that he could barely make a sound. His abductor must have heard his nearly silent plea anyway, because the molestation stopped.

The bed rippled when the man lay down beside Blair. The anthropologist tried to shift his body away from the other man, but only managed to twitch a bit before he was surrounded by strong arms. Calloused hands moved against Blair's arms and the man moved again, until he was lying partially on top of Blair. Not enough to be too heavy. No, his caretaker/kidnapper was too considerate for that. Rather, the stance and embrace were that of a lover making certain not to crush the person lying beneath them.

Something wet touched the side of his neck and Blair jumped.

It's a tongue, he realized fairly quickly. This guy's licking me.

Blair tried to think of his lover instead of what was happening to him. Pale blue eyes and a winning smile greeted Blair's thoughts. He could almost feel the short, but soft, hair as it tickled the palm of his hand. The mini-fantasy was working until the man he was actually in bed with moved once more and began to suck on Blair's Adam's apple.

The anthropologist didn't know what the fascination with that part of his neck was, but he'd had several lovers who liked to mess around with it. So far, Jim was the only one who didn't bother Blair when he played with his neck. With everyone else, it just irritated him. Samantha, the woman at the station that Blair had dated for a while, was especially fascinated with the Adam's apple and would spend hours playing with it, until Blair's neck was red and raw.

Blunt teeth scraped across the protrusion and Blair whimpered. The other man must have thought Blair liked it, because he began biting at it like he was a vampire. Blair tried to get away and managed to move his head a little, but the attacker grabbed hold of the sides of Blair's head and held it steady. He moved his heavy body over more on top of Blair's and ruthlessly continued the assault.

“Nooooo,” Blair's murmured protest went unheeded this time. The attacker was too far gone to take note of what Blair wanted.

The other man put his whole mouth over that section of Blair's neck and began to suck in earnest. Blair gasped at the sensation. It felt like the air was being pulled out of the front of his throat. He tried to push the other man off, but his arms were too weak from the long confinement and drugs coursing through his body.

Calluses caught in Blair's hair, as the assailant dug his fingers in and began to pull and tug sharply on the long russet tresses. Blunt fingernails were drug against his scalp and over and around the shells of Blair's ears. The man shifted his body a little more, until his legs were straddling Blair's slightly spread ones. One hand let go of Blair's head. The assailant raised himself up and kicked the blanket all the way to the end of the bed, leaving Blair completely exposed. With his free hand, the other man reached down and abruptly pulled Blair's thighs apart. The kidnapper then settled down more, his erection digging into Blair's right thigh. Once he was happily situated, the man began to undulate against Blair, rubbing himself against Blair's body and making happy, animal like noises in the back of his throat.

In the back of Blair's mind he was able to note one or two things. First, and thankfully, even as out of control as his kidnapper had become, he still had his clothes on. Blair was glad of that. This near-rape was bad enough without the other man's nudity as well. Secondly, the man had a beard; a very neatly trimmed beard, which Blair thought was curly. It didn't feel rough against Blair's neck, so he knew it wasn't that short. Third, Blair could hear something.

Off, in another part of the building, a dog's barking could be heard. It sounded upset, as if it was late in getting its dinner and was protesting the neglect. Also, Blair could hear a slight whirring sound that he couldn't identify.

Blair felt himself slipping back into unconsciousness and was glad of it. At least in his dreams he was safe from unwanted touches and could be with Jim, who would cherish, and not molest him.

In one corner of the room, a video camera sat on a tripod. The red light on the machine indicated it was on and the lens was angled to capture every moment of the action on the bed and each second of Blair's sprawled body, lying in its exposed state.

-_-_-

"Unbelievable," Simon exclaimed.

"What?" Ellison asked, as he turned from his examination of Edward Mulvaney's living room.

The two detectives had already gone to Carson Heath's studio apartment and searched it. Now they were in Mulvaney's scrubby little, one room--well, one room. It couldn't exactly be termed as an apartment, because there wasn't a kitchen, just a hot plate and an extremely dirty microwave. There wasn't even a private bathroom, just a communal one that the entire 6th floor used. Neither man wanted to examine that room too closely, because if the hallway was any indication, the rest of the people in the building were just as slovenly as Mulvaney.

"These instructions are damned explicit," Simon clarified, waving several sheets of paper in the air. "They were told every aspect of what to do, down to the very last letter."

The Sentinel shrugged and went back to what he was doing, which consisted of examining everything, while doing his damndest not to actually touch anything. Even for someone with as much experience as he had, that was tough to do. Jim pulled back a blanket, which was doubling as a curtain, to expose the closet area. The detective actually gagged at the smell of unwashed feet that poured out of the opening.

"Take a look at them," Jim stated when he stopped trying to lose his last meal. "I mean, they aren't exactly the brightest bulbs in the light socket."

"True," Banks agreed, with a roll of his eyes. He got a whiff of the nasty odor coming from the dirty shoes and backed up a step or two. He might not have the enhanced sense of smell that Jim had, but he could still tell stink when it was around.

The kidnappers had honestly seemed startled that they were going to prison for the abduction of Daniel Léon. And they certainly had had no idea that taking a kidnapping victim across state, and then international lines, upped the ante, punishment wise.

Léon was a hard working writer who just happened to resemble Blair. No one had known that the man was missing, because he worked out of his home, writing technical manuals for a computer software company, so he hadn’t been missed at work. Add to that that his estranged wife had been out of town on vacation, and no one had noticed he was missing, let alone been on the lookout for him.

Naturally, Léon had been traumatized by the kidnapping, even though he thankfully hadn't been physically injured in any way. He was still in the hospital, however, because the medication they used to keep him drugged was taking an exceptionally long time to get out of his system. Apparently the young man was very susceptible to some drugs. The drug cocktail he'd been doped up on was a combination of anti-psychotic drugs and something that was very similar to the drug Lash had used on his victims.

On the upside, Daniel’s wife had been found and contacted. The worried woman had raced back to town and her husband's bedside. From the happy reunion that Simon had witnessed, it looked as if the couple were going to be able to work out their differences.

“Heath’s a little smarter than Mulvaney, but not by much. I’m surprised they didn’t overdose Léon. According to the doctor, the dosage is gauged on weight and had to be adjusted for every few pounds that a person lost or gained. Poor Léon lost quite a bit of weight while they had him," Jim opinioned.

“I know.” Simon shook his head and watched Ellison out of the corner of his eye. They were both wondering how Blair was faring at the hands of his kidnapper.

Jim tossed a dirty shirt back down on the floor, where he’d found it, in disgust. “If there’s anything else here, I can’t find it.”

Banks nodded and flipped his cell phone open, one handed. The other hand was holding tight to the evidence bag that contained the file with the instructions inside. The captain called Dan Wolfe’s office in the Forensics Department.

“This is Captain Banks,” he identified himself. “What’s the status on the search of the cannery?”

Ellison prowled around the small room, still looking for that elusive piece of evidence that might lead them to Blair. He kept one part of his brain on Simon’s conversation with the Indian man. By splitting his focus between the room and Simon, he could keep from zoning out.

“Okay, good.” Simon nodded to Dan, even though the other man couldn’t see him. “Alright, keep me informed if you find anything new.”

"Let's go," both men said simultaneously. If it had happened any other time, it would have been comical. This time, they didn't even notice.

-_-_-

Once they were back at the station, Simon led the way into one of the conference rooms. Everyone on the case who could possibly break free, hurried after him, like he was an overgrown, very intense, Pied Piper of Cascade. Anyone who got in the way of the phalanx of detectives quickly scattered to either side of the aisle. The determined look on Simon’s face was enough to scare most people off.

Naturally, not all of the detectives in Major Crimes were looking for Blair; there were just too many crimes that came up every day to devote to finding one man, no matter how needed and cared for he was. Even the people who were still assigned to the case were taking it in shifts. For instance, Brown was in the meeting room to look over the new evidence, while his partner, Rafe, worked on another case out at his desk in the bullpen. Later on, they would meet and exchange information, so they were both up to date on their respective workload.

“Alright people, here’s what we have so far.” Banks’ voice boomed through the conference room, shattering the silence like so much fragile glass.

Simon opened the photocopied file he and Jim had just gotten from the kidnapper's homes, and spread the contents out on the table. The original contents were down in one of the labs, while technicians looked for latent fingerprints, etc.

For a moment, no one moved. They were all afraid to look at the contents, apprehensive that this would be another dead end. Then Joel broke the stasis by pulling what appeared to be a map, closer to himself.

“Where the hell is this?” Taggart’s profanity was unusual in and of itself. Normally the large captain was soft spoken and didn’t cuss. The fact that he had resorted to it now was a surefire sign of the stresses they had all been experiencing. “This is a damned odd looking map, I’ll tell you.”

“I don’t recognize the area." Banks took hold of one corner of the paper, angling it so he could look at it better. "That doesn’t seem familiar at all.” Simon frowned over at the piece of paper, trying to reconcile the lines on the page with different areas of Cascade. “Does anybody else recognize this?”

Negative replies whizzed around the table, except for Megan, who tapped a finger against her lips thoughtfully. “I don’t think it’s a map at all. It looks more like a house plan or an apartment layout to me.”

The men took a closer look, realigning their view of the paper. “You’re right,” Joel agreed. “See here,” he pointed at one symbol. “I think that’s a bedroom.” He tapped one spot with a finger. “That symbol indicates a shower, and there,” he touched another area, “is a tub.”

While some of the others continued to take a closer look at the map which had turned out to be a floor plan, Brown picked up one of the other pages from the file. He frowned at the writing. Something wasn’t quite right about it, but he couldn’t pinpoint just what it was. It was hard to concentrate with everybody talking at once.

“Is something wrong?” Jim asked intently.

Brown flinched, making the paper in his hand rattle with the movement. Ellison had been so quiet since they’d gotten back to the station that H had almost forgotten that he was even in the room.

“Yeah, but I can’t decide what.” H turned sideways, so that Jim could read over his shoulder. “Why does this letter look so odd?” The detective ran a hand over his shaven head; absently he wished that he had some hair to run his fingers through. Instead, Brown smoothed his colorful shirt down in a distracted manner, playing with the buttons like they were worry beads.

Ellison skimmed over the writing carefully. “It’s the number seven,” he answered finally.

“What?” Henri gave Jim an odd look. ‘Has the tension made Jim snap?’ he wondered personally.

Jim went on to explain. “The number has a bar through the middle of the symbol, like they make them in some European countries.”

“You’re right,” H said excitedly. He reread the letter, looking at it with new eyes. “And take a look at the phraseology. It is definitely not American.”

Their conversation captured the interest of the other detectives, some of whom looked over. Megan walked over and tried to peer over Jim’s shoulder, in a futile attempt at seeing the letter. Ellison realized she couldn’t see very well, and knowing that she might better spot the differences in language, he stepped to one side. Once he was on the move again, Jim couldn’t seem to stop and started pacing from the conference desk to the window and back again.

Megan, as the only one of their group that was from a foreign country, was quick to spot the differences in language. “H is right,” she stated. Her Australian accent gave the words an authority. “This bloke says things just a little bit differently than you all do here in America.”

No one bothered to point out to Megan that after living in Washington for so many years, she was speaking more American and less Australian. Even her accent had steadily decreased, bit by bit, over the years, as was natural.

“Like here, the kidnapper says, ‘the chloroform is in the boot’. And then in this section of the instructions, he says, ‘take the lift to the 3rd floor’. Boot means the trunk and lift means the elevator," she clarified. "Obviously, he’s someone who, at the very least, lived in Europe for a while.”

“Does that help us any?” Rafe asked. The handsome detective had come into the room, just in time to hear the pronouncement.

“It helps us narrow down the search,” Simon stated decisively. “We know to look for men who have lived in Europe long enough to routinely use the terms when writing.”

They all nodded wisely. What the captain was saying did make sense, however, no one wanted to admit out loud that they really didn’t have a suspect list to winnow down.

The rest of the file was pored over. Each person carefully scrutinized the information, so that there wouldn’t be any chance of valuable facts being overlooked.

-_-_-

Blair looked at the blue water blankly, as it swirled around his bare legs in diminutive eddies. His mind was a little clearer, as it always was just before he was drugged again, and the anthropologist was trying to think of a way out of his predicament. As it was, he couldn't see much hope, because the situation hadn't changed in the, however long it had been, since he'd been kidnapped.

He blinked his eyes to clear them and tried to raise his head to look around. Blair didn't even know who was holding him prisoner. Every time the man was around, he was either behind Sandburg, or over to the side, or Blair simply couldn't open his eyes to look. In addition, the person hadn't spoken to him, at least not that Blair remembered. Nonsense, soothing tones had been murmured to him when Blair became agitated, but no actual words had been used.

Blair was sitting in a bathtub full of water, that much he could figure out. His abductor didn't seem to be around this time, and Blair was profoundly grateful, because, of course, he was completely naked. He didn't understand why he wasn't falling over. Blair's muscles didn't have the strength to hold up his head, let alone the rest of his body.

The Guide wriggled a bit and realized that he could feel something supporting his back and slightly under his arms. It was an unyielding surface, but a cloth of some kind was covering it to make it more comfortable. Blair recognized the sensation next to his skin. It was a towel that was behind him.

He shivered when a cool draft wafted across his skin. He heard the snicking sound of a lock clicking shut and realized that the man was back. Out of the corner of his eye, Blair saw an expanse of green by the side of the tub. Turning his head slightly, the dark haired man was able to figure out that it was the other man's shirt.

"Drink this," he was commanded.

To his horror, Blair's hand rose automatically, albeit very slowly, to accept the proffered glass. His mind tried to tell his body to stop, but it was as if he had no will of his own. The observer decided that whatever he was being drugged with had a hypnotic effect, much like the narcotic that Lash had tried to give him.

"Very good."

The hand was petting him again, rubbing against his shoulders like he was an award winning show dog. Blair flushed with humiliation, even as he sipped at the drink that would drug him senseless again.

'What have I done under the influence of this crap? Or let be done?' Breath hitched in his chest at the thought.

The still petting hand slid down from his shoulders and circled the nipple with the ring piercing it. The man hooked the end of his pinkie finger in the golden circle and tugged on it playfully. Blair was glad that he wasn't aroused by the blatant sexual move, which would have been even worse. He already felt so vulnerable in front of the other man.

"I'll be right back. Drink up now, like a good boy."

Blair was so out of it that his brain barely registered the fact that his abductor had spoken to him. He paused in his drinking when he realized that he recognized the voice—although he wasn't sure who it was.

Somewhere, further in the house, a door slammed and startled Blair. He gasped as his hand jerked and spilled most of the liquid in his glass down the front of his body. Blair gazed into the mostly empty glass and tried to reason.

This is good, he decided. If I don't drink as much of this crap, maybe my brain won't be so foggy. That's the only chance I've got of getting out of here.

Blair raised his free hand and used the water on it to wash as much of the drink off his chest as he could. Luckily, the fruity drink and medicine were very light in color, so it didn't take much to clean himself off.

By the time the kidnapper returned, Blair was exhausted. He couldn't stop washing himself, afraid that the other man would find out what happened and give him more of the drugs. Blair had almost whipped himself up into a panic attack at the thought, and probably would have if he hadn't been so sedated.

"Very good." The glass was removed from his hand. Blair was glad of that, because the slight weight had become more than his exhausted body could hold any more. "Very nice." The husky voice was almost growled, making it hard to place.

Blair cringed when the man took off his shirt, soaped up a buff pad, and began to wash him off. However, in order to preserve the fiction that he was still drugged, Blair forced himself not to react, even when the soapy sponge slipped between his legs.

As the hand began to become more adventuresome, Blair’s mind clicked and he remembered the earlier assault in the bed. Blair gritted his teeth and, for a moment, almost wished he were drugged again. At least when he was out of it, he didn’t know when he was being groped.

The drugs began to take affect and Blair’s prayers were answered as his mind slipped away. Even a partial dose was enough to put him under after this long.

-_-_-

Jim stood under the spray, his hands braced against the shower wall, and tried to blank his mind. Another day had passed with no sign of his lover, and the Sentinel was beginning to lose hope. Not that he'd ever completely give up, not until he had a body to show that Blair was dead. Until that moment, the detective would search for his Guide. But it was still very hard not to give in to the creeping depression.

Ellison slid to his knees and began to cry. He felt himself slipping away, about to go into a zone. It was tempting, very tempting, to just let himself go. He knew that eventually Blair would be with him if he slipped into that cool, blue jungle. Jim realized what he was thinking and pulled himself back ruthlessly.

'That's not the way to handle it, Ellison,' he told himself sternly. ‘Blair wouldn’t want you to give up, even if you never do find him.’

Although Jim told himself that, and he knew perfectly well that it was true, in his heart the Sentinel knew he wouldn’t, couldn’t, live without his beloved Guide. His heart wouldn’t let him.

The panther leaned against the shower curtain, its head hung between his massive shoulders in a very defeated pose. The spirit guide could feel the Sentinel’s pain over his missing mate. The large animal missed its own mate, the smaller one’s spirit guide.

Outside of the bathroom door, a much smaller animal lay, with its nose pushed against the bottom crack of the door. The spirit guide’s body was limp and weak. It lifted a paw and tried to scratch at the wooden panel, but couldn’t gather enough energy. The gray wolf whimpered slightly, but wasn’t heard by the ones it needed, just on the other side of the barrier.

-_-_-

He leaned forward and ran the soapy cloth across Blair’s shoulders. Shifting over a little, he lifted one limp arm and began to lovingly wash it as well.

The soapy washcloth was laid back in the pan of water and a clean one was lifted out of its own basin. After the excess water was wrung out, he rinsed off the areas he had just cleaned and then carefully dried Blair off.

“Can’t have you getting a chill,” the man said with an indulgent smile.

If his angel hadn’t been asleep, he might have smiled back. But since he was still resting, the other man was careful not to wake him.

He pulled the large bathing towel down a little more, just to Blair’s hip bones and repeated his efforts on Blair’s chest and tummy. Special care was given to the area around the nipple ring, because he knew that the last time they’d made love, he’d gotten a little enthusiastic and tugged on it too hard.

When Blair was all dry again, he covered him back up, because everyone knew how much his love was affected by the cold.

Baring another section of Blair’s body, he continued to lovingly care for the younger man. He couldn’t wait until Blair wasn’t feeling so tired all the time, and they could be together.

Together. Always.

-_-_-

The room was a cozy, all-male, haven. The walls were paneled and the floor was covered with a carpet done up in warm browns and rust colors. The roll top desk appeared to be a genuine antique. Its wood finish glowed in a rich patina. If it had been anywhere else, Blair would have appreciated the aesthetics better, but since it was his kidnapper’s office/den, he just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm.

Blair was sitting in a chair beside his kidnapper while the man typed on his computer. Even though he appeared to be out of it, Blair was actually very alert, although still weak. The anthropologist had perfected his spill and wipe method of drinking. Almost every time that he was supposed to get his medicine, Blair had found a way to dispose of at least part of it. To be certain, there were still times that he had to take the full dose; his kidnapper wasn't considerate enough to leave the room every time he was given the drugs. There were several antique vases and plants that had been on the receiving end of Blair's medication. The anthropologist had managed to keep his alertness hidden from his abductor by staying limp and pliable, and most importantly, not looking directly at the man.

The latter had been the most difficult to do, because the temptation of figuring out who had him was almost unbearable. The kidnapper still didn't talk to him very much, and even when he did, it wasn't a great deal of help. Blair vaguely recognized the other man's voice, but it must have either been someone that he didn't know very well, or he was from far enough in the past for the anthropologist to have forgotten all about him. The couple of half-glimpses that he had seen, looking via reflective surfaces, hadn't been a lot of help either. The man just didn't spark a memory in Blair's brain.

There had been several times when Blair’s acting abilities had been strained to the limit, but through a combination of meditation and sheer willpower, he had prevailed. He didn't have a choice. The kidnapper had been getting bolder and bolder in his attempts at enticement. The other man had done everything but penetrate Blair, but the younger man knew it was just a matter of time before that line was crossed.

So far, the kidnapper had managed to stop himself, just in time, and would mutter something about it being too soon. If he knew that Blair was more aware, he might decide the time was right and Blair wanted to avoid that at all costs. The idea of having sex with someone other than Jim was abhorrent to the former observer.

Click, click, click.

The sound of the computer keys clacking seemed unnaturally loud in the quiet room. After so long without hearing much more than an occasional murmured word from his attacker or the occasional muted barking of the man's dog, Blair was overly sensitive to any sound at all.

'I guess this is what it's like for Jim all the time,' Blair mused.

The older man was hunched over, peering intently at the computer screen. In Blair’s opinion, the guy needed new glasses if he had to get that close to the monitor. Not that he really cared. In fact, Blair sincerely hoped the creep went blind.

Out of the corner of his eye, Blair saw the man push his computer chair back. There was a slight noise when the tall man moved the chair back. The wheels made a faint creaking sound as they rolled across the hardwood floor.

The artist made a groaning noise and arched his back. His stretching was rewarded with a cracking noise and he sighed in relief. Taking a chance, Blair turned his head slightly and glanced over. The kidnapper had his arms out to the side, stretching after his long stint at the desk. Blinking a couple of times and squinting, Blair managed to bring his eyes into focus.

There's paint on the back of his hand, Blair thought to himself. And under his fingernails too.

That was decidedly puzzling. Blair didn't remember any painters, especially ones that would want to kidnap him. The hell with it, Blair decided.

“I’m going to get a drink, pet. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

His head shaking with the weakness he was feeling from being drugged so long, and his heart pounding with the fear of discovery, Blair looked up, just in time to see the man's back as he walked out the door. Blair slumped in defeat. It had taken him so long to work up the courage to take the risk and he hadn't learned anything.

Through the door, that the kidnapper had left slightly ajar, Blair heard the dog again lodging a complaint via its barking. The man's voice could be heard, soothing the animal and then, a very faint noise, which Blair realized was a door closing.

He's gone out, Blair realized with a thrill. This may be my only opportunity to do something. I've got to take a chance.

-_-_-

"What is this?" Megan asked, as she held up a pair of tweezers. Pinched carefully between the tongs was a single, bluish-gray, curly hair.

Henri and Rafe crowded around, eager to see the evidence. Rafe pulled a clear plastic, evidence bag from his pocket and held it open while the Aussie woman placed the follicle in it.

"It's a hair, but certainly a different one," H commented with a frown. "Blue hair?" his voice was filled with questions.

"From a punk rocker?" Rafe posited as he squinted at the hair.

"Nah, a punker would have bright blue hair, not this muted color. This looks like something a little old lady would color her hair. Where'd you find it?" Brown asked Megan.

The red haired woman pointed at the notebook that was lying on the table. It was part of the packet that Daniel Léon’s kidnappers had received their instructions in. "It was curled around one of the sections of metal spiraling. It blended right in."

"That explains how it's been missed before now." Rafe had pulled a magnifying glass out of his pocket and was looking closer at the new piece of evidence. "We should get this down to Forensics," he commented.

"No, we better show it to Ellison first," Henri amended.

"Agreed," Megan stated. "Otherwise, Jim will have a fit. He's really been on edge all day."

The three detectives nodded. It was better that an official team wait to look at the hair than making Ellison wait. Besides, they all knew that Jim was more likely to find something than a whole roomful of experts ever could.

-_-_-

“Ellison,” Jim barked into the phone.

He’d been in an increasingly bad mood all day. Today was the 30th day since Blair had disappeared and time was running out. Simon could only justify keeping detectives on the case if they found some leads, any kind of leads. So far, there had been nothing. As it was, most of Blair's friends and co-workers were searching on their own time. Jim knew that the clock was ticking on how soon Blair's missing person's file would be delegated to the inactive pile.

“Hey, JimCop.”

“Hello, SB.” Jim leaned forward and put his head in his free hand. The young man on the phone was an informant that Jim had used several times in the past. Skin and Bones, the other man’s nickname, was jittery, but reliable. “What can I do for you?”

“Actually, it’s something I can do for you.” Ellison frowned when SB hesitated.

“Yeah?” he encouraged.

“I’ve heard some people talking—about Blair."

Jim sat bolt upright. Fear and hope warred in his brain, making his heart pound out a loud rhythm. "And?" He tried not to sound too anxious, afraid that the skittish man would be frightened off.

"And—damn!" The hesitation and curse had Ellison's stomach clenching up.

"What is it?"

Ellison saw Megan hurrying over, Rafe was only a few steps behind her. They had either noticed Jim's reaction to the phone call or had important news of their own.

"Somebody just came in," SB whispered. "I can't stay on the phone. Can we meet somewhere?"

"Yes," Ellison's said tensely. "Where and when?"

"Uh, how about Madry Park, in—say an hour."

"Fine, I'll meet you then." Jim would have agreed to meet him in a row boat in the middle of Puget Sound if that would have helped him find Blair. He was going to have to leave pretty soon anyway, if he were to make the meeting on time. Madry Park was just outside a very ritzy residential area on the far side of Cascade.

Jim hung up the phone and turned to tell his, hopefully, good news and ask Rafe and Megan about their respective information. However, before he could say anything, something dark and black caught his eye.

Ellison looked over and into the blue eyes that so resembled his own. It was the black panther, his spirit guide. The animal was pacing back and forth in front of Brown's desk. If the follically challenged detective had seen that, he'd probably have had a heart attack on the spot. Of course, only Jim saw his spirit guide. The agitated movements of the animal worried Jim. What if something was happening to Blair right now.

"What's up, Jim?" Henri asked seriously, as he hurried up behind the other pair. That made Ellison pause before he answered. H was normally so happy and cracking jokes that it was sobering to see him so serious and uptight.

"I just got a call from an informant. He wants to meet and tell me about something he's heard about Blair."

"That's great." Brian smiled enthusiastically and Jim managed to join him. This was, after all, the first hint they'd had in a long time. "We found something too. Well, actually Megan found it."

The Sentinel looked quickly over at the Australian woman, who shrugged in a self-depreciating way. "I found this." She held up a plastic bag.

Jim took the bag and narrowed his sight in on the single object inside. "It's a dog hair," he stated immediately.

Rafe gasped and H snapped his fingers.

"That's it!" Megan exclaimed. "It isn't a person's hair at all."

Across the room, the large cat stopped its pacing and stared Jim in the eyes. The animal snarled, but its enormous tail began to swish back and forth happily.

I think we're finally on to something, Jim thought hopefully.

-_-_-

Blair was all a quiver. He knew this might be his only chance, but did he dare risk it? What if the kidnapper came back and caught him?

As Blair was watching the partially open door, a dog sauntered through and Blair flinched, waiting for the other man to follow. No, Blair decided upon closer inspection. It isn't a dog. It's a wolf. That's my spirit guide, Blair decided excitedly.

The small, gray animal turned its back on Blair and stared directly at the door. Blair realized that his guide was going to keep watch for him. A Guide's guide, he thought semi-hysterically.

"Okay, you keep an eye out for me, puppy," he whispered. Blair's voice was gravelly from disuse. The wolf looked over its shoulder briefly, at the use of the silly nickname, and then turned back to its post.

Blair was just gathering the strength to make his move, when he saw another animal come into the room. This time it really was a dog.

He squinted and focused on the animal. ‘That must be the dog I’ve heard barking,’ he realized.

Blair also realized that the appearance of the pet meant that its master wouldn’t be far behind. He was vacillating back and forth, trying to decide whether to risk it or not, when the small, rather unusual looking dog, barked at the wolf. His spirit guide growled slightly and the dog ran out. Somehow, Blair knew that the canine was going to lead Sherman away.

Reaching out a shaky hand, Blair clicked on the icon that would bring up the e-mail program. As fast as he could, Blair typed Jim's address at the station.

The wolf stood up and started to pace in front of the door. Realizing that time was running out, Blair typed in a few letters and numbers. He hit send, just as the spirit guide began to growl. Clicking out of the program, Blair slumped back in his chair, exhausted.

The kidnapper walked back through the door, and through the spirit guide, who didn't appreciate that one bit.

"What's the matter?"

He squatted down beside the panting Blair and placed a worried hand on his forehead. The younger man thought of one major flaw in his plan and quickly made a revision.

Allowing his body to slump, as if he were passing out, Blair managed to slide off onto the floor, despite his kidnapper's quick attempt at catching him. As he lay, supposedly unconscious on the floor, Blair twitched out one leg and mashed down on the off button on the computer's surge protector. Blair was rewarded with hearing the computer shutting down as its power was cut.

With the power gone, anything not deliberately saved would be lost, including, if he was lucky, any reference to the furtive e-mail that had been sent. Truly exhausted now, Blair actually passed out. His last thought was, I hope Jim gets my message.

-_-_-

Ellison was about to walk out of the bullpen when the panther got directly in his path and growled. Jim was startled. His spirit guide had never threatened him before. The animal walked closer to the Sentinel and butted its head against Jim's stomach. The Sentinel actually felt something when the massive head pushed him back. Getting the message, Jim walked back to his desk and looked around.

'I must be missing something important,' he decided. 'But what?' His mind was still distracted by the dog hair they'd found. It seemed vaguely familiar to him.

Jim saw the icon on his computer, indicating that he had new e-mail messages and decided to check on that first. As he waited for the mail to come up, the Sentinel saw that the panther had sat down and seemed calmer.

'I guess I'm doing something right,' he mused.

The detective's loud gasp brought Simon running out of his office. "Jim? Jim! What is it?"

"Blair." Jim pointed to the computer screen frantically. "I just got an e-mail from Blair."

"What?!" Simon bellowed. That caught the attention of everybody else in the room. He peered at the screen. "How can you be sure that's from Sandburg?"

The captain looked at the e-mail:

To: jmsmail@cmcpd.org
From: pntrscrnr@air.com
Re: Help!

Message: 555-1014-911

Simon recognized Ellison's phone number and the universal, at least in America, that is, signal for help, 9-1-1. He was about to question Jim, when the detective started talking.

"That was the exact same message Blair sent to me when David Lash was breaking into the loft. I know it's him!"

"Thank heavens," one of their fellow detectives said in a breathless prayer.

Ellison nodded.

"Get Paulson tracing that address. It might give us an idea of where to start looking," Banks ordered. Steve Paulson was an officer in the Forensics department. They had discovered that he was a computer expert and so the officer worked in a lab, with three other experts. The young man did a lot of their tough computer searches, hacked into files when needed to, and rooted around in broken computer hard drives, looking for lost information. If anyone could find out where Blair’s e-mail had come from, it was Steve Paulson.

Jim flicked a look at the clock on the bottom corner of the computer screen. "Damn." He looked back and forth, between the time and the long awaited message.

"What is it, Jim?" Simon was tense. He knew that receiving the message from Blair was wonderful, but it really didn't get them any closer to the Guide. Not yet anyway.

"I've got to go. I'm meeting Skin and Bones soon. I'll probably be late as it is." Jim pounded the desk in frustration with a tightly closed fist.

"Come on," Simon grabbed hold of his friend's arm. "I'll go with you. We'll hit the sirens."

The two anxious men raced out of the bullpen. The elevator was crowded, what with the panther going along for the ride, but since Simon wasn't even aware of its presence, he wasn't bothered at all.

-_-_-

Simon hung on for dear life as Ellison raced down the streets. He didn't say anything when they plunged down a very narrow alley at 50 mph, or even when they went around a corner on two wheels. The captain almost spoke up when Jim sped through the yellow-turning-red light and narrowly missed the semi that had already started through, but he didn't. It probably wasn’t safe to distract the detective any more than he already was.

Brrrrng.

Banks let go of the panic strap long enough to pull his cell phone out of his inside jacket pocket. "Banks." He closed his eyes as they skimmed by a telephone pole, missing the large object by a good 13-14 inches. "Uh huh," the captain talked to the person on the other end. "Okay, I understand. Keep looking. Thanks."

He snapped the phone shut and replaced it in his pocket. "That was Paulson. So far he hasn't had much luck tracing the e-mail address. Apparently the mail account is being routed through several servers. It has been bounced all over the world. Paulson hasn't given up though. He says that it'll just take longer to find out where the e-mail originated from."

"Okay," Jim said tensely. "I'm sure he can do it. Paulson is the best we've got, after all."

"Right," Simon said encouragingly. "I wish I had one-tenth the computer savvy that these young kids today have."

"Yeah, me too."

Simon stopped talking, not wanting to divert the Sentinel while he was careening down the road. Ellison's driving skills left a lot to be desired in the best of circumstances.

"Jim!" He finally yelped when they started into the park.

Ellison heard the protest and reluctantly slowed down at the park entrance, because he didn't want to endanger any of the children. He pulled into a parking slot and jumped out of the blue and white truck, already looking for the person he was supposed to meet.

Simon stood on shaky legs and held onto the truck's doorframe for a few moments to get his equilibrium back. 'I'm never, ever riding with a frantic Ellison again,' he decided. 'Or Connor either, for that matter,' he resolved.

-_-_-

Jim hurried across the park. 'Damn! I'm late.'

It was hard enough to get SB to meet in a public place, let alone expect him to stick around past the deadline. Smells, from the newly mown grass, to the picnic a noisy family was having at one of the public tables, assaulted his sensitive nose. Ever since he had proof, actual proof that Blair was alive, Ellison's senses had begun to act up. The dial for smell was already up to a seven and inching ever upward. Sight and sound weren't very far behind.

"JimCop!" The younger man's raised voice cut across Jim's hearing like a dog whistle, making his head pound at the assault.

"SB. I was afraid we'd missed you," Jim admitted in relief.

"No way, I know how much the little guy means to you."

SB could legitimately call Blair little, because his 6'6" frame surpassed even Simon's large stature, let alone Blair's much smaller 5'7", if the anthropologist stretched. However, what the informant had in height was severely lacking in the weight department. Skin and Bones might weigh 190lbs, if he were soaking wet--and wearing a coat. That might sound like a lot, but when it was stretched out over his very long body, it didn’t amount to much in the long run. This, along with his long, straight black hair and extremely pale skin gave the young man the appearance of an emaciated vampire.

"Uh," SB looked behind Jim and took a couple of nervous steps back.

The informant wasn’t a drug addict, like most people would assume because of his extreme thinness, but he didn’t get much to eat a lot of the time, because he was usually homeless. Living rough, on the streets, didn’t offer much in the way of decent living, and it certainly made him wary of cops.

Jim didn’t know why SB was homeless. The guy seemed intelligent enough, so hopefully he could get a job if he wanted to. So, Jim assumed it was some tragedy, or something to that effect, that had brought him to this state.

"Don't worry." Jim held up a placating hand. "This is my boss and friend, Simon Banks."

The informant smiled, his brilliant white teeth shone in the afternoon light. Even living on the streets, SB was always dressed in fairly decent clothes and had the most beautiful, well kept teeth Jim had ever seen.

"Oh yeah, I remember you and yours mentioning him before. Hey." SB waved at the large captain.

"Hello." Simon nodded seriously.

"Well, anyway," he turned to Ellison and continued. "I heard from some people that there's a rumor, keep in mind it's a rumor, okay." At Jim's nod, he went on. "The rumor says that some artist guy is the one that snatched Dr. Sandburg. I don't know who or where he's got him stashed, but talk is that this guy has grabbed young men before."

"An artist?" Jim questioned. His brow furrowed as he considered that information.

"Yeah, I—" SB glanced around nervously. "I've gotta go now. Good luck!" He hurried away and slipped in among a group of people watching their children play. SB blended in with the crowd and was gone from sight in seconds, not an easy maneuver for someone so tall and distinctive looking.

"Are there any artists that you two have put away?"

Jim had a thoughtful look on his face. The pieces of the puzzle were finally fitting together. He just needed a minute to think.

Simon's phone rang, interrupting his thoughts. "Banks," he said into the opened phone. The captain listened for a moment, his face brightening with each passing second. "That's great news and excellent work. Thanks." He snapped the phone shut. "Blair's e-mail came from right here--in Cascade!"

This pronouncement didn't thrill Ellison like he thought it would. "Eric Sherman," Jim said, with a stunned look on his face.

"Who?"

"Eric Sherman,” Ellison ground out. “That's the artist who did the paintings and took the pictures of the people that Ainzawa Fujiaki and Emile Raymaunt targeted.”

“He’s the one that painted the portrait of Blair, isn’t he?” Simon asked thoughtfully.

“Yes.”

Jim closed his eyes as a memory surged forward. He remembered going to Sherman’s studio with Brown. They went to ask about the artwork they’d found at the victims’ houses.

“He has a dog,” Jim remembered. “It was an unusual looking animal, with bluish gray, really curly hair.”

“Just like the hair Connor found with the evidence,” Simon stated excitedly. “That gives us probable cause.”

He whipped his cell phone out again and called up a judge he knew. Banks lucked out and the judiciary was taking a break in his chambers. The man listened patiently to the evidence that Simon laid out.

“Thank you, sir.” Simon turned to Ellison, who still had his eyes closed, and appeared to be in a lot of pain. “We’ve got our search warrant,” he said quietly.

“Good.” Jim took a deep breath and held on. They were almost there.

We’re coming, Chief, he thought to himself. Just wait for me a little while longer.

-_-_-

Blair twitched a little when his kidnapper laid him down on the bed. Blair was no longer faking his collapse. After the effort it took to type his message to Jim, and then fake collapse on the floor, and then unplug the computer—well, suffice it to say that Blair really had collapsed then.

The anthropologist came to and opened his eyes. Blair gasped and jerked back in surprise, because the kidnapper was hovering over him. Blair's eyes widened in surprise, both at the proximity of the other man, and his identity.

Eric Sherman first saw Blair when the younger man was barely into his 2nd year at Rainer University. He had approached the young student and offered him a job as a model. Blair had been hesitant, but Sherman had caught him between semesters and he had been very low on money. Too many students needing summer jobs had left Blair with slim pickings. He'd only managed a few temporary jobs, before even that market dried up. So, Blair reluctantly agreed.

Things had been alright, at first, but as the painting had progressed, Sherman had begun to make passes. Blair had politely, but firmly, refused the older man's unwanted attentions. Being resolute hadn't done anything but spur the artist on, so after the one portrait was finished, Blair stopped coming around. He refused to take Sherman's calls, eventually going as far as to leave town for a few weeks, in order to get away from him.

Eric narrowed his eyes and looked Blair over carefully. A nasty leer replaced the concerned look on his handsome face, leaving Blair with a knot of anxiety in his stomach.

Blair was amazed at what a decade or more had done to the artist. Of course, Eric had gone from someone in their early 40's to a man well into his mid-50's, but still the change was remarkable. Gone was the wavy brown hair. In its place was an odd brownish-blond color, like someone had messed up coloring his hair, and there were several silver streaks that zig zagged through his hair. Those, added to the deep frown lines on his face, made Sherman look like he was at least a decade older than his real age.

The only thing that was recognizable about the man that Blair used to know was his intense green eyes. Those eyes could bore into a person, as if he were trying to see into your soul. Blair had to admit to himself that the promise in those emerald orbs had been severely tempting. However, the intensity that had oftentimes poured off the older man in waves had frightened the very young Blair, so he’d run.

“You’ve been playing possum, haven’t you?” His voice was even different, rougher, like he’d damaged his vocal cords at some point. “Hmmm, I’m glad to know that.” He ran a possessive hand down the side of Blair’s face.

The predatory look was back with a vengeance, and suddenly, Blair could see the old Eric after all.

-_-_-

The Sentinel's senses began to spiral out of control. With or without Jim’s approval, the Sentinel part of his psyche was searching for its Guide. He ignored Simon, who was talking on his phone again, and any other extraneous information the world around him was trying to send to his brain. Jim concentrated solely on finding Blair.

“-im!” Simon’s voice finally penetrated his brain and Jim turned to his friend in exacerbation. Seeing the concerned look on the captain’s face though, he tried to temper his reaction.

“What is it, Simon?”

“Damn. I thought you’d zoned for a minute there,” Banks admitted. He ran a shaky hand over his head and pushed up his glasses nervously.

“No, I wasn’t zoning, I was just concentrating.”

“Alright, fine. The judge decided we have enough for probable cause. Taggart has already picked up the warrant and is on his way over here. We can go in as soon as he arrives.”

“Let’s go then.”

Ellison started to jump into his truck when a restraining hand on his arm stopped him. Jim frowned at his friend, wanting to snap his head off at the unnecessary delay.

Banks saw the look on his face and immediately let go of the Sentinel’s arm, backing away and holding up his hands in a non-threatening way. “We don’t need to go anywhere,” Simon said, and the way he said it gave Jim the impression that it wasn’t the first time the other man had uttered those words, trying to get his attention.

Looking around, Jim saw a street sign just down the block. Using his enhanced sentinel sight, Ellison read the sign.

Kingston St.

That was where Eric Sherman’s studio and home were located. And sure enough, there was the older artist’s building. Jim wondered if SB had known where he was leading the Sentinel when he suggested they meet at this park.

Ellison breathed for his Guide, but didn’t smell his unique scent anywhere nearby. Next, he tasted the air, but even piggybacking that sense with the other one didn't give him any sign of his lover.

Then, slowly, one small click of his sensory dials at a time, he raised the volume on his hearing.

-_-_-

Eric smiled down at him, his eyes spitting pieces of jade. "And how long have you been teasing me, little one?" Sherman purred.

Blair didn't bother to answer, and the other man didn't seem to expect one. His callous tipped, paint spotted hands began to trace rough lines on Blair's chest. The anthropologist tried to push Sherman away, but the older man was much bigger, and infinitely stronger right now, so Blair was destined to failure.

"S-stop," Blair said, as he pushed at the artist's chest.

"Oh, I don't think so. I've been hot for you for years now." Sherman lay down on top of Blair, his face just inches from his victim's. "I've been so considerate of you these last several weeks. I didn't want to scare you, and I, hopefully, wanted to entice you into my bed. Well," he ground his hips against Blair's crotch, "not any more."

The man who had carefully taken care of Blair all these weeks was gone. So was the quiet man who bathed his lover in the late evening hours. All that was left was the wild person who wanted the body that he felt was his due.

The anthropologist flinched at the unwanted touch. "Entice me?!” he said incredulously. "You've got to be kidding me, man. You whacked me over the head, kidnapped me, and have held me hostage for--I don't know how long, and you thought I'd willingly tumble into your bed. No way!"

Blair cried out when Eric twisted his hips again. The other man's hip bone, which was right over Blair's groin, digging into the younger man's penis. Tears sprang to Blair's eyes at the rough treatment.

Eric grinned malevolently at the signs of pain. He propped himself up on one elbow and determinedly made the same maneuver. Blair cried out again and Sherman smiled in triumph.

"Perhaps I was a little optimistic. But, no matter, I'll get a reaction out of you, one way or another."

He shifted over to one side and slid a questing hand in between Blair's legs. Eric grabbed hold of Blair's already pain filled crotch and squeezed hard. Blair screamed and tried to arch away. That only made the painter dig his fingers in harder.

"Yes," he hissed. "Even if you won't get hard for me, you will scream."

-_-_-

Everyone heard Blair's scream.

They'd knocked at the studio doors, and when they hadn't gotten an answer, several of the detectives broke the door down. Guns out, they had spread out, looking for their missing man.

Jim had immediately extended his sense of hearing, searching for what he had been seeking for a month. Megan and Simon stood beside him, bracketing him with their bodies, and shielding him from prying eyes. They were both praying that their presence would be enough to keep Ellison from a zone out.

It only took a few seconds before Ellison cried out in triumph. "They're below us," he declared.

A few officers stayed on the main floor, mostly to keep anyone from escaping that way. None of them doubted Jim's statement, although there was no indication of there even being a downstairs. But, they all knew Ellison. He tended to work miracles, seeing and hearing things that no one else could possibly imagine. No one had any doubts that he would find the kidnapped man.

"Here it is," Joel said. He found the entrance to the underground apartment by chance. The door had been made to look like the rest of the wall, complete with shelves and faux painting supplies.

Immediately inside the rooms, Ellison had snarled and started running to the far end of the corridor. Seconds later, they heard Blair begin to scream.

As they raced down the narrow hallway, Jim heard a dog barking in response to all of the intruders in its home. Ellison glanced over and saw the curly haired dog with the unusual bluish-gray hair.

“Thanks,” he said quietly. After all, the pet had inadvertently given them a clue that was leading to finding Blair.

The small dog stopped barking the moment it heard Jim’s voice and sat down to watch the group of people race by.

-_-_-

The bedroom door flew open and there stood Jim, with the most ferocious look on his face that Blair had ever seen.

"Get the hell off him, Sherman!" Ellison yelled. He strode forward and grabbed the painter by the back of his shirt and yanked him off of Blair's prone figure. The older man was tossed aside. He rolled across the carpet, until he was stopped by the dresser.

"Missed your little friend, Ellison?" Sherman taunted. He scrambled to his feet. Blood was running in a vertical line down the side of his face where he'd impacted with the sharp corner of the dresser. In one hand was a knife. The blade had different colors of paint splattered on it and the edge was rather dull from being used on a rough surface. It was a palette knife. It wasn't much of a threat, as knives go, but it could cause some harm, so Ellison eyed it warily.

Jim placed himself between the kidnapper and Blair, who was lying in shock on the rumpled bed. "You are under arrest, you son of a bitch." Ellison practically spit at the artist.

He wanted to beat the crap out of him, but was afraid of leaving Blair unprotected. Naturally, with half of Major Crimes standing in the hallway, Blair wouldn't have been unprotected at all, but the Blessed Protector in Ellison wasn't in any position to acknowledge that right now.

"Blair and I have been very cozy this last month," Eric taunted. He didn't seem to notice how close he was to being killed. Or maybe he didn't care, since he knew that Blair was going to be taken away from him.

"How does it feel, detective, to know that while you've been chasing your tail, running all over the world looking for Blair—he's been right here the whole time. Right under your noses. While you were in Mexico, Blair was lying next to me, every night." He grinned wildly, his eyes were finally reflecting how out of control he was.

"Jim." Blair's soft cry was what saved Sherman. Blair didn't give a damn about Eric, but he didn't want Jim to kill him and chance that the Sentinel would be sent to prison.

Jim stepped back and sat down on the side of the bed. He slid an arm under Blair's shoulders and pulled the anthropologist tight to him. Both men sighed as their bodies naturally clung to one another.

Sherman snarled at the sight. He couldn't resist more taunting. "It's all your fault, you know."

Blair glared at the man he'd known all those years ago. "D-don't try to blame this on anybody but yourself."

Eric threw his head back and laughed. He swung around to the side, brandishing his weapon, when Simon and Brown tried to rush him.

"Oh, but it's true."

He grinned again and it was a gruesome smile. Sherman had bitten the inside of his mouth when Jim had tossed him. Some of the blood had gotten onto his teeth, giving them a macabre gleam.

“Yes, until you and him,” he swung the knife in an arc, indicating Jim and H, “showed up, talking about those pictures, I hadn’t planned a thing.” He laughed, it was a nasty sound. “After the two of you left, I looked over the list of portraits that those two psychos were so interested in, and there was Blair.”

Nobody moved as the madman spoke. They all waited to hear what he had to say. The need for an explanation of what they had all endured for the past month hung heavy in the air.

“I followed Ellison over to that museum. For being such a decorated detective, it was awfully easy to tail you.” Sherman began to pace as he laid out his tale. “I saw Blair and knew I had to have him again.”

“Blair was never yours,” Jim said in loathing. “You may have held him here, but it was against Blair’s will. That’s the only way you could ever have Blair.”

"He's mine!" The last was said with an insane gleam in his eyes. Raising his rather pathetic weapon high in the air, Sherman lunged at Jim, intent on taking out his competition.

Simon and Henri, the two closest of the officers, grabbed Sherman from behind. H knocked the knife out of his hand, even as Banks grabbed the man in a bear hold. Eric was down on the ground and the cuffs were on him in a matter of seconds.

Realizing that there wouldn't be any more information forthcoming, Jim ignored the yelling and spitting man, and turned instead to his lover.

"Blair," the Sentinel gripped his lover tight.

"I'm right here, Jim. I'm right here," Blair reassured him.

Over Jim's shoulder, Blair could see the panther circling the wolf, checking it out for any injuries, before sitting down in front of the smaller animal. The wolf tolerated the inspection and seemed content when the larger animal began to groom him, wiping away the stench of the offender.

Jim ran a hand over the back of Blair's head and down the length of his back. Blair knew that it might take longer to get rid of Sherman's scent.

While Sherman was being subdued, he glanced over in the direction of the two spirit guides and seemed surprised. “What are a wolf and a panther doing here?” he asked in a surprisingly normal tone of voice.

The detectives in the room shook their collective heads, thinking that his blithering was another sign of his insanity.

-_-_-

SB’s mouth dropped open in shock as he stared at the handful of money that Jim was handing him. Ellison tried not to smile as he pressed the money into the tall man’s slack hand.

It was three days after Blair was rescued before Jim felt secure enough to contact the informant. Megan and Rafe were standing guard over Blair, who was resting at the loft. Jim knew they would protect Blair, so he felt safe enough to leave him for a couple of hours.

The first two days of Blair’s freedom were spent in Cascade General. Blair hadn’t wanted to stay in the hospital, but the emergency room doctors had insisted he be kept for 48 hours worth of observation. They weren’t sure of what the after affects would be from long term exposure to the drugs Sherman had kept Blair on.

“Uh, you know,” SB paused and glanced down at the cash in his hand. “You don’t have to do this.” The super thin man tightened his fist around the money, wanting it, needing it, but feeling bad for taking it.

Jim clapped the young man on the back. “The information was well worth it,” he told SB. He gestured to the informant and had him lean closer. “I’d have given a helluva lot more than that to get Blair back,” he confided

“I don’t blame you.” SB blushed at how that sounded.

Ellison grinned happily. “Enjoy,” he said, as he sauntered off.

SB watched the retreating man and stuffed the $500 tip money into his secret pocket, which was hidden inside the waistband of his jeans. Leaving Madry Park, SB began to whistle.

-_-_-

Blair was mesmerized by the rippling water. Only this time, instead of being upset and confused, the blue evoked feelings of happiness and contentment. Of course, it did help that he wasn’t naked and being molested this time, but that was only one way that things were better now.

A tug on the end of his line brought Blair back to the here and now. He began to reel his line in, taking care not to jerk on it too quickly and risk losing their dinner.

"Have you got something there, Chief?" Jim asked from his position a few feet away.

Ellison was always just a few feet away nowadays. Since Blair's rescue from the man who held him hostage for several weeks, the Sentinel had stuck to his Guide's side like white on rice. Not that Blair was complaining or anything. He felt more than a little insecure himself, after being held captive for a month.

It wasn’t as bad as it sounded though. For the most part, Blair was unconscious or only partially aware of his surroundings. For the others though, it had been a never ending nightmare; especially Jim.

“Yeah, Big Guy. Looks like I’ve hooked us a good sized one this time.” Blair smiled over at his lover and Jim hurried over with the net.

“Woah. Look at the size of that one,” Ellison exclaimed as he held up the fish that easily weighed several pounds. “I think we’ve got enough for tonight.” Jim laughed. “I didn’t even need to fish at all, not with my Little Guppy.”

Blair laughed at the old nickname. Jim had called him that on the first fishing trip he and Simon and Jim had gone on. Unlike that ill fated vacation, this one had been going very smoothly, no sign of criminals at all.

This vacation was just for Jim and Blair though. It was the one that Blair had been planning before all this mess started. They had compromised and gone to Mexico. That way Jim got his sought after fishing trip and, in a few days time, they would go explore some of the ruins in the area, thereby satisfying Blair's anthropological urges.

The Guide followed behind his Sentinel as they climbed out of the water, his gaze drinking in the other man's big form. It was going to take a while to get used to being able to see and touch each other again, after so long apart.

The anthropologist had been amazed to hear of the wild goose chase that Sherman had managed to lead the detective's on. It was nice to know that so many people had been worried about him. Even the mayor had authorized special funds to let Jim and Megan go look for him. Quite frankly, Blair didn't think that many people cared about him. Naturally, he knew that Jim and all their friends in Major Crimes would have kept looking for him, but not everybody else.

When Blair had been taken out of the kidnapper's lair, he had been stunned to see literally dozens of cops surrounding the building. They had applauded when it was evident that Blair was relatively alright. The anthropologist still blushed when he thought of that scene.

Jim was still castigating himself over his inadvertent part in Blair’s kidnapping. Later on, at the station, Sherman had done more talking, until his lawyer could get him to shut up. Eric admitted that it was when Jim and Henri showed him the pictures of the cult victims that Blair was brought to his attention again. The artist had always been obsessed with Blair, but had lost track of him years before when Blair went on an expedition. Looking over the various portraits that Ainzawa Fujiaki and Emile Raymaunt had purchased had renewed his interest in Blair.

Sherman had followed Ellison around that evening and had seen Blair outside the museum, just after it blew up. Eric’s obsession had flared up again after seeing Blair and he had, in turn, begun following the anthropologist. Blair’s side trip to the mall had given the unstable artist the perfect opportunity to kidnap him.

According to Sherman, Blair was his and always had been. Losing contact all those years ago had been a mistake and Jim couldn't even be trusted to protect the younger man. Eric pointed to the exploding building as evidence.

Certainly, Blair hadn’t been the first person that he’d become obsessed with. Evidence had been found in the basement hideaway that showed several more young men had been held prisoner there. No one knew, as yet, what had become of them. It appeared that, as distressing as Blair's captivity had been, he'd gotten away lightly.

Years of practice had allowed Eric to perfect his skills. He know knew how to keep a person drugged until they were brainwashed enough to do anything that he wanted them to.

Blair still shuddered in disgust, wondering what he'd willingly done while under the influence of the drugs. If I'm really lucky, I'll never remember, he thought to himself.

-_-_-

Blair leaned against Jim’s side, while the ex-soldier cooked their supper. Freshly filleted fish and sliced potatoes were frying in the pan. For once, the health conscious Guide didn’t care about the grease being used.

Jim slid an arm around Blair’s waist and tugged him closer. Blair just couldn’t be close enough nowadays, as far as Ellison was concerned. Even through the warm jacket, Jim could feel how prominent Blair’s ribs were. While he’d been a prisoner of Sherman’s, the anthropologist had lost 25 lbs.

It wasn’t that Eric had been starving Blair. The younger man had been so drugged that he had been too out of it to even eat. Blair had been subsisting on just enough food and drink to keep him alive, but not much more.

Blair joked that he’d needed to lose some weight anyway, but they both knew that the majority of those pounds were ones that Blair could ill afford to lose.

Dinner dishes washed and put away, and leftovers safely stowed in their cooler, where it hopefully wouldn't attract any roving animals, Jim pulled Blair into their nightly cuddle. Just as Blair predicted, Jim was still trying to banish Sherman's odor.

Blair tried not to think of his kidnapper as Jim laid him down on their sleeping bags, it wasn't easy though. Any time they started to get intimate, a flash of Eric touching him would flit across Blair's mind. It usually only lasted a moment though, before Blair was able to banish him.

Sherman, to the surprise of no one, had been declared unfit for a trial. There had been a brief meeting with Judge Carmichael, where Eric had been remanded over to the Conover Mental Facility For The Criminally Insane. Considering how much he was still ranting and raving about how Blair was his, not anybody else's, it was doubtful that he'd ever go to trial.

Jim ran his hands through Blair's hair, committing each strand to memory, and forever banishing the memory of Sherman doing the same. Blair arched his back appreciatively as Ellison slowly peeled the clothes from his body. There wasn't any place on his Guide's body that hadn't been touched, scented, licked and scrutinized.

The small cut on Blair's right temple was examined every day and mourned over. That was where Blair had been injured when Sherman grabbed him in the mall parking lot. He'd come up behind the anthropologist and slammed his head against the door frame. Eric had used some of that blood, mixed with a bag of chicken blood, to write his cryptic message on the windshield of Blair's car. No one knew why he'd been carting around chicken blood and Blair, quite frankly, was kind of glad about that.

The more primal part of the Sentinel nuzzled the side of Blair's neck. Blair found out that there was a primal part of his Guide's brain as well, because he really liked the reclamation process that Jim repeated every night and sometimes several times during the day.

"Mine." Jim staked his claim.

"Yes, yours," Blair agreed, sliding his hands down Jim's back to gently, but firmly, cup his butt. "Mine," Blair counter claimed.

"Ye-es," Jim hissed out his agreement.

In a ritual as old as time, Jim and Blair, lover and lover, Sentinel and Guide, became one.

The End.

Back to Index

Acknowledgements: Thanks to my beta, Bobbie Turnbeaugh, for all her hard work. Thanks again to my daughter, Caitlin, for helping me with names and her research on dog breeds. Thanks to my mother, Vivian, for the help with the clues. And thanks to Nate for suggesting Scotland.

Notes: The phone number that Blair uses is really the loft's phone number. I watched my Season 1 DVD of Cypher to see for certain.

Pista Falsa is Spanish for red herring.

Thanks to Tony Lawrence for the poodle saying. You’ll know it when you see it.

William, Chase and the Shibari Club have been generously loaned to me by Scribe for the duration of this story. They can be seen and read in Scribe’s Learning, Leather and Love series. Thanks Scribe.

Trichloroethane. This drug is real, as are the dangers. I read about it online at the “Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia” website.