Family Crisis

By Lorrie



"Ranger Walker, relax. Let the drug take effect." A female voice instructed.

"Will he remember what you've programmed?" A male voice asked.

"Yes. When I give him the trigger phrase, he'll be ready to carry out his mission."

"And no one will know that he's been here?"

"No. He's supposedly attending a class this weekend in Houston."

"And if they check."

"They won't."

"Ranger Walker, when I say the trigger words, you will carry out your mission. You will go about your daily business, but you will do everything that you have been instructed to do, as well as any additional instruction given to you over the telephone. When you have completed your mission, the trigger words will be repeated and you will remember very little of what has gone on here. Understand?"

"I understand." Walker replied in a monotone voice.

"Good. 'Vengeance Is Mine'."

Walker was escorted to his truck. "Goodbye Ranger. I hope we were of help."

"Thank you." Walker looked somewhat puzzled. "I'm sure you were." He noticed the sign on the front grounds as he left. "Cambridge Mental Institute".

He shook his head, not really remembering why he had been there and soon he had forgotten that he had been there at all.

"Will he carry it out?"

"We'll take out a little extra insurance to be sure that he does." The female voice replied.

*****

The phone on Walker's desk rang twice before he picked up. "Walker."

"Ranger Walker, your lovely wife and daughter would like for you to join us at your ranch, now!" The voice boomed on the other end of the phone. "Oh and Walker, don't talk to anyone. I'll know if you do and your family will suffer for it." The line went dead.

Walker slammed the phone down, grabbed his hat and started towards the door.

"Hey partner, everything alright?" Trivette asked with a concerned look. Walker didn't respond and slammed the door behind him.

"What was that all about?" Gage asked.

Trivette shook his head in confusion. "I don't know. He was fine a minute ago."

"It had to be the phone call then." Sydney offered.

"What phone call?" Trivette asked.

"The one he took while the two of you were getting your coffee."

*****

Walker couldn't get home fast enough. He searched his mind, trying to figure out whose voice was on the other end of the line. Who had Alex and Angela?"

He pulled into his driveway, scattering gravel all around. He slammed on the brakes and put the RAM in park all in one swift motion. He was in the house in an instant. "Alex! Alex, where are you?" He called throughout the house as he searched each room.

The phone rang and Walker quickly grabbed it. "Walker."

"Ranger Walker, you got home in record time I see. I'm sorry we had to leave before you got there, but you understand, I couldn't take the chance that you might be followed or bring your little Ranger friends along."

"Let me speak with Alex." Walker demanded.

"In due time Ranger Walker. In due time. First I need to know that you haven't betrayed me. I need to know that you're not being followed."

"I'm not."

"There's a phone booth at the corner of Elm and Pinehurst. Be there in twenty minutes, starting now!"

Walker scowled as he slammed the phone down. He knew he should include Trivette, Gage and Sydney, or at the very least, the Dallas PD, but he was afraid to. Afraid of what this man might do to his family.

*****

The RAM rolled to a stop at the corner of Elm and Pinehurst. The phone was already ringing. "Hello!" Walker shouted.

"I wasn't sure you were going to make it." The voice laughed. "Take Elm Street to High Street, then take a right. Go to the end of High Street. Park you truck and hike into the woods about 3 miles until you find a cabin."

"That's where I'll find my wife and daughter?" Walker asked.

"They're fine for now. Their well-being depends on you."

Walker followed the instructions to the letter. He cautiously opened the door to the cabin and went in. There was a single candle on a table in the middle of the room. The candle had almost burnt out. Walker blew it out and picked up the note from underneath the candlestick.

"Ranger Walker:

Congratulations! You follow instructions very well. I'm sure your mind is running wild wondering who I am, why I took your wife and daughter and what have I done with them. All in due time Ranger. I will tell you that they are both fine.

The back of this note is another set of directions, follow them to the letter and I'll let you talk to your wife. I may even let you see them."

Walker turned the note over.

"It's time to tarnish your reputation, Ranger. Currently, Rangers Gage and Cooke are working on a case against Tommy Brandish. I know that they're already in, so don't worry about blowing their covers. Tommy knows that they're Texas Rangers.

How does it feel to have this kind of information and not be able to share it with those involved, Ranger Walker?

I want to know where and when their next move will be made and I want to know ahead of time so Tommy has time to move out before your people make their move.

Once again, you cannot talk to anyone about your missing wife and daughter. Tell them that your wife is visiting her father and took Angela with her. You can leave a message at this number day or night: 555-2236. It is not traceable; so don't waste valuable time trying to find us.

Signed: Your worst nightmare"

*****

“Have you heard from Walker?” Gage asked as Trivette sat down at his desk.

“No. He’s not at home. I called.”

“I can’t find Alex anywhere either and she didn’t bring Angela to the HOPE center today.” Sydney added.

“Something strange is going on.” Trivette rubbed his chin.

They all looked towards the door when Walker came in. “What are you staring at? Don’t you have cases to work on?” He shouted.

“Yeah. Sure.” Sydney and Gage both replied. Trivette continued to stare at his long-time partner for a moment.

“You too, Trivette.” Walker stated as he passed Trivette’s desk and took a seat at his own.

Trivette couldn’t let it go. Gage and Sydney listened as closely as they dared from across the room. “Walker, what’s going on with you?” Trivette asked as he sat on the corner of Walker’s desk.

“Nothing!”

“Yeah right. You storm out of here this morning like your barn’s on fire or something and then stay gone most of the day without calling in and when you do finally come in, you’re so mad, you can hardly see straight.”

“You think you have me all figured out, don’t you?”

“Well, we’ve been partners for a long time. I know when something’s bothering you.” Trivette sat in silence for a moment and say that he wasn’t going to get anything out of Walker.

“You do know that Alex didn’t come in today, right? Angela’s not at the H.O.P.E. Center either.”

“Well, you three really have been doing your homework, haven’t you? Don’t you have anything better to do than check up on me and my family?” He stood and stared at Trivette until he turned back to his own desk. "Gordon isn't feeling too well and Alex and Angela went to check on him." He hated lying to his friends, but he felt he didn't have a choice. He knew none of them would let this go if they didn't have some answers.

“Gage, Sydney, I need everything you have on Tommy Brandish!” Walker bellowed.

Gage and Sydney looked at each other, somewhat dumbfounded. Gage was the first to speak up. “Sure Walker, give us a minute or two to get it all together.” He and Sydney pulled the group of files they had been working on and took them to Walker’s desk. “Here.” Gage laid the file in front of him. “Does this mean that we’re off of the case?”

“No. I do need to know where you are on this though. Are your covers in place yet?”

“Yes.” Gage started. “I was hired on yesterday as a bodyguard.”

“And I come with him. Part of the package.” Sydney quipped. “Besides, Tommy seems to like me.” She finished with an edge of disgust.

Walker nodded his head. “Any idea on the dates and location of the shipments?”

“Word has it that a big shipment is on its way in tomorrow night. I don’t know which warehouse though.” Gage said as he rubbed his chin.

“When you find out, I need to know.” He glared at them. “I mean it. The moment you find out which warehouse, I need to know.”

Gage and Sydney nodded and when they turned away from Walker, they looked at each other in confusion.

*****

“Mrs. Walker, are you and your baby comfortable? Is there anything you need?” A female voice asked from an intercom.

“We’re fine. Could you tell me where we are? Who are you?”

“Mrs. Walker, we ask the questions here.” The intercom clicked off.

Alex clung to Angela and rocked her back and forth in the rocking chair in the center of the room.

*****

"Hey Syd, are you ready to grab a bite of lunch? I'm starving."

"Sure, I'll be with you in a minute. Do you want to see if Trivette wants to come along?"

"OK." Gage waited for Trivette to finish his phone conversation.

"Hey, Trivette. Syd and I were just on our way our for a bite of lunch, want to come?"

Trivette sat still for a minute, seemingly distracted. He jumped when Gage spoke. "What?"

"Lunch? Would you like to grab a bite of lunch with me and Syd?"

"Sure." He tossed his pen down on his desk and followed the two partners out the door.

After they ordered, Sydney turned to Trivette. "OK, what's really going on with Walker?"

"I wish I knew." Trivette responded.

"Oh, come on. You and Walker are just like that." Gage crossed his fingers. "If anyone knows what's bothering him, it would be you."

"I'm telling you. I don't know what's bothering him."

"Do you know where Alex and Angela are?" Sydney asked.

"Walker mentioned that Gordon wasn't feeling very well and that Alex and Angela were spending some time with him." Trivette rubbed his chin. "I guess that's where they are."

Gage and Sydney nodded. "Maybe she was just worried about him. It's a little odd that she didn't call in and tell her office though."

"Did you know that Walker asked for all of the details of the Brandish operation today?" Gage asked.

Trivette looked a little puzzled. "Why?"

"I don't know, but I don't have a good feeling about it. Mine and Gage's covers aren't that great. We got in way too easy."

"Do you guys think it's a set up?"

"I’m not sure, but something doesn't feel right." Gage confided. "Brandish didn't even ask who I had worked for last. He didn't check me out at all. I thought that was kind of weird, especially since I was signed on as his bodyguard."

"Weird or really stupid." Trivette stated.

"Tommy Brandish doesn't really strike me as a stupid person. He's usually very careful, especially when it comes to choosing his employees." Gage continued eating.

"I'll do some checking when we get back." They all turned back to their meals.

*****

Walker drummed his fingers on his desk. He knew he should clue the others in on what was going on, but what if he kidnapper had someone watching him? What if they knew his every move? "Great," he thought. "Now I'm getting paranoid."

He pulled the note from his pocket and dialed the number that had been provided. "This is Walker. I don't have location yet, but it looks like there may be something with the shipment you're expecting tomorrow night." He hung up quickly when Trivette entered the office.

"Hey Walker."

"Trivette." Walker mumbled.

"Can I talk to you about the Brandish case?"

"Sure. What've you got?"

"Well, nothing, but Gage was telling me a little while ago that he and Sydney aren't too sure about their covers."

"Why?"

"Brandish didn't question Sydney tagging along and he didn't even ask for Gage's references."

"Umm. I'll check into it." Walker turned back to the papers on his desk.

When Trivette left the room, Walker dialed the number again. "Rangers Gage and Cooke are already unsure of their covers. I haven't said anything. Tommy tipped them off by not questioning Gage's experience or why Ranger Cooke was along for the ride."

He hung up quickly as Trivette came in again.

*****

Gage took a deep breath before they entered Tommy Brandish's estate. "Are you ready?" He turned to Sydney. She nodded.

"Good morning Mr. Brandish." He greeted with his arm around Sydney.

"Yeah, good morning Colby and a very good morning to you Lisa." He reached for Sydney's hand and met it with a soft kiss.

Sydney smiled. "Good morning."

"Colby, you met the guys yesterday right?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. Come on upstairs with me. I'll just get Lisa here settled with some magazines and we can talk about what's expected of you."

Gage nodded. Sydney shot him a distressed look. She didn't like the idea of him being alone with Brandish out of her sight. When Tommy turned away, Gage shrugged his shoulders. There was nothing he could do. A refusal might further jeopardize their already shaky covers.

"Have a seat, Colby." Brandish offered as he approached his desk.

"Thank you."

"Now then, why do you want to be my bodyguard?"

The question took Gage off guard. "Well, to be honest, I need a job and because of my size and martial arts abilities this seems to be what I'm good at."

"I see. Who was your last employer?"

"Jonathan Tanner."

"And if I contact Mr. Jonathan Tanner, he'll give you a good review."

"Well, he would if he could, but Mr. Tanner died last month."

Tommy laughed. "And you want to be MY bodyguard."

Gage stared at him stone faced. "Jonathan Tanner had cancer."

Tommy stopped laughing and became somewhat somber. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." He cleared his throat. "Is there anyone in the organization that can verify your credibility?"

"Yes. You can speak with a number of people, but your best bet would be Jimmy Shearer. Here's his number." Gage threw a piece of paper on the desk.

"Thanks."

"Mr. Brandish, can I ask you something?"

"Shoot."

"How did I get hired yesterday without any background check?"

"Poor management. You shouldn't have even got through the gate this morning."

Gage shook his head.

"That will be your first responsibility; changing the way things are done around here. Not only are you my bodyguard, but you're my head of security."

Gage nodded.

*****

"Any word from Sydney and Gage?" Walker asked.

Trivette shook his head. "No. Have you heard from Alex?"

"No, should I have?" Walker asked defensively.

"No, I was just wondering how Gordon was feeling."

"Oh." Walker mumbled.

*****

Gage was laughing at a joke Tommy had just told him as they came down the steps. He smiled at Sydney as he watched her from the landing. "Excuse me a minute, Tommy."

"Sure, don't be long. I want to get your opinion of the security measures we have in place."

Gage noticed that Tommy was watching them from the doorway. He grabbed Sydney around the waist. "Lisa, come here baby." He kissed her neck and then whispered in her ear. "I'm not only his bodyguard, I'm his new head of security. He questioned me about my background and why I wanted this job." Gage told her quickly.

"Ooo Colby. When can I have you all to myself?" She turned and whispered in his ear: "Coincidence?" Gage shook his head.

"I'll call in and talk to Walker."

"We'll continue this later sweetheart." He said loudly in case Brandish was listening and he felt certain that he was. "I've got to take care of a few things for Mr. Brandish."

"Whatever you say baby."

Sydney waited until she was alone in the house and dialed Walker's number.

"Walker."

"Walker, it's Sydney."

"What have you found out?"

"We may have a problem. Did Trivette tell you about our conversation yesterday? Specifically, how odd it was that Brandish hired Gage without checking him out?"

"Yes, he mentioned it."

"Brandish just spent two hours with him, grilling him for information on who he had worked for, what type of work he did, things like that. Don't you think that's a little strange right after we talked to Trivette about it?"

"It may be nothing, but I'll check it out."

"Thanks and we'll keep you up-to-date on the shipment that's coming in."

"Sydney, you two be careful."

She hung up the phone and stared out the window for a moment. Something in the way Walker had said his last sentence bothered her.

*****

"OK, Colby, we have a big shipment coming in tonight and I want it delivered to the warehouse on Third. Can you handle the security for it?"

"Sure. What time do you expect the shipment?"

"After midnight, probably around 1:00. I'll know more after I speak with my contact."

Gage nodded. "OK. Can we run over to the warehouse and check things out?"

"I was about to suggest that myself."

"Do you mind if Lisa comes along too. She's getting bored."

Brandish shook his head. "Why do you let her tag along with you anyway?"

"You haven't noticed how beautiful she is?" Gage smiled.

"I'd be blind not to notice how beautiful she is, but come on Colby, you're working. She's not too bright and I feel like she'd just be in the way. You know, a distraction for you and I want to make sure that your mind is on my security detail and not your girlfriend."

"OK. I understand."

"Can you be ready to go in about ten minutes?" Brandish asked.

Gage nodded. "I'm going to talk to Lisa for a minute."

Gage hurried inside the house and found Sydney snooping in Brandish's office. "You'd better be careful, this time it was me, what if it had been Brandish?"

"I didn't even hear you come in. There's a lot of dates and times here." She pointed at the papers.

"I don't have time to look right now. We're headed to the warehouse on Third, that's where the shipment is being delivered tonight after midnight. Get in touch with Walker and Syd, don't get caught."

"I'm not coming with you?"

"I tried, but he doesn't want the 'not too bright' girlfriend tagging along. I've got to go." He kissed her cheek and ran out the door.

Sydney finished reading the file she had in her hand and then picked up her phone again and dialed Walker.

"Walker."

"It's Syd. The deal's going down tonight at the warehouse on Third, sometime after midnight. Walker, I've done some digging and it looks like he has a separate deal going down tonight too. I haven't had a chance to tell Gage about this one. There's an arms shipment due in around 10:00. That one's being delivered at 2537 East Brunswick Street. That's residential, isn't it?"

"Farm land mostly. We'll check into it. Get that information to Gage if you can."

"I'll try. Should I find a way to be there?"

"No. I'll take care of it."

"OK. I've got to go."

*****

Walker dialed the number from the note again when Trivette was out. "This is Walker. It looks like Brandish has two shipments coming in tonight. One is to be delivered to the warehouse on Third after midnight. Ranger Gage will be there. The other is to be delivered to 2537 East Brunswick Street around 10:00. I want to see my wife and daughter."

The phone rang, causing a usually calm and collected Walker to jump. "Walker."

"Ranger Walker. Thank you for the information. I've contacted Tommy. The shipment's will remain on schedule, however, I would like for you to arrange a raid on both."

"For what reason?"

"To discredit you."

"How?"

"Your Rangers will know that only you were privy to the information about the location of the shipments. Well, actually you and Rangers Gage and Cooke, unfortunately, they won't be around to defend themselves. I want you to personally oversee both raids. I also want you to take out Ranger Gage. Tommy wants Ranger Cooke for himself, otherwise you'd be taking her out too."

"You can't be serious."

"It's either Ranger Gage or your wife. You make the decision." The line went dead.

Walker bit his bottom lip and shook his head in frustration. He had to tell someone what was going on. There had to be a way to find Alex and Angela without putting Gage and Sydney in danger, but what?

*****

Alex sat in the floor with Angela on her lap. The room was cheery, but she felt anything but. Thank goodness Angela was still too little to comprehend what was going on. She was happy to just be with her mommy.

The door opened and a small lady entered. "Alex, I've brought you some lunch."

"Do I know you?" Alex asked, her mind working overtime to remember where she had seen this lady.

"I believe we've met." The lady nodded, turned and left the room.

"Who is she?" Alex continued to search her mind for anything about this woman.

*****

"Mr. Brandish, I would tighten up security on the east end of the building. How is the shipment being delivered? By air or ground?"

"The shipment's coming in by ground with an air escort."

Gage nodded. 'That air security is definitely not going to make this job any easier.' He thought. 'I sure hope Syd was able to get in touch with Walker.'

He turned to Tommy. "Will you be here when it arrives?"

"No. I would like for you to concentrate on the shipment and I feel like you can do that better if you're not looking out for me too."

"Good point."

"Any other questions?"

"How many men do I get?"

"As many as you need."

*****

Sydney slammed the file cabinet drawer shut and arranged the files on the desk to look the way they were when she had come in.

She had just made it back to the living room when Brandish walked through the door. "Hello Lisa."

"Hi." She replied. "Where's Colby?"

"I left him at the warehouse with a couple of the guys. He's going over some details."

"Details of what?"

"It's not important." He sat on the couch and motioned for her to join him. "Come here."

"Ah, I'd rather not."

"I said come here!" He bellowed. Sydney jumped slightly before joining him on the couch.

"Now." He ran his fingers through her hair with one hand while pulling her close to him with the other. "My employees and I have an understanding. What's mine is here for them to enjoy and what's theirs is here for me to enjoy and Lisa, I intend to enjoy you immensely." He trailed his tongue along her neck.

Sydney jumped up and slapped him in one swift motion. She started to run, but he caught her arm and spun her around to face him. He was much stronger than he looked and because of the proximity of the furniture, Sydney had no room to make a move on him.

Brandish glared at her with cold eyes. "We could have done this the easy way, Ranger Cooke, but I'll just have to wait to have my fun with you." He pinned her arm behind her and signaled for the two men who were waiting outside to enter the room.

One of the men carried a straight jacket. Brandish held her while it was locked in place. He then carefully placed a piece of tape over her mouth. "I'll tell Colby that you got bored and left." He then laughed an evil laugh. "Not that you'll ever see him again." He traced her jaw line with the back of his fingers. "You see, Ranger Gage is going to die tonight at the hand of your beloved mentor, Ranger Walker."

Sydney's eyes grew large and she struggled against the straight jacket to no avail. She tried to scream, but could only emit muffled sounds. The two men threw her into the back of a dark colored van and sped off.

*****

Gage entered the house and started looking for Sydney. "Hey Tommy!" He yelled. "Have you seen Lisa?"

"Not lately. She said something about being bored and wanting to get out of here for a while. Maybe she took one of the cars." Gage shook his head as he thought. 'She wouldn't have left without leaving me a message somewhere, unless she couldn't leave a message.'

He checked the garage and found that one of the cars were missing and assumed that she had found some more evidence that needed Walker's attention. He tried calling Walker and then Trivette, but couldn't get an answer

*****

Sydney was thrown into a small room, her mouth still taped and the straight jacket still confining her. She sat down, her knees drawn to her chest. Could Brandish have been right? Why would Walker be involved with Tommy Brandish and why would he have blown their covers?

A small woman entered the room and removed the tape from her mouth. "Now, please. No yelling or screaming or I put it back. Understand?"

Sydney nodded as the woman removed the tape. "Where am I?" She asked quietly.

"I cannot say."

"Can you remove the straight jacket?"

"No. Only the tape."

"Here. Are you thirsty?" She offered Sydney some water.

"No. No thank you."

The woman stood and reached for the door.

"Wait! Where are you going?"

"I have others to attend to."

"There are others here? Who?"

The woman left the room.

Sydney continued to fight against the straight jacket, hoping to set herself free.

*****

It was almost 7:00 and Sydney had still not returned to Brandish's house. "Damn it Syd. Where are you?" Gage said in quiet frustration. He picked up his cell phone and tried Walker again. There was no answer. He then tried Trivette's cell phone.

"Trivette here."

"Trivette, thank God. It's Gage. Have you heard from Sydney?"

"Walker heard from her this morning, but nothing since. Why?"

"She's missing."

"Gage, did she get a chance to tell you about the deal that's going down tonight at 10:00 on East Brunswick Street?"

"No. Do you think she's planning to meet Walker there?"

"I don't know. Walker's acting real strange. He set up a raid on the 10:00 drop and the one you told him about. He's heading up both and he hasn't clued me in on much of the detail."

"Trivette, I can't get away to be at the 10:00. Could you check and see if Sydney's there? If she's not, I don't know where else to look." He spoke with desperation in his voice.

"I'll see what I can find out. Oh and Gage. Do us both a favor and wear your vest tonight. I have a real uneasy feeling."

"I've felt that way throughout this whole case. Something just isn't right."

"I know what you mean. I've got to go. I'll let you know what I found out. Be careful."

"Yeah. You too."

Gage put away his phone and went back inside.

*****

Trivette tapped his pencil on the edge of his desk. "What are you up to Walker?" He walked over to Walker's desk, pulled out his center desk drawer and quickly rifled through it. There was nothing of interest. He did the same to the other two desk drawers and then it dawned on him to check Walker's phone.

He pushed the buttons to check his voice mail. "You have no mail." The voice responded.

"Great." Trivette thought. He slowly picked up the receiver of the phone and hit the re-dial button. 555-2236, the numbers showed on the display. A recording answered before he hung up. There was no recorded message, only a beep. He hung up the phone and ran back to his desk.

Within 20 minutes, he had traced the number to several bounce off points. From here, it would take at least an hour to see who was picking up the messages. He worked quickly, wanting to know who they might be dealing with before he met Walker at the Brunswick Street address.

*****

Walker sat in his living room, staring straight ahead. He had been given a choice. Kill Gage or let his wife and daughter be killed. He lost either way. If he killed Gage, he could never forgive himself. Not only that he would end up in prison for the rest of his life, or worse. But if he didn't kill him, he couldn't live with the loss of Alex and Angela.

He rubbed his hands over his face and sighed deeply. He reached for the bottle of Scotch sitting on the table. He very rarely drank. This bottle had been sitting in the back of the cabinet for about ten years. He thought about the last time it had been opened; when Pike had killed Ellen.

*****

"Ah ha!" Trivette shouted out loud when the final number appeared on his screen. "I'll find out who you are." He copied the number and opened the reverse phone number directory on his screen. When he entered the number, the name Sonya Cambridge came up. "Sonya Cambridge? Who is that?"

He opened another database and entered the name. The shock on his face was very visible. "Sonya Cambridge is Vincent Pike's sister. Oh my Lord. She's holding something over Walker." He thought for a moment and picked up the phone.

"Hello."

"Gordon. Hi it's Ranger Trivette. How are you doing?"

"I'm find Jimmy. How are you?"

"I'm fine. Gordon, can I speak with Alex?"

"Alex? I haven't seen her in about four weeks." He paused. "Jimmy, is something wrong?"

"I'm not sure. I'll let you know." He hung up and turned back to his desk. "So that's it. Sonya Cambridge must be holding Alex and Angela, but where?"

*****

Sydney was still seated on the padded floor of the small room. She was still securely retrained in the straight jacket and knew that there was no possibility of getting out by herself.

Just a little ways down the hall, Alex sat in the rocking chair again with Angela, gently rocking her to sleep, all the while wondering where they were and if Walker would be able to get to them in time.

"Ms. Cambridge, your son is here to see you." A voice came over a small box sitting on Sonya's desk.

"Good. Send him in."

"Good evening mother."

Sonya smiled. "Tommy, sit and tell me what's going on in the world of Tommy Brandish today."

"You'll be most pleased mother. Have you had the pleasure of meeting Ranger Cooke yet?"

"Yes. I peeked inside the door while Helen was with her. She's quite a beautiful woman. It almost seems a shame to kill her."

Tommy shook his head. "We're not killing her mother. She's going to be my bride."

"Tommy, dear. I didn't realize you were in love with this woman. I'm so sorry." She patted Tommy's shoulder. "What about the other Ranger?"

"Ranger Walker will be killing him tonight if all goes according to our plan."

"Good."

*****

The office door slammed, causing Trivette to jump. "Walker! You nearly scared the life out of me."

"Let's go. I want to be at the Brunswick Street address before 10:00."

"I'm on it." Trivette grabbed his jacket and followed Walker out into the hallway. He smelt the faint scent of liquor as he neared Walker. "Walker, have you been drinking?"

"What about it?" He snarled.

"Well, it's just not like you."

Walker handed him the keys to the RAM. "You're driving."

"And that's definitely not like you." Trivette muttered under his breath.

*****

Walker assembled his men and they prepared to rush the barn on Brunswick Street. He motioned them ahead and then turned to Trivette. "Let's go."

"I'm right behind you." They headed towards the barn. Walker motioned for the lead team to flank the building and then he and Trivette stood before the barn door. "Texas Rangers, open up!" He shouted.

There was no answer. Walker shouted again and then motioned to the team to break the door down. They rammed it twice with the battering ram and rushed inside. "Walker, there's nothing here." One of them shouted.

Trivette looked puzzled. "What happened Walker?"

"I don't know. They should have been here."

Trivette turned and noticed two wired connected to an explosives pack above the door. "Get out now! The place is wired!" Everyone ran outside and away from the barn before it exploded.

Trivette looked at Walker; "Are you going to tell me what's going on? You led us into an ambush!" Trivette yelled.

"It wasn't exactly an ambush."

"How did Brandish know that we knew about the drop?"

"How should I know?" Walker yelled back. "Maybe he got it out of Sydney."

"Sydney's missing Walker! Gage called just before we went out. He has no idea where she is."

"I'm sure she's fine. Sydney can take care of herself." He shifted the subject. "What time is it?"

Trivette shook his head in disbelief. He hardly recognized his partner. "It's almost midnight."

"We've got to get across town for the other delivery."

Walker's phone rang as soon as they closed the doors of the RAM. "Walker." He answered.

"Very good Ranger Walker. I trust that your partner already thinks that you've betrayed him and your men. Just wait until he sees what's next."

"I can't do it."

"Oh but I think you can." The voice replied and then suddenly the voice on the line no longer was that of a gruff man; it was Alex.

"Walker! He's standing in the room with Angela and me and he has a gun on both of us. I don't know what he wants you to do, but he will kill us if you don't do it." Alex sounded near hysterical.

"If you . . ."

"Careful Ranger Walker. I know that your partner is right there with you and if you'll remember that's part of the fun of it. You can't tell anyone what's going on, if you do, you're wife and daughter die right now!" Walker could hear Alex scream in the background.

"OK. I'll take care of it." He replied in an emotionless voice.

*****

Gage had six of Tommy's best men with him. He was still very worried about Sydney and the fact that she had seemingly disappeared without a trace.

"You guys in place?" He radioed.

"We're here." The man on the roof replied.

A little closer to 1:00 a.m., on of the men on the roof radioed to Gage. "We have a visual on the air escort. They should be arriving shortly."

"Roger that." Gage replied as he waited for the ground shipment to arrive. He could only hope that Walker and Trivette were in place since he had not had any further contact with either of them.

Walker watched the entrance to the warehouse through binoculars. Trivette had been very quiet on the ride over, with the exception of asking about the phone call. Walker had never answered him. "Trivette, you have to know that I have my reasons, OK?"

"Would you care to share those reasons?"

"I can't." He replied as two hauler trucks pulled up to the warehouse. "Stay here. I'm going down for a closer look."

"Do you see Gage?"

Walker nodded. "Yeah. He's at the loading dock."

"I'm coming with you. Do you want me to call for back up?"

"No!" Walker said sternly. "I'll check things out and signal you."

Walker made his way down the embankment and then crossed the pavement until he was within 10 yards of the building.

"OK guys, put them in here." Gage instructed as the boxes were being unloaded. The men quickly unloaded both trucks and pulled out. Gage popped the top off of one of the crates, examining the contents.

"Small arms. I should have guessed." He said as he put the top back on the box.

Trivette shook his head in confusion. The trucks were leaving and Walker still hadn't ordered the raid. He decided he had waited long enough and left his perch to check out things for himself. Once he reached the warehouse door, he almost wished he had stayed put so he wouldn't have witnessed what he saw.

Walker waited until the other men had gone into the back of the warehouse and then entered. "Gage! Turn around real slow!" He ordered.

Gage knew something was terribly wrong. Walker knew that he was undercover and he would have never used his real name if something weren't wrong.

"What's going on Walker?" Gage asked as he turned and found that Walker had his gun pointed at him. Walker's face showed the stress he was under, but yet something in his eyes didn't look the same. He knew that someone was watching him and he had to shoot Gage if he was going to save Alex and Angela.

"I hope you can forgive me for what I'm about to do." His voice cracked. He pulled the trigger twice before Gage had a chance to respond. Gage clutched his chest as his eyes fell on Walker with a desperate look of betrayal. He then fell to the ground.

Trivette stood in shock, his mouth open and his mind racing. "Why? Why would Walker, of all people, do something like this?"

Walker pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number that he had now committed to memory. "It's done." He then pulled out his two-way radio. "Trivette, get an ambulance down here! Gage is hit and it doesn't look good!"

Walker couldn't force himself to go anywhere near Gage's body. He knew he was dead. He had hit him twice at close range; once in the chest and once in the side.

Trivette ran into the barn. "What happened?" He asked as he rushed to Gage's side.

"I don't know." Walker replied shakily. "You stay with him and wait for the paramedics. I'm going after Brandish's men." He left the barn.

"Gage, you OK buddy?" Trivette gently nudged him. "Come on Gage. Come on, wake up."

Gage sharply inhaled and reached for this chest. "That's it. Take a deep breath. I know it hurts, but try to breathe deep."

Gage's eyes slowly opened and he tried to sit up.

Trivette reached across his shoulder and unclasped his vest. "You alright?"

Gage nodded. "Yeah, I think so." He let the vest fall away, revealing an already darkening bruise in the center of his chest and another across his lower ribcage. Trivette put his hand on Gage's shoulder again. "Trivette?"

"It's alright buddy. You were wearing your vest. You're going to be fine."

Gage drew another deep breath. "Walker shot me." He paused. "Why?"

Trivette shook his head. "I wish I knew."

"He didn't know did he?"

"Didn't know what?"

"Walker didn't know that I was wearing my vest. I usually don't, so he was really trying to kill me."

"We need to get back to Headquarters." Gage gasped as a pain shot through his ribs.

"Ranger, you're going to go the hospital." The EMT stated.

"I'm fine. I was wearing my vest."

"I know, but you most likely have a few cracked ribs." He pointed at the bruising on Gage's side.

*****

The ambulance reached the hospital and was met by reporters who had been alerted of a good story by an anonymous tip.

"Excuse me. I'm Leanne Combs of Channel 9 News. You're Ranger James Trivette, aren't you? What can you tell me about the undercover Ranger that was shot?"

Trivette put his hand up to cover the camera lens. "No comment." He waited for the EMT's to remove Gage's stretcher. The sheet had been pulled over his head.

This created even more a media stir. "Ranger Trivette! Is it true that Ranger Cordell Walker is responsible for shooting the other Ranger?"

Trivette turned. "No comment!"

*****

Walker's cell phone rang, bringing him back to the present. "Walker."

"Excellent Ranger Walker. I heard on the six o'clock news of young Ranger Gage's untimely demise. My condolences." He laughed.

"I want my wife and daughter."

"You'll find them at the Cambridge Mental Institution. I trust that you know where that is."

*****

"Gage, are you sure you're up to this?"

"I'll be fine. It's just a couple of broken ribs. Do you know where they're holding Syd?"

"Not exactly, but I have a pretty good idea. Sonya Cambridge is Tommy Brandish's mother and her brother was Vincent Pike. I'm sure you've heard Walker speak of him."

"A couple of times. Didn't he kill Walker's fiancée?"

"Yes and then Walker took him down."

"So she's out for revenge."

"I think so."

"Why me and Syd though? We weren't involved in bringing Pike down."

"No, but you were in the way and you were trying to take Tommy down."

"Ah, revenge for two separate generations."

Trivette smiled. "I guess you could look at it that way."

"Should we try to reach Walker and let him know that I'm not dead?"

Trivette shook his head. "Not until we hear his side of it. I'm still not sure exactly what's going on here. Even if Cambridge has Alex and Angela, Walker must have really not been thinking at all to have tried to kill you."

*****

Helen entered Sydney's room and pulled a syringe from her pocket. "I am sorry dear. I have my orders." Sydney tried to back away as Helen plunged the syringe into her neck.

The room immediately started to spin and Sydney had no control over the movement of her body. Helen released the straps of the straight jacket, removed her clothes and dressed her in a thin hospital gown.

Tommy stepped inside the room. "Hi beautiful. Looks like it's just you and me now baby. Your hero, Ranger Gage, is dead." He smiled as he watched Sydney's face, tears welling up in her eyes.

She mumbled in a barely audible voice. "I don't believe you."

"I knew you wouldn't so I taped this from the news last night." He pulled the TV cart into the room and played the tape.

"Texas Ranger, Francis Gage was shot and killed last night in the warehouse district of Dallas. It appears that the Rangers were conducting an investigation into the recent rash of arms deals in and around the city of Dallas. Ranger Gage was killed during a gun battle between the associates of, known arms dealer, Tommy Brandish and law enforcement officials. Ranger Gage was shot twice and arrived at St. Matthew's Hospital DOA." Tommy turned the TV off and watched as Sydney's body shook while she sobbed.

"It gets even better. The big man himself, Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, was the one who pulled the trigger."

Tommy wrapped his arms around Sydney. "Now with Ranger Gage out of the way, it's just you and me." He held her chin with one hand and forcefully kissed her lips. She screamed and he backhanded her. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this." Tommy lifted her and placed her in a wheelchair, placing restraints on her arms and legs. "It looks like you need a little shock therapy to bring you around to my way of thinking."

The wheelchair rattled down the hallway. Sydney's eyes were wide with terror, not knowing what to expect next. Tommy turned the corner and stopped. He opened the door to another room, pushed Sydney inside and left. "I'll be right back."

Sydney looked around the room after Tommy left. In the center, there was an examination table with several restraints attached. At the top there were small, padded forms to fit against the head of the patient. Her heart was pounding as she thought of what it might feel like to have the voltage of electricity jolt through her. But did it really matter? Gage was dead and all she wanted to do was die too.

Tommy slammed the door opened and smiled at her. "Have you figured it out yet?" He motioned to the examination table. "Let me show you how it works!" He laughed as he unfastened the restraints on the wheelchair and carried her to the table. She tried to fight him, but the drug that she had been injected with wouldn't allow her to move her arms and legs.

He quickly fastened her arms tightly within the straps on the side of the table and then spread her legs to the corners of the table and restrained them with the straps provided. He forced her head into the padded forms and then fastened a strap across her forehead. "Oh, I almost forgot." He forced her mouth open and inserted a slightly rounded piece of rubber with a handle on it and then fastened a strap around the bottom of her chin to keep it in place. "We wouldn't want you to swallow your tongue during treatment, now would we?" He laughed again as he placed the wires that would carry the current onto her temples.

There was a knock on the door. "May we come in?" A female voice asked.

"Certainly!" Tommy responded triumphantly.

Sonya Cambridge entered the room with Walker trailing behind her. "Now Ranger Walker, you killed Ranger Gage and got him out of the way, now you can watch while my son claims Ranger Cooke for himself." Walker started to rush Sonya and Tommy, but Tommy held the current switch in his hand. "I can either give her a mild shock or I can fry her. It's up to you Ranger Walker."

Walker backed down and Sydney was sure that she saw tears in his eyes. She tried to scream, but the piece in her mouth prohibited it. She was more frightened than she could remember ever being. Tommy hit the switch and Sydney received a jolt that rocked her body from head to toe. Walker had to look away. Even though she couldn't really scream, a sound came from her throat that sent chills up Walker's spine.

*****

Trivette and Gage had just opened the door of the facility and were headed down one of the corridors when they heard the muffled scream. "That was Syd!" Gage exclaimed as he heard the noise.

"It came from down there." Trivette nodded down one of the corridors and both Rangers pulled their weapons.

They ran down the corridor, checking each door. Trivette suddenly stopped and stood quietly at the last door on the left. The sign above the door read "Shock Treatment Room"

Gage shook his head in horror. "No. He wouldn't have."

Trivette held his gun towards the door as Gage pulled it open. In an instant Gage was beside of Trivette his gun trained on Tommy Brandish. "Put it down!" He said through gritted teeth. "Put it down now or die!"

Brandish dropped the switch.

Trivette forced Sonya and Walker both to the ground. "Tell me that there's a rational explanation for all of this Walker. Tell me that there's a reason you tried to kill Gage and would stand here and let them do this to Sydney." Trivette pressed his knee into Walker's back and slapped the cuffs on Walker's wrists.

"Put your hands behind your head and turn around." Gage ordered Brandish. Once his hands were behind his head, Gage stepped forward and closed the handcuffs around his wrists. Trivette covered them all while Gage checked on Sydney.

He gently removed all of the restraints and took the mouth guard out of her mouth. "Syd?" He said anxiously. She barely moved at the sound of his voice. "Syd, please say something." She was silent for a few minutes longer and then turned to him.

"Gage?" She said softly.

He cradled her head to his chest and pointed his finger at Walker. "You had better hope that there are no long-term effects from this, because if there are, you'll wish that you had really killed me." Gage spoke between his tears.

Walker turned to Trivette. "Trivette, Alex and Angela are somewhere in here too."

"We'll find them." He replied coldly. "You have a lot of explaining to do." Trivette handed Walker, Cambridge and Brandish over to the police. "Keep Ranger Walker outside, I want to interrogate him myself."

"Whatever you say Ranger."

Trivette saw Helen in the hallway. "Ma'am, do you know anything about a woman and a baby being held here?"

"Yes. Come, I'll show you." She led him directly to the room where Alex and Angela were being held.

"Jimmy!" Alex exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms.

"Alex! Are you both OK?" He held her away and visually checked her over.

"We're fine. Where's Walker?"

Trivette looked down. "Alex, Walker hasn't exactly been himself for the past few days." He sat with her and explained everything. "Alex, he shot Gage."

"What?" She turned pale. "Is he alright?"

"Gage is fine. He was wearing his vest, luckily. If he hadn't been, he'd be dead right now. But that's what I mean. Walker is not himself. He stood by and watched Cambridge and Brandish give Sydney electric shock treatments. He didn't do anything to stop them."

"Maybe he couldn't." She said in her husband's defense. "Is Sydney alright?"

"She's on her way to the hospital. Alex, have you ever known Walker to just let something like that happen without at least trying to stop it. And even if that were the case, you can't explain away the fact that he shot Gage."

Alex looked up at Jimmy with tears streaming down her face. "No. I can't explain that. The only thing I know for certain is that Walker is a very loving, kind and just man. There must be an explanation for all of this."

Trivette put his hand on her shoulder. "I know. I keep telling myself that too, I just can't come up with the explanation and now I have to arrest him for attempted murder."

"Jimmy! You can't!"

"I can't not arrest him. Too many Rangers saw it unfold. I've had three come to me already and tell me that they saw the whole thing. Myers even said it was almost like there was a force guiding him to shoot Gage."

"Maybe that's it."

"What's it?"

"Walker was supposed to be in Houston last week at some seminar. I'm not so sure that's where he was though."

"Why?"

"When I unpacked his suitcase, all of his clothes were still neatly folded and creased, just the way I had packed them."

"That is unusual. Where do you think he was?"

"This is a long stretch, but what if Sonya Cambridge got to him last weekend."

Trivette helped Alex outside and insisted that she and Angela be taken to the hospital while he talked with Walker.

"Jimmy, I have to see him."

"I'll bring him by the hospital. I promise."

She nodded as she climbed into the back of the ambulance.

*****

Trivette approached Walker who was still standing beside of the building in handcuffs. "So what now?"

"Walker, I need to know where you were last weekend."

"I was at a seminar in Houston."

"I know that's what you told us and it may even be where you think you were, but you didn't go to that seminar." He led Walker back inside. "Were you here?"

Walker squinted his eyes. "I don't know Trivette. Some things look a little familiar, but I don't know."

"Think Walker. Your freedom may depend on it."

"What do you mean?"

"If we can't prove that you're not in control of your own mind, you're going to be tried for attempted murder of a Texas Ranger."

"Gage?"

"Yes."

Walker sighed and continued to look around. They entered every room and when they entered the conference room, Walker stood perfectly still. "I've been here."

"You're sure?"

"I'm very sure. A woman stood here." He walked to a spot in the floor near the front of the room. "I was sitting in a chair and I remember an IV in my arm."

Trivette searched the room and pulled out his cell phone. "I want a forensics team in here now!"

"Come on partner. Alex will kill me if she doesn't get to see you soon."

*****

Gage sat in the chair next to Sydney's bed, holding her hand while she slept. "How is she?" Alex asked quietly as she and Angela entered the room.

"Alex." Gage stood and hugged her for a moment.

"Oww." He winced at the pressure on his broken ribs.

"I'm sorry. Trivette filled me in on what happened. Gage, you have to believe that Walker is not in his right mind. There's no way he would have shot you. He thinks the world of you and Sydney."

Gage shook his head. "I want to believe that Alex. You don't know how bad I want to believe that, but . . ."

"Gage." Sydney whispered.

He smiled and returned to her side. "I'm right here baby. I'm right here." He brushed her hair from her face.

"What happened?"

"Brandish decided to give you electric shock therapy."

"Mmm, therapy? Felt more like torture."

"I'm sure honey."

"Am I OK?"

"Yeah. The doctor said he doesn't think there's any permanent damage."

"Good. I'm just a little tired."

"You go ahead and sleep. I'll be right here." He continued to stroke her hair.

*****

Trivette cell phone rang while they were enroute to the hospital. "Trivette."

"Ranger Trivette. We found some hair sample and what looks like a pendent from a necklace."

Walker automatically reached for his throat. "I've been wearing this since last weekend. Alex bought it at the festival."

Trivette looked closely, the stone was missing from the center. "Kevin, bag it and take it to the lab for prints. Don't let it out of your sight."

*****

Upon arriving at the hospital, Trivette turned to Walker. "You'll need to be checked out while we're here too."

"I just want to see Alex and Angela." Walker responded as Alex appeared from around the corner.

"Walker!" She rushed into his arms.

"Alex! Oh God Alex, are you alright?" He kissed her. "Where's Angela?"

"Erica has her just down the hall. She's fine."

"Alex, I don't know what's happened to me. I've done some pretty terrible things in the past few days. At least that's what Trivette tells me."

She put her finger up to his mouth. "Shh. Jimmy told me everything. We'll figure it out."

"Ranger Walker." A doctor greeted him. "Let's get you settled in a room. I'd like to run a few tests."

Once Walker was in bed, Trivette entered. "Walker, I don't want to do this, but Briscoe insisted." He handcuffed Walker's right wrist to the bedrail.

"It's alright Trivette. I'd rather know that I can't hurt anyone else."

Alex touched his cheek. "Honey, do you remember shooting Gage?"

Walker shook his head. "I remember seeing him at the warehouse, but I don't remember shooting him."

"Do you remember the other bust at the barn?"

"Vaguely."

"Some of the Rangers that were there feel like they were led into an ambush."

"Why?"

"The place blew sky high not long after we were in."

Walker looked confused. "Was anyone hurt?"

"Amazingly no."

Walker shook his head. "I don't remember any of that. What's going on with me?"

"We're going to find out partner."

Dr. Bloom opened the door. "I have some of your test results back Ranger. You have large doses of methyl-diamphetamine, a mind-control drug, in your system.

"He'll be OK though, right?" Alex asked as she stroked her husband's face.

"With proper treatment, he should be fine. There is the possibility of some memory loss, but we won't know how extensive, if any, until he has finished his treatment."

"What does the treatment entail?" Trivette asked.

"He'll be hospitalized here on the 5th floor."

"The 5th floor? That's the Psych. Ward, isn't it?"

Dr. Bloom nodded. "Yes. I'll discuss the complete treatment procedure with you later this afternoon if you like."

"Yes. I would like to meet with you and anyone else you'll be calling in on my husband's case." Dr. Bloom nodded and left the room.

Walker stared straight ahead in disbelief. 'He was going to be confined to the Psych. Ward,' he thought. "I wonder how long?"

"How long what, honey?"

"How long I'll be in the hospital."

Alex smiled. "I don't know. We'll have to wait until we talk with the doctors."

"I'm going to check on Sydney. I'll be back in before I leave." He tapped Walker's leg.

"Thanks, Trivette."

Trivette knocked on Sydney's door. "Can I come in?"

Gage and Sydney both smiled. "Sure."

Trivette leaned down and kissed Sydney's cheek. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better. The doctor said I can go home tomorrow." She smiled.

"How's Walker?" Gage asked as he reached for his ribs. Sydney squeezed his hand a little tighter, knowing that it had deeply hurt him to be betrayed by a man he had trusted so completely.

Trivette looked down. "The doctors ran some blood tests and they found methyl-diamphetamine in his system."

"What's that?" Gage asked.

"It's been used in mind-control experiments."

"So he really didn't know what he was doing when he shot me or when he watched them hurt Syd."

Trivette smiled slightly and shook his head. "No. He didn't know."

Gage sighed in relief. "You can't imagine how relieved that makes me feel. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how I missed it. How could I have trusted Walker so completely just to have him turn on me like this."

"I know. I've been doing the same thing. If I hadn't spotted the explosives pack in the barn, I would be toast right now. After we got out, all I could think about was; how could I have been so wrong about someone."

Sydney smiled at both of them. "I doubted him too. I don't think I've ever been so frightened in my life than I was when Brandish put me on that table and hooked those wires up to my head. I felt so helpless and Walker just stood there."

"We've all felt betrayed by him and now that we know that he wasn't in control of himself, where does that leave us? How do we get back to where we were before Sonya Cambridge came into the picture?" She continued.

"I don't know, but we have to try. Walker's going to come out of this. His doctor plans to talk to he and Alex this afternoon about the treatment procedure. He'll be here on the 5th floor."

"Whoa. The 5th floor is the Psych. Ward." Sydney stated.

Trivette nodded. "Yeah, it is. That's where he'll receive his treatments."

"What kind of treatments?" Gage asked.

"I don't know."

*****

Two months later at the Walker ranch:

"I don't know if this was such a good idea Alex."

"Why not? They're our friends."

"I know, but I haven't seen any of them in two months. I just don't know if I'm ready to face them, especially Gage and Sydney."

"You know that your doctor wouldn't allow any outside visitors while you were in treatment and Walker, Gage and Sydney understand what happened and neither of them blame you."

"Maybe not, but I blame myself." He thought.

Alex parked the car and Walker was cheered by his peers when he got out.

He approached the group. "Thank you guys." He studied the faces of each of them and was satisfied to see that there seemed to be no signs of grudges.

"Hey, let's eat before these burgers get cold." Trivette shouted as he flipped the hamburgers from the grill.

Walker played with Angela for a while on the spread Alex had laid on the grass. "Walker, the food is ready." Alex said as she gently lifted Angela.

"I'm coming." He got up and joined everyone else at the table. Before everyone began to eat he stood and looked at all of them. "I want to thank all of you for your support during my recovery and for believing in me. I'm sorry for the things I did when I was, well, out of it.

Trivette, I would never knowingly lead you or any other Ranger into an ambush or a set up. Gage, I still can't believe that I shot you, not once, but twice. I'm so thankful that you were wearing your vest, I hate to think about how things would be if you hadn't been and Sydney," he stared at Sydney for a few moments before speaking. "If I had been in control of things, I would have never let anyone hurt you the way that they did. I am so sorry. I can only hope that you all can find a way to forgive me and that we can work together to re-build the trust that you each once had in me."

Trivette stood and put his hand on Walker's shoulder. "Hey man, we've already forgiven you and we can't wait for you to get back to work."

"Yeah," Gage said, "there's a mound of paperwork on your desk and Syd and I are working on a case that has your name written all over it."

"That's enough." Alex stood. "Walker won't be returning to work for at least another few days and until then, he's all mine." She wrapped her arms around his neck and he pulled her close for a kiss.

*****

The cookout lasted well into the night with everyone moving inside as it got dark. "Alex, have you seen Walker?" Gage asked as he passed Alex in the kitchen.

"Not lately." She said as he eyes widened.

"I'll check on the porch." Gage stepped out on the porch and found Walker sitting on the steps. He stuck his head back inside the door. "Alex, he's out here." She nodded.

"Hey Walker, what are you doing out here? Everyone else is inside."

"I know. I just wanted to be alone."

"Oh, OK, I'll just go back inside."

"Gage. Why don't you stick around for a while? I want to talk to you."

Gage tilted his head slightly. "OK. Shoot."

"Don't say that." Walker held his head in his hands.

"Don't say what." Then Gage realized the impact of his simple response. "Oh Walker. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"How can you not think about it? I shot you."

"Walker, drop it. I'm fine."

"Are you really?"

"Yes, really. I had two broken ribs and some bruising. That's it, end of story."

"End of story, um? Let me ask you something. If you and I were involved in a shootout, would you trust me to cover you?"

"Of course I would. Just the same as I would trust any other Ranger."

Walker nodded. "You say that now, but I guess we won't really know until we're faced with it will we?"

"Walker. You have to stop this. I don't blame you for what happened. You have to believe that. Don't you realize that I admire you? I always have, even before I joined 'Company B'. You're a legend and to have the opportunity to work with you was like a dream come true for me."

"And then I shot you."

"Stop it! You're really driving this into the ground Walker. Let it go." Gage got up and went inside.

*****

After everyone had left, Alex turned out the lights and headed upstairs. She heard Walker talking to their daughter. "What do you think Angela? Do you think that daddy can just let it go?"

Alex slipped her arm around her husband's waist. "What are you talking about honey?"

"I had a talk with Gage tonight about how guilty I feel about shooting him. He told me that he didn't blame me for what happened and that I should just let it go, but I don't know if I can."

Alex kissed him. "Let it go, Walker." They tucked Angela in bed and moved the conversation into their bedroom.

"I'm just not sure that I trust myself to be back in the field. I'm supposed to be the head of 'Company B' and I'm just not so sure that I trust myself to do that again." Walker continued.

"So what are you saying?"

"I'm saying that it might be time for me to consider retiring. I have the ranch to keep me busy and you and Angela. What more could a man want?"

"Walker, that would be fine if you were doing it for the right reasons, but if you're only thinking of retiring because you're afraid that something like this might happen again, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons."

He sat on the edge of the bed and held his head in his hands. "I'm going to talk to Briscoe in the morning and I'll decide then."

*****

"Cordell, what in tarnation are you thinking?" A voice invaded his dreams.

"C.D.?" Walker questioned the voice.

"Of course it's me. Who else would be talking to you at this time of the night?"

"I wish you were here C.D. You always were able to stir me in the right direction."

"I still can if you'll just listen to me. Now I know that you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but the truth is it doesn't have to be. You've been told by Jimmy, Gage and Sydney that they don't blame you for what happened. Now if they can find it in their hearts to forgive you, don't you think it's time that you forgive yourself?"

Just as suddenly as the voice had appeared, it was gone.

Walker woke the following morning feeling refreshed and ready to face the world. He knew in his heart that all was forgiven and that his Ranger family had forgiven him as well as Alex and Angela. This crisis was over.

THE END