by Winnie


Part 11


Ezra lay back on his bed and closed his eyes as he let the familiarity of his home soothe away the aches and pains and emotional turmoil that plagued him. He could hear the television in the living room and knew Vin was probably watching reruns on the channel that showed the sitcoms from the eighties. The Texan seemed to enjoy shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Jeffersons.


Ezra glanced at the bedside clock and rubbed at the wound in his chest before sitting up. He was hungry, but he wasn't sure what he wanted. He tucked his feet into his slippers and grabbed the soft robe from the back of the chair before making his way to the living room.


“Hey, Ez, ya look better'n ya did this morning,” Tanner observed.


“Thank is amazing what a couple of hours...”


“A couple of hours...try six,” the Texan said with a grin. “Ya hungry?”




“I'm guessing that's a yes,” Tanner said. “Come on...I made stewed chicken and vegetables.”


“Surprisingly that sounds quite appetizing,” Standish said as his stomach rumbled loudly.


“We'd best feed that beast before it bites us,” the Texan said and led the way into the kitchen. He waited for Ezra to sit down at the breakfast nook and served him a bowl of the savory chicken stew and a biscuit.


“Thank you, Vin,” Standish said and took a tentative spoonful, relishing the taste as his stomach once more rumbled appreciatively. “Is there anything new at Shady Acres?”


“Not much. The board was ready ta fire Styles, but somebody took care of that decision fer 'em.”


“Has JD gotten anywhere with Kent's files?”


“No, he's still trying to break through Kent's secure passwords, but so far he's hit a brick wall,” Tanner answered.


“Perhaps I could...”


“Oh, no ya can't. Travis said ta remind ya that ya ain't allowed near the office until the docs clear ya.”


“JD could bring...”


“Ain't gonna happen, Ez, so suck it up and put a sock in it,” Tanner warned.


“Vin, what if Kent wasn't behind the killings? What if whoever is out there decides that Chris is a liability he or she can't afford?”


“We've all thought of that, Ez, and it means ya could be in danger too,” the Texan said.


“I'm no threat.”


“Maybe not, but if Kent didn't do it then you could know somethin' and not even know ya know it.”


“Somehow that actually made sense,” Standish said and looked into his bowl, amazed that he'd actually finished the whole thing. He picked up the biscuit and broke off a piece. “Vin...”


“Ez, it ain't up fer debate,” Tanner told him.


“I was simply going to ask who is picking Chris up tomorrow?”


“Sure ya were,” the Texan said and raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Buck's picking Chris up and he'll bring him here. Mighty nice of ya ta let 'im stay in yer guest room.”


“It seemed like a favorable idea considering the alternative would be needing two of you in different places,” Standish said and finished the biscuit. He reached for a napkin and cleaned up the crumbs while watching as Vin put the dishes in the dishwasher.


“Are ya headin' back ta bed or would ya like ta watch somethin'?”


“I believe I could stomach an episode of Gilligan's Island,” Standish said.


“Yer a closet Gilligan fan,” Tanner said with a grin.


“No, I prefer being a Ginger fan, but you may have Gilligan if that's...”


“Gilligan don't float my boat, Ezra, now Mary Ann is mighty fine,” Tanner said as they made their way into the living room.




Chris had never been a patient man and waiting for Simmons was not one of his favorite pass times, not by a long shot. He slapped the mattress and sat up on the edge of the bed. He stood up and reached for the IV pole before making his way to the bathroom where he took care of business and glanced at his reflection in the mirror.


“Ya look like shit, Larabee,” he mumbled of the pale face and dark half circles under his eyes. He knew the reason was more than just his wound; it was also due to the nightmares and lack of sleep. He reached for the cloth and used it to wash his face before leaving the room and making his way to the chair beside the window.


Chris leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes, snapping them open when he heard voices outside the door. There was no mistaking the gruff sound he associated with Simmons and Chris readied himself for the argument he knew was inevitable with the older man. He was ready when Simmons and Midland stepped into the room, or at least he thought he was.


“Good morning, Chris,” Midland said with a smile.


“It was until you let him in,” Larabee groused.


“Aren't you just a ray of sunshine on an otherwise dreary morning,” Simmons said and dropped the chart onto the table.


“You could have sent me home yesterday and made us both happy,” Larabee said.


“Now, Chris, Brandon has last say on whether you are ready to be released,” Midland said.


“Where is he?” the blond asked.


“He's in surgery,” the woman answered.


“Damn it, Doc, I want out of here.”


“There's a big surprise,” Simmons said with a grin. “Look, Larabee, Brandon signed your release papers because your numbers are better...”


“Why the hell didn't you say so?” Larabee snapped.


“It was too much fun listening to you gripe about what you wanted,” Simmons said.


“Chris, Brandon left orders for follow up appointments with him and I want to see you in my office in one week,” Midland told him.


“Done, now if you two would excuse me I'd like to get the hell out of here before the vampires show up for more of my blood...”


“Actually, it's not all yours anymore...I'm more inclined to say you're borrowing it for  short time,” Simmons teased.


“Hell, Doc, you're a real barrel of laughs this morning, but my advice is...don't give up your day job,” Larabee said.


“I wouldn't think of it,” the gruff physician said with a grin. “Besides if I did who would I have to irritate...or irrigate where you're concerned.”


“Real funny,” Larabee said and turned to Midland who seemed to be enjoying the banter more than he was. “Doc, are we done?”


“I think so,” Midland said and passed Larabee several sheets of paper. “Those are your follow up appointments and your scripts. Make sure you finish the antibiotics, Chris, or you could end up back in here and we all know how much you detest hospitals.”


“Then why does he have frequent flier miles on the gurneys?” Simmons said with a toothy grin before leaving Midland alone with Larabee.


“Doc, why did you take him on?” Larabee asked.


“It seemed like a good idea at the time and he certainly knows how to handle all of you,” Midland said. “He's good at his job, Chris, and he knows what he's doing...I trust him.”


“That's good to know, Doc,” Larabee sighed as he looked toward the door to find Buck standing there.


“Simmons said you're like a grizzly with a burr up your ass this morning...oh, hi, Doc.”


“Good morning, Buck, make sure you pick up his scripts and don't let him anywhere near the office until I clear him,” Midland said and left the two men alone.


“You ready to blow this Popsicle stand?”


“Hell, yes, did you bring my clothes?”


“Of course...not that you wouldn't cut a fine figure walking out of here in your birthday suit and bandages,” Wilmington teased.


“Real funny, Buck, make yourself useful and go find a nurse to take this thing out before they decide to do more tests,” Larabee groused. It wasn't long before the nurse removed the IV and Chris dressed in loose fitting jeans and a t-shirt settled into the wheelchair and was pushed out of the room. By the time they reached Buck's Mustang, Chris felt as weak as a newborn calf and was grateful for the ladies' man's help getting his seat belt secured.




Vin heard the door open and walked out of the kitchen to find Wilmington hovering behind a pale-faced Larabee. He quickly assessed the blond and felt a small amount of relief when Larabee met his eyes before making his way toward the living room.


“How's Ezra?'” Larabee asked once he was seated on the black leather sofa.


“He's resting. Are ya hungry?” Tanner asked.


“A little,” Larabee answered.


“Nathan brought over a pot of chicken soup...Rain made it last night,” the Texan offered.


“Sounds good,” Larabee said as he leaned back and closed his eyes. He could her Vin and Buck talking softly, but he couldn't quite make out what they were saying. He opened his eyes and frowned as Ezra slowly made his way toward him and sat in the matching leather recliner.


“Welcome to my humble abode.”


“Ezra, there's nothing humble about your home,” Larabee said. “You have all the modern conveniences and your taste in decor is well suited to who you are.”


“Thank you...I will take that as a compliment.”


“Good. Are you okay?”


“I think so. Tired all the time, but at least the pain level is dropping,” Standish said.


“Good,” Larabee said and turned to find Vin and Buck carrying a tray each. Vin set one on the coffee table in front of him, while Buck placed the second one on Ezra's lap.


“Eat,” Wilmington ordered.


“Yes, Pa,” Larabee said.


“I guess that makes Vin, Ma,” the rogue teased.


“Not a chance, Buck, Ezra's the one who looks good in a dress,” Tanner said with a grin.


“Purple really brought out the color of his eyes,” Wilmington added.


“You can always kick them out, Ezra,” Larabee said.


“Now that idea has merit,” Standish observed.


“And who would look after you two?” Wilmington asked.


“I believe we would manage very well on our own,” the gambler answered and turned to Larabee. “I know we would probably sleep better.”


“Ezra's right...go home you two...better yet, go to work. I have a feeling there are plenty of files that require your attention,” Larabee ordered, but his words fell on deaf ears as Wilmington and Tanner ignored him and sat down on the floor.


“Nope, we'd rather leave them to you...make you feel all important so's ya know we missed ya,” Tanner told him.


“Hell,” the blond said and looked at the bowl of steaming soup. Leave it to Vin Tanner to come up with a roundabout answer. It was good to be here and he knew they'd heal with the help of their friends.




Two weeks passed before Chris and Ezra were allowed to put in an appearance at the agency's office. The others were already there and a stack of files had been placed on Larabee's desk. He looked at the five men in disgust before making his way into his office and sitting down. 


Chris knew he would not be allowed to work outside the office, but at least he could update these files and grumble about it later. He reached for the first one and opened it to find Nathan's concise handwriting and that it was signed in all the right places, leaving a spot for his own signature. He signed off on it and smiled when he reached for the next one and found it to was complete and simply required his signature. 


Chris unconsciously rubbed at the healing wound and looked up to find his team watching him. He didn't have to say a word and knew they understood how grateful he was that they'd cleared the backlog of files to make his return easier. “I owe you boys a drink.”


“True, Brother, but it'll have to wait until you and Ezra are able to join us,” Sanchez offered.


“Deal,” Larabee said and noticed JD had returned to his desk. “What's JD working on?”


“He's still working on Kent's hidden files,” Wilmington answered.


“I believe I'll offer my skills and perhaps between us we will decipher whatever encryption Kent put on his files,” Standish said and moved to join Dunne at his desk.


“Were you able to find anything about Bear?” Larabee asked, dropping his pen on the desk before leaning back in his chair.


“Josiah and I found several patient files that seem to have been doctored. Brian Schneider's is one of them and if we're right his sister is behind his commitment. Do you remember us telling you any of this?” Jackson asked.


“Not really,” Larabee answered.


“Well, Orin is working with the judge who signed the commitment papers and Brian should be released in a couple of weeks. Sooner if we're able to prove he doesn't need the drugs they're using on him. Coburn is already looking into it from his end,” Sanchez offered.


“Coburn knows what to look for and he's ready to back us up with the judge,” Tanner added. “There are at least four other cases that seem ta be fucked up.”


“Any idea whether any Shady Acres employees are involved in this?” Larabee asked.


“Sheppard, but that's just because there's something about the bastard that doesn't feel right,” Sanchez observed. “I've been checking into his background, but so far he's squeaky clean.”


“Keep at it, Josiah, he did seem to covet the Jacobson money,” Larabee told him.


“I think we're all in agreement about that. I wonder if he was involved with Kent?” Wilmington suggested.


“Maybe, but until we get into Kent's hidden files we can't prove anything,” the blond said tiredly.




JD had never been so frustrated in all his life, but he'd never been a quitter and was not about to start now. Too many lives depended on him being able to decipher Kent's files and notations and although he and Ezra had been able to extract most of the hidden information, there were still several files they had yet to unlock.


Ezra and Chris had been back at work, but were under orders not to overdo things. JD smiled at the thought because, none of the team had ever listened to those words of wisdom. He was alone in the office this morning, but was due at the courthouse in two hours to give testimony on a case that had finally come to trial a month ago. Hopefully, his and Josiah's testimony would see Angel Murtaugh sent to prison for the rest of her life.


JD tapped several keys and frowned when something new showed up in the corner of one file, something that hadn't been there before and opened a new path into Kent's files.


“Gotcha!” he said and looked around sheepishly when he realized he was alone. It would take time, but just maybe when Chris and Ezra got back from Shady Acres he might have the final piece of the puzzle.




Samantha Parker watched as Daniel Coburn walked toward her table, but her eyes were on the man standing next to him. There were a lot of changes in the man who had pretended to be a patient and she couldn't help, but admire the way he walked with a purposeful stride toward her. The man had cost her a sweet deal, but he'd also managed to give her a way out, not that she would ever be able to acknowledge that.


“Sam, Chris wanted to speak with you,” Coburn said once they reached her.


“Hello, Chris, I'm pleased to see you're recovering from your ordeal. Are you having any trouble dealing with flashbacks?”


“Sometimes,” Larabee answered honestly and thought he saw something in the slight smile she wore, but it was gone as quickly as it formed.


“If there's anything I can do to help please don't hesitate to ask,” Parker told him.


“Thanks, Doc, I just wanted to apologize for the way I acted and hope I didn't cause you any problems,” Larabee told her.


“Nothing we can't deal with and you even managed to help at least one patient. Brian....or as you so aptly nicknamed him, Bear, is responding to therapy and if everything continues as they are he should be...”


“He shouldn't be in here at all,” Larabee told her and turned as Coburn's pager went off.


“I need to take this. Sam, Chris wants to visit Brian...”


“I'll take him,” Parker offered. “Brian is working in the gardens outside.”


“Chris, tell Orin I'll call him later,” Coburn said and hurried away.


“How are you feeling, Chris?” Parker asked and placed her tray on the cart.


“Better,” Larabee answered honestly. In the four weeks since he'd been injured, his wound had healed and both he and Ezra were well on the way to getting back to work full time. “I hear you're leaving Shady Acres.”


“Yes, I think it's time I moved on. Why don't we go out the back way...Brian is working on the flowers near the supply shed?”




“Mister, would you help me find my baby?”


Larabee turned and smiled at the young woman who looked at him with sadness in her eyes.


“Melanie, why don't we get one of the nurses to help you find your baby?” Parker suggested.


“It's okay, Doc, I think I see Melanie's baby,” Larabee said and walked toward a table near the back of the cafeteria. He picked the doll up and cradled it carefully as he adjusted the tattered blanket around it and rejoined the doctor and patient. “Is this your baby, Melanie?”


“Yes,” the young woman said and tears spilled from her eyes. “I didn't mean to lose her, Mister, I miss her so much.”


“I know you do,” Larabee said as he transferred the doll to her arms and Parker signaled for a nurse.


“Melanie, I want you to go with Katrina and she'll make sure you and your baby are okay,” Parker said.


“Thank you, Mister,” Melanie said and followed the nurse.


“She's been through so much,” Parker said. “Thank you for being so gentle with her.”


“I'm just glad I didn't...”


“Well looky here...Jacobson's back. You come to rub it in, Jacobson?”


Chris turned to see Joseph Dugan leaning against a table and fought back the urge to wipe the smug smile off his face.


“Joseph, I believe you have an appointment with Dr. Miller,” Parker got between the two men and waited until Dugan backed down. The man was a blowhard and at times she wanted to see someone like Larabee put him down, but now was not the time or place for it.  She could feel Larabee behind her, sensed the strength that emanated from him even if he wasn't at full strength and refused to show any fear where Dugan was concerned.


“Hell, Doc...”


“You've just lost your privileges for the day! Would you like to go for more?”  Parker asked, relieved when the man backed down and turned away from them.


“You handled him well,” Larabee said.


“He's strong when he believes he's in control, but in here control is a deceptive thing at best,” Parker said and took the lead. “How is is Ezra?”


“He's fine. He's talking to several members of your board about what happened,” Larabee said.


“Please tell me he's being diplomatic.”


“Ezra wrote the book on diplomacy...that's why I let him handle them,” the blond said, frowning when they turned down a corridor and walked silently toward the door that led outside. There was something familiar about this area and he swallowed several times as if there was no moisture left to be found.


“Chris, are you all right?” Parker asked.


“I'm...I...” a frown formed and again and again he swallowed as he tried to make sense of what was happening, of what he was seeing...whether it was real or just something his mind made up while he'd been under the influence of Kent's drugs. A wave of dizziness washed over him and he grabbed for the wall as nausea churned through his gut. He felt a hand on his arm and tried to pull away, but couldn't quite manage it as a deafening roar sounded in his ears.


“What the hell happened?” Carl Sheppard asked as Parker pulled a syringe from her pocket and uncapped it with one hand. He had no idea where she'd gotten it, but glanced around as she drove it into Larabee's shoulder.


“I don't me get him outside before someone sees us...”


Chris could hear the voices, and felt something sharp enter his shoulder, but he couldn't quite make sense of what was being said. He fought to clear his vision and grasp the elusive memories that seemed to be making him sick.


“What the hell? Where's Jacobson?” ~ “He's right here, but between the drugs you gave him and the ones Kent gave him he's a mess.” ~ “ Look, I need to get out of here before we're discovered. Take the gun and shoot Larabee...” ~ “Why the hell don't you do it?” ~ “I can't be seen here. Look, shoot Jacobson and make it look like he killed Kent. You'll be a hero for catching the crazy patient, and Ray will be a martyr.”


The words were jumbled together, but they were also very distinct and the damning words came from the woman grasping his arm. He tried to pull away and felt something connect with the newly healed wound and pain flared briefly as he struggled to pull away. Chris knew he had to call for help, but for some reason he couldn't comprehend he couldn't form the syllables let alone the words.


“We need to get him out of sight!” Parker said of the now semi-conscious blond supported between them.


“What did you give him?”


“A sedative...I ordered it for the patient I had just before lunch and didn't need it.”


“Good thing,” Sheppard told her. “Let's put him in the supply shed for now, but we need to figure out a way out of this.”


“I have an idea. Dugan has had it out for this bastard from the start...maybe it's time he paid him a visit,” Parker said and waited for Sheppard to unlock the door before shoving Larabee inside and closing it. “You stay here and make sure no one goes in here. I'll send Dugan out here. As soon as he's out of the building I'll hit the panic button and put this place in lock down. That should give Dugan enough time to take care of Larabee.”


Sheppard nodded and watched as she hurried back toward the main building. He just hoped they could deal with both Larabee and Dugan without casting suspicion upon themselves.




JD glanced at his watch and knew he didn't have much time before he was due in court, but he wanted to finish inputting the last of the data before leaving. He frowned when he saw the hidden pathway that led back to the original system and the name that had created the puzzle. He grabbed his cell phone and quickly hit speed dial for Chris Larabee, but it went to voice mail. He hung up and dialled Ezra's number, impatiently tapping his fingers on the desk.


*“Good morn...”*


“Ezra, listen to me. Is Chris with you?”


*“No, he's in the secure area visiting Brian. Is something amiss?”*


“You could say that...hey, what's that noise?”


*“It sounds as if someone hit the panic button and the alarm is sounding. It appears that Chris will be on his own until this is...”*


“Shit! Listen, Ezra, I managed to break through the last of the passwords and Kent wasn't behind the murders.”


*“He wasn't?”*


“No, it's Parker, but I doubt she's doing it alone,” Dunne explained and glanced at his watch. “Look, Ezra, I gotta be in court in half an hour...”


*“Go, JD, I'll find Chris and get the police out here.”*


“Okay...I'll call Buck and fill him in,” Dunne said and hung up. He hurried out of the office as he hit the speed dial on his cell phone.




Joseph Dugan had always been a man who used his fists, but he admitted to himself that he preferred his targets to be weaker than he was. The fact that Parker was letting him have some fun with Larabee was a plus, but even better was that the man was sedated and probably unable to fight.


Dugan heard the alarm and hurried toward the supply shed, adrenalin making him excitedly anxious to get the job done before they discovered he was missing. He passed a short man who looked vaguely familiar, but when the man didn't try to stop him he continued toward the small building at the edge of the property. 


Dugan pushed open the door and the bright sunlight spilled inside, revealing his nemesis lying on the floor. He stepped forward and reached down, grabbing a fistful of shirt as he lifted the man to a sitting position. He pulled him up until he was standing, but the blond seemed totally unaware of what was happening. He could deal with just made this that much easier.


Dugan held onto the blond with one hand and drew back the other before driving it forward into Larabee's midsection. He heard a soft hiss of air, but otherwise got no reaction from the sedated man. He struck him several more times before releasing the man and kicking his several times in the upper body.


He reached down and grabbed Larabee, throwing him toward the open door and smiling when his upper body collided with the frame before falling on the paved walkway. He followed him outside and continued to hit the sedated blond several times until a crazed roar reached his ears.




Brian Schneider stood near the white roses that bloomed along the back of Shady Acres, unaware of the sound of the alarm. He'd seen a man, a miserable lowlife who prayed on those who could not protect themselves, striding toward the supply shed. He started to walk toward the area, surprised when he saw someone stumble from inside and fall heavily to the ground just before the man he knew as Dugan stepped out and kicked the other man.


Brian screamed as he raced toward the two men, unaware of a third man watching them. He recognized the downed man as one who had helped him and called him Bear and he would not allow Dugan to continue beating him. He grabbed Dugan before the smaller man could escape and quickly struck him several times while Dugan tried unsuccessfully to land blows of his own.


Chris struggled to open his eyes, but whatever she'd given him made it impossible to concentrate on anything. He could hear someone nearby, but it sounded like fighting and he couldn't quite understand who they were or why he was so concerned when his own body was on fire with pain. He fought down the nausea as he struggled to gain his feet, but was unable to make his body respond to his orders. There was a thunderous roar inside his head, but he managed to get his eyes open, at least he thought they were, but he couldn't make sense of what he was seeing or hearing.


Two men seemed to be fighting, but who they were or why they were fighting was lost to him even as the bigger man threw the other one against the wall of a nearby building. Chris looked up into the big man's brown eyes and saw unbridled trust in them. He felt the man's strong arms lift him and cradle his battered body in his arms.


“Safe now...Bear will keep you safe,” Brian whispered and searched for a place to keep his friend safe from harm. He knew he couldn't go inside the building, not while the alarm continued to vibrate off the walls and fences. Something bad was happening in there, and he had to keep his friend safe. He gently held the man as he raced toward a strand of small trees that he considered a safe harbor and found the indentation in the low brush that had been his salvation during many storms. He sank to the ground and held tight to his charge, a gentle beast tthat would bare his claws to protect his cub.




“I'm sorry, but no one is allowed inside until the grounds and buildings are secure and the patients are in their rooms,” the guard said.


“Then get me someone who will allow me access!” Standish snapped.


“I am sorry, but I can't do that! You'll simply have to wait until the alarm is shut down!”


“Get me Dr. Coburn!” the gambler ordered and reached for his cell phone as the familiar tone started. “Standish.”


*“Ezra, it's Buck, have you been able to get through to Chris?”*


“No, he's not answering his phone and I can't get into the secure area while the alarm is in effect!”


*“Nathan, Vin, and I are on the way, but it'll be an hour before we reach you. Do you know why the alarm was set off?”*


“No, but I'm pretty sure I can hazard a guess as to why Chris is not answering his phone.”


*“You think Parker is on to us?”*


“Exactly, and if he remembered something, then Parker would have to act fast. The secure area is for dangerous patients, Buck, and if she wanted to get rid of Chris there are plenty of people she can use. They trust her to help them and God knows what she can do with the medications she has at her disposal. Look, I'm going to try Coburn's number and see if he can do something about Parker from inside. I'll call you back when I have some answers.”


“I've got Dr. Coburn on line one,” the guard said and moved so that the angered man could speak into the microphone.


“Dr. Coburn, it's Ezra Standish, please tell me you know where Chris Larabee is?”


*“I'm sorry, Ezra, but things are a little crazy in here right now. We have several missing patients and need to...”*


“Dr. Coburn, please listen to me,” Standish impatiently interrupted the man. “Do you know where Dr. Parker is?”


*“I saw her a while ago with Chris. He wanted to see Brian Schneider and she was...”*


“Good Lord, look, I don't have time to explain, but Dr. Kent was not behind the murders at Shady Acres...Dr. Parker was.”


*“What? How can that be? Dr. Kent's files...”*


“Were tampered with and JD uncovered a lead that pointed him in Parker's direction. You need to find Chris before she does something to him...better yet, tell your guard to let me in!”


*“I'll be right there, Ezra, and I'll have the staff search for Parker and Larabee.”*


“Thank you, Dr. Coburn,” Standish said and breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of being allowed access to the secure area. At least inside he'd be able to search for Larabee whose disappearance seemed to coincide with the discovery that Samantha Parker was a cold blooded killer.




Samantha Parker looked up as Carl Sheppard hurried toward her. She'd managed to stay out of sight while the others searched for missing patients and knew something was wrong by the look on her partner's face.


“We need to get out of here!” Sheppard snapped once he made sure they were alone at the side of the building.


“What's wrong? Didn't Dugan do his job?”


“No, that big bastard showed up and...”


“What big bastard?”


“The one the nurses are calling Bear...the one that helped Larabee the last time. He knocked Dugan out and took Larabee with him.”


“Took him where?” Parker asked, feeling the noose tightening as she searched the area.


“How the hell should I know? I wasn't about to stop him...not after what he did to Dugan,” Sheppard told her.


“I should have killed Larabee myself when I had the chance!” Parker snarled.


“How do we get out of here?”


“I don't know...have you got your key card?”


“Of course.”


“Good, as far as everyone is concerned we can use a cover story and hope Bear keeps Larabee hidden until we escape. We should be allowed to leave soon and that's when we get out of here. I've already made plans to leave the country so it's just a matter of setting things in'd be wise to leave without a backward glance too.”


“Are we just going to let the bastards ruin everything for us?”


“What choice do we have, Carl? It's already fucked up,” Parker said and began to walk back to the entrance to the building. Her mind raced at the thought of being caught in this mess and going to prison. She knew she could put the blame on Sheppard, but she needed to make sure Larabee could not testify to what he saw. In order for her to clear up this mess, Chris Larabee would have to die. The rest of it could be taken care of as easily as slipping Sheppard and Dugan the drugs she'd bought to use on Chris Larabee in the first place.




Daniel Coburn knew he needed to get some help and glanced around the area. He spotted Katrina Morgan and several other nurses checking patient whereabouts as he hurried out the main door. He made his way along the walkway toward the gate leading to the outer grounds and saw the relief on Ezra's face when he neared the gate.


“Dr. Coburn, this is against regulations,” the guard said.


“I know and I'll take full responsibility for it. Now open the gate and make sure no one leaves or enters until the police arrive,” Coburn warned, relieved when the gate opened and Standish joined him.


“Where's Parker?” Standish asked.


“I haven't seen her since I left her with Chris,” Coburn answered and hurried toward the main building. “There are several patients still unaccounted for.”


“Are they dangerous?”


“Ezra, this section of the facility is set up for dangerous inmates,” Coburn answered.


“Do we know who we're looking for?”


“Dugan is one of them. He's a mean sonofabitch who likes to hurt anyone who can't defend themselves. Chris had a couple of run ins with him.”


“Anyone else we should be concerned about?” Standish asked worriedly.


“Brian Schneider and no one has seen Carl Sheppard since before the alarm. He was supposed to meet with the board of directors, but that was canceled when the alarm sounded.”


“Could he have left before it happened?”


“No, he would have had to sign out,” Coburn answered as they reached the main door and he entered using his coded key card.




Brian could hear people near the place where he was hiding and kept his arms wrapped around the semi-conscious man. Deep down he knew he should let someone know where he was, but he had to protect Chris, had to defend the man who'd stood up for him when others shied away. He heard a soft gasp from the man who was his champion and wished he had something to wipe the blood from around his mouth and head.


Dugan had done a job on his friend, but he'd returned the favor and now Dugan was unable to hurt anyone else for a while. Brian tilted his head to the side when he heard someone call his name, but he remained silent in an effort to protect his injured friend. Brian used his hand to brush aside the sticky blond hair from Chris' forehead and spoke softly when the man began to tremble in his arms.


“It's okay, Chris. I won't let him hurt you any more. You called me Bear and I like that and I'll protect you from people who want to hurt you,” Schneider vowed as footsteps drew closer and he rocked gently back and forth while keeping his touch light.




Daniel Coburn and Ezra Standish helped in the search for the missing patients and Chris Larabee, but so far they hadn't found any of them. The police had arrived and were being given access to the secure area with orders that they leave the care of the patients to the staff. 


There was still no sign of Carl Sheppard or Samantha Parker, but they hadn't finished searching every room in the secure area. Coburn moved to the main desk and spoke to Katrina Morgan, leaving Ezra standing near the entrance to the common area.


Ezra felt the nauseating guilt return, but fought against it as he concentrated on what was happening around him. He spotted a familiar figure enter the area from the opposite door and hurried toward her. He didn't want to cause a scene and put the staff at risk and forced a smile to his face as he called out to her.


“Dr. Parker, could I have a word with you?”


“Mr. Standish isn't it?”


“Yes, Doctor, it is good to see you again,” Standish said as the alarms were finally silenced.


“I'm sorry, but I have to help settle the patients and make sure they don't panic,” Parker explained.


“Sam, have you seen Joseph Dugan or Brian Schneider?” Coburn asked.


“No, I haven't. I left Chris with Brian near the roses,” Parker told her.


“How long ago?” Standish asked.


“About half an hour ago,” Parker said and hoped Sheppard took her advice and left the enclosure before the police arrived to help search for the missing patients. She knew Dugan would be discovered at any time and hoped Sheppard was right about Schneider messing him up.


“Would you mind showing me where you left them?”




“Please, Doctor, I'm sure Dr. Coburn wouldn't mind taking care of your patients for a few minutes,” Standish said, relieved when several police officers entered through the main doors and strode toward them.


“I have to go,” Parker tried, but found her arm caught in Standish's strong grip.


“I don't think so,” Standish said as two officers stopped in front of them.


“Dr. Parker, we have a warrant for your arrest,” Steven Proust said and took out a set of handcuffs.


“What's this all about?” Parker snapped.


“We know Kent didn't kill those patients, Sam,” Coburn answered. “These people trusted you...I trusted you.”


“I don't know what you're talking about, Daniel,” Parker said as the officer cuffed her arms behind her back.


“Where's Chris, Dr. Parker?” Standish asked and saw the true depth of her coldness in her eyes as she spoke.


“Dead...the bastard deserves what Dugan did to him!” Parker snarled as the officers pulled her away from the desk.


“Brian was outside when Chris arrived. Maybe we should take a look out there,” Coburn suggested. 


“Hey, Doc!” an orderly called from the other end of the hallway. “We found Dugan unconscious out by the supply shed.”


“Did you move him?” Coburn asked.


“No, Sir, we know better than that,” the man said.


“Is someone out there with him now?”


“Yes, Dr. Miller was at the picnic area and he's looking after Dugan. He sent me in to get a gurney.”


“You go ahead, Dr. Coburn, just show me where Brian should have been,” Standish said.


“I can't let you go out there alone, Ezra, but the supply shed is close to where I last saw Brian so you might as well come along with me,” Coburn told him and grabbed an end of the gurney as the orderly pushed past him.


Ezra followed behind and grabbed his cell as it vibrated against his chest. “Standish.”


*“Ezra, it's Vin, we're right outside, but we're not making much headway in getting in to the secure section. Did you find Chris?”*


“Not yet, but the police have taken Parker into custody and Vin...”




“She said Chris was dead.”


*“Do you believe her?”*


“Not for a minute,” Standish answered. “Look, I'm going outside to search for Brian...Coburn said Chris wanted to see him. I'll contact you if I find either of them.”


*“All right...we'll come find you a soon as we're allowed in.”*


Ezra placed the phone back inside his pocket and hurried after the doctor, catching him just as they stepped through the door leading toward the supply shed. He glanced around, but saw no sign of Chris Larabee or Brian Schneider.




Brian knew he had to keep his friend safe from the people who could hurt him, but something had changed in Chris. The man he held was trembling uncontrollably, as if cold, but the sun was still high in the sky and it wasn't that cool in the shade. He frowned as he tried to make sense of what had happened and knew he had to find someone who would help his friend. He tried to ease away, but it seemed Chris had other ideas and clung to his arm.


“Brian, are you out here? We're worried about you, Brian, and we need to make sure you're safe.”


He knew that voice, it was one he trusted and his heart beat faster as he lifted Chris into his arms and carried him out of their hiding place. He spotted the woman not far from his hiding place and called to her softly.


“I'm here.”


“Brian, thank God,” Katrina Morgan called and quickly assessed the situation. She knew better than to startle him, although the way he held Chris Larabee's body was like a man protecting his family.


“Chris is hurt...he needs help, but the bad people are watching. Will you help me hide him?”


“Brian, do you trust me...”




“Ezra, stay back!” the nurse ordered when she saw the change in Brian Schneider.


“Don't let him hurt Chris.”


“I won't, Brian. Ezra is Chris' friend...”


“No...he put...he put him in here and let Dr. Kent hurt him.”


“No, Brian, that's not what happened and I promise no one will hurt you or Chris,” Katrina vowed. “Ezra, go tell Dr. Miller we need him and ask Daniel to bring another gurney, but tell him to keep everyone else back for now.”


“Are you sure?”


“I'm sure. Brian and I are going to make sure Chris is all right until Daniel arrives. Brian knows I won't hurt either of them...right, Brian?”


“You're always nice...never hurt...always feel better,” Brian said and allowed the nurse to walk closer.


“What happened to Chris, Brian?” the nurse asked softly.


“I saw Dugan kicking him and he wasn't moving and he needed my help...Chris helped me and I want to help him. He's hurt and he started shaking like he was cold, but the sun is hot and he shouldn't be cold like that.”


“I know, Brian, and Dr. Miller will help him.”


“Will I be locked in my room because I hurt Dugan?” Brian asked, eyes downcast as if ashamed that he had hurt someone.


“No, Brian, I don't think so. You did what was right and you may have saved Chris' life.”


“Katrina, is everything all right?” Daniel Coburn asked softly.


“I think so, Daniel, did Ezra find you?”


“Yes, and Dr. Miller will be right over with a gurney. Brian, are you all right?”


“I'm okay, Dr. Coburn, but Chris...Chris is hurt...Dugan was kicking him and I had to make him stop.” 


“You did the right thing, Brian,” Coburn said as Miller and Standish pushed a gurney toward them. “Brian, we need to help Chris so would you put him on the bed so we can take him inside and Dr. Miller can see what's wrong with him?”


“Okay,” Brian said and reluctantly placed the unconscious blond on the bed as the nurse took his arm.


“Daniel, I'm going to take Brian inside so he can get cleaned up. I'll make sure he's okay.”


“Okay, Katrina,” Coburn said and smiled at the large man standing beside the woman he loved. “You did good, Brian, now we'll make sure Chris is all right.”


Ezra watched as Brian Schneider glanced at Chris Larabee before allowing Katrina Morgan to guide him toward the building. He turned his attention to the man on the gurney and silently cursed the fact that he had agreed to speak with Shady Acres board of directors instead of going inside with the blond.


“We need to get him inside so I can get a better look at him,” Miller said and began maneuvering the gurney toward the buildings.




Chris slowly became aware that the warmth was gone and that he was lying flat on his back on a moving object. He fought to open his eyes and felt nausea churn through his gut. He felt someone help him turn on his side and wretched several times before lying back on the pillow and looking around.


“Welcome back,” Standish said and placed his hand on Larabee's shoulder.


“Did I go...go somewhere?” Larabee asked, frowning when he realized Standish was not the only one with him.


“Pretty damn close, but...”


“Hell, Ezra!” Larabee said and tried to sit up.


“Stay still, Chris!” Coburn warned and tried to keep Larabee from coming off the gurney.


“Ez, where are they?” Larabee asked pointedly glaring at Coburn.


“Who?” Standish asked, once the gurney was pushed inside the building.


“Parker and Sheppard...they're behind the murders,” Larabee said and dropped back on the gurney as pain lanced through his body and mind.


“Parker's in custody...I'll let the police know about Sheppard,” Standish said and stayed back as Miller and Coburn pushed the gurney into the examination room.


“Ezra, where's Chris?”


Standish turned to find Buck, Vin, and Nathan hurrying toward him and knew it was Wilmington who'd voiced the question. “He's in with Dr. Miller and Dr. Coburn.”


“What happened?” Tanner asked.


“I don't know the full story, but it appears that Chris had a run in with some guy named Dugan.”


“I know the bastard. Chris never took ta him,” Tanner observed. 


“Where's Dugan?” Jackson asked.


“I don't know, but I need to let the police know they should detain Carl Sheppard. Chris says he's involved in the murders,” Standish explained.


“I saw him a few minutes ago. He was trying to leave, but the police are not letting anyone out until they verify that all the patients are present and accounted for,” Wilmington explained.


“I'll go make sure the police keep him for questioning,” Jackson said and hurried toward the door he'd just came through where an officer stood guard.


“How bad, Ezra?” Tanner asked softly.


“I don't know, Vin, but he's covered in bruises,” Standish answered and moved back when a nurse brushed past and entered the examination room. He felt the weight of the world settle on his shoulders once more as the guilt threatened to renew itself.


“Ezra, don't go there,” Wilmington said.


“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Standish said.


“This isn't your fault...none of it is so wipe the guilt off your face and let's make sure the guilty parties go to jail,” the rogue told him and leaned back against the wall to wait for news on his friend.




Chris knew there was no point in arguing with the doctors who seemed hell bent on checking him over from head to foot. The trip from Shady Acres to Saint Vincents was a blur, but he was awake now and wanted nothing more than to go home and curl up in his own bed. Simmons and Midland had their own ideas that did not bode well for him. 


“Now, Chris, we all know how much you love hospitals...”


“Yeah right,” Larabee griped and glared at Simmons whose arms were folded across his chest.


“Okay, maybe love is a little strong, but I'm beginning to think the hospital would do well to put in a revolving door and save ourselves the time and trouble.”


“You know, Simmons, you're a barrel of laughs today...”


“Actually, it's night,” Midland said. “You've been only marginally conscious over the last six hours and I'm not signing any discharge papers until you can keep your eyes open for more than an hour...”


“I've been awake more than an hour, Doc,” Larabee protested.


“She means keeping them open and actually being aware of your surroundings,” Simmons said. “Your room should be ready for you by now and I'm sure the nurses on the third floor have been warned of your arrival.”


“Give us a couple of days to make sure there's nothing we missed, Chris, you'll be glad you're in here when you realize just how much damage Dugan inflicted on you,” Midland explained.


“I think I already know, Doc,” the blond said and reluctantly lay back against the pillows with a heavy sigh.


“I'll have the nurse bring you something for pain before they take you upstairs,” Midland told him and patted his shoulder. “If you feel up to it I'll tell Vin, Buck, and Ezra your room number and they can visit you for a few minutes, but then I want you resting.”


“It's a hospital, Doc, I never rest in here,” Larabee groused.


“Oh, I don't know about've certainly been out of it today,” Simmons said before following Midland out of the room.


Chris closed his eyes and felt the aches and pains running rampant through his body. He remembered Midland and Simmons telling him the full extent of his injuries, but right now it felt like one massive wound that had festered to encompass both mind and body. He felt someone at his IV and opened his eyes just as the nurse injected the medication into the juncture closest to his hand.


“That should help, Chris,” the woman said and turned to find the orderly who would take Larabee to his room.


“Thanks, Donna,” Larabee said. He felt the bed moving and closed his eyes, opening them again when he was asked to shift onto the other bed. He felt the nurse taking his vitals before she left the room, but soon heard soft footsteps approaching his bed and opened his eyes to find three worried men watching him closely.


“Chris, you look...”


“Don't say it, Buck,” Larabee interrupted tiredly.


“I was just going to...”


“I know what you were going to say and right now five miles of bad road doesn't cut it,” Larabee said with a hint of a smile as he looked toward Ezra Standish. “Did they get Parker and Sheppard?”


“Indeed they did. Both miscreants are residing in jail until further notice,” the conman answered.


“Good, I'd ask you for details, but you'd just have to repeat them when I'm more coherent,” Larabee told them. “Look, go home and get some rest. I'll be looking for a ride home in the morning.”


“Only if the doc signs the discharge papers,” Wilmington warned.


Chris gave the man a half-hearted smile and raised both eyebrows before turning slightly on his side and wincing as the move tugged on batter ribs before closing his eyes and listening as the others left the room. With Parker and Sheppard behind bars, he felt as if he could sleep for a week.




Chris relaxed in the chair that seemed to have molded to his body and waited for the others to take their places around the conference table. His team were seated in their usual spots, but Orin Travis and Daniel Coburn were also present. Three months had passed since they'd agreed to take the case at Shady Acres, and things were finally settling into a routine for both the staff and patients. There were several files open on the desk in front of each man and they'd taken the time to read through them before Travis and Coburn arrived.


“Chris, Daniel asked to sit in on this meeting and I didn't think you boys would mind,” Travis said.


“Not at all, Orin,” Larabee said and waited for Coburn to speak


“Gentlemen, on behalf of the staff, patients, and board of directors of Shady Acres I'd like to express our thanks for what you've done. The families of those patients who were murdered are being compensated and although we cannot hope to make up for their deaths at least they now have some closure. I am sorry that Chris and Ezra were injured...”


“No need to apologize for something beyond your control,” Larabee interrupted. “It's par for the course in our line of work...right Ez?”


“Affirmative,” Standish readily agreed. It was hard, but he'd finally managed to put the guilt behind him and now that both of them were back to work it was easier to see the good in what they'd done.


“Be that as it may, we at shady Acres are in your debt,” Coburn said. “I brought someone with me and if it's all right I'd like to have him brought in.”


“Who is it?” Larabee asked and smiled as the big man entered through the main door. He owed Brian Schneider his life and was glad to see him outside Shady Acres. He stood up and shook the man's hand gratefully. “It's good to see you, Brian. How are things going?”


“Much better now that I no longer take the medications. Some things are still messed up, but I remember most of it. My sister thought she should have been put in charge of everything and was angry when our father's will named me as executor. Dr. Coburn and my lawyer told me she bribed a doctor and a lawyer and forged the documents claiming I was out of control and had killed three people. I would never hurt anyone...unless they were hurting someone else.”


“Like Dugan was hurting Chris,” Coburn explained.


“I saw him kicking Chris and I had to stop him and I didn't know who I could trust. I didn't know you were Chris' friend, Ezra...I thought you were his brother and put him in there. I'm sorry.”


“There's nothing for you to be sorry for, saved my life and I owe you.”


“You gave me back my life, Chris, and you befriended me when everyone else wanted nothing to do with me. I will never forget that,” Brian told him.


“I'm glad you got your life back, Bear,” Larabee said with a grin.


“I like that too,” Brian said of the nickname. “I have a meeting with my lawyer this afternoon, but I wanted to stop by and see you. I hope you'll let me buy all of you dinner.”


“Sounds good, Brian, but I'll buy the champagne,” the blond said.


“I too, must leave, but I'll let you all know what happens with the other patients we are reviewing,” Coburn said before leaving Orin Travis with the team who'd worked damned hard to find out what had happened to the patients at Shady Acres.


Chris sat back and listened while the others discussed the new case that had come up that morning, but his mind was not quite on their conversations. He was thinking about Samantha Parker and Carl Sheppard and the evidence JD had uncovered which included a drug dealer named Marcus Turner who had also been arrested. All three had been denied bail and would stay in jail until their trial date. Parker and Sheppard had turned on each other and Chris knew there wouldn't be much of a trial once the date arrived. There was no doubt in his mind that all three were facing long prison sentences and that was something he was grateful for.


“Chris, I'll call you later and let you know when Mary and Billy are in town. Keep me up- to-date on pending cases,” Travis said before leaving Larabee and his team alone.


“All right, Boys, tell me about the Leary case and where we are and exactly what we're dealing with,” Larabee said and settled down to the latest case Orin had asked them to look in to.


The End


PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 5 / PART 6 / PART 7 / PART 8 / PART 9PART 10




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