Chris cursed his stupidity as he slammed shut the door to Buck's truck, having
dug his vest out from all the debris behind the seat. He moved up to the
car loaned to him from the agency and stuck the key in the lock to open the
trunk. The shuffling noise behind him lasted for only a second and Chris
never had time to turn around before he felt an intense pain at the base
of his head and a second later was consumed by darkness.
******* ******* *******
Buck hurried into the bedroom where Vin laid curled up on top of the blankets.
He tried to keep his tone calm, though wanted Vin to know they needed to
"C'mon, Vin, time to wake up. We need to take a little trip," Buck said as
he shook his friend's shoulder. Vin shifted around lazily but didn't open
his eyes. Buck shook his shoulder harder and spoke a little louder. "C'mon,
Vin. We've got to get out of here."
Finally, Vin groggily opened his eyes and looked around, confused. Buck pulled
gently on Vin's upper arm and got him to a sitting position. He let Vin sit
for a moment to wake himself up while he groped around on the floor by the
bed, trying to find the man's shoes. They had somehow gotten kicked under
far enough that Buck had to get down on his knees to reach them. He pulled
them out and began tugging at the laces.
Vin was awake enough now that he sensed something was wrong. He tried to
read Buck's face but all he saw there was the urgency of the situation. He
tried to cooperate when Buck began thrusting his sneaker on his foot but
the tongue had gotten shoved up into the toe of the shoe. Buck cursed as
he pulled back the sneaker and adjusted the tongue. He tried going slower
and managed to get it on Vin's foot this time. He quickly tied the laces
and repeated the process with the other foot, the tongue of that shoe staying
where it belonged.
With the footwear in place, Buck got Vin standing and herded him down the
stairs. He figured Chris would be back in the house by now with the vests
and when he didn't see him in the living room, he pointed Vin in the direction
of the kitchen.
Buck had only gotten a couple of steps into the living room before he was
struck by something hard across the back. He fell to his hands and knees
as he gasped, trying to reclaim his breath.
Vin heard the sound and spun around to see a man standing over Buck, readying
to hit him again. Vin moved forward to block the hit but froze when he saw
who it was that was standing over his friend.
"Vin, get out of here," Buck shouted as tried to push himself back onto his
feet. The man swung his weapon again, a two-by-four that he had picked up
somewhere, and hit Buck across the shoulder blades. Buck fell to his stomach
on the floor, unconscious. Finally, the assailant looked up at Vin.
"Well, well, well, Mr. Tanner. We meet again." The man dropped the board
as he began advancing on Vin. Vin wanted to go to Buck and help but found
himself backing away from the man in front of him, keeping his eyes locked
Vin backed up until he felt a wall behind him and glanced to the side to
see how far away the door was. When he turned back, the man had gotten within
arms reach of him. The man quickly thrust out his arm and slapped Vin's right
wrist with a hard blow. Vin cringed and cradled the limb against his chest.
"You weren't supposed to come back so soon, Mr. Tanner." He struck out again
and hit Vin's other wrist. "I was trying to do you a favor and not kill you.
You were supposed to stay out of the way till it was too late for your
testimony." He lashed out and slapped the side of Vin's face.
Vin started sliding slowly along the wall, trying to escape the abuse but
he never got out of the man's reach.
The man thrust out an arm and wrapped his hand tightly around one of Vin's
wrists, squeezing firmly and smiling as Vin gasped at the pain. He pulled
Vin away from the wall and, with a strength Vin wouldn't had thought he had,
he threw Vin hard to the floor, the jolt of hitting the hard surface with
his hands sending spasms of pain up his arms.
While trying to right himself, Vin felt himself being flipped over onto his
back and before he could fight back, the man was sitting on his chest and
maneuvering his knees onto Vin's arms at the elbows to hold them in place.
Vin squirmed under the man but didn't have the strength to throw him off.
"Now, Mr. Tanner, I'm forced to use more extreme measures to ensure that
you do not appear before the court again." The man reached into a pocket
and pulled out a syringe. Vin's eyes grew wide when he saw it and he tried
to wriggle harder. "Actually, you're quite lucky, Mr. Tanner. You get to
test two of our little experimental concoctions. Few ever survive their first
trial." The man flicked his middle finger off his thumb to tap on the side
of the glass syringe as he looked at it fondly. The yellowish liquid inside
didn't move. "This little creation has a bigger kick to it than what you
last got. Pain. Lots of it." The man pulled the protective covering off the
needle and looked down into Vin's eyes. "And then you die."
Vin didn't know what the man was saying but he knew what happened the last
time he stuck him with a needle. With a final effort, he put all his strength
into trying to buck the man off of his chest but the man had too good a hold
The man took his free hand and gripped Vin by the throat, squeezing just
enough to make breathing difficult. "I could inject this into the jugular,
get it circulated fast, but you know how I like to prolong the fun." He twisted
the needle around in his hand and drove it into Vin's arm, just below the
shoulder. Slowly, he began squeezing the plunger and the liquid began flowing
into Vin's system.
Vin twisted his body futilely as he watched the liquid in the syringe disappear.
"Really, Mr. Tanner. Fighting this just makes your blood flow faster and
thus spreads the drug out faster. If I'd had known you were in such a hurry,
I'd have gone for your jugular," the man followed his words with the laugh
that haunted Vin's dreams. He froze at the sound as tears formed in his eyes.
Suddenly, a loud booming sound reverberated through the room. The man sitting
on Vin jerked upright and his eyes grew wide. His hand still held the syringe,
the upward movement having pulled the needle out of Vin's arm. Vin watched
as the man slowly fell sideways to the floor and only then could he see Ezra
standing just inside the door, Chris behind him.
Vin squirmed his way out from under the fallen man as Chris stumbled up to
fall at his side. Vin looked up at his friend and could see a small trail
of blood flowing from the back of his head.
"Vin, are you okay?" Chris asked, looking to his eyes to get his answer.
He saw fear and reached up to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He glanced
over to where Ezra was reviving Buck. The man seemed to be coming around
Chris's attention was drawn back to Vin as he tapped his shoulder and then
pointed to the needle still held by the unconscious man on the floor. When
Chris saw it, his eyes grew wide.
"Did he give it to you?" Chris asked as he started searching Vin's body for
a needle mark. Vin stopped him and gingerly pulled up the sleeve of his shirt
far enough to expose the spot where the needle had been. "Shit!" Chris cursed,
then looked to Ezra. "We need to get him to the hospital now!"
"I can drive him," Ezra said.
"You go with him, Chris," Buck began. "I'll stay here and make sure the garbage
gets taken care of then meet up with you at the hospital." Buck was rotating
both arms, trying to ease the soreness from the blow he took.
"You sure you're okay, Buck?"
Ezra handed Buck his weapon as Chris leaned forward and retrieved the syringe.
He found the cover for the needle and replaced it before he and Ezra helped
Vin to his feet and, as quickly as they dared, got him to the car. Ezra started
the engine and they were moving in seconds.
Buck grabbed Chris's cell phone off the coffee table where it had been left
earlier and called in for help. He leaned back against the wall, keeping
the gun trained on the man before him as he let out a sigh and waited.
******* ******* *******
Ezra sped through the city streets and Chris was silently offering his thanks
that they weren't all the way out at his ranch when this had happened. As
it was, they could be at the hospital in ten minutes.
Five minutes into the ride, Vin began to tremble and Chris could see a thin
sheen of sweat forming on his face. He gently wrapped his fingers around
Vin's and put an arm across his shoulders, pulling him in to rest on his
chest. "It's gonna be okay, Vin. We're almost there. Hang on," Chris soothed,
hoping that once they got him to the hospital, they could do something for
A tiny moan escaped Vin's throat as he squeezed his eyes shut and buried
his head in Chris's chest.
"Faster, Ezra," Chris coaxed as he tightened his hold of Vin. Ezra merely
nodded, knowing he was already going as fast as he dared. The hospital was
now in sight and he relayed that information to Chris which Chris incorporated
into the murmurings he was continually saying to Vin.
Ezra screeched to a halt in the emergency zone and leapt from the car to
get help from inside as Chris slowly began to shift Vin into a position where
he could be removed from the car easily. Chris couldn't tell whether the
tiny grunts and groans that Vin was letting out hurt him worse than when
his friend had been silent.
A gurney was brought to the car and two orderlies helped get Vin onto it.
It was then wheeled inside followed closely by Chris while Ezra jumped into
the car to move it to a proper location.
Chris pulled the syringe out of his pocket and told the doctor what had happened.
He immediately sent the syringe to the laboratory to have the contents analyzed.
Vin had curled onto his side on the gurney and the doctor was attempting
to get him to lie out straight so he could examine him. Chris finally convinced
the nurses that Vin was unable to communicate and that he should be in the
examination room to help.
Chris rattled off all the information he could on Vin's condition while the
doctor examined him. He showed him where the needle mark was in his arm,
which the doctor probed curiously. They started Vin on an IV, though, until
they knew what they were dealing with, it just supplied Vin with fluids.
The pain was intense and seemed to be hitting Vin everywhere and it was an
agonizing thirty minutes that Chris sat beside his friend and watched until
the results came in from the lab. The doctor read the results and shot out
a number of instructions to several nurses before he addressed Chris.
"We've identified it. There's good news and bad. The good news is that, though
we really can't counteract it, we can render it inert in his system. That
means it'll do him no more harm. The bad news is that we can't completely
get rid of what's already taken hold so he'll have to ride it out until his
body flushes it out on its own." The doctor paused as he let the information
"What's it doing to him?"
"It's stimulating the nerves of his muscles which are in turn signaling to
his brain that there's pain. It seems to be non-specific about what it attaches
to so long as it's muscle tissue. Basically, everything hurts him." The doctor
knew he was over-simplifying his explanation but didn't think the man before
him wanted all the gory details. "Another thing, Mr. Larabee. He's very lucky
he didn't get all of what was in that syringe. He'd probably be dead by now
if that were the case."
Chris nodded his head absently as he turned his attention back to Vin.
Because of the arm splints he wore, they opted to insert the IV in his lower
leg and because the pain caused him to jerk his limbs violently, his leg
was restrained with a thick leather strap. When they started a second line
in his other leg, that one had to be strapped down as well. An oxygen mask
had been placed over Vin's nose and mouth to help compensate for his shallow
Chris sat beside his friend, wanting so badly to be able to change places.
Vin writhed with the pain and rolled his head from side to side. Chris circled
his arm around Vin's head and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Fight it, Vin. A little while longer and it'll be over." Actually, the doctor
hadn't told him how long it would take for Vin's system to flush out the
toxin, but he felt better giving Vin something to shoot for...not that Vin
understood him, however.