FRIDAY, JUNE 21ST - AMERICAN SAMOA (LATE EVENING)
Danny woke a few short hours later with a start but then was pleased that he at least recognized the tent with the kind woman. Ellen, he remembered with some satisfaction. He was still wearing the oxygen mask and he sucked the air in greedily to clear his head. He could feel the bandages and the aching pain from his injuries but he would admit feeling more comfortable overall. The light was dim from the camping lanterns and the storm continued to rage outside as rain pelted the tent and gusts of wind rippled the canvas sides and roof. Not much had changed during the time he'd first woken and his deeper sleep until he looked around the space. Or, so he thought.
Expecting to see Ellen, he was stunned to find a large older man sitting at his feet with his head bowed as he read a large sheaf of papers. Danny's right hand fisted uncontrollably from nerves and he stilled himself as he stared at the unfamiliar shadow. Cautiously looking around, Danny eventually found Ellen sleeping peacefully off to his left on her cot. The man was obviously her husband, the doctor she had described and the other person supposedly here to help him. But he couldn't shake his unease.
"Hello, Danny." His eyes flew back in alarm as a large shadow momentarily blocked one of the lanterns. He felt trapped under the oxygen mask with a useless left hand and equally stranded on his back. He immediately schooled his expression and eyed the man suspiciously. Though he'd try to remain quiet, the man had seen him wake and he'd moved closer now. As with Ellen, a stethoscope hung from the big man's neck and he wore a shirt with the TAMC logo. Without waiting for Danny's acknowledgment, he snared his wrist and then pumped up the blood pressure cuff.
"How do you feel?" The doctor's size and breadth was overwhelming in the small space and Danny could only stare up as he cautiously measured the man's intent. Danny's reticent attitude obviously puzzled him as he frowned and slowly released his wrist.
"Not up to talking? That would be quite unlike the Danny Williams I know so well." His chuckle was soft and deep but Danny couldn't find the energy or the reason to smile in return. Instead his face remained closed off as he tried to move away.
"Who are you?" They were both whispering so as not to disturb Ellen. The doctor with a warm smile and he with a wary expression. Danny knew that the man would be her husband, but he needed to hear it again. Eventually as before with the nurse, Danny found that he had disappointed the large man when his face sadly fell.
"Different. Yes, you are," he murmured to himself with an unconscious glance towards his wife. Recovering his smile, he turned back to Danny and ignored his tense, suspicious posture.
"You can call me Ponch, Danny, or Doctor Ramirez. Whichever you prefer. I'm sure Ellen explained who we are to you earlier. We are the only two that know you are here right now." Danny lay there unmoving as the doctor deftly checked his vitals, tsked over his still too low blood pressure, and then made sure he was comfortable. The doctor clearly knew him but there was nothing about the man that he could call on to jar his memory back into place.
He shifted to take a quiet seat next to the stretcher so that he could examine the bruises across Danny's torso. "You got worked over pretty well by these men." There was nothing for him to say in reply, so Danny merely lay there giving out with a soft pained gasp when Ponch sketched lightly over the damaged rib.
"The bruising is bad enough, but I'm not seeing any internal bleeding. They either knew exactly what they were doing or you've been extremely lucky." The shirt was pulled back down and the man simply waited him out; giving out with an almost aggravated sigh when Danny remained silent. Lucky wasn't a word he would personally use and after Boots took on Sneakers Two, the sad truth was its purposeful exactness.
"Ellen said you saw three men?" A quick churning of emotions crossed Danny's face before he nodded in assent. It was so fast, Ponch wasn't certain if it had happened.
"Okay. Can you describe them?" Silence again but this time it was because Danny was choosing his words. It was a beginning and Ponch patiently waited because he needed to be sure.
"They were masked and never spoke but each had a way ... a manner about them. I could tell them apart. They're each very distinct and had certain jobs."
Now Ponch smiled without reservation. Danny was on his game and he did it exceptionally well; nothing had been lost when it came to keen observation and the importance of details. The astute detective was firmly in place and Danny didn't disappoint when he described Sneakers One, Two and then Boots. He only looked away and became discreetly paranoid when Danny described Pete Channing and Frank Madison perfectly. There was zero doubt now that Sneakers One and Boots had definitely arrived. He was obviously distressed when he learned Madison was the boss and Danny instantly caught it. But the third missing man and his unknown identity could still be the most dangerous.
"Why?" The doctor scrubbed at his face before answering. He didn't want to spook Danny more than he was, but didn't want to lie. It was a sensitive balancing act as his ill friend started to shift uncomfortably. Ramirez had no doubt that Danny would react and very badly at that.
"We need to be prepared if they show up here." It was a delicate truth and he left it as Danny seemingly stared right through him. Alarms were going off as Danny's eyes went from his face to the zippered tent flaps. His hand began to rend and worry the blanket, and so to protect his patient, Ramirez decided to offer nothing more.
But Ponch still made a face as they had a stand-off of sorts. He could see now what Ellen had meant by Danny being so very different. So he tried to move on with a more benign question. The first one he had posed in fact and hoped it would adequately change the subject he, himself, had initiated.
"So Danny, can you at least tell me if you are more comfortable?"
Noting now the sudden appearance of an over-sized powder blue t-shirt on his body, Danny was surprised to find his filthy clothes had been completely changed. He could feel bandages securing his right foot while warm socks covered both feet and he no longer felt as if he'd been caked in mud.
"Umm, this is ... yes. Well, okay." Ponch smiled warmly at his muffled consternation. "Maybe ... embarrassing." It opened a tiny more friendly door and Ponch took it willingly.
"The shirt's mine and the sweat pants have been graciously borrowed from a colleague. Everyone carries spare socks here. You're rundown enough and can't afford a chill, my friend."
After days of being sorely neglected and not offered even a modicum of kindness, Danny sank lower into the blankets he was covered in. Reading the reaction incorrectly, Ponch was concerned as he gently rechecked Danny's chest and broken wrist.
"How do you really feel? Are you in any pain or having trouble breathing? I can administer pain medication ... if you need it."
"Fine. No." His continued too short answers only prompted more movement though as Ponch opened a small white styrofoam container. The oxygen mask was then removed and pushed off to the side allowing the scent of chicken soup to reach his nose.
"It's only warm now, but do you think you can keep some broth down?" Danny stared numbly at the small plastic spoon held so calmly in the large hands. He couldn't recall the last time he'd eaten anything and the big man seemed to understand his continued silence and now, his discomfort.
Without another word, Danny accepted the doctor's help and fell back to sleep watching as he resumed his reading at his sentry-like post near the tent's closed flap. He was in awe of the man and even if he felt better, would be utterly without words.
Ponch had re-taken his seat after realizing that he had something special for Danny in his pocket. He had given it to him with a beaming smile and a gentle pat to his hand.
Firmly anchored once more in his fingers was the gold badge that he thought he had lost. His badge.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21ST - AMERICAN SAMOA (LATE NIGHT)
Three loud out-of-place cracks sounded on the heels of overwhelming thunder to startle Ponch from his focused reading. He held his breath and listened to the rising commotion outside as he tried to decide if it was the storm ... or more.
"Doctor Ramirez!" The shout through the noise brought him to his feet and woke both Ellen and Danny from their sleep. And then the doctor immediately fell forward onto his knees to keep Danny from trying to roll up to his own feet.
"It's alright. Just hold on for a second," Ramirez whispered urgently as Danny tried to fight past his hands. "It's just Marco and he's one of my staff."
"Doctor Ramirez! We have an emergency and need you right away!" Unsure of how to quite help, Ellen was now standing between the closed tent flap and the two men.
"What's wrong, Marco?" He bellowed back without moving to leave or letting go of Danny.
"There's been a fight in the food tent. A local had a gun and he shot three people before the M.P.'s could put a stop to it."
"You better go," Ellen whispered as she knelt next to them, but he was already shouting back the same to the worried voice on the other side.
"I'm getting dressed and then I'm on my way!" The frantically shouted "thank you, sir!" had the big doctor grumbling about the misbegotten dangers of frightened, stressed people. Danny was breathing hard as Ramirez pushed him back down to the stretcher.
"Stay here!" He raised his finger warningly for Danny's sake. "You need to trust us. You're injured, there's a bloody damned strong storm outside and you are to stay here, Detective. Do. Not. Move."
Ellen covered her mouth but was too late to prevent the smile from leaking through. Danny's expression was one of stunned surprise as her husband gave him a rather severe ultimatum. In a way, she had hoped he would argue but instead, Danny sank back down as she tucked the blankets back around his upper body. There were no objections lobbed or words of wisdom .. just silence.
"With the three wounded, I should go with you." She was torn between tending to Danny and the pull of her profession; especially with three injured and no clue yet as to how badly.
"Ellen, with what we now know ... it could be too dangerous." She stopped pushing immediately when she derived his meaning. "You need to stay with Danny."
"I know," she sighed because he was right and she took back the gun he handed her. "Be careful ... come back as soon as you can."
His heart was admittedly still pounding from the loud shouts for the doctor. Even with the man's pointed look, it took some work for Danny to control his sudden urge to leave as he watched the whispered exchange of words with some interest. The couple was earnest in trying to keep him safe and the call was a true emergency quite unrelated to himself. Forcing himself to lay there, he watched them and was mildly surprised when Ellen gave in because he was sure she'd overcome her husband's reasonings. Along with the doctor's questions, Danny began to wonder if something else was really happening.
Regardless of that passing thought, just a few minutes later Danny found himself insisting that his newly re-discovered friend at least go check on the status of her husband and the wounded.
"Go with him." Her aggravation and professional worry made her jittery with constant glances towards the outside.
"I'm fine," he insisted as she clearly hesitated and then placed the gun off to the side on her cot. Ellen sat there next to it for a minute before getting up to once more pace the small area.
"No," she sighed and crossed her arms worriedly. "No, it's a bad idea."
"Yes. Go see." He waved her off and relaxed into the blankets uncertain again as to why she studied him so closely.
Ellen made a face as she picked up her jacket and then unzipped the tent flap. She could take just five minutes to check in; just to be sure Ponch was fine. But even though Danny was coherent and communicating, it was in too distant a manner. For a moment she had a spike of fear that he might actually try to leave, too. Still, Ellen wavered indecisively and then wondered what she was doing because their plan was so obviously necessary. She had no business leaving the tent.
"No, Danny. I'm staying here." She tossed her jacket back to the cot and was about to zip the flap closed again when a strong arm encircled her throat. It choked off her breath like an iron vise and her eyes widened in fear as a gun was placed to her temple.