Christmas Plans Go Awry - Debbie
Blair was running all over the city of Cascade looking for just the right ingredients for the Christmas dinner he and Jim were hosting at the loft. This was their first Christmas as an established couple, although no one knew they had taken that extra step. Jim didn't want it to be common knowledge that they were involved with each other. Blair understood Jim's hesitancy, but still wanted those closest to them to know they were happy and in love.
Blair got in the check out line and waited his turn. Just when it was his turn, there was a loud bang from the back of the store and suddenly four masked robbers surrounded them.
"Everyone on the floor! Now!" Several shots punctuated the order.
Blair dropped to the floor along with everyone else. He knew it would only be a matter of time before the police arrived.
"Get the money from the registers!"
Blair chanced looking up from his place on the floor and saw two of the robbers pacing the front of the store. Then Blair heard it -- sirens in the distance, getting closer. The police were on their way. Blair felt much better about things.
At least he did until the robbers started shooting at the police cars and officers.
Blair flattened his body to the floor, not wanting a stray bullet to hit him. The exchange of gunfire continued for several minutes, until one of the robbers yelled to the police.
"We have hostages in here and we won't hesitate to shoot them!"
Blair's heart sank at the words. He didn't want to be a hostage when he could be at home, snuggling up to Jim on the couch. Not to mention that there was a lot of cooking to be finished before their guests arrived in a couple of days. He knew Jim would be as disappointed as he was if dinner got canceled, even if the fault wasn't his.
There was a Lt. Ferguson, whom Blair recognized, who was in charge of the negotiations. But he wasn't having much luck with getting the robbers to release any of their hostages or even with getting their demands. Blair decided if he got out of this situation alive, he'd lodge a formal complaint against Lt. Ferguson for not knowing his job. He hoped someone knowledgeable in hostage negotiations arrived before it was too late.
"We want a van delivered here in 10 minutes or we start shooting and dumping hostages!" demanded one of the robbers to the assembled cops outside the store.
"We need more time." Lt. Ferguson, it appeared, was way over his head with this, but didn't want to admit it to anyone.
"Ten minutes, cop! The women will go first."
Lt. Mark Ferguson thought this was going to be just a simple negotiation. But when the robbers demanded a van and threatened to kill hostages inside the store, it became so much more. He got on his radio and called into the station, asking for a hostage negotiator and explained the situation to the watch commander. From his response, Ferguson knew there would be consequences for his actions. They told him to try to stall.
"We're having problems getting a van!" Ferguson hoped his stall tactics didn't result in the deaths of any of the hostages.
"I gave you our ultimatum, cop!"
"I know, I know! But there's a big pile-up downtown from a multi-vehicle crash. We need more time."
There was silence from inside the store and Ferguson thought he had condemned an innocent person to death. However, a few minutes later, there was an answer.
"Let us know when it arrives."
"Will do." Ferguson leaned against his car, letting out the breath he had been holding. He then straightened up when he saw Sgt. Paul Peters approaching.
"What do we have?" Peters was no-nonsense and right to the point.
"We rolled on a silent alarm that went off about twenty minutes ago. We arrived here and were greeted with gunfire from inside the store. We attempted to establish contact with the gunmen inside. At this time, we are unsure of how many gunmen there are and we're not sure of how many hostages are inside either."
"I understand you were attempting to negotiate with the gunmen?"
"Yes, sir. They demanded a van within ten minutes or they were going to start shooting hostages and dumping them."
"Well, we can't have that happen, can we Ferguson?" Peters looked around the area at the many officers already there.
"No, sir." Ferguson knew Peters had his own plan for concluding this situation and suspected Peters wasn't going to share it with him.
"You can return to the station, Lieutenant. Your account of what has happened so far is requested by the watch commander and several of the other higher ups."
It was a dismissal. Ferguson knew that. He only nodded his head and left the area. He would be able to find out later about the hostages.
Jim had heard through the station grapevine that there was a hostage situation at a grocery store over on Madison. He also heard that an over-zealous lieutenant in patrol had tried to negotiate and made a colossal mess of things. Jim was glad he was in the bullpen, finishing his reports.
He looked at his watch -- it read 3:30 PM. Blair was at Rainier, reworking an article he wanted to submit to an anthropological magazine after the holidays. At the thought of his lover, Jim couldn't keep the smile off his face. Blair was as insatiable in bed as he was with other aspects of his life. It gave Jim a run for his money, but the detective was in top shape and able to keep up. At least so far.
Jim went back to his reports. He wanted to leave the station at a reasonable time tonight in order to help Blair with the preparations for their guests. Before Blair came into his life, Jim would have never even entertained the idea of inviting people over and having a party. Blair was the best thing to happen to Jim in his life.
Blair got the courage to lift his head and look around the area. At least, there were no more bullets flying, for the moment. He saw the others still huddled on the floor. He was the only brave soul to move. He saw the four robbers standing near the entrance of the store. They were talking amongst themselves, but Blair couldn't hear what they were saying. It was definitely a moment when he wished he had Jim's heightened hearing.
One of the robbers turned and looked his way, as if he sensed Blair looking at him. Blair looked away quickly, hoping he didn't become the focus. He was relieved a short time later when they went back to talking and ignored him. He was wondering what was happening outside with the police, but there was no word.
There had been no yelling and screaming and a frontal assault of the store, so Blair knew Jim didn't have any knowledge that Blair was a hostage. Blair had planned on working on his article for a prestigious anthropology magazine, but when he realized how much preparation still had to be done on their party, he decided to forego the university to get the necessary ingredients and decorations. Blair sent up a small prayer to all the gods and goddesses that there was a peaceful solution to this standoff.
"You in the store! I want to know how many people you are holding!" Sgt. Peters decided it was time to get down to work. "Just for your information, the Cascade Police have the place surrounded and you won't get out of there without negotiation."
Inside the store, the four robbers looked at each other.
"What the fuck is going on?" asked the one who had demanded the van. He walked over to the door and yelled out. "Who are you? We were negotiating to get a van."
"I'm Sgt. Paul Peters. You are dealing with ME now!"
"We want a van or we start killing hostages."
"Now see, I don't think you want to do that. Right now, you are only guilty of robbery, maybe even attempted robbery and unlawful restraint. If you start killing hostages, the charges escalate to murder. I'm sure that's not what you planned when you decided to rob a store. Now, why don't you tell me how many people you are holding?"
The four robbers held another impromptu conference, discussing their options.
"We have fifteen hostages. We'll release them if you let us leave."
Peters seemed to think about the offer. He turned to one of the uniformed officers there. "Have everyone fall back out of sight."
"But, sirů "The officer questioned the tactic.
"Just do it, Officer."
Peters turned his attention back to the store. "How about a little good faith effort? You release two or three people and I'll move back the overwhelming show of force that we have established outside the doors."
There was another conference and a decision made when two of the robbers picked five people to leave the store. They were led towards the door.
Blair was happy to see the release of some people. He was sorry he wasn't one of the five.
"We're sending out five, cop! Get those officers back!"
"We're working on it." Peters was pleased to see five people leaving the store. He had the officers bring them over to where he was. "How many gunmen are there?"
"There are four of them. All of them have masks," one of the women informed him.
"Thank you for the information, ma'am. Has anyone been injured?"
"No, although they sure scared everyone inside."
"Okay. I'm going to ask you to go with these officers and they'll make sure you're safe and out of the way."
Peters looked around, noting most of the officers were out of sight now. Now, he was getting somewhere. Ten innocent people, along with four gunmen. The odds were getting better.
"Okay, why don't we talk about the release of the others? You don't really want to keep them, they will only slow you down and you may do something you'll regret."
From his spot on the floor, Blair was thinking how good Sgt. Peters was. He was getting these guys to give up their hostages, little by little, thus ensuring that there was a peaceful outcome to the situation.
"We still want a van delivered so we can make our getaway."
"How about releasing the rest of the people you are holding? They can't all go in the van with the four of you."
There was another discussion between the four robbers. Blair kept hoping they would release everyone and that this whole ordeal would be over. He looked at his watch and noticed it was 4:30. The longer this went on, the more likely Jim would find out about it and Blair didn't want Jim to find out about it.
"We'll release eight of the hostages. We'll keep two as insurance that we're able to leave here."
It wasn't the news Peters wanted to hear, but it was a step in the right direction. He'd have officers standing by ready to follow the van. He was sure the robbers didn't want to graduate to murderers. He had to hold onto that thought.
"We'll get the van. It will be here in fifteen minutes. When it arrives, you'll send out the eight people you are releasing."
"We don't want any funny stuff, cop! No tail when we leave the store. If we spot anyone following us, the two hostages we keep will die."
Peters didn't want to hear that. "Remember what I said. You are only in as deep as robbery right now. Graduate to murder and there's nothing that I or any other officer will be able to do to help you."
"Screw it, cop! Just get the van here!"
Peters signaled for an officer to arrange to get the van there. He knew the robbers were on the edge and a wrong move on his or any of the other officer's parts and it could mean a bloodbath in the store. He had to keep them calm and moving forward.
"Okay, okay. I've just sent for the van. Fifteen minutes, okay?"
"Okay. Just make sure you remember what I told you."
Jim finished the last of his reports. He put it in the folder and threw it on the pile of other completed reports. He leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. He then got to his feet, stretching his back, hearing the small pops. He needed Blair to give him one of his backrubs. Jim loved Blair's backrubs. He always took his time and got out every kink and knot.
Jim sat back down in his chair and grabbed the phone. He decided to call Rainier to ask Blair what he wanted for dinner. Jim was in a generous mood and decided to treat to whatever Blair wanted.
The phone kicked over to the answering machine. Jim frowned, but then figured Blair probably had finished the rewriting and had headed home. Jim called the loft, hoping to catch Blair before he started cooking dinner. But there was no answer at the loft, either. Now Jim was beginning to worry. He knew Blair's proclivity towards trouble. It wasn't that Blair sought out trouble, but trouble found him anyway.
Jim called Blair's cell phone, hoping he was running errands for their Christmas party. Jim knew he was worried about everything being flawless and complete.
There was no answer to Blair's cell phone and that sealed the deal for Jim. He shut down his computer, grabbed his coat and left the bullpen. He took the stairs down to the garage, not wanting to wait for the elevator. He'd start with Rainier and expand his search from there.
The van arrived within thirteen minutes. Sgt. Peters was pleased with the timeline. He had four unmarked units strategically situated in every direction away from the store. That way, whichever direction the van went, someone would be following them. Peters had stressed that the unit not follow too close and give away the element of surprise. The officers involved understood their job completely.
"We have your van. Now it's time to live up to your end of the bargain." Peters waited anxiously. There was always an element of risk involved dealing with criminals.
"We'll send out six of the hostages." The robber had changed the rules.
"That's not what we agreed on! You said eight."
"Change of plans, cop! We don't want you to use snipers to pick us off when we come out of the store."
Six hostages were able to leave the store.
Blair sat pressed up against the side of one of the checkout lanes. He looked at his fellow hostages. He closed his eyes and hoped nothing went wrong when they left the store. One of the robbers pulled him up, using him as a shield as they walked out of the store. There were no gunshots and Blair was able to make eye contact with Sgt. Peters. He didn't know the man personally, but hoped he had a plan to get the rest of them released. They pushed Blair and the others inside the back of the van. Two of the robbers joined them and the other two got inside the front cab. The van started and pulled away from the store parking lot.
Sgt. Peters coordinated the tracking of the van with his unmarked cars. They were following at a discreet distance, ready to close in when he gave the word. Peters wanted to let the robbers think they got away free, clear, and then stop the van, hopefully without incident or gunfire.
Jim unlocked the door to Blair's office, even though he had already determined no one was inside. He flipped on the light and looked around, seeing nothing out of order. He walked over to the desk, seeing the picture sitting there. It was the first time he had seen that picture, one of him and Blair from a fund-raiser held at Rainer several months ago. Jim hadn't even known there had been pictures taken. Somehow, Blair snagged one of the two of them, sharing a laugh. It was an enjoyable time, especially the time at home afterwards.
Jim shook himself from the memories, his concern for Blair's whereabouts increasing. He double-checked the office, determining there was nothing amiss and then left. He got out his cell phone and tried calling the loft again hoping Blair was safe there. But there was no answer. He tried Blair's cell phone again, with the same result. Jim got into his truck, heading towards the loft.
It had been an hour and Peters decided to pull in the loose noose he had surrounding the van and catch the robbers. They still had their hostages, but Peters was confident with quick action, they could grab the robbers before they had a chance to harm any of them.
The plan was going just fine, until the driver of the van decided to try to swerve to avoid the roadblock. The van went off the side of the road into a ditch, and flipped onto its top. Then there was a distinct gunshot and the officers surrounding the van leapt into action. They opened the doors, getting the robbers and the hostages out of the van. Luckily, the gunshot hadn't hit anyone, but several of the occupants of the van were shook up over the flip of the van. Peters called for ambulances to check out the occupants.
One of the officers helped Blair out of the van. He tried putting weight on his left foot, but pain in his ankle and leg prevented him from doing that. Besides that, he banged his head when the van started flipping. The officer helped him over to one of the police cars. He got all of Blair's information. Blair hadn't mentioned he was a consultant to the department.
"You think I can make a call to my roommate? He'll be worried that I'm so late."
"Let me double-check with the Sergeant." The officer walked away.
Blair relaxed in the seat, trying to figure out a way to prevent Jim from going ballistic over this. He knew Jim would be upset. Of course, maybe it would earn him some extra TLC from his Blessed Protector. At that thought, a smile crossed Blair's face.
"Mr. Sandburg? Officer Richards gave me your request to call your roommate. I can let you use my cell phone."
Blair opened his eyes to see Sgt. Peters standing there. "Thank you, Sergeant. Just to forewarn you, my roommate is Detective Jim Ellison, Major Crime."
"Sandburg? I'm sorry. I didn't make the connection. Are you okay?"
"I will be. I think I sprained my ankle and maybe I have a slight concussion. Jim will be worried about me, though. He tends to think of me as a younger brother that needs protection." Blair chuckled a bit, but saw Peters nodding.
"I can understand that, Mr. Sandburg. Some of the men under me are like brothers also. You best go ahead and call Ellison. I know how he can get."
Blair chuckled again and called Jim's cell phone number. Jim answered after the first ring.
"Sandburg, where are you? Do you know how long I've been looking for you? Where are you?"
"Whoa, whoa! Calm down, Jim. I'm fine. I'm at the intersection of Pine and 18th. See, I was in Patrick's Market when it was robbed."
"I knew it! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Jim. But can you come and get me? I'd feel better if you came and got me."
"Sure, babe. Are you really okay?" There was a slight hint of worry in Jim's voice.
"A sprained ankle and a slight concussion. But you can take care of me at home. Please?"
"Sure, babe. I'm on my way. I'll be there shortly. I love you, Blair."
"Yeah, Jim. Ditto." Blair blushed slightly as Peters looked over at him. "I've got to go, Jim. I'm using Sgt. Peters' cell phone. See ya soon."
Jim made a U-turn in the middle of the street and headed towards the location. He took deep breaths to control his worry. Blair had told him he was fine, but then had admitted about a sprained ankle and a slight concussion. He would definitely take care of his lover when they got home.
There was also the fact that once again, Blair had been involved in a potential powder keg, being one of the hostages in the market. Jim worried every time Blair was involved in an altercation or a potential situation. He had a hard time letting Blair out of his sight and had an unnatural urge to protect him. He wasn't sure if it was a Sentinel/Guide thing or a Jim/Blair thing. Either way, he just knew he didn't ever want to lose his lover.
He made it to the location and automatically dialed down his senses when he got out of the truck because of all the activity around the area. He did dial up his sense of smell in order to track where Blair was. He found him sitting in the back of an ambulance, getting his left ankle wrapped. There was already a bandage over his right eye and dried blood on his cheek.
Jim couldn't keep the smile off his face when he heard Blair.
"But I told you the date and the name of the president and my name, my age and all my vital statistics. And I mentioned that my roommate is coming to take me home. He was a medic in the Army and he's been looking out for me for over four years." Blair swatted away the paramedic's hand when it came up to examine his eyes again. That's when he saw Jim. "That's him. My roommate. Get over here, Jim! They are talking about taking me to the hospital to have X-Rays done."
Jim sauntered over to the ambulance, sitting down beside Blair, pulling him into a one-armed hug. He looked over at the paramedic. "Blair's right with what he said. I have been patching up his bumps and cuts and bruises for over four years. Do you think there is something more serious going on?"
"We just want to make sure there's nothing more serious."
"How about we compromise and I run him by the hospital to get checked out?"
"That works for us. We'll need him to sign a release form."
Blair piped in. "I'll gladly sign whatever you need."
The paramedic finished with the bandaging of Blair's ankle and then had him sign the release form. Then Jim helped Blair to his feet and kept his arm around Blair's midsection, pulling him fractionally closer. They made their way over to Jim's truck and Jim helped Blair into the passenger side. Jim did a Sentinel scan of the leg, especially the ankle.
"It appears to be just a sprain." Jim put Blair's foot back down and leaned in for a kiss. It was deep and full of his pent up worry. The only reason they separated was the need for air.
Blair smiled. "I feel better already. Were you worried much?"
"You know how I get." Jim turned to look out the windshield.
Blair reached out, turning Jim's head back to face him. "It's okay, love. I understand. We both feel the same about each other. I'm fine and when we get home, we'll both be fine. We are going home, right?"
"Yeah, I don't see any reason to bother hospital personnel for a sprained ankle and a slight concussion. And I need to snuggle."
Jim started on the drive home. Suddenly, Blair remembered the groceries from Patrick's Market.
"Jim? I need some of those things for the meal we're making for our party."
"I'll go and get them tomorrow. Tonight, we need to reconnect with each other. Maybe we should cancel the party?"
"No, Jim! Everyone is looking forward to our Christmas party. I'll be well enough to entertain our guests and if it gets to be too much, you can be the host. Of course, you'll probably have to prepare most of the dishes. Since I won't be able to be on my feet for long periods of time."
"Maybe we'll change the menu. We can have burgers and a salad."
Blair noticed the smile on Jim's face and knew he was joking with him. "Most of the crowd we're inviting would be perfectly fine with burgers and a salad. But I thought we'd treat them to something fancier."
Jim got them home and helped Blair inside the building and into the elevator. Once the elevator reached the third floor, Jim picked Blair up and carried him down the hall towards their apartment. He gave Blair the keys to unlock the door and soon both were inside. Jim deposited Blair on the couch and knelt down beside the couch in order to prop up his sprained left ankle. He swooped upwards to capture Blair's lips in a kiss. The sense of urgency wasn't as intense as before.
When they parted, Jim got to his feet and went to get Blair some aspirin and water to help with the pain. Blair gratefully took the pills. Jim sat down by the couch and Blair smiled. It was a typical protection stance, but he didn't say anything to Jim about it. Blair was able to drift off to sleep because Jim was there.
Jim kept watch over Blair, not willing to move just yet. Later, he would carry Blair upstairs to their bed to snuggle. Tomorrow, they would worry about the Christmas party. Jim was just grateful Blair was with him.
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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Lyn for the beta and Patt for the artwork.