DECEPTIVE CONTROL

by Winnie

 

Part 9

 

Josiah paced from one end of the waiting room to the other, glancing at the doorway each time he heard approaching footsteps. Two hours had passed since they'd taken Ezra to surgery to repair the internal damage cause by the scissors, and he'd updated Nathan as to what was going on.

 

“Josiah, has there been any word?” Orin Travis asked upon entering the SICU waiting room to find the other man wearing a groove in the floor.

 

“Not since I called you. Nathan says they're still looking for Chris and we're pretty certain Kent is behind the murders. JD was able to figure out a couple of passwords and sent the files to the computers at the office. We'll go through them as soon as we can,” Sanchez explained.

 

“What did Stacey have to say about Ezra?”

 

“Just what I told you, a punctured lung and some other damage that can only be repaired through surgery. Silverman was on call tonight so Ezra's got the best working on him.”

 

“Have you eaten?”

 

“Not yet,” Sanchez answered.

 

“It could be some time before there's news of Ezra so why don't you go grab something to eat. I'll stay here and call you if there's anything new,” Travis explained. 

 

“Orin, this...”

 

“You don't need to say it, Josiah,” Travis said. “I'll call Daniel and tell him what we know and that we'll continue to search through Kent's files, but that the undercover part of the operation is officially over.”

 

“ A day late,” Sanchez said softly before leaving the room.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

 

Buck, Nathan, and Vin had already spoken with the police and offered to help search for the missing man, but the officers were unfamiliar with them and denied them access to any information until they spoke with their supervisor. That wouldn't happen until they completed a search of the outer grounds.

 

Buck's phone rang and he reached inside, cursing when he realized who the call was from and that they'd forgotten all about the youngest member of the team. “JD, where are you?”

 

*“I'm still in the office, Buck, what the hell's going on in there?”*

 

“Look, Kid, I'm sorry I didn't call you earlier, but there's been trouble...”

 

*“No shit...the lock down and alarms didn't tip me off.”*  

 

“JD, just be quiet and listen. Ezra's been hurt bad and they took him out of here in an ambulance. Josiah's gone with him, but there's no word on his condition except that he's critical.”

 

*“What the hell happened to him?”*

 

“We're not sure of the whole story, JD, but it looks like Chris stabbed him with a pair of scissors,” Wilmington explained.

 

*“No way in hell...”*

 

“That' s what we all said, but Josiah saw it happen, JD,” Wilmington said. “I'll call you as soon as I hear anything else.”

 

*“The police just said we can leave, but...”*

 

“Go to the hospital and stay with Josiah, Kid, there's nothing more you can do here right now,” Wilmington told him.

 

*“All right...but we need to go to the office and check out a few things.”*

 

“We will...as soon as things here get straightened out,” the worried man said, purposefully leaving out the fact that Larabee was still missing.

 

*“Okay...be careful, Buck.”*

 

Buck placed his phone back in his pocket and rubbed at tired eyes. “We need to find Chris...”

 

“And just how do we do that?” Jackson asked.

 

“If the rumors are right and he left the secure area then...”

 

“I don't think he did,” Tanner said and looked at the two men. “Think about it...Chris was drugged by Kent and he wasn't thinking straight. Where the hell would he go especially when he thinks everyone is out to get him. I think he's close by and we need to find him before anything else happens ta him.”

 

“Where do you propose we start?”

 

“Start with the unused rooms and the offices. If he got inside he might have gone to ground until he felt it was safe to come out,” Tanner told them.

 

“At least we'll be doing something better than sitting here doing nothing,” Jackson said.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

 

Chris struggled to stay on his feet and licked at dry lips as the man he leaned on reached for the door and pulled it open. His head hurt and his stomach lurched with each step he'd taken. The cold metal in his hand gave him the strength and confidence he needed, but there was something wrong with the blood that coated his hand.

 

Where had it come from? Had he hurt someone? Did the blood belong to someone he knew.

 

“All right, Jacobson, let's do this,” Styles said and held the door for the other man.

 

Chris tried to work up enough moisture to wet his lips, but there just didn't seem to be enough saliva to form words. He stepped inside and held his breath as the door closed behind him.

 

Styles could hear footsteps heading toward them and pulled Jacobson into a small recess. “That's Kent, Chris, are you ready to take care of him? I think he's got some needles with him.”

 

“No...no more needles,” Larabee said.

 

“There's only one way to stop the needles, Chris, you need to kill him...”

 

“Can't...can't kill unarmed man,” Chris said, tilting his head to the side as he tried to think past the pain that was a constant throughout his body.

 

Craig Styles silently cursed the fact that Jacobson no longer seemed to have the ability to stay on his own feet and released him. He watched as the drugged man sank to the floor and viciously kicked him before grabbing the scissors. “I should kill you right now.”

 

“What...” Larabee asked, surprised when he looked at his empty hand. “Where...”

 

Styles watched as Kent and Parker came around the corner and waited until they neared him before stepping out and driving the scissors into Kent's neck. He saw the surprise quickly change to horror as Kent reached up to stop the flow of blood, but there was no mistaking the way the blood shot from the man's veins that he'd cut through the carotid artery.

 

“What the hell? Where's Jacobson?” Parker asked angrily as Kent slid down the wall with a gurgling death rattle.

 

“He's right here, but between the drugs you gave him and the ones Kent gave him he's a mess,” Styles told her and moved aside so she could see the patient.

 

“Look, I need to get out of here before we're discovered. Take the gun and shoot Larabee...”

 

“Why the hell don't you do it?”

 

“I can't be seen here. Look, shoot Jacobson and make it look like he killed Kent. You'll be a hero for catching the crazy patient, and Ray will be a martyr.”

 

“I...”

 

“Time's wasting, Craig, and I'm the one holding all the cards now that you took care of Kent. Kill Jacobson and I'll make damn sure you're on easy street for the rest of your life,” Parker said and hurried away.

 

Craig Styles turned toward Jacobson, surprised to find the man had managed to get to his feet and was leaning heavily against the wall. “All right, Jacobson, looks like it's time to clean up the mess you made.”

 

“What the...fuck,” Chris shook his head, setting off the fireworks that threatened to explode as a sound echoed around him just before pain erupted in his chest as a force shoved him backward. He suddenly realized there was moisture in his mouth just as the darkness beckoned to him.

 

Craig Styles quickly wiped the gun of his prints and placed it in Kent's fingers. He knew he had to work fast or chance being caught by anyone who'd been close enough to hear the sound of the shot. Kent had managed to pull the scissors free and dropped them on the floor while he tried to stem the flow of blood. As far as Styles could tell it looked like the perfect scenario and he hurried through the door he'd dragged Jacobson through.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Nathan saw the woman walking toward them just as a familiar sound rang out from the opposite direction, He saw Buck and Vin react instantly and knew they both recognized it for what it was, but the others just had a blank look on their face.

 

“That sounded like a gunshot,” Wilmington said.

 

“It was,” Tanner said and took off in the direction it came from with Wilmington and Jackson hot on his heels. They passed several individuals who backed out of their way as they rushed past.

 

Vin rounded a corner and spotted the man lying on the floor and knew by the amount of blood that he was dead. A pair of scissors was on the floor beside him, while a small caliber gun was clutched in his right hand. He looked at the closed door and moved toward a small alcove with his heart thumping rapidly in his chest.

 

A second body, this one recognizable in spite of the day's growth of beard and the unwashed body that was losing blood at an alarming rate. “Jesus, Chris...Nathan!”

 

“I'm here, Vin,” Jackson said and opened Larabee's shirt as the Texan pulled off his own and gave it to him. Nathan used it to press down on the wound while he spoke. “Vin, go tell Parker we need a gurney and tell her to see if Mercer's still around!”

 

“Nathan is...”

 

“He's alive...go, Vin!” Jackson ordered. “Buck, call for an ambulance!”

 

“Already on it,” Wilmington told him as Tanner hurried down the short corridor. “How bad?”

 

“Bad,” Jackson answered and pressed down on the wound in the upper right side of Larabee's chest. “He's lost a lot of blood and God know what kind of damage the bullet did.”

 

“Nathan, you should have waited for the police!” Samantha Parker said. She'd followed them once the shot was fired and ran into Tanner who would be returning with Ryan Mercer and a gurney. She made a show of checking Kent, but there was little doubt that the man was dead. “Did he...did he do that to Ray?”

 

“I don't know,” Jackson said and moved out of the way when Katrina Morgan and Ryan Mercer joined them. They'd brought a gurney and the equipment they'd need to treat the injured man.

 

“The police are on their way,” Tanner told Jackson and Wilmington.

 

“Keep pressure on that,” Mercer told Parker as Morgan set up for an IV. “Jesus, I thought this would be an easy shift when I signed in.  Sam, there's no telling what kind of damage that bullet caused so we need to be careful.”

 

“There's no exit wound,” Parker told him as Mercer helped her attach the leads and wires from the mobile monitoring equipment. She silently cursed Styles for not making sure Jacobson was dead, but there was no doubt in her mind that she could find a way to finish the job. Sure, he needed medical treatment, but he was also a dangerous patient who'd already injured one man and killed another. She'd make sure he stayed at Shady Acres and get rid of him before anyone had a chance to question him.

 

“Isn't this the man the police are looking for?” Mercer asked.

 

“Yes, he is and he should be considered dangerous,” Parker answered.

 

“Dangerous?” Mercer asked, his eyebrows rising. “I don't think he's dangerous right now.”

 

“He's ain't dangerous, Doc,” Tanner said.

 

“Vince, I don't think you're a good judge of a patients state of mind. You are an orderly and should keep your opinions to yourself,” Parker snapped.

 

“He knows Chris, Sam, we all do,” Jackson told her. “His name's Chris Larabee and he's only dangerous to the bastards who hurt people who can't protect themselves.”

 

“You lied to me!” Parker snapped.

 

“Sam, we need to get him ready for transport,” Mercer told her.

 

“I know,” Parker said, fighting to keep the anger from showing. She helped Morgan set up a second IV and between them transferred the injured man to the gurney. She knew his chances of making it were slim, but if he'd heard what she said to Styles there was a chance that he would remember it once the drugs wore off...if they wore off. 

 

Buck watched as Chris was loaded onto the gurney and felt Vin tense beside him as Parker and Mercer took control of the gurney and pushed it toward the main part of the building. He moved to the door and checked it, not surprised to find it opened at his touch.

 

“Nathan, stay with Chris cause somethin' ain't right here,” Tanner said and moved to Kent's body as Jackson hurried after the gurney. The gun was still in the dead man's hand, and Vin knew better than to touch it until the police arrived.

 

“Why would Kent be here and what the hell was Chris doing?” Wilmington spat.

 

“Kent probably had Chris so doped up he didn't know what the hell he was doing,” Jackson suggested as several police officers hurried toward them.

 

“Did you touch anything?” Charlie Donovan asked as a second officer checked Kent.

 

“No, the doc checked to make sure he was dead,” Wilmington answered.

 

“Not a good way to go,” Paul Appleton said. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

 

“Buck Wilmington and Vin Tanner. We work for Orin Travis and we were asked to look into several suspicious deaths at Shady Acres. You can call Travis to verify our story,” Wilmington told him.

 

“I will, did either of you touch the door?” Donovan asked.

 

“I did...it's not locked,” Wilmington answered.

 

“All right...you two best get out of here before you mess up our crime scene. Just don't go anywhere,” Donovan told them.

 

Vin and Buck turned away from the scene and headed back toward the area used as an ER. They passed two more officers and a security guard before spotting Jackson talking with Daniel Coburn and Carl Sheppard. The latter looked at them in contempt and both men knew he'd been updated on the real reason for their presence.

 

“The next time you decide to bring in outside help, Dr. Coburn, you might want to discuss it with the people who sign your checks first,” Sheppard snapped and turned his attention to the two men. “Since you are here under false pretenses I want you off the property!”

 

“Sorry, can't do that until Chris is out of here and the police release us,” Wilmington told him angrily.

 

“Chris is a patient here and I don't give a damn if it is in an undercover role...he was given sedatives and other drugs prescribed by Dr. Kent and therefore he must be kept here until...”

 

“Ain't gonna happen,” Tanner said in a voice that was deceptively calm.

 

“Now see here...”

 

“You'd be well advised to leave it alone, Carl,” Coburn said.

 

“I don't think so, Dr. Coburn, I'm going to report you to the board members for taking things in your own hands and putting not only the hospital's reputation at risk, but the patients as well,” Sheppard warned.

 

“Dr. Coburn, the ambulance is outside,” a nurse called from the desk.

 

“That was fast,” Wilmington said.

 

“I'll let Dr. Mercer know,” Coburn said and moved to the closed door.

 

“Buck, I called Josiah to let him know what's happening,” Jackson advised.

 

“Anything new on Ezra?” Tanner asked.

 

“He's out of surgery. Silverman repaired the internal damage he found and he'll be spending the next few days in SICU,” the medic answered and looked up as Parker exited the room. “Sam...”

 

“Not right now, Nathan,” Parker told him and hurried to the nurses desk where she spoke to one of the nurses without looking back at him.

 

Nathan knew she was angry, but right now he was more worried about Chris' condition than about hurt feelings as he hurried toward the therapist. “Sam, how's Chris?”

 

“Dr. Mercer just finished intubating him, Nathan. He's got a bullet in his chest and he needs surgery. He's also stabbed one man and killed another and all of this could have been prevented if you'd just told me what was happening,” Parker snapped.

 

“We couldn't...not until we knew what was happening here,” Jackson said.

 

“In other words whatever you were investigating I was one of the suspects?”

 

“Everyone was,” Jackson answered.

 

“Look, Doc, I get that you're angry, but we did what was necessary,” Wilmington said.

 

“Angry is putting it mildly, Buck. Look a man is dead...at least tell me he was one of your suspects?” Parker said.

 

“He was and we're pretty sure he was behind it, but we need to look a little closer at his files,” Wilmington answered.

 

“You'll have to take that up with the board,” the psychiatrist told him. “I need to go help Ryan get Chris ready for transport.”

 

Nathan moved out of her way as she stepped past him and hurried back to the room that housed Chris Larabee. He understood her anger, but their job often left people that way until they realized it was a necessity in order to get the job done.

 

“One of us should go in with Chris,” Tanner told the two men.

 

“You go ahead, Vin, we'll stay here and see if we can smooth a few ruffled feathers,” Jackson said as the gurney carrying Chris Larabee was pushed from the room.

 

“I'll call as soon as there's any news,” the Texan assured them and hurried after the retreating figures.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

 

Josiah entered the SICU and moved closer to the bed as a nurse finished making notations on the chart by the door. He smiled at her before checking the patient for himself. Ezra looked paler than the sheets he lay on, with nasal canulas in place and tubes running beneath the blanket that covered him to mid chest. There were several IV's running into his arms delivering much needed fluid and medications.

 

Josiah placed his hand on Ezra's right shoulder, closed his eyes and said a prayer before pulling a chair close to the bed and dropping wearily onto it. He knew Standish would be in and out of it over the next 24 hours, and ran his fingers through his hair as he thought about the man who'd put him there.

 

Nathan had called to update him on what had happened at Shady Acres. Larabee was on his way in with a bullet wound to his chest and whatever sedatives Kent had given him in his bloodstream. He hoped they were wrong about Kent, then again if they were then there was still a killer at the institute who now knew there'd been an investigation into the deaths. He turned when he heard someone enter the room.

 

“Josiah, I tried to call Maude, but she's unavailable right now,” Orin Travis said.

 

“Maude's not an easy woman to find unless she's in trouble,” Josiah told him.

 

“She's a hard woman and an even tougher taskmaster when it comes to her son. She's missed out on a lot because of her stubborn pride,” the former judge observed.

 

“She only has herself to blame for that,” Josiah agreed. “Ezra's changed...for the better since he found the guts to tell her she had no power over his life.”

 

“He's a good man,” Travis said.

 

“Yes, he is. Chris made the right choice.”

 

“I'd say he did that with everyone he chose for the agency.”

 

“Do you ever regret giving him carte blanche?”

 

“Not for a minute. He chose the team and every one of you has risen above my expectations. My only regret is putting you in situations like this one where your lives are in danger.”

 

“Someone has to do it or there'd be a lot more crime and a lot less sleep for those who believe in working for what they want,” Sanchez explained.

 

“How is he doing?”

 

“Silverman said surgery went well, but they're worried about infection and the blood loss. Simmons said he thought Ezra was trying to catch up to Chris and Vin in the novel length medical file category,” Sanchez answered.

 

“Has there been any word from the others?”

 

“Damn, sorry, Orin, I forgot you weren't here when Nathan called. Kent's dead and it looks like Chris killed him, but we won't know that until after the investigation. Chris is on his way in by ambulance because Kent shot him in the chest,” the ex-preacher answered and saw the anger on the other man's face as they settled in to watch over the injured gambler.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Samantha Parker knew there was nothing more she could do at Shady Acres and had been given permission to leave the institution. Sheppard had left over an hour ago and she would be meeting him at a restaurant near his home. Her anger at being kept out of the loop intensified, but she knew it was unrealistic for her to have expected to be told about the men who'd been sent in undercover.

 

Parker drove away from the facility and directly to the restaurant. She parked near the back and hurried toward the door, moving quickly inside and to the table where Carl Sheppard sat waiting for her.

 

“This is a real fuck up, Sam,” Sheppard said.

 

“What the hell do you expect, Carl?” Parker snapped. “You were supposed to be on top of everything that dealt with hospital funds and that included paying for someone to investigate what happens at Shady Acres. How the fuck did Coburn manage to hire someone without your knowledge?”

 

“Keep your voice down, Sam,” Sheppard warned. “Coburn went outside the hospital and didn't involve the board in his actions. With Kent dead there's no reason for them to stick around...as long as you covered our tracks by putting as much blame as possible on Kent.”

 

“I did what I could. The board was already suspicious of him and I've made sure they'll find out the truth about Kent.”

 

“I can't believe that sonofabitch wasn't even a psychiatrist. How the hell did he manage to forge those certificates on his wall? They looked authentic to me,” Sheppard told her.

 

“I don't think anyone could have discovered it unless they dug into his background, but no one bothered to go all the way back,” Parker advised. “We just need to make sure we cover our asses.”

 

“What about Styles?” Sheppard asked.

 

“I don't trust him, Carl. He turned against Kent too easy and I'm pretty sure he'll turn on us at the first sign of trouble. You need to find some way of taking care of him,” Parker said.

 

“I'll talk to Turner...see if he can take care of Styles for us,” Sheppard offered.

 

“Just tell him to make it look like an accident,” Parker said.

 

“What happens when you think I'm no longer of any use to you, Sam?” Sheppard asked with a hint of a smile.

 

“Now, Carl, you and I have enough on each other that we're both safe. Ours is a sort of symbiotic relationship since there are fail safes in order should either of us die. After all, what is trust when it comes to money and murder?” Parker observed.

 

“Trust is such an underrated thing while murder is the final act. I think we should leave before someone we know sees us here together,” Sheppard offered and dropped money on the table before grabbing his jacket and heading for the door.

 

“Take care of our problem, Carl,” Parker ordered.

 

“Don't I always,” Sheppard said with a grin.

 

Samantha Parker watched her partner in crime leave and leaned back in the seat for several minutes. Carl Sheppard had proved to be a worthy partner, one who'd managed to cover his own ass in much the same way she'd done. No matter how she looked at it she was stuck with the sonofabitch until they were both ready to call it quits. Then again the time for her departure was drawing near and she had a nice little nest egg hidden for just that occasion.

 

“Can I get you anything,” a waitress asked, scooping up the bills Sheppard had dropped on the table.

 

“No, thank you, Annie, I was just leaving,” Parker said and grabbed her purse before leaving the restaurant and heading for her car.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The ambulance pulled into Saint Vincents and was met by an orderly, a nurse, and Dr. Stacey Midland. They helped pulled the gurney from the back and raced through the ER doors and into the nearest trauma room that had been set up for the new arrival. Stacey listened as the paramedic rattled off the vitals and the treatment Chris Larabee had been given during the trip from Shady Acres.

 

“Vin, you know the drill...go get the paperwork started and I'll come see you as soon as we find out what's going on,” Midland ordered.

 

“Doc...”

 

“Go, Vin, I need to set thing in motion here!” Midland said and rattled off the things she wanted done as Brandon Silverman joined her.

 

“What is it with Larabee...it's not enough for one of his men to be here, but he's got to try and out do them. How bad, Stacey?” Silverman asked.

 

“Gunshot wound to the chest. X-ray is on the way, but he's lost a lot of blood and there are some heavy sedatives involved...”

 

“Sedatives? Who the hell gave him sedatives?”

 

“His team was undercover at a place called Shady Acres...”

 

“Ritzy place for high end patients,” Silverman observed.

 

“That's what I heard,” Midland agreed. “Get those samples to the lab and tell them we need the results stat!”

 

“Yes, Doctor,” Barbara Smith told her and hurried out of the room with the vials of blood samples.

 

Midland gently eased back on the bandage covering the wound to Larabee's chest and hoped the internal damage was not as bad as it could be. Bullets tended to rattle around in the chest cavity and things could be deadly if they didn't find it and remove it before things got worse.

 

“Dr. Midland, x-ray is here,” Smith said upon rejoining them.

 

“Tell them to give me another minute,” Silverman ordered and completed the task of intubating the patient in order to save time once they reached the OR.

 

“Brandon, I'm going to go speak with Vin,” Midland said.

 

“Tell him to go give some of that precious blood of his,” Silverman ordered. It was a well-known fact that Tanner and Larabee were the same rare blood type and it always seemed to be in short supply.

 

“Do you really think I need to tell him that,” Midland said.

 

“Probably not,” the surgeon told her.

 

Stacey hurried out of the room and spotted Tanner at the ER desk. The Texan's back was to her, but he turned before she reached him and she could see the worry and strain in his weary eyes.

 

“How's Chris?”

 

“He's still with us, Vin, and we're going to do everything we can to see that he stays that way. Brandon is in with him and then we're going to take some x-rays and pinpoint exactly where the bullet is. We're also waiting for the result of the blood work,” Midland explained. She reached out and placed a hand on his arm and felt the tension in the set of the man's shoulder. “He's strong, Vin, remember that.”

 

“I know,” Tanner said.

 

“Vin, you need to sign these papers,” Sandy said and smiled at the young man as he turned and took the pen from her hand.

 

“Vin, I need to get back to Chris, but...”

 

“Don't worry, Doc, I'll give blood,” Tanner told her and handed the pen back to the nurse.

 

“All right, Vin, remember to rest and eat after you donate,” Midland warned.

 

“I hear ya, Doc,” the Texan said tiredly.

 

“Vin, what's wrong?”

 

Tanner turned to see the elderly woman walking toward him. “Howdy, Miss Nettie.”

 

“Are you hurt...where's Chris?” Nettie Wells asked.

 

“Vin, I'll be back as soon as we know what we're going to do,” Midland said.

 

“Thanks, Doc,” Tanner said and returned his attention to the woman who reminded him so much of his own mother. “When did you get back?”

 

“I got in yesterday, but was exhausted and slept nearly 12 hours. Now why don't you tell me why you're here if you're not hurt or sick?”

 

“Let' go to the waiting room,” Tanner said, relieved when she walked beside him. Once inside he moved her toward a couple of empty chairs and took her hands in his. “We've been working on a case for about a week and it wasn't exactly one we wanted to take.”

 

“Are there any you really want to take, Vin?”

 

“No,” Tanner said with a slight smile. He started telling her about Shady Acres and the undercover assignment that wound up with Ezra stabbed and Chris shot.”

 

“My Stars, Vin, how bad?” Nettie asked.

 

“Ezra's got a punctured lung and he's in SICU. Josiah's with him right now...hell, I should go up there and fill him in on what's happening.”

 

“Vin.”

 

Tanner looked up as the familiar nurse walked toward them. “Hi, Sandy...is Chris okay?”

 

“Yes, but they are taking him to the OR and Dr. Midland said you would be donating blood,” Sandy explained. “Hello, Mrs. Wells.”

 

“Hello, Sandy,” Nettie said. “Vin, you go with Sandy and I'll go tell Josiah what's happening.”

 

“Thanks, Nettie, try not ta worry,” Tanner said and hugged her gently.

 

“You need to practice what you preach, Vin,” Nettie said and walked out into the ER just as the gurney carrying Chris Larabee was pushed from the trauma room. She wanted to go after them, but there was nothing she could do for him now except make sure his friends were kept in the loop.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

 

JD sat astride his motorcycle waiting for Nathan and Buck to join him. He parked his bike closer to the two cars that were parked in employee spaces near the back of the parking lot. Most of the employees that worked the day shift had already left, but there were still a few including Nathan and Buck who were still inside. He glanced at his watch and climbed off his bike when he saw two men heading toward him.

 

“Jesus, I was starting to get worried bout you two. What happened with the police?”

 

“We gave our statements, but for now it looks like Chris will be placed in custody until some things are cleared up,” Wilmington answered and leaned back against his Mustang.

 

“What? Why? I thought you said Kent shot Chris?”

 

“That's how it looks, JD, but the police need to investigate all angles and that includes the scissors in Kent's neck and the fact that we found Chris and Kent down,” Jackson advised.

 

“Is there any word on Chris and Ezra?”

 

“Ezra's holding his own and Josiah's with him. Chris is on his way to surgery and we need to get a move on. JD, were you able to access any more of Kent's files?” Wilmington asked.

 

“I got a couple of new passwords that should get me a way in, but it'll take a few days to get through the layers he built up,” Dunne answered.

 

“Good, look, I'm guessing we're all heading for the hospital so let's hash it out there,” Wilmington observed and pressed the button to unlock the car doors. He saw Jackson move to his car and JD climb on board his motorcycle before driving away from Shady Acres.

 

“Hell,” he said softly before doing the same.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

 

Josiah glanced at the clock above the door, not really surprised to see only ten minutes had passed since he'd last glanced up from the paper he'd been reading. Ezra had not shown any sign of waking up, but he knew that had a lot to do with the anesthetic and medications he was getting.

 

Josiah ran his fingers through his hair and stretched the kinks from his back as he tried to return his attention to the paper. He gave up after reading the same paragraph four times and still not getting the drift of what the article was about. He glanced at the sleeping man and turned when he heard the sound of footsteps coming into the room. He smiled at the woman and hugged her before allowing her to see the injured man for herself.

 

“How is he, Josiah?”

 

“If he was awake and able to answer I think he'd say something like 'deplorable or atrocious',” Sanchez answered softly. “The doctors say he's going to be here for a while, but he should make a full recovery.”

 

“That's good news,” Nettie said and sat down on the chair Josiah had been using. “Chris is on his way to surgery and Vin's gone to give blood.”

 

“They'll be all right, Nettie,” Sanchez said and placed a hand on her shoulder.

 

“I hope so, Josiah,” Nettie said and placed her hand over his. A nurse entered and began checking the readouts on the monitors above Ezra's head.

 

“How do things look?” Sanchez asked.

 

“His vitals look good although he is running a slight temperature, but that's to be expected considering what he's been through,” the woman answered and smiled before adding. “You can be sure we'll keep on top of everything.”

 

“You always do,” Nettie told her and watched her leave.

 

“No....Chris...don't...don't...”

 

“Ezra,” Sanchez said and watched as the gambler fought to regain consciousness against all odds. He looked at the monitors; worried about the way the younger man's heart rate seemed to be erratic.

 

“Chris...please...I'm sorry...should never....”

 

“Ezra, look at me...it's Josiah. You're in Saint Vincents and you're going to be fine, but you need to listen to me,” Sanchez said as Stacey Midland entered the room followed by the nurse from earlier.

 

“Josiah, you and Mrs. Wells will have to wait outside,” Midland ordered and turned her full attention to her patient as he seemed to be in more distress.

 

“Please...don't...” Standish tried, his eyes shot open and he looked around as if searching frantically for something. “Please, Chris...where is he?”

 

“Ezra, look at me,” the physician ordered.

 

“God...it hurts...please, find Chris,” Standish said and weakly gripped her arm.

 

“Ezra, Danielle is going to give you something to help with the pain,” Midland said and nodded to the nurse who injected the prescribed medication into his IV line. She watched the monitors as his eyes closed, relieved to see his heart rate returning to normal as she adjusted the flow of oxygen.

 

“Doc, how is he?” Sanchez asked once Midland joined them outside the room.

 

“He's sleeping for now, Josiah,” Midland answered. “He won't be fully awake for some time with the medications he's on.”

 

“He's worried about Chris...we all are,” Sanchez offered.

 

“I know, and I wish I had better news for you, but he has the best working on him. Brandon will do everything he can,” the physician explained. “Now, I know there's not much point in telling you to go home and get some rest, but it will be some time before there's any word about Chris, so when Vin comes up here see that he eats.”

 

“We will, Stacey,” Nettie assured the younger woman.

 

“I'll be here for a few more hours and I'll come find you if there's any news on Chris,” Midland told them.

 

“Thanks, Doc,” Sanchez said and smiled thinly before she walked away.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

 

Vin ate the package of cookies and drank the orange juice before tossing the packaging into the trash. He glanced at the clock and knew it would be another ten minutes before the nurse allowed him to leave. He looked at the couch in the corner and wanted to lie down, but he knew he wouldn't sleep, at least not until he knew how Chris was doing.

 

Vin reached for the well-read magazine and looked at the articles disinterestedly until the nurse who'd registered him motioned that he could leave with the usual warning that he should rest and eat. He smiled and walked slowly out of the lab before heading up to Ezra's room where Josiah and Nettie waited for him.

 

“My stars, Vin, you're whiter than a ghost. How much blood did they take?” Nettie asked of the pale-faced young man who stood in the doorway to the SICU.

 

“Same as always, Miss Nettie,” the Texan answered and smiled as she hugged him.

 

“You do know that makes you and Chris blood brothers in every sense of the word?” Sanchez said of the fact that Larabee and Tanner not only had the same rare blood type, but had also given each other blood on several occasions.

 

“Let's hope some of Vin's stubborn Texas streak rubs off on Chris,” Nettie said.

 

“Are you sure that'd be a good thing? I always thought Chris was a stubborn SOB in the first place,” Sanchez offered.

 

“So not just blood brothers but Missouri mules as well,” the elderly woman said with a grin. “Now according to Dr. Midland, Ezra will sleep for some time and Chris is in surgery and Vin needs to eat and...”

 

“Miss Nettie, I'm...”

 

“...rest and it's up to me and you, Josiah to see that he does just that,” Nettie said, pointedly ignoring the younger man.

 

“I had juice and cookies...”

 

“Vin, you might as well give it up. You and Chris never could win when it comes to Nettie...she wrote the book on stubborn,” Sanchez told him. “Nettie, why don't you take Vin to the surgical waiting room and I'll run next door to the deli and grab some coffee and sandwiches?”

 

“You heard him, Vin, let's go,” Nettie said and gently took his arm.

 

“Maybe someone should stay with Ezra,” Tanner tried.

 

“He's okay, Vin, and as soon as Josiah brings you something to eat one of us will come back here,” Nettie assured him.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Brandon Silverman removed the bloodied scrubs and dropped them into the laundry hamper outside the operating room. Chris Larabee was being moved directly to SICU and would probably spend the next 24 to 48 hours there. He took off the cap and tossed that after the scrubs before making his way to the waiting room. He entered to find six people anxiously waiting for him.

 

“Gentlemen, you look like hell!” Silverman told them. 

 

“How's Chris, Doc?” Tanner asked. He'd dozed off several times, but had not given in to his body's need for rest as he waited for word on his friend.

 

“Surgery went well although there was some extensive internal damage caused by the bullet. The good news is it was repairable and barring any unforeseen complications he should be fine, but there are also the drugs that were found in his system to worry about.”

 

“Kent was giving him some pretty heavy sedatives,” Jackson advised.

 

“Yes, and we checked for those, but there are a couple that were not sedatives...in fact they resembled several street drugs,” Silverman told them. “We'll need to keep an eye on those results and make sure there are no adverse effects where Chris' recovery is concerned.”

 

“Can we see him?” Wilmington asked.

 

“Give them an hour or so to get him settled in his room and then check with the nurses. He is going to sleep for a while and I'd like you to keep visits to a minimum,” Silverman said, yet he understood these people would stay around until they were sure both Larabee and Standish were going to make it.

 

“Thanks, Doc,” Tanner said and sighed tiredly.

 

“Vin, you need to go home and rest,” Jackson said. Josiah had filled them all in on what had happened with Vin giving blood and refusing to leave until he saw Larabee. 

 

“I will...as soon as I see Chris,” Tanner told him.

 

“I'll hold you to that. Rain will finish her shift in about and hour and you can come spend what's left of the night in our guest room,” Jackson said. “No arguments.”

 

“Ain't gonna argue with ya, Nate,” the Texan assured him. “Someone should go update Orin.”

 

“I'll go,” Sanchez offered. The owner of The Firm had returned to the hospital when he'd called to let him know Chris had been injured. The older man had volunteered to stay with Ezra while the others made their way to the surgical waiting rooms.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Craig Styles stretched out on his bed with a bottle of beer in his hand as he stared at the TV. The news was filled with what had happened at Shady Acres and so far things seemed to be going the way he wanted. He knew he could milk this for more money than what Parker offered and drank the last of the beer before grabbing another one from the fridge and returning to his bed.

 

Craig thought about the psychiatrist and wondered what she was like in bed and knew if he really wanted to he could find out. He licked at his lips and a hint of a smile formed at the idea of having her in his bed, but if it came to that he knew he'd rather have the money.

 

He thought about Raymond Kent and felt no remorse at his part in the man's death. Kent was a mean sonofabitch, but he was free with his money. Parker had better be the same way or she'd find out just how resourceful he could be. He'd already started a file on her, as well as one on Carl Sheppard and several others who worked at the institution. Sheppard's file was the longest and he'd often seen him with Parker at a restaurant not far from Shady Acres.

 

Craig sat forward as a picture of Chris Jacobson appeared on the screen and was shocked to see the name below the picture. He quickly turned up the volume and sat forward as the announcer began talking.

 

“Chris Larabee was shot today and underwent emergency surgery at Saint Vincents where his doctors listed him in critical, but stable condition...”

 

“Larabee,” Styles whispered and smiled at the idea that he'd had the man under his care even if it was only for a short time. He felt an inner strength that he'd been able to hold Larabee down while Kent injected medications into his arm and better still was the fact that he'd supplied the street drugs that might just have pushed the bastard over the edge.

 

Styles thoughts returned to Parker and whether she now knew who Jacobson really was. If she wanted him dead, Styles knew many ways to do that. A small smile formed as he realized people didn't give him enough credit and he used that to his own advantage. Parker would soon find out the hard way that she'd just gotten herself and expensive partner.

 

Craig drank the rest of the beer, and thought about the money he could get from Parker and knew he would find a way to spend it on some vacation in the tropics while everyone else suffered the bitter cold and snow. Life was good...and was going to get a whole lot better.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Ezra was aware of the voices that talked softly and fought to stay in the welcoming blanket of oblivion, but he knew from experience that it wasn't going to happen. He felt someone touch his shoulder and finally managed to get his eyes open, but it seemed to take forever for his vision to clear. He licked at dry lips and shifted slightly causing pain to erupt in his chest.

 

“Easy, Ezra, you're okay. You're in the hospital and have a tube in your side. The nurse is giving you something to help with the pain and I want you to relax,” Stacey Midland explained.

 

“What...happened?” Standish managed once the fire in his side died to a dull roar.

 

“What do you remember?” the physician asked.

 

“New case...put Chris...where...where is he...where is Chris?” the injured man asked worriedly and tried to come off the bed only to have him gently pressed back against the pillows.

 

“Oh no you don't, Ezra, you pull that tube out and we'll just have to put it back in and tie you down!” Midland warned.

 

“Please, Dr. Midland,” Ezra wheezed as he tried to control the nausea churning through his gut. “Where is Chris?”

 

“He's here, Ezra,” the physician answered softly.

 

“Is he all right? Is...” Ezra's voice trailed off as he lost the fight to stay conscious.

 

Stacey Midland checked the monitors, relieved to see the numbers were well within the normal parameters and was glad at least one of Larabee's team shied away from complications. She turned to find Orin Travis standing in the doorway and motioned for him to come in.

 

“How is he, Stacey?” Travis asked.

 

“To be honest, Orin, he's better than I would have thought at this point. Oh, don't get me wrong he won't be released for at least a week, but if he continues to show improvement we should be moving him to a semi-private room tomorrow.”

 

“Why not a private room?” Travis asked.

 

“Well, I assumed once Chris is ready they'd want to be in the same room,” Midland said.

 

“Will that make it easier or harder on your staff?”

 

“That's a good question,” Midland answered.

 

“Speaking of which...how is Chris?”

 

“Stable,” Midland answered. “Brandon is cautiously optimistic about his recovery. You know Chris never makes our lives easy when he's in here and it's even worse when he's in SICU. He's running a fever and his blood pressure is a little low.”

 

“Didn't Vin give blood?”

 

“Yes, he did and so did the rest of the team,” Midland answered and turned to walk out the door. She made her way toward a second unit and wasn't surprised to find Buck Wilmington seated on a chair next to the bed.

 

“Hey, Doc, how's Ezra?” Wilmington asked, pointedly ignoring the police officer outside Larabee's door. He knew the man was just doing his job, but the fact that Chris was considered a suspect in the 'wrongful' death of Raymond Kent fed his anger.

 

“Ezra's sleeping and I'm pretty sure I told you to go home and get some rest,” Midland told him and moved to check the injured blond.

 

“I'm just waiting for Josiah to come in,” Wilmington assured her. “Chris...”

 

“Chris isn't going anywhere, Buck, and as I said before he'll need you more when he's awake and that won't be for some time,” Midland said.

 

“I know, Doc,” Wilmington said and moved out of her way as a nurse joined her in the room.

 

“Buck, you do look like you're ready to fall over in a strong breeze,” Travis observed. “Why don't you go on home and I'll wait here for Josiah.”

 

“I am kind of tired,” Wilmington said and reluctantly left the room with a backward glance over his shoulder.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Daniel Coburn looked at the clipboard with the list of patients he needed to see today. With the loss of Raymond Kent it was up to him and the others to take up the slack until another psychiatrist was hired. He hated that it had taken two men being seriously injured to finally be rid of the man, but he hadn't wanted Kent's death. 

 

The board had called a meeting for later in the day to decide exactly how they would proceed. He'd spoken with William Lewis and knew it had been a surprise to all of them that Raymond Kent had lied and falsified the documents that proclaimed his extensive education. The man had been a fraud and from the way things looked he was behind the murders at Shady Acres.

 

The police had already spoken to most of the staff and were going over the files, but had yet to break the code into the hidden files. JD Dunne was also working to crack the codes with the board's permission, but it looked like it would take some time. In the meantime they were checking into other problems, such as the case of Brian Schneider. There were several inconsistencies in his file, one being the fact that they could find no evidence of the murders he was supposed to have committed.

 

Coburn could see Samantha Parker speaking with a nurse and Craig Styles and shuddered at the thought of the orderly who could be cruel in his care of the patients. Parker seemed angry about something, and he wondered if he could count on her help in trying to get rid of the orderly. He picked up the clipboard as she walked toward him and he knew whatever Styles had said had indeed angered her.

 

“Daniel, I'm going to go ahead with this morning's session, but I'd like your input on a couple of things,” Parker said coldly.

 

“I'll help in any way I can, Sam,” Coburn told her.

 

“I've got several of Dr. Kent's patients already scheduled this morning, but Brian Schneider and Phyllis Carrington also need to be seen today, especially Phyllis because she doesn't handle sudden changes very well and with Kent gone she will be stressed.”

 

“I can see them both this morning,” Coburn told her and reached for her arm as she turned away. “Sam, I'm not sorry for what I did.”

 

“You could have gone to the board and told them of your suspicions. Your actions made us all look guilty,” Parker said.

 

“I'm sorry you feel that way, but I didn't know who could be trusted. For all I knew one of the board members could have been involved.”

 

“I understand why you did it, Daniel, but it hurts that you thought I could be involved. My patients are the most important thing in my life and just the thought of someone like Kent treating them...God, I can't believe he wasn't even licensed to practice,” Parker said.

 

“I know, but he's dead now and we can continue treating our patients the way we are supposed to,” Coburn told her. 

 

“There are a lot of people on staff who think you betrayed our trust, Daniel,” Parker said.

 

“I know, but I'd do it again if it came down to the patients' lives.”

 

“Even if it means alienating yourself from your peers?”

 

“Yes,” Coburn answered honestly.

 

“I wish I could say I'd do the same thing, but I guess we'll never know unless I'm put in that position.”

 

“I hope you never have to find out,” Coburn said.

 

“Me too,” Parker agreed and reached for the files she'd placed on the desk. “I need to make sure everything's ready for today's sessions. I'll speak with you when I'm through...perhaps over coffee.”

 

“Sounds good, Sam, and I hope you understand that I did what I did because it was right,” Coburn said and watched her walk away. He turned to find several nurses looking in his direction and knew they were talking about him and his part in the police investigation now underway. It didn't bother him because he knew he'd done the right thing and in time the others would see it that way. It was only a matter of time.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

JD stared at the files on the computer, going through page after page of damning evidence that would ensure the records on Raymond Kent were set straight. The man had not received a full scholarship to Yale, nor had he graduated from any known university. How he'd managed to falsify so many documents seemed an impossible feat, and JD could not help but be awed at the man's ability to manipulate the people around him and make them believe his bullshit.

 

JD was alone in the office, but Josiah and Nathan would be there shortly. Buck and Vin were at the hospital, but would join them later in the afternoon. He had visited Ezra and Chris, but neither man had been awake so he'd come straight to the office to work on the files. He knew there were still several layers of hidden passwords to be hacked, and it was going to take time to get through them all, but at least now he had the cooperation of the board of directors from Shady Acres.

 

JD reached for the coffee on his desk, grimacing in distaste when he discovered it was cold. He glanced at the coffee pot and sighed heavily before moving to set it up. He looked into the fridge and pulled out the sandwich he'd picked up on the way in and bit into it as Josiah and Nathan entered.

 

“Good morning, Son, you're here early,” Sanchez said.

 

“Couldn't sleep. I stopped in to see Chris and Ezra, but they were both sleeping so I figured I'd come in and work on Kent's files,” Dunne answered.

 

“Did you find anything?” Jackson asked.

 

“Kent knew what he was doing and he knew how to hide things. He's got so many layers in his files that no one would have seen it unless they knew what they were looking for,” Dunne answered and moved to his desk.

 

“Are you going to be able to get through them all?” Sanchez asked.

 

“Hell, yes, but it might take some time. I did find something that just might prove he was behind the deaths at Shady Acres,” Dunne told them as Jackson filled three cups with coffee.

 

“Show me what you have,” Sanchez said and watched as JD opened the file he'd been working on. The names were familiar and he waited for Dunne's explanation.

 

“These are the patients Coburn told us about, but there are a couple he didn't know about.”

 

“According to that list there are at least ten patients over the last year,” Jackson said from behind Sanchez.

 

“Exactly, and I haven't even gotten into the older files,” Dunne told them.

 

“Keep working on it, JD,” Sanchez said and moved to his own desk. There were several other cases that needed his attention and he wanted to keep on top of things until they were able to get actively involved with their clients once again.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

 

Buck walked into the room where a nurse was fixing the blankets that covered Ezra Standish. The man looked paler than the sheets he lay on, but he was awake and that was something to be thankful for.

 

“Hey, Ez, you look like hell,” Wilmington said.

 

“White was never my color,” Standish told him, his voice weak as he tried to sit forward. He pressed the button on the side of the bed, but winced when the movement tugged at the tube leading into his side.

 

“Maybe you should just lie still, Ez,” the rogue suggested.

 

“Probably, but I need to know about Chris and no one will answer me,” Standish said.

 

“Ezra, they told you, but you've been so out of it you probably don't remember,” Wilmington said. “Chris is in the next room.”

 

“Why? What happened” the gambler asked worriedly, his face paling further at the thought of Chris Larabee needing to be in SICU.

 

“Kent shot him.”

 

“Kent...the doctor? Why?” Standish asked, trying unsuccessfully to make sense of his jumbled thoughts.

 

“We're pretty sure he was behind the deaths, and it looks like Chris stabbed him with a pair of scissors,” Wilmington realized his mistake as Ezra's hand went unconsciously to the wound in his chest. “Sorry, Ez, I didn't mean to remind you...”

 

“I assure you this is nothing,” Standish said.

 

“Really? Then why did they put in a chest tube? You could have died, Ezra.”

 

“What about Chris?” Standish asked, purposefully taking the attention off his own injuries.

 

“He had surgery to remove the bullet and repair the internal damage, but he hasn't been awake yet. Vin's waiting for the doctors to finish with him,” Wilmington said. He watched as the injured man's eyes closed and easily read the tension on the pale face. “Ezra, what's wrong?”

 

“What makes you think anything is wrong?”

 

“Your poker face just slipped so far south you're in danger of sunburn,” the ladies' man told him. “Spit it out, Ezra.”

 

“I do not spit,” Standish said, sighing tiredly as he shifted slightly and opened his eyes. “I...Buck, I put him in there.”

 

“No, Ezra, we put him in there. It was part of the job and Chris would be the first one to tell you he'd do it all again. It's what we do. We've all been undercover at one time or another...”

 

“Not like this.”

 

“I know this is hard, Ezra,” Wilmington said.

 

“You have no idea.”

 

“Maybe not...tell me why this one is any worse than when you went undercover in that hospital in Atlanta?”

 

“That wasn't a high end hospital that treated dangerous patients like Shady Acres,” Standish answered.

 

“No, but you were still an inpatient and you were a mess when we finally ended the case. You spent two days in the hospital because of the drugs you were given,” Wilmington said.

 

“Yes, but I was never tied down and I always had control,” Standish told him and closed his eyes. “I'm tired, Buck.”

 

“Go ahead and sleep, Ez, but don't let that guilt drag you down because it'll only take away the good you and Chris did with this case,” Wilmington said and leaned against the wall as Standish slipped toward sleep once more.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Vin stood outside the door to Chris Larabee's SICU and waited impatiently while Brandon Silverman and one of the day nurses checked the injured man. Buck was in with Ezra and he hoped their resident conman wasn't holding on to the guilt he'd seen ever since this case started. Vin leaned against the wall to the left of the door and watched as people came and went. He heard the door open and waited for Silverman to finish making notations in Larabee's chart.

 

“Hello, Vin, did you get any sleep?” Silverman asked.

 

“Slept some...how's Chris?”

 

“Well, for a man who's just had surgery to remove a bullet and is struggling with unknown drugs he's much better than I would have thought at this point. I'm beginning to believe you boys really are as tough as nails and as stubborn as Missouri bulls,” Silverman answered.

 

“Heard that a time or two,” Tanner said with a grin. “Can I see him?”

 

“Yes, but he's still out of it and the drugs in his system are still messing with his head, so be prepared for...”

 

“I know the drill, Doc,” the Texan said and walked into the room where Larabee lay amidst a jumble of leads and tubes with monitors clicking and beeping around him. He smiled at the nurse who was checking the all too familiar collection container, and winced sympathetically before moving to the head of the bed. His gaze wavered momentarily on the Velcro straps encircling Larabee's wrists and he cursed.

 

“Is there a problem?” the nurse asked.

 

“Why are you using restraints on him?”

 

“Dr. Midland ordered them when he fought treatment during the night.”

 

“I'll make sure he don't fight...take 'em off.”

 

“I'm sorry but I can't do that,” the nurse told him. This was only her third rotation in the SICU and Shawna had never these men as patients before, but she'd heard stories from the regulars and hoped she could handle them as well as the senior staff members.

 

Vin knew there was no point in arguing and took a deep breath before returning his attention to the injured blond. Larabee had that washed out look that spoke of blood loss and serious injury. He watched Larabee's face closely and knew he was on the verge of waking up as his hands clenched tightly and the eyelids flickered and finally opened.

 

“Hey, Cowboy, ya look like hell,” Tanner said.

 

“Bas...bastard...ta...take off...kill...kill brother...”

 

“Easy, Chris, you're not in Shady Acres anymore. You're in Saint Vincents. Look around...ain't no one gonna hurt ya here,” the Texan explained.

 

Chris swallowed repeatedly as he tried to make sense of everything around him. He knew the man standing beside his bed, but something was wrong. Why was he talking like this? He was going to blow his cover if he didn't shut up. Where was Ezra? Why were they using restraints? Did he do something stupid to make Kent order him restrained?

 

“Chris, listen ta me,” Tanner tried when Larabee's eyes darted wildly around the room and he struggled against straps holding him down. “The case is over. Kent's dead and it looks like he was behind the deaths. Yer out of there and ya don't have ta go back so just relax and let the nurses look after ya.”

 

“No...” Larabee muttered, but his eyes closed of their own volition and sleep quickly took him.

 

Vin ran his fingers through his disheveled hair before gently easing the blanket up over Larabee's chest and silently cursing Raymond Kent. He left the room and found Buck waiting for him just outside the door. “How's Ez?”

 

“Feels like hell and blaming himself for what happened,” Wilmington answered and nodded at the cop seated next to Larabee's door.  “How's Chris?”

 

“Still not himself, but he was awake fer a few minutes. Doc says the drugs are still affectin' him,” Tanner answered as they walked toward the elevators. There was nothing they could do here, but they could help make sure the patients who were in Shady Acres belonged there. The case of Brian Schneider was at the top of their list of priorities.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Craig Styles watched Parker working with two new patients and walked slowly toward her. Three days had passed since he'd killed Kent and shot Larabee, and things at Shady Acres were still uneasy. The investigation by the police was still an ongoing thing and played havoc with the patient's routines.

 

Parker seemed to be ignoring him and had not returned any of his calls. If that meant he'd have to confront her here, then so be it. What the hell difference did it make if the crazies heard him? They couldn't do anything and no one would believe their stories anyway. He walked up to the trio and waited for Parker to acknowledge his presence. 

 

“Melanie, why don't you go back inside and take care of your baby?”

 

“My baby is hungry,” the woman said softly and walked slowly toward the door of the building.

 

“Hey, Doc, how are things?”

 

“What do you want, Craig?” Parker asked and checked to make sure they were alone.

 

“I just wanted to touch base with you and make sure we're on the same page. You have got a lot to lose if I decide to go to the police.”

 

“Cut the crap, Craig, you and I both know you won't go to the police. After all you're the one who killed Kent and shot Larabee.”

“True, but you're the one who told me to do it and that makes you my accomplice. You're facing jail time too, Doc, and you got a lot more to lose than I do,” Styles said with a smirk. “You'd best not try to ignore my calls anymore, Doc, or I will go to the police.”

 

“Don't threaten me, Craig!” Parker warned and tried to step past the orderly, but his hand clamped onto her arm and squeezed tightly. She tried to pull away, but the man was strong and held tight until several voices reached them and she pulled her arm free.

 

“Dr. Parker, I've been looking for you. Dr. Williams would like a word with you in his office,” Carl Sheppard told her and silently cursed the fact they'd been forced to bring Styles in on their plans. “Do we pay you to stand around while you're on the clock, Styles?”

 

“I was just talking with Dr. Parker.”

 

“We don't pay you to talk. I'm sure the nurses have need of your assistance,” Sheppard snapped and saw the anger in the man's eyes before he stormed off.

 

“Tell me your friend will take care of that bastard soon,” Parker spat.

 

“Marcus has everything set and if the timing is right Craig Styles will be out of the picture by tomorrow,” Sheppard told her.

 

“Good riddance,” the therapist said.

 

“Did you take care of Kent's files?”

 

“Don't worry, Carl, Kent pretty well nailed himself and it didn't take much to put the finishing touch on everything. If all goes well we should be free and clear by the end of the week.”

 

“What about the money from Jacob...from Larabee?”

 

“What about it?”

 

“What are we going to do with it?”

 

“We're going to hold onto it until the heat is off and then we'll simply retire to a warmer climate,” Parker said with a grin as she spotted Daniel Coburn and Katrina Morgan walking in the garden. “I'd love to do something about that sonofabitch too, but we're better off leaving him to his bimbo.”

 

“The board has elected to let him take Kent's role,” Sheppard said.

 

“That figures. Look, just hang tight for a little longer and once everything is cooled off I'll split the money and you can do whatever you want with your share,” Parker said and made her way toward the main door as Sheppard headed toward the path leading to the gate.

 

 

PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 5 / PART 6 / PART 7 / PART 8  / PART 10 / PART 11

 

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