This is a JD fic written in honor of AK’s birthday 2010.
ATF AU there are no warnings with the exception of the odd bit of language.
Credit goes to Megan for her idea that Buck is fluent in Russian (see her fic “Awards”).
A very big thank-you to Sue M. for the collage, it is tremendous, and for her beta work; this fic, especially the second part, is significantly better for her input. A special thank you to Nancy for her help with the collage and for providing us with a place to share our love of M7 fan fiction.
No infringement of any kind is intended.
JD loved the feel of the wind tugging at his t-shirt as his drove his bike down the road toward Chris’s ranch.
When he’d left the highway he’d stopped and taken off his leather jacket and stowed it in the saddle bag. He’d catch hell if Buck found out. Buck was always harping about how the jacket was the only thing protecting him from dying of road rash if he was ever thrown off his bike. JD figured he was safe enough; the country road wasn’t nearly as busy as the multi-lane and the rush of the early morning breeze felt so exhilarating on his skin. That and the tunes playing inside his helmet made it a great day for a ride.
It was a beautiful mid-July Sunday morning and the team was heading out to Chris’s for the day. Chris had made some excuse on Friday about needing help to replace some fences washed out by all the rain and that everyone was invited out for a ten a.m. steak and eggs breakfast to start the day. JD was pretty sure the get-together had something to do with an early birthday party for himself. His birthday was in fact tomorrow but Monday was a crappy day to celebrate a birthday.
Buck had stayed at Bobbie’s last night – no surprise there – and had sent a text message this morning to go ahead without him. JD had looked out at the morning sunshine and thought that after a solid week of rain it would be a perfect day for a bike ride. So since he was on his own JD decided to leave extra early. He phoned Chris and left a message that he was on his way and to call him on his cell if there was anything he could pick up on the way to the ranch.
There was usually little traffic on this road and even less early Sunday morning so it wasn’t hard to spot the older model Jeep Comanche pick-up truck coming toward him. He recognized the truck as belonging to Earl O’Halloran, one of Chris’s neighbors. Earl seemed to be having trouble staying in his lane. O’Halloran liked his Saturday night brews like any other man but it was pretty early in the morning to be drunk thought JD as he crossed the bridge over the river five miles out from Chris’s ranch. Though his attention was mainly on the pick-up meandering towards him, it did register with him that the little country bridge had yellow caution tape up and that the cement guard rails on the left hand side were missing.
The Earl’s head suddenly dropped forward onto the steering wheel. The truck veered sharply crossing the road into JD’s lane. JD deftly swung his bike hard to the right to avoid being hit by the truck. Breaking gently he slowed just enough to keep from wiping out on the gravel shoulder of the road. Then without stopping he maneuvered his bike back onto the pavement as he took a wide turn to change direction and follow the pick-up.
JD watched in horror at what happened next. A silver colored Dodge Grand Caravan that had been following him was now on the bridge. The driver, having no other choice to escape hitting the truck now traveling in its lane, turned hard to the left narrowly missing the truck and breaking through the temporary wooden barrier set up in place of the cement guard rails. The van flew off the bridge. For a split second it seemed to be suspended in mid air just before it disappeared from sight.
JD revved his bike for the short distance remaining between him and the bridge and came to a screeching halt beside the open barrier. He pulled off his helmet as he jumped off his bike and ran to the opening in the guard rail. Peering down he could see the van was still sitting on the surface of the water. JD knew that the Caravan would remain on the surface for only a few seconds. The engine heavy nose of the van was sinking fast and being carried further down river by the current. He caught a glimpse of brightly flowered shorts just before the driver disappeared into the back seat. JD could hear the cries of terrified children from where he stood.
He pulled out his cell phone and hit auto dial for 911. Tersely but calmly he dictated his ATF ID, described the situation and location into the phone as he tore at the laces of his runners with his other hand. Knowing the call would be recorded he didn’t wait for the 911 operator’s confirmation. Instead he set his phone down inside his helmet and dove into the river.
Normally this time of year the river would only be ten to twelve feet deep, its waters slow moving and tepid. But with a week’s worth of steady rain the river’s banks were now up into the brambly thickets that lined either side of the river. The river itself was more than twice its normal depth, fast moving and cold.
He surfaced quickly gasping for a breath before taking a half a dozen strong strokes. He swam over to the vehicle. Then bracing one foot against the frame he heaved on the driver’s side door. He knew he had seconds to open it before the difference between the internal and external pressure of the water made it impossible. After that he would have to wait for the vehicle to sink and the pressure on both sides of the door to equalize if he was going to have any chance of opening the door to rescue the people inside. He also knew that if the vehicle sank it drastically decreased their chances of survival.
The water swirled around him as he continued to tug on the door. Water eddied around his shoulders as he drew in a deep breath of air. He didn’t let go of the door handle instead he let the van drag him down with it.
The water was murky with silt stirred up with the current. JD could feel the strength of the current as he looked up toward the surface watching as the sunlight dimmed. ‘Please, God, don’t let it go black,’ he prayed. Knowing rescuing these people would be next to impossible if he couldn’t see through the water.
It seemed like an eternity but it was probably no more than fifteen seconds before he was aware that the vehicle had stopped dropping. The car remained arrowed downward canted awkwardly to one side with the passenger side headlight buried in the muddy bottom. The rear of the van remained high. It gave JD reason to hope that there might be a pocket of air caught in the back of the van. That could buy the people inside a few precious extra minutes.
He heaved hard on the door. He couldn’t budge it. ’Please, God, a little help here,’ he prayed. He paused for a moment to concentrate on gathering all of his strength for one big heave. Then he yanked on the door for all he was worth. Success! The door opened just enough for him to stick his foot inside. It was a slightly better position leverage wise. He heaved again this time he was able to open it up level to his knees. He quickly slipped inside the door. He set both feet on the edge of the driver’s seat and his palms on the inside of the door. Then using a weight lifter’s motion he was able to shove the door completely open.
The success of opening the door was exhilarating but the fact was he was fast using up his air with the physical exertion. He was beginning to feel the need to breathe again.
The junior member of Team Seven was afraid that if he let go of the door the current would just push it shut again so he searched through the misty water looking for something within reach to keep the door open. A strap from something floated up from the other side of the driver’s seat. He grasped it and pulled it toward him and a lady’s purse followed. It was made of stout leather so he jammed it tightly between the door and the frame up next to the door hinge. Though his lungs were beginning to burn with the lack of oxygen he took a second to watch as he let go of the door. The purse was squeezed tightly as the door tried to shift shut but it held in place; in fact it looked to be held even more securely by the added pressure of the current on the door.
JD wanted to stay longer but it was no use, the need to breathe was getting urgent now. He turned to leave the vehicle and shoot to the surface when he was hit hard on the back of the head. He saw stars as he fought hard against the reflexive need to blow out his air. He turned and realized the shot to his head had come from a large rectangular plastic container of dog biscuits. The bucket shaped container was buoyant enough to float below water level even full of dog biscuits. What was more significant to the computer tech though were the sandaled feet perched on the child’s care seat strapped to the seat behind the front passenger seat. These feet were not flailing about as a panicked person’s would have been nor were they drifting as a drowning victim’s would have been. The air bubble he’d hoped for?
The burn in JD’s lungs was agonizing and little black dots started to appear before his eyes shooting towards him at increasing speed. He was out of time; he surfaced inside the car.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Shit!” cursed Chris quietly as he pushed his hand through his hair and stared at the empty tin can. Everyone was showing up for breakfast and he was out of coffee. “Who the hell runs out of coffee on the weekend,” he asked himself rhetorically. ‘The same person, who talks to themselves out loud,’ he replied silently to himself. JD had phoned while he was out letting the horses into the corral. It wasn’t until after his shower that he’d noticed the call; maybe he could catch him in time to pick up a tin. After three failed attempts to JD on his cell phone Chris decided he’d have to go get the coffee himself. He did one last recon of the kitchen and made a note of a couple more items he needed at the grocery store before walking out to his truck.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
JD surfaced and gasped loudly for air. He was met with high pitched shrieks of fear. After a half a dozen rasping breathes he was able to focus on what was around him. There was enough light in the gloom of the car for him to make out three heads bobbing on the surface of the water. Two belonged to a couple of small children who were crying while the third presumably belonged to their mother. She was trying desperately to soothe their fears. Added into the midst of all the fear and noise in the small space was the high pitched sound of a puppy whimpering.
“Who are you?”
JD was aware that the voice had repeated the question three or four times before he was recovered enough to answer. He felt around with his feet and found he could steady himself on rear passenger seat on the left hand side of the van.
“I’m JD Dunne, ma’am.” He replied still somewhat breathless. “I saw what happened. I’m here to help.”
“You were on the motorcycle ahead of us.”
It was more a statement of fact than a question. “Yes, Ma’am.” The woman seemed calm given the situation but then he could remember his mom being pretty calm when things were bad so as not to upset him. “What’s your name ma’am?”
“Terri, Terri Lawson,” she replied bobbing gently up and down in the water; then nodding first at the smaller one in her arms she added, “These are my boys, Jamie and Ethan.”
“Hi guys,” said JD.
“Are you going to help us?” asked a little voice.
“I sure am,” replied JD with as much reassurance in his voice that he could muster right now.
“This is my dog,” said Ethan lifting his arms slightly to show the source of the whining. We just got him; he’s my birthday present. I’m going to be seven tomorrow.”
“Awesome! My birthday’s tomorrow too.” JD hoped he sounded pleased and light hearted. He wanted to put the youngster at ease, fear and panic would not help the situation one bit.
“Can you swim, Ethan?” asked JD.
“I got my Guppy badge,” replied the boy proudly.
“That’s pretty good,” replied JD enthusiastically even though he had no idea how good a swimmer someone who had their Guppy badge was.
“How about you, Jamie, can you swim?” asked JD.
“Jamie and I have been doing really well at “Mommy & Me” swimming lessons, haven’t we Jamie?” replied his mother for him.
JD was developing a really bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was pretty sure “Mommy & Me” swimmers were usually toddler age. “What about you, Terri?”
“I can swim a little but I’ve lost my glasses and I can’t see very well,” admitted the young mother.
‘Oh shit!’ thought JD to himself, all three were going to need his help getting out of here. He also noted that the water had risen noticeably in the short time he’d been here. “That’s okay, we’re all going to get out of here safe,” replied JD maintaining an air of confidence. He really wasn’t sure how to proceed here, he knew he wanted to take the older boy out first so Terri could keep her younger son calm until he got back but he wasn’t sure how to suggest it.
“Why don’t you take Ethan first while Jamie and I wait her for our turn?”
From the tone of her voice you’d think she was suggesting who was going to get to go for a pony ride first. This lady had nerves of steel.
“No, Mommy! I don’t want to leave you!” cried Ethan. Sensing his brother’s distress Jamie started to cry again.
“It’s alright, Ethan, Jamie and I will come right after you.
“Mommy…” began the youngster.
“Do you remember what Daddy said?” Terri said firmly but gently.
Ethan sniffed audibly before answering. “I have to follow orders while he’s gone.”
“That’s right. Now give me a big hug and off you go with JD.”
While Jamie hugged his mother and they said their I-love-you’s JD marveled at how this lady was handling the situation so well, it was making his part in this rescue a hell of a lot easier.
“What about puppy?” asked the boy obviously worried that any rescues might not include his new dog.
“He’s going to get out of here too,” JD replied hastily.
“Promise?” asked Ethan.
“I promise,” replied JD wondering if he’d just lied to the youngster as he reached out for him.
Ethan left his mother’s arms and went to JD. When he was secure in JD’s arms he handed the puppy back to his mother. The little dog whimpered briefly at having to leave the safety of his new master’s arms. Ethan then put his arms around JD’s neck.
“What’s that?” the boy asked.
JD could feel the boy fingering the chain of his dog tags. He’d put them on back on for Memorial Day. It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time. He’d meant to take them off and put them away again but somehow they had felt right on, so he’d continued to wear them.
“They’re my dog tags,” replied JD.
“You’re a soldier?”
“I’m in the Reserves,” replied JD quickly wanting to get the boy’s attention focused onto the swim ahead of them.
“Did you go to Iraq?” asked the boy.
JD was startled; it seemed like an odd question for a seven-year-old to ask. “Yes.”
Then the youngster said something that caught JD completely off guard. “We’re going to be okay, Mommy, he’s a soldier.”
JD was a little taken back at the boy’s absolute certainty that everything was going to be alright simply because he was a soldier. JD was glad Terri filled the silence for him. “I never doubted it. It’s time to get going, JD.”
“Yes, ma’am,” replied JD. Terri had probably noticed how fast the water was rising too.
“Okay then, Ethan. Can you hold your breath for a really long time?”
The young ATF agent received a solemn nod of the head.
“I your Mom’s car door open so we’re going to have to hold our breath then I’ll dive under the water. We’ll swim into the front seat then go out her door and swim up to the surface. Okay?”
“This water is kind of dirty not like pool water. Do you want to test holding your breath under the water first?”
“Nope, I don’t need to.”
“Awesome” replied JD. Whatever it was about being a soldier was making things a lot easier for the young ATF agent, he wasn’t going waste time trying to figure it out right now. “Take a big breath now. Ready?” The boy nodded his head in reply.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“MR. WILMINGTON!” Ezra repeated loudly as Buck heaved the saddle out of the back of his truck.
“Huh? What Ezra?” Replied Buck as he walked around to the back of the Jag, with the saddle balanced on his hip.
“Why my car?”
“Because you live the closest,” replied Buck briefly. “Can you open up your trunk there?”
“It will not fit in the trunk and I do not live the closest to either you or Mr. Larabee.”
“But you do live the closest to Bobbie here,” said Buck indicating the pretty blonde standing beside Buck’s truck parked in the guest parking of her apartment building, “and that’s where I’ve been keeping JD’s birthday present. Push the button to pop the hood, Ez.”
“It’s Ezra,” fumed the under cover operative.
“Look it’s not my fault my truck broke down and I want to get this birthday gift to Chris’s before JD does, so Push…The…Button, Ez…RA, if you don’t mind.” The request came with a taunting smile.
With a sigh Ezra hit the button on his key fob and the lid of the trunk of his car popped open.
The hood went up and after a minute of grunting and car shaking the hood came down again with a bang.
“Delicately please! This is not a farm vehicle!”
Buck wandered over and whispered something in Bobbie’s ear that made her giggle. Then the ladies’ man kissed her a long and slowly on the lips. “Bye now, darlin’,” he said silkily as he smiled down at her.
“Bye, Buck,” purred Bobbie.
Buck let himself in the passenger side. “Let’s go!” he said to Ezra before turning back to flash Bobbie his patent megawatt smile. She replied with a smile, a giggle and a childlike wave of her hand.
Ezra’s scowl deepened as he whispered something distinctly ungentlemanly under his breath before turning the car on. Buck only laughed in reply.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
JD slowly descended below the surface of the water. The youngster’s arms tightened around his neck without threatening to choke him as the boy moved in tight against JD’s chest.
JD moved slowly past the back seats and then between the bucket seats in the front. It was a tight fit for the two of them together but they made it. He then maneuvered them left and out of the van door. Ethan was great so far but he could feel the boy begin to squirm as they moved through the driver’s doorway. He wasn’t sure how long a nearly seven-year-old could hold his breath. Once they were clear of the vehicle JD began kicking frantically to carry them upward.
They burst through to the surface. JD treaded water with only his legs to hold them both up. He could hear shouts from the bridge as he looked down at the little dark face in his arms. Ethan’s eyes were still shut tight. JD wondered if he was still holding his breath.
“Ethan, we made it, you can breathe now,” he said.
The little boy’s eyes popped open and he gasped suddenly. “You did great!” JD smiled down at the boy proudly.
He smiled broadly back at JD and then his expression was suddenly serious. “You have to go help Mom and Jamie now!” he cried.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
When Chris arrived at the bridge there were two other vehicles stopped.
The first thing that caught his attention was the couple performing CPR on the grass beside Earl O’Halloran’s beat up old Comanche. The Rowbottom’s were dressed in their Sunday best obviously having stopped on their way to church. Chris ran over to see if he could help. George Rowbottom was performing chest compressions while his wife Verna, a retired emergency room nurse, was giving Earl mouth-to-mouth. When Chris asked if he could help, Verna just shook her head. The look in her eyes told him the situation was hopeless but having started she and George were obligated to continue until help arrived.
“You might want to look at that motor bike over there,” said Verna between breaths “Isn’t that your young lad’s?” she asked.
Verna had pet names for almost everyone she knew, Chris knew immediately that she meant JD.
Chris looked up and spied the bike. He hadn’t noticed it before. When he arrived his attention had been immediately drawn to what was going on over here. It was JD’s bike alright. He also noticed a young couple leaning over the side of the bridge where the cement railing had given way during the rains three days earlier. He stood and was about to shout at them to get away from the edge, when both of them suddenly lay down extending their arms over the side.
Fear suddenly clutched at Chris’s heart. He began to run. He arrived in time to help hoist up a little boy and to watch JD’s legs disappear below the surface.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
The swim back took a little longer than JD had expected. He couldn’t find the van right away and had wasted critical seconds searching for it. He’d swum upstream. Reasoning correctly that the current had pushed him further downstream because the first time he went to the bottom of the river he’d been hanging on to the heavier van. Luckily his reasoning was correct.
He noted a single steady line of air bubbles escaping from the highest point of the rear hatch of the van. The air bubble in the van was slowly but steadily seeping away. Entering the vehicle he took a second to pull the switch under the steering column to turn on the four way flashers. He was relieved to see that they still worked, at least for the moment. He knew that eventually the electrical system would fail but the flashing lights could help him find the van again if need be. Knocking aside the plastic bucket of dog biscuits floating by he surfaced inside the van to find Terri and Jamie singing. There was four inches less of the air bubble. JD decided he’d better take them both this trip.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Vin geared down as he drove his Harley smoothly off the ramp leading from the highway to the road to the ranch. He could see Josiah and Nathan up ahead bouncing along in Nathan’s Jeep. Vin smiled to himself. It seemed liked everyone had the same idea. The invitation may have been for a ten o’clock brunch but it was barely after eight now. He was sure looking forward to relaxing in the outdoors with a little bit of work, some good food and a few laughs with the guys today.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Okay, Jamie, your brother is safe and sound now it’s your turn to go for an underwater ride.” JD tried to sound relaxed and cheerful and make the “underwater ride” sound like fun as he reached out for the toddler.
“Nooooo,” whined Jamie snuggling closer to his mother’s breast.
“How deep are we, JD?” asked Terri.
“About twenty-five feet, I’d guess,” replied JD with a shrug, he really wasn’t sure.
“And how long does it take to swim out of the van?”
“Fifteen seconds,” again he really wasn’t sure.
“…And up to the surface?”
“…Another ten I guess.”
“What do you have in mind?” JD asked. Terri seemed to know her kids and what they were capable of so JD was pretty sure she had an idea.
“At our Mommy and Me swims Jamie and I practice seeing how long we can stay under water. Don’t we, sweetheart?”
In the gloomy interior of the van JD could make out the little head nodding in agreement.
“I tap Jamie’s shoulder with my finger for each second and Jamie practices his counting; he’s getting really good at counting.”
The child replied with another nod.
“What’s the highest you’ve ever counted to,” JD asked realizing that the count was how long Jamie could hold his breath.
“Ten” replied the little boy proudly.
‘Ten seconds,’ thought JD to himself with dread, that wasn’t nearly enough time.
“We practiced while you were gone, JD, and Jamie is going to count all the way to twenty today.”
“Mommy, I can’t count that many,” JD could hear the beginning of tears in the child’s voice.
In later years JD would think back to this moment and wonder where he got the inspiration for his next move.
“I’ll make you a deal, Jamie. If you count all the way to the top of the water, I’ll take you for a ride on my horse,” said JD.
“You have a horse?” He could hear the wonder in the boy’s voice.
“I sure do,” replied JD enthusiastically.
“A real horse?”
“A real horse, his name is Milagro…what do you say? Is it a deal?” JD knew he was rushing the child but time was getting tight.
“Come here, Jamie, and I’ll carry you… said JD reaching out his arms.
“Noooo,” moaned the boy as he cowered away from JD again.
“I can carry him with one arm and hold onto you with the other,” suggested Terri quickly.
“There isn’t enough room for all three of us to get around the seats,” replied JD shaking his head. He thought about forcing the boy but that would only upset him and any hope of the boy’s co-operation would be lost. ‘Think!’ He ordered himself, ‘how could all three of them get out of here at once?’
Then it came to him, “I’ve got an idea, I’ll be right back.”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Slow down, Ezra, something’s going on here,” ordered Buck as they approached the little bridge.
“I can see that,” replied Ezra, assessing the small gathering as he slowed the jag.
“That’s Earl’s Comanche,” said Buck noted absently. He was thinking out loud as he too was taking stock of the situation. “Stop! That’s Verna and George.”
Buck was out of the jag and jogging over to the couple before Ezra was able to bring the vehicle to a full stop.
“Verna?” asked Buck leaning over. “Earl?”
“Earl’s gone, dear, but I think Chris needs your help at the river.”
The tall man straightened and turned at the sound of his name. Ezra had gone to investigate the happenings at the bridge. The undercover agent was waving frantically. Seeing that he had Buck’s attention he pointed downward. Buck’s gaze followed his hand; JD’s bike! Just then the group at the bridge began to move as the words “help him, help him,” could be heard. The group parted. Chest heaving, a soaking wet Chris appeared from over the side of the bridge.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
JD descended under the water. He maneuvered himself slowly around the seat in front of him feeling for the lever. He found it. Pulling the lever up and pushing on the back of the seat he folded it down providing more than a foot of extra open space between the seat and the roof of the vehicle. He swam up to the driver’s seat, it would not fold but it did recline, and same for the front passenger seat. Reclining didn’t provide as much space as he would have liked but it would have to do. He left the back passenger seat as it was. It would take too long to undo the child’s car seat and Terri was still using it to stand on. ‘Fingers crossed this will be enough,’ he thought to himself as he made his way back to the air bubble.
He was surprised to find when he bobbed up to the surface that his head brushed the back window of the van.
“Okay, we’re ready to go. I folded the back seat on this side and reclined the front seats; there should be lots of room for us to swim out now.”
“What about puppy?” asked Jamie.
‘Oh crap, the dog!’ thought JD, he’d forgotten about him. The creature hadn’t been whining when JD had returned from delivering Ethan to the surface. The little fellow appeared to be snuggled into what looked like a child’s back pack hanging on what exactly he couldn’t see in the half light of the submerged vehicle from the back corner of the van. The dog was out of the water which is likely why he hadn’t been whining.
“I’m coming back for him,” said JD, hoping to reassure the tyke.
JD could almost feel Terri’s doubt touch him in the darkness. He pushed the feeling aside and turned to back up close to the boy’s mother.
“Terri, you hang on to my belt that way I’ll have both my arms free to help us swim.” He took her hand and guided it down to his belt. He could feel it tighten against his hips as she slipped her hand under it and grabbed it with a fist.
“I’ll go when you two say you’re ready.”
He listened as Terri and Jamie chanted, “One little fishy, two little fishy, three little fishy, Goooo.” At that cue, the three of them descended slowly into the murky water. JD took the lead. Grabbing the seats and nestling himself tight up against them as he pulled the other two forward over the seats into the front seat. Then he maneuvered hard to the left and jockeyed his little entourage out of the open door. It was slow going trying to move through the water in tight quarters with nearly twice his body weight. Once outside, he turned his face toward the surface and immediately began taking large breast strokes, reaching out and pulling back at a frantic pace. He didn’t want to kick for fear of hitting and hurting Terri but he wasn’t sure how long Jamie could hold his breath. He could feel the extra tug of the current on the weight of his passengers and knew the three of them were being swept further away from the bridge.
Once he broke the surface he immediately reached for Terri’s wrist and pulled her up beside him. Holding her and the boy in his arms he treaded water to keep them all afloat. She panted and spluttered a bit as she squinted at him, but she looked to be okay.
“How are doing, Jamie?” he asked looking at the puffed out cheeks and scrunched up eyes.
The little boy opened his eyes and smiled. “Can we go for a ride on your horse now?”
JD couldn’t help but laugh at the boy’s request, “Let’s get out of this river first.”
“Maybe we can help with that?”
JD turned his little group around to find Buck and Ezra in the water near them.
“Jamie, Terri these are two of my best friends, Buck…”
“Ma’am,” with the greeting came the usual brilliant Wilmington smile.
“Madam, young sir, May we escort you both to the bridge?” From the formal nonchalance of Ezra’s tone, you’d think he was talking about taking a short stroll around a garden.
Jamie was reluctant to be separated from his mother, Buck and Ezra took hold of Terri’s arms and the little group began swimming back together.
In truth, his energy running low, JD was relieved to hand mother and child over to his teammates. He began paddling slowly toward the bridge behind the foursome.
“You okay back there, JD?” the mustached man called out.
“I’m fine, Buck.”
“Those are not very encouraging words, Mr. Dunne,” replied Ezra over his shoulder as he did a one-armed side stroke while holding onto Terri they moved toward the bridge and the small crowd of people that had gathered there.
“I guess not,” replied JD realizing the ‘I’m fine’ phrase usually meant the opposite of exactly that. He looked up at the small crowd of cheering people now gathered on the bridge. He spied one very pissed off looking Chris. A grudging smile from the boss as he caught his eye told JD that he wasn’t in serious trouble. His gaze traveled across the bridge. Vin and Josiah were calling encouragement from the bridge while Nathan held Ethan in his arms. The youngster was wrapped in a blanket now and had a very distressed frown on his face. The light went on instantly for JD; the puppy. He stopped swimming and took a quick look around. This location was just about right. He took a deep breath bent at the waist and brought his feet straight up in the air behind him. He descended for the last time into the murky river water.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Buck and Ezra were a few yards from the bridge when there was change in the collective voice of the crowd on the bridge. The sound of joyful cheering suddenly changed to incredulous dismay. The epithets from their leader could be heard above the rest. Buck and Ezra searched for the faces they knew. Josiah, Nathan and Vin were now calling JD’s name urging him to come back.
Buck and Ezra looked back over their shoulders in time to see JD’s feet disappear below the surface of the water.
“Ah hell!” Buck spat out, annoyed with his room-mate’s impetuousness.
“Agreed, Mr. Wilmington,” Ezra’s tone was uncharacteristically acidic.
“Oh no!” Buck and Ezra looked questioningly at Terri.
“I think he’s gone back for the dog,” said Terri looking distressed.
“He’s what?” exploded Buck, not sure he heard correctly.
“We have a new puppy. JD promised the boys he’d rescue him too.”
“Well isn’t that…just…great!” Buck had had other words in mind but had chosen different ones when Ezra had nailed him with a look that reminded him of the child in his mother’s arms between them.
“There wasn’t much air left in the van. I’m not…” her words trailed off, the tone of concern in her voice and the worried expression on her face said it all for Buck.
Ezra looked seriously at Buck, “Given our young compatriot’s propensity for calamity you’d better go after him.”
Buck cast at glance at the mother and child between them.
“I can manage and there is more help waiting on the bridge,” said Ezra, answering the unasked question.
Buck turned and swam back out into the river.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
JD was exhausted…but he had promised the boys he’d rescue the dog and it was his firm belief was a child should never be lied to, not even for their own good. His mom had lied about her cancer and that wound still hurt from time to time.
He descended easily through the water and as luck would have it the blinking of the four-way flashers was visible a few yards up ahead. The trail of air bubbles from the back looked like a steady stream now. Entering the van was easy, the purse was still jammed up tight next to the door hinge and with the seats down there was lots of room for him to pass. He rose into the air bubble and was startled to find with his head right up tight against the roof his chin was in the water. There wasn’t much time left.
The puppy was whimpering. JD reached over and began to stroke his head and the whimpering stopped. ‘Poor little guy was frightened all alone in the dark,’ thought JD. ‘Okay, so how are we going to get you out of here?” JD asked out loud. The question was posed to the dog but it was meant to help himself think. He didn’t know if dogs could hold their breath; and he sure didn’t know how to train a pup to do so in ten seconds. He needed to carry him to the surface in something that was water tight. It didn’t have to be very big; it was a small puppy and a short swim. The child’s back pack zippered shut; the water would seep in through the teeth pretty quickly. What else could he use?
The container of dog biscuits! It had been floating around the van so it was probably air tight but the biscuits weighted it down so it floated under the surface of the water.
Where was it now? He’d had to bat it out of the way every time he came in except this time. JD took a breath and dropped down under the water. He blinked several times. He noticed his eyes were beginning to feel sore; probably because of all the stuff making the water murky he decided. He felt along the floor of the van working his way back to the front. He eventually found what he was looking for still floating but caught under the reclined front passenger seat. He managed to tug it out of its hiding spot and carry it back to the air bubble.
He found this time, to keep his mouth out of the water he had to lean his head back, even so his chin was submerged and his forehead brushed the roof. Time, like the air, was running out.
He held the bucket up and tried to pry the lid off. It wouldn’t budge. He ran his fingers around the upper edge looking for the perforation in a plastic wrap sometimes covering the plastic lid of containers. Instead he discovered a ring, it made of the same thick plastic as the bucket. He pulled hard at the ring, it let go and tore off about four inches of plastic strip. He realized that he had to pull all the way around the bucket to strip off this belt of plastic before he could open the container. It was hard work keeping the bucket above water so no water got in while he stripped the plastic off and balanced on the seat Terri had stood on. All the while the puppy was whimpering in his ear.
Once it was done, he stuck the lid into another pocket of the child’s backpack before shoveling the biscuits out of the container to make room for the dog keeping the wide opening above the water line.
It was awkward work in such a confined space. When it was nearly empty JD noticed that he was panting and feeling dizzy, more so that he would have expected if he were just tired. It occurred to him that maybe the air was lacking in oxygen and becoming tainted with too much carbon dioxide.
“Okay pup, time to be rescued.” He reached over and stroked the dog on the head again until the whining ceased. Then he lifted the creature out of the backpack and placed him gently in the plastic container. There was lots of room for the little dog. JD immediately scooped up the lid and sealed the biscuit container before the pup realized what was going on and tried to escape.
The whining began again. It was more urgent this time. ‘It’s probably dark inside the bucket,’ mused the young ATF agent himself. ‘The little guy would just have to hang on for one minute.’
JD had just taken a breath and ducked under the water for the last trip up to the surface when something weird happened. His world seemed to turn over. He lost his bearings inside the vehicle. Tainted air effecting his perceptions was his first thought. He reached down expecting to feel the seats instead he made contact with the smooth surface of glass. JD was totally confused. Blowing a bubble out of his nose he watched it rise and then followed it up.
He found what remained of the air bubble. JD found he had to float on his back with just his face out of the water and his ears submerged. He was breathing from a shallow pool of air. The strange thing was he was breathing against glass, glass of the side windows because he could see the light above from the surface. The only conclusion he could come up with was enough air had finally escaped that the balance of the van had changed and it had rolled onto its side. Which side? If it was the driver’s side he was trapped!
In a panic he gulped a lungful of air and swam through a mass of now waterlogged and disintegrating dog biscuits toward the front of the vehicle. His first thought was correct. The van had become unstable and had rolled to its right downstream with the current but rather than stopping when it settled onto its right side, the open driver’s door must have acted like a sail in the wind and the current carried it all the way over onto the driver’s side. The door was straining to close under the weight of the vehicle. The purse was stilling holding the door open despite the full weight of the vehicle on top of it. The young computer tech knew that wouldn’t last. He pushed the plastic tub holding the puppy ahead of him through the opening then launched himself through the open door just as it began to buckle.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
It was on his third dive searching for the downed vehicle that Buck noticed the funny red blinking effect in the water. If they had been white in color he might not have noticed it but the red made him think of a car.
He swam toward them.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
He’d almost made it.
He felt his left butt cheek brush against the vehicle as it came down. He screamed a silent scream at the pain. He turned this way and that as he struggled to free himself; the broken bones grinding agonizingly against one another. It did no good, he was trapped.
He had to stay clam. Panic was only going to use up precious oxygen faster.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
The van! But no JD in sight; Buck swam around it. There! Trapped underneath it from the knees on down was the kid. Buck swam up to him. JD turned and looked at him but there was no reaction or recognition in his eyes. Buck hooked his arms under the kid’s arm pits, braced his feet against the side of the van and he pulled. JD didn’t budge, not one single inch!
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
He no longer felt the white hot stabbing of pain from the broken bones. ‘I’m probably in shock,’ he thought feeling oddly lucid given his situation. His lungs were burning. The urge to breathe in became stronger with each passing second.
It was then he realized - he was going to die here.
Someone was beside him. He turned. ‘Buck?’ he thought numbly. He must be dreaming. He thought of the reports he’d read of people seeing and talking to people they wanted to see just before they died. The apparition of Buck hugged him. It felt good. Buck was gone. He smiled to himself thinking soon he would be hugging his mother…and with that thought JD gave way to the urge to breathe.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Buck was running out of air. He had to surface and he was going to need help. Buck had no idea how much air JD had left but it couldn’t be much he reasoned. He pushed off the bottom and swam furiously towards the surface.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Help!” shouted Buck as he broke the surface. “Help!” he repeated frantically. “JD is trapped! I need help!”
Five men dove immediately, stroking frantically toward Buck and then diving almost as one.
Those that remained on the bridge fell silent. Off in the distance the sirens of the approaching emergency vehicles could be heard.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Five followed the one.
Downward they stroked following close behind the one through the murky depths. Nearly blind to what was ahead of them, they let their faith in the one who had called for help guide them to the one that needed them.
The lead swimmer caught a subtle difference in the depths. He veered slightly left. An instant later the rest saw what he’d seen first; the rhythmic intermittent change in light only yards beyond them. They hastened their stroke rate.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Mom! Oh, God, how I’ve missed you!” he cried. Tears ran down he cheeks as he hugged the diminutive brunette to his chest.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Their youngest floated facedown pinned beneath the van. His hair and his outstretched arms gently buffeted by the under water current; one hand curled around the handle of a plastic container.
No orders needed to be given; the men knew what to do. The four biggest and strongest lined up along the length of the van. Planting their feet firmly in the muddy bottom, they braced their backs against the roof and their hands under the side without the need of a signal they heaved as one.
It should not have been possible given the weight of the water and the vehicle itself but love finds the strength. The vehicle shifted just enough for the two smaller ones to reach under and pull the broken limbs of their youngest free.
They headed straight for the surface with their four comrades close behind.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Vin and Ezra hadn’t taken six strokes toward the bridge when they were met by two members of the Search and Rescue Dive Team who relieved them of the limp form of their comrade; with the advantage of flippered feet they sped on ahead. They and two other members of the Dive Team hung back with Buck, Chris, Josiah and Nathan who, now with their adrenalin ebbing, were beginning to feel the backlash of extreme fatigue from the miracle they had just performed.
One by one with the assistance of fire and rescue personnel they were lifted onto the bridge. Buck was the first just in time to hear the EMT dictate to the hospital in the city, “Drowning victim, male, early 20’s, pulse rate…zero, respiration…zero…” Buck’s world stopped turning.
Josiah, Nathan and Chris came next. One by one they were laid next to Buck to watch helplessly as foul water gushed from JD’s lungs. Ezra arrived in time to watch JD’s body jump in reaction to the electric current from the portable cardiac defibrillator. The southerner managed to take a few steps before dropping to his hands and knees beside his comrades.
Vin set foot on the bridge last and watched as JD was bundled into the back of an idling ambulance. Four EMT’s surrounded him holding IV’s, respiratory equipment, calling out his vitals while the last dictated JD’s status back to the hospital.
The others suddenly began to protest trying to reach out weakly or gamely struggle to their feet to try and stop him. It was Vin who managed to get in Buck’s way when the big man somehow found the strength to get to all fours and then stand. It was thought he meant go with JD.
A nameless, faceless fire and rescue person helped Vin restrain Buck and get him seated back on the ground again. It was the sharpshooter who held the big man in his arms as he cried, “JD, Oh God! JD…too late …we were too late!”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
The day was bright and sunny. Bird song filled the air while bright colorful flowers waved all around them in the soft breeze. He took a deep breath the sweetness of their scent filled his lungs.
JD sat beside his mother on the garden swing, one of her smaller hands tucked inside of his. He looked down at her. She was beautiful, the picture of health; her long dark hair shone in the sunlight; her brown eyes, rather than dulled with drugs for pain, sparkled with life. Her skin was pink and rosy, not grey and translucent like he remembered when the cancer was winning the fight for her life.
She looked beautiful…
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
The mood in the room was somber. The intern with unruly dark hair and two day old whiskers that belied the last time he’d slept was so thin that it looked to Buck as if a good wind would blow him away. His expression was full of sympathy for the six men who still smelled of the damp dirty water of the river but he stood his ground.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but it doesn’t look hopeful for your friend.” Buck was too numb to fully comprehend what he meant. The physician’s earlier proclamation that JD was dead had stunned the big man as nothing before in his life had. He just sat watching the proceedings numb, unable to react.
The doctor continued. “He’s on a respirator because he can’t breathe on his own. We’re maintaining his blood pressure with drugs, as long as we to do that his heart will continue to beat. He’s fully dependent on machines and he isn’t reacting to stimuli. There isn’t a reasonable degree of hope that your friend will recover.”
“What you tried?” asked Nathan.
“His pupils aren’t reacting to light; he doesn’t react when we prick his toes and his finger tips.” The doctor was describing the tests rather than using their proper names. He thought he was dealing with a bunch of people thoroughly unfamiliar with the procedures. “In all likelihood your friend succumbed to drowning within the first few minutes. It’s only because he’s in such good physical shape that his body responded to the actions taken to revive him but he is brain dead.”
“Have you tried an E.E.G.? asked Nathan urgently
“No, as I said, there isn’t much hope…”
The doctor clearly balked at the order “In my professional experience…”
“Do it!” repeated Nathan using the deepness within his voice to command the intern.
“Don’t sir me!” Nathan raised his voice just a shade. “I was a field medic in the Gulf, I’m a qualified EMT. I know what death is and I know men who have defied the odds. I’ve held that boy’s wounds closed with my bare hands; I’ve set his broken bones without anesthetic; he’s lived when he’s lost so much blood he should have died. He’s not a quitter; he deserves the chance to fight”.
“Doctor, he’s a devout catholic, he loves life and he believes in the sanctity of life. He will do everything in his power, and beyond, to preserve that sanctity,” said Josiah.
“That maybe so…,” argued the doctor, “but I think it would only prolong the inevitable. Wouldn’t you rather he died with dignity…”
“Dignity,” Chris spat out. “You think letting him just drift away with a giving him a chance, is dignified?”
The doctor seemed to be searching for ways to convince them to let JD go. “The test is expensive…”
Chris took an angry step forward. “Damn the expense!”
“Name the price, Doctor,” interjected Ezra holding out his platinum card.
“I want to talk to whoever you report to, if you haven’t got the guts to…”
“Doc,” the quiet measured tones of the sharpshooter put a sudden end to Chris’s angry outburst, “Fact is, none of us has got much in the way of family or friends, and those few we have are pretty important to us…We just want you to give him a chance.”
The doctor finally seemed to be seeing and understanding the men around him. “Go home and get cleaned up. I’ll meet you back here in an hour and a half with the results of an E.E.G.”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Buck shifted uncomfortably in his chair after rerunning that event from this morning over again in his head. He’d been helpless with shock…he swallowed hard at the thought, that JD might be gone now, if it hadn’t been for the others. It wasn’t until later, after Josiah had taken him home to shower and change, forced a toasted bagel down his throat followed by orange juice and a shot of whiskey that the shock of JD’s drowning began to wear off.
The doctor was ten minutes late arriving back. It was all Josiah, Nathan and Vin could do to keep the other three from going in search of the man.
The results had been good…better than good. JD’s E.E.G. showed a significantly high number of ERP’s. Buck didn’t fully understand what that meant only that it was a good thing. At least for the moment they wouldn’t be disconnecting the machinery that was keeping JD alive.
“You beat the odds, Kid,” said Buck out loud as leaned on the side of the bed and squeezed JD’s hand, “huh, like maybe you’ve never done that before, eh?” he added a little proudly.
Now gone eleven at night, Buck had been keeping up a steady vigil by JD’s side for nearly eleven hours straight. Having earlier commandeered extra chairs from all over the hospital the others had not gone far, leaving only to grab something to eat or drink and to answer the call of nature.
It was a rare moment that Buck found himself alone with the youngest member of the team. Josiah was in the chapel; Nathan had gone to off to ask a question about the latest entries to JD’s chart check; Vin to the roof for space and a few minutes of fresh air; Ezra and Chris had gone out to pick up yet another round of coffee.
Chris had other reasons for getting out of the hospital. Buck had seen it in his eyes, in the tortured expression on Chris’ face. Chris was thinking this was going to end the same way it had for Sarah and Adam.
The tall man laid an elbow on the edge of the bed and dropped his head into his hand. Fatigue was getting the better of him. He thought back over the last sixteen hours, snippets of memories wandered back. Arriving at the accident site, watching as a dripping wet Chris was helped from the water having been unsuccessful in finding the downed van or JD. The EMT that had pried the white handle of the red plastic container from the death grip the Kid had on it. The sudden appearance of the puppy dog once the lid had been removed. The cries of joy from the little boys the young computer tech had just rescued; the tears of their mother who realized the cost of rescuing the puppy to the young man. She had whisked her sons away before they realized that something was wrong.
Sitting here now, Buck was once again over come by a sudden sweat followed by a shiver. It happened every time he remembered the moment he realized that JD had drowned. Vin’s arms holding him tightly as he whispered words of encouragement in his ear, “Don’t give up on him yet, Bucklin. JD’s one tough little shit, tougher than anyone. He won’t go down without a helluva fight.”
It had been a son-of-a-bitch of a day alright. He sighed and raised his head. He looked down at the bed sheet that covered JD’s splinted right leg. It had been caught between the crumpled door and frame of the van. Broken ankle; compound fractures of both the tibia and fibula; dislocated kneecap; it’d be a miracle if he walked without a limp after this. The other leg was spared nothing more than a sprained knee and ankle as it missed being caught in the door and ended up shoved deep into the muddy bottom of the river by the weight of the vehicle.
Buck scrubbed his face with his free hand having noticed that he was tearing up again. He sniffed loudly and looked into the young face. ‘Too young,’ he thought, ‘too young for all this pain, losing his mom so young, joining the team and suffering injury after injury, Iraq, and now this.’ Buck reached over and brushed a dark strand back from of the kid’s eyes. That hair made him look so damn young. “Vin’s right, Kid,” he said, “When it’s all on the line you’re tougher than any of us. Don’t give up, JD. You’re my friend, what would I do without you?”
The only reply the ladies’ man received was the continued steady pulse of the respirator.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
She smiled up at him. “You look well, Cariad.”
“Life is good, Mom,” he replied cheerfully. “I have good friends and a life I love.”
“You’re happy then.”
“I’m glad. All I ever wanted was for you to be happy.”
“I miss you though…everyday. Sometimes I miss you so bad it hurts,” JD couldn’t help the tears that sprang to his eyes.
She reached up and pushed an errant strand of hair back from his eyes; her touch was butterfly light. “I miss you too.”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
In the silent chapel at the end of the third floor hallway, Josiah made his own request after reciting the long ago learned prayers for the sick and injured.
‘Father it is a selfish thing I ask, preserve the life of this young man. I ask it not only for myself but the other men who stand vigil over him this night. I don’t know what your plan is but I do know his death would mean the demise of his six brothers. I do not mean their physical deaths but of their souls. He holds a special place for all of us in our hearts. His very existence provides each of us with a perspective of goodness in this life that we forget because of our daily dealings with the evil in this world. Our very souls would be lost to our own cynicism should we lose him. I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.’
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Vin sat cross legged in the night. He craned his neck upwards to look at the stars. He took a deep breath and concentrated on blocking out the distant sounds of the city below and replacing them in his mind with the sounds of wind in the trees, water on the shore and the songs of the night birds.
‘I was taught that you are the Great Spirit of all the peoples of the world; that you are made up of the souls of all humankind of every color and creed, past and present. My friend lies nearby, he is somewhere between life and death. I’m asking you to carry him back to this life. We need him; we need his special outlook on things. Life has thrown him some pretty mean curves and still he has a belief in the good things in this life and more importantly the good in every one of us as imperfect as we are. I’m not asking just for myself but for him and the men we work with, we’re brothers in every way but blood. He belongs with us…please don’t take him.’
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Nathan paused outside of JD’s hospital room. He bowed his head and pressed his finger tips to his forehead, curling his lips in between his teeth. He blinked several times against threatening tears. He turned toward the wall and leaned into it to hide his fear.
JD was losing the fight. His vitals were slipping. They’d had to increase the dosage to keep his blood pressure up.
Nathan closed his eyes. ‘Dear God, I know I haven’t talked to you much in the last few years. I’ve always believed in you, you know that but I was angry with you when Mama died. Please God, did I make a mistake fighting to keep him alive? Please help this man, we need him. I don’t know what any of us would do without him.’
Aware of a nurse as she passed by Nathan straightened and dragged one arm across his eyes. He took a moment to compose himself before entering the room. Pausing again at the sight of Buck’s broad shoulders leaning over the bed he steeled himself for the inevitable questions that would come.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Standing outside the coffee shop waiting to help carry their order Ezra took a drag on a cigarette. He looked at the half smoked butt and wrinkled his nose in disgust. He flipped it onto the pavement and ground it beneath his shoe. Smoking was a filthy habit. He often smoked when working undercover. It not only helped round out his various personas and it also helped deal with the nervous tension of prolonged assignments. It was also an excellent tool while he was undercover, when he was lost for an immediate reply in a difficult situation, he’d use the lighting of a cigarette to buy him some time to think of an answer.
This was the same but different. His nerves were on edge and there were no answers. The others seemed to have some sort of faith to guide them. He had learned from a very young age to have faith only in himself and he couldn’t do a damn thing about this situation. He chastised himself for taking his eyes off their youngest after he’d surfaced with the woman and her son. He and Buck should never have allowed him to dive again… all for a stupid dog!
He admitted to himself that he loved JD as he would a younger brother. He wasn’t sure that he was as close to any of the others but JD had been impossible to resist. If the boy were to die Ezra doubted he personally would ever be the same again.
He was still stuck as to what he could do to help in this situation. He was not a man for prayer and he was of the opinion that whatever deity watches over the souls of men would not be inclined to listen to him. There had to be some other way to help.
Ezra turned around. A diminutive young woman smiled up at him.
“Would you like to buy some flowers, sir?” she asked as she raised her basket up so he could see catch a glance of the bright yellow flora within it.
“Thank you, no,” Ezra replied shortly.
“A man as handsome as yourself, sir, must have some one near and dear to them who would appreciate such fine buds as these.”
Ezra knew he should be annoyed at her pushy salesmanship but he found himself drawn into the depths of her deep brown eyes…then it occurred to him - flowers for JD. It wasn’t likely that they would help but they couldn’t hurt either.
“All right then, I’ll take a bouquet. How much are they?”
“Set your own price, sir,” the answer came with a stunning smile.
“Just a moment, I’ll be right back,’ replied Ezra, realizing he had no money on him.
He disappeared into the coffee shop.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Chris sat and fumed in the truck as he watched Ezra chat with the young woman while he paid for the flowers. Twenty bucks seemed pretty steep to Chris but he figured Ezra was good for the money.
Feeling suddenly very weary Chris leaned back and closed his eyes. He could feel the old anger boiling up from deep within himself. ‘God, I’m a selfish man I know but do you have to take everyone that’s special away from me?’ His older brother had died when Chris was thirteen, then he lost Sarah and Adam, and now JD? Chris had spent enough time in hospitals to know that with each passing minute the likelihood of JD surviving lessened.
‘God, please not again. I’m not asking just for myself but for Vin, Nathan, Josiah, Ezra and especially Buck. The kid has gotten to us all.’ They’d just become six angry men, if the kid died, they’d be alive on the outside and dead on the inside. Buck had somehow survived the loss of Sarah and Adam and had been there as a lifeline for Chris. Chris wasn’t sure he’d be able to return the favor if JD died. Then he whispered out loud, “Please God, he has to live.”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
One by one, Nathan, then Josiah and finally Vin returned to the room to join in the vigil once again with Buck. Each asked the same question with the same reply, “No change.”
Buck looked up at Nathan as the EMT stood on the other side of JD.
“It’s not a good sign is it?”
“No, it’s not a good sign at all,” replied Nathan swallowing hard.
Buck pressed JD’s limp hand between both of his. Looking down as he fought hard against the tears that were threatening to burst forth.
“Have faith, Buck,” urged Josiah quietly.
“Don’t give up, Buck,” pleaded Vin, “and he won’t neither,”
Buck looked up. A couple of tears had escaped making two shiny track tracks one down each cheek. He glanced at the clock. Two minutes to midnight. “Come on, JD, your birthday is almost here; it’s time for you to come back to us.”
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“I miss you too but know that I’m always by your side.”
“I don’t want to go, Mama,” he said, his voice breaking, “but I have to…there are people,” he looked down trying to hide the tears, “…there are people who, well, they need me right now. I can feel them calling me back to them.”
“I know, I can feel them too,” she replied with the Welsh-accented lilt so familiar to him. “Those people love you very much…and when the time does come I’ll be here waiting for you.”
“I love you, Cariad,” he said, softly
She smiled. “Here,” she said as she pressed something into his hand, “one for each of your friends, Cariad.”
He looked down and noticed she had placed a half a dozen yellow trumpet shaped flowers in his hand. He smiled widely through his tears, Cenhinen Pedr, his mother’s favorite flower.
He looked up at her again. She began to fade from his sight. The garden, the birdsong and the sunshine, all of it began to fade from his senses. It was becoming very dark.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Any change?” asked Chris as he and Ezra quietly entered the room.
Josiah, Nathan and Vin had returned. “None,” replied Buck soberly, his distress creasing his handsome features.
“Shouldn’t there have been some sort of indication by now?” asked Chris as he and Ezra moved quietly among them distributing the fresh coffees.
“Yeah, there should have been,” replied Nathan, failing to keep his worry out of his tone of voice.
Ezra picked up the modest water carafe from JD’s bedside table and disappeared into the small ensuite bathroom. He returned a short time later with the carafe half full of water and a half dozen yellow flowers sticking out of it.
“What are those?” asked Vin as Ezra placed the makeshift vase on JD’s bedside table.
“Daffodils,” replied Josiah with a tinge of surprise in his voice.
“I believe so,” agreed Ezra. “I thought they’d cheer things up a bit,” there was an uncharacteristic lack of sureness in Ezra’s voice as he looked doubtfully at the daffodils.
“Flowers; what good is that going to do, he’s not conscious…”
“Where did you get them?” asked Josiah cutting Nathan off. Josiah had seen what Chris had, Nathan was feeling guilty wondering if he’d only prolonged the inevitable outcome for JD and taking it out on Ezra.
Ezra’s eyes darted from Nathan to Josiah. “There was a young woman outside the coffee shop selling them.”
“Selling flowers at this time of night?” asked Vin skeptically.
“You know it didn’t occur to me until just now that it was out of the ordinary for her to be selling flowers in the middle of the night. I…I don’t know what to say except that I was taken by the strongest urge to purchase them.” Ezra seemed to be genuinely mystified by his actions.
“What’s even more strange is that it’s July, daffodils are way out of season right now,” added Josiah.
“What?” asked Chris frowning.
“The Welsh for daffodil is Kenny-‘n-Peder,” repeated Buck patiently before shaking his head and going on to explain, “or something like that anyway. They’re JD’s mother’s favorite flower; he buys them in her memory on David’s day the first of March every year.”
“If memory serves, “Saint” David is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Celtic monk who lived in the sixth century,” corrected Josiah quietly.
“Hey, is JD crying?” asked Vin as bent in close beside his friend.
The other five leaned in to watch as a tear made the short journey from the corner of JD’s left eye down into his dark locks. A second one followed and then a third until there was a little river of tears.
“Is it a good sign?” asked Buck looking up at Nathan, hope glistening in his eyes.
Before the medic had a chance to answer, there was movement from the bed. “Ummm!”
JD grimaced and moved his head. Then his eyes fluttered open and then closed. He grimaced and turned his head the other way, his eyes fluttered open again. This time his eyes stayed open.
“Hold on there, Kid,” said Buck excitedly.
“Don’t grab at the tube, JD,” urged Nathan as both he and Buck took hold of his hands as JD panicked and tried to grab the tracheal airway tube. “Give us just a minute and we’ll have that trach tube taken out.”
“Nurse! Doctor! We require immediate assistance!” called Ezra after darting out into the hall.
The internist, with a nurse by his side, showed up almost immediately.
“Breathe out,” ordered the doctor. The physician slipped the tubing out of JD’s throat as he did as he was instructed.
The six friends watched as the physician performed a number of physical test on JD’s extremities, making notes as he did so. All the while, JD was nodding and blinking as if waking up.
“How do you feel?” asked the doctor while took he JD’s vitals.
“Hungry,” replied their youngest, his voice croaking at the initial effort to speak. The reply brought sudden smiles all around and a chuckle from the doctor. “That’s a good sign. We’ll see about getting you something to eat. In the meantime, we’ve still got you on the drip for the pain so you’re going to be sleepy, don’t fight it. I’ll check on you again in a couple of hours.”
“The rest of you,” said the doctor as he looked at the group at the end of the bed with a warning eye, “another half an hour at most and then let him sleep and go home and get some rest yourselves.” He smiled, “It’s looking very good indeed.”
Leaving only the IV; the nurse finished unhooking and removing various wires and collecting up equipment before rolling the monitoring machinery with all of its paraphernalia out of the way.
Waiting none too patiently the rest gathered round again once she was out of the room.
“Hey, Kid, welcome back,” greeted Buck with grin.
“It’s about time, Agent Dunne,” said Chris with a warm tone of voice that ran contrary to the words.
“You gave us quite a scare there, son,” rumbled Josiah.
“How do you really feel?” asked Nathan ever vigilant.
“Pretty good I guess,” JD replied. His eyes widened, “How are Terri and the boys? Did the puppy make it?” he asked anxiously.
“Everyone is fine,” replied Vin with a gentle smile, “including the pooch.’
“…except Earl O’Halloran,” replied Chris soberly.
JD raised his head and looked at Chris with troubled eyes.
“Massive heart attack,” explained Chris briefly.
“He hadn’t been the same since his wife passed last year,” said Buck, hoping to provide some comfort for his friend.
“It was likely just his time, as they say,” said Ezra.
“She was probably waiting for him in the garden,” replied JD absently as he laid his head tiredly on his pillow.
That brought some confused glances from around the bed.
“By the way, Happy Birthday, Kid,” said Buck wanting to fill the silence. Birthday wishes from the others followed but JD was already asleep.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
“Hey Kid! You’re looking better.” The first cheerful hello was lost in the general greetings all around as the team entered the room. The computer tech was sitting up in his hospital bed looking distinctly healthier and more alert than just a few hours previous. Buck had stayed the rest of the night and was found waiting in the hall while the staff helped JD use the bedpan and bathe.
Josiah handed him a bag. “Is this one of your breakfast sandwiches?” asked JD. Josiah replied with a wink to which JD responded, “Awesome!” digging immediately into the bag.
General Monday morning conversation commenced over their coffees with its usual complement of friendly insults and teasing just as if they were in the office and not a hospital room. It said something for their comfort level with hospitals.
The room full of men fell quiet when the internist arrived with JD’s chart in hand. “You’re looking well, Mr. Dunne, and your vitals are excellent,” he said after glancing at the chart. “I have to say that I’m truly amazed at your recovery…”
“Thanks Doc,” said Buck swooping in to cut the physician off. “We’ll call you if we need you.”
The internist frowned, said nothing and left.
“He doesn’t seem like such a bad guy,” observed JD. He was frowning too, likely confused at Buck’s rude behavior.
“Says you,” replied Vin acidly.
That had to have JD wondering. Vin always gave a guy a chance; what had this doctor done to deserve such an attitude? The frown disappeared as JD stretched his arms and shoulders, grimacing at a sudden twinge.
“How do you feel?” asked Nathan and Buck almost in unison.
“Okay considering, “Mom,” “Dad,” replied JD directing the titles of Mom and Dad at Buck and then Nathan respectively as he settled back against the pillows.
“Some aches and pains from your experience would not be unexpected,” interjected Ezra.
“I doubt Lazarus returned to the land of the living completely unscathed,” interjected Josiah.
An outsider would never have noticed the awkward split second pause by the others or the sudden intake of breath by Josiah, at his poorly chosen words but it was just long enough for JD to pick up on it.
“Lazarus? What do you mean?” JD’s puzzlement at the reference could be seen in his features.
“Nothing was meant,” replied Ezra quickly. “Nothing at all, on the way here Josiah had been telling us about a rock band from the 70’s planning on a come back. The name of the band is Lazarus, that‘s all. An interesting double entendre, a group called Lazarus making a come back, don’t you agree?” Ezra’s lie was credible enough and swift enough in coming but JD knew Ezra well enough to wonder if the undercover agent was lying to him; besides there was the guilty look in Josiah’s eyes.
“No you weren’t,” said JD accusingly. “Ezra, that’s bullshit.” JD looked from one man to the next; the look in his eyes demanding an answer. He didn’t get one, just more guilty looks. “Tell me what’s going on, Lazarus rose from the d…” He caught the sudden exchange of glances.
JD paused and tilted his head a little to one side. His eyes narrowing as he sought out the one who knew couldn’t deny him the truth. “Buck, what happened to me?”
The turmoil in Buck’s expression was painful to see, “JD, you…”
“What do you remember?” asked Chris gently, taking the burden off of Buck.
“Rescuing that lady, Terri, I think her name was, and her kids from the van… and…oh yeah, their little dog too.
JD frowned slightly, his eyes moving back and forth not looking at anything in particular, as he searched his memory. “I was caught under the van,” he said slowly as the memory returned. “The van rolled and I had to get out quick. The door…gave way…”
He jerked upright.
“Take it easy now, Kid,” cautioned Buck. “Don’t jostle things around too much. Your leg is only splinted.”
“Splinted? I remember now; the pain. I’ve got broken bones. Why is my leg splinted? Why haven’t I had surgery yet?” he looked quickly from one to another again.
“You’re not scheduled for surgery,” replied Chris quietly.
“Why not?...Lazarus?…My God!” His eyes became big as his mouth dropped open.
“JD, don’t go there!” warned Buck, his words coming out in a rush as he reached for the kid.
“You thought I was going to die!” whispered JD. A paused as the horror of what happened came home to him. Then suddenly he began to thrashing about in a desperate attempt to get out of the bed.
“JD…JD…calm down! Stay still damn you!” ordered Chris laying both hands on his forearms while Buck held their youngest down at one shoulder and Nathan at the other. Ezra, Josiah and Vin did their best to secure his hips and one good leg without bothering the injured leg.
“Get the hell off me!” he screeched.
“Calm down! I’ve never lied to you, have I?” Chris asked in a bellowing voice.
JD continued to struggle as thoughts born of panic raced through his mind. ‘He died! How could they let that happen to him? Why didn’t they tell him? Mom!’
“JD?” repeated Chris loudly. He still didn’t get JD’s attention, “Answer me, JD,” he ordered, this time in a tone of voice he used only on the most reprehensible of perps.
That got through to JD and he stopped fighting them.
“Have I ever lied to you?” asked the blonde, firmly. When an answer didn’t come he repeated the question. “Have I ever lied to you?”
There was another brief pause before the computer tech responded. “No,” he replied quietly raising his eyes to meet Chris’s hard expression.
Chris signaled to the others to let go of their hold on the kid. “I’m not about to start now,” Chris took his seat and the rest followed suit. “This is hard to hear but you need to hear it. We didn’t think you were going to die…you were already dead. You were dead when you came out of the river.”
JD’s starred wide eyed in disbelief at Chris. After a minute he blinked a couple of times and he raised himself up onto his elbows. His gaze moved from man to man. It was true…he had died.
He slowly slid back down to lie back on the bed again.
“The doctors they wanted to…to…to let you go but Nathan wouldn’t let them,” explained Buck haltingly. “JD?” he asked leaning forward.
“JD?” This query came from Chris.
He shook his head slowly back and forth. “I died,” he said quietly. His mother! It wasn’t a dream! Tears began to gather in his eyes ‘What a gift…Thank you, God.’
“Hmm? What? Sorry, what did you say Chris?” JD asked as he dragged his arm across his eyes.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, fine,” He raised a hand and poked Buck in the chest. “You guys are all alive, right? This isn’t Heaven is it?”
Vin huffed, “If this is Heaven, I’d sure hate to see what Hell’s like.”
There was a sudden awkward silent pause before a funny look came over JD’s face. The corners of his mouth began to twitch. Josiah dropped his chin to his chest as his shoulders began to shake. Ezra spluttered trying to squelch a chuckle then Buck and then Nathan did the same until no one could hold it in any longer; not even Chris and the whole room broke up with laughter.
The need for emotional release had made them all a bit giddy, the laughter continued for some time until all of them were exhausted and wiping tears from their eyes.
“I think we all needed that,” said Josiah holding his sides. “You know between that and yesterday’s little river swim my ribs hurt. I think I need to go back to work for a rest.”
“Speaking of work,’ said Chris in his best ‘this is the boss speaking’ tone of voice, “the bad guys don’t arrest themselves.”
There was a general groan and good natured grumbling as the men raise themselves out of their chairs.
“You owe me a half day of personal leave, Boss,” said Vin.
“Like hell I do,” retorted Chris sternly.
“I’m taking it this afternoon,” declared Vin before whispering out of the side of mouth to JD, “What you want for lunch a burger or sub?”
“Where are you buying it up from?” asked JD in a whisper.
“Burger, definitely,” replied JD his eyes lighting up at the thought.
“Buck, you looked better when they dragged you out of the river. You’re going home to sleep,” ordered Chris.
“I can sleep here just fine,” exclaimed Buck.
“No you can’t,” declared JD. “My hand gets too sweaty.”
There was general snickering and snorting over that.
“Oh yeah right, you, you just wait until any of you need some comforting,” said Buck waggling a finger in the general direction of the rest, “don’t be whining for old Buck to come hold your hand.”
“Rest assured, sir, holding your hand will be the furthest thing from my mind at such a time,” replied Ezra emphatically.
Buck looked a little confused at Ezra’s reply.
“Buck, do you have any idea what you’re saying?” asked Vin frowning at the ladies man.
“No, I guess I don’t. Maybe I do need some sleep after all,” conceded the tall man.
As they gathered up the breakfast refuse JD called to the team’s EMT. “Thanks, Nathan, I guess like always you saved my life.”
“Glad to be of help,” replied the ex-medic putting a hand on JD’s shoulder and squeezing gently. “Do what the doctor tells you but if you have any concerns you’ve got my number.”
JD put his hand on Nathan’s wrist and smiled up at him.
They all move to leave. “To be on the safe side, I’ll drive you home, Buck, “offered the profiler.
“One, minute and I’ll be right with you” replied Buck sidling up to JD’s bed.
“Make damn sure it is only a minute,” warned Chris from the doorway just before he followed the last man out.
Buck waited until the room was clear. “Hey, kid, are you really okay?” It was just the two of them now and Buck didn’t even try to hide his worry.
“Yeah I am,” JD said confidently. “It was just sort of…scary to realize that I actually died.”
Buck sank down in the chair beside the bed, a signal that he was willing to listen if needed.
“It’s just that…while I was…gone, I had this…dream.”
“You want to talk about it?”
“No, not right now anyway, I need to think about some stuff for a while.”
“I’m right here if and when you need to,” replied his roommate as he rose from the chair. “Here let me pull the shade down so the sun isn’t in your face.”
“Thanks,” said the younger man.
Buck made his way to the door, “if you need anything…’
“I’ve got lots of cell numbers…and yours is at the top of the list.”
“Yeah,” said the tall man smiling before turning to go. “Oh!” He said turning back again. “Happy Birthday kid, you made it to another one!”
“Yeah, with a little help from my friends,” he replied with a grin.
“See you in a few hours,” with that his room mater was finally gone.
JD relaxed into the pillow. His thoughts drifted back to his Mom. Did he really see her and talk to her? He shook his head; somehow he couldn’t quite believe it. His logic trained computer tech’s brain wouldn’t let him. His spiritual side tugged at him. Maybe if his spirit was seeking some sort of comfort in the transition from one existence to another, his mom would be a logical apparition to call upon.
He yawned sleepily. This returning from the dead was tiring work. He turned his head away from the door and the noise in the hall toward the window to try and get some sleep. That’s when he saw them there in the carafe; six bright, crisp, yellow daffodils – one for each friend.
All his doubts were gone. He smiled through his gathering tears and whispered, “I love you, too, Cariad”.
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Two days later Buck was back at the hospital helping a nurse make JD comfortable.
“Here’s the pump,” she instructed placing it in the kid’s hand. “You control how much pain killer you need. Don’t be brave; you’ve had a lot of surgery today so you’re going to be uncomfortable for a while. All settled then? Call if you need me,” she said as she glanced over her shoulder at Buck before she left the room.
‘Buck must be really worried,’ thought JD, ‘he didn’t even watch her go.’
“How are you doing, kid, really?” asked Buck his eye brows knitted together.
“Okay, so far, the doc said it gets worse when the locals begin to wear off.” JD saw that distracted look again. Buck had been doing it on and off since for the past couple of days. He’d get a look on his face like he wanted to talk about something but kept thinking the better of it. “Come on Buck out with it, I can’t stand not knowing any longer.”
“Not knowing what?”
“Whatever it is that’s on your mind. You’ve been worrying about something for two days now. There’s just you and me here so out with it.”
“It’s no big thing, it can wait,” said Buck.
So there is something thought JD with some satisfaction. “No, it can’t,” he replied firmly.
Buck settled into a chair and leaned on the bed so that their eyes were almost level with one another. “JD when…that is just before you woke up the other day, you were…,” Buck had been watching his fingers as he tugged absently on the bed sheet. He stopped and raised his face to look at JD. “Well, you were crying…and I was just wondering…that is…I mean…did you want to come back?” asked Buck with a look of trepidation in his eyes.
JD could see it, Buck was faltering over the question because he was afraid. Just then his leg twinged painfully. Tongues of fire leapt up his thigh from his knee. ”Ughh!” he cried out.
Buck was on his feet beside him. Eyes wide darting everywhere, the worried expression on Buck’s face was paining JD almost as much as the leg. JD reached up with his free hand Buck took it immediately. JD gripped it tightly as he squeezed the pump.
“Ohhh, Ohhh,” JD gasped and swallowed a couple of times waiting for the pain killer to take effect. “Oh, that’s better. Sorry Buck I didn’t expect it to be that sudden or that bad.”
“Was it something I said that set it off?”
“No!…no, nothing like that. The surgeon said it might be bad because it was lot of surgery for one operation that’s all.”
“Look, JD, we can pick this up later,” said the tall man.
“I don’t want to.” See the reluctant expression on Buck’s face, JD prodded him further. “Look I’ve got to lie here anyway; I might as well make use of the time.” JD settled back against the bed and starred at the ceiling thinking. “I was crying?”
“Yeah, just before you woke up.” Buck looked down again. “Then when we told you that you had died, there for a while, I thought maybe, well, that maybe you were happier where you were and we, that is I, kind of…well I was talking to the Big Guy upstairs asking to have you back. It was selfish of me I know and if…”
JD tried a couple of times to interrupt the man but he seemed determined to ramble on. “Oww! Oww! Oww! JD arched his back in reaction to the pain this time, pumping only a few times hoping that was all he’d need. He didn’t want to put himself out, he wanted to talk to Buck and ease his buddy’s mind.
“Kid, I’m sorry, look we don’t have to talk about his now...”
JD turned his head to look at his friend. “Buck, shut up.” JD caught his roommate’s hurt look, “Sorry, but you weren’t letting me get a word in edgewise.” He gave the pump another quick squeeze as he took a breath, “While I was ‘gone’ I was with my Mom.”
“You were in heaven with your Mom?” asked Buck looking astonished.
JD paused briefly thinking, he wanted to choose his words carefully. “No, I don’t think so. I’m not exactly an expert on Heaven but I don’t think that’s where we were. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t all the way over to the “other side”. I was sitting with Mom some place in between; kind of like a waiting place between here and there.”
JD gave the pump a single squeeze; he didn’t want any interruptions while he was trying to explain things. “This place was bright and ‘felt’ happy,” he explained turning to look back at his mentor. “She looked great, not sick, but like she would have if she’d been healthy at thirty-six, you know? She knew about you and the rest of the guys, she could even feel you, all of you, calling me back. I know because I could feel it too.”
He caught Buck starring at him. “I know this all sounds pretty crazy, but hear me out. She said that she was glad that I was happy but that it wasn’t ‘my time’ and that I needed to go back, that here, with you and the rest of the guys, is where I belong.”
There were tears in Buck’s eyes as he reached over to squeeze JD’s shoulder gently.
“I love her, I’ll always love her, but she was right I belong here and I want to be here. You guys, you’re my friends, you mentor, teach, harass, tease, and…well, love me.”
Buck swallowed hard before he dropped his head. Picking up the edge of the bed sheet he dabbed at his tear filled eyes.
JD smiled and reached out to his surrogate big brother. “So don’t worry, you did the right thing, Buck, I’m a lot happier here.”
Buck groped for a drier section of bed sheet.
“By the way Buck.”
Buck looked up his eyes still moist from his tears.
It’s pronounced Ken-hee-nan Peduhrrr,” the syllables rolled gently off his tongue.
“What is?” asked Buck confused and with a voice strangled with tears.
“The word for daffodils in Welsh is Cenhinen Pedr. It’s pronounced Ken-hee-nan Peduhrrr, you have to roll the “r”.”
“That’s what I said.”
JD chuckled, “No, you didn’t!”
“You weren’t even awake,” declared Buck indignantly. “How the hell would you know what I said?”
“I was lying right here in this bed and I heard you. You weren’t even close! Who the heck is Kenny? My poor sainted mother would take after you with a broom if she heard how badly you butchered her language! Jeez, Buck, you speak Russian like a native, why can’t you pronounce a few words of Welsh properly?”
“...Because my life doesn’t depend on it!” Buck spat out defensively.
JD was suddenly serious as he cocked an eyebrow, “Now, there‘s a story you haven’t told me.”
“Stop giving me such a hard time about the Welsh and I just might tell you…someday.”
“You got a deal,” replied the kid with a beaming smile.
“JD! JD! Hi, JD!” two high pitched little voices broke through the usual office hum of phone conversation and computer equipment.
JD looked up and smiled. “Hey, guys how are you?” greeted JD as he spied Ethan and Jamie running toward him.
“Good,” replied Ethan.
“Yeah, I’m good too,” said Jamie.
Both boys seemed unusually excited. They bounced up and down in place as they ‘stood’ before him. They had visited him a couple of times at home while he was recuperating. Terri had brought cookies she’d made while the boys brought pictures they had drawn of him and themselves; Jamie’s always included a stick figure horse.
Some of the pictures were drawn by the boys’ as part of Art Therapy sessions Terri had taken them to, to deal with any trauma they might have suffered from the accident. JD’s ‘therapy sessions’ had been a little different. They had consisted of talking with Buck from 3 a.m. until dawn. No matter how quiet he was Buck always seemed to hear him when he couldn’t sleep. There were informal sessions with Josiah; playing chess while the profiler guided him through the emotional ups and downs that plagued him. The most effective sessions were the times spent basking in the healing balm of warm affection of family-by-choice. Sharing food, a few beers and a few laughs while taking in a game on TV.
“It’s really good to see you guys but how did you guys get in here?” Security had to be pretty lax if a seven year old and four year old could make it all the way up to the Team Seven offices without being stopped.
“We told the man downstairs our name and he checked them off a list,” supplied Ethan.
So someone knew they were coming if their names were on the visitors’ list. “Well, I’m glad you came to visit.”
“We brought someone for you to see,” piped up Jamie as he gripped JD’s forearm. He became even more agitated after delivering this news and began jumping with more enthusiasm.
“Actually two somebody’s,” corrected his elder brother.
“Yeah, two somebody’s,” agreed the tyke.
Terri’s face appeared around the door of the team seven offices and both boys took off in her direction. JD watched them go, while catching sight of Chris leaning against the door jamb with his arms crossed. ‘Something was up,’ thought JD to himself. The rest of the team either turned in their chairs or stood to look at him. All of them were grinning knowingly. ‘Whatever’s going on, everybody else knows about it.’
Terri wasn’t alone. Beside her was a very tall man with the two little boys, each one hanging onto an arm as they ‘escorted’ him forward. JD now understood why his being a soldier had instilled so much confidence in Ethan during the rescue.
JD lifted his cane off the wall divider beside him where he’d hung it out of the way. He got to his feet and moved carefully around his desk to greet the newcomer, straightening up as tall as he could.
The boys were suddenly quiet. “JD, I’d like you to meet my husband,” said Terri, smiling.
The man in uniform extended his hand. Unsmiling, he introduced himself, “Colonel Thaddeus Lawson, it is an honor to meet you, JD.”
“The honor is mine, Colonel,” replied JD hoping he didn’t sound as nervous as he felt.
“It’s Ted. What you did for me and my family was quite something. I’m in your debt.”
JD raised a dismissive hand. “I just happened to be there, s.., Ted. I sure didn’t do it all by myself. Ter…, ah, Mrs. Lawson and the boys deserve a lot of the credit.”
“I think your modesty is misplaced, you very likely saved the lives of my family. What you did was nothing less than heroic.”
JD felt his face turning red, “I’m sure anybody in that situation would do the same thing.”
“I don’t think so. I deal with ‘situations’ every day; your actions were nothing less than exceptional.” The Colonel stepped forward and held out an envelope. “It’s not much but I hope you will accept this modest token by way of a thank-you.”
‘Oh God, was this embarrassment ever going to end?’ he thought to himself. “Really sir, it isn’t necessary and…well, we’re not supposed to accept gifts.”
“You were right, Larabee,’ said Lawson, glancing briefly at Chris with the first hint of a smile. “He refuses to be thanked.”
“It’s alright, JD,” said Chris nodding his approval.
Reluctantly JD took the envelope. It felt fat. He groaned inwardly thinking the envelope held money, and felt even more embarrassed than ever.
“Look inside, JD,” urged Terri gently.
“Yeah, JD, look inside,” piped up Ethan.
“Yeah,” chimed in Jamie.
It wasn’t money, it was tickets. He took the tickets out of the envelope and fanned them in his hand. He was startled when he realized what the tickets were for. He spread them out on his desk so he could read them.
They were pairs of tickets for professional sports games between Denver based teams and Boston teams for the coming seasons: Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche; New England Patriots versus Denver Broncos; the Celtics and the Nuggets; even Lacrosse games between the Colorado Mammoth and the Boston Cannons and; Soccer games between the Colorado Rapid and the Boston Revolution. All the tickets were for either box or front row seats to all the major professional sports games scheduled here in Denver!
He looked up and gaped at Colonel Lawson. He was speechless. Some of these tickets were expensive, costing almost as much as an entire paycheck! He looked down at the tickets and then up again. He tried to find the words to thank the man but only managed a strangled croaking noise which was met with good natured laughter by everyone in the room.
JD felt himself go even redder and so warm he figured he must be glowing. He coughed to clear his throat before speaking. “Colonel this is really very generous but...”
“JD,” interrupted Chris, “it’s okay. I cleared it with Travis.”
The junior agent swallowed and glanced quickly at the tickets before replying. “Well, then I guess it’s alright…, thank you, thank-you very much sir.”
“No, thank-you,” replied the Colonel finally smiling and holding out his hand.
After JD and Lawson shook hands, Terri hugged him. She drew back and looked up at him, her heart-felt gratitude etched on her face. He bent his head as she stretched up to kiss him on the cheek, and smiled down at her, thinking he could never have pulled off the rescue without her help.
The junior member of the team was saved any further social discomfort by a small voice asking, “Where are your crutches?”
“Yeah, where are your crutches,” echoed Jamie.
“I’ve graduated to this cane,” replied JD, lifting his cane to show the boys.
“Does that mean you’re getting better?” asked Ethan
“It sure does.”
“Can we go for a ride on your horse now?” asked Jamie, his eyes wide with hope.
JD smiled, an elephant’s memory was nothing compared to Jamie Lawson’s. “Well not this very minute but how about this Saturday,” replied JD enthusiastically.
“Hey, Jamie,” called Chris from his office doorway, “what do you say you bring your whole family out to my place on Saturday. We’ll all go riding and then have supper.”
The youngster looked fit to burst as he turned his head to look at his parents. His mother smiled and his father nodded once. Grinning, he turned swiftly back around to face Chris and nodded.
“Okay?” asked Chris.
“Okay!” piped up the little boy happily.
He ran to his mother’s side and hid his face against her hip when his enthusiastic response initiated a room full of chuckles.
JD hobbled over to him and tugged on the hood of his jacket. The tyke peeked around shyly at him.
JD smiled at him “I’m glad you can come. I got a new saddle for my birthday that I haven’t had a chance to try out yet, maybe you can try it out with me - how about it?”
Jamie nodded in agreement.
“Can we bring, JD?” asked Ethan sidling up to his brother.
“Well, yeah, I’m going to be there,” replied JD mildly confused
“No…JD,” said the younger boy with emphasis.
The computer tech frowned slightly, “But…I’m coming.”
“Not you, JD, but our dog, JD,” explained the older boy.
The light dawned. “You named your dog after me?” There was no sound but JD could almost feel the laughter boiling up inside his friends. Buck especially was going to have a riot with this one.
The boys nodded in unison.
“Wow, I’m really honored,” JD said sincerely.
“Come on boys, time to go,” ordered their father gently. “JD,” Colonel Lawson acknowledged as he shook JD’s hand again.
Everyone came forward to shake hands and say good-bye. Terri insisted on bringing dessert for Saturday and in a short time the Lawson family was gone.
Everyone silently went back to their desks. JD waited for the expected teasing over the dog’s name. None came and after a few minutes JD thought maybe none would, until he received the e-mail…
From: Buck Wilmington <BWilmington7@ATFDenver.gov>
To: All Recipients <DenverFieldOffice@ ATFDenver.gov>
Subject: LOST PUPPY
CUTE, CUDDILY & VERY AFFECTIONATE
ANSWERS TO “JD”
IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN TO TEAM 7 OFFICES
~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~
Feedback is always welcome email@example.com