by Southy

© January 2006


He was so tired. 

But a feeling tugged at him. Something he should remember, something he should be doing. Before it was too late.

The pain in his side seemed worse. He didn’t dare remove his hand from it, even as it was all the harder to keep his balance while putting one unsteady foot in front of the other in the autumn darkness.

Why was he walking?

If he stopped, the curtain might close. Forever.

Something blocked his path. He raised his head and blinked through the dizziness. It took him a moment to realize what the contraption was.

Phone booth. The receiver was hanging by its cord.

Keeping his right hand carefully at his left side, he slowly moved the other hand and grit his teeth as he investigated his jacket pocket.

A quarter. It was a quarter wasn’t it?

He took a few steps and fumbled it into the slot of the phone.

The dial tone sounded loud from the hanging receiver.

With his one good hand, he slowly pushed a sequence of buttons, needing to squint to keep them in focus.

Then the phone was ringing.

He knelt near where the receiver rested on its cord and groaned as the agony flared in his side.


Blair took a shaky breath, tasting the sourness in his mouth. “Jim?”

“Sandburg? I can barely hear you.”

Blair took a couple more breaths. “Jim?”

“Chief? What’s wrong? Where are you?”

“The curtain is closing,” Blair whispered, hearing the peace in his own voice.

“Chief? Blair? Where are you? Are you drunk?”

“It hurts.” Upon saying that, the pain increased.

“What does?”

Blair wasn’t sure how to answer.

“Dammit, Sandburg, where are you? Where are you calling from?” 

Blair heard the jingle of keys through the receiver. 

“Come on, buddy, tell me where you are. I can’t hear anything around you. Are you outside?”

“It’s dark. But the moon is pretty.” At least, he assumed it was. It took too much energy to look up at the sky.

Footsteps pounding down a staircase. “What street are you on?”

“Pay phone.” That was true, wasn’t it?

“On a street with a pay phone? Are you near Rainier?”

Blair listened to a door open and then slam shut.

“Come on, Chief, tell me where you are. You can do this. I’m in the truck, coming to get you. I need a location.”

Blair rested his head back against the edge of the phone booth. He was annoyed that the cold creeping in was disturbing his peace.

The sound of a motor came through the receiver. “Chief? What’s the closest building?”

Blair squinted his eyes as he drifted. “Telephone poles,” he murmured.

“Dammit, is there anyone else there you can put on the phone?”

“It’s so cold,” Blair said sorrowfully. It really was.

“What happened? Are you injured?”


“I’m heading down Twelfth Street. Am I going in the right direction? Weren’t you visiting that friend tonight? Jackson?”

“Jason,” Blair whispered softly.

“He’s another grad student, right? So, he lives near Rainier?”

It suddenly dawned on Blair that Jim was coming to get him.

He really wanted Jim to come and get him. He stared across the quiet street. He had to struggle to get his dry throat to swallow. “It’s really pretty in the moonlight. The statue.”

“Statue?” Jim’s voice was suddenly excited. “The statue at Riverside Park? I’m on my way. Sit tight. I’m just a few minutes away.”

Blair rested his head back against the hard metal of the phone booth. “’kay.”

He watched the statue become blurrier.


Jim pressed harder on the accelerator. Drunk? Drugged? Injured?

There were a half dozen things that might explain Blair’s low, distant voice and distracted demeanor. None of them were good.

Blair had said something a few days ago about begging off a stakeout because he and a few other grad students were having a meeting to discuss classroom allocations for the next semester.

In fact, that was the day when they had parked on Jefferson Street, waiting to meet with an officer on their current case, and they had laughed about the mischievous expression on the statue of a water nymph across the street at Riverside Park. Blair had been fascinated with how Jim could see the nuances of the statue’s expression from the other side of the street.

If Blair were actually on Jefferson, Jim would have heard traffic in the background. Since it was silent, Blair was either at the park itself, or on one of the side streets at the park’s edge.

Jim gunned through a yellow light as it turned red and spoke into his cell phone. He could afford to be soothing now. “Almost there, Chief. How you doing?


“Chief? Answer me, buddy.”

He heard a deep, shaky breath.

He wondered if someone might be holding a gun to Blair’s head. “Chief? Are you alone?”

There was a groan of effort and then Blair’s voice was louder than it had been, as though he actually had the phone near his mouth. “Yeah.”

“What happened? Did something happen? Are you hurt?”

“Yeah,” came the shaky reply.

Jim kept his voice calm and soothing. “What happened?”

“Not sure,” Blair said after a moment.

Jim was puzzled by that. He wanted to call an ambulance, but he didn’t want to lose the connection with Blair.

“Are you by the statue? I’m on Jefferson. Can you signal me?”

“Hurry, Jim.”

In the distance, Jim’s site zeroed in on a pair of phone booths. A figure was sitting next to the left one.

“I’m here, Chief. I see you. Sit tight. I’m hanging up and calling an ambulance. I’ll be with you in thirty seconds.”

Jim parked the truck and cut the line. While calling the switchboard to summon an ambulance, he grabbed the first aid kit and got out of the truck. As he approached the phone booths, he dialed up sight and saw that Blair’s right hand was clutched to his left side, inside his jacket.

The hand was covered with blood.


He was being beckoned to lie back. It hurt, but he didn’t bother complaining. The ground was cold but it felt better on the back of his head than the metal of the phone booth.

His jacket was opened wide and his shirt was being unbuttoned. He wanted to immerse himself in the murmurs of reassurance.

It was going to be all right now. The curtain wasn’t going to close.

“Keep your hand still. I’m going to wrap gauze around it and your side, since the blood’s clotting.”

He whimpered when something was pulled tight around the wound.

“Sorry about that. You’re going to be fine.”

Something warm covered his front side.

“An ambulance is on the way.”

He wanted to say thanks but couldn’t make the effort.

“What happened Chief? Who did this to you?”

“Stole my wallet,” he replied shakily, feeling a surge of indignation.

“Someone tried to take your wallet? How come they stabbed you?”

“I didn’t want to….”

Jim’s voice was gently scolding. “You didn’t want to give it to them, so they stabbed you and took it anyway?”

Blair’s eyes were closed. “Yeah.”

A warm, gentle hand landed on his forehead. “Safety 101: When someone has a weapon and you don’t, you do whatever they tell you.”

Blair felt a wave of sadness. “The picture,” he whispered dryly. “It had our picture.”


Jim tucked his coat more firmly around Blair’s shoulders. The stream of dried vomit at Blair’s mouth corner increased his suspicion that Blair had a concussion – probably from either falling when stabbed, or trying to fight off his attacker – and that, coupled with shock, explained how out of it he’d been when he had called.

Yet, he was aware enough to feel sad about losing “our picture”.

Jim reached beneath the jacket and squeezed Blair’s free hand. “We’ll take another,” he vowed. Somehow, though, he suspected it wouldn’t be the same. He had his own copy of “our picture”. At least, he thought that he did.

He’d no idea it had meant so much to Blair that he’d risk his life to keep it.

Jim squelched the anger that flared at the thought of Blair’s utter stupidity.

Instead, he squeezed his hand again. “You’re going to be all right.” He could hear the ambulance in the distance. “Help will be here soon.”

Blair’s eyes were closed but his mouth was fixed in a sad, pain-filled frown.

Jim wanted to be encouraging. “You did good, Chief. You kept good pressure on the wound. You’re going to be fine.”

“Thanks,” Blair whispered, his eyes still closed. “Thanks for coming.”

Jim swallowed and brushed his thumb against Blair’s brow. Softly, he said, “Thanks for calling for help.”


Jim bounded into Simon’s office the next morning. “Sandburg was stabbed last night.”

Simon pulled his cigar from his mouth. “Stabbed? Is he all right?”

Jim nodded. “He should be able to go home tomorrow. The knife didn’t cut anything vital, but he also had a mild concussion, so they’re keeping him under observation.”

“What the hell happened?”

Jim shrugged. “Just a standard robbery from what I can tell. Sandburg’s too woozy to have much recollection. All he could say was that the guy was young, black, and had an Afro. It happened in Riverside Park in the middle of the night.”

“Did the guy get anything off of him?”

“Yeah, his wallet.”

“Why did he stab him? Did he resist?”

Jim nodded.

“Dammit,” Simon grumbled, flinging ashes from his cigar. “Stupid kid. He knows better.” Then, more calmly, “Did he lose much?”

Jim hesitated, not sure how much Blair would want revealed to Simon. “Just a few dollars.” Hell, he didn’t want Simon thinking badly of Blair. He mumbled, “The wallet had a photograph that was important to him.” He was all too aware of how dramatic his tone made it sound.

Simon furrowed his brow. Then brightened. “Of his father?”

Jim’s mind rifled through his mental catalog of data. He wondered how Simon had known that Blair had grown up without a father. They must have had some sort of discussion about it; yet, Simon didn’t realize that Blair didn’t know the identity of his father, and therefore wouldn’t have a photograph of him.

“No,” Jim said with discomfort, feeling he was violating a trust of Blair’s. “It – it was a photograph of me. Of me and him.”

Simon blanched. “What’s so special about a photograph of you two? Can’t you take more?”

Jim lowered his gaze at this intrusion of privacy.

Simon waved a hand. “Never mind.” He puffed the cigar. “Do we have much to go on to get this guy?”

Jim was glad that Simon wasn’t going to let it blow over, though it hardly qualified as a “major crime”. “I’ll have a sketch artist see Blair before they release him. Then I’ll show it around and see if anyone will admit they know the guy.”

Simon nodded. “We both know it’s a longshot. Sandburg isn’t likely to get his wallet back, in any case. But we can try.”

“Thank you, sir.” Jim made his exit.


When he had time the next morning, Jim frantically rifled through various drawers. Surely, he hadn’t tossed it, even though it had been just a photograph. After all, he’d kept photos of his army buddies and their families, Steven’s children….

He grabbed a box from a shelf in the closet and turned it upside down. Old framed photographs, army medallions, certificates of achievement throughout his life….

It wasn’t here. The contents were spread over the floor. They were all old. Pre-Sandburg.

Jim bowed his head and closed his eyes.

Where? Where? Where?

He remembered Blair showing him the set of photographs from their fishing trip. And handing him one. “You can have that,” Blair had said, clearly assuming that Jim was interested in keeping a memento.

There had been only one set of photographs.

That meant that whichever one Blair gave to Jim was different from the ones Blair had kept for himself.

Which meant whichever one Blair had lost in the robbery was the only copy.

Jim knew where his photo was now. He found his tackle box and opened it. 

There was the photo Blair had given him.

Jim picked it up. Their guide at Harsboro Lake had taken the picture. Blair was smiling broadly, holding a four-pound fish. Jim was standing proudly next to him, an arm draped around Blair’s shoulders.

Surely, whatever photograph Blair had lost had been similar to this, from that same trip.

Jim stared at it, trying to see it through Blair’s eyes. Wondering what it was that made it so special. The trip had been fun, that was for sure. Jim hoped they would have more.

But what, in the photograph, meant so much to Blair that he was willing to fight an armed man to keep it?

“Of his father?” Simon had asked, as though that was the only kind of photograph that could possibly mean so much to Blair.

Jim stared at it, trying to see a father-son relationship in their demeanor together.

It was there, he supposed. Though he’d always felt it more a big-brotherly kind of thing.

The phone rang. 

Jim picked it up. “Ellison.”

“Hey, Jim,” Blair’s careful, cheerful voice said, “I’ve got my walking papers.”

“Sit tight. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”


Jim hung up. He stuck the photograph in his shirt pocket and started down the stairs.


He should have driven the Corvair to pick up Blair. 

The step up into the seat of the SUV seemed rather daunting as Blair stood dubiously at the open door, his right foot resting against the edge of the floorboard.

“Let me give you a boost,” Jim said, moving himself in front of the male nurse who stood with the wheelchair, making it clear he wasn’t needed. “On three.”

Blair waited.

“One, two…” Jim slipped his arm beneath Blair’s rear, “three.” He lifted, ignoring the strain on his back, and carefully placed Blair into the seat.

Blair closed his eyes and held his hand over his side, as though taking a moment to get his equilibrium.

“Thanks,” Jim dismissed the nurse. He shut Blair’s door and went over to the driver’s side.

Blair was just opening his eyes. 

“You okay?” Jim asked.

“Just hurts,” Blair said wearily. But he gingerly straightened in his seat.

“At least we can get you home and into bed.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve had any luck catching the guy.”

Jim reluctantly shook his head as he eased away from the curb. Wanting to brighten Blair’s mood, he reached into his pocket for the photograph. “You can have that. I know it’s not the same as the one you lost, but….”

Blair took the picture and brightened. “Hey! That’s that time we went fishing.”

Yep, it was. But otherwise Blair wasn’t showing any recognition of that photo having anything to do with the one he lost.

Jim’s mind raced ahead. Had Blair been talking about a different photo altogether? “Hey, Chief – “

“Blair?” Someone shouted from the sidewalk.

Jim braked while Blair said, “That’s Jason Dugan.” Holding his side, he managed to hit the button to roll down the window. “Jason.”

Jason, a young man with a backpack who Jim vaguely recognized from campus, trotted over to the truck. “I was just going in to see you. I heard what happened. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just sore. The wound wasn’t all that bad; I got a little concussion that compounded it.”

Jason’s eyes were only on Blair. “Man, that must have been scary. I’m so glad you’re going to be okay.”

Blair swallowed thickly. “I lost… you know. It was in my wallet.”

“Oh, man, I’m really sorry about that.” Jason’s eyes flicked to Jim and he suddenly stepped back nervously. “Hey, I won’t keep you. Talk to you soon.”

“Yeah. Thanks for coming by.”

Jim started the SUV forward again, more confused than ever. “What is it exactly that you lost, Chief?”

Blair looked over at him. “Huh?”

“When I found you, you said you’d lost ‘our picture’ in your wallet. I thought you were talking about one of those pictures.” He nodded toward the one he’d just given Blair.

“This? Oh, man, no. I have a whole set of these at home. No, I, uh, just lost some test scores that were in my wallet. I’m going to have to go through all those graded papers again.” Pause “I don’t really remember much about when you found me. I must have been out of my head and just mumbling.”

Jim let the lie be. It was tempting to ask Blair why he put up a fight if it was just for test scores and a few bucks, but he didn’t want to badger Blair while he was vulnerable.

Maybe it was the kind of thing he was better off not knowing.


Once he was certain Blair was comfortable in his bed at home, Jim went back to the scene of the crime in Riverside Park. He spent some time showing the sketch artist’s drawing to the residents that lived along the parameter of the park, but no one said they recognized the man and Jim believed them.

He moved along the park and found some blood along the grass where the stabbing had happened. He knelt next to it.

A breeze kicked up and Jim glanced at the trees and nearby brush that swayed from the wind.

He caught sight of something beneath a row of shrubs and trotted over to it. He knelt next to a brown leather wallet and pulled on latex gloves.

He picked up the wallet by the edges. Blair’s. It still carried his scent.

It had been stripped clean, except for a folded, thick white paper shoved haphazardly back into the main sleeve. Jim pulled the paper out and unfolded it.

It looked like it had been torn from a small spiral sketch pad. It was a picture done in pencil. An excellent likeness of himself, talking casually to Blair. Blair was facing him, beaming at Jim as he talked. The title read, “With Eyes Only For Him”. The signature at the right lower corner was JD.

Jason Dugan.

Jim sat back at on his rear, tightening his hold on the paper as the breeze picked up again.

Eyes only for him.

For him.

He’s in love with me.

It was so clear, in the sketch, the way Blair gazed at him.

Jason had obviously seen it too. Sketched it. Blair had wanted it as a memento of his feelings.

His unspoken feelings.

Dear God. What was he to do now?

Return the sketch to Blair and pretend he didn’t know what it meant?

Destroy the sketch so that it could be forever assumed to be lost in the robbery?

Maybe he could give it to someone at the PD to return to Blair, so Blair wouldn’t know that Jim had ever seen it? But then that other person at the PD would know Blair’s feelings.

His so-private, intensely personal feelings.

Feelings that needed to be protected at any cost.


Jim had made it to the registrar’s office, pulled out his ID as an officer investigating Blair’s stabbing, and had found the information he needed.

He waited outside the liberal arts building until he spotted the man he was looking for. He approached him. “Jason Dugan?” 

Jason stopped and turned. Then looked frightened. “Yeah?” he asked skittishly.

I’m the boyfriend. Jim realized that’s why Jason was so skittish. Maybe he could use that. “You know me, right?”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re Sandburg’s roommate.” Jason swallowed thickly. “What can I do for you?”

Jim started away from the sidewalk. “Let’s take a walk.” He didn’t wait for agreement and began moving across the grass.

“Is Sandburg okay?”

The question had been asked with genuine worry. Jason was the first person who had wanted to visit Blair in the hospital. “Are you gay?” Jim asked.

Jason’s voice was halting. “Look, man, I admit I’m really fond of Blair, but there’s no way – no way – I would ever come between two guys who are a couple.” He set his jaw and turned to face Jim. “Got that?”

Jim had to restrain a grin at the show of bravado. “Got it.” He made a point of softening his stance as they continued to walk. “I’m not here to accuse you of anything. In fact, I need your help. For Blair.”

The man paused and turned again. “What kind of help?”

Jim pulled Blair’s wallet from his pocket and took out the sketch. “You drew that, didn’t you? For Blair?”

Jason’s eyes widened. “Where did you find that? I thought Blair lost it in the robbery.”

“I went back to the crime scene and found his wallet in some shrubs. The sketch was all the perp left.” He again prompted, “How did this sketch come about?”

Jason looked uneasy. “I like drawing people in relationships. I’ve seen Blair with you a few times. I sketched you two and showed it to him. He really liked it and asked if he could buy it from me. I told him he could have it, but if he wanted to pay me, I could do something more formal – larger and framed and all that – and he said he’d think about it. I think he only hesitated because it wasn’t the kind of thing he’d be able to display on a wall or something, you being a cop and all.”

Jason didn’t know the half of it. But he seemed on the level and to really care about Blair – perhaps too much.

“Blair doesn’t know I’ve seen this sketch,” Jim said. “It’s important to him to have it, and I want him to have it without knowing I’ve seen it.” He gave Blair’s wallet to Jason. “I want you to give the wallet and the sketch back to Blair. Tell him another art student found it in the park and recognized your signature. They assumed the wallet was yours and gave it back to you.”

Jason tightened his fingers on the items. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Jim took out his own wallet and rifled through the bills, until he came up with a combination that equaled a hundred dollars. “Take this. I want you to do another sketch, like this one. Maybe 8x10 and frame it. Tell him you felt bad about what happened to him and wanted to give it to him as a Get Well gift.”

Jason nodded, clearly surprised. “Okay. I’d be happy to do that.”

Jim looked him in the eye. “Don’t tell him you and I talked.”

Jason nodded firmly. “Okay.”

Jim softened his voice. “Thank you.”

He turned and walked away.


In the evening after his shift, Jim entered the loft and softly called, “Sandburg?” 


Jim moved toward his room. “How you doing?”

Blair was sitting up, a few science journals at his bedside. “Okay, considering that it never seems to stop throbbing.”

“You able to sleep at all?”


“You eat anything?”

“Uh-uh. I got out of bed to piss and that was such an ordeal I didn’t want to try anything else.”

Jim seated himself in the narrow space next to Blair’s pillow. He put his arm loosely around Blair’s shoulders. “I’ll fix something.”

“You didn’t find out anything today, did you?”

“No. It’ll be okay, Chief. Be thankful you came away with your life and a relatively minor knife wound.” 

“I am. Still, it’s an incredible sense of violation. And to think this kind of thing happens to people every day….”

“I know. But you can’t fixate on the bad. I think we have the ingredients to make linguini and clams. That okay?”

“Yeah. I’m starving.”

Jim hoisted himself to his feet. “That’s a good sign, at least. I’ll come help you out of bed when it’s ready.”

As he exited Blair’s room, he wondered how long it would take Jason to do the new sketch. What would Blair do when he received a larger, framed version of “Eyes Only for Him”?

If Blair hung it on his wall, would Jim have to pretend he never noticed it?

Or would it start a conversation?

Would Blair be ready for it?

Would he?

He hoped so.


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