Thanks to Shallan for her great beta. This is the third "Caught on Video".
Warning: Jim (tiny) owie. PG13 for language. Gen, but one person mistook this for slash because of the title and first line. (That was a joke. True, but a joke.)
Jim needed a screw.
It was a special screw, one that could only be found at the new giant home improvement warehouse, and he dreaded going there. Actually he liked the place, but Blair always insisted on going along and he was a pain.
They would arrive, and right away Blair would start. They couldn't just walk in the front doors. No. They had to use the greenhouse entrance, so Blair could look at the plants. Or buy some new herbs for the herb box on the balcony, that he kept insisting would save money, and which Jim figured would pay for itself, sometime in the next millennium. Only after the plants were looked over, would they enter the store by the side entrance.
Then there would be a side trip to the furniture aisle to check on a huge unfinished set of bookshelves that Blair insisted would go on sale any day now. Jim had visions of the bookshelves in the bathroom or his bedroom, since he couldn't think or anyplace else they'd fit.
Today, Jim just needed a screw. And he was only a half-mile from the store. And Blair was back at the station.
He won't know, Jim told himself. I'll just slip in and out and... He laughed as he turned toward the new store. I sound like a husband who's cheating on his wife. He was sure Blair had a lot of other things to worry about. Check that ego, Ellison. You are not the center of Blair's universe.
"He better not have gone to that store alone." Blair Sandburg paused while writing a report, and looked angrily toward the door. "My God, that place is a death trap for someone with his sensitivities. Huge bags of bug dust, chemicals and who knows what else." Blair had long ago mapped out a route to avoid the worst dangers, but Jim would wander around the place if left to his own devices.
Tommy Cary whirled around a corner honking the horn on his forklift to chase any of the slow moving customers out of his way. Laverne Marcus was watching and made a mental note to have the manager check the tapes of Tommyboy's driving exploits. The new employee was about to become an ex-employee, and it couldn't happen to a nicer little jerk.
"Tommy!" She was in charge of the paint department today and she'd be damned if the little yo-yo was killing anyone on her watch. "Put that pallet of acid up over the sandpaper. And use those aisle blockers... on both ends." Tommy gave her a bored look and disappeared into the next aisle, as a group of impatient customers mobbed Laverne.
Tommy looked at the wide, empty shelves high above the sandpaper. No challenge there. When he had worked at the furniture factory, he'd been the best forklift man around. Instead he maneuvered the pallet, stacked two high with boxes, above the rest of the paint junk. All those liquid paint removers and thinners and stuff should go together, he thought. The pallet barely fit and he had to shove it hard to squeeze it in. Even though the plastic bottles were inside double re-enforced boxes, the nail from a neighboring pallet punctured one, opening a tiny pinhole.
Eddie Keenan couldn't believe it. He had Detective James Ellison in his sights. He'd just been sitting there, casing the jewelry store in the mall when this old, piece of crap truck drove by.
The pig that'd sent his little brother Joey up for five years. Joey hadn't survived six months. Eddie followed the truck through the lot to one of those warehouse stores. He wrapped his hand around the knife in his pocket and followed the detective inside.
By some miracle, the 10% solution of acid that was dribbling out of the box missed hitting any really reactive chemicals. By the time Laverne noticed the misplaced pallet, threw a hissy fit and had it put where it was supposed to be, it had only managed to drip onto the concrete floor. There it found a tiny puddle of Paintsaway, paint remover left when a customer opened the bottle and knocked it over. All of this happened far at the back of the shelves, away from anyone's view. To the customers passing, it would only offer an odd whiff of chemicals, vaguely unpleasant but too weak to cause harm in the cavernous store.
"I need a screw." Jim looked down at the plump older woman at the hardware desk and smiled. She blinked and didn't say anything for a moment then led him to the fasteners as she questioned him. By the time they had arrived, she'd surmised which one he needed and handed it to him.
As he walked past the paint department, he remembered the paint Blair had spilled on the floor of the loft. It was just a speck, but it bothered Jim.
Laverne's portable phone rang. She was on the tall ladder, pulling down some interior satin enamel. "Paint department, can I help you?
"Vernie, Michaelangelo is here." It was Shirley Kelley, the hardware specialist. "He's heading your way. He came right up and asked me for a screw. I swear, I almost said 'your place or mine?' He's so good looking."
Michaelangelo was the name they'd given the big gorgeous hunk of man they both admired. "Cutie-pie with him?"
"Nah. Maybe they had a fight." They'd over-heard the curly haired, young man refer to Michaelangelo as his 'partner'.
Laverne was a true romantic. "I hope not, they make such cute couple. Oh, here he comes." She whispered the last words before she pushed the off button. "Can I help you, sir?" She looked down as he stopped almost directly below her.
"No thanks. This is what I need." He was looking at a display of Paintsaway.
After that several things happened rather quickly.
Laverne sighed and returned to her boxes of paint.
Jim frowned as he sniffed the air. Something was off here. Wrinkling his nose, he snorted and bent forward. It smelled like... like... the edges of his vision grew dim as he staggered slightly.
Eddie Keenan was single minded in his pursuit of the Detective. He never looked up at the gray-haired woman on the twenty-foot ladder. All he saw was Ellison, alone in the aisle, standing near a rolling stair.
The long, razor sharp blade was in his hand as he edged closer. He'd murdered before, for less reason. He had to kill this cop now; it was almost a compulsion. He'd slip his blade between the man's ribs and into his heart. He knew just how to do it, instant death with a minimum of blood. Luckily, the cop seemed oblivious to his presence.
Eddie charged at the bigger man, the blade flashing. But, Jim wasn't there. He had passed out, hitting the ladder on his way down and making it sway precipitously. Laverne grabbed at the railing around the ladder's top platform. Unfortunately, she had a gallon of paint in each hand at the time. The cans of good mid-grade semi-gloss fell, one catching Eddie square on the head. The other hit the floor, exploding and splattering a ten-foot area with paint. ,p>
Blair Sandburg had just entered the store. He had decided to stop on the way home and pick up Jim's damn screw. When he heard a woman scream, the young detective ran to the paint department, his weapon drawn. He saw Jim and another unconscious man sprawled on the floor, covered in white paint. An older woman was making her way down a 'rolling stair' type ladder.
"Jim! Jim, are you OK?" Blair quickly dialed 911 and knelt next to his friend.
Jim was stirring, and tried to sit up. "Watch him, Chief! He has a knife. I saw it as I fell." Blair took a second to ascertain that the man truly was unconscious and cuffed him. He noted the nasty looking blade lying several feet away.
"Did he stab you?" Blair looked his partner over, finding no blood. Just white paint covering most of his upper body. "What the hell happened?"
"Did... did I kill him?" Horrified, Laverne was staring at the fallen assailant.
"No, he's unconscious." Blair was relieved when the store security showed up, moments before the uniformed officers.
"I think I passed out," Jim whispered as he stood up. "I smelled something strange."
"Yeah and being 'you', you probably hoovered up a whole lung full of whatever it was, trying to figure it out." Blair grabbed his arm and started to lead his partner away. "Come on. Let's go to the garden center."
"You want to look at herbs NOW?!"
"They have a hose and a floor drain out there. That paint really isn't good for you." He left the perp to the uniforms, as he angrily steered his partner to the open-air safety of the garden center. "You get to take a nice COLD shower."
"Is he ok? Laverne followed them, still curious if she'd hurt anyone. "Did I hit you, too?"
"No ma'am... Laverne." Jim read her nametag before continuing. " I think you saved my life."
"Oh! Did you faint?"
"I blacked out... just for a second."
"My partner doesn't faint." Blair snorted as the three of them left the building.
Laverne was puzzled as 'Detective Sandburg', as the officers called him, ordered the much older, larger 'Detective Ellison' around. DETECTIVE PARTNERS! She muffled a nervous giggle as she realized the truth. I'll have to explain to Shirley, she thought as she led the two men to an employee's only area of the greenhouse.
Since his jacket and shirt were soaked with acrylic paint, Jim slipped out of them and tossed them into the trash. Laverne sighed at the picture he made -- Michaelangelo, indeed. Bending forward, he managed to rinse off the worst of the Antique White, while Blair held the sprayer. Standing, he shook off the excess water, and Laverne sighed again.
Detective Sandburg offered his partner his jacket, which surprisingly fit. "Come on. We'll get you checked out at the hospital."
"OK!" Ellison turned to the woman and smiled. "Thank you."
"Yes." The younger man gave her a megawatt smile. "Thank you for saving my friend." He kissed her cheek impulsively, and gave her a hug.
"You're both welcome." In a daze, Laverne watched them leave. She still wasn't sure what, exactly, she had done.
Of course, the whole incident was caught on the store's video security system.
Because it appeared that she had dropped the paint to save Jim, Laverne was hailed as a heroine and appeared on Oprah. Everyone thought it was funny that her best friend was named Shirley. They became the national spokeswomen for their company.
The Fox network got hold of the tape and used it on a special called The World's Kraziest Kriminals. Jim made them blur his face so no one but his closest friends (and the entire Cascade Police Department) knew whom it was, fainting like a Victorian maiden.
He also never got his screw.
Blair never said 'I told you so', even though the frustrated desire to do so actually caused him physical pain.
Eddie Keenan was sent to the same prison as his late brother. As he was even more hateful than the late, unlamented Joey, prospects for his long-term survival didn't look good.
The day after the incident, Tommy Cary crashed his forklift into a mirror display and was fired. He moved to New York and became a cab driver.
Meanwhile, the Sentinel never again ventured into the dangerous environs of the home store without his Guide there to watch his back.
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