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With thanks and apologies to Walter Mirisch, John Watson, Trilogy Productions, CBS, Maria Mogavero, and Dr. Suess, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission...
This tale was inspired by too many margaritas and TM7 list mom Judy ... a deadly combination. It is intended to poke gentle fun at we writers (myownself included) who are wont to be somewhat redundant with some elements of our stories; if it seems a bit over the top in places, that's because it's supposed to be. %-)
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DEAD CAT WALKING
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And then something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!
THE CAT IN THE HAT -- Dr. Suess
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The car bomb had been meant for one of them, not for him.
Not for this innocent.
It hit all of them hard, seeing him crumpled in a ball on the rough concrete of the ATF garage, blood pooling beneath his body. It hit them harder to know that if it hadn't been for them, he'd be fine ... inoffensively going about his daily routine, sharing his guileless friendship, touching each of their hearts in ways that none of these seasoned ATF agents would willingly admit, not even to each other.
Yet now he lay, curled in a ball as if to protect himself, still as death. The sight paralyzed them for a moment. It was Vin who finally took charge; breaking the spell, he rushed to the side of the fallen one and knelt there, reaching out for him, gently lifting him, cradling him in his arms as he looked up at the others with stricken eyes.
"We gotta get him to the hospital. Now."
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It was a breakneck journey as two vehicles raced through the streets of Denver. After what seemed like an eternity, the Suburban barreled into the parking lot, the Dodge truck right behind, and pulled up under the big red and white sign that proclaimed EMERGENCY. The Surburban's shotgun door swung open and Vin climbed out, their wounded comrade still cradled protectively in his strong arms. The other occupants of both vehicles piled out and followed Vin inside as Buck and Josiah parked the trucks.
Nathan had called ahead on his cell phone, and Casey was ready and waiting with a gurney. Vin gently lay the broken body down, then looked up at the girl with desperate, anguished eyes. Casey's gaze was tear-filled, but she was being strong.
"We'll do everything we can. You know that."
Vin nodded, and Casey tried to smile reassuringly before she pushed the gurney through the swinging doors. Chris moved to his best friend's side and put an arm around the younger man's shoulders as they stared at the closed doors. The rest of the men settled down to wait.
* * *
It was as always with them, when one of their number was hurt. Chris stood gazing out the window into the gathering dusk, his face as hard as Rushmore, his blue eyes showing all the color and warmth of an iceberg. Slumped on the floor next to him, his back against the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest and and his head resting on his folded arms, sat Vin Tanner. Nathan loitered by the double doors, trying to peer inside, wanting desperately to help and only feeling helpless. Josiah sat in a chrome and vinyl chair, eyes closed and lips moving in a silent prayer. In the chair next to him was Buck, JD on the floor and leaning on his knees, Buck's strong arm draped comfortingly over the boy's shoulders. Ezra lounged with studied casualness against a wall, his hands in his pockets, his face clouded but otherwise inscrutable.
And so the hours passed while the men waited for news.
Suddenly, the door swung open with a bang that made them all jump; Ezra's hand tightened reflexively, and the men started again as a small squeak pierced the silence. Seven hearts stopped; seven pairs of lungs held their breaths; seven pairs of eyes fixed on the young woman standing before them.
"Well?" Larabee finally growled.
"He'll be all right."
Chris nodded. Vin sighed audibly. Nathan reached out and hugged the girl, while Josiah's lips formed the words "thank you" and "amen." Buck and JD exchanged high fives. Ezra, standing in the corner, brought a hand to his eyes and wiped away the tears that would betray him to the others.
"Can we see him?" asked Vin.
"He's asleep ... but if you're quiet, I don't see the harm." She gestured for them to follow, and they fell in line and followed her like so many obedient baby ducks.
It was a tiny room, but they crowded in. He lay motionless on a towel on the stainless steel table. Vin reached out with one trembling hand and brushed back the orange fur on his forehead. "He looks so young when he's asleep ... almost kittenish."
"How long will he be out, Casey?" asked JD. Buck squeezed the boy's shoulder at the tremor in his voice.
"What about his owner?" asked Josiah.
"I called the number on the collar, and left a message," said Casey.
"ATF's payin' this bill," said Chris quietly.
"Yeah," agreed Buck. "He saved all of our lives, triggerin' that bomb."
"That's very generous," said Ezra. "Is ATF goin' to pay for a new paint job on my Jag?"
Everyone in the room glared at him. "Just 'cos you don't like Cuervo, don't mean you have to be so heartless, Ezra!" exclaimed Nathan derisively.
"Hush!" said Casey. "He needs his rest ... all of you, out of here!"
They filed out one by one, casting sad and relieved glances at the small cat who'd saved their lives, and scornful ones at the southerner who seemed not to care.
"You too, Ezra," huffed Casey.
"Of course," he drawled. "I'm comin'."
No one noticed him hang back for a moment longer and place a small fuzzy squeaky mouse next to one white paw before he, too, left the room.