Thanks to Mog for ATF
Main Characters: JD, Buck (all)
Ratings/Warnings: Some violence and bad language
Summary: When it's considered that JD’s health may have compromised his judgment; he and the guys battle to prove that's not the case.
Author's Note: An episode of CSI NY prompted this story, but there's a lovely old movie starring James Stewart called 'Rear Window' that gets the honors, even though I didn't get to see it until my story was almost complete. There's sort of a CSI 'guest star' who features, too ;o)
A successful bust found Team Seven in good spirits and packing up at the operations site in preparation to head out. On a patch of rough ground to one side of the main event, Team tech JD Dunne had shut down the surveillance operation, and was now inside the van humming to himself while cataloging the recorded evidence.
A noise from outside made him curious. As a precaution, he pushed the recordings into the van’s safe and secured its door. JD drew his gun and eased himself toward the van’s closed, sliding doors. He hoped it was one of the guys or maybe a DPD officer moving about out there.
Cautiously, he opened the door a crack, but the instant his gun hand moved partway through the gap he was trying to see through, the door slammed shut, trapping his hand. Pain burned through his fingers and rocketed from his knuckles and up his arm, causing JD to drop the Colt and scream out.
Before he could catch a breath, the door flew fully open. Someone hauled him out through the opening and thumped him down face first onto the hard ground.
"I want those tapes, boy."
Shivering with pain, and cradling his throbbing hand to his chest, JD cast a blurry gaze upward to see a figure looming over him. "Wh…what?" A face pushed right into his.
"Tapes. The ones you've just recorded. Give me them, now!"
JD groaned. "The…they’re…already…gone...been picked up," he fibbed.
"LIAR!" The man’s boot got between JD’s chest and his injured hand and he pressed the damaged limb hard into the unyielding ground. "Tapes…NOW!"
JD’s vision swam. The pain was so intense it robbed him of speech, but his training hadn’t fully deserted him. Gathering what little energy he had left, his one leg lashed out and JD’s foot successfully connected with one of the man’s knees to push the joint in the wrong direction, and producing a satisfying yelp from the gunman as it buckled under him.
"Aaahh, you little shit!" The man grabbed JD’s swinging leg and twisted it.
The action made JD sick to his stomach. The young agent wriggled and kicked out as he finally found his voice. "You sonofabitch, get off me!" OFFICER DOWN! OFFICER…"
The furious gunman realized he was out of time. He stomped down hard on the leg he had just been twisting, and which now lay at an angle on the ground. With JD's fresh cries ringing in his ears, the man moved to limp away across the open ground and into the shadows of nearby buildings, but before leaving, he took a final swing with his boot at the downed agent’s head. Moments later, the man was gone, leaving JD semi-conscious, bleeding, and shivering with pain in the dirt.
Team leader Chris Larabee glanced around the area in satisfaction. His team and backup were uninjured, while another threat of unlicensed semi-automatics flooding the streets of Denver had been successfully thwarted. After handing over control to DPD, and the Crime Scene Unit, Chris was ready to roll, and was even considering buying a beer or two for his team at the Saloon after the debriefing. He figured they’d earned it. The team’s leader grinned as sharpshooter Vin Tanner approached.
"All packed up?"
Vin nodded. "And then some. We’re all itchin’ to get outta here."
Larabee agreed. "Just need to get the mics and headsets back to JD, and…"
Both men’s heads turned toward a cry for help.
In a moment, the two men were right behind Buck, who was already sprinting from where the bust had occurred and off across the open ground toward the parked up surveillance van.
Buck skidded to a halt next to JD and dropped on his knees to the ground. Even in his dazed state, JD knew someone was there. He also knew he was no longer in any condition to fight back and so curled in on himself. A final surge of adrenaline saw him feebly struggle when strong arms enveloped him. Hearing a familiar voice, JD relaxed and closed his eyes in relief.
‘Oh thank God’.
"JD, it’s me, Buck. Jeezus H. Christ, Kid. Easy, easy there." He noted JD trying to tell him something and cradled the youth close. "Say again."
"Some guy...wanted…the surveillance evidence…"
"What the fuck happened here?"
Buck was so focused he hadn’t heard Chris, Vin, and Ezra arrive. Their expressions intense, the latter pair drew their weapons. Vin checked over the immediate ground, and soon he and Ezra strode purposefully off in a direction.
Vin's long legs ate up the ground as his tracking instincts followed the trail from where JD lay injured. Ezra was no slouch, and easily kept up with the Texan while watching their backs, allowing Vin to focus on catching up to this asshole. The southerner almost ran into the back of Vin when he stopped dead and pointed.
In the distance, a black Ford Fusion's back tires kicked up dirt, dust and gravel as it tore away from the open ground and onto the road. Taking up a stance, Vin aimed and fired at the car's tires, with Ezra quickly following, but apart from a few dinks in the bodywork from the bullets, the distance was too great to stop it.
Vin was furious. "SHIT!" He looked about to run after the car.
Standish lowered his weapon and set a hand on the sharpshooter's tense shoulder. "Vin, come on, he's gone. Chris will want answers, and we need to know how JD's doing."
With a resigned slump of his shoulders, Vin nodded. Turning, both men holstered their guns and jogged back to the surveillance van.
After watching Tanner and Standish head off, Chris squatted down next to Buck, who was holding JD's trembling form. Larabee could see the young agent was cradling a hand against his chest, and placed his own hand on JD’s sweat-dampened hair.
"Help’s coming, son, hang in there."
Through dark, moist eyelashes, JD looked up at his team leader and hero. "Some fella…wanted, aahhh…" A wave of pain hit him, and JD felt Buck hold him tighter, while the soothing hand on his brow increased its pressure. Eventually he managed to control his breathing.
"…Wanted the surveillance…tapes." Feeling himself slipping, JD fought through the throbbing in his leg, hand and head one more time. "Jerkass didn’t get ‘em off me, though."
"JD!" Buck’s stomach lurched when JD closed his eyes and slumped against him. Chris checked the kid's carotid pulse before he looked up at a worried Buck.
"He’s out, that’s all."
"That’s all?" Buck hissed. He pointed to the large number of officers and agents hovering and looking their way. "Some random guy gets through all these cops, kicks the crap out of the kid, and you say ‘that’s all'?"
"You know what I mean," Chris snapped back. He was pissed as hell, and in no mood for a disagreement. He wanted payback. He looked up when Josiah and Nathan joined them, along with two paramedics, then frantically toward the direction of gunfire. Chris stood in earnest, and was about to go looking for his missing men when he spied Vin and Ezra returning.
The medical team took over and with one eye on proceedings the six agents stood together while Vin filled them in.
Tanner pointed. "Found a trail leadin’ from here to those far buildin’s. Whoever it was is gone, took off in a black Fusion - no license plate. With the cameras packed away, only JD knows what he looked like." He glanced at Buck when the brunet hissed out an angry ‘Shit!’
Vin continued. "Judgin’ by the way the guy was draggin’ one leg, I’d say JD got in one or two good licks, himself."
"How do we know he wasn’t already favoring one leg?" Josiah asked.
Ezra answered. "Our resident tracker here checked around the van. It would seem the same boot prints shows the assailant to have come around from the rear of the vehicle, and toward the sliding doors."
"Let me guess, there was no hint of a limp at that point," Chris put forward.
"Nope," Vin replied.
They all turned when a gurney rolled up and JD, who was now in a neck brace, was lifted up onto it. His hand was enveloped in a clear, inflatable casing, and there was an IV in his arm.
"Watch the leg," one paramedic warned.
Buck approached, and noted JD’s blue cargo pants had been cut open from hem to crotch, and a larger inflated sheath encased one of his legs. "What’s wrong with his leg?"
As one paramedic raised the gurney to full height and locked it into position, the paramedic holding the IV bag replied. "Judging by the bruising, it looks like his leg was stomped on. It’s a clean break, but there’s some internal bleeding, so he’ll likely need an operation."
The gurney rolled toward the ambulance, and six shocked agents stared after it. Nathan spoke, his voice tense. "The jerkass broke the kid’s leg?"
"His hand, too," one EMT called back.
A furious and highly emotional Buck glanced at Chris, who jerked his head for him to follow and go with JD. Chris figured Buck was going anyway. He then looked to Josiah.
"Wait for forensics to dust for prints and to haul the van back to the garage. If we're lucky, maybe this guy put a hand on it, and right now, apart from JD's testimony, that’s the only lead we've got. When done, go to the office." He addressed the four agents.
"Guys, I know we want to be with JD, and we will, but right now, this case is red hot. A Federal Agent was attacked, and I need to know what’s on those evidence tapes to provoke such violence. We don't need to guess whether JD followed protocol, so the tapes are locked in the safe inside the van. Vin, you and Ezra take them back to the office and start searching through them. Nathan, go back with Vin and Ezra, and make a start on the bust report. I’ll finish up here, and then meet you all back at the office. From there, we’ll head over to the hospital."
With nods, each man set about his allocated task.
Two hours later, Chris, weary from frustration, walked into the bullpen. Vin and Ezra were already there and at their computers. Vin nodded.
"Reports are done; we’re ready to go to the hospital."
Chris looked perplexed. "What about the tapes?"
Ezra logged off his consul and stood. "Scrutinized to the maximum. There is no one on there we weren’t expecting, so we’ve handed them over to CSU."
"There has to be something. No one would go to all that trouble for nothing," Chris insisted.
Nathan also rose to his feet. "JD watched and heard the whole thing; he would be able to spot something out of place."
Chris made a face. "Yeah, well, he’s hardly in a position to help right now, is he?" They all turned toward the door when Josiah entered.
"Any luck with the van?" Chris asked.
"Some partials and a heel print from the palm of a left hand were found on the rear edge of the door. They’re being run through AFIS now, but it could take some time."
"The door?" Vin asked.
Josiah took up a book from a desk, held its unbound edges, and emulated the action of a sliding door closing with speed. Ezra paled.
"Are they signifying that's how JD's hand was injured?"
Josiah nodded. "Skin and blood on the edges of the van where the door meets, and on the door, are a match to JD’s."
"The guy slammed the kid’s hand in the door, and stomped on it, and then broke JD's leg," Vin more stated, than asked. There was fury in his steely-blue gaze.
The room went silent until Chris spoke. "Come on, we have to be somewhere."
When the five men arrived in the surgical waiting room, Buck was sitting bent over in one of the chairs and resting his elbows on his knees. His hair was almost upright from where nervous fingers had pushed it around.
"Any news?" Chris asked.
Buck looked up. "Kid just came out of surgery. I’m waiting on word so I can go see him."
Josiah sat next to Buck. "If he’s in no danger, Buck, why are you so wound up?" He raised one placatory hand at the stare. "Setting aside from the fact JD was attacked. That horror goes without saying."
Buck glanced around at them all. "The jerkass broke JD's hand, and the doc seemed more concerned about that than the kid's leg. JD lives for this job, the technology, his computer. What if…?"
"No ‘what ifs,’" Vin snapped, catching them all by surprise. "He’s gonna be fine. We’ll make sure he keeps up any physical therapy, and he’ll have that hand operational in no time."
Buck actually grinned at the normally chilled out Texan's outburst. "Hell, yeah," he agreed.
"Hello, there," a nurse said as she entered the room.
"Agent Dunne is in his room and coming to nicely. He was a little sick earlier, while in recovery, but seeing as his surgery was unplanned, it’s not surprising he may have eaten before the incident. If you’re ready, I’ll take you to see him," she said, aiming her comment at Buck.
"We’re all coming," Chris insisted.
As the nurse was about to protest, a doctor entered. "Don’t worry, Nurse Bell, I know these men." He extended a hand. "Chris."
Larabee shook the offered hand. "Paul. Were you his surgeon?"
"I was, and did a fine job, even if I say so myself. My colleague, Rafe Cooper worked on JD’s leg, but I told him I’d come down here and let you know the score." He paused to allow the men a moment to absorb the information.
"Rafe tells me there was some pressure inside the leg which was pooling blood. That’s been taken care of, and the bone is reset. Because of the internal issue, JD will have a temporary cast for now, and then when he comes back for his checkup, providing all is well, he’ll be switched to a fiberglass cast."
"And his hand?" Buck pushed.
"Some small bones were broken, and there’s a lot of bruising and swelling, but I feel confident, with stringent physiotherapy, the hand will be fully functional."
The six men collectively sighed in relief.
"JD will be off work for at least six weeks due to his injuries, so I’m insisting that time also be used for therapy before he uses the hand professionally. It may turn out to be excessive, but as far as I’m concerned, the more the hand is exercised, the healthier the flexibility."
"Then that’s what will happen," Chris agreed.
"His head wound?" Nathan asked.
"No internal swelling, so not as serious as first feared, and which has been successfully glued. Though I’m guessing the patch of hair we’ve shaved off won’t go down too well with him."
"He needed a haircut, anyway," Buck suggested.
Doctor Paul Henson smiled. "So let’s go see him, yes?"
"You really have to ask?" Buck huffed, urging the man to lead the way.
Paul laughed. "I guess not."
Lying in a hospital bed, JD could hear voices, but his eyelids felt like lead and refused to cooperate when he tried to open them. He'd already recalled recent events, so knew he was in the hospital. What he was yet to learn, was how bad his injuries were.
"Open those eyes, Squirt. We know you’re in there."
Hearing Buck’s voice, JD’s lashes fluttered, but he failed to oblige. "Can’t," he sighed. He felt a hand on his bandaged head.
"No sweat. I've seen your eyes before anyhow."
That did it, and cracks of hazel appeared. It was obvious JD was trying to move his hand, but the heavily bandaged limb wouldn’t budge. JD’s eyes opened, and widened in fear as he glanced down quickly at the mass of bandages, before fearfully turning his head away from the image. Chris leaned in.
"What was broken is fixed, but it’s going to take time, and patience to be fully functional. However, we could really use your help and the sooner the better, so rest up."
JD stared at Chris until, with a nod, he did just that and his eyes closed. Buck’s shimmering gaze fixed on Larabee. "Always said you could send folk to sleep," he teased.
Chris made a face. "Shut up, Buck," he warned while taking a seat at the bedside, and opposite Buck, "or you're next on my list, and I won’t be so gentle." The others followed Chris and shuffled the chairs to be closer to the bed.
Buck smiled at the comment, and then sobered as he looked down at JD. "Fine, but if it's alright with you, not just yet, okay?"
"Don’t fret, Bucklin," Vin said softly. "JD ain’t gonna be alone, here."
Buck nodded, but didn’t look up. "I kinda figured on that, thanks."
There would be a point when the group would disperse and then stay with JD in shifts. However, for now they would remain close, while taking the time to contemplate recent events, and how fortunate they were that, on this occasion, they hadn't lost one of their own. Each agent was considering what he would like to do to the man who attacked JD, and hoped an opportunity would present itself. Their wish, next to JD's speedy recovery, was for their meeting with him to be soon.
While still in hospital, one week on found JD helping with the tapes that he'd fought so hard to protect. After listening to the audio tapes, of which CSU expertly singled out individual noises and voices, JD realized he'd inadvertently picked up an unrelated conversation about another shipment. A delivery the guy they were initially after, Cole Marlin, was apparently unaware of.
Undergoing a covert investigation based on the findings, the team hoped the perpetrators would think their scheme undiscovered. They were right, and executed another successful bust. Limping man, JD's attacker, was arrested at the bust and finally identified as Brock Cash. Thanks to DPD, he narrowly escaped six agents setting on him.
Well, not entirely.
Purely in the interest of apprehending Cash, of course, Buck and Vin got in a whump or two, or three, before Chris intervened. Cash’s reaction to Larabee’s steely glare and follow-up forearm to his throat while pinning Cash against a wall, was a satisfaction all of its own. Chris would enjoy telling JD the guy peed his pants.
Two and a half weeks after the attack JD was sent home, and due to his busted hand being unable to handle crutches, he was restricted to a wheelchair in order to get around. With even the simplest of movements being slow and awkward, the young agent was going stir crazy. JD had played every electronic game he and Vin owned and the internet was only keeping his interest for some of the time as looking at his bandaged hand for long spells was simply too distressing. A sympathetic Vin loaned JD his spyglass until the youth was more mobile.
Over the next two weeks, the young agent could be found ensconced in the wheelchair, and out on the decking of his and Buck’s apartment scanning the vista. One day, and while intermittently tossing Peanut M&Ms into the air to catch them in his mouth, JD was looking at distant apartment blocks. Movement in one window piqued his curiosity and he focused in.
"What the…? Oh crap!"
Through the monocular, he saw a man, whose arm, moments later, lunged downward. After several sharp movements up and down, it was apparent he was holding a knife. JD watched in disbelief while subconsciously feeding himself an M&M, which nestled on his tongue as the youth stared in disbelief.
With a gasp, his back thumped hard against the chair's rear support in reaction to seeing a bloodied female slamming face first against the window he was spying on. She then turned, appeared to scream at the man approaching her, and slipped downwards and beyond JD's eye line.
The boy's sharp intake of breath forced the M&M in his mouth backwards, and the youth began choking. He coughed, and coughed in a desperate effort to dislodge the candy-coated ball and was about to go into a full-on panic when the M&M shot out of his mouth, hit the decking rail and rolled harmlessly across the boards.
Still coughing, JD took a moment or two to catch his breath, but as he swiped at his watering eyes, he remembered why he was initially shocked. The spyglass was lying on the deck and out of his reach, preventing him from any further observation, so with one hand, the boy hastily tried to turn the wheelchair. He howled out in agony as he crashed his casted, outstretched leg into a deck lounger. He took a calming breath, which caused more coughing, and it took some maneuvering, but he eventually succeeded in getting into the living room. Once there, he grabbed his cell, dialed and waited anxiously, relief evident when his call was picked up. Choking, and coughing had made his throat sore, and his raspy voice burbled out his findings.
"Buck! Thank God. I just saw some guy kill a woman! Huh? No, no, through the spyglass. What? Where? Uh, in the apartments a few blocks over…am I what?" He huffed in frustration. "Dreaming?" he rasped. "No! I haven't been sleeping…huh? No! I haven't taken any meds recently, either. I'm what now? Jeeze, Buck, are you even listening? Damnit, quit chuckling, I'm serious!"
JD's agitated fingers pushed back the dark locks dangling in his eyes while he listened. His shoulders suddenly slumped.
"I didn’t call it in ‘cause there was this M&M, and…well I'm calling it in now!" JD sighed. "Never mind." He rubbed at his aching throat. "Sorry I bothered you."
The men in the Team Seven bullpen stared at Buck as he chuckled down the phone. It hadn’t taken them long to realize he was talking to JD, but were concerned as to how the conversation ended.
"Why didn’t you call it in to dispatch? Kid, wait! You’re not bothering me…JD? JD!" Buck closed his cell. "Damn." He stood.
"I gotta go."
Vin was first to approach. "JD okay?"
"Sure, uh, no, uh, aw hell, I don’t know."
"Buck!" Vin pushed. All but Chris had joined them now.
Buck scrubbed at his hair. "The kid said he witnessed a murder…" He halted the onslaught of impending questions. "As he was talking I was thinking maybe he'd been looking around with that spyglass while in the chair – then fallen asleep." He touched at his throat. "His voice was all gravely, you know, like it is when he's just woken up."
"And so you think he dreamed the whole thing," Josiah rounded up.
Buck nodded. "Well, it makes sense, I guess." Even as he said it, the tall brunet was having doubts. JD had sounded so adamant.
"And if he wasn’t dreamin’?" Vin asked.
Nathan cut in. "JD suffered a head injury…"
"Considered to be not overly serious," Ezra reminded.
Nathan continued. "…Yeah, but a head injury, nevertheless. That, and the meds he’s been prescribed…"
"…Would make it tough to get a warrant," Chris chimed in as he joined the group. "Still, JD’s a Federal Agent, and a pretty sharp one at that. I’ll go talk to homicide."
Buck grabbed his jacket to leave. "Well, I feel like a prize ass, now."
"Only now?" Ezra ribbed.
"Funny, Standish. My sides are splitting, here." Buck thumbed toward the door. "I’m heading home. Got me some crow to eat, and a sulky housemate to cheer up."
"We could all go," Vin suggested.
Buck nodded. "Sure, great idea, but give me time to say sorry first, huh? About half an hour...and bring pizza!"
Back at the CDC, JD was once again on the deck. After a considerable effort he retrieved the spyglass and was once again watching the suspect apartment, but the man had closed the drapes. He lowered the spyglass and glared at his raised, cast leg. "I’m sitting here like a bump on a log, while that guy over there is destroying evidence."
He raised his bandaged hand and tried to flex it, but the heavy wrappings made it stiff, and awkward. His attention reverted to his outstretched leg and its bright blue cast, which sported six signatures and several comments in varying degrees of vulgarity or humor. He suddenly slammed down his good fist on the arm of the wheelchair.
"Damnit, I need to get over there…"
Seconds after Buck’s call, the tall man was next to JD and squatting on his haunches. He noted JD look down at the decking, and he put a hand on JD’s arm.
"Hey, I’m sorry about earlier, I was wrong...teasing you like that."
A hazel gaze fixed on deep blue orbs filled with sincerity, and after a few seconds, JD offered a crooked grin. He shrugged.
"Nah, I can’t really blame you. I must’ve sounded crazy."
"No more than usual." Buck chuckled at the poke to his shoulder that set him off-balance, and he grabbed the arm of the wheelchair for support.
"I just thought maybe you’d been watching TV, fallen asleep, dreamed a little…your voice when you called, it sounded kinda...sleepy."
JD touched at his tender throat and glanced across at the distant apartment. Since placing the call, his own doubts about his sanity were slowly creeping in. He sighed. "I’m starting to wonder if maybe I did dream it all."
"Well, Chris wanted to be sure…"
Vin’s voice filtered through seconds before he stepped onto the decking. The Texan pointed toward the apartment. "Homicide and DPD are over there right now."
Buck looked up a little surprised. JD gawped. "Chris believed me?"
"We all believed you Kid." Vin nodded to Buck. "The big guy here knew you were on the level as soon as he put down the phone, and he left right there and then to put you straight. That’s when Chris took action."
JD glanced shyly at Buck and offered a grin when Buck squeezed his arm. "They actually got a warrant?" JD asked.
Vin shook his head. "No, there wasn’t enough to go on, but they'll ask permission to enter. If he refuses, they’ll go with probable cause based on officer observation and exigent circumstances." Vin grinned at the expressions of the two staring back at him. "Food's on the way, so how about I make us some coffee?"
Buck jumped up. He actually wanted to drink it, and Vin’s coffee was way too potent for his, and most of the other guys’ tastes, though JD seemed to cope with it in small doses. "Thanks anyway, Junior, but I’ll make it."
Vin watched Buck leave and winked at JD. "Works every time."
JD giggled and then passed Vin the spyglass. The sharpshooter looked across and, following JD’s directions, found the apartment just as a man was opening the drapes.
Vin turned to JD and returned the spyglass for him to look. "Depends on whether he refused them entry. If there’s nothin' that can be secured due to plain sight, we’re screwed, anyway."
"But I saw…" JD’s shoulders slumped. "Right, I get it. I might be considered an unreliable witness."
"Not entirely," Vin reminded. "But without more to go on, we just might have to let this one go."
"Aw man, that sucks." JD's head snapped toward Vin. "What if CSI…?"
"Kid," Vin gently interrupted. He smiled at the nod of acceptance from JD. If the man checked out, it was over.
By the time the three men sitting on the deck drank their coffees, the rest of the team had joined them, accompanied by Connor Fielding of DPD Homicide Division. Now sitting together, the latter took notes as JD recalled what he saw. Judging by the detail, the detective was in no doubt that JD witnessed something bad going down in that apartment, but despite his opinion, the news wasn’t good.
"His name is Rob Davies. The apartment appeared spotless, and there is no record of him having anyone sharing his home. You say the woman was blonde?"
JD nodded. "And tall, judging by the way she hit the window," he gulped "Unless her feet were off the floor."
Connor shrugged. "Well, when those drapes opened, we could’ve eaten a meal off that glass, it looked so clean."
JD's good hand punched the arm of the wheelchair in frustration.
"JD?" Chris asked.
"I should’ve kept watching, even when he closed the drapes. He must have cleaned that window during the last hour."
"So, you believe there was blood on it?" Fielding asked, still scribbling.
"Sure to have been." JD raised his hand and turned his cheek to the side. "She hit it like this, with her hands, face, and part of her body. Then she turned and slipped to the floor, and I lost sight of her." The whole event suddenly caught up with the young agent and he shivered.
Fielding stood and patted JD’s shoulder. "Leave it with me. We’ll look out for any recent missing females and get some photos to you as soon as we have matches to your description. Maybe then we can tie in a female to this guy. Due to the circumstances, this won’t be top priority, but I’ll keep in touch."
With a nod to them all, and a shake of Chris’s hand, Connor left. Silence reigned for a few moments, and then JD spoke. "Thanks for believing in me, guys."
A knock on the door made Vin jump to his feet. "At last. Pizza!"
Larabee smiled at Vin, and then returned his focus to JD. His reply caused them all to grin. "Kid, you’re one of us, why wouldn’t we believe you?"
In the early hours of the morning, JD twitched and tossed in his sleep. In his dreams, he was lying on the ground next to the surveillance van. He couldn’t move his throbbing hand and leg and desperately wanted to in order to help the blond woman lying next to him in a growing puddle of blood.
"Miss? Hey, you okay?" He jolted when the twisted features of Brock Cash were right in his face.
"You lied about the tapes, and then you ratted me out."
JD stared in horror as Cash stabbed the woman on the ground next to him. JD cried out in pain as Cash stomped on his hand and the youth hollered louder when the man’s hands grasped his arms.
"Aaaarrrggghhh! No, NO!"
"JD! It’s Buck. Hey, easy there, Li’l Buddy, you’re dreaming."
Jolting awake, JD blinked and finally looked at the face close to his. He ran a trembling hand over his moist features. "Buck?" JD puffed out his cheeks. "Wow that seemed so real. Sorry."
"Hey, no need to apologize. You should know that."
JD smiled. "Yeah, thanks." He lifted his wrist to check his watch. "What day is it?"
"Thursday." Buck released JD's arms and scooted closer from his position on the edge of the bed. "Kid, you wanna talk some?" He helped JD sit up.
"Nah, you go back to bed, you've got work tomorrow."
"Uh, actually, after yesterday’s events, Chris let me take a couple of personal days."
JD couldn’t disguise his relief. He’d been so fed up sitting home alone. He sighed. "I just can’t get past that the woman I saw being attacked needs someone to stand up for her. I mean, I guess she’s likely dead, but, I just hate to think of her whole life becoming nothing more important than discarded trash…" He sat straighter.
"Trash! It’s Thursday?"
Buck nodded, surprised when JD grabbed his cell and dialed. "Nick!"
"JD…" Buck tried, but JD waved him off.
"Hi, yeah. Aww, I’m doing okay, thanks. Nick, when do you get off shift? Uh, could I ask a favor of you, it’s kind of a big one?"
Next morning, and Buck couldn’t quite believe it was 6:15 a.m. and he and JD were standing next to an apartment block dumpster. Nick Palmer of the Denver CSU popped his head up from inside the large, metal can.
"Dumpster diving on my own time. You owe me big for this one, guys."
JD nodded. "You bet. Sorry it’s such a rush job, but it’s trash day and we don’t have much time."
Nick frowned and patted the metal. "If you get a warrant, this baby stays put ‘til we’re done with it." He noted JD make a face.
"We don’t really have much to go on," Buck explained.
"Here’s the thing," JD continued. "I’m pretty sure I saw a woman being murdered, but even though Chris humored me and called in homicide, the guy’s place was sparkling when he let them in, and there was no evidence of a woman living with him, or having visited." He pointed to the dumpster.
"On a case, once, you told me trash on the street is public domain."
Nick grinned. "Absolutely. Plain sight. So, I’m looking for blood?"
"And whatever it takes to scrub a murder scene clean, I guess," Buck answered.
Nick nodded. "Well, come on, big guy, many hands make light work. I got more coveralls and gloves in my truck, there."
Buck narrowed his eyes at JD. "Great, and before breakfast, too."
JD shrugged and held up his bandaged hand and pointed to his cast leg. "What? You figure I should go in there?"
Laughing, Nick set to work. When Buck joined him, he intimated what to watch out for, and handed him evidence bags.
Just under fifteen minutes and Nick whooped. "Paydirt!"
The next hour and a half was painstakingly spent collecting up bloody rags, bleach bottles and anything in the immediate vicinity in the hope of obtaining fingerprints. One trash bag had not only rags in it, but also a receipt for a restaurant dinner for two.
"If this lot pans out, we should be able to tie it in to an apartment owner," Nick enthused.
JD’s grin was dazzling; fading to a grimace when Buck attempted to ‘share’ what was on his gloved hands. To the distant sound of a refuse van picking up, Nick closed his truck door.
"Buck, tell the trash collectors I’m calling this in as a crime scene. Other officers will be with you soon. Meanwhile, I’ll get to work and let you know my findings." He went serious. "Don’t get your hopes up…"
JD nodded. "Hey, you did your best, man. I can’t thank you enough."
"Oh yeah, you’ll thank me, alright. I’ll let you know when you can treat me to the biggest, juiciest steak in Denver."
JD watched Nick climb into his truck and nodded to him. "You got it."
Later that day, JD was back on the apartment decking and staring at the suspect apartment block. He sighed. "Where did you dump her, you asshole?"
Buck joined him and on a wooden table, set down some sandwiches, a glass of milk and JD’s meds. "Quit beating yourself up, Kid. If you hadn’t been home, none of us would be any the wiser."
JD turned sad eyes to his partner. "But I was home, and all I can think about is who she was, and whether anyone’s missing her."
Buck placed a comforting hand on the crown of JD’s head. "I know, Kid, and I can’t fault you for it. Once a cop loses that compassion, it just becomes a job, so you keep feeling it, and you’ll make a great cop." Buck smiled. "Just remember not to let it overwhelm you."
"How do I do that?" JD asked, his voice became hushed and brittle.
Buck smiled, compassionately. "It’s a skill acquired over time, and through experience. You’ll get there, but like I said, the best of us never completely beat it."
JD glanced from Buck toward the building across the way. Letting this go was too hard. The phone rang and Buck went to answer it. Seconds later he was back and as he sat down next to the boy, passed the handset to JD.
"Hello?" JD said. "Oh, hi, Vin." JD looked at Buck. "Sure, we could meet you there…"
Even though Buck had no clue as to where JD needed to be, he nodded that he would drive.
"Okay, what time? Sure, see you, then." JD’s eyes were wide. "Vin said Detective Fielding wants to see me – uh, us."
Buck’s eyebrows rose. "Did Vin say why?"
JD shook his head. He checked his watch. "Downtown, in an hour."
Standing, Buck squeezed JD’s arm. "Okay, you eat your lunch, and take your pills, and I’ll prepare the way." As Buck left, he hoped whatever Connor had to say wouldn’t lead JD toward false hope.
JD and Buck were the last of the team to arrive. The rest of Team Seven were seated or standing around a briefing room at Denver PD headquarters. Connor Fielding approached JD and smiled.
"Thanks for coming by."
"You have news?" JD asked, a hint of a tremor in his voice. He noted Fielding glance at Chris and the guys, and all of them smiled before he spoke.
"Take a seat, Buck," Connor said. He then pulled up a chair next to JD’s wheelchair. Before he could talk again, the door opened and Nick Palmer walked in.
"Howdy, boys. Hey, JD, fist bump." He faked a move to JD’s bandaged hand, and then grinned when JD chuckled.
Detective Fielding sat back. "Nick, why don’t you give them the details?"
"Be happy to." He set a large folder down on the briefing table, and pulled an evidence board close before pinning up several photographs. Using a laser light, he pointed first to a man.
"This is Rob Davies, the guy who rents the apartment JD was watching. This here is Hayley Roker, part time underwear model, and part time beautician at ‘Glamor Puss’ Salon in Downtown Denver. Her roommate and fellow beautician reported her missing yesterday morning." He looked at JD, his gaze saddening.
"A security guard found her body dumped behind an abandoned furniture warehouse on East 57th. She had multiple stab wounds." Nick could see JD’s throat rippling, but pushed on. "Coincidentally, Davies used to date the daughter of the guy who owned the business, before it folded."
"Prior knowledge of the area," Connor interjected.
"Bit of a stretch," Chris pointed out, pushing off the wall he was leaning against to move closer to JD.
"Ah, well," Nick continued, "thanks to Buck’s and my early morning dumpster diving, we confirmed that the blood evidence and cleaning products in one trash bag belongs to Davies's apartment. Homicide obtained a warrant, and even though the guy scrubbed that place raw, he couldn’t hide everything, and we found evidence of the clean up. We’re sure that’s where the bulk of Ms. Roker’s injuries occurred, though we can’t say for sure if that’s where she died."
"Murder weapon?" Josiah asked.
"Not as yet, but the evidence is pretty conclusive even without it," Connor replied. "And we have us an eye witness, too." He patted JD’s arm.
"How…how old was she…uh, Hayley?" JD asked quietly.
"Twenty five," Fielding answered.
"Flying in from New York later."
"Good, good." JD went thoughtful.
"So, you’ve arrested Davies?" Buck asked.
Fielding shook his head. "Sadly, no. He must’ve figured things out. The guy’s in the wind." He looked at Nick, who nodded in agreement.
Palmer placed a picture on the table in front of JD. "Kid, I know her family’s coming in but, are you up to looking at a photo of Hayley for identification?"
The young agent felt a hand on his shoulder. A quick glance at the dark blue shirt cuff told him it belonged to Chris. "Sure." His reply was soft and raspy. JD cleared his throat. "Yeah, sure," he said, much more clearly.
JD looked at the woman's photo on the whiteboard, sans injuries, and then the one in his hand of the bruised face of a dead female lying on a mortuary table and covered up to her shoulders in a cloth bloodied with a 'V' outline. Although her features were pressed up against glass, her image that day had been as clear as if he was standing in front of her. JD's misty eyes looked at Nick, and then Fielding. The young agent hadn’t realized he was holding his breath and needed a sharp lungful of air to speak.
"Yeah. When she hit that window - it was only for a moment or two but – I saw her clearly."
Nick winked. "Thanks, and this guy?" He pointed at Davies. "Just for the record."
JD studied the photo, but his expression turned to one of frustration. "I…" He shrugged. "Sorry, he kinda looks familiar but...I can’t be sure."
Nick scooped up the photo and nodded. "No sweat. Thanks, Kid."
The tension in the room was palpable. To lift the mood, Nathan spoke up. "Hey, isn’t it today you get fitted with your walking boot?"
It worked. JD finally gave a small grin at the thought of freedom from the wheelchair – he could hardly wait. "Yeah."
Buck checked his watch. "We’re going to the hospital in an hour."
"Want some company?" Vin asked.
JD beamed at the request. Buck smiled. "Sure."
"Oh, sure," Chris huffed. "It’s not like we’ve got anything else to do, right?"
Josiah, Nathan, and Ezra laughed. Tanner grinned when his and Chris’s eyes met and he saw the approval there.
Having waited at the hospital’s orthopedic department for over half an hour, Buck looked longingly toward the room JD was taken to fifteen minutes earlier. Vin had gone in search of something sweet to eat and hadn’t returned by the time the doctor appeared from the room that JD was in. He joined Buck in the waiting area and Buck stood.
"Is JD ready to go?"
"Pretty much," the doctor nodded. "We’re adjusting the air pressure to find a comfortable setting for the boot." He gestured for them to sit. "Let me run through how the boot works with you while JD tests out the latest setting."
In the room, JD was dressed in a hospital gown and sitting on an examination bed with his legs outstretched. He stared at the boot and smiled. Finally, he would be able to walk around unaided, well, with forearm crutches at first, ‘til he got the hang of it. JD looked up when an orderly wearing a scrubs cap and mask walked into the room and pushed his wheelchair toward the bed.
"I’ve been asked to take you to Radiology," the man said.
JD frowned. "Really?" The wheelchair and man remained at his side, so he slid off the bed by use of the crutches he would soon be dependent on, and dropped into the chair. 'Thank God I've got my boxers on', he thought as his gown rode up from the movement.
"Doc asked me to give you this." The orderly handed JD a bottle of water.
"I’m not thirsty, thanks," JD said.
The man started to push the chair. "Doc said you seemed a little dehydrated."
Realizing he actually was a little dry, JD opened the bottle. When alone, he did tend to leave long gaps between drinks, and even then, it was more likely he’d have soda, not water. He took one good, long gulp and was taking another when something odd hit his taste buds. JD surreptitiously spat some back into the bottle and resealed it, and then raised a crutch and pointed forward.
"Let’s ride!" he grinned, but the man’s mask never so much as twitched. JD shrugged to himself. Ah well, *he’d* thought it was funny.
"What's with the mask?" he asked.
"I've got a heavy cold, and have to keep it contained," came the short reply.
The young tech turned his head and looked up at the man. He stared at his eyes for a moment.
"Have we met?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Oh. It’s just that, you kinda seem familiar."
Resigned to the man being the quiet type, JD relaxed back in the chair for the rest of the ride.
They exited the room and as he rolled down the corridor, JD spotted Buck and Vin in another room and talking with the doctor. He went to call out, but they passed by too quickly. "Uh, could you tell the men who brought me here where I’m going?"
The man patted his arm. "That’s what the doctor’s doing, now."
Moving toward the elevators, JD yawned. Man, he was tired, yet all he seemed to do recently was sit around doing nothing - and sleeping. He was really looking forward to walking again. He'd never appreciated before how much he could miss such an everyday activity. JD yawned again. By the time they were in the elevator car, he was struggling to keep his eyes open. His hand touched the bottled water with its odd taste and a thought struck him. 'Tampered with?'
Vin had returned to the room and the talk with the doctor was brief and to the point.
"Can we go in with JD, now?" Buck asked as he gestured to the treatment room.
"Yes, I don’t see why not. I feel sure we’ve got the pressure of the boot right this time."
The three walked into the room and collectively frowned to find it empty.
"Where is he?" Vin asked uneasily, the hairs on the back of his neck were standing to attention.
"Wheelchair’s gone," Buck pointed out. "Did he need to be somewhere?"
The confused doctor shook his head. "No. His appointment today was with me, and only me." His eyes opened in alarm when Vin drew his gun from a shoulder holster tucked inside his buckskin jacket, while Buck strode out into the corridor.
"He hadn’t walked yet?" Vin asked as he examined the area for clues.
"Not yet, he'd just stood, with my support, at the side of the bed. Walking was the next stage. I left him to get used to the new pressure before trying to stand again. Once I had the pressure right, I was going to go through what he should be doing over the next week."
"Bathroom?" Tanner's questions always became more direct as his concern grew.
"Possible. It’s just down the hallway."
Vin went to leave.
Tanner stopped to look back at the doctor.
"Wouldn’t we have noticed him pass by?"
Vin’s features darkened. "Clearly not. Tell security we need the hospital sealed off, and some help with the search, now!"
Buck paced the corridor and stopped anyone passing through in order to show them a photo of JD and ask if they’d seen him. He dialed his cell. "Chris, we’ve lost JD." He jerked the phone away from his ear when Chris responded.
"Quit yelling, it won’t help." He looked at Vin as he approached.
"Right here with me, now. The kid was just in the treatment room…we were practically right opposite, Chris. Huh? Davies? Well, it's crossed our minds, yeah. What? Well, what I'm doing right now is standing here giving you a heads up…right…fine!" Buck snapped his phone shut and looked at Vin. "Chris and the guys are on their way and he wants us to keep on it...like we weren't going to..."
Vin raised a hand. "Let it go, Bucklin. You know Chris hates us knowin' he's worried." The sharpshooter scanned the shiny, linoleum floor. "Any thoughts?"
"A treatment or therapy the Doc forgot about?" Even as he said it, Buck had serious doubts.
"Unlikely, and if the kid needed the bathroom, he would’ve said so, right?"
"Right, or we’d’ve least have heard him making his way there." Buck’s features reflected serious concern. "Vin…"
The Texan shook his head. "He’s here, Bucklin. Let’s find him." He pointed as he made a call. "Ezra, when you get here, check out the security cameras and…" Vin nodded. "Yeah, thanks." He turned to Buck.
"There are black scuff marks from the sole of a shoe that lead out of the room and off this way."
Conversations over, the pair held their guns in check and followed the sporadic black marks, moving from room to room and checking every nook and cranny to spot clues on their missing friend's whereabouts.
Despite his wooly state of mind, JD would recognize the Radiotherapy Unit when he saw it, and where they were now sure as hell wasn’t right. The guy expected him to be drugged, so he played possum as they walked through a maze of corridors, and eventually felt the chair roll to a stop. The orderly walked just ahead of them to open a door, but when the man walked into a room, pulled off the scrubs cap, and mask, and tossed them aside, JD’s world narrowed.
Suddenly he knew why the guy’s face was familiar. Admittedly, he had only seen it briefly through a spyglass, and in a photo pinned to a whiteboard, but he was in no doubt his orderly was Rob Davies, the man considered to be Hayley Roker’s murderer.
JD's head was still bowed, and his mind no less fuzzy. The drug was making him clammy, and nauseous. Moving cautiously, he checked the cell phone that he'd slipped down the side of the chair was still there, and then did a quick and sneaky inspection. From the crumbling décor and surroundings he managed to spy, he was pretty sure he was in the bowels of the hospital, likely the area where the boiler room and utility operations were located. The man exited the room and walked back toward his position in the corridor. JD continued to fake sleep, in his limited physical condition, he would need any advantage he could get.
Davies rolled the chair and its slumped passenger into a laundry room. Inside were dozens of large, wheeled storage bins filled with items waiting to be laundered. Rows of clutter-free, stainless steel worktops were ready for their next clean batch. The air was rank with the odor of soiled garments and linen, topped off with the heaviness of a steamy room set in the basement of an old building, and devoid of fresh air.
Once in the center of the room, the man parked up JD’s chair, walked toward one of the laundry bins, and fished around inside it. JD's head was lowered, but through a veil of dark, damp bangs he watched, and barely stopped himself from crying out when he saw Davies pull out a twisted sheet and reveal a large knife wrapped inside it. JD’s fingers pressed buttons on his hidden cell, and he hoped his message didn’t end up as just a jumble of letters when he pressed 'send'.
Davies approached his victim. He held the knife low and its blade glinted in the dim, overhead fluorescent lights. JD waited. He was pretty sure he’d only get one shot at this, and had to make it count.
"Who'd have thought...?" Rob said to who he believed to be a sleeping captive, "...not just a nosy little shit for a neighbor, but a cop, too. Well, you’re not the only one who can poke around. Didn’t take me long to figure out where an eye-witness could have been situated when I disposed of that clingy little pain-in-the-ass, Hayley, especially after I saw you, your roommate, and that other fella in the alley, and those two climbing all over that dumpster." He leaned over JD and put the tip of the knife to the boy’s jaw. "Yeah…I was that close to you…almost as close as I am now."
JD felt the knife tip move to his neck and just under his ear.
"This time I'm walking away with no witnesses."
JD felt a sharp scratch, and in one, slick movement his cast leg came up off the chair’s leg rest. It went between the man’s legs and connected solidly with his family jewels. Davies’s eyes went wide and the blood drained from his face. His hands clutched at the damaged area and he slowly slid on his knees to the floor while emitting a strained, high-pitched whine.
JD’s good hand maneuvered the chair's wheel so his boot-covered leg swung and smacked the kneeling man in the side of his head. Bending forward, JD’s outstretched fingers edged toward the released knife that lay on the floor. He cried out when Davies’s hand grabbed his bandaged wrist. Thankfully, the man’s pain was far from diminishing and he couldn’t maintain his hold when JD swiveled from his waist and his good hand punched Davies in the face.
In the split-second he released JD and grabbed blindly at a wheel, JD pushed up on his good leg to escape the chair. He toppled heavily to one side and grabbed at one of the big, wheeled laundry storage bins for support. The bin's wheels rolled forward from the pressure and it took a few seconds for JD to get his balance, but soon he was using the bin like a walker to propel himself closer to the door. JD almost made it when a hand fisted the back of his hair.
Mid-search of the floor they were currently on; Buck stopped and patted his front jeans pocket. Vin watched the man take out his cell and tap it a few times before his anxious features brightened. "JD's texted. It’s a little garbled, but..." he showed the text to Vin, "...this says laundry room, yeah?"
Vin took the offered phone and read the garbled message.
> Hrlp laumdry room. <
He smiled, but there was little cheer in it. "Let’s go." He and Buck looked up when Chris and Nathan joined them.
"Josiah and Ezra are checking the security cameras for JD and Davies. They have JD's laptop; JD recently installed a facial recognition program…" He noted Vin and Buck nod. The latter spoke.
"He sent us a message."
As Buck showed the pair the message, Larabee's phone rang and he listened before closing the cell and placing it in his pocket.
Chris nodded. "Confirmed; the program has pinpointed Davies in a corridor on the hospital's lower ground level." He started jogging. "Let’s go."
Despite staggering backwards from Davies’s hand tugging his hair, JD managed to spin the bin he was clinging to and slam it into the man. Dragging his bad leg, JD half walked, half fell from bin, to worktop, to bin, rolling obstacles in his wake in order to hinder his pursuer. One glance back drew JD’s attention to the fact that Davies was once more wielding the knife. Davies smacked the wheeled bin directly in front of him hard into the one in front of that, causing a sequential effect of momentum that eventually sent a bin near JD hurtling into the struggling agent. JD lost his balance, tumbled forward, and hit the cold, tiled floor hard. The impetus caused him to slide a little way on his front across the tiled floor and toward the door.
JD fought against the fresh pain and his still muggy head and used his elbows to gain purchase. He edged along the grubby floor as Davies scrambled around and over the slalom course of bins to get to his prize. He stumbled over the last one and fell to the floor. However, having the use of all his limbs, he was slithering toward JD faster than the boy could keep moving. JD suddenly hollered out when a hand grabbed his good foot and pulled. The action caused JD’s head to jerk forward and he whacked his chin on the tile.
Tasting blood, JD flipped over and glared at Davies. "That’s it; I’ve had it with this shit!"
With more strength than he expected to have left, JD kicked his cast leg out hard and successfully connected with Davies’s nose and mouth. The crunch of bone assured him that Davies had taken a serious hit, while the man’s blood-curdling scream of pain confirmed it. However, Just as JD was debating how to get up off the floor and finish the job, Davies struggled to his knees. Quickly propelling himself forward, the man rested his thighs one either side of JD's hips and, towering over JD, he raised the knife over the boy's head.
JD was staring death in the face when a familiar voice cried out.
"Davies! Hands out to your sides, move off him and kiss the floor – NOW!"
The man was debating how fast he could bring the knife down into its target when a shot past his ear prompted him to comply with Chris’s command. Relieved to know his friends were there, JD remained on his back to catch his breath.
"Finally!" He said, tiredly. "Any chance we could go home, now? I swear, the boot works!"
While Vin and Chris dealt with Davies, Buck holstered his gun, kneeled down next to JD and faked a grab at JD's bandaged hand.
"Need a hand, Kid?" He chuckled at his joke. "*Need-a-hand*…aahhh. Oww!" Buck rubbed his shoulder from JD’s punch when the boy sat up.
"What took you so long?"
Buck hauled JD upright and held him steady. "Traffic was bad."
JD's gaze met Buck’s and he could see the worry in the man's eyes. He patted Buck’s hand. "Good work, thanks guys."
Chris and Vin slammed Davies against a wall and Larabee Mirandized him as Vin cuffed the man's hands behind his back.
Davies turned his head to the side. "My nose is bleeding, and it's going down my throat and making me gag."
Vin snorted as he checked the cuffs with a tug. "Good."
Chris eyed the man. "Hayley Roker drowned in her own blood because of you. Wouldn't bother me if you choked." He pointed at JD. "And if that boy's injuries are found to be any worse, you're gonna wish you had."
They all looked and went for their guns when Nathan, Josiah, and Ezra joined them, along with several police officers. Vin manhandled Davies into the police officers' custody. The man actually seemed pleased to see the cops, and went with them willingly.
Buck's cry out caused the team to gather around. With the adrenalin rush gone, the effects of what little of the drugged water JD drank earlier, coupled with sheer exhaustion, kicked in. While talking to Buck the youth's eyes had closed and between struggling to open them, he was leaning into Buck and mumbling incoherently. In JD's head, his word's made sense, but realizing anxious voices suggested the others disagreed, he feebly pointed toward his wheelchair.
Nathan caught on first and hurriedly retrieved the water bottle, which he sniffed. He used his thumb to open JD's eyelids and look into his eyes. "Drugged?"
With his head against Buck's shoulder, JD gave a slow nod. "Little bit..."
Nathan examined the amount drunk and turned to the others. "He hasn't ingested much, but without knowing what's in there..."
In seconds, the men rallied. Ezra had the chair lined up, Josiah was calling the hospital floor JD had been visiting, and the second JD's butt hit the wheelchair's cushioned seat, the group were off and running for the elevator. Buck pushed JD, while Nathan and Chris ran alongside, and Vin raced on ahead to call for the car. JD's head lolled back against Buck's midriff, and for a moment, he grinned and squealed 'Wheeee!' before dozing off again.
There was a short, tense trip in an elevator car featuring a piped-in instrumental version of the song 'Beautiful Dreamer', before a doctor met the group and took them to a room. Within minutes, a toxicity screen was performed and the bloods sent to the toxicology department. With at least a half hour to wait, the men were directed to the waiting room so JD's vitals could be monitored. Each man settled to wait in his own way. Chris called DPD for an update on Davies, Vin slouched in a corner chair, closed his eyes and stretched out until he was near-horizontal.
Josiah sat in a stooped position and appeared to be in deep contemplation. Nathan hovered between staring out through the door, and reading any medical literature to hand, and Ezra sat quietly playing solitaire on his iPhone. Buck couldn't decide whether to sit, or pace, so did a mixture of both, occasionally kicking out at any empty chair that happened to be on his particular route at that time. The spectacle of every one of them becoming instantly attentive when the doctor arrived was a remarkable sight.
"The water from the bottle that we tested showed a high level of eszopiclone, but JD's tox screens came back as minimal in his urine, and in his bloods. He's swallowed the equivalent of around a three to four milligram dose.
"He's received flumazenil, which reverses the effects of the eszopiclone so he shouldn't sleep longer than an hour or so."
"Let me get this clear in my head," Buck insisted. "The dose JD got of..." he glanced at Nathan.
"Eszopiclone - Lunesta; it's a hypnotic, designed to aid sleep."
"Yeah, that," Buck said to Nathan. He looked back at the doctor. "It wasn't particularly strong?"
The doctor nodded. "Enough to have a significant effect if a person's not used to the dose. You also need to remember, he's done very little physically in the last three weeks, so his body's drained after all the earlier exertion and excitement. Add to that a small amount of sleeping medication; it's not surprising he struggled to stay awake."
"Can we visit him, now?" Vin asked, just beating Buck to the question.
"Oh yes, I'll have a nurse take you to him. Once JD's awake, and I'm satisfied with his condition, he can go home."
Minutes later the six men entered a hospital room. The wait for their youngest teammate to wake up gave them time to ponder on the events that led to this point, and which started with a bored twenty-year-old, a spyglass, and a view of a window.
Five days later, in a striking, tree-lined cemetery, and under the leafy boughs of a large, shady tree, JD, with his one arm still strapped, stood leaning on an elbow crutch. From a distance he watched the interment of Hayley Jocelyn Roker. He wept unashamedly to see her sobbing mother, and distraught father, tenderly touching the polished, white casket adorned with white roses and lilies.
He knew he shouldn't feel guilty, yet he did. Of all the cruel, undetected murders that might occur in one day in a city the size of Denver, he watched as one took place, and yet was powerless to help the victim. Her distorted features pressed against the window that day haunted his dreams, and caused him to wonder if he and his teammates really were making a difference, or merely delaying the inevitable.
Unaware the half-sob, half-sigh he released was aloud, he felt a comforting arm from behind wrap around his arms and chest and squeeze.
"At least, thanks to you, her parents got a chance to say goodbye."
Resting against the solid form of Buck Wilmington, JD leaned his head back and looked up at his best friend. "Sure, I know, but it doesn't help the way I feel."
"How about you come back on light duties after the weekend and have something else to occupy that active mind of yours?"
JD stood up straight and looked back at his other five teammates. He smiled at Chris, his first that day. "Yeah?"
Larabee returned the smile. "Yeah."
JD noticed the others stare past him. Chris did too, and then he looked at JD with raised eyebrows and gave the slightest of gestures with his head. The youth turned to see Hayley's Mom and Dad approaching. The former spoke.
"Are you the young man who alerted the police to Hayley's attack?"
His moist eyes went wide. JD swiped at them, licked his lips and nodded. "Uh, yes ma'am."
The woman struggled with her emotion. "Thank you, dear. Thank you for caring. If you hadn't, we might never have known what happened to our baby."
The man's arm embraced her shoulder and with a tearful nod to JD and then the other men; he drew his weepy wife away to return to the group waiting at the graveside. With brimming eyes, JD watched them go. He swallowed around the growing lump in his throat, while grateful his friends were behind him and unable to see his chin quivering.
"Yeah, but it wasn't enough, was it?" he said, softly.
JD felt a hand rest on each of his shoulders. This was a moment of solidarity; where words weren't needed, and the strength of support was appreciated. With a nod, JD balanced on his crutch and good leg and he and the group made their way back to Josiah's parked vehicle.
Outside the CDC, and in the apartment building's allocated parking area, smiles broke out from the seven to see Crime Scene Investigator Nick Palmer taking his life in his hands by leaning back against Chris's parked Ram. With a grin, the Texan-born criminologist pushed away from the truck and waited for the men to approach.
"Hi. Was just heading back from an investigation and thought I'd drop by and see how y'all are doing." He was greeted warmly, and nodded at a wink from Buck. Just like the brunet, Nick hoped their plan to help JD move on, would work.
"No pressure but, I...uh kinda got a hankering for a real big, juicy steak."
All eyes turned to JD, who had been quiet during the ride home, and seemed a little surprised to see Nick standing there at that moment. After a long pause, he smiled and nodded.
"You're right, Dude, I owe you a steak..." He took a shaky breath. "Kinda had a rough day. Rain check for tomorrow?"
Nick's grin widened. "You bet. Got a great place in mind. You're gonna love it."
"Cool." JD looked at the others, and then back at Nick. "We're about to have a couple of beers, you wanna come up?"
Nick thumbed toward his truck. "Thanks but I got work to do. Maybe some other time?"
Chris stepped forward and shook Nick's hand. "Ready when you are." He looked at JD and winked before turning back to Nick. "And the steaks will be on me."
They watched Nick climb into his truck and pull off. Chris turned to JD and softly smacked the back of the boy's head, causing some of his dark hair to lift. "Beer? With the meds you're on?"
JD's crooked grin brought smiles all around. "Figured it was worth a try."
Vin relieved JD of his crutch and as they made their way into the building, started walking about on it with one knee bent. "Do you need this indoors?"
"Nah, I get about fine in the apartment." JD took the crutch back and poked Tanner with it. He grinned. "But I keep it handy in case I need to keep Buck in line."
As the doors closed, laughter, and Buck's loud denials of any such chastisement filled the elevator.
It was already decided that the team would spend the weekend at Chris's ranch - to work. A new case was screaming for their full attention. JD needed to be brought up to speed, and while doing so, they would make a point of drilling into him that, while nothing could have prevented the surreptitious events that led to Hayley Roker's murder, his observation and subsequent involvement at least allowed her the dignity of being laid to rest. It also led to her murderer being arrested and sent for trial.
These heinous events had been a sharp reminder to them all that every result achieved during the execution of their responsibility and edict to protect and serve, was from giving their all.
And by giving it their best, they could truly do no more.
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