The Awakening – Part Seven

PART SEVEN

Blair leaned against the wall and watched Henri pace a few feet away. “Was it all that you hoped?”

Henri turned and looked at him. “I… I really didn’t understand.”

“And now that you do?”

“I don’t know how he survived without you. I know… I mean I know he was… you know for months before he went to New York. Most of us guessed it.” Henri looked away. “It makes me… I’ve seen Jergens and Howard in the field… I’m an asshole for what I thought.”

“Working in homicide on an everyday basis can’t be a great circumstance for a Sentinel-Guide pairing. Murder is an intimate and invasive crime.” Blair paused as his cell phone started to ring. He plucked it from its holster on his belt and checked the caller ID. He grimaced but flipped it open. “Dr. Sandburg.”

“Blair, where are you? I’m in your building in New York—the doorman told me you no longer live here?”

“Actually, I live in Cascade, Washington now, Naomi. I sent you an email several months ago letting you know.” Blair walked a few paces away from Henri and leaned against the building again.

“Why on Earth would you be back in Cascade? Didn’t you get enough of that city when you went to school at Rainier?” Naomi demanded. “Wait, did you take a teaching job? That’s fantastic!”

“No, I didn’t take a teaching job. I’m actually working with the Cascade Police Department.” He winced at her harsh intake of breath. “Can we discuss this later? I’m in the middle of a crime scene and don’t have time to be lectured like a ten year old.”

“Why did you leave the FBI?” Naomi demanded.

“I bonded with a Sentinel and joined him on the job in Cascade,” Blair said. “If you participated in our communities or bothered to check your email you would know all about it, Mother.”

“How could you? How could you give yourself willingly to one of those primitive thugs? Please tell me the bond is at least platonic!”

“That’s really none of your business.” Blair rubbed his forehead and looked down the alley. Jim was standing there, his body tight, and his expression stony. “As I said, I have to go. We can talk later if you wish.”

“I’ll need time to process,” Naomi finally said. “Some time to forgive you for this.”

“I’m not in need of your forgiveness,” Blair responded and very carefully ended the call. All he wanted to do was throw his phone against the building but he liked his new phone a lot and losing his temper wasn’t a good idea, not with his Sentinel already on edge. He walked with Henri to where Jim stood and sighed. “Let’s go back to the station. I want to do some more research and then I’d like to get all the parents together in the same room—including Jessica’s foster parents. We’re missing something.”

– – – – –

“Dr. Sandburg, we’ve been over this a hundred times.” The strain in Justin Wallace’s voice was evident. “I don’t know what else we can tell you.”

“I understand how difficult this is for you, but I also know that we lost another child last night.” Blair shoved his hands into his pockets. “A wolf Guide. It is a blow to our community on a level that really can’t be measured. She came online shortly before she was taken—which is not uncommon for wolf Guides. One day her Sentinel will come online and we’ll have to tell him that his perfect-match Guide was murdered when she was five years old. The fact is that we may end up telling six Sentinels that.” He looked around the room. “All of your children were latent, but they were strong in their gifts even as latents. In the end this man may end up killing twelve people if other matches can’t be made—because it is rare for a Sentinel to survive without a bond. If we are lucky nature will leave the Sentinels of these children in peace and never wake their gifts.”

He cleared his throat. “I’ve read through the case files and I’m not going to ask any questions that have already been asked of you about that day or the weeks that followed. I want to know about the month before. I want to know where you went, did you go to any large events—events where someone could have gotten close to your child and you wouldn’t have thought much of it? A crowded place like a large shopping mall or maybe an outdoor concert?”

Jean Dailey took a deep breath. “I took the children to the Seattle Zoo as a gift for how well they did in school. All of them—Jessie had a difficult time because of the crowds but after about an hour she’d evened out and told me she was okay to stay the day. That was the end of May, just a few weeks before she was taken.”

Grace Harvey started to cry. “I took…” She closed her eyes. “I took Stephanie to the zoo. A week before she was taken. We have a membership—she loved the penguins.”

“It wasn’t in May.” Jared Harrison took a deep breath. “In April, Christopher had a project for class—he wanted to take his own pictures for his poster presentation. So we went to the zoo and we took pictures of the polar bears.”

“Tiffany’s class had a field trip to the zoo. Maybe April or May?” Deena Hanson shook her head. “It’s been so long and I didn’t go myself. Joe?”

“No. I sent my secretary along to help chaperone.” Joe Hanson pulled out a PDA. “I think it was in May of that year.”

Amber Miller shook her head. “Taylor was afraid of animals—all kinds. She wouldn’t even keep stuffed animals.”


Frank Miller sighed and ran one hand through his hair. “I took her but I’m not sure which month. Her therapist said it would help get over her problem with animals and my wife wasn’t willing to force the issue. I did it without her.”

“How could you?” Amber Miller demanded.

“Ma’am.” Blair interrupted. “Not to be rude, but can you berate your husband later?”

Amber blushed and then nodded. “Yes, of course, I apologize. This is important right? To find out all of the children went to the zoo before they were taken?”

“It’s a common link we didn’t have before.” He focused on Stacy Wallace’s parents. “Justin? Carla?”

Carla shook her head. “Not the zoo itself but one of Stacy’s favorite places to go was Woodland Park, which is just across the street from the zoo. We’d got her a puppy and she took her responsibilities very seriously—we had to walk Billie in the park every day.” Her hands curled into her husband’s as she spoke. “It’s my fault. I bought her that dog. It’s my fault.” A sob was pressed into her husband’s throat as she instinctively sought comfort.

Blair stilled and met Justin’s gaze over his wife’s shaking body. “How long has she been online, Justin?”

Justin’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “Since she got pregnant. She’s three months along—I think she came online the moment she conceived.”

“Are you online?”

“A few days after her,” he rubbed his wife’s back. “We can’t… we can’t lose another child.”

“No. I understand.” Blair inclined his head. “How did you do yesterday?”

“As soon as the word came down we left. I was four hundred miles over the Canadian border when she died. I couldn’t witness that—I knew what he did to my baby girl and I couldn’t witness that happening to another child.” He closed his eyes. “We came back by plane this morning.”

Carla lifted her head. “Speaking of the child, Dr. Sandburg. We’d like to see to her burial. We have a plot… beside our Stacy. Neither one of us planned to be buried and it would be our great honor to provide Jessica with a resting place.”

Blair nodded. “The pride is already starting to gather money for her burial. She is a ward of the state but I’ve already pushed through paperwork to gain custody of her once she is released by the medical examiner. I think it would be very nice to lay her to rest with Stacy.” He cleared his throat. “Justin, take your Sentinel home. We won’t be asking any more questions of her. You should have told us. A pregnant Sentinel is fragile and sensory spikes are dangerous for her child.”

“Thank you, Guide Sandburg,” Justin gathered Carla up and helped her put on a coat. “I’ll contact you about the plot. Please… keep us in the loop.”

“We will and Carla.” Blair waited until she looked at him. “It wasn’t your fault. Nothing could have prepared anyone in this room for what this man has done. I want to promise you that we’ll catch him before he does it again… but I just don’t know. What I can tell you is that Jim and I… we won’t stop until we catch him.”

She nodded. “Thank you.”

– – – – –

“We’ve added the list of zoo employees and seasonal volunteers to the database for cross referencing but so far we haven’t gotten any hits. Zoo officials refused us access to their membership rolls without a court order.” Chad leaned on Jim’s desk as he reported. “ADA Sanchez, our new prosecutor for this case, has been pooling the evidence and getting evidence from the other jurisdictions. They are building a federal case against him. She’s in touch with the State Attorney’s office and they are also working with a Federal Prosecutor out of Seattle. A warrant for the zoo’s records, and credit card receipts for the past seven years is in process. A lot of it isn’t going to be digital.”

“Any luck with the dormant Sentinel search?” Blair asked.

“We have the records from the Center for the entire region and we’ve asked for the records for Ontario but they aren’t interested in cooperating to be honest. They are pretty sure that the killer must be a vulgar American and therefore not their problem. I’ll hit them again if we don’t get something productive from our own searches. Right now, I’m inputting data on dormant Sentinels, zoo employees, current employees of the Cascade and Seattle police departments, former employees for the last twenty years for both departments, and known sex offenders. I’m waiting on people with yearly passes to the zoo and the credit card receipts—which is most probably a dead end since he could have paid cash to enter the zoo and, of course, the park is free.”

“Did you ask the zoo if anyone had reported problems with a visitor? Someone following their child or making them uncomfortable by approaching or talking to them?”

“Yes, the zoo security officer promised he would go through his incident reports for the past seven years to see if anything comes up.” Chad straightened up. “Also, Daniel is searching our own records for reports of stalkers focusing on children. His fascination with them didn’t happen all of a sudden right?”

“Right, that’s very good idea.” Blair typed a note about it into his case file and then sat back in his chair. “How are you? Your shields?”

“Good. Better.” Chad rubbed the back of his neck. “It was… that was probably the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life and I’ve worked in suicide prevention when I was in college.”

“Yeah.” Blair checked his watch. “I’ve to go to the Seattle Center and Jim isn’t back, yet. I’ve called his cell phone and left a message but if you see him just let him know that I’m checking in on Daryl Banks.”

“Sure thing.”

– – – – –

Simon and Joan Banks are sitting side by side in the waiting room of the Seattle Sentinel-Guide Center when Blair gets there. He took in their stiff posture, her hard eyes, and Simon’s tightly pressed lips with a sigh. They must have gotten thrown out of the meeting and it hadn’t even really started.

“Hey.”

Simon stood. “They wouldn’t let us in with him until you were here.”

Blair frowned. “That’s not what I told them.”

“What exactly did you tell them, Dr. Sandburg?” Joan Banks demanded.

“That he needed to be isolated from unbonded Sentinels and mundanes that were not immediate family.” Blair checked his watch. “Let me speak with his Conservator and see what is going on.”

He quickly gained admission and made his way to the top floor of the facility. The administrator’s office wasn’t far from the isolation wing so he wasn’t surprised to find both the patient care administrator, Gerald Murray, and Daryl’s Conservator, a man named Sydney Johansen, talking outside a large pair of doors.

Sydney favored him with a small, tight smile and held out both hands in formal greeting. “Blair. I’m really glad you are here.”

“What’s going on? I just encountered Daryl’s parents downstairs and they told me they’d been refused.”

“I thought it best that Daryl remain isolated,” Gerald responded before Sydney could respond. “His parents are both angry with the situation and each other.”

“And I made it clear when I placed him in your care this morning that both of his parents were to be allowed access to him. He’s fourteen years old and finds this entire situation difficult. He needs his parents and since I personally helped him build his shields last night I know for a fact he can deal with them.” Blair watched the man flush with anger.

“I decide what is best for the patients in this facility, Dr. Sandburg.”

“Then he is no longer in your facility,” Blair returned. “Sydney, get him dressed and make sure his shields are firm.”

“You can’t be serious!” Murray snapped.

“I won’t be argued with,” Blair returned evenly. “Daryl Banks is my responsibility, a Guide I took into my care as the Alpha Guide of the Cascade pride and I promised his parents they would have access to him during this process. I realize his mother is bitter and angry but he’s been dealing with her for months without proper shields. He asked me three times on the way over here this morning when he would get to see his parents and you made me a liar with your interference.”

“I won’t let you take him.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Blair returned. “And if you get in my way, you’ll pay for it.”

“You can’t remove a fragile Guide from this building without my approval. I’ll file a formal complaint.”

“With who?” Blair asked. “The Alpha Guide Prime of North America? Because that’s the only Guide on this planet above my head when it comes to legal matters. The only one that I would allow the opportunity to give me orders.”

“This isn’t over.”

“You’re right, it’s not.” Blair turned as the doors opened and Sydney led Daryl out of the isolation area. “You owe Guide Banks an apology for failing to honor his wishes.”

“I will not apologize,” Murray said through clenched teeth. “Just because you’re taking it up the ass for Ellison does not…” He jerked to a stop, and the color drained from his face. “What? What the fuck are you?”

“You speak of things that are none of your business and in front of a child—I will be discussing your place here with the Council. You’ve gone unbonded your whole life and I realize your bitterness but it does not excuse such disrespect.” Blair released his hold on the other Guide’s mind. “I will be speaking to the Seattle Alpha as well concerning your placement in his pride. Your inability to adhere to pride hierarchy concerns me.” Blair looked at Daryl Banks. “Your parents are downstairs and they’ve been here a while. Sydney will be sticking with you for a while.”

“What’s he for?”

“A Conservator acts as an empathic buffer for fragile Guides.” He glared briefly at Murray and then led Daryl to the elevator. “Don’t mistake fragile for weak—because you are not weak and neither are your gifts.”

“What does it mean?”

“It means that you are very sensitive to the emotions of others, especially mundanes. One of the ways we combat this is to assign such Guides a Conservator. Sydney is a powerful but unbonded Guide—because he’s unbonded he can act as a buffer for you. It’s a role he would normally play for a Sentinel.”

“If I’m so fragile… I won’t ever bond will I?” Daryl frowned as they left the elevator. “What Sentinel would want me if I’m fragile?”

Blair smiled then. “Remember—fragile, not weak. I came online at fifteen, Daryl, and I was diagnosed as fragile. I had a Conservator for almost a year after that.”

“So, Sydney will stay with me until I can handle things?”

“Well, Sydney is registered and searching for his own Sentinel. If he is matched we will have to get you a new Conservator.” Blair glanced at Sydney who just smiled. “So, you shouldn’t get unduly attached to Sydney.”

Daryl laughed. “Yeah, okay.” He straightened up when he saw his parents hovering together across the lobby from them. “They haven’t been in the same room without yelling at each other in over a year.”

“They are both doing the very best they can right now to be helpful to you. I believe you would be better off if you stayed with your father; but I realize you are worried about your mother.”

“I haven’t slept in weeks at home,” Daryl admitted. “At least not while she’s there. She’s so angry and hurt and upset all the time and it doesn’t help that she saw Dad with another woman a month back. I don’t get it—she left him.”

“Relationships can be very complicated,” Blair admitted. “Have you been able to separate your own emotions from your mother’s?”

“Yes.” Daryl sighed. “I was a real asshole to my dad.”

“He understands.” Sydney cupped Daryl’s elbow as he spoke. “Now, take a deep breath and center yourself. I’ll be right here. You and I both know this isn’t going to be an easy conversation.”

“Yeah.” Daryl sighed. “Geez. Maybe I could just wait in the car?”

Blair laughed. “Afraid not.”

Simon reached out briefly and put his hand on Daryl’s shoulder and then cleared his throat. “How do you feel, son?”

“Better, it doesn’t hurt as much. Everything is better,” Daryl admitted. “Last night I slept the whole night through and I haven’t done that in… well months.” He cleared his throat and jerked his head towards Sydney. “This is Sydney Johansen, my Conservator. He’s an unbonded Guide who has agreed to act as my empathic buffer until I can maintain my own shields. He’ll be living with me.”

“No.” Joan Banks’ shook her head. “I won’t have it—Dr. Sandburg, this is not we agreed to! I won’t have some oversexed, perverted, grown man living with my son – it’s disgusting.”

Blair flushed with anger. “Ms. Banks, you do realize that your son is a Guide. Your prejudices have already caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort. If we’d known about him before yesterday—we could have sheltered and protected him during the event and he would not have suffered as much as he did. Guides are not oversexed perverts, but if that is how you truly feel I will have no choice but to petition the court and have your son isolated from you until he’s of a legal age.”

“He’s a child. He’s my child and I won’t have him corrupted by the lot of you.”

“He’s a duly registered Guide and under the protection of his pride and as the Alpha of his pride I’m well within my rights to protect him from you and your obscene attitude. Sydney is one of the most gifted Guides of his generation and is only six years older than your son—it gives them common ground and their relationship is and will remain platonic and brotherly. What you’ve suggested is an insult of the highest order. Nothing is more important to the pride than the protection of our youngest and most fragile members. Sydney is prepared to put his life entirely on hold in order to nurture and protect your son during this time.”

“Daryl needs his mother.”

“No, mom, I don’t,” Daryl finally said. “And insulting us is solving nothing. If Sydney or Blair are oversexed perverts than I’m no better. I’m not different from them and I can’t stay with you anymore. It’s been so bad lately that I’ve been thinking – I mean I didn’t get too far, but I’ve been thinking about killing myself for months.”

Simon took that news like a blow and Blair grabbed his elbow to steady the older man. “Take a deep breath, Simon, it’s okay. When a Guide gets close to empathic overload—they often think about a permanent solution to escape the pain they can’t get away from. Daryl isn’t suicidal; if he were he would have already ended it. He would have ended it yesterday and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. That he’s thought about killing himself is just an example of how badly he felt and how damaging his situation has been.”

“Daryl, you… you have to know that I would have listened to you. Why didn’t you come to me?”

“Mom monitored my phone calls,” Daryl admitted. “I didn’t want to hurt her by telling her how much… how much everything hurt. I was angry with you all the time, but I knew it wasn’t my own anger—I just couldn’t control it. I couldn’t stop it.”

“I have rights,” Joan finally said. “You can’t keep me from my child, Dr. Sandburg.”

“Actually, I can,” Blair responded gently. “I wouldn’t want to do it because I believe that a child needs both of his parents but I won’t hesitate if you can’t control yourself and your prejudices. As it stands, I will only agree to release Daryl into the custody of his father and as long as Simon agrees that Sydney will be coming with them.”

Simon pulled off his glasses and rubbed his face. He looked so defeated and overwhelmed and Blair hated that. “I’ve got a guest bedroom that Sydney is welcome to use indefinitely—as long as needed. I can arrange to take out a mortgage on my house to pay for this.”

“The Sentinel-Guide Center will see to my salary during my Conservatorship of Daryl, Captain Banks.” Sydney tucked a stray lock of blond hair behind his ear. “I will be compensated for my time and will not be punished for my leave of absence from school.” He pulled a business card out of his pocket and handed it to Joan Banks. “Due to the circumstances you’ll have to arrange visitation with Daryl through the Center. Call the number on this card and I will inform them when it is convenient for us. A Sentinel-Guide pair will be by your house to collect his things so he will be comfortable in his father’s home. If you attempt to see Daryl outside of the agreement you make with the Center, we will have no choice but to seek a formal ruling through the courts. You should know that if that takes place you will likely lose all visitation and custody rights permanently. You could also face jail time. The abuse of a Guide is a federal crime.”

“I’ve never abused my son!”

“His in-take records from Cascade General paint a different picture. Ten Guides came online yesterday during the event and only two were so badly damaged that they almost went into an empathic overload. One of them was Daryl and the other was a young girl who had stressed herself out trying to hide what she was. If Dr. Sandburg hadn’t come to the emergency room when he did and found Daryl—he would have likely lapsed into coma and died,” Sydney said bluntly. “You’ll be given a list of guidelines for visiting your son—I would suggest that you read them carefully and adhere to them to the fullest measure of the word.”

– – – – – –

“I take it didn’t go well?”

Simon looked up from the paperwork he had spread out on his desk. “Your Guide is… a powerhouse in more ways than one. If I was in Joan’s place I would hate his guts.”

Jim winced. “That bad, huh?”

“Yeah, that bad. I’ve contacted a lawyer, I’m going to petition the courts for myself and get her rights as a parent removed. I hate this—I hate doing this to her because—hell Jim she was my wife for fifteen years and now I feel like I don’t even know her. As much as I used to love her, I hate her for what she’s done to Daryl. She’s got all of these prejudices against Guides that I never even knew she had and I could tell she was hurting Daryl with every word she said. She just seemed blind to it.” Simon tossed his pen aside. “What the hell am I supposed to do?”

“Protect your son before the pride steps in. The city of Cascade hasn’t had a formal pride in over a hundred years but we’re as of yesterday, one hundred Sentinels strong and that makes us one of the largest prides in the area. The Sentinel-Guide Center spreads its power thin all over the country so a local pride can wield a lot of power when it comes to protecting each other—and especially Guides. Guides are precious and they are protected. Now that he’s online; every Sentinel he comes across will recognize him for what he is and if they perceive a threat towards him –they would be within their rights to neutralize that threat.” Jim cleared his throat. “Four years ago in Seattle, a Sentinel heard a teenage girl being beaten over twenty miles away. A Guide. He went feral and killed the man with his bare hands.”

“I remember,” Simon murmured. “It made the news because her parents had pretty much sold her because she was an empath. Sold her for sex and when she refused the man started to beat her.”

“Yes, but what wasn’t reported in the news was he wasn’t the only Sentinel she called to her—he was just the one that got there first. Over twenty Sentinels in the Seattle area left their jobs, got in their cars and headed straight for that girl. Some heard her, others felt her, but they all went in search of her. Her parents are just lucky they weren’t there on scene because he would have killed them, too.”

“Did she live?”

“Yes, she’s bonded now—to the son of the Sentinel that saved her. Most assume that’s why he got there so fast—that he understood on some instinctual level that she was his son’s Guide. Their family took custody of her because of a DNA match and the son came online a few months ago.” Jim walked to the window and leaned against the frame. The warmth of the sun felt good on his back. “Blair said he found a really talented and disciplined Guide to act as Daryl’s Conservator.”

Simon nodded. “He seemed like a nice kid. Just twenty himself. I hate that he’s had to give up school to do this.”

“Don’t.” Jim shook his head. “It’s an honor really to be asked to do something like this. The kid was giddy when Blair took him aside last night and asked if he would do it. He’ll be paid well by the Center and it will look great on his resume for later. Sydney has ambitions to work for the Center and become a Guide therapist. His major is Guide Psychology. To get a chance to work as a Conservator for a Guide of Daryl’s abilities is quite a feather in his cap.”

“Daryl’s abilities?”

Jim frowned as he considered how to explain the ranking system within Sentinel-Guide society. “Okay, say Guides are rated on a scale of one to six? An Alpha Sentinel requires a strong Guide—somewhere between a five and a six. Sandburg is a high six.” Jim grinned when Simon laughed but then sobered quickly. “Daryl is a six, Simon. He’s an Alpha Guide in the making. Most Alpha Guides are wolf Guides – like Blair and like little Jessica. They’ve been doing research and as far as we can tell Daryl is the first Guide in the United States to ever have a lion for a spirit animal. We’ve contacted Sentinel-Guide Centers all over Africa trying to get information on lion Guides but so far we haven’t gotten a response.”

“A six,” Simon repeated. “Jim?”

“I know. It’s the last thing you wanted to hear but you need to know why Daryl is so fragile and why Blair is willing to be such a hardass concerning his care. After our loss yesterday, the pride will be extra careful with the Guides – unbonded or not.” Jim glanced out in to the bullpen. “Most Guides don’t have predators for spirit guides, Simon. It’s telling.” He watched Chad and Thomas hover by Blair’s empty desk but didn’t bother to extend his hearing so he could hear what they were discussing. “Thomas’s spirit guide is Golden Eagle and he’s the Beta Guide of our pride. He could have easily been the Alpha Guide of the pride if he’d bonded with an Alpha Sentinel. Chad’s spirit guide is a deer. Thomas would is a five on the scale I gave you and Chad would be a four.”

“I understand,” Simon watched the two Guides with undisguised interest. “Jergens and Howard want to transfer into Major Crimes. The Chief wants to let them. He’d like me to take all the Sentinel-Guide pairs in the precinct.”

“That would just be the six of us,” Jim murmured. “What did you say?”

“I haven’t answered him, yet. I’m willing to take Jergens and Howard—though Howard will have to take his ass to the academy like Sandburg did. I can’t believe Tilman in Homicide didn’t want to bother with it. Ex-freaking-Navy SEAL on his payroll and he pays him to consult.” Simon rolled his eyes. “But what about Moore and Jamieson?”

“Moore isn’t meant for the academy and Jamieson would never allow it. That’s not to say he couldn’t do it—it’s just that Chad is a gentle person. Major Crimes gets its share of crimes that involve a lot of research and computer work. I think they could fit in well but that’s your call.”

“They’re members of your pride, Jim.”

“You’re the Captain, sir.” Jim glanced towards Simon. “When I’m here—I answer to you—and I don’t see that changing no matter what other Sentinels might call me.”

“As long as they understand that as well.”

“The first time one of them doesn’t—you can tear them a new asshole. Thomas and Chad trust you—and that means a lot to their Sentinels.”

“Because of Sandburg?”

Jim paused as he considered that. “Yes, they’ve both got a little hero worship going on but I have to tell you most of the Guides that meet Sandburg are either going to love him or hate him.”

“Hate him?”

“He has a lot of power—both personal and legal. He isn’t afraid to use either. He’s confident of his abilities and he’s bonded to an Alpha Sentinel. That makes him a target for Guides who might have more ambition that sense.”

“So, the honor code is flexible?” Simon asked with a raised eyebrow.

Jim laughed. “We’re human, Simon. We’re all weak to the same temptations and vices of mundanes. Sentinels themselves are instinctually pushed to be guardians and protectors. Guides are different animals all together—they are driven by instinct to bond with the Sentinel who is their best match and the one most likely to shield and protect them. We use DNA tests to find what we call perfect-matches these days but that wasn’t always the case. In the past, pair bonding was based purely on instinct and often times it could be dangerous for both Sentinel and Guide.”

“You said you were drawn to New York.”

“There were four matches in the DNA database for my profile. Two of them were perfect but only one of them was in New York. I was convinced that my Guide was in New York. After he consented to present himself, I was given his name. I had to go to him because his asshole boss in the FBI was trying to hold him in custody, but you know that part.”

“Do the other matches know?”

Jim shook his head. “They aren’t supposed to know. My choice has been made and pair-bonding is for life. None of the others were notified. If I hadn’t been insistent that my Guide was in New York or if both matches had been in New York I would have met both and made a choice at that point.”

“Out of curiosity, where was your other perfect match?”

Jim hesitated briefly and then sighed. “Seattle. If I had gone to the Sentinel-Guide Center in Seattle for registration and testing he would have been presented first and there is a good chance I would have never met Blair.”

“That has you a little unsettled.”

“Yes, I don’t like the possibility of a world where I don’t have Blair.” Jim tilted his head and a small smile drifted across his lips. “He’s here and he brought Daryl along.”

“Oh.” Simon stood abruptly. “Why would he do that?”

“We’ll ask.”

Blair burst into the bullpen full of energy and talking a mile a minute to his very avid fourteen year old audience. “So, you can imagine how that felt—there I was all of sixteen years old and face to face with these three big, huge, like oak trees Sentinels—all of whom were of the opinion that if they ‘caught’ me that got to keep me.”

Daryl laughed. “What happened?”

“Well, hell, I ran my ass off.” Blair plopped down in his chair and motioned Daryl to a seat. “You guys remember Daryl.”

“Hey, kid, how are you? I heard you were assigned a Conservator?” Thomas leaned one hip on the desk and Chad patted Daryl on the shoulder as he went back to his computer which he’d set up on an empty desk.

“Yeah, he’s great. Right now he’s across town picking up his stuff.” Daryl offered his father a small smile as Simon came to stand at Blair’s desk. “Sydney had to do some packing so I’m Blair’s ride along for a few hours. Syd didn’t want me down there where he lives in the warehouse district.”

“Wise choice,” Jim muttered. “Lots of creeps down that way.”

“He said something about not corrupting me by letting me see hookers.”

Blair chuckled. “So, what do I do? I bring him to the police station and apparently Vice had this crack downtown and there are like fifty hookers downstairs getting processed.”

Simon sighed. “Great, Sandburg.”

“I made him close his eyes,” Blair promised. “He didn’t see anything and I kept him shielded the entire way up so he didn’t feel anything from them either.” He pulled a book out of his backpack and handed it to Daryl. “Here, your first reading assignment.”

The Modern Urban Guide by Dr. Blair Sandburg.” Daryl flipped open and grinned. “Hey, you signed it.”

“Well, I had a few copies left from the publisher.” Blair leaned back in his chair. “Don’t read the parts with the sex bonding.”

Daryl grinned. “Oh come on, I’ll be fifteen soon.”

“And you can’t enter a sex bond until you are eighteen, not even if your Sentinel was your age.” Thomas tapped the book. “The sex bonding would just freak you out anyway.”

Daryl rubbed his thumb across the cover of the book. “Is it required? I mean, do you have to have a sexual bond?”

“No.” Blair shook his head. “It’s a choice you’ll make with your Sentinel when you are much older and it’s a topic you should probably discuss before you agree to enter into a spiritual bond. It’s best if a Sentinel and Guide are on the same page.”

“It’ll probably be a guy, right? I mean only twenty percent of the registered Sentinels on the planet are female.” Daryl ignored his father’s intake of breath and focused right on Blair. “So, I should prepare myself for that possibility?”

“Yes, you should. But, Daryl, you have to understand that your Sentinel would never ask more from you than you can give. It’s against their nature to hurt their Guide—either physically or emotionally. You know how you feel right now?”

“Yeah, warm. I feel warm and sort of like I’m in a bubble. Before—it was like everything got in and I couldn’t control it. Now I can see it—I can see my shield around me and then I can see yours.”

“It isn’t my shield, Daryl. It’s Jim. I have my own shields—my own protections against the outside world, but my strongest defense is my Sentinel. Our spiritual bond created a shield—a special one in him that he uses to balance his senses and use them effectively. That same shield is extended around me, no matter where I go. I think I would have to leave the planet itself to lose it. So, when I took Sydney’s place as your buffer—I wrapped Jim’s shield around you. What you’re feeling is roughly a tenth of what you would get from your own Sentinel with just a spiritual bond.”

“That’s why you don’t feel empty and Sydney does. He has a place—a dark place that I can’t touch.”

“And you should never try,” Thomas murmured gently. “Not ever, it’s a painful place for an unbonded Guide. Especially someone who has been online as long as Sydney has.”

“How long?” Simon asked gruffly.

“Sydney has been online since he was nine years old,” Blair murmured. “There are only a few Guides on the planet who have gone unbonded as long as he has and only one in this country.”

“Now,” Thomas corrected. “Sandburg was the oldest.”

Blair smiled then. “Yeah, but look what I got for my wait!

Jim laughed. “Cheeky bastard.” He slid into his desk chair and stared at his blank computer monitor for a second. “We should start getting reports from forensics soon and Wolf promised the autopsy results by lunch today.” He glanced towards Daryl who had leaned into his father as he spoke. “Sorry, kid, I forgot…shit.”

“Don’t worry about it, Jim.” Daryl rubbed his cheek against his father’s arm. “I… I know what happened to her. You’re not going to let him do it again, are you?”

“We’ll do everything we can to stop him, son.” Simon ran a hesitant hand over the back of his son’s head and relaxed when Daryl pressed closer.

Jim could tell the man was confused, he shared a look with his Guide and found Blair regarding Simon with affection and amusement. It was relieving that Blair and Simon had developed a rapport, he’d been afraid that there would be conflict between them. Such conflict would have caused personal and professional problems on such a level that Jim would have probably had to request a transfer to a different precinct within the department.

“We’re due to have a conversation with DA Sanchez.” Blair looked at Daryl and then back at Jim. “Well, actually, you’re due to have a conversation with DA Sanchez. Sydney promised to come by in about two hours for Daryl which means I should be on hand for the reports from forensics and the ME.”

Jim nodded. “Not a problem, Chief.”

“I’d be fine, Blair, if you wanted to…”

Blair shook his head at Daryl. “No, you wouldn’t. You feel confident because you aren’t having to use your shields at all. We’ll stay here. You brought your game, right?”

“Yeah,” Daryl lifted his backpack a little. “I’m all ready to entertain myself.”

“Good, you can hang out in your Dad’s office and I’ll work with Chad on the research.” Blair exchanged a look at Simon who nodded before leading his son away.

– – – – –

“First,” Beverly Sanchez took a deep breath. “The DA wishes to convey his apologies on the actions of our office concerning the kidnapping of Jessica Martins. ADA Julie Phelps has been removed from employment and we’ve also replaced our media liaison. We are aware that the pride is preparing a memorial for her and would like to contribute in any way that we can.”

Jim looked up from his empty legal pad and looked her over. “When did I start making you nervous, Beverly?”

She glanced around the room, taking in Daniel, Markus, Thomas, Henri and then Rafe. “I, Jim, frankly we’re not sure what we can expect from the pride regarding the Jessica Martins matter.”

“You can show her the respect she deserves in death that she wasn’t given in life. Prosecute the foster parents for failing to report her missing, investigate social services within an inch of their lives for not realizing that she was missing, and make sure I never have to set eyes on Julie Phelps again. I can’t promise to be civilized if I do.” Jim took the bottle of water Markus offered him and twisted off the cap. “Now, tell me what the federal prosecutor in Seattle wants to do.”

“Since the cases cross jurisdictions and crimes against Guides are categorized as hate crimes—he won’t have a problem filing a federal case against the killer once he is captured. I understand Dr. Sandburg has requested a forensic artist from California?”

“Yes, a Guide. It will produce a better drawing of the offender,” Thomas offered in way of an explanation. “He will be arriving within the next few hours with his Sentinel.”

“Please tell your Captain that the DA’s office will handle the financial matters concerning their travel, accommodations, and any fees for utilization of their skills in this matter.” Beverly spread her hands out on the table. “Do you need help with manpower? The DA’s investigative unit is at your disposal.”

“We’re waiting on seven years of credit card receipts from the Seattle Zoo. Not all of them are digital so we’ll need someone for data entry.” Daniel lifted an eyebrow in question and then made a note when she only nodded. “Have them report to my Guide and he’ll set them up in the conference room across the hall. We have volunteers from all over the department already taking turns entering data that we’ve already gathered so he’ll be able to put them to work soon and start rotating them in shifts to prevent mistakes.”

“What kind of data are comparing?”

“City employment records, registered Sentinels, family court proceedings, and registered dormant Sentinels for the last thirty years.” He only smiled when her mouth dropped open. “We’re going to add the membership rolls from the Seattle Zoo and the credit card receipts from the last seven years as soon as we can get them. We’re searching for a common link—we’re hoping we can to find his parents in this search.”

Jim tapped his fingers on the table and Daniel slid a pen his way without looking up from what he was writing down. “Once we have a drawing, I’d like you to call a press conference and brief the city on the case. We can discuss the details that we’re willing to release after I’ve met with my Captain.”

“You don’t want to do it yourself?”

“No. I think it would be best if you and Captain Banks handled the press.” Jim made a few notes about information he wouldn’t want to be public knowledge and then cleared his throat. “If he sees a Sentinel on the news talking about this case he might get tipped that we’re aware of what he is. Don’t mention that any of the dead children were presumed to be Guides. At least not yet, we have time to work a few angles before we put our cards on the table. It’s telling that he hasn’t taken a child that was registered with the Center.”

“Why? I would have though the Center would have wanted to prepare the families of latent children Guides.” Beverly frowned. “What about the empathic event yesterday? That’s certainly no secret to anyone in the entire country.”

“The Center is going to release a brief statement acknowledging the event but they won’t be giving details on what caused it. The mundanes who were affected only received pain and fear from it. The Guides who witnessed it mentally aren’t going to be talking to the press about it. Most of them are barely functioning right now and the last thing they want is to be in front of a bunch of reporters. When we sent out the alert earlier in the day—we said only that there was a very high chance of a strong and painful empathic experience for sensitives and Guides.” Jim took a deep breath. “I don’t think the press, in general, is made of stupid individuals so I don’t expect the fact that Jessica was a Guide to stay a secret for long. They’ll be connecting the dots and drawing a big clue. That being said, I would seriously prefer that it not be confirmed or discussed by us in the public. If you are asked—give them a bland answer.”

“We are exploring all avenues of investigation into the death of Jessica Martins,” Beverly said and then raised an eyebrow. “What about her foster parents?”

“Get them in court and put a gag order on them while you are filing charges against them. Feed them and that prosecution to the press.” Thomas shrugged when they all looked at him. “What? They didn’t report her missing. He could have kept and tortured her for years before he got bored with her and killed her. I mourn her but I’m also relieved for her. The last six months must have been the most wretched of her life. I don’t wish what happened to her on my worst enemy.”

– – – – –

PART EIGHT

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.

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