Simon sat at his desk the stress evident on his face. //Who can I con into this?// He stood and walked to his window looking out into the bullpen. He watched his detectives at their desks mentally crossing them off of his list. His attention was drawn to the door to Major Crimes as his favorite pair walked in, a memory struck Simon and he smiled. If the two had been looking his way at that moment they would have know something was up and been prepared for the worst. He watched Ellison walk toward the break-room as Sandburg started making his way to their desk and the mountain of paperwork. Simon watched as the young man exchanged greetings with every person he passed. There were times the Captain was amazed at how well the young anthropologist was accepted by the detectives, but Simon didn't want to question it; his philosophy was if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
"Sandburg, my office," yelled Simon.
Blair jumped, // Oh man, what did I do this time. // He hurried to the Captains office.
Jim heard Simon yell for Blair as he walked through the Bullpen carrying the coffee for himself and his partner. He looked across to Simon. He saw the big man smile as he ushered Sandburg into the office. Simon looked at Jim and shook his head letting the big detective know his partner was not in trouble. Jim relaxed. It was only with determination he resisted listening in on the conversation. He smiled to himself. He knew he would get it out of Blair later.
"Come in, Blair. Have a seat. Would you like some coffee?" Simon offered.
Blair was now totally confused. Simon was being too nice; this was not in character. Yelling was more in keeping with the captain Blair knew and was only slightly afraid of. He knew something was up. //He has bad news// thought Blair. //He's been told to pull my observer status. I knew it! When Captain Finkleman checked on my status, she set off some kind of flag and they are going to tell me to take a hike.//
Simon was completely unaware of the anxiety he was causing the younger man. He was trying to frame his request in such a way so it would not be dismissed immediately. Blair was so caught up in his worrying he didn't realize Simon had started speaking at first, so he missed the crucial information that might have changed his decision.
..... "I would consider it a big favor if you would do this, Sandburg."
The words finally reached Blair and, with the relief he felt at the realization that his observer status was not in jeopardy, he said, "Sure Simon, anything."
The Captain felt slightly guilty as he realized the kid had not heard what the favor was but he was still going to hold him to it. "Just remember you agreed," he reminded Blair. Blair nodded. "I need you to drive a bus."
"What kind of bus?" Blair asked, suddenly becoming suspicious.
"A school bus."
"No, no, please tell me you didn't say school bus. I hate school buses."
"It won't be that bad, Sandburg. It's for a field trip for Daryl's Living History class. You like history, and they are studying native cultures." Simon knew it was working so he played his final card. "Daryl told me that if they couldn't find a driver for the second bus, the trip would be canceled for every one. He'll understand if you have something better to do on Saturday. I know he will be disappointed, but he will get over it." Simon sighed and shook his head.
Blair shook his head and chuckled with resignation, "OK, Simon, I'll do it. You can ease up on the guilt trip now."
Simon smiled at the young man. "I knew I could count on you." Simon was feeling pleased with himself.
"Captain, you get to tell Jim the reason why I won't be able to help him paint the loft this weekend." Blair smiled as he exited the now worried captain's office. "I'll tell Jim you want to talk to him."
* * *
//Never again// Blair thought as he drove the bus back towards Cascade. I will never again drive a bus or any other type of vehicle with a group of teenagers, especially teenage girls. He felt like a bug under a microscope. One group of girls had been staring at him the entire drive. It was unnerving. Daryl meanwhile thought it was hilarious. Thankfully Ms. McCully, the chaperone, had noticed them being annoying and saw the plea for help in Blair's eyes and moved them to the back of the bus. It was an improvement, but he could still see them in the rear view mirror.
"Daryl, remind me to never agree to a favor for your dad with out hearing all of the details first."
"Oh, come on. It hasn't been all bad," Daryl replied
Blair laughed. "No, it hasn't been all bad, but…," he glanced in the mirror and gestured with his head.
"Yea, well, you just need to ignore them."
"Trust me, I'm trying."
"I know they're annoying but you wont ever run into them, unless...." Daryl giggled.
"What do you mean, unless," said Blair in a worried tone.
"Well, if you are still teaching in a couple of years, they make take one of your classes. They know what you teach," Daryl started laughing even harder. "Oh no, they know where you teach." Daryl was laughing so hard he almost fell out of his seat.
"Just keep it up, kid. Blair warned, "I've seen your baby pictures, and I know where your dad keeps them." He now had the boy's attention, trying not to laugh himself. "I wonder if the school paper would like to print some of them." Daryl looked at Blair in horror. It was just enough to start Blair laughing.
Ms McCully smiled at the by-play between the two young men. She looked at Blair and wished she were about thirty years younger. Sarah McCully was sixty three years old and had been a teacher for twenty eight years. Her life revolved around her 'kids'. She and Sandburg had hit it off right away, each recognizing the natural teacher in the other.
Blair almost missed stopping at the railroad tracks and moments later would wish that he had.
He slowed to a stop and opened the bus door to look down the tracks then turned to look out the window. Seeing that it was all clear he started closing the door. Suddenly a hand reached in to pull them open. Two men quickly climbed into the bus. The first thing Blair saw was the gun in the shorter mans hand. //Oh shit!// he looked in the mirror meeting Daryls eyes. Blair silently warned his young friend not to move. Daryl nodded.
"Nobody move." the gunman warned, waving the gun around.
He turned to Blair ignoring the cries of fear from the passengers on the bus.
He put the gun to Blair's head and ordered him to start driving. Blair nodded and hoped the gun didn't have a hair trigger. As the bus pulled forward, he risked a glance at the two hijackers. From their industrial orange jumpsuits, he knew they were escaped convicts. He didn't recognize the one with the gun. He looked like a generic convict. If you asked for central casting to send a convict, he is what they would send, Stringy hair, bad teeth, medium build, etc.
His partner, however, was a face Blair knew very well. He was a kidnapper the detectives in Major Crimes and the FBI had searched for. It had taken two months to finally capture him. It had only been with the use of Jim's Sentinel abilities that he had been caught and his latest victim rescued.
//Please don't let him remember who I am.// prayed Blair. He knew Victor Addison had only seen him once and that was at Addison's arrest. Addison looked at Blair without recognition. Blair felt some of the tension ease.
"Turn up here at the dirt road," ordered the gunman.
Blair followed the directions, barely making the close turn. They followed the narrow winding road for about six miles. By this time, Blair was totally lost. He hoped he would eventually be able to find his way out if they were given the opportunity to escape.
"Stop here," was the next order issued by the hijacker.
Blair slowed and then stopped the bus. The gunman pointed the gun at Blair. "You move to the back of the bus." As Blair moved he managed to snag his backpack and carry it with him. The gun was aimed at the students and chaperone in the front half of the bus. "OK, all of you move to the back." Daryl helped Ms McCully move to the back. He and Blair both knew that they had been moved to prevent them from overpowering the hijackers. While the two in the front were occupied with what was probably a plan on what to do with twenty three hostages, Blair had pulled his cell phone out of his pack and hit the speed dial to alert his partner about the danger the bus load of students were in. Blair smiled when he looked across at Daryl and noted that the teenager was about to try to call his dad.
Blair shook his head and whispered, "Save it for later."
* * *
Jim's cell phone rang as he and Simon stood waiting in the school parking lot for the 'kids' to get home from their Field trip.
"Ellison," answered Jim He heard the sounds of kids crying in the background and had to turn up his hearing to understand what his partner was saying.
"Jim," Blair spoke in a rush of words. "The bus has been hijacked. I'm not sure where we are. We were boarded at the railroad tracks ten miles outside of town. I don't know how far we drove, but I think we turned on the first dirt road after the tracks. We are stopped about six miles down the dirt road." Jim could hear the affect this was having on his partner, Blair's heart was racing and his breathing was a bit ragged. "One of the hijackers is Vince Addison." Jim felt a shaft of fear as he remembered that Addison had seen his partner when he was arrested. "He hasn't recognized me yet, but I think it will only be a matter of time."
"Chief, stop and take a breath," He heard the intake of air as Blair took a deep breath. "Now listen, I want you to be careful. Don't draw attention to yourself."
Blair whispered, "OK, Jim, I'll try to be a quiet as a mouse. Just keep listening I'm going to hide the phone and you can track us using it if we're moved. Tell Simon to watch out and make sure you don't zone."
Jim looked over at Simon, "Don't tell me they are going to be late." Simon laughed. "I should have remembered Sandburg's problem with directions."
"Yeah, they're going to be late. I wish they were just lost." Simon looked at Jim in question. "The bus has been hijacked." Jim hurried to explain, "everyone is still OK. They haven't hurt anyone." The unspoken 'yet' seemed to hang between them. "Blair will look out for the kids," Jim tried to reassure Simon.
"Yea, but who will look after Sandburg," Simon whispered under his breath. He knew how easy it was for the young observer to get into trouble. He looked guiltily towards Jim. Simon knew it was his fault that Blair was in trouble, but at the same time he was glad that his son had the young anthropologist with him.
Jim pretended not to hear. "Simon, let's head toward their location and try to find them."
"What are we waiting for. Let's go." Simon informed his men in Major Crimes about the kidnapping and tasked them with notifying the FBI and the school. He was coordinating the search as he and Jim sped towards Blair, Daryl and the rest of the hostages.
Jim's attention was snagged when he heard his guide whisper, "They are getting ready to move again. The weasel faced guy is now driving the bus and Addison has the gun." Blair slumped down in the seat as he talked to Jim. This was not the time to be noticed. He stopped talking when Addison looked his direction. "We just turned right on a side road. I will try to keep you informed."
Blair looked around at his fellow hostages. They were holding up pretty well for a bunch of kids. Maybe it was the 'nothing bad can happen to me' mindset that most teenagers seemed to all have. Well almost all, Daryl knew how bad things could get. He had been taken hostage before. At least he wouldn't have to worry about being dropped out the window of a building, like terrorists threatened to do when they took over the police station. Blair knew that it had take a lot of nightmares and talking before Daryl could come to grips with being dangled by his ankles outside the seventh floor window of Major Crimes.
Blair put his arm around the teenager's shoulders. "It's going to be OK," he whispered to Daryl, "Jim and your Dad are on their way. All we have to do is hang in there until they can rescue us. I'm going to need your help."
"Anything, man. What can I do?" Daryl asked.
"The next time the men up front aren't paying attention to us, I need you to move to the other side of the bus and let the others know our contingency plan," Blair informed him.
"What contingency plan?" Daryl knew if Blair said he had a plan, he did. Daryl just couldn't figure out when he would have thought it up.
"This is what I want you to do. I want everyone to quietly get all of the food they may have in their packs and hide it somewhere in their coats." Blair stopped Daryl before he could interrupt. "I'll explain in a minute. Now if they have water bottles, same thing. Find a way to hide them. The same goes for lighters, matches, anything that is usable. Got it?"
"Yeah, but what do I tell them if they ask why we need to do this?"
"Just tell them that I said so. Ms McCully will back me up on this." Blair looked over at the older woman who, at that moment, had her hands full trying to keep a young girl from crossing over into hysteria. She looked up and smiled briefly at Blair and Daryl before turning her attention back to the child beside her.
"Daryl, this is for your ears only because I need you to tell Ms McCully. I recognize one of the guys up front. He is someone Jim and your Dad arrested a few months ago." Daryl looked at Blair with distress. Blair nodded, "I was there with Jim. This guy hasn't recognized me yet and I would like it to stay that way."
Daryl took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "The minute they're not paying attention I will move over and tell Ms McCully."
"Sounds like a plan," Blair stated. "One more thing." Daryl looked back at him, "The girl with the red hair behind Ms McCully... Lisa, right?" Daryl nodded. "She bought a thing of that really strong perfume before we left, the stuff in the old looking spray bottle." Daryl looked at Blair with a puzzled expression on hi face. "Get it for me if you can."
Daryl shrugged, "Whatever you say." He watched the two at the front of the bus and when they were distracted, he moved to the seat in front of Ms McCully and filled her in on the plan. The word was passed along quickly.
Jim heard the entire conversation between his partner and his Captain's son. He smiled when he realized Blair was preparing for Addison to follow his usual MO. Addison would take his victims to a remote location and drop them off before contacting the family. After getting the ransom money, Addison would, depending on his mood, decide whether or not to inform the waiting family where to retrieve their loved one. Half of his victims were rescued alive; the others, had died usually of exposure and starvation. Jim filled Simon in on the details of Sandburgs plan.
"Jim," came the whispered voice. "It looks like we are stopping here. If everything goes by Addison's usual plan he will be dumping us here. I'm looking forward to seeing you shortly. I'm leaving the line open just in case."
"I want a list of names of the kids on this bus and I want it now." Addison demanded.
Ms. McCully looked over to Blair who told her to give Addison the passenger list. He prayed that the escapee wouldn't connect Daryl to his dad. "Everyone stand up." Addison ordered. Some of the kids automatically reached for their packs. "Leave them" he shouted. Addison handed a second gun to his accomplice. "I want everyone to follow me off this bus, and I want you to do it now."
Addison exited the bus and stood off to the side as the passengers filed past him. Just as Blair was starting to relax, his usual luck caught up with him. He had just stepped off the bus when the girl following him tripped and fell into him.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Sandburg," she apologized.
"Sandburg." Addison said as he grabbed Blair's arm.
"Oh shit" exclaimed Jim when he heard Addison say his partner's name. "Step on it, Simon. He knows who Blair is."
"Oh Shit," Blair unwittingly echoed.
"Cop one day, bus driver the next, you sure get around." He pulled Blair's arm up behind his back. Blair caught Daryl's eye and slightly shook his head. It would be Daryl's job to keep everyone safe until help arrived. Daryl gave Blair a slight nod. "You, Mr. Maybe cop, are going to come with us. I always wanted a cop to play with for my very own." He laughed and hauled Blair back up onto the bus and slammed him down into a seat. Addison yelled out the door, "You stay here and I will send someone to get you eventually." He laughed again as he sat back down with the gun aimed at Blair. The young man watched out the window as the bus turned around. He saw Daryl gather the group together. His last sight of Daryl was of the young man pulling his cell phone out of his pocket.
"Jim, warn Simon that his phone is about to ring and to turn off the ringer." He waited for a moment for Jim to relay the information. He kept his face hidden behind his long hair as he spoke to his sentinel in a voice so low only his partner could hear. "I'm the only one besides the bad guys left on the bus. I have to admit I am getting a little bit nervous. I don't have any idea what to do." Jim could hear that peculiar stutter step his partner had in his heartbeat whenever he was under extreme stress. In the back of his mind Jim found it interesting that the change in his Guide's heartbeat started after he knew the others were safe, and would be rescued shortly. As he listened, he noticed the tremor in Blair's voice level out as he went into guide mode working to direct Jim's hearing to the conversation the hijackers were having. "Focus on their voices. You need to filter out the sounds of the bus and turn up the volume on them."
Ellison followed his Guide's voice to the conversation on the bus.
"How much further is it going to be?" whined the one Blair described as the weasely one.
"Just a few more miles. I have a place up here that no one but me knows about."
"I don't see why we couldn't have kept some of them girls. It's been a long time," came another whine. "You coulda let me keep one. You got to keep him." Jim heard someone being hit. He breathed again; it wasn't Blair on the receiving end.
"Don't be stupid. The girls are business. We get good money for them. This one is for fun. Don't worry. I'll let you play too."
Jim heard every word of their plan. Simon could see by the grinding of the detective's teeth and the clenching of his jaw that things were not going well. Jim was torn between taking Simon to his son and the other victims and the overwhelming impulse to rush to his Guide. Jim was so tightly focused on this dilemma that he almost zoned and almost missed seeing his Spirit Guide standing at a turn off in the road.
"Simon, stop!" Jim yelled. Simon laid his foot on the brake and they came to an abrupt halt. Jim's seatbelt barely caught in time and jerked him back.
"What is it.?" said Simon in a shaken voice.
"Blair is in that direction," Jim pointed at the turnoff. "The others are straight ahead about one mile." He turned to look at Simon. "I need to go after him now." Simon understood.
He had been around the two long enough to know when not to interfere.
"I'll get out here and walk to the other group. I'll have Daryl meet me half way and the rest of the cavalry will catch up." said Simon as he hopped out of the truck. He leaned in, "Are you sure you can do this without the kid?"
"Yeah, I've got him right here." Jim said as he patted his pocket holding the cell phone and his link to his Guide. Simon moved back as Jim slid over into the driver's seat. Jim left Simon in a cloud of dust.
Simon called his son and told him to start walking and meet him on the road. Simon smiled when he heard the cheer from the students after Daryl relayed the news. The smile dropped from his face when the question he was dreading was asked.
* * *
When the bus reached the turn off to the hideout, Blair was surprised to see they were going to drive into an old mine tunnel. He quickly relayed to information to Jim. He knew the cell phone was going to be useless in the mine.
Addison hauled Blair out of the seat and tied his hands behind his back. Pushed out of the bus, Blair tripped on the last step. He twisted in the air, trying to break the perfume bottle he had taken from Lisa. His efforts were rewarded when the bottle broke dousing the young man with a scent strong enough to make his eyes water.
"What is that smell?" whined the weasel faced thug, as he prodded the young man with his foot to get him back on his feet.
"It was going to be a present for my girlfriend." Blair said in a disgusted tone, struggling to his feet. //I never realized how hard it is to get up without using your hands.// he thought to himself.
Addison laughed. "You really have a bad sense of smell if you think that smells good." He hauled Blair the rest of the way to his feet. "You smell like you bathed in it." Blair smiled to himself, now no matter what Jim would be able to find him.
Addison pushed Blair into the dark tunnel grudgingly shining the flashlight in front of the young man. Even with the small amount of light he fell; he could hear the Weasel giggle every time Blair hit the ground. He was learning how to fall without landing on his nose. //Great accomplishment, Sandburg, really something to write home about.// He thought as they traveled further into the mine.
The criminals traveled confidently down the tunnels. "Stop," Addison ordered. Blair stopped immediately in his tracks. He had a healthy respect for guns; he knew first hand the amount of damage it was capable of. Addison pushed the young man against the wall of the tunnel, holding him there with one hand on Blair's throat.
"Is it time to play?" asked the weasel.
"No, you idiot, it's time to find the money I stashed here. You can 'play' later. Now go look while I put this on where he won't be a problem." Addison grabbed Blair's bruised face. Blair tried to flinch away but the larger man's fingers just tightened over the bruises. Blair couldn't stop the hiss of pain. "I'm going to let my little friend play with you when we are through with business." Blair glared at his tormentor. Addison continued, "I think I'll just watch. I wouldn't want to disappoint him, now would I? He is amazing with a knife."
Blair was sickened by the thoughts of what was going to happen if Jim didn't show up on time.
* * *
Following the tracks made by the bus, Jim found the tunnel entrance. He stopped and tried to focus the way his guide had taught him. He started with hearing knowing if he could find Blair's voice or even better his heartbeat, he had a good chance of not zoning. He tilted his head to the side and focused down the tunnel. His efforts were rewarded with the welcome sound of the familiar heartbeat. Jim turned the dial on his hearing up trying to locate the criminals but was unable to maintain the levels he needed without his Guide's help. Only the bond between Sentinel and Guide had made it possible to get this far.
Jim followed the tunnel, stopping at the bus to get his bearings. He had trouble finding the direction the heartbeat was coming from due to the echoes within the man made cavern. Jim's frustration grew the longer it took. Jim smacked himself on the head, //stupid, stupid, Ellison now you remember.// he thought remembering the perfume Blair had spoken about. He piggybacked his sense of smell to his hearing the way Blair had taught him. The smell of the perfume was enough to make his eyes water. //Good work, Chief// Jim followed the scent to the correct tunnel and began to run.
As he got closer, he started to dial back his sense of smell. Jim put on a burst of speed when he heard the threats against his partner. His jaw clenched as he heard the sound of a fist striking Blair and the exclamation of pain.
* * * * *
//Damn that hurt// Blair thought as he raised his bound hands to his now bleeding face. "Jim, now would be a good time for a rescue." Blair said softly.
The weasel brought Addison the length of rope he had been ordered to retrieve. The rope was tied around Blair's waist and he was forced to walk further into the tunnel. "I have just the place to put you for safekeeping." Addison said tapping Blair's face. "We wouldn't want you to run away before we have fun, now, would we?"
Two minutes later they reached a vertical mine shaft. //Oh shit// Blair thought, knowing what the next step would be. The weasel secured one end of the rope to a support timber. "I hope this rope isn't too long," Addison looked at Blair with a mocking grin. "Don't want you to hit bottom, Oh well here goes nothing." Addison said as he pushed the young man over the edge.
Jim ran even faster when he heard what was happening. He felt his heart stop when he heard his partner's scream. The weasel didn't know what hit him. He saw a shape rush out of the darkness. Before he could make a sound, he was unconscious. He hit the ground with a thud. Jim's only focus was his Guide, he breathed a sigh of relief when he reached the edge of the pit and saw his friend dangling at the end of the rope, and listened to the litany of complaints. "Anytime now Jim, This is *so* not fun. You'd better hurry up, one more minute and I'm going to start thinking up more tests. I'm not kidding Jim, a trip to the landfill is starting to sound real tempting." Jim saw Blair look up.
"Hey, Chief, you ready to get out of there, or do you want to hang around a while longer?" Jim said softly.
Blair could barely make out the face of his friend in the faint light from the tunnel. "I knew you would find me." Blair stated with a bright smile.
Jim was always amazed at the level of absolute trust Blair had in him. For Blair, it wasn't a case of would he be found, but when.
Jim started hauling Blair out of the pit. Blair looked up and saw movement to the right of Jim. "Look Out!" Blair yelled. Ellison turned enough to catch the blow aimed for his head with his shoulder. His right arm immediately went numb. The rope slipped from his weakened grip. Blair fell rapidly when he reached the end of the rope he yelled. "I'm all right," To himself, he whispered, "be careful."
Jim turned toward Addison and blocked another blow. Jim knew he was fighting for not only his own life but that of his partner. The two men struggled, moving closer and closer to the edge of the pit. They were evenly matched but the Sentinel had an edge, the absolute need to protect the man on the other end of the rope. The tide of the battle turned in Ellison's favor. Jim kicked Addison's legs out from under him causing the criminal to fall over the edge into the mine shaft. Jim reflexively grabbed for the other's hand. Addison looked up at Ellison then looked two feet to the right at the rope tethered to Blair; he reached behind his back and pulled a knife. He looked straight into Jim's eyes, gave him an evil smile and reached out with the knife in an attempt to cut the rope. Jim swung Addison away from the rope, twisting his hand out of the criminals grasp, and grabbed the rapidly fraying rope. Addison managed to grab the edge of the pit with his finger tips. Jim's focus was his Guide, only a small portion of his mind registered Addison's struggle to hold on.
"You OK down there, Chief?"
"Yeah, just get me out of here," Blair was trying very hard to keep it together. He didn't want to make things worse.
Jim could tell Blair was barely hanging in there. He could hear the escalating heartrate.
"Just a few minutes more and I'll have you out of there." It took more than a few minutes but he finally pulled his shaken guide over the edge of the pit. Jim moved with Blair a short distance from the edge. He held his young companion close, wanting him to feel safe and secure. Blair burrowed closer trying to calm his shaking nerves.
"Hey Chief, you can open your eyes now." Jim felt Blair's heartbeat slow closer to normal.
Blair looked up and gave his Sentinel a shaky smile. He took a deep breath. "I'm OK, Jim." He tried to reassure the worried man. Jim started checking the younger man for serious injuries. When he was satisfied Blair was going to be all right, he started to calm down.
Blair looked towards the pit, his breath catching in his throat when he realized Addison was still hanging there by his finger tips. Blair hadn't even heard the man begging Jim to pull him up. "Jim." Gaining the older mans attention, he pointed to the man hanging from the edge, a question in his eyes.
Jim shook his head, "He tried to kill you Chief. Let him hang there till his fingers fall off." Jim said in a hard voice, starting to walk away. Blair reached for Jim's arm pulling him to a stop. When he had the big man's attention, he just shook his head. Jim looked away from the compassionate eyes of his guide. With a deep sigh, Jim turned and reached down for the criminal just as his fingers released the edge. Jim pulled him up and over the edge. When Addison tried to get up, Jim slammed him in the face with his fist, knocking Addison out cold. He looked sheepishly at Blair. "I know, I know, I'll have to drag him out of here, but it was worth it." Jim said as he handcuffed the unconscious man.
They hauled the two kidnappers back through the tunnels trusting Jim's sense of direction and sense of smell to find the bus. Jim loaded the two unconscious men onto the bus, cuffing them to the seat legs. Jim, with Blair's help, then backed the bus out of the tunnel. When the bus was under open sky, Jim called Simon.
"Simon, I've got him, Sandburg is OK." Jim announced before Simon could say hello. Jim heard a sigh of relief from his captain, Jim motioned to Blair to move closer to listen in, just in time to hear the cheers of the students as Simon relayed the news.
"Where are you?" Simon asked.
"Six miles from the turn off at an abandoned mine."
"We will meet you at the turn off. Do you have the prisoners?" Simon was prepared for Ellison to tell him the prisoners were dead, and knew he would accept any explanation from Jim about how they died. He was not ready for Jim's answer.
"We have the prisoners. Do you have transportation for them, and a driver for the bus?" Jim asked.
"Yes to both," Simon answered. "How are you going to get the bus to the turnoff"
"I'm driving it." Jim stated.
Simon had visions of the impound parking lot when Ellison had practiced driving a big rig. "Ah, Jim, I want you to wait there." Simon thought quickly. "I'm sending a driver for the bus to you and a car to pick up the prisoners. I don't want the kids to see them again."
Jim thought it over. He didn't really want to drive the bus even a short distance. "OK, we'll wait here, but you'd better make it quick."
Simon signaled the waiting police cars and driver to move. He knew Ellison well enough to know that he was talking to a man whose temper had been stretched to the breaking point. It would not be wise to keep him waiting.
The students made a big fuss over Blair when he was reunited with them.
"Jim, get me out of here." Blair pleaded.
Jim looked at his friend and tried not to laugh. The young man was surrounded by teenage girls.
"Simon, I'm going to take Sandburg home. We'll see you in the morning to do the paperwork."
"Please do," Simon told him. "Maybe if you take him home we won't here as many stories about Wonder Blair." Jim choked back a laugh. Blair blushed bright red.
"Come on, Wonder Blair, let's go home."