Christmas Miracles and Dreams

by Winnie

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+ + + + + + +

Buck hurried to the door as he heard a car pull up outside. He smiled thinly as Nettie Wells opened the door and grabbed a bag from the back seat before she hurried towards him.

“Thanks for coming, Mrs. Wells.”

“I’m sorry it took me so long, Buck. Has there been anything new on Mr. Larabee or V…Vin’s whereabouts?”

“No, Ma’am, not since I called you this morning. I wish there was, but everything seems to be at a standstill because of last night’s storm. Josiah and Nathan left early this morning to backtrack from the school and see if they could find anything.”

“Where’s JD?”

“He’s out back with Ezra. He’s been amazing with JD,” Buck said as he took her coat and hung it inside the closet. “They’ve been sliding on the hill out back for almost an hour now and it’s keeping JD’s mind off Chris and Vin.”

“That’s good. Will you two be joining Josiah and Nathan in searching for Chris and Vin?”

“Actually, Ezra and I are going to take the access road north and see if we can find anything. I figure maybe Chris and Vin got turned around in the storm and they could’ve walked right past here,” Wilmington explained as they walked to the back doors.

“You don’t really believe that do you, Buck?”

“No, but we’re not discounting any possibilities and a couple of other teams are searching as well. We’ll find them, Mrs. Wells.”

“I know you will, after all it is the season for miracles.”

“Yes, that it is.” Wilmington smiled as JD ran towards him. The boys face was red from the cold and Buck reached down and plucked him from the ground. “Hey, Li’l bit, you’re freezing!”

“Nope, but uncle Ezra is. He says,” the boy stopped as he spotted the woman standing beside Wilmington. “Hiya, Aunt Nettie, you gonna stay with me?”

“I sure am, JD. Why don’t we get you undressed and maybe we can make a nice pot of soup for dinner?”

“Chicken soup?” They boys asked and before she could answer he continued. “Tha’s Vin’s fav’rite and he needs somethin’ warm when he and Chris come home.”

“Chicken soup it is, JD,” Nettie Wells assured him as Ezra Standish joined them.

“It is nice to see you again, Mrs. Wells, I just wish it was under more agreeable circumstances.”

“I’m sure you boys will see to it that the circumstances are more agreeable. Now, please get out there and find them while this young man and I make sure there’s something warm for everyone to come home to.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Wells.”

“You’re welcome, Buck,” the older woman said as she placed her mouth next to his ear and whispered. “Find them, Son, and bring them home.”

“We will,” Wilmington assured her before hurrying towards the door.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had no idea how long he laid in the dark drifting in and out of consciousness as he tried to stay warm. The cold air of the basement had become decidedly more uncomfortable since the window had been broken out and he shivered uncontrollably in the darkness. There’d been no sounds from above him and he knew Marshall and Linden had yet to return, but eventually they would be back. Chris knew when they returned to find the child gone they would simply kill him, but there was not much he could do to prevent that. The manacles held him fast and each time he struggled it felt like something was stabbing him in the gut and he wondered at the very real possibility of internal injuries. Taking shallow breaths eased the pain in his chest, but it also contributed to the lightheadedness he felt. His arm throbbed with an incessant cacophony of contempt for the way his arms were bound, but there was nothing he could do to ease his own torment. He fought the bounds once more and cried out as pain radiated from head to foot just before consciousness left him.

In the darkness there was little evidence that anyone was there except the labored breathing and the wispy tendrils of breath that left the injured man’s mouth.

+ + + + + + +

Vin heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and moved off the road into the ditch. The roads had not been ploughed this far out and he could count the tire tracks that were in evidence. Only two cars had passed him and he’d hidden until they were close enough to see inside. Both cars had two people inside and Vin couldn’t take the chance that it could be Marshall and Linden returning. His hands were cold and his fingers numb as he watched the approaching car. His eyes grew moist with tears as once more there were two people in the car.

“I’ll get help, Chris,” he whispered as the car drove past his hiding place. When the sound of the engine disappeared in the distance, Vin climbed out of the ditch and began walking along the edge of the road once more. Knowing that Chris’ life depended on him he placed one foot in front of the other and moved with grim determination towards the help he sought .

+ + + + + + +

Rudy Marshall cursed as he tore apart the abandoned apartment. The building itself was slated for demolition early in the new year and he knew they had to find the journal before that happened.

“Are you sure this is the right place, Rudy?”

“Ray said they lived in the last apartment on the third floor! Keep looking!”

“I am, but I think the boy pulled one over on us!”

“If he did then Larabee won’t see the light of another day. Check in the closet in the other bedroom,” Marshall ordered as he pulled a mildewed stuffed toy from the top shelf. “Damn it! That boy will pay for this!”

“Remember what Harrington said!”

“I told you I don’t give a damn what Harrington says! As soon as we get the journal we’ll make him pay through the nose for every page of it!”

“Sounds good to me, Rudy, but first…”

“We need to find the fucking thing! I know, but it’s not here. Come on, let’s get back to our conniving little Texan and teach him and his father a few more lessons in etiquette.” With those words he stormed out of the apartment and made his way towards the dilapidated stairwell. His mind was on the two people in the basement and the price they would pay for the boy’s lies.

+ + + + + + +

Nettie watched the small form curled up in a ball on the chair in front of the big bow window at the front of the house. JD had refused to eat, saying he wanted to wait until Vin was there so he could share it with his friend. JD’s hands were on the sill and his chin rested on them as he looked out into the silent, snow swept evening.

“JD, why don’t we put in your Dora The Explorer tape and see if we can learn some new Spanish words to show Vin?”

“No, thank you, Aunt Nettie. I’s gonna watch for Buck. He said he’s gonna bring Vin and Chris home and I wants ta see ‘em when he does.”

“All right, JD,” Nettie said and hurried to get a blanket and a couple of children’s books from the boy’s bedroom. She carried her load back to the chair and eased down beside the boy.

“What’s that?”

“Well, JD, I thought we could watch for Buck while we read some stories and cuddled under the blanket. How does that sound?”

“Sounds good, Aunt Nettie. Me an’ Vin loves ta read!”

“That’s good, Son. Which one do we start with?”

“Thomas the Tank Engine,” JD answered, but his gaze was once more on the empty drive outside the house.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah and Nathan had little luck in their search of Larabee and his son. They’d stopped by the police precinct and found little in the way of answers. Lab tests on the syringe revealed it to have held a strong anesthetic and Sanchez knew instinctively it had been used on Chris Larabee in an effort to subdue him. The lone fingerprint belonged to someone other than Chris, Vin, Buck, or JD, but it still could’ve belonged to anyone who happened to touch the truck after Larabee had it washed. Still they were going under the assumption that it belonged to whoever had taken Larabee and Tanner and the partial print was even now being compared to those already in the database. The days turned dark early at this time of year and Josiah prayed they would find the missing duo soon.

+ + + + + + +

Buck glanced sideways at the man seated in the passenger seat. So far they’d found nothing that would indicate they were on the right track, yet neither man was discouraged. As the sky overhead began to darken, Buck Wilmington began to pray.

‘Lord, I know I probably don’t deserve much this year, but I’m asking you to bring Chris and Vin back home where they belong. JD’s missing Vin something fierce and well, to be honest I’m kinda missing him as well. The boys are like brothers and I guess that makes me and Chris parents and well I haven’t seen Chris so happy since before he lost Sarah and Adam. Please keep them safe, Lord, and bring them back to us!’

“Mr. Wilmington, I believe we should check in with the other team and see if there are any new developments regarding the fingerprints and syringe.”

Buck shook himself and looked at the road ahead. Breathing deeply he realized the other man was right and slowed the car down. “See anywhere I can turn around?”

“I’m afraid not. Perhaps if we drove a little further there’ll be an adequate place to maneuver.”

“Yeah, guess so.”

+ + + + + + +

Vin heard the sound of another car and hurried into the ditch. The darkness was fast approaching and he knew there was no way he could stay outside much longer. His body trembled uncontrollably as he watched the road. The cars headlights cut a path through the darkness and he wished he could see how many people were inside. As if some in answer to his prayer a light appeared inside just as the car drew abreast of his position and he recognized the driver as tears formed and dropped from his eyes,

“No! Chris!” he thought as the light went out and the car continued along the road. Knowing the car he’d been afraid of was now behind him the boy renewed his efforts to find help just as

+ + + + + + +

Buck frowned as he continued to drive along the road and snow began to fall again. It felt as if his heart was heavy in his chest and that someone was conspiring to stop him in his tracks. He knew Standish felt the same way as they sought a place to turn the car.


“Nothing but snow, snow, and more snow,” Standish answered as they crested a hill and began to slide along the slippery surface.

“Damn!” Wilmington cursed as he fought for control of the vehicle.

“Buck! Look out!” Standish screamed as something formed in the headlights.

“What?” the rogue cried as he tried to stop the forward momentum of the car before it struck the small object in front of him. His experience behind the wheel came in handy as the car slid to a stop inches in front of a terrified child.

+ + + + + + +

Vin’s head snapped up as the sound of a car approached and a set of headlights again cut through the darkness. As the car came over the hill he waved his arms and screamed as it showed no signs of slowing down.

+ + + + + + +

Chris lifted his head, crying out as his eyes opened to darkness and the icy air entered his lungs causing him to cough and reawakening the pain in his chest and gut. He knew something had wakened him and listened intently in the darkness as the sound of footsteps reached his ears. His first thoughts were of his son and he prayed Vin had not returned on his own. His second thoughts were of his captors and he knew they’d returned as Marshall’s muffled voice penetrated the closed doorway.

“You lied to me, Vin, and now papa’s gonna pay for it!”

+ + + + + + +

“Vin!” Wilmington shouted as he bolted from the car and reached the trembling child. He reached down and lifted the boy into his arms and held him as sobs wracked the tiny frame. Knowing the child needed warmth he hurried back to the car and climbed into the back as Ezra moved into the driver’s seat. “God, Vin, we’ve been so worried.”

“U…uncle…buck…Chris…Chris help.”

“Where is he, Vin?” the gentle rogue asked as he continued to sooth the shivering young man. He thanked the gambler as the younger man removed his coat and passed it back to him.

“I…I don’t k…know…b…back the r…road. T…they hurts ‘im, h…hurts ‘im bad.”

Buck met Ezra’s eyes in the rearview mirror and saw the same worry in the green orbs. He quickly turned his attention back to the boy in his arms and asked. “Vin, do you remember if you made any turns or if you stayed on this road?”

“D…didn’t turn. Followed…t…the road…hid from t…them…”

“Perhaps we should get master Tanner back to the house and then…”

“No!” the boy cried pulling away from Wilmington’s tight embrace and grabbing for the door handle.


“No, Please, uncle B…Buck. Chris n…needs us.”

“I know, Son, but he wouldn’t want us to ignore your injuries…”

”Ain’t hurt…they hurt C…Chris…not me, Uncle Buck. Want papa’s journal…hurt Chris to m…make me tell…but, but…I didn’t I couldn’t t…tell ‘em. P…please, U…uncle Ezra…they p…passed me a…and they’s g…gonna hurts ‘im ‘cause I a…ain’t there.”

“Easy, Son,” Wilmington soothed as he again met Standish’s eyes. “Ezra, there are a couple of abandoned homes up ahead. Why don’t we check them out and if there’s nothing there we’ll bring Vin home and get the others out here?”

“All right, Mr. Wilmington,” Standish said as he started down the steep hill.

“How many men were there, Vin?”

“Jest two of ‘em…they’s mean…really mean,” the boy answered as he snuggled into the warmth of Wilmington’s arms.

+ + + + + + +

Chris said a silent prayer of thanks that Vin Tanner was not there to face Marshall’s wrath. He tried to breathe past the pain as the door opened and a bright flashlight illuminated the area at the bottom of the stairs. He shivered as Marshall’s voice broke the silence of the night.

“Vinnie, come out come out wherever you are.”

Chris set himself to face the duo and knew he would not last long, but at least the young Texan would not be witness to his death. Setting his teeth against the pain Larabee moved and tried to corral the nausea churning through his gut. He heard Marshall walk on to the first step and knew his time was running out.

“Oh, Vinnie, your papa is going to pay dearly for your little lie and then I’m going to put pepper on your tongue and teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.”

Chris managed to climb to his knees, but his leg wouldn’t hold him for long as the beam of the flashlight traced a path towards him. The beam hit his legs and slowly lifted until it illuminated his face.

“Well, well, Larabee, where is our little Vinnie? He’s been a bad little boy you know and you should teach him that lies always come back to hurt you…especially you. Now where is he hiding?”

“G…go to hell!”

“I’m afraid you’ll wish you were in hell by the time we’re through with you. Now where is the boy?”


“What is it, Gregory?”

“Looks like our little boy is a fugitive. Looks like he broke a window back here and climbed out!”

“What? Damn it we checked and there was nothing!”

“This looks like it was well hidden.”

“Go out and find him. Kid can’t have gone far!”

“Sure, Rudy,” Linden said and hurried towards the stairs.

Marshall stood over the injured blond and seethed at the smug look on the bruised face. Without a word he drew back the flashlight and struck out at the blond. He grinned as the man groaned and fell back on the mattress.

“Y…you won’t f…find h…him,” the blond said spitting blood from his mouth as Marshall reached for him once more.

“Gregory will find him and when he does I’m going to shove this…”

“You t…touch him and I…I’ll tear you l…limb from l…limb!” Larabee warned and cried out as Marshall kicked his injured leg. Sparks of pain ignited into a full fledged raging tempest as again and again Rudy Marshall took out his rage on his captive.

+ + + + + + +

“There appears to be some activity at the house on our right,” Standish said as he parked the car in an area that would keep it from view of the abandoned structure and turned off the lights. He turned in the seat and caught sight of the intense blue eyes set in the face of a child. “Buck, you stay here with Vin.”

“Watch your back, Ez.”

“I will,” Standish said as he opened the door and stepped out into the frigid night air. He looked up and down the snow covered road before hurrying across it and standing behind several trees. He could see the beam of a flashlight moving back and forth on the ground and knew this had to be the place where Vin had been held. He debated going back to the car, but before he could make up his mind the man moved towards him and he made his move.

+ + + + + + +

Buck picked up his cell phone and hit the speed dial for Jackson’s number. The phone barely had a chance to ring when it was answered by the familiar voice of the medic.


“Nathan, it’s Buck. Listen we found Vin….”

“How is he? Where’s Chris?”

“Hold on, Nate. Vin’s here with me. He’s cold and scared but doesn’t seem to be hurt. We’re not sure where Chris is. We need you and Josiah to come out here.”

“Where are you, Buck?”

Wilmington told the other man where they were and hugged the trembling boy close against him as he hung up and watched the scene across the road. All he could see was shadows, but he prayed Standish was able to handle himself against his assailant.

+ + + + + + +

“I should kill you right now, Larabee, but it’ll be so much better with that kid here to watch you die! Little bastard will pay for lying!”

“F…fuck y…you!” Larabee said, barely able to draw air into his lungs.

“From where I’m standing you’re the one who’s fucked, Larabee! Good and royally fucked! Does it hurt?”

Chris closed his eyes as the mounting pain and nausea threatened to send him into the waiting maw of a black abyss. Unable to quell his tumultuous stomach he let loose a steady stream of noxious vomit and took heart from the fact that it landed on Marshall’s shining boots.

“You, Bastard!” he said as he took a gun from his jacket and aimed it at Larabee’s head. “I should kill you right now, but I won’t. Gregory!” the man shouted. “Gregory, get your ass back in here!”

+ + + + + + +

Ezra struck out at the man before he realized what was happening and steadied himself as he slipped on the icy ground. He didn’t wait until his footing was better or he’d lose the advantage he’d gained in the surprise attack. Without thinking the gambler kicked out and as his assailant bent over to protect his gut, Standish brought his cupped hands down on the man’s neck again and again until the man was sprawled on the ground. He stood back and placed his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath in the frosty air.

“That’s one!” he whispered as his breath came out in a wispy white haze.

Finally able to breathe he looked back to the car and waved that he was okay and pointed to the house.

+ + + + + + +

Vin felt the tears in his eyes as he reached for the bond he had with Chris Larabee. He knew the older man was trying to shut him out and he knew in his heart why the man was doing that. Chris was trying to keep him from knowing how badly he was hurting and Vin tried to break through the newly strained barrier.

“Chris…” he whimpered against Buck’s shoulder.

“Easy, Son, Chris is going to be just fine. Ezra’s gone to check the house.”

“Chris is hurtin’ uncle Buck…he…he’s…”

+ + + + + + +

“Gregory!” Marshall called, frustration making his voice harsh as the gun continued to point at his captive. “Sonofabitch! Enough is enough!”

Chris watched through blurry eyes as Marshall’s finger slowly pressed against the trigger.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra moved with catlike grace as he crept closer to the house. The door was partially opened and he could hear muffled voices from inside. He slowly removed the gun from his shoulder holster and used the barrel to push the door open. There was only one voice and he clearly heard the anger behind it as he threw caution aside and hurried to the open door that lead to the basement.

+ + + + + + +

“Say Good-bye, Larabee!”

“NO!” Standish shouted as he heard the distinct sound of a weapon being fired.

+ + + + + + +

Chris!” Vin screamed and bolted from the arms holding him. His hands gripped the handle of the door, but larger ones found his and pulled him close once more.

“Sh, Vin,” Wilmington tried, fighting the instinct to rush the house as the sound of a gunshot echoed through the night.

+ + + + + + +

‘I’m sorry, Vin,’ was all Chris had time to think before he felt the bullet rip its way through his flesh. He had no time to wonder about the damage it caused as Marshall drew back on the trigger as a cry of rage sounded above him. It took a while to realize the second bullet hadn’t been fired, but he could not understand why as darkness reached out to him. He fought against the mesmerizing pull as he watched the events unfolding before him. As if from a distance he heard Standish’ cries of rage and smiled as he realized the meaning of the gambler’s presence. It meant Vin Tanner had made it and the young Texan had once more showed his resourcefulness.

Breathing was becoming more of a chore as he looked down at the blossoming red stain on his body. He coughed and tasted blood and opened his eyes when a hand touched against his shoulder. He looked up into Standish’ face and tried to smile.

“V…Vin?” he managed as the other man tore a piece from his shirt and balled it up before pressing it against the wound in his chest.

“I assure you young master Tanner is fine. He’s with, Buck, You however are in dire need of the medical profession.”

“Tell…tell Vin he done good,” Larabee said, moaning as the pain in his chest was amplified even as Standish spoke to him. Chris felt the cold as it worked its icy fingers into his body. His mind was all to aware of the warm blood that ran from the bullet wound and the cold breath of death looming over his right shoulder. He frowned as he watched Ezra’s mouth moving and wondered at the fear he saw on the face.

“N…not afraid, Ez…not afraid…”

“Chris don’t you…Look I need a medivac…damn it! No! I need it now! A man’s life…”

+ + + + + + +

Buck heard a second shot and saw the fear he felt written on the boy’s face as tears flowed freely from the blue eyes.

“It’s okay, Vin,” Wilmington said, wanting more than anything to rush into the house. There was no way he could do that. Not with the distraught child in his arms.

“Chris, Uncle Buck…help h….him. P…please help him.”

“Sh, Son. Do you trust Ezra?”


“Then we need to let him handle Chris…”

“G…go help h…him.”

“I can’t leave you here alone, Vin. Chris would never forgive me if I let anything happen to you. I would never forgive myself. Nathan and Josiah’ll be here soon and they’ll help us.”

“But they hurts Chris…hurts ‘im bad. I sawed ‘em do it.”

“I know you did, Son, and so help me God I’ll make sure they pay for it,” Wilmington vowed as the child dissolved into tears and leaned heavily against him. ‘Make sure they pay for what they’ve done!’

+ + + + + + +

Ezra dropped the phone as he continued to put pressure on the wound to Larabee’s chest. The blond had lost consciousness just as the call to 911 assured him the medivac chopper was in route. He knew Buck and Vin were probably worried out of their minds, but right now he had to concentrate on the life that seemed to be deteriorating with every drop of blood that left the body.

“Don’t you do this to that boy, Chris! He’s lost enough in his life without losing you too!” Standish warned as tears escaped his eyes.

+ + + + + + +

Buck shifted uncomfortably and tried to see into the yard where Standish had disappeared nearly fifteen minutes ago. The sound of his own breathing seemed deafening, yet he knew it was only his imagination. The boy he held trembled uncontrollably and he prayed Standish would come out and give them some news. Minutes ticked by and still there was no sign of movement. He looked at his watch, amazed at how much time had passed as Vin lifted his head.

“Please, Uncle Buck, I…I’ll stay here,” the boy promised, misty tears in his eyes.

“I know you would, Son, but I can’t take that chance with your life.”

“But…but what ‘bout Chris? He’s…”

“Ezra’s got him, Vin, and he’s helping him.”

“But…what if…if”

“I know,” Wilmington said sadly.

December 21st

Ezra heard nothing, but the pounding roar of his own breathing as he fought to keep Chris Larabee alive until help arrived. He didn’t hear the frantic voices from above as he kept repeating the same mantra he’d started when Larabee lapsed into unconsciousness.

“I won’t let you die! You hear me? I won’t let you die!”

+ + + + + + +

The police arrived with the chopper and quickly surrounded the house and secured the unconscious man on the front lawn. They quickly verified Buck Wilmington’s story and told him to wait with the boy in the car. Officer Jake Rollins lead a trio of men into the house, making sure there was no threat from those inside. Rollins was an officer of eight years and had seen many things, but he didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone as badly beaten as the man his flashlight beam illuminated.

“Are you Standish?”

“Yes, damn it. Where are the paramedics?”

“They’re outside…”

“Well get them in here and get someone to open these damn cuffs!” Standish snapped.

“You know the rules, Standish. They don’t come in until we’ve secured the area,” Rollins said as he checked the third man lying at the bottom of the stairs even as he called for the paramedics that it was safe for them to enter.

“Excuse me, Sir, you’ll have to move back.”

Ezra looked at the man who’d spoken and sighed as he relinquished care of the blond to the two men. He wanted to stay with Larabee, but he knew there were two people who anxiously waited for any news on the man’s condition. He heard the frantic back and forth talk between the two paramedics and reluctantly turned away and took the stairs two at a time. When he reached the main door of the house his stomach erupted and he vomited into the snow, the taste sour in his mouth as he lifted his head and hurried towards the end of the driveway. The headlights of the police cars illuminated the front yard and several hundred feet of the road. As he moved towards the familiar car he heard his name being called and turned in time to see Jackson and Sanchez hurrying towards him.

“Ez, where are they?”

“Buck and Vin are in the car. Chris…Chris is in the house. The paramedics are in there with him now…”

“Ezra!” Wilmington called as he opened the car door, climbed out and reached to take the child in his arms.

“Buck, how’s Vin?” Jackson asked.

“He’s cold, Nate, and a little shocky, but I don’t think he’s hurt otherwise.”

“Thank you, Lord,” Sanchez said as they closed in around the car. “Ezra was about to tell us about Chris.”

“He’s alive, Josiah,” Standish explained, but refused to say more with the boy present.

“Please, Uncle Ezra, wha’s wrong wit’ Chris?”

“Chris is going to be fine, Vin…”

“N…no, him’s hurted bad,” the child cried as he looked wide eyed towards the house where he’d been held prisoner.

“Yes, he is, Sport, but Chris is tough, right?” Sanchez asked, reaching for the boy.

“T…tough,” Tanner nodded.

“Buck, Josiah and I are going to take Vin to the hospital. We’ll meet you boys there.”

“Thanks, Nathan…”

“No, I gots ta stay wit’ Chris.”

“No, Vin, you need to go with Nathan and check on JD. He’s been real worried about you. Nathan, can you call the house and let her know what’s happening?”

“We will, Buck,” Sanchez said as he turned away from the scene. He could feel the boy’s body tensing up as if he was going to bolt from his arms and renewed his grip on the small frame. “It’s okay, Son, the paramedics are going to look after Chris and we need to make sure you’re not hurt. We’ll be at the hospital with Chris before long, Vin.”

Buck breathed a sigh of relief as the two men took care of Vin Tanner. He turned to see Ezra Standish and knew things were worse than he’d imagined as he watched the tears form and slide down the younger man’s cheeks. He placed his hand on the gambler’s shoulder and waited until the green eyes met his.

“Are you okay?”

“No…no, Buck, I’m not.” Standish began, but grew quiet as he watched the activity near the front of the house. He felt Wilmington at his side as they raced towards the stretcher being carried out of the house.

“How is he?” the gentle rogue called as they raced alongside the stretcher.

“He’s critical…We’ll be taking him to Denver Health. The trauma team is ready for him!” the paramedic explained even as they loaded the patient into the chopper and readied for take off. “What’s our ETA?”

“ETA ten minutes, Roy.”

“See if you can shave a few minutes off that time, Pal! This guy doesn’t look like he’s got five minutes let alone ten!”

“Do the best I can!!” the pilot assured him.

Buck and Ezra stood their ground and watched as the chopper lifted off and began its lifesaving flight to the Denver Health Rocky Mountain Regional Trauma Center. They knew Larabee would get the best care possible at the center and prayed that it would be enough.

+ + + + + + +

Milton Armstrong knew the patient being brought in was in critical condition with both blunt and penetrating trauma in the form of knife wounds as well as a gunshot wound to the chest. So far the information they were being given left him little hope for the patient, but he never gave up hope. He looked around the trauma room and knew everything was in readiness for his patient.

“Chopper’s here Dr. Armstrong,” a nurse said and he followed her out the door and out into the area for medivac chopper arrivals.

Armstrong grabbed one side of the gurney and listened as the paramedic gave him the newest readings on his patient’s vitals.

“Blood pressure 90/55...temp is 94, respirations...”

Armstrong began giving orders even as they raced under the still spinning blades and ran towards the open ER doors.

“Doc, we’re losing him!” the paramedic warned as alarms went off.

“Get him into trauma two now! Damn it Larabee at least give us a chance here! Get another line in him.” Armstrong watched as his team began the treatments that would hopefully save this man’s life. He knew the first thing they had to do was get him hooked up to a respirator and get him stabilized enough for surgery. “Are any of his family here?”

“Not yet, Doctor,” Janine Campbell said as she expertly inserted an IV line and began running the fluids into Larabee’s arm.

“Come on, people, let’s get this man stabilized! I want blood gases and get him typed and cross matched. Get me two units of o-neg!” He knew his orders were being carried out quickly and efficiently as the clothing was cut from Larabee’s body, revealing livid bruises, lacerations and the bullet wound that still seeped blood into a once white pressure bandage. The team continued to work together like a well oiled machine and Armstrong prayed they’d be given some extra help from above.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra kept glancing at the man seated next to him as he drove towards Denver’s most notable hospital. He could see Wilmington’s face and wished there was something he could say or do to ease some of the tension from his face.

“Can’t this thing go any faster, Ez?” Wilmington snapped.

“I am already exceeding the posted maximum for this area and it would not be of any benefit to Mr. Larabee or ourselves if we were to be involved in a traffic altercation.”

Buck groaned impatiently as he heard Standish’s words, but understood the man was hiding behind his extensive vocabulary in order to hide his own fears. Realizing the gambler was right, and that they were indeed speeding, Wilmington apologized for his words before turning his attention to the view outside the window once more.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan sat in the back and held tightly to Vin’s tiny form as Sanchez pulled into the driveway of Larabee’s ranch. He knew Nettie would be already dressed and waiting for them and watched as she came through the door with JD holding her hand. She quickly locked the door and hurried to the car. Opening the back door of the car she looked in at Nathan and Vin.

“How is he?”

“Aunt N...Nettie,” Vin cried and moved across the seat towards her. His tears started again as she took him into her arms.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Vin...”

“ hurts Chris...hurts him real bad.”

“I know, but Chris is strong, Vin and you just have to have faith in him and God.”

“B...but God t...took mama and he...he...”

Nettie felt her own tears trailing down her cheeks as the boy dissolved into uncontrollable sobbing. She watched as Jackson took the sobbing JD and seat belted him next to the window.

“Mrs. Wells, why don’t you sit back here with the boys?” Jackson suggested and saw the gratitude in her eyes as she moved into the car and placed Vin on the seat beside her. She secured the child with the seatbelt, put one arm around each of the boys and pulled them close. She watched Vin’s face and knew the young man was heartbroken, yet there was nothing she could do to sooth his fears until they found out how Chris Larabee was doing.

“Everybody got their seatbelts on?” Sanchez asked.

“We’re all set, Mr. Sanchez,” Nettie assured him as the ex-preacher pulled out of the yard.

+ + + + + + +

To anyone who glanced into Trauma Two the scene would have looked chaotic, yet things were being done quickly and efficiently to save the man’s life. Several bags of IV solution ran into Larabee’s arm, a bag of blood dripped through the tubing into the back of the right forearm. A tube ran down his throat and oxygen was being fed into his lungs by the respirator. The clicks and beeps were evidence that the patient was still with them, but further examination had uncovered deadly injuries to the abdominal area, plus the very real possibility of dangerous head injuries.

Armstrong watched as the monitors gave out their readings and everything was noted in the patient’s chart. He looked at the clock and realized they’d been working on Chris Larabee for over an hour and he now faced the hardest part of his job, talking to a patient’s family and going over the options. He peeled of the surgical gloves and turned to the nurse adjusting the IV flow.

“Carla, let OR know we’re coming up now. I’m just going to see if his family’s arrived.”

“Yes, Dr. Armstrong,” the head nurse Carla Babcock answered as she picked up the wall mounted phone.

Armstrong moved to the door and stepped out into the busy ER. He walked towards the waiting room and was nearing the main desk when he heard frantic footsteps coming his way. Two men stepped past him and stopped in front of the desk.

“Excuse me we’re looking for a friend of ours who came in by medivac!”

“Gentlemen, are you looking for Chris Larabee?”

Wilmington and Standish turned to face the silver haired man standing behind them. It was Wilmington who answered.

“Yeah, Doc, how is he?”

“We’re just getting ready to take him to surgery. Your friend is stable but he’s in critical condition. I wouldn’t be taking him to surgery right now only that bullet has to come out. Either one of you family?”

“About the only family Chris has. I have power of attorney...”

“Very well, then I’ll need you to give consent for the surgery and any other treatment Chris needs. If you’ll help fill out the admissions papers the nursing staff will direct you to the surgical floor and you I’ll come find you there when Surgery is over.”

“Doc, tell me he’s going to be okay!” Wilmington said.

“I’m going to do my best, but it won’t hurt to add some extra prayers. As I said, your friend is critical.”

“Dr. Armstrong, they’re ready for you!” Babcock called as the door opened and the bed carrying the injured man was pushed out of the room. The lean body was barely visible beneath the myriad of equipment being used to keep him alive.

Ezra’s hand went to his throat as he saw the tube running into Larabee’s throat and he placed a hand on Wilmington as the two watched the gurney being wheeled quickly in the direction of a bank of elevators.

“I have to go, but I’ll let you know as soon as possible what’s happening,” Armstrong said, hurrying after the stretcher.


“Exactly,” Standish said as he steadied the older man and walked with him to the desk. A harried nurse with sympathetic eyes glanced up from the papers she’d been filing and found a wan smile for the duo.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, ma’am, we need to fill out some papers for Chris Larabee.”

”Oh, yes, I have them right here. I need you to sign this one and read over these before signing the bottom. It just gives permission for Dr. Armstrong to do what’s necessary to insure Mr. Larabee’s survival. There’s a table in the waiting room and a pen in the box at the end of the desk. You can bring the papers back here when you’re done.”

“Thanks,” Wilmington said and headed for the waiting room. They were nearly through when Ezra spotted the other members of the team.

“The others are here...”

“Buck!” JD called and raced towards the ladies man who forced a tired smile on his face.

“Hey, li’l bit, were you good for Mrs. Wells?”

“She says I was a perfect li’l gent’a’man. Where’s Chris?”

“Chris is still with the doctor, JD, but...”

“Vin says he’s hurted real bad,” the blue eyes filled with tears as Nettie joined them.

“Where’s Vin? Is he all right?” Wilmington asked.

“Master Dunne, why don’t you and I see if we can find a place to get some drinks?” Standish asked, taking charge of the boy.

“Sure...can I have coke...”

“No coke, kiddo, milk,” Wilmington answered as the boy walked away. “Mrs. Wells, where’s Vin?”

“Nathan’s getting him checked out. He’s frantic with worry over Mr. Larabee and he’s plum worn himself out. How is he?”

“He’s bad, Ma’am. Dr. Armstrong spoke to us before they took Chris to surgery. He said he was stable, but critical. I just need to finish this paperwork and give it to the nurse at the desk.”

“I’ll stay with you,” the older woman told him and watched as the gentle rogue continued filling in the papers.

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