Follows A Little Help
Here is the next installment in the series. Thanks so much to everyone who has responded so positively to the stories. Im still struggling with the tendency to drift into happily ever after with everything and I do apologize. Ezras story is next; it finally came to me on the way to a Family Support Team meeting for a couple of my boys. Enjoy.
Ill see you this evening, JD called as he pushed one arm into his jacket. He picked up the keys to the Mustang and headed out the door. Buck glanced up from the couch, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
You arent going to watch the game? He asked.
Nope, I got other plans. See you this evening, he called over his shoulder as he pulled the door closed.
Buck shook his head in amazement. His young roommate had been skipping out every Sunday afternoon and two or three evenings a week for the past few weeks. When he came home in the evening, he went straight into the shower before dropping onto the couch just in time to watch the news.
Arriving at the hospital, JD went straight to the floor where he was working as a volunteer. At his approach, several small faces brightened. Since the adoption fair, he had been working in the Denver Childrens hospital. The floor where the children with cancer were treated had become like a second home. While most people turned away from these kids, it was old hat to him. The little bald heads didnt scare him or make him want to look away. He had cared for his mother through the end of her battle with the dreaded disease.
A shy, thin girl glanced up at the young ATF agent before looking back at the book she was holding. Shantelle was painfully ashamed of the way she looked after losing all of her hair. A rare form of bone cancer was ravaging her small body and the treatment that might cure her was ravaging her spirit. JD smiled warmly at her as he moved across the playroom greeting other children as he walked. He smiled again at the 12 year old. The nursing staff and the psychologist working with the children thought the girl could use a more positive self-image. Every time JD smiled at the girl, he boosted her morale without even realizing.
The following week, the team was gathered together at the ranch on Saturday. The horses were all groomed and the team gathered on the deck of Chriss house. Josiah was busy grilling steaks. They were lounging around after a particularly monotonous week. Vin pulled out his harmonica and blew a few bars before sighing and putting it back in his pocket. It was one of those lazy days when they couldnt work up the energy to do much of anything.
What do you say we drive down to Silver Springs tomorrow and watch the stock car races? Buck suggested.
Sounds good. Count me in, Nathan responded.
I dont have anything better to do, Josiah announced from the grill.
If I could, perhaps garner a ride from one of you, it might be an interesting way to spend a day, Ezra said, surprising everyone.
You can catch a ride up with me, Ez, Vin offered. He chuckled at the blanching of the undercover agents face.
We can all ride up in the Dodge, Chris announced to Ezras considerable relief.
Count me out. Ive got plans, JD said softly.
Aw, come on, JD! Youve been slipping out every Sunday for the last month. Cant you just call and cancel? Buck protested.
Sorry, its important. You guys have a good time. Im gonna head on home and get some sleep, the young agent announced. He crushed the Coke can in his hand and tossed it into the recycle bin.
After the sound of the Mustang had faded in the distance, Chris turned his attention back on Buck.
How much do you know about where hes going tomorrow?
Not a thing! Hes been disappearing on Sunday and some evenings for the past few weeks. He wont tell me where hes going. You dont think theres anything wrong, do you? The ladies mans voice was laced with concern.
Gentlemen, perhaps if I were to miss tomorrow afternoons activities, I might be able to shed some light on Mr. Dunnes whereabouts when you return, Ezra suggested.
You didnt want to go anyway, did you? Nathan ribbed the southerner.
Sunday afternoon, Buck spent all of his spare time wheedling JD, trying to find out his plans for the day. The young agent deflected all of the questions with a smile and shake of his head. He had no intention of revealing his destination to Buck or any of his teammates.
You sure you dont want to come with us? Gonna be a lot of fun. If we get there early, maybe we can get close up and personal with some of the cars.
The kid was tight lipped about his afternoon activities and politely refused every invitation. He was beginning to get tired of fending off the questions. The Dodge pulled up out front of the building and Chris honked the horn. Giving his roommate one last look, Wilmington picked up his keys and left the apartment.
They made a production of Ezra getting out of the Dodge so that JD could see him. A couple of blocks away, Chris pulled over and let the southerner out. Nathan had borrowed Rains Toyota and parked it there before getting into the truck for the ride to the apartment.
Good luck, Josiah called as Ezra got out and reached for the drivers door.
JD picked up his jacket and keys and headed for the door. He slipped on his sunglasses as he slid behind the wheel. The radio blared as he put the car in reverse and left the parking lot. He never noticed the red Toyota that sat two cars back.
Ezra was puzzled as he followed JD to the hospital. To avoid being caught, he had to park too far away from the Mustang to be able to keep an eye on his young friend. He asked at the information desk, but the kindly woman sitting at the desk hadnt been looking when his friend passed by. She offered to page him.
No, that wont be necessary, he told her.
Had he gotten into the building just a few seconds earlier, he might have seen his young friend getting into the elevator. JD had stopped at the gift shop to pick up something special for Shantelle. The nurses had confided to him that the little girl was collecting Snow Babies and that the gift shop had one that the girl wanted. He had also gotten her a single rose in a bud vase.
That evening, Ezra waited at the ranch for the others to return. He had run all kinds of scenarios through his mind and kept coming back to the same thing. Something was wrong with JD!
I knew it! I thought he smelled like a hospital the first time he came home from one of his mysterious appointments! We have to confront him! If somethings wrong, we have a right to know! Buck ranted and raved as he rested one shaky hand on his belt and dragged the fingers of his other hand through his hair.
We cant just confront him, Buck. Hed be hurt if he found out that we had him followed, Nathan protested. As badly as he wanted to know that the kid was all right, he didnt want to find out at the expense of their friendship.
Perhaps we could do a little snooping around this week at the hospital. Maybe somebody will tell us whats going on. Id prefer to have a little more information on my side before we get in his face about it, Chris decided.
Monday morning, everyone was trying their best to act nonchalant. And they were failing miserably. Conversations between the normally gregarious men were stilted. JD felt nervous and edgy all morning. He knew that the others were watching him but he didnt know why. Chris called them to gather in the conference room so they could be briefed on their next case.
So, how were the stock car races, Ezra? JD asked as the southerner sat down next to him.
They were, umm, not exactly the way I pictured them, he managed to say.
JD saw the lie on the undercover agents face. He turned his attention to the folder in front of him to hide the fact that he was beginning to worry. Something was going on and they were lying to him about it! He was hurt. They thought him too much a kid to be able to deal with it. A warm flush of anger colored his cheeks.
Chris entered the conference room and glanced around. Seeing that they were all there, he launched into the briefing. They were being sent to do surveillance of a bar suspected of receiving and distributing bootleg liquor.
The establishment is near the highway and the shipments are coming in at all hours of the night. Were going to have to sit on the place until we catch the supplier. Travis wants us to trace this back to the source so were not going to bust them right off. We want to try to slip a Lo-jack on the delivery truck so we can get the people at the top. Ezras going undercover as a buyer to try to get the inside scoop. So, Josiah and Nathan, you have the first night, Vin and I will take the next and Buck and JD after that. If we dont have them by then, well start again. While those on surveillance duty are sleeping, the rest of us will be backing Ezra up. JD, go check the van and make sure the equipment is all in working order. Vin, go pick up the court orders for the phone taps. Lets do this one quick and clean. Get going.
Riding in the elevator to the parking garage, JD began to think he was mistaken. If Chris was letting him do the same duty as everyone else, then surely he wasnt keeping something from him. Maybe the guys were just a little hung over from the stock car races, he decided, that had to be what it was.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, Chris turned to the others. Okay, Ezra you have the freedom to ask around at the hospital. See what you can find out. You wont need to make an appearance at the bar until late afternoon. The rest of us will get things rolling here. Josiah, you and Nate might want to try to catch a few hours of sleep this evening before you have to be on duty.
When JD returned to the offices, Ezra had already gone. He gave Chris the equipment list to sign for all the devises being used. He spent the rest of the morning pulling up information on the bar and the people who owned it. One of the men had connections in Albuquerque and the other in Las Vegas. All their business dealings were just this side of legal, barely. Their liquor license had been pulled twice in the past three years.
Starting in the emergency room, Ezra asked a few of the nursing staff if they had seen JD on Sunday afternoon. No one could remember him being there. The southerner then made his way to the intensive care ward to see if it was someone there the young agent was visiting. Two hours later, he was still no closer to understanding what was going on with JD.
Monday evening, JD was introduced to another young patient who could use some special attention. Wesley was having surgery for a brain tumor. The little boy had lost his sight and a lot of his motor control to the time bomb inside his skull. His young parents had two other younger children at home and no relatives in the area so they couldnt spend a lot of time at the hospital. They had relocated to Denver so the boy could get the best care. The frail looking five year old was curled up despondently in his bed. Everything he knew was gone and he couldnt understand what was happening. The nurses didnt have the time to sit and hold and comfort him so they were glad to see the young man that evening. JD spent two hours holding and rocking the boy and even coaxed him into eating some of the food the nurses brought.
Tuesday, the office was quiet. Chris was in his office reviewing the information they had gathered the previous night. Nathan and Josiah had photographed a dozen or more trucks taking boxes away from the bar but none delivering. They had gone home at daybreak to get some sleep. Chris and Vin were going to be leaving shortly to get a few hours of sleep before going on duty that night. The phone on JDs desk rang, shattering the silence in the bullpen. The team leader watched as JD picked up the call. A minute later, he lowered the receiver back into place and sat staring into space.
JD, is something wrong? Vin asked. He had noticed the stricken look on the young mans face.
Huh? What? No, nothings wrong. Excuse me, JD mumbled as he got up from the desk and walked toward the restroom.
What was that all about? Chris asked as he stepped out of his office. Vin shrugged his shoulders. The team leader strode across the room and slipped into the restroom. JD? Are you in here?
The sniffle was unmistakable just before the toilet flushed. JD came out of the stall looking like hed been crying. He refused to meet Chriss eyes as he stepped to the sink to wash his hands.
JD? If theres anything I can do, the blond offered.
No, there isnt anything anyone can do. Thanks for asking.
Shortly after Chris entered the restroom, JDs phone rang again. Pressing the blinking light brought the call to Vins desk, Agent Tanner, can I help you?
Oh, I was looking for JD. I just wanted to make sure he was all right, the female caller said hesitantly. The caller ID showed the call originated at Denver General hospital.
Hes a little upset. Did something happen? Vin pried gently.
Well, they just told him about Wesley and I was concerned. Tell him that Abby called if he wants to talk, okay? The woman wasnt going to volunteer any more information.
Ill do that, thanks maam. After hanging up the phone, the sharpshooter was even more puzzled.
Wednesday night the roommates had been sitting in the surveillance van for two hours. Buck had been working JD the entire time, trying to find out what was wrong with the young man he loved like a brother. The kid had disappeared that afternoon for a couple of hours and returned looking even more pale than usual. He was quiet and withdrawn the rest of the afternoon. When they arrived at the apartment to get some sleep, he went straight to his room and closed the door. When Buck peeked in on him later, he could see that the pillowslip was wet from tears.
You know you can tell me anything, right? Wilmington announced.
Yeah, I just dont want to talk about it right now, okay? JD answered defensively.
Youd tell me if something was wrong, wouldnt you?
Yeah, Buck. How many times do I got to tell you theres nothing wrong! Cant you just drop it?
The rest of the shift passed in relative silence. All of his instincts told him that something was very wrong with his little brother and he would just have to wait until JD decided to tell the truth.
On Friday afternoon, Ezra returned to the hospital armed with the names Vin had given him from the phone call. Wesley and Abby had to mean something to someone. He started in the Human Resources office and found that there were at least six women working at the hospital with the name Abby or Abigail. He ruled out the one who worked in food service as being unlikely to have been close enough to a patient and a visitor to have made the call. That left one surgery department nurse, one intensive care nurse, a general care nurse, a physical therapy assistant and one nurse who worked in pediatrics.
After striking out with the surgery nurse and the physical therapy assistant, the southerner was called away. His undercover work was bearing fruit. The call was from the man who managed the bar and he wanted to set up a meeting to talk about buying some special stock.
Saturday morning, JD slipped out of the apartment before Buck got out of bed. He wanted to go back to the hospital and check on Shantelle. She was having some tests when he arrived so JD sat down in the playroom and entertained some of the other kids. He got involved with Michael and Paulo, who were building a tower out of the large pail of Lego blocks they had found. JD was especially good at separating blocks and sorting them according to size and color while the mini architects exercised their skills. When Shantelle returned from her tests, she burst into the playroom and threw herself at the young man, sobbing. The doctor said that her cancer was progressing. She would have to undergo another round of chemotherapy, an unpleasant drug cocktail that made her miserably sick. JD held her until she had cried herself out. He stayed with her until after lunch.
The meeting was scheduled for ten that night. Ezra had met with the bar manager and arranged to meet with the supplier. The surveillance teams had managed to trace the shipments to several other drinking establishments in the greater Denver area. With just a little more wheedling, the smooth talking southerner had managed to get them to invite the men in charge to the meeting with the offer of a big, big buy.
Buck was troubled by something he had discovered by accident that morning. While going through JDs clothes to put them in the wash, he found out that his roommate had taken out a loan and bought a cemetery plot. It had so upset the ladies man that he had immediately driven to the ranch to tell Chris. They decided to pry the truth out of JD as soon as this mission was concluded.
The bust could not have gone much more wrong. Ezra was taken hostage by the suppliers and a gunfight ensued. An errant bullet punctured a gas tank on one of the big delivery trucks and a spark later ignited the volatile fuel. The fire reached the bar and the natural gas line exploded throwing several men to the ground. JD had the misfortune of hitting his head on the side of the surveillance van. Besides the minor concussion, he opened a good-sized gash in his scalp, which bled profusely. Josiah got a little too close to the fire while trying to rescue Nathan.
In the brawl that broke out before the bad guys could be restrained, Chris took a hard knock to the head that loosened a couple of teeth. Vin managed to get some bad scrapes while rolling around on the ground fighting with one of the drivers. It was all sorted out by the time the fire department arrived to put out the fire that was being fed by the crates of bootleg alcohol stored in the basement.
The sun was just coming up as the team arrived at the hospital. Chris and JD were sent off for head X-rays while the ER staff was tending to the rest of the team. With the bootleggers that were brought in, the staff had its hands full and it was a long wait for everyone. Vin was the first to notice that JD was missing from the emergency area.
Nathan, JDs gone, he announced. The team medic caught the nurse that was gathering their charts.
Excuse me, did you see where our young friend went? Jackson asked.
The kid with the scalp lac? He said he was going up to pediatrics. I already had the doctor sign off on his chart.
The team piled into an elevator and headed for the pediatric floor. They walked down the hallway, gathering odd looks as they went. They didnt see JD anywhere. Finally, Nathan grabbed a nurse and asked if she had seen the young agent.
You mean the young fellow with the long, dark hair? She asked. Hes in room 1219, right around the corner.
Following the direction she pointed, they rounded the corner and peered into the semi dark room. JD sat in a rocking chair with a young girl draped across his lap. The young mans face was filled with emotion as he spoke softly to the girl. The team stared, awestruck as they watched. A nurse slipped up behind them and spoke softly.
Hes been really great. Those kids need to be held and rocked and he comes in quite often to sit with them. We were a little concerned at first when he applied but hes doing a wonderful job.
Ezra turned and caught sight of her nametag, it read Abby. He stopped her from walking away.
Could you tell us what happened to Wesley?
Wesley was in for surgery to remove a tumor from his brain. The poor little thing just wasnt strong enough to survive. One of the nurses told me that JD donated a cemetery plot for the boys burial.
Suddenly, it was all so clear to them. JD wasnt dying or anything awful. He just didnt want anyone to know that he was spending his free time with kids who had cancer. Abby stepped through the doorway and eased the sleeping girl from his arms and put her back to bed. She touched his shoulder before pointing to the doorway. His eyes widened at the line of faces staring at him.
JD, why didnt ya tell us? Vin asked.
What made you want to do this? Josiah asked.
Why keep it a secret? Buck wanted to know.
I didnt tell you because I didnt think youd understand. These kids, they dont have a lot to hold on to. Some have families who cant always be here with them. I cant imagine being sick and scared and not having my parents there to hold me. Its kind of like helping my mom. Shed have wanted me to do this. I didnt want you all to think I was some kind of sissy or something, JD confided.
JD, you know nothing you could ever do would make us think any less of you. The courage and concern you have shown make me proud to be associated with you, Ezra announced.
Several weeks later, JD got a phone call. After listening for several minutes, he thanked the caller and hung up. Nathan noticed the silent tears coursing down his cheeks and rushed across to the other desk.
JD? Is something wrong? The medic asked as he placed a hand on the young agents shoulder.
That was the hospital. Shantelle had another bone scan today. They said it looks like shes in remission, he whispered before turning and burying his face in Nathans chest. After a moment, he pushed away. Can you tell Chris that I had to go? Theres someone I have to see.
With trembling hands, JD knocked on the door to room 1219. A woman opened the door and smiled shyly at the young stranger. He could see the child in the face of her mother.
Can I help you? She asked when the young man said nothing.
A happy voice called out from the bed, Mom! Thats JD! Hes the one I was telling you about!
All the adults in the room turned to see the young man who meant so much to the girl when she was going through a horrible time in her young life. A tall, thin man walked to the door and extended his hand.
Im Shantelles dad and its a pleasure to meet you, JD, he said.
The crowd around the bed parted and allowed JD to get to the girls side. In his arms was a vase filled with roses. The 12 year olds eyes flew wide open, as did her mouth at the sight. After the vase was safely ensconced on the bedside table, the girl leapt from the bed and wrapped her arms and legs around her friend.
The Fair #5: A Voice for Maddie
Okay, it went way over into sappy and happily ever after but every time I tried to change it, it just felt wrong. Please dont tell me I made JD sound like a Mary Sue or anything; I just pictured him helping sick kids.