The bust went down, but not without a hitch. It took Teams Seven and Ten to pull it off, but pull it off they did.
During the climax of the gun battle, a ricocheting bullet hit Chris in the face. Entry wound, just below his left eye. Exit wound, by the corner of his mouth.
Nathan was instantly there, packing and checking the wounds. Nearly blind from the pain, all Chris could do was cling to his arm.
The hospital confirmed Nathan’s diagnosis. The ricocheting bullet had caused a fracture to Chris’s cheekbone. He would be in pain for some time.
A week later, Chris was back at work. He couldn’t smile very well, still, but he was working. He was entering reports into the computer one evening when the screen wavered and everything greyed out.
Gasping in surprise, Chris rubbed his eyes until everything cleared up. “…weird….” He made a mental note to mention it to Nathan if it happened again.
Life went on as normal. Gradually, the pain in Chris’s cheek eased as the bone re-knitted. Another bust was scheduled – and this one went down without anyone getting injured.
In the car on the way to the office, that odd grey-out happened to Chris again. He’d forgotten his promise to mention it to Nathan, so he didn’t say a word.
He spent all the drive home praying it wouldn’t grey out again. Mercifully, his vision lasted until he arrived home, when it greyed-out once more.
The next day, Chris never arrived at work. No call, nothing. Buck mentioned the strangeness of it at lunch, then frowned as he remembered something. “It’s the anniversary – seven years ago to day was the…the bomb.”
JD’s hand went over Buck’s before he could think of his actions.
Vin stood. “I’m goin’.”
Buck nodded. “I’ll go—“
“No,” Ezra said. “You were family. You’re a bit too close to the incident.” He looked at Vin. “I shall accompany you.”
A single nod from Vin, and they were on their way.
They arrived at the ranch to find all the curtains drawn. Vin pounded on the door. “Chris?”
Silence, then just as Vin raised his fist to knock again, came a shaky, “Use your key, Vin.”
Vin nodded and used the key on his ring. Ezra raised an eyebrow. “You have a copy of his key?”
“I’ll make you one,” Vin replied s they went in.
All the shades were drawn. All the lights were off. Ezra flipped the switch, and they saw Chris.
He was seated in the recliner, his hands balled into fists. He was still in his pajamas, and he hadn’t shaved or combed his hair.
“Damn, cowboy,” Vin breathed. “You look like hell!”
“Do I?” Chris asked in that same soft, trembling voice. “I can’t tell…”
Ezra stepped forward, moving to the other side of the recliner. “Mister Larabee—“
“Ez?” Chris interrupted. “Did you bring Nate, too?”
Vin and Ezra looked at each other. “No,” Vin finally said. “Somethin’ up?”
“Hell, yes, something’s up!” Now they registered the barely controlled terror in Chris’s voice. “I’m blind!”
The ride to the hospital was tense. Quick phone calls were made to have the others waiting at Mercy and to have a doctor standing by.
They arrived and Chris was bundled right into a room. Buck and Vin separated to handle the paperwork. The other four waited impatiently.
Vin walked back up alone. “Buck’ll be here in a sec,” he reported. “He needed coffee real bad.”
An older man in doctor’s scrubs came out. “I’m Doctor Connelly,” he reported. “I have seen Chris Larabee.”
“How is he?” Ezra asked. “Have you been able to ascertain the cause of his blindness?”
Connelly nodded. “It is my expert opinion that Chris Larabee cannot see because he cannot face that he is ultimately responsible for the deaths of his wife and son. His sight will never return and he is to be relieved of duty permanently.”
Various sounds of indignant denial ripped from five throats – and died away as Buck walked up. Vin growled out what Connelly had said – and to their shock ---
Buck laughed! “At it again, huh?” he chuckled.
Connelly raised his chin. “I am giving my medical opinion—“
“Now, see, if you was a doctor, I’d be more inclined t’believe you!” Buck chortled.
Nathan scowled. “He ain’t a doctor?”
“Nope. Fellas, meet Hank Connelly – Chris’s father-in-law. Blames him to this day for their deaths, and has been tryin’ to get Chris declared incompetent or arrested for murder ever since.”
In a prime example of the universe’s perfect timing, a pair of orderlies walked over. “Hello, Hank,” one of them purred as the other one gripped his arms. “Time to go back.”
“No!” Connelly erupted. “No, Chris Larabee killed my baby and her son! He killed them! He’s guilty! Why am I the only one to see it?” were his parting words as the elevator closed.
“Mainly cause it ain’t true and you just need someone to blame,” Buck sighed, realising he was talking to himself. “Have fun back in the Psych Ward, Hank.”
A few moments later, a younger man woke up. “For Chris Larabee?”
Nathan broke into a smile – he knew this man. “Yeah, we are. Hello, Ben.”
Ben Crighton nodded. “Nathan – you’re on Larabee’s team, then?”
“Yeah – fellas, Ben is a doctor. One of the best here. How is he, Ben?”
Ben looked from one concerned face to the other. “First answer me this: How was his cheekbone fractured?”
“He was shot,” Nathan answered. “A one-in-a-million lucky shot.”
“I see.” Ben sighed. “CAT scans showed us a blood clot behind the bone. Now I know how it was set up. As the bone healed, the clot grew larger and larger – until it was pressing on the optic nerve.”
“Hence the blindness,” Ezra mused.
Ben nodded. “So we’re going to operate and remove the clot. Hopefully, his sight will be restored afterward.”
Vin looked at Buck. “We both have power-of-attorney…”
“You sign.” Buck raised a trembling hand. “Right now, I don’t think I can!”
A month later, Chris walked into the office suite of Team Seven – eyes unbandaged, alert – and seeing.
The celebration was loud and boisterous and soon spilled over to other floors.
Team Seven was intact once more!
Return to The Realm