Hannah’s Journey

by Angie

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Josiah could hear Hannah calling him. As the waves of pain rolled over him, he struggled to focus on the questions that the paramedic was asking. He could hear Nathan answering for him. He wanted to speak to Nathan. He had to tell him to take care of Hannah! The pain intensified to the point that he was gasping in agony. A hand grasped his chin and lifted the oxygen mask. Something touched his tongue and he began to struggle against the restraining straps. He felt something wet under his tongue and the hands retreated. Nathan leaned close and gripped his forearm.

“Josiah, you’re all right. Just relax. It’s just medicine, nitro glycerin spray! Calm down. Try to breath deeply. Can you hear me?” He shifted his hand to grip the older man’s hand. “Squeeze my hand, Josiah.”

The fingers slowly wrapped around Nathan’s hand and Josiah relaxed. The paramedic nodded encouragingly to the ex-medic. The heart monitor showed the improvement in the rate of the older man’s heart. As the ambulance slowed, the paramedic began to shift the equipment around on the stretcher in preparation for moving into the emergency room.

Ezra rolled past the ambulance bay at St. Louis University Hospital and followed the signs to the parking lot. Buck stopped just long enough to drop off the others before following the other rental car into the parking lot. Both agents raced back around the building. They gathered together in the waiting room. Only Nathan was allowed to go with Josiah.

The doctor asked the same questions the paramedic had asked. Josiah was too out of it to answer. As the pain in his chest receded, he dropped off to sleep.

An hour later, Nathan came out to the waiting room. Five pairs of eager eyes drilled into him at once. He smiled and felt the relief sweep thru the men.

“It wasn’t a heart attack. He was having a panic attack. The symptoms are similar. They’re going to discharge him in a couple of hours because the more they insist on keeping him here, the more agitated he gets. They’ll give him something to help keep him calm but we’re going to have to watch him close. He wants to see you, Chris.”

It was nearly dark by the time they arrived back at the hotel. Chris ordered supper for them all from room service after Nathan ordered Josiah to bed. They had a message from Agent Reid that he hadn’t gotten the judges order until after the union hall had closed for the day. He would get the information first thing in the morning.

They ate mostly in silence. The thought of Josiah having a heart attack had frightened them all. After they had finished eating, Vin grabbed up his coat and left the suite. JD and Buck soon followed. Ezra stowed his weapon in his briefcase again and took the keys as he left.

Nathan checked on Josiah before dropping into one of the chairs and looking across the room at Chris as he stood staring out the window.

“What’s going to happen to him if we don’t find her alive, Nathan? I don’t know if I can bear to lose him. He really had me scared today.”

“I wish I could tell you that he’ll be okay but I just don’t know. He feels so much guilt over her condition anyway. He blames himself for not protecting her from their father. If McCoy kills her I think it will push him over the edge.”

The two men sat in silence for a long time, each lost in his own thoughts.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD sat in the corner of the sports bar sharing a pitcher. The other patrons largely ignored them as they cheered for the games being shown on TV screens all over the room. By the time Wilmington was feeling pleasantly buzzed, the kid was passed out on the table.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra raked the chips into his growing pile and flipped out another ante. He tossed back the drink he had been glaring at for the past three hands. The man at the far end of the table was barely concealing his anger as he had lost the last five hands to the southerner. Standish was playing aggressively, something he rarely did anymore. ‘Mother would be proud of me right now’ rolled across his mind as he picked up his cards.

It took most of an hour for Ezra to take the angry man for everything he had on the table. Throwing back another drink, he tossed the pretty dealer a tip and raked in his chips. From the corner of his eye, he saw the man throw an enraged gaze at him just before he swung on the undercover agent. His drunken swing missed, and Standish dropped the man with a hard chop to his shoulder. Security guards instantly grabbed him and threw him against the table. As he felt the handcuffs touch his wrist he heard the dealer yelling over the din.

“He was just defending himself! The other guy swung on him first!” The guards paused although they kept Ezra’s hands firmly pinned against his back. Another man shoved thru the crowd.

“Let him go! The other guy started it!”

Ezra felt the guards release his hands and he turned slowly to face the newcomer. A hard, green-eyed gaze met a cool, dark one as the head of the security detail tried to stare the ATF agent down. The two men continued to glare at each other for several moments before the head of security looked away.

“We got it on the security video. We’ve been watching you for the past hour Mr.?” He raised his eyebrows as the question hung between them.

Smiling, Ezra offered his hand to the man. “Standish. Denver ATF.”

“They don’t have gambling in Colorado? Come on, Agent Standish, I’ll escort you to the teller and you can cash out. Then I’ll have a couple of the guys deliver you to your car.”

Ezra turned to the dealer and held out his hand. Receiving her hand, he kissed it gently before pressing his card into it. The woman blushed to the roots of her hair as she tucked the card into her pocket.

+ + + + + + +

Morning found all of them tiptoeing around in the suite so Josiah could sleep a little longer. Buck and JD were both suffering from severe hangovers and Ezra was completely buried in his blanket snoring softly. Vin took up the chair nearest the window and stared across the river.

Chris’s phone rang, jarring the man from his reverie. He had been staring at the newspaper without really seeing it. Pulling his phone from his pocket, he flipped it open.

“Larabee. Great! Okay, we’ll be ready. Thanks.” After closing the phone he looked to Vin and Nathan. “Wake everyone and let’s get ready. They got the judges order and he should have the name of the jobsite in an hour or so.”

Everyone showered and dressed quickly. Nathan had picked up Tylenol when he had gotten Josiah’s prescription filled the day before. Both Buck and JD popped several tablets and washed them down with some tepid coffee. Ezra showered and dressed without comment and was waiting patiently for the rest of the team. Josiah looked calmer and more rested as he joined the group.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, they returned to the suite to wait for the call from Agent Reid. Chris kept the phone in his hand as he waited anxiously for the call. Everyone jumped when it rang, sounding much louder than normal in the quiet room.


“Agent Larabee, you aren’t going to believe how close this man is to you right now. He has been working on the new technical high school less than a mile from my office and not much more than a mile from your hotel. He’s probably been watching you and your men.”

After getting the address, they all agreed to meet on the newly completed parking lot of the school. Team 7 raced to the elevator and the parking garage. Chris and Ezra compared notes on the quickest route to the address before piling into the cars and peeling out. When they got to the building, there were three cars full of FBI agents waiting for them.

Agent Reid directed some of his men to move around the building to block the other exits. Chris sent Buck, JD, Ezra, Nathan and Vin with the FBI men. He and Josiah followed Agent Reid and the rest of the agents. As soon as they entered the building, they were approached.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” The man was wearing a hardhat and tool belt around his waist.

Agent Reid flashed his badge and the warrant for the arrest of Mr. McCoy. After reading thru the top page of the warrant, the man pulled his radio and rang another foreman to ask what part of the building the man was working in at the moment.

“Follow me, I’ll take you to him.”

The agents fell into step behind the man as he strode purposefully thru the nearly complete building. They climbed the stairs and turned down a hallway. McCoy looked up from the wall where he was working and saw the group of men coming toward him. The large, graying man was familiar and he threw down his tools and ran from the building.

Agent Reid keyed his radio and told the men outside to be ready as the rest of his group ran after the fleeing man. Down another set of stairs they raced, jumping over cords and wiring as they ran. The man had an advantage over the agents in pursuit of him because he knew the building. They continued to chase McCoy as he ran into the lowest level of the building.

Buck and JD had automatically moved to back each other up as the FBI agents paired up by the two exits on the back side of the building. They had no idea which door the man was headed toward. Suddenly, there was a muffled explosion inside the building. Both men looked up as the wall in front of them began to crumble.

In JD’s mind, time slowed to second-by-second images like an instant replay. He saw the wall develop cracks that raced upward. The wall then seemed to bulge for a moment as if trying to decide which way to hurl itself. From somewhere above his head, large pieces of the cement wall caps began to rain down along with shiny pieces of the new copper flashing. He looked to his left and saw Buck directly in the path of the largest sections of the falling debris. With a startled cry, JD shoved Buck away from the building. As he jumped back to avoid the other falling rocks, a section of the wall collapsed and knocked him to the ground. An anguished scream was ripped from him as a piece of rebar pinned him by his shoulder to the ground just before everything went dark.

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Inside the building, McCoy ducked as the boiler exploded. The agents chasing him were thrown to the floor like so many bowling pins as the percussion from the explosion reached them. It gave him just enough time to slip out of the building and run away. In the confusion and panic, no one noticed the man running away from the school.

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Buck also cried out as the wall fell around him. Something large hit the back of his thigh, knocking him to the ground. He threw his hands up to protect his head as the large sheet of aluminum that was laminated onto the brick landed across his legs. Somewhere deep in his mind, he wondered to himself about the drumming sound that surrounded him as the weight on his legs increased.

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The FBI agents were far enough away that they were able to seek protection behind the vehicles parked on the lot. They watched, wide eyed with horror, as the young agent pushed the older man away from the falling debris and was then buried under the falling wall. As soon as the wreckage settled, they keyed up their radio and called for the agent in charge.

+ + + + + + +

Chris rolled onto his stomach and pushed up to his hands and knees. Forcing his eyes to focus, he crawled over to Josiah and collapsed again. The smell of natural gas was nearly overpowering. He had no idea how long he lay with his head resting on the older man’s arm. His only instinct had been to get to his teammate and he had done just that.

Agent Reid shook his head and groaned as he felt the sharp, burning pain in his upper arm. Focusing his eyes on the painful area, he stared dispassionately at the piece of metal stud protruding from his arm. His gun lay in his hand but his fingers wouldn’t respond to his thought to lift it from the puddle of blood that it was laying in. He looked around the room. His other three agents were just beginning to move around. He turned to look for the two Denver agents. He watched, amazed, as Larabee crawled toward his man and slumped at his side. In the distance he could hear the sirens of the fire truck and police cars coming to his rescue.

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Vin and Ezra came around the building from opposite sides at the same time, both holding their guns ready to defend themselves if necessary. Catching sight of the FBI agents behind the big, red dodge truck, they moved away from the building looking for the rest of their friends. Nathan appeared from the direction Vin had come from and ran to their side. The FBI agents moved out and stood, slack jawed, as they stared at the huge hole in the building.

“Where are Buck and JD?” Ezra asked as he moved to block the nearest man’s view of the building.

The man’s eyes drifted across Ezra’s face before going back to the rubble and dust at the foot of the 40-foot wide hole in the wall. Vin’s mind finally processed what Ezra had asked and he followed the FBI agent’s line of sight to the twisted metal and brick. Nathan’s eyes were already searching the carnage for signs of movement.

Ezra refused to look toward the wreckage. He could see in the man’s eyes that his friends were buried in the rocks and steel beams. His shoulders slumped as he shuddered. His vision blurred as tears welled up in his eyes. He remained motionless as the police cars and fire truck pulled onto the lot. It didn’t register on his mind at all even as one of the police officers demanded that he put his gun down and get on his knees.

The FBI agent had already holstered his gun and turned to see the ATF agent standing in shock as two police officers shouted orders that he didn’t respond to. He flashed his badge at the police and moved quickly to ease the gun from Ezra’s hand and slipped it carefully into its holster. He then took hold of Ezra and guided him to the ground next to the truck.

+ + + + + + +

The fire chief called for Laclede Gas to come out and shut off the gas feed for the building. The smell of natural gas was thick in the air. He hoped that they could prevent this from becoming worse. The police had already set up a perimeter and were driving back the crowds. His trained eye took in the well-dressed men moving among the rubble and he wondered whom they were and what they had to do with this.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah coughed. The smell of gas was strong. He felt something heavy resting on his arm. He rolled toward that weight and found Chris at his side. Another coughing spell shook him and he wrapped his arm around the smaller man by reflex. His field of vision swam and he focused again on Agent Reid. The huge puddle of blood on the floor beside him told the whole story. He let his head fall again as he passed out.

+ + + + + + +

Buck shivered on the cold, hard blacktop and tried to push himself up only to find that he couldn’t move. He wasn’t in terrible pain but he was cold and the closed-in feeling of the space caused him to feel panicked. Pulling his hand under his head so he didn’t have to lay his cheek on the cold ground, he passed out again.

+ + + + + + +

Molly Morgan jumped from the rig and surveyed the scene. She was assigned to the fire and rescue unit that had the first alarm. A police officer ran up to her.

“We’re blocking off this back section of the parking lot to triage the injured. We’ve already got one guy over here that we think is in shock. Can you take a look at him?”

Grabbing her bag and a blanket from the rig, Molly followed the officer. The man was seated on the ground next to a truck. He had his legs drawn up with his wrists resting on his knees. His head hung down on his chest and he was shaking as the other police officer tried to get him to talk.

Molly looked around at the area and asked the officer to open the tailgate of the truck. She then took hold of the man and nodded to the other officer to pull him to his feet. Together, they guided him to sit on the tailgate and she began to assess him. Wrapping the blanket around his shoulders, she tipped his face up and looked into his eyes. The pain on his face caused her smile to falter for a moment. Suddenly, a black man ran up and took hold of the man.

“Ezra? Ezra, snap out of it, damn it, we need you to help us look for Buck and JD! Ezra, can you hear me?” Nathan snapped his fingers in front of the unfocused green eyes. Standish blinked rapidly for a moment before he drew a shaky breath and looked around. His shoulders immediately came up and he swallowed hard.

“Nathan? Did you find them? Chris and Josiah, have you seen them?”

“They’re bringing them out right now. Are you all right?”

Ezra looked at the woman standing at Nathan’s shoulder. He nodded hesitantly and started to slide off of the tailgate until the paramedic stopped him.

“Hold on just a minute! He’s still in shock. He needs to be observed.” Molly kept hold of Ezra’s arm.

Nathan gently lifted her hand. “Ma’am, I’ve been taking care of him for two years, he’s fine. Besides, they’ll be bringing you a couple of our friends who will need you much more than he does.” Taking Ezra by the arm again, he led him away from the paramedic. Molly didn’t have time to protest as the fire men began to bring out other injured men.

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Buck opened his eyes again to darkness. He tried to move and groaned softly at the pressure on his legs and back. Suddenly, it all came back to him! Pushing his hands out into the darkness, Buck began to scream for his roommate.

“JD! JD, where are you, kid? JD?”

Vin froze in his tracks as his ears oriented on Buck’s voice. “He’s over here!” He yelled to Nathan and Ezra as he began to pick up anything he could lift and toss it out of his way. Several firemen immediately joined him. Within minutes they saw a hand thrust up from under the rubble. Vin dropped to his knees and clasped the hand.

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Chris felt a blanket being tucked around him and opened his eyes. An oxygen mask was covering his nose and mouth and he raised his hand to swat it away so he could talk. A face appeared above him and a pair of warm, brown eyes studied him.

“You leave that there, you hear me? You’ve been sucking up natural gas for a while and you need that oxygen. Just lay still for a few minutes. Okay?” She continued to look into his eyes as if waiting for an answer, so he nodded.

When the woman moved away from his side, he turned his head to look for Josiah. He finally caught sight of him being tended to by the woman and another man. Lifting his hand out from under the blanket, Chris pulled the mask off and sat up carefully. The world wobbled a little in his mind before it steadied. It looked like a war zone when he looked over his shoulder. Spotting Vin kneeling in the wreckage of the wall, he pulled the blanket off and tried to swing his feet off of the tailgate of the truck where he had been laying. Suddenly the woman was back at his side.

“Now I told you to leave this on your face! Where do you think you’re going? Sit right down here before you fall down.” Molly used her best mom-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer voice. The hazel eyes raked hers before he shrugged her hand off and staggered back into the collapsed section of the wall.

“Vin! Is it Buck and JD?”

Tanner looked up to see Chris staggering toward him. “Just Buck so far, Chris. We’re still looking for the kid. You better get back over there and let the paramedics take care of you before Nathan gets hold of you.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the ex-medic appeared at Chris’s side and dragged him back to the lady paramedic.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra climbed over the rocks and metal studs without care as he called for JD. The FBI agents had explained that the kid had pushed Buck away from the building before being forced to duck back toward the wall to avoid the falling concrete wall caps. A fireman tried to call him from the pile of rocks he was climbing over when he heard a weak groan of pain. Adrenaline surged thru Ezra’s body as he crawled toward the sound.

JD opened his eyes to darkness and pain. His first instinct was to move and he immediately regretted it. The pain in his right shoulder radiated out and he cried out. With his left hand, he reached over and felt his right shoulder. The metal bar pinned him to the ground and he could feel the sticky feeling of blood. His stomach quailed and he fought not to get sick. He tried to flex his fingers on his right hand and felt the grip of his gun holding his fingers to the ground. He thought he heard Ezra calling his name and he called out to him.

The firemen attacked the pile of rocks with a vengeance after hearing the weak call from the man trapped beneath them. At one point, they realized that the pile was in danger of shifting and ordered all work on the pile to stop.

Chris was watching the rescue from the safety of the triage area when he noticed that they had stopped. He watched as several angry looking firemen forcibly removed Nathan and Ezra. His anger flared and he tossed the blanket off again as he got to his feet. He was much steadier now and reached his target in a moment.

“What in the hell are you waiting for? Why have you stopped trying to get to JD?” The Larabee glare was at full strength and the fireman actually blanched for a moment.

“We have to get some shoring in here or we’ll bring the whole thing down on him. It won’t be more than an hour before they get here to shore up the sides. Then we’ll go back in there.”

Chris grabbed the fireman by the throat. “He can’t wait an hour! Get someone in here now!”

Nathan and Ezra both landed on Chris, easing his hand off of the fireman and pulling him away. They guided him to the place where Vin knelt holding onto Buck’s hand as the firemen continued to try to excavate him from the wreckage. Forcing their leader to his knees, Nathan guided Chris’s hands to take hold of Buck’s. Almost immediately, tears spilled from the hazel eyes and he leaned to rest his head on Vin’s shoulder.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah finally convinced Molly to let him sit up. Nathan had told him at first that Buck was trapped and alive but they didn’t know about JD. After what seemed like an eternity, he had returned to tell him that JD was alive but trapped under a large pile of the collapsed wall. Nathan had also warned the paramedics about him being in the hospital the day before. He watched as Chris clung to Vin after being pulled off of the fireman.

+ + + + + + +

One of the foremen suggested that they bring in the skid loader and use the tines to shore up the hole until the steel supports could be brought in. Ezra, hearing the suggestion, leapt on the idea and pushed the firemen to give it a try. It took only fifteen minutes to clear a path for the skid loader to get up to the large section of the wall that they had been worried about. Slowly, gently, the tines were lifted until they touched the troublesome piece of concrete. The hydraulics on the forklift whined for a moment before the large section of the wall lifted ever so slightly and then balanced on the tines.

“Molly! Grab your bag and come on. They think they found the other guy but none of us can get to him because the opening is too small.”

She didn’t hesitate for a minute as she grabbed her bag and raced to the edge of the building. Seeing the huge slab of concrete balanced on the tines of the skid loader did give her a moment of pause. Her supervisor, Jack Patterson, handed her a 12-volt flashlight and she dropped to her knees. It would be tight; the rocks were actually the rebar-reinforced section of the wall foundation. Shining the light into the hole, she saw what looked like a head of dark hair and a very pale swatch of forehead.

Jack grabbed her arm. “You don’t have to do this if you’re not comfortable with it.”

Molly glanced past Jack’s shoulder and found herself looking into the brilliant green eyes of the first man she had treated on the scene. Nodding, she clasped Jack’s arm. “It’s all good. I can do this.”

Dropping to her hands and knees, she paused just long enough to point at the construction foreman’s hardhat. It was immediately surrendered and placed on her head. Gripping the flashlight, she crawled into the tiny, cramped space. It was a good eight feet to the young man and Molly began to have serious reservations about the wisdom of crawling into what could easily become her tomb. Upon reaching JD, all her reservations disappeared. He was so very pale that she was almost afraid she was too late. Checking to see if her fingertips were terribly cold against her own skin first, she touched his neck and felt for a pulse. It was weak but steady.

Keying her radio, Molly called back to Jack. “He’s alive but weak. He has a piece of rebar thru his right shoulder with a significant loss of blood. I’d like to start an IV to build up his volume. Can you rig a basket on a board or something to pass things in and out?”

“It’s as good as done. Can you tell if he has any other injuries?”

Molly moved her flashlight and raised her head until her hardhat touched the top of the tunnel. Reaching out with her left hand, she checked his ribs and left arm. Wiggling around as far as she could, she was able to run her hand over his hips and upper thighs.

“No injury to the trunk other than the rebar. Hips feel solid. No visible bleeding other than the rebar. Can you send in a blanket and some thermal packs, he’s pretty cold.”

Jack saw the hope that lit the eyes of the green-eyed agent at her words. “Okay, I’m sending in the IV fluids. I’ll have to call out for the thermal packs but you’ll get the blanket in a few minutes.” One of the carpenters had brought him a metal basket attached to a length of a 1x4 board. They had carefully lined it with a large gauze pad to prevent anything from puncturing the IV bag. Jack slid the basket in until he felt Molly take control of it. When she pushed it back, he pulled it out and put the rolled up blanket in it and sent it back.

Because of the cramped conditions in the tunnel, Molly was not left with many options for places to start an IV. She couldn’t get to the bend of his arm. Finally, she resorted to using a vein in his neck. She had to unzip sweatshirt jacket to gain access. A painful cramp stitched up in her back as she tried to maneuver around in the confined space.

When Molly scrubbed his neck with the alcohol swab to get it ready for the IV, he began to move and whimpered softly. Quickly squirming around so she could see his face, she smiled warmly.

“Hey there! Take it easy. Don’t try to move around, okay? My name is Molly. Can you remember what happened?” She saw his eyes become frightened as he remembered. He began to breath faster and she felt him tense up under her hand. “No, no. Don’t get upset. You’re going to be fine. Just stay calm. I know it hurts but you have to lay still.”

Big brown eyes locked on hers as if to gauge the truth of her words. Tears welled up in his eyes and he tried to blink them away. Her smile was gentle as she touched his cheek.

“It’s okay to cry too. You’ve had a hard day. I need to start an IV in your neck right here, okay? Just lay really still and I’ll get it over with quick.” She nodded as she spoke to encourage him to agree. When his chin finally dipped slightly, she wiggled back around to his side and took up the needle. She felt his shudder and stroked his cheek a few times before cleaning his neck again with another alcohol pad. “Little stick here,” she warned. A small gasp was all the response she got from him. After she taped the IV line in place, she spread the blanket over him and tucked it in as much as she could.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan and Ezra sat as close to the opening as the firemen would allow. Vin wandered over for a moment but quickly returned to Chris and Buck. Josiah slipped away from the paramedic and knelt down behind them. Nathan quietly updated him on what little they knew before retreating into silence again.

+ + + + + + +

It took two hours for the firemen to clear the rocks away from Buck’s head so he could see the others. Molly’s partner, Deslin, checked Buck as well as he could while he was still pinned in the rubble. He started an IV and tucked a folded blanket under Wilmington’s chest as far as he could reach to try to insulate him from the ground.

+ + + + + + +

In the dark and enclosed space, JD finally found the courage to voice the question that was tearing him up inside. “Do you know what happened to Buck, Ma’am?”

The female paramedic smiled. “My name is Molly. Ma’am was my mother in law. Which one is Buck? I met one guy with gorgeous green eyes, a black man, an older man with eyes the color of the summer sky and I saw one guy with kinda long, brown hair.”

JD’s heart lurched. “The one with green eyes is Ezra. Black man is Nathan. The older man is Josiah. The one with the long hair is Vin.”

“How about the guy with the intense hazel eyes, kinda bossy?”

“That’s Chris.” JD turned his head away from Molly so she wouldn’t see the tears that he couldn’t stop.

“Is Buck the guy you pushed out of the way?” She asked softly as she touched his cheek. His head nodded slightly. “He’s trapped under some wreckage. I don’t know much more than that. Do you want me to try to find out?” She got another slight nod. She keyed her radio. “Hey Jack, can you find out how the other agent is doing?”

A couple of minutes later, Jack radioed back. “They’re still trying to extricate him but he doesn’t seem to be hurt too badly.”

“Can you get a radio to him? I’ve got someone here who needs to hear his voice.” JD turned his head and looked at her with wide eyes as she nodded. A moment later Jack keyed the radio again but the voice was not Jack.

“Hey kid, can you hear me?” From the sudden flow of tears, she guessed it was Buck. She keyed the mike and nodded for JD to answer.

“Buck? Are you okay?” It was all he could get past the tightening in his throat.

“You probably saved my life, kid. You just hold on. They’re going to get you out of there and we’re gonna find Hannah so we can go home, okay?”

“I’m scared, Buck.”

Molly pressed her eyes to her sleeve to catch the tears that she couldn’t stop. He sounded so young and vulnerable.

“Me too, kid. You just hold on. You’re not alone. We’re all here with ya.”

Another voice came over the radio. “JD? You hang in there, kid. We’re going to get you out.”

The voice seemed to infuse the young man with strength because Molly noticed that his breathing evened out some and the tears slowed.

“I know, Chris. I just didn’t know what happened to Buck.”

Molly pulled the radio back. “I need to talk to Jack again, okay?” When she heard Jack clear the mike, she asked. “How soon can we get those thermal packs? It’s really cold in here and he’s on the ground.”

“Coming right in.” He pulled the packs and dropped them into the basket. Guiding it into the tunnel and pulling it back empty, Jack caught Ezra’s eye. “Your friends talked to each other a minute ago. Would you like to talk to him?”

Ezra took the offered radio and keyed the mike. “Mr. Dunne? Can you hear me?”

Molly caught the look of joy on her patient’s face as she keyed the mike for him. “Ezra? I hear you fine. Is everyone else okay? I talked to Chris and Buck a minute ago.”

“We’re all fine. Just waiting for you to get out of there. Leave it to you to monopolize the prettiest woman in the area and get her to crawl into a hole with you. Mr. Wilmington is corrupting you.”

JD smiled warmly at Molly. “I’d be glad to trade places with you, Ezra. She’s more your type anyway.”

The next voice was different. “That’s a fine way to get out of letting me tend to you. Crawling in a hole with a lady and acting like you’re hurt. I just may have to agree with Ezra, Buck’s warping you, kid.”

The next voice was deeply pitched and full of emotion. “You just hang in there, John Dunne. You’re a special gift to all of us. I’ll be sitting here praying for you until you’re brought into the light.”

The tears started again as JD listened to Josiah.

“Okay, guys, that’s enough for now. I need for JD to lay quietly for a while.” She said as she took back the radio. She tucked the thermal packs under his arms, put one on his stomach and one in his left hand. She couldn’t reach his right hand because it was under a beam.

“JD, I’m going to put a blood pressure cuff around your right arm, it’ll probably hurt when I move it but I’ll be quick. Okay?” She waited for the slight nod to slide her fingers under his arm. To his credit, JD only hissed as the movement jarred the rebar in his shoulder. She managed to get the cuff into place and checked his blood pressure.

“Jack, I’m going to need another bag of fluids in here. His pressure is pretty low. Can you check the hospital and see if we can give him a couple of pints of blood? I don’t want his volume to get too low.”

“You gotta be kidding, Molly. You know they won’t give you permission to give blood in the field as long as he’s stable.”

“Well check and see. He’s so pale.”

Nathan had shadowed Jack when he heard Molly calling for more fluids. “Excuse me, Jack, but JD’s always pale like that. It’s natural for him. But tell her to watch him. He has a touchy stomach. If he gets too shook up he hyperventilates and he’ll throw up.”

“I’ll pass that along.” Jack walked back to the rig to get the things Molly wanted and radioed to tell her what Nathan had said about her patient.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was becoming uncomfortable. Laying flat on his stomach on the cold black top was bad enough but all the fluid they were putting into his arm was causing another problem. One of the firemen was wiggling alongside of him as he tried to determine if they could use a hydraulic jack to lift the load from his back to pull him out. The jostling brought a blush to Wilmington’s face as his need for the bathroom increased.

+ + + + + + +

As the hours passed, clouds gathered and the temperature dropped. By the time the truck arrived with the concrete supports to shore up the tunnel where JD was, it had begun to rain. The ATF agents were sent farther away from the mouth of the tunnel while a crane lifted the forms from the truck and lowered them to the ground. The next phase of the rescue could proceed as soon as they got the forms under the section of the wall that was being supported by the skid loader.

Jack keyed his mike. “Molly, you need to come out. They’re going to try to put the forms into place.”

“Tell them to go ahead, Jack. I’m not leaving my patient.”

“Molly Morgan, you get your ass out here! You know I can’t let you stay in there while they try to raise up that mess on top of you! It’s too dangerous!”

JD had dozed off after talking to his friends. The angry and urgent tone in Jack’s voice awoke him. He turned his wide, frightened eyes to Molly as he thought about being left alone in the dark tunnel again. His breathing quickened and he began to struggle.

“No, you lay still! I’m not going anyplace, JD. I’m not going until you do, okay? Calm down. I don’t want you getting sick in here. Take it easy.” She placed her hand on his left shoulder and pressed down firmly as she stared into his eyes. “Trust me, okay?”

JD nodded and sighed softly.

“Jack, you do what you have to do but I’m staying right where I am.”

+ + + + + + +

Buck couldn’t help but to flinch when he felt the fireman’s hands moving along his side. A startled yelp followed when the cold metal of the jack touched his side. His feet and legs were so cold that he could not feel them anymore. As the rain picked up in intensity, the firemen draped their work area with a tarp to try to keep Buck dry.

+ + + + + + +

The engineer that had been brought in to supervise the placement of the support forms shook his head at the plan. Stan Pilinger was afraid that the rubble would shift when they tried to raise the concrete slab high enough to put the form in place. Since it was the only option, he reluctantly gave the go ahead. The hydraulics on the little skid loader were being stressed to the limit when they were used to hold the slab, when they tried to raise it higher the pressure hose burst and the slab shifted precariously.

The ATF agents reached for each other as they saw the slab shift. The police officers moved closer in case they tried to get back to the tunnel. Nearer to the skid loader, a fireman was also holding Jack back.

Molly and JD heard the groan as the mountain of rubble shifted and settled again. JD cried out as the beam pinning his gun shifted and pressed the weapon painfully into his palm. Molly immediately wiggled around to try to help. Grabbing a fist-sized rock, she wedged it under the beam to prevent it from pressing any farther into his hand. Straining to reach the gun, she tried to feel around to see if she could move it.

Jack keyed his mike and shouted for Molly. Hearing the frightened tone in his voice, she responded.

“We’re still here, Jack. What happened?”

“The skid loader burst a hydraulic line. They’re going to bring in a bigger jack to try to raise the slab. You have got to come out of there!”

“No can do, boss. Listen, can you get me one of the little jacks? I want to try to shore up the beam across his hip.”

“You can’t be raising up from underneath, Molly, you’ll bring the whole thing down on you!”

JD’s eyes widened in fear as he stared at Molly. He looked around at the slab of concrete, rebar and brick that was balanced precariously above him. His stomach began to rebel and he tried to roll over, crying out as he moved.

Molly instinctively reached out and steadied JD. His left hand gripped the rebar pinning him to the ground and he struggled against it in complete panic!

“JD! JD, stop it, you’re only making it worse! Calm down!” Only a few moments later, his eyelids fluttered and he passed out. Molly felt around his shoulder at the sudden increase in the blood flowing from the wound. “Damn, damn!” She angrily keyed the mike. “Thanks, Jack! You sent him into a panic! I don’t have any choice! Send me two units of blood and a pair of small jacks! He’s bleeding badly from the shoulder wound now!”

Jack bit back an angry response. He had violated one of the most basic rules in rescue situations; he had allowed his emotions to cause him to say more than he needed to. As he searched for the jacks Molly wanted, he found Nathan at his side again.

“JD has blood type A-positive.” Seeing the desolation in the other man’s eyes, Nathan gripped his arm. “You didn’t mean any harm. I can tell that you’re worried about her.”

Molly pulled the jacks from the basket and shoved it away angrily. It was one of the hazards of dating a man you worked with, emotions tended to override common sense. Wiggling her hand down along JD’s side, she set the smallest jack under the steel beam and began to try to brace it. The temperature had dropped until her fingers were cold and numb. Several times, her hand slipped from the handle of the jack and she scraped her knuckles on the ground.

Finally, the jack began to push against the beam. Even as the muscle spasm in her shoulder brought tears to her eyes, Molly continued to wiggle her hand around until she felt the gun slide free. Wrapping her hand around the handgrip, she eased it out of the dark hole and dropped it into the basket.

+ + + + + + +

The jacks alongside of Buck raised the aluminum panel slowly. The firemen were afraid that the panel would bend but it held as they raised it a fraction of an inch at a time. Buck was itching to get out from under the rubble so he could go to the bathroom. The sound of the rain on the tarp had only intensified his need.

Finally, they had reached the clearance they needed and, taking Buck by the arms, they pulled him out from under the rubble. Chris and Vin rushed to his side immediately. Fighting off the paramedic and fireman who were insisting that he go on the stretcher, Buck walked away to find a place to empty his agonized bladder. When he returned, he allowed them to put him on the stretcher for the trip to the hospital.

“I want to talk to the kid before I go!” Buck told Chris as he saw the lights set up around the skid loader as they were guiding the forms into place.

Vin left Buck to go find the man who had let them talk to JD before. Jack was standing near the rig talking on the phone.

“They got him out?” Jack asked. When Vin nodded, he asked. “What did you need?”

“Can I borrow your radio? Buck won’t go to the hospital until he talks to the kid.”

“He’s passed out. Panicked a little while ago and passed out. I’m trying to get permission from the hospital to give him blood. I’m sorry.”

Vin nodded and returned to Buck. “Sorry, Bucklin, kid’s passed out. You go on to the hospital and I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”

Buck shook his head and began to try to get up from the stretcher. “I’m not leaving until I talk to the kid! I’m not hurt and I’m not leaving!”

Chris pinned Buck to the stretcher. The Larabee glare met with the ferocious protective emotion in Buck’s eyes. Vin stepped back, it was like watching the clash of the titans. Both men were strong willed and stubborn. Chris was protecting his oldest friend and Buck was protecting his roommate, the kid he cared about like a son. Finally, Buck looked away, there were tears in his eyes.

Chris patted Buck’s shoulder. “Vin and the others will be here with JD. He would want you to go get checked out. Now, stop fussing and let’s get going.” After Buck nodded, the paramedics loaded the stretcher into the ambulance and Chris turned to Vin. “Tell him that Buck wanted to stay.” He dragged his hand thru his rain-dampened hair before climbing into the ambulance.

+ + + + + + +

JD was shaking. Between the cold and the blood loss, he couldn’t be still. The pain in his shoulder now radiated out until his entire ribcage ached. His hands were so cold that he couldn’t feel them at all. He felt the blood pressure cuff squeeze his arm and turned his head to look for Molly.

She was beginning to worry. JD’s blood pressure was falling slowly. Even with the extra fluid she was giving him, he was losing ground.

“How you doing, kiddo?” She asked as she brushed a lock of hair from his face.

“Cold, Molly. So cold. I can’t feel my hands or my legs. Feel sleepy, too.” His voice trailed off weakly and his eyes closed.

“Jack! I need more thermal packs, warm saline and what’s the deal with the whole blood?”

“It’s on its way! Send out the thermal packs and I’ll recharge them. Let your patient know that they got his friend out and took him to the hospital a little while ago.”

“I’ll tell him, Jack, when he wakes up again. His pressure’s dropping off. 90 over 60 last time I checked. Can’t we just cut the rebar and get him out of here?”

“Molly, what if that rebar is holding up the roof in there? Have you thought about it? If you can’t handle it, tell me and I’ll get someone else to come in there.”

“No Jack! He trusts me. I’ll stay. Just put a rush on the blood when it gets here.”

+ + + + + + +

Nathan noticed that Josiah was beginning to scrub at his chest again. The stress of this situation on top of everything else was getting to him again.

“Josiah, did you bring your medicine with you?” Nathan asked after pulling him away from the others.

“No, I left it at the hotel. I’m fine, Nathan. Just worried about JD.”

“We’re all worried about JD. But you went to the hospital yesterday. Remember what the doctor told you? No more stress! Now I know you can’t do anything about the stress but you have to take the medicine they gave you!”

“I can’t leave, Nathan. I have to stay until JD’s safe.”

+ + + + + + +

The second ambulance rolled onto the parking lot and a paramedic jumped out and ran to Jack. He handed off the two units of blood. The firemen were still trying to guide the concrete form into the opening, so he would have to wait.

Nathan approached one of the police officers and showed his badge and ID. “Could I ask a favor of you? One of the other agents left his medicine in our hotel room, would it be possible for one of you to take me there to pick it up?”

The officer nodded and threw down his cigarette. “Come on. What hotel?”

+ + + + + + +

The rumble of thunder woke JD and he shivered. “Molly? Are you still here?”

“Where would I go? I told you I wouldn’t leave without you. Hey, I got some good news. Your friend Buck was rescued and they took him to the hospital a while ago. He didn’t want to go without talking to you but they made him.”

JD drew a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. Buck was safe! He began to sob. Molly put her arm lightly across his chest and pressed her head against his cheek as she shushed him gently. They were both startled by another shift in the rubble as the concrete slab was settled on the form. Almost immediately after, Jack’s voice came over the radio.

“Molly, are you two all right? I’ve got the blood out here. I’ll send it right in. Do you need anything else?” His concern carried quite clearly to the woman and she smiled.

“It’s good to hear your voice, Jack. Why don’t you send in some water and maybe some hot soup or something, I don’t know about JD, but I’m starving. We could use another blanket or two.”

+ + + + + + +

Buck argued with the doctor until he was red in the face but it took Chris making it an order for him to agree to being admitted to the hospital. His blood pressure was elevated and they were concerned about the length of time he had been subjected to the weight pressing on his legs. They only wanted to keep him for 24 hours, but to Buck it was a lifetime while he worried about JD.

+ + + + + + +

Molly started the blood into JD’s IV as soon as she got it. The kid was drifting in and out. She replaced the thermal packs and covered him with another blanket. She could hear the rain and it was seeping across the blacktop beneath her.

JD began to pick up after the second unit of blood. His color improved a little and the trembling eased. She offered him a sip of water and he refused. After several minutes, it became clear that something was troubling him.

“What’s wrong, JD? Do you hurt somewhere else?” The tension in his shoulder and jaw had her concerned. His hand danced against the ground. As she watched it suddenly dawned on her. They had been trapped for most of the day. “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” She caught the slight hitch in his breathing as he nodded. Just thinking about it caused her own bladder to scream for relief. “Me too. Tell you what, I’m going to have to slide out of here for a minute and I’ll bring back something for you to use, okay?”

Terror filled his face instantly. “Don’t leave me! Please? I’m scared!”

She touched his shoulder again. “I’ll only be gone a couple of minutes. I promise. I’ll be back. How about if I leave you the radio and you can talk to your friends while I’m gone. You’ll hardly even know I’m gone! Okay?” He sniffled quietly and nodded. Keying the mike she called to Jack. “Hey boss! My patient wants to talk to his friends, okay?”

Jack jogged over to the ATF agents and handed the radio to Vin. “He wants to talk to you.”

As soon as JD began to talk to his friends, Molly squirmed out of the tunnel. One of the firemen hauled her to her feet. Jack saw her and ran to her side.

“What happened?” She wouldn’t come out when he ordered her and now she was out without warning.

“Bathroom, now! And find me a urinal. Kid has to go too.” She didn’t wait for a response from him, she dashed toward the open door of the school building. Five minutes later, she ran back across the blacktop, stopping to take the urinal from Jack before crawling back into the tunnel.

JD was listening as Ezra relayed what Chris was saying about Buck. The southerner’s voice was soothing to the young man. From the sound of it, Buck was being held hostage by the doctors at the hospital and the rest of the team was chuckling at his misfortune. JD interrupted Ezra to tell him that Molly was back and he needed to talk to her.

Molly handed him the plastic urinal. “Can you manage this by yourself?” She didn’t want to embarrass him unnecessarily.

“I think so. Thanks, Molly.”

“Okay. I’m going to give you some privacy. I think they brought some food and I’ll see if I can steal some for us. Okay?” At his grateful nod, she slipped out again.

When she came back, she had a thermos of soup and some sandwiches. The doctor at the hospital cautioned her to be careful about giving him too much because he would probably have to go into surgery as soon as he got to the hospital. His nose quivered as she brought in the food.

“Hungry?” She asked, teasing him.

“Starving!” His eyes suddenly looked puzzled. “Molly, what are they doing out there? Why aren’t they trying to get me out?”

“They’re shoring up the collapsed wall from the other side because it’s too unsteady to try to raise it without bringing the whole thing down on us. You have to be patient, JD. We’ll get you out.”

She distracted him with the soup. She rolled one of the blankets and gently worked it under his head without jarring his shoulder. The bleeding had stopped and she didn’t want to start it again. Letting him sip the soup thru a straw, she watched carefully to see if he would keep it down. The little bit of warm soup seemed to recharge him so much that she let him have a sandwich a little while later.