Hello everyone! This is a Halloween story and it isn't the sequel to 'The Light'. I want to thank my two beta-readers, Wolfpup and Myriam. Thanks Wolfie for those long hours of beta'ing, I really appreciate it! Your the best!!! *hugs* Thanks Myriam, my fellow S.A (Sentinelholic Anonymous)! Your advices were carefully listened to. *hugs* Feedbacks are greatly welcomed, that's what keeps me going on . So, for all of you, who are going to read this story, beware! This is Halloween!!! ;-)
"I am Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,
and I have the power to be born a second time.
I am the divine Soul who created the gods
and gives sepulchral meals to the denizens
of the deep, and heaven...
Hail, lord of the shrine in the center of the earth.
He is I, and I am he! "
-- Book of the Dead
Wednesday, October 15th, 1997.
In the middle of the night, the forest was echoing with the sound of owls and wolves crying to the full moon. The moon had this reddish halo that only a few could admire in its real glory. Tonight, the animals weren't alone to contemplate such a phenomenon. Somewhere in these thick woods, a male voice was reverberating. A tall figure was standing in a star symbol surrounded by a circle, a pentagram. The symbol was drawn on the soil with white powder. At each point where the star met the circle, a candle was lighted. And between each candle was a person sitting cross-legged. Six candles, six disciples and one interlocutor. The person speaking was shrouded in a long black veil. A hood was covering his entire face. The six disciples sitting in a circle around him were equivalently clothed. Each of them hiding his identity and respecting the anonyma of the others.
The interlocutor was speaking with a gentle voice, like a father to his children. His voice was slow, articulate and deep.
"Tonight, we are at the edge of a new era. An age of power for those who deserve it the most. I chose you among all the others of the existing groups because of your enlightenment and great potential to my cause. For those who don't know me yet, I'm known here as Thor. We have a mission to execute, my children. Each one of you has your own utility and purpose in life and you'll have to use it to our advantage. You'll each have your own part to accomplish for the greatness of our beliefs. I don't need to remind you the consequences of failure."
And as a deep chant began to rise in the forest, the interlocutor approached his followers, announcing secretly to each of them their assignments. The low hymn continued on and on, like a prayer to the dying night.
"To those who believes, indulgence and satisfaction...
To those who listens, kindness and retribution...
To those who obeys, power and success...
To those who fails, pain and death."
Monday, October 27th, sometime before midnight
Three shadows were carefully sliding through the woods. The sky was studded with stars, the only lights illuminating the little path the dark forms were walking on.The shapes were slowly strolling in an Indian file, none were speaking, except for the one stuck between the two others.
"Please, wh... what do you want?" a shiverish male voice asked, as he stopped walking. But silence was the only answer he got, backed up roughly with a strong push on his shoulder to keep him going forward. The man stumbled on the dark road but was successfully able to keep his balance in spite of his tied hands. He tried to calm down, to convince himself that he was dreaming all this. Both shapes wore long brown robes and he hadn't been able to see their faces. He should have known the minute he received the phone call, that it was a trap. He should have been more careful. I'm too damn stupid and now I'm in a fine mess, he repeated to himself for the hundredth time.
The shape in front of him stopped abruptly. But the nervous man wasn't expecting a sudden halt and crashed violently on the brown shape's back. The other shadow seized him by the scruff of the neck and shoved him on the ground. As the terrified man looked up, he saw a third person standing and looking at him. This one wore a black tunic and was holding a torch in his right hand that emitted a dim light to the little circle of men. His face was partly hidden by the dark hood, not enough though for the prisoner to not recognize his kidnapper.
"You?!?" The man tried to get up but was instantly forced down on his knees. "Is this what it's all about? You know I never told anyone. I... I never said anything. You gotta believe me, Thor, I never intended to.."
"Shut up! You don't need to ask forgiveness. I'm disgusted by your acts, you stink! You've failed your oath". The ominous look in Thor's face frightened the man.
"I'm sorry, okay? I just needed a new life. Listen, you can't forbid us to change ideas, to move away. We are not your servants and you sure as hell can't force me to join the group again!"
"No, I can't force you to come back. I don't need to, you'll join us all by yourself... with a little help that is." Thor's eyes seemed to glow with anticipation through the darkness caused by his hood.
"Are you crazy?!? You sonovabitch! I won't come back! What part of this can't you understand?" The kneeled man tried to stand up again. Two strong hands started to force him back down but stopped as Thor held up his hand, allowing the man to get on his legs. "You are just a bunch of psychos hoping for more power, but you are as defenseless as a new-born child!" and with that he spit in Thor's face.
The man known as Thor slowly washed the spit off his face but seemed unaffected by the act. He was calm now, thoughtful. When he spoke again, he had a sinister grin on his face. "You don't control yourself anymore, my brother. You belong to us and with us. We waited long enough for your return. Now, you will serve us again. You have sinned, brother. And you need to be purified before joining us."
As Thor turned his back, the poor man regretted his bitter words. Two pairs of strong hands pushed him toward an unknown mass standing a few yards away in a little clearing. As he approached the form, he recognized a four-feet tall pyre. He stopped instantly in shock.
"No ... You... you said I was welcomed back. You said I could come back!!!" he screamed out of his lungs. With his eyes, he searched desperately for Thor but couldn't find him. His gaze returned in horror to the pyre.
The two followers forced him to the pile of wood but the poor man was fighting for his life, kicking with his feet, struggling with his tied hands, screaming as loud as he could for help. One of the shadows slammed him on the back of his neck violently with the side of his hand and all efforts to get free stopped instantly. They carried the inert body to a pole standing vertically in the middle of the pyre. The disciples had to sit the unconscious man on the wood, his back against the pole, and cuff him around it. Both followers then took place at each side of Thor, who was now facing the wood's pile.
They waited a few minutes until the dazed man regained consciousness. As the man noticed where he was positioned, he tried to set himself free, but it was in vain. The cuffs weren't going to let him go and he was not steady enough to get up. His eyes slowly set on the three dark forms standing in front of him.
"Get me out of here!!! You can't do this!" he screamed in panic.
"We need your assistance, brother," Thor said, calmly.
Getting the hint, the man replied, "I will help you. I will help, I promise, just untie me first, please...Father ? "
"You are not worthy yet to help. You have sinned, you have betrayed us. We know that you have written about us, you have described things that you saw while you were part of us. You very well knew that everything you saw here, wasn't for others to know or to understand yet! You must confess your sin and then you'll be given the opportunity to help your rightful family. To redeem yourself."
The man nervously glanced at the pyre again. "I...I... am guilty, I have betrayed" The answer was soft and nearly inaudible.
"I am guilty. It's my fault!"
"Good, now you will assist us. We are in quest of a man. Your mission will be to watch him, to report everything he does, sees, eats... everything."
"Okay...No problem. Who's the man? Where can I find him?"
"Don't worry, he'll find you," Thor replied, and then he threw the torch in the pyre. The fire immediately caught on the straw stocked under the wood. The man screamed in horror and begged for his life. But Thor was deaf to the supplication of the agonizing man and started talking in an unknown language.
Tuesday, October 28th 1997
"Blair, have you bought the candy yet?" Jim asked as he was cooking his favorite meal, scrambled eggs. It was past 6:00am and he needed something fast for breakfast. Jim wanted to be at the station by 7:00am at the latest. He had a ton of paperwork to attend to, and as much as he hated that kind of work, he thought that the sooner it was done, the better.
"Hmmm? Well, yes and no, some but we should buy more if we don't want to be short in the middle of the evening. There's still time before Halloween, man," the young man said from the kitchen table. He was typing on the computer, the paper due for the beginning of next week. He still had some time ahead of him but he just couldn't rely on that anymore. If something was to come up at the Station or with the Sentinel senses, he might as well forget about having any free time to work on it. The paper was nearly concluded hopefully.
"Time? There's less than 3 days remaining. Unless you want to go to the party on the 31st ."
Blair suddenly raised two curious eyes from his work. "What party?"
"The one they have each year at the station. I thought you may be interested, or we could always stay here and give out candy all night."
"A costume party?!? Yeah, great, count me in! Why didn't you tell me before? Do you think we can still rent a costume or something? Hey, maybe Sam is going to be there, or I could invite Katty or Julia. Or maybe Sarah? " Blair asked, enthusiasm sparkling in his eyes. He stood up, opened the fridge and poured himself a glass of orange juice.
"We? I never said I was going to be costumed, Don Juan!" Jim said with a teasing smile.
"What?!? C'mon man, this is Halloween, where all hell breaks loose and where it is allowed to have fun, remember? I'll find something just great for you, maybe a pirate or a Frankenstein costume! Oh yeah ... Frankenstein! This is going to be FUN!" Blair was now bouncing with excitement.
Jim held up his hands. "Sandburg, I'm not interested in looking silly okay ? Halloween is always a night full of crazy people doing stupid things, and that means a lot of paperwork. We will go to the party, if we have time. " Jim put the eggs in two plates and headed for the kitchen table, Blair following with the orange juice bottle.
Looking silly?" Blair said with a slight tone of incredulity, "Man, you can't look silly on Halloween! This is the ...."
Blair was cut off by the phone ringing. Jim put the plates down on the table and took the phone.
"Jim, it's Simon, I need you on 14th avenue near Bay street. ASAP. We have a big problem on our hands ."
Jim drove to the scene with his blue and white pick-up truck, identified Simon's car and parked just besides it. He advanced carefully, Blair at his heels. The area was crowded with police cars, the forensic team and news crews. The Captain spotted them and intercepted both men.
"A homeless man found a body in this alley an hour ago. He's being interrogated by Brown right now. He's not really a suspect... Well, you'll understand what I mean when you see the body," Simon said, nodding his head in the direction of the little alley.
As Jim and Blair started walking toward the crime scene, Simon held up his hands. "Sandburg, I don't think you should see this, it's pretty gruesome. Jim doesn't need you back there."
"Ohhh yeah, okay, Simon, thanks. Jim, huh, I'll be in the truck. If you need anything, you just ask, okay?"
"Sure thing, partner." Jim could see the humiliation building in Blair's eyes. It was obvious he didn't want to leave Jim and sit idle in the truck. But during the past two years, Blair had seen his share of violent crime scenes, and they never set well with him. If he could be spared one less in his repertoire, all the better.
Captain Banks and Ellison walked into the narrow back street. Timid sun rays were appearing on the horizon, but not enough to lighten the alley. The dark passageway was filled with detritus of all sorts. There was a chinese restaurant near and the filthy smell of decomposing food was overwhelming. But beyond that, they could smell the stench of burnt human flesh. Jim immediately tried to control his heightened sense of smell, minimizing the stinking odor to a more bearable degree. However, he still had to put a white tissue before his face.
In the far corner of the dead end alley, forensic teams were working on the scene. Jim recognized Anne Perry, the chief medical examiner. She was wearing a long white coat and surgical gloves. Her curly, light auburn hair was tied in a knot. Dr Perry and one of her assistants were kneeling in front of a body. The sight was not a pleasant one to see. The corpse was totally burned, hideously red and black. What could have been a living person hours or days ago, was now nothing more than a distorted and unidentified form sitting in a strange position, his back at the corner. Both arms were stretched widely at his sides, palms up. His head was placed so that the corpse gave the impression of looking at the sky, but his eyelids were closed, so was his mouth. Two little holes at each side of the head were the only sign left of the ears. Dr Perry finally got up and looked longingly at Banks and Ellison before talking.
"Hello Captain Banks. Hi Jim, long time no see. You haven't changed much, Jimmy," she said in an amused tone while retrieving her gloves. She then glanced back at the lifeless corpse laying behind her. When Anne continued, her voice was more frigid, professional." Okay, from what we know for now, this person has been dead for some hours. Impossible to know the sex or the exact cause of death for now. Could be the fire or the victim could have died before that. We'll know more after the autopsy. From the extensive burns I can tell you that the victim had been exposed to the fire for a good period of time, enough to cause that kind of damage, but not enough to eat all the flesh, as you can see. One thing for sure, this person was brought here. There's no sign at all of a fire of that caliber in the vicinity of this alley or the entire block."
Jim slowly approached the corpse and knelt down, still holding the tissue in front of his face. He examined the victim with all his senses on alert, except smell, that one, he could not force himself to use. The body was badly burned, no hair, no ears, not even external evidence that could tell if the victim was a man or a woman. Nothing. As Jim was focusing more on the head of the victim, he noticed several little metal rings around the closed eyelids. Anne realized what Jim was looking at and knelt beside him.
"Yeah, I noted those metal strings holding the eyes closed. I'll check them at the lab but I'm pretty sure they weren't there before the body was scorched. You can see that the flesh isn't melted over the rings. And ..." she got up followed by Jim," we also found a Nazi cross sign carved deeply in the back. Whoever did this, did it after the body was torched."
"Good job, Dr Perry. I'll be waiting for the autopsy report as soon as possible."
"Sure, Captain Banks, I'll do the best I can." Simon left the alley and headed towards Ryf, who was desperately trying to control the eager press.
Jim and Anne slowly began to exit the back street. The sun was up now, and the rays were reflecting on one of her loose golden curls. They walked to her black Civic. "Well, Anne, it was nice to see you again."
"All the pleasure was mine. And Jim... " She opened the door and sat in her car.
"You know, I haven't changed my phone number in years, nor did I move," she said smiling, then closed the door, started the engine and left the scene.
"Okay, what did you find?" Simon asked. He was sitting at the end of the conference table, the autopsy report in his hands. It was nearly noon now and Simon hoped he could at last get some clue or lead on this case. Ellison and Sandburg were sitting on one side of the table, Anne on the other side. Dr Perry passed a porto-folio to the three men and started.
"Well, we still don't know the identity of the victim. The dental analysis hasn't come back yet but we should have something tomorrow. For now, we know it was a male, in his late forties, approximately 5'10", which is still hard to know for sure 'cause the height of a body tends to shrink when it's badly burned. The time of death would be between midnight and 1:00 this morning. We haven't found any other cause of death except the exposure to fire. Which would mean that the victim was still alive before it was torched." Anne took a deep breath, and looked at the men around her. "The eyelids were kept closed by a metal string that was put there after the man's death. The... the eye's sockets were empty. The eyes were removed but we don't know for what use."
"Oh man, this is gross," Sandburg exclaimed as he opened the porto-folio and saw the photos of the dead body in all its splendor.
Ignoring Blair's last comment, Banks examined the photos with a blank face, a cop expression so handy in situations like this. "Dr. Perry, what about this Nazi cross in the back of the victim?"
"It was carved between the two shoulder-blades, engraved with a sharp object, most likely a knife. The inscription was done after the burns, possibly as a message of some sorts."
"Like a mark!" Sandburg broke in, his voice full of excitement. All eyes turned in his direction, perplexed to what the anthropologist was so thrilled about. "You know, like some ancient african tribes who marked their enemies with symbols so that the other tribe would know who killed their warriors. The symbols were the early forms of writing. They used those symbols for all kinds of purposes, but mostly for describing themselves. They were trying to communicate...."
"Sandburg, what's the point in all this babbling?" Simon interjected. He was annoyed but at the same time amazed as to how much the young man could say in a few seconds. He knew that usually Blair came up with surprising point of views on a case, refreshing from normal police observations, but he still had to remind the kid sometimes, that a simple phrase was much more efficient, and helpful, than these endless explanations.
"Only that this cross could be the murderer's signature, a way to let us know who he is."
"Or who they are." Jim added. "And if he or they are leaving a signature behind, they probably intend on signing more than once. What would be the purpose in leaving a mark if you don't intend to use it again?"
"Right!" Sandburg exclaimed, proud that his idea had concluded in something effective. Then, he understood that it meant a possibility of more than one grisly murder. "Oh... That's terrible! There's gonna be more killings???"
"Not if we can help it, Chief." Jim then turned his gaze back to Anne. "Any substance found in the body, a tranquilizer or something?"
"Nothing at all. The guy was under no drugs. We didn't find any accelerant on the body either. That's all we know for now."
"Thanks, Anne. Call me when you have the victim's identity confirmed."
"Yes, Jim." Anne exited the conference room, but not before glancing a last short and loving look back at him. It'll be my pleasure." And then she closed the door behind her.
Blair giggled at Dr Perry's remark and looked at Jim with a wide grin, all kind of questions already flowing through his mind. As he began to word the first of them, he was cut short by Jim's hard gaze that obviously meant, -not now. Blair knew when to pursue over objections and when he should stop before being crucified on a cross. Right now, he understood that his life would be at risk if he tried to go any further.
Simon sighed deeply and removed his glasses, rubbing his nose. "Jim, this guy was burned to death and left in the middle of Cascade. Why do I have this nagging sensation that something ugly is waiting for us around the corner?" he said, sarcastically.
"What about the man Brown was interrogating, sir?"
Captain Banks put his glasses back, took detective Brown's report and passed it to Jim. "The guy is clean. He has an alibi establishing he was at the Men Rainbow's Hostel all night until 4:00 am. With this cross on the back, there's a good chance it could have something to do with a Nazi organization."
"It's a good possibility,sir. I searched the FBI files this morning and I came up with three similar murders in 1992 in Florida state. Same M.O, the victims all died from extensive burns. The murders stopped after the third, no one was arrested. The local police there investigated every option, including active Nazi groups but came up with nothing susbtantial. I think our best bet, right now, would be to investigate Nazi groups around Cascade, see if there's any similarities to the cases in Florida."
Simon nodded in agreement. Whatever this case was going to develop into, it surely didn't sound good. He looked at both men sitting at each side of the conference table, not sure how to announce what was coming. "As much as I hate to impose this on both of you, I don't have any choice. You'll be teamed up with Mariah David on this."
Jim obviously wasn't thrilled by the idea. "What? Come on, Captain. I can work much faster without her in my way."
"The Commissioner called me an hour ago. She's on this case whether you want it or not. You'll just have to cope with her until the case is solved. I'm sure you can work out something without killing each other." Simon had a little teasing grin on his face, he knew that even though Jim's feeling towards David were founded, they would be able to work beyond that.
"With all due respect sir, I don't believe she can help us out." Jim tried again.
Jim and Simon continued arguing on the subject. All along Blair was watching the little exchange with no clue at all as to what was going on. But he kept his silence, his questions on the story between Jim and Mariah David could wait, along with those concerning Dr Perry. He was studying both men with a little grin on his face . It was always interesting to see those two in action, Simon fulminating and Jim's jaw working on overtime. The discussion going on between them was disturbed by a light knock on the door.
Rhonda peaked her head in the embrasure of the door. "Captain, Miss David is here."
Simon glanced at Ellison and then returned his gaze to the young woman. "Thanks Rhonda, let her in." He looked at Jim again. "Now, I want you two to work together. You just try to forget what happened between you two, okay? We have a murder on our hands and I expect, you and David, to get results... and fast!"
"Yes, sir." The answer was cold but sincere.
A young black woman appeared at the door. Her thick black hair was freely laid on her shoulders. She was wearing an expensive gray and blue suit. "Captain Banks, I'm pleased to meet you again." She shook the hand that Simon offered to her.
"Thank you, Miss David. You do remember, Detective Ellison, and this is Blair Sandburg. "
She quickly glanced at Jim, but gave her hand to Blair. "Mariah David, I work for the Mayor's office, more specifically public relations." Blair courteously shook her hand. "Now, gentlemen, if we could please get on with this case." They each took a sit around the table and then she continued, "I don't have to remind you that the Mayor is really worried about this murder. The word is already out and his enemies at city hall are throwing all kinds of questions and speculations. The Mayor doesn't need Nazi publicity on the eve of his campaign."
"What do you exactly know about this case, Miss David?"
"Well captain, I know what the Commissioner told me, that it may have something to do with a Nazi organization or a lone killer. The important thing is that the Mayor's opposition is using this Nazi crap to impair his reputation in front of the public." Her voice was unemotional, detached and frigid. She didn't need anyone to tell her that this case was crucial for her boss's future election.
Simon gave her a cold look and handed her a copy of the coroner's report. "The real important thing here, Miss David, is that we stop whoever is doing this before he or they strike again."
She stared at the Captain with a surprised gaze. "What do you mean, strike again?"
"We found the same M.O. on a five year old case in Florida. Back then, they had three murders on their hands, no witnesses and no arrests." Simon started to describe to her all the details they knew on the murder that morning and on the Florida killings as she rapidly perused the documents that were given to her.
She nodded quietly, closed the porto-folio and opened her briefcase. She rapidly distributed to each of them a thick mass of paper. "When the Mayor heard that this could have something to do with Nazi groups, I immediately started a search on the subject. These are all the suspected members of aggressive groups known in the state of Washington. They include sects, religion cults, Nazis, Satanists... the entire mosaic. Unfortunately, there's a lot to look out for."
For the first time since Mariah entered the office, Jim intervened. "We'll start by checking the people that were living in Florida back in 1992 that will surely narrow the list." He glanced at her rapidly and then he stood up. "I'll start on this right away. If you'll excuse me..." And without waiting for any permission or objection, Jim left the conference room and headed for his desk. He had work to do.
Throughout the entire afternoon, Jim scrutinized the list that Mariah had given him, checking with the FBI records, the location of each of the persons mentioned and if they lived in Florida at the same time of the murders. Blair was silently sitting beside him, sometimes helping in the search, but mostly watching the Sentinel in action. Jim wasn't zoning on the computer, but he was obviously trying to forget about Mariah's presence close by. She had taken half of the pile and was checking out all the names and locations on the desk near them. She wasn't talking either and the situation was getting more and more for Blair. He could sense the tension building up between the two of them, and didn't want to be there when it exploded, blowing up everything in their way.
Finally, all the list had been checked and they had succeeded in slicing it down to only a dozen names, most of them were suspected to have liaisons with Nazis or to be sect members. All were living in or around Cascade and had been in Florida back at the time of the previous murders in 1992.
"Come on, Blair. We can check a good part of them tonight." Jim got up and took both coats hanging on his chair. He handed one to Blair. They both walked to the elevator. They entered but as the doors started to close, Mariah slipped in.
"I'm coming with you and don't you argue with me, Ellison."
"You just stay out of my way and everything will be alright," Jim said, but he added to himself, for once.
The trip down the seven floors had never seemed so long to Blair. The atmosphere was so cold that he had the impression that if he concentrated enough, he would see his breath forming a little white cloud, like in the middle of a winter's night. After what seemed like hours, the doors opened up again, in the garage.
"We're taking your vehicle, no reason in using two cars," Mariah announced, as she stepped out of the elevator.
"Oh yeah, that's going to be the best ride of my life! And don't you touch anything in the truck, you never know, you could cause an accident," Jim sarcastically replied.
Mariah didn't answer back and quickly followed Jim as he headed to his truck. She took the front passenger seat, so Blair had no choice but to sit behind. They silently exited the garage and drove toward the first person's address they had to investigate. While they were driving through Cascade in search of the right address, Blair studied both Jim and Mariah's behaviors. They weren't talking to each other, except in extreme need, they weren't even looking at each other. Whatever had happened between them must have been severe. Jim's jaw indicated to Blair that his friend wasn't happy about this situation and Mariah's deep breathing told him that she was just as pissed as Jim. So much for the joyful ride, Blair. You'll have to take a rain check on that. Doesn't seem like these two are going to throw themselves in each other arms, Blair thought, then added, Well, maybe at each others throats would be more likely!
It took them all evening to search five different leads. Each person they met had an alibi for their whereabouts last night. One was quadriplegic and stayed in a readaptation facility, two had their wives as witnesses that they were at home last night, one was working night shift in a convenience store and the last one that they tried, was on a business trip to Los Angeles and wouldn't be back until next week. Although they were still suspects, the investigation wasn't going anywhere.
Of course, not to Blair's surprise, the mood in the truck hadn't lightened up either. Mariah and Jim had barely said a word to each other in the last four hours. Blair was tired, tired of being awake since five that morning, but mostly, tired of being the only talkable person all evening. Jim had driven Mariah back to the station, and was now heading for the loft.
"Jim, are you going to tell me what's going on here?"
"Not now, Sandburg!"
Blair kept silent but didn't admit defeat. He had been able to stand Jim and Mariah's mood all day and he had no intention of enduring the same torture tomorrow as well, without knowing the reason. Blair waited until they were in the loft to try again.
"First, I want to know what's the story behind you and Mariah."
"Sandburg, I told you, not now!" Jim opened the fridge and took a beer. He then turned back to face an angry friend blocking his way. Blair put his hand on Jim's chest to hinder him from going any further without answering his questions.
"Oh no, you're not going anywhere! I had to sustain your silence all day, I'm not backing off on this. Do you know how interesting it is to follow you and Miss ' don't get too close, or I'll bite' all day?"
"Sandburg..." Jim pushed his friend's hand away and walked around him towards the stairs leading to his bedroom.
"Jim, I'm just asking you to tell me why I'm feeling like the only one here who doesn't know what's going on."
The detective stopped, pondered for a moment and then sighed deeply. "It's not what you think. She worked at the station a couple of years ago."
Blair was taken aback. "You mean, she was a cop???"
"Yeah, she worked in Narcotics. We were teamed up for a special bust against this druglord named Jefferson. She was undercover and I was her liaison. She blew her cover stupidly because of misplaced pride and we barely got her out of there alive. She accused me of being the leak, and that she hadn't had anything to do with what happened. I was, of course, cleared of all charges but we never spoke again. I heard she resigned three months later. That's it, Sandburg. End of story."
Blair thought for a minute, unsure of what to say or how to approach the subject without offending Jim. "So, this is all about you and her not trusting each other anymore?"
"Sandburg, she blew her cover over a drinking contest. She should have been suspended from the force for that. But, she had a great record so they decided to look over that mistake. She shouldn't have tried to save her reputation cowardly by telling lies, trying to find a leak where there was none. She never admitted her error. So, no I don't trust her and I don't think I should, not until she proves to me that she can get over her pride." He returned to the kitchen and emptied the half drank beer in the sink.
"I understand. I just couldn't bare the idea of sitting in that truck again, without knowing why you weren't talking to each other. I guess now, I know why. Not that it's going to make the ride more joyful."
"Don't think it'll change either. Tomorrow's ride won't be more loveable."
"Talking of lovable, what's between you and Anne?"
Jim looked at him for a long moment, a grin, the first since that morning, appeared on his face. "Nah!"
"First, I'm tired and going to sleep and second, it's none of your business." Jim was bearing a wide smile now as he headed for his room.
"Ahhh, c'mon... it's so obvious!"
"Then, if it's so obvious Darwin, you don't need my help here. G'nite!"
Jim climbed the stairs to his bedroom and could hear his young friend mumbling to himself. "Oh yeah, I forgot. One secret at a time, man, one at a time."
Jim woke up with a start and sat in the middle of his bed. He was sure he had heard something. He directed his hearing to Sandburg's room. The kid was sleeping soundly, he was even snoring lightly. Yet, Jim knew that a noise or something had woken him. He turned his gaze to his alarm-clock. 3:30am. Too early to take a shower and start the day. He sighed deeply, he must have imagined it or maybe the noise had been in a dream. He slowly lay down again in the warm sheets and closed his eyes, reassured that there was nothing wrong going on in the loft. All of a sudden, a loud scream echoed in the room. Jim immediately got out of bed and took his gun laying on his bedside-table.
Again, a loud scream reverberated in the room. Jim put his hands over his ears, trying at the same time to get control over his heightened sense. The shrill cry was filled with fear and terror. Jim tried to pin-point the location from where the sound was coming, but couldn't. It was like the entire place was screaming, the sounds were coming from all around him at the same time. He could clearly see in the darkness and nobody was there. He quickly went down the stairs and started to inspect the loft, his gun in his hands. The scream had ceased the moment he had left his room, but Jim was still very disturbed by what had happened. He heard Sandburg getting up and approaching him slowly from behind.
"What's up man?"
Jim turned around and put his gun down. "Sandburg, did you hear a loud scream?"
"Well, no. You woke me up when you literally came down the stairs four by four. What, did you hear something?"
"Yeah, but I couldn't determine where it was coming from." He paused, bending his head slightly, using his heightened sense. "I don't hear it anymore. My hearing must have went crazy and picked up something on a tv, maybe from one of the neighbors, I don't know. Go back to bed, Blair. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"Okay, but if you hear it again, you wake me, deal?"
"Deal. See ya tomorrow, Chief."
Blair and Jim headed for their respective rooms. Jim wasn't sure if he could go back to sleep, his senses were still on alert. He lay down on his bed again, and closed his eyes, waiting for the scene to repeat itself. To his own relief, nothing happened. He tuned his hearing to Blair's deep breathing, his young friend was already sound asleep. Jim decided to focus on his friend's breathing, like a mantra, and soon he was sleeping too.
October 29th, morning
The next morning, Jim was sitting at his desk, waiting at the station for Mariah to arrive. They still had a couple of locations he wanted to check before lunch. He glanced at his watch, 9:30am. Hell, where is she? Blair could sense the fury building up in Jim's body. He didn't need any Sentinel aptitude to see Jim's reaction to Mariah's unpunctuality. The detective was tense, his jaw was clenched and his eyes were burning with rage. Blair decided it was time he tried to change Jim's mood, tried to focus his thoughts on something more pleasant and cheerful than Miss David.
"You know Jim, the Nazi cross, the swastika as it's really called, wasn't a sign of aggressiveness before Hitler used it for his own purpose. In fact, a lot of people think it's a good luck charm. In the english culture, they even interpreted the four L's crossing each other for Love, Luck, Light and Life. The swastika is so old, man. Centuries before Hitler started mis-using it, it was a symbol of peace and joy. We found swastikas in excavations of greek cities and even on Chinese coins dating from 315 B.C. There's also a reference to this symbol in old germanic mythologies and even today in hindu religion, the swastika symbolizes ...."
"Sandburg, what's your point in all this?"
Glad that he finally had Jim's attention and that, during this time, the detective wasn't fulminating against Mariah, Blair continued. "That, for most of us, the swastika means Nazism but it wasn't always like that. It's a shame what people use it for these days."
At that moment, Mariah arrived in the Major Crimes bullpen and immediately headed toward Jim. "Okay, let's go, Ellison. We still have several addresses to check. C'mon, hurry up, or are you going to let me do all the hard work?"
Jim gasped at the young woman's remark, and was going to answer her when Simon called them in his office. Dr Perry was already waiting there, a file in her hands. She welcomed him with a warm smile and endearing eyes. She then turned her gaze to Mariah.
"Hello, I'm Dr Perry. I understand you're working on this case as a special consultant?"
"Yes, I'm working in the Mayor's office. This assignment is only temporary."
"Glad to hear that." Anne turned around and gave her files to Jim. "Here is what the dental analysis concluded. The victim's name was Patrick Jordan, 44 years old, accountant for a little firm in Tacoma. Nothing unusual to report, he was a very ordinary guy, with no family and no police record."
Mariah glanced at the papers Jim was holding before looking at Anne. "Anything else in his past? Maybe some kind of suspicous association with Nazis?"
"Not that we know of. I'm interested only in the medical point of view. You probably can find whatever you're searching for a lot better through your own methods."
"Well, there must be something or then whoever killed Jordan chose him randomly." Jim gave the file back to Anne returning a kind smile. "Thanks Anne. Great job. We have to get going, now. I'll see you soon, I hope."
"Sure, Jimbo. Whenever you want."
October 29th, afternoon
As expected, the truck ride and the investigation weren't any more joyful than the day before. All morning, Blair had to sustain the cold silence still occurring between Jim and Mariah. To pass time, he had brought with him some tests that needed to be graded. Most of his attention though wasn't on Jim and Mariah's behavior or even on the exams lying on his lap, but on what had woken Jim up last night. Blair suspected that his Sentinel might have heard something coming from outside the loft but the worried look on his friend's face when Blair had found him in the kitchen had been disturbing. Whatever it had been, it hadn't occurred again.
They had checked out two other possible suspects but with no results. Right now, they were heading for Morin Heights, a little village north of Cascade. Jim stopped the truck in front of an old victorian house. The habitation was secluded, there were no close neighbors and the forest was thriving all around them. The house was in complete ruin. The windows were nearly all broken, a slight tone of blue was all that remained of the exterior wall's color. The front door was still standing, as was the address numbers besides it.
Mariah looked down at her list and checked the house again. "666 Santa Road, Terry Lewitt."
"666?" Blair asked, stunned. "Erkkk... the devil's number. Santa... Satan, doesn't that sound a little bit alike ? I mean that's kinda the same letters but in another order. That's absolutely not a good sign, man ! You sure this ain't the Little House of Horrors?"
Mariah snorted. "Don't tell me you believe that Satan exists or demons for that matter? You probably believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy too?" She didn't give Blair time to answer as she continued, "I must have the wrong address, nobody's living here."
"Who said nobody was living here?" Jim got out of the truck and headed towards the house, Blair following him near.
Mariah left the truck, slamming the door behind her, and came after them. "Oh, c'mon, Ellison! Can't you see this house is a wreck? Nobody can live here! Just stop playing supercop, and put your damn pride aside ! We have better things to do!"
Jim quickly turned back and faced her. His eyes were burning with the anger that had built up during the last two days and she had just given him a good excuse to spill it all out. "My pride?!? Damn it, David! Can't you just admit what happened in Jefferson's case and stop blaming it on others? 'Cause this is all about that, isn't it? You still think it's everybody's fault but yours! Stop acting like a spoiled child and start acting like an adult!"
"Oh, so, I'm the child! I'm the one who can't take responsibility? You were my partner, my back-up, Ellison! You should have been there when I needed you! But, no! Supercop here wasn't around when Jefferson tried to blow my head off!"
"You wouldn't have needed my help if you hadn't screwed up in the first place! I can't believe...."
Blair interposed himself between them, trying to cool the situation down. "Whoa, c'mon. Relax! Both of you! Shouldn't we be checking this house first and then trying to find the Bad Guy? You can settle this when the investigation is over, okay?" He looked at his friend with pleading eyes.
"Yes, Sandburg. You're right. We have work to do." Jim turned around and walked toward the stairs leading to the front door of the old decaying house. He knocked on the door but evidently nobody was there. If someone had been there, they would have been alerted by the altercation between him and Mariah. With all the broken windows, sound could easily infiltrate into the house.
From where she was standing, near the truck, Mariah yelled, "I told ya so. Nobody's home."
Blair put his hand on Jim's shoulder to calm him. "Just forget about her and concentrate on the house. Can you hear anything inside?" he said softly.
"Just filter those sounds and focus on finding a human heartbeat. You can do it. You know the drill, man."
Jim closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He centered all his attention on the house. He could hear rats gnawing at rotten wood and thousands of insects thriving between the walls, but he filtered them. The entire house was empty, if you didn't count rodents and insects. Jim then focused his hearing on his surroundings. He immediately recognized the strong heartbeat of his Guide and, in the distance, the slow one of Mariah. Behind the empty house though , he heard a fast heartbeat and a panting breath. He suddenly opened his eyes and faced Blair.
"Someone is running away from us, in the woods," Jim stated as he quickly began to run toward the location of the sound. Without any doubt or hesitation, Blair instantly sprinted after him.
"Hey, where are you both going? Ah, shit!" Mariah turned toward the truck, opened the door and took the 9mm that she had hidden in her briefcase. Since her years with police and her close encounter with death on the Jefferson case, she had never gone out without her gun. Maybe other people owned guns because they wanted to feel secure, but she had one because it felt good, it felt invincible and strong. Something she hadn't felt when Jefferson had beaten her in that basement for several hours. Mariah loaded her gun and started to jog in the direction where Jim and Blair had entered the forest.
"Stop it right there!" Jim yelled at the man trying to lose him through the thick woods. He had easily been able to trail the fleeing suspect. The man quickly turned around, drawing his gun at both Jim and Blair. The suspect was short, fragely built and had a weird look in his eyes that Jim didn't recognize. At the sight of the weapon, Jim automatically pulled out his own firearm and stood between Blair and the suspect, protecting his young friend.
"Put your weapon down, now!" The suspect didn't move. "I'm detective James Ellison, Cascade PD. Are you Terry Lewitt?"
"Yeah, what do you want, cop?"
"Put the gun down first. We'll talk later."
Lewitt shook his head. "No way. Why are you here?"
"Do you know someone called Patrick Jordan?"
"Cop, you don't want to know what I know." Lewitt then placed his gun against his temple. He wasn't shaking, and he obviously wasn't afraid. A dangerous combination in a situation like this. Jim took a couple of steps toward the desperate man.
"You don't really want to do that, Terry, do you? C'mon, I'm sure everything will be alright."
"Everything is alright. I have succeeded, my reward is waiting for me, on the other side."
Blair slowly took a step forward and stood just beside Jim. "C'mon man, just put down the gun and we'll help you."
"I don't need your help. You are all doomed!"
Suddenly, Mariah appeared to the right of Lewitt, only a couple of feet away. "Don't try anything and give me the gun!"
Startled by the young woman, the suspect turned around to face her . Jim took the opportunity and crashed on Lewitt, bringing both of them to the ground. They started to struggle for the gun that had landed several feet away. They rolled on the soil, covering themselves with dead leaves and mud. Jim was over Lewitt now, trying to get control, but the murder suspect gave him a hard blow with his knee before striking him with his fist. The detective rolled over but swiftly got back on his feet. Lewitt was standing right in front of him, looking at the gun lying on the ground. The cop was standing between him and the weapon, totally out of reach for Lewitt. He furiously tried to hit Jim with his fist but the detective skillfully blocked the on-coming punch with his own fist while striking the man in the stomach with his other free hand. Lewitt doubled over and Jim hit him with a final blow. The man went down instantly, unconscious. Quickly, Jim handcuffed him and turned around to take Lewitt's weapon.
"Jim, are you okay?"
"Yes, Chief, I'm alright." Jim turned his gaze toward Mariah, who still had her gun in her hands. "What are you doing with a gun, Mariah? Give me that."
"No way, Ellison." She lowered the weapon but didn't gave any indication she was going to give it to Jim.
"Mariah, give it to me. Do you have a permit for this?" She shook her head. "That's what I thought. Just give me the gun and we'll talk about this later."
Resigned, Mariah slowly gave the firearm to Jim but not without looking at him with eyes filled of anger and hate. She glanced at the man lying on the ground. "I think we may have found our man. I'll call the forensic team to start inspecting his house. It wasn't so hard, after all!"
Forensics searched the entire residence. They discovered, in the basement, a board where Jordan's picture was pinned along with his home address in Tacoma and his phone number. The whole place was obviously in bad shape, but it seemed like Lewitt had been living there for a few months, probably since spring. By mid-afternoon the forensic team hadn't discovered anything else in or around the house and had left the area. Mariah had returned to Cascade, eager to tell the Mayor about the new developments. Everyone was hoping that the mere evidence found there would be enough to charge Lewitt for the first degree murder.
Both Jim and Blair were now standing alone in the basement, checking to see if they could find anything substantial by their own methods, namely the Sentinel's senses. The room was dark and mostly empty. There was no window in the basement and the only source of light came from a single bulb hanging from the ceiling.
"Okay, Jim. Just relax and breathe slowly. Call each of your senses, one after the other, inspect the entire basement."
As Jim was starting to investigate the room with his heightened senses, the single bulb blew out leaving them in total darkness. He immediately registered Blair's heart beating faster. He focused on his sight and was able to discern the basement as if it was in broad day light. His friend though couldn't and was starting to panic.
"It's alright, Blair. Take it easy."
"This place gives me the creeps. Can we get out of here, now?"
"Yes, sure." Jim grabbed Blair's forearm and started walking in the direction of the staircase. Suddenly, Blair stumbled on something and would have surely fallen if Jim wouldn't have been there to keep him upward.
"Sorry, must have been a rat."
"Sandburg, just watch were you're going, would you?"
"I can't see a thing, man!!! .... Ouch!!! "
"What now?!?" Jim looked at his young friend's face and could clearly see a look of confusion on Blair's face as he was rubbing the back of his head.
"What did you do that for?"
"You swatted me! It's not my fault if I stumbled on something, there's no light here!" Blair was angry. Jim had swatted him hard behind the head for no just cause. Okay, maybe his tall friend liked being physical some times, hitting him gently on the cheek or on the head, but it was never anything more than a friendly touch.
"I did not! You're imagining things, Chief."
There was a long pause. Blair wasn't sure what was going on, but he knew it wasn't anything good. If Jim hadn't hit him, who had? He instantly turned around, half expecting to find someone behind him grinning mischieviously at the bad joke. But he couldn't see enough in the darkness. In fact, he was getting more and more sure that he didn't really want to find out what was behind him.
"Jim, let's just get out of here, okay?"
The detective could sense the fear through his young friend's voice. If the kid hadn't joked about the swat, then.... Jim looked around, the basement was clean, nothing had changed. There was no other heartbeat in the vicinity other than his and Blair's rapid race. The place was a little chilly, maybe a little more than when they had first come in, but the temperature difference was so meaningless, that no one except a Sentinel could have sensed the light shift. He seized Blair by his coat's sleeve but his action only resulted in startling his friend. Blair's racing heart only doubled in speed.
"Sorry, Chief. Didn't mean to startle you. Come on, let me guide you to the exit."
As they exited the old house, Blair let go of the deep, long breath he had been holding for too long. He quickly headed for the truck, not even daring to look behind him. Jim followed nearby but all his attention was narrowed on the little giggle that he could now hear coming from the house. There was still no other heartbeat. He glanced back at the residence and the giggle stopped. The wind had started up during the day and was blasting violently against the broken windows, their leafs slamming strongly on the walls. His hearing was still playing tricks on him, he should talk about it with Blair... sometime.
The ride back from Morin Heights had been long and silent. Both men were buried deep in thought. Back at the station, Jim and Blair were welcomed by a very cheerful Simon as soon as they entered the Major Crimes bullpen.
"Good job, guys. Terry Lewitt just confessed to the murder of Jordan."
Blair looked up, a little smile on his face. "That's great, Simon. Did he say why he killed him?"
"Nope, he really didn't say too much. He just confessed the crime and then got back to his muteness."
"Good, I'm glad this is all over."
"Yes, we all are, Sandburg. I heard the State attorney is talking right now with Florida's prosecutors. They want him to be tried as well for the three other murders."
Jim handed Simon a small object shrouded in a white tissue. "This is David's gun. I don't think she has a permit for it, sir."
Simon carefully took the weapon, a little smile forming on his face. "Okay, I think it's time for Ms. David and I to have a little talk." And with that, the captain headed back for his office.
"Are you coming, Chief ?"
"Where are we going now?" he said, not sure if he really wanted to find out.
"Wonder Burger, I'm starving!"
October 30th 1.00am
"Hello, Miss David. How are you feeling, tonight?"
She was crunched in the bottom of a car's trunk, feet and hands tied, a gag over her mouth. A tall figure was standing in front of her, grinning obviously at her helpless situation.
"I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself, I'm so rude. I'm known as Thor and I'm going to be your guide for the rest of this lovely night." He turned around and nonchalantly shrugged. "Get her out of there and start the preparation."
Two enormous men, the same who had grabbed Mariah from behind in her garage as she was leaving her car, carried her to a shaky pier. They carelessly dropped her on the unstable quay before going back to the car. She didn't recognize the place were she was, but it evidently wasn't Cascade. The small lake in front of her was surrounded by thick woods. Mariah calculated that she still wasn't too far from the city, first because the west sky was dimly lite probably from heavy street lights close by, and second because she had been kept in the trunk for less than a hour.
Thor kneeled in front of Mariah and took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look in his eyes. She examined him, trying to keep in mind the man's face in case she got out of there alive. The man had black hair, turning grey near the ears. He couldn't be more than forty and the smile he was wearing on his face would have been pleasing and charismatic if the situation had been too. "You see Miss David, you are very lucky. You've been chosen to be a part of a great mission. Something not a lot of mortals have had the chance to witness through their lives. There's things in the world that people just don't want to believe in. At one time, we wouldn't believe Earth was round, or that man would walk on the moon. Right now, we are at another turning point in man's history that will at last open their eyes to the unknown. Do you understnad what I mean, dear Mariah?"
She violently shook her head, in a desperate attempt to get his hands off her face. Tears stood in her eyes, as she tried to scream through the gag but the cry for help was brutally answered with a solid slap on Mariah's cheek.
"My, my, my, aren't you a fighting one ! Don't be afraid, I'm here to help you. Trust me, I'm sincere. And as a good sign... I'm going to get this thing off." Thor gently unknotted the gag from Mariah's face and she immediately took advantage of the brief moment of liberty.
"Help!!!! Somebody help me!!!" she yelled as loud as she could and then in a threatening voice added, "You bastard, untie me, right now!!! Do you know who I work for? You're gonna pay for this!"
"Oh, but I'm not the one in fault here, darling. And you can scream as loud as you can, I don't care. No one can hear you from here. I'd suggest you calm yourself first and then we can start talking."
Mariah tried, in vain, to relax but the only thing she could think for the moment was she was going to die, right here, right now and that nobody would ever know what had happened to her. The place was deserted, uninhabited, it would take weeks or months for someone to find her body. If only I had my gun, I could have defended myself, shown them what I'm made of. But no, Ellison had to take it from me ! Damn you Ellison !!! All of this is your fault. Again! Years ago, Ellison had abandonned her to Jefferson's hands. Her suppose-to-be partner. She had been wired and he should have heard that she was in trouble the minute Jefferson had begun to speak of police sniffing in his affairs. But Ellison had waited too long to bust in, and Jefferson had had all the time to prepare for her abduction and his own little revenge on her. She had paid dearly for Jim's fault and had been pretty sure at that time that the cop had been party with Jefferson. And now, if it hadn't been for Ellison's supercop action, disarming her, she would have never ended up in this precarious situation.
Thor had turned his back on her. He was admiring the calmness of the lake and the slight mist hovering over it. "Not everyone in this lonely world can say they have a mission. But I'm telling you, my mission is above all for freedom.You, my lovely dear, are needed to achieve our goal. You are the perfect subject." He slowly turned around and glanced at her. "There's still work to do but I'm sure that with your redemption, we can help each other." Thor made a sign with his hand allowing his two followers to come nearer.
"What... What do you mean help each other?" she asked as the three men encircled her.
"You have sinned and I can help you in your redemption. We only ask a little favor in return."
"Oh, you'll know in time. For now, the important thing is for you to ask forgiveness for your faults."
"What faults? What are you talking about?"
Thor violently slapped her in the face. The man's attitude had changed completely, now fury and hate were clearly visible in his eyes. "Bitch, don't play games with me!!! You know what I mean, you have sinned more than once and now you must ask for forgiveness!!! Close your eyes, I said!" He then breathed deeply and when his eyes focused on Mariah again, he was as calm and self-possessed as he was a moment ago. "Just do what you're asked dear, and you won't get hurt." As she obeyed, Thor patted her on the shoulder in encouragement. The slight touch startled her, a little scream escaped her throat and her eyes flew open.
"I said close your eyes, and redeem yourself!!!"
She automatically closed her eyes, and tears freely fell on her cheeks. "It's... it's my fault, I have sinned. It's my fault, is... is that okay?" She heard a loud and heavy thud near her that made the entire pier shake and she opened her eyes. "Please, now, can you let me g...." Her words never got farther as she saw what had made the strange noise. A pile of cord and a large rock were standing right next to her. In horror, she looked at Thor.
"My dear Miss David, now that your faults have been forgiven, the other part of the contract still must be done. We helped you, now you have to help us. Don't worry and trust me, you're in for a total new experience."
It was past 2:00 am, Blair still couldn't sleep. His experience at Lewitt's house was bothering him. He was trying to bury in the back of his mind the nagging thought that there had been something else with them in the basement. The more he tried to forget, the less sleep he got. He had decided an hour ago that if he couldn't sleep, at least he could use the time he was awake to complete the paperwork he had started 2 days ago. He was sitting at his desk, in his bedroom, his laptop open in front of him. Memories of the Poltergeist films keep coming to his mind. Every little sound in the loft was making him jump and he didn't even dare to look in his mirror. "Okay, I'm over-reacting, here ! Just calm down, Sandburg!" he mumbled to himself, practicing, without much success, his method of relaxation.
He was trying to make as little noise as possible, he didn't want to wake up his partner. What he surely didn't want, was to explain to Jim why he was still awake. Blair didn't really believe in such things as devils and demons. He had learned through his experiences with different south american and african tribes that people believed in a lot of diverse things, but one thing was always common to all civilization, the belief of Good and Evil. He remembered one encouter with an african healer who said that there was a seed of the Devil in each of us and it was always in constant battle with your good soul. Just change the subject, Blair! he thought as he started to get goosebumps. Blair focused his attention to his work on the laptop. The paper was finished now and he was rereading it for any mistakes he could have made. As he was going through the document, the screen went blank.
"Oh, damnit! Don't do this to me!!!" he angrily said in a low voice and lighttly swatted the little computer. Oh, I hope it didn't erase the paper! Please, please, please!
A moment later, the screen regained some color, and a white page came on. His document wasn't there anymore, but a simple word was clearly written at the top of the page. - Boo-
Now, that was enough for Blair. He instantly closed the computer and jumped in his bed. He rolled himself in his sheets and closed his eyes. It's just a coincidence, just a little damn coincidence! he tried to convince himself.
October 30th, afternoon
The bullpen was calm today. The rush that had struck everyone in the last two days had ended when they had cuffed Lewitt. It was a thing of the past. Jim and Blair were finishing the last of the paperwork on the case. They had worked all morning on writing reports over reports and they were exhausted. Blair had a bad headache, a result of both the lack of sleep from the night before and the tiring typing of the papers.
Suddenly, the door to Simon's office slammed and the captain walked quickly through the bullpen, putting his coat on at the same time. Passing near Jim's desk, he stopped for a moment.
"Come on, guys. I think this case isn't over after all," Simon ordered and then he headed for the elevator. As the elevator's doors closed, the captain glanced at Blair and then at Jim, his eyes filled with anger."We just found Mariah's body."
"Damn it!" Jim hit the brick wall strongly with his punch.
"I know, I know. Just relax, okay?" The young anthropologist was desperately trying to control his friend. Jim was deeply affected by Mariah's death which surprised Blair at first because they couldn't stand each other anyway. Jim was upset for what happened to Mariah, but it was mostly because it had hit so near to him. Next time, it could be Blair or someone that I care for, he thought.
They had found her body in a dumpster, a rock still attached to her ankles. She obviously had been drowned, her lips were still blue but her skin had the shiny whiteness of death.
" Why would anyone want to kill Mariah ? Okay, don't answer that, she was a pain in the ass most of the time. That makes a lot of possible suspects. "
Blair had been sick at the first sight of Mariah's lifeless and mutilated corpse. He was getting better now, but his friend wasn't. Blair knew that Jim was feeling guilty for whatever had happened to Mariah because she had been part of the team. They weren't the best of friends but she was still someone that Jim had known. "It's not your fault, you can't blame yourself for her death," he said as he laid a comforting hand on Jim's shoulder.
"Hell Sandburg, I should have been more careful," Jim said.
"More careful like what? You were not her mother for God's sake! You can't save everyone, okay? Now, can you get anything from the... the body?"
"I tried. It's the same as last time. There's nothing specific."
Dr. Perry approached the two men, careful not to interfere in any discussion. "Okay, it's probably the same murderer. He changed his M.O. Not fire this time, but water. Some things didn't change though, a swastika is also carved in her back and..." She looked for a moment at Jim, then continued, "Whoever is doing this, is for unknown reasons collecting parts of his victim's body. Miss David's heart has been removed," she paused, "I'm sorry guys, but whoever you caught yesterday, there's a great chance he isn't the man you're searching for."
For the rest of the day, Jim and Blair had studied all the possibilities. They had investigated every lead they had found, every location on the list that they hadn't visited last time, but with no results. Jim was now back at the station, it was past 5:00pm, and Blair was presently at the University. The detective was still searching for more clues, rereading for the hundredth time all the autopsy reports and every file from the Florida cases.
The three victims in 1992 had all been burned and Jordan had suffered the same treatment. However, Mariah had not been torched alive but drowned somewhere. Her body had been carried from there to a dumpster in the middle of Cascade. The murderer, or the group, had decided to change their M.O. but it obviously wasn't to evade police attention or they wouldn't have left Mariah's body in the middle of the city. They would have left her at the bottom of the water where they had drowned her. And, if they didn't want to be recognized, they wouldn't have carved that Nazi cross in the back again. Jim couldn't understand why they had changed their ways this time.
He couldn't even figure out why Mariah over anyone else. Was it because she was black? If so, then they really were facing Nazis. Or was it because she was part of the case? Maybe, it could even be a plot from one of the Mayor's enemies to dirty his political image. Jim had tried every possibility. He had even investigated known political adversaries to the Mayor but they were clean and just as shocked to learn of Miss David's death as Jim had been.
Mariah hadn't been the most charming person he had ever met. She had possessed a self-esteem that had no limits, she was beyond avarious when it concerned her work and she was totally insensitive to other's feelings. Once, she had been a very caring and loving person, but that was before the Jefferson case. From that moment on, she had changed completely, building a wall between her and everybody else. She seemed to relish testing everyone's patience.
The detective was still searching through the computer's data files, when his cell phone rang.
"Jim? Oh my God, am I glad to talk to you." A woman's voice, weak and trembling, echoed into the receiver.
"Anne? What is it? What's wrong?"
"Listen, Jim. I... I just got a phone call from someone who said he was from the police and that I had to come to a certain address because they'd found another body. But it was so weird. So, I asked the caller for more information but he hung up. I'm so scared ! I'm just thinking about what happened to Miss David, and I... I...."
"Calm down, you did good calling me. We haven't found any other bodies."
"Ooooh... I knew it!"
"Do you remember what address he gave you?"
"No, I'm sorry, I was kind of concerned by the way the person was talking to me, I just had that impression that he was lying. God, Jimmy, I'm scared! What if ..."
"Anne, I'm coming right away. Close all your windows and bolt the door. You said you hadn't moved so I guess you're still on Pandora avenue, right?"
"Yes...yes. Thanks Jim. I may just be imagining things here, I don't want you to come for nothing." She seemed more comfortable now, but Jim knew that if there was a slim possibility that she was the next target, he wanted to be there this time.
"That's alright. Just don't open the door 'til I'm there," he said then he hung up. No, this time, nobody will get hurt, he thought as he took his coat and headed for the elevator.
Blair entered the loft silently. He didn't want to disturb Jim if he was asleep, though he was pretty sure the cop wouldn't sleep until those responsible for Mariah's death were arrested. Just as expected, the loft was empty, Jim wasn't around. Blair didn't felt very secure alone in the apartment, not with what happened yesterday at the old house and with his computer. He knew that he was making a mountain out of a mole hill, that he was seeing things where there was really nothing. It was probably just the lack of sleep and the stress caused by the case that had him jumping at every unexpected noise.
Blair stopped by the answering machine, he had some messages waiting. It was Jim. He was going to Anne's place, she was scared and needed someone to comfort her. He didn't know when he would be back but he'd call before 7:00pm to confirm.
Blair sat in front of the tv and turned the volume very loud, he didn't want to hear anything except maybe Jim's call.
October 30th, 6:00pm
Anne was preparing some herbal tea for Jim. He had arrived a hour ago, and they had started talking about some old memories. Jim had checked the area but nothing seemed out of place. Now, that he was in Anne's apartment, he had all his senses on alert.
"It's a special concoction of mine, especially for relieving stress. You'll see, it may smell or taste weird, but it does extraordinary things to your system," she said as she handed him a hot cup of tea and took one for herself.
Jim took a sip."It does have a strong taste. You know, Anne, since last time this place has changed quite a bit."
"The apartment isn't the only thing that's changed, Jimbo. What have you been doing all this time without me?"
They continued the discussion for several minutes, switching from memories to present, laughing and enjoying their time together until Jim heard a noise in the back alley behind Anne's apartment. With his heightened sense of hearing, he could hear a human heartbeat.
"I think there's someone out there. Anne, you stay in and close the door behind me."
"Jim, don't you think it would be safer if we just stay inside?" Her voice was again filled with fear.
"Just stay in and trust me. I'll be back." He put his half-empty cup on the table and left the building. Jim carefully entered the narrow and obscure alley, trying to use his heightened sight and hearing to his advantage. But, his senses were starting to go on and off in quick waves, making him feel dizzy. Suddenly, his legs gave away, and he crashed to the ground violently. He tried to focus his sight on the form now standing near him but couldn't see anything more than a blur. Only when the form spoke did he realize what was really going on.
"Took your time, what happened?"
"He was talking and talking like an old grand-mother who hadn't seen anyone since World War II. And the tea just took a little more time than I thought to take its effect on him. He must have a strong metabolism. Just get him in the truck."
October 30th, 8:00pm
The phone rang. Once. Twice. At the third ring, Simon picked up.
"Hey, Simon. It's Blair. Lucky you're still in your office. Listen, huh, Jim told me he was going to Anne's place but that he was going to call me before 7:00pm. It's now 8:00 and he hasn't called back. He said she was afraid of something,I don't know. Do you have her phone number?"
Simon sighed. "Sandburg, Jim and Dr.Perry are adults. He may not have the time right now to phone you," he paused. "Anyway, just a minute, I have her number around here somewhere."
"Thanks Simon. Anything new on the case?"
"Nothing. Not a single solid lead. Okay, Dr. Perry's number is 555-3750. And, Sandburg, next time, use directory assistance, please."
"Oh yeah, Simon thanks!" Blair hung up and immediately dialed Anne's number. No answer. Before calling Simon, he had tried Jim's cellphone several times and even his page, but without any results. He had this nagging feeling that something was wrong. Jim had said that Anne was afraid. Why would she be afraid? Unless.... unless she thought she was in danger, maybe the next target. Jim would have gone there without any hesitation. Blair pondered. He instantly picked up the phone again. He just had to be sure, he wasn't going to take a chance on Jim's life.
"Banks!" the captain's voice sounded a bit annoyed.
"Simon, sorry, it's me again. You must listen to this..."
October 30th, 9:00pm
One hour later, Blair entered the nearly empty bullpen and immediately headed for Simon's office. He was now worried beyond limits for the safety of both Jim and Dr Perry. When he opened the office door, the captain welcomed him with a concerned look on his face.
"Blair, Ryf and Brown searched Perry's place. The apartment had been trashed and there was no sign of Anne or Jim. I just put out an APB on both of them."
"Oh my God, Simon, do you know what that means?" Blair nervously ran a shaky hand through his curly hair and sat down in front of the captain's desk, lost in his thoughts.
"We are going to find them. We need to go through everything we've got on this case. There must be something we missed." Simon handed a thick mass of paper to Blair, but the young anthropologist didn't move to get it. He was looking blindly at the ground, his mind elsewhere.
At the sound of his name, Blair jumped and came back to the present situation and blinked his eyes several times. He then saw the papers that Simon was still holding in his hands and grabbed them. "Huh, yeah Simon. Good idea." He started to run over the files that he had read numberless times in the last days.
Jim was fighting against unconsciousness. He couldn't open his eyes, or force even the slightest movement out of his body. His senses were still going crazy. Jim tried, in vain, to apply Sandburg's method of relaxation that usually helped him get control over his senses. At some point, he could hear voices around him and he was pretty sure he was in a vehicle of some sort. The detective then felt a pointy object piercing through his right arm. The syringue's content started to take effect immediately and before he lost consciousness again, he caught a short piece of the conversation going on around him.
"What are you doin'? You know we need him alive for now."
"I know. Don't worry, this is just going to make our goal a little easier."
October 30th, 10:00pm
"Oh man, I can't believe this!" Blair suddenly stood up, a sheet in his hand, all the others, that had been lying on his knees, fell to the ground. "How could I have missed that? I'm stupid, stupid, stupid!" he exclaimed as he knocked himself on the forehead.
"What, Sandburg? What's so stupid?" Simon had been reading the files over and over without finding anything.
"I am stupid. Simon, I think I found something. Look!" Blair handed his sheet, and pointed to a name at the bottom of the paper. "Do you see that? Donar Stevenson."
"Yeah, I can see the name, he's on a business trip to L.A. He hasn't been in Cascade for 2 weeks. Jim already checked his residence, there was nothing there."
"Well, yeah. But we never inspected his second residence in North Cascade. We didn't think it was necessary because we had proof that he was in L.A. I think that this man isn't anywhere near Los Angeles right now. We have to start looking at this case from a different angle. You remember when we said that the swastika could be a signature?" Simon nodded and Blair continued, "Well, it is! In germanic mythologies, there's a god for whom the swastika is the symbol. People used to carve urns with images of that god and that cross on it. The swastika was Thor's sign, the god of thunder and lightning. A very powerful god under the beliefs of this ancient religion." Blair was walking in circles in Simon's office.
"Blair, what does this have to do with Mister Stevenson?"
" Well, Thor is also known as Donar, in the old german tongue. "
Simon immediately picked up the phone. "Rhonda, I need a warrant for the inspection of 947 Pearson Street, right away. And then call all available units to meet me there. Now!" The captain looked at Blair, who was trying to get control over his nervous and shaking body. "You stay here."
"What? Simon, I'm not going to simply stay in the station while you rescue Jim. I want to come with you."
"Sandburg, that's an order. I don't want you around that place. It may be dangerous and I don't need a tired anthropologist running around in my way. You just stay in the station and I'll call you as soon as I have news." He then took his coat and left his office leaving a disconcerted Blair behind.
Jim's eyes opened slightly, he still couldn't move though. His vision was a little blurry, but he could discern one form moving in front of him. His heightened senses were completely gone. Jim was lying on a wet and cold ground. A form approached him and kneeled in front of Jim.
"Ahhh, I'm so glad you're awakening, Jim. I must admit, I was getting a little worried here. How are you feeling?"
Jim tried to answer, but the only thing that came out was a weak and querulous moan. He was getting more feeling in his limbs and tried to move them but his arms and legs would only budge a few inches.
"Be careful, you've been out for some time," the form said. Jim couldn't distinguish the person's face. He wasn't feeling good, waves of dizziness were going through his entire body. But above all, he was having great difficulty thinking straight. Each time Jim tried to focus on an idea or thought, he experienced violent headaches and more fits of giddiness. He couldn't remember how he had gotten there or why he felt so bad. Everything around him was spinning much too fast. The form near Jim patted him on the shoulder.
"You sure you're alright, pal?"
Making an effort to shift positions again, Jim succeeded in sitting uncomfortably on the ground. He looked around him but couldn't discern anything more than some grey clouds hovering everywhere. He then turned his head to the form he knew now was a man.
"Who...who... are.... you?" he was able to articulate.
"Me? I'm just a friend who's going to help you out, it's the least I can do. You can address me as Thor. Don't worry, everything is going to be alright. You just have to trust me."
Blair was dying of anxiety. All the worst scenarios were playing over and over in his mind, like an endless carousel. Jim needed him, needed his friend and his Guide. He was the Shaman of the great city now, the Chopec had said so, but he couldn't even defend his Sentinel. Blair felt guilty for not going with Simon, for not being there when Jim had been kidnapped, for not calling Anne's apartment earlier. Whatever the situation Jim was in, Blair knew it wasn't a good one. Donar had been one step in front of them, practically laughing at the police with his signature left on the bodies. This man was sick and now he probably had Jim in his hands. At least, Blair thought, the bad guy isn't going to have it easy with Jim. The young man knew that Jim would fight or die fighting, no doubt he would make whoever killed Mariah pay dearly if he was given the chance. Blair closed his eyes and tried to erase all the bad thoughts from his mind. His heart was racing, his breathing was fast and uneven and he was sweating like hell. He hated these anxiety attacks.
His cellphone rang. Blair opened his eyes, striving hard to get control over his body, and picked up the phone. He just hope that whatever Simon had to tell, it was good news.
"Simon, did you find Jim?"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but they haven't found us yet," an unknown male voice said through the receiver.
"Where's Jim? Is Anne alright? What have you done with them?"
"Jim's right here with me, safe and unharmed... for now. If you want to see him survive the night, you'll have to follow each of my instructions without delay or digression. If you try to call the police or anyone else for help, your poor friend here is going to pay dearly with his life."
"Okay, okay. Just tell me what you want me to do."
"It's very simple, you just come and get him."
October 30th, 11:00pm
Blair had been driving north on road 138 for the last hour. It was now past 11:00pm. The road was dark and deserted, a light mist covering it. Stevenson had told him to drive and watch for an unusual road sign then wait for further instructions. The thing was, he hadn't mentioned what road sign specifically before hanging up. Blair was now looking at each side of the endless road, trying hopelessly to find whatever sign Stevenson could have been talking about. He was running out of time. Jim could be injured or even dead. Donar hadn't spoken of Anne's condition and that kept Blair worrying. What happened to her? Was she still alive or.... Blair's hands started to shake nervously on the steering wheel. He could picture in his mind her body laying in a weird position in another dumpster or alley, her eyes and mouth wide open, blood slowly slipping from her lips, looking at him with a begging expression. When Blair blinked, the image changed, replacing Anne's body with Jim's. That vision sent a charging bolt through his system.
" Where's that sign, damn it ? " he said aloud, pain and concern in his voice while slamming the steering wheel.
He returned his gaze to the road in front of him, trying to see through the fog that was getting thicker around the car. Suddenly, a shape materialized a few feet beyond his vehicle. Blair pressed hard on the brakes and the car swayed a little before finally stopping in the middle of the street inches in front of Jim and another man standing beside him, a flashlight in his hand. Blair got out of his vehicle, leaving the car's lights on. He walked to the front of his car and waited there. He was scared to death. The other man was definitely Donar Stevenson, Blair recognized him from a picture he had seen while reading his files.
"Jim are you okay, man?"
Jim seemed alright but never answered back. Blair carefully looked around him. They were alone and Anne was nowhere to be seen. His friend wasn't tied or held at gun point. The other man leaned against Jim's shoulder and murmured something in his ear. Jim nodded and turned to approach Blair.
Blair suspiciously looked at Donar. What sick ideas did he have in his head ? It wasn't his pattern to let his target just move away like that. What did he have in mind ? Whatever it was, Blair was relieved that Jim was free and unharmed. Soon, he'd be by his side, and then, whatever little tricks Donar had planned, they'd face them together. Sentinel and Guide.
Jim was beside Blair now but still not talking. He was swaying a little, and his eyes weren't fixing on anything for long. Blair looked at him with a concerned expression on his face. Jim started to pull something that looked like a cord from his jacket pocket and stepped behind him swiftly. The young man tried to turn around when Jim suddenly twisted his arm behind his back. Blair cried in pain as he heard his shoulder crack. At the same moment, Donar raced toward him, a tissue in his hand.
"What..." But Blair's words were cut off by the gag now covering his mouth. As he looked to Jim, then to Donar, he desperately wondered if he was dreaming, as he felt Jim secure his wrists with a rope. Oh my God, Jim! You gotta help me here. What's going on??? Blair thought to himself, as he tried to speak around the gag, while examining Jim's expression. This wasn't his Jim. It couldn't be possible. But his thoughts were rudely interrupted when he was half-carried, half-shoved through the thick woods.
After tumbling and stumbling in the darkness surrounding him, Blair was getting so nervous and scared that he began to feel nauseous. Why was Jim doing this? How could he be helping this guy? Donar was walking behind, holding him tight, while Jim was several feet ahead of them with the flashlight. Jim hadn't seemed to recognize Blair or even understand that he was helping the bad guy. Blair was trying to calm himself, he needed to have control over his mind and body if he intended on getting them both out of this mess.
Donar leaned his head near Blair's ears and began whispering between his teeth in a tone that sent chills through the young man's entire body.
"You know, I'm going to have great pleasure in your death."
Blair stumbled once again but Donar hauled him back with a violent jerk on his bound arms. The throb in the young anthropologist's shoulder doubled in pain causing him to moan in distress. But Jim didn't even hear him or care because he never turned back to help him out. Not even a concerned glance. Blair focused on the man walking in front of him, a man that was his best friend and his Sentinel. How could he not help his Guide, his Shaman? How could he be so insensitive to Blair's drastic situation?
" Don't worry. I told you he was going to stay alive if you showed up. Well, " Donar giggled silently, then he continued, always in a low voice, "he's drugged now, I never said he would be exactly the same, though. I always keep the promises I make, I'm not the sick monster you think I am. "
Donar noticed the doubt in Blair's eyes. "Oh, I won't try to change your idea of me. Your mind is already set up in an atrocious image of what you think I may be. You see, I'm not even a Nazi. I don't give a damn shit about their beliefs. But, it's so fun to watch the stupid cops investigating all the Nazis known in the country. In fact, I use the swastika because it is mine, my mark! Those dumb and unfaithful Nazis have stolen it from me! And it gives me so much pleasure to complete my goal in this world while at the same time pitting all the cops in the state against them. A little present that I offered myself."
The man looked at Blair, trying to decipher whatever his prisoner was thinking. When he talked again, he was still murmuring in Blair's ears but his voice was now angry and full of hate and disdain. "You don't understand me, do you? I am Thor! King of Gods. Ruler of the Dead and the Living! Through the millenniums, my powers have been weakened. But soon, very soon, my powers will be given back to me. And then I'll be born again! Demons, angels, humans... all creatures will obey me as they should obey their rightful Creator, their only and all mighty God! " Blair shook his head, not believing how crazy and far gone the man was. Donar thought he was a god, that was pretty lame, and Blair would have laughed if the situation wasn't so critical. He looked again at Jim. Had the Sentinel heard the conversation? If yes, then why wasn't he coming to free his friend, get him away from this psycho's grasp?
The trio stopped when they arrived in a little clearing. Three long torches were planted in the ground, giving Blair enough light to see Anne waiting for them. She was sitting on a very large stump and, just as Jim, she wasn't tied either. This nightmare is getting stranger by the minute! Blair thought.
As she saw the little group coming toward her, Anne exclaimed, "Blair, it's so nice of you to come 'round. "Then she turned her eyes to Donar and continued, "Everything is ready, darling. It's now or never."
Captain Simon Banks was returning to his office, tired and concerned. It was nearly midnight now and still no sign of Jim. They had searched the entire Stevenson's place but with no results. The residence was clean, and, of course, they hadn't found Stevenson. The forensic team was still working there, attempting to discover any clues that would help them find Ellison. Everyone at the scene knew the situation was critical and that a fellow officer and colleague was in danger. They were all worried about the detective and Dr Perry's safety and understood that their work in that house could really be the difference between life or death. Simon had told them to call him when they'd found something. He was now alone in the elevator, waiting for the doors to open at the 7th floor. He was beginning to worry for the kid's safety too. Blair hadn't been answering his cellphone for the last hour. Simon had called the station earlier after fruitlessly trying to contact Sandburg but the personnel had told him the young man had left the bullpen some time ago.
What kind of trouble is he getting into now? Simon mumbled to himself. He should have known Blair wasn't going to stay put for very long.
The doors opened and he immediately headed for Jim's desk. Empty. Blair wasn't there... but his cellphone was. Simon shook his head and sighed. That wasn't good news. He then walked to his office, and sat at his desk. That's when he noticed the red light flashing on his phone. He had messages.
Jim watched, heedless, as Thor and Anne forced the young man to kneel near the stump. He was lost in thought. He knew that something wasn't right, here. Thor had said he was his friend and Anne too. And he trusted them because....because.... Jim's ideas were slipping away. Everything was spinning again and he took his head between his hands, trying to stop the dizziness. What was wrong with him? Thor walked toward him and put his arm around his shoulder. "Hey, Jim, don't worry, everything is going as planned. I told you. We are a team, you, me and Anne. We always work together, freeing the world from the freaks, the infidels!" he reassuringly said, pointing at the other young man. "Can't you see him as he truly is? The Devil's minion! Can't you see the resemblance? Look at him!"
Jim glanced in the young man's direction but quickly looked away. Too quick though as the world started to whirl again. He didn't understand why but the sight of the helpless man was breaking his heart.
"I said LOOK AT HIM! Before he dies."
Jim looked again but he couldn't make out the young prisoner's face now. Everything was confused, like a cloud shrouding his sight and even his thought. Why is this man's eminent death scaring the shit out of me?
"Jim.... You have to trust me.... Look at him. Now, I'm sure you can see his true nature, as a demon walking among us. Thriving on others credulity. As your friend, I'm telling you, he is a monster. Now, tell me what you see when you look at him... do you see the demon? The demon, Jim, can you see it?" Thor's tone was deep, calm and reassuring.
Focusing on Thor's voice, who was still asking him if he saw 'the demon', Jim looked again at the young man. The cloud started to dim as he saw for the first time beyond the prisoner's disguise. He could now discern the red reflection of the man's eyes and Jim even thought that if he could concentrate enough he would surely see two little horns at each side of his head.
"I see the demon.."
"Good, Jim. Keep watching him. We don't want the demon to get away." Donar walked back to Anne and kneeled in front of what now, Jim was convinced, was the demoniac and malefic demon he had seen.
Blair felt the wood dig into his face as Donar leaned down on him, holding his head firmly against the stump. He tried to wiggle free but the pressure was too much. As he felt the bonds slip from his wrists, he swung wildly at the air, reaching for anything he could use to help himself. A knee dug into his back and he struggled against the hands that were now trying to restrain his left arm. He felt a rope loop around his wrist, drawing it forward as Anne wrapped it around a metal spike sticking out of the side of the stump. Blair reached backward with his other arm, clutching at the knee pressing his ribs against the trunk, in a last attempt to free himself before it was too late. One of the hands, holding his head down, disappeared and he felt an iron grip lock onto his flailing arm. Using all the strength he could muster, Blair resisted as Donar tried to force his arm forward toward the spike on the other side of the stump. His anger rising, Donar twisted his fingers in Blair's hair and slammed his head down, momentarily dazing the young man long enough for his arm to be held into position and bound.
Blair was kneeled in front of the stub, his arms now stretched uncomfortably and his head resting uneasy on it. He was unable to move away, he couldn't even lift his head more than a few inches. When he noticed that Donar was now right in front of him, he began to scream through his gag to get his attention. The man kneeled and looked at Blair with a menacing grin on his face.
"Now, I'm going to untie your gag, but if you try to scream or yell I'm going to put it back and pull your head off with my bare hands. Deal?"
Blair nodded and Donar took off the gag that was restraining him from talking.
"Why are you doing all this? For Thor's power? Why the killings?"
"You are curious. But, I guess you have the right to know cuz your friend here is in the center of all this and you're going to die anyway," Donar said calmly, checking for any results in the kid's face as he mentioned his up-coming death. But Blair's expression was one of stone. He surely didn't want to give that psycho the pleasure of seeing how scared to death he really was.
Donar continued, "You see, for me to gain my powers back, I have to kill three penitent sinners. Not sinners under your religion, but under mine. As Thor, I have decided long ago, that above all sins the worst are Betrayal and Pride. Mister Jordan wasn't a true follower of my group's beliefs. He betrayed us by publishing under another name, a book some years back about sects and cults. He was under the oath of silence and he broke it without any regrets. Well, any regrets then, but that kinda changed when I met him some days ago. He was pretty eager to help us before I killed him. And Miss David... I guess we could say now that pride can kill."
Donar put his hand on Blair's head and started playing with a loose curl. "Tell me, Mr Sandburg, do you believe in ghosts? Because when I killed our little friend Jordan, I'm pretty sure he was really angry at you and Mr Ellison. When I pronounced the incantation in old german that was to make him a wanderer between both worlds, the Living and the Dead, I ordered him to watch Ellison. Didn't want to loose sight of him. That's why I recruited Anne in the first place! But, I needed something more.... invisible. Well, anyway, I think Jordan took his role too much to heart and played some tricks on both of you! But, by now, he must have vanished in the depths of Hell. When I have my powers back, maybe I can use his abilities again." Donar started to laugh freely, and in a quick move, tore away a wisp of Blair's hair and put it in his pocket. The anthropologist cried in pain. As he tried to get control of himself again, he glared at Donar, his eyes filled with subdued anger.
"Anne is your accomplice in this, right?" Blair said, disdainfully.
"Accomplice, lover but above all follower. Mister Lewitt was one of my followers also. And four other people that I've choosen between all the possibilities offered to me, because of their talent in being discreet and in believing in my Rebirth. I don't use all my followers at once and only use their help in the sacrifices one time. It would be too risky for me if they saw more than one killing, then changed their minds and went to the police. So they only know of one murder, the one they've been a part of. They don't know about the missions of the other followers. The only thing they really need to know is that my powers will be given back to me soon. I met Lewitt in Florida. He wasn't part of the sacrifices there but he was one of my followers. Anne here is the only one who's aware of what I'm exactly doing but I've only known her since I arrived in Cascade. She was the perfect bait for Ellison. They had a love relationship for several months maybe 4 years ago." Donar glanced at Jim, then added softly to Blair, "Love is really a bitch sometimes, don't you think?"
"What drugs have you given to Jim, damn it? He's not even talking to me." His voice was trembling and tears filled his eyes as he looked at his friend standing 20 feet away and then back at Donar.
"Oh..... Dr Perry saw to that. It's a mix of powerful hallucinogens and other drugs that she injected him with. They normally use that mix while brain-washing and I guess it was necessary in this case. I don't think Mr Ellison would have agreed to participate peacefully at our ceremony. He doesn't really know who he is now, or who you are for that matter. He's completely under my influence for at least the next 24 hours. He understands now that I am Thor and that my powers will be given back to me soon."
Blair's hope suddenly increased when he remembered what had happened to Jim the last time he had been injected with drugs. An old acquaintance had kidnapped him, but the group had the surprise of their lives when Jim woke several hours before they had planned. His Sentinel's senses had subdued the drugs effects. What should have taken him out cold for several hours had only caused him to loose consciousness for several minutes. Blair was hoping that would be the case here also. That his Sentinel would come back to reality real soon.
"Why him, huh ? Why him and not me, or the guy next door?"
"I choose Jim long ago, when he arrested one of my followers for drug smuggling. He surely doesn't remember that, but I do. And he's the perfect recipient. He's healthy and strong."
"Recipient? What are you talking about? Recipient for what???"
"You are totally ignorant! Just as the rest of the world. But that will change. With the third sacrifice, a recipient must be chosen for one day. The way I see it, your friend will have my powers for one day. Then, I'll kill the recipient and I'll get my powers back. Five years ago, I made an error. I mistook the date and killed the sinners for nothing. It didn't work. So I thought about it for awhile. And then I figured out that I had the wrong date. But now, everything is alright. Everything's gonna work just fine! I should have known that the crucial day was Halloween, what better day to be reborn as God of Heaven and Hell then on the Hallow eve's."
"You are totally crazy!!! Where did you hear such a stupid thing that said that you had to kill people for your own little search for power?"
Donar violently punched him on the face, his eyes filled with controlled fury and hate. Control for now, but Blair knew too well that it wasn't going to be that way for long. He remembered painfully the images of Jordan and Mariah's bodies and started to shake.
"You stay polite, young man! Remember who you're talking to! Nobody told me what to do. I just knew it. I'm THOR!"
"That's enough!!! Now's your time for redemption! Redeem yourself!"
Blair looked defiantly to Donar, it was the only way to go with that guy. "Are you kidding? So that you can kill me afterwards? And, what? Rip out my heart or eyes, like you did with Jordan and Mariah? No way, man. Find yourself another repentant sinner!"
"I'm not giving a damn about your heart or eyes, Shorty. I just need your confession for now!!!"
Getting angry beyond control, Donar punched the tied man several times on the head, and finished the ordeal with one violent slam of his elbow on Blair's back. Donar then seized Blair by the hair, lifting his head up a few inches.
"Just redeem yourself!!!" Donar punctuated his order by releasing his grip on Blair's hair and letting the young man's head hit the stump .
Blair's nose was now bleeding freely, so was his lower lip. His entire face was burning and hurting, his injured, and probably broken shoulder was sending bolts through his aching back. He tried to restrain himself from crying out loud, while tears gathered in his eyes. He just had to gain more time, a little more time.
"I won't!" he spat.
"If you don't do it, I'm going to kill you anyway and then your friend. I need your confession right away, but if you won't give it to me, I'll have no other choice but to go on with the ceremony. I haven't done all this just for a crazy, short-sighted punk to pull it away like that."
"Without a confession it won't work! You don't have to do this. Just untie me and everything will be okay. You let us go, me and Jim, and then we can talk and help you out. Really help you."
"If you don't redeem yourself, I'll torture you until you die but not before you watch your dear friend here going through the same ordeal. Maybe, it'll work even without you being penitent."
Blair understood that he wouldn't be able to work his way through this by trying to change Donar's mind. "Okay, okay. What am I guilty of, by the way?"
"As if you don't know! I don't know you as well as Mr. Jordan, and your sins aren't as obvious as Miss David's . Though I'm sure you've sinned several times in your pitiful life. For now, I'm accusing you of something very simple, Stupidity. In the sense of, how can someone with so much potential as you end up teamed with a cop and stay there of his own free will, wasting his time? Why aren't you using your knowledge for your own purpose? You disgust me so much! Such lost talent. How can someone be so bright but at the same time so dumb? I tested your sin tonight, you knew that coming here alone was stupid and silly. But you came anyway, proving what I thought, entering the wolf's den without any weapon, any defense. Why?"
"That's what we call friendship, man! You don't even know what that word means, do you?"
"You are beginning to test my patience, young man! That's not friendship, that's stupidity. Now, repent yourself so that we can go on with the ceremony!" Donar took a knife from his pocket, and leaned it against Blair's throat. "You do it or I swear I'm going to slice open your friend like a rabbit, and I'll force you to eat his guts before killing you! Redeem yourself!!! You just repeat after me ... it's my fault...."
Blair didn't answered. He knew that Donar was crazy enough to put to action every threat he made, but he just needed more time, his Sentinel needed more time.
"You do it right away, Shorty or I'll kill him. Now!!!"
Blair sensed his chances of getting out of this alive slipping away. But it wasn't only his life that was on play here, Jim was also in danger. It is my fault, Blair thought. I should have seen in the first place the link between the swastika and Donar Stevenson. I should have called Simon immediately after receiving news of Donar's whereabouts. It's my fault if Jim dies.
"It's my fault, it's my fault," Blair said in a low desperate and sad voice. "It's all my fault," he repeated several times like an endless mantra.
October 31st, midnight
Simon was now driving at full speed on the 138. Blair had left a message on his answering machine telling him that Stevenson had called and ordered Blair to meet him on that road and not to tell anyone where he was going. The kid had also declared that he was sorry that he hadn't immediately shared the information with the captain, but that Jim's life was at stake and that by the time Simon got the message, he hoped that everything would have gone peacefully. The captain didn't know how he was going to find out where Blair was now, but the first thing to do was to search for anything suspicious on the 138. Simon's car, as well as many other police vehicles following, quickly pulled over at the sight of a car parked in the middle of the road. The captain immediately recognized the green '68 Volvo that Blair owned. The engine wasn't running but the lights were still on. No sign of Blair though, or of anyone else. The place was now completely lit by the blue and red police lights.
Where the hell is that kid? Simon thought as he looked around the scene, no clues to where he should search first. The entire place was surrounded by the dark forest.
Donar and Anne were now talking with Jim, but they were too far away and Blair couldn't make out the conversation. He was still kneeling in front of the dead stump, his head resting on it. He only hoped that time would be on his side. He should have called Simon right away when he received the call. He had thought, at that time, that the best solution wasn't to head down the road with the police on his tracks. That could have scared away Donar, and Blair would have never seen Jim alive again. He had believed that it would be better for Jim if he followed Donar's instructions. At least, he had left a message on Simon's answering machine. Blair had figured he could go to his meeting with Donar and maybe get the thing resolved by himself without any one getting hurt, before Simon even got the message. But if things didn't go as planned, Simon would at least know where he was. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Blair repeated to himself.
Blair was now praying to every known god in the world to get him and his friend out of this alive and in one piece. This Halloween day wasn't starting as he had wished.
When Donar approached Blair again, he had a smile on his face. "Now, the time has come for you to die. Usually, I would kill you myself. But I think I'll have much greater pleasure to see the cop here do the job."
Blair's eyes widened in terror. "No! Don't do that. Kill me if you have to but leave Jim out of this!"
Donar seemed to ponder for a moment. "Nah! This is going to be soooooo fun! And he's completely under my will, he'll do anything right now to please me. Even kill his best friend."
The man gave a sign with his head, inviting Anne and Jim to come nearer. Dr. Perry was carrying a large object covered by a black veil in her hands. Jim was following like a zombie, a blank expression on his face.
"Jim, my friend. The time has come for the demon to be executed, to join the world of the Dead which he should have never left. You have been honored by the right of killing him. To kill a creature of Hell is a good thing, you'll be helping this world, saving us from a great threat."
Jim was swallowing every word as his face began to change expressions, from blank to eager. Donar took the object from Anne's arms and unwrapped it. Under the layers of black tissue was a large axe, the blade shining with the light the torches offered. Donar's eyes were glittering with excitement.
"Demon, I'm in need of your head and I think this is just the perfect way to get it!" Donar declared as he took the wisp of Blair's hair he had taken earlier and sliced it with the edge of the axe. "Yes.... this is just sharp enough to slice right through your neck, don't you think?"
Blair gasped in horror. This isn't happening, this is -not- happening, he thought as he briefly closed his eyes. When he opened them back, he hopelessly noticed that it wasn't a dream, that it was really going on. At least, beheading is quicker and less painful than being burned alive.
Donar gave the sharp weapon to Jim and said, "Now's the time to prove yourself to me. Kill the demon."
Jim took the axe and approached Blair. He could see the demoniac features of the man tied to the stump. Most of his vision was back now but people's faces were still surrounded by a white hallow.
Jim came near Blair with the axe in his hand, then kneeled beside him. Without even looking at the young man, he pulled the long curly hair away, clearing the neck. "Jim, it's Blair! You have to wake up, man! C'mon, don't you know who I am?"
"You are a demon, sent to destroy this world. I'm here to kill you," Jim said in a monotone voice then stood up.
" No!!!! I'm your friend, your partner. We were investigating a serial killer. He killed Mariah! You remember Mariah?" Blair's voice was trembling. Jim had to gain his memory back, it was his only chance.
The demon was talking to him, declaring himself his friend and partner. Jim did vaguely recall having a friend, someone else other than Thor and Anne. He shook his head in denial, this demon couldn't be his friend. He was trying to lead him into error.
"That's right Jim. You do remember, right? You can't kill me, you're a cop and my best friend."
Donar violently slapped Blair. "Shut up! This ain't gonna work." Then he turned in Jim's direction, "Kill him! Right now!"
Jim lifted the axe above his head and looked one last time at the half-man, half-demon kneeling in front of him.
"I'm your Guide, your shaman! Damn it Jim, you have to at least recall that!" Tears stood in Blair's eyes.
Guide? Jim pondered, Shaman? Those words seemed familiar to him. They meant something special, something beyond just words coming from a demoniac creature. They felt true. More true than whatever was happening around him right now. Jim tried to focus on those two little words, forgetting everything going on... Guide, Shaman? Why do these words feel so strange coming from that demon? Jim looked at the creature again who was now looking at him with begging eyes.
"Please Jim, you gotta remember!" Blair said, between sobs, tears were now freely dropping on his cheeks.
Jim concentrated all his energy on trying to understand what the creature meant by remembering. His head was throbbing while he was still attempting to search through his memory the meaning of the two strange words. Then, his vision seemed to change. The blur wasn't going away but the image of the demon was mutating into something else. Jim blinked his eyes. When he opened them back, the man kneeling in front of him wasn't a demon anymore. The man had red paint on his face, his eyes were blue and he wore native indian clothing. His Shaman... Blair! He remembered in part now. This was his friend, not a demon. And this guy, Thor, he was the murderer he was searching for.
Jim quickly lowered the axe and slammed the non-sharp side into Thor's stomach before dropping the weapon on the ground. Anne tried to seize him by the arm, but Jim swiftly turned around and pushed her strongly on the ground. She flew away but when she hit the soil her head slammed against a rock and she lost consciousness.
Donar regained his balance and threatened Jim with the axe he now had in hand. "It seems that I'll have to kill your friend myself!" He started to turn the weapon in Blair's direction, aiming for his head.
Jim launched himself on Donar, grabbing the axe with one hand, the other slamming on the madman's chest. They both crashed on the ground. Jim was still feeling dizzy because of the drugs and had difficulty coordinating his movements. Donar quickly got back on his feet and lifted the axe in Blair's direction again.
"Jim!!!!!" Blair yelled.
Jim shook his head, trying to unwrap the fog in his mind and movement. He saw Donar just as the man was lowering the weapon. He instantly got back on his feet and grabbed the axe by the helve, stopping it inches away from Blair's neck. Donar and Jim started to struggle for the weapon, each of their hands on the axe's handle. In an overflow of strength, Jim overpowered Donar and hit his head hard with the back of the axe edge. The madman slowly dropped to the ground and stopped moving.
Jim turned his head in Blair's direction and saw him clearly for the first time as he really was. His friend, without demon's horns, red eyes or a Indian-painted face.
"Oh my God, Blair, are you okay?" Jim kneeled beside him, checking the already discolored swelling on Blair's face.
Blair let out a nervous breath but didn't answered. His cheeks were still wet, but he wasn't crying anymore, though Jim could see new tears forming in his friend's eyes. He started untying him and as soon as he finished he put the ropes around Donar's and Perry's wrists. He then returned his attention back to his Guide.
"Everything's going to be okay, partner. You'll see." He examined Blair for some time and put a comforting hand on his shoulder, careful not to bring more pain to the young man. "You saved our lives, buddy. Thank you."
Blair glanced tiredly at the Sentinel. "Welcome back," he murmured.
Jim slowly brought his friend into a warm and friendly embrace. He could tell his Sentinel's senses were coming back on line little by little, as he started to track Simon's voice as his captain made his way toward them through the forest from miles away. Half an hour later, the cavalry arrived.
October 31st, mid-afternoon
The day had been long and exhausting both physically and emotionally. Stevenson and Perry's arrests were soon followed by the other disciples of Thor. Perry had quickly revealed each of their names and addresses, most of them were living out of town and weren't even on the list that Jim, Mariah and Blair had investigated. She also divulged what Stevenson had planned to execute when his powers came back and that he was taking body parts from his victims, the eyes, heart and head, for the final ceremony where he intended on killing the recipient. Stevenson had changed his M.O. for the sacrifices supposedly because he wanted to explore different methods of death. For now, the six followers and their leader were being kept under high surveillance in the county jail, waiting for their trial.
Blair and Jim had been transported to the nearest hospital right after their ordeal but released soon after, the anthropologist with a sling for his right arm and painkillers, and the detective with a painful headache. They had both tried to sleep through the rest of the day, but with no success, the memories too fresh in their minds. The Halloween party at the station had been canceled, everyone had worked double shifts on Stevenson's case, and they all needed the rest.
Blair was sitting on the couch, looking through the bay windows, lost in his thoughts. This Halloween day had been, with no doubt, the worst ever in his life. He had nearly been beheaded. Blair couldn't understand how a man like Stevenson could end up so far away from reality. But right now, he just really didn't care about that. What really seemed important to Blair was that Jim was alive, he was alive and the murderers had been caught. Nothing else mattered. Not even his painful shoulder or his throbbing back.
Jim was lying on his bed, eyes closed but still awake. The doctors had said that the effects of the drugs in his system would eventually clear off by themselves. The best cure for him now was rest and time. His heightened senses weren't at their full capacity, but for now, Jim didn't care. He had the worst headache ever and had placed a wet towel over his face, covering both his forehead and his eyes. He was furious and at the same time grieving for what had happened to Anne. She had been more than just a friend some years ago, she had been his lover and confident. Jim couldn't understand how an intelligent woman such as Anne could have worked in hand with a psycho like Stevenson. She had betrayed whatever trust he had for her, but he still felt Anne's loss dearly. The loss of the person she had once been, the person he had known in so many ways, the person he had love. Blair had taken tremedous risk going after him in the forest, without any backup. In other circumstances, Jim would had been enraged at his friend, but he knew very well that Blair had only been thinking about Jim's security, not his own. The detective was much angrier at himself. He should have been more careful with Perry. Not let old emotions get in the way. Blair had risked his life to save his, and it was all his fault. But Jim knew better than to try to decipher what could have happened. All his cop and military experiences had shown him that thinking about the past didn't solve anything if you didn't learn from your mistakes. His guilt wasn't going to wash away that easy, though. Not finding any sleep, Jim got up and walked downstairs. As he sat beside his thoughtful friend, the phone rang.
"Ellison." Pause. "No Simon. Seems like either one of us can sleep for now. What's up?"
Blair curiously looked at Jim, wondering what news Simon had to offer them.
"Huh, huh. That's good sir." Pause, then Jim started to laugh while glancing at Blair. "Yeah, I'll tell him that. Kay, thanks Simon." Jim hung up.
"Well... what?" Blair asked.
Jim examined his young friend. Dark circles were visible under each of his eyes, his lower lip was still swollen and his face was red and inflamed where Stevenson had hit him. All in all, he looked pitiful.
" Simon said that Stevenson is going to be tried for the murders in Florida as well. He also wants to give you a bunch of white rocks for your next birthday "
"You remember Hansel and Gretel? The kid's story? Well, he thinks that the next time you're abducted and forced in a deep forest, it'll be much easier for him to find out where you are if you left some little rocks behind you. That way, he won't have to scatter half his police officers over a ten miles radius trying to find an adventurous observer."
"Hah ah, that's so funny. Tell him my birthday just passed!"
Blair smiled, for the first time in days, that's when they heard a little knock on the door. Jim started to stand up.
"No, Jim. Let me do it." Blair carefully got on his legs, trying not to send throbs of pain to his arm or back and headed for the door and opened it.
"Trick or Treat!!!" two little voices exclaimed.
Blair started to laugh uncontrollably. It wasn't helping his backache or his shoulder but the sight was so amusing. "Jim, you gotta see this!"
Jim walked to the door, wondering what his young friend was laughing at. That's when he saw two small children, not more than ten years old, wearing weird costumes. One was wearing a devil costume, all in red, with two yellow horns on his head, a black painted moustache and a pointed tail. The other child was disguised as an indian, with a plastic bow. Jim smiled at the sight of the two little boys and took the bowl full of candy Blair had bought before Stevenson's case opened.
"Here boys," Jim said with a smile, giving a handful of candy to each child, "great costumes!"
"Thank you mister! Happy Halloween!"
Then the two boys ran through the hall to join their mom waiting for them near the stairs. Jim closed the door and turned around to face his young friend still giggling behind him.
"You know, Jim. Didn't you say you saw me as a demon first under the drug influence, then as a shaman? These kids, man... Wow! The coincidence is amazing!!!"
"Yeah." Jim remembered painfully his moment in the forest, when he had seen Blair first as a demon with horns and then as his Shaman. Of course, the drugs had been responsible for those hallucinations. For Jim, it seemed that Blair had already had his Trick-or-Treat experience for this year, even if he hadn't really been disguised. He took some candy in his hands and handed it to Blair. " Forgot to give them to you for your performance last night, Chief!"
Jim smiled at the surprised look on his friend's face. His Guide and Shaman who had saved his life earlier that day. "Happy Halloween, Blair!"
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