By: Heuradys, Sentinel Huntress, Helen, Panda and Chrys
Beta Read by: Chrys, Heuradys and Lady Shelley
Written for PetFly by: Bill Froehlich
Rated PG -13
internal thought in italics
Soft light filled the loft, and dust danced through the air, sparkling in
the cold autumn sun around the sole inhabitant of the room.
Listening to some esoteric music over his headphones, Blair was sitting at the table, typing away on his laptop, papers and notes arranged in an organized chaos around him. The printer was ready to print the last chapter of his dissertation - just as soon as he finished it.
"Humanity has long dug into its past in the hope that it will shed light on its future. Perhaps what this reveals is that it is the best of ourselves that will survive and lead us through the next millennium. Watching our every step will be our tribal protectors -- the sentinels -- and their insight will further illuminate the spiritual connection of all things. The End."
Looking at the screen with a satisfied feeling, jabbing the printer icon
with a particularly triumphant mouse-click, Blair didn't hear the door being unlocked,
didn't hear someone entering, sneaking up to him from behind. The feeling of arms wrapping
around his neck made Blair jump in his chair; for a fleeting moment he feared for his
life, then he relaxed with a sigh, recognizing the perfume and the soft voice.
Naomi Sandburg greeted him with a cheerful, laughing, "Sweetheart!" She released him as he stood up and removed the headphones, returning her smile a bit forcedly.
"Mom..." he half-growled in reproach.
"Hi, honey." She smiled, unperturbed, looking fondly at her son, before they hugged.
"Hi, Mom. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I'm visiting my favorite son." Naomi looked smug; a bit stern, a bit teasing.
Blair played along as he asked, "Your... favorite son?"
"Mm-hmm," came the reply after a brief hesitation, as if she had to think about the question.
"I'm your only son, right?" He gestured to his chest, raising his eyebrows at her.
"Mom, you should have told me that you were coming." Blair took the last page from the printer, placing it on top of the others he cradled in his left arm. "I would have made some tongue," he chided, opening a beige lock-box on the table and slipping the pages inside.
"I e-mailed you, sweetheart. There's two messages on your machine." Naomi explained, a bit taken aback, watching Blair.
"When?" he asked, confused, while closing and locking the papers into the fireproof box.
"Last night," she said as if it would explain everything.
"Oh, last night!" Blair exclaimed. "I had the phone turned off. I was finishing up my paper," he admitted, turning his full attention to Naomi.
"Your thesis? Is this your thesis? Is it finished?" Excited and pleased, a proud look sparkling in her eyes, she moved towards Blair, pointing at the box.
"Yes, it's done, but it's just a first draft and it needs a lot of work. A lot of work." He tried to quell her excitement.
"Honey, you've always been your own worst critic," Naomi chided. "I'm sure it's wonderful. Why don't you let me read it? I'll give you some feedback." She nearly bounced in eager expectation.
Waving his hands to underline his words, Blair tried to dissuade her. "No, no, no, no. It's just not good enough yet. And I want you to be really proud, all right? Just let it be, okay?" He moved away from the box, checking the clock. "Now, I'm sorry I can't visit right now. I've got to go meet Jim." He moved around her, fetching his jacket, looking apologetically at her as he leaned in to kiss her cheek and collect a kiss in return.
"Okay. Uh, is it going to be dangerous?" Naomi looked concerned and worried as she followed his retreat to the door.
"Uh, no, Mom. You know better than that. I'm just an observer," Blair reassured her, before he closed the door behind himself.
Naomi managed to contain her curiosity and desire to help Blair for more
than five minutes before she booted the computer Blair had shut down before he left. She
knew better than to try and pick the box's lock. Blair would miss the printed manuscript
far too quickly, and it would be far too obvious. No, she needed a copy of that file from
his computer. His password shouldn't be too hard for her to guess
Within ten minutes, she had hacked her way into Blair's computer and found the file.
Picking up the phone, she dialed the number of an old friend. Of all the people she could think of to improve Blair's opinion of his thesis, to give the most constructive criticism, Sid was the one. He answered on the second ring, and after the obligatory yet heartfelt exchange of greetings, she asked for her favor. "Just a proofreading," she insisted, "and some feedback. Let him know he's not as bad as he thinks he is. He never is, you know."
"Of course," Sid answered. "His thesis, you say? Shouldn't take more than a few hours."
"Sid, listen, are you sure you have time to do this?"
"For you, there's always time. Have you read it yet?"
"Uh-uh. No, I haven't because I promised Blair that I wouldn't, but that doesn't mean that you can't. If you could just give him some advice, then that would make the next draft better."
"Just e-mail me the file. I'll get to it tonight," Sid agreed.
"It's on its way, Sid." She pressed 'Enter' feeling the pride of a mother who's helping her child and a deep satisfaction at skirting her promise to Blair to do it.
"Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Sorry." Blair pushed his way
through the large crowd at the Dock Workers Local to join Jim and Megan where they stood
near a podium.
"Nice of you to join us," Jim said, sounding stressed, eyes roaming over the people gathered around them.
"Hey, sorry I'm late. What's going on?" Blair burrowed deeper into his jacket, eager to escape the cold air.
"Well, Simon farmed us out to run some security for a union boss named Jack Bartley, a real prince," Jim informed him.
"He needs another phone line to handle all the death threats. He's trying to unite the longshoremen, which is making him extremely unpopular with the shipping companies," Megan explained.
A short, well-dressed man, accompanied by a few others, approached them, eyes locked on Megan. "Hey. Wow, got any more babes on this detail?"
"Mr. Bartley, we're here . . .," Jim began.
"Who's the hippie?" Bartley ignored Jim's annoyed expression as he turned his attention briefly towards Blair.
Blair laughed, not finding the comment funny, but being polite. "Blair Sandburg," Blair introduced himself, holding out his hand.
Bartley shook it abruptly. "Nice." He dropped Blair's hand and addressed one of his associates. "Hey, keep him out of my television coverage, huh?" He glanced back to Blair. "Unless you want to shave your legs."
Blair gave another brief laugh, finding this comment even less funny than the first one.
Before he could reply, though, Jim asked patiently, "Could we do this?"
"Yeah," Bartley replied.
They headed to the speaker's platform, getting into position. The crowd chanted Bartley's name as he climbed the steps of the platform, Megan accompanying him. Jim stayed at the bottom, scanning the crowd, his eyes drawn to a distant balcony.
Klaus Zeller watched the scene unfolding through the scope of his rifle.
Killing this union rabble-rouser
It should be an easy job, he thought, swift and
without complication. Yet, Ellison... such a perfectly framed target right now. That man
was trouble. Zeller briefly played with the temptation of shooting him, of scanning the
crowd for his partner and carrying out the promise he'd made before, but he pushed those
wishes aside for now. He had a job to do.
Ellison was looking straight at him, as if he could actually see him from that distance. Wie zum Teufel kann der mich sehen?! He raised his eye from the scope for a moment, startled, then he looked back, searching for Bartley instead. It was impossible. Ellison couldn't see him. The sudden movement of the crowd made him suspicious, and as the shouting began, he instinctively turned his attention back to Ellison, cursing that he hadn't shot the man a moment ago when he had the chance. Ellison now had a rifle as powerful as his own and was aiming straight at him. Zeller ducked just in time, as the bullet smashed through his scope. How the devil did he see me?
Abandoning the damaged scope, Zeller left. He would have to finish his job another time.
Megan reacted at once, taking Bartley by his arm, ordering him to keep his
head down and hustling him off the platform. Jim met them at the stairs to the podium and
grabbed Bartley's arm, more dragging than leading the union organizer to a waiting black
van, covering him with his body for the short distance. Jim pushed Bartley into the van,
keeping an eye on his surroundings as he barely waited for the man to vanish inside before
slamming the door closed
Slamming his hand against the side-window, Jim shouted at the driver, "Let's go! Move out! Move out!" Turning around and searching the spot in the distance where he'd seen Zeller just seconds earlier, he didn't relax as the van finally sped away. Sensing more than seeing Blair and Megan nearby, he pointed out the way for them.
"Let's go!" He moved ahead, knowing that his colleague and partner would follow him without question.
Not much later, the team gathered in Simon's office, their boss pacing
impatiently, obviously in a foul mood.
Henri Brown stood beside Jim, a cup of coffee in his hand as they listened to the captain's words.
"We're dealing with our old friend Klaus Zeller, a.k.a. 'The Iceman.' And until he's apprehended, there will be no days off and no one sleeps," Simon explained, stating the facts.
Megan sat in a chair left of Simon, holding the only evidence aside from Jim's word in her hands. "When we got to the sniper's position, all we found was the shattered scope."
Simon acknowledged her words before he continued. "Take a look at these." He handed several files over to Megan, who passed them around the table to the other four. Brown, Jim, Blair and Joel each accepted their copies without comment.
"It's all the information we have on the death threats to Jack Bartley. See if we can use it to track whoever hired this hit man. Now, for those of you who don't know, Zeller was apprehended by Detective Ellison..." Simon glared at Blair, who had cleared his throat loudly, then added, "...along with some help from our favorite observer, Blair Sandburg, for several murders and the attempted murder of a university student. Now he was rotting - very nicely - in a German prison outside of Munich until he managed to pay off a judge. Further word of caution, Zeller is also wanted for the murders of several Interpol agents and a Scotland Yard investigator. He has a nasty habit of targeting his pursuers, Jim."
A knock on the door interrupted Simon. Glaring at the door, he ordered "Come in!"
Rafe opened the door just wide enough to pinpoint Blair and deliver his message. "Blair, you've got an urgent phone call. Line two."
Blair felt uncomfortable with all eyes on him as he stood up. "I'm sorry," he murmured, waving an apologetic hand to Simon, not looking at the angry man as he made a hasty retreat through the door. As he closed the door behind himself and Rafe, he repeated his apology
"Who is it?" he asked Rafe. Part of him was hoping it was Zeller, that this would be a repeat of the message the German assassin had left on his and Jim's home machine after their last run-in, and that the call could be traced.
"Some guy named Sid Graham," Rafe replied, stepping over to another detective's desk, looking at her computer screen intently.
Puzzled and wondering who that might be, Blair headed over to Jim's desk to pick up the phone.
Meanwhile, Simon continued his instructions. "Three-man teams will guard Bartley -- rotate every eight hours. From now on, his schedule is cleared through this office only." Chewing on his unlit cigar, he dismissed his team.
"Hello. This is Blair Sandburg," Blair said, shoving a hand into
his pocket as he waited for the mysterious caller to reveal his identity.
"Sid Graham calling from New York. Could you use $100,000?"
The voice wasn't oily or unctuous, not at all what Blair would have expected of someone making this offer. But still - he wasn't interested. And he was sure to get in trouble for receiving personal calls at the station - again.
"Uh... whatever you're selling, Sid, thanks a lot, I don't want any," Blair replied, just wanting to get rid of this Sid, leaning towards the phone, ready to hang up.
"Blair, wait!" There was an urgency to Sid's voice that made Blair listen despite himself. "I'm a friend of your mother's. A very good friend. I think I'm going to be yours."
"Oh, yeah? Why is that?" Blair tensed, straightening up again. If this man was a friend of his mother's, maybe he should listen to what he had to say. But Blair somehow was afraid of whatever Sid had to tell him.
"Because you've written a best-seller," Sid stated in a matter of fact voice.
"What are you talking about?" Now Blair was confused and unsure what to expect of this so-called friend.
"I'm with Berkshire Publishers. Senior editor. I'm telling you, 'The Sentinel' is going to be the next 'Celestine Prophecy.' We are prepared to offer you $100,000 in advance right now."
Blair froze. Cold fear clenched his heart as he tried to understand what Sid just had said. Rubbing his hand over his face, he figured it out. She wouldn't have
"What did she do?" he asked finally, afraid of the answer.
"She e-mailed me your thesis."
"She e-mailed you?"
"Asked me to give you some advice on how to fix any problems with the first draft," Sid explained, seeming a bit annoyed at the lack of enthusiasm from Blair's side.
"Look, mister-- It's Mr. Graham, right?" Blair became agitated, only barely gathering just what kind of mess his mother had created. "You cannot show that to anybody. It was not meant to be read. Naomi acted without my permission!" His thoughts stumbled over each other, making concentrating hard as he tried to convince Sid to leave it alone.
"I'd like to know more about this police detective, Ellison. We'll want him to be part of the publicity," Sid continued, ignoring what Blair had said.
"No!" Blair shook his head, waving his free hand around. "He's not going to be part of anything. I'm not going to be part of anything, either. You cannot publish it. And if you want to keep your friendship with my mother, I suggest you destroy the copy that you have and forget that it ever existed. This is the end of the conversation. That's all I have to say about it!" Blair spoke hastily, not giving Sid the opportunity to interrupt him, to convince him that he was wrong about refusing the offer. "Thank you and good-bye." Blair slammed down the receiver, staring unseeing at Jim's desk.
Sid frowned at the hang up. That hadn't gone well. Who would have thought
Blair could refuse his offer? Holding the receiver a moment longer in his hand, deep in
thoughts, he put it down, a new plan forming in his mind. He wasn't done with Blair
The publisher leaned back in his chair, putting away the most interesting and fascinating reading material he had received in a long time. Now, he only had to convince the young man that he was the best man to publish his work. And what could be a better bait for a starving student than money?
He dismissed the refusal as some anxiety attack caused by the offer and sudden success. He would get through to Blair Sandburg. After all, he had Naomi on his side. And he knew the woman too well to underestimate her.
After exchanging a few more words and suggestions in Simon's office, Jim
and Megan left the room just in time to witness the end of Blair's call. Exchanging
confused looks, they approached him.
"You all right, Sandy?" Megan asked.
Blair looked up hearing her question. "Uh, yeah, it's just my mom." He forced a reassuring smile, attempting to distract their worries.
"How is Naomi?" Jim asked with a smile, tilting his head slightly to the side, looking straight at Blair, wondering what had made him suddenly so nervous. And why he wouldn't tell them the truth. Maybe later when they were alone at home.
"She's doing just fine "Blair nodded grimly, the smile promising nothing good, "until I get a hold of her."
How could Ellison have seen him at that distance? No one could do that
without some visual aid. Maybe he should do a check up on that man sometime later. Who
knew, he had been military for some years after all. Dismissing these thoughts and turning
back to business, Zeller entered a small, familiar hobby shop. He would be damned if this
little mishap would throw him.
"Hello, Roger," Zeller greeted, approaching the busy man, leaning over his model railway.
"Oh, hello!" Roger straightened up and looked with a smile at Zeller, who stopped in front of him and his railway.
Zeller looked back towards the entrance, making sure no one had followed him into the shop before he spoke in a hushed voice, leaning closer. "I have a special order for you."
"Ah, yes. Very good," Roger sounded barely excited about that, his concentration on his railway again.
"Any contact?" Zeller asked, watching Roger with some dismay, not too happy about being ignored like that.
"They fear exposure if you try again and wish to terminate the agreement," Roger said, his voice matter of fact.
"Next time will be different."
"They don't want a next time." Roger straightened up again, focusing on Zeller, his eyes serious.
"I always complete a contract," Zeller said angrily, then showed Roger a set of plans, all cold business again. "Can you build this?"
"I believe so, yes. Over what range?" Roger asked, looking up briefly from studying the plans, obviously searching for ways to deal with this challenge.
"Three hundred feet. Very silent."
"Of course. I suggest a longer lens to cover," the shop owner said, hands illustrating the words.
"Yes, and it must pass all metal detectors and x-rays."
"A resin-base plastic ought to do the job. However, then this would only be able to chamber one round at a time," Roger explained, his tone nervous as he waited for Zeller's reaction.
"I need only one," came the very self-confident reply.
"Very good." Roger smiled broadly.
Jim followed Blair closely as the two men entered the loft, his mind
worrying at the puzzle of why the younger man had been upset since the phone call he'd
gotten earlier. He'd been a good enough actor to fool Megan, but the sentinel knew better.
They both tossed their keys into the basket by the door, and Jim sniffed at the air cautiously, trying to isolate the components of the exotic aroma that filled the loft. Blair's mother smiled at them from the living room, her attention half on the phone pressed to her ear.
Really, Sid? That's great news! she said, holding the phone out to Blair. Oh, honey, quick, it's Sid.
Jim heard Blair's heart rate speed and watched as his guide approached her slowly, taking the phone as if it was going to bite him. The grad student retreated further into the living room, his body language making it clear that he was not happy with this call. Deciding to give him his privacy, Jim turned to Naomi, wondering if this 'Sid' was the new man in her life.
He'd better be good to you, Naomi. Who is this Sid? Jim smiled, unable to escape the natural force headed toward him.
Oh, just an old boyfriend from New York, she dismissed good naturedly, giving Jim a tight hug. Hi, Jim. How are you? She smiled at him, keeping a hand on his arm a moment longer. Oh, you've been working out. Give me another hug! Jim couldnt help himself, he rolled his eyes, searching for Blair, who looked worried and angry at the same time as he talked in a hushed voice with Sid.
Hmm, Jim mused to himself as he wondered what was going on, his thoughts interrupted by another squeeze of Naomi's arms.
Did you know that my son is brilliant? She finally released him with an proud look on her face, smiling impishly, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
Well, he does work pretty hard at keeping that from me, Naomi, Jim replied with a mocking playfulness, earning himself a slap on his arm from the amused woman, making him chuckle. Naomi is just in a damn good mood today, he thought as she turned to the stove, where steam rose from a large pot.
I'm making you guys some wild bohemian stew, she announced, smiling brilliantly at Jim as she stirred the pot's contents.
Blair finished the phone conversation that moment and slowly joined the two in the kitchen, leaning against the edge of the stove as he stared at his mother.
Uh, this wouldn't be the stuff that made my nose itch for a week, would it? Jim asked as he carefully moved closer.
Oh, no. That was my tofu mince pie. Naomi waved her hands dismissing that thought. Here, try it. She held the spoon up for Jim to taste. Jim dutifully leaned closer, taking a sniff, then moving away at the strong, spicy smell.
Uh, hey, mom, we've got to talk, all right? Blair interjected his face serious.
Oh, isn't it wonderful, honey? she beamed, placing the spoon back into the pot.
I'd use another word. You didn't tell Jim, did you? he asked quietly.
Oh, no, no, no. I'm going to let you tell Jim, she said quickly, her voice reassuring. Jim frowned. Blair didn't seem to be reassured.
Tell me what? he asked. Naomi looked back and forth at the two of them, her smile steady.
Nothing. Just a misunderstanding, Blair made a face, obviously not happy.
A misunderstanding with your mother? I refuse to believe that, Jim chuckled.
Did everything work out all right with Sid? Naomis smile disappeared as she asked the question, and Jim felt alarm bells ringing. Something was very wrong here.
Um, well, uh..., Blair stammered, then turned to Jim. Do me a favor, Jim. I got to talk to my mom confidentially.
All right, I'll be in the living room, Jim agreed, motioning with his hand in said direction.
Jim. Confidentially, Blair emphasized, playing with his ear, his hand motion unsubtle. Jim definitely didnt like this situation.
Oh. I see. All right. Jim tried to hide his hurt and confusion, managing to smile at them before leaving to fetch his headphones.
Blair watched him go with a blank face.
Blair stared at Naomi as they stood in his bedroom. I can't do this.
I already told Sid no, Blair told his mother, agitated and worried, his hands moving
frantically as he tried to make her understand.
But, darling, he's raising your advance to a quarter of a million dollars! Naomi pointed out.
Mom, I don't think you understand how serious this is. My thesis is an ongoing process. I can't believe you sent it to him! Blairs patience was melting away like snow in the heat of a dessert, the last part said through clenched teeth.
Because you sounded so worried, like it wasn't any good and Sid would give you a boost, maybe give you some advice so your second draft would be better, she justified her actions, apparently now beginning to worry.
This is a perfect example of how you don't listen to me, Blair's shoulders slumped as he gave up. This was, after all, his mother. Why had he been surprised?!
I'm listening with my heart, Blair. I'm sorry. That's what mothers do. I mean, I'd never want to hurt you, Blair. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Did you read it? But he knew the answer to that question.
No...you told me not to read it. I didn't read it, she assured him.
Well, maybe if you had you would have realised that there is stuff in there that can get me in a lot of serious trouble! He became angry again. Sometimes he just could
What kind of trouble?
She was obviously puzzled and Blair took a deep breath, glancing through the window to make sure Jim was still on the couch before he continued. I can't tell you that. It's between me and Jim.
Well, why would it bother Jim? She looked through the window, too, for a moment. I think Jim would be so happy that your work was being published.
Blair had to smile at his mother's determination. No, I can pretty much guarantee that he wouldn't. His smile was rueful and he shook his head slightly, pushing his anger away again. Now, you have to promise me that you won't do anything anymore on this, he said, his hands emphasizing his words.
She took a deep breath, not looking at Blair as she began. Well, but suppose that I...
Noooooo Blair cut her off calmly, ending the discussion. Now he had to make sure that she wouldnt say anything to Jim. And make Sid understand that he couldnt publish anything.
His mother looked sadly at him, then smiled. I hear you, honey. She hugged him, then left the bedroom, sauntering past Jim, who took it as a signal that the conversation was done. Removing his headphones, he glanced over at his guide.
Sensing Jims eyes on him, Blair looked up, forcing a smile.
What a mess!
Blair dismissed his nagging suspicions as his mother waved good-bye when
they left the apartment the next day. It was over. He hoped so, at least, as he jogged
down the stairs beside Jim.
Halfway down, Jim's phone rang.
All right, Simon, we're just leaving the apartment now. I'll meet
you over at Bartley's, Jim said, paying no real attention to his surroundings as
they headed to the truck, passing a young woman sorting through some clothes in front of a
store. Blair walked beside him, looking tense for some reason. With an Mm-hmm,
to something Simon said, Jim hung up, pocketing his phone.
Man, that guy keeps sharking on Megan the way he is, she's going to ratify his contract in a whole new way, Blair voiced his concern with a smug grin. Jim grinned back, hands in his jacket, listening. You know what's funny about him leading the dockworkers? Blair asked.
No. Why don't you hum a few bars? Jim replied, moving past Blair to the other side of his truck.
He's more like a short-shoreman! Blair joked, opening the passenger side door
Jim repeated the line chuckling, not seeing the group that had been standing behind them starting to run up as they were getting into the truck.
They started talking all at once, each trying to drown out the others. One voice rang out clearly, "That taller one -- that's got to be the sentinel!"
Blair froze with the truck door open, turning his attention towards the commotion at those words and feeling cold with shock. It was far from over! He hurried to get inside the truck.
Let's get the cameras over here! A woman walked in front of the truck, taking pictures rapidly.
Slamming the truck door closed, Jim turned to Blair with a puzzled frown. "Did I just hear..." he asked, unsure if he had heard right. His frown increased at the lack of reaction from his partner.
Blair avoided looking at Jim, feeling the blood drain from his face.
Reporters converged on both sides of the truck, sticking microphones and cameras through the windows on both sides. On Blair's side a male reporter spoke up. Ellison, can you tell us why you decided to reveal your abilities at this time, sir?
My abilities?! Jim could barely keep his voice from rising, looking from left to right and back, trying to get a grip on what was going on.
More microphones were pushed in his face, and another asked, giving Blair's death blow. How will the publication of Mr. Sandburg's manuscript affect your work with the police department?
Blair paled even more. He swallowed. Damn his mother. Damn his own stupidity. He should have told Jim, not just believed that it would go away. He was such a fool!
Chief, tell me you didn't. Jim suddenly understood fully what these reporters were talking about. The accusation and betrayal underlying his demand pierced Blair's heart.
No, no. I didn't do anything. Blair hoped he could salvage the situation, but the look on Jim's face told him otherwise, and turning to the reporters Blair raised his voice, Look, there must be some mistake here. I don't know where you got your information from...
A female reporter at Jim's side interrupted him and eagerly explained. Your publisher sent us excerpts from the manuscript.
My what?! Blair's voice cracked. I don't have a publisher!
Let's hear it from the sentinel himself, another female reporter on Blair's side demanded, ignoring him, her attention focused on their victim.
Jim finally lost his last bit of patience. I have no idea what you're talking about. Now, get that out of here, he demanded, pushing back the microphone on his side and rolling up his window, mirrored by Blair who did the same on his side, and back off before someone loses a toe!
He started the motor, ignoring the people around them. A tiny part hoped he would hurt one of them.
Jim, I can explain! Blair began.
Chief, do not say anything right now, Jim coldly cut him off, and drove away looking straight on the street ahead of them.
Blair shrank in his seat, hugging himself. He was so dead