St. Joseph Hospital
Critical Intensive Care Unit (C.I.C.U.)
The rhythmic sounds of the mechanical apparatus aiding the injured Vin Tanner to breathe, as well as monitor his other bodily functions were comforting to the black clad man dozing in the chair beside the patients bed. To Chris Larabee the comforting beeps, clicks and swooshes, were signals to him that the ATF Team Seven sharpshooter was still among the living.
Chris didnt know how things had turned bad so quickly. He, Vin, and the other five men who made up the Magnificent Seven had meticulously planned out their strategy for taking down the Italian crime family of Rambino, Scarpelli, and Angeletti. The trio was notorious throughout the United States for operating one of the most successful criminal empires in which smuggling of illegal drugs and arms, racketeering, prostitution, and embezzling were their means of making money.
Ezra Standish, Team 7s undercover specialist had entrenched himself so deeply into the organization that he had rose rapidly in the ranks of men, until he was soon in the trusted position as right hand man for Angelo Rambino. This position within the crime family gave him privileged access to secret meetings, special documents that included the listings of several locations of where the brothels were run, as well as the warehouses where armaments were kept and drugs were made. Soon he had gathered all the necessary evidence that they needed to take the operation down permanently.
Team Seven set their plan into motion, each team member knowing his designated part in it, and every man resolved to execute it without any injuries to one of them. Everything was going according to their plan, when one of the captured men pulled a hidden weapon from his boot, and aimed it at Chris Larabees back.
Vin, seeing the sudden movement out of the corner of his eye, anticipated what was about to happen, and shoved Chris out of the line of fire. Two shots sounded before the others could react. The first bullet slipped through the narrow gap in the side of Tanners Kevlar vest and lodged in his right lung, the other bullet grazed his temple. The shooter died instantly as the five other men fired rounds into him from their service revolvers.
The sharpshooter was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and taken immediately into surgery. The damage to his lung was repaired, but Tanner had lost a lot of blood and the injury to his head was troublesome. Except for some minor bleeding and bruising around the area in which the bullet had grazed his head, there were no visible signs of swelling or blood clots preventing him from waking up, yet Vin still slumbered.
Nearly forty-eight hours had passed since the injured man had come out of surgery, and while the doctors stated that his vitals were almost within their normal range, it was clear to the other six ATF agents that they were worried about whether the sharpshooter would ever wake up.
Their diagnosis was unacceptable. They didnt know what kind of a fighter Vin Tanner was, but he did. He had seen firsthand the kinds of obstacles that his best friend had overcome in his life, and he wasnt about to give up on Vin now. Tanner would recover.
Chris ran a hand through his unkempt blond hair, yawned, and leaned forward in the uncomfortable chair he had just spent the night in. He gazed down into the ashen face of the injured man and silently willed his best friend to wake up.
Dont do this, Vin. Dont give up. The boys need you. I need you.
There was no flicker of eyelid, nor any conscious thought, or smart mouth quip, nothing. If he hadnt still felt the lingering presence in his mind along the quicksilver connection that the two men had forged between them, Larabee might have accepted the diagnosis the doctors had given to him and the others, but he did and until it faded totally away there was still a fighting chance for Vin.
Come on, Vin. I know youre lost inside the corners of your mind and are trying to find your way back out. Listen to my voice and let me guide you out.
The rich aroma of steaming coffee and baked goods preceded Buck Wilmingtons quiet footsteps into the room. Buck handed Chris the cardboard tray holding the coffee cups and the bag of donuts on it, so that he could carry another chair over to where Larabee sat. He settled his large frame into the chair before taking the tray back, minus one cup of coffee and the bag of donuts.
Wilmington took a sip of his coffee. Any change?
How much longer are you going to deny the possibility that Vin might never wake up?
Larabee glared at him. Dont bury him yet Buck.
Damn it Chris, Im not doing that and you know it! Vins my friend just as much as he is yours, and I dont want to lose him either, but the doctors
The doctors dont know Vin Tanner like we do! He isnt a quitter and
Stop your yammering youre giving me a headache.
It took a moment for the two arguing men to realize that a third voice had entered the room, and that it belonged to their injured friend.
Larabee and Wilmington both turned their attention toward the bed in time to see Vins blue eyes flutter slowly open. A groan escaped from between chapped lips as one of the sharpshooters hands rose to cup his forehead, and found a thick bandage instead.
Thats my name.
Chris and Buck exchanged relieved grins in response to Tanners words. If he was already quipping with them after having just woken up, then the outcome for Vin making a full recovery had definitely gotten better.
Ill go get the doc. Wilmington said and left the room.
Vin shifted on the bed and let out another groan as pain shot through his head and his torso. What the hell happened?
You were shot. Dont you remember?
Tanner considered Larabees words for a moment, straining to make his aching head recall what had happened to put him in such an incapacitated state. A raid. We took down the Trio Crime Family and...
The injured sharpshooters voice broke and his throat closed for a moment as he was seized by a coughing fit that had tears streaming down his face by the time that it ended. Chris poured water into a cup from the full pitcher on the bed tray and held it to Tanners lips so that Vin could take a sip through the straw.
Thanks. Vin gasped out.
Buck returned with the doctor just then and both ATF agents stepped aside so that he could examine their friend. They were soon joined by the other members of Team Seven who were thrilled to hear the news that their wounded teammate had finally woken up. All of them were anxious to hear the new diagnosis for their friend. They didnt have long to wait.
Well, doc, how is he? Chris questioned impatiently.
I would say that Mr. Tanners prognosis for making a full recovery has increased considerably now that he has awakened and seems cognizant of who he is, his surroundings, and what put him in his current state of injury. The doctor told the waiting men.
All right, Thats good news, Yes! I never doubted, Dont ever do that again and Amen A chorus of six phrases rang out around him.
Vin winced as his friends good natured shouts reverberated through his head like a herd of charging elephants. Chris, seeing the wince, quickly quieted his exuberant friends down. The doctor stayed a few moments longer, cautioning the six men not to tire his patient out, before he left the room.
Josiah Sanchez, the oldest member of the team, suggested that they share a couple of moments of silence and the others agreed. Vin closed his eyes and soon fell back to sleep, but the other six men quietly contemplated the blessing of their seventh being returned to them. Team Seven was intact, and as soon as the injured sharpshooter had fully recovered, it would be stronger than ever.