Self Image

Debra Fran Baker





"Oh, God. Not again."

Blair shivered as he climbed the stairs to the loft, hearing Jim's screams all the way up. Jim was on his bed, huddled in the corner, shaking and screaming as he had every night these past few days. All Blair could do was watch and wish that he could hold his partner without setting off more terrors.

It had all started when they began this new case.

******

"Ellison, Sandburg, in my office NOW!" Blair and Jim looked at each other. They hadn't done anything that would get them in trouble, at least not yet.

Simon was waiting for them with someone else, a tall man in a suit.

"This is School Commissioner Minton. Commissioner, this is Detective Ellison and his partner, Blair Sandburg."

"What's going on, Captain?"

"There have been several incidents at one of the local high schools that I want you and Sandburg to look into."

Blair looked interested. "Incidents? What sort of incidents?"

Minton took off his glasses for a moment. "Several of the young men in the high school have been beaten up very severely by what we assume are their peers."

"Surely that's not a matter for Major Crimes, sir? Fights are a fact of life for high school boys."

"Ellison, just listen for a change."

"Thank you, Captain. Some of those boys were injured severely. One is in a coma. That takes it out of normal range."

To Blair's surprise, Jim still looked stubborn. "I can understand that - you probably have a number of irate parents. Even so, why involve Major Crimes?"

Blair placed a quelling hand on Jim's arm. "Sir...why are those boys being beaten up? You haven't said."

"It's not easy. I pride myself that we in Cascade are among the leaders in educating for tolerance. We have had no racial incidents at all in recent years, for example." He took a deep breath. "We believe it was gay bashing."

Blair could feel Jim stiffen and then pull his arm away.

"Do you have any evidence of that?" Even Jim's voice was stiff.

"Nothing direct, Detective. Only rumors. And parents who won't let us look any closer."

Blair wasn't surprised at that. Even his own mother...

Simon spoke up. "The commissioner want us to look into this as quietly as possible. The attacks are escalating. The last boy is in a coma. The next boy may be killed. We need to find out who's doing this and stop them."

"So,