Author's Note: A stray bit of writing, posted to sentinel_thurs in January 2005. The challenge was 'Snippets' - as in, take an unfinished bit of work you have lying around, polish it up, and post it. I have a thing for rescue scenarios, and this is but one of many such disconnected scenes I have hanging around on my hard drive.
The scumbag was down. Now there was only one thought on Jim’s mind - get to Sandburg.
He had already located the rapid heartbeat of one other live body in the building, multiple feet below in the bowels of the building. If Hellmann had acted true to form - and serial killers often did - it would be a captive. As he hurtled down the staircase, he updated Banks on the radio. “Captain, Hellmann is dead. You can move in now, sir. He was alone, so far as I can tell.”
/Sandburg?/ came the question.
“Moving towards him now, sir, I hope. There’s someone alive in the basement - I don’t believe it is a hostile.”
/Understood,/ Simon acknowledged, meaning more than the obvious. He comprehended without question exactly *how* Jim knew what he knew, despite being several floors and a weight of steel and concrete away.
Dimly Jim was aware of orders being given outside in Simon’s booming voice, and a multitude of cops storming the dead killer’s lair in his wake. But he didn’t sway from his purpose. He homed in rapidly on the staccato heartbeat and stifled hitching breaths of the captive below, becoming aware as he did so of the stench of urine, sweat, blood and other odors. Ruthlessly he dialed back his sense of smell - he could not afford to be distracted by involuntary disgust right now.
He knew the exact moment that the captive had become aware of his approaching footsteps, by the increased panic evidenced in the respiration. He had no way to be sure that it was Blair down here, despite his desperate hope - Hellmann had taken others beside Sandburg, and they had not yet all been found - so the shouted warning was by necessity impersonal. “Cascade Police. The guy who kidnapped you is dead, okay? My name is Detective Jim Ellison. I’m here to help.”
For a second, the breath caught, and held, the heartbeat thundering so loud that he could have been right next to the person it belonged to.
A moment later he was. “Chief,” he breathed. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
And he really, really hoped that it would be.
Sandburg was huddled in a corner, as naked and bloody as the day he was born. A brutal looking shackle round his ankle affixed him to a damp wall at the end of a short length of chain. His arms were restrained behind him, and a hood covered his head completely, hiding his identity. But Jim had no doubt that it was him all the same.
Crouching beside him, Jim reached out a hand, and Sandburg first flinched and then froze as Ellison touched his shoulder. “Blair, it’s me,” he said, speaking quietly, reassuringly, while the naked man vibrated with nerves. “It’s me Chief. Easy. Let’s get this off your head first, huh? Keep still for me buddy. It’s over.” The hood was tied by a length of cord threaded through its hem, and carefully Jim untied it. All the time moving deliberately, precisely, he bunched the material in his hands and pulled it off.
Sandburg’s face wasn’t marked, no doubt due in part to the hood’s thin layer of protection. But his eyes were closed, as though he didn’t dare to look at his rescuer. Jim cupped his cheek in one hand, his thumb stroking Sandburg’s cheek. “Hey, Blair, c’mon. Open your eyes, okay? Look at me.”
Blair shuddered. Then, in a fit of recklessness or trust, his eyes opened wide; and, blinking, he focused on Ellison’s face. Jim smiled reassuringly, trying to ease the fear and distrust he saw in his partner’s eyes. “It’s okay,” he nodded his approval. “It’s over.”
Recognition dawned and breath hitched. But Sandburg didn’t relax or make any sound. Carefully Ellison moved around behind him, and Sandburg’s head swiveled, watching him tensely. “Okay, Chief,” Jim told him, “We’ll just get you untied, okay? Everything’s okay, buddy. Hang in there.” The ropes were cruelly tight, and Jim was forced to cut them with the penknife he kept in his pocket. The detective winced in sympathy at the deep red indentations left behind, as he guided Sandburg’s useless dead limbs round in front of him. Once feeling came back to his arms, Sandburg was going to hurt.
Sandburg watched mutely, as Jim pulled off his own jacket, wrapping it around Sandburg’s cold shoulders. Then, carefully, Jim took Blair’s hands in his own and began to rub life back into them. Worried by the continued silence, and the rigid set of his partner’s muscles, Jim tried without success to get a response. “Hey, Blair, you’re gonna be okay, all right? You with me, Chief?” Blair winced as the pins and needles began in his fingers, but didn’t answer, his eyes watching Jim’s hands where they moved on his own.
Reminded inevitably of the other time he had rescued Blair from the grasp of a serial killer, Ellison continued to talk quietly to Sandburg. That time, after being released from the dentist’s chair which Lash had chained him to, Sandburg had broken down briefly; his reaction utterly understandable considering that he had been literally minutes from death. He had gotten himself together pretty quickly afterwards, demonstrating the same remarkable resilience he had gone on to show on subsequent dangerous occasions.
His current silence worried Jim. The other victims, the ones who had not survived Hellmann’s clutches, had been brutalized in horribly torturous ways, and while it did not appear to have gone quite so far with Sandburg – going by the absence of obvious disabling injury - he was clearly in bad shape emotionally, as well as physically.
Footsteps on the stairs heralded the arrival of someone else, and to Jim’s great relief the first person on the scene was Simon Banks. “Dear God,” the Captain said at his first glimpse of Sandburg, and as he spoke, Sandburg backed away from Jim, a sound of distress falling from his lips and Jim’s jacket sliding off his hunching shoulders.
Ellison moved quickly to reassure. “Hey. Chief, c’mon. It’s Simon, okay? It’s all right.” Sandburg had jerked his hands out of Ellison’s grasp as he moved, and now wrapped his arms around himself protectively. Jim spoke over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on Sandburg and his voice deliberately even. “Simon? Can you get me a blanket?”
Simon had already shrugged off his own long coat. “Here,” he said holding it out to Ellison, his eyes never leaving the pitiful figure before him. “I’ll get the paramedics down here, Jim. Hey, Blair?” he addressed the unresponsive Sandburg softly. “It’s okay, kid. We’ll get you out of here as soon as we can.”
Ellison took the coat, and used it to once again cover Sandburg’s naked form, moving carefully and deliberately. Simon disappeared, and Ellison could hear him shouting orders up above.
Sandburg made a noise suddenly, an almost word. It sounded like he was trying to say Jim’s name, and moving closer, Ellison cautiously wrapped an arm around him. “It’s okay, Blair. I’m here,” he said.
An exhalation, almost a sob, and pain filled eyes lifted to his, comprehension having at last dawned in them. The resulting agony in Blair’s face filled Ellison with anguish. “Oh god, Chief,” he murmured, wrapping his partner in his arms. “It’s over. It’s all right.”
The reassurances continued, the words random, the meaning the same; “Hang in there, Blair. I’ve got you.” Sandburg was shaking, reaction setting in along with the realization that he really had been rescued. One hand reached out, fingers clumsy with loss of circulation, and latched onto Ellison’s vest. In response, Ellison shifted to hold Blair more comfortably.
And with the warm, vital reality of Sandburg’s living, breathing body in his arms, Ellison sighed in relief. It would be all right. They could handle this. They’d get through what came next – as long as they did it together.
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