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He was warm and he was comfortable.

Blair, for some reason he wasn't able to pinpoint, found himself grateful for both the comfort and, in particular, the warmth.

He was aware of a distant sound... it seemed to be a voice, too far away for him to make out the words. If he could open his eyes, would he be able to see who was speaking? But he couldn't summon up the energy; it didn't really matter. He drifted back into sleep.

When Blair next became aware of anything, there were two voices. They seemed rather nearer than the previous one had been, but were still too distant - or perhaps they were too quiet - for him to make out any words. But his eyes still obstinately refused to open, and he sank back into the comfortable warmth, the voices fading into silence.

His next awareness was of silence. Silence? Where were the voices? This time, however, his eyes blinked open. He peered around, struggling myopically to see in a very dim light, slowly beginning to recognize...

He was in a hospital bed.

He felt his lips curl in an involuntary half smile. He still felt warm and comfortable. Comfortable? In a hospital bed? His experience of hospital beds was that while they weren't exactly uncomfortable, comfortable wasn't a word he would normally think of using for one. So why did he think...

He stiffened as memory connected.

Ackroyd! Paul Ackroyd!

* * * * * * * *

Almost every class had at least one student who was a problem, and Ackroyd clashed with Blair about pretty well everything.

Usually the problem student was a sports jock who resented having to take any academic classes. Quite a few of them felt that because of who he was, because of his sports fellowship, he should automatically be given a passing grade in his academic classes, whether or not his work deserved it. The actual professors had less trouble with those ones than the TAs, who were closer to them in age and who, they seemed to feel, were just jumped-up, sucking-up-to-the-system nerds who didn't know a properly important student when they saw one.

Ackroyd, however, didn't fall into that particular classification. It would have been difficult to find any student in Rainier less interested in sport, even among those female students who felt that participating in any form of exercise was unfeminine. No, Paul Ackroyd was an out-and-out academic - but he was also a spoiled brat who expected to be handed passing grades on a plate because of who he - or, rather, who his father - was. He had brains - but felt it was beneath his dignity to use them. He could parrot back facts effortlessly, but anything that involved actual thought... no.

Blair didn't know, had no way of knowing, just how much time had passed since he was grabbed from behind just after he tossed his backpack into his Volvo, and before he had time to get into the vehicle. Something had covered his nose and mouth, making it impossible for him to breathe; half suffocated, he had struggled uselessly for perhaps a minute before he lost consciousness.

When he regained consciousness, it was to find himself lying naked on a bed of sharp-edged gravel, arms and legs tied so that he was lying on his back, spreadeagled, barely able to move. He was in a small apparently windowless hut - the only light seemed to be coming from the open door - and sitting in a chair beside the door, making no attempt to hide who he was, was Paul Ackroyd.

When Blair moved, Ackroyd got up and moved to look down at his captive.

"You should have given me that passing grade, geek," he said. "You'll have a few days to consider that before you die - just as Tom Foster did." He reached out and turned on a tap, just a little way, so that water dripped slowly to land in the gravel beside Blair's head. "Dehydration would kill you far too quickly," he said. "So I'm leaving you with a supply of water. With luck it won't freeze solid. Have fun!" He turned and walked out, closing the door as he went.

Tied as he was, and unable to see anything, it was hard to move his head so that the water dripped into his mouth - while he lay still, the gravel, while hurting his back, didn't actually inflict pain, but when he moved to get water the sharp points scraped across his shoulders. He had never, he thought wryly, realized what a difference there was between hurting and painful.

And it was cold; luckily, not freezing although it was nearly the end of January - if Ackroyd had left his clothes on he wouldn't have been warm, but he wouldn't have actually been too cold, because so far the winter was unseasonably mild; but naked as he was, chilly was a good word for how he felt. But he couldn't depend on the weather staying unseasonably 'mild'.

And then he started thinking.

Tom Foster.

A fellow TA, Tom had vanished some six months earlier, and despite a fairly prolonged police search, had never been found. His car had been sitting in the parking lot at Rainier, the keys in the ignition, but of Tom himself there was no sign. Well, Blair now knew what had happened to him; kidnapped by Paul Ackroyd, possibly left in this same hut to die... and possibly his body was buried somewhere near it, once Ackroyd decided he wanted to get rid of another annoying TA who actually expected him to use his brains?

But Tom hadn't been found, and he'd had an advantage Blair didn't have; he'd been lying, presumably here, in summer when it was warm. But he must have suffered quite a bit - Blair knew that hypothermia would probably kill him before he suffered too much.

On the other hand, he knew he had an advantage Tom hadn't had. He had a stubborn sentinel looking for him.

Closing his eyes, Blair concentrated on his sentinel. Jim. Jim. Come to me, Jim...

* * * * * * * *

Campus Security found Blair's car, the driver's door open, his backpack inside it, the keys in the ignition, some two hours after Blair was kidnapped, and promptly called for the police. At the same time, Suzanne Tamaki, recognizing that it was Blair's car, called Jim.

Jim hadn't quite reached the stage of calling Blair to see why he was late, but he was close to it; and so he wasted no time in driving to Rainier, arriving just after the Patrol car that had been sent in response to the 911 call.

"Suzanne! Thanks for calling me."

"Hello, Jim. Yes, as soon as I saw it was Blair's car... Thing is, this is the second incident - "


"About six months ago. It went to Missing Persons, I understand, but the TA involved has never been found."

"Well, that isn't going to happen to Blair," Jim said. "Dead or alive, I'll find him."

He began to prowl around the car, quickly establishing in his own mind that Blair had put the backpack into the car himself - but not the keys. There was a faint scent on them that wasn't Blair. He glanced around, saw that Suzanne was fully occupied with the two Patrol cops - neither of whom he knew - took a glove from his pocket to take the keys and drop them into an evidence bag, replacing them with his keys to the Volvo. Then he crossed to the others.

"Nothing obvious," he said, "but there's no way Sandburg would leave his car like that. Once you've finished here, officers, could one of you drive it back to the PD garage, and leave the keys with Major Crime?"

"Major Crime?" one of the two asked, a note of disbelief in his voice. "Not Missing Persons?"

Jim smiled slightly. "The missing man is a part-time consultant with Major Crime, and usually rides with me. Detective Ellison."

"Sorry," the other cop said. "We hadn't realized - "

"No reason you should," he said. "Just spread the word about Sandburg - I think you'll find a lot more people know him than you realize, and will be anxious to find him. He might not be an official cop, but he's still one of us."

* * * * * * * *

The scent on the keys was very faint, but Jim committed it to memory, aware that if he did meet the person it matched, he was halfway to retrieving his partner. He kept the bag with the keys in his pocket, ready to reinforce his memory if necessary.

He prowled the Rainier parking lot, went down to Blair's 'office', went to the room he knew Blair used when he lectured, but couldn't detect the scent anywhere. Eventually he gave up for the night and went home, to eat an unwanted bowl of soup and spend a restless night only half sleeping.

Sitting in the bullpen the next day, about mid-morning he became aware of a voice inside his head... Jim. Jim. Come to me, Jim...

He stiffened, raised his head and concentrated.

He and Blair had established some time previously that they had a mental link; something to do with the sentinel-guide bond, it gave them an awareness of each other, though it was far from being infallible. Both men had to be concentrating, thinking about the other.

Come to me, Jim...

All right! He had a direction. Pushing the report he had been not reading into a drawer, he crossed to Simon's office, knocked and went in.


"I think I have a trace on Sandburg... one of those sentinel things you don't want to know about. I'm heading off now to follow it."

Simon nodded. "Good luck."

As Jim exited the bullpen the elevator door clicked shut. Jim growled, and then took the stairs, deciding that would be quicker than waiting for the elevator to return. He went down in a series of long jumps that each covered the dozen steps in a flight, trusting to his animal spirit to keep him from losing his balance as he landed, and burst through the garage doors just as the elevator door opened.

Yes - when you were in a hurry the stairs were definitely faster!

He raced over to his truck, jumped in and was halfway to the street before the occupants of the elevator reached their cars.

He had to pause for a moment before turning onto the street because of the weight of traffic, but as soon as he was on it he switched on lights and siren and put his foot down.

The pull was definitely to the west, and he followed it, glad when the weight of traffic eased the nearer he got to the Cascade city limits. With the road much quieter, he killed the siren. There was always the possibility of a State Patrol car pulling him over for speeding - which wouldn't happen if he was running with the siren switched on - but the noise was distracting him from the voice inside his head that was urging him on.

And then ahead of him he saw a big black cat running down the road. After a moment it swerved, turning up a side road he knew he would otherwise have missed. He slammed on the brakes and took a skidding turn onto the side road, which proved to be little more than a rough track. It was quite muddy, and he could see tire tracks in the mud.

Ah - he had to be close to where his partner was. Even as the thought passed through his mind, however, he lost the mental contact.

Sandburg! He pushed the thought forwards, and got no reply. But the panther was still there, racing on... and then it stopped, glanced back, and vanished.

Jim came to a sliding halt close to where it had been, and saw a small windowless hut in front of him.

He switched off the engine and jumped out of the truck; leaving the door still open, he ran over to the hut. He could hear nothing, and yanked its door open.

Inside... He could smell blood, but not much. He stumbled over to the body lying seven or eight feet from him and registered the sharp-edged gravel Blair was lying on even as he began to unfasten the ropes holding his partner down. Yes - Blair must have cut his back on those sharp edges.

As soon as he had freed Blair he pulled his jacket off and wrapped it around the chilled body, relieved that he could hear Blair's breathing. Ignoring the tap dripping water onto the gravel, he gathered Blair into his arms and carried him to the truck. He was never quite sure how he managed to open the passenger side door without releasing the other man, but he carefully lifted Blair in, closed the door and hurried to the driver's side. Climbing in, he leaned over and carefully fastened the seat belt around the younger man, made sure the heater was on, turned the truck and with a little more care drove back down the track. But once he reached the road, all bets were off. He switched the siren on again, and floored the accelerator.

He barely slackened speed as he entered the city limits, trusting to his speed, siren and lights to persuade - even in the privacy of his thoughts he refused to admit the real word was 'bully' - other drivers to get the hell out of his way. He ran two red lights on his way to Cascade General, and pulled up at the emergency entrance; not caring that he was blocking access for any other vehicle, he unfastened Blair's seat belt and, leaving the engine still running, jumped out, leaving his door open, rushed around to the passenger side and had the door open and was already easing Blair out before an orderly left the building on his way to speak to the inconsiderate driver who had blocked access for ambulances.

Jim registered his presence, snapped, "Police emergency!" and rushed past him, Blair cradled in his arms.

The orderly gaped after him for a second, then turned his attention to the truck. He closed the passenger door, went to the driver's side, climbed in and carefully backed the truck into an ambulance bay; switched off, got out, went back to the building, picked up a card with 'parked with permission' on it, took it out to the truck, left it in full view on the dashboard, locked the door and took the keys back into the building.

Meanwhile, truck totally forgotten in his rush to get medical attention for Blair, Jim had reached Reception. The girl on duty recognized him. "Detective Ellison - what's happened to Blair?" Sheer professionalism kept her voice calm.

The quiet calmness relaxed Jim fractionally. "Lorrene. He was kidnapped - unconscious when I found him - could be hypothermic... "

He was only barely aware that Lorrene, ignoring the demands of several other people who were waiting to be seen, quietly put him to the front of the line, then called for a gurney. "He'll be more comfortable lying on that," she suggested.

Jim registered the sense of that, but put Blair carefully on his side in something approximating the recovery position. "His back's been quite badly cut," he explained.

"What happened?"

"I found him lying on a bed of rough gravel. Every time he'd tried to move, the sharp edges on the stone cut into his back. They're all quite shallow cuts, but if he regains consciousness lying on his back, it's going to be pretty painful."

Lorrene nodded her agreement as a nurse came from the emergency cubicles to collect the next patient in line; she would have taken the gurney but Jim made it clear that he would wheel it to the emergency room. He could fill in the necessary forms once Blair had been seen by a doctor.

It was inevitable that Dr. Fleetwood admitted Blair. His back was a mass of criss-crossing small cuts, he was definitely in the early stages of hypothermia and he was remaining obstinately unconscious.

"We'll need to have someone with him at all times," Jim said, "because he was a kidnap victim; whoever was responsible could very well come back and kidnap him again."

Fleetwood smiled, knowing both men from previous visits to the emergency room. "And I suppose that person will be you?"

Jim grinned wryly. "Mostly. I do have one or two other responsibilities I can't push aside, but when I have to be away someone else from Major Crime will be here."

"Don't neglect your own health," Fleetwood said. "You can't help Blair if you collapse from exhaustion. Now you go and fill in his forms while I get him settled. He'll be in room 659."

So Jim went back to Reception and filled in the necessary forms, then went outside and phoned Simon to let him know where he - and Blair - were; saw where the truck was and went back in to speak to the orderly he had brushed off earlier.

"Thanks," he said, meaning it. "I was too concerned about my partner to care what happened to my truck. I'll go and move it to the public parking lot now."

"Will he be okay?" the orderly asked.

"He's still unconscious - suffering from hypothermia - and he's been admitted, but the doctor is hopeful that he'll make a full recovery."

"That's good. Now go and get your truck out of my ambulance bay!"

But his smile showed sympathy.

* * * * * * * *

Two days later, Blair was still unconscious. In one way Jim was glad of that; it meant that the cuts on his back would be healed enough that they wouldn't hurt him too much when he did regain consciousness. On the other hand, Jim had been completely unsuccessful in tracking down the kidnapper. Not that he had devoted much time to that; most of his time had been spent sitting with Blair, talking to him in an attempt to waken him.

He had left Brown and Rafe with Blair for a couple of hours while he went back to the hut to check it out. This time, without his unconscious partner occupying his entire attention, he had been aware of that elusive scent that had been on the keys, but all that did was confirm that it belonged to the kidnapper. There was nothing else, however, and he returned to the hospital knowing that unless Blair had actually seen whoever it was, he was helpless.

Jim returned to Cascade General to find a Patrol officer sitting outside Blair's room. "Hello, Rankin. I didn't expect to see you here. I left Detectives Brown and Rafe with Blair."

"They were called away for some reason, and I was told to come and guard the door. I know he was kidnapped - is someone still gunning for Blair?"

"We don't know who kidnapped him or why, but whoever it was could try again." Jim gave a faint grin. "You will let me go in, right?"

Rankin gave a soft chuckle. "If you were to kidnap him it would be to keep him safe." And then, more seriously, "I wouldn't like to be the kidnapper if you get your hands on him. Forgive me for saying it, but you look after Blair like a mother grizzly defending her young."

"He made a joke once about 'if someone saves your life, he becomes your Blessed Protector'. It's... become a little more than that. But it works both ways; you'd be surprised how much he looks out for me."

"A few months ago, I overheard someone saying 'I'd rather have Ellison mad at me than Sandburg'."

Jim's grin widened. "I'd just punch someone out. Blair's... a little more inventive than that." He turned and went into the room.

As he crossed to the bed, he was aware of a change. "Blair?"

"Jim. You did find me."

"You knew I would." Jim grasped Blair's hand. "How are you feeling?"

"Warm. Surprisingly comfortable."

"I'm not surprised, considering the way I found you." Jim took a deep breath. "Who was it, Blair? Do you know?"

"A student. Paul Ackroyd. He's got brains but he's lazy - expects to get top marks because he's an Ackroyd. And Jim... I think... Six months ago... "

"Suzanne Tamaki said you were the second TA to disappear the same way."

"He took me, left me to die, because I wouldn't give him a grade he hadn't worked for. From what he said, back in the summer he did the same to Tom Foster... only there wasn't anyone absolutely determined to find Tom. I remember when he went missing. There was a full search made over several days... but there wasn't a stubborn sentinel who doesn't know when to give up looking for him. I think - I think it's probable that his body has been buried somewhere near the hut I was in - it could be worth getting a cadaver dog out there."

"I'll suggest that," Jim said. "And if there is... "

"Dad's influence won't keep Paul out of prison. Not for murder."

"Just who is Dad?" Jim asked.

"Ackroyd, Jim? Don't you recognize the name?"

Jim's jaw dropped. "The Mayor's chief adviser?"

"That's the one."

* * * * * * * *

Jim moved quickly after that. In the morning he made a third trip to the hut, this time taking a cadaver dog and its handler, and well as a couple of uniforms. It took the dog barely five minutes to identify a patch of ground just a couple of hundred yards from the hut - Jim began to dial up his sense of smell and almost immediately became aware of the smell of decay. Yes - he could have found this himself, but it had been easier with the dog.

They started digging, and just a couple of feet down came on a decaying body.

"Okay," Jim said. "Let's get Forensics out here, leave it to them. We need to leave everything as undisturbed as possible for them." Even as he spoke he was punching the number for the PD into his cell phone.

They retreated to the police car and settled in it to wait for Forensics.

While they were speaking to the Forensics personnel, however, the dog began to range in a big circle. Jim glanced at its handler. "Bruce?"

"I'd say she's picked up another scent."

They watched as the dog stopped circling and headed straight for a point about a hundred yards from where she had found the first body. Bruce led the way over, and they started digging where the dog was indicating. And about two feet down, they uncovered another body, this one rather more decomposed.

Despite his years of experience, Jim shivered. This body was clearly older than the other one... but who was it? Well, trying to identify it was Forensics' job - but Jim was inclined to think it could well be an earlier teacher who had dared to expect Paul Ackroyd to work.

* * * * * * * *

On his return to Cascade, Jim went first to see Blair, who was beginning to look just a little restless. "Wanting home, Chief?" Jim asked as he entered room 569.

"Jim! How did you get on?"

"You were right, Chief. There was a body there. Dead at least five months. Dan's putting a rush on identifying it. But the dog actually found two bodies - the second one at least a year older than the first, maybe more. So tomorrow Bruce is taking the dog out again, and searching a bit more, and we're checking Missing Persons for any teachers who went missing in the last four or five years."

Blair stared at him. "You think... "

"I think your 'friend' Ackroyd could well be a serial killer of anyone - at the moment, because he's still studying, any teacher - who expected him to apply himself to his studies. Anyway, I'm heading off to Rainier, see if he's there. If the doctors decide to release you, call Simon or Joel, right?"

"Right... Jim - be careful."

"I think I can handle him, but I'll take a couple of uniforms with me, in case I get due cause to arrest him." The tone of his voice said, 'And I will get due cause, Chief, believe me.'

* * * * * * * *

Chancellor Edwards was far from happy when Jim told her he wanted to interview Paul Ackroyd on suspicion of kidnapping both Tom Foster and Blair Sandburg.

"You do know who his father is, Detective?"

"Yes and, frankly, I couldn't care less. The boy can't go through life as a total parasite just because of who his father is. He needs to learn to take responsibility for his life, his actions - though I think it's a little late for that. Now I want to see him - ten minutes ago!"

She jumped at the note in his voice, and picked up her phone. "Norma - can you find Paul Ackroyd, and bring him to my office."

As she put the phone down, she said, "I think I should be present when you interview him. I know he's of legal age, but as a student here... "

"I don't see why not, but if you interrupt me I'll have you removed."

Edwards looked him, and believed him.

It was a few minutes before there was a knock on the door and a young, truculent-looking student entered. Jim was instantly aware of the scent that had been on Blair's keys.

"Paul Ackroyd?" Jim asked.


"I'm Detective Ellison. I have a few questions to ask you regarding Thomas Foster and Blair Sandburg."

"What about them?"

Yes, the boy had bravado down to a fine art.

"I understand that you clashed with them both over the question of the grades they gave you. Both told you you had to work to obtain passing grades - am I right?"

"They had no right! - "

"Why not? You're here to learn, surely?"

"I'm here because my father insisted I needed a degree, but why should a couple of boot-lickers have the right to deny me what I need?"

"Surely if they were boot-lickers they'd have given you A passes in their subjects?"

"They were kow-towing to the left-wing belief that the rich and powerful have to do what their underlings say."

Jim raised his eyebrows. "Rich, maybe. Powerful? At your age, I don't think so."

Ackroyd drew himself up. "Do you know who my father is?" There was a threat in his voice

"You mean you don't know? You suspect the man you call Daddy isn't actually your father?" There was mockery in Jim's voice.

"My father is Stewart Ackroyd!"

"So? That doesn't make you important."

"My father can snap his fingers and have you fired!"

Jim smiled. "I don't think so," he said. "You weren't listening earlier. Do you know who my father is?"

Ackroyd looked a little confused.

"No, you weren't listening. My name is Ellison... and I think that if the mayor had to choose, he'd prefer to keep my father happy."

He noted realization on Ackroyd's face.

"Now, Paul... I know that you kidnapped Blair Sandburg and left him in a hut a few miles outside Cascade - to die."

"Rubbish! So the man disappeared - how dare you accuse me of having anything to do with it!"

Jim just looked at him. "We found Mr. Sandburg four days ago. He told us who kidnapped him. He also told us you gloated about the fate of a Mr. Foster who disappeared in the summer. So we went out early this morning with a cadaver dog - and guess what? It found not just one body, but two. They haven't been identified yet, but I have no doubt that one of them is Mr. Foster - " He was interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone. He took it from his pocket. "Ellison... Yes... Yes... Good. Thanks." He closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. "Paul Ackroyd - you are under arrest for the kidnap and attempted murder of Blair Sandburg, the murder of Thomas Foster, and the suspected murder of John Pearson - yes, both bodies have now been identified. You have the right to remain silent; anything you say - " He finished reciting the Miranda, then added, "The cadaver dog is going out again tomorrow... and if there are any other bodies there, it will find them." He looked at the two Patrol cops who had remained by the door, alert in case Ackroyd tried to make a run for it. "Take him down to the station and book him. I won't be far behind you."

They hustled the student out, and Jim looked at Edwards. "Well, Chancellor?"

"Who are you?"

"My father is William Ellison; no real reason why you should know him, but young Ackroyd certainly knew his name. My father has financed the mayor's electoral campaigns for the last twenty years - and the mayor would certainly find it easier to get another adviser than another financier. But my father always insisted that my brother and I worked for what we got; a pity Stewart Ackroyd didn't follow the same principle with his son. The only future I see for young Ackroyd is a lengthy spell in Starkville."

* * * * * * * *

As Jim returned to his truck, the phone rang again. "Ellison."

"Jim. I'm home. Joel's with me, and said he'd stay till you got here. How did you get on?"

"Dan got names for the two bodies the dog found - and I'm sorry, Chief, but one was Tom Foster."

"It was a pretty safe bet. I didn't know the man well, but I hate to think of what he must have suffered before he died."

"I'll have to check with Missing Persons for the other one, but I'd guess it was one of his teachers when he was still at school."

"That's probable," Blair agreed.

"Ackroyd's on his way to be booked, so I'll have to go in to the PD before I come home."

"I just hope his father doesn't make too much trouble for you."

"Seriously? I don't think that's likely, Chief."

* * * * * * * *

When Jim finally got home, it was to find Blair and Joel tucking in to a chicken casserole.

"I hope there's some of that left for me," he said.

Blair got up quickly. "Of course there is."

"I'll be five minutes." He headed for the bathroom.

True to his word, five minutes later he rejoined his friends, to find a big plateful of the casserole waiting for him. Blair waited till he was almost finished eating, then said, "How did you get on with Missing Persons?"

"John Pearson was a trainee teacher on work experience at Cascade High when he disappeared three years ago."

Blair closed his eyes for a moment. "So Paul started his killing career when he was... what? seventeen? sixteen?"

"Bruce is taking the dog out again tomorrow; I hope they don't find anyone else."

There was a knock on the door. Jim glanced at the others and went to answer.

He didn't recognize the man standing there.


"Detective Ellison?" There was a slightly tentative note in the voice.


"Is... Is Mr. Sandburg here? I went to the hospital hoping to see him, and they told me he'd been allowed home."

"What do you want with him?"

"I'm Stewart Ackroyd." He held up a hand to stop Jim's instinctive move to close the door. "I'm not a danger to him. Please?"

"Let him in, Jim," Blair said. "I think I'm perfectly safe with you and Joel here."

Jim scowled, but moved aside, and Ackroyd entered. He went straight to Blair. "Thank you. I wouldn't have blamed you if you'd refused to speak to me."

Blair looked at him for a moment. "You're not your son, but... just why do you want to speak to me?"

"I want to apologize for what Paul did." He sounded completely sincere. "If I had paid more attention to him when he was growing up... But I was too intent on my work, left him to his mother. She was the one who - without meaning to - gave him the 'do you know who my father is?' mindset, by telling him I wasn't there because of how important my position was.

"He's my son and I'll provide him with a lawyer, but I will not let him dodge the responsibility for what he did." He was silent for a moment. "I understand he admitted to you that he had caused Mr. Foster's death?"

Blair licked his lips. "What he actually said... 'You'll have a few days to consider that before you die - just as Tom Foster did'. He didn't actually kill Tom - just left him in a position where he couldn't survive, the way he was leaving me. He didn't indicate that he'd caused the death of anyone before that, so the older body... It can only be supposition."

"But it would be a remarkable coincidence if someone else buried a body in the same place that he did."


"How did you escape?"

Blair glanced first at Joel and then at Jim. "I have some very good friends - cops - who were determined to find me. Cops all have snitches who have an almost psychic ability to provide information."

"How one of them got the information that led us to Blair, I don't know and it would be a breach of his privacy to ask," Jim said. "But we owe him a great deal."

"I can see that." Ackroyd turned his attention back to Blair. "Paul still thinks I'll act to prevent you from testifying against him; but I won't. He has to learn that the importance of my work means that I have to be seen to be honest. Anything else throws doubt on the advice I give the mayor. I know many people are cynical about the honesty of politicians, but I believe that we must be honest. I will not use my position to help anyone, even my son, escape justice."

* * * * * * * *

Ackroyd had left. Joel had left.

Jim and Blair settled on the couch in front of the television. They watched a documentary about fishing - or it might be more accurate to say they half watched it. At least half of Jim's mind was occupied with the events of the last four days, and Blair's mind was reaching back several years.

Finally, Blair said, "You know, as an anthropologist I understand the significance of New Year resolutions. You go into a new year, you're turning over a new leaf; you turn your back on the mistakes you made, even though you remember them and hope not to repeat them. You actively plan to improve your life in some way."

"How many people keep the resolutions they make?" Jim asked. "I've never seen the point."

"Neither have I," Blair said. "You can make resolutions to improve your way of life at any time. I've done it once or twice, but never at New Year. This year, though... "

"We're nearly a month past the new year," Jim pointed out.

"Yes, but it's still January. Only just, but it's still January, so this can count as a New Year resolution. My first one ever. I'm tired of being kidnapped, not being able to defend myself. So my resolution is - take self defense lessons. Maybe even a martial arts class like karate. If someone holds me up with a gun, that's one thing, but anyone who just jumps me, grabs me from behind the way Paul Ackroyd did - I want to be able to defend myself. To know how to defend myself."

"Good idea," Jim said. "Okay, and I'll make a resolution too; you don't need to go to classes. I'll teach you, starting tomorrow. Deal?"


Jim dropped his arm around Blair's shoulders and they turned their attention back to the program.


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