The minute Jim stepped into the building he began his routine.
Sight was dialed down first. The institutional lighting was too harsh, much too bright.
Smell was next; to him, the place reeked of antiseptic, medicine, bodily fluids and waste.
Taste and touch followed. The air itself was suffused with the bland flavors of hospital food and the prickly feel of industrial strength cleansers.
Hearing should have followed. Moans and cries, from pain both real and imagined, spilled from every room he passed and filled the corridors. Instead, he dialed his hearing up a notch. He zeroed in and locked onto his guide’s heartbeat. Not to find him…Jim knew exactly where Blair was…but because he needed to hear it.
Jim reached the end of the hall, entered Blair’s room, and allowed his senses to return to normal.
This room was not anything like the rest of the facility. This room was painted in warm, earthy tones. A beat up old futon sat against one wall, unmade, with brightly covered blankets and comforters resting atop it in tangled heaps. Bookshelves lined the walls, filled with anthropology journals, college texts, National Geographic and the like. Blair’s bric-a brac littered the room…tribal masks and statues, photos of Jim and the MC gang, Blair’s laptop, opened, ready for use. Unused.
Music played constantly…a steady stream of jungle drums, heavy metal rock, classical, country. Jim smiled. Today’s selection was Santana.
William Ellison, much to Jim’s surprise, had made a generous contribution the facility, arranging for Blair to have the best around-the-clock private nursing as well as anything Jim thought Blair would want.
Blair was sitting by the window, a nurse by his side, reading to him. Unblinking blue eyes stared out at the sky, the Pacific Ocean, trees, flowers. Seeing everything…or nothing.
The nurse looked up and smiled. “Hi Jim. Blair’s been waiting for you.” She reached out and patted Blair’s thigh. “Look, Blair. Jim’s here.” The blues eyes blinked once.
The nurse left.
Three months ago, Blair had disappeared. He’d rushed out of the loft, heading for the uni, running late as usual, and simply vanished.
For eight long days, Jim and the PD searched and waited. And waited. And waited. No call ever came. No threats, no ransom demands.
Blair reappeared just as mysteriously. But he never returned.
He had suffered no apparent physical injuries. No traces of foreign substances were found. Experts in every field they could think of were called in and consulted. No one could explain Blair’s near-catatonic state.
Whatever had happened, and why, was locked away behind the unmoving blue eyes.
Jim walked over to Blair and took the seat the nurse had vacated.
He dialed his senses back up, connecting with his guide.
Sight first, adjusting to the soft lighting. Studying Blair. Noting skin tone, eye color, the varying shades of red, brown and gold of his hair.
Smell was next. He breathed deeply, taking in the musky scent accented by herbal soap and shampoo.
Taste and touch followed. He reached out and brushed his fingertips gently along Blair’s cheekbone, feeling the late afternoon fuzz. He leaned closer, and lightly kissed Blair’s forehead.
Jim’s hearing had stayed focused on Blair’s heartbeat since he’d entered the building. Its cadence had not changed once. Not today. Not yesterday. Not at all in the past three months.
And then Jim dialed up another sense. The one Blair had given him years ago, when he’d thought his heightened senses were a curse.
He dialed up his sense of hope.
He planted himself in front of Blair, placed his hands on the kid’s shoulders and stared past the unwavering blue eyes right to the center of Blair’s soul.
“Today, Chief? Will you come back to me today?”
The blue eyes shifted. The heartbeat fluttered slightly.
Blair was looking at him.
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