Games People Play

Susan Foster




Captain James Ellison, barely had time to yell a warning when the helicopter was hit and was going down; it crashed through the canopy of trees the rotor blades sheering off, then there was nothing. 


Ellison woke to the smell of smoldering rubber, aviation fuel and blood. Painfully, he pulled himself up, then bit back on a scream of pain as it exploded up through his leg and hip. He dragged himself over to his men; of the eight only three of them looked to be still alive. Grabbing the medical kit, he began to do what he could for them.


Over the next few days although he tried his best, stretching his training as a medic to the limit, they died one by one, each one.  He buried each one although it took him most of his waning strength and most of the day.  He knew that it had to be done, until the time came that he could return them home. A Ranger never left any of his men behind.


The last to die was Harry Markham, Ellison had to lean over him as he strained to hear the last words that Markham would ever speak, the first part he couldn’t hear, the mouth just moved without the strength to form them,  then somehow the man summoned up the strength to grasp his Captain’s wrist, “You must tell them, Captain.” The effort to utter those words seemed to drain him, but his eyes bore into Ellison, the man was dying, and this was important to him.  Already his fingers were losing the strength to grip. Ellison lied and promised; giving his friend the only thing he could peace of mind.  Markham sighed as if a burden was lifted, and then the light faded from his eyes, and his hand slipped from around Ellison’s wrist to fall limply onto the ground.  Captain Ellison was alone now and with little hope of rescue, he knew that his wound was beginning to rot, and a fever was starting to build up in him.  He reached for his weapon, and looked round at the graves of his men, then laid it down, he would bury Markham first.  It was then that he saw the first of the Chopec warriors, the bow pulled back, the arrow ready to fly.  He could not even form the words needed to tell them he was a friend, then like a puppet who’s strings had been cut, he slumped over the body of the last of his men, and knew no more.


A hand grabbed his shoulder; Ellison caught the wrist and pulled his attacker across and down, as his elbow came up to strike at the exposed throat.


“Jim,” the voice was panicked; and at the last moment he managed to stop the blow that would have crushed the man's throat.  Blair Sandburg was sprawled across the bed, his breathing coming in sharp quick breaths as he rubbed his wrist.  “You okay Jim?  You were having one hell of a nightmare.” The young guide was doing his best to hide his fear. He had been awakened from a sound sleep by the distress of his sentinel; it had been so intense that he had been doubled over in pain, barely able to struggle up the stairs to him.

As his head had been spinning, he had crawled on all fours to the large bed and dragged himself up. Only to be thrown down and within a heart's beat of being killed. Bonded, Jim should have known it was his guide, but what ever the nightmare was it had overridden all the hardwired sentinel instincts leaving only the need for self-preservation. 


Blair lay still submissively, as recognition returned to the face of his sentinel remembering all too clearly another time when Jim Ellison had lost control.


Jim rubbed a hand across his face, and tried to collect himself, he hadn’t had a nightmare like that since he joined Major Crimes, why would it come back now? Looking at his guide he knew that Blair wouldn’t let this go, he would need to find the answers, but for now he was not in the mood for the kid’s psycho babble, what he did need was stretched out in front of him, Reaching out he caught Blair’s wrist, and ignoring the wince of pain, dragged him up against his large muscular body.


“Jim, you need to talk, it was pretty intense.” Blair said softly, his voice dropping to the special tone that called a sentinel to this guide. He could see Jim was becoming lost in the more feral dark sentinel persona, and that was never good.


“No,” the older man snapped back, he didn’t need words from his guide, what he needed was more basic; he needed to lose himself in his guide. Knowing only that he had to reaffirm that he was alive and, for a sentinel that could only be done by bonding with his guide.


He rolled Blair under him, his body pressing the younger smaller man face down deep into the mattress, the breath nearly knocked out of him And a strong hand to the back of his head pressing his face into the pillow even as he tried to speak out loud. A loud growl in his ear, made the hair on the back of his neck rise, the Dark Sentinel had given way to the panther.   Sentinel soft Blair could only whisper “I know man, don’t speak”. 


Blair let his barriers fall, and the panther purred its approval. His sentinel entered his mind, so fast and hard that Blair couldn’t stop a cry of pain from tumbling from his lips.  He tried to lift his head, only to have fingers tangle in his hair and force his head down again. 


Jim’s emotions swirled round uncontrollably in Blair’s mind, the dark sentinel the panther, the man he called friend. Then another unknown until then took form in his head. Blair fought to make sense and order of the emotions, battering away at him. It was as if he was swimming against the tide, each time he got closer to the unknown man, he pulled back, spitting his hatred of all things guide, with an emotion that seared Blair. For the young guide it seemed an eternity trapped in the hate filled emotions of this other Jim. Finally, he managed to push the man away into whatever trap door of Jim’s mind he had come from, before he felt himself spiral down into overload.




Blair came round to a sharp pain, his eyes flying open, as he tried to push the threat away from him. He rolled over to see Jim kneeling on the bed, a syringe in his hand.  The younger man, powered away from him, and already on the edge of the bed fell on the floor with a thud, then scrambled into the corner, one hand up to protect himself.


Jim slowly put the needle down, concern and puzzlement crossed his face, then understanding.


“It’s okay kid, you started to overload, and I couldn’t get you to connect”, Jim shook his head, “I’m sorry Blair but I had to call the GDP, their paramedic told me to administer the damper, it was the only way kid, I didn’t know what else to do. You weren’t responding to me”.


Blair shook his head, “You don’t know do you?” The tears fell down his face, he dashed them away. 


The next thing he knew Jim was on the floor by his side and he was gathered close. He buried his face into the sentinel’s chest, and allowed himself to be rocked slowly. He could feel Jim’s chin resting against his head, his face pressed to the sentinel’s throat.  Like this he felt safe, warmth started to rush through his body, and Blair closed his eyes.


Jim sniffed, then had to fight down the anger, the damper had sent Blair straight into heat, it had dampened his empathic ability, but the by-product was that he was giving off the pheromones signaling his need to bond.

No wonder the kid was so scared, he could imagine all too clearly what had happened to him in the past in this state. Permanently in heat, any unbonded sentinels near by unbonded would go into a frenzy. Jim closed his eyes, remembering Blair’s bitter words of being a training guide for three or was it four sentinels?  Now more than before he could understand the bitterness.  This was another chapter of Blair’s life that he had to come to terms with, but in the meantime he would keep him safe. 



Slowly, the nightmares began to take their toll on the sentinel, each night he would return to the jungle, and relive the last moments of Harry Markham. It was as if he was missing something, and until he put it right he would not get any peace. So each night he sought some kind of peace with the physical presence of his guide, burying his face against his guide, using his scent and warmth to lull him to sleep. But tonight his mind kept whirling round; he hugged his guide closer, and thought of his guide.


Blair had moved in with him only a few months ago, a physical and mental wreck beaten down and blooded by weeks of abuse by the very people that should have helped him namely the GDP. But the kid had guts and was bouncing back, there was a man any sentinel should have been proud to call his guide. Blair was Correction Fodder, a corrupt guide, but to Jim he was his lifeline to sanity, and more precious than any gold or silver.  He was his guide.



The sun was streaming through the skylight, when Blair’s mind did the mental jump and instead of panicking he relaxed and buried himself deep in the nest of blankets. He was in his sentinel’s bed, safe and warm. A heavy footstep, on the stairs heralded Jim’s arrival with a tray of food.  With a sigh Blair sat up as Jim joined him, he pushed a plate across to his guide, waiting patiently as he took a bit of the toast. 


Blair caught the almost questioning look, “Jim?”


 “How much of this sentinel stuff do you understand and how much is guess work?”


For a moment Blair shifted uncomfortably in the bed, his tone went neutral, “I am a trained guide, I can help you”, he saw Jim raise an eyebrow at him, “I can figure it out, you know.”  Sandburg spoke quickly as if trying to fill in the spaces, before Jim realized that he was flying by the seat of his pants on this one. “Why the question?"




“Jim,” Blair put in firmly, “Come on man, talk to me here.”  His concern for his sentinel, hell, his friend over riding his caution at speaking out too freely, even if Jim usually did allow him free speech.


“The dreams, I haven’t had them in years, they came back when I was in Vice,” Jim gave a shrug.  "But when I moved to Major Crimes two years ago they faded. I only got them then on the anniversary of the crash, but now they back, only.”  Jim trailed off.


“Only what?” 


“They’re different, the color is a lot brighter, I can smell things, it’s as if I am there again in the jungle.”


Blair looked thoughtful. “Is this the first time it’s happened since you came on line?


“Yeah.” Jim was already beginning to regret mentioning it to Sandburg.


“Okay, then it makes sense, you’re seeing them through your senses. We’ve already seen that you can recall details that you heard before you came on line.  Sorry man,” Blair added quickly as he saw the look of pain that flitted across the normally stoic face of his friend, at the mention of the case concerning Jim’s late partner. “If you could do that then why not now? Something is triggering your off.”


“How do I stop it?”


“You can’t, you’re on line, but I think we can get closure on it, if you trust me.”  There was a depth of feeling in those words. The rogue guide, considered nothing more than correction facility fodder, a sex slave for psychotic sentinels, was asking if his sentinel would trust him.


“I always do.”   There was no doubting the conviction in Jim’s voice.


Blair swallowed hard. The simplicity of the statement rocked him back on his heels mentally; he didn’t have to be an empath to hear the conviction in those three words.


“So Sandburg, were do we start?” Jim drained his coffee replacing the cup on the tray.


Blair looked down at himself. , “Okay I need you seated on the sofa, Go get comfortable, while I get changed.”  He shooed the sentinel towards the stairs. Jim paused picking up one of his shirts and threw it back at his guide.

“Put that on Sandburg, after you shower”.  There was a hint of the dark sentinel in his tone of voice, the possessive need to show his ownership of his guide.  Blair nodded “Yes Sentinel”.


“Brat”, Jim shot back, as he took the tray downstairs, but there was no sting in the words, just affections.




To kill the time, Jim washed up the plates and stacked them away. He was

nervous. He wanted to finish this once and for all, but at the same time he did not like all of Sandburg’s New Age psychobabble, that the kid added to all the sentinel guide dynamics that he knew.


He turned as he heard Blair approach from the direction of his small room, His guide was wearing the shirt, and a pair of faded jean, and he openly scented Blair and nodded his approval.


“Okay Jim on the sofa”, the kick ass tone of the dark guide issued the command and the sentinel had to follow.


“Now I need you to close your eyes Jim, and then take slow breaths.” Blair sat on the coffee table so that he was in front of him.  “Now nice and slow, in and out, that’s it, in and hold and now exhale.” Blair’s voice dropped becoming lower and soothing,  “What we're going to do, is go back to your dream, your watching a film in your head, nothing can hurt you Jim, you're nothing but an observer.”


He saw the moment that Jim was beginning to get distressed; his hands began opening and closing.  He placed his own hands over them holding them down.

“You can feel my hands, hear my voice.  I am your anchor Jim, and nothing can hurt you.”  Slowly the sentinel calmed, “I need you to tell me what you’re seeing.”


“Crash site, oh god Trueborn, is dead, could not stop the bleeding, Dixon’s drowning in his own blood, punctured lung, Markham, hang on I am coming.”  Jim’s voice was becoming louder, his breath harsher, his hand pulled free of Blair’s grip. Then Jim’s eyes flew open and he stood up so fast that Blair was pushed backward off the coffee table, landing with a thud on the floor. For a moment Jim didn’t know where he was or what was happening.


“Got to get out of here,” Jim scooped up his jacket and then headed for the door.

Blair managed to scramble to his feet, and get in front of him, “Jim, you have to listen to me man.”  When Jim caught his arms to move him out of the way, it felt as if he was being squeezed by a press, “I have to get out of here Chief,” Jim almost lifted him out of the way and was gone.


The Explorer pulled up by the side of the Bay, and Jim just sat there looking at the lights as they played across the night sky.  How long he sat there he had no idea. Finally here in the open the smell of death, burning and blood, faded away, and he savored the clean night air.  It wasn’t the kid’s fault, but everything had become so vivid that when he opened his eyes he had expected to see the helicopter, the bodies and the jungle. Just then he heard his cell phone ring, he picked it up, and for the first time a while he smiled, “It’s all right Sandburg, I’m not going to be long, yeah I’m okay, good night mother.” He allowed the little joke, and then clicked it off. Somehow he knew that he was not going to have good night's sleep.


It was after that, that the nightmares came back even stronger; it was as if the meditation had released a demon in his head, that nothing could put it back.  As the days dragged on his temper began to sour.


The other detectives in the Bullpen began to edge round Jim Ellison again; he was back in his pre-Sandburg persona, but with a vengeance.  He had little or no patience with anyone. Only Sandburg appeared to be able to walk through the eye of the storm.

From his office Captain Simon Banks, watched Ellison critically. In the two years since the detective had entered the department they had become friends. At first he had been skeptical about the whole of the Sentinel things, wanting to chalk it down to some left over flower child’s too active imagination, but now he had to admit that it was real and it worked.  He had already had Jim on the carpet twice, about his general conduct in the bullpen, but it was like water off a duck's back, short of putting him on suspension, there was nothing he could do.


“Ellison, Sandburg, my office now.”  Simon barked the command, pleased to see that Ellison didn’t drag his feet coming.


Leaning back in his chair, we watched what he was rapidly thinking of as the original odd couple entered his office. The ex-military cop and the retro sixties grad student.


“The Swanson case, do you have any leads yet?  The Mayor has taken a personal interest in this one.” Simon tapped the evidence bag on his desk, the burned remains of a notebook.


“No Sir, we have the lawyers going over the will, I think.” Suddenly Jim stopped in mid sentence, “the will, will.”  


Simon had looked down to find the cigar cutters, and his head snapped up.  “What the hell Sandburg.”


Jim was looking straight ahead, his mouth had dropped open slightly, his eyes, were dead as if he was focused on something only he could see. His body was like a statue.


“He’s zoned.” 


Blair caught Jim’s arm, “You have to listen to me Jim, I know you’re in a dark place, and you're scared and lost, but you can come back now, follow my voice.  I am your anchor, all you have to do is hang onto to me, and I’ll bring you back. You can feel the warmth of my hand, you can hear the beat of my heart, and you can smell my scent. Now slowly bring the dials up, one at a time.”  Jim suddenly took a deep breath, and Blair had to hang on tightly to avoid the bigger man falling.


“What happened?”


“You zoned.”


“Markham, dear god, Markham.”  Jim pulled free from Blair, and was out of the office and through the Bullpen, Simon yelled after him, but he was ignored.


“Sandburg, get after him, and whatever’s busted put it right.”




“You still here Sandburg or do I have to call the GDP?”  Even as he said the words Simon regretted them, as he saw the look of fear in younger man's face. Before he could apologize, Blair had taken off after his sentinel, but by the time he got to the garage the car was gone and he was alone.


Turning he saw he had gotten the attention of the two GDP officers getting out of a black GDP car. Keeping his head down he hurried back to the elevator only to have them enter. One of them took in his identify badge and with a "huh" ignored him as if he didn’t exist. Ignoring him was good, please god don’t let them take any interest in him, interest was always bad, interest meant pain and humiliation. When the GDP officers got off at the next level he had to lean against the wall of the elevator to stop from collapsing. That had been close, too close.




Jim slowed the car down, and then pulled over. For a minute he buried his face in his hands.  When he straightened up he looked round him, normally he would only zone if he was concentrating on something really hard, but hell, that had been a memory, one word coupled with the stench of burning from the evidence bag on Simon’s table, and he had been gone, the jungle had pulled him in, and he had lost himself in it.

This time, Markham’s voice hadn’t been lost, he had heard the words, and he knew what he had to do. He had been their leader, and Markham had left him with a sacred duty and he had let him down. All he knew was that he had to put it right.  Then when Blair had pulled him out, all he knew was that he had to get out of there. He made a mental note to apologize to Simon, and crossed to the phone box on the corner, and looked through the directory. Finding the section he wanted he traced a finger down the column and then nodded once, and tore the page out. Folding it, he put it in his pocket, and went back to his car, now he had a plan of action, a purpose.


It was late evening before Jim returned to the Loft, to find Blair sat waiting for him, looking impossibly small, huddled on the sofa.


“Sorry about storming out on you Chief.” Jim closed the distance between them, taking in the pale face and the slight shaking hand, and swore. His guide needed to bond. Sitting down he reached for him tugging him close. “Link Chief, now”, it wasn’t a suggestion it was a command, one that Blair gratefully obeyed. When he tried to speak, Jim shushed him. Allowing them time to connect and remesh together as sentinel and guide. When Blair lowered his barriers, he felt the guilt that Jim felt at deserting him, but it vied  with another feeling, a determination to do something. The younger man made a mental note to speak to him about that, but first. . .


“I think you better apologize to Simon as well or your ass is going to be grass, he was really pissed off that you took off like that.”


“Yeah I know.” Jim allowed his spine to shift down the sofa a little more. Getting comfortable, he pulled Blair into his lap, hugging him tightly, as he buried his face in the junction of his neck and shoulder.


“What happened?” Blair asked his breath catching as his sentinel nuzzled his throat seeking out the scent that called sentinel to guide. There was something almost primal about the very act, at first it had frightened him, he had seen it as a prelude to something more ugly. But then he had realized that far from being frightening it was the giving and taking of reassurance. The strength and power of the sentinel to protect the guide.


Blair twisted and managed to get a hand to Jim’s chest and push him back; as much as he wanted to be kept close he needed to get some answers.


“Jim” Blair prompted.


Jim ran his hand over his face; he suddenly looked very tired, before he answered he was marshalling his thoughts.


“Markham, he was one of my men.” Jim smiled, “real academic, pretty much like you Chief, he already had two degrees, but his dad wanted to control him, make him a carbon copy of himself, so Harry joined up. He been with the squad six months, he was due to be rotated out, to do a course, when the Peru mission came up. He was the last of my men to die, he was in and out of consciousness, and there was nothing I could do for him. He said something to me; I could not hear him, until now.”


“Your senses.”


“Yeah, just like you said they recorded his words, and when I was talking to Simon it was as if someone switched on the play button.”


“What did he say?" Blair put in gently.


“I spoke to his family lawyer; he’s going to look into things for me.”


Blair looked down at this hands, “when I was in your mind, you”.


“What?” Jim waited patiently.


“Er, you, you said that you hated all guides, I could feel it Jim”, Blair looked up “I couldn’t”.  The young guide broke off,


Jim, exhaled softly, and tugged Blair close so that the smaller body fitted against him, the curly head tucked under his chin. “Markham, was a sensitive, understand?” He felt Blair nod against him. “He helped me, and when he died, I didn’t want another guide, even the Chopec who found me could not get me to open up my senses. The Shaman said that one day I would find my true guide”. Jim tightened his arms round the smaller man tucked against him. “I am thankful that day finally arrived”. The intensity in those simple words rocked his guide, with the fire of those emotions.




  “Later, Chief.”


Blair knew that Jim didn’t want to talk; he reached and curled his hand round that of his sentinel and gave it a tug, a silent command to bond. Against all the rules of the GDP, in which the guide was nothing more than a lap dog to his sentinel, in reality where the guide led the sentinel would follow.






Even though there was an improvement in Jim’s mood, and Simon had accepted the apology with good grace, the Captain had already decided that it was about time Jim took some of the vacation time he was due.

But the problem had been where to go. There were some good resorts, but some of them had zero guide tolerance rules. Now knowing what he did it made Simon’s blood boil. All to well he could remember his grandmother telling him of a time when because of color she had been relegated to the back of buses, and had walked a gauntlet of protesting people because she was attempting to better her self at a previously white only school. She would have been horrified to see that guides were treated as a sub class of humanity. Yet it was done so routinely that it was over looked. With an angry flick of his wrist, Simon snapped another booklet page open, at the bottom was a guide supplement, some places out and out banned them, others made it plain that no guide could eat in the restaurant or use the facilities of the hotel. In a world where change was coming it seemed to be only cosmetic. Finally he gave up, collected the booklets together and put them to one side. Simon lit his cigar, there must be some place he could find that would suit guide and sentinel but it was becoming depressingly plain that Blair’s status was going to be a major stumbling block in finding a holiday for the two of them..




Blair Sandburg yawned and turned back to his books. He was in the middle of mid term madness, and could already feel the pressure of it. He had his own exams to right, plus others to proctor, and results to be posted, all in the shortest turn round he could manage and then there was the police work.


He was still a little scared by all the emotions he had found in the sentinel's mind, but he had finally understood why one persona had spat it’s hatred of all things guide. Markham had been working as Jim’s unofficial guide; he had some talent but not enough to mark him as a guide. Jim Ellison had accepted him as his guide, not in the bond but through friendship, that was why that persona was pissed at him; it wanted him to stay the same, and never change. But on some level it saw Markham’s death as a betrayal of his trust in the dead man. He still had a lot of work to do with Jim, but maybe he was getting a few steps closer.


Untrained, Jim was still learning to control his senses, but he was still prone to zoning out, if Blair wasn’t with him. On top of that the GDP was watching his every move, and they wanted him to fail, to prove once and for all that Guides could’t make it on their own, and their only place was at the knees of their sentinel.


Blair was all too aware that he couldn’t fail Jim; his sentinel had given him his life back. If he failed he didn’t think that Jim would take his University life away from him, but even now he couldn’t get away from the thinking that any minute the other shoe would drop, and he would find it was all a cruel drug induced joke and that he would wake up naked and cold in a detention cell in the facility.  What a sentinel givith – a sentinel can take away, the old saying mocked the Blair, but it was true, his books, his clothes, everything belonged to his sentinel. The new rules promised his kind rights, but they where paper promises. Blair yawned again and took another sip of his coffee; the caffeine would keep him awake.  He still had work to do.


Two days later


Blair looked down at his hands, as he picked a loose thread. His pant leg was torn at the knee, and his leg was bleeding under the tear, his other hand was scrapped, He was embarrassed that he had fallen down like that on the stairs of the university. WAY TO GO SANDBURG, IF YOU CAN’T LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, HOW CAN YOU LOOK AFTER YOUR SENTINEL? JIM WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU Blair shook his head to free himself of some the things that the other had said to him.


“Hey buddy, you okay?”.


The voice was warm and friendly and his emotions spoke of true concern. Blair was confused “Jim”.


The man’s face contracted and then stretched, Blair tried to talk to him, but the words died in his throat. He needed to rest and re-build his barriers then he would be all right, he could feel himself falling into the emotions the man was weaving round him. It would be so easy. The bus driver’s touch was like a shock, and he jerked away. “End of the ride buddy”.




“No Freeman and Main. You didn’t have enough money for Prospect, it's just two blocks along.” He caught Blair’s arm and began to manhandle him out of the bus.


For the young grad student, when he stepped off the bus, it was as if he was going down and down, and the next thing his head smacked on the pavement. Then there was nothing.




Jim looked at the clock on the kitchen wall, and stated to get concerned. Blair still wasn’t home yet, and wasn’t answering his cell or the office phone. So where the hell was he, Jim puzzled.   Finally enough was enough, he switched off the dinner he was cooking, and pulled on his coat. The sentinel would find his guide.




Cascade General Hospital


Blair first registered someone talking to him, gentle reassuring words of encouragement to open his eyes.


Finally he could resist the voice no longer and his eyes blinked open. Jim Ellison was sitting by his bed. He closed his eyes again, waiting for the man to start yelling at him. No sentinel wanted to be dragged out to deal with his guide. Jim’s hand when it touched his shoulder was warm and comforting. He had expected the sentinel to be angry but all he looked was concerned.  Concerned for me, the thought was staggering.


“Easy Sandburg, you’re all right now”.


The hand on his shoulder tightened when he tried to get up and pushed him down.


“You won’t want me”.  Only a sentinel could have heard the words, and immediately Jim moved to sit on the bed, and closed the distance between them.


The doctor had told him that Blair might be a little emotional when he came round. The doctor had finished his little lecture by saying that guides were like children, without a sentinel to look after them they didn’t sleep, or eat.  And this could lead to overload. Jim had listened then ignored him; the man knew only half of it. Blair had been working too hard, stretching the envelope and had come crashing down, one of the many students who would finish Midterms madness with a trip to ER, it had nothing to do with him being a weak guide.  With Blair it had been complicated by the fact that at the, University, at Police Headquarter the ever present GDP were breathing down his neck, adding to the stress he was under.


“Why wouldn’t I want you Blair?”  Jim kept his voice calm, and gently rubbed his guide's shoulder to reassure him.


“ I c can’t look after myself, you’re going to throw me out of the loft, and put me in the hostel, I’m too much trouble," Blair blurted out.  The tears rolled silently down his face, and he tried to turn away, but his sentinel refused to let him, his fingers tightening on his shoulder, at the same time as he cupped the younger man’s face turning up to look at him.


“First things first Chief; number 1, you are staying at the loft, it’s your home now”. Jim’s voice dropped slightly, thickening with emotion.


Blair could only nod, not trusting himself to speak.


“Number two, you look after me, and you haven’t ever let me down, remember you’re the one that saved me, I was out of control and dying, you Blair”. Jim refused to let Blair look away. “You sacrificed yourself for me, gave up everything to become my guide, and that Sandburg took more guts than I will ever have”.


“Number three, next time you have your exams, your going to tell me and I am going to make sure that you don’t end up in hospital, even if I have to force feed you myself. Your blessed protector fell down on his job and he’s not going to do that again.”


Blair allowed his sentinel to ease him back down on the bed “Just rest Chief.”


For Jim it had been an emotional blood letting, He didn’t make friends easily and they had to prove themselves to him first before he gave his trust, but Blair he was different, and he would never let anyone hurt his guide again.


“I am in it for the long term, kid,” the sentinel said softly, as he lightly stroked Blair’s hair, waiting for his young guide to fall asleep. Only then did he return to the chair to continue his vigil.


Thoughtfully, the sentinel put his hand in his pocket and drew out the letter that had arrived that morning for his guide. He’d meant to give to him earlier. It had a red flash down the side of it and the words Prize Draw Winner in neo yellow inscribed across it. With only a slight nag of conscience Jim opened the envelope, and read it. The kid had won a holiday for two to Windrush Island, all expenses paid.  Technically if the company knew that Blair was a guide it would have been taken away from him, but the kid needed a holiday, and this was a reminder to him that he had to do something.  His young guide needed a chance to recharge his batteries away from the stress of the GDP. He looked at the leaflet; Clear View Hotel looked the perfect place for his guide to relax .  It seemed for once luck had been kind to his guide.


The next few days had been hectic; Jim had taken a couple of sentinel days off from work, as was his right as a working bonded sentinel. He was pleased with the way his guide had recovered; it had been hard at times keeping his young impulsive guide under control. Blair had crept out to collect some student’s workbooks one time. He could remember the look of horror on his young guides face when he had walked into Sandburg's office at Ranier, and frog marched him to the car and taken him home. Blair, seeming to forget his fear of talking back to his sentinel,  had cursed him out never knew the kid had such a good command of the English Language.  In the end however Blair had realized that it had no impact on him, and he had lapsed into a hurt silence. Jim shook his head; Blair not talking had lasted as long as a snow ball in hell. He had then given him chapter and verse about Sentinel mother hens.  And somehow he couldn’t be angry about it.  Blair would always come first in his life no matter what.





Two weeks later.



The Explorer made good time out of the city, and they had soon hit the open road, both occupants looking forward to the holiday.


It was only when they were halfway there that Jim handed the color leaflet to Blair, who hadn’t , as yet had time to read all the paperwork that had come with the confirmation. Jim was pretty sure that Blair had missed that one.



The younger man was bouncing as he read the brochure.


“Wow, man, a Christie week, who are we going to be?”


Jim frowned, “You know this Christie thing?”


“Duh, Jim.”  He paused, “Agatha Christie, you know the English mystery novelist. It’s a murder week, I always wanted to go on one of these, man, and they’re so cool.”


“Glad you like it, Chief.”


“Did you get the paperwork for our cover stories?”


“In the document wallet on the back seat, Junior.  Hey watch it.” He put in half heartedly as Blair all but disappeared over the back of his seat trying to snag it from Jim’s jacket that was buried among their bags.


Blair was soon lost in reading the cover stories they both would be using for the week.


“Right, Jim, you are James Edwards III, a rich playboy of the Hollywood set.  And I am Blair Hannah, a clergyman from St Martin’s Mead.  Way cool.”


Blair spent the rest of the journey with his nose in the paperwork.




Jim locked the Explorer and hefted their luggage, pleased to see the bounce back in the younger man’s stride.  He was already talking a mile a minute about the history of the Clear View Hotel; it had been everything from the home of a mistress of an oil tycoon to the home of a bootlegger.


The day was clear, not a cloud in the sky. If it kept on like this they were in for a good week.  Blair glanced up at his taller friend, and noticed the way that his head had tilted slightly to one side, a sure clue to him that he was using one of his senses.


“Boat’s just setting off, Chief.”


“Can you see it in detail?”  Blair put in innocently, he could find out later from the owners how far across the hotel was, and then he would have a measuring stick for Jim eyesight.


“Red and white, like a tramp boat, looks old, got a candy-stripe cover.  Then he added looking down at Blair.  “That should keep you out of my hair for the rest of the holiday.” 


“What hair, man?”


Blair ducked to avoid the clip to the back of his head; he had long understood that Jim would never hurt him.  It was part of the game that they played.  It was Jim’s way of showing affection, a bit like an older cat with a kitten.


The boat pulled into the dock. The man standing in it was small and plump, and in his early thirties. He grinned broadly. 


“Mr. Ellison, Mr. Sandburg, I’m Jeff Owens, I am the manager of the hotel, and I am co-coordinating the event.” He looked the two newcomers up and down, the smaller, younger man looked like a student; the older, taller man was all military if he hadn’t missed his mark.  //Maybe I should have reviewed their cover stories. Well, it’s too late now. //


“We just have to wait for the Taylors, they should be here soon,” he checked his watch.


The first indication that something was wrong was when Blair saw Jim just stop dead and stare. Blair’s hand immediately touched his arm to bring him out of the zone.


“It’s okay Chief, I am not zoning.”  Then he grinned, “Just stunned.”


Blair followed his gaze and his mouth dropped. The Taylors had arrived; they looked your average middle class 1920s family.  The husband was a tall thin man wearing a pin stripped suit and spats, he looked more like an undertaker than a business man, the mother had long hair pinned up under a feathered hat, with matching emerald green coat, the children looked to be in there early teens, and chatted away happily.


Jim smiled tolerantly at the looks the girls send Blair, if he wasn’t careful his friend was going to spend the holiday being the subject of a teenage crush or two.



The family was excited and the crossing was far from quiet. Jim was ignoring them while Blair was alive with curiosity; this week looked like it was going to be fun.  He just had to find a way of getting an anal retentive, hair challenged, sentinel cop to loosen up and have fun.


The vehicle picking them up was a 1930 touring bus. A real classic, someone was really putting themselves out.


The girl at the reception desk was a flapper, complete with long beads and fringed dress.  Blair nudged his partner in the ribs and gave her a beaming smile. The flapper smiled. “Good afternoon, gentlemen, and welcome to Bertram’s Hotel.  My name is Julie, I am your hostess.”


Jim was about to say something when Blair cut in first, “Right!  Bertram’s Hotel in London, the scene of one of Agatha Christie's classics.”


The flapper nodded. “Gentlemen, could I ask that after you have registered to please change into your costumes?  It helps the atmosphere of the week.  I promise that no one gets murdered for tonight.  Oh and I will need your cell phones.”


“Why?”  Jim fixed her with a look.


“Back off, big guy, she’s not a suspect.” 


“It’s so that no one can cheat, and call home for the answers to the clue, the first prize is a check for $1,000.”


She put her hand out.


“Lady, as a police officer I need my cell phone.”


“Come on, Jim, you said Simon let you off the leash. I am sure they can take a message for us. Right?”


“Of course, sir.”  The girl sent Blair a smile of gratitude.


Jim’s voice was just too polite, “One problem: we don’t have any costumes.”


“Of course you do, sir,” she pulled out a card, “Captain Banks was kind enough to give us your sizes, he also left this message for you.”


The envelope was snatched from her hand, fast enough to nearly give her a friction burn.


“Easy, big guy.”  Blair tried to cover up; she must think that Jim was a borderline psycho the way he was acting.




Just so you can join in the fun, you’ll find some clothes for you both, H and Rafe rented them, oh and if your wondering were we got the sizes from, remember when you had to hire the tux’s for the Miller bust, the firm still had them on record.   So have fun, and remember…  you better win.




With a curse Jim balled up the letter and threw it into the trash, snatched up the key and stalked to the elevator.


As they waited he said, “Before you start, Sandburg, I am not playing this game, and don’t even think about including me in it.”


“I would not even try; it’s not fair on the amateurs to have a professional playing.”


If looks could have killed he would have been the first victim of the event.


Jim was secretly pleased at the change in his guide, before they has set out he had told Blair point blank that he had not told the hotel that he was a sentinel and that he would be bringing a guide along on the holiday. This was going to be the one time when Blair could just relax and be himself and not worry about the way people would treat him. Hopefully the kid would enjoy himself and for a short time forget about all the GDP crap, and just be Blair Sandburg.




The hotel room was nice; two single beds and a bathroom, but no TV or radio. A letter on the bed it read:


Saturday Evening: Dinner is informal, and a mixer to allow you to meet the other guests, or rivals. 


Breakfast is at 8.00 to 9.00 am

Lunch is served from 12.00 noon to 1.30 p.m.

Dinner is from 7.00 PM to 8.30 P.M.


Sunday as above except at 9.00 P.M. all guests are asked to appear in costume in the dining room, and the rules for the game will be read out.


“Sandburg.” Blair lowered the letter, and saw Jim holding up Blair’s costume. “All yours buddy.”


Blair fingered the dog collar thoughtfully, “I have a feeling this might cramp my style.”


“What style” Jim quipped.


Blair choice to ignore that and asked, “So what have you got?”


“Tux.” Jim looked his partner up and down, “Are you really going to go for this play-acting?  We could still get off the island.”


“I wouldn't miss this for the world, Jim.” He clapped Jim's back. “Come on, let’s get going.  I can’t wait to see the others!”


As Jim locked the door behind them, he added almost too softly for Blair to hear “Why do I think I am going to regret this, Chief?”




The meal had been a good one, and since only a handful of the other guests had arrived they had enjoyed a quiet dinner. Jim had caught Blair yawning, and decided to call it a night. The younger man was still playing catch up.


The sentinel picked the bed nearest the door, if anyone came for his guide they would have to go through him.  Blair didn’t comment, but Jim noticed with a grimace that the journal had come with them. Perhaps one of Sandburg’s most annoying habits was the journal. He would sit curled up on the sofa of an evening, his pen scratching across the page, often or not accompanied by a chuckle. And if he questioned it, his guide’s reply was usually. “Sorry man, but if you read it that will invalidate my research.” Then with a shrug “Can’t let the subject read it yet”. Once day he would kill the kid or at least break the nib of his pen. With an annoyed grunt the sentinel turned his hearing down and then pushed his sleep shield over his eyes, and settled down to sleep.


Early Sunday morning, all that was visible of Blair was the tip of his head; the rest was buried under the comforter. It said something about the trust in their relationship that when he shook his guide, urging him,  “Come on, Chief, time to get up,” Blair just muttered something, and tried to push him away blindly, without freaking out, as he would have done only a few months ago, as any touch sent him spinning into a flash back.


With a shake of the head and a tolerant smile that most of Major Crime would have not thought possible to see on James Ellison’s face, he reached down and dragged the comforter off with one pull.



Blair opened one eyes, “So what did I do, you got a rule against people sleeping, man?”


“Only when it’s time for breakfast.  So get out of bed and in the shower, you have ten.” Jim tried to put a growl in the words, playing the big bad sentinel to the hilt, but it was like water off a duck's back.


Blair tried to reach for the comforter only to find a hand on the back of his t-shirt and to be manhandled to his feet and propelled towards the bathroom, and into the already running shower.




·        *  *  *  *


The dining room had only a few occupants in it, and Jim headed straight for the self-serve coffee.  Once he got that down, he could start his day.


The waitress was a tall, leggy blond, and Blair went from being half asleep to fully awake in one bound, if the rest of the staff were like that the vacation would certainly pick up fast.  His eyes moved from her legs up to her face, and he grinned.

“Down, boy.” Jim’s words were pitched so that only his young guide could hear him.


“You know I’ve always had this fantasy about French maids...”


“And what?  Chief, if your diary is any thing to go by, your love life is already criminal without getting Interpol involved.”  He reached across and straightened Blair’s head so the he was looking back at him.  “The menu is this way, Sandburg.”


Jim ordered something listed as a Full British Breakfast.  Blair was lost in the vision of the girl bending down to pick up a fork that one of the children had dropped. So he missed the food arriving and his mouth dropped open


Bacon, eggs, kidney, and then some.


“You can’t be seriously going to eat all that.”


“Well, when in England.” Jim waved his fork to take in the pseudo English hotel.


He picked up the saltshaker, and then put it down, it was clogged up. The salt must have been damp.  Getting up he replaced it on the tray of condiments and picked up another one; this time he could hear the loose salt falling around the small glass container.


The rest of the meal was eaten in comfortable silence.  From his place at the table Jim could see the entrance hall, and a new group of people, one a dark haired man caught his attention,


“Jim, you okay there, big guy?”






Jim shook his head, “nothing, Chief,” he could not pin it down, but it had been a jolt from the past and he had no idea what it was.


The flapper receptionist watched the two men leaving the dinning room, the older man keeping close to his younger companion, the younger man touching the older man, small discreet touches between the two of them that seemed more intimate than any kiss. She shook her head, why were all the good looking men gay.” She signed and went back to checking in the newcomers.


Part Two


Jim and Blair had opted for an after breakfast walk, partly to get away from the other guests that appeared to have started their sleuthing the moment they reached the hotel.


As they walked Blair was cutting ahead and to the side of his larger friend, always-circling back to explain something that he had seen or found.  Jim was just prepared to let the world go by, but for Blair there had to be a commentary.


On the walk Blair had explained the rules of the Murder Week.  During the course of the remaining five days there would be a series of ‘murders’, and it was up to the guests to not only solve each murder but also to say which of the Christie novels it was taken from.


“Have you read any of her books then, Chief?  To be honest you don’t look the whodunit reader.”


“Airports.” Seeing that the one word answer was not going to be enough he added, “I spent most of my life in airports, either coming or going, and the only books a lot of them stock are Agatha Christie's.”


He gave a shrug and kept on walking, not noticing that Jim had stopped and was scenting the air.  He added over his shoulder, “This from a man who thinks the literary world starts and finishes with Tom Clancy.”  Blair ducked to avoid the hand that went to catch him across the back of his head.


With a laugh he danced sideways.  Then his foot caught something and he stumbled backward. 


“You okay, Chief?” Jim was immediately by his side, reaching down to pull him to his feet was then he noticed the look on Blair’s face, and followed his eyes to the corpse on the ground. Partly hidden by the brush, sightless eyes stared up into space.


Blair came off the ground in a hurry, and would have tripped again, if Jim hadn’t caught his arm.


 “It’s a model Sandburg, one of their damn murder mystery plots.”  He turned and then helped the smaller man steady, and then sneezed again and again.



“Allergies.” Blair was concerned; he looked round trying to see what could have set his sentinel off.


“It’s the artificial blood they’re using,” Jim managed to get out before he dissolved into another sneeze fit; his eyes tearing.


Blair caught hold of him, hands each side of his sentinel's face, as he talked him into shutting down his sense, cranking them down to the their lowest setting, until the worse of the sneezing was over.  Blair’s hand eased Jim’s face down to rest against his throat, feeling the strong arms circling him, pulling him tightly against the much larger body. Hissentinel used him as a baseline to recalibrate his senses. Almost reluctantly Jim finally pulled back. The need to bond was running through him like a wild fire, ignited by Blair as he had linked to him, as he assisted him with his senses. Now it was like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Mind made up he caught Blair’s wrist and dragged him back towards the hotel.


Blair pulled up short just as they approached the front entrance. “Jim” through their connection he could feel that Jim was allowing the sentinel to over ride the man. “Jim”, when the sentinel turned he hit him hard across the face, sending his head rocking back. In shock Jim released his hold; Blair folded to his knees, in the perfect position of a submissive guide.


Jim swore violently and caught him dragging him back to his feet, tightening his hold as Blair tried to pull back away from him, his head down hidden by a veil of his long hair. “My punishment is in your hands, Sentinel”.


Jim shook his guide,  “You didn’t do anything wrong”.


“I hit my sentinel”.


“No Blair, you brought me back to my senses, you’re a person not a tool “.  His large hand side round the side of Blair’s neck and pulled him close.  “Bond with me Blair Sandburg”.


“Honored my Sentinel”, Blair said softly.  


Together they walked back to the hotel, Jim collected their key and after ordering dinner to be delivered to their room, he shepherded Blair in front of him as they  went upstairs. It would allow them time to bond, relax and give Jim a chance to recover from the sensory overload.




Only later after they had bonded, with Blair’s  head  resting on his sentinel’s chest, his arm draped round the older man’s waist, did he ask.


“Do to think that anyone saw us, saw me?” His face heated and he buried it in the hand knitted 1930’s sweater that his sentinel wore.


Jim lightly carded the curly hair, playing with the curls as they slid through his fingers, enjoying the moment of peace and quiet. Finally he knew he had to give an answer. “No chief, no one saw”.


“I am not ashamed” of being your guide” Blair hesitated “only” he broke off and waved a hand round. “It’s nice being normal”


“I know kid, I know”.


For the first time Jim began to wonder if far from being the restive  holiday, he had planned, he was not torturing his guide, showing him what he could have had but for a freak of genetics.  Treating him like a citizen only to have to take it away once they where back in Cascade.  A piece of heaven then back to hell.



Dining Room 7.30 P.M.


Mr. Allison took his seat by the window, his 1930 suit was a perfect match for the period, he was a regular at the Murder Weeks, and had been a winner before.  He lookied around as he identified his main challengers.  The Taylors, husband and wife with the family in tow, they had already won once, the Christmas challenge. Next was   Maisie Hubbard, she always dressed like Miss Jane Marple, in tweeds and peals and was an expert on the Marple cases, but weak on Poirot.  Then by the door way Mark Lewis, a grad student from Harvard sound overall knowledge, but tending to get carried away with the details,  Then there was the new pair he saw last night, long haired kid, and an older man, they hadn’t; come down for dinner yet. New people always made him nervous you could never tell how they would perform. The arrival of his meal halted his appraisal of his rivals;   the steak looked mouth-watering, and cut like a dream.  Beef, was his favorite, he took a sip of wine, and then reached for the salt and pepper.



A few moments later he kicked his chair out, clutching at the tablecloth then brought it crashing down on him as he slumped to the floor. The waiters came running to his aid, his face was going blue and he was clutching at his throat, fighting for breath.  Within minutes he was dead.


Jeff Owens, the manager, had come running when he heard the cries coming from the dining room.  He swiftly took control of the situation, having the unfortunate man carried away, keeping the rest of the dinners calm.


“Mr. Allison, has a heart complaint, please take your seats.” Turning to Julia, he added quietly, “Please go to Room 35 and ask Detective Ellison, to come down.”


Under Blair’s soothing commands, Jim was slowly raising the dials on his senses; the first thing he heard was the beating of Julia’s heart, and her panicked breaths.


Blair tried to keep him lying down but the older man brushed past him, and opened the door before she could knock.


Her face was tear stained. “Detective, Mr. Allison -- he’s dead.”





When Jim arrived downstairs, with Blair in tow, he found the body had been moved to a small room away from the rest of the guests.


Jim ordered everyone out of the room; he would need Blair to ground him, and couldn’t afford to have any of the staff or visitors see that Blair was a guide.


He carefully moved his hands over Allison’s throat, trying to detect any blockage; there was no sign of one; that ruled out choking. A heart attack would not explain away the fact that the dead man’s throat was swollen shut: Jim had only seen that once before when a man had swallowed a bee and had been stung in the throat.  With a nod of thanks to his guide, they replaced the blanket over the dead man’s face and went to speak to the Manager again.


Jim didn’t waste time and cut straight to the chase. “Did he have any allergies?” 


“Mr. Allison?” Jeff took his notebook out of his pocket, when he saw the look Jim gave him he added, “I keep a few notes on all our players, they like it when I can remember their birthdays, and their favorite colors.


Consulting his notes he said. “Mr. Allison has a nut allergy.”


It was then that Jeff’s face took on a worried look.  “No way, Detective, we were always very careful with Mr. Allison’s, food. But of course it isn’t always...” he trailed off.


“You’ll have to call in the authorities; the Coroner will have to do an autopsy.”


“Would you handle this for me, Detective Ellison?  I have never had to deal with sudden death before.” Owens’s was obviously way out of his depth.


Blair nodded. “Sure we will.” He could feel the man’s fear without even having to get near him. Owens’s was petrified that he would lose his job over the death. A true guide, Blair couldn’t stand by and see anyone suffer. He had to help.


Julia, who had followed the two men downstairs after delivering the message, was hovering in the background with a tearful waitress, the blonde girl that Sandburg had been eyeing earlier.  She was clearly upset, and she was white faced and shaking.  She jumped slightly when the older man, Mr. Ellison, turned towards her.


“I need an outside line.” Ellison said.


“Sorry, sir, the telephones are down.” It was the waitress that answered, “Mrs. Hubbard, wanted to call her husband, she complained when I served her that the phones were all down.”


“Right, okay” Jim frowned “, I need my cell phone.” His attention switched back to Julia.


She shifted nervously as if waiting for the right moment to make a bolt into her office. “There is a problem,” she said carefully, pulling a frightened face.


“What did you say?”  It was Jim Ellison at his iciest worse.


“All the cell phones, they’re missing.” Then added quickly, “ I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”


Didn’t you have them locked up?”  Jim’s voice was edged with sarcasm.


“Yes, but the key went missing earlier today, and I couldn’t find it.” She burst out crying, and grabbed for a fistful of the pink and blue tissues on the reception desk.


Jim could feel his temper rising along with a headache, “Okay, then we don’t have the phone, and I’ll take the boat.”


The girl seemed to cringe back. “We are having problems with the boat at the moment.”


Jim leaned forward onto the desk. “Show me,” he snarled.


The two words cracked like a whip, and Julia flew along the corridor with the sentinel in tow.




It was late when they turned in but neither man could sleep. Blair was laid on his side reading a new book on Burton, pausing every now and again to pick his pen up, make a note in the margin and then glance past the book at his friend. Jim was pacing up and down by the side of his bed. Blair laid the book down,   “I spoke to Jeff, and he said they had decided to continue with the event.  After all, if we’re stuck on the island until the cavalry comes then he might as well keep the guests busy.


“I don’t like it Chief, an accidental death and then all communications go down?  Even the emergency radio is down. Something stinks here.”


“A sentinel thing?”


“No, a cop thing.”  Jim went quiet, and then added, “you best get to sleep Chief.”


“Only if you do, you might be a sentinel but you still need to catch some sleep like us regular folk. Listen to your guide on this man.”


“You play dirty Sandburg”.


“Only when I have to, big guy”.




Blair woke up as he felt one hand on his shoulder and another across his mouth.


Before the fear could kick in he saw it was Jim, and his body relaxed.


Only then did the sentinel remove his hand, and placed a finger to his lips for silence.  His head tilted to one side.


“You never told me that you would have to kill more than once.” The voice was easily picked up by sentinel hearing, the speaker was female, but he could not recognize who it was. He turned his head to try and get a bearing on them when he gave a cry of pain, as a radio was switched on from one of the other rooms.


“Jim, you okay, man?” He could see Blair’s mouth moving, but he couldn’t hear the words, he tried to reassure his guide.


“I’m alright, Chief.” He pressed his ears to try and clear them.  Blair’s voice came to him from a distance, grounding him, allowing his battered sense of hearing to recover from the overload of sound. Finally, when he was sure there was no lasting damage. Blair asked.


“What did you hear?”


 “I heard a person talking, something about more murders. So it looks like we can rule out accidental death on Allison.”


Blair shifted uncomfortably. “Er, Jim, don’t you think you're kinda jumping the gun here?  How do you know it wasn’t part of the murder game?”


“Hell of a stab at authenticity to kill someone.” The sarcasm was heavy in the older mans voice, pure pre-Sandburg Ellison.


“Not the killing -- what you heard.  They started playing the game at midnight. And we have no real evidenced that Allison was murdered, just because all the communications have gone out.”


Jim nodded but wasn’t convinced.  Reluctantly he went back to bed but first he checked the locks on the windows and doors. His guide was in the bed the furthest away from them, which was defendable, and his service weapon was under his pillow. For once it seemed that having a healthy paranoia might just prove useful. .


4.30 am.

Blair looked at his clock.  His bladder was knocking rather urgently.

He went to the bathroom to relieve himself; and was climbing back into bed when he heard a scream. . Jim was awake and on his feet in seconds.  He blocked the door, ready to defend his guide, his head whipping back and forward sense stretched to detect any threat gun in hand. Then with a glance at Blair and a command for him to stay behind him, he opened the door, and headed toward the voices.


When they arrived at the stairs they found most of the people already gathered around the body.  Jim pushed through the group and then swore, as the artificial blood caused him to sneeze; this was one of their set pieces.


He started up the stairs and avoided the two or three that were examining the top of the stairway. Sentinel eyesight fixed on the small eyelet on the ground, and he picked it up, and handed it to the nearest guest.  “They put cord across the top of the stair to trip her. She broke her neck, now good night and keep the noise down.” 


Blair gave a smile to them, as he realized that Jim had just spoiled the next hour’s investigation.  “It’s all right, he’s just the helpful type. Hurrying after this sentinel, Blair hissed.  Er, Jim we need to talk, man.”


“Later.” One word and it spoke volumes.




Jim was muttering under his breath by the time they got back to the room, Blair ignored him, then stopped as he looked down onto his bed, and saw the white piece of paper.


"Jim you need to see this.” He said urgently, as he held the paper out for the sentinel to read.


A is for Almonds and Allison


“So someone has a sick sense of humor.”


“You don’t get it Jim, the paper wasn’t here when we left. Did you leave the door open?


Ellison nodded tensely. Obviously, someone had gone into their room and planted the note, and, with all the guests milling around the corridors because of the fake murder, it could have been anyone.


“It’s from the ABC Murders,” he finished a little lamely. “The killer always sent one of these when they killed. Look another one.” His voice trailed off as he spotted another note. Blair bent down and picked it up. .



B is for Burn and for Blair


“Jim, it looks like I am next.” He looked up at the sentinel, “the question is, is this the game or is it for real?”


“It doesn’t make any difference Sandburg, no one kills you, either for real or for some half assed game, and you can take that as read.”


Jim turned the key in the lock, and motioned for Blair to get into bed. Tonight, he would sleep as he had been trained, with half of his mind awake for any danger, if anyone came through that door they would regret it. They would never live to touch his guide.




Rhonda knocked on the door of Simon’s office, “Captain Banks, Mr. Norton, to see Detective Ellison, I told him he was on holiday, but he’s insisting that he has to speak to him.


“Show him in Rhonda.”


Simon got up and shook hands with the man when he entered, and waved him to a seat. “Mr. Norton, how can I help you?”


“Actually it’s Detective Ellison that I have to see, I do need to get in touch with him, it’s a matter of urgency.”


“Detective Ellison is on holiday, and I am sorry but I can’t give out any personal details.”


“Perhaps if I explain.”  The man took a card out of his pocket, and handed it across. “My name is Jason Norton, I am a lawyer for the firm of Summers, Haggard, Smyth and King. The matter is confidential but what I can say is that Detective Ellison, approached us with some information concerning one of our clients, and we have been looking into his claim, and we do now need a statement from him.  Due to the nature of the claim there is a time limit, which is going to expire in the next ten days. So it is important that I speak with him now.” The lawyer added, “Please call my office, and ask any questions so that you can confirm my identity but I must speak to Detective Ellison.”


Simon took the phone and began to dial.  “Hello this is Captain Simon Banks, of the Cascade Police Department, I need to speak to someone concerning a Mr. Jason Norton. Thank you I will wait.”


There was a long pause, Simon was watching Norton, and he seemed relaxed.


“Hello Mr. King, thank you for taking the time to speak to me, can you describe Mr. Norton, for me.”  Simon listened carefully and checked the man opposite him out.

“Thank you for your help.”  He put the phone down, “Mr. King confirmed your reason for being here as much as he could without breaking client confidentiality.” 


“So you can help me?”


“Detective Ellison is on holiday, you can reach him at this address.”  Simon scribbled the address down, and pushed it across.


“Thank you Captain.”  Simon watched him go, the man checked out, but all the same he had an uneasy feeling about it.





At breakfast, Blair poked at his fresh fruit as he started to explain again the plot of the novel.  “The ABC killer always used the location of the murder and the person’s name. Like Mrs. Ascher at Andover, he’s used almonds so he won’t do it again. I am going to ‘burn’.”


“Not while I am here, Chief. First we are going to find out who had access to the kitchen.”


Jeff was only too happy to help, but made it plain that he thought Jim was over-reacting; it was a sick joke, that was all.  But he confirmed that the kitchen was empty at 4 o’clock when it was the practice of the manager, himself, to call all the staff together for what he called a collective kick up the ass. 


Blair looked up at Jim. “Evil under the Sun so you’re working on that novel.”


“Blair?” Jim looked puzzled.


“It’s another Christie novel; the manager there had all the staff together.”


Jeff beamed. “Well done, and yes it helps them plan their own alibis if they know that we are doing Evil under the Sun.”


“So everyone would know that the kitchen would be empty at that time. Great, that’s just great.  Anyone could have tampered with his food. 


Blair spoke sentinel soft, “You know what worries me, Jim? In all of her books there was never just one murder.” He couldn’t help but shudder as he remembered what Jim had overheard. Apart from the note there was no evidence that Mr. Allison’s death was anything but an accident. He trusted Jim’s cop instincts, and, if the sentinel was also on alert, it meant the problem wasn’t going to go away.




As the game progressed through the day, Jim had checked over the emergency radio, and found someone had removed the main circuit board from it. The cell phones had been found, but the chips had been removed from them, and the phones were still down.  Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to isolate them, and make it impossible for anyone to check on the identity of the people in the hotel.


He insisted that Jeff and Blair try to get the boat up and working so they could make contact with the outside world.


The two men had been working on the engine for about half an hour when Jeff peered out of the boat shed doors and put a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun’s glare.  “What the hell’s she doing there? She knows you can’t swim from this point; there is a nasty rip tide." He got up from his crouched position and saidm "I'll be back in a minute, why the hell don’t people read the signs?”  Blair heard the other man muttering, as he turned back to the engine. After a few minutes heard the door creak open. And without looking back asked, “Hand me the wrench man, I think I can see--” He started to turn, when he was pitched into darkness, he never felt his body hit the ground.


The killer was humming away to himself, as he poured the fuel round the shed.  “B is for Blair and B is for Burning Blair.”  He walked outside and pushed the door almost closed then threw the lightened match into the boatshed, slamming the door closed and putting a stone under the door, jamming it solid. He heard the whoosh as he walked away.


Jim was on the deck, which gave a view of the whole beachfront when his head suddenly turned towards the boatshed.  His eyesight zoomed in, and he saw the lick of flames from behind the glass of the small window, and then smelled the smoke. “BLAIR” He vaulted over the guardrail onto the beach and raced along the sand.


Blair lifted his head, and nearly passed out again from the pain. He coughed and it felt as if his throat was on fire. He couldn’t breathe. He tried to drag himself to the slipway leading to the water, but collapsed again, coughing harshly.  The heat was getting worse; he tried again, this time he managed to get to the side of the beached boat, and then into the water. The darkness hit him again, and his last conscious thought was, “I am going to die.”



Jim hit the water at full speed, this body knifing through the cold waves.

Powerful strokes took him to the smaller man; expertly, he turned him over onto his back, keeping Blair’s head above the water level. His partner was breathing; a trickle of blood oozed from a gash to this head.  Jim leaned back and began to kick his way back to shore. Other guests began to arrive along the shoreline.  Blair started to struggle as he regained consciousness.


“I’ve got you, Sandburg.” Immediately the struggling stopped and he relaxed knowing that Jim had him, and he was safe.


Jeff waded into the water with Mr. Carter, one of the younger guests and helped carry Blair onto dry land.


Jim carefully checked his partner over. The head wound indicated a possible concussion, which would need to be watched, but there appeared to be no other injuries to worry Blair about.


Suddenly Jeff found himself pinned by the coldest blue eyes he had ever seen. “What happened, Jeff?”


“I thought I saw Miss Bell, in the water by the point, I went to warn her about the rip tides there, but when I got there she had gone.”


“Jeff, I’ve been with Dave, all morning. You can ask him.”  Julia put in.


“But if it wasn’t you, who was it?” Jeff looked puzzled, he was beginning to get a terrible feeling about his event, already Mr. Allison was dead, but that was an accident right? But then Mr. Sandburg had nearly been killed. That had to be an accident too, maybe when he turned the engine over it shorted or something.  Keep thinking that, it’s safer, a little voice whispered in his head.




Blair was clinging to Jim, his barriers had crashed and it was only his Sentinels supporting him mentally and physically that stopped him from overloading.The emotions of the people around him were draining his energy, and when Jeff reached for him he had pulled back, avoiding the contact, knowing that it would hurt him.  It was then he had seen understanding on the manager’s face. Their secret was out.


Once back in their room, the sentinel hesitated before he put the light on, walking to the center of the room to check the light bulb. The expression on his face truly frightening, it promised death to the man that was trying to kill his guide.  Jim removed the light bulb”.


“Jim what is it?”


“Sit down and breath Chief”, the sentinel could hear his guide starting an anxiety attack. It wasn’t the first one he had experienced since leaving the correction facility, but Jim hoped it would be one of the last.


“Tell me Jim, what is it?”


“A little surprise, someone tampered with the light bulb, if you know what you're doing you can make a nasty fire bomb out of them. This person it appears does.  Now I am taking this out to dispose of it, so keep the door locked while I am gone. When he saw the look on his guides face he added, “What’s the matter Chief”.


“Apart from people trying to kill me?” Blair fought to keep his voice level.  "Shouldn’t we have password for when you come back”.


“I’ll knock, and when you ask who is it, I’ll say Ellison”


Blair laughed for the first time that day, “No imagination, that’s your problem Jim”. The humor was forced but somehow it returned things to normal, or as normal as sentinel and guide could ever be.


When Jim returned Blair was ushered to bed, his sentinel in full-blessed protector mother hen mode.


Blair lay in bed watching his sentinel pace; he had heard the muttering for the last ten minutes, nothing loud enough for him to hear but enough to know that James Ellison was royally pissed off.


He patted the bed near him. “Take a load off, you’re making me dizzy walking up and down like that.”


Jim loomed over him and caught his face in a gentle touch that would have surprised anyone that didn’t know him. He checked Blair’s eyes.  He seemed content that the reaction of the pupils was now normal, only then did he sit down. “Let’s go over what we have.”


“First off this is a murder mystery event, everyone except us booked in for it.”


“Not exactly right, chief, you won the holiday remember, and it was for these dates.”


“Okay so everyone booked in advance, from what the others said, Mr. Allison, was a regular at these events, and they knew his likes and dislikes so anyone could have known he had a nut allergy: it’s in Jeff’s, book.  So we have a loony out there that is trying to re-write the ABC Murders, only instead of place names he’s using the method, and I was unlucky that he got onto the B’s.”


“No, I don’t buy that, Chief.”


“‘B for Blair and Burning’.”


“But A is for Allison, so why go for a first name when he is doing surnames. I mean it’s not as if there are any shortages of B, for example Bell, Bennett. And,” Jim broke off and then fixed Blair with a look.


“Jim, what’s wrong, man, you look as if you have just seen a ghost.”


“Sandburg, you have a nut allergy don’t you?”


“Yeah. Oh my God, Allison.”  He paused “When I filled in the hotel booking forms, I put down about my allergy, so who ever read it would know.”


“That morning, the salt shaker on our table, what was it about it?  Damn, I can’t remember.”


“Don’t try to force it.  Now, take deep breaths, follow me. Just listen to my voice and then think back to breakfast, your sentinel senses record things just like a tape, it’s all there, you just have to access it.” 


“Picked up the salt, it was clogged, wouldn’t come out, and then I changed it, for one off the tray.”


His eyes opened with a snap.  “Almonds!  It smelt of almonds!” Jim came out of the meditation.


“It was you they were after, Blair, but why?”



One thing was sure, between gunshots at night, and noonday guns and the guests going down like nine-pins, it was making Jim’s job of tracking down what he was sure was murderer even harder.  Jeff had explained that in other games the staff were the victims, but with his weekend, it added a bite to the story when actual visitors where the victims.  Selected by a discreet note under there door, and now someone was playing the game for real.





Major Crimes

Cascade PD


Detective Henry Brown knocked on the Captain’s door and then entered without waiting for Captain Banks to call him in.


“Sorry, Captain, but, you know that lawyer that called in the other day?" There was no such thing as a secret in the bullpen, nearly all of them had seen the lawyer, and gossip was rife about why the man wanted to see Ellison.  “Well, they have just found him, his throat’s been cut and his body dumped down by the dock.”


Banks was already on his feet heading for the door. It could have been a mugging that had gone wrong. But when it concerned his best team he took nothing for granted.



 The guests continued their holiday of mayhem and murder.  Jeff had been adamant that since they could do nothing about it, it was best that nothing cause them to panic. The explosion in the shed had been written off as an accident, and they had gone back to their game of ‘let’s pretend’.


Knowing that logistically he could not cover all the bases, Jim had reluctantly gone along with the idea. A panicked hotel would not help him, and only give the killer a better chance to either escape or avoid detection, at least this way he could hopefully see him coming.


The next note arrived pushed under their door.


C is for Carter and for choking.


The day passed and nothing untoward had happened, until they heard the scream, from the floor above. Mr. Carter was found lying on the floor. The guests had crowded into the room and Jim pushed through them, he could hear Mr. Carter’s pulse was steady; the make up job had been good. He was just as much alive as everyone else in the room, Jim come out and left them to their games.   His temper was getting the better of him; it was bad enough there was a very real threat to his guide, but the game was making it harder to see the woods for the trees. He was ready to take it out on someone.


He increased his pace as he could hear Blair talking; his guide hadn’t followed him, having been waylaid by the pretty receptionist.


“That would be great, you sure your boss won’t mind?”


Then a soft female voice responded, “Okay, tonight, eight o’clock.”


Jim slowed down, he recognized Julia, He nodded as the she walked past him and he spared a minute to enjoy the view.


“You never stop do you Chief?”


“It’s not illegal you know.”


“Well your love life should be, how many does that make?”


Blair grinned and decided to treat that with the contempt it deserved, he turned on his heels with a parting shot “at least one of us has a date for the dance tonight, I can just see you partnering Mrs. Hubbard, Jim, she’s about your speed.”  Blair ducked out of the way of the clip to the back of his head.






The knock on the door was soft; Jim was on his feet, gun in hand, only pushing it into the waist band of his trousers when he saw it was Jeff.


The manager looked nervous.  “Er Detective Ellison, you’re a sentinel?” he blurted it out in one breath.


“Yes” Jim wasn’t going to lie, he might hide it, but he would never deny it.


“That means that Mr.” he frowned as he realized that he had nearly called a guide mister. “The Guide Sandburg is, well, a guide?”


Jim’s voice dropped to the wintry tone that made more than one hardened criminal confess his life sins.  “That makes a difference?”


“The company has a no guide policy Sentinel Ellison, they believe that a sentinel would have a unnatural advantage in the games and since there is a $1000 prize, and a guide, well, some of our guest would object to sharing facilities with a guide," Jeff blanched as he wilted under the Sentinel’s stare.


“Being a guide is nothing you can catch, it’s not a disease” Blair put in.


Jeff stared at him as if a guide dog had just spoken.


“I am a man, I am actually working on my PhD at Ranier University, and I have life. I am not going to steal anyone’s soul Mr. Owens." Blair tried to explain, he allowed his barriers to lower enough to try and read the man.


“It’s just” Jeff stuttered to a halt, as he realized that it didn’t matter to him.

He met Jim’s gaze levelly, “No one will hear it from me, Mr. Ellison, Mr. Sandburg.”




Early evening and Blair came out of the bathroom, and whistled, as he saw Jim in the tuxedo. He circled him slowly. “My name is James, James Bond,” he intoned complete with Scottish accent. He neatly ducked the hand that would have clipped him.


“Okay, Reverend, let’s take a look at you.”


.Blair had tied his hair back, and then tucked up the ponytail, folded onto itself, so at least from the front he looked as if he had short hair. He fingered the clerical dog collar, until Jim slapped his hands away. “Stop doing that Chief, your spoil the affect”. Blair’s comment was lost on the sentinel, who was just checking the room before he left. He would know if anyone entered it.


Satisfied Jim led them downstairs.  Tonight was the final night of the Christie Holiday. No one could have claimed it had been stress free, but tomorrow, when the supply boat would come out, he would have a chance to get in touch with the outside world, and then he would get to the bottom of it all.


Blair made a beeline for his date, Julia. She looked stunning in her white, strapless dress.  The staff did double duty and also were the band. The evening was in full swing.  Jeff would be giving out the winning prize tonight for the solution of the play murder, or give a prize to the murderer if they avoided detection.  At least eight of the guests had red pins, which marked them as corpses. The Carters both had been killed, and they, together with the Davies, who were still alive, shared a table with Blair, Julia, and Linda, a guest was vacationing alone.


The lights went down, and when the music started Jim found, to his surprise, that most of the guests actually got up to dance. Linda leaned into him as if reading his mind.  “They always used to dance in the 30’s so if you come to the week, you dance.” She grinned at him, “Now, who do you think did it?”


The champagne corks popped -- Jeff was pulling out all the stops, with the death of one guest and the near miss of another, he was trying to keep the party rolling.


Blair didn’t look up as the waiter poured the bubbly.  He had his attention fixed totally on the girl by his side, whom if her hand traveling further north on his thigh were any indication, would prove to be very interesting.


Julia got up and excused herself to go to the Powder room, Blair sighed in frustration. .


“Cool it, Junior, or you’re not going to be able to get up to dance at this rate.”

Jim’s voice showed his amusement, and when Blair turned towards him, and he saw the grin on his friends face, he frowned.



Jim just tapped his nose and then turned back to Linda, sitting next to him on his other side. The light in Blair’s mind came on, and he moved his napkin into his lap, with an embarrassed “er thanks”.


The sentinel was resigned to the fact that that crack was going to get him more testing but it had been priceless to see the look on Blair’s face.


The meal was good, and Blair dived in, safe in the knowledge that Jim had inspected the food on his plate, with his senses. It had been done without any fuss and no one was any the wiser. Jim looked at the silver service waiter a little keenly as if he was on the verge of saying something to the poor man. Then he just shook his head and turned to talk to his dinner companion on his other side.


The evening continued with more champagne and they decided to dance when the music started up again.  Julia got up and tripped over her handbag. She picked it up and placed it on the table, and, accepting Blair’s hand, stepped onto the dance floor. 


Seeing the way Linda looked at him, with a grin, Jim escorted her onto the floor.  It had been a while since he had last danced, but even his ex-wife had acknowledged that he was a good dancer. The other couples followed.


Blair kept looking back at the table, there was something niggling deep in his mind, and he watched the waiters moving round in the semi-dark topping up all the glasses. Why did this ring a bell?


Mr. and Mrs. Davies returned to the table first and then slowly the other couples made their way back, taking their places.


It was only when Jim reached for his drink that the penny dropped. Blair’s hand knocked the glass flying.




“Cyanide, Jim, it's got cyanide in it.”  Blair stammered hastily. "The book Sparkling Cyanide, that killer put it in the champagne, and then when everyone came back...."  He caught Julia’s wrist and held tight as she tried to pull away from him.


“Let me go!”


Blair hung on as he continued to voice the plot of the Christie’s novel. “Julia moved her bag, and when Mr. and Mrs. Davies returned to the table they all got moved along one place, everyone takes their cue from the bag. You get my glass and the cyanide!”


“But if you…” Jim, saw the flash of metal in the near dark, and lunged forward taking Blair down as the gun fired.  Julia took the bullet in the chest, spinning her backward against Mrs. Davies. All he saw was the white jacket of a waiter as the shooter took off out through the French doors and out onto the deck.  Jim grabbed his gun from his ankle holster and was after him.


Old habits died hard, and when Jim halted at the door, a bullet crashed through one of the panes.  The shooter had waited for him to crash through after him, silhouetted in the light the perfect target.


Jim cast out his hearing; the shooter was now crashing through the trees heading for the shore and his means of escape. The sentinel’s pupils opened wide so even in the limited light he could see clearly. Now the primal instincts of the hunt came to the fore.  Hearing and sight came together, effortlessly balanced. Smell cut in: the scent of the powder from the discharged gun, edged with cheaper aftershave all came together.  The man might as well have sent out a flashing beacon.


The shooter headed toward his boat, hidden in one of the coves, his partner was as good as dead, pity but she should have known better than get in the way.


He was just starting to push the boat out when he was thrown to the ground. He rolled and found himself facing Ellison and then dived for his gun, which had been forced from his hand when he had been hit.


He had started to lift it when Ellison’s foot kicked it out of his hand, taking a large patch of skin with it.


The man, pulled back, as he saw the gun in the police officer’s hand. Giving up, he relaxed back on the ground cradling his hand.


“So why Sandburg?” that was the question that Jim wanted answered.


“It was never about Sandburg.”  The man kept his voice level as his hand dropped moved slowly towards his boot.


“It was about you, Ellison, Sandburg, was just an interesting decoy, if you were busy looking after him you would not see me coming after you.”


He sneered, “You really don’t know do you cop? When Markham, died he had a three million dollar fund, and then when his parents died the estate went into Trust.  Howard King has been helping himself over the last five years, and then you come along.  A Dudley do right, and have to tell the partners about the verbal will, that he gave you, about the money and that wife of his that he married in Peru.   And now the other partners in the firm are actually taking your claims seriously enough to look into it.  Which will mean the account, of course, would have to be audited and the little unauthorized withdrawals are going to show up.  So since you haven’t given an official statement if you die it dies with you.”  He left the rest of it hanging in the air.


It made sense, but one question puzzled him.Why all this, and not just a bullet in the head?”


“You’re a cop, Ellison, you die and the whole department is going to come down on the investigation.  This however would be written off, as a crank, and I already have my fall guy in place. Complete with a note that would show that he took the game much too seriously and was a suicide.”


“Whose idea was this?”


“It is Julie’s, or should I say ‘was’. She liked games.”


He grabbed for the knife strapped to his ankle, if he could barely see Ellison, the cop would not see the knife until it was too late


The knife hand snapped up then fell when the bullet took the man in the head. James Ellison walked forward and kicked it out of the way, even though he knew the man was dead.



Jim heard the crunch of someone coming through the trees, then the distinct scent of Blair Sandburg.  He raised his voice and yelled, “Over here, Chief.” The footsteps speeded up, and Blair crashed through the bushes into the clearing, only to find his sentinel, slightly worse for wear. .


“You got him then, did he...?”


“Yeah, Chief, I got him. I’ll tell you all about it later. Let’s get Jeff to take over.” He patted the boat. “And get the locals involved. We're still owed a vacation.”  He broke off as he saw the lights and then his hearing picked up the sound of a boat coming across from the shore.


Blair saw the smallest of smiles appear on Jim’s face as he added, “Simon’s on board.”




As he got up Jim slipped an arm over Blair’s shoulders as they headed back to the hotel. Blair seemed to understand, and helped support Jim’s weight.


“How do you know Simon’s onboard?” Blair put in.


“I can smell his cigars. Come on; let’s go meet the man, Chief.”


“Er, one thing Jim, not that I need the $1,000 dollars or anything.”


This got Ellison’s attention. 


“It’s just you do know who’s been doing the murders, don’t you? I mean the pretend ones”


Jim kept on walking.


“A hint, Jim, all I need is a hint. Come on, man, give me a break here.”


“Use the little gray cells, Hasting, the little gray cells.”


 Blair paused, stunned and then took after the retreating back of his partner, who would have thought that Jim Ellison read Agatha Christie.


“Hey man, have you read the one when Hastings, went to South America and Poirot, was deported when he went to visit him.”


“One of my favorites Chief”. James Ellison turned around with a grin.




The End.


The use of verbal wills is legal under English Law, when a soldier, sailor or airman is on active service they can give a verbal will to a witness as long as that person will not gain personally from it. The verbal will takes precedence over any written wills.