"Can you clear the way please?" the male paramedic said, holding an IV bag at shoulder level. "We need to move him now." He pulled his blood-stained gloves off and replaced them with a fresh pair.
Callen stood and took the IV bag from him, watching as the paramedics eased Deeks onto the stretcher. A raw looking mark wrapped around Deeks' left wrist where a too-tight binding had bitten into his skin. Callen was willing to bet that they'd find a matching mark under the blood on his other wrist. Bastards, he thought, a flash of true anger washing though him for the scum who had done this to an already injured man.
He'd seen lots of bad things in his line of work, and had more than a few happen to him, but there was a level of cruelty about this that he'd seldom seen before. It brought fury to a slow, rolling boil in his gut.
Mottled bruises covered Deeks' lower back, vivid streaks of colour that crossed over his spine, edging up towards his ribs. Two areas were darker, almost black rather than lurid purples and browns. Fingerprint sized bruises dotted his arms, small, dark marks that looked deep and painful.
Even the paramedic winced. "These are fresh bruises," he muttered. "Made within the last day, I'd bet. A doctor would be able to tell you better."
"Knee marks," Sam said and shook his head, anger plain and hard in his eyes. "Someone knelt on him to hold him down. They didn't want him to struggle."
"Why?" Kensi asked. "Why all of this force?" She patted Sam's side, then stepped out of his hug. Bone-deep fury had replaced the shock. It made her hands tremble, and brought a wash of colour to her cheeks. "He was still very weak. There was no need for this." She lifted her hand to gesture at the bed, at Deeks.
The blonde man was resting quietly, eyes closed. His eyes flickered as the female paramedic leaned over him to check his vitals again. The blue tinge to his lips had started to fade as the IV fluids replaced the blood he had lost. He seemed calmer, though Callen couldn't tell if that was from utter exhaustion or the knowledge that his team was around him, working to keep him safe. I knew, Callen thought. Even when I was unconscious, I knew that they where there.
"Folks, we need to move," the female paramedic said quietly. "I'll be much happier when we get your friend into a hospital."
"I'm riding with him," Kensi said and lifted her chin. Unconsciously, her hand dropped to her gun, resting lightly on the handle as if daring them to say no to her.
Callen nodded easily. "We don't know what's going on. I'd feel better if he had a protection detail with him. Sam and I will brief Hetty, then meet you at the hospital."
Gingerly, Kensi took the IV bag from Callen and followed the paramedics as the rolled the stretcher through the trashed apartment. Glass crunched under the solid rubber wheels. It sounded like crisp, dry old leaves.
Kensi's foot slipped on something. She looked down, seeing a page torn from one of Deeks' treasured boots, ripped in half and ground into the carpet like it was worthless. It was almost enough to bring tears to her eyes again. She fought them back and carefully lifted her foot, stepping over the tattered remains of the book. A wistful smile touched her lips as she squinted at the title. The Call of the Wild, she read.
The noise of people talking in the hallway outside of the apartment grew louder as they walked closer to the door. Kensi frowned, knowing instinctively that Deeks would hate for anyone to see him like this. She turned, meeting Sam's eyes across the over-turned couch.
Sam moved past them with surprising grace. "Let me clear the way," he said, and stepped into the hallway, pulling the door closed behind him. They could hear his voice through the door, but the thick wood muffled the sound enough that she could only understand a few words.
Kensi shifted her grip on the IV bag, then reached over with her free hand, brushing her fingers over his arm. Footsteps behind her told her Callen had left the bedroom. "I feel like I failed him," she said softly. "There must have been some sign, something I missed." The words felt sharp and thick in her throat.
Callen shook his head. "None of us could have predicted this. Even Hetty." He reached for the IV bag, pressing a dark blue sweatshirt into her hands. "We'll bring you a change to the hospital, but you need to cover that blood up."
She nodded and slipped the sweatshirt over her head, twitching it straight. It was too big for her- the sleeves fell over her hands, and the hem hit her in mid thigh. She shoved the sleeves up, the scent of detergent and aftershave reaching her nose.
The door swung open again. Sam poked his head in. Callen lifted an eyebrow at him. "You done scaring everyone back inside?" he asked, hating the gallows humour even as it helped him to control his swirling emotions.
"I'm done. I don't think any of them will come out again until at least Thanksgiving," Sam muttered. "We'll have to get a team over her to interview them."
Callen held up his phone. "Already on it. Hetty contacted the LAPD. They're sending a couple of detectives over."
A young patrolman had arrived outside. Sam grunted. "About time you showed up," he bit off. "Keep an eye on the apartment. Our forensics team is on the way over to sweep the place. Don't let anyone else in."
The patrolman nodded. "Yes, sir." His eyes drifted to Deeks' pale face. "Is he going to be okay?"
"He damn well better be," Callen said softly, dangerously. "But either way, someone is going to pay for this."