It's the final chapter! I'm going to miss the tension of waiting to see if FF will actually let me load a chapter and the excitement of reading reviews. Thanks so much to all of you who've given me support and feedback, especially Sam1, Whirlgirl and Loopstagirl. Bee
Back in Kansas news of Virgil's rescue had come via the FBI agent stationed in the house. The delight of the family was tempered by the news that Virgil was being airlifted to hospital, but at least he was out of the hands of his captors and back with his father. It was a long wait for news. Agent Stevens passed on the bits of information he got from the hospital and Jeff had made a quick call to tell them what was going on. But he didn't want to leave Virgil for more than a minute and so the waiting had continued. Gordon and Alan raced around happily, but Scott, John and Grandma needed to actually speak to Virgil before truly believing that everything was going to be alright.
Once Virgil had been checked over by his doctor, Jeff put in the long-awaited call home. Virgil was too tired to say much, but everyone else chattered away, expressing their joy and relief at his return. Jeff spoke at some length to his mother, but it was Scott who kept him on the line the longest, begging to be allowed to come to the hospital. His brief conversation with his brother obviously hadn't been enough to convince him that Virgil was really okay. Jeff had considered it, thinking that Scott would be invaluable in helping his traumatised brother, then decided against it. He'd just got Virgil back; he couldn't cope with the prospect of Scott travelling halfway across the country on his own. Even Grandma's support for the idea hadn't changed his mind. Promising to call again in the morning he said goodbye to his sullen eldest son, allowing him a few last words with a rapidly fading Virgil.
It wasn't long before Virgil drifted off to sleep once more. But the deep peace of his unconscious state was long gone. There was little sleep for Jeff that night as he watched Virgil toss and turn, muttering restlessly. Three times he had to jump from his chair to comfort his son when he awoke from nightmares. When morning came they were both exhausted.
The door opened and Agent Adams strolled in. Virgil looked at him with the wary look that now came automatically into his eyes whenever he saw a stranger. Jeff had seen it when the medical staff came in and it made him feel guilty. How often had he wished that Virgil didn't have Lucy's eyes? Well, he thought bitterly, he'd got his wish now. Lucy had never had that look of fear and suspicion, something he was immensely thankful for. But it devastated him to see it in the eyes of his son.
Adams walked up to the bed and smiled down at Virgil. The boy flinched nervously, looking at his father for reassurance. Jeff put a hand on his arm.
"Virgil, this is Agent Adams. He helped find you."
"Thank you." Virgil tried to smile but from the hesitant flicker of his lips it seemed as if he'd forgotten how.
"Hello, Virgil, I'm glad to see you looking better. I've got someone outside who wants to talk to you. Do you feel up to it?"
Jeff looked at him in surprise. He'd spoken to Adams earlier and they'd agreed that Virgil needed more time to recover before the inevitable questioning. He was even more surprised when Adams winked at him.
Virgil had closed his eyes wearily and hadn't responded.
"Well, I guess I'll send your brother home then. It's a pity when he's made such an effort to get here." Adams walked back to the door and opened it.
Virgil's eyes shot open and he looked over to the door as Scott walked in. His eyes lit up and Jeff, despite his shock, was thrilled to see a glimpse of the old Virgil.
Scott raced to the bed and hugged his brother, telling him over and over how glad he was to see him, passing on messages from John, Gordon, Alan and Grandma. Virgil could barely get a word in, but his delight was obvious.
"Hope you don't mind, Jeff. " Adams said. "Agent Stevens was leaving the house in Kansas and he caught Scott loading up his car to drive up here. Your mother could see that there was no talking him out of it so we thought you wouldn't mind if we flew him up. It might help Virgil and you look like you could do with a break too."
No, Jeff thought, watching his sons' joyful reunion, he didn't mind at all. For the first time in four days he felt at peace.
Scott finally released his brother and settled him back down against the pillows. He looked across at Adams who reached into his pocket and handed him something.
"I thought you might like this back," Scott smiled down at his brother.
It was Virgil's watch. Scott fastened it around his right wrist, careful not to disturb the IV. It hung loosely and for the first time Scott looked properly at him, distressed by how thin and pale he looked. But the smile on Virgil's face as he gazed first at his treasured watch, then at his brother, reassured Scott. John's dark mutterings about post-traumatic stress had panicked him after his initial joy at the news of his brother's rescue and he'd been desperate to see him. When his father had called the previous evening and allowed them to speak to Virgil, he'd waited impatiently as Gordon and Alan had chattered away, anxious to speak to his brother himself. When he finally got the chance to speak, he had expected to feel relieved, but instead, Virgil's lack of response and tired, strained voice just added to his worry. Even though he'd known that it was totally impractical to try to drive all the way to the hospital and that Virgil would probably have been released by the time he'd got there, he'd thought he'd go crazy if he just sat around at home. When the FBI agent had stopped him, he'd been so frustrated. He hadn't been able to contain his joy when Grandma had told him he'd be flying out to his brother. He knew that Virgil needed him now more than ever and he was determined not to let his brother down again.
After another forty eight hours Virgil was discharged. Jeff was keen to get him back to Kansas as quickly as possible and away from the prying eyes of the press, who had besieged the small hospital. He'd finally given a press conference hoping that this would satisfy their hunger, but a few more persistent reporters still hung around. Photographers remained a problem, desperate for the heart-warming father and son picture which Jeff was adamant they wouldn't get. Virgil was still too fragile to cope with any press attention.
Jeff thought back to the previous afternoon. Agent Adams had questioned Virgil gently about his experiences, but it had still been traumatic for the boy. He'd tried his best to stay calm, but he'd become terribly distressed when he'd described how Mike had died. Scott had moved to sit on the bed at that point and had pulled his brother close, whispering words of encouragement.
When he'd described the making of the tape Virgil had broken down. Shame and guilt were too much for him and he began to sob. Adams had left the room for a while to give him time to recover.
"Sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." Virgil sobbed. Jeff did what he could to comfort him.
"It's alright, Virgil. You don't have anything to be sorry about."
"But I should have been braver. I should have..."
"Look at me, Virgil," Jeff said, tilting Virgil's face to his. "You're barely twelve years old. Even a grown man would have been terrified."
"Scott wouldn't," Virgil gasped between sobs.
"What?" Scott was genuinely surprised. Did his little brother really think that highly of him? "I'd have done the same, Virg. "
"No you wouldn't. You wouldn't have cried."
"Yes I would. I've cried so much these last few days I doubt my pillow's dried out yet. I kept thinking about how mean I've been to you lately. I felt so bad."
"Really?" The sobs had become less desperate.
"Really. You're the bravest person I know. You don't have to be ashamed of anything. Right, dad?"
"Right." Jeff patted Virgil's shoulder. "I'm proud of you, son. You're alive and back with us. That's all that matters."
The questioning had eventually continued and Jeff had been even prouder of his son when he described how he'd tried to escape. Scott had praised his brother too and Virgil began to look happier. Jeff thought that talking about what had happened had been good for him. He'd certainly had enough people advising him to arrange counselling as soon as they got home. Virgil would get all the help he needed, but Jeff knew that what he needed most was to be back with his brothers.
If Virgil's birthday had been a great celebration, it was nothing compared to his homecoming. Still mindful of the press Jeff had vetoed a family reunion at the airport, so it wasn't until they arrived at the house that they were all together once more. Gordon and Alan flung themselves at their brother, nearly knocking him over. Luckily Scott and Jeff had placed supporting hands on Virgil's shoulders and they kept him upright. John and Grandma were a little more restrained, but they too joined in the hug. For a few minutes there was just a confused jumble of Tracys, then Grandma broke free and took charge, frowning at her grandson's gaunt appearance. She took Virgil's hand and led him into the kitchen where a feast second only to that seen at Christmas awaited.
Virgil's physical recovery was rapid, but his return to emotional stability took longer. There were some difficult times. A few days after his return Jeff had been panicked by the sound of a wail like an animal in pain. Rushing out to the garden he saw Virgil backed up against a wall, shaking, whilst Gordon and Alan stood in front of him, plastic guns and cowboy hats thrown to the ground, desperately apologising and begging their brother to calm down. No one played with toy guns after that.
On the day of Mike's funeral, attended by Jeff and Scott, Virgil locked himself in his room, only opening the door when Scott returned and threatened to break it down. He'd spent the day drawing frantically, ignoring the blisters which formed on his fingers, filling page after page with scenes from the kidnapping. So many that Scott thought that if he put the pictures together and flicked through them he'd find himself watching an animated version of Virgil's experiences.
The pictures had disturbed Jeff, but Agent Adams had been pleased to have them to use at the trial, though he was hoping it wouldn't be necessary. There was plenty of evidence against the three conspirators. Dan and Mike had been caught red-handed and Lena had confessed, realising that her only hope was a reduced sentence for co-operating. She'd returned the money – it nearly killed her, but she knew she'd never get to spend it. The three of them were left in no doubt that if they went to trial Virgil's tape would cause so much revulsion on the part of judge and jury that they could wave goodbye to any hope of leniency. Jeff was also keen to avoid a trial, anxious to save his son the trauma of testifying and the humiliation of having his breakdown broadcast to the world. Fortunately, all three conspirators saw sense and gave themselves up to the mercy of the judge. But there wasn't much to be had. Luke and Lena were jailed for twenty-five years. Dan, Mike's murderer, received a thirty –five year sentence.
John had told Scott that he didn't expect a happy ending and he was partly right. It would take a long time for Virgil to fully recover from all that had happened to him – and even in later years there would be moments when the memories would come rushing back. There would be setbacks – panic attacks, tears and nightmares - but with his family's help he slowly regained his shattered confidence, showing the spirit and determination which would be so valuable to International Rescue in years to come.
Virgil still has a way to go to recover completely, but that's another story...