Ezra stealthily crept past the nurses´ station, moving toward the room the orderly had just settled Chris into. The doctor had refused to let them in to see him for tonight, saying just that it was against regulations. This doctor was apparently new, and therefore didn´t know with whom he was dealing. Nothing would keep the other men from their friend´s side. He entered quietly and noticed immediately the IV solution dripping into the wounded agents arm, antibiotics for the cuts and scrapes caused by the breaking windshield, Ezra assumed. His boss was lying on his side, and even unconscious looked alert and ready to strike. He was also apparently in the throes of an ungodly vicious nightmare, his features were tightly drawn and if his eye movement were any indication, there was a lot of action in the dream.
Chris was running, he didn´t know why. Running toward something, away from something, he couldn´t be sure which. The voices were growing louder. The limbs of the trees in the woods in which he found himself, were slapping against his body, at times impeding his progress. He kept pushing forward. He knew it was urgent, a matter of life and death, that he reach his destination. The cabin came into view. Oh no, not again.´ What would he find inside this time? Throwing caution and his sanity to the wind, Chris eased the door open. Time stood still for the grieving father. There on the floor quietly playing with some toy cars and trucks was his son. Adam´, Chris silently cried out. Adam, oblivious to his presence, continued in his fantasy. This is Daddy´s truck and this is Mommy´s car, over here is Uncle Buck´s truck and here is my car. Come on Mommy, I´ll be late for school. Can we go in Daddy´s truck? It´s way funner than the car, he chimed in his childish voice. Chris´ heart stopped beating and he silently begged, No, not my truck, take the car Sarah, don´t get in the truck! His pleas went unheard. Adam continued his monologue, this time his voice was stronger, and a bit deeper than before. Come on, it´s time Mom, time to get in the truck and get to school.
Chris jerked his head up at the sound of his son´s voice. He was still praying that his wife would take her car and thus save their son and herself. Adam looked older this time, about 10 years old, the age he would be now if he had not died. He still looked the same, just older, and more tired. The boy looked up and his eyes locked with Chris´. Help me! Adam whispered to his father.
Ezra was jolted from sleep by Chris´ scream. He awoke to find the man struggling to get up. Chris jerked his IV out and bounded from the bed. His eyes were haunted and terror filled. The southerner knew that his friend could hurt himself if he continued on his present course. He sidestepped Chris and reached for the intercom button on the bed. When the nurse responded with, Yes, Ezra simply said, Help!
Two nurses hurried through the door to Chris´ room. Their eyes widened in shock to see their patient and one of his friends struggling. The undercover agent was attempting to restrain Chris, and Chris in his delirium, was trying his damndest to get free. One of the nurses buzzed the desk and requested a doctor.
When Doctor Mason arrived he curtly gave the nurse instructions and the name of a drug to administer. She returned with a syringe and the doctor promptly stuck the needle into Chris´ hip. The drug had the desired effect and the now subdued man crumpled into the arms of Ezra and the doctor. They returned him to his bed and the nurse restarted his IV. Doctor Mason, when assured that his patient was once again resting comfortably, asked to speak to Ezra outside.
Once outside Chris´ room, the doctor proceeded to read Ezra the riot act. You were not supposed to be in there. You could have done him harm provoking him in that manner.
I did not provoke him. He woke up fighting. I can´t tell you the reason. I just know it had to do with his family, Ezra responded hotly.
What about his family? the doctor questioned.
It is a long, and rather tragic story, one that I am not inclined to discuss with a complete stranger. At any rate, his family is gone and that is the reason for much of his distress, Ezra finished quietly, and turned and departed.
The enigmatic undercover agent found his friends in the waiting room and told them of Larabee´s episode upon waking. Vin related to them the story Chris had told him on the way to the campground. They decided he must have been continuing to have the nightmares that had plagued him into taking that cursed trip into the mountains in the first place.
Chris had no more episodes like the one he had upon waking from his unconscious state. The doctor released him two days later into Nathan´s care. Buck drove him and Vin out to the ranch to recuperate. The other men followed in Nathan´s car. Chris insisted on renting a truck and forced Buck to stop at FastRent on the way home. He rented a small Toyota truck and had JD drive it on to the ranch for him. The doctor had told him not to drive for a few days but he wouldn´t hear of not having a vehicle around the ranch, just in case.
Nathan settled him into his room when they arrived at the house, and for once Chris did not argue. He was still lying on the bed, asleep, when Buck checked on him thirty minutes later. The men were trying to make sense of what had happened earlier in the week. Chris´ nightmares had not returned, but the couple that he had were devastating to him. He absolutely refused to discuss them, or even to acknowledge them. He just wanted to get back to work as soon as possible. The doctor wouldn´t even talk about letting him go back for a week. His brain has sloshed around in his skull, he needs a little time to let it return to its normal state, Doctor Mason had told the men.
Josiah was looking over the reports they had just gotten back on the fingerprints they had lifted in the cabin. There are thousands of different prints here Vin, we´ll never be able to find any one specific print.
Well, here´s Chris´, that´s a start, and it´s not from the other day, he never went near the kitchen. This has to be an old print, Vin replied. He continued to analyze the data stacked in front of him.
I´ve found some children´s fingerprints. I´m going to check with the ChildWatch program. Chris is law enforcement, you know he and Sarah had this child fingerprinted and put into the computer, Ezra reasoned.
Of course they did, Buck responded. You know that big dog that comes around to the schools and they fingerprint the kids and give them a bracelet with all their ID on it and then they put them in the computer so they can have all their information should they be kidnapped or anything. Well Adam was showing all the other kids how it was done. Buck smiled sadly at the memory. Adam had been his father´s child; all he ever talked about was being a cop like his daddy. Buck´s eyes teared at the memory.
The agents continued their quest through the night. Slowly, little indiscriminate errors were being uncovered. Misconceptions, oversights, and just plain negligence on the part of different officials somewhere down the line, could very easily be to blame for the mass of red tape that had become the Larabee file.
The morning broke sunny and cold. Buck stepped out onto the deck on the back of the ranch house and sipped a cup of coffee. The sunrise from that vantage point was impressive. It had been a long time since he had really watched a sunrise. Sarah, Chris, and he used to do it all the time. This house had been a place for him to relax and rewind. Sarah had always made him feel welcome and once Adam came along, the picture was complete. The ache inside him for the boy was still devastating even after four years. He remembered the day that Chris and Sarah had asked him to be godfather to their unborn child. It was the proudest day of his life, that his best friend would entrust something as special and precious as his first born child into the hands of a cowboy maverick cop. He had to smile as he remembered the look on Sarah´s face as he held Adam for the first time shortly after his birth. Buck was gangly and nervous and fretted about dropping the little tyke. Sarah´s sweet laugh and barely noticeable Irish accent chided him softly, Get used to it Wilmington, someday this will be your life. How he had loved that woman and had she not been married to his best friend he would have done anything in the world to claim her as his own. Of course she was married to his best friend in the world and as such loved her as he would a sister. There was never anything impure about his love for Chris and his family.
The sharpshooter joined Buck on the deck and got the drop on the man. That will get you killed, Stud, Vin drawled. Buck started and caused the younger agent to spit coffee all over the deck.
Real funny Vin, you know I don´t function till I´ve had at least three cups of coffee.
Yeah, and at least eight hours beauty sleep. It takes that much for ya these days, the sharpshooter teased.
You´re cruising for a bruising Tanner. You got it coming. The two men drifted into an easy silence. What do you think Ezra will find out? asked Buck nervously.
I don´t know Bucklin, I hope he´ll find Adam´s fingerprints on file with the childwatch people, Vin replied, but it´s a long shot.
The two men finished their coffee and began preparations to go to work. Josiah was going to stay with Chris until he awakened and it was determined that he was well enough to be left alone. That determination was taken out of their hands only minutes later when Chris exited the bedroom, fully dressed for the office.
Buck noticed immediately that the black was back. All black. The way it was after the bombing. Chris had little by little started to put a small amount of color back into his wardrobe that is if you call gray and dark blue color. This morning he was dressed like a raven. Black boots completed his ensemble of black suit, black shirt, and black tie. The tell tale bulge of his shoulder holster and weapon was also evident. The dark look on his face seemed to match the blackness of his attire. Oh God,´ thought Buck, here we go again.´
If Chris was aware of his clothing statement, he didn´t acknowledge it. He poured a cup of coffee, popped a couple of aspirin, and started for the door. The men left him to his own devices until this point. They couldn´t turn him loose on unsuspecting motorists in the condition he was in. The ability to drive might be beyond him at the moment anyway. Nathan moved in to attempt to stop the man that was barreling at him full force.
Come on now Chris, you know you ain´t up to driving yet. You´re still getting over that crash. It shook up that rock that you call your brain. You got to give it time to recover. Nathan was a bit fearful at the feral smile that came to the lips of his boss.
Get out of my way Nathan, I mean it, Chris growled. The blond man´s outward appearance was menacing, but his thoughts were fearful, Please get out of my way, I can´t stay here all day, I´ll go crazy. Please move, Nathan, please move, please move, I don´t know if I can move you out of the way myself, please move, don´t make me stay here ´ The silent mantra filled Chris´ mind and he kept repeating it to himself over and over. Please get out of my way, I can´t be here, I don´t want to be here ´
Nathan couldn´t help but catch a glimmer of something in Chris´s eyes. Fear, anger, frustration, denial, it was all there, but something else was hiding behind the green orbs desperation. Desperate to be anywhere but where he was at the moment. The healer couldn´t fully understand the complexity of Chris Larabee. This house had always been a haven for the man, now suddenly he was willing to risk his health and that of others to be away from it. The ex-paramedic was fully aware of the risks to Chris and anyone he should encounter on the road, should he try to drive, yet that appeared to be the very thing the distraught man was planning to do. Chris, you know this ain´t the thing to be doing. Come on now, at least wait till the rest of us are ready, then we can drive you.
I ain´t got the time to wait for you, and I don´t want the company, Chris replied shortly. The tightly wound man took in the drawn appearance of the medic and regretted speaking to him in such a manner, but the man had to learn to mind his own business. They all figured they knew what was the right thing for him to do, but the only person responsible for his actions was himself. The cabin why did he keep thinking about the cabin? Why did it keep interrupting him in the middle of a good rant? The cabin God, stop thinking about that damn cabin. It´s over and done with, it´s behind you, and there´s no sense wasting time thinking on it,´ he chastised himself.
By this time the other men in the room were watching worriedly the actions of their leader and friend. Chris could sense them watching him and turned on one heel and exited the ranch house through the front door, daring them with a look, to follow. Buck took the challenge and stepped through the door after his oldest friend. Chris, come back man! We can´t let you drive in this shape. You just spent three days in the hospital. You shouldn´t even be out of the house much less driving. For the third time in a week, Larabee struck one of his friends. The punch sent Wilmington reeling and into disbelief at the antagonism he felt in Chris´ fist. Chris was beyond feeling sorrow or remorse at bestowing injuries on his men. He was beyond anything but rage.
Buck rubbed his jaw where his friend´s fist connected. Damn, he about broke it,´ he thought to himself. Where did Chris get that kind of anger?´ The tall fun loving man was just about out of patience with the angry Larabee. He had been through this before and it was just like reliving the past. It was a nightmare.
JD made for the door to follow the rage filled man to the rented truck. Buck intercepted him, You ain´t ready for this Kid. None of you are ready for this. His temper takes on a life of it´s own and you get in the way of it and it´ll hurt you.
Are you aware, Mr. Wilmington, that you are referring to Mr. Larabee´s temper in the third person? Ezra queried.
Yeah, I know. I swear to you Ez, you may have seen Chris mad but you ain´t ever seen him the way I have at times. He can work himself into a stroke if he tries. I have seen him break his hand and not know it for two days. Rage kills his pain, keeps him warm, and feeds him. It ain´t pretty. That´s why I just don´t know if we should pursue this.
Their musings on the subject were cut short by the sound of an engine roaring to life and the sound of tires throwing gravel against the side of the house. The damn fool is gonna get hisself killed trying to drive in the shape he´s in. He could get dizzy, his vision could blur, he could even black out, Nathan swore loudly.
The only thing we can do is just pray that he makes it to the office safely. You can´t stop him from doing anything he sets his mind to do. We´ll just have to keep watching him till this binge is over, replied Buck sadly.
The men gathered the research they were working on together and stowed it in Ezra´s trunk. They didn´t want to run the risk of Chris seeing it yet, not till they knew if they had something to go on. Vin was sure they had enough to warrant going into the coroner´s report. Nathan requested the file and it was to be waiting for them at the office safely stored in JD´s backup file that no one, not even Chris, had the password for. The men hated going behind Chris´ back, but if the search turned out like they hoped it would, Chris would be ecstatic.
Chris remained in his office most of the morning. At noon he came out, grabbed his coat by the door, and left without a word to the concerned men in the bullpen. JD took the opportunity to check the report that had been sent to him. He pulled up the file and waved Nathan over. The men read the report through and through, but didn´t really know what they were looking for. Nathan´s eyebrows shot up in surprise and the expletive Damn, issued from his mouth.
The startled Damn, brought the other agents to the young hacker´s desk. They stared at the meaningless jumble of words and phrases in the report. What the medic saw there that they didn´t see, was about to be forthcoming.
What is it Nathan, asked Josiah curiously. The mumbo jumbo of the report was Greek as far as the profiler was concerned.
Listen to this, on victim one, Sarah Larabee, female, 32 years old, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs appear to be of consistent volume and condition as to the age and condition of victim. Victim two, Adam Larabee, male, six years old, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs appear to be of consistent volume and condition as to the age and condition of victim, Nathan ran his hand across his brow massaging his temples and looking puzzled.
Yeah, so what does that mean Nathan? Buck asked.
It means they didn´t die in a fire.
Nathan´s short, abrupt answer took the men´s breath. There was an explosion at Chris´ home. His family was killed in the blast meant for Chris. That was the way it had been for four years now. It wasn´t possible to believe anything else, however, they had asked for the revelation, and now they were going to have to deal with it.
Nathan explained to the startled men that in cases of death by fire, even if the death was instantaneous, the lungs are smoke and fire damaged. The last breath taken by the victim would pull in smoke and even flames. Carbon monoxide would also be in the picture as contributing to the death. There was no mention in the report of carbon monoxide, smoke, or lung damage. That didn´t sit right with Nathan. In a fire that burned as hot as one from an explosion, there would be damage to the organs. There is no way there couldn´t be if the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Sarah was identified by only her wedding rings and dental records, according to the autopsy report. Adam had been identified because he had been with Sarah and it only made sense that the body would belong to him. There was also a dental report on Adam that included a silver cap on a baby tooth.
There is a lot for us to start on. There are too many inconsistencies. No smoke or fire damage to the lungs, that´s not right. They would have breathed in smoke and fire, their lungs should be burned. We better check into this before we move any further, Nathan stated.
Buck had not drawn a breath since Nathan´s discovery of inconsistencies in the coroner´s report. He remembered having gone with Chris to the morgue. Chris had to look at the bodies of his wife and son. The police had needed it for proof. He had to practically carry his friend out of the morgue. The desolate man couldn´t bear to leave his family in the cold room, yet couldn´t stand to be there either. The grief filled haunted eyes of his dearest friend as well as his partner was almost Buck´s undoing. The loss of the only family he had known in years was also devastating, but looking after Chris had helped to keep the pain at bay.
Vin´s mind was racing. There was more evidence. Adam was alive and out there, somewhere, if he could only find him. What was the next move? The identity of the child the autopsy was performed on would be a good start. There was no doubt in Vin´s mind that the autopsy had been done on some other child. Who was the child? That part tore at the sharpshooter´s heart. Somewhere there were people looking for their son and they would never know that he was dead and buried in Adam Larabee´s place. Adam, I´m gonna find you, just you wait and see, you´ll be home with your Daddy in no time. I promise you.´
Ezra was also in a state of disbelief. A question nagged at him until he just had to ask, What about Sarah? The question took everyone else by surprise from the looks on the faces that surrounded him. It stood to reason that if Adam were still alive that Sarah might be too. Autopsy reports could be doctored, apparently.
That´s a good point Ezra, we don´t know anything for sure. There could be a million reasons for the circumstantial evidence we have here. Until we can dig into this a little more, I say let´s don´t assume anything, replied Josiah.
The agents all agreed to thoroughly investigate everything that came across the table, with the utmost diligence. Everything had to be documented. Things most people would not consider important had to be taken into consideration. This was Chris´ life they were dealing with and it was not something to be taken lightly.
Chris was driving aimlessly through the city streets of Denver. He had been for over two hours. Eventually he grew weary of driving and thinking what if, and why. He eased the rented truck off the side of the highway to a small bar called Charlie´s´ and inwardly cursing himself as a coward, got out of the truck and entered the drinking establishment.
Two hours and God only knows how many drinks later, Chris was still sitting at the back table of the bar. The bartender looked nervously at the blond man. The man was drinking alone. Who was going to be responsible for him? It was obvious the man was a power drinker. It was also obvious that he would not be able to drive home. The bartender approached the darkly clad man and his resolve left him as the man met his eyes and told him with just one look, Go to Hell. He took a step back and proceeded with caution, Look friend, I think you´ve had enough, why don´t I call you a cab and you can go home and sleep it off?
Chris regarded the man for a second and replied, I haven´t had near enough, I don´t need a cab, and I´m never going to go to sleep again. Does that answer all your questions? Good, then I don´t have to hear anything else from you. Just let me alone. I´ll call you if I need a counselor, with that Chris returned to the bottle of Jack Daniels he had been drinking with a vengeance.
The bartender didn´t know what to do next except call for the bouncer. Eddie, the 250-pound former linebacker, could handle the inebriated man easily. Steve, the bartender, joined Eddie as he approached the blond man. Mister, I told you nicely, now Eddie is going to see that you leave. Let me call you a cab, or call a friend for you. It´s better than trying to drive yourself and getting busted or worse, dead. You ain´t in any shape to drive, and you can´t stay here.
Chris, through his muddled brain, realized the man was right. Why cost someone else a loved one because he was too stupid to know his limit?´ He agreed to let the bartender call Vin. Steve couldn´t believe this guy was some kind of cop. He was so wasted it was a wonder he knew his own name.
Steve called the number Chris gave him and JD answered the phone on the first ring. Dunne, said the young agent.
This is Steve over at Charlie´s Bar. We´ve got a problem with a friend of yours, I´m supposed to ask for a Tanner.
Hold on please, JD replied putting Steve on hold. Hey Vin, he called out, There´s a call for you on two. Steve from Charlie´s Bar somewhere. I think we´ve found Chris.
Vin rushed to the phone. They had started to get worried about Chris, he had not come back after lunch. The sharpshooter deduced from the nature of the person calling that Chris had decided to drink his lunch. He grabbed the phone and answered, Tanner.
Yeah, this is the bartender over at Charlie´s on Rosemont. We´ve got a Chris here that says he is a friend of yours. You need to come and get him; he´s had way too much to drink. He´s wanting to fight, so you better be prepared. Our bouncer is keeping an eye on him right now, but he ain´t gonna put up with much crap out of him. He´ll crack his skull for him. You coming?
I´m on my way, don´t let him leave, and don´t hurt him. Vin slammed the phone down on the hook and cursed out loud to no one in particular. He grabbed his coat and called back over his shoulder, I´ll be back in a few. I gotta go get what´s left of our fearless leader out a bar.
Ezra was sitting at his desk, contemplating the action Chris was taking. The drinking was nothing new. He had heard stories about the binges lasting for weeks. There was even a brush with death from alcohol poisoning, but Chris had recovered. Before it had been grief that had motivated the drinking, it had eased his pain. Oblivion was a nice place to live when you couldn´t face reality. This time it was denial. Chris was denying that there was any meaning to the dreams. He was denying that he had friends that he could trust to help him. He himself knew a little about denial and how it could be your best friend, if you hurt inside enough. Don´t worry my friend, I´ll be there to help you, when you´re ready for it.´
Vin arrived at the bar and looked toward the back table. Chris´ head was down and the bouncer was seated across from him. I´ll take over now man, thanks for calling me, Tanner acknowledged. The bouncer nodded and walked away, but not too far away. Eddie hoped the smaller man knew what he was getting into. Larabee looked like he could be hell on wheels if left to his own devices. He decided he would hang close by, just in case.
Chris looked up as Vin approached. To Tanner´s surprise, Chris started laughing. Hello, Vinnnn. Did I get you away from something? I hope so; you could use a drink, and come to think of it, so could I. But these guys, well they don´t seem to think I need another drink. I told them I wasn´t near through, but they don´t like my money or something. So we need to go someplace else. How about it Vin, Chris asked, speech slurring.
No Chris, we´re going to your house and you are going to bed. Damn, what are you doing anyway. It´s the middle of the day.
If you´re going to lecture, MOM, you can take your ass on back to the office. I ain´t in the mood.
Yeah, well I ain´t in the mood to have to whup your ass either Larabee, but if that´s what it takes to get you home, then let´s get at it.
Chris grinned wickedly at the smaller man daring to threaten him, Bring it on Tanner, bring it on. The very thought of a fight was appealing to the inebriated man. The fight would take his mind off everything else. He might get his ass whupped as the Texan had put it, but he had better have brought a sack lunch. Cracking heads, even if one of them did belong to Vin, sounded good.
The ATF team leader was not prepared for the swift attack of the lithe sharpshooter. The small man moved like a rabbit, quick and nervous. Vin had his boss on the floor, pinned, before Chris could finish his thought. However, the darkly clad man was not giving up easily. He threw Vin off his chest and the sharpshooter saw stars as he cracked his head on the corner of the table. He quickly jumped to his feet, shaking off the roaring in his ears. Chris swung at his friend, missed, and fell to the floor. Getting up, proved to be too much for the drunken man. He attempted to climb up from the floor, once, twice, three times, and failed on each occasion. Tanner extended his hand to help Larabee up and Chris took the hand and pulled himself to his feet. The world spun out of control, and Vin had to catch his friend to keep him from hitting the floor again.
Chris finally realizing his limited reaction time was going to get him hurt, conceded the fight and let Vin escort him from the bar. They left his rented truck in the parking lot and Tanner drove him to his ranch.
The two men exited Vin´s Jeep and started to walk into the house. Larabee walked up the front steps and unlocked the front door and went inside, leaving the door open for Tanner. The sharpshooter had started to enter the house through the garage at the side of the house like they always did. It surprised him that Chris used the front door. He had always said that he preferred to use the garage entrance because that was how Sarah always liked to go into the house. Footprints, mud, grass, and such wouldn´t get on the carpet if the rug outside the garage door were used, that was Sarah´s philosophy on the side entrance. Vin went back around and up the front steps. He closed the wood and glass door behind him.
Chris had already passed out on his bed. Tanner threw a blanket over him after removing his boots and jacket. Flipping on the television, he sat down on the couch and waited to see what effects the binge would have on the blond man sleeping it off in the next room.
Two hours later, Chris staggered through the living room, into the kitchen, and began to drink water. Three glassfuls later Vin entered the kitchen grinning from ear to ear. Chris growled at him and Tanner laughingly answered, Don´t growl and glare at me Larabee, I didn´t force this drunk on you. Yeah, well you don´t have to gloat about it either Tanner. Besides, my head hurts too bad to glare, so you´re safe for now.
Tanner looked thoughtfully at his friend. Chris, why did you come in through the front door? Vin wanted to take the question back, as soon as it was out of his mouth. The look on Chris´ face confirmed his wish to have withdrawn the inquiry before it was ever launched. I didn´t realize I had to approve my every move with you Vin. I apologize, next time I´ll ok the itinerary with you prior to entering my own home.
Vin let the whole subject drop. He had become accustomed to Larabee´s outbursts of temper and had learned not to take them personally. More than likely tomorrow Chris wouldn´t even remember this conversation.
Chris returned to the office the next morning. He was still quiet and reserved. He spoke only when spoken to and then the answers were brief and to the point. He also remained in his office all morning and started to leave at lunch and remembered he didn´t have a car to leave in. Josiah hoped he would ask one of them for a ride, but instead walked to the nearest desk and called for a cab. He then gave the men gathered there a last look, a nervous almost paranoid look, and left the office.
Larabee climbed into the cab waiting out in front of the Federal building. He gave the driver the address to the bar he visited yesterday. His truck was parked out front. He paid the cabdriver and got into his truck and left. No drinking today, he planned to return to the office and try to actually get some paperwork done, and he didn´t want anymore lectures from his men.
He drove around for about an hour and found himself in front of the city cemetery. He parked the truck and got out. He hesitantly made himself walk through the gates and down the long rows of markers, knowing exactly how many crosses and square granite tombstones he would pass before reaching his destination. As he approached the graves of his wife and son, his heart started beating faster and harder, as though it would jump through his chest. One row away,´ he thought and then he was there.
The name jumped at him:
SARAH ELIZABETH LARABEE
I´ll Never Forget
Chris dropped to his knees beside the grave of his wife. I´m sorry Sarah, sorry it took me so long to get here. I know I´ve been a coward, but I just couldn´t come here and see your marker and know that you´re under the ground. I know I haven´t been here since the day of the funeral, but I´ve seen to it that there are flowers on your grave all the time, tulips when they´re in season. I know they´re your favorites. I know that don´t count for much, but it´s all I can do. Coming here is just too hard. Buck did a good job with your stone Sarah; it´s exactly what I would´ve picked. He did a good job planning the services too. I couldn´t do any of that either. I guess you think I´m pretty sorry, not even taking care of the arrangements, but it was all I could do to get out of bed that next morning. I´m sorry I didn´t do these things for you. I´m so sorry.
Chris glanced over his shoulder at the smaller marker beside that of his wife´s. It was almost impossible for him to look at the small grave. It was a different kind of grief that filled him at that moment though. He had never been able to come here for some reason, and that reason had always been Adam. It was like he couldn´t feel Adam´s death. He felt the sharp bitter pain of Sarah´s death daily, yet for some unexplained reason, he never felt the same about Adam.
He turned once again to the little stone that now seemed to be miles away from him. He straightened his stance so that he was even with his son´s marker. The inscription read:
ADAM CHRISTOPHER LARABEE
Beloved son of Chris and Sarah
Chris brushed away some grass and dirt that had collected around the base of the marker. I don´t know what to say son. I miss you every day. Not a day goes by that I don´t think about you. I don´t know why I stayed away so long. I guess I was afraid. But, now I´ve conquered the fear and I´ll be back soon. He turned away from the small marker still not able to get past the strange feeling he had about it. He couldn´t even talk to the grave like he had to Sarah´s. Why?´ Chris´ sleep starved body finally gave in to the call of Morpheus and he fell asleep sitting on the grass beside his wife and son´s graves.
Ezra pulled a hand over his face and rubbed his eyes at the sight of the clearly devastated man in the cemetery. He didn´t like intruding on anyone´s pain, but Chris was definitely in trouble and someone had to look out for him. It looked like that someone would be him. Vin was so busy trying to prove that Adam was alive and Buck was too busy trying to be cautious, JD was playing referee between Vin and Buck, Josiah was worried about Chris´ soul and Nathan was too worried about Chris´ physical well being to notice their friend´s deteriorating mental state. Chris was falling apart and no one even noticed. Except me,´ the southerner added. Ezra knew all too well the signs of a man in deep distress. Emotional distress. He had been there himself. Granted nothing as devastating as the loss of a wife and child had befallen him, but everyone needed help from time to time. His mother had hired psychiatrists and analysts and psychologists of all descriptions to try to mend his fractured psyche, when all it would really have taken was a friend. That´s what he would do for Chris, if the extremely private man would allow it.
The dream was starting to replay itself in his head. A child´s cry, Adam, begging him for help, not being able to do anything, disbelief, anger, grief, pain. God please, don´t make me live through this again.´ In the dream Chris pulled his weapon from the holster and looked around frantically, trying desperately to find the person responsible for his child´s distress.
Standish was still watching the man sleep 45 minutes later and began to become disturbed. He extracted himself from his car and started toward the front gate. At that moment Chris surged to his feet, looking around in terror. He dropped quickly to his knees between the graves of his wife and son. Please forgive me.
Ezra stopped when he heard Larabee´s cry. He looked through the hedge in time to see Chris drop to his knees beside the graves and pull his weapon out of his shoulder holster. Standish broke into a run and threw the gate open. He jumped over tombstones and dodged markers as he cut cross-country to the row of graves that held Sarah and Adam Larabee. He tackled Chris pushing him over and knocking the gun out of his hand. What the hell are you doing Standish? the enraged man yelled.
What am I doing? What am I doing? Standish cried out in protest, What are you doing Mr. Larabee? I have always believed you to be a great many things, a stubborn, bull headed, ill tempered, bullying, control freak, but never a coward. This isn´t the answer Chris. You don´t need to do this, let me help you.
Chris let out a strangled laugh. You, help me? That would be very interesting Ezra, the most screwed up individual in the world being helped by the second most screwed up individual in the world. That´s priceless, he finished bitterly. Besides, I don´t need help. I just need you and Vin and Buck and everybody else that thinks they know what is best for me to just leave me the hell alone in peace. Jesus, I can´t even come to the cemetery by myself without a bodyguard being sent to tail me. Did you lose the coin toss or was it just your turn?
Ezra looked at Chris in amusement and just to raise Chris´ ire a little more he began to laugh, and then applaud. Very good Mr. Larabee, he replied clapping his hands, very good. I´m glad to see that famous Larabee temper. Now let me answer your inquiries: no I´m not a bodyguard, no one was aware that I followed you, I didn´t lose a coin toss and it was not my turn. Oh and by the way we can´t leave you the hell alone because we care about what happens to you. As for the cemetery, I really don´t think you should come here often, it seems to have a detrimental effect on your health.
Chris continued to look incensed for another moment and then a small grin started to turn up at the corners of his mouth. He reached over to pick up his gun, which Ezra picked up and put in the back of the waistband of his pants. I swear I´m not gonna use it Ezra, you can let me have it back. I was never planning on using it. I remember enough about the dream to know that I drew my gun. I guess I just feel more in control when I have it in my hand. The control freak coming out in me I guess, he said looking sideways at Ezra.
Had I been allowed to finish my statement, without being told I was screwed up you would have also heard me tell you that along with all that other bad stuff I said you were, you are also strong, intelligent, you command respect and you are worthy of it. If I had half the qualities you have I would consider myself most fortunate. But most of all you are the best at what you do. You try to keep everyone safe. You are also a good friend, and as such I hate to see you in such distress. By the way I will be keeping your piece until I am sure that you have no intention of putting it to use upon your person.
Chris shook his head smiling, I love to hear you talk Ezra, I don´t know what you´re saying half the time, but I do love to hear it.
Don´t change the subject Mr. Larabee, spill it, what´s eating at you? I know it has something to do with your family, but I know it isn´t the same thing that has been bothering you for four years. This is something different, something to do with the dream you had perhaps?
Having, Chris said quietly.
I beg your pardon, Ezra replied.
The dreams I´ve been having, for weeks now. I had another one just now. Chris confirmed Ezra´s suspicion as to the cause of the episode with the gun.
Tell me Chris. Don´t deny the dreams. I am the master at covering. I know all the tricks. If you ignore it, it will go away, you recognize that one Chris? Did it go away? If I believe it isn´t true, it won´t be true. Is that the one you´re leaning on Larabee? It´s a very weak defense. It will never stand up to scrutiny. Come on, tell me about the dreams.
Chris took a deep shuddering breath and began, You´re going to have your suspicions that I´m going crazy confirmed when I start this Ezra, you sure you´re ready for it?
Lead on Mr. Larabee.
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