Sihn's Empire
07 Suffer
by Olivia

Warning: This whole series is dark and intense. Mentions abuse, child rape, murder, etc. This chapter is probably one of the tamer ones though.
Second warning: Not a happy chapter and maybe not what you imagined would happen when Vin and Ezra meet again. All I can say is that this series is far from over.

Sequel to: 06 Stay


Ezra closed his eyes as the name slipped from him in an anguished whisper. Oh God! Not now! Instinct forged from years living on the edge kept his grip on the gun aimed at Larabee's heart firm when everything else in him seemed to want to dissolve and disappear.

His eyes opened and locked with blue in a moment that seemed to belong only to them.

He saw the other man take a step forward out of the elevator and instinctively he drew back, holding the FBI man in front of him like a shield.

He saw the joy, confusion, and hurt flicker in the other man's face and his jaw tightened. Not now. He wasn't ready for this now.

And in true Standish fashion what he wasn't ready, for he wouldn't deal with. It was as simple as that.

He wasn't even aware of the cold facade that dropped over his face.

He only saw Vin hesitate, heard the pleading in his voice.


He pushed the gun deeper into Larabee knowing that it was only the other man's training and the threat to the bystanders watching that kept him from fighting him for control.

Just as Ezra turned towards the stairwell, a shot rang out and he instinctively shoved Larabee into the elevator even as he felt a burning pain in his shoulder, keenly aware that Vin had stepped back into it as well.

Down the corridor, Buck Wilmington swore at the Denver PD officer who had fired before turning his attention back to the still open elevator.

"You'll never make it out of this hospital alive."

Ezra grinned as the elevator doors shut. "Who said I planned to?"

Biting his lip against the pain, Ezra shoved the FBI agent into the corner of the elevator. "Don't make a move." Ezra swallowed hard, avoiding Vin's gaze. "Killing you would not be that difficult." "My man's right. You won't get out of here alive."

"You're man's an idiot." Ezra shook his head even as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small magnetic device, attaching it to the elevator keypad. "And predictable. He's probably watching the numbers to see where this elevator is going as we speak. Problem is where he thinks this elevator is going and where it really is going are two different things thanks to this little scrambler a friend of mine invented for me."

"You're not going to be able to fool them for long."

"Long enough. Have you ever figured out how many floors there are in this hospital Agent Larabee. Enough so that I figure have about ten or fifteen minutes before there's even a chance of getting caught."

"You're a stupid bastard if you think they will let you leave this building alive."

"I've been called worse Agent Larabee and mostly by men who find themselves dead seconds later so I'd be careful of how I treated the man whose gun was pointed right at you."

He took a step back from the agent, but still didn't turn to face the other occupant of the elevator.

Vin stared at the man he had been searching for for so long, seeing signs of the boy he had been. He had imagined this moment a thousand different ways and none of them had been like this. He swallowed hard against a sudden, rising fear.


"Don't call me that."

Somehow Vin managed to keep his voice steady. "Why not?"

"It's not who I am. The person you want is dead. He died a long time ago. And he can't be resurrected." The elevator shook and Ezra couldn't hold back a moan as his shoulder hit against the side of the elevator.

"You're hurt." Vin moved closer and Ezra backed up. "Let me help."

"You can't. Not this time. Not again."

Vin stared into green eyes seeped in anger and pain and told himself that there would be time later for him to break down, time later to torment himself with images of what could have put that pain there.. "I don't believe that."

"You don't know everything."

"I know enough."

"There are things I've done."

"Don't care."

Ezra shook his head. "You would. You're one of the good guys. Always were."

Vin reached out and placed a strong hand on Ezra's shoulder. "Ez it doesn't....."

Before he could finish the sentence, Ezra had knocked the hand off his shoulder and the gun that had been aimed at the FBI agent in the corner was now aimed at Vin. "I told you. I'm not who you think I am." Ezra took a deep breath, fighting for some kind of control over a situation that was going downhill fast. He had to get out of here. He knew that the FBI would have the building surrounded by now. He had to move fast. His plan to rescue JD had failed and he could only hope that Jackson was smart enough to get himself out of his current predicament. Moving partially away from Vin, he turned his attention back to Larabee.

Chris had kept silent throughout the conversation between Tanner and the person he know knew was the same man he had been chasing across the country. He didn't know what the connection between the two men but the fact that there was a connection was evident and he felt sure it was something that he could take advantage of. That and the fact that the assassin had lost a lot of blood.

"I should just kill you." Ezra whispered the words.

"You could try." Chris replied evenly.

"I don't try, Agent Larabee. I do." Ezra's gaze flickered back to Vin. "I won't kill you though, watching you try to catch me and fail is too entertaining."

"What's the matter? You afraid to show your true colors. Show Vin exactly what you do for a living. Let him experience the real you up close and personal."

"Let's be clear on one thing Mr. Larabee," Ezra nearly spit the last word out. "You know nothing about me."

"I know you're a killer. I know you kill people for money. I know that you don't give a damn who you kill as long as the pay is high enough. I know you kill innocent women and children. And I know you're a coward." Chris kept his drawl even. "What I can't figure out is how you managed to get that kid who's in a coma to do your bidding? What did you use to manipulate him? I saw the track marks. Did you get him hooked on drugs? Is that why he says how high when you tell him to jump?"

Ezra aimed the gun right at Larabee and spoke through clenched teeth. "Don't you dare talk about my relationship with JD like that."

"So there is a relationship..."

The shot echoed in the elevator and the impact pushed Chris back into the corner, his hand going up to clutch at the bullet wound to his arm.

Vin turned in shock to Ezra and at the look in his eyes Ezra felt the small bit of hope in him die.

"You shot him."

"Shut him up didn't it?" Ezra felt cold inside, shattered. "It's a flesh wound. Minor. Might leave a scar but he'll live. If I wanted him dead, he would be."

"Bastard." Chris spit the words out between tightly clenched teeth.

"Tsk. You're becoming redundant Agent Larabee. I do believe you've already called me that once or twice today. Maybe you should buy yourself one of those word a day calendar and work on improving your somewhat limited vocabulary." He pulled a piece of gum out of his pocket and began to chew. Reaching down, Ezra lifted up the pant leg of his orderly costume and pulled out a small bag that was strapped around his leg. Opening it up, he removed a small piece of a grey substance, took out the chewed gum, and stuck it on the grey substance.

"What are you doing?"

"At the risk of sounding like something out of a Jimmy Cagney movie, blowing this joint." Ezra smiled. "In more ways than one." With that, Ezra threw the wad of gum up at the escape hatch at the top of the elevator and threw himself on top of Vin as the small explosion rocked the elevator.

Standing up, he shook the small amount of debris that remained off himself. He looked around the elevator and noted that Vin was dazed but okay and the FBI agent knocked cold. Pulling a short rope attached to a hook out of the bag, he tossed it up and tugged at it.

"Now if you will excuse me..."

Vin felt as if the trance he had been in since seeing Ezra shoot Chris had severed and he abruptly stood up and moved forward.

"You can't leave."

"You can't stop me."

"They'll kill you."

Ezra shrugged. "Maybe. But they have to catch me first. I may not be as stubborn as our friend over there, but I'm smarter. And a better dresser."

"Ez....Ezra don't leave. At least let me come with you."


"Ezra I..."

"Don't say it."



"Ez..." Vin's voice shook. "I looked for you. After....after I got out of the hospital. I just...I wanted you to know. I didn't give up. I didn't stop looking."

Ezra closed his eyes and held onto the rope. "Thank you."

"Would it have a made difference if I had found you then?"

Images of a weeks spent in a dark basement, of starvation, of beatings, of freezing cold, of waiting for Vin to find him, and finally a voice whispering that he could either kill or be killed. And the horrible realization that he would do anything to survive. Anything.

All of that flashed through his head in an instant as he shook his head.

"Probably not."

The words echoed in the silence he left behind him.

Hours Later

Buck sat down heavily in the chair next to where the Dunne kid lay sleeping, his head bowed, and his hands interlocked behind his neck in a gesture of defeat.

"You know he didn't mean half of what he said out there Buck. You know how his temper is." Josiah Sanchez watched his teammate, unsure of what to say to the other man after having watched their boss read him the riot act. "He was hurt."

"He was angry, Josiah. And the hell of it is, he was right. We had him. We had him and we let him get away."

"You did everything you could. You had the exits blocked, you had agents surrounding the hospital seconds after he took Chris and Tanner hostage. You did everything right."

"Except catch the bad guy."

"What else could you have done?"

"I don't know. Something. Anything. All I know is that if that had been me in that elevator and Chris out in charge Standish would be in jail by now."

"Maybe. Maybe not. The boss is good but even Chris Larabee isn't God." Josiah moved to stand behind the other agent. "Look at this way. We have a name and thanks to the police artist we have a picture. And we still have his associate here in custody. Standish has already made one attempt to free his partner, all we need to do is wait for him to make another."

Buck stood up restlessly and pushed the chair out of the way. "That's another thing that don't make sense Josiah. Why would Standish come after the kid? Why risk being caught to break Dunne out of the hospital?"

"Loyalty?" Josiah shrugged. "We know for a fact that Dunne was willing to risk death to save Standish when we cornered the two of them outside his father's estate. Almost blew himself up so that the other man could escape. Stands to reason that kind of loyalty would be returned."

"Honor among thieves and all that?" Buck shook his head. "Maybe. But why now? The kid's condition is touch and go, the doctors aren't even sure he'll survive the night. Standish has to know it would be stupid to move him. And if he cares about him...."

"I don't know son," the older man sighed as he stood. "Maybe when we catch Standish we can ask him ourselves. I have to go down to headquarters. Chris wants me to contact every law enforcement authority in the area and make sure they know who our man is and what he is capable. Wants everything done by the book."

Buck nodded as the other man left the room. By the book. Maybe that was the trouble. They were doing everything by the book and getting nowhere. Maybe it was time they threw the book away and started thinking outside the box.

Why would Standish come after the kid now? Why not wait until the kid was out of the woods? A man of Standish's talent wouldn't have any problem breaking a man out of jail.

Obviously Standish felt that he had to move the other man now which meant that he didn't want him in the hospital. He approached the bed and looked again at the still figure lying there. Gently he brushed back a strand of dark hair that had fallen across his face, careful not to disturb the tubing in his mouth and nose. What would make Standish endanger the life of this kid? Unless he was already in danger and moving him was the only way to keep him safe....

Buck heard the door open and something, some instinct, made him slip into the bathroom, and watch through the cracked door as something approached the bed.

Nathan Jackson moved silently across the still room, mentally cursing himself and Standish all the while. He should have gotten on the first plane back to Portland the moment he realized that none of the cops or nurses had connected him with the southerner. He had lied, telling them that he had no idea who the other man was, that they had met up in the elevator, and that he thought the other orderly was just being nice in offering to help him move his patient. He'd had a bad few moments when someone had checked his ID badge against the hospital's personnel records, but he should have known Standish would have that covered. He didn't like the man but he knew what he was doing it. Hell it never even crossed his mind that they would catch the other man, despite the seemingly impossible odds he faced.

What Nathan couldn't understand, was why he hadn't gotten on that first plane back to Portland. Why instead of heading back to the relative safe insanity of his life in Portland, he was still here? He'd waited down in the cafeteria for things to cool down, overheard some nurses talking about JD's condition and felt an incredible amount of relief when he heard that he had pulled through his cardiac arrest. And now he was back up here, not sure at all of what good he was doing or what the point was. The hospital was staffed with some of the best doctors in the region and its equipment made his clinic, despite Standish's "donations, seem like nothing short of something out of the dark ages of medicine. Yet he couldn't leave JD here. Not alone. Something was telling him that he was needed here. Something was telling him that the kid was safer with him here. Some voice inside him was telling him that this was where he needed to be. Was supposed to be.

Aw hell he was going to end up as big a lunatic as Standish was by the time this was over.

Nonetheless here he was, having used his ID to get past the guard at the door. He approached the bed quietly, knowledgeable eyes flickering over the array of equipment they had JD hooked up to. He picked up the chart left at the foot of the bed and glanced over it. Pretty much what he expected to find. He moved closer to JD, placing the top of his hand against JD's cheek checking for clamminess. Removing a small flashlight from his pocket, he lifted JD's eyelids and checked his reaction to the light, breathing a sigh of relief when his pupils constricted.

He froze when he heard the click of a gun and felt the metal against his back.

"FBI. Don't move." A harsh whisper and Nathan lifted his hands up in the air.

"Don't shoot. I was just doing my job. I wasn't going to hurt anyone." Nathan injected what he hoped was the right note of submissiveness into his voice.

"Turn around." Nathan did so and found himself face to face with the same FBI agent he recognized from earlier.

"Who are you?"

"Johnson. Nick Johnson. Here's my badge."

Buck scowled. "Don't even try it. I want the truth. I saw you as you came in. You aren't an orderly. I want to know who you are and what your connection is with our suspect."

"I told you. I don't know nothing. I was just sent in here to change the water in the pitcher."

"Then why were you playing doctor."

"Okay look I'll tell you but I could lose my job you know. I just... I always wanted to be a doctor only there was never enough money for medical school or even college so I took this job and..." Nathan stopped his rambling as he heard voices outside the door. Ignoring the gun in the other man's hand, he motioned back into the bathroom. "Move."


"Just move okay. You can shoot or arrest me or whatever it is you plan on doing in a bit. Now move."

Just as the two men slipped back into the bathroom, the door opened and a tall man in a white coat entered the room. Moving to the IV bag hanging near JD's bed, the man removed a small syringe and shot a clear liquid into the IV bag.

Forgetting everything but JD's safety, Nathan stormed out of the bathroom.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?"

The man looked up, his eyes narrowed as they took in the FBI agent and the healer. "Who are you and what are you doing in my patient's room?"

"You're not a doctor. At least not this patient's doctor. Your name," Nathan strode forward and pulled the other man's ID badge off, "is not on his chart. Now tell me who you are and what was in that syringe."

"I don't have to answer your question. In fact, I'm going to call security right now."

"Do that," Nathan snarled angrily as he shoved the other man aside. "And I'll tell them all about how you just tried to kill their patient."

"What?" Buck shook his head in confusion as his gaze darted back and forth between the other two men.

"It's simple. I checked his chart. They shot him full of enough drugs when they were pulling him out of the code blue that there is no way they'd be giving him more right now. Not when he's relatively stable. Not this soon after the arrest. And not without ordering a complete Chem 7 blood test to double check the levels of the other drugs in his blood." He moved to take the IV out of JD's arm. "Don't matter what you gave him cause I'm not letting you do this."

"I don't think you have any choice." Something about the quiet in the other man's voice made Nathan look up just as his hand gripped the IV needle. He sighed as he found himself at gunpoint for the second time in less than twenty minutes. Damn Standish. He owed him for this and damn if he wasn't going to pay in the form of some nice new computer equipment for his lab. If he lived through the next few minutes. If he wasn't arrested. If he didn't kill Standish on sight the next time he saw him.

"Back away from the bed."

Nathan took a deep breath. Whatever it was that was in that syringe was already in JD's system but he had to hope that it wasn't enough to kill the kid and he wasn't going to let anymore get in there. Resolutely, he pulled the IV needle out of the arm and waited for the shot to him.

Turned when it didn't to find the FBI agent grinning and the other man crumpled at his feet.

"Now do you want to tell me who you are and what's going on."

Nathan stared at the man who had just saved his life. Standish would kill him for telling but Standish wasn't here and there was no way that Nathan could get JD out of this without someone's else help. And the same something that had told him not to get on that plane back to Portland was telling him that he could trust this man.

"Why don't you start by telling me who is trying to kill the kid? Standish?"

"No!." Nathan shook his head firmly. "I don't much like the man, but he would die before he harmed JD."

"Then who? Who wants the kid dead that badly?"

Nathan swallowed heavily. "His father." Leaning one hand against the bed, Nathan closed his eyes and remembered....

He'd been sleeping in the small room behind the clinic, grateful for the heavy rain that seemed to keep most people inside their homes so that it had been a relatively quiet day at the clinic. The heavy pounding at the back door had broken his sleep and he'd grumbled as he checked the clock. Three AM. Pulling on his jeans and an old sweatshirt, he made his way to the back door expecting to find someone hurt and needing his help.

What he found was Ezra Standish, looking stylish and sophisticated despite the dark circles around his eyes and the rain dripping off his black leather duster.

Nathan promptly shut the door.
Or would have if Standish hadn't moved to put his foot in the way. "Now is that anyway to greet an old friend."

Nathan looked up at him sharply. "We're not friends Standish. We're not even acquaintances." Nathan snorted. "We're more like blackmailer and victim."

"Why Mr. Jackson I'm hurt that you would try to characterize our relationship in such a manner." Ezra grinned as he walked into the small house. "I prefer to think of us as business partners. You provide some services when I need them and in return I pay you with my generous donations and I don't tell anyone that you are practicing medicine without a license. Sounds like a fair and equitable arrangement to me."

"What do you want Standish? If it's another body I can get you one in a few days from my friend at the morgue or..."

"All I want is a favor Mr. Jackson." He reached into the inner pocket of his coat and removed a large manila envelope. "I want you to keep this for me."

Nathan took the envelope gingerly. He could tell it contained a videotape and something else. He eyes Standish suspiciously. "What is in here?"

Ezra sighed. "Not what you're thinking. Not drugs. Just information."

"Information that you killed someone to get."

"No. I killed the person because he deserved to die." Ezra's voice was cold and hard steel. "The information was a bonus."

Nathan shivered. "What do you want me to do with it?"

"Keep it. If something happens to me, I want you to mail it to the address on the front."

"Adam Worthington." Nathan shrugged. "Who's he?"

"An old friend. He was a defense lawyer in Georgia who made a fortune defending known criminals, mafia figures, the usual. One day his nine year old daughter was kidnaped, raped, and tortured on the way home from second grade. The suspect hired a high powered defense attorney and got off on a technicality. It was like someone held a mirror up to Adam's soul and he suddenly realized what he had been doing all those years, the kind of blood money his fortune was built on. He walked away from private practice, sold the fancy mansion, and started working for the DA's office. Last I heard he had just won reelection for the fourth term."

"What happened to the suspect?"

"Worthington hired me to kill him. I did. I would have done it for free, but I was young then and needed the money."

"And the daughter?"

Ezra's eyes darkened. "She never recovered. They were able to heal her body but they could never put her mind back together. After watching her suffer institutions and private nurses, Adam took all the money he had made defending scum and donated it to a convent with the stipulation that they would always care for Samantha. She's sixteen now and the sisters have helped her to find a little bit of peace." Ezra shook his head. "Point is that Adam owes me and he'll know what to do with that envelope." Ezra's voice lowered. "He'll make sure JD is safe."

"Standish? Ezra? What do you mean...make sure JD is safe?"

Nathan found himself staring into hard, green eyes for a moment before the other man nodded. "I'm going to tell you Mr. Jackson because you need to know. However what I am about to tell you stays between the two of us. You don't tell anybody, do you understand me? Nobody. Especially not JD."

It was something like a vow and Nathan found himself responding to the urgency in the other man's tone and nodding.

"What's in that envelope is a videotaped confession. The man who made it was one of the men hired to kidnap a 17 year old boy on his way home from school in Hong Kong. That man and his cohorts drugged, tortured, and damaged that boy in ways you and I don't want to even think about. And then their orders were to kill the boy and dispose of his body."

"JD" JD had made veiled references to something bad happening in Hong Kong, something that Standish had saved him from. It was the excuse JD used every time Nathan tried to convince him to walk away from the assassin and make a normal life for himself.

"Yeah JD. They were told to make sure he was dead within the first 24 hours after the kidnaping, but the men who were hired were sadistic bastards. They wanted to play with their toy before they killed him."

"Who Ezra?"

"Michael Dunne."

"JD's father."

"No JD's sperm donor. Not a father. A father is supposed to protect and cherish his child. Michael Dunne never loved his son, he considered him a failure and expendable. When his business was going downhill after the crash of the Asian markets, he took a 2 million dollar life insurance policy on his eldest son. He had it all planned out. Kidnapings in Hong Kong, especially Kidnapings of the children of wealthy Americans and Europeans, they still do. JD would be kidnaped. He would play the outraged father. And when his son's body was discovered he would play the grieving father. He liked how that sounded for his image and the press he would get would be priceless. I imagine he even had the suit picked out that he would wear to the funeral. You see this way the boy who had never been useful to him alive would be extremely useful dead. What he didn't count on was the men he hired not killing JD right away. Or the strength of Catherine Dunne's love for her son." Ezra grin was almost feral. "Or me. Catherine Dunne hired me to rescue her son. I did and I killed the bastards who were holding him. All except one who wasn't there for me to kill. I got JD out, helped him get clean, and returned him to his mom. Only something was wrong you know, something didn't make sense. So when I could, I started tracking that last man. Or I had my contacts looking for him. Caught up with him in Bangkok two weeks ago. He had moved from kidnaping into dealing in child prostitution. He and I had a talk and the whole story came out. I made sure to put it on tape so that there would be proof for Adam to go after Dunne. There's also documentation that backs up the videotape, bank records and stuff like that. There's even a signed statement from a Thai official saying that the confession was made free of coercion. Of course I waited until after the official had left before I killed the bastard."

Nathan needed to sit down but after a minute he looked up at the other man. "Why not tell JD the truth? He deserves to know. It's not like he even likes his father."

Ezra shook his head. "No one deserves to know that their father is capable of something like that. And you're right. Most of the time JD hates his father for what he did to his mother, for how he treated him growing up. Only sometimes... there's a note in JD's voice... You've seen it with your patients Mr. Jackson. The parent can be abusive or neglectful and yet the child still loves the parent, needs to believe that the parent is worthy of their love, and even bruised and battered from the latest beating the child still wants to believe desperately that the parent loves them. At some level JD wants to believe in his father and I...." Ezra took a deep breath. "I know how that feels. And I know how much it hurts when that belief is finally shattered beyond any hope of repair. I won't do that to JD. Not if I don't have to."

"But if his father is dangerous."

"I can watch out for JD. His father isn't getting anywhere near him if I can help it."

"And the videotape..."

"A precaution. If I die, I want to know that JD will be safe."

The room was silent except for the heavy ticking of the clock.

Nathan shrugged off the past and looked at the FBI Agent whose eyes had widened as Nathan's tale had unfurled. "We have to get him out of here."

"You can't. He's a suspect in a murder case. He's under arrest. Or he will be."

"JD's not a killer. He's just a kid."

"He has information that could help us track down Standish."

"And he'll never tell you. Trust me. JD would die before betraying Standish. And there's already been one attempt to kill him, are you going to sit here and see if the next one succeeds?"

"There are safe houses where we can protect him."

"Right." The word was loaded with skepticism. "An armed guard outside the door didn't stop this guy. Look maybe you don't know that much about Michael Dunne but he's very powerful and very connected. He would know where your safe house was before you opened the door. Not to mention that I think your boss wants JD here and out in the open because he knows that Standish will come for him sooner or later. Standish is not going to leave him here for you to arrest or his father to kill. You and I both know that the FBI is more interested in catching Standish than in keeping this kid alive."

Buck started to protest and then stopped. He remembered the anger in Chris when he had laid into him about Standish slipping away. Catching Standish had become an obsession with the Chris and the only other time Buck had seen him like this it had been when they were hunting down the bastards who had killed Sarah and Adam. Buck winced. Chris Larabee was a good guy most of the time but when he was this caught up in a case, this determined......could he be sure that Chris wouldn't sacrifice the kid to get Standish?

Buck closed his eyes, measuring a life long friendship and a career he was proud of against what was becoming a real need to protect a kid he didn't even know.

He opened his eyes and grinned. "Call me Buck and tell me what you want me to do?"

The Institution

Emily Randall had been a nurse for thirty years. During that thirty years she had raised three kids who as adults didn't speak to her and she had been dumped by two husbands and had a third die on her. Her life wasn't supposed to go like this. She was supposed to meet some handsome doctor, get married, live in a home worthy of Architectural Digest, and raise beautiful children who would love and adore her.

Now she was 52 years old and facing old age with nothing except a measly pension that wouldn't buy cat food if she had a cat.

Still she needed to eat which was why she put up with this job in the first place. She knew what lay beneath the pristine walls and the carefully manicured grounds. She knew what they really did to the patients in this building.

And she didn't care. As long as she got her paycheck each month, what did it matter to her what the so-called doctors did in this place. She'd keep her mouth shut and keep her job. Not that she couldn't get another job what with the nursing shortage and all, but the fact that she had lost her license two years ago for neglecting a patient made it difficult. Meant that she could only get work in places like this that were willing to turn a blind eye to her work history if she was willing to turn a blind eye to what was really going on.

So far the arrangement was working just fine.

Her frown turned into a flat line, the closest she had come to a smile in decades, as she entered the next patients room. She stared at the beautiful young woman lying there and felt equal parts pity and envy. She'd give anything to be that young again, not that she'd ever been that beautiful. She'd heard the other nurses talking a lot about this one, especially over the last few days when that handsome young man had visited. Her case was tragic. Her mind shattered. The blank eyes didn't see anything, or at least anything that was real. She was non-responsive.

Only a few of the nurses here knew the real truth, that her condition was only partly a result of the trauma she had endured. The rest of it was a result of the blend of psychotic drugs that they administered to her on an almost daily basis.

Emily felt a twinge of something she would have once called guilt as she stared at the catanonic figure. Someone wanted to make sure that this woman never recovered and they were willing to pay good money to ensure that she never did. Emily shook her head as she moved to roll the body to the side. Should just kill her and let her find peace instead of putting through this kind of life. Emily's opinion, if she had bothered to have an opinion, would have been that whoever was doing this nothing more than a coward.

But she didn't have any opinions because as long as she was getting paid she didn't care.

She was just about to roll the body back on to the clean sheets when she froze as she looked at those blue eyes.

Those blue eyes that were looking right at her. Seeing her.

Before she could react, the mouth moved and a voice hoarse and cracked, barely intelligble came out.

"Help me."

Just as Emily began to respond, the momentary awareness faded and the glazed look returned.

Emily walked out of the room, leaving the bed unmade. She stopped down the hall when she realized that she was shaking. She couldn't forget the look in those eyes. The desperation.

"Help me."

She shook her head. It wasn't her place. She was being paid to keep her mouth shut. It was just an aberration, a moment of lucidity that probably wouldn't happen again. She should just pretend it had never happened.

She groaned. She thought she had lost her conscience a long time ago.

She finished the rest of her shift in a daze and thirty minutes later was on her way back to her one room apartment.

Two blocks away she stopped at a mini-mart for coffee.

Her hands were still shaking. Standing at the cash register, her gaze fell to the row of newspapers offered there, everything from tabloids to the Denver Daily Press. She picked one of the tabloids up and stared at the headline. "Alien Ship Returns To Roswell." She fingered the newsprint. All of those people with their conspiracy theories didn't know anything about what was really happening in places like the one where she worked.

She stopped. No they didn't know. But they might want. And the newspapers might pay good money for that information. Enough so that maybe she could Florida and buy herself one of those condos on the beach. And if there was an investigation....maybe they would find out for themselves what was happening to that woman.

If she played it smart, she could make herself some money and shut her stupid conscience up.

Picking up a copy of the Denver Daily Press, she paid for the coffee and her newspaper and headed for the nearest pay phone.

Mary Travis was not happy. She stood wrapped in silk and looked at her bed. Her empty bed. The bed where Chris Larabee, the man she had spent the last few years chasing, was supposed to be. Taking her wine glass with her, she walked away from the door room and into the living room of the expensively decorated townhouse. The plush carpet felt good beneath her feet and the leather of the sofa cool to the touch. Taking a sip of the bordeux, she put the crystal glass down on the glass coffee table.

Chris had called her earlier to cancel dinner and let her know what had happened at the hospital. She had played the good girlfriend, displayed the appropriate amount of worry over his gunshot wound, and offered to come down to the hospital if he needed her. Relieved when he insisted that he was fine, she had offered to meet him for breakfast near his office the next day.

Her lips curled. She was worried. She had been getting so close to her goal, she knew Chris was on the edge of falling in love with her and when he did she would have everything she ever wanted. The man of her dreams. A stepfather for Billy. And more importantly a way to keep her late husband's father out of her life for good. If Chris was here, then Orrin Travis wouldn't have any need to act as if he was her father. Checking up on her. Freezing the funds that his son had left her. She looked around the luxurious room. The only way she paid for her expenses as it was was to use Billy's trustfund and if the Judge ever found out about that.... She shuddered. That was why she needed Chris. Orrin trusted Chris. Liked Chris. If he thought Chris was in the picture, he'd back off.

She wanted Chris Larabee and Mary was long accustomed to getting what she wanted. She played the grieving widow who wasn't interested in a man for herself but needed a father figure for her son. It had been her hook and she had began her seduction of Chris Larabee through her son. She grimaced. She had worked harder at getting Chris into her bed than she had worked at anything in her life. And just a few days ago he had given in. She grinned as she took another sip. The sex had been strained and she had recognized his guilt afterwards, but he had been hers. Was still hers. She knew enough about Chris to know that he was big on loyalty and now that they were lovers, she had his loyalty and soon his love.

Her grin grew wider. Chris Larabee was hers and nothing was going to change that.

Her phone rang and with a frown she went to answer it.


"Is this Mary Travis? The reporter from the Denver Daily Press? I've got some information you might be interested in. Information I'm willing to give you if the price is right."

Mary groaned. She'd used her old journalism degree and the judge's contacts to get the job mostly to have an excuse to ask the Judge to hire a Nanny to take care of Billy for her while she rediscovered herself after her husband's tragic death. Normally she found working as a reporter entertaining, but right now she would rather be thinking about Chris than following up another lead to another stupid story.

"Look I don't know who you are but call the news desk in the morning and we'll talk..."

"My name is Emily Randall and I work at the mental institution in Littleton....."

Carefully Mary put the drink down and gave her caller her full attention. Reaching for her pad and pen, she jotted down some information.

"I'll meet you tomorrow. Right. No you did the right thing in calling me Mrs. Randall. Emily. Thank you. Yes I'm sure my editors will be very generous."

As she hung up, Mary's lips flattened and she dialed a familiar number.

"It's me. We have a problem."

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Story posted to A Gambler's Lust, The Magnificent Two