Twisted Love

By: Kristian Grace

 

 

 

 

METHODIST HOSPITAL – MONDAY FEBRUARY 18, 6:35 PM

 

The old, rust-colored sedan screeches to a halt in front of the emergency room of Methodist Hospital.  A young mother jumps from the car and runs through the double doors yelling, “Someone help my baby!  She immediately turns and runs back out to the car to retrieve the injured child, followed by a nurse and an orderly with a gurney.

 

“He’s hurt!  Please help him!” she screams as they extricate him from the seat in the back of the car.

 

Running back into the hospital, the doctor has a lot of questions for her.  It is clear that the child was beaten.

 

“I’m Dr. Chapman.  Miss…”

 

“Lauren.  Lauren Williams.  How’s my son?”

 

“Your son is very badly injured.  He’s been beaten.  I need to know what happened to him and who did this.”

 

“I…I…I don’t know.  I was at work.  I came home a little after 6:00 and found him…in his bed.  He had a knot on his head and his eye was bruised.  He started throwing up in the car.  My…my husband was watching him…I was at work.”  She breaks down and begins sobbing.  “I didn’t see him until after my husband left.  I didn’t know what he had done.”

 

“Was your other son home when this happened?” he motions to Noah, standing next to his mother.

 

“Yes, he was there.”  Kneeling down so he is eye level with the frightened little boy, who is trying to hide behind his mother’s legs, Dr. Chapman extends his hand.

 

“My name is Dr. Chapman.  What’s yours?”

 

“Noah,” he answers innocently.

 

“Noah, did you see what happened to your brother?”

The frightened little boy nods his head and looks up to his mother, as if to ask permission to tell what happened.

 

“J.T. wet his pants…Daddy started hitting him.”  Lauren takes a swift intake of air upon realizing that this child was beaten for wetting his pants.  He’s barely potty-trained.  “Daddy punched him in the stomach…and then when he cried, Daddy picked him up and shook him around.  J.T. wouldn’t stop crying…so Daddy threw him into his bedroom.  I think he hit his head.  After that, I went in to check on him…he was asleep.  Daddy said to leave him alone...he said that J.T. was a bad boy.”

 

Lauren’s sobbing continued and grew worse.  She’s chastising herself for staying with Kyle.  This was her fault.  If she had just left, this wouldn’t have happened.

 

“We’re going to run some tests on him right now.  I ordered a CT scan and some blood work.  He’s very badly hurt, Mrs. Williams.  I’m gonna need to report this to the police.  Do you know where your husband is right now?”

 

“He should be at work…Syntac Electronics.  He’s a security guard.  Do everything you can, Doctor…please.  He’s my baby and this is all my fault.  I can’t bear to lose him!  Please help him!”  He puts a hand on her forearm and tells her he will do his best.

 

“I’ll let you know as soon as I get the results of the CT scan back.”  He turns and walks away, leaving Lauren and Noah to deal with the pain of seeing this little boy so badly hurt.  She kneels down to Noah and hugs him tight.

 

“Honey, I promise you that I will never let anything like this happen again.  I am so sorry!!!”  He puts a tiny hand on each side of her face and looks her square in the eye.  With all the knowledge his five-year old brain can muster, he tells her,

 

“Mommy, it’s okay.  It wasn’t your fault.  Daddy’s bad.  J.T.’s just a baby.  He didn’t know better.”  She wraps her arms around this little boy and hugs him tightly.

 

“Come on.  Mommy’s got a phone call to make.”

 

Finding her way to the pay phone, she deposits the required change and dials the number found on the business card she holds in her hand.

 

WALKER RANCH  – SAME DAY, 7:10 P.M.

 

It had been a fairly easy day at the office and both Alex and Walker had arrived home early.  Walker hadn’t been feeling well; he felt like he was coming down with the flu, so he was thankful for what he hoped would be a peaceful evening with his wife and daughter.  Dinner is done and he is busy cleaning the kitchen while Alex plays with Angela.  They are settling in for a nice relaxing evening when the phone rings.

“Hello?”  The shaky voice on the other end is doing a bad job of hiding the tears.

 

“May I speak with Alex, please?”

 

“Sure, who’s calling?”

 

“My name is Lauren Williams.”

 

“Okay, hang on a second.  She’s got the baby.”  He goes to the living room and retrieves Alex.

 

“Hon, phone’s for you.  It’s Lauren Williams…she sounds like she’s crying.”

 

“Uh oh,” she states as she stands from the floor.

 

“I’ll play with Angela,” he offers as he sits on the floor with his nine-month-old daughter.

 

“Yeah, you’ll do anything to keep from having to finish the dishes!” she jokes with him over her shoulder.

 

“Hello, Lauren?”

 

“Hi, Alex.  I’m sorry to call you at home.”  The tears fall despite the control she’s trying to muster.

 

“Hey, it’s okay.  What’s wrong?”

 

“My hu…husband…”

 

“Did he hit you?  Do you need me to come get you?”

 

“No…no…he hit…he hit J.T.  I’m at the emergency room.  He’s hurt really badly.  I don’t know what to do.  They said…the doctor said…he has to call…the po…police.  I can’t go home.  He’ll kill me.”

 

Crying uncontrollably, she is attracting unwanted attention from the other patients in the waiting room.  Noah is fidgeting and trying to calm her down.  He’s frightened and it’s written all over his young face, when a nurse comes by and offers to take him to the desk to color in a coloring book.

 

“Take a deep breath, Lauren.  What hospital are you in?”

 

Walker’s ears perk up and he joins her in the kitchen toting Angela on his hip.  ‘What happened?’ he mouths to her.  She holds up her index finger to him and turns her attention back to the phone.

 

“Methodist.”

 

“Okay, I’m on my way.  I’m gonna call Josie and make sure there is an open room at the H.O.P.E. Center.  You can spend the night there, okay?”

 

“Okay…thank you…Alex, I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be sorry.  You did the right thing by calling me.  I’ll be there in about thirty minutes.”

 

They disconnect the phone call and Alex turns to Walker to explain the situation.

 

“Do you want me to go with you?”

 

She touches his cheek and then Angela’s.

 

“No.  I’ll be okay.  I’m just gonna get her set up at the H.O.P.E. Center and then I’ll be back.  Angela needs to be in her bed.  Do you mind keeping her?”

 

“Of course not.  We’ll take a bubble bath and go nite-nite…won’t we, Angel face?” he coos to the baby, once again surprising Alex by his not-so-macho baby talk with her.

 

“Okay.  Thank you.  I’ll try to not be too late.  I’m sorry about ruining our quiet night.  I know you’re not feeling well.”

”It’s not your fault.  I’ll wait up for you.”

 

“Promise?” she smiles.

 

“Definitely,” he smiles in return with a wink and a gleam in his eye.

 

METHODIST HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM

 

Arriving at the hospital, Alex finds Lauren in the waiting room, pacing.  She goes to the young woman and gives her an encouraging hug.

 

“How’s he doing?” Alex asks anxiously.

 

“They haven’t come out yet,” Lauren replies nervously, wringing the Kleenex in her hand.

“Tell me what happened.”

 

“I really don’t know all of it.  Noah was at home with him and he saw it.  He said that Kyle flew into a rage when J.T. wet his pants.  He…”

 

“He’s only two years old!” Alex exclaims, in shock that ‘an accident’ would cause a fit of rage.

 

“I know.  He was only potty-trained a month ago.  It’s amazing he was even potty-trained.  Noah said Kyle punched J.T. in the stomach and when he wouldn’t stop crying, he…he…he threw him in the bedroom and that caused him to hit his head.  He threw my baby so hard that he hit his head on the wall!”

 

She breaks down again and Alex cradles the distraught woman in her arms.  Just then, the doctor finds them in the waiting room and informs Lauren that J.T. is in serious condition.  He is suffering from a skull fracture and some abdominal bleeding.  They were going to need to do exploratory surgery to find out where the bleeding was coming from.  So far, there was only slight swelling of the brain, but they would keep an eye on it.  Right now, their main concern is to stop the bleeding in his abdomen.  This causes more tears to flow as she breaks down again.

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Williams.  I know this is tough.  I’ve got to get into the operating room.  The surgical waiting room is upstairs on the 5th floor.  You’re welcome to wait up there if you like.”

 

“Thank you, Doctor.”

 

The doctor pivots and hurries down the hall to the elevators.  Alex and Lauren head upstairs after collecting Noah and her purse.  Alex gets Lauren and Noah settled upstairs in the waiting room and excuses herself to call Walker on her cell phone to inform him that she will be later than predicted.

 

“Hello,” he answers on the second ring.

 

“Hey, Cowboy.”

 

“How’s he doing?” Walker asks, concerned and knowing that Alex is probably having a hard time with all of this.

 

“He’s going into surgery.  He has some abdominal bleeding that they can’t locate.  Walker, this guy is a real creep.  He punched that baby in the stomach, which caused the bleeding.  When J.T. wouldn’t stop crying, he picked him up and threw him against a wall, fracturing his skull.”

 

Alex begins to cry, picturing her precious baby girl.

 

“He did all of this because J.T. wet his pants.  He’s barely two years old,” she responded sadly.

 

“I’m so sorry, Alex.  Do you want me to come down there and sit with you?”

 

“No, babe.  It’s okay.  You aren’t feeling well and Angela needs to be in bed.  I don’t know how long I’m gonna be here.  I’m sorry.  I know you wanted a quiet evening at home.  I wanted that, too.  I just can’t leave her here alone.  Once the surgery is over, I’ll drop her off at H.O.P.E. House and be home after that.”

 

“Okay.  Call me once you drop her off so I know you’re on your way home.  Be safe.”

 

“I will.  How’s Angela?”

 

“Sleeping.”

 

“Good.  Why don’t you head on to bed and I’ll call you, hopefully in a little while.  I love you.”

 

“I love you, too.”

 

Walker heads up the stairs to take a shower.  Stopping by the nursery to check on Angela first, he peeks in at the sleeping baby and marvels at how much he can love someone as much as he loves this baby and her mother.  How can anyone harm something so innocent?’ he thinks to himself.  He kisses the ends of his fingers and presses them on her forehead.  He fixes her blanket and quietly walks out of her room, shutting the door behind him.

 

Alex rejoins Lauren and a sleeping Noah.  She has brought some coffee with her, as it is probably going to be a long night.  Surprisingly, within two hours, Dr. Chapman returns to them with the news that they found the bleeding and stopped it.  They had to remove his spleen.  It had ruptured and was the cause of the bleeding.

 

“He was hit very hard in order to sustain that much damage.  I don’t need to tell you that we have already called the authorities and your husband will be brought up on charges.”

 

“I’ve already discussed that with her, Doctor.  I’m the Deputy District Attorney for Tarrant County,” Alex informs him.

 

“Okay, well, with that taken care of…”

 

“Doctor?  Is my baby going to be okay?”

 

“Yes.  He’s gonna need some time to heal and, as long as there is no further brain swelling, he will be okay.  I can’t tell you what will happen with him emotionally, but physically, his injuries will heal.  He’ll need some extra care whenever he gets an infection because we removed his spleen and that can cause some inadequacies with the immune system.  But, as long as he is watched carefully and given antibiotics promptly, he’ll be okay.”

 

“Oh, praise God!” Lauren lets out with a long exhale, as she collapses on the chair behind her.  “Can I see him?”

 

“Yes, but just for a moment.  He’s in ICU and I can only let one person in at a time.  He’s gonna be asleep for a while, at least another 12-14 hours.  I’ll take you to see him, then I need you to get some rest.  He’s gonna need a healthy mother and a lot of time to heal.”

 

Before he takes her to J.T., he turns back to her and says, “You know, there will be charges pressed against your husband.  I had to call Child Protective Services and I don’t think you should be alone tonight,” he looks toward Alex.

 

“She won’t be, Doctor.  I’m taking her to the H.O.P.E. Center.  Someone will be there to look after them for as long as they need.  Here’s a card with the phone number on it, in case you need to reach her.”

 

Alex hands him the business card and he nods his head.

 

“Follow me,” he says as he leads Lauren to her baby son.

 

After looking in on J.T. and assuring herself that he is okay, Lauren follows Alex to the H.O.P.E. Center and Alex helps her get settled.

 

“You’ve got my number at home if you need me.  Jackie is the counselor on duty tonight, and her room is right down the hall if you need anything.”

 

“Thank you, Alex, for everything.  I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Lauren tells her with tears in her eyes.  “What’s gonna happen to Kyle?”

 

“Well, the police are probably looking for him if they haven’t already found him.  He’ll be arrested and the state will press charges of child abuse and probably endangerment.  It’s out of your hands now, Lauren.  I’m sorry, but he needs to be stopped.”

 

“I know.  I’m just sorry and so guilty about letting it get this far.  If I had left sooner, J.T. would never have been hurt.”

 

“You can’t change the past.  You’re out now and he won’t find you here.  You need to lay low and just take care of yourself and your boys.”

 

“I have to work, Alex.  I’m gonna be on my own now.  I need to make some money to support my children.”

 

“I understand that, but he knows where you work.  They can’t keep him in jail forever.  Your safe as long as you’re here.”

 

“I’ll call my boss tomorrow and fill her in on all that’s gone on.  She knows pretty much of it.  We’re pretty good friends.  I’ll see if she’ll give me a leave of absence.”

 

“I think that’s a good idea.  I wouldn’t tell anyone where you are; the less people that know the better.  Someone might slip up and let Kyle know where you are and that could prove disastrous.”

 

“Okay.  I need to get Noah to bed and then I need to get some sleep as well.  I’m sorry for dragging you away from your family tonight.  Thank you for coming down to the hospital and staying with me.  It meant a lot to me, and to J.T.”

 

The two women hug goodnight and Alex slips quietly from the H.O.P.E. Center.  On the way home, she calls Walker.  Thirty-five minutes later she is walking through the front door of her home.  She quietly sneaks up the stairs and first drops in to check on her daughter.  Peeking over the top of the crib, she places a kiss on the baby’s forehead, much the same way Walker did earlier.  She says a prayer thanking God for her sweet husband and beautiful child, knowing that she is so lucky and that she will never have to go through what Lauren went through tonight.  She walks out the door and closes it behind her before stealing into the master bedroom and sliding in next to her sleeping husband.

 

 

WALKER RANCH – FEBRUARY 19, 6:22 A.M.

 

The next morning, the living alarm clock goes off before the one on the nightstand.  Walker rolls over and sees that his wife is sleeping right through the crying.  ‘I didn’t even hear her come in last night’ he thinks to himself as he kisses her on the cheek.  He slides out of bed, pulls on a pair of sweat pants and pads down the hall to his crying daughter, trying to ignore the massive headache he has.

 

“Good morning, Sunshine,” he greets her as he opens the door.

 

She immediately holds her hands out and starts bouncing up and down on the mattress.

 

“Dadadadddddaaaaaaaaa” she smiles at him with her dimples and the few teeth that she has managed to break through.

 

“Let’s go wake Mommy up.  Whadya say, pumpkin?”

 

He lifts her out of the confines of the crib and changes her diaper before bringing her in to Alex to nurse for the first time of the day.

 

“Good morning, Mommy!” he whispers as he gently kneels on the bed and places Angela so that she can touch Alex’s face with her pudgy hands.  Alex opens her eyes to find her blonde daughter and her redheaded husband staring at her.

 

“Good morning, you two,” she groggily states from her ‘half asleep’ fog.  She sits herself up and kisses her daughter’s forehead and her husband’s mouth before heading to the bathroom.  She returns to her little family and sits down on the bed to begin her daily routine.  Walker hands the baby to her and Angela eagerly latches on to her mother’s breast.

 

“So, how’d it go last night?” Walker asks while watching his baby being nursed by her mother.

 

“He was pretty badly beaten.  He has some minor brain swelling and they had to remove his spleen.  The doctor thinks he’ll be fine, as long as the swelling doesn’t increase.  Physically he’s gonna be fine.  I don’t know how he’s gonna do emotionally.  The whole family is gonna need some counseling.  We also need to get that man off the streets.  I hope the DPD caught him last night.”

 

“I’ll have Trivette check on it as soon as we get in the office.  I’m sure they’ll find him.  At least, he better hope the Dallas Police find him and not Trivette or me.  I can’t promise that I wouldn’t have to rough him up a bit before I brought him in.”

 

She reaches out and caresses his cheek.  Smiling, she says, “We are so lucky.  I love you so much.”

 

“We are lucky.  I love you, too.”

 

He leans over his daughter and kisses Alex on the mouth.  He goes to back away and Alex moves her hand behind his neck to bring his lips back for another kiss.  He gladly accepts as his lips press against hers.  He feels her tongue flick against his lips and he opens his mouth to accept it.  The kiss turns much more passionate than either one had anticipated, and they break it off only when he feels his daughter reach up and grab his beard on his chin to remind them that they weren’t alone.

 

“I love you, too, little one.”

 

He leans down and kisses Angela on the forehead before heading off to the shower.

 

“Maybe she’ll let us finish that later tonight,” he winks at Alex as he looks longingly into her sky-blue eyes.

 

“I hope so…we’ll make sure of it,” she smiles back at him and looks down at Angela.  “Won’t we, sweetheart?”

 

Within 30 minutes, Walker is dressed and ready to go.  Alex has just emerged from the shower and Walker has dressed Angela in her denim overalls and a long-sleeved turtleneck onesie.  He walks back into their bedroom to let Alex know that he is leaving.

 

“Alex, I’m outta here.”

 

She walks out of the bathroom in her bra and panties and his eyes get that familiar glow and he feels the same feelings come rushing up that always spring forth anytime Alex is near, especially when she is barely dressed.

 

“On second thought…maybe I’ll wait!” he waggles his eyebrows at her.

 

“I think you’d better go.  I can’t be late.  Where’s Angela?”

 

“She’s in her crib with some toys.  She’s talking to her bear.”

 

“Oh, okay.  Can you flip the monitor back on so I’ll be able to hear her?” she asks as she approaches him for a good-bye kiss.

 

“I already did,” he answers proudly as he leans down and accepts the offered kiss.  “Do you want me to drop her off?  I have time before I stop by C.D.’s to get my ‘real’ coffee.”

 

“You just won’t drink that decaf, will you?”

 

“Nope.  I need real stuff.  It’s my one vice in life…besides you.”  He leans his head down for another light kiss.

 

“I’ll drop her off.  I need to check on Lauren anyway.”

 

“Okay, I’ll see ya later then,” he answers as he walks out the door and heads downstairs.  “Be careful,” he calls over his shoulder as an afterthought.

 

“You, too!”

  

Stopping at C.D.’s, it just isn’t the same since his friend and one-time partner died two years ago.  It’s getting easier to go in there, as he makes himself do it every morning.  But, it’s still hard…always expecting the booming voice of C.D. giving advice on things, whether it’s wanted or not.

 

“’Mornin’ Walker!” comes the friendly voice of the new owner, Jonesy.  He’s wiping off some tables at the back of the bar and grill.

 

“Mornin’, Jonesy.  How’s it going this morning?”

 

“I’m doin’ alright.  How’s that wife and baby of yours?”

 

“Their beautiful, as usual.  Angela’s still teething some but you know how it was when your kids were little.  Some nights it’s great, some it’s not.”

 

“I hear ya.  You want the usual, extra large coffee to go, right?”

 

Chuckling to himself at his predictability, “that’s right”.

 

Jonesy goes to get the coffee pot and Walker sits down at the bar to wait.

 

“Actually, can you add a bagel and cream cheese with that?  I’m kinda hungry this morning.  Alex didn’t feed me,” he jokes.

 

“The newness of marriage wearing off already, huh?” Jonesy jokes back, knowing that the newness of marriage will never wear off for those two.

 

“I’ll get it,” comes a soft voice from the kitchen.

 

Walker turns to see the newest waitress, Sophie, coming towards him with the steaming Styrofoam cup of coffee.

 

“Here you go, Walker,” she states as she sets it down in front of him.  “I’ll be right back with that bagel for ya.”

 

“Thanks, Sophie,” Walker replies.

 

She sashays away and Walker returns to his conversation with Jonesy.  They discuss family life and ‘Ranger-talk’ as Jonesy was a former Texas Ranger who worked with C.D. well before Walker did.  After retrieving his much-anticipated breakfast, he heads off to the office with his beloved ‘leaded’ coffee.  He’s hoping it will help him get rid of the headache he woke with this morning.

 

‘Great, all I need is to come down with something.  Then Angela will get it and we’ll be up all night with that!’  he thinks to himself.

 

He’s in his office for maybe 20 minutes when he gets a frantic phone call from Alex.

 

“Walker,” he answers the ringing instrument on his desk.

 

“Walker, she’s hurt!” Alex hysterically shouts into the phone.  He’s thinking Angela and his stomach falls to his feet.

 

“What happened?  I left her in the crib!”

 

“Not Angela!   She’s fine.  She’s with Josie.  Oh, honey, I’m sorry to scare you.  I didn’t even think!  It’s Lauren.  I dropped Angela off and when I went to find Lauren, Noah said that she went to the house to get some more of their stuff.  I raced over here to their house…Oh God, Walker, he must have been here waiting for her.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“She’s here…she’s lying on the floor…there’s blood all over…Oh God, Walker!”

 

“I’ll have Trivette call an ambu…”

 

“I already called 911,” she cut him off.  “Can you meet me at the hospital?”

 

“Yeah, we’re on our way.”

 

Trivette has moved to Walker’s desk upon hearing his side of the phone call.  He was worried something had happened to Angela or Alex.  They race through the door, both thankful that it wasn’t Alex or the baby who were hurt but fearful for what this abusive man could have done to Lauren.

 

Rushing into Methodist Hospital, they find Alex sobbing in the waiting room of the ER.  Walker hurriedly moves to her and embraces her to quiet her sobs.

 

“The doctor came out.  She’s in a coma and they don’t know if she’s gonna make it or not.  They’ve got a machine breathing for her.  He fractured her skull…I didn’t even recognize her face.  She has multiple broken bones…I told her not to go there.  I told her to wait for me.  I knew something like this would happen!”

 

“Shhh…honey, it’s okay.  It’s not your fault, you know that.”

 

“I know.  I just wish I could’ve stopped it, or…or something.”

 

“You and I both know there’s nothing you can do when these women make up their minds.  It’s in God’s hands now.  All we can do is pray for their family and find that son of a b…”

 

Trivette cut him off to motion that the doctor was coming toward them.

 

“Mrs. Walker?”

 

“Yes, what happened?”

 

“She’s still critical.  I just wanted to let you know that we’re taking her up to ICU now.  Do you know where it is?”

 

“Yes, the 6th floor, right?”

 

“Yes, that’s it.  She can only have visitors for fifteen minutes every three hours.  And, it’s only supposed to be family.  Do you know if she has any family we could notify?”

 

“She has a son…two sons…one of them is in the Peds ICU…that’s what started this whole thing.  Her husband beat him.  He had surgery last night.  She has another son that is staying at a shelter.  Um…her mother lives in Utah.  I can find the number and notify her.”

 

“Okay, I’ll leave that up to you.  Here’s my card with my office and pager number.  Have her give me a call on my pager and I’ll update her.  It would probably be a good idea if she would come to Dallas.  I can’t make any guarantees on how long she’ll live.”

 

Alex loses the tears that she’s been trying to hold back, and she looks up into Walker’s face and notices that he’s flushed.

 

“Honey, are you okay?” she questions him.  Trivette and the doctor both look at him curiously.

 

“Yeah, I just have a headache.”

 

“How long have you had it?” the doctor questions him.

 

“A few days.  It’s just gotten worse in the past few hours.”

 

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Alex asks, touching his face and noticing that he feels feverish.

 

“It’s just a cold.”

 

“I can take a look at you really quick, if you’d like,” the doctor offers.  Alex gladly accepts by nodding her head while Walker tries to shrug it off.

 

“That’s okay, doc.”

 

“No, it’s not!” Alex interjects.   “He’ll see you, Doctor.”  Then to Walker she says,  “You’re already here.  Let him take a look.  If nothing else, he can give you something for the headache and maybe stop the other symptoms before they get worse.”

”Alex…”

 

She gives him the look that warns him not to argue with her and Jimmy smiles and chuckles to himself.

 

“I heard that, Trivette,” he barks, but follows the doctor, with Alex holding his hand.

 

“I’ll wait out here,” Jimmy smiles, motioning to the ER waiting room.

 

The three move into the examining room and by the time they sit him on the gurney, Walker is becoming delirious and having a hard time breathing.  Alex begins to panic when she notices what is happening.

 

“Doctor!  What’s happening to him?” she cries frantically.

 

“I don’t know, Mrs. Walker.  I’m gonna run some blood tests to see what’s happening.  You haven’t noticed any change in him lately?”

 

“No, he’d complained of a headache last night.  He thought he was maybe coming down with the flu…he’s not much of a complainer when he’s sick, though.  He thought some extra sleep would take care of it.”

 

“Well, it’s not a cold, I can tell you that.  Why don’t you wait outside, we’ll get the blood drawn and I’ll come out and talk to you in a minute, okay?”

 

“I’d like to stay here,” she counters.

 

The doctor looks down at his newly acquired patient and realizes that he’s getting worse by the minute.

 

“I really need you to wait outside, please.”

 

She reluctantly leaves, knowing it isn’t a good sign when the doctor kicks you out of the examining room.  She goes to Jimmy and answers his questioning look with fresh tears.  He embraces her and asks her what happened.

“Jimmy…I…I don’t know…we got him to the gurney, he started getting delirious.  He closed his eyes…he won’t answer!  The doctor got this strange look on his face and asked me to leave…I don’t know what’s going on!   Oh, Jimmy, how can this happen?!?”

 

“I don’t know, Alex, we’ll wait here and see what the doc says,” Jimmy pulls her in closer and tries to soothe her fears while working on calming his own.  A few minutes later, the doctor returns to inform Alex that he has drawn blood to run some tests.

 

“How long has he been feeling like this?”

 

“A few days.  He’s only complained for a few days…but…he never…really complains when he’s sick.  He hates being sick and confined to bed.”

 

Alex is trying to calm her self while absorbing all that has happened today.

 

“Well, I really don’t know what it is right now.  I will have to wait for the blood work to come back.  I put a rush on it and should have it back within a half hour.  In the meantime, I’ve hooked him up to an I.V. for fluids and he’s on a ventilator.  I suspect he may have been poisoned but I don’t know what with.”

 

“Oh my God!  He’s on a ventilator?!  Why?” Alex asks in a panicked voice, expecting the worst.

 

“It’s just a precautionary measure.  If he was poisoned, we need to know what with so we will know how to treat it and what symptoms we can expect.  I wanted him vented in case his throat continues to swell.  That is what was causing his trouble breathing.  It’s just a precaution,” he reassures her.  “Why don’t you have a seat in the waiting room.  I’ll come and get you as soon as I have those results in my hand, okay?”

 

She nods to the doctor as Jimmy gently leads her to the waiting room.

 

“Alex, I’m gonna call Erika and have her on stand-by to take Angela home with her tonight, at least for a little while.  Okay?”  She nods her head, realizing that she hasn’t thought beyond this moment.

 

“Thank you, Jimmy.  I’m so glad you’re here,” she sobs.

 

He calms her down and excuses himself to make a few phone calls.  He returns to inform her that Kyle hasn’t been found, but they’ve got an APB out on him all over Texas.

 

“Erika said for you to not worry about Angela.  She’ll bring her by here after work so you can see her, and if you want us to take her home, that’s fine.  We’ll play it by ear and see what happens today, okay?”

 

He looks into her expressive, blue eyes for any sign of comprehension.  He sees it, along with a lot of fear and apprehension.  All she can manage to say is ‘thank you’.  He hugs her again and lets her know that there is nowhere he wants to be except right here helping her through this.  At this point, the doctor returns with the lab results.

 

“Mrs. Walker?” he gently asks her as he sits down.  “I have the results of his blood work.  It seems as if he was poisoned.  There’s a pretty significant amount of a drug called Succinyl Choline in his blood.  Do you know what that is?”

 

Alex shakes her head ‘no’ as another tear falls from her eyes.

 

“It’s a drug that we use to paralyze patients when we are going to intubate them or do a procedure that is invasive.  It paralyzes their muscles and allows us to work without them fighting.”

 

“So you mean it was from what you guys gave him when you intubated him?” she asks angrily.

 

“No.  No, we didn’t give him any because I wasn’t sure what he had been poisoned with and I was afraid it might be that.  I didn’t want to give him anymore.  We intubated him without drugs.  He didn’t fight us.  But that’s beside the point.  I need to know how much he ingested and how he got it.  The only way he could have gotten it would be to ingest it in his food.  What has he eaten lately that you haven’t?”

 

She frantically thinks through the last few nights and can’t remember anything.

 

“I don’t remember anything, doctor.  He’s had dinner with me every night and breakfast every morning.  Jimmy, have you guys had anything strange for lunch?” she turns and asks his partner.

 

“Nothing that he wouldn’t normally eat.  He’s a big steak and chili eater but we haven’t eaten at any new places this week.  Just C.D.’s and that diner down the street from the courthouse.”

 

“Well, if you can think of anything else, let me know.  I’ll need to know where he got this from; but at least we know what it is and how to treat it.”

 

“Is he going to be okay, Doctor?” Alex asks eagerly, with hope in her eyes.

 

“We aren’t sure.  Right now, he’s in a coma and I don’t know how long he’ll remain that way.  It’s going to be a long few days.  We’ll know in about 48-72 hours how his kidneys and liver are doing.  Those are the main concerns.  We are flushing his system with fluids to try and wash the drugs from his bloodstream.  He ingested a lot of this stuff and in the amounts he has taken in, it’s usually fatal.”

 

Alex takes a deep breath.  She feels as if all of the air has been sucked out of the room and she starts to cry hard again.  The doctor rests his hand on her shoulder. 

”Mrs. Walker, your husband is a very healthy, athletic man.  He may come out of this just fine.  I just want you to be prepared for a roller coaster.  I’m gonna go check on him now.  If you’d like to follow me, I’ll take you to his room.  You can stay with him for a while if you’d like.”

 

They walk down the hall and turn right.  She is stunned as she walks in the room and sees her husband, who was the picture of health an hour ago, lying in a bed with tubes going in and out of his body.  The body she loves to cuddle next to when she’s sleeping.  The chest she loves to use as a pillow.  The strong hands that can take down a man in a single punch yet are so gentle when he’s picking up their daughter.

 

“Talk to him.  We believe that patients who are in a coma can still hear what’s going on around them.  Talk to him like he was awake and you were at home.  Play his favorite music.  Do what you would normally do at home to interact.”  Alex walks to the bedside and takes his right hand in both of hers.  She kisses his knuckles and then leans over to place a kiss on his forehead.

 

“Walker, you have to pull through this, honey,” she pleads.  “Please don’t leave me, Walker,” she begs him as she begins to cry again.

 

Jimmy thinks back to the time when the roles were reversed, and Walker said the same thing while leaning over Alex’s comatose body a few years ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  He places his hand on her upper back to show her some support.  She looks at him over her shoulder.

 

“Jimmy, I don’t know what I’d do without him!” she sobs, as she clings to Walker’s hand.

 

“Alex, we gotta believe that he’s gonna pull through this.  He’s strong.  Remember what the doctor said.  I’m gonna find out who did this and when I do…they’ll regret the day they ever laid eyes on him!” Jimmy promised.  “Find him, Jimmy.  And when you do…” she lays her head on Walker’s hand as she loses what little composure she had left.

 

Jimmy kneels down and moves her so that he is holding her in his arms and he weeps with her.  They spend just a few seconds that way before they both realize how strong they are, and how strong they’re going to need to be for the next few days to get them through this.

 

“Alex, you and I know that Walker didn’t eat anything weird while he was with us.  And he’s been with one of us all the time the last few days…”  Jimmy runs through the thoughts in his head.  “I just don’t know how this could have happened.  I’m gonna have to retrace his steps for the last few days.  What’s he been doing differently?” he asks her inquisitively.

 

“I…I don’t think he’s been doing anything differently.  You know Walker…he’s as predictable as they come!  We get up, he goes to work, comes home, goes to bed…nothing different.”

 

They are both baffled at what has gone on.  She turns to look at her ailing husband lying in the bed in front of her, and she tries to figure out what else can go wrong and be put on her shoulders.

 

RANGER HEADQUARTERS – 1:35 P.M.

 

Gathered around the conference table are Jimmy, Gage, Sydney, Lisse, and Cooper.  Jimmy gets up out of his chair and begins pacing.

 

“So what happened, Jimmy?” Sydney asks.  “He just collapsed?!”

 

“Yeah, kinda.”  He explains how it all happened, with Alex walking Walker back to the examining room and then coming out with the worried look on her face.

 

“This is just too bizarre,” Lisse adds.

 

They are all confused and have no idea where to go from here.  Jimmy lets out a loud growl as if to let out some of the frustration and helplessness that he’s feeling.

 

“Did Alex say if he’s done anything out of the ordinary?  I mean, how did he get poisoned?  We know Alex didn’t do it.  Succinyl Choline?  I mean - you can’t just ‘accidentally’ ingest something like that!” Gage asks in the same confusion as the rest of them.

 

“I know, I know.  We need to trace his steps but Alex says he hasn’t done anything different.  Sydney, you and Gage do some research on the computer as to who has gotten out of prison in the last, oh say...month…that Walker helped put away.  I can only think of this as being a revenge thing.  Lisse, I need you and Cooper to take over the case that Walker and I were working on.  The paperwork is on my desk.  I’ll get it for you.  I’m gonna go out and start from square one, see if I can find anything on the streets.  If you guys get anything, please, call me on my cell phone.  Check in often, let’s get this guy.”

 

The group disperses and heads to their respective new tasks.  Jimmy stops by the hospital first, to check on Walker and let Alex know what they are doing.

 

Walker has been moved to his permanent room on the ICU floor and Jimmy spends a few minutes tracking him and Alex down.  When he finally finds them, he walks in and sees Alex sitting in a chair next to Walker’s bed.  She’s holding his hand and has laid her head on top of it.  She seems to have cried herself to sleep.  He touches her shoulder and wakes her up with a start.

 

“Hey, pretty lady,” he smiles down at her.

 

“Hey, Jimmy.  Any word?” she asks hopefully.

 

“No, I’m afraid not.  But, we got a lot of people working on this.  We’re gonna find him, Alex.  Don’t worry about that.  How’s he doing?”

 

“There’s no change.  He’s in a coma.  He’s got tubes everywhere…he can’t breathe without that damned respirator…he was fine this morning.  I can’t understand this.”  She begins to get upset all over again.

 

“Alex, I called Erika.  She’s bringing Angela over here to see you.  Then we’ll take her home with us tonight.  I’ll drop by the ranch and pick up some stuff for her.  What does she like to sleep with and stuff?”

 

“Oh, Jimmy.  You don’t have to do that.”

 

“What are you gonna do?  Put her on a mat on the floor in here?  You want to be here…you need to be here tonight.  She’s no problem.  Besides, we’re her Godparents.  It’s good practice for us.  You don’t need to worry about her as well as him,” he motions to Walker, who hasn’t moved.

 

She stands up to hug him and wraps her arms tightly around her good friend.  He returns the hug, knowing she needs all the strength from him that she can get right now.  She releases him and wipes her eyes.

 

“Um…she likes…she likes her pink and white checkered fluffy blanket.  She sleeps with that.  She won’t go to sleep without it.  Don’t forget that or you’ll be up all night.  She has some pajamas in her dresser…the second drawer from the top.  Put her in a pair that has the feet in it.  She gets cold at night.  Ah…her clothes for tomorrow…just grab something from her closet…she has lots of jeans and overalls in there…some long sleeved shirts…she should have an extra outfit in her diaper bag as well.  I’ll nurse her once Erika gets here.  There’re some bottles of milk in the freezer.  Grab probably four or five of those.  She likes it warm so you’ll need to warm it up once it’s thawed out.  She’s not a picky eater.  She’s like her father.”  Alex looks down at Walker and smiles.  Turning back to Jimmy, she continues with her list of things needed to properly care for her daughter.  “She likes carrots, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese…whatever you guys are eating.   Just make sure it’s cut up small…”

 

“Alex, it’s okay.  We’ve watched her before, remember?” he interrupts her.  She smiles at him.

 

“I know.  She’s just never been away overnight, except New Year’s Eve.  And then I slept through most of it.  I’m gonna miss her.  I know you’ll take good care of her.  She has some toys in her diaper bag that should keep her occupied.  She usually goes to bed between 8:30 and 9:00.  Can you bring her by in the morning?” she asks with a tear in her eye.

 

“Of course, bright and early.  I’ll bring you a change of clothes as well.”

 

“Thank you, Jimmy.  You’re a god-send.”

 

“Don’t mention it.  Get some rest.  I’ll see ya later,” he turns to leave the room.

 

“Jimmy…” he turns back to her.  “Don’t forget her blanket,” she smiles.  He smiles back at her and disappears down the hall.  She turns her attentions back to her comatose husband, lying in the bed beside her.

 

RANGER HEADQUARTERS – 4:15 P.M.

 

Jimmy walks in the office and stops at Sydney’s desk.

 

“Have we found anything?”

 

“There’re some slimeballs that have been released, but nothing major.  There were only three that had anything to do with Walker.  A Ricky Alvarez…did two to three years for burglary, Michael Redmond…did seven years for armed robbery, and Peter Mendez…did six and a half for drug possession.”

 

“Okay, have you guys talked to any of them?”

 

“I called their probation officers.  Michael Redmond moved to Minnesota and is living with his mother.  He’s been there for two weeks.  Ricky Alvarez is in Austin staying with family…has been since he got out.  Peter Mendez…he’s living in Dallas, but his P.O. thinks he’s clean since his release.  He works as a carpenter for A & E Construction.  Gage is out there talking to him now.”

“Okay.  Thanks for the hard work.  Looks like another dead end though.  God!  I wish we could figure this out.”

 

“Hey, how’s Alex holding up?” Sydney asks of her friend.

 

“About as well as can be expected.  I went out to the ranch and got some stuff for Angela and a change of clothes for Alex.  Erika and I are gonna keep Angela, at least for tonight.  Alex doesn’t need to worry about her, too.”

 

“That’s a good idea.  Gage and I decided we’d go over and check on her when he gets back.  Does she need anything else?”

 

“Just for him to get better.  I don’t know what she’s gonna do if he doesn’t make it,” Jimmy ponders, as he looks away to keep the tear in his eye from falling.

 

“I know,” she agrees.  It’s all Sydney can say.

 

Back at the hospital, Jimmy enters Walker’s room with Erika and Angela in tow.  Alex is nowhere to be found.  They wait for her.  Angela spies her daddy laying in the bed and raises her hands toward him and sings with glee,

 

“DADAAADDDDAAAAAAAAA!”

 

Erika begins to cry as she looks at Walker lying in the bed.

 

“Yes, honey, that’s your daddy.  He’s sleeping right now.”

 

“DAAAADDDAAAAAAAAA!”

 

Angela continues and starts bouncing up and down in Erika’s arms and reaching for her daddy.  Just then, Alex walks in.

 

“Hi, honey!!!!” she exclaims as she sees her little girl.

 

“Maaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!” Angela squeals as she reaches for her mother, and gives her a big grin showing her how glad she is to see her.  Alex reaches out and lovingly takes her baby girl in her arms.

 

“I love you so much, angel-girl,” she whispers as she touches Angela, cheek to cheek.

 

“Did you get all her stuff, Jimmy?”

 

“Got it all.  Forgot that danged blanket, though,” he teases.  Alex gives him an exasperated look.

“You didn’t!?” she questions.

 

He smiles at her and Erika elbows him in the ribs for giving Alex a hard time.

 

“Of course not.  It was the first thing I grabbed.  Got her bottles, diapers, pacifier, a teddy bear, clothes…I think I got half of her room.  I brought you some clothes and your makeup bag from the bathroom.”

 

“Thank you so much, Jimmy.  Erika, you’ve trained him right.”

 

“Hey!  I didn’t need that much training!” he protests.  They all laugh, something none of them had done all day.  Even Angela joins in and giggles.  Alex excuses herself to go spend some time with her daughter and nurse her before Jimmy takes her.  When she returns, Erika asks if Alex has heard anything about J.T. or Lauren.

 

“J.T. is doing great.  He woke up this afternoon and is asking for his mom.  Lauren, however, is still in a coma.  No one has told J.T. about her.  How’s Noah?”

 

“He’s doing okay.  He cries a lot but he just asks how his mom is.  He wants to come see her.  I don’t think that’s wise until she wakes up, though.”

 

“I agree,” Alex says, holding her daughter a little closer.  “Have they caught Kyle yet, Jimmy?”

 

“No.  As far as I know, he took off after he messed her up and no one has seen him since.  They have an APB out on him though.  We’ll catch him.”

 

“I know,” Alex whispers.  She turns back to her husband and stares at him.

 

“Daaaaaaaaadddaaaaaa,” Angela says again and points to her daddy.

 

“Yes, baby girl.  Daddy’s sleeping…but he’s gonna wake up soon…and play with you again…real soon,” Alex assures her daughter while choking with tears.

 

“Has there been any change, Alex?” Erika asks.

 

“No.  The doctor just says we have to wait and see.  He’s gonna draw blood again in the morning and see how his levels are.  If nothing else, it will tell us whether…” she begins to choke on tears again.  “…Whether his kidneys are still functioning normally.  It’s just a waiting game.  Dr. Lawson seems to think we got him here in time.  I guess it was a good thing it happened when it did.”

 

“It shouldn’t have happened at all,” Jimmy states angrily.  Erika touches his forearm with her hand to calm him before he gets riled up again.

“We better go.” Erika suggests, noticing the fidgeting that Angela is doing.

 

“Yeah, she’s probably getting tired,” Alex agrees.  She looks into her daughter’s blue eyes that are identical to her own.  “Sweetheart, Mommy is going to stay here with Daddy.  You go with Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Erika and be a good girl…okay?” she chokes.  “Mommy loves you…so does Daddy.  I’ll see you first thing in the morning, okay?  I love you so much.”

 

She squeezes the baby as if she’ll never let her go.  She kisses Angela’s cheek and hands her off to her caregivers.  Jimmy gives Alex a hug, as does Erika.  They collect their things and leave the room.  Alex is alone again with just her husband and the monitors that track his every breath and heartbeat.  She picks up the duffle bag Jimmy brought for her and goes to change her clothes before resuming her place at her husband’s bedside.

 

At 7:30 the next morning, a nurse sneaks into the room to draw blood from Walker’s arm.  In doing so, she unknowingly wakes a half-sleeping Alex.

 

“Good morning,” Alex states, sleepily.

 

“Good morning,” the nurse replies.  “I’m Kate, and I’ll be taking care of your husband today.  I’m just going to draw some blood for those tests and then I’ll be out of your way.  Buzz me if you need anything though, okay?”

 

“Yes, thank you.  When should we know those results?”

 

“In about two hours.  Dr. Lawson called this morning and said he’d be in about 9:00 to check on your husband.”

 

“Okay, thank you very much.”

 

The nurse draws the blood and turns to leave, while Alex gets up to use the restroom and brush her teeth.  When she returns, Jimmy, Erika, and Angela are standing at the door, knocking softly.

 

“Come in,” she whispers, as she walks to the door to open it.

 

“How are you?” Jimmy asks as he leans down to hug her.

 

“Mmaaaaaaaaaammmmmaaa!” Angela greets her mother happily while reaching out for her.  Alex immediately takes the darling baby into her arms and hugs her with tears in her eyes.

 

“Good morning, Sweetheart.  How’d you sleep last night?” she asks her daughter, while looking at the tired-looking caregivers.

 

“She was up three or four times last night.  I think she missed you,” Erika answers for the baby.

 

“I’m sorry, guys.  I know you’ve got to be exhausted.  Thank you so much for watching her.  I owe you one,” she gratefully tells them, as she places a kiss on her daughter’s pudgy cheeks.

 

“Alex, it’s nothing.  Don’t worry about it.  We were happy to do it.  If you need us to take her again tonight, just let us know.” Erika offers, as she places a hand on Angela’s back.


”I think I’ll be okay.  I’m gonna take her home tonight.  She needs to be in her bed, and I need to be in mine.  I just pray that he wakes up today and that everything comes back fine.”

 

“We’re gonna find the guy who did this, Alex,” Jimmy promises.  “I just can’t think of how this could have happened.  I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out any changes in Walker’s routine that could have allowed someone to poison him.”

 

“I know what you mean, Jimmy.  I’ve been up half the night trying to think of anything that he’s doing differently, and the only thing that he does differently is that he’s been stopping by C.D.’s to get coffee in the morning, but I know he didn’t get anything there.”

 

“Why’s he been doing that?  There’s coffee at the office.”

 

“He’s been going there for weeks because I’m still drinking decaf for Angela.  You know how he has to have his caffeine, and I guess he can’t wait until he gets to the office.  Besides, he says it’s helping him deal with the loss of C.D. by going in there.”

 

“I can see how that might help.  But I know Jonesy wouldn’t do anything to him.  I’ll go talk to Jonesy this morning to see if I can find out anything.  I don’t think it’s gonna show up anything but, we’ll see.”

 

“Thank you, Jimmy.  Who knows what will turn up, but we have to check everything out.”  Angela begins squirming and acting as if she wants to nurse.  “I think Angela wants to nurse.  Did she eat anything this morning?”

 

“No.  We offered her some Cheerios but she didn’t want them,” Erika states apologetically.

 

“She’s got a routine down and she doesn’t like to stray from it,” Alex laughs.  “I usually nurse her first thing in the morning before she eats breakfast.  Why don’t you guys go down to the cafeteria and get some breakfast.  I’ll nurse her really quickly and meet you down there in about 15 minutes.  I’m getting kinda hungry myself.”

 

“Okay, sounds like a plan,” Jimmy states as he takes Erika’s hand and they shut the door behind them, as Alex unbuttons her shirt and begins to nurse her daughter, while praying that her comatose husband awakens soon.

 

 

RANGER HEADQUARTERS – 10:18 a.m.

 

“Mornin’, guys,” Jimmy greets everyone as he enters the office.

 

“Hey, Jimmy,” Sydney answers, standing and joining Jimmy at his desk.

 

“Hey, Trivette,” Gage answers as he moves to join Sydney and Jimmy.

 

“Got anything new?” he asks as he sits down at his desk.

 

“No.  The three ex-cons turned out to be a big zero.  Mendez seems clean.  His P.O. says he’s been a model citizen since his release.  He’s got an ankle bracelet and it says he’s been going to work and coming home.  Doesn’t look like he’s had any extra time to be poisoning Walker.  The other two don’t live in the area so we know it’s not them.  I’m at a loss,” Gage explains, exasperated.

 

“I just stopped by C.D.’s.  Alex said that Walker’s been dropping by there every morning for a few weeks to get some ‘real coffee’ as he calls it.  She said that’s the only change in his itinerary.  We all know how predictable he is.  Jonesy was shocked to find that Walker was in the hospital, especially the reason for it.  He said the only new employee he has is a girl named Sophie, who he hired as a waitress.  He said she seems really nice, clean-cut girl…really likes Walker.  She’s got the day off today but he gave me her address.  I need you guys to go check her out and question her.  I’m gonna check the records and see if there is anything outstanding on her.  I can’t imagine that there is but I can’t think of another way to go with this.”  Looking over towards Walker’s desk, Jimmy notices the Styrofoam coffee cup sitting on the desktop, half empty.

“Wait a minute!” he states as he rises and walks over to Walker’s desk.  “He was drinking this coffee yesterday when he came in.  If this is the coffee he got at C.D.’s and this is how the poison got in his system…”

 

“I’ll run it down to the lab right now!” Sydney offers, as she takes the cup from him and exits the room in a sprint.  “Come on, Gage, let’s take this downstairs and then go check on that address.”

2321 Lexington Drive – 11:02 a.m.

 

Pulling into the long driveway, Gage and Sydney are surprised at the size of the house they are driving up to.

 

“Are you sure this is the right address, Gage?  Looks like a pretty swanky house for a waitress at a bar, don’tcha think?”

 

“Yeah, I was just thinking that myself, Syd.”

 

Gage and Sydney are still whispering amongst themselves as the pretty, petite blonde answers the door.  She looks to be about 24 years old.  She’s dressed as if she’s on her way to a tennis match.

 

“Can I help you?” she asks as she opens the door.

 

“Hi, my name is Gage and this is my partner, Sydney Cooke.  We’re Texas Rangers and we need to ask Sophie Erikson some questions.  Is she in?”

 

“I’m Sophie.  What can I help you with?”

 

“Can we come in?” Sydney asks.

 

“Oh, sure.  I’m sorry.  Where are my manners?  Please, come in.  Can I get you anything?” she offers as she motions for them to sit on the overstuffed couch.

 

“No, that’s okay.  Thank you, though.”  Taking in the looks of the comfortable upper middle class home, something doesn’t feel right.  “We’re here to ask you some questions about a Ranger that comes into C.D.’s Bar and Grill every morning.  His name is Cordell Walker.  Do you know him?” Sydney asks.

 

“Of course.  Everyone knows Walker.  Is he okay?” she asks, wide-eyed.

 

“He’s in the hospital.  He’s been poisoned and we’re trying to figure out what happened to him.”

 

“Oh my!  I hope he’s gonna be okay!  He’s such a nice man!”

 

“Yes, he is.  How long have you been working at C.D.’s?”

 

“Oh, I’ve been there about 5 weeks.  It’s a great job.  I like it a lot.  I really like Jonesy.  He’s such a nice boss.”

 

“Yeah, he’s a great guy,” Gage acknowledges.  He looks around the room at all of the pictures and notices that there is a family photo on the piano in the middle of the room.  It shows a rather large family.   With Sophie, it seems that there are five children and she seems to be the youngest.  The picture shows a well-dressed family who seem to be happy.

 

“Sophie, I hate to ask a personal question, but I’m just curious.  Do you live here alone?”

 

“No, this is my parents’ home.  Why do you ask?”

 

“This is just a big house for a waitress.  I was just curious.  If you owned this house, I was gonna turn in my badge for a waitress uniform.”

 

Sophie laughs at the joke, as do Gage and Sydney.

 

“Well, I’m sorry to hear about Walker.  I really have to get going though.  If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know,” she excuses herself as she stands, hinting that it’s time for them to leave.

 

“Thank you for your time, Sophie,” Sydney answers as she extends her hand.

 

“Yeah, thanks.  We’ll see ourselves out,” Gage offers as he extends his hand as well.  The two Rangers walk out the front door, not really sure if they found anything new or not.

 

Sydney and Gage drop by the hospital to check on Walker and Alex before heading back to the office.  Alex seems to be in better spirits, as the blood tests showed that his liver and kidneys are functioning as well as can be expected.  He’s still in a coma but the blood tests gave Alex and the rest of them at least a little hope.  J.T. has awakened and is constantly asking for his mother.  Lauren is still in a coma and it is unsure whether she will come out of it anytime soon.  Her mother is on her way down to Dallas from her home in Utah and is expected tonight.  After checking on the Walkers, Sydney and Gage head back to headquarters, to find Jimmy pounding away on the computer.

 

“Hey, guys,” he greets them as they enter the office.  “Come see this.”

 

They head on over to his desk to look at the stack of paperwork on top of it.

 

“Whatcha got?” Sydney asks.

 

“Not much.  Our friendly waitress Sophie seems clean.  She’s 23, was a college student at Southern Methodist University.  She dropped out a few years ago and has held odd jobs since then, when she’s not touring Europe.”

 

“Yeah, you should see the house she lives in!” Gage retorts.

 

“She lives with her parents, both of whom are doctors.  That explains where the money comes from,” Jimmy explains.

 

“She seems a little flighty, too,” Sydney adds.

 

“She’s probably a little spoiled.  Seems she is the youngest of six kids.”

 

“Six kids?  There was a family photo on the piano…it only showed five kids, including Sophie,” Gage explains.

 

“Yeah, I noticed that too,” Sydney agrees.  They both have a puzzled look on their faces.

 

“That’s because one is in prison…Robbie…her next older brother.  Wait a minute!” Jimmy shouts as a thought runs through his head.  He pounds some information into the computer keyboard and, in a few seconds, a screen pops up showing the photo of a 24-year-old, blonde, all-American looking boy in a mug shot.  “Here it is.  Robert William Erickson…all-American college football player…in prison serving 25-to-life for homicide in a drug overdose that he provided the stuff for.”  He punches in a few more lines of information and the screen changes to show a copy of a rap sheet.  As if a second light bulb has come on, Jimmy starts talking at a feverish rate.  “Guess who the arresting officer was?”

 

“Walker” they both say in unison.

 

“Right.  Remember that drug bust we took down a few years ago?  You guys had just joined us a couple weeks before that.  Walker and I were on stake out for days upon days before we could catch these guys.  They were selling drugs to kids in the high school.  Robbie was the main dealer for these kids and one of them ended up dying after he got an overdose of some messed up heroin that Robbie sold him.”

 

“I think I vaguely remember that,” Sydney offers.  Gage shakes his head; he can’t remember it.

 

“Walker busted the guy…Robbie tried to run and Walker caught up to him.  Alex prosecuted him but since Walker and I were the officers on duty when they were caught, we had to testify.  I got sick during the trial and Walker’s testimony was all that was needed.  The guy got 25-years-to-life because the kid died and Walker and I witnessed him selling the heroin to the kid.”

 

“You think we have enough for an arrest warrant, Trivette?  Her parents are doctors.  She could easily get the drug that Walker was poisoned with.”

 

“If that coffee sample we sent to the lab comes back positive for the drug, we’ve got her dead to rights anyway.  We won’t need anything else, except maybe a vial of it in her possession somewhere,” Sydney offers.

 

“Bring her in.  I wanna talk to her.  Find out how close she is to her brother and if she really seems like she could have done something like this to Walker.  Check the parents home and see if there is any access to any drugs at the house that she could have gotten hold of.  I’ll call Phil Holland and see if he can get us a search warrant.”

 

“Will do.”

 

The search warrant leads to a cabinet in Mitch Erikson’s den and in this cabinet is a sufficient quantity of drugs, including Succinyl Choline.  Sophie is brought in for further questioning.  She’s waiting in Interrogation Room C, where Jimmy finds her and knocks softly before entering.  He extends his hand and she accepts politely.

 

“Hi, Sophie.  My name’s James Trivette.  I’m a Texas Ranger and I just need to ask you some questions.”

 

“I already talked to Ms. Cooke and her partner.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  I just have some extra questions for you that have come up since you spoke with them this morning.”  She gets a frightened ‘deer in the headlights’ look on her face as she sits up in her chair.

 

“Okay, go ahead.”

 

“How close are you to your brother, Robbie?”

 

“We’re very close.  He’s in prison, though.”

 

“Yes, I know.  He sold some drugs to some kids and one of the kids died.”

 

“That’s just what the cops said.  He didn’t really do that.  He couldn’t have.  He wouldn’t have done drugs…or sold them!  He says you guys set him up!”

 

“Sophie, he sold the drugs.  I saw him do it myself.”

 

“You’re just sticking up for those Rangers.  You didn’t see him do it.  You weren’t even at the trial.  I don’t remember seeing you there.”

 

“I was sick.  I was supposed to testify and I was sick.  It turned out that I didn’t need to testify anyway.  Walker’s testimony was enough to put him away.”

 

“Yeah, Walker had it in for him.  My brother didn’t do anything wrong!”

 

“Sophie, I’m gonna ask you this once and I want you to be honest with me.  Did you poison Walker when he came to C.D.’s for coffee?”  She sits silent for a moment before denying the accusation.

 

“Of course I didn’t!  Why would I do that?”

 

“Because, your brother is in jail…you feel unjustly…and Walker and his wife are the ones that you feel put him there.  You have access to the drug he was poisoned with.  Your parents are doctors and we found a vial of the drug in your father’s cabinet in his den.  All we have to do is test it for fingerprints to see if you picked up the bottle.”

 

She gets a smirk on her face and sits up ramrod straight in her chair.

 

“What if that’s not the bottle that was used?” she asks coyly.

 

“Are you saying it’s not the bottle?  Or are you saying that you didn’t do it?”

 

“I’m not saying anything else without a lawyer,” she snaps back and shuts her mouth.  She doesn’t utter another word and doesn’t look at Jimmy either.  She just continues to sit smugly in the chair with a confident smirk on her face.  Jimmy stands and leaves the room before the urge to punch her takes over.  He heads on out to the adjoining room behind the two-way mirror, where Phil Holland waits to talk over what was just said.

 

“Whadya think, Phil?”

 

“I think she’s guilty as sin but she thinks we don’t have a prayer.  I think she’s too confident.”

 

“Yeah, but we gotta find some way to nail her on this.  I know she did it, but even if her fingerprints are on the bottle, it’s only circumstantial evidence.  We really need the results on that coffee.”

 

“I know.”  Phil looks away as if he has a thought.  “Do you know if she has a locker or anything at C.D.’s?  Maybe she stashed the bottle she used there?”

 

“I’ll call Jonesy and find out.  If so, can we get a search warrant for it?”

 

“I’m sure.  You go call Jonesy, I’ll go get a judge.”

 

WALKER RANCH – 4:39 p.m. – Wednesday, February 20

 

Alex has picked up her daughter from the H.O.P.E. Center and decided to come home.  Walker was still in his coma, but his blood work keeps coming back showing that his internal organs are functioning well.  She’s so exhausted from the lack of sleep and she just wants to collect her daughter and go to bed early.  The doctors had told her there is nothing she can do at the hospital, and the nurses practically insisted she go home, after seeing the sheer exhaustion on her face and knowing she has a baby at home who isn’t even a year old.

 

“Come on, Sunshine.  Let’s go make some dinner for you,” she tells Angela as they walk in the front door.  She drops all the bags she’s carrying and places Angela on the floor in the living room.  Sitting down on the couch, she notices the book laying on the coffee table that Walker had been reading to Angela the night before last.  It was called I Love You This Much and it was one of their favorites to read as a family.  Alex picks up the book and hugs it tightly to her chest as a lone tear falls down her cheek.

 

“Oh Walker…you have to get better and come home soon.  I miss you so much!” she cries.  Angela looks up and sees her mother crying, which upsets her and she starts to fuss.  Alex goes over to her daughter and picks her up to comfort her.  They sit together on the couch and Alex seems to gain some much-needed strength by holding tightly to the little girl that she and Walker created out of their love for one another.  Before long, the silence is broken by the ringing of the telephone.  Alex jumps up thinking it might be the hospital.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Alex, it’s Jimmy.  I called the hospital and they said you had left.  Is Walker doing better?”

 

“No, he’s still the same.  The nurses practically kicked me out saying that he was still in a coma and I needed some rest.  They thought I would do better if I was home.  They’re right.  Angela needs me here, too.  His blood work says his organs are functioning fine, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for him to…to wake up,” she finishes the sentence as she chokes on the tears she’s holding back.

 

“Do you need anything?”

 

“No, we’re fine.  Just find the guy who did this.”

 

“That’s why I’m calling.  I think we may have found them.  Only, it’s not a guy.”

 

“Really?” she asks hopefully.  “Who is it?”

 

“We think it’s the new waitress that Jonesy hired.”  He goes on to explain all that they found out that afternoon and reminds her of the trial of Robbie Erikson.  He assures her that Phil Holland is working on getting a search warrant this afternoon that they are going to serve and check out her locker at C.D.’s.

 

“Jimmy, you don’t need a warrant if Jonesy gives permission to search the locker.”

 

“I know, but it’s her personal locker, so we just want to make sure we play it by the book. We don’t want anything getting her off on a technicality if she’s guilty, and I’m 99% sure she is.  She’s here in the interrogation room so she’s not going anywhere.  Phil’s taking his time getting up here to question her.  He’s stalling for the warrant.”

 

“Well, please, let me know what you find out.  I’m planning on being here all night.”

 

“I’ll call you as soon as I know something.  Talk to you later, Alex.”

 

“Bye, Jimmy.  Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.  Kiss my Goddaughter for me.”

 

“I will.”

 

Alex turns her attentions back to Angela, who has decided to pull herself up to a standing position by using the tablecloth on an end table.  CRASH!!!!!

“WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!” Angela screams as the tablecloth comes down, followed by a family photo and a vase of flowers that was sitting on it.  She plops down on her diapered bottom and screams with everything she has.  Alex picks her up and holds her close to comfort her.  Angela continues to wail from fear and frustration.

 

“Shhhhhhhh…honey, it’s okay.  Mommy’s here.  You’re alright.  Shhhhh…” she comforts the crying baby and rubs small circles on her back.  Angela begins to quiet and Alex heads into the kitchen to see what she can make for dinner.

 

 

C.D.’s Bar and Grill

 

Search warrant in hand, Jimmy, Sydney, and Gage head on back to the employee lounge to inspect Sophie’s locker.  They cut the lock off and open the metal door.

 

“Well, well…what do we have here?” Trivette asks rhetorically, as he holds up an unmarked bottle of clear liquid in his rubber-gloved hand.

 

They pack up the contents of the locker and take it down to headquarters to have the liquid analyzed.

“If it’s Succinyl Choline, Miss Sophie’s in a heap of trouble,” Jimmy states confidently.

 

Back at the Ranch

 

Angela’s been fed.  Alex wasn’t hungry so she didn’t eat…she’s just exhausted more than anything.  She takes Angela upstairs and gives her a bath, hoping that they can both get to bed early.  Unfortunately, Angela has other plans.  She’s tired and cranky.  She’s missing her father.  Hugging her daughter closely, Alex is walking the floor in the nursery, trying to calm her.  Angela is continuing to wail and Alex is quickly losing what little patience she has left.

 

“Honey, please stop crying,” she begs.  “Mommy is tired and we both need some sleep.  Shhhhhhhhhhhh…please stop crying.”  She performs all the tricks she knows will work with Angela when she’s fussy and none of them seem to be doing the trick tonight.  She finally decides to take her into the master bedroom and lay her on their bed, to see if she’ll fall asleep there.  Alex lays down next to her and tries to nurse her.  Angela decides that this is okay, for the moment.  In an instant, the phone rings and shatters the calm that was beginning to overtake the house.

 

“Damn it!” she says, as Angela startles from her calm and begins to cry again.

 

“Hello,” she answers, sounding rather irritated.

 

“Alex, it’s Jimmy.  What’s wrong?”

 

“Oh, nothing, Jimmy.  Angela’s just being very cranky and I’m trying to get her to go to sleep, to no avail.  What’s up?”

 

“I thought I’d call you to let you know that we found the Succinyl Choline in Sophie’s locker at C.D.’s.  They just arrested her and I thought you’d like to know.  We also have a positive test from the coffee that Walker left on his desk when we ran to meet you at the hospital yesterday.”

 

“Is she talking?”

 

“No, not yet.”

 

“Alright.  I’m glad you found her.  Is Phil going to take the case?”

 

“Yeah, he’s on his way back here to question her.  We hope she’ll start talking once he gets here.  She’s already called her parents and they’ve got their attorney on his way over.”

 

“Alright.  Keep me informed, will you?”

”Of course.  Sorry I disturbed the baby.  I just thought you’d want to know.”

 

“No, Jimmy.  Honest, it’s perfectly all right.  We’re just both missing Walker and I’m afraid…” she begins to cry on the phone.

 

“Alex, girl, you know it’s gonna be okay.  We’re all praying for him.  God wouldn’t bring him this far to take him away.  You guys have been through too much.  Keep the faith, girl.”

 

She wipes the tears from her eyes and fingers one of the blonde curls on Angela’s head.

 

“I know, Jimmy.  You’re right.  I’m just tired.  I want us to have a normal life…not a constant crisis.”  He chuckles and when she hears him chuckle, she realizes how she sounds and she chuckles, too.  “You know, it feels like our lives are just one continuous crisis sometimes.”

 

“I know what you mean.  It keeps things from getting dull, though.”

 

“That’s for sure.  However, right now I think I could use a few months of dull.”

 

“I know.  You hang in there.  If there’s anything Erika or I can do, just call, okay?”

 

“I will.  Thanks for calling, Jimmy.”

 

“You’re welcome.  Good night, Alex.”

 

She hangs up the phone and scoots down in the bed to continue cuddling with her daughter, who has attached herself to Alex’s breast once again.  She’s calming down and Alex is hoping that this will be the end of their night.

 

At 8:35 the next morning, Alex is awakened by the phone.  Looking at the clock, she realizes that she and Angela fell asleep in the bed the night before and they are both still there.  Groggily, she reaches for the phone.

 

“Hello,” she sleepily answers, while trying not to wake the baby just yet.

 

“Alex, did I wake you?”

 

“It’s okay.  What’s up, Sydney?”

 

“I just wanted to fill you in on what happened last night.  Trivette wanted me to call you and let you know that Sophie confessed to poisoning Walker.   Apparently, she was mad at him for putting her brother in prison.  She figured the way to get back at both of you would be to kill him.  She said she wanted to take him away from you like you guys took her brother away from her.  They were very close, she says, and he didn’t mean to kill anyone.  It’s really a sick world that she lives in.”

 

“Yeah, it is.  I only hope that Walker is able to pull through this.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do if he doesn’t.”

 

“He’ll make it, Alex.  Oh, I almost forgot.  Dallas PD is picking up Kyle Williams this morning.  Apparently he headed to Houston after he beat Lauren up.  He was picked up there on a solicitation charge and when they ran him through the system, Dallas PD’s warrant popped up and they called.  DPD went down there this morning to get him.  They should have him back here tomorrow.”

 

“That’s great, Sydney.  I’m so glad they caught that arrogant piece of…never mind.  Little ears are in the room.  I’m going in to the hospital to check on Walker this morning.  I’ve got to drop Angela off at the H.O.P.E. Center and then I’ll be in the office.  I want to talk to Phil about his case against Sophie.  I also need to check on Lauren and J.T. while I’m at the hospital.  Can you have Phil call me on my cell phone if you see him this morning?  I want to make sure he’s gonna be in.”

 

“Sure, I’m headed up there now.  I’ve got to bring him some papers on Sophie’s arrest.  I’ll pass the message on as soon as I see him.”

 

“Thanks, Sydney.  You guys have been great through all of this.  I really appreciate it, and I know Walker does, too.”

 

“Don’t mention it.  We’re family.”  They disconnect the phone call after saying their good-byes, and Alex jumps from the bed to begin her day after a very restful night’s sleep snuggled next to her daughter.

 

METHODIST HOSPITAL – 10:20 a.m. – Thursday, February 21

 

Alex enters her husband’s room and sees him still sleeping in his bed.  She carries Angela in and sets her on the bed, next to her daddy.  Angela immediately reaches for his beard and begins to tug.

 

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaa!” she squeals.

 

“Yes, honey, Daddy is still sleeping.”  She looks down at her husband lovingly and chokes back the sob that is trying to find its way out.  Just then, the doctor enters the room.

 

“Good morning, Mrs. Walker.”

 

“Good morning, Dr. Lawson.  This is my daughter, Angela.  I thought maybe if she came in here, she could wake him up,” Alex says hopefully.

 

“It couldn’t hurt.  I just wanted to fill you in.  His blood tests have all come back normal.  The I.V. fluids have helped flush the poison from his system and with the excellent shape that he’s in, he should recover fully once his nervous system wakes up.”

 

“So, he WILL wake up?”

 

“More than likely.  I can’t make any promises, but I’m very optimistic that he’ll make a full recovery.  We can’t find any permanent damage that was done to him, so it’s just a matter of him waking up.  He had a large amount of the drug in his system and had he not been as active and healthy as he is, he probably wouldn’t have made it.  He’s very lucky.”

 

“WE’RE very lucky.  Thank you, Doctor.”  She grins eagerly and turns to her handsome husband.  She hasn’t been this happy in days and now the tears that fall are tears of happiness.  “You’re gonna be okay, Walker!  You just have to wake up, honey.  I love you!  Please wake up!  We need you and miss you so much.”  Angela squeals and begins bouncing up and down in her mother’s arms.  She is jabbering as if to tell her father exactly how she feels about the long nap he’s taken.

 

Assistant DA’s office – Tarrant County Courthouse – 12:15 p.m.

 

Alex is sitting in Phil Holland’s office going over the information they have gathered on Sophie Erikson.  It seems that they have a tight case against the young woman and it shouldn’t be hard to convict her.

 

“We have her confession first of all, Alex.  We have the vial of Succinyl Choline that was found in her locker along with a syringe; she had the motive and the opportunity.  Besides all that, we have the coffee from C.D.’s that Walker bought and Sophie supplied.  Jonesy is beside himself thinking that this is his fault for not checking her out better.  He’s definitely willing to testify that Sophie prepared Walker’s coffee and bagel that morning.  This should be an open and shut case.”

 

“I am so relieved to hear that.  Now, if he would just wake up from all of this, I would be so much happier!”

 

“He will, Alex.  He’s strong.  He’s also got a lot to live for,” Phil smiles at her.

 

Alex stands and prepares to leave.

 

“Thanks for all of your help, Phil.  I really appreciate it.  I just want to make sure she gets everything she deserves for what she’s put us all through.”

“I know.  She will, don’t worry about that.”

 

“I better go.  I need to get to the hospital and check on Walker.  I want to be there if…when he wakes up,” she corrects herself.

 

Phil walks over and gives her a hug before she leaves.

 

“Kim and I are praying for you guys.”

 

“Thank you.”  She leaves and heads to the hospital to continue her daily vigil.

 

 

METHODIST HOSPITAL – 1p.m.

 

Entering his room, she’s carrying a bouquet of flowers to liven up his room and a picture of the family.  It’s a picture she had at the house in the living room of Walker, Angela, and her sitting in front of the Christmas tree.  It was a very homey looking picture and the love they felt for each other is evident in the photograph.

 

After placing the framed photo on the nightstand, she sits in the chair beside his bed and quietly holds his hand.  She places her forehead on the back of his hand and stays that way for a few minutes before she feels someone playing with her hair.  She lifts her head to look into the warm gray eyes of her handsome husband who is staring at her.  She starts crying immediately and breaks into the biggest smile she has ever had.

 

“I missed you so much!” she gushes.

 

“What happened?” he asks, confused.

 

She begins to tell him the ordeal they have been through the last few days and he is shocked at what all has happened.

 

“I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, especially alone, honey.”

 

“I’m just so grateful that you are alive.  Do you know how close I came to losing you?” she asks through her falling tears.

 

He slowly sits up and she moves to the bed and into his arms where he holds her tightly.  He whispers sweet, soothing words to her as she cries out all of the fear and frustration she has been holding in for the last three days.  He pushes her away, just enough so that he can place a sweet kiss on her lips that have been alone for too long.  Breaking away from the kiss, he asks, “How’s Angel face?”

 

“She’s fine.  She misses her daddy, though.”

“I miss her too.”

 

“I’ll bring her here in a little while, now that you’re awake.  Walker, I was so scared!  I’ve never been so frightened in my life.”

 

“I’m sorry, honey.  Maybe I should go to drinking decaf now, after all,” he jokes with a wink.

 

“I think I’ll just break down and buy you a can of regular coffee and make two pots in the morning instead of one!  It’s safer that way.”

 

He moves in for another kiss and tells her he always knows how to get his way.  For that, he earns a light slap on his abdomen.  She then bends down to kiss the spot, grateful that she has a second chance to be teased by him.

 

“How’s Lauren?” he asks.

 

“As of yesterday, she was still in a coma.  Her mom was supposed to arrive last night.  I really need to check on her.  I’ve been so wrapped up in being here, I forgot to check on her.”

 

“And J.T.?  Is he okay?  Have they found his delinquent father or do Trivette and I need to find him and teach him a thing or two about picking on someone his own size?”

 

“Relax, honey.  They found him, in Houston.  Picked him up on a solicitation charge if you can believe it.  He should arrive in Dallas tomorrow.  J.T.’s doing great.  He’s awake and clamoring for his mother.  You just lay back and relax.  Get some rest, cause I want you to come home.”

 

“I want to get out of here.  When can I be released?”

 

“You have to wait for the doctor.  Speaking of, let me go tell them that you are awake and see if they can get him here.  I think you need to stay for a few days, at least.  You need to build up your strength.”

 

“I can build up my strength at home.”

 

“Walker, don’t fight me on this.  I almost lost you.  I don’t want to take any chances,” she pleads with him in a shaky voice, on the verge of tears.

 

He opens his arms to invite her in.  “Shhhhh, honey, you’re not gonna lose me.  I promise, I’ll stay as long as the doctor wants me to…as long as it’s only today,” he jokes.  She raises her head and gives him ‘the look’.

 

Alex excuses herself to find the doctor and inform him that Walker is awake.  The doctor immediately appears and requests that an exam be done on Walker.  Alex excuses herself to go upstairs, to find out how Lauren is doing.  She returns 30 minutes later with the news that Lauren is stable and out of her coma.  She is severely bruised and is almost unrecognizable, but with a lot of TLC from her mom and the women at the H.O.P.E. Center, she should make a full recovery.  Her mother has decided to take her and the boys back to Utah as soon as she can travel.  They will start over there and hopefully, be rid of Kyle, once and for all.

 

Walker is back asleep again and Alex asks the nurses to tell him, when he wakes up, that she went to run a few errands.  Returning two and a half hours later, she enters his room and finds him waiting for her.

 

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” shrieks the blonde baby girl when she sees her father.

 

“Angel-face!” he exclaims to her as he holds out his arms wide.  Alex lovingly places the baby in his arms and fights to keep the tears from falling from her eyes.

 

“That is such a wonderful, comforting sight,” she says, moving towards the bed to join her husband and daughter.  She climbs on the bed and they lay there together for a few moments.  Reaching up to touch his face, Alex lightly rubs his beard.

 

“I love you and Angela so much.”

 

“I love you guys. too.  I am so very lucky to have both of my girls in my life.  I don’t know what I’d do without you two,” he assures her, giving them both a tight squeeze.

 

“Just promise me that we’ll never have to find out, Walker.  I don’t know if I can live without you.”

 

“You won’t ever have to find out, I promise.”

 

 

The End