Not Again

by Phyllis Loafman

Crossover The Sentinel

By noon, they arrived and setup camp. Jim led the two younger men on a five mile hike. They arrived back at camp as the sun set, exhausted, but relaxed. They prepared a meal of stew and pan fried cornbread. The time slipped away as they sat talking about their plans for the next four days.

"I'm really looking forward to checking out the caves tomorrow. There was article about the cave drawings. Sounded pretty cool. JD, you want to go with me? They're not too far from where we were today. If we had of had more time, we could have seen them today."

JD grinned. "Sounds like fun. You going, Jim?"

The older man shook his head. "Nope. I came to fish. I'll leave the picture thingys to you two."

Blair smiled wickedly. "He's afraid he won't be able to keep up with us younger men."

JD watched as Blair waggled his eyebrows at the large detective. Ellison simply cocked one eyebrow at the curly haired anthropologist.

"Any time, any place, Chief. A race to the top of any hill and I'll be there and have a camp set up before you get there."

"HA! You wish, old man" Blair laughed. He ducked as Ellison tossed a piece of cornbread at him.

Ellison stood and stretched. "Well, I guess I had better put this 'old' body to bed, if I plan on being able to get up in the morning. That leaves you doing the dishes and camp clean up."

Blair's mouth fell open. "Hey, man, that's not fair. I did the cooking. That means you do dishes."

Jim waggled his eyebrows this time. "Not tonight, Chief. I think I heard you volunteer." And the man went into the tent and got ready for bed.

JD laughed. "You put your foot in it that time, Blair."

"I was joking. Geez, can't the man take a joke?"

JD stood and gathered the utensils. "Guess not." He extended a hand and pulled the grad student up. "Come on. We'll have this done in no time."

The two young men made short work of the dishes. They put everything away and added some wood to the fire. They sat quietly for a few minutes. Blair eyed JD and decided the direct approach was best.

"So, kid, what is it that you want to talk about?" He saw JD flinch at the word 'kid', but could not take it back.

JD sat staring into the fire for a few moments. Finally, he shook his head. Blair saw one tear escape to run down the young face and drop to the ground.

"Not yet. Okay, Blair?" The words were barely audible above the crackling of the fire, so softly were they spoken. But the guide heard them and nodded.

"When ever you're ready." Blair reached out and placed a hand on the knee of the boy.

JD looked up and smiled. "So, tell me about these drawings."

Blair knew an evasive maneuver when he heard one, but he ignored it and proceeded to tell about the article he had read.

"Well, they surmised that the drawing was done by one of the Makah tribe. It depicts a whale hunt. Now, while all the tribes on the coast made use of beached whales, only the Makah actually hunted them. They used thirty foot canoes with an eight man crew and harpoons made of mussel shells. While they weren't cave dwellers, they might have sought shelter in one of they were caught in a storm."

Jim lay, listening to the young men talk for a while. JD asked questions and Blair answered them, often falling into his lecture voice. Jim drifted to sleep to the sound of his guide's voice.

+ + + + + + +

Ellison woke early the next morning. He vaguely remembered Blair coming to bed. Jim lay for a minute listening to the sound of the younger man's heartbeat. Quietly, he rose and dressed. He knew the young agent was awake and up from the sounds outside the tent.

"Morning, JD. You're up early." The detective stood up straight and stretched as he exited the tent.

JD looked around and smiled. "I'm use to rising early. Buck always gets up hungry, so it's better to get up first and start breakfast. He can be a real bear when he's hungry."

Jim poured some coffee and sat down across from the other man. "Yeah, I'm that way, also. How about I start breakfast and you can get out the plates and utensils? Blair will get up soon as he smells food."

JD laughed at that and stood to find the box that held the items he needed. Jim retrieved the bag he had secured in a tree to prevent the food attracting any predators. The meal was almost ready when Blair stumbled out of the tent, rubbing sleep filled eyes.


"Morning, Blair." JD had the utensils out and was filling the water bottles that they would carry later that day.

Jim looked up and shook his head. "Morning, Chief. Sleep well?"

"Yeah, thanks, Jim. This was a really good idea." Blair stretched his muscles and smiled as he twisted and turned to work out the kinks. "Man, you have no idea how ready for this I was. I didn't even realize how tired I was, until last night. I lay down and it suddenly hit me-no papers to grade, no lectures to prepare, no stakeouts. I could just relax and enjoy a good night's sleep." Jim watched and listened as Blair talked.

The curly haired student did some deep knee bends and jogged in place for a few minutes as he enjoyed his freedom from all the pressures at home. The smile he flashed as he approached the campfire was enough to tell the detective how much the young man was enjoying the vacation.

JD joined the two men at the campfire, handing Blair a plate of food as Ellison filled the plates. Blair poured some coffee.

"Yeah, I checked the location of the cave on my laptop last night. I figure we were within a half mile or so yesterday. Since I know you will be catching dinner this morning, we plan on going there first." Blair said as he ate.

JD had sat cross-legged near Blair and glanced over his shoulder at the man. "Blair was telling me about the drawings. Sounds pretty cool. I never really thought about people living in the park , before it was a park, you know. It's kind of weird to think about."

Blair looked at his partner as Jim listened to the young agent talk. His eyebrows went up in surprise as JD continued.

"This whole anthropology thing is kind a cool. Learning how people lived by what they leave behind." JD spoke between forkfuls of eggs, along with bacon and pan toast. He used the toast to wipe up the grease from the bacon as he continued. "Yeah, I guess it's a good thing to know-the way other people lived and stuff."

Blair grinned as he listened to the young man, but the next words brought a laugh from the older man sitting across the way.

"Don't really see any use for the things you learn. Ain't like we can use it , but its kind'a cool." Blair's face dropped and Jim laughed even harder. JD looked back from one man to the other. "What?"

Jim wiped his eyes. "Chief, I thought you had a convert for a minute there."

Blair glared at his Sentinel. "Yeah, well, give me another day; I'll have him trading in his gun and badge for a shovel and notebook."

JD laughed for a moment, then sobered as he remembered the scene on Monday when he had removed his gun and badge and walked out on the team. His head dropped and he stared at the empty plate. How could he make it right again? Distracted by his thoughts, he did not notice that the other two men were watching him. Jim glanced at Blair and nodded his head toward the dark head sitting next to him. Jim waited as Blair shrugged and mouthed 'what'. The guide sighed as the Sentinel sat motionless.

"So, Jim, are you going to that spot you use all the time? I don't want to have to send a search party after you."

"Was planning on it, Sandburg. What time do you expect to be back?"

"Probably not until mid afternoon. We have get there and then have time to explore. Right, JD?"

The boy looked at his name. "Huh? Oh, yeah, explore. Yep, we need time to look around and see what the 'Makah?' left us."

Blair smiled as the boy mentioned the tribe responsible for the cave drawings. He had been listening last night.

"Well, be sure to pack some lunch, if you're going to be gone that long."

"Yes, mom" was the response he received from both younger men. He frowned at them and, not getting the desired reaction, he stood and placed the dishes in the pan he had cooked in. "Well, I'm going fishing. You two can police the area before you leave since you have to wait for sunrise anyway."

"Hey! You left us with the dishes last night."

"Yeah, but I cooked breakfast, Chief. That means that you clean. Besides, there are two of you and only one, 'old' me."

JD sniggered as Blair shook his head. "Yeah, well, 'old' you better catch some fish or your 'old' butt can drive us 'young people' down to eat supper at the diner."

Jim gathered his fishing gear and left as the Blair and JD set about cleaning. Blair cleaned the dishes as JD stowed and hung the food back in a tree to prevent animals from forging through it. After the dishes were washed and dried, they put them away and put out the fire, spreading the coals and dousing them with the water used to clean with.

They stood for a moment, looking around. "Looks good to me. What do you think, JD"

The dark hair swung in the breeze as JD pivoted his head and checked out the area. A nod and a smile. "Let's go see some drawings."

The two young men smiled at each other and grabbed their packs. Blair knew which path to take, but he checked his compass anyway. Pointing west, the two headed out.

+ + + + + + +

They had been on the trail for three hours and stopped for a break. Blair passed some trail mix to the young man next to him, but JD declined.

"I think I'll stick to my energy bar."

Blair shook his head. "Do you have any idea how many preservatives that thing has in it?" he asked.

"No. And I don't want to know, either. Do you do that to Jim?"

Blair waggled his eyebrows at the Federal agent. "Where do you think I get all my practice?"

They laughed and relaxed back on their packs. JD glanced at the student next to him. He knew the relationship between him and Jim was somewhat like the relationship between Buck and himself. Josiah told him Blair would be a good person to talk to about the problem he was having with Buck. Of course, it wasn't really Buck's problem-it was JD's and the young man knew that. But how could he resolve the problem if he couldn't talk to anyone on the team?

JD turned and faced the Blair. "Blair? How do you manage to get along with Jim so well?"

Blair spewed a mouthful of water onto the ground at the question. Laughing, he turned tear-filled blue eyes on the younger man. "Oh man, JD. Warn me before you ask questions like that. 'So well', huh? You've only seen us on our best behavior. We have had some buttes-screaming and yelling, slamming things around. He kicked me out one time and I left on my own another." Blair's eyes twinkled at the memory. Not so long ago, those thoughts would have depressed him, but after many nights of sitting up and talking, he felt more secure then ever in the loft. It was no longer 'Jim's'. Now, it was 'theirs' and Blair was happier than he had ever known.

And he told this to the boy seated next to him.

And the boy listened. When Blair stopped talking, he looked at JD, the question in his eyes, though his lips don't ask.

JD felt the flush on his face. His emotions were always right below the surface and he was hard pressed to hide them from the world. He took a deep breath and started.

"First, let me just say that the problem is mine, not Buck's. I .. well, we.." JD shook his head and chuckled. He looked again at the intense blue eyes that seemed to watch every move he made. JD picked up his water bottle and took a drink as a delaying tactic. Blair never looked away. He sat, calmly waiting for the dark haired boy to collect himself and his thoughts, and continue.

JD tried again. "My mom died of cancer about two years ago. I never knew my dad, so she was all the family I had. I took care of her until her death. I was two weeks away from my eighteenth birthday." JD saw the sympathy in Blair's eyes, but not pity. "I spent the next few months in the Boston Police Academy. I got along with the guys there, but I wasn't close to anyone. Then I found out that Chris' team was going to add a computer and communications technician and I applied."

JD smiled at the memory. "I don't know who was more surprised when he hired me-me or Buck. I thought he was going to blow a vein or something. I could hear him yelling through the door of Chris' office, but Chris just stood there and when Buck finished, Chris said something real quiet, like he does so many times, and that was that. I figured I'd have to do like I did in the BPD. You know, put up with jokes about my age or size for a while and then just kind of fade into the background and settle in." JD shook his head. "I was totally unprepared for what happened."

Blair chuckled, his eyes twinkling in the midmorning sun. "Let me guess. You found a family?"

JD nodded. "It's a pretty strange feeling."

"Man, that is soo what happened to me, too. I was just going to work with Jim to help him control his senses and get some stats for my dissertation. Then my apartment blew up and he let me move in and, well, since then, things are just different. I'm different. I found something I didn't even know I was looking for."

"Exactly! I found that they really cared about me and what I did and felt good." JD turned to Blair with tears in his eyes. "And I threw it all away. I just walked out because I was scared."

JD brought his hands to his face and wiped the tears away with the heels of his hands. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a moment and opened them and gazed off at the horizon. He drew a deep breath and sighed.

"Like I said, my mom died of cancer. She was sick for a couple of years before that and I didn't have anyone to help me. I didn't mind taking care of her. I worked after school and paid bills with the money I earned. I also took advanced classes so I could get out of school earlier. That gave me more time with Mom. She got so sick." Tears escaped and ran down the pale cheeks. JD never noticed as he continued. "I did all I could to help-all the household chores and cleaning up after she was sick. It's amazing what you can do when you have to."

JD paused and glanced at the man next to him. Blair sat, watching, as the young man spoke.

"So, what happened with Buck?"

JD turned and stared at the young anthropologist. He smiled and said, "Josiah was right, you are a good listener."

Blue eyes studied the young face. "I try." Then a smile lit his face. "You have to be a good listener to get pass the 'bs' that Jim rattles off sometimes. So, what happened?"

JD shook his head. "Buck has this mole and I'd been trying to get him to go see a doctor for over a week. He kept saying to not worry about it, so I went to Chris.." JD stopped when he saw Blair's eyebrows go up. "Wrong thing to do?"

Blair tipped his head to one side. "Well, that depends on what you want to be-a good friend or pals. He was pretty mad, huh?"

JD rolled his eyes. "Yeah.. Started yelling for me to mind my own business and stay out of his. But I figured that if I was his friend, I needed to get involved."

JD looked at Blair. "It wasn't that he didn't want to do to the doctor. I was being selfish and thinking about how it would affect me, if he got sick. Suddenly, I was eighteen again and doing all that stuff for my mom, when I really wanted to be on dates or playing ball with my friends or going to a movie. I didn't want him being sick to disrupt my life."

JD's voice rose as he remembered the feeling of disgust he had for himself. "Here, I think that the man that took me into his home and made me feel like a brother or a son or whatever, was a pain in the ass for 'maybe' being sick. I was only thinking of myself and how I didn't want to clean up after him or pay the bills or clean the house. I don't want to watch him get weaker and die. I don't want to go through that again. Not ever again. So, I quit and walked out on them-all of them." JD turned a tear streaked face to Blair. "I can't do it again because I'm a selfish coward."

Blair reached out and placed a hand on the boy's knee. "You're not a coward, JD. And you're not selfish. Everybody feels the same way."

JD started shaking his head. "Everybody wouldn't run out and leave his family."

"Okay then. If you're so selfish, why are you even concerned about them?" Blair asked.

JD frowned. "'Cause they're family. Just cause I can't watch one of 'em die, doesn't mean I don't care."

"Let me ask you this, JD, Buck getting shot and dying, do you worry about that? Would you want to be there, if he was hurt on the job?"

"Well, sure, I'm his partner, all of the guys are my partners. If someone gets hurt, we stand with him to let him know that he can depend on us, but this is different. Buck can do something about this; he can get checked and stop it from getting worse. Or he could find out that it isn't anything to worry about, but he won't do that and that's not fair to me or the others. " JD said. He ran his hands through his hair, his elbows resting on his knees.

Blair opened his mouth to say something else, when JD sat up with a big sigh. "Dang, Blair, I shoulda never stopped here. I could have gone on and just convinced myself that I could do this." He turned and looked at the curly haired man beside him. "I could have been .."

"Sick for the rest of your life, knowing you walked out on your best friend when he needed you most?" Blair returned the steady gaze of the youth. He continued, "I've seen you two together and I've talked to Vin and Josiah. You seven have a very special relationship. Anyone of you would do anything to spare the others any hurt. It shows when you're around each other. But between you and Buck, it's as intense as between Jim and I. You could not more desert Buck than I could walk out on Jim."

Blair stood and stretched. "And I have the feeling that you decided to go back before you even came with us."

He laughed at the sudden rush of red on the boy's face. "Hey, don't feel bad. We all need some down time away from each other. Gives Buck some time to think and you some time to adjust to the idea that you might have to once again watch someone you love die."

JD had stood and picked up his pack as Blair spoke. He turned to Blair on the last sentence, his face gaunt with the sorrow and fear he felt.

"But," Blair said as he adjusted his pack "this time you won't have to do it alone. There are five other men who will right beside you, helping. It will make a big difference. You'll find that it stills hurts, but not as much."

JD shook his head. "Josiah was right. You are wise beyond your years."

Blair laughed. "Yeah, I was born an old wise Jew. My mother was an angel and my father was a wise old rabbi that told me parables while I was still in the womb. Born with the knowledge of the ancients, I came into this world on a dark and stormy night.."

Blair continued to talk as he started up the trail. JD followed closely, muttering to himself. "He's as fill of crap as Buck."

+ + + + + + +

Jim was having a good day. The sky was clear and blue, the wind cool and clean. He pulled his stringer from the stream and admired his catch. He had pulled in four good sized trout. Blair would make a good meal from this catch. Jim considered leaving the fish for Blair to clean, but decided he would do that job and leave clean up to the other two again. He started back to camp. It was just after one o’clock and he did not expect the younger men back for another hour at best.

After cleaning the fish, Jim relaxed, reclining back and enjoying the sun. He must have dropped off because the sun was low on the horizon. Ellison glanced at his watch. It was after four in the afternoon. He looked around and saw that he was still alone. He was going to kick Sandburg’s ass. The kid knew to get back before dark.

Ellison stood and started up the trail the two other’s would have taken. He had not gone far when he became aware that something was wrong. He stopped and cocked his head, listening. He couldn’t hear anything. No, that wasn’t right. He could hear the leaves rustling in the wind. But there was no sound of birds or animal sounds of any kind. No, wrong again. He could hear something, a deep rumbling noise. He became aware of a vibration underfoot.

‘Oh, God’ he thought to himself, ‘earthquake.’ Jim started to run up the trail. He had to get to the others. If they were still in the cave, they could be trapped or worse. He only made it as far as a half mile when the quake struck full force. He reached for a tree to steady himself. Everything shook. Rocks rolled down the incline and pass him, the trees swayed, limbs snapping. Jim didn’t hear the limb over him snap, but he felt the impact on his left shoulder, driving him to his knees. He heard the rocks and boulders rolling past. One large rock struck the tree he knelt beside. Feeling it shudder, he tried to move away, but due to the injured shoulder, he could not move quickly enough. He heard snapping of small roots as the tree toppled. He last thing he was aware of hearing was the sucking sound of the taproot freeing itself from the surrounding dirt.

+ + + + + + +

Blair and JD sat quietly, looking at the drawings. They had spent the day studying the walls in different caverns. Blair had lectured to JD about the culture of the Makah, the materials that they used in creating the drawings, to color and spread the paint. JD had seemed genuinely interested and Blair had talked and lectured. He loved to share his knowledge when the one listening was interested in the subject. JD had asked questions and absorbed all that Blair had to give.

The two were thoroughly enjoying their day and each other. JD was fascinated by the endless knowledge that Blair seemed to possess, while Blair was vitalized by the boundless energy and inquisitive nature of the younger man.

They had ventured deep into the cave, finding amazing drawings and remnants of the long lost civilization. Laughing, they stood and headed back to the mouth of the cave as Blair glanced at his watch.

"Oh, man, four o'clock! We are soo dead! We should have been back two hours ago. I'll bet that Jim is on his way right now"

JD giggled. "He sounds a lot like Buck. Over protective and a bit anal."

"Yeah, that about describes him. Of course, I am a bit of a trouble magnet, and I have gotten use to him saving my butt, though I would never admit that to him."

The two men laughed at the similarities of their two partners. They were just reaching the last cavern when they heard the rumbling. JD stopped and turned as he listened. But Blair recognized the sound and what it represented. Grabbing the younger man by the arm, he started to move.

"Run! Earthquake!"

Debris and dirt began to rain down on them. Hands over their heads, the two dodged small rocks as they ran for the mouth of the cave and the safety beyond. Twenty feet from the exit, Blair felt something impact him across the shoulders and drive him to his knees.

JD was two steps past the anthropologist before it registered in his mind. Sliding to a stop, he turned to help. He saw a large rock drop and heard the cry of pain as it landed on the leg of the prone man. Two steps and he reached Blair. JD saw the blood welling on the leg, as Blair fell over onto his side, groaning. The young agent felt the small rocks bouncing off his back, but ignored them as he reached down for the semi-conscious man. Bracing his legs, he grabbed Blair under the arms and lifted. Spotting an overhang on one side of the cavern, he dragged the other man under and placed his body over the top of him.

The rain of debris and dirt continued for several minutes, though it seemed much longer for JD. When he felt sure that the rocks had stopped falling, he rolled over and brushed the dust from his face and shoulders. Blair moaned, but did not move. JD felt around in the dark and located a hunched shoulder. The only response to his light shake was another moan. He felt around on the ground and located one of the flashlights they had been using Flicking it on, he shone it on the anthropologist.

"Blair. Blair, come on. I need to check your leg. Roll over and let me look at ya." When the young man did not respond, JD turned him onto his back. Blair had his eyes squeezed closed, the pain evident on his face.

JD reached down and ripped open the jeans leg to see how badly Blair's leg was injured. He found a gash across the back of the leg that ran down the length of Blair's calf. It was deep and maybe eight inches long. The blood pulsed weakly as flowed out.. Grabbing his pack, JD pulled out an extra shirt and ripped it up. He applied pressure to the wound with the makeshift bandage.

Blair groaned and tried to pull away. JD gripped harder and spoke softly, the way Buck did when it was JD who was hurt. Blair settled down and relaxed some, seeming to drift into a restless sleep. When the bleeding let up, the rest of the shirt was used to wrap the gash. As Blair slept, JD checked his back were the first rock had struck the young man. The grad student had a large bruise on his left shoulder, but there didn't seem to be any thing broken. JD made Blair comfortable and took stock of the supplies the two backpacks contained. He found two bottles of water as well as some energy bars and trail mix. Blair had a notepad, extra batteries, a shirt, and a couple of pairs of socks. JD found very little else.

He decided to explore the cave while Blair was resting. He already knew the front entrance was closed, but had no idea how far the cave-in extended. He found that further in, the cavern was not collapsed like the front entrance. He might find water deeper in, but decided to wait to explore until Blair was awake and knew where he was going. He returned to the mouth of the cave and started to remove the rocks that blocked the opening.

He had been steadily working for thirty minutes when he heard Blair call. He dusted his hands and moved to squat down near the dazed looking man.

"How are ya doing? Do ya want something to drink.?"

Blair struggled to sit up. He grimaced as pain flared across his shoulders and leg.

"Easy." JD told him. He reached for a water bottle and handed it to Blair. The anthropologist took a small drink. "How do you feel?"

"Like the ceiling fell in on me. What happened?"

JD chuckled. "The ceiling fell in on you."

Blair's eyes widen and he looked around the cave. "Ah, man, don't tell me we're sealed in here? Isn't there suppose to be an opening over there?"

JD nodded. He looked at the pile of rocks that blocked the entrance. He had not made much of a dent in it. "Yeah, I'm afraid there is." He watched the emotions play across Blair's face. When he moved to get up, JD stopped him with a hand on the anthropologist's chest. "Oh, no you don't. I just got the bleeding stopped a little while ago. You're not going to get up and start that leg bleeding again."

Blair settled back against the rock wall. He was pale and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead and upper lip. "Yeah, that might not be a good idea. How long was I out?"

Glancing at his watch, "I'd say about 45 minutes, maybe a little longer. Shock more than anything else I think. " JD sat down and took a drink, sloshing the tepid water around his mouth before swallowing. "Good news is there is plenty of air. I checked the cave further back and the roof held. Bad news is we already know there's no way out back there. I thought I might try to find water , but I didn't think leaving you alone and out of it was to good of an idea. If no one comes in a few hours, I'll go see what I can find."

Blair surveyed the room where they sat. "How deep do you figure the fall is?'

JD turned and studied the walls, "No more than ten feet, at the most. I don't remember is room being all that big. Most the drawings were in the next cavern. I started moving some the rock, but some of them are just too large for me to move alone. If we can find something strong enough, I can lever the larger boulders out of the way. But I couldn't find anything in this area. I'll check it out back further when I go see about water."

"Jim will find us. He's probably already looking." Blair said with confidence.

JD watched the young anthropologist. Blair's face was grim, but his eyes revealed the faith he had in Jim Ellison. JD hoped he was right, because no one knew where he was. He hated to think of Buck never finding out what had happened to him. He had seen families torn apart by the not knowing

At least if Ellison mounted a search party, there was hope that, worst come to worst, their bodies would be found and buried properly. Buck would have the knowledge that he had not just run off and disappeared. JD didn't want Buck to think that he didn't care. He remembered the notepad Blair had in his pack and decided that he would write a note to Buck; to let him know how he felt and to apologize for running off. He could always throw it away if they got out okay.

JD smiled at Blair. "Yeah, Jim'll find us."

+ + + + + + +

Jim woke and immediately knew he was in the hospital. The sounds and smells were his first clues. He turned his head and groaned. A moment later he heard movement near the bed and smelled a cigar. "Simon."

"Yeah, Jim. How are you doing?"

Ellison pried his eyes open and squinted into the dim light overhead. Blair must have had them dimmed before Jim came to. He struggled to sit up.

"Hold on a minute, Jim." Simon reached for the controls and raised the head of the bed. "How's that?"

"Good. Thanks, Simon." Jim mentally checked himself. He had a headache. He looked down and saw no IV, no casts. He heard Banks chuckle. Jim cocked an eye up at him.

"You could just ask."

"Okay, so how am I?"

"You have a concussion, two broken ribs, and a wrenched knee. Not bad, considering you had a tree fall on you."

"A tree?"

Simon's face sobered. "Yeah. You don’t remember?"

"No. Tell me."

"You took some time off to go fishing. You left yesterday. There was an earthquake and a tree fell on you."

"Where am I and how did I end up here?"

"You're back in Cascade. The rangers found you. They started searching the park for visitors as soon as the tremors stopped."

"Where's Sandburg?" Jim looked up and saw the flash of panic on the Police captain's face. He sat up straighter. "Simon. Where's the kid?"

"Jim, we.. they haven't found him yet. Do you have any idea where he was when the quake started?"

"Dammit, Simon. Why didn't you tell me?" He threw the cover back and went to swing his legs off the bed. He was stopped as the tall black man stepped forward and placed a restraining hand on the detective's chest. "I have to go find him."

"Jim, you don't even know where to look. It's dark out and the rescuers are working on all the campsites. There are dozens of people out searching."

"Simon, I can help. I have to go." Once again, he attempted to get up.

"No, Detective. You are not going any where until the doctor releases you."

"Simon, I…"

"I suggest that you lay back and relax. Jim, I know you want to help, but there's not a thing you can do right now. Why don't you try to remember where he might have gone."

Jim glared at his Captain. He knew that the man would not leave and allow Jim the chance to go in search of Blair. He would stay to protect Jim from himself. So, Jim Ellison, sentinel protector of Cascade, sat back and waited. He threw one arm over his face, while the other cradled his injured ribs as he worked on trying to remember where Blair might be.

Simon sat and watched. He knew Jim would go back to the campsite to search for his guide if given the opportunity. But the tall captain was determined that it would be morning before the sentinel got out of bed to start the search.

He glanced over his shoulder as the door opened. Joel Taggert entered and placed a bag at the side of the bed.

"Evening, Joel."

"Simon. How's he doing?"

Before Simon could answer, a voice came from the bed. "I'm lousy. I need to get out of here and look for Blair." One blue eye glared at them from under the arm tossed across his face.

"Jim. Sorry, I had no idea you were awake. How's the head?" Taggert asked.

"Hurts, but I've been worse. Think you can spring me from here?"

Joel chuckled. "Only if I can shoot Simon. That's about the only way we'll get past him."

Jim sat up and raised the bed a little more. "You don't have to kill him. Just slow him up."

"Hey! You can't threaten a superior officer."

Jim never smiled as he stated, "It's not a threat." He glared at the man keeping him from looking for his young friend.

Simon sighed and shook his head. "I'll say this one more time detective. As soon as it is daylight, we'll head out and find Blair. I am as worried as you, whether you choose to believe that or not."

Jim had the good graces to at least looked ashamed. "Sorry, Simon. I just can't relax. I know that kid is in trouble and I have to find him." Jim fell back against the pillow, lines of worry marring his strong features.

"I brought you some clothes from the loft, Jim As soon as the sun is up, we can head to the mountains and meet the others. Then we'll find Blair." Joel reassured the man.

Blue eyes searched two pair of brown and then he nodded. "Thanks, Joel." And, for the first time since he awoke, he smiled. Simon relaxed a bit. Maybe they would be able to keep the man in bed until sunrise.

Joel pulled a chair over next to Simon and settled his bulk into it. He rested his hands on his stomach. "Hey, Jim, I have a question."

The two other men glanced his way. "Why do you have a motorcycle in the front room?"

Simon turned and looked questioningly at the man. He saw Jim's eyebrows draw together in confusion.

"A motorcycle? Are you sure?"

Joel laughed. Nodding his head, he answered, "Yes, I am sure. Unless, of course, I was in the wrong loft. It's one of those fast looking things, all sloped back and low. There was a helmet there, also"

Jim rubbed his hand across his brow. Realization came to him suddenly and shockingly clear.

"Damn. Dunne."

Simon sat forward. "Done? Done with what?"

"No. D-U-N-N-E. JD Dunne, ATF agent, works with Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee in Denver."

Simon's mouth formed and spoke, "O. Oh, sure, I remember, last year. Yeah, the crew from the seminar." Simon frowned. "What is his motorcycle doing in the loft?"

Jim slapped the bed, worry evident in his eyes. "Damn. He was with us. He went with Blair." Light blue eyes lit up as that thought followed through and he remembered. "They were going to the caves to study some old drawings. They're probably trapped in the cave."

Ellison looked around the room. "What time is it?''

Simon glanced at his watch. "It's ten twenty. Why?"

"I have to call Larabee. They'll want to help. I told him that I would watch after the kid for him. I wasted six hours lying here. Where's the phone?"

Joel stood and moved the table tray around in front of Jim as he raised the bed upright. He placed the phone on the tray and took his seat again.

Jim picked up the receiver and dialed information. "Denver, Colorado."

Simon spoke softly to Joel. "Go down to the waiting room and call the others. Let them know we have two men missing, not just one." With a nod of his head, Joel rose and left the room.

Simon turned back to Ellison.

"Yeah, Chris Larabee. And would you connect the call, please?" Jim rubbed his hand over his face. He closed his eyes as he heard the phone picked up on the other end.


"Larabee, this is Jim Ellison. There's been trouble."


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