He went downstairs and had Benjamin paged. While he waited, he saw three young women sitting nearby. One of them approached him.
"Would you be Dr. Anton Hendricks?" she asked.
"I'm Colleen Davis. Lindsay's friend. She told me to call you while we were waiting for the helicopter."
They shook hands. "Thank you, Colleen. Please. Can you tell me what happened?"
Her story confirmed Lindsay's. Just as she finished, Dr. Royce appeared.
"Ah, Anton. Are you ready to see my patient now?"
"Uh_yes, Ben. Let's go." He turned back to Colleen. "I'm going to do everything I can to get her out. Will you be here?"
"We'll be here," the girl smiled. "Thanks."
Ben led Anton down the hall to Intensive Care. "They brought this patient in early this afternoon, unconscious from what I thought at first was a blow to the head, but there are no signs of concussion. Now I think he was out before he was even struck."
"What's his condition?"
Ben sighed. "At first, he was stable, but lately he's been spiking, then falling back to normal, but each time, the normal is a little less. He appears to be failing, little by little."
Anton frowned. "What do the prelims show?"
"That's what's so weird. His somatotropin is 20 mmol/L. Normal is between 0_10. He presents like acromegaly, except for this." He held up a CT scan to the light. "See that implant there, in the pituitary? And another one–here?" He put the film down and looked at his friend. "If I didn't
know better, I'd say he has an artificially stimulated case. He doesn't exhibit any of the other symptoms." By now they had reached the Intensive Care Unit. "See what you make of it."
Anton stepped in behind him, and gasped. Despite the distortion of the facial bones, there was no doubt in his mind. Somehow, the impossible had become truth. He would know him anywhere. "Who did this to him?" he whispered.
Ben was taken aback. "You know this man?"
Anton nodded slowly. "It's a long story. Right now we have to see what we can do to reverse this. And I have to get Lindsay out of the Psych Ward. No wonder she was so irrational." He was almost talking to himself, then added to Ben, "Like I said, a long story." His voice strengthened. "Can you get Lindsay released while I go over these tests and call headquarters to have his medical records sent?"
"I'll see to it. Use my office. Second door to the left of the nurse's station. I'll let you know when I get her out."
The two men went their separate ways. Neither saw a figure standing in the stairwell door. After they had gone, he slipped out and entered Connor's room.
Upstairs, Dr. Royce had finally managed to get Lindsay signed out in his custody. He cast a medical eye on her as she approached, accompanied by the tall, grayish_haired man. The girl looked like she was exhausted.
"I'm Dr. Royce. Anton is an old friend of mine. He sent me up here to get you."
Lindsay managed what passed as a smile. "Thank you. Let's hurry," and she rushed into the elevator ahead of them.
A nurse returning from break glanced in the unit window and saw a tall man standing over Connor's bed. Thinking little of it, she continued on to the nurse's station.
Anton was waiting for them as they got off the elevator. He smiled at Lindsay and nodded, and she smiled back, her face lighting a little.
"Then it's true?" asked Peter, in disbelief and delight.
"It's true," Anton confirmed.
A moment later the nurse approached, a chart in her hand. "Excuse me, doctors, I'm sorry to interrupt, but which one of you was in Bay Two a few minutes ago? I don't see any new instructions."
"Neither of us. We've both been busy, Aggie." Then–"Bay Two? That's his room!"
Lindsay was the first to reach Connor's doorway, and she stopped, transfixed. He was alone in the room, the light over the bed shining down on features no longer misshapen, but normal now. The four exchanged glances, and the two doctors shook their heads. A quick check of his vitals confirmed that, except for the unconsciousness, he was in good health.
"We'll do another CT scan in the morn- ing," Dr. Royce said, sotto voce, and his lips twitched as he glanced at Lindsay. "I take it you’d you like to stay with him till then?"
Lindsay's face was answer enough.
Downstairs, the tall, lean figure slipped into the car. "Well?" asked the driver. The first man nodded, and the second one exhaled. "It was good the tracker found him in time. Those implants have been failing for a while. If we had missed him this time, it would have been too late."
The first figure nodded again, then said, "I have repaired his body; the implants have been dissolved, and his memory will return in full. I did, however, block the last three years. He should not have to remember that. If that one"–the voice became grim–"had not lied to us–" he left the statement unfinished. Then he smiled grimly. "I am pleased to say that now he will take his place. Let us see how he likes it."
The second figure nodded in agreement.
"However," the first one added, "I can only repair his body. He has to make the journey back himself, but only if he wants to. That I cannot provide. Let us just hope–she can."
For the rest of the night Lindsay sat by Connor's bed, holding his hand, talking to him, touching him, sometimes even singing a little. She sent the force of her love into him, drawing him back to her.
As the dawn broke, his eyes opened, and slowly focused. "Lindsay?" he smiled. "Hey, What are you doing here?" Then he looked around. "Where am I?"
She smiled back at him as she pushed the call button. "Sshh. Just a minute." A moment later the nurse responded. "Get Dr. Hendricks, please. Stat." While they waited, her eyes rivaled the sun that rose behind her. "How do you feel?"
"Fine. Wonderful. I feel like I've been asleep for a long time. Can you tell me what's going on?"
Just then Anton came in, wearing scrubs Ben had lent him. "Well. You look better than when I saw you last." He did a quick check on his pulse. "Strong and steady. Good." He glanced up at the monitor. "And everything else looks good, too."
"Thank you, Anton," he laughed, with just a trace of exaggerated sarcasm. "Now will one of you tell me what happened?"
Suddenly Anton grew serious. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Connor considered. "Actually, now that you mention it, not much. Just that we were on an assignment. I remember being terrified. And I remember pain."
"Well, I'm afraid that this will be hard for you to take in, but you went missing on that mission, and were presumed dead–"he glanced quickly at Lindsay–"by nearly everyone. Connor, that was three years ago."
"What? But–how is that possible?"
"We don't know."
"And this happened–where?"
"So we're in Russia?"
"No. We're in Carson City, Nevada."
"What'd I do? Walk?" he muttered in an awed voice, then laughed, and the others with him.
"Let's sort all this out later, Connor. Right now, we have tests to run." Anton looked sharply at Lindsay. "Why don't you get some food and rest while we run this new series?"
She opened her mouth to protest, but Connor looked closely at her, too. "He's right, Lindsay. You do look worn out." Then without knowing why he said it, he added, "It's all right, honey. I'm safe now. You don't have to be afraid any more."
She studied him in surprise, then smiled and kissed him. "I won't be long," she whispered, then only her lips moved. "I love you."
hhhThe Slender Thread Pt. 4