Inspired by Bev's new story
Jim knew a good day when he saw one and this wasn't it. The interview had gone badly from the beginning. He and Blair had been late, the address had been copied down wrong by the dispatcher and it had taken half an hour to find the correct construction site.
“Hold that thought, Chief.” Jim pulled the cuffs from his pocket. The man in front of him looked ready to bolt. They stood on the fourth floor of an unfinished office building. Each concrete floor was attached to an interior skeleton framework of steel girders.
“Jim?” Blair stood a few feet back, well away from the edge where the missing external walls allowed the wind to whistle through the floor.
“In a second, Sandburg.” Jim pointed a finger at the man before him. “Don't make this difficult, Miller. You have the right to remain silent.” He finished the Miranda warning, each word carefully recited.
Miller wiped shaky hands on his jeans. “I didn't do it, Ellison.”
“Doesn't matter what I believe, pal. I just write the report and let the prosecutor take if from there. Come on, now. You'll make bail before I finish my shift tonight.” Jim made 'turn around' signs with his finger.
“Let's get this over with.”
The interview had provided Jim with enough probable cause to take Miller down to booking. On one hand, this was a good thing. Jim liked putting the close stamp on a case. On the other hand, he didn't particularly like making an unplanned arrest without backup and surrounded by the perp's co-workers.
A dozen beefy looking men with an assortment of hand tools formed a semi-circle around them.
The tone was wrong. Jim looked back in surprise. Blair knew when to talk, then to stay silent. He wasn't a novice to the world of police work anymore.
But Blair's gaze was not focused on the arrest of a construction material embezzler. Jim glanced at the unused scaffolding that captured his friend's attention, seeing nothing.
“It's n-not... I can't really be seeing...” Blair took a shaky step backwards, wrapping his arms around his torso. “Jim, man...”
“Sandburg.” Jim checked his potential arrestee, the guy seemed confused but not looking set to rabbit. “What are you talking about?”
A short laugh erupted from the police observer, then his face twisted in sudden grief and he squeezed his eyelids closed and pressing the heels of his hands over them as he shook his head from side to side. “You th-think they're dead.”
Oh, crap. Jim slipped his cuffs back. “Miller, do yourself a favor. Meet me at headquarters tomorrow. Nine AM sharp, got it?”
Miller's eyes widened with confusion. “You shitting me?”
“No, just be there.”
Jim turned to Blair, moving forward quietly. Blair opened his eyes and backed away. “Easy, Sandburg. Nice and easy. Everything's fine.”
“Jim,” Blair moaned, looking sickly. “It's happening isn't it? You don't see them.”
Jim kept his left hand extended, ready to grab. He had to keep Blair from bolting. “You're going to be okay. We'll head home and you can rest until you feel better.”
Blair scrubbed his face with both hands, freezing as he peered through his splayed fingers. Without warning, he sprang sideways several giant steps, his knees kicking high as if being attacked by low enemies.
“Sandburg! Stop it!” Jim ignored the construction workers shocked expressions. Blair was too damn close to the edge. “Calm down.”
“Jim! They're here! Watch out!”
The situation was deteriorating. Jim sprinted forward, ignoring Blair's struggle, he lifted the younger man by the waist, holding him tightly to his side and headed for the center stairwell. “None of it's real, buddy.”
“Jim, I can't tell. I can't!”
“Yes, you can. Feel me? I'm real.” Jim snapped one cuff around Blair's wrist, the other over his own, visions of that girl falling off the face of the dam still fresh. He wasn't letting the same thing happen to his friend.
Blair didn't seem to notice the cuff. He patted Jim's arm as if testing his perception of reality. “Real... Jim, you're real. I'm doing it again, huh? A f-flashback.”
“That's right.” Jim moved them toward the staircase. “We're going home.”
“Nope.” He kept one arm around Blair's waist, steadying him on the steps. “You can take one of those pills and lay down.”
Blair jerked, his head whipping to the side as he gasped in pain. “Not real, not real! Jim?”
“You trust me, right? I'm not under arrest.”
“I trust you. You're not under arrest.”
“Close your eyes, Chief. I've got you.”
Blair's nearly hysterical laugh ended in a sob. “Can't man. Darkness makes them brighter. They're burning, Jim.”
“Not real, remember?”
Second floor. Jim readjusted his grip. Blair was stumbling more. If this flashback was like the others, weakness and nausea would follow.
“Not real, not real. Jim? W-why fire, anyway?”
“Don't know, Sandburg. Why don't you try changing them?”
“Wish I could.” Blair laughed another short burst of panic while taking a fistful of Jim's jacket and holding on. “Don't like fire. W-want another element; water or earth. How many?”
“How many what?”
“Elements, Jim. I forget.”
Ground floor. Jim didn't bother explaining to the foreman in the white hardhat. He propelled Blair toward the parked Ford.
“Oh, man. I don't think I'm...”
Jim cut a detour, spotting a nearby trash can. He supported his friend while he vomited.
“Detective?” Hard Hat neared, looking concerned. “Do you need an ambulance?”
Finished, Blair leaned heavily on Jim's arm, accepting the handkerchief pressed into his hand. “No 'spital... Jim, you said,” Blair pleaded as he wiped his mouth.
“No thanks. We're good.” Jim waved the man off, guiding Blair toward the truck. “Home and bed, Chief. Those are the only elements right now, okay? Everything's going to be fine.”
Blair's grip on Jim was intense. “You're real,” Blair muttered wearily.
“You're the missing element, man.”
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