Part 8: Shading Techniques (Epilogue)
The next evening Blair was finally allowed to talk to Jack. The two of them sat across from each other, separated by a screen. The silence seemed to fill the room.
“So, my boy. Aren’t you going to ask me why? That is the first question they always ask the captured criminal in those dreadful mystery programs.” His eyes were twinkling with mischief.
“It’s a waste of time to ask a question when you already know the answer. I know why, I just wish…” He couldn’t meet Jack’s gaze.
“Ah, Blair. What’s wrong, lad?”
“What’s wrong? How can you ask me that? I betrayed you. I showed the police how to catch you.”
“Yes. ‘Magdalen with the Night Light’. I knew those doltish Interpol agents couldn’t have thought of that one. A brilliant move, my boy! You’ve made an old man proud!”
“How can you be proud? You’re going to jail because of me!”
“Tut, Blair. I’m glad to see that my Machiavellian lifestyle didn’t corrupt you too much. I wondered and worried about that for years after you and your mother left. I have no regrets for myself. I would have cause to be upset if I had let Javert and Gerard catch me through something like a foolish error on my part or blind luck on theirs. But I was fouled up by someone using his mind. A true artist can always appreciate the clever talents of others. I’d like to think I had a hand in helping shape that magnificent mind of yours. So your success, in a way, is a testament to my own skill as well. My Apprentice. My Shadow.” Jack laughed while Blair looked on. Jack continued. “Don’t worry about me. I haven’t been consigned to prison yet! I can be an impressionably feeble and sympathetic old man before a court when I want to be. They wouldn’t dare give an unduly harsh sentence to a poor man in need of a little psychiatric counseling for the problems that drove him to such outrageous behavior.”
At that, a grin finally broke across Blair’s face. A lightness came over the room as the two of them began to talk more cheerfully about what they’d been doing over the years. Blair felt more at peace in the face of Jack’s pleasant and nonchalant attitude.
Blair left the room. The weight of guilt that had been dragging him down seemed to have lifted. He turned the corner and almost ran into Jim. Jim was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed as if he’d been waiting. Somehow, Jim being there made Blair angry.
“How’d it go, Chief?”
“Why even bother asking me? I’m sure you could hear every word from here.”
“That doesn’t mean I was listening in.”
Jim said nothing.
“That’s what I thought.” Blair walked past him and out the building. He just started walking. About ten minutes later, Jim pulled up beside him in the truck.
“Come on, Sandburg. Hop in and I’ll give you a ride back to the loft.”
“I’d rather walk.”
“It’s going to rain and you’re going to get wet. If you catch a cold, then I’m going to have to listen to you sniffle and whine for a week. Get in the truck!”
Blair looked up at the sky. Thick, dark clouds were moving in. The last thing he needed was to get soaking wet and catch a cold. Jim would never let him hear the end of it. He couldn’t afford to anyway. It was near the end of the semester and he had too much to do. Jim stopped the truck as Blair walked over to it. He grabbed the handle and jerked it open. He quickly jumped in and shut the door. Jim pulled away from the curb. For a long time nothing was said.
Jim finally broke the silence. “Are you ok, Chief?”
“I’m fine.” Blair looked at Jim. Lines of concentration had formed between Jim’s eyes. “When I say I’m fine, why can’t you just leave it at that? Why do you always have to check to see if I’m lying or not?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on, Jim. I’m not as stupid as you apparently think I am. You’ve been listening to my heartbeat to see when I’m telling the truth or not. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how every conversation we’ve had lately seemed to turn into an interrogation. All you needed were the heat lamps to make it complete. How long were you going to keep this little lie-detector trick a secret?”
“I wanted to get a better handle on it first.”
“By checking it out on me, huh? Great way to show me how much you really trust me, Jim.”
“I let you move in with me and ride with me on assignments. Doesn’t that tell you how much I trust you? What about your little secret? You were seriously thinking about keeping your mouth shut about Seward, weren’t you?”
Blair gave Jim a murderous look.
“That’s what I thought.” Jim parked the truck and the two of them got out. The argument continued on the way up to the loft.
“It’s not the same thing, Jim! This business with Jack wasn’t between just you and me. Any decision I made would change his whole life. I had to think of him, too.” The two of them walked into the loft. Blair slammed the door shut. Jim winced.
“What I want to know, Sandburg, is why. Why would you want to help a remorseless, career criminal evade the law? What kind of hold does this guy have over you?”
“You mean you couldn’t figure that out from listening in on our conversation at the station?” Blair stormed out of the room. He returned a moment later with a small photo album and threw it down on the sofa in front of Jim. “You want to know why? Here’s why.” Blair walked out on the balcony and sat down in a heap, raking an exasperated hand through his hair.
Jim sat down on the sofa to look at the photo album. It was full of pictures of a younger Seward with a smiling boy that could only be Blair. Pictures of them eating ice cream at some café, walking by the river, standing by the Eiffel Tower. He even recognized Blair’s mother in some of the shots—he’d seen other pictures of her from Blair. Most of the photos were of Jack and Blair having fun and just hanging out. If he didn’t know differently, Jim would swear they were father and son. Then it hit him. Father and son. Jim felt like the biggest jerk in the world. Blair had mentioned a few times that he’d never had a father, that Naomi didn’t even know who his father was. Blair always acted like it didn’t mean anything, but Jim never believed that. He didn’t need heightened senses to see the way Blair’s smile always seemed forced when he talked about it. And this guy had been his fatherly role model? It was a wonder Blair wasn’t really screwed up. He looked out at Blair sitting on the balcony. He took the album and went out to sit next to him.
“Chief? I didn’t know.”
“I had to make a choice, Jim. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I owed him so much. He gave me a place to live when I had nowhere to go.” Blair chuckled humorlessly. “That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The time I spent with him…that was the longest I’d ever stayed anywhere as a kid. He made me feel like it was really my home, too. Naomi moved us around so often that I’d learned not to cry when we left friends behind. ‘Detach with Love’ she always said. But when we left Paris, I couldn’t stop crying. Jack was like a…I never had a… Jim. He was the closest thing.” Blair looked away.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know how close you were to this guy. It never occurred to me that this would be like betraying family.”
Blair seemed to deflate a little. “How could you know? I wasn’t exactly talking.”
“I still should’ve given you the benefit of the doubt. You’ve never let Simon and me down before.”
“You and Simon weren’t entirely wrong about me. I wasn’t completely innocent. When I lived with him, I helped him with…illegal stuff.”
“Forgeries? Stolen goods?” Jim imagined an attention-starved young Blair hanging on Seward’s every word, doing whatever he could to please his surrogate-father.
Blair nodded. He smiled ruefully at Jim. “So. Are you going to arrest me?”
“Hmm. Maybe we can cut a deal. You cook dinner for the rest of the week and we’ll call it time served.”
“I thought police officers shouldn’t deal with ethical issues like fairness, justice, loyalty. Didn’t you say it’s their job to arrest the lawbreakers and let the courts decide who’s guilty?”
“Give it a rest, Sandburg. Are you trying to talk yourself into an arrest?” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “You would get to spend more time catching up with your friend, though.”
Blair’s eyes got wide.
Jim smirked at him. “Look, Chief. That was a hypothetical conversation we had the other day. This is reality. It doesn’t count.”
Blair seemed relieved. “If you say so.” Just then it started to rain.
Jim looked at his watch. “You know, I’m getting hungry. Don’t you think it’s time to start cooking? I’d like to eat sometime tonight.” He stood up and held out a hand to help Sandburg up. Blair took it with a grin.
“Sure thing, man. Just wait ‘til you see what I’ve got in mind!” He hurried over to the kitchen area and starting grabbing stuff from the refrigerator and the cupboards.
Jim headed for the bathroom to wash up. He didn’t even turn around as he spoke. “Oh, and Sandburg? None of that oregano crap.”
Blair had the shaker in his hand, open and ready to pour. With a sigh, he turned around and put it back in the cupboard.
Jim smiled as he shut the bathroom door behind him.
Author’s Notes: 1) There really wasn’t much action in this one, sorry. This was more of an insight story with a little bit of relationship-forming in it. I wanted a story that showed more of Blair and his childhood influences (in a sympathetic, but not totally angst-filled way). 2) The two Interpol agents have interesting names. Gerard is the name of the detective who chased poor, innocent Dr. Richard Kimble cross-country in The Fugitive TV show. Javert is a character from the book, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Javert was the man who relentlessly pursued the hero, Jean Valjean. Both Gerard and Javert were obsessed with catching their prey, but the character of Javert seemed a lot more rabid about it to me. 3) “Magdalen with the Night Light” is a real painting by Georges de La Tour. I have also seen it called "Magdalen of Night Light". It does hang in the Louvre. However, I took liberties with the history of the painting. Genevieve St. Cyre was completely made-up. I don’t know anything about the history of this painting and who may have owned it. For all I know it may have always been in the Louvre. It’s a remarkable work showcasing the artist’s talent with chiaroscuro—a style using brilliant light against intense darkness (a candle in a dark room, a single lantern on a pitch-black road, etc.). Check out the paintings of Georges de La Tour on The Web Gallery of Art. I have it linked so you’ll go straight to his works.