Letting the Chips Fall Where They May - Mostcrazylady
Blair paced nervously in the small antechamber adjacent to the room used by the University for press conferences. Through the closed door he could hear the members of the media gathering and he fought off the beginnings of an anxiety attack.
Could he do this? Dumb question with only one answer. Yes he could. He could and would do anything to keep Jim safe. He took several slow deep breaths to calm himself as he reviewed what he needed to say. He had to be calm and he had to be convincing. He had to make them believe the story he was about to tell. He had to make everyone believe it was the gospel truth even if he, himself ended up looking foolish. Just as long as they believed what he said about Jim Ellison, he didn’t care what they thought about Blair Sandburg.
He knew that his mother Naomi, Sid Graham from Berkshire Publishing, and Chancellor Edwards would have front row seats and would be waiting in happy anticipation to hear his words. He also knew that none of them would be too thrilled when he was finished. Well that’s okay. He wasn’t too thrilled with any of them either for the parts they’d played in this whole mess.
Chancellor Edwards, looking smugly pleased with herself, stuck her head in the door to inform him that they were ready for him. Blair took one last deep breath to center himself and whispered, “Showtime.”
Downtown at the Cascade Police Department, Rafe poked his head into the Major Crimes bullpen.
“Hey, guys. Sandburg’s on TV. He’s giving some kind of press conference.”
Jim groaned and shook his head in disgust as he wondered what the hell Sandburg was up to now. Hadn’t he already made things bad enough? He reluctantly joined the others gathered around the television set.
Blair gave a quick glance to his audience as he calmly walked to the podium. Yep, there was Mom, Sid, and Edwards seated in the front row looking like three fat cats that had swallowed canaries. “Hope you’ve got your antacids handy, ‘cause here comes indigestion,” Blair thought spitefully. He cleared his throat and turned his attention to the other occupants of the room.
“Thank you for coming. I asked you here today so that I could give you the full information on my story ‘The Sentinel’.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Blair caught a glimpse of his smiling mother as she excitedly leaned toward Sid and clutched his arm. Sid grinned back at her and patted her hand. Beside them, the Chancellor looked self-satisfied and smug, on behalf of Rainier of course. Blair silently dubbed them The Three Stooges and wondered how much longer they’d be smiling.
“I first learned about Sentinels when I read a monograph by Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor. This monograph was written over a hundred years ago and stated that in all tribal cultures every village had what Burton named a Sentinel. This was someone who patrolled the border and was considered the guardian of the tribe. You see, this Sentinel would watch for approaching enemies, changes in the weather, and the movement of game. The tribe’s survival depended on him.
“A Sentinel was chosen because he had a sensory awareness that was developed beyond that of other humans and honed by solitary time spent in the wild. At first Burton’s monograph was disputed and now it’s basically forgotten. I mean, there are certain manifestations today of maybe one or two hyperactive senses like taste and smell, people who work for coffee and perfume companies.
“I was so intrigued with the idea of a modern-day Sentinel that finding one became my obsession. And believe me I searched. I found hundreds of documented cases of people with one or two hyperactive senses but not one single subject with all five. You think I would have gotten a clue, but by then I was so obsessed with my pursuit that I couldn’t let go of it.
“Part of my obligation to the university is to publish articles periodically. I thought it might be interesting to see how evidence gathered at a crime scene can lead to the capture of a perpetrator and affect the outcome of the trial. So I decided to research that and Captain Simon Banks of the Major Crimes Division of the Cascade Police Department graciously allowed me to ride along with and observe Detective James Ellison.”
Blair was relieved to see that the puzzled looks at his apparent change of subject had quickly disappeared when he mentioned Jim’s name. Oh yeah, he still had their full attention. Wait until they realized that he wasn’t heading where they thought he was.
“During the time I spent riding with Detective Ellison, I got to know the men and women of the police force, men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect the rest of us. I can only admire and respect these people. And I came to greatly admire Detective Ellison, a man of integrity and honor. A man whose only desire is to get the criminals off the street and protect the innocent. A man who is in my opinion the embodiment of the police department’s motto ‘To Serve and Protect’. A man who I was proud to call my friend.
“Watching Detective Ellison work the crime scenes, I began to speculate about what it would be like if a detective had hyperactive senses. My God, people. Think about it. He’d be a human crime lab with organic surveillance equipment. What more could you want?
“Meanwhile, I was still not having any luck finding someone with all five senses enhanced and finally I had to admit to myself that it looks like the Sentinel has gone the way of the Dodo. And how sad is that? I’m sure that if a modern-day Sentinel existed he would be a member of the police force, keeping his modern-day tribe safe from the criminals.
“I knew I had enough research to turn my little article about evidence gathering into a thesis about the police force so that’s what I began to write, fully intending to present it to my dissertation committee and asking that I be allowed to change my topic. I figured that if I could hand them a first draft, they’d be more inclined to grant my request.
“And then I wrote a story. Strictly for my own amusement. At least it was supposed to be.” Blair cast an annoyed frown in his mother’s direction. “It was all about what would happen if a detective had enhanced senses and I’m really embarrassed to have to confess that I was suffering from a bad case of hero-worship when I cast Detective Ellison as the main character.”
Naomi’s confused voice rose above the murmuring of the crowd.
“I don’t understand, Blair. You told me that was your thesis.”
“No, Mom. I told you I had finished a first draft of my thesis.” Blair turned back to his audience and for the first time he allowed his displeasure to show. “My mother wanted to read my thesis. I told her no, it still needed a lot of work. She promised that she wouldn’t read it. Well she didn’t read it. Oh no, not my mom. She did me one better. She ignored my wishes, hacked into my computer, and emailed the file to her good friend Sid Graham of Berkshire Publishing. Only the file she sent was not my thesis, it was my fictional story which was not meant to be read by anyone.”
Blair took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. The murmuring started up again but he continued before it could get any louder.
“Let’s talk about Sid Graham of Berkshire Publishing. A senior editor, no less. I’d think that a man who held that position would be able to tell fact from fiction, don’t you? Apparently not. Did he do anything to check the facts behind the story? No. He just kept insisting that he was going to publish it. I told him that he could not show it to anybody, it was not meant to be read. I told him that my mother acted without my permission and he should destroy the copy that he had. I told him, ‘You cannot publish it’. Did he do as I asked? Oh no, not good old Sid. He released excerpts from it to you, the members of the press. Now is that professional or what?”
Blair returned Sid’s angry glare. “And don’t you look at me in that tone of voice. I specifically told you more than once that you could not publish it. I gave you no permission, written or verbal. I signed no contract with you. You had no right to release any part of it and you will be hearing from my lawyer.”
Before anyone could respond to that, Blair pointed his finger at his next source of annoyance.
“And you, Chancellor Edwards of Rainier University. You just couldn’t wait to jump on the bandwagon. You have worked here long enough to know what proper procedure is. A doctoral dissertation is to be presented to and approved by the dissertation committee before it is sent out to be published. Didn’t you think it was rather strange that it had been sent to a publisher before you had a chance to read it? That’s because it was not my thesis. It was a fictional story. But you never questioned that, did you? And wasn’t that professional? Instead you were too busy thinking about how proud you were of my accomplishments and all the fame that would come to Rainier. I don’t think this is the kind of fame you were expecting.”
Blair quickly shifted his attention again. He was on a roll and didn't want to lose his momentum.
“And now we come to the members of the media. Once again, nobody bothered to verify the facts. You just took Sid’s word for it that it was a true story and because of that the public thinks it’s a true story. Because hey, I saw it on the news. It’s gotta be true. How irresponsible can you get? I’d expect something like this from the tabloids. They don’t care if it’s fact or fiction, they’ll print anything. You work for decent newspapers, television and radio stations. I’m very disappointed in you.
“But you did something much worse than that. You interfered with a police operation. Remember Jack Bartley, union boss? Someone hired a hit man to kill him and Detective Ellison was this close to catching that hit man.” Blair held up his thumb and forefinger to illustrate. “Remember waiting for Bartley to come out and speak? Remember someone yelling ‘Hey, it’s the Sentinel’? Do you remember mobbing Detective Ellison, shoving your cameras in his face, yelling questions at him? And while you were doing that, the hit man took a shot at Bartley and got away. Then he went and shot Captain Banks and Inspector Connor. Two good people are in the hospital all because you prevented Detective Ellison from doing his job. Aren’t you proud of yourselves?
“So let me recap. I made the stupid mistake of writing a fictional story in which I pretended that Detective Ellison was a Sentinel. My mother made the stupid mistake of emailing it to Sid without my permission. Sid made the stupid mistake of releasing parts of it to the media, again without my permission. Chancellor Edwards made the stupid mistake of believing it was really my thesis. And you, the media, made the stupid mistake of reporting it as the gospel truth without verifying your facts.
“Bottom line? The world is full of stupid people and I am through talking.”
The stunned silence lasted long enough for Blair to leave the podium and walk out the door. However, he only got two steps into the hallway before the humiliated Chancellor grabbed his arm and snarled at him, “You’ve embarrassed this university for the last time. I want your office cleared out by Friday.”
“Fine,” Blair snarled back at her as he shrugged her hand off. “Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed to be associated with a university that employs people like you.”
He strode off leaving her sputtering indignantly behind him.
Rafe switched off the TV set and muttered, “Man, he sure gave everybody hell. He must feel terrible to have his own mother embarrass him like that.”
“Boy, I’ll say,” Brown agreed. “I hope Hairboy’s not too embarrassed to come back.”
“You’re not mad at him?” Jim asked.
“Hell no. Like he said, no one was supposed to know that he’d written it. And we wouldn’t have if his mother had left it alone.” Brown patted Jim’s arm as he headed for the door. “Sorry about the harassment.”
“Yeah. Now that I think about it, I just can’t picture you in tights and a cape. I can’t believe I thought it was true.” Rafe grimaced and followed his partner out of the room.
“No TV show,” Joel sighed mournfully. “No Denzel playing me.”
“No, I’m sorry. Make sure Sandburg comes back so we can apologize to him too.” Joel shook his head and trailed along behind the others, leaving Jim alone in the room with his thoughts.
Jim figured he had his own apologizing to do. Deep in his heart he knew that Blair would never have deliberately betrayed him and yet he didn’t even give the younger man a chance to explain. Instead he’d acted like an animal backed into a corner, snapping and snarling and practically telling him to get out of his life. No wonder Blair felt that the only way to get the attention away from Jim was to go before the media and make it look as if he had taken advantage of a friend. ‘It’s about friendship’ Blair had said when he’d turned down the Borneo trip and Jim finally understood that it was about more than simple friendship. With that realization, he was filled with an overwhelming need to find his roommate and make things right.
Jim was relieved to see Blair’s Volvo parked outside his building when he arrived home though he was a little puzzled to only hear one heartbeat coming from the loft. He entered just as Blair was coming out of his room and the two stared at each other for a long moment until Jim broke the silence.
“I packed her things and told her to leave,” Blair grimaced. “We had…words. It will take her a long time to process this so I don’t expect to hear from her for a quite a while.”
Jim nodded. “It’s probably for the best. I stopped at the hospital. Simon and Megan made it through surgery and they’ll both recover.”
“Thank God for that.”
There was a moment of awkward silence until Jim said, “I saw your press conference.”
“Yeah, well I hope everyone bought it. I’m really sorry about everything that happened. I’ll get my things packed and get out of here.”
“Why would you do that?” Jim felt his stomach clench with the sudden fear that he was too late to make things right.
“Are you kidding? After all the trouble I’ve caused you? You can’t want me hanging around here anymore.”
“You’re not really the one that caused the trouble, Chief. Now that I’ve had a chance to cool off I know that none of this would have happened if Naomi had kept her hands off your thesis. What did you call it? Fear based responses? I should have given you a chance to explain and then I should have sat down with you and figured out a way to respond. Instead I panicked and jumped all over you. I accused you of betrayal and I never should have done that. I know better. I was wrong to treat you the way I did and I’m so sorry for everything. I don’t want you to leave.”
Blair blinked in surprise. An apology was the last thing he’d ever expected to hear from Jim. Maybe things weren’t so hopeless after all. “I understand your reaction, Jim. I was pretty panicky myself. I just hope I fixed it.”
“Well you were awfully convincing, especially the part about changing your topic to the police force. The guys at the station sure believed you.”
“I really do have a first draft written about the police force and I really was going to get my topic changed,” Blair smiled apologetically. At Jim’s look of surprise he hurried to continue. “I’ve done a lot of thinking ever since Brackett and the more I thought about it the more I realized that it could put you in danger if the wrong people got their hands on it and figured out who my subject was. At the same time, I just couldn’t resist writing about you and your abilities.”
“God, Chief. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never had anyone care about me the way you do. I know how much work you put into your thesis and I’m so sorry that you had to throw it all away like that.”
“It was just a book,” Blair shrugged ruefully.
“It was your life.”
Blair smiled gently. “No, Jim. Haven’t you figured it out by now; you’re my life. You told me to go for the brass ring and that’s exactly what I did.”
Jim paused as he finally realized just how much Blair loved him. He drew the younger man into an embrace and was pleased when Blair returned it. He sighed in relief, “You might have gotten the brass ring, Chief, but I’ve hit the jackpot.”
They held each other for a few moments until Jim reluctantly stepped back and said, “Well, there’s work to be done. Zeller’s still on the loose and Bartley wants his rally in spite of that. So, Partner, are you ready to get busy?”
“You still consider me your partner?” Blair asked hopefully.
“You’re the best partner I’ve ever had and the only partner I want. I don’t ever want to lose you,” Jim emphatically stated.
Blair’s smile was pleased. “Then I guess we better get to work. And maybe we can talk about things when we get home?”
“Yeah, we’ll talk about a lot of things when we get home,” Jim promised as they headed back to the station.
By Friday the hit man Zeller was dead. After showing up at the station, guns blazing, and insanely screaming ‘I want Bartley’, he’d retreated to the roof and while trying to lower himself to the ground managed to accidentally shoot his own rope. The resulting fall killed him instantly.
While Blair was packing up his office, the head of his dissertation committee stopped by to inform him that Chancellor Edwards was under review for past and present unethical actions including the way she had handled the Ventriss affair. Apologies were extended on behalf of Rainier and it was hoped that things could be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. He was urged to make an appointment with the committee to discuss changing his topic to the one on the police force.
The media had been too shocked by Blair’s diatribe to shut down their live feeds when he turned his attention on them and the public had heard every word. In an effort to make everyone forget about their part in the fiasco, they dropped the subject of Detective Ellison Sentinel Extraordinaire like a hot potato and moved on to other more newsworthy items.
The pair had gotten together with Simon, who was recovering nicely, to discuss possible ways to allow Blair to continue working with Jim and the other members of Major Crimes.
Jim’s father had even called and surprised them both by offering the services of his lawyers in case Blair wanted to pursue a lawsuit against Sid Graham and Berkshire Publishing.
And Jim and Blair had talked, when they weren’t doing other things.
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Acknowledgements: Thanks to Patt for the artwork.