by: Terri D. Thomas
by: Terri D. Thomas
Beta Read by: Jewelle Sprite and Yvonne
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
~~~~~~~~~~ Act I ~~~~~~~~~~
"It’s the best deal you’re going to get," the dark haired man said. "You testify against Murdock and then get to disappear. We get what we want and you get what you want." District Attorney Fletcher confidently stepped around the desk and sat down in the chair. "The paperwork is ready for you. All I need is your signature." Derek Wilson fidgeted in his chair. "Ms. Kane has reviewed the document." Fletcher glanced at the woman sitting across from him. "No changes, right, Isabel?"
The balding man nervously glanced at the woman. She smiled and nodded. "He’s right, Derek. It’s a good deal. If you don’t do this, you could find yourself facing conspiracy charges."
Derek sighed. "Okay. . . okay. I’ll do it. . .on one condition."
"That is?" Fletcher asked, eyes narrowing.
"I need to call my brother. Let him know what’s going on. I won’t disappear without letting him know why."
Fletcher’s eyes met Isabel’s. He shook his head. "That’s not a good idea. Murdock could use him against you."
"That’s the deal. I can’t just. . .do this. . .to my family."
Fletcher shook his head. Isabel leaned forward. "My client has spoken. If he wants to contact his family before this goes any further, that is his right."
"I’ll make arrangements for you to be transported back to Cascade for the trial. Then you disappear." He pushed on the intercom button at the corner of his desk. Two uniformed officers stepped into the room. "Take Mr. Wilson back to his hotel and stay with him until you receive instructions."
As Wilson turned to leave, he stopped. "No planes. I can’t fly."
"Mr. Wilson, you must be reasonable. It will be much faster. . ."
"My client insists. No planes," Isabel emphasized, cutting off the District Attorney.
"Very well. I’ll check on. . .some other ground transportation. Surely there’s something available."
Blair felt a surge of euphoria as he danced in time to the jungle rhythms playing from the stereo. This was healing music and if Jim would just give it a try, he was certain his friend’s cold would be cured.
"Come on, man. You’re killing me," the congested tone of Jim Ellison sounded over the music.
"Is it working? On your cold? These rhythms promote better circulation. Something I picked up from the Monbuttu tribe in Kenya. Open up all those passages. Sort of like, uh. . .sonic antihistamine."
Blair’s hopeful smile only served to irritate his roommate. "Would you turn it down?"
"Come on, Jim. Give it a chance."
Jim’s frustration was growing. "Give it a rest. Please?"
Blair sighed, his disappointment apparent. "Fine." He left the living room and disappeared into his bedroom. Jim felt a slight twinge of guilt when he found himself hoping that the younger man would stay there.
Not surprisingly, though, Blair reappeared and made his way to the kitchen. "Hey, that’s okay, ’cause I got something else for you. . .and it’s almost done." He lifted the lid of a pot that was simmering on the stove.
"Will you forget it? I’m fine."
"You know what? You are amazing. All that crap you put in your body that you call food and you won’t take anything for your cold."
"I don’t believe in chemicals."
"No argument from me, but this stuff is not your over-the-counter stuff here. I mean, it’s all-natural," Blair said with pride.
Jim narrowed his eyes. "What’s in it?"
"It’s a little bit of this. . .a little bit of that. It doesn’t matter."
"Any illegal substances?"
"No. . .no. . .come on. . .maybe if you’re in Zimbabwe. They have restrictions on certain U.S. goods. Look at this. Check this out." Blair lifted the lid once again and took a deep sniff. He couldn’t contain the cough that followed. "Now, that stuff. . .that’ll clean your sinuses."
Jim grimaced and then coughed. "Or clean a floor."
Simon Banks closed the file with a sigh. He glanced at his watch and then looked outside. The pitch black of nighttime greeted him. "Another day, another quarter," he muttered.
Simon Banks closed the file with a sigh. He glanced at his watch and then looked outside. The pitch black of nighttime greeted him. "Another day, another quarter," he muttered.
He pushed himself away from the desk preparing to grab his things and head home. Before he could stand a knock at his door grabbed his attention.
The door cracked open. "Hey Simon, you busy?" Carolyn Plummer asked.
"Nah, I was just leaving."
"Me too. Thought I’d better drop this off first, though," the woman said as she handed Simon a manila envelope.
Simon frowned. "What is it?"
Carolyn shrugged her shoulders. "Don’t know. It was delivered to my office by mistake."
Simon looked at the return address. "Oh," he whispered.
Carolyn tilted her head. "You okay?"
"It’s from my attorneys. It’s the divorce decree."
"Oh, I didn’t realize that it had been that long."
Simon let a small, cynical laugh escape. "Yeah, it seems like only yesterday that we were fighting like cats and dogs."
"I didn’t mean it like that," the woman responded, apologetic.
"I know, I’m sorry. It’s just. . .," Simon’s words trailed off.
Carolyn sat on the edge of the desk and her hand patted Simon’s. "Hey, it’s okay. Remember, I’ve been there."
Simon sat back in his chair and rubbed his hand over tired eyes. "I just can’t believe it’s over. After everything we’ve done. . .been through. . .it’s over. .. just like that." He snapped his fingers for emphasis.
"It’s hard to believe that you can love someone so much and then watch it just. . .end," Carolyn added quietly.
"Yeah," Simon answered. He started to speak again, but his ringing phone halted the conversation. Simon fumbled for the receiver. "Banks." He was silent for a moment. Carolyn frowned trying to determine who was on the other end. "What? All right." Simon held the phone away from his mouth. "Could you excuse me?" he asked her.
Carolyn nodded and quickly left the room, shutting the door behind her.
Turning his attention back to the phone, Simon listened again. "No. . .yes, sir, I have the perfect man for the job. Detective Jim Ellison. Oh, he’s been working with a special consultant to the department, Blair Sandburg. Is it okay if he comes along?" Simon listened to the response. "I understand. Get right on it."
He pushed down the switch hook and then dialed another number. "Rhonda? Better hang up your coat. We’re gonna be staying late tonight. See if you can catch Plummer before she leaves. Ask her to come back up here. Also, see if you can track down Jim." He hung up the phone. "It’s gonna be a long night," he sighed and leaned back in his chair.
"Can’t you tell me anything about where we’re going?" Blair whined as he and Jim exited the police department elevator.
"Sorry, Chief, it’s not my call," Jim said as he fought off a sneeze. He lost and aimed the violent explosion at his friend.
Blair grimaced and wiped off his arm. "Come on. Do you know germs have a life of their own? Not only did you pull me out of bed in the middle of the night, but now you’re going to get me sick." He reached into his pocket and handed the taller man a wad of tissues. "Here, take a couple of these."
Jim chuckled at his friend’s paranoia. "Sandburg, I’m seeing a whole new side of you. Didn’t realize you were such a hypochondriac." He grabbed the tissues.
"Seeing that I’m risking disease tonight, can’t you tell me what this is all about?"
"Picking up a package and bringing it back to Cascade." He pulled open his desk drawer and grabbed a spare set of handcuff keys. He dropped them and a few other items into his duffel bag.
"What type of package requires this much secrecy? Come on, Jim, who am I going to tell?" Blair’s frustration raised his voice, causing everyone in the squad room to look. Embarrassed, Blair gave a little wave. "How are you guys doing? Good to see you." He leaned over towards Jim and whispered. "Sorry. Look, uh. . .let me give you something here. The Genjaka Indians swear by this stuff. They extract it from the root of the niktabi plant. It’ll keep you from getting sicker. You just take a little pinch." He stuck some in his mouth. "Let it dissolve under tongue," he instructed, his words muffled by the substance.
Jim shook his head and held up his hand. "Thanks. I’ve had my flu shot."
Blair couldn’t help but laugh. "Yeah. . .right. . .obviously those don’t always work." Jim sneezed again as if emphasizing Blair’s point. "See there? See?" He held out the leaves again. "Take a little bit of this. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it."
Jim dismissed Blair’s suggestion with a wave of the hand and made his way to Simon’s office.
Simon wasn’t sure how long he had been staring at the envelope. He remembered telling Jim not too long ago that all he wanted was to receive the divorce papers and get the marriage over with. Now that the time had arrived, he wasn’t so certain that this was what he had wanted.
Sighing, he finally gathered the nerve to open the envelope. Reaching inside he pulled out the papers. His eyes fell on the words. ‘Decree of Divorce’ were such harmless words, but they meant so much. He closed his eyes and remembered the day he had asked Joan to marry him. He had just graduated from the Academy. He had known all along that once he had finished his training he would ask for her hand in marriage. She had said ‘yes’ instantly, with no hesitation.
The engagement was short. They were married three months later. It had been a small ceremony. Neither of them had the means for a full-blown affair. She had looked so beautiful that day.
His mind wandered to the day that Joan had surprised him with the news that she was pregnant. He could still feel the swell of pride as he discovered that he was to be a father.
Daryl’s birth was a day he would never forget. He had almost missed the occasion. Daryl had come early and Simon had been working undercover in Burglary. He would have never been in the delivery room on time if his boss, Captain Roberts, hadn’t taken the initiative to pull Simon out so that he could be there at the special time. Simon had told his Captain later about how pleased, but shocked he was to have been taken off the assignment. The Captain had merely smiled and said, "Banks, there will be plenty of criminals to catch. . .you only get to see your child born once."
Simon opened his eyes, seeing the divorce papers once again. Where had it gone so wrong? What had happened between Joan and him to bring them to this point?
He picked up the pen, feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat as he did so. He started to sign and then paused. Before he could commit, Jim entered the office, coughing. Simon frowned at the obviously ill man.
"We’re ready to roll, Captain."
"Good. The plane’s waiting for you at the airport. It’ll get you to the state line. After that, the train’s making a special stop to pick you up."
Jim nodded. "Good. Would you mind if I told Sandburg what’s going down? Get him off my back a little bit?"
Simon chuckled. "That bad, huh?"
"Well, sorry, you can’t tell him anything ’til you get on board that train."
"Thanks very much for your support."
Simon raised his hands in defense. "I don’t make the rules."
"That’s what I keep telling him." Jim’s keen vision picked up the wording on the papers sitting on his boss’ desk. "They finally came, huh?"
"Yeah. Says in big letters, ‘You are divorced. Now what?’ Hell, man, I kept expecting this to be a great moment, and. . .I don’t know. All I feel is empty. It gets better, right?"
Jim gave him an empathetic look, despite being assaulted by another cough. "Yeah, it gets better."
"I’ll check with you later on."
Simon nodded. "All right. Take care of that cold."
Jim sniffed, testing the stuffiness of his nose. "It’ll pass." The cough attacked again.
~~~~~~~~~~ Act II ~~~~~~~~~~
Spitting drizzle was a sure sign that the weather was only going to get worse. Blair hugged his coat tighter around him, trying to keep his body heat in. He could feel the cold seeping in, even though he and Jim were crammed together in the back seat of the car.
The vehicle pulled to a stop in front of a train. "Okay, let’s go," Jim ordered.
Blair frowned at the train. "I’ve got to say it. I’m really beginning to take this personally. It’s because I’m not a real cop. Not part of your great fraternal brotherhood."
"You’re right. That’s it."
Blair grimaced. "Oh man."
"Yep. We’re a cult. Every cop in the state of Washington is required to join. Have a secret handshake and a decoder ring. We have our secret headquarters under the Masonic Temple on 8th Street." Jim couldn’t help the hint of a grin that was turning up the corners of his mouth.
"Get out," Blair frowned, not humored by Jim’s antics.
"Hey, Mike," Jim spoke to the driver, "am I lying?" Mike shook his head. Jim turned back to Blair. "Of course you realize that now that we’ve divulged our secret, we will be obliged to kill you." Jim gave his friend a serious look.
Blair shook his head and climbed out of the car. "Funny man. . .real funny."
Jim laughed. "Thanks for the ride, Mike."
Jim followed Blair to the train. Blair turned back to his friend. "Why can’t we take this package back to Cascade by plane?"
"It can’t be flown," Jim answered simply.
"Ask a stupid question. . .," Blair muttered to no one in particular. Jim climbed on board the train and the younger man followed.
The two found themselves in a brightly-lit corridor. Jim began the task of checking each cabin, assuring himself that the transport party was truly alone in the car.
Blair watched Jim work, his suspicions growing. "Hey, wait a minute," he said slowly as an idea dawned on him. "I’m not getting mixed up with anything poisonous or radioactive, am I? I mean, that’s it, right?" he asked and then continued, without waiting for an answer. "The plane crashes, the stuff becomes airborne, gets into the water supply, people start getting sick, losing fingers, having mutant babies," Blair nervously rambled, his voice growing in volume. "I’m right. Jim, I’m an anthropologist, not a biologist. This is definitely not my area."
Jim, humored by Blair’s paranoia, decided to finally put his friend out of his misery. "Our package’s name is Derek Wilson. Oregon State Police are handing him over to us. He’s supposed to testify against a guy named Edward Murdock. You heard of him?"
"Oh yeah, yeah, he’s that real estate guy. Just went on trial a couple of days ago," Blair said, his voice excited.
"Yeah, he torched one of his hotels and used the $20 million in insurance to help save his other businesses. Seventeen people died in that fire."
Blair shook his head. "Oh man, I’d say this guy’s ruined his karma for the next sixty lifetimes."
Jim moved further down the hall. "Yeah, Wilson was his accountant. He agreed to testify in exchange for a quick trip to the witness relocation program after the trial. Odds are that Murdock’s going to do everything in his power to see that doesn’t happen."
"So that’s why all the secrecy."
Jim nodded. "That’s right. Nobody’s taking any chances on this one."
"No, definitely not," Blair agreed, now understanding the cloak and dagger behavior of his partner.
"Hold that," Jim handed Blair his bag. "For extra security we’re supposed to have the whole car to ourselves."
"Oh, great, great, great," Blair mumbled, seeming to understand the danger of their predicament for the first time.
Jim stopped in front of a closed cabin door, one that he had not checked on earlier. He knocked. The door opened and a uniformed guard came out.
Jim held up his identification. "How are you doing? Jim Ellison, Cascade P.D. How was your trip?"
The guard smiled. "Oh, I. . .uh. . .wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. He’s a real treat." The guard pointed his thumb back inside the room.
"Mm-hmm," Jim responded, only half-heartedly listening as he signed the guard’s paperwork.
"He’s all yours," the guard said cheerfully as he retreated down the corridor towards the exit.
"Gee, thanks," Jim muttered as he watched the guard exit the train. He turned to Blair. "Hey, you got another tissue?"
"Yeah." Blair pressed the flimsy paper into Jim’s hand. He then noticed that Jim’s eyes were focused on something down the hall. Blair turned to see a large behemoth of a man approaching. Jim watched the man warily. The man’s gaze focused on Jim. The two stared at each other for a long moment until the stranger had passed and disappeared around the corner at the other end of the car.
"What’s all that about?" Blair asked.
"I felt like I knew him from someplace."
Blair let out a small chuckle. "Yeah, me too. Cascade Zoo. . .Primate House."
The two men steadied themselves as the train lurched forward. "We’re on our way," Jim mumbled as he pushed the cabin door open. A balding, book-wormish man sat cuffed to the arm of a bench. He looked up at the two men as they entered.
"Yes. You guys taking me back?"
"Yeah, I’m Detective Ellison. This is Blair Sandburg."
Jim undid the man’s cuffed hands. The man smiled gratefully. "Never been in this kind of situation before. Sorry about the train thing. I have a ruptured eardrum. If I fly, I get these really terrible migraine headaches." Blair sat down across from the man, nodding a quick hello.
Wilson continued without acknowledging Blair. "I’ve got pills, but they never seem to work. You don’t want to know."
Jim turned away and looked out the window of the train. "You’re right, I don’t."
Wilson’s eyes met Blair’s, who shrugged, not wanting to explain his friend’s behavior.
Jim moved back to Wilson. "Junior, please sit next to the gentleman." Blair frowned, confused. "Come on, let’s go," Jim prodded as he pulled his handcuffs from their holder.
Blair stood, put his backpack on the rack above the seats and then sat down next to Wilson. Jim put the cuffs on both of them, locking Wilson and Blair together. "Hey. . .," Blair started to protest.
"I’m sorry about the jewelry, kids, but uh. . .those are the rules. Procedure."
"But why me?" Blair complained.
"Cause I’ve got the gun," Jim replied as he settled on the bench across from the two men.
The three sat in silence for a long moment. Blair, unable to stand the silence any longer, smiled broadly. "Hey, it’s a party."
Jim scowled at the younger man and then was overtaken with another sneeze.
Over two hours had passed and Simon was still staring at his divorce papers. He was working up the nerve to pick up the pen again. Before he could accomplish the task, the phone rang. "Banks," Simon answered. He listened for a moment. "Damn it. Any details?" He was silent for a few seconds. "Okay, we’ll handle it from here." He hung up and then dialed an extension. "Carolyn? Could you come to my office, we’ve got trouble."
Simon had barely hung up the phone when Carolyn pushed open the door and entered the room. "What’s happened?"
"The D.A. just got word from an informant. There’s been a leak. Murdock’s people know about the train and they’re planning a hit."
"Oh God," Carolyn gasped, worry in her tone. "What are we going to do?"
Simon thought for a moment. "Maybe I can catch Jim before he gets on the train." He picked up the phone and dialed Jim’s cell number. The mobile phone operator came on the line indicating that Jim’s phone was either turned off or out of range.
"His cell phone’s out of range. Derek Wilson’s going to be a sitting duck, unless we can find a way to get in touch with Jim fast."
"Not to mention Jim and Sandburg," Carolyn whispered.
Simon dialed the phone again. "Rhonda, get me Metro," he ordered.
"All right, thanks a lot for your help." Simon hung up the phone. "We’re screwed. The train has already left the state line."
"Well, can we get through to Jim?" Carolyn asked, worry in her voice.
"The railroad’s gonna try. But their communication gear doesn’t work very well up in those mountains. The cell phone is out of range. They’re going to hold the train at the next scheduled stop."
Carolyn shook her head. "But that won’t be for another four hours. They could be dead by then. I don’t like this, Simon."
Simon stood and approached the woman, his tone softening. "Hey, I don’t like it either, but at this moment there’s not much we can do. That’s why I put him on the train in the first place. There’s nobody better in a situation like this." He sat down on the corner of the desk. "All right, the train makes one stop before it gets to Cascade. I’m going to get on the horn with the State Police. I want to be there with the welcoming committee. Meantime, I want you to hold down the fort here." Carolyn started to protest, but Simon stopped her. "I know you want to come, but I need you to see to things here."
Carolyn sighed and nodded. "Okay, but you keep in touch."
Simon smiled. "I will. Also, uh, I know it’s out of your area, but you wouldn’t mind rustling me up a chopper?"
"Right away." She turned and left the Captain’s office.
Jim felt the tickle of a sneeze coming on and tried to fight it. It overwhelmed him. "Aaachooo!"
Wilson shot the man a sympathetic look. "It must be a pain, huh, Detective? Being dragged out in the middle of the night to ride shotgun especially when you’re not feeling well."
"That’s my job," Jim answered coldly.
"Yeah, that’s our job," Blair added. "Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night will stay these guys from doing their appointed rounds," he muttered.
"Isn’t that the Post Office motto?" Jim commented.
"Well, I’ve got to say you’re a lot nicer than the last guy who was here," Wilson stated, his smile friendly.
"We aim to please," Blair said.
Derek looked at the paneling of the train wall. "You know, this train’s a classic. It was rusting away in a warehouse someplace in Wisconsin until somebody had a brainstorm, fixed her up and started making this run. In the summer it’s booked solid. You can’t even get a coach ticket. I’ve tried."
Jim ignored the man’s attempt at conversation. He reached over and unlocked the handcuffs fastening Blair and Wilson, then attached Blair’s end to the bench, securing Wilson in place. "I need. . .I need to speak to you outside."
Blair followed Jim into the corridor. A coughing fit attacked Jim again. Blair shook his head. "Hey, Jim, come on man, do us all a favor." He held out the packet of niktabi to his friend.
"Yeah, right, tell me another one. This is not going to poison you."
Jim pushed Blair’s hand away. "Look, if that stuff’s so great, run it by the FDA and put a label on it. Then I’ll give it a try."
Blair frowned at Ellison’s uncooperative attitude. "What’d you drag me out for?"
"I’m gonna take a walk around. I’m going to check out the rest of the train."
Suddenly worried, Blair looked up and down the hall. "Is something wrong?"
"I don’t know. I’ve just got a strange feeling."
Blair tried to reach for Jim’s forehead. "Maybe you’re running a fever."
Jim pulled away and pushed Blair’s hand down. "No, no, I don’t have a fever. Just hold down the fort till I get back."
"Wait a second." Blair looked back at the door to the cabin. "You’re the one with the gun, man."
"Well, lock the door." Jim started to walk away.
The younger man reached out and stopped him. "Well, don’t you think we should have some type of a secret password or something?"
"A secret password?"
"Yeah, so I know it’s you."
"All right." Jim thought for a second. "Well, why don’t you say, ‘who is it?’ and I’ll say, ‘Ellison’, and then you open the door." He turned and walked away again.
"Funny, man. . .real funny," Blair grumbled as he entered the cabin. "Least now I’m free to open the door," he growled, absently rubbing his wrist as he closed the door.
Simon tried to rub away the growing headache that was assaulting him. The door to his office opened without announcement. Carolyn walked in. "Bad news. The choppers aren’t flying tonight. It’s too windy now, and snow is expected later."
Simon’s headache suddenly became worse. "All right. Look, it’s going to take four hours before that train arrives at the next stop. I can make it in three if I take the mountain roads. I’ll get them to loan me a four-by-four downstairs." Simon walked around his desk and Carolyn helped him slip into his coat. "Thanks."
"Listen, the roads are going to be pretty treacherous, Simon. Be careful."
"All right, I will."
Carolyn began to leave the office and then stopped. "And tell Jim I’m. . .uh. . .never mind. . .forget it."
"Carolyn, I’ll call you from the road and let you know how things are going."
Carolyn gave the large man a warm smile. "Thanks."
Simon’s eyes caught the divorce papers still sitting on his desk, unsigned. He picked them up, started to put them in his pocket and then stopped. Laying them back on the desk he left the office without a glance back.
~~~~~~~~~~ Act III ~~~~~~~~~~
Jim collapsed on the couch located at the far end of the lounge car. He could feel the symptoms of the cold penetrating every cell of his body. He had almost given in and taken Sandburg’s magic herbs, but pride got the best of him. There was no way he was going to let the anthropologist think he had won the battle of wills.
The lounge steward stood before him with a bottle of cold medication on his tray. "Here you go, sir."
"Thanks." Jim grabbed the bottle trying to focus on the label. "This is the non-drowsy formula, right?"
"Yes, it is."
Jim poured himself a small cup and downed the medication quickly, only grimacing slightly.
Jim’s attention was suddenly diverted from his aches and pains to the man who he had seen in the corridor earlier who was now sitting at the bar, nursing a drink.
"Is everything okay, sir," a stewardess said as she cleaned the end table next to the couch.
"Couldn’t be better," Jim answered. "Do you happen to know that passenger standing at the bar?" He pointed to the large stranger.
The woman looked over and shook her head. "No, I’m sorry. I do know that he boarded the train at our last scheduled stop."
Jim frowned with suspicion. He started to rise, intending on confronting the man, when suddenly his vision cut out. Black spots filled his sight. His hearing became muffled.
"Sir, are you sure you’re okay?"
Jim tried to focus on the stewardess. "I . . .uh. . .I’ll be right. . .uh. . .back," Jim said, forgetting about the man, suddenly feeling his heartbeat speed up to twice its normal rate.
The disorientation was overwhelming. Jim tried to focus on maneuvering his way down the corridor to the nearest restroom. The lights from the hall painfully flashed in his eyes and the sounds of the train were deafening.
Finally he found the facilities. Jim banged into the door of the restroom, barely able to make out the unisex sign. As he tried to open it, he heard the voice of a woman answer. "Just one minute." The door opened and the woman stepped out. "Excuse me."
Jim said nothing, his out-of-control senses shutting down his ability to reason. He stumbled into the restroom and shut the door behind him. The lights over the lavatory were blinding. The pain and frustration caused him to strike out at the bulbs. The lights shattered, spewing glass all over the restroom.
He could feel droplets of blood and the sting of small cuts from where the glass cut into the skin of his hands. He fumbled for the faucet, turning on the cold water valve. He thrust his hands underneath the streaming water. Once the pain of the cuts died down, he threw water over his face, trying to wash away the disorientation.
Simon blindly reached for his cell phone, not wanting to divert his attention away from the dangerous road. The falling snow was building to blizzard level. Common sense dictated that he slow down, but his concern for his men kept him going at a rate that defied caution.
Simon punched in Jim’s number. He was afraid that his detective would still be out of range. This time, though, the phone rang.
The sound of Jim’s cell phone was like a knife stabbing through his head. He groaned against the pain. Finally, he was able to locate the device and pull it from his pocket. He held it away from his ear cautiously.
"Jim, it’s Simon."
Jim wanted to answer, but his thoughts were jumbled and it took a moment to organize the words.
"Jim, you there?"
"Yeah, yeah, I’m here."
"Murdock knows about the train. There’s a bogey on board who’ll try to hit Wilson."
It must have taken a moment for Jim to decipher the words because Simon’s voice returned. "Jim, you copy that?"
"Yeah, yeah, I hear you. There’s some guy on board who looks familiar to me. I’m just not sure where I know him from. Maybe he’s the one."
"All right, try not to spook him. I’m on my way. I’m gonna meet you at the next stop with the State Police. Till then, you and Sandburg are on your own. I’m counting on you, Jim."
Jim frowned as he tried to find the words to assure his boss, but they wouldn’t come.
"Jim? Jim, you okay?"
Jim nodded to himself, swallowed and tried to blink away his blurred vision. "Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine." He disconnected the call without waiting for a response.
A knock on the door sounded like thunder in his head. He opened the door, the light from the corridor blinding him. "How long you gonna be?" a stranger asked.
Jim didn’t answer. Instead, he pushed the door closed, pulled his sunglasses from his pocket and slipped them on. He opened the door again and moved past the man. He worked on making his way back to the compartment where he had left Blair.
He did not notice that two men were following from a distance. Nor did he notice the woman who was watching all three from the lounge.
"Uh-uh-uh-uh," Wilson said as he moved the coin. "Three more kills and I win, right?"
Blair scowled. "Uh huh. Hmmm." He concentrated on the impromptu board they had made and finally moved his piece.
"Pathetic," Wilson gloated, moving his piece, then beaming triumphantly.
"You know this game is 5,000 years old? It took me months to get good at it. Are you sure you haven’t played before?"
"Maybe we should switch to tic-tac-toe," Blair muttered.
A knock on the door broke in to the game. "Who is it?" Blair asked through the door.
Blair opened the door for his friend and immediately noticed the sunglasses. "What’s up with the shades?"
"Let’s go. We got to talk. Come on."
"What, again?" Blair commented, confused by Jim’s behavior.
"Come on." Jim looked at Wilson, making sure the cuffs were still fastened to the bench. "Be right back."
Jim grabbed the smaller man by the shoulder and pulled him into the hallway, shutting the door behind them. "I just got word from Simon. Murdock’s got somebody on board. They’re planning to take Wilson out."
"So what do we do? Stop the train?"
Jim shook his head. "No, no, no. . .it’s going to be too dangerous. Don’t want to tip them off that we know. Simon’s meeting us with the State Police." Jim paused for a moment. "But there’s another problem. My senses have gone completely crazy. I mean, I’m totally out of control."
"How out of control?" Blair asked, confusion in his voice.
"You want a laundry list?"
"Yes!" Blair confirmed, worry and excitement blended in the word.
"Every little light blinds me. When somebody flushes the toilet down the other end of the train, it sounds like Niagara Falls in my head. One minute I’m hot, next minute I’m freezing."
Blair couldn’t help the smirk on his face. "Sounds like menopause."
Jim’s anger overtook him as he grabbed the smaller man by the shirt collar and slammed him up against the corridor wall. "This is not the time for jokes!"
Blair grabbed Jim by the hands, not pushing them away, but merely hanging on, as if trying to ground his friend. "Jim, stop," he said calmly.
Jim’s rage suddenly disappeared and was replaced by a look of horror. "I’m. . .I’m sorry," he fumbled as he released his friend. He reached out again, only this time hesitantly. "I didn’t. . .I’m not in control. . .."
"It’s okay," Blair said.
Jim dropped his head. "No, no it’s not. "I shouldn’t have done that." Through the sunglasses his eyes sought out Blair’s, gauging the younger man’s reaction. He saw nothing but serenity and trust in the blue orbs. "You’ve got to help me stop this, ’cause I can’t do my job this way."
"All right, but I’ll need you to stay calm and relaxed."
Jim nodded and took a deep breath. Blair frowned. "How’s your cold?"
"Your symptoms. . .sneezing, your coughing. . .anything?"
Jim shrugged. "I’m fine. I took some stuff."
Blair’s eyes widened. "What stuff, Jim? What did you take?"
"Some stuff in a bottle. Said non-drowsy formula. They weren’t kidding."
Blair shook his head. "Well, that’s gotta be it. It’s the cold medicine."
"You’re joking," Jim frowned.
"Who knows what those chemicals could do to your system. We’ve never tested them. I knew you should have taken. . ."
Jim raised a hand, cutting his friend off. "Okay, Chief, so how do we reverse it?
"We don’t. It’s too late. It’s already rattling around in your blood system. We’re just going to have to wait for it to wear off."
"So how long is that going to be?"
"I don’t have a clue," Blair answered as he leaned against the wall in defeat.
Jim sniffed the air. "Oh, man, what is that?"
Blair’s eyebrows narrowed in confusion. "What is what?"
Jim turned his head to look up and down the hall. "It’s Hoppe’s Number Nine. It’s the fluid you clean guns with." He fumbled for the door handle then found it. Opening the door to the compartment, he thrust Blair inside. "Get in there." He followed the younger man inside. "Get the vest out of my bag and put it on Wilson."
Blair pulled out Jim’s bag and dug inside for the item. Wilson looked back and forth between the other two men. "What’s going on, Detective?"
Blair found the vest. "Lean forward," he ordered. Wilson complied and Blair slipped the device over the man’s head.
"What’s this all about?"
"I’m not sure," Blair whispered.
"Just bear with me and be quiet," Jim said as he tried to focus his hearing to the outside corridor. He pulled out his gun.
Suddenly, the train came to a screeching stop. Blair’s backpack tumbled from the top shelf and onto the floor, then slid under the opposite bench. Blair, Wilson and Jim fell forward and then backward as the train ceased its progress.
Once the train had stopped moving, Wilson strained from his handcuffed position to look out the window. Jim pushed Wilson back and then went to the window. After scanning the exterior of the train, he turned to Blair. "Shut the blind and keep away from the window."
"I want to know what’s going on. This is not part of. . .," Wilson started to complain, trying to stand while still being cuffed.
"Sir, sit down. I won’t ask you again." Before Jim could say anything else, the engines of the train kicked in again and the train began to move.
He turned to Blair and handed his friend his gun. "Anybody who comes through that door without my face, you shoot ’em." He reached into his duffel bag and pulled out his spare handcuff key. "Take this. . .in case you need to move him."
"You got it," Blair answered, the words more confident than the tone.
Jim slowly opened the door and took a quick peek up and down the corridor. He found that it was unoccupied. He slipped into the hall. He moved down and had made it several compartments away when he heard footsteps entering the corridor from the opposite end. He grabbed for the nearest door, pulled it open and slipped inside the foreign room. Keeping the door slightly open, he watched as two men with guns stopped in front of the cabin containing Blair and Derek. Opening the door silently, he slipped down the hall with great stealth and grabbed the two men from behind.
One man was thrown down the hall. The second threw a punch at Jim’s face, which he easily ducked. Jim grabbed for the man’s gun and the two struggled down the hall, bouncing from one side of the corridor to the other. The gun discharged a bullet into the ceiling of the car, the sound muffled by a silencer.
The first gunman moved down the hall to join the fray. Jim glanced at him. From behind the man, movement from further down the hall caught Jim’s attention. He saw Blair peek out of the door of Wilson’s cabin. The first gunman turned and raised his gun to fire at the police observer. "Get back!" Jim yelled as he kicked out at the gun. Blair ducked back into the room and closed the door.
The bullet discharged and shot through a nearby window, letting the cold air and snow from outside blow into the train. Jim, his attention diverted, became an easy target for the man he had been fighting with. A blow to his temple knocked him to the ground, his sunglasses flying off his face. The hall light blinded him and he gasped in pain.
Two pairs of hands grabbed Jim’s shirtfront. He tried to fight, but was no match for the two men. The hands pushed him to the now open window. Unable to stop the assault, Jim felt his body leave the ground as he flew out the window and into the darkness.
~~~~~~~~~~ Act IV ~~~~~~~~~~
Simon squinted as the blue and red lights of several police cars flashed into his eyes. He climbed out of his car and pulled out his identification and flashed it at the nearest officer. "Banks, Cascade P.D."
"Been expecting you, Captain."
"Any word yet from the train?"
"Nothing. The railroad hasn’t raised them."
"Could mean we have trouble. We don’t know yet who’s on the train or what weapons they’re carrying. Your men should be ready for anything."
"Yes, sir," the man responded obediently.
Simon pulled out his cell phone and dialed Jim’s number again. The phone rang once. He heard the sound of someone answering and then nothing.
Blair stood next to the door gathering the courage to peek out into the hall again. The sounds of the struggle between Jim and his assailants had stopped only a few moments before.
Realizing that he couldn’t leave Wilson alone while he checked on Jim, he made his decision quickly. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out the handcuff key Jim had given him. He reached down and released Wilson. "We may. .. we may have to leave," he mumbled. He went back to the door and listened intently, preparing himself to open it again. Before he could, a knock startled him.
"Who is it?"
"Detective Ellison?" Wilson called.
Blair frowned at the man. "If it was him, he would have said something." There was more knocking. Blair bit his lip. "Jim?" he finally asked. There was no response. Blair pulled the gun from his waistband.
"Maybe he’s hurt," Derek offered.
Blair closed his eyes. "Oh man, I might have to shoot somebody." He took a deep breath and steadied his aim at the door. "Okay," he whispered.
Suddenly, Blair was rushed from the side as Derek plowed into him, knocking the observer into the wall. Derek’s hand reached out and ripped the gun away from the stunned man.
It took a moment for Blair to recover. Shakily, he turned towards his attacker. "Derek, what are you doing?"
"Sit. . .sit," Derek ordered. Obediently, Blair sat on the bench that Derek had once occupied.
"Are you nuts, man?"
Wilson ignored the comment and opened the door. The two men who had been fighting with Jim entered the room. Blair felt his stomach fall to his feet.
Wilson looked at the newcomers. "What happened to Ellison?"
"We threw him out the window," one man answered.
"You son of a bitch!" Blair screamed and he leaped from the bench, throwing himself at the man. His fist connected with the gunman’s nose, sending him grunting against the wall. The second assailant stepped out of the way of Blair’s rush and then hit the observer in the head with his gun.
Blair collapsed onto the floor with a groan. Wilson reached down and grabbed Blair’s wrist. Blair weakly struggled, but the nose of the second man’s gun filled his vision. "Don’t bother," the man warned.
Wilson slipped one end of the handcuffs around Blair’s wrist and then fastened the other to the arm of the bench, stretching Blair’s arm up from where he lay on the floor. He then reached into Blair’s pocket and removed the spare key.
"You were home free. . .why are you doing this?" Blair mumbled, still disoriented from being hit.
"Home free? You really think I was going to spend the rest of my life cooped up in some small town pulling a government pension? Please. . .I skimmed enough from Murdock to last me two lifetimes. Anyway, even if they do manage to. . .uh. . .get a conviction, guys that rich don’t stay in jail for long. Witness protection? That means records. He’d find me. And he’d kill me. I guarantee it."
Blair tried to shake off the fuzziness that clouded his vision. "You don’t understand. . .it’s happening now. Murdock really does know you’re on the train."
Wilson let out a quiet laugh. "Remember, Mr. Sandburg, I’m better at games than you are." Wilson grabbed his jacket from the opposite bench and stepped over Sandburg’s body.
"If Murdock can find you in the witness protection program, he can also find you here, right?"
"Sorry, Kid, I’ve got too much invested to fold now." He turned to his henchmen. "Let’s go."
"What about him?" the second attacker asked.
"He’s harmless," Wilson said, glancing at Blair. The hood Blair had attacked stepped closer to the handcuffed man. He pulled his foot back and let go with a kick to the face. Blair saw the foot coming and tried to turn his head. The man’s boot connected with the side of Blair’s head and the anthropologist passed out immediately.
The man chuckled cruelly. "Now, he’s harmless."
Jim could feel his hands slipping from the railing. The cold numbed his fingers. He had already dropped his phone when it had rang a few moments before. He wasn’t sure how he had managed to grab the handrail as he had fallen out the window. One moment he had been in free flight, the next, his fingers had felt the cold metal and latched on.
The noise from the train was deafening and the passing lights were blinding. He closed his eyes, desperate to take control of his senses. His mind flashed on a memory.
"Now, remember, you were born with these senses," Blair said. "They’re a gift passed on to you by your ancestors."
"What are we doing here?" Jim asked, curious as he examined the equipment lying on the table in front of him.
"Oh, it’s something very cool." He slipped a set of headphones on Jim’s head. Jim could hear tribal rhythms playing. "Made it myself. Okay, put your chin here."
"Hmmm?" Jim said, pretending not to hear.
"Put your chin here," Blair repeated.
Jim sat on the chair in front of him and rested his chin on the support. Blair started up the machine which flashed multi-colored lights against the wall. Jim winced at the sensory overload. "Hey, come on!"
"Relax, man. I’ve put your sense of sight on overload. Don’t struggle. See if you can separate from it and just hear the music."
"I don’t like it," Jim protested, pulling the headphones off.
"Fine then, you’re the one with the wacko senses. You don’t want to learn how to control them, it’s no skin off my back, pal."
Reluctantly, Jim slipped the headphones back on and placed his chin back in the rest.
"All right. Now we’re talking. One step at a time."
Jim breathed deeply, watching the colored lights.
"It’s all about breathing and concentration. One step at a time. Zone out the light. Concentrate. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Zone out the light. There’s only music."
Jim’s mind brought him back to the present. Suddenly he found he was able to push aside the disorientation of the lights and sounds and concentrate on pulling his body back up the train to the window. After a few moments of struggling, he was able to grasp the bottom of the broken window and pull himself through the opening, collapsing on the floor of the corridor.
Exhausted, Jim pushed himself off the floor and to a standing position. He turned around only to find his vision filled with the sight of a fist being aimed at his face. There was an explosion of pain as it connected with his chin.
Awareness was slow in returning. Blair wasn’t certain how long he had stared at nothing before he realized that he was conscious. His head felt like it was about to split open. His free hand gently fingered the wound. It was tender and numb at the same time, and still seeping blood. There was no doubt that he would have a killer headache when this was over.
He lifted his head from the floor and tried to blink away his fuzzy vision. His eyes roamed the area around him and finally settled on the one thing that might be of help. He gingerly scooted across the floor, stretching his handcuffed arm as far as it could stretch. His backpack lay on the floor, under the bench, just a hair beyond the fingertips of his free hand. He stretched even further and felt the canvas cloth. Desperately, his fingers hooked into the material and pulled the backpack closer.
Finally it was close enough for him to open the flap and reach inside. He pulled out his lucky Swiss army knife. His uncle had given it to him for his Bar Mitzvah. He’d carried it with him always. Of course after everything he’d been through with Jim lately, he was starting to wonder about its effectiveness as a good luck charm.
He finally found the knife. Slowly he pushed himself to an upright position and began to work on the lock of the handcuffs, trying to ignore the pounding in his head.
Simon squinted into the early morning sun and saw what he and the others had been waiting for. The train was finally coming towards them.
"All right, everybody, this is it! Let’s go!" he shouted to the other cops.
The officer behind him shouted to his men. "Everybody take your positions!"
Simon brought his binoculars up as the train approached the blockade of cars. He could see the engineer at the controls, but behind him was another person. A woman held a gun to the engineer’s head. He scanned the rest of the train and saw two more men who were similarly armed, positioned near the middle of the train. His heart sank as he realized the train would not stop.
Simon shouted to the others. "Take cover!"
The train approached the blockade at full speed. Gunfire filled the air. The officers dove for cover and then fired back. Simon knew that the bullets they were expending would do nothing to stop the metal giant. He aimed at the gunmen instead. The woman who held the gun on the engineer finally came into range. If Simon could take her out then perhaps the engineer could stop the train. As the train came closer, he aimed carefully. Squeezing the trigger of his gun, he fired and watched with satisfaction as the woman dropped her gun and fell onto the platform on the side of the train. Now the engineer could take control and this nightmare would be over.
Instead, the sound of a rifle filled the air. One of the other officers had also fired at the train. The bullet from the rifle hit the front of the train and the engineer disappeared from view. The train blew through the blockade, sending car parts flying into the air.
"No!" Simon shouted as he realized the train was out of control. As the train disappeared from view, Simon finally looked at the scene around him. Windshields were shattered and cars were mangled. He heard the squad captain shouting into his radio. "I’m at the Brackendale Crossing. I’ve got four men down. I need an ambulance."
Simon approached the man. "Is there a service road that runs along the tracks?" he asked, desperation in his voice.
"How do I get to it?"
The officer pointed. "About three miles north of here where the tracks cross Robinson Road."
Simon moved to his car. "Get a couple of your guys! Have them get in a car and follow me!” he yelled. Then the destruction around him registered and he mumbled under his breath, “if there’s a car left that’s running."
Jim’s eyes fluttered open. He squeezed them closed as he realized that the overhead light was making his head pound. "Detective Ellison?" a voice said. "Detective? Detective?" it repeated.
Jim forced his eyes open again. The first thing he saw was the big man who he had seen in the corridor earlier. Fully aware and sensing danger, Jim pulled back his fist and aimed a punch at the man. The large man groaned and fell backwards, clutching his jaw.
"Hey, hey, hey! Relax! Relax! He’s a doctor!" The train’s conductor was pulling the detective upright.
"A doctor?" Jim frowned, confused.
The conductor helped Jim to his feet. The doctor pushed himself up as well, rubbing his sore jaw. "Look, I’m sorry I hit you. I thought you were a train-jumper," the conductor explained.
Jim shook his head and then looked at the dazed larger man. "Boy, I’m sorry. . .I apologize."
The doctor shrugged it off. "I thought I recognized you from the floor, Detective."
All of the sudden Jim put two and two together. "Last summer, yeah, at the hospital."
"You were injured on the job. . . creased by a bullet on the arm. We put in a couple of stitches, right?"
"Yeah. . .that’s it. I’m sorry." Jim let a small chuckle escape. "It’s a small world, huh?"
"What’s going on?" the conductor cut in. "We blew through the last stop. There was gunfire everywhere."
Jim pushed past the man. "Gunfire?"
"Hey, wait a minute!" the conductor yelled, following Jim down the hall.
~~~~~~~~~~ Act V ~~~~~~~~~~
Jim moved quickly down the corridor to the room where he had left Blair and Derek. He stood next to the door and concentrated his hearing on the noise inside. He could hear only one heartbeat. . .Blair’s. He could hear the younger man’s heavy breathing and mutters of frustration. "Sandburg?" he called out through the door.
Jim pushed open the door to find his friend sitting on the floor, one hand cuffed to the bench, the other holding his Swiss army knife, a trail of dried blood running down the side of his head. "Sandburg!"
"Jim, oh, you’re alive!" The sound of relief in Blair’s words caused Jim’s breath to hitch. "They told me. . .," Blair started, but was unable to finish the sentence.
"Yeah. . .took a little ride on the outside of the train. . .but I’m okay." He fished his spare handcuff key out of his pocket and kneeled down to release his friend. He gently turned Blair’s head until he could get a good look at the cut on his head. "But I think I look better than you. You okay?"
Blair nodded and then grimaced slightly. "Just a headache. . .that’s it."
Blair groaned, only this time not from pain. "I don’t know, man. This whole thing was a set-up from the start. Those guys are here to help him escape, not kill him."
The momentum of the train suddenly changed and both men could feel it slow. "We’re stopping," Jim observed.
The conductor entered the small room, his eyes wide as he saw Jim releasing an injured Blair from the handcuffs and helping the smaller man to his feet. "What the hell is going on?"
Jim guided Blair past the conductor and out into the hallway. "You stay out of this," he said to the man.
Jim and Blair felt the train come to a complete stop. They climbed down the stairs and out into the light of day just in time to see the engine of the train pulling away.
"Damn it!" Jim muttered, as he focused his vision on the engine. "Wilson’s there."
The sound of a car horn surprised both men. Simon pulled up in an SUV and lowered the passenger side window. "What’s going on?"
"Wilson’s on the engine."
"Let’s go," the Captain yelled out to the two men.
Jim and Blair climbed into the vehicle, and Simon peeled out in pursuit of the train. Before Simon could get up to speed, another police car passed him, leading the way to the train.
Jim concentrated his senses on determining what was going on in the engine. Suddenly he grabbed the radio and shouted into the receiver. "Get back!"
The sound of gunfire accompanied the warning as the two gunmen on the train fired upon the police car. The officers in the car responded with return fire and were successful at shooting one assailant, who fell onto the walkway on the side of the train. The assault from the other’s automatic gun was overwhelming and finally the car succumbed when the hood of the vehicle was blown off and the radiator exploded. The car sputtered to a halt and the two police officers inside climbed out. Simon pulled up behind them to make sure they were not injured.
The driver waved Simon on. "Go get ’em! We’re okay. Go!"
Simon resumed his pursuit. "Let me have your gun," Jim commanded.
Simon frowned. "Where’s yours?"
"I gave it to Sandburg."
"You what?!" Simon exclaimed.
"I’ll explain later. Please, let me have your gun."
Simon sighed, still keeping his attention focused on the train which was getting closer. "For heaven’s sake. Here, take it." Simon handed him the weapon. "All right, now what?" Simon asked as his car was now directly behind and to the side of the train, paralleling it on the rough maintenance road.
"Pull up next to her. I’m getting on."
"What?!" Blair shouted.
At the same time, Simon also responded. "Are you out of your mind?"
"I’m getting on, sir. Unless you want to risk that locomotive taking out a stray passenger train."
"But Jim. . .," Blair continued to protest.
Simon cut him off. "I’ll try to hold her steady. Go!"
Jim rolled down the SUV window and climbed onto the doorframe. Balancing himself, he finally gathered the courage to make a leap over. "Over to the right." The car moved closer. "Right there. Hold it up." Jim grabbed on to the luggage rack on the top of the vehicle and climbed out the window. "Keep her steady," he shouted. Finally he was able to balance himself with one arm on the car and one hand outstretched to the train. He leaped and his hands grabbed onto the railing. Jim successfully climbed up the railing he had latched onto and pulled himself onto the engine.
"He’s on!" Blair shouted in relief.
"I sure hope he knows what he’s doing," Simon muttered.
"He knows," Blair responded confidently. "Oh no!" The anthropologist’s tone suddenly changed.
Without responding, Blair rolled down his window. "Pull up!" he shouted as he climbed out the window, mimicking Jim’s earlier actions.
"Sandburg, get your butt back in this car!"
"Jim’s in trouble!" Blair shouted as he watched the gunman who had been shot earlier climb unsteadily to his feet. Blair’s stomach churned as he realized that Jim had no idea that the second gunman was an issue.
"Closer, Simon!" Blair shouted again.
"Sandburg, cut it out and get in the car! That’s an order!"
"Jim’s in trouble. . .I’m jumping!"
"Damn it!" Simon growled. "Hang on. . .let me get over."
Blair fought the overwhelming urge to look at the ground passing below him. He wasn’t going to lose his courage now. Closing his eyes, he took a calming breath. Then he opened his eyes and found his target. The railing was just above him. Pushing off from the SUV, he threw himself at the train. His hands made contact with the railing and he latched on, knowing that if he lost his grip, he wouldn’t live long enough to regret his failure.
Jim approached the front of the train. Over the engine noise he could hear Wilson’s shaky voice. "You? You’re the one they sent to kill me?"
"Sorry." Jim recognized the voice of one of the attackers who had thrown him off the train earlier.
"Okay, look, whatever he’s paying you, I can double it or more. But let’s just stick with the plan, okay?"
"Today," the gunman ordered.
"What?" Wilson frowned, confused.
"I want the money today."
"That’s impossible. I can’t. The money is invested. You know that."
The gunman shook his head and started to lift the gun, taking aim on the crook.
Jim charged around the corner, his gun at the ready. "Drop your weapon!"
Surprised, the assailant looked over his shoulder at Jim. Seeing that the cop was ready to fire, he dropped his weapon to the floor. Both the gunman and Wilson raised their hands over their heads.
"Thank God," Wilson sighed. "I’m not with him. He was gonna kill me."
The hired gun suddenly moved and grabbed Derek, pulling the smaller man in front of him, using him as a shield. "Don’t shoot!" Wilson sputtered.
The gunman shoved Wilson at Jim. Jim, trying to catch the flailing man before he fell over the side of the train, dropped his gun. The assassin launched himself at Jim, taking the detective by surprise. The two men struggled, but finally, Jim’s superior strength won out and he knocked the gunman unconscious. He turned around to find his gun and instead saw that it was being aimed at him. Wilson looked at the weapon in his hand and then at Jim.
"Give me the gun," Jim ordered.
"Detective, I can make you a very rich man."
"I can’t give up everything now. I’ve come too far," Derek said. "I never wanted to hurt anyone. . .but I won’t. . .I can’t go back."
"Give me the gun," Jim said calmly.
"I’m sorry. . .really I am. . .," Wilson whispered as he aimed the gun at Jim’s chest.
Before he could fire, Blair rounded the corner and plowed into Derek from behind. Startled, Wilson lost his balance. The gun went off, the bullet passing harmlessly into the air. Wilson and Blair landed in a tangle of arms and legs on the deck of the train.
It took a second for Jim to recover and realize that Blair was struggling with Derek. He jumped into the fray and pulled the crook off of his partner. "I’m getting really tired of this!" he shouted at the thin con man. Derek struggled in Jim’s grip. Before he could do any more damage, Jim aimed a punch for the man’s jaw, knocking the man out.
Derek collapsed bonelessly to the ground. Jim looked at his friend, who was slowly pushing himself off the floor. "You okay?"
Blair rubbed his jaw. "Yeah, I think so. Head hurts. You?"
Jim smiled and helped his friend to his feet, pulling him closer. "I’m okay." He then frowned at the smaller man. "What the hell are you doing up here?"
Blair shrugged. "I’m you partner, right? I was backing you up."
"That was foolish. I had things under control, you know."
Blair frowned. "Funny way to control things. Do you always let the bad guy aim your gun at you?" Blair pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "Bet you didn’t know about the second gunman. I took him out."
"You did?" Jim asked, clearly surprised.
"Anything for the cause," Blair said. Then he frowned, confusion crossing his face. "Uh. . .Jim. . .I’m not. . .something’s not. . .," he mumbled. "I don’t feel so good." He wavered on his feet. Jim grabbed his friend by the arm and lowered him back to the deck of the train.
"Take it easy, Chief. I got your back," Jim said gently, patting his friend on the arm.
Jim leaned back in his chair, relieved to be on solid ground. He looked over at Blair. The kid looked rough. He had a butterfly bandage holding a cut on his temple closed. He was leaning back in a chair with his eyes shut.
"You okay, Chief?"
"I am so not happy with you right now," Blair mumbled without opening his eyes.
"How come?" Jim frowned, confused.
"My head is killing me."
"Hey, that wasn’t my fault."
"Oh no, not the cut. My sinuses. I’m getting your cold."
Jim couldn’t help but grin. His symptoms had disappeared when he fell from the train. "Hey, I’ve got some great stuff that you can use."
Blair’s eyes flew open. "Oh no, I don’t think so. Not after everything you complained about. See, man, that’s what those chemicals do to you. I’ll take a more natural approach."
Jim shook his head. "Whatever, Chief. I’m just glad I can function again."
The sound of Simon leaving his office drew the attention of both men. "Hey, how about some breakfast?" the Captain asked.
"Sounds good. Who’s buying?" Jim asked.
Jim and Blair pointed at each other and then at the same time, pointed at Simon.
"Okay, fine. I’ll buy."
Jim looked at the papers Simon was carrying in his hands. "You sign your papers?"
Simon eyed the documents, took a deep breath and then motioned for Blair to approach. "Turn around."
Blair frowned, but responded obediently. Simon used Blair’s back to spread the papers out and then signed the document.
"It’s over," the large man muttered.
"It’ll be okay, Simon," Jim said.
Simon nodded. "Okay, let’s get out of here." He pulled on his coat. "By the way, Ellison, I want you to have a talk with Sandburg about following orders."
Blair turned around. "What?"
"Next time I tell you to get your butt back in the car, I expect you to do just that. . .no questions."
Jim grinned. Blair shook his head. "But I had to back Jim up!"
"Some backup you were, Chief. Where were you when I was thrown off the train?"
"Hey, wait a sec. . .that’s not my fault! You told me to stay in the cabin. I was following your orders."
Jim shook his head and grinned at Simon. Simon similarly shook his head. "He just doesn’t get it, does he Jim?"
"I’m sorry, sir. I’ll keep working with him. I’ll get him trained eventually." Jim led Blair out of the squad room, following his captain.
"Trained? You’ll get me trained?" Blair responded indignantly. "I don’t need to be. . .," Blair started to protest and then a sneeze overtook him. "Aachoo!" The surprise sneeze blasted Simon, hitting the larger man in the chest.
"Argh. . .Sandburg!" Simon exclaimed, wiping the invisible germs off of his chest. "See, Ellison? See? Training. . .the kid needs training!"
"No, I don’t!" Blair argued again.
Jim ignored his friend’s protest. "I’ll get right on it, sir." He gently grabbed Blair by the arm and followed Simon out the door. "We worked on sitting and rolling over last week, right Chief?"
"I am not a. . .aachoo!. . .dog!" Blair argued loudly as the Major Crimes door swung shut behind the three men, drowning out the rest of the observer’s protests.
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Next week’s episode:Rogue by CarolROI and Suisan