Anna Turner stood with the FBI agents behind the open doors of their black SUV. Like everybody else, she had her gun aimed at the front of the log cabin. When the tall professional-wrestling sized man and his equally tall but slighter-built, blindfolded bound hostage stepped out of the door into the porch, she recognized Johnny immediately. She felt relief that he was still alive and dread that he wouldn't be for much longer.
"I don't have a clear line of sight," said the sharpshooter positioned next to her. "He's holding the hostage too close."
"Are we positive that's Smith? The clothes don't match the description and his face is covered," said the other officer.
"That's him, I am sure," said Anna. "Tell your people to be ready to back him up. I know that Smith doesn't look like he is in a position to do anything, but I am sure he will if sees the opportunity."
"What's he going to do? He can't see anything," one of the plain clothes men crouched next to her stated the obvious.
"I think that the way things have progressed so far in this investigation should have convinced you that there might be more than one way of seeing things, especially when Smith is involved." Anna glanced around, strangely feeling like someone was watching her. "Just be ready for anything."
While the lead FBI agent ordered everybody to be on alert, Anna studied the scene closely through her binoculars. She saw that Johnny's hands were secured in front of him rather than behind his back. He seemed to be supporting his left arm with his right hand. At least there had been some concession to his gunshot injury, but it looked painful she thought.
She noticed that Johnny's head made a slight sideways jerk when the kidnapper clasped him more tightly on the shoulder before issuing his treats. The motion reminded Anna of the many times she had seen Johnny enter a vision—he always seemed to shake his head or recoil before getting his signature 'far away' look. Anna wondered if now he was seeing himself being shot in the other arm or just dumped lifeless out a car. Or maybe the vision was about being freed.
Without glancing away from the scene, Anna said to the tall agent next to her. "I think that whether we are ready or not Smith is going to make a move before he gets dragged back inside. He won't play the part of the passive lamb being led to the slaughter."
The gunman and Johnny stepped back in the direction of the cabin door. Anna watched Smith sway forward as if he had tripped before suddenly straightening up to hit his captor full-force on the face with the back of his head. The man's cry of pain and anger reverberated loudly as he simultaneously lost his grip on Johnny and the gun. Without much grace but with amazing accuracy for a sightless person, Johnny threw himself down the six steps off the front porch. He landed in a clumsy roll at the bottom of the steps and scrambled away to lie low on his side against the cabin foundation, essentially hidden from view of its windows.
As soon as he was safely out of the firing range, officers began shooting to dissuade those in the cabin from attempting to retrieve their hostage or the injured kidnapper. Windows shattered and gunfire from the cabin erupted in response. Anna and the other agents cautiously advanced toward the cabin, using the parked vehicles for cover. Tear gas canisters shot into the broken windows of the cabin erupted into smoky chocking fumes.
"Stay down Mr. Smith," An agent shouted. "Our guys have almost reached you."
Johnny tensed up at the sound Anna and the others made approaching him. While the FBI agents ran up the steps of the cabin, Anna crouched down next to him.
She was not surprised when he said, "Sheriff Turner?"
"Yes, Johnny it's Anna. Let me get the blindfold off you." She placed the gun on the ground next to her to use both hands to slip off the tightly knotted cloth. "That was a crazy stunt you pulled. You could have had your head blown off."
"I really had no choice with that ultimatum." Johnny blinked several times to adjust to the afternoon light. "They were not going to negotiate."
"Your hard head really came in handy. You broke his nose and who knows what else." As she untied the blindfold, Anna's hand got sticky with blood from the back of Johnny's head. "There is a big gash in the back of your skull. You might have a concussion."
Anna was struck by Johnny's sickly appearance. A few days' worth of scruffy beard did nothing to mask his paleness. Bloodshot eyes were underlined by baggy shadows. A large livid bruise marked his cheek and scrapes rimmed the right eyebrow. His short hair now leaned more toward the matted-down dirty brown than the usual sandy color. Her eyes scanned the rest of his form as if trying to x-ray through his clothing to determine what might have happened to him since Friday.
Squinting, he directed a weak grin at her, looking a little like the solid Johnny Smith she was used to. "It's good to see you too." His voice slurred a little and he shivered. The snow was falling more heavily now in smaller drier flakes. The temperature was clearly dropping. "I look like shit and, trust me, I feel like it too. But I would rather be out here freezing my ass off than back there."
Anna's incipient grin froze in her face when she noticed the bright red color of the snow under Johnny's semi-prone body. Her eyes traveled up to the blood stained handcuffed hands.
"I think that I have a key to unlock those cuffs," she said as she dug in the pocket of her jacket for the universal handcuff key set. "The blood is not from a fresh gunshot wound, is it Johnny?"
"No, it's from Friday. But I felt something snap in my dive off the steps and it started bleeding more heavily. Moving anything on the left side hurts like hell."
While the lose black sweatshirt sleeve hid the damage from view, it was clear to Anna that it was getting soaked with blood and melted snow.
Nodding, Johnny braced the arm before Anna inserted the key in the cuffs. She tried to turn the key and remove the cuffs as gently as possible, but could not avoid a slight jar. Johnny groaned in pain and then held his breath as he gingerly re-positioned the liberated limb.
"Hang on Johnny. We'll get you out of here for some proper medical attention as soon as they finish securing the cabin." Anna looked around. From this angle she couldn't see what was happening in the cabin but she could hear that the gunfire had clearly died down. The agents had entered the cabin and were probably making arrests. At the next officer who reached their position she yelled, "Get the doctor and a stretcher here fast."
"How's J.J.?" Johnny asked between rapid, shallow breaths.
"He was shaken up but he did a great job remembering what you told him. He's going to be really glad to see you." She took off her coat and laid it on the ground next to Smith. "Let me help you lie down to slow down the bleeding."
Anna bundled up her scarf and placed it behind his head as a cushion. He held his left arm on top of his torso. Anna could see the ring of lacerations around his wrists.
"Johnny, what was going on here? What the hell did they want from you?" she said.
"They wanted me to help them find a lethal microbe that a scientist had hidden. I played along for a while to buy some time but when I realized what it was, I stopped cooperating." He stopped intermittently to catch his breath. "After a while I became terrified that their persuasive methods would get to me. The body of this doctor is buried in the compost pile in the backyard. I had visions of his bloody suicide… He killed himself because he was afraid that he would tell them where he had hidden a vial of deadly bacteria. White supremacists are trying to get a hold of it to use it as a biological weapon to terrorize Chicago in the Spring… I tried to avoid it, but a vision showed me the location of this hidden cache. Oh Anna, if they had gotten a hold of J.J. I don't think that I could have stopped myself from telling them everything. I got to thank Bob Raymond for trying to be a vigilante hero back at the store. The only reason why I knew that I had to get J.J. away was because I had a vision when I got shot. Oh God, I am a nut-case magnet. How's Sarah?"
"She's holding strong. I have officers at the house in case…"
Johnny's hacking coughs stopped the rest of her answer. He cringed, "I must have cracked some ribs." To Anna he seemed even paler than before.
A paramedic placed her gear next to Johnny's prone figure. Anna moved to give her and Dr. Wofford room, but stayed close.
The paramedic opened up a case and hooked up an oxygen mask. She placed a blood pressure cuff over Johnny's uninjured arm and began monitoring it. Dr. Wofford checked Johnny's pupils with a light. He asked Johnny a question about his injuries but he didn't answer. He seemed to be struggling to catch his breath. Anna explained about the gunshot wounds sustained three-days earlier and the knock at the back of his head.
"Just a minute ago, he said that he must have cracked a rib," Anna offered.
When the paramedic unzipped his sweatshirt and placed a stethoscope on the wet shirt covering his chest, Johnny shuddered into a vision.
As his eyes re-focused a couple of seconds later, Johnny shook his head and whispered, "The transfer will be too late."
"Johnny, what transfer? Too late for what? What did you see?" Anna saw a flash of fear in his face that quickly dissipated to exhaustion. She noticed that the paramedic and the doctor were clearly following the conversation while continuing uninterrupted with their medial ministrations.
"An undesirable outcome," he said. "Sarah will know what I mean."
"Johnny, Sarah is not here. Please let me help you. What did you see?"
He held her gaze and almost pulled off a smile. "I saw… at the local hospital… I'm going to die…some complication. Please tell Sarah I'm so sorry that I ran out of time. I don't..."
Johnny fought through another coughing fit. Agitated, he tried to sit up. The paramedic firmly pushed him down and placed an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. Blood trickled out from the side of his mouth and he lost consciousness.
"He's not breathing, BP's dropping." The paramedic cut open Johnny's shirt. Crimson bruises marked by darker purple areas spread over most of the left side of his rib cage. She removed a large piece of bloodied gauze taped to Johnny's stomach to reveal a mosaic of half a dozen blistering cigarette burns. "What the hell?"
Ignoring the burns, Dr. Wofford gently palpated the ribs. "I would say at least two broken ribs." He listened intently with the stethoscope. "Lung collapsed, get me a large gauge needle and tube."
While Dr. Wofford and the paramedic worked quickly to insert a large needle hooked to a long plastic tube into the side of Johnny's upper chest, Anna stood in a daze. She was trying to process what Johnny had said about dying. If he was going to die at a local hospital, then what was happening now wasn't it. After all of this, there had to be something that she could do. How could she face Sarah, and especially J.J. if Johnny just died after being freed? A loud hiss of air shook her back to reality.
"He's breathing again. BP is going up," said the paramedic with audible relief. She worked on getting an IV saline ready.
"Okay, we are going to take him to the county clinic ASAP so that we can stabilize him out of this freezing weather and snow. Then he's certainly going to need an emergency transfer to DHMC or Boston Medical." Dr. Wofford looked around and signaled for the ambulance to get closer.
"Why can't we just take him directly to DHMC, it's the closest Level I Trauma Center," Anna said.
"He may not make it there. He's bleeding internally and God only knows what other damage he's got. He's going into shock as we speak."
"But you heard him. He said that the transfer will be too late and he will die." Anna insisted. "The way things work with Smith is that the vision will come true unless something is done to change the events."
She didn't dwell on the times that Johnny had told her that he was the one who had to do something to change what was going to happen. The way she rationalized it, he had done something by telling her what he saw. He could have passed out without saying a word to her about it.
The argument didn't last long. Regardless of their normal skepticism about psychic predictions, everybody there knew that Johnny's visions were the only reason they had found and captured the kidnappers at Dr. Wofford's office and at the cabin. Anna made the call to Sarah to get her consent for the risky emergency transport. She only had to briefly sketch out the situation and mention "undesirable outcome" before Sarah agreed. Sarah more than anyone else understood that they had to take the risk.
"Please stay with him until I get there," she said before hanging up. Anna could hear the tension in Sarah's voice. "Talk to him, even if he doesn't seem to be able to hear you."