December 31, 2002
Authors Note: First, Linda Chapple gets big thanks for this one, for providing the spark. Next, this story makes references to incidents and characters from my other stories, Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire and Fathers Day. Its not absolutely necessary to read them first, but if you want to, go ahead!
Size: Approx 140K
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"Oh, shit. Vin? Vin can you hear me?"
Chris waved his hand in front of his friends face, trying to distract him; break him from the trance-like state he was in.
He shook Vins shoulder, hoping that would work. Again, nothing. If anything, the action seemed to make matters worse, as Vins breathing quickened and sweat began to pour off his brow.
"Chris?" Buck whispered.
"Its happening again. Goddamnit! Its happening again."
Six months earlier
"This is gonna be short and sweet, JD," Vin said, checking his weapon again. "All were gonna do is meet up with LaSalle, check out samples of the merchandise and okay the deal. Hell call us tomorrow with the date, time and location of the actual buy."
"Got it. Check the merchandise and okay the deal," JD repeated, his voice betraying his nervousness.
"Dont be so jumpy, Kid. Just cause Chris and Buck didnt okay to the meet dont mean youre gonna get into trouble. Trust me."
"You, I trust, Vin," JD answered. "Its Chris and Bucks reaction when we tell them we went ahead with the meet that I dont trust."
"We left a message. And you know Chris gives me carte blanche on stuff. What are ya worried about?"
Vin just rolled his eyes. Rookie, he thought. Give the kid time and hell come around. He continued driving towards their destination, The Red Dragon, a combination bar and pizza joint on the West Side of Denver. They were to meet up with Jared LaSalle there and, in the back room of the place, check out a sample of the weapons LaSalle had for sale.
Half an hour later, they were sitting at a table in The Red Dragon, awaiting LaSalle. JD looked up as two men entered the establishment and headed for the back room. One of the men was carrying a large suitcase. The other nodded to Vin. Vin nodded back and he and JD followed the men.
Vin and JD stood on one side of a table while LaSalle and his man stood on the other.
"Glad to see you made it," LaSalle said. "Ive been looking forward to doing business with you."
"Aint agreed to nothin yet," Vin replied. "Lets see whatcha got, first."
LaSalle nodded to his man, who then opened the suitcase.
"As you can see, we have several items to choose from. Take a look. Try them out," LaSalle said, gesturing to the weapons.
Vin picked up one of the Glock pistols first. He dropped the magazine out and then pulled back and removed the slide before checking the inner workings of the gun. He put the pieces back together before dry-firing it a few times. He did similar checks to the other weapons as well.
"Well?" LaSalle asked after Vin closed the case.
"Ill take twenty of each," Vin replied.
"Excellent. Why dont we make it an even fifty thousand, then?"
"Ill call you tomorrow afternoon with the details," LaSalle said, dismissing Vin and JD.
The two ATF agents left the restaurant and got into Vins Jeep.
"See, Kid? Short and sweet."
"So why do I still feel like crap?" JD asked.
"Dont know, JD. Dont know."
As they were driving, Vin felt as if he were starting to feel like JD like crap. Nausea and dizziness were creeping around him, and it felt as if a jackhammer had started on his brain. When he closed his eyes for a moment at a red light, he knew he didnt want to open them again.
He was startled awake by JDs voice and a car horn blowing behind them. His heart felt as if it was going to beat out of his chest.
"Vin? Come on, the lights green," JD said. "You okay?"
Vin looked over to JD. "Yeah, Steve, Im fine. Sorry." He put the Jeep into gear and started driving again.
JDs eyebrows drew together in confusion. Steve? He didnt have too much time to ponder on the name before he was shouting a warning to Vin as the Jeep crossed over the double yellow line of the road and they just missed hitting an oncoming car.
"Vin! Come on, pull over!" JD shouted, grabbing at the wheel.
"NO!" Vin shouted back, slapping JDs hands away. "Weve got to get back! Charlies waiting for us!"
JD fought for control of the Jeep and finally wound up pulling the keys out of the ignition. When the Jeep stopped in the middle of the road, with cars blowing their horns as they drove around them, Vin began cursing some more.
"Damnit, Steve! Give me the fuckin keys!"
"Who the hell is Steve? Im JD!" JD yelled back, beginning to worry. "What the hell is wrong with you, Vin?"
Then JD really began to worry, when in response to his question, Vin pulled out his gun and pointed it at him. "Aint nothin wrong with me, Steve. Youre the one with the problem. Now give me the fuckin keys!!!"
When a police car pulled up behind them and an officer began to shout at Vin to put down the gun, and Vin reholstered, JD thought this ordeal, whatever it was, was over. But before he could do anything more, Vin jumped out of the Jeep and ran away.
"Vin!!" he shouted, getting out and starting to run after him. He was stopped by one of the police officers.
"Freeze!" the officer shouted. "Get your hands in the air!"
"Im ATF!" JD shouted, needing to go after Vin. "My ID is in my wallet," he said, slowly pulling it out of his back pocket. As soon as the officer nodded his acceptance of the credential, JD began to explain. "That other man is an ATF agent, too. Somethings wrong with him, though. I think hes sick or something. Ive got to go after him." And then he did, heading down the same alley Vin did.
+ + + + + + +
After half an hour of searching the streets and alleys, JD finally realized that he was going to need some more help. He didnt know if the police officer hed spoken to had put out an APB or anything, so he figured hed need to do it himself. His worry for Vin easily overrode any fear he now had of talking to Chris or Buck as he dialed the office.
"JD, where the hell are you? Chris has been waiting to hear from you and Vin for almost an hour, now."
"Something happened to Vin."
"What? Where are you? What happened? Wheres Vin?"
"Im on the West Side, near Carroll Street. I dont know what happened and I dont know where Vin is."
"JD? Youre not making any sense. What happened?"
"We made the deal with LaSalle, just like we said we would. Went down short and sweet, just like Vin said. Then, as we were driving, he started acting funny. Started calling me Steve. Next thing I know were fighting for control of the Jeep and hes got a gun on me!"
"Wheres Vin now?"
"I dont know, Buck! The police showed up and it spooked him. He ran off and now I cant find him!"
"Okay, calm down, JD. Stay put and well be right there. Ill give DPD a call and see if we cant get an APB out on him in the meantime. Okay?"
"Buck? Whats wrong with him? Whyd he do that?"
"I dont know, JD. But well find him and then find out."
JD turned off his phone with a sigh. He headed back toward the street where theyd left the Jeep and looked for Vin along the way.
+ + + + + + +
"Get away from me!" Vin shouted, pushing aside the man that he had just bumped into.
He continued on his way, his steps uneven as he stumbled again on the sidewalk. He tried to ignore the looks of the people he passed, but the disgust on their faces only angered him.
"Dont look at me!" he yelled at an elderly woman, scaring her.
He wiped the sweat off his brow and looked around. He didnt know where he was. He tried to remember where Charlie had said to meet him. He looked at his watch, knowing he was late, but when the numbers were just a small blur on his wrist, he took the timepiece off and threw it to the ground in frustration. Turning around, he bumped into another person. Looking around and finding himself surrounded, he broke through the crowd and ran down an alley, fear for his life hurtling him along.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Buck met JD at the corner of Court and Carroll Streets.
"What happened, JD?"
"Like I told Buck on the phone, Chris, everything had gone alright with LaSalle," he began. "Then, as were driving back, he just started acting all crazy! He pulled his gun on me when I took the car keys! Something is seriously wrong with him, Chris."
Chris ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He couldnt think of any reason why Vin would go off like this.
"You guys have anything to eat or drink at The Red Dragon? Any chance someone coulda slipped him a mickey or something?" Buck asked.
"No. Nothing," JD replied, shaking his head. "We were only there for about five minutes before LaSalle and his guy showed up. We went into the back room, checked the weapons and agreed to deal. Didnt have time for anything else."
"Which way did he go when he ran from you, JD?" Chris asked, looking around the city streets, seeing all and none of the possible places Vin could have gone.
"I followed him down that alley there," he said, pointing across the street. "It led to Francis Street. I tried going in a couple of different directions, but I lost him."
"Buck, you gave DPD all the info and Vins description?"
"Yeah. Talked to Bill Green, heard him put the APB out while I was on the phone with him."
"Alright, lets spread out and start looking. Keep your phones on."
+ + + + + + +
Vin leaned against the brick wall with a sigh. His body was beginning to betray him and he cursed as he felt himself start sliding toward the ground. All around him the crowd just laughed at him, jeering at his form, sending their insults to him, through him.
"Look at him!"
"Get back in the dumpster!"
And then Charlie was there.
"Come on, Vin. I waited for you. Why didnt you show up?"
"I tried! I tried! But you were gone!"
"Where were you?!"
"Leave me alone! Youre dead!"
"I waited for you!"
+ + + + + + +
Chris was on the south side of Francis Street when his cell phone rang.
"Larabee," he answered, his eyes never stopping the search for his friend.
"Chris, its Buck. Im with Officer Brooks from DPD; we might have found him. Someone called, reporting a disorderly male meeting Vins description on LeRoy. Were almost there."
"Ill be right there. Keep the line open."
+ + + + + + +
"Mister? Mister, you okay?"
Vin heard the voice echoing in his head. He opened his eyes, expecting to see a small child to match the voice, but instead found his worst nightmare.
"NO!" he shouted at the monster before him, pulling his gun out of its holster. "You stay away from me! I swear; Ill shoot you!"
+ + + + + + +
Buck and Officer Brooks ran when they heard the gunshot, pulling their own weapons as they did.
"Two-fourteen to Denver. Shots fired near LeRoy!" Brooks shouted into his radio mike.
The two men came to a halt at the entrance to a church.
"Leave me alone!" Buck heard Vin shout from inside.
"Two-fourteen to Denver. Subjects inside St. Ritas on LeRoy," Brooks reported.
"Chris, you hear that? St. Ritas, on LeRoy," Buck told Chris quickly, before putting his cell phone back onto his belt. "Vin?!" he then called inside. "Vin! Its me, Buck! You alright?" he called as he inched his way into the church. Trying to adjust his vision as he left the bright sunlit street and entered the stained glass-lit church, he peered in, looking for Vin. "Vin? You alone? Or you got some bad guys with you?"
"Youre killing him! Youre killing him!" Vin shouted and fired his weapon again.
Buck was about to say something to Officer Brooks when he caught sight of Vin, crouched down between two church pews, his gun thrust out before him. He tried to follow the aim of the weapon, to see who Vin was shooting at, but saw no one. He crept closer.
"Vin? Pard? Wheres the bad guy, Vin?" he whispered. He was unprepared then, when Vin turned his weapon toward him. "Vin?"
"Get away from me!"
"Easy now, Pard" Buck soothed, putting his gun away and putting his hands out. "Just ol Buck, here."
Buck couldnt believe how bad Vin looked. His clothing disheveled, his hair a sweaty mess, the young man was breathing heavily. He was shaking so much that Buck didnt think hed be able to stand on his own. But worst of all, worst of all, Buck thought, was the fear he saw in Vins eyes. He didnt think hed ever seen Vin look so afraid.
"Vin?" he whispered, taking a step closer. "Whats goin on, Pard?"
"You killed him!" Vin shouted, firing his weapon.
Buck didnt have time to get out of the way and cried out as he felt the bullet slam into his leg. His only thought was to try to stop the DPD officer from reacting. But he was too late and as he fell to the floor, heard a second shot sound.
+ + + + + + +
"Buck!" Chris shouted, hearing the gunshots on the cell phone and in the air as turned the corner onto LeRoy Street.
When he finally got inside the church, he found a DPD officer struggling with Buck, trying to keep him down as he pressed a hand to Bucks wounded leg.
"Leave me alone! I gotta check on him!" Buck shouted at Officer Brooks, finally shoving him off.
"Stay, Buck," Chris ordered as he leapt over the pew to get to Vin.
He found Vin near the side aisle, hands cuffed behind his back, struggling to get free, his movements making the gunshot wound to his right shoulder bleed even more.
Chriss concerned gaze was met with a defiant one as Vin continued to struggle against his bonds.
"Vin, stop. Youre making it worse," Chris said, grabbing onto Vin.
"NOOO!!!" Vin shouted, head butting Chris and scrambling away. "Youre dead!! You cant be here!"
Getting up off the floor, even more confused than before, Chris tried again to reach Vin. "Vin? Its me, Chris. Whats going on, Cowboy?"
Vin had backed up some more, heading down the aisle, toward the front of the church. His eyes were roaming wildly, his fear increasing with his breaths as he found himself being surrounded. By now, there were about a dozen DPD officers inside. Chris gestured to them, telling them to keep their distance.
"Youre hurt, Vin," Chris continued. "Let me help you. No one here wants to hurt you, Vin. Come on," he coaxed, inching his way closer to Vin.
Vin looked around again and found himself surrounded by colors, the sun shining through the stained glass window above him. He stopped then and stared, suddenly mesmerized by the rainbow. Chris saw his chance and grabbed Vin again, covering Vins body with his own. Vin reacted immediately and fought the hold, screaming at Chris to let him go as he did. Soon, two DPD officers were there, helping Chris keep Vin down.
"Get a stretcher in here!" one shouted.
A few minutes later, a stretcher was there, waiting. With a coordinated effort, the three men managed to get Vin onto the stretcher and strapped down.
"You bastard!!" Vin shouted at Chris. "You fuckin bastard! You didnt have to die!"
Chris tried to block out Vins shouted words. He didnt understand them anyway. Bent over, his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath, he watched the paramedics add more straps to the stretcher and medical tape around Vins head to try to control his movements even further, and had to look away. Back toward the rear of the church, he met JD and Bucks just as confused gazes as JD helped another set of paramedics get Buck onto their stretcher.
"Man, what the hell is he tripping on?"
Chris looked up to see a DPD officer standing next to him. He barely heard the mans words over Vins screams and shouts.
"What?" Chris asked.
"He work narc for you guys or something? Get into some evidence maybe?" the officer continued.
The words were barely out of the officers mouth before Chris had him up against the wall. "You say anything like that about my agent again, and Ill kill you," Chris whispered, the dangerous tone in his voice easily evident to the officer. "Vin Tanner is one of the best lawmen youll ever meet. Dont you even think anything different."
"Yeah. Sure," the officer replied with a sigh as Chris released him.
He turned toward Josiahs familiar voice then, and let out a sigh of his own. At Josiahs questioning look, Chris just shrugged his shoulders.
"I dont know what happened, Josiah. I dont know whats wrong with him," he said, looking back towards Vin, watching as they started to wheel him out of the church. "He didnt know us. Hell, he shot Buck!"
"Agent Larabee? You coming with us?" Officer Brooks called.
Chris didnt think he could handle seeing Vins struggles or hearing his shouts anymore.
"Well meet you there," Josiah answered for him, motioning them to go on ahead. He put his hand on Chriss shoulder and steered him toward the rear of the church. "Come on. My trucks outside."
+ + + + + + +
Vin struggled against the demons. He was surrounded by them held down by them... He screamed at them to let him go.
"Somebody hold him!"
They were shouting at him, yelling at him, telling him lies and yet despite hearing their words, he couldnt understand what they wanted of him.
"Anybody know what hes on? Get me a full tox screen!"
He just wanted to get out of there. He just wanted to be left alone. Why were these people torturing him so?
Time to leave. Time to get out.
He was tired. There were too many of them. Maybe if he just gave in
It was getting quieter. Yeah. Give in. Let go.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah sat in the waiting room and watched the other two men there. They were complete opposites of one another, as appearances went. While Chris sat quietly on the edge of one of the couches, his head hung low as his arms rested on his knees, JD was busy wearing a hole through the floor with his pacing. But they were both worried about their friends. Just as Josiah was.
Despite his insistence that he was fine back at the church, Buck still sustained a serious gunshot wound. By the time hed gotten to the hospital, the blood loss had weakened him considerably and hed lost consciousness. But at least they knew what was wrong with Buck. Vin
Josiah had tried to discuss the possibilities with Chris on the ride to the hospital. A head injury, drug interactions and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had all come into his side of the conversation the only side of the conversation. None of the options looked good. He didnt even want to think of any long-term consequences Vin might have. All they wanted was their old, normal, sane friend back.
Long-term consequences. Josiah guessed that they had to think of them, now. No matter what the cause of Vins current condition, there would be consequences, both personal and professional. The first being Vins having to deal with the fact that he lost control and that that loss of control resulting in him shooting one of his friends. Josiah sighed. He knew Buck wouldnt blame Vin for his actions. He knew there was something wrong, that Vin didnt shoot him on purpose. But knowing Vin, if when he came out of this, hed think differently.
Josiah was sure that there would be an inquiry of some sort from the ATF brass, too. One of their agents went crazy and shot another one. But why? That was the question. There had to be some logical explanation. But theyd have to wait for the doctors to tell them that, if they could.
Josiah checked his watch. Not that he needed to, as JD had just lamented again about what time it was and wondered what was taking the doctors so long to get back to them. Theyd been there for a little over an hour, now.
"Anyone here for Buck Wilmington?"
"How is he?!" JD immediately replied, rushing to the doctors side.
"We were able to get him stabilized and hes headed for surgery right now," the doctor answered. "When the bullet entered his leg, it hit the femur. There are several small bone fragments that need to be removed, along with the bullet. One of our orthopedists will be handling his case from now on."
"But is he gonna be okay?"
"Yes, he will." And after seeing the relieved look on JDs face, he added, "If youd like to wait in the surgical waiting room, youll be able to talk with the orthopedist when shes done and ask her any other questions you have."
"What about Vin Tanner?" This question from Chris, the first words hed spoken since leaving St. Ritas church.
"Im sorry, but I dont know anything about him. Youll have to wait for Dr. Morris. Hes handling Mr. Tanners case."
Chris just nodded and went back to the couch, sitting down and waiting as he had before.
"Thanks, doctor," Josiah said for all of them, before the doctor headed back toward the ER. "You gonna head upstairs, JD?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Ill stay here and wait for news on Vin."
About fifteen minutes went by before the ER doors opened again. A tall black man in a lab coat approached the trio.
"Youre here with Vin Tanner?" he asked.
Hearing the tired tone in the voice, Chris immediately thought the worst. But since neither JD nor Josiah would ask the question, he did. "Is he alright?"
The doctor sighed as he sat down on the coffee table. "I wish I could say yes to that, but I cant," he began. He put his hand up when he saw the dread in Chris and JDs eyes and added, "But hes still with us. Still very much alive and kickin."
"Were you able to find out whats wrong with him?" Josiah asked.
"Blood tests revealed levels of stimulants and an hallucinogen in his system. The labs trying to narrow it down further. They think it might have been a combination of cocaine and LSD," he replied. "Nasty stuff."
"Wait a minute," JD balked. "Vin does not do drugs! Hed never touch the stuff!"
"Of course not, JD," Josiah soothed. "The doctor didnt say Vin did. Just that the drugs were in his system."
"A lot of drug overdoses are accidental," the doctor put in. "And we did notice that the skin on his hands and face did appear to be red and irritated. Is it possible that he was handling some evidence or something?"
"No, we usually dont deal with that stuff," JD replied.
"JD? Tell us again about the deal today," Josiah suggested. "Did you get seated at the restaurant or did you seat yourselves? Did you have anything to eat or drink? Did Vin shake hands with LaSalle? Did they exchange money or business cards or anything?"
"No. Like I told you guys before, we got to the restaurant about five minutes before LaSalle. We didnt order anything. We went to the back room and talked while Vin checked the guns "
"Did anyone else touch those guns?" Josiah asked.
"No. And LaSalle and his henchman both had leather gloves on!"
"Son of a bitch!" Chris swore, getting to his feet. "Josiah, get Ezra on the phone. Tell him to pull out, now!" he ordered, beginning to pace the room. "And I want LaSalles ass in a jail cell before midnight!"
"Gentlemen?" the doctor spoke up, getting their attention back to Vins condition. When he had it, he continued. "Okay, now that we seem to have solved how Mr. Tanner got the drugs in his system, we now need to deal with treating him."
"Go on," Chris responded, taking a seat once again, nodding as Josiah placed a quick call to Ezra, telling him to pull out and that hed explain later.
"Were looking at a couple of things," the doctor began. "First and foremost, obviously, are the effects of the drugs. As you may well know, hallucinogens have different effects on different people. For Mr. Tanner, theyve brought about feelings of extreme distress, paranoia and hallucinations. With the dosage he received and the trauma to his systems, hes likely to have continued effects, possibly lasting three to four days."
"What about flashbacks?" Josiah asked, already knowing the answer.
"A definite possibility," the doctor replied, nodding his head. "With drugs like LSD and PCP, flashbacks are very common, and theyre usually similar to the original trip. Most flashbacks are brought on by times of stress or specific stimuli."
"You said youre looking at a couple of things. What else?" Chris asked.
"The bullet wound he received will require surgery, eventually."
"Theres muscle and tendon damage," the doctor explained. "But right now, Im reluctant to go ahead with the surgery. Between the drugs he was dosed with, the sedative we had to give him to calm him down and the antibiotics and fluids well, Id rather not add any other stress to his system right now."
"So where does he go from here?" Josiah asked.
"Up to ICU."
"When can I see him?" Chris asked.
"Id rather you held off for a bit," the doctor replied. "In cases like this, its best to limit the stimuli, and the number of people. Hes very confused and probably wont know youre a friend."
+ + + + + + +
JD moved closer to the bed after he saw Bucks eyes start to flutter.
"Buck?" he called.
Buck moaned a bit, moved his head to the side and groaned as he opened his eyes, taking in the blurry sight of JDs face. "Back off, JD," he murmured, trying to get his eyes to focus.
"Sorry, Buck," JD replied, doing as asked. "Just glad to see you awake."
"What the hell happened? Last thing I remember is...is... Vin!" Buck would have sat up as he recalled what happened, if hed had the energy and strength to do so. "JD! Wheres Vin? Is he alright?"
"Hes here at the hospital, Buck," JD answered. "And they say hell be okay."
But Buck, even as weak as he was, heard the uncertainty in JDs voice.
"JD? What happened? What happened to him?"
"We think there were some drugs on the guns he checked out when we met up with LaSalle," JD began. "The doctor said they found traces of cocaine and LSD in his system. That there must have been some on the guns and Vin mightve had some cuts on his hands or touched his mouth or nose with them afterwards "
"Shit," Buck cursed quietly, closing his eyes as he let his head fall back onto his pillow.
"Chris had Ezra pull out and then Josiah and Nathan went to bring in LaSalle. Chris thinks that somehow our covers got blown and this was LaSalles way of getting rid of us."
"He dont know us very well, does he?" Buck added. He moved to try to get more comfortable and then bit back a yelp as his leg protested. "Damn, JD, what the hell did they do to me?" he asked, looking down at his leg, and the device that kept it immobile.
"Bullet hit the bone. Surgeons had to remove some fragments," JD explained. "Said youll be out of commission for a couple of months... Damn, I just cant believe it, Buck! I mean, Vin shot you! How could he do that?"
"He didnt, JD," Buck replied softly. "The drugs did. Ive seen too many people on drugs... I know how it messes up their thinking, what theyre seeing. He thought I was someone else, JD someone that had hurt him. Or was going to."
"He kept calling for Charlie and he called me, and then you, Steve. Chris said he knew who Charlie was, an old friend of Vins, but we dont know who Steve is," JD responded. Looking at Bucks tired form, he stopped his thoughts and pushed away from the bed. "Look, you need your rest, Buck. Ill come back later to visit you."
"Thanks, JD," Buck replied. "But dont you worry none about ol Buck. Ill be fine." I just hope Vin will be, he added to himself.
+ + + + + + +
Vin opened his eyes and moaned. His shoulder felt as if it was on fire, his head was pounding in time with his heartbeat and he couldnt move.
"Got you strapped down good, dont they?"
"Leave me alone!" he cried, struggling against the straps that held him to the bed. "Go back to hell where you belong!"
"Aw, Vin, you dont want me to do that, do you?"
Vin struggled against the restraints, not feeling any pain, not caring that he was making his shoulder worse. Frustrated, he began to bang his head, the only thing he could move, down onto the mattress, over and over and over.
Seeing the action, the duty nurse went over to the bed and began talking to Vin. "Vin? Vin you need to stop that," she told him, putting her hands on his head to try to hold it down. "Come on, youre going to rip out those stitches we put in your shoulder."
"Ma? Ma, make them go away! Please! I dont like this! Let me go, Ma!"
"Sssh, Vin. Calm down, calm down."
"Ma, dont leave me! Dont leave me with them! Ma!"
+ + + + + + +
"Theyre gone?! What do you mean, theyre gone, Ezra?" Chris demanded, pacing the bullpen.
"When we arrived back at LaSalles headquarters, we found the place empty."
"They bugged out," Josiah added.
"We had fucking surveillance on the place! How could they get out without us knowing?! Who the hell was in charge down there?!"
"Apparently there was some miscommunication," Ezra began to explain. "When you ordered me to pull out, and I notified Team Four, they thought that meant they were to pull out, as well."
"Are they fucking nuts? Didnt they know why I pulled you out? Shit."
"Chris, were gonna keep looking," Nathan spoke up. "And for starters were gonna find out who tipped him off, find out if theres a leak somewhere."
"You do that."
+ + + + + + +
"No, Vin, its Chris."
"Yeah," Chris said with a grateful sigh. "Its me."
"I dont feel too good," Vin said, trying to adjust his vision, reduce the number of Chris Larabees he saw.
"I know, Vin," Chris replied. "But dont you worry, the docs here say youre on the mend. Youll be feeling like your old self in no time."
"Who you callin old, Larabee?" Vin rasped. He let out a painful groan as he tried to get more comfortable. "Why cant I move?" He began to panic then, as he realized that he had straps going across his body. "Chris?!"
"Easy, Vin. Easy," he soothed, putting his hand on Vins uninjured shoulder, exerting a small amount of pressure. "If you calm down, Ill tell you all about it and then see if we can get the doctor to agree to get these off. Okay?"
Vin struggled for another minute or so before Chris grabbed his chin and forced him to look him in the eyes. Chris said his name once and Vin stilled.
"What happened to me?"
"You got dosed," Chris began. "We think LaSalle had the guns coated with coke and LSD. You ran off away from JD."
Vin closed his eyes as visions of people and places assaulted his memory. His breathing quickened and became labored as his nightmares returned. Then Chris shouted his name and they all disappeared.
"What did I do? Why am I tied down?"
"You just lost a little control, Vin," Chris answered. "Youre tied down so you wont hurt yourself."
"Or anyone else," Vin added.
"Or anyone else," Chris agreed.
"But I did hurt someone," Vin spoke up again after a few minutes, meeting Chriss gaze. "I shot Steve "
"No, Vin. You didnt hurt anyone. Everyones okay."
"No, I remember. I had to go meet Charlie. And Steve was there instead."
"No, Vin," Chris quickly responded. "Thats just the drugs. Charlies gone, remember? Hes been gone for five years now. Remember?"
Chris could see that this was going to be difficult. Vin was having trouble separating reality from his hallucinations.
"No, Vin," he asserted. "This is two thousand and two. Charlies been gone since ninety-seven. Remember? He left you the Vinnebago."
"Steve killed him. He was gonna kill me. I had to shoot him."
Seeing Vin become agitated again, slipping back into the effects of the drug, Chris pulled back. He knew that trying to reason with his best friend right now wasnt going to work. Vin never even noticed it when he walked away from the bed and headed for the door. He called the nurse in to let her know that Vin was getting agitated, that it looked like he might start pulling at his stitches again. She nodded to him and stepped aside as he exited the room.
+ + + + + + +
Buck regarded the man sitting in the chair next to the window. Chris had been silent, just staring out the window. He figured it was about twenty minutes since hed woken up and found Chris sitting there and he knew Chris knew he was awake. Buck also knew that things werent good just by Chriss posture, but he hesitated to say anything just yet. Chris would talk when he was ready, and Buck would wait.
"We lost the bastard, Buck," Chris said, still looking out the window. "LaSalle bugged out and took the entire operation with him."
Buck rubbed his hand down his face, just as frustrated as Chris. "What about his place in Dallas? We checkin that?"
"Yeah," Chris sighed, rising from the chair by the window, crossing the room to slump down in the chair next to Bucks bed. "Dallas ATF and DEA have that covered."
"But theres more. Vins still not too good, right?"
Chris shook his head. "I was just down there with him. He was lucid for a few minutes but then slipped back into wherever the hell hes been." He closed his eyes and rolled his head around, stretching his neck muscles a bit. "Hes back with the Marshals and Charlie Flint."
"You guys figure out who that Steve fella is yet?" Buck asked.
"No. I dont even know if we need to," Chris replied tiredly. "The doctors keep telling us not to feed into the hallucinations, to try and keep him here in the present. Say itll help him to distinguish reality better and come around sooner."
"Its true. Its tough to do, but its true. What about his shoulder? Any news on that?"
"They said theyre gonna try to do the surgery in a couple of days, when hes got a better grasp on things. Then you and he will get to do some physical therapy sessions together."
"I think I heard about a pair of twin therapists somewhere blonde built " Buck mused.
Chris smiled he couldnt help it. "Only you, Buck. Only you."
+ + + + + + +
Vin groaned as he opened his eyes to the morning sun. He was tired and his body ached. "Hell of a hangover, Tanner," he whispered to himself.
"Guess you could call it that," Chris said with a chuckle.
"Jesus," he said with a sigh, closing his eyes. "I thought we told JD not to buy that cheap tequila anymore."
"Vin? Do you remember what happened?"
"Yeah, I remember," he replied quietly, looking away from Chris, his joke about JD forgotten. "But I dont know how it happened."
Chris sighed in relief. It was now the third day since Vin had been dosed with the hallucinogen. Chris had had many conversations with Vin since then, but they all had ended quickly as Vin regressed back into the memories of his hallucinations. It seemed that Vin was back in the here and now again.
"Tell me what you remember," Chris said, moving his chair closer to Vins bed, getting into his line of sight again.
"Me and JD made the deal with LaSalle," Vin began, closing his eyes, letting the memories come to him. "I remember not feeling good. I remember running from Steve, but I know it couldnt be him, cause hes hes " Vin stopped and shook his head.
"Hes what, Vin?" Chris asked, confused.
"He aint real."
"You said he killed Charlie, Vin."
"Charlie died of cancer, Chris," Vin said, looking at Chris, reminding him. "Steve Steve is just a name I had for everything bad. Thats what I called Charlies cancer. Read a book about a man that had cancer when Charlie was sick. The man talked all about death and his anger and stuff. He named his tumor. I named Charlies Steve. Charlie got a big kick out of it. I think it helped us deal with it."
Chris just nodded his head in understanding. He recalled the stories Vin had told about his old friend and benefactor. He just didnt understand why the drugs Vin had been exposed to would bring up the memories.
As if in answer to his question, Vin continued, saying, "Me and Charlie used to hang out at The Red Dragon a lot. Guess thats why I did what I did; brought up Steve."
"Makes sense to me," Chris replied. "You remember anything else?"
"I shot someone, didnt I?" It was more a statement than a question.
Chris knew he couldnt lie to Vin. He never could. Vin would see it in a heartbeat.
"Yeah, but hes okay and he understands," he asserted. "So dont worry."
"Dont worry on that now, Vin. Youve gotta rest up some now-,"
"Who?" Vin demanded.
Chris knew he wouldnt get out of this one, either. "Buck."
"We were in a church," Vin recalled.
"God," Vin whispered. "He was only tryin to help and I shot him."
"You didnt know what you were doing, Vin," Chris responded, placing his hand on Vins. "LaSalle had the guns you checked covered in coke and LSD. Buck knows this and he doesnt blame you."
"LaSalles the one to blame," Vin said, interrupting. "I want him, Chris. Tell me you got him."
"Well, theres the bad news," Chris began. "He bugged out. Took everything with him."
"Shit!" Vin cursed and then bit back a moan as he inadvertently moved his shoulder.
"Easy there, Vin. Just relax," Chris soothed, helping Vin to lie back onto the bed. "Gotta keep you in good enough shape so they can fix that shoulder up."
"Somebody had to shoot me, too."
"Someone from DPD," Chris replied.
"Dont let em get in trouble, Chris. Whoever did it had just cause. Id already shot Buck," Vin spoke up, feeling bad for the officer and for Buck again.
"Not to worry, Vin. Buck already gave his statement. No ones getting into trouble. And that includes you," Chris asserted.
"How bad is Buck?"
"You got him in the leg. Hell be out of commission for a few months."
"A few months? Shit. God."
"Bucks taking it all in stride," Chris assured him. "Hell, hes already got plans to have joint physical therapy sessions with you and a set of twin therapists."
"Youve heard of them?"
"Hell, Cowboy, anybodys whos ever been in the ortho wing heres heard of em!" Vin replied with a smile.
"God, Bucks gotten to you, too "