A Tale of Two Cats
D.L. Witherspoon

This story is dedicated to Laura for her birthday. Happy Birthday, my

                      A TALE OF TWO CATS
               A Sentinel/Early Edition Crossover
                        D.L. Witherspoon
                        (Posted 03-03-98)

It was the best of times...

Jim Ellison stared longingly at the bed. Just a few feet away was the
solution to the exhaustion suffocating his body, making it feel old aches
and recent pains. He knew if he got eight straight hours, he would
make a complete recovery. His strength would renew itself, his mind
would be capable of lightning-fast thoughts, his body limber, agile, and
ready to face whatever adventures and dangers that lay ahead. Eight
simple, uninterrupted hours of sleep.

It was the worst of times...

"You sure you don't want to go with me this morning, Jim? I know you
may get a little bored while the committee and I are setting up the main
hall but I feel bad leaving you here in the hotel alone. Especially since I
badgered you into coming with me," Blair Sandburg said in one breath
as he checked his backpack, then grabbed a suitbag.

"It's Chicago, Chief. I'm sure I'll find some way to fill my day." Like
sleeping in. Because of his familiarity with South American artifacts,
Blair had been chosen by Ranier University to represent their interests
in a joint exhibit with the University of Chicago. It was a great honor
and he had pleaded with Jim to come with him. Not wanting to see the
light in his friend's eyes dim even a little, the detective had worked
extra hours to solve the cases he had pending so that Captain Simon
Banks couldn't object to him taking a few days off. However, the
overtime and the long flight to Illinois was beginning to catch up with

"Well, if that's the way you want it, Jim. But you'll be at the museum at
6:00, right? And you will be in your tux?"

Jim grimaced, but nodded. The private opening of the newly acquired
collection was a black tie affair and would raise money for both
universities. Blair had gotten Jim a complimentary ticket because there
was no way he would have forked out 500 bucks-- not even for his
best friend. "I'll be there, Chief, monkey suit and all."

Blair knew how much Jim hated dressing up. "Thanks, Jim."

Jim smiled. "You better get going, Chief, before the U of C crew starts
changing your designs."

"They wouldn't dare," Blair declared, thinking of all the hours he'd spent
telecommunicating with the other university. If they thought they were
going to change something now... With a final wave, he hurried out of
the room.

Alone at last. Sleep or a nice hot shower with no need to conserve hot
water for his roommate? No, a nice hot bath. A long soak would feel
so good... the heat melting the knots of strained muscles, the tension
leaching out as the warmth filtered in through his pores... Sounds like
a plan.

To ease Blair's guilt he had gotten up and dressed as if he indeed had
plans for the day. He started to shrug out of the sweater, then
suddenly pictured himself stretched out in a tub of bubbles. Hmm. He
hadn't had a bubble bath since Carolyn had divorced him. At first he
hadn't wanted to be reminded of his failed marriage and then he'd
gotten a roommate and there had barely been enough hot water for
two short showers, much less a bath. But now he was here, alone, with
enough hot water for over two hundred rooms. And he remembered
seeing a shop in the lobby that specialized in made-to-order herbal

Taking his room key and a credit card, Jim headed to the lobby.
Because of a heightened sense of smell, it took him a few minutes to
adjust to the fragrance shop, but by the time the saleslady set him up
with a counter full of samples, he was able to breathe nearly normally.
He was very particular but the saleslady, Karen, was patient and happily
helped him create the perfect scent-- sort of a woodsy, fruity mixture.
When he was satisfied, she went into the back and added it to a bubble
bath base. Jim left with a gift bag containing a designer bottle of bubble
bath and a card with Karen's home phone number.

In addition to a heightened sense of smell, Jim's other four senses were
enhanced as well. According to Blair, who was an anthropology grad
student when he wasn't playing exhibit coordinator, Jim was a
Sentinel-- a person whose senses were genetically enhanced to protect
the "tribe", which they loosely translated to "city" in the modern era.
However, at the moment Jim wasn't worrying about his city of Cascade,
Washington or the more immediate city of Chicago. Instead he was
concentrating on how the hot water would feel against his skin. The
designer scent would waft up to his nose upon the wisps of steam and
all around him he would see the iridescence of the bubbles playing in
the light even as his ears heard the sound of their delicate popping.
Yes. Heaven via white porcelain and hot water.

Smiling in anticipation, he stepped off the elevator and headed for his
room. The smile faded when he found someone knocking on the door.
What now? "Something I can do for you?" he asked politely.

The man turned, maybe just a little to quickly for Jim's liking. This guy
is edgy. But that was the only thing out of the ordinary about the
visitor. He was in his late twenties, early thirties with short hair and the
most innocent looking face Jim had seen in a while. "Are you Blair

Jim laughed despite his wariness. "Of all the things I've been accused of
being, Sandburg ain't one of them." He held out his hand. "I'm Jim
Ellison, a friend of Blair's. He isn't in at the moment, but you can leave a
message with me, Mr.--"

The man stuffed a folded newspaper into the back pocket of his faded
jeans and took the offered hand. "Hobson. Gary Hobson."

Jim felt the younger man's pulse surging through the hand. Something
was definitely making this Hobson nervous. "You're here to see Blair

"Uh... I just wanted to warn him... I mean, tell him... I mean... Never
mind. I'll just have to reach him later," Gary said defeatedly. Damn it.
He had hoped to catch Blair Sandburg before he left for the day. It
would have been one less "errand" he'd have to do later. But there was
no time to wait around or even come up with a reasonable explanation
for this friend whose blue eyes were getting colder by the minute. He
had exactly twenty-one minutes to make it back down the street and
around the corner...

"Actually, I think you'll talk to me now, sport," Jim said as the
stranger's heartbeat increased.

"I'm sorry, Mr... Ellison, was it? I don't have time--"

The door was opened and he was propelled inside before he could finish
the brief apology. "Mr. Hobson, no one tells me he's come to warn my
partner and then just walks away."

"You're a cop," Gary blurted out.

"You've had a lot of experience with us, Mr. Hobson?"

"No. I mean yes. Not how you think though. My bartender is a retired
cop. He was really protective of his partner too."

"Your bartender?"

"Yeah. I sorta own this place called McGinty's-- Look, Mr. Ellison, I really
need to be somewhere in twelve minutes or else--"

"Or else what, Hobson?" Jim demanded.

Gary groaned. He should have known trying to beat the paper at its
own game was going to backfire. "Look, people are going to die. I don't
have time to explain. What if I promise I'll come right back and..." And
what, he asked himself. How could he possibly explain that each
morning he received tomorrow's newspaper and he spent the day
trying to undo as many headlines as possible? It sounded crazy, even
to him. And if he told the cop before him that his friend was scheduled
to become a victim of a bombing at 5:57 that afternoon, he'd be in jail
for uttering a threat.

Gauging Hobson's autonomic responses, Jim concluded the man was
telling, or at least thought he was telling, the truth. Damn it. It wasn't
in a Sentinel's makeup to risk lives. But he wouldn't risk Sandburg's
either. He grabbed his jacket, wallet, keys to a rental car, and took a
longing last glance at the bottle of bubble bath. "You won't have to
come back, sport, 'cause I'm coming with you." Gary opened his mouth
to protest. "If you're serious about saving lives, I suggest we get on
with it."

The two men didn't speak until they turned the corner and Gary went
searching under the el track. Chicago's "subway" was "el"evated above
the city instead of below. "Want to tell me what we're looking for?" Jim

"A bomb."

Jim started adjusting his eyesight. "What kind of bomb?"

"One that goes 'boom'," Gary said in exasperation.

Okay. Let's start with the basics. "Does it have a timer?"

"I don't know. Look, Mr. Ellison--"

"Call me Jim."

"I don't have any details, Jim. I just know there's a bomb around here
somewhere and it's going to explode in," he looked at his watch, "four
minutes and the el that's passing over is going to be blown off the
track and a lot of people are going to die," Gary explained anxiously.

Jim eyed the support struts of the track. From what Gary had
described, the device had to be up near the track and probably had
some kind of pressure trigger. "Did you try to get the train stopped?"

Gary sighed. "I've tried that before. They won't listen."

Jim nodded. If he hadn't had a badge to flash, he too would have had
trouble getting people to listen at times. What was that? He turned his
head back toward where he thought he saw a flicker and focused his
sight. The device was about the size of a TV remote control and was
taped to the top of one of the struts. Although it had been a while
since he had to shimmy up a pole, he found he hadn't lost his touch--
which was good since he could already feel the vibration of the
approaching train. The Army had taught him about pressure triggers so
he knew he had to separate the pressure plate from the explosive
which he guessed was inside the case. But he had nothing with which
to cut the wires. Damn. Where was Sandburg and his Swiss Army knife
when he needed it?

Now even Gary could hear the train and he was yelling for Jim to come
down but Jim didn't listen. Instead he got a firm grasp on the wires and
yanked on the black case. Three things happened simultaneously: the
train passed overhead, electricity crackled through the wires, and the
case pulled away. The electric current heading for the case instead
coursed into Jim's fingertips, causing a mild burn and a distinct tingle.
With a curse, he slid down the pole.

"Jim, you okay?" Gary asked, ignoring the crowd that had gathered
when he started yelling for Jim to come down.

Jim shrugged. "I've had worse burns cooking." He looked around at the
people. "Did someone call the cops?" Three people held up cell phones
in response. "Guess now all we have to do is wait."

Gary shook his head. "Uh, we aren't exactly through," he said
hesitantly, not wanting to alarm their audience.

"More?" Jim whispered. Gary nodded. The detective sat the device down
carefully on the sidewalk. "If there is someone who will make sure this
isn't touched until the police get here, I would appreciate it," he said to
the crowd. An older couple stepped forward and said they could do
that. He warned them not to even approach the small black box
because he had no idea of what type of explosive was inside. Then he
took a card from his wallet and told them to hand it to the cops when
they arrived.

"How much time until the next one, Hobson?" he asked the man who
was once again stuffing the paper into his back pocket.

"Thirty-five minutes, but it's on the other side of town. We need to
catch a cab."

"How about we drive ourselves? I have a rental in the hotel's parking

Gary followed Jim to the car, then stopped. "Thank you for your help

"How much experience do you have defusing bombs, Hobson?"

Gary paled. "None."

"Lucky for you I was in the Army." No use in telling the poor guy he had
already used up all the knowledge he knew. He tossed him the car keys.
"Your city, you drive. What time is the one that's supposed to get


"Sounds like we have a long day ahead of us."

Gary nodded and drove out onto the street. He kept glancing over at
his new "partner" as if waiting for him to speak, but he remained silent.
"Uh, Jim, you don't have any questions?"

Jim had resigned himself to just imagining himself emerged in tub of hot
water and was just gathering up a handful of bubbles to blow into the
air when Gary interrupted him. With a sigh, he left his fantasy. "Only
one: is there a cat involved in this?"

Gary almost ran a red light. "You know about the cat?" He wasn't the
only one? There were others who got tomorrow's paper? He'd never
considered that.

Jim groaned. He knew it. Knew it from the very moment he'd seen Gary
in the hall. It was the reason why he had followed the man to the
street, searched diligently for the bomb, then hadn't been surprised to
find out there were more. "I know about my cat. So what does your
look like?"

Being at a stoplight, Gary used both hands to described the
orange-yellow tabby that appeared at his door each morning at 6:00
with tomorrow's newspaper. "So when I read that one of the victims
was staying in a hotel just around the corner from the first bomb, I
sorta figured I could warn him and still have time to spare."

"But Sandburg had already left and you got stuck with me," Jim
concluded, not revealing any of the shock he felt. Hobson received
tomorrow's newspaper? It was remarkable but could also be dangerous
in the wrong hands. Maybe that was the purpose of the cat, to make
sure the paper got in the right hands. "How many of these bombs are

"Six and that's counting the one we just defused and the one that's
supposed to get your partner. So we only have four more to do and
then we head to the museum."

Only four more? What kind of day did this poor guy normally go
through? "No problem," Jim said, hoping he'd learned enough from his
friend Joel Taggert who had been the captain of the Bomb Squad but
now was a fellow detective.

Gary noticed how calm Jim was and wished he could emulate it. "How
did you do it? How did you go off and leave the paper for a few days? I
mean, I can tell you're a responsible kind of guy. Here you are on
vacation and yet you're helping me and I didn't even have to ask. So
how did you just walk away from the responsibility of the newspaper? I
tried to once. The stress was really getting to me and my friends talked
me into going to a shrink. He didn't believe me about the paper, but I
guess he was used to humoring nuts so he told me to take Sundays
off. I tried, but it didn't work out. What's the secret, Jim?"

Maybe it was time to break it to him. "I never said I got a paper,

The car came to a dead stop. Jim was glad he was wearing a seatbelt.
He was also glad a car wasn't behind them because the insurance on
the rental would have been a bitch to pay. "What do you mean you
don't get a paper! You said--"

"I said I had a cat."

A car beeped behind them and Gary continued driving. "I don't
understand. You didn't say anything or act surprised when I told you.
You didn't even ask to see the paper. You just accepted what I said.
That doesn't make sense," he mused aloud. His passenger remained
silent so he shut up too. Three blocks later, he turned to Jim. "What
does your cat do?"

Jim smiled. The question Hobson should have asked from the
beginning. Sort of obvious he wasn't a cop. Of course if he had been,
he certainly wouldn't have time to run around playing savior to
unsuspecting citizens. Leave it to the felines to pick the right folk for
the job. "Mostly, he's my protector, a spirit guide." Gary looked at him
as if he was insane. "This from a guy who gets tomorrow's newspaper,"
Jim said in disgust.

Gary had the grace to be embarrassed. "You're right, Jim. I have no
business not believing you. Tell me something. Was it this protector
that showed you where the bomb was? It was so small I never would
have seen it." It was funny Jim had. Maybe the man wasn't crazy.

In for a penny, in for a pound. "I have enhanced senses." Jim filled him
in briefly on what a Sentinel was. He figured it was the least he could do
after the poor guy had mistakenly shared his secret life. Besides, what
could Hobson do with the information? Two people with secrets like
theirs certainly couldn't blackmail each other.

Gary's thoughts were far from blackmail. Instead he was trying to figure
out just how many strange things went on in the world that no one
knew about. Tomorrow's newspapers, super senses, what next?
Superman really did exist, tights and all? "I think I'm going to bed
tonight and convince myself today was just a long dream," he said,
figuring that was the only way to deal with the situation.

"Sounds good to me, sport."

And the two reluctant allies, content now that a solution had been
found, went out to save the Windy City.


"Oh, shit."

"What?" Jim asked anxiously. Thanks to his senses and Gary's
newspaper the other bombs had been located quickly and thanks to a
lot of luck, he had managed to defuse them without any major
incidents. The last one had been particularly simple, so they were ahead
of schedule. Since it was only 5:15, they had parked about a block away
from Sandburg's museum in order for Gary to consult his newspaper.
When his friend didn't answer, Jim snatched the paper out of his hand.
"Shit," he agreed as he read the new headline:


                  Five Dead- Including Bomber

Police are still sorting out the facts of the explosion that took the lives of five
people just before a gala opening of a Peruvian exhibit in one of the Windy
City's multitude of museums. Survivors of the blast report that a man entered
the building around 5:20 pm. Gathering together the staff, he proceeded to
brandish a grenade. Apparently he was angry because other bombs he had
planted in various parts of the city had been disabled (see story below). All
attempts to reason with the man failed and at approximately 5:27, he pulled
the pin to the grenade. The four persons closest to him were killed instantly,
including a guest coordinator from Ranier University in Washington. Three
others were seriously injured.

"Damn it, Hobson, why didn't you tell me this could happen!" Jim
shouted, flinging the paper across the car.

"I didn't know, Jim, honestly," Gary said, just as upset. He should have
known it had all gone too well. They had disarmed the other bombs
with something akin to ease, at least that was how it had appeared to
him since the visiting detective had handled all the explosives. Good
thing he was an expert.

"I'm sorry," Jim said, knowing Gary's control over fate was limited to
what the paper wanted him to do. "I don't blame you. It was just the
shock of seeing Blair's death in black and white, you know? It's

"I know," Gary agreed. The death of his best friend Chuck Fishman had
also been an article in the paper one day. Chuck was irritating, loud,
demanding, and at times downright obnoxious, but life wouldn't have
been the same without him. That had been one article he had been
determined to change. "So what do we do now?"

Jim glanced at his watch. "He's already taken the hostages. All we can
do now is prevent him from setting off the grenade."

"And we do that how?"

"You create a diversion and I take him down. But first, we talk to that
security guard in the parking lot."

Gary stared in the direction of the museum. "What guard?" Jim pointed
and Gary still didn't see anyone. Then he remembered; the man beside
him was a Sentinel. Chuck would flip if he ever found out-- but he
wouldn't, at least not from Gary.

The guard was told to call the police and make a report. When she
thought it was some kind of practical joke, Jim pulled his last business
card and handed it to the dark-haired woman. When she saw he was a
policeman, she ran to the nearest phone after telling Jim where the back
entrance to the museum was.

Gary paled when he saw a minivan with the word "McGinty's" painted on
the side. "Oh, God," he wailed.

"Something wrong?" Jim asked quickly.

"That's my van. My partner must be here too."

"Is that a problem? I mean beside the fact there's a bomber inside."

"Oh, it's a problem alright," Gary muttered as he pulled into a parking
space. He looked at Jim and shook his head. "You don't know Chuck."

"Well, you handle him, sport. There's too much riding on this to mess

"Sure, Jim," Gary promised, hoping beyond hope that maybe it wasn't
Chuck. Maybe someone had borrowed the van. He followed Jim into the
building and found out quickly that hope was just a dream.

"'Bout time you showed up, Gar," Chuck complained when he saw his
friend and business partner. "We got this last minute catering gig and
I've had to handle it all by myself."

"Oh, I guess that means I'm nobody," an African-American woman with
long braids said as she maneuvered around the buffet tables that were
being set up, which was remarkable because it was obvious she was
blind. "Ask him what he handled, Gary? I'm the one that set up the
menu and hired the servers and begged the chef to work for us one
more time."

"Thanks, Marissa," Gary said as he tried to follow Jim.

"'Thanks, Marissa'? Where's my thanks, man?" Chuck whined.

"We're running out of time, sport," Jim reminded Gary.

"Later, Chuck. I'm on 'paper' business," he explained. Both Chuck and
Marissa, being his two best friends, knew about the paper. In fact,
Marissa's seeing-eye dog and the cat got along quite well together.

"What business?" Chuck asked as he followed. "And who's this guy?
You picked some stranger off the street to help you instead of asking
me? What kind of friendship is this, Gar?"

"Not now, Chuck!" Gary froze. In front of him was a group of eight
people, all dressed in party clothes except the one in the middle. At one
time they must have all been focused on that guy, not because of his
lack of proper attire but because of the grenade in his hand, but now
they were staring at the arguing duo. Gary groaned. Well, Jim had said
to cause a distraction. "It's always about you, you, you, Chuck!"

"That's because with you, Gary Hobson, it's always... them, them,
them! You never think about yourself, so you never think about me! I
could use your help too, you know!"

Gary saw two things out of the corner of his eye. One, Jim had circled
unnoticed around the crowd and was directly behind the bomber. And
two, Jim wasn't completely unnoticed. One of the hostages, a guy in
glasses with a curly ponytail was carefully keeping track of Jim's
movements without giving him away to the grenade creep. Jim sort of
nodded and Gary went for the coup de gras. "Blow it out your ear,
Fishman! I'm tired of your whining! Go find a life of your own!"

Before Chuck could get over the shock, Jim tackled the bomber.
Startled the man accidently pulled the pin as the grenade sailed into the
air and landed in Chuck's hands. Gary quickly put his hands over his
friend's to make sure the trigger stayed depressed.

"Let go of me!" Chuck protested. "You told me to have a life of my own
and that's what I'm going to do."

"By holding onto a live grenade?"

"A what!" Chuck hadn't realized exactly what he was holding. He had
just automatically caught it. "Well, don't let go, Gar!"

"I won't, Chuck."

The ponytailed man approached. "I think I can help." He replaced the pin
he'd picked up as Jim beat the bomber into unconsciousness and took
the explosive device from them. "That should do it, guys. Great act, by
the way," he called over his shoulder as he went to Jim's side. "Got it
under control, Jim?"

"Sure, Chief." The man at his feet didn't stir. He plucked the grenade
out of Blair's hand and cocked his head to once side as he listened.
"The Bomb Squad and the cops are on their way. This mess should be
cleaned up before your guests arrive."

Blair nodded and folded his arms. "About the guests... You have
noticed you're seriously underdressed?"

Damn, the monkey suit. "But I'm here thirty minutes early. Don't I get
credit for that?"

"You promised, Jim."

"And I kept you and your friends from exploding," Jim added in a
defensive whine.

"As if you've never done that before," Blair said condescendingly. Then
he couldn't keep it up anymore. He squeezed Jim's shoulder. "Man, I
have never been so glad to see you in my life. I mean, in Cascade I
would have been wondering where you were. But I didn't know whether
it would work like this in Chicago."

"We're a team, Chief, in any city."

"Yeah, I know that now. How in the world did you know what was going

Jim looked around and found Gary. "It's a long story, Chief. I'll fill you in
later because Chicago's finest have arrived."

"What does he mean a great act?" Chuck was saying. "You didn't mean
what you said, Gar?"

"I needed to distract the crazy guy, Chuck. You were terrific, by the
way," Gary praised. "I don't know what I would have done without you."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you, Gar. You need me," Chuck said
with supreme confidence.

"Yeah, Chuck, I do." He took his friend's arm and tugged him toward
Jim. "Everything okay, Jim?"

"You tell me." Gary turned quickly, scanned the newspaper, then turned
back and nodded. "Then everything's okay, sport."

Curiosity was eating Blair alive. "Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg," he said, holding
out his hand to Gary.

Gary laughed before he shook it. "Now I understand the joke, Jim. I'm
Gary Hobson, Mr. Sandburg. Nice to finally meet you."

Jim? Sport? Awfully familiar, weren't they? "Call me Blair. Any friend of
Jim's, is a friend of mine." That's your opening, Jim. Explain!

But it would be a while before Blair got his explanation. The police came
and questioned everyone, especially Jim. "We've been trying to catch up
with you all day, Det. Ellison, but all we could find were your cards," Lt.
Englund said. "You want to explain how you trailed this man, disarmed
his bombs, and caught him?"

"No," Jim answered truthfully. He refused to look at Gary, not wanting
to give the police any reason to suspect his part in the case. In earlier
statements he had indicated Hobson was just a concerned citizen who
had acted as his driver around an unfamiliar city.

"The captain, I mean detective, can't give up his source," Blair began.
He looked apologetically at Jim. "Sorry, sir. I know how you dislike being
called captain now that you're no longer with military intelligence. I
mean, uh, you know what I mean, sir."

Jim had to put a glare in his eye just to mask the twinkle. Blair was an
incorrigible, but inventive liar, another one of his assets as a Guide in
the twentieth century. "Keep talking, Sandburg, and you'll know
firsthand what I really dislike."

Lt. Englund understood the younger man's slip. So the detective was
really working undercover for military intelligence. Made sense that he
was on the trail of a bomber. Made so much sense, he wasn't going to
bother to ask for details. As if he would get them anyway. "Uh, we have
several witnesses here who will testify that this man indeed terrorized
them with a grenade. That should put him away for quite sometime. I'm
not sure if we need much more than that. But if we do, we have your
card, cap--, I mean Det. Ellison. We'll get in touch."

"He's a g-man?" Chuck said when the cops had left, taking the bomber
with them. "Does he know about the..." Chuck pointed to the paper in
Gary's back pocket. His friend nodded. "That's not good, Gar."

"I trust Jim, Chuck. He understands."

Chuck walked up to Jim and put his finger in his face. Then he got a
good look at the intense blue eyes that were frosty one minute and
amused the next. The finger went down and he took a few steps back.
"Understand this, Mr. G-man. Gary's my friend. If he disappears in the
middle of the night, I'm going to come looking for him."

Jim smiled. He was a sucker for good friends. "I understand, sir. And I
will take that under advisement." He turned to his own good friend.
"The car is right outside. If I hurry I can go back to the hotel, dress,
and be back here before the requisite late arrivals arrive."

"Or you can go to the car and get your tuxedo out of the trunk," Blair
said with a grin. "I know you, Jim. I knew you would go out somewhere
and get yourself involved in something and you would forget the time.
So I put your tux in the trunk so that when you showed up here to
apologize, you wouldn't have anything to apologize for."

Jim was hurt. "I'm not that irresponsible," he muttered.

Blair lay his hand on his shoulder. "It's not that you're irresponsible.
Jim. You're too responsible. You see trouble, you have to help. That's
why it's my job to take care of all the little things you miss. Now go get
your tux. There are a few rich ladies coming whom I sure you can
dazzle out of a few bucks for the university."

Jim put his hands on his cheeks in mock shame. "I'm not that kind of
guy, Chief."

Blair laughed. "We're talking millions. You can be that kind of a guy for
one night."

Jim shook his head. "Who knew a tux could turn you into a pimp."

"You're wasting time, boy toy. Hop to it," Blair said with a grin. "Now,
let me go greet my legitimate guests."

"Come on, Hobson," Jim said. "You have the car keys and you left your
jacket in the back seat."

"Back in a minute, Chuck."

"No problem, Gar."

Night had fallen and Jim was dazzled by all the city lights. Gary barely
noticed them. Instead he was looking at something in an alley behind
the museum. "Hey, that's that stupid cat! What is he doing out at
night? I better go get him before he gets hurt."

Jim followed Gary's gaze and saw more than just the little tabby the
Chicagoan had described. "It's alright, sport. He's just out with a

Gary frowned, then watched as the cat passed beneath a streetlight
and he saw... he saw... "What the... That's a ..." he looked at Jim in
concern and saw his friend was smiling. "That's your cat?" he asked in

Jim nodded. "You might want to remember that the next time you
complain about buying Meow Mix."

"I will." He looked back toward the felines, but only saw vague shadows.
"Uh, what exactly does he eat?"

"Anything he wants to," Jim said, grinning at Gary's horrified
expression. In the distance, a jaguar growled his approval of the

"Gary?" a soft voice called out.

"Yes, Marissa?"

The woman shrugged in the doorway. Without sight, she used her
senses much like Jim did. "I thought I heard something growl out there.
Be careful."

"Nothing to worry about, Marissa. It was just Jim's stomach. He and I
didn't have time for lunch today."

Marissa smiled and turned back to go inside. "I'll fix you both a plate.
Hurry in before Chuck decides to take a sample."

"I think I really would go crazy if I didn't have Marissa and Chuck to
share this with," Gary explained as they reached the car.

"I understand. Friends make all the difference in the world, Gary. I'm
glad to have one more," Jim said with sincerity.

Gary smiled. "So am I, Jim."



Apparently, it was unanimous.


"Never thought the day would turn out like this," Jim said as he opened
the door to the hotel room.

"Which part didn't you expect, Jim? Meeting a guy who gets tomorrow's
newspaper? Defusing bombs all over Chicago? Saving my ass? Nah.
That one was a given, I suppose," his partner said, mocking himself and
the trouble he always managed to find. "What's this?" he asked, spying
the colorful gift bag. Before Jim could snatch it out of his hand, he
pulled out the bottle of bubble bath. "'Mixed Exclusively for Jim Ellison',"
Blair read.

"Don't," Jim pleaded, too tired to fight the inevitable teasing.

Blair opened the bottle and gave a sniff. In his opinion, Jim could get a
patent for the stuff and make a fortune. "I won't say another word if
you promise to let me use it on occasion." With a sigh of relief, Jim
nodded. "So why don't you get out of your spiffy suit and indulge
yourself, man?" Belatedly he noticed the fine lines around Jim's eyes,
signaling strain. The day must have been stressful. Bombs defusing
wasn't exactly in Jim's field of expertise; however that field seemed to
be expanding on a daily basis.

Jim rolled his shoulders, wincing as bones popped and muscles
creaked."You mean you're through interrogating me about Hobson and
his paper?"

"Nah. But you get time off for good behavior." Jim gave a grateful smile
and disappeared into the bathroom.

Ten minutes later the phone rang. "Put Ellison on."

Blair rolled his eyes. Captain Simon Banks was not a man known for
polite conversation. "He's resting, Simon. You wouldn't believe the day
he's had."

"Yeah, I would, Sandburg. The Chicago police called to thank Cascade
for the loan of our detective. I just wanted to let him know I'm proud of
him. Want to pass that message on for me?"

"Sure, Simon. You want me to have him call you back?"

"Unnecessary. I know he must be wasted. He worked twelve to fifteen
hour days here for the past week so he could go with you and what
happens the first day he's in Chicago? Just let him rest and take care of
him, okay?"

"Always, Simon. See you when we get back." Blair hung up and looked
toward the bathroom in thoughtful amazement. He'd had no idea of
what Jim had done in order not to disappoint him. The detective hadn't
said a word and he'd been so busy e-mailing and faxing suggestions
and ideas to his University of Chicago colleagues, he hadn't noticed
Jim's late hours.

Blair looked at the stack of brochures and guidebooks he'd picked up
for their scheduled tour of Chicago tomorrow. Without any regret, he
tossed them in the trash. When Jim emerged from the bathroom, he
was already in bed with the lights off.

"Something the matter, Chief?"

"Just got tired all of a sudden, Jim. I guess now that the opening's
over, the adrenaline is wearing off." He yawned. "Let's say we sleep in,
then just drift around for the rest of the day doing whatever, if and
when we feel like it. Would you mind?"

Jim tried to keep the relief out of his voice. The long soak had helped a
great deal and taking it easy for a day would complete his recovery.
"Whatever you say, Chief. I'm here with you, remember?" He eased into
the queen-sized bed closest to the door. Even in choosing which bed,
the Sentinel was always in protect-mode.

"Yeah, I remember, Jim. Goodnight, partner."

"Good night, Chief."

"Oh, and Jim, before I forget, I just want you to know... you smell
good, man."

Blair's laugh was abruptly muffled as a pillow sailed accurately through
the dark room and landed on his head with a gentle thud. A stunned
second later, laughter rang out again as both Sentinel and Guide
released their respective tensions of the day and relaxed, secure in each
other's company.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far,
far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.