Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.

Spoilers: The Girl Next Door

Rating: PG-13 (for mature and disturbing themes)




Blair sat in the cell, staring blankly at the walls, trying not to hear the catcalls from the other men penned in Holding. The black ink on his fingers wouldn't come off, no matter how hard he scraped them against his shirt, against the bunk's mattress, against the concrete. He started shivering and closed his eyes against the truth.

"Hey, Chief, up and at 'em."

"J-Jim?" Blair could hardly believe that his unofficial partner had arrived.

"Yeah, we need you upstairs."

"Oh," Blair said. Of course, they needed him upstairs. That explained why Jim had come for him.

The duty officer opened the cell and let out the Sentinel's Guide. Blair moved stiffly. The strip search had been brutal. The very fact that he had been charged with dealing heroin was enough for the cop who did the cavity search. Those drugs were somewhere in Ellison's hippie's body, and the cop was going to find them, even if he had to fist Sandburg in the try. He came close to it, anyway. There weren't any drugs hidden in Blair Sandburg's body to find. The cop had blasphemed when he had to stop. There were liquid red marks on the latex glove. Who knew the boytoy would be so tight?

Jim Ellison's Sentinel warning system went off at the smells coming from his unofficial partner. He leaned down, paying attention for the first time since he had led Blair to Booking, and saw a man in shock, pain in his face that was not wholly physical, and bleeding just a little.

"God damn, Chief, what did they do to you?" There was something like panic in Ellison's voice.

The man in shock looked uncomprehendingly up at the police detective. He said nothing.

"Hey! This man needs a doctor!" Ellison yelled at the sergeant with the keys, who was rounding the corner out of the lock-up.

"Okay, okay," the sergeant called back. "What's his problem? He just went through processing like every other prisoner."

"He's bleeding, you S.O.B.! What did you do to him?"

The sergeant rounded the entry, annoyance written big in his face. "Nobody did anything to him. Just standard booking procedure. You should know. You're the one who brought him in. Why? Does he say any different? He's lying if he does. These punks, can't take..."

"Sandburg's no punk!" A clenched hand the size of a bowling ball had come up between Ellison and Sergeant Freemore.

Freemore gulped. "So you wanna take him to the hospital then?"

"No!" Ellison yelped, his arm going around his roommate's shoulders. "Get one to come here!"

"He's not dying, fer Cry's sakes," the cop began, but Ellison cut him off.

"He's got internal bleeding and if he got it from us, he needs care now! Call the damn EMT's!"

"It's not in the budget," the sergeant muttered, his cold grey eyes flicking contemptuously over Blair Sandburg. Just another druggie, and he had wangled his way into Major Crimes with a smooth tongue and his pretty-boy looks. Who cared about his internal bleeding? Serve him right.

"I'll cover the damn cost if I have to," Ellison said in a low tone that made the sergeant look deep into eyes that burned blue. "Call the EMT's. I'm taking him up to Captain Banks' office. Tell them to get there ASAP."

"Huh," the sergeant muttered and went for a phone.

Ellison looked at the man who was supposed to be his best friend again. Shit, Blair looked as if he were only a step away from collapse.

"C'mon, Chief. There's a sofa in Simon's office that has your name on it."


Ellison's face crumpled for a moment, but then his iron mask was back on. "C'mon, Sandburg!" he ordered. "Move those feet of yours!"

Blair nodded, staring at the floor as if he couldn't walk if he couldn't see his feet. One reluctant sneaker followed another and together Sentinel and Guide made it to the elevator. Once inside, closed off from all the surroundings, Blair began shuddering.

Jim held him close. "Not gonna let you go, don't worry, you're safe now, you're safe." Maybe his body heat would warm up the shocky body. Maybe the hug would reassure the frightened heart. Maybe.

They got off the elevator, Jim holding Blair tucked closely in to his side, and the Sentinel ushered his Guide into the office of the head of Major Crimes.

"Simon?" he asked his captain.

"Iris is being questioned. Wanna be there?"

"Of course! Where?"

"Interrogation room 3. What about him?" Simon Banks pointed his cigar in Blair Sandburg's direction.

"He's, I don't know, Simon, he's in shock, I think."

Simon Banks looked Blair Sandburg over. "He doesn't look good, does he?"

Blair was uncommunicative and unresponsive. It was as if his humanity had been stripped from him and he was a piece of furniture. Jim pushed him down onto the couch. Blair groaned as he was forced to sit.

"I think they went too far with the strip search," the detective told his boss. "I think he's hurt inside. I told the desk sergeant to call the EMT's."

Banks gasped. "Oh, my sweet Lord! What did we do? What did I do?"

"Nothing I didn't, Captain." There was a world of regret in Ellison's voice.

Banks poked his head out of the office door and directed Rhonda to bring blankets. His secretary scurried them up in an instant. She had seen how Blair looked when Jim walked him past her desk. It had chilled her.

"Blair? Son? We need you to wait here. We're going to put the television on and you can watch while we're gone. But you have to stay here, okay?"

Blair was far beyond the ability to make conversation. Jim and Simon exchanged worried glances, and looked back at the police observer. Sandburg flinched, huddled back, and nodded furiously. Jim's heart sank further. His partner was so scared of them that he was agreeing mindlessly to whatever they asked.

"Oh, God, Blair," Jim whispered. "What did we do, Simon?"

But Simon Banks was full of instructions for Rhonda Waverley. "... lots of blankets, the television on low, something soothing, you know, and coffee to warm him up, that should be safe. The EMT's are going to be here shortly to examine him. We want to know as soon as they arrive."

Rhonda unfolded a blanket slowly and deliberately while Blair watched her every move. She stepped toward him and he began to shiver, blue eyes gigantic in his head. Her slow advance, which provoked stronger and stronger quivering with every move, was painful for both men to see. But they stuck it out until she was patting the first blanket close around Sandburg, who was stiff with fear.

Then, "Ellison, we're needed in Interrogation Room 3."

"I can't just go off and leave..."

"Yes, you can, Detective!" The command voice was unmistakable and Jim almost always fell into step when Simon used it. This time, Jim was shaking his head, and his captain moderated his tone. "Iris Johnson is in Interrogation Room 3, Jim. We made a horrible mistake booking him. We've got to do our best to undo it."

A light bulb went on over Jim Ellison's head and he looked as if Blair Sandburg had just died at his hands. "Chief," he said hoarsely, "you're gonna be okay." Blair was fixated on Rhonda Waverley, who was unfolding the second blanket. "Rhonda, please!"

The world of anguish in that plea touched the hearts of all the hearers. Rhonda nodded and continued her careful handling of the shocky, brutalized man. "Tell me what happened to him later," she muttered fiercely, and Blair pulled back suddenly. "Sorry, Blair, sorry, sorry!"

Sandburg wasn't tracking words yet. He made himself as small as possible, an injured animal at bay.

Simon grabbed Ellison before anything more could hurt Sandburg and dragged him out of the office. The Sentinel heard a small gasp of relief from his Shaman and felt as if the hands of the Furies were strangling his heart. Iris was in Interrogation Room 3. She was what they had to deal with next.

Not only was Iris in Interrogation Room 3, but also her lawyer, Barbara Kitteredge. Kitteredge quickly took control of the meeting.

"I have advised my client to take advantage of her right to remain silent. If you will have whatever A.D.A. is assigned to this case contact me, we may have further dealings. I believe that concludes everything we have to say at this time."

Jim jolted out of his chair. "That's it? Just like that? We have the bitch..."


"Sorry, Simon." Jim's tone went stony and flat. "We have your client dead to rights, Counselor. She has nothing to deal with. No aces. She's going down hard for this. Whatever kind of 'dealing' you have in mind I can't even guess at."

Kitteredge stared at Ellison. "You can't even guess at? Interesting. I suggest we continue this conversation out in the hall."

Ellison realised that the attorney was offering an unofficial chance at a chat, and nodded slowly. He shot Iris Johnson, who was sitting mum and surly, handcuffed to the table, a pit viper's spittle, and he and Simon followed the attorney out, leaving Iris in the hands of the uniformed officer acting as her escort.

"So, Kitteredge," Simon Banks ground out, "just what kind of dealings are you talking about?"

Barbara Kitteredge, a slender, petite fortyish woman with boy-cut brown hair and dark brown eyes, leaned against the cold wall. "You can't even guess?" she asked tiredly. "You must be even more exhausted than I am."

"So sorry to have tired you out doing your job..."

"There's no need to be offensive, Detective!" An edge of steel was in her tone. "I don't have to say a damn thing to you, you know."

Simon played conciliator. "Please, Counselor, we really are in the dark about this."

Barbara Kitteredge looked from one to the other. "Well, I'll be in touch with the A.D.A. anyway, but the card we have in the hole is Blair Sandburg."

"WHAT?" The roars of two giants resounded down the long hall and brought people out of their rooms, looking for the source of trouble. Captain Banks waved them all down.

"Oh, yeah. We can give him to you. I don't expect there's much in the way of evidence aside from Iris's testimony but, hey, she can finger him and he'll take the fall. Why shouldn't she look for a plea bargain to knock off a couple of years from her sentence with that kind of cooperation?"

"You're joking," Ellison said threadily. He looked suffocated, dehydrated, as if he had spent a year in a desert, awaiting rescue that never came.

Kitteredge peered up at him, perplexed. "Why would I joke about that? Iris can put Sandburg in prison for a long, long time, and you need her to make your case. She's not exactly happy with the guy at the moment, as I'm sure you can imagine. But she knows the system, just as you do. Blair Sandburg is our best playing card. I don't get it. You charged him. I'd think you'd be happy to have the charge stick. Dealing drugs after all his time in Major Crimes. What a betrayal that was of you."

Ellison gagged suddenly, and made a sprint for the bathroom. Simon Banks, looking green himself, made a gesture of parting toward Kitteredge, and followed his detective.

Ellison had lost everything in his stomach, and was dry heaving. His friend started patting his back.

"Jim, it's not going to get that far."

Ellison looked up from the commode. Another spasm wrenched him back over again.

"We'll, we'll just drop the charges."

"We can't just drop the charges, Simon." Jim's words came haltingly. He choked and threw an arm around his diaphragm. "You know that."

Banks thought about it. With Sandburg charged and Iris willing to roll over on him, trying to withdraw the charge might be impossible. Whoever the A.D.A. was could get the charge reinstated. Kitteredge would have a field day in court, with an on-again, off-again charge of dealing drugs against Blair Sandburg to muddy the waters of her client's guilt. His character witnesses would be the two men who had charged him. What good would that do for the kid? Shit, with Sandburg having saved Jim's life, Simon's life, Daryl's life, everyone's life at some time or other, the defence attorney could make a hell of a pitch that he and Jim were standing up for him out of guilt, that the charge was made honestly with the intention to convict, a bitter decision the two had reconsidered at leisure but which was sincere at the start. And he could just see Iris, playing the little girl lost, pushed around by her boyfriends Chance and Sandburg. God, she might be able to do it. She could get Sandburg convicted.

"Come on, Jim," he encouraged the Sentinel. "We need to get back to Sandburg. We need to make a formal deal with him and drop the charges."

Ellison perked up some at that. Maybe they could undercut Kitteredge. It was dirty pool, and Kitteredge was bound to make a stink, and even get I.A. involved if they cut a deal with Blair to testify against Iris, but surely that was better than leaving Blair Sandburg to rot in a maximum security prison cell, friendless and forgotten.

He lurched up and Simon moved back, both men gaining the hall in time to hear the page for them. The EMT's must have gotten there at last.

But when the two men entered the Major Crimes Department, there were only detectives and officers and Rhonda. No Blair Sandburg or EMT's in sight.

"Where is he?" Ellison demanded to know. "Damn it, Rhonda, you were supposed to page us immediately..."

"I did," Rhonda stood up for herself. "I don't know why you didn't answer the page, but you didn't. So I kept right on paging."

"What happened, Rhonda?" Simon interposed before two of his most valued staff came to blows. "Where's Sandburg?"

Ronda sighed. "The EMT's confirmed shock and possible internal injuries and took him to Cascade General. Officer Riley went with them."

"Riley?" Ellison asked. "Why'd Riley go with him? He hardly knows Sandburg."

Rhonda stared daggers at Sandburg's partner. "Blair was under police escort, a prisoner in custody. He went handcuffed to the stretcher, and he'll be handcuffed in a hospital bed once they do surgery on him. That's S.O.P., detective. I thought you knew that. After all, you're the one who had him charged, aren't you? Both of you!"

Rhonda's hands were flexing as she watched the two men before her fold up like accordions, all the wind rushed out of them, groaning. "You know," she said conversationally, "I think I've been in Major Crimes just a little too long. I'm going to look for a position in one of the other departments, Captain Banks. It doesn't do people good to become too friendly with their co-workers, you know?"

Simon and Jim knew. Blair Sandburg was a lamb to the slaughter, and they were responsible for it all.

"We, we were just, I don't know, annoyed," Simon protested, stunned.

"Really?" Rhonda examined her fingernails. "Then if that's the kind of treatment anyone who annoys you can expect, transferring out is long overdue. I'll have the papers on your desk before I leave." She swept out.

Simon Banks and Jim Ellison stared at the couch, where they had last seen Blair smothered in blankets.

"We can't let this happen," Jim said at long last.

"I know."

"We have to stop it, Simon."

"We can try."

Then the room was utterly silent. Both the captain of Major Crimes and his best detective and Sentinel of Cascade knew that though they might try, there was every possibility of failure.

"Oh, God, no," Jim abruptly cried out. "No, no!"

"Jim? What on earth?"

But Ellison was clutching at Banks' suit jacket, hauling him out into the hallway. "Oh, God, Simon!"

And Simon Banks saw what Jim Ellison was looking at, though only Jim could hear it.

Barbara Kitteredge was standing with A.D.A. Swanson, and both were nodding, smiling and shaking hands.

The deal on Blair Sandburg had just been cut. The Guide had been dealt aces and eights.

Simon read such despair in Jim Ellison's eyes that he told Brown to take him to the hospital to check on his best friend, then alert the physicians to Jim's own condition and stay with him, on suicide watch. He counted on Brown to telephone back the results of the surgery.

Three hours later, he had the whole story. Blair had been stitched up and was being kept for observation, Jim was still in too much despair for Brown to feel good about leaving him alone, Rhonda had formally requested a transfer and Swanson was pushing for Jim's report, anticipating the victory in court against Blair Sandburg, one-time Ph.D. candidate, former police observer, quondam Guide, and Shaman to James Joseph Ellison. It was enough to break Simon's heart, knowing how big a part he had played in Sandburg's downfall. He wept large, desolate tears in the privacy of his office. It was time to go home.

Only, how was he going to explain any of this to Daryl?

~ End ~

Author's Additional Notes:

E-Mail Ismaro at ligela@sympatico.ca
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Page last updated 8/15/03.