Main Characters: Vin, Chris, Martin Fitzgerald
Crossover Without a Trace
Wish they were my guys, but I am only borrowing them all for a little while
CHAPTER 1 - 5 | CHAPTER 6 - 9 | CHAPTER 10 - 13 | CHAPTER 14 - 17
Chris halted when his cell phone rang. He stopped so fast the tall dark haired man behind him almost ran him down. Buck scrambled to move aside fast enough to avoid colliding with the blond.
Pulling the phone out of his pocket, Chris quickly answered, "Taylor's." Five other men stopped in their tracks, their boisterous conversations silenced as they listened to the one sided conversation taking place in the bullpen.
"Vin. Are you alright?" Chris Larabee, head of Denver's AFT Team 7, ran his free hand nervously through his blond hair.
"Yeah...Jist tired Chris," came the slow drawl from miles away.
"Where are you? Can you talk?"
"Only fer a minute. I's in some little hole of an apartment in New York City."
"Yeah. Been drivin' all over the east coast and am gettin' pretty tired of it. An' now I'm loadin' the trucks."
"Got an address?"
Vin Tanner quickly gave his boss the address. As he wrote Chris could hear the fatigue in the young man's voice; his Texas drawl always became heavier when he was tired.
"What's going on? We've been worried about you. Haven't heard from you in almost two weeks."
"Got me drivin' all over still. Gawd I hate these big rigs. I think they's startin' to trust me though. Didn't have a rider wit' me last three times out. In my spare time I help load up."
"Vin, I want to pull you out. We've got more than enough to bust the Brigham Company from what you've been able to get to us so far."
"Cain't Chris... Somethin' big's goin' down real soon."
"No Chris. I feel it. M'be within the week. I'll try to let you know. Heard'm talking 'bout Denver. So if I'm drivin' I'll be in Denver soon, then I will get out."
"Are you sure?"
"Yep. I gotta stick here. No time to get anyone else in either, so don't ask."
Chris sighed, he knew Vin was right, but he suddenly had a bad feeling and he was too far away to help Vin on short notice.
"Okay Vin. Keep in touch, anytime, we'll be ready. Watch your back."
"I will. Soon's I know anythin' I'll let ya'll know. Hope to see ya'll in a short time. I gotta' go. Clark's comin'; we're goin' out to eat."
"Take care Vin."
"Tell the boys..."
"Thanks Chris..." came the whispered reply, then the phone went dead.
Chris stood looking at the silver cell phone gripped in his hand, his green eyes troubled.
"How's brother Vin, Chris?" Josiah Sanchez, the team's profiler, asked gently.
Chris jumped; he'd forgotten his men were standing silently around him. He looked around at the worried men. Shaking his head he said, "He sounds ... washed out, tired. I wanted to pull him out but he feels something's going down shortly. Damn. He's in New York City."
"He'll be fine stud! You know Junior," Buck said as he clamped a big hand on the blond's stiff shoulder.
"Yeah, but I don't like this."
"This his address in New York? We could get someone in there to be there for him couldn't we?" Nathan Jackson, their medic and explosives expert, picked up the piece of paper on which Chris had scribbled Vin's address.
"Yes. No. By the time we got there he could be gone. Said he'd overheard something about Denver, so he might be headed this way in the next seven days. When he gets here, he's out. We have enough stuff on Brigham's to take them down."
"I feel bad that I was compromised at such an unfortunate time," Ezra stated, his emerald green eyes full of pain.
"Wasn't your fault Ez. Least you got Vin in. God what a mess." Chris ran his hand through his already mussed hair again, wishing Vin was there, knowing the sharpshooter wouldn't come out until the last minute. He tried not to let on how worried he was.
"Let's go to dinner. We can talk more about this later. We're not helping ourselves or Vin by hashing this out over and over," Josiah put in.
"I could eat," JD added, then ducked as Buck reached out with a long arm out to snag him playfully around his neck.
"You're always hungry boy," Buck said laughing. "You ever catch up with what you're eating you won't ever fit into your clothes again."
"You're full of crap Buck," retorted JD as he pushed away from the larger man.
"Let's go." Chris pulled his warm duster closer around him and headed out the door towards the elevators, the rest of his team following behind him.
As they sat at their regular table in the bar-restaurant they called 'The Saloon,' each had their own thoughts of Vin and the different cases on which they were working. Chris slowly turned his beer in his hands as he thought of this case, which seemed to be running out of their control. Six months ago AD Orrin Travis had handed him the paper work he had gathered on Brigham's operation and told him to bring it down. It took them almost two months before they were able to get Ezra Standish undercover into the main office of Brigham's. Things had gone well for a month, and then Ezra had let them know a truck driver was needed; interviews were the next week. Buck Wilmington had a CDL license and was preparing to apply for the job when he was wounded in the hip on a bust. Vin had stepped in; he had a CDL, though it was out of date. They were able to get it re-activated within two days, just in time for him to apply for the job.
Brigham's recruitment service man had taken one look at the young long-haired sharpshooter and hired him on the spot. The man's thinking, though no one other than Brigham and he knew, was that the Texan was an orphan though he had listed an older 'brother' on his application; he was easily expendable .
+ + + + + + +
Within days Vin was gone, hauling loads of goods to the east coast. His only contact was the cell phone safely tucked into Chris' pocket, and a back up one safely stored at the office. He had been able to let Chris know when suspicious "goods" were being hauled, even though most were in the Eastern half of the States. They had been able to warn their counterparts, mainly the FBI in most cases, of the shipments and several truck loads of arms and illegal items were seized in various cities. One haul had brought in thirty illegal aliens. Chris was sure that was what Vin was going after this time. Most of the items the Brigham Company hauled were legal, but more than once they hauled contraband when the money was right; Vin had been very helpful finding out about the illegal shipments .
+ + + + + + +
Ezra had been undercover in Brigham corporate office for almost three months before his cover was almost blown when a man he'd helped arrest walked into the office. Ezra had been able to get into the restroom without being seen, but as soon as the man disappeared into old man Brigham's office he'd grabbed his files and left. At the time his hair was a blond color and he was sporting a different, more casual look, not dressed in his usual expensive Armani suits, but he knew the man could still recognize him. After he left he called to tell them an emergency had come up and he'd quit. He remained friendly with one of the secretaries, who told him that the man had been hired and was now working his abandoned desk. He felt guilty; at least in the office he could keep track of the drivers and usually had an idea where 'Vincent Taylor' was. For the last month he and JD had been trying to track Vin's movements by hacking into Brigham's computers.
JD Dunne, the team's computer and electronics' whiz, had been hard put getting into Brigham's computers. He had finally found some of the drivers' names and information on cargos they were hauling. Vin's name had been on the list a few times, but not recently. No matter what JD and Ezra did, they could not find Vin's name and that wasn't helping their leader's mood.
Now they were all hoping that they could get Vin out safely and get the Brigham Company shut down. Vin had been undercover long enough on his own; three months was to long for the likable Texan to be gone and they all missed him.
Chris took a deep breath and looked at each of his men. They had finished their meals and were nursing drinks. Ezra's hands shuffled a deck of cards over and over. Nathan was gazing into his drink; Chris could almost see the wheels turning in his head, wondering if Vin was hurting in any way. Josiah held his drink in a large hand, his eyes half closed, hiding his thoughts. Buck was splitting his gaze, scanning the room for a pretty face and quietly teasing his roommate JD, whose dark eyes darted constantly around the room.
Larabee drained his beer and rose. Instantly five pairs of eyes latched onto his black clad form. "Go home. Get some sleep. I'll see you all in the morning. Don't worry." He raised a hand, cutting off their voices before they had a chance to speak. "If I hear from Vin again I'll let you know. Now get." Chris waited as his men quickly finished their drinks and rose, grabbing their coats. Pulling his long heavy duster tightly around him he walked across the room and out the door.
The cold grabbed at him as Chris crossed to his Ram truck, a few snowflakes drifting on the wind. As he waited for the truck to warm up he watched the flakes come down and his men hurrying to their rigs. Putting the truck in gear he left the saloon and headed home. As he drove he hoped the snow wouldn't stay; it was too early for snow, he thought, it was just the first part of November.
Reaching his ranch, Chris went to the barn first and settled the horses in for the night. He took his time as he brushed Pony, the repetitive motion calming him as he groomed and talked to the big black. Next he turned to Peso, one of the orneriest horses he had ever run across, and shook his head. As he brushed him he thought of Vin, who loved the horse, and seemed to be the only one could get along with him and his quirks. Vin had an affinity for that horse from the minute he first laid eyes on him and he wouldn't let Chris sell him as he intended. Chris was afraid the horse would hurt someone, but so far his fears were unfounded; however, only he and Vin were allowed around the horse, everyone else was warned to stay away.
Chris finished his chores and headed into the house and towards his bedroom. It had been a long day and he was tired, not only physically but mentally. His worry over Vin was taking its toll on him and he had to force himself not to dwell on what Vin was doing. He paused at the guest room door, looking in at the belongings he was storing for his friend, before moving on to his room and a hot shower.
For a few weeks after Vin had been hired by Brigham's, the team had taken turns stopping in Purgatioro to check his apartment, which wasn't in a very good area of Denver. All of the kids that Vin helped in the area and in the apartment complex had agreed to watch his apartment for him while he was gone; still it wasn't a good idea to leave the place alone for so long, so after a month Chris and the others had gone in, packed everything up, and taken it to Chris' ranch to store. There wasn't that much, the furniture and kitchen items were in his garage, other things in the guest room. Locked in Vin's bedroom in his locked closet was his sniper rifle and three other guns, with ammunition for all, and they made sure to get them to Chris'. Chris was more worried about the guns than Vin's other possessions, knowing Vin would be more than upset if the guns were stolen and ended up on the street.
Chris had told Vin that he wanted to move his belongings to the ranch; Vin had agreed it was the best thing to do, although he did seem a little upset that his home had been taken from him. Chris quickly reassured him that the apartment was still there, waiting for him. They would move his things back as soon as he got home. Vin had been relieved; the little apartment had been the only home he'd had since he'd gotten back to Denver.
Chris tossed and turned half the night. He and Vin were closer than brothers and had been since the first time they met. There was some sort of bond between them that no one could deny; they could tell what the other was thinking with just a look or a movement. As time passed the bond had grown even more, so that now they could 'hear' each other as a voice in their heads. The first time this had happened was at a bust several months before this assignment.
Vin was in the rafters of the warehouse where the deal was taking place, twenty feet above the floor hidden in the shadows. The sharpshooter was watching the events unfold below when things went to hell and gunshots rang out. The hidden sniper had saved Ezra and Nathan, who'd been undercover as explosives buyers. Though Nathan was an EMT he also knew explosives, which was why he had been chosen to work with Ezra on this deal. When the ATF teams showed up and yelled "Freeze ATF" the shooting had started. Chris had seen two men swiftly climbing the ladder leading to the rafters, but was too far away and was pinned down by cross-fire. Knowing Vin wouldn't see them until they were on top of him, he yelled into his com unit. Vin didn't answer and Chris realized it wasn't working. As he watched the men get closer to the rafters he began chanting, out loud and to himself, "Vin the ladder. Vin the ladder," over and over, all the while firing back at the men who had him pinned down.
In the semi-darkness Chris saw movement above him and the man shooting at him went down, as did the two on the ladder. In his head he heard, Thanks Cowboy.
A few minutes later silence fell over the warehouse and the ATF teams went about securing the area and handcuffing prisoners. An ambulance arrived for the wounded and Team 7 converged on Chris as Vin came down the ladder, his rifle secured on his back.
Chris and Vin smiled at each other and Vin grasped Chris' arm in a warrior/brotherhood grip, both men thanking each other silently. Buck laughed and slapped JD on the back as he watched the silent exchange between Chris and Vin.
"You two give me the creeps doing that. Let's get out of here!"
Vin smiled at his friends and the men left the warehouse as the other teams cleaned up. The black clad man strode beside the long-haired sharpshooter, both men a little awed at the silent communication that had saved their lives.
Chris rolled over again and glanced at his clock. 2:58 a.m. He groaned; in two hours he had to get up. Burying his head in his pillow he thought, Be careful Vin. Come home safe.
I will Cowboy, flashed through his head and he smiled. With a sigh he closed his eyes and finally fell asleep.
Vin closed his cell phone after his short conversation with Chris. He hid the phone in his pants pocket, glad it was so small that it didn't leave a lump. Sitting down on the small love seat, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He wished he could go home; he missed his friends and their companionship. Mostly, though, he missed his 'brother,' as Chris was referred to by the rest of the team, and the special bond they shared. He sighed, knowing he couldn't leave yet; the job was foremost in everyone's mind and, from what he had overheard in the last few days, something big was about to happen.
A loud knock sounded on the door of the tiny apartment, and Vin rose fluidly, running his hands through his long hair. For an instant he thought of getting his hair trimmed, just a little, as it had grown so fast in the last three months it now reached all the way to his shoulder blades in curling waves of several shades of brown. He snickered as he reached the door; the length of his hair was the least of his worries right now. Vin opened the door and looked at the man who towered over him by a good foot, and out weighed him by at least 150 pounds. Clark reminded him of a football player; his size alone would intimidate a whole team.
"You ready Kid?" The quiet voice belied the man's size.
After first making sure his apartment door was tightly closed and locked, Vin pulled on his buckskin jacket and followed the man down the steps.
Clark led the thin young man to his car and unlocked it, motioning for Vin to get in before he slid under the wheel and turned the key.
"Where we going tonight?" Vin asked as Clark put the car in gear and pulled into the traffic.
"Just a little ways. Got to get to the truck depot and help load some trucks tonight."
Vin groaned. He and Clark had been helping load trucks for the last two days; he was tired and just wanted a good meal, a shower, and then to sleep for days.
Clark laughed, "Know what you mean. But once we get the last trucks loaded we get a couple days off."
"I wish! Probably be helping to load a truck I got ta' drive somewhere," Vin answered.
"They have been keeping you busy, haven't they?"
"Yeah. Could use a couple days off."
"You look a little beat Kid," Clark replied as he pulled into a parking lot beside a restaurant boasting the best steaks in New York City.
"Come on, I'll buy you dinner tonight. You're too thin and it's going to be a long night."
Vin groaned to himself and slid out of the car and followed Clark.
The restaurant did have good steaks and the service was fast. Vin and Clark ate quickly and soon were on their way to the Brigham's truck depot.
At 1:00 in the morning the men loading the trucks were given a short break. Vin grabbed a cup of coffee and collapsed into a corner of the break room, as all of the chairs were occupied. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, leaning his head forward now and then to take a sip of the strong brew. He was bone tired and his back ached. As he rested his thoughts turned to his team family and he could hear Chris' voice in his head, Be careful Vin, come home safe. His lips quirked and he thought back, I will Cowboy. The thought of Chris and his other 'brothers' settled him; his friends and family, were safe and he would see them all soon, one way or another. A whistle cut through his thoughts and the men all around him rose. Pushing to his feet, Vin quickly finished his coffee and followed the others back to work.
At 8:00 a.m. that morning Clark dropped Vin off at his apartment for a much needed day off. After a quick shower Vin dropped into his bed and slept the day through; the exhausted man didn't stir until almost midnight. When he did awaken he ate a sandwich and drank a cup of instant coffee, then he went back to bed. A persistent ringing woke him early the next morning and he groped blearily for the offending phone.
"Taylor," Vin answered, half asleep.
"Taylor, be at the depot at 9:00 this morning for your next assignment. You'll leave tonight," the voice at the other end demanded.
"Yes sir,' Vin replied as he glanced at his alarm clock. It was just past 7:00 a.m. As he hung up the phone he jumped out of bed and rushed into the shower, knowing it'd take him over an hour to get to the depot on the buses. He wouldn't ride the subway, it was too confining; since the first time he'd ridden it and had a panic attack he avoided them like the plague. Soon he was on the corner waiting for the first of several buses he had to catch.
It was almost 9:00 when Vin walked into the truck depot's office. His trip had taken a lot longer than he'd intended; he'd missed all of his connecting buses and had to keep waiting for the next one to come. It was a good thing he'd left as early as he had.
Entering the cluttered office, he went to the dispatcher's office and waited for the man at the desk to get off the phone. As he glanced around the office he dropped his gaze to the dispatcher's desk; Jefferies was still talking and not paying him any attention, so Vin eased a step closer to the desk. His sharp blue eyes picked up the word "Denver" on a shipping manifest, and as he continued to peruse the page, he read the words 'Columbian's 38.' The squeak of the dispatcher's chair drew his gaze away from the paper work and he turned his gaze quickly out the window.
Jefferies looked up at the slender Texan standing slumped on the other side of his desk, his blue eyes fixed on something outside the window. As the dispatcher replaced the phone in its cradle his dark eyes spotted the pile of papers he'd left exposed on his desk top; looking up again at the long haired young man he slowly covered the top papers.
"Taylor, be here tonight at 7:00 sharp. You're taking this load to Denver by way of Indianapolis. You'll pick up some more cargo there. You'll take the 78, then the I-76 outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; that's a toll road. Once you hit 70 you'll stay on it the rest of the way. You've got eighteen hours to reach Indy. Here's your packet and maps. Directions to the depot at Indy are in there too. They'll give you the rest of the directions on where to go in Denver."
As Vin was handed the packet he held it in his hands and shivered as he looked at the dispatcher, who wouldn't look away from him. Something was wrong, he could feel it.
"7:00 tonight. Don't be late," Jefferies said in dismissal.
"I'll be here," Vin promised as he turned away, putting the packet into a deep pocket in his jacket. The phone rang as he left the office and he didn't look back, but he could feel the man's eyes on him.
Watching the young man leave his office, the dispatcher picked up the phone, "Jefferies." He listened a moment, his eyes still locked on the figure leaving the outer office, then smiled and answered, "Tanner just left. Doesn't have a clue. He'll be here tonight at 7, his truck will be ready." Jefferies laughed, listened again for a moment, then replied, "Yep, two birds with one stone. That'll teach them to try to stick an agent where they shouldn't."
Still laughing, Jefferies hung up the phone then rose to look out the window, spotting Vin walking lithely across the parking lot. 'Soon Kid,' he thought, then turned back to his desk.
Vin caught the first of many of the buses he had to ride to get back to his apartment. While waiting for one connection he slipped into a fast food restaurant and grabbed several breakfast burgers and a large coffee. He finished eating as the bus pulled up.
Back at the tiny apartment Vin pulled his duffel bag from the closet and quickly packed his few belongings. He set it by the door, then sat down on the love seat and pulled out the cell phone as he turned on the 10 inch TV and flipped to the weather channel. Leaning back on the sofa, he pressed the speed dial for Chris.
"Taylor's," Chris' voice answered on the second ring.
"Don't call me that," Vin heard and smiled.
"Should be home in 3 or 4 days, Cowboy."
"Yeah. Supposed to be headed for Indianapolis tonight, then Denver. Got a pick up in Indy I guess, then it's a straight shot to Denver. I'll call when I get closer, if I can, let you know where to set up."
"What do you mean?"
"Think I'm haulin' Columbian's. Figure they're illegal or they wouldn't be in m' truck."
"Damn. Guess the stop in Indy is a rest stop for them."
"Probably. Unless 'm picking up more. Don't know."
"I'll let the New York FBI know. They've been in contact with us after we passed the information from you to them for that last big bust. We'll see if they can check out the warehouses there, see if there are more illegals."
"Yeah. If I'm haulin' them, there might be more trucks."
"I could have them stop you."
"No, Chris. If there's more in Indy, I'm the one picking them up. I'll let you know. If I get picked up too soon, we don't know what will happen, they might go to ground."
"That's true. Okay Vin, we'll let you get closer to Denver before moving in. Will try to give you two days to clear New York. As fast as the FBI move you'll probably be home a week," Chris said sarcastically. He wasn't too impressed with the Denver office of the FBI. The few times he'd had to work with them they were slow to respond to anything although he had to admit the New York office seemed to move pretty quickly. He didn't want Vin compromised though, and wanted him out before anything went down. Chris knew that the FBI didn't care what he wanted and would do whatever it took to bring down anyone shipping illegal aliens.
"I'll be out of here probably by 9 pm tonight. Maybe they could shoot for later? I don't know. The depot is huge and there are a lot of warehouses to check out. Could be hiding illegals or contraband anywhere in there."
"Don't worry Vin. I'll take care of it. You just watch your back when you're on the road."
"Will. Need to go. I'll be seein' ya'll in a few days."
"Okay Cowboy. Be careful."
"Always am," Vin smiled and hung up. Glancing at his watch he saw he had close to five hours before he needed to make the return trip to the depot, so he curled up on the love seat and closed his eyes; it was going to be a long night.
Hours later Vin climbed up into the big Kenworth truck and checked the gauges as he started it up. Opening the windows he listened to the growl of the motor. He had already checked all 18 tires and found they were all fine; the oil had been changed and was full. Checking the diesel gauge he found the diesel tank full and everything else looked good to him.
His truck was an older rig, but it ran fine and he now knew all of its idiosyncrasies. Vin had been assigned the truck when he was first hired and had been driving it ever since. As he listened to the grumblings from the big rig he went over in his mind again the route he had to take north out of the city. When he'd arrived this evening Jefferies had given him a route change. He had to go north to a town named Greenville. Once he picked up some more cargo he had to back track and hit I-87/287 again, going north then south to eventually hit I-76 and I-70. The stop and new round-about way was adding another hundred or more miles to his trip. As he sat in the cab he saw Jefferies coming towards him.
Stopping below the driver's door, Jefferies looked up at Vin.
"You ready to go?"
"Yep. Just checking my truck out. Need to go get my trip book though."
"Got it for you." Jefferies handed the log book up to Vin.
"Everything else ready? Know how to get to the warehouse in Greenville?"
"Yes." Vin opened the book and made a quick notation in it - the time the truck was checked out and his leave time.
"Alright Taylor, hit the road. See you back here in ten days." Jefferies stepped back away from the truck.
Vin put the rig in gear and eased out of the loading dock area. He didn't see Jefferies raise his radio to his mouth and say into it, "Tanner's on his way."
Shifting gears, Vin pulled out of the depot and drove the truck down the street. He figured it was almost a two hour drive to get to Greenville, depending on the traffic. Cold air blasted into the cab as he maneuvered through the truck route heading for the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway. He closed his window but left the passenger side open part way; the close quarters in the cab sometimes fed his claustrophobia and an open window and the cool fresh air usually helped.
An hour and a half later Vin eased the big rig off the exit ramp at the Ardsley exit, breathing a sigh of relief as he turned east towards Ardsley and Greenville. Getting out of New York had been a nightmare. Traffic on the Expressway slowed to a crawl. Thank goodness I-87 had been better and he had finally been able to drive the speed limit. Passing through Ardsley he drove a bit faster; Greenville wasn't that far away and the speed limit was higher. He started down a hill, shifting gears as he drove, when suddenly bright lights flashed on ahead of him, across the whole road, blinding him.
Throwing up a hand to cover his blinded eyes, Vin instantly lowered his hand again as he down shifted. The front wheels of the truck ran over something he could not see through the blinding light as he was shifting and trying to stop. The tires on the left side blew and the truck slewed to the left, then jackknifed as Vin frantically fought the wheel to try to prevent the rig from spinning completely out of control. The combination of speed and the weight of the trailer was too much though, and the cab was pushed all the way around into the trailer then over.
Shattering glass flew over Vin as screeching metal assaulted his ears. His seatbelt gave way and he was thrown around the cab then slammed against a crumbling door. As the rig started to roll he thought he heard screams, but couldn't figure out where they were coming from. The truck rolled again and agony erupted along his left side and his head connected solidly with a sharp, broken piece of metal. Vin was swallowed by the blackness; he didn't hear the screams and moans coming from the mangled trailer as diesel spilled from the damaged tank and everything came to a sliding stop at the foot of the small hill; nor did he see the bright blinding lights blink out as suddenly as they had come on.
Several minutes' later noises and then light from several flashlights played over the mangled remains of the semi-truck lying on its side. The lights played over the crushed cab and what had once been the windshield until they finally found Vin's broken form, tangled in the wreckage, blood covering his head and face, chest and entire left side. The driver's side door was gone and he was partially wedged under the steering wheel, which was buried half way in the ground. The roof of the cab and part of the dashboard were buckled around him, while the passenger door was open and stood crookedly in the air.
The searching men moved away, ignoring the moans coming from the injured man and the trailer. One picked up a gas can he had carried down to the wreckage and started pouring its contents on the trailer. As the four men made their way back up the hill to their waiting cars, the last one flipped a lit match at the trailer. With a whoosh the gas ignited, and the rig was almost immediately engulfed in flames. The men returned to their waiting cars and swiftly drove away, with the last one stopping a little ways up the road to keep an eye on the fire. From where he parked he could hear the screams now coming from the trailer.
A pickup truck came upon the sight of the burning trailer and quickly called 911. As the man jumped from his truck and grabbed his fire extinguisher several other cars and pickups stopped. Two other people ran down the hill with the first man, all hoping their small extinguishers would help a little against the raging fire. The three rescuers shuddered as they heard the screams that came from inside the trailer. They aimed the foam at the partially open trailer door, but there was just not enough room for a person to squeeze into the space. Several arms could be seen waving frantically from the small opening.
As the last extinguisher ran out of foam, fire trucks from the area began arriving, along with police cars and several ambulances. The men hurried up the hill as firemen unrolled hoses and started fighting the flames. One man told the fire chief there were people trapped in the trailer and of the smell of gas and diesel.
Spotlights lit up the area as the flames were extinguished. Firemen made their way to the wreckage, making sure all the flames were out as they worked around the mangled truck and trailer. The jaws of life were used to get the trailer door opened. Several men and women stumbled out into the light, crying and thanking their rescuers in a foreign language; they were assisted out of the immediate area and moved off to one side by some of the police officers, who knew they were illegal aliens and that they would need to be interviewed for information. The first ambulance was loaded with two of the most seriously injured victims and pulled away as another one took its place. Two EMT's hurried down the hill, carrying their equipment.
"Where's the driver?" One called out as he got closer, not realizing he hadn't yet been found.
Captain Booker, the fire chief, and two of his men moved quickly around the wreckage, their powerful flashlights playing back and forth over the ground and the cab of the truck. One man whistled as they got a good look at the extent of the damage done; the cab was lying on its side with its wheels almost touching the trailer roof. They continued to move slowly, searching for the missing driver.
"Here Captain," one of the men said as his light found the trapped figure of the man in the cab.
Captain Booker stepped to his companion's side and took in the trapped man, who was covered in blood.
"James, get up there and see if you can reach him through the door. Kent, get the jaws, I think it'll be the only way to get him out. And I want some foam over that diesel spill; don't need a spark to set this all off again." The men hurried to carry out their orders.
Booker kept his light shining into the cab as James climbed up and reached the passenger door. Carefully he started to lower himself into the cab, then stopped when Booker called to him.
"Wait, there's not enough room in there for you, the cab's too badly damaged. Come on out, then see if you can reach him and if he's still alive."
James pulled himself back out, then lay across the side of the cab and reached down as far as he could. His hand connected with the man's leg and he worked it down towards the knee, hoping he could find a pulse through the jeans. Clamping his hand around the knee he held his breath and looked at the bloody face below him. A smile crossed his lips and he glanced at his boss as he felt a slight movement come from the trapped man.
"He's alive. Hang in there kid, we'll have you out of here shortly," James said as he released the young man's leg.
"Hey kid. Just stay still," James continued speaking to the man below when he saw the trapped man look up at him, trying to keep him calm and quiet.
Vin looked at the smiling face above him in confusion as the pain coursed through his body. He heard the man talking to him but the words didn't make any sense. He tried to talk but had to swallow several times before he was able to gasp the word "Chris?" There was something trickling down the side of his face, but he found that he couldn't move his hand to wipe it away. His eyes opened wide in panic as he realized he was trapped, pinned down on his left side, his back pressed against something that felt like a seat. He thrashed his head around as he tried to free himself. The voice above him was telling him it was alright, and he could hear other strange noises around him, but nothing could quell the panic he was feeling. A sudden screeching noise beside him made him jump and pain washed over him again. Vin tried harder to move, then suddenly screamed in agony and passed out.
"He's okay I think Captain. Tried to move and now he's out. We need to get him out of here, he doesn't look too good." James carefully made his way off the side of the truck, then moved to his captain's side. Silently they watched as the Jaws of Life worked at the space that once contained the windshield, attempting to enlarge the opening. One man slipped inside the cab and looked over the trapped man. As he backed out he told Booker, "His shoulder is trapped under the steering wheel; once we get that wheel loose, we can get him out."
As the Jaws continued to work, one of the firemen ran back up the hill, returning minutes later carrying a chainsaw and tarp. He covered Vin with the tarp and tucked it around his trapped shoulder, making sure his chest and face were protected. Reaching under the dash, he pulled out some wires and cut them, then backed out to allow the man with the chainsaw to replace him. Within a short period of time, Vin's shoulder was released and several firefighters were gently working him out of the wrecked cab.
Two EMT's appeared as Vin was laid on the ground. Working quickly and quietly, they took his vital signs, started an IV, and checked him over thoroughly, then wrapped bandages around his head and the cut on his arm, bound his broken ribs, carefully wrapping a sterile bandage around a rib that had penetrated through his shirt, and placed a pressure bandage over the bloody slash on his hip. After immobilizing his shoulder they put on a cervical collar and, with the help of several firefighters, he was gently placed on a carrier and transported. One of the men picked up a duffel bag found in the cab and carried it up the hill as well, laying it on the stretcher between Vin's legs as they came over the crest of the hill.
A detective met them at the top, looking over the unconscious form.
"Hey Tom, is this the driver?"
"Yes. Just got him out of the cab," one of the EMT's answered as they carried Vin to the waiting ambulance.
"We need to talk to him. Where are you taking him?"
"Closest hospital," Thomas said as they loaded Vin into the back of the ambulance. "They'll probably transport him out though, maybe to New York. The hospitals in this area are going to be swamped with all these people."
The officer glanced around as he reached into his pocket and felt for a card. Almost thirty people were laying or sitting on the ground while the paramedics went from one to the other trying to help them before they were placed in ambulances and taken away. Two bodies lay to one side, completely covered. A couple of men were still bringing injured people out of the trailer. Pulling the card from his pocket, the officer shook his head as he handed it to the EMT. "Tom, this is the worse accident I've seen in a long time. We have to talk to the driver; need to know where he is. Would you let me know, or give this to the ER doctor caring for him?"
"Sure will." The EMT took the card and pulled the ambulance doors closed. The officer watched it leave, then turned to help the others. He didn't pay attention as one of the spectators hurried away; almost running up the road, then jumped into his car and followed the ambulance.
In the back of the ambulance, Thomas checked the unconscious man's vital signs once more, then checked his pocket for identification. Carefully he lifted Vin's wallet from his back pocket and made a note of his name, 'Vincent Taylor' on a form. He replaced the wallet, keeping an eye on the young man and occasionally reaching up to pluck pieces of broken glass from the long hair. As he felt the ambulance slow, then back into the ER entry way he quickly prepared his patient to enter the hospital.
Vin was quickly rolled into the ER, which was starting to fill up with police officers and victims from the accident scene. More ambulances could be heard pulling into the ambulance bay just outside the sliding glass doors.
A triage nurse rushed to the gurney, took one look at the man lying atop it, and motioned for Thomas and his partner, John, to follow her.
"He's the driver. Name's Vincent Taylor. He was pinned in the cab when it rolled," Thomas began to give her his report as they pushed Vin down the hall to the treatment rooms.
"Thanks Thomas," she said as they moved Vin onto an examination table. As one of the ER physicians rushed into the room, Thomas handed the nurse the detective's card. "He has to know if Mr. Taylor stays here or is transferred out. The police have to talk to him about the accident as soon as they can the sooner the better."
She took the card and placed it on the clipboard with the rest of the patient's paperwork. "I'll be sure to notify him. Right now, he will probably be sent out. We are filling up here fast; there was another bad accident north of here too. Lots of cars involved."
As she talked, the doctor was quickly examining Vin. He glanced at the paramedics as they started to leave the room.
"Wait!" The doctor exclaimed before the men could leave. "We're sending this one out of here so you two might as well take him. Jenny, call Bronx-Lebanon Center and alert them I'm sending Mr. Taylor their way. He's stable and I got his dislocated left shoulder back in. He's got a concussion, he's going to need stitches in his head, arm, and hip, and he's going to need surgery on that rib. He needs some immediate attention, which they can give him and we can't. We are just to busy right now and our operating rooms are full."
"Yes, Doctor Jacobs," Jenny grabbed the phone on the wall near the door and made the call. The two paramedics watched as the doctor re-bandaged Vin's head, arm, and hip. As he worked the doctor found a small cell phone in Vin's pocket, but it had been almost sliced in half during the accident, so he placed it in a plastic bag with Vin's other belongings. After carefully cleaning the exposed rib, Dr. Jacob's bandaged it, then pulled several large pieces of glass from Vin's chest and arms. He covered Vin's larger wounds with salve and applied a dressing, then stepped back and looked at the two paramedics.
"He's ready to go. Give him air and watch him closely. His head injury is pretty bad."
"Dr. Jacobs, Bronx-Lebanon is ready for him. They'll expect him there within a half hour. They also said they can take others if need be." Jenny moved away from the phone and took the clipboard from the doctor after he finished making notations on the paper.
"Great, we're going on divert then. Tell the charge nurse, will you please? Alright boys, he's all yours. Jenny, give them the paperwork. I have to go." With that the doctor was on to the next patient.
"I'll get these copied for our records while you get him loaded. I'll be there in a couple of minutes. Looks like you get to call the cop and tell him where Mr. Taylor is." Jenny smiled at Thomas and his partner as she hurried out the door.
Vin was gently placed back onto the gurney and a light blanket was thrown over him. At the last moment Thomas remembered the duffel bag and grabbed it as they wheeled Vin out of the room and back to the ambulance entrance.
Five minutes later the ambulance pulled away from the hospital and headed for the highway. Almost thirty minutes later the EMT's were pushing Vin's gurney through the Bronx-Lebanon ER doors. A tall grey haired doctor in yellow scrubs met them as they entered and guided them to a large cubicle where several nurses were waiting to help slip the unconscious man onto the examining table. As they worked the two EMT's filled Dr. Navero in on the patient's condition, ending that he was feeling a bit warmer.
Dr. Navero ordered X-rays; as they waited for the radiology technician to arrive with the portable unit, two nurses stripped off what was left of Vin's clothing and began the painstaking process of removing all of the glass from his hair, chest, arms, and legs. There were several jagged pieces embedded in his scalp; fortunately the wounds could be treated with antiseptic and were superficial enough that they did not require stitches.
After ascertaining that Vin was going to remain at Bronx-Lebanon, Thomas offered to call the detective to let him know where the patient was. He copied the number from the card in the chart, then went out to the main desk and asked to use one of the phones. He quickly dialed the detective's number and got his voicemail, so he left word that Mr. Taylor was at the Bronx-Lebanon and that someone from the hospital would be calling soon to verify Vin's whereabouts. With that he and his partner left the ER and were soon were headed back to Ardsley. Neither one of them noticed the man sitting in the ER waiting room; his eyes never leaving the door leading back to the treatment rooms.
The radiology technician walked into Vin's cubicle a few minutes later. After a brief discussion with Dr. Navero, the tech shot the film and left, promising to have the results on the computer within twenty minutes.
While they waited, Dr. Navero cleaned and stitched the gash across Vin's left temple. The gash extended from his left eyebrow almost to his ear, but the stitches were tiny and the doctor hoped there wouldn't be a scar. After he finished he cleaned the blood away and lightly bandaged the area. He checked Vin's shoulder again, shaking his head at the myriad of colors forming on the young man's arm and upper torso, then set to work cleaning the ugly gash on his lower hip that extended across his thigh towards his groin. The nurses had finally managed to remove all of the glass from Vin's chest and arms, but with the exposed rib, they couldn't roll him over to check his back.
As the physician finished cleaning the gash on Vin's hip his pager sounded. He answered the page to Radiology and was told that the X-rays for his patient had been loaded into the computer system. He took a quick look at them then asked one of the nurses to call for an operating room and to call in Dr. Halliday, the orthopedic surgeon. Two ribs on Vin's right side were cracked, and three on the left side were broken; one of them actually protruding through the skin next to the lower lobe of his lung. He also had a concussion and a hairline fracture extending from his temple to his hairline. The good news was that it didn't appear as if any of the broken ribs had done any major internal damage, and he had no fractures in his arms or legs, although there was still glass embedded in his back and legs.
Seth Halliday appeared within a few minutes to examine his new patient. By the time the phone rang and they were told the OR was ready Vin had already been prepared for transport and was quickly wheeled down the hallway to the elevators and up to the operating rooms, Dr. Halliday close behind. One of the nurses took his duffel bag and the plastic bag with his watch, wallet, and cell phone in it to the front desk where they were labeled and stored.
The man in the waiting room rose and went to the main desk. When the receptionist looked up he said, "I was told my friend, Vincent Taylor, was brought here. Can I see him?"
"Just a moment sir, I'll check," she quickly started typing into her computer. The ER nurse who had just finished labeling Vin's belongings heard the man and looked at the dark haired man dressed in jeans and jacket. He looked worried and kept twisting his fingers together. She looked at the receptionist and then left shaking her head.
"Mr. Taylor just went to surgery. Once out, only family will be allowed to visit him. You can check back tomorrow and see if his family will approve you to visit him."
"Thank you. I appreciate your help. I will check on him tomorrow." He smiled as he thanked her, then turned and headed out of the ER. As soon as he reached the parking lot, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed as he made his way to his car. When his boss answered he quickly relayed the news that Tanner was still alive. He listened for several minutes, waiting quietly for the man to calm down. Finally he received his instructions and disconnected. He started the car and left the parking lot, drove to the closest motel and got a double room; his partner would be there in the morning.
Chris Larabee jumped out of bed and began to pace the floor. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Glancing at the clock he saw it was barely midnight, he'd only been in bed an hour. He pulled on his jeans and padded to the kitchen. Flipped on the kitchen light he grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator, and opened it as he walked into his living room. He sat on the couch for less than a minute then was up and prowling the room. He stopped and looked out the window; it was snowing again. As he gazed at the silently falling snow, his mind went back to the dream.
A quiet road, then a blinding white light, something popping, the sound of screeching metal. Pain, then blackness. Light, then a smiling face and pain, lots of pain. Chris? a voice asked as blackness descended. He had awakened gasping for breath, but he wasn't in any pain and the house was dark and silent around him.
Chris leaned his forehead against the cold window and thought of Vin. He couldn't 'feel' him right now, and that scared the hell out of him. Where are you Vin? Chris asked as he lifted his head. What happened to you? He moved to the coffee table and grabbed the cell phone, punching in Vin's number; then slammed the phone down when he got a recording that the number was out of the call area. He started pacing again; he wanted to go and look for his friend, but he knew he wouldn't be able to find him until he called in his whereabouts. He went into the kitchen and threw the empty beer bottle into the trash, then opened one of the cabinets. For long minutes he stared at the bottle of whiskey, then with a curse he shut the door hard and got another beer instead, returning to the living room to sit slumped on the couch.
As he watched the falling snow Chris let his mind wander over the rest of the day. After he talked to Vin he had called AD Travis and filled him in on what Vin had told him. Travis had told him he'd reached out to the FBI and asked them to contact Chris, knowing he had more federal pull than Larabee would have.
While Chris had waited for the FBI to contact him, he had filled his team in on what was happening, and then closed himself in his office. Minutes later his phone had rung. Chris had been impressed at how quickly the FBI in New York City worked. Special Agent Bob Keller was all business, and questions were asked efficiently. Keller had finally stopped the questions and Chris heard a sigh.
"What's wrong?" he'd asked.
"To tell you the truth, with your earlier help and with the information provided by your undercover agent we have been able to get several of Brigham's trucks stopped. With this additional information we should be able to get into his warehouses and hopefully we can shut this company down. We've had his NYC depot under surveillance for sometime, but haven't seen anything illegal going on there. We are watching the Indianapolis depot too. If your agent is carrying illegal aliens we need to know so we can pick them up."
Chris had explained that Vin hoped to get to Denver before they busted him. Keller had thought a moment, then agreed; they would get more by waiting for Vin to get to Denver. They would give him a day to clear each city before moving on Brigham's. Keller's initial plan had been to wait one day after Vin left New York, then to move in on each depot city, sending his agents in to shut it down. Chris, however, had pointed out the impossibility of keeping such an operation quiet; once Brigham's New York City depot had been raided, word would quickly spread to the subsequent depots, and Vin would be in terrible danger. After some thought Keller had reluctantly agreed to speak with his SAC and see what they could come up with. Chris had stressed that he didn't want his undercover agent stuck in the middle of everything.
Agent Keller had reassured him that he would get back to him as soon as they had formulated a plan. They hung up and Chris had filled his men in on what was going on. To the man, they wanted to go after Vin, but they all agreed they'd wait until they heard from him before they did anything. They would work on the details of the bust for when Vin and his cargo arrived. They had the help of Team 5 and with that last detail they had left for the day, each working out in his head a plan for the bust. They would discuss everything in the morning; they already had the floor plans of the Brigham warehouses in Denver, thanks to Ezra and JD's computer expertise. The next three days would pass quickly, they were sure.
Chris finished the six pack of beer that was in his refrigerator and still couldn't think of sleeping. It was after two o'clock in the morning and he was still pacing the floor. He thought of calling Buck, but decided it wasn't worth worrying Buck too. At 3 o'clock he took a hot shower, trying to get his thoughts in order and wash away the bad dream. As he dried himself he decided to go to the barn and do his chores. The horses wouldn't like being woken in the middle of the night, but he had to do something before he went crazy.
By 5 o'clock Chris was finished with the barn chores, and he tiredly made his way back to the house through the three inches of new snow. The warmth of the house lights beckoned to him and within minutes he was in the kitchen. He got the coffee maker going and set out the makings of breakfast, then decided to clean up. The seven horses in the barn had been let outside and fed, and before he left for work, if the weather was bad he would return them to their clean stalls. He hurried to his bedroom, stripped and stepped into the shower again to wash off the sweat and horse smell. Soon he was dressed in his black jeans, shirt, and cowboy boots. He made and ate his breakfast as he listened to the early morning news on his kitchen TV. He was tired and hoped he could make it through the day without taking someone's head off. If JD started in with one of his jokes he'd probably knock his teeth down his throat.
The weather called for a sunny and warmer day, so Chris left the horses out and at 6:30 he headed for the office. He was early, and the room was quiet, no one would be in until around 8-8:30. He made a fresh pot of coffee, then walked into his office and started on the paperwork piled on his desk. He hoped he'd hear from the FBI before too long.
Three hours after Vin was taken into the operating room he was in the recovery room. Dr. Halliday had set the broken rib back into its place and stitched the wound closed. Pieces of glass had been removed from Vin's back and legs, the cuts cleaned and antiseptic applied; a couple of the deeper lacerations had required stitches, along with the long gash in his hip and thigh. A bandage was wrapped tightly around his broken ribs. As Vin started to awaken from the anesthesia he was suddenly sick, vomiting up what little he had in his stomach. The recovery room nurse held the basin for him and waited until the heaving had stopped. Swiftly she cleaned his face, noting how warm he felt, then ran a cool cloth over his face and neck. As she worked she spoke calmly to her patient, telling him her name, where he was and what was wrong with him.
Vin was exhausted and his head was pounding. He could hear a woman's soft voice and feel a cool cloth on his face as he fought to open his eyes.
The nurse was still talking quietly to 'Mr. Taylor,' when his head moved and his eyes slowly fluttered open. Blue eyes gazed blankly up at her and she found that she couldn't turn away from the blue depths for a moment. Finally she pulled herself together and smiled at the young man.
"Hello Mr. Taylor. You are in the Bronx-Lebanon Center Hospital. You just came out of surgery to repair a badly broken rib. We will move you to a room shortly."
"Chris?" a raspy voice asked.
"No, I'm Vera," she smiled again, seeing the confusion in his face.
"Wha' hap ... happened?"
"You were in an accident."
For a minute Vin was quiet, trying to remember, but nothing registered except the name 'Chris.'
The nurse kept smiling, "No. There isn't a Chris here. Is he your relative, Mr. Taylor?
"Yes ... No ... I don't know," Vin stammered. He didn't realize he had spoken the name out loud again.
"Who do you think Chris is, Mr. Taylor?"
"Bro ... brother ... Not ...Taylor ..."
"What do you mean?" Vera asked as she checked her patient's vital signs. His blood pressure was climbing as was his temperature.
"Don't know. Name's Vin ...Chris ... need Chris ..." confused eyes looked frantically around the room as Vin began
to panic; he couldn't remember anything, he wasn't even sure who he was.
"Mr. Taylor, please calm down. Vin, please, you need to be calm so we can get you out of here and into a room. We don't want you tearing out those stitches." Vera tried to soothe the agitated young man as he began to move around in his bed.
"H ... hurts ..." Vin said as the pain became more intense. Bile rose in his throat and he began to cough and gag. Vera grabbed the basin and helped him turn to his right side, rubbing his back as he again vomited.
Shaking, Vin laid back as the nurse cleaned his face again and placed a cool cloth on his forehead.
"Mr. ...Vin, you'll be moved to a room shortly and the doctor will check you and then give you something for the pain. Relax for a bit and we'll get you ready to move," Vera looked at her patient, who was still shaking. "Are you cold?" she asked.
"Yes 'm cold ..." Vin said through chattering teeth.
Vera quickly got a blanket and laid it over Vin, then whispered to one of the other nurses to call the doctor.
Vin closed his eyes as he shivered, then relaxed as the warmth began to register. For a moment he opened his eyes a slit and looked around the strange room. He was still in pain from his head to his hip, though, and he let his eyes slide shut. His thoughts were a jumble of images and sounds; try as he might to sort out what had happened, nothing made any sense to him and he couldn't remember anything about the accident.
The next time Vin opened his eyes he was staring up at a strange ceiling as beeps sounded softly in his ears. Slowly he turned his head and took in the pale green walls. Confused, he looked in the other direction and saw a large open doorway then a window beside him. It looked like it was dawn but he wasn't sure. He thought something was wrong. It was empty in here, and it shouldn't be empty. There should be ... someone else here with him. A face flashed through his head, a slender good looking man, piercing green eyes, and blond hair, then the vision was gone. At that moment a doctor appeared at the doorway and approached him, a smile on his lined face.
"Mr. Taylor, I'm happy to see you awake. How do you feel?" he asked as he read the monitor and started checking Vin's vital signs. A nurse entered with a tray of bandages and set it on the movable table.
"Vin ... 'm fine ..." Vin answered as the man's gentle hands moved to ease the bandage off his head.
"Well Mr. ... err, Vin, I don't think you are that fine," smiled the doctor as he checked the stitches and the bruised lump on Vin's temple. "I'm Doctor Navero; I'm the one who stitched you up. Once the swelling goes down, it'll be a few more days before the stitches can come out. I tried to make them small enough so that you don't have any scarring. Let's check the rest of you now."
"What's wrong with me?" Vin asked as the doctor checked his arm.
"You have a bad concussion, but you seem to be improving. We'll keep waking you though, for the next ten hours. You have three broken ribs on your left side, one of which required surgery to move it back into place. Two cracked ribs on the right side. Dislocated left shoulder; that's why we have your left arm immobilized right now, but if you improve, we'll release it tomorrow. You'll need to wear a sling for several days though. Some deep cuts on your left forearm, several of which required sutures. A deep, long cut on your left hip going around into your thigh; also requiring stitches. Various other cuts and lacerations from glass on your chest, back, legs and head. Only a couple of those have stitches, and we used ones that will be absorbed so you won't have to come in to get them taken out."
"Where 'm I?"
"In the Bronx-Lebanon hospital, in ICU. You went into shock in recovery, but you are doing well now."
"Br ... Bronx-Lebanon?" Confused, Vin looked up at the grey haired doctor.
"We're north of New York City, well, we're really in one of its boroughs."
Vin's eyes widened, "New York City?"
"Yes. You're in New York."
"Don't remember ..." Vin looked away from the doctor as the older man checked and applied antibiotic cream to the cuts on his chest.
"What's your name? Where do you live?" the doctor asked as he worked.
"Vin ..." confused, Vin glanced at the doctor, then looked quickly away, embarrassed that he couldn't remember anything more.
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"You were in a truck accident." The doctor looked at his patient, seeing the total confusion in his eyes. "There's a police detective who wants to talk to you about the accident." He stopped seeing panic rise in the young man. "We'll wait another few days before letting him in. Give you time to remember what happened."
"Don't 'member anythin' ... Don't know where I am ... Chris ..."
"It's alright Vin. Things will come back. You had a very hard knock on your head. I don't know any one named Chris. Is he a friend of yours? We can call him for you."
Vin looked wildly around the room. "Don't know where 'm at. Wrong, all wrong ..." He started to sit up but was easily held down by the doctor.
"Calm down Mr. Taylor. You probably have temporary amnesia; this can happen when you have a severe blow to the head like you have suffered. Your memory will come back; it will just take a little while. Don't try to rush things; it'll only give you a bad headache."
"Head aches, yes ..." Vin looked around again, trying to relax, knowing something was missing. It scared him that he couldn't remember anything but his first name and Chris. Who was this Chris?
"Give yourself a few days to heal. Rest and get better and things will come back to you," the doctor told him as he wrapped a gauze bandage around Vin's left arm, covering the deep cuts there.
"How long ..."
"You have a fever and I want you here until it's gone." Dr. Navero motioned to the ICU nurse standing on the other side of the bed. "Connie, will you give Vin 2 mg of morphine and 5 mg of diazepam? We need to check this wound on his hip and change the bandage, and I'm afraid it's going to be rather painful."
"No ... been here how long?"
"You came in Tuesday night. Today is Wednesday evening."
Anguished eyes looked at the doctor as Vin tried to figure out what was going on, where the day had gone, and what happened to him.
"Now I want you to just relax and get some sleep. Nurse Connie will be back in a little while to wake you and check your head. We've given you a little bit of morphine for the pain, so you should be able to sleep for a few hours. Later, if you feel up to it, you can have visitors. But for now I want you to sleep."
"No son. One of your co-workers I believe. And the police need to talk to you yet."
"Police? Why?" Vin's eyes were getting heavier and heavier and he fought to stay awake.
"Just to talk to you. Nothing bad. Now close your eyes and sleep!"
Vin's eyes finally slid closed as the sedative took over. The doctor quickly wrote on his chart and ordered that post-operative prophylactic antibiotics be continued. There were no obvious signs of infection in any of the wounds yet, but Vin's continued febrile state worried him. With one last look at his patient, he and the nurse left the room. As they stepped out into the hallway, he noticed a tall man in a dark suit coming towards them. 'Police,' thought the doctor, as he stopped and waited for the man to approach him.
"Dr. Navero?" At the Doctor's nod the officer continued, "I'm Detective Tony Rivera. The desk said I was to check with you before talking to Vincent Taylor."
"Come with me Detective Rivera, I need a cup of coffee." Navero led the officer to the doctor lounge and poured them a cup of coffee, then sat down at the table.
"I know you need to talk to Mr. Taylor, but now is not a good time for him."
"What's wrong with him?"
"He has several cracked and broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. We've had to remove a lot of broken glass from his back, legs, and chest, and he's got a cut on his arm and deep gash on his hip. The X-rays we have taken indicate that he also has a hairline fracture of the skull, and the CAT scan shows that he has a severe concussion but no bleeding in the subdural space. We have every reason to expect this situation to resolve itself within a matter of a few days, but at this time he is deeply asleep. We will continue to perform frequent neurological assessments and repeat the CAT scan if and when necessary; in the meantime, he will stay here in the ICU until he is fully conscious and we feel it's medically safe to move him to another floor."
"Damn! We were hoping to get this taken care of today."
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit longer. Mr. Taylor is very confused right now; he has amnesia, and at this point all he remembers is that his first name is 'Vin.' He doesn't remember anything else, not even that we are waking him up every three hours because of the severity of his head injury. He has been asking for someone named 'Chris' but he doesn't know who Chris is or whether it's a man or a woman.
Detective Rivera sipped his coffee and thought for a moment. He glanced around the room and then said, "Well doctor, I guess I'll have to wait to talk to Mr. Taylor. We need to know if he really has amnesia or if it's just an elaborate plan to keep himself out of jail."
"Believe me, he is not acting. He is too confused and everything is so strange to him that he's been having panic attacks. He has no idea where he is."
"Well ...Thanks Doctor Navero. I appreciate you talking to me. When will I be able to interview him?"
"Give him a few more days. He's slightly febrile and fighting an infection in that hip, and I'd like to make sure that he can stay conscious for more than ten minutes before you talk to him."
"I'll give him until Monday, then I'll be back."
"Fine. By then, hopefully he will have regained some of his memory."
"Thanks doctor, I'll see you Monday morning." Detective Rivera rose, shook hands with the doctor and left.
On Thursday Vin had been moved from ICU to the med-surg floor. The time in ICU had passed in a blur for him, he vaguely remembered being awakened often, but didn't remembered anything else. When he was finally able to awaken on his own, and stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, he was moved, but he was still nauseous, his vision was blurry and he had a severe headache that wouldn't go away.
By Saturday Vin was feeling somewhat better, although he was still suffering from pain in his hip and ribs, along with the persistent headache. He also managed to eat some food; it was drab and unappetizing, to say the least, but he kept it down.
+ + + + + + +
Late that afternoon a tall man appeared at the foot of his bed; for a moment Vin just looked blankly at him. He didn't have a clue who the man was but he was pretty sure he'd never seen him before. When the man coughed and moved closer, Vin blinked in surprise, for a few moments he'd thought he had been dreaming.
"Mr. Taylor?" the dark eyed man asked.
"Name's Vin," Vin answered, wondering if this was the police detective who wanted to talk to him.
"Okay Vin," the man smiled. Moving to the door, he let it swing shut, then returned to stand at Vin's bedside.
"Well, you are looking pretty good; the last time I was here you were in the ICU. Looks like you are going to live, for now."
Confused by the man's words, Vin nodded slowly.
"You know you were supposed to die in that crash, don't you?"
"Crash? Wh ... What'er you talkin' about? Are you the detective that wanted to talk t'me?"
"Vin ... Vin! Don't play games with me! We know all about you and now with the raid on the warehouse, the boss is very upset. You were not supposed to live. Now, I have orders to take care of you for them."
"Don't know what yer' talkin' about ..." Vin edged to the side of his bed feeling for the call button.
"You looking for this?" The man held up the cord with the button at the end of it, knowing that the young man hadn't seen him take a hold of it.
"Who are ya?" Vin asked.
"You can call me ... Charles for now. But that's not my real name, just as Taylor isn't yours."
"Who am I? Don't understan' anything ..." Vin didn't take his eyes off the man. He sensed danger, even though he wasn't sure who or what Charles was, he slowly gathered his strength in case he needed to defend himself, all the while forcing himself to remain calm.
"Tanner ... You're going to die soon, but I think I'll let you sleep on that for awhile though. Too many people underfoot right now. I'll be back, but you won't know when," a cruel smile crossed Charles' lips. "I don't like taking down a sick mark, but in your case I can make an exception. You're not being released for several more days. Or maybe never. I might be back before you get out or I might wait until you walk out of here and take you outside. Wouldn't that be nice? Take you down right in front of this big hospital. I'll be back, one way or the other ..." Charles smiled at Vin and then slipped from the room. Nodding to the nurses at the nursing station, 'Detective Rivera' left the floor.
Vin lay back in the bed, thinking. The name 'Tanner' sounded right, but nothing else made any sense to him. He looked around the room; there was a small locker type closet across from the foot of his bed, and the door to the bathroom. A nurse had told him that his duffel bag was in the locker with his other possessions. He eyed the door to the nursing station. 'Have to leave,' he thought. Although Vin had no idea who his visitor was, he knew he wasn't safe here.
Where can I go? he mused to himself. Damn ... what am I doing in New York City? He didn't think he was supposed to be in New York, but on the other hand, he wasn't sure where he was supposed to be.
A nurse appeared suddenly at his bedside and he jumped in surprise. He hadn't heard or seen her come in.
"I'm sorry Mr ... Vin, I didn't mean to startle you. It's time for me to check your wounds and give you your antibiotic's, then you can settle down for the night."
"Okay ..." Vin answered as he looked at the nurse.
"Would you like some juice to drink when I am finished?"
"Yes, please Annie."
"As soon as we're finished here," Annie promised as she removed the bandage from the side of his head. "This is looking good. The swelling is almost all gone and the cut is starting to scab over. You do have a pretty black eye though, and plenty of bruises on the side of your face." Annie smiled kindly at him as she put antibiotic ointment on the gash and then applied a fresh bandage. Working quickly and efficiently, she then carefully cut the bandage from his left arm, checked the stitches for signs of infection, and replaced the gauze with a new bandage.
"Let's see how those ribs are doing, Vin." Pushing the blankets down to his hips, she helped him to sit up so that she could unwind the bandages protecting his broken ribs. "It's looking very well. If your hip looks this fine I think we maybe able to release you in a day or so," Annie informed him calmly, noticing that her patient seemed to be nervous and distracted.
"The clothes you were wearing when you came in had to be tossed, they were pretty bad. Your duffel bag is there in the closet. I think there is a jacket in there too. You'll need a warm coat; it's gotten very cold this week. Alright, time to check your hip. Roll over a little to the right. As soon as I'm done with this, I'll be out of your hair and you can get some sleep."
Vin lay back down and rolled carefully onto his right side, feeling some pain from the cracked ribs on that side. He was glad she couldn't see his red face. He winced as the bandage was removed; it still felt very sore. He hoped it was healing and that he would be able to walk on it, as he was leaving tonight one way or the other.
Annie examined the long gash that extended from his hip and down across his thigh towards his groin, noting that there was some inflammation and swelling around the stitches at the lower part of the wound. She could feel the tension in Vin's leg and knew he was in pain. Working quickly, she cleaned the area carefully with warm water, then covered the wound with a soothing antibiotic cream, and applied a semiocclusive bandage.
Vin flinched again as the bandage exerted pressure on the wound, and sighed in relief when Annie was finally finished.
"There you go Vin. All fixed up. I'll go get you that juice now." Annie pulled the sheet and blanket over Vin, gathered the soiled bandages and wet cloths, and hurried out of the room, returning several minutes later with a bottle of apple juice.
"Is there anything else I can get you? Are you hungry, or do you need help to the bathroom?"
"No, ma'am, I kin do it," Vin answered, feeling his face turning red again.
"Oh, I almost forgot. As soon as the last dose of antibiotics is done, you won't need the IV anymore. Doctor Navero is switching you to oral antibiotics." Annie checked the IV tubing at the insertion point on his hand, then noted the amount of fluid remaining in the infusion bag.
Vin looked at the IV bag. "How long before I'm unhooked from it?"
Annie smiled, knowing this patient, like so many others, was anxious to be free of the IV lines and other equipment anchoring him to the bed. "Judging from the amount remaining in the bag, I'd say somewhere around midnight. The night shift nurse will remove it as soon as it's empty and then ... freedom!" She grinned at the relieved look on the young man's face. "Goodnight Vin. I'll see you tomorrow."
"'Night Annie," Vin said as she left the room, turning the lights down low and letting the door close silently behind her.
Well, I'd planned to leave around two, so guess this'll work, Vin thought as he shifted in the bed, trying to make himself comfortable. Despite his discomfort, he was asleep within a few minutes.
Vin woke around midnight, just as the nurse walked into his room. Noting the sheen of sweat on his face, she knew that he hadn't received any medications other than the antibiotics since early afternoon and that he was probably in a considerable amount of pain.
"Hello, Vin," the nurse said softly, reaching for his wrist to take his pulse. "How are you feeling this evening?"
"Hey Rosie," Vin replied, shifting in the bed to try to ease the pain in his head and hip. "I'm good."
"How's your hip? Annie told me during shift change that she re-dressed the wound, but that gash looked a little inflamed and swollen." Rosie brought over a wet towel and proceeded to bathe Vin's face and forehead with the cool water.
Vin closed his eyes in relief. "It's fine. Thanks Rosie."
"Well, how about a little something for the pain? It'll help you sleep better, and you need to sleep if you're planning on getting out of here in the next day or so."
"Don't need anything," Vin gritted his teeth as he inadvertently rolled over onto his injured hip.
"Vin, there are two things you are going to have to be able to do before Doctor Navero lets you out of here. One of them is to be able to put some weight on this hip. Now, why don't you let me give you a low dose of medication, just enough to take the edge off? Then you'll be able to sleep comfortably tonight and we can get you up and on your feet tomorrow."
Grimacing against the pain, Vin finally nodded his head 'yes,' and waited while Rosie left the room. She was back in a few minutes with two syringes in her hand.
"Looks like you're done with the IV antibiotics," Rosie said, disconnecting the IV tubing from the catheter taped to the back of his hand, and removing the empty infusion bag from the IV pole. "Bet you're glad to get rid of that, huh?"
Vin grunted in reply. His hip was throbbing, and he knew if he didn't get some relief he wouldn't be able to walk out of that room, let alone away from the hospital to somewhere safe.
Rosie removed the cap from one of the syringes, deftly injecting the contents into the catheter. "This is just normal saline, to flush the line." She held up the other syringe. "This is 2 mg of morphine, Vin. Just relax, it should take effect pretty quickly, and then I'll leave you alone to get some rest."
Vin nodded, hoping the medication wouldn't make him too sleepy. He wasn't planning to stay around long enough to get any more sleep tonight. His need to flee the hospital was almost overwhelming, and it took all of his will power not to throw himself out of the bed and out the door right in front of his nurse.
"How's the pain? Better now?" Rosie asked.
"Yes 'm. Much better now."
"Good. I'll be back at six to give you another dose of morphine and check your bandages. Now get some sleep while you can. Can I get you anything else before I leave?" Vin shook his head 'no,' so she dimmed the light over his bed and left, pushing the IV pole ahead of her.
For several minutes Vin lay still in the semi-darkness, then he sat up and carefully swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The pain in his head and hip had dulled to an aching throb. He stood on shaky legs and limped over to the bathroom, then to the closet/locker. He found his duffel bag with his jacket lying on top; his cowboy boots were crammed into the bag, and there was a plastic bag containing his personal belongings. He placed his gear on the bed and dug through the duffel looking for a clean set of clothes. It took him a while to dress; it was especially difficult, and painful, to pull his jeans on over the bandage on his hip and thigh. He felt drained as he worked to pull his boots on one-handed. Once dressed, he fell back onto the bed, exhausted, and woke with a start at one o'clock, almost forty minutes later.
Vin forced himself up off the bed and looked through the plastic bag, removing his wallet, watch and a bloody, badly damaged cell phone. He held it in his hand for a moment, thinking Chris? Clenching his teeth, he reached for the jacket and pulled it on, then, holding his left arm tightly to his side, he flipped open his wallet and stared at the picture on the driver's license. It was the same face that he had just seen in his bathroom mirror, but the name was wrong. His visitor had called him 'Tanner,' and somehow he knew that was his real name. Knowing it didn't help though; he still didn't know who or what he was. The address on the license was a post office box number in Denver, Colorado. Was that where he lived? Maybe not, but it seemed like a good place to start. His head was starting to pound, with all the thoughts swirling through it, so he decided to just get out of the hospital first, and worry about Denver later.
He found almost $200 in the wallet and wondered how far he could get on that. Got to hide first and take it slow, he thought, stuffing the wallet into his pocket.
Vin slung the duffel bag over his right shoulder, then eased open the door. The hallway was empty and lights were low; he could hear quiet conversation and noted several nurses standing at the nursing station, their backs towards him, reviewing a patient chart. He looked around and spotted the stairway sign, in the opposite direction next to the elevators, about twenty feet away.
As he contemplated an escape plan, several lights lit up on the call board, and two of the nurses rushed down the hallway. As the other two nurses went back to reviewing their patients' charts, Vin hurriedly limped down the hall and into the stairwell.
Making his way slowly down the steps he finally stopped beside the ground floor sign and leaned heavily against the wall to rest for a few minutes. Finally he opened the door slightly and peeked out. He saw that he was near the ER elevators. Taking a deep breath, Vin quickly left the stairwell and made his way through the department to the exit. Once outside he took another deep breath and looked around. A cold rain was falling and he pulled his jacket tighter around him. Directly ahead of him, across the wide driveway and a narrow expanse of grass, was a taxi; the driver was writing something in his log book. As quickly as he could Vin crossed to the taxi and tapped on the window.
The black man looked up and smiled through the window. He stepped out of the vehicle, asking, "Can I take you somewhere mister?" At Vin's nod, he opened the back door and stood back to allow Vin to seat himself gingerly on the back seat, and moments later they had disappeared into the wet night.