Stacey Midland knew there'd be no keeping Chris Larabee in the hospital and took a deep breath before opening the door. She entered to find Chris seated in the chair beside the window and waited for him to realize he was no longer alone.
"Morning, Doc, do you have my walking papers?" Larabee asked with a grin.
"As a matter of fact I do, but you do realize this is against my better judgment?"
"I hear you, but you said yourself that the fever is gone and my blood pressure is normal," Larabee told her. "Besides, you need this bed for someone who is really sick."
"Actually, we've had a few discharges this morning so we have a…"
"Hell, Doc, don't keep me in here," Larabee groused.
"I won't, but I want your word that if you notice any changes you'll get back here. That means any pain in your abdomen, Chris, because that was a serious wound and the danger of infection is still present," Midland warned.
"I will, Doc. Hell, Nathan will be hovering like a mother hen when he's not at the office," Larabee told her as the door opened.
"So, is he getting out of here or do I have to work today?"
"Hello, Josiah, he's ready to go, but there are several scripts and discharge instructions at the desk," Midland said and turned back to her patient. "You take it easy, Chris, and don't be afraid to call if you have any questions or concerns."
"I will, Doc," Larabee said, relieved that he was finally being released. He waited for Midland to leave and reached for the clothes on the bed before looking at the older man.
"Need some help, Chris?"
"Wouldn't mind," the blond said and was soon dressed in the lightweight tracksuit Wilmington had dropped off for him the day before.
"Your chariot awaits," Sanchez said when JD and an orderly entered the room.
"I got your scripts and discharge papers, Chris," Dunne said.
"Thanks, JD, are you ready for babysitting duties?" Larabee asked.
"No, but I'm ready to help you," the Bostonian offered.
"Lead on," Larabee said once he was settled in the chair. He knew the others would gladly stay with him, but right now this was something him and JD both needed.
Francis Jacobs smiled as the door was opened and he was motioned inside. He knew Jean Claud Rousseau would welcome the news he was about to impart and that things were about to heat up for JD Dunne and Chris Larabee. He placed the pizza on the table and pulled out a bottle of champagne.
"What are we celebrating, Francis?" Rousseau asked.
"I believe your freedom and maybe a little redemption."
"My freedom means nothing until Chris Larabee is dead and John Daniel and I are safely out of this country."
"That may happen sooner than expected, Jean Claud."
"You have news?"
"Larabee was released from the hospital this morning and I believe John Daniel will be staying with him at his ranch."
"Are you sure?"
"That's what I understood from the cleaner. She overheard the nurses talking and it didn't take much to get her to talk about Larabee. It seems the man is well known for his stays in the hospital."
"Here's hoping this was his last stay and that the next visit is a more permanent one in the morgue," Rousseau explained.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this, Jean Claud? Wouldn't it be better to forget Larabee and Dunne…"
"No, JD Dunne is one of my greatest achievements and I am not willing to let him go. We need to make plans to pay a visit to Larabee's ranch."
"What about his team? They will not give up on finding us once Larabee is dead and you take Dunne with you?"
"His team won't know where to look if we play our cards right. I have several identities set up and as long as you have the plane fueled and ready we can leave as soon as Larabee is dead."
"Are you sure you can convince John Daniel to kill Larabee?"
"Of course…if it hadn't been for those bastards in Providence, John Daniel would have killed Larabee and we could have left the country with him and Penny. I wish there was some way to bring her along, but for now I am content with John Daniel. He will be my greatest success."
"I hope you're right, but I still think Larabee's team could be a problem."
"If they are then we will take care of them," Rousseau vowed.
"When do we move on the ranch?"
"Tonight…I want you to have the plane ready for takeoff first thing in the morning," Rousseau said.
"You're taking a big chance," Jacobs said.
"Not when you weigh the possibilities, Francis. I need to prove to my former clients that I can still provide the service I promised. It is a matter of honor now," Rousseau snapped.
"Sometimes honor is not what it's cracked up to be, my friend," Jacobs said.
"Sometimes honor is all we have," Rousseau said. "Pick me up around nine and we'll move on the Larabee ranch tonight. Make sure you bring my supplies since young John Daniel might need a little cocktail to make him susceptible to my whims again."
"I'll bring it…the plane is ready and we can leave as soon as you give the word," Jacobs said and knew there was no changing this man's mind.
Chris relaxed in the comfort of his home, settled against the pillows on the comfortable sofa with his leg elevated. JD was in the kitchen and Chris knew the younger man was trying to avoid him, but that was not possible when they'd be spending the next few days together. Chris wore a loose pair of sweat pants that tied at the waist and an oversized flannel shirt Tanner had given him when he complained about being cold.
"Do you need something, Chris?"
"No, but you've been in that kitchen for an hour and I know there wasn't that much to do in there."
"I'm just cleaning up the…"
"JD, grab a beer and come sit down. Maybe there's something on TV," Larabee said.
"All right," Dunne said.
Chris could hear the despair in the young man's voice and knew Dunne still had a ways to go before he forgave himself for something that wasn't his fault. He wished Rousseau had been caught, but the bastard was still out there and until he was caught and JD could face him down, there was nothing they could do.
"Chris, are you hungry? I could make sandwiches," Dunne offered and placed his beer on the table as far away from Larabee as he could.
"No, JD, I'm not hungry. Sit down and relax…maybe we can find a game or movie to watch," Larabee said. He watched as JD sat in the chair and realized the Bostonian was trying to distance himself by sitting as far away from him as he could. "JD, could you pass me the remote?"
"Sure, Chris," Dunne said and handed the blond the remote before quickly retreating once more.
"What do you want to watch?"
"Anything's fine by me," Dunne answered softly.
Larabee surfed through the channels, not really seeing what was on as he watched the youngest member of his team. JD had always been an emotional young man and right now he wore the look of a man who'd lost his best friend. Chris knew Buck and JD had made peace, but he also knew Wilmington was still angry, although he knew Dunne wasn't to blame for what happened.
"Chris," Dunne's voice broke even as he spoke the single name.
"I'm here, JD," Larabee said simply.
"Don't be…it wasn't your fault," Larabee reiterated what he'd already told the young man. "Rousseau used you and the others. He's had years to perfect his technique and he knew what to do to push you to the limit. From what I was told the drugs he used would also help him control you."
"I should have…"
"Should have what? Fought something you couldn't fight. Those drugs were used to help mess with your mind and no man can fight something that affects the mind and body no matter how hard he tries. I was a SEAL, JD, and I've had drugs used on me…some of them haven't even been identified yet, and I know the pain they can cause. You had no choice once they used the drugs and pain to strip away who you are inside."
"How did you deal with it?"
"I had a friend to lean on," the blond answered simply.
"Buck?" Dunne asked.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, but there's no one else I know who can be pissed as hell at you one minute and joking with you in the next. Buck and I have been friends so long I can't even remember when he wasn't in my life," Larabee said and stared at Dunne before breaking the silence. "Lean on him, JD, he's about the best friend a man can have even when he's angry at you."
Dunne nodded and leaned back in the chair with the bottle of beer cradled in his hands. He closed his eyes and thought about what Chris had said and knew he was right, but there would be no closure for him until 'Father John' was taken care of for good. He heard Larabee flicking through the channels and opened his eyes when the sound of a car pulling up outside reached his ears.
"Sounds like we have company."
"Buck said he might drop by tonight," Dunne said and stood up. "I'll be right back, Chris."
"Okay," Larabee said and shifted slightly in an effort to get comfortable.
Francis Jacobs pulled the car to a stop behind the black truck and exited the car with his gun tucked inside his jacket. The plan was a simple one with him knocking on Larabee's door and asking for directions. Once Dunne was at ease he would pull his weapon and signal for Jean Claud that it was safe for him to come forward. The kid had never seen him so he shouldn't be suspicious when he knocked on the door, but was surprised when it opened before he had the chance.
"Can I help you?" Dunne asked of the stranger standing framed in the light spilling through the open doorway.
"I hope so…I'm looking for a friend's house, but it seems I took a wrong turn. Can you tell me how to find 897 Old Pear Tree Road?"
"I'm not really sure. Hang on and I'll find out," Dunne said and turned away. He took a breath and opened his mouth to ask Larabee, but something connected with the back of his head and he slumped forward.
"JD, who is it?" Larabee called and shifted his body as he eased his injured leg to the floor. "JD!"
"I'm afraid JD is a little indisposed at the moment," Jacobs said and pointed his gun at the injured man.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm afraid you don't know him, Larabee," Rousseau said as he shoved a dazed JD Dunne across the floor.
"You bastard!" Larabee spat and tried to stand up, but Jacobs easily shoved him back on the sofa.
"Stay put, Larabee or I'll kill you before John Daniel is ready," Rousseau warned.
"I won't," Dunne managed as he sank to his knees.
"Now, John Daniel, you know he is a sinner and all sinners must be cleansed by death," Rousseau said.
"I am Father John, John Daniel, and I am here to show you the way to enlightenment. Sinners must be cleansed so that the pure such as you, Francis, and I can return the world to the way it was meant to be," Rousseau said.
"Don't listen to him, JD," Larabee said and received a backhand from Jacobs that rocked his head back.
"Chris Larabee is a sinner, John Daniel. It is your right to take his life, but I know you have been blinded by his presence in your life. If you try anything, Francis will shoot him, not to kill, but he will suffer. We know sinners should suffer, but not until you are ready to sacrifice him. Do not move, John Daniel," Rousseau said and stared into the young man's eyes. He reached out and touched Dunne's side where he'd cut him and pressed against the newly formed scab. It did not take long to make the wound bleed and Rousseau was pleased by the pain in the young man's eyes.
"Father John is my savior…Father John will show me the way…" Rousseau chanted as he pressed against the wound and felt blood drip down his hand.
"Leave him alone!" Larabee tried, but Jacobs' hand pressed against his abdomen and elicited a cry of pain that brought Dunne's head up.
"Is beyond your help, John Daniel. You must turn your back on the sinners and follow my teachings," Rousseau ordered, but the tone of his voice didn't change as he locked eyes with the younger man. "Father John is…"
"…my savior...Father John will show me the way…" Dunne picked up the chant and stared into the other man's eyes as pain erupted through his side.
"I can make the pain go away, John Daniel, but you must heed my words and do as I say."
"Father John is my Savior…Father John will show me the way…"
"Be quiet, Larabee!" Jacobs snapped and struck the blond several times.
"Father John is my savior…Father John will show me the way…"
"That is correct, John Daniel…you must believe in me…Francis go bring in my case," Rousseau said softly.
"What about Larabee?" Jacobs asked.
""I doubt he'll be able to do anything…John Daniel is where he belongs and I have control," Rousseau said. "Father John is my…"
"…Savior…Father John will show me the way…"
Jacobs struck the injured blond in the abdomen and smiled as Chris doubled over gasping for breath, before he hurried outside.
Chris fought the agony that twisted through his gut and managed to stay in a sitting position as he tried to ride out the nauseating waves of pain that washed over him. He could hear Rousseau and JD and watched as the cult leader helped Dunne stand, but did not stop the hypnotizing chant that seemed to have locked the Bostonian in a trance.
"Father John is my savior…Father John will show me the way," Dunne said.
"Sinners must pay, John Daniel…Chris Larabee is a sinner…"
"Sinner…Chris Larabee is a sinner…Father John is my savior…Father John will show me the way."
"JD," Larabee tried, but the young man seemed to be zoned in on Rousseau's chanting voice. Chris could see blood on the Bostonian's shirt and hoped the cultist hadn't done too much damage as he slowly reached beneath the pillow.
Francis Jacobs enjoyed hurting Larabee and thought about what he would do before Rousseau had Dunne kill the blond. He hurried to the car and pulled the door open, shocked when he felt something pressed against the back of his neck.
"Drop the gun or I'll kill you where you stand!" Wilmington warned, but didn't give the man a chance to comply as he struck him with the butt of his gun. He didn't have much time with Rousseau already in the house and knew he'd take the time to thank God he'd decided to check on Chris and JD. He hadn't known who the man was, but the fact that he'd been holding a gun in his hand was enough to make Buck act on his instincts. He hurried toward the house and listened at the door, hoping the man was acting alone.
"JD, snap out of it!" Larabee tried as Rousseau continued to hold the younger man enthralled. He saw something in the cult leader's hand as they neared the couch even as his finger closed on the weapon he'd placed beneath the pillow.
"Father John is my savior…Father John will show me the way…"
"That's correct, John Daniel and now you must rid the world of another sinner," Rousseau said and placed the dagger in Dunne's hand. "It is time to prove your loyalty to me, John Daniel!"
"Go to hell!" Dunne said and quickly drove the blade into Rousseau's shoulder.
"John Daniel, you…" Rousseau quickly realized his mistake and knew the younger man had fooled him. He stumbled backward and reached for the gun he'd placed inside his jacket. "Francis, get in here!"
"The bastard's out for the count!" Wilmington said as he hurried into Larabee's living room.
"JD!" Larabee called when he spotted the weapon in Rousseau's hands. He sat forward and leveled his gun at the man, firing on instincts and watched as the force of the bullet that entered through his chest threw the cult leader backward. He sat back as pain erupted through his body and watched as Wilmington checked the intruder.
"Bastard's dead," Wilmington offered.
"Good…you did good, JD," Larabee said and smiled at the youngest member of his team.
"I'm sorry, Chris…I had to make him think I was going to…I was going to kill you," Dunne stammered and sank wearily onto the couch beside Larabee and sat forward when he noticed the blood on Larabee's shirt. "Buck, Chris' is hurt!"
"Chris?" Wilmington asked and knelt in front of the two men.
"Bastard was a little heavy handed," the blond said as his friend opened the shirt.
"Looks like a trip to the ER…"
"Just get Nathan out here," Larabee said.
"Sorry, Pard, but I'm packing you both off to Saint Vincents or else I call an ambulance," Wilmington said and grabbed a couple of clean white towels from the bathroom.
"Damn it, Buck, I'm all right," Dunne said.
"JD, if I have to go then so do you," Larabee said. "We need to wait for the police."
"They're on the way," Wilmington said and shook his head. "Good thing I came along when I did."
"JD and I had things under control," Larabee said tiredly.
"Sure you did…"
"We did, Buck, Rousseau tangled with the wrong people, right Chris?" Dunne asked.
"Right, JD," the blond agreed. "I need a drink."
"Hang on and I'll get you some water…"
"Water won't cut it, Buck," Larabee snapped.
"Well, it's all you're getting right now so sit tight and hold that towel in place while I go check on the bastard I left outside," Wilmington ordered and left the two men alone.
"Think we could convince him we're fine," Dunne asked.
"Not likely, Buck's in mother hen mode and you and I are his chicks," Larabee said.
"Damn, I was afraid you'd say that," Dunne said and rubbed the back of his head.
"Are you okay?" the blond asked.
"Got hit, but it's not bad," Dunne said.
"Jesus, JD, you're picking up everyone's bad habits," Larabee teased and saw a real smile on Dunne's face. "You did good, Kid."
"Thanks, Chris, you saved my life."
"Just returning the favor," Larabee said tiredly.
"There's a couple of officers outside and the coroner is on the way. Johnny Purcell said he'd lock up and get our statements at the hospital," Wilmington offered.
"Guess we don't have a choice," Dunne said.
"You got that right, Kid," Wilmington said and looked at the two men. "You boys look like hell."
"Your timing stinks, Buck," Larabee said as Wilmington helped him stand.
"I thought my timing was spot on. If I'd been any later you'd both be dead," the rogue said.
"If you'd been earlier you could have stopped them before they made a trip to the hospital necessary for me and Chris," Dunne snapped.
"Well, hell, son, next time I'll try not to have any pressing engagements…"
"Who were you pressing up against, Stud?" Larabee asked.
"That's for me to know…"
"He got his new playboy magazine and probably used his…"
"JD, I'd advise you not to finish that statement or I'll…"
"What's the matter, Buck? Truth hurts?" Larabee asked.
"You two are a real barrel of laughs tonight…should have shot you both when I had the chance," Wilmington griped.
"I seem to remember saying that a time or two," the blond said, nodding to the police officer who opened the door of Wilmington's car for him.
"Don't worry about the house, Chris, we'll lock up once the coroner is done…although you might want to spend a day or two elsewhere until CSI is finished here."
"Thanks, Johnny, guess Buck's going to have a guest for a few days," Larabee said.
"Oh joy," Wilmington said and drove out of the yard once Dunne and Larabee fastened their seat belts.
Roy Simmons shook his head when he entered the curtained off area to find two men waiting for him. "I swear I should have stayed on vacation."
"I thought you were going for some R&R?" Larabee asked.
"I was…and believe me I did, but I get the feeling things didn't go well for you and Dunne," Simmons asked and looked at Larabee's chart. "Well, at least that's something."
"What?" the blond asked.
"No new holes…just need to repair the old one. I'll have the nurse give you a shot and then we'll freeze the area and put a few stitches in there."
"Hell, that's an easy one for you, Chris," Wilmington said from the opposite side of the bed.
"Wilmington, quit harassing my patients and make yourself useful."
"Buck's never been useful," Dunne quipped.
"Real funny, Kid," the rogue said.
"This is going to take a while, Wilmington, so how about taking a run down to that all night coffee shop and bring me back an extra large Latte?"
"Latte?" Larabee said with a grin.
"It's an indulgence of mine, Larabee, just like you enjoy one of those little cheroots every now and then," Simmons told him and picked up JD's chart. "How do you feel, Dunne?"
"Oh, hell, now they got you doing it," Simmons said, shaking his head as he checked JD's eyes. "Any dizziness or blurred vision?"
"No," Dunne answered.
"He's got a hard head, Doc," Wilmington said.
"I thought I told you to make yourself useful," Simmons said and motioned for the man to leave.
"Buck, bring me back…"
"Nothing, Larabee, not until I make sure everything is where it's supposed to be, although with you lot that's hard to figure out," Simmons said.
"I'll be back shortly," Wilmington said and knew he'd have to call the others before they heard about it on the news.
"Well, it looks like you'll need a couple of stitches to close this back up," Simmons observed after looking at the reddened area around the wound in JD's side. "I'll send the nurse right in with something for pain and then we'll get you both fixed up so I can have these beds for patients who really need them."
"You're all heart, Simmons," Larabee said. He turned to look at the Bostonian who stared back at him and this time Chris saw something that had been missing since this ordeal had begun. The death of Jean Claud Rousseau seemed to be the catalyst that released the guilt that had gnawed at the younger man's soul. "Welcome back, JD."
"Thanks, Chris," Dunne said and smiled as he felt the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders and he knew he was back where he belonged.
Author'sNote—- Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing...Winnie