The Waiting Room
Hospital - Air-Evac Pad
"Shit, I should have gone with the ER doctor. I need to speak with him now. They need to know he reacts very badly to several pain medications" Patch said as he ran after the ER team.
Heather could see the rigidity of all of them, like they would break into tiny pieces with the slightest bump. The paramedic's words had just alarmed them, putting images in their heads of what 'reacts very badly' meant. She needed to do something to ease the tension a bit. They unintentionally gave her the perfect solution when they had answered "Sam", "Blondie", "Braddock", "Samtastic".
She smiled at them and laughed lightly "Ok, so can we agree on a name? Blondie's descriptive but Samtastic is an awesome name. I'd love to see that up on the chart board."
That released the pressure a little but didn't completely erase it. Ed looked at Heather and offered "His given name is Samuel W. Braddock. Let's just go with Sam for now. I am his SRU Team Lead, Ed Lane".
"Okay, Sam it is. If you would please follow me, I'll take you all to the waiting room" Heather said. On the way she showed them where they could get coffee and pointed out her desk in case they had questions. They needed some privacy, they were in full gear and didn't need the public gawking at them at a time like this. So she took the group to a private waiting room instead of the general area.
Hospital - ER Private Waiting Room
The five nervously paced the room occasionally glancing at each other wanting to start a conversation but not knowing what to say. Heather returned and gave a clipboard with paperwork to Ed to fill out. So he took a seat. That prompted the others to do the same but silence remained.
Patch entered the room several minutes later. They all looked towards him expectantly. He shook his head indicating no update on Sam and said "Didn't see him, only told the doctor what they needed to know." He headed over to Blaze and Winds who were on one side of the room and gave them bear hugs. They immediately huddled together and began conversing in low voices that couldn't be overheard.
They discussed how to help Blondie. The emotional shutdown was familiar but the catalyst had to be different, it was different here. They'd seen the three dead bodies and recognized one was a SRU officer. Maybe Blondie had formed another friendship, like the one he had with Matt and loss had flipped the switch. They just didn't know.
The one thing they did know is it would have to take something significant to knock him off kilter like this. They decided they had to talk to someone on his team. But which one? They decided to do some recon, determine who if anyone they could trust on his new team to help Blondie.
Winds covertly watched the three SRU team members trying to decide who they might approach. The woman, Patch had said her name was Jules sat very still, elbows on her knees, face planted in her palms and he detected a slight shake of her shoulders. He could tell she was silently crying and didn't want anyone to know. Interesting. Was it a girl reaction she didn't want to reveal in a man dominated field or did she truly care about Blondie? Patch said something about her telling Blondie that they would keep him safe. She was a possibility.
The guy they called Spike was sitting off in a corner staring at the ceiling while one knee bounced vigorously up and down and his hands clasped and unclasped together constantly. His emotions were clearly written on his face, he cared and was distressed. He almost looked as if he was in physical pain himself and he oddly exuded a sense of purpose. Patch said he joked with Blondie. This was a fascinating mix, it could work.
Winds noticed that Ed, the team lead, was as taut as a strung bow and had been scowling at the forms for quite some time. He'd seen that same look on Blaze more than once over the sixteen years they'd served together. Ed was pissed at himself for some perceived failure to the men under his command and trying very hard not to explode. Understandable with one dead and one injured. That look was how Blaze had gotten his nickname. When he couldn't hold it in he would blaze red hot with rage and could burn anyone and anything in his path.
The last time Blaze had that look was when Blondie left the unit without a single word to them shortly after Matt died. Blaze keenly felt he had failed Blondie and Matt. He had been the one to relay that shit-for-brains Major Plouffe's all clear to fire order.
In the days following, Blaze could not bear to look at Blondie. Blaze knew he was responsible for the intense shattered pain he saw in Blondie's eyes. It hurt too much to see the pain he had caused the kid. In fact it was too painful for all of them to witness that pain so they avoided looking at him.
No one could find the right words either to alleviate Blondie's pain. So they said nothing. They realized after he left that that they should have said something, anything. They had totally and unequivocally fucked up and failed him when he needed them most. Winds vowed he would not fail Blondie again if given a second chance.
Winds could see that Ed was losing his battle with control. He was gonna blow soon. What he exploded about would be telling. It might give them the opening to talk to them. Funny how rage often did that more quickly and effectively than smooth talk. Probably because rage was pure, hard, raw, intense and hard to fake. The explosion was definitely coming soon.
Ed had only filled out Sam's name and where he worked. He had been staring at one particular box on the form not knowing what to enter. Berating himself for how badly he'd messed up when Sam joined the team. He should know the answer but he didn't. He knew it for everyone else. Why not Sam? What did this say about his leadership abilities?
Heather had just opened the door to allow Greg, Wordy and Lou to enter the waiting room when Ed hit the tipping point of his anger. He raged "Dammit Sam. I'm sorry kid. I should know this. Dammit all to hell, you cover our backs every damned day and I don't even know your god damned DOB." He threw the clipboard across the room slamming into the wall.
Heather and rest of the SRU team stared at Ed's outburst. The team suddenly feeling just as guilty as Ed because they all realized they didn't know his birthday either.
However, the three JTF2 buddies burst out in uncontrolled, deep rolling laughter. This caused all six SRU members and Heather to turn and gape at them like they had lost their minds.
Winds struggled to get control and tried to explain between gasps of laughter "Aw shit, the kid did it again. Sorry man, don't mean to laugh but it's too damned funny. The same thing happened to us the first time we had to take Blondie to the base hospital and he was unconscious. Blaze raged and threw a clipboard across the room for the same damned reason."
Getting himself under a bit of control Winds chuckled "Blondie had been with us almost four months saving our butts more times than you could count and we didn't even know his birthday. We felt like shit for not knowing, like we failed him somehow. But then Matt told us even he didn't even know it and they had been thick as thieves for a long time. We had to resort to hacking into his file to find out his damned DOB."
Blaze said shaking his head still chuckling "Surprised the hell out of us when we found out how young he really was. His field skills were so impressive we thought he had to be older than he looked like maybe 28-30. We were wrong, he really was just a kid; he was 22 just shy of 23".
"So what's his birthday?" questioned Jules still somewhat shaken by the outburst.
"Should make you hack it too, make this sense of déjà vu complete. But I won't, it's February 9th. That would make him 28 now" Winds supplied with a smile.
The ice was broken now. SRU and JTF2 introduced themselves and started sharing stories of Sam. Laughing and joking about good times, the crazy, embarrassing and astonishing things Sam did helped each of them push away the fear and helplessness they currently felt. They had found a unique way to cope for now and it solidified in the minds of Blaze, Winds and Patch they had found six new allies who cared for Sam.
Heather stayed in the room and listened for a while. Amazed at how they were all helping each other through this terrible time. They did it with humor and forging new friendships connecting through memories of one remarkable man.
The image she had now of Sam did not match with her first impression. He was one of those rare men that went above and beyond to protect others. She could see he was special to them and they all really cared about him. She truly hoped he would be okay.
Heather quietly left the room and went to the ER nurses station. She went directly to the nurses chart board and with a broad smile erased Samuel Braddock and wrote SAMTASTIC and thought yes that's more appropriate!
"… and we were wrapping things up, Spike handed off the concussion grenade to the rookie bomb squad guy and turned to talk with Jules. The guy stumbled and dropped it pulling the pin in the process. It rolled quickly towards Jules and Spike who were turned the other way and didn't see it coming towards them. Sam yelled grenade. Everyone ran away from it except Sam. He ran towards it and threw himself on it just as it exploded only a few feet from Spike and Jules. His ears rang for a couple of days after that. Mostly from Ed yelling at him for taking unacceptable risks" Wordy finished, everyone laughing, just as several others came into the room.
Greg rose and walked over to speak with the newcomers. "Commander" Greg intoned as he greeted Holleran and nodded in greeting to two SIU agents, Stevens and Donner he thought, and one patrol officer.
"Greg, any word on Braddock?" Command Holleran asked.
"Not yet, the guys are getting pretty worried. Ed said he looked really bad and it's been several hours now and not a single update. Things all wrapped up at Rouge Park?" Greg inquired.
"Yes and I notified Team Four and Aaron's family also. Sad day, don't want to lose another officer today, especially not Sam" Holleran sighed.
Greg gave him a curious look. He'd never heard him speak like that and began to wonder just how well Holleran knew Sam.
"Are those the guys we have to thank for getting Sam here? I'd like to personally thank them if they are" Holleran nodded towards Blaze and Winds who had their backs to them currently talking with Lou and Wordy.
"Yes" Greg responded. "Captain, Corporal, I'd like to introduce you to the SRU Commander" he called out as they walked towards the two JTF2 guys.
Blaze and Winds turned to look at Greg and the Commander. "Holleran, my god man, it's been years. So this is where you got off to" said Blaze as he forcefully shook Holleran's hand.
"Blain, what are the odds?" Holleran said a little stunned seeing his old friend.
"Never would have guessed it in a million years it was Blondie we were helping. Glad we were around though. I owe that kid my life" Blaze concluded.
"We appreciate the help today. I will be letting your Commander know just how much. I'm sure the General will be thanking you too" Holleran stated. "Speaking of the General, Greg have you informed him yet?"
"His aide said he, his wife and daughter are out of country now and unable to come at this time" Greg replied.
"Good" muttered Blaze under his breath, drawing a curious look from Greg. Seeing the look Blaze said "Might be my General but I can't stand the man, better for Blondie if he doesn't come."
Further inquiry was halted as the doctor entered the room. "Family of Constable Braddock" he asked looking up from his clipboard.
"That's us" six SRU officers, two special ops, and one paramedic loudly stated at the same time.
Instantly overwhelmed by the volume of the response and the laser intensity of nine pairs of eyes trained on him, he took a small step backwards and brought the clipboard up to his chest protectively. He recovered quickly and said "I am Dr. Jim Fraser, in charge of treating Constable Braddock."
"Unfortunately, he has sustained quite a few injuries today, but he is physically stable. The gunshot wound to the upper right arm was clean through and damage was minimal. Although he lost a fair amount of blood and is getting a transfusion right now."
"He sustained a moderate concussion and has several contusions and a large hematoma on the back of the head. He required six stitches above the eye and has various minor lacerations and abrasions on his face."
"Five of his ribs are cracked and he had a hairline fracture of the left clavicle. There is extensive bruising of his left shoulder, chest and stomach from blunt force trauma. There is also significant bruising on his back, arms and legs too. Basically he looks like one big bruise."
"There is minor bruising of the kidneys but the liver appears to be fine. Initially we were worried there might be internal bleeding due to the amount of blunt force trauma but haven't detected any. His lungs and heart appear to be fine. Last but not least he has a badly sprained left wrist."
"All in all he is physically he is pretty beat up. But expected to recover with a good long rest. We expect no long term adverse effects from any of the physical injuries."
There were sighs of relief all around until the look on the doctor's face told them he had more to say and they would not like hearing it.
Dr. Fraser took a breath in before continuing "However, it is his mental state that has me very concerned. Constable Braddock regained consciousness over an hour ago but has not responded in any way. He is awake and brain functions are normal, but he will not speak or move and stares blankly."
"It is extremely troubling. For this reason we will be keeping in the ICU for observation instead of moving him to a standard room. I understand he was injured on the job. Is there something that happened that may help us understand his current mental state. Perhaps he experienced some sort of emotional trauma or shock?
Team One shared looks between them and silently came to an agreement.
"Well, you could say he has had one overwhelmingly emotional day" Greg started. He drew in a breath and recounted. "We had four hot calls today with no break at all in between. We were on the move since seven am until he was injured about eight pm. In the first call Sam was our sniper and had to neutralize the subject when he escalated hurting a hostage and turned the gun on a team member."
"Neutralize?" the doctor questioned.
Ed clarified "He had to take a lethal shot, kill the subject."
"Oh, okay having to take a life could have this effect" Dr. Fraser said looking thoughtful.
"Not for Blondie, it would take more than that" interjected Blaze.
"Blondie?" asked Dr. Fraser.
Lou said smoothly "Among those gathered here you will hear Sam referred by many nicknames including Blondie and Samtastic. To avoid confusion for the doc let's all just stick to Sam." He looked at each of them asking for agreement. Lou got nodded agreement from all.
"So you are saying that Sam would not be affected in this way by having to kill someone?" the doctor asked directly to Blaze skeptically.
"No he would not. He is ex-JTF2 his specialty was long range-marksman. Unfortunately, he has way too much experience in taking out targets for one kill to affect him" Blaze flatly stated but did not expound on what 'too much' meant. But then he thought what if this one kill was the one that finally shredded the last of his soul? What if it was finally one to many? NO he screamed to himself do not think this way, Blondie was stronger than that.
Spike took over in a slightly unsteady voice remembering the look on Sam's face. "The second call he was the negotiator and opened old emotional wounds of being a POW and tortured in Kandahar. He did it to connect with the three subjects wanting to end their own pain of being tortured over there via suicide by cop. Sam was able to save two, but the third subject was too far gone and shot him in the vest. That where the left shoulder injuries occurred. Jules neutralized the third subject."
"Oh shit" Patch said as tears filled his eyes and his voice cracked. "No oh god no! Matt worked so hard to help him put those memories in a safe place. Sam wanted to die but Matt wouldn't let go. He sat up every night watching him for three weeks straight just to make sure he didn't try to eat a bullet, never left him alone. Matt worked harder than I worked to heal his physical body. He was a bloody pulp when we found him; seemed like every inch of his skin was flayed open with thin gashes. Bringing those memories out could have the effect you are seeing doc."
The doctor could only stare and nod at Patch.
Wordy spoke up next "The third call involved six young children being held hostage in an attempted robbery. He and I pursued a subject down an alley. The subject took a little blonde headed girl hostage and used her as a human shield as he tried to get away. Sam neutralized the subject when he threatened to kill the girl."
"He saved the girl but collapsed directly after taking the shot. He was out cold for several minutes. He regained consciousness locked in a nightmare of sorts calling the little girl's name upset that he didn't save her and something about no shoes. The little girl didn't have shoes on."
A quick intake of breath came from Holleran. Team One's eyes pinned to him. "What was the girl's name?" he asked softly.
"Sara, is that significant?" asked Wordy.
"Very. Sam is truly having one hell of an emotional day. That was his little sister's name. He was nine, Sara was seven and they were walking to a park. She died in front of him. He was holding her hand when she was hit by a car so hard it knocked her out of her shoes."
"The guy driving got a DUI, drunk at eleven am. Senseless death. Somehow Sam seemed to blame himself for her death. I didn't think I'd ever see him smile again after that day" Holleran said. He closed his eyes as he sadly remembered the lost and alone look on the face of a nine year old little boy at his sister funeral.
"But what happened after, with the little girl. I don't think that this is the reason for Sam's condition now" Lou said but didn't explain. Team One nodded in agreement. The others looked on wondering but didn't pry. Something about their manner said they would never divulge.
It was silent for a few minutes as everyone digested that information. Off to the side a seasoned patrol officer was sitting quietly and thinking holy shit this was already too much and just listening to it I want to retreat into oblivion. How could someone live with so much pain etched into his soul? I don't know if I want to know what happened in his fourth call. But he had to be here, the SIU officer insisted a patrol officer be present.
"So your fourth call" the doctor prompted hesitantly not really wanting to hear but needing to to help his patient.
Team One looked to Jules. She would know the most about the fourth call. She began "The fourth call was the gang war. Sam helped plan the tactics. While we waited Wordy, Spike Lou and I overheard disparaging talk about Sam from Aaron. He was mouthing off to Frank and Brett. We did not confront him because we had a job to do and would deal with it later. Sam was unaware of the remarks."
"Sam was Bravo team lead in charge of me, Aaron and Frank. Aaron displayed a bad attitude and questioned Sam's commands at every turn. Sam dealt with him in a professional manner and kept the team focused on our task."
"Wait Jules back up, mouthing off how?" Ed interrupted and asked harshly.
"Said he was a pretty boy, all show and no go, that daddy pulled strings to get him into JTF2. That no unit wanted him and he was constantly getting transferred to new units and that he fucked up and killed a guy in his unit. Shot him in the back and was kicked out of JTF2" Jules said.
"I'll kill that guy now!" Blaze raged a split second before Ed raged "Why the hell didn't you tell me? I wouldn't have put them with Sam if I knew. It put him at risk."
Greg had to get them refocused, he rubbed his hand over his head and across his eyes then calmly commented "Blaze you can't Aaron is already dead. Ed we'll deal with that later. Jules continue let's stay focused here."
She took a deep breath wondering if she should leave this part out. Decided it might be important to Sam's mental state so forged on "Initially Aaron and I were partnered. Aaron asked me to take point so I did. After a bit Sam seemed very worried and pissed off by something. He switched up teams after about a half hour and made Aaron point with him. He seemed to relax after making Aaron point with him."
She continued "As we approached the clearing, Sam located a subject behind Frank and me with a gun ready to shoot. He neutralized that subject then ran after the last subject. Or what we thought was the last subject. Turns out there were two."
"We heard a shot fired, then apparently a subject beating Sam. Then heard three voices, two subjects and Aaron's, followed by four more shots in close succession. When I arrived Sam was down and Aaron and the two subjects were dead. We do not know exactly what happened at the ravine."
"So if I've heard correctly, Sam had to kill five people today and watch a fellow officer under his command die?" the doctor clarified. Team One all nodded yes. He was about to continue but was interrupted.
"Then I arrived. He took one look at me and that is when he finally went blank …" Patch barely uttered but could not say more, looked to Blaze pleading for help then covered his face with his hands and cried, sorrow and fear leeching out of every pore.
"What?" chorused from Team One.
With watery eyes, Blaze spoke with grief lacing every word "What Patch is trying to say is the final piece in this hellacious emotional day is what probably threw him over the edge. The last time Blondie saw Patch, myself and Winds for that matter, was three days after Blondie killed his best friend Matt in a long-range friendly fire incident in Kandahar".
"I see" is all Dr. Fraser could say, shocked beyond reasonable comprehension of what this young man had been through in the last thirteen hours.
With a total look of desolation on her face and tears freely falling from her eyes Jules sobbed out "Is this too much damage? He broke and broke again. Are there too many pieces to mend?" She collapsed into Wordy's arms and he hugged her tightly as a father would a comfort a hurting child.
Team One and the former JTF2 unit looked from one to another vowing without words that they would help Sam find his way back to the beauty of life.
Greg spoke for them all "We need to see him NOW! He cannot be left alone. He needs to know we are here. We promised him today to keep him safe."
They all started towards the door when a voice halted them."You cannot, he is a subject officer in five shootings in thirteen hours and now a potential suspect in the murder of Constable Aaron Plouffe. He is sequestered! You will not see him and you will not speak to the subject officer. He is under my jurisdiction as of this moment" Richard Donner stated harshly with a venomous glint to his eye.