We Need Curb-Side Pick Up by BrynnH

We Need Curb-Side Pick Up - BrynnH

“Come on man, I need your help.”

“Sandburg,” Jim spat out, “I’ve put up with the piles of newspapers, and the mountains of crushed aluminum cans, and the bottles, and the plastic, and…”

“Well, man, now’s the time to get rid of them,” Blair reasoned. “I need the truck to haul it all to the recycling center, and I know you don’t want me to drive your sweetheart, so you need to come with me.” Blair could see the logical argument just wasn’t working on his sentinel. “Okay, I’ll cook for the next week, if you help me get all this stuff to the center.”

“A month,” Jim dickered.

“Two weeks. Final offer.” Blair tried to stay firm, but he could see he was losing the fight. “Come on, big guy, it’s in your best interest. You’d be helping me get all this stuff out of the downstairs storage area, so you won’t have to navigate around it every time you want something from there.”

“Until the next time, Sandburg.” Jim practically pouted. “You’ll just start all over again.”

“We’ll be making some money on the aluminum,” Blair wheedled.

“Thirty cents a pound is hardly worth it, Chief.” Jim countered.

“Aw, come on man, recycling is important! We need to stop filling up the landfills, Jim. Everyone just uses and throws away like we have unlimited space to toss the junk, man, and you know we don’t, and …”

“Two weeks of cooking, and you stop with the recycling lectures.”

“Deal, man.” Blair grabbed his coat to cash in on his victory before Jim changed his mind. “Come on.”

****

The truck pulled into the recycling center, which was at one end of a scrap yard. There was pile after pile of crushed cars stacked haphazardly almost as far as the eye could see…well, most eyes. Jim could actually see through to the back road in the distance if he stood in just the right place. It wasn’t really a place Jim wanted to be for long. The cop in him told him there were just too many places for bad guys to hide. He knew better than to say anything to Blair. He would just be told that he was being paranoid and would get a two hour lecture on how cynical modern man has become, and how distrustful he is of his fellow humans. Right now, Blair was being relatively quiet, and the sentinel just wasn’t going to risk getting him started up again. Jim had almost been tempted to turn his hearing below normal on the drive over, since Sandburg didn’t shut up the whole way. To give him his due, though, he had stuck to his bargain and hadn’t talked about recycling… directly.

However, Jim now knew more than he cared to know about the various ways different tribal peoples used everything at their disposal, wasting nothing, staying in total harmony with their environment…essentially becoming their own individual recycling center, each and every one of them. Geez, Jim thought, the kid could talk when he was passionate about something…and really, what wasn’t the anthropology student passionate about?

Jim’s mind was brought back to the task at hand when Blair tossed a bale of newspaper at him. The older man narrowly missed being hit in the head with the thing.

“Hey,” Blair exclaimed, “Head’s up man.”

Jim mumbled, “Now he tells me,” but tossed the bale into the dumpster marked ‘paper’, and picked up another stack.

They proceeded like that for a time, moving on to the various dumpsters for ‘glass’ and ‘plastic’ in turn; all the while Blair was keeping up a running monologue that Jim was barely listening to. Finally they got to the aluminum; the recyclable item that Blair had insisted would make their trek all the way out to the outskirts of town financially worthwhile. (The owner of the truck figured it might just cover gas money…if they were lucky). Jim moved the truck nearer to the small shack standing at the end of the row of dumpsters, closest to the scrap yard, and Blair walked in, trying to find the attendant who would weigh the aluminum and give them their money.

“Hmm,” Blair came back out again, “That’s funny; he’s usually right in there.”

“Maybe he’s recycling the coffee he’s no doubt been drinking all morning.” Jim tried to be helpful.

Blair clasped his hand over his heart. “Oh, Jim, your striking wit just kills me.”

“What?” Jim retorted, the picture of innocence, “I can smell the coffee.” Then his face contorted, “Ew, and a different kind of recycling center.” He gestured toward the two port-a-potties standing at the opposite end of the line of dumpsters. “Talk about reduce-reuse-recycle…there’s one smell I’d really like to see reduced.”

“Whatever, man,” Blair rolled his eyes, “Just help me find him so we can finish up.”

“Finishing up sounds good to me,” Jim agreed. “I’ll look over here.”

Blair went in the opposite direction from Jim, rounded the corner and disappeared into the stacks of cars in the scrap yard. He was sure the guy had to be here somewhere. He always had been when Blair brought in the occasional lone bag or two of aluminum, so surely he’d be here for this big run. The student weaved in and out of the stacks of scrapped cars, hoping his good sense of direction would get him back out of this junkyard jungle. He wasn’t really sure why he was going this way, in particular. He just felt drawn here, like some inner sense was taking over and leading him to…

“Get down,” a voice cried in a hoarse whisper from behind a nearby stack.

Well, Blair thought, I found the attendant. Looks like I found trouble too, though. So what else is new?

The younger man’s eyes followed the attendant’s outstretched arm and saw three men in a small hollow between stacks of cars and other scrap. He could hear their voices but couldn’t understand what they were saying. Even without the details he could tell they were up to no good.

“I’ve suspected there might be drugs being dealt out of here,” the attendant whispered. “I’ve called the police before when I heard voices, but they could never catch anyone. I thought I’d catch them this time,” the older man waved his cell phone around a little, “at least on this thing. Maybe someone can do…”

The voices in the hollow stopped abruptly, and one of the bigger men started toward the stack behind which Blair and the attendant were hiding. Man, that’s all we need. Bad guys with super hearing, Blair thought. Once, just once, I’d like to be able to do something normal and not attract the criminal element.

“Jim,” Blair ground out in a barely audible whisper, “if you happen to be listening, man, now would be a good time to come running to the rescue.”

When the attendant noticed the approach of the bad guy, he grabbed Blair’s wrist and led him around the piles of various scrapped material, to try to get to safety. Blair thought, at first, that they might actually get away, but just as they turned a corner that allowed them to see the shack in the distance, they were cut off by another of the shady characters whom the older man had been taping.

“What have we here?” The one man not actually holding a gun asked rhetorically. “Mac, you were always way too nosey for your own good.”

The attendant (apparently named Mac) replied, “Justin, why are you getting mixed up with these people, man? You’re a good kid.” Mac turned toward Blair and explained, “He’s been working here for about a year.” Blair had never seen the younger man during his visits here, but then, he was far from a regular.

“Only been working here to have a base of operations for my real job. That’s where the real money is.”

“What? Drugs?” Mac tried to reason with the younger man. “You don’t want to do that, boy.”

Justin just laughed and held out his hand for Mac’s phone. “Can’t have any video record of any of this, now can we?”

Justin was now joined by another man coming from the same direction as he had, and Blair and Mac found themselves flanked by the big man from whom they had originally been fleeing.

“What do we do with them, boss?” The big man addressed Justin.

“Boss?” Mac was incredulous. “You’re the boss?”

Justin just laughed. “Shoot them.” So much for Mac’s character judgment, Blair thought.

The drug dealer turned around and headed for the road at the far end of the scrap yard and as the smaller perp fired his gun, Blair tried to pull Mac out of harm’s way. It wasn’t enough to save the scrap yard worker, though, Blair noticed, as Mac dropped, dead weight in the student’s arms. The bigger felon took aim at Blair, who had lost his hold on Mac. Planning to come back for the older man later, Blair ducked around the corner of the nearest scrap pile. He managed to run about a hundred yards before he felt the bullet hit.

****

Jim haphazardly looked around the dumpsters, and made his way over to the two port-a-potties sitting at the far end, still thinking his idea of the other man’s whereabouts was a good one. When he saw that both outhouses were empty, he wandered aimlessly around for a bit, sure that the man would turn up, and not really caring all that much when. The sentinel was actually enjoying the first bit of quiet he’d had all morning, when suddenly it was taken from him with the sound of a gunshot.

“Blair!” Jim chanced opening his hearing to the point where he could hear Blair’s heartbeat. It was fast, but it was there, and the sentinel clung onto that as he hastened toward his friend. The second shot almost deafened him, but not before he heard the ‘whiz, spat’ of a bullet hitting flesh, followed by a grunt from Blair, and the sudden slowing of the precious heartbeat that the Sentinel had locked on to like an auditory bloodhound. “Sandburg!”

The big man weaved his way through the stacks of cars, with the grace of a panther while quietly calling for back-up and an ambulance. When he rounded the final stack of cars, he saw a much too often beheld sight …Sandburg was injured…again. Jim crouched beside his friend and tried to staunch the rapid blood flow from his friend’s left shoulder…far too close to the heart for Jim’s liking.

“Drug deal, Jim.” Blair grunted out weakly, “Attendant… Mac… down… around the corner…there…” The younger man’s hand flopped out to his side, weakly pointing off to left.

Jim planned to search around the nearby stacks by extending his sight and hearing, refusing to leave his friend even long enough to find the other man. The injured man wasn’t far away, however, and the sentinel soon spotted a foot sticking out from behind a stack in the direction Blair had indicated. He piggy-backed his hearing onto the sight. There were no sounds…no heartbeat…no breathing. Jim elected not to tell Blair.

“J’m…got to…” Blair’s voice was getting weaker by the moment, and he began to wheeze with each intake of air. “Take it easy, buddy.” Jim tried to get the younger man to lie still while he tried to apply pressure to the massive exit wound in his friend’s chest.

“Ambulance is on its way, Darwin. Just hang on.”

“Drug … deal’r’s, J’m….” Blair was still for so long, Jim thought he may have passed out. “…boss called Justin…worked here…”Okay, Jim thought, Blair’s still with me so far, but he doesn’t sound good. Blair continued faintly, “Go get’m.”

Jim looked around, couldn’t immediately see anyone other than the dead attendant, but heard a car in the distance start and gun its engine. Jim risked dialing up his sight just enough to catch a dark blue Cadillac Escalade speed off down the back road he had noticed earlier. He cranked up the dial just a touch more and caught a partial license plate… five digits out of seven. Not the best description, perhaps, but it would have to do, for now. Maybe, when taken with Blair’s information about the boss, it would be enough. Jim didn’t like the looks of his injured friend, and he refused to leave him. If the police couldn’t find the guys that did this, Jim had no doubt that he would, somehow, find them himself. And heaven help the perps when that happened.

“Get’m….J’m” Blair insisted.

“They’re already gone, Chief.” Jim pressed harder on his friend’s chest, noticing he had inadvertently reduced the pressure a little as he concentrated on the fleeing felons. “I got a description of the car and a partial license plate. It’ll have to do. I’m not leaving you.”

“Got to… said they …” Blair wheezed and began to cough. Finally he could go on, “said business was good… must be…big deal…” When Sandburg paused to cough again, and this time brought up blood, Jim urged him to just be still, to save his breath. But, Blair, being Blair, insisted on trying again. “Jim…need to…st’p…”Blair’s voice trailed off once more as the young man gasped for breath.

“I’m not leaving you buddy. Someone else will have to get the bad guys this time.” Jim hugged Blair to him-back to front- as tightly as he could while still applying pressure to the wound, prepared to hold onto his guide until the ambulance got there, as though the sentinel could literally hold the life inside his partner by sheer force of will.

“J’m,” was the last thing the sentinel heard as his friend finally lost his fight with oblivion.

****

Jim finally heard the ambulance in the distance, but by now had to struggle to hear Blair’s heartbeat at all. It was so faint. Jim tried to talk to Blair, tried to keep his friend with him, regretting now that he had ever hoped for the anthropologist to be quiet. Quiet wasn’t Blair; quiet wasn’t good. Blair hadn’t talked in minutes, and now even the young man’s heart was quieting. Jim tried to keep himself from zoning on Blair’s heartbeat. He told himself he had to stay alert. There was always the chance, though slim, that the drug dealers would come back. Jim also had to be alert to meet any need Blair might have, as well as to direct the medics in once they got there. Jim knew all this, but concentrated even harder on Blair’s heartbeat as it became harder and harder to hear.

Finally, no amount of sentinel hearing could detect it.

“No!” Jim laid his friend flat on the ground and start pumping his chest. “Damn it Blair…not again.” The scene at the fountain flashed into Jim’s mind. There was no way he could stand to lose his friend again, not even temporarily. The student had become too much of his life; his best friend, his partner, his guide. He wouldn’t lose him again. He just wouldn’t. Pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, breathe. “Don’t you leave me!” Pump, pump, pump, pump, pump, breathe. “Please, Blair!”

Jim continued CPR and so diligently listened for his friend’s returned heart beat that he almost didn’t notice when the medics called out, “Ambulance! Where’s the emergency?” “Here,” Jim answered, just this side of panicked for his friend, “Hurry!”

Jim allowed himself to be pushed aside by the ambulance attendants and watched them continue CPR, then charge the paddles to start Blair’s stubborn heart. They started an IV to replace lost fluid volume and Jim mentally noticed the numerous other procedures being performed on his friend in an effort to bring the guide back to his sentinel. At some point, Simon appeared at the scene, and Jim spouted out by rote the few details of the crime that the sentinel knew. Most of his attention was still on Blair…on the sound of that beautiful, generous heart beating on its own once more…on the sound of Blair’s labored breathing, and the hiss of the ambu-bag when Blair needed a little help. The sentinel all but zoned on the sight of Blair’s pale face as he was loaded into the back of the ambulance, and followed the sight of the ambulance itself until not even sentinel eyes could see it.

He moved like an automaton as Simon guided him to the truck, only barely hearing the Captain give instructions to one of the uniformed officers to have Simon’s own car taken back to the Police Garage. Jim sat silently in the passenger seat of his own truck, never once complaining about someone else driving his Sweetheart, never once making any comment at all. As Simon glanced yet again at his silent friend, he wasn’t exactly sure that the sentinel wasn’t still trying to listen in on Blair in the ambulance that neither could see any longer. The captain sincerely hoped the other man wasn’t trying something like that. He didn’t have a clue how to bring the sentinel out of a zone, and from what little he had seen of Sandburg before he was whisked away, he was fairly certain that the younger man was in no condition to help.

****

It had been hours since Blair was rushed off to surgery and Jim was still silent. Simon had called in reinforcements in the form of the other major crime detectives, but no one could pull the man from his dark musings. Simon still hoped his detective wasn’t trying to eaves drop on whatever was going on with Blair, but, if he was, he hadn’t zoned yet, so the captain chose to leave the sentinel to his own devices for the time being.

It seemed like hours more before the doctor finally came out to the waiting room where a small, worried contingent of Blair’s friends sat. For the first time since Simon had arrived at the scrap yard, the sentinel spoke. “How is he?”

“Your partner is a very lucky man, Detective.” The doctor began. “The bullet missed his heart by millimeters. It nicked his pulmonary artery and damaged a small section of his left lung.” The doctor looked directly at Jim and continued, “The care you gave him at the scene probably saved his life, detective.”

“He’s saved mine more than once.”

“Well,” the doctor speculated, “Maybe this makes you even.”

“Not even close,” Jim mumbled though no one but Simon, and perhaps the doctor even coming close to hearing. It was all the energy the sentinel had left. He had hung on for hours, hoping to hear good news about his friend, and the sudden relief left him feeling drained. “When can I see him?”

“He’s still in recovery. We’ll be taking him up to ICU in a while. You can see him briefly then, but he’ll be out of it for quite some time yet. He lost a lot of blood. His heart is weak from the shock of the bullet so close, and from the blood loss, not to mention that it stopped once more while in surgery. His lung will take time to heal, so he’s on a respirator right now.” Apparently the doctor noticed when Jim paled. “He will recover, detective. It’ll just take some time.”

****

It did take some time. It took the rest of the day and most of the night before Blair even woke up. He opened his eyes briefly, grinned slightly around the respirator, and went right back to sleep. Jim had stayed next to his friend’s bed the whole time. Unbeknownst to the sentinel, his captain had run interference to get the man permitted to stay at Blair’s bedside in ICU for the duration. Ellison didn’t care why he was allowed to stay; he just knew he would stay there, no matter what.

“Hey, Chief,” Jim took Blair’s hand and leaned closer to his friend when he saw the younger man open his eyes again about a half hour later. “You back with us now?” Blair nodded minutely, grinned as best his could, gripped Jim’s hand and promptly fell back to sleep.

“It’s like that, is it, Chief?” Jim grinned for the first time since the shooting. “That’s fine, Darwin. I’ll be right here each time you wake up.”

****

Three days later, the respirator had been removed and Blair was in a regular room, charming the nurses and driving the doctor crazy with requests to go home.

“Jim, man, help me out here,” Blair insisted as soon as Jim walked in the room. “I’m fine. I’m healed. I’m ready to go home.” Blair put on his best puppy dog expression, but knew his friend wasn’t buying it for an instant, so he changed his tactic. “Come on, man, I’m going nuts here. I need to go home!”

“Forget it Chief.” Jim wouldn’t waver, “You’re staying here until the doctor says you can go. You’re going to take all your medicine, eat all your food, and generally be a good boy until you are completely healed…”

“But Jim,” Blair interrupted.

Jim held up his hand to quell Blair’s argument, “And once you do get out, you are going to take it easy at home until the doctor says you can go back to work, and then you are going to stop scaring the crap out of me.”

Blair chuckled. Maybe it was worth a little more time in the hospital to get a glimpse of how much his sentinel cared about him.

“What’s it worth to you?”

“What?” Jim didn’t believe what he was hearing.

“To have me stop complaining, be good, and stay out of trouble,” Blair was innocence itself. “What’s it worth to you?”

Jim was dumbfounded. “What do you want?”

“No grocery shopping or cooking duties for a month,” Blair started.

“Done,” Jim agreed. “You won’t be cleared to carry groceries up the stairs for at least that long anyway.”

“And you do your own reports for a month.”

“Again, it’ll be that long before I let you step your butt back in the station, so…done.”

“And we recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum for the next year…with no complaining from you.”

“You’re pushing it Chief.”

“Quiet….good…out of trouble,” Blair reiterated. “What’s it worth to you?”

Jim grinned. At this point in his life, so soon after almost losing his best friend again, there was practically nothing he’d deny the kid, but he’d be damned before he’d let Blair know that, so he grumbled and griped for a while, as expected, and then finally agreed.

“Fine, Chief… agreed,” Jim began, “But there’s one thing we’ll need first.”

“What’s that, Jim?”

“We need to petition for curb-side recycling pickup.”

The two friends laughed and Jim fought hard not to zone on the most beautiful sound he’d heard in days.

The end

Back to the Gendex

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Patt for the art and to Jess Riley for asking me to join in on the fun.