Chapter 1 - 2 |
Chapter 3 - 5 |
Chapter 6 - 8 |
Chapter 9 - 11
Chapter 12 - 14 | Chapter 15 - 18 | Chapter 19 - Epilogue
Tanner insisted that he would be the one to drive Larabee to the drop off point. After a last minute check on details, they left the Federal building at 3:15p.m. They rode in silence each thinking about what lay before them and how imperative it was to be successful.
Chris knew his future depended on this working.*Larabee you just found a future again, you need time to build a bond with Kel and a life with Linda. A new little being depends on you. Endure whatever you have to, but give them a chance to live!*
Vin thought about yesterday in the office.*Tanner, even angry she keeps the fire inside you burning, she doesn’t see what she brings to your life. God, baby, I just want you somewhere safe and warm until I can find you.*
They reached the designated spot at 3:50pm.
*Watch your back, Cowboy.*
*Shoot straight and aim to kill.*
A grasp of forearms and then Larabee stepped out of the truck and watched Tanner drive off. That left Chris waiting for his ride into hell. It was 4:30 before it arrived and it was a large gray box van. Deveraux himself invited Chris inside.
“Before we begin, I want you to remove your watch and your boots.” While Chris did that, Deveraux checked for any type of tracking or monitoring device.
Chris directed a cold, lethal glare at Deveraux. “My boots might be a bit big for you, but you can try to fill ‘em.” Larabee’s intense scrutiny made Phillip look away.
Once Phillip was satisfied there were no devices, he told the driver to just drive and pay no attention to whatever he heard from the back. “We have almost an hour before I deliver you to Rachael and I plan to extract my pound of flesh before she does.”
“I thought you only got brave with women, Deveraux.” Chris saw the evil, in this man and knew what was next, but no way in hell he would he show fear to this bastard. He prepared himself to take the beating that he knew was coming. “You think you’re man enough, bring it on.”
Phillip pulled out a steel pipe and then made Larabee pay for the seven years he had spent under Rachel’s evil thumb. Every blow to Chris was one to her for taking the legacy that should have been his. A legacy she could take because of this man, the man that killed his brother and destroyed the life they were all leading together, a life he had cherished. Soon he was past the point of reason, Rachel's plans forgotten. Again and again he let the steel pipe land on the lean body now curled up before him, trying to protect itself. Phillip heard bones breaking and saw the blood splatter, but his only regret was seeing his hated enemy pass out before he vented all his rage.
“Welcome to your first stop in hell, Larabee”
“Linda, when that door opens I want you to be ready for whatever happens.” Kelli had made a decision, if Linda would not leave alone, then she would have to put up with some pain and go with her.
“What in the hell do you have planned?” Linda knew Kelli sometimes walked on the outer edges of caution, but thought she had stopped that after she met Vin.
“Rachael wants Lar’bee alive to see us die. If we aren’t here when Chris comes, maybe it will buy him some time. We have to try and find a way out.” Kelli smiled and explained, “Think of it as a 50% off sale at Bloomingdale’s because it will be chaotic and rushed to find an exit.”
“You know I love sales, I remember last year this little designer boutique…”
“Oh, sorry, but it was a great sale.” Linda mumbled.
Fifteen minutes later, they heard someone outside the door. Kelli pulled a pillow in front of her and waited, hopeful that it was Phillip, but prepared for whoever came through the door. It was not Deveraux, but one of the other sadistic guards, the one that had hit Linda.
“On your feet bitches, Lady Deveraux wants you in the death chamber and I’m the lucky bastard who gets to take you there.” He flashed a leering grin. “Maybe we can have some fun on the way.”
Linda stood and attempted to help Kelli to her feet.
“You Blondie stand over there. I’ll make sure this one gets up.” The guard reached to pull Kelli by her injured arm and when he did, she fired two shots through the pillow. The first one entered his heart, killing him and the second one was just because.
“Damn! Where did you…” Linda was surprised that Kelli had a gun.
“Just help me up and let’s get the hell out of here. We will not have much time ‘til someone comes to look for him.” Kelli painfully rose to her feet and Linda helped her make it out of the room. Locking the door behind them, they picked a direction to follow, praying it was the right one.
“JD! What the hell is happenin’?” Tanner was on edge and getting more irritable by the minute. “Don’t tell me you can’t find him!
“Dammit Vin, I have him! They’re just driving around in circles and not going anywhere”! JD was exasperated. “As soon as they stop somewhere we can go straight to them.”
“What if Kel and Linda are in that van, too? They could all be…”Vin could not finish that thought.
Josiah placed his hand on Tanner’s shoulder. “Son, that is not very likely, Rachael would want something more dramatic and on a larger scale to finish her plans.”
Tanner took a deep breath, “I know that Josiah, but somethin’ is not right. Chris is hurtin’ and not just mentally. I can feel his pain and it’s bad.”
Sanchez knew there was a connection between Chris and the Texan, he did not understand it, but he accepted it as fact. “Do you want us to go in now and take Chris?”
Vin wrestled with his emotions because they might lose the opportunity to find the women. However, he felt that Larabee was in serious trouble and it was getting worse by the minute, the Texan could feel Chris’ injuries as if they were his own. He made a decision and Tanner knew that if he was wrong, he might have reason to regret it the rest of his life. “We pull him out.”
The team went in to action, Ezra in one car and Vin in another ran parallel to the van. JD was in the helicopter with Raphael, monitoring Larabee and waiting for Tanner’s signal. Suddenly the Texan swerved in front of the van causing a collision, forcing the vehicle to stop. Ezra came up the other side blocking the driver’s escape. Tanner was ready when the side door of the van was thrown open and a furious Phillip Deveraux appeared, gun in hand preparing to fire. One shot from the sharpshooter and it was over. Tanner stepped over the dead man and made a frantic search for Chris. * Please don’t let me be too late!*
Josiah and Nathan had been following the truck, Nathan jumped out to locate Chris and assess his condition. Tanner was already inside with Larabee and was sickened at his friend’s condition. He had seen men beaten before, but this was far worse than anything he had ever encountered. Not one place on Chris’ body had missed Deveraux’s wrath. *God, Chris, I should have known sooner.*
“Chris can you hear me?” The Texan’s fears rose are he tried to find a pulse under the blood that covered his brother’s body. When he found one a feeling of relief flooded through him. “Lar’bee you better damn stay alive!” Vin cradled his brother in his arms, mentally willing him the strength to hold on.
Nathan arrived and moved Vin aside, “Let me see to him.” Tanner sat back on his heels and let Jackson work.*Damn Chris you just got past what Cleaver did to you and now this.* Then his eyes drifted to the dead body of Phillip Deveraux, thinking about their lost opportunity, to get more information. “He’s alive, but he won’t be long if we don’t get him to a hospital.” Jackson’s voice pulled the younger man back to their present situation.
Josiah heard the diagnosis and called for the chopper to land. When they had added the chopper to MCAT, Nathan insisted that medical gear be standard equipment. This was the first time they had used it for that and Sanchez was thankful for the medic’s foresight. Larabee was onboard and on his way to the hospital within ten minutes. Jackson and Tanner rode with Chris, leaving the driver of the van to face the rest of the team.
Three minutes out from the hospital, Larabee stopped breathing on his own. Nathan and Vin performed CPR, keeping him alive as they landed on the helipad. An emergency team was standing by to take over and quickly had their patient on his way to the ER. Tanner and Jackson followed, forced to wait in the now familiar room they had all come to hate.
“What the fuck does all that doctor talk mean Nate?” Tanner was ready for some kind explanation that made sense.
“It means that bastard beat him with a steel rod and caused severe chest trauma!” Nathan took a deep breath and in a calmer voice explained. “Chris was drowning in his own blood and could not breathe any air into his injured lungs. The only way to stop the internal blood loss and repair the damage is with surgical intervention. You made the right call Vin, if we had not gotten to him when we did, Chris would be dead. We won’t know for a while the long-term effect, but he is in a place that can help him.”
Vin, still wearing Chris’ blood on his clothes, stood and stared out the window. Days with no sleep, emotional turmoil and worry were eating away at Tanner’s ability to think straight. The rage he tried to keep at bay was boiling to the surface and all he could think about was lashing out against the pain and torment that Deveraux has caused. Chris was facing surgery and the same bastard that had beaten Larabee hurt Kelli. Linda and the unborn baby were at risk for the same treatment by other hands and now they were no closer to finding them than they were to begin with. The entire team was operating on sheer willpower and adrenaline. He felt hands on his back and turned to find four of his brothers, all willing to offer their strength and to share the heavy load that rested on the young Texan’s shoulders.
“Brother, you are not alone and never will be.” Josiah held out his hand that was quickly covered by Nathan’s, JD’s, Ezra’s and finally Vin’s. Strength flowed through their bond of allegiance and hope took wings to soar over the rage.
A doctor entered the waiting room to update them on Chris. “Mr. Larabee has been stabilized and is now on his way to surgery. We have a good team of doctors working on him, but it could be several hours before he is in recovery.”
“Thanks doc, we will be here or in room 302, if there is any change.” JD spoke for them all. The Doctor nodded and went on to his next patient.
“Gentlemen, should we traverse to Brother Buck’s room as one?” Ezra queried, handing Tanner a clean shirt.
“Lead on Brother Standish.” Josiah answered, knowing that they needed to be together to get through this.
Once there they were surprised to find Buck awake and talking. They updated him and Travis to what was going on and settled in to wait on news from Chris’ Doctors, while they discussed the next step in locating the women.
“The driver was a dead end. Phillip only directed him to another drop off point and by the time Justin got there, he found no sign of anyone waiting. I suppose that the Deveraux woman now knows something went wrong.” Josiah delivered the bad news.
“I did a search for any property in that area owned by Deveraux or any of the companies they own and found none.” JD accounted his efforts.
“What about Larabee?” Buck joined in and asked. “If this woman is nuts and obsessed she might have use Chris’ name.”
All eyes fell on JD. “I’m on it now.” He pulled out his laptop and went to work.
“I waited until six-thirty, Mrs. Deveraux and Phillip never showed up at the rendezvous. I moved to a place I could watch for him and about an hour later, the police came.” A very nervous man informed Rachael why Larabee was not there.
Rachael Deveraux was more than just angry she was livid and striking out at everyone who worked for her. She began screaming as she brandished a knife in her hands. “I should never have counted on that stupid bastard! What in the hell is wrong with you people? I want to know what happened to Larabee NOW! Then find that sonofabitch Phillip and bring him to me! This time he will pay for his screw up with his life! Seven years I have waited for this and now Phillip has ruined it! The rest of you spread out and find those two bitches! Do whatever you have to, I do not care how much you hurt them, damaged and broken is fine, just bring them to me alive! I want the pleasure of killing them myself!”
While they all set off to follow her instructions, she took the knife and implemented her fury on the Larabee walls. Slashing at each picture until they were all destroyed. Rachel Deveraux’s chilling screams rang through the empty halls as she lost her last shred of sanity.
Denver Memorial Hospital
Tanner waited for some news, while he watched a light snowfall through the window. His thoughts drifted to Kelli, he knew how much she hated the cold and prayed she was somewhere warm. *She is waiting for you Vin, she won’t give up on you. I know that, Tanner but…Do not even think it, you will find her.* Not finding her in time was an intolerable thought for the Texan. He felt a hand on his shoulder
“Vin, I know it’s hard to be positive, but remember Rachael needs Chris to make her plans work. We will find them before Deveraux is desperate enough to change that.” Josiah tried to console his troubled brother. “I know words do not help, but try to be patient because when we find them Kelli will look to you for calm and assurance. She has come a long way, but you are still the only one she will open up to with her emotions.”
A nod was the only answer Sanchez received. The Texan started to pace the room and stopped in front of Dunne. “JD, anything?”
“Almost there, Vin, one last area to search and… Damn! Buck you are a genius! Here it is, thirty acres close to Mount Evans Wilderness off 285. Legal owner is Christopher A. Larabee.”
“Josiah, call Raphael, have him meet us on the roof with the chopper fully loaded for assault Ezra, you alert the rest of the team, JD, you bring that laptop and Nathan check your supplies.” Tanner immediately began to issue orders.
“Vin, I’ll have a SWAT team meet you there.” Travis was already on the phone.
“We’ll have our phones, you’ll call if…” Vin hesitated for a moment.
“Go Vin, between me and Travis we’ll take care of Chris,” Buck issued his own orders. “Bring them home, son.”
“Godspeed, Vin.” Travis added.
“Linda, wait. I can’t go any further on this ankle.” Kelli sat down on the nearest rock. Since they had slipped out of the house, they had only found wilderness. It seemed that rugged terrain surrounded this place and right now, the pain was almost more than she thought she could handle.
“Kel, we can’t stay here, if they turn loose those dogs we saw, it won’t take them long to find us.” Linda saw the pain etched on her friends face. “I’d carry you if I could, but you’re too big of a baby for that.” She tried to coax a smile from the redhead.
“Yeah, as if I’d let you. Dubois.” Kelli had to try once more to get her friend to leave her. “Linda you could get far enough to find help and then come back.” She winced at the pain when she moved. “You and I both know it’s only a matter of time before they do turn those dogs loose and catch up to us.”
“No, we stay together, besides you shoot better than I do and you still have a few shells left.” Linda put her arm around her friend’s waist. “Come on we can do this.”
“Did I ever tell you that you are a stubborn woman?” Kelli tried to smile, but failed to be convincing.
“Only a few dozens times, now shut up and lean on me, let’s go.” Linda took some of Kel’s weight off her ankle and they moved on. Both of them felt a chill when they heard the sound of dogs. Someone had turned them loose and they knew that their time was running out.
Cordova waited on the roof of the hospital, ready to lift off as soon as Vin gave the go ahead. They were in the air as soon as Tanner slid the door shut. “We can be there in fifteen minutes. How close do you want me to go in?”
Vin looked at the maps JD had printed out. “Come in from the west side of the property, there is a ridge there and if you can land behind it they shouldn’t be able to see us coming. The SWAT team is heading in from the other side.”
“You got it, Captain.”
“Stay with the chopper and be ready to get us the hell out of there when we find ‘em.”
Raphael nodded affirmatively and looked over at Tanner. “You tell Blaze, I’ll have the heat set on high for her.”
Night had fallen and the only light they had to navigate by was the illumination from a half moon. The temperature had dropped and it was damn cold. They found a small stream that ran through the property and that is where Linda was dragging Kelli.
“It not that much farther, once we get there maybe we can lose those damn dogs.” Linda tried to be encouraging.
“You ought to know that stream is coming from those mountains and will be ice…” Kelli did not finish her warning before Linda shrieked.
“Kel, you could have warned me! God that water is cold and don’t you dare laugh.” Linda was already shaking from the chilly surprise.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, friend, just help me down the side and I’ll join you.” Kelli was hopeful that the cold water would numb the fiery pain shooting through her back and up her leg.*Vin told me I would get tired of this damn snow, but did I believe him? NO! Tanner I know you are out there and that you’re coming, but could you please hurry!*
They were in the water less than fifteen minutes and both women were shivering from the cold. However, the sounds of their pursuers were getting closer.
“Linda?” Kelli wanted her to leave.
“No! Linda would not consider it.
“Fine, but you’re gonna have to slow down, I can’t feel where ‘m steppin’ anymore.” She almost fell, but Linda caught her. “My entire leg is numb and I know it’s not gonna get any better.”
“Then we find somewhere to wait and shoot the bastards when they come.” Linda forced her on.
The MCAT team prepared their assault and waited only for the go ahead from Tanner. Everyone knew what to do and their priority was to locate the women. Since the property owner on record was Chris Larabee, they did not have to wait for warrants. Vin carried Chris’ power of attorney and no other permission was needed. Travis had provided extra manpower for the raid.
A last minute radio check and they were ready, Tanner led from the front and Justin led from the back. “GO!” Vin gave the command and they entered to find a nearly empty house. Once inside they instigated a room-by-room search and came across the one with a dead body. Tanner was sure that the man had been killed by the thirty-eight he gave Kelli, *Okay, baby I know where you were, but where are you now?*
Further searching brought them to Clayton Deveraux’s room, Josiah, Ezra and Vin watched as the woman carried on her fantasy conversation with her ‘husband.’
Rachael was ‘talking’ to her husband, rambling on and on with no purpose. “It’s ruined Clayton…the women… lost Larabee…the boys will be here soon, it’s time for their dinner and they have school tomorrow…you’ll tell them they have to come home.” Suddenly she turned, started screaming obscenities and ran at the agents with her knife poised for attack. Three gunshots sounded simultaneously and Rachael Deveraux joined her husband and two sons in death.
“My God, that man has been dead for years! What in the hell did she have planned?” The scene in front of him astounded Ezra.
“If I had to guess I believe she planned for Chris to join him.” Josiah stood next to the empty bed and held the bloody picture of Larabee.
“This isn’t findin’ Kel and Linda, leave ‘em and keep searchin’” Vin was already out the door to continue his search.
This destructive sight in the ‘Larabee room’ did nothing to give any of them comfort. The death chamber’ room turned their stomachs when thy realized what that woman had planned for Linda and Kelli. The only good part was that it appeared that the women had not been in here. The video room was empty, too, but Vin found a steel rod on the floor that had blood on it and his heart sank.
“Captain Tanner, we found someone and I think you will want to talk to him.” Justin called him into the other room.
Nathan was pressing the man for information. “Where are they? What condition were they in the last time you saw them?”
The man refused to say anything until Tanner slammed him against the wall. “WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?” Vin grabbed the man by the throat.
“The bitches killed Sully and escaped, four of the men are out with the dogs, hunting for them now.” The man saw the possibility of his own death in Tanner’s cold eyes. “The blond was okay only bruised up, but Phillip was rougher with the redhead and she was in worse shape. Maybe she had a few broken bones.” Vin tightened his hold on the man’s throat. “That all I know, I swear.” The man managed to croak out.
Ezra laid his hand on Tanner’s arm and said softly, “Let’s go find them Vin.” Tanner released his hold and the man dropped to the floor. Standish nodded to Ross, who the cuffed the criminal and then Paul took him away.
Tanner picked up a trail at the back of the house. Nathan carried medical supplies and Ezra brought blankets, the night was cold and no one knew how the women were dressed. JD brought a link to stay in touch with Pam and Josiah carried a continuous prayer. Justin and Mark went along for backup.
The rest of the assault team secured the crime scene and Katrina called Dr. Metfield in take responsibly for the dead bodies.
Vin knelt on the ground and read the signs. “They were ahead of the dogs by about and hour, but one of ‘em is bleeding and Kel is hurt. These are her boot prints and it looks like her left leg can’t hold her weight, they are havin’ to move slower. It won’t take the others long to catch up to them.” Tanner moved on at a faster pace, he could hear the dogs in the distance and knew they had not found them, yet.
They all moved on in silence and did not complain about the speed Tanner set. Each man was as anxious as Vin was to find both women alive. Any other outcome was unthinkable. Suddenly Tanner stopped and listened to the change in the sound of the barking dogs. “Damn!” He took off running in the direction of the hounds that were not too far away.
Linda and Kelli were hold up behind some rocks, the dogs had picked up their scent and within a few minutes, they would be right on top of them. “How many shells do you have left?” Linda whispered.
“Not enough.” Kelli positioned herself as best she could, but knew their chance of any reprieve was not good.
A male voice sounded through the darkness. “You two bitches might as well give up because you’re not going anywhere. You got one minute to decide before we send the dogs in. When they get through with you we get to take what’s left.”
“You can have the blonde, I get the other one.”
“Hey, I don’t mind sharing.”
Laughter erupted. “You’ll have to wait your turn, I’m going first.”
“NOT LIKELY!” The sound of a shell jacked into a chamber drew their attention. “FEDERAL AGENTS, LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS SHOWIN’ EMPTY.” Tanner ordered in a lethal tone of voice. “DO IT OR DIE!”
“I would listen to the man if I were you.” Nathan advised from one direction.
It would be prudent on your part to pay attention,” Ezra noted from another.
“He is not a patient man, I wouldn’t think on it too long.” JD offered his advice, his voice carried from behind them.
“What kind of service do you prefer at your funeral?” Josiah asked them, his booming baritone close by.
It did not take long to have all four men in custody, Justin with Mark’s assistance took over and the rest ran the last sixty feet to the women. Hearing those familiar voices was all it took for Linda and Kelli to give in to the emotional exhaustion that had been threatening to overtake them all day. Then Linda realized she had not heard Chris’ voice and panicked, turning she ran out to meet their rescuers.
“I’m okay, but Kel’s over there behind those rocks and needs medical help! Where’s Chris?” Linda was yelling. Josiah caught her and Vin went on ahead to find Kelli. Nathan was only one-step behind him, and that left Sanchez to explain about Chris. He did not have to, when she saw his face she knew, “GOD No! Please tell me he’s alive”
“He is Linda, he is! Chris is in surgery at Denver Memorial and we will be back there probably before he gets out.” Josiah took a blanket and wrapped it around her, then led her to the others.
During the last twenty-four hours, the Texan had thought of several dozens things he wanted to say to Kelli when he found her. Now that he had her in sight, words failed him and emotions silenced his voice. With gentle hands, he reached out and drew her close to him.
Kelli dug in and refused to move from his embrace. Her head lay on his chest and her pain weakened with the strength she absorbed from the sound of his heartbeat. “Love you, Tanner,” were the only words that she could manage.
“Love you Texas,” Vin found his voice and some control of his intense emotions. “Baby, how bad are you hurt?”
“I’m okay, just don’t let go of me.” She tightened her grip on his shoulder, holding him as though she were afraid something would take him from her once more.
“I won’t, not in this lifetime, I promise, but I need to know how okay you are.” Tanner leaned back and looked at her face. “Aww Hell, you can’t tell me that don’t hurt” He lightly traced his fingers across the bruises, brushing away a few escaped tears. “Nathan is chompin’ at the bit to examine you and I’m not leavin’ so you are out of excuses.” He helped her sit on the ground, still holding her and Jackson came closer to look at her injuries.
“Okay, I hear you might have a broken bone or two let’s see. Vin I need some more light.” As soon as he said it, two more flashlights illuminated the area. Ezra and JD stood by, ready to assist. “Kel, does this hurt?” Nathan prodded her shoulder and she jerked back, “Guess that’s a yes. I can’t give you anything for the pain until the doctor sees you at the ER, but I can clean and cover that cut. Where else are you hurt?”
“Ribs are sore and my hand hurts.” Checking her ribs, she again yelped in pain. Nathan checked out her black-and-blue side then her hand. He removed her ring and gave it to Vin to hold onto and wrapped her hand until it could be x-rayed at the hospital. “What else?’
Linda, now cocooned securely in a blanket, spoke up. “She will not tell you that the bastard hit her with a pipe and broke her ankle, her left leg is in bad shape, too. That’s all I know about, she wouldn’t tell me more.” Her eyes focused on Kelli’s expression of pain and the blond’s voice was breaking with emotion. “Don’t give me that look, he needs to know.”
Vin moved the light to her leg, took out his knife and ripped open her jeans to reveal her entire left leg. “Damn, Kel did you think you could hide this?” From her hip to the top of her boot, the skin showed discoloration from the bruising. “That sonofabitch died too quick!”
“We need to get that wet boot off.” Nathan looked up. “I’m sorry but this is gonna hurt.” Nathan tried to pull the boot off, but it would not budge. “We need to cut it off.” A gasp from Linda made him hastily correct his statement. “Cut the boot, Linda, not the foot. Vin?”
“It might better to do that the hospital. Nathan can the rest wait as well?” Vin questioned, his eyes never leaving Kelli.
“She’s made it this far and if we don’t have to put it off long, yeah.” Jackson reluctantly acknowledged. “We do need to get her warm, though.”
“JD, when?” Tanner asked.
“Raphael will be here in ten minutes and there is a place he can land not far from here.” JD confirmed.
Tanner nodded, “Justin, take Mark and get those men back to the house, you’re in charge of the cleanup at the scene. You get the live ones and Kat, Ramsey and Bones get the dead ones while they process the scene for evidence. We’re going to the ER as soon as that chopper gets here. JD, get an update from the hospital and then ask Pam to pass on to Mal and Casey what happenin’. Josiah, go to the landin’ site and get some lights going for Raphael. Ez, give me those other blankets. Kel, ‘m gonna help you get out of those wet clothes, let me know if it hurts too much.”
“Vin, wait.” Nathan stopped him, thinking about evidence. “Before you do that I have to ask. Were either of you…sexually assaulted?” Nathan as well as the others held their breath waiting for an answer.
“No, no we weren’t.” Linda answered. “I think that was planned but …No”
“Okay Kel, I’ll try to make this as easy for you as possible, hold onto to me and let me do all the work.” The others stepped back while Vin began undressing Kelli. When he saw just how much damage Phillip’s sadistic streak inflicted, he swore softly. “Damn.” He used his knife to cut off her jeans and then wrapped her in the blankets. All the while wishing he could kill Deveraux more than one time.
Kelli felt Vin’s anger and placed one hand on the side of his face. Whispering softly, “It’s over and you’re here, that’s all that matters to me.” Tanner let his anger dissolve and concentrated on the woman he was holding.
“Chopper will be at the site in five minutes, Chris is still in surgery.” JD gave an update.
“Then let’s get out of this hell, maybe Chris will be in recovery by the time we get there.” Vin carried Kelli to the chopper, offering her his warmth and love for comfort.
“Time?” The doctor asked.
“He’s been under five hours and sixteen minutes.”
“Damn! I have another bleeder here. Clamp!” Machines began to beep and alarms sounded.
“Pressure’s dropping 80/60 … 70/50 … 60…we’re losing him….. Flat line!
“Larabee, I have worked to damn hard for you to die on me now! Paddles!
Hospital Emergency Room - Sunday 1:45am.
JD had called ahead to the hospital, and had Inez waiting to accompany Linda during the examination that she vehemently insisted she did not need. All she wanted was to see Larabee. Nathan went to find out about Chris’ surgery and check on Rain, while Josiah filled in Buck and Travis about the rescue operation. Ezra filled out the hospital paperwork and Tanner carried Kelli in to the exam room.
Dr. Landers started her on pain medication as he examined her injuries. Besides the contusions, her shoulder had an ugly gash that required stitches and her older injury had been aggravated. The doctor was positive she had bruised ribs, some broken bones in her hand and was not willing to rule out internal bleeding until he was able to see all her test results. The next revelation came when they finally cut off her boot. Kelli’s ankle was in bad shape and he ordered x-rays to determine if surgical repair was necessary.
While waiting to go to x-ray, Kelli decided she wanted to go home. “Vin please, enough of this, I can heal better in our bed than here.”
“Not this time, baby, you’re stayin’ put.” The Texan stroked the top of her head. “That’s the pain meds talkin’, you have too many injuries to see home for a few days.” He stopped her protest. “Besides with you, Chris and Buck all as patients this place will be home for a while. Plus, George is in here and a couple of babies are waiting to be born into this family in a few days.”
“Mine, being one of them, hi guys.” Rain said, coming into the room. As Vin stood up, she gasped when saw Kelli, “Good Lord Kel, you look like hell! “She put her hand over her mouth. ‘Sorry, it just surprised me.”
“No problem, Rain. I know I’ve felt better and I hope, that I’ve looked better too.” Kelli tried to smile, “How are you and baby Jackson doing?”
“We’re fine, but the reason I’m here is to spell Vin. Chris’ doctor wants to meet with the family in fifteen minutes. Nathan set it up in Buck’s room.” Rain saw the conflict in Tanner’s eyes. “Nathan will tell me and you need to be there.”
Kelli knew Vin’s thoughts and wanted to ease his concern, at least about her. “Tanner, you listen to me. I hurt, but I will heal, I’m not going anywhere without you.” She traced down the side of his face with her fingers. “Chris is not going anywhere either. You have done everythin’ you can and now it is time to let faith take care of the rest. Just as sure as I was that you would not stop until you found me, I know Chris will not give up. It takes more than one Phillip Deveraux to do in a Lar’bee.”
Vin nodded, realizing just how much he needed to hear those words from her. It still amazed him that Kelli did not know how much she could affect his state of mind. She helped to preserve his sense of balance and reinforced his faith. *Hell, Vin she affects everything about you.* He was positive he needed her more than she did him but had little hope he would ever convince her of that. “Those meds must be working because you sure are being bossy, woman.”
“Go, Tanner, I’ll be here when you get back. I might be asleep, but I will be here. Love you.” She was sure she saw some of the tension Vin was carrying drain off and she was determined not to add to it.” Use that connection you have and tell the old man I said thanks because if he had not done what he did you might not have got to us in time.”
The Texan nodded and kissed her, “Love you, too.” As he left her, he caught Rain. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. They took Linda to have an ultrasound, when she gets back tell her I’ll make sure she knows what is happenin’.”
The group of six brothers that assembled in Wilmington’s room was a tense one. With little sleep and the emotional roller coaster of the last several days on their minds, they needed to hear some good news. By the time Dr. Gilford entered the room they were ready for some answers.
“Gentlemen, Mr. Jackson has assured me that it was necessary that you all be present, but before I say anything I must be sure. Mr. Tanner you have POA for Mr. Larabee, are you agreeable that all these men be in attendance?”
“Absolutely, and in plain English, please.” Vin answered.
“When he was brought in, Mr. Larabee had severe chest trauma, bruised tissue around his heart, three broken ribs, and enough blood in his chest to drown him. Add to that, compound fractures in one leg, a clean break on the other, several ruptured blood vessels and you have more shock than one body can take. Mr. Larabee arrested twice during surgery before we could finish putting him back together. However, that said he is still alive. We repaired the damage and his lungs are working with only a little help. I consider his surgery very successful in spite of a couple of bad moments.”
“Now what happens?” Tanner questioned.
“Now we wait, his body needs rest. For that reason, I have ordered that he stay heavily sedated to give him a chance to recover with minimal stress to his system. My ideas about trauma recovery are a little different from some. I believe in letting the body do what it can with less invasive methods. I have him in CCU, for now. Before you ask, I cannot tell you how long it will take. Could be one day or one week, it all depends strictly on his will to survive and how fast his body recoups some strength. I wish I could tell you more, but I just do not know. The fact that he is still among the living is a good sign, frankly, when I first saw him I did not think he would make it this far. You may see him two at a time and only for a few minutes. Talk to him and let him know you are there, family support is important during a long recovery period.”
“So you think he’ll make it Doc?” Buck ventured to ask what they all wanted to know.
“He damn well better, I put some of my best work into him and I do not intend to see it wasted” Dr. Gilford smiled. “Plain English enough Mr. Tanner?”
“Yeah, thanks Doc, appreciate what you did for him.” Vin shook his hand and then the Doctor was out the door. Turing to Jackson he asked, “Nate, you agree with him?”
Nathan thought about what the doctor said, “It make sense, given his injuries and I think this doctor is the one Chris needs.”
“I believe you’re right.” Vin’s instincts told him that this doctor would do everything her could to see Chris through this. Y’all don’t mind I‘m gonna see Chris first and then go downstairs to be with Kel. Linda should be back there by now and I guess I need to talk to her too.”
“Brother Vin, would you mind some company? “ Josiah offered. “We would like to be there with you when you tell Linda.”
“I’d like that, thanks.” Kelli’s words about letting faith take over rang in his head and he knew somehow that Chris would make it.
It was difficult to recognize the man they knew beneath the layers of swelling and the dark bruises that covered most of his body. Chris looked as if he was sleeping, but the monitors, tubes and the noise from the ventilator said differently. Josiah and Vin went in together and after Sanchez said a prayer Vin moved closer to deliver his own message.
*You did good Cowboy, Linda and Kel are both safe and have you to thank for it. Josiah, Ezra and I took care of that Deveraux bitch for you and Phillip is history. We will take care of Linda, too, until you’re back with us, but don’t make it too long. One female is enough for me to handle without some backup and I sure as hell don’t have experience with one that’s pregnant. Doc says your will to survive is important so get your ass busy recuperating so we can all blow this place. Oh and Kel said to tell the old man thanks. I think I’ll let you deal with the old part of that message when you see her. I will be back soon.* Vin did not expect an answer, but his soul felt that Chris heard him.
After his turn with Chris, Travis left them to make some arrangements of his own. Once each of the brothers had a chance to see Larabee, they worked out a schedule, making sure someone would be with him or nearby twenty-four hours a day.
They gathered in the waiting room while Vin went in to get Linda and Rain to join them. The Doctor released Linda saying that she and the baby were fine. Kelli was back from x-ray and fell asleep waiting for whatever came next. Tanner asked a nurse to stay with her and promised to be back as quickly as possible.
“Linda that is everything that Dr. Gilford told us. All we can do now is to wait.” Vin finished repeating the Doctor’s words.
“Maybe we need a specialist, if it’s a matter of money I can afford whoever we need.” Linda felt a sense of desperation falling over her.
“Chris has made it this far. We need to have faith that he will make it the rest of the way.” Josiah wanted to offer some comfort.
“I assure you Linda, if Chris needed another doctor, we would have one here.” Nathan gave his opinion. “Dr. Gilford is doing what he believes is best for now and I agree.”
“I just…God I almost lost him before and now…” Linda began to cry.
Inez and Rain closed ranks around their soon to be sister. “We will all be here for as long as it takes, you do not have to go through this alone. We’re family, and so are you.”
Travis joined them and explained what was going to happen. “I have made arrangements with the hotel across the street. We have a suite of rooms available for use and a professional Nanny to supervise the children. Sanchez, you and Dunne need to see your wives, bring them into town to join the rest of the family. The rest of you need some sleep so work out who goes first. Linda, I will escort you to see Chris if you will wait for me a few minutes. Tanner, I need to speak to you for a moment please.”
Orrin pulled Vin aside. “Son, you have done an outstanding job of taking care of everything, but now you need to see to your wife. I have arranged for her to have a private room with an extra bed so you can stay with her. That will give you privacy from the press, which I will handle and it will be your temporary office. With Buck and Chris out, I cannot give you leave, too. However, I can make it easier for you. You have a good team, delegate what you can and let your family help you when you cannot be here. Mrs. Montgomery will be in tomorrow; she is an excellent organizer and will be an asset for the unit. I will get her started with proper procedure and apprise her of the current situation. Let her help. Whatever else you need, call me day or night. Now, I will take over here while you take care of Kelli and then you are to get some sleep yourself. That is an order, because I am counting on you to lead this bunch until Chris is back.”
“Thanks, Orrin appreciate your support.” Vin took the help Travis was willing to give and went to find Dr. Landers. He did not have to go far because the doctor was waiting for him.
“Vin, sit down and let’s talk. The x-rays confirm that your wife does have broken bones, three in her left hand, a hairline fracture of the tibia in her left leg and an ankle that will need surgery to put back together. However, I am concerned about trauma to the lower back area and some congestion in the lungs, most likely from exposure to the cold and for that reason want to wait a few days before I send her to surgery. I am starting her on antibiotics as a safe guard and anti-inflammatory medication for her shoulder, which I have already immobilized. I have also taken care of her hand and leg. Considering what could have happened with that choice of weapon, I would say she is a very lucky young woman. She should be fine, but it will take some time for a full recovery. Her room is ready and we will be moving her there in a few minutes. I will be by later this afternoon to check on her.”
“Thanks doc,” Vin took a deep breath and went back to the exam room to be with Kelli. *Lord Kel, for a woman that hates hospitals, you have had more than your share. Doc says you will be okay though and that is the only thing that matters to me. We will do this together, just like everything else.*
Kelli slept through the room transfer and Vin waited to make sure she was resting comfortably. Finally, at six o’clock on Sunday morning, he lay down on the extra bed and gave in to the exhaustion of the last three days.
Standish brought clothes and essentials for both Vin and Kelli when he came back to the hospital for his turn to stay with Chris. Tanner felt like a new man, after eight hours of sleep, a shower and clean clothes. Dr. Landers came by, said so far, so good on Kelli’s condition, and set her surgery for Wednesday. He informed Tanner that a coworker, Dr. Brass would stand in for him until then, since he would be out of town until Tuesday night.
Now Vin had an hour before he could see Chris’ doctor and was determined to find some decent food in the meantime.
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Vin, asked and felt guilty knowing Kelli could not have anything different than what Dr. Landers had ordered for her.
“Just because I have to try and eat this stuff doesn’t mean you have to suffer too. When I get out of here you can fix me a steak and we’ll call it even.” She tried to smile. “Beside ‘m not really hungry, just sleepy, it must be all that damn medicine. I bet Chris hates it as much as I do.”
“Yeah he does.” Vin just could not bring himself to tell her that Chris wasn’t talking yet. “As long as that damn medicine gets you well and makes you hurt less I guess it’s okay, if it makes you sleep.” The Texan sat next to her on the bed. “You do hurt less don’t you?” Before she could answer, the door opened and Justin walked in.
“Sorry to disturb you Captain, I can come back if you want.” Justin waited.
“It’s alright, come on in.” Vin acknowledged the man. “What can I do for you, Michaels?
“Actually, I’m just finishing up on some details and wanted to ask Kel a couple of question, if she’s up to it.” He was hesitant.
“Ms. Dubois gave her statement and I just wanted to see if Kel had anything to add to it.”
“We were together all the time, so I doubt it, unless you want to know about the gun.” Kelli read his face. “I had it since I left the office, she didn’t know about it. The man I killed was the one that hit Linda and he made his next intentions of rape very clear. You will see from forensics there were two bullets, the first one probably killed him and the second was to insure our escape. That is what you wanted to know right?”
“Yes, I think that will clear up the last details for the report. Just so you know, we found the bodies of the bogus Marshals and the statements from the other guards concur with your assessment of what was planned for you. We filed capital murder charges against the clerk, Mark Amos, for leaking the information that led to the death of two law enforcement officers. The only question I have Captain is about what to do with Ms. Lyons.” Justin looked to Tanner for an answer.
“See that she gets back to Dallas. With Deveraux dead, we don’t need her as a material witness and Chris was finished with her after their discussion.” Vin looked over at Kelli, “Justin, make sure she knows that she is not welcome in Denver.”
“That will be my pleasure. Kel get better soon and expect to see the rest of the team up here as soon as your doc gives the okay. Don’t worry about the office Vin, we’ll hold things down for you.” Justin started to leave.
“Michaels,” Vin stopped him. “Tell all of them thank you, for a job well done” The agent nodded and left.
“Now, Tanner, go find you some food, ‘m gonna sleep,” Kelli ordered.
“I will, ‘m also gonna check on George, visit Buck and the catch the doctor before I see Chris.” Vin kissed her and pulled the covers up. “You rest baby, I’ll be back in a while.”
“Ez, what’s going on?
“Dr Gilford just went in, said he would talk to you when he gets through.”
“Damn I wanted to see him before he went in, but Buck would not stop complainin’. His doc said he had at least another week here and Wilmington is not happy about it either.” Vin smiled when he thought about the choice words Buck had to say about it.
“At least he is still with us to complain.” Ezra smiled, too. “Things are so getting back to normal if Buck is grumpy.”
Tanner grinned, “Yeah, it did sound pretty good.”
“Mallory was here for a while and then she walked Linda over to the hotel insisting that she rest.”
“When Mal insist, not even Josiah argues with her.” Vin had seen her in action too many times.
The door opened and Dr Gilford came out giving orders as he walked. ”Mr. Tanner, just the man I want to see.”
“Vin will do, sir.”
“In that case it just Doc.” Gilford smiled. “I have good news for you. It seems that Chris is a helluva lot stronger than I gave him credit. The test results are good and I am going to reduce his medication. If his body agrees, by tomorrow morning, I might be able to rid him of some extra equipment. Do not get too excited; he is better, but he has a long recovery ahead. Although I hear through the grapevine around here, he has a roommate waiting for him when I spring him from CCU.”
“That he does. How soon do you think it could be?” Vin matched the doctor’s smile, with one of his own.
“If all goes well it could possibly be tomorrow afternoon or early Tuesday. I have ordered evaluations every two hours while we take him off some of the heavier drugs. The man has a strong will and he is fighting to come back, I could not ask for more than that.” A pleased Dr. Gilford reported. “Meet me here at eight in the morning and I will know more. Give the nurses a few minutes and then you can go in to see him.”
“Vin, since you are here, I am going to contact several concerned family members and pass on the excellent reports.” Ezra hurried downstairs to make the calls, while Tanner waited impatiently to see Chris.
The nurses finished and Tanner went inside the room. *Cowboy, hear you’re puttin’ up a good fight. Keep it up and you’ll be in a room with Bucklin before you know it. Of course, you will be hopping around on crutches for a while just like him, but maybe you and Buck could have some kind of race. Ez would be happy to lay bets on that. Linda will be glad, she is already plannin’ on about one hundred ways to spoil you until you can come back to work. Hell, the entire family plans on a blowout for you homecomin’. I saw George and he is doing a lot better, might get out of here in a few days.*
Vin watched the machines and he could feel a frustrated Larabee sending his own communications. One of the messages he read loud and clear.
*You are right, I have not mentioned Kel, well she’s gonna be on crutches right along with you. I just did not want you to worry about her. That’s why she hasn’t been here. She is havin’ surgery in a day or so to repair a busted ankle, but doc says she will be okay. She is as bossy as you are and I swear twice as stubborn. I’ll take care of her though, you just get back so we can all be close enough to yell at each other instead of three floors apart.*
“Come on in Ez, finish readin’ that story to him, he wants to know what happens.”
Ezra had stood at the door and watched the ‘conversation’ between Larabee and Tanner. Even though he knew it was fact, it still amazed him to see it in action. “I will be honored to do so. See you in the morning Vin.”
CCU -Monday 8:00am.
Tanner was later than he had intended. Kelli had experienced a rough night and he was reluctant to leave her even for a little while. He waited until she practically threw him out to go and once he was here, he found most of the family already anxiously waiting for Dr. Gilford to exit the room.
“Vin, I will say this, your brother is one stubborn man. I wish all my patients fought as hard as he is, it would make my job easier. He will not be able to talk for a few hours, due to the tube we had down his throat, but he is writing and wants to see you. I will be moving him to his friend’s room tomorrow and be back to see him later. You take care of yourself, too.” The doctor patted Tanner on the shoulder and then left.
Tanner entered Larabee’s room and the first thing he saw was a set of very intense green eyes boring into him. Chris was awake and from the looks of him not too happy about something.
*Damn, you wake up cranky! Dial down that glare and tell me what has you so riled.*
*From the beginning and do not sugar coat it!*
*Deveraux beat the hell out of you and I killed him.*
*If it makes you feel better to know, you did not take that beating for nothing. Because you did Chris, we caught the driver, which led us to an area to search. You now own thirty acres in the Evans Wilderness area and while you were lazing around in surgery, we went out there and found Linda and Kel. We could not have done that if you had not met Deveraux. Linda is right outside your door and Kel is two floors down.*
*Linda has some bruises, but she and the baby are okay and Kel has a few more bruises plus a busted ankle. Still, you should be proud of both on ‘em. They used their heads and stayed alive til we could get there, made one hell of an escape, too*
*Neither of them would have been hurt, if it were not for me.*
*Neither of them would be here if it were not for you, Cowboy. They were not gonna leave there alive, if Rachael had her way. I know you hurt like hell but that is what saved them from a lot worse.*
*I need to see them both.*
*I will send Linda in now, but Kel has to wait til they fix her ankle to come see you.*
Once outside Tanner met with Linda. “He’s ready to see you, but remember don’t go into detail about Kel’s injuries. I told him she had a busted ankle and some bruises. That is all he needs to know til he’s better.”
“He is really better right?” Linda could not get the image from Sunday morning out of her mind. When Travis took her to see Chris, she could not believe someone could look that bad and still be alive. “God, Vin, how can I do this?”
“You’ll do fine. He still looks like hell, but he is gonna make it.” The Texan steered her to the door of Chris’ room and he was aware of her anxiety about seeing Larabee. ”Linda, just talk to him, your voice is what he needs to hear. Talk about the horses, the ranch or the kids, it doesn’t matter, he just needs to know you’re okay.” Tanner squeezed her hand and encouraged her; he knew the moment her wild spirit returned.
“Thank you, Vin, I’m okay now. “ Linda pulled herself together and entered Chris’ room. “It’s about time you woke up, Larabee, we have wedding plans to make.”
Tanner stood outside the door with a smile on his face. Linda knew just what buttons to push with Chris and he knew his brother was with the woman he needed to see.
Kelli was sleeping when the Texan returned to her room, so he went to work on the computer JD had set up for him and began his own report. After an hour, a doctor entered the room.
“Who are you?” Vin questioned, wanting to make sure this was the man Dr. Landers said to expect.
“Dr. Brass.” The doctor them dismissed Tanner from his thoughts and picked up Kelli’s chart. “Everything looks good, I will be back tomorrow.”
“Wait a minute, she is worse than yesterday, had a bad night and sleeps almost all the time, don’t you think…”
“Mr. Tanner, you leave the doctor stuff to me and you do whatever it is you do. I assure you I can read a report and this one says she is fine.” The doctor left without even examining Kelli leaving a very irritated Texan behind.
The nurse came in earlier and upped Kelli’s pain medication per the Doctor’s orders. It did seem to help, at least now she was not as restless in her sleep as she had been. Vin was still concerned though and kept a close eye on her. All the agents had sent him their reports on the computer and he was almost through reading them. He knew he would have to make a trip to the office to sign them, but was putting it off as long as possible.
Suddenly the door burst open and in walked a woman, Tanner did not know. She was an older woman, heavyset and had an armful of folders. “Captain Vin, I am Drusilda Montgomery, and I am here to make your life easier.” Vin stood up to relieve her of the load she was carrying, but she brushed him off. “Sit down Son, these are your reports, ready for your signature and this is some good food I want you to eat now while I go over the work I brought you. Travis warned me about your eating habits.”
“Mrs. Montgomery, although I appreciate it, you did not have to do this.” To say Vin was surprised was an understatement.
“Nonsense, the sooner you sign these, the sooner those scumbags get what they deserve. I am sure you have not been taking care of yourself the way you should because the good Lord and I both know most men do not. That is a meal, not some fast food junk to eat and run. I also brought you some extra for later and none of that Mrs. Montgomery stuff, you can call me Gunny, that’s what my family calls me.”
“Gunny? I didn’t realize you had been in the service.” The thought of this sweet old lady as a ‘Gunny’ amused the Texan.
“Land’s sake no, but I did spend twenty-five years with the school system and I run a tight ship. My children always said our home was like boot camp and that is when they began calling me Gunny, it stuck. Now, eat! This stack needs your signature and this one is for you to review when you have time. If you will let me know by e-mail what you need I can bring it each day when I come. I thought noon would be best, but if you prefer later just let me know.”
“Mrs.… Gunny, noon is fine, but ‘m hoping’ we won’t be here long.” Vin decided he liked this woman and could already see that vein in Chris’ forehead throbbing when he clashed with her. He signed the reports, promised her he would eat and sent this morning’s paperwork back with her as she left. *Life around the office just got more interestin’, Tanner.*
The rest of the day, he spent doing MCAT paperwork and watching a restless Kelli sleep, leaving only long enough to check on Chris. He was trying to convince himself that by tomorrow there would be good news all around.
Moving from one room to another was relatively easy, unless your patient was awake and glaring at you the entire time. By the time they reached Wilmington’s room Chris was more than ready to strangle someone, if he only had the strength to do it. Something was nagging at him and he was not sure what it was, but he was sure that it was important. He found doing anything was taxing and that made him even more irritated.
“Hey stud, welcome aboard. Looks like you and I will be hobbling around together for a while.” Buck was genuinely glad to see his oldest friend.
“Now Buck, you know Chris can barely talk, give him a chance to settle in.” Nathan scolded.
“You remember now, Linda, he’s still weak, don’t over stress his libido.” Buck laughed and Inez swatted his good arm.
Linda gave a mischievous smile. “Buck you have heard the term ‘sexual healing’ haven’t you.”
Nathan just rolled his eyes.” Wilmington, you won’t embarrass this one as much as Kelli.”
“Right and why do you think Travis got her a private room? I’d bet Vin and her are doing some healing of their own, otherwise Tanner would be here now.” Wilmington felt better than he had in a long time. His family was here to tease.
A soft voice cracked. “Private room?” Chris was wary; he knew there had to be more to it.
“Yeah, Chris, I guess Orrin knew Vin would want to be here for Kel, so he had a private room set up with a space for Tanner to work.” Nathan explained.
“How long…broken… ankle?” Chris could only manage a word or two at a time, but his senses were screaming at him that something was wrong.
“Hell, Chris from what Inez told me it’s more than a broke ankle…ouch…What was that for?” Buck still felt the sting from Inez’s slap on his arm.
Green lasers landed on Nathan. ”Nate?”
“She will be okay Chris it’s just…” Jackson was uncomfortable under Larabee’s heated scrutiny. ”Dammit…“I told Vin he should tell you all of it. Kel came out a little worse than Linda did, it will take a while longer for her to heal.”
“Dammit,” Chris groaned, “How…bad?”
Linda stepped forward. “Chris she will be fine. Kel’s shoulder a little sore, she has a bad ankle injury, a few tender ribs and some bruises. Nothing severe enough that will not heal with a little time. Don’t worry.”
Chris clammed up to the people in the room, but sent Vin a blazing message *Tanner, get your ass here now!*
It had been over an hour and Larabee was becoming more agitated by the minute, Tanner was ignoring him and his gut was telling him something was not right. His words were not cooperating, but his thoughts were running wild right alone with his blood pressure.
“You need to calm down Chris, or you will be back in CCU in a heartbeat” A concerned Nathan did his best to settle his brother.
“My …fault.” Larabee was convinced that this nightmare was not over yet.
“It was not your fault that Deveraux was a sadistic nutcase and don’t you take that on!” Linda was surprised that Chris was accepting guilt for this. “Nathan, please go to Kel’s room and get Vin, maybe Chris will believe him that Kelli is okay.”
“What in the hell is going on in here!” Dr Gilford stood at the door with a nurse.” Larabee, you mess up my work and I will personally see that you have orders for daily enemas. Anybody care to tell me why in the space of two hours my patient has gone from getting better to trying for another cardiac arrest!”
“Chris thinks we are hiding something about Kel’s condition and is overreacting a bit,” Linda tried to explain.
“Kel ?” Dr. Gilford thought he had met all of the Larabee clan.
“Kelli Tanner, Vin’s wife is a patient here, too. The same man that put Chris in here hurt her, but not as badly, except Larabee won’t believe that.” Nathan told the doctor.
The doctor went to his patient. “Chris, do you trust me?” He waited for Larabee to decide. When he saw Chris answer with an affirmative nod, he continued. “I will personally go check on this woman for you, but you have to promise me to relax or I will move you back to CCU so fast you will not know you’re moving until it is done. This nurse will baby-sit you for me while I am gone. Deal?”
Before the doctor could move away, he felt Chris touch his arm lightly. “Daughter.” He locked eyes with Larabee and saw how important it was to him to know.
“I understand. The rest of you clear this room and let this patient rest. Nurse, there will be absolutely no visitors until you hear different from me.” He pushed a protesting group out the door.
Vin received Larabee’s messages, but ignored him. He was having his own problems with Kelli’s doctor. The man refused to come back, saying Dr Landers would take over in the morning, and the Texan knew something was not right, Kelli was nauseous and could not eat. She was sweating, but her skin was cold and she had trouble making a coherent sentence, and according to the nurse, a low-grade fever had developed, along with a fluctuating blood pressure reading.
Tanner was shouting into the phone. “I DON’T CARE WHO IN THE HELL YOU HAVE TO DISTURB, I WANT ANOTHER DOCTOR HERE NOW! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” The noise from the slammed down receiver did not get any reaction from Kelli. The hospital administrator on the other end of that call, however, still heard ringing in her ears. She then made a grievous error by sending a first year resident to ‘deal’ with Mr. Tanner.
The young doctor was there in ten minutes and was positive he could handle an overprotective family member. People that were not doctors just did not understand and were naturally worried about a loved one. All he had to do was be professional, offer reassurance and say the right words. He took a deep breath and entered the room.
“Mr. Tanner, I am Dr Gray and I understand you have a few questions.”
“NO! I DO NOT have any fuckin’ questions, what I have is a wife whose condition is getting worse by the minute and a doctor that doesn’t give a DAMN! I demand a competent doctor and they send me a kid! I NEED SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT IN THE HELL THEY ARE DOIN’!’ Vin was ready to do some serious damage to the young man.
“Will I do?” Dr. Gilford came in the room and quickly took control of the situation. “Dr Gray, your assessment of the patient?”
“I …they sent me here to calm a family member….”
“Move out of the way!” Dr. Gilford picked up the chart, but he only read for a minute and began to issue orders. “Vin, push that call button for a nurse. Gray, get me an ultrasound machine in here. Stat! Tanner, tell me everything while I examine your wife.”
The Texan outlined everything since last night and could not hide his anger about Dr. Brass. ”Doc, what’s wrong with her?”
“Dr. Landers left specific instructions that apparently were not followed and I promise you as Chief of Surgery, I will find out why. Right now, though my first priority is helping this young woman. Landers had reason to be concerned about late trauma because sometime damage will not show up immediately. In Kelli’s case, I suspect slow bleeding vessels around the kidney area are to blame for her deteriorating condition. Normally augmented pain would be the first indicator, of trouble; however, the increased medication masked the pain. The decreased alertness, faster heart rate, cold skin and nausea are all symptoms of internal blood loss.”
Vin paled and felt like he had just been kicked in the gut, but still managed to ask. “How serious is that?”
“I will not lie to you it is damn serious, but as soon as I do an ultra sound I am having her sent straight to surgery and I will be performing it myself, as of now she is my patient.” Dr. Gilford did the ultrasound and confirmed what he suspected. He gave the orders necessary to prepare for the procedure and walked with Vin to the door. He gripped the Texan’s shoulder. “I have it on good authority that Larabee’s are tough customers. I know the one that sent me here damn sure is. There will be some consent forms for you to sign and family for you to wait with in Chris’ room during the surgery. I will make sure you stay informed and see you after I finish. I have one stop to make on the way. With your permission, I will update the rest of your family on what is happening, but I will be waiting for Kelli when she gets there. You can stay with her until they reach the operating room doors.”
Dr. Gilford went back to Chris’ room and found several more family members present outside his door. He motioned for them to follow him into the room. He only had time to say this once. “Chris, you were right to be concerned and thank God you persisted. Kelli has some internal bleeding and the nurses are preparing her for emergency surgery, but I will be the one doing it. You have to trust me because I do not have time to give you all the details. Now, I have to be sure you can handle this or I will have you back on the monitors.”
“I’m okay. ...Just make it right.” The knot that had formed in his gut disappeared. A relieved Chris knew he had somehow managed to make a difference, for the ones he cared about, in spite of his injuries.
“I am leaving a nurse with you and she has clear instructions. Any distress and you are back on the machines, no arguments. The rest of you can stay but there will be no yelling, screaming or arguments or this nurse will throw you all out. There is also a very distraught young man down stairs that needs some support from family about now. I will be back here as soon as I am finished.”
Vin gave Kelli one more kiss and watched her disappear behind the operating room doors. Although he knew, he had family here, watching those doors close, the Texan suddenly felt alone. Strong arms encircled him and he gave in to the comfort Josiah was there to offer. Ezra, JD and Nathan stood beside him and without a word passed strength to the younger man.
“Dr. Gilford will take care of her Vin and you have family here. Come on, one Cowboy in particular is waiting for you.”