It's Not Nice to Fool with Your Sentinel
[Cue in the Twilight Zone TV series theme song]
He had come into work on his day off, a Sunday, thinking that it would be quiet enough for him to concentrate on all his overdue reports and paperwork. Paperwork, goddamit! Jim was a detective not a bloody secretary.
Jim sat at his desk with a pitiful sigh. He wasn’t stupid, not by any stretch of the imagination. You don’t make detective, or captain in the Army, by being stupid and yet his mind always drew a blank when it came to the paperwork at the end of a case. His partner, on the other hand was a whiz, a virtual wunderkind at paperwork. Maybe it was because Blair could actually type, with all his fingers, not just two. Which was really how Jim typed, with two fingers, the hunt and peck method. What good were his fucking senses if he couldn’t get them to help him type up his reports!
With another sigh, Jim booted up his computer. Damn. He should be happy that he at least knew how to turn the damn thing on. While he waited for the ancient machine to go through its paces, Jim went to the break room in search of coffee. A distinct disadvantage of coming in on his day off was that his boss and best friend, Captain Simon Banks of the Major Crime unit, wasn’t at work today. Which meant Simon’s extra special coffee wasn’t brewing away in his office. With shoulders slumped, Jim lumbered on into the break room.
“Damn, don’t these cretins know how to make a fresh pot?” Jim grumbled as he looked at the pot that contained an inch worth of something that may have been coffee, two days ago.
“Fuck! I better do it myself or I’ll never get through my reports,” he groused as he took the pot to wash it out then make fresh. With that done, Jim was about to reach for the milk in their small fridge when he thought better of it.
“Black with sugar, probably the safest at this point,” he mumbled, not trusting the milk. He dragged himself back to his desk, forlorn with mug in hand.
“What the fuck?” Jim stared at his screen saver which on Friday before he shut down his computer, was the standard Cascade Police Dept. logo. Now it was a smiley face, a demented looking smiley face that appeared to be taunting him as it bounced all over the screen.
“Okay, who the fuck messed with my computer?” Jim demanded to know. Unfortunately there was no one in the bullpen to answer him. On Sunday there was a skeleton crew and since it was near lunchtime, they were all out.
“Fine. Be that way,” Jim grumbled as he ignored the face laughing at him and opened the file on his last case. A couple of hours and two more mugs of coffee later, Jim had completed one report. He was pretty pleased with himself until he realized that in two hours his partner, one Detective Blair Sandburg, PhD could have had three reports done. And Jim had to pee really bad. Hitting the print icon before getting up, Jim went to relieve himself and make room for more coffee.
“What?” Jim said as he sat back down. The smiley face was gone and in its place was a little yellow duckling, quacking and waddling its little fluffy body all over the screen.
“Not funny, guys!” Jim yelled out then scanned the apparently empty room with his senses. Nothing, nada, no one was in the room. No one but one lonely detective, himself, and he so did not have the computer knowledge to make a duck appear on his screen. Let alone a duck that could quack and waddle.
“Okay, so this is a dream or someone spiked my coffee with Golden and I’m on a really bad trip.” Jim squeezed his eyelids together real tight then slowly opened them again.
“No such luck,” he said then started his next report.
This one wasn’t so bad, it only took him an hour to complete, but he was still so far behind. Jim considered another cup of coffee but the thought of it made his stomach churn. He hit print then took another trip to the head. On the way back he stopped at the vending machine. With his partner at home, Jim was free to indulge himself. One pack of cookies and a bag of chips could help to make the worst day better.
“You have got to be kidding me!” The duck was gone, replaced by a large green frog complete with googly eyes and a tongue that darted out to catch flies. Jim began to bang his head on his desk.
“Wait just a fucking minute!” Jim stared at his desk in disbelief. His keyboard was gone as was his out-box. The same out-box that held the reports he had just given up his day off for.
“This is great, this is just fucking great! I must have really been a bad person in a past life," Jim said in frustration. Then he did another sensory sweep. Only his partner could pull something like this off.
Nothing, no hint of his partner anywhere in the building. If Jim concentrated hard enough he could send his senses homeward to verify if Blair was there where Jim left him. But he’d risk a zone out and the wrath of said partner.
“Fine,” Jim said to the ceiling. “You don’t want me here, then fine, I’ll leave,” he said to the tile immediately above his head. He was about to shut down his computer when the machine and the rest of the large office went dark. Even the emergency lights were black.
“It figures,” the Sentinel said to himself. He shrugged on his jacket ignoring the dark. It was bright as day for the Sentinel, blinding if he used the luminosity from his watch, which he didn’t. Jim casually walked out of the bullpen and down the stairs to the garage and his truck.
“Sweetheart!” Jim exclaimed with a mournful cry. Jim’s 1969 Chevy truck was not in the spot where he had left it hours before.
“Okay, that’s it. It’s one thing to fuck with a man’s computer but it’s another thing to mess with his ride!” Jim pulled out his cell phone then hit number one on the speed dial. “Sandburg!” Jim growled into the phone.
“Right here, Jim,” Blair said as he pulled up in Jim’s truck. Jim scowled. “Now before you burst a vessel, Sweetheart is just fine. I had to borrow her to get our stuff.”
“Stuff?” Jim asked with his hands on his hips awaiting an explanation.
“Yes, stuff, as in camping stuff. Simon gave us a week off and we’re not going to waste it by hanging around the office. Or at home.”
“Blair, my reports...”
“Our reports, which I finished from home then emailed to Simon. He’ll get them first thing in the morning. So get your fine ass in the truck and let’s get the hell out of Dodge.”
Not having to be told twice, the Sentinel obeyed his Guide and got into the truck.
Half way to their favorite camping spot in the Cascade mountains, the partners pulled over to park in front of the local general store in order to stock up on a week’s worth of provisions.
As they hoisted the cooler onto the bed of the truck, Jim had to ask, “So what was with the smiley face, duck and frog?”
“You heard me, the demented smiley face that bounced around my computer screen, followed by the waddling duckling and that bug eating frog.”
“Have no clue, Jim,” Blair said with a straight face as he slammed the tailgate into place.
“Why don’t I believe you?” Jim said with a frown.
“Aw, Jim, I’m wounded,” Blair said placing his hands over his supposed injured heart.
“Riiiight. Get in the truck, Chief,” Jim commanded. Blair snickered as he hopped into the passenger side. They were on their way in no time.
“I’m serious, Blair, if you didn’t do it then Major Crimes has some serious security issues,” Jim said as he tried to concentrate on the road.
“It was you!”
“Yeah, it was me, just a little April Fool’s gag. Are you very angry?”
“Nah, I thought as much but you really had me going for a while. I couldn’t figure out how you did all that and not be in the building.”
“You searched the building?” Blair asked incredulously. Jim gave Blair a sideways glance.
“Sentinel, here, remember?”
“I swept the building a couple of times looking for you. I was about to piggyback sight and smell toward the loft but I didn’t want to hear you yelling at me when you found me zoned to the spot on Monday morning.”
“Good decision, Jim. I’m sorry, big guy, I guess I went a bit too far.”
“How did you make my keyboard and out-box disappear?”
“Hank, the janitor. I figured you wouldn’t notice him cause he’s been around forever.”
“True. What about the lights?”
“I was just about to give up anyway when the lights went out.”
“I didn’t do that.” Now Jim gave Blair a disbelieving look. “I swear, Jim. All I did was your computer, keyboard and box, that’s it.”
“Whoops, then I apologize now.”
“For what, Jim.”
“You know that antique inkwell on your desk?”
“The one that Dr. Stoddard gave me when I finally got my degree, what about it?”
“You’ll be needing a new desk blotter when we get back.”
“Aw, Jim, you didn’t?”
“I didn’t, just messing with you, Chief,” Jim said as he ruffled his partner’s hair sending out a halo of curls.
“Not the hair, Jim,” came back the response. The partners rode in companionable silence the rest of the way to the campsite.
“This is nice,” Jim said as they sat huddled together on an old log near their campfire. The crackling of the fire and the everyday forest noises were the only sounds the Sentinel could hear.
“Yeah,” Blair agreed with a sleepy sigh.
“You know, there still could be a problem with security at the precinct,” Jim said reasonably, still concerned about the blackout.
“Wouldn’t worry about it, Jim,” Blair said drowsily.
“Mmm mm. Remote trigger, the circuit switched back on an hour later.”
“Ah,” Jim said as he cuddled his sleepy partner closer. “Come on, Chief, time for all good practical jokers to go to bed,” Jim said after a while.
“Okay, Jim,” Blair replied as he let his partner guide him to their tent and into their double sleeping bags.
The partners slept the sleep of the innocent.
The next morning, at daybreak, Jim and Blair let the noises of the forest wake them instead of the traffic and their alarm clock.
“Morning, Jim,” Blair said with a groggy smile.
“Yes, it would be cold up here even if it is Spring. I’ll make the coffee.”
“Okay, Jim,” Blair said as he rolled over and went back to sleep, as his caveman hunter-gatherer partner went to start breakfast.
Over their simple fare of eggs, bacon and one pan biscuits, the partners sipped their coffee.
“I’m curious, Chief, did you black out the whole building or just our floor.”
“Just our floor. Why?’
“Doesn’t that hurt the computers? And the other office equipment?”
“Nah, all of that stuff has surge protectors. When the power came on they just rebooted, but that clock on Megan’s desk will have to be reset.”
“Oh. Well, then that's okay. Uh, Chief, what about Simon’s coffeemaker?”
“What about it?”
“He has that thing on a timer.”
“Yeah, so? It has a battery back up.”
“No, it hasn’t. He took the battery out.”
“So that means...”
“That means at about eleven last night his coffeemaker went on and the pot has been sitting on the burner overnight. You know how Simon is about his coffeemaker and his special coffees.”
“Oh shit! Um, Jim do you think a week is long enough for Simon to calm down?”
“Not sure. We may be transferred to traffic when we get back. At the very least, we’ll have to spring for a new coffeemaker.”
“Great, I’ve just about paid off my student loans. Maybe he won’t notice,” Blair said knowing he was so wrong and in deep trouble.
Just then the Sentinel winced, then his eyes opened wide in horror.
“Jim? You okay?”
“Yeah. But I’m so glad I’m not you,” Jim added in a whisper as he winced again but carefully hid his discomfort from his practical joking Guide. Blair would learn his fate soon enough.
Back in Cascade.
Feedback for Sabina
or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to April Challenge