by Winnie


Part 7


Craig Styles watched as the nurse helped Chris Jacobson get dressed, and hid the heady sense of control he had over the patients he was assigned to watch. Ray Kent had spoken to him about Jacobson and he’d managed to exchange the normal drugs Jacobson was given to something that was available on the street. It would be easy for Kent to replace the bottle he’d supplied once the nurse injected Jacobson and there’d be no sign of the drug once the nurses realized something was wrong.


“Chris, I’m going to give you your medications and then Craig is going to take you for breakfast and then a walk before you are brought back here,” Cynthia Hollister explained to the sedated patient before swabbing a small area on his shoulder and injecting the prescribed dosage.


Chris could hear her explaining things to him, but could not quite grasp what she was saying. He felt something cold on his arm and reached up to rub at the burning sensation he felt a few seconds later. He turned and stared into the newcomer’s face and tried to make sense of where he was or why he was here.


“Craig, watch him closely,” Hollister said softly.


“I will, Cynthia,” Styles said and reached out to grab the patient’s arm.


Chris blinked several times in an effort to bring the images into focus, but it felt as if reality was slipping away and the only thing keeping him on his feet was the hand on his arm. It hurt, but at least it kept him from kissing the floor. He turned his head slightly, staring blankly at the white clothed man and chuckled softly.


“What’s funny, Jacobson?” Styles asked.


“You look like the man from Glad,” Larabee whispered, his voice sounded distorted and he frowned as he tried to figure out what was wrong. Everything sounded liked he was under water, muffled and unmistakably strange, yet funny too. He started to laugh as Styles led him from his room, along a corridor and stopped in front of the doors leading into the cafeteria.




Nathan lifted the tray and made his way toward the cart that held the morning’s breakfast trays. Parker had left for an early meeting with Ray Kent while he finished reading several articles about the hospital and staff. He turned to leave, but halted when he saw the two men enter the cafeteria. “Chris,” he whispered as the orderly maneuvered Larabee into the line and pressed a tray into his hands.


“All right, Chris, what would you like?” Styles asked, watching as the patient slowly looked around the cafeteria. The drug was starting to work and Jacobson seemed to be having trouble concentrating as Ray Kent entered and hurried over to them.


“Hello, Chris, I hope you’re feeling better and more cooperative this morning,” Kent said, unaware that Jackson was watching him closely.


“Who…where’s Sarah?” Larabee managed, moaning as pain stabbed through his skull.


“Who’s Sarah?” Kent asked.


“SARAH!” Larabee shouted and threw the tray to the floor. His vision blurred as everything seemed to take on a red caste, while he stared at Kent’s moving lips. His head tilted slightly to the side as he tried to make sense of what was happening, of what he was seeing.


“Chris, you need to calm down,” Kent said, knowing the drug Styles supplied was inducing hallucinations in his patient.


“Get away from me!” Chris warned as Styles advanced on him. “SARAH!”


“Craig, get help!” Kent ordered as frightened patients tried to move away from the crazed man whose eyes were dark with rage.


“Yes, Sir,” Styles said, hating the thought of missing the action he’d instigated. He knew this was only the beginning and that the next phase would hopefully put Jacobson over the edge…both figuratively and literally. He pressed the panic button that would summon several orderlies and bring any medical staff within watching distance.


“Dr. Kent, perhaps we should just give him some space,” Nathan offered.


“Don’t tell me my job, Dr. Bradley!” Kent snarled.


“I wasn’t…I’m just trying to help…”


“Then stay out of my way!” Kent warned, watching his patient carefully as Jacobson picked up a butter knife and held it in front of him as a weapon. “Chris, you don’t want to do this…”


“Fuck you!” Larabee spat, shifting the knife from hand to hand while backing away from the men who wanted to hurt him and stop him from finding Sarah. “Get out of my way!”




“Dr. Bradley, stay out of this…Chris is my patient and I’d appreciate it if you stopped interfering!” Kent warned and heard several sets of running feet. He knew help was here now and needed to get the situation back under control. “All right, Chris, it’s time to get you back to your room…”


“Dr. Kent, Ezra Jacobson and Josiah Arnott are waiting to see Chris,” Katrina Morgan offered, staying back far enough so Kent had room to work.


“That’s just what we don’t need,” Kent told her.


“They insist on seeing Chris,” Morgan explained. “Maybe they can get him to calm down.”


“I doubt that very much, but it’s worth a try…send them in, but warn them to stay back!”


“Yes, Doctor,” the woman agreed and hurried out of the cafeteria.


Nathan felt totally helpless as he watched the scene unfolding before him. Chris’ cry for Sarah had told him something was definitely wrong, but to interfere now would ruin everything they were working so hard for. He looked at the patients in the room, their faces blank or filled with fear, but one man stood as if unafraid and Nathan watched as he slowly made his way toward Larabee without saying a word.


Chris felt the air behind him shift and turned his head slightly when a hand touched his arm. He looked into the soft eyes of the man he’d called ‘Bear’ and choked when he tried to draw a breath as ‘Bear’ wrapped his hand around the blade of the butter knife.


“No…please…I need to find…find Sarah…they’ll kill me,” Chris said, his voice low as he tried to watch the people who were stalking him.


Bear’s fingers tightened and did not release the blade as he watched his friend, the only man who’d shown him any kind of respect since he’d been placed in Shady Acres. He took the knife from Chris’ hands and pulled him into a protective bear hug before turning and facing the others.


“Thank you, Brian, we can take it from here,” Kent offered and watched as the big man shook his head in denial “Brian, we need to help Chris like you did, but we can’t if you won’t let us near him.”


“What the hell is going on?” Ezra asked upon entering the cafeteria.


“We have the situation under control, Mr. Jacobson. Just stay back and everything will be fine,” Kent warned as two orderlies moved in behind Brian Schneider. He recognized Styles, but the second man he wasn’t sure about and thought his name was Vince something or other. It didn’t really matter as long as they got Jacobson under control.


“Ezra, we’d best leave this to the staff,” Josiah warned, watching as the con man’s body reflected the horror of what he was seeing.


“I know, Josiah, but Chris…he’s…”


“Easy, Son, Chris will be all right,” Sanchez assured him, nodding as Jackson joined them. The nursing staff had already cleared the cafeteria of patients and anyone who wasn’t needed. 


“Chris, we’re going to help you,” Kent said, but Schneider wasn’t letting anyone get close to his ‘friend’. Jacobson’s anger seemed to have dissipated and he knew the drug hadn’t been strong enough to suit his purposes, but he couldn’t show his disappointment, not yet, not here with everyone watching.


Vin had barely controlled his anger when he’d entered the cafeteria, and had acted on instincts by moving in behind ‘Bear’. He knew Schneider would not harm Larabee, but something told him the big man could tear them limb from limb if he really wanted to. He hated that Styles was also there and worried what the man would do to gain control of the situation. Instincts told him he needed to calm the big man down before someone got hurt. “Hey, Bear, why don’t you let me take him and I’ll make sure no one hurts him,” Tanner tried and moved closer.


Bear heard the voice and turned slightly, holding the shivering man against his body. There was something about the man he trusted, but the other one was cruel and he didn’t want him anywhere near his new friend. He shook his head slightly as Styles closed in on him.


“Let me handle it, Styles,” Tanner warned and looked at the doctor for confirmation.


“Stay back, Craig,” Kent ordered, silently cursing the newcomer’s interference.


“Hey, Brian, look at me…I ain’t gonna hurt ya…ain’t gonna let anyone else hurt ya either, but we need ta help Chris,” Tanner tried, relieved when Styles moved back and Kent seemed to relinquish control to him. “I promise they are just gonna help Chris…okay?”


Brian’s head tilted slightly to the left before dropping his gaze and looking into the glazed green eyes that seemed to be looking at him. He lifted his head and nodded slightly to the long haired orderly who stepped forward and took his friend away from him. Tears filled Brian’s eyes as he watched the orderlies put his friend on a stretcher and place the restraints around his wrists, ankles, and chest.


“It’s okay, Brian, they’ll help him,” Parker said and gently took Schneider’s arm, guiding him out of the cafeteria.




Ezra paced in front of the room that held Chris Larabee and silently cursed this case and what it was costing Chris Larabee. He felt Josiah watching him, but didn’t trust himself to speak until the door opened and Ray Kent stepped out. “Dr. Kent, what happened to my brother?”


“We’re not sure, Mr. Jacobson, but I assure you we will find out. As you know your brother has anger management issues and is a confirmed alcoholic. I believe those are contributing factors in the behavior we saw today.”


“What are you doing for him?” Sanchez asked.


“We’re trying to regulate his medications, but it does take time,” Kent explained.


“I want to see him,” Ezra warned.


“I’m afraid that’s…”


“Dr. Kent, I’m the one paying his bills and therefore I will see him with or without your permission,” Standish snapped, standing toe to toe with the doctor.


“As you wish, Mr. Jacobson, but he is heavily sedated and won’t even know you’re there,” Kent explained, fighting to keep his anger from showing.


Ezra brushed past the doctor and entered to find the nurse gently lift a blanket over Chris’ legs and tuck it in around his waist. He hated seeing the Velcro restraints fastened to each wrist, but there was nothing he could do about that. He moved to the bed as the nurse left the room and waited for Josiah to close the door and stand so that he blocked the camera. He sat on the edge of the bed and lost track of time as he watched Larabee’s chest rise and fall as he slept. Several hours passed, with nurses coming in to check the blond’s vitals but Chris showed no signs of waking up until now. “Chris…it’s Ezra, can you hear me?”


Larabee heard the smooth Southern accent and fought against the fog enshrouding his mind. He knew there was something he should say, but as he turned his head he felt the restraints holding him in place. “What the fuck is going on, Ezra?” 


“You were angry and they had to sedate you,” Standish explained, not surprised when Josiah moved back into position in front of the camera.


“Get these fucking things off me and I’ll show you angry, Ezra!”


“Chris, you need to calm down before they decide you really are out of control,” Sanchez told his friend, relieved to see at least a hint of clarity in the glazed green eyes.


“Who the hell do you think you are, Preacher?” Larabee snarled, hoping his friends would understand it was an act in case they were being watched. The drugs were taking a heavy toll on his mind and body, but whatever he’d been given earlier seemed to have worked its way out of his system. He had no way of knowing how long he’d been out, but he was getting tired of being unable to control his own actions and the consequences.


“Easy, Son…”


“I’m not your son so don’t give me any of that shit…get me out of here or I swear I’ll fucking tear you apart!” the blond cursed, touching his fingers against Ezra’s arm in hopes of letting his friend know he was all right.


“Chris, as long as you’re acting crazy they’ll keep you locked up,” Standish explained, relieved that Larabee seemed to be more alert to what was going on around him. “We think Kent might be behind the murders,” he whispered and saw the blond head dip once.


“Ezra, you bastard…you won’t get away with this!”


“I already have, Brother Dear…enjoy your stay,” Standish said as the door opened and Kent stepped into the room.


“Are you feeling better, Mr. Jacobson?” the doctor asked. He’d spoken to Styles and knew whatever the drug was it hadn’t been nearly as effective as he’d hoped. The problem was if he tried anything else it would draw suspicion on him and ruin the plans he had for his own future.


“How the hell do you think I feel, Doc?” Larabee snarled, drawing on the anger he’d felt when Sarah and Adam were murdered.


“I can see you’re still angry…perhaps some quiet time is in order…”


“I’ll give you quiet time, Doc…just let me out of these fucking things!”


“That’s not going to happen…not when you’re so out of control…”


“Control is a deceptive thing, Doc…just ask Ezra. He thinks he has control of Jacobson Enterprises…isn’t that right, Brother Dear?” Larabee caught the look that crossed over the ex-preacher’s face and prayed the man could ease the guilt he saw in Standish’s eyes. He hated being the one causing it, but they had to keep everyone, especially Kent, from becoming suspicious.


“Chris, I’m doing this for your own good…”


“Like hell you are, Ezra! You’re doing this because you want what doesn’t belong to you!” Larabee snarled and heard Kent speaking with a nurse. “No! You tell them to stop this now, Ezra, or I swear I’ll tear you apart when I get out of here!”


“Chris, that’s not going to help get you released,” Sanchez said, arms folded across his chest.


“Go to hell, Preacher, and take him with you!” Larabee spat, nodding his head toward Standish.


“Mr. Jacobson, I believe it’s time for you to leave,” Kent suggested.


“Perhaps you’re right, Dr. Kent,” Standish said softly, his eyes locking with Larabee’s before turning away.


“That’s right, Ezra…run out on me just like you always do!” the blond snapped, staring pointedly at Sanchez and hoping he understood it was all an act. He saw the slight movement of Sanchez’s hand and realized the man knew what was happening and would make sure Ezra didn’t wallow in the guilt he saw eating him alive.


“Now, Chris, I believe you are due for a shot,” Kent said and reached for the syringe the nurse handed him. He knew it was the drug Styles had provided and he hoped the increased dosage would do the trick and give him the control he wanted. He quickly injected the drug before leaving the patient alone with the nurse.


Chris swallowed convulsively as the drug entered his system and looked at the nurse standing beside the bed. His tongue felt thick and he couldn’t form the words as she reached out and touched his shoulder.


“I’m sorry, Chris, I couldn’t change the medication. Just relax and sleep,” Katrina explained sadly.


Chris nodded and closed his eyes, wishing the helpless feeling of loss and resentment would ease, but there was nothing he could do as strange images flashed before his eyes. “God!” he ground out, nerves tingling as if he’d been zapped with some kind of electricity. His body arched on the bed and he cried out before dropping into a dark maw covered in razor sharp teeth that ripped at his body and tore at his mind.




Nathan walked along the pathway outside the main entrance to the secured area and spotted Vin Tanner seated at a picnic table. There was no one else around and he hurried over, hating the distraught look that crossed the Texan’s face. “How is he, Nate?”


“How do you think, Vin?” Jackson snapped, apologizing immediately when he realized how it sounded. “Look, Vin, they are giving him sedatives because of his anger…anger we both know is an act, but if we interfere then all of this was for nothing. We need to give him a couple of days…”


“Will he survive a couple of days, Nate?” Tanner asked.


“He’s stronger than we give him credit for sometimes, Vin. He put on an act in there with Ezra and Josiah that could have won him an Oscar,” Jackson observed.


“Is Ezra okay?”


“About as okay as the rest of us. I don’t think anyone is going to rest until Chris is out of that place. The only good thing is Samantha Parker.”




“She’s one of the psychiatrists on staff and runs the group sessions. She doesn’t trust Kent any more than we do and I think she’s going to be the one to help us when we do have the evidence we need.”


“Sounds like we need her on Chris’ case,” Tanner observed.


“We do…but there’s no way she can interfere without putting her own job in jeopardy,” Jackson explained. “I need to meet with Parker in ten minutes, but I’ll see you at Josiah’s tonight.”


“I’ll be there, Nate,” Tanner said and took a deep breath before heading back inside the secure area of Shady Acres.




Carl Sheppard reached for the phone and placed it against his ear when he recognized the number. “Sheppard.”


*“Did you call Jacobson?”*


“I called him last night and will call him with the specific instructions in a couple of minutes,” Sheppard answered.


*“So, Ezra agreed to let us take his brother out?”*


“Yes, he did, but he doesn’t want him to suffer.”


*“Too bad…that’s part of the deal.”*


“I know, but I told him I’d do what I could. Although it’s always fun to watch the sick bastards die,” Sheppard said.


“That it is, but hopefully after this one we’ll both be able to retire and leave them to someone else. I’ll contact you later, but make sure you get the money and that it’s untraceable.”*


“Have I ever let you down before?”


*“No, and you know what will happen if you do…I have a meeting in a few minutes so contact me as soon as the money is in your hands and I’ll see that Chris Jacobson goes on the wildest ride of his life.”*


“Of course…I’ll call his brother now and arrange the meeting,” Sheppard said and heard the line go dead in his hands.




JD listened to the two women talking, but his attention was caught up in the files he was accessing and he silently prayed they would continue with their discussion until he’d completed his task. He knew Buck often called him a tenacious little dog, and right now that term made him smile.


Since arriving at Shady Acres nearly three hours ago JD had managed to dig through several layers of password-protected records.  He found a backdoor into Raymond Kent’s private files and was slowly downloading them while trying to keep his activity unnoticed by the others in the office. It also required him to be careful he didn’t leave any trace of his activity that would alert Kent to his files having been detected.


“JD, would you like to join us,” Melissa Tandy asked and frowned when the young man seemed to ignore her. “JD, did you hear me?”


“I’m sorry, Melissa, what did you say?” Dunne asked and made sure neither of his co-workers could see what he’d been doing.


“We’re going to lunch and wanted to know if you’d like to join us?” Melissa answered.


“I wish I could, but there are several files I need to upload if I want to leave on time today,” Dunne said.


“Is there anything I can help you with?” Melissa asked.


“No, thanks, but I’d love a coffee,” the Bostonian said.


“I’ll bring you back one…cream, no sugar right?”


“Right,” Dunne answered fighting to keep the excitement from showing as the two women left. JD turned back to the computer and began skim reading the files before sending copies to his own laptop. It looked like they were on the right track with Kent and he silently prayed they’d have enough evidence to call a halt to the undercover operation and get Chris out of harm’s way before it was too late. 




Ezra sat back in his chair and ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair before turning his attention to the papers in front of him. He knew there was no point in trying to make sense of them, but it was a way to keep his mind focused on anything but the call he was expecting. He knew Josiah was in the next room and giving him the space he needed, but nothing would help ease his torment until this case was over. Ezra picked up a file, but dropped it back on the table when his cell phone rang. He looked at the open doorway, not surprised to find Josiah watching him.




*“I do hope you’ve had time to put together my fee, Mr. Jacobson.”*


“I have the funds,” Ezra answered.


*“Excellent, then your troubles should be over in a couple of days. I just need to verify that the funds are untraceable, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed…”*


“You won’t and I warn you not to cross me. You take Chris out or I will come after you.”


*“Idle threats, Mr. Jacobson, but don’t worry. We have been doing this for a while now and your dear brother’s death will simply look like another tragic loss at his own hands. Now, I do have a few things to take care of so please make the drop so that we can conclude our business dealings.”*


“Where do I leave the money?”


*“There’s a rest stop a mile south of Shady Acres. There’s a broken guardrail running along the east side and a small indentation just below the first wooden post. Place the briefcase there and leave the area immediately or the deal is off and your dear brother gets his life back and you have to deal with Joseph Spalding.”*


Ezra drew in a hitching breath as the line went dead in his hands and he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at Sanchez and nodded once before picking up the briefcase. “We need to make the delivery, Josiah.”


“Ezra, it’s part of the plan…”


“God help me, Josiah…I know that, but I feel like I just signed Chris’ death warrant.”


“You didn’t, Ezra, but by doing this we’ll find out who’s murdering the patients at Shady Acres and make damn sure they are punished.”


“I’ll breathe a lot easier once this is over and Chris is out of there.”


“We all will, son,” Sanchez said and held the door for the younger man. He silently prayed that Chris Larabee survived this case, because if he didn’t they’d be losing two members of the team.




Chris’ mind was awash with images that filled him with terror, but there was no escaping them. They changed so fast there was no way of knowing when one ended and another began. Sarah’s smiling face was replaced by Ella’s and then quickly became Adam and continued through faces of people he’d known through his life.


“Sarah…I can’t….bastard brother…Ezra! Damn you!” The words were screamed until his voice was raw, but no one came to check on him as the nightmares continued and he spiraled toward a dark maw that opened far below him. His skin itched and burned, but he could not move his hands to reach the torment. Beads of perspiration formed on his face and ran down pale cheeks to pool on the flat pillow beneath his sweat soaked blond hair.




Raymond Kent looked at the close circuit screen and smiled at the sight that captivated his attention and gave him a heady sense of control. Chris Jacobson looked as if he was in hell, and he probably was if Styles had given him the right drug. If the grimace on Jacobson’s face was any indication, then he was suffering from more than just nightmares.


Kent tapped his pen against his teeth and reached for the device on his desk. He pressed the button and began speaking as he watched his patient’s misery. This record was solely for his own enjoyment and would serve as a reminder of this particular case and the control he had over his patients.


“Chris Jacobson still displays anger at the least hint of provocation and has been sedated on several occasions. The Haldol and Ativan do not seem to be working although he is on a strong dosage. Perhaps I am right in thinking someone is interfering with his medications and trying to sabotage my work. It is possible that one of the nurses has taken it upon herself to ignore my orders, but I am sure there is a bigger picture that I have not seen. I will continue with my aggressive treatment of Chris Jacobson until his anger is under control. The drug Styles supplies is working better than I anticipated and hopefully I will see more aggression thus facilitating the need to raise the dosage of Haldol and Ativan without anyone being the wiser.”


Kent turned the tiny machine off and reached for the unmarked vial Styles had given him during his last shift. Jacobson had been given a small amount on his last visit, but his next ‘trip’ would need to be even worse. He pocketed the vial and exited his office, but not before locking the recorder in his desk.


“Dr. Kent, I was just coming to get you.”


“Is something wrong, Salina?” Kent asked.


“I’m not sure, Sir, but Mr. Jacobson seems to be having some kind of reaction to his medications,” Salina Forbes explained.


“What kind of reaction?” Kent asked and hurried toward Jacobson’s room showing more concern than he actually felt. He knew he couldn’t show his true feelings as he entered the patient’s room to find him struggling against the restraints while gritting his teeth. “Chris…”


“Bastard…kill you…Ezra…bastard brother…”


“Chris, listen to me…”


“Go to hell!” Larabee panted. “Get these fucking things off me!”


“That’s not going to happen, Chris, but you need to calm down or…”


“Or what?” Larabee snarled as a woman appeared in the doorway.


“Ray, what’s going on?”


“I’m not sure, Sam, but it appears I was right about needing to increase his dosage of Haldol and Ativan,” Kent told her.


“Do you really think that’s necessary?” Parker asked. “Over medicating a patient isn’t the way to help him.”


“You sound like Daniel now, Sam, and since this man is my patient I believe it is my call so stay out of my business!”




“Perhaps it’s time to find another group therapist…one who will not question every decision I make. I will speak with the board when it convenes next week!”


“There’s no need for that, Ray, I’ll do as you wish,” Parker told him.


“We’ll see, Sam,” Kent said as the nurse handed him a syringe and he quickly injected the drug into his patient’s arm. He watched as the green eyes closed and the fight drained from the man’s body before turning to his colleague. “That should help him rest, Sam, and hopefully he’ll be able to attend your session tomorrow morning, but I’m warning you not to interfere with my patient’s treatment or I’ll make damn sure you’re not allowed anywhere near any of my patients. Understood?”


“Perfectly, Ray,” Parker said and watched the man leave. She disliked the pompous ass, but he had so much pull at the hospital and it made her wonder exactly what it was he held over the board members.


“Sam, how is he?”


“Oh, Nathan, I didn’t know you were there,” Parker said.


“I just got here. What happened?”


“I’m not sure, but Ray is making sure he has the last word on Chris’ care and medications. From what the nurse told me, Chris was having some kind of weird reaction to something only he was seeing.”




“Maybe, but only Chris can answer that,” Parker said exiting the room and spotting Kent at the main desk.


“Is it possible he’s giving Chris medications he shouldn’t be getting?” Jackson asked once he was sure they were out of earshot.


“I don’t know, Nathan, but if he is there’s not a damn thing I can do to prove it,” Parker answered.


“Dr. Bradley, I’m sure whatever Dr. Parker wants to say to you can wait until after we complete our rounds. Please follow me,” Kent ordered and closed the file before glaring at Parker and making his way toward another room.


Samantha Parker watched the men leave and felt the anger building inside her. She would not allow Kent to treat her like an underling and somehow she would make the board understand that this man was not who he appeared to be.




Katrina Morgan waited for her lover to join her in bed and snuggled against him with her head on his shoulder. She knew he was worried about what was happening at Shady Acres, but there was nothing either of them could do about that until there was evidence to bring the police into it.


“How did Chris seem today, Katrina?” Daniel Coburn asked softly.


“He’s a damn good actor, Daniel, but Kent is good at spotting an act,” Morgan answered.


“Are you still able to switch the medications?”


“So far it hasn’t been a problem, but I have to be careful and make sure the bottles are exactly the same or someone will get suspicious.”


“I wish there’d been some other way.”


“I know you do, Daniel, but there isn’t. Whoever is behind the murders needs to be stopped and Chris and his team seem to know what they’re doing. Did I tell you that Chris is actually getting through to Brian Schneider?”


“The big man who doesn’t speak to anyone?”


“Yes, Chris even gave him a nickname. He calls him Bear and Brian seems to like it.”


“Hopefully that’s a good sign,” Coburn said tiredly and looked into her eyes. “You need to be careful, Katrina, because I don’t think I could handle it if anything happened to you.”


“I will, Daniel,” Katrina said and closed her eyes as Daniel’s mouth met hers.




JD rushed into the office and was relieved to find Buck, Vin, Josiah, and Ezra already there. He wasn’t sure what they’d been discussing, but from the looks on their faces he knew something had happened.


“You’re late, Kid,” Wilmington said.


“Sorry, I needed to finish uploading some files. Did something happen?” Dunne asked.


“Ezra got a call and made the money drop,” Tanner answered.




“Damn is right, JD, tell me you found something,” Wilmington snapped.


“I got into Kent’s private files and there’s more than a few skeletons in his closet,” Dunne offered.


“Like what?” Sanchez asked.


“Kent’s background is not as simple as his resume seems to be. Yes, he went to Yale on a full scholarship, but he never graduated.”


“What?” Wilmington spat.


“He never graduated,” Dunne repeated.


“Then how the hell did he get the position at Shady Acres?” Sanchez asked.


“He dummied up the documents he needed. The man is smart and the records I found showed he could have graduated and probably at the top of his class, but he dropped out a year before completing the required courses. I found his personal files where he keeps track of his own life and the lives of several patients…including Chris,” Dunne told them.


“What’s he say about Chris?” Tanner asked softly.


“Not much…just says he’s an interesting case and one he’s looking forward to examining on more than just the surface problems of anger and alcohol,” Dunne answered.


“Is there any mention of the murdered patients?” Standish asked.


“Nothing much…a simple notation, but I’m pretty sure there was more, but he erased it,” the Bostonian observed.


“We should get Chris out of there before Kent tries anything,” Standish said.


“I wish we could, Ezra, but there’s not enough evidence to charge Kent with the murders,” Wilmington offered.


“It’s a start, Buck, and…”


“Buck’s right, Ezra,” Tanner supplied. “Ain’t no point in what we’ve done if’n we don’t get the proof we need. Chris bein’ in there ain’t my first choice, but it’s the only one we got right now.”


“JD, what else did you find in Kent’s files?” Sanchez asked.


“Just several deposits to accounts that are untraceable,” Dunne answered.


“Untraceable?” Wilmington asked.


“Okay, hard to trace, but it’ll take some time to find out who owns them and whether they’ve been active lately,” the Bostonian told him. He listened while the others talked about what was happening at Shady Acres even as his fingers flew across the keyboard.




Carl Sheppard picked up the phone and placed it against his ear with a smile as the familiar voice spoke softly to him.


*“How did the drop go?”*


“It seems Mr. Jacobson is anxious to get rid of his brother. The money should be at the drop in time for me to pick it up on my way home.”


*“Make damn sure it’s untraceable.”*


“Don’t I always? I will contact you as soon as I run a check on the funds and make sure there are no tracking devices or that dye the police use. I’m sure Ezra Jacobson would not do anything as stupid as that, but I’m not one to take chances.”


*“It’s your life if you make a mistake. Are the drugs in place?”*


“They are and Chris Jacobson should be taking a wild ride once I pick up the money,” Sheppard answered.


*“Good, contact me as soon as you’re done.”*


“I will,” Sheppard said and hung up the phone. He knew it was time to leave and hoped things went well because he was already spending the money earned from Jacobson’s death.


Sheppard had no trouble leaving the hospital and drove along the highway until he reached the rest stop. He left the car running as he hurried to check for the briefcase. He made sure there were no tracking devices and smiled when he turned on the jamming device, but there was no interference. He made his way back to the car and threw the case on the seat beside him, smiling as he made plans for how to spend his money.




Samantha Parker waited for Raymond Kent to finish making notations on the chart he’d been studying and wished she could wipe the smug smile off his face when he turned toward her.


“Now, Samantha, what can I do for you this morning?”


“I want your permission to have Chris Jacobson join the group therapy session this morning.”


“I don’t think that’s wise…not after his violent behavior yesterday,” Kent told her.


“Ray, we both know Chris Jacobson needs help and group therapy is a wonderful way to get him to open up. You’ve got him on some pretty heavy meds now and hopefully they’ll make him easier to handle,” Parker explained.


“I will not consent to group therapy until after I see how the patient is this morning. Would you care to join me?” Kent asked.


“I’ve completed my rounds, so yes, I would like to check on Chris,” Parker answered.


“Very well, follow me,” Kent ordered and motioned for the orderly standing near the water cooler. Craig Styles had the day off and that meant he would need to assign someone else to Jacobson today.


“You wanted me, Sir?”


“Yes, Vincent, have you been assigned to anyone today?” Kent asked.


“No, Sir,” Tanner answered.


“Very well…come with me. If Chris is in a better frame of mind today then he will be your top priority and I want you to make sure he stays out of trouble.”


“Yes, Doctor,” Tanner said and hid the emotions that clouded his mind. His heart skipped a beat at the thought of seeing Larabee. In the staff lounge where most of the nursing staff ate, he’d overheard the night staff updating the day staff on the condition of the patients under their care. He’d sat against the back wall, inconspicuously tuning in to what was being said in hopes of getting some clue as to Larabee’s condition or anything about the murders. Larabee had been heavily sedated and the nurse had said something about Kent, but Vin hadn’t been able to hear exactly what was said. His dislike of the man increased with each step he took toward Chris’ room.




Chris became aware of two things at once and his eyes shot open, blinking rapidly in an effort to focus on something other than the fact that he was tied down. Panic ensued, but lasted less than a minute when he remembered where he was and why he was there. It also didn’t take long to curse himself for taking this job, but he was never a man to back down once he started something.


Chris licked at his lips and wished he had something to drink, but he was alone for now and doubted that anyone would come to his aid until Kent made his morning rounds. Was it morning or had someone managed to adjust the dosage of his medication so that he wasn’t as doped up? It didn’t really matter because right now he needed to act the part in order to have the freedom needed to check out the staff and patients of Shady Acres. He kept leaning toward Kent as the main suspect, but deep down he knew that had more to do with his dislike for the man than any real evidence of his guilt.


Chris closed his eyes as a wave of nausea churned through his gut and swallowed convulsively until the sickly feeling eased. He turned his head as a sound alerted him and the door opened to reveal Raymond Kent wearing a hint of a smile that sent a chill down his spine. He closed his eyes as the man entered and soon felt Kent’s hand on his shoulder.


“Good morning, Chris, I hope you had a restful sleep. How do you feel?”


“Tired,” Larabee answered honestly and slowly opened his eyes once more.


“Perhaps we should let you rest a while longer?” Kent suggested.


“No…need to go take care of things. Can you take these off?” Larabee asked, hating how weak his voice sounded. He spotted Vin Tanner standing to the left of the door and tried to assure the Texan he was fine, but the slight shake of the man’s head told him he didn’t believe it for a minute.


“Chris, I want you to understand something before I release you,” Kent said and sat on the edge of the bed. “Are you ready to admit you have an anger problem?”


“Will it get me released?” Larabee asked smoothly.


“It might, but not if I think it’s just you placating me to get what you want,” Kent told him. “Now, do you admit to having anger management problems and are you willing to allow me to help you deal with them?”


“Sonofa…yes, hell, Doc, yes, if it means you’ll take these things off I’ll admit to anything!” Larabee snapped.


“See, that’s a classic example of anger problems, Chris, but at least you didn’t lash out this time,” Kent said and began releasing the restraints from the patient’s arms while Parker did the same with those around his ankles. They eased the dazed man to a sitting position and allowed him time to shake off the dizziness movement caused.


“How do you feel, Chris?” Parker asked softly.


“Hung over,” Larabee answered and saw the smile form on the woman’s face.


“I bet…do you feel like eating?”


“Rather have a shower,” the blond told her.


“I believe that can be arranged,” Kent said and looked at the orderly. “Chris, Vincent is going to stay with you today and make sure…”


“I don’t kill someone,” Larabee finished.


“There is that,” the psychiatrist said.


“As long as my dear brother isn’t around I can probably stop myself from harming anyone.”


“I wish I could take your word for that, but for now you still need your meds to help keep your anger in check,” Kent said and motioned for the nurse to come in.


“Damn,” Larabee said as Katrina Morgan handed the man a syringe.


“It’s for your own good, Chris,” Kent said and swabbed an area on the patient’s shoulder.


“Can’t we do pills…I hate fucking needles?”


“Perhaps in a few days, but for now I’d rather stay with this form of medication,” Kent answered and handed the empty syringe back to the nurse. “Now, I believe you wanted a shower and then I want you to eat something before joining Dr. Parker in group therapy.”


“Oh joy,” Larabee said.


“Chris, you need group therapy to help you talk through your problems,” Parker told him.


“I know,” Larabee said and lowered his eyes to the floor, but not before seeing the worry on Tanner’s face. He could feel the tension and anger emanating from the lean body and knew if his friend looked into his eyes he’d pull the plug on this case without giving any thought to the consequences. 


“Vincent, see that Chris gets a shower and then make sure he eats and is present for Dr. Parker’s group therapy,” Kent told him. Ray smiled inwardly as he left the room without a backward glance. He wasn’t sure how long it would take for the new drug to kick in, but when it did Chris Jacobson would definitely be in for a wild ride and God help whoever was close to him. Meanwhile he had to take care of things where Parker was concerned and an emergency board meeting was the first item on the day’s agenda.


“Chris, I’ll leave you in Vincent’s capable hands and see you in one hour in room four,” Parker said, patting Larabee’s shoulder before leaving the room.


Chris took a deep breath before standing and shaking off the lethargy brought on by the injection he’d received. It took a few seconds to make sure his body wouldn’t betray him and even smiled at the nurse who handed him a change of clothes once he left the room. He walked slightly ahead of Tanner until they reached the showers. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, relieved to find the room empty as the Texan followed him in and let the door close.


“Chris,” Tanner said softly.


“I’m okay,” Larabee answered and made his way to the stall furthest from the doorway and camera. He knew the sound of the shower would help muffle his voice if someone was listening in, but as far as he knew the showers were not under constant watch, especially when an orderly was present. He turned on the water and pulled across the privacy curtain before removing his clothing. He stepped under the hot spray and let it ease some of the tension from his body.


“Chris, are you all right? We can end this today.”


“I’m fine,” Larabee answered and knew the Texan was letting him know it was safe to talk. “We need to see this through.”


“I know, but at what cost?”


“Whatever it takes,” the blond said.


“Not if it means your life, Cowboy.”


“It won’t come to that, Vin…”


“Damn right it won’t. I don’t trust Kent and if I think he’s doin’ somethin’ ta hurt ya I’ll pull the plug.”


“Fair enough,” Larabee said and reached for the shampoo. He poured some into his hand and washed his hair before grabbing a washcloth and soap. He winced when he ran the soft material over his right shoulder and wasn’t surprised to see several small bruises caused by the needles. His aversion to needles was definitely growing into outright hatred.


“Better hurry, Jacobson, wouldn’t want you to miss breakfast or Dr. Parker’s group therapy session.”


Chris knew it was Vin’s way of letting him know they were no longer alone and sighed as he let the water wash away the soap and remaining tension. It wasn’t long before he’d dried off and dressed in the clean clothing supplied by the staff. He pulled back the curtain and spotted a grinning Joseph Dugan beginning to disrobe.


“Hey, Jacobson, I see you’ve got a shadow today. Maybe I’ll go talk to that big dummy…”


“Stay the fuck away from him, Dugan!” Larabee snapped, hands fisting at his sides.


“Temper, temper…better be careful or they’ll put you back in restraints and then who’ll take care of that bastard…”


“Quiet, Dugan, or I’ll talk to Dr. Parker and maybe you’ll be the one in restraints,” Tanner warned.


“Come on, Vincent, don’t tell me you feel sorry for Jacobson?”


“Don’t feel sorry for no one, but I got a job ta do and right now that’s making sure Jacobson stays out of trouble,” the Texan said and herded Larabee toward the door as Dugan stepped into the shower. “Come on, Jacobson, times wastin’.”


“That bastard needs to be brought down a peg or two,” Larabee ground out.


“I know, but now’s not the time,” Tanner said.




Ezra silently cursed the bottle on his nightstand. It had been full when he carried it into his bedroom after Josiah left for his home. Now there was nothing left, but the memory of the fiery liquid burning its way down his throat and the bitter aftertaste that left his mouth feeling as if it was filled with lint.


Ezra sat up and glanced at the clock, noting that it was just after nine, and wondered if he should bother making coffee or just grab another bottle. He leaned his elbows on his knees and scrubbed at his face and eyes, jumping when the now hated sound of the cell phone reached his ears.




*“Mr. Jacobson, I wanted to thank you for keeping your part of the bargain and wish to assure you that your troubles will be over today…”*


“So soon?”


*“Don’t tell me you’re the sentimental type and wish to say goodbye to your brother?”*


“No, I assure you that is not the case. I just wish I could be there to see his face when he realizes he’s lost,” Standish said and felt bitter bile rise in his throat. 


*“Well, I can’t give you a precise time line, but if you wish to visit him this afternoon I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.”*


“I will be there,” Standish said and heard a soft chuckle just before the phone went dead in his hands. He grabbed the other phone and hit speed dial for Josiah and anxiously waited for him to answer while he grabbed clothing from his closet.




“Thank God, Josiah, we have to get to Shady Acres.”


*“Did something happen?”*


“I just got a call…he said my troubles would be over today,” Standish explained, his voice edged with unaccustomed fear.


*“Easy, Son, I’ll pick you up in half an hour.”*


“I’ll be ready,” the conman vowed and tossed the phone on the bed before hurrying into the bathroom. He glanced in the mirror and was taken aback by the unkempt face that stared back at him. He glanced at the shower and knew he had to keep up appearances or risk ruining their chance of catching Sheppard and whoever he was working with. He quickly disrobed and climbed into the shower, all the while fighting the images that flashed across his mind.




Buck Wilmington watched the patients in the common room and eased the near silent polisher across the floor. Most of the patients were in the morning therapy sessions, but there were a few present. There was a man sitting in a chair in the corner with a book in his hands and a hint of a smile on his face. That smile gave him a childlike quality as if he was reading something he didn’t quite understand, but instinctively knew it was fun.


Buck understood why he reminded Chris of Bear in Armageddon and why he’d been drawn to the big fella. Chris had a tendency to protect people who could not protect themselves, hell they all did for that matter, and this man brought that out in Larabee. Buck slowly made his way toward the man and smiled when Bear dared to glance up from the large print he’d been engrossed in.


“Hey, I hear that’s a good book,” Wilmington said, but received no answer from the quiet man. “Could you just move your feet a little so I can finish the job of cleaning the floor? I mean it’s okay if you don’t, but I’d hate to get in trouble with the staff when my job is such an easy one.”


Buck watched as the man moved his feet a little and then lifted them off the floor. It was a strange maneuver for the large man, but he made it look easy as he draped his legs over the right side of the armchair. “Thanks.”


“Buck, when you’re through there I have another job for you?”


“Sure, Miss Morgan,” Wilmington said and made a show of polishing under the chair before putting the machine away and joining the nurse at the desk. “What can I do for you, Darlin’?”


“Rooms two and three are needed for a conference this afternoon and I’d like you to help Molly clean it up and set up the chairs around the table.”


“Sure…how many are we expecting?”


“At least half a dozen board members will be there. Dr. Kent ordered an emergency meeting,” Morgan answered when she was sure no one would be privy to their conversation.


“What’s it about?” Wilmington asked and made a show of sweeping the floor in front of the desk.


“It has something to do with Dr. Parker, but Daniel will be able to tell you more once the meeting is over. I need to go check on a couple of patients. Be careful, Buck, I don’t trust Kent and if he’s set his sites on getting rid of Dr. Parker then we could lose a damn good therapist.”


“I hear you, Katrina,” Wilmington said and made his way toward the conference room. He spotted Chris and Vin walking toward him and hid his surprise at Larabee’s appearance. The man looked like hell, but who could blame him considering where he was, and why they’d taken this cursed job.




Chris glanced toward Buck Wilmington, but didn’t do anything to acknowledge the man as he walked beside Vin Tanner. They reached room four and he took a deep breath before stepping inside and had to grab the back of a chair as a wave of dizziness threatened to send him to the floor. He felt a hand on his arm and viciously shook it off in spite of the sense of familiarity the touch gave him.




“I’m okay,” Larabee said and swallowed convulsively as he moved toward the empty chair beside Joseph Dugan.


“Jesus, Jacobson, care to share whatever you’re drinking?” Dugan asked with a grin.


“Go to hell!” Larabee snarled as Samantha Parker took her seat and placed her briefcase on the floor beside her.


“Chris, I want your word that you will not antagonize Joseph,” the therapist said.


“Tell the bastard to shut the hell up,” the blond said.


“Better shut that mouth or someone will shut it for you!” Dugan spat.


“Better men than you have tried, Dugan…I buried them where they’ll never be found,” Larabee said with a crazed grin. 


“Did you hear that, Doc? He’s admitting to murder!” Dugan said.


“Joseph, I do believe Chris is pulling your wires,” Parker offered and watched the blond sit back in his chair and cross his right leg over his left.


“Hell, Doc, I don’t want to be here if he’s a murderer,” Ryan Fieldgate said.


“What’s wrong, Ryan? You afraid you might be on his hit list?” Dugan asked.


“He might not be, but…” Larabee left the threat where it was and smiled when he saw just a hint of fear on Dugan’s face.


“All right, Chris, that’s enough,” Parker said and turned to the youngest member of the group.


Chris shifted slightly on the chair and blinked several times as things around him blurred in and out of focus. His arms suddenly felt leaden and dropped down to his sides, but he tried to make sense of the buzzing conversation around him. Several times someone called his name, but the best he could do was look in the direction of the voice.


“Vincent, perhaps you should take Chris back to his room,” Parker observed.


“Sure, Doc,” Tanner agreed. He’d been watching Larabee closely and felt at a loss when sweat broke out on the blond’s forehead and he seemed to have difficulty lifting his arms. “Come on, Chris…”


“No, I’m okay,” Larabee said, but licked at lips that felt dryer than the dessert. “Jesus…”


“Chris, let Vincent take you back to your room,” Parker said.


“Rather go outside…need some air,” Larabee told her.


“Are you sure you feel up to it?” the therapist asked.


“Think so…just feel warm,” the blond answered.


“All right, but if you get dizzy or sick then Vincent will bring you back here,” Parker said. She looked toward the door as her colleague entered and smiled as Nathan joined her. “Good morning, Nathan.”


“Good morning, Sam, is he all right?” Jackson asked.


“I think so. He just needs some air…”


“Hey, Doc, I could use some air,” Dugan said.


“Me too,” Fieldgate added.


“Sorry, boys, but right now we have a session to finish,” Parker said and motioned for Nathan to take a seat.




It took every ounce of strength Chris had just to make it outside and he clung to the nearest wall for support as Tanner stayed beside him.




“I’m all right, Vin, just got a little warm in there. Probably whatever was in that shot Kent gave me. The bastard’s real free with those needles,” Larabee told him.


“Kent’s got some things he needs to answer for, but we need a bit more evidence before we can make anything stick,” the Texan said, relieved when Larabee stood up and started walking away from the building. He stayed beside him and explained what they’d found out about Kent and wished it was enough to pull the plug on this case.


“Keep on it, Vin, I think he’s the one behind it. He shouldn’t be allowed to keep his license,” Larabee said and sat at the picnic table. God, he felt like crap and the cramps in his gut were getting worse, but he did his best to keep that fact from the Texan.


“Chris, ya sure yer okay?”


Guess he wasn’t doing such a good job after all. “No, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”


“Ya look like crap.”


“I know…feel like it too, but the fresh air is good,” Larabee told him and watched as several more patients were led toward the garden area. “Keep at it, Vin, there’s got to be something that’ll nail Kent.”


“We will,” Tanner said, silently cursing as Kent spotted them and hurried toward their location.


“Chris, why are you out here?” Kent asked irritably.


“Dr. Parker thought he needed some air,” Tanner answered.


“He’s supposed to be in group therapy,” Kent said.


“I don’t need group therapy!” Larabee snapped and stood up, grabbing at the table as his heart trip-hammered in his chest. “Damn!”


“Vincent, bring him to his room. I’ll join you in a few minutes,” Kent ordered.


“Dr. Parker said…”


“Dr. Parker is not in charge of your treatment, Chris, and if I have anything to say about it she won’t be working here much longer anyway,” the psychiatrist said, a hint of a smile on his face. “Vincent, see that he goes directly to his room!”


“Yes, Dr. Kent,” Tanner said and did his best to hide the anger that stayed just below the surface. He felt the tension in Larabee as he stood and began to walk toward the building. “Chris…”


“Don’t say it, Vin, we need to stay with this and make the case against Kent!” Larabee spat. Once inside they made their way toward his room and he paced across the short distance between the bed and the opposite wall. His anger increased with each step he took and his eyes shot open when Kent stepped into the room, Craig Styles following close behind him. 


“Vincent, Nurse Morgan has your next assignment,” Kent said and waited for the man to leave before looking at his patient even as Styles closed the door. “Now, Chris, it’s time you settled down and got with the program.”


“Another one? I thought I was already in every program you’ve got here!”


“Well, Chris, there are certain programs that are not on the agenda,” Kent said with a grin. He reached into his pocket and took out a capped syringe.


“What the hell is that?” Larabee snarled.


“It’s your medication of course,” Kent said and heard a soft chuckle from the orderly standing behind him.


“I don’t want it!”


“Do you really think that matters, Chris? You’re in my playground now and I am in charge of your care. Craig will you please help me here?’


“Sure, Doc,” Styles said and moved in. He knew the patient’s reaction time would be slow because of the heavy sedatives Kent had him on and it was easy to take Jacobson to the floor and pin him with a knee to the center of his back. He grinned as the doctor injected the ‘medication’ that was laced with a little known drug that would send Jacobson on a wild trip. It was a slow acting drug, and would be virtually impossible to detect once it took effect. Craig released his hold on the patient once Kent stood and recapped the empty syringe.


“Now, Chris, that should help you rest and perhaps this afternoon you’ll be more agreeable to visiting with your brother,” Kent said snidely.


Chris felt Styles lift him onto the bed and moaned as his muscles cramped and his body jerked uncontrollably. He wasn’t sure what had happened, but he was beginning to think maybe the others were right and it was time to pull the plug. His eyes closed and images, both beautiful and grotesque haunted his dreams as Kent watched him for several minutes before leaving the room.


PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3 / PART 4 / PART 5 / PART 6 / PART 8 / PART 9 / PART 10  PART 11




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