A Matter of Time, Part 5
They look cold...but at least it's stopped raining here. Pete looked over at Jim, who had made no move toward consciousness during the short flight. His partner's face still held the pallor of near-death underneath the bruises and cuts; his lips still looked blue. Pete touched the picture that he'd slipped into his jacket pocket. Hang in there, Jim...we're here. I wonder if Jean's here yet?
The chopper landed with an almost imperceptible bump, and immediately the paramedics unbuckled and went to work loosening Jim's restraints. Pete released his own harness and unlocked and opened the sliding door, relieved that he had something to do, if only for a moment. It kept his mind off the thoughts and feelings that continued to threaten to shatter the calm he'd fought hard to regain.
Pete returned to the stokes and helped slide Jim to the door, where the hospital personnel now waited with the gurney. He hopped out onto the square of tarmac, followed closely by the paramedics, and helped gently load the basket onto the gurney.
"Easy, easy!" Land ordered, as the orderlies strapped the stokes to the gurney. "Move fast, but easy!"
"There's a crowd of reporters by the ER door," the nurse shouted over the roar of the chopper's engines. "The police are holding them back, but I wanted to warn you!"
"Don't worry about it," Pete said, knowing that the officers would clear the way for their fallen colleague. He looked over the nurse's shoulder and could see the bulging crowd of reporters and cameramen at the end of the ramp leading to the ER doors. Pete could barely make out a few LAPD blue uniforms clearing a path on the ramp. They'd better keep those vultures out of the way.
"Let's move!" Land jerked his head toward the hospital.
Although the orderlies and paramedics handled the gurney, Pete pushed past his fatigue to pace them, and Mac, bearing Pete's backpack, did the same on the opposite site. Pete prepared to run interference through the crowd of media representatives, if needed. He thought fleetingly of Jean, wondering if she'd had to run the media gauntlet. If she hadn't yet arrived, he'd do what he could to spare her that particular ordeal.
The questions started as soon as the first reporter caught sight of them at the top of the ramp, and the mass of humanity swelled toward them.
"What's his condition?"
"Where did you find him?"
"Has he regained consciousness?"
"What are his chances?"
"What are his injuries?"
Pete barely registered the shouted questions or lights from the cameras as he put his hand out to push those few who managed to get past the police officers out of their way. He just wanted to get Jim through that door and into treatment.
Another nurse greeted them as they burst through the ER doors. "Treatment 4!" she said, pointing, then joining them as they pushed Jim's gurney through the hallways.
Pete was almost as familiar with County General's Emergency Department as he was the station's locker room. He knew exactly the turn to make and the door to head to without looking. He risked a quick glance around the waiting area as they rushed past, trying to catch a glimpse of Jean or any of Jim's family. He didn't see them, but he'd look more closely after Jim was settled.
The nurse directing them scurried ahead and opened the treatment room door, and they wheeled Jim inside. Pete counted no less than three doctors and two other nurses crowded into the treatment room. As soon as they rolled Jim through the doors, the medical personnel burst into action. Land began reciting the latest vitals and information to one of the doctors. The orderlies, Olsen, and one of the doctors lifted Jim out of the stokes and moved him to the treatment table. A nurse pounced quickly to put a BP cuff on Jim's arm, and a doctor started examining him. Pete backed up a step to move out of the blur of activity.
"Please, gentlemen, you're in the way here. You need to wait outside," the nurse who had met them at the chopper said. She took Pete and Mac by the arm and moved them toward the door.
"Let's go Pete," Mac said.
"He's in excellent hands," the nurse said, apparently sensing Pete's reluctance to leave. "Someone will update you as soon as there's information."
Pete nodded, gave Jim one last look, then turned and followed Mac outside. His thoughts turned to Jean and the family.
"Mac,"he said, "I don't want Jean going through that mess out there. That's the last thing she needs."
"I'll see what I can do," Mac said with a slight sigh. "I'll grab a phone over here and see if dispatch can raise someone. If Gidley did his job, she's with him, on the way."
"Have them come in the front. I know it's a long way to walk, but I think she'd rather do that than have to deal with these guys."
"Right." Mac stepped to the information desk, and Pete walked out into the waiting area.
Pete scanned the area one more time for any sign of Jim's family, and when he found none, he sank wearily into a chair and allowed himself a moment of relaxation. He gulped in a couple of deep breaths and willed his racing heart to settle down to a more normal rate. He glanced up at the big clock on the wall behind the nurses station. Had it really only been thirty hours since this whole ordeal began? He felt as if he'd aged ten years in that short span of time, as if someone had put him in a vice-grip and squeezed, and squeezed, and squeezed until there was nothing left of him but a shell.
How many times? How many times in the past twelve years have I sat in a hospital, sweating out the fate of someone I cared about? How many hands have I held; how many tears have I watched fall down the faces of wives and children and mothers...while holding back my own? I don't know if I've got the strength left to do it any more.
Right now, a desk job at a hardware store in Fresno sounded pretty damn good.
"Man, you're losin' it, Malloy," Pete muttered to himself. He rubbed at his face, then shrugged out of his damp jacket and dropped it at his feet. When he looked up, he saw Mac leave the nurses' station and walk in his direction.
"What'd you find out?" Pete asked, as Mac approached.
"I got dispatch to contact Gidley. He's on the way with Jean and her father. I had dispatch warn them off to the front entrance."
"Good." One less worry.
"And none too soon, either," Mac continued. "They're only about six blocks from here."
Mac dropped Pete's backpack down next to his jacket. "How about a cup of coffee?"
"Not right now," Pete shook his head. "Let me see what kind of shape Jean's in."
"She's going to want answers." Mac put his hands on his hips and shook his head. "They always want answers."
"Yeah, well, she's not the only one."
"Jim's young, tough, and in good shape. He's gonna make it." Mac dropped a hand on Pete's shoulder. "Keep thinking good thoughts."
"Sergeant MacDonald?" A diminutive nurse called from across the room. "Is there a Sergeant MacDonald here?"
"That's me," Mac called back and lifted his hand.
"You have a phone call, sir," the nurse said. "You can take it back here."
"Thank you." Mac turned back to Pete. "This had better not be a reporter."
"Can't be. They're all out there."
Mac moved off to the phone just as paramedics Olsen and Land came around the corner from the treatment areas. Pete stood to meet them.
"What's happening back there?" Pete asked.
"They're working on him," Land said. "His vitals are stable, and they're doing everything they can."
"They're working on warming him up," Olsen told him. "But they've got to go slowly, so it'll probably take longer than you want."
"He's still not awake?" Pete asked.
"No, and he won't be for a while," Land said, with sympathy. "But be patient...I know he's gonna be okay."
"Thanks. Thanks for all you did today," Pete extended his hand.
"Hell, we didn't do much. It was little more than scoop and run," Land shook Pete's hand and smiled crookedly. "But we were glad to do what we did."
"It means a lot to me, and to Jim and his family," Pete shook hands with Olsen. "No one even told us...what station do you work out of?"
"Glendale, Station 2, at your service," Land's smile widened.
"Nothing personal, but I hope I don't need your services any time in the near future. But thanks all the same."
"Anytime," Land said. "We'll check in on Reed's condition later."
"Yeah, we like to document our success stories," Olsen joked, but he sobered quickly. "I hope you catch the creeps that did this."
"So do we," Pete said,"and we will. It's only a matter of time."
"Come on, buddy, we've got a chopper to catch," Land poked Olsen on the shoulder and tilted his head toward the ER doors.
"Right. Good luck, Malloy."
"Thanks again," Pete said. He returned the paramedics' farewell wave with a twist of his own hand. He'd no sooner sat back down and looked to see if he could see what Mac was doing, than Jean and her father entered the waiting area from the opposite direction. He got up again and went to meet her halfway.
"Pete!" Jean broke away from her father and rushed to Pete, who wrapped her in a comforting embrace.
Jean returned the hug, then pushed away from Pete's shoulder enough so she could look into his eyes. "How is he, Pete? Is he okay? Is he awake? Has the doctor said anything? What's wrong with him? Was he shot?"
"Hey, easy, now, easy," Pete patted her back. "Take a deep breath and relax."
"I can't relax until I see him. I want to see him, Pete," Jean said, her voice trembling.
"I know you do, honey, I know you do," Pete soothed. "Come on, sit down over here, and I'll tell you all that I know." He led her to the chair next to his and settled her there.
"Have you talked with the doctors yet?" Mr. Smithson asked.
"No. We just got him here about ten minutes ago, so they're still working on him. But I just talked with the paramedics who treated him on the way in, and they're sure he'll be fine." Pete hoped that information would calm Jean, who clutched his hand in her own.
"What's wrong with him?" Jean asked.
"His main problem is hypothermia. You know what that is, right?"
When Jean nodded, Pete continued, "It's very serious. So serious that the paramedics didn't take much time examining him, so I can't tell you anything about other injuries."
"Jim...isn't conscious?" Jean asked. Pete could see the effort she made to keep her voice calm and level.
"But he...wasn't...shot, or, or...stabbed, or..."
"Not that we could tell. When we found him, there was no heavy blood loss, no obvious serious wounds." Pete paused. "But we didn't take the time to look him over, either. We had a game warden searching with us who knew about handling hypothermia cases and he told us we couldn't jostle him. So we just uncuffed him and..."
"He was handcuffed?"
Pete nodded. "To a wooden pole in an abandoned barn out in the middle of the woods."
"If he was in a building, how did he get so cold?"Jean asked.
Pete tightened his grip on Jean's hand. "The barn was really, really old. It was literally falling apart. Jim was cuffed right under a big gaping hole in the roof...he had no protection from last night's cold, wind and rain. He was soaking wet when we found him."
Jean's eyes brimmed with tears. "Oh, my poor baby," she breathed. "And they took his shirt...no wonder...."
"Jean," Pete said, hating to have to tell her the rest, "all he was wearing when we found him was his underwear...they took his pants, shoes and socks, too."
"Oh, my God...." Jean's eyes widened as she at last seemed to understand just how cold Jim would have gotten under those conditions. "Why? Why would they do that?"
"I don't know."
"Honey, I don't mean to upset you," Mr. Smithson said, "but, maybe the better question is, why didn't they just..."
"Kill him outright?" Pete finished the painful question.
"Daddy!" Jean cried.
"It's a fair question," Pete said. And you won't be the only one to ask it, either. "Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. We'll just have to wait for Jim to wake up and tell us."
"I want to see him," Jean sniffed, fighting back her tears. "I want to see him now." She let go of Pete's hand and stood up.
"Now wait a minute," her father said, pulling her to him. "You can't just go barging around. You're not in very good shape yourself."
"I'll go to the nurses' station," Jean said. Her usual determination lit her eyes. "They don't even know I'm here."
"I'll go for you," Pete volunteered. "Mac's over there on the phone, and I need to tell him you're here, too. You just sit still, and I'll take care of it."
"I want to see him, Pete." Jean's determination lent strength to her voice.
"I'll tell them." Pete patted her hand and got up. He walked over to the nurses' station, where Mac still talked on one of the phones, and got the attention of the first nurse who looked his way. "Excuse me, but the police officer we just brought in on the chopper -- Jim Reed. His wife is here and she really wants to see him. Can you check and see what's going on and about how long it might be before they let her see him?"
The nurse gave him a sympathetic look. "I'll see what I can find out for you."
"You see the little lady in the green sweater over there?" Pete pointed toward Jean. "The one with the reddish-brown hair?"
"Yes. That's Mrs. Reed?"
"Right. We'll be sitting right there."
"I'll be right back." The nurse slipped out from behind the desk and headed toward the treatment rooms.
Pete leaned on the counter of the nurses' station and waited on Mac to finish his telephone conversation. It didn't take long, but Mac hung up the phone with considerable force, then looked up at Pete with an odd look on his face.
"What?" Pete asked.
"That was Delacroix," Mac said, moving from behind the nurses' station to join Pete. "He wanted to tell me that Federal Agents are on the way here."
Mac shrugged. "You knew it would happen. Delacroix said some have already descended on the Command Post. They're heading out to the car and the barn to look it over."
"Why, since we already know that Ciroppolli and Graddock are in 'Vegas?"
"You know why as well as I do."
Pete nodded. "Yeah." Nothing could be overlooked; in law enforcement, you never knew where the lead or the piece of evidence that would lock up the case would appear.
"Of course, what they really want is to talk to Jim," Mac said.
"They'll have to stand in line," Pete pointed to Jean. "Jean's here, and having a fit to see him."
"How's she doing?"
"Holding it together, but barely," Pete said. "Like you said, she has lots of questions. And she just wants to see for herself that he's still alive."
"Can't blame her for that."
"No, and I'll be damned if those Feds are gonna get to see Jim before she does."
"Pete," Mac said with a warning tone, "don't cause trouble."
"Yes, you. Do I have to give you my 'be a pro' speech?"
"I've heard that one before, Mac. Save it for the Feds."
"Mac, I know they've got a job to do, but I also know how -- determined -- they can be. I won't let them bully my partner, or his wife."
"No one wants to do either of those things. So just relax." Mac tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. "Do you know if Jim wears any jewelry besides his watch? A cross, or a medallion on a chain around his neck under his shirt?"
Pete frowned. "No, I don't think so. I don't recall ever seeing him wear anything like that."
"Jean'll know for sure, I suppose. The Feds want us to ask and let them know. They're looking for leads anywhere they can find them."
"God knows we're going to need some leads. We haven't had much luck so far."
"Let's go see if we can get that luck to change."
"Jim doesn't wear any jewelry on the job except his watch," Jean said in answer to Mac's question. "After he got his hand smashed that time with his wedding band...he took it off and only wears it off-duty. When he remembers to get it out of the drawer," Jean smiled.
"Nothing around his neck, then?" Mac asked.
"No. Why is that important, Mac?"
"They pawned his watch; they might have tried to pawn another item to get some cash. It'd just be another possible lead for the investigators."
"I see. No, I'm sorry, but all he had on yesterday was his watch."
"Here comes a nurse," Mr. Smithson interrupted. "Maybe she's got news on Jim."
Pete looked up as the nurse he sent to check on Jim came into the waiting area.
"Mrs. Reed?" the nurse smiled her best professional smile at Jean.
"Yes," Jean stood. "How's my husband? Can I see him?"
"I talked to the doctors, and one of them will be out to talk with you in just a few minutes to give you some details. Your husband is responding very well to the treatment; his temperature is slowly rising, which is good."
"Oh, thank goodness," Jean sighed. "Is he awake yet?"
"No. And it'll probably be awhile longer before he does wake up. The doctors are examining him now that they've stabilized him. They're taking x-rays to make sure he doesn't have any broken bones, and they're treating his injuries. As soon as they're through with all that, someone will come out and talk to you and tell you everything. And then I'm sure they'll let you see him."
"How much longer do you think it'll take? I really want to see him."
"I understand. I really don't know, but surely within the next hour." The nurse patted Jean on the shoulder.
"An hour?" Jean sank back down into her chair. She pushed her hair behind one ear with a trembling hand. "I don't want to wait an hour. I've waited so long!"
"Easy, sweetie," Mr. Smithson draped his arm around her shoulders. "You want what's best for Jim, don't you? You can wait a little while longer."
Jean dropped her head to hide the tears of disappointment that started sliding down her face. She nodded twice, but she put a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob.
"Is there anything I can get for you?" the nurse asked.
Jean shook her head.
"I've been following this on the news," the nurse told Jean quietly. "I know this has to have been a terrible ordeal for you. But your husband is getting the best of care, and you'll be with him before you know it."
"Thank you. I'm sorry, I just...." Jean sniffed.
"Don't apologize. And if you need anything, just let me know. I'll be at the nurses' station. My name is Lydia." She patted Jean's shoulder once more, then left.
"Hang in there, Jeannie," Mr. Smithson said.
"I'm trying, Daddy, I'm trying," Jean wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. "I just can't get the picture out of my mind of Jim in that barn, so cold and alone. If I could only see him; let him know I'm here...."
"I'm sure he knows, darling," Mr. Smithson assured her.
Jean's words stirred a memory. The picture. Pete leaned down and picked up his jacket. "Maybe he wasn't as alone as you think, Jean. When we found Jim, both his hands were clenched into fists. Muscle spasms from the cold, they said. In the chopper, I thought I saw something in his hand, so one of the paramedics pried it open for me. And this is what was in it." Pete reached in his jacket pocket, pulled out the crumpled picture and gave it to Jean.
"Oh," Jean breathed, as she gingerly unfolded the picture. "Oh. Jim was...holding this in his hand?"
Tears once again pooled in Jean's dark eyes as she stared at the picture. Like Pete had done earlier, she rubbed her fingers over the scratched, curled surface. "You said he was handcuffed," she stated, her voice barely a whisper.
"He kept this picture in his wallet. Was his wallet in the barn?"
"One of the searchers found it with some of his uniform brass piled up in a clearing in the barn," Pete said.
"Then how did he get the picture in his hand, Pete?"
"I don't know, Jean. All I know is, he had it in his hand. And it looks like he held it there for a long time."
Jean stared at the picture for a long moment. "He was sending me a message," she finally said, her voice broken. "He didn't think...he would make it...and he was sending me a message."
Pete nodded, looking at her sympathetically. "That, and maybe reminding himself just how much he had to live for."
"Oh, my dear, sweet, Jim," Jean pulled the picture to her lips and kissed it, then closed her hand over it and hugged it to her heart. "My poor Jim. What he must have gone through."A single tear slid down her cheek.
"Don't cry, honey," Mr. Smithson soothed. "He's safe now. Everything's okay."
Jean nodded and wiped the tear from her cheek. "I know. Maybe...maybe once I see him I'll be able to stop crying. I'm sorry I'm acting like such a baby."
"Not like a baby," Mac contradicted. "Like a scared wife. And there's nothing wrong with that."
Pete squeezed her arm and smiled at her. "I think Jim would get his feelings hurt if you didn't cry a little bit."
Jean managed another giggle as she rubbed away her smeared mascara. "He would at that," she agreed. "Do I have raccoon eyes?"
"Raccoon eyes?" Pete asked, bewildered.
Mac thumped him on the shoulder. "You bachelor, you."
"Mascara under the eyes," Jean wiggled her index fingers under her lower lids. "You know, like a raccoon?
"Oh," Pete said, pleased that Jean seemed to be relaxing. "Yeah, I guess you do. You need a tissue?"
"I'm probably well beyond a tissue," Jean sniffed. "This'll take a trip to the ladies' room." She stood, gathered her purse, and slipped the picture inside. "Come knock on the door if the doctor comes while I'm gone, please."
"Okay, honey," Mr. Smithson said. "Will you be all right?"
"I'll be fine, Daddy."
"Your daughter's quite a lady," Mac said, when Jean walked out of earshot.
"She's a strong woman," Mr. Smithson said, with a trace of sadness in his voice. "But this.... It's almost been too much for her." His expression darkened.
"Almost too much for all of us," Pete said quietly.
"Those guys that did all this, they must be wackos," Mr. Smithson said. "I'm no policeman, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Why'd they leave Jim's things? And why not just kill Jim outright like they tried to kill you, Pete?"
"Doesn't make much sense to me, either," Pete said.
"I hope Jim will have some answers for us," Mac said.
"For more reasons than one," Pete sighed.
Events started happening quickly over the next half-hour. As word spread of Jim's rescue and condition, police officers began arriving at the emergency room in their typical show of support. Those off-duty came and stayed; those on-duty dropped by briefly, using a variety of excuses. They all spoke to Pete and to Jean, offering comfort and encouragement. Those who stayed gathered at one end of the waiting area, talking quietly amongst themselves, seemingly ready to offer assistance of any sort should they be asked.
The rest of the family arrived during that time as well, with the exception of Jean's mother and sister, who stayed behind to care for Jimmy. They all looked much happier than the last time Pete had seen them, but the anxiety still peeked through in less guarded moments.
Pete had slipped away for a moment to call Judy and tell her where he was and what had happened. Hearing her voice had almost been his undoing, just as it had been yesterday. But he'd gotten through the call well enough, and Judy had promised she would be at the hospital as quickly as she could make after-school arrangements for David and drive through city traffic. The prospects of Judy standing by his side buoyed his flagging spirits. Maybe her strength would help him as he helped Jean deal with the waiting. Just maybe it wasn't time to write off their relationship yet.
Despite lack of word from Jim's doctor, Jean remained relatively calm and typically gracious during the wait. She spoke with quiet strength and grace to those who offered their well-wishes, masking her worry and impatience to all but those who knew her best.
Jim would be proud, Pete thought, as he watched her speak with yet another officer. Proud and relieved. He'd make sure to tell his partner how well she'd managed, even through her own fight with the morning sickness.
When the officer moved away to join his colleagues, Jean turned to look at Pete, as if she realized he'd been thinking about her. She reached out and took Pete's hand and smiled.
"How am I doing, Pete?" she asked.
"You're doin' great," Pete said. She looked tired to him, small and fragile. But even exhausted, with red-rimmed eyes and still slightly smeared make up, she managed to look beautiful. No wonder Jim loves her so much. "How are you feeling?"
Jean put her free hand over her belly; Pete thought he could already see a tiny little bulge where her unborn child grew. Nah, too early. It's just the sweater.
"Ehhh," she said, making a face.
"You want a drink or anything?"
"No...I think I'd be better off not eating right now. I'm still a little queasy. But thanks for asking."
"You just tell me if you need anything, okay?"
"Pete," Jean whispered, leaning closer to him, "I never thanked you."
"For what?" Pete asked, a little surprised.
"For everything. For being there for me, for Jimmy, for all of us. But most of all, thank you for finding Jim."
"It wasn't just me, Jean. There were a lot of folks out looking."
"But you found him. When you told Jimmy this morning you'd find his daddy, I...I don't know, Pete. I thought you'd made a promise you couldn't possibly keep."
Pete resisted the urge to squirm. Boy, so did I.
"I'm sorry I doubted you," Jean continued. "And I want you to know just how grateful I am."
Pete squeezed her hand. "I know."
"Mrs. Reed?" A white-coated doctor stood at the corner of the corridor where the treatment rooms were located, looking around in apparent confusion at the massive amount of people standing in his waiting room.
"Yes!" Jean almost leaped to her feet and hurried toward the doctor. The physician met her halfway and extended his hand. Jean took it, and asked, "How's my husband?"
"Mrs. Reed, I'm Dr. Gibbs." He looked around again at the people in the waiting area. "Let's go somewhere we can talk."
"I...I'd like to bring some of my family, please? I'm so rattled, I don't know if I can remember everything."
"Of course. There's a quiet room behind the nurses' station here. It can accommodate a few more people."
Jean turned and motioned to Pete. "Pete, Daddy, Jane," she called.
Dr. Gibbs waited for them to catch up, then led them behind the nurses' station to a small room that apparently served as a lounge for the nurses, judging from the decor. Two small couches lined adjoining walls; a tiny television set sat on a counter in the opposite corner and shared space with a coffee pot, hotplate, and a popcorn popper. A refrigerator and small table rounded out the furniture in the room that smelled like fresh brewed coffee and popcorn.
"Have a seat, please,"Dr. Gibbs spread his hands. He grabbed a chair from the small table, turned it backwards and straddled it, facing Jean and the others who opted for the couch. "First of all, let me reassure you that your husband is responding very well to our treatment and we expect a full recovery."
"Oh, thank goodness," Jean voiced everyone's relief, though they all released a near-simultaneous loud breath at the good news. "Is he awake? When can I see him?"
"No, he's not awake yet, and yes, you can see him after I explain his condition to you," Dr. Gibbs said, his voice calm and reassuring. "If I get too clinical, or say something you don't understand, please stop me."
"All right," Jean nodded. She sat on the edge of the couch between Pete and her father, with her hands clasped in her lap.
"Your husband was in very bad shape when they brought him in," Dr. Gibbs began. "He was -- and still is -- suffering from severe hypothermia. Normal core body temperature is between 98 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit -- textbook is 98.6, as you know. When we took his temperature here, after he'd been dried and slightly warmed in the field, it registered 86.2 degrees. That is severely hypothermic."
"How could he survive that?" Jane asked, incredulous.
"Hypothermia is unusual in that it acts to protect the vital organs at all costs," Dr. Gibbs explained. "Blood flow is directed to the central body cavity, and the brain. Metabolism slows, almost like a hibernation state. But even at that, I doubt he could have survived much longer without prospects for permanent disability. But I don't think you'll have anything to worry about in that regard," he added hastily, seeing Jean's frightened expression. "The men who found your husband and the paramedics treated him properly in the field, and getting him here quickly certainly helped. The key is slow and steady warming. We've got him on a warmed IV fluid and we've layered him in warmed, dry sheets, and blankets. Before I came out, I checked the monitor -- we've got a Foley catheter in to monitor his temperature -- and he was up to 90 degrees. So we feel confident that he'll continue to respond. He'll start to regain consciousness probably around 92-93 degrees."
"I'd like to be with him when he wakes up," Jean said.
"We'll see how things are going. He's likely to be confused and have some retrograde amnesia when he awakens. He might not remember anything for a while."
That might be a blessing, Pete thought, but the Feds sure won't like it.
"What about other injuries?" Jean asked.
"It's going to sound alarming, I'm afraid," Dr. Gibbs responded. "But none of these injuries appear to be serious. We're waiting on some of the x-ray films to come back before we know for sure, but I'll give you a list of what we found. There were no major wounds -- no gunshot or knife wounds. It appears that he was beaten. At least, that's what the injuries look like to us. Let me start with the head and work my way down. He has a slight concussion. There are two lacerations with considerable lumps on the back of his head. One of them required stitches. We don't suspect skull fracture, though we took pictures to be certain. It looks like he was hit with a blunt instrument...likely the butt of a pistol. On the face, he has multiple contusions -- bruises -- some more lacerations, nothing to be alarmed about. They'll darken and look bad for several days, but they'll heal. More bruises on the arms, random patterns. On the right wrist there's a very large bruise and lots of swelling. He could have a broken bone there, but again, I'm waiting on film. On each wrist, he has a moderately deep groove cut -- from where too tight handcuffs cut into the skin, and he has splinters in his forearms and hands. I understand that he was cuffed to a wooden pole, and apparently tried to escape by sawing back and forth?"
Pete nodded. "Best we could tell, from the condition of the pole and his hands."
"That seems likely. We removed all we could, but you're probably going to be pulling splinters out of his skin for a couple of weeks as some of the smaller ones we might have missed rise to the surface. On his trunk, front and back...it's a mass of bruises. I know this is upsetting for you, but you need to know the whole picture."
"That's okay," Jean whispered. Her voice held a tremor, and her father put an arm around her shoulders.
Pete didn't blame Jean for being upset. Listening to this catalogue of injuries, even if they were minor, only fanned the flame of anger simmering inside Pete.
"Your husband has severe bruising on his abdomen, and especially the back. It looks like he'd been struck or kicked several times, or both. We have found traces of blood in his urine, so we're keeping a very close watch on his kidneys."
"What does that mean?" Jean asked.
"If there's some kidney damage, there might be hemorrhaging. But blood in the urine doesn't always mean severe damage. I've treated people who jog on concrete that have traces of blood in the urine. We don't suspect anything dire, so relax. Once I read the x-rays I'll have a better idea. He might have a cracked rib, too, but again, the films will tell us. The legs have a few cuts and bruises, nothing spectacular. But his right ankle is severely sprained. He may have a torn ligament. We'll run further tests after he's recovered from the hypothermia. Lastly, the bottoms of his feet are really torn up. They're cut, bruised, riddled with splinters and debris...like he was forced to walk barefoot for a long way."
Pete balled his hands into fists and tensed. Bastards. The flame began to burn brighter.
"We even had to stitch a couple of the cuts," Dr. Gibbs said. "He'll be off his feet several days. And that's pretty much it."
"That's plenty," Jean sighed.
"I know it's a lot to hear, but the upside to all of this is that everything is relatively minor. Once he warms up, he should recover completely. Now, he'll be in some significant pain over the next few days, I'm sure. These soft tissue injuries -- the bruises, sprains and so forth -- they'll hurt pretty badly. But we'll help him manage the pain."
"How long will he have to stay in the hospital?" Jean asked.
"At least 48 hours, but possibly longer, depending on what the films show. We'll monitor his heart very carefully for arrhythmias -- irregular beats -- from the hypothermia. Once we're satisfied he's stable, he can go home. Do you have any questions?"
"It's all so overwhelming," Jean said.
"I understand you've been through a lot," Dr. Gibbs sympathized. "And that there's been a lot of media interest in this case. Understandably so. I'm willing to release a statement to the press on your husband's condition so that you won't have to answer any questions, if that's all right."
"It's fine with me," Jean nodded. "Pete? What's the department policy?"
"I'll have Sergeant MacDonald talk with you and you can arrange something with him," Pete said.
"Fine. Mrs. Reed, are you ready to see your husband?"
Jean smiled. "More than ready."
Dr. Gibbs kept a supportive hand on Jean's back as he escorted her to treatment room four where Jim lay. Jean was grateful for that support; between the pregnancy, the stress of the past day and a half and the anticipation of finally seeing her husband, it took a mammoth effort on her part to stay up and moving.
Oh, God, please don't let me fall apart when I see him. Please help me be strong.
Dr. Gibbs pulled Jean to a halt as they reached the treatment room door. "Remember, Mrs. Reed, he's still unconscious. He's on oxygen, he has an IV in, and he's wrapped up in blankets from head to toe. His color is bad, too -- he's quite pale, and he'll feel cold to your touch still. Don't be alarmed."
"All right. May I...may I touch him?"
"Of course. Don't uncover him, but you can touch him, and talk to him. Just be gentle and calm. He doesn't need to be agitated. But it's quite possible he can hear you speaking, and it might bring him around sooner."
"Thank you." Jean squared her shoulders, prepared for the worst.
"I'll be in there with you, and so will some nurses, so if you feel ill, or need anything, just let one of us know." Dr. Gibbs opened the door and Jean got the first glimpse of her husband in over thirty-two hours.
Jean couldn't help but draw in a sharp breath when she saw him lying on the table, indeed wrapped from head to toe in blankets and a warm woolen hat. The only skin visible was his face, and that was half-covered in a plastic oxygen mask. The IV bag tubing snaked under the blanket, and another tube, ostensibly from the catheter, draped near the base of the table. More wires snaked out from around Jim's shoulders, connected to a heart monitor that blipped slowly, but steadily, over his head.
"It's okay," Dr. Gibbs assured her. "It just looks scary."
Jean shook herself out of her shock and hurried to Jim's side. Her shock deepened when she saw his pale, battered face and blue-tinged lips. Tears sprang to her eyes and her insides twisted. Don't cry! Don't cry! She reached out and lay a gentle hand on the side of Jim's face. So cold. He's so cold. "Jim, darling, it's Jean," she whispered, leaning close to his ear. "Honey, can you hear me?" Jean leaned closer and pressed a feather-soft kiss on his cheek, avoiding the angry, swollen bruise there. She repeated the kiss, moving closer to his ear again. He loves it when I kiss his ear. "Jim? I love you, darling. Won't you wake up for me?"
It almost broke her heart when Jim neither moved nor responded to her voice. She couldn't keep a tear from trailing from her eye, but she brushed it away quickly. Jean lay one hand on Jim's forehead and placed the other atop his chest. "Jim? Jim, darling, it's me, Jean. Honey, listen to me." Again, she placed a gentle kiss on Jim's cheek. "You're in the hospital. You're safe. Everything's okay. The lobby's full of people who love you and want you to wake up and tell us you're okay. Jane's here, and Daddy, and Russell and Phil, and of course Pete. Half the department's out there, honey." She leaned her warm cheek up against his cold one, still horrified at the feel of it. "I love you, baby. Jimmy misses you, too. He's at home. He drew you a picture, darling. Wait until you see it. It's so good. He's such a little smartie, like his daddy."
Jean snuggled up against him as close as she dared and kissed his face again and again. She wished she could hold his hand. "Honey, I love you. Please open your eyes, baby. I want to see those beautiful blue eyes, sweetheart."
Jim remained unmoving and silent.
Jean pushed her despair aside. Stay strong. Give him a lifeline -- something to pull him back to reality. She kissed him again. "Honey, I love you so much. You're my whole life. I need you. Jimmy needs you, and our little unborn baby needs you. Wake up, honey. I'll be right here by your side. And I'll be by your side for the rest of my life, Jim, I promise." She kissed him yet again, then tenderly lay her head on his shoulder. She snuggled against his face, hoping that her strength, her warmth, and her love would penetrate the veil of unconsciousness that held him captive.
Pete didn't know if he felt better or worse after hearing Dr. Gibbs' report on Jim's condition. While the gist of the news had been good, imagining the abuse he had taken was unsettling. Pete couldn't help but wonder how long it would take to heal Jim's unseen wounds.
"Why don't you tell your buddies about Jim's condition and we'll take care of the family," Mr. Smithson said as they entered the waiting area. His voice shook Pete from his thoughts.
"Sure," Pete agreed. He watched Jean and Dr. Gibbs disappear around the corner, then scanned the sea of people in the waiting area for Judy's face. He didn't find her. He did see Captain Moore and Lieutenant Murphy, who stood with Mac near the knot of officers at the rear of the room, and he headed for them.
"So, what's the news?" Mac asked. The officers huddled around Pete to hear his report.
Pete summarized the information Dr. Gibbs had given them. When he'd finished, relief was etched on all their faces.
"That's really good news," Mac voiced everyone's thoughts. "When I first saw him, I had my doubts, I'll tell you that."
"Me, too," Pete admitted. Somehow, he felt better saying that.
"Excellent," Captain Moore nodded. "Now we need to get that information out to the media. The press is making quite a nuisance of themselves out there and at the station, too, for that matter."
"Dr. Gibbs said he'd be willing to make a statement to the press for you," Pete said. "He went with Jean to see Jim, but if you want to talk with him, I'm sure he'd be glad to do so."
"Murphy, let's see if we can't arrange a press conference," Moore said to the Lieutenant. "Get in touch with the Las Vegas authorities and see if they want in on it, or want to release a statement on the status of the search for Ciroppolli and Graddock. Talk to the doctor and set up a time and place here at the hospital. Pete, Mac, they'll have questions about the circumstances of how you found him, and since you were the ones, you should be there, too."
"If it's all the same to you, Cap, can Mac handle it?" Pete asked. "I'd rather be here, with Jean, and be around when Jim wakes up."
"All right," Moore agreed. "But you may not be able to avoid the press forever."
"Okay, Murphy, get on it. I'll go out and tell the press to expect an announcement soon," Moore thumped the Lieutenant on the shoulder and left.
"There's a nurse at the nurses' station over there named Lydia," Mac told Murphy. "She can help you set up something with Dr. Gibbs, I'm sure. Might can find you a place to make a phone call, too."
"Thanks, Mac. I'll let you know the details soon as I know 'em."
"You look wiped out, Pete," Mac said, after Murphy had moved off. "I think you should get that cup of coffee now. In fact, I think you should eat something. Why don't you go grab something from the cafeteria and relax?"
"I will, Mac. I want to talk to Jean first, though, and Judy's on her way. After she gets here I'll eat something."
In fact, Pete's empty stomach had been voicing its complaints for a while, and smelling the coffee and popcorn in the lounge had made him a little hungry. Getting good news does wonders for the appetite.
"At least go sit back down. I'm gonna call Mary. If I have to be on TV, I'd better get cleaned up. And since my transportation is still in San Bernadino County, she'll need to bring me something."
"Save Mary a trip and get one of those guys to run you home," Pete hooked his thumb at the police officers once again scattered in the waiting area.
"Good idea. I'll get Jackson. He owes me a favor, anyway. Where'd he....uh, oh." Mac said, breaking off in mid-sentence.
"Look who just walked in," Mac jerked his head toward the ER entrance.
Pete followed Mac's directions and noted two men dressed in dark suits approaching the nurses' station. FBI. Didn't take 'em long.
"Let's get this over with," Mac said.
"Might as well," Pete agreed.
By the time Pete and Mac made their way to the nurses' station, the agents had spoken to the nursing staff and were looking at them expectantly. Both agents whipped out their identification badges, almost in concert. Pete had to bite his lip to keep from laughing inappropriately.
"I'm Agent Dixon, this is Agent Zoellner, FBI, Los Angeles Field Office," the shorter of the two men said.
"I'm Sergeant MacDonald; this is Officer Malloy," Mac introduced them both.
"Let's go somewhere we can talk," Agent Dixon motioned toward the same room where Dr. Gibbs had spoken to Jean earlier. "The nurses said we can use this lounge."
The men made their way around the desk and into the lounge. It still smelled of coffee, and Pete's stomach growled.
"We'd have been here sooner," Agent Dixon said once they'd settled in, "but we had to be briefed by the Las Vegas field agents."
"No problem," Mac said. "Anything new on the search for Ciropolli and Graddock?"
"No progress,"Agent Zoellner said, but the tone of his voice and the speed with which he replied made Pete wonder if that were totally true.
"How is Officer Reed doing?" Dixon asked.
"He's making progress," Mac said. "He was in pretty bad shape when we found him, though. Hypothermia's the worst of it. Concussion, took some beatings. He should recover fully, though."
"Is he conscious yet?" This from Zoellner.
Pete decided he didn't like Agent Zoellner. Though neither agent had cracked a smile yet, Zoellner's abrupt mannerisms didn't sit well with Pete. "Not yet," he said. "And he might not be for a while."
"You understand we have a lot of questions we'd like to ask him," Dixon said. His voice held more consideration than did his partner's.
"Of course," Mac nodded. "We have many of those same questions ourselves. As do a lot of other agencies."
"Glad you understand," Dixon finally quirked a corner of his mouth upwards. "How's the head, Officer Malloy?"
"Good to hear."
"We understand you positively identified Ciroppolli and Graddock as the two men you stopped to assist yesterday, when the incident occurred," Zoellner stated, staring at Pete. "And you identified Ciroppolli as the shooter."
"But you didn't speak to either of them. In fact, you didn't even see Ciroppolli until the split second before you were shot, because he was waiting in ambush?" Zoellner continued.
"Right. Graddock was out fiddling with the tire. Jim -- Officer Reed -- went to assist him while I ran the car's plates."
"Ciroppolli didn't show himself until you got close to their stolen car, correct?"
"Yeah. I ran the plates, and the car was clean -- but I thought I saw blood on the trunk lid. And it was nearly closed. It made me suspicious. I walked over to get a closer look and saw more blood on the fender. I was just about to say something to my partner when Ciroppolli came up shooting."
"So you don't have any information beyond a positive ID of Graddock," Zoellner summarized.
"Not from the initial contact, no. I didn't get a good enough look at Ciroppolli, and I didn't interact with Graddock. But my partner only talked with him about the tire. And after I was shot, of course, I have no first-hand account of what happened after that. All I know is, by the time I got to the top of the hill, our unit and my partner were gone. Along with the other two. And there was a dead body in the trunk of the Chevy."
"Of course," Dixon said.
"It seems that all the answers will lie with your partner," Zoellner said. He took out a notebook. "Did you examine his wallet and notebook at the scene?"
"No," Mac answered. "We didn't want to disturb the scene. And we were too busy trying to keep him alive."
Dixon nodded. "Of course. Agents on the scene have all of those belongings. They're going to take them to the Las Vegas Field office for evaluation." He thumbed through a few pages of his notebook. "But I have a list of the major items in the wallet. Once they take the items to the Las Vegas field office, they'll send facsimiles of everything in the wallet and the notebook for identification purposes, but if you could look this list over and see if anything jumps out at you, we might get a head start."
"Sure," Pete took the notebook from Dixon and began to study the list. It looked as if a few of Jim's credit cards were missing, but Pete couldn't recall any specifics. "I don't see his license listed here. And I feel sure he had two gas cards. I don't see either of them listed here. And I think he's got a Sears card, too. But I can't be sure."
"We knew about the one gas card, and figured they look Reed's license. But the Sears and the second gas card is a break. They might try to use those."
"Save us some time if we had the account numbers," Zoellner said. "His wife here? Maybe she knows?"
"She's here, but she's in with Jim," Pete said.
"I thought you said he wasn't conscious."
"He isn't," Pete growled, "but she still wanted to see him." His dislike for Zoellner intensified.
"Maybe she carries a second card and we can get it from that when she's available," Dixon said. "What about the notebook contents? They're on the next page there."
As Pete flipped the page and looked over the list, Mac said, "Oh, by the way, we checked with his wife. Reed doesn't wear any jewelry other than his watch."
"Okay, thanks," Zoellner scribbled in his notebook.
"Those are summaries of his patrol notes, of course," Dixon said to Pete. "You can see the facsimiles when they arrive."
"Yeah, I recognize these from Wednesday's shift," Pete muttered, going down the abbreviated list. "Names and addresses of PRs and some descriptions of suspects and a car or two used in robberies.... What's this?" Pete's eyes lighted on something unusual.
"What?" Mac asked, leaning over Pete's shoulder to look.
Pete lifted his eyes from the paper in time to catch the two agents give each other a significant look. "This last entry...Numbers 35:30?"
"That was found written on a page near the back of Reed's notebook," Zoellner stated. "What do you know about it?"
"Nothing," Pete shrugged, confused. "What is that? Some Bible reference?"
"We think so," Dixon confirmed. "Your partner a religious man? He go to church?"
"Sure, he goes to church," Pete said. "I'd say he was a man of faith. But as far as I know, he doesn't take his patrol notebook to church. Did you look it up? What does that verse say?"
"Flip two more pages," Dixon instructed. "I looked it up before we came over and wrote it down."
Pete turned to the page and read the scripture reference aloud. "'Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.'" Pete looked up, his brow furrowed in confusion. "They found this in Jim's notebook?"
"Only the reference," Dixon said. "Agents are going to have the handwriting analyzed, but we don't think it was written in Reed's handwriting."
"You think one of the convicts wrote it," Pete stated.
"Could be. It's certainly interesting, isn't it?"
"I'll say," Pete agreed.
"And you said that was in the back of Reed's notebook?" Mac asked.
"Near the back."
"If Ciroppolli or Graddock left that for us to find, isn't sticking it in the back of the notebook kinda a strange place to put it?" Pete asked.
Dixon shrugged. "Maybe it wasn't meant for us. Maybe it was meant for Reed."
"A warning? In case Jim made it out alive, something to encourage him to keep his mouth shut?"
"A definite possibility. We have information that leads us to believe Ciroppolli's some kind of religious nut," Zoellner stated. "This fits."
"We'll know more once comparisons are made with Reed's, Ciroppolli's and Graddock's handwriting," Dixon said.
"Jim's not a religious nut, I can tell you that," Pete said. The mysterious reference puzzled him. And worried him. He handed Dixon's notebook back to him.
"What about Ciroppolli's brother?" Mac asked. "Have you questioned him further?"
"We're following a lot of leads," Zoellner said noncommitally. "We're on top of it."
Pete seethed, though he did his best not to let it show on his face. Boy, this guy's about as tight lipped as they come. Arrogant, too. Whatever happened to inter-agency cooperation?
"Do either of you have anything else you want to tell us that you think might help us locate these men?" Dixon asked, after an uncomfortable silence.
"Don't think so," Mac answered for them both.
"You didn't see anything at the scene of the recovery that might be of help?"
"We were too focused on getting help to Jim," Pete said. "But there were others at the barn who looked around some."
"The agents at the scene have questioned them already," Zoeller said.
"Thank you for your help, gentlemen." Dixon extended his hand to Mac, then to Pete. "I guess now we'll just have to wait for your partner to wake up."
"We should talk with his wife, too. Maybe she can shed some more light on the wallet contents," Zoellner said.
"Take it easy on her," Pete said, with a little snap in his voice. "She's had a tough time."
"Promise," Dixon assured him. "And we should also talk with Officer Reed's doctor. What's his name?"
"Gibbs," Pete supplied.
"Thanks. We'll hang around here a while, then, and talk to both of them."
"I'll see if the nurses can locate them for us," Zoellner stated, then left the room.
Pete watched him leave and couldn't help but scowl after the abrasive agent. I'm not letting that guy near Jim without me in the room.
Almost as if Dixon had read his thoughts, the agent said, "Don't worry about him. He's just intense. We'll go easy as we can on your partner. And his wife, of course."
"I want to be there when you question them," Pete stated, a tone of voice that dared the FBI man to object.
"No problem. I was going to ask you to join us, anyway." Dixon flashed them a smile and left to join Zoellner.
"Relax, Pete," Mac said when the agent had gone.
"I am relaxed."
Mac snorted. "Right."
"Come on, Mac, I don't want them getting to Jean without me there." Pete left the room and searched the area for the two FBI men. He caught sight of them rounding the corner of the corridor that led to Jim's treatment room, being led by the nurse, Lydia. Pete hurried after them, Mac on his heels.
Pete caught up with them as the nurse disappeared into the treatment room. The two agents remained outside the door.
"We understand Mrs. Reed is expecting a baby," Dixon said quietly.
"She is," Pete confirmed. "And she's been pretty sick. All this hasn't helped."
"How far along is she?" Dixon asked.
"About three months."
"My wife was sick with our two until about 4 months," Dixon nodded. "I can sympathize."
"Jim's very protective of his family," Pete said, giving the agents a stern look.
"That's as it should be," Dixon replied mildly. "Don't worry, Officer Malloy, we'll be as gentle as we can be."
The door to the treatment room opened, cutting off any further comment from Pete. Jean stepped outside and looked at the two agents with fire in her eyes. But she addressed Pete.
"What's this about, Pete? Jim's in no condition to be questioned! He's not even awake."
"Jean, this is Agent Dixon and Agent Zoellner, FBI," Pete pointed to each agent as he introduced them.
"They need to ask you a few questions," Mac spoke up.
"All right," Jean agreed, "if you think it will help."
"It just might," Dixon said. "Would you like to go sit down somewhere?"
"No. I want to stay right here, near Jim."
"All right," Dixon nodded, his voice exuding patience. He explained to Jean about the wallet and the list of items, then asked her to look over the list.
Jean took the list from Dixon and examined it, commenting as she went along. "He had fifteen dollars cash when he left this morning. I'm sure of that. His drivers' license isn't here, nor either of his gas cards. He's got a Sears card, too, that's not here. Everything else important seems to be listed."
"Do you have duplicates of any of those cards?" Dixon asked, as Zoellner scribbled down the information.
"Yes, I have duplicates of all of them, in my purse."
"May we have the account numbers? It might help us spot their use more quickly."
"I'll get them," Jean said. "I'll be right back." She disappeared through the door, and Lydia reappeared almost immediately.
"Dr. Gibbs said to tell you he'll be a few minutes. He's monitoring Mr. Reed very closely, but he might be able to see you in about ten minutes or so. You can wait in the ER waiting area, and we'll let you know when he's ready."
"Thank you," Dixon said.
"How's he doing?" Pete asked.
"Slow progress," Lydia told him. "He's not awake, but his vital signs are slowly improving. Excuse me, gentlemen," Lydia smiled and walked into the treatment room next door.
"That's something, anyway," Pete muttered.
Jean reemerged, holding the credit cards in her hand. "Here they are," she offered them to Agent Zoellner, who took them and started copying account numbers. "Do you have any leads on finding these criminals?"
"We're working as hard as we can on that," Dixon promised. "Every little piece of information can only help. These account numbers will be a great help."
"I hope so."
"Mrs. Reed, does your husband read the Bible a great deal?" Dixon asked, ignoring the sharp look Pete gave him at the question.
"Not a great deal, but he does read it some," Jean's brow furrowed in apparent confusion. "Why?"
"Does the scripture reference Numbers 35:30 mean anything to you?"
"Numbers? That's a rather obscure book. No, it doesn't mean anything to me. Or to Jim, either, as far as I know. Those are odd questions, Agent Dixon. Why are you asking me that?"
"Never mind, Mrs. Reed," Dixon said, as Zoellner gave the cards back to her. "If I think it means anything, I'll let you know."
"Is that all?" Jean asked.
"For now, yes. Thank you for your time."
"If you need me again, this is where I'll be," Jean said, tilting her head toward Jim's room.
"Keep us informed, Jean," Pete said.
Jean nodded, and went back into the room.
"We'll need to make some phone calls," Dixon said. "We'll be around for a while, though, to talk with Dr. Gibbs. If you think of anything further you want to tell us, we'll be around the nurses' station."
"Will do," Mac answered for the both of them, as the agents moved toward the waiting area. "Come on, Pete," Mac clapped Pete on the shoulder. "Let's scare up a cup of coffee. You look like you could use one."
When Pete entered the waiting area, he saw Judy standing in the middle of the room, talking with Jim's sister. He promptly forgot about coffee.
"I'll take a rain check on that coffee, Mac," Pete said, then walked away without waiting for an answer.
Jane saw him coming before Judy did, but she pointed Pete's direction, and Judy turned.
And she smiled.
Seeing that welcoming smile lifted part of the burden from Pete's shoulders. At least momentarily, Pete's doubts about their relationship faded as he returned her smile and held his arms out to her.
"Pete," Judy moved into Pete's open arms. He pulled her to him and they shared a long, hard embrace, and a shorter, but no less meaningful, kiss.
"Are you okay?" Judy whispered as they broke the kiss. She reached up and brushed hair off his forehead.
"Yeah," Pete whispered back. He pulled her back into an embrace and simply held her, drawing comfort and strength from her steady presence. She rubbed his back with gentle strokes. They stood like that, quiet and content, until Judy finally spoke.
"Jane says Jim's gonna be okay."
"That's what the doc says."
"Thank God. Jean's in with him now?"
"Yeah. She's been in there quite a while."
"How's she holding up?"
"Better than I thought she could."
"How are you holding up?" Judy pushed away from him a small space and looked him over. "You look exhausted."
"I'm tired," Pete admitted, with a wan smile.
"You probably didn't sleep a wink."
"Not much. And it was quite a hike this morning."
"Let's go sit down, then," Judy tugged at him and they found a pair of seats facing the treatment room corridor. Judy slipped her arm through Pete's and intertwined her fingers with his. "I listened to the radio on the way here. It's all over the news."
"I figured." Pete nodded his head toward the doors. "The media's everywhere."
"I noticed." Judy squeezed his hand. "But at least the worst is over now."
"Is it?" Pete stared down the corridor, thinking of Jim lying behind one of those doors, fighting to regain his health. Then would begin the fight to regain his everyday life. There would be questions, and more questions, forcing Jim to relive whatever hell he'd been through for those long thirty hours. No doubt Jim would have questions of his own. Doubts. Insecurities. Fears. Demons to be conquered before he could be Jim Reed again. Pete had seen it happen before, to other men, more times than he cared to remember.
And he dreaded it for Jim.
He dreaded it for himself.
Pete felt Judy staring at him, so he shook away the dark thoughts and looked at her. He started to smile at her, but he saw the fear back in her eyes and the smile died, stillborn.
"I....I don't know what to say, Pete," she said, a tremor in her lips and voice. "I don't know how to help you."
"Just be here for me. That's all I need."
For a long moment, Judy didn't say anything. Pete searched her eyes, looking for her answer there. Finally, she nodded, then lay her head on Pete's shoulder.
"I think I can handle that," she said.
Pete leaned over and kissed the top of her head. "Good," he said softly, but some of the doubts began to tiptoe back into his heart.
Pete had closed his eyes for just a moment, attempting to shut out the distractions around him and drive the vestiges of his headache away. All he had meant to do was take a moment to relax, but having an arm around Judy and feeling her comforting presence had relaxed him too much and he had fallen asleep. Mac's voice nearby had jolted him awake, and he sat up, chagrined at his lapse. Some help I am. Falling asleep on everybody.
"Sorry, Pete, I didn't mean to startle you," Mac said, avoiding Judy's disapproving stare.
"That's okay, Mac." Pete sat up and tried to look alert, hoping he didn't have drool on his chin.
"Jackson's gonna give me a ride home to change. If Snyder comes back with the truck, just take the keys for me, and I'll get them when I come back."
"You all right, Pete?" Mac asked.
"Yeah. I'm fine." Pete looked around to see if Jean had come back to the waiting area.
"Relax, honey," Judy said. "You were only asleep about five minutes. Nothing's happened."
"You'd probably be better off going back to sleep and getting some rest," Mac said. "Someone will wake you if Jim comes around."
"I'll be back as soon as I can. Relax, okay?"
Mac clapped him once on the shoulder, gave him a tight smile, then left.
"Mac's right, you know," Judy said. "You should go back to sleep. In fact, while you're here, you should let someone check you over again and make sure you're okay."
Pete waved her concern away. "I can sleep later."
Judy suppressed a sigh."Why don't we go down to the cafeteria and get you something to eat?"
"I don't want to leave here." Pete stated. What he wanted was for Jim to wake up.
This time Judy didn't hide her sigh. "All right."
"Judy, I'm okay. I'll eat...." Pete broke off when he saw Dr Gibbs emerge from Jim's treatment room and come their way. "That's Jim's doctor."
"Where's he going?" Judy asked, when Dr. Gibbs bypassed everyone and walked to the nurses station.
Pete's gaze followed the doctor. "He's going to talk to the FBI agents, looks like."
"The FBI is here?"
"Yeah. And they're itching to talk to Jim." Pete watched as the federal agents introduced themselves to the doctor and they held a conversation.
"Because they think he might know something that'll lead them to Ciroppolli and Graddock," Pete explained, with patience. He never took his eyes off the three men.
"Oh," Judy said. "Oh, of course."
Dr. Gibbs ended his conversation with Dixon and Zoellner. The FBI men did not look pleased, particularly Zoellner, but the latter returned to his phone calling and the former sat down in a chair on the opposite end of the waiting area and pulled out his notebook. No sooner did the federal men leave than Lieutenant Murphy caught up with the doctor. Murphy didn't concern Pete. Gotta schedule that press conference.
"Oh, Pete, here comes Jean!" Judy's quiet exclamation turned his attention back to the hallway. "She looks tired."
"She's about at the end of her reserves," Pete agreed. He watched Jean walk down the hall. She didn't seem distraught, so maybe this was just a courtesy visit to share information.
"Poor girl," Judy shook her head. "This is...this is such a horrible thing."
"Let's see what she has to say," Pete got up and pulled Judy with him. Jean had walked over to her father and dropped into the empty chair beside him, and Pete wanted to hear what she said about Jim.
By the time they reached Jean, others in the family had gathered around, and Jean had started briefing them on Jim's condition.
"He's still not awake," she said, with a disappointed sigh. "But his temperature's rising slowly. The doctor says that he might wake up sometime in the next hour or so." Jean took a deep breath and pushed her hair back behind her ears. "They also got the x-rays back. He doesn't have any broken bones at all, except there might be a hairline fracture of one of his ribs on the right side. They also thought they saw some blood in the kidneys. They told me they'd keep a close eye on it, but it wasn't anything to worry about. They'll take new x-rays tomorrow to confirm everything's still all right."
"That sounds really encouraging," Mr. Smithson said, rubbing her back comfortingly.
"I know, but....he's so cold, and his color's bad. I'd feel a lot better if he'd just wake up and talk to me."
"He will soon," her father assured her.
Pete couldn't help but echo Jean's sentiments in his own mind. He'd feel a lot better, too, once Jim woke up.
"Pete, Dr. Gibbs went to talk to the FBI agents," Jean said, looking up at him.
"I saw," Pete nodded.
A spark of anger flashed in Jean's eyes and a measure of her spirited self returned. "They are not going to bother him!" she declared. "He's not even awake! Dr. Gibbs promised me that he wouldn't let them question Jim until he's ready!"
"Take it easy, Jean," Pete knelt down beside her and looked into her eyes. "You know I'd never stand for that, either. I told the FBI that I wanted to be in there when they question him, and they agreed to it. I promise you, I won't let them badger him."
"Good," Jean relaxed visibly. "I should have realized you'd look after him." She smiled and put a hand on Pete's shoulder.
Pete reached up and patted her hand. He ignored the ghost of guilt that crept through his mind. If I'd really been looking after him, all this wouldn't be necessary. "I will. Don't you worry about that."
"I won't." Jean drew in a shaky breath and blew it out.
"Jean, honey, is there anything I can get or do for you?" Judy asked. She leaned down and gave Jean a hug.
"I just appreciate you being here," Jean returned the hug. "Everyone's been so supportive, and kind, and helpful. I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to thank you all."
"Oh, honey, no thanks are necessary. Everyone loves you both. We only want to help you through this."
Pete turned away and walked toward the nurses' station, taking him out of hearing range of any further conversation between Judy and Jean. He concentrated instead on the sick lurch in his chest. He felt like his heart had turned inside out, and the guilt-bearing ghosts gained ground in his mind. The last thing he felt worthy of was receiving thanks from Jean. I should've prevented this. This shouldn't be happening. I should've been driving. I shouldn't have told Jim it wasn't his lucky day. It should be me in there. It should be me.
Nurse Claudean Wesley checked Jim Reed's vital signs and duly recorded them in his chart, just as she had every fifteen minutes since he'd been brought in, half-frozen and closer to death than to life. His vital signs had steadily improved over the hours; heart rate, blood pressure, respirations and temperature all had risen, inching ever so slowly toward normal levels. But the still, pale form lying on the exam table bore little resemblance to the picture of the handsome, vital police officer that had been flashed all over the television for the past day and a half.
Nurse Wesley put the chart down and walked to the officer's side; his temperature had risen to almost 93 degrees and, paradoxically, now that he was getting warmer, his muscles had started to relax, and he'd begun to shiver. His body spasmed under the wrappings of blankets, and even though he remained unconscious, his teeth chattered, audible even though the plastic oxygen mask covered his mouth.
Nurse Wesley was alone in the treatment room with the police officer. Dr. Gibbs had gone to change for the impending press conference, and Mrs. Reed had just left from her second visit to visit the ladies' room. The nurse lay a gentle hand on the officer's forehead; it felt much more normal than it had earlier, though the skin remained cool to the touch. "Easy, Mr. Reed," she whispered, in her best professional, soothing tone. "You're going to be fine. You're safe here. Just relax." She doubted he would respond to her unfamiliar voice, but in the absence of his wife, hers would have to do.
An irregularity in the slow but steady beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor caused her to turn her head to look at the rhythm dancing across the screen. Some heart arrhythmias should be expected with as severe a case of hypothermia as Officer Reed had presented. After a few seconds the aberrant rhythm corrected itself and the slow and steady rate returned. Nothing to be alarmed about, but she'd note it in the chart in case Dr. Gibbs wanted to order some medication or ask for a cardiologist consultation.
"I'll be right back, Mr. Reed," she said, removing her hand from his forehead. She started to move to the small shelf in the treatment room that held his chart, but stopped when she heard him moan quietly.
"Mr. Reed?" Nurse Wesley stepped back to his side. "Mr. Reed? Are you finally going to wake up?"
Her patient's lips trembled under the mask, but that could be from the shivering, which seemed to be getting more violent. His eyes didn't open.
She put her hands on his cheeks, careful of his facial bruising. "Mr. Reed," she said, more loudly, "Wake up."
This time, he moaned again. The moan ended in a plaintive whimper and a tiny gasping breath. The heart monitor's beeping increased in intensity, and the irregularity showed itself again.
Nurse Wesley hurried to the phone on the wall, dialed up the hospital all-call, and paged Dr. Gibb.
Jean had just come out of the bathroom and headed for the treatment room when she heard the hospital intercom bark to life.
Dr. Gibbs to treatment room four. Dr. Gibbs to treatment room four.
Jean's heart somersaulted in her chest. "Jim!" she exclaimed. After only a short moment to process that something was happening, Jean took off for the treatment room at a near-run. She heard her father and Pete both call out to her as she passed in front of them in the waiting area, but she ignored them both.
When she got into the room, she saw the nurse who had been caring for Jim leaning over him, both hands pressed against his shoulders. It looked like Jim was struggling against her hold. The heart monitor beeped wildly.
"What's wrong with him?" Jean cried.
"Mrs. Reed, wait outside, please!" The nurse snapped.
"Is he in trouble?"
"He's trying to wake up, I think. He's very agitated. Now, please..." The nurse broke off as Jim moaned.
Jean had no intentions of leaving Jim in such a state. They'd have to throw her out physically. "Let me talk to him," she said, hurrying to his side.
"When the doctor comes in, you'll have to leave," the nurse insisted.
"Jim, Jim, honey, it's me, baby," Jean cooed into his ear. "Sssssssh, honey, easy, love." She put her hands on his face, gently trying to still his trembling. "Jim, you're not in the barn any more. You're in the hospital. You're safe, honey, you're with me."
Jim's lips moved, but no sound came out except a whispery breath, followed by a wheezing moan.
Jean wanted to rip the oxygen mask off Jim's face so she could hear anything he had to say, but of course, she did not. "Yes, darling, you're safe. I've got you, honey, and you're gonna be fine. Be still now, be still. Open your eyes, love, and you'll see that you're okay. You're okay."
Dr. Gibbs rushed through the door, white coat flapping. Another doctor and a nurse followed him. "What's happening?" he demanded.
"He's making sounds and movements. I think he's waking up," the nurse reported.
"Jim, honey, it's Jean. I'm here and you're safe," Jean continued to soothe Jim.
"Vitals?" Dr. Gibbs grabbed his stethoscope, glanced at the heart monitor and waited until the nurse completed her litany before reaching under the blanket and placing the stethoscope on Jim's chest. "Mrs. Reed, stop talking just for a second, please."
Jean stopped talking but kept her hands on her husband's face. She wanted to hold his hand or hug him with both arms, but blankets, tubes, equipment and the doctor kept her from doing so. She settled for stroking his cheek with feathery, light strokes. She even had to stop that when Dr. Gibbs took out his penlight.
"Excuse me a moment," he said. He thumbed Jim's eyelids up one at a time and flashed the light in. After that, he put the light up and took Jim by the shoulders. "Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed, wake up. Open your eyes, Mr. Reed. I'm Dr. Gibbs, and you're in County General Hospital. Can you hear me? You're safe here, among friends. Your wife is here, and she wants you to open your eyes."
Jean could hardly stand watching her husband's body tremble and twitch under the blankets. She knew he had to be in pain and uncomfortably cold, but the thought that he might be afraid nearly broke her heart.
"Mrs. Reed," Dr. Gibbs motioned her over. "Talk to him and try to calm him. Get him to wake up. Once he's fully awake, I think he'll calm down."
"Of course," Jean moved back to Jim's side, and the doctor studied the heart monitor. She leaned down and caressed his face again. "Sweetheart, it's me, Jean. Wake up, honey."
Jim answered her with another moan, and another attempt at speaking. His lips moved, and Jean thought he whispered, "cold," but through the distortion of the mask, she couldn't be sure. She took a gamble.
"I know you're cold, baby. Wake up, honey. Wake up. I love you, Jim. Wake up." Jean kissed his temple.
Jim's eyelids fluttered. He mumbled something unintelligible and ended it with a sighing moan.
"That's it, baby, that's it. Open your eyes. Look at me, sweetheart." Jean held her breath and waited.
Jim's eyes opened, revealing a sliver of cloudy blue, then slid shut.
"Darling, it's me. Wake up, honey."
Jim's eyes opened again, then the lids blinked rapidly two or three times. Just as they started to slide closed, Jean moved her face directly over his. "Jim, honey, hi, baby."
Jim's eyes met hers and Jean saw a glut of emotions run through them -- fear, confusion, pain -- and then he squinted against the light and finally locked his gaze on Jean's face.
Jean smiled. "Hi, darling. Hey, baby."
Jim's lips trembled, and Jean saw him swallow. Then, the sweetest word she'd heard in two days fell from his lips, in a whisper barely audible, and garbled through the mask.