"Caleb Cody Forrester, Age 28, Race: Caucasian. No known reactions to medications but is allergic to dairy," read the paramedic from Cody's medical card that he'd found in Cody's wallet.
"100 over 70 and steady," said the paramedic, reaching over Cody's prone body to adjust the blood pressure monitor.
"Possible concussion. Multiple facial lacerations and bruises. Chest laceration and GSW in left arm—all nonfatal wounds," observed ER Nurse Nancy Whitman. "Get him down to X-Ray. I want a CT for possible spinal cord injuries and brain injuries," she told the orderlies.
"One of his friends said he thought Caleb had been shot in the chest. Looks like the bullet went through his upper arm and grazed his chest before deflecting upwards off the medallion he's wearing," the paramedic said, and held up a thick silver medallion which had a dent in it from the bullet," the paramedic told Nurse Whitman. Nurse Whitman poked her gloved finger through the hole in Cody's shirt.
"I can see how his friend might have thought he'd been shot in the chest," Nurse Whitman told the paramedic. "The deep graze bled a lot."
"Bullets are funny things…I remember a case of where a boy took a bullet to the head and he was sitting in an indoor firing range. But the bullet came from the outdoor firing range. Freak accident. Bullet kept ricocheting off things until it entered the kid's left temple. This is one thing Caleb will have to tell his grandchildren—how a medallion saved his life.
Two soon-to-be first year medical students working as orderlies until they matriculated into medical school came over to the gurney where the unconscious Cody lay. They pushed the gurney down the hall towards X-Ray. Behind them, Nurse Whitman was calling orders to the ER staff:
"Exam Room 3 will need suturing and bandages. Make sure you wash out the lacerations with soap and water. Give him a tetanus shot just in case. Have the supplies ready when the patient is brought back," Nurse Whitman said. She ran an efficient ER and she wanted to ensure patients moved in and out in as fast as possible.
"Caleb Forrester, where have I heard that name before?" she asked no one in particular. She shrugged her shoulders and went into the next exam room where a woman was complaining to an ER staffer about having an 'itch'.
In the darkness, Cody dreamed.
"I've got it, Frank," Cody said as Frank hovered behind him, anxiously watching the video cameras. On screen, Jake and Alex were talking to two drug pushers about becoming distributors. Frank could barely make out what his two undercovers were saying, and he was becoming frustrated.
"Make sure that you do," Frank said and continued to watch the cameras. The sound popped on.
"Remember, this is a test. You do well on this run, you get more," the taller of the two men said.
"We want more now," Jake said, menancingly. He reached over and kissed Alex, fondling her as he did so. Cody saw Alex's ears pull back; she was surprised.
"Must be nice," Cody muttered under his breath.
"It's the job," Frank said. Cody turned to look at Frank but Frank merely glanced at him before turning his full attention to the scene unfolding in front of him.
"You get more when you deliver. Those are the terms. You get a day to think about the terms, then you meet me back here," the tall blond man told Jake.
"Do it, Jake," Frank said softly into his mouthpiece. On screen, Jake narrowed his eyes, his signal to Frank that he'd heard.
Jake took a puff on the Cuban he was smoking. He blew smoke rings: one, two, three. The two men watched him with watery blue eyes. Finally, Jake nodded.
"Yeah, all right. A test. I distributed before, down in Tulsa. I'm not known here, gotta work my way up," Jake said in a husky voice.
The blond man glanced over at the slightly shorter, dark haired man. "The man likes to know who he's dealing with, understand? You just an upstart from the middle of nowhere," he told Jake.
"Middle of nowhere? Tulsa's got the smoothest jazz you've ever listened to. They got the finest ladies," Jake said as Alex, her three inch diamond dangly earrings glinting in the sunlight, kissed his cheek and ran her hand down his thigh.
"Yeah? Why'd ya leave?" the dark haired man said. Jake looked at him sharply.
"Why does anybody leave a good setup? Trick to this business is to outwit the blues, the feebs and the DEA. You stay on the outside, enjoy your profits, get your women their baubles. Your trail gets hot, you leave, start a new life."
"Why'd ya pick here?" the dark haired man inquired. The blond man nudged him and shook his head.
"Heard there was a job opening through the vine," Jake replied then he kissed Alex on the lips. He drew back, then took another drag on the Cuban.
"DEA's been busting all over this month. They're handing out sentences like they were giving candy to children," the blond haired man said. He looked at Jake and nodded.
"Tomorrow, same time," he said as the two men turned and left.
Jake and Alex waited until the two men were out of sight, then Alex turned and slapped Jake. He looked shocked, but started walking towards the van.
"And they've gotten into their Jags," Cody said. "Now it's off to the races. Car on the right is gaining just a little. No! Car on the left has just pulled ahead."
"Cody," Frank said.
Cody stopped his running commentary.
"When was he built?" Cody wondered to himself.
"I heard that," Frank said softly.
Cody started. He hadn't realized he'd spoken aloud. This wasn't the first time Cody had wondered aloud when Frank was built when Frank was near him. The man was a walking bank vault: nothing could get in or out of him unless you had the special access code. Cody suspected Frank was a different man outside the job; maybe he even had a lady on the side, someone who could melt the man of steel.
If that was true--that Frank had a woman in his private life--Cody would give all the gold in Fort Knox to meet her and ask her how to break down the barriers that Frank set up.
In this unit, there were only five people. That left a lot of social time to be filled in while waiting for a new assignment. With Keller, there had been a lot of joking and bar hopping. We were a family, Cody thought to himself.
But then Keller had died protecting Alex. Cody knew the two had had a sexual relationship. With only the five of them, social interactions between any two members of the group was noticed by the other three. It wasn't hard to miss the glow in Alex's face when she and Keller had first had sex; Alex had seem more luminous, relaxed.
She'd gone undercover, then fell in love with Carlos Cortez. Busting him was the hardest thing she'd had to do, and it rent her heart. Keller had understood her pain; he'd stood back and let her grieve until she was ready to start another relationship.
Then, he died, taking the bullets meant for her. And Alex had somehow pulled back. Cody thought he could understand why Alex had slapped Jake: it was too soon after Keller's death and Alex's turning down Carlos's offer to go away with him for Jake to be getting too much into his alias.
Then Frank: the man of steel. His background was as impregnable as Fort Knox itself. Cody had managed to glean a few details about Frank: like the fact he'd had a roommate at the Academy and that he'd risen as fast as he did because while still in training, Frank had negotiated the release of his FBI mentor who had been taken hostage.
An alarm sounded. Cody swiveled in his chair. Frank was right behind him.
"Report," Frank said.
"Seems like somebody's throwing mud at us sir, a bunch of children," Cody pointed to one of the monitors. It showed two children throwing mud balls at the van. Frank grimaced.
"Get us out of here," he said.
Suddenly, the van was rocked by an explosion. Cody heard several loud "pops" and suddenly the world slipped sideways. Hazily, he saw Frank falling, blood running down the side of his head. Cody found himself laying on the van's floor, looking sideways at Frank. Smoke was everywhere, stinging Cody's eyes until they teared.
The van's rear doors had been opened and two burly fellows wearing ski masks had scrambled in. Cody shut his eyes and feigned unconsciousness. It wasn't hard to do, as his head was aching something bad.
One of the men knelt in front of Cody to slip his hands under Frank's shoulders. Cody thought that was odd. Frank was a martial arts expert, in Krav Maga, Cody’s brain told him. Why isn’t he fighting?
Frank must be unconscious, Cody thought else he would fight like a wild cat to get away and disable their adversaries.
"Eddie is going to like this," Cody heard the man mutter to himself.
Eddie? Who was Eddie? Cody aimed to find out, because by now he suspected that Frank was being kidnapped. He couldn't move because his head was spinning around and he'd been stunned, although not too stunned to do some thinking.
"Hurry up!" Cody heard the other man say. "Duncan’s gonna pay us a bonus to Eddie and then we get a bonus so let's move!"
It was a good thing Cody didn't have his eyes open or else he would have seen the man closest to him put Frank's shoulders down, turn around, take his gun out of a leg holster and smash Cody between the eyes.
Then Cody's world went dark and he kept dreaming over and over the events that had caused Frank to be kidnapped.
Cody was getting tired of reliving this dream. He hoped he could get back to some sunlight. When he did, he was going to hug Frank.
"Owwwwww!" Cody tried to turn his head away from the bright light. Coming awake, he automatically opened his eyes, then just as automatically squinted them. Hadn't he just wished he could get back to the sunlight?
"Relax, you're going to be fine," the nurse shouted at him.
"You're shouting," Cody shouted back.
"No, you have a mild concussion," she said, her voice much softer now.
Cody tried to sit up. He found he could but his head hurt. "How long was I out?"
"About two hours," she told him.
"The others I was with? What happened to them?" he asked the nurse. When he fully sat up, the hospital gown dropped from his shoulders and down into his lap.
Realizing he was nude underneath, Cody's cheeks reddened slightly as he allowed the nurse to assist him in securing the gown around his back.
She finished tying the gown and stepped back. "One of the women was shot in the chest. The other two are ok," she told him. Cody paled.
"The one named Monica Davis."
"Is she ok?"
"She's in surgery now," the nurse told him. "Your friends are waiting outside. Shall I let them in?"
Cody nodded. He hadn't had a chance to ask her about Frank. But then he remembered Frank had been kidnapped by Eddie and Duncan. The nurse left the room and Jake and Alex stepped in. Alex had been crying and her eyes were red rimmed. Her clothes were soaked with blood and blood streaked her face.
Jake was pale and there were worry lines around his mouth. Jake put his arm around Alex's shoulders. This time, she didn't pull back.
"Guess you know about Monica," Jake said.
"Yes," Cody said as he fingered the bandage on his head. Exploring his face, he also discovered a thick line of stitches in his left cheek. His chest hurt, and his left arm was swathed in bandages.
"Frank's been kidnapped," Alex blurted.
"By Eddie and Duncan," Cody said.
Jake gaped. "How did you know that?"
"I heard the two kidnappers talking before things went black. Owwww!" Cody said, turning his head. "I might need a neck brace," he said.
"Eddie? Duncan? Never heard of them. Alex?" Jake said, holding Alex.
Alex lifted her head from Jake's shoulder. "Eddie? Duncan? If they took Frank, they must be from Frank's past."
"And his past is classified," Cody remarked. "For someone who was built a few months ago when he joined this unit, he sure has a lot of old enemies popping up."
"Jake, can you get on my computers and start looking for anyone named Duncan or Eddie?"
"Sure thing. It'll give me something to do while we wait for Monica to get out of surgery."
"She will be okay?" Cody asked.
"Bullet looked to be around her heart. But people have been shot in the heart before and lived," Alex said.
A pretty young woman popped her head in the room at that moment. "Are you waiting for information on Monica Davis?" she asked.
The three SOU team members turned towards her and said, "yes!" simultaneously.
The young woman smiled--hugely--and the three teammates sighed audibly.
"The bullet was just a fraction of an inch above her heart. No major organs were damaged but she did lose a lot of blood," the young woman said. "She'll be out of surgery in about an hour and you can go see her in about three hours."
"Thank you. Thank you so much," Jake said. Alex burst into tears and Jake hugged her to him, tightly.
"Thought you'd been shot in the chest. I mean, I saw the hole in your shirt, and blood pouring out..." Jake commented as Cody tried to flex his bicep. Alex's tears quieted and she stood with her head on Jake's shoulders.
"Oww! Nahh. Couldn't get shot in the chest without getting Frank to agree to drinks with all of us. Besides, someone has to rub him the wrong way. Might as well be me!" Cody said energetically as he held his left bicep, hoping that somehow, the pain would go away.
A freshly released Cody made his way back to the nest. He’d had to bicker with the attending physician but he’d gotten himself released after signing a sheaf of papers.
Cody was sporting one hundred thirty two stitches in his face, arm and chest. His chest was emblazoned with a deep graze that looked like a wild cat woman had raked him during a wild evening. Cody was just happy that he'd been wearing that medallion—and just as happy that the bullet had taken a freak upwards turn when it struck the medallion. Otherwise, Cody would have gone six feet under, something Cody wasn't planning on doing for a long time. At least, not until he'd gotten Frank in a bar with all four of them.
Getting his mind back to business, Cody knew Jake had been unable to gather any information on Eddie and Duncan but that didn't surprise Cody--Jake was an undercover. It was Cody's job to ferret out the information the team needed.
His head, his left bicep and his chest were all pulsating like the beat of a bass drum in a parade. Perhaps he'd left the hospital too early, but he knew Frank needed to be found and fast.
Cody had a cab let him off two blocks away from the nest. Like the rest of the team, when he had to use a cab, he had the cab driver drop him off at different locations so as not to create a discernable pattern that their quarries could pick up. One of the possible ways the Special Operations Unit could be tracked was by cab usage; cab drivers were often paid stooges for the crime rings and since the unit’s inception, SOU team members had been instructed, first by Keller then by Frank, that if it was necessary to use a cab, they should rotate their drop off points.
Cody hadn't had a cab drop him off so close to the nest in years, so he felt safe in having the driver let him off in front of a bar close to the nest, Wilma’s.
--Have to get Frank down here one day for a drink--Cody thought to himself as he handed the driver a twenty and shut the door of the cab. He straightened up, turned around and started walking to the bar's door. He'd also been taught that if he had to have a cab drop him off near the nest, to go into one of the businesses and pretend to be a customer.
The big plate glass window acted as a mirror and Cody saw the cab driver pick up a cell phone.
"Si, es el," he heard the cabbie say. Cody tried not to pause. He watched the cab driver start to pull away. Cody took note of the cab driver and the cab. He stepped back and looked at the license plate number: N53NB34.
"N53NB34," Cody said to himself as he turned around and walked into the bar. Cody knew his presence had been detected by the motion detectors and that a light had flashed on in the bar's office.
This time of day, the bar was empty. Joseph Tanner, the owner and bartender, hadn't opened up but he kept the door open for deliveries and such people as Cody who were regulars and sometimes needed a drink at odd hours of the day.
Cody went behind the bar and got himself a glass. Filling it with mineral water, he walked around to the stools and sat down. He was waiting for Joseph to appear. Looking around, he caught a flash of white down at the other end of the bar. He got up from the stoool and walked over to the end of the bar. Picking up the note he read,
I'll be back by the time the bar opens. We just had a baby! It's a boy!--Joseph
Cody smiled, then grimaced. The smile had stretched his stitches. He hunted around for a pen and finding one, he wrote, "congratulations!--Cody."
He put down some money to pay for his mineral water and left the bar.
Glancing around, he ensured he wasn't being followed. Reaching the nest, he went in and went straight to his computer banks, which Jake had left on for him.
He typed the plate numbers of the van into his keyboard. A short time later, he read: N53NB3 registered to the Prime City Cab Company, Lucas Michaels, Owner and Operator."
Cody quickly typed Lucas's name into his database and set the database to prompt him if he got a match.
He now typed in the names of Duncan and Eddie and cross-referenced them to the surname of Donovan.
He sat back and waited--hopefully--for a match.