Jim was in foot pursuit of a fleeing suspect near the docks. "Cascade PD! FREEZE!" he called for the second time. The suspect turned and fired at Jim, who ducked.
Masterson came running up from another direction. "ATF! FREEZE!" he tried.
The drug runner growled and fired toward Masterson, who whirled behind a support pole to cover. Then he took one more shot at Jim -- and this time it scored.
Jim grunted, his hand going to his shoulder as he was spun around. The forceful movement threw him off-balance and he fell six feet into the murky water of Cascade Bay.
"JIIIIIM!" Sandy wailed, throwing off her jacket and running toward the dock to jump into the water after him.
She never made it. She was grabbed from behind by the drug runner and held in front of his body, the barrel of his gun biting painfully into her temple. "BACK OFF!" he bellowed to Masterson. "Back off, or she buys it!"
Masterson looked into Sandy's eyes. He saw absolutely no fear there -- only a soul-deep, burning anger as her cerulean eyes focused on the water. Those eyes widened, flooded with relief and joy, then narrowed as they turned to Masterson. He smiled reassuringly, and found himself on the receiving end of a blinding smile meant to comfort him.
She wasn't afraid at all.
The drug runner backed up slowly, jabbing the gun periodically into Sandy's head and making her grunt with the tightening of his arm around her lower ribcage. "We're gettin' outta here....nice an' slow.... you ain't gonna do nothin' or this pretty lady's brains'll be fish food, got me?"
He took five more steps backward like that until he was stopped by the sudden feel of cold, wet metal against his neck and a meaty, damp hand on his other shoulder. A feral growl in his ear: "You're the one gonna do nothin'....but let her go." The gun pressed deeper into his neck. "Unless you want the fish to be feeding on your brains tonight."
Swallowing hard, the gunrunner released his hold on Sandy, who scooted back and grabbed her jacket. "You okay, Jim?" she called as she helped Masterson gather the scattered packets of evidence the runner had dropped as he fled.
"I'm wet and cold and my shoulder hurts like hell," he replied as he finished cuffing the drug runner.
"Well, now that you've finished stealing my lines...." Sandy quipped, realizing Jim wasn't seriously hurt. "Let's get you to the hospital."
"Let's get him in a holding cell first," Jim said, returning her smile.
Sandy protested, but Masterson backed Jim up and twenty minutes later, they were at the precinct.
Jim let out a sneeze as he finished typing in the report on the night's arrest. Sandy -- Blair now, had been since Masterson had left an hour before -- was down in the cafeteria getting a snack for them before they left for the hospital. Jim had assured his partner he had called the hospital and things were fine, and he'd change into dry clothes while Blair was gone.
Jim hadn't meant to lie, he just had gotten distracted by the paperwork. The clothing had dried on his body as he'd typed, and his shoulder wasn't hurting anymore.
"Bless you," Simon said as he appeared from nowhere by Jim, startling the Sentinel.
"Geesh, Simon!" Jim bellowed. "Give a guy some warning ---"
"You look like hell," was Simon's reply.
"I'm fine. The report's printing now, heading to your comp--- ACHOO!!!!"
"Sure you're fine. Take some time off, go home and drink one of those noxious potions of Sandburg's."
"I'm fine, Simon, it's just a cold."
Blair walked in at that moment, his hands laden with sandwiches and steaming styrofoam cups. He paused and frowned at Jim. "I thought you said you were gonna change clothes."
"I am! Well, I thought I was, but I got busy with the report and --- tell me one of those is salami."
"Can't you smell it?"
"Ah, nose is a little stuffed at the moment."
Simon put in, "Which would be why I could sneak up on you earlier."
Blair's frown deepened. "You could sneak up on him?"
Jim held up a hand. "I was into the report and -- and---" his face screwed up but he managed to keep the sneeze mostly inside.
"That's it," Simon said. "Home. Now."
"Sheesh, Simon," Jim protested even as he grabbed his still-damp jacket. "It's just a cold...."
Blair had an early-morning meeting with Masterson the next day -- the ATF agent was going to introduce Sandy to the new firing range. Jim had reluctantly agreed to it. As Blair, he had proven to be a crack shot -- even though the junior detective preferred other means to end a situation. As Sandy, however, her hands were slightly weaker and she needed all the practice she could get.
Jim was still a bit jealous of Masterson, however -- but he knew they were only friends and Sandy intended to keep it that way.
But at the moment, Jim felt too miserable to try to stop anyone from anything. His head felt as if it were going to roll off of his shoulders. He'd tried to get out of bed earlier, and that had been a huge mistake. His shoulder was throbbing and his chest felt like he was wearing a flak jacket that was about four sizes too small.
Adding insult to injury, his senses were all over the place. Dials? What dials? Everything was crazy. Sometimes he was too hot, other times way too cold. Sometimes he could hear a fly breathing, other times he was deaf as a doornail.
When Blair returned, he found Jim like that. "Jim?" he whispered, unsure whether or not his voice would aggravate whatever was wrong. "Jim, it's Blair, what is it?"
"What hurts, Jim?"
Blair reached for him, alarmed at the near-convulsion level shivering, and breathed a curse as he felt the heat rolling off of the taller man's body. He pulled the quilt and sheet back, and dropped them as if his hands were burned. "Aw, Jim...."
Jim's shoulder wound was angry red and oozing. "This should not be this bad this fast," Blair mumbled even as he dialed 911 and ordered an ambulance dispatched. He then hung up and called Simon. "Simon, it's Blair. Jim's in a bad way."
He breathed a heavy sigh and looked at the bed, where Jim was thrashing in the grips of a feverish delusion. "No, sir --- it sure wasn't 'just a cold'."
During the ambulance ride, Jim became combative. Blair tried to calm him and ended up holding his fists down while the men worked. Jim's hearing was out, it appeared, and he was obviously disoriented.
Finally, the paramedics sedated him over Blair's protests. "It's the only way we dare handle him!"
When they got to Cascade General, Blair went right in with Jim. The doctors were working with him, trying to get the fever down. One of them pulled his shirt away from his shoulder and did a double take. "What the hell...."
"That's what I'd like to know!" Blair sighed. "He was shot there and fell into the Bay and then this morning it was like this and he was like this!"
"How long ago did this happen?"
She frowned. "This much infection shouldn't have set in this fast...."
"That's what I said!" Blair threw his hands in the air.
The doctor chewed her lip. "Unless...... Jayna, draw blood for a CBC and a tox screen."
"Tox screen?" Blair asked, his voice shaky. "Aw, come on, this is Jim! He won't ta---"
She held up her hand. "Not looking for drugs, Mister Sandburg. Looking for venom."
Two hours later, Sandy sat by Jim's bedside holding his hand. Her old curse had returned -- she had to be Sandy daily now or the pain returned. But that hardly seemed important now.
What was important lay in the bed fighting for his life. The only sound in the room was the beeping of monitors and rasp of the respirator. The only sight was Jim's feverish face and the stark bandages around his shoulder and IV'd hand. The only scent was the whang of sweat and poison from the bullet wound.
The tox screen had come back positive for venom. Specifically, jellyfish venom. When the doctor had heard Blair mention 'the Bay', her hackles had risen along with suspicion.
The newspapers had been full of reports detailing a swarm of jellyfish that had swum into Cascade Bay trying to escape a storm. They had ended up dying and their decomposing bodies had been hacked up by overzealous environmentalists in the hopes they would decay faster and not clog up the bay. Unfortunately, their actions only served to pollute the waters with venom from thousands of sacs.
The water that had poured into the bullet wound during Jim's unscheduled dip had been impregnated with the venom. And now the detective was paying the price for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sandy rubbed her forehead, where a tension headache was setting up shop and all but paying rent. To add insult to injury, Jim had turned off allergic to the antivenin, and it hadn't turned up in the screening test! They'd administered the dose, and he'd stopped breathing.
So now there was nothing they could do. Nothing but wait..... monitor.....
Sandy touched her forehead to his hand. "I hate being so damned helpless...."
"We all do."
She turned to the door and smiled. "I thought you had a meeting."
"Got cancelled." Masterson walked in and sat across from her, on Jim's other side. "Due to arrest of the other participant."
"What's the charge?"
"Same as we were going to discuss," he smiled tightly. "Assault rifles illegally smuggled." The smile faded. "How is he doing?"
She sighed. "The same. They just don't know what to do."
"Is he just asleep or ---?"
"Drug-induced. They're hoping his body'll fight better this way."
As if on cue, Jim's eyes fluttered.
Sandy sighed. "If his system would quit burning them out...." She leaned over and rubbed his forehead. "It's okay, Jim...it's Sandy....you're safe...."
He looked at her through bleary eyes, then they closed and he slid into a normal sleep.
As soon as he did, she pushed the call button. "I've got a good feeling about this."
"Huh?" was Masterson's articulate reply.
Sandy beamed at the ATF agent. "He didn't fight this time. He heard me, trusted me, and went back to sleep." She rested her hand on his forehead. "And he's cooler!"
Twelve days later, Jim was released from the hospital. Weak, barely walking, but feisty and ready to go back to work.
Against Medical Advice.
Return to The Realm