Buck had reached a point where he could not sleep. He could not even keep
his eyes closed unless he put his arm over them. The flashlight gave only
a couple of minutes of wan light before dying completely. He drank part of
another bottle of water. The cold feeling started faster this time and he
lay shaking before he began to yell again. He pummeled the box until he was
too weak to raise his hands again. He fell into an exhausted slumber.
Staring down at his chest, he was surprised at how little pain he felt. Blood
poured from the knife wound, filling his cupped hands and pouring out of
them. In the background, he was vaguely aware of the bar fight happening
around him. Glass bottles shattered and tables crashed as bodies were slammed
into them. Buck reached for the edge of the bar and looked up at the pretty
barmaid. Inezs eyes widened in horror at the sight before her. She
screamed and grabbed a clean towel from under the counter as she raced to
Senor Buck? Senor Buck, can you hear me? Madre de Dios! Nathan!
The room darkened and his knees folded. Inez guided him to the floor sitting
against the bar. Nathan rushed across the saloon and dropped to his knees.
He pulled back the towel that Inez had pressed around the knife. He quickly
replaced the towel and guided the womans hands back to applying pressure
around the wound.
Josiah! Chris! Get over here! Ezra and Vin, get these people out of
the way! JD, run up to the clinic and start water to heating. Inez, Im
gonna need plenty of clean towels.
Bucks blue eyes fluttered and he reached out his hand.
Chris? Looks like the end of the road, cowboy. It hurt terribly
just to breathe. He looked up and into the eyes of Vin and JD. They looked
so young, innocent and green. I dont want to die, Nate.
You aint going to die on me, Buck. Just hold on.
Weve got your back, Bucklin. You just hang on. Vins
voice cracked with emotion.
The next time he opened his eyes was in the clinic. Nathan had removed the
knife and was stopping the bleeding. He could hear the men talking over him.
Hes lost too much blood, Chris. I dont know what I can
do for him.
A pale, shaky hand reached out.
Vin looked up from where he sat next to Chris on the side of the bed. His
eyes were puzzled. He looked at the two men and then back to the pale, weak
form on the bed.
Whats he talking about?
A transfusion. When you take blood out of one body and put it in
Lets do it! What ever it takes, Nathan. He can have as much of
my blood as he needs.
It isnt that easy, Vin. Ive seen men die from getting the
wrong kind of blood.
How do you know which kind is right? Chris asked as he got caught
up in the conversation. It sounded like a plan that would save his friend.
Theres no way of knowing.
Nathan, you and JD and Ezra have compatible blood types. You and Ezra
are Type O and JD is Type A just like me. Trust me, Nathan. Bucks
eyes pleaded with the healer.
+ + + + + + +
It was nearly midnight before Chris shook off the sedative. He was in his
own bed at the ranch. He rolled to his side and saw Vin sitting in a chair
at his bedside with his stocking feet resting on the corner of the bed. The
events of the afternoon paraded thru his mind again and he moaned softly.
The Texan immediately awoke and reached out to the team leader.
Easy, Chris. Lay still for a minute. The sedative may not have worn
off just yet.
What time is it, Vin?
Almost midnight. The others just crawled into bed. You need something
No. Im just going to lay here and try to go to sleep again. You
know he only has 29 more hours, dont you?
Well find him, Chris.
The smell of coffee lured the agents into the kitchen. JD and Ezra were making
breakfast and talking softly. Chris and Vin stood in the door and listened
as the other two talked.
I cant go back there by myself, Ezra. Not even to get my clothes.
I just cant face the place. Theres just too much of him there.
Ill keep expecting him to walk thru the door.
Youre welcome to use my spare room, Mr. Dunne. I have more than
enough room and it would be good to have someone there when I go undercover.
Im sure that some of the others will be glad to help you move your
JD looked up at the clock. His expression became even more distressed.
Only about 21 hours left. By this time tomorrow
As the incredibly huge tears began to roll down the kids face, Vin
stepped past Chris and pulled JDs head into his chest. He rubbed the
tense shoulders until the hiccupping breaths gave way to gut wrenching sobs.
Chris moved to stand where he could lay his hands on the distraught young
agent. Ezra stood, staring out the window as his knuckles turned white from
the death grip he had on the edge of the sink.
The phone on the wall rang and startled all of them. Chris picked up the
phone and wiped the tears from his eyes before pressing it to his ear.
Agent Larabee, this is Dr. Morgan from the lab. I wanted to let you
know that we are in the process of analyzing the evidence found on Mr.
ONeills body. So far we dont have anything conclusive.
Most of the hair and fibers are from the apartment. The female hostage called
in a little while ago to ask for an officer to pick up a few of the
kidnappers things that she found in the apartment and we will start
on them as soon as they arrive. Will you be at this number all day? I will
call you as soon as we have anything.
+ + + + + + +
The cuts on the backs of Bucks hands were still trickling blood. The
darkness was working tortures on his mind as the drugs acted on his nervous
system. He began to imagine that he could see lights in the dark. He reached
for the lights, striking his hands again on the top of the box. Despair assailed
him as he rolled to his side and wrapped his arms around his ribs. In the
silence, even the sound of his own breathing sounded like a train rumbling
and the sound of his heart beating was like drums. He kicked at the side
of the box in frustration, too weak to even cry out anymore.
The dream picked up right where it had left off. He was still in the clinic
feeling like something the cat wouldnt bother to drag in. He could
hear Nathan and Chris arguing fiercely on the other side of the room.
Im not sayin I wont do it, Chris, but if it isnt
right he will die. The doctors I worked with couldnt even tell me why
it worked sometimes and not others. I aint even gonna tell you what
they would have said about givin him my blood.
But he seems so sure about it, Nathan!
Hes out of his head right now! You gonna trust his life to delirious
Another voice intruded on the argument.
Gentlemen, I am willing to participate in this transfusion but I am
concerned about becoming the instrument of his death.
The healer sighed and squeezed the tightening muscles on the back of his
neck. Ezras words echoed in his mind. He didnt want to be the
instrument of Bucks death either. Taking another look at the pale form
on the bed, he made his decision.
Ill try it, Chris. Well give him Ezras blood first
and see how he does. I just hope were doing the right thing.
Nathan had picked up the transfusion kit at a store in Coopers Bluff
a couple of months ago along with a few other new medical instruments. Their
town doctor had died and his widow sold off all of his things to pay her
way back east. He had been especially keen on the medical books. He hadnt
had enough money for them and asked the storeowner to hold them for him until
the next month. To his surprise, the others had gotten together and chipped
in to buy him the books for his birthday the following week.
He carefully examined the rubber tube and the needles on both ends. After
determining that there were no cracks in the tube, he dropped it into the
hot water and left it for a minute. Using the special tongs he had gotten
with the instruments, he removed the tube and let the water drain out. From
the corner of his eye, he could see Ezra removing his jacket and shirt.
Chris, ease Buck over on the bed. Im gonna want Ezra right beside
Watching to see that his instructions were being followed, Nathan moved closer
to the bed. He had picked up a bottle of whiskey on his way across the room
and he set it on the bedside table. He poured a measure of the alcohol in
the cup he had sterilized in the boiling water and dipped the needle in it
for a minute.
Put some pillows behind Ezra, I dont want him sitting up. If
you start feeling light headed or sick to your stomach, sing out, hear?
The gamblers green eyes widened and he nodded. Nathan didnt miss
the hard swallow Ezra made when he saw the needle glinting in the sunlight.
Okay, lets do this. You have to be still when I put the needle
in, okay? Getting another nod, Nathan dampened a cloth with the whiskey
and rubbed it over the bend of Ezras arm as he studied the blue vein
just beneath the skin. With one last deep breath, he began.
The only indication of pain Nathan noticed in the gambler was a slight gasp
when the needle bit into the tender flesh of his arm. It was a good stick
and the rubber tube immediately darkened as it filled with blood. Casting
a final glance at Buck, the healer eased the pressure off of the clamp at
the other end of the tube. He let several drops of blood leave the needle
before he tightened the clamp again. Wiping Bucks arm with the cloth,
he studied the vein.
The ladies man never even flinched as the needle slid into the vein. Nathan
released the clamp and let the blood flow. He kept a hand on each arm and
watched Ezra closely for any sign of difficulty.
Open and close your hand slowly and let me know if your hand starts
feeling numb or anything. Youre not feeling dizzy or sick are you?
Youre looking pale, even for you.
Rest assured, Mr. Jackson, I will let you know the moment that this
procedure produces any untoward effect. However, the sight of those needles
has left me feeling somewhat weak in the knees.
A slight smile spread across Chriss face.
I thought I was the only one. How much longer, Nathan?
Just a couple of minutes. If he doesnt show any reaction, we
can do it again tomorrow if he needs it. I dont want to draw too much
at one time.
Mr. Jackson? The light headedness you mentioned is beginning.
Ezras eyelids fluttered and he let his head back against the headboard
as they closed. Nathan quickly closed the clamp and withdrew the needle,
applying pressure with the whiskey-moistened cloth. He bent the arm up and
placed Ezras other hand on it to hold it to his chest.
Lifting the tube to let the last of the blood flow toward Buck, Nathan removed
the other needle and repeated the actions he had used on Ezra. Chris took
hold of the folded arm and held it over Wilmingtons heart.
+ + + + + + +
Team 7 sat around the living room of the ranch in a morose silence. Every
time the grandfather clock chimed, one of them would sigh dejectedly. Vin
jumped up and walked out onto the deck to pace. JD got up and went into the
kitchen and made another pot of coffee and washed out the used cups. Josiah
sat with his eyes closed as he tried to direct his mind in prayer. Chris
bolted from the house and into the yard where he took up an ax and began
to cut up kindling. Nathan moved around the group, assessing their emotional
states to keep his mind off of the deepening sadness he was feeling. He had
called Rain to update her on the situation and stood on the deck watching
over the others as he listened to her cry. Ezra followed JD for a while until
the young agent asked him to go away. He then took up a spot on the deck
to watch over Chris.
The ring of the cell phone startled the southerner and he quickly pulled
it from his pocket.
Agent Standish? Its Mickey, from the diner? I think I found the
guy youre looking for. He says he overheard the guy talking about what
he was going to do with the box, but hes scared to come to you. He
wants you to meet him at the donut shop on Madison.
Ill be there in half an hour. Thanks, Mickey.
Five pairs of eyes followed the undercover agent as he dashed off the deck
and thru the house. The Jag threw gravel as it tore off down the driveway.
Although he had a red light for the car, he had never used it before that
moment. Roaring down the highway, he passed car after car as he raced back
into downtown Denver.
The phone rang at the ranch and Nathan moved from his deck chair to answer
it only to find Josiah had gotten to it first. The profiler nodded as he
listened to the caller before thanking him and hanging up the phone.
They found mud in the grooves of ONeills shoes and
theyre trying to match it a specific area. The technician said that
the man has been around livestock recently, there were bits of hay and manure
in the mud.
+ + + + + + +
The man in the dark box could no longer distinguish reality from the dream.
Buck alternated between weeping and pounding on the box and sleeping. The
drugs in the water were distorting his memories until the dream images seemed
more real than the world around him.
Im dying, Chris. The transfusion didnt work and now Im
laying here dying. It hurts! I dont want to die right now! I want to
see JD grow up and have kids of his own. Hell, I want to have kids of my
own some day.
In his despair, Buck was giving up. With the little bit of fight he had left,
he opened and poured out all of the bottles of water. He knew that the drugs
in the water were making him feel worse. He ate the last apple and choked
down a few bits of the jerky that were left in the bottom of the bag.
+ + + + + + +
The jag came to a stop and Ezra leapt out. He didnt want to take a
chance on missing the informant. Running into the donut shop, he looked around
for Mickey. The homeless man was sitting in the farthest corner booth with
another man. The southerner forced himself to be calm as he approached the
table so as not to frighten the other man.
Mickey, good to see you again. Let me get you something to eat before
Knowing that the old man had a terrible sweet tooth, Ezra went to the counter
and ordered several iced donuts and three cups of coffee. Returning to the
table, he slid in next to his informant and avoided eye contact with the
other man. He slid the coffee across the table and waited for one of them
Okay, heres the deal, the man began quietly, You
gotta protect me. The guy was crazy, talking all out of his head. He said
hed kill me and leave me in a box if I told.
Pulling a picture of ONeill out of his pocket, Ezra asked, Is
this the man?
Yeah, thats him. Hes crazy! Had this whole crew of men
working on this box. When it was built and they helped him get the Fed he
This man cant hurt anybody. He was killed yesterday evening in
an FBI raid. Did you hear where he was planning to bury the box?
He said something about a farm. Laughed about burying him under a pile
of hay. A needle under a haystack he kept saying over and
But you dont know where the farm was located? Any little thing
could mean a lot.
Im sorry, mister. I told you, the guy is crazy. Just kept laughing
about a needle and a haystack. I have to get out of here! Im sorry
I couldnt tell you anything more.
Ezra caught the mans hand and pressed a small roll of bills into it
with one of his cards.
If you ever need anything, call me. After the man left the shop,
the southerner also pressed money into Mickeys hand. He clapped the
old man on the shoulder and sadly returned to his car.
Returning to the ranch as Josiah and Nathan were trying to coax the others
into eating, Ezra collapsed on the couch and closed his eyes. He could hear
JD protesting that he couldnt eat anything and Chris ordering him to
stop whining and eat. Vins voice was sharp as he criticized the team
leader for being cruel. The two older agents separated them before the argument
could come to blows.
Josiah guided Vin to the living room and parked him in the recliner and nudged
JD into the corner of the couch. Both of the young men looked at Ezra briefly
before glaring at the kitchen doorway.
Did your informant have anything useful? Josiah asked softly
as he sat across from JD.
A needle under a haystack. Thats what ONeill said. He killed
all of his accomplices as soon as the box was buried on a farm somewhere.
JD jumped from the couch and left the house, head down and running for the
barn. Only a few yards behind him, Vin followed to make sure that the kid
didnt hurt himself. He found the sobbing young man standing in the
stall with Bucks horse. The Texan leaned against the stall door as
he offered his silent support.
The phrase rolled around in Josiahs mind. ONeill had been some
place where there was mud and manure. A needle under a haystack. A
backhoe to dig a hole big enough to bury a box larger than a coffin. A needle
under a haystack. Suddenly, he came to his feet, yelling.
Chris, hes been here the whole time! Nathan, oh my God, hes
Both men ran out of the kitchen and stared at Josiah as if he had gone over
the edge. The profiler ran out of the house and headed for the barn. The
other three agents ran after him, skidding to a halt at the edge of the haystack.
A needle under a haystack, Ezra, dont you see it? Chris, you
said that the men showed up here with the backhoe and had dug the trench
and covered it and moved the haystack! It has to be here!
Grabbing a pitchfork from inside of the barn door, Josiah began moving the
used hay. Vin came out of the barn and watched the older man with a confused
look on his face. Suddenly, Josiah uncovered a PVC pipe sticking up out of
the ground. It had a U-joint on the top and a mesh form around it to prevent
anything from getting into the pipe. Nathan immediately ran for the house
to call for help.
After clearing an area around the pipe, Josiah and Chris pulled the U-joint
off of the pipe and looked down into the darkness. Lowering his face to the
opening, Chris began to yell.
Buck! Buck, can you hear me? Buck, answer me! He immediately
pressed his ear to the opening and listened for any kind of response. Hearing
nothing, he began yelling again. Buck! Buck Wilmington, can you hear
+ + + + + + +
In the dark, he was hallucinating. It was getting harder to breathe and he
was getting weaker. Buck heard the voice calling his name and he wept.
This has to be the end, he thought sadly. Closing his eyes, he
+ + + + + + +
Nathan ran back to the barn, breathlessly shouting for them to listen.
I called 911. Theyre going to rush a rescue unit out here.
Theyll bring the excavating equipment. Itll take them about two
hours to get the heavy machinery up here. We can start moving the haystack,
itll give us something to do.
The team attacked the haystack with a vengeance. The rescue unit arrived
and JD directed them to the barn. The men didnt have the equipment
to do much more than stand and watch until the specialized unit arrived.
It was a half hour before that unit arrived and Chris was going out of his
mind with worry that they were too late.
An optical cable with a light on the end of it was lowered down the pipe.
The grainy image appeared on the small black and white monitor. In the wan
light they could see a collection of plastic water bottles. Turning the cable
gently, the image showed a bloody foot. Chriss knees folded and he
began gasp for air. The paramedics pulled him to their gurney and forced
an oxygen mask onto his face.
The team stood, frozen with horror as they stared at the grainy image on
the screen. JDs hands opened and closed convulsively as he fought to
control his rampant emotions. Ezra stood at the young mans side, horror
showing plainly in his green eyes. Vin stood a little farther away from the
crush of people, he couldnt see the picture but he had seen the reaction
of the blonde man and was responding in kind. Even as the Texans knees
folded, Josiah was there to catch him and guide him to Chriss side.
Nathan stood behind Chris with both hands on the leaders shoulders
to prevent him from bolting again.
The optical cable was removed and a different cable fed into the pipe. The
new cable had a super-sensitive listening device on the end. The technician
had a set of headphones on his ears as he maneuvered the cable into place.
The cable was also attached to a small screen that rendered sound into visual
images. Ezra and JD stepped forward and got a peek at the screen. A series
of lines appeared on the screen and the technician looked up and nodded to
one of the others.
Hes breathing. Its labored, but he is breathing. We need
to pipe some heated oxygen down there. Also, get the mic line and attach
the optical cable to it, I want to try to talk to him.
The technicians rearranged the cables while another piece of equipment was
brought close to the pipe. The oxygen line was attached to the other cables
and they were fed down the pipe. The oxygen concentrator purred softly as
it began its lifesaving work. The technician pulled the headphones off and
offered it to the two men standing beside him.
Talk to him. Stay calm and dont let him hear that youre
upset. Can you do that?
JD shook his head and looked to Ezra. The southerner took the headset and
slipped it over his ears. He swallowed hard as he heard the faint sound of
the labored breathing.
M-M-Mr. Wilmington? Buck? Can you hear me? Youre going to be
all right. Well have you out of there shortly. Just stay calm. Buck?
Can you say something?
+ + + + + + +
The voices were back. It wasnt Chris this time, it was Ezra. He thrashed
in the box, striking the collection of plastic bottles as he pressed his
hands to his ears. He had to shut out the voices! He curled into a tighter
In his mind, he replayed the last part of the dream. He had survived the
transfusion and was on his way to recovery. Emotionally as well as physically,
he now shared a deep bond with Ezra. He owed the gambler his life. There
was an abundance of gentle teasing about Buck developing better manners and
a new wardrobe. The ladies man offered to give JD a transfusion to see if
it made him more attractive to the opposite sex.
The dream traveled forward and he saw them again, healthy and whole. They
were riding together across the plains, seven abreast. The spirit of brotherhood
and camaraderie was so strong he could almost taste it and feel it on his
skin. As the last vestiges of the dream faded, tears rolled down his cheeks.
+ + + + + + +
The backhoe and an excavator arrived a little over an hour later. In that
time, they had all tried to talk to Buck. They pleaded with him to speak
to them to no avail. The only consolation they had was that they could still
hear the labored breathing and what sounded like soft sobbing.
The two pieces of equipment made short work of reopening the trench. The
work slowed as they neared the level of the box. They didnt want to
risk jarring the box and the man inside. They had widened the area to allow
room to get men into the hole with shovels.
The sun was going down and they still had not recovered the box. The rest
of their family joined the members of Team 7. The Traviss
arrived together, followed by Nettie and Casey Wells. Rain Jackson arrived,
bringing medical supplies that the paramedics requested. Two vans filled
with ATF and FBI agents arrived. The media was kept at the edge of the Larabee
ranch; the judge didnt want them putting his mens fear on display
for the world to see.
A bonfire was built to give those waiting a place to warm up. Inez arrived
with her restaurant sized coffee maker and boxes of sandwiches that had been
donated by one of the Subway stores that the men frequented. The women moved
amongst the men, handing out coffee and sandwiches and simple comfort to
Finally, around ten oclock, there was a cry of discovery. They had
found the top of the box. A crew of men jumped into the hole with shovels.
In a few minutes they had cleared the top of the box. Shovels were exchanged
for crowbars as they began to try to open the top of the box. The paramedics
moved closer to the hole and prepared to receive the injured man. The members
of Team 7 surged forward as the others pulled back.
The sound of long nails being drawn out of the damp wood created a screeching
sound that was right out of a horror movie. The top sheet of plywood was
lifted out of the hole and the rescuers stepped back to study what they had
revealed. There was a thick layer of insulating sound batts inside of the
framework. The material was pulled out and handed up. They surveyed the next
layer before digging into it with the crowbars.
The six brothers reached for each other as they watched the next
step. Hands touched shoulders and wrapped around waists as they drew closer
together. That layer of plywood was attached with screws instead of nails
and required more work to lift it off. The plywood groaned and cracked as
it was pried off. The men dropped the crowbars and reached under the edge
to lift it out of the way.
If they thought they were prepared for what they were about to see, they
were wrong. Buck was covered in blood with vomit in his hair wearing only
his boxer shorts and tee shirt. He was curled into a tight ball and shaking.
There was a thin layer of water in the bottom of the box. A collection of
plastic water bottles lay in one corner.
The paramedic leapt into the hole and gently touched the shaking form. Chris
and the two younger members of the team surged forward and were carefully
restrained. Two more paramedics jumped into the hole and began to try to
assess Bucks injuries. Rain Jackson was lowered into the hole and knelt
on the dirt at the side of the box.
Get him out of there! Chris called.
Nathan gently spoke to the blonde, They dont want to do him any
more harm. They want to discover exactly how badly hes hurt before
they move him. Be patient, Chris.
A stokes basket was lowered into the hole and the three men eased Buck out
of the box. He was tense when they tried to lay him on his back and uncurl
his body. A groan of pain floated free from his lips and Chris made another
attempt to get to his side. It took both Josiah and Nathan to hold him back
this time. A blanket was placed over him and the basket was then gently lifted
and carried to the edge of the hole.
Once the basket was placed on the ground outside of the hole, the team surged
forward. Nathan reached out to draw his wife up and then stepped back to
let her work. Bags of warm saline were piggybacked and IV lines were started.
An oxygen mask was pressed to his face. His vitals were recorded and an EKG
started. The stokes basket was placed on top of the gurney and carried toward
the waiting ambulance.
The paramedic turned to face the six men pressed close to the open doors.
I can take two of you with us. The rest of you will have to follow.
Hands guided Chris and JD toward the ambulance. There was no discussion amongst
the men. JD climbed in first and Chris after him. The doors were closed and
the ambulance began to move away. There was a surge of bodies, pushing the
four remaining team members toward the 17 passenger vans. The four of them,
along with the women in their lives were loaded into the van and it moved
into place behind the ambulance.
The paramedic monitored Bucks vital signs as he watched the two men
at his side. The younger man kept reaching out and drawing back his trembling
hand. Finally, the paramedic took JDs hand and moved it to cover the
battered hand of his friend.
They arrived at the hospital and Buck was immediately whisked into an examination
room. Chris and JD clung to the side of the gurney every step of the way.
Neither man heard any of the doctors comments as their attention was
focused solely on the face of their friend.
Blood was drawn and sent off to the lab. The doctor ordered packed cells
for transfusion. There didnt appear to be any broken bones. The saline
solution was working well to combat the dehydration. Hot water bottles and
a warming blanket were set in place to raise his body temperature. The lab
work came back and the doctor was shocked to find such high levels of blood
thinner in Bucks bloodstream. He ordered a drug to combat the blood
thinner to be added to the IV line.
The nurse lifted Bucks hand from JDs and began to clean the split
knuckles. They were gauging the effect of the blood thinner by watching the
wounds as the dried blood was cleaned off of the cuts. The antiseptic stung
and Bucks hand twitched.
Hey, he moved! JDs voice was bright with joy.
The eyelids fluttered and the blue eyes opened once for a moment. Chris reached
out and stroked Bucks forehead gently. The blue eyes opened again and
looked around in confusion. A look of fear crossed the mans face and
he tensed. The nurse tightened her grip on his hand and spoke soothingly.
Its all right, Mr. Wilmington. Just relax. Youre going
to be fine.
The blue eyes drifted up to the nurse and then to the young man standing
next to her. His breathing quickened and he rolled his head back over to
the man on the other side of the bed. He broke out in a cold sweat before
he began to struggle to sit up. The nurse tried to restrain him until JD
pulled her hands away. Buck wrapped his arms around Chriss shoulders
The blonde mans tears mingled with Bucks as the two old friends
clung to each other. After several minutes, Chris eased his friend back onto
the bed. The blue eyes struggled to stay awake and lost. The nurse smiled
warmly at the contented expression on the mustached face.
It took a couple of hours to get Buck stabilized before he was moved to a
room. His body was gently washed as the nurses and doctor checked him for
other injuries. The rest of the team crowded into the room. The nurse brought
a cot and one of the recliners that she swiped from the maternity ward. The
men rearranged the room to suit themselves and settled in for the long haul.
The nurse came in and swabbed an area on Bucks forearm before tapping
him with a sharp, pointed object. She started a stopwatch as the droplet
of blood welled out of the tiny cut. JD watched her with great interest until
she stopped the watch and wiped over the small wound.
What are you doing?
The doctor wants us to keep a close eye on his blood clotting time.
It appears that the water your friend was drinking was laced with a drug
that dangerously thinned his blood. Weve been working to counter it
with another drug but we have to be careful not to give him too much. Has
he wakened at all?
Hes opened his eyes a couple of times and took some water. He
hasnt said anything yet, he just looks around and goes right back to
You look like you could use some sleep yourself.
I will when I get to talk to him. JD picked up Bucks hand
and rubbed the back of it, carefully avoiding the butterfly strips that had
been placed over the small cuts.
It may be a while; he was pretty weak when he came in. You really should
get some rest. Id hate for you to be sick from exhaustion when he does
finally come around.
From the corner of the room came a gruff voice, JD, lay down before
you fall down.
Smiling sheepishly at the nurse, the young agent pulled up a chair closer
to the bed and sat down in it. The nurse shook her head at him as she left
the room. JD rested his folded arms on the side of the bed and rested his
head on his arms. His eyelids closed as if by magic and he was asleep.
Buck opened his eyes and noticed the dark head near his hand. He reached
out and rested his palm on the back of the head. JD stirred only slightly
in his sleep and then settled back under the comforting touch.
It was two days before Buck was strong enough to try to talk about what had
happened. He had been troubled by nightmares that startled him out of his
sleep. The first time, he had bolted upright in the bed, yelling that Josiah
had been shot. It took three of them to keep him in the bed and settle him
down long enough to show him that the profiler was fine. The second nightmare
seemed to center on horses and Vin woke him before it got too out of hand.
The entire team gathered around to hear the ordeal from Bucks viewpoint.
Each man shuddered at some point in the telling. There were smiles and outright
laughter at the dream events. Chris sensed that his friend was holding back
on some things and vowed to talk to him about them later.
After a weeklong hospital stay, Buck was finally discharged. As he sat on
the edge of the bed waiting for the others to arrive, he looked at Chris.
The blonde had been nervous all morning, pacing and looking out the window
with loud sighs. His hands never seemed to stop moving as he sat picking
at imaginary lint on his dark gray tee shirt.
Okay, Larabee, out with it.
Out with what? The reply tried to come off innocently and failed.
What ever it is thats eating at you. Youve been as nervous
as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs since the doctor said
I could go home. Whats wrong?
Im just worried about,
I didnt know
how youd feel about being back at the ranch after
Thats all? Chris, it wasnt your fault! I love the ranch!
My feelings havent changed because of what happened. Ive been
looking forward to sitting on the deck watching the sun go down for the past
few days. I want to be there.
The blonde turned and there were tears welling up in his eyes. He blinked
them back just as the rest of the team arrived. Vin and JD were arguing about
the graphics on some video game they had rented. Josiah had picked up several
videotapes for Buck to watch. Ezra had several books on tape for him to listen
to while he finished convalescing. Nathan brought him several puzzles. The
ladies man had cocked an eyebrow at the idea of puzzles until he saw that
they were from the Playboy store. A wide grin burst out from
under his mustache as he vowed to enjoy putting together the pictures of
scantily clad women. JD eased one of the puzzles out of the bag and dropped
it like a hot rock when he saw the picture. As the rest of the team enjoyed
a good laugh at the young mans expense, Ezra assured him that he would
pass out if any more of his blood rushed into his cheeks.
The group fell silent as Josiahs suburban turned into the driveway
to the ranch. All of them tried to avoid looking toward the area where the
box had been buried but their eyes were inexplicably drawn. The hole had
been filled and leveled and the haystack was not as large as it had been
but the disturbed earth loudly proclaimed the site.
The box had been taken away the morning after the rescue but they had all
made a point, individually and in pairs, of going by the warehouse where
it was stored. JD and Ezra had nearly become sick at the sight of the bloody
marks on the plywood. Vin had shuddered, not able to even get close to the
box. Josiah and Nathan had stood shaking their heads in amazement that Buck
had survived at all. Chris had become angry when he saw the box. He had slammed
his fists into the side until other agents pulled him away.
Kinda like watching a train wreck. Cant hardly bear to watch
but cant look away.
Six heads nodded at the truth in Vins statement as the vehicle came
to a stop. They all got out and Josiah took the bags of clothes toward the
house. Buck looked toward the house but turned and headed for the barn. A
look of panic crossed JDs face and he looked to Chris for direction.
Setting the bags on the porch, Josiah joined the others as they followed
Buck to the place where the hole had been. Wilmington leaned against the
side of the barn and he suddenly felt drained as he looked at the raw dirt.
The tracks from the big excavator were still there and a shudder raced thru
him as he stared at them.
You okay, Buck? Chris spoke softly as he cocked his head toward
I will be, pard, I will be.