Just a little something so you won't forget about me. As usual with my "cat" stories, nothing profound occurs, no extreme angst...just "cute", according to my beta. You have been warned.:-)
Hope you enjoy!
"He was in the War of the Roses; and the roses won," Detective Brian Rafe observed solemnly, as he took in the appearance of his fellow detective, Jim Ellison.
"Actually, it looks more like he was in a cat fight-- and the cat kicked his ass," Rafe's partner, Henri Brown, stated before bending over laughing. Rafe held on for a few seconds, then succumbed to laughter, too.
Even Jim Ellison himself couldn't keep from smiling. He knew how he looked: grimy, sweaty, and covered with small scratches-- not even big enough to hurt, just itch. He had indeed been in a war with roses-- and a felon called Fred Cramerton. A suspect in a recent string of robberies, Cramerton had fled at the sight of cops approaching his apartment. Out the window, down the fire escape, across the road, and through the park he'd run. But a determined Ellison had stayed with him fleeting step for fleeting step, and he'd made a grab for Cramerton just as the suspect passed the park's prize-winning rose garden. The altercation had been quick, and dirty-- literally. The loosened soil of the flowerbed had brought the men down. After detangling himself from the thorns, Ellison had snapped on the cuffs. One more guest for the Cascade jail-- courtesy of the Major Crime Unit.
"All in a day's work, boys," Jim said to the laughing duo. "But you two wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"
"Can we help it that we're mere mortals, while you're a super hero?" Brown questioned with a devilish glint in his eye. "By the way, man, I think you have a run in your tights." He looked pointedly at Jim's leg.
Sure enough, there was a long tear along the length of his thigh. "Damn thorns must be made of Kryptonite, huh?" Jim replied good-naturedly.
"Or maybe that stuff Wolverine's claws are made of," Brown offered.
"Yeah, that stuff can cut through anything," Jim agreed patiently.
"Can't cut through Superman's skin," Rafe pointed out.
"Yeah, it can," Brown argued.
"Can't. Now, if a bullet can't break his skin, what makes you think--"
"Wolverine's claws are sharp, my man. Why, I bet...."
Jim left the two of them squabbling, and walked over to his arriving captain. "Take your best shot, sir," he offered, resigned to being the butt of jokes for the remainder of the day.
Captain Simon Banks eyed his tousled detective judiciously. "Are you hurt anywhere?"
"Not really. But these scratches are starting to sting."
Simon nodded. He knew Jim's heightened sense of touch was probably starting to kick in. "Stop by the loft and clean yourself up before you go back to the station. I'll have Tweedledee and Tweedledum over there process Cramerton through. What are they fussing about this time?"
"Superman versus Wolverine."
The captain slowly shook his head. "Sometimes I feel like a daycare worker."
"Simon Banks, Major Crime's primary caregiver. I like that, sir," Jim said with a grin.
"Only because you're one yourself. Good thing your charge isn't here. Then I'd have three of them to deal with. But, maybe his vote would break the tie...."
Jim shook his head. His roommate, and sometime partner, Blair Sandburg, would only add to the discussion. "He'd go for Batman. Brain over brawn, you know." Blair was a grad student. He preferred the inventive gadgetry of the Caped Crusader to the "more powerful than a locomotive" mindset of the Man of Steel.
"You know, it worries me that you know that. Sometimes, when the moon is just so, and television is really, really boring, I wonder-- not often, mind you-- just what you and Sandburg talk about when you're home alone. I guess now I know."
"And 'knowing is half the battle'," Jim quoted.
"Let's not throw G.I. Joe into the mix," Simon said hastily, recognizing the tag line. "Someone just might come to blows, and I'm running out of corners to stand miscreants in."
Jim laughed. "I'm out of here, Captain. I'll feel better after a quick shower."
"And fresh clothing. Can't have you flashing the good citizens of Cascade."
Jim flushed and gathered the top of the rip into one hand. "Thanks for making me self-conscious, Simon."
"Sure, Jim," Simon said with a benevolent smile.
Jim sort of sidled to his truck and climbed inside. As he turned the ignition, the world shimmered in front of him. He blinked, wiped his hand across his face, and everything became normal again. Must be some glitch in the damn Sentinel senses, he thought, waiting to see if it was going to happen again. But everything stayed in focus, so he pulled off and headed to the loft.
Just as he stopped at a red light in downtown traffic, the shift occurred again. Without hesitation, he turned into the first parking space he saw, and switched the truck off. His hands twitched nervously on the wheel as he realized what could have happened; how the attack could have come in the middle of a turn, or just as someone stepped out in front of the truck. He reached for his cell phone to call Blair, and if he couldn't get him, then Simon. He hated calling for help, but there was no way he was going to risk other people's lives for the sake of his own pride. No. That was something he was NOT going to do.
However, when he fished the phone out of his pocket, he couldn't quite remember Blair's number. Nor the office number. Nor how to operate the "quick dial" buttons. How odd. He looked around, wondering what he should do. That's when he spotted the sign: Herbert's Ice Cream Parlor. Boy, he couldn't remember the last time he had ice cream. Dropping the phone, he got out of the truck, and headed for the store.
"Sandburg, do you know where your partner is?"
Blair rolled his eyes at the telephone. "If this is the start of a bad joke, Captain, I don't have time right now." He grimaced, glancing at the stack of blue books waiting to be graded.
"This isn't a joke. I sent him home over two hours ago to change clothes, and he hasn't come back to the office."
The blue books could have disappeared into thin air for how much attention Blair now paid them. "Change clothes? Why?"
"He was in a fight and his pants got ripped. Didn't want him sending the hearts around here all aflutter, so I told him to go home, shower, and change."
Blair felt a chunk of ice growing in his stomach. "Why shower?"
"The scratches were itching or stinging, he said."
"What scratches?" Blair growled. If he had to pull one more bit of information from Simon, he was going to scream.
"Just from the rose bushes, Sandburg. Nothing life-threatening."
Blair closed his eyes and groaned. "Do you know what people spray on rose bushes, sir? They spray pesticides, and do you know what pesticides could do to a Sentinel? With Jim, Simon, everything is potentially life-threatening."
"What should I do, Sandburg?"
Now you ask the Guide! "Call City Works and see if you can find out if the bushes have been sprayed, and if so, with what. Then stay by the phone. I'm on my way to the loft. I'll let you know what I find there." Shoving the exams into his bag, he flew out the door.
The loft was empty. Blair had suspected that when he hadn't seen Jim's truck outside, but he'd hoped there would be evidence that his Sentinel had made it home, and had washed the poison off his skin. However, the tub and towels were dry. He picked up the phone.
"Put out an APB, Simon. Where did the fight occur? I want to figure out his probable route home."
"That would send him through the downtown area, right?"
"I'll alert the beat-walkers."
"What about the roses?"
"City landscapers sprayed them just three days ago. I'm still waiting on someone to call me back with the name of the chemical."
"Damn. It hasn't even rained in three days. All that pesti-- Call me on my cell if you find out anything, Simon. I'm going to do some looking on my own." He grabbed Jim's sleeping mask, earplugs, and a freshly washed set of sweats-- just in case the pesticide was screwing with Jim's senses. Boy Scouts had nothing on Guides, he thought to himself with a thin smile, as he headed back to the street.
Blair had just dumped the blue books onto the seat of the Volvo, and was stuffing his "Sentinel Care kit" inside his backpack when the phone shrilled. "What you got?" he asked abruptly.
"His truck's been located. The three hundred block of Spring St. Unlocked, keys in the ignition, cell phone on the floor."
Blair winced. "Any sign of a struggle?"
"No. It's a high-traffic area, pedestrian traffic. No one saw anything out of the ordinary. I'm on my way right now."
"I'll meet you there."
Despite midday traffic, it only took Blair ten minutes to reach downtown. He waited impatiently for a car to back out, took the space half a block away from Jim's truck, and jogged to the scene. "Anything, Simon?"
The captain sighed. "Nothing. If he was sick, he didn't let anyone know."
"We're talking Jim, Simon. I live with the man and rarely notice when he's not feeling well. Who have you interviewed?"
"A couple of the store owners and their customers."
Blair scanned the street. "What about the ice cream parlor?"
"Haven't gotten there yet. Why?"
Blair shrugged. "Jim likes ice cream." He started down the street.
"Sir, we're looking for a missing police officer," Simon said, startling Blair who hadn't realized the captain had joined him. "Caucasian, a little over six feet tall, dark hair--"
"Here," Blair interrupted, holding out a picture he pulled from his wallet. "Have you seen this man?"
The man behind the glass-encased counter smiled. "Oh, you're talking about Mr. Money. He's a cop? Thought you guys were all tightwads."
Blair ignored Simon's affronted gasp. "So he was here? You talked to him?"
"Yeah. He came in, ordered two cones, and gave me a fifty. I told him I couldn't change anything that big. Then he told me to send ice cream over to the Baker Home. Man, those were some happy kids. They don't get treats like that often."
The Baker Home was an orphanage.
"Did you see him leave?" Simon asked.
"Yeah, he just went on down the street with his cones." He pointed in the correct direction.
"Cones? He was alone?" Blair asked quickly. He knew Jim liked ice cream, but two cones?
"He said the other was for his cat."
Cat? Simon mouthed.
Blair rubbed a hand across his face. "How did he seem to you? Was there anything odd about the way he was acting?"
The man shook his head. "He was a tad bit distracted, I suppose. Had to say a couple of things twice to him, you know? But other than that, he seemed good to go. Oh, he was a little scruffy. Pants were ripped and stuff."
"Thank you, sir," Simon said, shaking the clerk's hand and giving him a card. "If he shows up here in the next few hours, give me a call, please?"
Simon followed Blair out of the store. "Where to next?"
"There's a homeless shelter about four blocks from here, in the direction the man said Jim went. If he's in a generous mood, maybe he went there."
"With his cat?"
"About that, Simon...."
"You guys really have a cat?"
"Jim has a-- a spirit guide. It's a black jaguar."
"What the hell is a spirit guide, Sandburg?"
Blair laughed. "I'll loan you a book on the subject, man, but for now, just think of it as Jim's guardian angel."
"A guardian angel who eats ice cream."
"Yeah, something like that." Blair's smile faded. "But guardian angels usually don't make appearances unless their subjects are in danger. We need to find Jim, Captain, and fast."
Father Timothy at St. John's hadn't seen Jim, but he said there was someone who might have. He invited them inside, and called out to a young woman perched on one of the cots. "Sarah, these men are looking for someone who fits the description of your friend."
The young woman, no, girl, came over to them. "You cops?"
"Yes," Blair said for expediency's sake. "And we're looking for my friend. Have you seen him?" He handed her the picture.
"Yeah, he's the one who saved me." She ran her finger across the photo. "These two guys had me pinned in the alley a couple of blocks from here. I was thinking that life as I knew it was about to end. They were going to hurt me bad. But then this voice came out of nowhere, saying, 'Let her go.' The two guys looked around and asked him, 'Who the hell are you?' He just removed his wallet and held up his badge. Those two ass--, sorry, Father-- those two guys just took off running. He asked me if I was okay, and I said yeah. Then, he just started to walk away. I yelled at him that he was a cop, that he was supposed to tell me that I had no business on the street, that wherever I come from, had to be better than what I'd just experienced. He turned and asked why did he have to tell me that, since obviously, I already knew it. God-- sorry, Father-- he played me so well, you know? If he'd said those things to me, I would've just flipped him off, but by letting me say the words.... Anyway, he walked me here, and I called my aunt, and she's coming to pick me up. Why you looking for him?"
"We've lost contact with him."
"Oh. That's not good, is it? Cops are always supposed to stay in contact. I hope those two guys didn't come after him again. I tried to get him to stick around to meet my aunt, but he said he had to go 'cause his cat was waiting on him. I hope he's got more than that waiting for him at home. A nice man like that needs family."
"Don't worry, miss," Simon said, glancing meaningfully at Blair. "Jim has all the family he needs."
Blair blushed. "Uh, did you happen to see which way he went when he left?"
"That way. Toward the park." Sarah frowned. "I hope he's all right."
"I'm sure he's fine," Simon said firmly. "Thank you for your help."
"The park. Where in the park?" Blair mumbled to himself as they stepped back out into the sunshine.
"Grow catnip anywhere in there?" Simon asked with a grin.
"There's nothing to joke about, Simon. Jim's obviously not himself."
"Yeah, and he's running around the city committing random acts of kindness. I don't see the problem, Sandburg."
"The problem is, man, that we don't know what this stuff is doing to him. He's obviously confused, and note she didn't say he identified himself; he held up his badge. Why? If you walked up on a crime in progress, what would you do?"
"Yell that I'm a cop."
"Would you just let them go?"
"Depends on the situation."
"Would Jim just let them go?"
Simon grimaced. "The man's in trouble, isn't he?"
"Big trouble, Simon."
The park was huge, crowded, and they had no idea of where to look. "He could be anywhere-- Oomph!" Blair found himself sprawled on the ground, a shaggy dog panting over him.
"Archie! Bad boy! Bad boy!" a man cried, running over to them. "I'm so sorry. My wife's stupid dog. Are you hurt? Should I call 911? My insurance should cover--"
"It's all right," Blair said, stopping the frantic monologue. "Just a few bruises to my pride, I think."
"Dumb dog! It's bad enough that that policeman had to rescue him from those briars. Now he's going around knocking people down. He doesn't normally act like this, I don't think. I don't know, because as I said, he belongs to my wife, and she's the one who walks him and stuff, but her sister was in an accident and she had to go take care of her. And she expects me to take care of Archie while she's gone, but--"
"A policeman rescued him?"
The man nodded. "I felt real bad when I saw the scratches on the guy, but he said they were already there, even though I'm pretty sure cops don't go into briar patches just for the fun of it. Anyway, I tried to pay him because Archie could have messed himself up rather badly with his long hair and all, but the man said he had to go 'cause he had to walk his cat. I didn't know you could walk a cat like a dog, but hey, I can't even walk a dog, so who am I to know anything, right? By the way, here's my card. He was sorta stumbling when he left, so he might have hurt something, and if so, I want to pay for his treatment, because he really didn't have to save Archie."
Blair paled, and looked away.
"I'll make sure he gets your card," Simon told the man. "You and Archie just be more careful in the future, okay?"
"No problem. We're heading home anyway. Come on, Archie! Let's go home, boy."
"Where is he, Simon? He needs us."
"We'll find him. I'm sure--" The captain paused and looked around. "Sandburg, are we where I think we are?"
"We're in the park, Si--" Blair frowned. "I had no idea that cutting through the park would get us this close to the loft." He gazed around in bemusement, recognizing the nearby buildings. "His guardian angel is leading him home."
Simon nodded. They found the nearest exit, and nearly ran as they covered the remaining blocks to the loft. Although the captain's legs were longer, Blair was the first one up the stairs, and was the one to reach the crumpled figure in front of apartment 307's door. "He's burning up! Call 911, Simon!"
"I haven't had a hangover like this since that kegger I went to in college," Jim moaned, throwing his arm across his face.
"Dial everything down, Jim, especially the light," Blair instructed, putting aside the exams he was grading. "And watch out for that IV in your arm."
"IV?" Jim cautiously opened his eyes, and saw that he was in a hospital room. "So, I didn't get outrageously drunk and make a fool of myself, right?"
"Why would I be more relieved if I had?" He sighed, and turned toward his roommate. "What crazy thing did my senses do this time?"
"You remember fighting in the rose bushes?"
"Cramerton. Wasn't much of a fight, Chief."
"Can you remember what happened after that?"
Jim nodded. "Simon sent me home."
The detective shrugged. "I passed out?" he asked hopefully.
"You never made it home, Jim. At least not for a while."
Jim blinked. "Do I want to know what I was doing during the interval in between?"
Blair smiled. "You were walking the cat, Jim. Or was the cat walking you? I'm not sure which."
"Chief, whatever I have isn't contagious, is it?" Jim asked worriedly.
"I'm fine, Jim," Blair said, patting his arm. "And so are you, now that the medicine is leaching the poison out of your system."
"Poison? I'm confused," Jim said, panic edging his tone.
"It's okay. That's just the dregs of the pesticide. You'll be back to normal in no time. Just sleep, man. I've got your back, and when I don't, I know who does."
"The cat?" Jim was starting to understand-- maybe. It helped that he was seeing a familiar tail flicking from beneath the bed.
"The cat," Blair agreed. "Next time you and he go for a stroll, think he'll mind if I tag along?"
"Nah, Chief. If the way his tail's bouncing is any indication, I think he's very much for the idea."
"Bouncing? You see him now?" Blair asked excitedly.
"He's beneath the bed. Wanna peek?"
Blair started to bend over, then sat decidedly back in his chair. "No. He's where he's supposed to be, and so am I. That's good enough for me, Jim."
"This will make more sense tomorrow, right, Chief?" Jim questioned, his eyes closing as his body succumbed to the medicines dripping slowly into his vein.
Blair nodded, although he knew Jim couldn't see the gesture. Tomorrow, Jim would come up with some logical explanation, and he'd go along with it, just to ease Jim's mind, but, "It already makes enough sense to me, Jim. One day, it'll make perfectly good sense to you, too."
With a satisfied sigh, he opened another exam, and started grading.