Blair looked up from his own personal zone out. He’d been sitting in the dark loft forever. He stiffly stood, going to the stereo to stop the ‘earth music’. His legs felt like two pieces of hinged wood. “Get the Chopec onboard okay?”
Jim hit the switch, illuminating the kitchen. He opened the icebox and lingered over his decision. “Everything’s good. They’re on their way home.” He picked bottled water.
“You broke some laws.”
Jim downed half the bottle before wiping his mouth. He leaned against the middle support column. “Incacha was right. Sometimes it’s about justice.”
Scrubbing his face with one hand, Blair realized his cheeks were damp. He ducked his head and turned to face the windows overlooking the ‘great city’. “No argument from me.”
Blair felt a solid presence by his shoulder. A gentle tug and the paper clutched in his right hand was taken.
“Aw, shit.” Jim’s voice was soft.
Blair felt his eyes burn. He pinched the bridge of his nose, knowing what Jim held. The newsprint had sat for years, housed between the pages of a text book.
Seemed like just yesterday. Seemed like another lifetime.
“You guys… chained yourselves to a tree,” Jim muttered.
“Protesting,” Blair said, proud of his voice for not breaking. “Loggers, o-old….” Damn. Blair dropped his voice to a bare whisper. “Growth.”
Jim’s hand was warm on Blair’s shoulder. “Sandburg.”
Hunched forward, Blair hugged his own ribs and tried not to exist. He felt brittle and old. Jim’s silhouette in the window taunted him. ‘Just add this to the long list of personality disorders, Jim,’ Blair thought in disgust.
“I’m sorry,” Jim said. “If I hadn’t… screwed around trying to find Incacha –“
Blair turned. “Don’t. Okay? Just don’t go there. I’m the one that caused this. I asked her to...” Anger returned like a bad meal, rising up his chest. “Shit! What was I thinking, man?”
Blair spun and paced the living room’s width, stomping the floor with sour bursts of tantrum.
“I even said ‘poke around’, Jim.” Throwing his arms out, Blair looked up at the ceiling. “Helloooo, Janet! Long time, no see…yada, yada. Do me a favor? Get some dirt on your company? How dangerous could it be? I mean, after all, we only have one dead guy!”
Blair knew screaming would only result in neighbors reporting a disturbance, but it felt so good. Then it didn’t. Blair hugged himself again. Guilt shredded him from the inside out. He didn’t resist as Jim silently pulled him toward the sofa and urged him down, taking a seat beside him.
‘Lot of shoving and pushing around here lately,’ Blair thought glumly, remembering when Jim had erupted with uncharacteristic anger over the crime scene technicians, who had been doing their job. Blair had shoved him out the door and dragged up to the roof.
“Tell me about this picture,” Jim asked, breaking into Blair’s thoughts, pointing to the newsprint.
Swallowing hard, Blair focused. It still hurt to see her. They’d been so young and idealistic. He could just imagine what Jim must think of it, of their pathetic attempt to save the tree. “We had to hurry, nobody showed up, drove all night in her Mustang.”
Jim acted attentive.
“Forget it.” Blair pushed the paper away. “It’s late, you’re tired. Let’s just call it a day.” But Blair found himself tethered, like a hawk to his perch. He couldn’t seem to shake Jim’s grasp.
“You know what I see?” Jim asked.
Blair had a good idea. Jim was an Army Ranger. Blair and Janet had just been trying to keep an old spruce from becoming a dining room table.
Jim continued. “I see a couple of militants. Two kids who believed in a cause and were willing to put their lives on the line. What were the loggers using?”
Blair’s face felt warm from the unexpected comment. “Bulldozers.”
Jim nodded, his expression serious. Blair searched, but could not see any trace of mockery in Jim’s face.
“So, Janet really believed in this stuff.”
Blair nodded. “Yeah, yeah, she did.” He couldn’t help but take the picture from Jim. “She got me all fired up about it, actually. I was more into cultures. She explained how precious the earth’s resources are and how some of these old trees are irreplaceable.”
“Was she smart enough to eventually catch on?” Jim asked. “What if we hadn’t shown up?”
“Oh man,” Blair said. “She was super smart. They couldn’t have hid something like this much longer. She didn’t play games…” Blair’s words died out.
God, Janet would have charged right to the boss. She wouldn’t have taken time to mail any copies to Blair. They would have killed her and the Chopec’s homeland would have continued to be ravaged.
“Looks like she hasn’t changed much from the woman in that picture, Chief.”
The picture. They had been wearing jeans and parkas over dirty sweaters, soaked with rain. Blair tried to compare this image with the woman who had been standing in that office the other day. Her suit, hair, makeup, even her manicure had smacked of money. But when she had called Blair on the phone, he had recognized the old passion for the environment in her voice.
“You’re right. She was the same,” Blair whispered.
“I think she was willing to take the risk to stop them. She got the proof we needed,” Jim said. “I know it’s hard. I’m sorry she died. But you and I didn’t kill her.”
Blair swiped at the tear that ran down his cheek. “She… used to drive in the rain with the top down.”
“Yeah?” Jim settled in, throwing a casual arm around Blair’s shoulder. “Tell me about her, Sandburg. It helps… honest.”
Send feedback to LKY
Go Back to Home Page