Blair blinked awake. His gag was bone dry. He pictured thousands of tiny micro-fibers invading his lungs. He lay on his side, his hip bruised as if dropped and left behind like dirty laundry. A concrete floor... He was either in a basement or warehouse. The distant walls allowed faint rays of sunlight through narrow slats; a warehouse.
A vicious kick to the left kidney rolled him face down.
“I know you're awake, punk,” a deep voice said, heavy with sarcasm.
*Good for you.* Blair groaned, resting his cheek on the cool, gritty floor. He felt hot, like he had a fever.
Wait a minute, he did have a fever! Last thing he remembered was being home with a pitcher of orange juice, bottle of Tylenol and Jim grousing how he wished *he* could take a day of sick leave for just a sniffle.
Twisting awkwardly, Blair peered up at his abuser. A huge man with a bald head and full mustache glared down at him. Did he know this ape? Nope.
The man squatted down, fluid and smooth as if mercury flowed in his joints. He ripped the gag, along with a few strands of hair, off Blair's head.
“Where's Captain Ellison?”
“Ellison? You mean, Jim Ellison?” Blair croaked painfully.
“Yeah. Where is he?”
Blair licked his lips, his brain racing. This guy seemed off somehow, not the normal villain. Blair nearly smiled to himself. What's a normal villain? What was he, suddenly the city's authority on bad guys? Why not? He knew them all, from Lash to Brackett.
Hmmm. That gave him pause to consider, was there a 'scale' of sorts? Maybe he'd be the first to develop one.
“Well,” Blair started. “Sort of depends.”
“On what?” The guy really was menacing, a 'back-alley' quality, but not looking too heavy in the cerebral department.
“I assume you kidnapped me from our home, right?” Blair calmly asked.
“Okay, was it before or after ten?”
“What the hell does that matter?”
Blair shifted a bit. Not liking his present position, he carefully rolled to his side. “Hey, you want to know where he is, so I need some information here.”
Baldy rolled his eyes. “Okay, smartass, before – happy? Now where is he?”
“Still need more info. I'm forever the research kind of guy. What time is it now?”
“If you're pulling my chain...”
Blair presented his best face, the innocent look that got him off the hook with the campus librarian and sometimes – if he was lucky – Jim.
“Okay, okay. It's four-twenty, the same day I snatched you.”
“In that case... I'd say Jim was about fifty feet from our current location.”
Ham-sized fists yanked Blair up, his feet dangling above cement. The guy's face twisted with anger, his nose flaring. Damn, Blair hated it when this happened.
“You'd *better* start talking!”
“Or what? You'll kill me? Look around, you got another hostage somewhere?” Blair asked. “Set me down and I'll spell it out for you.”
Either the guy didn't have the muscle to hold him up any longer or he really wanted to hear Blair's theory, because Blair found himself standing again.
“Okay, see, your first mistake was entering Jim's territory. He was supposed to swing by the loft at ten to drop off some textbooks I needed for a pap – “ Blair saw the look on Baldy's face and recognized it as one Jim sometimes got. “Ah... anyway, my point is; now Jim's known for over six hours something happened to me. Your second mistake was wearing that cologne I smell. By the way, you realize you don't need to bathe in it, right?” Blair got a hard shake for that comment, but the guy still seemed attentive, so he continued. “Sorry... see, if there's even the slightest chance you wore that back when you *knew* Captain Ellison, he's already figured out who you are. He just needs a few hours to put it together.”
Baldy looked nothing short of stunned. “Y-you're so full of crap! Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“Me? I'm just a roommate. But you'd better trust me on this. I don't want to see anyone get hurt today.” Blair tried pouring a lot of sincerity into that part.
“I don't believe you.” He raised a hand, ready to deliver a backhand to his captive.
“Wait! Wait, before we go there, man. Just give me a second. I'll prove it!”
Oh, God, Jim. Please, please... be as good as I think you are.
“If Jim's outside, he'll honk his truck horn. Two short and one long,” Blair said in quiet prophecy.
“I know you're not wearing a wire. I checked.”
Blair blushed. “Gee, that's like *so* wrong, on so many levels, dude. I was unconscious!”
Just then the horn sounded, two short and one long.
Baldy's eyes widened in horror and Blair knew it was over.
“Okay, Sandburg,” Jim said, untying Blair's hands as he spoke. “We're going to have a little chat about 'kidnap victim' etiquette.”
Baldy was in cuffs now, Brown and Rafe walking at his side as he left the warehouse. Simon stood beside Jim, arms crossed; cigar smoke puffing from his nose like a freight train as he silently watched the reunion.
“What do you mean, Jim? It worked, didn't it?” Blair checked his wrists for broken skin. He hated having to wear bandages; it was just too hard to explain to folks. “He crumbled like a wet paper bag. He wasn't even worthy to be called a villain. Cascade would be embarrassed to add him to its list.”
“List?” Simon asked as they walked toward the open door and freedom.
“Yeah, I've been thinking of a new paper.” Blair leaned into Jim's comforting arm that appeared silently around his shoulder and briefly squeezed. “Sort of a villain scale, you know? Then we can rate them. And I got to tell you, on a scale of one to ten. Baldy didn't even rate a two.”
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