Cycle One: Discoveries
A Life Lived in Moments
"Move it Frizz," Russo screamed in either frustration or encouragement, Blair wasn't sure which one. Blair pressed his back to the hot brick and tried to remind himself this was just a game. Holding his gun out in proper form, Blair came around the corner and lined up with one of the doors facing him across a sandy field peppered with weeds. A door popped open at random, and Blair used a precious half second to determine whether it was hostile or friendly before putting a bullet in the cardboard target.
Roth had been working with him, coming out to the range just to help Blair after hours when all the cadets were at home, tucked in their beds. Blair snorted. Yeah, right. The cadets were probably our drinking and getting arrested themselves, Blair thought as he lined up on another target that came out of a door.
Blair watched as the picture of the child with a water gun disappeared unharmed. He and Roth had worked the range until Blair trusted himself with the gun, and even felt confident. Of course it helped that Roth insisted that he'd rather have a detective with a slower score and no accidental hits than the detective with the best score in the department.
Well, Blair was nowhere near the best in the department if Russo's curses were anything to go by. Nope, at this rate, the two-five was going to easily win the bet, but Blair refused to hurry his pace as he reached the building and cleared the first room. A cardboard face appeared in the empty window frame, and Blair trained his gun on it for a brief second before the click behind him reminded him he hadn't cleared the closet yet.
Blair slammed his back to the wall near the window and lined his weapon up with the closet. A cardboard picture of a kind older gentleman appeared, shotgun in hand. Blair pulled the trigger with the same regret he always felt.
Blair understood. To help people and stop the bad guys, a person simply had to have the power to stop those who wouldn’t be stopped any other way.
Pushed away from the wall, Blair identified the cardboard face of a child before moving to the second room. Three more faces, two hostile, one hostage. Blair put neat holes in two pieces of cardboard while moving around the third. One more door.
Blair came out the back door, the sun from the afternoon sky nearly blinding him as he stepped onto the gravel and rock surface of the house’s "backyard." One shed and three fences to clear.
Blair suspected that the unit had well and truly lost the bet by now, and he anticipated a long afternoon of washing cars and getting verbally tortured, but he focused on the range, taking out two more paper villains and sparing three inanimate victims.
As Blair lined up and took out the last target, a horn blew and the range sergeant yelled his score through the bullhorn. Blair flinched. Oh yeah, they had totally lost the challenge. Well, no help for it… he was going to spend the afternoon washing cars over at the two-five with the rest of the unit. After that, getting back to investigating his cases would be a joy.
Blair holstered his weapon and started walking across the weedy and patchy grass to where the rest of the unit waited.
“You’re washing the tires, Frizz,” Russo growled unhappily.
“Whatever, man,” Blair said. Russo snorted and started walking back to the parking lot. Funny, Blair had expected a lot more shit than that.
Sandburg!" Roth bellowed, and Blair cringed at the sound. He knew that bellowing was just Roth’s way, but it really bugged him that everyone in the bull pen knew whenever his ass was in the fire. Blair quickly initialed the paperwork before sliding the file back into place and hurrying towards his captain’s office.
"Captain?" Blair asked as he walked into the office and closed the door behind him. From the sound of the bellow, he wanted at least a little privacy for this ass-chewing.
"I have a complaint here from the Sanchez family that you have, and I quote, ‘harassed and insulted the family on multiple occasions.’ Would you care to explain this?"
"Captain, I just know Tom Sanchez killed his brother," Blair started. Roth interrupted.
"So you harass the family? Sandburg, you know better than that!"
"I’m not harassing them."
"Then why do I have this letter from the parents?"
"Because the parents don’t want to admit their son was gay!" Blair didn’t realize he was shouting back until the last word. He also hadn’t realized that he’d leaned forward into the desk. Now he stood and took a step back in the silence that followed. “I’m just trying to get them to talk about who knew about their son’s personal life. They won’t talk."
"The parents aren’t going to start talking by you badgering them."
"Oh, man, I know. I totally know. I just can’t think of any other way to get them to start seeing the truth. The parents are providing the alibi for their son Tom, and if they would only see the truth…"
"Sometimes parents don’t see the truth, sometimes they can’t." Roth’s voice grew suddenly more tired and softer. “Frizz, sometimes you can’t solve a case, and beating your head against this wall won’t help. You don’t need official complaints in your file."
"And what do I tell Mr. Collins? What do I tell Sanchez’s lover and real family?"
"You tell him that you’re sorry, but you can’t keep beating a horse that’s dead, buried, and rotting away in the earth."
"They don’t bury horses," Blair pointed out petulantly.
"Yeah, well they do bury careers. Let this one go, Frizz," Roth ordered. Blair fingered the edge of the vest he was wearing, the small silver beads cool in his hand.
"Frizz, you're one of my best detectives, but you can't close every case and you can't beat yourself up for not being perfect. Let it go."
Blair stood and looked at his captain's concerned expression, and he realized that he didn't really have a choice. As long as the Sanchez's were protecting the one brother, the other would never have justice. The most he could do was have faith that the universe would balanced it all out in the end.
"Right, no more calling the Sanchezes," Blair agreed. Of course, that didn't mean he'd stop chasing other leads, but for now, he realized that he couldn't fix the world single-handedly. Blair wandered back to his desk and looked at the growing pile of files in his active box. Oh, he definitely couldn't fix the world. But at least he hadn't done as Bets suggested and relegated these people to the dead files. If he couldn’t solve the crime, the least he could do would be to remember. Well, that and care.
|"Dirty pigs!" a young voice called out, and Blair tried reminding himself that these were kids, children really. Blair walked over the spikey-haired young man who had shouted those words despite the fact he was making himself a bit of a suspect in the theft of the school computers and the vandalism in the halls. Of course there was such a crowd around the school building that Blair had more than enough suspects to choose from. He decided then that he hated summer school. Arizona was too damn hot and the kids too damn cranky for summer school. Ignoring his own aggravation, Blair went over to the group with a smile on his face.
"Did you know that in Chinese mythology, the pig is one of the most revered animals, the symbol of honor and loyalty. Being born in the year of the pig is considered good luck, and many people try to marry people born under that zodiac sign because people born under the influence of the pig are so caring. Of course I was actually born under the sign of the monkey, but I can still appreciate the pig.
"In fact there are many cultures that consider pigs to be symbols of prosperity, man. Just like there are lots of cultures that consider your piercing there to be symbols of prosperity and status. Did you know there are 4,000 year old clay statues from Iran that show women of status having multiple ear piercings, and the ancient people of Mexico and China used to stretch their ears with large ear spools that would make the piercings stretch until you could get a small hand through the lobe?
"Oh man, they were really into the body modification, but I've never gone past a nipple ring, and I had to get myself good and drunk before I even managed that." Blair looked at the shocked faces gazing at him from under dyed black hair and dark Goth makeup.
"So, anyone know what kind of losers spend their weekend trying to get *into* school instead of trying to get out of school like all the normal kids?" Blair asked sweetly.
|Blair realized he was dreaming when the blue jungle around him shimmered and disappeared for a moment leaving him and the black jaguar standing on a flat, featureless surface surrounded by blue light. "Hey, Jim," Blair said to the dream cat. It instantly transformed into Jim as though the name had the power to force Jim back into his true form. Blair still kept his distance since he had been swept by those jaguar claws often enough that he didn't want to take the chance of waking up with his heart pounding and his fingers checking for blood.
"Blair," Jim said, and the pain and wariness in Jim's eyes was enough to make Blair take a step backwards. The emotional guards were all up, and Blair wondered why he conjured angry Jim into his dreams when he really just wanted to lose himself in some happy memory. Better yet, some happy fantasy of things that never ever would have happened in real life.
"Still pissed, huh?" Blair asked, deciding to go along with his subconscious which constantly insisted that he deal with this version of Jim.
"You walked out," Jim accused him.
"You walked out first. Oh man, I need to wake up. I am so not prepared to having this argument with my own psyche." Jim stood silent, watching him, and Blair felt a shiver travel his backbone as Jim transformed into the cat again. Right, avoid the claws. Obviously that wasn't an issue because the cat turned tail and then the jungle returned, trees blocking his view of the Jim cat.
"Oh man, do you ever wish we could just start over? I am so fucking tired of missing you," Blair whispered to the blue air. "I just want a fresh start, a way to erase all this crap and have my best friend back again. I…" Blair's voice cracked. "I wish there were some sort of rebirth or cleansing ceremony that would cancel out the past." Only silence answered Blair, and he woke suddenly. Looking at the clock, Blair decided to give up on sleep and go take a morning run. Maybe watching the sun rise would clear the feeling of anticipation that hung in the air.
|"Oh, I see big tings in your future," the old woman muttered in a fake New Orleans accent.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm going to be cop of the year," Blair answered as he guided her toward the squad room. She might be a witness, but her fake psychic routine and her faker accent were both starting to bother him. Of course all the others had abandoned him to the old woman long ago. Cowards.
"Let's talk about the man you saw on the street," Blair tried as he sat her down next to his desk and brought out his tape recorder. He quickly spoke his name, the date and the location of the interview into the machine before setting it on the desk where it would catch Madame Zelanski's every word.
"The man is the five of cups… no moving on to the six… too much time in the four of cups." Madame Zelanski waved her hand dismissively as though she had finished. "But you… I would have you draw a card for yourself." Blair struggled to remember his mother's tarot period. He'd been young enough that he had sat at her feet as she learned their meanings and explained how the cards allowed the universe to speak to the individual.
"Five of cups," Blair said, ignoring the woman's comments about him. "You mean pain or loss? What did he look like to make you say that?"
"Ah, the young cub knows the cards. Do you hear the universe whisper its secrets?" she instantly asked in a low, reverent voice.
"Not lately," Blair said as he struggled to not lose patience, it wouldn't help anyone if he threw her in a cell for obstructing justice. "I just need some facts from this physical reality," he tried this time.
"There is no physical reality. The man with blood on his hands thought there was, but the four of cups tricked him," she said as she leaned forward conspiratorially. However, her accent was starting to slip. It kinda ruined the whole mystical routine, Blair thought.
"The four of cups, is that one pleasure?" Blair asked.
"Pleasure in excess or pleasure about to be lost," she agreed.
"Okay, let's try it this way. Pretend that I'm someone who doesn't believe in the tarot at all and tell me what you saw with your eyes that a non-believer could see," Blair tried. The woman looked at him with her head cocked to one side and a thoughtful expression.
"I'll make a deal with you," she wheedled.
"What sort of deal?" Blair needed her statement, but the tape recorder had caught the offer and now Blair wanted all the cards on the table, so to speak. If she wanted money, he had to turn that over to Roth.
"Pull a card," she demanded triumphantly as she held out a deck.
"Oh man, that's it?" The woman nodded once. "Deal. You tell me what mere mortal eyes would have seen and I will pull a card."
"His eyes were large and black, his steps unsteady from the drugs he had taken," Madam Zelanski started. Blair shifted the tape recorder close to her and flipped open a notepad so that he could take a few notes of his own. It helped him think.
In the end, the woman had seen even more than anyone had expected. Blair smiled as he looked down at the tape recorder with the wealth of details about the killer and the victim. Say what you want about the old woman, she had sharp eyes. And now those eyes were focused right on him as one fat finger tapped the top of a deck of tarot cards she had reverently placed on his desk. Blair glanced up at Bets and Maria who had shown up near the end of the interview.
Well he had made a deal. He picked up about a third of the deck and took a card. Pushing the rest of the deck to one side, he flipped his card face up on the corner of his desk.
"Ah!" Madam Zelanski exclaimed enthusiastically. "Death! Oh how exciting. I knew I could smell fate clinging to you like the scent of a rose lingering on the petals." Blair temporarily lost his train of thought as he heard Bets' snort of laughter.
"Yes, well let's get your statement typed up and then you can sign it," Blair said with a glare toward his friend.
"Doesn't it bother you?" Maria asked hours later long after Madam Zelanski with her fake accent and long skirts had been sent back home with a uniformed patrol.
"That," Maria gestured toward the card that still lay on his desk, a skeletal hand holding a scythe and a skull grinning out from a hood. "It's like she cursed you or something."
"Oh man, no way. The death card is just about change. It means a person is about to move on to a new level or find a new level of consciousness. I mean, we all fear death, but really what we fear is the unknown. That just means I'm about to walk into the unknown," Blair explained. "Well, it would if I believed in that stuff," he amended himself when he caught Bets' amused expression.
"So, it's nothing bad?" Maria asked.
"Um, change can be good or bad," Blair explained. "I just figure I've seen enough major life changes that I know how to roll with the punches." Maria nodded and moved back to her desk while Blair considered just how terrifyingly true that statement actually was. Three months of getting settled, and if one counterfeit gypsy could be believed, life was about to change again. He couldn't decide if it was anxiety or just plain weariness that he felt at the thought.
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