Secrets, Books and Murder

Part 7

Suisan "Sue" R.


Cascade, Washington

After Midnight, 24 January

Caragh watched as the evidence team from Cascade PD went over her room inch, by painstaking, inch. They were starting to look frustrated; she couldn't blame them. She had assisted Jim in going over the room with the detective's senses and had come up only with the smell that he had detected in the hall. Thinking back over the past hour or so, brought a smile to her lips...

An Hour Earlier

"... Jim Ellison, I'm Caragh Draygon Michaels-McConnel. Siomahnka and Guardian of the Clan and Tribe."

The detective looked at her in surprise, and confusion. "Guardian? You're a Sentinel?"

Caragh sank onto the bed behind her. "No. Look, this isn't going to be easy. You're friends with Blair Sandburg, right?"

Jim came to sit beside her on the bed. "Yeah, he's also my partner. But what does that have to do with you?"

"Have you read his Master's Thesis? The one in which he postulated about Burton being correct, and that there must be modern 'Sentinels' in our world?" She looked into his blue eyes, daring him to challenge the fact that there were modern sentinels... when he was one himself.

"I never read it. But I'm familiar with Blair's work." He saw the challenge in her eyes, and let it go.

"Good." She leaned over and plucked the book from his hands, patting it as she laid it in her lap. "'Guardians and Protectors' is another work, much like Burton's 'Sentinels of Paraguay', but it wasn't written very well as Blackie Wilkins wasn't a anthropologist. And from reading his words, I think he was confused by the titles for a Sentinel and the companion or Guide." Opening the book, she exposed the page in the back where Wilkins had pondered about who was what in his time. Caragh put the book back in the Sentinel's lap. "Read while I explain a little bit."

Jim looked at the words, letting their meaning sink into his brain while Caragh's soothing voice gave up her secrets.

"My family can trace our history all the way back to County Donegal in Ireland and as far back as the late 1100's. Ours was a powerful clan, never defeated in battle, wealthy traders, farming folk and shepherds. Our Chief at the time, Diarmut MacDair, was the clan's Protector and the clan's primary druid, Shamus ni'Greinna, had made the choice to follow the words of McMannus McLir and within months, the entire clan was ready to move. They contracted with the Dragonmen, what's now known to have been Norsemen or Vikings, to purchase several ships and they loaded up and headed west." She couldn't help it; Caragh was in a lecturing mode and had to stand up and pace. "Anyway, to cut it short, the clan ended up in America long before Columbus found it. We traveled the East Coast, making friends with the local Indian tribes and eventually settled in the area controlled by the Osage Empire, in the early 1600's." She made to continue, but Ellison held up his hand.

"Wait a minute. Company." He handed her the book and got up to answer the door on the first knock. "This isn't your night, is it Jacks?"

"No, sir." The female patrolman from earlier had the grace to blush in embarrassment. No wonder dispatch hadn't told them the name of the complainant, they probably thought that Jacks would've found a reason to avoid the call. And I probably would've, damn them.

Raymond Jons was a little discomfited himself, but as he was the senior team member, he had to take control of this. "Did you call this in, Detective?"

"Yes, but I can't take the report. Come on in, both of you." Jim held the door open wider and the two officers stepped into the room, apparently surprised to see Caragh standing there in the room. "This is your complainant, Dr. Caragh McConnel."

Jacks practically squeaked when she found her voice. "But I thought you were a Deputy?"

Caragh nodded. "I am. I'm also a Doctor of Anthropology and, for right now, a Purchasing Agent for the DeDanu Corporation. Think you can handle a person with multiple personalities?" She reached out and offered her hand in greeting to the two officers.

Jons, seeing that Jacks was slow to react, reached out and shook the woman's hand. "I'm getting used to such things, Doctor. I live in Cascade after all." He was rewarded with a brilliant smile. "Now, can you tell me everything that happened, in order? Jacks, why don't you step out into the hall with Detective Ellison and grab his statement and that's all. Don't try to get him to give you his perspective on how to proceed." Jons smiled at the detective, who nodded in understanding, as he allowed the younger officer to lead the way out. Turning back to his complainant, he found her trying to cover a giggle. "Doctor?"

Caragh managed to get herself under control before answering the concerned Sergeant's unspoken question. "She's new isn't she? You're her FTO... Field Training Officer?"

"Yeah. First week. She's not doing too badly, but it scares me that she was the best of her class from the academy. Makes me wonder about the city's future." Jons reached into his uniform coat and pulled out a note pad and pen. "Forget I said that. You ready to tell me what happened?"

Jim listened in for a little bit to the statement that Caragh was giving, while giving his own to Jacks, just to make sure that the Doctor wasn't giving information that would make a sharp Sergeant like Jons wonder about him. He listened as she tapped danced subtlety around the truth that he had used his sentinel senses and was suitably impressed with her skills of obfuscation. She was as good as Sandburg in that department. Maybe she had taught him that particular skill? Concluding his statement, Jacks decided to go back down to the lobby to await the arrival of the evidence team to escort them up. She had questioned him about the strange name mix up at the desk, stating that the room had been registered under the name of 'Kara O'Shannessy' and not 'Caragh McConnel' and did he know why that would be? He patiently explained that McConnel was working with the Sheriff's Department back home in Arkansas on a case which was tied into several that he and Major Crimes was working, and that threats had been made against the Doctor. But as the patrolman walked away, he filed the other name under his 'questions to ask' file and poked his head back into the room.

"Caragh? You going to be a while?"

She looked up at him over Jons' shoulder and nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I'm also giving the Sergeant here my statement about the airport if that's okay?"

"Fine. I need to make a few calls, see what I can do about getting you set up in a safe house or something." He pulled the door shut and listened again as she went over her 'airport' statement. Satisfied, he pulled his cell phone out and made his first call.

"Simon? Yeah, I know. It's late. I just thought I'd give you the low down before someone else did... " And he filled his captain in on the events of the evening since he had left the office. Then, he told the captain his plans for getting McConnel to a safe house.

"Jim? You sure? You don't have much room there, and while I agree that it's probably the best choice for you to help protect her, where are you going to put her? On the couch?" Simon Banks' mind was working overtime. He'd been awakened from a nap on his own couch by Jim's phone call, told about the airport incident, and now it seemed to him the woman his detective was offering to protect was the Arkansas equivalent of one Blair Sandburg.

"I'm sure, Simon. I'll put her in my room and take the couch for myself. That'll put me between the door and her and any danger that might decide to pay a visit."

"Fine. But bring her into the station later, I want to meet her."

"Will do. After I take her back to the hospital to check on her friend."

Simon thought about it. "Okay, but since you've managed to put in so much overtime today, I won't expect to see you, Sandburg and your guest until after lunch."

Jim smirked. "Deal. Now, if you don't mind, I'd better call Sandburg and let him know that we're going to have a guest."

"That should be a fun conversation. Good night, Jim."

Jim shut off the phone and once again tuned his hearing to the room behind him and then scanned a little further. He could hear the arrival of the portable lab van and figured he had about 5, maybe 10, minutes before they got to his location. Turning the phone back on, he called the loft.

Blair Sandburg was trying to be as quiet as possible when he entered the loft after midnight. He hadn't meant to spend so much time at the University, but he'd gotten caught up in a late tutorial session with some of his students and time had flown by. He had just opened the door when the phone started ringing. Damn it! He ran and picked up the phone in the kitchen. Hope that didn't wake Jim up. "Hello?"

"Sandburg, it's me."

"Oh, man! And here I thought you were asleep! Wait a minute, where are you?" He let his backpack drop to the floor and flipped on the lights, safe since the sentinel wasn't, evidently, home to complain about the noise.

Jim heard the soft thud and allowed another smile to cross his face. "I heard that, Chief. Better check your laptop, I heard something rattle." At his roommate's soft curse he laughed. "Just kidding. I got caught up in a investigation, I'm at the Cascade Arms and thought I'd give you a call."

"You need my help? I can get there in about ten minutes... "

"I need your help, but not in that way. It's a simple B...E. But we're going to have an overnight guest, get the couch ready and do me a favor?"

Blair had started to putter around the kitchen, pulling a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. "Okay, sure. What?"

"Change the sheets on my bed, I'll be putting our guest in my room."

He nearly choked on the water he had in his mouth. Swallowing it he asked, "What? Why?"

"I'll explain when we get there. Look, the evidence team just showed up, I'll see about getting out of here and we should be there, hopefully no later than one, maybe two o'clock."

"Okay, I'll have everything done. You need dinner? I know it's late, but... "

"No, we ate earlier. Thanks. But you might want to brew up some coffee, you might be awake a while after I get there."

"Oh? Why? Is our guest a woman? A good looking woman?" Blair knew he was digging, but he was wondering who could get Jim to give up his bed for the couch.

"Nice try, Chief. You'll find out when we get there." Jim nodded at Serena as she led the evidence team into room 1028. "Look, I got to go. I'll call back if we're going to be delayed."

"Okay, see you in a little bit." Blair disconnected and headed up to the detective's room and stripped the bed. "I just hope she's good looking, Jim. I can't think you'd give up your bed to a guy."

Jim hung up with Blair and wandered back into the room. Now he had to convince McConnel of his plan. But it looked as if it would be a while before he could talk to her about it. He settled in against the door, watching the team go to work, Jons technique for pulling memories from a witness, and Caragh's reactions to strangers pawing her stuff.

Present Time

Caragh was not a happy camper. The evidence team was being very careful, but they sere still getting the dark fingerprint powder everywhere. She winced as one of the technicians sneezed, scattering even more powder. She concluded her statement, "... And that's when Detective Ellison placed the call to your dispatch. Then we waited for you and Officer Jacks to arrive. You know the rest."

Sergeant Jons closed his notebook and smiled at his witness, she had been very observant judging from her statement, but then she was also a cop and a trained observer. "Thank you, Dr. McConnel. I have to agree with your assessment that the break in here and the incident at your plane has to be connected. I'll pass all the info to my Lieutenant and see what he says, but I'm thinking that your case will end up in the hands of either Burglary or maybe even Major Crimes." He looked up to see Detective Ellison pinching the bridge of his nose, as if trying to stifle a sneeze or stave off a headache. "Ain't that right, Ellison?"

Jim willed the tickling sensation away from his sinuses and dropped his hand from his face as he answered, "Maybe. Depends on your report. Look, she's had a rough day and I got arrangements made for a safe house, you done here?"

"I am. Serena? You need anything from Ms. McConnel?"

The chief technician looked up from the carpet near the bathroom that she was inspecting. "No. I think I've got everything I need. We're done with the closet and your luggage if you want to pack something." She shrugged an apology to the woman whose stuff she and her team had gone through looking for trace evidence. "We'll be here for a while longer if you remember something you forgot, and we'll get it to you at whatever location Ellison has gotten for you."

Caragh nodded. "Thank you. I'll just pack a small bag and then we can get out of here. I'll be just a few minutes, Jim."

Jim nodded and decided to wait out in the hall -- the dust that Serena's team was stirring up was really getting to him. He had been standing outside only about five minutes when Caragh came out carrying her small overnight bag and her ever present ...

"Mike, just what is that thing? It looks like a half finished backpack, or a purse with delusions of grandeur."

Caragh laughed as she pulled the item in question higher on her shoulder. "It's called a 'Healthy Back Bag'. It's designed to put less strain on your shoulders and back. Even when you load it like I do. I've had it for about a year and love it, it's a heck of a lot better than the back packs I hauled around Rainier." They reached the elevator and waited for the car to arrive, the doors sliding open just as she thought to ask, "So, am I to end up in a safe house or another hotel?"

"A safe house, of sorts." Jim was hoping to hold off on this conversation until they were in the truck.

"Of sorts? What kind of response is that?"

Trying to stall for time, he reached out and relieved her of her overnight case, which was heavier than he thought it could be. "Jeez, you moved your rock collection, didn't you?"

"Funny, Ellison," she snapped back. "You're avoiding the subject."

"And you need to finish your story. I find it hard to believe that your family got to the States before any other European."

The doors opened to the lobby level and Caragh pushed off the wall she'd been leaning against following him out of the elevator and towards the parking garage entrance. "You're still avoiding the subject, and the evidence is there if the archaeologists would ever stop to think about it."

Jim reached his truck, unlocking the passenger side, putting the bag he was carrying in the bed, and then going around to the driver's side. He didn't answer her until they were both in the cab and he was pulling out of the garage.

"I'm taking you to my place. It's the best I could come up with on short notice."

Caragh sat in silence, watching the passing landmarks, realizing that they were heading deeper into the city and fairly close to Rainier University. She noted the name of the street he turned onto off of Rainier Drive. "Your place, huh? Hope your wife doesn't mind."

"No wife, just a roommate, and I already called and told him."

"Him? Let me guess, you live with another cop?"

Jim turned into the parking area by the loft, parked and looked over at her. "Yeah, he's also a college student. You might know him, Blair Sandburg?"

Caragh jumped in her seat. "Blayre!? You live with Blayre? I bet he's driving you crazy!" She opened her door and jumped out of the truck, clutching her bag. "He used to drive me batty back in school. I was forever picking up behind him, or telling him to turn his music down."

Jim came around and picked up her bag from the truck bed. "Sounds like you know from experience?"

"Jim, the stories I could tell... but I won't. It wouldn't be fair to Blayre or you." She followed him into the building and into the old service elevator.

"I noticed that you say his name a little differently, why is that?"

"Oh, just a habit. I got to calling him by his Gaelic name the first year he was here at Rainy U. Most folks never hear the tonal difference." They stepped off the elevator and she turned back to face him. "Did you tell him that it was me that was going to be your house guest?"

Jim stopped as she was blocking his path. "No. I thought maybe you might want to surprise him."

Going up on her toes, she planted a kiss on the sentinel's cheek. "Thank you, and yes, I would. I had been planning on trying to catch him at campus, but never made it over there."

Blushing, he smiled at the sweet expression on his 'guest's' face. "You're welcome." He stepped around her and went to open the door to his apartment. Before he pushed it open, he nodded for her to step to the side, to hide from view, then swung the door open.

"Chief! We're here!" He dropped Caragh's bag near the table and tossed his keys into the basket.

Blair came dodging out of his room. "Jim! Okay, why couldn't you tell me on the phone who this mystery lady is?"

"Because, it wouldn't have left you looking for clues, and how do you know it's a lady, Chief?"

"It's not?"

Caragh couldn't stand it anymore, being this close to her friend and not being able to see him. She stepped into the doorway. "Actually, I've been called many things, but never a lady."

Blair stood frozen to the floor in shock, his eyes going wide as he stared at the woman. Dressed in a dark gray trench coat, dark green sweater under that, black jeans and boots, coffee colored hair spilling over her shoulder and down her back... She hadn't changed much in the past seven to eight years. "MIKE!" Spell broken, he ran up to her and pulled her into a fierce bear hug.

She barely had time to see him before being pulled into the fierce hug, which she returned, just as hard as he gave it, then she released him, pushing him out to arm's length. "Blayre, Cub, it's so good to see you." Caragh felt tears threatening to spill, the joy of seeing her younger 'brother' overwhelming. And he looked good. The tiny lines around his blue eyes showing to her what others could miss -- the years had been hard, but he still had that inner fire.

Her hair was a bit longer, but not much, her hug just as powerful as it had ever been. Blair took in her appearance, the worn look to her face, the bright green eyes. "Caragh, It's been too long, but I'm glad you're here." He glanced over her shoulder to where Jim was shutting the door, making it secure. "Even if it is under less than ideal conditions."

Caragh shrugged. "I know. Sorry about this, I don't mean to intrude... "

"Nonsense, Mike." Jim answered from the doorway where he was hanging up his coat. "I wouldn't have brought you here if you weren't welcome." To further illustrate his point, he came over, took her back bag from her and then helped her out of the gray trench coat. As he turned to hang up the coat Jim looked at his roommate. "So, Chief, what would the ideal conditions have been for your reunion?"

Blair looked over at him again, tearing his eyes away from Caragh. "Oh, I don't know, maybe a convention where we were both scheduled to lecture? Or an expedition?"

Caragh chuckled. "That would've been my choice too, but Lady Fate has a nasty way of playing us mortals for fools." She stepped away from Blair and looked around the spacious apartment, noting the touches that had to be her friend's influence, the neatness that she could never instill in him had to be Jim's touch. Glancing towards the kitchen, her sense of smell kicked in. "Is that coffee I smell?"

Blair nodded. "Sure is, want a cup?"

"Please." She looked around again, feeling a bit uncomfortable, not sure what to do next.

Jim had moved into the kitchen and was pulling down three mugs, which Blair filled, adding sugar and cream to one, just a touch of cream to another, leaving the last one black. That one was his. Watching as his partner carried the other two mugs into the living room, he called out to their guest, "Mike, pick a spot and sit. That's what couches and chairs are for."

She took the mug that Blair handed her. "You remembered?" She then sat down on the edge of the couch that faced the kitchen area. "Thank you."

Blair answered as he sat down next to her. "Of course. After you reamed me that one time for putting sugar into your cup on that trip out to Chaco Canyon, you think I'd ever forget?"

Jim came into the room and took the chair that faced the couch they were on, and the loft's door. "You reamed him? That must've been a sight to behold."

Caragh could feel the blush creeping up on her face. "It wasn't that bad. I just can't stand sugar in my coffee. And it was way too early for civilized humans to be up and about with as much energy as the cub was displaying. That's all. I woke up on the wrong side of my sleeping bag." She smiled as she said it, looking over at her college mate, noticing for the first time the electric blue tee shirt with the blue flannel shirt over that. She sipped her coffee thinking; At least he finally realized what his best color is. Brings out his eyes. Bet he has to beat the co-eds off with a stick, maybe a baseball bat.

"Yeah, right, Mike. Jim, just remember, while she's here, how long will that be anyway? Don't wake her up without having brewed a large pot of coffee. She probably still wakes up meaner than a snake." Blair looked over to his friend and roommate, the silence from both of them telling. "Okay, so why is Mike here in the first place? Not that I'm complaining, but it's odd."

At Caragh's barely noticeable nod, Jim caught his partner up on the events of the day, leaving out only Caragh's revelation about herself and her family. When he finished talking, his coffee was gone and he got up to refill the mugs, taking care to make sure he put the same amount of cream in Caragh's mug before returning. "And now you know why I got delayed and why I decided that she was better off staying the night here."

Blair was jumping in his seat. "Cool. I mean, not cool, but you know." He turned to face his old friend. "Did you bring the book with you? I'd love to see it."

"I brought it." Caragh answered and reached down beside the couch where she had put her backpack. Pulling it into her lap, she unzipped the main compartment and pulled out the old leather bound book. "Here, read to your heart's content, Cub." She handed over the book and stood up. "I hate to bother you, but where's the head?" Blair didn't answer, his head already buried in the book, his eyeglasses appearing from his pocket and going to his face in an unconscious gesture.

Jim chuckled. "You've been living with a Marine too long. It's down the hall, first door on the right." He watched as she disappeared down the hallway, and then got up again. "Chief? Any thing in the 'fridge that I should stay away from?" He had the munchies, despite the rather large meal that he'd consumed earlier.

Blair never looked up. "Uh, no. I don't think so." Flipping through the pages, he was lost in the writings of Blackie Wilkins.

Opening the refrigerator, he located a chunk of white cheddar and pulled it out, taking a knife to it, he sliced off a sizable piece. He waited in the kitchen until he heard his guest coming back down the hall. Reaching out, he touched her on the sleeve, grabbing her attention. She didn't even jump. "Mike," he whispered so that Blair wouldn't hear, "You gonna tell him the rest?"

Caragh looked up into Jim's eyes, then back towards where Blair sat pouring over the book she'd handed him. Keeping her voice low, she said, "I should, but I'm afraid of his reaction. He'll be upset that I kept the secret from him. Especially since I could've corroborated his Sentinel thesis."

Jim looked at his roommate, wondering if she was right, that Blair would be mad at her. "Maybe. But then again, he understands about keeping secrets. We both learned the hard way."

Caragh nodded. "I know. I followed the news when it broke. My heart bled for him, and you. Then when he came out with that statement that the entire thing was fiction, I believed him. But earlier, at the airport, when I felt that, shock, I knew he'd lied to protect you. And it almost cost him his career."

"But we survived, and he's getting his career back on track. Mike, he deserves to know."

She nodded. "You're right."

Blair came up for air, closing the book, looking over to the kitchen where his two friends where huddled together, whispering. "Hey, guys. What's all the whispering for?" He caught the look that Jim gave Caragh, the carefully raised eyebrow that spoke volumes to him. The look that said, 'Well?'

Caragh merely nodded and walked back over to the couch and sat down next to her fellow Guardian, or Guide. "Cub, have you finished the book already?"

"Mostly. Scanned it for the most part. If this fellow was right, then he had discovered a Sentinel and his guide -- in your hometown." Blair turned the book over in his hands. "Wilkins. Wilkins. Hey, wasn't that the name of the murder victim back in Arkansas?"

Nodding, she answered, "Yes, Blackie's grandson and my mentor, Arturos Wilkins. Blair, I have something I need to tell you." She took her courage in her hands and then felt the presence of Jim Ellison, Detective, and according to her beliefs, a Protector.

Blair noticed that Jim had moved into a position of support for Caragh, much like he would've for himself. "Mike? Caragh? What is it?"

Taking a deep breath, chewing on her lower lip for a second, the answer came to her lips. "I'm glad you found your Sentinel, Shaman."

He managed to not quite jerk away from her, but his shock was evident. "What?!"

She reached out and grasped his right hand in hers. "Blair, I've known for a long time what you were to be; a Shaman. And that you were searching for your Protector, your Sentinel. When I met Jim earlier, I realized that that entire flap about your doctoral thesis was a large dose of the truth, until you claimed to have made it all up. You did your duty, Cub. You guarded your Protector, taking all that BS to save Jim from those who would've sought to exploit him."

Blair stared at her, his mind going a mile a second, trying to come up with an answer that she would, hopefully, accept. She can't really know, can she? Cover up, back track, and think about what you just read, Blair. She could know, but then that would mean... He brought his head up to look at Jim who was standing just behind Caragh. He caught the sentinel's eyes, not voicing the question, but getting an answer all the same. Jim nodded. Bringing his attention back to his friend he voiced what he hoped was the answer she was looking for. "Mike, I really don't know what you're talking about. Oh, sure that flap last year about that work of fiction that Naomi discovered, thinking it was my thesis, was rough, but it was just that. Fiction." As the last word left his mouth, he saw her emotions rise to her face, the worst one being pain. He cringed as she spoke up.

"I knew you wouldn't believe me." She stood back up and looked over towards the detective. "Jim? I'm rather tired and if I'm staying here, could you point me in the right direction of a bed? Or a couch? I'm not real picky right about now." Even to herself, Caragh's voice sounded flat. Emotionless.

Jim knew what Blair was doing, and while he understood, he didn't approve. "Sure, Mike. Follow me." He led the way up to the loft and his bed, which thankfully his guide had remade. He dropped his voice to a low whisper, "I'm sorry about that, Mike. I'll talk to him, try to make him understand."

Caragh dropped her bags down on the large bed, and then followed them. Looking up at the man who looked so much like her husband, she smiled wanly. "No, Jim. Don't. He'll either come around on his own or he won't." She glanced at her watch. "I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to get back to the hospital as early as possible. I can grab a cab in the morning... "

"No. I'll take you." Jim looked at her. Damn, she looks like she's been kicked in the gut. "I'll leave you to your rest. Will four hours be enough? We can get to the hospital by eight then."

"That'll be fine. Thanks, Jim."

"No problem." He walked back over to the stairs and left her to herself.

Realizing there wasn't much she could do to stop the detective from talking to Blair, she sighed, stood up and stripped off her jeans and sweater, leaving only her long sleeved tee shirt on and crawled into the bed. She could tell that the sheets had been changed, but there was still the rather disturbing smell of the regular occupant lingering on the comforter and pillows. Hearing mutters coming from the living area below the bedroom, she wished that for once, she had been the one in the family blessed with the Protector's abilities. Then again, maybe not. Most female Protectors went crazy after a while. Especially after giving birth to a child. In the history of the Clan and Tribe, there was only one female Protector who never went over the deep end. Tyler -- the first Protector of the combined Clan and Tribe. The only one who had more than one Guardian, she had the twins. Fire in Soul and Soul of Fire. Healer and Hunter. She married Soul of Fire and lived a long productive life, giving birth to another Protector. Whom she named Diarmut Michaels. With that final thought and the rather distinctive smell of this other Protector, or Sentinel, in her nose, she fell into a light sleep.

Jim came back down the stairs and found Blair getting the last of the coffee in the kitchen. He still had the book that Caragh had handed to him; it was open and lying on the countertop. Shaking his head, he walked up behind the anthropologist. Out of respect for how tired Caragh had to be, he once again kept his voice low. "Chief, she's telling the truth."

Blair nearly jumped out of his skin. Jim had a habit of sneaking up on him, but this time, it was him that felt guilty about it. "Who? Mike? How can she know, Jim? Tell me that and I'll try to believe her. And if she had access to this kind of information, why didn't she tell me about it sooner? Like after I published my Master's Thesis?" He closed the book, grabbed up his refilled coffee mug and headed over to the dining table. "Damn it, she had to have known I wasn't going to give up, she could've helped, but she kept silent. And then she left. A phone call from home -- how they tracked her all the way to the Navajo Reservation I'll never know -- but after talking for about ten minutes, she walked over to Professor Anderson and in the hour was gone. And she never came back. Oh, she called or wrote once in a while, just to keep in touch, but she never let on that she knew my thesis was not only possible, but also probable. That she'd ever heard of Sentinels outside of Burton's work."

Jim let the younger man rant, since he was doing it quietly, and just listened to him. "She knew what I was the moment we touched out at the Airport. She called me a 'Protector' and then changed it to 'Sentinel'. Back at her hotel room, she told me who she really is." In his mind, the jaguar let out a warning hiss; he ignored it to watch his roommate.

Blair locked eyes with the Sentinel. "Oh, really? And just what might that be? Don't tell me she's another Barnes." Cause I know that she's not, I tested her back in school. But what else could she be?

"Chief, remember our dreams from this morning, or should I say yesterday morning?" The younger man nodded. "Do you recall me saying that while I wasn't getting any strange sentinel vibes, that I wondered if the dream was because there was another guide in the area?"

He nodded again. "Jim, man, spit it out. This bush beating is driving me crazy!" Blair managed not to yell, but it was hard.

Jim focused on the loft above him, listening for the heartbeat of their guest, and realizing that she was sound asleep, turned his attention back to his partner. "Caragh's a Guardian, a Guide. She was able to assist me like you do, when I went over the crime scene that had been her hotel room." His hearing changed focus, going to his guide, and was alarmed to hear that heart literally skip a beat, then set to racing.

Blair sat back in his chair, his mind once again racing. Pulling the book back into his hands, he opened up to the back, the part that he hadn't gone over really well. Reading the last few paragraphs, he caught the names. Michaels. Caragh's ancestor? Oh, God. I wonder... "She pulled you out of a zone?"

"Yeah, I was doing that piggyback trick we've used in the past to keep from zoning, but I did anyway." He shook his head. "She did it much like you do, voice and touch. I think Mike has worked, or is working, with a sentinel. She really knew what she was doing."

"You shouldn't have been able to zone out while using two senses, it should've kept you grounded." Blair leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. "So, she's a guide?"

"I think so, yeah."

"And this book," he tapped his fingers on the item, "it's about her ancestors? Oh man, with the info that's in here, anyone with half a brain could track down the descendants of the original team."

Jim nodded. "I kinda got the impression that one of the duties of a Guardian, Mike's duties, are to protect the Protector. She's got a personal stake in finding out why someone is after this book and others like it."

"And if she is one of these 'Guardians', then she couldn't have told me anything about her family." Blair looked over his shoulder up to the loft where his friend was sleeping. "I think I understand now."

Standing up, Jim made his way over to the couch and the pile of linens that Blair had stacked on the end table earlier that evening. "Good. Talk to her in the morning. Right now she's sound asleep and we should be too." Shaking out a sheet and then a blanket, he kicked off his shoes, stripped down to his pants and his undershirt and lay down on the couch. "Go to bed, Chief."

"Yeah, sure Jim." Blair shuffled off to his room, turning off lights as he went. At the door to his room, he called out softly, "Good night," and closed the door behind him as he entered the room. Sitting down on the bed, he opened the book in his hands again, intending to read it more thoroughly. He wasn't even aware when, hours later, Jim padded into his room, took the book out of his hands, laid it on his desk, then turned out the light.

Jim lay on the couch, listening to the heartbeat of his Shaman and his guest, trying to relax enough to sleep. It's strange. Not only do they look similar, their hearts beat nearly the same and their smell is close enough that they could be brother and sister. He slept for a little while, but then got the urge to get up and check on his guide. Finding the younger man asleep, he carefully pulled the book from lax hands, placed it on the desk, turned out the small table lamp and pulled the comforter over the sleeping man. Coming out of the room, he focused his hearing again, and was rewarded with the soft sounds of bed clothing rustling as Caragh shifted in her sleep. Lying back down on the couch, he finally relaxed enough to fall into a light sleep, not so deep as to not be able to react to any threats that might occur, but deep enough to be considered sleep.


Somewhere over Idaho

Daybreak, 25 January

Sean awoke with a start, not even fully aware of where he was at first. Then it came to him. The Flyer, enroute to Cascade, Washington. He had tired of watching Steaphanie Shannon's handling of the private jet and had come back to the passenger cabin to grab a few hours of sleep. Pulling the soft earplugs from his ears, he sat up and tried to find out what had awakened him. Coran Flint was still sleeping on the other couch across from him, for once the other man wasn't snoring, so that wasn't the problem. Besides, the earplugs would've filtered that noise out. Okay, then, focus on your hearing and touch.

After carefully scanning the plane with his Protector's heightened senses, he gave up trying to find a logical reason for his abrupt awakening. Sighing, Sean got off the couch, made his way back to the small bathroom and tried to make himself more presentable. Satisfied he had done all that he could, he then made his way back to the flight deck.

"Steaphy," He called out softly as he sat down in the co-pilot's seat. "How's it going?"

"Fine. Got an update from Sea-Tac a little bit ago. Weather's holding just fine and we should have no problems landing at Cascade."

"Good. Any idea as to when that will be?"

Steaphanie looked over at him. "Sean? What is it? You sound like you're up against a tight time schedule. You worried about Mike?"

"Yeah, I am."

She smiled. "I don't blame you. We should land shortly before 0900 hours, Cascade time, if we don't pick up a head wind."

Sean couldn't shake the feeling that something was up, and the feeling was getting stronger as the minutes crawled by. "Steaphy, this may sound like an odd question, but is the plane doing okay?"

Her first reaction was to stare at him, and then she shook her head. "Yeah, everything's just fine. Did'ja have a bad dream or something? You were sleeping rather peacefully when I checked on you about twenty minutes ago."

He scrubbed at his face. "Maybe. I don't remember."

"Relax. I'm sure Mike's fine, just like I am positive Steven will be okay as well."

"I sure hope you're right."

Steaphanie snorted. "You know, that's the problem with the Clan. We've got so many of us who have a little bit of 'the sight' that we've learned never to ignore our inner voices." She reached out and made a minor course adjustment. "Mike will be fine, Sean. Really."

Sean nodded, and then got back up to return to the passenger cabin. "I'm going to get a bottle of tea, you want anything?"

"Nope, still working on the one I grabbed earlier." She held up a bottle of tea. "Why don't you try to get a little more sleep? We should land in about two and half, three hours."

"I'll try." He left the flight deck and went to the small galley, pulling a large bottle of plain unsweetened tea from the refrigerator. Sitting back down on the couch he'd slept on, sipping the tea, he decided to try one more little trick that Caragh had taught him not more than six months ago.

Sitting back into the couch, he cleared his mind, taking deep cleansing breaths and reached out to his Guardian through the link that they had established. In his mind, he saw the silver thread, wound with dark and light green ones, which he imagined was his link to his wife. Reaching out a mental hand to touch the thread, he called out in his mind, //Mike! Caragh!//

Part 8



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