A Sense Of Wonder
Suisan "Sue" R.
Warnings: Loosely based on an actual experience of the author. (See notes at end of tale.) Yes, due to the story plot line being based on Real Life, there be a Mary Sue (how quaint) of an OFC contained within the story. Story has also turned into something of a 'prequel' to my Nye series… (How in the hairy heck did THAT happen?) But knowing that series is not required to understand this story.
Feedback: Always welcomed, but please, since I warned you of a OFC Mary Sue, don't bother to complain about her if you read the story. <G>
Now, on with the yarn…
A Sense Of Wonder
The young woman, dressed in hospital scrubs, climbed out of her beat up Ford Tempo. After standing beside the driver's side door a few seconds, she grabbed her purse from the backseat and walked into the building across the road from where she'd parked. To reach the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, she had to jump the overflowing gutter, which had flooded from the recent downpour.
She had no sooner reached the relatively dry sidewalk when a speeding taxi hit the flowing water, sending a wave of dirty rainwater through the air. She managed to avoid having her clothes doused, but her shoes weren't so lucky. After sending some very ugly thoughts towards the unthinking driver, she entered the main lobby of the Cascade Police Department. Pulling her purse higher on her shoulder, she approached the information desk and waited for the uniformed officer there to notice he had a customer.
After two minutes of waiting patiently, she decided she was being ignored and quietly cleared her throat.
The officer, startled, dropped the book he was reading on the desk and looked up at her. "Sorry about that. How can I help you, miss?"
"Where I can find Detective Sandburg?"
"He's probably in Major Crime. Seventh floor." He stood to point towards a bank of elevators down a long hallway, just past a metal detector. "Take one of those to seven and you'll come out right outside their offices. I just need you to sign in before you go up." He handed her a clipboard.
After filling out the required information, the woman handed the board back to the officer.
"Thanks, give me just a minute and I'll get you a visitor's badge."
She couldn't see what he was doing, but the distinctive sound of fingers clattering over a keyboard gave her a rough idea. That, plus having worked as a dispatcher for King County right out of High School, told her the officer was probably running her name through the NCIC/Washington State Crime Files computer -- looking for warrants, warnings and to see if she had a clean driver's record. As promised, he smiled a few seconds later and handed her a laminated visitor's pass on a plastic neck chain. "Here you go, Ms. Radclyffe."
Slipping the ID card over her head, she nodded and walked over to the metal detector and the officer seated beside it. "Hiya, Doug. They got you doing scut work?" She handed her purse to the man and walked through the machine's portal.
"Hey, Michelle! Long time. What'cha doing here?" Hefting her purse, Doug smiled at her. "Any thing in here I should know about?"
"Just my bandage scissors, a few batteries, my hemostats that I use when I'm smoking pot and the AMD .45 I'm planning on using to shoot anyone who looks at me funny."
"Cute, Michelle, real cute." He handed the purse back to her without looking inside. "Who you here to see?"
"Oh, Ellison's partner. Uh, you're not in any trouble are you?"
"No. Just touching base with an old friend."
Doug shrugged. "Must have known him when he was at the University."
"Yeah, I did." Seeing other visitors approaching the metal detector, she waved at Doug and walked quickly toward the elevators, hoping to get one before the others could join her. She was lucky. The right hand elevator opened up immediately and proved to be empty. Slipping inside and hitting the "7" button, she sighed in relief when the doors closed and the car started to move upward.
James Ellison finished putting the final touches on his latest "saw criminal, caught same" report when he noticed that Blair was starting to stand up from his chair, his eyes glued on something outside the bullpen while an odd mix of happiness and sorrow crossed his face. "Chief, what is it?" Jim followed his partner's gaze and couldn't help but notice the tall, dark haired, white clad woman walking in the door of Major Crime. "You know her?"
"Yeah. Michelle! What brings you downtown?" Blair had slipped around his desk to approach the woman and, surprisingly, didn't hug her.
"I need to talk with you, Professor." Her hazel gaze flitted around the crowded bullpen. "Somewhere private?"
The hackles on Jim's neck stood up. Something about the way the woman was acting, and the tone of her alto pitched voice, was disturbingly familiar.
"Sure. Not a problem. Jim, I'll be in the break room if you need me. Come on, Michelle."
He watched as his guide walked the woman across the hall, his hand fluttering near, but not quite touching, the small of her back. Positive that what he was about to do wasn't ethical, Jim threw caution to the winds and let his sensitive hearing track his friend as the door to the break room closed. Blair still had a tendency to attract trouble and something was screaming inside of his mind that this woman might just be that. Trouble with a capital T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Blair gestured for his visitor to seat herself at the table. "Can I get you anything to drink?"
She placed her purse on the floor. "No, I'm okay. I just really need to talk to you."
"Okay." He slid into a chair across from her. "What's going on?"
"I remembered how you helped me, back in school, with my… well, my freaked out senses and…"
It was clear to him, she was nervous about something. "Mysh, you having trouble again?"
Her only answer was to bite her lower lip and nod her head.
"Which one? Smell, touch or hearing?" Michelle had been one of the few students he'd studied with three heightened senses when doing his research for his Master and Doctorate papers. Hearing was elevated, but not to 'sentinel' levels, her sense of touch was at the same rank. But it was her sense of smell that had amazed him, and her, when it tested out to extremely high magnitudes. However, she paid a severe price for that heightened sense -- even the smallest hint of scent could send her running for the nearest trashcan, especially if it was particularly foul, and she'd suffered from severe headaches if bombarded for too long of a period with certain odors.
"It's scent. I'm working at Cascade General, as a Surgery Prep nurse, and I got a hit earlier today. It was so weird and yet so natural that I didn't stop to think about what I said, just kinda blurted it out."
"What happened?" The term 'hit' was almost a code word between them, meaning that Michelle had used one, or more, of her senses unwittingly.
"You ever see the inside of the OR?"
"Yeah, oh man… Don't tell me you actually smelled a disease or something." One of her major complaints while in Nursing School had been the times when she could smell the decay caused by various forms of cancer or other wasting diseases and couldn’t convince the teaching nurses or even the doctors to follow up on what she told them.
"No, it wasn't anything like that." Her eyes met his as she folded her hands on the table in front of her. "I smelled the rain."
"What?" Blair was startled. Surgery suites, like the ones at Cascade General, were isolated from the rest of the hospital by positive air pressure and used their own environmental plants with 'air scrubbers' to ensure that nothing got into the rooms while an operation was in progress. It was a safety precaution -- a way to make sure that no airborne microbes or other possible infectious matter could make its way into the open incisions of the patients. The idea that Michelle could have possibly picked up the rain outside the hospital while in such a closed area…
"I know, it's really weird. And I made the mistake of saying it was raining in front of several witnesses, all of whom knew I hadn't been outside since nine-thirty this morning."
Reaching into his shirt pocket, Blair pulled out his notepad and a pen. "No, it's not weird. This is really cool. Tell me the whole incident and, if you can, give me the names of the people who witnessed this." Michelle started talking, pausing every now and then to spell out a name, while Blair did his best to keep up with her verbal report.
Jim found himself relaxing as he listened to Michelle Radclyffe talk to Blair. He'd learned her name when he'd called down to the desk duty officer and asked for the information about who was visiting his partner. The woman wasn't trouble after all. Far from it, she was one of the research subjects that his partner had studied and helped long before he had met one uptight, scared-out-of-his-wits detective. Every now and then one of Sandburg's former 'guinea pigs' would come forward, seeking his advice or assistance in dealing with their one or two out of whack heightened senses.
The last one had been about three months ago. A wine taster from the Napa Valley area had sought Blair out because he felt he was losing his ability to detect even the most minute traces of fruits that made wines so special. Sandburg had worked with the man for two days solid, testing with varying amounts of pure fruit juices in the most miniscule quantities until the man was reassured that he was just tired of wine and that his sense of taste was just as acute as it had been.
Now this woman had come forward, worried that she'd managed to screw up somehow and reveal herself as something she wasn't. A few lines of the conversation between Blair and his visitor Jim had overheard almost made him smile.
"Doctor Mertz didn't mean anything by it, I'm sure, but he asked if I knew you and if *I* was the 'real sentinel' you had wrote about in your book. I assured him that I wasn't, that while I have a pretty acute sense of smell, I'm just a normal nurse."
"Do you think he believed you?"
"Maybe. But, Blair, I heard a number of people talking about the incident -- your press conference -- and they all said the same thing. That if there *were* such things as Sentinels, they'd be a boon to our society -- no matter what job they held."
Pushing aside another report, Jim looked up to see a uniformed County Deputy walk into Major Crimes. "Hey, Joe! What are you doing down here?" Jim stood up to greet the man, an old friend from his Academy days.
"Jim." Joe shook his hand while his worried gaze traveled around the room. "I saw my wife's car outside and, well, got worried. The duty officer downstairs told me she'd come up here."
Suddenly it occurred to Jim where he'd heard Michelle's voice before and why her last name was so naggingly familiar. "So, you and Michelle finally tied the knot?"
"Yeah, she let me chase her for three years before she caught me. Is she up here?"
Jim gestured towards the break room. "She's there, talking with my partner. You have any idea why she's here?" Joe Radclyffe nodded as he looked pointedly at the empty chair beside Jim's desk. The detective sat back in his own chair while the deputy settled into the free seat.
"Yeah, she's been having some minor trouble at work and, well, if she's here talking with Sandburg, then something really odd must have happened."
"You could say that," He noticed how Joe's sharp brown eyes snapped up from his County-Mountie hat, something akin to fear lurking in their dark depths. "It's nothing serious, Joe, believe me. Sandburg's good at helping people when they need it and Michelle sure looked like she needed it when she came in."
Joe visibly relaxed, the death grip he had on his hat loosening. "I hope so. I've been trying to work with her as much as I can, but sometimes her problems are beyond my understanding."
Sensing that the deputy needed to change subjects, Jim ventured forth with a little small talk. "So, have you heard anything about these residential burglaries we've been having on the east side?"
Blair had had to make do with what he'd been able to find in the break room, but after an hour had passed, Michelle was feeling better about her ability to control her sense of smell and how to filter out the pungent odors that would assail her from time to time.
"Thank you so much, Blair. I really do wish you were still at Rainier, then we could test my other senses and see if they've increased in sensitivity like you think my nose has." She stood up, picking her purse up off the floor and slinging it over her shoulder.
"No problem, Michelle. I'm just glad I could help you." Blair escorted her to the door, but before she could open it, he placed a hand on her arm. "You want me to talk with your husband? Maybe teach him how to help you when you need it?"
"Could you? I've tried to explain to him what he needs to do, but… I guess he still has a hard time dealing with the idea that I'm 'gifted' in a rather odd way."
"I understand. Here." He dug up one of his business cards from his back pocket and handed it to her. "My numbers here at the station, as well as my pager and cell phone number are listed on there. When you get a chance, have Joe call me and we'll set up a time to talk."
"Thank you, again." Michelle placed the card in her purse then smiled at him. "By the way, I'm changing jobs next week. I got tired of being just another faceless nurse in the operating room."
Blair opened the door. "Oh? Going back to being a dispatcher?"
"Nope. Even better. I'm going to be a paramedic with the Cas-Gen Ambulance service. I just hope I don't have to pick you up off the streets one day."
"Hey! That's great! I'm sure you'll make a fine medic! Any idea who you'll be partnered with yet?" They walked towards the bullpen, neither one noticing how they had drawn the attention of two people in the office.
"Yes, ever hear of Garry Metcalf?"
Blair let out a laugh. "Heard of him? Garry's been the one paramedic that Jim and I have come to know on a first name basis in our long association. He's damn good."
"I know. He helped me study for my certificate… Ooh!" Michelle let out an uncharacteristic squeal of joy as she bolted from Blair's side and into the bullpen. Watching through the windows of Major Crimes, he noticed how she damn near tackled the uniformed county officer standing next to Jim's desk wrapping herself around the man. Following his former test subject at a more sedate pace, he heard her exclaim, "Joe! What are you doing here? Not that I'm not happy to see you, but aren't you supposed to be on duty?"
The deputy smiled as he hugged Michelle. "I took an early lunch. Everything okay now, Mysh?"
"Just fine, Joey. On lunch, eh? Do we have time for…"
What ever she had in mind was lost to Blair's ears as she whispered to her husband, but judging by the way Jim was trying to hide a bashful blush, his partner (and true sentinel) had heard her suggestion.
"Sure, honey. Jim, it was nice talking with you. I'll look through the files at the Sheriff's Office and see if we have anything that comes close to a match on your cases."
"I appreciate that, Joe. Any assistance I can get on this case will be greatly appreciated."
Blair watched as the nurse, soon to be active duty paramedic, and the deputy left the bullpen, arms wrapped around each other's waists as they waited for the elevators.
"Now there goes a very happy man, Chief."
"No kidding. I just hope Michelle never has to pick him up off the streets."
"What makes you say that?" Jim was reaching for his jacket.
Blair realized it was past time for them to have left for the day. Grabbing up his own jacket, and snagging up his ever-present backpack -- a hold over from the old days when he'd just been an observer -- Blair preceded his friend out of the office. "Do you remember Garry Metcalf, Jim?"
"The paramedic?" The sentinel pushed the call button for the elevator, several times in rapid succession, giving Blair the impression that Jim was anxious to get outside.
"That's him. Michelle Grenfeld -- oops, its Radclyffe now -- anyway, she's going to be Garry's new partner." The elevator opened up and Blair let Jim get onboard before he did.
"About time. You think she'll be able to put up with him?"
"Oh yeah. Garry may have run off every new medic in Cascade before now, but he's about to meet his match in Michelle. And they have something in common." Blair smiled as he noticed the puzzled expression on Jim's face. "Two things actually."
The elevator opened up in the garage and as Jim stepped out, he looked over his shoulder at Blair. "Two things, Chief? I mean, I know that Garry's married to a fellow cop… Are you saying he's got heightened senses?"
"You listened in, didn’t you?"
Jim nodded, "I wasn't sure who she was, but something about her seemed familiar. I didn't put two and two together until Joe came in looking for her. I remember when she used to be a dispatcher when I was in Vice. Very calm, never seemed to get rattled and, most importantly, she never 'lost' one of our people in the field." He followed Blair over to where his blue and white Ford pickup sat and, after getting in and reaching over to unlock the passenger side, picked up the conversation again where it'd left off. "But you didn't answer my question, Chief."
"Yeah, Garry's got elevated hearing and eyesight. Not nearly to your level or even Michelle's, but enough to give him fits on occasion." Blair made a point of buckling his seatbelt, knowing Jim wouldn't start the truck until he was sure his guide was as safe as he could be. Which was a relative thing, considering how Jim drove on occasion. "Anyway, I expect to get a call from either Michelle or her husband for lessons in how to deal with a pseudo-sentinel."
"Still helping others, eh, Chief?"
"You don’t mind, do you?" Blair was a little anxious. He'd never asked the question before, not since the disaster with Alex Barnes, and he was worried that Jim's answer might not be the one he was hoping for.
"Chief, don't ever change, will ya?"
"What do you mean, Jim?"
"Don't ever lose that desire to help others. Or your sense of wonder that makes you want to find out all you can about others. It's what makes you a damn good detective and an even better friend."
"Not planning on it, Jim. And, thanks."
Blair smiled to himself as Jim chose that moment to start the truck and began to pull out of the parking area. He waited until his friend had pulled onto the street before asking his next question. "You really don't mind me helping others like Michelle?"
"Nope. Not any more. I learned my lesson, years ago, and I listen when The Shaman Of The Great City speaks."
Sandburg's stomach picked that moment to let out a rumble of protest and both men started to laugh as Jim pulled the pickup to a halt at a stoplight. "Oh, man!" Blair finally managed to get out between howls of laughter, "I couldn’t do that again if I'd planned it!"
"You mean you didn't?" Jim asked, in mock amazement. "Well then, this Sentinel knows just the cure for your rumbling tummy. Your pick, Chief -- Wonderburger or Dragon Pearl?"
"Depends, whose turn it is to buy?"
"Dragon Pearl then. Cause I'm not going to be held responsible for clogging your arteries with all that unhealthy grease."
*~*~* Done *~*~*
Okay, I work in a hospital where many of my senses are trifled with on a daily basis and I tend to ignore input unless it's really just too overpowering. Except, that all changed on Wednesday 15 AUG 01...
Working, as I do, in a "Clean Room" where the air pressure is actually designed to push air out of the room, I tend only to notice smells that emanate off the instruments which come down from Surgery to be sterilized by me or my coworker. Usually, these smells are mildly annoying (such as cleanser residue from when the instruments were washed) all the way up to really disgusting -- like when the Surgical Technicians didn't get all the body fluids rinsed out of the Stryker Shaver.
Any way, I'm back in the Clean Room, wrapping up some suture sets from the evening's activities in the Emergency Room when it hits me -- rain. I actually smell the clean fresh scent of rainfall on warm sidewalks and pavement.
I made the mistake of mentioning this 'fact' to a coworker, who immediately called me 'nuts' and accused me of writing too many TS Stories, so we grabbed a couple of witnesses from another department (we're all located in the basement of the hospital) and made our way upstairs and outside to investigate. Not only was it raining, pouring buckets, it had -- according to a couple of witnesses in the ER, including two paramedics, four doctors and a double handful of nurses -- started raining at approximately the time I had made my rather 'odd' statement to my coworker.
One of the ER Doctors looked at me funny when she realized what had happened and point blank asked me, "Ever think of going into Nursing? Though, with a nose like that, you'd make a great diagnostician." Anyway, that got me to thinking and the plot bunnies hopping and the story you've just read is the result. Sentinels, if they really and truly exist, *would* be a great boon to society -- no matter what job position they held.
Suisan "Sue" R.
PS ~~ A Stryker Shaver is an instrument used during Orthopedic surgeries that actually shaves bone and then sucks the bone shavings up into a suction tube setup. The Surgical Techs don't always get that hose cleaned out properly and I get hit with the sour-sweet metallic odor of blood and burnt bone when that happens. (Gee, I bet I just squicked someone out there. Sorry about that.)