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Carl Weiss twitched nervously in his seat as Wyvern and Chad Morris were led into the interview room.
The old man was pale and looking a bit frail in the bright orange jumpsuit of the California corrections system, while Chad just looked like his normal, arrogant self. The pair slid into the seats opposite from the Lawyer.
Chad shot a glare at the guard and Weiss waved the man off. “I need to speak to my clients…ALONE,” he emphasized.
“I’ll be right outside the door,” the man acquiesced as he stepped out through the doorway, staying close enough to hear if there was any trouble.
Wyvern leaned over the table. “What did you find out?” He whispered.
“Fred Briggs is missing,” he hissed back.
“WHAT?” The elder Morris bit out in shock.
“His wife said he came home after you were arrested. She said he stuffed a lot of papers from his file cabinet into his briefcase and left in a hurry.”
Wyvern grinned a shark like smirk of satisfaction. “He got rid of the evidence,” he gloated.
“Most of it but not all…,” he warned.
“Still incompetent I see,” Chad sneered, after all if the old man hadn’t left the papers out where Roderick Gage could see them and make copies of them, they wouldn’t be in this mess. There would have been no evidence and the young man wouldn’t have become a liability to get rid of in the first place.
Wyvern ignored him. Fred had been a friend for a long time and he’d had at least enough foresight to get rid of as much as possible.
“What did they get?” He muttered.
“I’m not sure exactly yet but I’ll find out soon enough. They’re already convening a grand jury just for you and Chad,” he said drily.
Morris frowned. “Did you find out who this ‘witness’ is?” He growled.
Carl shook his head. “No…But I know who it isn’t. It’s not Bertullo or Farmer,” he muttered. “They’re both in a panic that they’re gonna be busted for helping you uh…’relocate’ a few of your former enemies,” he replied, knowing the two men had murdered not only Roderick Gage but his parents and several other people who had known too much about the operation. Gage had been the only one to have the evidence of it.
“Then who is it?” Chad snarled.
Weiss winced nervously. He hated getting into this. He was an attorney after all and could be disbarred or even jailed for his part in helping Wyvern and his son. The problem was that he had no real option. Wyvern Morris had enough in him already to have him tossed in a cell next to him if Carl refused to do what he was told.
“I spoke to Fitzsimmons at the justice department. He doesn’t even know who it is. Seems Chambers and Tanner have been keeping this guy under witness protection for a while now.”
“You’d better find out who it is?” Chad growled threateningly.
“I don’t need to know who…,” he began.
Wyvern sat back in his seat and stared at him incredulously.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON”T NEED…,” Chad bellowed angrily.
He was cut off as Weiss made quieting gestures with his hands and then the door burst open as the guard ran inside.
Carl turned in his seat. “It’s okay officer…,” he assured the man. “He just got a bit upset.”
The guard threw Chad a warning scowl but stepped back outside and closed the door once again.
“I don’t need to know WHO because I already know from Fitzsimmons that they’ll be moving the witness Monday morning,” he told them, barely above a whisper.
“Do you know from where and how?” Wyvern pressed.
Weiss sifted uncomfortably, knowing what was coming and what he’d be asked to do, but he had no choice…he was in too deep.
“Yes…Yes I do Vern,” he sighed resignedly.
The elder Morris gave him an evil grin. “Good…Then I assume it’s being ah…handled?”
Carl nodded. “Yes…Bertullo and Farmer are on it,” he replied unhappily. “I told them to hire who they needed and you’d be sure they got paid.”
Wyvern nodded in satisfaction…Sure he and Chad would be out of this hell pit very soon.
Chad sat back with a sneer on his face. “Good…Let’s hope they’re more competent than that fool Briggs,” he grumbled.
“Fred was smart enough to take most of the evidence,” his father reminded Chad, defending his old friend now that he’d proved his loyalty once again.
“Let’s hope he’s smart enough to destroy it,” Chad said snidely. “If he gets caught with it…He’ll sing like a bird,” he added.
Vern grimaced and Carl shifted anxiously. He knew what was coming. Friend or no friend, Wyvern knew his son was right. “If they pick up Briggs,” the old man whispered to Carl. “See to it he never reaches the witness stand,” he warned.
Carl sighed. This was getting worse and worse all the time.
John sat in an airplane seat next to his dozing partner. It hadn’t exactly been a conversation filled flight since Roy was still suffering the effects of the wedding the day before.
The plane bucked a bit and Roy’s bloodshot blue eyes cracked open. He glanced blearily over at his partner who grinned back. “Welcome back sleeping beauty,” the younger man teased his long time friend.
Roy scowled a bit but pushed himself upright in his seat. “Where are we?” Roy questioned grumpily.
“In an airplane,” John replied innocently, earning him another glare. He giggled at the look and then shrugged. “We’ve been in the air for over half an hour so we should be almost there,” he replied, giving his friend the information he’d been looking for.
“Good…I need a couple of aspirin and a bed,” he grumbled.
John chuckled. “Too much champagne will do that to ya,” he advised.
“How would you know?” Roy shot back, knowing Johnny wasn’t much of a drinker and why. “Besides…It wasn’t just the champagne…Just too little sleep,” he reminded his friend with a smug grin.
“I know about that too,” John answered forlornly. “Just not for the same reasons…At least for the moment,” he groaned.
Roy threw him a grin. “Believe me…I know that feeling too,” Roy commiserated, earning a smile from John. “It was a nice wedding though,” he added, changing the subject to something that wasn’t such a sore spot for Johnny right now.
John smiled. “Dixie was beautiful. I can’t believe she asked me to walk her down the aisle though,” he said, still obviously touched by the request, even I he had been an emergency replacement.
“I can junior. You know how she feels about you,” Roy replied. “You’re like another little brother to her…So when one couldn’t do it, who else would she turn too?” He said logically.
“I guess,” he replied.
The Captain’s voice on the intercom warning of their imminent landing interrupted their conversation. Roy and John buckled their seatbelts as directed and settled back in their seats. John looked at the sheaf of papers he had in his lap. He reached for his pen to make a couple of notations and his face took on a distraught look as he realized it was gone.
“What’s wrong Junior?” Roy questioned worriedly.
“My dad’s pen…It’s gone,” he muttered, looking around him frantically.
Roy frowned. He knew how much that pen meant to John and he could see the distress in his friends eyes. Roy checked the floor and felt the seat next to him but there was no pen. John was growing more upset by the moment and Roy needed to calm him down. “When did you see it last?” He questioned.
“This morning…Just before I left…It was in my pocket when I went to say goodbye to the twins…I have to find that pen,” he said plaintively.
“Just relax Junior…Maybe it fell out of your pocket and it’s at home okay…Don’t get yourself all wrapped around the axle till we can find out alright?”
John realized that he was close to making a scene and that he needed to calm down. “I’m sorry Roy,” he murmured looking a little embarrassed. “It’s just…,” he began.
Roy patted his shoulder. “I know Junior… It was your dads and it means a lot to you…Let’s just hope it’s at home somewhere okay?”
“Yeah,” he murmured unhappily before returning his attention to the papers in his lap. “I hope this agent Chambers guy is waiting for us when we get there,” he said, reading the name off the paper.
“Me too,” Roy agreed. “I’m starving and I hate airport food,” Roy complained.
John gave him a half grin. “You’re just a bundle of sunshine this morning,” he teased his partner.
“Sorry…But this was supposed to be our day off…Remember?” He grouched.
“Yeah…I know, John replied ruefully. “Aah,” he moaned, swallowing hard and waggling his jaw as his ears popped from the change of air pressure as the plane descended.
Roy grinned. “Exactly my point. We could both be sleeping if you weren’t someone’s idea of the perfect paramedic,” he reminded his young friend.
John looked over at him, uncertain whether or not his friend was seriously annoyed with him or just kidding. The smile on his partner’s face took the snideness out of the comment.
“I know…I want to know who asked for me and why too,” he admitted.
“We’re about to find out,” Roy replied as the planes wheels touched the ground and began to brake to a stop.
Johnny and Roy exited the plane with their overnight bags slung over their shoulders. They glanced around the waiting room curiously, trying to figure out who they were supposed to meet.
Two men in black suits headed toward them. One had gray hair and a stern look while the other had thinning brown hair and a serious air about him. Neither looked like someone you’d tangle with if you valued your life.
The gray haired man’s eyes traveled over the tall, dark haired paramedic as they walked toward them. “Gage…DeSoto,” he added almost as an afterthought as he held out his hand to them. Not even hesitating at which one was which.
John and Roy frowned. How had they known them and how had they figured out who was Gage and who was DeSoto?
“Um…Yeah, but how did you know” John asked warily.
Chambers froze for a moment, realizing he’d almost blown their secret knowledge of him. “Um…Your Chief described you to us,” he replied finally, breathing a sigh of relief that both of the younger men seemed to accept that answer…After all…They couldn’t exactly explain to Gage that he was the spitting image of his father at this age or that they’d seen photo’s of him repetitively over the years.
“Is that all the luggage you have?” They asked, changing the subject.
“No…We have a couple of suitcases and our Paramedic gear was checked as well,” Roy replied as they followed the pair through the airport.
Chambers and Tanner set a brisk pace, hoping to forestall any further awkward questions. The four of them made their way to the baggage claim.
John and Roy grabbed their luggage and their equipment as it slid down the chute onto the carousel.
“So um…My Captain said you asked for me and my partner personally,” he began hesitantly.
Both agents had at least been prepared for this question. They had been keeping tabs on the boy since he was a child after all…Even sending a few agents as anthropologist assistants just to check on the child and his mother for the first couple of years after they’d returned to reservation. They’d seen the boy from time to time of course and had attempted to talk to him but John had refused to speak to them and the rest of the natives were a private people who didn’t talk about the o’xe’ve’hoe that lived among them. Unfortunately, they stopped sending them before his mother had passed and the abuse began or they would have informed Rosemary sooner.
“Yes…Your aunt is friends with some pretty powerful people John…She talks about you a lot apparently. When we needed someone reliable and professional, your name came up.”
“Oh,” John replied, looking a bit deflated now that the issue of why he’d been picked had been resolved so easily and without any great mysteries.
“Let’s get going shall we….you’re going to want to get something to eat and get some rest,” they suggested.
“Great,” Roy replied. “Remind me to tell your aunt to be careful who she talks to about you in the future,” he said privately to John out of the corner of his mouth. “I could’ve used the sleep this morning.”
John grinned as they followed the pair out the car unaware that they were being followed. The two paramedics slid into the back seat of a large black sedan. They exchanged an uncomfortable glance.
“I thought they only drove cars like this in the movies,” Johnny mumbled to his partner.
Roy chuckled but sobered instantly when he saw the stern looking eyes watching them in the rearview. “Is there a problem?” Chambers asked, hearing the whispers but not catching the actual words.
The blonde paramedic shook his head. “No…No problem…My partner here just watched too much television,” he said, earning a scowl from John.
“I see,” Chambers replied.
“So…What exactly is wrong with the patient we’ll be escorting?” Roy questioned, trying to put the conversation back on track.
“He’s suffered some severe burns to his face and back…It damaged his lungs, so he requires oxygen as well,” he told them.
The pair nodded their understanding of the situation. It explained why the man may not want to be seen by too many people as well.
“What was he a witness too?” John asked curiously.
“I’m sorry Mr. Gage…We’re not at liberty to answer that,” Tanner replied.
John shrugged. He’d figured they wouldn’t tell him but there was no harm in trying to get some answers, especially since they were going to be trapped in an ambulance with this guy for five hundred miles.
“We’ll be taking you to a hotel…Try and get some rest…You’ll need it,” Chambers instructed.
“Why?" John questioned, looking a bit baffled.
“We’ll be picking you up at midnight.”
The two younger men exchanged a glance. “Um…Why so early?” John asked.
“We want you on the road and in Sacramento by eleven AM tomorrow morning,” Chambers replied. “That’s when the grand jury will convene.”
“Wow…That’ll be cutting it pretty close with the stops that we’ll have to make?” Roy asked.
“You won’t need to stop for more than a few moments,” Tanner answered. “Only long enough to fill the tank and let the agents use the rest room.”
“Agents? What about us?” John replied, with a nervous laugh.
“For our witness’ protection…You’ll be locked in the back of a specially outfitted armored car, which will include a portable toilet,” he advised. “The back will be locked after we load the witness on board and won’t be unlocked until you reach Sacramento.”
“Won’t the agents have the key?” Roy asked curiously.
“No…We’ll be flying up to Sacramento and we’ll meet you at the courthouse with the key.”
The pair exchanged a worried glance. “Just how hot is this guy anyway?” John asked, not beating around the bush, as his aunt called it and simply cutting to the chase.
Chambers and Tanner exchanged a quick look. “There shouldn’t be any trouble…This is a highly secret transport of a witness. There are only eight people that know the specific arrangement. Tanner and me…The four agents that will accompany you and two highly placed members of the Justice Department and even the four agents don’t know the identity of the witness or the trial he’s to testify at.
“Hurumpf,” Roy grunted in dismay. “My grandfather used to say the only way to keep a secret between a group of people is if all but one of them are dead,” he growled, not happy about this at all.
“Trust us,” Chambers assured them.
“Why aren’t you going with us?” John asked.
“We’ll be accompanying a decoy…An agent portraying the witness,” Chambers told them. “Anyone that might be watching will follow us.”
John and Roy once again shared a glance and the silent communication they’d become adept at. Chambers had been watching them in the rearview and recognized the bond between the pair just as Rosemary had once told them about.
He pulled into the hotel and parked. Two other men trotted over to join them. They opened the car doors and waited while John and Roy climbed out.
“This is Agent Morgan and Agent Arants…They be with you from now until you reach Sacramento.”
Johnny and Roy shook their hands. “We’ll be in the room across from you,” Arants informed them. “One of us will be outside your door every minute.”
“Wow,” John murmured, not sure he was liking this situation at all at this point. “I’m startin to feel like I’m under arrest,” he muttered, looking a bit annoyed at being treated like a criminal.
Roy recognized the tension in his young partner and realized he was getting uptight. He didn’t like this whole mess either but at this point…What choice did they have. “C’mon Junior…I’m hungry and we need to sleep,” Roy advised, grabbing his partners sleeve and pulling him toward the door.
“Yeah…Yeah okay,” John agreed resignedly.
Chambers and Tanner blew out a breath. They could see the anger at being locked up in the young Gage’s face and the frustration in DeSoto…They didn’t like putting these two young men in harm’s way but their ‘witness’ had them over a barrel so to speak.
“I’m sorry gentlemen…We have to take these precautions for everyone’s safety,” he advised.
“Yeah...Great,” John said with a scowl.
“We understand,” Roy said agreeably, being the coolheaded one of the pair.
Chambers held out his hand. “We’ll see you both in Sacramento,” he assured them. Roy shook it. John stared at it for a long moment in indecision before he sighed and shook it as well.
Roy shoved Johnny inside and closed the door behind them. Tanner and Chambers tossed each other a glance. They didn’t like this at all but they had this planned out to the minute with four well trained agents…What could go wrong?
Fred Briggs sat on the rug in his rented cabin in front of a roaring fire. The stack of incriminating papers piled beside him. He stared dismally into the flames as he held the first of many files he needed to destroy.
He’d known all those years ago that someday, Wyvern’s misdeeds would come back to haunt them all. They’d progressed from threats of violence to any whistle blower to brutal beatings meant to not only scare them into silence, but to send them fleeing for their lives.
Then had come the first murder. The crew chief on Nancy He’d lost a couple of good men due to the Morris’ refusal to invest the money to insure the safety of the workers…Not because they couldn’t afford it but because it would cut into their profit margins.
Woolen’s had told them flat out that he was going to the feds…The workers, including himself, deserved a safe environment.
Bertullo had paid him a visit, but even after the strong arm tactics, he’d refused to capitulate and had gone to Chambers and Tanner. That’s what had put the two men onto them in the first place. They’d had no real evidence except Woolen’s word, but the two agents had assured them that it would be enough for a warrant.
They’d been correct…But it had been Woolen’s death warrant on Woolen’s who’d met with an unfortunate accident of his own.
They’d had to drop the action as they no longer had a witness who could testify against the Morris’ company.
Briggs had seen the anger and frustration in Chamber’s and Tanner’s eyes when they’d confronted them about it, but Wyvern had only laughed at them. Roderick Gage had been one of the many ‘accidents’ and the one that had bothered him the most.
Most if their roustabouts were single and a rough and ready group but Roderick had been a field engineer…He’d left behind a young widow and a troubled child that had needed his father. Fred felt especially guilty about Rod…After all, if he hadn’t left the papers out where someone could stumble upon them.
Rod had also been the son of a good friend. Briggs had known Jonathan and Lenora Gage for years just as Wyvern had. He’d been horrified when they’d ordered his death, but he owed his soul to the Devil and no longer had a choice but to do what he was told and keep his mouth shut.
It had gotten worse ten years later when the couple had overheard them discussing Roderick’s accident. The couple had figured out that their son had been murdered and to Fred’s dismay, Wyvern had ordered Farmer to cut the brake lines. The couple had been killed on their way home that day.
That only served to reinforce the knowledge that despite Fred’s service and long time friendship...Wyvern or Chad wouldn’t hesitate to have him killed if he thought Fred was a threat.
Fred stared at the pile of papers, knowing these files would destroy Wyvern and that arrogant SOB, Chad. They could also implicate himself. Fred worried his lower lip between his teeth. They could put him away for the rest of his life or they could become the bargaining chip that would save his life.
Fred stared into the flames, trying to decide if he would refuse to be the scared rabbit Wyvern and Chad thought him to be or do what they expected and destroy the evidence. He knew there was more that he hadn’t been able to get and a witness…He didn’t know who that was either and how much did he know?
Fred set the files aside and went to bed. Tomorrow…Tomorrow he’d make the decision to destroy them or let them save his life.
Johnny and Roy had ordered room service shortly after the two agents left. They made small talk to kill some time and calm the nervous jitters they were both experiencing over this whole situation.
“So what do you think this guy saw anyway?” John mumbled to his partner, glancing around worriedly and hoping the room wasn’t bugged.
Roy chuckled at his young friend’s overly paranoid behavior. “Relax junior…It’s probably some bespectacled accountant that looks like Craig Brice and fudged the books or something.”
“Yeah…Well why all this cloak and dagger then huh pally?” He pointed out.
Roy shrugged. “You know how the feds are,” he replied.
John shot him a wry look. “No Roy…I really DON’T know how the feds are,” he shot back drily. “It’s not like I’ve had a lot of experience with them,” he added.
Roy laughed. “You’re the one who watches too many crime shows…Ya know…Dragnet, The FBI, Adam 12,” he teased.
John threw him a scowl. “Well I just hope you’re right. Last thing I need is some crazy hit man out to get me…Us,” he corrected.
Roy shook his head half in amusement and half in exasperation with his young friends over active imagination. “You’re too much junior, ya know it?” He said with a chuckle. “Chambers and Tanner said they got this taken care of so don’t worry. I doubt they’d put Rosemary’s nephew in harm’s way since she’s all buddy, buddy with the powers that be in Sacramento,” he reminded him
“I guess,” he conceded.
“You finished eating?” Roy asked, giving his friends sable hair a light scruff before stacking his own dishes on the cart.
“Quit that,” John grouched, slapping his hand away, but his cheeky grin belied the gesture.
Roy threw him a smirk, knowing he’d once again jollied his partner into a better humor. Roy glanced at his watch. “Guess we both better be getting some shut eye,” he suggested as Roy pushed the cart full of dirty dishes toward the door.
John snagged his glass of milk from the tray before Roy could get it to the door. “Yeah…Guess it’s gonna be a long night,” he answered ruefully.
Roy pulled the door open and the agent outside quickly turned. “I’ll take that,” he offered, making sure the blonde paramedic didn’t venture into the hall.
Roy sighed and John scowled. “Nothin to worry about huh?” He muttered. “How come they’re keeping us prisoners?”
“They’re not junior…Maybe they’re just afraid you’re gonna freak out and run back to LA and they won’t have a paramedic for tonight,” he teased.
“Real funny Roy,” he grumbled as he flopped down on his bed. “Hey maybe we can stop by and visit your in laws while we’re here,” he suggested innocently. Roy scowled, drawing a giggle from his young partner.
He brightened a moment later. “Besides we can’t. They won’t let us out of the room remember?”
“Oh yeah,” he muttered ruefully. He sucked the last of his milk from the cup through the straw, the loud slurping sound bringing another paternal shake of the senior paramedic’s blonde head.
Married and with two infants or not Johnny could still be such a big kid sometimes, but Roy loved him like a kid brother and he couldn’t imagine his life without John in it. He went over to his own bed and laid down. The blue eyes drifted closed a moment later.
Johnny was enjoying the first uninterrupted sleep he’d had in the last five weeks. He was startled awake by the touch of his partner’s hand on his shoulder. The deep voice he’d recognize anywhere. “Johnny…Johnny, its ten thirty… Chambers and Tanner will be here in a half hour junior,” he warned.
The dark eyes drifted open and he looked up blearily in to his best friends blue eyes. “Okay Roy…I’m awake,” he murmured sleepily. He stretched his long frame before pushing himself upright and rolling from the bed. He ran a hand over his face and glanced at Roy, noting that he looked as if he’d just gotten out of the shower. “How long have you been up?” He questioned with a gravelly voice.
“About an hour, he replied.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I thought you could use a little extra sleep,” he replied, sounding like John’s big brother now and not just his partner. John used to bristle when Roy got all paternal but not anymore, he’d learned to accept it, knowing Roy cared about him more than anyone else ever had in his life…Well…At least until Danella had come along but that was different, besides…the extra sleep was appreciated.
“Thanks pally,” he said. “Guess I better get ready,” he added as he headed for the bathroom. He needed a shower and shave before they were picked up. The armored car may be rigged for an emergency pit stop, but he doubted it came with running water or a bathtub, he mused.
He was barely finished getting redressed when a knock on the door signaled the arrival of Chambers and Tanner.
The two agents outside the door shared a glance as they waited for the two paramedics. “I still think this is a mistake Ed,” Tanner said quietly. “What if he’s recognized?”
“Impossible…I took care of that when I told them he’d been burned.”
“What do you…?” He began, but his words trailed off as Roy opened the door. “Come in gentlemen,” he said, sweeping his hand toward the room in invitation.
They stepped inside and Chambers wasted no time. “It’s getting late…Are you two ready?” He questioned, glancing at his watch.
“Yeah…Let me just grab my stuff,” John replied.
Roy grabbed the handle of his suitcase and the drug box, while John snapped up his own before tucking the biophone under his arm. He picked up the box of IV solutions.
“Here let me take that,” Chambers offered, taking the biophone from John. “You can’t keep it with you anyway,” he added.
The pair froze. “What do you mean?” Roy questioned warily.
“Everything you’ll need to treat your patient will be on board…We’ve already checked with his doctors,” he explained, unable to tell them that this was really a formality and no medical treatment would be needed.
“Now wait a minute,” Johnny protested unhappily. “If something happens…We can’t lift a finger to treat your witness without a doctor’s permission,” he argued. “We need that radio.”
“Hopefully, you won’t have to do more than monitor him, but if you do…The agents will have your radio and they can relay for you.”
“Your agents aren’t trained paramedics and we’ll be the ones medically responsible if they get something wrong,” John barked back irately, his Gage temper flaring.
“No one will hold you responsible I promise you,” Chambers reassured him.
John opened his mouth to argue but as usual, his best friend was the cool headed voice of reason. “Relax Junior…You can’t win this argument,” he advised.
“But Roy,” he began, still not ready to conceded defeat.
“Just drop it John….We can relay through them if we need to. We’ve done it before,” he reminded him.
John sighed. Roy was right but he didn’t relish the idea of being completely helpless and out of touch with everyone if they ran into trouble. He’d like to just tell them to forget the whole thing and to get someone else but he knew he’d be in a heap of trouble with the head brass if he did. He nodded in resignation.
“Who will we be in contact with if something should go wrong?” Roy asked pragmatically.
“We’ve established relays with hospitals all along the way and the agents will have all the frequencies,” Chamber’s assured them.
“Great,” Johnny muttered, looking distinctly unhappy with this situation.
“Let’s get going gentlemen,” Chambers said, sweeping his hand toward the door.
The group left.
John glanced over his shoulder from the back seat of the black sedan they’d ridden in earlier. Two other cars identical to it followed along behind. “What’s so interesting back there Junior?” Roy asked his young friend.
“We’re being followed,” he whispered.
Roy chuckled. “I think they’re more agents,” he replied.
“Who do you suppose this guy is?” He asked worriedly, getting more and more uncomfortable with this whole situation.
“Don’t know….Don’t really care. I just want to get it over with and go home,” Roy replied, trying to down play the circumstances.
John stared at him in amazement. “Don’t care…? We’re in the middle of all this cloak and dagger stuff and you don’t care?” He questioned in disbelief.
“That’s right Junior…Don’t get involved. Number one rule remember? This is just another job…We drop him at his destination and go on with our lives,” Roy reminded him.
John sighed. Sometime his big brother and best friend had a way of taking the wind right out of his sails. “I guess you’re right,” he agreed, looking a bit deflated.
Roy chuckled. “I usually am,” he teased. John scowled.
Up front Chambers and Tanner shared a relieved glance that the young man’s curiosity about the situation had been brought under control by his older partner or twelve hours trapped in the armored car with their ‘witness’ might have become very uncomfortable for all of them.
None of them noticed the black van that trailed them with its headlights off.
The vehicles pulled up to the backdoor of what looked to be a long term care nursing home. True to Chambers word, an armored vehicle stood with its rear doors open. Johnny and Roy could both see that it was currently set up with a place for them to sit and a stretcher for a patient. Two men in dark suits stood beside it, obviously more agents from the look of them.
John and Roy climbed from the back of Chamber’s car, glancing around curiously. They didn’t have long to wait. They’d barely had time to pull their suitcases and equipment from the trunk before the door to the hospital opened and two more agents pushed a wheelchair from the building.
Even in the darkness it was easy to see that the person’s face was swathed in bandages. They assumed it was because of the facial scarring due to the serious burns he’d endured. The only thing was clearly visible was the man’s eyes. His clothing covered him from chin to wrist to ankle.
John and Roy had both seen the horrendous scars left behind from first degree burns. Neither of them particularly wanted a look beneath the bandages. The men with him hustled the wheelchair down the walkway to the waiting van.
“John...DeSoto, this is Richard but he prefers to be called Rick.”
“Hello sir,” John said politely, not offering his hand in deference to the bandages that covered the man’s hands to mid forearm.
“Good morning,” Roy said, following John’s lead.
“Gentlemen…It’s a pleasure…,” he paused a bit as if to catch his breath. “To meet you both,” he finished, his voice muffled beneath the bandages.
Both paramedics shared a glance. The reply was aimed at both of them but the man’s pale eyes were locked on Johnny, moving over him with careful deliberation.
The young paramedic shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot under that penetrating stare. John had been abused as a child…Physically, emotionally and mentally but what had left its mark on him the most was having been molested on more than one occasion by his late uncle, George Walking Wolf. Even though the man had never finished what he’d started, he’d left John scarred for life. Not as visible perhaps as this man’s burns had left him, but invisibly and irreparably searing the mind and soul instead.
John subconsciously stepped back uncomfortably under the man’s unwavering stare.
Roy caught the nervous gesture and understood. He knew his young friends scars almost as well as John did and his protective instincts rose up. He stepped deliberately into the man’s line of vision, blocking John from view.
“Why don’t we get you on board and out of the night air,” he suggested, holding out his hand to take the medical file from the agents hand and giving Johnny a chance to regroup.
Rick threw Roy an irritated glance but nodded his head in agreement. The two agents assisted him from the wheelchair and into the back of the makeshift ambulance. He laid down on the stretcher and allowed them to strap him in securely, while another made sure the gurney was anchored to the brackets on the floor to keep it from rolling about on the long drive to Sacramento.
Chambers waved four men over. “Gage…DeSoto…These are agents Don Price, Frank Hagen and Joe Morgan. You’ve already met Agent Arants and Morgan. He’ll be driving the van, Morgan will be riding shotgun. Price and Hagen will be behind you the entire way,” he explained.
John and Roy nodded but John wasn’t sure he liked the reference to shotguns at this point but he shook it off as Chambers continued. “If you have any issues just bang on the glass and Morgan can turn on the two way. He can relay with the hospital if there’s a need.” John and Roy nodded. “We’ll meet you in Sacramento by eleven but we’ll be in communication with the van the whole way,” he assured them. “Any questions?” The two paramedics shook their heads. “Good…Then let’s get this show on the road,” he suggested.
The pair climbed aboard and got themselves situated. Chambers slammed the door and locked it, pocketing the key.
The agents climbed into their respective vehicles and a few moments later the van pulled away. Chambers and Tanner pulled out behind them but peeled off in the opposite direction toward the hotel where their decoy was all set to accompany them by air… unfortunately for all of them their plan had already been foiled.
John made himself useful setting up their equipment and storing their personal items out of harms way while Roy got down to the business at hand.
“Alright Rick…Why don’t we get a set of vitals on you so Gage and I will know where we stand here okay?” He questioned professionally, deliberately using their surnames to try and keep this situation professional. The man obviously made John uncomfortable enough without having to get too personal with him.
“That’s fine,” Rick wheezed, but once again his eyes watched John intently despite the fact that he spoke to Roy.
The blonde paramedic frowned at the man’s seeming preoccupation with his young friend, but he didn’t want to call attention to it either. It would be a long drive if their patient continued to make John uneasy.
He’d just assume the senior role and try to keep John in the background as much as possible and out of the man’s immediate proximity.
John finished putting their gear away and turned to help his partner. Roy was wrapping the BP cuff around Rick’s arm but John noticed that the man was once again watching him. He shot a glance at his friend but Roy had his back to him and was taking their patient’s blood pressure. John was ill at ease with the man’s attention but he was also a professional.
“Okay Rick…Why don’t I get your pulse and respirations alright?” He questioned briskly, trying not to let his discomfort with the behavior show. He lifted Rick’s sleeve but the bandages covered him to mid forearm. John sighed. “Why don’t I just get a carotid?” He suggested instead.
Rick nodded and John reached over to place his fingers alongside the man’s throat. The patient’s breath’s hitched and he closed his eyes at John’s touch and for a brief moment John thought he’d hurt him. “Are you alright?” He asked worriedly.
The man’s eyes opened and even in the darkness, there was an unmistakable glint of tears. “Yes,” he gasped out softly. “Sometimes…It’s just hard to…Catch my breath,” he muttered from beneath the wrappings.
“Okay…Well here…Let me get this canula on you alright?” John suggested, turning away to get the oxygen set up.
Roy took the opportunity to take the man’s respirations while his young partner was otherwise occupied so John wouldn’t have to. John turned back a moment later and carefully lifted the bandages enough to set the canula beneath Rick’s nostrils.
The patients ears were also covered but John quickly resolved the problem by taping the thin hose to the bandage. Rick took a breath. “Thank you…John,” he wheezed a moment later.
“Welcome,” he replied with a crooked quirk of his lips. The man sucked in his breath sharply at the look on John’s face. “Are you alright?” John asked urgently.
Roy and John both stood and leaned over the man worriedly, but Rick’s reply set them at ease. “Yes…I just got…a,” he hesitated briefly before continuing. “A pain in my uh…my chest occasionally,” he gasped, unable to explain the skipped beat his heart had just made at that grin or the reason for it.
Roy grabbed the stethoscope to check his heart rate while John plucked the penlight from his pocket. “Why don’t we just check you out a bit…Just to be on the safe side, he suggested.
The patient nodded his agreement. Roy placed the bell on the man’s chest, noting that the skin there seemed to be smooth and unmarked from the fire, though there was a slight puckering of scar tissue higher up on the back of his neck, just barely visible below the bandages.
John leaned over him and shone the light into the man’s eyes and another small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “Hey…Your eyes are green,” he said lightly. “That’s a rare color. My aunt has green eyes too,” he added, trying to make light conversation.
“Yes…Green eyes run…in my family,” he replied quietly.
Roy frowned a bit. Despite the wrappings and the muffled whispers of the man’s breaths, his voice sounded eerily familiar but he was reasonably sure he never met this man. Other than John’s Aunt, he knew no one with green eyes.
John finished off his brief check of the man’s eyes and sat down on the bench. “Well…You seem okay,” he reassured the patient.
“Thank you…You’re a good…Paramedic,” he told the younger man.
“Thank ya,” John replied, his slight Montana twang coming through.
“When did you decide…To become a paramedic?” He asked curiously.
Both Roy and John assumed all the questions were just to kill some time since they were going to be trapped together for the next twelve hours and saw no reason to not chat with the man.
“Well…I’ve wanted to become a fireman since I was five or six,” he replied.
They couldn’t see the smile that curled the man’s lips beneath the bandages. “I know…,” he breathed out before stopping to catch his breath.
Roy’s eyebrow arched and John frowned. “How would you know?” The dark haired paramedic asked warily.
“I only meant…That I know you made…A good choice,” he gasped out, recovering from his slip of the tongue.
Both of the men relaxed at that. They needed to remember that the man had some trouble breathing and needed to stop frequently to catch his breath and not read too much into it when he kept his words short.
Rick realized that he was making John uncomfortable and turned his attention to Roy. “So Roy is it?” He questioned. The blonde paramedic nodded. “Do you…Have a family?” He asked conversationally.
“Yes sir…I have a wife and two kids and,” he threw a nod in John’s direction. “My partner here,” he added. John gave him a cheeky grin at that but he didn’t reply.
“He’s related to you?” Rick wheezed curiously.
Roy threw his friend a wink. “Not by blood but…We’ve been together a long time and been through a lot and he’s sort of become my kid brother,” he finished, not adding that John was like a second son sometimes as well.
Rick’s eyes swept over the blonde man. “It’s good of you…to look out for him,” he breathed out.
Once again John and Roy exchanged a confused glance. To anyone that knew them it was clear an entire conversation had taken place, even though it was unspoken.
Roy hadn’t said ‘looked out for’ John even though they both knew it was true and vice versa, John looked out for Roy as well but how would this man know that?
John had to ask. “How’d you know that?” He questioned, the wary tone back in his voice.
Rick shrugged. “I guess…He implied it when he called…you his kid brother.”
“Oh,” John mumbled, still a bit uncertain there wasn’t more the man wasn’t telling them.
John had learned at a young age to be wary and distrustful but Roy had a much more open heart and simply accepted the explanation. “Well you’re right,” he replied. “We do look out for each other,” he replied, relaxing back on the bench.
Rick looked to John. “So…Do you have a family?” He questioned.
Johnny grinned proudly. “Yeah…Besides my big brother here,” he teased. “I have a wife and we just had twins,” John said proudly.
“Congrat…ualtions,” he breathed softly. “It’s been a long…time since I’ve seen babies,” he said lifting his hand to indicate the wrappings.
“I’m sorry,” John mumbled, supposing that the man’s appearance might frighten small children.
“It’s alright…I don’t suppose…You have pictures,” he asked hopefully.
“Yeah…Sure,” John replied with a grin. He reached for his wallet but had to grab hold of the seat as the van made a wide turn.
Roy glanced out the window, noting that they’d just turned onto the I5 Freeway.
John steadied himself from the turn and then pulled out his wallet. He pulled a picture of Danella and himself seated on the sofa with the babies in their arms. Roy had taken the photo for them only a week ago. He turned it about so Rick could see it.
The man sucked in his breath. “She’s stunning,” he breathed. “The children are beautiful,” he added softly as his eyes took in every detail, the green orbs once again glistening with unshed tears.
“Thanks,” John replied, tucking the photo away before he shoved his wallet back in his pocket.
“What are their names?” He questioned.
“My wife is Danella. The twins are Roy and Katie Jo but we call Roy Rory…”
The green eyes swiveled toward the blonde paramedic. “He named him for you?” He breathed out, sounding sad.
Roy noted that the man seemed upset. “Yes…I was honored but you know it’s still pretty early, why don’t you rest for a bit,” he suggested.
“I have been hidden away…for years now…And will be again…When this…Is over. I don’t want…To sleep,” he gasped.
John and Roy nodded understandingly. “I’m sorry,” Roy said softly.
He nodded but recognized that the two young men might be tired. “Feel free to rest if you wish…I will wake…you if I need you,” he assured them. John and Roy nodded and leaned back against the seat. They let their eyes drift closed but Rick’s remained open and drifted over the younger of the two as if memorizing every detail.
The van following them also made the turn onto the I-5 freeway. He picked up the radio from the seat beside him. “Dennis…This is Bert,” he called.
There was a small burst of static and then a voice. “Go ahead Bert.”
“Let Harlan, Greg and Bud know the delivery van just turned onto the I-5,” he said, talking about the three men they hired on occasion when they needed a extra bit of muscle and using the code phrase in case someone was listening.
“How do we get the package from it on the I-5?” Farmer asked worriedly.
“We’ll need them to turn on to the back roads somewhere beyond Los Angeles…Lots of open country there,” he replied.
“How do we do that?”
“I’m working on that…I’ll call you when they stop to fuel up.”
“Affirmative…We’ll be in LA waiting. Call us when you get close and we’ll meet you somewhere.”
Bertullo tossed the radio aside and drove on, staying far enough back that the agents tailing the van wouldn’t become suspicious of the headlights following behind them.
Rosemary Hughes checked to be sure she had all of her luggage and her plane ticket to Sacramento. She planned to be watching this trial from the small room off the side with a closed circuit television, though she’d rather be in the courtroom, but she also knew that for her safety as well as John’s, that she couldn’t be seen by the Morris'. Regardless, she planned to be there to see her brother’s attackers brought to justice.
It was still dark when John woke. He glanced at his watch…It was just after 2 AM. He’d been asleep for almost two hours. He glanced at Roy and noted that his partner was sleeping soundly. John sat up and stretched a bit to unknot the kink in his back.
“Not a very comfortable position… for you to sleep in is it?” Rick questioned softly. John jumped at his first word. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to startle you,” he wheezed.
“It’s alright…I just thought you were asleep,” John replied.
“No…I had…A lot on my…mind,” he answered softly, his green eyes watching the slender young man with keen interest.
John noticed the intense stare and shifted uncomfortably. He mentally forced himself to relax despite the man’s odd behavior and kicked into professional paramedic mode. “So how are you feeling?” He questioned, checking the gauge on the air tank and refusing to be intimidated by the man’s watchfulness.
“I’m fine,” he reassured him.
John suddenly felt the armored vehicle slow down a bit and peered out the narrow window. They were on an exit ramp. He reached over and shook his partner. “Hey Roy…?”
The blonde man blinked blearily before glancing at his friend. “What is it junior?” He asked not able to see the smile that crossed Ricks face at the familiar nickname.
“We’re getting off the highway,” John replied.
Roy glanced at his watch. “Must be gassing up or making a pit stop,” he replied, settling back on the bench seat and closing his eyes.
“How do you two… just drop off …to sleep like that?” Rick asked curiously.
“Comes with the job,” John replied.
“We get called out two or three times a night sometimes,” Roy replied without opening his eyes.
“So we have to be able to drop right off again or we’d be up all night,” John said, finishing his friend’s sentence.
Rick looked between the pair in amazement. “Wow…She was right,” he murmured.
“What?” John questioned, unable to make out what he’d said clearly.
“Oh nothing…I said I thought it was a bit bright,” he replied.
“Nah…That’s just the gas station lights,” he informed him. “Hey…Anyone want some coffee?” John asked, reaching for one of the thermoses they'd been supplied with.
“Please,” Rick replied.
Roy sat up and shot a glare at John. “Might as well now that motor mouth is awake and will talk the rest of the way to Sacramento,” the older man said grouchily.
“Cute Pally,” John shot back with a mock scowl.
Roy chuckled, knowing he’d hit the mark.
Rick laughed at the good natured teasing until it turned into a raspy cough.
Both younger men turned professional paramedic in a heartbeat. “Are you alright?” Roy asked, leaning over their patient.
“Yes…Yes,” he gasped, trying to catch his breath. “You two just make me laugh,” he replied.
“I’m sorry…,” Johnny began.
“Don’t be,” Rick interrupted. “I was enjoying it,” he panted happily.
“Well…We’ll try not to be Laurel and Hardy,” Roy promised ruefully.
“WHO?” John replied.
Roy rolled his eyes and Rick chuckled at the expression on the blonde man’s face. “That’s someone they’d never…Uh…I mean he’s too young to have heard of those guys,” he corrected.
“No,” Roy replied with a sigh. “he was just raised in the boonies.”
John threw his partner a scowl but Rick brought his attention back to him with the obvious question. “Oh…Where were….you raised?” He asked, feigning ignorance.
“Montana,” John replied simply, not wanting to give too many details of exactly where.
“So they don’t know who Laurel and Hardy are in Montana?” Rick questioned, wanting to hear more from the young man.
John sighed, he used to keep his past a secret because it seemed to be a source of scorn for some people but mostly because of the abuse he’d suffered at his family’s hands after his mother died. He’d been reconciled to his mother’s family last year, but John still didn’t like talking about his past, even though being raised on a reservation wasn’t embarrassing to him any longer, it just often raised more curious questions that he didn’t want to answer about his abusive upbringing.
He glanced at his partner. Roy and his family had been the changing influence in his life, taking the lonely and empty young man into their family and their hearts and giving him a new start in life. They’d even taken lessons in touch therapy to help him learn to trust them and love again.
Roy caught the look and threw his young friend a wink, seeming to know what he was running through his head at the moment. John smiled poignantly, knowing he probably did.
Rick caught the look that passed between them and was amazed and touched and if truth be known, a bit jealous by the silent communication and the bond these two young men shared.
John turned back to their patient, feeling a bit more settled. “I was raised on a reservation,” he replied. “I’m half Indian.”
Rick’s green eyes took on a sad and faraway look. “Yes…I can see…That in you,” he replied softly.
John shrugged. “I look like my dad but I have my mom’s coloring and eyes,” he explained. “But anyway…They didn’t have TV’s there or at least they didn’t back then, so I wouldn’t have heard about Laurel and Hardy but my pal here educates me,” John teased.
“I see,” he answered quietly. They could hear the humor in his voice even though they couldn’t see the smile.
They felt the van start up as the agents finished refueling and whatever else had led them to stop. John glanced at his watch… 2:30…They still had a long way to go.
Five men were watching as the armored vehicle pulled away. “What do we do?” Farmer asked Sam.
“Rivera, Gregorio…I want you to get ahead of them.”
“We can’t take them out on the highway,” Gregorio muttered.
“Too many witness, even at this hour,” Bud agreed.
“We’re not gonna hit them on the highway…We’re gonna get them off it?” Bertullo replied.
“Yeah…How?” Harlan asked.
“By doing what you all do best.” The foursome frowned. “We need a diversion.”
“Yeah…Like what?” Farmer questioned.
Bertullo pulled out a map and spread it over the hood. He pointed to an area north of LA. “Cause an accident…Make sure it’s a big one but be sure you’re far enough ahead that they can get off the highway before they get to you…Somewhere around here,” he said pointing. “Where there’re a lot of lonely places along the back roads. We’ll have to hit them before they can get back on,” he warned them, showing them the small section of secluded mountainous area.
“Got it,” they replied.
“Once they’re on that road…I want you to come at them from the front…Hit the driver and the agent with him…We’ll take out the rear before they know what’s happening,” he told them. They all nodded. “I’ll let you know when we exit so be ready.”
“We’ll be waiting,” they replied as they headed for their vehicles.
A moment later they roared off into the night.
Rick, Johnny and Roy made idle conversation as they rode along and began to be more relaxed as the miles passed and nothing untoward had happened. And while Rick still seemed preoccupied with Johnny, he’d made no overt gestures that neither Roy or John could take offense at and the pair put it down to his being a virtual prisoner of his scars and his knowledge of some crime and put it out of their minds.
The car suddenly slowed as the traffic volume began to increase. Roy peered through the narrow window in the front and realized that they were approaching Los Angeles. “Eight more hours to go,” he announced to the others.
John grinned. “Hey…Wanna see if they’ll stop at your house for breakfast,” he teased.
“Yeah…Jo would love having to get up and feed this crew at three thirty in the morning,” he replied.
John gave him a crooked quirk. “Not to mention them trying to shove it through that little grate in the window,” he added, nodding toward the front.
Rick chuckled at their byplay. “You two are quite a pair,” he told them.
Roy reached over to give John a playful scruff of his shaggy sable hair. “Best friends for a long time right junior,” he replied, pulling his hand away just in time to avoid John’s slap.
“And I have no idea why,” John said grouchily as he smoothed his hair down.
Both of the other men laughed. Roy knew why of course…His feelings for John were comfortable and open and familiar at this point in their friendship. Rick didn’t know any of that of course but, he’d soon learn.
A half hour later the trio felt the vehicle begin to slow, coming almost to a halt. John leaned forward to peer out the window. He could see that the traffic ahead of them was almost at a standstill. The agent riding shotgun picked up the radio and began to speak. That lasted for several seconds before he appeared to be listening to someone on the other end. A moment later he set the radio down and spoke at length to Arants who was driving. He nodded and began to try and edge his way toward the right lane.
John tapped on the glass to get their attention. Morgan flipped the small switch to open the two way microphone. “What is it?” He asked brusquely.
John frowned. “I just wanted to know what was going on up there?” He asked.
“There’s a big accident a few miles up…Nothing to be concerned about so don’t worry. LAPD says it’ll take a couple of hours to clear, so we’re going to take the next exit and get back on the highway further beyond it.”
John peered ahead as best he could. “Are the fire department and the paramedics on scene?” He asked in concern.
Morgan shrugged. “Don’t know,” he replied casually.
“Look…we’re trained first responders…,” he began.
“This isn’t your concern,” he snapped back, interrupting.
John’s face darkened and Roy recognized the impending explosion of temper and as much as he didn’t like it…They already had a patient to worry about and there was the one other little hitch.
“Johnny…Let it go,” he said softly as Morgan flipped the mic off and turned his back on them.
“What do you mean let it go…There could be people hurt and…,” he began angrily.
Roy laid his hand gently on John’s arm and the younger man sputtered to a halt at the calming gesture. “And we can’t do a thing locked in this van,” Roy reminded him after he stopped his angry tirade.
Rick watched in amazement at how easily Roy handled his young friend’s explosion of temper and settled him down.
“Oh yeah,” John mumbled unhappily.
Roy smiled and patted his arm once more before settling back. John gave him a slightly defeated look…He hated just driving away when there could be injured people who needed their help but Roy was right…They couldn’t help anyway so there was no point in getting angry at the agents indifference to the situation.
They felt the van creep along and then suddenly accelerate as they hit the exit ramp. A few moments later they turned onto a back road that wound through some pretty rough countryside for a few miles. Both Paramedics recognized the area and settled back. They had another twenty miles of twists and turns before they could get back on the interchange.
The van drove on.
Agent Arants drove along the curving road. He glanced at his watch in frustration knowing they were losing a lot of time. They’d made contingency’s for this possibility, but this particular one led them through some pretty barren terrain and well off the beaten track. It would be the perfect place for an ambush and he looked nervously in his rearview to be sure his tail was back there. They were and Arants started to look away but then he noticed a set of headlights rounding the curve a distance behind them.
It didn’t concern him at first glance…It was probably just another displaced traveler looking for the next highway entrance. He looked away and continued driving. A short time later they approached a particularly steep and narrow section of road.
Arants slowed and once again glanced in his rearview. The vehicle trailing behind them was now much closer and moving up fast…Too fast. Arants felt his heart make a little skip as he realized what was happening.
“We got trouble,” he barked, reaching for the radio to warn the two men behind him but he saw Hagen turn in his seat. They’d already spotted them as well. Even in the darkness, he saw the motion and knew he’d just pulled his gun from beneath his coat and he sighed in relief. They had this...They’d take care of the problem and catch up to them.
Morgan had also turned to look over his shoulder and was still watching behind them to see the results. He saw the vehicle accelerate once again. Arants turned his eyes forward and gasped in horror as two cars rounded the bend in front of them side by side, completely blocking the road as they came toward him.
Something hit the window in front of him…The window deflected the object but the bullet proof glass still cracked under the pressure and Arants realized they were being shot at. Two more fractures appeared in front of his face and he flinched instinctively.
He jerked the wheel to the left to avoid the vehicles and the gunfire…The cumbersome vehicle swayed, the left tires hit the soft shoulder of the road. Arants tried to recover but the top heavy vehicle was already beginning to lean hard to the left.
Morgan started to spin around in his seat as the bullets pinged off the windshield. He felt himself catapulted to his right and then rapidly to his left as his partner tried evasive maneuvers. He slammed into Arants as his body was thrown around the cab and they both let out a cry of fear as the huge vehicle began to roll…
In the car behind them Hagen and Price had also seen the van closing rapidly behind them. Hagen drew his gun from his shoulder holster and began to turn to fire at the oncoming vehicle, but the driver had seen the motion and he accelerated quickly to ram the tail end of the car, sending the smaller vehicle lurching across the road.
Price quickly corrected but the van picked up speed to slam into them once again. He tried to correct and almost made it but suddenly the armored car in front began to swerve as the driver lost control. “What the Hell?” He shouted as the large vehicle left the road and began to tip sideways.
The two agents gasped as they spotted the oncoming vehicle. Bullets struck the window. Price cried out as he was hit and lost control. He braked hard and managed to bring the car to a stop before it followed the armored truck, despite his wound. He and Hagen jumped from the vehicle to fire at the oncoming attackers.
Inside the back of the car, John and Roy gasped in alarm as the armored car suddenly braked hard and began to swerve. Roy staggered to his feet to grab hold of the gurney to be sure it was locked in place and wouldn’t be tossed about.
John also managed to stand, but it was short lived. He caught a quick glance of a black van riding the tail of the agent’s car behind them and then their own vehicle swerved hard to the left.
“HOLD ON!” Was all he had time to shout as the van began to roll.
Roy was holding on to the gurney which was bracketed to the floor but even so he was thrown sideways as the vehicle listed to the left. He flung his hand out to try and grab hold of Johnny but he barely managed to brush his back as John was catapulted hard into the rails of the stretcher.
He grunted in pain as his belly made contact with the heavy aluminum and then he was tumbling in a vicious somersault as the vehicle continued to flip onto its side and then its roof. His head was struck hard by Rick’s oxygen tank as it was tossed about the rolling car…the pain ceased and everything went dark as the van continued tobogganing on its roof to the bottom of the steep ravine.
Roy managed to hang on to the gurney as the car rolled. He saw his best friend flung into the stretcher and then tumble away as the vehicle continued to plunge down the hill. Inertia finally won and his grip was broken as the vehicle continued its wild slide. His head hit the bench they’d been sitting on and his vision shrank to a pin point.
Rick was restrained on the gurney but even still, he felt his stomach lurch with the same flipping motion as the vehicle rolled, tumbling its helpless occupants like clothes in a dryer. He threw his hands up in an effort to ward off the flying debris until the vehicle finally came to a stop.
He hung there gasping painfully as the straps cut into his flesh. For a long moment there was only silence and then a noise intruded. Rick had been in the war and he recognized the POP…POP…POP sound instantly. It was gunfire…This was no accident…They were under attack.
The van pulled up short and two men jumped out and began firing at the agents. They ducked behind the car but a moment later the doors of the other two cars sprang open and four more men joined the battle. The agents quickly found themselves outgunned and out flanked.
Price cried out as another bullet struck him and he was spun around from the impact. Three more hit his chest and then he felt nothing. Hagen watched in horror as his partner took four bullets, he began to move in his direction to cover him but he felt a thud hit his back. Pain blossomed and a moment later, he fired back. One of the attackers fell but the remaining four began a hail of bullets. He never felt the one that ended his life.
Inside the van Rick’s green eyes swept the vehicle…Both of the younger men lay limp and unmoving. There was no motion from the front of the cab and he could only assume the agents were like John and Roy, either unconscious or dead.
His frightened gaze returned to the still figure of the dark haired paramedic. Against Chambers and Tanners judgment and Rosemary Hughes’ wishes, he had insisted on John and Roy’s escort to Sacramento, even threatening not to testify if they refused. He didn’t know the depth of Morris’ power or his determination to silence him and he’d thought they’d be safe but he’d been wrong. “Dear God…What have I done?” He whispered to himself.”
The sound of gunfire stilled and Rick had no idea who’d won the battle. He did know that none of the agents had the key and ‘IF’ the bullet proof glass did its job, they would be safe enough but he couldn’t risk that ‘IF.’ The two younger men had to be protected even if it cost him his own life.
He struggled to get the restraint straps loose and finally managed to get the buckle undone. He gasped as he dropped to the floor/roof of the vehicle and laid there gasping for breath for a long moment, but he knew he was running out of time and had to move NOW.
He struggled to his feet and made his way to the crumpled bodies of his two companions. His priority was John but he also knew the dark haired paramedic would hate him forever if something happened to the man he thought of as his brother and the man who’d been at his side for the last seven years when he’d lost everything else.
He leaned over Roy and blew out a relieved breath that the blonde man was breathing evenly. He couldn’t see him in the darkness and hoped he wasn’t too badly injured. He dragged Roy to the front of the vehicle, where they would have a tough angle even if they could get through the glass. He grabbed the thick, orange bench pad from the floor behind him, laying it over the still form before turning back to John.
He stood panting for breath for a minute until he felt strong enough to go for John. He checked the slender young man tentatively, afraid of what he’d find. He’d seen the boy thrown all over the vehicle and he was afraid the young man was dead or badly hurt. He touched his neck and breathed a sigh of relief that a weak pulse beat beneath his fingers. John was alive but from the warm stickiness on his fingers…He was bleeding badly from somewhere.
He heard voices approaching the vehicle but couldn’t tell whose. He quickly reached up and released the brackets holding the stretcher to the floor/ceiling, letting it fall to the ground with a resounding crash. The voices drew closer and Rick heard a loud bang. He flinched before realizing that it wasn’t aimed at them but he knew now who had won the gunfight and he knew he had to move fast.
He grabbed John’s limp form and pulled him up close against the wall. He gripped the rails of the stretcher and pulled it toward them. He laid it in front of them and then turned to cover the younger man’s body with his own and just in time.
He heard voices again and this time they were right outside the window. He heard a name he recognized… ‘Bertullo’. A flashlight beam cut through the darkness and flicked about searchingly. A moment later all hell broke loose as a hail of gunfire erupted from outside. The bullets pinged off the glass, leaving spider web like cracking patterns but the glass held.
He remained motionless as the gunfire stopped and then heard the thumping of objects striking the glass but thankfully it refused to yield. The assault on the vehicle seemed to go on forever but in reality had lasted only about twenty minutes. Rick heard a scratching sound from outside but couldn’t figure out what he was hearing but then, after a short time…It grew silent.
Bertullo moved over to join his men. He glanced at Rivera. “You okay?” He questioned the wounded man.
“Yeah…I’ll make it,” he gasped, holding his shoulder…His face pale with pain.
“Good…Morse…Get rid of the bodies and the car before someone goes by and sees them. The rest of you…Let’s go finish the job,” Sam said menacingly.
Morse headed over to drag the bodies of the agents into the heavy underbrush, while the rest of the group headed for the overturned car. The beam of their flashlight cutting through the predawn gloom as they made their way down the steep hillside and peered into the cab of the upside down vehicle. The driver and his passenger were hanging upside down in their seats, kept from falling by their fastened seat belts.
One of them moaned and began to stir. Farmer wasted no time…A single shot ended his involvement with the situation.
“This one’s dead,” Gregorio exclaimed from the other side.
“Good…Let’s finish this then…grab the keys,” he said to the man as the others headed for the back.
The man reached into the cab and began to search the two agents but he came up empty. This could be a problem. He grimaced as he contemplated Bertullo’s reaction to this predicament. He looked back to see the group shining the light and peering through the windows. They could barely see one of the paramedics, lying unconscious close to the front of the cab with the bench seat pad over him. The stretcher carrying the ‘witness’ was overturned and empty. They frowned but then realized that he must be pressed against the wall with the stretcher over him…There was no sign of the second paramedic.
“No key’s Bertullo,” Gregorio shouted from the front.
“Dammit,” he swore angrily. He thought for a moment. “Check them for keys,” he yelled up to Morse but a moment later his hopes were dashed.
“No keys here Sam,” he shouted back.
Chambers and Tanner had outsmarted them after all. “Well…We’ll do this the hard way,” he added drawing his gun. The others followed suit.
They fired at the glass over and over, watching in frustrated rage as the bullets created snowflake like patterns, but refused to give. The gunfire ended when they finally realized that no amount of fire power that they carried would be strong enough to penetrate the glass.
“Find something to smash it with,” Bertullo growled in frustration.
“If the bullets wouldn’t…,” Farmer began but stopped at the look of rage on Sam’s face. They spread out, returning with dead branches and stones to attack the windows, but it refused to yield under the onslaught.
“What do we do?” Gregorio asked, tossing the branch down in frustration.
Bertullo ran his hands through his thinning dark hair. “I don’t know,” he snarled.
“We could cut through the roof?” Rivera suggested.
Bertullo scowled. “Did you bring a blow torch?” He sneered. “Maybe a stick of dynamite,” he added menacingly.
Rivera flushed in humiliation but didn’t answer the taunting remarks. Bertullo would shoot him in a heartbeat if he pushed him too far.
Sam looked around the darkened landscape. He glanced up at the beginning of sunrise. “Let’s cover it up so it can’t be seen from the road…When that sun comes up it’ll turn into an oven in there,” he said with a shrug. “They’ll die from the heat,” he added, knowing they really had no other option. Traffic along this road would increase very soon and they had to be gone before someone spotted them and stopped to check it out.
They set to work pulling up the loose brush and branches and covered the vehicle from the casual glances from the road above.
When they were done, they climbed into their vehicles and drove away. Bertullo scowled at Farmer in the seat beside him. “Morris and Chad owe us big time for this one,” he growled.
“We can’t even tell them who the witness was,” Farmer retorted morosely.
“Doesn’t matter who now…he’s dead,” Bertullo muttered as they drove away.
To be Concluded in Part 3
Posted to Site 6/2/15
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order. The characters of Emergency belong to Universal and Mark VII but this story itself however, is the property of the author.
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