Sunday, January 3, 2016
TLR Chapter 47
Jax stood at the large bay window looking out past the porch to the woods in the distance. As the days got warmer he grew restless but with his knee still in a brace there was little chance James or Heath would let him out of the house alone. Even if Jax was now wearing a lightweight brace that allowed more movement and he didn’t have to use his crutches as much the guys didn’t let him do much outside the house unless someone was with him.
The restlessness was getting the better of Jax. He was tired of being trapped by his injury. He just wanted to leave the house. Alone. Without a bodyguard. Alone.
For Jax these last couple of weeks had been the hardest for him when his men weren’t at home. Before he had been limited in what he could do because he couldn’t put weight on his leg. The recliner and his souped up wheel chair had been his world while the guys weren’t around. Watching TV and working jigsaw puzzles weren’t occupying his time like they had. Even Mutt and his other friends visiting only fed the restlessness.
The young man glanced at the old mantle clock that Coral and Ryan had brought back from their vacation for James. He had plenty of time before Heath would be home to share lunch with him. James had told him that he was having lunch with Jeff at the lodge today so there was no worry that James would spoil his plan. Jax carefully climbed the stairs to the second floor. The bedroom down stairs wasn’t large enough to hold all the clothes his guys found such joy in giving him. Somewhere upstairs he would find the new pair of swim trunks James had insisted on buying for him.
Jax climbed the stairs slowly, making sure not to snag his foot on the treads. He wasn’t supposed to visit the second floor unless one of the tops was with him. The boy breathed a sigh of relief when he finally reached his destination. He quickly changed into his trunks and made his way back to the stairs. Once he was safely back in the living room he would head to a secluded area behind their home. There was a small cove with a shallow sandy shore line which was hidden from view of the resort. Heath had taken him there on one of their walks.
Jax started down the stairs but snagged his foot on the forth step from the top and slipped down a couple of steps before he caught himself by pitching back and grabbing a baluster with his hand.
“Shit,” he ground out between gritted teeth. Tears ran down his cheeks. Jax hoped he hadn’t done any real damage. The lightweight brace helped but his knee sure hurt. He slowly turned over so he could stand but his leg wasn’t having any of it. The pain was intense. He knew he should call for help but his phone was on the coffee table.
Jax pulled his good knee up and rested his head on it. He was still in that position several minutes later when he heard a knocking on the front door.
“C…come in,” he yelled.
The door opened and Bo stepped into the house. Bo looked around the immediate area and walked further inside. "Jax?" he called.
"Up...up here, Bo," Jax answered from the staircase.
Bo followed the sound of Jaxon's voice and found him near the top of the stairs, sitting with his bad leg extended and in obvious pain. He ran up the stairs and knelt by the young man. "What happened?" he asked, concerned. Then he noticed the trunks Jax was wearing and the towel crumpled on one of the steps. "Never mind, I can see you're hurt. I'll call Heath, just sit tight." he said, pulling out his cell phone and dialing the infirmary number quickly.
"No, don't call him," Jax whined. "Can't you just get me back down to my chair?"
"After last time? No, Jax. Sorry. This is important, and if something is broken or dislocated I could make it worse if I move you. I have to call Heath."
Jax wiped at the tears on his face. "Yeah, I guess this isn't something I can keep from Heath," he agreed. "I'm so stupid."
"What were you thinking, Jax?" Bo asked while he waited for Heath to answer his phone.
"I guess I wasn't thinking." the young man answered. "I just wanted to go outside without a bodyguard.” Jax smacked the stair tread he was sitting on. "I was in a hurry and I slipped."
Bo visually assessed Jax's knee so that he could give an accurate report. "I understand, I guess. When I was a kid I broke my collarbone and my folks wouldn't let me out of their sight or play with my friends even after the doctor told them I was fine. It felt like I was grounded rather than hurt." He was becoming nervous that Heath wasn't answering the infirmary phone so he hung up and called Heath's personal cell phone.
"Maybe you should call on my phone, Bo," Jax said. "I know he will answer it. It's on the coffee table."
Bo turned off his phone and reluctantly left Jax on the stairs to retrieve the young man's cell phone. There was still no answer and Bo was becoming more and more nervous. He quickly dialed Shorty's number, holding his breath while he waited for an answer.
"Hey, Bo," Shorty answered the call then demanded when he heard Bo hiss, ‘Finally’. “What’s the matter, Robert?" His mind immediately thinking one of the twins were hurt.
"I've been trying to get hold of Heath; he's not answering his cell or the infirmary phones. Jax is hurt. Neither he nor James is home right now. And I don't know where they are. Can you come help?"
"Did you try calling James?" Shorty asked. "Never mind, I'll call him. Are you at the house?"
"Yeah, Jax is on the stairs. He's in a lot of pain and I'm afraid to move him. He did something to his bad knee again."
"Don't try to move him, Bo. I'm almost there." The vet said grabbing his bag and running down the path.
"Thanks. Just come on in, the door is unlocked." Bo replied in relief.
Shorty pocketed his phone then pulled his radio out and called, “James, this is Shorty come in please. Over." His tone plainly saying there was a problem.
"James here Shorty, What's wrong, Over."
"Bo just called me from your house. Jax needs you. Over," Shorty responded.
"On my way. Over and out."
Bo went back to Jax and knelt beside him again. "Just stay still, Jax. I was able to get a hold of Shorty and he's on his way. He said he’d call James since I couldn’t get through to Heath. Sit tight."
Shorty was there in a matter of minutes. He took the stairs two at a time until he was next to Jax. Looking at Bo’s face full of worry he squeezed the horse wrangler’s shoulder.
"Boy am I glad you’re here. I didn't know what else to do." Bo admitted.
James and Jeff bolted into the living room seconds behind Shorty. "Did anyone call Heath?" Jeff asked.
"I tried," Bo answered. "His cell and the infirmary number. There was no answer."
"I'll try again," Jeff said. "Don't worry, Jax, you're in good hands." he smiled reassuringly at the young man before taking out his phone and trying Heath's number again.
James looked down at his boy, taking in the trunks and the crumpled towel on the steps. "What happened, Hon?" he gently asked.
"Um, I slipped," he answered in a whisper.
James’s eyebrow rose but he didn’t say anything…yet.
"It doesn't look too bad, James," Shorty said. "But Heath needs to check it out."
Jeff walked into the kitchen. If Heath wasn't answering the phones, chances were he was on a call out of cell range. He pulled his radio off of his belt and keyed into the physician's channel. "Heath, Jeff here. Answer please. Over."
"Heath, here, Jeff. What's up? Over."
"Jax is hurt. He's at the house. Bo, James and Shorty are all with him right now. How far out are you? Over."
"How bad is it?" Heath asked. "I'm a half hour out."
"He was going down the stairs and slipped. Shorty says it doesn't look too bad but we were still afraid to move him. What do you want us to do? Over."
"He knows better,” Heath started to say but stopped and asked, “Is it his leg or his back? Over."
"His bad knee. He still has his brace on but it looks like he banged it when he fell; maybe even hit it on a step. It looked a little swollen to me. Over."
"His heavy brace is in the downstairs bedroom. Put it on him and then you should be able to move him. Over."
"Roger that. Do you want us to bring him to the infirmary afterward or keep him at the house? Over."
"I'm on my way back to the infirmary. I'll meet you there. Over," Heath answered.
"Roger. Over and out." Jeff replied. He keyed off his radio and went into the downstairs bedroom to find the heavy brace, then headed up the stairs with it. "I got hold of Heath, he was on a call about a half hour out." he explained. "He said to put this on Jax and bring him to the infirmary. I'll set his wheelchair up at the bottom of the stairs so you won't have to carry him so far."
Without waiting for an answer Jeff went to retrieve the wheelchair. He raised and locked the leg rest and wheels so that the men could put him in with little problem.
Shorty took the brace while James gently lifted Jax's leg. Bo moved behind Jax and leaned him against his chest to support his shoulders and keep him from slipping further down.
Once the brace was on over the lighter one they all helped the boy to stand. Jax was doing his best not to cry. He was in pain but also feeling ashamed for disobeying his tops.
James picked his brat up then carried him down the stairs with Shorty walking slowly in front of him just in case James slipped too.
Bo followed, relieved that the older men were there and had taken charge. He slipped down the side to help hold the wheelchair in place.
Once at the bottom Shorty helped James lower Jax to the chair.
Jax didn't look at the men around him but did mumble a, "Thanks," once he was in the chair.
“James don’t be too hard on him,” the young horse wrangler said to the resort owner. “He’s got cabin fever.”
James turned to Bo. "I don't know why you happened to be here, Bo, but thank you." James said clapping the horse wrangler on the back.
"There's something I needed to talk to you about, James, but it can wait till Jax’s taken care of."
Jeff breathed a sigh of relief that Jax appeared no worse for the wear. "I'll head back to the office then, James, unless you need me for something?" he offered.
"Is it something Jeff can help you with, Bo?” James asked. "I'm going to be tied up awhile with this young man."
"Sure," Bo agreed. "Do you want me to follow you to your office?" he asked, looking at Jeff.
"Let me help James get Jax to the infirmary and then I'll catch up with you two," Shorty said to Jeff and Bo.
Jeff patted Bo on the shoulder and headed toward his office to wait for Shorty to join them.
James pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped it around his shivering boy. "Let's go," he said to Shorty.
Heath had just arrived and awaited his men when they wheeled Jax into the front door.
"Well, what have you done this time, little boy?" Heath asked as he knelt down in front of Jax.
Jax just shrugged, not looking at Heath.
James squeezed his boy's shoulder.
"Um, I was tired of being cooped up in the house so I went upstairs and got my trunks so I could go swimming but I slipped on the stairs and never got out of the house."
Heath looked up at James. "I see, well, we can talk about that after we get you home." he said. "Let's go back to one of the exam rooms."
Shorty cleared his throat. "I guess I'll be heading out unless you still need me."
James turned to the vet. "Thanks for the help, Shorty, and let Bo know we appreciate all he did,"
"I will, James. And, I'm happy you are going to be ok Jax." Shorty said then left the building.
Heath pulled the blanket off his boy and tossed it on the chair in the corner. Jax held James’s hand while the doc removed both braces then gently manipulated the swollen knee.
Jax hissed at the pain squeezing his oldest partner’s hand harder.
“You’re lucky, little boy,” Heath revealed. “You didn’t damage the joint or dislocate it again but you are going to have a nice bruise. And you’re back to wearing the heavy brace and using the wheelchair.”
“But…” the young man started to argue but stop when Heath looked up at him. “O…ok,” he whispered instead.
James felt their boy shivering against him. He knew the shivers were more because Jax was hurting and nervous than because he was cold. “Heath, do you still have your stash of hot chocolate in the office?” He asked his older lover. “I think our boy needs something to warm him up.”
“Good idea, JW,” the doctor agreed.
Jax watch James leave then turned back to Heath. “I’m sorry, Doc.”
“I know you are, Hon. Why don’t you tell me why you ignored our rule about going upstairs without one of us there?” Heath quietly demanded.
Jax didn’t say anything for a few minutes. “I was bored so I thought I would go down to the cove behind the house and swim. I went upstairs and changed. And, um, well…” he hesitated.
“And you were rushing back down stairs so you would be back before I got home for lunch.”
The young doctor walked over to the warming drawer and retrieved a blanket wrapping Jax in it. He leaned down and kissed his brat’s forehead. “Jaxon, I, we, know you are getting restless but we just can’t take the chance of you falling again. You were lucky this time,” Heath explained. “We want you to heal so you can do things without supervision but every time you do something like climbing the stairs you risk never being able to run or climb.”
Jax sniffed. “I’m sorry, Heath, I didn’t mean to make you and James worry about me. I promise I won’t do any more stupid things.”
James came in and hearing Jax said, "Jax, it wasn't stupid. Careless perhaps, but not stupid. We understand that it's really hard to be confined on days like this, but each time you injure yourself you just put the time you can do things for yourself that much further out of reach." He told his brat gently as he handed him a mug of hot chocolate.
Jax looked up at the big man, his eyes glistening. "I didn't mean to hurt my leg again."
James nodded. "I know you didn't hon. No one deliberately hurts themselves. Heath and I have rules for a reason. We don't want to make you miserable, we only want to keep you safe so you can heal properly."
"Jax," Heath said kneeling down in front of the young man, "I don't want to confine you to the wheelchair again. But I will to keep you safe from yourself." he said. "So please try to follow our rules."
"I'll follow them, Heath, I promise."
James said quietly, "We'll hold you to that Jax. We love you and it hurts us to see you hurt...in any way."
Jax couldn't hold back his tears. "I'm sorry."
James bent down and gathered Jax into a hug and kissed him. "We know hon; it's going to be all right."
"Do I still get to go to the Fourth of July party tomorrow night?" Jax sniffed out.
James smiled and tousled Jax's hair. "Of course you do. You'll be in the heavier brace I'm sure, but not sure if you'll have the crutches or need to be in the wheelchair. That's up to Heath."
"Let's wait till tomorrow afternoon and see how the knee is before I decide, OK?" the doctor said pulling both James and Jax into a hug.
Heath pulled back. "Now let's get you home, little boy."
James nodded. "Yes, let's get our boy home."
"Home." Jax echoed his men.
Shorty jogged over to Jeff's office and walked in as Bo was showing Jeff a picture on his phone. He heard Jeff ask Bo to e-mail the pictures to him.
Bo did what he could to enlarge and define the photos and sent them to Jeff's computer. His findings worried him and he was glad that Jeff was there to take a look at them. He looked up as Shorty entered the office and smiled. "Jax is ok then?" he asked.
Shorty chuckled, "Well he is for now. His tops didn't look too happy."
"I'll bet." Bo grinned.
"It's a good thing you were there, Bo." Shorty said wrapping a strong arm around the boy.
"Maybe not, when I tell you about why I was there." Bo said, the smile fading from his features.
"Why were you there, Bo?"
Jeff looked toward Shorty with a grim expression but let Bo tell the story again.
"Well, like I was telling Jeff, I was out wandering some of the trails and I found these," he said, showing Shorty the gallery of pictures on his phone. There were photos of piles of cigarette butts, little bottles of liquor and what appeared to be large, deep boot prints in the mud. "I found these not far from James's back yard, on one of the lesser used foot trails. At first I thought maybe a brat sneaking around... the thing is, judging by the size of the boots and the depth of the prints, the culprit would have to be one of our bigger residents, like Cary, Tank or Duke, and I know none of them smoke, and none of them would need to sneak off to drink. None of the guests we have now are big enough to have left those boot prints. I'm worried about an intruder. I'm especially worried about where I found all of this."
Jeff went to his computer and turned it on, quickly logging in and opening his email. The photos were large and clear, and unsettling. "Here," he said to Shorty. "You can see more clearly on the screen."
"How fresh did they look?" Shorty asked.
"They're layered. Some are pretty old but this set here," he said, pointing to one of the photos, "is more recent, within the past few days, I'd say. The cigarette butts are the same. Some look like they've been there a while, but this pile is relatively new." Bo continued, pointing to another photo.
"I know that if Con or Brian had noticed anything they'd have called it in." Jeff said. "This is too close to home." He checked the security schedule on his wall. "Coral is on duty right now, I'm going to call him and ask him to come here." he said, picking up his phone and speed dialing Coral's number.
"Was there a trail leading into your find?" Shorty asked.
"Yeah, one of the lesser used trails that only the residents use on occasion." Bo replied.
Jeff sighed in relief when he heard Coral's voice at the other end of the line. "Yeah, Cor... we might have a problem. Can you come over to my office?" he paused, "Great, see you in a few."
He hung up the phone with Coral and dialed another number. "Duke? Jeff here. Bo found something I think you need to have a look at, can you meet us at my office?...Oh ok, when will you be back?...No, problem…Coral is on his way so we will fill you in when you get back."
"That's taken care of." Jeff assured the other two men.
"Can I get either of you a cup of coffee while we wait?" he offered.
Shorty accepted the coffee for both him and Bo. From the look on Bo's face he probably needed something stronger.
The men all sat down waiting for Coral to arrive. Shorty put a calming hand on Bo's knee as the younger man's foot was tapping restlessly. Bo smiled wanly but stopped. Coral arrived only minutes later, knocking politely at the open office door and peering around the jamb at the men inside.
"Everyone alright here?" he asked, walking in and glancing among the seated men for an answer.
Jeff stood up and gestured Coral to his desk chair. "Bo ran across something out behind James's house. The pictures are up on my screen. Take a look. Can I get you a coffee?"
"Sure, thanks." Coral replied distractedly, seating himself behind Jeff's desk to study the pictures.
"Bo," he said after a few minutes, "Were you able to track the source of the boot prints? Any idea where the culprit came in?"
"I tracked him back to the same stream where Mutt said Jax got in. I found the imprint of a beached canoe. Don't worry, Cor. I've seen enough crime dramas on TV to know not to disturb evidence. You'll find my boot prints along the side of the trail."
"Good man." Coral praised. "Will you bring me out to the site so that I can get some more information? It was a great idea to take pictures but I'd like to make some plaster casts of the boot prints. We may have to erect a barrier where that stream meets the lake. I'll have to talk to James about that when he gets here."
“We haven’t told James yet, Cor.” Shorty added to the conversation. “He and Heath are taking care of Jax right now.”
"Jax? What happened to Jax? Is he alright?" Coral asked, looking up in surprise.
"He slipped on the stairs. Bo was looking for James and found him," Shorty answered. "He tweaked his knee again but Heath says it isn't too bad."
Coral sighed in relief. "Good to hear. Bo? If you'd give me a few minutes to get the stuff I need will you lead me to the site?"
"I guess I better be getting back to work, then," Shorty said getting up to leave the men to their jobs when Bo grabbed his arm. "Can Shorty come too?
"Sure," Coral replied. "The more eyes the better."
"That is, if you're up to it, Shorty." The horse wrangler back peddled a little.
Shorty glanced back at his nervous friend. "I'd be glad to help."
"Great. I'll be back in five minutes." Coral said, getting up to leave. He made a mental list of the things he'd need and headed toward the security office where the items were kept. He arrived back at the office exactly five minutes later with a pack on his back. "Lead the way."
When they arrived at the site, Coral slipped on some gloves and took out some baggies to put the cigarette butts in. He then quickly mixed up some quick drying plaster to make casts of the clearest of the boot prints making sure there were no bits of plaster left in the tracks that might give away the fact that they were on to the visitor.
He bagged the little liquor bottles as well. "Definitely not one of our guys." Coral said. "We don't sell or provide these little bottles here."
Shorty scouted around to see if fresh eyes could find any other clues.
The three men backtracked toward the stream, avoiding the clear, deep boot prints that had been left behind. The trail had obviously been used many times although it was impossible to tell when the intruder had first started using the path.
"We've gotten all we can get for now." Coral announced, picking up the casts and bagging them. "We'll run as many tests as we can on site. I don't want to call in the local LEOs if it's at all avoidable."
"I can understand that, Cor," Shorty agreed. "And there's no use creating a panic."
“Alright guys, let's head back." He shouldered the pack and took out his cell phone to call James. "Thanks for all your help, guys. I'll keep you up to date on anything that I find."
Coral called James to update him on what they'd found. "It could just be a homeless man but I'll ask Duke about beefing up security on that path when he gets back this afternoon. I also considered setting up a barrier where the stream meets the lake to keep anyone else from getting onto the property without being seen."
"Sounds like a good idea, Coral," James agreed from his home office. "Keep me posted."
"Roger that. I'm going to go over the evidence we found. Talk to you as soon as I find anything conclusive." he promise.