Laughing. That cackling, mocking sound surrounded him. He couldn't get
away from it. He wanted to scream for it to stop but no sound came when he
opened his mouth. He spun around, trying to find the source of the noise
but it was everywhere, coming from all around him. His mind begged for it
to stop as he dropped to his knees and covered his ears.
******* ******* *******
Chris's eyes sprung open and it took a moment for him to get his bearings.
This wasn't his room and he had to think to remember where he was and why
he was here. After that, he had to figure out what it was that had pulled
him out of sleep so abruptly.
There was a whimpering sound beside him. A desperate, feeble crying that
tore at his heart. He leaned over to switch on the light and turned back
to see Vin sitting up in the bed, his knees pulled up, his elbows resting
on his knees and his forearms wrapped around the sides of his head.
Chris took only a second to realize that the whimpering sound was the first
noise that he had heard come out of Vin's mouth since he had returned to
them, but that second was quickly overtaken with the realization that Vin
was distressed and he needed to help. He reached over and put a firm hand
on Vin's shoulder and shook.
"Vin," he said softly, not wanting to jar the man awake. With Vin's arm covering
his ear, he didn't hear Chris so he repeated the name louder. He shook more
firmly but Vin continued his sobbing.
Chris gently pried Vin's arm away from his head and practically shouted his
name. It was only a matter of seconds before the rest of the men in the house
were gathered at the doorway to the bedroom, wondering what was going on
and if they could help.
Chris shifted his position around to where he was facing Vin. He pulled Vin's
other arm down and, placing a hand on both shoulders, he shook firmly and
shouted, "Vin, wake up. You're okay."
Vin sucked in one final, panicked breath and then held it as his eyes opened
wide. What was in front of him was not what he expected to see and he remained
still as his brain filtered through the new information. He saw Chris sitting
in front of him and it suddenly dawned on him that he had been having a
nightmare. He tried to force himself to relax but felt his body still trembling.
Chris rubbed his hands up and down Vin's arms reassuringly.
"It's okay, Vin. It's over. You're safe here." Chris wished Vin could tell
them what the nightmare had been about. Maybe it would give them a clue as
to what Vin was most afraid of, but he had to resign himself to the fact
that Vin wasn't able to say and they had to try to comfort him the best they
Eventually, Vin relaxed some and only then noticed the three men standing
in the doorway, watching him. He bowed his head, embarrassed that he let
a nightmare affect him so much.
Josiah stepped into the bathroom and wet a washcloth then entered the bedroom
and sat on the edge of the bed beside Vin. There were tear streaks down his
cheeks and he was embarrassed to look up at Josiah. With concern born of
friendship, Josiah lifted Vin's chin up and gently began wiping down Vin's
"Not a man among us who hasn't suffered the same fate, my friend," he told
Vin as he worked. "You should know by now that we aren't the type to judge
a man based on the way he reacts to the demons that visit him in the night."
Josiah knew very well that Vin didn't understand a word that he said but
hoped his tone conveyed his feelings. He set the washcloth on his knee and
gently eased Vin back down into bed.
Chris watched Vin as Vin watched Josiah. The big man seemed to have Vin's
undivided attention. He looked over at the two men still in the doorway and
thanked them with a silent nod. The men nodded back and turned to leave.
Chris settled back down onto his side of the bed.
Josiah was talking to Vin, telling him a story that Chris didn't recognize.
He didn't think it was from the bible but there was a lot in that book that
he'd never heard before. It wasn't the story, however, that was having the
affect, it was Josiah's deep, resonating voice that split through Vin's body
until he was overcome with a calm, almost serene feeling. Moments after that
sleep overtook him and his eyes slowly fell shut. Josiah placed a big hand
on the side of Vin's face and held it there a moment.
"Thanks, Josiah," Chris whispered. Josiah nodded but didn't look away from
the sleeping man. Finally, he stood and left the room. Chris reached over
and turned out the light.
******* ******* *******
Vin wasn't eating again. Chris huffed as he sat down in a chair by the kitchen
table. Vin sat disinterestedly at the other end, wouldn't even look up from
his lap. Chris hated these mood swings his friend seemed to go through. He'd
be fine for a while, a few hours, maybe even a day, then he'd be back at
the bottom of the emotional pit. He fingered the bottle of anti-depressants
again. Then, he glanced at the file folder sitting in the counter. He pulled
it down to the table and opened it up. On top of the contents was a picture
of Russell Chassen. The whole reason for the situation. Chris glanced at
Vin and wondered if he really cared anymore whether Chassen went to prison
Nathan grunted and stretched as he entered the room. "Morning, Chris," he
said. "The boys head out already?"
Chris nodded absently. "Yeah, they took off about half hour ago. They're
making a token visit to the office. Buck'll be here in a little while and
then you'll be free to go."
Nathan shrugged. "Ain't in no hurry." He looked over at Vin. "How's he doing
Chris looked over at his friend and sighed. "Miserable. Won't eat."
"I wouldn't worry too much about that, Chris," Nathan began, trying to alleviate
some of his leader's concern. "He's still eating some and he's not doing
a whole lot to burn off any energy. He'll be fine."
Chris nodded at Nathan's words, knowing the man was probably right, but it
still worried him. He looked back down at the file in front of him and his
blood boiled as he looked at the face in the picture. He picked up the folder
and held it up for Nathan to see.
"I wish we could do the same thing to this bastard that they did to Vin.
See how he likes it." He knew it was an empty threat. They'd never get close
to the man but Chris burned with a desire to see him suffer. He tossed the
folder back down onto the table and gritted his teeth as he tried to calm
Vin had glanced up at the sound of the folder hitting the table and now sat
transfixed by something he saw in front of him. Some of the items had spilled
out of the folder and one held his attention. There was something familiar
about it, familiar yet foreboding. He slowly reached forward and, with his
fingertips, eased a photograph away from the other papers and slid it around
until it was staring at him. Instantly, the dreadful cackling sound echoed
through his mind. He sucked in a breath loud enough for Chris to hear.
"Vin?" Chris reached out and placed his hand over Vin's. Vin continued to
stare at the picture and Chris noticed the intensity of the gaze. He moved
to where he could see the photograph right side up and then looked up into
Vin's eyes. "You recognize him, Vin?"
Slowly, Vin turned panicked eyes to meet Chris's. He opened his mouth and
seemed to be trying to force words to come out, but no sound emerged. Vin
touched a finger to the picture then raised it up to the side of his head,
trailing it down to the side of his mouth, pausing, and continuing down the
outside of his throat.
"This is the guy that drugged you?" Chris asked, though he got his answer
from Vin's eyes.
"Who is it?" Nathan asked, stepping forward.
Chris turned to Nathan. "Parker Perkins."
******* ******* *******
"Okay, well, thanks anyway, Judge," Chris was saying into his cell phone
as Buck wandered in from the kitchen with a can of soda in his hand. He would
have much preferred a beer but wouldn't while he was working.
"That didn't sound too promising," he said as he took a seat in the worn
chair that faced the sofa where Chris sat.
Chris flattened the antenna of his cell phone with his palm and replaced
it in its case. "Naw, the judge says that he didn't think they'd call what
Vin gave a positive ID of the guy and it wouldn't be enough to back up an
APB on him. Said the defense attorneys'd be all over it before it ever got
out." Chris rubbed his jaw with his hand. "They're probably right. Can't
say for sure what Vin was trying to tell us."
Buck leaned back in his seat. "He still upstairs?"
Chris glanced at the stairway and nodded. "Asleep, again, last I checked."
Buck acknowledged the information with a nod. "JD said he had a pretty bad
nightmare last night."
Chris scoffed briefly, wondering if anyone ever had a good nightmare. "Yeah,
something scared him pretty bad. Tried this morning to get him to try and
describe it but he wouldn't. Maybe he didn't understand what we were asking
but I think he did, just didn't want to go into it or didn't know how."
"Couldn't get Vin to talk about something like that when he was himself,
let alone now."
"Yeah," Chris whispered his agreement as his mind wandered back to the night
before and the panicked look on Vin's face. After a moment, he shook his
head, trying to rid himself of the image, and changed the subject. "So, when
is Ezra due to roll in here?"
"Team twelve had some stuff they wanted to go over with him on the undercover
part of the DeBreezie case. Said he'd head on over after they were through
"Think he'll bring a deck of cards with him?" Chris didn't know why he asked,
the man always had a deck with him, but he was starting to feel the boredom
and would even welcome a game with the notorious con man.
"I'll call and make sure," Buck said as he reached for Chris's cell phone.
"Anything else you want him to bring?" he asked as he pulled the phone out
of its case. Before Chris could answer, their attention was drawn to a small,
metallic object that had fallen from the phone case to bounce on the coffee
table and come to rest on the carpeted floor. Both men looked at the object
for a moment.
"Oh, SHIT!" Chris cursed as he recognized the thing as a tracking
device. "They must have put it in my phone while it was in my truck at that
"We've got to get out of here!" Buck said urgently as he stood up.
"You got your vest here?" Chris asked as he stood also.
"Yeah, in my truck out back," Buck answered.
"I want us in them. I'll get yours and the ones out of the agency car. You
go get Vin up and ready to leave."
Buck nodded and headed for the stairs.