Secrets, Books and Murder

Part 11

Suisan "Sue" R.

 

Cascade, Washington

Late Evening, 25 January

Blair Sandburg sat down on a bench outside of a small grocery store, located at 848 Prospect, sipping on a bottle of water and watching traffic. A casual glance at his watch proved to him that he'd not seen any of the people who'd been chasing him for the last half hour or so. He smiled to himself, chuckling over the thought he may have finally given Mr. Lyle and his goon squad the slip. Despite the lateness of the hour, it was nearly eight o'clock, and his bone weary tiredness -- he waited. This close to home, he didn't want to take the chance that the thumbless man had tracked him here, to lull him into a false sense of security before springing a trap on him. So he waited. And watched.

The bench gave him full view of the building that his home was in, as well as the cross roads that could lead to it. He'd shown up at the store about fifteen minutes ago, gave Mr. Chitleo a sad story; about his car breaking down and having had to walk back to the loft, trying to explain his disheveled and rather smelly condition. The storeowner had bought the story, knowing, as most of his neighbors did, that Blair's luck with the old Volvo was mostly not good.

As he sat there, drinking his water and watching everything with a strange intensity, his thoughts tumbled around in his head. Caragh's family, her husband, the whole Clan isn't safe. Jim and I are in the same damn boat. This 'Centre' is interested in my thesis, and if Lyle is a accurate representative of the type of people they are, he shuddered, I do not want to meet more of them. They have knowledge of, or maybe have, the book by Wilkins, which will lead them directly to Caragh --providing they do the research properly.

He chuckled as he lifted the bottle to his lips, using the action to cover his latest sweep of the area. Of course, there's no guarantee that they'll do that. If they had done a proper job on 'researching' my background, they would've known that I'm not just a doctor of Anthropology, but a cop. A plain-clothes officer with the Major Crime department of Cascade PD. But they didn't seem to know that. Sweep over, he finished his water and tossed the empty bottle into a trashcan. It had been over forty minutes since he last spotted anything that even remotely reminded him of Mr. Lyle and his companions.

The desire to return home, to grab a shower and rid himself of the smell of the refuse pile he'd fallen onto, flared back to life and he crossed the street. Before he let himself into 852 Prospect, he took one final look up and down the street; spotting nothing, Blair opened the door, and walked up the stairs to the third floor, thanking the deities that watched over him as he used his key to get into the apartment. Not thinking too clearly, he started to shuck off clothing as he walked towards his room, intent on grabbing two things: a change of clothes and his backup weapon. He wasn't going to get caught without it ever again. Never.


Lyle snapped the phone closed with more force than needed, his frustration looking for any way to present itself and the cell phone paid the price. Again. "Damn it!"

Bridgett looked at her companion, her own dark eyes reflecting the irritation that was inside her. "Raines?"

"Yes. We're being pulled. Call the sweepers in."

Nodding her compliance, she pulled her own cell phone from her jacket, looking back up just in time to see their prey enter a building on the street ahead of them. "Lyle?" She drew the man's attention and pointed.

Lyle pulled his eyes off the road long enough to see what Bridgett had seen, Dr. Sandburg entering a building. "Note the address, we'll be back."

Bridgett took note of the building's address, 852 Prospect, and placed the needed phone calls. "Kenny, one hour. Airport. We're blowing this town."


"The other book that this group has been collecting, the Wilkins book, it would expose your family, wouldn't it?"

The words hissed and slipped around in her brain, touching on fears she hadn't faced before. Reacting instinctively, Caragh rushed the older man pulling her weapon, and before he or Alex could react she had the old man in a chokehold, her revolver pressing into the man's temple.

Alex started to react, only to be pulled up short by the low growling voice, which emanated from his sister. "Don't. Or I pull the trigger now, Alex." He backed off, a slight smile teasing his features.

"Now, you cancer ridden ass, tell me the name of this other group, where Blair Sandburg is, and anything else you feel I should know." She eased up on the hold she had on the man's neck, just enough to let him answer, not to let him get away.

Damn, she's good. "The group is known as the Centre. They're calling their latest project 'Progeny.' As for Sandburg, if he's not with you, then they may have him already."

Caragh tightened her hand on the man's throat, smiling as she spotted a flash of true fear in the man's eyes, then she released him, almost tossing him at Alex. "Take care of him, Alexi." Catching her brother's eyes, she calmly informed him, "The Clan will take care of the rest."

Alex watched as she turned her back on him and the bastard at his feet, as if daring them to try something. Shaking off the feeling that she was hoping for such a tactic, he reached down and pulled the older man to his feet. "You okay?"

The man simply nodded and pulled out another cigarette. "Yes. Interesting person, your sister. Let's go." He walked back to the car, climbed in and waited for Alex to put the car into motion. As they pulled close to where the young woman waited by her truck, he said, "Stop the car."

Caragh had kept an eye on the two men, watching them, and waiting for the inevitable. They don't have Blayre. But who, what, is this Centre? She pulled her attention back to the car that had stopped right beside her, its passenger window rolling down.

"Dr. McConnel, I'll be in touch when I can get more information on the group and it's projects for you," was all the smoking man had to say, he then gestured for Alex to drive on, speeding off into the deepening night.


Jim gunned the engine of his truck to life and within seconds of the sedan pulling away from Caragh's side, he and her husband were pulling up. Sean jumped out of the cab and ran up to his wife, engulfing her into a fierce embrace, sensing the shakes of a post adrenaline high starting to claim her.

Watching as Sean comforted his Guardian, Jim quietly walked up to them, and helped the Protector to lower her to the curb and squatted down in front of them. "Mike, I think I recognized the voice of the man you were talking to... "

Sean looked up at him, "You were focusing... I thought so. Didn't you trust me to relay?"

"It's not that, Sean." Jim shook his head. "I just did it. Don't ask me why."

About to reply, Sean stopped as Caragh reached out and grabbed him by the arm. "Sean, no. It's okay. Jim was doing what he needed to do." Dropping her head onto her knees, trying to regain control of herself, her emotions that were all over the board, she continued quietly. "So, who was he?"

"Blackest of the Black Ops operators. Craggy faced man that never gives his name, he briefed my team before we headed down to Peru."

Nodding, Sean broke in. "I knew I'd seen him before!" His two companions, his wife and the sentinel, looked up at him. "Sorry, a bit of my past coming to light. He was part of a team which tried to recruit me for work at Dreamland."

Caragh grabbed her husband by the hand. "Area 51? That Dreamland?"

"Yeah."

Jim stood up and put out a hand to lift the team to their feet. "Figures. He tried the same stunt with me. Offered to have someone else take my place on the Peru mission if I'd accepted his 'job offer.' I basically told him to stick it and," he shrugged, "the rest, as they say, is history."

Sean helped steady Caragh as they made their way back to her rental. "Do you think he was telling the truth? About not having your Guide?" he asked over his shoulder as Jim followed them.

Shaking his head, the sentinel said, "I couldn't focus in hard enough to be able to tell. What do you think, McConnel?" Jim opened the passenger side door as helped Sean settle Caragh into the seat.

"I couldn't tell. He's either very good at lying, or he was telling the truth."

"He was." Caragh's subdued voice broke into the conversation.

"Are you sure, Mike?" Jim asked.

Nodding her head, she looked up into his concerned blue eyes. "Yes. Unlike you and Sean here, I have to rely on my own 'people sense' to get accurate readings and -- while that man gave me a serious case of the 'willies'  he was telling the truth."

"So, we still have a missing Guide to find." Sean carefully closed the door and turned his attention back to the native Cascadian. "Jim, I'll follow your lead. Back to the station house, or somewhere else?"

"Home."


The need, the drive, to get back to the loft, home, was almost unbearable. Jim wasn't sure what he'd be walking into. Part of him hoped to find his best friend, his Guide, safe and sound at home; the other part almost wished for this 'Centre' to swoop down out of the night and take him to wherever his friend was. But that action would expose the McConnels to that threat as well. Could he risk them, ask them to take that risk? No. He couldn't. Besides, if that smoking jackass of a former intelligence officer was correct, then the McConnels were already in a dangerous position. Through no fault of their own, they were now possible targets of the Centre, and if the smoker had been correct... Jim shuddered, the shiver running down his spine to curl into a block of ice in his stomach... Clones. What kind of monsters work at this Centre?

Absently, he pulled into the small parking area behind 852 Prospect, his attention coming back to the here and now as Sean McConnel pulled into the spot beside the Ford. Jim walked around to the passenger side, helped Caragh get out, and couldn't help but notice how unsteady on her feet the young woman was. "Headache's worse, isn't it?"

"Yes." Caragh responded, just as Sean came around the truck to her side. She gave up trying to hide her pain from him. "Sean? You didn't happen to get that prescription from the hospital filled, did you?"

Sean nodded. "You willing to take it?" He'd been dividing his attention between his wife and the unfamiliar roads all the way back from the docks. Her pain had been evident on her face, and through their bond link, for the past fifteen minutes, which told him she was tired. Too tired to even try to shield him from her pain.

"As soon as possible."

Shaking his head, Jim led the way to the third floor apartment that was his home, trying not to pay attention to the soft voices behind him on the steps, and wishing, for Caragh's sake, that the elevator had been working. The smell that assaulted his senses just outside his door brought him to a frozen standstill.


Caragh looked up from the floor she'd been watching as she walked, to see the sentinel freeze. Tightening her grip on the arm of her Protector, she realized that Sean had also descended into a zone-out. "Damn it! What now?" Muttering under her breath, she slowly removed herself from Sean's side, moved to where she could touch both men at the same time and worked what Sean called her 'magic.'

"We don't have time for this, guys. Protector, Sentinel, just follow my voice, feel the touch of my hands on your arms, on your face; block out whatever it is you've focused on." Back and forth, reaching out to touch one, then the other, both at the same time, her voice low, soft and calm.

"Someone's here." Jim came around first, reaching for his sidearm, then Sean, who merely nodded as he pulled his own weapon. Motioning for Caragh to step behind Sean, Jim slowly reached out and carefully opened the door to his home, which opened without a sound.

The smell that greeted Caragh's nose as they entered the apartment was rank and fishy. She pulled her own weapon as the two men started a systematic search of the loft. She nearly jumped as the sound of metal scraping against metal reached her ears from the small hallway to her right. Looking up she realized that Jim and Sean were slowly moving in her direction, and Jim motioned for her to take the point.

Nodding, she crept down the hallway, trying to avoid making too much noise, and came to a stop just outside the bathroom. Caragh froze as Sean stepped on a loose floorboard, causing it to groan and creak

Jim winced as the floorboard gave under the weight of Sean McConnel, giving away any chance of possible surprise for whoever the uninvited guest in the bathroom was. Silently asking Caragh to take the lower position, he and Sean took up position on opposite sides of the doorway. Holding up three fingers, he began the count down. On three, the door would fly open and three officers would take aim on whoever it was on the other side.


Blair rinsed his hair for the fourth time, finally sure that he'd gotten the last of the fish smell out of it, and reached down to shut off the water. He was just reaching for the towel on the back of the toilet, when the old loose floorboard outside the bathroom creaked. Dropping the towel, he reached for his back up gun that he'd brought into the bathroom with him. He had just grabbed it when the door flew open.

"FREEZE!" Four voices called out at the same time. Within the space of five rapid heartbeats, four guns lowered as recognition ran through four tired minds.

"Well, you've certainly filled out over the years, Cub."

Jim and Sean looked at Caragh with surprise in their eyes, as Blair Sandburg let out a gasp of shock and grabbed up the shower curtain to hide behind.

"MIKE! Do you mind?!?"

Caragh rose to her feet, blushing furiously. "Not at all. Uh, excuse me, boys." She pushed past the two large detectives who had apparently frozen to the floor. Rushing out to the living room, she dropped her gun on the couch and started to giggle, as the tension from this day finally caught up to her.

Sean looked at the man who was trying to grab a towel from the floor, without losing his grip on the shower curtain, amazed at how much alike his wife and the young man looked. Realizing that he was intruding, he holstered his gun and slipped by Jim, but not before whispering, "Now I see what you meant about Guides and Guardians, Ellison."

Jim nodded his head as the Protector left the small room, and after holstering his own weapon, went to the aid of his friend, handing him a fresh towel. "Here you go, Chief."

Taking the dry towel, Blair nodded his thanks and after placing the AMD .45 back on the back of the toilet, began to dry off. "So, who was that?"

"What the hell happened to you?"

The questions, spoken at the same time, shocked the two men into silence. Which was broken by a voice from down the hall. "Jim? Where does Blayre hide his teas?"

Looking his guide in the eyes, Jim said, "It can wait until you're ready for company. I'm just glad that you're safe." Jim left the room, closing the door behind him, to answer Caragh's question.


Dressed in a clean pair of blue jeans, a fresh t-shirt, and feeling much more like his old self, Blair emerged from the bathroom to find Caragh, Jim and someone who looked a lot like his friend and partner, standing around the island in the kitchen. Walking up to Caragh, he tugged on her hair. "So, I've filled out, eh?"

Smiling, she snaked an arm around the waist of her 'little brother' and let the imp in her come out in full force. "Oh, yeah. Nicely." Gesturing to the man standing beside Jim, she introduced him. "Blayre, I'd like to introduce you to my husband, my Protector, Sean McConnel."

Reaching out to shake the hand offered to him, Sean let out a small growling response. "Who's really wanting to know just how well his wife knows you."

Feeling a little trapped by the man's green gaze, Blair looked over to Jim, only to see that his sentinel was trying not to laugh out loud. "Uh, I'm not too sure. I mean, we lived together for a short time here at Rainier, but, I mean, we never, uh, Mike? Help?"

Letting go of her friend, she snickered. "Relax, Cub. He knows. He's just pulling your leg." Turning her laughing eyes on to her husband, "Sean Pat, cool it or I'll dream up more nasty tests for you."

Dropping his grip on Sandburg's hand, Sean turned a stone cold expression to his wife. "You wouldn't dare... "

"Try me, Protector."

Jim glanced over at Blair and could almost read his friend's thoughts, was this what they looked like when they got to arguing over the tests that the Shaman had the Sentinel go through? Amusement crinkled his eyes as the smile grew on his face. "Mike, Sean, not here."

Grabbing a cup of tea to hand to Blair and one for herself, Caragh nodded and walked out to the living area, to be followed by the three men. While Blair had been finishing up in the bathroom, Jim had placed a call to his Captain and they were waiting for Simon Banks to arrive before going over any details of what had happened through the day. She opted to settle on the floor, near the wood stove, Blair dropping to the rug next to her, while Jim and Sean took up positions on the couch; instinctively placing themselves between their charges and the door.

Letting the silence build around her, washing over her in a friendly way, she took the time to notice just how much she and Blair had come to look like each other. She was still watching him when movement from Jim caught her attention.


Now that the crisis was over, Jim had let himself relax. Surreptitiously observing Sean's reactions to Blair, he noticed how the other man's nose kept flaring, as if testing the air, and did his own test. Catching a familiar scent, he rose from the couch at the same time that Sean did. "Just Captain Banks, relax." Walking over to the door, Jim let his boss in and after securing a cup of coffee for the man, and starting a fresh pot, he returned to the living area.

"Seeing the two of you side by side, is too weird for me." Simon was addressing the two seated on the floor, as he shook off his coat.

"Kinda strange for me too, Captain Banks," Sean said as he handed the man his coffee mug back and took the coat from him  only to have Jim take it from him and then throw it over the back of a dining room chair.

Simon looked up at the Arkansas detective. "I bet. But you two... I still can't get over it. Sandburg, do all male sentinels look alike?"

Blair looked over at the two examples of Sentinels standing beside the Captain, then over to Caragh, who shook her head. "Uh, probably not, Simon. This is probably just one of those strange events that happen from time to time."

"Synchronicity," Caragh added.

Simon sat down, hard, on the couch, carefully not spilling his coffee, and waved off the rest of the explanation. "Later, you can tell me about it later. What I need to know, for now, is what happened to you, Sandburg, and why you felt the need to dodge the surveillance teams that we had set up around the old warehouse, Dr. McConnel."

After several minutes of silent glances being exchanged between the two guides and their sentinels, Jim launched into an explanation of what had happened when Caragh had gone to meet with her foster brother's boss. As he explained, he watched his partner's face go white as he got to the part about the smoking man's warning Caragh of the Centre's interest in Sentinels, Protectors and their Companions.

Simon had noticed the young man's reaction as well. "Sandburg? You okay?"

"Yeah, I just think that we're in more trouble than Jim thinks." And with that opening statement, he launched into his part of the story and what had happened to him over the long afternoon and into the evening.


Simon sat back when Blair had finished his tale, not liking where his thoughts were going. "Damn, you're telling me that this Mr. Lyle is from the Centre, he had you and let you go?"

"Uh, not exactly, Simon."

"Captain, I get the impression that this Lyle character had every intention of keeping Blair, maybe even taking him." Caragh reached over and placed a hand on her fellow guide's knee. "I think it's only due to his fast thinking, and training in self defense, that allowed him to escape and elude them." She looked up over the low coffee table to see pride, and concern, flare in Jim's eyes.

"So, if we're reading things correctly, it's you and Sean that the Centre may come after next?" Simon didn't like that idea either, since, if it was true, he'd take it upon himself to inform his old friend Leland Andrews of the possibility.

"That's what I would do, Sir." Sean spoke up from his position on the couch next to the Captain. "Once they start tracing the genealogy of the ones mentioned in Wilkins' book, they'll end up right on our doorstep."

A knock at the door kept anyone from responding to that thought. Five people rose to their feet, side arms coming out of holsters and from under legs, showing just how jumpy the group was. Jim motioned for Sean to cover him, as he walked over to the door and looked out the peek hole. Then he ripped open the door.

Alex Krychek jumped backwards as detective Ellison whipped open the door. He found himself facing down the barrel of not one, but five handguns. "I'm here as a friend." He raised his hands out to his sides so the two men closest to him, Ellison and his brother? could see he wasn't armed.

At the sound of her brother's voice, Caragh holstered her gun, and stepped forward. "Alexi Krycekovich, what are you doing here?" she asked as she pushed past the two detectives.

"Mike, I have some more information for you, and your husband?" Alex looked pointedly at the darker version of the two Ellison look a likes.

Not rising to the bait, she answered, "So? Tell me."

Looking past his sister, he spotted the man that looked like he could be her twin. He smiled, "I see you found Dr. Sandburg."

"Alex... "

Hearing the implied threat in her voice, he stepped back and dropped the smile. "The murder of your mentor, Art Wilkins? It was one of our agents. But he won't make the same mistake again. It was an accident, a very costly accident. Take care, Caragh." He turned and left the group standing in the doorway, puzzled by his actions.

 

Cascade General Hospital

Afternoon, 27 January

"Steaphy! Leave off! I'm not a damn cripple that I need a friggin' wheelchair!"

"Hospital policy, Sport. You want to leave today, you ride."

"Coran! You're as bad as she is!"

"Get used to it, Steven. He's almost part of the family."

"What?!?"

Jim, Blair, Sean and Caragh paused outside the door of the hospital room that Steaphan Shannon had been assigned to for the past two days. Hearing, or rather overhearing, the conversation going on between the pilots, Caragh let out a snicker of laughter and pushed the door open.

"Steaphy that was no way to break the news to your brother."

Steaphanie Shannon looked up from where she'd been adjusting the strap on the arm sling her twin brother was wearing, to see Caragh McConnel enter the room. She smiled. "You're right, Mike. But you'd think he'd have noticed that Coran and I have been dating for two years... "

"Two years!?! Where the hell was I?"

Coran Flint let out a guffaw of a laugh. "Steve, man, if it doesn't have wings you ain't interested." Recovering from his laughter, he spotted the young man standing next to Sean McConnel. "Whoa! Too freaky!"

Steaphanie followed her fiancée's glance, and sucked in a gasp. She'd realized that Sean had a double here in Cascade, they'd met Detective Ellison the morning that they'd flown into the city. But the other man, she shook her head. "Mike, we've got to look into the more wild side of the Clan. He's got to be related."

Sean let out a cough, trying to hide his own laughter. "Like that could ever be done." For his comments, Caragh reached out and gently cuffed him on the upper arm.

"Sean. Behave." Facing the female pilot, she introduced her 'twin.' "Steaphanie Shannon, I'd like you to meet Blair Sandburg. You might recall my talking about him when I came back home?"

Coran stepped forward, "Sure, this is your 'roommate,' right? Coran Flint, nice to meet you, Blair."

Blair shook the pilot's hand, "Coran. So the only real twins in here are Steven and Steaphy?"

Steaphan finally recovered his voice and got his sister to quit fussing over him. "Lord I hope so. I know that I couldn't handle more than one Coran Flint."

The group relaxed and full introductions were made, as they waited for the arrival of Dr. Abrams; the surgeon who had worked on Steaphan. When the harried man came into the room, he stopped in tracks, looked at everybody, and then with a firm shake of his head, shooed everyone but his patient and his sister out of the room. But not before he could be heard to mutter, "I've been on duty too damn long, I'm seeing double."


Once they stepped outside the room, Sean pulled Coran off to the side to have a private conversation, while Jim, Blair and Caragh opted to wait just outside the door.

"Coran, any luck?"

"Nah, no one seems to know where he's stationed at now."

"Damn, I'll try my connections once we get back home."

The tall redhead looked into the eyes of the detective standing before him, "Sean? Why are you trying to get a hold of the Deacon?"

Shrugging, he tried to explain without giving away too many secrets. "Mike's idea. I served with him back in the late 80's, I just didn't realize that he was part of the Clan."

"Uh, huh. Try again." Coran watched as a myriad of emotions crossed the normally unreadable face of his cousin's wife. "No, never mind. I'll find out soon enough, I'm sure."

"Sorry, Cor. I just can't get into the details right now."

"I understand. Look, if Max holds to his normal pattern, he'll be back in Willow Springs in time for the major Shareholder's meeting in June. Providing he can get leave."

Sean nodded, and noticed that Dr. Abrams had stepped out of Steaphan's room. "Well, let's go find out if we're really getting Steve sprung today. And Cor?" The pilot turned to face him, "Not a word of this to anyone. Got it?"

"Sure."

Caragh looked past the doctor to see Sean approaching, shaking his head. Nothing. She returned her attention back to the surgeon.

"... Nothing strenuous for the next few days, he needs to keep the sling on for about another week, then he gets checked out by his doctor back home. Other than that, he's doing really good and should be back to flying form in a matter of weeks."

Caragh smiled as she thought about how Steaphan was taking the restrictions, and held out her hand. "Thanks, Doc. I'll make sure that he understands, and behaves himself."

David Abrams shook the young lady's hand and once again, marveled at just how much she looked like Sandburg. But then again, he looked over her shoulder to see her usband approaching, he looks like Ellison. "I'm just glad I could help. And got to meet such interesting people." He gently pulled her closer to whisper in her ear, "Are you sure you're not related to Sandburg?"

Caragh shook her head. "Pretty sure. Just like we're pretty sure that Sean and Jim aren't related either."

David let go of her hand and grabbed for his pager, which had just gone off. "Damn. ER. Ellison, Sandburg, you make sure these folks get home! And I don't want to see either one of you again any time soon!" He rushed off to answer the page, which probably meant a consult for a possible surgery case.


Coran burst back into the room of his future brother in law and within moments, was pushing the wheelchair bound man through the door. "All right! Let's get this caravan rolling!"

Steaphy came out of the room, chuckling, and had to run to keep up with her brother and fiancée. "Coran! Not so fast! We've got to stop by the admissions desk and get him checked out... " Her words were cut off as she slipped onto the elevator with them and it's doors closed.

Sean shook his head, "That's going to be one very interesting wedding."

"I know, Moiré's looking forward to performing the ceremony." Reaching out, she grabbed up her husband's arm and started walking towards the elevators.


Falling in behind them, Jim and Blair were thankful that the four of them were able to catch one of the cars that was empty. Jim leaned back against the wall and asked, "Mike, this relative of yours, you sure that he can help?"

"The Deacon can do anything that he puts his mind to." She let out a sigh. "But getting in touch with him may prove to be a task."

"Yeah, Coran has no idea where his Uncle's even stationed at right now." Sean gave up the information he'd been able to gather from the pilot.

Blair leaned over and bumped his friend. "So, Mike. What exactly is it this 'Deacon' of yours does?"

Giving him back the nudge, she smiled. "Max Rheaghan is a Warrant Officer in the Corps. Last I heard, he was working with Recon, but that was years ago."

"Another Marine? Geez McConnel, is there any branch of the military that your Clan isn't involved in?" Jim shook his head, knowing that Sean was a former Marine, Steaphan a former Navy man, and Steaphanie a former Air Force member.

"Actually? No. We're such a large family that we've got members in every branch, including the Coast Guard." Caragh enjoyed watching Jim and Blair's jaws drop just as the elevator opened up to the main lobby level. Still holding hands with Sean, they stepped out and quickly crossed the lobby to where the three pilots were busy making sure that all the paperwork to discharge Steaphan was complete.

"Wow! What a network." Blair bounced out of the elevator before the doors could shut, and turned to face his partner. "But then again, with a large family, I can see why many of them would prefer to join up."

Looking across the lobby, Jim smiled at the antics of the five Arkansans. They were busy; causing a ruckus, but a nice one, as they answered all the clerk's questions, fussed over the injured pilot and generally made themselves useful. "If they're all like that group, I can see why members would want to leave too. If only to get some peace and quiet." Seeing the confused look on his friend's face, he pointed out the group.


Soon enough, Steaphan was checked out and the large group found itself a nice restaurant near the Cascade Arms Hotel. After everyone had settled down after a large meal, sipping either tea, cokes or in Caragh's case, coffee, the female anthropologist dropped a bombshell into the relaxed conversation. "Blayre? What would you say to the chance of studying the history of the Clan?"

He managed to nearly choke himself of his tea, Jim coming to his rescue with a few well placed pats on the back, and barely managed to squeak out, "All of it?"

She smiled, her eyes dancing. "All of it. Moiré approved."

Blair looked at his partner, his roommate, who merely nodded. "It's a great opportunity, Chief. I might even go along with you." Seeing the perplexed look on his guide's face, he continued. "Seems that Sean, Steven and Coran here have been bragging about just how good the fishing is in their neck of the woods."

Sean leaned over towards Caragh, whispering loud enough to be heard by all at the table, "Besides, I showed him pictures of your 'baby' and he drooled. Jim wants to meet her."

Letting out a laugh that drew all eyes in the place to their table, Caragh shook her head. "Fine by me, but then you'll just have to bring your 'sweetheart', Jim."

Four heads around the table went down in ill-disguised efforts to hide laughter. Ignoring the pilots and Sean, Jim looked the Guardian in the eye. "Oh, why?"

Letting loose with a feral grin, she reached across the table and grabbed Blair's hand, pulling him to his feet as she answered the Sentinel. "Because, I know this mechanic back home that's been dying to get her hands on a '69 Ford."

Sean came up for air first, and caught Jim looking after his wife and her chosen dance partner as they cut across the dance floor in a Texas Two-Step. "Jim, you really fell into that one."

"What?"

"I'm willing to bet even Blair knew that was coming." Coran piped up, his head still buried.

"What?" Jim looked from one man to the other, only to see that the twins were laughing even harder, if their shoulder movements were any indication.

"Oh, man! Sean, Laddie, you tell the poor man. I'm going to the gentlemen's." And ith that, Coran abandoned the table.

"Jim, the mechanic that Mike's talking about?"

"Yeah?"

Sean felt the smile twitch into being on his face. "It's her."

"Oh, no."

 

Cascade, Washington

Cascade Airfield

30 January

Steaphan and Steaphanie Shannon had just taken off in the Aine, and Coran was spinning up the Flyer, which he would pilot, but would also put Sean in the co-pilot's seat since the detective was still learning how to fly.

The last few days had been filled with all kinds of activities for the entire group; The Shannons and Coran Flint had taken in the sights, touring the various air museums and taking a trip down to Seattle. For Caragh and Sean, Jim and Blair, it had been just as busy.

Sean had been kind enough to let Blair test the limits of his senses, which were just about as good as Jim Ellison's, and then the two Guides had compared notes on the subject. They then had turned the tables by having Caragh test Jim in pretty much the same way. The results were pretty close. Incidentally, they'd been able to test the theory that Blair and Caragh could pull either Jim or Sean out of zone outs, by allowing the two sentinels to zone on purpose, then bringing them back.

Neither of the two men were real happy with what the two anthropologists had done the day after that; gone to the Washington State Maximum Security Hospital to visit with Alex Barnes and talk with her physicians. The two Shaman had come away from that experience feeling sorry for the woman. According to everything that Caragh had been able to gather from the reports, both the official and unofficial, Alex Barnes had been a vibrant woman, a criminal sure, but the only other sentinel that Blair had ever found. Now, she was just a walking breathing zombie, locked away in her own mind, stuck in a

sensory loop as her heightened senses played havoc with her sanity. The physicians hadn't been able to go into detail with the two anthropologists, but did tell them that there was little or no chance of the woman ever regaining her senses, her mind. During the ride back to Cascade, Caragh explained to Blair why she wasn't surprised by the doctor's diagnosis, how it was a very rare female who could handle the stress of being a Protector.

Then, last night, Caragh had accompanied Blair to the campus of Rainier, with Sean and Jim tagging along, as the resident professor had to give a lecture to one of the night classes he was teaching. Muttering under her breath, Caragh told him she'd get even with him, when he called her up to the podium to give an impromptu lecture on Celtic Mythology and the role that the Gaelic tribes played in history.

Now, it was time to leave Cascade. She turned to face her fellow Guardian and his Sentinel. "So, it's settled. Right?"

Blair pulled her into a hug, "Yeah! As soon as I can arrange time off from both the University and the PD, Jim and I'll will head out to Willow Springs."

"Good." Letting go of Blair, she pulled Jim into an embrace. "Don't worry about when you come, nor about staying in a hotel or something. Moiré will want to put the two of you in the new guest house that the company is building."

Sean delivered his own hug to Blair. "You just call when you reach Galloway County and one of us will find you and lead you in."

Caragh spoke up just as Jim and Sean went to shake hands goodbye, "And don't forget, practice on that bond you two have. It really comes in handy once in a while."

Over the clasped hands, ice blue eyes met deep green and Jim was amazed that there was still no feeling of uneasiness around the other sentinel. Maybe there is something to this bonding thing that Mike's been trying to teach us? "We'll try, Caragh. As much as time and cases allow. But, will you really have to lead us in when we get to Galloway county? Surely it's not nearly as large as Cascade."

Sean slapped Jim on the back. "Man, won't you be surprised."

Blair and Caragh exchanged a disc for their computers; it was an encryption program that Blair had picked up from a friend at the University. They had plans to make, Sentinels to protect, and had to be able to communicate in private. Unbeknownst to their Sentinel/Protector, the two Shaman had made a pact with each other. They vowed to protect the secrets of their partners unto death, but should Sean or Jim somehow predecease both Caragh and Blair, the two doctors would get together and publish what they know about Sentinels  to get the information out into the public to help others that needed it.


Jim and Blair stood side by side as the Flyer, with the Protector and his Guardian on board, took to the clear morning air over Cascade. They had plans to make, and a case to officially declare 'dead.' As they walked back to the truck, Blair spoke up. "So, Jim. Remember what Mike suggested? About getting Simon used to bringing you out of zone outs?"

"Yeah."

Blair opened his side of the truck and climbed in as Jim did the same, "Well, I've been thinking. Why not ask Megan to learn as well? You know, sort of a backup to the backup?"

Jim started the truck up and paused as he thought about it, "Megan? You want to pull Connor into this?"

"Sure. I mean, she already knows you're a sentinel, and with what Caragh's told me, it should be easy to train Megan... "

"She's due to rotate back to Australia soon, Chief."

"Oh. Forgot about that."

Jim put his truck into gear and they rode in silence for a while, heading back into downtown Cascade and into work. He didn't have any problems with Megan Connor knowing about his sentinel abilities, but with the Aussie Inspector due to head back home... "Chief? What about Taggart?"

"Yeah, that could work. He's usually partnered with you when I'm not there, or handed the reins when Simon goes on vacation." Blair started to chuckle.

After a few minutes of listening to his guide, his friend quietly loose it, curiosity got the best of him. "Okay, spill it, Darwin. What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing much. I just recalled a vision that I had last night."

"A dream?"

"Nope, a vision. Caragh was guiding me in a meditative exercise, and I saw another spirit guide."

Jim pulled to a stop at a light two blocks away from the station, "You've got two now?"

"Nope. I saw Simon's."

Twisting his head to look as his partner, he said, "Simon's got a spirit guide?"

"Hmm, hmm." Blair started to dissolve into laughter again.

"Chief, what's so funny?"

"Oh, I'm just imagining what the Captain's reaction will be when he sees his spirit guide for the first time... " And he was rolling in laughter again.

Shaking his head, Jim pulled back into traffic and into the police garage, where the attendant on duty barely looked twice at Sandburg's reactions, a sure sign the younger man was well known for being slightly 'loco.' Pulling into his normal spot, Jim slammed the truck into park and turned off the engine. "Okay, before I have to resort to some of my training, out with it Sandburg. What is Simon's spirit guide, a chipmunk?"

The comment only sent Blair into more laughing convulsions, which were starting to become infectious, as Jim could feel his own laughter beginning to bubble up from deep inside. He almost didn't hear his buddy's answer.

"A bear."

Jim couldn't help it, he burst out laughing. A bear. He could see that, a huge black bear, like what ran around in the Cascade National Forest. Yep, that described Simon Banks all right. After the two partners calmed down, their gales of laughter fading to mere, and occasional, chuckles, they climbed out of the pickup only to be roared at by the man in question.

"Ellison, Sandburg! Move it! We've got a hostage situation at the First National Bank on Commerce!"

With a sense of the absurd, the two detectives climbed back into the truck and headed back out of the police garage. Mondays in Cascade. You could call them many things, but never boring.

~~ End ~~

Don't worry, there is a sequel in the works. ;-) If I get enough feedback on this one that is.

Thanks for plowing though this one with me. I'm still new to this writing of Fan Fiction, so feedback is welcomed, and much appreciated.

Just to keep this "legal" -- A "Afterwords" Disclaimer:

Alex Krychek and the Cigarette Smoking Man were borrowed from Fox Television, 1013 Productions and Chris Carter. Mr. Lyle, Bridgett and The Centre were borrowed from NBC Studios, MTM Entertainment, Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle. I only wanted to borrow them to give the story a little more 'depth' and to exercise my brain. Except for a few minor 'owies' I think I managed to return them without harm. No infringement intended, only wanted to bring the 'borrowed' characters into The Sentinel Universe for fun and pure entertainment of the many fans of The Sentinel. {And they crossed over so beautifully, don't you think? <g>}

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