Full Moon and Denver Seven
Chapter One - Chapter Four |
Chapter Five - Chapter Seven |
Chapter Eight - Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven - Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen - Chapter Seventeen | Chapter Eighteen - Chapter Twenty-Three
As she moved in closer to Full Moon's pier side warehouse, Agent Spade's tight concentration wandered to thoughts of Martin.
The voice finally registered and she snapped her head around. "What?" she replied sharply and somewhat flustered at being caught with wandering thoughts.
Buck Wilmington was regarding her with a questioning look. "Did you hear Malone?"
"What?" she had to repeat, blinking as she scrambled to recall orders she obviously didn't hear. Pulling herself together mentally Samantha pressed a shoulder against the nearest wall and adjusted her two-handed grip on her weapon. Finally, she shook her head, accepting futility with a sharp sigh. "No," she admitted softly. "No, I didn't. What did he say?"
Raising her eyes to meet the tall agent's was easier than she expected. Until now, working as Wilmington's partner had been both annoying and frustrating. The man was a player, that was obvious, and his every attempt to get her to warm up to him had fallen flat. She'd made a point to flatten him; guys like him did not sit well with her, what with their antiquated idea that the 'weaker sex' needed to be taken care of.
She had to admit, she'd been downright nasty to the man. Wilmington, however, seemed oblivious to her hostility - he never backed down. She had to give a nod to his persistence. Samantha also thought she'd done a pretty good job hiding her feelings for Martin throughout this whole ordeal but she could now clearly see that he'd figured it out; again, she was irritated that he'd read her so easily.
As soon as they were called to task, Buck had become Agent Wilmington and became a working partner. She decided that she could trust him - for now, at least. Trust wasn't something she tossed about with abandon. Samantha accepted then that what she'd seen as a condescending attitude was, in reality, respect.
Buck Wilmington respected women.
But he was still a player.
The resemblance to Danny - but in an annoyingly different way - was undeniable. She shook her head and dropped her eyes with breathy snort. 'Concentrate, Spade, for God's sake. He's got your back and he deserves the same respect.'
"We're to cover the southwest corner, on the pier," Buck relayed with what she knew was infinite patience. "The others are circling around until our back up is in place."
She nodded, now all business and focused. "Okay, then. Let's take a peek."
Before she could move, Wilmington's steady hand gently took her forearm, stopping her in her tracks. Irritation at the delay flamed and she snapped her head to glare at the tall agent. Samantha opened her mouth to demand an explanation but the warm look in his eyes stopped her.
"We'll get him," Buck said in a concerned tone. "He'll be all right."
She shed her anger like a winter coat and instantly felt confidant. Samantha dipped her head and managed a tiny smile. "I know. Thank you."
He nodded and released her arm after a reassuring squeeze. They both checked their grip on their weapons, and Buck nodded that he was ready.
Samantha took the lead as they closed in on the warehouse, moving with quick stealth. The windows on the building were set high above them and tilted open for ventilation. Hearing the murmur of voices but unable to discern the words, the pair made their way to the corner and Samantha carefully looked around to the back of the building.
"That looks like Martin's truck," she whispered, puzzled. "The front end, anyway. It's sticking out from inside the building. Wait . . . it's moving - rocking - like someone's inside. I can't see any more without breaking cover." The sound of the truck's door slamming silenced them. Samantha expected the engine to start but it remained quiet.
Buck raised his radio to his mouth to report their find when nearby gunshots, followed by shouts somewhere behind them, made both of them instinctively crouch down. Buck quickly moved close behind Sam, their backs angled together for optimum cover. The questioning frown she gave him over her shoulder was answered with an unknowing shrug. A tinny voice, raised in excitement, erupted from her ear piece and added fuel to her racing heart.
"Black Suburban just left the tunnel! We've taken out the tires!" An unfamiliar voice. The back up unit? Agent Jackson's cool acknowledgement confirmed her thought
The two's eyes met again.
"Tighten the perimeter!" Chris ordered. "No one gets out!"
The scuffling of feet, a shout and the sound of close gun fire snapped their attention back to the warehouse. The truck's engine roared and raced as a car door slammed, pushing both agents in motion. Buck crossed in front of Samantha and quickly glanced around the corner. He whispered rapidly into his wrist radio.
"Chris! We have a truck starting up and motion in the back of the Full Moon warehouse, on the pier," Buck relayed. "Shots fired . . ."
Loud shouts peppered with several gunshots spilled from the area of the truck. In unspoken unity Buck dashed across the pier and dove behind a stack of boxes as Samantha snapped off cover fire. The truck shot from the open warehouse and lurched into a tight turn directly toward them. Two forms fought to hang on and climb into the bed of the small pickup as it roughly surged away, weaving wildly from side to side before finally setting on a true course straight for her and Buck. Samantha saw the twin scrambling bodies finally roll into the truck bed.
Buck stood up, took a wide stance and put several shots into the radiator. Samantha yelled, "FBI!" as she took a shot at the tires, not wanting to risk hitting the men in the bed of the truck.
The vehicle accelerated as the agents pumped off several more rounds in rapid succession. When the truck raced by Samantha could see that one of the figures in the bed was working on the sliding window at the rear of the cab. The second figure was hunkered down, gripping the side of the bed, trying to gain balance.
By his profile, she could tell that the body hanging looked was Martin - she didn't clearly see the other but assumed it must be the other twin. Buck relayed vehicle information as soon as the vehicle sped past. The scent of radiator fluid and a wet path told of the damage done. When Chris confirmed that the inside of the warehouse was contained, the two agents ran in hot pursuit of the truck.
The truck took an unsteady track down the wide pier, passing several warehouses before it careened around a corner and out of Samantha's sight. Hoping to at least back up the pair in the bed of the fleeing vehicle, Sam and Buck continued to follow the liquid trail. They hadn't quite reached the corner when the scream of the racing engine was abruptly upstaged by the sickening sound of screeching metal and shattering glass. A nauseating thump immediately followed and then it was abruptly silent. To Samantha, the silence was more frightening than gun fire.
The sprint to the final corner seemed to take place in slow motion with their feet encased in mud. When Buck and Samantha finally rounded the corner with weapons up, they immediately pulled up to sort out the bedlam spread before them.
The underbelly of the truck was visible among scattered, broken pallets and boxes. An acrid smell burned the air as stressed metal groaned and settled. A gouge in the concrete traced the path of destruction. Steam belched from the heart of chaos.
Samantha's gut clenched. "Oh, no!" she whispered in horror as she once again dashed forward. A small corner of her awareness heard following footfall and yelled orders for paramedics.
She found the first body crumpled at the base of a warehouse wall among splintered wood, obviously thrown from the back of the truck. The pull to go to him was relentlessly strong, but she was steadfast in her job to back up Wilmington and keep the injured agent safe.
They approached the truck with heightened caution. Reaching the back of the truck first, Buck quickly glanced into the area between the vehicle and the building.
"One down," he reported. He then backed off and stole along the length of the vehicle and glanced around the hood. "Can't see a driver. Airbag was deployed. Cover me."
Samantha first glanced around to make sure no one was hiding nearby and then moved in tight to Buck's back as he tried to force his way to the windshield. Unable to fit, he moved back along the truck's belly and climbed up to the driver's window. "No driver. He got away. Our boy here is stuck half way in the sliding window."
"Alive?" Samantha asked, her throat tight.
There was a long pause. "Yeah, there's a pulse. Let's check the area so we can clear the medics to come in."
Before Buck's feet hit the ground again, black-clad reinforcements appeared from the street side of the buildings. Wilmington found her gaze and nodded toward the first body. "They'll secure the area. Go and check on him." He nodded back to the body by the wall. "I'll stay here."
Samantha didn't argue. She retraced their path with her heart in her throat.
"Martin!" she cried as she dropped by his side and holstered her weapon. Her fingers searched under his slack jaw for a pulse as she gently laid her other hand on his bloody cheek. His shoulder was at an odd angle and his arms and chest were covered with raw scrapes under shredded cloth. A knot was already forming high on his temple. "Martin!" she called again as she stroked his cheek with her thumb. Her throat threatened to close; there was still no response but Samantha was encouraged by the regular beat of life under her fingertips.
"Is he . . ?"
Samantha glanced up into the wide, green eyes of a breathless Larabee and her heart skipped a beat. He stood over them in a protective stance, looking down with frightened trepidation - the first sign of uncertainty she'd seen in his face. Fear emanated from the imposing figure; fear and something she couldn't exactly place.
"There's a pulse," she said simply, the short statement a balm to her quaking nerves. All Larabee gave her was a silent nod as one hand tightly gripped a lowered gun. The other hand squeezed into a tense fist at his side. Suddenly, it occurred to her what she saw in reflected back to her from his eyes - deep concern edged with bewilderment.
Larabee knew this wasn't Tanner in the same way she knew it was Martin, and the why unnerved him.
The ATF leader's gaze shifted to the truck and he was moving before either could say another word. He ran to the truck and she heard rapid exchange between him and Buck as the area around them slowly filled with agents. She turned back to her charge and replaced a shaky hand on Martin's cheek, willing him to open his eyes. Samantha was torn from the moment with the arrival of her team leader and friend.
"How is he?" Jack dropped down next to her, breathing hard. Danny joined them moments later, also winded.
"I'm not sure." She heard the quiver in her own voice. "He's out. His shoulder's messed up . . ."
"Agent Jackson's a medic," a soft southern voice offered. Samantha looked up to see a well-dressed albeit very rumpled man with a pained expression cradling his left arm tightly against his body. His torso was stained with blood. The towering Agent Sanchez appeared to be holding the man up with one strong hand. "I cannot tell you if that is our Mr. Tanner or your Mr. Fitzgerald," the injured man said softly. He grimaced in pain before continuing. "The resemblance is more than astonishing, I can assure you. Side by side, I cannot ascertain one from the other."
They all looked down on the unconscious man at their feet and then glanced briefly over to the truck where the other half of the agents gathered. Samantha looked around to make sure the scene as secured. With that responsibility handed over, she was able to turn her full attention to the unconscious agent.
"It doesn't matter at this point," Samantha whispered. "They both need our help."
Her heart, though, told her she had her Martin.
"There was one more driving," Samantha reported to her boss as she gently stroked Martin's slack cheek. "Older man. Asian, I think. Wilmington said he wasn't in the truck, Jack. He has to be around here somewhere."
Jack reacted almost immediately to the information. "Search the docks and surrounding buildings. He must be on foot and is possibly injured."
It wasn't over.
With the scene finally secure Chris Larabee and the rest of Team Seven wearily retreated in the direction of their vehicles, leaving the scene processing to ATF's forensics team. The underground facility would never have been found if not for this case. The local office suspected its use in numerous gun smuggling operations and everyone now assumed there were more tunnels in the area - it was the only way the missing Asian man could have given them the slip.
The disappearance of the driver was galling. The man that Ezra had killed in the warehouse and the two marshals were only the hired help. Chris had gambled three agents' lives to find the Triad lead and lost. Ezra had told them the driver's name was Jong Wu, but so far, there was no information to be found on the man. They hoped the truck would give up some prints or DNA on the missing suspect.
The remaining team members paused at the tow truck dragging Fitzgerald's battered truck onto the flatbed. Viv and Danny were standing shoulder to shoulder watching the process as the vehicle groaned its way up the ramp. The others fanned out behind, tiredly staring at the smashed truck's progress with blank expressions.
Buck winced at a particularly loud and long squeal of resistance. "Ouch," he muttered.
"Maybe Fitz'll finally get a real car," Danny said brightly, drawing a hand over tired eyes.
"A real car?" JD asked.
"Yeah," Taylor said with a weary sigh. "I mean, who drives a truck in the city anyway?"
"What's wrong with a truck?" Larabee's tone resembled a growl and he turned his piercing green eyes on Taylor.
Danny hesitated and took a cautionary step back from the frightening glare.
Buck backhanded his boss' shoulder. "Easy, stud. Good guy, remember?"
Chris' shoulders slumped and he shrugged as he rubbed his temple. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Any word from the hospital?" Ezra had accompanied one of the unconscious twins while Samantha stayed by the side of the twin she insisted was Martin.
"Samantha said they still haven't come around. Ezra's shoulder was dislocated and he got a bullet graze on his arm. The one Sam says is Martin has a broken collarbone and a concussion. The other one has facial lacerations and possibly some other broken bones. He's been to x-ray already, but the doc hasn't looked at them yet." Jack blew out a frustrated breath after the recitation.
Vivian nodded at the list and frowned. "How does she know which one was Martin?"
"I'm not sure," Jack started.
"She just knows," Chris said with quiet conviction. "Like I know which one is Vin."
The ATF men nodded in understanding. The New Yorkers looked skeptical.
Josiah expelled a short laugh at the unconvinced faces and playfully slapped Danny's back, causing the lanky agent to stumble forward a step. "Well, I'm sure in the case of Miss Spade that it's her heart recognizing the lucky Mr. Fitzgerald."
Vivian's brows arched in interest and she looked to Danny. "Uh," Danny breathed, obviously searching for a way to voice a thought he couldn't quite put into words. His head was cocked in Chris' direction. "Well, if that's so . . . does that mean you and . . . I mean, you know Tanner because . . ." He waggled a finger in Chris' direction and audaciously raised a questioning brow.
Buck quickly figured out the innuendo and burst out laughing. Josiah and Nathan joined in immediately after making the connection. Chris' frown dropped to dangerous depths with uncertainty while JD simply looked confused. Jack and Vivian turned expectantly to Chris for a response.
"No, no, no!" It's not like that at all!" Buck managed to wheeze.
"Like what?" JD innocently asked.
Chris' jade eyes ignited as he finally followed the implication. He turned his glare on Danny once again and the FBI agent's dark eyes grew wide, but he didn't retreat. Instead, a tentative smile quirked his mouth. "Well?" he prodded.
"No, no," Nathan started as he caught his breath. "It's just that Chris and Vin have this weird 'talking without words' thing that they do. It's kinda spooky, but that's all. There's no . . ." Nathan's words sputtered to a near whisper when Chris turned his eyes on him. ". . . er . . . relationship. Like that, anyway."
Chris snorted and stomped away in the direction of Jack's car as understanding finally dawned on the often naive JD.
"OH!" the young man blurted, blushing. "Oh! Yeah, I mean . . . no. I mean, what he said . . ." He pointed at Nathan.
Jack shook his head and pulled car keys from his pocket. "Things are as secure here as they're gonna get. Let's head to the hospital while we wait to see what forensics comes up with." They slowly trailed along Larabee's path and then separated out for the trip to their absent partners' sides.
The clock told her she'd been here for nearly three hours. This was the first lull in treatment there had been in the busy emergency room and Spade finally felt that she could move about without getting in the way of any medical personnel.
Samantha stood over the unconscious man in the bed and gazed down at his slack face. Bloody scratches etched a riotous pattern across his forehead and cheeks. Two of the deepest lines were accented with tiny, dark stitches. The bump on his forehead, just at the hairline, had already turned a painful-looking purple. The cervical collar seemed to swallow the defined jaw line and a temporarily splinted left arm was placed across his abdomen on a pillow.
She let her eyes travel over his face again and then down to his chest where the gentle rise and fall of the thin blanket told her he would be fine. Without realizing how it got there, she found her hand resting on his chest to feel his heartbeat, not trusting the rhythmic beep of the monitor.
Samantha couldn't see anything different about him - the two of them, physically, were identical yet she knew this wasn't Martin. That perplexed her because her analytical mind couldn't express how she knew. It was simply . . . weird.
She studied Tanner a little longer before returning to her chair between the two beds. The curtain between the two emergency room bays had been shoved aside for now so she could watch both of them. Samantha gently slipped her arm under the rail of the second bed, resting her hand on the still arm underneath the sheet.
"How fare our friends?" The tired voice caused her to turn to the speaker and smile. Ezra Standish had introduced himself shortly after their arrival, somewhere between radiology and the nurses' station. His arm was in a sling and white bandages topped one ear. She could just see more bandages encircling the slinged arm's bicep and peeking out from the bloody rent of his shirt. More blood - not his, she was relieved to hear - stained the shoulder of the once cream-colored material.
She gave him an assessing look. "Not much worse than you, I'd say. Agent Tanner's still unconscious but Martin's getting restless. I think he's coming around. The others are on their way here."
Ezra wandered in and dropped down onto a second chair closer to Tanner's bed. He looked from one to the other. "Remarkable," he muttered.
"Did they get to talk at all?" She asked, turning her eyes back to Martin. "I imagine they'd have a lot to say."
"The gentlemen have not yet had the chance. I daresay the opportunity may even result in our Mr. Tanner uttering more than a dozen words in a row." He must have noticed Samantha's puzzled expression. "Mr. Tanner is known as a quiet man," he explained.
Sam leaned back in her chair. "Not Martin. He has no problem speaking his mind. Does . . . um, Vin . . . eat junk food?"
"By the crate load," Standish sighed rolling his eyes. "Why he's not the size of Rhode Island, we'll never understand."
She smiled at a memory. "Martin's got a stash of Ding Dongs in his desk."
"The very name sounds perfectly Tanneresque."
"For breakfast. We have yet to figure out where he gets them at that ungodly hour in the morning."
Samantha laughed shortly and squeezed Martin's hand, then turned to Ezra. "How are you doing?"
"I am in the process of being sprung," he said, stretching his legs. "And will recover to sleuth again."
"They're finished securing the scene," she informed him. "They didn't find Wu."
Ezra shifted uncomfortably. "That is most regrettable. I do believe that may be problematic as I got the distinct feeling that Mr. Wu is no stranger to retaliation."
Samantha found her hand drifting to her gun. Thoughtful silence was marred by the sudden increase in the tempo of the beeping monitors.
Fitzgerald shifted on the gurney and a breathy moan escaped his lips. Samantha put her hand on top of his and he settled. "Martin's parents are on their way from California," she said, her eyes on Martin's face. "I can't wait to see the expression on Victor Fitzgerald's face when he gets here."
Ezra's eyes slid her way. "Victor Fitzgerald? As in Deputy Director Victor Fitzgerald?"
"Yeah. You know him?"
Standish pinched the bridge of his nose as if in pain. "Unfortunately, yes, I am acquainted with the formidable Deputy Director. We served time together in the Atlanta office." He must have seen her frown. "I was in the FBI before transferring my allegiance to the ATF," he explained. "I did not leave the Atlanta office on the best of terms with the brass."
Samantha head tilted sideways so she could give him a sympathetic smile. "Then you're in good company," she said. "I don't know anyone on the best of terms with Victor Fitzgerald, including his son." With a second thought, she glanced at the second bed, wondering if it contained a second son.
The agents had another few minutes of relative peace, the bustle of the ER poorly dampened behind thin curtains. The nurse peeked in once and assured them that they were just waiting for a room to open up and the two men would be moved upstairs. Samantha told her that Martin seemed to be waking up, and she said she'd find a doctor and disappeared. Soon, loud voices drifted their way from the direction of the emergency room reception area followed by foot fall coming their way.
"I believe our backup has arrived," Ezra stated just as the curtain was roughly pushed aside.
"Ez? How're ya doin'?" Chris asked as he stepped in, casually tossing Ezra's jacket to him. "Paramedics left that." His boss was followed closely by the thin-lipped man with untamed dark hair Ezra recalled seeing at the scene, who moved to stand by Samantha.
Ezra smoothed the blood stained jacket across his lap. "An unfitting end for Brioni," he sighed wistfully.
"I'm sure a replacement will show up on your next reimbursement request," Chris said with a slight grin. "That's what you get for severing an artery with a screwdriver."
"I was aiming for the cretin's heart." Ezra's growled lowly. "But his demise was the goal I apparently achieved."
"Yeah, you achieved it, alright." Chris's featured softened as he turned to study Tanner's quiet form. "Damn it, Ezra, what the hell happened?" he finally asked.
"Direct and to the point as usual, Mr. Larabee." He shifted in the chair. "I assure you, I did not intend our pilgrimage to cast us so far from the home front. I applaud young Mr. Dunne's ability to maintain a connection."
The yet unnamed man snorted. "His reports must be a joy to read."
"His expense account is much worse, trust me." Chris' expression softened a little. "Ezra, this is Jack Malone, Martin Fitzgerald's boss. Jack, Ezra Standish."
"At your service." Ezra winced and didn't bother to stand.
"The rest of the gang's in the waiting room. They'd only let two in at a time," Chris said as he wandered to stand next to Vin. Once there, he rested his hand on his friend's shoulder and spoke softly. "He's got a compression fracture in one of his cervical vertebrae. He'll be wearing that collar for awhile. He hasn't come around at all?"
"Not yet," Samantha said.
Martin groaned, getting Malone's attention. "Sounds like he's waking up."
Samantha stood next to Jack and they both watched Martin's face as he came back to them. Ezra turned his attention to Chris and noted the lines of worry mapping his boss' face. 'I wish encouraging thoughts would rouse our teammate, too, Mr. Larabee,' he wearily thought.
Swimming up through the roar in his ears brought him closer to a goal he couldn't quite understand. Then the roar receded until all he heard was mumbled words, beeping and his own breathing. Then he felt cold for a moment before pain rolled over his entire torso, overriding everything else.
He groaned and fumbled to drag his hand across eyes that didn't seem to want to open.
"Hey, watch the IV lines."
A soft hand restrained his motion. Martin was grateful the soft voice didn't antagonize his headache. He let out a sharp breath and dragged his eyelids open, squinting into the painful light. A fuzzy, golden framed face filled his sight.
"Martin? You want some ice chips?"
The suggestion made him realize that his mouth was bone dry. He tried to say yes, but it sounded more like a croak. The form retreated and he heard a rustling noise just before the icy goodness slipped past his lips. Martin sighed with delight.
"How are ya doing, champ?" a vaguely familiar voice asked.
"Jack?" he mumbled around the second spoonful of ice chips which seemed to help his thoughts come together. "What . . ?"
Then it came to him in bits and pieces and Martin tried to sit up. His broken collarbone chose that moment to make it self known and he yelped at the sharp pain.
"Don't move so fast, Martin. Your shoulder and arm are bound up and you have a concussion." Samantha arranged some pillows and found the button to raise him to a sitting position.
"God, I feel like shit," he mumbled, carefully maneuvering his IV laden hand to his pounding head. He dared to roll his head sideways and attempted a smile for Samantha. The sight of her caused the heart monitor to flutter.
"Hey there," she said with a smile.
"You look great," he replied. Then he looked beyond to another face he recognized. "Hey. You're okay?" he said to Ezra. "What happened?" When Ezra stood, the blood on his shirt became clearly visible. "Shit! Where's . . ." he strained to see the adjacent bed sparking a galaxy of stars to explode in his head. Moaning, he sank back and slammed his eyes shut until he could ride out the agony. A southern-tinged voice soothed his head and gave him something on which to concentrate outside his discomfort.
"Mr. Tanner will be fine. He has not yet chosen to join us at this juncture." Martin forced one eye open and peered at the bloody agent. Ezra shifted and attempted to straighten the ruined shirt. "I assure you that the stains you see are not from me. They are courtesy of Mr. Wu's trained behemoth."
Martin frowned. "You always talk like that?"
The rugged blond man next to Ezra - Larabee, was it? - let out a short, hard laugh. "'Fraid so."
"What about Tanner?"
"Vin's going to be okay." Larabee glanced down and Martin realized that his twin must be right in the next bed. He forced his other eye open and, slowly this time, turned his head aside. Samantha took a step back so he could see the profile of his look-alike. There wasn't much to see above the wide cervical collar and Martin felt strangely disappointed that he couldn't sense the man. He wondered if the odd mental conversation he'd had with Tanner just before things went to hell was a figment of his imagination; a little voice inside told him otherwise. Martin involuntarily shuddered as flashes of memory raced through his mind intertwined with a woman screaming. What did it mean?
"Ezra, you said the guy that hired you was Jong Wu?" Chris asked.
"Yes. Did you find him?"
"We can't find anything on him," Jack said. "We found his name tied to some Full Moon holdings, but we can't find anything on him. No identification of any kind. He doesn't exist on paper as far as we can tell."
"Forensics got some partial prints and they're running them now. It may take awhile." Larabee turned to the still form on the other bed.
Martin felt his gaze fall on what little bit he could see of Vin Tanner's lax face, the distinct feeling of familiarity settling over him once again.
"I think I know him," Martin said softly. "From where, I can't quite figure out."
Samantha raised an eyebrow and glanced over at Tanner. "You said that before, to Danny."
"JD's looking into that as we speak," Larabee said. "And he's very good and finding things."
"Victor's on his way from California," Samantha said. "The nurse told me."
Martin's heart skipped. "My dad? From California?"
"I left a message at his office." Jack scrubbed his eyes. "I didn't think he'd respond that fast. Sorry."
"Actually, I'm looking forward to his arrival," Martin said flatly, turning his aching head to face the other bed. "I have questions."
When Chris Larabee left the emergency room he suddenly felt the stress of the last few days clamp down on his shoulders. There must have been some physical sign of his bone-deep weariness because Malone nudged him with an elbow as soon as they'd given Buck and Danny the go-ahead to check on their teammates.
"I'll buy you a coffee. The good stuff's in the nurses' break room."
Chris willingly followed, telling the others that he'd be right back.
Once they were alone in the break room Jack waited until Chris took a sip of the bracing brew.
"I think they need to be under guard," the FBI team leader said. "Until we find this Wu character or find out the Triad's intentions, I think they're still at risk."
Chris leaned against the counter and grimaced at the reminders his achy body gave him. "I agree. We need to debrief this afternoon," he glanced at his watch. "Jesus, is it only two-thirty? It seems like midnight."
Jack chuckled. "Once Tanner and Martin get into a room, we'll set up a guard schedule between us and meet up at my office. There are more resources for us to work with there and there's a couch to catch a nap."
Nodding, Larabee massaged his neck. "JD's working on that already. He's hooked into the internet on the hospital network." He noticed Jack's mouth open, a question clearly on his tongue, but it never came out. Chris chuckled. "I've learned not to ask how he gets a lot of his information. He's never wrong and what shows up in court always sticks."
"Enough said, then. Let's fill in the others."
On their return to the waiting room, Chris dropped down next to JD who barely acknowledged his boss' arrival. By his lack of reaction, Chris knew his young agent was hot on an electronic trail. He could hear Jack, who stood behind him, talking with Vivian.
"Whatcha got?" Chris asked tiredly.
"You aren't gonna believe this, Chris. Lookit." Dunne's fingers flew over the keys of the laptop. A document popped onto the screen. "Here's Martin's birth certificate. See the doctor's name? And the time of birth?"
It suddenly grew silent behind him and Larabee felt Malone's physical presence at his back.
The electronic version of the document was crisp and clear, easily read except for the scribble of the doctor's signature. 'Dr. Brian C. Beauchamp' was typed below the unreadable writing. The date of birth was May 24, 1978, the time 4:36 AM. The certificate bore an electronic seal of certification from the County of Alexandria, Virginia. The father was listed as Victor Edward Fitzgerald.
JD continued. "Now here's Vin's."
Another certificate popped up, this one obviously a scanned copy of a paper original. Fold lines and worn edges were clearly visible on this document. The birth date and time was May 24, 1978, time 4:45 AM. The doctor's signature looked very similar, but the name was exactly the same: Dr. Brian C. Beauchamp. The gold Dallas County, Texas, certification seal was easily readable.
Dunne placed the documents side by side on his screen. "Now how do you suppose the same doctor was in Virginia and Texas on the same day at the same time?" JD asked brightly, the joy of discovery clear in his eyes as he regarded Chris.
"Jesus," Chris whispered. "Vin's mom is listed as Kelly Ann Tanner, father Victor E. Fitzgerald. Martin's mother, though, is listed as Katherine Elizabeth Fitzgerald."
"Well I'll be damned," Jack mumbled from Chris' shoulder.
"I have Dr. Beauchamp's home phone number, too," JD added. "He's retired now, in Texas. I've traced his life all the way back to his birthplace - also in Texas. Other than med school, he's never left the Lone Star State."
"Before we call Dr. Beauchamp, why don't you see what you can find on his financial situation in, say, 1978?" Chris requested with a raised brow in Jack's direction.
"Like around . . . May?" Jack added.
JD smiled broadly. "You got it."
"But you need to start on Wu, too," Chris admonished half-heartedly.
Dunne's smile never faltered. "Already in progress, Chris. Just waitin' for some . . . um . . . info." The smile faltered, replaced with an expression that stated 'You Don't Want To Know'. "I found the birth certificates while I was waitin'."
Chris shook his head and snorted, knowing better than to inquire any further. He then rose to talk to the others and arrange a guarding schedule. Jack stopped him with a light hand.
"Is that boy looking for a job change?" Malone asked.
Samantha and Buck offered to take the first shift of watching over the hospitalized agents allowing the others to debrief, clean up and figure out the next step. With Martin more or less awake she felt compelled to stay until Vin came around, too. Buck offered to drop Ezra at their hotel promising to return as soon as his team mate was fed and settled somewhere.
She glanced at her watch and calculated that she'd been at this hospital for nearly eight hours. Stretching, Samantha knew she didn't need the timepiece to tell her that - she ached everywhere. Finally in a regular room that better dampened outside noise and had a window to the outside world, she was able to relax a bit more and started taking notes on the staff to familiarize herself with them and their schedule.
Martin was lucid each time he woke up and was told he would be released the next morning. Vin, however, needed to stay until he came around fully, which should be fairly soon as he was gradually growing more restless.
Whenever Martin was awake, she noticed him studying his roommate. He was more than just curious. Samantha could tell that something was bothering him deeply. Other than the comment about knowing him, she was unable to draw out much more. She didn't think he was being secretive; she got the impression that Martin didn't know the basis of this unnerving feeling and that was what bothered him.
A sigh made her look up from her notes. Martin's eyes fluttered open and he automatically turned his head toward her and smiled.
"Hi again," he said.
"Hey," she responded, putting the notes aside and rising. 'Want to sit up?"
She adjusted the bed but could tell that he still wasn't comfortable.
"Need another pillow?"
Martin frowned. "No, actually, I think I need to use the bathroom."
"Want me to get a nurse?" The only thing left attached to him was a sole IV keeping him hydrated. The doctor had instructed that he could get up and move around and this was the first time he was so inclined.
"Nah, I'm good." He dropped his legs over the edge of the bed. His head swam. "Just let me sit here a second and get my bearings first."
Samantha maneuvered the wheeled IV stand to within his reach. "I'll help you when you're ready."
He smiled and his eyes showed that long-missed twinkle of mischief. "I don't think we've been dating long enough to share normal bathroom behavior."
She laughed, thrilled to see his humor again. "Good point. How about I just help you to the door?"
Martin agreed. Taking it slow and easy he finally managed to drag the IV into the small bathroom and turn around. Samantha had held the gown closed for him since his one arm was useless and simply stayed close for moral support during the short walk.
"Thanks for protecting my dignity," he said with a tired grin.
Samantha leaned in close. "Forget dignity," she whispered. "I was avoiding the temptation to grab your ass."
His eyes widened and the grin grew. "Oooh, that's so not fair," he groaned, closing the door. "I may be in here longer than I thought." The door opened just a crack, the blue twinkle back. "Or maybe you can join me in a few minutes?"
"Ew, Martin!" she exclaimed, working to keep her laugh quiet. "I mean . . . ew!"
Laughing at getting in the last word, he shut the door. Samantha shook her head, chuckling, and moved to the side of Vin's bed. She was pleased to see eye movement against closed lids and other signs that he was waking up. He groaned. She laid her hand lightly on his forehead, hoping it would keep him from moving his neck too much.
Finally, the man's eyelids peeled apart revealing unfocussed blue. He blinked rapidly a few times before locking his eyes on her, squinting. She brushed back his short hair and smiled down. "Hey there."
Vin stared and she saw his forehead furrow. His mouth worked dryly.
"Oh, wait a sec." She turned and retrieved the mostly melted ice chips and fished out a few clumps with a fresh spoon. "Here."
His cracked lips parted with the touch of the cool spoon and he sighed contentedly, closing his eyes for a moment. She adjusted the head of the bed so he sat up a little more and spooned in another chip. When it was gone his eyes opened and found her again.
"Are ya an angel?" he croaked.
"An angel?" Samantha laughed. "I have to admit, I've never been called that before!"
Just then the room's door swept open and the imposing figure of Victor Fitzgerald stepped inside, his wife right behind. Katherine gasped and slipped around him as her husband stopped and surveyed the room with disapproving eyes. From behind the bathroom door the sound of the toilet flushing seemed unusually loud as did the running water in the sink.
"Why doesn't he have a private room?" The Deputy Director snapped, giving the closed bathroom door a glare. "Where's the doctor?" Samantha took a step back and started to speak but Victor did not give her the chance. "What the hell happened, Agent Spade? Where's Jack?"
Katherine had slipped between Samantha and the bed. Samantha heard her breath catch and glanced over to see Martin's mother reach out and stroke Vin's hair.
"Wait a minute," Samantha started. Then the bathroom door opened, drawing everyone's attention.
Everything froze as a sharp chill stabbed the room. Martin stood in the bathroom doorway with a white knuckled grip on the IV stand and his eyes defiantly fastened on his father.
Victor's gaze snapped from Martin to Vin and back to Martin, speechless. He took a sideways step and let the door swing shut behind him.
It was Katherine that put everything into motion again with her sharp gasp. "Oh!" she breathed as she snatched her hand back from Vin's head. The spell broken, Samantha turned to see Vin's wide and completely confused eyes following Katherine's abrupt withdrawal. Samatha's heart clenched.
No one had discussed the birth certificate discovery with Martin yet, not sure his head was clear enough up at this point to allow information sink in. Samantha had come to her own conclusions with the information, and Victor Fitzgerald was at the heart of her scenario. She turned to glower at Victor.
"Dad." Martin's voice was cold, hard, flat, his glare unflinching. Samantha had never heard that tone from him before.
"Martin," Victor gaped, the shock and surprise slowly draining from his face. "I . . ."
Katherine Fitzgerald's voice was a choked whisper. Samantha glanced over and saw her suddenly pale. Samantha automatically reached out and supported the woman's closest elbow. She could feel Katherine trembling under her hand. Unlike Victor's glances between the two men that were in a nearly panicked motion, Katherine's stares had become deep and caring, caressing each injured man with a mother's concern.
And then the tears began.
Vin wasn't at all sure he was really awake - if he was, he didn't want to be anymore. The sight of the golden-framed face hovering over him had been pleasant at first but suddenly, things had changed.
The previous quiet of the room had been replaced in a heartbeat by hysterical crying and demanding voices. He clamped his eyes closed in an effort to lessen the input to his overtaxed and weary system, but it wasn't working. Vin's chest squeezed tighter and tighter and he was sure the soft collar was choking him. He gasped for breath and tried to focus his scattered concentration on the simple act of drawing air.
His entire torso throbbed mercilessly and the collar engulfing his neck was suffocating. The air in the room felt cave-like in its heaviness. Any motion brought stabbing pain and his desire to simply flee grew exponentially with each passing second. His hands fumbled at his neck; they felt heavy and clumsy.
And it was getting hard to breathe.
Then an easy calm fell over his mind like bright warmth and suddenly, the loudness, the emotion and the suffocating room were nudged into the background.
'It's okay,' a familiar voice assured him. 'Nothing here can hurt you.'
'No air . . .'
He felt a hand on his own and latched on, holding tightly as if it were a lifeline. The touch was warm and tingled slightly on contact.
'You're safe, Vin. Just breathe. There's plenty of air, trust me.'
And Vin did. Finally, the pictures and the thoughts in his mind began to lay down in some semblance of order and he could feel his body relax. He turned his mind to the hysterical crying and felt the question arise.
'That's my mother. The screaming woman is my mother.'
And although a vision of another woman filled Vin's mind with the word 'mother', he knew that some puzzle piece had been clicked in place in the mind of his twin.
And that's what they were, he realized instantly. Twins. Vin then dared to open his eyes again and found that he was looking into a mirror.
All Samantha found she could do was put her body physically between Martin and his parents. Martin's mother was fighting a losing battle with demons long held back and it appeared that Victor had seen this scenario before because although the woman was raging in his face, the 'I told you sos!' frequent and blasting, Victor simply stood there and absorbed it stoically. The expression on his face was battle-worn and weary.
One glance at Martin told Samantha that this was new for him, though. Everything he'd mentioned to her about his proper and lady-like mother did not apply to the tempest before them.
Martin, after the initial shock of his mother's tantrum wore off, seemed to take it in stride and shrug it off and instead, focused his attention on Vin.
It wasn't long before a pair of nurses burst into the room with the tall form of Buck Wilmington following in their wake.
"What's going on in here?" the older of the two nurses snapped as she and her cohort flanked Vin's bed. "This is unacceptable. You need to leave, now."
"Don't be ridiculous, I'm his father!" As he chastised the nurses, Victor made an effort to corral his raging wife in his arms. Katherine seemed to be winding down and accepted the embrace. "You can't throw me out!"
"Guess again," Buck said, taking a firm stance between the elder Fitzgeralds and the others. The way he stood, with arms crossed, booted feet slightly apart and a face set in stone, was impressive. There wasn't anything left of the jovial man Samantha had been working with all day. This Agent Wilmington was an immoveable force that wasn't to be messed with. Samantha moved forward and stood next to him to make a united front. "This isn't helping anyone," Buck said lowly. "Take it somewhere else until you're in control."
"Who are you? I'll have you removed!" Victor barked as he tried to quiet his wife.
"I don't think so." Two uniformed hospital security guards arrived, the pair comprising their own zip code. "They stay. You need to go."
"What?" Victor roared.
"You heard them, dad, mom." Martin, still holding tight to Vin's hand as the nurses checked vital signs, tilted his head to face his parents. Buck and Samantha parted enough to give their team mate a clear sight path. "Not the time or place. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"But you can't . . ."
"I can and I am. I'm a full fledged adult and can make my own decisions. Tomorrow. Good night."
The door swept open again and a doctor entered, stopping just inside to avoid hitting the wall of security. He looked around in irritation.
"I need this room cleared," the doctor ordered.
The uniforms flanked the Fitzgeralds and, without touching them, encouraged their departure. By then, Katherine had been reduced to nothing but tears. Victor put a protective arm around her shoulders and with amazing gentleness, guided her out to the hall without another word.
The tension in the room dissipated with their departure.
"You, too," the doctor snapped at Buck and Samantha.
One of the nurses spoke over her shoulder as she adjusted Vin's bedding. "It's okay, Dr. Allbright. They're the guards."
Acknowledging them with a short nod the doctor stepped by them and approached Vin. Martin stood at the head of the bed, his back near the wall, and released Vin's hand when the doctor approached.
"Good to see you awake, Mr. Tanner," Dr. Allbright said pleasantly. "Quite a drama to wake up to. I'm sure that little fracas didn't help your headache." He checked Vin's eyes.
Vin croaked an agreement about the headache.
Samantha turned her attention to Martin, realizing he was against the wall to keep his rump from being exposed. At the moment, she could see him eyeing his bed, the IV pole and the nurses as he tried to figure out how he'd get across the small space with dignity intact. She worked her way to his side, reached behind him and drew the gown shut. "I got it," she said softly. "Grab your IV and let's get you out of the way."
For the first time since Victor's arrival she looked deeply into his eyes and saw the pain there. She knew it wasn't simply physical pain and she felt her eyes sting. He was reluctant to move away at first, but Vin seemed more at ease and managed a pitiful smile. Apparently satisfied for the moment, Martin stiffly shuffled to his bed.
"Is he all right?" Buck asked from the doorway.
"Yeah, thanks Buck." Samantha answered as she helped Martin to lie down and then adjusted his blankets.
"Thanks, man," Martin sighed. "Really."
"Anytime." After checking the hallway, Wilmington moved a chair by the door and settled in, his eyes appreciating the attributes of the younger blonde nurse as she worked with Vin. That irritating grin Samantha had grown used to reappeared, this time directed at the rear end of another target. She chuckled and shook her head.
"What?" Martin asked.
The confrontation and other events had clearly taken its toll. Martin looked exhausted.
"I was just thinking about how Agent Wilmington there reminds me of Danny."
"Say it ain't so. Two of him?" Martin sank into the pillow and rubbed his eyes.
"Hey," Samantha countered, capturing his hand between hers. "They're saying the same thing about you, buster."
Vivian Johnson and Nathan Jackson arrived to take their turn at guard duty a couple of hours later. Buck and Samantha brought them up to date on the unfolding drama involving Martin's parents. Vin finally had received pain medication and was asleep and Martin fell asleep shortly thereafter. They expressed their impatience that the two men hadn't yet had a chance to talk.
Reluctantly, Samantha and Buck agreed to get some sleep themselves. Viv and Nate had printed copies of the birth certificates JD had found and were prepared to fill in Martin and Vin if the opportunity arose. It didn't. Even with the frequent visits by the nurses to check their vitals, the brothers slept soundly.
Brothers. Nathan shook his head with the unfamiliar idea. That part of this case was so out of left field it made him chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Vivian asked, just returning from a stroll around the hallway.
"This whole thing is funny. Or maybe bizarre is a better word."
"I have to agree with you on that," she said with a sigh. "I just hope we get to go over this birth certificate thing with them before Victor returns. It may answer some questions for them."
"I hope so. It did for me, but it also created new questions. Lots of them."
The agents spoke quietly of their relationships with the two sleeping agents, their own families and other things until the early hours. It was past three in the morning when Chris and Josiah arrived to relieve them. The file folders they carried did not go unnoticed.
"Our missing Chinaman is becoming quite interesting," Chris told them in a hushed tone. "There was hit on a partial print taken from the truck."
"So who is he?" Vivian asked.
Chris rubbed his eyes and Nathan wondered when his boss last slept.
"Still don't have a name," Larabee said, "but the prints match those found in an Interpol interface. It seems our mystery man is none other than Dragon's Claw."
There were several moments of silence as the information was absorbed.
"The political assassin?" Vivian finally said. "I thought they had nothing on him. No prints, photos, nothing."
"They don't, really," Chris confirmed. "One time, and only one time in over a decade's worth of killings, did Dragon's Claw get sloppy. A partial print was found on a shell casing at an assassination in Luxembourg. Until now, there was no name or face."
"How many assassinations is the Dragon's Claw credited with?" Nathan asked.
"Eleven for sure. Three more are possibly his. It's been a dozen years since the last attributed case." Josiah lowered himself in to the inadequate plastic hospital chair. He extended his long legs into the center of the room. "The man was a complete mystery until now. Apparently he has retired from the assassination game and works for the Triad."
"You gonna tell the boys?" Nathan asked, tipping his head toward the beds.
Chris' lips twitched into a crooked grin. "It's only fair. Vin's gonna be itchy about being under guard as it is. Did you talk to them yet?"
"Haven't had the chance." Nathan moved to the door. "Guess you two get the honors. Did you get any sleep at all, Chris?"
Josiah's rumbling laugh answered the question for him. Nathan scowled at his boss.
Chris flicked an irritated wave at Nathan with one hand as he rubbed his eyes with the other. "I'll get a chance after breakfast. Now the two of you get out of here. I do know that Agent Johnson has a family that needs attention."
Vivian gathered her purse. "Thanks and I'll see you tomorrow." She glanced at her watch with a yawn. "I mean later today. Good night."
Nathan held the door open for her and then followed her out.
The arrival of breakfast woke Vin abruptly and jarred the ache in his head to life once again. Blinking rapidly, he raised his hand and felt the tug of an IV on his forearm. He hissed at the sharp jab caused by the jolted needle and tried to raise his other hand instead. Something felt wrong about that, too, and as he tried to make sense of the bulky wrapping on that arm Chris' voice again split his attention.
"It's broken, pard. You finally awake?" Chris' head and shoulders leaned into his view. The brief attempt to turn toward his boss resulted in even more pain.
"Damn, you really are a pain in the neck," Vin mumbled.
Chris chuffed. "Shit, Vin, your gratitude is astounding."
Vin felt the head of the bed slowly rise. "But I really do have neck pain. What is this damn thing?" He fingered the cervical collar with the fingers that projected from the soft cast.
"You've got a cracked vertebra in your neck. You'll need to wear this for awhile, but you'll be okay."
Vin pursed his lips in thought and frowned a few seconds. Then his eyes widened and he started to turn his head to look past Chris, but stopped short as he hissed in pain.
"That'll teach ya to move quick for awhile," Chris chastised. At the same time stepped back to clear Vin's line of sight to the next bed.
"You all right?"
The oddly familiar voice encouraged Vin to turn again, this time with caution, until his gaze locked with that of his mirror image. Several seconds passed before Vin replied, "Yeah, I'm fine." He couldn't help but break into what he knew was a goofy grin. "How about you?"
"I'm getting out this morning. I'm good."
A few more seconds of curious silence reigned before they both spoke at once. "What the hell . . ."
Chris and Josiah burst out laughing. It took another collection of seconds for Chris to intercede. "Here. This may help you a bit." He dropped copies of the birth certificates on each of the twins' laps.
After they looked over the papers, Martin was the first to comment. "I see my dad's hand all over this," he growled. "I'm sorry, Vin."
"You ain't your father. No need to apologize." His voice brightened. "Or should I say, you ain't our father? Looks like I'm the little brother!"
"You should probably get DNA testing done, too," Josiah threw in. "Although it's obvious you're closely related. Maybe it'll help you get a grip on this?"
"The only grip I want is on my father's neck," Martin muttered.
Vin grinned. "And I thought big brothers were supposed to be a good influence."
"And little brothers are supposed to be annoying. You seem born to the part."
The mood shifted when they both laughed.
"Now really, how are you feeling?" Martin asked seriously.
"Fine," Vin automatically replied. The dual eye rolls from both Chris and Josiah were impossible to miss.
"Well," Martin started, "Although your teammates' reactions throw considerable doubt on that answer, I think you realize that I already know better."
The two regarded each other for a long stretch. Vin, feeling the presence of his sibling, knew what Martin said was true. The feeling was one of closeness and was something he was familiar with; he'd felt it before with one other. He glanced to Chris, not sure he should voice the experience.
Instead, he turned back to Martin. "You have some pain, too," Vin stated.
"You seem - comfortable - with this - thing," Martin's fumbled words indicated the experience was new for him as he waved his uninjured hand between the two of them.
"You'll get used to it."
Josiah shifted his gaze to Chris. "Maybe they'd like to talk, boss?"
Chris started as if jarred from a deep thought. "Oh. Yeah. Sure. There's one other thing you two need to know about, though." He proceeded to fill them in about the findings connected with Wu's fingerprint.
"Dragon's Claw? You sure?" Vin arched his eyebrows in interest.
"Does that mean we're still under guard?" Martin asked.
"For now, yes. Josiah'll be just outside. I have to get on the horn with Jack and figure out the logistics." Chris followed Josiah to the door where he paused, settling his intense gaze on Vin. "This is serious, Vin. You both are most likely in this man's sights."
"I know." Vin turned his attention to his boss and friend to convince him that he knew very well where he - they - stood. "I also know that splitting the target would make trapping him harder."
They locked gazes for a long moment and then Chris nodded understanding and slipped from the room.
"Splitting the target?" Martin asked. "You mean separating us, don't you?"
"Yeah." Vin lay back and studied the ceiling for a moment before speaking. "There's some things you got to know about me," he said as he pushed the constant, throbbing pain of his injuries aside in his mind. "Looks like we'll be in this together for a spell so we need to know each other's strengths and weaknesses. It may make a difference." He rolled his head aside with a twitch of pain to meet Martin's eyes.
The sound of his spiked heartbeat at the discomfort must have struck a chord with Fitzgerald because the agent immediately sat up, slid from his bed and shuffled over to Vin's. After a moment's fumbling at the bedside rail with his one working hand Vin reached out and provided the second hand needed to drop the rail. Martin hitched a hip on the mattress so Vin wouldn't have to turn to see him.
"Start talkin'," Martin said.
For the first time in Vin's own memory he verbally laid out a description of his life, putting together more sentences in a row than he could ever recall. He quickly skimmed the parts of his life from when his mother died when he was five to when he joined the Army at seventeen and all the foster homes in between, choosing, instead, to touch on his struggles with dyslexia and how that contributed to make him a deadly sharpshooter and Army Ranger. He saw this as an explanation as to why he knew what they faced; why he, between the two of them, would probably know better what Wu - Dragon's Claw - could do, and how.
Martin sat quietly through the whole story not once dropping his eyes or looking away. An occasional furrowing along his forehead showed he was absorbing it all and forming opinions. Vin couldn't feel any negativity coming from him with their indescribable connection, but could see - and feel - the uneasiness the connection itself caused to Martin.
"Don't take long to get used to it," Vin offered at the end of his story, his voice rough from talking. "I'm used to it, I guess. Ma 'n I had the same sort of thing and for some reason, Chris 'n me. Not as strong with Chris as it is with you, though."
Martin shifted, his eyes shining as he gave a small smile. "I've felt it with Samantha, too," he admitted. "Not nearly as strong as it is with you, either." Then his expression turned dark. "Wonder why I don't feel it with my dad . . . our dad . . ." he corrected. "That is, if he is our father. I guess that's another issue, isn't it?"
Vin returned the smile. "One thing at a time. Not sure I'm up for that angle yet."
"I agree," Martin said softly. "Now about this Wu character. . ." Fitzgerald then told Vin what he saw as his strengths, also skipping over a childhood that Vin knew was a polar opposite of his own. Martin's grades in college and the Academy were also vastly unlike his own struggle to simply graduate from high school, but his brother's ability to reason, read a crime scene as well as people and connect events with leaps in logic were very similar.
Together, it would be possible to bring down the infamous Dragon's Claw. It was their physical state that concerned him. Together, they barely made up one fully functioning person. The lacking parts were where the rest of their teams had to fill in.
And there was still the Victor Fitzgerald issue to consider.
Martin felt his headache growing. It hadn't started when he and Vin traded history, nor had it started when Chris and Josiah began feeding them more and more information on both Dragon's Claw and the logistics about an around the clock guard schedule. He thought the twinge would lessen as he filled out discharge papers and made arrangements for Vin to stay with him in their plan to stand side by side.
But that wasn't the case. In fact, the headache blossomed more whenever he thought of the confrontation he knew was coming with his father. Their father? Martin knew it was inevitable and soon in coming. He also knew it wouldn't be fair to face Victor alone; Vin had the right to be there. With that, he began his campaign to get his long lost brother released with him while Larabee and Sanchez helped Vin get mobile.
Chris and Josiah were joined late in the morning by a bleary-looking Samantha and a smirking Danny. Martin couldn't help but raise an eyebrow and rest his eyes on his paramour. To his total surprise, a wash of pink cloaked her cheeks. His surprise and pleasure must have showed on his face because as soon and Danny and Samantha stepped in Martin's hospital room, Danny glanced between the two of them and chuckled. And so did Vin. Martin felt like he had no secrets from these people.
"When's Vin getting out?" Martin snapped, covering the emotion obviously on his sleeve.
Samantha, obviously feeling the silent examination, regained her composure after a dirty look was thrown Danny's way. She tucked loose hair behind an ear. "The paperwork is in motion. Jack's not thrilled about you two going to your apartment, Martin, and I have to say, neither am I."
Martin winced as he bent down to tie his running shoe. "It's the best way. We can't let on that we know who he is."
Vin, after struggling to sit on the edge of his bed to allow his legs to dangle, agreed. "It's the only way. Chris? Did you get the schematics I need?"
Larabee and Josiah had taken flanking positions to Vin as he fought to keep from swaying.
"Yeah, we got 'em. JD's bringin' 'em over. You sure you're up to this?"
"Got to be," Vin mumbled. "I sure don't plan on bein' ambushed by his schedule. And we all know he'll probably strike when we're at our weakest."
Vin's doctor came in for a final once over as the room's phone rang. Martin's constant headache flared at the irritation and he fumbled a moment with the receiver before pressing it to his ear.
"Fitzgerald," he automatically replied.
"Martin?" Victor's voice sounded tired. "I understand you're going home today."
"Yeah I am, as soon as Vin gets released."
"Oh, yes, of course." There was a pause. Martin heard Vin's doctor quietly asking questions in the background along with Vin's mumbled replies. He also felt his grip tighten on the phone as he wrestled with his mixed feelings regarding his father. "Martin, you know we need to talk. Can we do that soon?"
"Sure." Martin glanced at Vin and worked to keep his voice neutral. "I'll call you when we get settled at my place. I take it you're staying in the city?"
"Yes. Your mother and I are at the Palace."
Martin realized that for the first time ever in his memory, his father sounded unsure. Scared and unsure. That realization did little to ease his sense of betrayal, but it went a long way to make him feel unbalanced. Victor Fitzgerald never showed fear. "I'll let you know when we're settled. Probably tonight."
As he hung up, he found Vin's blue gaze fixed on his from over the doctor's shoulder. Leaving the relative safety of the hospital made Martin feel like he was walking into a myriad of traps but he knew he wouldn't be alone.