The teal Ford truck pulled slowly away from 852 Prospect. Detective Jim Ellison expertly tuned out the unintelligible, well it was to him, chatter emanating from his companion. Sometimes the Sentinel skills that Sandburg had helped him fine-tune came in handy-especially when you had a chatterbox for a partner. Sandburg glanced over at the older man and from the calm expression on Jim’s face guessed correctly that he was talking to himself. Blair raised his voice a little,
“Can you spot me $10 Jim?”
Ellison gave Sandburg a sideways glance as he frowned, “ Do I need to set up a tab for you-this is the second time you’ve bummed money off me this week Chief? You still owe me $40 from last month?” Jim added.
“Oh, yeh, I forgot about that. Don’t worry I’m good for it.” The young man grinned and then tactfully changed the subject as Ellison dug out a bill from his inside pocket and handed it over. “ I’ve got an extra class to cover this afternoon Jim, we don’t have anything too pressing on do we?”
“You’ve had a lot of extra classes to cover lately Sandburg?”
“Well man, its that time of year, lots of married guys wanting vacation time with the family.”
“And you’re the official supply teacher?”
“Something like that.” Blair grinned.
Pulling into his usual spot in the Cascade Police department’s parking lot Ellison switched off the ignition and got out of the car. He tossed the keys across to his partner, “make yourself useful for a change and lock up,” he said before heading off across the lot. They got out of the lift on the seventh floor and walked towards the Major Crimes office. Jim went straight across the bullpen to his desk but Blair made a beeline for Detective Brown’s desk.
Jim had the usual mountain of paperwork to see to and after a final glance towards where his young partner was perched on the desk across the room; he dialled down his hearing and got stuck into his paperwork.
Sandburg was well aware of Jim’s daily habits and felt it quite safe to continue with his conversation with Brown and his partner Rafe.
“Well come on guys do you wanna piece of the action or not? I’ll bet you $10 I can guess the first thing that Simon says when he comes out of his office.” Sandburg grinned.
“Ok, I’m in.” Rafe said.
“Alright, me too-are you cutting Jim In on this Hair boy?” Brown added.
“Jim’s busy, better not disturb him. Ok, I’ll write it down and you can hold onto it.” With that the young man wrote something down and a piece of paper, folded it over and handed it over to the older man. “Shouldn’t have long to wait now, Simon’s looking restless.” Blair grinned as all three men stole glances towards Captain Simon Bank’s office across the room from them.
They didn’t have long to wait, “ Sandburg! Get your butt off that desk-don’t you have work to do?” Banks bellowed across the room.
Blair hopped off the desk grinning broadly.
“What’s so damn funny Sandburg?” Simon Banks growled.
Blair went quickly over to his own desk, “ Nothing Captain, just in my usual good mood.”
“Well stop it!”
“Yes Sir. “ Blair replied with a barely suppressed smile. As soon as the Captain’s door closed Blair went back across to Brown’s desk. “I think that’s $20 I’m owed guys.”
Brown slapped the piece of paper onto his desk; “How did you do that kid?” He asked as he handed over a bill.
Blair gratefully accepted the cash from both men, “ I told you guys, the Sandburg system is foolproof.”
“Do you have to be so gleefully smug about it Sandburg!” Rafe complained.
“What the hell is going on over there?” Ellison interjected; “Unless you want Simon out here kicking your ass I suggest you start getting some work done Chief.”
Blair jogged over to his partner, “I was just getting to it, just wanted
to give you your $10 back. Big guy.”
“I thought you were broke Sandburg?” Ellison eyed the young man with growing suspicion.
“I just remembered that the guys owed me a few bucks Jim.”
“How so-no, don’t answer that. I probably don’t wanna know. Now go!”
After a low crime month, probably the weather, he spent a boring morning concentrating on the ever-present pile of paper work. Blair was glad when lunch hour finally came around. He got up and went across to his partner’s desk.
“I’ll grab some lunch on the way and then head over to the campus
Jim-see you later tonight.”
“You need a lift over to the campus Chief?”
“Its ok, I’ll catch a ride in one of the patrol cars Jim. Sandburg answered.
“I’m cooking dinner tonight, do you want in or do you have another date tonight?” Ellison said as he gave his partner a raised eyebrow look.
Blair grinned, “ No date tonight, taking a night off. I should be home around seven.”
“Ok, later then Chief.”
Sandburg didn’t make use of a patrol car; he caught a bus back to the loft to pick up his own car. He also headed in the opposite direction to Rainier University campus.
Jim had dinner waiting when Blair arrived home that evening, and on time for a change! Jim dished up while the young man went to make some urgent phone call-probably just remembered he did have a date after all. Ellison shook his head at the thought of the train wreck that he fondly referred to as the kid’s love life. He also thought he heard Sandburg raise his voice a little, so probably not date related after all. He could easily have listened in on the kids call, but he kept his hearing dialled down and left him to his privacy.
“Come on cous, what do you mean you can’t help me out any more? I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Ok, see if you can find me the number-I’m counting on you Rob. Thanks man, speak to you later. Oh, and don’t call me here at home make sure you use my cell phone.” Blair grinned, “No, we have not forgotten to pay the utility bill. Ok, goodnight.”
That weekend Simon and the rest of the cigar club arranged to go to the track to see their horse Little Stogie compete. They were relieved that their new acquisition was finally earning its keep after winning its last three races of the season. Simon was also looking forward to trying out Sandburg’s system again.
It wasn’t lost on Ellison that his young partner seemed to have become very popular around the track and kept getting nods from various people he passed. He also noted that Sandburg looked a little uncomfortable, his heart rate was definitely faster than normal. He was probably regretting he hadn’t kept this system of his a little quieter-Brown and Rafe had probably blabbed the news to anyone who’d listen Ellison grinned.
Blair appeared at Ellison’s side looking glum.
“What’s up Chief, all this fame getting you down?” Jim smirked.
“I had to cancel a date, wasn’t gonna come today but Simon, well kind of insisted.”
“That’s tough Chief.” Jim said without much sympathy, the kid had brought this on himself.
Blair’s face lit up for a moment,” Have you placed a bet yet Jim? I can give you a couple of tips-sure things?”
Ellison looked sharply at the younger man, who sounded a little too eager for his liking.
“Is something going on I should know about Chief? You know I’m not interested in betting on helpless animals, you know better than to ask.”
Blair avoided making eye contact and began to fidget until he seemed to spot someone in the crowd and darted off. “ Gotta go Jim, Simon wants me. See you later.”
Ellison gave his head a little shake to clear the confusion caused by his little trip into the Sandburg zone. He really needed to have a talk with Sandburg, maybe all these extra classes were getting a little on top of the kid, making him more weird than usual.
Things didn’t improve much over the following few weeks. Ellison kept getting cops from other department coming up to him and making cryptic comments about the kid and his Sandburg system. Then one morning he bumped into Sandburg coming out of Narcotics and the kid made some dumb excuse about making a wrong turn! He really would have to have that talk with Sandburg and soon-not least for his own sanity, Ellison sighed.
The following week on his day off Ellison decided to confront his room mate
and see if he could find out what the hell was going on with the kid-seeing
as he seemed to be the only one in the whole department who was clueless! He
got up early and waited for Sandburg to surface. Blair was surprised to find
Jim up so early on his day off; he tossed a “good morning” towards
his roommate as he went down the hall to the bathroom.
“Chief I need a word with you.”
Blair paused at the bathroom door, “I’ll be out in a few minutes, can it wait?”
“I guess it will have to.” Jim replied softly as he heard the bathroom door shut.
Showered and dressed Blair swept through the loft and back into his room, he
emerged a few seconds later with his backpack.
“Chief, you and I need to talk.” Ellison tried again.
Blair paused briefly as he snagged up his coat. “ I really have to go big guy I’ve got a class waiting for me.”
Ellison frowned,” you don’t have any classes today?”
“I gotta go Jim, we can talk tonight, I’ll be home early, promise.” Blair said as he picked up his keys and disappeared out of the door.
“Sandburg!” Ellison yelled after his departed roommate.
Ellison spent a frustrating morning as he clock watched, he would have it out with the kid tonight even if he had to super glue him the coach. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself before getting a beer and a sandwich and flopping onto the coach. He flicked on the TV and looked for something to take his mind off strangling a certain young man. Some day off this was turning out to be!
Over the sounds of the basketball game Ellison heard the answer phone kick
in and he absently listened to the message being left. The game was forgotten
as he gave his full attention to the message he was hearing. “Sandburg
you are SO dead!
Ellison hardly had time for his temper to cool before another message was left on the answer phone that caused his blood to boil dangerously. He got up and paced about the room, a humourless grin on his face. “Sandburg you are SO very, very dead.”
Blair Sandburg got into his Volvo and looked forward to getting home, it had been a profitable day but he was worn out. A guilty conscience no doubt, but he conveniently pushed that to the back of his mind, what Jim didn’t know couldn’t hurt him he told himself. Thirty minutes later he pulled up in front of the loft, blissfully unaware that the shit was about to hit the proverbial fan.
Jim was busy watching TV when Blair let himself into the loft, he dropped his keys onto the table near the door and went to get himself a soda from the kitchen.
“There are a couple of messages on the answer phone for you Chief.”
Blair came back towards the living area and wriggled out of his coat and hung it up as he continued across the room to the phone. Blair hit the button on the answer phone and looked at Jim who sat on the coach right next to the phone table.
“Thanks Jim, you had a good day?”
“An interesting day.” Ellison replied while he waited for the messages to kick in.
“Hello Blair, its Sandra from the accounts Department. Could you just confirm that you’ll be back from sick leave this Monday? Hope you’re feeling better-call me”
The young man paled slightly, “Shit!” he muttered.
“There’s more chief.”
“Hey Blair its Robert-how’s the Sandburg system holding up? Anyway, you owe me one cous, I found that bookie’s no you wanted 555 7879-see you at the track tomorrow and don’t forget I’ll expect the same 10% your pals in blue get. Oops, just remembered that you didn’t want me to call the loft-sorry about that cous. Later man.”
Sandburg forced a look at his partner and saw that Jim was no longer seated.
His mind screamed for him to run for it but his feet refused to obey.
“Shit, Shit, Shit.” Was the best he could come up with.
Ellison came around the back of the couch towards the young man, “ You
look a bit pale chief maybe you better sit down.”
“I feel sick.” Blair said softly.
“Hell chief if you’ve been feeling ill you should have said something.” Ellison said in a tone that belied the sympathy of his words. He led Blair past the love seat and none too gently shoved him onto the coach.
“Start talking junior!” Ellison bellowed and watched with satisfaction when the young man half jumped out of his seat.
“I can explain Jim, I err, err…what do ya want me to explain first?”
Ellison reached down and caught Blair by a bunch of T-Shirt and over-shirt and lifted him off the coach until they were eye to eye. “Start with the mystery illness chief and then work your way towards why your cousin Robert is no longer your bookie for some reason-that I really can’t wait to hear!” With that he dropped Blair back onto the coach and perched himself on one corner of the coffee table across from him.
Blair found himself in an advance state of terror as his partner, his much larger partner glared at him. He prided himself on his agile mind and quick tongue but this time he was in so much trouble he could hardly think straight.
“I err, I needed the time off to concentrate on my new project Jim.”
He tried lamely.
“Would that be the Sandburg system I've heard so much about?”
“Yeh Jim, that would be it-it’s a serious experiment…”
“You’ve been blowing off school and the office to go to the track-is that what you’re saying junior?”
“No, I’m not saying that.” Blair mumbled.
“What was that Chief?”
“Err, no…yes.” Blair finished as he dropped his chin towards him chest.
Ellison stood up and began to pace again. “Ok, so that’s message number one deciphered, lets move on-why do you need a new bookie?” He asked reasonable.
“I don’t have a bookie man.” Blair said stubbornly.
“Shall I replay that message Robert left for you?”
“Rob is my cousin not my bookie and I never called that number-so technically he’s not my bookie is he?” Blair snapped.
Jim leaned in and slapped the younger man sharply on the back of the head; “Watch that tone with me junior!”
“Ow! Get off my back man, you’re not my old man or anything.” Blair pouted as he rubbed his head.
Ellison took another deep breath and sat down next to his partner, “ You’re the one who told me I’m your blessed protector? I’m meant to look out for you-YES?”
“Yes.” Blair answered.
“You may as well just tell me the truth chief, you know I can tell when you’re lying and we’ll sit here all night if we have to.”
“Do I have to?” Blair asked.
Jim gave Sandburg another slap on the back of the head, a light token slap this time.
“Alright, alright-but its just gonna incriminate the hell out of me Jim.” Blair complained.
Ellison smirked at his partner, “ I think you can already consider yourself finger printed and booked kid-its just the sentencing to be decided now.”
Blair gave the older man a pained look, “ You should’ a been a stand up comedian Jim-you missed your calling big guy.”
Sandburg explained that his betting system had turned out to be a little too
good and after a few weeks he couldn’t get a bet laid down at the track.
“Man I was collecting all this research material and making a few bucks at same time-and, well I wasn’t expecting my research data source to dry up so quickly.”
“And?” Ellison prompted.
“Well, the guys at work seemed quite keen to help me test out my theories…so I didn’t see any harm in getting one or two of the guys to place bets for me at the track.”
“And you paid then 10% of your winnings? “
“Just a little incentive, all in the name of research Jim.”
“And were does Robert fit into all this?” Ellison asked with a frown.
“Just another part of the experiment.” Blair added tentatively.
“And by the time you’d exhausted that avenue are you trying to tell me you still didn’t have enough data?”
“Well maybe I did get just a little carried away.” Blair admitted reluctantly.
After several seemingly long minutes Ellison broke the silence.
“That is TOTAL bullshit Junior!”
Blair jumped up from the coach, “ I don’t know what you mean-I told you the truth!”
Ellison was also on his feet and demonstrated towards Blair’s bedroom, “Ok Chief-show me the research, show me this fascinating paper you’ve written.”
Blair’s mouth opened and shut involuntarily before he found his tongue
again, “ It…its not here man…its at school.”
“Ok, get your car keys and we’ll go and get it chief.”
Blair didn’t go for his keys he sat back down on the couch; “ I meant to keep the data current Jim-but I kind of let it slip. I do have some notes at my office-on tape; I can show them to you.”
Ellison was still angry with his partner,” Don’t come the little Mr innocent with me junior. You’ve lied and snuck around for weeks AND how was it that I was about the only one you didn’t invite to help you out at the track? The whole of the Cascade PD must have heard about this!”
Blair fidgeted, “I did ask you to place a bet for me at the track last weekend-when we were watching little Stogie. I didn’t mention it to you at work because I knew you wouldn’t be interested big guy.”
“You knew I’d kick your ass if I found out you mean chief! And you were right, your blessed protector is going to kick you ass! Count on it!”
“Come on Jim Man, calm down. I know I got a bit out of control there
for a wh…”
Blair unexpectedly found himself face down over Ellison’s knee, “Whoa, there, what ya doing Jim? Shit! Oww! That hurts! Will you cut that ou…ouch!” Sandburg protested.
Ellison ignored his young guide’s cries and complaints and concentrated on delivering what he considered a more than well-deserved spanking. He also punctuated the painful slaps with a few chose words that he didn’t think the kid was going to like any more than the walloping he was getting.
SLAP, SLAP, SLAP “ You can forget leaving the loft for anything besides
SLAP, SLAP, and the bullpen with me-got that chief? SLAP, SLAP.
“For gods sake man your killing me-Oww! Ok, ok, I hear you.” Blair yelped as he fought back the tears that threatened.
Ellison’s large hand continued to make painful contact with his captive’s butt and he dialled down the sound of the kid’s cries just a little, boy did Blair have a set of lungs on him! “ And if I ever hear the words Sandburg and system in the same sentence EVER again-you will be one very sorry little guide! Is that clear Chief?”
“Yes, what ever you say big guy, just quit whaling on me!” Blair
“Oww!! I said yes, yes sir! Now will you please stop and let me up.”
Ellison finally released his captive and eased Blair back upright on the coach. And as his butt connected with the coach Blair gave another gasp of pain, “ Oh man that is excruciating.” He said as he launched himself off the offending couch and dried his tear stained face on his shirtsleeve.
“Hey man, why did you do that-you had no right!”
“I’m you blessed protector and I had every right, so stop with the whining junior –you should be grateful to me for saving you from yourself.” Ellison said with a half grin.
“This is not funny man-that hurt!” Blair continued to complain.
“Ok, enough with the griping, you can go to your room now because I want to watch TV kid.”
“Hell, if I’ve gotta put up with you saving me from myself you’d better get used to me whining-its part of the same tradition.” Blair went over and collected his backpack and then another thought occurred to him, “How come I need to go to my room when you’re watching the TV? I know you usually just tune me out if I’m aggravating you.” Blair grinned when Ellison glanced over at him in surprise; “thought I never noticed that big guy.” He smirked.
Ellison had the perfect ammo to wipe the grin from the young man’s face, “ All that gambling must have fried a few of your brain cells-you’re grounded in case you’ve forgotten. So, no TV, no nothing as far as your concerned, eat, sleep and work.”
“What are you talking about Jim-I never agreed to any grounding?”
Ellison patted him knees invitingly, “We can renegotiate if you feel up to it chief?”
Sandburg glowered over at the cause of all his discomfort with mutiny but the serious ache in his behind told him to concede this battle.
Ellison watched as his guide stomped over to his room, “And don’t…”
“Slam the door.” He finished with both covering his ears.