JD breathed in and out slowly through his mouth, just as the respiratory therapists instructed until the sharp pain in his chest subsided. At least the ache in his backside was tolerable because of the pain medication he received following surgery to repair his chest wound. If only the spasms would quit.
Closing his eyes, he forced himself to count to ten slowly, inhaling on the odd numbers and exhaling on the even. Slowly. Slowly.
"How are you doing today, John?" The nurse walked to his side and reached for the blood pressure cuff. "I hear you took a long walk this morning. That's great. I'm Pat, your nurse and I'll be going over your discharge instructions." While placing the cuff on his arm, she watched his face as he rode out another wave of pain. Finishing taking the blood pressure, she reached out to rub the young man's back. The gentle touch sent an almost magic reaction, evaporating the tension in his back and calming his racing heart.
"Discharged? I'm getting discharged? Today?" Panic and jubilation rivaled for supremacy at the thought of leaving the hospital.
"Dr. Nichols signed the order a few minutes ago. Once we go over the paperwork and your meds arrive from the pharmacy, you'll be free to leave." Pat tried to keep her face cheery and posture upbeat though inside she was seething. This man was not ready to be going home. He could hardly stand, let alone take care of himself. He should stay at least another day but there was nothing she or the doctor could do. Insurance only paid for a set number of days. Since he'd walked the entire length of the floor and back, he met the criteria for discharge. Right now he looked like he needed intensive care.
"Do you have a driver, someone to take you home?"
Home. Did anything remain of the building? JD tuned out the question as his mind drifted, trying to come to terms with what happened.
"John? John?" The middle-aged nurse's voice penetrated the daydream. "Is there someone you can call?"
He nodded, "I'll try one of the guys I work with. See if he'll give me a ride." 'Again,' he thought to himself. Would Buck come? He didn't even have any money to call a cab. Hell, he didn't even have any clothes to wear. Would they send him home naked? He hoped his health insurance would pay the majority of this hospital bill.
"Would that be the man who'd been sitting with you? He was very nice, waiting for you to wake up, but then he left rather suddenly."
Buck had been here, too? JD's eyes latched onto the stiff chair, a vision of the tall man, elbows resting on his knees watching him, shimmered in his memory. He vaguely remembered discussing the fire but it all seemed so fuzzy.
Pat reviewed the instructions and left the room to check with the pharmacy.
JD held the receiver in his hand and looked at the buttons. He'd call Buck's office phone but what was the agent's desk number? How could he arrange a ride if he couldn't remember the number? He'd become too dependent on the pre-programmed numbers in his cell phone.
A smile lit up his face as he punched the one phone number he remembered into the key pad, his own number. He waited for the voice mail to answer before hitting 0 for the building switchboard to request to be transferred to Wilmington's phone only to roll over to voice mail. JD left a message. What if the older man was out on assignment for the day? He'd better try one of the other team members. Repeating the process, he tried Nathan, then Vin and Josiah. No one answered their phone. Was the team on a raid? Who was manning the surveillance equipment? Were they safe?
The myriad of thoughts raced through his head, stopping abruptly when a new series of spasms rippled in his chest. Breathing through his mouth left his throat dry and he started to cough, triggering more pain and setting his chest on fire. Spots danced before his eyes. Was it getting dark in the room? Wasn't it about noon? Why couldn't he breathe?
"Easy, John. Easy now. That's it. Slow breaths. Take a sip of water, just a sip, now. Try to not cough. Here, hug the pillow; that will help." The voice coached him past the panic until he collapsed back onto his pillow, exhausted. A cool cloth washed away the sweat from his face while breathing through the wet material eased the tickle in his throat.
Pat stayed with her patient until she was convinced the latest episode was over. She would do everything possible to delay his release, to give him more time to heal. Sensing he was once more in control, the experienced nurse continued as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. "Were you able to reach your friend?"
JD shook his head, afraid to speak and trigger another attack. He sipped more water and opened his eyes, surprised to see the compassion in the nurse's face.
"No one answered." Almost inaudible, he continued, "I don't have any clothes either."
The woman sighed, her mind searching through hospital policies for charity cases. "Don't you worry about that. Let me see what I can do. It might take me a while, so go ahead and rest." She pulled up the covers and left the room, her mind already formulating a plan.
Unable to delay the release any longer, the nurse returned to the room, carrying a pair of sweat pants and a faded scrub shirt. JD was sitting up in the bed, watching the television. She smiled, relieved to see his color improved. "Ready to go home?"
The young man glanced at the pajama bottoms he was wearing, his cheeks turning pink. Did she really think he'd walk out into the September day shirtless?
"I have your antibiotics and pain pills." She set the donated clothing on the foot end of the bed. "I wasn't sure of your size but the pants have a drawstring, in case you need them tighter."
JD emerged from the bathroom dressed in the strange get-up. Feeling stronger than he did earlier in the day, it was time to go home or what was left of it. An aide arrived with a wheelchair to give the young man a ride to the main door.
JD exited the taxi and paid his fare, thankful for the gift of a few dollars from the hospital chaplain. Once he got back on his feet, he promised to repay the charity fund. His mom hated to accept funds from the church and the county poor fund and now he understood. He despised being penniless.
Carrying the hospital patient belongings bag holding his prescriptions, the young man entered the lobby area of the old hotel, immediately assaulted with the stench of smoke yet the walls looked clean and free of damage. He stopped at the bank of mail boxes, entered his combination and sighed. He pulled out a single envelope and stuffed it into the bag, another bill he couldn't pay.
A wall of plywood blocked access to the rear section of the building. The stench of smoke made it hard to breathe. He left the building using a side hallway and froze just outside the door.
Yellow tape surrounded the devastation. JD walked the perimeter staring at the charred skeleton of the rear building, searching for anything familiar. As his eyes roamed the destruction, thoughts assaulted his mind, the warning phone call from Buck, the frantic escape from burning building and the sudden sharp pain in his chest.
He'd hoped it was all a dream, the fire, the race down the rusty fire escape, everything that happened that night but now his apartment was gone, everything was gone. He had no money, no home, nowhere to go. Charred bricks littered the parking lot while twisted steel and rubble buried the vehicles parked closest to the former building. JD lifted the tape and scrambled along the debris looking for his own car.
Only the passenger side of the blue Cavalier was visible; the collapsed fire escape had crushed the driver's side, concealing most of the vehicle. Dropping the plastic bag from the hospital, he grabbed a brick with his left hand and pounded on the passenger door window. The urge to hold something of his own gave him strength. The pain intensified in his chest and dark spots danced before his eyes. Somewhere inside his car was a small wallet, hidden away for emergencies, hiding twenty dollars and two pictures. Right now his goal was to find the pictures, both of his mama.
With one last burst of energy, the brick cracked the safety glass, spider webbing the window. JD used his left elbow to push the glass into the car. The effort cost him the rest of his strength and he sunk to the ground, leaning against the vehicle. A few bricks tumbled down with him, covering the discarded hospital bag. He fought the darkness threatening to engulf his consciousness, concentrating on the breathing exercises.
"Hey! You! Freeze!" A bright halogen light blinded the young agent while the yelling awoke him from his stupor. Unable to see who held the light, JD remained immobilized. He had no energy left to defend himself.
When the beam dropped from his face, JD waited for the black spots to move eventually focusing on the uniform of one of Denver's policemen.
The officer appraised the situation, surmising the disheveled man to be one of the area homeless, looking for an easy score around the damaged building. "You miss the yellow tape, mister? This is a restricted area. You've got no business here; it's too dangerous. Get up slowly and come over here. NOW!" he added, when the young man made no effort to move. He didn't want to risk turning his own ankle physically approaching the suspect.
"My car," was the only response. "My car."
"I don't care if this is your palace, get over here. You don't want me to have to come and get you." The officer slipped under the tape, keying his shoulder microphone and reporting the situation to his control center.
Totally spent from trying to gain access to his car, JD struggled to find a reserve of energy to comply but his limbs refused to budge. Sweat poured from his face as he rode out another wave of pain. He really should have taken some more painkillers by now. Where were they? His mind wandered as darkness threatened to consume him and the throbbing accelerated in his chest.
A rough shake roused him again as the officer loomed over the downed man. "You hard of hearing there, boy?" the uniform demanded, shining the light over JD's body but avoiding blinding him again. He looked at the prone figure, one hand clutching tenaciously at his chest, the other hand totally limp. The face glistened with moisture and dark streaks formed from the rivulets running from the dark hair.
Years of training on the force gave him good instincts on subjects. This wasn't a homeless trying to take advantage of someone else's misfortune. The man below him was hurting and had reason to vandalize this specific car. The glazed look on his face wasn't from drug abuse but probably from pain. As the officer surveyed the body, his eyes were drawn to the white wristband, a recognizable hospital accessory. So now he needed to make a choice. Was this man injured and weak or was he missing from a facility where he needed supervision and a sentry?
"My car," JD said, finally mustering enough strength to speak. "All I got left. Tryin' ta get inta ma car. Scrap."
"You got a name, mister?" He'd reported the car's license plate number when approaching the vehicle and read the name on the wristband.
JD struggled to get enough moisture into his mouth to speak again. "JD Dunne, Agent JD Dunne, ATF. Don' have m' badge but m' name tag's in car." The effort cost the young man and he shut his eyes and relaxed, hoping his slurred speech was understood.
The officer stepped off the pile of rubble carefully and returned to his patrol car. Was it a crime to break into your own car that was already wrecked to retrieve your belongings? If this was his car, did that mean that he was also a victim of the fire? Is that where he was injured? The office dispatcher confirmed the vehicle owner matched the name on the wristband and that the young man had been released from the hospital earlier today.
Agent Dunne couldn't be abandoned, half conscious on a pile of burned debris. The officer grabbed a plastic bottle of water from his squad car and recrossed the yellow tape.
"I got you some water. Looks like you could use some. Listen, I know this is your car but you can't stay here. It'll be night soon and get cold. You aren't dressed to spend the night outside. There some place I can take you?"
JD sipped the tepid water, feeling more refreshed with each sip. "Don't have a home," he said gesturing wildly with his left hand, spilling some of the water on himself and the officer.
"I figured as much. Want me to take you to the Red Cross office? See if they can help you, maybe put you up in a motel for a couple days until you get to feeling better?"
The younger man shook his head, his bangs flitting back and forth. "No." He looked into the distance, formulating a plan. "Can you give me a ride to the office, the Federal Building downtown? Been tryin' ta catch up with my partner. Maybe he's back now." JD drank more of the water, finishing off the bottle.
The officer nodded in agreement. The Federal building was open 24 hours a day. He offered his hand to assist the injured man but was surprised when he turned, trying to reach something through the broken window. "What?"
"Need my name tag to get in the building." JD couldn't quite reach his fingers to grab the official ID.
"Step back, JD. I'll get it for you." He leaned further into the opening and easily snagged the piece of plastic. Pulling himself upright, he hoped that no one else saw him removing property from the vehicle. This would be hard to explain.
"Wait, I need to get something from under the mat, on this side." JD demanded. "I lost everything else. There's a wallet under there, has a picture of my mom. It's all I've got left now."
The policeman crawled halfway into the car, moved the mat and found the thin piece of leather. Hoping he hadn't misjudged the situation, he turned and handed it to Dunne who'd quickly opened it and showed him the photograph of a young woman holding a baby. Though it was hard to see in the diminishing light, he returned the smile, pleased he could help.
"Nathan and I are taking Buck to the hospital and get his ankle checked out. The rest of you head back to the office. Start on the paperwork," Lead Agent Larabee ordered, his eyes never leaving the sight of the EMT treating his long time friend.
A reliable snitch tipped Standish about a possible arms exchange happening in a trucking firm's parking lot. Checking the details gave credibility to the deal taking place in broad daylight during regular hours. After obtaining a search warrant, Team Seven quickly organized a plan of action.
Though they attempted to contain the action and prevent innocent victims from getting caught in any crossfire, the bust resulted in several honest employees being injured when one of the trucks attempted to escape.
Agent Standish maintained the equipment van, monitoring and recording the various channels used to gather evidence. Gaining appreciation for the enhanced technical tweaking performed by the missing team member, Standish warned Wilmington seconds before the get-away vehicle attempted to crash though Buck's position.
The large agent's expert marksmanship flattened the semi-tractor's front tires, leaving the massive weight uncontrollable, and it crashed into the cement pillars installed to prevent trucks from backing into the main office building. Automatic gunfire riddled the agent's position but because of the advance warning, he escaped with only a bullet graze to his right ankle.
Agent Tanner shut down the threat, and the driver and passenger were disarmed, wounds treated and hauled away.
Wilmington, along with three of the trucking firm employees suffered minor injuries.
Vin approached the team leader and asked, "What about Buck's Lady? Not too smart to leave it here." Coming straight from the hospital, the agent drove his own pickup to a parking lot near the shipping yard.
Larabee replied, "True. I doubt we arrested everyone involved today. Go ahead and drive it back to his place. I'll get the keys from Buck. Ezra." He turned towards the backup electronics expert. "Follow Tanner with the van, and take him back to the office after he drops the truck at Buck's place." The man never asked, only commanded.
"Josiah, I'll let you finish up here. Detective Johnson offered to give you a ride back to the office."
The profiler nodded in agreement. Something about this bust didn't sit right and he wanted to investigate further. "Say hello to Brother Dunne when you see him. I hope to stop by the hospital later," Sanchez responded.
"Damn," Chris said to himself. "No wonder Buck agreed so easily to let us drive him to the emergency room. JD. He wants to check on the kid."
The three agents arrived at the hospital shortly after the ambulances bringing the other injured people from the trucking firm. Buck would have to wait before seeing a doctor.
"Won't be a problem," Wilmington replied, smiling at the young receptionist. "Nathan, Chris. I'm sure they'll take good care of me. Go on now; go see JD. See if he's awake. Probably driving those nurses crazy with his silly jokes and wanting to get out of here. Let him know he's still welcome to crash at my place until he's healed and can find a new place."
"Not yet, Buck. Don't want to leave you down here alone."
The glare the team leader received in return could have frozen hell. "Don't that beat all. Fine to leave JD alone with a gaping hole in his chest, hardly able to stay awake." Buck pulled in his anger. Fighting wouldn't get anybody up to see the kid sooner. "I'm fine. It's just a graze. You said so yourself, Nathan. Weren't for JD, I'd let you slap a hunk of gauze on it, wrap it up and help with the clean up. The kid got impaled because of my mistake. Fellow shouldn't be alone. He's been alone too long. Go! The nurses will take care of me just fine," he purred. Wilmington closed his eyes effectively dismissing his boss and friend.
Not wanting to argue, the two men left Buck and headed to the information desk to ask for the youngest team member's room number.
The volunteer entered the name into the computer and scanned the results. "I'm sorry, sir. We don't have a patient here by the name of JD Dunne. Are you sure of the spelling?"
"Try his proper name," Nathan offered. "John Dunne, d-u-n-n-e."
The older woman shook her head. "I don't see a Dunne with an e or without one or a d-o-n-e."
Sensing the rising anger in his boss, Nathan asked the receptionist to check if the boy had been released today. He'd wait to ask about the morgue later.
The fake nails clicked a few keys and a smile lit her face. "Yes, yes. I should have checked this screen. He was released about an hour ago. I'm sorry; you made the trip to see him since he's already gone home."
The EMT grabbed Chris' arm before the man did something he'd regret later and pulled him back toward the ER. "Let's go ask Buck what floor JD was on. Maybe he told the nurses where to reach him."
"Go on. I'm calling Josiah, see if he's back in the office yet, and get him to start looking for JD. Need to tell Vin to check Buck's place, see if the kid went there. I'll sit with Buck once I'm off the phone; else the big lug will hightail it out of here before the doctor sees him. Really surprises me. To hear Buck tell it, the boy was barely conscious. He must have made a miraculous recovery. Or else his insurance ran out."
"What? I can't get any of you to stay down long enough to get even partially healed." Nathan was puzzled.
"The boy wasn't hurt on the job; different rules apply. Too many days cost too much and they send you packing. Go talk to Buck. I'll be there as soon as I call Josiah."
The team profiler stepped into the open area Team Seven claimed, and paused. Something was off in the dimly lit room but he couldn't identify the reason. Giving his eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness, Josiah slipped into the darkest corner of the room, his eyes constantly roaming the desks for a clue. With just the hallway light for illumination, items on the desks and the scattered chairs took on lives of their own. He sighed. Was it his own active imagination, seeing the boogie man waiting to strike? Stepping towards his desk, he stopped in the middle of the room and spun around. The red glow on each of the phones indicating voice mail looked like pairs of eyes watching him, except only one light glowed on Buck and JD's paired desks, almost as if a shadowy monster was winking at him. The theme from 'Rocky' startled him from his daydream and he grabbed the cell phone from his waist.
Checking the caller ID, the big man smiled. "Sanchez."
"Josiah, are you in the office yet?" Chris asked, concern evident in his voice.
"Just got here. What's wrong?" The profiler's mind ran though various scenarios, ready to respond to everything but what Larabee said next.
"JD's missing. The hospital dismissed him earlier today. Could you check out his apartment building? See if he talked to anyone there? Maybe check out some of the area shelters or any other place you think he might have gone?"
"Not a problem, Chris. Want me to call Vin and Ezra too?" Josiah stepped out of the office and pulled the door shut, checking that it locked securely behind him. Figuring waiting for the elevator would take too long, he headed for the stairs, not seeing that the car was about to arrive on their floor, and missing the arrival of the team's youngest member.
JD stepped out of the elevator and leaned against the glass door leading to the team's area, disappointed that the area was deserted. His name badge easily slipped into the door lock and a green light appeared. He pushed the heavy door open and stumbled into the room, the ibuprophen in his desk his goal. The drawer refused to budge. It was locked. He needed his fob to release the lock, a security measure instigated by Wilmington to prevent unauthorized eyes from accidentally seeing classified items. He kept the device with his keys, wherever they were now.
Exhaustion threatened to claim him as he shuffled into the break room. A well-used couch occupied one wall, near the refrigerator. Sitting down gingerly, JD laid on his right side and immediately fell asleep.
Standish parked the surveillance van beside Wilmington's pickup and decided to wait until Vin got the temperamental beauty started.
Buck left his truck parked in a small strip mall near the shipping company. The small shops and eateries saw plenty of traffic during daylight hours; by five each afternoon, most of them were closed. Only the bars and taverns, catering to the truckers and teamsters, attracted customers in the evenings. Buck's truck was safe during daylight but the nighttime crowd might decide to do their own brand of investigating if it was left unattended.
Vin pulled open the driver's door and quickly stepped back, like something punched him. The sudden response brought Ezra from the van. "Are you all right, Mr. Tanner?" Catching a whiff of the truck's interior, the agent joined his friend. "It would appear that Mr. Wilmington prefers a rather malodorous Gothic air freshener."
"More like something died in here, Ezra." He moved to the other side of the truck and opened the passenger's door, hoping the cross ventilation would clear the stench.
Buck's vehicle was normally well maintained and detailed. He often used the old truck to transport his many dates and didn't allow any litter to ruin the moment. Now the floor and seat were full of some boxes, a tattered plastic grocery bag, a duffle bag plus more items out of sight.
Tanner grabbed one of the well-taped boxes and looked for a label. Standish pulled a pair of blue investigation gloves from his pocket, not wanting to get contaminated by whatever garbage filled the cab. Seeing the fastidious agent getting prepared, Vin shoved the orange bag towards him with the second box, which also didn't seem to be the source of the smell. "Check out the bag," he laughed as Ezra scowled and dragged the bag out of the truck, surprised to find it full of evidence bags.
"Was our resident rogue moonlighting?" He pulled out the first bag, recognizing the sight of dried blood on the jeans. Holding up the second bag, containing more blood soaked material that resembled a shirt.
"That's JD's. He was wearing it at Chris' on Monday. Must be his stuff here, from the night of the fire." Vin continued organizing the assorted bags and boxes, searching for the smelliest one.
Ezra examined each bag, wondering why the items were encased in the special plastic. Smaller bags rested at the bottom. One held a thin wallet and another held a woman's necklace. The third one held his attention, a thick wad of currency stained dark red.
"Find something of value, Ezra?"
"Not really, though Mr. Dunne will most certainly need a new wardrobe. These need to be regulated to the hazardous waste receptacle. Puzzling though, why each item is cataloged and sealed in such a manner?" He longed to open the bag containing the money to count it but knowing the importance of maintaining the integrity of the evidence he returned it to the larger sack along with the rest of the items of clothing. "His wallet is here but no badge or service piece."
"Buck said he'd taken possession of the kid's gun until he was back on duty." Vin pulled the last item from under the seat and held it away from himself. "Found the stinker." He tossed it into the pick-up box gasping when the sound of broken glass tinkled against the metal. "Shit! Buck ain't gonna be happy."
Retrieving the corner of the grocery sack, he upended it into the box. Shards of glass fell out along with one side of a black, metal, picture frame. Vin carefully tugged the denim material still in the bag, not surprised when the side of the bag disintegrated, dumping the rest of the frame and a ripped photo onto the truck bed. Several envelopes fluttered in the breeze sending Standish on a quest to retrieve them.
Vin smiled, seeing the two quart ice cream containers still in the bottom of the bag. "Leftovers. Chris sent some food home with JD."
"And Mr. Wilmington never noticed the toxic odor contaminating his vehicle?" Ezra looked at the small stack of envelopes, recognizing their contents. He organized them by size and added them to the intact hospital bag. "The woman strikes an amazing resemblance to our electronic wizard." He held the torn photo for Vin to see. "Too bad it has been rendered worthless by mishandling."
"I doubt JD had much time to pack it up proper like. Probably the one picture he has of her." Vin's attention moved to the denim. If these were JD's belongings, they must hold some importance if he'd risk taking the time to retrieve them before escaping the burning building. He shook out the quilt, trying to remove as many of the glass slivers as possible. Blood stained one section that also sported a huge rip, exposing the cotton batting. "Think JD would mind if I got this here tear repaired?"
Ezra smiled, his gold tooth catching the last vestige of sunlight. "The picture of his mother can also be repaired. I'm sure both items are highly prized by Mr. Dunne."
Carefully, they repacked their teammate's belongings into the passenger's side of the truck. Only the broken picture frame and the rotten food containers remained outside the cab.
"Buck, I swear, I'll get the hospital security in here and sit on you so the doctor can fix that ankle." Chris glared at his friend who was equally determined to leave the emergency room.
"We've got to find him. I've got to know he's ok!" Buck pleaded, unable to physically escape Chris' scrutiny.
Lowering his voice, the leader rested his hand on the injured man's arm. "We will, Buck. Josiah is looking for him. Nathan's trying to get your ankle looked at. Just let them get your wound tended and we're out of here."
Resigned to the fact he wasn't going anywhere any time soon, he asked, "Why did you come here and want to stay with me? Nathan could have brought me in or I could have ridden in one of the ambulances. I'm not hurt that bad."
"It's what I do, Buck." Chris admitted. "Why are you so determined to find JD? He's more than capable of caring for himself. And don't give me any of that 'it's my fault' crap."
Buck scrubbed his face, searching for words to express his feelings. "Something clicked between us last weekend, Chris. I'm not sure how to explain it. Those few days he stayed with me, it was like I found something I didn't know I was missing. He's a great kid. We enjoy the same programs, like the same food and 'sides, he needs someone to teach him how to survive in our line of work." He paused, in a feeble attempt to control his voice. "I I misjudged him, thinking with his education, he never had a worry. Was I ever wrong. Maybe I can share some stuff with him, so he don't have to go through some of the same things I did."
"Just don't get to upset if he's got other ideas," Chris said, standing because the doctor arrived with a nurse in tow.
"Find him, Chris. Find him."
Josiah drove through the parking lot, surveying the damage to the apartment complex. He'd stopped at the main office, saw the closed sign and called the emergency number. They had no record of Dunne requesting assistance following the fire and were surprised to learn he'd been hospitalized. Darkness added to the gloom as he searched for JD's small blue car. Buck shared the rescue of the residents from JD's floor and that if he'd let the boy move his car the night of the fire, neither would have been stopped for looting. JD wouldn't have been hurt and maybe his car would have survived. Using a flashlight, the older man slowly panned the row of vehicles covered with bricks and other rubble from the fire. He stopped by the first blue car but upon further study knew the design didn't match JD's Cavalier. Further down the line he spotted a possible match. Stepping from his Suburban, he assessed the accessibility of getting closer. Would the young man take refuge in his car? Before he could cross the yellow tape another car pulled up behind him, bright lights flashing.
"Hold it right there."
Josiah waited for the officer to join him before pulling his badge from under his jacket. "Evening, Officer."
"Hope you weren't about to cross that line. Can't you see this place is dangerous?" It was surprising how many people were drawn to the site of the destruction.
"I'm looking for a friend. Thought he might be here," Josiah's deep voice echoed in the night air. "I'm Agent Sanchez, ATF. I'm reaching for my badge." He didn't want to have the officer suspect he was reaching for anything else."
"ATF? How many of you lived at this place?" The officer shined his flashlight at the offered wallet.
White teeth gleamed in the night as Josiah smiled, silently thanking the Lord for answered prayers and guiding angels. "So you've seen JD?" he asked, hoping the man provided more information.
"Yes, a short while ago. Even gave him a ride downtown, Agent Sanchez. Found him breaking into his own car." He pointed towards the same vehicle Josiah had seen.
The light exposed something bright near the car, immediately catching the profiler's attention. Josiah stepped over the police tape and approached the car, not wanting to lose the item in the darkness. He pulled the bag loose from under a couple of bricks, recognizing the trademark orange patient belongings bag from the local hospital.
"What did you find?" the officer asked.
Josiah used his own light to look inside the bag and found two prescription bottles and a few sheets of paper from the hospital, John Dunne's name clearly visible on both items. "JD's medicine. Where did you take him?"
Feeling his phone vibrate, Larabee slipped from the treatment room and headed for the waiting area where he could use the cell phone without danger of upsetting the medical staff. "Josiah. Did you find him?"
"A patrolman with the DPD gave the boy a lift to our office building. I'm headed back there now. He didn't answer his phone but he might not have been able to get into the bullpen. I made sure it was locked when I left. How is Buck?"
"Doctor is with him right now. When you find JD, bring him to Buck's apartment. We'll rendezvous there." Chris ended the call and pocketed his phone. He'd tell the old dog first and update the others once he had confirmation from the profiler.
Stepping into the small area, the nod and small smile gave Buck the news he'd been waiting for and the injured man visibly relaxed.
"You are very fortunate, Mr. Wilmington." The middle-aged doctor continued. "Nothing is broken and the bullet missed the Achilles tendon. You need to keep the foot iced and elevated to minimize the swelling." As he continued, Buck depended on his friend to listen to the directions. He was too busy planning his and JD's future.
Once the ankle was bandaged, they helped the agent into a wheelchair and handed him a stack of papers. Finally, he was free to go home!
Josiah returned to the office and stepped into the bullpen, slightly disappointed to find the space empty. Had his call to Chris been premature? His eyes roamed around the room again looking for anything that had changed since he'd left earlier. The red lights still glowed. None of the chairs had been disturbed. JD's computer was still off. He sighed deeply. "Well, Lord, you certainly work in mysterious ways. How about a little help here?"
Almost as if on cue, a slight moan came from the break room! There the older man found the prize of his search. JD, caught in a nightmare, writhed, his face telegraphing the agony. Filling a paper cup with water, Josiah knelt beside the couch and gently ministered to the younger man. "Wake up, son."
JD's eyes flickered open slightly until another wave of throbbing overtook his body. Something cool and wet wiped his face and neck, soothing the terror.
"Take a drink. I have something to help you with the pain, but I need you to wake up." He lifted the younger man's shoulders and touched the cup to his lips. "Just a sip, John." After allowing JD to swallow a few sips of water, Josiah lowered the cup but continued to support Dunne's back.
"Hurts. Make it stop." JD begged, not fully alert to his surroundings. He hugged his chest, riding out the next wave of pain. After a few moments, he opened his eyes, surprised to see the larger man holding him. "Sorry. I "
"It's alright, son. Do you want to sit or lay back down? I have your pain pills might help." He assisted JD up and offered him the cup before pouring two capsules into the bottle cap.
JD took the offered medicine and finished the remaining water from the cup. "Thanks." His eyes finally focused and darted around the room. "Were you on a bust? Is everyone all right? Where's Buck and the others?"
Josiah chuckled. Yes, this was the JD he'd come to know, dead stop one second and his mind at full speed the next, a definite zero to 60 mph in less than three seconds.
"Yes, yes and the hospital," He answered in order of the questions. Anticipating the next question, he continued. "A bullet grazed Buck's ankle; Nathan insisted he get it checked out. Nothing serious other than expecting you to still be in the building."
"They sent me home, only I," the young man looked down at his soot covered feet, "I don't have a home a car clothes. I don't have anything." His long dark bangs covered his face, as if closing a curtain, a futile attempt to hide.
"You are wrong there, brother. You have six men to help you. Any one of us would be willing to assist you. Now, I know from personal experience that this couch is not the most comfortable. Do you need to go back to the hospital?"
The hazel eyes suddenly appeared as JD swiped the hair from his face. "No hospital! I'm not going back there. This couch is just fine!" He grabbed his chest, fighting the throbbing from his sudden movement.
"Take caution, Mr. Tanner."
"Break room, fellas." The large man's voice rumbled as he tried to suppress the laughter ready to bubble from his chest. "Do you need more water?" Josiah ignored the two heads peering around the doorway and stood up. He grabbed the cup, filled it with water and handed it to JD. "Drink this and rest for a few minutes. I'll be back shortly." He grabbed a spare jacket from the coat rack and draped it over the still form before grabbing the almost empty cup from the lax fingers.
"Mr. Sanchez, how did our young cohort get here?" Ezra asked as Josiah ushered them to the bullpen area.
"I don't know the full story. Chris called from the hospital asking me to search for him, said he'd been released. Afraid some poor, innocent soul will be receiving the wrath of Larabee and Wilmington. I found his medicine near his car and Providence provided a kindred spirit, one of Denver's finest, who had delivered him here. We must have just missed each other." Josiah sat down, realizing how tired he suddenly was.
Resting one hip against his desk, Vin asked, "Buck?"
"Nothing serious. I'm confident the only reason he acquiesced to go to hospital was to check on our youngest. I'll let JD rest a while and then deliver him to Buck's apartment. Brothers, this has certainly been a long day."
Ezra sat quietly at his own desk, contemplating, with a pile of envelopes sitting in front of him. He guarded his privacy and wouldn't think of invading any of his fellow officers' business but the information on his desk troubled him. "Gentlemen, do either of you know much of Mr. Dunne's past, any reason he would be in financial straits?"
Vin glared at his desk partner, sensing he was treading on thin ice. He'd seen the green eyes light up at the bundle of bloody money in the hospital bag, though the paper on the desk was a mystery. Ezra had pocketed the envelopes before they blew away when he'd dumped them into the pickup box.
"Not sure where you are headed with your question, Ezra." Josiah said, looking concerned.
Though momentarily dropping his poker face, the façade returned, masking the undercover agent's thought process. "This is none of my concern," Standish added, pointing to the paper. "I'll return them to our electronic wizard."
"Josiah, do you know where we can get a picture fixed?" Vin showed the older man the damaged photo.
"We figured so. Think it was the frame that stabbed him. Found the pieces along with shards in the truck." Vin stood as his phone began vibrating.
"Sounds like a plan."
While Vin was talking, Josiah picked up the damaged picture, studying the tears and stains. Attempting a slight of hand, the photo disappeared into a pile of folders on his desk. The older man stood and returned to the break room. Ezra witnessed the motion and smiled at the larger man's poor effort at secrecy. By the time Vin turned around, the envelopes were no longer visible, either.
"Chris took Buck home. Said he'd wait for Josiah to get JD there. Think I'll go too; unload the kid's stuff from the truck. Comin'?"
"I feel it would be most prudent to join in welcoming our injured partner home than to begin contemplating paperwork in triplicate."
Tanner shook his head. "Can't ya just say ya don't want to work on them repots?"
"Hi, guys." JD stood in the doorway, looking better after his short nap and the pain temporarily at bay with the assistance from the medication. He walked slowly to his desk, using it for support while he waited for Sanchez.
The four men left together and headed to what would soon become a favorite gathering spot for Team Seven.