by Winnie


Part 6


Buck swept the floors of the common area, speaking with several patients as he passed and watching for any sign of Chris, Nathan, or Vin. He’d seen Tanner earlier, but there hadn’t been any opportunity to talk, but he knew the Texan was worried, hell they all were. He heard someone approaching the main door and looked up, fighting hard to hide his anger when a nurse wheeled Larabee into the room and parked the chair at a table.


Chris looked like he was half stoned and had been through hell and Wilmington knew he was heavily sedated as the nurse reached for a bottle of juice and helped him drink several small sips. There was no doubt that something had happened since Ezra and Josiah had visited and Buck wanted to find out exactly what it was, but it would have to wait until his shift ended. He pretended to sweep the floor and closed the distance between himself and Larabee, but Chris made no sign that he recognized him.


“Would you like some more juice, Chris?” the nurse asked and when her patient gave a slight nod she allowed him to drink his fill before setting the bottle on the table. “Now I have to go check on my other patients, but if you need me just tell someone. Okay?”


Again Buck saw the slight dip of the blond head as he swept the floor. He moved closer and pretended to stumble striking a container of crayons and markers so they spilled at Larabee’s feet. “Oops, sorry…I seem to be all thumbs today.”


“Always w…were subtle,” Larabee slurred.


“Chris…God you had me worried,” Wilmington said, but there was no further sign that his friend knew he was even there. He glanced into Larabee’s eyes and recognized the glazed look from the days after Sarah and Adam were murdered and wished he could whisk the blond away before anything else happened, but this case was important. If patients were being murdered they needed to follow through on whatever leads they came across. He patted the man’s leg before returning his attention to the crayons and turned when someone called his name. One of the patients had spilled a glass of water and he was needed to clean up the mess. Hiding his disappointment at being pulled away from his friend, Buck did his job as best he could.




Nathan sat at the picnic table listening as a female patient told him about her life and why she thought she was better off at Shady Acres. The woman looked as if she’d been through the wringer and Nathan guessed she’d been addicted to heavy duty drugs such as heroin or cocaine.  


“I need help…I can’t do it anymore and my Danny said he won’t love me any more unless I get some help so he put me in here and the doctors are helping me, but sometimes I get real scared and I want to get out and find someone who’ll give me…God, I wish…”


“Sheila, it’s time to go back to your room and rest,” a nurse Nathan didn’t recognize explained, smiling at the woman before helping her stand.


“Don’t take the blue pills, Mister…they’re poison,” she whispered in his ear before the nurse led her away.


Nathan sighed and looked up as footsteps sounded and Buck Wilmington took a seat at the next table. He had a tray with something that smelled somewhat enticing, but it was the look on the rogue’s face that had him worried. Jackson glanced around, but there was no one else in earshot and he hoped they’d have a few minutes to themselves. “You okay?”


“No…no I’m not, Nate…I saw Chris and he’s a mess,” the ladies’ man answered.


“I know…I think he’s taking his role a little too far,” Jackson told him. “Hopefully Coburn was able to do something about the sedatives Kent ordered for Chris.”


“God, I hope so because he won’t be able to function if they keep him doped up,” Wilmington snapped, pretending to eat the chicken casserole.


“Did you ever think maybe Chris is putting on a show for our benefit?”


“I thought about that, but his eyes tell me different…he looks like he’s flying higher than a kite.”


“I’ll be making rounds with Kent this evening before I leave so maybe I’ll have a chance to check him out,” Jackson told him and stood up. “I’d better be going before they send someone to find me.”


“I’ll see you at Josiah’s place when you’re done,” Wilmington said.


“I’ll be there,” Jackson said and headed back inside the secure area.




Chris watched everyone around him and hoped his mind stayed clear as he tried to get a read on his fellow patients and the people who worked at Shady Acres. So far most patients kept to themselves, but on occasion one would look his way and speak, but he remained silent, pretending the drugs he’d been given were still affecting his mind. He knew Coburn must have found some way of keeping the dose at a minimum most of the time, but on occasion Kent slipped something heavier into his veins and he lost all sense of what was happening around him. 


Chris knew the nurse would be returning for him shortly to take him back to his room and made sure he kept up the act as he watched the big guy seated in the corner by himself. Dugan was not around and everyone else stayed clear of the mysterious ‘Bear’. Chris wondered why he was drawn to the figure, but there was something about him that tugged at Chris’ soul. The man held tight to the same book, but Chris didn’t think he was reading it.


Chris spotted the woman who’d spoken to him about her baby on a couple of occasions and wondered what her story was. There was a sadness to the way she clung to the doll that bespoke of a loss so tragic it was no wonder she was a patient. He caught her tilting her head to the side as if staring at some imaginary baby in her arms whenever she misplaced the doll.


“All right, Chris, why don’t we get you back to your room so Dr. Kent doesn’t have to come looking for you,” Katrina Morgan said as she took control of the handles. She thought about the patient she was caring for and let her thoughts turn to Daniel Coburn. They had been lovers for over a year now and he trusted her and she trusted him. He’d told her his suspicions about the deaths and asked for her help in getting to the bottom of it. She knew who the man in the wheelchair was and why he was pretending to be a patient and knew how important it was that she make sure his medications were ‘doctored’. So far she’d been able to do just that, because each patient had their own supplies delivered from a pharmaceutical company owned and operated by the board members of Shady Acres. 


Chris kept his eyes downcast as she wheeled him toward his room, passing several other patients who were also being returned to their rooms in time for evening rounds. He caught sight of Vin Tanner, but in no way acknowledged the man’s presence as they passed each other. Once inside the room he allowed the nurse to help him dress in the pajamas and then shifted from the wheelchair onto the bed where he sat with his arms at his sides. The nurse reached across him and made a show of pulling down the blankets so that her lips were mere inches from his right ear.


“I know why you’re here…Daniel is a friend and I told him I’d do everything I could to help. Just keep pretending the drugs are working,” Morgan told him and moved back as the door opened.


“Hello, Chris, how are you feeling this evening?” Kent asked, holding the door for Jackson to enter. He watched for any reaction from the patient, pleased to see the man jerk slightly at the sound of his voice. “I’m hoping your afternoon went better than your morning did. Katrina, would you bring me Chris’ medications?”


“Yes, Dr. Kent,” Morgan said before exiting the room.


“Nathan, he looks a lot calmer now doesn’t he?” Kent asked.


“Yes, he does, I guess the medications are working properly.”


“So it appears, but there may still need to be some adjustments,” the psychiatrist explained and sat beside the blond. “Look at me, Chris.”


Chris’ head tilted slightly to the side as if he didn’t quite have the energy needed for such a simple command. He knew Kent would be watching him closely and hoped he could fool the man into thinking he was still under the influence of the sedatives.


“You do seem calmer, Chris, but are you putting on an act?” Kent asked, watching his patient’s face for any telltale signs that the man was doing just that. The nurse returned with the medication and handed the syringe to Kent before wiping an alcohol pad across Chris’s shoulder. Kent continued to watch Jacobson’s face, pleased when there was no response to the needle except a slight twinge when the sharp point entered his arm. 


“He seems really out of it,” Nathan commented.


“It is necessary to find the right combination and dosage,” Kent told him, hiding the scalding retort he wanted to give. “If you stay in this field you’ll find that you have to find the right treatment for each patient because they are individuals and need individual assessments.”


“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to offend you, Dr. Kent, it’s just that I want to know every aspect of our roles in a patient’s treatment and recovery,” Jackson told him.


“Very commendable,” Kent said before returning his attention to his patient. “All right, Chris, why don’t we leave you alone and let Katrina make you comfortable for the night. Dr. Parker has you scheduled for her group session at ten tomorrow morning. Coming, Nathan?”


Chris watched the two men leave and stretched out on the bed. He smiled at the nurse as she covered him with a blanket, but felt the effects of the medication and allowed his eyes to close. Chris knew she’d doctored the drug, but it was still enough to effect his thought processes and he wished Kent would start him on the pill form so he could palm them as he’d done on the first day. He sighed heavily and was soon drifting toward sleep, plagued with nightmares of being chained to his bed while Kent took pleasure in stabbing him with needles.




Nathan was the last to arrive at Josiah’s home and he’d never been so glad to see the others. He glanced at Standish and studied the man, wincing at the bruise forming on the left side of his face. He knew it was the result of his visit with Larabee and wished there was some way to make this case easier on them all. He moved to sit at the table and accepted the strong cup of coffee Sanchez handed him, wishing it was something stronger, but not really wanting anything that would cloud his deductive reasoning until the case ended.


“Did you see Chris before you left?” Wilmington asked.


“I did…and I think we may have an ally inside the institute,” Jackson answered.


“Who?” Tanner asked.


“A nurse…I think her name is Katrina. She’s on the night shift and if I’m not mistaken she’s been doctoring Chris’ medication so he isn’t being given the full dose Kent ordered. That bastard has to be the one behind those murders or he’s involved with it,” Jackson vowed.


“What makes you think she’s doctoring his meds?” Sanchez asked.


“Just something in Chris’ eyes…when he knew Kent wasn’t looking. JD, see if you can access the institute’s files and check her out,” Jackson said.


“No last name?” Dunne asked.


“Sorry…no there isn’t,” Jackson said.


“While yer at it check out a patient by the name of Brian,” Tanner said. “I ain’t got no idea what his last name is, but Chris said he reminded him of 'Bear' from the movie Armageddon.”


“It’d be a whole lot easier if you guys’d give me a last name to work with,” Dunne griped, but continued to work at accessing the institute’s computer.


“That’d make things too damn easy for you, Kid,” Wilmington teased lightly.


“Find out ever’thin’ ya can ‘bout an orderly named Craig Styles,” Tanner said. “There’s somethin’ ‘bout him that jest don’t seem right.”


“Craig Styles…got it,” Dunne told them.


“Ezra, are you okay?” Jackson asked.


“No, but I will be once we have Chris out of there,” Standish told them, surprising his friends with his revealing answer. “I know that’s something we all want.”


“Amen to that,” Sanchez readily agreed.


“Okay, there’s only one Katrina in the files. Her full name is Katrina Anne Morgan and she’s been at Shady Acres for four plus years. She’s an RN who worked in the private sector for several years before accepting the position at the institute. Graduated top of her class and was on the Dean’s honor role,” Dunne explained.


“I just hope I’m right and she is on our side in this,” Jackson said.


“Me too,” Dunne said and brought up the file on Craig Styles. “Vin, you could be right about Styles. He’s got a shady…no pun intended…past and it looks like he was hired by Ray Kent two years ago. Most of his file is vague, but I’ve been able to access a hidden file set up by someone on the inside…could be Kent’s handiwork. Styles shouldn’t be employed at Shady Acres…he should be a patient. His file is incomplete, but I got into Kent’s private files and it looks like Styles has a record a mile long.”


“What kind of record?” Standish asked.


“Everything from dealing drugs to assault with a deadly weapon,” Dunne answered.


“How the hell was Kent able to keep that out of his record?” Wilmington snarled.


“Probably because he’s on the board and helps decide who should be hired. If he also does the background checks then it would be a simple matter of keeping this stuff out of Styles’ file, I'm guessing. Styles’ record goes way back, but it looks like Styles has been clean since he started working at Shady Acres,” Dunne told them.


“So if Kent hired Styles then maybe we should be concentrating on those two…especially when Kent seems damned intent on keeping Chris drugged out of his head,” Jackson offered.


“What was Styles selling before Kent hired him?” Sanchez asked.


“Cocaine, Heroin…PCP, and Marijuana,” Dunne answered.


“This guy is a drug factory in his own right,” the ex-preacher spat.


“This guy Brian…Brian Schneider…Vin, he’s supposed to have killed three people, but that’s all his file says. I’m trying to find out more, but there’s nothing in here,” Dunne said.


“If he killed three people there has to be a record of it somewhere,” Standish observed.


“No shit!” the kid said, shaking his head when again and again the name Brian Schneider came up clean. “He was admitted to Shady Acres nearly two years ago.”


“Who signed him in or was it a court order?” Sanchez asked.


“Nothing from a court…but his sister signed him in and get this…she signed him in three months after their father’s will left everything he owned to Brian.”


“Okay…something’s definitely shady at Shady Acres,” Wilmington commented, but there was no humor in his voice.


“JD, I’d like you to run background checks on all the patients being held in the secure area of Shady Acres,” Sanchez ordered.


“I’ll download the files now and see if there’s anything missing,” Dunne said.


“Go ahead, JD…we’ll keep battin’ ‘round names,” Tanner suggested. “Anyone else involved in Chris’ case we should know about, Nate?”


“There’s the group therapy specialist…Samantha Parker,” Jackson told them. “I sat in on her session this morning and she’s damn good at her job. There was a troublemaker named…”


“Chris Larabee,” Wilmington said with a hint of a smile.


“He was there,” Jackson agreed, hoping Wilmington’s comment had eased the tension that seemed thick enough to cut with a knife. “This guy’s name is Dugan…Joseph Dugan. He’s a mean sonofabitch and doesn’t give a damn what he says.”


“I’m downloading his file right now,” Dunne said. “He beat his wife so badly he put her in the hospital for a week.”


“Like I said he’s a mean sonofabitch,” Jackson told them. “He seemed to have something against Chris, but it could be I’m just reading something into it. Chris wasn’t too fond of him and was quick to shoot him down.”


“Great, another enemy…just what Chris doesn’t need in there,” Wilmington spat.


“I think Chris can handle Dugan if he needs to, but I think the staff has things under control and are pretty quick to break things up before it gets too hot,” the medic assured them.


“That’s part of the problem…Chris doesn’t know when to back down,” the rogue told the others. “He’ll keep pushing buttons until someone takes him down.”


“Buck, Chris knows what he’s doing and he knows why he’s in there. He won’t lose sight of that…”


“Are you sure about that, Josiah? I mean he’s being given some heavy duty sedatives and even if they are being ‘watered’ down he’s still affected by them. I saw that when the nurse brought him into the common area,” Wilmington explained, running his hands through his already disheveled hair.


“If’n it comes right down to it we’ll pull the plug and get him the hell out of there,” Tanner said.


“I just hope we’re not too late,” Standish said, standing and striding away from the table, painfully aware that the others were watching him. He reached for the coffee pot and poured the last of it into his cup before realizing how badly his hands were shaking. Seeing Chris Larabee in his alternate persona had rocked him more than he realized, but he could not allow that to effect how he worked on this case. Chris’ life depended on his ability to keep a poker face whenever he was at the institute, God help him, but this was the hardest case he’d ever worked on.




“I’m okay, Buck,” Standish said, but one look at Wilmington’s face told him the other man wasn’t buying it for a minute.


“So am I, but I know damn well this doesn’t sit well with you. Ezra, Chris knew what he was getting into when we took on this case and when it’s over we’re all going to rest a whole lot easier,” the rogue told him.


“I know…it’s just seeing him in there and thinking he has some say over what’s happening to him is wrong. It’s deceptive control no matter how you look at it and Chris has always been a man in control,” Standish said.


“Actually I doubt any of us are in control in there, Ez. We have jobs to do and if we do anything stupid we could very well put Chris’ life in jeopardy. We need to keep working on everything from this side of it and hopefully find the answers we need.”


“I know…I received a call shortly after leaving the institute today,” Standish said and motioned for Wilmington to follow him back to the table where the others were still going over the paperwork from Shady Acres. They stopped and looked at the gambler when he retook his seat and began to speak. “I was contacted this morning about Chris and why he’s at Shady Acres.”


“Who was it?” Jackson asked hopefully.


“The caller never identified himself, but suffice it to say he knew a lot about Chris and Ezra Jacobson including Ezra’s embezzlement of corporation funds,” Sanchez told them.


“The caller hinted that he could easily stop Chris’ drugs so that he would be able to get someone to listen to him about the real reason he’s at the institute,” Standish picked up the explanation. “He also said he could help me get rid of my problem permanently and he will call me tomorrow morning. If I wait too long the price will go up.”


“He also knew Chris hit Ezra and told him to ice his jaw,” Sanchez told the others.


“Well, I’m leaning more and more toward Kent as the killer, but something tells me he’s not the one who does the dirty work. There has to be at least one other person involved,” Jackson told them.


“Probably…and there is someone who has access to patient records and would know what Jacobson Enterprises is worth,” Sanchez said.


“Sheppard?” Wilmington asked softly.


“Exactly,” the ex-preacher advised and turned to Dunne. “JD, get everything you can on Carl Sheppard.”


“On it, Josiah,” Dunne told him. He listened as the team continued to discuss the case as he tapped the keys and searched through the staff files for anything on Carl Sheppard. The man was far from clean, but there was nothing that made him out to be a murderer, yet JD knew from experience that appearances could be deceiving.




Chris awoke to the now familiar feeling that his mouth rivaled the desert for dryness and tried to find enough saliva to moisten his lips. His eyelids were heavy, but he managed to open them as the morning nurse and an orderly entered the room. He didn’t recognize either of the newcomers and for a second panic reared its ugly head, but he managed to remain calm.


“Mr. Jacobson, my name is Salina and I have your medication,” Salina Forbes explained and reached into her pocket for a capped syringe.


“What if I don’t want it?” Larabee asked softly.


“You really don’t have a choice right now, but if you’d rather I can have you restrained so I can give you the shot. Frederick can hold you down if that’s what’s needed,” Forbes told him and waited for the patient to make up his mind. She smiled when he reluctantly held out his left arm. She swabbed his shoulder and injected the medication before pressing on the wound before capping the syringe and placing it back in her pocket. “Now why don’t we get you dressed and get you some breakfast before you meet with Dr. Kent?”


“Not hungry…”


“Oh, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I hear today’s special is pancakes and sausages. Now the staff here gets up mighty early and works very hard so that you have well-balanced meals throughout the day and you wouldn’t want them thinking they were wasting their time, would you?”


“Guess not,” Larabee told her and found her smile infectious as he reached for the set of blue sweats she handed him.


“Do you need my help getting dressed?”


“No…I can handle it,” Larabee said and waited for the duo to leave. Once the door was closed and he was alone Chris rubbed his shoulder and sighed heavily. The shot was quickly taking effect and he needed to concentrate on keeping his sanity while the drug made it next to impossible to think straight. It took him nearly fifteen minutes to get dressed and the door opened once more, making him wonder if they were actually watching him through some kind of closed circuit television.


“Oh good you’re ready,” Salina said and took his arm, helping him stand and allowing him time to steady himself before leading him out of the room.


Chris felt somewhat detached from his surroundings and knew it was the drugs in his system and hoped he could still function properly. He felt the nurse release his arm as they walked slowly toward the area where the patients ate their meals. He entered the room and looked around, frowning when someone pressed a tray into his hands and pointed him toward the people serving the meals. A plate of breakfast and a cup of coffee was placed on the tray and he turned to find the nurse had left him to find his own seat. He spotted several empty chairs, but made his way toward the last table, and smiled at the man seated there.


“Is this chair taken?” Larabee asked and wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or if the bald head actually dipped once. He sat across from the large man, wondering why he was reminded of a kitten when the man looked more like a lion. “You don’t mind if I call you Bear do you?” Again he was rewarded with a slight tilt of the head and soon found himself being scrutinized by a pair of soft brown eyes. Something told him Bear knew more about what was going on around him than he let on. It seemed the big man had chosen to be silent and Chris respected his wishes.


“Why’re ya sittin’ with the big dummy, Jacobson?”


Chris recognized the voice, but didn’t acknowledge the man’s presence even after he sat down beside him. Chris saw the change in Bear and knew the man didn’t like Dugan any more than he did. “The only dummy in here is you, Dugan….”


“What the fuck did you say?”


“You heard me, Dugan, now get out of my face!” Larabee spat.


“No one calls me a dummy…”


“Wrong…I just did,” Larabee said, but didn’t even look at the man.


“All right, Dugan, go back ta yer table!”


“Dammit, Vince, things were about to get interesting,” Craig Styles swore.


“I’m new to this, Craig, and I really don’t want to lose another job this fast,” Tanner told him, watching as Dugan did as he was told before turning his attention to Larabee. The blond looked like hell, but he seemed to have found a friend in Brian ‘Bear’ Schneider and something told Vin he was going to need a friend. He knew he couldn’t say much, but a quick nod from Larabee told him he’d heard the conversation and would be on the lookout for the other orderly.




Ezra had no idea what time he’d fallen asleep, but he did know it was after the first streaks of dawn began to brighten the skyline. He’d spent the night in Josiah’s spare room, but hadn’t slept well in spite of the comfortable mattress and abundance of pillows. He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at his reflection in the mirror. His eyes were sunken and rimmed in dark circles, reminding him of someone who’d been on a drinking binge for weeks without a break. He glanced at the clock, frowning when he realized he’d slept a couple of hours at the most and finally made his way to the guest bathroom. It wasn’t long before he’d stripped out of his briefs and stepped into the shower.


Ezra let the hot water run down over his body, hoping the massaging tempo would ease the ache in his neck, shoulders, and back. He reached for the shampoo and slowly massaged it into his hair. He lathered soap on his chest and taut stomach, down across his groin and finally his legs before stepping under the hot spray once more. The water rinsed the soap and shampoo from his body, but did nothing for the worry that plagued his mind.


Ezra stood in the tub letting the water cascade down over his head until it began to turn cold and he had no choice, but to turn it off. He stepped out onto the mat and reached for the thick bath sheet on the shelf and slowly toweled his body dry. By the time he dressed he could smell the coffee brewing and made his way to the kitchen where Josiah had a plate of biscuits and bacon ready for him.


“Good morning…did you get any sleep last night?” Sanchez asked worriedly.


“Not much,” Standish answered honestly.


“Coffee…it’s strong?” Sanchez told him.


“The stronger the better…even Vin’s coffee would be a welcome elixir this morn…” His voice trailed off when his phone began to play the familiar jingle and his hand shook as he reached for it. He watched as Sanchez pressed the button to record the conversation even as he hit the talk button on his cell phone. “Jacobson.”


*“Good morning, Mr. Jacobson, I do hope you’ve had enough time to consider my proposal.”*


“I have, but why should I trust you?”


*“You shouldn’t, but do you really have a choice in this? I know Joseph Spalding is not happy with you right now and that he’s already talking about putting a contract out on you.”*


“I don’t owe…”


*“Oh really? In that case I’m sorry I wasted your time and mine. Be sure you tell Joseph hello when you see him…*”




*“What for? I thought you didn’t owe Spalding anything?”*


“I’m not saying I do, but if I did how can you help me with my other problem?” Standish asked.


*“I can get rid of your brother without involving you…now I know there is no love lost between you and Chris and I’m sure he would gladly pay me to stop the drugs he’s taking, but that would not get me as much money as I’m sure you’re more than willing to pay.”*


“Just say I’m interested in your proposal…how much would this cost me?”


*“Well, with Jacobson Industries being a multi-national conglomerate and worth millions of dollars I figure a million would just be a drop in the bucket for you…”*


“A million dollars…I could hire a hitman to take him out for far less than that!”


*“Of course and that’s an option, but think about the problems an assassination of that magnitude would cause. I’m sure the police would look at you as their first suspect and we both know you can’t afford that kind of attention. Now I am willing to give you more time, but be advised that the more time you take means the higher the price goes. I will call you this evening and hopefully you’ll come to a decision by then. Good bye, Mr. Jacobson.”*


Ezra took a deep breath and pressed the button, ending the call as abruptly as it had begun. They replayed the tape, but aside from it being a male voice there was nothing that stood out. There was something almost mechanical in his words that made the two men think of some kind of voice distortion. “Well, I guess the ball is in my court now…”


“Our court, Ezra, you’re not in this alone,” Sanchez said.


“I know,” Standish told him and wondered how they were going to get through the rest of the day. It was going to be a hell of a long time before this team was able to deal with the consequences of this particular case.




Chris sat in the group therapy session without really listening to what was being said. He was thirsty again, and briefly wondered if there would ever come a time when he didn’t crave something that would moisten the arid interior of his mouth. He spoke when Parker asked him a question, but the shot he’d been given earlier was making it hard to think, all he wanted was to lie down and go to sleep.


“Chris, Dr. Bradley would like to know if you want to return to your room or go to the common area?”




“Chris, are you okay?” Jackson asked, frowning when Larabee could barely keep his eyes open.


“I’m fine…just tired,” Larabee told him and suddenly realized he was alone with the two ‘doctors’. “Session’s over already?”


“Yes, it is,” Parker told him and turned to Nathan. “Would you help Chris back to his room?”


“Of course,” Jackson said and helped Larabee to his feet. He turned to see Wilmington enter the room and knew the ladies’ man was assigned to cleaning the therapy room once the session was over and wished he could ease the other man’s mind. He felt Larabee leaning on him and prayed at least some of it was an act for the benefit of the staff. Once in the hallway he made sure his face was turned away from the cameras as he spoke to his friend. “Chris, what’s going on?”


“Don’t know…feel like hell…tired,” Larabee managed, stumbling in spite of Jackson’s supportive hand on his arm.


“Were you given anything today?”


“Shot…this morning…new…new nurse,” the blond answered, relieved when they reached his room. “Just want to lie down and sleep.”


“I don’t know, Chris…look just sit down and I’ll see if they’ve changed your meds,” Jackson told him.


“No…Nathan, not yet. Can’t m…make them sus…picious,” the blond ground out.




“I’m fine, Nate…j…just let me rest,” Larabee said and lay back on his bed. He closed his eyes and drifted toward sleep as Jackson left the room, closing and locking the door behind him as was the institute’s policy. His tongue snaked out and again he sought moisture, but sleep won out and his body relaxed on the bed.




Carl Sheppard looked at the papers strewn across his desk with a smile on his face. Jacobson Industries was worth far more than he’d first thought and it wouldn’t be that hard for Ezra Jacobson to get the money and pay for his brother’s untimely demise. He picked up the picture of Chris Jacobson and wondered if his anger could be used against him. Marcus Turner had already brought him several samples of the street drugs he’d need if and when the time came to put Chris Jacobson completely over the edge. He could use the PCP or cocaine or one of the newer drugs Styles supplied him with. The street strength drugs seemed to be the best bet if and when the time came for a ‘test’ run. He reached for the phone when he recognized the number and smiled as he spoke with his partner.


“Did you switch his medications as per our discussion?”


*“What do you think, Carl? I told you I can do anything where my patients are concerned. It is your job to make damn sure I get paid what is due me.”*


“Have I ever let you down?”


*“Not yet…just remember what will happen if you cross me.”*


“I won’t. I should be talking to Ezra tonight and I’m pretty certain he’s taken the bait. I’ve made him an offer he can’t refuse,” Sheppard explained.


*“Good…if we do this right we’ll have Jacobson on the hook for many years.”*


“We could retire on this payoff alone.”


*“Exactly…call me after you speak with Ezra Jacobson and I’ll continue with Chris Jacobson so that we’re ready to act when his brother makes his decision.”*


“How can you be sure Ezra will…”


*“I know his type, Carl. He’s the weaker chink in the fence and he knows he’s in trouble with Spalding. I have made a study of people like Ezra Jacobson and the stupid sonofabitch will soon realize we’re his only hope.”*


“Are you going to speak to Spalding?”


*“If I have to, but something tells me it won’t go that far. I need to go check on my patient, but you make damn sure you call me after you speak with Jacobson.”*


The line went dead in his hands and Sheppard leaned back in his chair thinking about his partner and how well they worked together. He was becoming a rich man off their joint ventures and could very well retire if this one went as he expected. He looked at the file before him and smiled at how easily they could manipulate the clientele when they found a weak spot in the powerful families.




Ray Kent watched his patient for any signs of the anger that was often present, but in sleep Chris Jacobson looked almost peaceful. He knew it could be easily explained by the medications he was prescribing and with therapy the man might someday return to a normal life. Someday…maybe…those words brought a smile to Kent’s face, but it disappeared when he heard the door open. He turned to find Samantha Parker and Nathan Bradley entering the room.


“How is he, Ray?”


“Sleeping, Sam, he’s fighting us at every step and we need to stay on top of things.”


“Are you over medicating him, Ray?”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sam…he is being given the correct dosage considering his violent behavior,” Kent assured her.


“He could barely stay awake during group therapy.”


“Perhaps he didn’t sleep well last night…or else he’s still feeling the effects from the head wound,” Kent told them.


“I don’t know…”


“Dr. Bradley, this man is my patient and you would be wise not to antagonize me while you’re still on probation,” Kent warned.


“Nathan was just voicing our concerns for Chris, Ray…there’s no need to threaten him,” Parker said.


“It wasn’t a threat, Sam, it was a warning. I know what’s best for my patients and Dr. Bradley needs to realize that.”


“I’m sorry, Dr. Kent, I didn’t mean anything by it,” Jackson told him. There was something about Kent he didn’t like, and the more he saw of the man the more convinced he became that Kent should be number one on their list of suspects in the murders.


“My patients are my problem and if I want another opinion I will ask for it,” Kent told them. “Now why don’t we leave Chris alone and allow him to get the rest he needs?”


“As you wish, Ray, just make sure the nurses are aware that he’s heavily medicated and should be checked every hour,” Parker suggested.


“I know what I’m doing, Sam,” Kent snapped and motioned for them to leave. He turned and looked back at his patient, a hint of a smile on his face at the thought of using PCP when the time came for Chris Jacobson to take a trip on the wild side.




Chris opened his eyes and took a steadying breath before sitting up and sliding his feet over the edge of his bed. It took several long minutes to come to grips with where he was, and he rubbed at his aching head in an effort to clear the cobwebs there. The sound of the door opening caught his attention and a tremor of fear raced down his spine at the thought of being given another shot, but the nurse who entered didn’t have anything in her hands.


“Hello, Chris, I came to see if you’d like to take a walk in the garden before dinner,” Katrina Morgan said and sat beside him on the bed. “Do you feel up to it?”


“I think so….what time is it?”


“It’s nearly five…according to your chart you’ve slept most of the day. I know you’re due for your meds.” She spoke in low tones and kept her head turned away from the camera so no one would see her lips move. “I don’t know what you were given earlier, but I managed to change the vial so that you’re getting the lower dose again.”


“Thank God…I hate feeling like I’m punch drunk,” Larabee whispered and smiled thinly before standing.


“I have to give you your meds first,” the nurse told him and heard the heavy sigh before he sat back down and allowed her to inject the contents of the syringe.


Chris took a deep breath before standing up, relieved to find he wasn’t out of it the way he’d been when given the earlier shots. He knew he had to act as if he was still doped up and let his shoulders sag as they reached the door and stepped out into the hallway. He spotted Tanner near the main desk and was somewhat surprised when the man walked toward them.


“Vince is going to accompany us in the garden, Chris,” Katrina told him.


“Okay,” Larabee said. He kept his head down as they passed the desk and made their way outside. There were other patients enjoying the sunshine and they made their way toward an open area where several empty chairs were set around a picnic table. It was far enough from other patients and hospital personnel to allow them a chance to talk openly. They reached the table and Chris sat down with a hint of a smile on his face as the nurse took the seat beside him.


“You two go ahead and talk…I’ll keep an eye out for anyone coming this way,” Katrina told them.


“Thank you, Ma’am,” Tanner said and turned to study Chris Larabee. His face seemed gaunt and pale, but his eyes were alert and seemed to be watching everything around him before coming to settle on him. “You okay?”


“I’m better now that Katrina switched the medications. Did you boys find out anything new?”


“Not a whole lot. The man ya called Bear is Brian Schneider and he was admitted two years ago. He s’pposedly killed three people, but there’s nothin’ in his back ground that points ta any kind of violence on his part. He was committed by his sister not long after Brian was named as the soul heir to his father’s fortune.”


“Why have him committed and keep paying for his care when it would be a lot cheaper to arrange an accident?” Larabee asked.


“Well, JD uncovered a couple of int’restin’ facts ‘bout the will. If Brian was killed the money would go ta charity and his sister Nora would receive a small dividend each month. We know she has POA over Brian since he was committed and we’re pretty certain she either forged his signature or had him sign the papers thinkin’ it was somethin’ else,” the Texan explained.


“She sounds like a real piece of work,” Larabee said.


“I agree. JD is goin’ ta see what else he can find out ‘bout her,” Tanner explained and continued to fill Larabee in about the information they’d found on the patients and staff of Shady Acres. “We’re pretty sure Sheppard and Kent are the ones behind the murders, but we need ta find the evidence ta prove it in court.”


“I’ll keep an eye on things from this end. Maybe Kent will slip up if he thinks I’m still full of those damned drugs he likes to shoot me up with,” Larabee told him.


“Ya best be damned careful, Cowboy, in here ya don’t got no backup,” Tanner said seriously.


“Believe me I will be,” Larabee said as he noticed Craig Styles and another patient walking toward them just as Katrina gave them the heads up. Chris let his shoulders sag and stared down at the grass as the orderly joined them.


“Hope you guys don’t mind us joining you. Melanie just wanted to look at the garden,” Styles told them.


“Hello, Melanie, how are you doing today?” Katrina asked.


“I’m okay…but my baby is sad,” the woman answered, holding tight to the doll she clasped against her chest.


“Why is she sad?” Katrina asked softly.


“She wants to go home…but she can’t find anyone to take her. Will you take her home?”


“I’m sorry, Melanie, but I couldn’t do that. You see a baby needs her mother and if I was to take her home then she would be even sadder than she is right now. Perhaps you could sing to her and show her that this could be her home until her mommy feels better,” the nurse said.


“I can keep her with me?”


“Of course you can…she’s no trouble and everyone loves having both her and her mother around.”


“Thank you…would you like to hold her, Mister?” Melanie asked Chris.


“I don’t think you should let a stranger hold your baby Melanie. She might be afraid.”


“I forgot,” the woman said and squeezed the doll tighter. “Dr. Kent said I should protect my baby from strangers. I’m sorry, Mister, but you can’t touch my baby.”


“Craig, I think you need to bring Melanie back inside.”


“Yes, Miss Morgan,” the orderly said and took the woman by the arm. “Come on, Melanie.”


Chris waited for them to leave and sat back, wondering what had happened to the woman to bring her to this.


“She had a baby when she was eighteen, but the baby died in her arms. She did something a lot of parents do when the baby cries and everyone is tired and took the baby to bed with her. The child smothered, and Melanie blamed herself. She tried to take her own life and her husband had her committed. He doesn’t come by anymore and has filed for divorce.”


“That’s sad,” Tanner said.


“Yes, it is, but don’t be upset with her husband. He visited her faithfully every second day and calls to check up on her. He’s even taken her out of here on a day pass and she comes back with a smile on her face, but she’s always looking for her baby. I’ve met him on several occasions and know he still loves his wife, but he can’t continue hoping she’ll come out of this,” Katrina explained.


“It’s hard to lose someone you love,” Larabee observed, his voice laced with sorrow.


“Chris, I’m afraid we have to go back now…”


“Damn, I hate being in there,” the blond said softly, before standing and looking toward the path leading to the outer grounds.


“Chris, we can call a halt to this now…”


“Not yet, Vin…we have to see this through,” Larabee said and waited for the nurse to take his arm and lead him toward the building, unaware that he was being watched.




Carl Sheppard smiled at the way the nurse had to lead the patient toward the building. The man seemed docile and that would make his job so much easier. If all went well he should have an answer from Ezra Jacobson very soon, but for now it was time to send Chris Jacobson on a little trip and set the grounds for his death. Craig Styles worked for Raymond Kent, but he supplemented his income by selling drugs and would be paid triple the amount if he could slip some Dexedrine into his water or coffee. Dexedrine was a stimulant and when taken it could be highly abused and would eventually give the patient a letdown period of depression and fatigue. Yes, indeed, if all went well Chris Jacobson was in for the wildest ride of his life over the coming days.




Nathan Jackson stepped into the Firm’s head office and reached for the fresh pot of coffee, before turning to look at JD. He was not due at the hospital for several hours and Dunne had headed straight here when he left Shady Acres. He knew the kid was working on something, but he hadn’t disclosed anything yet. He pulled a chair over and waited for the youngest member of the team to acknowledge his presence.


“Nathan, I’ve got a password that lets me view some of the files that were removed from the regular system,” Dunne explained.


“Anything we should be worried about?” Jackson asked.


“It says Chris is on two medications…”


“Haldol and Ativan,” Jackson observed. “Don’t worry Katrina is making sure the doses are pretty low and from what Vin told me Chris is pretty lucid.”


“I don’t trust Kent, Nathan…he’s got hidden files on all his patients and I thought the password I had would open them up for me, but there are some that are even deeper…”


“Including Chris’?”


“How did you know?”


“I don’t trust Kent either, but we don’t have enough on him to prove he’s responsible for any of this,” Jackson told him and watched as Dunne continued to tap on the keys. “JD, you need to be careful…it won’t do anyone any good if you get caught looking into files you’re not supposed to.”


“I know what I’m doing, Nathan,” Dunne assured him, making sure he left no trace of what he’d been doing on the hospital’s system.




Chris looked up from his tray as someone sat across from him, surprised to see Bear watching him through hooded eyes. He knew he had to appear docile and continued to play with the shapeless blob on his plate. A sudden movement to Bear’s left caught his attention and he glanced sideways at the newcomer.


“Well looky here…Jacobson’s taken to eating with the retard…”


“Shut up, Dugan,” Chris ground out, angered at the bully’s treatment of the quiet man.


“What are you gonna do about it if I don’t?” Dugan snapped and reached across Bear’s tray and took the buttered roll.


“Put it back!” the blond ordered.


“Mind your own fucking business, Jacobson,” Dugan warned and took a bite of the roll before throwing it across the table, laughing when it struck his nemesis on the chest.


“Bastard!” Larabee snarled, eyes flashing green fire as he reached across the table and latched onto Dugan’s shirt.


“Help…Jacobson’s gone crazy!” Dugan spat, smiling when two orderlies moved to grab the irate blond.


Bear stood up and pushed back his chair as Styles and another orderly grabbed Chris. He moved to help his benefactor, but a nurse quickly moved in front of him and all he could do was shake his head and let the tears fall as his new friend was dragged from the dining area. He turned to see Dugan smiling and lashed out, striking the other man with a beefy fist that sent him flying over the other table.


“Brian, it’s time to go to your room,” Katrina Morgan tried to soothe the angry man and wished she could communicate with him, but Brian remained silent as Dugan managed to get to his feet and wipe the blood from his lips.


“He’s crazy!” Dugan said, but he was also led from the room.




Chris did not regret his anger, but he knew he would pay for it as Ray Kent came into his room and ordered him put in restraints. He fought against them, but Styles and the newcomer were too strong for him and his wrists and ankles were quickly wrapped in the strong Velcro and attached to the metal bars that ran the length of his bed.


“Sonofabitch!” Chris snapped.


“Chris, you really need to curb your anger,” Kent warned. He turned to the nurse and ordered the prescribed medications before turning back to his patient. “Now, I believe you were warned about that temper of yours, but it doesn’t seem to be sinking in. You will have plenty of time to think about it while you lie here.”


Chris continued to struggle as the nurse returned with two syringes. He watched as she passed one to Kent and then used an alcohol swab to clean an area on his shoulder. He silently cursed as he felt the needle enter his arm and the liquid burned as it was injected into his body. The second needle was placed in the same area and Chris soon felt the world around him slipping away. His eyelids grew heavy and he sighed tiredly as someone took pity on him and covered him with a blanket.


“Dr. Kent, what about Joseph Dugan?” the nurse asked.


“Has he told anyone what set Jacobson off?” Kent asked.


“He said he was just making conversation and that Chris took offense to Brian sharing his meal with him,” Salina Forbes explained. “Brian is unable to verify the story, but he seemed angry about something.”


“Chris is not a good influence with Brian and I’d like you to keep them apart,” Kent ordered and turned to Styles. “Jacobson should sleep through the night, but as of tomorrow morning I want you to shadow him and make sure he doesn’t start anything. Keep him away from both Dugan and Schneider.”


“Yes, Doctor,” Styles agreed, smiling at the thought of slipping a little of the new drug into Jacobson’s drink. ‘Let the fun begin,’ he thought, looking at the sedated man before following the others out of the room.


“Salina, I’m going to adjust Chris’ medication and I want the new orders carried out immediately,” Kent said and walked to the main desk. He took the chart and wrote up the new orders before heading for his office. Chris Jacobson would soon find out that anger could and would get him in trouble.




Unable to sleep, Ezra paced across the floor of his Condo, his thoughts on the man residing in Shady Acres. Josiah had left for his home several hours ago and Ezra relished the time alone. He’d been undercover many times, but never in a position where control was so deceptive, and your life was in danger from the people who were supposed to save your life. The sound of the phone ringing rattled his jagged nerves and he strode across the room and picked up his cell.


“Jacobson,” Standish said tiredly.


“Hello, Mr. Jacobson, I’m sure you were anxiously awaiting my call. Have you reached a decision concerning your brother?”


“Are you sure I won’t be implicated in any way?” Ezra asked.


“I guarantee there is no way his death will be associated with you or any other member of the Jacobson family. You have already given me the grounds for his death by having him committed.”


“Look, I just don’t know if I can do it…”


“You don’t have to do anything, Mr. Jacobson. That’s the beauty of this…your brother has a nasty temper and even now has been sedated and put in restraints…”


Ezra heard the words and fought the panic that built in his gut. “What did he do?” he asked, amazed that the words held no hint of the anger he felt.


“I believe he was fighting with another patient, but I have no idea why. So, how would you like to proceed? Do I set this up or do you want to continue as you are and hope Spalding is more forgiving than your dear brother?”


“Do it, but I don’t want him to suffer,” Standish said.


“I can’t promise that, but I will do what I can. Now, as for the fee I would like small unmarked bills in a plain black briefcase. I will call you tomorrow with the details of where you should leave it.”


Ezra stood with the phone at his ear long after the line went dead. He knew he should call the others and reached for his regular cell and called Josiah.




“Josiah, it’s Ezra, I just heard from him. I told him to make the arrangements,” Standish explained.


“Are you all right, Ezra?”


“No…no I’m not, Josiah. I just gave the okay to have Chris murdered,” the gambler said angrily.


“Easy, Ezra, we’ll make sure it doesn’t come down to that. We’re going to visit Chris tomorrow and when we do we’ll warn him to be extra cautious. I’ll call the others and update them. Buck’s on the midnight shift so he’ll be able to keep an eye on things,” Sanchez told him.


“Is it enough, Josiah?”


“Ezra, you’ve been deep undercover before and you know what’s involved. We do what needs to be done and we make sure there’s someone watching our backs. If we see any sign that Chris needs to get out of there then we’ll act on it no matter what he says,” Sanchez assured the younger man.


“I hope we’re not too late for him,” Standish said softly.


“We won’t be, Ezra, now get some sleep and I’ll pick you up around nine.”


“I’ll be waiting,” the gambler said and hung up the phone. He walked toward the open patio doors and stepped outside, relishing in the soft breeze that did little to cool his heated flesh. He reached for the glass of Chablis he’d left there earlier and downed the remains before dropping heavily onto the chair. He knew sleep would be a long time coming, but he slowly made his way to the bedroom and lay down. Ezra stared at the clock, willing the minutes to tick by even as his eyes finally closed and sleep beckoned to him.




Buck Wilmington worked most of his shift without seeing Chris Larabee, but he hadn’t really expected to because patients were confined to their rooms at night. The call from Ezra had left him shaken and he knew things had just taken on an even deadlier caste, making it important that they find the evidence to convict whoever was behind the murders.


“Buck, I need you to clean the floor in room 210,” Karen Sullivan ordered from the main desk.


Wilmington hid his fear at being sent to Chris Larabee’s room as his heart beat faster. Usually when called to a patient’s room to clean the floor meant the poor soul had been sick and that scared the hell out of Buck. He made his way toward the room and took a deep breath before pushing open the door. He knew Larabee had been put in restraints, but had not been as prepared for the sight as he thought he was.


“Jesus, Chris,” he whispered and pushed the cart part way into the room. He used it to bar the door open, his nose itching at the smell of sour vomit.


“Excuse me, Buck,” Sullivan said as she brushed past him and moved to check on the patient. She used a cloth to wash his face and made sure the blankets covering him were not soiled.


Buck watched her care for his friend and fought the urge to pull the plug on the whole deal. The bitter taste in his mouth had nothing to do with the meal he’d eaten, it stemmed from seeing Chris tied down. It was something he knew the blond hated, yet there was not a damn thing he could do to help him.


“Buck, when you’re done in here just let me know so I can lock the door,” Sullivan said before leaving him alone with his friend.


‘Damn, Chris, we need to find out who’s behind this and fast,’ Wilmington thought. He cleaned up the mess from the floor, his eyes constantly straying to the sleeping man. He knew Kent had probably ordered Larabee sedated, and wished there was some way he could find out if it was the real thing or the doctored medication supplied by Daniel Coburn. He knew the camera was on and realized there was nothing more he could do as he reluctantly left the room and signaled the nurse that he was through.




Ray Kent knew what he planned was dangerous, but that had never stopped him before and wouldn’t stop him now. He reached for the phone and hit speed dial, smiling when Craig Styles answered on the second ring. “Craig, it’s Kent…”


“What can I do for you, Doc?” Styles asked.


“Do you still have your special contacts?”


“Of course…what are you looking for?”


“I want something that’ll send Chris Jacobson on a wild ride…but not kill him,” Kent explained.


“I can do that, but it’s going to cost you.”


“Money has never been a problem, but I want it to be out of his system fast so it doesn’t show up in blood work…or else it’s masked by the other drugs he’s taking,” Kent explained.


“Oh, I think I can manage that, Doc…when do you want it done?”


“Anytime tomorrow…I’ll make sure that you’re assigned to Jacobson while his brother visits and maybe we’ll get to put on a real good show,” Kent said.


“Sounds like tomorrow is going to be full of surprises,” Styles said.


“Yes, it does,” Kent said and hung up the phone. He sat back, folding his hands in front of his face as he thought about his dislike for people like Chris and Ezra Jacobson. Chris Jacobson was a hard man who had a temper and alcohol problem, but that was no excuse for being an obnoxious fool. Ezra Jacobson wasn’t much better, but at least he wasn’t loud and unruly like his brother. It was time to put his plans in motion and let Carl Sheppard deal with the aftermath.




“Good morning, Nathan,” Samantha Parker greeted the newest member of the staff as she searched for a place to sit down. “Would you mind some company?”


“Sure…have a seat,” Jackson told her. He picked up the cup of strong black coffee and took a sip as the woman sat across from him.


“What time did you get here?”


“About an hour ago,” Jackson answered. “I wanted to familiarize myself with some of the protocols and figured the best way to do that was from the inside.”


“Smart man…that’s exactly what I did when I first started here,” Parker told him. “It’s good to get to know the protocols and not step on any toes because of ignorance.”


“Ain’t that the truth,” Jackson readily agreed. “What time is the next session?”


“At ten…but we’ll be short a few participants since Chris Jacobson and Joseph Dugan are both confined to quarters for the day,” Parker said.


“What happened?” Jackson asked, fighting to control his emotions.


“From the nurse’s report Chris attacked Dugan…Dugan says he wasn’t doing anything wrong and that Chris attacked him for no reason,” Parker explained.


“Jacobson doesn’t seem the type to attack someone he hardly knows…”


“I agree, Nathan, but Kent is in charge and he ordered both men be kept apart and Chris is heavily sedated.”


“Damn, I thought we were making some headway with Jacobson,” Jackson said, pushing away the unfinished plate of food in disgust.


“So did I, but with Kent pushing so hard we may not have a chance to help him,” Parker said.


“Isn’t there anything we can do?”


“Jacobson is Kent’s patient and unless we can prove he’s doing something that’s detrimental to Jacobson then there’s nothing we can do.”


“What about bringing it before the hospital board?”


“This is a private hospital and doesn’t run like most places, Nathan. Kent wields a lot of power here and to go against him would probably get us both kicked out on our asses,” Parker told him. “I wish we could make them assign Jacobson to us, but it’s not going to happen so let’s just hope he’s allowed to attend the group sessions once Kent is satisfied he’s got the drugs working properly.”


“I hate to say it, but I think Kent over medicates.”


“I agree, but without concrete proof it’s our word against his and he’s been here a long time,” Parker said and reached for the roll on her tray.


Nathan watched her eating and wished she had been assigned to Chris’ case, but there was nothing he could do to change that. He hoped Buck or Vin would have a chance to see Larabee, but something told him they wouldn’t like what they saw. Rubbing his eyes he realized this case was taking a lot out of the whole team, especially Ezra Standish.


PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 5 / PART 7 / PART 8 / PART 9 / PART 10 / PART 11




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