The Awakening – Part Five

PART FIVE

“None of the parents remember anyone new in their lives or in the peripheral of their lives during the disappearance of their child. They haven’t received anything that might be considered communication from the killer in the years since either.” Blair had two dry erase markers in hand and was moving around in front of a blank white board. There were three other boards in the room and they were full of notes on the individual victims. “Chad?”

“We have one hundred registered Sentinels during the ten year period you wanted us to focus on. Most of them were young and single when they came online but a lot of the records aren’t digital. We have an archivist at the Center going over old records and to search for records not online. We expanded the search to city records—searching for men who came online who worked for the city as we know most Sentinels are drawn to service jobs even before they come online.”

“You’ll cross reference those with divorce proceedings when you get all you need from the archivist?”

“Yes. We’re also looking at high profile custody disputes between Sentinels and mundanes. They would have made the news back then if he fought for his child—and we know that Sentinels are often very reluctant to let go of their offspring.” Daniel Jamieson looked up from his laptop. “We… we heard about Detective Marshall.”

Blair grimaced. “Really? What did you hear?”

“That he made a heavy handed pass at you and you made him cry like a girl,” Chad grinned. “Is that true?”

“He threatened my Sentinel; that’s why he was on the floor crying like a girl.” Blair focused on the empty board. “The UNSUB has been tested by the Center. If his father was online… they would have tested him for the gene and discovered that he was dormant. There would be records of it.”

“Getting records about dormant Sentinels will be tricky,” Thomas Howard sat back in his chair. “They aren’t going to give those up without a really good reason. They aren’t all that convinced that we are dealing with a dormant Sentinel at all, you know that.”

Blair tossed one of his markers. “Then perhaps they can explain how the killer is finding and killing latent Guides. He’s operating on pure instinct and mundanes aren’t capable of that kind of perception.”

“What if he isn’t dormant?” Chad asked quietly. “What if he’s… Blair, what if he’s online?”

He’d considered the possibility but he hadn’t wanted to say it aloud. “Then we have a serious problem and the entire community will suffer for it once the public finds out. Sentinels are protected and honored because the public believes them incapable of causing such harm. If they were faced with an online Sentinel who was raping and killing children… I don’t know what the fallout would be.” He cleared his throat. “But I don’t think it’s possible. He’s killing for at least five years and I’ve never met a Sentinel that could go five years without bonding with a Guide.”

“Did you wake your Sentinel?”

Blair hummed a little under his breath. It was a tricky question and one that he had to answer carefully. “I’d had a difficult case and a child was killed during the apprehension of the subject. I came home—very upset and hurt. Jim said he woke from a dead sleep and knew that he had to go to New York. So, he got on a plane and came to New York. By the time he reached the Sentinel-Guide Center he was in a very fragile state and had zoned on the emotional pain I was unwittingly projecting on him.”

“You pulled him from across the country.”

“I was awake anyway.” Jim leaned in the doorway. “What’s a plane ride after that?”

Blair chuckled as Jim came in and shut the door. “News?”

“The Chief wants us to accept the help of the local FBI. They are sending in a team to join our task force as consultants only. He says we’ll need it for when this case breaks in the press.”

“Agreed,” Blair murmured as the rest of the people in the room muttered complaints. “An FBI presence will make the mundanes in the city feel safer and the safer they feel the easier it will be to work and control the public response. We’ll eventually need their help because the Sentinel-Guide Center isn’t going to hold off forever on this issue. They’ll need to warn parents of latent Guides to watch their children very carefully.”

“He could be long gone.”

“I’ve a research team at Quantico searching for cases in other parts of the country,” Blair murmured. “A Sentinel-Guide pair that I’ve known for a few years. They’ll forward any results to me discreetly and then we’ll know for sure.”

“You think he’s still here?”

Blair turned to his Sentinel. “You’re a hunter.”

“Yes.”

“He has an established hunting ground—he’s stalked, hunted, and killed here undisturbed for at least five years. What are the reasons he would abandon a fertile and safe hunting ground?”

Jim sat down at the table and watched Blair go to the white board. “Other hunters can spoil things—if an area sees too much action the animal life gets spooked and the land can suffer.” He watched Blair write ‘active police presence’ on the board. “If the spot becomes well known; the popularity can lower the quality of game.” He winced as Blair wrote ‘press coverage’ and then ‘over protective parents’. “Weather, some grounds are easier to get to during the summer than they are during the winter.”

“And the legal ability to hunt game changes throughout the year,” Blair murmured. “All of the children were taken, held hostage, and then killed during the summer months. Taken in June and then killed in August.”

“So what’s special about summer for him?” Jim asked.

“Well, children are on the streets more,” Thomas said without looking up from his computer. “They are out of school. Parents have them under foot a lot at home so they get sent to summer camps, day camps, educational stuff during the day or the park.”

Blair turned back to the board. “So what you’re saying is that in the summer—it’s easier to mix among children in public.”

“Yeah.” Thomas sat back in his chair. “My sister made me take her kid to the zoo last summer. There must have been three hundred kids running around that place. But there wasn’t a special police presence or even more security guards like you would expect to see say on a field trip from school or something. Organizations make an effort to watch for predators when they organize children for school events but when a bunch of children just show up at a place and no one person is responsible for all of them…”

“No one would pay attention if a child molester was sitting on a bench watching three hundred children run around crazy in a zoo,” Blair muttered. “Jesus. We need to ask the parents if they took their children anywhere special shortly before they were abducted. Somewhere there were a lot of children.”

“Talk it out for me, Chief.” Jim watched his Guide settle himself. “Put yourself in his place and walk the hunt for me.”

Blair turned and faced him. “He’d pick a place where he could blend in… he’s an average guy so he isn’t going to stick out. If he is a dormant Sentinel he isn’t putting out any of the vibes you guys do—so no one is going to take notice of him. Latent Guides can sense Sentinels no matter their status—dormant, latent, or online. They’ll trust him, making it easy for him to cull them from the herd. She’ll go with him without protest, without a single question because her instincts tell her she can trust him. When she does feel the wrong in him—it will be too late. Too late to protest, too late to scream for help.” He looked at the boards. “All very public abductions. He isn’t afraid they’ll protest or refuse to go with him. They’ll be willing, docile, and maybe even excited to be with him until things get mean.” Blair scribbled on the board as he spoke.

“Excited,” Jim repeated with a frown.

“On an instinctive level these children are Guides. They all have the same empty place… that an adult Guide has. It’s just not pronounced because they aren’t online. In fact, they might not even notice it until they are exposed to a Sentinel in need. He will call to their instincts because he is hurt and damaged. They’ll want to help him and be validated and yes—excited that he sought them out.” Blair frowned as he said it, clearly disturbed the picture he was painting.

“A honey trap.”

“So to speak, yes. A damaged or fragile Sentinel is probably the hardest thing on Earth for a Guide to resist. It is in our basic nature to heal and nurture. These children have all of those same imperatives even in their latent state.”

“I was latent,” Chad said. “I was latent until Daniel walked into the Sentinel-Guide Center to register. I was working in their IT department and the moment he entered the building… I sort of… just flipped on.”

“It’s rare but it happens.” Blair tilted his head. “I bet that was an exciting day at the Center. I’ve never been present for an event like that.”

“People were a little freaked out,” Daniel admitted. “Especially when they tried to separate us and I completely lost it.”

“Do you think even in his dormant state that he is searching for a Guide?”

Blair paused and considered the question. It was the first time that Sentinel Markus Jergens had spoken since they’d all entered the conference room. “No. I don’t think he’s searching for his Guide. I think if he were searching for his Guide that he would release the children unharmed when he couldn’t bond with them.” Blair grimaced. “Christ. Just Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Yeah.” Markus agreed. “Will you tell us what Marshall said to you?”

Blair flushed but glanced only briefly at Jim who nodded before he spoke. “A few weeks ago, when I first met him he asked me out. I told him no and that I was newly bonded. He told me he knew that I was a Guide and knew that I had bonded. He said he liked to fuck Guides because the sex was better than it was with normal people.” He ignored the muttered cursing from the two Sentinels in the room that were not his own. “I told him he would have to ask my Sentinel for permission to see me socially.” Chad snorted. “And he left me alone. This morning, he cornered me outside of a restroom on the third floor in a small hallway leading to the stairs and told me that he’d decided I was going to be his new fuck toy. I declined that honor and he told me that if I didn’t play along he’d make things difficult for me and my Sentinel.”

“Then you…”

“Shoved my fist in his chest and jerked out his heart—at least I did that in his head and he cried and screamed on the floor in front of me until he couldn’t take any more. I released his mind and then told him if he ever threatened another Guide I would burn him out and I would shoot him in the head if he ever threatened Jim again.”

Daniel’s mouth dropped open and he turned to Chad. “Can you do that?”

“The pain thing?” Chad shook his head. “That’s… no… that’s a shaman thing. I can infiltrate someone’s mind and make them relive things they’d rather not which is an effective tool but not nearly as cool as making someone think their heart has been ripped out of their chest.”

“The good news is that Marshall has no idea that it’s not a skill that all Guides have.” Blair leaned on the table briefly. “I think he’ll discover that getting sex from Guides might not be worth the risk in the future.”

“If he tried it on a Guide of your status, he had to have been successful in the past,” Thomas murmured. “He was confident that he could get you to do what he wanted by threatening you.”

“Yes, he was.” Blair went back to the white board and uncapped his marker. “A different sort of predator wouldn’t you say, Thomas? Short on patience, into instant gratification, brazen enough to corner me with my Sentinel in the same building, verbally threatening but careful physically.”

“Hurting a Guide physically could get him in a lot of trouble. Attempting to manipulate one or threatening one verbally doesn’t really get him into any legal trouble as long as he doesn’t cross the line into menacing or stalking.” Thomas inclined his head. “Was he aroused?”

Blair snorted. “Yes, as unimpressive as the evidence was.”

Thomas laughed. “Really?”

“We were in the same classes at the academy. Including self defense.” Blair said as he drew a line down the center of the board and started making a new list. “If he’s more than four inches erect I’ll eat my new laptop.”


Chad spit coffee across the table. “Jesus Blair!”

Jim just laughed and reached out for a stack of napkins. “You should keep your Guide at home until he’s house broken, Jamieson.”

Chad blushed as the rest laughed. “All of you suck.” He looked toward the board. “Blair, what are you writing now?”

Blair paused. “Well, it’s hard to explain but when I build a profile I try to use all of my academic training without letting my empathic impressions of the crimes alter my perceptions. Once I’ve done that—I create an empathic profile based on the impressions I ignored earlier. Then I compare them.”

“Do they normally match up?”

“Yes, and often they contain different information. This is for our eyes only. We won’t be sharing this with the profiler they send in from the FBI.”

“Why?” Jim asked.

Blair shrugged. “First and foremost, I’d like independent verification that I’m on the right track from an empirical evidence point of view. Secondly, it’s professional courtesy to let someone do the job they were sent in for. If we don’t feel their profile fits the case as well as it should we will go from there.”

“Chief?”

Blair sighed. “I think the Center encouraged the Chief of Police to request an FBI profiler because they don’t like the direction of our investigation one bit and don’t want to admit that a dormant Sentinel is responsible for this. They don’t know how to spin it so they want me to be wrong.”

“And often have you been wrong in the past, Blair?” Chad asked.

“As a profiler, I had a ninety-five percent solve rate. To be honest, it would be higher but in the beginning I had problems getting local law enforcement to listen to me and take me seriously. The cases that weren’t solved with my help were eventually solved sometime years later—and my conclusions were accurate.”

“So your profiles… you’ve never been wrong.”

“No.” Blair met his Sentinel’s gaze without hesitating. “Just between us, I’ve never been wrong. I’ve had to deal with a lot of crap from others because of it—and often times it was chalked up to my empathic abilities as if all the years I spent training and studying were for nothing.”

“Empathy will only get you so far.”

“Right.” Blair sighed and turned back to the board. “It’s September.” Everyone in the room paused and turned to look at him. “If this pattern held for this year—there was a little girl that died in this area in August. Have there been any high profile kidnappings in Oregon or Washington?”

“No, there was a teenager abducted about ten months ago but she eventually got free on her own and came home. A neighbor was arrested for that.” Jim leaned forward. “Anything in the records search?”

“No, nothing that fits the profile.” Blair frowned. “Which is… we should check for attempted abductions or reports of stalking in regards to children from public places starting in May.”

– – – – –

“Special Agent Thomas Donaldson and Special Agent Jeanne Monroe.” Simon motioned them into the room. “Detective Brian Rafe, Detective Henri Brown, Sentinel Detective Daniel Jamieson, Guide Chad Moore, Sentinel Detective Markus Jergens, Guide Thomas Howard, and Sentinel Detective James Ellison and his Guide, Dr. Blair Sandburg.”

“Thank you for letting us join you.” Jeanne Monroe was the friendly of the two and she offered her hand to Brown and Rafe without hesitation and then held her hands out in formal greeting to Blair. “Alpha Guide Sandburg. I seek permission to work with you and your Sentinel.”

Blair took her hands. “Guide Monroe. Permission granted. Welcome to Cascade.” He smiled then. “I’m a little stunned to meet you. I assumed we would be getting a mundane profiler.”

“No one notified me you were a Guide, Agent Monroe.” Simon frowned at her.

“No, sir, the Director of the FBI specifically assigned me to liaison with you and the Bureau regarding this matter due to the sensitive nature of the case, the victims themselves, and of course the fact that you are here. I’m not sure why they didn’t pass the information about my status along. But considering the last several months, the last thing the Bureau wants to do is to piss off the Alpha Sentinel Prime of the Pacific Northwest, by disrespecting Dr. Sandburg again.” She greeted the other two Guides carefully and respectfully and then took a step back. She looked at each Sentinel in turn but did not attempt touch them. “Sirs.”

Simon was frowning a little. “I feel like I just entered into the twilight zone.”

Thomas Donaldson looked over the group. “An unbonded Guide is prohibited from touching a bonded Sentinel, Captain Banks, unless in cases of medical emergency or peril of some kind. It’s an extremely offensive thing to do. So, we’re here for politics, right?”

“Right.” Simon patted him. “Sucks, I know. We saved you room at the table.”

Jim waited until everyone was seated and then focused on Monroe. “You’ve reviewed the case files?”

“Yes.”

“Are you prepared to present a profile?”

Jeanne paused and then nodded. She pulled a laptop from her bag and settled it on the table in front of her but did not open it. “We’re dealing with a single killer. The UNSUB is a white male in his mid-thirties. He has a good job, doesn’t stick out in a crowd, and is capable of both finding and luring away latent Guides. Since none of the children taken were registered as sensitives or as Guides with the Center… all of which is public record, the only logical conclusion is that the UNSUB is a latent or dormant Sentinel. Considering the pathology of his crimes, I believe him to be a dormant Sentinel. He suffered mental abuse but probably not physical abuse as a child. I don’t believe he was sexually abused himself but considers the innate sexuality of a Guide to be a corruption and corruption he must get rid of.”

She grabbed a bottle of water from the center of the table and opened it as she gathered her thoughts. “His father was a Sentinel and likely lost custody and visitation rights after he bonded. Not uncommon for the time period. Since the UNSUB has demonstrated a working knowledge of police jurisdiction and evidence collection we have to assume that his custodial parent was or still is a cop and that he himself has some law enforcement background.”

“You think his mother was a cop.” Blair sat back and then nodded. “Yes, okay. What does that say about her?”

“That she was tough and very capable of taking care of herself.” Jeanne shrugged when all the men in the room looked her way. “I’m sorry but being a cop thirty years ago—a female cop would have been a nightmare. The brotherhood angle would have been so…” She waved a hand in disgust. “I can’t imagine it, to be honest. It would have been horrific.” She opened her laptop and powered it up. “Real believer in equal rights, probably married to avoid the dyke label, kid for the same reason, she would have worked in patrol for a long time before she got the chance to move up in the world because women didn’t get a lot of opportunities like that no matter what Cagney and Lacey had to say on the subject.”

“The kid would have had it rough,” Blair said. He stood and left the table in favor of his board. “She would have had him watched while she was at work and he wouldn’t have had access to his father—also probably a cop. Considering her career choice, she would have married within the blue to create a bond of sorts with her peers.”

“She would have remarried as quickly as possible to minimize the damage done by her husband coming online as a Sentinel and then taking a Guide into their home.” Jeanne offered without looking up from her laptop. “Step-father was probably a cop, too. A real hard ass, I would say—someone who would have made him hate his father and his father’s Guide.”

“Yeah.” Blair turned and frowned. “What is the percentage on female Guides, Monroe?”

“Less than ten percent today and only four percent of registered Guides were female between the years of 1970 and 1990.” She tucked a curl behind her ear. “The fact is that female Guides were discouraged from registering by the societal disapproval of sexual bonding. We still are.”

“Why did you register?” Jim asked.

Jeanne flushed under the Sentinel’s scrutiny but didn’t look away. “Because I started having nightmares about my Sentinel dying because I didn’t register. That was fifteen months ago. Most believe that when a Guide has nightmares about death—especially the death of their own Sentinel that their Sentinel must be ready to come online. After the first nightmare I took myself to the nearest Sentinel-Guide Center and registered to make sure… to make sure he or she wasn’t already online and in need of me.”

Jim turned and looked at his own Guide. Blair just raised one eyebrow in answer and Jim frowned. “Seriously?”

“Guides are sensitive to such things even if no one wants to talk about it.”

– – – – –

“You think he killed again this year.”

“Or he still has her,” Blair murmured. “What if something changed—something in the past that prevented him from keeping his victim is no longer a problem?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. Who wouldn’t report their child missing? Who wouldn’t report it?” He sat up even as he said it scrambled for his glasses. “Jesus, fuck. We need to go.”

“Blair?” Jim reached out and stilled his Guide with one hand. “Take a deep breath and tell me what epic thing you just realized.”

Blair turned in the bed and focused on Jim completely and forced himself to take a few deep breaths as instructed. “Foster care. A foster parent might be unwilling to report a missing child if they are doing it for money or if they are afraid they’ll get in trouble.”

“Seriously?” Jim demanded.

“Seriously. I was in foster care a few times as a kid. My mom wasn’t a bad parent but she was a sincerely irresponsible one. The last foster care situation in I was in… she came and took me without permission. The social services for the city of Orlando didn’t realize I was missing for two years and we only found out because my face ended up on a milk carton. Naomi freaked the hell out and I spent two years in Peru with her at a retreat until I was fifteen. At fifteen she sent me to college at Rainier here in Cascade and made Eli Stoddard my legal guardian who contacted the state of Florida and got everything settled.”

“So your mom is… huh… still wanted in Florida for Custodial Interference?”

Blair sighed. “Well, I would never testify against my mother and the state of Florida knows it. I told them the truth when they asked—as far as I was concerned; my mother rescued me from an overcrowded home where I was lucky to get one meal a day.”

“So you think, somewhere in this city—there is a foster child missing and he or she wasn’t reported missing.”

“Yes.”

It made him sick to think about it. Jim hadn’t had the best childhood but he’d never had to worry about not being fed or being safe. His father, such as he was, had provided him a secure home and a decent chance at life because of it. “We can’t do anything until the morning. You’ll need to build a victim profile so we can hit social services with the problem and hopefully they can help us identify the child.”

Blair let himself be pulled back into the bed with a frown and relaxed when his Sentinel wrapped around him. “This is what I wanted that night, you know.”

“What night, Chief?”

“The night I woke you and bum rushed you on to a plane to New York.” Blair laughed softly when Jim did. “I wanted someone to hold me. I was so upset, so lonely, and the emptiness was almost overwhelming.”

“You mentioned that before. An empty place.” Jim pulled him closer. “Is it still empty?”

“No,” Blair whispered. “It was a Jim-shaped place and you filled it perfectly.”

– – – – –

Jim came into the Major Crimes office pulling off his coat and lugging a back pack and Blair’s computer case. He felt something like a pack mule but that was okay—because even with the horrible set of circumstances in front of him and the cases that they were working his world felt new and amazing. Best of all, the office was now a Carolyn-free zone. It was the stuff of heaven. Blair came in behind him with coffee—they’d brought their own blend from home and installed it in the break room. No one had complained.

“Hey, you must be the exchange officer.” Blair waved at the attractive woman sitting in Carolyn’s old desk. “I’m Blair Sandburg and this is my Sentinel, Detective James Ellison.” He sat the coffee down and offered his hand.

“Inspector Megan Connor.” Megan took the hand he offered. “It’s a pleasure; I haven’t met many Sentinel-Guide pairs since I came over.” She took the hand Jim offered as well. “Nor have I met many I have to look up to.”

Jim laughed. “Welcome to Major Crimes, Inspector. Have you met your new partner yet?”

“Yeah, mate, he lost the coin toss and had to run out for donuts.”

“No.” Blair pointed at his Sentinel. “Don’t even think about it. Be content with the half pound of bacon I let you eat this morning.”

“Turkey bacon,” Jim muttered. “It can’t even count.”

“Oh, it counts. It all counts,” Blair assured. “We need to get over to social services, so let’s brief the others on the idea and then get a move on.”

An hour later, they were standing in front of a group of people all of whom looked on edge and generally pissed off. Blair wondered how anyone could work in social services for any length of time without losing their ever loving minds. He really had no clue how they did it but what he had already learned was that the city had cut their budget twice in the past four years; they were drastically under staffed, and under paid.

“Good morning, my name is Dr. Blair Sandburg and this is my partner, Detective James Ellison. I’d like to thank you all for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to attend this meeting. What we need from you is your attention, an open mind, and complete honesty. I may have to ask some very difficult questions of you.” He glanced over their faces and then looked at Jim who appeared a little bored and ready to leave—just the look they’d agreed on.

“I’m looking for a child. He or she is very special. When you first met this child it was easy to fall a little bit in love. She was easy to laugh, made you smile, and the entire time you were interviewing her, your workload felt manageable and doable. She made you feel like everything was going to be okay despite how upset she must have been to be in the situation that brought her to this office. She is between the ages of four and seven years old. She was easy to place in a foster care situation because she is an attractive, well mannered child who seems very eager to please.”

He glanced around the room. He had their attention and one of them he was certain was starting to panic a little. He felt the edge of it but it was indistinct and a little hysterical. “Her foster parents reported that she was a dream to have in their home. She gets along well with other children, extremely so. She’s outgoing, upbeat, and makes everyone around her happy just by being in the room with her.” People started to shift in their seats. “And you haven’t seen her personally since June of this year. Either you haven’t been to her foster home since that time period or she always seems to be out with someone when you drop by.”

Jim moved suddenly and walked to stand in front of a man in his mid-forties. “Sir, what’s your name?”

“Kevin Willis.” He rubbed a hand down his face. “Her name is Jessica. Jessica Martins and I haven’t seen her since the school year ended. Her foster parents report positively on her but in the three times I’ve been to the house since the end of school—she’s been away. First she was at swimming lessons, and then she was staying with a friend over night, and then the last time she was at the movies with her old foster siblings. Always an excuse. They are a good family; one of the best in the system. Always willing to take someone in at the last minute.”

“We need a private room for the rest of this conversation.” Blair murmured to the director of social services.

– – – –

“Her parents were killed in an auto accident late last year. Neither of them had any family to speak of and the one relative we did find refused to take her because… because she said she wouldn’t have I quote ‘that filthy child in my house’.” Kevin frowned. “At the time I didn’t understand but after the first home visit, it became clear to me that Jessica wasn’t like other children.”

“She was a Guide.”

“Yes, I don’t know if she was online and that isn’t something we’re allowed to ask. If they come to us and ask to be taken to the Sentinel-Guide Center we arrange it but we aren’t allowed to approach them and suggest they register. We are in a position of power and that would be a breach of ethics. Her Aunt didn’t want her because she had some ridiculous prejudice against Guides.” Kevin shook his head. “She’s a charming child. When you meet her; you’ll understand.”

“If you’re ready, Mr. Willis, we’d like to go meet her now.”

He nodded and looked at Jim. “You’re a Sentinel.”

“Yes.”

“If she’s in trouble—you’ll be able to help her then?”

“That’s why we’re here.”

– – – – –

The woman that answered the door looked like she’d seen better days and Blair could hear several screaming children deeper in the house. He touched his Sentinel and Jim only nodded.

“Ms. Daily, we are here to see Jessica.”

Her eyes clouded and she looked at Willis for some kind of reassurance but didn’t find it. “She’s not here. Our oldest took several of the little ones to the park.”

It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t the complete truth either. Blair took a deep breath. “She hasn’t been here since June. You let her go to the park with the other children and she never came home. Isn’t that right, Ms. Daily?”

She paled and her fingers tightened on the door. “No, that’s not… just no.”

“We’re going to have to come in,” Willis said. “Call your oldest and have her come home. I’ll be doing a head count and I will be interviewing all of the children.”

Jim put his hand on the older man. “Mr. Willis, this is a criminal matter. While I will let you sit with Ms. Daily and her husband during questioning, I will be conducting the interviews.”

“Of course, Detective Ellison.”

– – – – –

“Jessie was a great kid. I’d never been tempted to adopt one of the children that we fostered until her. I always saw our home as a stopping place on the way to permanent homes. I wanted to provide them with a safe, creative place to be until they were placed with permanent families.”

“Tell us what happened, Ms. Daily.”

“My oldest child, Dana she likes to read in the park. She takes the children with her and they play on the swings. She’s very responsible and keeps track of them. I never worry…” She took a deep breath. “I never used to worry about them.”

“The date?”

“June 15th.” She rubbed her face with shaking hands. “Dana ran home and said that Jessie was gone that she’d… just disappeared. We searched the park for hours and hours.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“We’d already had a complaint.” Jean Daily shook her head. “We had a hard case a few months before and the kid had hated us on sight. He caused so much trouble that a complaint was filed against us. Another problem so soon after that, they would have taken all of my children away or we could have faced a fine.” She bit down on her lip. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t risk that.”

Jim wanted to lash out but the woman was a walking pile of grief and it wouldn’t do him any good.

“You knew she was a Guide?” Blair asked.

“Yes.” Jean nodded. “It would be pretty hard not to notice actually—she came online two months after she came to live with us. My husband didn’t like it but he had a hard time resisting her little whims and her beautiful smiles. It was hard to deny her anything but she wasn’t cruel or manipulative. Just a happy and bright child who loves life. I felt safe when I was with her.” She looked up. “Like I do when you’re in the room. You’re a Guide?”

“Yes.” Blair took a deep breath. “Why didn’t you register her with the Sentinel-Guide Center?”

“We asked her if she wanted that but never tried to force it on her. I knew that it had to be her choice and her choice alone or we could face charges. I read online about what can happen if a parent forces or coerces a Guide or Sentinel into registering. It’s a free will process. I understood.”

“Her answer?”

“She said she wasn’t ready for a Sentinel and she would wait.” Jean bit down on her lip. “I tried to tell her that she wouldn’t meet her Sentinel until she was an adult that it would be okay if she registered earlier but she wouldn’t talk about it after that. I didn’t pursue it but I did buy books from the Sentinel-Guide Center to read in case she had questions later. I bought her DVDs about being a Guide and she learned to meditate with them. I could tell she enjoyed that.”

– – – – –

Blair held it together until they reached the bullpen. He tossed his backpack into his chair. “Jesus fucking Christ! She left an online Guide in the hands of a fucking sociopath because she was afraid she’d get fined or written up by Social Services?”

Jim watched his Guide process the rage that was burning through him. “Blair.”

“You don’t understand,” Blair finally said. “She’s online, Jim.”

“Do you think that’s why he hasn’t killed her?”

“Yes, that and the fact that no one is looking for her. He feels safe because there hasn’t been any press coverage. If her face were plastered all over the evening news he would kill her because the risk of keeping her would be too great. What if somebody came to the door and saw her by accident? He’s smart enough to limit his risks.” Blair rubbed his face with both hands. “She has a natural shield, all Guides do but she’s untrained and if she really is online she’s acting like a psychic sponge.”

“Explain,” Simon said entering the conversation that had the entire bullpen riveted.

“You drop a dry sponge into a bucket of water and it soaks up every bit of water it can,” Blair explained his voice subdued. “Imagine that her mind is that sponge and his damaged, malignant psyche is the water. She sees everything he is and has no refuge from it. All of his perversions, his hatred, and his crimes are hers to bear. Within the first week she was so damaged that recovery was impossible. Even if we found her then… it would have been too late. If we are able to take her back alive—she live the rest of her life in an institution.”

Jim watched his Guide for a long minute and then turned to Simon. “I want the foster parents charged with criminal negligence and accessory to felony kidnapping for not reporting the child abduction.”

“No.” Blair shook his head. “Not until we have recovered her.” He raised his head. “We need to keep this quiet. It’s been so long that the public isn’t going to be much of a help and if we put her face on the news he’ll kill her and dump the body to protect himself. We need to put a gag order on Social Services, too.”

– – – – –

The Director of the Sentinel Guide Center of Seattle was one of those ultra skinny women and Blair was sort of freaked out by her. He’d seen more attractive skeletons. She was a bonded Guide herself and her Sentinel was in her shadow throughout most of the meeting. The Sentinel-Guide Council for the Pacific Northwest was housed in the Seattle Center which was a point of pride for Guide Marie Edwards.

“Did you believe this woman about the child’s online status?”

“Yes.”

“Then we should hold a press conference. The kidnapping of an online Guide, registered or not is a federal crime and it…”

“No.” Blair interrupted. “If we put her face on the news he’ll kill her. The only reason he hasn’t killed and dumped her body already is that her kidnapping wasn’t reported.”

“Guide Sandburg, we can’t ignore that a Guide has been kidnapped!”

“If it is our goal to retrieve her alive than we need to act swiftly and as far under the radar as we possibly can. She’s damaged and fragile already.” Blair cleared her throat. “If he kills her I have no doubts that most of the Guides in Cascade will feel it.”

“You think she’s a wolf Guide?” Edwards demanded, her voice hoarse with shock. “Then we must act… we must inform the public.”

“He’ll kill her!” Blair shouted. “He will butcher her like he did the other five! Aren’t you fucking listening to me?” He ignored Jim’s hand on his arm as he stood up from the table. “Put aside your politics and your power mongering, Marie. This is no time for you petty public relations games.”

“I’m the director of this Center and the leader of this council.” Marie Edwards snapped. “I will…”

“I’m the Alpha Guide Prime of the Pacific Northwest,” Blair responded in the same tone. “You are a member of my pride, Marie. Do you really want to play that game?”

She paled and sat down. “No. No, I don’t. He’ll kill her? You’re sure?”

“One hundred percent,” Blair whispered. “You haven’t seen the pictures of the children after he’s done with them… you don’t want that in your head. None of you want that in your head.”

“You still believe it’s a dormant Sentinel?” Marie asked, her voice soft now with some pain that no one in the room wanted to touch on. “Really?”

“Who else would be able to seek out latent Guides? They would never willing go with a mundane as damaged as he is. All of the kidnappings were high profile yet no one reported a child leaving the area under duress. No screams, no shouts for parents who weren’t paying attention. They are putting themselves in this man’s hands without a single protest. Now, tell me, Marie when you were a child… when you were a latent child who could have made you walk away from your parents? What kind of person would you have walked off without a single worry?”

She closed her eyes. “It’s a dangerous thing, Blair. My brother is a dormant Sentinel. The public doesn’t understand what it means to be dormant; they just view them as damaged. My brother wouldn’t hurt anyone but I can’t imagine how things might change for him if the public finds out that a dormant Sentinel was out raping and murdering children.”

“I would remind anyone that 99.9 percent of child molesters and child killers in prison today are mundane,” Blair said. “Most dormant Sentinels that have a mental defect are so damaged they already in institutional care. Your brother is a gentle soul and anyone that met Matthew would understand that. Down’s Syndrome, while rare in Sentinels, isn’t unheard of. I know of ten dormant Sentinels with Downs and three that are autistic. Insanity isn’t the only mental defect that will keep a Sentinel from coming online permanently. It’s your job to educate the public as much as possible. If it comes out and I’m not sure we can prevent it—it’ll be your job to keep the public as informed as possible while maintaining the privacy of our population.”

“So what can we do?”

“We’re searching for her and I’m going to draw all the Guides in Cascade together tonight. Any of you are welcome to join me. We’re going to meet at Jim’s building on Prospect. We’re prepping the second floor as a large meditation space.”

“You’re going to search the spirit plane for her?” Marie asked. “While she’s alive?”

“I think as young as she is that her spirit animal is wounded beyond its ability to endure and if we enter the spirit plane en masse it will seek us out for comfort,” Blair murmured. “If I can connect with her spirit animal… it will seek help for her.”

“I’ve never known a spirit animal…” Marie paused. “Is that how you woke your Sentinel and pulled him across the country?”

“His wolf form did appear to me,” Jim responded. “The wolf lead me to help at the Center and then eventually lead to me to Blair’s location within the FBI building.”

Shock drifted through the room and Jim could tell that his Guide had won them over—they would trust him and they would follow his lead.

The door to the room opened and an unbonded Guide entered. His gaze was carefully averted as he moved to Marie’s side and spoke to directly to her. “Guide Edwards, an ADA Julie Phelps, with the Cascade District Attorney’s office, has released a public statement regarding the kidnapping of the child. She did not say that she was a Guide but did imply that she was the sixth victim of a serial sexual offender.”

Blair’s stomach dropped and he turned to Jim. “We were told they wouldn’t do that.”

“I know, Chief.”

“Did they release a picture?”

“Yes, Alpha.” The Guide swallowed hard and then finally looked away when he could no longer take the weight of Blair’s stare.

“We need to go back to Cascade and prepare our people for the murder of a wolf Guide. It isn’t going to be…” Blair took a deep breath. “It’s going to be bad. Marie you’ll need to prepare a statement of your own. Sensitive mundanes could easily pick it up as well.”

“There is no hope?”

Blair shook his head. “It won’t be long and we have absolutely no idea where to start looking. It would take several hours in meditation to find her spirit animal and we no longer have that kind of time.” He fisted his hands briefly and then forced himself to relax. “You’ll want to bring in any powerful but unbonded Guides. They shouldn’t be alone when this happens. We need to spread the word as quickly as possible. Try to avoid panic while preparing them all for a catastrophic empathic event. Do not mention the child or her status as a Guide.”

“Understood.” Marie cleared her throat. “Where will you be?”

“Explaining to the ADA of Cascade how she just personally saw to the murder of a five year old child.”

– – – – –

“We have a responsibility to the public to inform them of a dangerous situation.”

“Yes,” Blair nodded. “And we had a responsibility to Jessica Martins. She’s five years old and within the next two days someone is going to call 911 and let us know they found a stripped, mutilated corpse of a female child.”

“You can’t know that,” Julie Phelps ground out between clenched teeth. “I’m just doing my job, Detective.”

“No, what you’ve done is give a sociopath a reason to murder a child because you wanted to get on television. Because you wanted to inject yourself into a big serial murder case in the making. He likes the kill almost as much as he likes all the other things he does to her so right now he’s probably a little giddy with the knowledge that he can go there now. He was demonstrating a great deal of restraint; content that no one had missed her and that no one was looking for her. Now, he can’t afford to keep her. He can’t take that risk because the last thing he wants is to get caught.” Blair looked away from her. “I’m finished with this conversation and since this is my work space—I’d very much like you to leave.”

She opened her mouth to protest but Jim stood up. “No, he wants you to leave so you leave.”

“Ellison, you can’t be serious!”

“You can’t possibly think that your wishes would take precedence over my Guide’s.” Jim walked to the door and opened it. “Leave before I force the issue.”

“Captain Banks?” Phelps demanded, her eyes dark with anger.

“There is no higher authority than a Sentinel when it comes to the emotional and physical safety of his Guide,” Simon Banks responded coolly. He stood from the conference table. “I’ll be talking to the DA; our contract with the Sentinel-Guide Center is very clear and you’ll have to be replaced as the prosecuting ADA on this case. Dr. Sandburg can’t be forced to work with anyone that makes him uncomfortable. It would prevent him from using his empathic abilities to the fullest measure during the course of his job. Which means you’ll never be assigned another case from Major Crimes again.”

The room was silent as Banks escorted the sputtering woman out of the conference room and then Thomas cleared his throat. “I want to work for Banks. Captain Tilman has never taken my needs as a Guide that seriously.”

Markus touched his Guide. “I’ll ask but if we went to work in Major Crimes; you’d have to qualify to carry.”

Thomas nodded. “You know I could.”

“I also know you haven’t carried since you left the Navy,” Markus responded bluntly.

“You were in the Navy?” Jim frowned at the man. Thomas was beautiful, like most Guides, and his aura was heavy with comfort and sex. He really couldn’t picture him in the military.

“Yes,” Thomas smiled. “Eight years. I coordinated, planned, and supervised Special Operations for the Teams.”

Jim’s mouth dropped open. “You realize if you got into Major Crimes; Simon would make you take the short course at the academy and slap a badge on you?”

“I could handle it, Detective. You don’t lead Navy SEALS unless you can walk in their shoes. Well, you could try but they’d eat you alive and use your bones for tooth picks.”

“So you are, in fact, an ex-Navy SEAL.”

“As much as you are, in fact, an ex-Army Ranger,” Thomas murmured. “Doesn’t ever really bleed out, does it, Sentinel?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Jim conceded. “If you both really want it; I’ll put in a good word with Simon.”

– – – – –

PART SIX

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a "domestic engineer" in her 30's but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

Comments are closed