A Raven in the Snow

Book EIght

by Beth AKA Midge

ATF Universe

Chapter 8
Buck tore through the streets of Denver like a bat out of hell. Chris sat beside him with his hands gripping the door handle and dash board. Vin sat behind him looking wildly out the rear passenger side window. Josiah, Nathan, and JD followed closely in the SUV. They were headed for the old grain silos and railroad storage warehouses. Nothing mattered at the moment except finding Ezra. Hopefully finding him alive.

Police cars and other government agency vehicles followed. They were all there to find the missing agent. Carson included. Lt. Dave Mathews had been more than willing to help Chris look for his missing man, so he'd sent extra men with the ATF agents.

JD had managed to pull off an almost impossible feat by finding the weak signal. Chris then realized how good the kid really was. How the kid managed to find a signal twenty-three miles from the original site amazed the team leader. And he was thankful the kid was working with this team.

Buck pulled the vehicle down the narrow lane and quickly pulled off to the side road when a black sedan sped by disregarding the Suburban. "Vin!" Chris snapped surprised to see car of that caliber in an area such as this. "Get that license plate."

"Stop here!" JD yelled into his headset. Josiah slammed on the breaks. Smoke from the tires of the Suburban Buck was driving echoed everyone's desperation. "He should be within three hundred yards." JD recognized the area from the map.

They all jumped out of their vehicles and looked at the warehouses and down the long alleyway. "Buck, you and Nathan take the warehouse to the east, JD and Josiah, search the alleyway, Vin and I will take the warehouse to the west. Make sure your headsets are on. I want everybody online." Chris ordered his men as though this was a routine procedure, however, it was anything but. Carson and his men took the warehouse across the road while Lt. Mathews and his men, as previously arranged by Chris, followed the FBI agent. Nobody wanted him left alone.

Buck and Nathan didn't waste any time. They headed into the large warehouse; thankfully the door had been broken open already. Chris and Vin grabbed their flashlights and quickly headed inside the other warehouse.

JD looked at the melting snow in the alley between the two warehouses and sighed. He hoped they weren't too late. The sound of Josiah's voice calling Ezra's name woke the kid from his momentary reverie and quickly he was in step beside the big man.

Boxes, pallets, and garbage dumpsters littered the alleyway and both men searched under everything looking for any sign of the Southerner. Traffic through the area had made it impossible to see any footprints so the two men continued to search. They could hear the others calling for Ezra as well and the more time that went by the more fear they felt. It was a warmer day than it had been and Josiah was thankful for that but he knew winter was far from over. He hoped that if Ezra were hurt he wouldn't die from exposure before they found him.

The big man moved on ahead of JD searching for anything. His heart was racing so fast he hoped that the large muscle wouldn't give out on him. He couldn't remember being this scared. Josiah looked back toward JD who was moving boxes all the while calling out Ezra's name. Stepping up to a large dumpster he paused something caught his eye. He wasn't sure what it was but a strong feeling directed the big man to the far side of the dumpster. Fearfully he started to move the few boxes that had been tossed against the west warehouse wall and the dumpster. He stopped suddenly when he saw white stocking feet appear like magic under the last box he removed.

Josiah paused at the sight that greeted him. He had found Ezra, for better or worse, he had found him. Sitting next to the garbage dumpster and against the brick wall was the undercover agent. He was covered in blood, his once white shirt was now stained red and his jeans looked almost black. Ezra's chin rested against his chest and his left arm grasped his right side. Josiah was afraid to move. He knew he needed to reach down and check for a pulse. More than anything he wanted the Southerner to be alive, but the amount of blood caked to Ezra's shirt and pants told him differently. This could end up a crime scene. Josiah took a shaky deep breath and reached down and carefully positioned two fingers on the Southerner's jugular vein, hoping and praying he felt something. Whether it was his own blood forcing its way through the big man's fingers or a weak pulse coming from Ezra, it didn't matter. Nothing mattered except getting his friend to safety. "JD!" Josiah yelled for the kid. The big man gathered the Southerner up in his arms and rushed for the vehicle.

JD jumped when he heard Josiah cry out and he took a step back when the big man appeared out from behind the garbage dumpster with Ezra lying lifeless in his arms. The undercover agent's head hung over the crook in Josiah's right arm. What captured JD's attention the most was Ezra's right arm dangling toward the ground blood dripping from his fingertips. "We found 'im!" JD yelled into his headset. "We're almost back to the rig, we need some help!" JD yelled again, rushing to the Suburban to open up the back and lay the rear seats down.

Buck and Nathan rushed out of the warehouse in time to see JD throwing blankets down on the floor of the vehicle and Chris and Vin exit the other warehouse. Carson and his men, followed closely by Lt. Mathews, rushed foreword towards the scene shock written on their faces.

"Dear God," Buck gasped, seeing Josiah rush toward the Suburban with his burden in his arms.

Nathan jumped into action. He helped Josiah get Ezra into the back of the Suburban. Josiah climbed up first supporting Ezra's head and shoulders and Nathan followed supporting his legs. "Lets get moving," the medic ordered. "It'll take an ambulance fifteen minutes to get here and another fifteen to get him back, we'll get him to a hospital faster if we take 'im." Nathan didn't look up to meet everyone's gaze. Instead he started packing gauze into the six stab wounds high on Ezra's right side. It was obvious the Southerner had lost a lot of blood and Nathan wanted to stop the loss of any more. The medic guessed by the wound pattern that Ezra had a lacerated liver, which would explain the significant amount of blood loss.

Chris slammed the hatch closed and rushed to the driver's side door. The others followed suit. "What hospital Nathan?" Chris yelled from the front seat before starting the engine.

"Mercy General! It's closest!" Nathan yelled. His face was a mask of worry. Josiah, Buck, and JD all saw it, and it scared them. "Hurry Chris!" he yelled again making them all jump. Ezra's pulse was fast and week and his breathing was irregular, not a good sign. "Vin!" Nathan yelled again. "Call Brandy and make sure she sends all of Ezra's medical records to Mercy. Tell her to hurry. Then call the hospital and tell them we're coming in. Let them know Ez's blood type is AB negative and he may have a lacerated liver."

Chris hit the gas and Vin dialed the Bureau's number from his cell phone. The sharpshooter looked across the seat to the team leader and saw his jaw flex and brow furrow with worry. Chris flipped the hazard lights on and sped through the streets heading for the hospital. Police cars with flashing lights followed the speeding vehicle.

Josiah continued to monitor Ezra's breathing while Nathan applied pressure bandages and checked his blood pressure. The big man kept his right hand on the undercover agent's forehead trying to will him into staying alive. The Southerner's skin was beyond pale and it was cold to the touch. Josiah couldn't believe how much blood now covered Nathan and himself. Ezra's right side was one large stain of red. "Nathan," Josiah's pleading eyes looked at the medic, "he's stopped breathing."

Nathan grabbed for his medical bag and grabbed the laryngoscope, endotracheal tube, and bag valve mask. Everything he needed in order to intubate. "Keep pressure here," the medic instructed. He grabbed Josiah's hand and placed it on the blood soaked pressure bandage and carefully maneuvered himself to Ezra's head. Nathan quickly got the Southerner intubated, noting that the Ezra's neck was already badly bruised. He taped the breathing tube so it would remain next Ezra's cheek then he attached the airbag. "Buck," the medic looked behind his shoulder to the ladies man all the while breathing for the downed agent.

Buck and JD turned completely around kneeling over the back of the seat. JD's face was almost as pale as Ezra's. He couldn't get over the amount of blood that had soaked the Southerner's clothes. He noticed Nathan had cut Ezra's tee shirt open and blood soaked bandages now decorated the right side of his torso. Josiah was bent over the motionless form applying pressure to the still bleeding wounds. Nathan was at Ezra's head squeezing the airbag, breathing for him. Vin's voice echoed through the cabin of the suburban relaying information to Mercy hospital. Buck clenched his jaw when he looked at the Southerner. He and JD had both tried to avoid looking at the undercover agent since they had both seen enough before Josiah and Nathan had put him in the back of the Suburban. The ladies man locked eyes with the medic and with a nod of his head confirmed that he was ready and willing to do anything.

Nathan moved slightly to his right to give Buck access to the air bag he'd been using to keep Ezra breathing. "Take this," the medic grabbed Buck's hand and placed it on the plastic bag. The ladies man understood and started squeezing the bag all the while wishing he could do more. Nathan continued to work like the trained medic he was. He put all personal feelings aside but he knew when they arrived at the hospital and the doctors took over so would his emotions.

Chris pulled into the hospital ambulance entrance and before he could stop Vin jumped out and called for some help. The emergency room doors swooshed open and four orderlies pushing a gurney through the entryway were followed by nurses and doctors. They pulled Ezra from the back of the suburban and placed him on the gurney and they rushed into the ER.

The team gathered at the back of the suburban and looked from the emergency room doors to the bloodstains on themselves and the floor of the vehicle. They knew the possibility that Ezra could still die. He was pretty close to it already. Close enough, that he stopped breathing.

Chris looked up into the faces of not only his men but also police officers, Agent Carson and his fellow agents. Before he could stop himself he rushed toward Carson with every intention of beating him to a bloody pulp. He hit him with a right cross on the jaw sending him roughly to the ground. Nobody bothered to stop him, not even Carson's own men. "Are you proud of what you've done?" Chris yelled at the downed agent. "Was it your intention to see him dead?"

"I did nothing wrong!" Carson snapped getting to his feet wiping the blood from his split lip off his chin. "I'm not responsible for your agent's misfortune!"

"Misfortune?" Chris said in a low menacing tone. "I will have your badge if it's the last thing I do!" he yelled, before slamming his fist into the Agent's jaw again. "Get 'im out of my sight!" Chris yelled again, trying to get his emotions under control.

Carson got to his feet and looked disgustingly at Larabee before hastily making his way to his car. Some of his agents followed him while others tipped their heads in Chris's direction before making their departure. It was the only offering of support they could give at the moment. Lt. Mathews directed his own officers away from the scene wanting to leave Chris and his men to their own thoughts.

"I'll park the truck and meet you boys in the waitin' room," Vin said, nodding his head as though giving himself permission to leave. He looked back at the five others before heading for the suburban.

"We'll meet you inside." Chris noted the defeated tone the sharpshooter spoke in. He knew all his men were feeling what Vin had voiced. As leader of this band of brothers he intended to change that. As long as Ezra was alive there was hope. "I'll head in and fill out the paper work. Nathan why don't you and Josiah get cleaned up." Chris grabbed Josiah's arm and squeezed before heading into the building.

JD kept his eyes cast downward to afraid that if he looked at one of his friends in the eye they would see the tears streaming down his face. He could feel his stomach turn and he didn't want to lose face before these seasoned veterans. Maybe they had seen things like this in their past, but he hadn't, nothing even came close.

"I'll call the Judge," Josiah muttered, his voice barley above a whisper. He looked at Nathan and saw the despair written on his face.

Nathan glanced at his long time friend. "I'll go with you." He looked at his hands and the front of his shirt before following Josiah into the hospital.

Buck glanced at JD and recognized immediately what the kid was trying to do. "You alright JD?"

JD looked up trying to locate a garbage can. He shook his head in answer to Buck's question. The kid spotted a garbage can and headed straight for it. He made it just in time before his stomach rolled for the last time and the kid threw up. Buck was there, rubbing his back until the heaving stopped. "There was so much blood," JD gasped, resting his head in his arms while still resting on the rim of the garbage can.

"Hell," Buck tried to lighten the moment, "Ezra's about as stubborn as they come...it's gonna take more than a couple stab wounds to keep 'im down." He tried to convince himself but he knew deep down he was fooling himself.

+ + + + + + +

Vin entered the emergency room waiting area and found everyone in various holding positions. JD and Buck sat in the far corner. Buck was drinking out of a cup and JD stared blankly at the floor. Nathan and Josiah had both washed up but the front of their clothing was still stained with the Southerner's blood. Chris nodded to the sharpshooter and he removed his feet from the chair he'd been resting them on.

"Any word?" Vin asked, sitting in the chair across from the team leader.

"Not yet." Chris shook his head. It had only been twenty minutes since they'd brought Ezra in but it just seemed longer.

Chris had talked with Lt. Mathews and the man immediately put out an APB on the black sedan. Mathews understood what it meant to have a fellow officer down and he intended to do everything he could to help Larabee. Josiah had contacted the Judge and told him what was happening.

"Chris Larabee?" a female nurse called into the waiting room.

"Yeah," Chris answered, jumping to his feet.

The nurse took a step back when faced with six men desperately in need of answers. She'd worked ER trauma for over sixteen years and she'd seen just about every kind of panic stricken relatives and friends but this was different. These men not only expected answers they demanded them. And they didn't even need to ask. The nurse cleared her throat and handed Chris a clear plastic bag containing a manila envelope. "Mr. Standish had this taped to his leg, it has your name written on it."

"How is he?" Chris took the bag and waited for an answer.

"Dr. Mead should be out shortly to tell you everything." She turned to leave.

"Is that good or bad?" Chris called after her.

"The doctor will see you shortly," she responded, before disappearing through the swinging doors.

"What the fuck is that suppose to mean?" Buck stormed. He wanted, no, needed answers.

"Ez'll make it," JD said confidently.

Josiah reached out and squeezed the kid's shoulders and nodded his head in silent agreement. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." Josiah's words echoed in the small room and the others listened intently. "Isaiah 43:2."

"Does that mean God ain't goin' let 'im die?" JD asked.

"Just means God ain't gonna give us anymore than we can't handle," Vin spoke up, from behind the group.

"Well shit!" Buck snapped.

Chris opened up the plastic bag and pulled out the manila envelope that had his name written on the outside. He grabbed the papers out of the package and the disk. Chris instinctively handed the 3 1/2 inch floppy to JD before he started looking over the papers. "Josiah...take a look at these." The team leader handed the papers to the team strategist and waited for his evaluation.

Josiah ran his hand over his face and sighed. "Transplants..." he shook his head in disbelief, "...it never came up in the profile..."

"Maybe Ezra found out who's behind it, here in the Denver area," Chris tried to reason.

"Could be," Josiah agreed.

Chris looked up when Lt. Mathews cleared his throat from behind the group of agents. "Dave," Chris said, sticking his hand out for Mathews to shake.

Dave shook Larabee's hand without hesitation. "I'm on my way to St. Josephs Emergency Medical Center. Seems your black sedan is owned by a Dr. Gary Wade I'm goin' to go ask him some questions."

"Can you give me ten minutes?" Chris asked. "We've got probable cause for a warrant. You can do more than talk to 'im you can arrest the SOB for murder."

"I'll put my men on hold." Dave moved toward the doors not wanting to interfere with the agents' time worrying about their downed friend.

Chris grabbed his cell phone and called the Judge to let him know what they'd found. The Judge, in turn, issued a warrant just like he'd promised then sent a messenger to deliver it to Lt. Mathews. The warrant issued a legal search of Wade's private office, home, car, and the hospital departments he worked in. Mathews was then ordered to place him under arrest for the murder of Jake Simmons, one of the victims found with organs removed. Further arrests would be made after the conformation of the evidence that Ezra discovered.

Chris ran his hand over his face while once again waiting for the doctor to come out and tell them what was happening with his undercover agent. The team had retaken their positions in the waiting room feeling somewhat vindicated. When the doctor came into the room the men jumped to their feet wanting to know how Ezra was doing.

The doctor knew instinctively who these men were and whom they were here for. It wasn't that they were frequent visitors or patients it was just their demeanor. They needed answers and the doctor understood why. It was something he saw in all family and friends that had someone they cared for in the emergency room. "I'm Dr. Mead, the attending physician for Mr. Standish."

"How is he?" Chris asked, concern lining his face.

"Mr. Standish has been taken up to surgery to repair what I believe is a laceration to his liver. You have to understand that when Mr. Standish came in he was in a severe state of shock which was induced by a large volume of blood loss."

"So what are you saying?" Chris questioned.

"Baring any unforeseen complications during surgery, Mr. Standish should make a full recovery. However," the doctor wanted to make clear how complicated this case was, "it is still unforeseen how badly the laceration is or if the blood loss was too severe."

"In other words you don't know," Vin answered for the doctor, who seemed content with the sharpshooter's assessment.

"The surgery is being preformed by Dr. Debra Straus, she's the head of trauma here at Mercy General. The procedure could take six to eight hours; you would probably be more comfortable at home. We can keep you updated every hour or so..."

"We'll wait here," Chris interrupted the doctor.

Dr. Mead nodded his head in understanding. "You can wait upstairs in the surgical waiting room, you'll be more comfortable there."

Chapter 9

Nathan was relieved when he heard that Dr. Straus would be operating on Ezra. She had been the doctor he'd taken his advanced EMT training from just one day prior. He liked her the moment she walked in the room. Granted her techniques were different but they worked. She had the highest survival rate of any surgeon in the state of Colorado and it was because she didn't follow the norms when it came to practicing medicine. Her colleagues criticized her but her patients praised her. What mattered to her were her patients and Nathan admired that about her.

The medic looked around the small waiting room. They had come up to the surgical waiting area because it was more private and Dr. Mead had been right. They were more comfortable. Nathan could see nurses walk past the waiting room entryway. He hoped one would stop in and let them know what was happening but it had only been two hours since they had arrived. It would probably be a while before they heard anything, good or bad.

+ + + + + + +

Judge Travis stepped off the elevator with a heavy heart. He felt responsible for the circumstances surrounding the undercover agent. Ezra had, in a sense, warned him that he didn't feel comfortable working on this case. So what did he do to ease the Southerner's concern? He'd told him that he'd make note in his report. Obviously, that concern was duly noted.

Travis entered the small waiting room filled with his men. The group of men he'd been allowed to help gather. A group of men he'd grown to appreciate and respect. "Boys," the Judge said, quickly getting everyone's attention, "any word?"

"No." Chris shook his head and leaned back against the wall. "What are you goin' to do about Carson?" He didn't bother to look at the Judge. Deep down he already knew the answer, insufficient evidence.

"We have no way of proving any wrong doing on Carson's behalf."

"Fuck this!" Buck snapped getting to his feet. "If it had been anyone else that had set off their 'positioning device' a team of FBI agents would have been there to get that agent out of harm's way, but because it was Ezra nobody bothered to check the fuckin' monitor!"

"Unfortunately Agent Wilmington you can't prove that. If there was any neglect of duty done on Agent Carson's part, that proof must be established and right now the evidence coming in from electronics is leaning toward computer malfunction." Judge Travis tried to be firm while at the same time trying to make these men aware of his limitations.

"What about Dr. Wade?" Chris changed the subject.

"The prosecuting attorney is building a case as we speak. Gary Wade was arrested just over an hour ago and the FBI has gathered enough evidence to make sixteen arrests throughout the country. Thanks to the evidence Agent Standish gathered...However," Judge Travis looked hard at the men sitting throughout the room, "if it is discovered that the evidence Standish discovered was obtained through illegal means then all the evidence in custody will be voided, the Judge presiding over the case will have no other choice but to call a mistrial."

"What do you mean 'illegal means'?" Vin asked, knowing Ezra's credibility was being challenged once again.

"I'm implying an illegal search Mr. Tanner."

"Why don't you just walk into the OR and pull the plug on 'im now," Buck snapped.

"Buck!" Chris shouted a warning to his long time friend, "enough."

"The FBI wants a solid case, they need numbers and convictions not rogue agents trying their hands at vigilante law." Travis looked at Chris and his men knowing the words he was saying would only be repeated in a more accusatory tone.

"However Ezra found that evidence I'll guarantee he found it legitimately and within the letter of the law." Chris looked hard at Travis knowing what the man was getting at. "I'll stand by my agent."

Travis nodded his head trying to keep his lips from turning upward. That is all he wanted to hear. He wanted to make sure Chris would back Ezra regardless of the circumstances. Travis knew the team was tight but he really wanted to make sure everyone else knew that as well. He looked around the room again and pondered what he saw. Five grown men who'd lived hard lives, who'd been taught early in life that nothing should be taken for granted. JD Dunne a young man who looked to these seasoned veterans for guidance, instruction, and friendship. Chris Larabee the obvious leader, who'd lost his family tragically and now found comfort in sharing a beer with old and new friends. Vin Tanner, the young sharpshooter from the wrong side of the tracks. Josiah Sanchez, the oldest and wisest of the seven men, the one with the words of wisdom and a loving hand of touch. Nathan Jackson, the healer of the group, the one who cherished life in all its forms. What a group. Judge Travis thought, and how honored he was to work with these men. Never before and never again will he see the likes of these men. Travis knew that and he knew that it would be a tragedy to lose one because the loss of one would mean the loss of them all.

Chapter 10

Chris looked at his watch for the millionth time and sighed. It was almost 3:00 am and Ezra was still in surgery. The tall blonde looked around the room to his men and to the Judge who sat alone next to the door. JD had gone to sleep resting his head against the wall. Buck looked lazily through a magazine. The same magazine he'd looked at a hundred times already. Josiah continued to look at the floor blaming himself for the Southerner's predicament. Nathan sat beside him trying to offer some sort of comfort. Vin reentered the waiting room carrying coffee for everyone. Chris was thankful the cups the sharpshooter was carrying had lids. Otherwise Vin would have burned himself. Chris didn't think he could handle another one of his men in the ER.

Vin sat back down in his chair next to Chris after handing out the much-needed coffee. "Deb gave me a deal," Vin smiled motioning toward the coffee in his hand, "she said we've just about paid for her college education with all the coffee we've bought over the past few hours."

"Not surprising." Chris chuckled in response.

The team leader jumped when a nurse wearing surgical scrubs entered the waiting area. She smiled not wanting to disturb the young man sleeping. "Chris Larabee?" she said, in a soft voice.

"That's me," Chris answered, getting to his feet.

"Please," the nurse motioned for him to remain seated, "I'm only here to let you know Dr. Straus will be out to see you momentarily. She's just changing."

"How is he?" Chris asked before she could leave.

"Dr. Straus will be with you shortly." The nurse nodded and headed out of the waiting area.

"What!" JD jumped up after Buck slapped his leg waking him from his short nap. The others chuckled lightly at the kid's look of confusion. "Damn-it Buck." JD slapped the ladies man on the arm and then rubbed his tired eyes. "Is Ez okay?" He looked around the room.

"Doctor's going to let us know in just a bit." Chris ran a hand over his face thankful he was going to get some answers.

+ + + + + + +

Dr. Debra Straus knocked on the waiting room wall wanting to get everyone's attention. She didn't fit the norms when it came to the stereotypical doctor. She didn't wear any make up. Her hair was pulled back away from her face exposing the graying at her temples. Her jeans, cowboy boots, and large silver belt buckle left no room for doubt that she had at one time been a cowgirl. "I'm Dr. Straus." She smiled shaking the tall blond's hand.

"How is he?" Chris asked not giving the doctor any time to take a breath.

"Mr. Standish came through the surgery without any complications, he's being moved to a private room in ICU as we speak."

"Can we see 'im?" JD asked, almost pleading.

"JD," Chris stopped the kid from asking any more questions.

"First," Debra started, "I want to introduce you to Dr. Regan Booth," she motioned for the tall lean doctor still wearing his scrubs to enter the room, "he's our head surgical resident here at Mercy and he has a different opinion when it comes to Mr. Standish's treatment."

Dr. Booth cleared his throat and looked around the room at the men standing before him. He didn't want to look intimidated. "We can only discuss Mr. Standish's condition with family, are any of you of relation to the patient."

"No," Josiah answered for the team.

"Well, I'm sorry but under law we can only discuss..."

"Just because we ain't blood don't mean we ain't family," JD stated, leaving no room for doubt. Buck covered his mouth trying to hide the smile he now sported.

"Dr. Booth is a stickler for following procedure." Dr. Straus smiled moving forward of the overly egotistical doctor. "I however, am Mr. Standish's primary doctor when it comes to the final say in his treatment." Debra grabbed a chair and seated herself and motioned for everyone else to do the same. She'd just spent the past seven hours in surgery and needed to sit. She rested her clipboard in her lap and waited until everyone else was seated and ready to listen to what she had to say. She was a woman who demanded respect, in many ways she reminded the men sitting around her of Chris.

"Is there a problem?" Judge Travis decided to ask.

"By all medical standards Mr. Standish should not have survived." Dr. Straus locked eyes with the first person in her line of vision. Chris. "It's a medical miracle he's alive. Mr. Standish lost over thirty percent of his blood volume which caused a state of hemorrhagic shock and more times than not, it leads to a fatality."

"But you said he made it through surgery?" JD questioned, not understanding the doctors meaning.

"He did," Debra Straus nodded her head, "I have worked in trauma for over twenty years and I have never seen a case like this." She wanted the men sitting around to understand how complicated the situation was. "What we thought was six stab wounds to the lower chest, upper abdominal wall is actually five stab wounds and one surgical incision." She waited until the words she spoke had a chance to soak in.

"His liver?" Nathan questioned.

"Yes," Dr. Straus confirmed. "Once we got started we found traces of surgical iodine...I believe a new surgical procedure was preformed on your friend. It's called the 'La Strioux Procedure'."

"I've never heard of that." Judge Travis frowned looking around the room trying to see if anyone else had.

"Me neither." Nathan shook his head.

"The American Medical Association never approved the procedure to be preformed within the States, but it is being used in other countries."

"Do you want to explain to me what the fuck is goin' on?" Chris glared at the doctor. He didn't want to get the run around.

"Three years ago a French transplant surgeon by the name of Jean La Strioux discovered that by attaching a small portion of a healthy liver to a child's diseased liver it increased recovery time for the recipient. One adult liver could be transplanted into six children. Prior to his discovery one liver could only be split between two recipients."

"Sounds to good to be true," Buck said, leaning back in his chair not fully understanding the current conversation.

"In essence it is." Dr. Straus cleared her throat. "In Europe the donors are patients who are clinically dead and therefore the use of anesthesia is not used. La Strioux discovered that livers from anesthetized doners were not as receptive to the new hosts."

"Shit," Nathan said just above a whisper.

"I don't understand?" JD looked around the room to the distraught faces.

"So what your sayin' is someone strapped Ez to a bed and cut him open like a fuckin' lab rat." Buck got to his feet and ran his hand over his face in disbelief.

"His blood results came back negative for any kind of sedatives," Dr. Booth stated, trying to maintain some kind of control.

"This is where Dr. Booth and I differ on Mr. Standish's treatment," Dr. Straus interjected.

"How so?" Judge Travis asked, he wanted to know what he could do to help.

"According to Mr. Standish's medical records he suffers from migraines, of which are a reaction to an early type of Anthrax vaccine that he was given ten years ago." Dr. Straus looked up to confirm with the men that should know. She saw Nathan nod his head and she continued, "Were any of the rest of you given that same vaccine?"

"It was mandatory for all new government employees and military," Vin replied.

Understanding what the young man admitted to without really admitting anything she decided to ask, "Do you suffer from migraines or respiratory ailments?"

"I seem to get bronchitis at least once a year," Vin responded to her question.

"Unfortunately for you, because of your history with bronchitis you're predisposed for pneumonia, and, should the need arise, any hospital stays will be short. Mr. Standish however is predisposed to severe migraines and the longer he remains under sedation the more severe his headaches will become. It also has a risk of memory loss."

"Shit," Chris snapped getting to his feet. "So don't sedate him." He looked at the doctor trying to understand her reasoning.

"Chris," Josiah spoke up for the first time. "Dr. Straus is saying when Brother Ezra wakes up in a hospital room..."

"He's gonna panic." Chris kicked himself for not catching it sooner.

"I think it would be beneficial to keep Mr. Standish sedated for the next ten days, allow his liver to heal..." Dr. Booth started to offer his opinion but was cut short by Vin.

"But what about the migraines?"

"Dr. Booth wants to deal with the migraine issue when the problem occurs." Dr. Straus cleared her throat and looked again at her clipboard.

"What do you think?" Chris looked at Debra Straus; he trusted her instincts more than he trusted the other doctor's.

"I believe keeping Mr. Standish sedated is not an option. I'm a firm believer that a patient's mental health is just as important if not more so than their physical health." She didn't bother to look at the doctor sitting next to her. "My suggestion is to let him sleep off the anesthetic he's under at the moment, he should be under sedation for the next twelve hours, and I'd prefer that he come around slowly and preferably with someone he trusts. Then I'd like to see him moved to a comfortable environment. Someplace where he's going to feel at home."

"Shouldn't he remain in the hospital?" Nathan asked concerned.

"Ideally yes, but under the circumstances I don't think it would be in Mr. Standish's best interest. In reality what you would be asking him to do it remain in a similar environment as to where his trauma occurred. That in itself is an unhealthy environment and my concern is for Mr. Standish's recovery. Now whether that happens at his home or here is really up to you because you know him better and you know how he's going to react to this."

"You boys can take him to my place outside of town My neighbor is a doctor, Rich Nielson, I'll give him a call and let him know you boys are going to be staying there for a few days." Judge Travis offered leaving no room for an argument. "Treat it as a safe house, someone can stay with him, watch him, make sure he takes it easy."

"What if he hemorrhages?" Nathan asked concerned.

"It's not going to matter if he hemorrhages here or fifty miles from here. The outcome will be the same, however, if he stays in this environment the likely hood of a hemorrhage is greater simply because of the situation surrounding the trauma."

"What do you think Dr. Booth?" Judge Travis asked, wanting to get a second opinion.

"Dr. Straus has a 97% survival rate when it comes to patients who make it to her. Under the circumstances I think hers is the best judgment." The young surgeon took a humble step back knowing he didn't have enough experience when it came to making decisions such as this one. Decisions such as this could only be made through years of working with patients.

"I agree with Doctor Straus," Vin spoke up, trying to understand everything that had been said. He knew Ezra well enough to know that he wouldn't do well with losing part of his memory and the team had already been witness to one of his migraines. "With Nate and that Dr. Neilson friend of the Judge's it ain't gonna be like he won't have medical care. Plus it'll get him away from the hospital, I sure as hell wouldn't want to be stuck in a place similar to the one where they cut him open."

Dr. Straus noticed every man nod his head in agreement. As a trauma surgeon she had seen almost everything. Patients who'd been told they only had a few months to live only to change their lifestyle and continue to live a healthy life. She'd seen trauma patients on the brink of death come back and defy all the odds. She'd seen it all. She also knew this group of friends that gathered in the waiting room would take care of their downed team member without a second thought and as far as she was concerned that was the best care he would be able to receive.

Debra Straus stood up and smiled. She had just seen something very special, something that reiterated to her why she'd become a doctor in the first place. Care, compassion, and the need to help those who couldn't help themselves. "Why don't you follow me and I'll take you to Mr. Standish's room." She headed out the door with a group of seven men on her heels. As she walked she explained to Nathan what medications, bandages, and painkillers to use and how often to use them. She also explained that Ezra would remain on a ventilator for another six to eight hours. She wanted to make sure his blood pressure increased before removing the device that was helping him breathe.

Normally in the intensive care unit only one visitor was allowed to visit a patient at any given point in time. However, Dr. Straus made the exception. She wanted all of them to be there for her patient. Sometimes a loving touch, a familiar voice, or the presence of a friend could do more for a patient's recovery than any medication on the market. Nobody knew that better than Debra Straus. She broke all the rules for when it came to traditional medicine. In the old west they would have called her a witch doctor. She didn't care. The only thing that mattered to her were her patients and she would go to no bounds when it came to treating them. The hospitals administration had fought with her for years but in the long run they saw what she could do and in the end all that mattered were the numbers.

Dr. Straus stopped and moved to the side of the doorway that entered into the darkened room. Large windows gave everyone on the outside visual access to the patient. The only light in the room that was on was the one just above the head of the bed. Monitors beeped and read off the undercover agent's vitals while IV bags hung from a portable hanger. The most distressing was of course the ventilator. It seemed to paint the picture in clarity how close Ezra had come to dying.

Much to everyone's surprise the first one of them to enter the room was JD. He didn't seem to hesitate like the others did and wait until the ghost of a man they considered to be friends with invited them in. Life in a hospital intensive care unit wasn't all that unfamiliar to JD. A place such as this is where his mother had lost her battle with cancer. During her last few weeks of life the ICU had become a second home to the young man. It wasn't that he didn't have anyplace else to go, but he didn't want to be anyplace else. JD moved to the bed and picked up Ezra's bandaged left hand and careful not to move the IV's sticking from almost every vein in his arm the kid did the only thing he knew how to rely his concern for his friend. He sat in the chair and waited for the others to enter.

Josiah was next. He entered the small room with his heart caught in his throat. The Southerner wasn't as pale as he had been when Josiah had found him there was an aura of vulnerability around the blanket-covered bed. It wasn't something one would associate with Ezra Standish. Josiah couldn't believe how many tubes were attached to the Southerner. The big man had to smile despite himself. If the team's undercover agent were awake at this moment there wouldn't be a doctor alive that could keep him from pulling every last IV out of his arms. Josiah gently took Ezra's right hand in his own. It was hard to believe that life still flowed through those cold fingers. Josiah ran his left hand over the Southerner's hair pushing back those few curls that refused to be trained. The big man noticed for the first time the bruising around Ezra's jaw and neck and he shook his head at the thought that might have brought on such coloring. Josiah's heart was heavy and it was noticeable by everyone and everyone knew he blamed himself for the tragedy.

Dr. Straus entered the room after the others knowing she had made the right decisions. "I'll have some orderlies bring in some more chairs. Someone should think about going and getting Mr. Standish something comfortable to wear. I'll write up some prescriptions and you can have them filled in the pharmacy downstairs."

"Why are his wrists bandaged like that?" Nathan asked noticing the dark blue brace on Ezra's left arm, the brace was similar to those worn by patients suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome.

"He was apparently restrained at some point and fought the restraints pretty hard. Both wrists are moderately lacerated and he has a hairline fracture in the radius just below the radiocarpal joint. There really isn't any point in casting the break because of the lacerations, they'll need to be cleaned and bandages changed daily." Dr. Straus clasped her clipboard to her side and looked around the room at the men who were having a difficult time dealing with the situation.

"Thank you Dr. Straus." Judge Travis shook her hand in appreciation.

"I'll check in with you later. Nurse Richards is the head ICU nurse. If you have any problems she knows how to reach me." Debra smiled lightly and headed out of the room to check on a few of her other patients.

Before anyone had a chance to say anything a couple of orderlies came in the room with some chairs. Chris eyed the two men letting them know they weren't welcome and they quickly left. Chris watched as Nathan read the Southerner's chart that was attached to the foot of his bed. Vin had stepped to the window and now looked out over the darkened city trying to understand everything that had taken place. Buck, with his usual finesse, grabbed a chair and rested his feet on the edge of Ezra's bed. He slapped JD on the shoulder just to reassure the kid that everything would be fine. Josiah hadn't moved. He continued to hold the Southerner's hand trying to put some warmth into the unmoving fingers. Chris turned and looked at the Judge when he cleared his throat.

"These are the directions to my place just outside of town. Evie and I will stay at our apartment here in the city, while I make sure this case is well supervised." Travis moved foreword and gently squeezed Ezra's leg before leaving the room. "Call me let me know how things are going." He nodded to Chris and left.


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