Sacrifices

by Leigh (starmaid@mailexcite.com)

 

"Quiet for a Friday, isn't it partner?" Trivette said.

 

"Too quiet", Walker muttered, he sat at his desk with a significant pile of folders stacked in front of him. With no major cases pending, Walker found himself forced to the task of paperwork, a job he loathed. Trivette was less troubled by the task -  but then, it was his habit to keep his reports up to date.... the pile on his desk was considerably smaller and Trivette was already nearly finished.

 

"Trivette, why don't you give me a hand with some of this?"

 

"No way, man!" Trivette answered gleefully, "but when you're done, I'd be happy to show you some stuff on the computer here that would help you keep all that in line!"

 

"Oh yeah, thanks," Walker responded sarcastically, "you're a real help!"

 

"Walker, I keep telling you that it's much easier if you just keep up with this stuff! I can't keep bailing you out......."

 

Trivette's response faded into the background as Walker noticed Alex coming through the door.

 

"Hi Alex!" he smiled as he spoke, "got something for us?"

 

"Nope, just thought I'd see how you were doing with the Jensen report, the DA needs your statement to close the file."

 

"Jensen, Jensen....." Walker started shuffling through the pile in front of him, finally pulling one out and trading it for the one already in front of him, "Okay, tell him I'll have that to him in an hour or so."

 

"Walker, why do you let these pile up like this? It's no wonder you feel overwhelmed!" Alex motioned to the desk.

 

"Well, it wouldn't be piled up if my 'PARTNER' would help me out....instead of sitting over there grinning like the Cheshire cat and offering computer lessons!" Walker complained.

 

Alex just grinned, "Poor baby! Is big bad Jimmy being mean to you again?"

 

Over at his desk, Trivette tried to choke back a laugh...but failed. Walker glared at him as Alex stifled a giggle of her own. Turning back to Alex as she tried to straighten her face, Walker frowned, "Thanks so much for the support, Alex!"

 

"Why, you are most kindly welcome, sirah" Alex replied with an exaggerated southern drawl, "ah always do mah best to help a gentleman in distress!"

"Alex!"

 

"Oh come on Walker! You know it's your own fault....so don't complain that Jimmy won't help....seems to me he already does the lion's share of the desk duty between you two. So you're just going to have to bite the bullet this time!"  Alex laughed.

 

"All right, all right! I give! Guilty as charged!" Walker chuckled, throwing his hands up in a gesture of surrender.

 

Alex just smiled as she came around the desk and hugged him around the back of his neck.   "Like you ever give up," she whispered in his ear, "or ever change!"

Alex kissed his cheek lightly before she stood back up, her hands still resting on his shoulders.   "Listen, I won't keep you two any longer, I really just came in to see if you were going to be at C.D.'s this evening for the fund raiser?"

 

"Assuming I can shovel out from under all of this, I'm ready for it." Walker smiled up at her, "Would you like me to pick you up and give you a ride over later?"

 

"No, not this evening." Alex responded "I have a huge list of errands to run, so I'll just meet you there, 'kay?"

 

"Okay Alex, it's a date."

 

She turned to Trivette, "How about you, Jimmy? You're coming aren't you?"

 

"Are you kidding? I've had my tickets from the first day!" Trivette grinned, "I love these shindigs of Big Dogs! I'll be there!"

 

"Great!" Alex said, turning to leave. "Then I'll see you both there. Oh, and Walker... Don't forget that the Hopkins report has to be on my desk for Monday morning, we go into court on Wednesday and I need a little time to prepare my case you know!"

 

"ALEX!......." Walker shouted in frustration, but too late......She had already thrown Trivette a quick wink and beat a hasty retreat out the door.

 

"Trivette........." Walker started.

 

"Alright, Walker, I'll help you out.....but only because I don't want Alex to be disappointed if you don't show tonight!" Trivette said, rolling in his chair over to Walker's desk. "But we're going to work on them together or not at all......you get up and leave, for any reason, and I'm gone too!"

 

"Okay, Trivette, okay." Walker sighed with relief, "It's a deal."

 

In a car parked across the street from the Dallas Justice Building, a pair of shadowed eyes narrowed as Alex's figure emerged from the rear entrance and crossed the parking lot toward her car. It was a challenge following her, especially since she always seemed to be in the company of one of her Ranger friends. If even one of them had caught on that she was being watched, the whole thing could have been spoiled, but the Watcher had been careful and neither Alex Cahill nor any of her friends had any idea of what was in store. But the plan couldn't be rushed, the moment had to be perfect. Soon, very soon, and the pieces would fall into place -  so for now.......just follow.......and wait.......

 

As Alex turned her car out of the parking area and into the stream of traffic, her thoughts were on the things she needed to accomplish; humming along with a song on the radio, she was oblivious to the dark sedan which pulled into the same lane a car length or two behind her.....

 

"C.D., you've done it again!" Alex commented. She and Walker stood together with their good friend near the temporary stage.  "I think the Children's Home has raised more this year than ever before!"

 

C.D.'s Bar and Grill had been filled to capacity with people who had obviously enjoyed the evening, and who were now milling towards the doors and home. C.D. had a knack for finding people to come in and donate their talents at his fund raisers, and this evening had been no exception....the entertainment had been terrific and the evening was winding to a successful close.

 

"Why, thank-you very much, Darlin'," C.D. responded, "but it ain't like I did all that much, I just invited a few folks in for some good music and good food and let their hearts do the rest!"

 

"Ah, Big Dog, quit pretending you're so modest!" a grinning Trivette strolled over. "You love getting all the credit!"

 

"Now, Jimmy, don't you start there....This evening is about them little kids and it ain't about me...." C.D. sputtered.

 

"Whoa! Back, Big Dog! You know I'm just foolin' with you....don't go getting all ornery on me!

Hey, Alex...Walker, I just came over to tell you all that we had a great time, and to say goodnight..... I need to be getting Cindy on home. Big Dog...You want me to come on back later and help you clear this place up some?"

 

Relaxing from his brief moment of tension, C.D. smilingly responded, "Naw, that isn't necessary son, I have a crew coming in the morning to take care of all that. You young folks just head on your way and I'm awful glad you had a good time...you tell that gal of yours to come on by just anytime and we'll get better acquainted. She seems like a real nice little lady."

 

"I'll tell her you said that, Big Dog.....and Walker, I'll see you in the morning?"

 

"Yep, I'll pick you up at your place around 7:00, or..... is there someplace else you'd rather I met you?" Walker responded with a sly smile.

 

"My place will be fine, Walker.....Don't start with me! It's just a first date!"

Trivette gave Alex a peck on the cheek. "Counselor, you looked lovely as usual tonight, and I'll see you Monday at the office."

 

"Thank-you, Jimmy, and tell Cindy I said good night, too.

C.D.... Walker, I have to be heading home too....it's been a busy day and I am really looking forward to a quiet weekend."

 

Walker gave Alex's shoulders a quick squeeze. "Okay, Alex, are you sure you wouldn't like me to drive you home?"

 

"Nope, not necessary," Alex responded with a smile and a squeeze of her own around his waist, "I got here early and parked practically right across the street, but.... you can walk me to the door!"

 

Alex leaned over and gave C.D. a kiss good night, then she and Walker began moving through the now nearly empty bar toward the door. They stopped just outside the entrance. The evening was cool and clear and the street was rapidly emptying of traffic as the last of the crowd made it's way home. His arm still around her shoulders, Walker gently pulled Alex into an embrace.

 

"It's been a great evening Alex, and Trivette was right, you look terrific...." Walker drew her into a lingering kiss.

 

As they separated Alex smiled up at him, and giving a quick tug that undid the loops of  the string tie he wore with his suit, she said with a giggle, "You look pretty terrific yourself, Cowboy! But I really do have to get home. I'll see you on Sunday though, right? For the picnic with the kids? You know how they look forward to your stories....."

 

"I'm looking forward to it too, Alex. Trivette and I should have our case cleaned up by tomorrow evening at the latest, and Sunday is all yours. Drive carefully, okay?" Walker said as he pulled her back into his arms for one last kiss good night.

 

"I always do! It's you we worry about!" Alex grinned, reaching into her bag for her keys....

 

The Watcher, just a short distance away with the engine of the sedan running, saw the moment and was ready. Pulling the around the corner and accelerating, the car pitched wildly into the street.

 

Walker, suddenly hearing the engine's roar, turned to see a car weaving madly through the lanes. Spinning back, he saw Alex, still standing by her car as she placed the key in the door lock. She was directly in the path of the speeding vehicle and completely unaware of the danger she was in.

 

"ALEX!" he shouted, breaking into a run toward her, but the car was already passing him by, "ALEX!"

 

Startled by the desperation in Walker's voice, Alex looked up to see the car veering toward her... She tried to dodge, but her car blocked her attempt, and before she could move again, the hurtling vehicle struck her and sent her flying over the hood of her car and to the hard concrete sidewalk beyond. As Walker reached her side, the still careening car spun around another corner and into the darkness beyond.

 

"Alex?" Walker whispered as he dropped to his knees and reached for her, not sure what he would find.

As he touched her arm for a moment there was nothing, and then a low gasping moan started his own heart beating again.... She was alive.

 

"CORDELL!..... CORDELL! "

 

Walker heard C.D.'s voice from across the street.....Standing quickly he called back, "C.D.! Call an ambulance! Is Trivette still inside?"

 

Trivette, who had run out of the bar with C.D., was already across the once again silent street.   "I'm here Walker, what in the world happened?" He asked as he came around several parked vehicles and saw Walker, and then Alex.

 

"Looked like a drunk driver, Trivette, Alex never saw it coming, It happened too fast and she had nowhere to go. Get an APB out on a dark sedan, older-maybe '86 or '87,  mid - sized, partial license - Texas plates 493, that's all I had time to catch."

 

"That should be plenty partner, we'll get him!" Trivette was already sprinting for Walker's truck nearby.

 

As Walker knelt down once more, Alex moaned again softly. Her breathing was labored, and Walker had never felt so helpless.

"Hang on Alex" he urged her gently, stroking her forehead, "help is coming, just hang on........"

 

It had been perfect! Now to just make sure they believed it was an accident, a drunken driver in an out of control vehicle. Already miles away from C.D.'s and the devastation left behind there, the Watcher stopped the car near a dangerous embankment, this too had been chosen long in advance. Stepping out of the idling car and reaching into the backseat, the Watcher guided the drunken man out and placed him behind the wheel, bottle still in hand. Tossing a few of the empties into the front and spilling some on the seat completed the effect. Placing the man's foot heavily on the gas pedal, the Watcher listened with satisfaction to the engine roar at the weight the nearly unconscious man put on it......good! Slamming the car door shut, the Watcher reached through the open driver's side window, yanked the parking brake and quickly jumped away from the car as it roared into motion and slammed down the steep incline.....impacting with a tremendous crash on the boulders at the bottom. As the Watcher headed for the vehicle stashed a short distance away, there was the slightest hint of smoke in the air. A few moments later an explosion lit up the night sky.

 

With C.D. now at his side, Walker stood by as the paramedics worked to stabilize Alex and prepare her for transport to the hospital. He had never felt so wretched.

"I let her down, C.D., I should have seen it coming sooner. I should have gotten to her in time. I should have walked her all the way to her car....."

 

"Son, you just hafta stop that. All the shoulda's and coulda's in the world ain't gonna change what's happened here tonight. This ain't your fault and you know darn well that Alex'd be the first one to tell you so." C.D. interrupted. "For now it's just gonna have to be enough that she's still here with us. She's getting the best care and she's gonna pull through, so you just concentrate on that and let the good Lord take care of the rest."

 

Trivette returned from a conference with one of the police officers on the scene.

"Looks like you were right, Walker. Seems our hit and run driver probably was drunk. DMV came up with a probable match based on your description of the car and the partial tag...... a Paul Shepard, with a sheet of OUI's as long as my arm, and more than a few Operating After Revocations, too. We've put out an APB on the car and I'll be meeting a couple of guys at his last known address to see if we can locate him there."

 

"That's fast work, Trivette, thanks...."  Walker's voice trailed off as he turned again toward Alex, watching silently as she was secured to a back board and placed on a gurney, which was then carefully lifted into the waiting ambulance.

 

Trivette placed his hand on Walker's shoulder, "Listen, man, why don't you ride in the ambulance with Alex? C.D. can follow you in. I sent Cindy home in my car, so I'll take the Ram and meet you both at the hospital as soon as I get some answers from this Shepard character?"

 

"That's a good idea, Cordell." C.D. interjected, "having you there will comfort Alex when she wakes up..... you just go along now.....Jimmy and I'll finish up here and meet you at the hospital quick as can be."

 

"That sounds like a good idea." Walker said as he headed toward the ambulance. "Trivette...you'll keep me posted?"

 

"You bet partner," Trivette answered.

 

As the ambulance pulled away from the scene, sirens blaring and lights flashing, C.D. turned to Trivette, "Lord, Jimmy, how did such a thing happen? It just don't seem possible....."

 

"You're right about that, Big Dog! Listen, I'm going to head over to Shepard's.  You go ahead to the hospital, and phone me if there's any news....okay?"

 

"You betcha I will, Jimmy, and you keep a good thought for Alex, she's gonna be needin' all the prayers we can send tonight....."

 

Carefully adjusting the tuning to the police band radio, the Watcher laughed softly. It was all going exactly as planned. They had APB's all over looking for Shepard. They were buying into the drunken hit and run completely. The Watcher chuckled again, no one would be prepared for what was to come next..... especially not Cordell Walker!

 

Trivette found Walker and C.D. in the waiting area outside the Trauma Rooms. Walker was pacing from the door to the windows and back again, and C.D. had given up trying to get him to relax.

 

"How's Alex?" Trivette queried quietly, eyeing Walker.

 

 "We just don't know yet, Jimmy. Been a whole lot of activity in and out of there, but so far the Doc hasn't come out to give us the lowdown on what's going on...." C.D. explained.

 

"Doc!", Walker called suddenly, first to notice the man in hospital scrubs moving toward them, and the two turned with Walker toward the doctor expectantly.

 

"We have Miss Cahill stabilized," the doctor began, "but she has some rather significant injuries and I won't be able to give you any definitive answers just yet."

 

Walker blanched at the tone the doctor had taken, "What injuries, exactly, doctor?" he asked softly.

 

"Well, in many ways she's an extremely lucky woman, there is apparently no hemorrhaging, although there does appear to be some rather severe bruising of her internal organs."

 

C.D. looked confused, "You say her insides are bruised, Doc?"

 

"Yes," he responded, "not unlike the skin, the internal organs can also be bruised by sudden trauma, and it can be very serious. In Miss Cahill's case the heart muscle is affected, making it work less efficiently, and the lungs and diaphragm as well....making breathing painful and very difficult....in fact it may be necessary to put her on a respirator if she is unable to function effectively on her own. It's a dangerous situation, however, it's not that which has me the most concerned."

 

"What's that, Doctor?" Trivette asked, with a quick glance at Walker's stony face.

 

"When Miss Cahill was thrown by the vehicle that struck her, she apparently took a severe blow to her head. It's causing fluid buildup in the cranial cavity. We've put in a temporary shunt, in an effort to relieve the pressure......and we've induced an artificial coma to keep her as still as possible.  Does Miss Cahill have any family members we should contact?"

 

"I've already called her father, he's flying in from New York." Walker said woodenly, the enormity of Alex's condition sinking in.

 

The doctor spoke again, turning directly to Walker, "We'll take good care of her Ranger, everything that can be done, will be done."

 

"I know that, Doc," he replied.

 

"We're taking her to the Intensive Care Unit, on the fourth floor. If you'd like, you can leave a message for her father at the main desk and go to the ICU waiting area. I'll have someone let you know as soon as she is settled in her room, then you can go in and see her if you like." the doctor added gently.

 

"That's a good idea, Doc," C.D. replied, "We'll just do that. You go ahead and get on back to your patient now, and we'll be heading right up there."

 

The doctor strode back down the corridor toward the trauma rooms as Walker just stood unmoving, watching him go. Trivette and C.D. exchanged worried looks, neither of them had ever seen Walker like this, and they weren't quite sure what to do next....

 

C.D. finally placed a hand on Walker's elbow and said,  "C'mon, Cordell, let's go on upstairs. Don't you worry none, I've met Doc Blake before, and he's a fine doctor, he'll take real good care of Alex.....

Jimmy, you want to leave word at the main desk for Alex's daddy, like the Doc suggested?"

 

"I'll take care of it, Big Dog."

Trivette then once again reached out to his partner. "Alex is gonna be fine, Walker. She'll be back on her feet in no time, you just watch."

 

Walker didn't respond to the gesture as C.D. began to guide him toward the elevators, but a moment later he turned, "Trivette, what happened with Paul Shepard? Was he the driver?"

 

"Yeah, it looks like he was, but he didn't even make it home.  A report of a car accident off Highland turned out to be his car. Looked like he didn't even know he was off the road, no attempt to stop. The car went over a steep incline and crashed at the bottom. It burned. The M.E. is still checking the scene, but it appears he was alone in the car and passed out......never had a chance."

 

Walker turned back toward C.D., who was holding the elevator for him; Trivette just barely heard him state flatly, "Just like Alex."

 

From a vantage point just down the corridor, the Watcher looked on as the three men separated. The temptation to move now was great, but that would be a mistake.....this was no time to spoil a winning strategy with haste. Besides, it was enjoyable seeing the Ranger suffer. The Watcher smiled softly and then walked unnoticed right past Trivette!

 

Walker stood beside Alex's hospital bed. She was the only patient in the room, though there was an empty bed closer to the door. She looked so small, surrounded as she was by tubes and machinery, and Walker fought an urge to reach down and enfold her in his arms. Her eyes were beginning to blacken and a there was large bandage on the right side of her forehead. He could see part of an ugly bruise forming on her right shoulder and arm, and he knew from talking with the doctor that several broken ribs had been immobilized and her left ankle had been placed in a cast. Pulling a chair closer to the bed, Walker sat and then reached over and placed his hand over her right hand.....He reached up to gently brush a hair from the uninjured side of her head, careful not to disturb the oxygen tube which was providing a little relief for her labored breathing. She was struggling with each breath and Walker uttered a silent thank you that she wasn't on a respirator.

 

He squeezed her hand gently as he whispered her name, "Alex, I'm here......you're going to be okay. Everything is going to be alright."

 

He longed to feel even the slightest squeeze in return! Now, for perhaps the first time, he truly understood what she went through when he managed to get himself seriously hurt. He marveled that she was able to bear it and carry on when he recovered and then stubbornly went right back to doing things the same way he had always done them! His respect for her quiet strength, which was already considerable, increased tenfold.

 

As he sat, the door opened silently and Gordon Cahill stepped into the room. Walker's heart ached for the older man as he saw the father's eyes mist. Walker rose quickly and went to him.

 

"Gordon, I'm glad you're here. Would you like to be alone with Alex for a while?" he asked gently.

 

"No, Walker, Alex would want you to stay, and I could use a friend, too." He answered with a weak smile. Then he turned to look again at Alex, "Why does it take something like this to get me down here? Alex asked me to come visit just last week... but there was a case that seemed more important at the time....what a fool I've been!"

 

Walker tried to comfort him, "Alex understands about your job, Gordon....seems to me that you tried to get her to New York not long ago, but she had a case of her own......She loves you, and she wouldn't want you to do this to yourself....."

 

"She loves me......." he repeated, "....but.....I spent too many years not being worthy of that young woman's love, not being there for her when a girl needs her father..... I only hope.....," he didn't finish the sentence. "Have you spoken to the doctor?"

 

Walker turned and guided Gordon to the chair before answering, "He was here a little while ago. They've run some tests and he should back soon with more information. Meantime, we wait.....

Have Trivette and C.D. come back with you?"

 

"Yes, they picked me up at the airport and they're outside now. Trivette said when you have a moment he'll fill you in, and C.D. has brought you some things. Good men, those two...."

 

"They are...," Walker agreed, "the best friends anyone could ask for."

 

As the two men continued talking, the Watcher looked on from an empty room, in a wing of the hospital under construction, and directly across an open courtyard from Alex's room. It was exactly the situation hoped for, the Cahill woman lay in the bed closest to the window......and her visitors had positioned themselves beside her. All there was left to do was wait for Walker to be alone......

 

Doctor Blake entered the room briefly, "Could I speak to you both for a moment please?" he asked.

 

Without a word, Gordon Cahill stood and the two men went to the door. Gordon Cahill had lost all expression, and Walker stayed close to the older man's side.

 

Trivette and C.D. rose as Doctor Blake, Gordon Cahill, and Walker entered the small conference room.

"Well, Doc," C.D. began, "what's the word? How's our gal in there holding up?"

 

The doctor looked at each of the concerned faces before him, finally ending with his gaze on Walker and Gordon Cahill. "I wish the news was better, but Miss Cahill isn't responding as we had hoped at all. The pressure created by the head trauma is still building, if that continues there's a possibility that it could cause permanent brain injury. There's very little we can do for her at this point but wait...."

 

For a moment, Walker feared Alex's father was going to collapse.

The man had whitened at the doctors words, and Walker gripped his arm tightly to provide some support, but after a moment Gordon Cahill spoke with all the confidence he could muster,

"I have to get back to my little girl, Doctor. I thank you for all your doing, and I'm sure Alex will too, when this is all over..... are you coming, Walker?"

 

"I'll join you in just a minute, Gordon," Walker answered, "I just need to catch up on some things with Trivette and C.D."

 

The men waited silently as the doctor and Alex's father left the room.

 

Turning to his partner, Walker asked, "What have you got, Trivette?"

 

"Not much more than we knew last night. The car that went down the embankment and burned has been positively identified as Paul Shepard's. He never made it out of the car, probably died on impact before the explosion according to the M.E. The man had a long record for drinking and driving, and folks who live near him said he hadn't been around much in days....out on another of his benders from all accounts. Looks like the whole thing is just a bad case of wrong place, wrong time. Nothing at all to indicate any connection between him and Alex."

 

"Okay, I just had to be sure..."

 

"I understand partner, listen....when you get back in there you tell Alex calls are coming in from all over asking after her and wishing her well very soon."

 

"I'll tell her, Trivette....I.....just hope she hears me." Walker said softly, as he turned toward the door.

"Hold on there, Cordell," C.D. broke in, "I got some clean clothes Jimmy grabbed for me out of your locker, and some good food for you here.....you hafta get some nourishment into you, It's been a long night!"

 

"I can't eat now, C.D., I'll take the clothes, though, and change when I get a chance."

 

"You take this food too, son.....It'll hold up okay, and you might want it later."

 

Walker turned back toward his friends and, placing a hand on C.D.'s shoulder, managed the briefest of smiles. "Okay, C.D., I'll take the food and the clothes." he said as he reached for the packages that his friend held.

 

As Walker turned again to go back to Alex's room, C.D. called, "You give Alex my love! You hear, Cordell?"

 

The longest day in Walker's life was finally turning to dusk.

Gordon Cahill had been convinced to go back to C.D.'s to rest and eat...both Trivette and C.D. had urged Walker to do the same, promising to stay with Alex while he got some sleep, but they had been unable to convince him to budge.

He'd taken a few minutes to change into the clean clothes his friends had brought him, grateful for their thoughtfulness, and had even tried to eat some of the food C.D. had brought, but the few bites sat like lead in his stomach and he had thrown the rest out....

He was alone with Alex now in the slowly darkening room, listening to the sounds of the machines that surrounded her and wishing he were hearing almost any other sound....most of all he wished he could hear Alex's distinctive giggle.

The doctor had returned frequently throughout the day to monitor her progress, but Alex's condition remained unchanged, and Walker was trying to stifle a desperate fear that he was going to lose her!

 

For a long time Walker had resisted his growing attraction to Alex, the many losses he had suffered before made him fear attachment as he feared no other thing..... But Alex had won his heart long before he had admitted it to anyone, especially himself..... Trivette and C.D. had teased often that he was the last one in the state of Texas to know that Cordell Walker had fallen in love!

Now the thought of losing Alex was rocking him to the core, and there was nothing he could do to help her.......

 

Slowly he lifted her hand into his own, and tenderly caressed her hair, a single tear traced down his cheek as he lifted his eyes upward....

 

"Lord," he began, "You know I'm not much for praying. I've always trusted You to do what needs doing in Your own way, and I've done my best not to question Your decisions. I'm not one to ask for favors, but just this once, I'm gonna ask. Not for me....for Alex.....If You would just spare her a little of Your strength. You could gladly take me if..."

 

The Watcher was peering through a scope at the scene taking place across the courtyard....Walker was praying....the Watcher was sure of it! And he was alone with her in the room. This was it, the moment had come at last. Slowly the Watcher reattached the scope to the rifle, which was equipped with a silencer as well. Then peering again through the scope, squeezed the trigger with deliberation....and saw Cordell Walker stiffen and collapse to the floor! Surveying the scene......the Watcher smiled with satisfaction, then shook her hair out of the ponytail she had pulled it back into. She unhurriedly dismantled the gun into a small case and  left the room, and then the hospital, without drawing even a second glance from the dozens of people she passed.

 

Walker lowered his eyes to Alex's face as he finished the simple prayer, wondering if there was more he could have said...but there wasn't any  more....he had meant every word.....if only he truly had the power to exchange places with her....

 

A tiny shattering noise caused him to glance upward....and at that same moment he was startled to feel a sudden pressure that ripped the breath from his lungs and sent pain searing through him. His hand was torn from Alex's as the impact knocked him backwards....his vision going gold to orange to red and then finally the blackness rushed up to meet him. In an instant Walker lay motionless on the floor... the silence of the room now broken only by the steady beep of the monitor by Alex's bed and the rasping sound made as she struggled with each breath.....

 

Trivette, unable to rest knowing that Walker was here alone and hurting, had returned to the hospital and was just outside the entrance to Alex's room when he heard a short exclamation followed by a muffled thud......

 

Wondering what could have happened, he opened the door quietly.

At first he saw nothing, just Alex in the bed and the monitors and IV's that surrounded her. But then it hit him, where was Walker?

Stepping into the room, he was suddenly faced with Walker....lying still and face down on the floor. Trivette rolled his partner gently onto his back, Walkers face was deathly pale and a large red stain already covered most of his shirt.

 

"Oh my God!"

Trivette threw the door open again and shouted to the nurses nearby,  "Get a Doctor and some help down here! Walker's been shot! And somebody get security to seal off the exits to this hospital and call the police! Tell them we have an officer down! And HURRY!"

 

As the nurses rushed to comply, Trivette bolted back into the room and knelt at Walker's side. "No, man, no way! You are not going out on us now! Alex needs you, partner...." Trivette urged desperately, trying to staunch the flow of blood with his hand.

 

Suddenly the room was filled with a rush of doctors, nurses and attendants. They lifted Walker expertly, placed him on the empty bed and began an evaluation of the Ranger's condition.

 

Trying to stay out of the way, Trivette found himself at Alex's bedside.....Praying...., for the first time all day, that she wasn't hearing what was being said around her.....because the doctor's had begun CPR,  and were calling for epinephrine and blood to be typed and crossmatched. Trivette listened in horror as nurses called out rapidly falling blood pressures and someone moved in with an ambubag....Walker wasn't breathing.......

 

"We're not doing any good here! Let's move!" The lead doctor shouted, standing on a low rail and continuing CPR as the bed was rolled toward the door......

 

As quickly as the chaos had begun, the room was quiet again as Walker was rushed down the hall toward an O.R., the doctors calling orders behind them as they struggled to stabilize him.

 

A single nurse stayed behind and did a quick check to be sure that none of the equipment surrounding Alex had been disturbed by all the commotion and then she, too, left the room.

 

For a minute Trivette stood alone, trying to comprehend what had happened.....one second Walker was in here worrying about Alex and the next he was fighting for his own life! Trivette looked at his hands, still wet with Walker's blood.........What was going on here?

 

As his eyes traveled the room, Trivette saw the small hole in the window that marked the bullet's entry. Tracing the line the bullet must have traveled back to it's starting point drew his eyes to the open window in the darkened room just across from Alex's.....just then two hospital security officers entered, Trivette took one with him and ordered the other to draw the curtains and not leave Alex's side until his return.

 

A quick trip to the other room confirmed his suspicion that it was the point from which Walker had been shot....there were no obvious clues to the identity of the shooter, not that he had expected any, but he ordered the room sealed and set the man who had accompanied him to guarding it until a forensic team could arrive.

A hurried meeting with police now appearing on the scene indicated that a search was being conducted of the entire hospital, and no one was being allowed to leave without being checked....but most, including Trivette, believed the shooter had left the building before there had been time to seal all the possible exits.

As he now moved back toward Alex's room, Trivette suddenly realized he had left one task undone in the rush to investigate; he had to call C.D. and let him know what had happened....... and he did not want to make that call!

 

Trivette and C.D., along with Gordon Cahill, again stood listening to Doctor Blake  report on a critical patient....only this time it was Walker! It seemed unreal and they were all still somewhat stunned.

 

"The bullet entered the upper quadrant of Ranger Walker's left side; nicking the clavicle, grazing the heart muscle and puncturing a lung.....we removed it from near his spine," the doctor was saying, "the good news is that he survived nearly six hours of surgery, but he is in extremely critical condition and we can only wait and see how he responds...."

 

"Wait and see! Wait and see!" a frustrated and exhausted C.D. shouted, "Can't you ever give us any more than that!"

"Easy, Big Dog," Trivette soothed, "you know as well as I that the Doc here and everyone else in this hospital is doing everything they can for Walker, and for Alex, too...."

 

"Yeah, you're right Jimmy, I do know it....."

C.D. turned again to the doctor, "Doc, I'm right sorry for that.....it's just that I don't know which way to turn on this one. I love both them two, and I don't rightly know how I'm gonna divide myself between 'em and it's just got me in an awful lather."

 

"I understand, Ranger Parker, no apology necessary....

We have made arrangements to try and ease some of that pressure for all of you.....when Ranger Walker is moved from recovery, he'll be brought to the same ICU room as Miss Cahill. That way you'll be able to be near both of them." the doctor told them kindly.

 

This time it was Gordon Cahill who answered the doctor, "That's very good of the hospital, I know it must be a bend in policy, and we're very grateful."

 

"This is an unusual and difficult situation." Doctor Blake answered him, "We're glad to do anything we can."

 

As the doctor left the conference room, three tired looking men followed him out and headed for Alex's room, now under guard, to sit with her, and wait for Walker.

 

The radio and television reports were full of the news at the hospital. So soon after the critical injury of Assistant District Attorney Cahill in a hit and run, the shooting of one of Texas's most famous Rangers as he sat at her side was a big story....

She had expected that, but she had not expected all of what she heard, "Why isn't he dead! He's supposed to be dead!" She shouted in frustration as she hurled a glass. It shattered against the wall, directly in the center of a large photo of Walker that had been tacked there next to a similar sized one of Alex, both photos had huge red targets crudely drawn on them, with the bulls eye located directly between the eyes of the subject...

The only comfort she found was that they were refusing to give any predictions about Walker's chances for survival, and that usually meant the chances were very slim indeed.... she calmed herself, she had been patient before.... she would be patient again, and if necessary....she would return and finish the job!

 

Gordon Cahill sat holding his daughter's hand.

Trivette sat next to Walker, who was breathing with the aid of a respirator.

C.D. was dozing on a cot which had been brought into the room when the three men had refused to leave.

 

It had been nearly two days since Alex had been struck down outside C.D.'s, almost twelve hours since the attack on Walker.... Little had changed.

Trivette, who occasionally retreated to the hallway to phone into Ranger Headquarters for updates on the investigation, also had his laptop....spending the long hours sifting through every case that Walker and Alex had ever worked on, looking for any clue that would lead to the identity of the shooter...

Now he snapped the computer shut in frustration, unable to find a solid piece of information that would help them. How he wished he had Walker's gift of intuition on cases that just didn't make any sense!

 

The door to the ICU room opened, Doctor Blake entered and turned to Gordon Cahill, "I have some good news for you, Mr. Cahill. The latest test results indicate that the pressure on your daughter's brain is lessening at last....It appears thus far that no physical damage has been done,  of course we'll have to wait for a complete evaluation, but at this point I'd say the prognosis looks very good."

 

Gordon Cahill stood and pumped the doctors hand, "That is very good news, Doctor, and I'm glad to hear it! Thank you so much!"

 

Trivette approached them, "That's great about Alex, thank you....but, Doc.....how about Walker? How's he doing?"

 

The doctors face took a much more concerned look, "Ranger Walker's condition continues to deteriorate. He's sinking into a deep coma....I just don't know what to tell you, Ranger."

 

C.D., sitting up on the cot, spoke, "Don't you count Cordell out yet, Doc. He's come back from some long odds before and he'll do it this time too."

Reaching for his former partner's arm, he continued, "Ain't that just so, Cordell. You been kinda layin back for a bit, but, son, it's time to get back into the game now. You heard the doc, I know you did. Alex is pulling out of it and she's gonna want to be seeing you when she opens up her eyes....."

 

By the next day, Alex's responses indicated that she was beginning to awaken from her long sleep, and the three men waited anxiously.

 

Finally, late in the afternoon, Trivette felt the slightest movement from the hand he held in his own. Looking to her face, he spoke gently but insistently...

"Alex? Alex? It's time to wake up now.... Counselor, you've slept too long."

 

Alex's eyes fluttered for a moment and then opened slowly. At first she looked lost and confused as she gazed about the room, but at last her eyes focused on Trivette...who was squeezing her hand gently and smiling at her.

 

"Jimmy? What happened? What am I doing here?" she spoke in a weak whisper.

 

Gordon Cahill, who had awakened on the cot at the first sound of his daughter's voice, came to stand by Trivette's side, "Good morning, Sweetheart." he smiled as he bent to give her a kiss on the forehead, "It's about time you woke up."

 

"Daddy? What in the world are you doing here?"

 

Trivette answered, "It's a long story, Alex....but before we get into that, I need to go tell the doc that you're awake....he's going to be glad to hear it."

Trivette also gave Alex a kiss on the forehead and then he slipped out the door as C.D., coming around the curtain that had been drawn to separate the two patients, took his place at her side.

 

"Welcome back Honey!" he spoke happily, "It sure is good to see your pretty eyes again. You were starting to get us a mite worried."

 

Alex's eyes moved about the room again, then turned back to her father and C.D. and she whispered once more, "What happened?" and then, "Where's Walker?"

 

Gordon Cahill had just opened his mouth to begin to answer that question when the doctor entered the room with Trivette and a nurse.

 

"See, Doc, I told you....awake and asking questions already.....isn't that just like a lawyer?" Trivette grinned at her.

 

"Well," the doctor responded with a smile, "questions will just have to wait a little while longer, You gentlemen will need to wait in the corridor for a few moments while I examine my patient."

 

The three men headed for the door, but unnoticed by Alex, Trivette didn't leave the room but instead slipped behind the curtain where the heart monitor and respirator could be heard....

 

A short time later the doctor left the ICU unit smiling broadly. Trivette came out behind him.

 

"There seem to be absolutely no physical effects from the head trauma.  She'll sleep the night, and tomorrow drift in and out for a while, and there are some short term memory problems, but that's common with this type of injury and should pass in a few days at most. She's already well on her way to a complete recovery."

 

"Oh Doctor," Gordon Cahill smiled with relief, "that is just the best news! Thank you again so much for all that you and the rest of the staff here have done for Alex! I will be forever grateful!"

 

"We're very glad it's worked out this well, Mr. Cahill. We'll be moving her to another room down the hall soon. She should be on her feet before you know it."

 

C.D. interrupted, "Moving Alex, Doc? I thought you were gonna let them two be in the same room?"

 

"At this point, that wouldn't be wise. Miss Cahill doesn't yet know all that's happened, and with Ranger Walker's condition so unstable....the last thing she needs is to be in the same room if he codes on us...."

 

"Lord, Doctor, I hadn't even thought of that, how are we supposed to tell that little gal what's happened to him after all she's been through?" C.D. asked plaintively.

 

"I honestly don't know, but she will need to be told.....She's asking for him, and it's obvious that she expects him to show up at any time."

 

As Alex was being moved from the ICU, the three men discussed how best to tell Alex of the strange events of the last few days. It was Trivette who finally made the decision.

 

"Mr. Cahill, the doctor says Alex will sleep now, so why don't you head on back to C.D.'s and get some rest yourself. You look like you could use it and Alex is going to need you tomorrow.....

Big Dog, you go get some sleep, too. I'll sit with Walker for the rest of the night and get some sleep myself when you get back in the morning."

 

"That all sounds fine so far, Jimmy," C.D. answered, "but that still don't answer the question of how we're gonna tell Alex what's happened to Cordell...."

 

Gordon Cahill interjected, "Why don't you let me talk to her about that? I know how she feels about Walker....this is going be a shock and maybe it's her father that should be there then?"

 

"No, Mr. Cahill, I'll talk to her about Walker, he's my partner...and Alex and I have been down this road before....but she will need you to be there tomorrow, since C.D. and I are going to be spending most of our time in ICU.... 

I'll fill her in when she's up to it.....you both go get some sleep now."

 

"Alright, Jimmy, if you're sure that's the way you want to handle it."

 

"I'm sure Big Dog.....see you in a few hours."

 

As it turned out, Alex slept through most of the morning, still recuperating from the stress her body had been under.

When she did wake occasionally, her father was there, and they would talk quietly until she drifted off again......she asked the same questions again and again, forgetting sometimes from moment to moment what had been said to her, but she became more lucid and her memory became clearer as the day passed.

 

"Dad, It's so odd.....I can't remember anything about the accident at all......but I do remember having the strangest dreams....."

 

"Well, hon," her father answered, "you were pretty sick for a while there, it's not surprising you might have been having a few bad dreams."

 

"I didn't say they were bad, just strange.....like I dreamt I was alone and there was a fog all around me.... I couldn't tell where I was.....and I couldn't seem to decide which way to go. Then Walker came, and he smiled and told me it was time to go home. He pointed off in a direction and told me to 'Go back that way', I wanted him to come with me, but he shoved me away and told me I had to go.....that was when I woke up. Or at least that's the last dream I remember before I woke up....

Odd wasn't it? I mean, I can't even imagine Walker ever pushing me away  like that, but in the dream........" Alex's voice trailed thoughtfully off.

 

"Well, Alex, you know Walker has gotten you out of a jam or two....it's not all that odd that even in a dream if you were lost  he would be the one to come and show you the way home.......

Speaking of the way home, did I tell you about the welcome home party your friends are putting together for you? It's going to be some kind of a gathering I hear. According to C.D., some folks started putting it together almost as soon as they heard that you were awake and on the mend. Some gal in your office named......"

 

Whenever she began to talk about Walker, Gordon Cahill would deftly steer the conversation in another direction.... but by evening it was becoming difficult indeed!

 

In fact, Alex was feeling so much stronger that the doctor consented to letting her be moved from her bed and into a wheelchair, and Trivette knew it was time to leave C.D. at Walker's side and go down the hall for what he was sure was going to be a very difficult conversation.....

 

"You're sure looking a lot better this evening, Counselor." he commented, kissing her cheek lightly.

 

"I'm feeling a lot better too, Jimmy, the doctor says I'll be on my feet as soon as I can manage crutches.......but what's going on around here? I was hit by a drunk driver? How did that happen? Where's C.D.? I haven't seen him all day....... And where is Walker? It seems every time I ask if he's been by, Dad changes the subject!"

 

"That's why I'm here, Alex. Walker is....."

Trivette hesitated a short moment then took a deep breath and spilled it all out at once, ".....Walker is down the hall in ICU, Alex. He was shot the day after you were hurt, right here in the hospital."

As Alex's eyes widened in disbelief, he continued, "I'm really sorry, Alex, there just doesn't seem to be any good way to say something like that....." his voice trailed off.

 

"Shot! Oh, Jimmy! He's going to be okay, isn't he?"

 

"We just don't know, Alex. Walker's been unconscious since it happened and he's just not responding. The doctor's don't know...."

 

"Tell me what happened, all of it. How did Walker manage to get shot in a hospital?" Alex demanded.

 

"We're not clear on all the details yet, but it looks like the hit and run accident you were in was part of it. When you were first brought in, everything pointed to a drunk driver who lost control. In fact, later that night, the owner of the car was killed in an accident that occurred partway across town.

But after Walker was shot, we started digging a little deeper.  Now it looks like the 'driver' might have been set up to take the fall for your accident just so no one would take a closer a look.

We've been tracing the man's movements the last few days of the guys life, which hasn't been easy cause he was on the bender to beat all benders, but one thing has begun to stand out.... the guy was in his 60's, and looked every day of it and more after years of living in a bottle, but everyone who did know him and saw him has said the same thing;  there was a pretty young woman nearby who was paying for a lot of the liquor and driving him around.

They just couldn't figure out how he hooked up with her, that was why they remembered when we started asking questions. She's apparently a stranger to Dallas, but the sketch artists are trying to put together a composite to send out."

 

Alex had been listening intently, "And you think she had something to do with my accident? But why?"

 

"We don't know for sure, but the theory is that whoever it was, was after both of you. They came after you first because your 'accident' was a way to get Walker accessible and distracted........as vulnerable as possible......."

 

"And then, when he wasn't watching out for himself.....whoever it was....." Alex's voice trailed off slowly.

 

"That's what it looks like, Alex, the person who planned this was counting on Walker's reaction to your being hurt.....it must have taken a lot of patience, too....and a knack for reacting quickly when the right opportunity presented...."

 

Alex got a determined look in her eyes, "Well whoever it was didn't count on Walker! He's going to get through this! Take me to him! I have to be there!"

 

"I don't think that's a very good idea, Alex....."

 

Alex interrupted, "You take me to him right now, James Trivette! Or I'll get there on my own!"

She began fumbling with the wheelchair, trying to release the brakes, her eyes flashed at Trivette, "Take me to him, RIGHT NOW!"

 

"Okay, Alex, okay...." Trivette realized that she would not be dissuaded, "I'll take you to his room.... but there's something more you have to know first.....

Walker's condition is bad. The bullet darn near killed him right off, and even though he got through the surgery, he just hasn't been responding to treatment at all.....He's in a coma, Alex. They're using a respirator to help him breathe because he's not able to do enough on his own........and.......and he's getting weaker, not stronger........"

 

Even though Trivette had done his best to prepare her, Alex was still shocked when she saw Walker.

 

She had seen him hurt before, even seen him close to death more than once....but he had never looked like this....always he had been struggling, fighting for his life, but this was different.... Walker looked like a shadow of the man she knew....it was as though he wasn't even there.

 

For a moment her eyes misted, but she shook back the tears and greeted C.D. with a smile.

 

"Well, hello there, Honey! It sure is good to see you up and about! I was planning on dropping by for a visit with you just a little later....I had no idea you'd be outta that bed so quick."

C.D. came to Alex and gave her a gentle hug. "Cordell and me have just been reminiscing about the old times.......when he was a rookie and some of the tough cases we cracked together...."

 

"Hi C.D.," Alex responded as cheerily as she could manage, "Jimmy told me about the long hours you two have been putting in, and I thought maybe it was time I took my turn...."

 

"Aw, I don't know that you should be doing that honey, you still need to be getting plenty of rest and do a heap of healing your own self." C.D. protested.

 

"C.D., I'm fine....why don't you and Jimmy go get something hot to eat?"

 

Trivette interjected, "I think it will be alright, Big Dog, Alex and I spoke to Doctor Blake about it before we came in, and he agreed to it. And the nurses promised me they would check in often and make sure Alex had anything she needed."

 

Although Trivette left off speaking at that point, the look he gave C.D. was clear enough.....it said 'She needs to be alone with him awhile, and we need to let her.'

 

"Okay, Honey, I guess if the doc thinks it's okay, I'll go along with it.......but if you start feeling poorly, you be sure to get someone to take you on back to your room, y'hear?" C.D. agreed.

 

"I will C.D., and," Alex dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "when you come back, do you think you could bring me something to eat, too? The supper they gave me tonight........."

 

C.D. grinned back at her, "Why sure enough, darlin', I'll bring you something a whole lot more edible than what they serve around here!"

 

Trivette pushed Alex's wheelchair over next to the bed, and he and C.D. left her with Walker.

 

For a long time, Alex just sat and watched him. Gripping his hand and trying to find some indication that he was aware of her presence.....but she could sense nothing at all, and all at once she felt tears streaming down her face.

 

"Oh Walker, what is happening to you? You can't be giving up....I know you better than that....."

 

As her words trailed off, a voice spoke solemnly from behind her, "If Washo had truly given up as he believes he has, Daughter, he would already walk the spirits path....."

 

Alex turned to find White Eagle, the Cherokee spiritual leader, standing just inside the door with Doctor Blake and the officer who had been put on guard duty outside Walker's room.

 

Doctor Blake said, "Miss Cahill, this man says he knows Ranger Walker? Since Ranger Trivette isn't here, I thought perhaps you would know him?"

 

"Absolutely, Doctor, this is White Eagle.....Walker's good friend." She answered.

 

"Alright, then, I'll put him on the Ranger's approved visitor's list." he assented.

The guard left the room to return to his post as the doctor went to the other side of Walker's bed to check the monitors surrounding him and update the chart kept there.

 

Alex spoke again, this time to the old Shaman. "What did you mean by that, White Eagle? That Walker believes he has given up? Walker has never given up on anything......ever......why would he start now?"

 

"Washo believes that he must not fight, because he believes he has made a bargain he must honor....but Father Of Us All has told me that Washo does not need to honor a bargain that was not required of him." White Eagle answered.

"Washo's heart still bleeds and he does not hear the message Father Of Us All sends....I have come to try and help him hear, before what Washo believes becomes what is."

 

Alex was deeply confused and desperately trying understand out what White Eagle was saying to her, sensing that it was very important.

 

The old man saw and understood her confusion, and sat on the chair beside her, turning her to face him and looking straight into her eyes as he explained. It was vital that she understand clearly, because he knew that this woman....who was so important to Washo, would be the one able to reach him.

 

"Daughter, you know in your heart that Washo feels for you as he has felt for no other?"

 

Alex nodded, "Yes....., at least....I hope so,....I know I feel that way about him." she answered quietly.

 

"Then listen and understand, Daughter.

Washo grieved greatly when your spirit wandered far from his. He feared you would be lost to him forever, he blamed himself and his heart cried out to Father Of Us All.   Washo spoke with all that was in his heart, and asked Father Of Us All to grant you strength to find your way back to this world.....so great was Washo's plea that he even offered to take your place, if only you would be spared.....

Father Of Us All would never ask such a sacrifice, but almost as he uttered the words, Washo was struck down...."

 

Tears were streaming down Alex's face again as she listened, knowing that what White Eagle told her was the truth, although he had no way of knowing what had happened while Walker was alone in the room. She reached out and once again took Walker's hand.

 

White Eagle continued, "Because this was when Washo was struck, he did not know that his request was already granted.....and he believed that he was to exchange his life for your own......

You saw him Daughter, do you remember?"

 

"Yes," she whispered, "he showed me the way, but he wouldn't come with me...."

 

"That is right, because he thought he must not break his bargain, he believed he must remain.....but Washo is wrong......

Father Of Us All allowed Washo to guide you back, and Washo also was to return.....his time is not yet complete, but Washo does not hear......

YOU must make him hear Daughter. You must make him listen and understand that the sacrifice was not required......Washo, too, may return to this place with the blessing of Father Of Us All, but he must return soon....or his spirit will be too distant to make the journey."

 

"How, White Eagle?" Alex asked desperately, "tell me how to reach him!"

 

"With your heart, Daughter..........reach for his spirit with your own.......his connection to you is very strong.....he will hear you if he can hear any."

 

"I will, White Eagle, I'll make him understand.....I promise!"

 

"I know that, Daughter." White Eagle stood, went to Walker's side and uttered a soft sing-song chant, a Cherokee prayer she thought, and then he turned toward the door.

 

"Wait, White Eagle, where are you going?" Alex asked.

 

"Home, Daughter....my task here is complete....yours has just begun." and with those words, White Eagle left Alex alone with Walker once more.

 

As the door closed behind the ancient Shaman, Alex again turned her attention to Walker. Edging the chair even closer to the bed, she gripped his hand and began speaking quietly in his ear....... "Alright, Cordell Walker, it's time you and I got a few things straightened out........"

 

Alex was still there when Trivette and C.D. returned several hours later. The room was dim when they entered, and Trivette approached silently....thinking that Alex had fallen asleep, but she turned to him and smiled.

 

"He's going to pull out of this, Jimmy."

 

"Of course he is, Alex." Trivette responded with far less conviction, then he asked,

"Officer Thomas said Walker had some sort of a strange visitor while we were gone? What was that all about?"

 

"White Eagle came.....he explained about Walker, that's why I know everything is going to be alright now."

 

"White Eagle....." Trivette's eyes widened and he let out a low whistle, "now that's one mysterious old dude! Is he still around someplace?"

 

"No, he left. He said that he had done what he came to do and the rest was up to us."

 

"I'm right sorry to hear that, I would've enjoyed another talk with that old feller." C.D. commented, "and I know Cordell would like to see him again, too."

 

Just then, Doctor Blake entered the room. "Hello all of you.  Miss Cahill...how are you feeling? You've had quite a long day...."

 

"I feel fine, Doctor," Alex responded, "I don't feel like I'd even need this chair if it weren't for the ankle."

 

"I'm glad to hear that. But I am going to ask you to go now, and take these gentlemen along with you."

 

"I'm not tired at all, and you did say I could stay as long as I felt up to it....." Alex began protesting.

 

"It's not that at all," Doctor Blake explained, "We need to run some additional tests on Ranger Walker....we're still trying to determine why he's not responding."

 

"We understand, Doc," C.D. replied, "We'll just take Alex here on back to her room and wait there...would you be good enough to have someone let us know when it's alright to come back and sit with Cordell? I don't want to leave him alone too long...he needs to know his friends are right here waiting on him to wake up."

 

"Absolutely, Ranger Parker, I'll have someone let you know as soon as we're finished."

 

Perhaps an hour later, Doctor Blake himself walked into Alex's room.

 

C.D. stood, "Is it okay for us to go back to Cordell now, Doc?"

 

"No," the doctor responded, "that's what I've come to talk with you about..."

 

Alex let out a frightened gasp as Trivette rose quickly to his feet as well.

 

"Hold on," Doctor Blake calmed them, "let me finish.... What I came here to tell you is that we're prepping Ranger Walker to return to the O.R., that's why you can't go back to his room just yet."

 

Alex asked quietly, "Back to surgery? Why?  What's happened?"

 

"Actually, Miss Cahill, Ranger Walker has you and that old Indian gentleman to thank. As I was leaving you this afternoon, he said something to you that sort of stuck with me. That was why I ordered the additional X-rays and further tests, I just couldn't seem to put it out of my mind."

"What in tarnation did White Eagle say?" C.D. interjected.

 

"Well, he was speaking metaphorically of course, but the phrase he used to Miss Cahill here was that Ranger Walker's 'heart still bleeds'. It started me wondering if there couldn't be something that we missed that was causing his condition. It was a gamble, but, there it was - on the X-rays."

 

Trivette's eyes were anxious, "What was on the x - rays, Doc?"

 

"Somehow, when Ranger Walker was shot, a tiny piece of the bullet fragmented and embedded in the heart muscle. The fragment was left behind when we removed the rest of the bullet and repaired the wounds, since then, it has been working it's way deeper into the heart muscle with each beat. That's why he hasn't been responded to treatment, his own heart beat itself has caused the continued damage.....

He's still extremely weak, and I won't try and tell you that there isn't significant risk to surgery at this point, but if he makes it through this, there is every reason to believe that his condition will begin to improve immediately."

 

"That's good news, Doc, real good news! Cordell's going to pull through that surgery just fine, you just watch! He's a good man, and the Lord above has obviously decided we still need him here.....that's why he put that idea in your head, sure enough!" C.D. rejoiced.

 

"You may be right, Ranger Parker, and I hope you are. But for now, don't forget how extremely dangerous this surgery is for your friend.....there are no guarantees yet." the doctor counseled as he left the room.

 

It seemed forever before Doctor Blake returned. Gordon Cahill, C.D., and Trivette were talking quietly and Alex had fallen into a fitful sleep, but she woke instantly when he entered.

 

"It looks like we got there just in time. The fragment had been tearing a larger and larger wound as it moved.....he was losing more blood all the time, but it was so gradual that we didn't even realize what was happening." he turned to Alex,  "If it hadn't been for Ranger Walker's friend White Eagle, Miss Cahill, we probably would have lost him before the day was out...."

 

"Thank the Lord," C.D. breathed.

 

"Then Walker's going to be alright?" Alex asked as she gripped her father's hand.

 

"It looks that way." the doctor smiled, "He's still weak, but his condition has begun to stabilize already. He's been taken off the respirator and his heart rate and blood pressure have improved dramatically."

 

"When can we see him?" she asked next.

 

"They should be moving him down from the recovery room in a few hours. You can all go see him after that. But...." and with this he turned to Alex with a severe look, "YOU will only be allowed to leave your room if you get some rest ..... Now that Ranger Walker is improving, I don't need to have you relapsing on me!"

Then he grinned, "If I can just get the two of you both on the mend, I may be able to finally get some sleep myself!"

 

With that Gordon Cahill broke in, "Doctor, I don't think you need to worry about that, I think we'll all be getting some much needed shut-eye around here!"

 

Alex nodded happily, "If you send someone to wake me as soon as it's okay to see Walker, I promise to go right to sleep, Doctor!"

 

"Agreed." Doctor Blake smiled.

 

True to her word, Alex was sleeping soundly when a nurse came to help her to Walker's room.

She was pleased to hear that his condition had improved even more since Doctor Blake's earlier report. C.D. and Trivette were there when she arrived, and it was clear that Walker was much stronger already.

 

Alex took a position close to Walker, gripping his hand tightly....determined to stay by his side until he opened his eyes.... Doctor Blake had told them it might be as long as twenty-four hours before Walker awoke, but Alex had just smiled and said, 'You don't know Walker, Doctor.....he always surprises everyone!'.

 

The three sat quietly some time, then Trivette gave C.D. a nudge.

When C.D. looked at him in a confusedly, Trivette looked pointedly over at Walker and Alex and nudged him deliberately again!

 

"Oh-oh-oh yeah...." C.D. muttered quietly, then louder, "Alex, honey, would you mind awful much if I lit out for a while and took Jimmy with me? I need to get on back to my place and see what kind of mischief that crew of mine's been into, running the place without me. And I was thinking that I've been kind of wore out and thought Jimmy could drive me on over, and then maybe give me a ride back later?"

 

"Sure, Big Dog..." Trivette responded with a grin, "I could do that for you, assuming of course that Alex doesn't mind being here alone for a little while."

 

Alex smiled back at them both, easily seeing past their clumsy excuses to give her some time alone, "Of course, C.D., you two should both get out of here and get some fresh air anyway, you've been cooped up with us sick folks too long! Walker and I will be right here when you get back, so you go ahead."

 

With a few encouraging words to Walker, and hugs and kisses for Alex, the two men left.

 

Alex turned back to Walker after watching them leave, she shook her head as she looked down at his hand in hers and giving it a brief squeeze, smilingly asked, "What are we ever going to do with those two, Walker?"

Suddenly she was shocked to feel a responding squeeze and looked up to see Walker, eyes open, smiling back at her!

 

"I thought they'd never leave us alone." he said weakly but clearly.

 

"Walker!"

 

Alex started to jump up when she remembered her fractured ankle, then she looked at him scoldingly, "How long have you been awake?"

 

He just gave her one of his teasing grins and whispered, "Gotcha."

 

"You...you....you....." but Alex couldn't be mad, she was just too glad to hear his voice!

Instead she pulled herself upright, remembering not to use the ankle this time, leaned over and gave him a gentle kiss.

Her eyes smiled into his as she whispered, "Welcome back, Cowboy....I was worried about you." and she kissed him again.

 

The room was in shambles, furniture had been turned over, photos torn off the walls and lamps and dishes smashed.....but her rage was finally spent. The news had been full of Walker's miraculous recovery, she had failed! Impossible! It was time to think...... They knew now that Walker and Alex Cahill were targets. They'd  be paying very close attention to make sure no one got to either of them again, but she would! While keeping tabs on Walker's condition, she had become a familiar face to hospital staffers. Each department simply assumed she belonged to another. That was one of the advantages of big hospitals....no one knew everyone. She would go back. She would get to Walker first, and this time....she would be very sure he was DEAD! Then it would be the Cahill woman's turn.

 

Walker smiled broadly as Alex came into his room, two more days had passed and he was already being allowed out of his bed for brief walks to strengthen him and speed healing.

 

"Hey," he grinned, "you still riding around in that thing?"

 

"It's not my fault!" Alex defended herself, "they won't let me have crutches until my shoulder heals a little more! Besides, you're the slug-a-bed! At least I'm out and about!"

 

She maneuvered the wheelchair over to the right of his hospital bed, which was closest to her, not noticing as she did so that he was sliding himself carefully to the left.

 

When she propped herself on her good leg and uninjured arm, Alex saw that he was farther away than she had thought, and she had to lean way over to give him a kiss....

 

Without warning, Walker knocked her arm out from under her, causing Alex to lose her balance and tumbling her onto the bed beside him!

 

"At last...." he sighed, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to him, "just what the doctor ordered!"

 

"Walker!" Alex scolded happily, "you're going to get us in trouble!".

 

In response, Walker just gave her a grin, before pulling her close and kissing her soundly.

 

As he released her from the kiss, but not his embrace, Walker looked deeply into Alex's eyes for a moment, and then said quietly, "Alex, don't ever scare me like that again. I thought I was going to lose you." It was the first time he had spoken about it....

 

"I'm sorry." she whispered, snuggling even closer to him, "but you came for me, and showed me the way home."

After a moment, Alex spoke again, "I thought I was going to lose you, too, Walker. White Eagle told me that your spirit believed it shouldn't fight....."

 

Walker held her tightly, "I felt you calling me, Alex. You showed me the way home too."

 

A few hours later, Trivette and C.D. were seated outside Walker's room when they saw Dr. Blake approaching, ....and he looked angry.

 

"Hey Doc," Trivette intercepted him before he could enter Walker's room, "Hold up, what's the problem?"

 

"I gave Alex Cahill permission to visit Ranger Walker on condition that she only stay an hour, then she was supposed to get some rest. The nurses have just told me that they haven't seen her for several hours! I know she's feeling much stronger, but I will not have her disobeying my instructions... and Ranger Walker needs his rest as well, if I have to...."

 

"Whoa there, Doc!" C.D. interrupted, "just slow down a mite. Alex hasn't exactly disobeyed your instructions."

 

"What do you mean by that?" the doctor inquired suspiciously.

 

Trivette chimed in, "We'll show you, Doc...." and he opened the door to Walker's room, signaling the doctor to silence as he did so.

 

What he saw inside caused Dr. Blakes eyes to widen in surprise....and then a grin spread across his face; both Walker and Alex were sound asleep, Alex wrapped in Walker's arms.

 

Doctor Blake backed away from the door, closing it gently behind him.

"Well, I guess Miss Cahill has followed the letter of my instructions." he said with a smile.

 

"Honest, Doc, I don't think them two ever intended to disobey your orders. And when Jimmy and I came and saw how peaceful they were, well... we just figured that was the best kind of rest and healing for both of 'em, so we didn't disturb them none, just decided we'd sit out here for a bit." C.D. explained.

 

"Well," the doctor said thoughtfully, "I suppose, as long as they are getting some rest."

 

Trivette grinned broadly, "Trust me, Doc, Walker's behaving himself for a change....he hates being in the hospital, usually by now he'd be trying to figure a way to sneak out ...I think as long as you have Alex here, you're not going to have much trouble with him, at least not for a while!"

 

She had been moving about the hospital, staying just far enough away to avoid any questioning glances from Walker and Cahill's friends. She had watched as he was moved to a room out of the intensive care unit. That should be a help, there were far fewer staff members on the regular floors. She had noted that the guard remained on his door. Another was stationed at the Cahill woman's room, and whenever Cahill went to visit Walker, she was escorted by the guard, who then stationed himself outside the room as well. Walker's partner, Trivette, and the retired Ranger, Parker, were around less often now....but still came in and out at odd times. She had looked for access through the window,  but then had overheard two nurses discussing how the Ranger and the ADA had both been put into 'celebrity' rooms....complete with bulletproof glass in the windows! She was beginning to get very frustrated. She wanted this ended, and she wanted them dead! There just had to be a way!

 

Walker sat alone in his room, the enforced inactivity of his injury and the protective custody he had been placed under was beginning chafe.

Thus far, for Alex's sake, he had put up with it good-naturedly, but he knew he wouldn't be able to let it go on much longer. He needed to get out and move around. More than that, he needed to  feel he was doing something. Someone had tried to hurt or even kill Alex and then had attempted to kill him as well, he wanted to know who, and why!

Spread on the table before him was all the information that had been gathered so far. It wasn't much to look at.... The initial reports of Alex's hit and run, his shooting here at the hospital, and the investigation into Paul Shepard and his death.

There was nothing there that Walker hadn't seen a hundred times over the last few days......but he kept going back to it, there had to be something.... something they were all missing.....and he had to find it.

He picked up the composite sketch of the woman who had been seen with Shepard in the days before the attack on Alex.....He didn't know her. He knew he didn't....but occasionally, when he glanced at it quickly, the picture gave him the uneasy feeling that it's subject should be familiar to him. But he had racked his brain and couldn't place her. He could find no reason for this woman to have attacked Alex. Nothing to indicate why she might want him dead.

He threw the picture back onto the table in disgust and turned to stare out the window again.

He needed to get out of here!

 

Something was happening. The last time Trivette had been there had been angry voices from within the Ranger's room, and when Trivette had left he had still been upset. She had heard him tell Walker he was making a big mistake.... Now a new man with a Ranger's badge had arrived with Trivette, and when Walker shook his hand, he called the stranger 'Captain'. .....Walker's Superior! What could he be doing here? She drew as near as she dared, knowing that in her borrowed nurses uniform she could get pretty close without being noticed...but now, especially, she didn't want to draw any extra attention....she needed to know what they were planning!

 

The door to the room opened, the Captain, followed by a stormy faced Trivette, stepped into the hall. Walker, helping support Alex with one arm, came to the doorway with them.

 

"Captain, you have got to talk them out of this!" Trivette was protesting, "It's just plain crazy! We still don't know anything about who was behind all of this, and now he says he's just going to 'go home' like nothing has happened at all! And Alex....Alex is going along with it....you can't let them do it!"

 

"I'm sorry, Trivette," the Captain turned to him, "but Walker and Miss Cahill have every right to refuse further protection. Miss Cahill, especially, has been extremely cooperative,  remaining in the hospital for longer than her injuries demanded in order to make guarding both herself and Walker easier, we have no right to insist that she continue to accept our presence....

And, for what it's worth, I agree with Walker, there has been absolutely no activity to indicate either of them is in any further danger. It would appear that whoever was behind this has decided to leave Dallas. The investigation has come to a standstill, and there is no reason to think after all this time that something new will develop."

 

The Captain then spoke to Alex, "Miss Cahill, I will ask you once more -  are you sure that you are not willing to accept protection for a while longer?"

 

"Yes, Captain, I'm very sure....." Alex responded, "but thank you for your concern. I'm going to take a few days off, and then I am going to get back to work and put this whole thing behind me."

 

"Very well, Miss Cahill, that is certainly your right..... Walker, the doctor will be releasing you both tomorrow morning?" he questioned.

 

"That's right, Sir, and then we're going to head on out to my ranch. C.D. Parker is going to stay there with us for a day or two, to give me a hand around the place."

 

"Very well then, with your permission,  the Officer's who have been assigned to you and Miss Cahill will remain on duty until your release from the hospital?"

 

"That sounds just fine, Sir." Walker reached out and shook the Captain's hand, "I'll be back on the job as soon as the Doc clears it. I'm sure it won't be long."

 

"But....Cap!" Trivette interjected.

 

"Ranger Trivette," the Captain answered severely, "The matter has been settled!

Another thing..... Ranger Walker is on medical leave - you are not.... and since he and Miss Cahill are declining protection, I expect you to report for duty tomorrow morning as usual, we have cases waiting which require your attention. You will be assigned a temporary partner until Walker's return."

And with that final word, the Captain turned and headed down the corridor as Walker turned and went back into his room with Alex, leaving Trivette standing alone.

 

"Yes, sir...." Trivette responded miserably.

 

Alex and Walker had taken seats near the window in his room.

 

"You know, it's not too late for you to back out of this......I could drop you at the airport on the way home and you could fly out to your father's....."

 

"No, Walker, I can't run away and hide any more than you can. You were right when you said that we have to be careful, but we can't let fear make us create our own prisons....

I know that you've only put up with the protection here in the hospital for me, and I'm grateful, but I've known all along it was just temporary.....until you were ready to take control again." Alex said seriously, then she added with a smile. " Besides, I'm looking forward to that picnic you promised me!"

 

Walker reached out and wrapped Alex in his arms, "You're one helluva woman, you know that Alex Cahill?"

 

"Oh, I might have heard something like that once or twice before!" Alex responded with an innocent roll of her eyes, but she couldn't quite contain a giggle at the end.

 

"Alex..." he chided, then Walker chuckled too, "......you're also one helluva a handful!"

 

"You wouldn't want it any other way!" She retorted cheerfully.

 

The next morning Walker and Alex were officially discharged from the hospital amid farewells from the many friends they had made during their extended stay, not to mention a stern warning from Doctor Blake to stay out of the emergency room on his watch!

 

They intended to spend the rest of the day relaxing, but the afternoon turned out to be busier than either of them had planned.... Walker had barely had time to help Alex settle into the guest room and begin to reacquaint himself with his home before the first of what would become a day long stream of visitors arrived. It was good to see so many friends, but they were both weary when C.D. shooed the last well-wisher away and announced that supper would be ready soon. Since he guessed that neither of them was in any hurry to stay inside after so much time cooped up, C.D. served them a cold supper on the porch, then Alex curled up next to Walker on the glider as they watched the sunset.

 

For some time they sat in a comfortable silence, until Walker spoke softly.

"Alex?"

 

"Mmmmmm?" she responded, gazing up the evening stars just beginning to appear.

 

"You haven't really said, how's Gordon with all this?"

Alex was quiet for a moment, then she answered thoughtfully, "He's not too happy about it. He'd rather I was going to New York to be with him... this whole thing has been awfully hard on him, and I think he'd like to keep me safe somewhere for a while....but he understands."

 

After another few moments of silence Walker spoke again.

"Alex?"

 

"Mmmm Hmmmm?"

 

"When you talk to your father....."he began, staring out into the gathering darkness.

 

"What?"

 

"When you talk to him.... tell him....tell him I won't let anything happen to you again....okay?" he said huskily.

 

Alex turned to Walker and smiled gently, then she reached up and touched his cheek, "He knows, Walker......we both do....." she whispered.

 

She had left the hospital soon after they did, no reason to be there any more. She knew where they would be, there was no reason to hurry. Give them a day, maybe two, to really relax, and then she would make her move. There would be no chance of a miracle recovery this time, for either of them, she would make very sure of that!

 

Walker was up early the next day, and Alex, slower on her crutches, followed him when she saw him head toward the barn. She assumed he was going to see to the horses, but when she arrived he was nowhere to be seen.....then she heard something from a room beyond the stable area.

Going inside, Alex was surprised to find a fully equipped gym, complete with weights and a sparring ring. Walker was on a mat doing some stretching exercises.

 

"I never even knew this was here." she said, with a surprised smile, "How many other secrets do you have around here?"

 

"I guess this is the last one." he grinned. "and it wasn't really a secret, it just never came up. This is where I work out when I can't get into the gym...."

 

"Is it okay if I watch? I don't think the ankle is ready for any lessons just yet but...."

 

"Sure, Alex. There's a  couple bales of hay over there if you want to sit..." Walker replied as he stood and began a series of light kicks and jabs.

 

For some time, Alex  just watched him...amazed that after all his body had been put through in the last few weeks he was physically capable of the activity.

 

C.D. found them there perhaps an hour later.

 

"Dadgumit, Cordell! Doc Blake'd skin you alive if he saw you doing any of them fancy moves of yours! You know he told you to take it easy for a while yet!" C.D. blustered.

 

"What Doc Blake doesn't know won't hurt him, C.D." Walker replied, without even breaking his routine. "I need to get back in shape."

 

"C.D.," Alex soothed, "You know he's probably been doing some version of this in secret since the first time they let him out of that hospital bed....why get all upset about it? You know he's going to do what he wants to do."

 

"Shoot........ I don't know, darlin', I guess I just keep hoping one of these days the blame fool will listen to reason....." C.D. sighed.

 

Alex laughed and hugged C.D. as together they watched Walker finish his workout, then arm in arm the three went back to the house for breakfast.

 

Later that morning Walker looked at Alex with a sly smile and an uplifted eyebrow.

 

"What are you up to, Cordell Walker?" she asked suspiciously.

 

"I have a surprise for you." he replied, "but you have to close your eyes."

 

Alex giggled as she closed her eyes, and then Walker took her hands and guided her to her feet, then he lifted her into his arms.

 

"Where are you taking me?"

 

"You'll see.....just keep your eyes shut. No peeking." he chuckled.

 

"Walker........"

 

"Just a little longer, Alex....," and as he placed her back upon her feet he said, "okay, you can open your eyes now."

 

Walker had brought Alex out of the house and onto the porch. Standing just in front of the steps was Walker's horse Cookie, hitched an old fashioned surrey.

 

C.D. was holding the horse's reins and grinning broadly.

"Surprise, Honey!" he called.

 

Alex turned to Walker, astonished, "What in the world......?"

 

"Well, we do have a picnic date, and I thought away from the house would be better," Walker explained, "But I figured you weren't quite up to a horseback ride just yet, so I borrowed this from a friend of mine. What do you think ?"

 

"Oh, Walker! It's perfect!"

 

Walker grinned, "Well, then.....let's go!" and sweeping Alex into his arms again he carried her down the steps and set her carefully on the seat. Then he reached back onto the porch for a picnic basket and blanket, stowing them in back before climbing aboard himself.

 

"Are you ready, Alex?"

 

"All set." she smiled, leaning onto his arm.

 

"We'll be back before dark, C.D." he called as he urged Cookie to a gentle pace and turned the surrey toward the path which led to the river.

 

She had been watching the whole thing from behind a stand of trees a short distance from Walker's home. It was the perfect situation. Walker and Cahill were going off alone, leaving the old Ranger behind. She mounted the horse she had used to allow her a silent approach to his home, and turned to go in a wide circle around the house. Once that was done, it would be an easy task to pick up the trail of the buggy and follow it straight to them. This time she would face Walker directly before she killed him, and the woman too....it would be hours before anyone suspected anything was wrong. She would be long gone......

 

They rode for some time at a leisurely pace, enjoying the sunshine, until Walker guided the surrey through a nearly invisible path to the site he had chosen. It was a small clearing overlooking the river, protected on three sides by trees and the fourth was a steep drop down to the river's edge. It felt like an isolated world of it's own.

 

"Walker, it's lovely," Alex breathed, "You've never shown me this before....why, no one would even know it was here."

 

"Well, usually you like to be able to get down to the water....so I've never brought you here, but I figured this would be a good spot today." he explained while unhitching Cookie from the surrey to leave her free to graze. Then he took the blanket and the picnic basket C.D. had packed for them and spread them beneath a shady tree.

 

While he was doing that, Alex climbed out of the carriage, but discovered that Walker hadn't brought her crutches. Just then he turned and quickly returned to her side. "Oh hey, let me give you a hand there." he grinned as he picked her up and carried her to the blanket, where he deposited her gently.  "I didn't think your crutches would be much good out here, besides....I kind of like you depending on me!" he said as he knelt to take a seat beside her.

 

It had taken nearly two hours, but finally she cautiously approached the site where Walker and Cahill had stopped. She had been very careful, planning every step before she moved. They had finished their meal and were leaning back against the tree that shaded them. Slowly and silently she worked her way through the trees until she was behind them. She knew Walker's reputation....and made very sure she made no sound, disturbed nothing, gave him no reason to suspect there was anyone else with them as they sat peacefully.....and waited to die!

Walker stood, the afternoon sun was beginning to get low in the sky.

 

"I'm going to hitch Cookie back up, Alex, and then we'll have to head back to the ranch."

 

"So soon!" Alex put on an exaggerated pout.

 

"Sorry, but it'll get dark in a hurry out here!" Walker chuckled.

 

As he moved toward the surrey, whistling for the horse, Alex picked up the remains of their lunch and then using the tree as leverage, rose to her feet and began folding the blanket they had been sitting on.

 

Suddenly, the woman who had been following them jumped out from behind the tree, and when Alex cried out in surprise,  Walker spun to see her, with one arm now wrapped tightly around Alex's neck and  the other holding a gun pointed at Alex's head.

 

"Surprise, Ranger Walker....." the woman hissed, "I guess you weren't as safe as you thought you were! Maybe you should have listened to that partner of yours!"

 

Walker took a step toward the two women, but she jammed the gun harder into Alex's temple and he stopped.

 

"Uh uh!. You just be a good little Ranger and stay right where you are, don't think I'd be stupid enough to let you get any closer....I know what you're capable of.  I know all about you!"  As the woman was talking, she also began moving away from the trees and out into the open, keeping her face to Walker as she half dragged Alex along with her.

 

Alex asked, "Who are you? Why are you doing this?"

 

"I'm doing this because I'm going to kill you!" the woman laughed. "I'm going to shoot him like a dog! Just the way he killed my daddy! And then I'm going to kill you.....because you were part of it....It's really too bad for you, you know, If he had just died before like he was supposed to, I would have let you live....but now I've decided you both deserve to pay for what you did!"

 

Walker didn't move again, but now he spoke, "Okay, you're going to kill us....don't you think before you do....we should know  why?"

"Oh yes....I want you to know...... before I just wanted you dead....but now I want you to know.... that's why I didn't shoot you from the cover back there. I could have taken you out any time, Walker, and then Sweet Miss Cahill here would have been a sitting duck! But I wanted to look in your eyes! I wanted you to know you were going to die!" She ranted.

 

"Then who?" Alex winced, the woman's hold on her neck was tightening as she grew more agitated, "Who are you? Who was your father?"

 

"My name? My name is Caroline.... and my father....was.... Victor LaRue!"  and then she took the gun from Alex and began to aim at Walker.

"Your father?" Alex was stunned, "Victor LaRue? How can you think......? We did nothing to your father but put him in prison where he belonged!

He....he kidnapped four people...including me.....to try and collect ransom on one man. And it wasn't the first time he had done it, he would have killed us anyway to eliminate witnesses! When Walker interfered with his plans, your father tried to kill us all in a car crusher out of spite!

When LaRue was released from prison, on a technicality, he began stalking me.... he murdered two police officers! He nearly succeeded in killing Walker, and he planned to rape me!

And...and when he took over that courtroom, he killed the judge...the bailiff...his own lawyer! He held us hostage just to get Walker to come in so he could kill him!  Walker had no choice, your father would have murdered everyone in that courtroom if he hadn't been stopped!"

 

Caroline jammed the gun to Alex's head once again, "Shut up! You just shut up! You're lying! My daddy would never have done any of those things! He was a good man! He took care of me.....he loved me! Then you locked him up.....you drove him to it...you made him a killer....all he wanted to do was get out and get away from you! He told me! He wrote me and he told me everything!"

 

"He lied to you...." Alex gasped as Caroline tightened the hold on her neck even more.

 

Walker interrupted, "Caroline," he spoke quietly. "You've said you know all about me..."

 

"That's right!" she responded, loosening her hold on Alex just slightly, "I've made a study of Walker, the famous Texas Ranger....I know all about you...."

 

"Okay, then," he continued reasonably, "then maybe you can explain this. After Alex was run down, and then I was shot....it was obvious we were targets.....that someone was trying to kill us......

Why would I suddenly decide we were safe? Even though we had found nothing? Why would I come out here, just me and Alex? Why wouldn't I listen to my partner?"

started shifting to the trees around them, she had stopped circling around him, coming to a stop just a few feet in front of the sheer drop off to the river below.

 

Walker was directly in front of them both...in the center of the clearing.

 

Keeping the tight hold on Alex, Caroline again pointed the gun she held directly at Walker.

 

"I wouldn't, Caroline....you have to know that." Walker kept talking, "If you know anything about how  I work.......I would never come out here, unarmed and alone....after all that's happened, and risk Alex. You know I wouldn't...."

 

"You're bluffing!" Caroline screamed, keeping the gun pointed at Walker. "You're bluffing! You're all alone out here, and you're going to die!"

 

Trivette's voice suddenly came from the left, "No....he's not bluffing.....They're not alone, Caroline....they never were."

 

Then Trivette, gun trained on Caroline, stepped out from behind a large tree. Another Ranger came into view near him, and a third on the right side of the clearing, where C.D. also appeared with his gun at the ready.

 

Caroline, using Alex as a shield, shifted her gun from man to man, finally stopping with it pointed again at Walker.

 

"It's over Caroline...It's been over. We were never alone, we knew you would come. We found out that you had been watching us at the hospital. A nurse's aide happened to recognize a composite sketch we had made from descriptions given by people who saw you with Shepard. We made sure you heard that we were leaving, that you would know we were unprotected. We created a situation where Alex and I would seem to be alone. We were waiting for you. Put the gun down, let Alex go. It's time to end this. Let us help you." Walker spoke calmly, taking a another step forward.

 

"NO! NO! It's NOT over! I WILL kill you!........."Caroline screamed.

 

Time seemed to slow down for Alex as she was held in the woman's grasp, taking in the whole scene. Suddenly her entire focus was on Caroline's right hand and the gun she held there....the gun that was pointing straight at Walker, then Alex saw Caroline's finger begin to tighten on the trigger.........

 

"NO!" Alex cried suddenly, pitching forward and kicking back with her left leg, trying to throw the woman off balance. Alex's legs tangled in Caroline's, the shot went wild and the two women fell to the ground.

 

Caroline rose to her knees, gun still in her hand, and screaming in rage began to aim the gun at Alex, who was pinned on the ground beneath her.....four shots from four Rangers rang out in rapid succession, four bullets found their mark....

Caroline was thrown back by the impact of the bullets, and her lifeless form fell from the clearing to the rocky river bank below.

 

Walker ran to Alex, knelt and helped her to a sitting position. She was trembling and he held her tightly until her shivers subsided before drawing back slightly.

Trivette and C.D. had approached them from opposite sides of the clearing as the other two Rangers began to make their way down to Caroline's body.

 

"It's over now, Alex..." Walker gripped her hands, then reached up to take her face with his hands and searched her eyes with his own, "it's all over............are you okay?"

 

For a moment, she didn't respond...still getting her equilibrium after the events of the last few moments. Finally, she responded with a sad look over her shoulder toward the embankment where Caroline had fallen.... "I will be....but, oh Walker! That poor girl! She was so young! She couldn't have been much more than 20 or 21...... she had everything so mixed up, and now she's dead!"

 

"It couldn't be helped, Alex.....I'm sorry....but she left us with no choice......" he pulled her close to him again as he continued, "I'm sorry things happened this way, Alex.....you should never have been put in that kind of danger.......When we planned this, It didn't occur to me that she might grab you away from me....I figured you'd be beside me....It was stupid of me not to consider............"

 

Alex silenced him with a touch to his lips as she whispered,  "We both knew the risks, Walker. It was my decision to be here....., I knew Trivette and C.D. and the others were there. I just didn't like having you stand in the open like that, unarmed, and then when I saw she was about to fire......I just had to do something.....I know you didn't want her to die...... I'm....I'm sorry if I messed things up."

 

Walker put his hands on Alex's shoulders and pushed her slightly away from him to look her in the eye again, "Messed things up?" he said incredulously, "Alex, you just saved my life! Nobody had a clean shot...when you brought her down, you threw her aim off.....if it hadn't been for you......"

 

Then he looked up at Trivette and C.D., who were still waiting nearby, "Alex says she's sorry she messed things up!" he grinned.

 

"Honey," C.D. chortled as he slapped Trivette's shoulder, "You ain't got a thing to be sorry for! That little gal had her heart set on killing you and Cordell and it was you that kept that from happening! That was one slick move you used.... If you hadn't decided to be a lawyer, you would have made one damn fine Texas Ranger!"

 

A moment later Walker finally released his hold on her and said, "Here, let's get you up on your feet and back to the ranch....

C.D., would you finish hitching Cookie so we can get Alex out of here?"  he stood and then took her hands to help her up, but suddenly Alex let out a small cry as she buckled and sat back down again.

 

"Alex?" the concern returned to Walker's eyes as he knelt again.

 

"It's okay, Walker, really, ..... but I do think I've got a small problem here." She replied.

 

"What is it? What's wrong?"

 

"Well, I think.... when we fell...." Alex began, "Oh, Walker!.....I think I sprained my other ankle!"

 

"Oh, NO!" C.D. and Trivette chorused.

 

Walker lifted her in his arms one more time,

"Well, I guess it's back to the hospital for you....and I have a feeling that Doctor Blake is NOT going to be happy to see us!" he said with a grin.

 

Alex giggled as she wrapped her arms around Walker's neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Then she said contentedly, "I guess I'm just going to have to depend on you for a while longer......"

 

The next morning Trivette arrived at the ranch early to find C.D., Walker and Alex having breakfast. Joining them at the table, he began to fill them all in on the final events of the evening before.

 

"After I left the two of you at the hospital, I met Jacobs and McMahon at the place where Caroline had been staying. They managed to track it down after locating her car at the ranch where she got the horse for the day. It was something to see......the place was a regular shrine to Victor LaRue! She must have had every card, letter and photograph he ever sent her posted on the walls and saved in scrapbooks all over the place. Using the stuff we found there, and with a few phone calls to the right people, we put together a pretty clear picture of Caroline LaRue....it's not a very pretty one either..."

 

"What did you find, Jimmy?" C.D. questioned.

 

"Well, from what we found out, Caroline was the result of a teenage romance between LaRue and a girl from the town where he grew up. The mother's family wasn't too happy about the relationship and sent her away from home to keep her away from LaRue....and to have the baby  that he didn't know about. He was only fifteen, maybe sixteen at the time.....but he didn't take his girlfriend being spirited off too well, he didn't like to be thwarted even then, I guess....he busted up the family's home and later took a run at Caroline's grandmother  with a car trying to get them to tell him where their daughter was, but they didn't budge and he wound up doing a few months in juvenile for it. As far as the family was concerned...the matter was settled, but not long after LaRue was released, there was a bad fire one night...... and Caroline's mother's entire family died in it. They could never prove it wasn't an accident....but LaRue left town soon after...."

 

Walker shook his head, "Sounds like he got a really early start in his business....."

 

"Yeah, it does look that way, doesn't it..." Trivette agreed. "Anyway, Caroline' s mother never did come back to town and everyone there just lost track of her for about ten years......then word came down to LaRue's family that she had died and he had a daughter that needed him. They sent him word and it looks like he went straightaway to claim her...."

 

"How'd the mother die?" Alex interrupted.

 

"I guess she was unstable too, the police reports said she cut her wrists one day,  Caroline found her when she got home from school....."

 

"What a terrible thing for such a young child to experience!" Alex said sadly.

 

"I guess LaRue was already well into his chosen profession by the time he found out about Caroline....he left her with his folks for a while, but when they were killed in an automobile accident he came for her again, and put her in boarding schools in Europe. The places we contacted all said the same thing....she never made friends, didn't fit in very well at all and often had behavior problems involving fights with the other students.  She spent lots of time bragging about her daddy....said he was a big businessman, that he had lots of money and a private jet....but she rarely heard from him. Spent most holidays and vacations at whatever school she was in at the time.....he was all she had for family, and she apparently absolutely lived for his letters and an occasional visit, and from what I read in the stuff he wrote to her, he did seem to care about her, he was just always 'busy and couldn't make it this time'.

 

Every one of her schools that we contacted said they reported to him that she needed counseling of one sort or another to deal with her emotional problems...and in each case soon after that she'd be moved to another school and it would start all over again.....

 

Things got really ugly, though, just after he was arrested here in Dallas for that kidnap and extortion that you got caught up in, Alex....." Trivette continued, "The letters changed and started coming a whole lot more often. He told Caroline that he had been forced into the kidnap plot....and that he was just a small player....but that we needed a scapegoat and you made him it by swearing he was the leader of the gang! Every letter after that he would tell her over and over how much he loved her and how much he missed her, how much he wished he could be with her....but that because of you and Walker....he didn't think he'd ever get that chance again.....

 

LaRue twisted every move he made to make it look like he had been innocent of it, that Walker had set him up so that he would never be freed.....The last letter she received was mailed just before the competency hearing. He told her he was going to try and get away.....and that he really hoped he'd be able to see her again soon.....but that if he didn't make it, it would be because Walker wouldn't let him go....

 

He spent a lot of time and effort making sure that if anything happened to him, that girl would hate you both with a passion......she just never had a chance......" Trivette finally finished.

 

"That poor girl! She was so young..." Alex said sadly, "and her  own father.... he just used her as another way to try and get revenge....he was willing to sacrifice her happiness and even her life....I wonder if he ever really loved her at all?....I wonder if he even knew what love was?"

 

"I don't know, Alex." Walker took her hand, "Maybe...once, but hate twisted him and then he used hate to twist his child into his final weapon....

If someone had been able to get her help when she was younger, maybe they could have gotten her to a doctor who could have prevented all this.... but that's something we'll never know...."

 

"Speaking of doctor's," Trivette interrupted, "Alex....I thought Doc Blake wanted you to stay off that ankle and in the hospital for a day or so? How did you talk him out of that? He seemed quite intent on it when I left...."

 

Alex giggled suddenly, the somber mood of Caroline's story broken, "I didn't exactly talk him out of it, Jimmy, I just took a 'Walker'...."

 

"A what?" C.D. queried suspiciously, "What in thunderation do you mean by that?"

Alex grinned at Walker sitting beside her as she responded,

"I snuck out, C.D.! We hijacked a wheelchair and left while no one was looking! I had absolutely  no intention of spending another night in that hospital!"

 

"A 'Walker'! Of course! She took a 'Walker'!" Trivette shouted, shaking with laughter.

 

But C.D. wasn't laughing, he turned to Walker, eyes blazing,

"Goldurnit, Cordell! It ain't bad enough you won't do what the doctor's tell you....but now you've got to go and get Alex here pulling them fool stunts of yours! Why if I was 20 years younger I'd whup you like a......."

 

"Whoa!" Walker protested, chuckling, "Whoa! C.D., it wasn't my fault....it wasn't even my idea! I was going to stay there with her last night....honest! But Alex said...."

 

Alex broke in, "I said that I was getting out of there! ....and I said he could either help me or get out of my way!"

Then she leaned into Walker's arms as she collapsed into a fit of giggles.

 

"Well, dadburn it, Cordell, you still know that Alex here woulda never thought of taking off like that if she didn't see you doing it every time you get that thick head of yours cracked!"  C.D. persisted. "You heard her, she even put your name to it....A 'Walker'.....just the sort of thing you ALWAYS do, takin' off on the sneak when the docs want you to stay long enough to do some proper healing!

 

"Well, I don't LIKE hospitals, C.D.! You can't blame me for not wanting to stay in one any longer than I have to!"  Walker tried to defend himself, then he smiled knowingly," ......besides, I don't think Doctor Blake really expected that Alex would be staying there last night...."

 

"What do you mean by that? Course he expected her to stay...he's the doc and he told her to, didn't he?"

 

"C.D., remember when we got back, you said the nurse had called with more instructions from Doc Blake for Alex on taking care of the sprain?" Walker asked.

 

"Yessir, I remember...." C.D. replied slowly.

 

"And you know how you always write the time on messages when you take them off the phone?"

 

C.D. looked at Walker strangely, "Well, course I know that....habit I got into at my place taking messages for folks! What's that got to do with Alex here sneaking out of the hospital for crying out loud?"

 

"Well, the time you wrote on those instructions says that the nurse called them out to the ranch almost forty-five minutes before Alex decided to make her escape!" Walker retorted triumphantly. "If the Doc really thought Alex was going to stay the night at the hospital, why would he have had instructions phoned before she even left?"

"Well.....well....well....." C.D. sputtered as Alex began laughing again, joined by Walker and Trivette. Then he grinned at last, "Why do I even bother trying to reason with any of you! Stubborn as mules the lot of you!"  he chuckled.

 

After all, all that really mattered was that the danger was past, Cordell and Alex were going to be okay, and things were quiet in Dallas..............but isn't that where we started?

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

'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.

 

All original author and copyright information must remain intact.

 

Any sales or other uses of this document are expressly forbidden, without the specific consent of the author(s).

************************