Hannah’s Journey

by Angie

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+ + + + + + +

When Nathan returned from the hotel, he brought heavier jackets for all of them along with Josiah’s medicine. The ex-medic was worried that they would all be sick after spending the evening standing in the rain waiting for JD to be rescued. They had been coaxed by the police to sit in one of the cars for a while to warm up, but none of them would stay for more than a few minutes. The FBI agents lingered in a separate group. The death of Agent Reid had unsettled them. Several had a blood lust for McCoy and were busy planning for the man’s demise.

+ + + + + + +

Molly was exhausted. She had started her shift at 7:00 that morning and it was now almost midnight. JD had settled into a light sleep after eating and she curled up close to him and closed her eyes after laying her head the edge of the blanket next to his head. That’s how the fireman found them an hour later when it was finally determined to be safe enough to cut the rebar and try to get JD out.

At the gentle nudge on her leg, Molly was instantly awake. The fireman in his big heavy helmet and coat blocked the tunnel completely leaving her decidedly disoriented. JD, wakened by the absence of Molly’s warmth at his shoulder, looked up at the fireman and his eyes widened in surprise.

“Are you ready to try to get out of here, son?” The fireman asked as he removed his helmet. JD nodded immediately. “Okay. You’re going to have to bear with me because there’s only one way to cut rebar and it’s probably going to hurt like hell. Ready?”

JD’s nod was not as confident as it had been. Fear crawled across his pale features and he reached for Molly with his left hand.

“It’s okay, JD, I’m not going anyplace.” She had known this was coming, there was only one way to cut thru the rebar and it would definitely be painful for him but she couldn’t give him anything for pain because his blood pressure was so low.

The fireman brought the sawzall around and set it down on his knees. “I’m going to put this special blanket over you to protect you from the sparks, okay?” The large brown eyes blinked slowly before JD nodded again. “Molly, can you reach across him and stabilize the rebar?” She nodded and shifted around.

“JD, I’m going to lean across you. I’ll try not to put my weight on you, okay? Just hang on, it’s almost over now.” She nodded as she spoke, encouraging him again to agree with her.

“Can I put my arm around you?” His voice had tightened up again and there were tears in his eyes.

“Of course! Hold on to me and we’ll get you out of this. Ready?” She leaned across JD and gripped the rebar above his shoulder. She felt his arm reach across her back and she felt him shaking. Looking up at the fireman, she nodded and he covered them both with the fire resistant blanket.

The roar of the sawzall was incredible in the enclosed space. Molly felt JD tense up and she tightened her grip on the bar. As soon as the cutting edge touched the bar, the vibration traveled down and into JD’s shoulder. She felt his hand tighten on her side and heard his cry of pain. When she felt him try to move beneath her she let her weight down against him. His right hand came up and gripped her shoulder. The vibration intensified and JD’s fingers dug into her side and shoulder. Suddenly the sawzall stopped. When the ringing in her ears stopped, she heard JD sobbing.

The blanket was pulled away and a firm hand gripped Molly’s wrists. “You can let go now. Molly?”

She uncurled her fingers from the bar and rested her elbows alongside of JD as she rested her head against his arm. Peripherally, she was aware of the fireman handing the sawzall out to someone else and bringing in some other equipment. She could not move because JD was clinging to her for dear life. When she could find her voice, she spoke to him softly.

“JD? Can you let go now? The worst of it is over, kiddo.” As his shaking hands relaxed, she pulled away. The shoulder wound was bleeding again but that wasn’t what held her eyes. JD was pale as snow and gasping for breath. She caressed his face gently to calm him. Finally, his breathing slowed and he stopped crying.

The fireman cleared his throat. “Sorry about that, son. There just isn’t any other way to do it. Molly, can you tell if his legs are free? I don’t want to have to use the jacks unless I have to in here.”

Yes, his legs are free but this beam is going to make it a problem to slide him out.”

“Okay. I’ll put the jacks in and we’ll raise it a couple of inches. They’re going to pass in a backboard. We have to get him immobilized on it before we start.” He called up the tunnel and reached out to take the board.

“There isn’t any easy way to do this either, JD. We’re going to lift you up and slide this board under you, okay?” She frowned at the C-collar that came in next. “That’s going to be awfully close to the rebar, don’t we have a soft collar in the rig?”

“Jack said the hospital wants hard restraint.”

“Okay. Let’s get this over with. JD, try not to move at all. Just let us do all the work. Hold onto my arms if you want.” She nodded and the fireman put the collar over JD carefully avoiding touching the rebar. The small amount of movement required putting on the collar caused intense pain, but JD clenched his teeth and rode it out. It was fortunate that the rebar was not embedded into the black top. The fireman eased his fingers under JD’s shoulders and lifted him just enough to start the board under the bar and slid it into place.

JD’s fingers dug into Molly’s arms as he fought the urge to scream from the pain. When he opened his eyes, she was watching him intently. She smiled.

“You did it, kiddo. You’re almost free!” She eased his hands onto his stomach and tucked the blanket around him snuggly. Taking the roll of tape, she began to secure him to the board. The bag of saline solution was almost empty, so she disconnected it, leaving the needle in place so that they wouldn’t have to stick him again at the hospital. Finally, the fireman began to wiggle out of the tunnel and took hold of the board.

“Here we go, JD. You ready?” He couldn’t nod, but he smiled. As the board was pulled up the tunnel, she made sure that his feet didn’t get hung up on the beam as they came out.

As soon as the board cleared the tunnel, several firemen reached out to help guide him out and then they lifted him onto the stretcher. Molly crawled out and was pulled to her feet by the same firemen. As soon as he saw her, JD reached out for her. She crossed to the stretcher and took his hand.

When the stretcher reached the ambulance, the other four ATF agents surrounded them. Molly tried to back away but JD had a death grip on her hand. The stretcher was lifted to go into the ambulance before he would let her go. As the paramedics assigned to the rig climbed in, JD called for Molly. Jack nodded as she sought his permission to go. As she turned to climb into the ambulance, a warm hand took her arm. She smiled at Ezra as he helped her up.

Arriving at the hospital, Molly was immediately separated from JD. As soon as the heat began to penetrate her body, she shivered violently. Her clothes were damp from the rain and water that had seeped under the rubble. Suddenly, a warm coat dropped over her shoulders and she turned to find herself surrounded by JD’s friends. An arm encircled her and they all embraced her.

A nurse came out and called loudly. “Where is the paramedic who came in with the young man with the rebar in his shoulder?”

Molly turned around to look at the nurse. “That’s me, is something wrong?”

“No, he just wants to see you before he goes to surgery. He won’t let us give him anything for pain until he sees you.”

Molly followed the nurse into the room. “Hey, kiddo! What’s this I hear you’re turning down a chance to get some of those wonderful drugs? You better settle down there and let these people do their jobs.”

“I just wanted to thank you for staying with me. It meant a lot. I was really scared and you made me feel not so scared anymore.” He squeezed her hand as he spoke.

“You’re welcome, JD. Now, you let these people take care of you. When you come out of surgery, all your other friends will be there waiting for you. Okay?” When he nodded, she leaned over him and placed a kiss on his cheek. “I only do that for my special patients.”

JD hadn’t noticed that the nurse had injected the drugs into his IV line while Molly talked to him. His eyes fluttered and he went to sleep. Molly slipped out of the room.

Upon returning to the waiting room, she was again set upon by the other four men. She dropped into a chair and told them that JD was asleep and that they were taking him up to surgery. A nurse came out a little while later and directed them to the surgical waiting area.

Chris joined the men waiting for JD to come out of surgery. Molly kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up under her as she tried to get warm. She was chilled all the way to the marrow. Once again, a warm coat was draped over her and she found herself dropping off to sleep. When someone shook her shoulder gently, she was confused for several minutes as to where she was.

“JD’s out of surgery. He’s going to be fine.” Vin said as soon as she remembered what had happened. Molly smiled and offered back the coat he had covered her with. “Can I drive you home or back to your car?”

“I’d like that. Thank you.” She quickly laced on her shoes. Vin handed her the coat again when they reached the doors because it was even colder outside. Except to give him directions to the fire station where her car was parked, Molly was too tired to say much. When she got out of the car she leaned in the open door. “Tell JD that I hope he gets well very soon. He’s a real special kid.”

Vin offered out his hand. “Thanks for staying with him. I couldn’t have done it.”

“I’ll check on him in a couple of days. Thanks again for the ride.”

Tanner watched until her car left the lot before returning to the hospital. JD had been put in the room with Buck because Chris had begged them to. The whole team piled up in the room with their injured friends. They dozed lightly in between the nurses coming to check on JD. The kid opened his eyes once and asked for Buck. After hearing his roommate speak softly, he had drifted off to sleep again.

+ + + + + + +

The morning rotation of nurses was not as easily persuaded to allow all of them to stay in the room. They finally divided into two groups and the first group left. Nathan and Chris stayed for the first shift. The others would come back around noon to relieve them.

+ + + + + + +

Before retiring to bed, Ezra called around to find out how he could get a thank you card to Miss Morgan. It took several calls before he got the address of the station she worked out of. Writing down the information, he finally crawled into bed and went to sleep. When Vin called his name a few hours later, the southerner changed clothes and they headed for the hospital.

+ + + + + + +

The FBI agents surrounded the apartment building. They had been on the trail of McCoy since he had disappeared from the school building. When they got the call that the truck had been sighted, they immediately moved to take the man into custody. Every police car in the district and every car not already on a call was on the parking lot. The SWAT team had a sniper on the roof of the next building in case the man came out shooting.

“Remember, we need him alive! He is the only person who can tell us the whereabouts of a missing woman. No kill shots. We don’t even know if he’s armed. I know emotions are high right now because of the death of Agent Reid but we still have a job to do.” The division director, Mitch Feldman, announced as he stared into the eyes of each of the FBI agents in the group.

It didn’t go down quite as smoothly as they wanted. McCoy came out of the building waiving something in his hand and screaming at the cops. The sniper took careful aim for a non-fatal shot, before he could pull the trigger, one of the FBI agents fired, spinning McCoy around and ruining the sniper’s aim. The second shot, instead of winging the shoulder, entered the man’s neck.

The paramedics worked feverishly to save McCoy. He went into cardiac arrest before they got him loaded into the ambulance. They got him back and stabilized before racing to the hospital.

Ezra, Vin and Josiah had just arrived when the man in the dark suit appeared in the doorway. Chris and Nathan were just putting on their coats when they noticed him.

“Can I help you with something?” Chris asked as he moved to stand protectively between the man and the injured agents.

“Would you be Agent Larabee?” Feldman asked softly.

“Yeah.” Chris cast a worried look at Nathan and then at Josiah.

“My name is Agent Feldman. I have some news for you regarding the man who blew up the school yesterday. The one who is suspected of kidnapping the woman you’re looking for. He was injured a couple of hours ago while my men attempted to apprehend him.”

Josiah leapt into the man’s face and grabbed him by his jacket. “Tell me he isn’t dead!”

Nathan and Chris grabbed their friend and pulled him off of Feldman. Josiah stood, chest heaving and fists clenching and unclenching as he stared at the stranger.

“No, he isn’t dead. He was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the back. He survived the surgery but he’s in a coma. I’m sorry to have to tell you this. The doctors don’t know if he will regain consciousness again. If he does, I have an agent sitting with him who will try to find out about the missing woman. We found these pictures in his truck. It looks like he’s been following you. If there is anything else we can do for you or your men, please call.”

“What hospital is he in? Is he here?” Josiah growled.

“He’s here. Intensive care is a couple of floors down, I think. I want you to keep in mind, though, that he still has rights. You can’t just go down there and try to question him. My agents have orders to protect that man until he wakes up.” Feldman stared into the intense blue eyes of the big man before looking to the hazel eyes of Larabee. Nodding to Chris, he left the room.

Josiah looked at Chris. “I need to see that man, Chris. Will you go with me? I know you’re tired but I, I need someone …”

Chris grabbed Josiah’s arm and they left the room. Nathan followed them with his eyes before sighing and heading out after them. Vin looked around at the others before moving closer to JD’s bedside. The kid looked so young lying there in that bed. Buck was sitting on a chair on the other side of the bed. Ezra moved up beside Vin to reach out for JD’s hand.

The FBI agent moved to intercept the three men before they entered the room. “No one is allowed in there. You guys may as well go back and stay with your friends.”

“We just want to look in on him.” Chris said softly.

“I would like to say a prayer for him.” Josiah said.

“The hospital has a chapel. You can pray there. Feldman ordered that no one except hospital staff goes in there until further notice. I’m sorry but that’s the way it is.”

Nathan looked around and, spotting chairs along the hall, guided Josiah into one. “Chris, you go back up and stay with JD and Buck or go get some sleep. I’ll stay here with Josiah.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris went back to the other room. Opening the packet of pictures, he looked thru them. The man had pictures of them at the sports bar and the restaurant. There were pictures of Vin the night he was jumped on the Arch grounds. There was a picture of Ezra being manhandled by the security guards at the casino. There was even a picture of JD asleep at the table in the hotel room. The man had been close enough to have killed them! The exhausted team leader collapsed on Buck’s unused bed and dropped off to sleep. As the afternoon wore on, the nursing staff gave up trying to get the men out of the room. They had gotten calls from several doctors who had treated the men in Denver and the advice was all the same. It was easier to leave them together than to try to separate them. Eventually, they brought in a cot to allow for at least one of them to rest.

The team spent the next 24 hours at the hospital. They alternated between sitting with Buck and JD and sitting with Josiah in the intensive care waiting area. Vin wandered out of the room for a couple of hours. Ezra slipped away when Vin returned. He made a phone call and ordered a dozen roses delivered to the fire station where Molly Morgan worked.

Nathan rested his head against the wall and dosed lightly. Josiah glanced up every time the nurses left the room. They had taken to nodding to the two men to let them know that the man was no worse off. His vital signs were stable.

JD opened his eyes and glanced around the room. Buck’s head rested on the side of the bed at his left hand and Vin’s was at his right. He could hear the sound of shuffling cards, so he knew Ezra was near. The sonorous snoring coming from the other side of the room was the only person he couldn’t immediately identify.

“Buck?” The word was barely above a whisper. “Buck?”

The dark haired head came up and a smile split the ladies man’s face. “Hey kid! How do you feel?”

“I hurt, Buck. I’m thirsty. Can I have some water?”

“Let me ask the nurse, okay?” He slowly pulled himself out of the chair and headed for the door.

Ezra took the empty space. “Well Mr. Dunne, we were beginning to think that you were going to sleep thru the day. You gave us quite a scare yesterday.” He picked up JD’s hand and squeezed it gently.

“Where are the others?”

“Mr. Larabee is resting in the bed across the room. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sanchez are sitting vigil outside of the room of the miscreant who is responsible for your injuries.” Ezra explained quietly.

Vin awakened and rubbed JD’s arm lightly. “Hey kid! Good to see you awake finally!”

JD’s eyes widened as he realized what Ezra had said. “They got the guy who took Hannah! Did they find her? Is Josiah all right?”

Vin squeezed JD’s hand. “Calm down, kid! Slow down. The guy got shot when they tried to bring him in. Josiah and Nathan are down there waiting for him to wake up.”

Buck returned with a nurse in tow. The pretty nurse checked JD’s vitals and recorded them on his chart. She eyed Ezra until he yielded his position at the side of the bed.

“Your friend says that you’re thirsty? How about pain? Are you okay with the pain medicine? Your doctor in Denver says you occasionally have a bad reaction to anesthetics and pain meds.”

“No, I feel okay. It doesn’t hurt too much. I’m just really thirsty.”

She smiled and poured some water from the pitcher on his bedside table. Sticking a straw in the cup, she offered him a drink. “Small sips at first, okay?”

It only took a couple of sips for him to moisten the inside of his mouth. The little bit of activity tired him out and he closed his eyes and dropped back to sleep.

Buck was discharged that afternoon. He had some deep bruising on his back and legs but otherwise was fine. JD had awakened again after lunch and took some more water before asking after McCoy. After hearing that the man was still unconscious, he drifted back to sleep.

JD awoke that evening and asked for something to eat. Buck immediately went for the nurse to see if they could give the kid some food. Green jello was not exactly what JD had in mind, but he was grateful for something to put in his stomach. Nathan was sleeping on the empty bed and Chris was sitting with Josiah. Vin and Ezra played a couple of hands of poker with the kid before he began to show that he was hurting. After ringing for the nurse, Ezra suggested that he and Vin return to the hotel. Nathan agreed that it would be better for some of them to get some uninterrupted sleep as they were all worn to a frazzle.

+ + + + + + +

Vin woke Ezra around 8 AM so they could get ready to return to the hospital. After calling the hospital to see if the others needed anything from the room, they headed out. Leaving the parking garage, they turned into morning rush hour traffic. A light drizzle was falling and the streets and sidewalks were crowded with well-dressed people carrying umbrellas or shielding themselves with newspapers.

The rental car crossed Tucker Street keeping pace with the cars in front of it. The car in front of them braked and swerved as a large sheet of newspaper blew across the windshield. Ezra gently applied the brake, staying well in his lane. He never saw the Camaro that blew the light as it slammed into the driver’s side door. The rental car spun around on the wet pavement and was immediately struck by an Audi in the on-coming traffic lane. Three of the cars behind the Audi slid to a stop, striking both the Camaro and the rental car. The light for the cross traffic changed and the intersection became more crowded as cars now tried to detour around the accident.

Ezra winced as he reached for his left arm, he was disoriented and he felt his forehead to find a knot on the left side of his head. He swept out with his right hand for his passenger.

“Mr. Tanner? Vin? Are you injured?” Stars swam in his field of vision as he tried to turn his head to the right. The airbags had deployed and Vin was holding his forehead as he reached for the dash.

“Ezra? What happened?”

The southerner sighed as his hand closed on Tanner’s upper arm. “An accident.” Ezra squinted at the faces that peered into the car. His vision swam as he tried to turn around. It appeared that the rental car was in the middle of an island of crumpled metal. Surrounded on all sides by other cars, he let his head back against the headrest and fished in his pocket for his cell phone.

The fire truck and the rescue units rolled up along with several police cars and an ambulance. As the police diverted the traffic away from the intersection, the firemen and paramedics began to check the people in the cars for injuries. The cars that were on the periphery of the accident were directed to move away from the cars in the center of the accident.

Because of the sheer number of possibly injured people in the pile-up, the fireman in charge radioed for another rescue unit. The driver of the Camaro was seriously injured. The driver and passenger in the Audi were both complaining of chest pain. Because of the way the cars were situated, they couldn’t get to the Taurus in the center.

Chris was fuming as he pulled his cell phone. It had been over an hour since Vin had called to say they were on their way. “Larabee.”

“Mr. Larabee, I regret to inform you that we had an accident on the way to the hospital. As we are unable to get out of the car, I can’t tell you how long it will be before we will be able to leave the scene.”

“You what! How bad? Are you all right? How’s Vin?” The sudden urgency in Chris’s voice brought everyone in the room to their feet except JD, who leaned forward expectantly.

“A car accident, Mr. Larabee. The rental car is a loss, I’m afraid. Vin is a little disoriented. I’ll call you in a little while and let you know more.” Ezra’s voice dropped off and he cut the connection. The throbbing in his arm was interfering with his thought process.

Vin ran his fingertips over his forehead and flinched. The skin felt like it was on fire. He half expected to see blood on his fingers but there wasn’t any. His neck hurt dully as he turned to look at Ezra. The flashing lights of the police cars cast an odd color to the southerner’s skin. He reached out and rested his hand on Ezra’s shoulder as he watched the cars backing away from his door.

+ + + + + + +

The paramedic opened the passenger side rear door of the Taurus and slid into the car. “Okay, my name is Molly and I’m just going to …” Her voice trailed off as she recognized the driver and then the passenger. “You have got to be kidding! Ezra, right?” She rested her fingers lightly on his neck as she took his pulse.

Vin looked at the woman behind him and smiled. “Are you followin’ us lady?”

Ezra opened his eyes and tried to lift his head from the headrest. A sharp, lancing pain caused him to scowl as he studied the face in the rear view mirror. He let his head settle back again and he smiled. “At least we know we’re in good hands.”

“Okay, are you hurt anywhere?” Molly asked Ezra as she made notes on her pad.

“Just my arm and my head. At least one is broken.”

Vin tossed his head as he laughed. It wasn’t often that Ezra made jokes. Molly giggled as she turned her attention to the other man.

“How about you? And, I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”

“Vin Tanner, Ma’am. I’m not hurt any where but my face burns right across here.” He ran his fingertips across his forehead again.

“Air bag burn. It’ll pass in a little while.” She reached out and took his wrist as she watched the second hand on her watch. Deslin ran over to the car and looked inside.

“You got this one?” He asked as he looked at the two men.

“Yeah, I got them. How’s the Camaro guy?”

Deslin looked around before whispering in a conspiratory tone. “Gray matter in the ear canal. The guy in the Audi arrested before they reached the hospital.”

“Okay. How many other injured?”

“Five all together between the various cars. Three will probably refuse treatment. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The man walked back to the passenger from the Audi who was sucking oxygen from a mask in the back of the second ambulance.

Molly slid out of the back seat as soon as the police moved the car that had held Vin’s door closed. One of the firemen gave the door a mighty heave and it groaned loudly as the metal ground against the frame. Vin immediately began to try to leave the car as his claustrophobic feelings surged.

“Hold on a minute! Just let me check you over before you run out on me. Look at me for a moment. Follow my finger. Good. Hold up your hands. Push against mine. Pull them toward you. What month is it?”

“April. Look, Ma’am, I’m fine. I just need to get out of this car.” A look of near panic filled his eyes as he saw all of the people pressing close to the car and looking at him.

“Take it easy, Vin. Just set your feet out here for a minute. Take a few deep breaths.” She keyed her mike. “Deslin, bring me an oxygen tank.”

“That isn’t necessary, really. I just have to get out of the car!”

“Mr. Tanner, arguing with her is only going to prolong my suffering. Please sit quietly or I shall be forced to tell Mr. Jackson of your behavior.” Ezra drawled without lifting his head. His words had the desired effect, Vin settled back against the seat and accepted the oxygen mask that Deslin had only just pressed into Molly’s hands.

“Nice deep breaths. Close your eyes and try to relax.” She recognized that he was nervous about the crush of people staring at him. She checked his pulse again and found it to be steady again. “Okay, Vin, can I get you to move to the back seat so I can check on Ezra?”

Vin nodded and she took his arm to steady him as he moved to sit on the back seat. She watched him for a moment longer before she turned her attention to the driver.

“Okay, so your head is broken?” She asked in a gently teasing tone. She was rewarded with the green eyes looking at her before rolling expressively. “Sorry. Bad joke. Can you move your fingers at all?”

“A little but it hurts. I have broken it before and I remember the feeling quite well.”

Molly keyed her mike again. “Deslin, bring me a wrist splint.” She tapped Ezra’s cheek lightly. “Look at me for a moment.” The green eyes opened and turned her way. She flashed her penlight quickly and he pulled his head away with a groan. “Sorry. I have to check your pupils.”

Deslin dropped the splint on the dash and sat on the doorframe to check on Vin. Molly picked up the splint and separated the pieces. Touching Ezra’s shoulder she said softly, “I’m going to put the splint on your arm.” She turned around on the front seat so her back was resting against the dash as she reached for the injured arm. Ezra hissed and gripped the steering wheel as she jarred his arm. She pulled the Velcro straps around and attached the second piece of the splint.

From the corner of her eye, she watched as her partner removed the oxygen mask from Vin’s face and helped him from the car. The crowd had thinned as the need to get to work overpowered the need to gawk at the accident. A police officer guided Vin away from the car to take his statement.

Molly attached the support strap to the splint and leaned close to Ezra as she tied it behind his head. As she put her arms around him she whispered in his ear. “Thank you for the flowers. They’re lovely.” She noticed the slight lift in the corners of the southerner’s mouth just before a rose blush crept into his cheeks.

Ezra opened his eyes to find the woman quite close. He could smell the light, floral perfume she was wearing. Her hands rested lightly on his shoulders for a moment.

Molly watched as a tow truck pulled the Camaro away from the side of the Taurus. “Okay, they’re going to try to open your door in a minute. Will you let us transport you to the hospital?”

“No. I called Mr. Larabee. He will send Nathan to pick us up as soon as you get me out of here.”

“Ezra, you need to have that arm X-rayed and set and you may have a concussion. You really should let us take you to the hospital.”

“I will have Mr. Jackson check me over when we get to the hospital. I trust his care.”

“Unless Mr. Jackson has Superman qualities that weren’t apparent the other day, you will still need X-rays. Promise me that you’ll get checked out.”

The concern in her eyes touched him and he nodded, wincing at the discomfort the motion caused. The fireman wrenched the car door open and knelt to see if Molly needed any help. She shook her head and he retreated to the side of the Camaro.

“Okay, look at me for a moment.” She checked his pupils for reaction. “Good. Now, just the right hand, push on mine. Pull it toward you. Good. What day is this?”

“Thursday, in April.” He smiled slightly at her.

“Okay. Let me get around the car and I will help you out.”

While Molly was moving around the car, Ezra’s cell phone rang. He fumbled with it for a moment before he managed to get it to his ear. “Standish.”

“Ezra? Are you two all right? Do you want me to send Nathan to pick you up?”

Molly reached out and took the phone from his hand. “Mr. Larabee? Since I cannot persuade your man to allow us to transport him to the hospital, will you at least make sure that he is thoroughly checked out when he gets there?”

“Of course I will. How badly is he hurt?” Chris felt a surge of anger and concern for the southerner as he waited for the answer to his question.

“He had a simple break in his radius and a possible concussion.”

Chris digested the information. “I’ll make sure he’s taken care of. Thanks. I’ll send Nathan to pick them up right away.”

Molly tucked the cell phone back into Ezra’s pocket and helped him out of the car. He swayed slightly before the world settled properly around him.

“Okay. Take care of yourself.” She smiled as she pressed a piece of paper into his left hand. Picking up her note pad and instrument case, she turned toward her rig. Deslin had called them back into service and was waiting for her so they could go on another call.

+ + + + + + +

Officer Ryan approached the man in the dark suit who had been the last one extracted from the accident. He caught the eye of the man and opened his note pad.

“Sir, can I get some information from you for my report? If you’ll join your friend over here at the bus stop, you can sit down.”

Ezra nodded and followed the officer away from the accident. He sank gratefully onto the bench and looked to see how Mr. Tanner was doing. Reaching into his jacket to get his wallet, his holster and gun came into view.

“Sir, I’m going to assume you have a permit for that?” He nodded toward the gun.

“Denver ATF. We’re here investigating the missing sister of one of our team.” He offered his badge and ID card to the officer. By the time he had finished giving his name and other information to the officer, Nathan had arrived.

“Mr. Jackson, I am ever so glad to gaze upon your thoughtful countenance. I have been instructed to have my arm and my head examined.”

Vin chuckled as he pulled the southerner to his feet. “I never thought I’d hear him admit to needing to have his head examined. I’ll have to write this date down.”

As he escorted the men to the car, Jackson shook his head.

At the hospital, both Vin and Ezra were checked thoroughly. Tanner was diagnosed with mild whiplash and he was given medicine for pain. Standish had to have a Velcro cast applied to his arm, which was broken. He also had a mild concussion from the impact with the window of the car. Nathan drove the pair back to the hotel after they visited briefly with JD.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah’s head jerked upward suddenly as he heard the code called from the intensive care ward. He jumped to his feet as a crew of nurses rushed into the room with a crash cart. The FBI agent had left the doorway and was running toward the pay phone. With his heart beating in his throat, he slipped into the doorway and peeked inside.

One nurse was standing on the side of the bed, administering CPR. The collection of monitors was screaming out warnings and the rest of the nursing staff was rushing around following the orders called by the doctor in charge. Drugs were injected into McCoy’s heart before they attempted to shock him back.

Shaking hands clenched on the door facing as Josiah willed the man’s heart to beat again. Slowly, unnoticed by the hospital staff, he advanced until he was standing at the foot of the bed. His intense blue eyes bored into the inert body as he gripped the rail of the bed.

“Fight damn you! Fight! You have to tell me where my sister is!” He lifted his face skyward and pleaded. “Please God! I have to know where she is!”

As it occasionally happens in the world, fate smiled and McCoy’s heart started beating again. Just then, the FBI agent grabbed Josiah by the arm and dragged him out of the room.

Slamming the big ATF agent into the wall across the hall, the FBI agent ground his weight into Josiah’s chest. Snarling in an attempt to intimidate the larger man, Agent Failoni glared into the piercing blue eyes.

“You were told to stay away from him! I could have you locked up for going in there!”

The doctor’s hand clenched tightly on Failoni’s shoulder. “He didn’t do any harm. Take this outside if you intend to continue with your little temper tantrum.”

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked up as Josiah entered JD’s room.

“What happened? You’re white as a sheet!”

Collapsing into a chair, Josiah covered his face with his hands and shuddered.

“They almost lost McCoy just a few minutes ago. If he dies, I’ll never know what happened to my sister. What if he’s already killed her? I won’t even have …”

The team leader spoke sharply. “Stop thinking like that, Josiah! We will find her! I promise!”

Pain filled eyes rose to stare into determined ones and both men sighed. The graying head nodded and Josiah looked toward the young agent in the hospital bed.

“How is the kid doing?”

“Still having a lot of pain, but considering what he’s been thru, he’s doing well. He asks after you every time he wakes up. The doctor says it will be at least a week before he can be discharged.”

“And Vin and Ezra? Nathan said they were in an accident?”

“He took them to the hotel to rest. Vin’s got whiplash and Ezra has a slight concussion and a broken arm. They’ll be fine. Buck’s been making eyes at every pretty nurse that comes in here.”

That got a soft chuckle from Josiah. Chris clapped him on the shoulder. “Why don’t you lay down and try to get some rest. I’ll go down and sit on McCoy for a while. Nathan will probably be back in a couple of hours.”

+ + + + + + +

Buck leaned against the counter at the nurses’ station and smiled a slight smile at the pretty red head. She caught his gaze and quickly looked away, giggling girlishly before taking up a patient chart and turning her back to the handsome, mustached man. He waited, she would look up again in a couple of moments and he would set the hook.

Lisa Oldani had been watching the dark haired man for a while that morning. He had followed her to the cafeteria the day before and sat tossing come-hither stares at her all during lunch. Feeling a tingle in her body as she remembered the intense blue eyes, she peeked over her shoulder to see if he was still watching.

With his chin resting on his knuckles as he leaned on the counter, Buck raised his eyebrows and winked at her. He saw the blush blossom in her face and spread until the tops of her ears were bright red. She folded her arms tightly across her chest around the chart and approached the counter.

“Can I help you with something?” She asked him softly with a slight smile lifting the corners of her mouth.

“I don’t know. I think I’m in need of some serious TLC. I was thinking maybe you would let me take you out to dinner and discuss just how much care you think I can handle.” He reached out and ran his finger along her arm from her shoulder to her elbow.

The tingle in her body changed into goose flesh as she stared into the blue eyes. She knew he was older than the men she usually dated but he was irresistibly charming. She had heard about him from the other nurses on the ward where he had been a patient only a couple of days ago. Several of them would have given their right arm to go out with him.

“My shift ends at 6:00 tonight. If you don’t mind being seen with me in my work clothes, we can leave from here and grab something to eat.”

His smile reached right into her stomach as he replied, “I’ll look forward to it. Until 6:00 then.”

Lisa followed him with her eyes until he entered the elevator before she noticed the laughter behind her. Turning, she saw the other four nurses staring at her with shit-eating grins. Her blush deepened and she left the station to go on rounds.

+ + + + + + +

The rental car company delivered another car to the hotel and the girl from the agency knocked on the door to the suite. After getting the keys to the new car, Nathan wakened Vin to see how he was feeling. Waking Ezra, he checked to make sure the southerner was oriented and not suffering any serious effects from the concussion.

“Mr. Jackson, I would prefer to sleep just a while longer before I attempt to shower and dress today. If you and Mr. Tanner wish to return to the hospital, I will take a cab over later.”

“We’ll just wait till you wake up. Do you want one of your pain pills before you lay back down?” After getting Ezra his medicine, Nathan and Vin settled in with a movie.

+ + + + + + +

The doctor stood over McCoy studying his chart. The man was in serious condition. His heart had stopped a couple of times and he was not improving. He had heard the buzz among the staff about the information that the man held. You could not walk thru the intensive care unit without seeing at least one of the ATF agents sitting outside of the man’s room.

+ + + + + + +

Coming off of the elevator, Buck almost ran into the paramedic, Molly. She was carrying a stuffed bear in her arms and smiled warmly at him as passed. If he hadn’t already made plans with Lisa, he might have been tempted to try for her. His eyes followed her all the way to the door of JD’s room before he allowed the elevator doors to close.

+ + + + + + +

“Hey, how is my favorite patient?” Molly called happily as she entered the room. JD was sitting up in bed and smiled warmly when he saw her. She handed him the teddy bear with an embarrassed expression.

“Thanks! I hear you saw Vin and Ezra today.”

“Yeah, how are they, by the way?”

“They’re fine. Ezra has a cast and a slight concussion. Vin just has a little whiplash. Vin was here earlier but Nathan took him back to the hotel. Ezra stayed at the hotel to sleep.”

“I bumped into Buck on my way in, he looked like he was a man with a mission.”

“A mission with a nurse.” Chris said softly.

“Well, I didn’t intend to stay long. I just wanted to see how you were feeling.”

JD smiled and held out his hand to her. “I’ll be fine, thanks to you.”

Molly leaned over and pressed her cheek against his before brushing his bangs from his face. She was still smiling when she reached the elevators. As she was walking across the parking lot, a trio of familiar faces got out of a car parked down the row from hers.

“Hey! I just left JD’s room. How are the both of you?” Molly called as she stopped in front of the three agents. Vin smiled as he noticed the direction of her stare. Nathan glanced across the parking lot and took Tanner by the arm.

“I’m fine, Ma’am. I have to get upstairs to see JD right away though, I promised him.” Vin and Nathan made a hasty retreat.

“Was it something I said?” She asked as she followed them with her eyes.

“No, but, if you have no other plans tonight, could I interest you in a visit to the riverboat?” Ezra asked.

“Are you sure you’re up to it?”

“If you would accompany me. Perhaps we could have dinner together?”

“Only if you let me drive.”

+ + + + + + +

Lisa stuck her head into the room and looked for Buck. She caught his eye and waited for him to come out of the room. Her ears began to warm as the blush crept up her face. She still couldn’t believe she was going out with a complete stranger like this.

Buck called his goodbye to the others as he made his way to the door. Lisa had pulled a sweater on over her hospital scrubs and was leaning on the nurse’s counter; one of the other girls was teasing her about her date. The ladies man slid up alongside of her and smiled.

“Ready to go, darlin’?”

“Sure! Do you mind if I drive?”

“Not at all. Where are we going?”

“To my favorite restaurant. That’s all I’m going to tell you!”

A short time later, they parked on a small, heavily crowded parking lot. Buck read the name of the place, Favazza’s, before he followed her into the small, dimly lit restaurant. Delicious smells accosted his nose and his mouth watered. They were shown to a small table in the corner. He opened the menu and tried to decide what he wanted to eat, it all looked so good.

“What do you recommend?”

“You can’t come to St. Louis without trying our toasted ravioli! This is the place for toasted ravioli in the city. Their lasagna is also excellent!”

She hadn’t exaggerated, the food was excellent. Buck thoroughly enjoyed both the meal and the company. He spent a couple of very pleasant hours talking to the woman. They had a couple of glasses of wine with dessert as he told her a little bit about himself. Reaching across the table, he enveloped her smaller hand under his.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra and Molly spent a pleasant evening together. The atmosphere was bright and lively as the bells and sound effects from the slot machines filled the air. After having dinner in the dining room, they made their way to the gambling tables. Ezra bought several stacks of chips and they settled at a blackjack table. Molly enjoyed herself immensely as she made a few cautious bets and watched as her date made more aggressive bets. By the time they chose to leave several hours later, he was up several hundred dollars.

As they made their way across the parking lot, Ezra put his arm around her. When they reached her car, she rested against the side of it as she stared at him. A slight smile lit both their faces as he leaned over and kissed her lightly.

“How much longer will you be in St. Louis?”

“We don’t know. Until we find Miss Sanchez. They’re waiting for that McCoy man to waken so they can find out where she is being kept.”

“Then maybe we can go out again some time before you leave?” Her eyes met his hopefully.

“I’d like that very much.” He kissed her again as he pressed her against the side of the car.

“I really have to get home. My shift starts at seven and I need to get some sleep. Should I drop you at your hotel?”

After brushing a stray lock of her hair out of her face, he kissed her again before moving around the car. She dropped him at the hotel a few minutes later. She stared after him until after he had gone into the revolving doors.

+ + + + + + +

Over the next three days, McCoy made slight improvements. His blood pressure stabilized and he was weaned off of the respirator. They now had to wait for the man to regain consciousness. Josiah or Nathan sat outside of his room around the clock hoping to be there when he awoke. The rest of the team divided their time between JD and the intensive care hallway.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and Ezra further divided their time by scheduling dates. Wilmington was picking up nurses from all parts of the hospital. Standish was spending several hours each day with Molly. He and the female paramedic had hit it off and she was showing him the sites of the city. They had been to the Magic House and the Butterfly House, the Zoo and Shaw’s Garden.

While they were touring Shaw’s Garden, Ezra’s cell phone rang.

“Standish. Oh, no! How is Mr. Sanchez taking it? Of course, I’ll be right there.” He closed the phone and turned to Molly. “McCoy expired an hour ago without revealing the location of Miss Sanchez. I have been ordered to report to the hospital.”

“I’ll take you there. Is there anything I can do?”

“No. I’m afraid there isn’t anything any of us can do except be there for him as he deals with his grief.”

Molly hung back in the doorway of JD’s hospital room where the men had gathered. The older agent, Josiah, was sitting on the empty bed in the kid’s room while the others hovered around him. Grief was so plainly etched on his features that it hurt to watch him. Ezra extended his hand to the grieving man only to be pulled into a crushing embrace.

One of the nurses took Molly by the arm and led her away from the doorway. After leading her to the nurse’s station, she explained the situation in a conspiring voice.

“The man in the ICU expired a couple of hours ago. They thought the older man was going to have a heart attack before they got him out of there. They’ve all been in there ever since, trying to comfort him.”

“Yeah, I heard about the whole thing a few days ago. If Ezra comes looking for me or asks, tell him I went home and he can call me if he needs to talk.”

+ + + + + + +

Josiah had only dozed off for a minute. He had been praying constantly for McCoy while he sat there outside of his room. The alarms on the monitors went off and several nurses raced into the room. He had jumped to his feet and moved to the doorway only to watch helplessly as the man died. The tightness in his chest grasped him again. He struggled to draw his breath. The darkness encroached on him until Buck caught him under the arms and lowered him into a chair.

Chris and Nathan took Josiah back to the hotel to rest. They were concerned for the older agent’s health as he sank into despair. They left the three younger agents to comfort the kid who was also devastated by the news. JD took the news hard because he was so involved in the search to find her. He felt that if he had been able to convince them to come to St. Louis sooner, they might have found the man without getting him killed.

The pain in his chest flared until he wanted to cry out from it! Josiah thrashed on the bed as his hand scrubbed at his chest and he gasped. Nathan sat on the side of the bed and eased the older man to a sitting position. He placed a cup of water in the trembling hand along with one of the tablets that had been prescribed while he was at the hospital.

After he had settled Josiah back into an uneasy sleep, Nathan went out to where Chris sat glaring at the television. Clutched in his hand was a bottle of Jack Daniels that was about half empty. Obviously, the blond had left the suite and returned.

“It’s a little early in the day for that, don’t you think?”

The Larabee glare was in rare form as it slammed into the dark eyes.

“The judge wants us to head back as soon as the kid is released from the hospital. How is he?”

“I’ll be requesting that he be put on temporary disability when we get back. If the stress and despair don’t kill him, it will sure play hell with his physical and emotional health. I don’t know if he’ll make it back or not.”

“Find out how soon the kid can travel.”

“I’ll go back to the hospital and talk to the doctor. He should sleep for several hours. Call me if he wakens or if you want me to pick anything up on the way back.”

When he arrived back at the hospital, Vin and Buck were playing cards with JD while Ezra spoke to someone on the phone. He quickly appraised them of the situation before going in search of the doctor. He found out that the kid could be released in a day or two.

Buck offered to stay at the hospital with JD while the others began to pack up the suite. Ezra got permission from Chris to go out with Molly one more time before they left as long as he had his bags packed. The judge made arrangements for them to fly out in two days and he wanted them to file their reports with the local FBI office before they left.

The men tried to offer words of comfort to Josiah. But what do you day to someone whose only sister disappears and the only man who might know where to find her dies? The man was completely withdrawn and silent. Nothing anyone said made a difference to him. Chris and Nathan packed his bags for him.

+ + + + + + +

Their last full day in St. Louis was spent touring the city. They wanted to keep Josiah busy instead of letting him stew. They took him to the Butterfly House because it was one of the places Hannah had been. JD was discharged from the hospital and they borrowed a wheelchair so he could go with them. As the team sat on a bench to watch the display around them, a large monarch butterfly lit on Vin’s finger.

The tracker stared, rapt, at the beautiful insect resting on his hand. He knelt down before Josiah and coaxed the butterfly onto the older man’s hand. The entire team was moved by the tears that coursed down Sanchez’s face as he stared. They were all awed by the fluttering clouds of color that moved around them.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra invited Molly out for one last time. She drove them to the casino in St. Charles for a change of scenery. After supper, he proceeded to win at cards until he had made a thousand dollars or so before calling it quits. He then arranged for a room at the hotel for the two of them.

The ringing of the cell phone awoke both of them. Ezra rolled over and snatched the phone off of the nightstand. He opened the phone while rolling back to cuddle up to the warm body next to him. She nuzzled against his side, causing him to chuckle as he answered the phone.


“Where in the hell are you?”

“Mr. Larabee, is there a problem?”

“You do know that our plane leaves in less than two hours?”

“I am quite aware of the amount of time allotted for my arrival at the airport. I am scarcely fifteen minutes from there at the present time. I will meet you at the departure gate with time to spare.”

“See that you do.”

He closed the phone and dropped it back on the nightstand. The nuzzling continued until he eased out of bed and headed for the shower. It wouldn’t due not to be at the gate ahead of hurricane Larabee. He and Molly shared a few more passionate kisses before he went thru the security gates.

+ + + + + + +

The flight back to Denver was silent for the members of Team 7. Chris and Nathan kept tabs on Josiah during the flight. They had to steer the stewardess away from him after the first couple of drinks. JD slept most of the flight after the previous full day. Ezra and Vin went to retrieve the suburban while the others gathered the team’s baggage.

The team divided up to stay with Josiah and JD for the next few days. Nathan submitted the paperwork to put Sanchez on medical leave indefinitely. The nuns from the convent also spent time watching over the lost soul. They were as devastated by the loss of Hannah as her brother.

The first Saturday that they were back in Denver they had a get together at the ranch. They tried to draw Josiah out of his shell. They were not successful. Sanchez wandered away from the gathering to seek solitude. He found himself standing in a clearing where he could see the mountains in the distance. The sun cast silver edges on the cottony clouds and a gentle breeze carried the scent of newly blooming flowers to his nose. As the tears rolled down his face he raged at God.

+ + + + + + +

On Monday, the four members of the team not on medical leave appeared at the office. They were immediately placed back into the rotation. They came up assigned with Team 2 on a bootleg alcohol scam. They were kept busy for the next several days. JD and Ezra stayed with Josiah during the day, it helped to have someone to take care of to keep him from drinking.

+ + + + + + +

They got a call from the FBI agent taking the place of Agent Reid on Wednesday evening. They had gotten into McCoy’s apartment and found the negatives from the pictures he had sent to Josiah. There were other pictures on the strips that hadn’t been printed and they were sending them to Denver.

+ + + + + + +

Agent Redecker dug thru the box of papers taken from McCoy’s apartment. They found the airline tickets he used to bring Hannah from Denver. He had used the name Elizabeth McCoy on the ticket. He began to search for the whereabouts of the woman. A few hours later he found the obituary that showed that Elizabeth McCoy had died 18 months before.

The information rolled around in the FBI agent’s mind for nearly a week before he thought to act on it. Something about the whole situation just didn’t make sense. If McCoy wanted to hurt the ATF agent, why keep the woman alive at all? There had to be more the situation than they were seeing on the surface.

+ + + + + + +

Depression wrapped its cold, clammy fingers around Josiah’s heart and squeezed. He was helpless to defend himself against the apathy that he felt. He took the pills that Ezra and Nathan forced on him, they left him feeling tired. He spent a good part of each day sleeping, either on the couch or on one of the chaise lounges in his back yard.

Ezra parked the Jag behind Vin’s jeep on Chris’s driveway. He waited for some show of life from his passenger. Josiah had refused to accompany him on the weekend gathering at the ranch until Ezra reminded him that Chris would come in himself if he had to. Finally, the stilled body moved and the passenger door opened.

The cloudless blue sky served only to mock his pain as Josiah stared upward. A gentle breeze carried the scent of the pine trees. From the back of the house, Sam barked excitedly as JD teased the chocolate lab with a Frisbee. The wind shifted bringing the smell of bar-b-que down the driveway.

“Are you going to join us, Mr. Sanchez?”

“I’ll be along in a few minutes, Ezra.”

The southerner nodded and left the anguished man to his solitude.

+ + + + + + +

It took two more days for Redecker to get the records from the Social Security Office to find out that they were still sending out checks for Miss McCoy. In a few hours, he had the address of the nursing home where the checks were being sent. He took the picture of Hannah Sanchez and headed for the Geitner Home on South Broadway.

+ + + + + + +

JD answered the phone because Josiah was in the bathroom.

“Sanchez residence.”

“Josiah Sanchez, please?”

“He’s not available at the moment, may I tell him who’s calling?”

“Agent Redecker, St. Louis FBI office.”

“Josiah! Get down here! The FBI is on the phone for you!”

The agent raced out of the bathroom and snatched the phone from the kid’s hand.


“Agent Sanchez, Agent Redecker, St. Louis FBI. We think we may have found your sister. Is there somewhere I can E-mail you a photo?”

Josiah gave his home E-mail address and JD raced to power up the computer. The two men waited anxiously for the picture to come up. A strangled gasp escaped the older man’s lips as he reached out to caress the computer screen. Dunne took the phone and spoke to Redecker.

“That’s her. That’s Hannah. Where did you find her? Is she all right?”

“McCoy had her in a nursing home here in the city. He was using his dead aunt’s Medicaid number to pay her way. He was collecting the aunt’s Social Security, her police widow’s benefits and pension.”

“We’ll get the first plane back there and call you when we arrive! Thank you!”

It took only ten minutes to call the rest of the team and let them in on the good news. Josiah called the convent to let them know that Hannah had been recovered. Sister Maria offered to fly to St. Louis to help bring the woman back. Ezra also asked to fly with them, to drive of course.

+ + + + + + +

The redeye flight to St. Louis arrived at 2:15 in the morning. Ezra picked up the rental car and drove them back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. They were to pick Hannah up at ten in the morning and their flight out was at 3:15 in the afternoon.

+ + + + + + +

Agent Redecker picked up Josiah and Sister Maria to take them to the nursing home while Ezra made one last visit to Molly. He parked outside of the fire station and went inside to find her. Deslin saw him coming in and called into the other room for his partner.

“Ezra! What are you doing here? I thought you left last week! Did something happen with your friend?”

“They found his sister in a nursing home right here in the city. They’re over there right now picking her up. I just wanted to stop and see you again while I was here.”

As they stood staring at each other, the other members of the fire station laughed and made catcalls and wolf whistles. Molly blushed as she steered Ezra outside to get away from them. They stood on the sidewalk, drinking in the sight of each other for several minutes. Then Deslin stuck his head out of the door and called out to her.

“Molly, multiple MVA with injuries in the depressed section. Let’s roll!”

“Will I see you later?”

“No, our flight leaves at three. I just wanted to see you again.”

After placing a tender kiss on her lips, he watched her as she climbed into her rig and left. He returned to the hotel to wait for Josiah and Sister Maria to return with Hannah.

+ + + + + + +

Agent Redecker said that the nursing home had no idea that the woman wasn’t Elizabeth McCoy. Her ‘nephew’ had explained to them that his ‘aunt’ had been seriously disoriented for several years. Hannah had been well cared for by the staff and was happy except that she missed her brother.

The nursing home was situated on a good-sized lot. There were several other homes along South Broadway, earning it the name ‘nursing home row.’ The entry foyer of the facility was tastefully decorated. The receptionist, recognizing the FBI agent called for the administrator and the placement coordinator. The three of them were escorted into another lounge by the female administrator and offered seats.

“Where is she? Where’s Hannah?” Josiah demanded.

“Josiah, please, control your temper,” Sister Maria admonished the older man.

“Mr. Sanchez, allow me to apologize for all that you have been thru in the past couple of months. We had no way of knowing that the woman was not who she was purported to be. She closely resembles the photo on the expired drivers license that Mr. McCoy used to get her admitted here. Your sister has been treated well and we are sorry to see her go,” the administrator offered. The woman looked as if she were terrified.

“I appreciate all that you have done for her, Ma’am. I just want to see her and take her home,” Josiah said as calmly as he could.

The placement coordinator arrived a moment later with Hannah. A deep, audible exhalation sounded from Josiah as he stared at his sister. Her face lit up when she saw him and she held out her hands. The soft, flowered dress she wore accented her natural coloring and her hair had recently been washed and set. As Josiah came to his feet, Hannah wrapped her arms around his chest and cuddled against him.

Trembling hands enveloped the smaller woman as tears rolled down Josiah’s cheeks. It had been two of the longest months in his life! Sister Maria gently coaxed Hannah away from her brother to embrace the woman for herself. Hannah questioned the nun in rapid-fire Spanish, much to the surprise of the nursing home staff.

“I missed you, Josiah. Are we going home now? All my paints and books are there and I need to draw! Where are the others? Is JD with you, and Vin?” Hannah’s words ran together as she spoke.

“Yes, we’re going home. Ezra came with me but he’s visiting a friend. You’ll see him at the hotel. Do you need help packing your things?”

At Hannah’s nod, Sister Maria offered to go with the nurse’s aide to see to the packing.

“Mr. Sanchez,” the administrator began hesitantly, “this is a very awkward situation for us. I realize that you would be well within your rights to sue us for what has happened here but …”

“I have no intention of pressing charges. I’m only glad that she was safe and cared for while she was here. If there are any additional charges for her care, I will be glad to attend to them,” he quickly supplied.

They went to lunch together and Hannah requested more of the ‘yellow cup’ ice cream. Ezra drove over to Ted Drewes and they each had a banana split before heading for the airport. They arrived in plenty of time to get thru security and made their way to the gate. Josiah and Sister Maria never took their hands or their eyes off of Hannah.

+ + + + + + +

The plane touched down in Denver and the happy quartet came down the ramp. When they reached the security gates, there was a crowd gathered. Hannah bolted from her brother’s side to hug the line of nuns that had gathered to welcome her home. The rest of Team 7 was also waiting to observe the return.

That night, after Hannah was safely settled in her room at the convent, Josiah stood in the doorway watching her sleep. After a half hour or so, he retired to the room the nuns had made available to him. He wanted to spend a few days getting his sister resettled into her routine before he left her. Sister Maria assured him that the woman would not be left alone in the garden again.

+ + + + + + +

It was several weeks before the entire team was released to return to duty. JD had gone thru physical therapy to build up his arm and shoulder again before heading to the range to re-qualify with his sidearm. Josiah spent several hours with a department therapist to deal with the emotions that Hannah’s disappearance had unearthed.

+ + + + + + +

Almost two months after Hannah was returned to Denver, Josiah stood in the garden of the convent watching her draw. It was the warmest part of the summer in Denver. The sky was a solid bowl of azure blue with hardly a cloud in the sky as he stood over his sister. She had been drawing the faces of the people from the nursing home in her sketchpad. He leaned over and studied the face she was finishing. A startled gasp left his mouth as he recognized the person as Winston McCoy.

“Who is that, Hannah?” He kept his voice carefully neutral as he touched the charcoal drawing.

“He’s an angel, Josiah. He told me that you would find me when he came to me the night before you came to take me home.” Her innocent smile held a child-like faith as she went back to the drawing.