Answer Me a Question
"Joel? You okay?"
"Yeah, man, fine. You?"
"Yeah. Hell, we've been through worse, right?"
"Practically every damn week. Come on, sit down for a minute. Be a while before we can get to the hospital."
"Yeah, you're right. You wanna hand me that rag there – got some blood on my fingers."
As I watched Simon rub at the blood that welled from a cut on his hand, I tried to figure out how to broach the subject. I was damn tired, but after what I'd seen today, I needed some clarification. The emergency crews were still mopping up; we had maybe five minutes before we'd be able get transport, so if I was going to say what I was going to say, it had to be now.
"Simon – can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, go ahead."
"After they found that woman alive, Jim – he just froze."
Simon reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his cigar case. "You telling me Jim Ellison hesitated in the line of duty?"
"That's not what I said. It was really noisy, but somehow Jim heard her and they got her out before the bomb blew. They were just waiting with her until the EMTs showed up."
I squinted up into the sun, considering my next words. How much was Simon going to admit to knowing?
"When I got there, Jim was checking her for injuries and Blair was calming her down, doing his usual thing. Then Jim just – froze. Like he was in a trance. It was damn weird, you know?"
"Yeah, it can be." Simon pulled out one cigar and ran it beneath his nose. "What do you think he was focused on?"
"Well, that's just it. He was looking at Blair."
Simon looked away, and that's when I knew that he knew. "Sandburg? Why?"
"I guess Blair didn't know he'd been hit. No one did, until Jim saw the blood starting to run down his face."
Simon sighed and put the cigar in his pocket, giving me a hard look before getting up. I got to my feet as well and dusted off my clothes.
"What happened?" he asked as we started toward the patrol car.
"Blair talked him out of it, I guess." I didn't add what Blair had said or the soft, intimate tone he'd used. I also omitted the part where Blair took Jim's hand and stroked it with his thumb until Jim finally blinked and woke up out of his zone, or whatever they'd called it in the briefing we'd had after Blair joined the force.
"So, what's your question?"
Thinking about the look in Jim Ellison's eyes as he pressed a bandage to his partner's head wound, I already knew the answer. "Blair isn't gonna need that toaster I bought him for a housewarming gift when he told us he was moving out last month, is he?"
Simon thought for a second, then grinned at me. "No, but toasters make damn fine wedding presents."
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