Persona Non Grata - Part Thirteen

Part Thirteen - The Morning After

Sunlight warmed his face and he slowly opened his eyes. He squinted against the glare and turned his face away from the window. Where was he? He looked around the room. There was a chair, a desk, a lamp that looked like it was from the 60's. His eyes trailed around. His clothes hung in an open closet.

So what was he wearing?

He glanced down. He was wearing a T-shirt and underwear. Boxers? Ezra Standish did not wear boxers. Clearly he hadn't changed his own clothes. He began to feel a vague sense of alarm. Something wasn't right. There were no pictures in the room--no phone--no television.

A safe house.

He squeezed his eyes closed again. Now he remembered.

JD. JD was hurt. Oh God, he remembered . . .

********************************************************************** Nathan Jackson woke up in a hospital room. The sun was so bright . . . why hadn't somebody pulled the shades down. It was too bright. Nathan squeezed his eyes closed against the glare and tried to assess his condition.

At first he couldn't decide what hurt. He wasn't sure how he felt. Maybe he'd just go back to sleep. . .

"Mr. Jackson."

Why was this voice interrupting him?

"Mr. Jackson!" Louder this time.

"What?" He meant to sound harsh.

But evidently he didn't "sound" at all, for a hand shook his shoulder.

"Wake up, Mr. Jackson."

Okay, he had to wake up. He didn't want to. Something awful awaited him in the awake world. Something he didn't want to think about. Something had happened . . .

Something . . .

He tried to make his brain work. Something had happened . . .

To JD.

His eyes shot open, and he tried to sit up.

"No, Mr. Jackson. Settle down. You're going to hurt yourself, if you're not careful."

Nathan's eyes focused on a nurse - an older woman. Her mouth drew up tightly, but her eyes were warm and kind. Nathan allowed her to press his shoulder back onto the pillow.

"My friend," Nathan began. "Agent Dunne. How is he?"

"I don't know him," the nurse answered. Nathan read the name on the strip of blue plastic pinned to her uniform.

"Mrs. Harris . . ." Nathan reached for her arm. "Please find out for me. He was hurt so badly. They had to resuscitate him a couple of times yesterday, and I have to know."

She put her hand over his. "Agent Dunne?"

"JD . . . uh, John Dunne, yes. Please find out for me."

"I will, but let me get your vitals first. How do you feel?"

Nathan thought about it. "I don't know yet."

Mrs. Harris smiled. "Well, I'm glad you're not in too much pain." She slipped a thermometer into a plastic sleeve and put it in his mouth. Then, she lifted his hand and felt for his pulse.

"Do you . . ." Nathan began.

The thermometer beeped, but Mrs. Harris didn't take it out. "Wait," she said.

She frowned, released his hand, and pushed a button on the digital thermometer box. Then she took his wrist again, and studied her watch. He resisted the urge to ask another question. Nathan closed his eyes. Yesterday was such a blur. There was a warehouse. JD had been in there--a hostage. . . damn near dead. Vin had gone in first.

Vin. Was he all right?

Nathan tried to think through the experience. There had been gunfire. Gunfire everywhere. He had tried to see JD and Vin, but he had to take care of the men on his side of the warehouse. He hadn't been able to look for them.

Hadn't Vin been with him at the hospital yesterday?

Yeah, he had. So Vin was all right. . .

"Mr. Jackson!" Mrs. Harris' voice cut sharply through his thoughts. "You need to stay awake for a little longer. I need to ask you a few questions."

"Can you check on my friend first?"

There was a light rap on the door, and Chris Larabee appeared in the doorway.


Mrs. Harris turned to Chris. "Come in," she said, and Nathan was glad.

"How's JD?" Nathan asked quickly.

Chris frowned. "He's in a coma. The doctor doesn't know if there's any brain damage. He won't know until JD wakes up."

Nathan felt a weight in his chest. He pressed on. "What about his hand?"

Now Chris' look brightened. "They saved it. God knows how, but they did."

"That's great."

Chris came closer. "How are you?"

Nathan glanced up at Mrs. Harris and grinned. "I don't know. How am I?"

Mrs. Harris chuckled. "He'll be fine. Lost a lot of blood, but the surgery went well . . ."

"Surgery?" Nathan hadn't known he'd had surgery.

"You got shot . . ." Chris said.

"Yeah . . ." Nathan knew he'd been hurt, but he hadn't realized he'd been shot.

Chris said, wryly, "Well, they couldn't very well leave the bullet in your leg."

"When was I shot?"

"At the warehouse . . . where we picked up JD."

"Oh." Maybe he remembered. Things were still fuzzy.

Mrs. Harris' voice cut in. "I'll let you boys talk. The doctor will be here in a minute."

Nathan touched her arm, gently. "I want you to meet my friend . . ."


Judge Orrin Travis hadn't slept at all. He hadn't even tried. There was an out-of-control ATF agent going around making wild accusations about his men and Travis wasn't going to stand for it.

And what the hell was that shootout in the Emergency Room about? The story was flooding all the national news broadcasts. It didn't help that the gunmen were foreign drug dealers and such. Newscasters were insinuating that one or two of his ATF agents may have been working both sides of the law.

That little pissant Millard. Millard had never been a fan of Chris Larabee--that was no secret. But why was he attacking Standish? And why on earth would he be dragging Dunne's name through the mud? Travis stared at the newspaper in his hand, not seeing it anymore.

He'd never forget the horrible pictures on the front page anyway--the black-clad bodies on the floor of the ER, wounded agents, blood spattered floor and walls . . .

Damn . . .

Travis closed his eyes and pulled his eyeglasses off. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. Getting his boys out of this one would be tricky.

Who were they fighting anyway? Larabee and his men had taken out two major drug lords yesterday, but who could say if there hadn't been others involved in the kidnapping? If there were, Dunne was still a target.

Hell, all of them were.

It was time to fight back.


Vin Tanner turned on the television, hitting the mute button so he wouldn't wake Ezra. The sharpshooter sat back down and picked up his bowl of cereal. After a moment of watching Captain Kangaroo silently interviewing Mr. Moose, Vin set the cereal bowl on the arm of the sofa and picked up the remote. He changed channels, looking for a news show.

Sweet Jesus! JD's face was looking back at him from the screen. A banner stretched across the top of the screen reading, "Massacre in the ER."

Vin's jaw tightened as a caption appeared under JD's picture.

"Double Agent?"

Vin cursed as he turned the sound on and cranked it up, catching the words of the newscaster.

". . . young agent had been kidnapped and tortured by drug dealers. Rumors have been circulating that this ATF newcomer was using his position in the agency to block action against major international drug traffickers.

"Millard further stated that he suspected that Dunne had raised the financial stakes and the dealers weren't going to comply, choosing to make an example out of Dunne instead. . ."

"DAMN HIM!!!!" Vin cried, his waving arm knocking his cereal bowl to the floor.

"What?" Ezra sounded very sleepy as he came into the room. Vin pointed at the screen.

"Oh, God . . ." Ezra whispered, as JD's picture disappeared and Millard appeared, surrounded by microphones and reporters.

"Believe me," Millard was saying. "I personally will get to the bottom of this travesty. The ATF will not tolerate this kind of activity from its agents. Not only did Agent Dunne jeopardize his own life and the lives of his ATF colleagues, but he put everyone in that emergency room in danger."

"F*** that!" Vin cried.

Ezra didn't say anything. He was clearly dumbfounded.

Millard's voice almost echoed in the little den. "If he survives this ordeal--and he isn't expected to--he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."


"Are you seeing this??"

Josiah could hear Buck yelling from down the hall.

He heard a female voice yelling in response. Then he heard Buck yell a string of profanities that almost made Josiah blush. Josiah quickened his pace, and burst through the door.

"Pipe down, Buck!!!!!" Josiah commanded.

"Have you seen this shit?" Buck pointed at the television.

"Yes, but you aren't helping anything yelling like a banshee." Josiah turned to the nervous nurse who had had the unfortunate assignment of trying to calm Buck Wilmington down.

"Ma'am, I'll take care of this," Josiah told her, nodding graciously to her.

She harrumphed, and turned on her heel. She left in a huff.

Josiah watched her leave and then grabbed Buck's arm.

"Buck, you've gotta get hold of yourself. If you cause trouble here, you're gonna attract attention to yourself and this place will be swarming with reporters. Do you want that?"

"You bet I do. I want to clear JD's name." Buck waved a hand toward the TV. "This is bullshit."

Josiah nodded. "You're right, it is. But 'we' can't clear him to the media."

"The hell we can't!"

"Buck, this is coming from way up. We can't help JD until we can find out who's framing him."

This stopped Buck in his tracks.

For a moment.

Then he cranked up again. "But they're crucifying him . . ."

Josiah looked up at the screen. "I know. And if we don't find out what's really going on, it's going to be a lot worse on him."

"Have you seen him this morning?" Buck asked. His voice was almost a whisper, as though he were afraid to ask.

Josiah shook his head, no. "He's still in a coma."

"I know. The doctor told me. But they haven't let any of us see him since last night."

"He's in ICU." Josiah anticipated Buck's next question. "Heavily guarded."

"*Who's* guarding him, though?"

"FBI, I think," Josiah answered. In truth, he hadn't worried about who was protecting JD.

"Wish it was us . . ." Buck said. "I mean, if some ATF guy . . ."

"Millard . . ." Josiah interjected.

"Millard," Buck nodded. "If Millard is involved, then no telling who else could be. No telling how high up this goes. I mean, staging this whole thing? An attack in an ER? This was a brilliantly executed assault, when you think about it. And the SWAT team got here damn fast, don't you think?"

Oh God, Josiah thought. "You're saying someone dispatched them who had . . . some inside knowledge?"

"I don't know what I think, Josiah. But right now, we can't trust anyone but each other."

The preacher slapped a big hand on his friend's shoulder. "Let's go check on JD."


Head pounding, Chris Larabee leaned against the wall outside Nathan's room. The doctor had come in a minute ago and Chris had stepped out. Now he felt the ungodly headache. Maybe he should have seen a doctor last night . . .

His pager beeped at his waist. Chris twisted around and looked at the number.

He didn't recognize it. Maybe it was Vin or Ezra. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed.

"Larabee," he stated.

And he listened, dumbfounded, to the voice on the other end.


Something felt wrong. Josiah pressed the elevator button twice . . . Buck pushed it a third.

"That won't bring it here any faster."

Both agents resisted the urge to say something smartass to the elderly woman waiting with them. She couldn't know what was going on. Still . . .

The doors opened and the preacher extended his arm to let the gray-haired lady go on ahead. He pressed the rubber sensor back so the door wouldn't threaten to close on her.

"Come on board," the woman said cheerfully as she pressed the "door open" button for them. Josiah reached over to hit the button for the second floor.

"Ma'am, you have to let go of the 'door open' button so we can push the buttons for our floors."

"Oh, where are you going?" she asked, still holding the button.

"Second floor, ICU," Buck answered briskly.

"Oh, my . . ." she said. "That's terrible. Friend or family?"

"Family," they both answered.

"I'm so sorry," she said--still holding the f***ing button.

"Ma'am, please let go of the . . ."

"Oh!" she jerked her hand away like she had just realized she was touching a hot stove. Buck quickly pushed the button for the second floor. Finally the door closed.

The woman pushed the button for the second floor two more times. She smiled back at them, and Josiah nodded, understanding her joke. Sometime he'd try to figure out why that little gesture irritated him so completely.

But right now he had to get to JD.

The elevator door opened on the second floor and Buck and Josiah stepped out into the chaos, leaving the gray-haired woman to travel to the first floor alone.

There was a flurry of activity--nurses running around, doctors, and police.

Buck stopped one of the officers. "We're looking for JD Dunne," he said.

"So are we," the officer answered.

"What? What do you mean?"

The officer's eyes narrowed. "Who are you?" he asked.

Josiah whipped out his badge and asked again. "Where is he?"

The officer looked at the badge and his face relaxed. "He's gone. Somebody got him."

Back to the Persona Non Grata home page:
Back to the "Newest Desperado's Daughter's Page":
Back to Part 12 :