Beta read by BethB
Written for PetFly by:
Teleplay by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Story by: Gail Morgan Hickman & David H. Balkan
internal thought in italics
Screeching to a halt in front of Hargrove Hall, I'm leaping out of the
truck and running up the stairs. I'm nearly at the top when something makes me turn
around. "Oh my god!" He's in the fountain. I stumble down the stairs and across
the lawn, splashing into the water, yelling for H to give me a hand.
We each grab an arm and a leg and haul him out of the pool, laying him face up on the grass. I'm on automatic pilot now, yelling "Sandburg! Sandburg!" as I check for a pulse.
Simon bends over his still form, pressing his ear to Blair's chest. "I don't hear a heartbeat. Do you? Do you hear a heartbeat? Jim! Jim!"
I shake my head. "No, nothing." Nothing.
The captain snaps out orders. "Get an ambulance! Jim, get his airway open. All right, here we go."
I breathe for Sandburg, feeling the resistance, knowing his lungs are full of water. Simon does five chest compressions and I breathe for him again. "Come on, Chief."
More chest compressions, more breathing, more swearing. "Breathe, damn you!"
Then someone's pushing me to the side. Two EMT's are bent over him now, ripping open his shirt, charging the defibrillator, placing the paddles on his chest. "Clear!" Blair's body arches in the air, then flops back. "Again!" the tech calls, and electricity courses through his body for a second time.
"This can't be happening. This can't be happening. Come on, Sandburg. Come on, Chief." Please, please no, god, no.
Again and again they try to shock his heart into beating, but it's no use. One of the medics looks up at me and shakes his head.
"No! No! He's alive!" I yell, shoving EMT out of the way, doing the chest compressions myself.
Simon grabs me and pulls me back. "He's gone!"
Something inside me tears then. "No! He can't be gone, he can't!" A sob erupts in my chest. "No oh, god, no."
I look at the faces, at the friends hovering over Sandburg. Rafe and H are silent, their expressions stricken. Megan's making little whimpering sounds around the hand over her mouth. And Simon--Simon's eyes are filled with tears.
In that moment, I truly realize what I've lost.
Blinded by tears, I'm forced to pull over barely a block from the
university. Get a hold of yourself, Alex. Things didn't turn out like you planned.
Blair's gone--get over it.
But I'm wracked by sobs I can't control, and the sense of loss is so profound it's a physical pain. The world turns topsy-turvy as my senses go haywire--my skin is on fire, my hearing off the scale, my eyes burned by the sun. From a distance, I hear myself screaming, then everything goes blessedly black.
When I awaken, it's to the sound of Blair's voice. I look around wildly, but I'm alone in my car, the street deserted. My whimper echoes in the stillness. It was all in my head--his voice was in my head, it wasn't real. Tears sting my eyes again, and I close them, seeing him in my mind, watching his face light up as he talks about my senses, about sentinels; his amazement when I showed him my artwork. He believed in me, believed I could get past the sensory spikes, could learn to use my senses. No one else ever believed in me--about anything.
My pleasant visions are shattered by the image of Blair's pale, frightened face as I forced him to go with me, of the silence where his heartbeat should have been. "I'm sorry, Blair," I whisper, "I'm so sorry."
Turning the key in the ignition, I start the car. This will be my last job. Carl can have his freaking nerve gas and do whatever the hell he wants with it. I just want out. No more--no more frightened faces.
I breathe for Sandburg, then press his chest. "Come on, buddy."
Someone lays a hand on my shoulder and Simon's voice sounds in my ear. "Jim, let him go. He's gone."
I ignore him, focusing all my attention, all my will on Blair. "Come on!" Damn you, Chief, damn you! Don't you do this to me, don't you leave me!
Arms wrap around my chest, physically dragging me away from him. "No no let me go!"
"No! No!" I'm struggling, trying to break free, my gaze fixed on Sandburg's still, white face. A wolf's visage appears over Blair's. I stagger back in shock as the jungle surrounds me. The wolf from my nightmare stares at me, then turns and runs into the jungle.
I start to run after it. Incacha, the Chopec shaman who guided me before Blair, appears in front of me. "Use the power of your animal spirit."
Breaking free of Simon and Brown's hold on me, I drop to my knees next to Blair, cradling his face in my hands. Again, I see the wolf running through the jungle, only this time it pauses, looking back at me. Then I'm changing, shrinking and growing at the same time, becoming less human and more feline until I'm the jaguar, and chasing after Blair.
The wolf stops and turns, then sprints toward me as I run toward him. We leap into the air, combining in a burst of blinding light.
With a jolt, I'm knocked back out of the jungle and into reality. My hands are still cupping Blair's face--and it's no longer deathly cold. Stretching out my hearing, I pick up a heartbeat. I look up at my captain with tears in my eyes. "Simon, I can hear a heartbeat."
Pinching Blair's nose closed again, I breathe for him. "Come on, Chief, come on, come on!"
"Come on, Sandburg," Simon coaxes over my shoulder.
Blair's body heaves and shudders under my hands, then he's coughing and choking, vomiting up water. Quickly, I turn him on his side, brushing his wet hair out of his face as he continues to gag.
The paramedics push me out of the way then, placing an oxygen mask over his face. "We'll take it from here, detectives, thanks."
I get slowly to my feet, knowing there's nothing else I can do for him, and wondering how in the hell I did what I did. I start to sway, and Simon and H step in, each throwing one of my arms over their shoulders. "See?" I tell them, "It's gonna be all right."
Exhaustion makes my knees buckle, and it occurs to me that bringing someone back from the dead takes a lot out of a guy. Unable to keep my eyes open any longer, I pass out.
When I come to, I'm lying on a gurney in the back of an ambulance, and
judging by the movement I feel, I'm on the way to the hospital. I can feel the slight
pressure of an oxygen mask on my face, and I breathe deeply, needing to clear my head,
needing to remember what happened.
"Just relax, Detective Ellison, we'll be at Cas-Gen in a few minutes," the paramedic leaning over me says. "We're pretty sure you just fainted from the stress of the moment, but we want to have a doctor check you out as a precaution."
Nodding slightly, I glance to my left. Blair is lying on the gurney next to me, his hair wet, his eyes closed. An oxygen mask covers his face as well, and a second medic is checking the I.V. line running into his arm. Reaching out with my hearing, I listen to his heartbeat.
With a rush, the memories come flooding back. He was dead. I couldn't hear his heartbeat, he wasn't breathing, and I shiver as I recall doing CPR, tasting the chlorine as I blew air into his water-filled lungs, feeling the damp chill of his skin as I did chest compressions. All my senses had told me Blair was dead, yet here he was now very much alive.
My mind is still a jumble. Images of Incacha, of a jaguar, a wolf, and a bright light tumble over each other, blurring together.
Blair's eyelids flicker, then open, and my memories rapidly fade. Raising up on my elbow, I lean over him. "How you doing, Chief?" I ask him, pulling my mask down so he can hear me.
His shoulders lift in an infinitesimal shrug, and his lips move, but no sound comes out. He shrugs again, then graces me with a soft smile as his eyes close once more.
I lie back down, drinking him in with my senses, and I realize it doesn't matter how he was saved, or why he's still here. All that matters is that he is, and I have another chance to be his friend.
The doctors and nurses keep telling me to rest, to try to sleep, but I
can't turn off the thoughts racing through my mind.
What in the hell happened back there at the fountain? One minute I'm struggling with Alex, the next Jim's whaling on my chest and I'm coughing up a lung. In between, there was this crazy blue jungle . Is this what Jim sees? 'Cause I can see now why he resists the mystical side to his abilities. It's just damn freaky, and from me that's saying a lot.
I run my hand over my face, avoiding the oxygen cannula. I don't understand why I have to stay here over night. If it weren't for the bruises on my chest, I'd feel fine. A shudder goes through me as the reality that I was dead for several minutes, if not longer, hits me again.
Jim chooses that moment to knock on the door frame, then enter. "You know, Chief, if you want to meet nurses, there are easier ways." He gives me a smile.
So that's how it's going to be, laugh it off. Works for me. "That's great, man, that's great. Now you tell me." But as much as I know we both want to avoid examining what happened, I have to tell him how I feel. "Thank you."
Pulling up a chair, Jim quips, "I couldn't let you die. You owe your last month's rent."
If he's more comfortable joking, then fine. "Oh, that's right. Sorry about that."
Jim looks away for a moment, and a flicker of intense grief crosses his face for a split second. "You doing all right?" he asks softly.
I shrug, unsure of just how much he wants to know. "Yeah, you know. I'm all right." I pause, then what happened to me spills out in a torrent of words. "I saw it. The whole out-of-body experience. It wasn't like that classic light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel thing. There was just a jungle. I was this wolf, and I was running towards a black jaguar. Then we collided, and there was a big burst of light. Next thing I knew I was spitting up water. The doctors are trying to tell me it's some type of an endorphin rush when the body starts to shut down but it was--"
"The same image. I saw the same image."
Whoa. And I thought it was freaky before. "You had the same vision?"
Jim nods slowly, looking as uncertain as I feel. "Yeah. It was Incacha who guided me how to bring you back."
Relief rolls over me, and I laugh. "I can't believe this. Einstein said the greatest experiences we can have are the ones with the mysterious. We are definitely there, my brother. Come on in, man. The water's nice." I wiggle my fingers at him, grinning like a fool.
His expression slips from wonder to fear. "Chief, I don't know if I'm ready to take that trip with you."
Closing my eyes, I bite the inside of my lip, forcing down my hurt. It's my fault he can't embrace what happened, the connection forged between us. He can't trust me because I helped Alex. Alex there's a question no one's been able to answer for me. Opening my eyes, I look over at him. "Did you catch Alex?"
Getting to his feet, Jim shakes his head. "No, she gave us the slip. That's why I can't stay. Until she's behind bars, you're still in danger."
"Jim, man, you've got it all wrong. She didn't mean to kill me. She just wanted me to go with her, to help her with her senses--"
"--To be her guide." Jim's tone is venomous, and his eyes are blazing.
I gesture helplessly. "Yes, no, I don't know. But I do remember I was trying to run away. I slipped and fell into the fountain."
Jim clenches his jaw so tightly I hear his molars grind. "And she left you there! Some protector of the tribe she is!" He huffs out a breath, then stares at the ceiling. Finally he says, "Look, Chief, I've got to find her. Get some rest. I'll see you later." He stalks out of the room, and I'm not sure if his anger is because of Alex--or me.
After leaving the hospital, I find I'm too angry to go back to the loft. I
shouldn't have snapped at Sandburg the way I did. He died, for God's sake, and I can't
even tell him I'm glad to have him back, that I don't know what I would do if I lost him.
Instead, I yell at him for being himself, for empathizing with someone in pain.
I drive around for the next hour or so, trying to cool off, trying to get a handle on my emotions, until I finally come to a stop outside Alex's apartment building. Getting out of my truck, I stare up at it for several minutes, until the urge to go inside becomes too strong to resist.
Ducking under the crime scene tape, I enter Alex's home, dialing down my sense of smell. I pick through the rubbish, examining the remains of a jaguar sculpture. As soon as my fingers touch it, I'm transported to the jungle, where a moss-covered temple of crumbing stone juts out of the forest floor.
I drop the bit of pottery as if I've been burned. No more jungle. Bad things happen in the jungle. I need something of this world, something I can use to find Alex. Straightening up, I move to an armchair, laying my hands on the damp upholstery. Another vision assails me, only it's of this apartment, pre-explosion. Alex is talking to a dark-haired man with pockmarks on his face. As I watch, he pushes her into the wall, then pulls her hair. I let go of the chair.
Trying a table next, I see Alex in a sundress, leaning against an open doorway. She's looking out across a beach to the ocean. Wiping my sooty hands on my jeans, I growl in frustration. It's great to have visions. It would be even better if I knew what the hell they meant.
With a sigh, I leave the building. Maybe I can find the man I saw if I look through some mug shots. It's going to be a long night.
Simon spends several minutes perusing the file I gave him before he looks
up. "Carl Hettinger?"
I nod. "I had seen him." I don't mention where, though. "And then had an artist rendering run through the Fed's database and it spit out a name."
The captain consults the file again. "Hettinger International weapons trafficking Known to have contact with South American drug lords Carlos Arguillo, Jacquin Ceasarro." He looks up at me. "Now, you saw this man with Alex Barnes?"
I hesitate. "Yeah, in her apartment."
"Why didn't you mention this before?"
I try to obfuscate my way out of answering that directly. "Simon, this guy is known to have traveled to Sierra Verde twice in the last three months. Now, Arguillo operates out of the same region. I think that's where we're going to find Alex and the nerve toxin."
Simon's gaze is suspicious. With a sigh, I confess. "My senses are picking up things--like with Sandburg--that I don't fully understand at this point, but he's alive because I trusted a vision."
His eyebrow shoots up. "You got all this from a vision?"
"Yeah, I got a clear mental image of her talking to him. And then I saw a beach."
Skepticism drips from his next words. "A beach in Sierra Verde?"
I shrug. "I know it's going to sound odd, what I'm going to tell you, but Alex and I are both sentinels. I know, I know. But somehow I can sense her, sense her presence. I don't know how or why."
"Okay, okay." He sighs. "Right."
I take the file from him, and as I do, I hear the growling that's been a constant through out this case. The jungle reappears and two jaguars, one black, one spotted, circle each other warily in front of a crumbling stone temple. Sandburg's wolf watches from the shadows as the cats lunge at each other. The image fades as the felines clash.
What the hell does this mean? And will I figure it out in time to keep Blair from being hurt again?
Forcing down my revulsion, I allow Carl to paw and kiss me. We're in a
hotel room in Sierra Verde, where he claims to have a buyer for the nerve gas. When he
finally comes up for air, I move quickly out of reach. "I should still go with
you," I say, continuing our argument.
He shakes his head. "Arguillo will only work with me."
"I'm your partner, "I persist. Even though it's my last job, I'm not going to let him cheat me.
He snorts. "You're the thief; I'm the fence. I'll be back in a couple hours. We can go out and celebrate."
As if, I start to say, when the hotel room is replaced by jungle. Instead of Carl, I'm staring down a large snake. Raising its head, it hisses at me, baring its fangs.
I don't need Blair's help to interpret that message. I take a trip with Carl, and he comes back without me, the local policia chalking it up to banditos preying on tourists. "Why don't we stay in and celebrate?" I suggest. If I'm going to have to face off with Carl, I want to be on turf I'm familiar with.
He gives me what I know he considers his sexiest smile. "Even better."
After he leaves, I shudder in disgust. The sooner this is over with, the sooner I'm free of him.
Crossing the room to the balcony, I lean against the doorframe and stare
out at the waves crashing on the pristine beach. For a moment, my guard is lowered, and
the sudden emptiness in my soul nearly drives me to my knees. Stop it, Alex, just stop
it. Blair's gone. Nothing is going to change that. You've got to get your head on straight
and get past it.
But I can't. Every time I think I've got it handled, something will remind me of him. It's the ocean this time, hell if I know why. All I know is the constant ache inside me becomes agony. I want to curl up in a ball and die. I even considered it a couple times on the way down here.
Wrapping my arms around myself, I shiver. Somehow I think there is more to the sentinel/guide thing than even Blair knew.
But something's kept me going, some internal drive that's made me restless and short-tempered, but it pushed me to continue, to get to Sierra Verde. God how I wish Blair were here, wish I could ask him about my dreams, which are stronger and more full of temples and jaguars and eye imagery than ever before.
"What does it mean?" I ask aloud. But the roar of the ocean holds no answer.
Whatever it is, I need to deal with what Carl's planning first. Shaking off my emotional upset, I focus my attention on Carl, who I can see walking down the pier to an expensive yacht.
He climbs aboard and it takes me a few minutes to attune my hearing. This would be so much easier if Blair were here--but he's not, so deal.
<--They just closed down my biggest processing plant. They just keep pushing and pushing until I must fight back. So when can you deliver the VX?> That must be Arguillo.
<As soon as I get the money. But the price is now five million dollars.>
<We agreed on four million.>
<What's another million? Your seņoritas blow that every month in Rio shopping.> What's Carl up to? He'll be in trouble if Arguillo doesn't go for it.
There's a long pause before Arguillo answers, and part of me hopes he decides to take Carl on a one-way boat ride. But then he finally says, <It's a good thing I like you, cabron. Okay, five million it is. But stay away from my women, all right? Ven aca.> His voice lowers as he adds, <Don't you ever try to screw me again. You got that?>
If Carl knows what's good for him, he won't try screwing with me either.
When Carl returns, he's bearing champagne, and makes a big deal out of
popping the cork and pouring two glasses. Handing me one, he raises his in a toast.
"To four million dollars."
I clink mine against his. "And equal partners."
He drains his glass in one swallow and is pouring another before he notices I haven't touched mine. "What's the matter?"
"Four million, Carl? That's not what I heard." I touch my ear with my fingertip, then point toward the pier where Arguillo's boat had been docked.
Carl's face twists in rage, then he rushes me, shoving me down on the bed and pinning me there. "You conniving bitch! You listened to me!"
"Good thing I did," I spit. "You were going to keep that extra million to yourself, weren't you?"
He can't argue with the truth, so he slaps me across the face so hard my ears ring. "I've got the nerve gas. I don't need you anymore!" His hands close around my throat, squeezing until I can't breathe.
I'm struggling, but it's no use. I can't move pinned under his weight, and the edge of my vision grows dim. I see the jungle again, and the thought crosses my mind that I could just let go, that if I let Carl kill me I won't hurt anymore. And maybe, maybe, I'll be with Blair, wherever he is. I can tell him I'm sorry .
Then I'm the spotted jaguar, and an anaconda is wrapped around me, crushing me. We roll over and over on the damp earthen floor of the forest, in front of the temple. Finally my jaws clamp around the snake's neck, and with a vicious shake of my head, I snap it.
The snake falls away; I'm back in the hotel room in Sierra Verde. Carl's lying on top of me--dead.
Shaking, I crawl out from under him, then stare at my hands. I killed him--I killed him just like I killed Blair .
For a moment I can't move, my mind unable to decide whether to scream or to shut down. Then an unnatural calm settles over me. It doesn't matter, none of it matters. I did what I had to. Now it's time to get rid of the VX and go home. It doesn't seem the least bit strange that my image of home is the mysterious temple in the jungle.
Once we arrive in Sierra Verde, Simon and I go straight to the local
policia. The chief is on the phone when we enter, having a heated conversation in Spanish.
When he finally hangs up, he gestures for us to enter his office.
Giving us a pained smile, he says, "When we were married, she always said what a great father I was. Now that we're divorced, everything I do is wrong."
Simon nods. "That sounds familiar."
"So you must be the policemen from America. Please, sit down."
Simon takes a seat, while I remain standing. Something about Sierra Verde raises the hair on the back of my neck. I've felt strange ever since we arrived.
Ortega continues, "So, tell me, what can I do for the United States of America?"
"We're looking for two suspects wanted in a series of robberies. We believe they might be here in Sierra Verde," Simon explains. He hands the chief the folders on Carl Hettinger and Alex Barnes.
Taking a careful look at the photos in each file, Ortega finally says, "Her, I have not seen. However, I can tell you where to find him." He gets up from behind his desk. "Come with me."
Simon and I follow him through the small building to the basement, to a door labeled "Moratoria". For the split second before Ortega opens the door, I wonder what the word means. Then I follow the policia and Simon inside and I know--morgue.
Ortega walks over to a drawer and rolls out the slab. He pulls down the sheet to reveal Carl Hettinger's corpse. "Seņors, is this not who you were looking for?"