The house was a nondescript style in a nondescript neighborhood. Chris kept
Vin in the agency appointed car, waiting for the rest of the team to finish
securing the residence. Chris had left his truck at the parking lot of the
doctor's office building. It was to be impounded and electronically searched
for any tracking or listening devices that may have been attached to it while
it sat unguarded. Chris had been allowed to get his cell phone and a jacket
he had brought along for Vin out of it but was not allowed to drive it anywhere.
Vin was at a total loss as to what was going on. In his mind, the reason
they had been relocated was because of Chris and he was just along because
he was staying with him. As far as he knew, the Chassen case had been thrown
out because he had been unable to testify earlier in the week. No one had
been able to convey the changes in the trial schedule to him so he kept on
with his assumption that it was over. He wondered what had happened with
Chris to make him a target for an assassin.
Josiah stepped out of the front door and waved the two men to come inside,
indicating that all was clear. Chris gathered up what was in the front seat
of the car and got out. When he got around to the other side, Vin was tugging
tenderly on the handle of the door, still unable to pull hard enough to open
it. Chris got it open and helped Vin out. The two men climbed the few stairs
up to the porch of the house and on in passed Josiah, who kept an eye on
the surroundings as well as his friends.
Chris sat him in a chair in the living room and the entire team began bustling
around the house. Somehow, Vin knew he was meant to stay put and out of the
way. He leaned back in the chair and watched the activity sadly, wondering
what the hell was going on.
Buck and JD had left and returned a couple of hours later with clothes and
other personal necessities picked up from the various agents residences.
They had been careful to make sure there was never anyone following them
nor was the car they were using ever left alone.
Nathan was at the door when they arrived and ushered them in quickly. Along
with the stuff they had picked up for the guys, they also picked up food
for the evening. Chinese take out for the meal plus a couple bags of junk
food for later.
The men gathered around the kitchen table and started in on the meal. Vin
was back to where he could hold a piece of silverware in between his thumb
and forefinger so there was no need for someone to feed him.
Conversation was sporadic as they ate, usually a question regarding who would
do what task or what the sleeping arrangements would be.
Chris was a little surprised that Vin seemed to be a little more comfortable
with the rest of the team around after the way he had acted earlier in the
week. He ate slowly and would occasionally glance around at the faces of
the men around the table.
The meal over, the cardboard cartons thrown away and the used silverware
in the sink to be washed, the men relaxed around the living room, some of
them drinking coffee. Vin sat at he end of the sofa with Chris beside him.
He kept his eyes on the floor in front of him as the men around him carried
on casual conversation. Chris knew Vin was probably getting tired after the
full day he had had but he wanted to make sure someone was with him at all
times and Chris still had some details he wanted ironed out with the team
before they closed up for the night.
"You never did tell us what the doctor said this afternoon, Chris," Josiah
"He said that Vin was suffering from post-traumatic syndrome and he needed
to be hospitalized in an institution specially equipped to treat the problem."
Chris's voice echoed his distaste with the whole idea. "He even recommended
a place for him."
"But, you showed him the files, right?" JD asked, disbelievingly.
"Yeah, but it seems this guy isn't one to believe experimental procedures
that aren't medically recognized."
"Man," JD huffed, "you'd think that he'd know that we'd know how Vin was
acting and that we'd know he was acting just like those files said he would
be or we wouldn't have brought them up in the first place."
"You don't have to convince us, JD," Buck tried to console his young friend.
"I know, but, I mean, that guy saw him for, what, maybe an hour and we've
been around him for four days. You'd think he'd take our word on it."
Buck leaned over and patted JD's shoulder placatingly. "It's okay, JD. We
know what's going on and we'll take care of Vin until he's better."
Vin straightened suddenly as the word flitted through his brain. A word he
recognized. His name. Someone had said his name and he had recognized it
as being his name. His eyes grew wide as he tried to force his brain to repeat
the word, or any word for that matter.
JD sat forward in his seat and held out his hand towards Vin as he wrinkled
his brow. "What's he doing?" he asked finally, watching Vin.
Vin's eyes were now darting around the space in front of him. Chris put a
concerned hand on his shoulder and got his attention. Vin turned to look
Chris in the eye and then shifted his gaze to Chris's mouth, watching it
move. He parted his lips slightly, almost as if he wanted to say something.
"Are you okay, Vin? What's the matter?" Chris asked, knowing he wouldn't
get an answer.
Vin watched Chris talk and slowly his posture relaxed, eventually leaning
back against the sofa and turning his eyes to his lap. Whatever he had thought
he'd heard was now gone.
Chris rubbed his shoulder for a minute, wondering what was going on, as he
turned back to the other men in the room. "I have no idea what that was,"
The men all watched their friend for a while longer but he remained settled
back in his seat, watching his own hands resting in his lap.
"So, who's spending the night?" Chris asked, sensing that he needed to get
the last bits of information he wanted and get Vin to bed.
Josiah looked around the room. "We all can, if you need us to."
"I need two of you awake at all times. The rest of you need to stay fresh
so you can stay on your toes. Whether you sleep here or head on home, it
doesn't matter to me."
"Well, this facility only provides two private sleeping quarters. How are
they to be utilized?"
"Vin and I'll be in one. You guys can duke it out for the other. And there's
Ezra looked disdainfully at the couch. "Might I suggest that I retire to
my own abode and return tomorrow when relief is needed?"
"Fine with me, Ezra," Chris told him, knowing that Ezra had been on guard
duty the previous night out at his ranch. It would probably be better, not
to mention more comfortable for him to sleep in his own bed. "Buck, since
you were at the ranch last night too, why don't you head home. You and Ezra
can take over tomorrow for two of these three," Chris said, indicating the
other men in the room.
"Fine by me, ol' pard. I took a peek at the beds in this place and they don't
look too comfy." Buck stood up and stretched his lean frame out, nearly touching
the ceiling with his hands. "You boys need me to run out and get anything
before I head out for good?" He was met with a round of shaking heads. "So,
what are you going to do, JD? You coming home with me?" he asked as he started
getting himself ready to leave.
"Naw, I think I'll stay here, spell these old guys when they start to doze
off," he smiled.
"Old guys!" Both Nathan and Josiah took exception to the insult.
JD half-shrugged. "Relatively speaking, of course."
"Oh, of course," Josiah agreed, nodding his head and winking conspiratorially.
As the men stood to head whichever way they were headed, Chris got Vin up
and steered him up the stairs to one of the two bedrooms up there. Neither
room was very big, both had their windows blocked to prevent intruders and
both had standard sized double beds in them. There was a single bathroom
on the floor located between the two rooms. Chris flipped an imaginary coin
in his head and picked a room, pointing to it for Vin. He stepped into it
and looked around. Chris walked up to the edge of the bed and opened a small
bag that he had grabbed from downstairs. In it were some of his clothes,
some of Vin's and some bathroom items.
Chris pulled out a clean tee-shirt for Vin and held it out to him. Slowly,
Vin raised his hand to take it. Chris didn't know if Vin could manage changing
himself but the only way to find out was have him try. He also gave him his
toothbrush and pointed him towards the bathroom. Vin nodded and went into
that room, closing the door behind him.
Chris took the moment alone to sit wearily on the bed. He rubbed his face
with his hand and took a deep breath. He had been feeling the effects of
the past twelve days heavily but he couldn't let down now. He had to take
care of Vin, keep him safe until he was well.
His mind flirted with the idea that they were wrong about the drug thing
and that maybe Vin did need special care. What if they were hurting him by
keeping him with them? What if, by keeping him with them, he got hurt or
killed by those who had targeted him? And what if he wasn't the intended
target after all? He and Buck were there that afternoon when the bullets
flew. What if they were meant for one of them?
Chris couldn't stop his mind from racing through all the thoughts bombarding
his brain, and the more he tried to ignore them, the more would come. He
rested his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He didn't realize
a moan had escaped his lips.
A gentle touch on his shoulder brought him back to the here and now. He
straightened up to see Vin standing over him, a look of concern on his face.
Chris immediately put a reassuring smile on his face and stood up.
"I'm okay, Vin," he said, mad at himself for worrying his friend. Vin didn't
need anymore on his shoulders. He pointed to the bed and indicated for Vin
to pick a side and climb in while he readied himself for the night.
When Chris returned from the bathroom, Vin was settled in the bed but was
watching the door, waiting for him to return. He kept his eyes on the man
as he pulled back the covers and stood looking over the bed.
"Not as big as what I have at home, huh? You will keep your hands
to yourself, won't you?" Chris smiled feebly at his joke and Vin flicked
a smile back, not knowing what he was smiling at. Chris climbed in bed and
pulled the blankets up around him. He looked over at Vin a moment to make
sure he was settled before he leaned over and turned out the light.
Once the room was dark, Chris raised his arm to look at his wristwatch. Nine
forty-five. He didn't remember the last time he was in bed this early but
knew he probably wouldn't be awake long.
With the window boarded up, the only light entering the room was what filtered
up from downstairs. Once his eyes adjusted to the dimness, Chris looked over
at Vin and saw he was looking back at him. The men locked eyes for several
seconds and Vin slowly raised one of his splinted hands which, when he saw
it, Chris reached out, took hold of the fingertips and squeezed gently, releasing
them a few moments later. They kept looking at each other for a few more
moments before, as if by mutual decision, they both closed their eyes and
went to sleep.
******* ******* *******
JD set the coffee mug down in front of Nathan and took his seat at the table.
He had recently relieved Josiah and knew Nathan was probably just as tired.
Josiah would get a couple of hours of sleep and then let Nathan get some.
Nathan noticed the distant look on the young man's face and knew it was more
than having been woken up before he was ready.
"Something wrong, JD?" Nathan asked, the mug near his lips as he blew on
it to cool it.
JD looked up at his friend. "No. Just thinking."
"About..." Nathan prodded when it appeared JD wasn't going to continue.
JD sighed. "Vin, what he's going through, how I'd handle it if it were me
" JD's voice was soft and Nathan had to concentrate to hear him.
"Vin's gonna be fine."
JD looked squarely in Nathan's eyes. "I know he will."
"And you'd handle it just as well as he is. You're both strong men."
JD looked concerned. "But how do we know how well he's handling it? He can't
tell us if he's scared, if he's worried, if he hurts..."
"He's got his friends around him, JD, just like you would. That helps...gives
him strength, even if he doesn't know it."
JD absently stared at the tabletop in front of him. "Today is ten days,"
he said softly.
"Huh?" Nathan asked, not following the change in direction that the conversation
JD looked up. "Since Vin was found in Texas. Ten days. He could get better
any time now."
Nathan hated to burst the kid's bubble but he knew he needed to be realistic.
"It could be up to three more weeks, though, JD."
JD nodded. "Yeah, I know. I just have this feeling that it won't take that
long. Don't know why."
"I hope you're right. Just don't be too disappointed if it takes a while."
JD nodded again but remained silent.