Quietly Pitt sat next to his son, holding his hand tightly. He would have to leave soon to testify at the trial against Hatch. For several hours now he had replayed his options in his head about what he should do. If he'd testify, he would never get the antidote. Hatch would be in prison, but his son would most likely be dead. Sandecker had told him to believe in Dirk's strength to fight this and in the capability of NUMA's scientists, who were still working on developing an antidote of their own. But Dirk didn't have much time anymore. For the last few hours, Pitt had watched him slowly fading away. He had only regained consciousness a few times and then only for a few minutes. And each time Pitt had seen in his eyes the pain his son was in.
His only other choice was to not testify. Then Hatch would give him the antidote and Dirk would live. If Hatch held onto his promise. He wasn't exactly the most trustworthy person in the world. And he would walk. The states attorney had made that clear – Pitt was their main witness. If he didn't testify, they wouldn't have enough proof to convict Hatch and he would be a free man.
Pitt took a deep breath and glanced at his watch. He was already running late. He would have to leave now if he wanted to make it to the trial in time. Suddenly he noticed a twitch in his hand. When he looked at his son's face, he saw his eyes open.
"Hey son." He said smiling. He didn't want Dirk to see his worry.
Dirk raised his hand to remove the oxygen mask from his mouth and nose. "Shouldn't you be at the trial?" He whispered in a weak voice.
"You shouldn't worry about that, Dirk. You only concentrate on getting better." Pitt replied, squeezing his hand.
"You have to go, Dad. I …" He paused and winced at an unseen pain. After taking a deep breath, he continued. "I don't want to be the reason he gets free."
"Dirk, you …"
"Promise me, Dad." Dirk needed all his strength to keep his eyes open, but he fought hard to stay awake. He wanted his father to testify against Hatch. He had never wanted to be a burden for his father and he wouldn't start now. He knew how much getting Hatch behind bars meant to his father … he didn't want to be responsible for him staying out of prison.
Pitt stared at his son for a long moment. He didn't know what to do. Dirk had never asked for anything since they had met. This was the first time … and he had practically asked him to rather watch him die than let a guilty man walk free. But how was he supposed to give such a promise?
"Please, Dad. Promise ..." Dirk tried to take another breath, but had trouble breathing. Pitt saw his son's struggle and quickly placed the oxygen mask back over his face.
"Take some deep breaths. Okay … better?" Worried Pitt looked at his son.
Dirk only nodded. He didn't think he was strong enough to talk anymore. Pleadingly he looked at his father.
Slowly Pitt nodded. He couldn't watch his son die, but he couldn't deny him this plea either. He had to believe that NUMA would find the antidote in time. "I'll testify. But you promise me that you fight this, all right? Don't let me regret this."
Dirk gave him a small smile, then he closed his eyes again and Pitt could feel his son's grasp of his hand loosen. He had slipped back into unconsciousness.
Determinedly Al Giordino stood in front of Thomas Hatch's house. For the last two days he had watched his friend do everything in his power to safe his son. The last time he had spoken to him it had looked like Pitt was close to give up. But that couldn't be. Dirk Pitt never gave up. And he would make sure that would never happen.
He checked for his gun again, then he began walking toward the house with quick steps. He didn't bother to sneak into the house; he simply burst through the front door and walked straight to Hatch's office. When he saw Hatch sitting behind his desk, he quickly closed the door behind him and put a chair in front of it, right under the knob. This way it would take his security men at least a few minutes longer to get into the room. And a few minutes was all he needed.
"What do you want? Who are you?" Hatch asked. He tried to hide the worry from his voice. The man in front of him looked angry, very angry. And he held a gun straight to his face.
"I want the antidote and you are going to give it to me." Al said calmly.
Hatch let out a small chuckle. "This is getting old. I already had this visit from your friend. And I can only tell you what I told him: I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."
"You might have gotten away with this when Pitt was here. But the difference between me and my friend is that I've got nothing to lose." With a grim smile, Al pulled the trigger and shot Hatch in the arm.
"Argh, shit, are you crazy?" Hatch yelled, holding his arm tightly.
"You're gonna give me the antidote now or do I have to prove to you how serious I am?" Al smirked. "There are a lot more bullets in this gun."
Furiously Hatch glared at him. He wanted to give him a smug remark, but at the same time he knew he had lost. He was sure this man wouldn't hesitate to shoot him until he was bleeding to death. He closed his eyes for a second, then he pushed a button under his desk. On a wall on his right, a picture sprung to the side, revealing a safe behind it.
Satisfied Al motioned Hatch to open the safe. He never took down his gun down while Hatch opened the safe and took out a small vial.
"This is it." Hatch said through clenched teeth. He put the vial down on a nearby table and returned to a desk. He refused to look at the other man again. He didn't want to see the satisfaction on his face. Pitt and his friend might have won this round, but it wasn't over. Even from the prison, he would get his revenge.
Al didn't hesitate a second. He grabbed the vial and walked out of the office.
Slowly Pitt walked up the stairs to the court building. Again and again the image of his son flashed through his mind. He hadn't regained consciousness again before he'd have to leave. With every breath he had taken, he had felt his son slipping away. He got weaker with every passing minute. Pitt knew that his son didn't have much more time. If he would turn around now, he would get the antidote within the next hour. An anonymous caller had assured him this shortly after he had left the hospital. And if he'd testify, it could take days before NUMA's scientists developed an antidote of their own and he knew in his heart that Dirk didn't have that much time left.
Letting out a frustrated breath, Pitt stopped walking up the stairs. He couldn't do it. He couldn't risk his son's life just to get Thomas Hatch in prison. Despite the promise he had given Dirk, despite the principles he had lived by his whole life, he couldn't go on with this. He closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath. Then he turned around and walked down the stairs again, determined to get back to the hospital and wait for Hatch to keep to his word and deliver the antidote. He could hear someone calling his name from above ... probably Gordon Mitchell, the states attorney. He didn't care. It wasn't that he didn't care about getting the bad guy into prison, he just didn't care about it as much as he cared for his children. Keeping them safe was the most important thing in his life now. For the first time he realized what it really meant to be a part of a family. The feeling was overwhelming and comforting and scary at the same time. But if letting Hatch walk meant to keep his family safe, then that's what he was going to do.
When his phone rang, he stopped in his tracks. For a second he thought about not even checking who it was. The most likely one to call him right now was the States Attorney, asking why the hell he wasn't in the court building right now. Or it was the hospital, telling him that his son ... He shook his head. He couldn't continue this thought, not even in his mind. Taking another deep breath, he picked up his phone. "Yes?"
"Finally. Pitt, I got the antidote. Don't ask me how, you don't want to know. But I got it and I'm almost at the hospital."
Stunned Pitt listened to his friend's words. "Al, what ... how?"
"Go testify, Pitt. I take care of your son."
When Al had ended the phone call, Pitt stood for a moment on the stairs, trying to comprehend what his friend had just told him. He had the antidote. Dirk would live. And he could testify and get Hatch into prison. With a determined smile, Pitt turned around and walked up the stairs again, meeting a very surprised looking District Attorney waiting for him.
"What was that about?" Gordon Mitchell asked.
"Nothing. So, when do I get to testify?"
The day Thomas Hatch got sentenced to 15 years in prison, Dirk got released from hospital. He was still a bit shaky, but all traces of the poison had left his body and he was regaining his strength quickly. As she had promised him, Summer took him out to the nearest restaurant for a real meal. Al had already returned to the Sea Spirit to finish the tests for his new submarine and Dirk Pitt sen. had gotten his first week of vacation in years. And he was intend to spend every day of it with his family.
A.N.: Thank you all for your kind reviews. They have been very encouraging and helpful. I was always very nervous about posting a new chapter and your comments made this a lot easier. I hope you like this last chapter. Thank you very much for reading.