HEART SECRETS

by Gail R. (Cavefever@aol.com)

            C.D. hurried into the emergency room, scanning the area until he spotted the Dallas PD officer who had called him.

            "Rob, what happened?"

            Rob shook his head.  "We're not really sure.  Haven't talked to Walker yet."

            "Is Cordell okay?"

            "He was conscious at the scene, but he was scraped up pretty bad."

            "How did it go down?"

            "We had a unit responding to an armed robbery at a convenience store.  Walker radioed in that he was in the area and would cover the rear.  All hell broke loose then.  There were shots fired, a clerk got hit, and the next thing I saw was the getaway car hauling ass with Walker hanging on to the roof rack.  We pursued, I saw Walker lean head first into the driver's side window and I think he cut the ignition and pulled the keys out.  The driver was fighting with him, lost control and headed for some trees.  Walker either bailed or was thrown off.  He got dragged on the pavement."

            C.D. grimaced.  "What about the driver?"

            "They were juveniles.  Air bags saved them.  Hit a tree dead on."

            "Where's Cordell now?"

            "They've got him in there."  Rob pointed to a treatment room.

            "Okay, thanks Rob."

            C.D. paced outside the treatment room, not able to see inside due to the curtained partitions.  He wondered if he should call Jimmy and Alex, who were in Austin to testify tomorrow.  No, he'd wait until he found out Cordell's situation.  Could be he had only a scraped knee or elbow.  But then, he'd have never let a rescue squad bring him to the hospital for something minor.  There must be more to it.

            C.D. glanced around the waiting room and spied Maisie at the supply closet.  He rushed to her.

            "Maisie, did you bring Cordell in?"

            "Don't I always?" she grinned.

            "How is he?"

            "Handsome as ever."

            "Come on, Maisie," C.D. said, annoyed, but if Maisie was joking then Cordell must be okay.

            "Don't get all worked up, C.D.  He'll be okay.  He lost right much of that pale skin of his on one whole side.  Didn't appear to have broken anything."

            "That's a relief," C.D. said, letting go of a worried breath.

            "Then there's the gunshot wound."

            "What! You just said he was all right."  Walker and Trivette adored Maisie, but dangit, the woman exasperated C.D.

            "He will be, I said.  It was a graze, right across here."  She ran a finger across C.D.'s ribcage, right side. "Deep, had powder burns too.  The shooter must have been close."

            "Who was the shooter?" C.D. asked.

            Maisie shrugged.  "Walk-Man wasn't talking.  But not because of the injuries.  There was something else eating at him."

            C.D. pondered that, very concerned.  With Cordell, emotional wounds were harder to treat than the physical ones.  "All right.  Thanks, Maisie."

            She patted his arm and carried her supplies away.

            C.D. couldn't stand the waiting.  He walked into the treatment room, looked into each cubicle until he found Walker, his blood pressure being checked by a nurse.  His eyes were closed.  The nurse looked up.

            "Is he asleep?" C.D. asked.

            "He's in and out, drugged up."

            C.D. surveyed the damage.  His entire right arm and shoulder and most of his right leg were swathed in bandages.  The side of his face had taken a beating too -- a bandage on the cheek bone and chin, and angry scratches on his forehead.  Lesser abrasions on the opposite elbow and hand were left uncovered.  The bullet graze had been neatly sutured, the gunpowder burns red and feverish surrounding the wound.  The nurse opened a sterile package and taped a dressing over the sutures.  She looked up at C.D. again.

            "Would you like to talk to Dr. Miller?  He's over there."

            C.D. thanked her and found Dr. Miller writing on a chart.  They had met on several occasions before, each time an ER visit with Walker.  Dr. Miller knew C.D., Alex and Jimmy by name.

            "Hey, Doc."

            "C.D., hello."

            "Tell me what's going on with Cordell."

            "As you can see, he lost a lot of skin on the road, but X-rays were negative and amazingly there doesn't appear to be a head injury.  He was conscious and lucid when he came in.  I sedated him for the debridement."

            "Debridement?"

            "Scrubbing the gravel out of the abrasions.  It's extremely painful.  He's going to be one hurting cowboy tomorrow."

            "What about the bullet wound?"

            "We were lucky.  I'd like to know how someone at that close of range only grazed him."

            C.D. wondered too, but he was thankful for whatever circumstance had occurred.

            "I'm going to keep him overnight for observation," Dr. Miller told him.  "Even though I think everything's okay, there's always the danger of internal injuries when one is thrown from a moving vehicle."

            "Okay.  Is it all right if I stay in here with him?"

            "Sure.  We're holding him here until there's a room available.  Full house tonight."

            C.D. went back to Walker.  The nurse covered him with a cotton blanket, then, smiling at C.D., left the cubicle.

            Walker stirred, his hand going to the graze wound.  When his eyes opened, C.D. smiled and shook his head.

            "You look like someone took a potato peeler to you."

            "Feels like it too," Walker answered.  He pushed up on his elbow, wincing.

            "Just stay put," C.D. told him. "You're staying overnight."

            Walker frowned and shook his head.  He knew what his injuries were.  They hurt like hell but they weren't serious.  He sat up all the way, swaying slightly.  The sedative was still sabotaging his bloodstream.

            C.D. folded his arms across his chest, realizing a battle was at hand.  "Lay on back down."

            Walker again shook his head no and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

            "Cordell....." C.D. warned.

            Ignoring C.D., Walker tentatively put his feet on the floor and eased his weight onto them.  C.D. caught him by the arm as his legs buckled.

            "Now will you get back on the bed?"

            Walker, one hand gripping the bed and one holding onto C.D., stood still until he gained control over his legs.  Then he took a trial step.

            "All right, mulehead," C.D. grumbled. "You're going to fall on your face and scrape up what little skin you have left."

            "I'm okay, C.D."

            "If you were okay they wouldn't be keeping you overnight."

            Walker pulled his arm from C.D.'s grasp and started toward the door.

            "Cordell, you just gonna walk out of here in your skivvies?"

            Walker looked down, suddenly realizing he was wearing only underwear.  Several nurses were giggling and one winked at him.  Blushing, Walker turned back to C.D.

            "Where are my jeans?"

            "What's left of 'em are in this bag."  C.D. pulled the torn jeans from the plastic bag beside the bed.

            Walker reached for them, but C.D. jerked them away.

            "You get back in that bed."

            C.D. expected an angry retort, but Walker looked at him with an odd expression that C.D. couldn't identify.

            "C.D., I have to get out of here."

            "Cordell, you've been injured and you're doped up.  What you need is bed rest."

            Walker clutched at the bed as the room began to spin.  C.D. grabbed him, holding him steady.  When his head cleared, he looked at C.D., quiet desperation in his voice.  "Get me out of here, C.D.  I don't care where we go, just get me out of here."

            C.D. studied Walker's face.  There was something in his eyes, some disquieting clamor, a plea for help from deep down.  C.D. recalled Maisie's words, "...something else was eating at him."

            "All right," C.D. said softly. "You sit down here and put your pants on.   Stop making these nurses swoon."

            C.D. left to find Dr. Miller.  "Doc,  Cordell's determined to go home.  You know how he is."

            "I figured it was coming," Dr. Miller said. "Will someone be with him tonight?"

            "Sure.  I will."

            "Here, these are pain killers.  Pop one in him every four hours.  Give him the first one in about an hour."  He put the medication bottle in C.D.'s hand.

            "Okay.  Thanks, Doc."

            C.D. helped Walker into his car, wondering if he was doing the right thing.  Walker could hardly bend the arm or leg and he was still woozy from the medication.  But he seemed relieved to be out of the hospital.

            C.D. pulled onto the highway.  "You're staying with me tonight.  Don't argue."

            Walker didn't.  He leaned his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes.  C.D. didn't ask the questions that were bursting to get out of his mouth.  Instead, he let Walker catnap, knowing the answers would be forthcoming in their own good time.

            Arriving at his house, C.D. gently shook Walker awake. "We're here, Cordell."

            C.D. put an arm around him and helped him inside. "Here you go," he said, easing Walker down on the couch.  "I'm gonna make some tea.  Want some?"

            "Yeah, thanks."

            In a few moments, tea mugs in hand, C.D. sat opposite Walker and gazed at his friend.  "Feel like talking?"

            To his amazement, Walker nodded.

            "What happened tonight, Cordell?"

            Walker took a deep breath.  "I was covering the back of the store.  I heard shots inside and I started to go in, but the door burst open and a child ran out."

            "A child?"

            "Yeah, a little girl, maybe eleven or twelve years old.  She looked terrified.  I pulled her out of the way and told her to stay down.  Then I started back inside the store.  She said something and I turned to look.....she had a gun."

            "She shot you?  The little girl?"

            Walker nodded.  "The gun was so heavy in her hands, she couldn't hold it steady."

            "That's why she didn't hit you dead center."

            Walker nodded again.  "But it pushed me backwards a little and I fell off the damn steps onto the ground.  I pointed my gun at her but she just stood over me and smiled.  She aimed at me again, but, C.D., I couldn't pull the trigger.  She was just a child."

            "That child had just shot you, Cordell."

            "I know, but I couldn't shoot, and she knew it."

            "What happened then?"

            "She pulled her trigger -- it was pointed right at my face -- but there wasn't a round in the chamber."

            "Good God almighty."

            Walker paused, taking a sip of the soothing tea. "Then the other two came running outside.  They never even looked at me, just grabbed her and ran for their car."

            "You followed them and hopped on the roof rack.  I've heard this part."   

            Walker was nodding.  "I've looked into the barrel of guns before, but I've never felt like I did tonight.  It was like I was paralyzed.  My finger wouldn't move."

            "You were listening to your heart, not your brain.  Dangerous things, those heart messages.  It told you this wasn't a six foot three slimeball with priors a mile long.  Instead, it told you this was a little girl -- a sugar and spice and everything nice little girl who ought to be playing with Barbie dolls.  So how could she have a gun in her hand?"

            Walker was tapping his foot, his pent up emotion beating a rhythm on the floor.  He was feeling something else -- his usual unshakable judgment had failed him tonight.  He had decided not to shoot and that decision nearly cost him his life.

            "She was just a child," he said again.

            "It's gotta hurt," C.D. said.  "You give so much of your time and self to kids, and when one of 'em betrays you, it stings like the dickens.  This has got to be the ultimate sting."

            Walker was quiet, his brow furrowed.  It stung all right, stung him to his very core. "How could I have just laid there, waiting for her to shoot me again.  I lost my nerve...."

            "Whoa right there, Cordell.  This has nothing to do with nerve or ability.  This has to do with you putting a bullet in a child.  Be glad you couldn't do it.  Too many people wouldn't think twice.  I just thank God she was out of ammo."

            But Walker's face was anguished.  "She had a ponytail, freckles, red hair..."

            "What if she'd shot Jimmy?"  C.D. snapped.  "Could you have returned fire?"

            "I don't know," he said very quietly.

            "How about if it had been me?"

            "I don't know."

            "What if it was Alex?"

            "I don't know!  Why are you asking me this?"

            "Because you do know!  You'd have shot back in a heartbeat to protect one of us.  I have no doubt about that."

            "Then why couldn't I do it to save myself?"

            "Because that's the way you are.  You couldn't shoot a child, even to defend yourself.  But you would for one of us.  You always put us first.  Do you know what that means to an old fart like me?"

            Walker met C.D.'s sincere eyes.  C.D. continued.  "It means a hell of a lot.  So let's put this behind you.  It's over and no body died.  Bad things happen but miracles do too."

            Walker swirled his mug, watching the tea whirlpool. "You're not an old fart."

            C.D. smiled, his eyes softening as he stared at Walker.  He silently thanked the powers above for letting Walker talk it out.  So many times that didn't happen.  He'd keep it bottled up instead and agonize alone.  It might be the pain medication, C.D. thought.  He glanced at his watch, pulled the medicine bottle from his pocket and handed a pill to Walker.

            "Swallow this."

            "What is it?"

            "Just do it, Cordell.  Doc Miller said to."

            Walker tossed it down, chasing it with the tea.  Then he gingerly stretched out on the couch, aching everywhere.

            The phone rang.  C.D. jumped up and went into the kitchen to answer it.  Walker could hear muffled conversation but not wanting to eavesdrop, he looked at the bandage on his side.  Pulling the tape away, he inspected the line of sutures.  A little girl had done this to him.  It still seemed so surrealistic.  He couldn't describe the mix of emotions running through him.  Disbelief, shock, some anger.  And then there was that other feeling.  It had been fleeting, when he first saw the little girl's face, but the impact had been strong.  It was a longing, a yearning, and a dose of regret too.  Did he dare tell C.D. about it?

            C.D. returned with fresh tea.  He peered at the wound.  "Doc Miller does good work.  How many stitches has he put in you?"

            Walker shrugged.  He'd lost count.  It suddenly made him feel weary and old.  He taped the bandage back over the wound.  Feeling fuzzy in the head again, he sat up to shake out the cobwebs.

            "That was DPD on the phone.  They went back to the hospital to get your statement, found out you'd flown the coop.  I told 'em to come over tomorrow."

            Walker nodded absently.  C.D. knew where his thoughts were.  "Can't get it out of your mind, can you?" he said softly.  He sat beside Walker and put a hand on his arm.  "Tell me what you're thinking."

            Walker sighed heavily, then hesitated, trying to find the right words.  "When I first saw that little girl, I thought she was running from the shooters, I thought she needed my help.  Something flashed through my head."  He fidgeted with his hands, uncertain if he should continue.

            "I'm listening," C.D. said.

            "I thought, if my life had been different, gone in another direction, then maybe.... maybe I could have had a little girl like that of my own."  He stopped, suddenly very embarrassed.  He shook his head.  "Forget I said that, C.D.  Jeez, it must be the pain medicine."

            C.D. put his hand on Walker's shoulder. "I don't think the pain you're feeling just now can be helped with medicine.  And don't you ever be embarrassed to tell me what's in your heart, something so special and personal.  I care about you, Cordell, I care about anything that makes you happy or makes you hurt."

            Walker nodded, still looking down at the floor with a red face.

            C.D. marveled at the pain medicine.  It had loosened Walker's tongue better than a fifth of whiskey.  He put his tea aside.  "I have the same pangs of regret, you know.  Look at me, I'm an old geezer, no wife, no kids, no legacy.  I've got you and Alex and Jimmy, and I've got my business, but after you guys go home and the bar closes down, there's just loneliness."

            Walker looked at C.D.  He'd never heard C.D. worry about being alone, never even suspected he had those thoughts.

            "But it's not too late for you, Cordell.  It's not too late for those dreams to happen."

            C.D. stood up and began to pace.  "I'm gonna tell you something, something nobody knows.  I was in love once, big time, but I was a Texas Ranger and I thought the dangers of the job were too much to ask for her to contend with.  So I dilly-dallied and I lost her.  I told myself it had to be that way, it wasn't fair to put her through the risks I had to take.  But you know what that adds up to?  Bullshit.  It's pure bullshit.  If I had that chance for happiness again, I'd grab it in a heartbeat."

            Walker stared at C.D., his heart aching for his friend.  "I'm sorry, C.D."

            "Don't be sorry.  Like I said, I have you and Alex and Jimmy.  You're all the kids I can handle."  He chuckled, then got serious again.  "I think about what it would be like to have had a son.  And sometimes I even pretend I do have one.  He's a fine man, a rootin' tootin' red-bearded Texas Ranger."

            Now it was C.D.'s turn to blush.  Walker, totally taken by surprise and immensely flattered, gazed into C.D.'s eyes.  "Any man would be mighty lucky to be your son."

            C.D.'s eyes were filling.  He smiled at Walker, then quickly wiped his eyes and sighed deeply. "Damn, I must have swallowed one of those pills too."

            Walker chuckled, nodding in agreement.  He couldn't remember the last time he'd talked so honestly about his inner most feelings.  Even with Uncle Ray he always held back some, although his uncle could look into his eyes and read exactly what was going on in his head and his heart.  No verbal cue was needed.

            C.D. had been right on target.  Walker was missing something in his life.  There was an emptiness tearing away at his soul.  The young girl tonight had only exacerbated those feelings.

            As if reading his mind, C.D. touched Walker's arm.  "You've been head over heels in love with Alex for a long time now.  And you know it's mutual.  Don't let the same mistakes I made stop you.  You were listening to your heart earlier tonight.  What's it telling you now?"

            Walker felt enlightened.  It all seemed so possible now, so right.  His path in life seemed headed in a new direction.  Maybe the brush with death had released his stubborn heart.  Or maybe it was C.D.'s wisdom.

            Walker leaned back on the couch, the possibilities of his future now seeming endless.  He couldn't wait for Alex to come home tomorrow.  Closing his eyes, he smiled to himself as a layer of weariness overcame him.  He was vaguely aware of C.D. helping him stretch out on the couch and then covering him with a blanket.  C.D., the curmudgeon with a heart of gold.  A smile still lingered on Walker's face as he fell into a deep sleep.

            C.D. sat near Walker for a long while, his own emotions stirring at the things that had passed between them tonight.  They'd spoken honestly and from the heart, and the best part was that there'd be no hangover in the morning.

            Smiling, C.D. pulled the blanket up to the shoulders of the man he'd have been proud to call son.

'Walker Texas Ranger' and it's characters belong to CBS Inc., Top Kick Productions and maybe other copyright holders. This story and the author is in no way connected to those copyright holders and intends no infringement on their copyrights. The story is only meant as an entertaining tribute to a great show and it's cast and crew. This story may be distributed and copied freely, in its entirety, for personal use.

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