Which is distinctly not Rumpelstiltskin.
Once upon a time, in the city of Cascade, deep in the Peruvian jungle, there lived a police captain who had a very capable detective, of whom he was excessively proud. There was no crime assigned him he could not solve, and if he dropped his gun and wrecked cars more often than anyone else in the squad, the precinct or even the city, what of it? It only made his successes the more astounding, the odds he overcame that much more improbable.
One day, as the captain was holding forth on the subject of his detective's amazing skills and luck, he noticed the shaman Incacha pausing to listen, but thought nothing of it and continued his recitation of Jim's unique qualities. It would prove to be a mistake.
"Ellison is really something. Nothing escapes his eyes and ears, and he can sniff out the smallest clue. If only he didn't have such a taste for danger. It seems like he has a touch for picking up the most dangerously unstable ladies sometimes," sighed Captain Banks.
Now, he was speaking in English to a visiting friend, which Incacha didn't quite understand, but the shaman did get the key points, and exclaimed excitedly: "A Sentinel! You must send him to the Temple of the Sentinels to be tested!" He would hear nothing of the captain's protests that he had misunderstood, and was reluctantly obeyed.
When Detective Ellison was brought before him, Incacha led him to a chamber where there lived a great furry black panther, and told him:
"This is the Accursed Spirit Guide of the Sentinels (to be referred to as the ASG hereafter), whose fur is hyperallergenic, so any non-Sentinels, who cannot control their senses, will sneeze their heads off. You must spend a night in here with it, and we'll see if you are still in possession of your head in the morning."
Fortunately, Ellison happened to be a Sentinel. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to control his senses, and couldn't stop sneezing from the instant the door closed. He had almost run out of tissues when suddenly, the door popped open again and a strange little Hippie in colorful motley wandered in, holding a handkerchief over his nose with one hand and a box of Kleenex in another. "Man, that sounds like a really bad cold. Need more of this?"
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" Ellison demanded between sneezes, for Incacha had not told him to expect anyone, and he remained a cop at heart despite his dire straits.
"Who, me?" asked the Hippie in alarm, not having expected the Inquisition. Seeing Ellison growl sniffily, he hastily added: "I'm Doctor McKay. I just dropped by to check on your condition. What's wrong with you?"
"It's that ~/sniff/~ great furry ~/achoo!/~ beast over there," Ellison waved irritably in the general direction of the ASG as he ripped open the new box of Kleenex. "Incacha ~/honk/~ stuck me in here to see if I would sneeze my head off. ~/sniffle/~"
Now, the Hippie knew that any normal person would have already sneezed his or her head off by now, so he realized that Ellison had to be a Sentinel, albeit an untrained one. Since he'd always wanted to study Sentinels, he wasted no time in taking advantage of this opportunity.
"Hey, let's make a deal: You promise to let me study you, and I'll teach you how to ignore the fluff."
Desperate to find some way to stop his uncontrollable sneezing, the hapless Detective-cum-Sentinel agreed, and soon it was the Hippie who was sniffling from the proximity of the ASG. The Hippie left him a card and made him promise to call if he needed more help, and so Incacha found the happy Detective curled up and snoozing contentedly with the great furry black panther in the morning.
Pleased but determined not to show it, Incacha pronounced Ellison's next trial in dire tones: "A vile miscreant was seen tossing something into the ASG's chamber while fleeing from Captain Banks' men this morning. We suspect it is the Switchman, but no one dares search the room because of the deadly fur covering the floor. You must find this unidentified flying object quickly, for if it was indeed the Switchman's gift, it will blow up the Temple of the Sentinels." So saying, he closed the door on Ellison once more.
Having only learned to dial down his senses and filter out the fluff, Ellison was at a loss, and decided to call the strange little Hippie for help. The Hippie arrived quite bedraggled and covered in soot, and when he heard the problem, exclaimed: "The Switchman blew up my lodgings last night too! Tell you what, let me stay at your house, and I'll show you how to find your bomb. One week, and I'll be out of your hair, I promise. Please?"
"Whatever, Chief, just help me look for it," Ellison begged with a fearsome scowl on his face.
"Don't look," said the Hippie, "listen. What doesn't belong? Anything ticking or beeping?"
So he closed his eyes and focused on his hearing. After identifying and discarding the heartbeats of the ASG, the Hippie and himself, Incacha's alarm clock in the next room, an egg-timer in the kitchen and an old watch belonging to the last victim of the ASG, the Detective finally found a bomb with the usual flashing red digits tracking the countdown. "I should have just looked," he groused.
"Well, you did find it," protested the Hippie defensively. "What if it had been one of those old analog timers?"
"It was just lying in the open."
"You didn't know that!"
"I think it's going to explode."
"Get down!" snapped the Detective, hurling the bomb out the window. He threw himself protectively over the little Hippie as an explosion rocked the Temple, but the building stood.
Once the dust had settled, Incacha peered in cautiously, and seemed relieved to find them both still intact. "Found it? Good. One last task to carry out, Detective Ellison, before you can become Sentinel of the Great City and have the great furry black panther as your spirit guide. You must find the Switchman before he can blow up more things."
"Cool! Let's go get the Switchman!" exclaimed the Hippie cheerfully, but the Detective eyed him with deep suspicion.
"What do you want?" he demanded warily.
"What do I want?" asked the Hippie, baffled.
"You must want something in exchange. Tell me what you want," insisted the Detective.
"Huh? We've got to go after the Switchman!" said the Hippie, tugging at his arm.
The Detective planted himself firmly in place and refused to budge. "Tell me what you want first!"
"The cat! Whatever! Will you just get moving?"
So, with the help of the Hippie, the Detective managed to track down and capture the Switchman, who turned out to a Switch-woman, but that's not important, and there was much rejoicing nevertheless.
But in the midst of the celebrations held in honor of the new Sentinel, he turned and shoved the Accursed Spirit Guide at the Hippie, declaring, "Here is your cat."
"No!" gasped Incacha in dismay, keeling over of a heart attack in his shock. Several of the celebrants hastened to administer CPR.
"Mhraow!" protested the panther, and started shedding fur in distress.
"No!" sneezed the Hippie, trying to back away from the great furry beast.
"Chief, I promised to give you the cat in exchange for your help."
"But I don't want it," pleaded the Hippie. " I was just trying to make you go after the Switchwoman!"
"It was what we agreed on," insisted the Sentinel.
"Tell you what, Jim," suggested the Hippie desperately. "Call me by name, and you can keep your cat."
The Sentinel stared at him, frowning in thought. "Darwin."
The Hippie shook his head.
"Hey!" protested the Hippie indignantly.
The Hippie gaped at him. At a loss, the Sentinel looked around at his friends for help.
"No, just - just look at the card I gave you, ok?"
Jim looked. "Blair Sandburg."
"Yes!" Blair punched the air.
"It could be a fake name," said Jim doubtfully. The first time we met, you called yourself Doctor McKay."
"It's my real name," Blair assured him wearily. The Sentinel looked vaguely disappointed.
"I like Chief," he said in a small voice.
"All right, you can call me Chief," sighed the Hippie.
"Then I must give you the cat!"
Inspiration struck the Hippie, and he pushed the panther back into the Sentinel's arms. "Jim, you keep your cat, and in exchange, give me your friendship."
And so the Hippie and the Sentinel were friends from then on.