My first thought when I caught sight of Vin's apartment was that I was back in high school and it was the very last day before summer break. Paper everywhere. Probably close to a whole ream.
And there was Chris. Pacing, muttering under his breath, which in and of itself was strange and uncommon. If Chris was angry or upset, he either got loud, or he got deadly quiet, but he never muttered.
But the sight of Vin made us all stop dead in our tracks.
<Chris>In some way I had never felt more alone, impotent, or scared.
The simple peace of soul that the man brought me, after the soul cold chaos of the years AS and BV, still takes my breath away. But now that peace was rent in two. And just as his quiet surety and strength, stills the restlessness in my soul, I could no more turn my back on his pain, than he could mine.
But just as I was his back up, I now had my own.
<Buck>The last time I saw Chris like this, it was bad. Real bad.
He'd just lost the two most important people in his life. Senselessly. Irretrievably.
And then there was Vin. He sat there on the floor. Hands cuffed in front of him, around one of the legs of the coffee table. I couldn't see his face, but I could hear the quiet jingle of the cuffs as he shook.
Grabbing Nathan by his shoulder, I led him over while I reach for my cuff key.
For the first time in my acquaintance with Vin, he flinched when I touched him.
Growing up on the streets had taught the boy, to never show weakness.
Physical or emotional.
It's one reason he usually let his hair hang in his face, or wore his ATF cap pulled down low, concealing his eyes. That way, when he made eye contact, you knew he meant business.
Yet here he was chained like an animal.
Well he isn't. He is my friend, so I took them off.
<Nathan>Like most of the others, I had grabbed one of the crumpled up balls of paper as I entered Vin's apartment. I had barely gotten the thing smoothed out, when Buck called me over.
I started to read as I walked over. Dodging Chris I reach my friends and am not happy at what I see. Vin looks like he is in shock, his skin is grey, he is shivering, and at my touch he is clammy.
I look at Buck with a 'what the fuck?'
He taps the paper in response. So I read.
Instantly self-anger ignites, how the hell could I miss THIS.
<Josiah>After pausing only long enough to read two of the papers spread throughout the room, I know I have my job to do.
It is up to me to tackle this quietly raging Chris and get him sorted out before I can get to the heart of this matter, Vin.
Placing myself in his path, it actually takes him walking into me, to get his attention.
I grab his shoulders in my hands and steady him, then quickly have to adjust my grasp to both detain and support him as he tries to not only break free, but staggers.
Catching him around the waist and by the elbow, I lead him into the kitchen and to one of the battered chairs there.
<Ezra>Seeing JD collecting each wad of paper and straightening it out, at first I am tempted to join him in that daunting task. However, when I notice the light on in the bathroom, I take it upon myself to see what may have gone on there.
Clutching one of the stray balls of paper in my hand as I walk to its doorway, I hear the sound of water running in the shower. Is there someone else in Mr. Tanner's domicile that could be part of these events.
I am afraid it could be a woman.
Bracing myself to catch another person in a rather non-existent state of dress, instead I find...
There in the shower.
I think it is time to look at the ball of paper in my hand.
<Ezra>I call JD into the bathroom with me. And between the two of us, we start to "rescue" the weapons. Not wanting to get my Saville Row suit wet, but realizing that in this instance it just may be a necessary sacrifice, I have JD hand me the weapons he pulls from the tub.
And I proceed to check each and every one!
<Chris>Now that I wasn't alone anymore, I allow the tension to ease a bit. I notice that Josiah has seated me at the kitchen table. He stands at the counter preparing coffee. And by the amount of scoops I count, it is going to be "hair on your knuckles" strong.
Just like the man himself.
I take stock of the noises around me, and come to realize just how well we all communicate with out actual words, in times of stress.
The boys like to say that it is just Vin and I who do it, but we have become so close that we all do it.
So now, things are getting done, but with little or no words being exchanged.
And just like that I can tell, that I am needed in the bathroom.
<JD>Empty, each and every one.
Even though he is a law enforcement professional, and licensed to carry loaded weapons, the moment he comes home, he unloads it. Each magazine is ejected, and the remaining round is ejected from the chamber. He knows with all the kids coming in and out of his apartment, it is the safest thing to do.
So each pistol, rifle, revolver, and shotgun, was empty.
And now, wet.
Shit, what the hell was going on here.
We need Chris.
<Josiah>As I start the coffee maker brewing, out of the corner of my eye, I watch Chris start to awareness, and realization that all of us are here now.
Suddenly he rises, and starts to head towards the bathroom, where Ezra and JD have taken up duties. Doing exactly what, I am not sure, and I am not exactly sure I want to know, but with the two of them in there together it must be important.
I continue to watch Chris, as he pauses in the doorway, clearly torn between where he is needed, and where he feels his attention must be right now.
He turns towards the bathroom.
Waiting for the coffee to finish, I prepare two cups. Extra sweet. There are two of us who need its brace right now.
<Nathan>Alarmed by what I had read, even though it was just a sentence or two, I know there is some major detective work needed here.
Though at this point I am a bit worried at what the "crime" may have been.
Taking a seat on the coffee table, I make eye contact with Buck and a hundred thoughts fly between us.
I am prepared for the flinch my hand receives as it makes contact with Vin when I gently take his wrist between my two forefingers and thumb. 112 and thready.
I could feel how chilled his skin was, clammy.
Not waiting to check anything else at this point, I immediately start to ease him into the shock recovery position.
As Buck gets up, he mumbles that he will go get one.
I pick up my cellphone and dial 911.
I know I need some answers.
Answers only Vin can give me.
"Vin," I lift his chin to get make eye contact, "Vin, have you taken anything?"
I barely get any response, more than a "nnnnnnnnnnnn" and a floppy shake of his head before his shivers turn to shakes.
Where the hell is Buck.
The thought is barely through my head and he is back, with a comforter.
"Go let the rest know that I have paramedics on the way. He's in shock, and needs medical treatment right away."
<JD>Once Chris joined us, Ezra and I show him Vin's waterlogged weapons. Chris was confused to say the least. No magazines, no cartridges, no bullets.
Our first suspicion is that Chris had put them there, and with his reaction we knew that we had to revise our thinking fast.
<Ezra>I notice that Chris has two guns on his person. One in his usual shoulder holster, the other stuck into the waistband of his Haggars <twitch>, at the small of his back. "Mr. Larabee, can you please hand us those weapons. I trust one of them is Vin's, and I would like to check it out."
He hands me the pistol from the shoulder holster. I proceed to check it over with a fine-tooth comb.
I know from sight of its brushed steel frame and barrel, that it is in fact his personal weapon. The one now in JD's possession is colored with the standard blued steel, and while it is a smaller caliber than I am used to seeing him ever use, I know it is Vin's. He only ever used blued steel or matte black anodized aluminum.
JD shows me, that it is in fact empty.
"Did you empty the magazine and chamber sir?" I ask as I start a more thorough exam of Chris' handgun. But it really only takes a quick ejection of the magazine to see that it is not only loaded, but completely loaded, with one in the chamber as well as a full magazine.
I put the magazine and hand it back to him.
"No, I didn't empty it. I haven't even thought of that. What about all these? Chris points at the mixed up pile of wet steel and aluminum piled at our feet.
"Empty, all of them. And left in the "running" shower. So, the question now at hand is 'what the hell is going on?' What are your thoughts, Mr. Larabee?" as I motion all of us out of the small room.
After a short passionate discussion, the three of us realized that we only had part of this picture, but it may not be the one we feared most.
<Buck>I pop my head into the bathroom to tell the boys that the EMT's are on their way, and notice the odd tension in the room, but pay it no mind to get the new question in my head answered, "what's with the guns?"
Ezra, JD, and Chris all mouth forms of the phrase "Later" as they start to funnel past me, back out to the main room.
<Nathan>I dig in my kit and pull out a couple of bottles of Pedialyte. Until the EMT's get here, and can start an IV, this is all I have got to start treating Vin.
Cracking the seal on the bottle, I tell Vin that he has to drink it as I hold it to his lips.
I am completely unsettled as he swallows obediently, like a child. No fight, argument or struggle.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Chris, JD, Ezra, and Buck come back into the room.
And watch as all but Buck, pale at the state of the livingroom.
<JD>Oh shit, paramedics.
<Ezra>Shit, shit, shit, paramedics.
<Chris>Holy shit, fucking EMT's.
<JD>They will think...
<Ezra>They will construe...
<Josiah>I felt my eyebrows raise in surprise at Chris' loud "FUCK" and I felt my jaw drop at the sight of him, Ezra, and JD scramble. And the massive paper chase began.
In a flash I was up and joining in when I realized what their objective was.
No evidence. No trace that anything untoward had gone on.
Once all the sheets, balls, and scraps of paper where in our arms, we looked at Chris. What the hell do we do with them?
Chris turned and headed into Vin's bedroom.
<Chris>I opened up the closet doors and there on the shelf was a plastic storage bin. Perfect. I grab it and pull it down, groaning at the weight. The thing weighs a ton.
Putting it down on the bed, I pull off the lid.
Every empty magazine.
Every bullet, of three or four different calibers.
.45, .38, 9mm, .22, .357, and .44 for handguns, and shotgun cartridges for Vin's double-barrel 12 gauge. Not to mention a couple of boxes and loose cartridges of 30-06 for one of Vin's rifles.
Shit, another piece to the puzzle that didn't fit.
I grab up the letters, and throw them in the bin, gesture JD, Josiah, and Ezra to do the same, before I slam the lid back on and stash it back in the closet.
<Ezra>I lead the procession in returning to ground zero, with Josiah, JD, and Chris close behind. However it turns into one of those badly written scenes from a movie, when I get to the bathroom and turn my head to look. And come to a dead stop there in the hall.
And Josiah, JD, and Chris all bounce off me.
We have to stash the guns.
Yes the notes were evidence that something wasn't right, but the guns scream guilt, and insanity. Only a crazy man would ever put that much expensive firepower into the shower and turn it on.
Chris turns to look the way my head is turned.
<Chris>"NATHAN, we need an ETA on the rescue unit."
"Josiah, get to the kitchen and find a few trash bags."
"JD, you go get the bedding off the bed, and you and Ez, use it to wrap these damn things up."
"Ezra, start drying off what you can, then the hell with the rest, just get them out of here and into someplace out of sight."
"Quick, I wanna see assholes and elbows!"
They scramble in the directions they were sent, and I head back to the livingroom.
"How's he doing, Nate?"
<Buck>"Chris, Nate, I am gonna head down stairs and meet the EMT's."
I get a gesture of approval from Chris, and as I stand up I ruffle Vin's hair, just to let him know I am there. As I pass by Chris I pat him on the shoulder firmly, but with as much positive energy as I can put into it.
Then I head out the door and down the eight flights of stairs to the front of the building.
My body is here, but my spirit is up in apartment 403.
<Chris>Needing to get a piece of Tanner, I sit on the sofa at his feet after pushing the pillows out from beneath them. Then I put them on my lap to keep his legs elevated.
<Josiah>I just get into the bathroom and pop open the first trash bag, when JD and Ezra start piling in weapon after weapon. After a few I close that bag up and sit it to the side, then ready the second, which is quickly filled too.
Since none of the bags can be filled to capacity, it takes seven before all of them are just as quickly hustled to the closet in the bedroom too.
Slamming the door shut, we all lean on it as we catch our breath. Then it's back up and at 'em and we all head back to the livingroom.
<Nathan>As I continue to give liquids to Vin, I watch out of the corner of my eye as Chris takes out the pillows being used to raise Vin's legs and sits down in their place. I not only watch him get surprisingly comfortable in that spot, with Vin's legs in his lap, but start to stroke his hand up and down one of the denim clad legs.
His eyes are pinned to Vin's pale face, and I can tell that the stroking is purely an unconscious act on his part, and to me it is like he is trying to get thru to Vin and attempting to reestablish their connection.
<Ezra>A vibration at my hip signals that a call is coming in, grabbing it up, I press deftly press the talk button with my thumb as I put it to my ear.
I answer Buck's quick words of "2 blocks away" with a quiet "affirmative," and disconnect the call.
I gently tap Nathan's shoulder and whisper, "they're almost here. Are we ready?"
He nods, then catches Chris' eye to prepare him for the coming invasion into our territory.
"JD, Josiah, and myself, will stay behind and put this place to rights after your departure for the hospital. We shall be along shortly. Don't worry Mr. Larabee, we have your back!
<Buck>As the ambulance, and squad units pull up in front of the building, they are quickly followed by two of the Denver PD cruisers. One a K-9 unit, stays at street level, to prevent any problems with the emergency vehicles as all the other personnel follow me up the stairs.
I start to hear grumbling at the beginning of the third flight of stairs. These guys are definitely not thrilled at the thought of bringing a loaded gurney back down.
One of the ambulance corpsmen is "hoping that the "patient" doesn't weigh three hundred pounds."
We got to get Vin out of this hellhole.
<Nathan>I start a line of ringer's lactate with some difficulty. Vin's veins have next to disappeared as usual in these circumstances.
I can hear the EMT's giving more information, still uncomfortable with the doctor's approval to allow me to administer medications to their patient. After all this time you'd think all these guys would know us by now.
They get the orders to transport, and have the corpsmen bring over the gurney. Josiah and Buck actually commandeer the right to place Vin on the gurney and strap him in for the long ride downstairs.
Buck grabs the IV bag from me and we head out the door. Once down at the street, he and Chris will be headed off to the hospital where they will get everything ready for Vin's arrival. I will be riding in the ambulance with Vin.
Twenty long minutes later we are loaded up and on our way.
<Buck>I steer a very distracted and reluctant Chris towards my truck. Opening the passenger door to my truck I guide him in, and dare to buckle the belt around him, since he is totally focused on the happenings in the back of the ambulance.
I carefully shut the door and race to the other side where I jump in and slip my key into the ignition. Thank god I keep this thing well tuned is my thought as it cranks easily and starts right away. Slipping it into gear, we are off.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch as Chris turns to watch the scene recede into the distance behind us.
7. Clean Up Crew
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