Summary: Blame this on a list of hippie era baby names. In this, Blair's a cop now and a case intersects with his past, but it's not really a case story. It's about family and friendship.
No warnings. Rated G. Unbetaed.
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.
Jim wouldn't be home from the meeting with the Chief and Simon for several hours. Great, the coast was clear. Blair would have a chance to get this new tofu dish in the oven without Jim protesting too hard. It would be nice to think he could fool Jim, but it would take too much spice to hide the ingredients from a sentinel, and that much spice could cause a sensory spike. He was the guide and this guide wasn't stupid, unless you count trying to feed a sentinel tofu.
Jim drove up Prospect wearily. It had been too long a day, capped off with a long boring meeting. He hoped Sandburg had dinner on. He stopped outside the loft and turned off the ignition. Leaning back he let out a big sigh. Closing his eyes he just let his senses drift for a bit. Garlic. Yellow bean sauce. Eggplant? Tofu? Not tonight Chief. Jim let his senses drift toward the bakery. Mm, meat pie, fresh bread, apple cake.
“One of each please.”
“Chief, I'm home. I picked something up for dinner. I hope you're hungry,” Jim called out, walking through the door with a little bounce to his step.
“Bakery bags? Jim, you knew it was my turn to cook,” Blair just shook his head. Looks like he'd have eggplant and tofu casserole for lunch for the next few days.
“I smelled what you cooked, so sue me. It was a long day and this is comfort food,” Jim grinned at his friend. “You shouldn't have trained the senses so well if you didn't want me to use them to good advantage.”
“Good advantage? Did you have to buy everything with high fat content?” Blair complained while peeking through Jim's purchases.
“Hey, I was buying for two. But if you're going to eat eggplant and tofu, I'll just have to eat this myself. I'm sorry for trying to entice you away from that healthy stuff,” answered Jim as he started dragging the bags out of Blair's hands.
“Don't do me any favors, man. For slaving over a hot stove, you're going to have to share. Give.” And the guide fought valiantly for his share of the spoils.
It was an early night for Jim. He was nearly asleep as soon as the evening news was over. The alarm would still have come too early if he'd been allowed to sleep long enough for it to go off. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. “okay,okay,okay ... Simon? What. Where. Now?” Click. “Sandburg, did you hear?”
In a mumble for sentinel hearing, “Already up and moving, but moving kinda slow. Who else but Simon calls at 3 a.m.?”
“Simon, what's going on here?” asked Jim while manfully trying to stifle his yawn.
“Sorry, Jim. Another late night, or should I say early morning, for you two. And another new case I'm afraid, although this body may be related to your other case involving Masterson Chemical.”
“The toxic waste dumping case. They're up for some stiff fines and penalties, and now escalating to murder? I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I learned from Dad what a cutthroat world big business is. Careers are going to be destroyed, and millions of dollars lost. That's more than enough incentive for some to commit murder.”
“The body hasn't been officially identified yet, but one of the guards thinks it's one of their subcontractors, Fred Myers. He works out of their district office north of Cascade.”
Jim glanced at Blair, worried by the lack of bounce to his partner this morning. Blair rubbed wearily at his eyes yet stood ready to assist Jim at the scene. Jim turned to Simon, “We believe they were dumping most of their waste out there, possibly on public lands, but we couldn't narrow down a location. What we do have is the trucker's mileage logs, if we can believe them. Blair and I were going to follow that up today. See if they measure up to any public lands or large tracts of company property or individually owned forests. If this is Myers, we'll have a chance to narrow the choices.”
“Keep me informed, gentlemen. It's going to be a long day.”
“There are a couple of possibilities here Sandburg. What do you think?” Jim asked. He had his own suspicions but held out for Blair's take on it.
“The mileage matches up with these three big sites. I see problems with two of them so neither of them would be my first choice. This one is too close to the coast, too many residents and tourists, therefore too many chances to be observed. This one, if I remember correctly from my treehugger days has a white water rafting center, with hiking trails. Not as many people as on the coast, but these people are big on environmentalism and they could show up anywhere in the area. If they saw anything suspicious I'd think they would have reported it. Now, this last one ... man, I really hate to think it's out there. The people at Freedom & Harmony Farm are old friends of Mom and I. They still hold to the precepts that they held when they started this place. It's a great place, Jim, a commune that's still going strong after 25 years.”
Jim thought he'd better tread carefully. If these people were Blair's friends this could get nasty. “Unfortunately, it looks like the best place to start Chief.”
Blair looked worried for his friends, “Yeah, they have well over a thousand acres, mostly woodland. The main buildings and fields are near the highway exit, but the wooded areas extend toward the Cascades. They've tried to keep the old growth forest untouched. It wouldn't be hard to hide an operation like that out there.”
Jim wanted to keep this information quiet, but this was out of their jurisdiction. “It's too late to head out there today, Chief, and we need to contact the County Sheriff's Department. Since you know some of these people I'm going to try to get us an okay from the County to try this on our own first. You know, just a friendly visit, to check out the owners and the area.”
Blair began an agitated pacing as he fought to control his distress, “Come on Jim, these are my friends. You can't expect me to lie to them.”
“Come on Chief, we need to get the people responsible. It's pretty unlikely your friends are involved, but you know we can't just arbitrarily rule them out and maybe they've noticed something unusual locally that can help us.”
Blair did his best to calm down, “You know I'll do what I have to do, Jim. But I want to be up front with them. They'll still need to know what's going on. The stuff that's being dumped is dangerous. You know as well as anyone that if it was dumped in their area it could be in their water and their food. They've made this place their home for them and their children. They'll be devastated if someone's contaminated it.”
“Okay Chief, we'll do it your way,” Jim sighed. He had a feeling that the meeting with Blair's friends could be hard on his partner.
They drove in past the bustling farm market and store. Blair knew his way around the commune, so it wasn't long before Blair was hailed by a short, stocky man in denim and flannel.
“Blue, it can't be. It's been years man.”
<Blue?> Jim thought.
Blair could guess what Jim was thinking. He whispered sentinel soft, “Not now Jim.”
“Justice, how are you man. It's great to see you. You haven't changed a bit,” answered a smiling Blair.
“Come on kid, no little white lies among friends, okay?” joked Justice.
“Fine, but cut the 'kid' stuff.”
“You are all grown up, Blue. Wait till my girls get a load of you.”
“The girls, how old are they now?”
“Lavender is 10, and Jasmine is 12, can you believe it? I sure can't. They're almost teenagers. I never thought that saying 'don't trust anyone over thirty' would sneak up on me, and bite me you know where.”
“I hear you, man. Mom told me about her visit a couple of years ago. She said things were going good for the group here. I was glad to hear it. I have to visit more often. This place has really grown. Who would have guessed this place would be a thriving business? How does it feel to be an entrepreneur in the organic food market?”
“No one is more surprised than me, Blue. It's pretty strange having to wear what they call 'business casual'. Those are two words I never thought would come together. But there's no way I'm cutting my hair. There are some things you just can't compromise on,” joked Justice. “But what can I do for you? You didn't end up here just because you got lost again did you?”
“Justice, this is my friend, Jim Ellison. We came to speak to you and the Council. It's important Justice. We need to speak to them as soon as possible.”
you know all you have to do is ask. Cherish, Leary, and Storm will
be glad to see little Sky Blue again,” Justice answered, with a
little smirk for Jim's reaction to the kid's name. This guy had
'cop' written all over him. What was he doing with Blue?
After introductions all around, Blair reluctantly got down to business.
“I don't know if you heard about my becoming a police detective, but it's police business that brings us here.”
Jim watched their reactions. That comment got more than one startled look from them. Blair 'Sky Blue' Sandburg ... a 'pig'. Naomi's son? Not the boy they knew and took a hand in raising. He could see it in their faces. Jim had been afraid of this from the moment Blair mentioned Freedom & Harmony Farm. He didn't have to be a sentinel to see a wall go up as soon as Blair stopped speaking. Blair had told him these people were nearly family. Jim knew it would hurt his partner to lose them. It's not like the kid had family to spare.
“Do you carry a gun, Blue?” asked Cherish. At Blair's stiff nod she continued angrily, “You know it's not allowed. We have children here. You know the commune rules. You'll have to leave. I'm surprised at you. We raised you better than that. If your values have changed that much then you should at least respect ours.”
Jim wanted to watch Blair's friends but couldn't take his eyes off Blair. He looks and sounds sick. He's pale and his heart is racing. Jim felt his own anger grow. These so-called friends shouldn't treat him like this. Jim had to remind himself to remain professional and not let his anger come out in his responses. That wouldn't help Blair. He answered her, “Respect goes both ways, Cherish. Maybe Blair's 'path' took him to law enforcement, but he brought his values with him. He's a good cop. Unfortunately, we're here on police business, so we have to insist, the guns stay with us, and we stay here until we get some answers.”
Blair continued, “Justice, we have information that could be important to the commune, to all of the people here. As you must know, it involves something illegal or we wouldn't have come here as detectives. We need to know if you've noticed any unusual activity on or near your property. Any increase in truck traffic. Any increased number of deliveries. Anyone out of place. Anything unusual at all.”
Blair kept his knee against Jim's while his friend did his sentinel thing. His partner was slightly unfocused and Blair didn't need him zoning while trying to sort all their vital functions with his senses. Blair tried to keep his breathing steady and his hands from shaking. Well, it was nice for a little while he thought. If he could just keep this professional maybe he could get out of here with some dignity.
There was a lot of eye contact being made around the table. These people were friends that had lived together, worked together, and raised their families together. Blair knew that a lot could be said with a glance.
The cold in the room seemed to ease, and Blair hoped that was a signal that he could relax a bit. They might or might not be friends when this was over, but maybe they would cooperate enough to help the 'pigs', and help themselves. They didn't yet know how dangerous the situation could be for them and their families.
Jim was a little ashamed to realize that he was surprised by Blair's friends. These people didn't have their heads buried in the sand. The sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the hippie movement died an early death here if it had ever gained a foothold. These people were back-to-the-earthers, whose steadfast stewardship of the land was for future generations.
Jim thought back to the meeting with a certain neo-hippie, one Blair Sandburg. His first impression had quickly been replaced by further exposure to the brilliant and energetic student, and then to the loyal and honorable young man he now called friend.
Jim learned that the people of Freedom & Harmony Farm had played active roles in their town and had noticed a number of helpful things. They knew Masterson Chemical Industries was a new and frequent presence in their neighborhood. They had taken it upon themselves to locate Masterson's 'client' in this area. But when they found it was a legitimate company of long standing with a local and well known 'client', they didn't question their activities too closely. Unfortunately the 'client', Fred Myers, wasn't a middleman for services, but a front for illegal dumping. Their shock was evident.
Cherish blurted her outrage, “We have to get the proper authorities up here to take this in hand. These people belong in jail.”
They seemed surprised, almost shocked, when Blair quietly agreed by saying, “That's why we're here, Cherish. Jim and I are cops. This is part of our job. Just let us do it, okay?”
It was a solemn group that gathered to see these scumbags turned over to the County Sheriff. Blair was totally professional, and Jim was proud of him. He knew how hard it was to go against the expectations of family.
Jim knew the commune folks didn't want to believe that Blair could really be a cop, not their bright-eyed Sky Blue. Today the evidence of the changes Blair had made in his life was right before their eyes. Jim could read their dismay plainly on their faces. And the hurt on Blair's.
Blair took a fortifying breath before speaking, “Cherish, Justice. We need to get these statements signed, then we'll be on our way. I won't bother you again if that's what you want.” Cherish wouldn't even speak to him, would hardly look at him. Was it such a betrayal to her? Blair didn't know if he could explain things to her even if she let him try.
Even Justice was subdued as he answered, “Alright, Blair. Let's go inside.”
“Cherish, could I speak to you for a minute?” Jim asked. Blair had gotten these people to work with them. Jim had doubted it was possible at first. With their help they had the evidence they needed against Masterson Industries and they had arrested the murderer. Now, to finish this up, and try to keep Blair's friends.
“For a minute Detective Ellison,” Cherish allowed grudgingly.
“I've known Blair Sandburg for more than five years, now. He's a good man. I think you know that already. You think he betrayed you and your nonviolent beliefs.”
“You must be a good friend Detective Ellison, to stand up for Blair this way. We don't exactly see eye to eye on things, Detective, but Blair has chosen his path as you said. I'm resigned to that. But I don't have to allow him, his ideas, or his weapon, anywhere near my home or my family. That's my choice to make, not his.”
“Blair came here knowing your probable reaction. But he insisted the people in this commune had nothing to do with the toxic dumping scheme,” Jim stated, knowing her probable reaction.
Cherish's head snapped up at that comment to glare at Jim, and he met her eye to eye.
Jim continued his plea, “Blair's a brave man. Not many people know this, but he saved my life the first day we met, at the risk of his own. Every day I'm aware how the despair and hopelessness he sees wears at him. He's helped me with cases that have had him retching in the bushes at the brutality we've had to face.
He's been terrorized by people like Garret Kincaid. He was kidnapped by the serial killer, David Lash. He was shot by one criminal and drowned by another. But even after all that, and more, he keeps coming back to be my partner. When I first met him, he was a gentle man, and at his core he hasn't changed. The caring is still there, and the need to help, no matter the cost to him.
I don't think you know what you'll be losing if you let Blair go today without trying to repair the friendship. You see, I've almost lost him a number of times. I've felt the fear of losing that friendship forever. Knowing Blair, he'll put himself in harms way again for a friend or even a stranger, so I know I'll feel that fear again. And it scares me, Cherish. He's not just my partner ... he's my best friend.”
Blair couldn't believe it. They asked him to come back and visit. They want us both to come for the Harvest Festival. It wasn't anything he'd said that changed Cherish's mind. He saw her looking at Jim. Man, Jim ... Blair didn't know how he did it, but thanks. He wouldn't even give him a hard time when he teased him about 'Sky Blue'. Shudder. If Jim tells Henri, Blair would never hear the end of it.
Sky Blue. Jim wondered what he could negotiate out of Sandburg with this one. Maybe he should just let him be. No, it's too good. I won't even have to tell anyone. Maybe I'll just surprise him with a new name plate for his desk: Detective B. S. B. Sandburg. With a decidedly evil grin that implied a promise for the future, he said casually, “So, Chief ... instead of B.S., that would make your initials B.S. ... B.S. ... ”