Redhawke.org
Warriors
Warriors
by Treassa and Terri

Beta read by Izzy and Wolf
Written for PetFly by David L. Newman
Rated PG
internal thought in * *

~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~

He grimaced as he bit his cigar in half. "Damn it to hell," he growled, his eyes drilling a hole into the picture covering the front of the Cascade newspaper. "God damn him!" He pulled the remains of the cigar out of his mouth and threw them to the ground.

"What bee's up your butt, Crilly?" asked the balding man sitting across the table from him.

"This is what's wrong, Butch" the angry man responded, throwing the paper down as he stood up and stormed away to the opposite side of the small shed.

"Who's this?" Butch asked, looking the photo of the man. "Detective James Ellison, Cascade P.D.?"

"The s.o.b. who's responsible for me being stuck in this Godforsaken hellhole." Crilly slammed a fist against the flimsy plywood wall. "I can't believe he was given some stinkin' award for being 'Cop of the Year.'"

"I wouldn't be too bent out of shape about it. He wasn't that good of a cop. You're still walkin' around a free man."

"That was only because Yeager bailed my ass out and got me out of the country after I cut the deal with the Feds." Crilly grabbed the paper and stared at the photo of the cop. "Ellison and that prick partner of his ruined my life. I would've been home free if it hadn't been for them."

"It's over. You're here now and we've got a job to do. Enough talk," Butch ordered. He headed for the door of the shack. "I'll drive, you ride shotgun. Maybe a little target practice will cheer you up."

Butch pushed Crilly out the door and to the bulldozer. He pulled the rifle from the cabin of the vehicle and handed it to the still-furious man. "Here. Let's get goin'."

Crilly frowned at the picture of Ellison for a third and final time before tossing the newspaper to the ground, ignoring it as the pages fluttered in the wind and blew into the jungle.

After positioning himself on top of the bulldozer, he cocked the rifle, ready to shoot any natives who stood in their way. Butch started the engine and they proceeded into the foliage.

After a few minutes, trees were being crushed by the weight of the equipment. He concentrated on the passing jungle, trying to detect any movement from hostiles. Soon, he saw the painted skin of a Chopec aiming an arrow at the vehicle. Imagining it was Ellison, Crilly aimed his weapon and fired, grinning wickedly as he saw the indigene fall to the ground. "Good riddance," he muttered.

He never saw the second native who appeared after the vehicle had passed. The Chopec looked down at his mortally wounded companion, tears coming to his eyes. He looked up at the cause of his friend's death, the large machine disappearing into the undergrowth. He memorized the emblem painted on its side, a huge eye. He would remember it always and there would be justice for the crimes committed.

~~~~~~~~

God, he was tired. He felt like he could barely keep his eyes open. He couldn't wait to get back to the loft and hit the sack. He wouldn’t even have dinner. He'd just jump in the shower and then the sack. He silently cursed the red light stopping his progress. He had to consciously keep his foot on the brake for fear that he would punch the accelerator and run the light.

"All units respond to a silent alarm at Hollander's Department Store." The voice from his police radio startled him, causing his heart to race.

Ellison closed his eyes and dropped his head on the steering wheel. "No," he muttered. Guilt, though, took over, and he reached for his radio. "One-zebra-one, show me responding."

"Ten-Four," the dispatcher replied.

The light turned green just as Jim entered the intersection. He hit his running light and within two minutes was pulling into the parking lot of the store. He parked the Ford in front of the doors and exited the vehicle. He tried the front doors of the store and, not surprisingly, found them unlocked.

He pulled out his gun and stepped into the store quickly, then hid in the shadows so that he would not be the target of an intruder. He concentrated his hearing on the sounds around him. It took only seconds for him to detect the heartbeats. He was relatively certain that three others were inside the store.

He slowly made his way to the perfume counter. Movement caught his eye. "This is the police. Throw your gun on the other side of the counter and put your hands in the air," he ordered sternly.

Before the thief behind the counter could comply, a second burglar from above fired at Jim's location. His quick reflexes took over as he dove for cover. The bullets shattered the perfume displays, causing bottles to explode and spill. The smell from all the different scents being blended together was noxious and almost overwhelming. Jim held back a hacking cough and tried to focus on the new threat. He heard the man's weapon fire until the sound of bullets exploding was replaced with an empty click. He then heard a muttered, "Damn it," from the shooter. The gunman from above was out of bullets.

Feeling more confident, Jim pushed himself from the floor and leaped at the burglar who was still hiding behind the counter. The two struggled briefly and then Jim was able to connect a hard right hook into the man's face. The black-clad criminal collapsed bonelessly to the ground. Jim flipped him over and slapped handcuffs on him.

Jim then made his way around the counter and to the escalator. The second gunman had fired on him from above. He knew the shooter was located somewhere on the second floor.

With his gun drawn, he climbed up the unmoving escalator's steps. He had almost made it to the top when the burglar flew out of his hiding place and slammed into Jim. Jim stumbled down a couple of the stairs, pulling his attacker down with him. The two men fought, their bodies bouncing off the walls lining the escalator, each man struggling for control of Jim's weapon. Jim felt the other man's fingers digging into his wrist, causing his own fingers to go numb. He struggled to keep his grip, but could feel the gun slipping. Mustering all of his remaining strength, he roughly pushed the man against the railing, and was satisfied to hear a grunt from the other man. The burglar lost his grip on Jim's arm, allowing the sentinel to regain control of the weapon. Swinging, he let the gun connect with the man's head, knocking the man out with the butt of his gun. The man collapsed on the stairs. Jim, still breathing heavily from the struggle, removed his belt and fastened the unconscious man's hands behind his back.

Jim let his hearing take over again, trying to detect the location of the third heartbeat. He immediately traced it to the main floor. Turning around, he made his way back down the stairs. "Let's find our other late-night shopper," he muttered. He kept his gun ready.

He made it to the main floor and then saw his target. A shadowy figure had just moved from the front doors to hide behind a tall counter. A hand was extending out beyond the protection of the counter. Jim immediately identified a gun being held, ready to fire upon him. "Freeze police!" Jim yelled, but the other's gun didn't waver.

Instinctively, Jim's finger tightened on his trigger. His enhanced vision was able to track the bullet's path until it impacted a body that had now come out from its hiding place. Jim then focused on his target. "Oh God!" he exclaimed as he realized that the man he had just fired upon was wearing a badge.

Jim broke into a run and knelt next to the injured man. "It's all right. I'm a police officer." Jim recognized the uniform as that belonging to the private security guards used by many of the retailers in the city. The dark man's eyes were wide, his breathing erratic. He tried to push himself upright "No," Jim warned. "Don't, don't move. Just relax." He helped the man lie back down. "I'm so sorry, sir. All I saw was your gun. I thought you were going to fire on me." Jim pulled open the man's shirt and sighed in relief when he realized the man was wearing a Kevlar vest. "Thank God," he murmured. The man felt for the bullet embedded in the vest. "I'm sorry," Jim repeated.

The guard shook his head. "Too close," he whispered. "That was a hell of a shot, though." The man tried to let out a nervous chuckle, but the pain in his chest caused him to cough instead.

"I hope you'll forgive me. I never saw your badge."

"I should have. . .should have been more careful. I saw your truck out front."

"No, it's not your fault," Jim responded quickly. He closed his eyes and shook his head as the shooting replayed in his mind. "I shouldn't have fired. I don't know why I did," he whispered, his gut twisting with guilt. He was supposed to protect and serve both as a police officer and a sentinel. Instead, he had almost taken the life of an innocent. His senses had failed him.

~~~~~~~~

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Blair Sandburg let his mind's eye wander through the various images playing in his subconscious mind. The aboriginal music was perfect for reconnecting with the soul.

The sound of the front door slamming open caused Blair to jump. Jim stormed into the room, kicked the door closed and threw his jacket onto the table. "What the hell is that?"

Blair's eyes were wide, clearly caught off guard by his friend's behavior. He answered hesitantly. "It's Australian aboriginal music. It's supposed to get my internal rhythms in harmony. It's a meditation aid, sort of like the outback version of biofeedback." He pushed up from the floor and settled onto the couch.

Jim stomped over to the stereo and turned it off. "Well it's a little annoying."

"Looks like someone could use a good dose of it," Blair muttered. "What's the matter with you?"

Jim stood in front of the large windows overlooking the bay. He was silent for a long moment, then he quietly spoke. "I shot a man today. He was a security guard."

"Oh God!" Blair exclaimed, as he jumped up from the couch. He approached his friend. "Is he okay? How'd it happen? Are you okay?"

Jim seemed to not hear the questions. "He was a security guard. My eyesight kicked in. All I saw was a gun."

"Is he. . .. Is he dead?" Time stood still for Blair while he waited for the answer.

Jim turned to face his friend. "No, no. There've been a couple of break-ins at the mall. He was wearing a vest. He's got a couple of broken ribs, but he's gonna be all right."

"Thank God," Blair sighed, relieved. "How are you doing?"

Jim shook his head and collapsed on to the couch. "I can't get it out of my head."

Blair could see the emotional pain that Jim was feeling. He struggled to find the words that would help his friend. Finally he responded. "It was an honest mistake."

"One that I made because of my senses," Jim replied, rubbing his forehead.

"You can't blame what happened on that," Blair tried to reason.

Jim stood up suddenly and went to the stairs leading to his room. "Blair, I nearly killed an innocent man today. What else should I blame that on?" he growled as he climbed up the stairs, not waiting for an answer.

Sighing, Blair sank to the couch realizing there was no way to console his partner. His sentinel demanded perfection. Failure was not an option. The mistake that had occurred had almost cost a life. This was not something Jim would ever forget.

~~~~~~~~

Jim's sleep had come fitfully at best. At first, he couldn't go to sleep because his mind played the shooting over and over again. Then, when he finally did drop off, the dream world took over. The stifling heat of the jungle surrounded him. The air was heavy with moisture, making breathing difficult. Sweat poured from every part of his body.

Here, he was the hunter. He knew his target without seeing it. He was after the black jaguar. The dark feline was standing in front of him, staring at him, showing no sign of fear or of attack. He raised the rifle that he carried and took aim. Within seconds he had fired and the jaguar had fallen to the ground, lifeless.

Then there was movement in the nearby trees. Incacha, the shaman who had helped Jim with his senses years before, approached the dead jaguar. At the Chopec's side was a wolf, its blue eyes bright with curiosity and concern. Incacha just stood over the feline's still form. The wolf let out a horrific howl and then dropped to the ground next to the jaguar, his head resting on the chest of the cat.

Jim's eyes flew open then squeezed shut from the sunlight streaming in the window. He whispered thanks that it was dawn. The haunting dream replayed in his mind. He had already learned the black jaguar represented him in his sentinel state. He could only guess that the dream was a warning that his senses would bring about death.

The events of the previous night had already proven that to him. If the guard hadn't worn the bulletproof vest, he would have died. Jim's failure to control his senses would have been responsible.

*Well, fine,* Jim thought to himself. *I survived without them before, I can do it again.* He tried to remember the time before his senses came back on line. Then, with slight fear, realized he couldn't.

He pushed himself out of bed and went down the stairs to the bathroom. He stood under a hot shower, hoping that the steaming water would wake his tired body. After he had used every drop of hot water in the water heater, he climbed out of the shower and toweled off. He slipped on a pair of sweat pants and stood in front of the mirror. After wiping off the steam so that he could see his reflection, he squirted shaving cream onto his fingers. He frowned and rubbed the white foam with the index finger of his other hand. It wasn't the same. It felt different.

He pulled open the bathroom door. "Hey, Sandburg?" he shouted out. There was no response. Jim's eyes widened when he saw smoke coming from the kitchen. It billowed out of the toaster. "Geez!" he exclaimed as he grabbed a towel, wetted it and then flopped it on top of the toaster. Sparks flew from the unit.

A sound at the door grabbed his attention. Blair walked into the loft, a lightness to his step. He stopped in place as he saw Jim fighting a cloud of smoke. "Whoa! Hey Jim, what's up? Did you burn something?"

"No, Sparky, you did," Jim sharply responded.

Blair rushed into the kitchen and looked at the ruined toaster. "Oh no! I just went down to go get the paper. I'm sorry. I've done it a million times, man," he rationalized as he ran his hand through his hair.

"Well, once you buy a new toaster, don't make it a million and one, all right?" Jim spat, angrily pushing past Blair and moving to the living room.

"Hey, Jim, I said I'm sorry. What's with the attitude?"

Jim sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm just going through some. . .stuff. I didn't even smell it."

"What do you mean you didn't smell it?" Blair approached Jim slowly, seeing a mixture of fear and worry in his friend's eyes. "What's up? You're usually a human smoke alarm."

"Yeah, well, that's not all. I was just about to shave and I had some cream on my fingers. I was going to put it on my face and it just felt. . .." Jim paused for a moment, as if searching for the right words. Then he continued. "It felt totally different, like it wasn't the same."

"The same as what?"

Jim rubbed his forehead as if nursing a headache. "It felt like it used to, before this sentinel stuff."

"You mean, like, it felt normal?" Blair guessed, already worrying at the implications.

"Well, yeah, normal," Jim answered, words quiet.

~~~~~~~~

Jim stepped back and waited for Blair to exit the elevator first. He really had no interest in pursuing the present discussion. However it was clear that Blair was not ready to let the issue drop.

"I'm sure it's possible that with the psychological trauma--I mean, you're subconsciously suppressing your sentinel abilities." Blair's words were steady and professional. Jim knew he was trying not to let the recent events rattle him.

Jim sighed. "Whatever, it's no big deal." He held open the door to Major Crime and allowed Blair to follow him through.

Blair nodded his head and glanced around the room. Jim looked around as well. The room was empty, except for Rhonda, who was dutifully typing at her computer.

Blair continued the discussion. "Yeah, you're right. I mean we've been through two or three of these situations before. We'll get through this one too."

Jim stopped walking and brought Blair to a stop with his hand. "You're missing the bus here, Chief. Maybe this time I don't want to get through it."

Blair's brow furrowed. "What? What are you talking about?"

Before Jim could respond, Rhonda interrupted him. "Jim? Captain's holding on line two."

"Thanks, Rhonda," Jim said, grateful to no longer be discussing his senses. . .or lack there of. . .with Blair. He picked up the receiver on the nearest desk. "Yeah, Simon?" He was silent for a moment. "Where?" More silence. "All right. We'll be there in ten minutes." He hung up. "Don't take your coat off, Chief. We got a body at Bayside Park and the captain's specifically requesting your presence."

"Huh?" Blair queried, eyes wide with confusion. "What'd I do?"

~~~~~~~~

The morning rain had left the air cool and damp. Jim parked the truck in the parking lot, about fifty feet away from the area that had been taped off with yellow crime-scene markers. He and Blair walked through the wet grass towards Simon, who was kneeling next to a covered body. As they approached, Blair continued to argue with a terse whisper. "Come on, Jim, you can't deny that your sentinel abilities gave you an edge."

A flash of anger exploded in Jim's features as he turned on his partner. "Let me tell you something, Chief. I was a good detective before the sentinel thing kicked in. . ."

"I'm not implying you weren't!" Blair countered, clearly taken aback by the detective's ire.

". . .and I'll be a good detective if it never comes back. You savvy?" Jim growled.

Blair shook his head. "I'm sure you will be, but. . .."

Simon approached the two. Jim moved away from Blair, cutting off the argument. "I read through the report from last night, Jim. The guard should be okay. There's probably going to be an IA inquiry, but the guard confirmed your version, so I think it'll be a walk-through." Simon paused for a moment, waiting for a response. All he received was a nod from Jim. Simon continued when it was clear Jim was going to remain silent. "However, I want you to take some downtime this afternoon and talk to the department shrink."

Jim frowned. "That won't be necessary, Simon. I'm okay."

Blair stepped forward. "It's nothing we can't handle, sir."

Simon glared at the smaller man. "Sandburg, just a second. Are you taking classes in psychology now?"

"Well, yeah, I've taken a few," Blair sputtered.

"Well, I've had a few in anatomy, but I don't think you'd want me performing bypass surgery on you, now do you?"

Jim interrupted the two men. "There's no problem, Simon. I'm a hundred percent."

"Yeah, right," Simon replied with doubt. He turned to Blair. "Keep an eye on him, okay?"

"Yes, sir," Blair nodded.

Simon led his detective and observer to the body bag. He pulled down the zipper, exposing the man's lifeless face and upper chest. "Victim's been ID'd as Bud Torin, vice president of Cyclops Oil. Apparently, he was walking his dog. Motive doesn't appear to be robbery. Cash was still in his wallet."

Jim squatted down next to Simon. "What was the cause of death?"

"That's what I wanted you to see. You too, Blair." Simon held up a plastic bag with a dart inside. "Found this in his neck. M.E.'s preliminary report suggests the victim went into almost instant paralysis."

Simon then looked up at Blair. "You recognize it?"

Blair's eyes widened. "Who, me?"

"I'm not looking at any other anthropologist here am I?" Simon barked with a tone he usually reserved for his detectives.

Blair shifted nervously, knowing that he was being put on the spot. "Oh. I guess not," Blair answered. He grabbed the bag and examined the dart. "Well, it looks like it could be from the La Montana region in Peru."

Simon nodded, clearly satisfied at the observer's input. He stood up. "Okay, Jim, you're on the case. And I want you to copy Sandburg on everything."

Blair straightened up, surprise on his face. "Copy Sandburg? What do you mean, like an official assignment?"

Simon nodded impatiently. "Well, that dart would put this into your area of expertise, right?"

"Well, yeah, it would," he answered nervously.

"Great," Simon replied with the single word and then marched off, leaving his two men behind. Blair bounced on his toes with nervous energy.

Ignoring Blair's obvious excitement at being officially included in the case, Jim took the bag from Blair and examined the dart. "It's been quite a while since I've seen one of these," he said quietly.

"Yeah, it looks authentic, but who would use a blowgun in the middle of Cascade?"

Jim shook his head. "You got me, Chief. But you see these marks?"

"Uh-huh."

Jim's brow furrowed in confusion. "This is a Chopec dart. It's from the tribe that took me in."

Blair stared at his partner in shock as Jim turned and walked back to the truck.

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


Blair watched as the body bag was lifted into the Coroner's wagon. He turned away to look at his partner. "I'm having a hard time understanding why a Chopec Indian, one of the last primitive people left, is going to up and travel 5,000 miles from a rain forest in Peru and land here in Cascade."

Before Jim could answer, Henri Brown approached, plastic bag in his hand. He handed the package to Jim. "This is the gun Torin was carrying. He had a permit for it."

Ellison examined the gun contained inside. "Fired recently?"

"There's an empty shell in the chamber, but no sign of the slug. Now, his right hand tested positive for powder, but forensics will have to take it back to the lab to do a full test on it."

Jim nodded. "Thanks." He handed the evidence bag back.

"All right. See you guys," Brown said, departing the area.

Blair frowned at his friend. "Jim, you should go over that gun again."

Jim shrugged. "Why? I doubt I'd find anything he missed."

"Oh, come on," Blair protested and then was cut off by the arrival of a tall blond man approaching them.

"Excuse me, Detective Ellison?"

Jim faced the man. "Yeah?"

"I'm Mitch Yeager, vice-president in charge of security for Cyclops Oil. The officer over there said you were in charge."

"Yeah, that's right. This is my associate, Blair Sandburg."

Yeager nodded to Blair. "I'm here to extend my company's resources. We'll do anything we can do to help find Bud's killer."

Jim tilted his head and frowned. "Was Mr. Torin in South America recently?" Blair's eyes widened with surprise. Jim was taking a shot in the dark.

Yeager nodded again. Yeah, he was down there overseeing our operations. Got back about six weeks ago. They said he was killed by some kind of blow dart. You don't think it. . ." Yeager's voice trailed off.

Jim shook his head. "I don't think anything yet."

"Gerald Spalding, Cyclops' president, was a close friend of Bud's. He'd like to meet with you." Yeager handed Ellison a business card. "Here's his address."

"We can be there in an hour."

~~~~~~~~

Jim was silent the entire trip to Cyclops Oil's. Blair's attempts to strike up a discussion about Jim's senses were met with silence. When they arrived at the offices, Blair headed to the waiting room rather than following Jim down the hall to Spalding's office. "You coming?" the detective asked.

"I think I'll wait out here."

"Suit yourself," Jim responded, slightly miffed.

Blair collapsed in the chair and stewed over Jim's disappearing senses. It made perfect sense. Jim was subconsciously preventing his senses from kicking in because of what had happened the previous night. The question was how did the observer convince the former sentinel that his senses were too valuable to be discarded?

~~~~~~~~

Jim watched as Gerald Spalding paced the length of his office. "I've been pals with Bud Torin since the tenth grade, Detective. His wife and mine are best friends. Our kids play together." He was silent for a moment then continued. "Whoever did this thing, nobody wants him caught more than I do."

Jim nodded, but didn't respond. Spalding continued to pace.

~~~~~~~~

An elegant dark skinned woman walked up to the receptionist and handed her a file, keeping her back towards Blair. "Thanks, Martha," she said.

"No problem," the receptionist replied.

Blair admired the tall woman with appreciation. She was gorgeous and the short skirt she wore enhanced the view. Then she turned around. Blair's eyes widened in surprise. "Janet?"

The woman looked up with equal astonishment. "Blair? Blair Sandburg?" She approached him quickly and drew him into a hug. "What in the world are you doing here?"

"My partner, he's a detective. He's in a meeting with Gerald Spalding."

Janet's smile dropped. "Oh, about Bud Torin, what a nightmare."

"Yeah."

Janet frowned. "Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me you're a cop now?"

Blair shook his head, understanding the woman's confusion. "No, no, I'm not a cop. I'm more like an advisor to the police. I don't get a gun or a badge or anything cool like that, you know." He paused and then motioned to the rest of the office. "But what about you? I mean who would have thought after chaining ourselves to redwoods that you'd end up working here."

"Actually, I'm vice-president in charge of environmental affairs. You know, the company's handling of those issues set a standard for the industry."

Blair smiled. "Well, you've changed a lot. Doesn't mean I don't like the change."

Janet blushed. "Thanks. Torn jeans or business suit, underneath I'm still the same person."

"I'm still sorry I never got to find that out first hand," he replied, his tone filled with slight regret.

"Sorry, engaged," Janet responded, holding up her left hand to reveal a diamond ring.

"That's terrible," Blair sighed, now envious. Then he realized what he'd said and corrected himself. "Not for you, of course. It's terrible for me."

~~~~~~~~

Spalding had never stopped pacing. Jim had asked the man several questions about Torin's activities within the past few days. The answers had come, but the movement had never stopped. Jim continued his inquiries. "Do you know if he had any enemies or alienated anybody while he was running things down in Peru?" Jim pressed.

Spalding stopped walking and turned to Jim. "No. Bud was a straight shooter. Of course, there's always the chance he might have stepped on a few toes."

"Well, it appears from the murder weapon that was used, our killer has some connection to the local tribes down there."

"Our relationship with the indigenous people couldn't be better. When they see us coming, boy, they just roll out that red grass mat."

Jim's brow furrowed at the 'off color' remark. "Even if it means stepping on a few toes."

Spalding flinched. "Figure of speech, Detective."

"Right. Well, I think that's all for now." Jim stood and moved to the door. "We'll keep you updated."

"Thank you, Detective. And anything I can do, please call."

Jim started to open the door and then stopped. "Oh, one more thing. Any idea why Torin was carrying a gun last night?"

Spalding shrugged and shook his head. "Uh, no. I didn't know Bud owned a gun."

~~~~~~~~

Janet looked around. "I don't know, Blair," she answered quietly. "I'd probably have to get access to some pretty confidential materials."

"All I'm asking you is to pay a little attention to your company's involvement down in Peru. We're just trying to find Bud Torin's killer."

Janet paused for a moment. "I'll see what I can do."

Blair smiled. "Good, good." Movement from the hall caught his attention. Jim was approaching. "I've got to run."

"It is really great seeing you again, Blair." She pulled him into another hug. "I'll call you."

"Okay." Blair watched the beautiful woman leave the waiting area and disappear down another hallway.

Jim stood next to his friend. "Who was that?"

"It's an old friend of mine," Blair responded, his eyes not diverting from the view.

"Working hard to renew an old friendship, huh?" Jim asked slyly.

"Jim, what kind of a dog do you think I am?" Blair sputtered with mock indignation.

"One that would jump a table leg," Jim muttered as he left the room with Blair in tow, ignoring the younger man's protests.

~~~~~~~~

He watched from high above as the blue vehicle left the building marked with the great eye. The occupants couldn't see him as he watched their movements, of that he was certain. His keen eyes followed the vehicle as it rounded a corner. Then the sudden blaring of sirens from the street below caused the observer to cover his ears in pain. The pain did not last for long. After he had recovered, he carefully crossed the roof and climbed down the fire access ladder. When he was near the bottom, he gracefully jumped to the ground. Now that he knew for certain that his friend was here, he felt confident justice would be served.

~~~~~~~~

After leaving Spalding's office, Jim and Blair returned to Major Crime. Jim made a few phone calls and within an hour the fax machine was humming with incoming information. In the meantime, Blair researched the Cyclops Oil Corporation on the computer.

Jim grabbed the newly-arrived photos and spread them out on the desk. Blair approached his friend with some trepidation. Neither man had spoken since they had returned to the department. Jim was silent and Blair was frustrated.

Blair broke the silence first. "Where'd these come from?" he asked.

Jim's response was cool. "An Army buddy who works at the Pentagon now got me these satellite photos of the La Montana region." Jim pointed at details in the photo. "This here's the Yucayali River, which means that this town here is Pucallpa." His finger traced the map. "All this land here is Chopec territory."

Blair leaned closer. "Hey, uh, what's this line snaking through the jungle?"

"What line are you talking about?" Jim asked, squinting his eyes and moving his face closer to the photo.

Blair shook his head. "Here, Jim, why don't you use the magnifying glass." He handed the detective the instrument. Jim took it and looked at the map again. Blair let out a sigh. "Come on, man, this problem is all psychosomatic. Why don't you let yourself off the hook? Think about how many times your senses have helped you. . ."

Jim cut Blair off. "If they lead me to one fatal error, none of it has been worth it, you follow?"

Blair continued, undaunted, ". . .and saved the lives of other people, including me." The last words were almost a whisper.

Jim's eyes met Blair's. They were filled with sorrow and defeat. "I can't. I'm sorry."

Before Blair could respond, Simon walked out of his office and into the bullpen. He saw Jim holding the magnifying glass and tilted his head. "Hey, what's this? A magnifying glass?"

Jim nodded. "My vision's been downgraded to normal, Captain."

Simon frowned. "What's going on here, Sandburg?"

"As I've been telling Jim," Blair started to explain, but Simon cut him off again.

"Are you okay, Jim?"

"Yes, I'm fine, sir. There's no problem. I'm. . ."

Simon interrupted again. "Yeah, yeah, a hundred percent. I remember."

Jim's desk phone then rang. "Ellison." He listened for a few seconds and then said, "Hang on." He held out the phone. "It's for you, Chief."

Simon started to reach for the receiver, but Blair grabbed it first. "Uh, I think he's talking about me, Simon."

With overly dramatic exasperation, Simon handed the phone to Blair. Blair looked at the captain sheepishly. "Thanks." He then spoke into the unit. "Uh, yeah, hey, Blair Sandburg." A moment later he spoke again. "Hey, Janet, how you doing?"

He heard Janet's voice tell him, "I checked the inventory records of our Peru operations. A lot of big equipment has disappeared over the past few months. There are inconsistencies in the payroll records, but they're written off as accounting errors. I also found a couple of references to a company I've never heard of before. Hale Corporation."

"Well, I'm looking at a satellite photo of the La Montana region and it looks like there's roads cut right in the middle of the rain forest," Blair commented.

"La Montana? That's not possible." Janet's tone was filled with surprise.

"Janet, I'm looking at the picture right now. There are roads." Blair fervently wished that he could show the woman the pictures.

"No, there's an oil field underneath that region, but it's protected by environmental laws. It can't be exploited."

"Well, then somebody's breaking the law," Blair concluded.

He heard Janet curse. "Damn. Okay, let me do a little more digging. I'll get back to you."

~~~~~~~~

After teaching his evening honors class at Rainier, Blair returned to the loft to find Jim out on the balcony, beer in hand. Grabbing one for himself, he joined the older man outside. "Hey, did Janet call?"

"No," Jim answered quietly. He was then silent, apparently lost in thought. He dropped his head. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you about that dart that killed Bud Torin, about the markings that were on it."

"It was Chopec, right?"

"Yeah, but each individual in the tribe has his distinct markings that he puts on the weapon."

Blair turned to his friend. "Well, do you know whose dart it is?"

Jim nodded slowly. "The markings are Incacha's."

Blair couldn't believe what he'd heard. "Incacha's?"

"Yeah."

Blair was in shock. "The shaman who guided you?" he confirmed.

"Yeah."

This whole situation was surreal. The man who had taken care of Jim after he had been stranded in Peru was now the prime suspect in a Cascade murder investigation. It couldn't be true. "Do you really think he's the one who killed Torin?"

"I don't know," Jim started to answer. He then directed his gaze toward the street below. His eyes widened. "Let's ask him."

Blair followed Ellison's line of sight and saw a smiling Chopec Indian, red paint markings on his face, looking up at the two men.

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


Blair watched Incacha as he roamed through the loft, looking out the window and then walking through the kitchen. He spoke words in his native tongue. Blair was able to pick out only a couple. "Uh, I recognized, uhm, 'shaman,' 'the great village,' but what's uh, uh, what's 'Enqueri'?"

Jim smiled, memories of his time with Incacha coming back to him. 'Enqueri' is my Chopec name. He wants to know if you're gonna be my spiritual guide in the city."

Blair laughed with embarrassment. "Tell him that I learn from him. He learns from me. It's more like a partnership." Blair awkwardly linked his hands together to demonstrate the relationship.

As if Incacha understood Blair's response, the Indian chuckled. Blair's eyes widened with surprise. "He doesn't buy that, does he?"

Jim spoke to Incacha in the Chopec language. Blair tilted his head in curiosity. "What did you say?"

Incacha nodded and walked further into the loft. He began to pick up objects and examine them. "I said, 'my house is yours. Look around.'" Jim paused for a moment and then turned to Blair. "He said he and four other Chopec stowed away on a freighter marked with the 'Great Eye.' They came to Cascade in search of the Great Eye's Chief."

"What's the 'Great Eye'?"

"Cyclops Oil. The Great Eye has been responsible for the death of several of his tribesmen. It's been cutting down forests, killing the water and land with its black poison. He's afraid the Chopec are going to vanish forever. They've come here to capture the Great Chief to bring him back to stand trial in front of the tribal elders."

"Well, do they even know who they're looking for?"

Jim spoke to Incacha. The shaman pulled out several pieces of folded newspaper and handed one to Jim. Jim unfolded it and looked at the picture of Gerald Spalding. The picture appeared to have been taken at a corporate meeting. The large logo of Cyclops Oil was on the wall behind the man. "They know."

Incacha handed Jim another folded piece of newspaper and then returned to examining the objects in the living room with growing curiosity. Jim unfolded the second piece of paper. It was a crumpled picture of him, taken at the recent 'Police Officer of the Year' banquet.

Blair looked over Jim's shoulder at the picture. "It's you!"

"Yeah. Guess that's how he knew to find me here."

"If the Chopec catch Spalding and actually get him back to Peru, what will they do?"

"For killing their land and their people, without provocation?" Jim sighed. "They'd probably kill him."

"What about Torin?"

Jim translated Blair's question. Incacha responded. "They confronted him in the park, hoping he'd lead them to Spalding," Jim repeated in English. "Torin pulled out a gun and shot one of them in the shoulder. Incacha hit him in the neck with a dart from his blowgun. Self-defense."

"What are you going to do?"

Jim rubbed his forehead, emotionally torn. "Legally, I have to arrest him."

"Jim, you can't do that! Prison environment will kill him," Blair protested.

"Why do you think I even avoided telling you about the markings on the dart? But if I don't arrest him and the brass finds out. . ."

"You're in pretty deep," Blair commented quietly.

"I can't do that," Jim concluded.

Blair smiled, somewhat mischievously. "Whoa. I never thought I'd see the day you'd throw out the book."

Both men jumped when loud Australian aboriginal music blared from the stereo. Incacha was looking at the sound system with surprise and awe. He then turned to Jim and made a comment. Jim grinned in response.

Blair frowned, not understanding. "What did he say?"

"Earth music."

Blair nodded in full agreement. "Yeah!"

Incacha turned the stereo off and then approached Jim, speaking as he moved, his words stern. After he finished, Jim translated. "He says he needs me to help the tribe capture Spalding. That's why he came here tonight."

"Jim, you've got to tell him that you can't just go around capturing people. We have laws."

Jim said something to Incacha. The shaman responded harshly, his tone sharp. Jim immediately translated. "There is no American law. There is no Chopec law. There is only justice. I was accepted into the tribe as a Chopec. That's where my allegiance lies. My people are in jeopardy. My obligation is to help the people stop the killing and save the land."

Jim turned back to Incacha, saying something equally as stern. "I just told him that I will stop the killing, but there will be no capturing Spalding or anybody else."

Incacha clearly didn't like Jim's resolution. "He doesn't look convinced," Blair observed.

"He just said he can't believe these words are coming from me." There was silence in the room for a long moment. Then Jim spoke in Incacha's language again. "I just told him I have no more power."

Incacha shook his head and walked away from Jim to the other side of the room. He then turned and quietly spoke.

Blair shook his head in confusion. "What?"

"He said 'a sentinel will always be a sentinel--if he chooses to be.'"

Before Blair could speak, the phone rang. Blair picked it up. "Hello?"

"It's me, Janet."

"Hey, Janet. How are you doing?"

"I was able to get access to Spalding's computer."

"What? How?"

"It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I found it. I found the evidence you're looking for. It's horrible, Blair."

"What did you find?" Blair prodded anxiously.

"We're talking about a huge operation in a protected reserve."

"Okay, remember, the most important thing is having physical evidence."

"I'm printing out pages of it. What they're doing down there is completely illegal." Blair could hear the anger in his friend's voice.

"Janet, are you still in your office?"

"Yeah, but it's just me and the cleaning crew."

Blair's stomach knotted with concern of his friend's welfare. "Can I come over? See what you have? I'd feel better."

Janet continued talking as if not hearing the questions. Her words were a mix of fury and hurt. "Blair, I've worked for this company for three years. I can't believe they've lied to me the entire time. Worse that that, they made me a part of their lies."

"Janet, I want to meet you there."

"Oh, okay. " She took a deep, calming breath. "Okay, can you meet me at my car in the company garage? I still have the Mustang."

"Same Mustang?" Blair remembered that car. His college years came rushing back. "Wow. Remember when we took it up the coast to the anti-nuke rally? Top was down, wind in our hair. It was beautiful."

Jim's voice broke through the memory. "Here you go with the table leg," he muttered.

Blair blushed. "Uh, Janet, look, we can be there in fifteen minutes. Okay?"

"See you then."

"Bye." Blair put down the phone and looked at Jim. "Looks like she found a paper trail a mile long."

Jim turned to Incacha, only to find that the shaman was no longer there. Jim's stomach sank to his feet.

Blair checked in his room. It was empty. "Where'd he go?"

Jim rushed upstairs and then came back down. "He's gone."

~~~~~~~~

"I can't believe we lost him, Jim. How could you not hear him leaving?" Blair asked as he checked the bathroom a second time for the missing shaman.

"How do you think Blair?" Jim angrily shouted. "I feel like I'm wearing blinders and ear plugs. I've just got to get used to it. I'm not a sentinel any longer."

Blair watched, stunned at Jim's reaction, and remained motionless when Jim turned and left the loft. Blair was disappointed in Jim's attitude. He was a sentinel. His job was to protect the tribe.

Blair also had to admit to himself that he had come to rely on the sentinel as well. He felt safe with Jim. Jim was Blair's counterbalance. Together they made a whole.

Blair suddenly realized he was standing alone in the room. He sighed and headed out of the loft. When he walked out of the building he found that Jim was already in the truck, ready to go. The two men began circling the streets, searching for Incacha.

Wanting to break the silence, Jim spoke, "He couldn't have gone far. Just one more time around the block."

Blair shook his head. "We've been around the block five times. We have to go meet Janet. I told her 15 minutes. I don't want to make her wait."

Jim gripped the steering wheel tightly. "All right. I'm not getting anywhere anyway."

Blair kept his eyes straight ahead, but he also had a tight grip on the door armrest. "You know, I'm really wishing you had your senses back."

Jim never looked aside either. "It's over. The sentinel thing is dead."

Blair copied in a whisper, "Dead."

Jim could hear the sadness in that one word. "All right. What's bugging you about this?"

Blair had to fight the tightness in his chest. "Do you think Simon is going to let this partnership continue if there's no legitimate reason for me to be here?"

"I don't know, Blair. I think the captain's developed kind of an abiding tolerance for you." Jim tried to make it sound as upbeat as possible.

Blair ignored Jim's attempt to comfort him. "What about you? You sure as hell don't need me around if you don't have sentinel abilities."

Jim turned quickly to stare at Blair and then redirected his gaze back to the road. "What? Were you worried that you're not going to complete your dissertation?"

Blair swallowed his frustration. "Come on, Jim. I have enough information for ten dissertations. I could have finished months ago."

Jim fought the laugh of disbelief welling up. "So, you've been stalling?"

"Yeah, Jim. You know, I mean, what do you expect? For me to jump back into my academic life? Come on -- that would be like jumping off a roller coaster and spending the rest of my life on a merry-go-round." Blair finished in a small whisper to himself. "It would be such a long fall, man."

Jim could hear the disappointment in Blair's voice. He should have known better than to doubt Blair's motives. He knew Blair would never take advantage of him. He had sacrificed a lot to protect this partnership as it was. Jim promised to himself once this was all over, he would sit down with Blair and talk about their options.

Jim pulled into the Cyclops Oil parking garage. Not wanting to dig into the conversation at that time, Jim focused back on Janet Myers. "You know we're late, Chief. I don't know where your friend could be right now."

Blair spotted Janet's Mustang and headed for it. Moving around to the other side, he stared in horror at the body of his friend. She was lying face down on the pavement. "Oh, my God."

~~~~~ ACT IV ~~~~~


Blair was rooted to the spot. Jim was squatting next to Janet's lifeless body, the body of one of Blair's oldest friends. The arrow shaft was sticking out of her back. The young man closed his eyes and leaned back against the side of the Mustang. He couldn't believe that she was dead.

Jim interrupted his thoughts. He pointed to the arrow. "Looks like it's Chopec."

*Chopec?* Blair thought to himself his fury building. It seemed that every time someone ended up dead lately they were behind it. This time it happened to be someone innocent. Blair looked at his friend, eyes wide. "What the hell is going on here, man? Are the Chopec going to kill everybody associated with Cyclops Oil or what?" Blair could feel a mixture of anger and fear trying to push out of him.

Jim could see Blair was barely containing his pent-up anxiety. He didn't blame him. He was upset about this turn of events himself. He advanced towards Blair, trying to keep his words calm. "Wait a sec, Chief. These people are here for justice, not murder. They'd never shoot anybody in the back, let alone an unarmed woman."

"Well, then who the hell did this?" Blair's tone edged on panic. He began bouncing in place, trying to relieve the built up tension.

Ellison placed his hands on Blair's shoulders. "Just, just settle down, Blair. We'll figure this out."

Blair took a deep breath. "All right." Blair took another deep breath, trying to calm himself down. Unfortunately, Janet's dead body in front of him reminded him all too well of the situation. "I should never have gotten her involved in this."

Once Blair started controlling his anger, Jim looked into the Mustang for the files she was supposed to give them. Seeing nothing, Jim turned to Blair, "There are no documents on her or in the car. Now, my guess is that whoever did this, wanted to make damn sure that we don't get near those files. That would mean it wasn't the Chopec."

While Jim went over the scene, hampered by his lack of enhanced senses, Blair called the police. Within thirty minutes the site was secured and evidence gathered. The coroner arrived and placed Janet's body in a black body bag. Jim glanced back at his partner, who had sought refuge in the Expedition. Blair's eyes were fixed on every move the coroner made.

Jim confirmed the Forensic team's investigative report would be sent to him as soon as it was completed. Jim then headed to his truck where Blair was waiting for him. "You ready to go, Chief?"

Blair started, his gaze breaking from the bleak scene in front of him. He looked at his friend. "Yeah, I am."

Jim wanted to make everything all right for his partner, but he knew now wasn't the time. He would take Blair home, and then they could get some sleep. They could deal with the rest of this fiasco in the morning.

~~~~~~~~

When morning reached the Cyclops Oil building, there was already activity. Spalding was in his office preparing for an emergency board meeting. The death of two of executives had things in chaos. He, himself, was feeling the pressure. He paid people to take care of his problems, but it seemed they had failed somewhere along the line. The Indians were an unacceptable liability.

Getting ready to leave the office, Spalding was interrupted by one of those paid people. Unlike his other employees, Spalding was afraid of Yeager. The man had nothing to lose and was intelligent enough not to worry about failing. "What is it, Mitch? I'm addressing the shareholders at noon. Two executives have been killed in the past two days. Our stock is going right through the damn basement."

Yeager looked at the man who was paying him a lot of money to make his problems go away. With the mistakes being made lately, Yeager wondered why he stayed. He should rethink his options, especially after what happened the night before. Yeager casually leaned against the doorframe. "Last night, Janet Myers had Computer Services crack your code. Then she downloaded everything on Block 18."

Spalding straightened in shock. "What?"

Yeager had to fight a sneer as he talked to his boss. "Don't worry, Ger. No one will ever tie her murder to us. I made it look like it was done by the same Indians that got Bud."

Spalding froze in place, stunned by the man's words. "You killed Janet Myers?"

Yeager pushed away from the doorway. "She was taking the files to the cops. That would have cost you, me, and a few dozen other people a long stretch behind bars."

Yeager's words struck home. Spalding shook his head in denial. "No, no. Whatever you did, you did on your own. I am not involved in murder."

Yeager straightened up and glared at Spalding. "Not unless the victim's skin is brown, he lives in a hut, and he's standing in the way of your bulldozers."

Running away from Yeager and his words, Spalding quickly pushed past his subordinate and left the room. "I don't want to be bothered by this right now. I'm late," he muttered as he made his way to the parking garage. Undaunted, Yeager followed.

Yeager didn't let up on Spalding. "In any case, she never should have had access to those files. We need to tighten things up around here."

Almost to his car, Spalding stopped and turned to face Yeager, fear in his eyes. "What if Myers already went to the cops with information about the operations in Peru?"

"She never got that far. And I destroyed the files. You just deal with the stockholders, Ger. I've got everything else under control."

Spalding turned away, disgusted at the arrogance. His hand rested on the handle of the car door, but the sound of war cries startled him, causing him to jump away. A group of Chopec sprang out of the shadows. Their tanned bodies were covered in red and black paint, blending them into the shadows. Spalding found knives focused on him.

The Chopec herded Spalding and Yeager up against another car. When they touched the vehicle, its alarm went off, startling the whole group. The Peruvian natives were overwhelmed by the loud sound and frantically tried to cover their ears. Yeager recovered quickly, though, and pulled his gun. The Chopec nearest to him saw the act and jumped on the armed man. As the two struggled for control of the weapon, the gun went off. The bullet slammed through the driver's side window of the car, frightening the Chopec and allowing Yeager to shake off the man with whom he had been struggling. He found another standing in front of him. The corners of his mouth turned up in a vicious grin as he pulled the trigger of the gun again and watched the bullet slam into the chest of the Chopec.

Spalding watched the exchange in shock. He then saw another Chopec aim and throw a large club at Yeager. Spalding cowered behind the car as he watched Yeager fall to the ground, stunned by the weapon. He decided to make a break for the safety of the building, but before he could move he found himself surrounded by the remaining attackers. "What are you doing?" he sputtered. He was prodded to stand. "All right. Take it easy." Spears and smaller points poked his body, directing him to his car. He went faster, getting into the car, "Take it easy." The weapons continued to nudge him. "Easy, easy. Okay, all right. I'm going."

~~~~~~~~

Yeager regained cognizance just as his boss' car pulled out of the garage. He blearily looked around, rubbing the lump on the back of his head. "Damn," growled.

He pulled himself up on to his shaky legs with the help of a nearby car and then made it to his own. He needed to get to a safe place and plan his next move.

Yeager didn't see the injured Chopec, the one he had shot, struggle to rise and leave the garage.

~~~~~~~~

Back in Simon's office, Jim and Simon were discussing the case. Simon held Jim's report in his hand. "So Bud Torin and Janet Myers were not killed by the same person."

"Simon, whoever killed Myers was after documents that she was trying to get to us; papers that implicate people within Cyclops. I think our suspect is somewhere in the company. Probably high up."

"But this Inchaca, he is Torin's murderer?"

Jim replied stiffly, "Incacha, sir. His name is Incacha." The detective's tone was defensive. "And he's already confessed to me with a strong claim of self-defense."

Simon frowned at his detective's demeanor. He seemed to be holding his temper though. "So we have him in custody?"

Jim knew this question would come. He would meet it head on. "He's managed to slip away, Captain."

"Slip away?" Simon could barely restrain his disbelief "Jim, you let a confessed murderer, a primitive one at that, escape? The minute he confessed you should have had him in cuffs and on his way to the station. I've made allowances ...." Simon's tirade was cut off when Joel came in with a package.

Not realizing what he had interrupted, Joel held up an envelope. "Hey guys. I found this in my mailbox this morning. It's addressed to Blair." Joel put the envelope into Jim's outstretched hands. "Sandburg, Taggart. I guess it's all the same to the mailroom. It's not the first time we've swapped mail." Taggart paused for a moment then turned to Jim. "How is Blair anyway?"

Jim shrugged. "What can I say? He lost an old friend. He's been better, but he's doing okay."

"Well, tell him that I asked about him and to call me if he needs anything." Joel left the office.

Jim looked through the papers that he had pulled from the envelope. Simon watched his detective. "What is it?"

Jim looked up, smiling. "These are from Janet Myers. These are copies of the documents she said she was going to get to us." Jim handed the papers to Simon. "Check 'em out."

~~~~~~~~

Yeager grinned triumphantly at the building standing before him. Spalding's expensive tastes had finally paid off. The executive's car had an on-board satellite tracking system that had shown the security chief exactly where Spalding had been taken.

He tracked the car to this abandoned warehouse. Parking a short distance away, he picked up his cell phone and dialed a number. "It's me," he said. "Round up Shuster and Wayne, and I want everyone packing. The Indians have Spalding, and I'm not taking them on alone. Meet me at the warehouse on the corner of Sunset and Brookside." Yeager shut the phone off, left his car and carefully approached the building.

~~~~~~~~

Back at the loft, Blair paced around to work off his excess energy. He had turned on his aboriginal music to help him meditate, but it hadn't worked. He couldn't believe the way events had happened lately. It seemed trouble found him no matter what he did. This time, he just happened to drag his friend into it with him. He remembered her, so full of life.

********
Flashback

Two young people sat Indian style on a grassy spot. Behind them was a row of large trees with many people milling around. Chants of 'save the trees' and 'save the wildlife' drifted in the air. "I can't believe how many people have showed up," the young man commented enthusiastically.

The young woman laughed. "I swear, Blair. You make it sound like you've never been to a rally before."

Blair was shooting his head around, trying to see everything at the same time. "I've been to plenty. It's so fascinating though. All the different people that are rubbing shoulders." Blair started to rise, "Hey, I think I see one of Naomi's old friends..."

The young woman grabbed Blair and pulled him back down. "Get back here, Blair." Janet laughed as the young man fell sideways into her lap. Those blue eyes looked up at her. "You promised me you'd help me with my study on protests. I know you. You go off to talk to someone, and I'll never see you again."

"Awww, I wouldn't do that." Blair batted his eyes at his friend. "Now, I said I would help. The first thing you do during a protest is to know your cause backwards and forwards...."

End Flashback
********

Those early days in college were memorable. Janet had always been a dedicated student. He had helped her a lot in her study on protests and their impact on social change. Blair, the man who lived through many protests, offered his services. Janet had delved into that lifestyle very well. Now, he had gotten his friend killed. "Oh, man. Why am I so stupid? Why am I so stupid? Why did I get her involved?" Blair said out loud to no one.

There were loud bangs on the door, and Blair jumped in surprise. Getting his breathing back under control, Blair answered the door. "Hello?" Blair looked down and saw Incacha, who was holding his bleeding stomach, collapsed against the doorframe.

Blair tried to understand when Incacha began speaking. Not knowing Quechua, he was at a loss. "Oh, my gosh. Oh, no. Oh." Blair pulled the Chopec to his feet, guided him to the couch and helped him lie down. The young man then ran to the bathroom and retrieved some towels. Returning, he grabbed the phone and moved back to Incacha. While putting pressure on the wound he dialed Jim's cell phone.

~~~~~~~~

Simon and Jim were still working on the delivered documents. Jim pointed to a line on the page. "The gist of this seems to be something about Block 18 which is an illegal oil operation on protected land in the La Montana region."

Simon looked closer. "Looks like they've been using the assets and machinery of Cyclops to exploit the oil and then they funneled the profits into this Hale Corporation."

"Janet's note says that Hale's a phony company owned by Gerald Spalding." Jim stopped speaking when his cell phone rang. "Excuse me, Captain," he said to Simon. Into the phone he answered, "Ellison."

"Oh man, Jim," Blair's voice cut across the lines. "I need you here now. Incacha was at the door and he's bleeding. He was shot. I don't know what to do. What do you. . . "

Jim could hear Blair's fast heartbeat and harsh breathing. He knew a panic attack had started. "All right, Blair, just calm down. Call an ambulance. I'm on my way. I'll be there as quick as I can." Jim hung up and turned to Simon. Jim fought down the nausea the news brought. "Looks like our murder suspect's been shot."

~~~~~~~~

Jim hurried as quickly to the loft as he could. When he slammed through the door, he saw Incacha on the couch and Blair leaning over him. His hands were pressed over towels, and both were covered in blood. Moving quickly over to his friends, Jim placed one of his hands at the top of Incacha's neck, feeling for his pulse.

Blair turned to Jim. "An ambulance is on its way."

Incacha whispered, "Enqueri..."

Jim leaned in to hear the shaman's words. "Incacha..." Jim looked up to Blair and translated the words for him as Incacha spoke. "They, they captured Spalding. They're taking him to some boat that leaves tonight."

Blair leaned in closer to the pair. "Does he know who shot him?" Blair watched as the two men talked in Quechua. After exchanging some information, Jim began translating again. "From the description it sounds like Yeager. He followed Spalding and the Chopec."

The two men exchanged more information. "They're taking him to a. . .forest in the sky."

Blair was puzzled. "What the hell does that mean?"

Jim replied. "I don't know." Incacha began speaking again, his words getting softer. Jim's face froze at what he was being told. "He. . .he wants me to become a sentinel once again to help save the tribe."

Blair mumbled to himself, glad that someone was defending his position on Jim and his abilities. "Good, good. It's about time." He was shocked by the tight grip of Incacha's hand on his arm. "Hey, Hey!"

~~~~~~~~

Incacha had been watching the young man who had been guiding Enqueri. He had an aura of wisdom and compassion about him, everything Enqueri would need in his fight to protect his tribe. He had been seeing a wolf in his visions, and he knew it was time for Blair to be Enqueri's shaman.

~~~~~~~~

As soon as Incacha had grabbed his arm, Blair felt a tingle. He couldn't seem to pull his arm away, and he was afraid of what was happening. He stayed frozen in his spot as Incacha spoke again, looking directly into his eyes.

Jim was still translating. "He passes over the way of the shaman to you. He wants you to guide me to my animal spirit." Jim remained focused on the Chopec.

Blair was stunned and afraid. There was no way he could do that. Yeah, he helped Jim. But he didn't have the experience necessary to guide further. "Jim, ask him how I do that. I don't know how to do that."

Jim spoke to his old friend. "Incacha. Incacha!" The cries died in Jim's throat as Incacha took his last breath. His body lost its pained stiffness and sunk into the couch cushions. Jim looked up with shock to Blair. "He's dead"

Blair swallowed, finally able to pull his arm away. He still felt the grip though. He watched as Jim drew an afghan over the body and crouched back on his heels. Letting him reflect in peace, Blair went to the phone and called Simon.

~~~~~ ACT V ~~~~~


It took a half an hour for Forensics to arrive at the loft. Blair had watched Jim silently mourning his friend until then. Once they came in with their equipment, Blair pulled Jim into the kitchen. The officers were wrapping up the scene, making sure everything was catalogued.

Jim kept watch over Incacha's body. The coroner had arrived and was spreading out a black body bag next to the couch. Jim suddenly realized what was going on and he jumped forward, fury in his eyes. "Whoa! Listen to me. You are not taking this body to the morgue. I will arrange for. . ."

Blair could only remember a couple of times that Jim had acted this wildly. It had happened once when he had lost another close friend, Danny Choi. The other time was when Jim had come to Blair's office, suffering from the pain of his recently reactivated senses.

Blair could still feel the pressure of his office wall when Jim had thrown him against it in their first meeting. Jim's anger was just as strong now. He was pacing and yelling at the coroner technicians. "You will not take him! Did you hear me?" Jim screamed. He then turned on Sandburg, his hands clutching at the younger man's shirt, half-lifting him from the ground. "Stop them!" he yelled. "Sandburg, there are rituals! There are things a Chopec must do to prepare a body after death. Now, you know that."

Blair put his hands on Jim's arms to steady himself. "Yes, I know that. Of course I do. But right now these people have to do their job." Several flashes went off, and Jim released him so quickly he almost fell. The distraught detective was stalking towards a photographer standing over Incacha's body.

"Hey, no photos! I'll break every.... Stop those cameras!" shouted Jim. Jim looked back towards Blair as the young man grabbed him. He fought against the pull. "I want these people to understand! I want this man respected! You tell these people! I want this man respected!"

Blair realized that he would have to defuse the situation fast. There was no telling how Jim could react. "I'll call Simon. He'll take charge of the body. . ."

Jim butted into the conciliatory words, not wanting to hear them. "That's not gonna work."

Blair started over, trying to get Jim to listen, "Jim! I need you to listen to me!"

Jim turned on Blair and grabbed him again. His eyes were blazing, "What the hell are you going to do? You going to tell me to calm down?"

Blair needed Jim's sense of duty to prevail. Blair could see Janet and Incacha's bodies in his mind's eye. Bolstering his determination to see justice for the deaths, Blair sternly faced Jim. The smaller man grabbed Jim's arms and hauled him further into the kitchen. He whispered fiercely, "No! I need your emotions up and I need them open. You got to get your senses back. You heard what he said. You got to become the sentinel to save the tribe."

"What the hell am I going to do? I don't know where anybody is. Forest in the sky -- where the hell is that?"

Blair replied, "I don't know, either, all right? Right now, we do know there's at least one gunman on their path. He told us what to do." Blair turned Jim around and pushed him out the loft's door which had been left open by the Forensics unit. "Come on!" Blair grabbed his CD player before going out the door. He aimed Jim to the door at the end of the hall, which led to the roof. Soon the two men were climbing the stairs.

Once Blair got Jim onto the roof and in the bright Cascade sunshine, he started to pace. He needed to approach this situation with patience. Jim sat down on a chair which had been left behind by one of the other building tenants. "Okay Jim, we have got one shot here at stopping the bloodshed. Now, I can help you, but really it's up to you."

Jim squinted up at Blair. "How? What if I can't do it?"

Blair sighed. He knew Jim would be stubborn, and he knew his stubbornness was the result of Jim's fear of failure. "You can do it," he encouraged. "Now, a sentinel will always be a sentinel as long as he chooses to. So make that choice, damn it." Blair knelt down and handed Jim his CD player. "Now, put this on."

Jim took the headphones, but looked at Blair with doubt. "How many times are we going to go through this?"

Blair swallowed at the question. He didn't know how to answer, so he just ignored it. "Put the headphones on." Blair smiled at Jim's ready compliance. As soon as the music started, Blair could hear the didgeridoo music himself. He let it center him before he continued. Relaxed, Blair said to Jim, "Can you hear me?"

Jim sighed impatiently. "Yes, yes, yes, yes."

Blair recognized the typical Ellison attitude. "Okay, now. Picture Incacha's spirit." Blair could see Jim struggling to obey. "Okay?"

"It's so hard to do this, Blair. So much has happened," Jim answered.

Jim felt Blair begin to rub his shoulders. He felt a tingling start to grow beginning at his neck and running down his arms to his hands. Blair's voice calmed him, and Jim found it hard to resist. "Now, he wants you to help the tribe. Travel to where the jaguar lives. I want you to see it." Blair let his voice fade out as he saw Jim relax into the meditation. Keeping a hand on his friend's shoulder to ground him, Blair waited for Jim to complete his business in the spirit world.

~~~~~~~~

Jim felt his mind drifting and found himself in a familiar blue landscape. He saw his spirit guide, the black jaguar, run near his position, and he took off after it. It felt like he ran forever. The great cat led him to a large altar surrounded by jungle growth. Jim's eyes followed the jaguar as it jumped up on it and morphed into Jim as he looked during his time in Peru. He wore the jungle camouflage and war paint. A bandana was wrapped around his head. They stared at each other for a time before the Spirit Guide spoke, "What do you fear?"

Jim swallowed against a dry throat. "I fear . . ." Jim took a deep breath, "Being a sentinel."

It wasn't the right answer. The Spirit Guide asked again. "What do you fear?"

Jim replied. "I fear responsibility."

The Spirit Guide looked Jim in the eye. "Sentinel or not, your responsibility is to be accountable for your actions and to learn from your mistakes just like any man."

Jim knew responsibility; he just couldn't focus on his senses. "And my senses?"

The Spirit Guide touched Jim's chest. "Reject them and the responsibility remains."

Jim looked down to where the hand met his body. "Accept them and you accept the gift."

The Spirit Guide, knowing the Sentinel understood, morphed back into the black jaguar. Jim closed his eyes as the jaguar roared and jumped into Jim's chest.

~~~~~~~~

When Jim awoke, he found himself back on the roof and staring into Blair's eyes. He took off his headphones and stood up. He stretched out his hearing, pleased to find the enhanced sense had returned. He heard seagulls on the shore. Horns were beeping in the distance, a man was sweeping, and families were going about their daily business.

Blair could tell the sentinel had returned. He withheld his glee and tried to focus his partner on the crisis at hand. Blair whispered, "The forest in the sky, Jim."

Ellison found himself automatically following the voice of his guide. His vision stretched out, seeking its target. It was as if Incacha was guiding his efforts. Without know how or why, his eyesight found what he instinctively knew was his target. A roof of a nearby warehouse held a large, dilapidated, greenhouse. Plants and trees grew uncontrolled out of broken windows. Jim smiled in satisfaction. "Yeah. Forest in the sky."

Blair smiled. "You found it?"

Jim smiled back at Blair. "Yeah."

~~~~~~~~

The Chopec brought Spalding to their greenhouse hideaway far above the ground. When they entered the hideout, they forced him to the floor. Spalding remained silent. He wondered why they hadn’t killed him, and he was afraid to find out what future was in store for him. He settled his tied hands onto his knees and tried to remain inconspicuous.

Seeing their prisoner was behaving, Cheka fetched some water for him. He felt at home in this small rain forest, but he still missed his true home. The rest of the Chopec were gathered in a small group, resting before the long trip to their village.

Cheka was handing the cup of water to Spalding when the door slammed open behind him. Before he could even move to where he had left his weapon, one of the white men’s guns was trained on him. He saw that the other Chopec had been caught in the same position. Looking down at Spalding, who was smiling with satisfaction, Cheka knew their chance at retribution was dying.

Yeager watched the Chopec freeze in their tracks. They knew the power of the guns facing them, and it was not worth trying to go for their own weapons, spears and arrows. Yeager smiled. "Line them up over there like good little Indians," he said to his henchmen. Looking over to where Spalding was, he continued "Hey, Ger."

While the Chopec were being gathered, one was able to draw his knife. One of Yeager’s men raised his gun and shot him point blank, and then looked up with a smile on his face. "Saw that in a movie once."

Spalding jumped in shock at the shot. Horrified, he looked down at the lifeless body lying at his feet. "What are you doing? Why didn't you just get the police, Mitch? This is a kidnapping!"

"It's more than that." Tired of Spalding’s attitude, Yeager knew it was time to leave his boss' employ. This created the perfect chance to end the relationship permanently. Yeager turned to his men and swept his arm to indicate the Chopec. "Take them out."

Spalding sputtered. He saw death in Yeager's eyes. "No, Mitch, you can't be serious."

Yeager couldn't seem to keep a smile off his face. "Don't worry, Ger. We've got silencers."

~~~~~~~~

Within minutes Jim and Blair had left the loft and climbed into the truck. The 'forest in the sky' was not far. When they arrived at the Chopec's hideout, they climbed from the vehicle and stood outside the building. Jim cocked his head, turning an ear towards the building.

Blair knew he had heard something. He waited patiently for the sentinel to reveal what he had overheard. Finally, the detective spoke. "They're going to kill the Chopec."

"We've got to do something, Jim,” Blair responded in panic. He ran his hands through his hair. “We have to help the Chopec. We've got to get up there." Blair looked to his sentinel, knowing he had to have a plan.

Jim scanned the building with his senses. He was desperately trying to think of anything that would help him save his Chopec brothers. He had already lost Incacha and he didn’t want to lose any others.

Focusing his sight up into the greenhouse, he saw something that might help. He only had to hit it. Jim aimed his gun at the exposed sprinkler head and fired. He then heard a satisfying ping.

~~~~~~~~

Water shot from the overhead sprinklers, scattering the gunmen towards the exit. Cheka took advantage of the resulting chaos. He grabbed a nearby spear and stabbed it the man who had killed Tata, eliminating that threat. He made sure the remaining Chopec grabbed their ropes. Soon they all made their escape by repelling down the building.

Yeager, who was holding his ground near the exit, spied his prey escaping, "You guys get out there." The men paused and he yelled again, "I said get out there!"

Spalding called to Yeager. "That could be the police out there!" Spalding looked around for another avenue of escape. He never expected the force of an object coming down on his head.

Yeager looked down at the sprawled body of his ex-boss. He ran over to the window and looked down. He saw his two men exiting the building, but a detective was there, waiting for them.

~~~~~~~~

Jim pointed his gun at the two gunmen exiting the building and called out, "Freeze! Police!" The men fired their guns, forcing Jim to duck for cover behind a van. The bullets were flying at Jim, and he couldn’t take the chance of exposing himself. He carefully extended his hearing towards the men to gauge their position. He wanted to take these men out and make them pay for what they’d done.

While repelling down the building, Cheka saw one of the gunmen take aim at Enqueri. He pulled his bow from his back, aimed, and fired at the shooter. The arrow hit home and the man fell to the ground. A second turned and fired at him, but Cheka twisted and swung himself around the building’s edge. Cheka watched with a wild gleam in his eyes while the gunman ran from the scene. He landed on the street and followed.

Jim knew that Cheka would hunt down the man so he focused on securing the fallen attacker.

When a bullet came close to him and embedded itself into the sidewalk, Jim had to duck. He looked up at the greenhouse and saw that Yeager had been the one firing on him. Jim cursed and ran into the building to capture Yeager.

~~~~~~~~

Seeing the gunman escaping and Cheka following him, Blair jumped into Jim's Expedition to help give chase. Tearing around a corner, the Expedition went onto the sidewalk and sent a display of chairs flying. Blair saw the man turn and aim at a pursuing Chopec. Blair put the truck in park and jumped out of the cab. He looked around for a way to stop the gunman and grabbed a chair lying at his feet. Blair hit the man over the head, knocking him out.

Cheka stopped his forward momentum when his quarry went down. He smiled at Enqueri’s guide. Incacha had told the Chopec Enqueri had found his guide in the Great City. Cheka could see for himself the guide possessed the spirit of a warrior as well. He believed Incacha when he told him the guide would help the sentinel in both the physical and spiritual world.

~~~~~~~~

Blair was amazed when the Chopec warrior in front of him bowed his head with a hand over his heart, he couldn’t understand why he was being honored. The Chopec then turned away and left. The murmur of voices surrounded Blair as a crowd gathered around him, eyeing the young man and the unconscious body at his feet.

Blair took control of the situation. "Hey," he called out to a man with a cell phone. "Call Cascade PD and ask for Captain Simon Banks." With his request being followed, Blair tied up the now harmless gunman.

~~~~~~~~

Jim swore as Yeager, still stationed on the roof, disappeared from view. He ran into the building and raced up the flights of stairs catching his breath at the top. Readying his gun, he slowly opened the door of the greenhouse, silently entered and stood still when he saw a figure among the plants. "Put down your weapon and come out. Put your hands where I can see them."

Spalding walked out into the open with his hands up and yelled, "I'm not armed." His hands were empty and Jim started to approach him.

~~~~~~~~

Taking his opportunity to escape while the detective’s attention was elsewhere, Yeager ran to the door. To make sure that the detective stayed occupied, Yeager fired shots at the detective. Closing and locking the door behind him, he smiled. He would now have his chance to finish some unfinished business.

~~~~~~~~

Jim ran to the door as soon as he heard it click shut. The sound of a bolt turning echoed in his ears. Not wanting to believe his hearing, he tried the door anyway. It wouldn’t budge. A shuffling behind him reminded him Spalding was still within reach. He turned to Spalding and stepped toward him, "All right, put your hands behind your head. Put them behind your head."

Spalding obeyed. "I had no idea any of this was going on."

Jim had to fight a laugh. "Right. You just collect the profits." Putting plastic cuffs on him, Jim continued. "You stay here. You'll get your justice in the end." After reading him his rights, Jim looked around for a way out. Remembering the Chopec’s appearance earlier on the street, Jim ran to one of the open windows. The welcome sight of a rope dangled out of the window. Looking down at the street, Jim edged his way over the rooftop and gripped the rope.

Going back to his Army Ranger training, he climbed out the window and repelled down. He feet hit the sidewalk, and Jim trained his hearing to catch any sign of Yeager. Finding a large pocket of fast heartbeats, Jim head that way. It was an indication that something was happening there.

~~~~~~~~

Once on the street, Yeager ran down the sidewalk for all he was worth. A Chopec, waiting on a nearby roof, tried to fire an arrow at him and missed, Yeager shot him as he jumped down to finish the job and continued his escape.

Another Chopec suddenly appeared on his trail, and Yeager wasted no time in shooting that man. Looking around for another avenue of escape, he saw Ellison was in close pursuit, and he grabbed the downed Chopec to use as a shield. "You're going to help me out of this."

Jim stopped and aimed his gun at Yeager when he spotted him using the Chopec as a hostage. It took all Jim’s better sense not to take a shot. “Let him go, Yeager!"

With his gun at the Chopec’s throat, Yeager yelled back, "Drop the gun!" When the detective didn’t comply, he repeated, "I said drop the gun! Then kick it in the storm drain!"

There was a wild look in Yeager’s eyes. Jim couldn’t tell what Yeager was going to do. He debated on taking a shot, but there were too many bystanders. Yeager also had the Chopec completely covering him. Jim didn’t have a choice. Doing the only thing he could to try and salvage the situation, he dropped his gun and kicked it into the sewer.

~~~~~~~~

Yeager held his hostage closer while the detective stood in the middle of the street. He looked around for a way out and spotted the perfect getaway. There was an Expedition truck with its engine running sitting right on the sidewalk. He dragged the Chopec toward the waiting vehicle.

Circling around to the driver side of the Expedition, Yeager saw Ellison's partner bent over the trussed form of his hireling. Leaving the man to fend for himself, Yeager aimed his gun at the young observer while he maneuvered himself into the driver’s seat. Yeager then shoved his hostage away, reversed the truck, and sped away.

~~~~~~~~

Blair stood up quickly as soon as Yeager shoved the Chopec towards him. He caught the warrior and carefully lowered him to the ground. Pressing his hands against the bleeding wound he found, Blair looked up, searching for Jim. He found the sentinel in the middle of the street shooting a Chopec crossbow bolt after the speeding truck. Seeing Jim was busy, Blair turned back to help the Chopec warrior.

~~~~~~~~

Jim's enhanced sight followed the trajectory of the arrow as it blew out the front left tire of the Expedition. The truck flew up and landed on its side, sliding uncontrolled into a large glass window.

Yeager slowly sat up and pushed opened the driver's side door, falling unsteadily out of the cab. His attempted escape was thwarted, though as three Chopec were waiting for him, arrows poised and ready. Yeager cowered in fear.

"Stay away. Get back!" shouted Yeager as the Chopec drew nearer to him.

Jim surveyed the scene before him and was glad the chase was over. Incacha and the others would be vindicated. The Chopec warriors were threatening Yeager and Jim stepped between them. The Chopec moved away knowing that their sentinel would handle the white man who had murdered members of the tribe and tried to destroy their home.

Ignoring Yeager for the moment, Jim faced his Chopec brothers. They stood proud and strong before him. He didn’t know if white man’s justice would be enough for them, but that was all he could give them. As it was, neither Yeager nor Spalding would probably live free again. He told the Chopec this. They didn’t look happy, but Cheka gave his hand in friendship and Jim clasped it. The man spoke to the sentinel. He indicated the Chopec would accept the judgment. He said a few more words and then backed away.

When the Chopec moved away, Yeager shifted his body weight, obviously preparing for an escape. Jim saw the maneuver and grabbed him. "Get back here!"

"Oh! Easy, man!" Yeager whined

Jim felt a sense of satisfaction he was able to help the Chopec. Following up on his promise to them to uphold justice, Jim handcuffed his prisoner and read him his rights. "You just wrecked my car there, buddy boy. I’d advise you to keep your mouth shut before something worse happens than this."

Jim turned around to thank the Chopec, but they were gone. All he saw was the spectators the chase had brought together.

Blair, seeing Yeager had been captured, ran down street to join Jim. "Hey, Jim. I took care of that guy down there. Where did. . . Where did the Chopec go?" Blair looked around. "Did they just take off without saying anything?"

Jim smiled at his guide. "Well, not exactly. One of them told me I'm no longer the Chopec sentinel."

Blair’s heart leapt in fear. Did this mean their partnership was over? He was certain Jim's senses had returned for good. Perhaps he was wrong. If the detective's senses had abandoned him again, then there would be no reason for Blair to guide him. There was no way Jim would keep him around if he didn’t need him. He was so sure Jim was beginning to accept his senses. It now appeared Blair had just been fooling himself. "Why? After all we just went through?"

Jim heard Blair’s heartbeat speed up. He wanted to reassure him everything was going to be okay. He put his hands on Blair’s shoulders. “No. He said now I’m the Sentinel of the Great City.”

Blair looked into Jim's eyes and saw the pride there. He breathed a silent sigh of relief, then remembered Incacha's hand on his arm and his words. “I guess that makes me the Shaman of the Great City." Those words sent a wave of absolute comfort through him that everything was going to be okay.

Jim knew Blair had made the connection when his face displayed knowledge and relief. Blair was an important part of the sentinel package. That point had been pounded home with Incacha’s arrival and subsequent death. Jim’s attention was diverted with the sounds of approaching sirens. Now that the work was done, the calvary had arrived.

Jim watched as Simon jumped out of the car once it was stopped. Five patrol cars were right behind him. “What the hell is going on around here! Reports of gun shots and natives running the streets are not what I want to hear.”

Jim smiled at Simon’s tirade. He put his hand on Blair’s shoulder, “Sorry, sir. Blair and I didn’t mean to ruin your day. We just had some unfinished business to attend to.” A roar of a jaguar punctuated his statement. Jim looked behind Simon and saw his spirit animal on the hood of the captain's car. The tensing of Blair’s muscles indicated he had felt something, but Jim could tell he couldn’t see the jaguar.

Simon sighed. “Just tell me everything’s under control here. I don’t think I’m ready to hear anything else.”

Jim smiled down at his partner, "Yes, sir. One hundred percent."

~~~~~ EPILOGUE ~~~~~


Jim looked upon the pyre where Incacha's wrapped body lay. It had been five days since Incacha's death. Jim had arranged passage on a Peruvian freighter to return the remaining Chopec to their home. He had then spent time with Blair, and they had performed the appropriate rituals for Incacha's spirit and body. The government had given them permission to cremate the shaman. A local American Indian tribe allowed the partners to use a piece of their land for the ceremony.

Blair approached Incacha’s pyre carrying a small box. He stood next to Jim and opened the box. Pulling out a bundle of letters, Blair said, "These are letters that Janet wrote to various organizations. Her family gave me the copies she kept. I guess they thought I had a lot to do with her interest in the environment and stuff. I'd like to send these off so she'll know she did make a difference."

Jim walked with Blair to the pyre and waited while he placed the box next to Incacha’s wrapped body. Jim looked over the pyre carefully and noted all the sacred objects and material possessions Incacha had brought with him were in place. He would miss Incacha greatly, but Blair was here now. Incacha had given his blessings to the young man, and Jim knew the anthropologist would embrace it.

Shaking himself from his reverie, Jim lit a waiting torch and held it up so Blair could grasp it too. Together, they lit the pyre, sending Incacha's spirit and Blair's remembrances of Janet to the sky.

A jaguar appeared out of the night behind the sentinel and guide. He remained in silent vigil over the pair, and he was delighted when he heard the howl of a wolf. The great cat growled in the air. His other half was coming. It wouldn't be long.

The End

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