Redhawke.org
Survival
Survival
by Terri D. Thomas


Beta read by: Dotty and Gina Jones
Written for PetFly by: Howard Chaykin
Rated PG
internal thoughts in * *

~~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~~
Jim Ellison stepped off the elevator and waited for his partner to follow. "You got some kind of death wish here?"

Blair Sandburg shook his head and threw up his hands in defeat. "I didn't know it would backfire."

The detective couldn't stifle his laugh. "Let me tell you something: When my ex-wife and I first started to get serious, I burned all the old letters from all the old girlfriends."

Blair nodded knowingly. "Purification ritual." He waited for Jim to open the door to the bullpen and then the two entered.

Jim shook his head. "No, preemptive strike. No matter what they say, every woman you're involved with is going to want to believe that there was no one before her." Jim playfully thunked Blair on the back of the head. "What were you thinking of, letting her read all that stuff?"

Blair sighed. "Jim, I actually thought that honesty would strengthen our relationship. I'm stupid, I'm stupid," he muttered knocking his fist on his forehead.

Jim raised an eyebrow. "How detailed were these diaries?"

"Jim, I'm an anthropologist."

"Detailed," the detective guessed.

"Yeah," was the groaned reply.

Before Jim could harass his partner further, the voice of Captain Simon Banks interrupted the two. "Jim, can I see you a minute?"

Jim looked at his superior. "Yeah, sure, sure." He then turned to the smaller man beside him. "Hey. Let me tell you something: Your love life is criminal. You've got to destroy the evidence." He followed the advice with another brotherly thunk to Blair's forehead.

"Yeah," Blair sighed again, too preoccupied to notice Jim's actions.

Shaking his head, Jim left his friend at his desk to join Simon in his office, shutting the door behind him once he had entered.

"What's up?"

"Ryan called in sick. I'm a man short for the Dawson Quinn escort team. I was hoping you could take Ryan's place and ride up front with Quinn in the transport vehicle." Inwardly Simon winced knowing the reaction he would get from the detective. As expected, Jim was silent, but the firm set of his jaw spoke a thousand words.

Simon sighed. "Look, Jim, I know how you feel about Quinn, but right now you're the only one I can pull off the roster." Simon wasn't sure it was possible, but Jim's face was even harder. He decided to take the bull by the horns. "You don't have a problem, do you?"

Jim's response was short and cold. "No. No problem at all, sir." The detective pushed away from the wall against which he had been leaning and headed for the door.

"Jim..." Simon began.

The detective abruptly turned to face his superior. "Simon, what do you want me to say about this, huh? You know how I feel."

Simon stood up, making sure his voice was calm. "All right, this whole thing shouldn't be anything more than a milk run. I'll ride up front with Quinn. Why don't you take up the rear of the convoy?" He could see the hardness of Jim's face soften. "Do you mind taking up the rear of the convoy?"

"No," was the quiet response.

Simon smiled, pleased that he had been able to get through to his detective. "Great. You can take the kid along with you."

"For what?" The cold, harsh voice had returned as quickly as it had disappeared.

"Because he'll talk your ear off. The distraction will do you good."

"Simon, that won't be necessary."

"Humor me on this one."

"I don't want him near," Jim started to protest again, but the strong look in the captain's eyes changed his mind. "Yes sir," he responded.

~~~~~~~~

"What's wrong?" Blair asked, glancing at Jim.

The detective's jaw was set tight; his eyes were fixed on the road in front of him. "Nothing's wrong," he growled.

"Yeah, right, whatever," Blair sighed. Another moment's silence overtook the cab of the Expedition. "What'd I do?" the younger man finally asked.

Jim turned to Blair and then redirected his attention back to his driving. "You didn't do anything. This isn't about you."

"Then what's it about?" Silence met the question. "It's about this escort, right?"

Blair was certain that his questions wouldn't be answered, when suddenly Jim spoke, his voice soft. "His name was Gil Brody. He was only 24 years old and on his way to becoming a good cop. His dad was a cop. Kinda watched out for me when I was just starting out. I wanted to do the same for his son."

"What happened?"

"Quinn and his gang, they busted open the Federal Reserve. They got trapped inside with half a dozen hostages and five million bucks. I was assigned to the negotiating team, as was Brody." Jim paused for a moment, the memory clearly haunting him. "We negotiated for 12 hours. Finally, we got Quinn to agree to a trade -- the hostages for a cop."

Blair frowned at the implication of Jim's statement. "Wait a minute. Jim, you sent in a rookie?"

Jim glanced at his friend and then returned his eyes to the road in front of him. "No," he answered quietly. "I was supposed to go in, but Brody wanted to prove something to his father. He convinced me to let him take my place. It was only supposed to be was an exchange. I never..." Jim's voice trailed off.

"So, what happened?" Blair prodded gently.

"We screwed up...I screwed up." Ellison rubbed at his eyes, trying to wipe away the memory. "Quinn managed to get out through a storm drain in the back of the building. He took Brody with him. Three hours later we found his body in a trash bin."

Blair could feel his friend's sorrow. "Oh, man."

"I was the one who had to tell his father. I can still see the shock and pain in his eyes." Jim's gaze never wavered from the road in front of him. "It was my fault."

"No, Jim. It was Quinn's," Blair answered quietly.

~~~~~~~~

Simon would have given anything to not be sitting in the same proximity of Dawson Quinn. The man, if he could be called that, was a killer. He'd taken the life of a young cop with a promising future. The act had been cruel and cowardly, done with no justification and absolutely no remorse.

As if he could hear Simon's thoughts, the criminal spoke, "I don't suppose there's any point in apologizing. I am sorry about what happened to Brody. Things just got out of hand. If I could bring that kid back..."

Simon struggled to contain his anger. "Quinn! Why don't you just save it?"

Mournfully, Quinn's eyes dropped down to concentrate on his hands chained in front of him.

~~~~~~~~

Blair allowed Jim a moment's silence to recover from the nightmare of a memory. "How was Quinn caught?"

"He slipped up. He was caught in a random traffic stop outside of the state park. He tried to shoot his way out. Luckily the patrol got him before he could kill anyone else."

"What happened to the rest of them?"

"They disappeared. So did the five million."

"Quinn never rolled over on the rest?"

"Nope. Of course the D.A. refused to cut him a deal since he'd killed Brody."

Blair shook his head and turned his gaze back to the passing road.

A loud explosion drew his attention to the squad car in front of them.

"What was that?" Blair frantically asked, his eyes wide.

"Damn. Hold on, Chief!"

~~~~~~~~

The sound of an explosion caused Simon's anger to immediately dissipate. He knew the transport was in trouble even without being able to see outside of the van. "Floor it!" he yelled to the driver. The van swerved, causing Simon to slide off the bench and into the wall. His head connected with the hard panel, stunning the cop. He fell to the floor of the van, semi-conscious, unable to see the evil grin on Dawson Quinn's face.

The cop sitting next to Quinn leaned forward to help Simon. Quinn doubled up his chained fists and threw a punch into the officer's midsection. The injured man, taken by surprise, wasn't prepared for the blow. He crumpled to the ground next to Simon, equally helpless.

Quinn leaned forward and grabbed the guard's gun, aiming it at the two downed officers.

~~~~~~~~

With one hand gripped on the steering wheel, Jim pushed Blair's head down below the dash when he caught sight of a gun muzzle aimed for his Expedition. Suddenly the glass on the passenger side window exploded, crystal shards falling over the occupants. The police cruiser in front of Jim's vehicle met with similar damage and screeched to a stop. Jim turned the truck into a hard skid to avoid colliding with police car.

Jim watched helplessly as the van continued down the road, taking bullet after bullet into its side. Then the vehicle met its match when a bullet hit the tire and the van slid to a stop.

Jim reached for his radio. "This is David-1-5-2. Requesting backup to highway 91 in Leonard's pass. Heavy gunfire. Officers down."

~~~~~~~~

Simon was barely cognizant of the events happening around him. His cheek tickled at the feel of cold, damp air blowing against his face. It brought him slowly to awareness just as the sound of a man's voice bellowed, "Nobody move!"

Simon frowned as his brain began to piece together what was going on around him. His blurry vision tried to focus on the figures entering the van. A young blond woman walked past him, ignoring his prone form.

"Time to go, baby," she yelled.

"Ah, it's so good to see you," Quinn responded. Simon tried to blink away the haze. He could see the woman cutting the manacles around Quinn's wrists and feet.

"Let's go," Quinn said as he pushed himself from the bench.

Simon took a deep breath and reached into his wool jacket, pulling out his service revolver. "Quinn!" he shouted, hoping his voice sounded more threatening than he felt.

He hopes were dashed when Quinn reached out and tore the gun from his hand, pointing it at the captain's head.

"You should have accepted my apology," the criminal growled.

Simon shot a defiant glare at Quinn, realizing he was totally at the mercy of a killer.

~~~~~~~~

It wasn't hard to spot the getaway vehicle that Quinn intended to use. A helicopter had arrived on the scene and landed just beyond the damaged van.

Jim put the Expedition in gear and gunned the vehicle past the destroyed police cruiser. Even from inside the vehicle he could hear a male voice shout, "We got company!"

Jim punched the accelerator, toward the van. The gunman took aim and fired at the Expedition, nailing the front end and blowing out the front tires before it stopped.

"Quinn, come on!" the gunman shouted.

Quinn, who was staring down at Simon, broke his glare. He leaned over and grabbed the captain by the jacket collar and pulled him to his feet. Simon struggled briefly until he saw the muzzle of the gun pointing at his forehead. Quinn pushed Simon to the van door.

Jim could see the movement from inside the van. He climbed out of the vehicle as he shouted back a warning. "Keep your head down, Chief!"

Jim left the safety of the truck, his gun at the ready. His stomach dropped to his feet as he saw Quinn exiting the van with Simon in front of him, his gun trained on Simon's chest.

Jim had to fight back the overwhelming urge to fire upon the criminal, but common sense prevailed. Simon's life was at stake.

Quinn shot an evil smirk at the detective. Jim moved closer, even though he knew there was nothing he could do to stop the impending escape attempt.

Quinn must have known it as well because he lowered the gun slightly. His male accomplice kept his gun trained on the detective as the woman had escaped from the van and climbed into the helicopter.

"What are you going to do, Ellison? Huh?" Quinn taunted. "Ain't we the hero? You're going to screw up, Ellison. Now, careful, unless you want your boss to get the Brody treatment."

Jim swallowed down the nausea that rose in his throat at the memory of Brody's death. He'd be damned if he would allow the same thing to happen to Simon.

"Just put the gun down and step away from him," Ellison yelled, keeping his gun trained on Quinn.

Simon must have come to the same conclusion as Jim about his fate. "Come on, Jim, take him out!" Simon bellowed.

Jim's resolve was reinforced with Simon's words. He tightened his grip on his gun.

"You don't learn, do you?" Quinn jeered.

"Take him out, Jim! Take him out, now!" Simon screamed.

"Yeah, yeah. Go ahead. Do it! Go ahead, come on, take me out. The second I'm gone..." Quinn shot a look at the gunman next to him, "you're gone. Captain's gone. Think about it."

Quinn pulled Simon back to the helicopter and then shoved the police officer inside, knowing his back was protected by the other gunman. Quinn then turned back to Jim. "All you need's a cape, Ellison." He climbed into the cargo hold and yelled back to his friend. "Come on!" Quinn aimed his weapon at Jim as his cohort ran to the aircraft.

Jim moved forward so that he was even with the front of the van, only yards away from the helicopter and Quinn's only means of escape. He debated on targeting the getaway vehicle, but circumstances changed his mind. The transport driver, whose head was bleeding profusely, stumbled out of the vehicle. Jim could hear the car door of the Expedition opening as well. He knew without looking that Blair was approaching.

Jim thought the driver of the van was no threat until the man pulled out his gun and aimed at Quinn's male accomplice, who had his back turned to make his escape to the helicopter.

"No!" Jim shouted, running back to the guard.

But he was too late. The driver fired several times, one bullet hitting the gunman in the back of the leg. The criminal fell to the ground inches from the helicopter strut. Jim pushed the driver against the side of the van to protect him from any retaliation from Quinn and to prevent the guard from hurting Simon with a stray shot.

"Come on!" Quinn shouted.

The injured gunman rolled over, grabbed the strut and held on for dear life. The helicopter left the ground, clearly burdened by the extra load on its landing gear.

"Give me your hand, Quinn! Give me your hand!" the injured man yelled.

"You're a liability now," Quinn shouted back. "You'll slow us down." Quinn's foot pressed against the man's hand, pushing him off the strut.

The helpless man yelled, "Damn you, Quinn!" as he fell from the vehicle and landed hard on the ground. "Quinn!"

The helicopter sped off as Quinn shut the door. Jim ran over to the injured gunman who was writhing in pain on the ground. He rolled the man over onto his stomach and fastened handcuffs to his wrists. He glanced over his shoulder and saw that Blair had come to the driver's side in an attempt to help the injured man.

He looked down at gunman, who was groaning loudly. Disgusted at the turn of events, Jim snarled, "Do yourself a favor and shut up."

The smell of burning fuel wafted around him. He used his enhanced vision to zoom in on the escaping helicopter. His heart sunk as he saw leaking fuel near the back of the helicopter. A few moments later, the aircraft disappeared behind the tall trees lining the road.


~~~~~~ Act II ~~~~~~

Jim could smell the burning fuel again. The pouring rain couldn't block it from his sensitive nose. He strained to see where the helicopter had crashed, but couldn't because of the dense foliage.

He climbed out of the back seat of the car. Blair got out of the other side. Rafe and Brown exited from the front seat. "Where do you think they were heading?" Brown asked to no one in particular.

Jim shook his head. "Not sure. Quinn was originally picked up leaving this area when he was arrested. The theory is that he hid the money here somewhere. There has to be a reason why he was heading back to this area."

"So he's after the money?" Blair guessed.

"That's a fair assumption."

"They're sure Simon's not here?" Rafe asked, worry in his eyes.

"Mara - Agent Samuels - told me that, so far, there was no sign of anyone but the pilot."

"How do you want to proceed?" Rafe asked.

Jim looked at the people gathering on the hill above the crash site. "Let me get an update." He left the others without further explanation. Blair followed his partner.

Ellison approached a woman in a trench coat, holding an umbrella. She was talking with another officer. "Get back to me as quick as you can. Thanks," she said.

The man nodded and walked away.

Jim caught sight of a covered body being removed from the wreckage and approached the group of law enforcement personnel gathering around the scene.

Mara saw the concern in his eyes. "As I said, it's not your captain, Jim. It's the pilot. We think that Captain Banks is okay."

Jim gave her a tight smile. "It's been a while, Mara. How have you been?"

"Working too hard, but you know what that's like." Her eyes met his for a brief moment, then she turned away. "You know Sheriff Tennyson, don't you?"

"Uh...no, I don't think so."

She pointed to the detective while looking at the uniformed officer. "This is Detective Ellison."

Jim nodded and then pointed to Blair. "This is Blair Sandburg. So what have we got here?"

"The guy on the gurney is the pilot. The rest of them walked away near as we can tell. The chopper came down in the gorge." The sheriff pointed to the culvert below. "See those trees down there? Well, God and good deeds must have been on your captain's side because that's just about all there is that could have cushioned his fall."

Jim could hear Blair inhale slightly at the sight of the crash below. Mara turned to Jim. "As you know the five million never showed up. We think they're headed for where Quinn hid it."

Tennyson stood next to her. "We're going to break out my wilderness team. They've got a couple of good tracking dogs."

"All right, let's get on with the search," Jim replied quickly.

Mara's hand grasped his arm. "It's a kidnapping now, Jim. That makes it a federal matter."

"Yeah, I understand that, Mara. We're not gonna have any jurisdiction problems here. We're talking about my captain."

Tennyson testily sighed. "Well, good. Now that we're all friends and neighbors, can we get down to business? The way I see it, they've got to get out of the gorge. Now, the weather and the terrain being what it is, they must be heading due east."

Blair watched as Jim's gaze shot off in another direction. His friend then walked that way a few feet. "No," Jim finally spoke. "I think they doubled back, headed up north."

"Based on what, Jim?" Mara asked.

"Call it a hunch."

Tennyson shook his head, his patience clearly wearing thin. "Son, I've lived in these hills since before your mother started telling you bedtime stories. I see nothing to suggest any doubling back."

"Like I said, Sheriff..." Jim responded quietly.

Tennyson pulled out his radio. "Dennis, get the K-9 squads to rendezvous with me and the FBI just above Point Lobos, would you? Hang on a minute." He then looked at Jim. "You coming with us?"

"I'm heading up north," Jim answered and then walked away.

The man shook his head in disgust. "Oh, suit yourself." The sheriff looked over to see Blair getting a large backpack and gear ready. He watched as Ellison moved to join his partner. He then held the radio up again. "Better have a rescue unit stand by. We got a couple of city cops poking around the north woods."

"I wouldn't worry about Detective Ellison. He was a ranger," Mara commented.

Tennyson smirked. "Oh, yeah? Lone or space?"

Mara shot a disapproving glare at the officer then left to join Jim. She moved in front of him and gave him a gentle smile. "If you change your mind..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know -- due east." Jim allowed the faintest of smiles to touch his lips. "It's nice to see you again, Mara."

Mara nodded. "It is." She watched as Ellison's smile left his face and was replaced by a grim look. "We'll find him, Jim." She let her hand drift to his arm. She gripped it affectionately and then left to join Tennyson's men.

Blair approached his partner, with Rafe and Brown following. "What's the plan?" Brown asked.

"I'm heading north. I have a hunch."

"What should we do?" Rafe prodded.

Jim thought for a moment. "Go back through every piece of information you can find on Quinn. The money's here somewhere. See if you can pick up some clue as to where he would have hidden it."

"We want to help," Brown started to protest.

"I'll take care of things here. I need you two to make sure we aren't missing something in Quinn's file. We'll do this together, okay?"

Rafe and Brown glanced at each other and then looked back at Jim. "Okay. But you keep us informed," Rafe instructed. "We'll be at the station if you need us."

Rafe turned and made his way back to the car. Brown started to follow, then stopped and turned back to Jim. "Good luck."

Jim nodded and Brown rejoined his partner at the car.

Blair stayed at his partner's side. He handed Jim his backpack. "Here. Hey, Jim, how do you know they doubled back?"

"Those cigars that Simon smokes? He must be carrying them, 'cause I can smell the tobacco. I think can follow the scent."

"Really? Cool. All right. Let's get going." Blair eagerly grabbed his pack and slung it over his shoulder.

Jim frowned. "Look, Chief, I think I want you to go with Rafe and Brown back into town, okay?"

Blair shook his head profusely. "No, Jim. No way... come on, Jim, you can't do this alone. I'm your backup. You need me. And besides, I'm not a novice at this wilderness thing, all right? All right?"

Jim said nothing for a moment. Blair watched the doubt in his friend's eyes. "Jim, I'm not Brody."

Jim started at the words. His eyes met his partner's and he saw the grim determination in the blue orbs. The detective took a deep breath. "All right."

Blair smiled confidently. "All right. Now, which way is north?"

Jim shot him a look filled with disbelief. Blair laughed. "I'm just kidding. I'm kidding." He secured his pack and took out walking. Jim's hand halted his departure.

"This way, Chief," Jim said, pointing in the opposite direction.

Blair grinned sheepishly. "Right."

~~~~~~~~

Simon's head pounded. With his hands tied in front of him, he could only finger the wound on his scalp. It had stopped bleeding, finally, but he knew the pain wouldn't go away for a long time.

He watched as the woman that Quinn had called 'Lisa' approached the small cabin and cautiously looked into the windows. "Nobody's home," she shouted back.

Simon let out a sarcastic laugh. "I don't know, Quinn. Didn't plan this very well, did you?"

"Quinn, come on," Lisa shouted again.

Simon continued heckling his captor. "You really screwed up, didn't you?"

"I didn't plan on crashing in the middle of nowhere," Quinn answered curtly.

"Sounds like you didn't plan on much of anything. I don't know. What do you have so far? You screwed over your best friend, got your pilot killed, and what now? A little petty larceny?" Simon could see the anger building in Quinn's eyes. He pushed anyway. "I don't know, buddy. If I were you, I'd be looking for a new line of work."

Suddenly, Quinn exploded, backhanding Simon across the face, knocking his glasses to the ground.

"Quinn, come on," Lisa called out, trying to sidetrack Quinn from doing more damage to their captive.

Quinn grabbed Simon around the throat and held him against a tree, his fingers digging into soft skin.

"Stop. You'll kill him!" Lisa yelled, trying to pull Quinn away.

"So what?" the criminal snapped.

"Like you said, we need him healthy."

Quinn paused for a moment letting her words sink in. "Well, she's right. Wouldn't hurt to have you healthy." He slowly let his fingers loosen their grip.

"The cabin's well stocked," Lisa said as she turned her attention back to the cabin.

"All right, we'll get food, something warm." Quinn turned back to Simon, cruel eyes focusing on the captain. "From now on whatever we take...you're going to carry. Let's go, Banks." Quinn pulled Simon away from the tree and pushed him forward. "Haven't got all day. Go!"

~~~~~~~~

"What else did they take?" the large man growled as he stalked through the one room cabin.

The smaller man followed. "I told you, Wade -- blankets, canned food, first aid kit and canteens. Oh, and the, uh...the portable stove."

"Damn them to hell. They come in my house...take what doesn't belong to them."

"Well, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to find them. Then, I'm going to teach them a real lesson. You don't take from Wade Rooker."

"At least they didn't take the TV," the smaller man said, trying to lighten the dismal situation. The scowl he received in return proved that the effort had failed.

Rooker turned on the television, tuning in to the only channel that he could pick up with the small antenna.

A news broadcast was showing the area around a crash site. Rooker frowned as he watched police officers milling around the scene.

The announcer spoke, "Authorities have begun a massive search for escaped fugitive Dawson Quinn. Quinn is alleged to have hidden the $5 million from the payroll robbery somewhere in Olympia State Park, north of Cascade. Quinn, who, with the aid of a female, escaped from police custody and fled into the State Park..."

"That's who did it," Wade snarled.

The broadcast continued. "...daring escape from the Cascade police taking a police officer as hostage -- Captain Simon Banks of the Major Crimes unit."

Wade turned off the television and faced his friend. "They take from me...I'm going to steal from them. I figure $5 million ought to just about square it, right Dell?"

"Suppose it ain't them?" Dell replied, a hint of fear in his voice.

"Of course it's them. Who the hell else would it be?" Wade flipped on the switch to a police ban radio.

The voice immediately kicked in. "This is Deputy Holden. Sheriff Tennyson's orders are to rendezvous at 0800 at Point Lobos. Over."

Another voice responded, "Roger that. We also have two city cops heading north against the boss's better judgment."

Wade grinned evilly. "See, all we got to do...all we got to do is let those Feds go off on their little wild goose chase and those other three will lead us to the money. The tracks all go north which means that Quinn has to cross the river. That means...he's got to cross at Yellow Rock. Of course, we can't let those other cops beat us to the punch."

Wade reached into a cabinet and brought out two guns, handing one to Dell. Dell shook his head. "Wade...you can't take out a couple of cops."

"I'm talking about $5 million. There's no way I'm going to let anybody get in my way. I will take out anybody who gets in my way. Just get ready to go."


~~~~~ Act III ~~~~~

Jim approached the cliff, which overlooked the ravine. The sound of rushing water was almost overwhelming to his senses. He concentrated on the ground below, letting his vision take over. "They crossed the river."

"How can you tell?" Blair asked, making sure he stayed safely away from the edge.

"I can see their tracks...down there."

"Uh...I'm going to have to trust you on this one, Jim. I'm not much on heights."

"Since when?"

"Oh geez... how about since that thing with the elevator... or jumping out of the fifth story window at the station," Blair muttered.

Jim couldn't help the small smile that turned the corners of his mouth. "Oh that..."

"Oh that," Blair mimicked.

"Yeah, well, we'll have to find an easier way down. This place is just a little too hairy."

"Right," Blair nodded, in full agreement with his partner.

~~~~~~~~

"Those are the cops," Wade whispered, pointing at the two men standing a few hundred feet away.

"You sure?"

"I recognize them from the news show."

"Wade, I don't know about this," Dell responded nervously, running a hand over his face.

"It'll be easy. Everybody's gonna think Quinn did it," Rooker said as he raised the gun and aimed it at the unsuspecting cops.

~~~~~~~~

Jim tilted his head as a sound tickled at his ears. Blair watched the expression on his partner's face change. "What's wrong?"

"Shhhh... Something's," Jim started to respond. "Somebody's up there." Before Jim could say anymore, the clicking of ammunition being primed for firing met his ears. As the first shot was fired he pulled Blair to the ground and fell on top of him. "Stay down!" he shouted over the sound of automatic weapon fire.

Bullets ricocheted off of the rocks and logs, which stood between the gunmen and their targets. Jim pulled out his gun and blindly fired back, knowing he didn't stand a chance in hell of hitting the shooters.

He glanced at Blair lying on the ground beside him. The young man was curled in a ball, his hands over his ears, his body flinching each time a bullet hit nearby. He couldn't really blame him. He wanted to curl into a ball as well. Unfortunately, the assault on them couldn't be ignored. Jim took aim and fired again, knowing that he would have to reload soon.

"Is that Quinn?" Blair's voice interrupted.

Jim glanced down to see wide, blue eyes looking up at him. "It's different voices. Whoever it is has got the higher ground and more fire power."

"Well, what are we going to do?"

"We've got to hit the river." Jim couldn't believe he was even suggesting the option, but at the moment he couldn't think of any thing else.

"I can't do that, man. I can't do that." Blair's words were full of fear.

"Look, don't worry about it, Chief, it'll be over before you know it." Jim hoped that his tone held the confidence that he didn't feel inside.

"That's what I'm afraid of." Blair had pushed himself to his knees. Jim wasn't so sure that the younger man wouldn't try to flee in fear, just to avoid the jump. He placed what he hoped was a reassuring hand on his friend's arm.

"No choice, Blair," he said, pulling his friend closer to the edge. Blair didn't fight, despite his obvious terror.

Jim kept hold of Blair's arm as the two men ran to the cliff and leaped over the side. It was only once free fall occurred that Blair became separated from Jim.

Jim's cap flew off. Despite how quickly the scenery passed by as they fell, time seemed to take forever. Blair's panicked scream echoed through the canyon. "Oh... my... God!

Then both men crashed into the water and disappeared beneath the white-capped surface.

~~~~~~~~

Dell carefully gazed over the edge. "Think they're dead?"

"If they are, it's no thanks to you," Wade sneered. "Come on, let's go get our money." Wade stomped away from the edge, kicking an abandoned backpack in fury.

~~~~~~~~

"Those were gunshots, Quinn," Lisa whispered, fear in her voice.

"I know, Lisa, I know. Don't tell me what I already know," Quinn spat back, aiming his binoculars into the valley in an effort to detect what had happened.

"You think it was hunters?" Lisa asked hopefully.

Simon spoke for the first time from where he sat, his hands bound in front of him and rope wrapped around his chest. "Hunters? With automatic weapons? Yeah, right."

"If that was the police, what were they shooting at? Or maybe they're just making enough noise to let me know they're here, right?" Quinn approached his captive. "Keep the play-by-play to yourself. If I want your opinion, I'll give you a yank." Quinn cruelly followed up on his words by yanking Simon after him by the rope he had tied around the taller man.

~~~~~~~~

Jim surfaced first, spitting water from his mouth and struggling to see his surroundings. He looked around to find Blair and felt a stab of fear when he couldn't locate his friend. Then Blair surfaced just a few feet downstream from him, gasping for air. Jim reached out to pull Blair closer to him, but his fingers just missed latching on to Blair's jacket. Blair tumbled away, trying to keep his head above the water while the churning river tried to pull him under.

This was one time when Jim was thankful that neither he nor his friend was wearing heavy layers. It was hard enough to keep afloat as it was.

Jim watched as Blair pointed his feet down stream so that his boots could take the impact of bouncing from rock to rock. Jim followed suit. The rapids began to slow, and Jim began to swim towards the shoreline, making sure that Blair was following.

Finally, the two men struggled to the rocks on the bank. Blair gasped for air and laid his forehead on his arm, breathing heavily. Jim pulled himself next to the younger man. "You all right?"

Blair didn't respond at first. Jim watched as Blair pulled a soaked glove off his hand, his fingers then rubbing at his forehead. "Chief, are you okay?" Jim repeated.

"Yeah... yeah, I think so," Blair murmured.

Jim patted his friend's back. "We made it."

Blair coughed, trying to clear his throat from the water he had involuntarily swallowed. "Yeah. Great. I am never -- I repeat, never -- doing that again."

Jim chuckled, almost giddy with relief. "Got it." He then looked around, his elation at still being alive suddenly disappearing. "Oh, man! We lost everything. The map, the compass...." Jim pulled out his gun, already knowing what he'd find. "Damn. I've only got one bullet left."

Blair finally sat up. "Jim, who the hell were those guys?"

Ellison shrugged his shoulders. "You got me. We'll have to watch our backs, though." He stood up and then helped Blair to his feet. The younger man stumbled and then regained his balance. He shook his head. "You sure you're okay?" Jim asked, worry in the words.

"Yeah...just a little shaky." Blair paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "I'm ready."

Jim patted him on the back. "Okay, let's get going."

~~~~~~~~

Blair wasn't sure how long the two men had been running through the woods. Time had lost all meaning to him. His head was pounding with every step he took. He fingered the wound and could feel a large lump just above his left ear. He remembered hitting his head on something hard and unforgiving when his body had hit the river, almost certainly a rock or log. The cold of the water had numbed the pain. It was only after he and Jim had begun their frantic trek through woods that the pain had surfaced. It had now grown to the point that Blair was certain his head was going to explode.

Night had overtaken the forest. The overcast sky blocked any moonlight. Periodic flashes of lighting helped to light the way. Blair knew that darkness was no problem for Jim's enhanced senses, but he was not so lucky. Jim seemed to forget that fact. He was so focused on trying to find Simon, he ran through the woods, deftly avoiding raised tree roots, stumps and rock. Blair clumsily followed, tripping over the obstacles in their makeshift path. He couldn't remember how many times he had tripped and stumbled, each incident magnifying the pain in his head.

Jim jumped off the edge of a three-foot ravine, his long legs stretching out. Blair blindly followed, jumping down, headless of what was waiting below. Unfortunately, his shorter legs didn't stretch as far as Jim's and he landed in shin-deep water. The sudden weight on his legs impeded his movement and he fell forward, landing on his hands and knees on the relatively dry ground just beyond. It was at that point he knew his head had exploded.

He looked through bleary vision and found that Jim was still running on ahead. "Jim!" The weakness in his voice surprised him. Fortunately Jim's super-hearing picked up the shaky word.

The older man stopped and turned. His eyes widened when he saw his partner on his hands and knees. "Blair?"

"Hey, buddy, hang on, man. I need a couple minutes. My head is killing me, man." Jim ran back to Blair's side, crouching next to him. Blair had pushed himself to a sitting position, his hand pressed against the left side of his head.

"What's going on? Is your vision okay?" Jim gently pushed Blair's hand away and then carefully fingered the lump that was too large to miss, wincing as he felt the swelling. "Ooh, yeah, you got pretty well banged up there. Why didn't you say something earlier?" His tone was slightly scolding.

Blair shrugged his shoulders, but gave no other response. Jim squeezed the injured man's arm with unspoken affection. "It's okay. I understand." He examined their surroundings. "All right, this is a good place. It's good shelter. Why don't we take a rest."

Blair shook his head and then winced at the movement. "No... Simon needs help."

"You need to rest, buddy."

"I'll be okay. We have to help." Blair started to push himself to his feet.

"No, Chief. You're not going anywhere."

"But," Blair started to protest.

"Okay, I'll tell you what. I'm gonna see if I can get back on their trail. Then I'm gonna double back for you in a little while. Are you okay with that?"

Blair frowned for a moment. "Are you going to think less of me if I actually take you up on that offer?"

Jim couldn't help but chuckle. "You mean will I think of you as some self-serving, spineless goober? Well, since I came up with the idea, no."

"Thanks."

Jim nodded. "All right." He stood, took a few steps away and then paused and turned back to his friend. "Oh, Chief...you stay awake, all right? No campfires." Before Blair could answer, Jim had disappeared into the trees.

"Yeah...right...no campfires." Blair picked up a handful of wet muck. "What am I going to burn, man? Cold and wet is my world." He pulled his damp coat tightly around his body trying to block out the cold night.

~~~~~~~~

Simon pulled his knees up to his chest, trying to pull his large frame into a ball to ward off the cold. The night air was cool. His damp clothes were providing little protection and the small fire that Quinn had built was too far away to provide any warmth. To add to his misery, his stomach growled, reminding him of how long he had been held captive by Quinn.

Quinn had fallen asleep near the small fire. Simon couldn't help but be envious of the heat that his captor was enjoying. Lisa kneeled next to the flame and spooned out the contents of a small pot into a tin cup. Simon's stomach growled again. He could smell the steaming broth, but knew that Quinn had no intention of letting him have any.

Lisa, though, did not seem to share Quinn's desire to torture him. She approached the large man and held the cup out to him. "Here."

Simon reached out, slightly hesitant. When she didn't jerk it away, he grabbed the cup and held it carefully to his nose, enjoying the aroma. "Thanks." Her features softened. She nodded, then started to turn away. Simon's voice stopped her. "Hey, if you're really cold, you can have my coat. Just got to loosen up the ropes a little bit."

Lisa smiled at his attempt. "Sorry, I can't do that."

Simon tried another tactic. "You know, you can still get out of this, Lisa."

Quinn's scratchy voice cut in. "Oh, you really are a piece of work, aren't you, Banks?" Quinn let loose a loud yawn and a stretch. "The minute I close my eyes...you start talking behind my back, making trouble with my woman." He rolled over and faced his captive. "Oh, well...no soup for you. Pour it out."

Simon ignored the order and took a sip from the cup.

Quinn pushed himself to a sitting position. "I told you to pour it out." The words were sharp with barely contained rage.

Simon turned slightly away from Quinn and held the cup to his lips. "I heard what you said." He then took another sip.

Angrily, Quinn stood up and moved in front of the police officer, resting his hand on the butt of his gun. "Pour it out!"

"Or what?" Simon scoffed. "What are you going to do? Shoot me? Go ahead. The gunshot will bring anybody within ten miles."

"I don't need to use a gun," Quinn threatened.

"Quinn," Lisa interjected.

Simon took another sip. "Get up," Quinn growled. Simon didn't move. "Get up!" he shouted again.

Simon's brown eyes bore into the man. "As soon as I finish my soup." He started to lift it to his lips and then suddenly threw the contents of the cup into Quinn's face.

Simon threw his body forward and collided with Quinn, scrambling for the gun. The two men rolled back and forth, struggling against each other. Both men froze suddenly when the deafening blast of a rifle went off behind them.

Lisa stood over the two men, aiming the rifle at Simon's back. "Get off him! I'll shoot you, I swear I will." Simon cautiously separated from Quinn. "And don't try any of that cop psychology on me. It's not going to work," Lisa spat.

Quinn shoved Simon aside and stood up, leaving Simon on the ground. Fury filled the man's face. He aimed a harsh kick at Simon's mid-section. The captain grunted in pain and rolled away. Quinn kicked again, this time making contact with the small of the captive's back. Simon instinctively rolled back. Quinn kicked again. He then raised his gun at the man.

"Don't do it, baby," Lisa said softly, a hand on Quinn's arm. "Think about the money. We can't get it without him. Somebody could've heard. We've got to go."

Quinn lowered the gun. "We'll have our day, you and me. You can count on it."

Simon closed his eyes, a mixture of despair and relief filling him.

~~~~~~~~

Jim didn't need his sentinel hearing to hear the gunshot that echoed through the forest. The sound came from in front of him, not from behind, so Blair was safe. It meant that Simon was close, he thought confidently. Then a sickening idea came to him; that shot could mean Simon was dead.

Despite his exhaustion, Jim pushed himself forward, set on finding his friend.

~~~~~~~~

Blair startled awake, not sure what had woken him. Guiltily, he could hear Jim's voice in his head scolding him for having fallen asleep. He couldn't help it, though. He was so tired and his head hurt so much. The sound of a branch breaking brought him to full alertness. He told himself that Jim must be returning. Then he realized that the thought could be merely wishful thinking. He pushed his heavy body to his knees and whispered, "Jim? Jim, is that you?" He made sure to keep his voice at the lowest level, one that he was certain only Jim could hear.

There was no response. "Oh man," Blair mumbled, knowing that if Jim were out there he would let Blair know it. His instincts told him that someone else was approaching - someone who was not a friend.

Blair stood on shaky legs and pressed his body against the tree trunk that he had been leaning against. He closed his eyes, praying that his instincts were wrong.

~~~~~~~~

Jim had found the campsite with little trouble. The smell from the smoke had drawn him to the location. Unfortunately, Simon and his captors were gone.

What was there was a tin cup. Jim picked it up and felt a trace of warmth resonating through the metal. He wasn't far behind.

His keen eyes examined the area. He found an expended shell lying on the ground. However, there was no body... no blood. Relieved, he knew that Simon was still alive, at least for the present.

"I'm coming, Simon. Just hold on," he whispered. He inhaled deeply, hoping to catch another scent of Simon's cigars. The smells of wet pine, moldy soil and animal droppings were overwhelming. He tried to filter out each one on the hope of picking up the bittersweet smell of tobacco. He concentrated deeper and deeper on the smells, letting each one enter his nose. Before Jim could stop himself, he had zoned on the stimuli.

~~~~~~~~

Blair could hear the sound of footsteps coming closer. "Please be Jim," he silently prayed. Feeling exposed, Blair moved around the tree to an area that was more heavily shadowed. He held his breath trying to detect the sound of the footsteps again. There was nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees. Maybe he'd imagined it all, he tried to convince himself. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. He turned to rest his back against the tree. Before he could complete the action, though, the butt of a gun filled his vision and connected with his cheekbone, snapping his head back into the tree trunk. He was out cold before his body hit the wet ground.

~~~~~ Act IV ~~~~~

Blair's muddled brain told him that he should open his eyes. He could only get one to cooperate. Slowly it opened. The world it saw was foggy and blurred. He blinked again, and this time the second eye opened as well. It was less cooperative, only opening halfway. It was crusted over and he reached up to feel what was covering it. Before he could complete the movement, a cruel voice interrupted him. "Morning, sunshine." Blair frowned, not recognizing the man.

"Who are you?" Blair asked, his voice raspy.

"Wade Rooker's the name." The man squatted down in front Blair. "Where's your buddy?"

Blair's eyes shot between Rooker and the man standing behind him. He saw the large automatic rifles each of them held. His confused mind suddenly put two and two together. These were the men who had shot at Jim and him at the river. Blair knew that he had to protect Jim, no matter what ultimately happened to him. "He drowned, man. He didn't make it out of that river." The lie fell off his lips with ease.

"Drowned, huh?" Wade scoffed.

"Yeah."

Wade glanced at his partner and then grinned evilly at his captive. "Well...I guess that leaves only you." He stood and raised his weapon, taking aim at Blair's head.

Blair raised his hands, knowing that there was no way he could stop the bullets that were about to rip him apart. At first he prayed Jim would rescue him; then he rejected that thought, afraid Rooker would kill the sentinel as well.

Blair closed his eyes, waiting for the explosion of a bullet to tear into his body. Instead, what he heard was the voice of the second man. "We could just tie him up."

"I can't take that chance, Dell. We're in too deep. We've already killed the other cop. We can't have any witnesses."

Blair's eyes opened and then bounced back and forth, watching the exchange between the two men, waiting for the slim chance of escape.

"You can't just kill him," Dell pleaded.

Wade glared at Dell. "I can do anything I damn well please. Look, I want to be rich and that means they all have to die. Starting with Mr. Mozart here." The gun was aimed back at Blair's chest.

Blair felt his stomach fall to his feet, knowing that no chance of escape was going to happen for him. Then Dell stepped forward again. "This ain't right, Wade!"

"Get out of my way, Dell." Rooker pushed the man. "Get the hell out of my way!"

Dell reached out to take the gun from Wade. Furious, Wade grabbed Dell and shoved him, putting all his weight into the action. Suddenly, Blair realized that the men were fighting each other and neither was watching him. Taking his opportunity, Blair pushed himself to his feet and stumbled away, his muscles weak from exhaustion and disuse. He ignored the pain and ran with all the speed he could muster, praying to get as far away from the men as possible. Blair flinched when he heard the sound of a gunshot echo behind him. He instinctively ducked, trying to make himself as small a target as possible while still fleeing. Then he realized the bullet wasn't meant for him. He fought the urge to turn around and find out what had happened. However, common sense told him he couldn't afford the delay if he was to survive and warn Jim of these new enemies.

~~~~~~~~

Neither Dell nor Wade saw Blair flee. The two men were too engrossed in their struggle. Dell pushed Wade again only this time their hands became tangled in the weapon that Wade held. The gun went off, surprising both men. Wade separated from Dell and then Dell collapsed, boneless, to the ground and rolled lifelessly down a small mound and landed facedown in the nearby stream.

Wade was mortified. He stumbled forward. "Dell? Dell?" There was no response. He knelt next to the still form and turned Dell gently onto his back. He didn't have to check for a pulse to know that his friend was dead. "You old, stupid son of a," he mumbled. His anger flared. *Damn it!* his mind screamed. *This was all their fault.* He cursed Dawson Quinn for breaking into his cabin. He cursed the long-haired hippie that had caused Dell's death. He vowed that they would all pay for what they did to Dell, one way or the other.

~~~~~~~~

The sound of a gunshot jerked Jim into sudden awareness and he stumbled, falling onto his knees. *Daylight,* his mind screamed. When had it become daylight? "Damn, damn, damn," he growled, realizing what had happened. He'd zoned. *If it hadn't been for that gunshot,* his mind warned, and then stopped. *Gunshot?* He closed his eyes. From where had the sound come? He concentrated and realized that the sound had come from behind him, in the direction he had left Blair.

Suddenly panicked for his partner's safety, Jim pushed himself to his feet. Ignoring the pain of his unused muscles, he began a hard run back to the location where he had left Blair.

~~~~~~~~

Every time one of Blair's feet connected with the ground his head screamed in pain. The jarring of the impact was almost disabling. But he knew he couldn't stop running. His attackers were close behind, and Jim was alone.

He ran without knowing where he was going. He ran without knowing his direction. The ground passed by him in a blur. Everything was in a fog.

Suddenly he ran into a large, unmoving obstacle. "Oh!" Blair exclaimed, his mind overwhelmed with fear. His muddled brain screamed that it was his captors. Panicked, he pushed away and tried to bring his arms up in defense. However the man held them firmly in place. It was only then that Blair heard Jim's words.

"Whoa. Whoa. Easy. Easy, Chief." Jim spoke calmly, but firmly, while keeping a tight grip on the smaller man's arms. Blair didn't respond. His eyes were still wide with fear, his breathing harsh and filled with terror. "Chief. It's me. Settle down. I heard a shot. What happened?"

Blair finally seemed to hear the words of his friend. The fear that had filled him seemed to dissipate. "Oh, God, Jim, it's you."

"Yeah, Blair, it's me. What happened? Are you okay?"

"It's those guys from the river, man, from the river. It had to be them. They knocked me out, man." The words tumbled out of Blair's mouth.

Jim's right hand moved to Blair's face, seeing for the first time the deep bruising on Blair's cheekbone. "Ouch...that looks bad. We need to get a cold compress on that."

Blair closed his eyes and shook his head. "They could be coming for me. They were gonna kill me, but they got in this fight and I...I got away." Jim continued to hold onto his friend, only now it was out of support rather than restraint.

Internally, Jim cursed himself for having left his young friend alone in the first place. "I'm sorry, Chief. I should've known better. I shouldn't have left you alone."

Blair shook his head and then winced in pain. "No, Jim, not your fault." He pulled away from his friend and tried to take a couple of steps away. "But we have to go! They have guns...."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Shh-shh," Jim said reassuringly. "No one's following us. I don't know where they went, but they didn't come after you."

Blair started to shake his head in denial. Then his blue eyes met Jim's and he knew without a doubt that he was safe.

~~~~~~~~

"We're close. I recognize the terrain," Dawson Quinn said confidently as he lowered his binoculars from his eyes.

"This is crazy, Quinn," Simon Banks responded bravely, despite still having his hands tied behind his back. "Where in the hell are we going?"

Lisa smiled knowingly as Quinn turned to face the large captain. "Oh, it's a surprise. You don't like surprises?"

Quinn's face turned cold and then he yanked cruelly on the rope binding Simon. The captive fell to the ground with a grunt. He looked down to find that his leather cigar case had fallen out of his pocket. Quinn smiled like the Cheshire cat. "My, my, my, you've been holding out on me."

He picked up the case and opened it, revealing one cigar. Removing it, he held it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. "Nothing I like better than a hand-rolled cigar." He then grinned at Simon again. "Sorry I can't offer you one." He then bit off the tip and spat it away. Lighting the cigar, he placed it in his mouth and took a deep draw from it. He then tossed the now empty cigar holder on the ground.

"Pick it up," Simon growled, struggling to his feet. Quinn ignored him. "I said, pick...it...up," Simon repeated more slowly. "That was a present from my son.

Quinn chuckled. "Save the sentimentality for someone who cares."

Changing his tactics, Simon tried another approach. "This isn't going to end the way you want it, Quinn. You know it, and I know it. You're a cop killer. But the way I see it, you got one chance. Release me now, give yourself up and I will try to make a deal for you. You got to know life in prison is better than the death penalty."

"And if I don't?" Quinn scoffed.

"Then I'll make sure you get the same consideration you gave to Officer Brody. You can count on that."

Quinn let a full-blown laugh escape. "You got big ones, Banks, I'll give you that." Lisa joined in, finding humor in their captive's irrational courage.

"Here's my deal, Banks. You do right by me, help me get what I want, I'll let you live." Quinn came closer to the man, his voice low and threatening. "Screw up...you'll never see your boy again." He let his words sink in. "Now, let's go." Cruelly, he yanked on the rope again, pulling Simon after him.

Simon had no choice but to follow the murderer. He had long ago given up trying to keep track of their trail. He had no idea what direction they were heading, nor did he have a clue of their ultimate goal. Clearly, though, Quinn did have a goal...and it was in these woods.

The three continued their trek through the woods for another half-hour. Then Quinn stopped. "This is it." Simon examined the area in front of him. It was an abandoned mining camp, with several buildings in disrepair.

"You buried it here?" Lisa asked incredulously.

"Can you think of a better place?" Quinn began walking again, heading for a wood covered shaft. "My old man used to work this mine. Used to go down in the shaft when I was a kid. I knew no one would look here." He pointed to the wood structure. "I buried it in the wall of the equipment shaft. Thing damn near caved in on me." He looked at Simon. "That's why we need you. You got a lot of work to do. I hope you're up to it." He pulled Simon roughly towards him. "Your boy is depending on you."

~~~~~~~~

Blair stumbled to a halt, wishing the pounding in his head would go away. He closed his eyes, thankful that Jim had stopped walking.

The older man stood silently, clearly concentrating on his surroundings. After a few moments, Blair frowned. Jim had not moved since stopping. Blair touched his arm. "Jim?" he asked cautiously. Nothing. There was no response from his friend. Squeezing the arm gently, Blair repeated, "Jim? Are you with me?"

Nothing. Blair moved in front of Jim and this time said loudly, "Ellison!"

Jim jumped, obviously startled by the volume. "Wha-?" Realizing what had happened he dropped his chin to his chest. "Not again," he mumbled.

"Again?" Blair asked, worry in his voice. "What do you mean 'again'?"

"Earlier, before I found you, I think I..." Jim stumbled.

"You zoned?"

"Uh...yeah..." Jim answered weakly.

"See! See! I told you that you shouldn't have gone on alone."

"I don't get it, Chief. I haven't had problems like this in... .Well, a long time."

"Jim, you're tired and stressed and scared for Simon. You haven't slept in over twenty-four hours. There's no way you are going to have as much control over your senses as you do when you're a hundred percent. That's why you need me here to watch your back."

Jim smiled, scrutinizing his partner's bruised face. "Okay," he responded simply. "But remember, your job's to keep me from zoning. Nothing more, Chief. Got that?"

Blair begrudgingly nodded. "Got it." There was silence between the two men for a moment. "So, are you sure we're heading the right way?"

"Yeah, at least I think so. I smell Simon's cigar smoke. That's what I was concentrating on."

"Okay, so which way?"

Jim pointed and then began walking. Suddenly he stopped and squatted down. "Look here." He picked up Simon's discarded, empty cigar case. "No doubts now," he confirmed, tucking the case safely in his pocket.

~~~~~~~~

The shaft that Simon was being lowered into was dark and cold. He had been positive that he couldn't be any more uncomfortable than what he had been when he was being pulled along like a dog behind Quinn. However, he'd been wrong. He was absolutely miserable now. His hands were freezing; the rope that was supporting him in his decent was digging into the back of his thighs. His head was pounding and his ribs were screaming at him. While he was certain that nothing was broken, he was definitely battered and bruised.

Quinn lowered the rope further down into the shaft. Simon scanned the walls with only the dim light from above to help. "I don't see anything down here, Quinn."

He could hear Quinn's shout from above. "I've got the rope marked. I'm gonna lower you down another couple of feet on three. One. Two. Three."

Suddenly Simon plummeted down the hole. He couldn't hold back the shout of fear. His body banged uncontrollably against the sides of the shaft. Dirt and debris cascaded down around him, falling into nothingness. It took a moment for Simon to compose himself again. "What are you doing up there, Quinn?!" he yelled.

A flashlight was suddenly glaring into Simon's eyes. Quinn was looking over the side. "What do you see?"

Simon looked around for anything out of place, anything that would indicate where the money was hidden. "There's a piece of wood covering part of the wall here."

"That's it. Just rip that sucker off of there."

Simon mustered the strength to pull the wood away. His task was difficult with nothing to support him but the flimsy rope. He lodged his feet against the wall and pulled. The wood came loose. Inside was a burlap bag. He worked on pulling the bag free.

He heard Quinn speak again. "Won't be long now, baby. We're almost home."

Simon couldn't get the bag free. He pulled and pushed and it wouldn't budge. "Come on, Banks. Move it. Let's go," Quinn yelled impatiently.

"Maybe you'd like to come down here and help," Simon muttered. Then the bag came free. "All right...I got it."

"Good. Good," Quinn responded smugly. "You just hang onto it. We'll pull you out."

Simon attached the bag to his harness so that it swung loose below him, leaving his hands free to hang onto the rope.

Slowly, Simon was raised from the depths of the shaft. Then Simon heard a loud popping sound and without warning he was dropped back into the shaft. He let out another scream, this time certain that he was going to fall to the bottom. Then, just as suddenly, his decent stopped, violently jerking him. "Oh God," he mumbled in relief, once he realized that he had narrowly avoided certain death.

He was pulled up again, the ascent slow. Finally, he was at the top with Quinn and Lisa staring down on him with anxious faces.

"Give me the money," Quinn ordered.

Simon started to unclip the bag and then thought twice of his actions. "You help me out."

Quinn shook his head. "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Money first. Money first."

Simon shook his head stubbornly, holding his hand up to Quinn. "Give me a hand, damn it! Get me out of here quick!"

~~~~~~~~

The first thing that Jim's enhanced vision detected when he entered the clearing was Quinn and his female accomplice bending over the side of a shaft. There was no sign of Simon. He focused his hearing on them. He heard Quinn's voice. "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Money first. Money first."

Then he heard Simon's response coming from inside the well. "Give me a hand, damn it! Get me out of here quick!"

Jim ran forward with Blair following close behind. He pulled his gun and aimed it at Quinn. "Do what he says. You heard the man -- do it!" Jim ordered, his words firm. "Get him out of there now! I said bring him up."

Quinn dropped his head in defeat and then reached in and helped Simon out. Jim focused his hearing on Simon, trying to listen to his life signs to determine his wellbeing while still concentrating his vision on Quinn's actions.

Blair watched as Jim aimed his gun unwaveringly at Quinn. Then he saw Simon's arm extend up from the hole. Quinn grabbed it and hauled the man out.

Simon landed in an undignified heap at the base of the chute. He looked exhausted and pushed himself slowly to his feet and then stumbled away from Quinn and towards his rescuers, pulling the rope off of him as he moved. Quinn took a step forward. "Stop right there," Jim warned.

Jim's eyes followed Simon's progress. Blair could tell that the sentinel was totally focused on his captain. He couldn't blame the man for his concern. The past twenty-four hours had been totally consumed by the rescue. Blair sighed. He wished he could feel relief, but nagging unease haunted him. He pushed his damp hair away from his face and tried to calm his raging nerves.

He started to move forward to help Simon when the sound of movement in the forest behind him caught his attention. He turned and saw branches moving at a rate much stronger than the slight breeze in the air should have caused. He glanced at Jim, but his partner was still focused on Simon and Quinn. Blair started to say something to draw Jim's attention, but before he could he saw a figure crouch down behind a tree trunk. He recognized the clothing immediately. It was Rooker. Blair took a stumbling step backwards. "Jim!" he shouted in warning.

Jim turned to Blair. Blair, though, was looking in the other direction, into the woods. Before Jim could redirect his focus at whatever had drawn Blair's attention, Blair yelled, "Get down!" Then the smaller man rammed his body into Jim's. Jim lost his balance and fell into Simon, whose attention had been directed at Quinn and Lisa. The explosion of bullets sounded overhead as the three men fell to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.

As another bullet ricocheted off the shaft wall, Jim cursed at himself for being taken off guard by the shooter. He scrambled to his feet, watching Simon doing the same. Blair, however, was writhing in pain on the ground. "Damn," Jim muttered as he reached down to grab Blair and haul him to his feet. Simon grabbed Blair's other arm as more bullets flew by.

Meanwhile, Quinn and Lisa ran for cover behind a nearby shed. Part of Jim wanted to follow to make sure Quinn didn't escape, but common sense told him that the shooter in the woods was the greater threat.

Simon led Blair and Jim to a nearby tunnel that he had spotted earlier when arriving at the camp. The darkness quickly consumed the men. They collapsed onto the ground, now safe from the gunman.

"Oh, God. Oh," Blair moaned, eyes squeezed tightly shut.

Jim raised his hand to Blair's face. "It'll be okay, Chief. Let me take a look."

Gunfire echoed outside of the mine. Quinn and the shooter were apparently exchanging gunfire. Jim didn't have time to deal with that threat, he needed to keep his friend from bleeding to death. He ripped Blair's jeans to expose the wounded leg. "The bullet went all the way through," he said calmly.

"Oh man," Blair grimaced again.

"That's a good thing, Chief." Jim listened to his partner's vital signs. "Just relax. Keep breathing, okay?"

He looked up at Simon with worried eyes. Simon matched Jim's concern and he began tearing strips of cloth off of his undershirt to use as a tourniquet. He then handed the lengths to Jim.

"How are you doing?" Jim asked, realizing that Simon's health had been unintentionally pushed to the backburner.

"Never been better," Simon responded, voice strong. "What took you so long?"

Jim started to answer and then heard Blair gasp in pain again as Jim gently prodded the dual wounds. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I know this hurts." He tied two strips of cloth together and then began the process of wrapping it around Blair's leg. "I'm going to try to be gentle...but this is probably going to hurt as well."

Blair inhaled and squeezed his eyes even tighter. Jim winced in sympathy. "Please, Blair, you've got to keep breathing."

The smaller man opened his eyes and released the breath that he had been unconsciously holding. "I will, Jim..." he whispered.

"Good job, partner." Jim smiled, proud of his friend's bravery.

Simon frowned at Blair's condition. "You look like shit, kid. What happened to you?"

"We jumped off a cliff to take a little dip in the river and then Blair had a run-in with our gunman out there." Jim slipped off his belt and tightened it around Blair's leg, holding the cloth bandages in place. Blair groaned again, but as he promised, he kept breathing through the pain.

Simon patted Blair's other leg. "Well, the good news is...I still got the money." He held up the cloth bag as proof.

Jim frowned. "Yeah, well, the bad news is I've only got one bullet left."

"What?" Simon responded, the single word both astonished and flat at the same time. Simon rubbed his eyes, exhaustion in every movement. "Can you tell what's going on out there?"

It was then that Jim noticed the gunfire had stopped. He concentrated his hearing on the activities outside the cave.

<Hey, Quinn...? Dawson Quinn... Is that you?> Jim recognized the voice as the man who had fired upon him and Blair the day before.

Lisa's voice sounded next. <It can't be the cops. See what he wants.>

<Yeah. That's me. What do you want?> Quinn finally answered.

The shooter laughed. <You broke into my house. You shouldn't have stole from me. That wasn't very smart. I'm gonna let you make it up to me.>

It didn't take much for Jim to realize that the shooter was as nuts as Quinn.

<I don't have the money. They took it into the mine.>

<Well, that's too bad. I guess there's no reason for us to carry on this discussion.> Gunfire sounded again.

Lisa's voice could be heard again. <See if you can work out a deal. He can wait us out. He's got more ammunition.>

<Okay,> Quinn answered quietly. Jim then heard more gunfire that started and stopped suddenly. Then Quinn yelled, <Stop firing, damn it! Listen, we got three cops in the mine. We have no idea what kind of firepower they have. If you take me out, you still got to deal with them. And you want to do that all by yourself?> There was a moment's silence and then Quinn continued. <So, I'll tell you what -- how about I give you a third of the money?>

Jim closed his eyes, his stomach sinking to his feet as he heard the shooter respond. <I want half.> They were negotiating. The two madmen were negotiating. That could not be good. Jim could only hope that Quinn's silence to the counteroffer meant that the deal was a no-go.

<My buddy died because of this. This'll square it,> the shooter added.

Silence again. Then Jim heard the word that he dreaded. <Done.>

"Damn," Jim muttered.

<Okay, how we going to do this?> the shooter asked.

Quinn answered the question. <We'll meet at shed number one, lay our weapons down, shake hands on the deal.>

<Your woman comes, too.>

<Let's do it.>

Jim felt sick to his stomach. He heard Blair moan, "I can't believe I got shot."

"You're going to be okay." He looked at the wounds, seeing that the blood had seeped through the bandages. " We just have to get the bleeding under control, okay?"

Blair wiped at his eyes. He focused on keeping his breathing calm and tried to redirect his attention away from his pain. "Jim, what's going on out there?"

"Hang on a sec." The sentinel directed his hearing outside again.

Quinn's voice met his ears first. <Okay, nice and easy. On the count of three, we put them down.>

Together, the two male voices sounded, <One. Two. Three.>

Jim could hear the weapons being discarded. The shooter spoke first. <It's going to be a pleasure doing business with you. Name's Wade Rooker.>

<My friends call me Quinn.>

<Well, Wade, let's take care of business.>

Jim shook his head knowing that his fears had come to fruition. "Gentlemen, I think we've got ourselves a real problem here."


~~~~~~ Act V ~~~~~~

Dawson Quinn pushed a new round of ammunition into his weapon. "I don't want any more surprises." He glanced at Lisa. "You stay here."

Rooker loaded his gun as well. "Let's flush them out."

The two men moved towards the mouth of the mine, murder in their eyes.

~~~~~~~~

Jim's eyes met Blair's. It was easy to see the pain reflected in the blue orbs. He hated to inflict more on his friend, but the threat that was coming from Quinn and Rooker left him with no choice. "You think you can move?"

Blair swallowed, took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah. Just give me a shoulder."

Jim felt pride well up inside at his partner's courage. He gave his friend a reassuring smile. "No problem, let's go." He carefully slid an arm around Blair's smaller frame. Simon matched Jim's movements from the other side. Together, they lifted the injured man to his feet. "Okay, easy," he whispered, encouraging Blair.

The three moved back further into the mine. They found some discarded crates, which provided them some cover against their attackers. "Stay here," Jim whispered after helping Blair back to the ground.

"I've got him," Simon replied, putting one comforting hand on the young man's shoulder.

Jim left the two and made his way back towards the shaft opening. He immediately spotted Quinn and Rooker just outside the tunnel, weapons raised. Not wasting any time, Jim turned and ran back to his companions.

Jim's movements were apparently spotted as he heard Quinn yell out, "There they are! Get them!"

Gunfire echoed overhead, the sound magnified by the rock walls so that it was almost deafening. Jim dove for cover, landing safely behind the crates, near Simon and Blair. Bullets pinged around the three men, causing each of them to flinch, not sure when one of the projectiles would find its intended target.

Simon pulled Blair closer so that his body somewhat protected the smaller man. Blair tried to protest, but Simon 'shushed' him. It was clear that the captain felt he had a duty to protect the civilian from harm. A bullet shot into the rock near Simon's head and fragments of stone exploded out. "Oh, man!" Simon exclaimed ducking and pulling Blair down closer to the ground.

"Give me a wad of cash and a lighter," Jim shouted over the sound of the gunfire.

Simon frowned, but complied. "Why? What are you doing?"

"Doing a little banking," Ellison stated cryptically.

~~~~~~~~

"This will be easier than throwing rocks at a tree," Wade sneered.

A small ball of fire was launched at the two men and landed at their feet.

"That's $25,000, Quinn!" Ellison shouted. "You come any closer, it's all toast!"

Quinn aimed and fired at his targets. "That's my money!" he growled.

"Our money," Rooker corrected.

Another wad of flaming bills landed on the tunnel floor. "That's got to be $50,000 there, Quinn. If you're not out of here in 30 seconds, you've got one expensive bonfire on your hands!" Ellison shouted again.

The two men stopped in their tracks. Wade squatted down and examined the bundle, looking mournfully at the charred remains.

Quinn shook his head and pulled Rooker up and back towards the opening of the shaft. "We got to have a plan 'B'."

Once outside, Lisa ran up to her cohorts. "Where is it?" she asked impatiently.

"We don't have it yet," Quinn spat. "We're going to fight fire with fire."

~~~~~~~~

Jim wiped away the sweat from Blair's brow, his sensitive nerves feeling the tremors that assaulted his friend. He had already decided that they needed to find a way out of the shaft. Igniting the money as a delaying tactic was a limited solution at best.

He stood and used his enhanced vision to examine the depths of the tunnel but saw only darkness. He risked a zone-out by closing his eyes and opening up all of his other senses to the sensations around him. It was then that he felt a slight breeze touch his skin. "I feel an air current coming from deep in the tunnel." He turned back to his friends and leaned down, placing an arm under Blair. "Come on, let's go."

Simon reached out and stopped Jim from pulling Blair up. "No, Jim, he's not going to make it. You can move faster without us. I'll stay here with the kid." Jim shook his head, not wanting to leave the two behind.

"No choice," Blair's pain-filled whisper sounded from below. "Gotta go, Jim! Get help."

"I'll take care of him," Simon said, trying to sound confident.

Jim nodded. "Be careful," he said as he turned and ran into the darkness.

"You too," Blair murmured, watching his partner disappear into the unknown. He closed his eyes, saying a silent prayer for Jim's safety. With his eyes shut he realized how heavy his body felt. He was so tired. Every muscle in his body protested movement. Every nerve screamed for him to rest. He could feel the stabbing pain in his leg throb with the beat of his heart.

"Come on, stay awake, Blair."

Blair jerked awake and then grimaced with the movement. Simon had startled him, even though the words were said gently. "I...uh...sorry."

"It's okay, kid. I know how tired you are, but you have to stay awake."

Blair nodded and swallowed back his pain. Finally he found his voice. "Simon, how did it feel when you got shot?"

Simon's brow creased at the unusual question. Then he realized the fear and vulnerability that Blair must have been experiencing. "Oh, it was...well...it...it hurt like hell." He let out a quiet laugh. He started to continue with reassurances for Blair's plight when the smell of something burning wafted around him. "You smell that?"

"Yeah."

Simon pushed himself to his knees and peeked over the crates. What he saw caused his eyes to widen in fear. Thick smoke was billowing from the entrance into the depths of the mine. "Get down!" he yelled, pulling Blair to the ground roughly, grimacing at Blair's cry of pain from the violent treatment, but knowing that smoke inhalation was the greater threat to his life.

~~~~~~~~

Quinn grinned evilly into the mine; satisfied at the way the smoke was flooding the area. "Well, now they got two choices," he gleamed, "come out and die or stay in there - and die."

Wade nodded in agreement. "Either way, the money's still ours."

~~~~~~~~

He was at a fork, one path heading to the left, the other straight ahead, both equally dark. Jim concentrated his hearing and sight down both paths, his enhanced senses cutting through the blackness. Then he saw it, a faint light at the end of the left path. Hope surged in him as he resumed his trek.

He kept his ears open to the sounds around him. He could hear Quinn and Wade gloating about how they were going to kill Simon and Blair. He could also hear uncontrolled coughing coming from inside the mine. Simon and Blair were in trouble. He sniffed at the air and smelled the faintest hint of smoke. His stomach sank. Quinn and Rooker were trying to smoke his friends out into the open and to their deaths.

It took every bit of will that Jim had not to turn around and come to his friends' aid, especially when he heard Blair gasping, <Simon, I can't take much more of this, man.>

Simon's response pushed Jim to double his pace. <Hang on. Let's hope Jim has found a way out of here.>

Jim promised them that he would save them, no matter what it took.

~~~~~~~~

Neither Blair nor Simon knew how close Jim was to being out of the mine. All they knew was that their lives were in immediate peril. Blair gagged into his hand, hopelessly trying to keep the smoke away from his mouth and nose. It wasn't working. The fog was suffocating him. "Simon, I can't take any more of this. I've got to get out now."

"I do, too," Simon responded, coughing. "Come on, we'll have to chance it." He pushed himself to his knees. "Can you get your arm around my shoulder?"

"Yeah...I think so..." Blair gasped.

Simon called out to their attackers. "Quinn! We're coming out, Quinn!"

~~~~~~~~

Quinn's sneer became more menacing. "Come on. Time for us to get paid."

Rooker slung his gun over his shoulder and confidently walked past Quinn towards the entrance. "I'm going to be rich."

"Not in this lifetime," Quinn growled, raising and then cocking his gun, aiming it at the center of Rooker's chest.

Wade spun around, fear and anger crossing his face as he realized he had been doublecrossed. "We had a deal!" he shouted as Quinn fired bullet after bullet into Rooker's body, not caring that the first bullet had done the job.

The mountain man's body collapsed on the ground.

~~~~~~~~

Simon and Blair had almost made it to the opening when the sound of gunfire exploded around them. Simon pushed Blair against the rock wall, protecting the smaller man. "Quinn! We have the money!" Simon shouted, hoping that the gunfire would stop.

The gunfire stopped. Simon was suspicious, though. He knew that Quinn could never be trusted. Simon shouted again. "Don't shoot! We're coming out, Quinn! Hold your fire." Simon led Blair out into the open. The men squinted as their eyes adjusted to the daylight. He heard Blair inhale quickly and then realized why. The body of the gunman was lying on the ground, dead eyes staring into nothing. Simon redirected his gaze to Quinn. "Here's the money."

Simon tossed the burlap bag onto the ground. Then his eyes met Quinn's. There was no doubt what Quinn was planning. It was confirmed when Quinn raised that gun towards the unarmed men. Simon stepped in front of Blair, knowing that the act was futile.

"Where's Ellison?" Quinn snapped.

"Dead," Simon growled. "You hit him."

Quinn narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Don't matter whether you're lying. You're all dead now."

~~~~~~~~

Jim watched as Simon stepped in front of Blair. Quinn said nothing as he aimed towards his friends. There was no more time. The detective's eyes skimmed the area quickly, trying to find something he could use to take Quinn and Lisa out. Then he saw it. A dilapidated shed nearby offered hope. Inside, his eyes spotted stacks of dynamite. Not knowing whether the explosives would be too wet to ignite, he knew he had to take the chance. He had to act now if he was going to save his friends. He said a quick, silent prayer and fired his last bullet.

~~~~~~~~

Quinn took a step towards Simon and Blair. He wanted to be close when his bullets blew away the two cops. He wanted to watch and laugh as every drop of blood drained from their bodies. He cocked the gun and aimed. Before he could squeeze the trigger a deafening explosion threw Quinn and Lisa to the ground, both losing control of their weapons. The repercussion from the explosion knocked Simon and Blair back against the mine shaft wall. Neither could keep their feet and they collapsed. Blair let out a groan as the pain in his leg shot through his system like a flare.

Quinn gasped for air, trying to refill his lungs. It took a moment for him to realize that he had lost his gun. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. He spotted the weapon and moved towards it. Before he could make any progress, Jim entered the camp at a full run and tackled the murderer. The two rolled on the ground, but Ellison clearly had a size advantage.

In the meantime, Simon saw Lisa crawling in the mud for her weapon. He pushed himself to his feet and leaped toward the woman, hitting her from behind. Lisa, while much smaller than Simon, fought like a wildcat.

Lisa's gun was in the mud just a few feet from Blair. He sucked in a breath of air, swallowed down the pain and crawled to it. Using all his strength, he hefted the weapon up and aimed it their attackers. Leaning back against the rock wall, he waited for the right opportunity to provide backup.

Simon finally got control of Lisa, resorting to sitting on the girl to keep her down. He glanced up at Jim to see if his detective needed assistance. What he saw made his stomach drop. Jim was holding Quinn over the edge of the equipment shaft, clearly ready to drop the criminal over the side and to his death.

Lisa struggled to get up, but Simon pushed her head down into the mud. "You stay down!" He looked over his shoulder and saw Blair with the gun. "Sandburg, can you get over here? Keep an eye on her?"

Blair nodded tiredly. "Yeah."

Simon scrambled to his feet, ignoring the painful movement. He ran to Jim's side in time to hear Jim growl at Quinn, "This is for Brody."

Quinn's voice shook in fear. "Please, don't," he begged.

"It would be so easy..." Jim muttered.

"Don't," Quinn pleaded.

Jim didn't move. He neither pulled Quinn away from the edge nor pushed him further over. He seemed frozen in time.

Simon, who had watched the interplay, finally decided to act. "Jim."

Simon's voice caused Jim to start. The sentinel looked at his captain, but still made no movement. He redirected his attention at Quinn.

"Please don't," Quinn repeated.

Jim looked at Simon again in time to see his captain shaking his head slowly. The look on the tall man's face said it all. Revenge was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.

Finally, Jim pulled Quinn up and dropped the murderer on the ground. He flipped him over onto his stomach and cuffed the man. "It's over," he muttered, exhaustion entering his words.

"It's over," Simon repeated.

Jim stood over Quinn, staring at his prisoner's back. Simon's hand reached for Jim's shoulder. "Jim, go on, help your partner."

Jim turned around, realizing that he didn't know how Blair was faring after the explosion. He quickly spotted his disheveled friend leaning against the mine entrance. Blair was diligently aiming his newly acquired weapon at Lisa, but appeared to be fading fast.

Jim jogged past the smoking remains of the explosives shed. Light rain was quickly dampening the fire. Now just smoke rose in the air.

Jim arrived at Blair's side and kneeled down. "Hey, Chief, you okay?"

Blair didn't respond. He was staring straight ahead into nothingness. Jim reached out a gentle hand and rested it against the side of Blair's face. The touch shook Blair out of his gaze. "Oh...Jim, you're here."

"Yeah, buddy, I'm here."

"Is it...over?" He gasped as the pain in his leg flared again.

"Yeah, it's over."

Blair nodded, grimacing. "I don't think... I don't think I'm gonna be able to hike out of here." The young man shivered. "I'm so cold." Blair closed his eyes.

"Hey, Chief, stay with me here, okay?" Blair's eyes fluttered open again. "I think you're going into shock." Jim looked at the leg. Both wounds were bleeding again. "I'm going to move you back into the shaft and take a look at that leg again."

In the meantime, Simon hauled Lisa up, removed his belt and tied Lisa's hands behind her back. "Your boyfriend misses you. Let's go," Simon spat as he roughly picked up the woman and walked her over to where Quinn was sitting, similarly bound.

Jim gently picked up Blair. The smaller man protested weakly. "Don't have to carry me."

"Humor me. I don't want to make that leg any worse." He settled Blair onto a drier portion of the tunnel floor. Smoke still lingered in the air, but it was much clearer than it had been earlier. "Hold tight. I'm going to see what kind of supplies Quinn has."

Jim left Blair in the cover of the shaft and joined Simon. "How's the kid?"

"I'm worried. He's shocky and the leg's bleeding again." Jim squatted down next to a large backpack. "Do you know if there's anything in here to help?"

"I'm not sure. Might be a first aid kit."

Jim found a small first aid kit in the bottom of the bag. "It's not much, but it's better than nothing."

"I think I should go for help," Simon stated.

"No way, Simon. You're in no shape to make the trek out of here." Jim looked back at Blair. The injured man had curled onto his side, arms wrapped around himself in an effort to keep warm. "I'll go. You watch Blair."

"But," Simon started to protest.

"I can make better time."

Simon thought about their circumstances and finally nodded in agreement. "Okay. How long do you think it'll take?"

"I'm not sure. It took a full eighteen hours to track you down, but we had a few... detours on the way." Jim looked at his watch. "I'm gonna guess at least ten hours or so."

"Damn," Simon muttered.

Jim gathered up the backpack and rejoined Blair. Simon followed, keeping a sharp eye on the prisoners. "Chief?"

Blair started. "I wasn't... wasn't sleeping..." he responded quickly.

Jim smiled gently. "I know, Blair. You're doing good. Listen, I'm going for help. I don't think we can wait for help to come to us."

"But Jim, your senses... you're tired... what if you zone?"

"I'll be okay. Promise." Jim motioned to Simon. "Simon's going to try to rebandage your leg. I want you to stay off of it and keep it elevated until I get back here. You understand?"

Blair nodded. "Good." Jim gave his partner a reassuring pat on the back. He pushed himself to his feet. "I'll," he started to say and then stopped.

"Jim?" Blair asked, concerned by the other man's sudden pause.

"Help's coming," Jim finally answered.

~~~~~~~~

Simon and Jim watched, as Blair was strapped into an airlift gurney. The young man was pale and his pain was not subsiding. However, he was putting on a good front. It was only after Jim caught Blair flirting with Mara, who had arrived with the rescue team, that he understood his friend's false bravado.

"Agent Samuels." Blair had captured her attention rather easily.

"Yes?" the woman responded quickly, leaving Sheriff Tennyson to work with his men on securing the scene and taking Quinn and Lisa into custody.

"Can I... uh... ask you something real quick?" Blair shifted slightly in the gurney, trying to get a more comfortable position. The movement brought on another grimace. Mara winced with sympathy.

"Sure."

"Uhm... I was wondering... have you ever been shot in the line of duty?"

Jim watched Mara's face, as she appeared taken aback by the question. Jim shook his head and wondered if Mara would tell Blair the truth. If so, Blair would know the story behind Mara and Jim's first meeting. He rubbed his shoulder as the memory of the incident a few years before brought back phantom pain. *Oh yeah,* he thought to himself. *She'd been shot before... so had he... but that was a story for another time,* Jim concluded. He shook his head at his partner's poorly veiled flirting and left the two behind to find Simon.

Simon was talking to Tennyson now. He approached in time to hear Simon ask, "How'd you find us?"

"Your men, really," the sheriff answered. "Detectives Rafe and Brown? They called in and said that they had found a reference in Quinn's records that his father had worked for a mining company that used to operate out of here in the fifties. It was shut down years ago. Your detectives concluded that the mine was Quinn's destination, since he'd been found in the same area when he was arrested before. I agreed. We were beginning a search pattern of the area when we saw the smoke from that." Tennyson pointed to the smoldering shed. Tennyson was called over to help one of his deputies and he left Simon and Jim.

"We'll have to thank Rafe and Brown when we get back. They did good work," Jim commented.

"They aren't the only ones. You did good, Jim."

Jim shook his head. "You know, Simon, back there with Quinn... if you hadn't been back there..."

"You would have done the same thing."

"I don't know about that."

"I do," Simon concluded confidently.

He watched as the EMTs secured the ropes from the helicopter that was hovering above to Blair's gurney.

"At the very least, we owe the kid dinner. Even when they were trying to smoke us out he kept his cool. He did okay."

"He was more than okay, Simon."

"Helped you with your senses?" the captain guessed.

Jim nodded. "Yeah, that... but when Rooker ambushed us... Blair... well I think he saved our lives. He pushed me out of the line of fire. That's how he got shot."

Simon thought back through the incident, now putting the details together. "Yeah, I guess he did. Okay, we definitely owe him dinner... and a few more meals on top of that, not to mention a lecture on how he's a civilian and not a superhero."

Jim grinned. "Yeah." Jim saw the female EMT take Blair's vitals one more time and then he turned back to Simon, digging into his pocket at the same time. "I've got something for you here." Jim handed Simon the leather cigar case that he had found in the forest. "It's good to have you back, sir," he said as he walked away, not waiting to see Simon's reaction. If he had stayed to watch, he would have seen tears welling up in the large man's eyes.

Jim approached Blair's side just as Mara said to Blair, "See you Saturday, Blair."

Blair gave the blond woman a cheesy grin, probably brought on by the exhaustion and pain, Jim guessed. "Okay," the observer answered as he watched Mara walk away and then let his head collapse back against the gurney.

Jim crouched down beside the gurney. "Hey, Romeo, correct me if I'm wrong but I thought you just made a date with her."

Blair laughed. "Yes, I did, man. I can't help myself. I got a problem."

Jim's hand reached out to ruffle Blair's damp, curly hair. "Do yourself a favor and don't show her your diary this time."

"Oh, yeah, no more diaries for me. I'll wait until I get old enough and write my memoirs."

The detective laughed. "Yeah, I can't wait for the movie version to come out."

The female EMT who had been attending to Blair earlier came back and straddled Blair's body, placing her feet on the side of the gurney. She hooked up her safety harness to the rope. "Time for us to get going. There's a warm hospital bed and good drugs waiting for you," she said, a bright smile lighting up her face.

Blair was immediately captivated. "Really? A warm bed?"

"Yep." The woman motioned for Jim to step back and then waved to the helicopter above. The gurney lifted off the ground and rose into the air.

"So, I suppose you do things like this quite a bit?" Blair asked the woman, as he was lifted higher and higher off the surface.

"Uhm... well, yeah," she answered.

"Maybe... maybe you could join me for dinner sometime. I'd love to hear about what you do." Blair was so caught up in flirting with the woman that he had failed to realize the gurney was now dangling above the trees.

Jim used his sentinel hearing to monitor his friend's condition. "Dinner? That could be arranged," the woman answered. "How about Saturday?"

"Cool, Saturday would be great," Blair responded enthusiastically.

Jim shook his head and chuckled as the helicopter and gurney disappeared from view. "Yep, Chief, you do have a problem."


The end.

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