By A Thread

by Kim Maddox

Size: Approx 124K

Chapter 1
Chris Larabee and Ezra Standish stepped out of the elevator and into the 12th floor offices of the ATF. Energy abounded and the sight of it made Chris physically ill.

A game of paper wad basketball was in full swing between JD Dunne and Buck Wilmington. Josiah Sanchez was refereeing and Nathan Jackson was a loud spectator. Vin Tanner leaned against a desk and watched silently, his amusement evident.

Vin spotted Chris and Ezra and made his way over to them.

“Hey Cowboy, glad to see you back. I´m turning over the keys to the cages of this zoo now,” Vin said grinning.

“Thanks, I really appreciate it,” Chris replied sarcastically. He also sounded tired, Vin noted.

“Ezra, can you debrief everyone? I´m going to find some aspirin and catch a nap. I´ve got to shake this jet lag or flu or whatever it is,” Chris asked wearily.

“Certainly, Mr. Larabee. I´m not surprised you are ill. You didn´t get much rest on our little vacation,” Ezra replied. “When did you last eat a decent meal? I know it wasn´t there,” the undercover agent inquired.

“I´ve had enough to eat Mom, and I´m not drinking too much, and I´m getting enough sleep. Can we dispense with the mother hen routine Ez?” Chris snapped.

Chris knew he was being surly and that Ezra was only trying to help, but it didn´t seem to matter. He was starting to feel really lousy and it was getting harder to ignore the pain in his head and the accompanying nausea. He didn´t think he had ever been as tired as he was at that moment.

Chris made his way to his office and shut the door. He drew the blinds closed and flipped off the lights. Easing himself down onto the sofa, he drew in a sharp breath, as pain seemed to radiate from his belly out to his limbs, chest, and back. “Damn,” he muttered, “this is a real good time to get the flu.”

Ezra was filling everyone in on the events that took place in Bogota, Columbia. The bust went smoothly. No injuries, no technicalities, just cool-headed undercover work. Chris and Ezra had been working regularly on the case for six months, but had been on it officially for over a year. Chris was introduced early on as a major player in the weapons smuggling world. Ezra was introduced later as a contact and they had both been in deep for the past two weeks. When the bust went down there were 23 arrests, all majors. It was sure to earn Team 7 a commendation.

Ezra finished the detailed debriefing and everyone headed for the door. “I´ll get Chris,” Vin said jogging to the door of their leader´s office.

He opened the door and called out to his boss. Chris opened his eyes and looked around groggily. “How long have I been asleep?” he questioned.

“About three hours,” replied Vin “You feeling any better?”

“Yeah, actually I do. I guess I did need sleep,” Chris answered, trying to sound normal, but failing miserably.

“Come on let´s go to Inez´s and get some chili. That´ll put you on the road to recovery,” Vin said grinning.

“Yeah, or to hell,” Chris replied with a shudder. He couldn´t eat Inez´s chili on a good day. Since being diagnosed with bleeding ulcers six months ago he had to be careful what he ate… and drank. That´s what got next to him. He had to cut back on his alcohol consumption. That didn´t matter right now he didn´t think he could manage even one beer in his present condition.

Chapter 2

Inez´s was right in the middle of happy hour when they arrived, happy being the operative word. Music blasting, lights flashing, people laughing and talking, Chris was getting that physically ill feeling again.

Everyone ordered a drink and they raised their glasses in a toast to a smooth operation, and getting the bad guys without getting hurt or dead. After the toast Buck and JD started shooting pool, arguing, and amusing Josiah and Nathan. Vin and Ezra were throwing darts and trying to challenge Nathan to a contest. Chris sat at the table nursing his first drink of the evening and trying to fight off a chill. He was really starting to feel bad and hoped his misery didn´t show.

Chris laid his head down on his crossed arms. That didn´t help. It just made the muscles in his neck cramp and ache. He raised his head and the loud music and the flashing of the neon signs behind the bar assaulted his senses. He propped his elbows on the table and rested his throbbing head in his hands.

Vin glanced to the table where Chris was sitting and noticed the discomfort his friend was feeling. “Hey Ez, Chris don´t look too good, does he?” Vin questioned.

Ezra started to make a joke in reply but caught both the concern in Vin´s voice and the sight of the sick team leader struggling to keep his head up, and decided instead to inquire about Chris´ health. “Chris? Mr. Larabee?” Ezra drawled.

Chris raised his head and looked up at Vin and Ezra.

“Mr. Larabee, are you all right? Do you need us to escort you home?” Ezra asked.

Chris looked hard at Ezra. His eyes held confusion. The southerner´s words seemed to be slurred; yet they were coming out of his mouth ahead of the movement of his lips. The simple motion of moving his eyes to look at Vin caused the room to spin. The motion was making him sick. The flashing lights, the music, pool balls clacking together, even the sound of his own breathing was giving him a monster headache. He felt like he had a killer hangover and he hadn´t finished even one drink.

“Chris,” Vin repeated.

“Yeah, what,” Chris answered distractedly.

“Come on, let´s get you home. You need to eat and go to bed for a few days,” Vin said as he pulled on Chris´ arm.

“I´m all right Vin, you guys go on with what you were doing,” Chris replied waving them away with his hand. No one failed to notice that the order or the wave hadn´t carried the weight it usually did.

“Nah, I´m tired, and I´m losing to Ezra at darts and I need to go to bed. Lets just call it a night. You call it Cowboy,” Vin stated.

“All right, it´s a night,” consented Chris. It kind of worried Vin. It just wasn´t like Chris to take orders or call off a night of drinking and celebrating.

Chris stood up from the table and had to grab on to said table to keep from hitting the floor. ‘Damn´ he thought to himself. “I´m as weak as a newborn foal.´ His legs just didn´t want to hold him up and they ached like he had run all the way home from Colombia.

“Chris you O.K.” asked Vin again.

“Yeah, I think I´m coming down with the flu. My legs and back are aching.”

“Yeah the flu is going around Chris. You better go home get in bed and drink plenty of liquids,” Nathan said as he joined them.

“I will Doc, thanks,” said Chris grinning.

Josiah and Vin drove Chris home. Josiah tried to engage his boss in conversation but after a couple of tries he stopped. It just hurt Chris´ head too much to concentrate on what Josiah said, so he gave up trying and went to sleep.

Josiah awakened Chris when they got to his ranch. He crawled out of the truck and made his way to the door. He fumbled with his house keys until the big man took them from him. He unlocked the door and they went inside. Chris told Josiah to make himself at home while he took a shower.

Vin appeared at the door a few minutes later. Josiah explained Chris´ absence and they both agreed that it was not a good idea to leave him alone until he was out of the shower.

Chris stood under the steaming water and let it run over his weary body. It felt like every bit of energy was being drained out of him.

He finally turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. Leaving the warmth of the water and stepping into the open air produced a chill that made Chris´ teeth rattle. He dried off and toweled his hair before going to the dresser drawer and pulling out a pair of faded blue jeans. He pulled them on and grabbed a sweatshirt and pulled it over his head. He stopped at the closet in the hallway and took out a large blanket and walked into his living room.

Chris was surprised to see Vin and Josiah still there. “You guys didn´t have to stay all this time. I´ve been bathing myself for quite some time now,” he said grinning.

Josiah noticed the trembling and both men were shocked to see Chris wrap up in the huge blanket like it was twenty below.

“Chris are you cold?” asked Vin.

“Yeah, the thermostat must have gotten kicked down. It´s freezing in here,” Chris replied burrowing deeper into the blanket.

Vin wandered over to the thermostat and looked at it. He shot a look to Josiah and mouthed “78 degrees.” Josiah shook his head and went to get another blanket from the closet. Vin moved the thermostat up to 85 degrees and immediately started to sweat. July, 90 degrees outside and 85 degrees inside and Chris was huddled under two blankets shivering.

Josiah picked up the phone and called Nathan on his cell phone. Nathan said he would be there in about thirty minutes.

Vin paced and Josiah tried to get the shivering man to drink some orange juice. Chris couldn´t seem to do anything but shiver uncontrollably, when Josiah felt his forehead, he knew Chris had a fever.

By the time Nathan arrived Vin had already walked a hole in the floor, and Josiah had resorted to pulling the comforter off of the guest bed to pile on Chris´ shivering form. Nathan put a thermometer in Chris´ mouth and checked his pulse,BP, and respirations. He frowned as he wrote down the numbers. He took the thermometer out when it began to beep.

The look on Nathan´s face when he looked at that thermometer scared Vin. “What is it Nate? Is it high?” Vin asked panic starting to rise.

“It´s 104 degrees, but that is pretty normal for the strain of the flu that´s going around. We need to cool him down. Chris, go get in a lukewarm shower. It´ll help bring the fever down.”

Chris did as Nathan asked. He dragged himself into the bathroom and got into the shower. The water hitting him felt like ice pellets hitting his body. He shivered violently.

Chris had finally had all the water hitting him that he could stand and stepped out of the shower. He pulled sweat pants and sweatshirt out of the drawer and dressed quickly. He started to walk back to the couch and dive under the blankets again when a spasm of pain snaked through his abdomen and radiated throughout his body. His legs wouldn´t hold him and he crumpled to the floor. He curled into a ball and squeezed his eyes shut trying to fight off the pain. He wasn´t successful. He groaned as another spasm hit him, this time in the small of his back.

The agents heard a thump from the bedroom and Vin opened the door to find Chris on the floor. “Nathan!” yelled Vin. The medic was at his side in a split second.

Chris felt hands touching him. Felt them lifting him off the floor, forcing his body to straighten out. He fought that action, only knowing that it hurt like hell. Chris´ struggles against Josiah and Nathan were pitiful to say the least. Josiah placed Chris on the bed where he immediately went to his side and curled into a ball his arms across his abdomen and chest. Chris´ eyes were pain glazed and Josiah didn´t know if he was hearing anything they were saying to him or not. Vin decided he could hear them and began speaking to his friend in a low soothing voice. Chris stopped struggling but the shivering continued and his temperature still hovered around 103 degrees.

Chris had never been this cold or hurt this bad in his life. Not even during Hell Week in Navy Seal training, when their tormenters had been trying to kill them. It hurt for anyone to touch him. Nathan was taking his blood pressure and it felt like his arm was being ripped off.

Nathan couldn´t figure out what was wrong. Chris´ temperature was high, bp low, respirations fast and labored. Could be the flu, but Chris and all the rest of them had taken a flu shot. Also, the man´s reactions to painful stimuli was unusual, he winced at every touch. “I´m calling an ambulance, this ain´t just the flu,” Nathan finally pronounced.

“It´ll take an ambulance an hour or more to get here. Why don´t we take him to the ranger station and call for a med-flite to take him to University?” Vin replied obviously concerned.

“Good idea. Vin, you go warm up the truck, I´ll make the call. Josiah, bundle him up in them blankets best you can.”

Everyone went to work. While Vin warmed up the truck he called Ezra, Buck, and JD. Nathan and Josiah brought Chris to the truck between them. They put him in the front seat and buckled the seat belt around him. Josiah covered him with two of the blankets and Vin had the heat turned up on high. The three men were roasting. By the time they got to the ranger station Chris´ chills were starting to subside. Nathan hoped that meant his fever had broken, but it was still 103 degrees.

The chopper landed and Chris was put on board. No one was allowed to go in the chopper with him so the three men started the long drive to the hospital.

Ezra, JD, and Buck were waiting at the hospital for Chris to arrive. The chopper set down on the helipad and Chris was rushed into the ER. One nurse was shouting something about cooling blankets, and one doctor was screaming something about blood panel and brain scan. It was all a jumble of nonsense to the three men who were waiting to find out the condition of their friend. They all wished for Nathan who could decipher and translate all the medical jargon they were being exposed to.

Dr. Susan Flynn was on call when Chris was admitted. She knew all the men by name and they knew and trusted her as well. It was still surprising to see Chris in the emergency room. He was not bleeding, no bullet holes or stab wounds riddled his body, he was sick.

Chris´ symptoms were mysterious. She had never seen someone deteriorate so quickly. The med-flite doctor said his blood pressure had bottomed out twice and he had to be put on oxygen in flight. His temperature was out of control. At one point he was shivering so violently they could not even start an I.V. Chris was now conscious and he recognized Susan. “Susan, what the hell is happening to me?” he questioned.

“I don´t really know Chris. Where did you pick up this flu bug you´ve got?”

“Probably in Colombia,” Chris replied, pain obvious in his voice.

“Colombia, as in South America?” Susan asked.

“Yeah, we´ve been down there working on a case,” Chris replied.

“I´ll get right back to you Chris,” Dr. Flynn said as she ran from the room.

Vin, Josiah, and Nathan had arrived and were distressed that the others had not been told anything on their leader´s condition. Dr. Flynn entered the waiting area. She appeared to have been running. That did nothing to calm the six men waiting to know the fate of their ill team leader.

“Were any of you with Chris in Colombia?” she asked breathlessly.

“I was,” admitted Ezra.

“Come with me,” she ordered.

Ezra rose to follow and cast a look at his fellow agents. ‘What is going on?´ he wondered. ‘What could Colombia have to do with Chris having the flu?'

Dr. Flynn answered that question as she drew a syringe out of its protective packaging and prepared Ezra´s arm for the invasion. “Pray tell Susan, just what do you intend to do with that large rather sinister looking needle?”

Susan jabbed the needle into Ezra´s vein and began to draw blood. “That,” she replied smiling at the tensed southerner.

“That was altogether unnecessary Dr. Flynn. I would gladly have given you my blood had you asked nicely,” Ezra stated. Dr. Flynn finished drawing blood and called the lab for a rush on both men´s samples.

Susan ran tests on Chris and Ezra throughout the night. EKG´s, blood panels, x-rays, brain scans, MRI´s, any test she thought might give them some idea of where to go. Ezra drew the line at a spinal tap. Chris was unable to draw a line or anything else, so one was performed on him.

Dr. Flynn was perplexed. The tests were all normal except for the blood samples. There were abnormalities in Chris´ samples. She picked up the phone and dialed a number. A receptionist answered and in a clear voice stated, “Center for Disease Control, how may I direct your call?”

Dr. Flynn swallowed hard and in a voice full of dread answered “Special Pathogens Unit, Dr. Stein, please.”

The extension was picked up on the second ring and Dr. David Stein answered, “Stein.”

“Dr. Stein, this is Dr. Flynn from Denver University Hospital. We spoke earlier about a patient of mine, Chris Larabee. He was admitted in the ER. Severe headache and body aches, high fever, severe chills.”

“Yes, Dr. Flynn, have you anything new to report?”

“Yes, I´m afraid I do. Blood samples on Mr. Larabee show abnormalities. I´m waiting for a lab report on his spinal tap. Mr. Standish wouldn´t submit to one at this time. All his test results appear normal. I´m faxing you the paperwork on the blood tests for your perusal.”

Susan could hear Dr. Stein moving about his office and when he spoke to her he had the fax in front of him. “Dr. Flynn, I´m flying in tomorrow. Until I arrive I want you to quarantine these two men. I want Larabee in absolute isolation as well. In his condition a simple cold could kill him. I want anyone in the hospital that has handled Larabee to be quarantined as well,” Stein firmly stated.

“What about his friends that brought him in?” Susan asked fearful for the rest of the men.

“Quarantine them, anyone that has been in close contact. Not casual contact.”

“All right Dr. Stein, I´ll see you tomorrow,” She hung up the phone and went back into Ezra´s room. He was sitting on the bed wearing a hospital gown and a scowl.

“Dr. Flynn, I do hope you have come to give me back my clothes. It is rather drafty in here when one´s whole back side is exposed,” Ezra spouted.

“I´m sorry Ezra, I would love to give you back your clothes and let you get out of here, but I have been ordered by the CDC to quarantine you and the others for at least 24 hours,” Susan stated. She bit her lip and waited for the explosion. It never came.

“Susan, what is wrong with Chris?” The only emotion Ezra revealed was concern for his leader and friend.

“We´re not sure Ezra. The CDC is pretty sure it is a strain of flu from South America. Dr. David Stein from the CDC will be here tomorrow to evaluate you and the others. If he finds no abnormalities in the blood work up he´ll probably consent to let you go.”

“Am I going to get sick like Chris?” Ezra asked.

“We don´t know. You may have the antibodies and not the illness. Time will tell,” Susan replied.

“How is he?” Ezra asked almost fearful to know.

“He isn´t doing too well Ezra. He has a real high fever. We are having trouble getting it down,” Susan sated.

“Can I see him?”

“Dr. Stein has ordered Chris placed in an isolation unit. In his weakened state Dr. Stein is afraid that even a cold could kill him. His immune system is not up to par. His immunity to illness is so low that he couldn´t fight this off,” Susan continued “there is a window in the unit and a speaker. If he´s awake you can talk to him for a minute. He is not really conscious. He´s pretty out of it. The fever is making him delirious. I just want you to be prepared for what you´re going to see, Ezra. Chris is very ill. He looks like hell. Are you sure you want to see this?” Susan asked.

“Yes Dr. Flynn. I want Mr. Larabee to know that we are here,” Ezra replied shakily. He thought for a minute and began “Dr. Flynn, why did Chris get this and not me, so far that is?”

“We think the illness attacks people with low immunity first. Chris´ ulcers, his drinking, along with not eating or sleeping well has lowered his resistance to illness. That´s how it attacked so quickly. We are going to take extra precautions with you Ezra, to help fight this thing,” replied Susan.

“What about the others?” Ezra´s concern was obvious.

“We hope they will be unaffected. We have taken blood samples from all of them,” Susan began but was interrupted by a nurse sticking her head in Ezra´s room, “Dr. Flynn, you´re needed immediately in isolation!”

Chapter 3

Ezra´s heart almost jumped out of his chest. ‘Was Chris worse?´

Dr. Flynn pulled on her sterile gear and entered Larabee´s isolation unit. The intern that was changing Chris´ I.V. held up his arm and remarked, “Check this out. What is it?” He showed Susan a mark on Chris´ upper arm.

“It looks like a bite, a human bite. It has already formed a bruise and signs of infection as well,” Susan replied. The doctor drew out a slide and took a sample of the pus that had formed at the site of the infection. She sent it to the lab to be analyzed. One last check of Chris´ vitals showed him to be holding his own. Right now that was the best she could hope for.

Susan went to the doctor´s lounge and lay down on the sofa. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow. She wanted to be fresh and sharp when Dr. Stein arrived the next morning.

Chris had two more crises´ during the long night. He slept fitfully and hallucinated frequently. The most dangerous symptom he displayed however was the diminished respiratory function. It kept getting worse, even with the ever-increasing oxygen flow to his starved lungs. Around dawn he regained consciousness and became alert enough for Susan to be called to his bedside to answer his questions, and to ask a few of her own.

“What´s wrong with me? I feel like shit,” Chris questioned clearly in pain.

“We´re not sure yet, we´re working on some theories though. The CDC is sending someone to check this out. They think it might be a virus you picked up in South America. Chris, how did you get this bite on your arm?”

“Bite?” Chris queried, clearly confused.

“Yes, there is a bite mark on your arm; it looks like a human bite.”

“Oh yeah, the prisoner we were transferring attempted to escape. I stopped him and he bit me trying to get away. Why are you asking me about a bite? I think I probably have worse problems.” Chris remarked.

“Yes, I guess you do. Can you explain how you feel?” Susan asked.

“Like hell,” Chris answered, “my head is killing me, and my belly hurts. My muscles seem to be cramping up. It feels like the flu, but I ain´t ever been this sick with the flu. Besides we all had a flu shot.” Chris was starting to fade out and Susan didn´t want him to over exert himself.

“O.k. Chris, you just get some rest now. We´re going to figure out what´s wrong and fix it. I´ll check on you again in about an hour.” Susan left the room and headed for the lab.

The lab tech handed Susan the report on Chris´ bite and the spinal tap results. There were bacteria and antigens of unknown origin in both reports. Susan ran down the hall to her office. Just as she signed on to the computer her beeper went off. She called the answering service and was informed that Dr. Stein was waiting for her.

She hurried down the hall to the elevator, and was surprised to see a casually dressed man in his mid thirties awaiting her arrival.

Dr. David Stein was nothing like Susan had imagined. She pictured an older, more sophisticated man. Stein was tall with wavy dark hair and beautiful eyes. She found herself staring at him.

David Stein grinned in amusement. He had grown accustomed to this reaction. Most people expected to see C. Everett Coop when they were introduced to the head of the Special Pathogens Unit of the Center for Disease Control. “Dr. Flynn, I presume?”

It took a moment for Susan to find her voice. “Yes, Dr. Stein, it´s a pleasure to meet you, circumstances not withstanding, of course,” she replied nervously as she pointed down the corridor. “Our patients are right at the end of this corridor, Shall we?”

After suiting up the two doctors entered the isolation unit where Chris was restlessly tossing in a fever induced delirium.

“Details Dr. Flynn,” Stein was all business now.

“Chris Larabee, age 40 in good overall health with the exception of bleeding ulcers, was admitted in our emergency room yesterday around 10:00 pm. He presented with a temperature of 103 to 104 degrees, bp of 100/60, respirations 26 and shallow and a pulse rate of 90. He was brought in by med-flite and he had to be put on oxygen in flight. His condition deteriorated quickly. His temp shot up to 105 and then spiked at 106 degrees. His pulse rate went to over 100 and his blood pressure continued to drop to 90/50. He developed a purplish rash and there are signs of conjunctival hemorrhage. Urinary output is down drastically. That is where we are right now. There is also a severe contusion to his upper right arm. It is a human bite and it was received in Bogota, Colombia.”

Dr. Stein looked at the bite and quickly turned to Susan. “This is it. This is how it was transmitted. It is usually not transferred through human contact, but by rats. But if this were airborne we would have already had more cases, someone he worked with or a family member. The South American strain can be passed from person to person by bodily fluids, saliva, in this case. Let´s get started, we´ve got work to do.”

The doctors exited Chris´ room and entered Ezra´s. Dr. Flynn introduced the two men.

“How is Chris?” Ezra asked after briefly greeting the doctors.

“He´s holding his own Ezra,” Susan answered.

“Dammit, that´s the same answer you gave me last night. What does it mean?” Ezra´s voice was full of emotion. “What about the others? Are they all still well?”

“Yes Ezra, they are all still fine. We have developed some theories and we hope to be able to answer all your questions soon.”

Dr. Stein checked Ezra over and could find no symptoms. He approved the undercover man´s release. The other five men were also released after it was determined that none had been in contact with Chris closely enough to be infected.

After their release, they all asked to see Larabee. More tests were being performed on him and Dr. Flynn told them to come back at four o´clock that afternoon. The six men left the hospital and went to a meeting at the office called by AD Travis. It felt strange to them all to be in the conference room with Travis speaking to them instead of Chris. It felt awful being there without Chris period.

“Gentlemen, I know you are all worried about Chris. I am too. But there is still work to be done and he would want us to continue to do the job. The first thing I have to tell you is bad, really bad. Jesus Montoya escaped from guards during a transfer yesterday.” Travis waited for a reaction. He got what he was waiting for, but from a most unusual source.

“How the hell could they let that happen? Do they know how hard we worked and the kind of danger we put ourselves in for that bust? Thanks to that bust Chris is sick. How in the hell could they be that damn incompetent?” Ezra swore. The team had never seen the unflappable agent that unhinged about anything, ever. They looked at him surprised by the vehemence in his voice. The undercover man was usually so in control and could spout five-dollar words in a hurricane. The loss of his extensive vocabulary was shocking. They all felt the same way they didn´t want Montoya getting away with what he did.

The rest of the meeting was just basic. They were all trying to pay attention but their thoughts were back at University Hospital with their sick leader. Travis decided it was pointless to continue. “Everyone, go home, get some sleep. You´re no good to anyone, especially Chris, when you´re like this. We´ll continue when we know he is all right.”

The men left the office, boarding the elevator. Ezra was the last to step inside. He was looking at his hands and a cut on the knuckle of the middle finger.

Chapter 4

Dr. Flynn was waiting for the men outside Chris´ isolation unit when they arrived. Even though the illness was not air born, they still had to visit through the window. This was to protect their friend from any other illness.

Chris was conscious and lucid. He even managed a little grin. But it didn´t inspire confidence in his condition.

“Hey Chris, when you gonna get your sorry ass out of that bed and get back to work?” Buck asked attempting to be cheerful.

“I would right now if I could stand up,” Chris returned. They all visibly paled at the weakness of their friend´s voice. He was practically gasping for breath. His pained expression and sweat soaked skin were disturbing as well.

Each of the six men greeted Chris and told him to hang in there, that he was going to be all right. JD even told a joke that almost got a laugh. Dr. Flynn told the men that Chris needed to rest and they started to leave.

Vin and Ezra held back for a minute. Chris had already closed his eyes and was starting to drift off when Vin grabbed Ezra´s arm. “Oh my God!” Vin said as he squeezed the arm tightly. Ezra looked to lee what was causing the sharpshooter´s anxiety and gasped. There was a small trickle of blood coming from Chris´ nose and as he looked on in horror another one started running down his face from his right eye. Ezra pulled loose from the horrified man´s grasp. He ran to the door of the quarantined unit and bellowed for Dr. Flynn.

Susan, hearing the urgency in the southerner´s voice quickly joined him. Vin was still rooted to the spot with his forehead plastered against the window.

Dr. Flynn pushed him aside and looked in at Chris. She entered the sterile area and began putting on a sterile suit. Dr. Stein was paged and entered the unit as well.

The two doctors conferred for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only a few moments. The rest of Team 7 was sitting in the lounge. Vin and Ezra joined them soon followed by doctors Flynn and Stein.

“Gentlemen,” Susan began, “as you know we have discovered that Chris contracted this illness through a human bite. Now we actually have a name to put to this illness. It is a new strain of the Hanta Virus. It is not an air born disease it is transferred by human contact. Blood, saliva, any bodily fluid is a possible means of infection. We are beginning to work on a serum. We will get blood samples from the suspect who bit Chris and go from there.”

The men all looked from one to another. Vin finally spoke and informed Susan of the suspects escape.

Susan was visibly shaken by the news. “Guys, I´m going to be straight up with you. If we can´t find a serum for this Chris is going to die. His condition has already been downgraded to grave. He is fading. I don´t know how much longer he can hold on.”

Vin dropped his head and tears of anger and frustration threatened to spill from his eyes, frustration at being unable to help his friend and anger at the incompetence of the officers that had let Montoya escape. The guy had to be found and recaptured.

Vin silently started making plans. A flight to Miami, retracing the steps of everyone involved. Vin would find Montoya if it was the last thing he ever did.

Vin´s thoughts were interrupted by Susan who was giving them a list of the symptoms of the illness. “The febrile stage, that´s fever, in Chris´s case a very high uncontrollable fever, also muscle aches, abdominal pain, intense headaches, and severe chills. Stage two is the hypotensive stage that is characterized by low blood pressure. Chris has started to move into that stage and once he is there the illness moves very quickly. There is nausea and vomiting, which is going to make the illness worse because then we have to worry about dehydration. Almost 1/3 of all deaths that have been attributed to this disease have taken place in the hypotensive stage due to vascular leakage and acute shock. The next stage is oliguric he will suddenly develop albuminaria, which is extreme amounts of protein in his urine. He will develop hypovolemia, which is low intravascular volume due to blood loss and dehydration. We will try to keep ahead of this with I.V. fluids and blood transfusions if at all possible. Almost ½ of all patients die during this stage due to hypovolemia. The next stage is diuretic most patients who survive to this stage show improved kidney function but may still die from shock or pulmonary complications. Death when it occurs usually is the result of shock or cardiac complications. Then there is the convalescent stage that is what we want for Chris, the convalescent stage. But we have a long way to go. There is no cure for this as of now, we have our technicians working on it and so does the CDC. We are treating him with Ribavirin. It´ s a drug they are having some success with but we need antibodies from that suspect to help us with our research. Guys, Chris is bad now but it is going to get so much worse. I know you think I am being blunt, but I just want to prepare you for what is to come. You are going to see Chris suffer, terribly. His lungs are going to fill with fluid he is going to practically drown. We will have to intubate him and place him on a ventilator. There will be all kinds of cardiac complications he may have to be placed on an ECMO machine if his heart gets in trouble. This is going to be devastating to his heart and lungs. If he survives there could be lasting side effects. The good news is that when patients start to recover, it is a very rapid recovery process. I just wish we had the suspect´s blood sample. I thought we were on to something and now we are right back to square one. How could they let him escape?”

“It was an inside job,” AD Travis had entered the room and answered Susan´s question.

The six men turned to him and nodded in acknowledgement. After hearing the list of symptoms and realizing what hell their friend was living in and would have to continue to live in they were not in the mood to play nice. “What are you doing about this?” Buck spoke, not caring that he was being insubordinate.

“Good question Mr. Wilmington,” added Ezra, his eyes flashing in anger.

“I have a good answer for you as well, Mr. Standish,” Travis looked around the room, “We´re going to find Montoya.”


Feedback: I love it. Constructive criticism welcome.