She didn't remember screeching the Suburban to a stop.

She didn't remember flipping the keys to the Captain.

And she didn't remember flying across the parking lot and squeezing through the closing doors of the Emergency Room entrance.

Heads turned to the rapid slapping of leather soles as the petite figure in a leather jacket hurled

down the hallway, her blonde hair flying behind her.

Alex came up behind the rapidly moving ambulance attendants who were pushing her partner on a stretcher. Her thoughts were a tumble of fear and near panic.

How could this have happened in such a short time?

It was for good reason she and the Captain had driven all night to get to Tates Correctional Facility. Alex's face had been as if carved in stone as they met with the prison warden. If she hadn't shut down most of her emotions, she would have leapt across the desk and slapped that smug holier-than-thou expression off the warden's face. Thank God Ross had done the talking.

Every one of Alex's nerves began jangling as they left the warden's office to await Goren's release in the entrance hall. She knew they were going to catch the crap big-time for this and she began bracing herself for the blast to come. But right now she was mostly relieved that Bobby was going to be out of this hell hole.

Alex and Ross waited less than patiently in the prison entrance for the paper work to be finished. Ross said nothing, just paced, the clip of his feet on the marble floor echoing in the silence. Alex knew he was working on a plan to mitigate the damage of the situation, and at the same time he was starting a slow boil over Goren's actions. His scowl was an easy tell.

Time dragged on. Forty-five minutes later, the warden's assistant came to tell them there was "a bit of a problem". William Brady, as she knew him, had become ill and was being taken by ambulance to the local hospital.

What the...?

The assistant handed Alex a paper bag containing the clothes and items Goren had been carrying when he was arrested and recommended they follow the ambulance.

Alex's concern about the impending disciplinary actions dissolved into worried confusion. She wouldn't have been surprised if he'd reacted to some prison food, although he could eat Italian food in all amounts and forms and only need the occasional antacid. Surely that didn't call for an ambulance? No, something more serious had happened behind those grim walls.

Alex and the Captain left the cold brick building and stepped into the warm brightening morning. Alex shivered, rubbing her hands together as she headed for the Suburban's driver's seat. They waited across the street from the service entrance. She'd be happy if she never saw this place again. The gate opened and the ambulance slowly left the prison grounds. Alex glanced at Ross and was unable to hide the distress on her face. Even Ross looked unhappy. Alex pulled in behind the ambulance.

The worry she'd felt when Goren had not checked in by phone yesterday had been steadily growing until they knew he was being released. But now she was alarmed.

Goren had entered the prison specifically to find out if inmates were being mistreated, even tortured, in the Mental Observation unit. Alex was certain he had discovered the answer. His instincts were seldom wrong. This time his method of getting his answers was.

The Suburban closely matched the steady pace of the ambulance till suddenly the ambulance accelerated away from them. Its siren and flashing lights switched on seconds later. The increasing pitch of the ambulance siren matched the adrenaline pumping into Alex's bloodstream. Her face went blank and she automatically straightened, flicked on her own flashing light and accelerated. In less than a minute they pulled into the hospital's Emergency entrance.

And now as she reached her partner's side, a wave of shock hit her hard. She felt her face go cold. She kept her mask in place to anyone observing her, but couldn't ignore her physiological reaction at the sight of him.

Robert Goren lay on the stretcher, eyes closed. His face was deeply flushed and through the transparent oxygen mask she could see his lips were badly cracked and bloody. He was clothed in stained dark green prison clothing. He hadn't shaved since the last time she'd seen him and his short prison-cut hair was matted to his head from dried sweat. She could hardly believe what she was seeing. Something awful had happened.

She stammered, not knowing what to say. "Bobby, you're okay. You're in the hospital. You're out of Tates."

And then she choked out the words, "I'm here". She hoped he would know who "I" was. Most importantly she wanted to get across to him that he was safe and wasn't alone. Someone he could trust was taking care of things.

Although his eyes didn't open, his face turned towards her voice. Alex's own face drew up in a swift wince which was quickly replaced by her emotionless mask.

She followed closely as they wheeled him into the trauma room where several nurses and doctors seemed to appear from nowhere. It took six of them to transfer the limp Goren from the ambulance stretcher, which under different circumstances would have amused her. The ambulance attendants were reporting stats to the hospital staff who were in constant motion as they listened; one cutting off Goren's shirt, one swiftly attaching heart monitor leads to his broad exposed chest, another substituting a nasal cannula for the oxygen mask, and another searching for a vein for an intravenous line. Beep, beep, beep.

"He's left-handed", Alex volunteered, thinking it would be better for the IV to be in his right arm.

"That's okay" was the reply, "We're not going to get a vein in his arm anyway. He's too dehydrated".

The doctor looked over her shoulder at Alex. "Are you his wife?"

"No", replied Alex, "his partner." absently reaching down to tap her badge. But it wasn't on her belt.

"Close enough."

Fine, thought Alex, I'll play whatever it takes to get what I want.

"Any allergies or medications?"

Alex quickly thought and replied "Only a cat allergy". Other than the occasional analgesic, over the counter or over the bar, she had never seen him take anything in the eight years she'd been with him.

"Any non-prescription drug use?"


"Where is the prison detail?" the doctor asked the ambulance attendants.

"He's an undercover cop" replied the driver.

"Yes?" queried the doctor with another quick glance over her shoulder at Alex, her attention more on her stethoscope against Goren's chest.

"Yes" replied Alex.

"Does anyone know what's been happening to this man?" The doctor's voice was raised and urgent, questioning the ambulance attendants hovering near the door.

Then the doctor was again turning towards Alex and asking "Are you all right?" Alex stared at the doctor as her vision narrowed and darkened to everything except the doctor's face.

Beep, beep, beep.