Disclaimer: The following story is based on the characters of the TV Series “Walker, Texas Ranger”. The characters belong to CBS Productions, Top Kick Productions, Washo Brother’s Entertainment, etc, but the story is ours. ALL DISCLAIMERS APPLY. (No copyright infringement is intended.)

Latimier –

by Lorrie Ellis (lorrieann@hotmail.com)

"Anything else, Walker?"  Gage asked as he picked up his jacket.

Walker focused on the young ranger.  "No Gage.  I think that's it for the day.  See you on Monday."

"Have a good weekend."  Gage called back as he opened the door.

"Hey, wait up."  Sydney called out to her partner.

Gage held the door open while he watched Sydney pull on her jacket and gently lift her hair out.

"What is it Shorty?"  He asked as he joined him in the hallway.

"Do you have any plans tonight?"  She asked as they started towards the elevator.

Gage shook his head.  "Not really.  I thought I'd just sit back and watch a little television.  What about you?"

Sydney shook her head.  "Want to see a movie?"

Gage thought for a moment.  "Are you asking me out?"  He joked.

"No, I'm not asking you out."  Sydney quickly corrected herself.  "Not exactly."

Gage grinned.  "Yeah, I'd love to see a movie with you.  How about dinner afterwards?"

"You're on."  Sydney replied.  "Give me thirty minutes to go home and change?"

"I'll pick you up at your place."  Gage said as the elevator stopped on the ground floor

As the two Rangers started towards their cars, a black SUV sped towards them.  Gage quickly drew his weapon and opened fire, shoving Sydney out the way in the same move.  While their attention was focused on the first SUV, a second quickly pulled up behind the first.

A total of four men clad in black hoods poured out of the two vehicles and quickly cornered the Rangers.  Sydney had pulled her weapon from its holster and aimed it at one of the men.  "We're Texas Rangers.  Stop, or we'll shoot."

One of the black hooded men faced Sydney and before she could fire a single round, the gun dropped to the concrete floor and Sydney found herself in hand to hand combat against three of the thugs.

Gage fired one round, hitting one of the men square in the chest.  The man never flinched.  While Gage stared at him in disarray, he was quickly disarmed from behind. 

The Ranger punched one of the men in the jaw was rewarded with a sharp jab to his ribs from behind.  He watched Sydney being loaded into one of the vehicles and as he tried to take a step forward, he felt a sharp blow to the back of his head and everything went dark.

*********

When Gage came to he was relieved to find Sydney cradling his head in her lap.  "Where are we?"  He asked, reaching for the back of his head as he sat up.

"Take it easy.  You've been out for almost an hour."  Sydney cautioned.

Dizziness swept over the Ranger as he sat up.  Sydney reached for his shoulder to help steady him.  "Come on, lean back on me for a while."

He tried to refuse, but knew that he had to lean against something or fall flat on his face.  "Syd?"

"I'm right here Gage."  She replied, wrapping her arms around her partner and easing him back against her chest.   "Shh."  She brushed his hair from his face with her hand.  "We're going to be OK."

"Where are we?  Who were they?"  Gage mumbled.

Sydney shook her head.  "I don’t know.  I heard them say something about making all of Company B suffer, but I don't know why."

Gage squeezed his eyes tightly together, hoping that the room would soon stop spinning.  "We have to find a way out of here."

"You're about to get out Ranger Gage, just be patient."  While one of the hooded men, who appeared to be the leader spoke, two more men approached Gage and Sydney.  Gage was pulled to his feet and dragged to the center of the room where he was held by two men while two others began to beat him.

Sydney stood up in protest, trying to fight off Gage’s attackers.  "Stop!"  Sydney screamed. "You'll kill him!"

"No, not yet Ranger Cooke.”  One of the men replied as Sydney was grabbed from behind and held in place.  “He has an important message to deliver to Ranger Walker for me, then we'll kill him, along with the rest of you."

Gage lay on the cold concrete floor, bruised, bloodied and barely conscious.

The leader lifted him to a sitting position and wrapped his huge arm around Gage's neck.  "I have a message for the Rangers of Company B."  He whispered in Gage's ear in a seething voice. "You tell Ranger Walker that if he wants to see his pretty little female Ranger alive again, he'll meet me at this address, along with Ranger Trivette and yourself.  If all of you aren’t there, without any backup, I’ll kill her and dump her body on the front steps of the courthouse."  He stuffed a note inside Gage's jacket pocket and then nodded at the other men.

Gage was hoisted across one of the men's shoulders and dumped into the back of one of the SUV's, all while Sydney was being held securely in the leader's arms.  "He'll be back my sweet.  He won't let you die anymore than Ranger Walker will."  He whispered into Sydney's ear and then trailed his tongue along her neck.  "Lock her in the cell.  I’ll deal with her later."  He ordered and Sydney was prodded along a hallway until they reached what appeared to be a jail cell.

*******

Walker had just finished sitting the table when the phone rang.  “Hello.”  He answered.

“Walker, it’s me.  I’m running late and it looks like I’m not going to get away for another hour or so.”

“Oh, so now you’re trying to get out of eating my cooking eh?”  Walker joked.

Alex smiled.  “No.  I love your cooking and I had much rather be there with you than taking this deposition.   I shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“I’ll be waiting.”  Walker replied.  “Oh, and Alex, I love you.”

“I love you too, cowboy.”

As Walker hung up the phone, he took the meat out of the stove and decided to take a glance at the newspaper.  A particular article caught his attention and he picked up the phone, quickly dialing the Texas State Penitentiary.  “Detective Loomis, please.”  He requested as the phone was answered.

“One moment.” 

“Loomis.”  A voice boomed at the other end of the line.

“David, it’s Walker.  I just read in the newspaper that you had a recent escape up there, but the prisoner’s name wasn’t mentioned.  Anything I should be concerned about?”

“Uh Walker, I uh meant to call you yesterday when this happened, but with all of the chaos and such I didn’t get to the phone and then today . . .”

“Loomis, cut the chatter.  Who escaped?”

“Travis Latimier.”

“Latimier.  How?”  Walker asked.

“We’re not sure how.  All I know is three of my men were found dead outside of his cell and he’s gone.”

“And you didn’t think it was something I should be aware of?  Loomis, he threatened all of Company B when he was sentenced.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. “There’s more Walker.  We found some things in his cell, under his cot, that lead us to believe that he may go after Ranger Cooke first.”

“What kind of things?”  Walker asked and listened intently as Detective Loomis told him everything that was found.

Walker glanced at the clock on the wall as he hung up the phone.  He had been talking for over half an hour.  He picked up the phone again, this time dialing Trivette.

“Hello.”  Trivette answered.


”Trivette, it’s Walker.  Latimier has escaped.  See if you can get in touch with Gage and Sydney and let them know.  Oh and Trivette, let’s all plan to meet at the office in morning around 7:00 to go over what we know.”

“Got it.”  Trivette replied.

*******

Inside the SUV, Gage was vaguely aware of the vehicle bumping along a gravel road and was shocked when the back door opened and he was roughly kicked out as the SUV continued to move.

He rolled several times before coming to a rest, face down in the pile of gravel.

Walker heard the tires screech as the met the pavement.   In the darkness, he couldn't make out the figure that had been dumped out and he hurried towards the motionless lump as he saw headlights coming towards him.

Alex screamed as her headlights landed on Gage's bloodied body.  She slammed on the brakes and scurried out of the car, meeting Walker running from the house.

The couple knelt down beside of the young ranger, praying that he was still alive.  Before Walker could reach to see if there was a pulse, Gage began to shiver.

"Let's get him inside."  Walker said as he gently lifted Gage's arms and pulled him towards the house.

Alex parked the car and then helped Walker situate Gage on the living room sofa.  "I'll get some water."

Walker nodded, all the while, trying to wake Gage. "Gage.  Can you hear me?  Come on Gage, you have to wake up."

Gage's eyes began to open as Alex lightly touched a wet cloth to the bruises and cuts on his face.  "Easy Gage."  She soothed as she continued to clean him up.  "He needs medical attention."  She said, turning towards Walker.

Walker nodded as he reached for the phone. "I know."

"No!"  Gage said weakly.  "They'll kill Syd."

Walker eased himself down next to the young Ranger again.  "Who will kill Sydney?  Gage where is she?"

Gage shook his head slightly.  "I don't know.  We were grabbed this evening in the parking garage.  I was knocked out before they got me in the SUV and when I came to Syd and I were both in a large, open building with a concrete floor."

"Did you get a look at them?"  Alex asked.

"No.  They all wore hoods, but Walker, one of them put a note in my pocket and said that you, Trivette and myself were to meet him at the address he wrote down."

Walker grabbed Gage's discarded jacket and pulled the note from the pocket as Gage continued to speak.  “He said if we all didn’t show up for the meeting that he would kill Sydney and leave her body on the front steps of the courthouse.”

Alex gasped.  “Walker?”

Walker read the note carefully and then picked up the phone and called Trivette.

“Trivette.”  Jimmy answered.

“Trivette, it’s Walker.”

“Hey Walker, I was just about to call you.  I can’t seem to locate Gage and Sydney anywhere.  Maybe they actually got together and went out for the weekend.  Who knows, maybe they’ve gone off and eloped . . .”

“Trivette!”  Walker interrupted.  “They’re in trouble.  Gage is here and he’s been beaten up pretty badly.  Whoever took them had Gage deliver a note addressed to me saying that myself, you and Gage are to meet him tomorrow night at the Cross Creek campground, alone.”

“What?”  Trivette asked in astonishment.

Walker re-read the note in his hand and looked back towards the couch where Gage had drifted off again.  “I really need you to get over here now.  We need to figure out what we’re going to do.”

“I’m on my way.”  Trivette said, hanging up the phone.

“On your way where?”  Asked Erica as her husband turned from the phone.

Jimmy pulled his wife to him and hugged her tightly. “On my way to Walker’s.  Maybe you should come with me.”

“Why?  Jimmy, what are you not telling me?”

Jimmy kissed her cheek and then placed his hands on her shoulders.  “Do you remember me telling you about the Travis Latimier case?”

Erica nodded.  “He threatened all of you when he was sentenced, didn’t he?”

“That’s right.  He escaped from prison yesterday and Walker just called and said that Gage is at his place now.  He’s been beaten up and carried a message from his attackers saying that we’re to meet him tomorrow night and if we don’t he’ll kill Sydney.”

Erica’s hand went to her mouth.  “Oh no.  Jimmy, you’re not seriously thinking of going, are you?  I mean, it’s an obvious set-up.  At his trial, Latimier said that he would kill every one of the Rangers of Company B even if it took the rest of his life.” 

Jimmy tried to comfort his wife in another embrace. “I know honey.  Shh.  It’s going to be OK.”  He pushed her, gently, out of the embrace.  “We can’t just leave Sydney out there without any hope, can we?”

Erica shook her head.  “I know I’m being selfish, but Jimmy, if anything ever happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Cupping her chin gently in his hand, Trivette kissed his wife.  “Let’s hope you never have to find out.”

*******

Back at the Cross Creek Campground, Travis Latimier stood outside of the makeshift cell that held Sydney.  “Comfortable, Ranger Cooke?”  He asked.

“I could be better.”  Sydney replied to the hooded figure.  “Who are you and what do you want with us?”

“Who I am isn’t important, but what I want is revenge.  Revenge for taking the life of my brother and for sentencing me to life in prison and the four top Rangers of Company B are responsible for both.”

“Where’s my partner?” 

“Delivering a message to your boss.”

Sydney sighed inside, knowing that if Gage made it to Walker’s then at least he would be alright.

“You’ll see him again tomorrow night.  See, my plan is that all four of you die together in one huge, unexpected explosion, but I’m afraid that you most likely won’t be conscious for that event.” 

As another hooded figure approached, Latimier unlocked Sydney’s cell door.  He took a small syringe from his accomplice and headed towards Sydney. 

Sydney backed away from the man as he came near. “You’re only making it harder on yourself Sydney.”  Latimier said holding up the syringe of amber liquid.  “This will only relax you.”

“Yeah, to the point that I can’t fight you or your men off.”  Sydney said as she kicked Latimier in the stomach.  He started to double over, but quickly shook off the blow and motioned two other men to join him inside the cell.

With three men in the cell, Sydney didn’t stand a chance of escape.  She fought off one of the men, finally biting his arm after he had grabbed her from behind.

As the man screamed out in pain, Latimier pulled a gun from his belt and fired it once into the air.  “Enough!”  He yelled as the two men took each of Sydney’s arms and pinned her to the backside of the cell bars.

“We could have done this the easy, painless way, but now you’ll suffer.”  He jabbed the syringe into her left arm and emptied the contents into her body. “Give her a shot every hour, alternating between the sedative and the heroine.”

“She’ll be dead long before midnight tomorrow if we give it to her that often.”

“No she won’t.  I’m going to weaken the dosage just enough to keep her alive until the others get here.”

The two men who had been holding Sydney up, let her slide to the floor of the cell.  She barely heard the lock click into place as they left.

******

Jimmy and Erica pulled into the Walker’s driveway just twenty minutes after Walker had called and were met at the door by Alex.

“Walker’s in the living room keeping an eye on Gage.”  Alex explained as the young couple came inside.

“How bad is he?”  Jimmy asked.

Alex shook her head.  “He needs to be in the hospital, but according to the note that he brought back to Walker, if the three of you don’t show up at the Cross Creek Campground tomorrow night at midnight, he’ll kill her.  I don’t think Gage could live with that kind of guilt.”

“Is Sydney being held at the campground now?”  Erica asked.

“We don’t know.  I’ve contacted Judge Everly to see if we can get a search warrant for the campground, but so far, he hasn’t got back to me.”

Jimmy left the two women in the kitchen to talk as he joined his partner in the living room.  His eyes were drawn to the lifeless figure on the couch.  Alex had bandaged the cuts on his face as best as she could, but it was obvious that Gage was still bleeding.

Walker sat on a stool next to the couch with his hands cupped, cradling his chin, staring straight ahead, but not really looking at anything.

“How is he?”  Jimmy nodded towards Gage.

Walker shook his head.  “I don’t know.  He’s come around a couple of times, but he’s taken a really bad blow to the head and without having him checked out by a doctor, I really don’t know . . .”

Jimmy stood quietly beside his partner for a moment. “Do you think this was Latimier’s work?”

Walker nodded.  “I’d bet on it.”

“What about Sydney?”

“If she’s still alive, Latimier is just holding her as bait to get the rest of us in position for him to pick us off one by one.”

“So, what’s the plan?”  Trivette asked.

Walker sighed, looking at Gage again.  “I don’t know.  I keep hoping Gage will wake up again and be able to tell us a little more about the place where they were held so we can come up with a plan.” 

The grandfather clock in the hallway began to chime.  Gage moved slightly as the clock called out with four loud bongs.

“Gage?”  Walker called out.  “Gage, you have to wake up.  We need to figure out a way to get Sydney back.”

“Syd?”  Gage mumbled.  The two senior Rangers watched as Gage’s eyes closed tightly against the pain in his head. 

“Gage, I know you’re hurting buddy, but we really could use your help right now.  If we don’t come up with something soon, we might not get Sydney back.”

“Syd?”  He mumbled again and then groaned.

“Alex, call 9-1-1!”  Walker shouted.


”No!”  Gage called out.  “They’ll kill her if I don’t show up.”  He said weakly.

“Gage, man, you could be dying right now for all we know.  What if you’re bleeding internally?”  Trivette asked.

Gage struggled to open his eyes and then adjusted his position on the couch.  “Then I’ll die trying to save her.”

Walker put his hand on Gage’s shoulder.  “Can you think clearly for me for a minute?”

“I’ll try.”  The young ranger replied, closing his eyes tightly again, trying to force the fog from his mind.

“How many men were there?”  Walker asked.


Gage closed his eyes to think.  “There were four when we were grabbed from the parking garage and then unless I was seeing double there were eight when they were beating me up.  “Two holding me, two throwing punches, two standing guard and two holding Syd, plus the guy that seems to be the leader, so I guess nine in all.”

“Nine men, all hooded?”  Trivette asked.

Gage nodded.  “I never saw any of their faces.”

“Gage do you remember Travis Latimier?”  Walker asked.

Gage nodded again.  “He made some pretty strong threats against the Rangers before he was taken to jail, didn’t he?”

Walker nodded.  “Exactly.  He escaped yesterday.  Do you remember what any of the men sounded like and could any of them be Latimier?”

Shaking his head, Gage looked up at Walker.  “I don’t know Walker.  They didn’t really say that much, except for the leader and I guess he could have been Latimier, but what would he have against Sydney?  She was out of town during that trial.”

“Yeah, but she was out of town retrieving a witness against Latimier, remember?”  Trivette added.

“Vaguely.”  Gage mumbled.  “So, you think Latimier escaped from prison and concocted this whole thing in under a day?”

“No.  I think he very carefully planned his escape and had everything set up before hand.  It also appears that he planned to take Sydney first, maybe not expecting you to be with her when she came to the parking garage.”  Walker said.

“It’s the first time in almost two weeks that we’ve actually left work at the same time.”  Gage said.

“You’re sure.”  Trivette asked.

Gage looked up.  “I’m very sure.  We’ve had to cancel plans twice within the last two weeks because something has come up for one or the other of us.  We were planning to go to a movie last night and now this.  I’m beginning to think that this just wasn’t meant to be.”  As he shifted on the couch, a new pain worked its way through his rib cage, showing on his face.

“Maybe you had better lie back down for a while.  We can’t do anymore right now anyway.  Alex has a call into Judge Everly and we’re hoping for a search warrant for Cross Creek Campground, but until that comes through, our hands are tied.”

Gage eased back down on the couch.  “Maybe I will rest for a minute.  I think I may have a broken rib.”

“I really wish you would let us take you to the emergency room and get checked out.”  Trivette said.

“I can’t.  Not until I know she’s safe.”  Gage replied, closing his eyes and hoping for a few minutes of sleep.

******

Back at Cross Creek Campground, Latimier entered the room.  “Have you wired the lunch room?”  He asked.

“Yes sir.  Once they’re in, they won’t be getting out.”

“Good.  How about the lady Ranger, has she been taken care of?”

“Just like you said boss.  One does every four hours, alternating with the Heroine and the Ecstasy.  She’s so messed up now, she doesn’t even know her own name.”

Latimier smiled.  “Good.  I think I’ll pay the little lady a visit.”

Sydney was propped up against the cell bars, her head twitching sporadically.  She couldn’t seem to get her thoughts together, but one face was embedded in her mind.  “Gage.”  She whispered a pitiful plea.  “Help me.”

********

Gage tossed and turned restlessly in the Walker's guestroom bed.  Finally, he threw the covers off of himself, got up and slid on his jeans.  He started to put on his shirt, but quickly realized that his swollen arm wasn't going to allow him to slip it on.

The wooden floorboards of the old house creaked slightly as the young Ranger made his way to the front door.  He paused for a moment, hoping that he hadn't wakened anyone in the house.  When he heard no noises from upstairs, he continued to his goal, the front porch.

Hours later, Walker and Alex were brought out of their slumber by the shrill cries of baby Angela.  "I'll get her."  Alex said sleepily.  "You go check on Gage."

Walker reached for Alex and pulled her close to him. "Can't we stay in bed for just a few more minutes?"

"No."  Alex shook her head smiling.  "It's tempting, but your daughter is hungry and she's probably wet.  Besides, you really need to check in on Gage."

Leaning over, Walker kissed Alex before getting up. "Why do you always have to be right?"

"It's in my nature, remember?"  She smirked as she slipped on her robe and house shoes.

Walker could hear Alex making funny sounds with Angela and stopped at the nursery door for a moment as Angela cooed back at her mother.  "What a Kodak moment."  He said quietly, entering the room.

Alex picked up the little bundle and eased into the nearby rocking chair.  "I'll get breakfast for you and Gage right after I feed Angela."

"I'll let Gage know."  Walker smiled, kissing both of his girls on their foreheads.

As he stepped on the last step, Walker noticed a shadow on the front porch.  "Wonder who that is?"  He cautiously opened the door and found Gage asleep and shivering in the porch swing. 

"Gage."  He shook his friend in an attempt to wake him.  "Gage, it's time to get up." 

"No, leave me alone."  Gage mumbled. 

"Gage, you're going to catch your death out here.  It's only," Walker looked at the thermometer on the wall.  "Geez Gage, it's only 43 degrees out here!  Come on, wake up and that's an order!"  He quickly opened the front door and yelled inside. "Alex, get me some blankets and call 9-1-1!"

Gage's head lulled to one side.  He could hear Walker's voice, but he couldn't make out what he was saying.  The words sounded so jumbled.  "Walker."  He slurred.


"Easy Gage.  You're going to the hospital and I'm not taking no for an answer!"  Gage slightly nodded his head in response.

Alex came to the door with the blankets. "What happened?"  She asked, her voice urgent.

"Evidently he came out here sometime last night.  He's burning up."  He turned to his wife.  "Did you call 9-1-1?"

Alex nodded, her eyes never leaving Gage. "They should be here within 10-15 minutes.  Walker, what about Sydney?  If Gage isn't with you and Jimmy, he said they would kill her."

Walker nodded.  "We'll worry about that later.  Right now we need to get him taken care of."

Soon sirens could be heard screaming down the Walker driveway.  Walker kissed Alex and she watched as he climbed into his RAM and followed the rescue squad toward St. Matthews.

After Walker was out of sight, Alex called the Trivette's and filled them in on what had happened.

*******

"So, do you think all three of them will show up?"  One of Latimier's men asked as they approached Sydney's cell.

Latimier stared at Sydney as he spoke.  "That would depend on whether or not the young Ranger Gage is still alive or not."

Sydney moistened her parched lips slightly with her tongue.  "Gage?"  She whispered.

"That's right Ranger Cooke."  Latimier said as he entered the cell.  "You're beloved partner, Francis Gage.  I made certain that he was beaten pretty good before he was shoved out of a moving vehicle in front of Ranger Walker's house."  He began to caress her cheek with his hand.  "But that's of no consequence to you now, because I've decided to keep you for myself instead of killing you along with the others."

Sydney tried to open her eyes, but her eyelids seemed so heavy.  "No."  She mumbled. "Gage."

Latimier's eyes filled with rage at the mere mention of the Ranger's name.  "Give her another dose."

"It's not time yet."  One of the guards announced.

Latimier stormed out of Sydney's cell and grabbed the man's throat in his powerful hand.  "You dare to question me?"  He yelled, releasing the man at the same time.

The guard began to cough.  "No.  No sir.  I'll get it right away."

"The Ecstasy.  And then have her brought to my quarters."  Latimier instructed.

The guard nodded, knowing that Sydney had just had a dose of Ecstasy two hours ago.

"Oh, and make sure she's secured when you transport her.  I don't want to take any chances that she might escape."

"Yes sir."  The guard replied and then left the area to retrieve the drugs for Sydney.

*******


The ambulance screamed down the main highway towards St. Matthews.  "He's hypothermic."  One of the EMTs announced as he and his partner went to work.  "We have to get his body temperature regulated."

Walker sat back on the small bench, watching the two paramedics feverishly working over the junior Ranger.  He let his head drop into his hands, trying to come up with a plan to rescue Sydney and not further involve Gage.

"ETA three minutes."  The ambulance driver called out.

Minutes later Gage was unloaded from the ambulance and whisked into the ER.  "I'm sorry Ranger, you'll have to wait here."  A nurse informed Walker as he started back towards the trauma center with Gage.

********

Sydney was vaguely aware of being pulled to her feet after her last injection.  "Where are we going?"  She mumbled.

The guard quickly grew tired of trying to make Sydney walk and picked her up into his arms, carrying her to an SUV and dumping her into the back seat.  Before closing the door, Latimier's words echoed in the guard's ears.  " . . . make sure she's secured when you transport her.  I don't want to take any chances that she might escape."  He pulled Sydney's handcuffs from his pocket and brought her wrists up behind her back, locking them securely together with the cuffs.

Sydney bounced up and down in the backseat, barely aware that her surroundings had changed.  Soon, the vehicle stopped and she felt herself being lifted into a pair of strong arms.  Her head nuzzled into the man's chest and she felt him stiffen at her touch. "Gage."  She whispered.

As the wooden door opened, a King size bed was revealed.  The guard carried Sydney's limp form to the bed and gently lowered her.  Relieved that there was no fight left in her, the guard realized that the drug was already taking effect.  "Just a few more preparations."  He uncuffed her and grabbed her left wrist tightly in his hand.  Working quickly, the guard soon had the female Ranger spread eagle and tied securely to each of the bedposts.

Sydney was screaming for help on the inside, but the words weren't making it to her lips.  "Oh God, what's wrong with me?  Gage, why are you doing this?"  She shook her head and focused on the large figure standing beside the bed.  "Oh no, you're not Gage!"  Filled with fear, Sydney tried again to call out, screaming in her head, but her voice was barely audible. "Help!  Anybody, help!"  A single tear ran down her cheek.  "Gage, I need you.  Where are you?"

*******

 Walker was still sitting quietly in the waiting area when Trivette came rushing in. "What's going on Walker?  Is he OK?"

Seeing his partner, Walker stood.  "They haven't come out yet."

"Alex told me that you found him on the porch this morning."

Walker nodded.  "Yeah.  I don't know how long he had been there, but he was burning up with a fever and shivering from head to toe."

Trivette nodded as he and Walker both sat down. "What about tonight?  How do you want to handle it?"

"I really want to keep Gage out of it and the only way that can work is if Latimier thinks he's dead."

"So, should we talk to the hospital administrators now?"

"No, let's see how he is first."

*******

Gage opened his eyes and was puzzled by the scene before him.  Two doctors and several nurses were all looming over him.  He could feel the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and reached up to remove it.

"He's coming around!"  One of the nurses shouted as she blocked his hand from the oxygen mask.

Gage immediately found himself staring into a very bright light.  "Stop that!"  He yelled and pushed the doctor's arm away.

"Ranger Gage, you need to calm down.  We need to finish examining you and if you won't be still, I'll have you put in restraints."  The doctor said firmly.

Gage considered the options for a moment and let the doctor continue.


"Now, I'm Dr. Martin."  The doctor continued to check Gage's eyes. "Do you remember your name?"

"What in the hell is going on here?"  Gage asked; his voice muffled by the oxygen mask.

"Just answer the question.  Do you know your name?"  Dr. Martin put the penlight back into his pocket.

"Gage."  Gage replied.

"Your whole name."  The doctor asked again, as he removed the oxygen mask from Gage's face.

Gage sighed.  "Francis Gage.  I'm a Texas Ranger."

"What year is it?"  Dr. Martin asked.

"Look doc, I have better things to do than to lay here and play twenty questions with you.  So, are you releasing me, or what?"

"You can drop the attitude Ranger.  You have a severe concussion. That's the cause of  your blackouts and in addition to that, you have two cracked ribs, both bones in your left forearm are broken and the laceration across your cheek is still bleeding.  Obviously, you've been beaten very badly by someone.  My only question is why you didn't seek treatment sooner.  You were apparently with people you trusted, so there must be another reason."

Gage could feel the nausea welling up inside him again and knew that he was just about to pass out.  "Doc, I . . ."  His head dropped back and his eyes closed.

"He's out again.  I want a full MRI.  We need to be sure that he's not bleeding inside that stubborn head of his."  Dr. Martin stepped out from behind the curtain and headed towards the ER waiting area with determination.

"Who's here for Francis Gage?"  He asked with his jaw set.

"We are."  Walker replied as he and Trivette stood.  Walker reached to shake the doctor's hand, taking note that the doctor had no intention of returning the gesture.

"How bad is he?"  Trivette asked.

Dr. Martin shook his head.  "He has a severe concussion.  He was conscious briefly, but passed out again just before I came out here."  The doctor shook his head.  "Why wasn't he brought in for treatment sooner?"

Walker sighed as he turned to the doctor. "Can we talk privately?"

Dr. Martin nodded and showed them to a deserted corner of the hallway. 

"Doctor, first of all, I'm not looking for your approval here.  Frankly, I don't care what you think about the way I handle my Rangers or the way we handle our cases, but I do care about Gage and I expect you to do your job."

"And second?"  Dr. Martin asked sarcastically.

"We need your help." 

"What exactly do you need?"  The doctor asked.

"I need you to sign Gage's death certificate and then we need to make sure we hide him away here at the hospital until our case had been closed."

"I can't do that.  It's unethical."  Dr. Martin replied angrily.

"Let me lay it on the line for you.  I don't want to give up any of my Rangers and if Gage doesn't show up with us tonight I'll be signing the death warrant for his partner."  Walker seethed as he stood face to face with the doctor.  "But, if I understand you correctly, if I do take him, there's a pretty good chance that he won't make it back alive because of the injuries he's already sustained."

Dr. Martin shook his head.  "I can't!"

"You can.  It's the only way to get Ranger Cooke out alive.  The people holding her have to believe that Gage died from the beating they gave him.  I don't have another solution."  Walker said, turning away from the doctor.

The doctor stood silently for a moment and then suddenly turned to Trivette.  "I'll do what I can."  He whispered.


"That's all we can ask."  Trivette replied.  "Can we see Gage?"

Dr. Martin shook his head.  "Not yet.  Let me see if they've got him in a room yet.  We're trying to schedule the MRI for later today, but they may not be able to get to him until morning."

"We'll be here until he's in a room."  Walker replied.

"I'll keep you updated."  Dr. Martin said.

"Thanks."  Walker and Trivette replied in unison.

After the doctor left the hallway, Trivette turned to Walker.  "How are we going to convince Latimier that Gage is dead without making Sydney believe it too?"

"We can't."  Walker replied and started down the hallway while Trivette stared after him, thankful that this wasn't a decision he had to make.

*******

Latimier smiled evilly as he entered his quarters and closed the door behind him.  Sydney still lay spread eagle on the bed, virtually helpless.  "Well, well.  You don't look so tough now, do you lady Ranger?"

Her head lulled from side to side. "Gage?"  She whispered.

Latimier laid down beside her on the bed and gently caressed her cheek.  "I could make you mine so easily right now, but what good would that be when you think I'm someone else."  He gently kissed her lips and then stood.  "So, my lovely Sydney, we will wait until your mind is a little clearer.  Of course you still won't be in charge of your body, but your mind will know who I am and you will remember everything my love.  Every little detail of what I have in mind for you."  He began to laugh as he turned and left the room, leaving Sydney sobbing.

*******

"Ranger James Trivette, you have a telephone call at the Nurse's station.  Ranger James Trivette."  The speaker in the waiting room squawked.

Trivette looked at Walker and the two men started for the nurses' station.

"I'm James Trivette.  You have a call for me."  The nurse pointed him towards a courtesy phone.

"Hello."

"Ranger Trivette?"  A male voice asked.

"I'm Dr. Brentwood.  We were told that we might locate you in the ER waiting area.  Your wife was involved in a car accident."

"What?  When?  Where?"  Trivette began to question.

Walker cocked his head to the side, listening to his partner's questions.

"She's here at Methodist.  There's a Ranger Watts with her too.  He said he urgently needs to speak with you and Ranger Walker."

"How's my wife?  What is the extent of her injuries?"

"She should be fine.  She's a little shook up, to say the least, so we plan to keep her overnight for observation."

"I'll be right over."  Trivette said, handing the phone to Walker without an explanation.

"This is Ranger Walker, who is this?"

"Ranger Walker, this is Dr. Brentwood.  I'm an ER physician at Methodist Hospital.  As I was explaining to Ranger Trivette, Erica Trivette was brought in about half an hour ago.  She had been involved in a pretty bizarre car accident.  There's a Ranger Watts her with her, would you like to speak with him?"

"Yes, I would, but first is Erica alright?"

"She should be fine.  She has a few cuts and bruises, but considering the Ranger's report of the accident, I'm amazed that she's alive."

"Thank you doctor.  You can tell her that Jimmy just left here so he should be there in twenty minutes or so."

"I'll let her know and here's Ranger Watts."

"Thank you."

Walker waited for a moment and then heard the familiar voice of another Company B Ranger.

"Walker, it's Byron.  You're not going to believe this one."

*********

Latimier paused in the dirt drive as he heard a vehicle approaching.  A smile curled across his lips as he saw the damage to the front bumper and right fender of the pick up truck.  Two husky men jumped out, whooping and hollering.  "Wahoo!  You should have seen it boss!"

"Tell me about boys.  I want every detail."  Latimier walked towards the front porch of the cottage that he called home and took a seat.  The "boys" joined him, sitting on the front steps.

"Oh man!  That Ranger's wife is one beautiful woman.  Shame to have to mess her up like that."

"Is she dead?"  Latimier asked.

"I don't think so, but man, she was scared to death.  You could hear her screaming above the engine on that clunker.  We rammed her bumper so hard, she'll have whip-lash for a year or more . . ."

"If it didn't break her neck."  The other man finished with a chuckle.

"You boys have done well.  Is she in the hospital?"

The two young men nodded.  "One problem though.  They took her to Methodist instead of St. Matthews."

Latimier's eyebrows furrowed.  "What?"

"We had no control over it.  I heard one of the guys ask where they were taking her and he said Methodist because St. Matthews was full up."

"This simply won't do.  We know that Ranger Gage is at St. Matthews.  Mrs. Trivette needs to be there too."

"How do we do that?"

"With one simple phone call."  Latimier pulled out his cell phone.

*******

Dr. Martin had just finished seeing a patient and turned down the hallway when his beeper sounded.  He looked at the number and genuine fear gripped him. "What else could he possibly want from me?"

Nearing the doctor's lounge, he decided that this call may be best placed from his cell phone, outside, where no one could hear.

"What took you so long?"  Latimier asked as Dr. Martin's voice sounded on the other end of the line.

"I was with a patient.  You can't keep doing this." 

"Oh, but I can David and you have your father to thank for that.  He should have thought twice before turning me in and now that he's dead, what is that saying;  'The sins of the father . . . ' ?  Do I need to remind you where the money came from to finance your fine education?"

"No."  Dr. Martin replied quietly.  "What do you want?"

"Ranger Trivette's wife, Erica, was the victim of an auto accident earlier today.  She's at Methodist.  I want her transferred to St. Matthews."

"How am I supposed to make that happen?"

"Find a way David and find it by tonight.  How is Ranger Gage doing?"

"He's still unconscious."

********

After Ranger Watts explained Erica's accident to Walker, he immediately called Alex at her office.

"Alex, I'm arranging for a Ranger escort for you for the next few days."

"Walker, I'm fine."

"I'm not taking any chances.  Latimier has threatened all of the Rangers of Company B.  Gage is in the hospital, Sydney is missing and now he's gotten to Trivette through Erica.  I'm going to call Louis Fellows, you remember him don't you?"

"Yes, of course, but Walker . . ."

"Alex, please, no arguments.  I need to know that you and Angela are safe while Trivette and I go after this bastard."

Alex sighed.  "If it will make you feel better, I won't go anywhere without a Ranger by my side, but Walker, this goes both ways.  You had better be careful tonight."

"I will."

"Any word on Gage?"  Alex asked.

"He's still unconscious, but they have moved him to a room."

"Have you seen him yet?"

"No.  We were getting ready to when they called from Methodist about Erica."

"How is she?"  Alex asked, concern for her friend welling in her voice.

Walker sighed. "I really don't know.  Trivette left right after they called while I was talking to Watts."

"Walker, I have to go.  I'm due in court in thirty minutes, and yes, I'll wait for Ranger Fellows to escort me down."

"Thanks Alex.  I'll talk to you later, oh, kiss Angela for me."

"I will and Walker, please be careful."

"I promise."

"I love you."  Alex whispered into the phone.

"I love you too."

Walker briefly hung up the phone, just to pick it up again and dial Ranger Headquarters.  "Jenny, its Walker.  Is Louis in?"


"Just a minute Ranger Walker."  Jenny replied and then paged Ranger Fellows.

"Fellows."  A jolly voice answered.

"Louis, its Walker.  I need a favor."  After explaining the situation to Ranger Fellows, who eagerly agreed to keep an eye on Alex, Walker made his way to Gage’s room.  He stopped just outside the door as he heard Dr. Martin’s voice.

“We’re not going to able to wait for the MRI, the tests show that the pressure in his head is increasing.  If this keeps up, we’ll have to go in and relieve it.”

“Do you want me to reserve an OR?”  The nurse asked.   Dr. Martin nodded.

The nurse stepped out, leaving Dr. Martin alone with his still unconscious patient.  Walker quietly stepped in, knocking on the door as he opened it. “Doctor, how is he?”

“Not good Ranger Walker.  He’s still unconscious and that bothers my, especially in view of the test results I just got back.”

“I overheard you telling the nurse that the pressure is increasing.”

“Yes, and if it doesn’t stop soon, we’ll have to drill a hole at the back of his head to relieve it.”

“How soon?”  Walker asked.

Dr. Martin adjusted the flow of Gage’s IV. “I’m going to check on him again in about thirty minutes.  If I don’t see any changes then, we’ll take him to the OR.”  The doctor brushed by Walker and started for the door.

“Doctor, have you given any more thought to what we discussed earlier?”  Walker asked.

“Ranger Walker, I may not have to fake his death.  You don’t seem to understand just how sick Ranger Gage really is.  His condition is life-threatening.” 

Walker’s eyes held the doctor’s for a minute just before Dr. Martin slipped through the door.  Walker pulled a chair next to Gage’s bedside and took the young Ranger’s hand in his.  “It’s gonna be OK Gage.  Don’t worry about Sydney.  Trivette and I will get her out, somehow and you’re in good hands here with Doctor Martin.” 

Gage’s eyes fluttered slightly at the mention of Sydney’s name, but never opened.  Walker continued to sit with him until Dr. Martin returned.

“Ranger Walker, you’ll have to step out and let me re-examine him.”  The doctor urged.

Walker nodded, but paused at the door, watching the doctor check Gage’s eyes.  The doctor shook his head.  “Donna, did you reserve that OR?”

“Yes sir.  It should be ready now.”

“Good, we need to move fast.”

“What is it?”  Walker asked as the doctor started out the door.


“The pressure appears to have increased.  We need to get him into surgery and relieve it.”

Walker watched as Gage was prepped for surgery and lingered until two orderlies appeared to take him to the operating room.

“Ranger Walker, please report to the nurse’s station, Ranger Walker.”  A voice sounded over the PA system.

Walker made his way to the nearest nurse’s station and picked up the phone.  “Walker.”

“Walker, it’s me.”  Trivette’s voice sounded on the other end.  “How’s Gage?”

“Not good.  They’re taking him to surgery as we speak.”

“Surgery?  What’s going on?”

“Pressure is building up inside his head.  They’re going to drill a hole at the back of his skull to relieve it.”

“Oh no.”  Trivette sighed.

“What about Erica?  Is she OK?”

Trivette nodded.  “Yeah, they’re releasing her now.  Walker, do you think she could stay with Alex while we finish this case?”

“I was just going to suggest the same thing.  I have Fellows with Alex 24/7 right now.  I need to set up an alternate with him and I’ll assign someone to Erica too.”

“Thanks Walker.  Listen, I’m going to take Erica by the house to pick up some clothes and we’ll meet you at headquarters in about an hour.  Sound OK?”

“Gage should be out of surgery in about an hour, so let’s make our meet in about an hour and a half.  I want to make sure he comes out of this OK.”

“Good enough.  Walker, keep me posted on how he’s doing.”

“I will.”  Walker replied.

Walker called Ranger headquarters and arranged for a guard alternate for Fellows and assigned Ranger David Klegg to watch Erica along with an alternate.  He knew how much the two women were going to hate having Rangers with them at all times, but this was the only way he and Trivette would have peace of mind while trying to find Sydney.

*********

Sydney squirmed as the guard entered her room with a syringe.  “Hi Ranger Cooke.”  The guard spoke in a soothing tone.  “Listen carefully I can only say this once.  My name is Daniel Thomas.  I want out of this mess, but if I try to leave, Latimier will kill me.  I want you to know that I’ve been helping you all this time.”

“How?”  Sydney asked.

“Sydney, if you had been given the amount of drugs Latimier requested you would be dead by now.  Not only that, I had to convince him that he didn’t want to give you a sedative and Heroine; that’s why you’re on Ecstasy.  He has no idea what mixes together and what doesn’t.  Not only that, he has no clue as to how much a body can take without overdosing. Sydney Latimier trusts me to prepare your doses of both drugs.  So far, I’ve managed to cut them down so much that you get only a slight effect from both, but I don’t’ know how much longer I can keep this up.”

“Why are you helping me?”  Sydney asked, her mind becoming more focused.

“I told you, I want out of this mess.  I never wanted to hurt you or your partner but Latimier holds something on each of us that keeps us here doing his bidding.”

“Daniel, help me get out of here.  I need to get to my partner.”

Daniel shook his head.  “I can’t do that.  I have to give you another shot now, but I’ve only put half of the drug in the syringe, the other half is saline.  That’s what I came to tell you.  Latimier plans to have his way with you tonight and he thinks that you will be too drugged to fight him off.”

“Daniel, you have to untie me.  I won’t be able to fight him off like this.”  She tugged at the ropes that bound her wrists and ankles to the bedposts.

Daniel shook his head.  “I can’t.  He’ll kill me.”

“At least loosen them.  I’ll work my hands out.”  She watched Daniel hesitate.  “Daniel, please!  You said you wanted to help me and that you didn’t want to be a part of Latimier’s mess.  Right now you’re up to your eyeballs in this, but if you help me, I’m sure the DA’s office will go easier on you.”

Daniel rubbed Sydney’s arm with alcohol and plunged the syringe into her arm.  “Sweet dreams Sydney Cooke.”  He said quietly, watching her eyes close.  He started out of the room and turned back, looking at Sydney lying so helpless on the bed.  Guilt began to overwhelm him.  Sighing he returned to the bedside and loosened the ropes on both of her wrists.

********

“Page him, damn it!”  Latimier’s voice boomed into the phone.

“I’m sorry sir, but he’s in surgery.  If you’ll leave your name and number, I’ll give him a message to call you as soon as he’s available.”

“No, that won’t do!”  Latimier screamed into the phone, slamming it back into its cradle.

He dialed David’s pager number again and left his phone number.  Hanging up, he swore under his breath.  “You had better have good news for me David Martin.  You had better have good news.”

********

David Martin wiped his brow as he came out of the operating room.  He pulled the pager from his waist and looked at the number crawl across the screen.  Leaning back against the wall, he looked upward wondering when he would ever be out of Latimier’s clutches.

Walker noticed the young doctor leaning against the wall and quickly approached him.  “Dr. Martin, how is he?”

“We’ve inserted a shunt at the back of his head.  That should keep the pressure from building again, but for now, we wait.”

“Wait?”  Walker asked.

“Wait and see if he wakes up and if he does, we’ll need to watch for signs of brain damage.” 

Walker stared at the wall, unmoving.  “I’m sorry Ranger Walker.  I have a phone call to make.”

Dr. Martin entered his office and closed the door.  He reluctantly dialed Latimier’s number. 

“What took you so long David?”  Latimier asked.

“I was in surgery with your Ranger.”

A smile came to Latimier’s face. “Really?  How is the dear boy?”

“Not good.  Latimier, he might not make it.  A lot of pressure had built up inside his head from the concussion your men gave him and . . .”

“Blah, blah, blah.  David, speed up his death.  I want Ranger Cooke complete and right now, her heart belongs to Ranger Gage.  I want him out of the picture entirely.”  He paused.  “And what of Ranger Trivette’s wife.  Is she there yet?”

“No.  The doctor at Methodist was releasing her this morning.  I also heard that Ranger Walker has assigned a round the clock Ranger escort for her as well as his own wife.”

Latimier nodded.  “David, take care of Ranger Gage.  I’ll take care of everything else.  I don’t care how you do it, but do it fast and call me back.  And don’t even try to fake it.  I have eyes and ears all over that hospital.  I will know if he’s dead or not.”

“I can’t!  I can’t take his life.  It’s unethical, it’s . . .”

“David, don’t forget, I know where your mother and sister live.  I will make good on my threat if you don’t come through for me, understand?”

Tears were welling up in the young doctor’s eyes. “Yes, I understand.  I’ll call you back shortly.”

*********

As soon as Alex was out of court, Ranger Fellows met her at the door.  “Looks like you’re going to have some company for a while.”

Alex looked him questioningly and then saw Erica sitting on the bench just down the hall.  “Erica!  When did they release you from the hospital?  Are you OK?”

The two women embraced.  “I’m fine.  Just a few bumps and cuts, but I’ll heal.  Jimmy just dropped me off a few minutes ago.  It seems that Gage has taken a turn for the worse.”

“Oh no.”  Alex exclaimed.

“He’s had surgery to relieve some of the pressure in his head, but that’s all Jimmy knew.”

“Maybe we should go check on him.”

“Sorry ma’am.”  Ranger Fellows interjected.  “I have my orders to take you two ladies back to Ranger Walker’s house and you’re not to leave until he tells us otherwise.”

“What?”  Alex asked, her eyebrows going up.

“Ranger Walker’s instructions were very specific Mrs. Walker.  He’s very concerned for your safety and yours too Mrs. Trivette.”

Erica and Alex didn’t argue further with the Ranger, but let him take them to Alex and Walker’s ranch.

*******

Latimier pounded his fist on the table.  “The whole plan is falling apart!  The only thing I have is Ranger Cooke for myself and the death of Ranger Gage.”

“Don’t forget sir, Rangers Walker and Trivette are due here at midnight to rescue Ranger Cooke.”  One of the guards reminded.

“I know that, but the whole plan is ruined now.”

“Sir, can we rethink the plan?”

Latimier looked at him for a moment.  “What do you have in mind Daniel?”

“Well, I was thinking that instead of luring the Rangers to the dining hall as we had planned, why not lure them to the pits up in the hills?  The ground is unstable there and once they fall in, they won’t be getting back out.  Plus no one will know where to find them.”

Latimier nodded.  “I like this idea of yours Daniel.  I’ll have to put off my little rendezvous with Ranger Cooke for a while, but knowing that she’s secured to the bed and drugged half out of her mind eases my mind a little.  Let’s get this plan into motion.  Call the guards together and you and I will set out a strategy to lure the Rangers to the pits.”

“Daniel, how are you aware of the pits anyway?”  Latimier asked.

“I used to come to this campground every year as a kid until they closed it down when the pits were discovered.  Seems that this area used to be a mining operation and the pits were left opened.  They’re well above the camp, but still, it was too much of risk that the kids might discover them.”

Latimier nodded.  “Call the guards together.”

********

Dr. Martin’s steps were heavy as he started towards Gage’s room.  He had studied Gage’s chart and found that it noted a severe reaction to Morphine.  Tearing the sheet from the record, the doctor had prepared a full syringe of the drug and was now on his way to administer it.

As he stood over his patient, he looked back at the security camera.  Turning back to Gage, he shook his head.  “I can’t do this.  I can’t kill a patient.”  He jumped as his beeper went off.  Latimier’s number appeared on the screen.

David picked up the phone in Gage’s room and dialed the too familiar number.

“Do it David.  You’re too close to back out now. Remember, the fate of your mother and sister rests with this act.”

“How are you seeing me?”  David asked, looking up at the security camera.

“I told you, I have eyes and ears all over the hospital.  Now, do what needs to be done.”  He hung up.

David pulled the syringe from his pocket and introduced the drug to Gage’s IV just as he heard the door open.  “How is he doc?”  Trivette asked.


Dr. Martin shook his head.  “No change.  I’ve just given him something for pain though.  He’ll need it when he wakes up.”

Walker met the doctor in the hall.  “Any change?”

David shook his head.  “No.”

Walker could tell that the doctor was on the verge of breaking down.  “Doctor, what’s wrong?  Is it Gage?”

Dr. Martin nodded as he sank to the floor, crying. “Doctor, what’s going on?”

“I’ve done something terrible.”  He said as alarms from the monitors suddenly sounded from Gage’s room.

Trivette hit the call button.  “He’s coding!”  He shouted.  Before the nurse could respond, a team of medical personnel were in the room with a crash cart. 

“You’ll have to leave Ranger!”  A nurse shoved him out the door.

Trivette saw Walker crouched down with the young doctor.  “I gave him Morphine.”

Trivette shook his head.  “How much?”

“Just a little bit would have caused him to crash.  It’s in his chart.”  He pulled the crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Walker.

“Why?  Why would you take him into surgery to save his life, just to try to kill him later?”  Walker asked.


”Travis Latimier.  He said he would kill my mother and my sister if I didn’t cooperate.  Ranger Walker, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know what to do.  I . . .”

“Get yourself together and get in there and save his life!”  Walker hauled the doctor to his feet by his coat collar.

Dr. Martin nodded.  “I’ll do what I can, but Walker, shut off the security cameras.  I think Latimier is keeping tabs on me through them.  He’ll know if Ranger Gage pulls through.”

********

Latimier stared with interest at his computer screen.  He knew he had lucked out when he recruited Dobbs.  He could hack into almost any system and getting into the computer at St. Matthews had been a cake walk.

He watched as Dr. Martin called for the paddles and hit Gage with a volt of electricity, making his body lift from the table.  Latimier smiled as the line on the monitor stayed steady.  “Good boy David.  One less Ranger to worry about.”

As he continued to watch, the screen went blank. “Dobbs!  Dobbs, what happened?”

“We lost the connection.  I’ll get it back up.”

********

Trivette had killed the power to the security cameras while Dr. Martin frantically continued to work with Gage until the monitor showed a rhythm.  “We’ve got him back.  Get him on a ventilator and into ICU.”

Gage was quickly moved out of the room and as soon as the door closed, Dr. Martin arranged pillows on the bed in the position of a person.  He then pulled a sheet over the pillows and nodded towards Trivette who restored the power to the cameras.

Latimier stared at the screen as the image of Gage’s room returned.  He smiled with content as he saw the monitor showing a flat line and the sheet pulled over the body on the bed. 

Walker and Trivette stood at the bedside and lowered their heads as if mourning their young partner while Dr. Martin signed a chart with the time of death and then escorted the two Rangers from the room.

********

“Daniel, set up the TV and  VCR in my room.  I want Ranger Cooke to see this.”  Latimier ordered.


”Right away sir.”  Daniel quickly gathered the equipment and set it up in Latimier’s bedroom.

“What’s going on?”  Sydney asked as Daniel entered the room.

Daniel turned to her.  “You need to be quiet.  He’s on his way in here and has something he wants you to see, but he didn’t say what.”

Sydney didn’t speak again, but watched Daniel hook up the equipment and stiffened as she heard Latimier’s footsteps coming towards the room.

The door opened and Latimier’s looming figure entered.  “Finished?”  He asked Daniel.

“All set.”  Daniel replied as he left the room.

Latimier popped in a tape of the events that he had viewed on his computer screen earlier and after picking up the remote, joined Sydney on the bed.  “Are you comfortable?  Can you see the screen from your position?”  She didn’t move.  “I asked you a question and you had better answer.”

“I can see it fine.  What are going to watch anyway?”

“It’s a new favorite movie of mine.  I call it ‘Death of a Ranger’.”  Latimier laughed as he hit the ‘play’ button and the VCR hummed to life.

Sydney watched as Gage’s image appeared on the screen, lying in the hospital bed and she cried out in horror as she saw him begin to struggle to breath and the monitors began to alarm.  “What have you done to him?”  She screamed.

Latimier pulled his arm behind his head in a relaxed position.  “Just watch, my love.”

Sydney had to remind herself that this was real.  She was watching Gage laying in a hospital bed, possibly dying.  The screen went blank for a minute.  “Just a slight technical difficulty.”  Latimier explained and watched for Sydney’s reaction to the next image.

When the picture appeared again, a figure was lying on the bed with a sheet pulled over their head and Sydney was gripped with fear and grief as she saw Walker and Trivette lower their heads and heard the doctor call the time of death.  “No!  No, that’s not him!  He’s not dead!  I would know if he was dead!  That’s not him!”  Sydney screamed hysterically.

Latimier began to laugh.  He let the tape continue to play.  “I thought you might enjoy seeing it over and over again, so I had Dobbs loop it.  It will play over and over again and then rewind and play again until you admit that Ranger Gage is dead and can no longer interfere with what’s between us.”

“There is NOTHING between us!”  Sydney screamed out, fighting against her bonds. “NOTHING!”

Latimier quietly left the room, leaving the sound up on the TV so Sydney was exposed to the same horrific scene over and over again.

*******

Meanwhile, back at St. Matthews, Walker and Trivette hurried to the ICU to check on their friend.  They waited just outside the door until a petite doctor appeared. “Doctor, how is he?”

“The young Ranger?”  She asked.  Walker nodded his head.  “He’s stable.  He was very lucky.  We almost didn’t get him back.”

“But he’s going to be OK?”  Trivette asked.

“He needs lots of rest right now and we’re going to monitor him very closely for the next few days, but at this time I’m cautiously optimistic.”

“Thank you doctor.  By the way, will you be handling Gage’s case now?”  Walker asked.

“Yes.  Sorry, I’m Dr. Elizabeth Shayler.”  She extended her hand.

“I’m Ranger Cordell Walker and this is Ranger James Trivette.”

The doctor smiled.  “Pleased to meet you both.  I suppose you’ll want a list of everyone allowed in this room, right?”

Walker nodded.  “Yes ma’am.”

“Not a problem.  I’ll have it to you in about an hour.”

“Thank you.  Just give it to the guard outside his door.”

The doctor stared at the two Rangers for a moment. “Would you like to see him?”

Walker nodded and the doctor led he and Trivette into the room.  “He’s sedated right now to keep him still and give his body time to heal from the flat line, but he has been conscious for a brief moment right after he was brought in here.”

“Really?”  Trivette asked, hopefully.  “Did he seem OK?”

“I said that I was cautiously optimistic about his condition.  We’ll just have to continue to monitor his progress.  We had better let him rest.”  Dr. Shayler said as she escorted the two Rangers out.  “I take it that you won’t be sticking around.”

“No ma’am.  We’re going after the man responsible for all of this.”  Trivette replied.


”I thought Dr. Martin admitted to trying to kill Ranger Gage.”

“Yes ma’am and he is in custody.”  Walker said, leaving it at that.

“We’ll take good care of him.  I promise.”  Dr. Shayler said in a comforting tone.  “Does he have any family?”

“A sister, but we haven’t been able to locate her.”  Walker replied.  The doctor nodded and watched the Rangers leave.

*********

Latimier and Daniel had hiked up to the pits and were beginning to plot their trap for Walker and Trivette.  “They should be here soon.”  Latimier said, looking at his watch.  “It’s nearly midnight.”

“Good.  Looks like everything is set.”  Daniel said after covering the last pit.  “We’ll have them follow us up here and while we know where the pits are, they won’t.”

Latimier looked at his young accomplice.  “You had better be right Daniel, or you will pay the price.”  Daniel’s face looked grim for a minute.  Latimier didn’t miss the look.  “No worries.  Right, young Daniel?”

“Right.”  Daniel replied as the two men returned to the campground.

Latimier threw his coat over the nearest chair. “I’m going to check on the girl.  You keep an eye out for them.”

********

Sydney had to force the sounds and images of Gage out of her head.  She knew she had to work on getting her hands free before Latimier returned to stake his claim on her.    She had almost wiggled her right hand loose when she heard footsteps outside the door.

Latimier opened the heavy door and stared at his captive before entering.  He could see her tear-stained face even in the dimly lit room.  “Ah, my poor little Sydney.  Has it sunk in yet?  Your boyfriend and partner, Ranger Francis Gage, is dead and you’ll never see him again.”

She turned her face towards Latimier. “Would you at least allow me to pay my last respects?”  She asked in a humble voice.

Latimier shook his head.  “No.  I’m sorry dear girl, but that won’t be possible.  You see, once Rangers Walker and Trivette are taken care of tonight, you and I will be leaving for the French Riviera where we will begin a new life as husband and wife.”

Sydney cringed as Latimier leaned close and kissed her lips.  He laughed as he stared at her before leaving the room again.

Sydney fought back the tears.  The last lips that had touched hers had been Gage’s and now that touch was lost forever.  She struggled with her wrist bonds until she managed to wiggle her right hand free.  Reaching over, she quickly untied her left hand and then reached for her ankles. 

Pressing her head against the door, hoping that she had enough strength to make it down the stairs.  She paused for a moment and listened for footsteps.  When she was certain that the coast was clear, she quietly opened the door and found herself face to face with Daniel.  "What do you think you're doing?"  He whispered harshly.

"Escaping.  Are you going to help me or not?"  She asked with determination as she practically fell into the young man's arms.

"You'll need these."  He handed her the clothes she had been wearing when she and Gage had been kidnapped along with her service weapon.  "Go on, get dressed.  He'll be back any minute."

Sydney cautiously took her clothes from Daniel and slipped them on, tucking her gun inside her waistband.  When she opened the door again, Daniel was gone.  She started towards the staircase and had to grab the railing to steady herself as a wave of dizziness overtook her. "Come on Cooke.  You can do this.  One foot in front of the other."  Taking her time and listening for any noises in the old building, she finally made it to the bottom step and realized that she had no idea where she was or which way was out.

*********

Walker checked his watch as he pulled into the empty parking lot.  "Are you sure the address is right?"  He asked Trivette.

"Yeah.  212 Parker's Corners."  He looked at the street sign.  "This is right.  But where is he?  It's almost midnight."

"He'll be here."  Walker replied as headlights approached from behind. "We've got company."

The truck pulled up along side of Walker's RAM and the driver rolled down the window, waving a gun in Walker's face. "Get in the back and I'll take you to your missing Ranger."

"And if we refuse?"  Walker asked.

"You'll have one less Ranger to worry about."

Walker and Trivette got out of the RAM and climbed into the back of the pick-up truck.  When it began to bump along the gravel entrance to the campground, Trivette turned to Walker who was leaning against the cab of the truck. "What now?"

"We wait and hopefully find Sydney, unharmed."  Walker replied, his eyes staring straight ahead.

The truck came to an abrupt stop.  The driver and passenger got out, each training a gun on Trivette and Walker.  "You'll find Latimier at the top of that ridge."  Walker studied the height of the ridge, while listening to their captors.  "You have twenty minutes to find him or the girl dies." 

"Do we at least get a flashlight?"  Trivette asked.

The man who had been driving the truck looked at the two Rangers.  "I'd get going if I were you."

Walker and Trivette set out towards the ridge with nothing to light their way.

"I'll bet you $10 bucks they last no longer than five minutes."  One of the men said.

The other man smiled.  "I'll take that bet.  They're Texas Rangers and I think they'll last the full twenty."

"But do you think they'll find Latimier before they fall into one of the pits?"

"No."  Both men began to laugh.  "By the way Ed, where's Daniel?"

"With the boss, I think."  Ed replied.

"Good.  Let's go have a little fun with the lady Ranger."

Ed waved his hands in front of him. "I don't know Mike.  The boss has pretty much staked his claims on her and I don't want him gunning after me."

"I didn't mean that way, you idiot.  I just meant have a little fun with her.  You know, tease her about her dead boyfriend and all."

"Oh."  Ed nodded. "You mean torment her?"

Mike nodded, smiling.  "Yeah, torment her." 

"Well now, that's different."  Both men started towards the house.

Daniel had been watching the front of the building ever since Ed and Mike had come back with Walker and Trivette. "What are they up to now?"  He asked aloud.  Just then he heard a noise on the staircase.  Turning, he found Sydney standing on the bottom step, holding the handrail.  "You had better hide.  Ed and Mike are headed this way.  I'll try to turn them around, but in the meantime, just get out of here."  He tossed her a set of keys. "My car's out back."  Sydney looked to her left and then to her right.  "That way."  Daniel pointed.  "Take the car and go as far as you can get."

Sydney reached out one hand and caught the keys. "Walker and Trivette are here, aren't they?"  She stared at Daniel.

He nodded.  "Mike and Ed brought them in a few minutes ago and gave them twenty minutes to climb the ridge, in the dark.  What they don't know is that the whole ridge is full of mining pits.  If they fall into one, they're not too likely to be coming out."

Sydney's eyes grew large.  "I have to warn them."

Daniel looked out the window again.  "You have to get out of here.  Go on, now!"

Sydney scurried around the corner and out the back door just as Mike and Ed came in the front.  "Daniel, my boy!"  Ed greeted.  "Where's that fine female Ranger hiding?"

"She's in Latimier's bedroom and he locked the door when he left, so I guess he plans to keep her to himself.  I thought he would share her, at least for one night."  Daniel replied.

"Shoot!  We were hoping to have a little fun with her.  You know rag her about her boyfriend's death."  Mike said.

Daniel knew he was taking a big gamble with his next sentence, but it would throw off any suspicion that Sydney had escaped. "Well, you could always shoot the lock off I guess, but then you'll have to explain it all to Latimier when he comes back."

Mike and Ed looked at each other for a moment. "No.  Don’t' think I want to cross the boss.  He's not what I would call an even tempered man."  Ed said.

"Why don't we all go grab a beer?"  Mike suggested, looking at Daniel.

"Thanks anyway guys, but I have to finish this paperwork for Latimier."  He picked up a file.

"Maybe next time."   Ed said as he and Mike left the building.

Daniel waited until the two men were in their truck and pulling out of the campground before he walked to the back door.  He knew he hadn't heard his car crank up and wondered what had happened to Sydney.

Cracking the door, he whispered loudly. "Ranger Cooke?"

Sydney stepped out from behind the bushes, her gun aimed at Daniel. "Are they gone?"  She asked. 

Daniel nodded.  "Why are you still here?  If Latimier catches you, there's no telling what will happen."

"I'll take my chances.  With Gage dead, I have nothing to lose."  She spoke in a very unemotional voice, leading Daniel to believe that she was still in shock over Gage's death.

"Sydney, please.  If you won't leave on your own, then let me take you out of here."  Daniel reached for her hand.  She jerked it away.

"No.  I'm not going anywhere until Travis Latimier is dead."  She said coldly.  "He will pay for what he's done to Gage."

********

Walker and Trivette were only a quarter of the way up the ridge when they began to encounter loose dirt.  Walker stopped and bent down, lifting a handful of soil to his face.  "Trivette, we'll need to take it slower through here.  The terrain is rougher and the dirt is looser."

"Any reason?"  Trivette asked.

Walker shrugged his shoulders as he let the dirt drop back to the ground.  "Could be a number of things.  Right now, mining comes to mind."

"What kind of mining would be up here?"

"Possibly copper, I don't really know, but if it is, then there's a good chance that the pits have been left uncovered."

"Uncovered?  How deep are we talking about Walker?"  Trivette asked.

Walker stopped just at the edge of one of the pits. "Let's just say that we don't really want to find out how deep they are."  He moved the branches from the top of the pit and threw a rock down.  They waited several seconds before they finally heard it hit bottom.

"You're right.  I don't want to know how deep it is."   Trivette replied.

Latimier stood at the top of the ridge, wearing night vision goggles so he could monitor the Ranger's progress.  "That's it Rangers.  A little more to the left."

Trivette was walking just a step behind Walker, trying to take the exact same path he was taking when suddenly he felt the ground begin to give way beneath him.  "Walker!"  He called out.

Walker was on his belly in an instant, his hand outstretched to grab Trivette's wrists as he began to fall into the edge of a pit. "Hang on Trivette."

"Geeze Walker, don't let me fall."  Trivette pleaded as Walker grabbed both of his partner's wrists.

A smile began to spread across Latimier's face as he watched Walker desperately try to pull Trivette to safety. "Ranger Walker."  He called out.  "Let your partner drop, or I'll shoot the girl!"

Trivette looked up into Walker's eyes. "Walker?"  He questioned.  "Sydney's been through enough."

"We don't know that he even has Sydney with him."  Walker reasoned.

"But we don't know that he doesn't."  Trivette argued.

"Yes you do."  Sydney whispered as she took a position behind a nearby tree.

"Stay out of sight Sydney.  Latimier is watching us."  He continued to hold onto Trivette's wrists. 

Daniel stood behind another tree, watching the Rangers.  "Sydney, this is the number three.  It's not that deep.  The drop won't hurt him, but Latimier doesn't know that."

Sydney looked at Daniel and they both heard Walker's voice.  "Sydney, who's your friend?"

"Daniel.  He works for Latimier, but he helped me escape."

"Can we trust him?"  Walker asked.  Sydney looked into Daniel's eyes.  They were pleading with her to believe in him.

"I think so."  She replied, looking at Daniel. 

"Trivette?"  Walker asked.

"Do it."  Trivette said, letting go of Walker. 

"Ranger Walker, you have ten seconds to make your choice, but either Ranger Trivette or Ranger Cooke dies right her, right now."

"Trivette, we don't have to do this.  We know that Sydney isn't with him."  Walker hesitated. 

Latimier took careful aim and fired a single shot from his rifle.  The bullet whizzed by Walker's head, causing him to release Trivette's wrists.  Trivette's voice could be heard screaming out until he hit the bottom of the pit.

"He had better be OK."  Sydney quipped at Daniel.

"I swear to you.  It's not that deep."  Daniel stood beside of Sydney as they watched Walker begin to make his way up the steeper part of the ridge, towards Latimier.

Sydney followed, being careful to hide herself behind the trees and foliage, not wanting to lose the edge she had over Latimier who thought she was still securely tied to his bed.  Daniel was on Sydney's heels every step of the way, making sure she didn't step near any of the other pits.

Walker's focus was incredible.  He crept along the surface like a cat, very sure of where he was stepping even though he had never scaled the ridge before in his life.  When he made it to the top, Latimier stood in front of him, laughing.  "And then there was one."  He chided.

"You may want to re-think those numbers."  Sydney announced as she and Daniel approached from the other side.

Latimier turned quickly, firing the rifle and losing his balance at the same time.  Daniel went down as the bullet entered his chest and Sydney and Walker looked on as Latimier teetered near the edge of one of the pits.  Before either could reach him, he fell in, backwards.  Neither Ranger heard him hit the bottom.

Sydney looked into Walker's eyes.  "Do you think he survived?"

Walker shook his head.  "We'll have someone excavate it and find the body."  He looked at Sydney again. "Are you OK?"

She slowly shook her head and began to cry. "Walker, I know about Gage.  Latimier made me watch a tape he had made from the hospital security camera.  I saw him die and I . . ."

Walker shook his head as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.  "He's not dead Sydney.  He had a real close call, but he's not dead."

Sydney looked at Walker in disbelief. "But, the sheet was pulled over his head and the monitor showed a flat line.  Walker, what . . .?"

"We had to make Latimier think he was dead so he wouldn't kill you before we could get here."

Sydney knelt down beside of Daniel.  "I wouldn't have made it without him."

"I gathered as much.  I’m sorry he didn't make it."  He reached for her hand and pulled her to her feet.  "We had better go find Trivette."

******

Sydney trailed behind Walker, the events of the past few days finally catching up to her.  "Sydney, are you OK?"  She faintly heard Walker call out.  "Walker?"  She questioned.

Walker reached his friend just before she hit the ground.  He held her in his arms, cradling her head.  "Sydney.  Sydney, you have to wake up.  We have to check on Trivette." 

*******

Jimmy opened his eyes to find himself laying flat on his back in a pool of cool gray mud.  He looked up and thanked God that the fall hadn't been more than ten feet or so. "What do you know, he was telling the truth."  His thoughts went back to Daniel.  "I wonder where they are now?"

He pulled himself to his feet and began to search for a way out of the pit.

*******

Sydney's eyes opened and her arms flogged Walker's chest.  "Get away!  Get away from me!"  She screamed.

"Sydney!  Sydney, it's Walker!"  He shouted as he shook her slightly and stared into her eyes, waiting for her to recover from her daze and recognize him.

"Walker?"  She questioned.  "Oh God Walker, Gage.  Gage is dead."  She began to cry. 

Walker held her close.  "Shh.  Sydney, he's not dead.  We just talked about this a little while ago, remember?"

Sydney continued to cry.  "I don't know what's real anymore Walker."  She whispered, trying to bring herself under control.

Walker helped her to her feet.  "Let's find Trivette and then I'll take you to Gage."

Sydney nodded and allowed Walker to help her to her feet.  She leaned on him slightly as they made their way to the pit where earlier they had both seen Trivette disappear into.

"Trivette!"  Walker called out as they neared the edge of the pit.

"Down here Walker!  I'm alright."

Walker smiled.  "We'll have you out in a minute."  He shouted as he scanned the area for a rope or something to help pull his partner to safety. 

"Walker, it's not that deep.  If you lean over the edge, I can probably reach you."  Trivette shouted back.

Walker dropped to the ground on his stomach.  Leaning over the edge, he shined he called down into the pit.  "You sure you're OK?"  He asked as the moonlight hit Trivette's form.

"I think I sprained my ankle, but other than that, I'm fine."  Trivette reached up and grabbed Walker's outstretched hand, climbing as Walker pulled at his arms.  When he reached the edge of the pit, Walker and Sydney helped him stand.

"Thanks guys!"  Trivette exclaimed, but as he put his weight on his twisted ankle, a pain shot through his leg.  "Agh!  This isn't going to work."  Sydney positioned herself under his arm and let him lean on her.

As the three Rangers contemplated getting off of the ridge, the rest of Latimier's men started through the woods towards them. "Take cover!"  Walker shouted. 

Sydney helped Trivette to a nearby large rock and pulled her gun from her waistband.  "Where's your gun?"  She asked.

"I only have my back-up.  It's on my ankle."  Trivette responded.  Sydney pulled the small gun from Trivette's ankle holster and handed it to him. "Cover me."  She whispered before peeking from behind the tree and firing three shots towards the approaching men.

Walker pulled his back-up weapon and quietly watched as one of the men approached his hiding place.  He quickly shoved the gun into his waistband and waited until the man's back was facing him.  He then wrapped his arm around the man's neck and squeezed until he dropped to the ground, quietly.

One of the other men began to fire wildly towards Sydney’s position.  She put her back against a tree and waited until the firing stopped briefly, taking that moment to return fire.  She heard a loud yell as her bullet found its mark and the man dropped to the ground.

Trivette was still behind the rock and had been taking fire from yet another man.  The firing suddenly stopped and Trivette cautiously peeked around from the rock and fired towards the trees.  “Don’t shoot!”  A call came out.  “I give up!”

“Throw out your gun and come out of the trees with your hands up!”  Trivette called out.  Seconds later, a man began to emerge from the trees. 

Walker dunked out from his hiding place and pulled the man behind into the grove of trees he had been using as cover.  “How may more are there?”  He asked.

“That’s it!  There was just me, David and Ken.  Ed and Mike left for town about an hour ago.” 

“That must have been the two that brought me and Trivette in.”  Walker roughly grabbed the man’s collar and started towards Trivette’s position. “You had better be telling the truth.”

When Sydney saw Walker began to move, she started towards the rock as well.  “Is that the last of them?”  She asked.

Walker nodded.  “Looks like it.”  He shoved the man against a tree and pulled his handcuffs from his belt.  “Hug the tree.”  He ordered.  Once the man’s arms were around the tree, Walker cuffed them together.  “We need to get back to the truck and call this in.  I want Search and Rescue up here to see if they can find Latimier’s body.”

The three Rangers carefully made their way down the ravine and to Walker’s RAM where Walker called in the incident.  As he finished his call, he noticed Sydney leaned against the fender of the truck, her head lowered.  “Sydney?  Are you sure you not hurt?”

She looked up at him.  “I’m tired, I’m sore and all I really want to do is see Gage and make sure he’s OK.”

Walker nodded as a smile came to his lips.  “I want you and Trivette to both be checked out anyway.”  He picked up the radio again and called for a helicopter.

********

Dr. Shayler entered Gage’s room and was somewhat surprised to find him awake.  “How are you feeling Mr. Gage?”  She asked.

Gage slowly turned his head towards her. “Tired.”  He whispered hoarsely.

The doctor nodded.  “That’s certainly to be expected after all you’ve been through.  I have your test results back and I can tell you that you are definitely one very lucky man.  It looks like your heart sustained no permanent damage from the morphine and as far as I can tell, there’s no permanent brain damage from the cardiac arrest either, which is amazing in itself since you were clinically dead for almost ten minutes.”

Gage stared at her blankly.  “What?”

“You don’t remember any of it, do you?”  She patted his leg as she took a seat next to the bed.  “Dr. Martin gave you an injection of morphine.”

“I can’t take morphine.  It’s in my chart.”  Gage mumbled.

Dr. Shayler nodded.  “I know and Dr. Martin knew as well.  He was trying to kill you and would have succeeded, but he had a change of heart for some reason and let Ranger Walker know what he had done.”

Gage winced as a wave of pain racked his body. “Syd?”

Dr. Shayler reached for Gage’s wrist and took his pulse.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t anything about your partner except that Rangers Walker and Trivette left last night to meet the person holding her.”  Gage nodded as his eyes began to close. “You need to rest.  I’ll check in on you a little later.”  She remained quietly by his bed until Gage was asleep.

*******

The Emergency Room was abuzz as Sydney was wheeled in on a gurney, followed closely by Trivette.  “Two Texas Rangers.”  The EMT announced.  “The man has a badly sprained or broken ankle and the woman has been held captive up in the hills.  She’s dehydrated and bruised up a bit, but she’s not complaining of any other injuries.”

“We’ll take it from here.”  A doctor replied as Trivette was wheeled into one examination area and Sydney another.

“You have another Ranger here in the hospital.”  Trivette said as the nurse began to clean him up.  “Francis Gage.  We need to know how he is.”

“We’ll check on that for you in a few minutes. Right now, we need to get you cleaned up and see how badly you’re hurt.”  The nurse replied.

Sydney had begun to put up a fight as the nurse’s tried to examine her.  “Wait!  I’m not hurt!”  One of the nurses began to cut away her blouse.  “You don’t have to do that!  I’m not injured!  I need to know where my partner is.  I’m looked for Francis Gage!”

“Ranger Cooke, you’re dehydrated and you look like hell.  We’re going to check you over and that’s that.  We can do it the easy way or the hard way, the choice is up to you, but if you don’t calm down, I will get someone down here with restraints.  Now which is it going to be?”  The older nurse stared at her sternly.

Tears were beginning to form in Sydney’s eyes. “You don’t understand.  They tried to kill him here in the hospital and made me watch a video of his death, and then when Walker and Trivette showed up in the hills, they told me that he wasn’t really dead.  I need to know that he’s OK.  Please!”  She held fast to the nurse’s arm, her eyes pleading for some compassion.

“If you promise that you’ll behave and be still while the team finishes examining you, I’ll check with admissions and see what I can find out.”

Sydney nodded.  “Thank you.”  The nurse nodded and stepped out of the small room, leaving Sydney with three other nurses.

A young doctor began to examine Sydney for further injuries and when he was satisfied that there were none, he turned to one of the nurses.  “She’s going to be here for at least 24 hours until we get her re-hydrated.  Call up and get her a room.”

“Yes doctor.”

The doctor returned his focus to Sydney. “We’re going to get you into a room and get you re-hydrated.  I’ll have Dr. Shayler check in on you once you’re settled.”

“Thank you.”  Sydney replied.  “Doctor, the nurse that was with me when I first came in, she was going to check on the status of my partner.”

“You mean Becky.  She’s around here somewhere.  I’ll see if I can find her before they take you upstairs.”

Just before Sydney was to be moved upstairs, Becky came into her room.  “He’s in ICU and he’s stable.  That’s all I could find out.”

Sydney’s eyes filled with hope.  “But he’s alive.  You’re sure he’s alive?”

Becky smiled as the orderlies came in to move Sydney. “I’m very sure he’s alive.” 

While Sydney was being settled into a room, the floor nurse saw Dr. Shayler walking towards the elevators.  “Dr. Shayler, wait!  They just brought up another patient and she’s been assigned to you.”

Dr. Shayler sighed as she looked at her watch. “It’s almost 9:00 a.m.  My shift ended at 7:00.  I was hoping to go up to ICU and check on another patient and then head out.”  She said as she walked with the nurse towards Sydney’s room.  “What have we got?”

“A female Texas Ranger, Sydney Cooke.”  The nurse said as she flipped through Sydney’s chart.

Dr. Shayler’s pace quickened.  “How is she?”  She asked as they stopped outside her door.

“Looks like she’s just badly dehydrated.  ER sent her up about thirty minutes ago for 24 hour observation.”

Dr. Shayler opened the door.  “Thanks Karen.  I’ll take it from here.”

Sydney’s eyes focused on the door as Dr. Shayler entered.  “Ranger Cooke.  I’m Dr. Shayler and I think that you may be just what the doctor ordered for another of my patients.”

Looking up at her, from the bed, Sydney had a puzzled look on her face, unsure of what the doctor was trying to say.

“I’m also Ranger Gage’s doctor.”  She smiled, clearing up the confusion immediately.

Sydney’s eyes lit up at the mention of Gage’s name. “Where is he?  Is he OK? Can I see him?”

Dr. Shayler smiled as she pulled a chair next to Sydney’s bedside.  “Calm down.  He’s in Cardiac ICU. He’s stable and yes, I think a visit from you may be exactly what he needs.”  The doctor paused.  “I don’t know if you know what he’s been through in the past twelve hours, but that partner of yours is very lucky to be alive.”

Sydney nodded.  “I know.  I was held captive by the man that orchestrated all of this.  He managed to tape what went on in Gage’s hospital room, after Dr. Martin gave him the injection of morphine.  I had to watch it over and over again until I admitted that Gage was really dead and then when Walker and Trivette showed up and told me that he was still alive . . . I was almost afraid to believe them . . . I . . . “She began to cry.

Dr. Shayler put her arm around Sydney’s shoulders and held her.  “Shh.  He should have died.  He was clinically dead for about ten minutes and according to the test results that I got back a few hours ago, there’s no brain damage and no damage to his heart.  He’s very weak right now and he needs plenty of rest, but he’s one hell of a fighter.”  She released her hold on Sydney and returned to her chair.

“Which brings me to my next point.  When I saw him at six this morning, just before he fell asleep again, he asked for you.  I can’t think of a stronger medication than for him to find you at his bedside when he wakes up again.”  The doctor smiled as she watched Sydney’s face light up.

“Really?”  She asked excitedly.

“Seems this might be the best medicine for you as well.”  She stood and pulled her stethoscope to her ears.  “Let me just get a reading on your vitals and get a wheelchair in here and we’ll get you upstairs.”

*******

Walker stood next to the local sheriff as Search and Rescue began combing the pit, looking for Latimier’s body.  Finally the two man team emerged from the depths of the pit.  One of the men shook his head. “There’s no one down there.  It’s a good 40 foot drop and I can’t imagine how anyone would possibly survive it, let alone get back out without some serious help, but there’s no body down there.  We’ve searched the entire floor of the pit.”

“Thanks John.”  The Sheriff called out.  “You too Bob.”

“No problem Sheriff.”

The Sheriff turned to Walker.  “What do you think Ranger Walker?”

Walker shook his head.  “I don’t know what to think.  That lunatic is still out there and you can bet he’ll be back.”

******

Dr. Shayler wheeled Sydney along the corridor quietly and started to push back the door to the Cardiac ICU when Sydney stopped her.  “Do I look presentable?”  She asked.

Dr. Shayler laughed.  “You look beautiful and I’m sure it wouldn’t really matter to Ranger Gage.  By the way, I don’t know when you last saw him, but he’s very battered and bruised.  His face is black and blue, his lip is cut, oh and he is being treated for a severe concussion.  Dr. Martin had inserted a shunt at the base of his skull to relieve a pressure build up, but he’s doing quite well and if the pressure remains normal, we’ll remove that in a couple of days, just be aware that it’s there and don’t bump it.

Sydney nodded, afraid to speak.  She could already feel the tears welling up in her eyes as the doctor pushed her towards Gage’s bedside.

Even after Dr. Shayler had explained Gage’s appearance, she still wasn’t quite prepared for the sight before her.  His cheeks were deep purple and even though the greenish-yellow bruises on his chin were healing, she would still see them.  His left arm was in a cast and both of his eyes were black.  He looked like hell. 

The doctor checked his vitals and reset one of the monitors before turning to leave.  “Are you OK?”  She asked as she turned to Sydney.  Sydney nodded and watched as the doctor left the room.

Sydney slowly reached for Gage’s hand and her spirit felt renewed at the warmth of the touch of his skin.  “You really are alive.”  She whispered as she brought his hand to her lips and gently kissed it.

Gage’s eyes slowly began to open and when he saw Sydney’s face, a wave of relief spread through him.  “Syd?”  He said her name quietly.

“Shh.  The doctor said you needed to rest.”   She whispered.

Gage stared at her face and then his eyes went to the IV tube running into her arm.  “He hurt you.”  It was more of a statement that a question.

Sydney shook her head as she followed his eyes to the IV.  “No, I’m just a little dehydrated.”  Gage continued to stare at her face and Sydney was sure that he could see the deep hurt in her heart that had been inflicted by Latimier’s cruelty.  “I promise I’ll tell you everything when you’re better, OK?”  She forced a smile to her face.

Gage nodded.  “Tired.”  He whispered.

She watched him struggle to keep his eyes opened and reached her hand to his battered face.  “Shh.  You sleep now.  I promise I’m not going anywhere.”

“This isn’t just a dream, is it?”  Gage mumbled.

“No honey, this isn’t a dream.  I’m really here and I’ll always be here Gage.”  She watched him drift off to sleep.  “I love you.”  She whispered.

********

Two days later, Gage’s condition had been upgraded and he had been moved to a private room on the third floor.  And although Sydney had been released, she refused to leave the hospital until she knew for certain that Gage was going to be OK.

Alex and Walker met up with Erica and Jimmy in the hallway, just a few doors away from Gage’s room.  “Do you think we can pry Sydney away from him for a while?  She really needs to get some rest.”  Alex asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t think she’s too likely to leave him until she’s satisfied that he’s OK.”  Jimmy replied.

Jimmy and Walker urged their wives to go on ahead of them while they lingered behind to talk.  “So, what is it that you’re not telling me?”  Trivette asked.

“Search and Rescue didn’t find Latimier’s body.”

“You said he fell into the pit.  Walker, he couldn’t have climbed out.  I had a hard enough time getting out of a shallow pit.  You said the one he fell into was every bit of 40 feet.”

Walker nodded.  “It was, but they couldn’t find a body.”

“So what now?  You know he’ll come after Gage and Sydney again.”  Trivette stated.

“I know and I really wish I didn’t have to tell them that.  They’ve been through so much with this case.” 

Trivette stopped Walker before they reached Gage’s room.  “Why don’t we at least wait until Gage is released?  I don’t think Sydney’s going anywhere until then and we can keep a guard on the hall here.”

“That’s a good idea Trivette.  Once they’re back home, I can keep a guard outside of their apartments at least until their medical leave is up and they’ve returned to work.”


”I think the idea here is to make sure they’re both well enough to defend themselves before releasing the 24 hour guard.” 

Walker nodded.  “I just don’t know if they’ll see it that way.”  He looked at the door to Gage’s room.  “We had better get in there.”

They entered the room to find Gage sitting up in bed, still very bruised, but not nearly as tired as he had been.  “Hey guys!”  He greeted them with a smile.

Walker stepped next to the bed and gave the junior Ranger a hug.  “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Yeah, me too.  I’m still pretty sore and a little tired, but I’m getting there.”

Trivette took his turn, greeting Gage with a hug as well.  “You just make sure you take it easy and don’t try to get back to work too soon.”

Gage smiled slightly.  “Well, that’s not too likely to happen as long as Nurse Cooke here is looking out for me.”

Sydney opened her mouth slightly.  “Ah, that’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Walker.  I was hoping that I could take my medical leave with Gage.  His doctor had already told us that once he’s released, at least for the first week, she wants someone with him 24/7.  If I can’t be with him, he’ll have to be admitted to a nursing home until he recuperates and . . .”

Walker held up his hand, trying to get a word in edgewise.  “You can have the time Sydney.”

“You’re sure?  I know I’ll be leaving you short-handed with Gage out too, but . . .”

Alex cleared her throat.  “Sydney, you had better quit while you’re ahead.”  She laughed.

“Thanks Walker.”  Sydney replied.

Gage yawned, a cue that everyone took as a sign telling them it was time to leave.  “Take care of him Sydney.”  Trivette said as he closed the door behind them after everyone had said their goodbyes.

Alex elbowed Walker when they were in the hall. “What’s wrong?  I was getting ready to ask her to come home with us and at least get a shower and a goodnights sleep.”

“They didn’t find Latimier’s body.  We can keep a guard posted on the hall here and not have to tell Sydney and Gage what’s going on yet.  If I send a guard home with her, or even to our house, she’ll know something’s up.  I just want both of them to have a little time to heal before we have to clue them in on Latimier.”

“He’s still alive?”  Erica asked, overhearing Walker’s conversation.

“All we know is that Search and Rescue couldn’t find a body.”

“Where does all of this end, Walker?”  Alex asked.

Walker hit the button for the elevator.  “We’re not giving up.”  He said with a set look.

*******

Three days later, Sydney wheeled Gage across the lobby and out to her waiting car.  “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”  She asked as the nurse helped Gage into the passenger side.

“My head’s still a little sore from having that tube yanked out this morning, but yeah, I’m sure I’m ready to go home.”

She pulled the car into gear and they started out for Gage’s apartment.  “Just let me know if you’re getting dizzy, OK?”

Gage smiled and patted her leg.  “I’m fine Syd.  And you know you don’t have to do this.  I appreciate you volunteering to stay with me for the next week, but I don’t really need a nursemaid.”

“You don’t want me stay?”  She asked, her feelings slightly hurt.

Gage shook his head.  “No, I mean yes I want you to stay.  I just meant that I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

“I want to.”  She stressed the word ‘want’ as she spoke. 

“Good.  I want you to, but only if you want to.”

Sydney smiled.  “I think we’ve established that.”  She pulled into the parking lot of Gage’s apartment complex.  “Do you think Walker and Trivette are acting a little strange?”

Gage looked around, noticing one unmarked police car sitting across the street and another in the parking lot, beneath his apartment.  “Yes and I feel sure they’ve had something to do with all of this extra security around here, the question is why.”

Sydney took note of the two police cars as well. “Let’s get you inside, then I’ll call Walker and get to the bottom of this.”

She helped Gage ease out of the car and waited patiently as he slowly climbed the stairs.  He leaned against the wall as Sydney unlocked the door and then helped him inside.  “Come on, have a seat.  I know you’re tired.”

He let her lead him to the couch and he practically fell into it.  “I sure hope I build my strength back soon.  I know I shouldn’t be this tired from climbing two flights of stairs.”

Sydney sat down in front of him.  “Gage, you almost died in the hospital.  Your heart stopped and you stopped breathing.  They were lucky that they were able to bring you back.”

He nodded.  “I know Syd and I am thankful that I didn’t die, but I just hate being so . . .”

“So what?”  She asked.

“Weak.  Vulnerable.  I don’t know.  I felt like this when I was a kid.”  He smiled slightly.  “I used to get beat up most everyday when I first started school.  There was this bully that rode our bus and he had it in for me from day one.  My dad finally told me that I had to learn to stand up for myself and he enrolled me in my first martial arts class when I was six.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I ended up punching the guy and broke his nose.  He didn’t bother me anymore, but I got suspended for fighting.”  He laughed slightly.  “I don’t know who my mom was more upset with, me or my dad.”

Sydney smiled.  “That’s a nice memory.”

The smile faded from Gage’s face. “Yeah.  One of the few nice ones I have of my childhood.”

“Come on.  Let’s get you into bed.”

Gage lifted his eyebrows.  “Are you going to join me?”

“Gage, you couldn’t handle that right now.”

He laughed again.  “You’re probably right.”  Sydney helped him into the bedroom and out of his shirt.  “Can you handle the rest?”

“What exactly are you offering Syd?”

She shook her head again.  “I only meant that with your arm in a cast, it’s not going to be too easy to get out of those pants.”

“I’m a big boy, I think I can take care of it from here.”  He began to unzip his pants with his right hand and managed to work them off as Sydney returned to the living room to call Walker.

“Walker.”  He answered the phone.

“Walker, it’s Sydney.  Gage and I both spotted the unmarked cars when we pulled into the parking lot.  Care to tell us what’s going on?”

Walker sighed.  “Latimier’s body wasn’t recovered from the pit.”

Sydney began to shake.  “You mean he’s still out there!”

“Sydney, this is exactly why I didn’t tell you and Gage before you left the hospital.  Listen, I’m on my way over.”

“No, you don’t have to.  It’s getting late and I know you want to spend some time with your family.  We’ll be fine here.”

“You’re sure?”  Walker asked.

Sydney nodded.  “Gage is asleep right now and I really don’t want to tell him what’s going on yet.  How long can you maintain the 24 hour guard?”

“At least for two weeks.  Hopefully, we’ll have Latimier in custody by then.”

“I’m sure you will and Walker thanks again.”  Sydney hung up the phone and quietly opened the door to check on Gage.

She could hear him breathing before she entered the room, but opened the door just enough for the light from the hallway to eliminate the headboard.  She could see his face and watched for a moment as he changed positions.  Quietly closing the door, she pulled blankets and a pillow from the hallway closet and converted the couch into a bed for herself.

When sleep finally came for her, it was filled with horrible scenes of Latimier’s face and voices that only promised despair and pain.  She woke to find herself in a pool of sweat.  Her throat and mouth dry.  She got up and filled a glass with water, but before returning to the couch, she checked on Gage once again, just to find him sleeping comfortably.

It took hours for her to finally doze off again and this sleep too was plagued with frightening scenes of Latimier.  A loud crash from the kitchen woke her and she instinctively grabbed her gun from the side table, pointing it towards the kitchen.

“Easy Syd!  It’s me!”  Gage shouted out as he saw the gun pointed at his chest.

Sydney quickly laid down the gun and ran to Gage’s side.  “Gage!  What are you doing out of bed?”

“I was hungry.”  He looked at the crumpled mess of blankets on the couch.  “What’s going on out here?”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I couldn’t sleep.  Guess when I finally dozed off, I was pretty restless.”

He put his arm around her and let her help him to the living room.  “Why don’t you just tell me what’s really going on?  You and I have always leveled with each other, haven’t we?”

She nodded.  “Gage, Latimier is still on the loose.”

Gage stared at her with his mouth opened for a minute.  “I thought he fell into one of those deep pits you were telling me about.”

“He did, but Walker said that Search and Rescue didn’t recover his body.”

Fear began to grip Gage.  “So, you’re telling me that he’s still out there.  Still coming after you and me and we have no idea where or when?”

Sydney nodded again.  “Gage, I didn’t want to say anything until you were a little stronger, but now that you know . . .”

“That’s why the cars are downstairs, right?”

“Yeah.  We have them for at least two weeks, 24/7, but after that . . .”

Gage shook off the feelings that were taking over him and put his arm around Sydney.  “Hey, you know what.  We’ve been in worse spots than this before.  We’ll find him Syd.  We’ll find him before he finds us.”

            “I know.”  She smiled.  “I know we will.  Come on; let’s get you back in bed.”  She helped him to his feet and back into the bedroom where she ended up spending the night, laying next to him, wrapped in his arms.

THE END