Well, I left my story disks at home, which means I won't be finishing up either the Thanksgiving story or the current DS crossover. Not a problem. Saturday, I went to Palo Alto, near San Jose, to meet with a couple of folks I've met via e-mail (Hi, Gabrielle and Patty!). Had a great time. I've lived in California all my life, and made like a tourist. We went to the Winchester Mystery House. Fun place. Very interesting. I'll have to go back some time. Maybe more than once! Anyway, while we waited for our tour, we were wandering around in the gift shop. I spotted a hat which had an interesting little blurb on it. I couldn't help myself. I called Gabrielle over and showed it to her and challenged her to write a story based on it, with me doing the same. We discussed the possibilities, and here's mine.
For those who care, I'm only dealing with Jim, Blair, and Simon, more or less. Any other characters (sorry, they're original) are merely peripheral, but necessary for the story.
The disclaimers still apply, I still make no money and am using other folks' characters, to whom I am humbly grateful for their courtesy in not suing me.
Oh, yes. This one has Blair owies. Lots and lots of Blair owies, but, well, you'll see....
Just One Of Those Days
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"Easy, Jim. Watch the foot, man." Blair was cringing, expecting to have his injured leg jarred as his roommate maneuvered the wheelchair out of the elevator on the third floor of the building in which they resided.
"I know, Sandburg." Already, the larger man's patience was wearing thin. For once, there had been nothing he could have done to protect his younger friend from what had happened to him and it was eating away at him. Some Blessed Protector.
"Give me your keys, Jim, and I'll get the door for you." The even taller figure of Simon Banks offered, easing his way past the pair in the narrow hallway and opening the door to the Loft. He kept his smile smothered, but couldn't hide the amusement in his eyes. He helped Jim lift Blair from the wheelchair to the couch, knowing that the kid wouldn't want to be stuck away in his room. Jim even gave his injured roommate the remote control for the TV. Definitely some kind of guilt going on in his detective.
"So, Sandburg. Now will you tell us what happened? I mean, it was just a two-day seminar in Seattle, for goodness' sake. What did you do, get lost again?"
"I didn't get lost." Blair muttered, exasperated. He was sulking, and he knew it. He looked up at the concern in his roommate's face and sighed. "Could I have something to drink, please?"
"Of course. Hot? Cold? Juice, tea, soft drink, water? Anything." Jim responded, heading for the kitchen.
Blair thought about it, "Juice, please. Do we have any more of that cranberry-black cherry stuff? That was pretty good." Hopeful.
"Yep. We've got two more bottles of it." Jim answered as he pulled out the requested drink, pouring a large tumbler full. "What would you like, Simon?"
"Sure. I'll make a fresh pot." He quickly set up the drip maker and turned it on, then returned to the living room and handed Blair his juice. "Here you go, Chief." Setting a coaster in easy reach on the coffee table.
"Thanks, man. This is so good." Taking a long sip, smiling as he set the glass down. "OK. I was driving down to Seattle, right?" Looking at the two older men. Simon had settled himself on the other couch, leaning back comfortably, relaxed. The expression on his face telling anyone who saw it that he was expecting a highly entertaining story. Jim perched on the edge of his chair, ready to react to Blair's every need.
"Well, there I was. On the road. I stopped to get a snack and some gas, right?" His audience nodded. "Well, while I was paying for the gas, a guy came in to rob the place. He grabbed me by the hair and pointed his gun at the attendant."
"What kind of gun was it?" Simon asked, automatically in 'cop taking a report' mode.
"I don't know. Some kind of revolver. Looked old. Anyway, the attendant gave the guy the money in the cash register, and the perp dragged me out with him. Once we were outside, he pushed me down and ran off towards a ratty looking old sedan." He glanced at Simon and added, "Ugly primer red and gray, Chevy, early seventies." Smiling faintly.
Simon chuckled. "OK, sorry. I'll stop trying to be a cop for a few minutes." Simon said, shaking his head. Only Sandburg...
"Anyway, he jumped in his car as I got back up, and it wouldn't start at first, and he was looking at me funny, so I ran to the Volvo and jumped in and locked all the doors and closed the window, just in case he thought he could kidnap me and make me drive him somewhere. I could see the attendant on the phone inside. Anyway, the guy's old klunker finally started and he took off. I got back out of the car and went back inside to wait for the cops." He reached for his glass and took a sip.
Jim got up and fixed coffee for himself and Simon. Blair waited for him to return and sit down before continuing.
"Well, the cops got there and they were giving me a bad time. I finally got tired of it and pulled my badge." Blair blushed and refused to look at either of his companions. "Man, talk about a change in attitude." There was a little anger and dismay in his tone, as though he had used false pretenses to prove he wasn't a criminal.
"Well, it's called inter-agency courtesy. Cops tend to believe other cops. It's just the way things are, Blair. They don't mean anything by it." Simon tried to explain.
"Yeah, well, the attendant had told them that I was just an innocent bystander, but they weren't buying it. That's why I finally pulled the badge. Man, what a difference. Suddenly, they couldn't be nicer." He glanced at his roommate. "They asked if I'd ever worked with Jim. Shoulda seen their faces when I said he was my partner..." Smiling at the look of confusion on his friend's face. "Something about when you were working vice..." His smile growing wider at Jim's sudden blush.
"Oh. That. Who was it? Johnson or Talbert?" Not meeting anyone's eyes.
"Talbert. When he found out you were my partner, he practically carried me to my car and offered me an escort. Seems he has some memory of you promising to kill him if you ever saw him again?"
"Uh, yeah. Johnson and Talbert walked into a sting operation and blew it for us. We managed to make the arrests anyway, but, well, it was close. A couple of our guys got shot, nothing life-threatening, but still..."
"Oh. No wonder. That explains it. He was probably afraid I'd tell you they were mean to me and you'd come and make good on your promise." He glanced from his partner to their captain as that worthy chuckled.
"Oh, man. I'd have loved to have seen his face when he realized that not only do you know Jim, but work as his partner. I remember that mess. Our department was ready to tear theirs apart. That was the straw that sent Jim out of Vice and to Major Crimes." He added.
"Really?" Blair asked, surprised. "I had no idea." Seeing his friend's discomfort, he continued, "Anyway, I had lost two hours and still had a long way to go, so I got back on the road heading for Seattle."
"So, what happened next?" Simon asked, "You headed east instead of south?"
"No. I told you, I didn't get lost." Blair sighed, exasperated. He squirmed a bit, trying to get more comfortable on the couch. Jim immediately jumped up and disappeared into Blair's room, coming back with pillows and an extra blanket.
Blair smiled at his partner's concern as Jim lifted him with an arm around his shoulders and bolstered him up with the pillows, then covered him with both the afghan from the back of the couch and the blanket from his room. Simon looked on in bemusement, thinking how much the pair deserved each other.
"Do you want a pillow for your arm, Chief?" Jim asked softly, as he tucked the blanket carefully around Blair's cast arm, cautious of the bandaged ribs as well.
"Not right now, thanks." Blair replied, well under the influence of the pain medication he had been given prior to leaving the hospital.
"So, what did happen, Sandburg?" Simon asked, returning to the subject at hand.
"Well, I was on the highway, headed for Seattle, when I came around a blind curve and had to swerve to avoid the robber's car, stalled in the middle of the road. I managed to keep control, swerve around him and go on around the curve. I got out my cell phone and called it in. I wasn't even going to stop, you know? Then the idiot robber was standing in the middle of the highway, pointing that gun at me, so I had to stop, right? I was still on the phone with 911, I said something like 'Shit, not again.' I put the phone down on the floor, leaving the line open. The robber didn't see me do it, he came up and pointed the gun at me through the window on the passenger side, telling me to open the door. I reached over to unlock the door; then, while he was busy opening it, I popped the clutch and took off. By the time he recovered enough, I was far enough away that he couldn't hit me." Smiling, proud of himself. Beaming expectantly at his audience.
Simon chuckled. "'Bout time you managed to avoid getting kidnapped, Sandburg."
Jim just smiled, proud of his partner's quick thinking. "So, what happened then?"
"Well, I picked up the phone again and told the 911 operator what had happened. He said that they had units on the way, so I hung up." Reaching for his glass for another sip of juice, he carefully balanced the glass on his stomach, holding it against his latest neon-orange cast, which clashed very nicely with his neon-pink and neon-purple leg casts.
"So, how did you manage to get hurt? Your car is fine, so what happened?" Simon pressed.
"I'm getting to that." Blair replied. He really was feeling no pain, whatever they had given him was working very well. He wasn't sleepy, or groggy, or anything, just didn't feel the pain.
"So, anyway, I was still behind schedule getting to Seattle, right? I'd managed to avoid the robber twice now, so I figured I was safe, right?" Taking another sip. He waited as Jim got up to refill his and Simon's coffee cups.
"I decided that I needed something to drink, so I pulled off the highway at one of those little 'blink and you'll miss it' towns. They had this convenience store, so I went in to get some bottled water and some juice." He paused, needing another sip of his juice.
"Don't tell me," Simon laughed, "Another robbery?" Choking when Blair simply nodded. "You have got to be kidding." He declared, only to be met with Blair's negative head shake.
"Nope. I'm at the counter, just paid for my stuff, when this guy comes in waving a rifle. I'd already been through this once, so I was not real happy about it happening again. Like a fool, I looked at him and asked him if it was the day they let the loonies out of the loony bin. He did not take kindly to that, let me tell you." Shaking his head at the memory. "I kinda pissed him off, I guess. He started to point his rifle at me, and I just moved. I got in close, I was mad. I was already two hours late and here he was, making me even later. I got in his face and started yelling. Really told him off, poking him in the chest with my finger while I told him what a shitty day I was having and how he was just the icing on the cake. I got him backed up to the counter, and the clerk took a baseball bat out and konked him over the head with it. Knocked him out cold." He shook his head. "So, there I was, still mad, waiting for the cops, again." He glanced from the nearly hysterical Simon to the grinning Jim. "Well, this batch was at least civil, once they heard what the clerk had to say. They took my statement and let me go, only another hour behind schedule." He sighed and took a long drink while his companions regained control.
"You want anything to eat, Chief?" Jim asked, standing up, smiling softly at his friend.
"Um, sure." Having to think about it.
"What would you like? Soup and sandwiches, pizza, Chinese?" Offering to either cook or order in.
"Pizza actually sounds good. Simon?" Blair looked over at their captain, who was still chuckling over the picture of Blair's tale.
"Sure, whatever. I'm still waiting to find out what happened." Wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes.
They waited while Jim called in the order. Blair finished his juice and set his glass down on the coaster Jim had provided. When Jim hung up, he automatically retrieved the empty glass and went to the kitchen to refill it. Returning Blair's smile as he handed him the refilled glass. Simon just shook his head in wonder at the pair, wondering yet again at the silent communication between them, curious as to whether they were even aware of it, themselves.
"So, there I was, another hour behind schedule, still trying to get to Seattle." Blair began again. "I decided that no matter what, I was not going to stop for anything else." He paused for another drink. "Famous last words." He shook his head. "I hadn't gotten but about twenty miles further, when I got a flat tire. I pulled over to the side of the road and got out the jack and my spare. I had just finished tightening the lug nuts, when a patrol car stopped by. I looked up, and they got out and pointed their guns at me." He shook his head in remembered dismay. "I stood up, kept my hands out where they could see them and asked what was wrong. They made me assume the position and frisked me. Took my wallet and looked at my ID and the badge. Man, I thought they were going to shoot me, at first. But when they saw the ID card photo matched, man was I glad. They still weren't very nice, but they gave it back to me and said I could go. They never did explain why they stopped to hassle me." Looking concerned.
"I'll check into it. I won't have my people hassled. Not without good reason. Did you get their names?" Simon asked.
"Yeah. Thomas and Wilkins. Sheriff's department, about thirty miles north of Seattle." Blair replied, wondering what anyone could possibly do about what had happened.
Jim stood and crossed to the door, opening it for the pizza delivery person before they even got to the door. He handed over the money for the pizza as well as a generous tip, smiled at the kid and accepted his pizza. He detoured to the kitchen to get plates and napkins, as well as beer for himself and Simon, and bringing the last of the juice for Blair. He spread their dinner out on the coffee table in violation of his own house rules, opened the box and served Blair and filled his glass with the last of the juice before grabbing a slice for himself while Simon served himself, each man grabbing a beer as they sat back down.
There were several minutes of relative silence as they ate. The silence was comfortable between the three friends. After satisfying their initial hunger, they settled back, still munching, to listen as Blair continued his story.
"Well, I finished changing my tire and got on my way again. I was just on the outskirts of Seattle, when I ran into the road-block. Seems some guy had escaped from the county jail, and they were searching for him, trying to keep him from getting out of the city. Since I was going into instead of out of town, I wasn't stopped." He nibbled on his second slice of pizza, not really hungry, just because it was there. "So, I got to the hotel where the seminar was to be held."
"Tell me again what this seminar was for?" Simon asked.
"It had to do with Anthropology. One of those big talks by someone important in the field. It looked like it was going to be really good; I was honored to have been picked to go to it. It means that they trust me to bring back the information, you know?" Shifting a bit, wincing as he shifted his legs.
Jim immediately put down his plate and went to get more pillows to raise the younger man's legs and ease his discomfort. Simon smothered another smile at how well Sandburg had his partner trained.
"Thanks, Jim." Blair murmured when his friend had completed his self-imposed task. "So, there I was at the Seminar, finally. Got there just in time to get to my room and get ready for the get-together." He glanced at Jim, "Thanks for making me leave so early, man. I'd have missed a lot if I'd left when I'd planned."
"Always leave room for the unexpected, Chief." Jim replied with a contented smile.
"So, there I was, in my tux, schmoozing with a lot of important people. It was kind of fun, meeting some of the most important people in the field. So, there we were, sitting at dinner, when a bunch of guys burst in with automatic weapons, taking everyone hostage."
"Sandburg, only you could manage to get yourself into all this." Simon chuckled. "Talk about bad karma, man." His grin widening as Blair rolled his eyes.
"Yeah. Tell me about it." Blair agreed. "So there we were, forty people, held at gunpoint in the banquet room of the Hyatt, no one was moving; too scared, I guess, half a dozen masked gunmen, no apparent reason why they were doing this." He shook his head. "One of them was near me, so I asked him why on earth they wanted to grab a bunch of anthropologists. The guy stared at me for a minute, I could see him figuring it out...seems that they were at the wrong hotel, they'd been planning to grab a bunch of government type biologists, holding meetings down the street at the Sheraton."
Jim and Simon burst into laughter. "Only you, Sandburg. Only you." Simon chortled, again wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. Jim was grinning like a fool, himself. Just grateful that his friend was alive and home, where he belonged.
"So, the terrorist went over to their leader and told him about their boo-boo." Blair was chuckling a little, himself, by this time. "If it hadn't been so serious, I'd have probably been laughing out loud. It's a little different when you're living it, though. You know?" His friends nodded their understanding.
"So, there we were, half a dozen really annoyed terrorists with forty or so terrified anthropologists, neither group having any idea what to do. Well, they decided to herd us all together at one end of the room, so, we were following their instructions, when the guest of honor up and had a heart attack. Everybody was yelling and milling about, so I got close to one of the terrorists, saw he was distracted and grabbed a mask from the wall and hit him over the head with it. No one seemed to notice, so I took his rifle, snuck up on another one and bashed him over the head, as well. By the time anyone realized what I was doing, the only guy with a gun was their leader, and I had the drop on him with one of their own guns. He gave up, some of the other attendees helped drag them all together, tying them up with the tablecloths and calling for an ambulance and the police."
"Sandburg, you need a keeper." Simon guffawed. "I have never met anyone who could get into more trouble than you can. You still haven't gotten to how you got hurt."
"I'm getting there, man. I'm getting there." Blair insisted, "So there we were, the guest of honor in the hospital with a massive coronary, a large group of anthropologists with no reason to stick around, since the event was more or less canceled. I'm surrounded by all these really important people who all want to know who I am, where I'm from, how'd I manage to do what I'd done and rescue them all. It was definitely interesting."
"So, you made a lot of important friends, huh, Chief?" Jim asked.
"Oh, yeah. You know it. They're not going to forget the name of Blair Sandburg real soon. Especially after the cops came back and took everybody's statements." If he'd been able, he'd have been bouncing.
"You still haven't explained what happened to you." Simon prodded. Entertaining as Blair's adventures had been, he still hadn't gotten to how he'd been hurt and ended up in the hospital.
"Well, by the time we were all through giving our statements and the police released us, it was pretty late, so I went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night to a fire alarm. I jumped into my clothes and headed out, pounding on doors to make sure everyone else got out, too. I had to help this elderly couple down the stairs, that's when I hurt my arm. One of them slipped, and I grabbed at them to try and keep them from falling down the stairs. I managed to hang on to them, but I was off-balance and when they let go, I fell. That's when I broke my wrist." He explained.
"OK, that explains the wrist, but what about the rest of it?" Simon demanded.
"Well, we got the rest of the way out OK. Luckily, it wasn't a really serious fire, just a smoker setting his bed alight. I sure hope you don't smoke in bed, Simon. That is just so dangerous." Pausing again for another drink, he continued, "So, we got downstairs and after I made sure the old couple were OK, I wandered over to the paramedics, to get them to check out my wrist, wound up in an ambulance, of course, heading for the hospital." Blair got a sudden, uncomfortable look on his face, he threw an almost panicked expression towards his partner, and mumbled, "Uh, Jim? I need to..." His pitiful puppy dog look finished the sentence for him.
Jim stood up and gently removed the blanket and Afghan from the injured Blair, then scooped him up and carried him to the bathroom, without a word, waiting for him and then carrying him back to the couch. Simon just shook his head at them, not saying a word.
Once Blair had been replaced on the couch and tucked back under his covers, he continued the telling of his adventures. "So, there I was, in the ambulance, along with a fireman who'd been hurt, going to the hospital, We went through this intersection and were broadsided by some drunk. I got bounced around pretty good, but wasn't really hurt, just some more bruises. Well, we had to wait for the police and another ambulance. Good thing the fireman wasn't too badly hurt, 'cause it was at least a half an hour before we were in another ambulance headed for the hospital. Well, I was sitting in the ER, waiting my turn, when they brought in this enormous man who'd been stabbed in a fight. He was yelling and struggling, blood everywhere." He picked up his glass for another sip of juice.
"Well, he managed to tip the gurney over...stop laughing, Simon. It isn't funny!" Even Jim couldn't help himself, helplessly laughing as well. "OK, so it is funny. It wasn't my fault, man." Almost whining. "So, the gurney tipped over, and this bleeding behemoth lands on me, breaking the chair I'm sitting on, and breaking my right ankle. So, now I have a broken left wrist and a broken right ankle. They try and lift that monster off of me, and he passes out and they drop him on me, cracking four ribs." He sat back and waited for his companions to stop howling with laughter, smiling. Sure, he was hurt, and when the pain meds wore off, he was really going to feel it, but even he was aware of how hysterically funny the whole thing was.
When the two older men finally wound down, he continued. "So, they finally got him off me, and decided to take me next, just to get me out of the line of fire, as it were. Three hours later, almost dawn, I'm released and get a cab back to the hotel. I go back to my room and finally get some much needed sleep. I woke up at eight-thirty and got up, showered, dressed, called down to see if the seminar was still on, found out it had been officially canceled and decided to come home. I got my stuff together and called down for a bellhop. While I was checking out, one of the other anthropologists came by and we talked for a while. I had to explain why I was now sporting two casts and taped ribs." He stared at his friends, "Actually, he had an expression kind of like yours, Simon." Grinning at the tall, dark man's choking attempt to keep from laughing again. Jim chuckled as well, then stood and cleared away their dinner dishes, put the leftover pizza away and brewed a fresh pot of coffee, as well as putting the kettle on for tea for Blair.
When he returned with the cups of steaming beverages, Blair smiled up at him, grateful for the care his friend gave him and continued. "Well, I made it safely to my car. It was a little uncomfortable, driving, but not too bad. I headed for home, kind of anxious to put an end to this nightmare. Well, I got stopped by that roadblock at the north end of the city. They searched the car, asked me a lot of questions, and finally let me go. The trip home was pretty good, no flats, no robbers, just the road. Well, I got back into town and stopped by the university to drop off my report. As I was heading back to my car, I heard sirens. Two patrol cars in hot pursuit. Probably because it was Saturday and there weren't many cars in the lot, the guy pulled into the lot, the two patrol cars right behind him. I was still on the sidewalk, so I thought I was safe. Well, the guy just came straight for me. I guess he figured if he hit me, he'd lose at least one of the cars behind him. I tried to dodge him, but I'm not real fast on crutches. I managed to get clear, but fell down, anyway. The guy lost control when he hit the curb, and crashed into the fountain. Totaled the fountain and his car, man." Smiling.
Jim paled a bit at the mention of 'the fountain', still amazed that his partner was still alive and still had no memory of what had happened to him there. Shuddering involuntarily at the memories. Both Blair and Simon noticed, despite his best efforts to contain his reaction.
"It's OK, Jim. The fountain is now history. They're going to have to completely remove it, now." Blair reassured his friend, glad he hadn't regained the memories of what had happened to him there, but also pleased that the dreaded place was gone, no longer in existence to cause his friend pain.
Jim nodded, swallowing hard. "Good, Chief. I-I-I'm glad."
"So, you weren't hurt when you fell?" Simon asked, unsure.
"Nope. Not a scratch. Watched them as they caught the guy, then I got in the car and headed for the station. He paused for another drink and to smile his reassurance at his still slightly shaky partner. "So, I got to the station, parked, got out of the car, and headed for the elevator. Rode up to the seventh floor, just like always. Heard a funny noise coming from the stairwell, so I went to check it out, you know?" Seeing their nods, he continued. "I opened the door, and there were these four thugs, debating whether or not they had any chance of grabbing anyone who could break their friend out of holding, downstairs." Seeing the incredulous expressions on the others' faces, he raised his good hand and said, "I know, I know. Sandburg luck...all bad. They saw me, I saw and heard them, two of them reached out to grab me, and pulled me into the stairwell, I lost my crutches, my backpack, and then my balance. All five of us went tumbling down the stairs. I was lucky, really. I landed on top, and all I got was two broken casts and another broken leg. They all had concussions, broken arms, wrists, legs, ribs, a broken nose, and one got a ruptured spleen. Joel was coming up the stairs, you know how he's been doing the stairs for exercise? Well, he heard the noise, and was the first one there. I told him what the four unconscious guys had been planning, and he called it in. You were in a meeting and Jim was in court, so Joel took charge and took care of everything. I guess it took him a while to get hold of you both, but he did a great job, man." Blair couldn't sing the praises of the former Bomb Squad Captain high enough. The big, burly cop had been so careful with him, like he was made of glass. He smiled at the memory. When the paramedics arrived, Joel made sure that Blair was the first one taken care of, almost like Blair was his own kid...it gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling, inside, to know that he was cared for and about. "-So, that's what happened." He finally allowed his head to sink back into the pillows, letting the tension ease away.
"Sandburg?" Simon growled. Blair looked up, suddenly feeling sleepy.
"You really are a trouble magnet. Everything and anything that could have happened to you on this trip, did. I'm amazed that you even survived." Simon shook his head in awe.
"Not everything that could have gone wrong did, Simon." Blair murmured, sleepily.
Jim smiled gently at his nearly dozing friend. "Yeah, Chief. I wasn't there, so you didn't get shot. You did real well, Blair." Jim affirmed to his friend.
"There isn't much else that could have gone wrong, Sandburg." Simon insisted.
"Sure there was." Blair disagreed, again.
"Sandburg, you were involved as a hostage, two robberies, a near miss accident, harassed by cops, three times I might add, took out half a dozen terrorists, all in a period of less than twenty-four hours, what's left?"
"But, Simon, I didn't get lost!"
OK, OK. That was it. The cap said "Winchester Mystery House" on the first line, and in smaller text under it "I didn't get lost". I took one look at that, grabbed Gabrielle and showed it to her. We both laughed, and I dared her to write a story based on that one line (amazing how a muse works. All this from one little sentence) I'd love to see anyone else's take on this, as well. Are you up to the challenge?
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