A Very Unusual Young Man.
Joshua looked around the small office, taking note of the pictures spread around. A smallish blonde woman, one of those that looked helpless and harmless, but who could probably pick you up and beat you senseless if you got her mad, was featured in most of them. Good thing to know. He sat down and waited. His mother and John were touring the new prison and treatment center for young, major felony offenders, learning all about this new place where they could get people sent. And maybe that schmuck Jones would be here soon too and he'd be able to get him for what he'd been doing to his mom. He looked up as the blonde woman in the pictures walked in. "Hey," he said in greeting, waving at her.
She smiled as she sat behind her desk. "Your mother is outside. I thought it best to get to know you personally."
He nodded. "An interview would be appropriate, how else would you know if I'd fit in here or not?" He shifted some, getting more comfortable. "I'm Joshua, son of the Jack of all Trades. I'm sure mom's filled you in on all the pertinent details already."
Dr. Chloris nodded. "Indeed, she has." She clasped her hands on top of his folder. "What do you think I could do for you?" He shrugged. "You don't think I could help?"
"I think you're probably a great shrink because mom recommends you to people, but I really need mom more than I do a shrink. I need a governing influence so I don't turn into my father." He sighed and shifted again. "And mom thinks that being around other kids might be good for me in some way, make me see that kids are cruel, mean, evil little creatures."
The doctor laughed. "Yes, they can be, but they can also give you the sort of support that you need." He looked over at her. "Really. Peer support is a wonderful thing."
"Doctor Chloris, I think we both know that I have controlling tendencies. Not to mention the mind-fucking abilities that seem to be a genetic gift. I don't need or want peer support; in actuality, I hate people, but I'm willing to try this for my mother's peace of mind."
Dr. Chloris nodded. "Good. It's wonderful that you recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, Josh."
"Joshua," he corrected. "I hate that name." He stood up and pulled off his shirt, turning his back toward her. "This is from the last person who called me Josh. He was very sorry when he forgot to strap me down well enough one day." He put back on his shirt as he sat down. "I have innate responses, and if I stay here for the requested two months, then you'd better be aware of that." The doctor nodded, looking eager. "And there won't be any hypnosis. It doesn't work on me, I don't cluck." He relaxed again. "I'm sorry if I'm not what you were expecting, I'm not a Ted Bundy type. I have no feelings of inadequacy. I have no conscience either though, and that's why I'm really here. One day, I probably will end up killing someone to protect my mother, or someone she loves, but that's not yet and I'd like to hold it off as long as possible so she'll continue to like me. I know she could never really like me if I turned into my father."
"We can do that," she agreed. She leaned back in her seat, her hands going to her lap. "I've heard some about what you've went through, your mother was quite thorough when she explained what was going on, and I agree with you both. Not that I can do a lot for you, but maybe the things you can learn here are more about the human side of your being. You might end up leading a group, you might not. You might even kill another student who's pushing your buttons, but through it all, you'd learn some control and make some friends." She smiled. "I have no illusion that I'm going to be curing you. You're already too far gone to be cured, but I can help you find more ways to put off the inevitable."
"That's what I need," he agreed. "So, two months?"
"In two months, we can have most of the trials worked out between us. You might have made a new friend. You also might have jumped one of the guards - no one seems to like him." She shrugged. "I'm sure you're the worst that there is here, even the adults don't get to your level by your age, and most of the ones here acted out of some feeling of inadequacy or rage. I heard you when you said you weren't like that, and it rang true. So can we work on getting you some more control and some friends?"
He nodded. "Sure, we can try. When?"
"How about now?"
"Well, mom did pack a bag for me, but I was hoping for one last night in my place before I had to give it up."
Dr. Chloris pushed a button on her desk and Sam walked in. "He's agreed to stay with us, but he's requested a night before he starts staying here so he can get some things in order."
Sam pushed some of her hair behind her ear. "I can understand that," she agreed, looking down at him. "Will you come back tomorrow? I just got off the phone and we have another case."
Joshua smiled at her. "I'll come back. But the doctor agreed that I could pound anyone who teased me."
Sam patted him on the shoulder. "I wouldn't expect anything less," she told him. "It'd be too much to expect." She looked at the doctor. "I'll have someone escort him back up here."
"Make it around two. His wing won't be finished with the painting crew until end of the official day." She smiled at Joshua. "I think we'll get along just fine. He's very reasonable and he seems to know himself quite well. I think we'll make a decent enough go of it." She looked up at Sam. "Of course, you and your daughter will be allowed to come up and see him, but please give us a week?"
"Of course," Sam agreed, smiling down at her son. He was strangely likeable, much more so than she had ever thought was possible given who his father was. "Joshua?" she asked, getting out of his way. She waved at the doctor as they walked out, waiting until they got outside to ask the important question. "Why tomorrow?" she asked.
He climbed into the back of the car, on the passenger's side. "Because they're getting a lot of kids tomorrow and it'll make it seem like I'm one of the ones that got assigned here. It will solve a lot of dominance problems too." He shrugged. "It made sense to me at the time."
"It does," John agreed, turning to look at him. "Did you need to pick up anything on the way?"
"Nah," Joshua said with a smile. "I'm good on most points, and I'll get the munchies I'll want tonight after you're gone." His mother gave him a look in the rearview mirror before she started the engine. "I promise to be good, mom, but I won't promise to eat slop. Besides, I'll miss my white cheddar cheese popcorn."
Sam shook her head. He was just one of a kind.
Sam sat down in her desk chair, barely able to put down her purse before the door to her office opened and admitted Jim without warning. "What?" she asked tiredly.
"The case just got worse," he told her, putting a file in front of her. "This guy was found with a note on him about being more courteous." He straightened up a little. "I did a cross-check, nothing. Except that Bailey just wrote Mary a note about it being Joshua."
Sam shook her head. "If this was a fresh body, we had him upstate all day," she reminded him. She looked at the picture in the folder. "Isn't this the idiot who cut me off yesterday on the way to dropping Chloe off at school?"
"As far as we can tell from the note, he did cut someone off," Blair agreed from the doorway. He looked at Jim. "Joshua did say something about a Jones guy, repeatedly, and about how he was going to be protecting you for a bit. Chloe just mentioned it. She's in the break room by the way." He disappeared.
Jim shook his head. "The Sandburg hurricane is back," he sighed. He looked down at his boss. "Drugs?"
"Maybe," she said with a smile of her own. Blair could be quite...energetic when he was hunting something. It's what made him such a great researcher, teacher, and friend when you needed something. Any other time though, it could get to be a bit much. This was going to be one of those times. "Can you get him calmed down?"
Jim grimaced. "Get him laid, he'll calm down afterwards." Sam gave him a disbelieving look. "Really. I lived with the Sandburg dating society for three years, Sam, and it kept him calm." He looked behind him at the displeased grunt. "Want money for a motel for a night?" he asked Ray. Blair was really getting on his nerves, and his mother wasn't helping any.
"Funny," Ray said dryly, glaring at Jim. "Don't try ta manipulate us, Jim, or you'll be sorry. You may have been a Ranger, but I was a street kid." He looked at Sam. "I'd like tomorrow night off anyway," he said politely, ignoring Jim's smirk. "My dad's on his way out, I just got the call."
"That's fine. We can probably keep you on backup status," she agreed. She nearly laughed at his grimace. "Or you can have a few days off and be on call."
"I'll take the on-call. Just in case he does somethin' I can't stand." He threw a sketchy salute at her and walked away, muttering ‘freak' under his breath.
Jim glared at Ray's back. "I heard that," he called.
"Jim!" Blair called. "Stop it. Don't pick on Ray." He reappeared off the closed-in porch that used to be the smoking area. "He's had a lot to adjust to, moving away from the only home he's ever known to come out here to this hellhole of excess. Leave him alone." He poked Jim on the chest. "Or I'm telling Naomi to stay for another three months."
Jim shuddered and backed off, Naomi was already annoying him and it had only been two weeks. Then he thought about it. Naomi, in the same place for a few months? "Never happen," he reminded him with a grin.
"It has before," Blair said cheerfully as he walked away. "Hey, Chloe, are we going riding this weekend?" he called as he headed her way.
"Sure." She came out and hugged him. "But for right now, can you take me to dance practice? I'm sure mom's fragged from the roadtrip with the bro." She smiled at Jim. "I could probably use the guard," she suggested, knowing that the last class he had watched over her in had set his teeth on edge and made him vow to never have a daughter who danced.
"Be nice," Sam called. She walked to the door. "I'm sure Blair can handle it just fine. I doubt this person's going to be coming after you." She smiled as her daughter walked out behind Blair, and had to come back for her dance bag. "Have fun," she called after them, waving. She smiled at Jim. "I wouldn't do that to you," she told him, patting him on the arm. "Oh, Angel said something about the art show tonight. She thinks that it may be a dress-up event. Go home an hour early or so and change." She walked back into her office and shut the door. Now she knew why Bailey had often locked his when she had worked with him in Atlanta. She sat down to look at the budget. She hated these things.
Jim knocked on Sam and Angel's door with a few minutes to spare, and when she answered it his breath caught. She was stunning. A pale bronze, clingy dress showed off both her exquisite skin tone and her perfect figure. "Dinner?" he asked, proud when his voice didn't squeak. "Where did you want to go?"
"You didn't make reservations?" she asked as she shut and checked the door. She followed him to his truck, allowing herself to be helped in. She waited until he had walked around and gotten in himself.
"I did," he admitted. "But it's a little Chinese place I found last week. I didn't know if you'd like it or not." He cleared his throat and turned to look at her. "You're very overdressed for that place."
She chuckled. "I think it will be fine. I clean if I spill things on myself." She patted him on the arm. "Let's go, or we'll be late." Jim nodded and started the truck, backing down the driveway.
Angel sighed mentally. It must have been a *long* time since Jim had been on a real date. Well, she'd just have to show him the ropes again. She was a good enough teacher.
Sam looked up as Angel walked in, around midnight, still smiling and chuckling. "Good date?" she asked as she put her work aside. She still had to work on the budget.
"Very good, but that boy needs *help*," she said as she sat on the end of the bed. "He was stunned because I was in a dress." Her smile got naughtier. "I still say that Jim is shy."
"He is, somewhat," Sam agreed. "He's also been hurt a few times and he's been in the shallow end of the dating pool for a while now. He was never a power dater back in Cascade from what I hear. Blair did enough of that for the both of them." She grimaced. "Which he still hasn't picked back up yet."
"Maybe Blair's ready for some stability outside of him and Jim, whatever they have." She rolled her eyes. "He called during dinner to check on Blair and Ray."
"He would. Blair's very important to him," Sam said, being careful not to spill about Jim's specialness. Chloe knew, but Angel didn't. Her best friend looked skeptical. "You'll have to ask Jim," she told her. "I can't divulge that sort of information without his permission."
Angel's face tightened up. "He's gay, isn't he?"
Sam laughed. "No, not at all. He's very straight. He's just...different and it's made dating difficult for him. Like I said, you'd have to ask him." She smiled again. "So, how was it besides lengthy?"
"Oh, it was long," Angel corrected. "It was more awkward. Sophomore year of high school awkward. You'd think that Jim hadn't done this in years." Her roommate gave her a look. "Which I guess I was right about. He loosened up during supper and the gallery show was wonderful. Jim wanted to buy one of the paintings but he said he'd have to hide it from Blair when he was on a cleaning kick."
Sam nodded. "Probably. Not that he has many of them." She reached down and patted Angel's arm. "I'm sure the next one will be better."
"See, that's the thing," Angel told her, laying backwards. "He still thinks it wasn't a *date*, that it was friends escorting each other to a show." She looked towards the doorway. "He's one clueless man, Sam, and I'm not so sure I can get through to him. He was telling me about escorting Maria to a Mexican festival next month, and Monica had some sort of family thing where she needed a man beside her so people would quit bothering her about all work and no play." She looked at her friend again. "Totally clueless."
"But not hopeless. If you can get him to see this as a serious thing, he's very straight and narrow about dating and ethics. He won't cheat on you. He won't lie to you."
"He'll get dragged away by you for a case every now and then," Angel added with a smile.
"True," Sam agreed, smiling again. "But it'll still be a good relationship, as good of one as he can make it. You two are cute together." Angel groaned. "Maybe it's worth it."
"Oh, it's worth it," Angel admitted. "You know that tingle that tells you something's either really *right* or so *wrong* that you can't help but shudder?" Sam nodded. "I get that from him. Especially when he kissed me on the cheek." She looked up at the light pink ceiling. "I think we'd be great together, if he can ever admit that we need each other."
"Just talk with the guy," Sam advised. "He's a grown man and can handle the truth of a relationship." She shrugged when Angel looked at her again. "You've got to talk to him, not me. He should be hearing this."
"I know," Angel sighed as she forced herself to stand up. "I'll talk with him before we go out next weekend. Maybe he'll break those other dates, or pass them off to Blair." She headed for her own room to shower and get ready for bed.
Sam sighed and leaned back. If only her own desires were as simply solved. She was starting to fall for Blair, and she knew it was wrong on so many levels.
Angel walked into the unit, carrying Sam's lunch, and smiled at the women standing around gossiping. "What's going on?" she asked, handing over the bag to Sam.
"We were just wondering, is Jim *really* as clueless as he seems to be?" Monica DuChampes, the backup Medical Examiner asked. "He actually seemed to have no clue that we were asking him out on real dates."
Angel sighed. "Yeah, he was like that with me too. I think we should sit him down and explain it to him."
John cleared his throat from his desk and leaned back so he could look into the breakroom at them. "You do and he'll run," he warned. "He's going to hide so far down a hole not even Blair will be able to get him free."
Mary MacCairn smiled sweetly at him. "Butt out." He went back to his house plans. The young profiler turned back to the women. "So how do we manage this? I mean, if we all like him...."
Angel waved a hand. "Not an issue. If one of you snags him, I'll step back." The other women assented and Sam took the opportunity to get back to work, the budget still wasn't working right.
"But what about him?" Maria Rasto asked, she was their computer person and had the most to lose if she had to transfer because of a bad relationship. There wasn't much call for her speciality in the FBI, especially not where it was still dominated by white males. "Will he run if we try to snare him?"
"Yes," Angel told her. "He will if he senses the trap." She held out a hand. "Can we do this subtly and without cattiness?" Everyone shook her hand. "Good. Now then, I have him tomorrow night at seven for a movie."
Monica pulled out her nifty little organizer. "I've got him Saturday for that reunion, just to make sure my mother shuts up about my boyfriendlless state." She rolled her eyes. "You don't know what it's like when all your sisters are married and you're not."
Grace walked in, smiling at the younger women. "At least your mother doesn't consider what you do to be fake medicine and refuses to talk to you because your husband divorced you," she noted lightly. The other women looked at her with sympathy. "Trust me, it can get worse." She looked around. "What's the discussion topic, since I know it's not the case."
"Jim," Maria said honestly.
Grace nodded wisely. "Be very careful while hunting that wabbit," she advised in her best Elmer Fudd, "for he is unknowingly fast and very media shy. He'll run before you can even can even get him in your sights." She poured herself some coffee. "Anyone mind if I bring the two devils in?" Monica shook her head. "Good. The nanny just threw up on little George." She walked away, heading to tell Sam.
"Be very, very quiet, we are hunting Jims," Maria said in a better Elmer Fudd. Then she laughed. The girls all cracked up and went back to their desks, planning on how to snare the wily wabbit.
Jim looked up as Sam walked up to him, giving her a sheepish look. "I'm really sorry, Sam," he sighed. "The truck broke down and I had to have it towed." He handed over the Blair, who was taking digital pictures of something that interested him off to the side. "Here's your anthropologist, just like you ordered."
Sam continued to frown as she led Blair away. She then had to watch as he ran away to throw up. It was not starting off as the best of all days. First had been the call to get down here at five am. Then they had given her the wrong directions. After that, she had to wait for most of her team. Ray had been there nearly an hour before Jim and Blair had gotten out of a cab. Now this. She glared back at Jim again, just for good measure. "Sandburg," she called. "Come on."
Blair sipped some of his water and spit it on the same spot he had thrown up on. "Coming," he called, grabbing the camera he had dropped and taking it to go film the site. He had the really good camera at home so he could clean the lense. Now if only he was sure he had put it back together correctly. He nodded at Ray to use the backup digital camera, and got a nod in return. Oh, man. This was not good. He completed his round of the body and got out of the way of Jim with his trusty video camera. "Did you get the outer wall?" he asked. "There were a lot of markings out there that didn't look like tagging."
"I did that while you were being sick," Jim told him, moving him out of the way with a nudge. "Go check and see if you have images." He waited until Blair was gone to shake his head. All this and Sam was having PMS? It wasn't going to be a good day.
"JIM!" Sam yelled, coming out of her office. "Why did the bill for your new tires end up on my desk?"
"Because you said you'd pay for them," John reminded her. "He had all four of them pop while chasing a suspect." Sam glared at him and he backed off. "Sorry. Lay it on his desk and I'll tell him. He's at lunch."
"He's at *lunch*?" she asked in disbelief. "Why is he at *lunch*?"
"Because he cleared it with you yesterday," John said carefully. "Something about Naomi leaving and they both needed to go see her off?"
Sam sighed. "Fine." She handed over the offending document. "Give this to him and slap him on the back of the head for it." She headed back into her office and slammed the door.
John carefully set the paper on Jim's desk. The guy could deal with her himself, he wasn't going there.
Jim winced as something fell in Sam's office. "Can I help?" he called as he walked that way. Sam shrieked. "I guess not." He sat back down again, very quickly, before she could come out and somehow blame him for Blair's shelves.
Sam came out a minute later, her hair already pushed back. "Where's Sandburg?" she asked quietly. "Those nails he got just broke."
"He's at the hardware store. I can have him bring real ones," Jim offered. Sam nodded and headed to get herself some coffee, and a broom. One of her picture frames had just broken. She was going to get Blair.
Jim winced as Sam's yelling increased. He really didn't want to be there. Women in this sort of mood scared him. At least it wasn't aimed at him this time. He had gotten it six different times so far and he was only halfway through the day. He looked over at John, who shook his head, then at Blair, who sighed and got up to see if he could calm the savage beast. Or the budget, one of the two. Jim didn't move. He was sure that Bailey, who was listening to the other end of that diatribe, hadn't moved either. When Blair didn't come back out and the yelling decreased in volume and length of continual swearing, he carefully stood up.
"I'd go with you, but I'm not that brave," John told him. "It's been nice knowing you."
Jim patted him on the shoulder as he walked past the older man. "Sam?" he asked, leaning in the door. "Would you like me to go pick up Chloe and maybe disappear from your sight?" he asked cautiously.
"That's not funny, Jim," Blair told him, frowning at him.
Jim stepped in and closed the door. "Look, obviously I'm irritating you today for whatever reason. With me out of the way, she could concentrate on all that stuff. And I'd be willing to go pick up Chloe and keep her out of trouble too. That way you wouldn't have to yell at her either."
Sam picked up a pencil to play with. "Fine. Remember she's grounded though."
"Yes, ma'am," Jim agreed quickly. "I'll take her to my house and we'll stay there until you call for her. If you need her to, she could even stay over. That way you'd get some rap-free sleep."
Sam smiled, her first one all day. "Thank you, Jim. Now go away before I find something else that I can lay on you." She glanced at Blair and the big man was gone.
"You really were unfair to him," Blair calmly chastised. "It's not his fault that Bailey managed to find you more money that you have to spend in two weeks or lose it permanently." He smiled at her. "But we could start by buying or fixing the digital I took home. Cleaning the lense didn't work and the part I forgot to put back in was probably very expensive."
Sam shook her head. "I need to allocate this to manpower or I'll have this sort of problem again next year."
He nodded. "All right, then give some of us overtime. We still have to catch the creep that's stalking and killing your annoyances." He glanced at the door. "You don't think...."
Sam shook her head quickly. "He wouldn't dare come after Jim or Chloe. If this person is close enough to know when I'm annoyed, he knows better than to hurt Chloe." She sipped some of her cold coffee. "I think we need a break."
"I think you need a vacation," Blair countered. "But you can't fit that into the budget either."
She snorted. "True." She flipped the pages again, trying to find a place to stick three million dollars without it appearing bad to some government oversight accountant.
Joshua sat up. The news had just suddenly gotten very interesting.
"And down the interstate, we see a car chase. Oh my," the announcer said cheerfully. "This time it appears to be a criminal chasing a cop. Or should I say agent?"
He listened closely, staring intently at the closeup shots of the inside of the car. "That idiot," he sighed. "Gonna have to do something about him." He stood up as the doctor walked in. "Doctor Chloris, here, have my seat and watch the car chase." He stole her badge but she caught him.
"Joshua, you don't need that," she chastised.
"Yes, I do. That's my sister," he told her. He smiled. "I promise to be good."
"By the time you get down there, it will all be over anyway," she reminded him, putting her badge into her hip pocket. "Now sit down and watch it with me, unless you want to call your mother and check on her."
"That's a really good idea," he said, walking over to one of the staff phones. She frowned at him. "I don't have my card on me," he told her, dialing the cellphone number. "John, it's Joshua. Did you know that Jim was in a car chase with Chloe? No!" He pulled the phone away from his ear. "No, he's the one being chased," he explained patiently. "Sure, put her on. Hi, mom. Just saw it on the news. Some guy's chasing Jim and Chloe and trying to kill them. Yeah, I think it was that Jones asshole."
"Language!" Dr. Chloris exclaimed.
"Sorry." He rolled his eyes. "No, interstate somewhere. They didn't say which one." He looked back at the tv. "It looks like they might be out by Ventura, but I can't be sure. No, sign. Hollywood exit." He smiled. "Okay. I'll be here," he sighed and hung up. "Thanks. She's been immersed in the budget and didn't know." He sat down to watch it too, mentally vowing to get that idiot back for what he was doing to his sister.
John jumped up and waved a hand, bringing everyone closer. "What do you mean Jim's in a car chase with Chloe?" Sam went a little pale. "Oh, let me give you to her." He handed the phone off. "Loving son," he told her.
Sam put the phone against her ear, John had an awful sounding phone. "What?" She smiled. "Really. Do you know where?" She nodded and wrote something down, then crossed it out and wrote something else. "Do you think it's him?" She smiled and hung up. "The asshole, um, person chasing Jim and Chloe is the one who's been taking out my annoyances." She went a little pale again. "They're on the interstate. It's on the news. Maria, communications. John, get a chopper. Blair, get the biggest gun you can find." She walked out, going to commandeer the chopper herself.
Blair looked around. "Maria, we'll be on ear mics. John, back Sam up, you know that equipment guy hates her with a passion." He pulled Jim's spare gun and clips out of his desk and put them on. "Let's go."
"Me too?" Mary asked.
"The more, the better to restrain her with," he quipped, turning to smile at her as he walked backwards by a few steps. She went to grab her gun and ran to catch up.
"I don't care! That's my person out there being shot at!" Sam screamed. "Now get me a pilot or else!"
John sighed and picked up the phone, dialing the head of the building's usual units. "It's John. We need a chopper now. No, that's Jim and Sam's daughter." He smiled and handed over the phone. "Director Michals."
The garage supervisor swallowed and listened. "Yes, sir," he said finally, slowly hanging it up. "Pilot's napping in the back room." Blair headed that way. "His bird seats six." He pointed at the only one sitting on the tarmac. "I hope your daughter's okay, Mrs. Waters." He shuffled away before anyone higher up could chew him a new one.
Sam walked that way, sure Blair was handling the pilot.
Blair kicked the bed and the pilot rolled out of it. "Come on, man. Dr. Water's daughter is involved in the latest high speed chase and you just got appointed to fly us."
The pilot stood up slowly. "Is that so?" he smirked. "On whose orders?"
"Mine." He pulled the gun out some, just enough to be a threat. "Now. Before we have to get Michals down here personally or I call for my boss."
"Little fag," the pilot sneered.
"Little fag with a gun," Blair corrected. "One he's had to use before on assholes like you." The pilot looked at him, looking stunned. "Yeah, so move now or else. You're already top on my shit list for last week in the bar." He shoved the man, making him walk faster. "We're here," he announced before Sam could look at them. "He's mostly cooperative."
"Hot headed little fag boy here thinks he's so great," he muttered.
John stopped him. "He is. And he's got one hell of a group backing him up. Everyone from all the coeds at UCLA, because they *all* like him, to everyone in this building but your little group. Who do you think's going to win?" He let him go. "Now let's go," he said calmly. "Before we have to clean up two people from the highway." He climbed in next to Blair. "You threaten him?" he whispered in his ear.
Blair smiled at him, giving him an innocent look, one he nearly had patented. "Nope, not a bit. I kicked his bed to get him up and listened to his gay-panic come out. He's afraid I'll tell people I saw him at a gay club last week trying to hit on the lesbians."
"Blair." Sam's frown said it all.
"What?" he asked in that same innocent tone. "I didn't do anything wrong." He smiled. "But I think he's got the point now. I doubt we'll be having any more problems out of the motor pool." He smiled at John. "What did you say to him?"
"Just that I'd make sure that you kept all the coeds at UCLA safely away from him," John told him, putting on his headphones as the rotors started. "I think you could do that easily."
"Oh, yeah, just a few signs posted in various places, telling about his diseases." Blair shrugged. "I saw one like that the other day. It came down quickly, but it was looked at by a bunch of people. Apparently, people in the clinic have been putting them up for seriously ill people."
Sam shook her head. She couldn't say anything, yet. "Just don't get caught. If you do, I'll have to put you on suspension for harassment."
"Like he hasn't been harassing me," Blair snorted, putting on his own headphones. "Trust me, I've had enough. I filed a grievance yesterday." There was some quiet snarling from the front. "What was that?" he called. There was silence from the pilot. He looked at Sam, who shook her head. "Any news on where we're headed?" he asked.
John tapped his left earphone. "Just turned down toward the Valley."
"Thank you, sir," the pilot called back. "The Valley it is. If you'll keep me informed, I'll make in-flight corrections." His microphone clicked off.
"Do we know it's him?" Mary asked once Sam had her headphones on.
"Who else would be shooting at Ellison?" John said.
Blair snickered. "Lots of people, the same ones that like to shoot at me. But I'd guess it was probably him. She's been annoyed at Chloe for the last day and Jim's been her target all day." He looked at John. "Doesn't that mean the guy's in the building with us?"
"Yes," John said as they took off. "Maria, link me to the news station so we can get to the scene faster," he ordered, holding his left earphone. He listened. "Yes, this is he. Thank you. No, that's one of our agents and our boss' daughter. Yes, we need coordinates. We're on our way there now. Yes, by helicopter. Really? Great, thank you." He pushed on the other side. "Pilot, incoming transmission. We're linking you through to the other chopper's pilot. He'll give you updates personally," he called.
"Thank you, sir," the pilot called back. "Switching to the second band, tower," he called, then there was more silence.
Blair put a hand on Sam's back as she looked down at her daughter. "It could have been much worse," he reminded her. "Jim's a professional at running into things and crashing his trucks." She looked at him. "At least we have the guy and all they've got is bruises." He looked down at the copy of Jim's chart. "Lots of bruises." He looked down at Chloe, who was starting to wake up. "I'll leave you alone. Jim should be doing the same thing and I bet he'd like to not feel the broken foot." He patted her and walked away, heading back to Jim's room down the hall.
Sam leaned down and kissed her daughter's forehead. "Chloe, wake up," she called.
"Mommy?" she asked, blinking up at her. "Did you get him?" She nodded, her lips pursed. "Am I in trouble?" She shook her head. "Jim really couldn't have done anything. The guy pulled out behind us after we left the school. He started shooting as soon as we got away from there." She yawned. "Why do I sound funny?"
"Because they had to give you some drugs to rest," Sam said, pulling over a chair to sit next to the bed. "You'll be fine. Angel's waiting on us at home and you'll get there tomorrow." She picked up her daughter's hand. "I was so scared," she admitted. "I didn't want these people to come after you."
Chloe laughed, and grabbed her ribs. "Mom, even if I were at school a million states away, they'd still come after me. Just because of what you used to do. People want to test themselves against you. I know that and I've accepted it. Doesn't mean I don't want to beat the guy up majorly though." She yawned. "I think I'll go back to sleep now." She closed her eyes and drifted off.
Sam sat there, watching over her daughter, and figured out what to do with the rest of the budget. Jim needed a new truck now, and there were insurance premiums coming up. Maybe she could put the remaining money in there.
Blair leaned down and flipped Jim on the forehead. "If you'd quit pretending, I'd help you dial it down," he told his sentinel.
"Hurts," Jim mumbled, opening his eyes. "Dials don't work."
"They will for me," Blair said confidently, sitting on the side of the bed, Jim's hand in his. "Feel my hand, Jim." Jim nodded, closing his eyes. "Now, look at your sensory dials. Where is your touch? Lower it until the pain is minimal and my hand feels ghostly." He squeezed the hand gently.
Jim sighed in relief as his dials worked, lowering his threshold for pain. "Thanks, Blair," he said, closing his eyes again. "I think I'll sleep."
Blair laughed. "Dream of insurance payments, man. Little tiny ones. Because they are a thing of the past."
Jim laughed gently, not wanting to upset his body and have it rear up and hurt him some more.
Joshua stood beside the door, waiting. That guy was coming up here and they were going to be having a few words of discussion.
"He's going to be in the adult wing," Dr. Chloris called from her office.
Joshua leaned in. "Yay," he told her. He walked away, making it less obvious.
Dr. Chloris put a note on the Josh Jones file to restrict access from other patients, especially that of Joshua Waters. She didn't want to see the bloodshed if those two got together.
When the guard went to wake up Agent Jones in the morning, he found the guy in very bad shape. He called in for some help and started to search the scene. He wasn't rated to do medical stuff, but he could search very well. As soon as someone else walked into the cell, he followed a few drops of blood out of the room and to a storage closet. Inside was a set of ‘clean scrubs', the type you used in a sterile environment. The guard flagged down Dr. Chloris and showed her, she frowned at it. "Do you think it was the kid?"
"No," Joshua called from the door joining the two units. "I can't get out." The guard used the remote on his belt to open it. "Unfortunately, it wasn't me. I was locked in my cell all night," the boy reminded him. "You had someone watching me all night, the whole unit was in lock-down."
The guard looked at the doctor, and nodded. "It's true, we did. No one got out of there."
Joshua craned his neck as the body was taken out. "That would have taken more strength than I have anyway," he announced. Dr. Chloris looked him over. "I'm a computer geek, I can't lift over fifty pounds and most of those injuries would have had to have been given at around ninety psi. I can't do that. Most people can't do that." He looked at the guard, who was looking disgusted. "Just ask him. That facial injury would have had to have been either a kick from a jack boot, or ...." He trailed off. "‘Scuse me for a few. I think I need to go research something. I'm going to be online, Doc." He walked away, lost in his thoughts.
"What was that about?" the guard asked.
Dr. Chloris shrugged. "I don't know. He's only been here for the last few days. I can't get into his mind yet." She looked over at the man being taken away. "I really don't want to report this to his mother though."
"I'll do it," floated down the hallway. "John's word was ‘shit, and did you do it, kid.'" His head popped out of his room. "They're accepting that I didn't for the moment. Could you please back me up on this?"
"Of course," the doctor said, walking down there. There wasn't anything she could really do for the agent, but for her prize student she would do a lot. Including get him out of trouble. She nudged him out of his chair and sat down. "John?" she asked.
"Yeah, doc. Long time no hear. It wasn't him?"
"We had his whole unit in lockdown last night because we knew he'd try something. The guards agree, he was in here all night." She cleared her throat. Vocal and picture chatting over the ‘net wasn't one of her favorite things, she much preferred phone calls to face-to-face conversation. "The thing is, Joshua was right. The injuries would have had to have been given by someone much larger. That one kick to the jaw he noticed would have taken at least a running kick, and there's no room for it in these cells."
"This is Sam," Sam's voice said over the pictureless line. Apparently the camera was down on - their end again. "How badly injured was he?"
"He's bad, mom. Like I would have done to him bad. Only worse because I couldn't do that to him. Ya know?"
"Yes, I know."
"He's right, Sam, he didn't do it." She glanced at the boy. "Now the question becomes what do we do with him? I can prove he didn't do it, but someone's going to come up here and bitch him out anyway."
"We'll protect him from that," Sam told her. "Don't worry, Joshua. We've already had Director Michals up here once this morning about you." The picture came on and she was smiling. "How are you?"
"Fine. The other kids are kinda scared of me, but they all seem to look up to me. It's a very strange thing, mom." He grinned. "Fun, but strange. And there's this kid that plays the tuba every night. I've *got* to deal with that situation."
"Buy him some headphones," John suggested. "Let him make himself some tapes and do it that way. That way everyone gets some sleep, including him." He frowned at the boy. "Blair just came in, did you want to talk to him?"
"No, I'll email him later. I want to talk to him privately," Joshua said, still thinking. "It was really strange. His cell door was locked. No alarms went off. Even the unit door was on an alarm last night. We *all* would have heard it if someone had broken in." He shrugged. "Later." He signed off. "It's an interesting case. None of us can bypass the security systems yet." He moved her out of his seat and sat down, writing the promised email to Blair.
The doctor watched him type quickly, shaking her head at the content of the message. "I doubt he came back from the dead." She patted him on the head and left him alone.
Joshua pushed the button to close his door, but not lock it. "He promised me he would if I needed him to," he muttered. "And you never know about my father."
Blair looked up as his email bleeped at him, smiling as he opened the message. The contents and questions it contained confused him. "Why is Joshua asking about coming back from the dead?" he asked John, turning to look at him.
John looked thoughtful. "Someone beat up the guy who chased Jim and Chloe yesterday," he noted. "Really badly beaten up. The kid said some of the injuries would have taken someone Jim's size to inflict. But no alarms went off, and it would have because of the way the cells are set up."
"Well, he did say that his father promised to come back and hurt him if he ever hurt Sam," Blair sighed. He wrote a message back saying he'd go look through his books at the house and send him a real answer later. "There, that's out of the way." He turned to look at John. "You don't think," he said, noticing how the older man was still sitting still.
"I've seen stranger things than people coming back from the dead to enact revenge," John said quietly. "Small paranormal activity wouldn't spook me that much."
"Pun intended?" Jim asked as he slowly walked over to them, he was being stubborn and had refused to stay in bed alone.
"Definitely," John agreed with a smile. "I ran into the X-files guys. They weren't as big of flakes as everyone says, but that one guy was creepy." He shrugged off his thoughts. "So, who's up for dinner and whose pop is it?"
"Yours and I could eat," Blair agreed. "Thai?"
"American," Jim said firmly. "I'm tired of eating food I can't pronounce."
"Pizza it is," John said, stopping the baby argument before it could really crawl away with them. "Meat or veggies?"
"Both," Blair said. "Mushrooms, peppers, and sausage."
"I'm not eating fungus," Jim said with a frown. "And add onions."
"Only if you're taking something for your gas before you go to bed," Blair scoffed. "The apartment still smells like onions from the last pizza."
"Double cheese it is," John told them, breaking into this argument too. How those two didn't kill each other, he didn't know. "Any particular place?"
"Larry's," the two men said together.
"Good." John walked into the break room to get the menu, calling their order in, with enough for Sam if she was going to stay late.
Sam looked up as John tapped on her door, waving him in. "What's going on?" she asked.
"I think it's time for me to leave for a while," he said quietly. "My place is nearly built and I'd like to be up there for a while. May I have a leave of absence, but be on call to you if you need me?"
"Of course. I already have the paperwork filled out." She hunted through her drawers, finally coming up with the required folder. "Here. Sign this and put dates if you can." She handed it over.
John read it with a smile, signing his name. "I'll be back in a few months," he told her, leaving the office. He stopped long enough to pick his favorite stuff off his desk, then left for home. His new compound, far away from everybody and well protected in case someone tried to attack him. Just what every paranoid person wanted. He nearly skipped out the door, he was so happy.
Blair and Ray looked out at John's back, then shook their heads and got back to their paperwork.
John looked around his compound. His place. The place every paranoid person should have. Ten acres of wonderful land, mined with cameras and emergency procedures. He headed into the house, smiling when everything looked just like he had planned it. "This is nice," he told himself, dropping his bags in the foyer. To his right was the staircase, to his left was an old- fashioned living room, one sort of like his mother had always wanted. He wandered back to the kitchen, nodding at the supplies that had been laid in for him. Then he headed up the back stairs, smiling at the rooms. Even one that was sealed with surgical-grade plastic, just in case he needed a room to do surgery in.
Everything was perfect. And it was all his. He went to get his bags and unpack them. It shouldn't take him that long.
John looked around the silent room, shaking his head at the absolute silence. Not even a satellite radio system helped the silence. He decided to do a virtual tour of the lands and walked down to the room where the security system and monitors were set up. He flipped them all on, watching as they tracked a herd of deer, and ... a van? There was a dull colored van on the edge of his fence, parked there. No lights. No sounds coming from it. He checked everything else then the silence decided him. He could go check them out, it'd give him something to do. He grabbed a flashlight from the front closet and walked out into the surprisingly warm November night. It hadn't really snowed yet, and the locals in town were worried about the tourists not showing up. He guessed that people came to Montana see clean snow instead of what they saw back in New York or Baltimore. He walked out of his gate and headed around the fence.
The van, a dull gray color, sat motionless in the night air. No signs of life. Did someone park and hike out into his woods to hunt? No, it wasn't hunting season. John pulled out his badge. "Whoever you are, you're trespassing," he muttered, grabbing the handle for the back door.
A furry shape lunged at him, brought up short by chains.
"Holy mother of God!" John yelled as he backed away from the beast. "What the hell are you!" The snarling beast laid back down, head on his paws, sniffing at the human. "What are you?" he asked again, moving closer. He got another growl but the creature didn't move. "You look like a movie extra," he told the beast. He backed away, and closed the door, determined to get to the bottom of this. He hated mysteries, especially the strange ones. He'd watch and come back in the morning. If he could get to sleep.
John tapped on the driver's window, waking the young man sitting in it. "Who are you and why are you out here?" he demanded.
"Sorry, man. I was just resting. Long night, you know." He jingled his keys. "I'll leave."
"No, you're going to explain," John told him, opening the door and dragging him out to look down at him. Little guy, not over five-five, red hair. Badly in need of a shower and some food. "What's your name, kid?"
"Oz. You really should have followed the signs," he noted calmly. "You could have been killed."
"Not meant to be." Oz pointed at the sign in the front window. ‘Beware the hairy monster, it bites,' the sign read. Another below it warned that the animal was vicious and that it bites. "You should have followed the directions."
"I'm a Fed now, I don't follow orders," John snorted. He looked the boy over. "So, what was that?" The kid didn't say anything. "You can tell me or I can have you arrested for trespassing."
"I offered to move," Oz reminded him. "That means you can't." He crossed his arms, looking him over. "Why do you want to know? This isn't any of your business."
"Because it is now, kid."
"I have a name."
"And it would be?"
"Oh, Oz. Great name."
"Thanks. I'm a guitarist too," Oz said with a faint smirk. Baiting this guy was fun. Almost as fun as doing it to X.... No, he wasn't going to think about that. Home was far away and he couldn't go back yet.
John looked around him, then looked the boy over. "You want to come in and use a shower?" Oz shook his head. "No? You're morally opposed to them or something?"
"Or something," Oz agreed. He glanced around. "Listen, this doesn't concern you and you shouldn't be involved in it. Just forget about it." He tried to open the van's door, but the older man held it shut. "I'm leaving," Oz told him. "No matter what head games you want to play."
"Kid, I just moved in here and it's really quiet. You can borrow the shower for a night. I won't mind." Oz shook his head. "I won't touch you or anything."
Oz snorted. "Not the issue. I could take you out." He scratched his greasy hair. "I could use a shower, but I have to leave before nightfall."
"Hey, you're free to leave once you eat something so I know you're not a danger to other drivers if you pass out," John agreed quickly. His compound was really quiet. "Come on." He headed back to the house, taking the shortcut. He heard the van start and smiled. Some company wouldn't be so bad.
John looked up as Oz walked down the stairs. "Going already?" He and the kid had talked all afternoon and it had been nice to hear someone else who understood.
"I told you, I have to leave before nightfall," Oz reminded him. He looked at him. "I'll be back tomorrow. Listen to the signs." He walked outside and broke into a jog.
"Not that way," John called after him. "The gate's to the left!" At that moment, the sun started to sink and the boy fell to his knees. "Oh, shit!" he said, heading after him to help him. It could be his fault. Maybe something in the water. Oz backed off, waving him away. "Let me help."
"Get away from me!" Oz yelled, turning around to run into the woods.
John started to follow him, but the kid bent over again, panting, sounding like he was in pain. "Come on, kid, let me help."
"No!" Oz screamed. "Get back into the house before I hurt you!"
"Hurt me?" John asked, looking confused. He stood there and watched in amazement as Oz started to change, started to sprout fur. When the beast from last night was standing there, they stared at each other. Then the beast took off into the woods. "Wow. Guess I know what that was about." He shrugged and went inside, going to make a sign for Oz's van. And to steal the distributor cap. The kid would talk to him.
Oz tapped politely on the door. He held out his hand as soon as it was opened. "Distributor cap?" he asked.
"Tell me what that was and you can have it. After breakfast," John decided, getting out of the way. Oz glared at him. "Are you dangerous right now?" Oz shook his head. "Then don't worry about it. Besides, I've seen pretty bizarre things, that wasn't that bad. Not as bad as the aliens were." Oz stared at him. "What? We have an X-files section and I met those guys long before I became a Fed. Now come eat, the eggs are getting cold." He walked back to the dining room, sitting down in his seat. The distributor cap was beside Oz's plate and the plate was already filled. "Eat, then talk," he ordered.
"Thanks," Oz said, staring at him. This guy was really odd. "You really want to know?"
"I figure it's best that I know. It keeps me out of trouble. Eat," John reminded.
Oz dug into the pile of eggs and toast. "Thanks. Granola can only be stood for so long."
It wasn't long before they were done and John was finishing up a last cup of coffee. "So, let me see if I have it. You're a werewolf, last night would have been your last night for the month, and you're scared I'm going to kill you and take something from you?" he guessed.
"Well, you don't look like a hunter, but there's plenty of people that'd like to kill me," Oz agreed. "How did you know?"
"I looked it up," John said dryly. He leaned forward. "Kid, I'm good at this stuff. I was a detective."
"Congrats, you solved another one."
John laughed. "Thanks. You want to stay for a few weeks? There's things that can still be done around here and it's really quiet."
"You worked in cities, didn't you?" Oz asked. John nodded. "Thought so. The woods have noises, they're just different ones." He leaned back in his chair. "You're not going to turn me in?"
"Not with who some of my contacts are." He smiled. "I might pass on the information if it's warranted and necessary, but not otherwise. I'm good at keeping secrets."
"Cool." Oz looked around. "What did you need?"
"Wood chopped first. I wanted to stockpile enough in case of a bad storm and the electricity, the generator, and the backup generator were all knocked out."
Oz nodded. "Okay. I can do that. Chainsaw or axe?" John looked confused. "That's how you cut down trees, man. You *cut* them down. Even fallen trees need to be cut up."
Oz chuckled. "Don't worry, I'll lead you through this part. I've thought about getting myself one of these now for a few years." He stood up. "Come on, we should go shopping now. The sooner we get it, the sooner they can get the tractor here."
"To move the wood, to move the hay, and to move larger necessary things around?"
"Four wheeler," John told him.
"With a tractor, you could have gotten all that in one." He shrugged. "But okay. Four wheeler it is. They can have small carts hooked to them." He looked down at himself, most notably his ripped clothes. "Let me grab stuff from the van."
"I brought it up last night. You're in the room you used yesterday." He watched the young man walk away with a smile. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
TO BE CONTINUED...