Disclaimer - as usual, not making any money from this - wish I was! It's damned hard work!
The burglary had been botched from the start. Tipped off about a wealthy
industrialist's holiday plans, the thieves had been given the wrong address.
Two of the numbers had been transposed so that instead of breaking into
3132, they broke into 3231 Beach Drive, Malibu.
The house was in darkness. It was, after all, unoccupied. At least, 3132 was unoccupied. Two guest rooms were in use at 3231. Ellen Sharp was asleep in one, Dr Jesse Travis in another. Ellen had been staying with the Sloans whilst her own apartment was made safe after the earthquake. Jesse, having run himself ragged at the migrant camp and then helping to take care of Craig Burkette, had collapsed in the elevator - ironically on his way home.
Mark and Steve had insisted that he stay with them - where Mark reckoned he could keep an eye on him. The young man had become something of a workaholic over the last few years - putting in impossible hours at Community General, working his shift at BBQ Bob's and running drug and surgical equipment trials for various companies. His friends had been worried about his health for some considerable time. That concern had proven to be well-founded.
Jesse had been unable to refuse his friends' request -.partly because he was in no fit state to do so, and partly because it wasn't so much a request as an order. Mark had given him five days off and told him to take it easy. He had had no choice but to comply.
Three days into his stay, a quiet evening in with Steve and his new fiancée, Ellen, had been interrupted when Steve had been called into work unexpectedly. Homicide was no respecter of time and the department was over-extended and short on manpower.
Ellen had been sanguine about it. It was, after all, not just a job to Steve. It was who he was. Besides, she told him, it would be kind of nice to spend some time alone with Jesse. The younger man was Steve's best friend and the detective had asked him to be the best man at their forthcoming wedding. This would give her the chance to get to know him better. The teasing note in her voice had not alarmed Steve who had every confidence in both her and his friend. If there was one man with whom he could entrust his beloved Ellen it was Jesse.
The night had drawn on and both had retired to their respective rooms. The only sounds likely to disturb their slumber were the occasional rumble of traffic from the nearby road and the crashing waves of the Pacific.
Therefore, the noise of the intruders was the last thing they expected.
The burglars had been stunned by the sudden appearance of the young man,
wandering sleepily from one of the bedrooms. He had blinked at them in equally
shocked surprise. Before he could move to sound an alarm, one of the two
broke out of his stasis and rushed him. The ensuing crash as they fell into
one of Mark's large standing ornaments awoke Ellen and she came running
out of her room.
Pain had exploded in Jesse's left arm as his body had impacted with the ornament and the wall behind it. The exquisite agony had left him in no doubt that the limb was broken and he fought the nausea that it engendered.
The man who had rushed him dismissed him as a threat - partly due to his diminutive size, and partly because of the obviously broken arm and rose to his feet. He grinned as he stepped forward to Ellen, who backed off from him, her eyes wide with fear.
"Hey, pretty lady," he drawled. "There's no need to be scared. I won't hurt ya."
"L leave her alone!" ordered Jesse. He was gripping his left arm in his right hand and struggling to get to his feet. The intruder half turned and kicked him viciously in the stomach, sending him sprawling to the floor once again, trying to stifle his gasp of pain.
The man continued to advance upon Ellen. She had reached the door to her room but had miscalculated and had backed into the wall beside it. Her eyes were darting to and fro, desperately seeking out a weapon. "You touch me and I'll make you sorry!" she snapped.
He laughed nastily. His friend had joined him by this time. Ellen shrank back from the look in their eyes. It was lascivious and truly frightening.
Jesse, meanwhile, panting for breath which wouldn't come and desperately suppressing the urge to vomit, managed to get his legs under him and rose to his feet. The two thugs were ignoring him. With a roar, he launched himself at them, succeeding in knocking one of them to the ground. The other grunted at the glancing blow he managed to get in then watched with grim satisfaction as his buddy proceeded to beat the young man practically senseless.
When he finally finished with him, Jesse was a bruised, bleeding, moaning wreck on the floor. The brute had known what he was doing. Trained in martial arts and brought up on the streets of New York, he knew where to aim for the maximum amount of pain. The young man shouldn't be moving again any time soon - if at all.
Ellen watched all this with horror and then tried to help her friend. Moving forward involuntarily, intent on trying to pull the man off Jesse, who looked like he was getting beaten to a pulp, she ended up straight in the arms of the other man.
"Well, well," he snarled. "This is more like it!"
He held her there, his grip implacable, his breathing loud in her ear, waiting for his friend to finish. Her attempts to free herself were futile at best and he easily avoided her flailing legs and arms.
The other man finally rose from the floor, which was dotted with blood from Jesse's nose; the same red gore running freely from the side of his mouth.
"Now let's have us some fun!" he snarled, advancing upon Ellen.
Her eyes were hugely dilated in utter terror and she writhed helplessly in the other man's restraining grip. His hand had covered her mouth to muffle her screams and although she had tried her best to bite him, he had not let go.
It was the muted sounds of a woman's screams which penetrated Jesse's
semi consciousness. Fighting through the agony which beset him from every
muscle, every nerve ending he lifted his head, his pain-blurred eyes searching
out the source of the sound.
Sheer, unmitigated horror washed through him at what he saw. Ellen, now gagged to prevent her from alerting anyone, was on the floor with one of the two intruders was holding her down. The other one Jesse swallowed convulsively. God, no!!! The protest screamed in his mind. Sickened by what he was being forced to witness he tried desperately to get to his feet. He failed. The sounds continued and he fought past the pain, past the dizziness which assailed him every time he tried to move. He had to stop this!
White heat blasted through his body. The gunshot itself was a mere echo through the ringing in his ears. As he fell back, another shot reverberated through the house and then there was a muffled shout.
A white nothingness was descending over him. He hurt. He hurt so much. But looming larger than his own problems in his mind was the last image he had had of Ellen. Ignoring the protests of his body, he started to move. His head swam, his stomach roiled and white hot pain blossomed out from a point in his chest, eclipsing all the throbbing from his other injuries.
But he refused to give up.
He felt flesh beneath his hand. It was still and warm. Curling his fingers round it he realised it was an arm.
"Ellen," he breathed. Blood seeped from his mouth. "Ellen "
There was no response.
Beyond his own ragged gasps for breath, he could hear nothing. He slowly felt his way down toward the wrist, trying to ignore the overwhelming desire to sink into oblivion.
Nothing. No pulse. Just nothing.
With an agonised groan which had nothing to do with his own physical injuries, he tightened his grasp on Ellen's wrist. "No " he moaned. It was little more than a breathy whisper, accompanied by yet another rivulet of blood from his mouth. "No ..."
He had failed her.
Ellen was dead.
He had failed her.
Steve had left her in his care and he had failed her.
He had failed them both.
The repetitive litany followed him as he finally sank into a deep, dark void.
Mark arrived home after midnight. It had been a busy day in the ER and
he was truly exhausted. Yawning widely, he made his way into the darkened
beach house, stepping quietly. He didn't want to awaken his two house guests.
The kitchen was illuminated by the full moon. Stumbling to the fridge he extracted a jug full of orange juice and poured himself a glass full. He had barely had time to breathe during emergencies let alone get himself a drink. Having drained the glass, he popped it on to the sink. He'd wash it in the morning when he was more awake.
Looking forward to reaching his bed, he heaved his weary body toward the steps to his bedroom and stopped, dead.
A scene of utter carnage greeted him.
His son's fiancée and his son's best friend - his friend and colleague - were sprawled on the floor. Dark stains dotted the walls and floor and a large pool of the same black liquid was slowly dripping down the stairs.
He hitched in a horrified breath.
Then his professional persona kicked in, banishing for the moment his emotional reaction.
Crouching beside them, he placed trembling fingers first on Ellen's throat, then, finding no beat, he turned to Jesse.
His heart hammered in his chest as he placed his index finger on his friend's carotid artery. He almost sobbed in relief when he felt the faint, weak pulse beneath the skin.
Wrenching out his cellphone - it was quicker than running to the desk phone and besides, he didn't want to leave them - he quickly dialled 911, informing them in a curt tone what he had found and the condition of the one live victim. Then, discarding the instrument, he rose to his feet and reached for the nearby lightswitch.
The scene was even worse in full light than when bathed in the muted light of the moon.
The dark stains on the floor and walls were, of course, blood, spatter marks from the two gunshots. The growing puddle of blood was originating from the shorter of the two victims. Ellen had already ceased to bleed out, although from the amount of gore, it seemed as though she had lost all of her blood volume anyway. Mark knew this was an illusion, but he couldn't help the shudder which ran through him. This was his home. These two were people about whom he cared - very deeply. A sight which would have sorrowed him had the two victims been strangers this time cut very deeply. He felt sickened and terror roiled within him. Ellen was gone. And Jesse
He quickly examined the bullet wound in his friend's chest. It was a bad place to get shot. Any entry wound was bad of course but this was close to the heart and lungs. He could already hear the wheezing breaths which signified that Jesse's lung was punctured. The young doctor was bleeding internally and the blood loss was already affecting his heart's ability to pump the lifegiving fluid around his body.
Mark worked quickly, finding something with which to make a pressure bandage, monitoring his young friend's pulse and heart rate, stabilising the broken arm and covering him with a blanket which he retrieved from the nearby bedroom. The young doctor was going into shock and warmth was essential right now.
There was nothing he could do for Ellen. Her eyes were wide and staring and he closed them for her, feeling a rush of sorrow wash over him. This was his son's fiancée. God, how was he going to tell Steve?
Amanda straightened from her examination and turned to Mark. She looked
haggard. Her characteristically professional exterior had crumpled in the
face of her personal involvement in this case.
"Shot once through the head," she said, hoarsely as she turned to Mark. "And she was sexually assaulted. I'll do a full work up when we get back to the lab but I think it's safe to assume "
"She was raped," Mark finished off for her, flatly. "I guessed as much, Amanda. Thank you."
The paramedics were working on their young friend, inserting IV's, giving him much needed oxygen and stabilising him so that he could be travel. Mark was practically hopping from one foot to another in his impatience. He just wanted to get Jesse loaded into the ambulance and get the hell out of here so that he could treat him at Community General. He shook his head at Amanda's tremulous question. "I don't know, Amanda. I just don't know "
A car screeched to a halt outside. Then there was a banging of car doors and heavy footfalls, as someone ran into the house. Mark braced himself.
"Dad! Ellen! Is she is she !?"
The older Sloan stepped forward, barring his son from charging any further forward. Steve's hands gripped Mark's arms, his fingers digging in painfully. "Steve, son, I I'm so sorry," he said. Compassion and love filled his voice and he had to fight back his own tears at his son's utter devastation as the words sank in.
The detective's face crumpled, his eyes wide with denial. "No!" he gasped. "No, she can't be !"
"Let me go!" He tried to wrest himself away from his father's firm grip. Mark refused to let him go. "Dad I have to see her "
'Not like that, you don't' was Mark's first instinctive thought. He wanted to protect his son from the sight of his beloved fiancee's broken, bleeding body. He wanted to let Amanda take her to the path lab, clean her up so that she was more presentable. 'Presentable'. What a joke. She was dead. A clean, round hole in her forehead, her blood staining his wooden floor, her body violated he didn't want his son to see that. He didn't want him to know. "Steve "
An intense blue gaze bored into him. "Dad please!" The gruff, anguished voice cut through him like a hot knife.
He couldn't wrap Steve up in cotton wool. He was a grown man.
He had seen death and destruction before. Many times. He was a homicide detective, after all.
But none of those victims had been people he knew. None of them had been someone he loved.
Reluctantly, Mark relinquished his hold on Steve and allowed him to step forward.
There was silence whilst Steve stared at the body - which was being placed in a black zipper bag, ready for removal. He took another step forward, held out a silent staying hand to the workers, then knelt beside the still form.
"Ellen ? Oh god ."
Suddenly she was in his arms. He held her close to his breast. She still felt warm. Her head fell limply against his shoulder and he looked down into her face. It had been forever changed. The bullet hole mutilated her perfection, the blood staining her features and running down into her soft, blonde hair. Her eyes were closed and her mouth hung open. There was no evidence of her ordeal on her face, but brutal images flew into his mind nonetheless.
"Ellen?" he whispered.
There was no response.
She would never tease him again.
Never respond to his gentle jibes about her chosen career.
Never put her arms around him.
Never kiss him.
Never walk down the aisle to meet him
Mark and Amanda winced as a low keening sound emerged from the detective's lips, and he slumped over the dead body of his beloved Ellen.
This was one blow from which Steve may never recover.
There was still one victim who lived, however. And as Amanda gently persuaded
Steve to let her take Ellen, the paramedics carefully lifted Jesse onto
"He's stabilised, Doctor," said one of them to Mark as he raised his eyebrow in silent question. "But for how long "
Mark nodded. "Let's get him to Community General - now!" he barked. "Steve " He turned as the medics rushed the gurney outside. He was torn between the life he wanted so very badly to save and the son he so badly needed to comfort.
Steve looked up at him from the floor where he still crouched. Tears were streaming down his face and he looked confused and disoriented.
Mark took an instant decision. "Steve, why don't you and Tanis follow us to the hospital?" he suggested. "I'll see you there."
Steve nodded. He seemed relieved that the decision about what to do next had been taken away from him.
Mark swallowed convulsively. He didn't know how he was going to bring his son back from the maw of despair into which he seemed to be falling - and for the moment he had to concentrate on another life which was almost as important to him. Jesse needed him, and he would not - could not - abrogate that responsibility. There would be no more deaths tonight. He was not going to lose another member of his family.
"Blood pressure dropping He's going into hypovolemic shock!"
"Hang another two units!"
"He's going into tachycardia!"
"I've got rales sounds on the left!"
"Pulse ox is dropping!"
Steve stood at the window of the trauma room, watching his father and
the ER personnel work on his best friend. He felt numb. The ordeal which
Jesse was undergoing seemed distant and unreal, like he was seeing it on
TV. He couldn't seem to get himself involved in the fight for the young
doctor's life and he didn't know if it was because he couldn't feel anything
about anything or simply didn't care.
Amanda had taken Ellen's body to the Path lab. He had balked at going there upon his arrival at the hospital. Tanis had driven, casting him worried glances from behind the steering wheel and trying to engage him in conversation.
He hadn't felt like talking.
He may never feel like talking again.
His fiancée was dead.
His best friend was losing his fight.
There was a sick emptiness deep inside him where all his emotions had resided. It was as though someone had come along and cut a hole in him and they had all seeped away.
And he couldn't bring himself to care.
Four hours later he sat in the doctors' lounge with Amanda. She had finished the autopsy on the body - god, he couldn't bring himself to call 'it' 'Ellen'. That wasn't Ellen in there. Ellen was vital and alive and beautiful and annoying and endearing and special that 'thing' in there was none of those things. It might have looked like Ellen, but everything that made her who she was had vanished. She had vanished. As though she had never been here. Now there was just a big old empty hole where she had been and he knew that it would never be filled.
"How are you doing?" she asked, gently. Her hand clasped his. She felt warm and vital and alive. It wasn't fair.
"M' okay," he mumbled. It was the best he could do.
"Steve I'm so sorry."
He shrugged carelessly. 'Sorry'. It was such an inadequate word. Plus it didn't signify anything except that the speaker didn't know what else to say. Amanda hadn't shot Ellen. She hadn't hadn't he couldn't even bring himself to think about what else had happened. Why should she be sorry? It wasn't her fault that his fiancee's life had been snuffed out.
But he didn't say any of that. Instead, he just smiled bleakly. "Thanks."
She heaved a heavy sigh.
He hated all of this. The people he loved being uncomfortable around him; not knowing what to say for the best and knowing there was nothing they could say that could diminish the pain or the loss. It was cavernous, reaching inside him and twisting him in two until he felt like screaming. But he remained silent, stoically suffering. It was all he could do for Ellen.
He couldn't even join the hunt for her murderer. Newman had expressly forbid it. "Too involved," he had said. "It's personal," he had said.
Well, of course it was fucking personal! This was his fiancée who had been viciously assaulted and killed! It didn't get more personal than that!
But as much as he railed against the order, he didn't have the strength to do anything anyway.
He just felt like crawling into the nearest hole and hiding until the world went away.
A sob tore at his throat but he refused to give it the satisfaction of freedom. Instead, he bowed his head so that Amanda couldn't see the torment which was bound to be on his face.
He knew he should ask about Jesse.
But questions plagued his mind.
Just where was Jesse when Ellen was being assaulted and killed?
Why hadn't he stopped it?
Why was he alive when Ellen was dead?
Why did he deserve to live?
Deep down he recognised that these, whilst being valid questions, were
unjustified. There was no way that Jesse would not have fought for Ellen,
tried everything he could to prevent what had happened to her. He had been
beaten within an inch of his life; his arm had been badly broken and he
had been shot in the chest. How much more did he have to give before Steve
was satisfied that he had done everything that he could?
But the other voice persisted with the other questions- the ones which were fanning the embers of a smouldering resentment and a burning hatred.
Why wasn't Jesse dead?
It was a question which Mark Sloan was asking himself too.
After four hours of working on his young colleague, Jesse was barely clinging to life. But clinging he was. It was almost as though he couldn't let go - and it was something for which Mark was undeniably thankful.
His injuries were bad. Very bad.
He had a sucking chest wound. The bullet had penetrated his heart and entered his lung. The lung had been seeping air and a pneumothorax had resulted. That the wound to his heart had not been fatal had been a minor miracle in itself. Mark had performed pericardiocentesis and managed to improve Jesse's swiftly falling blood pressure. A chest tube had been placed at the scene and IV's with saline and blood had been inserted.
Chest x-rays had been taken and Mark discovered, to his horror, that the aorta had been torn. He had to work quickly, to prevent it becoming a rupture, which he knew would kill his young friend. They had got him to the OR with all the speed necessary.
Upon opening him up, and suctioning out the remaining blood which was pooling in his chest cavity, Mark managed to repair the tear, alternately praying to every god he knew and suturing. If any of the OR staff noticed his lips moving silently behind his mask, none of them said anything.
He found the bullet lodged in the left lung. Carefully, he removed it, dropped it in the tray and re-inflated and sutured the lung.
He kept a careful and anxious eye on the readings from the monitor above the operating table. Jesse's heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity was measured in tiny beeps and lines on the screen. If any of them started to fall or miss a beep
The internal bleeding was not from the heart and lungs alone. The beating had been severe and brutal and they had to remove his spleen and repair his left kidney. It had been practically cut in half and the upper and lower poles were barely connected. His liver was intact and seemed to have escaped the worst of the damage - for which Mark could only thank god.
The broken arm was set and the cracked ribs he had sustained were left to heal naturally. The cut to his head was cleaned and a butterfly bandage placed on it and as he was closed up, Mark could only exhale in relief.
The older doctor accompanied Jesse to recovery, where he waited with him to see if he would regain consciousness. He did, briefly, but he was too groggy to understand fully what was going on and as he became agitated, Mark calmed him down by the simple expedient of placing a reassuring hand on his forehead and gentling him with soft words.
It worked. The young man drifted off to a healing sleep.
But it was going to be a difficult and perilous road to recovery.
Held in the grip of sedatives and painkillers, Jesse spent the next 18
hours completely unaware of the world around him.
If he dreamt at all, then the dreams were a collection of confusing images where pain and remorse loomed large, although he couldn't recall specific events. His mental landscape was dark and dangerous and it scared him without knowing why. Screams of anguish echoed in his head. He recognised the voice but couldn't put a name to it and it diminished in strength until silence reigned. But it was an oppressive silence - black and brooding - and although he tried to find an avenue of escape, there was none.
He was monitored constantly. He lay surrounded by medical equipment. A drainage tube was attached to his chest; a catheter drained urine from his bladder, and saline, blood and medication dripped slowly through the IV's which were set up at the head of the bed. Electrodes attached to his chest led to a heart monitor, on which the readings fluctuated constantly - their alarm alerting medical staff to a dangerously rapid heart rate - and a respirator pumped air and oxygen into his labouring lungs.
Mark remained on duty throughout this period. He was not going to leave his young friend. Although he had pulled through surgery, any number of things could go wrong post-operatively. The older doctor was not about to leave anything to chance.
Forward to part two
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