Blair put down the last piece of paper from the packet and sighed, pushing his glasses up his forehead as he rubbed his eyes. Another collection of leads that went nowhere, trails grown long cold, and false alarms. He'd been up all night reading through the dossier, hoping for some clue, some piece of evidence -- but there was nothing. He reseated his glasses, looked over at the clock and rose out of the chair.
It was almost dawn, so he made himself a pot of coffee, poured the coffee into an insulated thermos and walked into the slowly brightening night. He walked across the grassy meadow behind his house, through the copse of aspen, newly budded out for spring, to the trail that twisted around the red sandstone bluff, the way familiar enough that he could find it even in the poor light from the weak, waning moon. Fifteen minutes later, he sat cross-legged on the top of the bluff, facing east into the rising sun, his cup of coffee steaming next to him.
As the first light of the day touched his face, the warmth as clear and distinct as the touch of a hand, he imagined that the light cleansed and cleared his thoughts, chasing away the doubt and fear and self-recriminations. He had not caused this. The documents showed that they'd had their eyes on Jim since the Brackett mess; since Peru, even. It hadn't been his dissertation, and his leaving Cascade to protect Jim had been futile. They'd already known. They'd already been after him, biding their time, waiting for just the right moment...
There was no single thing in the documents that "proved" that Jim was still alive, that the car accident had been faked; but he didn't really need proof, not with his guide instincts still screaming it to him: the Sentinel is in danger. Find the Sentinel. Protect the Sentinel. Unfortunately, the instincts couldn't provide him with a road map for finding Jim, nor provide a handy sign with two red dots on it -- you are here. Jim is there -- all the awareness was good for was keeping him on edge, and keeping him from sleeping.
Feeling his heart rate and blood pressure climb, he took a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out.
Simon Banks, with his own reservations about Jim's death, had initiated a thorough investigation, using all the resources he had, calling in all of the favors owed him. Nothing. Jack Kelso's investigation, the one Blair had just finished reading, had turned up the long-term surveillance on Jim, the interest in him by several governmental and quasi-governmental groups, but nothing beyond that -- no rumors or innuendo or veiled hints. Nothing.
Nothing. Blair took several more calming breaths, letting the light of the sun warm his body, noting that the sun warmed his skin, but not the core of ice at the center of his body. Nothing.
Happy Birthday, Jim, he thought. Wherever you are. I'll find you, I swear.
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