A/N: I know, I know. I've slacked off big time on this fic. But I picked it up one day and felt inspired. I've been in school for what seems an eternity. Fortunately for me, I graduate very soon. :)
Hospital staff was lined up in front of the television hanging in the corner of the emergency room like a row of owls, each wearing expressions of shock and dismay. Jesse was a popular doctor, well-known for his good looks and friendly demeanor, as well as his complete dedication to treating patients and helping others obtain some form of justice alongside Amanda and the Sloans.
Amanda stood with Mark behind the nurses' station, eyes downcast at the paperwork before her, but she could not retain or see any of the words. She shook her head, feeling as though she wanted to crawl out of her skin and find a way to escape the hideous reality that had become her life. "This news coverage is horrible, Mark."
Mark was studying the screen with a hawkish intensity, allowing his eyes to scan the pictures and the programmed closed captioning dialogue. "It's sick, really. Have you seen the outside of the hospital? Reporters are creeping out from every crack in the earth's surface."
She refused to look up, almost as if the very sight of the press's morbid fascination with Jesse's abduction made her physically ill. "Just a week ago, none of these people gave a damn about him, and now all of a sudden he's been plastered all over the news because of those Los Zetas …thugs."
Mark nodded silently as she pressed her hands into her face.
"What are we going to do if we can't get Jesse back safe?" she grieved.
"Don't think like that, Amanda. We can't stand to lose hope, because it is all we have right now."
She huffed a frustrated sigh and tossed the stack away from her grasp. "I can't think straight."
He grimaced, worry creasing his features. "I know, honey. But Steve's talking with Captain Newman about getting into contact with this gang and negotiating their demands."
She turned, her large doe eyes widened in shock. "The United States government is actually considering answering their ransom demands?"
"Oh, I doubt that, but they'll want to find any way to communicate so we can start somewhere."
Their conversation was interjected by someone bursting through the entrance noisily—Steve storming through like an angry bull ready to bowl over anyone who happened to be in his way. "Dad!"
"Steve, what's going on?" Mark asked, feeling his insides pull with nervous anticipation. Amanda's hand gripped her colleague's shoulder anxiously.
"Interpol in Tijuana has made contact with the person registered under the YouTube account that posted the ransom video."
"What?" the two doctors both said, wearing matching faces etched in surprise.
Steve continued. "The account was created with an email address found to be phony, but the Interpol agents managed to get this person to call them. He was using a Tracfone which essentially leads us to a dead end, but the agents were able to triangulate their approximate location."
"So they know where Jesse is?" Amanda said, relieved.
"Not exactly." Steve rubbed the back of his neck briefly. "They'll only be able to isolate the possible area of this person using the phone. There's no way for us to know if he is anywhere near Jesse."
"But he will lead us in the right direction if we're able to find him," Mark said, finding that the tiny seedling of hope that had begun to wither away begin to blossom once again.
"Well, what did this person have to say when Interpol communicated with him?"
"Los Zetas want $100 million for Jesse's safe return."
Mark and Amanda glanced at each other, then back to Steve. "They can't be serious."
"Unfortunately they are being very serious, Dad. Apparently, they were under the impression that Jesse is living on a mountain of money."
"So what now?" Amanda whispered, worrying her bottom lip.
Steve pressed his fingertips into the desk and loomed over the forgotten paperwork. "I'll be flying to Tijuana to meet up with Interpol and Mexican authorities."
Mark responded quickly, "I'm going with."
His son's face melted into a familiar look of exasperation. "Dad, it's too dangerous."
"Son, I've put myself into some deadly situations and I have always managed to find my way back out. I think I'll be okay."
Jesse had been sleeping for at least five or six hours, he'd wager, by the looks of the darkness outside. His eyelids parted to reveal a darkened, briefly unfamiliar room, until his head began to throb and he realized he hadn't had anything to eat or drink in twelve hours. What was perhaps more frustrating than the unquenchable thirst was that he could not remember falling to sleep. His last conscious memory was staring at the small basement window that allowed a brick-sized view of the scorching Mexican sky through, then behind his shoulder at the thick wooden door. Then nothing, that is until he awoke to this scene before him.
Jesse tested his hands and noticed with relief that he'd been freed from the handcuffs, and that he was finally able to stand and get a better view of the room—maybe find a way to escape somehow. Before he moved to his feet, he decided it would be a wise idea to take stock of his injuries, so he touched his pounding head. His fingers slowly and tenderly cradled the wounds, then pressed the swollen contusions to measure the severity of them as he made his own assessment despite being unable to see the damage.
Two blows to the head. It was a miracle he'd awoken at all. The bump on the back of his skull felt like it had reduced in size and had stopped bleeding. The strands of his hair around the wound were matted with dried blood.
Jesse brought his hand to the area approximately three inches above his right ear, and he could tell right away that the injury was the more troublesome one. The blow was to the parietal lobe, and this explained the periods of confusion he'd underwent when returning to consciousness. He touched the inside of his ear and was dismayed with the feel of sticky congealed blood pooled on the inside. Perfect indicator of a concussion.
He held up his hand and stared at it, moving his fingers one-by-one to test the strength in the motions. Patients with right-sided parietal lobe injuries often had trouble with movement of the left side, and would have distorted perception and reduction or even loss of emotional stimuli. He noticed that the room danced when he moved his head and with eye movement, but it appeared that he'd lucked out when considering how bad the head injury could have been.
Jesse rolled to his left as gently as possible and pushed himself up into a sitting position, and quickly discovered that his equilibrium did not agree with the sudden movement after lying flat on his back for several hours. The world before him spun crazily and agitated his already empty, ravaged stomach. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed the sensation to pass, and after a few minutes was not disappointed.
Finally, he opened his eyes and surveyed the room from an upright view and noticed that the room was dark and the air heavy with the smell of recent drug use. The moonlight trickling in from the window only allowed enough illumination to keep him from running into things and the size of the thing probably wouldn't allow his head to pass through. The room itself was meagerly furnished, with a bucket in a corner, a chair, and few non-descript, empty candy packages strewn on the dirt floor.
Great, he thought with a biting sarcasm. So kind of them to leave us some wrappers to chew on while they keep us down here.
He was struck by his thoughts, remembering suddenly that he was alone, and the weariness for his misfortune turned into cold dread. Dezi was still gone. He could remember fragments of her screaming, but he'd been struck in the side of the head at the time, so the past several hours were spotty on details. Just the idea of her being in the hands of the gang members for such a long time sent his thoughts into a frenzy of worry.
Jesse stumbled to his feet, stood to his fullest height, and turned toward the door. He teetered dangerously to the right when his vision swam, but he pushed a hand out and steadied himself against the nearby wall.
He shuffled clumsily toward the door, feeling his knee twinge and his back protest. He jiggled the knob, but realized quickly that it locked from the outside. "Of course," he said out loud in a gravelly voice. He swallowed down a creeping sense of nausea, then moved toward the window, hoping that despite its size, he could do something.
Jesse positioned the rickety folding chair next to the wall and pulled himself to the open space. The opening was not protected by a plane of glass, but he was right in his assumption—he'd never fit himself through the tiny space. He reached out and touched the ground outside, feeling around for a moment, when a clattering outside the door to the basement startled him.
He nearly toppled off of the chair, but managed to climb down safely. He placed it in the middle of the room and sat in it, just as the door swung open and five or six young men sauntered in, appearing smug and predatory—guns held tightly in their grasps.
Amanda was adamant about jet-setting across the border into Baja California with Mark and Steve, but the doctor had gently taken her arm and had given her a soft look with his soulful, ice-blue eyes. She knew before he said a word that he would disagree with her reasoning, but in her mind all she could see was the battered form of one of her closest friends graced on the national news.
Jesse Travis, the newest, most searched for media sensation on the internet. Overnight the younger man with the charming, boyish grin and adorable blond locks had gone from an everyday emergency room doctor to the favorite subject of ravenous news reports. And they were in Los Angeles, the location of at least one of the most gluttonous hubs for this kind of news in the entire country.
The last time she'd seen him was when he'd been shamelessly flirting with the ladies at the admit desk. He was oblivious to Amanda's presence until she had reached through his line of sight for a large manila folder and he had been forced to acknowledge her. She remembered simply laughing at how boisterous and animated his reaction had been to her interruption.
Amanda shook her head, allowing tears to spring loose and trail down her cheeks. "Mark," she said in a voice trapped inside a tightened throat. "It's Jesse. I have to be there."
Mark's expression softened and he wrapped her in a comforting hug. "Amanda, what would your boys do if something happened that was out of your control? Look at what happened to Jesse! We can't say that it'll never happen to either one of us."
"I know, but he needs as much support from us as we can give. I mean, I'll feel like a sitting duck waiting in LA for news. How will I be any good to CJ and Dion if I can hardly concentrate? They're better off staying at my mom's then seeing me worry and looking like a train wreck. No, I want to go, Mark."
Mark pulled away and studied the woman for a few seconds, then nodded in a way that conveyed the absolute seriousness of the situation. She'd been in countless perilous circumstances that put her life at risk, and she'd managed to emerge from most of them without a scratch. "Okay. If this is what you need to do, Amanda, then I won't stop you, but I still think that it is best for you to stay here."
Five hours later, Amanda, Mark, and Steve had round-trip tickets in hand for a two-week stay in Tijuana. Interpol officials, Mexican authorities, and agents from the Department of Defense would be meeting with the three as soon as the plane touched down and released its passengers to their respective gates, where they would discuss how to find the location of the Los Zetas hideout, and there they would hopefully find the young doctor alive.
So...let me know how you like it. Thanks for reading!