by Vinsmouse

Disclaimer: I don't own McKenna, not making any money, just cheap thrills.

Warnings: Violence, Angst

Rating: FRT

Chapter 1

"Hey Leigh," Cassidy McKenna greeted her sister-in-law with a bright smile.

"Morning Cass," Leigh smiled, enjoying the young girl's exuberance. "Breakfast will be ready soon."

Cassidy glanced towards the stove with a look of regret. "I'll just grab an apple or something, got to get to school early today. "

"Hot date?" Leigh teased the girl.

"Funny," Cassidy smirked. "But no, just a project I have to work on. Have you seen Brick? He was supposed to give me a ride today."

Leigh shook her head. "His bed didn't look slept in. Maybe he's in the barn?" she suggested, knowing her brother-in-law sometimes slept there if he came in late.

"He better be," Cassidy declared. "If he stayed out all night I'm going to kill him," she threatened. She really needed to complete this project if she wanted to bring her History grade up. Turning on her heel, she hurried out the door to the barn. Spotting her brother's car she smiled, her relief clearly showing. Slowing a bit, she stepped into the barn, moving quietly. She had been trying to sneak up on Brick since she was a little girl, she hadn't managed it yet. By now Cassidy thought she would be disappointed if she succeeded for it would mean the game was at an end.

Cassidy stopped, listening intently for any sign of Brick's presence. Hearing nothing she decided he must be in the loft. Moving forward she headed for the ladder. A couple of feet from it she tripped. "So much for that," she whispered. Brick was sure to have heard her crying out as she fell. Picking herself up, she turned to see what had tripped her. She could feel the blood draining from her face. "Oh god! " On shaky legs she forced herself to move forward. It was only a few steps but it felt as if she would never reach her brother's side. Dropping to her knees, she reached out with a shaky hand. "Please don't be dead, please don't be dead, don't be—eeep!" Her hand had almost reached the side of Brick's neck when he moaned. For a moment she sagged with relief. Another small, pain filled moan, and she was on her feet running for the house, screaming for her father.

Jack swore his heart stopped. He heard the fear and anguish in Cassidy's voice and suddenly he was transported back to the day they had lost Guy. Shaking himself, he hurried outside, meeting up with his youngest as she was racing onto the porch. Grabbing her upper arms, he brought her to a halt.

"Jack! Help...Brick...too much blood...hurry," Cassidy gasped, her fear and anxiety making it difficult to talk.

Jack paled, his heart once more stuttering with fear. "Where?"

"Barn...hurry Jack!"

"Call an ambulance and send Leigh out with the first-aid kit," Jack ordered with a calmness he didn't feel. Moving Cassidy aside, he ran towards the barn. Bile rose at the sight which greeted him. Brick lay in a pool of his own blood, his face a mass of bruises. "My god," he gasped as he dropped to his knees. "Who did this to you son?" He received no answer, not that he had expected one. He looked up at the sound of running feet, relief flooding his face as Leigh appeared with the first-aid kit.

"Cassidy is calling an ambulance," Leigh said as she joined Jack on the ground. "Jesus," she whispered as her eyes roved over Brick's still form. With shaking hands she opened the case. Forcing herself to remain calm, she quickly went to work helping Jack as they did what they could for the young man they both loved.

"My God, Jack, how did he drive home in this condition?" Leigh asked, her voice trembling.

"I don't think he did," Jack said, his eyes on something behind Leigh.

Turning her head, Leigh took in the bloodied board lying on the ground. "How could we not have heard anything?" she wondered aloud as she worked on cleaning Brick up, applying butterfly bandages where needed. He would need stitches, of course, but the bandages should help until he reached the hospital. She tried not to think about what other injuries he might have.

"The ambulance is on the way, so is Dale," Cassidy announced from the door. "He's going to be okay, isn't he?" she fearfully asked. She didn't see how anybody could lose so much blood and still be alive.

"He'll be okay honey," Jack responded. He didn't usually opt for pretty lies but at the moment he couldn't afford to have Cassidy falling apart. He needed to focus on Brick.

"What can I do?" Cassidy asked. She needed to help her brother. When Guy had died there had been nothing she could do, nothing anybody could do. This time there was something she could do, there had to be something, she desperately thought.

"Could you take care of Rose and Harry?" Leigh asked.

"I meant..."

"I know Cass," Leigh interrupted, "but they don't need to see Brick like this. Keeping them occupied and out of the way will help more than you realize."

Cassidy opened her mouth to protest, quickly closing it when she realized Leigh was right. The best way for her to help Brick was to take care of the kids so Leigh and Jack could focus on her brother. Turning on her heel, she hurried towards the house. As she stepped onto the porch, the door opened.

"Aunt Cassidy, where are Grandpa and Mom?" Rose asked.

"Oh, um, well they're in the barn..."

"Is one of the horses sick?" Harry asked. He hoped not, he really liked the horses.

Cassidy grabbed Harry before he could head to the barn. "No, but they're busy. Come on in the house and I'll make you some breakfast."

"Are Grandpa and Uncle Brick fighting again?" Rose asked.

"Rose," Cassidy exclaimed, "why would you think that?"

"Well, mom left breakfast on the stove and if none of the horses are sick and none of the adults are in the house, then mom probably had to stop another argument," Rose explained matter-of-factly.

Cassidy was impressed, her niece's logic was pretty good. She only wished an argument was the only problem today. Chewing on her lip, she glanced towards the barn, her mind going over everything as she wrestled with her decision.

Decision made, she herded the kids back into the house and into the kitchen. Sitting them down, she pulled another chair around so she could face them. "I'm not going to lie to you guys, but you have to promise me that you'll stay in the house, okay?"

Rose and Harry exchanged a look. Their aunt was never this serious, or afraid. Rose had only seen a look like once before, it had been her mother's eyes that time. "Aunt Cassidy...did," she swallowed past a sudden lump, "did, somebody die," the final word came out as a whisper.

"No!" Cassidy nearly yelled. "Oh honey, no, nobody is dead." Except for the person who hurt Brick like that if I ever find them. She didn't say that out loud, though.

"Then what's wrong?" Rose demanded, Harry nodding in agreement with his sister's demand.

Cassidy sighed, how was she supposed to explain this without scaring them to death. "Well you were right about it involving Brick," she began. "He's hurt, out in the barn and Jack and your mom are taking care of him."

"It's really bad isn't it?"

"I don't know, but he's unconscious. There's an ambulance on the way..."

"An ambulance!" Rose cried. Jumping up from her chair she ran towards the door. She would have made it too, except for Dale.

"Dale stop her," Cassidy called.

Dale didn't ask, he just grabbed the young girl around the waist, hoisting her into the air. He ignored her demands to be let go, looking to Cassidy for information. All he knew was that a called had come into the office asking for him to come out to McKenna's and that it was an emergency.

Joining Dale, Cassidy took Rose from his arms. "Rose listen to me, your mom and Jack don't need us out there right now. We'd just be in the way."

"But I want to help," Rose protested.

"I know honey, I do too," Cassidy admitted. "But we can help more by staying in here out of the way."

Rose didn't like it but she knew her aunt was probably right. "I hate being a kid," she pouted.

Cassidy chuckled, in spite of her worries. "Me too. Can I trust you to stay in the house with Harry?"

Rose nodded.

Cassidy put her niece down and stepped outside with Dale.

"What's going on Cass?" Dale asked as soon as the door closed.

Cassidy blew out a shaky breath. "Somebody hurt Brick, they hurt him bad."

"Hurt him? What do you mean?"

"I found him this morning, in the barn. He was unconscious and there was so much blood...too much blood."

"Did you see anybody else?" Dale asked. He ignored the urge to race to the barn, knowing he could help Brick more by finding whoever had done this.

Cassidy shook her head. "I didn't even see Brick, at first. He was supposed to give me a ride to school but Leigh said his bed wasn't slept in. I went to the barn, he sleeps there sometimes if he comes in late. You probably know that already."

Dale nodded, "Go on."

"I was trying to sneak up on him, but I tripped. I turned around to see what I had tripped over. It was Brick. He was so still Dale and the blood...I thought he was dead," Cassidy admitted in a horrified whisper.

"Do I need to call an ambulance?"

"No, I already did that. I was reaching for his pulse when he moaned. That was when I ran into the house to get Jack. He told me to call an ambulance. I thought I should call you too. I mean it's pretty obvious that somebody beat him up."

Just then the ambulance pulled into the yard. "You stay here with the kids. I'll show them where to find Brick." He gave her a quick hug. "Don't worry Cass, Brick's a fighter, he'll be okay. " Releasing her, he went to meet the ambulance.

Jack was coming out of the barn, having heard the siren of the ambulance. Seeing Dale leading the paramedics towards the barn, he returned to his son's side. "Ambulance is here," he told Leigh as he helped her to her feet. He knew they would need to move out of the way so the paramedics could work.

"Jack," Dale greeted him. He winced as he took in the state of his friend. He could easily understand why Cassidy seemed so scared. He knew head wounds could bleed a lot, of course, but Brick's continued unconsciousness didn't look good. "What can you tell me?"

"Some bastard worked my son over with a two by four," Jack growled, pointing to the board.

Dale's glance moved to where Jack indicated. "Did anybody touch it?"

"We were a little busy Dale," Jack snapped. Rubbing a hand over his face, he sighed. "Sorry, and no, nobody touched it."

Dale nodded. "It's okay. Hopefully we'll be able to get some good prints from it. I will find out who did this Jack," he promised.

"I know you'll do your best." As the paramedics began to load Brick onto a stretcher, Jack took a step away from Dale. He turned back. "Is there anything else you need to know?"

"No sir," Dale replied. "I'll gather whatever evidence I can here. I'll be at the hospital as soon as I can, hopefully Brick will be awake by then to tell us something."

Jack nodded. Turning away once more, he joined Leigh as she watched the paramedics readying Brick for transport. "I'll ask Cassidy to watch the kids," he told her, knowing she would want to be at the hospital too.

Leigh nodded. "What are we going to tell them Jack?"

"The truth, well maybe not all of it," he amended as he looked at his son.

Chapter 2

In the end it was Walter who stayed with Rose and Harry. The moment Jack had suggested Cassidy stay at home he was met with vehement protests from his youngest. He understood how she felt but at the time he didn't have the strength to argue with her. He opened his mouth to tell her she was staying, no arguments when Walter spoke up from the door.

"I can stay with them," Walter offered. Walter had been shocked when Dale told him, as he arrived for work, what was happening. Wanting to be of help he hurried to the house. At least they didn't have any guests at the moment, or any due in.

Jack frowned. He liked Walter well enough but the man wasn't the sharpest. Could he really trust him with his grandchildren? Would Leigh be willing to trust him?

"Thank you Walter," Leigh spoke from the stairs. She had hurried upstairs before the kids could see her, changing her bloodied clothes for fresh ones.

"But Mom we want to come to the hospital with you," Rose protested.

Leigh dropped to her knees, putting herself at eye level with her kids. "I know you do Rose, but they won't let you and Harry in to see Brick anyway."

"But we'd be there."

"And you'd be very bored. I don't know how long we'll be at the hospital honey," Leigh explained.

"I'm going to need your help young lady," Walter spoke up.

"With what?" Rose practically growled.

"Rose," Leigh said in a no-nonsense tone.

"Sorry," the little girl mumbled.

"There's a lot of chores to be done. Feeding the horses, small repairs in the cabins, I could use a couple of helpers." Walter easily ignored the girl's snappishness; it wasn't any worse than he ever heard from his wife. He figured it was just a girl thing.

Rose thought it over. It was true there wouldn't be anything to do at the hospital but wait and they wouldn't let her see her uncle. "I guess we could help, couldn't we Harry?" she turned to her brother.

"I like the horses," Harry said by way of agreement.

That had settled it. Now he, Cassidy and Leigh were at the hospital, waiting for news about Brick.

Dale watched the ambulance drive away, carrying his injured best friend. Moving to his car, he radioed to the station letting them know that he would be awhile. Opening the trunk, he removed a camera and some latex gloves along with a few other things; next stop, the scene of the attack. Jesus but somebody had really done a number on Brick he thought as he moved into the barn. Standing in the doorway he began by snapping pictures, being sure to photograph every inch of the barn. Next he photographed the clean interior of the car. This would help prove the attack had taken place in the barn and not elsewhere. Had he driven home the car would be covered in blood.

Satisfied that he had all the photos he would need, Dale put the camera aside and moved to the board turned weapon. Carefully he dusted the surface for prints, paying particular attention to the cleaner end of the wood. Standing he shook out a large garbage bag, the only thing he had that would cover the board to avoid contamination of the evidence.

Finally, before heading for the station, he made a tour of the interior of the building, searching for anything that might help the investigation. He found plenty of footprints, one set leading him to a back corner of the barn. The impressions he found there told their own story. Deeper than the ones leading from the corner to the car Dale knew it could mean only one thing. Whoever had done this had hidden, waiting for Brick to come home. This hadn't been a random attack then or an untimely interruption of a thief at work. The attack then was personal. Of course he had already suspected that, given the violence involved. He snapped a few pictures before returning to the car grabbing up the board and the fingerprint card on the way.

Placing the evidence in the car, he grabbed one last thing. A bag of plaster of paris and a jug of water; these would allow him to take an impression of the footprints, both those in the corner and those leading from it. Glancing at his watch he was surprised to find that he had been here for over an hour. His thoughts went again to the hospital and Brick. He wondered if there was any news yet.

At the hospital, Jack McKenna sat on an uncomfortable couch his daughter curled up beside him, seeking comfort as she unknowingly gave her father the same. He looked up as Leigh returned from calling the house.

"The kids okay?"

Leigh nodded as she resumed her seat. "Walter's keeping them busy."

"You know I was surprised that you were okay with Walter watching them," Jack commented.

Leigh gave him an amused smile. "He wouldn't be most people's first choice for babysitter would he? I've watched him and he's really pretty good with the kids. I admit he has his own way of doing things but he's not careless and he'll keep the kids entertained and busy. That's what they need right now, not worrying themselves sick about Brick."

"McKenna," a voice called from the doorway, surprising them. Looking up they saw a middle-aged man with kind brown eyes and wearing a white lab coat.

Jack stood. "I'm Jack McKenna, how's Brick?"

"Dr. Winslow," he introduced himself. "I'm one of the doctors that have been treating your son."

"One?" Jack didn't like the sound of that. Were Brick's injuries that serious? Don't be stupid McKenna, you saw for yourself.

"Yes sir," Dr. Winslow replied. "I'm an emergency doctor but given the head injuries your son incurred I thought it prudent to call in a neurologist. Dr. Carson will be out to speak to you soon, as soon as he's finished with his examination."

"So you just came out to tell us that you don't know anything?" Jack snapped.

Used to worried families Charlie Winslow easily ignored the man's anger. "No sir, we know some things. In spite of the blood and bruises the majority of Brick's injuries are minor. Numerous bruises of course, and several small cuts to begin with. In addition there are three cracked ribs and one broken. His left arm is broken as well. Surprisingly there are no signs of internal bleeding. The only real concern is the head injury."

As the doctor rattled off the injuries his son had received Jack nearly echoed the gasps from Leigh and Cassidy. It might not seem that serious to the doctor but to the worried family the injuries sounded terrifying. He had to thank God for small favors though, he knew that no internal bleeding was very good news and as the doctor said, surprising. "How much longer will Dr. Carson be?" Jack asked. He knew Brick would recover from the injuries Winslow had listed there was no need to ask about that.

"It shouldn't be much longer Mr. McKenna. If there's nothing else?"

Jack shook his head, "Thank you."

With a short nod, Dr. Winslow headed back to the cubicles and his duties.

Jack gave his daughter another hug. "I know it sounded like a lot Cassidy but all of those things can be recovered from."

"Thanks Jack, but what about his head? There was so much blood and he must have been unconscious for hours before I found him," Cassidy pointed out. "I'm scared Jack," she whispered, burying her face in her father's chest.

"I know honey, I know," Jack murmured, holding her tight. Silently he prayed for his son's full recovery. "Why don't you and Leigh go get some coffee? I'll wait her for Dr. Carson," he suggested.

"That's a good idea," Leigh put in. "I think we could all use some," she added. She knew what Jack was doing. She just hoped Cassidy would go along with it the young girl could use a break from the constant worry.

Cassidy didn't want to leave, but coffee did sound like a good idea. "We'll bring you back a cup," she told her father.

"Thanks Cass," Jack said, offering her a tight smile. The moment the girls were out of sight, Jack collapsed onto the couch. Face buried in his hands, he fought to contain the fear roiling just below the surface.

"Mr. McKenna?"

Jerking upright, Jack stared at the brunette standing in the doorway. "Dr. Carson?" Confirmed with a nod and Jack was on his feet. "How is my son?"

"Why don't we sit down Mr. McKenna," Lou Carson gently suggested.

Jack stumbled back to the couch, his heart in his throat. It was never good when they asked you to sit down. "Give it to me straight Doc, how bad is it?" Jack asked, never a man to mince words.

"The good news is that while there is some swelling of the brain it hasn't gotten any worse since he was brought in. I'm hopeful that there will be no need for surgical intervention."

Jack took a moment to enjoy a brief moment of hope. Bracing himself he asked for the bad news.

"I'm concerned about Brick's prolonged unconsciousness," Dr. Carson told him in a frank manner. "The swelling alone would tell us your son has suffered some amount of brain damage. The prolonged unconscious state indicates that damage is possibly severe. Frankly Mr. McKenna one blow would have been enough to cause heavy damage, Brick received two severe blows to the head, followed by numerous minor blows, compounding the damage."

Jack swallowed past the lump in his throat. "How bad is the damage?" He was terrified of the answer, but he had to know.

"We won't know the full extent or how it will manifest until Brick wakes up."

Jack nodded. "Will he wake up?" he asked, unaware that Leigh and Cassidy had returned.

Leigh gripped Cassidy's hand as they exchanged a look of fear.

Dr. Carson sighed, sometimes he really hated his job. "Anything is possible Mr. McKenna, but it doesn't look very promising," he told the older man as gently as he could. Taken by surprise he fell back in his seat as a teenage girl suddenly moved into his field of vision, a look of grief stricken rage on her pretty face.

"Brick is going to wake up," Cassidy snapped, jabbing her finger at the doctor. "My brother is a fighter."

"I'm sure he is Miss McKenna, but that..."

"No! You don't know my brother but I do. He is going to wake up, he is, he is," turning to her father, now standing behind her, she fell into his arms, sobs wracking her frame.

"Shhh Cass," Jack murmured. "It's going to be okay. You're right, Brick's a fighter and a McKenna. He's too stubborn to give up." That got a small smile. Looking to the doctor he was relieved to see a look of understanding on the man's face. "When can we see Brick?"

"He's being moved to ICU, as soon as he's settled you'll be allowed in to see him for short intervals."

"I want to stay with him," Cassidy mumbled.

"I'm afraid that won't be allowed," the doctor apologized. "Brick will need to be closely monitored, and the nurses need room to work. As soon as he stabilizes and the swelling reduces he'll be transferred to a regular room, you'll be able to spend more time with him then." Without another word, the doctor left them alone to deal with the news they'd been given.

After a few minutes Jack suggested that they head up to the ICU. Cassidy and Leigh readily agreed; both eager to see Brick for themselves.

Dale spent several hours examining the evidence he had gathered. The most important pieces being the plaster cast of the footprints and the board bearing the fingerprints, he hoped, of Brick's assailant. Unfortunately at this point there was nothing he could do but wait. The evidence had just left, sent to the state crime lab by courier. He simply didn't have the facilities to properly examine it. The fingerprints he had lifted had been scanned and entered into the computer. Again he had to wait, hoping there would be a match.

Papers scattered as he slammed his hand into the side of the filing cabinet, knocking papers from the top. "Damn it," he cursed. Usually he didn't mind waiting; he was a very patient man. But it wasn't usual when the crime victim was his best friend. Suddenly he had no patience at all, doing a very good imitation of Brick. He choked out a laugh as he imagined Brick's reaction to his show of temper. Maybe he should just head to the hospital, see if there was any news.

Just then the computer beeped, alerting him to an incoming message. Hurrying to the computer he impatiently opened the message. "I should have figured that," he mumbled as a name and picture appeared on the screen. Reading over the details of the man's previous arrest record he wasn't surprised by what he found. Armed with a name he immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of one Clint Emmons for felony assault. After sending out an alert to every police department in the state he printed several wanted posters, using a program on the computer. He would put them up around town, taking one to the local newspaper for inclusion in the story about the attack on Brick, before heading to the hospital.

Chapter 3

Dale arrived at the hospital emergency room only to be told Brick had been moved to ICU. Immediately he headed that way. Stepping off the elevator he saw Leigh coming out of the ladies room. "Leigh," he called, hurrying towards her. He wanted to ask how Brick was but one look at Leigh's face and he knew that question could wait a moment. "Come here," he whispered, pulling her into his arms.

He didn't say anything, just held her as she soaked the front of his shirt. How she could cry so quietly he had no idea. He suspected it was the need to hide her grief from the kids when Guy died that had allowed her to develop the ability. If it hadn't been for the wetness and the slight shaking of her body he would never have known of the tears she was shedding.

Finally the trembling slowed, then stopped and Leigh pulled back. He handed her a handkerchief. "Better?" He smiled sadly when she nodded, glancing away, embarrassed by her display. Placing his fingers under her chin, he tilted her head up so he could look her in the eye. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about, you needed that."

"I soaked your shirt," she softly said, averting her eyes.

"It'll dry," was Dale's simple response. "You're a strong woman Leigh and you'll use that strength to take care of everybody else. Now, how about you let me be strong for you, so you can be strong for them?" he softly asked.

Leigh had to smile. Leaning up she kissed him lightly on the lips. "How did I get so lucky?"

"Clean living?" Dale suggested, earning a small chuckle. Sobering he asked the question he dreaded the answer to. "How bad?"

Leigh sighed. "Most of the injuries aren't that bad, broken rib, a few cracked, broken arm, cuts and bruises."

"They don't put a man in ICU for those injuries."

"No, no they don't," Leigh agreed. "The doctor said he took a couple of severe blows to the head, at least that's what Jack said. Cassidy and I were getting coffee when the neurologist finished examining Brick." She paused, taking a deep breath. "There's some swelling, in his brain, they won't know how much damage there is until he wakes up...if he wakes up," she added in a small voice.

"Jesus," Dale whispered. "What does the doctor think his chances are?"

Leigh shook her head. "I don't think he expects him to wake up," she admitted. "Cassidy didn't take that very well."

"Neither did you or Jack, I'd bet." He pulled her close again, needing the comfort as much as she did. Brick had been his best friend since grade school, the brother he'd never had, and he couldn't face the thought of losing him. "Is Jack in the waiting room?" he finally asked a few minutes later.

"Yeah, waiting for the chance to see Brick."

Keeping one arm wrapped around her waist he started walking towards the waiting room. Stepping into the room he saw Jack seated on a small loveseat, Cassidy curled up next to him. With one look he saw that Leigh wasn't the only one who had been crying. He sat down on another loveseat, Leigh taking the seat next to him. Reaching over, he gave Cassidy's arm a small supportive squeeze. "He's a fighter Cassidy, don't you be giving up on him."

Cassidy smiled, it was a small, fearful smile. "I won't," she promised.

Dale nodded. Sitting back, he looked to Jack. "I have some news."

Instantly alert, Jack leaned forward, though he never let go of his daughter. "What do you know?"

"The man who attacked Brick was Clint Emmons."


"Skates' boyfriend, well ex-boyfriend now I guess."

"The one Brick raced against?"

"That's him. There's a warrant out for his arrest now and I put up some wanted posters around town before I came here. Took one to the newspaper too so they can include it in any articles they write," Dale explained. "From the evidence I gathered in the barn, he waited for hours. There was a spot in the corner of the barn where he hid, stayed in the shadows. The prints there were deeper than the ones leading from it, indicating Emmons was standing there for a while. His fingerprints were all over the board."

"So you're telling me my son is lying in ICU because some punk is a sore loser?" Jack growled.

Dale flinched. He understood how Jack felt. "This isn't the first time Emmons has been in trouble. He has a history of abusing women. There's also been a couple of bar fights, the other guy always smaller than him."

"Basically he's a coward and a bully?" Cassidy asked. The look of disgust on her face showed exactly what she thought. Just like her older brother the girl couldn't hide her feelings, the stronger those feelings the more difficult it was for her to hide them. "Find him Dale. You find that bast...jerk and you put him under the jail."

"I intend to," Dale promised.

"McKenna," a soft voice called from the doorway. Four sets of eyes turned to the young nurse who moved over to the corner where they were sitting. "You can see Brick now. I'm afraid only two at a time can see him for ten minutes each, every two hours," she regretfully informed them. She knew from experience that the visiting restrictions were universally hated by patient families.

"You and Cassidy go first Jack," Leigh spoke up before anything else could be said.

"Thank you," Jack said. Standing up, he pulled Cassidy to her feet. "You ready?" A short, shaky nod was his only answer. "Lead the way," he told the nurse.

"My name is Sally, I'll be Brick's nurse for the next few hours," she told them as they walked. Outside his door she stopped, turning to face them. "It can be scary seeing a loved one in the ICU. I want to prepare you a bit."

"Go on," Jack spoke curtly.

"To begin with, Brick's head is heavily bandaged and his face is swollen from the bruising. This may cause him to not look like himself. The swelling is just from bruising and should disappear within the next few days. He is connected to both an EKG and an EEG one monitors his pulse and respiration, the other brain activity. He is breathing on his own so there was no need for a ventilator. He is, however, on oxygen to ease his breathing. Even unconscious he will naturally take shallow breaths due to the broken and cracked ribs. Do you have any questions?" They hadn't yet placed a nasogastric tube. He wouldn't be at risk this early and the doctor wanted to allow some of the swelling in his face to reduce beforehand.

"No ma'am, thank you," Jack politely replied. The nurse stepped aside then and taking a deep breath Jack pushed open the door. No words could prepare a man for seeing his child in a hospital bed, connected to monitors, oxygen and an i.v. And how could a grown man look so small? Beside him Cassidy gasped, reminding Jack of her presence. "Okay?"

"No," Cassidy whimpered, "but I will be." Squaring her shoulders, she stepped further into the room, moving to her brother's side. Uncertainly she picked up his hand, being careful of the i.v. "You need to wake up now Brick," she softly ordered. "You've been asleep long enough." God if only he were just sleeping. Taking in the state of her brother Cassidy wanted nothing more than to find the coward who had done this and make him suffer. She chuckled mirthlessly, gaining a curious glance from her father. "I was just thinking about my history project."

Jack was confused. Why would Cassidy think of schoolwork now? He knew she was as worried about Brick as he was. Even without her earlier breakdown the fear was clearly written on her face. "What about it?" he had to ask.

"It was for extra credit. I was going to do a report, with charts and models, about war and how it's an outdated concept. I was going to show how it really isn't necessary and that mankind has evolved past the need for violence to settle conflicts."

"Sounds like a good topic," Jack said, impressed by her initiative in taking on an extra credit project. "How is that funny?"

"Because I was wrong. We haven't evolved past it at all, I can see that now."

"Now Cassidy just because some punk attacked Brick it doesn't mean you're wrong," Jack argued.

"Oh but it does Jack. I was wrong because standing here, seeing Brick like this and knowing that he's fighting for his life all I can think about is finding that man and making him suffer just as much as my brother is." She surprised herself with the viciousness in her voice.

Jack sighed, wrapping one arm around her. "It is ironic isn't it?"

She nodded.

"But Cassidy that doesn't mean that violence is the way to solve problems and you wouldn't do anything to him if given the chance."

"Yes I would."

"No you wouldn't. Oh I don't doubt you want to, especially right this moment, so do I if you want the truth. But neither of us would because we know it wouldn't be right and if we had that man here in front of us all we would do, either of us, is restrain him until Dale could arrest him. Well maybe after one punch," he had to admit.


"That's a long way from what you were talking about. That's the difference between us and men like Emmons. We're able to control our baser instincts. It might not always be easy but we do it because we know it's the right thing."

"Maybe you're right," Cassidy admitted after a minute. "Jack do you mind if I go back to the waiting room?" She loved Brick but seeing him like this was too hard.

"You go on honey," Jack told her. "I'll be out in a few minutes." Stepping back he gave her a moment during which she kissed Brick's cheek whispering words that he couldn't hear but could easily guess at.

Moving back to the bed after Cassidy left, Jack picked up Brick's hand. "You have to get better Brick. We need you...I need you," he softly spoke, nearly choking on the lump in his throat. "God, son, you scared me, are scaring me. Why do you have to always play the knight in shining armor?"

"Mr. McKenna," Sally softly interrupted. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave now." She always hated making folks leave their loved ones. She knew the ten minutes would have sped by for them, but it was necessary. The patient needed his rest and she and the other nurses needed room to work.

Jack nodded, biting back the urge to snap at her. He understood the reasons for the time restrictions, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Leaning down he brushed a light kiss across his son's forehead, much as he had when he'd been a little boy getting ready for bed. "I love you son, we all do, come back to us soon." Straightening to his full height, he reluctantly returned to the waiting room. He wasn't surprised to find Leigh comforting Cassidy.

Joining them he tapped Leigh on the shoulder. "You can see him now, if you want."

Leigh was torn. On the one hand she wanted to see Brick, on the other she hated to leave Cassidy right now.

"I'll be here for Cass," Jack assured her.

Leigh nodded and stood up, letting Jack slide into her spot.

"Dale you should go with her," Jack said.

"But won't they keep me out? I mean, it's family only isn't it?"

A determined look came over Jack's face. "You are family Dale," he firmly informed the younger man.

Dale felt a wave of warmth flood him at the older man's words. God knew he had always felt like a member of the family but to hear Jack say it meant the world to him. "Yes sir." Turning away, he took Leigh's hand, leading her down the hall to Brick's room. At the door they exchanged a look of support before Dale pushed the door open.

"Oh Brick," Leigh whispered. Unknowingly mirroring Cassidy's actions, she moved to the bed, taking Brick's hand in her own. He looked awful, the white bandage around his head contrasting with the bruises covering his face, making them even more noticeable. He looked like an extra in a horror movie. "I've seen you go to extremes to get out of chores before but this is taking things too far, don't you think?" she finally spoke. Maybe it was inappropriate but she needed to lighten the atmosphere and Brick was always a man for laughing. She had read somewhere that people could hear you, even when unconscious, and maybe Brick would feel like it was safe to wake up if they spoke in a normal way. "Rose and Harry are at home with Walter. You know Jack was surprised I would let Walter watch them but you and I both know that he's actually pretty good with kids. Damn it Brick McKenna you have to wake up, you have to get better," she nearly sobbed. So much for keeping things as normal as possible. She felt Dale's hand on her shoulder, reaching up she gave it a squeeze, drawing strength from the man.

"We know who did this buddy," Dale spoke. "We're looking for him now and we will find him, I promise you that. Now you just need to focus on getting better." His voice was strong, hiding the fear and pain he felt in seeing his best friend in this state. He had to agree with Cassidy on this, Clint Emmons needed to be put under the jail for what he'd done to Brick.

Chapter 4

Days turned to weeks and soon a month had passed. The swelling in Brick's brain had subsided after a week allowing him to be moved to a regular room. Still he didn't wake up. Jack, Leigh and Cassidy spent as much time as possible at the hospital with Brick. They talked to him, read, begged and sometimes simply sat silently praying. Still he didn't wake up.

Guests, booked over a month ago arrived two weeks into the vigil, reducing the amount of time any of them could spend with Brick. Friends and neighbors pitched in. Spending time with Brick so that he was never alone, taking some of Jack's tours allowing him to spend more time at the hospital, taking care of cooking and kids so that Leigh could visit her brother-in-law, helping Walter with maintenance so Jack wouldn't have to. Luckily the few guests they'd had understood about the situation the family was coping with. Still Brick didn't wake up.

Cassidy returned to school. She had argued long and loud with her father but he was adamant about it. Every afternoon the young girl could be found seated next to her brother's bed, schoolbooks in her lap, working on her homework, when she wasn't talking to Brick. Still he didn't wake up.

The search for Clint continued. With no sign of him within the state the APB had been expanded to a four state area, then to the entire western region of the U.S. Dale was relentless in his pursuit of the fugitive, following up every lead with whichever police department he needed to. Still Brick didn't wake up.

One month and three days after the attack Clint Emmons was arrested in Montana. A young woman, a '57 Chevy parked in her driveway, had called the police to report a prowler. The deputy who answered the call found Clint trying to break into the house screaming threats. Upon investigation it was discovered that the young woman's friend was visiting her. The friend went by the nickname Skates. Extradition proceedings began immediately. Dale was expecting the fugitive to fight them, he was right. Two days later Brick McKenna woke up.

Jack again sat at his son's bedside, as he did every day. When Dale had told him that they had found Emmons, he had hoped the news would have Brick waking up. It hadn't happened and Jack realized he had been foolish to think it would. This was real life not a television show. Picking up Brick's hand, he absently rubbed his thumb over the too still limb.

"Please God, bring Brick back to us. I know there could be problems, we all know that and we can deal with it. Just let him wake up Lord, please." Jack's head jerked up. He stared at Brick's hand. Had he imagined it? "Brick?" he called; nothing happened. "Squeeze my hand son if you can hear me. Come on son, you can do it." Unconsciously he held his breath, waiting and praying...yes! That was a definite squeeze. Releasing his breath Jack reached for the button that would call the nurse. He was surprised to see his hand shaking.

Another squeeze had him glancing towards his son's face. Blue eyes filled with confusion stared back at him. "About time you woke up," Jack grinned. "You scared us son," he added, his voice thick with emotion.

"Did you need something Mr. McKenna?"

Jack turned to the door where the nurse stood, a smile on his face. "He's son's awake." The reality hit him, bringing with it a wave of relief that left his legs weak forcing him to sit down. He scooted the chair closer to the bed, never letting go of Brick's hand. He focused on his son's face as the nurse, Tina, quickly checked the younger man's vital signs. Brick still hadn't said anything, the look of confusion was still present, but he was awake. For Jack that was all that really mattered.

For a time he sat, basking in the relief he felt. Finally he became concerned at Brick's continued silence. "Do you remember what happened son?"

Brick scrunched up his face, trying to remember. Flashes of memory hovered tantalizingly at the edge of his mind, just out of reach, leaving him frustrated. He shook his head.

Jack wasn't sure what to do. Should he tell Brick what had happened or would it be better to let him remember on his own. "It'll come back to you," he finally said. "Can I get you anything son? Are you thirsty?" He reached for the water pitcher and cup, not waiting for an answer.

"Mr. McKenna," Dr. Carson spoke from the doorway. Seeing the water pitcher in Jack's hand, he frowned. "Have you given him anything to drink yet?"

"No, I was just going to," Jack replied.

"Don't," the doctor ordered.

"What? He's got to be thirsty," Jack protested.

"He can have a few ice chips, but nothing to drink until I've examined him." Turning to the nurse he asked her to bring some ice chips. "Hello Brick, I'm Dr. Carson I've been treating you." Just then Tina returned and he stepped back allowing her to feed a few to his patient. "Mr. McKenna," he said to Jack, "I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to move to the waiting room while I examine Brick."

"Can't I stay?" Jack couldn't believe they were asking him to leave so soon after Brick had finally regained consciousness.

"I'm sorry but I can't allow that." He knew it wouldn't be believed, but he really was sorry. However, he knew that aside from the time involved the results could well be upsetting. It would be better if his patient's father wasn't in the room.

Jack wanted to argue but Brick needed to be taken care of and he knew a losing argument when confronted with one. Moving back to the bed, he picked up Brick's hand, his other hand brushing the hair from his son's forehead. "The doctor needs to examine you now," he quietly explained. "I'll be just down the hall." Seeing Brick nod in understanding, Jack reluctantly left the room. In the waiting room he moved to the payphone, he had some good news to share.

Two hours later Jack, joined by Leigh, Cassidy and Dale, was still waiting. "What the hell is taking so long?" Jack growled, nearing the end of his patience.

Leigh stood up, going to him. Laying her hand on his arm to get his attention she waited for him to look down at her. "He's been unconscious for over a month Jack, they probably have a lot of tests they need to run." She knew he was worried, they all were, but snapping and growling wasn't going to help anybody.

Jack nodded. "I know. It's just hard. He was barely awake and they were running me out of the room."

Leigh gave him a hug. "But he is awake," she reminded him.

"Yeah," Jack whispered, a smile forming, "he is, isn't he?"

"Mr. McKenna," Dr. Carson said as he stepped into the room.

"What have you found out? How's my son?" Jack anxiously asked as Cassidy and Dale joined him and Leigh.

"Let's sit down," Lou suggested. "I'm sorry it took so long but some of the tests are quite exhaustive."

Jack ignored that. "What did you find out?"

"Brick is doing very well, all things considered," Lou began his explanation on a positive note.

"But?" Leigh asked.

"As I warned you there would likely be, there is some brain damage. Brick is suffering from what is called Broca's aphasia."

"What is that?" Jack asked.

"Aphasia is a disruption of the language centers of the brain. In Broca's aphasia the patient can find it difficult to find the correct word to express themselves, their speech patterns are altered. They may speak very slowly, leaving out words. For instance someone with Broca's aphasia might say book table if they wanted to tell you there is a book on the table. At first I was concerned Brick was completely mute, Broca's can sometimes cause mutism," he explained. "That isn't the case, luckily, he can speak but the patterns of Broca's are definitely present. Additionally, as a part of the Broca's your son is having some difficulty with reading and writing, though he does understand the spoken word. He is also experiencing a bit of weakness in his right side, how much of this is due to the Broca's and how much to his prolonged unconsciousness is difficult to say at this point."

Jack struggled to understand everything he was being told. It was a lot to take in. For a few minutes nobody spoke.

"Will he get better?" Cassidy asked in a quiet voice.

"He's young and in good health, all things considered," the doctor stated. "With therapy and time he should improve. How much improvement will occur I can't tell you at this time, but I do have high hopes."

"What can we do to help?" Jack asked.

"Work with him, his therapist can show you what is needed. Be supportive..."

"Of course we'll be supportive," Jack snapped.

"It won't be as easy as you think Mr. McKenna. Brick will become frustrated and there will likely be some depression as well. Both are very common for Broca's patients. Both make it difficult for caretakers to remain patient and supportive, add in the length of the recovery time and it becomes worse."

"Anything else?" Jack asked. He chose to ignore the doctor's warnings. He might have a temper, so did Brick if it came to that, but he could control himself. He would do whatever he could to help his son, no matter how long it took. He sure as hell wasn't going to lose patience with the boy over something that was beyond his control.

"No sir. Other than the Broca's he's doing very well. I've removed the nasogastric tube and we'll begin reintroducing real food later today. He will be on a liquid diet to begin, but we should be able to move him to soft foods within a week to ten days."

"Doctor, Jack said Brick didn't remember the attack. Do you think that's permanent?" Dale asked. They had enough evidence that even without Brick's testimony a conviction should be easy but he knew testimony from the victim was preferred.

"I can't say Sheriff," Lou replied. "I know you have a job to do but I hope you'll remember what Brick has been through and will refrain from pushing him."

"Brick is my friend first doctor," Dale bristled at the admonition. "I'm not going to do anything that would hurt him."

"Good." He turned to Jack again. "Before you see him you should be aware that he may sleep a lot to begin with."

"Sleep?" Cassidy was surprised.

Lou smiled; her's was a common reaction. "Yes, sleep. He was just this side of comatose and while that may seem like sleeping it isn't a true sleep, nor is it honestly restful. Just don't be alarmed if he nods off frequently to begin with. As he regains his strength he'll be able to stay awake for longer periods of time. If you don't have any further questions you're welcome to return to Brick's room," he said, stepping aside to let them pass.

Chapter 5

Brick couldn't remember ever feeling more exhausted. He had been shocked when the doctor told him he'd been unconscious for a month. The shock, though, had quickly been replaced by fear as the many tests had continued. He couldn't even remember what had happened to leave him in this condition. Thinking about everything the doctor had told him he had to admit that might be a good thing.

"Hey son," Jack said, smiling down at him.

Startled from his thoughts, Brick looked up to find most of his family gathering around his bed. Only Rose and Harry were missing. He offered them a small smile. As the four of them stood around his bed, clearly uncomfortable, Brick looked back down. He wished he could reassure them that he would be okay. It would be easier if he could believe it himself.

Cassidy shuffled from one foot to the other. She was excited to have her brother back with them; she thought everybody else would be too. Instead they were all standing around as if they were being confronted with a stranger. Heaving an exasperated sigh she moved forward, wrapping her arms around Brick. "I'm so glad you're awake Brick," she told him, voice thick with emotion. So what if he had some problems right now, he was still her brother that would never change.

Instinctively Brick brought his arms up, or tried to but was only able to lift his left arm to wrap around his sister. Licking his lips, he slowly forced words out. "Gooood a..awake," he finally managed. Hearing himself, the laboured incomplete way he spoke, Brick winced. Somehow Cassidy understood him. He shouldn't have been surprised. They had always had a close relationship, understanding each other on an almost instinctual level.

Cassidy drew back, giving him a small grin. "I bet it is good to be awake. Had to be boring trapped inside your head," she teased, emphasizing the word your. She was gratified to hear a soft chuckle coming from her older brother. "God I missed you Brick," she whispered as she laid her head on his chest once more. Warmth flooded her soul as she felt her brother's hand raised to stroke her hair.

Jack smiled, watching the two of them he was reminded of feelings he'd felt the first time he'd held each of his children. Stepping forward, he laid one hand on top of Brick's the other on Cassidy's back. His family was whole again. His eyes met his son's. "We all missed you son."

Brick nodded. He'd missed them too. It had been torture, hearing them speak but unable to respond. He had fought so hard to find his way back to them only to find he still couldn't communicate with them, not properly. "No scared." Damn it! Why was it so hard to find the words? He only wanted to tell them he hadn't meant to scare them.

Jack was confused. "You weren't scared?" The words didn't make any sense. Only a fool wouldn't have been scared seeing that board coming at them. He knew Brick had to have seen it coming. The way his arm had broken could only have happened if he'd raised it in an effort to deflect a blow.

Brick shook his head. It was clear he was frustrated. "Heard scared," he tried again to convey his thoughts. Raising his left hand, he pointed to his father, "No scared." The words were so hard to get out and he could feel himself tiring.

Jack thought, trying to make sense of it. Listening to Brick now was like listening to a toddler just learning to express himself. Maybe that was the way to do this? Obviously the words had something to do with being scared, no that wasn't right. Not being scared, but why was Brick pointing at him and what did he mean by heard? Suddenly it came to him. "You heard me?"

Brick nodded.

"You don't want me to be scared?" Jack softly asked. He couldn't believe the boy. With all he was facing he was still thinking about his family. How could he have ever thought this child was selfish?

Brick shook his head. It wasn't exactly what he meant but he didn't know how to get his exact meaning across. Sometime during his talk with Jack, his sister had sat back up, one hand resting on his leg. Tired, he dropped his hand back to the bed and closed his eyes. In seconds he was asleep.

Jack gave Leigh an apologetic glance. He knew she too had missed Brick.

"It's okay Jack," Leigh assured him. "I'll talk to him later." She was just glad there would be a later. With all the time that had passed, she had begun to lose hope that Brick would ever open his eyes again.

Over the next week Brick's physical condition slowly improved, except for a slight lingering weakness in his right arm. Dr. Carson was confident that with continuing therapy Brick would regain the full use of his arm.

"How are you doing son?" Jack asked as he walked into Brick's hospital room.

Brick just shook his head.

Jack frowned. "I know it's hard son but you know what your therapist said, you need to try to give a verbal response."

Brick ignored him, focusing instead on the small ball in his right hand. A hand reached down, pulling the ball away. Brick glared at his father. "Back," he said, the word more drawn out than it should have been.

"You want it back?" Jack asked, holding up the ball. "Tell me how you're doing today?"

Brick's glare intensified. "See."

Jack ignored the glare. "I see, now tell me."

Brick brought his hand up, slowly raising the middle finger as he continued to glare.

"Gonna have to do better than that son."

Brick gave up, he was too tired to play this game. "Mad."

"At me?" Jack wasn't entirely sure if Brick was answering his earlier question or simply angry with him.

Brick tapped his own chest.

"You're mad at yourself?"

Brick nodded.


Brick opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He couldn't find the words he needed. He knew what he wanted to say but when he tried to say them to anybody only one or two words would be spoken. No matter how hard he worked at it, the words in his head, most of them anyway, wouldn't be said.

Jack hated this. He felt as if he were torturing his son. He could easily guess what had Brick feeling angry. Yet, instead of simply asking him if he was right he was insisting that his son verbalize, forcing him to find the words no matter how difficult or frustrating.

"Stupid." Once more Brick tapped his chest.

"You are not stupid," Jack spat, immediately rejecting his son's words. A desire to offer comfort had him reaching for Brick's hand, only to have it jerked away before he could fully grasp it. "I know you have to be frustrated son, but..."


Jack stopped speaking, giving Brick a quizzical look. When Brick pointed at him and repeated the word no he began to understand. "You're right, I don't understand but I can imagine." Dropping his eyes, he tried to find the words that would encourage his son. He held the ball up. "When you woke up you could hold this, but nothing else. Now you're able to squeeze it, and you'll keep working won't you?"

Brick nodded.

"It won't be long until you can grip this ball as well as you could have before the attack. It's a bit like when you were a toddler and learning to walk. Once you could pull yourself up and balance it didn't take you very long to take that first step and then another until you were walking all around the house and ranch. That's physical though son, and its easy compared to mental stuff, like talking. It took you less than a month to go from standing on your own to walking. It took you years to get from your first word to complete sentences."

Brick listened thoughtfully as his father spoke. He could understand what the man was saying but the lack of progress was still frustrating. "Hate."

Jack nodded, giving Brick's hand a squeeze as he placed the ball back in his son's grasp. "I know son. I hate it too and I'd take your place if I could."

Brick laughed. As frustrated as he was Jack would go insane if he was in this position. For a man like his father who rarely examined his own thoughts being trapped inside his mind would have him climbing the walls. Seeing the confused look on his father's face, Brick laughed harder.

It took him several minutes to calm down enough to attempt to explain. He pointed at his father. "Silly." He frowned that wasn't the word he wanted. He shook his head and tried again. "Ccrazy."

"You think I'm crazy? Son, there's nothing crazy about wanting to spare your child suffering."

"Drive, crazy."

Jack grinned, finally understanding. "Yeah, it probably would drive me crazy," he had to agree. "It's a risk I'd take," he added, the words coming straight from his heart.

Brick wanted to tell him what the words meant but he didn't know what would come out of his mouth. Remembering the adage that actions speak louder than words, he decided to let his actions speak for him. Reaching up with his good hand he grasped his father's hand, pulling him close he hugged him as tightly as he could.

"I love you too son," Jack whispered, voice thick with emotion.

Chapter 6


Dale looked up from his paperwork to see the local prosecutor. "Mr. Lawrence, what can I do for you?"

Bill Lawrence just kept himself from wincing at the cold tone. He knew he wasn't very popular with the sheriff at the moment but the man needed to understand he had a job to do. "I understand Brick McKenna is being released from the hospital today."

"He is," Dale confirmed. "He still doesn't remember the attack," he added before Lawrence could ask.

"Have you tried to question him at all?"

Dale bristled. He knew his job, the fact that Brick was his friend wouldn't stop him from doing it. "There isn't much point when he doesn't remember."

"According to his doctor and father, both of whom want to protect him. That's understandable of course," Bill interrupted before the sheriff could become angry.

"I'm not just taking their word," Dale retorted. "I've asked Brick, on more than one occasion, if he remembers anything about that night. The last thing he remembers is passing the drive-in, everything after is a blank."

"Damn," Bill cursed, shaking his head. "I was really hoping he would be able to testify. Has the doctor given any indication as to when his memory might return?"

"He doesn't know," Dale admitted. "There's enough evidence without Brick's testimony, isn't there?" Emmons couldn't get away with what he'd done to Brick, damn it all.

"Yes, of course there is," Bill quickly replied. "However, as you know, testimony from the victim is always better. It allows the jury to see the effects of the crime for themselves." A speculative gleam came into his eye. "That just might work," he muttered, seemingly oblivious to Dale's presence.

Dale watched him carefully, a sick suspicion growing in his mind. "What might work?" he finally asked.

"If Brick can't testify about the attack itself he can testify about what he's had to deal with as a result of it."

"Hell no!" Dale practically yelled. "Brick has been through enough, you're not going to put him on display" he couldn't find the words.

"It isn't your decision Sheriff," Bill coldly reminded him. He didn't care for the idea a lot himself but he knew that it could make a difference, especially when it came to sentencing. "Look Dale, I'm not talking about during the trial. This would be more for the sentencing phase of the trial."

"Brick isn't capable of testifying and his father isn't going to let him be exploited."

"Exploited? Is that what you think?" Bill shook his head. "This isn't about exploitation Dale, it's about justice. Imagine the influence on the judge when he sentences Emmons if he hears from the victim. Imagine seeing for himself the severity of Brick's injuries."

"It doesn't feel right."

"I know, but it will help. I won't force him to testify but he should be told of the option, don't you think, or are you making his decisions for him now?"

Dale could feel his face turning red. "I'm just worried about a friend."

Bill nodded. He understood the man's concerns. "Understandable. Now, do you think it would be better coming from you or me?"

Dale thought that over. Brick was uncomfortable with everybody lately, but even more so with those he didn't know well, if at all. "I suppose he'd be more comfortable if I talk to him. Just so we're clear, this would be for the sentencing phase only, not during the trial itself?"

"Sentencing phase only," Bill confirmed. "I'll put his doctor on the stand during the trial. He can testify as to the specifics of Brick's injuries and just why he can't testify himself. That, in concert with the evidence you collected at the scene should be more than enough to earn Emmons a conviction. Brick and/or members of his family making a victims statement to the judge will ensure he spends a good many years behind bars."

"Has a trial date been set?" Dale knew the judge had been waiting until they knew if Brick would be capable of testifying.

"Not yet. I'll have to let the defence know that we're ready to proceed. A hearing will then be set at which time a trial date will be set. I would expect the trial to take place within the next 90 days. I plan to shoot for the latest date I can get without violating Emmons right to a speedy trial."

"Hoping Brick will regain his memory?"

"Exactly," Bill confirmed.

"Even if he does he may not be able to testify," Dale warned him. "He's not really able to communicate very well right now."

Bill nodded. "Yes I'm aware. However, the later the trial date the better the chances that both his memory and the effects of his injuries will have improved to the point he can testify. You'll let the McKennas know?"

"I will," Dale confirmed. He sat quietly contemplating the situation for a while after Bill left the building. Glancing at the clock, he jerked, jumping to his feet. Damn it Brick would be home in a little over an hour and he had promised Leigh he'd help her to get things ready for his homecoming. Grabbing his hat he hurried out of the building. He just hoped Leigh wouldn't be too angry when he finally arrived.

Brick grinned as they pulled into the yard. Man it felt good to be home. He still couldn't talk right and there was still a slight weakness on his right side but Brick was certain that being home would speed his recovery. Climbing out of the truck, with help from Jack, he stood for a moment, drinking in the peace and freedom of his home.

"Ready to go in son?" Jack quietly asked.

Brick nodded. Accepting his father's help, he slowly made his way into the house. The grin that had yet to leave his face grew wider as he stepped into the living room. A homemade banner hung across the room, welcoming him home. Around the room balloons hung, their festive colors brightening the room. Standing in the center of the room was the rest of his family, their smiles showing their happiness in having him home.

Suddenly Rose and Harry ran forward, wrapping their arms around him. Brick swallowed hard, his hands coming down to rest on their heads. "Missed you," he managed with some effort.

"We missed you too Uncle Brick," both children declared. "We would have come see you but the hospital wouldn't let us," Rose added. They had both hated that. Harry was worried that their uncle would think they didn't love him. Rose knew that wasn't true and had told her brother so.

Brick nodded. "Rules," his tone making clear what his words couldn't.

Leigh came forward then, giving him a small hug. "It's good to have you home Brick."

She was quickly followed by Cassidy and Dale. Even Walter was there, though he didn't offer a hug, something Brick was grateful for.

"Leigh even baked you a cake," Cassidy told him.

"Good," Brick grinned.

"Do you want to sit in the living room or the dining room?" Jack asked. He laughed at the surprised look on his son's face. "I think I can trust you to eat in the living room." Turning to his grandchildren, he gave them a wink. "What do you think guys? Can we trust your uncle to behave?"

Rose and Harry giggled while nodding.

"So which will it be son?" Jack asked, turning back to Brick.

"Table," Brick replied. He frowned, angry with himself. That hadn't been what he wanted to say, though it did get the idea across. Seeing the concerned look on his father's face, he gave himself a mental shake. He wasn't going to let his shortcomings ruin the efforts his family had put into welcoming him home.

"Dining room it is," Jack said. He chose to ignore the momentary frown his son wore. Now wasn't the time. Brick's therapist had warned him, warned them all, that the recovery process wouldn't be easy. He would have to reign in his own temper if he was going to help his son to heal.

As the celebration got under way, Dale pushed his talk with Bill Lawrence to the back of his mind. There was time to discuss the trial with Jack and Brick. It could and would wait a few days. He would give Brick a chance to enjoy being home before he hit him with something guaranteed to be difficult for his friend.

Chapter 7

After thinking it over, Dale had decided that speaking with Jack alone would be a better idea. Brick didn't need the added stress. Jack probably didn't need it either but right now he would be able to handle it better.

Two days after Brick's homecoming and another visit from the D.A. saw Dale returning to the McKenna ranch. He made it a point to arrive early in the morning. He hoped to catch Jack alone, luck was with him. Pulling into the yard he saw Jack heading to the barn.

Jack stopped when he saw Dale. He was about to tell Dale that Leigh was in the kitchen when he caught sight of the younger man's face. "What's wrong?"

Dale didn't bother to question Jack's greeting. "Could I talk to you, in private?"

"I was just about to feed the horses." Jack nodded.

Dale followed the older man to the barn without a word. "Lawrence came to see me."

"The D.A.?"

Dale nodded.

Jack groaned. "Let me guess, he cut a deal with Emmons?"

"No," Dale quickly replied. Well familiar with the McKenna temper he could easily imagine Jack's reaction to a plea deal. His own temper would likely ignite if the D.A. made a move like that. "He wanted to know about Brick testifying."

"Is he insane?" Jack snapped. "I hope you let him know that isn't going to happen." There was no way on earth he would let his son be put through a trial. Sure Brick was doing somewhat better than predicted, usually able to find the word he wanted, or one close to it, but he was far from alright. He damn well wasn't ready to be put on a witness stand.

"I did and he doesn't want to do that. Well that's not entirely true. He'd like to put Brick on the stand but he knows that isn't possible."

Jack gave him a suspicious look. "Then what does he want?"

"Never could get anything past you Jack," Dale said, a rueful smile on his face. Seeing the look on Jack's face he quickly realized he'd better answer the question. "He wants Brick to make a statement during the sentencing phase of the trial."

"How does he expect him to do that? He doesn't remember what happened Dale, you know that. "

"He doesn't want him to talk about the attack."

Jack was confused now. "Then what good is it to have him make a statement? Or is he just out to humiliate Brick?"

"Do you really think I wouldn't have given him hell if I thought that was his goal?" Dale demanded. He was angry and hurt that Jack thought he wouldn't do everything he could to protect Brick.

The tone of the question quickly defused Jack's own anger. "I guess you would have," he admitted. "So what's the idea?"

"He thinks that Emmons will get a stiffer sentence if his victim talks about the effects of the attack." Dale told him. He found it difficult to call Brick a victim; it wasn't a word he had ever associated with his friend, no matter how accurate it currently was.

"No," Jack said after a moment. "No way am I going to let Brick be exploited like that."

Dale laughed. "Sorry," he apologized when he saw Jack scowl. "I told Lawrence you'd feel that way."

"So why are we talking?"

"Because he's right Jack," Dale admitted. "If the judge sees for himself what Emmons did to Brick, sees the effect on Brick and the rest of you, he'll be more likely to impose the maximum sentence."

"Damn," Jack whispered, rubbing his hand over his face. "I want that bastard to spend the rest of his life locked up. Hell I think Cass had it right, put him under the jail, but I won't have Brick hurt more to do it. You'll have to tell the D.A. it isn't happening."

"No," the unexpected voice startled both men.

When Brick had seen Dale's car he had headed for the kitchen, expecting to find him talking to Leigh. To his surprise Leigh hadn't seen him; in fact she hadn't known he was at the ranch. Deciding to look for his friend he walked outside. A quick look had told him Dale wasn't anywhere in sight. Then he had heard voices coming from the barn.

Jack turned towards his son. "Brick son..."

"No," Brick repeated. He couldn't believe his father sometimes. Jack had told him that he wasn't stupid but he sure wasn't acting like he believed it. "Talk," he said, pointing to himself.

Jack stepped towards his son, hurt when the boy took a step back. "Brick?"

"Talk," he said again. There was a long silence before Brick spoke again. "Hurt me."

Jack sighed. "I know you're the one who was hurt son but I don't want to see you hurt more."

Brick gave him an incredulous look. Did his father really think he couldn't handle a little embarrassment or maybe his first thought was right after all. "Stupid?" he asked, pointing to himself.

Jack shook his head. "Never son, I could never think you're stupid."

"Talk," Brick stubbornly repeated. He might not being able to talk right but there was nothing wrong with his stubborn streak. It was time Jack was reminded of that fact.

Jack huffed. He wanted to argue. There was nothing he wanted more than to protect his son from more hurt. He knew that look, he'd seen it often enough in his mirror, and he knew there would be no talking the boy out of it. "Fine, but I will be there with you, every step of the way."

Brick nodded, giving his father a grateful smile. Turning around he headed back to the house.

Dale grinned as he watched him go.

"What are you laughing at?" Jack mock growled.

"Nothing Jack, nothing at all," Dale replied the grin still plastered to his face.

Jack shook his head. "I hope he isn't making a mistake."

Dale clapped a hand on Jack's shoulder. "He'll be alright, he's a McKenna isn't he?"

Jack grinned. "That he is." He shot the younger man an amused smirk. "Help me feed the horses and maybe I can talk Leigh into feeding you."

"Put like that," Dale returned the smirked, "I'd be glad to help."

Chapter 8

"Haven't you caused enough problems?" Cassidy glared at the blonde climbing from the classic '57 Chevy.

Skates returned the glare. "Is Brick here?" she asked, ignoring Cassidy's question.

"No." Blaming Skates, at least partially, for her brother's condition Cassidy didn't offer any further information.

The blonde blew out an exasperated sigh. "Look Cassidy I get that you blame me for what Clint did..."

"Guess you're not as dumb as you look," Cassidy sniped.

The door opened behind Cassidy, drawing another sigh from Skates. Great two for the price of one, she silently sniped. She quickly decided it would be better if she ignored Cassidy. She turned to Leigh, "Do you know when Brick will be back?"

Leigh was torn. On one hand she wanted to tell Skates to leave Brick alone. She might not have been the one to beat him but she had to have known what Clint was capable of. On the other hand, was it really fair to blame Skates for Clint's actions? It had been Brick's decision to help the girl. From what Dale had said about the man's record the minute Brick tried to help Skates a target had been painted on his back. Still..."You could have warned him."

Skates eyes dropped to the ground. "You're right." She couldn't deny it.

The look Leigh shot her was filled with disbelief. "Then why didn't you?"

Skates shrugged. She might not have much education but she was smart enough to know that if she told them the truth she'd be lucky if they didn't start hunting for a tall tree and a short rope. No, nobody, particularly Brick's family, could know that she didn't warn him because she was afraid he wouldn't help her.

Leigh shook her head. As a woman she wanted to feel sorry for the girl but knowing what Brick had suffered, still was, she found she simply couldn't work up much sympathy. "It's probably best if you leave."

"You can't stop me from seeing him," Skates stubbornly argued.

"Do you care about my brother at all?" Cassidy demanded, giving the girl a contemptuous glance. "I don't remember seeing you at the hospital. Don't remember any phone calls asking about him either. "

"I didn't know," Skates protested.

"You didn't know for the first month, I'll give you that," Cassidy conceded. "But what about after that? You were there when Emmons was arrested, at your friend's house?"


"I know you were. Dale told us where they found him. So why did it take you so long to show up, if you care about Brick?"

Skates swallowed, looking away. "I was scared."

"Scared?" Cassidy scoffed. "Of what?"

"Of this, okay?" Skates yelled. "I knew you people would blame me for what Clint did. I was afraid Brick would blame me too."

"How dare you play the victim," Leigh interjected. "You came to Bend with your boyfriend, helped him to goad Brick into that first race, the one that started all of this. You helped Brick beat him in their second race and then drove off in what had been Emmons' car. You had to know how he'd react to that and without you here to take his anger out on who was he likely to go after?"

"So I should have stayed with him? Let him beat on me?"

Leigh sighed. "No, but you could have told Brick what to expect. Maybe if he had known how violent Emmons could be he would have been more alert. " She ran a hand through her hair. What should she tell the girl standing before them, looking both angry and scared? Did the girl truly regret her actions or was it just some kind of game? "Look, why don't you go back to town and I'll tell Brick you want to see him," she finally suggested. "You can call here this evening, say about eight, and I'll tell you what he says."

The sound of gravel crunching under tires told Leigh that her suggestion had come too late. "Damn," she whispered. She doubted Brick was ready for this, especially right after a therapy session. He was almost always wiped out by those and at least half the time the frustration and depression threatened to overwhelm him.

Jack frowned when he saw the Chevy parked in the drive. "I'll tell her to leave," he said as he parked the truck. Brick's hand grabbing his arm had him looking at his son who was shaking his head. "You don't have to see her son."

"Nneed talk," he ground out. It was ironic but he always had a harder time talking right after his therapy sessions. He supposed his brain had been over-taxed by the demands of therapy. He chuckled, waving off his father's questioning look, too bad he couldn't talk as well as he could think.

"Are you sure?" Jack was worried. He didn't know what the girl wanted and was afraid that whatever it was would hurt his son. As far as Brick had come in the relatively short time since he'd awakened, he still had a long way to go. Not just in terms of his speech and the weakness of his right arm, but emotionally too. Hell the boy still couldn't bring himself to enter the shop side of the barn. Jack had caught him the other day standing 50 feet from the structure, staring like a deer caught in headlights and shaking like a leaf in a breeze. He'd thought for a moment Brick was going to pass out but somehow he managed to stay standing. As Jack had neared him, his son had taken a deep, shuddering breath, turned on his heel and walked as quickly as he could into the house. He'd spent the rest of the day in his room, not even coming down for supper.

Brick nodded. He reached for the door with his left hand, his right being too shaky and weak after pt to be of much use. He hated double therapy days at the hospital. True he did double therapy at home too but the difference there was that he could take a nice long break between the speech and physical therapy, not so at the hospital. Normally he would have waited for Jack to help him but he hated showing weakness in front of anybody outside his family.

Skates watched him, noticing the difficulty he seemed to have in exiting the truck. He didn't look very bad. She shook her head, of course he didn't, there had, after all, been plenty of time for bruises to fade and broken bones to heal. As he moved away from the truck, she took a step forward. A warning glance from his father froze her where she stood. "Brick, it's good to see you," she said uncertainty coloring her words.

Brick gave her a small smile. "Late?" He knew she probably wouldn't understand what he meant, a fact he hated. Before the attack he had never had any trouble communicating, sometimes pretty loudly, and now he was reduced to one or two word sentences, if you could call them that.

Skates gave him a confused look. What the hell did that mean?

"I think he wants to know why you didn't come to see him sooner," Jack said. As he spoke he watched Brick's face, the look his son wore telling him he had interpreted correctly.

"I don't know," she confessed in a small voice. The raised eyebrow and sceptical look from the older McKenna didn't surprise her. The same expression on Brick's face did. Sighing she knew she'd have to be honest. "I was afraid you'd blame me."

"Emmons," Brick responded, the word drawn out more than was natural.

Skates shifted uncomfortably. She knew that his family blamed her, at least some, if not as much as Clint. "Could we talk in private?"

"No." Brick looked to his father, knowing he wouldn't be able to explain the reason. He could easily see the man didn't want to offer her any explanation. He would in fact be fine with letting her drive away thinking that Brick's refusal was an outright rejection. Brick could only hope that Jack would give into his silent request.

"Oh," Skates mumbled. The rejection hit her like a punch to the gut. "I'll just get out of your hair then," she said, turning towards her car.

Jack sighed. "He can't talk to you in private because you wouldn't understand him."

Skates turned around, confusion clearly written on her face. "What?"

"The attack damaged his ability to communicate," Jack explained. "It's why he's only said a few words."

"Oh god," Skates whimpered. She had known Clint was violent but to know he could hurt somebody so badly shook her to the core.

Brick closed his eyes, humiliated. He didn't want her pity. He didn't hear her move, didn't know she was so close until he felt a small hand touching his cheek. Opening his eyes he stared into Skate's eyes, surprised to find sympathy and regret but no pity.

"I'm so sorry for bringing Clint into your life. You didn't deserve this." She looked towards the porch where Leigh and Cassidy stood watching. "They're right, I should have warned you. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference but maybe it would have."

"No question." Brick bit his lip, frustrated. This was important damn it. He wanted to tell her not to second guess herself but the words refused to be given life.

"I don't understand," Skates admitted after a moment of trying to puzzle out his meaning. She looked to his father but he didn't seem to know either.

Brick heaved a deep sigh. "Regrets," he tried again to convey his meaning.

"You regret helping me?" She saw him shake his head. "I don't understand?"

"I think he's trying to tell you not to have regrets," Jack offered.

Skates smiled when Brick nodded, confirming his father's words.

It wasn't exactly right but it was close enough to get the point across. He knew they could all spend the rest of their lives second guessing their decisions and it would get them nowhere fast. Life could only be lived in the present, dwelling on mistakes that might or might not have been made was a waste of time.

"I don't know if I can do that, but I'll try," Skates quietly agreed.

"Supper?" he asked.

Skates looked between him and the rest of his family, especially the women. Brick might not blame her but it was clear others weren't so forgiving. She didn't suppose she could blame them. "Maybe some other time." She saw the anger being born in his eyes. "Don't blame them Brick. They love you and like it or not I'm the reason Clint attacked you. It's going to take them time to forgive me for putting you in danger, if they ever do."

Brick sighed. She was right, he knew it, didn't mean he had to like it. "Time," he said, hoping she would realize he was agreeing to give them some time.

Uncertainly she kissed him on the cheek, "I'll come see you in a few days, okay?" she quietly asked.

Brick nodded. He stood next to his father, watching in silence as she got into her car and drove away. "Nap," he said, leaning against Jack as the long day caught up to him.

Wrapping a supportive arm around him, Jack smiled in sympathy. "Let's get you inside then."

Chapter 9

Leigh watched from the window as Brick sat on the porch, staring at nothing. The depression that had been present, beginning only a few days after he'd woke up, had taken a firm hold in the days since Skates had turned up. The girl had been back only once since that first visit. She didn't know what had happened during that second visit but clearly it had affected Brick deeply.

Afterwards Brick had pushed himself relentlessly in his therapy sessions. Unfortunately he hadn't improved any faster. His speech therapist had tried to explain that it would take time for his brain to recover and no amount of pushing would speed it up. Following that conversation Brick had hidden out in his room for days. Today he had finally emerged, taking up residence on the porch and growling at anybody who came near him.

Leigh was just debating the wisdom of talking to her brother-in-law when she saw movement from the corner of her eye. "Oh damn," she whispered as she saw Jack McKenna push open the screen door. Remembering that Harry needed help with his math, Leigh made herself scarce.

"How long you planning this little pity party?" Jack demanded as he joined his son. He didn't know exactly what had happened to amplify Brick's depression but he'd be damned if he allowed his son to just give up.

Brick glared at his father. "Go hell," he snapped.

Jack blew air through his lips in exasperation. "Damn it Brick I thought you had finally grown up!"

Brick stood, his glare intensifying. "No kid."

"No? Well you sure had me fooled. Me and everybody else around here. You can't have what you want when you want it so you're just going to quit? And let's not forget the way you've been behaving towards everybody today. Are you proud of the fact that Harry and Rose are scared to come near you?"

Brick dropped his eyes, face flushed with shame. He hadn't meant to snap at the kids. He knew they were only trying to make him feel better. It wasn't their fault that he wasn't worth the effort. "Leave?"

Jack shook his head. "No damn it I don't want you to leave. Is that what you want?"

Brick shrugged. "Do nothing. Better leave." He turned away, shoulders sagging in defeat. He had thought he was doing pretty well until Skates had come to visit again. Catching him alone, she hadn't wanted to let him get Leigh or Jack, insisting they could talk without an interpreter. Brick wasn't so sure but he let himself be convinced. It had been a disaster. His short, incomplete sentences had left him frustrated, especially when Skates had been unable to understand his meaning.

Her whispered, "This was a mistake," had been like a knife through his chest.

Skates had left a minute later and for the next few days he had thrown himself into his therapy. Pushing harder than ever, he had been determined to recover faster. But instead of speeding his recovery he'd actually slowed it down, prompting his therapist to talk to him about the nature of brain injuries such as his.

He had nodded in all the right places, gone home and up the stairs to his room. He hadn't come out, except for bathroom breaks, until today. He had thought he could recover but he knew now that it wouldn't happen. There wasn't any point in denying it any longer. The only improvement he could see were physical and even that wasn't much. As far as his speech was concerned it didn't seem as if he'd improved any at all. He was sure he never would.

"Brick, son, I don't understand," Jack admitted as he puzzled over the boy's words.

"Point," Brick sighed.

Jack sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Does this have to do with Skates?"

Brick shrugged.

The frustration was growing, weaving through the air between them like a living thing. Jack took a deep breath, counted to ten, twenty, mentally went over the steps of rebuilding a transmission before he felt himself calm enough to continue. "Let's try this again, okay?"

Brick didn't respond but he didn't try to leave and Jack decided to take that as a good sign.

"Skates came for a visit, you saw her alone. After she left you started pushing yourself, too hard according to your therapist. When she called you on it you hid out in your bedroom for three days and now you're talking about leaving. Is that about it?"

Brick nodded.

Jack thought everything over. What he'd seen and what had been said. The answer was there, if only he could find it. The proverbial light bulb came on. "You couldn't make yourself understood by Skates, that's why you were pushing yourself." He could see by the look on Brick's face that he was right. "So when you were told that pushing wouldn't make you recover faster, might even slow you down because your brain has to relearn and even rewrite the paths that control language you jumped to the conclusion that you'd never get better. Is that it?"

Brick nodded, clearly shocked that his father had figured it out.

Jack barked a laugh. "You don't have to look so surprised. "

Brick gave him a rueful smile.

"And now you think, not only won't you get any better, but that we'd all be better off if you left." Sure that he was right, he didn't put it as a question. Once more the look on Brick's face confirmed his reasoning.

"Okay, let's take this one thing at a time. First and most importantly this family would never be better off without you." The statement was as firm and sure as anything Jack had ever said to his son. "Secondly you are doing better than you realize."

Brick shot him a disbelieving look.

"Oh you are son, you are," Jack assured him. "No you're not speaking in complete sentences but more often than not you're able to find the right word. Even when you can't find the right word you're able to find one close enough to get your point across."

" I know, I know," he continued, holding up his hand to forestall any interruptions, "Skates didn't understand you. That's not a failing on your part though, that's an issue with her. I hate to say it son, but if she really cared she'd be here. One failed conversation wouldn't have driven her away." Some might have found his words too harsh, given Brick's current state, but Jack had never saw the advantage in sugar coating things.

Brick listened carefully to what his father was saying. He hated to admit when the old man was right but what else could he do?

"So the question you have to ask yourself is am I going to curl up and die over a girl or am I going to do whatever I have to in order to recover as fully as possible?" Jack stared hard at his son. "Which is it going to be Brick?"

"Work," Brick replied after several minutes.

"That's my boy," Jack grinned. Pulling his son into a tight hug, he silently thanked God for letting him find the necessary words to get through to Brick. He wasn't fooling himself, he knew there would be more hurdles but hopefully this would be the worst one.

Chapter 10

Brick stood at the screen door, staring across the yard towards the barn. In the weeks since his talk with his father his determination to improve had only increased. He was glad to say that physically at least it was paying off. The weakness in his right arm was very nearly gone. It mostly only troubled him now when he was especially tired or if he tried to lift a too heavy object. If only the same could be said for his ability to communicate he thought dejectedly.

No! He wasn't going to do this again. He knew the depression that constantly threatened was an enemy he couldn't afford to give into. But the lack of progress made it difficult to keep the depression at bay. Jerks like their current guest didn't help.

The man, in spite of being told about his injuries, wouldn't quit treating him as if he were an idiot. Brick hadn't told his father about the attitude knowing what his reaction would be and they needed the money that paying guests brought. They couldn't very well shut the business down while he recovered; especially with the medical bills that had resulted from the attack. He could tolerate the man's attitude for the few hours left in his stay. Thankfully most of their guests had been more understanding and tolerant.

Pushing the thoughts away Brick focused once more on the barn. Emmons' trial date was moving closer with each passing day and still he hadn't remembered a thing about the night of the attack. Dr. Carson assured him the lack of memory was normal, that it might in fact never return. Brick didn't know if he really wanted to remember but the blank spot bothered him more than he wanted to admit.

He knew it, the memory, was going to be bad if it ever returned. If his injuries and the month long coma hadn't clued him into that, his reaction to the shop side of the barn would have. Though it was closing in on two months since he'd come home he still couldn't go near the place without breaking into a cold sweat. With a start he saw their guest coming towards the house. In no mood to deal with the man, Brick turned and headed up the stairs to his room.

Leigh heard Brick climbing the stairs at a quick pace. Glancing out the window she saw what she expected, Mr. Kevin Wilson headed straight for the house. Every time she saw the way the man looked at her brother-in-law she wanted to slap him. She suspected he had done more than look at Brick with disgust when nobody was around. But the younger McKenna hadn't said anything and Leigh didn't want to embarrass him with her suspicions, so she kept quiet. Thank God the man would be leaving today.

"Coward and a dummy, you're no good to anybody boy," a voice laughed from the shadows. Brick turned in circles, searching for the voice but he could see nothing. He tried to answer back, no words would come. The laughter came again, louder this time. Sweat beaded on his forehead as pain exploded jolting him from sleep.

The nightmares had become more frequent in the last week. He didn't know why. Didn't he? he scoffed. Throwing back the covers he climbed from the bed, moving to stand at the window. The cool night air drifting lazily through the open window brought with it a shiver. Staring out at the barn he almost thought he could see the shadow of his car. He knew the dreams were connected to his fear of the barn and his inability to remember the night that had changed his life.

Disgusted with himself he turned from the window. Grabbing his jeans he roughly pulled them on, followed quickly by a flannel shirt. Picking up his hiking boots he quietly made his way down the stairs, putting the boots on only once he was outside. This ended tonight. He might not be able to do anything about the lack of memory but he could damn well do something about the fear. He was a McKenna and as Jack would say McKenna's don't run!

Brick strode resolutely towards the barn. Moving past the side where the horses were stabled, he moved closer to the shop side. He rubbed suddenly sweaty hands along his jeans. He could feel his heartbeat thumping in his chest, he could almost hear it. "Stop!" he sternly told himself. He wasn't letting this fear cripple him any longer. Emmons was in jail, there was nobody hiding in the shadows of the building, nothing to hurt him. Taking a deep breath he took another step and another slowly bringing himself to the doorway.

You can do this he told himself as he paused, staring into the dark interior. With trembling hands he reached out until the wall came within reach. Moving along the wall he came to the switch he'd been seeking. Light suddenly flooded the barn. Brick could feel his heartbeat slowing as he took in the space, empty except for his car and the tools they kept here.

Bracing himself he stepped into the barn. Running his hands over the car, he made his way to the driver's door. Brick closed his eyes, breathing in the familiar smells and sounds of the ranch. The pain took him by surprise, dropping him to his knees, his hands moving to grasp his hair. Disjointed flashes hammered at him, pain and laughter vying in equal measure for his attention. With an anguished cry the pain won as Brick fell forward into the dirt.

Jack woke with a start. He lay in the darkness, trying to determine what had woke him. He didn't hear anything unusual. The house was silent except for the occasional creak as the old wood settled. Giving a mental shrug he closed his eyes only to open them moments later in resignation. He wasn't going to get anymore sleep, he knew, until he checked on his family.

From the moment of Guy's birth he had experienced nights in which he would wake with a start, unable to sleep again until he checked on each member of the family. As the children had grown such nights had become fewer and fewer until they were only a rare occurrence. Then Guy had died and the need had returned with greater frequency, finally tapering off about a year later. He hadn't been very surprised to experience it again after the attack on Brick.

Climbing out of the bed he threw on his robe and opened his bedroom door. Making his way down the hall, he checked on each of them. Leigh, Cassidy, Harry, Rose and finally Brick; Jack was surprised to find his son's bed empty. The bathroom door stood open, maybe he had gone downstairs. Quietly Jack made his way down the darkened stairway to the kitchen. "Where is he?" he whispered.

Turning to make his way to the living room a light caught his eye. Moving to the window he was surprised to see light shining from the barn. "Good for you son," he grinned. Knowing his son might be angry with him but needing to see for himself that Brick was alright he headed for the barn.

He didn't see him at first, when he did he was sure his heart stopped beating. "No, please no," he moaned. Much like that horrible morning Brick lay in the dirt, blood making a puddle by his head. Breaking from his frozen state he rushed to his son's side, turning him onto his back. "Thank you," he whispered with a glance towards the sky. Now that he could see his son's face it was clear that his only injury was a bloody nose. It must have happened when he hit the ground. "Brick, son wake up," he called lightly tapping the boy's face. He was rewarded with a small moan.

Brick scrunched up his face, ow, why did his nose hurt? Blinking open his eyes he looked into the worried face of his father. For a moment he was confused before memory returned. "Remember," he rasped, involuntarily shuddering within the safety of his father's arms. As the strong arms tightened around him his shaking slowed.

Chapter 11

"Brick are you sure about this?" Jack asked a few days later.

Brick nodded. Since recovering his memory of that night he hadn't been able to think of anything else. He knew it would be hard but if it could be done he wanted, no he needed to do this. He needed to face the man who had attacked him. He had to show him that even as changed as the assault had left him he was still a stronger man than Clint Emmons would ever be. He wanted to send the man to prison with the knowledge that he hadn't won against Brick in their race and he wouldn't win in this either.

Jack reached across the truck, giving Brick's shoulder a squeeze. "I'm proud of you son, whether you testify or not."

"Thaaanks," Brick smiled. He had waited years to hear his father say those words and it felt good. Not that it was worth the beating he'd taken. And he still might not testify, that's what today's meeting would decide.

Climbing out of the truck he waited for his father to join him, together they walked into the courthouse.

"May I help you?" a friendly brunette asked as they entered the office.

"Brick and Jack McKenna," Jack replied, "we have an appointment with Mr. Lawrence."

The woman checked the appointment calendar and nodded. Picking up the intercom she spoke into it for a moment before turning back to them. "You can go on in."

"Thank you," Jack said.

Bill Lawrence had been surprised when Jack McKenna called him the day before. He hadn't expected the younger McKenna to testify at the trial itself. Of course he might not be able to do so, what with his speech issues, but they would see. He looked up as the door opened, admitting the McKenna men. "Hello gentlemen, I'm Bill Lawrence," he greeted them, standing to shake each of their hands in turn. "Please have a seat," he offered, motioning to the two chairs in front of his desk.

"As I told you on the phone Mr. Lawrence my son has remembered the attack and wants to testify," Jack explained.

"I see. Brick you understand that if you testify the defense will have a chance to cross-examine you?"

Brick nodded.

"I assume you're still having trouble speaking?" Bill sighed when the younger man only nodded. "I need to have an idea as to how difficult it will be for a jury to understand your answers," he quietly explained. "I'm going to ask you some questions such as I would during the trial. I want you to answer them as best you can, alright?"

Brick nodded.

"Very well. Is your name Brick McKenna?"

Another nod.

"Brick while the court reporter can record non verbal responses it is best for you to speak if you can. Now, do you remember the night you were attacked?"


"What do you remember?" Bill knew this would be the most difficult question as it required more than yes or no answers. However, if he couldn't answer effectively it would seriously curtail the extent of the questions he could use.

Brick closed his eyes, thinking back to that night as he searched for the words he needed. "Board...pain...laugh...Emmons," he replied, speaking slowly.

Bill was surprised, though many words were missing it wasn't difficult to tell what the young man meant. The fact was the halting speech and lack of words might well have more impact than a more detailed description would. "Are you telling me that you remember the defendant hitting you with a board and laughing?"

"Yes," Brick nodded.

Beside him Jack was grinding his teeth as he imagined what Brick must have endured that night.

"Do you remember anything else?"

"Fist...face...kick...blood." Beads of sweat were forming on his forehead though whether from the memories or the stress of speaking he wasn't sure.

"He hit you with his fist and kicked you?" Bill clarified.

"Yes," Brick confirmed.

"I'm sorry you went through that Brick but I think you'll be able to testify."


"I have researched Broca's Aphasia so I understand the difficulty you're experiencing. I will need to call an expert witness to explain the effects before you testify. This will help the jury understand why you speak as you do. More importantly it will insure they understand that your intelligence hasn't been impacted by your injuries, only your ability to communicate. Are you okay with that?"

Brick nodded. He couldn't deny that he hated the idea of the pitying looks he would likely see on the faces in the courtroom but he could accept that. He could accept just about anything as long as Clint Emmons received the punishment he deserved.

Chapter 12

Brick listened attentively as the prosecutor made his opening statement. He was actually surprised the trial was taking place. He had half expected Emmons to make a deal. Brick couldn't imagine what kind of defense he could give.

"You okay son?" Jack whispered.

Brick glanced at his father, offering the man a small smile and a nod. He knew Jack was worried about him testifying, afraid it would cause a setback in his recovery. Brick didn't think it would, after all his condition wasn't a secret around town and he'd already faced embarrassment due to his injuries. Today wouldn't be anything new in that respect and at least today's embarrassment would serve a purpose other than providing entertainment for jerks.

His jaw clamped tight Jack listened in shock as the defense attorney made his opening statement. Was he honestly attempting to make it seem as if Brick was lying about the attack? Looking to his side he wasn't surprised to see a similar shock on his son's face. Giving Brick a supportive squeeze on his arm, he swung his attention back to the front of the courtroom.

Opening statements concluded the prosecutor called his first witness, Lori Trafford. Brick glanced at Jack only to see his father was equally confused. He returned his attention to the front just in time to see Skates being sworn in. Well that explained why he hadn't recognized the name he thought smiling in bemusement.

"Please state your name for the record," Bill Lawrence said.

"Lori Trafford," Skates replied in a soft voice.

"Now Lori could you tell the court, please, what your relationship to the defendant is?"

"Objection, bearing," the defense attorney, Greg Echols said, coming to his feet.

"Goes to motive your honor," Bill explained.

"Objection overruled," Judge Lowery ruled.

Skates gave the prosecutor a questioning look and at his nod she began to speak. "Clint; that is the defendant, was my boyfriend. We were together for about a year when we came to Bend. "

"Was there a purpose in your coming to Bend?"

"Nah, we were just travelling."

"And what happened when you arrived in Bend?"

"Some kids at the local drive in diner started trying to talk this guy into challenging Clint to a street race. The guy said he didn't do that anymore."

"Does this guy have a name?" Bill asked nothing in his voice betraying the impatience he felt with the young woman.

"Brick McKenna," Skates replied.

"Thank you Lori, go on please."

"Well I did what I always do when that happens. I went over to Brick and kind of goaded him into the race with Clint." Skates looked at the floor; she knew what was next and couldn't stand to see the look that would now be in Brick's eyes as he realized he'd been set up.

"What you always do?"

There it was the question she'd dreaded. "Clint races guys in small towns for pink slips then we take their car with us and sell it. The first step is a friendly race and then when Clint wins he starts talking about it not being fair because they didn't have a chance to get their car ready. He offers them a second chance, most of them take it and that's the one that is for pink slips. This time though the plan went wrong. Brick McKenna beat Clint by using a street racing trick. After the race Clint was mad and he hit me." She went on to describe everything that had happened up until the time she had left town.

Brick sat next to his father, fists clenched in anger as he listened to Skates describe how she had been working with Clint to set him up. He wanted to believe her when she said that being hit followed by Brick's treatment had changed her. He thought she was sincere in her words and actions after leaving Clint; even if true it didn't take the sting from knowing he had only been a means to an end for her in the beginning. A small hand fell on his shoulder, startling him into looking up. He hadn't realized she was done testifying.

"I'm sorry Brick," Skates whispered past the lump in her throat.

Brick couldn't speak, even if he could have found the words he doubted he could have spoke. Shrugging her hand from his shoulder he turned away, unable to face her right now.

Echols had done his best to discredit Skates, painting her as nothing more than an ex-girlfriend seeking revenge. He hadn't fully succeeded but he was satisfied the jury members would be questioning the validity of her testimony, for now it was enough.

Jack was called to the stand next. It wasn't easy listening to his father recount that morning in the barn. The months of therapy, the nightmares, the fear had all taken a toll on Brick. Hearing the fear in his father's voice as he described finding him was an epiphany. Throughout his recovery he had fallen countless times into self-pity and depression, never realizing just how much the attack had affected those he loved. The realization hit him like a blow to the gut, bringing a nearly soundless gasp to his lips.

Leigh, sitting next to Brick heard a small sound and turned to her brother-in-law. The look of anguish on his face worried her and she leaned closer. "Do you need to leave Brick?" she whispered.

Brick took a deep breath, shaking his head in answer.

"Mr. McKenna your son being a young man has, I'm sure, seen his share of fights. Could Brick have been in a bar fight and been unable to make his way into the house?" Bill Lawrence asked. He knew the defense would likely attempt to claim that while Brick had taken a beating it wasn't his client who had administered it. Echols would want the jury to think of Brick as a young hot-head who had been in a bar fight or something of that nature on the night in question. With this question he intended to defeat that idea before the defense could make an attempt to raise it.

"No sir that couldn't be the case," Jack firmly replied. He didn't elaborate, choosing instead to wait for Lawrence to ask the inevitable question.

"How can you be so sure?"

"Because there was no blood inside his car," Jack replied. "With the injuries my son had there would have been blood inside the car if he had driven home."

"Thank you." Lawrence walked back to the prosecution's table and sat down.

Greg Echols rose to his feet and approached the witness. He would have to be careful in how he questioned this man. Go too easy and he would fail to instil doubt in the jury, too harsh and he would alienate that same jury. "It must have been a horrible thing, finding your son like that."

"It was," Jack confirmed, the emotion clear to all.

"Yet you took the time to notice that there was no blood in the car. Frankly Mr. McKenna I'm surprised you would. Isn't it, in fact, more likely to say that you only thought to look at the interior of the car days or even weeks later? That somebody else, trying to be helpful perhaps, could have cleaned it without your knowledge?" Echols smirked, he was sure the man hadn't noticed the car that morning.

Jack bit the inside of his cheek, now wasn't the time to show the infamous McKenna temper. "No that isn't true. My daughter-in-law was horrified at the thought Brick might have driven home in his condition and said so. That's why I glanced in the car and immediately noticed the lack of blood inside. There was also a bloody 2x4 laying a few feet away."

The smirk on Echols' face was quickly wiped away. Damn, that wasn't the answer he was expecting. "I see. No further questions." His strategy with this witness handily defeated Echols returned to his seat. He wondered if it was too late to make a deal.

Jack had barely retaken his seat on Brick's other side when the judge dismissed the court for lunch. "What do you want for lunch son?"

Brick shrugged, he barely heard the question, his mind on the testimony he'd heard.

"Brick, you okay?" Jack asked.

"Do you need to go home?" Leigh asked.

"Okaay," Brick replied.

Jack and Leigh exchanged a confused look. They weren't sure which question Brick was answering.

"Home then?" Jack asked, seeking clarification.


"Alright, well we need to get something to eat. Any ideas?"

Brick shrugged. He really didn't care where they ate. Truth be told he wasn't sure he could eat.

"Well I vote for burgers," Cassidy piped up from beside Leigh. It had been decided that she wouldn't be testifying during the trial. Any testimony she could offer wouldn't really help the prosecution's case. She knew Jack had been relieved, thinking to spare her the emotional stress of a trial. He had actually suggested she stay home looking after Rose and Harry, Cassidy had quickly challenged him. She wanted to be here for her brother, he would, she knew, need all of the support he could get. The argument had been loud and long, rivalling any Jack and Brick had engaged in, but in the end she had won.

"Sound okay to you son?"

Brick nodded and stood up. He was surprised to see that the courtroom was empty. Everybody else must have left while they were talking. Following his father Brick soon found himself outside. There was a small diner near the courthouse and he expected to eat there, he was surprised when his father headed for the truck rather than the diner. Something of his surprise must have shown on his face.

"I figured the diner will be packed, thought we could head to the Dairy bar," Jack explained. Almost immediately Jack regretted his idea. "Damn, I'm sorry son I wasn't thinking. We can go somewhere else..."

"No," Brick said, cutting him off. "Dairy okay," he continued.

"You sure?" Jack asked as Leigh and Cassidy traded concerned glances in the background.

Once more cursing his inability to express himself, Brick only nodded. He hated the way his family was worrying about him, especially now that he had finally realized just how hard it had all been for them. There was nothing he could do about it though, other than moving on with his life as best as he could. "No win him," Brick said as he opened the door for Leigh and his sister.

Jack understood immediately. "Good for you son," he grinned. He was sure it wouldn't be easy but Brick had the right idea. If he lived differently, stayed away from places that reminded him of the man who had attacked him and by association the attack, then Emmons would win even as he was on is way to prison.

That afternoon the prosecutor called Dale to the stand. After being sworn in he took his seat and began to recount the events of that fateful day. He described in detail what he had found at the crime scene as well as the evidence he had gathered.

"What conclusions did you draw from the evidence you gathered Sheriff Goodwin?"

"Whoever had attacked Brick McKenna waited inside the barn for him to return home. This wasn't a random attack or an interrupted thief, it was a deliberately planned attack." Dale replied all the while glaring at Emmons.

"Did you find any evidence to indicate the presence of the defendant?"

"Yes sir. I found his fingerprints on the board he used to beat Brick."

"Could they have gotten there any other way?"

"No sir. The placement of the prints could only have been made if the defendant was gripping the board. "

"No further questions."

Echols stood. "Brick McKenna is your friend isn't he sheriff?"

"Yes." Dale made no attempt to add anything. He knew where the slime ball attorney was going he was going to enjoy ruining his plan.

"You were aware he had issues with my client weren't you? Issues involving a girl?"


Echols frowned. He had expected the man to become angry and try to defend the obvious implication by now. "Is it fair to say that Brick is your best friend?"

"Yes." Dale would have grinned at the frustrated look on the man's face but that would let the jury know that he was aware of what he was doing.

"You would protect your friend wouldn't you sheriff?"


"Even if that meant lying to this court?" Echols spit out the challenge as if it were a bullet fired from a gun.


"No? You expect us to believe that?" Echols openly scoffed.

"It's the truth," Dale calmly answered.

"So you expect us to believe that you didn't fabricate evidence to help your friend have his revenge against my client?"


Seeing that he was getting nowhere and was in fact hurting his own case Echols gave up, dismissing the witness.

"Redirect your honour?" Bill Lawrence requested. Gaining permission he turned to Dale. "Sheriff did Brick McKenna, to your knowledge, have any reason to wish harm to the defendant?"

"No sir," Dale firmly replied.

"Are you sure?" Bill asked, giving Dale a chance to elaborate.

"He had already won a race against the defendant and given the car he'd won to Lori Trafford. There wasn't anything that Brick needed revenge for, besides he's not the type of man to look for revenge."

"Thank you Sheriff Goodwin."

"At this time I would like to call Dr. Lou Carson to the stand."

"Your honor," Echols interrupted, coming to his feet. "I would like to request a recess until tomorrow morning."

The judge frowned. "For what reason Mr. Echols?"

"After the testimony heard today I need to confer with my client at length."

"Request denied, talk to your client later."

Dr. Carson came to the stand. His testimony was somewhat technical, though he made an effort to simplify it for the jury. After describing the extent of the injuries Brick had suffered and the length of time he'd been in a coma he went on to describe the lingering effects.

Bill Lawrence skilfully questioned the doctor, ensuring that the jury would fully understand the effects of the attack upon the victim. He could see the sympathy and horror on the faces of the jurors as they contemplated losing the ability to speak properly as well as finding yourself unable to read as well as before the injury.

"One last question Dr. Carson," Bill began. "You've told us that Brick has difficulty finding the right words and speaks in incomplete sentences. You've also told us that while he can read that ability too has been greatly reduced, requiring long months, perhaps years, of therapy to bring himself back to where he was or as close as he'll be able to achieve. Is there any evidence that Brick's intelligence has been reduced by the attack?"

"No sir, none whatsoever. The fact that Brick can make himself understood in spite of being forced to use fewer words is a clear indication of his intelligence. Furthermore he demonstrates a clear ability to understand and follow complex conversations and directions, another indicator that his intelligence was not impacted by his injuries."

"Thank you doctor, no further questions."

Echols waived his right to cross-examine the witness. There was nothing to gain in questioning the doctor. In fact to do so would only serve to reinforce in the minds of the jury the sympathy they were clearly feeling towards the victim. He gave a relieved sigh when the judge called a recess until the next day. With any luck he could talk both his client and the prosecutor into a plea deal before court resumed.

Chapter 13

"I don't think you understand Clint," Greg tried again. He'd been talking to his client for nearly an hour, trying and failing to convince him to talk to the prosecutor about a plea deal.

"No you don't understand Mr. Echols," Clint countered. "I'm not going to plead guilty to anything. Look, put me on the stand and I'll have that jury eating out of my hands in no time."

Greg shook his head. "You're delusional," he sighed.

Clint narrowed his eyes. "Did you see who's on the jury? It's mostly chicks and I can charm them easy. I've always been able to. They have to all agree to convict, right?"

Greg nodded.

"Right," Clint repeated. "So all I have to do is convince one of those chicks that I didn't attack McKenna, that I was just defending myself and the case gets dismissed."

Greg stared at his client. The man was right, as far as it went, but that didn't mean the case would be over if his plan worked. Honestly he didn't see how it could work. "Okay Clint, let's say you're right that doesn't mean you walk free. The prosecutor can easily call for a new trial and most likely will."

"Let him," Clint confidently responded. "Any jury he uses will have at least one chick on it and after another failure to convict his boss ain't gonna let him charge me again."

"I can't force you to take a plea deal Clint, I can only advise you. If you insist on testifying and trying to charm your way to freedom I can't stop you. I will tell you this though," he continued as he stood up, briefcase in hand, "your chances of walking free are somewhere between slim and none...and slim just left the building." Walking to the door he knocked, letting the jailer know he was ready to go. "I'll see you in the morning," he told Clint before leaving the room.

"You okay son?" Jack asked as he joined Brick on the front porch.

Brick nodded. "Ssorry," he said.

Jack couldn't keep the shock from his face. "You don't have anything to be sorry for," he said as he sat next to his son.

Brick nodded, he did. "," he ground out.

"This is hard on all of us?" Jack asked. He wanted to be sure he had it right, it was obviously important to Brick.

Brick nodded again. ""

Jack was confused and he admitted as much.

"Trial," Brick said, hoping his father would make the connection. Damn this was so hard!

For several minutes neither man spoke, one hoping his message was understood and the other trying to decipher the meaning behind the few words spoken.

"This has to do with my testimony?" Jack could see by the look on Brick's face that it did. Going over the day in his mind he did his best to recall everything he'd said on the stand. "You think you're selfish?"

"Selfish," Brick confirmed , his tone disgusted.

"Why?" Jack wished he could figure out the problem but he needed more.

"Know...hard," Brick said, shaking his head as he spoke.

"It's not hard?"

Brick shook his head. How was he going to get through to his father? He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, one of the few times in his life he felt the need to apologize to his father and he couldn't make the man understand what he was sorry for. Tapping his head, he repeated his words.

"You didn't know it was hard?"

Brick nodded, smiling with relief.

"Son," Jack said, wrapping one strong hand around the back of Brick's neck. "You're not selfish for not noticing. I, hell all of us, did our best to hide it from you. You've had so much on your plate in the last few months, none of us wanted to add to your load."

Brick smiled softly as he turned to his father. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Jack grinned, patting the younger man's back. "You going to be okay tomorrow?"

Brick shrugged. When he had first brought up testifying he had been sure of his decision, now with the day so close he doubted that decision.

"I'm sure Bill Lawrence would understand if you've changed your mind."

"I...not." No matter how much he dreaded speaking in public, seeing the pity and derision he knew would be there, he wasn't going to back down. He wouldn't let Emmons think that he had won. Pushing himself to his feet he patted his father's shoulder and headed into the house.

The next morning, seated in nearly the same seats as the day before, the McKenna family waited for the trial to begin. Bill had warned them that Brick would be the only witness he called today, after which he would rest his case. True to his word as soon as the judge took his seat Bill was calling Brick to the stand.

"Your honor I would like to stipulate, for the record, that due to the nature of his injuries I will need to ask as many yes or no questions as possible," Bill began after Brick was sworn in.

"So noted," the judge nodded. "Proceed."

"For the record, is your name Brick McKenna?"


"Do you live at the McKenna ranch with your family?"


"Brick can you tell me what you remember of the attack?"

"Board...pain...blood...laugh," Brick replied, each word drawn out.

"I want to be sure I and the jury understand you correctly. Are you saying you remember being hit with a board and the defendant laughing? "

"Yes," Brick confirmed.

"Anything else?"

"" Brick blushed as he caught the eyes of one of the jurors, seeing the pity there.

"You're attacker hit you in the face with his fist and while you were on the ground, your attacker kicked you?" Bill asked, seeking clarification.


"Do you see your attacker in this courtroom?"


"Thank you Brick. No further questions your honor."

"Mr. Echols?" the judge asked.

"As I'm not nearly skilled enough to interpret the testimony I need I have no questions for this witness." Greg responded. He could see the anger on the prosecutor's face but there was no real objection he could make, not on legal grounds anyway. He just hoped the barb would bring doubt to at least one juror. Such tactics were really the only hope his client had.

"Next witness Mr. Lawrence," the judge said. As he spoke he made a note to remind the jurors during instruction to consider only the facts in evidence.

"The prosecution rest your honor," Bill responded.

"Mr. Echols, call your first witness," the judge instructed.

Greg stood. "The defense calls Clint Emmons to the stand."

Clint stood up and walked proudly to the stand. Raising his hand he was quickly sworn in before taking his seat.

"For the record could you state your name and occupation?"

"My name is Clint Emmons and I'm a race car driver," Clint replied with a pleasant smile.

"We have heard during this trial, Mr. Emmons, how you attacked the victim Brick McKenna without provocation. Is this what happened Mr. Emmons?"

"No sir." Clint denied.

"It isn't?" Greg pretended to be surprised. "Could you tell the court what did happen then?"

"Yes sir," Clint politely replied. "I was waiting in the barn for Brick, that's true but it wasn't to attack him."

"Then why were you hiding in the McKenna barn?"

"I wanted to apologize. I knew it was wrong, the way I treated Skates and the racing too. It wasn't fair really, was damned near stealing, sorry your honor," he apologized.

"Then why did you do it?"

"Well Skates said it wasn't stealing. That girl's real smart," Clint said. Chancing a glance at the jury he could see a couple of the women falling for his aw shucks country boy act, stupid bitches. "She made me see that we wasn't making them race us. If they were stupid enough to get in a race then they deserved to lose. She said we was doing them a favor really, teaching them a lesson that'd keep ‘em from doing something really stupid."

"I see, and you loved Skates, didn't you?"

"Oh yes sir, she's so pretty and smart," Clint gushed, his voice laced with admiration.

"Now back to the night of the attack. You say you were there to apologize, what happened when you approached Brick McKenna?" Greg was almost afraid to ask the question.

"He was real mad. Said it was my fault that Skates left instead of staying with him. Then he picked up a 2 by 4 and came at me. I had to defend myself."

"Of course you did. Why didn't you get help when the fight was over?"

"I was scared. I'm a stranger around these parts and I figured I'd be blamed for the fight. I was right too," Clint frowned, looking down at his lap.

"It seems you were Mr. Emmons. No further questions."

Bill Lawrence rose slowly to his feet. "You say Brick McKenna attacked first, where did he hit you?"

"Well I was able to grab the board and take it out of his hands."

"What happened after that?" Bill was old school, he believed in giving men like Emmons the rope to hang themselves .

Clint almost said he hit Brick with the board but then he realized his mistake. "I threw it to the side. That's when he hit me with his fist, and I hit him back."

"How long did the fight last?"

Brick sat in the galley incredulously listening to Emmons testify. Surely Bill Lawrence didn't believe him?

"I ain't sure sir. A while."

"Did McKenna hit you more than once?"

"Yes sir. We both got in a few hits."

"When did you use the 2 by 4?"

"I ain't real sure sir. I got scared though when I realized I had hit him with it. I didn't mean to go that far." Clint did his best to look contrite and ashamed.

"If Brick McKenna hit you, several times according to your testimony, how do you explain that the only defensive wound found on the man was a broken arm caused by being struck with the aforementioned 2 by 4?"

"I don't know what you mean sir?"

"A defensive wound Mr. Emmons is one occurring when a person is defending himself against an attack. If Brick McKenna hit you his knuckles should have been skinned and bruised, yet they were undamaged. How do you explain that Mr. Emmons?"

"I ain't lying," Clint snapped.

Bill smirked. "No further questions your honor."

"Redirect Mr. Echols?" the judge asked.

"No sir."

"Witness dismissed."

Clint wasn't sure what had happened but he had a feeling he'd messed up somehow at the end. Moving back to the defense table he reluctantly took his seat.

"Next witness Mr. Echols."

"Defense rests your honor," Greg responded.

In short order, following that declaration, closing statements were given. By the time lunch had come around the jury had been given instructions and sequestered in the jury room to deliberate. The verdict didn't take long and by supper Clint Emmons, having been found guilty on all counts, was sitting back in the county jail awaiting sentencing the next day. Bill Lawrence had no doubt the judge would impose the maximum sentence.

That evening, Brick was once more seated on the front porch of the McKenna ranch house. He was soon joined by his father. Neither man spoke, each lost in his own thoughts they simply enjoyed the peace of the night and each other's company.

The beating had irrevocably changed his life, Brick couldn't deny that. He might never be the talker he had been, might always struggle to find the words he needed, though he knew he would stick with his therapy, improving as much as he could. His doctor expected him to eventually regain the ability to speak properly, only struggling when under stress. But no matter what he would have a good life. While Clint Emmons spent the prime of his life rotting in prison, Brick would be building his future upon the foundation his father had provided for him. And while he was building his future he would never again miss an opportunity, with words or actions, to tell his family how much they meant to him.

Wrapping his arms around his father, Brick hugged him tight. "Love you," he whispered.

Jack, taken by surprise, nevertheless whole heartedly returned the embrace. "I love you too son," he whispered past the sudden lump in his throat.

The End

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