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There’s blood on the snow. I can see it from here, standing on the balcony, drinking a beer, trying to relax a moment. Sandburg’s in the shower; I can hear the sound of the water and the gentle sounds of him getting clean.

It’s been several days since it snowed. The slush has been cleared from the streets. Long enough for the plowed piles to become black with exhaust and road grit, the shoveled piles from the sidewalk gray and tan with salt and sand. It hasn’t gotten really cold again, the snow still slushy and firm at the same time. Not like when it freezes hard. Hard enough to make you think it’ll hold you before your weight puts your foot through the layer of ice and you break your ankle or at least lose skin on the way down.

But the blood landed on the rare clean expanse of white snow several feet off the walkway, the pristineness marred now by footprints; the blood glittering like frozen rubies or rosepetals against the white. Actually, white-blue, white-gray, white-gold as the setting sun slants light through the disturbed crystals.

What I can’t tell from here is who’s blood it is. Or maybe I could if I wanted to try. I don’t remember who was standing where, which of the three people who were bleeding was on that spot. I might be able to scent the blood, but it’s frozen and I don’t want to anyway.

It was just a stupid scuffle. A couple of idiots… well, actually there were four of them, but I don’t think they had but two whole brains among them; got the bright idea to jump us in the pre-dawn hours. We were dragging home after a fruitless stakeout and these yo-yo’s decide we’re easy mugging material. Assholes. And what the hell were they doing out on the streets at that time in the morning anyway? Didn’t they have a crack house to flop in or something?

After all this time, Blair’s gotten really fabulous in these little scraps. It’s the bullies with the guns, the manpower and the brains that always get us into trouble. So here we were, trying to get our assorted stuff out of the car when I got two guys on my side and two on Sandburg’s side of the truck. Maybe if they’d come up to us one on each side (one on my right and one on my left, one on Sandburg’s right… you get the idea), it’d have been more work, but they'd lined up side by side and gave us plenty of room to maneuver instead of being pinned. An exchange of pleasantries along the lines of ‘give us your money or else’ followed by several slurred ‘fuck yous’ quashed our assorted attempts at reasoning with the morons.

A left hook to the jaw to the bozo on the left, closest to the truck and knocked him back, a punch to the gut and chop to the back of the neck took out bozo two, he went down hard and knocked himself cold on the pavement. As I followed bozo one I saw Sandburg dealing with bozos three and four. He’d clobbered bozo three across the face with his backpack and used the same swing to clip bozo four. I ducked a clumsy haymaker I saw coming three minutes before it landed and laid the idiot out with an upper cut that rolled his eyes back and he fell like a tree.

Sandburg wasn’t so lucky. He’d thrown his pack into the gut of bozo three, staggering him back off the sidewalk into clean snow, his bloody nose dripping and running off his chin. He was trading punches with bozo four, holding his own, having given the guy a bloody lip and a black eye under a cut from a zipper on his pack. An identical upper cut produced identical results and laid out bozo four, when bozo three finally remembered he had a knife. He’d gotten it out and managed one clumsy slash which Blair mostly avoided, bad luck and bad footing earning my partner a slice across the bicep before I got there and slammed the dork face first into the side of the truck.

Fifteen minutes later the place was swarming with assorted cruisers, two ambulances and Simon’s sedan. Sandburg was the proud owner of seven stitches in his arm and we were on our way to the station for booking and reports, which lasted most of the day. Simon finally released us at nearly four, so we staggered home. Sandburg went straight to the shower, I guess I’ll have to re-do his dressing; and me out here, looking down at the blood on the snow.

I know I shouldn’t obsess about this. This was random stupidity, having nothing to do with my job and the associated psychos. Anybody on the street right then would have been hit and better us than random Joe Citizen, though not for the idiots. A soft shuffle catches my attention. Sandburg in robe, sweats and slippers drifts to my side.

"Hey Jim. Whatcha doin’ out here?"

I shrug, "Just looking." Him standing beside me lets me felt he heat of him fresh out of a steaming shower. Makes me notice that I’m heading for chilled myself, I guess I’ve been out here for a while. My hand is practically numb around the bottle, chilled from the glass below and the air above. I suppress a tremble and turn the touch dial down a notch.

"Looking at what?"

Sighing I tell him, "The blood. On the snow. From this morning."

He leans past me a little to look at the area but we’re obviously too far away for him to see anything more than churned up snow, dark and light. Even with touch down some, Sandburg’s hand is like sunlight through a magnifying glass on my back, hot and intense, focused.

He shrugs too, the setting sun catching orange in his damp curls. "Come on, Jim. It’s getting cold out here. You’re getting cold out here. I’m making coffee, though I’m thinking now it should be Irish Coffee. We have brandy right?"

I nod and his hot hand shifts to my elbow and tugs. I let him, turning because his hair’s wet and we’re out in the cold and his arm needs looking at and I think I’d really like some coffee with brandy, even if it is before dinner. We go inside and the heat hits me like a wall, in a good way.

Sandburg stops behind me to shut and lock the doors and pull the shades. He turns back, looks up at me and grins, the light catching his eyes. He gives me a playful shove, "Go! Get in the shower and get warm! I’ll make up the coffees when you’re done."

I grin back, tousling the hair and ignoring his moan and swat. Dropping the bottle off on the counter I head for the bathroom a new image in my mind’s eye. Golden light in blue eyes. Gold on blue; much better than red on white.