Summary: An accident. NOT a death story (at least not for any canon character).
Note: I read the list of story prompts (list from Sentinel Thursday site, thank you) and closed my eyes and clicked on “the end”.
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.
The weather report had said that it was supposed to be a beautiful Saturday morning in Cascade. According to Blair, when the weatherman predicted only a 10% chance of rainy weather, that was a cause for celebration and was reason enough for Blair to hatch a plan to cajole all of Major Crimes into a day of camaraderie at the park.
Jim and the rest of Major Crimes played along, indulging in one of their favorite pastimes - allowing Blair to 'convince' them of something they thought was a good idea anyway. Blair went on in an ever more effusive manner, his unbridled enthusiasm forcing the others to hide their smiles. They finally, graciously, 'relented' when Blair expressed his opinion that a sunny day in Cascade was almost as rare as an eclipse of the sun, and should therefore be celebrated with a well known fair weather custom ... the picnic ... an event common to man and woman (which Blair accompanied with a courtly bow toward Inspector Megan Connor).
Jim was waiting for the right time to throw in a 'spoiler', “Sandburg, most of us worked at least two double shifts this week. I am 'not' cooking after work ... late into the night if I know you ... only to get up at the crack of dawn ... and you know me too well to doubt that I can and will get you out of bed that early ... to go to the park, play hard, and fall into bed too tired to sleep.”
But Blair was easily up to such a simple challenge. They let Blair convince them that 'takeout' would be a suitable substitute, to be procured from a nearby restaurant.
So the only reason they were at the park at all was because of a perverse bit of 'luck' in the form of atypically good weather. For Jim and Blair, the conclusion of their outing was ... shall we say ... typical for them.
The beginning and the end of the primary event were only moments apart but as with many such events, the consequences and aftermath were far-reaching. At its beginning, Sandburg was perched on a railing. To Blair's credit, it was a very substantial railing and it was well anchored. However, with his fear of heights and their history with Quinn, Jim had been surprised that he'd gone within ten feet of it.
Blair appeared unconcerned at Jim's warning about the 'height' that was so close. From his vantage point, Blair would have had an impressive view of the river if he had bothered to look, but his attention was elsewhere as he flirted with Megan.
The primary event was upon him before he had a chance to realize anything was wrong. Luckily for Blair, instincts are what they are instinctive - because he didn't have time to think about his part in the primary event when it occurred. None of them did. Not Megan. Not Simon, Henri, or Rafe, and neither did most of the civilians in the area. Not even a certain sentinel, even though Jim couldn't help feeling guilty about it later because he felt that a sentinel was supposed to take care of his tribe, and most especially his guide.
It had seemed such a normal, everyday kind of day. The riverside park was busy. The weather, as predicted for this Saturday, was uncommonly fair. There was a seafood restaurant on one side of the little park with seating on the balcony. It had a grand view overlooking the edge of the park and the river below and was usually busy even when the weather didn't cooperate so sunnily. It was also known to have great 'takeout'. People were constantly in and out of the business, and that end of the park had yielded to the inevitable and had become a picnic area.
The situation that concluded their outing started very innocuously. Yet, as already mentioned, it hardly had a chance to start before it had ended. A woman left the restaurant with some friends, then said her goodbyes and got into her car - alone. The engine revved and very shortly after, if you were close enough to hear it, there was the sound of breaking glass. After the car passed through the plate glass window on that side of the restaurant, it exited out the other side - the park side.
From the park, what came next seemed absurdly calm, yet all of the witnesses recounted the surreal vision of an airborne cream-colored Cadillac. It sailed almost soundlessly off the balcony and clipped the railing along the river's edge before it disappeared over the cliff and out of sight ... along with Blair Sandburg, grad student and Observer of Major Crimes and its sentinel.
Jim's first reaction was to yell, “NO!” Which, like anything else that he could have done, would have been too little, too late. The causal situation had already come to an end. All the rest would have to be epilogue as the secondary events unfolded in their own time.
Megan had also screamed, “No!” albeit a second or so later than Jim, but being closer, she then fell flat to the earth to look over the edge, “Sandy! Hang on!” She turned toward Jim and had to hastily make room for him beside her as he dove toward the edge. She grabbed his belt and hung on, fearing he'd go over the edge, too, in his desperate haste.
Jim looked over the edge at Blair who was only a few feet down and clinging to a remnant of that railing. The fact that it had been anchored in a cement piling, and Blair's own survival instincts, had saved his life. He didn't seem to be hurt badly, but his face was ashen as he watched the car floating upside down in the river. The forceful landing had caused a set of ripples that were already dwindling in size, and the wheels were still spinning, from momentum and not because the engine was still working. A thin trickle of smoke also lazily escaped.
“Sandburg, look at me,” said Jim. “Don't look down there. Look at me!”
Jim could see Blair swallow with difficulty but he finally forced his eyes upward and away from the scene below. “That's good, Chief. Give me your hand. Come on. You're alright. Take it nice and slow.”
Jim grabbed Blair's ice cold and trembling hand. Their whitened fingers entangled in a tightly held grip. Jim pulled slowly and steadily until he and Megan could grab Blair's shoulders. When Blair had been dragged a good ten feet away from the edge and was sitting firmly on the ground, Jim wrapped him in a hug.
That was the end of the danger for Blair. Events had left them both shaken but they were slowly recovering from the ordeal. Jim was patient. He hugged Blair, and he rocked him, and he patted his back. They thought they'd regained their equilibrium until the chaos that surrounded them came to their admittedly distracted attention.
Their colleagues from Major Crimes, knowing that Jim had Blair under his protection, and having recovered somewhat from their own shock, had taken control of the scene and those secondary events that had already unfolded and continued to do so. Ambulances arrived, and teams of EMT's began assessing the injuries. Police cars had cordoned off the area. Crime scene tape was already being placed around the parking lot, restaurant and park. A police boat and rescue crew were approaching the now nearly submerged car. A news helicopter was hovering over the site even as television news vans converged on the area. Uniformed police were already doing crowd control, and rescue workers were searching the debris to look for more of the survivors and the dead.
Blair's shock at this new onslaught caught him by surprise, and Jim wrapped his arm around his shoulder and steered him toward an ambulance. When they got close Blair realized where they were heading and balked.
Jim said softly, gravely, “Blair, you were one of the victims, but we were all witnesses. We'll be right there with you.”
“I - is there anything we can do to help them?”
Jim examined the chaos surrounding them. Blair reached up to put his hand in the middle of Jim's back, and Jim turned to give him a nod and a strained smile. “Thanks, Chief.” Jim's enhanced senses readily accepted Blair's guidance and delved into the sights and sounds and smells of the disastrous accident. Jim concentrated on the sounds coming from the area of the restaurant. When he finally pulled back there was only regret on his face. “They don't need our help, Chief.”
Blair nodded and whispered, “It just happened so fast ...”
“I know. I couldn't do anything but yell.”
“I almost ...”
“But you didn't,” Jim said fiercely.
Blair started to shake again. He wrapped his arms around his chest and leaned into Jim.
Jim said, “They have the situation under control. Let's go give our statements to someone working the scene. Then our part in this is over ... for now. Then I'll take you home.”
Jim tightened the hug for a long moment. “It's over.” But Jim knew better. It would be a long time before either of them would forget this day. Jim's memory of the main sequence of events was literally a blur. The reality of the sudden danger and near death of his best friend was still making it's effects known. It had happened so very fast that he was still processing the chronology of events - and berating himself for not sensing the signs before anyone had been hurt - before Blair had almost been killed.
There must have been a warning - mustn't there? He recalled hearing an engine start ... was that it? Yes, that was the beginning. Was that the moment he should have known as 'warning', 'danger'? Shortly after came the sound of shattering glass, but muffled because it had happened on the other side of the restaurant, on the other side of the diners, and across the picnic area with dozens of people having a good time. So - no - not even that would normally be perceived as a harbinger of imminent death. Wasn't it all - just - too ... ordinary?
Yet what had happened next had happened in just a few seconds. A woman had gotten into her car outside of a little riverside restaurant near the park on a lovely spring day and because of her mistake she died. But not before she drove through a restaurant crowded with groups of friends and families; not before she killed two other people, injured twelve, and almost killed a dozen others, Sandburg included.
Witness statements after the event were disjointed. They may have seen the beginning but not realized its importance, or they had seen the end from a vantage point that gave them no real understanding of the disaster, or they had been at the center of it. For those in the restaurant it's impact was simply a flash of terror, not even time for the victims to try to save themselves. Their minds instinctively tried to replay it to make sense of it, almost like an action shot in a movie, where pieces of it are played over and over.
It only took a couple of seconds, but the horror of it would linger far, far longer than it's actual elapsed time. A nightmare in a few ticks of a clock, and then, the end.
Note 1: Years ago I saw a Public Service commercial that urged you to slow down in a highway construction area. It was very - shocking - to me. They drove a car at 55 mph through a closed office setting, with people standing around, to emphasize how important it is to the many different road crews that people SLOW DOWN in their work area.
Note 2: A few years ago someone in a nearby town drove their car through a restaurant. Luckily the real accident didn't turn out as bad as it did in my story. The lady crashed through the front of a local restaurant (by mistake, she put the car in drive instead of reverse). The restaurant was busy and there were injuries but no one was killed. The lady was extremely lucky that her car stopped before it reached the other side of the restaurant because at the back of it is a balcony for dining with a view of the river and a drop that is nearly straight down. The restaurant hastily installed ugly-but-secure concrete barriers in front of the building.
P.S. (WARNING: Nag alert. Sorry couldn't help it. I remember my Grandmother's driving and how no one realized how bad it had become until all the grandkids refused to ride with her.) This lady was very elderly. I know that many older people are very capable and cautious drivers, but if you 'know' that someone you love can't drive safely, then please ... stop them ... or at least report them anonymously. You may save their life, the loved ones riding with them, and others.