“You know DA Carter?” Simon said as he closed the door behind them.
“Of course.” Jim leaned across and shook the man’s hand. “How are you, Deke? How’s Miranda and the kids?”
“Miranda’s still beautiful and the kids are growing like weeds,” Deke Carter said. “You should come for a barbecue again sometime, Jim. They’d love to see you.”
Jim nodded tersely. “As soon as this stuff with Blair is all settled then we’ll do just that.”
“Look, Jim,” Carter said, standing up and going across to refill his coffee mug from the jug Simon held out for him, “I can feel you bristling already and I haven’t even asked Sandburg question one yet.”
“Sorry,” Jim said, even though he really wasn’t, “Blair’s vulnerable right now. I’ve made a little headway getting him back. I just don’t want anything that happens here today jeopardizing that.”
“Understood.” Carter sipped at his coffee then set the mug down on the table. “Jim, you know me. I never met Blair but I’ve heard enough about him since I came to Cascade to know that he was a highly thought of member of this department. You have my word I won’t push him harder than I have to. As long as he’s honest about what happened he’s got nothing to fear from me or my department. Olsen was a bottom feeder and I don’t think there’ll be many people mourning his loss. However, I’m the DA and we have to make sure that justice is seen to be done, even for the Olsens of this world. Hey, if it was up to me I’d be giving the guy a medal for not only pushing Olsen off this mortal coil but for saving that kid’s life. Let me just do my job, Jim, and then you can take him home and help him get himself and his life back together.”
“Fair enough,” Jim said. Deke Carter was a good man, kind and honest. Jim thought… hoped he could trust him with his fragile friend. He looked out the window at Blair who sat where Jim had left him, head bowed, gaze on the floor. If Blair had to go through this in order to come out the other side whole again then Jim would sit right next to him and help him do it. “I can’t promise much yet,” he went on. “He’s just barely talking to me and that’s pretty much only when I order him to.” He winced a little at the word order but it was true after all.
“We’ll take whatever we can get for now, Jim,” Deke said. “If we need to do this over several sessions so be it but let’s get as much as we can today so hopefully he doesn’t have to relive it too many times.”
“Okay,” Jim agreed. “I’ll bring him in.”
“Sit down on the chair, Blair,” Jim said, taking Blair by the arm and leading him into Simon’s office. He waited till Blair was settled then crouched down in front of him and put his hands on Blair’s knees. “Look at me, Chief,” he said, waiting till Blair raised his head before going on. “You remember Simon?”
Blair nodded slowly.
“Good. This other man is Deke Carter. He’s the district attorney for Cascade and he needs to ask you about what happened at the house and with Olsen.”
Blair flinched at the name and Jim squeezed his leg gently. “He’s dead, Blair. You have nothing to fear from him anymore. But we need to hear from you what he did to you, how you ended up there with him, all right? Will you talk to us?”
Blair nodded again.
“Good. You need to talk aloud so we can all hear you. I’m going to stay here with you though.” Jim settled himself into the chair at Blair’s side and placed a supportive arm around his shoulders. “Okay,” he said to Deke. “Let’s get started.”
They went through the preliminaries of introducing themselves into the tape recorder microphone, Blair finally repeating his name after Jim said it for him twice. Simon noted the time then sat down behind his desk and nodded to the DA. “Let’s get started,” he said.
“Blair, can you tell me how you came to know Charles Olsen?” Carter asked.
Blair looked down at the desk and didn’t speak but Jim could feel a faint shiver tremble through his body. He opened up his hearing and focused it on Blair’s racing heartbeat. “It’s okay, Chief,” he murmured, “you’re safe here. I promise you.”
Blair inhaled shakily and his fingers turned whitetipped where they gripped the sides of the chair.
“Relax, buddy,” Jim whispered. “Just take the time to breathe for a minute.” Unconsciously his voice took on the cadence of the “guide-voice” Blair had so long ago used on him to help Jim use his senses more effectively. It felt oddly soothing to Jim and after a moment he felt Blair relax a little, the trembling subsiding. “Good, that’s good,” Jim went on. “Answer the question now.” He injected more firmness into his voice this time and Blair sat up and began to speak in a shaky voice.
“He’s my master. He owns me. I have to do whatever he tells me. That’s my job. That’s all I need to do. Just that. Nothing else.” Blair’s words sped up, his breath coming in pants now. Jim could hear his heartbeat increasing until it was racing along with his words.
Jim shot a look over at Carter, who was frowning, leaning forward across the table to Blair, telling him to slow down.
Blair didn’t though. The words spilled out in an uncontrolled, barely decipherable rush. Jim grabbed for his hand, grasped it tightly and pulled him sideways into a one armed hug, whispering into his ear. “It’s okay, Chief. Slow down. It’s all right. Calm down.”
Blair twisted free of Jim’s arms and pushed himself away from the table, landing on his backside then scurrying underneath the table where he sat, the words still spilling out as he clasped his arms around his knees and began to rock.
“Shit.” Simon was on his feet, his eyes filled with pain and not a little guilt. “Jim, can you calm him down?”
Carter’s face was white. “I’m sorry,” he said over the top of Blair’s constant repetitions. “I had no idea he’d react like this.”
“I should have known better than to bring him here,” Jim said, angry at himself more than at anyone else. “It’s too soon. He hasn’t even had any counseling yet. I thought because he was talking to me he was ready for this. I should have known why he was responding to me.”
“Why?” Carter asked. “What’s the difference between you asking him questions and me?” He sounded honestly curious.
“Because he thinks I own him now,” Jim spat out, anger at Olsen driving the words vehemently from him. His stomach roiled at the thought and for a moment he thought he might be sick. He placed his hands on the table top and focused on his breathing, forcing himself to bring his emotions under control. The last thing Blair needed right now was to hear any anger in Jim’s voice, regardless of the fact that anger wasn’t aimed at him. It took several long moments but eventually Jim pulled in a cleansing breath then exhaled it slowly and straightened up. “Give me a minute with him alone, please,” he said.
Simon nodded and turned to usher Carter toward the door.
“Jim, I’ll do my best to hold this off as long as he needs but in view of the fact we have no other evidence to prove Blair killed Olsen in self defence we need to get him to talk to us as soon as possible,” Carter said softly.
“You have Daniel’s statement,” Jim reminded him.
“Daniel told us what Blair did but he had no way of knowing Blair’s motivation,” Carter replied. He swallowed then added hesitantly, “For all we know, Blair killed Olsen because he was jealous he’d brought home someone else-“
“You’re kidding?” Simon sounded as outraged as Jim felt but Jim knew the man was right, much as he hated to admit it.
“Give me a week with him, two if you can swing it,” Jim said. “Let me help him remember his life before Olsen. Help him want to come back to it? Please.”
Carter nodded. “I have a boy named Ben. He’s autistic. Sometimes he can’t tell us what he wants or needs and he lashes out in frustration. We still love him though. We work hard to find ways to help him connect with us. Do that for Blair, Jim. If anyone can do it you can.”
Simon nodded agreement. “I’ll take you off the roster effective immediately. Do you want to stay here or would you prefer to take him out of Cascade? You could use my cabin. He’s been there lots of times. Might revive some good memories for him.”
“Yeah, that’d be good, Simon, thanks. I might need you to run interference with his mom for now.” Jim crouched down and reached out to place a hand on Blair’s knee. Blair was quiet now but he was still rocking back and forth. “Come on, Chief, let’s get you home.” It took a few minutes but eventually Blair grasped Jim’s hand and crawled out from his hiding place and let Jim lead him out of the office.
Rafe, Henri, and Joel gave him a thumbs up on their way out and Jim spared them a quick smile of thanks in return. Blair might not know it yet but one day he’d realize just how much the friendship of these men would mean.
At home Jim let Blair potter round the loft exploring while he tried to sort out what they needed to make this getaway work. Blair seemed fascinated by the photos Jim kept on the shelf, picking them up and gazing at them for long periods as if trying to remember who they were. Jim went across and picked up the one of the whole MC gang taken at a Christmas party just before Blair left. He pointed out each person in turn, adding a small story to describe them as he went, hoping something might click and spark a remembrance in Blair. Blair nodded each time but showed no sign of recognition till Jim pointed out Blair in the photo, a wide grin on his face as Jim pulled him into a noogie. “That’s you and me,” he said. “You used to hate me doing that but it always made you laugh anyway.”
Blair put out a finger and traced it over the image of his face. “Before,” he said in a voice so sad it made Jim’s heart ache.
“Yeah, before,” he replied, “but we’re going to get you back, Blair. I promise.”
They were such tiny steps they were making but each one gave Jim hope that he’d be able to fulfill his promise to Blair. He switched on the TV and got Blair settled with a sandwich and some juice watching a National Geographic documentary then went over to the phone and called an old friend.
“Hey, Melanie,” he said as the phone was answered, “I need some advice if you don’t mind doing a pro bono phone consult.” Melanie Carver was a rape crisis counselor whom Jim had dated briefly back in his Vice days. He filled her in on what had happened to Blair and then asked whether he was doing the right thing taking Blair away. “Or should I keep him here in Cascade and get him into counseling as soon as possible?” he finished by asking.
“I can’t say for sure without knowing him or seeing him but honestly Jim, taking him away and letting him de-stress in a place with happier memories could really be a good thing. Then, if you can make some headway there or even if you don’t, bring him back and I’ll get you in to see a good friend of mine who specializes in domestic slavery cases.”
“You mean it’s common enough that there are people who specialize in it?” Jim asked, a bitter taste at the back of his throat at the thought.
“Sadly yes,” Melanie said. “Horrifyingly, some people have been known to turn their own family members, parents or wives or children into slaves. Others kidnap women or men off the street. There have been several cases in the national news over the past year.”
“Okay, thanks, Mel. I’ll call you when we get back,” Jim said, hanging up.
He needed to get more clothes for Blair as well as food for their stay but he really didn’t want to drag Blair through the stores again. He put in a call to Joel Taggert. Even though Blair didn’t remember him Joel would be the best person to stay with Blair while Jim went out. Joel would just be here for him, he’d know instinctively not to pressure him with questions. Joel was thrilled at the idea of seeing Blair again and promised he’d be there within the hour.
Blair looked up as the knock on the door came. Jim could see the desire for flight in his eyes. He called out to Joel to wait then walked across and kneeled down in front of Blair. “This is just our friend, Joel,” he said. “I need to go out and get some things so I’ve asked Joel to stay here with you.”
Blair stood up, wriggling out from under Jim’s hand but Jim stood up as well and stopped him moving away. “You were fine at the PD this morning,” he said, honestly confused, “and at the store. Why are you freaking out now?” The answer hit him almost instantaneously. “Because I was there with you,” he added.
Blair nodded. “Stay,” he whispered, his shaky voice revealing just how much it was costing him to even make a request of Jim.
Jim sighed then patted him on the shoulder. “How about you and Joel come with me?” he said, walking over to let Joel in. He smiled as he shook Joel’s hand and then introduced him to Blair.
“Hey, Blair,” Joel said in his kind voice, “I’m very glad to see you.”
“Blair doesn’t want to stay here,” Jim said.
“Ah,” Joel said as if he instantly understood the problem, “well, maybe we could come with you and have an icecream cone while you get your shopping done.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Jim agreed. “Let’s hit the road, Chief.”
And that’s what they’d done. Blair had seemed okay about sitting with Joel at a table just outside the store while Jim did their shopping. By the time he came back with a kart piled high with clothes and provisions Blair was actually smiling at something Joel had said.
“What’s your secret?” Jim asked as they went back to the car. “It took me a day and night to get a smile out of him.”
“I was telling him about when Rafe chased that guy through the carwash. Remember?” Joel grinned broadly. “It’s a pretty funny story. It’d get a smile out of anyone.”
Jim could have kissed him for his patience and insight.
They dropped Joel back at his car then went upstairs to pack. Blair didn’t ask where they were going, just did everything Jim asked him to without question as always. Jim could only hope that their time away from Cascade would bring about the changes he so desperately wanted to see.