If You're Gone

By Suisan "Sue" R.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We're on our final approach to Cascade International and I thought you would like to know that it's currently 62 degrees on the ground and the forecast calls for rain later today."

Inspector Megan Connor tuned out the rest of the announcement, as she looked down on the city she'd come to think of as her "other" home. "Damn, when did that happen?" she muttered, then looked at the businessman seated next to her in apology. "Sorry, thinking out loud."

He didn't say anything. Just like he hadn't said a single damn word in the four hours since the plane left Minneapolis, which only served to make a long flight even longer.

"…We'll be pulling into our assigned gate on time, which is 9:02 AM for those of you that haven't adjusted your watches yet. Please remain in your seats until we've come to a full and complete stop. And thank you for flying Northwest Airlines."


Damn, could they take any longer getting the luggage out of the hold? Sandy and Jim are probably wondering where the hell I am. Oh, great. Yeah, stand over here, you pucker mouthed bugger, so I can trip you when you reach for your bags. I feel the grin on my face turn sour, as I acknowledge the man's not so polite nudge, and the carousel finally starts to turn and the luggage from our flight starts to arrive.

Spotting my alligator hide covered bag, I step forward to retrieve it, only to 'accidentally' trip the businessman as he's reaching for his. He goes flying face first onto the carpet. Grabbing up my bag as I watch his crawl by, out of his reach, I turn to him. "Sorry, mate. G'day. And welcome to Cascade."

I feel the stare that's boring into my back, but I don't care. I just want to find Sandy and Jim and get the hell home. Damn, there I go again. Sydney is home, not Cascade. Or is it? Hefting my bag higher onto my shoulder, I search for Jim's distinctive frame, knowing that where he is, Sandy is nearby.

Crossing the concourse, I search for the Sentinel and his Guide. I'm so glad that Sandy decided to trust me with that information. It's mind blowing but, in a strange way, it's easier to believe than that psychic shit I spouted off early in my working relationship with them. WHERE are they? Digging into my carry-on, I locate my cell phone and dial up the department. Maybe they got involved in a case.

"Hi, Rhonda? By chance are Ellison and Sandy there? They're not? Damn, maybe I missed them. What? No, I just got in. Yeah, I'll tell you all about the course. No, Sandy and Jim were supposed to pick me up and I thought maybe they got involved on a case. No, no. I'll just grab a cab. Yeah, tell the Captain I'll see him in the morning. Eight sharp. Thanks, Rhonda."

I snap the cell phone closed. Okay, so they aren't tied up on a case, even if they did have a major arrest go down yesterday without me. Looks like I missed out on the fun again. My Commandant back at New South Wales decided that since I was in the states I could *finally* attend the FBI's National Academy, and Banks agreed. Walking out to the arrival area, I wave down the first cab I see. The boys have a LOT to explain.


My apartment smells musty when I step inside. No wonder. I've been gone for five weeks and didn't think to have anyone check on the place while I was gone. Dropping my bags on the couch, I look over to my answering machine. Seven messages? Maybe one of them is from Sandy. I hit the play button as I walk back towards my bedroom to change out of my monkey suit into something a heck of a lot more comfortable.

Damn, not a single message from Sandy, or Jim. Just one from Captain Banks, reminding me that I'm off duty until I report back to him at eight in the morning. After five weeks of intensive investigative training at Quantico, I'm in need of a real vacation. One where I'm NOT learning about criminal profiling, the difference between M.O. and signatures, and doing daily, five mile, runs out on the firing range. I just want a solid week of acting like a vegetable.

Ten-thirty. Okay, this is beyond ridiculous. Sandy and Jim have GOT to know by now that I'm no longer at the airport, that I've made it home. So where is the phone call where Sandy trips all over his tongue, trying to apologize? Or Ellison's call where he laughingly tells me that he and Sandy walked into the middle of an armed robbery, huh? I'm not waiting any longer. Something is seriously wrong. Snatching up my keys and shoulder bag, I lock up my apartment and head down to the garage, where my recently leased, and not used a hell of a lot, Chevy Tahoe waits. When I find those two, they are going to get a piece of my mind. In true "Aussie" fashion.


Pulling into the parking area at 852 Prospect, I see something that sends a shiver down my spine. Jim's truck is sitting right next to Sandy's Volvo. So they're both home, and overslept, which I doubt, knowing about Ellison's habit of waking at the crack of dawn. Or some event tore them both away from here without their autos. Slamming my car into park, I exit, race across the street, and enter the building while my hand slides to where I've hidden my backup piece.

The lift is out of order. No surprise there, I think that damn thing is out of service more often than it actually runs. Racing up the stairwell, I mentally thank the physical trainers at Quantico, who ran me and the rest of the attendees through the wringer every day. Reaching the third floor, I slow down my headlong rush and cautiously approach Ellison's door.

/knock/ /knock/

"Jim? Sandy? Anyone home? It's Connor!"

Nothing. Wait a minute, what is that noise? Testing the latch, I find it unlocked and push the door open, gun ready. I'm not sure what I heard, or what I'll find.

I nearly trip over several boxes when I enter. What in the hell? Hewitt, Texas? Maybe Sandy is returning some artifacts. No, the address is to a Owen and Elizabeth *Sandburg.* This can't be good. The stereo starts playing softly, a tune I don't recognize.

"I think you're so mean -- I think we should try
I think I could need -- this in my life
I think I'm just scared -- I think too much
I know this is wrong -- it's a problem I'm dealing…"

Not what I would think Jim would listen to voluntarily. I scan the room, hearing something moving. Cloth against cloth, but it's there, underlying the music.

"If you're gone -- maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move…"

The place is neat, except for the boxes near the door and the half-empty bottle of whisky I can see on the coffee table. There is just a hint of stale smoke odor and the stench of old booze in the air. The rustling noise of cloth catches my attention once more, and I slide on silent feet around the last shipping box towards the end of the couch.

"Jim!"

I'm falling to my knees, gun placed on the cushions, already looking the fallen man over for signs of obvious injury. There is one; a gash on the head, nearly hidden by dry matted blood in his short cut hair. God, he reeks! Ellison's been drinking? That's not like the Jim I know, nor is it like Sandy to let the Sentinel do something that might affect his senses. And, more importantly, Sandy never would've left Jim in this condition, on his own.

"Jimbo? Wake up, it's Connor. Come on, I need to know what happened here, where is Sandy?" Tucking my gun back into my specially designed gun bag, I pull out my cell phone and call the first person I can think of. The one person who might just know what the hell had gone on here, I hope.

"Captain? Yes. Sir? Wait a minute, I'm with Ellison now. It looks like he took a header and I can't find Sandy. No, he's not conscious. What the hell happened…? Yes, okay, I'll call them from here. No sir, I can handle it. I'll meet you at Cascade General."

Disconnecting from an irate Simon Banks, I immediately call for an ambulance, then try to make Ellison as comfortable as I can without disturbing what might possibly be a crime scene. Damn, I hope Sandy's okay.

"…I can hardly move
If you're gone -- baby you need to come home
'Cause there's a little bit of something me
In everything in you…"

The medics are ready to transport. I'm to follow them, but before I go I turn off the stereo and quiet the CD that was playing the same song over and over again. Any other time I might have liked the song, but now it only serves to depress me. Besides, it was getting very irritating.


I rush into the Emergency Room to see Doctor Abrams and his staff wheel Ellison into a treatment bay. I try to follow, but end up with a face full of door. I don't think Jim ever regained consciousness in the ambulance. A tired, stressed out nurse hurries past me and I try to follow her into the room, only to have her gently push me back out. I should've known. This hospital is very familiar with Ellison and Sandburg. If I were Sandy, the story would be different. But I'm not. And from the look of intense concentration I caught on the doctor's face, I'm fairly confident that he knows about, or at least has heard of, Jim's rather peculiar reactions to certain drugs.

Not wanting to remain underfoot, I find my way to the waiting area while trying not to chew my fingernails to the quick. Where the hell is Sandy?


"Connor!"

My head snaps back on my neck and I find myself looking up into the face of my commander. A sense of relief washes over me. I'm no longer alone in waiting, and I rise to greet him. "Captain Banks."

"Any word on Jim yet?" White teeth worry furiously at the unlit cigar.

"Just that Dr. Abrams has ruled out a severe concussion and that he's waiting for test results to come back from the lab." I don't dare tell the man that the doctor ordered a blood alcohol test because of the way his senior detective smelled when he was brought in.

"That's good. We just have to hope for the best. I've already got Taggert, Brown and Rafe over at their place trying to discover what may have happened and where Sandburg might have gotten off to." He shakes his head as he pulls the cigar from his mouth. "Damn, of all the times for the kid to go missing."

"Sir? Can you tell me what happened over the past few days? Might help me to understand what might have happened…" I'm fishing, okay? But from the tension I heard in Rhonda's voice when I spoke to her earlier, and Simon's reaction to Sandy's disappearance, it's pretty obvious that something happened while I was out of town. I need to know, if I'm to be of any help to Ellison or the rest of the team in trying to locate the missing student.

Dark, intense eyes bore into mine, but I stand firm under that penetrating gaze. Schooling my face to remain neutral, instead of smiling like a fool, I watch as the Captain nods sagely then leads me over to a quiet corner where he brings me up to date.


Captain Banks left the hospital shortly after Ellison roused and the test results came back. He was pissed that the man had taken a dive into a bottle, and I'm not too happy with Jimbo myself right now, but for other reasons.

I stand in a corner of the room while a couple of orderlies and one nurse get Ellison settled into the bed. Doctor Abrams had been more than a little concerned at some of his patient's reactions to simple stimuli, and had ordered that Jim be kept overnight for observation.

He's fussing with the IV interface on the back of his left hand. Probably can feel the fluid being pumped into his blood stream. But from what I can tell, it is his own damn fault. When the tox-screen results came back, Jim had a blood alcohol level of 0.15, the low end of a downhill slide from whatever his maximum level had been before passing out. And he was dehydrated. Hence the need for an IV solution of normal saline, with a few added 'goodies' per Dr. Abrams. The nurse finally leaves after pointing out the location of the call button and receiving one of his patented Ellison glares.

The door closes behind her and he speaks up. "Okay, Connor. You might as well have your say, too. I've already been read the riot act by Simon." He sounds tired, or depressed; I really can't tell. His face has reverted into a stone mask.

"I just want to know why Sandy felt he had to leave."

"Wish I knew."

I don't say anything, just stand there, letting him stew in his own juices while I give him a look. It's the one in which other members of the Connor family would see the resemblance between my great-aunt Matilda and me. I've often been told that I'm the only Connor, other than Aunt Matty herself, who can use the look with any degree of success. Jim manages to last longer than most against the Matty Glare, but then he's breaking down and talking to me.

"The last few days have been rough on both of us but I think it hit Sandburg the hardest." Pale, haunted blue eye bore into mine. "Did Simon tell you that Blair lost his teaching slot at the University? That he was fired?"

"He told me. But he didn't know the particulars." I pull a chair up to the bedside as Jim gives me the straight skinny on the Ventriss/Nadine case. Then, without being prodded, he tells me about his coming home, nine hours ago, to find a pissy Sandy and a room full of boxes. I remember those. I should; I damn near broke my neck getting around them, but more importantly I recall the shipping labels.

"Jim, do you think there is a chance that Sandy would go to where he was shipping the boxes to? Texas?"

"Probably. The truck he took off in had the name 'Owen Sandburg' on the doors. Why?"

I stand up, my mind working furiously to come up with a plan. "Oh, it's just that I'm pretty sure that I have some vacation time coming and I've always wanted to see Texas. I've been told there are parts of that state that look like parts of Australia…"


"No, Connor and that's final. With Sandburg gone to who knows where, Ellison will need someone to work with him who knows about his abilities."

"But Captain…"

"Connor? I said 'no'." His face softens as he looks at me. "Megan, I know that you're concerned about the kid, but he's a grown man. So is Jim. They'll either work through this on their own or they won't. Now, go and get caught up on the cases which have come in over the past week or so."

I turn to leave, muttering under my breath. "No wonder Sandy left."

"What did you say, Connor?"

Spinning back to face him, the door to his office held open in my hand, I decide to say what's on my mind. "When was the last time that you, or any of us, actually told Sandy how much we appreciate his assistance? Thanked him for helping close a case with his unique outlook? That 'kid' has more guts than any ten officers I know back home, and from what I've seen here? He puts most of us to shame as well. He may not have a badge or carry a gun, but Sandy has been a vital part of the department since long before I showed up. Bloody hell, he even helped me the very first day we met! And every time he has helped me, I have made it a point to say 'thank you' and mean it. When was the last time you did that, Captain?"

I don't give the man a chance to answer, storming out of the office, bumping into Brian Rafe with a brusque apology. I'm too mad to think straight, and instead of heading over to my desk, I leave the department and head down the stairs. I need air, fresh air. And I need to burn off some of this anger before I hurt myself, or, worse someone else. Damn Ellison. Damn Banks. They've used Sandy, and when he needs their help? They write him off. I'll be damned if I'm just going to let him go. I can't, I care too much about him. He's become like a brother to me, family. And no Connor worth their salt ever lets a family member go off on their own without a fight.

Stomping over to the park near the precinct I take a seat on the bench where I used to see Sandy and Jim sit all the time, cooling my heels. Once the anger abates I hear it again, that damn song. Only this time, I listen, really listen to the words.

"I think I've already lost you
I think you're already gone.
I think I'm finally scared now
You think I'm weak - But I think you're wrong
I think you're already leaving
Feels like your hand is on the door
I thought this place was an empire
But now I'm relaxed - I can't be sure

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - I think too much
I know this is wrong it's a problem I'm dealing

If you're gone - maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
If you're gone - baby you need to come home
Cuz there's a little bit of something me
In everything in you

I bet you're hard to get over
I bet the room just won't shine
I bet my hands I can stay here
I bet you need - more than you mind

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - that I know too much
I can't relate and that's a problem
I'm feeling

If you're gone - maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
If you're gone - baby you need to come home
'Cause there's a little bit of something me
In everything in you

I think you're so mean - I think we should try
I think I could need - this in my life
I think I'm just scared - do I talk too much
I know it's wrong it's a problem I'm dealing"

Tears flowing freely down my face, I look up into the overcast sky and, asking no one in particular, beg Sandy to come home. I can't be Ellison's Guide. I just don't think I have the touch. Besides, I've come to the conclusion that, like a Sentinel, a Guide is born, not made. Blair Sandburg has been a Guide all his life, not just since he and Ellison hooked up. "Sandy, come home, please. I can't do what you do and I think Jim knows that."

~finis~

Crutch
Mad Season Cycle
Email Suisan