SATURDAY, JUNE 22ND - AMERICAN SAMOA (DAWN)
"Hey Doc! We came in on the first transport!" Ponch looked up from the maps he had spread out on the gurney. He was dressed and armed to the teeth and his face was hardened with a fury Steve had never witnessed before. Gone was the dedicated white-coated doctor and in his place was the former Army officer who was more than ready to take no prisoners.
However, there was a definite moment of relief that crossed his face as the team entered the medical tent. Then the dire expression returned and the fact that four military police flanked him, brought Steve, Chin and Kono completely up short. Five backpacks and two portable stretchers were lined up against the tent wall, ready for use.
"Doc?" Steve's mood plummeted as he instantly realized something was terribly wrong. He barely heard Kono's mumbled "oh no" and Chin's sharp intake of breath. The feeling around Ramirez was dark and brooding. Something had happened. Steve's mind stuttered as he looked around at the other doctors and nurses who had already prepared the worst of their injured patients for immediate transport back to Oahu; and yet Ramirez was geared up as if for war.
"What's happened? Where's Danny?" There was even something more in the doctor's expression and someone important was also clearly missing. Steve found himself shaking his head in denial as he added a name. "Not ... Ellen ... she's not involved too?"
The sun was finally peeking through and the plane had just landed after a long and very rough flight due to left-over heavy winds as they chased the tail of the storm. Then they had just landed by the very skin of their teeth on the only open, rain-slicked runway. They had arrived with high hopes and spirits only to find out that something was most definitely off kilter.
"Both of them are gone." Tension was rolling off the big doctor wave after wave as he invited them over to share the dismal news. "He took them. He took them both and we're going to get them back."
"How long ago?" Kono asked as she quickly looked over the maps and dumped her small backpack on the ground. "Doc, who exactly is he? Who is this guy?"
Pointing to where Pete still lay flanked by two stalwart M.P.'s, Ponch growled out a few words. "His friend .. said his name was Frank Madison. I knew ... I knew ... they were involved from the first moment they got here!"
"Where would Madison take them?" Pete Channing gasped because he never saw Steve coming. He lurched sideways and then grabbed his knee as pain spiked in both directions up and down his injured leg.
"What? I have no idea. I swear that I don't!" He blurted out. "I didn't even know Williams was here!"
The fear in Channing's eyes and Ramirez's reluctant agreement to the latter half of the statement briefly changed Steve's tactic. But only briefly. Not quite accidentally kicking into the legs of the flimsy cot, Channing cried out again when Steve connected hard with the frame.
"Where would he take them?"
The young man was nearly crying in pain as he held both hands on his thigh. He was babbling over and over as he swore he didn't know Madison's plans. Growling in anger, Steve only stopped the harassment when Doctor Laroux dared to put a hand on his arm. No words were shared, but it was enough to move Steve just a few steps back as Channing not so quietly howled.
"Stay with him." Steve was nearly gritting his teeth as he demanded that Kono remain behind. "Keep him secure and under wraps at all times. I don't care how you do it, but see what you can find out about these guys."
"There's a third," Ramirez suddenly offered. "Not sure if he's still alive ... but just in case, keep an eye out for someone who doesn't quite fit. Danny described him as a muscular, stocky man; about five-eight or so. Big hands, like a boxer would have. Pete here doesn't seem to have a name available for us. In fact, Pete doesn't seem to know much at all."
"Really?" Channing found he was the unhappy subject once again as all eyes turned to him. He had already answered Ramirez's questions and thought the interrogation over. The new officers were obviously less likely to be so convinced. His eyes widened in fear as he began to shake his head no before the obvious question was being asked.
"Give me a name." Steve was back in his face and the injured criminal threw a plaintive look towards Doctor Laroux. Unfortunately, the man was gazing at an interesting dust mote on the floor.
"I want a name. I want it now." Channing swallowed hard and then wiped tears from his face. The officers weren't going to like his answer and the big doctor would no doubt have an issue after he swore he knew nothing about the third partner, too. No, no one was going to like this one bit. He raised his hand as a plea when Steve warningly toed the cot's frame again.
"I don't know," he gasped and then closed his eyes as this newest officer cocked his knee back and aimed directly for the cot's leg.
"Name!" Channing yelped when Steve bellowed at him and the cot moved even more across the ground. It sent spikes of pain into his knee again.
"Okay, stop! Mac. His name is Mac." He winced reflexively as Steve cocked his foot more to ready for a vicious kick and then glared down at him. He almost mewled in fear when he felt the beginnings of a tremor through the metal frame. The man didn't believe him and he wasn't quite convinced; but he was sure his knee would fall off if the man let loose with the way he was poised.
"No! Please, I swear that's all I know ... he came to the game late. He only said his name was Mac." Channing was babbling again and near hysterics as Steve continued to threaten him.
"Game?" Hands balled into fists, Ramirez snarled the one word and this time Laroux did look up. "Do you think this is a game?" His colleague was about to explode and between the big doctor and the new arrivals, it was beginning to get dangerously ugly in the medical tent.
For a second time, Laroux intervened in the mix and asked for a bit of self-control. "Doctor, here is not exactly the right place to make such a point."
The French doctor now had at least two angry men glaring silently at him but he held his ground. Channing was about to have a breakdown. The display was more becoming more public and his pensive expression asked they exercise a bit more caution. It worked when Steve held his hand up in silent agreement.
"Kono." Steve knew that this would be all Channing had to offer, so he singled her out. He was seething with rage and his chest clenched tightly at this Mac's bully-like description. He had seen the photograph and the doctor had then seen so much more in person. When Steve caught Ponch's eye, the worried nod concurred that the missing man was responsible in large part for Danny's condition.
"You got it. I can find a third ... easy." She understood what Steve wanted immediately as she looked directly into Pete's face. She was up to the challenge and already considering a certain plan to possibly flush out the third suspect or at least, get a full name or any other kind of identification that she could wrangle.
"I"m sure Peter has a lot more to share. He just doesn't realize it yet. Plus, if this Mac is here or dares to show up, I'll get him." As she had wanted, the younger man clearly heard the threat and he looked away to study his very painful, elevated knee.
All but Kono and Laroux now moved away to finalize their next steps. They needed to get going quickly with whatever they could cobble together.
"This is my fault," Ramirez lowered his voice as he slapped the map-covered gurney in frustration. "I moved Danny directly to our tent to keep him safe ... and he found him anyway ... this Frank. If I had kept him here, where more people were, it might not have happened."
"No," Steve groaned and rubbed his face as he looked at the number of displaced and injured. "No, you can't think that. This guy Madison might have shot the place up or done any other number of things. You did the right thing."
They needed to get moving as Ramirez closed his eyes and shook his head wearily. He'd gotten maps and secured a few military police after a search of the encampment came up empty. Now minutes were passing like hours and they needed to broaden the area.
"We looked everywhere in camp. They aren't here and I don't know which way they went."
"When exactly did he take Danny and Ellen?" Steve tried again as tried to quiet the doctor's near frantic rambling. His hands were clenched as stress once again radiated through his very being and he opened his own backpack to gear up. A meaningful glance towards Chin had the man following his example.
"How long ago and in what direction? You must have an idea?"
"He took them ... and we're not sure how long ago ... or of the direction. Maybe four hours." Ramirez was vacillating between worry and anger as he slapped the gurney again and papers began to slide to the floor.
"I was called to surgery in the middle of the night for an emergency. When I got back to our tent ... and like I say, maybe four or even five hours later ... they were already gone. It could be longer; I really don't know." Ponch ground his teeth in a helpless fury. "In Danny's condition ... even with Ellen helping ... there's no way that they can get too far. I just don't know which way to go."
"Show me." Grabbing the doctor by the arm, Steve fairly shoved him from the medical tent. Chin followed with the four military police in his wake.
"Show me and then we all go."
What he found in the Ramirez's tent stunned Steve. Danny's badge lay where it had fallen face down next to a hospital stretcher. Bending down, Steve scooped it up into his palm and then zipped it inside a pocket of his tac-vest. Any anger that he'd momentarily pushed aside came back in full as he took in the discarded IV ports, lines and abandoned bags of fluids and what would likely be antibiotics. His body stiffened when he saw the oxygen mask and tank near the stretcher. The husband and wife team had truly created a private haven in an attempt to keep Danny safe. For all of their good-hearted efforts though, both he and Ellen had been taken.
"Can we leave now?" Next to him, Ponch was bouncing in agitation as he forced himself to wait for Steve's reaction and next decision. "Well? Steve? What are we going to do?"
Storming past the doctor, Steve strode around the tent and surveyed the area and best access to the jungle. It was there and directly behind the rear of the tent, where he found the small white packet sticking up out of the mud. It was distinctly out-of-place and he leaned down to pick it up. Further down the narrow trail and between dense underbrush lay a second white packet partially concealed under the branches of a low-lying fern. Beyond that, he was sure that he spied yet a third and he felt a glimmer of hope as he called to the doctor.
"Ponch. Check this out."
He turned and handed the first two to the doctor. "Two by two gauze pads. Ellen?"
"Yes. Yes it is." The doctor smiled with pride and he quickly bypassed Steve to duck under the trees and seconds later was shouting back to them at his success. "There's another ... I see more!"
"Breadcrumbs." Chin announced to Steve with a gleam in his eyes. "Smart woman."
"No kidding." He had to grin at Ellen's quick thinking. It then took Steve and the group less than one minute to break into a jog because Ponch hadn't returned in his excitement of having seen the clues dropped sporadically in the mud. Tracking through rain-drenched soil that was now becoming quickly hard-packed as the steamy sun rose would have been nearly impossible. But now, Ellen pulled them quickly forward and the men took off at a fast pace to cover ground.
Thirty minutes in, the small packets stopped and Ponch groaned in frustration. "She must have run out of them."
"It's okay. We're close. They left in the storm and if Danny is as injured as you say ... we're close. We have to be." Steve said as he decided which way to move next. They were standing at the foot of a steeper incline that went deeper up into the jungle and run-off had created two path-like routes.
"Hey, Steve! Over here, you need to see this." Chin and one of the M.P.'s had poked their heads into a virtually destroyed shed. A balled up pile of stained and soiled bandages lay in a damp corner and Chin handed them to Steve.
"They were here." Ponch grabbed the wad and then fisted them angrily before tossing them to the ground. His temper was raging again as he viciously kicked an empty water bottle outside into a muddy puddle. "Let's go. We're wasting time."
He hesitated though when he spied a small plastic tube on the ground. The doctor was clearly upset when he picked it up.
"What is it?" Chin asked as Steve also made a face. "What's wrong?"
"Ammonia inhalants. Smelling salts." Steve watched Ramirez pocket the used ampoule before explaining the rest of the issue to Chin. "Ellen is probably using them to keep Danny on his feet."
As with each of them, Ramirez had seen enough and he walked outside to look up the slope. "We need to go."
"Agreed. We'll split up here to cover more ground." Steve was just as anxious as he looked up into what would soon become even more dense jungle. He, the doctor and two M.P's would trek one way, while Chin and the other two military police officers would go another.
"There's something else." Ponch wearily rubbed his eyes and then looked from Chin to Steve with a very worried expression. "Danny's a bit confused about who to trust. He may not recognize you ... so take your time ... go slow with him."
For a moment there was complete silence. "What do you mean?" Steve asked quietly. "Fever? Amnesia? What?"
Ponch shook his head because he still wasn't certain. "Treat it like amnesia for now. I'm not sure if it's chemical or physical from what was done to him over the last week. He knows about Darien and the connection to the trial. But other things ... are simply not there. At least not yet."
He stood utterly still as he absorbed the words. Steve didn't know what to think as Ponch shared the startling update. The photograph again came to mind along with the heavy dark bruises that had covered Danny's face. Then there was the head wound and the tell-tale signs of drug use. His anger grew along with the doctor's as he readied his weapon. He sensed Chin's level of fury rising as he too became more grim and focused.
"Understood," Steve whispered quietly. "Let's get moving."
Motioning for Chin to take the higher tangent, Steve's parting comments were for each and everyone of them.
"Be mindful of our own people. Go slow and take no risks. But I do not necessarily need this other individual alive."