CHAPTER 1 - 5 | CHAPTER 6 - 9 | CHAPTER 10 - 13 | CHAPTER 14 - 17
Vin dozed off and on during the long night. The terminal seemed to stay busy almost constantly, until it quieted down a little around 5 a.m. Once the terminal was relatively empty, Vin took a chance and hurried to get a drink of water, swallowing down a couple more Tylenol tablets. He quickly used the restroom and returned to his seat. He was still nauseous and light-headed but thankfully the pills stayed down. He also ached all over, his hip wound burned with pain every time he moved and the pounding headache had returned with a vengeance. For several minutes he sat with his eyes closed, willing the pain to subside. As he sat there he realized that he needed to eat something, but shook his head at the sight of the vending machines across the way; just the thought of that food turned his stomach.
As daylight filtered into the huge terminal, Vin made up his mind. He needed something to eat and knew the little diner wasn't that far away. Looking around the room he saw that it was starting to fill up again, and he figured by the time he got back there'd be no seats left. With a sigh he pushed himself up and slung his duffel bag over his shoulder, wishing he didn't have to carry it. As he headed toward the outer doors of the terminal, he noticed a bank of lockers he hadn't seen before over to his left. He hesitated, then limped over slowly. Maybe this was his lucky day; the first lockers were empty, and he opened the closest one, shoved his bag in and closed the door. He put some coins in the slot, locked it and pocketed the key, then stepped outside into the cold morning sun. With his eyes squinting against the bright glare, he turned left and headed down the sidewalk, his mind on food, not the passing traffic. He didn't see a dark, older Chrysler pull to the curb and park just after he crossed the wide street.
It took Vin almost a half an hour to traverse the two and a half blocks to the diner. By the time he reached his destination, he was shivering and sweating and panting in pain. He stood outside for several minutes until he was able to slow his breathing, then he entered the diner and seated himself at the counter. He brushed his hands over his face as the same waitress who had waited on him several days earlier stopped in front of him. She slid the low priced menu in front of him as she poured him a cup of coffee.
"Good morning. I see you are back. Was the pie alright?" she asked.
Vin stared at her for a moment, trying to figure out what she was talking about. Then he remembered the Styrofoam container in the hotel room. "Yes ma'am, it was good," he replied, though he couldn't remember eating it. He dropped his eyes to the menu before she saw the lie in them.
"I'm glad you liked it, we make the best pies in the City. Now what can I get for you?"
"Scrambled eggs and toast, please."
At Vin's vague nod she wrote four on her order slip and told him, "Be just a couple of minutes."
In less than five minutes, she placed a filled plate of toast and fluffy scrambled eggs in front of Vin, refilled his cup, and left him to his breakfast.
Vin ate slowly, praying that the meal would stay with him. His mind wandered to his upcoming trip. He just hoped that when he got closer to Denver he would remember more; he needed help, and he wanted to get out of this city. Shaking his head, he wondered once again who was after him and why.
Vin managed to finish most of the meal, then pushed the plate away and took a couple more Tylenol with the last of his water. He rose to pay the bill, hanging onto the counter for a moment as the pain in his hip flared at the sudden movement. Gulping, he forced himself to move and ignore the pain. He paid his bill, then limped out the door, not seeing the worried look the waitress shot his way as she cleared a table.
Halfway down the block, Vin felt his stomach start to rebel and looked frantically around for somewhere to go. Moving as quickly as he could, he turned into a nearby alley and barely made it into a space between some dumpsters lining the side of a building before he lost his breakfast. The smell from around the dumpsters and surrounding area made him gasp for breath then gag as his stomach rebelled more. Almost fifteen minutes passed before he finally straightened. His stomach was empty and he was shaking badly. He dug in his pockets and found several paper towels and wiped his mouth, wishing he had water and his toothbrush. Stepping back, he leaned his shoulder against the dumpster for a minute trying to get himself under control again. The smell that assaulted him almost made him sick again, and he quickly turned and moved away from the dumpsters. At the edge of the alley he glanced around, then stepped back onto the sidewalk and slowly limped towards the street corner.
Vin paused at the curb, and then stepped into the street at the change of the light. His eyes were focused on a blurry figure coming towards him from the other side of the wide street so he didn't hear the sound of a car engine being gunned, or see the vehicle leap out of its parking space.
+ + + + + + +
Martin parked in the parking lot beside the bus terminal and the three agents moved into the large building.
"Mr. Larabee," Ezra started, and then stopped when a green eyed glare hit him for an instant.
"I know how to ask questions, you don't have to remind me," Chris growled as he looked around at all the people in the room.
Martin managed not to smile as he too looked around and then moved towards one of the lines in front of him. The ATF agents followed his lead, each heading for one of the other lines.
When Chris reached the counter, he quickly showed his badge, gave the ticket agent Dave his name, and showed him the picture of Vin.
Dave looked first at his badge then at Vin's picture, he lifted his eyebrows and looked around the room. "He was here last night. Slept over there by the restrooms in one of the chairs. He was here Saturday night too."
"You talk to him?"
"Only Saturday night. He wanted a ticket but the bus he wanted didn't leave until Sunday night." The man looked at the tall, slender blond, then back towards the room.
With a sigh, Dave told him, "He looked pretty rough, still does for that matter. I told him there were two hotels down the street. They're cheap but clean. He left and I didn't see him again until I came on shift this morning at six."
"You think he caught a bus?"
"I don't think so. Seems he was headed for Denver. Most of those buses leave in the evening. Oh, and there's a diner just past the hotels. They're all two blocks up on the other side of the street."
Chris stepped away from the counter and looked around for Ezra and Martin, his mind spinning. Vin was still here, he was close, but where? He spotted the two agents and moved to intercept them, motioning for them to join him. The three met a minute later out of the flow of people.
"He was here at six," Chris told them when they stopped.
Martin nodded, "He spent the night here, hasn't bought a ticket yet."
"Mr. Tanner is somewhere around here. Maybe he's gone for sustenance?"
Chris nodded his head. "I'll check it out, there's a diner two blocks up the street, and two hotels."
"I can ..." Martin stopped when he felt a hand on his arm. He glanced at Ezra and saw him slightly shake his head.
"Would you just make sure he's not here, then meet me?"
"We will do so with speed," Ezra replied.
"See you shortly," Chris said as he hurried out the door.
Martin looked questioningly at Ezra. "What the hell?
"Mr. Larabee is ready to explode, so it is best for all of us just to let him go on his own. We will catch up with him in a few minutes. The walk and the cold fresh air will calm him down a little."
Martin turned back to look at the people in the room. "Guess we better get to work then." He headed for the closest person who looked as if they had been there for awhile.
Chris reached the sidewalk outside the terminal and paused; looking up the street he spotted two hotel signs almost two blocks away to his left. When he reached the corner and waited for the light to change, his gaze took in the hotels across from him, he spotted the small diner and then the grocery store farther down the street from the diner. He crossed the wide street and entered the first hotel, then was back outside less than a minute later. He passed an alleyway to the second hotel and entered the lobby.
The middle aged black woman at the desk looked up as the front door opened and a tall blond strode in.
"Can I help you sir?" Alma asked.
"Yes ma'am. I am ATF Agent Chris Larabee. I'm looking for a missing person, this man." Chris showed her his badge and Vin's picture.
Alma looked at the picture, then at Chris' face. "Ah ... Agent Larabee, we had a Christopher Larabee here for several days," Alma said, reaching for her record file.
"When was the last time you saw him?"
"Sunday evening, I think. He checked out Tuesday evening," she said, handing him the registration card.
Chris glanced quickly at the card. "Vin," he said, before handing the card back to her.
"He should be in a hospital. I hope you find him."
"Did he go out at any time?"
"He went down to the diner once; I think he was headed to catch a bus last night. That's all I know," she said regretfully.
"Thank you," Chris said and rushed out the door.
Less then a minute later Chris entered the diner and stood by the register. One of the waitresses approached him.
"Can I get you something?" She asked.
"I'm ATF Agent Larabee; I'm looking for a missing person," Chris again showed his badge and Vin's picture.
"Oh, the young Texan! He was here a little while ago."
"How long?" Chris felt his blood start to pound. Where are you Vin ' he thought.
"He left here not twenty minutes ago. He was going down the street, towards the bus depot I think."
"Thank you," Chris said and was out the door and jogging back the way he'd come. He saw a thin, jeans clad figure ahead of him. The man had long hair falling down his back and was limping badly. "Vin!" he called, then moved faster when he saw him sway as he stepped to the curb to cross the wide street.
Across the street Chris spotted Martin on the corner opposite Vin, and Ezra a half block behind Martin; both men were talking on their cell phones and looking in his direction.
Chris was running full out when Vin stepped from the curb into the crosswalk. The noise of a car's gunned motor caught Chris' attention and he saw a dark green car pull from a parking space and barrel towards Vin.
Vin was halfway across the first traffic lane when Chris reached him.
Martin saw Vin across the five lane street shouted into his cell phone, "Jack, I have visual. He's coming at me, corner of Broadway and 280th." He saw Chris running, then the car pulling from the parking space and flying towards the two agents. He was partway across the street and yelled into his phone as he reached for his gun, "Need help NOW!" He dropped the phone and brought up his revolver, aiming for the car.
Ezra was jogging to catch up with Martin and talking to Buck, letting him know they had found Vin's last known location. He saw Chris' black-clad figure running down the opposite side of the street ahead of him, then Vin himself stepping into the street and Martin running towards him. Everything seemed to slow down as he sprinted towards the other agents. "Vin's here," he said into the phone, just before he saw the dark green car, smoke coming from its tires as it pulled away from the curb, aiming for the man in the street. "Oh God!" he exclaimed, shoving the phone in his pocket and charging through the crowd of people in front of him, seeing Martin drawing his gun out of the corner of his eye.
Chris grabbed Vin and was pulling him out of the way when the car plowed into them, tossing them up in the air and throwing them into the center turn lane. He vaguely heard a cry of pain but wasn't sure if it came from Vin or himself. He felt nothing but pain, then he was skidding on the concrete and everything went black.
Martin stood in the middle of the street, firing at the front of the car as it hit the two ATF agents, when suddenly someone in the back seat opened fire on him. He spun around as he was hit in the shoulder and arm, then his head connected hard with the pavement and he blacked out.
Ezra cut across the wide intersection and fired at the retreating car. Reaching for his cell phone he dialed 911 and yelled, "Shots fired, three officers down; need ambulance NOW at Broadway and 280th. Hurry!" Next he punched in Jack's number and shouted as he ran towards Martin, "Agents down, REPEAT, all agents down. License number LDK 349, dark green Chrysler. At least two men, armed. Need ambulance." He knelt down beside Martin and pocketed the phone, then grabbed Martin's gun and stuck it into his belt, not wanting it to disappear. There was blood on Martin's right upper arm and high on his chest on the left side. Ezra pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it to the badly bleeding shoulder wound. His eyes slid over to where Chris and Vin lay about ten feet away. He didn't realize he was holding his breath until he saw both men move, then he gasped and breathed a sigh of relief.
A middle aged black woman appeared at his side, "Can I help? I called the police and for an ambulance, they should be here soon," she said as she handed him a towel.
"Thanks ma'am. Can you keep applying pressure to Mr. Fitzgerald's shoulder wound while I see to my friends?" Alma nodded and watched as Ezra placed the folded towel over the wound, then took his place and pressed down on the bloody shoulder. Ezra rose and hurried to Chris and Vin, barely noting the crowds that were forming on the sidewalk or the cars that were stopped in the intersection, blocking the street.
Kneeling beside Chris he placed his hand on his shoulder as Chris tried to move. "Vin, Vin!" Chris moaned.
"He's right here Mr. Larabee. Don't move." Ezra ran his hands over the black clad figure, feeling for broken bones. The left side of Chris' face was scraped and cut and there was a lump was forming on the side of his head. His jeans were torn in various places and his left hand was scraped; his right hand was clutched tightly to Vin's jacket. As Ezra ran his hands gently over Chris' ribs, the blond man gasped in pain and his eyes flew open.
"It's alright Mr. Larabee. Stay calm. Mr. Tanner is right beside you. You have broken ribs and a lump on your head."
Chris looked up at him, "Check Vin. Martin?"
"Stay still. Mr. Fitzgerald has been shot. I don't think it is life threatening, but help is on the way," Ezra told him as he turned to Vin and started running his hands along his limbs. Ezra could feel the heat radiating from the thin form. As his hands moved from Vin's ribs to his hips he felt moisture and saw blood staining Vin's faded jeans on his left hip and upper thigh; he could also see more scrapes through the torn pants but he couldn't find any broken bones other than the wrapped ribs. Next he examined Vin's head and noted more blood seeping down the side of his face from the partially healed gash on the side.
Chris struggled to sit up, gasping in pain and holding his ribs tightly. Ezra quickly moved to his side to assist him. Chris sat still, head down, blood dripping from his face onto his chest, his eyes closed tightly against the pain washing over him. His breath came in gasps as he tried to get the pain under control, the left side of his chest felt odd and he couldn't seem to draw a deep breath.
"Stay right here and don't move Mr. Larabee. I must check on Mr. Fitzgerald," Ezra said.
"Thank you ma'am for your help. Where's that damned ambulance?" Ezra said as he took over, putting pressure on Martin's wound.
"Alma, call me Alma. Don't worry, the ambulance will be here. Anyway, I don't think this shoulder wound is too bad, even though there is a lot of blood. He's got a lump on his head too; he must have hit the ground hard when he fell. You know, he looks so much like Mr. Larabee, they could be brothers."
"Wh ... What?" Ezra looked at her in blank surprise.
"Mr. Larabee, the young man with the long hair. He stayed several days at my hotel. He should have been in a hospital though."
"That's Mr. Vin Tanner, he'd gone missing, and we have been looking for him."
Alma looked at Ezra, "I wondered, when the blond agent said that was his name. Wondered what was going on."
A low moan stopped their conversation and a moment later Martin opened his eyes and looked up at them blankly.
"Stay still Mr. Fitzgerald, help is on its way. Somewhere," Ezra ground out, looking around. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Chris on his knees beside Vin, one arm holding him up. Ezra knew it wasn't any good telling Chris anything when Vin's life was threatened.
"What? ... Car ... Larabee, Tanner...." Martin gasped, turning his head to look for the other two agents.
"Mr. Fitzgerald, they are just a few feet away. You all will be all right. Now, please, just relax," Ezra told him, as he heard the thin wails of a siren in the distance.
"Mister, I'll take over here, the other ... Tanner? I think he needs help." Alma was beside Ezra again, another clean towel in her hands.
Ezra looked behind him, then jumped to his feet and ran to Vin who was shaking uncontrollably. He pulled his coat off and laid it across the younger man's chest. Chris was still gasping for breath as he talked and Ezra was afraid that he might have a punctured lung.
"Vin it's alright, I'm here, and so is Ezra. We have your back. Calm down," Chris was telling the partially conscious man. Chris' hand was lightly gripping Vin's right shoulder.
"Chris? ..." Vin moaned breathlessly as he lifted his right arm shakily off the ground.
Chris grabbed onto Vin's arm in their familiar brotherhood grip. In return, Vin's hand griped Chris' arm as tightly as possible, as if it were a lifeline that would anchor him to this life. Vin fought to open his eyes against the pain washing through him, then finally rolled his head a little to the side, and blinking several times, opened his eyes.
"I'm here, I'm here Vin."
"Hurt ... Co ... cold ..." Vin shivered his arm hot in Chris' grasp.
Chris tried to pull off his coat with one arm, thinking to cover his friend. As he struggled to get his arm out of the sleeve, he began coughing and a bolt of pain shot through his left side. He couldn't catch his breath and, as he felt his mouth fill with blood, he turned his face away from Vin, not wanting the half-conscious man to see how bad off he really was.
Ezra moved quickly behind Chris, holding his shoulders. When the blond man collapsed back against him he eased him to the ground, noting the blood on Chris' lips as he coughed and gasped for air.
Ezra fought a rising sense of panic as he tried desperately to hold his leader as still as possible. He looked around frantically, wondering where the ambulance was. Out of the corner of his eye he could see several dark blue-clad figures running towards them, guns drawn; the NYPD had arrived, but where in the hell were the EMT's?
When Chris finally stopped coughing, Ezra rolled him gently onto his right side, noting with concern Chris' labored breathing and bleeding mouth.
Ezra looked up to see two officers approaching cautiously, service weapons drawn and pointed a little off to the side. Before either one could say anything, Ezra snapped, "Stand down gentlemen, we are all Federal agents, ATF and FBI. These men need medical assistance immediately. Where the hell is the ambulance?"
"Ambulance is coming, might take a few more minutes. Traffic is backed up a mile or more, there were two accidents. What happened?"
Ezra felt Chris relax as he lost consciousness. "Damn," he exclaimed, looking towards Vin; the two men's arms were still locked but Vin's eyes were closed and he was shivering. Glancing to the side he saw that Martin was fighting to stay conscious as Alma kept pressure on his shoulder.
"I need some blankets here, something to cover my friends," Ezra stated as his eyes came back to rest on the officer crouching beside him.
Another officer pushed through the crowd, several blankets in his hands, and quickly covered the sharpshooter, then Chris. "What can I do?" he inquired.
"Check Mr. Fitzgerald; Miss Alma has been putting pressure on a gunshot wound to his shoulder, but she must be getting tired by now."
Ezra watched as the officer moved to Alma's side, covered Martin with the last blanket, and then took over applying pressure to the wound. Alma stayed beside Martin, speaking calmly and quietly to him.
Turning back to the first officer beside him, Ezra said, "We were looking for one of our agents, who has been missing for several days and had been injured about a week ago. We found him just a few minutes ago, but apparently someone else was looking for him as well, and they tried to run him down with their vehicle. Mr. Fitzgerald was coming towards Mr. Tanner and Mr. Larabee when someone in the vehicle opened fire on him. I was behind them and managed to get off a couple of shots, but I'm not sure if I hit anyone. I called in the license plate number and have been waiting ever since. How long does it take for a damn ambulance to arrive in this city? It's been ... too long."
"I'm sorry, Agent ...?"
"Standish. Denver, ATF. This is Agent Chris Larabee, and Agent Vin Tanner, also of Denver ATF. That is FBI Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald, of the Missing Persons Unit. You may have heard of his father, FBI Deputy Director Victor Fitzgerald. He might not be too happy to find out his son is bleeding out all over your city street," Ezra commented sarcastically.
The officer paled, then rose with alacrity and moved away from the scene, talking into this shoulder radio. Finally, more sirens could be heard in the distance.
Ezra gritted his teeth in frustration, then leaned over as he heard a low moan and felt Chris begin to stir. He spoke quietly into Chris' ear. "Help is coming, Mr. Larabee. Stay still lest you cause yourself further injury. Mr. Tanner is right beside you, and you are both are safe; I have your backs. Please, stay still."
Chris fought his way through the pain, the heaviness in his chest making him feel as if he were drowning. He couldn't draw a decent breath of air and started panting. He lay still listening to Ezra's words for a moment, then started to struggle as his fight to breathe became more and more difficult.
"Up ... ca ... can't breathe ... Up ..." Chris gasped and pushed up on his right elbow. Ezra quickly knelt behind Chris again and lifted him enough so he could lean against his chest.
"Stay calm Chris ..." Ezra muttered, upset enough to forget the formality with which he usually addressed his comrades. He held the team leader and cursed the city, the crowd of vultures looking on, the crowded streets, the slow police, and the even slower ambulances. "Hold on Chris, Vin needs you." Ezra held the trembling figure tightly, knowing that Chris would go to hell and back for Vin Tanner.
"Vin ... Vin ..." Chris gasped, his right hand tightening on Vin's arm. Vin moaned and rolled his head towards Chris, but didn't open his eyes.
Ezra heard running footsteps and lifted his head. "Finally!" he snarled, as two paramedics dropped to their knees beside him. "He is having difficulty breathing; there are possible broken ribs on his left side. I believe he has a punctured lung ..." Ezra spoke quickly to the paramedic closest to him, watching as the man checked Chris' vital signs while his partner prepared a liter of IV fluids.
"We need to lay him flat so we can get him immobilized. Name?"
"Agent Chris Larabee. Agent Vin Tanner beside him and Agent Martin Fitzgerald over there with the gunshot wound," Ezra stated.
"Agent Larabee, I'm Sam and I'm here to help you. I am going to bind your ribs so they don't do anymore damage, then we will get you ready for transport," the EMT told Chris. He glanced at Ezra. "Can you tell us what happened to these two?"
"They were hit by a car. The vehicle struck Mr. Larabee in the side and chest as he endeavored to push Mr. Tanner out of its path. Mr. Tanner was injured a week ago in an accident in which he was the driver of a big rig that overturned. I believe he has stitches in his left hip and leg that need to be examined. Both Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner also struck their heads on the pavement when they were hit by the car."
"Officer, we need to get the ambulances here, NOW," Sam told the officer as he rose from Chris' side.
"A lane is cleared; you can get them in here now."
"Thanks. Allen, Tassie, go get the rigs and hurry," Sam ordered. Two of the younger EMT's took off running to their ambulances that were parked a block away.
Sam moved to Vin's side, running his hands quickly over his arms and legs but finding no obvious broken bones in the shivering man's limbs. He reached for a pair of scissors and slit open Vin's pant leg, to find a dirty, blood-soaked bandage. Sam cut off the bandage and, noting that it was full of pus and bloody exudate, placed it in a sterile bag, then applied a pressure bandage to the bleeding wound. Next he turned his attention to Vin's upper torso. A quick examination revealed several broken ribs that were lightly wrapped; as he worked he could feel heat radiating off the long-haired man. He patted Vin's shoulder reassuringly as he prepared an IV solution and readied him for transport, then stepped over to check on the EMT's progress with Martin.
Martin lay still; his shoulder ached, his left arm was numb, and he was dizzy and light-headed from the blow to his head. He almost came up off the ground when an EMT appeared, cut away his coat and shirt, and pressed a large bandage to his shoulder. With the help of a nearby police officer, the young man was able to turn Martin over and examine the large exit wound above his shoulder blade. Martin groaned in pain, his back and shoulder were on fire and, as pressure was applied to the exit wound, he succumbed to the blackness and passed out. Once the bandage was in place the unconscious man was gently lowered to the ground again. The EMT bandaged the upper arm wound, then prepared an IV and got him ready for transport.
Sam checked on Martin and watched as the two ambulances pulled up and the drivers ran around to the back and threw open the doors. Before he could assist them, several police officers stepped forward and helped pull the gurneys out of the back of the rigs.
Ezra straightened as first Chris, then Vin, and then Martin were loaded onto the gurneys. As he reached into his pocket for his cell phone he looked at Sam and asked, "Where are you taking them? They are to go to the same hospital; they are not to be separated, do you understand?"
Sam nodded. "Yes sir, I understand. We'll be taking them to Bronx-Lebanon, about 20 blocks from here."
Ezra strode impatiently toward the first ambulance and watched as Chris and Vin were placed carefully in the back. He followed Martin towards the second vehicle and was dialing Jack's number when he was stopped by a uniformed officer.
"Sir, you'll need to stay here and talk to us, as you're the only witness."
"Talk to Miss Alma, she might have seen something. I'm going to the hospital with these agents; if you want to talk to me, you can meet us there and I will go over everything once again." Ezra turned away as Jack answered.
"Ezra, what's happening?"
"We're headed to the closest hospital, Bronx-Lebanon. Would you let Mr. Wilmington and ..."
"They're all right here with me. We're on the way, should be there a few minutes after you are."
"Thank you." Ezra disconnected and was delighted to see Martin's eyes open slowly. As the injured man looked around bewilderedly, he smiled and said, "Ah, Mr. Fitzgerald, it's nice to see you awake. You are in an ambulance and we are headed for the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. Mr. Malone and the rest of the team will meet us there. Now just relax and let these people do their jobs."
Martin nodded his head slightly and let the blackness engulf him again.
The two ambulances arrived at the hospital fifteen minutes later and quickly backed into the ER bay. The three unconscious men were quickly unloaded and taken into exam rooms. Ezra tried to follow but was turned back and directed to the registration desk, where he was given a stack of forms to complete.
"Umm, excuse me, ma'am? You should already have a file on Mr. Tanner. He was here up until last Saturday under the name of Vincent Taylor. I believe a Doctor Navero attended him."
"He was? Just a moment." The registration clerk picked up her phone and quickly pressed a button. A moment later she hung up. "Dr. Navero will be right here."
In less than two minutes a tall grey haired doctor rushed out of an elevator and into the ED, eyeing the well dressed young man with blood-stained clothes.
"Did you say Vincent Taylor is here again?" he asked the clerk.
"He's in one of your examining rooms right now," the young man told him.
"And you are?"
"I am ATF Agent Ezra Standish from Colorado. Vin Tanner is one of our agents who has been missing for several days. Our Team Leader, Agent Chris Larabee, had just managed to locate him when the accident occurred. He was injured too, as was Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald of the FBI."
"I'll check on them." With that the doctor was gone.
With a sigh, Ezra completed the registration forms for Chris and Vin, reflecting on the fact that he had way too
much experience in doing so. He didn't have much information about Martin and was struggling to complete his form when the doors to the ED flew open and the remaining members of both teams rushed into the waiting room. Converging on him they began shooting questions at him at once until finally Josiah's booming voice cut through the babble.
"Quiet! How can Ezra answer any of your questions with all this yakking?"
Silence fell as Ezra shot Josiah a grateful look. "I will explain everything as soon as we complete this paperwork and the police arrive. There is no sense in me repeating myself." He made his way toward a cluster of chairs in the waiting room, pausing long enough to ask the registration clerk, "Please keep us informed as to our colleagues' condition and let us know as soon as there is any news. I do not think that you want all of us hunting down the physicians."
Ezra dropped wearily into an armchair as the others sat or stood uncomfortably around him. He looked down at his clothes in dismay; a reminder of Martin's gunshot wound and Chris' punctured lung were evident on the fine shirt and pants. He rubbed his hands on his pants, wishing he'd cleaned up a little before sitting down. Just then two police officers walked in, paused, and then made their way towards him.
"We need to get your statement, sir."
"I am ATF Agent Ezra Standish from Denver. My colleagues and I are in New York to look for one of our agents, Vincent Tanner, who has been on an undercover assignment and has been missing for several days. We found Mr. Tanner as he was crossing the street at ..." Ezra quickly related everything that he knew and had seen, repeating the license plate number and description of the suspects' vehicle. "I don't know the extent of everyone's injuries, but Mr. Fitzgerald has a serious gunshot wound to his shoulder; Mr. Larabee has a couple of broken ribs and a punctured lung, and Mr. Tanner sustained a blow to the head and seems to be running a fever."
Buck jumped up and started pacing as the police officers thanked Ezra and left. Ezra rose slowly to his feet and looked around. Josiah was beside him in an instant and gently took the undercover agent's elbow. "This way Ezra," he said gently as he led the shaken young man towards the men's room. Nathan approached the front desk to see if he could get any kind of word on their colleagues' condition, while JD and Danny watched Buck's agitated pacing and Jack stepped outside the ED doors in order to call the office.
JD looked up as a nurse hurried towards them with a set of scrubs in her hands. "Are these for Ezra?" he asked.
"Yes ma'am. He's in the men's room. I can get him for you."
"Please. He can use the shower in the physician's sleepover room to clean up and get out of his bloody clothes."
JD hurried into the men's room. "Ez, a nurse has some scrubs for you and says you can shower in the doctor's room."
Ezra nodded and followed JD and Josiah out the door; the nurse handed him the clothes and led him away.
+ + + + + + +
Dr. Navero entered the first exam room. "Dr. O'Brien, what is going on with this patient?"
"Mr. Larabee is a 37 year old male, an ATF agent out of Denver, status post MVA, auto vs. pedestrian. He sustained some cuts and contusions and has three broken ribs. We are waiting for radiologic confirmation but he appears to have a pneumothorax on the left side. We've intubated him and inserted a chest tube for drainage."
"Do you need any help?" asked Dr. Navero.
"No, thank you. I think we've got everything under control," the younger physician said.
"Good. If you need anything just holler."
"Yes sir, I will. Thank you."
Dr. Navero entered the next exam room. "Dr. Halliday, what can you tell me about this patient?"
"Mr. Fitzgerald is a 27 year old male, an FBI agent with the Missing Persons Unit here in New York. He has a GSW to the right shoulder with a minor graze on his upper arm, and a few minor cuts and contusions to his face. We've ordered blood and I am taking him up to the OR right now."
Dr. Navero nodded and stepped back as the patient was quickly and efficiently moved from the exam table onto a gurney. His eyes opened wide in surprise as the gurney passed him on the way out the door and he got a good look at the patient; if he didn't know better he would have sworn this was the same man he knew as Vincent Taylor. Shaking his head in confusion, he followed the gurney into the hallway, then turned left to enter the adjacent exam room.
Dr. John Barnes glanced at his old friend and smiled. "Heard this young fellow was your patient last week. Is he the one whose records went for a walk or something?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Yes. Dawes doesn't know where they went. Thank goodness we could re-create them from memory, and of course they found them two days ago. So how is he doing? He left AMA you know."
"He's a very sick young man. He's pulled the stitches in that hip wound and it's open and festering. I'm sending him to the OR to have the wound debrided. I understand he was involved in an MVA; he sustained another broken rib, a dislocated shoulder, lots of scrapes and bruises, and probably a concussion as well, so I've ordered an MRI. His temp was 105 by the time he arrived in the ED and he's septic, so I've started him on some IV cefazolin and vancomycin."
Dr. Navero looked over the battered body and shook his head. "Don't know why he snuck out Saturday night. He had amnesia and was in no condition to be walking the streets alone; I'd decided that I wanted him on IV antibiotics for another few days before I switched him over to orals and discharged him. It's a wonder he didn't end up back here sooner."
"Well, apparently he tried to take care of the wound himself; the EMT said it had been bound up with gauze and tape. We found an open bottle of Tylenol in his pocket too, though that's not quite what he needed."
"Anything I can do to help John?" Dr. Navero asked.
"No, everything's under control. We've loaded him with antibiotics and as soon as I clean this leg wound we'll get him upstairs for the MRI and then over to the OR."
"He's got a bunch of friends out there. I'll talk to them for you. They'll want to know when they can see him."
"Three or four hours at least. We'll let them know as soon as we can. You can come up later and fill me in on what happened when he was here last week," smiled Barnes.
"I'll get his chart pulled and sent to you, and meet you upstairs. I'm going to check on O'Brien and his patient. Seems they were hit by the same vehicle. I'll fill in his friends and catch up with you."
Stopping at the desk he ordered Taylor/Tanner's chart to be sent to Dr. Barnes, then with a shake of his head he headed for the ED waiting room and the seven men waiting there.
Dr. Navero paused and looked at the seven men that had taken over one corner of the ER waiting room. A big, black haired man with a large mustache paced back and forth in front of the others while a very young man sat huddled on the floor watching him. The man he'd talked to at the desk was sitting on the window ledge in scrubs, his hair still damp, shuffling a pack of cards with lightning speed. A tall black man and an older grey-haired man sat in quiet conversation with a stocky gentleman in a dark suit, and a younger, dark haired man leaned quietly against the wall. A dozen other people were in the waiting room but had positioned themselves as far away from the formidable men in the corner as they could.
The doctor approached the men and held up his hand as they all turned towards him.
"I am Dr. Navero and I will give you a current update on your three agents. Mr. Larabee has a badly punctured lung and some broken ribs. He has been intubated and a chest tube has been inserted; as long as he stays quiet and does as he is told he should be fine, albeit very sore, in a few days. Mr. Fitzgerald has gone into surgery to remove part of the bullet from his shoulder and see what kind of damage has been done, but so far it looks as though the bullet may have nicked his clavicle. Mr. Tanner, or as I knew him, Mr. Taylor, is also on his way to the OR. That hip wound of his is badly infected and needs to be surgically debrided. He also has several broken ribs and a possible concussion. We'll know more after the MRI."
The black man stepped forward, "Doctor, my name is Nathan Jackson, I am an EMT and I know Vin's medical history like the back of my hand. There are some things you should know about him before you take him to the OR. For one thing, he has several drug allergies; I can give you a list if you'd like."
"Yes, we found out the hard way when he was here last week. He doesn't tolerate certain anesthetics, does he?" Navero smiled.
"No, he doesn't, and there are several other medications as well."
"Okay, would you come with me?" Turning to the rest of the men, Dr. Navero said, "Mr. Fitzgerald should be out of surgery in two or three hours, and Mr. Tanner will go up to the OR as soon as the MRI is done. You can all move to the surgical waiting room on the third floor if you wish. Someone up there will keep you informed as to their progress."
"When can we see them?"
"At the very least it will be four hours or more before either one of them is out of the Recovery Room. They will let you know." With that he led Nathan away.
Several hours later a nurse approached the seven men in the surgical waiting room. Two stopped their pacing as the others rose from their chairs.
"You are waiting for Agents Larabee, Fitzgerald, and Tanner?"
"Agent Larabee is resting comfortably in ICU room 342. Agents Fitzgerald and Tanner are in PACU and will be moved to rooms 341 and 343 in the ICU. As soon as they are settled you can see them, but only one visitor at a time, please."
"Excuse me, but I believe we specified that Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner are to be placed in the same room," Ezra said quickly.
The nurse smiled at the scrub-clad man. "We do have instructions to put them together, and we will do so as soon as they are both well enough to be transferred from the ICU to a regular med-surg bed. Right now, though, the surgeons have written orders to admit them to the ICU."
"What can you tell us about their condition?" Nathan asked.
"I'm sorry, I really can't tell you anything, but the attending physicians will be down here to speak with you shortly," she said, then left the room.
"Damn!" Buck slapped his hand on the wall in frustration. "We've been here for ages and we still don't know anything more then when we talked to Navero hours ago."
"They'll tell us more soon Buck," JD told him as he sat back down.
"I'm too old for this!" Buck exclaimed as he started pacing again, running his hands through his hair.
A deep rumbling chuckle sounded.
"Shut up Josiah!" Buck snapped as the rest of the men joined in the laughter, happy to have something to ease the tension. Buck turned towards the door, "I'm going to go sit with Chris, in case he wakes. Don't want him to be alone."
"I'll be with Vin," Josiah said.
"I'll check on Martin. Danny, will you stay with him? I have to get back to the office for awhile after I check on him," Jack asked as they followed the ATF agents out of the room.
"No problem Jack. I'll be here." Danny answered.
Buck pulled up a chair next to Chris' bed and made himself as comfortable as possible as he waited for his partner to wake. He glanced quickly at the monitor above the bed and noted all of the IV lines and tubes; closing his eyes he said a quick prayer of thanks as he knew that the situation could have been much worse. He leaned tiredly back in the chair and shook his head, wishing that they had never been given this assignment.
By late in the morning of the following day Chris had been awake for several hours and was becoming increasingly agitated about being separated from Vin. The rest of Team 7 took turns sitting with Vin and relieving Danny in Martin's room, but Buck hadn't left Chris' side all night, even though his teammates had tried to persuade him to go back to the hotel room to rest. When Dr. O'Brien finally entered the room in the early afternoon, Buck heaved a sigh of relief and rose expectantly from the chair in which he had just spent twelve of the most uncomfortable hours of his life.
"Well Mr. Larabee, how are you feeling? I'm thinking it's about time we extubated you and moved you out to the East Wing. We need this ICU bed for someone who is really sick." Dr. O'Brien smiled at his patient as he checked the monitor above the bed.
Chris glared at the doctor and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "it's about damn time!"
"Don't mind him Doc; he gets real cranky when he's forced to lay flat on his back and can't tell the rest of us what to do. I'll just step outside while you take care of business here." Buck grinned at the doctor and left the room to tell the rest of his team the good news.
"What's going on Buck?" JD looked up from his seat on the floor of the ICU waiting room. With the exception of Josiah, who was taking his turn with Vin, and Danny, who was in Martin's room, the rest of Team 7 was sprawled on sofas and chairs watching Sports center on ESPN.
"They're extubating Chris and getting ready to move him to another room out of ICU."
As the doctor emerged from Chris' room Buck stepped up to him, "How is Chris?"
"He's doing fine. We're moving him out of the ICU over to the East Wing. He'll be in room 305, and you can see him there in about twenty minutes."
"He's to be in with Vin Tanner," Buck replied instantly.
"Mr. Tanner will be moved in there as soon as he is released from the ICU. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to finalize all of the arrangements for Mr. Larabee's transfer."
Buck turned to JD. "How's Vin?"
"He seems to be improving. Dr. Navero was in to see him this morning and says that his temperature is finally coming down and they are getting the infection under control. If he keeps improving like this they may be able to move him out of ICU tomorrow. Josiah's in with him now."
"Good! That sounds good." Buck breathed a sigh of relief; Vin would make it.
Within an hour Chris was settled in his new room surrounded by most of his team. As JD and Ezra stood in the entrance to Chris' room they watched as another gurney made its way down the hall, followed by Jack Malone and Danny Taylor.
"How is Mr. Fitzgerald?" Ezra asked.
"He's doing well. They just released him from ICU. He was awake for several minutes, but fell asleep after they asked him a couple of questions," Jack answered as they watched Martin being transferred to the bed.
"Well it looks like he's in good hands for now. I need to get back to the office. I have a feeling that Deputy Director Fitzgerald will be calling to check on his son, if he's gotten the messages about Martin." Jack said.
"Won't the Director just come straight to the hospital?" Ezra asked.
Jack shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know what that man will or will not do. He acts like he doesn't give a damn about his son one day, then the next day he is all over us about some tiny incident that happened to Martin. So your guess is as good as mine as to what the Director will do." With a last glance at his sleeping agent, Jack turned to Danny.
Before he could a word, Danny smiled, "I'll be here Jack. Don't worry." Jack nodded and walked down the hallway towards the elevators. Once the orderlies and nurses left Martin's room Danny entered and pulled up a chair; he had a feeling it was going to be a long night.
Late the next afternoon Vin was rolled down the hallway from the ICU to Chris' room. The members of Team 7 stood out of the way as they watched Vin being transferred from the gurney to the bed adjacent to Chris. As soon as Vin was comfortably settled, the two transporters left the room, leaving behind the nurse who was documenting the patient's vital signs in the electronic medical record.
Glancing at the agents, the nurse asked, "Dr. Navero and Dr. O'Brien will be here to check their patients momentarily. Would you gentlemen please step out of the room for a few minutes?"
"I'll go tell Danny what's going on," JD said and hurried out the door, as the other agents followed him into the hallway. JD quietly entered room 304 and approached Danny, who was sitting in a chair beside his partner. His eyes rested on Martin's pale face; he still had a hard time believing how much he looked like Vin. He was sure they were closely related, they had to be. Raising his eyes, he smiled at Danny and moved closer to him.
"Vin just arrived. He's now in with Chris in 305 across the hall. How's Martin doing? Has he been awake?"
"I guess he's going to be fine, but he's still asleep; they have him medicated pretty good I think." Danny told the young agent.
"Oh ...Yeah ... right ... I'll let you alone. Just wanted you to know what's going on." JD said.
Danny smiled, "Thanks JD. Appreciate you filling me in."
"We'll see you later," JD said and left.
"God Martin, were we ever so full of energy? I swear that kid could keep half the city lit with what's running through his brain." Danny commented as the door swung closed.
A low raspy chuckle reached his ears and he turned to the man on the bed.
"Hey Fitz, are you with us?"
"Th ... Think so ..." Martin said as he tried to force his eyes open. His shoulder and head throbbed, and the light in the room hurt his eyes. He turned his head to the side and cracked his eyes open to find Danny's smiling face watching him.
"What happened?" Martin croaked, running his tongue over his dry lips.
Danny reached for the cup of ice and fed Martin several pieces. "Ah, Fitz, don't you remember getting shot? And, what about the car, do you remember that at all?"
Martin looked at Danny in confusion and closed his eyes, trying furiously to concentrate and remember the last 24 hours. Suddenly his mind was a jumble of broken images, and he saw a long-haired man on the curb a hundred feet from him, the black-clad ATF agent running to catch up, trying to get them both out of the path of the speeding car. He remembered drawing and firing his gun as the vehicle struck the two men; then there were shots fired from the back of the car, pain, and he was slammed to the ground.
"Oh God! Larabee and Tanner were hit by that car ... I tried to ..."
"Calm down Martin, they're both here and they're going to be fine."
Martin felt Danny's hand on his shoulder, "How bad?"
"Quit with those eyes! You took a bullet in the shoulder; it was a through and through but there were some bullet fragments near your collarbone so they took you to the OR. You've got a graze on your upper right arm, some cuts and scrapes, and a nice bump on your head from hitting the pavement. Larabee has broken ribs and a punctured lung along with some scrapes and a mild concussion. Tanner re-broke a couple of ribs, and has some bruises and cuts. The worse thing is he has a hip wound from that previous truck accident and it's badly infected, though they say they have it under control. He's on antibiotics and his fever has come down. You all will be fine in a few days. Standish was able to get the license plate number off that car and we've got people looking for it around the clock."
"When can I go home?"
"Couple of days, I'd guess. I know they want to make sure your hard head is alright, you had a slight concussion. You're gonna have to stay at least one more night amigo."
"Don't want to stay," Martin said as his eyes slid slowly closed.
"Well, we'll see. Jack will be back in a while, and you can tell him. Get some rest now." Danny rubbed Martin's right shoulder for several minutes, feeling him finally relax into sleep.
Danny walked out of Martin's room and approached the ATF team standing in the hall. Buck grinned at him and asked, "How's Martin?"
"Sleeping. He was awake for a couple of minutes, asked about Larabee and Tanner, then said he wants to go home."
Buck laughed and clapped a big hand on Danny's shoulder. "That sounds just like Vin. He hates being in the hospital. Actually, none of us like it, but Junior is worse than all of us put together. He's painfully shy too. You should see him blush from head to toe when a nurse has to check out his leg or lift up his gown. Chris usually stays with him when he's in the hospital, partly because we all worry about him, but mostly to make sure he stays where he's supposed to. That boy is an escape artist and has managed to sneak out of many a hospital room."
"Do you guys end up in the hospital often?"
"Well, let's just say that they know us and our medical histories pretty well at Denver General. They even set aside a room for us to use as a waiting room, so we don't disturb other people, 'cause whenever one of us is in the hospital we make sure that at least one of the Team is at their bedside 24/7, no matter what. And the docs also know that they have to keep us all informed about the patient's condition at all times."
"Don't know if I'd want to be in your line of work. Sounds pretty dangerous."
"Yeah, it gets that way sometimes. There's your boss," Buck nodded his head towards a figure behind Danny. "We'll be here, and we'll come and check on Martin."
"How's it going?" Jack looked from one man to the other.
"Martin just went back to sleep," Danny said.
"Vin just got here, and we'll be keeping an eye on everyone." Buck smiled at Jack.
"All of you?"
"Yep. Hospital doesn't know us that well, yet, but don't worry, we'll be here," Buck said with conviction.
Jack nodded, "If I can do anything, just let me know."
"Thanks Jack, we will. Well, I'll let you go see Martin, and I'll go check on Vin." The two men shook hands, then moved into the different rooms.
Buck stopped at the foot of Vin's bed, looking at his young friend. "Geez, Junior, what the hell did you do to yourself?"
Vin's face and left shoulder were a mass of fresh and fading bruises with half healed cuts, his arm was strapped to his chest, and his forearm was bandaged. Buck could see more bandages around his chest that disappeared under the blanket. Vin was pale and there were fever spots in his gaunt cheeks.
Buck sat down in the chair between Vin and Chris' beds, his glance taking in his friends around the room. JD sat on the floor near the window where Ezra leaned; Josiah and Nathan were in the other chairs. Worry showed on every face. They talked quietly off and on, but mostly they just sat waiting for Chris or Vin to awaken.
Fifteen minutes later Jack stuck his head into the room and smiled at the waiting men. "I'm heading home for a few hours. If anything comes up before I get back I'll let you know. Danny's going to stay awhile but if you need anything at all please call. Donavan will be here in a few minutes to pick you up and take you to your hotel. Let me know how Chris and Vin are doing later?"
"We will Jack. Thank you," Buck told him.
With a last look at the pale figure on the bed Jack left. JD sat for another minute then rose from the floor. "I'll go sit with Danny and Martin awhile."
A little while later a nurse came in and frowned at the four men as they rose and moved away from Vin's bed. As she checked the patient's vital signs she glanced at them. When she finished she turned to them, then said, "There's only supposed to be one of you in here. I have to ask that some of you leave."
"Sorry ma'am. This is one of our comrades who has been missing and someone is trying to kill him. We will not leave him unaccompanied, or with only one guard," Ezra told her as he nodded towards Vin.
"Doesn't matter ... "
"Yes it does. We are ATF agents, and we are here with the full support of the FBI. We cannot take the chance of leaving him alone; it is far too dangerous. I suggest you allow us to do our job, unless you want this hospital to be responsible for this agent's death. Although we won't all be here all of the time, at least two of us will be in this room and another will be stationed outside the room, at all times."
"I'll take this up with his physician and the hospital administrators."
With a nasty glance at the men the nurse left.
"Well brothers, I feel we will not all be in here soon," Josiah said with a sigh.
"We shouldn't really be here. We can't brow-beat everyone here the way we do at home," Nathan added.
"I know, but as Ez pointed out, we need to keep at least two agents in this room and one outside in the hallway. We still don't know who's after Vin and what's going on; it's too dangerous to leave them here unguarded," Buck pointed out.
"Mr. Wilmington is right; we will not leave our leader and our brother unguarded. Shall we draw cards to see who will stay once we are thrown out?" Ezra shuffled the deck of cards in his hands.
A low moan was heard and Buck hurried to Chris' side, "Hey stud, about time you woke up."
His eyelashes fluttered as Chris fought to open his eyes at the sound of Buck's calm voice. He wondered what had happened and why he was in the hospital, again. He could hear the pump beeping beside him, but he was too tired and sore to care why. All he knew was that he couldn't take a deep breath without pain. With another groan he forced his eyes open, blinking at the sight of a blurred figure bending over him. He blinked again and Buck came into focus; nearby movement caught his attention and he turned his head, seeing Josiah, Nathan and Ezra. His gaze caught on Ezra and he frowned, What in the hell is Standish wearing? "Wh ... What the hell ..." Chris rasped, his gaze locked on Ezra.
"Mr. Larabee, I am ecstatic that you are back with us. My wardrobe was ruined as a result of being soaked with your and Mr. Fitzgerald's blood. I will list it on my expense sheet, as I do not believe the stains will ever come out."
Chris blinked and Buck's grin widened, "Got blood from you and Martin on his clothes."
"Oh, yeah." Suddenly Chris's eyes opened wider as he looked around the room, he remembered catching up with Vin and them being hit by the car. "Vin ... Oh God ... Vin!"
"Its okay, its okay Chris, calm down. He's right here. See, to your right. You're both gonna be just fine," Buck told him as he pointed to the other bed.
Chris turned his head slowly; small hammers were crashing into his skull as every slight movement of his head made him wince. His eyes finally landed on the figure on the other bed. He could see long brownish blond hair on the pillow and when he raised his head he was able to see the pale, bruised face of his lost friend. He looked mutely back to Buck.
"I'm telling you he'll be fine Chris. Has a bad infection, but he will be alright and come home with us. Now you need to rest. Vin's sleeping, and you need to sleep as well." Buck's hand on his shoulder soothed him and he looked back across to Vin. He could see the slow rise and fall of his chest and his green eyes slid closed. Vin was safe. Cowboy, I'm here. was his last thought as he fell asleep.
+ + + + + + +
Cold. I'm so cold. What happened? Where am I? Vin shivered as his thoughts rolled around in his head. Keeping his eyes closed he tried to figure out where he was. Finally his heartbeat slowed and he could hear quiet talking nearby and the beeping of nearby machines. He fought the feeling of panic; he was in the hospital again, and they were going to kill him in here. He had to get away before the man came back. He tried to move his legs and gasped at the pain that shot through his hip and thigh. He froze, hearing a voice closer to him, telling him to calm down and tried to open his eyes. He needed to see if the man was real.
Vin forced his eyes open and blinked at the tall, dark haired figure standing at the foot of his bed. To Vin he looked just like the man who had threatened him earlier.
"No!" Vin rasped his voice barely a whisper.
The man smiled and came around to the left side of the bed.
Vin turned his head; there was no one to his right, and the door wasn't that far away. With a grunt of pain he threw himself from the bed, ripping out the IV catheter and sending the IV pole crashing to the floor in the process.
"No, no ..." Vin groaned, as he staggered towards the door. He heard someone behind him and tried to move faster, but just as he reached the door another man stepped in.
Looking up at the man Vin came to an abrupt stop, then pivoted on his injured left leg to escape the new threat. "No ... No!" he moaned as pain and blackness took him over the edge.
Josiah held Vin's slender frame, feeling the warmth and tremors that wracked the unconscious young man's body. Easily lifting Vin in his arms he carried him back to his bed as Buck straightened the blankets and pulled the IV tubing out of the way. Josiah lay Vin down just as the door to the room flew open and the nurse rushed in, giving the two men a furious look as she hurried to the bedside and went to work assessing the damage done.
"What happened Buck?" Josiah asked in a low voice.
"I don't really know. He was waking up but seemed really agitated. I tried to calm him and, he panicked I guess. Just got up and took off."
"Guess it was lucky I came in when I did to relieve you."
"Yeah. I don't think I was close enough to catch him before he got to the door. How is he?" Buck asked the nurse as he turned back to Vin's bed.
"The doctor will be here shortly to check him. I believe he is alright, but he might need to have some stitches replaced." She checked the IV's one last time, then left.
"Damn. He was so scared. What the hell happened to him?" Buck ran his hands through his dark hair as he paced around the room.
"Buck, go get some rest. I'll let you know what the doctor says. We can't do anything for our brothers if we're too tired. You haven't slept in 36 hours. James Donavan is waiting for you and JD. Nathan will be outside the door and Ezra is in with Martin. Get out of here for awhile."
"As soon as the doctor checks Vin. Now go." Josiah gently pushed the tired man out the door. In the hall James and JD were waiting; JD was leaning against the wall, for once too tired to talk.
"Thank you, Mr. Donavan for getting these two to the hotel and back," Josiah said.
"No problem Josiah. I'll be sure they are back in a little while and I'll get them settled. If you need me just call," the older man said.
"I'm sure I won't. For now we'll stick to the schedule we worked out. Go to the hotel, get cleaned up and change clothes. They've set up some couches in the waiting room for us to use, so you can rest when you get back here. Get something to eat, too. Now go!"
"Go Buck. I'll let you know. Looks like Vin's doctor is coming. Get out of here, I'll call you."
"Come on boys, let's get you out of here." James turned the two men towards the elevators and ushered them down the hall.
Josiah slipped back into the room and moved towards the bed. Vin was still shivering and he pulled the blanket up higher and tucked it firmly around the thin body, aware that Chris was watching quietly.
Dr. Navero walked in followed by the nurse. He nodded to Josiah as the big man stepped back. "Heard my patient was trying to leave or something," he said as he felt for Vin's pulse.
"He woke up, panicked, I guess. Tore everything off, and tried to leave. I caught him when he collapsed at the door. I think he hurt his hip again."
The doctor pulled back the blanket. "At least he didn't damage his ribs again." He lowered the blanket until he could
reach the hip wound, carefully easing Vin to his right side. Unwrapping the bandage he checked the infected wound, then whispered some instructions to the nurse, who quickly left the room.
"How is he Dr. Navero?"
"Well, I'll want to see him afebrile for at least twenty four hours before I'll say he's completely out of the woods, but this wound definitely looks a lot better than it did when he came in here two days ago. The antibiotics seem to be working, but it looks like he did tear out a couple of stitches during his little walk. I'll have that taken care of in a few minutes, but what he really needs is rest and the chance to heal properly."
"Thanks doc." Dr. Navero and Josiah both turned towards the raspy voice coming from the blond in the other bed.
Josiah stood by Chris' side and they both watched as the nurse returned with a covered tray. She pulled the curtain closed around Vin's bed, and she and Dr. Navero set to work cleaning the ugly wound on Vin's hip and replacing the stitches.
Chris waited a moment longer, then turned towards Josiah. "What happened?"
"Brother Vin woke, panicked, and tried to leave. Evidently he still has amnesia; he didn't recognize Buck."
"He and JD went to clean up and then they'll rest a little in the waiting room; they'll be back in a while."
"How long have we been here?"
Josiah held out a cup of water and Chris reached for it gratefully. "You've been in this room since yesterday morning," he answered, then added with a smile, "And no, you won't be out for several more days."
Chris nodded his head and leaned back, his eyes going to the bed next to him. He watched as Dr. Navero walked out and the nurse pulled open the bedside curtains, then he frowned and pushed himself into a sitting position.
"No! Don't do that to him!" he half yelled, as Josiah hurried over to Vin's bedside.
"We need for him to stay in his bed. He can't afford another fall like that," Dr. Navero explained as the nurse made a final adjustment to the restraints around Vin's right ankle and picked up the discarded bandages.
Josiah quickly blocked the door as the doctor turned to leave. He and the nurse stopped, eying Josiah warily as he folded his arms across his massive chest.
"Doc," Chris insisted, "You can't restrain him. He can't stand small spaces or to be held or tied down. If you think what he just tried was bad, you've never seen what he'll do when he's restrained. Vin will kill himself trying to get loose. Let him go. We will watch over him and make sure he doesn't get out of bed like that again."
Dr. Navero looked thoughtfully at Chris and then back at his patient. Even though the young man was still unconscious, he was already pulling against the restraint on his right wrist and breathing in short, rapid gasps.
"All right. I'll take them off, but I don't want him getting out of bed on his own. Call a nurse for help when you need to; I don't want any more injuries," the doctor said as he removed the restraints, noting that Vin relaxed almost instantly.
"We'll watch him doctor, you don't need to worry about that," Josiah promised as he returned to Vin's side.
"If he needs anything, let a nurse know," Dr. Navero said.
We will," Josiah answered. As soon as Dr. Navero and the nurse left Josiah looked across Vin's supine figure. "Get some rest Chris. I'll stay by his side and Nathan is right outside the door."
"Thanks Josiah." Chris laid back down on the bed and let his eyes slide closed.
+ + + + + + +
Vin woke with a start. His dreams were a jumble of faces, a nightmare of crashing trucks, dark green cars, bright blinding lights and pain, so much pain. As he twisted into a more comfortable position in the bed he felt his ribs, shoulder, and head throbbing in cadence with the pain in his hip. He lay still, trying to fight the pain and quell the sudden nausea; with his eyes closed he strained to place the various noises around him. The images flitting rapidly through his mind made him question whether he was awake or asleep. He closed his eyes tighter against the blinding lights and panicked at the sound of screeching brakes and the force of the horrendous crash.
"Chris!" Vin screamed, "Help me!" He screamed again and thrashed around in the bed, trying desperately to free himself from whatever was pinning him down. His eyes flew open but all he could see was bright lights and darkness. He could hear the screams and cries of trapped people and the smell of something burning nearby. "Ohgod ... Ohgod ... Chris please ..."
Chris was walking slowly out of the bathroom under Nathan's watchful eye when Vin's first scream cut through the room. His eyes flew to the other bed and he cursed under his breath as he hobbled to Vin's bedside. Nathan was already there trying to prevent Vin from throwing himself onto the floor; Chris waved him off and reached for Vin's right arm, grasping it in their familiar grip and running his other hand carefully over Vin's head in an effort to calm the younger man.
"Vin I'm here. Look at me. Come on Cowboy, I'm right here for you. Calm down, you're alright. Look at me Vin, open your eyes Pard."
Vin shuddered and blinked several times. That voice, the grip on his arm. He took a deep breath and fought to clear his mind. Chris? he thought.
"It's me Cowboy. I'm here for you."
"Oh God, Chris ..." Vin pushed himself up and reached for Chris, needing to know he was real, needing the feel of his arms to know that Chris was really there with him, that he was really alive.
Chris released Vin's arm and gathered the emotional younger man into an embrace as sudden tears began to fall. Ignoring the pain in his ribs and chest Chris rubbed Vin's back in circles and whispered calmly to him. He could feel almost every bone in the thin body beneath his hand. Nathan watched silently from the other side of the bed, trying to keep his emotions under control as he listened to his two partners, knowing that only Chris could get through to Vin at this time.
"It's okay Cowboy. I'm here and you're safe," Chris said over and over as his shoulder got wet from the tears the warm form he held close to him shed. Finally he felt Vin stop shaking and moments later the shaggy head came up slowly.
Vin pulled back, feeling his face turn red with embarrassment; he turned his head, letting his long hair fall forward. A hand gently gripped his chin and turned his head towards Chris', his watery blue eyes meeting the concerned green gaze of his best friend.
"Vin, it's aright. Don't worry. It's only us and you've been through a lot lately."
"So ... Sorry ... Chris."
"Don't worry about it Pard. I'm here for you, we all are. Now you need to get some rest." Chris saw how shaken Vin was, and knew the tears would have taken a lot out of him.
Chris smiled. "You went missing, we came looking. The boys are all here. Don't worry; we're watching your back. Nathan's right over there, Buck and JD just went to get some lunch, and Josiah and Ezra are on their way here from the hotel. You alright now?"
"Yeah. Think so," Vin's eyes darted around the room then settled on his friend. A frown crossed his face as he reached out and touched Chris' chest. "Why're ya dressed like that?"
Chris's face fell. "Don't you remember?"
Vin regarded Chris warily, then frowned again. "Green car?" he asked hesitantly; horrific images flitted through his
brain and he released Chris' arm and grabbed his pounding head. He began trembling as he felt the scrape on his face and the stitches at his temple.
Chris placed his hand on Vin's shoulder and lightly squeezed. "Yes. A green car tried to run us down," he said gently, not sure what Vin was remembering, not wanting to force his memories.
Vin looked frantically around the room, his face hollow and haunted. "Night ... I remember the night ... and bright lights. I ... I was ... Oh God, the screams ... I was s'posed ta' die ... Oh God Chris ..." He began shaking violently, his Texas drawl more pronounced as the memories threatened to overwhelm him.
Chris slid quickly onto the bed beside Vin and wrapped an arm around the shaking shoulders. "It's okay Vin. It's done; we can get past this. No one will hurt you anymore. Take it easy, I'm here, we're all here and we'll help you. We'll keep you safe."
Shaking, Vin leaned into Chris's shoulder, accepting the comfort. "I remember now, but I don't want to. There were people in that trailer. I could smell ta fire and hear them screaming. Next thing I knew I's in the hospital, and someone - said he was a detective and his name was Charles - he said I was s'posed ta die in that accident. He was gonna kill me," Vin looked up at Chris, "so I left. Ran out in the middle of the night."
"Vin, they set you up. None of what happened was your fault. If you hadn't left, that Charles would have killed you; you had amnesia, and there is little chance that we would have found you in time." He rubbed Vin's back soothingly. "You don't have to tell me this now. Wait until you are stronger."
"Chris I ... the screams ..."
"Vin, it was horrible I know, but out of the forty illegal aliens in the back of that rig, only four of them died. The firefighters managed to put the fire out, but whoever is responsible for that accident poured gasoline all over the trailer and torched it. You couldn't do anything about it because you were trapped in the cab. We're just lucky they managed to pull you out."
"Bright lights ... Chris, there was bright lights in front of me. I ... I couldn't see an' I tried ta stop, but the tires blew out, the rig jack-knifed and then rolled." Chris remembered his dream and paled, but didn't interrupt, letting Vin continue.
"I remember now, I was trapped under the steering wheel somehow." Vin touched his sore left shoulder. "Heard loud noises an' when I woke up I was in the hospital. When I left I think I got in a taxi. Tried to buy a bus ticket to Denver ... couldn't remember anything, but saw Denver on my license. Had to wait a coupla days for the Denver route, so I found a hotel and stayed there two, nights, then spent a night at the bus depot. Tried to eat but couldn't keep nothin' down. Next thing I remember is that green car ..." Vin stopped, shuddering, then turned to Chris. "Someone, don't know who, pushed me outta the way." His hand touched Chris' chest lightly. "You? You were there ... You were hurt too."
"I'm alright Vin. Just some broken ribs. You, on the other hand, have a badly infected wound in your hip and thigh. It's getting better though."
"Got some medicine, but it was hard to put on the bandage one-handed."
"Yeah, I'm sure that is true."
"I know, but you're awake and can remember what happened, thank God. You know us too." Chris smiled gently at his best friend. "We're glad you're back with us Cowboy."
"Wanna' go home."
Chris laughed out loud for the first time in many weeks and tugged at the long hair. "We will, but I don't think the doctors will let us leave until you are over that infection and fever, and we have a meeting to get through before we can even think about leaving. You know, there are a lot of questions that only you can answer." Chris didn't mention either the contract or Martin Fitzgerald. "For now, I think I better get back to bed, and you need to get some rest. I have a feeling our doctors will be here before too long to check on us. The rest of the guys will be here shortly."
"Tired ..." Vin slid down in the bed while Chris pulled the blanket up around his shoulders. "Cold."
"Got a spare blanket right here," Chris grabbed the blanket that Buck had been using and covered Vin.
"Thanks Chris ... Sorry ... I'm glad you're here ..." Vin said as he snuggled into the blankets and closed his eyes.
"I'm here Pard. I'll be here when you wake up," Chris said, tucking the blanket closer around the prone body.
Chris moved back to his bed, and had just gotten settled when the door opened and Buck and JD walked in. Buck took one look at him and asked immediately, "What's happened?"
"Shh. He just went back to sleep. Is that for me?" Chris looked at the white sack in Buck's hand.
"Brought you guys' sandwiches and coffee. What happened?" Buck asked again as he handed a sack to Chris and JD placed a large covered cup on the rolling table.
Chris pulled out his sandwich, but before he could say anything or take a bite, the door opened again and a nurse entered the room pushing Martin in a wheel chair and followed closely by Danny, Ezra and Josiah. Chris smiled at Martin. He was glad to see the young man up and dressed to leave, even though he still looked shaky and a little pale. The men moved closer to him and he put the sandwich down.
"Looks like you're headed out."
"Yeah. My doctor just released me. Danny's taking me to my place. But as soon as you and Vin are out, I'll see you at the office. Looks like I'm going to be pushing a pencil and answering the phones for awhile," Martin answered quietly, shooting a glance at the other bed.
"Since you're all here, let me tell you that Vin woke up and has regained his memory. He remembers the accident and that something blinded him, then the tires were blown out. Said there was a man who came to see him in the hospital and threatened him; that's why he left. He thought it might have been a detective, but wasn't sure. The guy said to call him Charles. He was going to try to get to Denver, though he didn't know why at the time."
"Damn," Buck said and moved closer to Vin's bed. "Someone really wanted Junior dead. What now?"
"I can help a little," Danny stepped up, cutting in on the conversation. "We found the green car. There was a lot of blood on the front seat; looks like one of Martin's shots hit the driver. NYPD found Gary Sykes in a hospital in Yonkers. He's under guard; we get to talk to him tomorrow. They are still tracking down the car's owner."
"He's one that Vin had brought in," Chris stated.
"One of the two working at Brigham's," Danny nodded. "We'll cover everything."
"Try to find out who this Charles is."
"Oh yes! And who the shooter is, and who put out the contract, and ..." Danny smirked. Looking from Chris to
Martin, his eyes hardened to black granite. "Don't worry, we'll question him until he is sick to death of us, and we'll keep you posted as to what happens."
"Now, I think it's time to get Martin out of here before his doctor sees him and decides he'd rather keep him a few more days."
"Would you mind dropping me off at the hotel, if it's not too far out of your way?" Nathan asked. "I need to take a shower and check in with my wife."
"No problem. JD, you want a ride too?"
"I guess not. I'll hang around and make sure Buck stays awake." JD ducked as Buck took a swipe at his head.
"All right. Let's get out of here." Danny touched Martin's right arm and he pointed at the door.
Martin shook his head; he hadn't been able to see Vin, but figured he'd see him sooner or later. He glanced at Chris, "Guess I'll see you in a few days."
"Take care, Martin," Chris told him. Martin nodded and disappeared out the door with Danny and Nathan following behind the wheelchair.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," Nathan said over his shoulder as he left.
Silence fell on the room and Chris reached for his sandwich again, watching as Buck pulled a chair closer to his bed, Josiah took the other chair, JD settled in a corner and Ezra leaned against the wall near the door.
"Now tell us everything."