Part 2 (continued)
She entered J.D.'s room. Loud snoring could be heard from the far bed, drowning out the quiet hum of the monitors.
She checked J.D. first and found no change in his condition.
The moving over to the other bed, "Buck, Buck, wake up!" she said while shaking his shoulder gently.
"Huh, whussup? J.D.! J.D. Okay?" The mumbling respondent was suddenly awake.
"He's okay. There's no change Buck."
Rubbing his eyes Buck asked, "how long have I been asleep"?
"It's nearly six p.m."
"Five hours! How could I have fallen asleep for so long?" A sudden realization spread across his face. "The coffee, you drugged my coffee!"
"Buck! I'm a doctor for god's sake!" she retorted, clearly horrified he'd think such a thing.
"All right, all right, I'm sorry," as he rolled slowly and stiffly to a seated position, letting his long legs dangling over the side of the bed. He yawned and raked his hands through his hair, the action didn't do much to improve its already tousled condition.
He's definitely not a morning person, she thought, "Buck, I need you to do a couple of things for me."
"Sure Ellen, what is it?" Buck stood up pressing his hands to the back of his hips and stretching his shoulders back, quiet popping sounds could be heard with the motion.
"I'm getting complaints from the staff, your ahh...animal magnetism, it ahh... met me at the door."
Buck looked down at her frowning with confusion.
"Buck you have to go home and shower, shave and change your clothes."
"Oh," realization dawning "that bad?"
"That bad." She confirmed.
"I don't want to leave J.D. alone."
"I know Buck, Chris called earlier to ask after J.D. and said Vin would be here soon."
"Okay. I guess."
"Buck I need another favour from you."
"Maybe, I didn't like the first favour you asked for." He said a little petulantly.
"Does J.D. have any pictures, himself, his mom, his life before he came to live with you?"
"Ah, yeah I guess so."
"Can you bring me some of them back with you for me to look through?"
"It's kinda invading his privacy, he's touchy on that sort of thing ya know, it's not been all that long since his Mom died and its still a sore spot for the kid."
"It's important. I wouldn't ask otherwise."
"What are you looking for?"
"I don't know exactly Buck."
"Okay... you're really sure I'm that bad?"
"I'm really sure. I'll likely have gone home by time you return, but Carlie's in early on Friday's, leave whatever you find with her. I'll look at it in the morning."
She turned to leave not sure Buck knew she was going, he was beside the bed watching J.D.
"Good night Buck."
Man he always looks so young when he sleeps and so damn vulnerable with all this hospital gear around him. When did you suddenly become so important to me kid? All of a sudden one day I realized you filled a hole inside of me I didn't even know was there. You 'n me, it's not exactly the same as it was with Chris. He's my friend, we were closer once but that's Vin's place now. You... you're more like my blood, someone I'm responsible for. The very thought of maybe losing you turns me cold inside. What would I ever do without you now?
Buck was suddenly startled out of his reverie and quickly masked the emotion on his face. He turned to see Vin standing just inside the door.
"Hey Pard, need a break?" Vin had seen enough to know Buck was letting the fear of losing J.D. creep up on him again.
"Ah, yeah, thanks Vin. Your timing is perfect. I need to go home and take care of a few things."
"Take all the time you need. Ezra said he'd come check in about 10:00. J.D.'ll be in good hands until you get back."
Buck put a hand on the back of his neck and turned his head slowly to work the kinks out. "Thanks Vin."
"Glad to Buck." Replied Vin as he watched Buck leave.
+ + + + + + +
"Hello Vin," she said peaking around the half-open door.
"Evenin' Doc," Greeted Vin lifting his feet from the other chair and setting them on the floor as he started to rise. Vin's reading material of choice for J.D. was a Motorcycle magazine.
"How's J.D. been since you've been sitting with him?" she asked as she entered the room.
"Hasn't moved hardly a whisker. Does that mean anything?"
"No, not really."
She sighed quietly and looked up at Vin, "It just means there's no change."
"Well then, he's not any worse anyway," replied Vin.
"Vin, I'm just asking out of professional curiosity, how's the elbow been?
"I don't mind you askin', Ma'am. It's been fine, you did real good work."
"Has it given you any problems? Any pain or weakness when you use it?
"Not that I've noticed."
"You don't have to show me, you're not my patient any more but I'd like to take a look at it, if it's alright with you."
"I don't mind." He replied as he moved around the bed to stand in front of her.
"You'll have to take your shirt off."
She could see in his eyes that now he did mind.
"Just the one arm out of the sleeve will do," she said quickly.
He was definitely embarrassed as he slipped his arm out of its sleeve to display one bronze, well-muscled shoulder.
She moved to stand beside him to observe. "Hold your arm straight out in front of you," she ordered. "Can you bend the elbow, just half way... now all the way... straighten it again please."
"Vin, it looks excellent. It appears to have healed better than I might have expected. It's could become arthritic on you though, as you get older."
"How much older," he asked, "like when I'm Chris's age?"
She smiled to herself, "Yes, about his age. You can put your shirt back on now."
She waited until he had his shirt buttoned. "Vin, I got the impression the other day that you were trying to avoid me. Is that because four years ago you didn't tell me the whole truth about how you injured your elbow?"
"How'd you know that ma'am?"
"Experience, I've seen a lot of injuries. You said you broke it hitting it on a cement floor in a fall. From the amount of damaged I'd say you were holding something pretty heavy in that arm when your elbow hit with the floor."
"I was holding a rifle, fully loaded with scope, all in all weighing about thirty-two pounds. I couldn't let go of it because that gun was my living. I was a bounty hunter back then ma'am." Vin had trouble meeting her eyes with that revelation.
"I get the feeling you think I might have a problem with that."
"I wasn't sure you'd want to know, you'd fixed-up a man who hunted and sometimes shot other people for a living."
"Vin, my job as a doctor is to help people, not judge them. No one is more or less deserving of care than another. I remembered you the other day from four years ago because you seemed to be pretty much on your own back then. How old would you have been then? Twenty-two? You seemed to be alone, trying to make it on your own as best you could. If I hadn't repaired your elbow to the best of my ability would you be a part of Chris Larabee's team now?"
"I reckon not, I wouldn't have been on the job two years ago where I met him."
"Then what right did I have to take that chance away from you because I didn't like your job?"
"I see what you mean". After a short pause, Vin continued. "There somethin' else Doc. I never did pay ya in full for all you did. Four years ago, I got a receipt in the mail stamped PAID. I figured it was a billin' error of some kind, but when I followed up on it, the clerk told me my account wasn't outstanding and not to worry."
"I wrote off the bill Vin. I didn't need the money. You were young and trying to get established, to have you try and pay it off for months or years wouldn't have served any purpose."
"It sounds to me like charity, a man should pay off his debts."
"Vin, there are lots of ways to pay debts off. Pay the one you owe me off by passing the favour on to someone else sometime."
"It still don't seem right," argued Vin.
"You could start paying off that debt right now. What can you tell me about J.D.?"
"J.D.? He's real book smart, not like me, growing up was rough, just him and his ma, he had some street stuff to deal with along the way, gangs and alike. When his ma got sick he wasn't much more'n a kid and took care of her all on his own. His ma was sick along time before she died and then he was alone."
"Like you?" she asked on a hunch.
"Yeah, only my ma died when I was five."
No wonder these men seem so much like a family, they've even adopted a couple of orphans, she thought to herself. "And now?"
"Well we, J.D. 'n me, we sorta found this place to belong with Chris and Buck and them. It doesn't really matter what we did before we joined that team, just so long as we can depend on and be depended upon by the rest of the team."
"What can you tell me how J.D.'s been lately?"
"Somethin's been weighing real heavy on his mind. He asked me about a week back, what I thought about lying."
"Yeah, not little lies he said but big ones, the kind that purposely give people the wrong idea about ya. The kind ya can't take back."
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him the truth that I've lied all my life, had to, to survive. I don't think it's wrong to lie to protect yourself."
"What did he say to that?"
"Nothin', just got real thoughtful like. Does that help any Doc?"
"It might. Thanks Vin."
+ + + + + + +
It seemed as if J.D.'s "family" had taken her advice at least partially to heart. One of them was always with J.D. One or two of the others could be seen reading in the waiting area near J.D.'s room, in the cafeteria trying to enjoy a cup of the asphalt cleaner masquerading as coffee or lurking elsewhere around the hospital. The rest seemed to be somewhere off hospital property. It was a mystery as to whose turn it was to be at the hospital and when.
+ + + + + + +
It was getting late and nearing time to leave to pick up Josh from his Grandparents. Her thoughts wondered back to her son. He was getting to be a young man faster than she wanted to admit and though he loved his Grandparents Kendall, it was definitely "uncool" to have supper at Grandma's every Thursday night just to give Mom a night to herself once a week. Josh was right, he was nearly fifteen, and not likely to burn the house down if he made supper and stayed on his own once in a while. You're too over-protective Ellen, she thought to herself.
Ellen approached her office, her Nikes not making a sound on the polished floors, when she noticed the door to her office stood slightly ajar. The door had been locked earlier; she had no doubt of that. There was a familiar blue hue visible through the doorway. Someone was accessing her computer! Her first inclination was to call security, but then a thought struck her...Where was Ezra Standish? She had last seen him in the waiting area by J.D.'s room. He had looked up from the newspaper he had been pretending to read, nodded politely and greeted her with a solemn "Good Evening Doctor" as she passed him on her way in to talk to Vin but he was gone when she had come out.
She was better than most when it came to keeping her temper in check but Standish had crossed the line! Boldly approaching and pushing the door open, "IS there anything I can help you with Mr. Standish?"
Her voice dripped icicles.
Ezra looked up from the computer screen, she got no sense that he was particularly perturbed at having been caught red-handed trying to break into her computer files."
"No thank you Doctor, your security measures have effectively thwarted my efforts. I am sufficiently humiliated. One would need computer hacking skills of Mr. Dunne's calibre to break into your computer."
"You don't seem too upset at having been discovered committing a crime Mr. Standish."
"That is because I have committed no crime dear lady, your computer security has seen to that and that, that ludicrous talking automobile laughing and taunting my foolish attempts is punishment enough. HOW do you get the damn thing to stop that irritating laughter?" Exasperated, Ezra threw his hands up in resignation.
"Get out of my chair," she ordered.
Ezra wasted no time in getting up and moving out from behind Ellen's desk.
She walked over to the keyboard and hit a series of keys. The electronic laughter stopped.
"Mr. Standish, what were you thinking of, what did you expect to find?"
"Find? Why I think it should be obvious. I wanted to know if you had any further information concerning Mr. Dunne's condition."
"Why didn't you just ask? " She wondered, why, when she was so angry with this man, she hadn't reported him to security or at least thrown him out of her office yet.
"I do not trust hospitals or doctors," he replied.
"I can understand that" she said. "Neither seem as caring as one would like when someone they care about is hurt."
Ezra seethed inwardly, he could see the sympathy in her eyes. God I hate that, why is she so f---ing understanding all the time? And dammit, she has the annoying habit of being right! It's like she can read me. Ezra's outward calm betrayed none of his thoughts.
"You really don't seem at all concerned at having been caught breaking into my office and attempting to break into my computer files," she repeated.
Ezra's face was impassive. "I work undercover dear Doctor, and I often find myself in precarious situations. I know my compatriots are close by to back me up if need be, but the fact is, in an undercover operation death is one well-placed bullet away. One mistake and I could end up deceased before my teammates hit the ground running."
Ezra walked up to her. He moved in close penning her in the corner made by her desk and her credenza. Looming over her, invading her personal space to intimidate her, he traced the lapel of her lab coat with his index finger, his expression smug. "Considering what I have to face in the normal course of business, being caught by female physician, as lovely as you are, despite your age, alone in her office, after hours, is hardly a reason to become ... upset."
"I see," said Ellen coldly. What an ignorant remark! she thought to herself. If nothing else over the last few years her professionalism had helped her deal with the most boorish and arrogant of old-school doctors. But she had not expected such loutish behaviour from this man.
Working hard to ignore the discomfort of having her personal space invaded, she looked up at him, her manner business like, her tone of voice caring. "I'm not here to hurt anyone Mr. Standish, especially J.D. You may not trust me, but maybe you can help me, help him."
She had him and he knew it, despite his doubts about her and the way she made him feel, she was J.D.'s best chance for a full recovery, and he would not jeopardize that. He would put his personal animosity aside to help her. He moved to comfortable distance, "If I can dear lady."
"When I interrupted you trying to break into my computer, you referred to "computer hacking skills of J.D.'s calibre," what did you mean?"
"Mr. Dunne has an exceptional aptitude for computers, their systems, databases and the security of same. When the ATF MIS group set up our Team's new security system, J.D. let slip a comment that he already seen that particular security system before and had successfully compromised it. He described the escapade as "a piece of cake".
"Why is this exceptional, there are a number of standard security programs," asked Ellen.
"This, dear Doctor, was not just another "standard security program," this one was designed to ensure the integrity of databases, such as the DMV, for various law-enforcement agencies including the FBI, CIA and Interpol."
She paused and raised her eyebrows. "Now that is interesting...and J.D. referred to breaking into a sophisticated security system as "a piece of cake?"
Ezra nodded, "I gather then, dear Doctor, you understand my full meaning?"
"Indeed I do Mr. Standish." Having a computer nut for a son came in handy now and again. Such security systems were supposed to be technologically impenetrable. But nothing was impenetrable forever, knowing that, designs were put in place to leave trails of unauthorized personnel i.e. hackers, these trails were used to nab the hackers. Not only had J.D. broken in but he had done so undetected. To break in was one thing but to successfully cover ones trail was something else entirely.
"I suspect there isn't a system on the globe Mr. Dunne couldn't break into and I doubt there is anyone, legitimate or criminal, in the country to compare with him."
"What does the Team do for security now?"
"Mr. Dunne made a few modifications to the security that had been set up, so now even MIS can't get in. The MIS manager was not pleased to say the least and complained to Mr. Larabee. I don't have the particulars on that discussion except to say that that was the last we've seen of any MIS personnel in our department. J.D. does all our systems support work now."
"Does J.D. ever work undercover?"
"On occasion, when the job requires infiltrating schools, colleges and street gangs. But long term undercover work requires the ability to lie and live the lie, our Mr. Dunne has an innate sense of honesty and is not well suited to long-term undercover operations."
"Did you ever question J.D. as to why he was hacking into the DMV?"
"No Doctor, that is his business. I'm just glad he's on our side."
"Thank you for your help Mr. Standish."
"I hope what I have told you is of some benefit to Mr. Dunne."
"It could be, I must be going home now."
"It is about time for me to relieve Mr. Tanner from his vigil and take my turn watching over our young friend, at least until Mr. Wilmington returns."
"How did you become so unlucky as to draw the late shift Mr. Standish?"
"It had nothing to do with chance dear Doctor, for me the night is still young."
+ + + + + + +
Ezra sat quietly brooding. What the hell was the matter with him? Why had he behaved so badly with the Doctor? He had told Mr. Larabee he would apologize but the first chance he gets instead of apologizing he threatens and insults her! He never lets his feelings get the better of him but in the last thirty-six hours he could think of at least three occasions where he had lost it and Ellen had been the catalyst each time. He must be losing his mind. Get a hold of yourself Standish! He had to admire her though, she had handled his display of bad manners with a poise to match his mother. That was it! She was an older woman maybe he sensed elements of his mother in her. Maude always did keep him on edge. No, there was nothing about Ellen that was like Maude. Where Maude was manipulative, Ellen laid everything right out in plain view. There was no game playing with that woman. Where Ezra always wondered exactly where he, her son, stood in Maude's priorities, Ellen made it clear J.D.'s recovery and then the welfare of his family, in this case the team, stood numbers one and two with her.
Ezra looked down at J.D. He took the young man's hand gently hand in his own. You are so fortunate J.D., he thought to himself, despite all the hardships of your young life; you have never wanted for someone who cared for you just as you are. Your mother, then Buck, and now this physician who doesn't even know you, their love and caring for you seems come so easily, so naturally. I am truly envious my friend.
His mother was right, he thought grimly, one should never engage in too much personal introspection.
+ + + + + + +
Ellen thought back over the curious exchange with Ezra while driving to her in-laws. It was interesting that being caught trying to hack into her computer didn't seem to bother him one bit. He hadn't even attempted to cover up what he was doing with a lie. I suppose one has to learn to deal with that type of stress, as an undercover agent. But what the hell had she done to make him so defensive? She could see now the insult was meant to push her away, which it succeeded in doing. Yet he was readily forth coming or so her instincts told her when it came to the subject of J.D. Love and caring always does make a person vulnerable. A vulnerability? At least she thought so. The man was so skilled at duplicity she couldn't be sure. She was too tired to sort it out now. She pulled into her in-law's driveway. It was time to concentrate on one male who was a lot less confusing.
It was just after 8:00 a.m. Friday morning, when Ellen entered her office. She put the kettle on for tea as per her usual routine.
The family album Buck had found in J.D.'s room lay front and centre on her desk. She placed her hand gently on the cover. She had a strong feeling that she was close, but to what, she wasn't sure.
She stepped back outside her office and asked Carlie to cancel all of her morning appointments and to intercept all calls. The water was boiling. She poured it in the pot and let the tea steep while she checked her e-mails, nothing requiring her immediate attention. She poured herself a mug of tea and settled into one of the easy chairs to look at the album.
J.D.'s mother had made this book. The love and care that went into it was obvious. On the first page was a dedication. "To my Son John Daniel, with Love Momma". It had pictures of J.D. through the years, a picture on each birthday of a dark-eyed, dark-haired smiling J.D. God he was a sweet looking kid. In the early pictures the smile was a wide carefree, child's smile, in the photos of the later years the smile was still wide but the lessons of a difficult growing up were evident in his eyes. Each picture was neatly labeled with a date and occasion.
There were other mementos, a baptismal certificate, a kindergarten graduation diploma, a grade 2 spelling bee winner button, a cross-country running participants ribbon from grade 5, a grade school graduation diploma, and a high school graduation diploma. She discovered his mother's nickname for him was "Sparky".
There were Mother's day cards from the earliest years. Most of them handmade at school, some with poems that referred to "lots of hugs filled with love," to "the prettiest Momma in the world" and to "Momma" smelling of lavender. In later years the cards were still handmade but with a more professional look, the intricate detail indicating more time and just as much love put into them. There was a card for each year without fail.
A picture of the "Massachusetts State High School Mathematics Champions, 1994". J.D., almost the as tall as the trophy, stood beside it in the front row, his three teammates towered over him in the back row.
There were select pieces of primary school artwork and copies of tests with perfect grades throughout his school career. His final high school report card with perfect grades of 100 in every math and computer science course but nothing less than ninety-five percent in any other course. It was a beautiful book, a book done by a mother.
Leafing through the book a second time the baptismal certificate caught her attention, it was beautifully surrounded by frame of pressed flowers. J.D. was baptized a catholic, the certificate was as much a legal document as a birth certificate or a drivers license... This can't be right? She paused a moment and stared at the certificate. Then she turned to the page with the photograph labeled "John's Birthday 1985". She starred at the picture. The pieces began to fall into place in her mind. A lot of things began to make sense.
She had to be sure. The ramifications of this would effect the rest of J.D.'s life. She quickly dialed Chris's cell phone number. He answered it on the first ring, "Larabee" he spat out.
"Chris, its Ellen, I think I've found the answer as to what's been bothering J.D."
"What have you found out?"
"Not on the phone, this could have some serious consequences for J.D., and for your Team, you need to see the proof yourself. You have to come here to my office and bring J.D.'s personnel file."
"All right, I'm in my office now, I'll be twenty minutes."
"...and Chris, you'd better let the others know as well."