Alternate Universe RNLI
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Betaed by Kerry. Additional editing by Linda
Vin looked out over the sea and sighed, it was perfect sailing weather, not a cloud in the sky, the sun sparkling on the water, water that was moved by a gentle but steady breeze. In the sun it was hot, in the shade - pleasantly warm. While the wind might be gentle in the harbour, Vin knew out at sea it would be stronger, strong enough to propel his yacht, the Lone Star, at a good pace, but not so strong as to make sailing her anything but relaxing. He ached to take her out, but he couldn't, he was on call. If his pager went off he had to be within ten minutes of the lifeboat. He wasn't actually working, Josiah was in charge of the boat today, but he still had to be available. The day was drawing to an end and the perfect sailing wind would soon be gone.
He was avoiding the summer crowds, sitting on the slipway of the old lifeboat boathouse - which was out of bounds to the general public. He had his fishing rod out, and in the water, but he wasn't really fishing. If he had been he'd have noticed he'd had a fish on the line for the past fifteen minutes. Vin was more interested in lazing in the sun and watching the boats go by.
"You planning on an evening swim?" Chris asked, by way of announcing his approach.
"What's that meant to mean?" Vin asked, not bothering to sit up.
"It means it's nearly seven and the tide turned over an hour ago."
Vin sat up slowly and eyed the approaching water. "Very funny, you know as well as I do the water doesn't come up this high."
"Whatever. You coming for supper? Buck's got the barbecue going in the garden."
Barbecuing for friends, Buck was happy to do. Doing it on a commercial scale for his pub's clientele was a different matter. It required a good deal of planning and he insisted on supervising the cooking himself, even cooking himself, something he rarely did. There was a significant risk factor - undercooked or poorly stored food could poison people, but overcooking it would ruin his reputation for good food. Thus, a barbecue at the Lifeboat Inn was something of an event, restricted to special occasions and Saturday nights in the summer. The barbeques were always popular, especially if the weather was good.
"What shall I do now?" JD asked, having helped stocked the temporary bar in the garden behind the pub.
"Start serving," Buck told him as he turned another home made burger.
It was only just seven and already they were queuing up for food. The Lifeboat Inn was a successful business. It was the most centrally placed public house in the small town of Four Corners and the most popular. In the summer it was always packed, but even in the winter it was never empty. This success brought prosperity, so much so that Buck didn't actually have to work anymore. He could afford to employ as many staff as he needed. The trouble was, he liked his job, he liked making people happy, and giving them good food, fine drinks and a nice place to enjoy it, made them happy. Giving people jobs also made them happy. The worst part of his job were those rare occasions when he had to dismiss people and the annual goodbye to his summer staff. The very best part of his job, the part that beat all, was making JD happy. They hadn't known each other long, they had had their ups and downs and yet, JD felt like his brother. It was as if he had always been part of his life. He had given him a home, a job and a together they shared a vocation as members of the lifeboat crew. In return, JD made him feel part of a family, filled the empty place in his life and balanced his books!
Ezra's only regret about joining the lifeboat was the restriction on what he could drink when he was on call. One of the real advantages of living in a small town was that you didn't always need a car to go out and have a good time. It was a bit of a hike into town from his house, unless the tide was out and the weather kind, then you could stroll along the beach cutting the journey in half. That was what he had done this evening. Now, as he sat in the pub garden, lit only by flickering lanterns and low path lights, he found himself wishing he could order a nice brandy. For an out of the way provincial pub, Buck kept a surprisingly fine cellar.
"Happy?" Josiah asked as he sat down next to him.
"Happy Father? Not sure, how about content?"
Josiah sat back and took a pull on his own bottle of alcohol free beer. "Only content?"
"Isn't content enough?"
"What is not making you happy?"
"No wife, no family, no fine brandy."
Ezra lifted his glass of mineral water with a twist. "I have reached my limit."
"Ah, something that can be rectified come noon tomorrow. The wife and family however..."
"Not in anyone's control."
"That would be comforting, if I believed in God."
Josiah shook his head; he couldn't give Ezra faith, any more than he could give it to Chris. He believed that faith, preferably his - but he wasn't that picky - would improve both men's lives, but had long accepted that they were happy as they were. His vocation called him to help people, what they did or did not believe or how they worshiped, was of secondary importance.
"So what has got you thinking about family all of a sudden?" Josiah asked.
"That?" Ezra gestured to Nathan and Rain, sitting together on a bench, arms around each other, sharing a Magnum ice cream, and JD and Casey, standing in the shadows behind the bar getting 'tactile'.
Vin was replete, he had munched his way through two of Buck's burgers, at least half a dozen sausages, three spicy chicken kebabs and a couple of lamb chops, a huge jacket potato, several bread rolls, most of a focaccia with cheese and sundried tomatoes, crisps, dozens of grilled cherry potatoes and two ice creams.
"Can you actually move?" Buck asked as he finally gave himself a break and sat down next to Tanner.
"If I have to - do I have to?"
"Not on my account, customers like you are always welcome."
"Worth," he belched loudly, "every penny."
"Good to know, make sure you spread the word."
"Might have to give you a discount."
"Hell man, we already eat here for free more than we pay, I don't want any more of your money."
"I appreciate that... Damn it!" he cursed as his beeper went off.
All over the garden beepers trilled.
"Now you have to get up," Buck told Vin.
Nathan and JD pulled themselves away from their women as all seven men began to run toward the back gate, the fastest route to the harbour.
"Who the hell gets into trouble on a flat calm night, with a full moon, when it's eighteen dredges?" Chris asked of no one in particular as he ran.
"How much you want to bet it's total idiots?" Vin offered.
"No bet." Ezra sprinted past him.
"I ate way to much," Vin moaned, as he tried to keep up.
The motor yacht Pula wasn't just big, she was huge, a gleaming, white, aquatic temple to conspicuous wealth. She was almost new, which made it odd that such a prestigious vessel should break down. She was wallowing without power in the middle of the world's busiest shipping lane.
"That really is the Pula - right?" JD asked, binoculars to his eyes, as they approached.
"According to the coast guard it is, why?" Josiah asked.
"Oh come on Father, you have to know who owns the Pula. It was in all the papers at Christmas."
"I'm somewhat busy at Christmas - humour me."
"Only Johan Kuhn! That's who."
"He's a footballer," Buck explained with clear disdain. Buck was a rugby man through and through. Apart from the England team, he had no real interest in football. JD, on the other hand had become a huge football fan, and a Chelsea fan in particular.
JD turned to Josiah. "You can't seriously tell me you've never head of him? He's the top scorer in the Premiership this year; he scored a hat trick in the European cup final! He scored the goal that got Switzerland into the World Cup!" JD enthused.
"He's Swiss and plays for Chelsea," Buck explained.
"Thanks, I think I worked that out." Josiah gave Buck a withering look.
"He's married to Rita Lorenzo!" Josiah looked blank. "The model!" JD explained in clear exasperation.
"Now her I've heard of," Buck admitted, a look of pure lechery on his face.
"Think I'll get to meet them?" JD asked.
"Kid, the chances are there's no one on board except the crew," Buck cautioned.
The look of disappointment his comment generated made him regret it instantly. Sometimes it was hard to remember JD wasn't even nineteen yet. If he'd had the chance to meet Dean Richards when he was JD's age, he'd have been just as excited.
Up on the flying bridge Chris was hailing the Pula. From what the others could hear, the response was somewhat confused, but the man he was speaking to did ask if someone could take a look at the engines. In the strong moonlight and on a flat calm sea, it was easy to manoeuvre the St Nicholas alongside.
"Hello!" Chris called as Buck leapt onto the Pula's deck with the bowline.
"Hello," came the response from above them.
They all looked up to see a slim, dark-haired young man looking down at them from the yacht's own flying bridge.
"Thank you for coming."
"That's his brother," JD hissed over to Buck.
"Brother?" Buck asked.
"Lucas, that's his brother, he's his agent. He must be on board."
Buck could see JD was positively glowing with excitement. "Hey Chris," he called. "This girl's brand spanking new, bound to have computerised control systems, we might need JD."
Vin was preparing to cross over. "I do know about computer controls," he commented with a hint of annoyance.
"Give the kid a break," Buck whispered to him with a wink.
Vin looked over his shoulder at JD, and relaxed a fraction. "He could be right, I may need JD," he called back to Chris.
The Pula had suffered sudden and unexplained engine failure. Lucas took them to the main bridge; JD immediately took a look at the main controls.
"Where are the crew?" Buck asked.
"They are all French. We are heading for Southampton so we let them off in Brest," Lucas told them
"So how many of there are you on board?"
"Just the three of us. Don't worry, the ship almost sails herself. I can handle her."
Buck suddenly had a very bad feeling in his gut; he just couldn't work out why. JD was busy checking the computer, it didn't take him long to work out what was wrong.
"Your safety cut out has activated," he announced. "Was there an engine problem?"
"I don't think so," Lucas admitted.
"Come on man, let's take a look," Vin encouraged.
"I'll show you the way." Lucas turned to Buck and JD. "Johan and Rita are in the master cabin, forward." He gestured to the end of the main saloon, where a companionway dropped down a few steps. "So keep away from that area. Otherwise feel free to have a look around."
The yacht was luxurious in the extreme, with polished wood, cream leather, crystal, brass, silk and gold everywhere. At the touch of a button, a plasma screen rose silently into place from behind the glass cabinet, which contained a whole array of games consoles. The bar was stocked with the very best champagne, forty-eight-year-old scotch, vintage brandy and very expensive bottled beer.
"Wow," JD gasped in genuine awe. "I mean, wow! Wouldn't it be great to have a boat like this?"
Buck looked around. "For a holiday, maybe, not forever."
"Nah, it's just not me. But if I won the lottery, wouldn't mind chartering one like it for a few weeks in the Med or the Caribbean."
"That would be so sweet," JD agreed. "Wonder what's down here?" he pointed to the stairs to the left of the door to the main cabin.
"More cabins I guess."
JD began to tip-toe down the stairs. "JD!" Buck hissed, but the young man paid him no heed. "Damn it!" Buck followed him.
Vin looked at the engine room and all but sighed. It was so big! He could stand up, he could walk about, see each of the two huge diesel engines from every angle.
"Duw, man, your engineer is a lucky bastard. Harldy room to swing a mouse in my engine room, let alone a bloody cat. You could swing a whole tiger in here!"
Lucas just smiled. "Do you know what made the engines cut out?"
"Well let's take a look."
It took some time to track the problem to the drive shaft of the number one engine. It was jammed. The engines were meant to run in synch, rather than independently, so when one had a problem, both cut out.
"It's mostly likely a fouled prop. I'll take a look, but chances are it'll need a diver to go down or you may even have in take her into a dry dock. Shouldn't be a problem, just shut down this engine and run on number two engine. It'll make the steering heavy, she'll pull to the side a bit, might take a little longer, but you'll get there okay."
Lucas smiled apologetically. "I think I am still learning all the systems," he admitted.
"Hell of a lot of them, bloody computers are taking over the world," Vin muttered.
Buck and JD had been looking into the forward cabins; each one was a temple to conspicuous wealth. Buck shook his head.
"All this, just for playing a sissy game like football."
"Football is not sissy," JD protested.
"Compared to rugby it is. In America, it's a girls game."
"Hey they were in the World Cup," JD defended.
"So was Togo." JD studiously ignored this comment.
"Come on, let's get back," Buck encouraged. He didn't like to admit it, but he felt uncomfortable, even guilty, looking around this floating pleasure palace.
JD shrugged. "Okay."
Since he was closest to the stairs, JD headed up first with Buck behind him. He was only on the fourth step when a pair of naked legs appeared in front of him.
"What you doing?" The voice was threatening and heavily accented.
JD looked up and recognised his hero. "Hello Mr Kuhn," he greeted.
Buck, standing behind him, older, wiser, not blinded who was above him rather than what, saw a good deal more and it scared him. Kuhn was carrying something in his hand, though he couldn't quite make out. The man was only wearing boxers, there seemed to be the hint of something white clinging to the several days of stubble on his top lip and worst of all was the look in his eye. There was only one way to describe the look - spaced.
"I asked what the hell you are doing on my boat?" Kuhn demanded again.
JD still seemed oblivious to the danger. "We're with the lifeboat, we came to help. Your brother, he said we could have a look around - while Vin takes a look at your engines."
"Lifeboat? I don't know nothing about this lifeboat!"
"You lost power?" JD's voice portrayed the first hint of concern.
"We better get back to our engineer and your brother, see how they're doing," Buck suggested.
JD took another step up the ladder. In a flash Kuhn moved the thing that Buck hadn't been able to identify at his side. It was a loaded spear gun and it was levelled at JD.
As he came out on deck, Vin looked up at the eastern sky and smiled. In the distance the sky was just paling, a vague tinge of pink highlighted the whispers of cloud on the horizon. Sometimes it was worth being called out in the middle of the night.
Lucas took him to the stern and let down the diving platform. With the grill-like deck in place he could lie down on his belly and overhang the side. From that angle he could shine a ten million candlepower torch on the number one engine's propeller.
"Oh yeah, got rope wrapped around your shaft, even some on the blades. It's orange, I can just see the white end of a fender." He sat up and looked at Lucas. "Someone lost a fender, you ran over it, props sliced and diced the fender, but the rope's fouling your prop."
"So we limp home on one engine and get someone to take care of it?"
Vin stood up. "That's about the size of it. Sorry we couldn't fix it here and now, but you should be fine."
Lucas extended his hand. "Thank you very much."
Vin shook his hand warmly. "You're welcome. Come on, let's get your engine fired up, just to be sure it works."
"You're trying to steal!" Johan Kuhn accused, not bothering to say what he thought they were trying to steal.
"No sir, we came to help. Your yacht broke down, your brother called us," Buck stated, keeping his voice calm and steady.
"No!" Kuhn jabbed the spear gun toward them. "You're stealing it."
Before Buck could speak again there was the characteristic 'crack - snap' as the spear gun - really not much more than a glorified rubber band gun - fired. There was no time to react. Out of water, at close range, the spear travelled, or a least seemed to travel, as fast as a bullet. It slammed into the top of JD's thigh and stayed there.
"JD!" Buck cried out in alarm as his young friend staggered back under the impact.
The spear was sticking out; it's wicked barbs buried deep in his thigh muscle. Johan tried to pull the gun back to reload; forgetting that the spear he'd just fired was still connected to the gun by a fine line.
JD cried out in agony as the cruel metal in his leg was tugged and yanked about. Buck launched himself up the stairs, grabbing the line, trying to get control of it.
"Stop it you bastard!" he yelled.
Kuhn just backed up a few steps and released the reel line from under the gun. Buck turned back to JD
"Jesus kid," he breathed. "Don't try and pull it out."
JD, whose hands were clutching his thigh in white-knuckled intensity, looked up at him. "Wasn't planning to."
Buck's instinct was to stay with JD and comfort him, but logic dictated another course of action. JD needed help, and that meant getting past the madman with the gun. Spear guns, in or out of the water, were deadly weapons, but they were one shot deals. A person could reload an old fashioned musket faster than a spear gun, even assuming Kuhn was an expert - which Buck doubted. He had to get him disarmed before he could reload.
"Don't try anything, I'm gonna get Nathan," he called as he moved up the steps as fast as he dared.
"Be careful," JD called.
Whatever Buck might have said in response to this was lost. It seemed Johan Kuhn wasn't as 'spaced out' as he seemed. He had apparently worked out that he couldn't reload in time or maybe he didn't have another spear, but for whatever reason, he didn't try. He just slammed down the watertight bulkhead that sealed the lower deck in an emergency.
Buck was lucky, had the full weight of the door hit his head, it would probably have split his skull. As it was, the brass hand rail, attached to the inside of the door, hit him a glancing blow to the forehead, sending him tumbling back down the stairs in a boneless heap as the door slammed shut, like the closing of a tomb.
Vin and Lucas were on the bridge, about to start the number two engine. Johan walked up, still in his boxers.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"One of your props is fouled," Vin told him.
"You can fix it?"
"Nope, but you only need one engine, assuming it will start."
Johan looked at his bother and spoke in German. To Vin, Lucas sounded irritated, but figuring it was none of his business, he pressed the start button for number two engine. It fired first time.
"There, see, it works - now you go." Johan made a dismissive gesture with his hand toward the lifeboat.
Vin glared at him. "Don't mention it. Where are my friends?"
"Friends?" Johan asked.
His brother said something in German.
"Oh them, they went back to your boat. So you go now."
"Sure." Vin turned and headed back to the St Nicolas.
Lucas followed him, apologising for his brother's lack of manners.
The rest of the crew were somewhat surprised to see him. They were even more surprised when he untied the stern line and Lucas headed for the bowline.
"What the hell are you doing?" Chris shouted down from the bridge.
"She's fixed, sort of," Vin announced. "We can go."
"Not without Buck and JD we can't."
Vin was ready to jump across, now he spun around and looked at Lucas. "You're brother said they went back."
"I don't understand." He looked up at the bridge and called up in German.
What ever the response meant, Lucas didn't like it. He began arguing, but clearly to no avail because the Pula suddenly surged froward, ripping the bow line from his hands. The sudden movement unbalanced Vin, who fell between the two vessels, hitting the side of the lifeboat as he went down.
Ezra, standing near the stern, had only a split second to react. He grabbed the boat hook, plunged it over the side and snagged Vin's life jacket, just as the Pula's huge stern, one powerful engine rapidly reaching maximum revolutions, pushed the Pula's stern past him.
Buck wasn't aware of it at the time, but he was only unconscious for a minute or so. But to JD, trapped under him, it felt like eternity.
"Buck?" he called softly, using his one free hand to give his friend a little shake. "Buck, please wake up?"
"Urrrr," Buck moaned.
"Come on Buck, wake up, please."
"Yeah, can you move, please?"
"Roll, to the left, please?"
Buck wasn't sure what had happened, but he trusted JD, so did as he was asked. As he lay there on the deck, trying to get his thoughts in order again, his eyes slowly refocused.
"Oh God, JD." He scrambled over to his friend. "What happened to me?"
"He shut the door, it hit your head."
Buck looked up at the stairs. "Oh shit."
"And we're moving."
Buck tentatively raised his hand to his head, not surprised when it came away covered in blood. Damn, it hurt!
"So," Buck turned his attention back to JD, "how are you holding up?"
Not that he got a look at him, the boy was alarmingly pale.
"I've been better."
"Haven't we all? Let's see what we can do to make you more comfortable."
Buck stood up and staggered as a wave of dizziness hit him.
"I'm okay, just stood up a bit too fast, that's all, I'll be okay."
Never more grateful that ships had rails running down the corridors so passengers could hang on to them in bad weather, he made his way to the nearest cabin. It had a double bed - perfect.
"JD, do you think you can stand, if I help you?"
"I can try."
Buck crouched behind JD, balancing on the balls of his feet to compensate for the movement of the sea. Then he slipped his big hands under JD's arms and clasped them together as they met across JD's chest.
"On three?" he asked.
JD nodded, placing the foot of his good leg firmly on the deck, for maximum leverage.
With that Buck used his long legs to good effect as he stood up, pulling JD up in one steady move. He hated it, hated hearing his young friend grunt and hiss as he tried to hide the pain that Buck was inflicting. Buck got JD settled on the bed, with his legs raised up on a mountain of pillows gleaned from the other cabins.
"Ok, let's keep you warm." Buck draped what looked like a pure silk quilt over his patient.
"I'm going to see what I can find - okay?" Buck asked.
"I'm okay, don't worry about me."
"Not possible. Call if you need me."
Ezra's fast thinking had saved Vin from being chopped into small pieces by the propeller, but he was still unconscious and Nathan was worried. As well as the huge knot on the side of his head, his shoulder was dislocated.
"We need to get him to a hospital," Jackson told Chris over the intercom. "I have no way to know if he has a serious head injury or not."
"We have to get Buck and JD," Chris pointed out. Even now he was on the bridge, pushing the St Nicolas to her limit, trying to keep up with the big yacht, which even with only one engine, was seriously fast.
"If he's bleeding inside his skull, we could lose him. He needs a hospital."
"Nathan, I know the dangers of head injuries," Chris pointed out.
"What if we carry on after the Pula and have the helicopter meet us? A Sea King from Culdrose could be out here in less then fifteen minutes," Chris suggested.
Ezra and Josiah turned their eyes to Nathan. Finally he nodded. "Okay."
"Anyone any idea what they were saying to each other?"
"I'm sorry, my German is rusty and their accent was very thick, I didn't catch it," Ezra replied.
"Don't speak German."
"Never mind. Ezra, call the coast guard, get things moving. Josiah get up here with the glasses and keep the bastards in sight. Nathan, let us know if there is any change in Vin. If he gets worse, we'll divert." With that, Chris turned his attention back to the pursuit.
Buck had found no first aid, but he did discover a cabinet with basic over-the-counter medicines in it, and some other things he could use. Returning to JD he admitted there was no way out. Then he placed his supplies down on the bedside table.
"How are you doing?" he asked softly.
JD gave him a weak smile. "It don't hurt as much now." He looked down apprehensively at the long black shaft sticking out of his leg. "Or maybe I just got used to it?" He looked back up at Buck.
"It's probably a bit of both."
"What are you going to do?" JD asked worriedly. "Take it out?"
Buck shook his head. "You took the same first aid course I did, so you know that's the last thing I'm doing but..."
"I do need to take a look, maybe clean it up a bit, possibly try and stop the bleeding - although you're not bleeding that much."
JD lay back. "It'll hurt - won't it?"
"Have I ever lied to you kid - about something important I mean?"
"Do you want me to answer the question?"
Buck gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze and then took out his penknife and moved to JD's impaled leg. Buck kept his knife blade razor sharp, but it struggled to cut the tough, tear resistant fabric of JD's waterproofs. The inevitable tugging and jarring made JD gasp and snatch up great handfuls of the silk bedspread.
"Almost done," Buck told him, not trusting himself to look back. If he caught a glimpse of his young friend's alarmingly pale, pain-pinched features, he might not be able to carry on. Finally he had the waterproof cut away and made short work of JD's light-weight summer trousers. The wound looked clean, but Buck knew that was probably an illusion. When a bullet is fired, the heat in the barrel sterilises it. Spear guns have no such heat. Who knew what germs lurked on the tip and shaft now embedded in JD's thigh? Like a bullet, it had probably driven fragments of cloth into the wound as it tore through JD's clothing. It wasn't bleeding much, not as much as he'd feared, and a hell of a lot less than it would if the spear was removed. There was some angry looking torn flesh around the shaft, no doubt where Johan had pulled on the line before he cut it.
"Okay, I'm going to pour some of this vodka on it. You ready?"
JD knew full well what was coming. "As I'll ever be - do it."
Buck didn't hesitate; he just trickled the clear liquid on to the raw flesh.
"Oh Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the Saints!" JD cursed. "Bloody hell! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck, fuck!"
Finally Buck poured mineral water on to kill some of the burn and packed, bright, white, fluffy towels around the shaft. JD was still cursing like a navvy.
"I didn't think you had it in you," he admitted with admiration as he turned back to JD.
"To swear?" JD gasped.
"No, I know you can swear, I've heard you." Buck winked at him. "I though you'd give out on me, faint."
"I'm Irish, we're not the fainting kind." JD paused to take a breath, grabbing another handful of silk. "Oh shit, it hurts."
Buck pushed his large hand under JD's replacing the silk with his warmth and strength. "Ride it out, squeeze as hard as you like."
Fresh beads of cold sweat broke out on JD's forehead as he nodded, eyes closed, complexion ashen. It took time, but eventually the pressure on Buck's hand eased.
"Better?" Buck asked.
"A bit, can I have some water?"
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea." Buck had been wracking his brain, trying to remember all his first aid training regarding impaled objects; blood loss and shock. One of the things he remembered was not giving the casualty anything to eat or drink.
"I'm not going to be sick, I'm just really thirsty - please."
JD was losing blood, even Buck's basic first aid training told him, while the spear was effectively plugging the hole in his leg, he was still loosing blood around the shaft and the evident swelling around the wound indicated internal bleeding. If Nathan were treating him, he'd have put a drip in to counteract the loss of fluid.
"Okay, but just a few sips, to begin with."
Buck quickly filled the crystal decanter that was by the bed and poured out a small amount into the exquisite crystal tumbler. Gently raising JD's head, he handed him the glass.
"Just a little," he reminded.
JD gratefully took three mouthfuls. "Now you," JD gasped as he relaxed back into the pillows.
"You need to drink then take care of your head."
Buck reached up and tentatively touched his forehead. The blood seemed to be mostly dried; it felt sticky to the touch. He wasn't sure he should thank JD for thinking of him, because until that moment he hadn't been aware of the pain. Now the thumping headache was hard to avoid. He downed some water and then returned to the bathroom. This time, he actually looked in the mirror. The sight that greeted him was somewhat alarming; blood covered most of one side of his face.
Shit, the kid must have been scared witless, seeing me looking like this! With that thought in mind, he quickly washed his face as best he could, being careful to avoid the wound itself, worried it might start to bleed again if he disturbed it. That done, he downed some of the painkillers he'd found earlier. He debated whether to give JD some and decided against it. He knew from experience they would do little for the amount of pain he was in and could make him sick.
Vin was having trouble working out what was going on. He seemed to be rocking - but why? It wasn't a pleasant rocking, it wasn't like being in a hammock or Ezra's fancy recliner. Suddenly there was a jolt and it went straight to his stomach. Someone groaned, possibly him, he wasn't sure. There was a second jolt, this time he was fairly sure it was him moaning and groaning.
"Vin?" The voice was familiar and very close. "Come on, open your eyes." The voice commanded.
Who is that, sounds so familiar - Chris? No too soft, too polite? Who would be talking to me when I'm sick? Presumably I am sick. Nathan!
"There you go, hello." Nathan's face came into view. He knew it was Nathan because it was dark and the voice sounded like Dr Jackson, but in all honesty, all he could see was a fuzzy blob.
Even on a calm day, there was a swell out in the channel, and there was another jolt as they crested another wave head on.
"Oh God," Vin moaned.
Suddenly two sets of hands were on him and with well practised care, rolled him onto his side, just as his stomach had finally had enough and emptied into the bucket Jackson had put out ready.
"Better?" Nathan asked as they rolled him back.
"Pardon, come Vin, speak English." Vin frowned at him, he was speaking English - wasn't he? "Are you going to throw up again?" Nathan asked.
"Efa... I mean maybe."
"You remember what happened?"
Vin thought. "We were having a barbecue at Buck's?"
"And that's the last thing I remember."
"Not surprising. You have a concussion. A helicopter is on its way to pick you up."
"What happened and why can't I move my arm?" Vin had just realised his arm was strapped down.
Nathan glanced at Josiah. Did they tell him Buck and JD had been effectively kidnapped, that they were pursuing their captors? That they had broken off that pursuit to get him to safety?
"You fell, hit your head on the deck and dislocated your shoulder," Josiah told him.
"Damn, and I wasn't even drinking," Vin griped.
Ezra appeared at the cabin door. "The helicopter is approaching us." Even as he spoke, they felt the engines cut and they slowed.
JD swore he wasn't feeling sick, so Buck let him have some more water.
"Why d' you think he did it?" JD asked as he handed the glass back.
Buck was fairly sure he knew. The question was, did he tell JD? The man was his hero, or he had been. JD seemed to need heroes. He practically worshipped Chris. Buck liked to think JD had even hero worshipped him, in some way. He guessed it was something to do with the younger man's father. The man had been a violent and abusive drunk. JD had no memories of him, not until he turned up in Four Corners. A particularly dramatic rescue had caught the attention of the national press. After seeing JD's picture in the papers he had tried to capitalise on it by selling his story to the press. It was an ugly incident that had left its mark on all concerned. That had been almost a year ago. Buck hoped the damage done to their relationship had been repaired, but he wasn't sure he was still the hero he had been in JD's eyes.
"Buck?" JD prompted.
Buck realised he'd been staring off into space.
"Are you okay?"
"What? Oh yes, I was just thinking about it. All I can say is what I saw..."
"It looked to me like he was on something."
JD frowned. "You mean like drugs?"
"Yeah, probably coke."
He had expected the young man to deny it, to claim his sporting hero was confused or even drunk, but he didn't. He let his head rest back and closed his eyes.
"That's what I thought," he finally admitted.
"Sorry." Buck wasn't sure what he was sorry for, but it seemed like the thing to say.
"Not your fault. Actually it's my fault, I'm the one made you come down here and poke about! Sorry."
"Not your fault, you didn't shoot yourself or slam a door on my head."
"So we're both sorry for nothing?"
"We're British, it's what we do."
JD began to laugh when the boat veered suddenly, rolling him toward Buck. Even as Buck was reaching out to steady him the boat rolled the other way. Before either of them could stop it, JD's leg, complete with spear hit the cabin wall.
"Oh God!" JD cried out, as the sudden jolt reignited the fire in his leg.
Buck quickly rolled him back and took his hand. He forced his voice to stay soft and calm, which was some feat, as calm was definitely not how he was feeling.
"Okay, like before, hold on to me, ride it out." Slowly JD's staccato, shallow breathing slowed, but it was noticeably quicker and shallower. Shock, he going deeper into shock and there isn't a thing I can do about it. Shit!
Lucas Kuhn was a man who had learned to live in his brother's shadow. He was - or had been - a good footballer, not great like Johan, but good enough to have scouts looking at him in school. That was until he was seventeen, when he went out one night with his big brother. Johan was nineteen, had just been transferred to one of the top clubs in Switzerland. To celebrate he'd bought himself a Ferrari. He was driving too fast, in a car he didn't really have the skill to control, on a twisting mountain road and he crashed it. Johan suffered cuts and bruises; Lucas' left ankle was smashed and dislocated. It took a year and a half, but he made a full recovery. But by then his chance to be a professional footballer had gone. It might have been because he felt guilty, or just because he didn't trust anyone else, but Johan made his brother his agent and business manager.
Johan's meteoric rise to football icon hadn't made the job easy, but it had its rewards. This wasn't one of them. He knew about the drugs, of course, for that he blamed Rita. The sultry Brazilian model was a user long before she met Johan and she got him hooked. When he appeared wearing nothing but his underwear, Lucas knew his brother was high. He should never have left him there alone. If he'd only stayed, he could have stopped it.
"Just stop," he pleaded.
"No, I can't, we have to keep going."
Lucas was getting more and more scared. "Please listen to me, we can't kidnap those men, their friends will come after them."
"I haven't kidnapped them."
"I arrested them, they're thieves, they wanted to take my boat."
Lucas tried to calm himself. If he got angry, Johan would just get more agitated and more irrational. "No, I told you, they're lifeboat men. They came to help us..."
"No!" As Johan shouted he let go of the wheel and the boat gave a sudden lurch to port.
"Let me have the wheel," Lucas offered, reaching out his hand.
"No!" Johan swung his arm out, catching his bother across the face and sending him reeling across the deck. Before Lucas could get back on his feet, his brother was pounding on him. "You're just like them! You're all against me!"
Dazed and hurt, Lucas found himself being manhandled forward. Suddenly, he was on the inch thick Chinese carpet in the stateroom and his own brother was locking the door - from the other side. He'd seen Johan high before, he'd even seen him paranoid before, but this was something different. As he stood up, trying to balance as the ship rolled wildly from side to side, he remembered Rita. She had to be in the room with him, but he couldn't see her.
"Rita?" he called softly.
There was no reply, but the bathroom door was open, so he looked in. There she was, in the huge black and gilt bathtub, naked and very clearly dead. Her lifeless eyes stared out at him; the band around her arm and the needle embedded in it, still visible. She'd overdosed. Now he knew why his brother was acting the way he was. He'd been afraid before, now he was terrified.
Slowing to offload Vin had let the Pula get out of sight, though Ezra was still tracking her on radar. Chris had been on the radio for sometime, as Josiah helmed the boat; he'd been speaking to the coastguard, the police, the French authorities - with some translation help from Ezra - and the Navy. In addition, all shipping in the Channel had been asked to report sightings of the Pula and steer well clear of her.
The Navy had no ships in the immediate area. The closest was the minesweeper, HMS Hecla. She was underway, heading straight for them, but was still an hour out. The stand-by Navy helicopter was taking Vin to hospital, but would return as soon as it could. The coast guard chopper from further down the coast was on another rescue and wouldn't be free for at least an hour. So far, the Pula had stayed in British waters, but should she stray toward France, the French Navy was aware of the situation.
"Damn it, what the hell is he doing?" Chris asked as he took the wheel on the open bridge again, just as Ezra plotted another apparently random course change.
"He's only got one engine," Nathan reminded.
Chris shook his head. "No, this is more than just course correction."
"I don't think he knows what he's doing," Josiah offered.
"That makes him even more dangerous," Nathan pointed out.
None of them wanted to think about what that meant for their friends on board.
"JD?" Buck asked urgently, giving his young friend a gentle shake.
"Come on kid, stay with me."
Slowly JD's eyes opened. "I'm here."
"No sleeping on the job kid, you need to stay awake."
The pain in the eyes that focused on Buck was almost too painful to watch. "I'm so tired."
"I know, but please, try for me - okay?"
"Okay, good, now I'm just going to leave for a moment, I'll be right back, okay?"
JD managed a weak smile. "I'll be here."
Buck stood and gave his friend's shoulder a gentle squeeze. As fast as he could, he sprinted around the other cabins and collected all the pillows, bolsters, cushions, and quilts he could find. On his return, he placed them all around JD, so that if the ship veered again, he would be less likely to roll and hurt himself more.
"I have to find a way out of here," he explained. "There has to be one, for the fire regulations - right?"
JD didn't respond, but at least he was still awake - just.
If there was a way out, it had to be in the front cabin, leading into some kind of hold or chain locker or the rear. Where that would lead he wasn't sure - crew quarters possibly? There was nothing at the front. The rear two cabins were all but identical, twin beds, shared bathroom, walk in wardrobe. There didn't seem to be any kind of door or hatch until - for some reason he couldn't explain - he took a second look at the wardrobe of the first cabin. The rail was full, winter clothes, fur coats, woman's ski gear, clearly this was Rita's overflow wardrobe. Pushing them back he finally found it. Low down, the walnut panelling was split in two, and set flush into the panel was a brass handle. Kneeling on the plush carpet and pushing the fur coats out of the way, he tentatively turned the handle. The door opened into the closet and revealed a dark room beyond. He didn't need to be able to see to know what room it was, the smell and the noise told him instantly - it was the engine room. As far as he could tell it was empty. At least no one came to investigate the sudden appearance of an illuminated opening in the wall.
As fast as he could, Buck made his way over to the door. There was no one around as he closed the heavy watertight door. There was no actual lock on the inside, but once he'd spun the wheel to lock and seal the door it was easy enough to jam a long spanner in the mechanism, effectively sealing the door from the inside. Flicking on the lights, he looked around and for a quick way to disable the one working engine. In the end it proved a simple matter to turn a valve lever and cut the fuel off. In less than a minute, the engine coughed and died. Smiling to himself, Buck picked up a heavy wrench and retreated through the escape hatch, replaced the fur coats, turned off the lights and returned to JD.
"What the hell?" Ezra rechecked his screen. "Chris!" he called urgently.
"Slowing fast...dead stop."
"Okay, get me there."
Ezra, rechecked the heading, wishing JD was there to plot the course, although the truth was they were so close now, they should be able to see the Pula. Ezra sprinted up to the open bridge were Chris and the others stood. "She should be somewhere there in front of us, a fraction to starboard." He pointed in the general direction.
"Take the wheel," Chris instructed, as the others all raised their binoculars.
If it hadn't been for a light early morning mist they might have seen her immediately, as it was it took another ten minutes for the sleek white yacht to come into view. The Navy was still some half an hour away and Chris wasn't prepared to wait that long.
Buck ran back to JD, alarmed to find he was unconscious. Try as he might Buck couldn't rouse him. The teenager was pale, his skin clammy, his lips had an alarming tinge of blue.
"Please kid, don't do this," he pleaded. "I've stopped us, so the guys will be here soon, just hang on a little longer - come on JD, just a little longer."
Johan was beside himself. He had to get away, his enemies were after him, they were closing in on him, yet his boat had stopped. He screamed at his brother to make it go, make the engines start again. It took him some time to remember that he'd locked Lucas in the stateroom. In panicked, drug-fuelled desperation, he stumbled forward and unlocked the door, calling for his brother.
Lucas tried to placate his brother, but to no avail. He wasn't stupid, Johan was his meal ticket and while being caught with a dead wife on his yacht - however accidental - might not kill his brother's playing career, it would be death to his lucrative sponsorship and advertising deals. If only he hadn't kidnapped the lifeboat men, they might have managed to 'deal' with the Rita 'situation', but now it was just too late. Try as he might, Lucas couldn't make Johan understand this. So, reluctantly, he agreed to try and re-start the engine.
Finding the engine room door jammed, his only option was to enter via the emergency hatch and that meant entering the locked off lower deck. He debated asking Johan first, but chose not to. Slowly he lifted the hatch.
"Hello?" he whispered.
No one replied, so he moved slowly down the steps. "Hello," he called again, a little louder.
Buck heard the door open. Silently and swiftly he moved to the stairs, positioning himself where he could see whoever entered, but not be seen. He waited until he had a good view of the man's legs, then pounced. With a degree of speed and agility rarely seen in a man his size, Buck grabbed the man's legs and rugby tackled him down the stairs, pinning him to the deck with his own body. He had his hand pulled back, fist balled, ready to strike before he recognised Lucas.
"He sent you to fix it?" he asked.
"Yes." Lucas swallowed apologetically. "I am very sorry he locked you up down here, he's not himself, he's..."
Lucas nodded. "Sadly, but there is more, really, even when he is...like he is...he is not as he is now."
"Whatever, where is he?" Buck has lost his patience.
"Can I trust you? Or are you going to try and stop me?"
Lucas shook his head. "I know it is hopeless - it is just that..."
"What?" Buck demanded.
"Rita's dead, his wife, she O-D-ed, in their bathroom." Buck didn't respond. "His wife is dead. You understand? It has made him..." he searched for the correct English word. "Crazy?"
Buck knew all too well how a man could react when he lost his wife, but Chris had never tried to kidnap anyone, much less shoot them.
"Stay here and take care of JD," he told Lucas as he got off him.
"In there." Buck pointed to the cabin door. "See what your brother did and tell me he's got a good excuse for that."
Lucas reached the cabin door as Buck started up the stairs. "Oh Mein Gott! Did Johan? Did he do this?"
"Yeah," Buck snarled. "He shot a nineteen-year-old kid. I don't care what happened to his wife, or how out of it he is, there is no excuse for that." With that he was gone.
Chris wanted to reach over and push the throttle further forward, but knew it was pointless, the boat was already going as fast as she could. They were closing very fast now.
"Ez, as soon as we're alongside, cut the engine. I want us coming to a quick stop!" Chris shouted as he pulled on his helmet and descended the ladder to the rear deck.
"You'll have it," Ezra assured.
Chris, with Josiah behind him, made his way to the prow, ready to board the Pula as soon as they could.
"Nathan, stay here until I call for you - just in case," Chris instructed.
"Okay. I just heard that the chopper is on its way back to us," Nathan informed him.
"Good to know."
They were almost on top of the Pula now. The rear decks appeared to be deserted as Chris climbed over the safety rail and prepared to jump across. Ezra cut the St Nicholas' engines the second the bow reached the Pula's stern, relying on her inertia to carry her alongside.
Chris didn't even wait for the boat to stop, leaping confidently - albeit in contravention of all RNLI safety regulations - across to the yacht. Josiah, belying his advancing years, followed him.
"Bridge!" Chris called; not that he expected Josiah to do anything but follow him.
The two of them ran forward, all but bursting on to the bridge two abreast, where they came to a sudden stop.
Buck was standing over a half naked man, who lay on the deck, clutching his nose. Blood steeped though his fingers and was splashed all over his chest. Buck's right hand was curled in a fist, his chest heaving.
"Buck?" Chris asked tentatively.
Wilmington's head snapped around, there was a look of pure, raw, hate in his eyes few men had ever seen in the easy going publican.
"What happened?" Chris asked, taking a step toward his friend.
"Chris," Buck acknowledged. He seemed to relax a little. "Where's Nate?"
"On the boat."
"Get him here, now!"
Josiah didn't stop to ask why; he just turned and went to fetch the doctor.
Chris took another step toward Buck. "What happened?"
"He shot JD," Buck told him darkly, looking down at the man lying below him.
"I'll tell you later. First take this piece of shit off me, so I can get back to JD. Send Nate down to the forward cabins." With that, he was gone.
Chris decided not to try and stop him or get more information, but just to let him go. Stepping closer he looking down at his prisoner. The man didn't look like he was going to try anything, Chris knew from experience how hard Buck could hit. The man's nose was probably broken. Nathan came running up carrying his medical bag. Seeing a man on the floor, covered in blood, he moved toward him.
"Not him, JD, that way, down the stairs." Chris pointed in the direction Buck had gone.
Nathan turned to go. "See to him, and sit him up before he swallows too much blood!" he called as he went.
As Nathan ran down the steps, he met Lucas on his way out. "In there." Lucas pointed toward the open door.
Nathan ran past him, and into the cabin. "Oh my God," he gasped.
"He won't wake up," Buck told Nathan worriedly, moving to give the doctor more room, without losing contact with JD.
"It's okay, I'm here now," Nathan assumed confidently. He could clearly see that Buck was close to the edge.
Quickly and efficiently he examined the wound and assessed his patient's condition. That done, he began to set up a drip. "He'll improve, once he's got the drip," he assured Buck. "The Sea King is on the way."
Buck nodded; he was using two fingers to gently stroke JD's pale cheek. "He's been so brave, the whole time, never tried to pull it out, kept calm."
"He's a good kid," Nathan told him.
"I know that," Buck almost snapped. Then he realised what he'd done. "Sorry Nate, I'm just worried."
"I know." Worried, scared and hyped on adrenaline. Hold on Buck, just a little longer.
Nathan was worried, a lot more worried than he wanted Buck to know. If the bolt had been pulled out JD would have bled out, but he was still bleeding. With no exit hole, the majority of the blood was trapped in his leg, causing swelling. The swelling was putting pressure on the structures in JD's leg, the pulse in his foot was weak and the foot felt cool, a sure indication that that the circulation was restricted. If JD wasn't to suffer permanent damage to his leg, he needed surgery and he needed it fast.
"Here." Nathan held up the drip bag, knowing Buck knew what to do.
Taking the bag, Buck stood up, holding it above JD, letting the life saving fluid run into his arm. As he did this Josiah came into the cabin.
"Oh dear Lord!" Intently, he dropped to his knees at JD's side, crossing himself. He then said an almost silent prayer, before making the sign of the cross on JD's forehead.
"That better not be the last rites," Buck warned darkly.
"It wasn't, just asking Our Lady to intercede for him, ease his pain and give him strength." Josiah looked up. "Have faith brother, salvation is at hand."
"The chopper is ten minutes out." With a wink and a smile, Josiah turned away from Buck and spoke to Nathan. They weren't intending to keep what they said from Buck, only from JD, who might still be able to hear.
Josiah left, to be replaced a few minutes later by Chris, carrying the stretcher and a toolbox.
"Bloody hell!" he swore, as he caught sight of JD. "Josiah told me, but I didn't...damn him!"
"Where is he?" Buck asked, referring to Johan.
"Josiah is watching him - you broke his nose by the way..."
"Should have broken his head."
"I'd have killed him," Chris admitted. Buck didn't doubt it. "Anyway, his brother is tending to his nose, and Josiah his laying a serious guilt trip on both of them."
While they were speaking, Nathan had opened the tool kit and pulled out some bolt cutters.
"What the hell?" Buck exclaimed.
"Hush, don't shout," Nathan admonished. "And keep that drip still."
"We need to cut the bolt down," Chris explained. "It's just too dangerous to winch him with that much sticking out.
Buck cursed himself for not realising this. Once the bolt was cut down to just two inches, JD was moved to the stretcher and carried up to the top deck. As they carried JD past the Kuhn brothers, Buck spoke to Chris.
"Get Lucas to tell you about Rita."
"Johan's wife, Lucas says she's dead. Told me she O.D-ed, in their stateroom."
"You mean, here, now?"
"And you're telling me this now!"
"I was kind of busy!" Buck snapped. "What with keeping JD alive, not to mention stopping this damn tub so you could catch up!"
"I know that! But something like a dead woman on the boat is something I need to know about!" Chris responded hotly.
"You two stop it!" Josiah snapped. "Buck you've done a great job. Right Nathan?"
"You did good," Nathan agreed.
"It's not surprising that you didn't think of the telling us about Mrs Kuhn until now."
Josiah was looking sternly at Chris, who nodded his acceptance.
"Sorry mate, I know you had other priorities," Chris told his old friend. "We'll deal with that situation when the Navy get here. Come on, let's get JD up on deck."
"They emerged onto the deck, just as the helicopter came into view. By now the sun was well and truly up and had cut through the early morning fog so that it now shone out of a clear blue sky. Buck squinted, turning away from the sun, which seemed to reignite his headache.
"Buck?" Nathan had seen him turn away and now they were in good natural light, he got his first good look at Buck. "What's wrong with your head?"
"Nothing," Buck instinctively turned his head away from Nathan's outstretched hand.
"If there is nothing wrong with it, why is your hair caked in dried blood? Is it JD's?"
"No, I mean... Nathan I'm fine."
"Then there is no reason not to let me see - is there?"
Defeated, Buck stood still, while Nathan poked about in his hair. "Good grief, what hit you?"
Buck shrugged. "The bulkhead hatch."
"Were you knocked out?"
Buck didn't answer, he knew from past experience that the well-meaning doctor's reaction to him being knocked unconscious, was - in Buck's opinion - some what over cautious, and involved curtailing his working, driving, sporting activities and drinking for an unnecessarily long time.
"Tell me the truth...Were you unconscious, even for a few moments?" Nathan demanded. "If you were, we need to get you to the hospital for a check up and observation, as soon as we can."
The hospital? Normally there was no room on Navy rescue helicopters for passengers, unless the casualty was a small child, so he had resigned himself to the fact that it would be hours until he saw JD again. But if, just for once, he told the truth, maybe he could stay with him?
"For a few minutes, I think," he admitted.
The helicopter was getting closer, so Nathan had to shout.
"YES, I WAS KNOCKED OUT!" Buck, bellowed.
"OK, YOU GO TOO. CHECK ON VIN FOR ME!"
"VIN? WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIN?!"
It was too late to get an answer, the huge Sea King was overhead now, and any verbal communication was now impossible.
Buck had hoped that, once at the hospital, no one would know why he was there, and he could just be there as JD's next of kin - which he officially was. Sadly, Nathan knew him too well it seemed. The moment he stepped out of the lift from the rooftop heli-pad, he was pounced on by a determined looking nurse from the Accident and Emergency department and hustled away for assessment, while JD was wheeled toward the trauma room.
While nurse Carter cleaned his head and 'tut tuted' about the apparently large gash in his scalp, which was going to need stitches, he asked about Vin.
"Can't say as I remember a Mr Tanner, love," she told him.
"He came in on a helicopter," Buck explained.
"Well he's not the only one. I don't know, the sun shines and suddenly everyone is drowning or falling down cliffs, or getting lost on Dartmoor. Why can't..."
"He's a lifeboat man," Buck cut in. "Dark sandy coloured, shoulder length hair." She looked at him blankly. "He's skinny and Welsh." He added as an after thought.
"Oh him, the cute one."
"As a bug on a rug. He's being admitted, I think."
Buck was all ready to go and find Vin, but Nurse Carter insisted he had to stay, until he had an x-ray, someone had put in his stitches and he'd seen a doctor.
It was all very well, the nurse saying he needed an x-ray and stitches, but it took almost an hour to get the x-ray. Then he waited for another hour before someone arrived to put the stitches in. Almost half an hour after he'd been stitched up, no doctor had appeared to check on him, so he was about to get up and walk out when a pretty young doctor walked into the cubical where he'd been waiting. She asked him the same questions the nurse had, shone the same lights in his eyes she had, and poked and prodded his head - again. Finally she looked at the x-ray.
"You don't seem to have suffered any serious head injury," she announced, turning back to him.
I could have told you that. "Good to know, can I go now?"
"Yes, but if you have any of these symptoms." She handed him a photocopied sheet of A4. "Come straight back or consult your doctor as an emergency. Particularly if you experience blackouts, dizziness, vomiting, dis..."
"...orientation, blurred or double vision," Buck finished.
The doctor, who looked to be about nineteen to Buck, smiled.Up until then, she had looked as tired and bored as she undoubtedly was. Her smile changed her whole face, it was as if a light was suddenly switched on. "This isn't your first head injury?" she asked.
"No, and it probably won't be the last," he admitted, giving her a smile of his own.
"It's not something we encourage," she admonished.
"Well I do try to avoid them, but between being a publican, a lifeboat man, rugby, cricket, horses... well." He shrugged. "Stuff happens, from time to time."
"I can believe that, but please take care of your head."
"I do my best."
"I'm pleased to hear it, it's such a cute head."
"Well thank you Doctor..." he peered at her name tag. "Lakarni."
"Once I discharge you, you'll no longer be my patient." The smile he got this time had little to do with any beside manner.
Damn, she really is very petty. "That is...interesting, and very flattering, but I'm old enough to..."
"Ask me out to diner sometime?"
Momentarily wrong-footed Buck took a moment to get his thoughts in order. "I'd like that, but first I have two friends here.... I need to find out where they are and what's happening to them."
"Well why don't you give me their names and I'll see what I can find out?"
Vin was easily located. He'd been admitted, and was awaiting surgery to reset his dislocated shoulder. Buck found him in Kerry ward, looking a little the worse for wear, with his arm strapped to his chest and a huge 'egg' on his forehead.
"Hey, Taffy," Buck greeted. "What happened to you?"
"Me? What the hell happened to you and JD?"
There then followed a quick exchange of information. "Bastard!" Vin commented, when he heard what had happened to JD. "How's the kid doing?"
"I don't know, they took him away as soon as we landed," Buck admitted worriedly.
"You better go and find him."
"What about you?"
Vin shrugged and then wished he hadn't, as it sent a bolt of pain down his misaligned shoulder joint. "I'll make it. They're going put my shoulder back as soon as there's a theatre free. I'm not exactly an emergency."
Buck frowned. He'd seen men have their shoulder 'popped' back in at rugby matches, he wasn't sure why they needed to put Vin out to do it.
Vin was apparently reading his mind, because he said. "It's too far out for them to do it without putting me to sleep. At least, that's what they tell me. I'm in no hurry to have anyone poke it about. Besides, the way my head's pounding, I'm quite happy here, where they give you the 'good' drugs."
"Oh yes, I know the 'good' drugs. Happy dreams."
Doctor Lakarni was as good as her word and by the time Buck made it to the surgery waiting area, the nurse on duty was expecting him.
"You're here for Mr Dunne?" she asked.
"Yes, is there any news?"
"Not yet, but I can tell you that he regained consciousness before they took him to x-ray and he's still in theatre."
"He woke up?" Buck just needed to hear it again, just to be sure.
"Yes. It shouldn't be much longer.... Have a seat."
It was another twenty minutes before a doctor came out to speak to him.
"JD, he likes to be called JD," Buck told him.
"JD," the doctor corrected. "Came through the surgery very well. We were able to remove the spear shaft and restore normal circulation to his leg. I see no reason for there to be any lasting damage." Buck felt his heart skip a beat. He hadn't even realised there was that possibility. "He's in recovery, then he'll go to Kerry ward. He should be able to go home in a few days."
"Kerry ward?" Buck asked.
"Yes, why? Is that a problem?
"No, no it's just one of our friends is already in there."
"Well give me his name, and I'll see what I can do to get them adjoining beds - what's the point of being a senior consultant if you can't use it to help out the RNLI occasionally?"
"Can I be there when he wakes up - in recovery?"
"Well, we don't usually..." the surgeon began.
"I've done it before," Buck lied smoothly. He hadn't ever sat with someone as they came around, but he'd had enough operations to know what it felt like, so he figured he knew what to expect.
Thankfully, JD wasn't Vin. He wasn't physically ill as he regained consciousness. In fact, he seemed to be more like Buck himself. After a brief moment of consciousness, in which he was just lucid enough to satisfy the doctor, he fell asleep.
"He'll be going down to the ward very soon now, you can see him there," the nurse told Buck, clearly telling him it was time to leave the recovery room. "Reception asked me to tell you the police are waiting to talk to you."
He was only with the police for a few minutes, arranging to make a formal statement the next day. He asked about Johan, worried he'd be brought to the same hospital. He needn't have worried, the footballer was still on HMS Hecla and would be taken to Plymouth for treatment.
JD was trying to make himself wake up, which in the absence of a wailing alarm clock, was unusual. He knew there was something he needed to do, but he couldn't think what it was. He was fairly sure it had something to do with Buck, but after that it all got a bit hazy.
Okay that is Buck, there is no mistaking that voice, so what does he want?
"Come on kid, time to wake up."
I'm trying, give me a moment will you.
Vin? Why's Vin here?
"That's it, open your eyes." Buck's blurry image came into view. "Hello again."
"Ag...gain?" JD croaked.
"Again," Buck confirmed, holding out a cup with a straw in it.
Once he'd drunk a little, JD looked around. Buck was less blurry now. "Hospital?" he asked.
"I got shot?"
"Am I okay now?"
"Yes," Buck assured him confidently. "They took it out, gave you a transfusion, some stitches. A few weeks from now, all you'll have to show for it is a really cool scar." Buck beamed at him. "Girls love a cool scar," he confided confidently.
"I've already got a girl." JD peered down at his leg, hidden under a kind of cage, keeping the blankets off the wound. "How many stitches?"
"Nine, I think."
JD frowned "Is that all?" he asked, sounding a little disappointed.
Buck tried not to laugh and resisted the urge to point out he had eleven stitches in his head.
"Nine was all you needed. Taffy over there, doesn't have any."
Buck pointed to Tanner's bed, right next to JD. They had decided not to tell JD exactly what had happened to Vin, not yet. There would be plenty of time for fuller explanations when he was feeling better. Instead, Vin just admitted to falling between the St Nicholas and the Pula.
Vin was released the next day, on the condition he wasn't alone for the next twenty four hours. So, under protest, he went to stay at Chris's place for a couple of nights. Three days later, with JD up and walking on crutches, Buck arrived at the hospital to pick him up. He found his young friend sitting in the lounge at the end of the ward; he seemed to be staring out of the window at nothing in particular.
"Ready to go home?" Buck asked.
JD looked around and smiled, or at least his mouth smiled. It didn't escape Buck that the smile didn't reach is eyes.
"What's up?" Buck asked, coming to sit beside him.
"I was watching the TV, they were talking about Rita Kuhn's death."
"And?" It wasn't as if JD hadn't been told all about Rita's death, the real circumstances of Vin's fall and the fate of the Kuhn brothers - both had been arrested. Like Buck and Vin, he'd made a formal statement to the police. While Johan was facing charges of attempted murder, assault causing grievous bodily harm and kidnapping, Lucas was only an unwitting accessory - at best. In all likelihood, he wouldn't be charged with anything.
"And it made me remember, I mean really remember what happened." He looked up at Buck. "I was so scared."
"Nothing wrong with being scared - being scared is normal, being scared is what keeps you from doing seriously stupid things."
JD looked away. "Stupid things, like poking around on someone else's boat"?
"Well now, that might have been stupid, but it wasn't 'seriously' stupid." JD wasn't smiling; he wasn't even looking at Buck. "I was scared too, so were all the guys, except Vin and he was in la-la land, so that doesn't count."
JD shook his head. "Not you..."
"Yes, me. When I saw that thing sticking out of your leg, I don't think I've ever been so scared."
JD shrugged. "Bet Chris wasn't scared..."
"Well, I bet he was. You know what John Wayne said about courage - you know who John Wayne was right?"
"Yes Buck, I know who he was. How could I not - the number of westerns you make me watch."
"Don't diss the westerns kid. Anyway, he said 'Courage is being scared but getting up on the horse anyway' or something like that. Everyone gets scared, anyone who doesn't...well if you ask me, they are so seriously nuts, they need to be in Broadmoor. When you or your friends and family are in danger, it's normal to be afraid. It's how you deal with it that counts and on that score you've got no worries - you understand me little brother?" With that he reached out his hand to cup it around the back of JD's neck. "You're as brave as any man I know, including Chris Larabee."
Finally JD looked up, searching his friend's face for the truth, and finding sincerity, understanding, concern and brotherly love.
"Ready to go home now?" Buck asked softly.
Finally, JD smiled, a real smile that reached his eyes. He nodded.
Note: Broadmoor is a high security hospital for the criminally insane.