Blinded by the Light
by Laura Picken

Summary: A betrayal forces Jim and Blair to deal with one of their worst nightmares: the public, unplanned revelation of Jim's Sentinel abilities. This revelation leads to a showdown that could change Cascade forever.

Disclaimer: Blair, Jim, Simon, and any other characters, places, etc. related to Cascade, Washington and The Sentinel are not mine. They belong to Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. Chris McPherson, Diane McPherson and Sharon Driver, though, are mine. Please don't use them without permission. Also, feel free to link to this story (it's not going anywhere), but please don't reprint it in a zine or anything without at least asking me first. "For the First Time" is a great Kenny Loggins song that I'm sure those of you in the States are sick of by now, but trust me - it works in this story. And I can't be 100% certain the lyrics are correct, because I don't have a song sheet in front of me - this just came from hearing the song a zillion times.

A few words of warning: some of the characters and relationships, and plot devices in this story are directly related to indirect references in my stories Date With Destiny and Stage Fright. If you haven't read them, you might want to read them before you read this one. It's not essential, but if you're getting confused, especially right at the beginning, it might help.

This is most definitely a post-Warriors story, so international fans should be warned. However, I use nothing after that. This is -my- AU, and as such, I refuse to put Cassie in it for now. (ah, the joys of fan fiction...) Oh, and if you consider Jim's ex-wife to be 'the evil presence' (are you listening, Merry?), you should be warned that this story treats her -very- sympathetically. I always felt that Carolyn got a bit of a bum rap from Switchman on - Jim -can- be very tight-lipped and a tad obnoxious at times, and most of the time Carolyn was the one person on the 'team' who didn't have a clue as to what Jim's big 'secret' was. And after all, they - don't- have kids, so there had to be some reason why they got married and stayed married for a while, don't you think?

Oh, and many, many, many thank yous to Tate, Zadra, and Cindy C. who have been so patient and helpful with me, beta reading whenever I ask, letting me pick their brains for ideas, etc. You guys are incredible!

But enough of my ranting (didn't I say something about keeping this brief? Ah well), on with the show...

He crept through the dark office silently, conscious of every trap and alarm even through his alcohol-fogged brain. He thought solemnly about the beautiful woman who whispered the combinations to him in her sleep. Julia. God, how he missed her! It had been three months since the accident, and his days had been spent crying angry tears; while his nights had been spent in a drunken fog. If he were thinking clearer, he might have almost found it ironic that he was following the lead of the poor fool who had carelessly taken the woman he loved from him. They would have been married exactly three months to the day from that fateful night, and now, on the day he should have been thinking about his bride, all he could think about was the darkness that was swallowing his soul.

He wanted to blame the world. He tried to blame the driver of the other car, but there was no way he could do anything about him, for the man was already sitting downstairs in jail, serving what looked to be the start of a really long sentence. There was one person, though, who he could blame, and he blamed her freely, easily and often. Diane. If it hadn't been for her, and all the time Julia had had to spend working with her and her 'secrets', she might still be around, and they would be leaving, right now, for their honeymoon. Instead, he was doing the only thing he could still do. For her.

He finally made his way to the safe, and quickly entered the combination. Once the door was open, he shoved all the papers into the leather satchel he brought with him, and quickly left.

The only thing that could be heard on the security camera were the three words he had been mumbling under his breath since he had pulled into the parking lot at police headquarters:

"No more secrets."

Marcus paced the dark alley, looking at his watch and wondering how soon he could get out of here. He couldn't believe that he was willing to pay some drunken slob for a possible lead into "secret police files" that he couldn't even be sure were real. If he weren't so desperate for a story, he would have hung up on this guy after the first phone call. But, if he didn't come up with a hot story soon, the only thing he'd be saying into a microphone would be "do you want fries with that?"

He watched the tall, dark man stagger through the alley, carrying a leather satchel loaded with papers. [This has got to be the guy,] thought Marcus, ['cause if there are any -other- strange drunks in this alley, I'm going home!] The two men finally came face-to-face, and Marcus got down to business right away. Trying in vain to wave the smell of alcohol away from his face, he asked, "Chris McPherson?"

"Yeah, that's me. You got the money?" His voice was deep, angry and pained; his speech slurred to the point where it was barely intelligible.

It almost hurt Marcus just to hear it. What could this guy have gone through that he would sell out his own sister like this? He decided it was better he didn't know. He opened the briefcase full of money, ten thousand cash, then quickly closed it as he asked, "you got the files?"

Chris handed him the satchel, and received the briefcase from Marcus in exchange. It wasn't much, but it was enough to take him far away from this hell in Cascade, where every day he ran into something that reminded him of Julia. Ten thousand up front, forty thousand in a Swiss bank account after the information in the files was verified. And he knew that they could verify it. With all the things Julia had told him before she died, he knew that anyone with half a brain could put two and two together.

He verified that the money was there, and real, then turned and walked quickly away. Marcus watched him leave, then brought the attach_ back to his car. As he looked over some of the files, the smile on his face grew wider and wider until he was practically jumping out of his seat with excitement. If he could verify the files against the official police records, fifty thousand for this guy's stories would be getting off cheap.

"Lieutenant, can I see you in my office please?"

Lt. Carolyn Plummer walked into her captain's office with a slight feeling of dread. She shrugged it off as nothing, though, since she felt it every time she had to go to her superior's office. Although she had plenty of respect for Capt. Pritchard, she didn't have the kind of casual friendship with her that she had with the people in Cascade. And ever since she had been assigned to the 'poison plant' case, the only thing the captain wanted to hear from her was if she had any new leads.

Which, of course, she didn't. Which only increased that uneasy feeling she had whenever the captain called her.

They hadn't found any new victims lately, though; which had surprised her. Up to this point, they were discovering a new body at least every other day. So not having any new crime scenes meant they had no new clues; they just had to go back over the other cases again. And again. Hoping that maybe, this time, they'd pick up the one piece of evidence that would help them nail this guy.

A lump formed in Carolyn's throat the minute she saw yet another manila folder on the desk. [Oh God,] she thought, [we have another one.] It got even worse as she realized that this time they had found not just one victim with the same MO, but five. That made last night the worst night yet.

She didn't quite know what to think, though, as she noticed a plane ticket tucked in the back of the folder. As she pulled it out, she looked to her captain, confused. "What's going on, captain?"

Pritchard had been watching her best forensics investigator to see how she'd react to the new evidence, and, as she had expected, the woman in front of her had put some of the pieces together almost immediately. [Now, to fill in the details...] "These new victims weren't found here, Carolyn. They were found in Cascade."

[Cascade? And she's showing these to me? Uh oh...] "Doesn't that make this case Federal jurisdiction now, captain? Shouldn't we be turning this over to them?"

Pritchard nodded, "yes, and they have copies of all our information. But, they want a liason between the locals in Cascade, the Feds and our department, particularly since the Cascade PD hasn't had that great a track record with the Feds."

Carolyn winced inwardly at the memory of David Lash, who had posed as a Federal profiler and had fooled everyone in the department, including her. "And they want me? Why?"

"It makes sense, Carolyn. You have a great relationship with all the parties involved, and a world-class track record with trace amounts of evidence. Plus, you know this case better than anyone." Pritchard sighed as she added, "now, I do know a little about your history in Cascade from your file, so I'm not ordering you to do this. I'm asking you, Carolyn, as a favor - will you help us make sure this guy gets what he deserves?"

Carolyn rolled her eyes, and started to count the tiles on the ceiling as she thought about the captain's offer. Cascade did have the best forensics lab in the Northwest, and she missed Serena and Sam a lot. Maybe she wouldn't even have to work with Major Crimes on this one - maybe she could just call Simon, say hi, let him know she was working with the Feds in his territory, and all she would need would be to occasionally borrow the lab to process evidence.

Yeah, right. "So when do I leave?"

Simon fidgeted nervously in one of the guest chairs in Diane's office. He had heard rumors about somebody breaking into police headquarters, but nobody knew who, or why, or even what the guy took. His heart leapt into his throat when he heard rumors about stuff being taken out of the commissioner's office. Being called to Diane's office, Simon knew, meant that all the rumors were true. And realizing exactly what it was that had been taken caused Simon's heart to plummet straight from his throat into his stomach.

Diane walked into the office, behind Simon, and squeezed his shoulder. As the emotional impact of the realizations hit him, he could only whisper, "oh my God."

Fighting back tears, she sympathized, "I know."

Simon asked, "do we know who has the files now?"

Diane shook her head. No one who knew what was in those files cared who had taken them. Their one and only concern was getting those files back before lives were put in danger because of them. Two lives in particular. She asked Simon, "where are they?"

"On a camping trip." Simon laughed bitterly. "Considering the number of cases we've had to send them on in the past six months, I felt like I had to force them into it. I thought it would be good for them."

"When are they coming back?"

"Not for another week. They're up in the mountains. Share went with them yesterday."

Diane sat down behind her desk and sighed loudly. First losing Julia, and now this? She didn't know if she could take much more. [Deal with one thing at a time, Diane,] she repeated to herself, [one thing at a time.] She opened up the video monitor unit and looked at the surveillance tape for what had to be the fifteenth time since she found out about the break-in that morning. "I wish I had his eyes," she sighed, "or his ears." The perp had picked a perfect night to make sure that the security camera could only pick up shadows and spoke only in whispers. He bypassed every security precaution they had set up. All she could do is look at the tape and wonder how. And why. Simon watched the tape with an intense, frightened curiosity. A moment of inspiration hit him. It may not be much, but it's something. "Have you taken this tape to Serena yet?"

Diane shook her head. "I guess I was afraid what this guy might have said on the tape. He knew exactly what he was looking for."

Simon interrupted her, "Diane, what choice do we have? There are only a handful of things that this guy can do with these files, and none of them are good. At least enhancing what we have on the tape might give us a chance to catch him."

Diane sighed again, then got up to take the tape out of the machine. She idly wondered how her life might have been different if she had never agreed to this insane arrangement. Then she realized that one way or another, something like this would have happened anyway. The minute they had accepted the ex-Special Forces soldier into the police academy, this had become their destiny.

She just hoped she had the strength to help her friends face whatever was to come.

She opened the door for Simon and consented, "well then Simon, let's go."

Serena had been working for hours on the tape, trying everything she could think of to enhance the scratchy audio and video to find out who had broken into the commissioner's office. She didn't know what had been taken, but from the fact that Captain Banks and Commissioner McPherson had not left the Forensics lab from the minute they delivered the tape to her until now, she knew that this was probably one of the most important things she would ever have to do. Finally she was able to get a clear audio piece from the tape, and she called Simon and Diane over to listen to it.

Serena had been able to produce a clear piece of about six words. As the commissioner heard the man on the tape mumble, "no more secrets, more..." her face paled with shock as she realized who it was. She could only utter in a shocked, hoarse whisper, "Chris?"

Simon turned to Diane, his face mirroring the shock she felt. "Your brother? Why would he do this?"

She fought back the tears as she explained as much as she could. "It was Julia. She was coming from working late with me when she was killed by a drunk driver three months ago. Chris has blamed me ever since." Simon nodded solemnly-it still hurt him to think about that time which had been painful for them all.

His face turning from shock to anger, he got up and headed for the door, declaring, "well let's go talk to him," when Diane placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "You don't understand, Simon. He disappeared shortly after Julia's funeral. This surveillance tape is the first time I've seen him since she died. I don't know where he is."

Diane rubbed her temples in frustration. She could feel a headache coming on. She mumbled, low enough for Simon to hear but for Serena to -not- hear, "maybe we could convince them to stay in the mountains for a little bit longer. Say, a couple of years?" Simon put his arm around her, and they embraced, trying to strengthen each other. He wished he had something encouraging to say, but he didn't. In truth, he was just as scared for their future as she was.

Carolyn sat down at the bar in the Delta terminal of the Cascade International Airport and let out a deep breath. She called over to the bartender and asked for a glass of white wine.

As she took a sip of the drink, the television behind the bar caught her eye. A picture of Jim came up on the screen as the anchor's voice-over announced, "Marcus Martinson brings us this exclusive report on a man who can hear a victim's cries for help...even when no one else can..." Her eyes widened as she listened to the rest of the report; a lot of things that had confused and worried her before she left Cascade started to make a strange amount of sense. The night at the restaurant. That incredible kiss she had shared with her ex-husband. Blair Sandburg, the 'cousin' from a side of the family she was sure Jim didn't have. Why he would constantly risk his life for this cousin even as she realized that Blair was a person that Jim would have been suspicious of in any other circumstance.

Or at least, the Jim that she thought she knew. She sighed as she realized that maybe she never really knew him at all.

She got up and let out another deep breath she didn't know she had been holding, then abruptly left the bar, paying for her now warm and largely untouched drink. [So much for staying in the shadows...] Not working with Major Crimes was no longer an option. Now, it seemed, she was going to have to work closely on this case with the one man who she wasn't sure she had wanted to ever see again.