Judgement Day

by Mady Bay

ATF Alternate Universe

November 15, 1999

Disclaimer- Nope, I don't own them, only wish I did. If anybody but TPTB have figured out how to make money off this, let me know, 'cause I sure ain't.

Rated PG-13 - For language

Author's note - Thanks again to Mog for creating this wonderful A/U sandbox.

"You ready, Vin?" Chris asked.

"Yeah," the younger agent replied. "Just wish I didn't have to wear this suit," he added, pulling at the tie.

"I know what you mean," the ATF leader responded with a smile. "But that's the rule. Gotta look your best for court."

"I still can't believe Parker's finally goin' to trial. What's it been? A year and a half since y'all arrested him?" Vin remarked, unconsciously shrugging his left shoulder.

"Yeah, about," Chris replied, wincing inwardly at the movement.

Chris knew exactly when they'd arrested Dwayne Parker. It was exactly nineteen months and three days since they arrested him. Nineteen months and three days ago that he'd seen Vin get thrown across a hall and up against a wall as his apartment door exploded, courtesy of one Dwayne Parker. And EJ Banks and Jack Nealson. But the latter two were dead and buried. Only Parker remained to stand trial for the attempted murder charges. And today he was going to get his day in court.

"Any problems with the D. A. during the pre-trial conferences?" the leader asked as they walked through the Federal Courthouse lobby.

"Nope," Vin replied. "I ain't got that big a part in this, really. Josiah and Ezra's the ones that gotta do most of the talkin'. They're the ones that actually made the arrest and got his statement."

"Yeah," the blond agent responded, stopping in the hallway outside the courtroom. He turned then, to face the younger agent and putting his hand on Vin's shoulder, said, "I know that this has been a long time coming for you. That when Parker's found guilty, a lot of them assholes over at the Marshal's office are finally gonna realize that you didn't have anything to do with Banks and Nealson's dealings."

Vin nodded. Those thoughts had indeed been heavy on his mind. There were a lot of people that took that blackball rumor to heart, not believing that Vin was the innocent one, set up by Banks. Parker's statements going public and convicting him of attempted murder would put Vin back in a better light. Not that he'd had too many problems. In the past year that he'd actually been working with Chris and the rest of the team, he'd come to trust them and in turn be trusted by them. Pretty much everybody he'd met at the ATF office knew Chris Larabee's reputation. He wouldn't take a blackballed officer onto his team if there were any merit to the charges. But the Marshal's office was different. Banks and Nealson had some loyal friends over there. Ones who persisted in keeping that dark reputation alive.

The two men continued on to find the witness waiting area near the courtroom. They would be called if and when their testimonies were needed. They greeted the rest of the team as they showed, one by one, until the seven were all together. About fifteen minutes later, the Assistant District Attorney came out and motioned to them to come into the courtroom.

"All of us?" Chris questioned, confused.

The A.D.A. nodded grimly. The seven ATF agents knew there was to be bad news waiting for them.

They sat down and after a few minutes, the judge called order.

Vin listened as the judge began talking, but his words all started to blend together. The only ones that meant anything to Vin were "case dismissed" and "no probable cause."

"No probable cause?!" he burst out, jumping up from his seat. "He tried to kill me!"

"Vin!" Chris hissed, trying to pull the young agent back down into his seat.

"What do you think those sworn statements of his are? How he confessed to tryin' to blow me up!" Vin continued to rant, shrugging off Chris's restraining hands.

The judge began pounding his gavel, shouting, "Order! Order!"

"He almost killed a little girl, for Christ's sake!" he continued.

"VIN!" Chris shouted now. "Quiet down!" he ordered.

The court bailiffs had made their way over to Vin by now and were getting ready to restrain him and remove him from the court. They were just waiting the judge's order.

"I'll give you fuckin' probable cause!" Vin shouted as he pushed his way past the bailiffs, removing himself from the courtroom.

Chris heard the judge pound his gavel once again as he, too, pushed his way out of the courtroom. He ran down the courthouse hallways, searching for his wayward agent. He was just as mad as Vin was about the decision. He couldn't understand what had happened. It was a solid case. Either Parker's lawyer had found some loophole the D. A. missed, or there was some serious trouble in the courts.

Finally he caught sight of Vin, heading toward the lobby entrance. The young agent shoved open the door with such force that his hand went through the glass. Several women screamed at the violent outburst and the resulting crash of blood covered glass to the floor. Chris shouted to Vin, but the upset agent ignored his boss and the crowd and continued out of the building, toward the parking lot, tearing off his tie and tossing it onto the pavement.

"Vin!" Chris shouted again, running after him, hoping he'd stop and talk about what happened.

He managed to make it to the Jeep just as Vin did.

"Come on, Vin," he began, grabbing the younger man's arm to turn him around. "Don't go off in a huff. Let's talk about this."

He wasn't ready for the roundhouse punch Vin threw, hitting him in the jaw. Vin stood over him, glaring, practically growling out, "Leave me alone," before he got into the Jeep and tore out of the parking lot, leaving the black clad ATF leader sitting alone on the blacktop of the parking lot.

+ + + + + + +

Chris got back to the courthouse steps as Parker and his lawyer were leaving. He met up with the man and moved to stand nose to nose with him. Parker was about to step around him when he realized that he was surrounded. Josiah and Nathan were in back of him. JD to the left. Ezra to the right. Buck stood just behind and to the right of Chris.

"You got no right to be harassing me, Larabee," Parker stated evenly.

"I got every right to be harassing you, Parker," Chris replied in a low, menacing voice. "Dismissal or not, you still confessed to the hits on my agent. And if I ever find out that you take up the business again, especially if that business means taking out law enforcement officers, you had better find one big hole to crawl into because I will take you out myself."

At Chris's nod, the six men backed off and allowed Parker to go on his way. Just before Parker got into his lawyer's car, he turned back to the ATF team.

"Hey, Larabee!" he called. "Tell Tanner to look me up next time he's in Texas! We'll have a blast!" he laughed and got into the car.

When the hit man was out of sight, Chris turned to see five expectant faces.

"Vin do this?" Buck asked, breaking the silence, putting his thumb against the darkening bruise on his old friend's jaw.

"Where is he?" Josiah asked.

"Yeah, Vin did it. Took off in his Jeep. Wouldn't talk to me," he replied to both questions.

"He gonna be alright?" Nathan asked.

"I don't know," their leader sighed, running a hand through his blond mane. "I'm hoping he just needs a little time to himself to sort this out."

"We saw blood on the broken glass," JD put in, jacking his thumb back to point to the front doors of the courthouse. "He's not hurt bad, is he?"

"I don't think so," Chris replied. "Though it was hard to tell, I didn't really get a good look at his hand," he added.

"Should we put out an APB on Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked. "If he's injured…."

Chris thought about the suggestion. Sure, he wanted to find Vin as soon as possible, let him have the support of the six of them to get him through this instead of trying to cope alone. Make sure he wasn't hurt too bad. Yet, he couldn't blame Vin for wanting the solitude either. An APB - calling other police agencies to track him down - no, Vin would not take too kindly to that intrusion of privacy.

"No, let's look for him ourselves," he decided. "We all know his usual haunts. Buck, JD. You check his apartment and Nettie's. Nathan, Ezra. Inez's. Josiah and I will go out to the Vinnebago.

+ + + + + + +

Vin found the highway entrance ramp quickly. Despite the anger that was still coursing through his body, he had enough sense to know that if he was going to drive at the high rate of speed he felt he needed to, it had better be on an open road. He didn't need to glance down at the speedometer to know he was doing at least seventy-five. He was on a familiar road. One in which seventy-five really wasn't over the speed limit, more like the norm. It was the road he always got on when he needed to vent, when he needed to talk to someone. It was the road that led to the cemetery where Charlie was buried. Charlie would listen. He would let him rant and rave about Parker's dismissal without being in contempt of court.

The image of the Parker's smug look when the judge dismissed the charges returned to the young ATF agent's mind.

"No probable cause, my ass," he muttered out loud, passing a piggybacked tractor trailer.

And if that was a bad enough image to contend with, EJ Banks' voice - no, his laughter - echoing in his ears was worse. It was as if Banks himself was there in the courtroom, laughing at him, telling him that he'd gotten the last word after all.

"Should've been me that shot your sorry ass, Banks," he growled.

Then the image of Chris Larabee as he fell to the pavement flooded Vin's eyesight.

"Shit!!" he swore loudly as he pulled the Jeep over onto the shoulder of the road, ignoring the honking horn of the black Honda he'd cut off changing lanes.

"Jesus, Tanner," he whispered. "The one person who's been nothin' but good to ya. Helpin' ya out of that hellhole in the Marshal's office. Savin' your ass from gettin' killed. And what do ya do? Ya deck 'im! Shit!" he swore again, squeezing his eyes shut.

He began pounding his fist against the steering wheel over and over, cursing at himself, stopping only when he felt the small drops of blood hitting his face. He opened his eyes and looked down at his right arm and hand and for the first time noticed the numerous cuts, some still having bits of glass in them. He slumped back into the seat and tilted his head back.

After a few minutes Vin reached into the backseat of the Jeep to retrieve his jacket. He was just about to pull it forward when he saw the piggybacked tractor trailer come into view and coming way to close, he realized. Before he could do anything, the rear corner of the trailer hit the side of the Jeep.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had just pulled onto the dirt road when his cell phone rang.

"Larabee," he answered.

"It's me, Buck," the ATF agent responded.

"Anything?" Chris asked.

"He hasn't been to his apartment, Chris," Buck reported. "Nobody's seen him in the neighborhood, either. JD called Miss Nettie. She said she'd holler if he came her way."

"I haven't heard from Ezra and Nathan, yet. I tried the cell. He must have it turned off. We just turned onto the dirt road. Doesn't look like he's been on it, but we should get to the Vinnebago in about fifteen or so," he told his old friend.

"Let me know if you find him there," Buck said.

"Yeah, I'll call you with anything new," he spoke and ended the call.

"No luck?" Josiah asked, and got a headshake from his boss. "How's the jaw?"

"Kid's got a hell of a right hook," he replied, absently rubbing his sore jaw. "It's fine, though."

They drove further down the road and got to the young agent's campsite. Vin's Jeep wasn't there. Chris saw that one of his trademark fishing line traps was still intact across the drive, as well.

"Well, he hasn't been here," the team leader remarked with a sigh, putting the truck into park.

"He'll be alright, Chris," the other agent said. "Like you said, maybe he just needs a little time to himself."

The senior agent nodded his head and turned off the truck.

"Might as well hang out here for a while. Maybe he'll show," he said.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his eyes.

"Shit," he swore, slamming them shut.

The bright sun above him had sent lightning bolts of pain through his head. He let out a groan as he turned his head to the side, avoiding the brightness that was still seeping through his eyelids. He opened them again, slowly, cautiously. He saw green and vaguely realized that he was lying on the grass.

"What the fuck?" he whispered, trying to figure out why he was lying on the grass.

Then he tried to get up. The screaming pain that began in his lower back and shot up to his head dropped him back to the ground in an instant. As the young ATF agent lay gasping for breath, trying to keep himself from losing the contents of his stomach, the world began to dim again.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had the cell phone out and in his hand before the first ring ended.

"Larabee," he answered.

"He's nowhere to be found, Mr. Larabee," a southern drawl intoned.

"He's got to be somewhere," the team leader shot back, clenching his fist.

"I agree, Mr. Larabee," Ezra replied. "But we have checked the entire city of Denver and every other place Mr. Tanner has been known to frequent. You know our Mr. Tanner - if he doesn't want to be found, he won't be," he added, defensively.

"I know, Ez," Chris sighed, his voice soft, apologetic.

He looked at his watch, saw that it was late afternoon, almost four.

"Why don't you guys head on home. I'll call you if I hear from him," he told the southerner and ended the call.

Josiah watched him, expectantly.

"Yeah, us too," he said and headed for the door of the Vinnebago.


When Vin regained consciousness again, it was to the unpleasant sound of his own body retching. He tried to curl onto his side, but found that he couldn't move without causing that same screaming pain in his lower back again. He managed to reach up with his hand to wipe his mouth and hissed in pain at the simple movement. Again his thoughts returned to wondering how he got to be lying on the grass in pain. He slowly moved his head around, wincing at the headache he had and surveyed his surroundings. Over to his right, lying on its side, was his Jeep. To his left was an embankment. After concentrating for a minute or so, he heard the sounds of moving traffic coming from the top of it. An image of a tractor trailer came to his mind and he remembered. He saw his jacket on the grass a few feet away from him and again tried to move. Tried to roll his body toward it. As he fought back the pain in his spine, fear crept into his being as he realized that he couldn't feel his legs. He bent his head around and down and looked at his feet. He concentrated on his toes, tried to move them. Tears formed as minutes passed without any response. The young agent put his head back on the grass, the built up tears finally falling.

"Oh, God!" he cried, squeezing his eyes shut, cursing the powers that continued to plague his life. "What else can you fuckin' do to me?!" he moaned.

Opening his eyes, he spied his jacket again. He reached out his hand and his fingers brushed the sleeve.

"Come on, goddammit!" he swore at himself, fighting pain and dizziness.

Squeezing his eyes shut as he pushed his hand out further, he grasped the jacket and pulled it toward him. As the jacket landed on his chest, the cell phone fell out of the inside pocket. But before he could turn it on, the darkness claim him once again.

+ + + + + + +

Chris dropped Josiah off at his place.

"You're staying out, aren't you?" the big man asked, leaning on the passenger door of the truck.

"Yeah," he replied. "Don't ask why, just gotta," he added.

"Keep in touch," Josiah said, nodding in understanding as he closed the door.

Chris drove the truck away and headed towards Vin's apartment. The six of them had searched every place the young agent was known to have gone to. He thought he'd gotten to know Vin well enough to figure out where he'd gone, but apparently that was not true. He drove through the streets of Denver slowly, constantly keeping an eye out for the old blue Jeep. He pulled up in front of the apartment building in Purgatorio and was about to get out when his cell phone rang.

"Larabee," he answered, but only silence answered him.

"Hello?" he called. "Anybody there?"

"Chris," came the whispered response.

"Vin?" Chris replied. "Vin? You there?" he called, not getting an answer right away.

"Chris," Vin finally spoke again. "I'm fucked up."

Vin had woken up again and felt the phone, still in his hand. His headache blurred his vision. He was silently thankful for the speed dial function as he called the senior agent.

Chris heard the slur to Vin's voice. He thought he sounded drunk.

"Vin, where are you?" he asked, starting the truck up.

"Shit, Chris, I'm sorry," the younger agent went on, oblivious to his boss's concern. "I shouldn'ta yelled in the courtroom like that."

"Vin, where are you?" Chris repeated, more urgently.

"I shouldn'ta hit ya," he went on. "Deserve whatever I get…"

"VIN!" Chris shouted into the phone, trying to get Vin's attention. "Where are you?!" he asked again.

"I don't know," came the weak reply. "God, Chris… It hurts…."

"Vin? VIN!?" he called. "Shit!" he swore, pulling into a gas station.

He got out and went into the building, one hand holding the cell phone up to his ear, the other pulling out his badge and ID.

"I need to use your phone," he told the clerk.

The clerk took in the seriousness of the request and quickly put the store phone on the counter for the ATF agent.

Chris dialed a number and when Buck answered, spoke quickly.

"Buck, it's Chris," he began. "I've got Vin on the cell phone. He just called me."

"He alright?" Buck asked.

"I don't know. He sounds drunk or hurt. He stopped talking to me," he continued. "I think he passed out."

"Where is he?" the other agent asked.

"I don't know, he just kept rambling," Chris replied, shaking his head. "But look, the line's still open. See if you and JD can find some way to trace the call. See if the phone company can triangulate a position between my phone and his or something. I don't know," he sighed, realizing the impossibility of that happening.

"Can't hurt to try," Buck responded. "Keep in touch," he added.

"Call my pager if you get anything," the leader added quickly before Buck hung up.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his eyes again. It was dark and he couldn't see his surroundings anymore. He'd been listening to Chris's voice, calling his name, but couldn't reply. He kept seeing himself hit Chris. His boss. His best friend. Maybe he deserved to be left paralyzed and in pain at the bottom of an embankment.

"Shit," he whispered to himself.

"Vin? You there?" Chris called, relief evident in his voice at hearing Vin's.

"Yeah," the younger man replied, finally.

"Where are you?!" the senior agent demanded.

"I just wanted to talk to Charlie," Vin replied, moaning as he turned his head to the side.

It was getting harder for him to stay on track, keep his thoughts together.

"Vin, why won't you tell me where you are?" Chris asked. "You drunk?"

"Got hit by a truck," he replied almost nonchalantly.

Chris pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Got hit by a truck?!'

"Vin, what road did you take to go see Charlie?" he asked, hoping Vin might answer the rephrased question.

"Highway. Same as always," he replied.

Chris had an idea of where to look for his wayward agent, now. He had driven Vin to the cemetery last year, when his shoulder was still immobilized and he couldn't drive. The younger man said that he always went to the gravesite on his old friend's birthday. He laughed briefly at the memory. While most people usually brought flowers to a loved one's grave, Vin brought Charlie a couple of freshly caught trout, a six pack of beer and the latest issue of Penthouse.

"I'm on my way, Vin," Chris assured him as he ran back into the gas station. "Do you know how far you got?" he asked quickly.

"Forgot to pick up the Molson's," Vin went on, oblivious to Chris's question.

Chris called 911 from the gas station's phone and got the state police involved in the search. Then he called Buck and told him where he'd start looking and told him to call the others.

"Vin? Come on, pard', keep talking to me," the ATF leader urged as he headed back out to his truck.

But he was only met with silence again.

+ + + + + + +

Chris drove slowly down the dark highway, heading south of Denver. He ignored the strange looks he got from passing motorists when they stared at the red light flashing on the dash. 'Yeah, I'm in a real low speed pursuit,' he thought sarcastically. With the truck's high beams on, he kept his eyes on the shoulders of the road for any sign that might lead him to Vin. He'd seen several state police cars in the area, but apparently they hadn't found the young agent, either. Then something caught his eye. He slammed on the truck's brakes and backed up along the roadway, coming to a stop shortly after that. Grabbing his flashlight as he got out of the truck, he made his way over to the object he'd seen. He picked up the dented license plate and looked at it. It was a New York State trailer plate. Vin said a truck had hit him. He pointed the flashlight's beam down over the embankment and saw it - Vin's Jeep. Then he panned around and saw Vin lying about fifteen feet away from it.

"VIN!" he yelled, scrambling down the embankment. "Vin?" he called, reaching for his agent's neck, ready to check for a pulse.

"Cowboy?" Vin rasped as his eyes fluttered open.

Chris lifted the flashlight high in the air so that he could get a good look at his injured friend. He saw that Vin had a cut and a large bruise on the side of his head and that his right arm and hand were covered in blood and still had glass from the courthouse door on them. He didn't see any other obvious injuries.

"I'll be right back, Vin, okay?" he said, placing a reassuring hand on the younger man's shoulder. "I'm gonna get some stuff from the truck and call for help," he added after taking the phone out of Vin's hand - his own phone's battery was dead.

But before Chris could move away, Vin grabbed his wrist. Chris looked down at him and was ready to repeat his reassurance, but something in Vin's eyes made him wait.

"I can't feel my legs," he whispered, squeezing Chris's wrist tighter.

As Vin's fear-laced words reverberated through him, Chris found himself speechless. Swallowing, he pried the young agent's hand off of his wrist, and held it in his hands. Gathering his strength, he locked gazes with Vin. He hoped Vin would be reassured that whatever happened, he'd be there with him. The younger man nodded at their silent communication and Chris let go of his hand.

"I'll be right back," he repeated, standing up.

Chris climbed back up the embankment to his truck. He called 911 on the cell phone and told the police dispatcher where to send the ambulance and police. Then he opened the large toolbox in the bed of the pick up truck. He found the first aid kit and blankets he kept there for emergencies. 'Well this certainly constitutes one,' he thought grimly. He grabbed the items and went back down the embankment.

"I'm back Vin," he said, putting his hand on the young agent's shoulder. "Ambulance is on the way," he added, spreading a blanket over him.

Getting no response from him, he called to him again.

"Vin? Vin?"

"I'm still here," the tired voice finally replied.

"You better stay here, too, Tanner," Chris told him.

"Give me a reason, Cowboy," Vin said, opening his eyes again, looking into Chris's greens. "My rep at the Marshal's office is still fucked up. An asshole like Parker is runnin' loose. I ain't gonna be walkin' anywhere…"

"Don't you even go there, Vin," Chris cut in, taking the younger man's chin in his hand. "You're gonna be walking. Hell, you better be walking because that Jeep of yours sure ain't going anywhere soon," he added, hoping to raise Vin's hopes with humor. "And if your bad reputation at the Marshal's office meant anything to me, I wouldn't be sitting here in the dark with you right now."

Vin closed his eyes and pulled away from Chris's hold. He tried not to let his emotions overcome him, but the tears escaped anyway.

"What am I gonna do?" he asked.

"We are gonna take this one step at a time," Chris replied.

He was about to say something else when he heard car doors slamming and the distant wail of the ambulance siren.

"Cavalry's coming," he said.

"Chris? You down there?" Buck called from atop the embankment.

"Yeah! Over to your right!" he shouted back, waving his flashlight.

"Ambulance is almost here," JD called as he and Buck made their way down to Chris and Vin, their own flashlight beams bobbing in the dark.

"How ya doin', pard?" the mustached agent asked, gentleness in his voice, upon reaching Vin's side.

"Been better," he replied quietly.

"What happened?" JD asked.

"Truck clipped me," Vin answered, wincing as he looked toward JD. "Woke up down here."

Before they could say more, the ambulance crew started coming down the hill. JD went and helped them carry their equipment.

Buck backed away from Vin's side to make room for the paramedics and Chris was about to as well, but Vin's voice made him pause.

"Cowboy?" he called, traces of fear in his voice.

"I'm right here, Vin. I'm not leaving," he reassured him quietly.

Chris and the others watched as the paramedics examined Vin and quickly began putting their equipment to use. He caught the worried looks from Buck and JD when Vin told the medical crew that he couldn't feel their hands on his legs and feet. He just nodded silently to the two, telling them that he knew already and was just as worried.

"Can one of you guys hand me that backboard?" one of the paramedics called.

"Sure," Buck answered, picking up the long board.

He placed it on the ground next to Vin as the medic directed him.

"You," the medic nodded to Chris, "hold his legs together and move them when we do," he instructed.

The senior agent nodded and grabbed Vin's ankles. When the paramedic counted to three, he, his partner and Chris rolled Vin onto his side. Chris closed his eyes tight as his injured agent cried out in pain. He was brought back by the paramedic's next count, rolling Vin back onto the backboard that had been positioned under him. He watched Vin's heavy breathing and listened to him moan as they strapped him onto the contraption. Chris could barely see him under the cervical collar and oxygen mask.

"You'll be fine, Vin," he called. "We're still with ya," he added.

Buck and JD fell in line with Chris and the paramedics, each grabbing a hold of the backboard as they carried Vin up the embankment toward the waiting ambulance. One of the state police officers that had arrived carried the leftover equipment bags.

"We can fit one of you in the rig," one of the paramedics told the ATF agents.

"That'd be me," Chris responded, heading over to the truck to lock it up.

"I'll take the truck," Buck said to the blond agent, putting his hand on Chris's shoulder. "You take care of Vin," he added.

Chris nodded his response and climbed into the passenger seat in the front of the ambulance.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD arrived at the hospital about an hour after the ambulance. They had stayed at the accident scene, talking with the state police officers about the incident, giving them information about Vin for their reports. They'd found the license plate from the tractor trailer on the hood of Chris's truck and the officers said they'd be trying to track down the truck it came from.

They found Chris and the other members of their ATF team, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra, sitting in the waiting room.

"How is he?" Buck asked.

When Chris did not reply right away and only continued to stare at the floor in front of him, Buck looked to the others.

"There hasn't been any word, yet," Josiah replied. Then, more quietly, "They wouldn't let him stay with Vin," he added, nodding to Chris.

Buck nodded his head, understanding his old friend's silence. He was about to say something to Chris when the senior agent suddenly bolted from his seat. Buck turned around as the others followed their leader across the room to meet the emergency room doctor.

"How is he?" Chris asked, trying to hold back the desperation in his voice. "Will he be paralyzed?"

"You must be Chris," the doctor responded with a smile.

"Yes. How's Vin?" he asked impatiently.

"Mr. Tanner is stable," the doctor began, looking down at the chart he held. "We cleaned up his arm and hand, put a dozen stitches in. He's got a concussion, still a little disoriented, but that's to be expected, considering -,"

"What about his back?" Chris cut in, angry that the doctor had not told them its condition right away.

"We're still going over the x-rays," the doctor replied. "At this time, Mr. Tanner has no feeling in his lower extremities. Preliminary tests show that there may be fractures on one or two of his lower vertebrae, but there is also some considerable swelling in the area that is making it difficult to see for sure," he continued. "It may be that in a few days, after the swelling goes down, Mr. Tanner will regain sensation."

"So it may be as simple as a pinched nerve or something?" Nathan asked.

"Precisely," the doctor replied. "Mr. Tanner is on his way up to the orthopedics wing right now. Like I said, I'd like to give it a few days and a few more tests before we make any decisions or judgements."

"Can we see him?" Chris asked.

"A couple of you at a time," he answered. "He's been given some medication for the pain, so he'll probably be kind of out of it," he added.

"Thanks, Doc," Buck put in.


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