Chris opened the front door to Vin's apartment and stepped slowly inside,
gently latching the door behind him. He stood still for a moment, his eyes
circling the room. It was nearly dark outside so there was little light inside
but there was enough that he could see the sparse furnishings. Vin wasn't
a fancy man. A couch, coffee table, small kitchen table and chairs and the
computer desk. Knowing how much Vin hated using his computer at work, he
wondered why he ever bothered to get one for home.
Next to the computer desk was a small bookshelf. Only one of the shelves
had anything on it and Chris stepped up to it to examine the contents. There
were several 'how-to' books on computer usage, a few on police procedure
and, shoved off in the corner, was one that looked like a photo album. Chris
reached for it and pulled it out, somewhat surprised that he had never noticed
it before. He flipped open the pages and found remarkably few pictures in
it. There were some pictures of a child that Chris couldn't positively say
was Vin, but couldn't say it wasn't. He turned the page and saw his own face
staring back at him. The next four pages were all pictures of the team at
various times during the past three years. Chris smiled as each shot brought
back the memories of the occasion they were taken at though when he thought
about it, he didn't remember Vin or anyone else having a camera at the time.
After the pictures of the team, there was nothing in the book. Chris flipped
the pages to the end but found nothing more. He sighed as he slipped the
book back into its spot on the shelf.
He walked up to the window and stared out at the street below. Not much activity,
just a few pedestrians and the occasional car. He drew in a deep breath and
let it out wearily as he leaned his forehead against the glass.
"God, Vin...where are you?"
******* ******* *******
Pictures. Marti had found that by using just pictures, Vin could figure out
what she wanted. After reading how the two previous sessions had gone, she
knew she had to try something else.
Vin looked very sad when he was brought in for his next day's tests, though
he was allowed to walk there on his own, which he seemed to appreciate. Wheel
chairs were for invalids.
When she pulled out her sets of cards, he sighed and looked away. She smiled
knowingly and laid the cards out in front of him. She grabbed the picture
of a chair and showed it to Vin, making him look. Then she moved it to the
picture of a table and picked that up, holding the two side by side.
Vin looked at the two pictures, then looked down at the others on the table.
A small smile crept up on his face. He saw several others there that could
be paired up. She picked up the picture of the fork and looked at him
expectantly. He slowly raised his hand and guided it to the picture of a
knife where he gently tapped his finger tip on it.
"Yes, John. Very good." She smiled broadly at him as she picked up the matching
picture and removed the pair. Then she pointed to a picture of a horse. Vin
didn't hesitate and his hand moved to the picture of a saddle. She smiled
again. "Yeah, you just needed the right set of cards," she said to herself.
Once Vin had matched up all of that set of cards, Marti pulled out another
set. These were all clock faces but they didn't have numbers on them, just
tick marks where the numbers would be. She began by grabbing a couple of
cards, trying to let him know what she wanted him to do. He knew she wanted
them in order from earliest to latest and arranged them that way quickly.
Marti leaned back in her chair and smiled at Vin for a moment then her expression
turned pensive. "Now we just have to figure out how to get you talking again."
******* ******* *******
Vin definitely enjoyed his sessions with Marti more than he had the previous
ones because he felt like he was finally able to communicate. No one exerted
as much effort to try to get through to him as she did. However, when he
wasn't working with her, he felt isolated from the world. The other therapists,
orderlies and nurses had tried to include him in some activities but being
around all the other patients, none of whom he could understand, just made
him feel more isolated and lonely. The staff seemed to sense this and eventually
stopped trying to get him involved. He spent most of his time staring sadly
out the window as the world continued on without him.
******* ******* *******
'By-the-book' turned out to be getting the ATF agents nowhere. Every lead
turned out to be bogus. They had gone back to Vin's neighborhood and talked
with dozens of people but no one admitted to having seen anything. Every
idea they had that was based on intuition rather than hard facts was shot
down by the higher-ups. They didn't seem to be getting any help from anywhere.
And time was running out, though that long ago stopped being their primary
concern. Yes, each one of them would love nothing more than seeing Russell
Chassen put away for the rest of his life. But more so, each one would give
his own life to see Vin returned safely. It had been six days and no body
had turned up, no word had been heard.
******* ******* *******
Vin sat on a bench in the main hallway of the hospital ward and stared at
a mural that was painted on the opposite wall. It was an exaggerated painting
of downtown Amarillo and though Vin didn't know what city, he did recognize
what was supposed to be depicted.
Marti watched him from down the hall for several minutes before she approached
him and sat beside him. He glanced at her and smiled sadly, then turned his
attention back to the wall. She stood up and got in his line of sight. She
slapped the wall with her palm and then waved her arms around her.
"This is where we are," she said, even though she knew he couldn't understand
her. She slapped the wall again and then pointed to herself, then to Vin,
then waved her arms again.
Vin watched her with an expression of curiosity on his face. He didn't look
confused so Marti thought maybe he understood what she was trying to tell
him. She looked at him a moment, then an idea struck her. She reached out
and grabbed his upper arm and guided him up. She led him down the hall to
the nurses' station and stopped at the desk.
"Angela, do we still have that atlas here somewhere?" she asked of the nurse
behind the counter.
"Yeah, sure, somewhere," Angela replied as she began opening and closing
drawers looking for the book. Finally, she found it and pulled it out, laying
it on the counter in front of her. "What do you need it for?" she asked,
eyeing Vin suspiciously.
Marti didn't reply as she flipped the pages open till she found a map of
the entire country, with the state outlines. She shifted it in front of Vin.
She pointed to him, to herself, to Angela, tapped the counter and again waved
her arms around, then pointed to a spot on the map.
"This is where we are. Amarillo Texas." Marti could tell that some of this
was getting through to Vin. He looked at where she was pointing then looked
up at her. His gaze moved several times between the two and finally he smiled
She pushed the map a little closer to him and tapped her hand gently a few
times on his chest, then waved her hand non-committally over the map and
shrugged her shoulders. "Where do you live?" she asked, for her own benefit.
Vin's eyes darted between her and the map a few times and it finally dawned
on him what she was trying to ask. He smiled again and raised his hand slowly,
gently extending his index finger slightly. He lowered it over the square
area above and to the left of where she had been pointing.
"Colorado? You're from Colorado?" She asked excitedly, knowing she would
not get a response. She eagerly flipped through the map pages till she came
to the blown-up map of the state of Colorado. She placed it in front of Vin
and waved her hand over the pages and shrugged again. "Where? Where in Colorado?"
Vin didn't need to be able to read the map, didn't need to know what the
words said. He knew the biggest blob was where he lived. He raised his hand
and lowered it down over Denver, then looked up at her and smiled.
She smiled back as she placed her hand gently on the side of his face. "Denver,
Colorado," she sighed.
"You think that's really where he's from? How do you know he understood what
you were asking him?" Angela piped in.
"I don't but we aren't getting anywhere around here. What could it hurt to
check Denver?" Marti replied. She stepped around the desk and opened a drawer,
pulling out a small business card. "I'm gonna call the police station and
see if they'll check."
She did just that. She got a hold of the police officer who had been handling
this particular John Doe case and relayed that he may want to check with
the Denver police department. He seemed reluctant at first but finally agreed
to send an inquiry.
Marti hung up the phone and turned back to Vin who had remained standing
by the desk. "Who knows, John. We may just find out who you are and where
you belong yet."
******* ******* *******
Chris sat in his private office with the door closed as he continued to stare
out the window from behind his desk. Friday afternoon and the rest of the
building was heading off to enjoy their weekend plans. But he and his team
were mourning the loss of one of their own. Though he still had that gut
feeling that Vin was still alive, it had dulled significantly since the ordeal
started and he was beginning to realize he may have to deal with the loss
of not just a coworker but a good friend.
A gentle tapping at his door brought him back from his contemplations. "Come
Buck opened the door enough for him to stick his head through. "Chris, I
know you don't want to hear this but the lead on Martinez Avenue fell through."
Chris acknowledged the information with a curt nod. A lead fell through,
something he had heard a lot of this past week. He took a deep breath and
let it out slowly as he leaned back in his chair. "Why don't you and the
boys knock off and go on home, enjoy your weekends."
"What?!?" Buck entered the room and pushed the door shut behind him. "Quit?
What are you saying Chris?"
"I'm saying we've checked out every lead we've gotten and we're no closer
than we were a week ago. I'm saying we've got nothing new to go on. I'm saying
go home and enjoy your weekend." Chris's voice cracked slightly as he finished.
Buck approached the desk and leaned against it beside Chris's chair. "So
you're giving up on him now? What happened to the feeling?" Buck leaned forward
and tapped Chris's chest lightly at his last words.
"I'm losing it Buck. I'm losing Vin. I can hardly feel him anymore." Chris
pushed his chair back and stood, slowly stepping up to the window to gaze
out as dusk settled over the city.
"Chris, I know we've discussed this before but it is possible that Chassen's
just had Vin detained for a while and after his case is declared a miss-trial,
Vin will be let go."
"He'd be able to finger who ever did it though. They won't let him live.
They'll kill him and dump him out in the deepest part of the woods where
no one will ever find him." Chris's eyes got a far away look in them. "He'll
Buck moved up behind Chris and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "If
that's true, and I ain't saying it is, ain't saying he's gone, but if that's
true, he won't be alone cause a part of you will always be with him."
"I've never had a friend like him before. Never knew anyone who could...that
was..." Chris lowered his gaze, pressing his thumb and forefinger against
his tired eyes as Buck squeezed his shoulder. Chris and Buck were friends,
had been for the longest time, but it wasn't the same kind of friendship
that Chris and Vin shared and Buck knew it and accepted it. Buck felt his
heart breaking as much for Chris as he was sure Chris's was for Vin.
Buck leaned in behind Chris. "We'll find him," he said softly.
Chris took a deep breath and bobbed his head a few times as he composed himself.
He didn't often give in to the feelings of hopelessness that sometimes crept
in from the edges of his mind. He was glad Buck was there to help him fight
those feelings off and tackle problems head on again. He turned to look his
old friend in the eye. "Thanks, Buck."
Buck squeezed his shoulder again but said nothing.
******* ******* *******
Dr. Barry Lucas sat off to the side as he watched Marti work with her newest
patient. This John Doe's case had been truly interesting. There was no head
trauma and yet there seemed to be a total loss of communicative skills, if
indeed the man had ever possessed any. There was no way to determine that
in his current state so they pushed forward on the assumption that he had
at one time been able to speak, read and write.
Doctor and therapist had conferred daily on the case and the doctor was well
pleased with the progress that Marti had had with this patient. He looked
forward to seeing how she attempted to bring him out of his shell. It was
obvious to both that the man hadn't lost any knowledge or intelligence, just
the means to share it.
******* ******* *******
Chris stared at his bedside clock as it mocked his sleeplessness. Five o'clock
in the morning...had he gotten any sleep, he wondered. Chris sat up and switched
on a lamp. 'This is Sunday morning' he thought to himself. Chassen'll walk
tomorrow because Vin won't be there to testify. He had all but given up hope
of finding Vin before the trial but there was still that glimmer, put in
place by Buck and the rest of the team, that Vin was alive somewhere and
would be returned once Chassen was free. He clung to that like a lifeline,
which, in a way, it was. Vin was a big part of his life and Chris knew he'd
be dragged down if anything happened to him.
Chris threw back the blankets and crawled out of bed. The room was cold and
Chris reached for the robe that was always laying across the foot of the
bed, but was seldom actually worn. It must have gotten colder last night
than they had predicted. Chris guessed it was time to crank up the furnace
for the season. He padded out into the hallway and switched on a light as
he stepped up to the thermostat. He repositioned some dials and turned the
unit on. It started up immediately and a few minutes later, the house was
filled with the 'first-of-the-season-burning-the-dust-off-smell'. Chris wrinkled
his nose as he continued on into his kitchen to start a pot of coffee.
As the coffee brewed, Chris wandered into his office. The same folders of
information the team had been using all week were duplicated here and he
rifled through them for the zillionth time. There had to be something something
they were overlooking. He re-read everything in the files again, absently
wandering into the kitchen to get his coffee as he read.
Chris purposely tried to change his perspective. By looking at the information
from a different mindset, he was sure something would leap out of the page
The telephone ringing startled him and he glanced at the clock as he reached
for the phone. Five- fifty-six.
"I'm trying to reach a Chris Larabee," the voice on the other end of the
"This is Chris Larabee." It was a little early for a telemarketer, he thought.
"Mr. Larabee, this is sergeant Marc Ristuccia with the Amarillo police department
in Amarillo Texas," he introduced himself. He paused briefly, expecting Larabee
to interject something but when he was met with silence, he continued. "Sir,
we have a John Doe down here that we have identified as Vin Tanner. We verified
"What!?!?" Chris nearly popped the sergeant's eardrum. "You have Vin? Where?
Is he all right? Where is he?" Chris knew he should shut up and let the man
talk but was having trouble controlling himself.
"Mr. Tanner is a patient at the Amarillo Medical Center."
Chris placed a shaking hand over his face. "Thank god, he's alive," he muttered
to himself, though the man on the other end of the phone heard him.
"Yes, sir, he is alive. It says on his missing persons sheet that he's an
agent with the ATF?"
"Yes, he's one of my team members. He's been missing for over a week," Chris
explained, feeling himself calm somewhat from the initial shock.
"Well, sir, can I pass on any information to the hospital?"
"Tell them that I'll be on the road in five minutes and I'll get there as
soon as I can." Chris took a deep breath as a tear rolled down his cheek.
"And thank you, sergeant."
"Just doing my job, sir. I'll let them know to expect you today." The line
went dead but Chris held the receiver to his ear for a minute more, his mind
replaying the words 'we have Vin Tanner.'