Summary: It's a sequel to 'Secret'. Blair's thoughts are interspersed throughout the story. Takes place after TSbBS and Blair is a cop.
Note: 1. The research I did on eidetic memory revealed that the version in my story is more a 'Hollywood' version. 2. There is a brief description of 'Secret' at the end of the story.
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.
<<....>> indicates Blair's thoughts.
<<It's funny how the memory works. Now, mine is pretty good. Most people would assess someone with a high IQ like me to have a really fine memory. But mine works differently from most people's. I can just glance at something, a picture or page of a book and can recall it very precisely, mostly word for word. But that's not learning it. For that I have to actually consciously read and absorb the contents. But if I just glance at something I can usually recall it verbatim. I admit I've used it to impress the ladies at times. If I use it too much though it just scares them off. That's the voice of experience talking, so I never did that with Jim, or with anyone in Major Crimes, especially Simon. He'd probably think I did it just to make myself an irritant to him again.
But this memory thing has always been part of me. Something that was handy at times , like remembering phone numbers and if I couldn't remember something on a test (if I had time left to search the reams of stuff locked in my head). But trying to remember something specific could take time. If it wasn't something well known and absorbed into it's context then it was pretty much useless trash. You have to understand a bit of data to use it. Well that's enough about my memory. It got me in trouble this time. I never once thought that being able to remember something would get me in trouble.>>
“Blair, good to see you,” said Jack Kelso as he maneuvered his wheelchair out from behind his desk to greet his friend.
“Hey Jack. I just dropped by to say hello. I thought maybe you'd like to have lunch. We haven't gotten together for a long time,” grinned Detective Blair Sandburg, former grad student at Rainier University.
“Great! I need to be dragged out of here once in a while, just to shake the dust off, you know?” Jack grinned.
Blair asked where he'd like to go and they settled on a new place Jack had liked just a two blocks away. They didn't need Blair's car and they could chat on the way. Blair burst through the double doors of Carruthers Hall to hold them for Jack, startling a pretty lady with a file that was knocked messily to the ground. She stared aghast at the lost file and then at the two men. She hurriedly bent to gather the pages together. Blair rushed to help her, picking up sheet after scattered sheet and putting them hopefully in order as he picked them up. He wanted them to at least be right side up. He stood and handed them to the lady.
“I'm so sorry. That was my fault. I hope everything's there,” and he gave one more gaze around the area.
“Thank you. Please excuse me,” and she abruptly left, looking strained.
Blair grinned as he looked at Jack, “I must be losing my touch with the ladies.” He looked after the retreating woman. He gave a little half shrug and turned to his 'lunch date', “Well. Let's go Jack. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry.”
<<Of course Jack realized almost right away. He knew about my memory. He got a kick out of testing me sometimes.
I didn't know how much trouble that little collision was going to lead to. And when I found out Jack was aware of a problem immediately, I almost lost it. I mean Jim and I almost got killed!
But he did know the 'lady', and he knew there were extenuating circumstances. I just wish he'd clued me in, or at least had done it sooner. Maybe some of this could have been prevented.>>
“Oh man, I'm glad today's over,” said Blair as he grabbed a sack of groceries out of the back of the truck.
The big news of the day had been an accidental bust of a drug dealer. By Brown and Rafe.
Jim yawned deeply as he grabbed the other sack.
“Hey big guy, am I keeping you awake?” Blair chuckled. He was glad he was on the other side of the truck. He was so tired he didn't know if he could duck Jim's swipe at the back of his head. Jim was just so predictable!
Jim grimaced, “Let's go Chief. I don't think you'll need any Sleepytime tea tonight either.”
They headed across the street, Jim trying to stifle another yawn and Blair resting a hand on his shoulder, playfully steering him toward the loft they shared.
Jim twisted quickly toward Blair pushing him to the opposite sidewalk just as a black van rushed by, very nearly clipping them. No running lights. They were lucky to pick themselves up with only minor bruises and scrapes and the 'death' of a loaf of bread and a carton of milk. Jim listened as the voices swore and continued around the corner, tires squealing.
Blair pulled out his cell phone to call it in, while Jim listened for what he hoped would be a clue, because 'big black van' and the make wasn't going to get them far with the license plate covered.
“Did you hear anything Jim?” Blair asked quietly as he stood with his hand lightly touching his sentinel's back, to ground him.
Jim remained silent for a minute longer, “Nothing, or maybe something Chief.” When Blair looked at him questioningly he continued, “Mostly swearing, and then one guy said for him to shut up. And I quote, 'If the guy's really a sentinel he could hear you.'”
Blair went to put the other grocery sack near their door, and they waited for forensics, and Captain Simon Banks.
<<Damn it! I might have guessed what was going on if I had the right context. I'm still angry at Jack. This case didn't get any easier for not knowing.>>
There weren't many clues to go on. Tire tracks and a vehicle description and voices that only Jim heard. Later Blair tried to take Jim through a trance to remember anything they might have missed, but that turned up nothing. The voices had no discernible regional or national accent, and Jim didn't recognize either one. That left lots of cases to investigate, although Jim and Blair had one or two that would receive more research than the others, but even the mention of 'sentinel' was tentative in their exchange. It could have been just a result of the unauthorized dissertation release. But that possibility didn't help them sleep any better.
Simon greeted two bleary-eyed detectives in his office the next morning. “Well gentlemen, anything turn up yet? Did Sandburg use any of that 'witchdoctor' hocus pocus to get you to remember anything else?”
Blair elbowed Jim in his side and turned a glare on his partner, “Witchdoctor, Jim? And why would he say 'that'? Hunh Jim?”
Jim flushed slightly, “Oh, well, you know. He asked about our first meeting. Or really, that was the second meeting. Well ... he asked!”
Blair got an evil twinkle in his eye, then asked calmly, “You did tell him about the police brutality. Right Jim?”
Jim went a little pale, and Simon scowled.
Blair continued, “When we have a little time Simon, maybe you can get my version.”
Simon's scowl deepened, “If things weren't serious enough, I'd take you up on that right now. But I take it nothing new 'came up' so we're back to case reviews. Until something does turn up, I expect you to take all due precautions. Stick to each other like glue. That's an order.”
The next four days saw no further advancement in the case. It was tempting, but much too soon, to relax their vigilance. 'Sticking like glue' only led to too much togetherness, and nonstop bickering that escalated to the point that Simon had to break them up, almost physically.
“All right. That's enough you two! You're worse than two teenagers. I think you need a forced separation for your own good,” bellowed
Simon, and muttered, “And for our good too.”
“I'll take Blair for the evening,” spoke up Joel with a grin.
Blair nearly exploded, “I am not a kid to be babysat during 'timeout'.”
Jim exploded in laughter.
Blair fumed, turned a sheepish shade of red, and finally gave in to a chuckle, “Come on Joel. Let's see what two handsome, eligible bachelor's can do on a Friday night.”
Joel drove when they left the precinct. He insisted on being the designated driver, because Blair needed to relax. They began with a leisurely dinner where they discussed everything from the weather to the Jags, and then decided they'd see a movie. It had nearly stopped raining by the time they approached the cineplex, and they were in good spirits. They were joking and laughing as they strolled through the light mist that still fell.
“Joel, you have got to be kidding. Simon? You've got to tell me more, man,” grinned Blair, as he twisted to face Joel, walking backwards with his usual surefooted confidence.
Joel grinned, “You wouldn't be planning on ...” and Joel reached out to steady Blair as he slipped on the painted curb.
The glass in one of the doors of the cineplex shattered, raining glass on the two friends as they dove for cover behind a car parked at the curb. “Blair, you okay son?” asked Joel.
A soft moan was accompanied by a small rocking motion as Blair replied, “I'm okay Joel, just grazed. You know 'just a flesh wound'. Man that hurts.”
Joel searched the dark with experienced eyes but saw nothing. He stayed with Blair and didn't leave cover while he called for back up and an ambulance.
<<Another fine mess. Thanks Jack. We wouldn't have been searching in the wrong direction all that time. And maybe I wouldn't have gotten shot again. Boy I hate that.>>
“Just grazed he said. That was a three inch furrow above the shoulder blade,” Jim muttered as he stalked by Simon again.
Simon stood chewing on his cigar as Jim paced a path in the tiles in the waiting room. “Jim, calm down. We know he wasn't hurt bad. And yes I know it was too close. But I want you to think about something else right now. That close call with the black van a week ago? Maybe that wasn't about you Jim. Maybe it was about your partner. Does that make a difference in anything you've come across in your files?”
That stopped Jim and got his mind off his mother-hen instincts for a while, but it didn't deter what Blair called his 'Blessed Protector Overdrive' in the long run. For the moment it gave his mind something to work on, but he still didn't come up with anything concrete.
Three hours later they arrived back at the loft, with a squad car patrolling the neighborhood.
<<Jack has no idea what BP Overload/Sentinel Version is like. I can't say I objected too loudly at first. How could I object to being cared for by the big lug. Just a little less coddling would be appreciated. The tucking in was nice. The pills and water delivered to my bedside in the middle of the night was very nice. But I could really manage to get to the bathroom by myself (it wasn't my leg this time!). I think maybe I was kind of rude to Jim. I'll have to apologize.>>
They both went in to the bullpen in the morning. Nothing would be solved with them staying home.
Brown began griping to them as soon as they came through the door. He and Rafe had been ordered down for another round with the DA's office about their drug bust. “They keep asking us to name the informant. They know we can't do that. Besides, there WASN'T an informant. We just got lucky. Rafe saw this guy making the deal, practically right in front of us. Stupid, lucky break. That's all it was, but they keep hounding us. I've got to talk to Simon. Maybe he can make them lay off.” With that comment made he threw down his file and strode to Simon's office, barely restraining the knock for entrance.
Blair smirked, “It's bad enough getting hassled for doing something wrong, but for some lucky break? Glad it's them and not us.” He glanced down at the file on Henri's desk. He idly flipped it open.
When Blair stayed staring at the page, Jim asked, “What's the matter? H didn't cross a 't' or dot an 'i'?”
Blair slowly shook his head, not answering at first. “There's something about this bust ... the date and the guys they arrested .... It's really familiar, like something I've seen before .... But where?” he mused disjointedly. “Jim I think this could be something important. I just have a feeling, you know? I remember this from somewhere,” and he looked imploringly at his friend, hoping he'd take him seriously.
“About the drug bust ...” said Jim.
Blair slowly shook his head, “Maybe. Maybe. I have to think about this man. It's got my head spinning, trying to find a connection, but I can't see it.”
Jim watched Blair for a moment, not dismissing his friend's comments out of hand, “Knowing you, it'll come, just give it time Einstein. You'll think of it.”
<<I racked my brain alright. Thanks Jack. I spent hours trying to figure out that connection. That just proves my point, just because I could remember something doesn't mean it was integrated into my working memory.>>
That night Blair wandered the loft and the balcony in a distant haze. Jim finally got tired of it.
“Sandburg? Sandburg!” Jim said none too gently. “Meditate. That's an order Chief. I can't stand all this silent pacing. If you meditate maybe that will clear your mind enough for you to remember.”
Blair grinned, “Okay, okay, man. Just for you, big guy, I'll meditate.”
The results were worth the time and the effort.
<<Jack, I still didn't know if there was a real connection to you at the time, but what I remembered made me worry about you. And Jim and me too.>>
Blair's shoulder was aching long before he was done. He had spent nearly an hour typing on his laptop. Lists. Pages of dates and times. And a few names. All from quick glimpses of sheets of paper strewn on the ground. His innocent actions had almost gotten him killed twice, and Jim too. He was pale when he was through, and Jim was clenching his jaw. This could be bad news, or good depending on how it went down. And right at the top of the list was Brown and Rafe's bust.
Blair said shakily, “Jim, how bad do you think this will be. I'm not going to end up in the Witness Protection Program am I?”
Jim honestly didn't know. “You said this woman was pretty. Do you think you could pick her out of the mugshots we have?”
Blair slumped when Jim didn't answer his question. “Let me get my sketchpad, just in case she isn't in there.”
When Jim saw the face Blair had sketched he sat down at the table with Blair. “Blair, this is Tanya. The woman that Col. Oliver locked up with me to get information from me. She's rogue CIA like him and his pals. It seems that the drug smuggling operation is alive and well.”
Blair thought a moment, “But why was she outside Carruthers Hall? Do you think it was possible that she was on her way to see Jack Kelso?”
Jim looked as worried as Blair felt as he said, “We'd better get Simon up to speed on this information.”
Simon called a meeting of Major Crimes detectives the next morning. With the lists in hand he began making arrangements for surveillance and possible busts. All the Major Crimes detectives were to be involved and other cases were shunted to other departments. Everything about this was on a need-to-know basis within the police department in general.
Simon told Blair to drop in to 'have lunch' with Jack Kelso again. Somewhere public. And somewhere Jim could check with his senses for bugs and to watch anyone who followed.
<<William S. Burroughs said, “Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts.” Paranoia. Well, we knew we weren't delusional. Jim and I took what precautions we could.>>
Jim stood before the open balcony doors with Blair at his side the next morning. Blair's hand rested on Jim's back to ground him. It allowed Jim to let his senses roam freely, knowing that Blair was watching out for him if he should zone. Zoning was a rare thing for Jim, and had been for years, but they didn't take any chances. Jim wanted this scan of the area to be very thorough. The meeting with Kelso would be later today.
Blair and Jack made their way casually to the restaurant they'd visited last time. Jim and Blair had checked it out before Blair stopped at the University. And Jim had done his best, from a distance, to check out Jack and his office for anything unusual too. But Jack was pretty careful, being ex-CIA himself.
<<That's when Jack leveled with me. I could see Jim in an alcove in the restaurant lobby. He looked pissed.>>
Blair skipped the small talk. He showed Jack the sketch of Tanya. Then he reminded Jack about his little memory 'trick', and told him about the drug bust and the information that was at the top of one sheet of paper.
Jack sat back, staring at the sketch, “Blair, I do know this woman. I recognized her when you two bumped into each other the other day. Her real name is Sheri Collings. I never knew her as 'Tanya' but you say this is the woman Jim said was arrested with Col. Oliver? Sheri worked with the DEA. I haven't heard from her for a couple of years, so you can guess that I was astonished to see her here at Rainier. Blair if she was still undercover she could have been trying to get this information to me for some reason. I had hoped she would try to contact me by now. Maybe she felt her cover was about to be blown.”
Blair was furious. It was hard to keep his voice low enough to be unheard by other diners, “How far undercover was she that she couldn't help Jim when Col. Oliver kidnapped him?”
Jack knew his friend was upset. “Blair ... I know he's your friend, but sometimes people are put in a position where they don't have much choice. I know Sheri pretty well. She's put her life on the line many times. If she's been undercover all this time ... well, it's not a situation that's easy to live with.”
Blair tried to keep his anger in check, this time and place weren't right for venting. He had other things to tend to right now.
Jack knew Blair was trying to rein in his emotions, “Blair, I'm going to check this out as discretely as possible, for all our sakes. But I don't want the police involved.”
“But Jack you need protection ... and the police are already involved,” Blair shot back.
“I'll take care of it. Discrete is my middle name,” Jack answered with a little grin. “I'll contact you, not the other way around. I want to keep you and Jim out of it as much as possible.”
“But Jack, I saw those papers,” protested Blair. “And they must know about me. We think they've already tried to kill me twice. And the first time they almost killed Jim too!”
“Damn Blair, I'm sorry. I didn't want to involve you at all if possible. My contacts never let on that it had gone that far. You'll be the first to know what I find out,” promised Jack gravely.
<<Anger is bad for the karma. Anger is bad for the karma. Anger is bad for the karma.>> sigh.
Jack was good. He arranged a meeting that evening. “Sheri wants to break cover. She says there's enough information in those papers to arrest the top players in this drug smuggling/rogue CIA payoffs/money laundering scheme. It will be a major coup for the Agency. You said Major Crimes is ready to take them down? I don't know it they can handle an operation like that and make it stick without losing the major players through legal manipulations. I need to set you up with someone high up, Sheri's superior.” Jack pleaded, “Blair, Sheri wants to come in out of the cold. That's a very dangerous step. Help her please! You saw what happened with Ben Chavez. The Cali Cartel will try to take her out. If she's safe, the information is safe, and you should be safe. She's the one with the inside information. She's the one that amassed it. She knows all the ins and outs of their operations. It's her life that's on the line.”
<<Well, I think Jack finally got through to me. Sheri must be one tough cookie. But I still haven't forgiven her for leaving Jim in that mess with Col. Oliver. From what we found out later, she wasn't there when Sam Holland was killed. Sam was her superior at Graf Technologies in Florida, and she'd had no idea he was going to contact Jim. At least with her testimony I won't be the star witness. And I only saw names and dates and addresses on pieces of paper, nothing about their operation. Nothing linking the actual papers to people in the Cali Cartel, only to Tanya/Sheri. And the results from the busts can speak for themselves. Thank God!
A life in the Witness Protection Program, alone, would be hell, but if Jim followed me ... I just couldn't do that to him. The thing is, the man's my Blessed Protector. He doesn't need Simon to tell him to 'stick like glue'. He's my sentinel and my friend. That's all he needs to know ... me too.>>
End Note: About 'Secret': Jim Ellison was kidnapped by Col. Oliver, the officer responsible for the faulty intelligence that caused Jim's mission in Peru to end so badly. Col. Oliver wanted to use Jim, unwillingly, to kill an informer to preserve his drug smuggling operation.