From Part Five
Jim leaned forward and reached out a hand, resting it lightly on Blair’s knee. “What did you remember?” he asked. “Please, Blair, you can tell me.”
Blair stood up suddenly and turned as if to run for the cabin door and Jim leapt to his feet, waylaying him with a hand on his shoulder, turning Blair to face him. “Tell me,” Jim demanded more forcefully.
“It’s all mixed up,” Blair whispered. “Your senses? You were angry at me.” He put a hand to his forehead as if trying to bring the memories forth more clearly. “I don’t know what it means,” he went on. “I’m sorry, Jim.”
“it’s okay, Chief. You were close there, real close. Let’s get some rest. We can talk more tomorrow.” Jim wanted nothing more than to push harder but he’d promised that this time he’d put Blair first. He ushered Blair over to his bedroom and patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. We’ll work it out. Get some sleep, okay?”
Blair nodded agreeably and Jim went back out to his own room after checking all the doors and windows were locked. He didn’t fall asleep for a long time though and when he did his dreams were full of the night Blair had left.
Jim was woken by the clinking of crockery out in the kitchen and he sat up in bed with a start. He glanced at his watch. It was almost 7 o’clock and he was amazed he’d slept so late. Obviously he’d been more tired than he’d realized. He extended his hearing out into the other room then smiled as he heard the unmistakable sound of Blair singing the song they’d heard on the radio on the way to the cabin. Just hearing Blair doing something so normal filled Jim with a sense of hope so palpable he could almost taste it. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, and pulled on his jeans and sweater from the day before, pushed his feet into socks and shoes then went out to join Blair.
Blair looked around as he entered the kitchen, a tentative smile tilting his lips.
“Good morning,” Jim said.
“I-I thought I’d make coffee,” Blair said hesitantly. “Is that okay?”
“It’s more than okay, Chief,” Jim replied around a lump in his throat. Blair had initiated a conversation! It had been halting and almost apologetic but it was another small step along Blair’s path back to normality and Jim couldn’t help rejoicing at it. He sat down at the table and took the steaming mug Blair held out to him. “I seem to recall you used to make pretty decent scrambled eggs too. You feel like cooking this morning?”
Blair nodded. “I used to make them every day for my master—“ He stopped speaking suddenly, his face going so white that for a moment Jim thought he was going to faint.
Thinking quickly, Jim rose to his feet and went across to the fridge, speaking as if nothing untoward had been said. “Then I guess you still remember the recipe,” he said as he got the eggs and bacon out and handed them to Blair then sat back down at the table and started drinking his coffee. “Well,” he went on casually, “better get a move on, Chief. I was thinking we might walk down to the river after breakfast and catch some fish.”
There was a look of utter gratitude in Blair’s eyes and Jim saw him swallowing hard but then he just nodded and smiled and turned back to the stove and started cooking breakfast.
They ate in companionable silence then Jim carried their dishes over to the sink and rinsed them off. “We’ll wash them when we get back,” he said as Blair rose to his feet and made as if to walk across to the sink.
Blair followed him into the living room and waited as Jim got the fishing gear together. He shot a confused look at Jim when Jim handed him the fishing spear but disappointingly made no comment about it, just took the tackle box Jim handed him as well and trailed Jim out of the cabin.
All the way down to the river Jim had to almost literally bite his tongue to keep from asking Blair if he remembered the spear. At the river’s edge, Jim put down his gear and opened the tackle box and pulled out the little box of lures Simon had given him not long after their last visit here. He picked up the rod he’d brought along for Blair then added a lure and some bait to the hook. He could feel Blair watching him intently. He straightened up and held the rod out to Blair. “So what’s it going to be, Chief? The fishing rod or that spear you used to be so fond of?”
Blair seemed frozen in place, one hand out as if to take the rod, the other clenched around the spear. After a few long seconds he bent and placed the tackle box on the ground then lifted the spear and looked at it closely.
Jim held his breath for a moment, then, not wanting Blair to feel to feel pressured, he said quietly, “It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember it, Blair. It’ll all come back. I’m just hoping to build a connection here and there, that’s all. It’s all right to say you can’t recall something.”
Blair nodded and looked up at Jim, unshed tears shimmering brightly in his eyes. “I want to,” he said shakily. “I don’t like not knowing anything about myself, but I just…” He sighed and wiped the back of his free hand over his eyes. “It’s like seeing a movie of the life of someone who just happens to look like me.”
“Why are you smiling?” Blair asked warily.
“Because that’s the most you’ve spoken since we found you.” Jim leaned in and gave Blair a gentle pat on the cheek. “You’re getting there, buddy. How about we take some of the pressure off that genius brain of yours and just do some fishing?”
“Okay.” Blair waited till Jim got his rod set up and they’d both cast their lines into the water then asked, “I’m a genius?”
Jim couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Oh yeah,” he replied, “you’re a genius, all right.”
The rest of the morning passed peaceably. Blair didn’t initiate any more conversations or ask questions but if Jim asked him something he replied more like the old Blair. Not as loquacious certainly and there was still that nervousness and hesitancy in everything he did and said as if he still wasn’t quite sure that Jim really wanted him to respond or as if he still expected to be punished if he did. They caught several decent sized fish that they packed into the cooler Jim had brought along and took them back to the cabin to have for dinner that night.
They pretty much just lounged away the rest of the day till dinner time. Jim was happy enough reading a book he’d brought along and he’d given Blair some of his old Anthropology Now magazines Jim had found among Blair’s belongings back at the loft. Blair seemed interested in them and the day passed fairly quickly.
Then they ate dinner with their plates on their laps, sitting outside, listening to the nearby river burbling over the rocks on its way down into the valley. Crickets chirped in the cool dusk air and Jim felt himself relax, inch by knotted inch, their peaceful surroundings having the effect this place had always had on him. He glanced over at Blair, who seemed as loose-limbed as Jim felt, his long hair tied back in a ponytail. Jim could still see the bruising on his still too thin wrists poking out from the overlarge shirt he was wearing. Jim reminded himself that it had only been days since Blair had been found and that his physical well-being was going to take time to reassert itself. At least Blair was now being given nourishing, healthy food, and the bruises, while they were still healing, were fading every day. Jim could only hope that Blair’s mental scars would fade along with the physical manifestations of what Olsen had done to him.
“I was just thinking I could cut your hair for you tomorrow,” he said when Blair seemingly felt Jim watching him and turned an inquiring gaze in his direction. “It’s fine if you’d rather not,” he added. “I just thought it might be easier for you to manage it yourself if it was a bit shorter.”
Blair nodded. “Okay,” he replied. “Sure. Thanks, Jim.” He yawned hugely and Jim laughed and stood up, stretching, then bent and gathered his and Blair’s empty plates from where they’d put them on the ground.
“This place has that effect on me too,” Jim said, leading the way back into the cabin. “It’s the one place where I sleep like a log. All that good mountain air, I guess.”
They made short work of washing the dishes and tidying the kitchen together then Jim led the way into the living room and motioned Blair to sit down in the armchair opposite from him. “I brought some things along that might help to jog your memory a little,” he began hesitantly. “If you’d rather not look at them…” He let his voice trail off and waited for Blair to reply.
“Like the fishing spear,” Blair said after a moment.
“But I didn’t really remember anything when I looked at it,” Blair said.
“I know but the other thing I have here is more personal and it was a big part of why we were together, and why you left,” Jim said. “Do you want to see it?”
“Yes,” Blair replied without a moment’s hesitation. “Do you want me to? You don’t sound too sure.”
“It’s just that some of the stuff you remember may not be all that great.” Jim sighed and rubbed a hand over his jaw while he thought about the best way to put things. “You and I didn’t always have a great relationship,” he said finally. “I did some pretty shitty stuff to you because I wasn’t very good at being a friend.”
“Was I?” Blair asked.
“Were you a good friend?” Jim nodded. “Yeah, you were the best friend I could have had. You helped me through some really tough stuff but I sometimes didn’t see things that way. When we met I was something of a hardass. I’d been having some problems and they’d messed me up pretty badly. I was trying to work a case and not getting anywhere till you came along and taught me a few things about what I was going through.” Jim turned and leaned over so he could dig through the box he’d placed on the floor near the coffee table. He pulled out Blair’s thesis and sat, holding it in his hands. Now that he’d decided to do this, doubt was rearing its head. He’d finally gotten close to getting Blair back. He wasn’t sure he could handle losing him all over again if this all went awry.
Blair was eyeing the folder in Jim’s hand with curiosity. “Okay. So what do you want me see?” he asked when Jim didn’t speak.
Jim swallowed the lump in his throat. This could have two outcomes; Blair might remember and they could maybe repair the damage Jim had done that night two years before when Blair had left. Or just as easily Blair might remember and want nothing more to do with him. Jim was hoping for the former but in all honesty he wouldn’t blame Blair if it was the latter. He handed Blair the thesis then stood up. “I’m going to leave this for you to look at,” he said. “I need to call Simon anyway, make sure the DA isn’t getting too antsy. I’ll be outside if you have any questions, okay?”
Blair took the folder from his hand and wrapped his fingers tightly around the top of it. Jim could see his pulse racing, beating a tattoo against the skin of his throat. He focused his hearing on Blair’s heartbeat. It was fast but not too fast.
Jim patted his shoulder. “Relax, Chief. It’s gonna be fine,” he said, injecting a certainty he didn’t even begin to feel into his tone. Then he went out to the kitchen and grabbed his phone and headed outdoors to the picnic table and chairs set up a little way from the cabin door.
“Jim, how’s it going?” Simon said the minute he answered his phone. “How’s Sandburg?”
“We’re getting there,” Jim replied cautiously, not wanting to give Simon or himself more hope than was currently warranted. “He’s talking more without me prompting him.”
“Well, that’s great,” Simon said. “Isn’t it? You don’t sound too thrilled.”
“I’m just trying not get my hopes up too much,” Jim replied. “He’s definitely remembering some stuff but I’m hesitant to push too hard.” He sighed. “Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea, bringing him out here by myself. Maybe I should have taken him to a counselor or a psychologist instead—”
“Hey, don’t you start doubting what you’re trying to do, Jim,” Simon broke in. “You’re his best friend. There’s no one else knows the kid like you do. He might not have remembered you but there’s no doubting you’re the person he feels safest with. You just keep on doing whatever you’re doing. It must be working if he’s talking more, right?”
“Yeah, I guess. The DA’s not getting antsy, is he?” Jim asked.
Simon snorted. “He isn’t and if he was I’m more than capable of telling him to put a sock in it. You take whatever time Blair needs, all right?”
“Yeah, okay, man, thanks. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Jim thumbed off his phone then stood for a moment or two just letting the serenity seep into his bones.
Blair was sitting on the sofa still when Jim went back in, the diss on the floor at his feet. He looked up as Jim entered and shrugged in response to Jim’s raised eyebrows. “Sorry, Jim, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I mean, I can see I was working with you to help you with problems with your senses but I don’t remember enough of it to really understand how or why I was doing it.” He sighed and rubbed a hand across his eyes then yawned widely. “Sorry,” he apologized with a wan smile.
“It’s fine, Blair,” Jim assured him. “This mountain air can really make you tired. Let’s just both get some sleep and we’ll start over in the morning.” He walked across and patted Blair’s shoulder, not wanting him to think he was disappointed in him then waited till Blair was tucked up under the covers in his own room before heading off to bed himself. He was asleep almost the moment his head hit the pillow.
He woke up what seemed like only minutes later, his heart pounding, cold sweat lathering his skin. He sat up on the side of the bed, sipped at the bottle of water he’d put on the bedside table, calmed his breathing. He must have had a nightmare even though he actually couldn’t remember dreaming at all. Despite his conscious effort to calm himself, his heart continued to race, his mind churning with the inexplicable feeling that something was terribly wrong. He stood up, pulled on his clothes from the day before and put on shoes and socks. He grimaced as he glanced at his watch. 3 AM. Too early to be up but he had the inescapable feeling he wasn’t going to be going back to bed any time soon. He went out to the kitchen, turned on the coffee pot then walked out into the small hallway where his and Blair’s bedrooms were located. Blair’s door was partly open and Jim felt his heart skip a beat. He pushed the door open and turned on the light, somehow knowing even as he did so what he would find. The covers on Blair’s bed were pushed haphazardly aside, his pillows tossed to the floor. Jim forced himself to calm down, to take notice of details. Blair’s clothes were gone, his track pants tossed at the end of the bed. Jim bent down to check beneath the bed. His shoes were gone too. In some ways that made him feel better. At least Blair wasn’t wandering around outside in the chill air in just track pants and a tshirt. Still, Jim realized, just him wandering off at all was a bad idea. Blair didn’t remember the area. He could easily get lost or take a tumble into the river. Jim ran out of the room, checked the bathroom just in case then headed out to the living room and grabbed a flashlight lantern and his and Blair’s jackets. Then he stepped outside and took a moment to shine the flashlight around and call Blair’s name in case his friend had just come outside for a breath of fresh air. There was no call back from Blair and no sign of him outside the cabin. Jim set off for the river, calling Blair’s name every few minutes till he reached the shoreline.
Once there, he stood still, barely daring to breathe as he looked around what he could see of the shoreline. For once he thanked God for his Sentinel senses as his sight was able to compensate for the darkness and he could see no sign of Blair along the bank.
Off to his right his ears caught the sound of a twig cracking and he turned in that direction, his hearing ranging out toward the sound, filtering out the night sounds of birds and small animals scurrying through the brush. He homed in on what sounded like someone breathing jerkily, as if they were trying to hold back sobs and he extended his hearing even more trying to narrow down the exact place it was coming from. There was a sudden cacophony of sound as if he was being enveloped in it and then everything faded away…